When you think of a European vacation, do your thoughts wander to Italy, France or even the United Kingdom? While those destinations all have their appeal, you can find every bit as much adventure, history, glorious scenery and fabulous cuisine in one of Europe’s most-often-overlooked travel destinations: Spain.
Families that indulge in a Spain tour can discover the rich culture, breath-taking architecture, stunning natural wonders, and outstanding cuisine of this Mediterranean country – the fifth largest in Europe. A trip to Madrid and Seville is all the sweeter when you travel on a guided family tour – and leave the details and planning to the pros. Tauck Bridges’ “Spain Ole, Ole, Ole” tour encompasses hotels, sight-seeing arrangements, on-tour transportation and special entertainment for one price.
The first three days of the eight-day tour give travelers the opportunity to fully experience the singular architecture, culture and cuisine of Madrid.
Start your Spain tour with a stay in the palace King Alfonso XIII had built in 1912 to host visiting royalty, celebrities and dignitaries – a grand Belle Epoque architectural achievement now known as the Westin Palace Madrid. A welcome reception evokes the glory days of 17th century Spain with music, tales of swashbuckling heroes, costumed actors and troubadours, and of course, delectable regional cuisine.
Activities on the second and third days in Madrid include sights such as the Caixa Forum Museum, a four-story-high vertical garden that clings to the walls of the cultural center. At the Museo del Prado, a kid-friendly guided tour takes in traditional but equally amazing works of art. Children will also relish a stop at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, the soccer stadium that’s home to Real Madrid, the most successful team in soccer history. (And during their visit, kids will actually meet a retired Real Madrid player.) A puppet workshop later in the day introduces young travelers to much-loved literary figures like Don Quixote and gives them a chance to make their own puppets. Spend day three like a Madrid native, with a biking tour of Retiro Park, and hot chocolate and churros at the landmark Chocolateria de San Gines.
A high-speed train transports travelers on the next leg of their Spain tour, arriving in Seville, where centuries of Moorish rule have left their mark in ornate architecture. After a barbecue lunch and a walk through the historic district, the day concludes with a hands-on cooking class at Cooking Ole where you’ll learn the art of tapas.
You’ll revisit Moorish influences with a tour of the Real Alcazar, the oldest palace in Europe still in use by its royal family. Seville’s topography is flat, so it’s a great city to tour by bike, and visitors can see the Cathedral of Seville, the botanical gardens and fountains of the Giralda and Parque Maria Luisa, and the jaw-dropping architectural wonder of the Metropol Parasol in Encarnacion Square. The largest wooden structure in the world (held together with glue) was built in 2011 to provide shade in a city where it is rare in public spaces.
On the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, which divides Seville in two, the district of Triana is famous for its exquisite ceramics and pottery. Buy a one-of-a-kind work of art or create your own prized piece at a workshop with local artisans. The Spain tour ends with an exclusive farewell evening hosted outside of Seville at the Hacienda El Vizir, a ranch where bulls are raised and horses are trained for the Spanish “rejoneo” style of bullfighting. Here you’ll learn about this variation of the sport, in which horse-mounted matadors vie with powerful bulls.
To learn more about the Ole, Ole, Ole tour or to start planning your Spain tour, visit www.tauck.com.
(BPT) - As more manufacturers produce diesel vehicles for consumers, owners need to be aware of the issues that may occur during the cold winter months and learn how they can protect their vehicle.
Cold weather can cause starting problems in diesel vehicles because the fuel tends to gel. Most consumers cannot control what kind of fuel they get at the pump. The recommended grade of diesel fuel for passenger vehicles is No. 2 which has some naturally occurring wax that crystallizes when the temperatures drop. The adverse effect is that the fuel does not flow as it should which can lead to filter plugging and cause hard starting. In states that have annual freezing temperatures during the winter, diesel fuel is “winterized” with No. 1 diesel at the distributor before it goes into the pumps.
One way to combat gelling is to use an anti-gelling additive like Royal Purple’s Max-Tane . Recommended for light, medium and heavy duty diesel engines, using the additive can improve engine start up in cold weather, improve cold flow by preventing gelling and will clean deposits from fuel injectors, combustion chambers, intake valves deposits and piston crowns.
It’s easy to forget that basic maintenance can prevent expensive repairs. Change your fuel filter. Using a dirty fuel filter can cause wax crystals to collect, cutting off the fuel.
Change your motor oil and your oil filter. Depending on the climate where you live, consider changing the viscosity of your oil to help flow during the cold winter months. The “w” in the motor oil viscosity indicates the flow during winter months. Engine damage can occur if the motor oil is too thick due to the cold and the flow is restricted to the engine. While modern multi-viscosity motor oils are designed to work over a broad range of operating temperatures, you should check your owner’s manual for the recommended viscosity for winter temperatures.
Even if you don’t live in a cold climate, if your travels during the next few months take you through winter weather states, check the condition of your tires paying special attention to the tread. You will also want to inspect the condition of your belts and hoses looking for leaks and cracks. Finally,, make sure your windshield wipers are working properly. There is nothing worse than driving in the snow or battling sleet or slush without wipers.
Winter weather shouldn’t keep you off the road but making sure your diesel vehicle is in good working condition will help ensure you arrive safely to your destination.
Was your last family vacation a spectacle that would have made Clark Griswold proud? While Clark’s heart was always in the right place, his family vacations often suffered from less-than-stellar planning and unrealistic expectations. Fortunately, your family never again has to live their own version of a Griswold holiday.
A hassle-free family vacation can be had by following a few simple steps:
1. Make a list – Have everyone in the family make a list of “must-haves” for their dream vacation, “would-like-to-haves” and “couldn’t stand it.” Then, compare lists and look for common themes. For example, perhaps Mom wants great shopping, the kids need beach time and Dad wants to play some golf. A beach resort town is likely to have something for everyone.
2. Do your homework – Once you’ve narrowed your list of possible destinations, use online resources to learn more about what each location has to offer. Be sure to consider lodging availability and pricing, dining options, activities and entertainment. Whatever destination you choose, it should have something of interest for every family member.
3. Let professionals do the heavy lifting – Planning a beach trip can be easy, but if your dream family vacation is more complex – say a three-city tour of Italy – it makes sense to turn to an all-inclusive tour company like Tauck. With decades of planning experience and destination knowledge, the tour company takes care of all the details, from lodging and sightseeing to on-tour transportation and special entertainment. Traveling with a tour group can give your family access to unique experiences and entertainment, help you avoid long lines and scheduling conflicts, and get you into must-see attractions that often must be booked months or even years in advance. With everything included in the cost, the only thing you’ll have to think about is airfare.
It’s also important to choose tours designed with families in mind, such as Tauck’s Bridges itineraries. Lodging, locations and activities are all chosen to appeal to multi-generational travelers, so that each tour offers fun and adventure for everyone in the family. Professionals like the team at Tauck Bridges have extensive experience in family travel planning, and they know how to arrange schedules so that everyone stays excited and engaged, while allowing for downtime and relaxation.
If you’re planning a family vacation abroad – be it Europe, Africa or Latin America – traveling with a tour company can help ensure you make the most of your investment. Tour guides know the best locations and sights to see, and how to help you maximize your time in a never-before-visited location. Instead of spending time coordinating the trip yourself, you can focus on enjoying what – for many families – is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Finally, set realistic expectations. Poor Clark often found himself disappointed when things didn’t go exactly as he’d planned, but the reality is that even the best-planned family vacation will have surprises. Traveling with a tour company like Tauck Bridges can ensure your family enjoys more pleasant ones than the Griswolds did!
To learn more about Tauck Bridges Family Travel and to view itineraries, visit www.tauck.com/family-travel.
(BPT) - Where’s everybody going? The travel forecast for 2014 points to destinations inspired by a whole lot of sportsmanship and team spirit. Hot spots expected to trend this year include North American ski resorts catering to travelers looking for an Olympic experience closer to home before, during and after the games; and Brazil, inspired by World Cup fever.
Get a lift from North American ski destinations
Due to the 2014 Winter Games, “There will be a ton of interest in winter sport destinations that are more accessible and far less expensive than traveling to Sochi,” says David De Lalio, ski region senior market manager for online travel agency Orbitz. One popular spot, Whistler, Canada, features a dog-friendly ski resort with a bevy of recent Olympic history. Meanwhile, Lake Placid, N.Y., which hosted both the 1932 and 1980 Games, offers both alpine and Nordic skiing in the Adirondacks, as well as a bobsled run. And in Park City, Utah, travelers can feed the need for speed with rocket skeleton sled and bobsled rides on the actual track from the 2012 Games.
Get World Cup fever south of the equator
“Brazil will be the place to be in 2014,” says Yumi Nakayama, Brazil's market manager at Orbitz, citing the country’s role as host for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The World Cup (June 12-July 13) is considered the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world. Travelers can also experience some of Brazil’s 2,000 beaches, more than 1,000 islands and, of course, Carnival (March 1-4). Meanwhile, Sao Paolo plays host to the world's largest Pride Parade in June and Grand Prix Formula 1 on Nov. 9.
More travel trends for 2014
"While we will continue to see a steady drumbeat of traditional theme park and show tickets being bought, more travelers are expecting a personalized experience,” says Barb Peterson, director of attractions and services for Orbitz Worldwide. Orbitz booking data shows that travelers increasingly crave variety, with helicopter tours, Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas and ziplining among their favorites. Travelers also sought out “Edutainment” trips, or vacations built around learning, such as culinary tours: Barcelona's hugely popular Gourmet Bus Tour includes a 1-Star Michelin dining experience. Similarly, baseball fans visiting Boston and Chicago don't just want tickets to a Red Sox or Cubs game – they also sign up for tours of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field to take in the history.
Visual online travel tools, like the recently launched Orbitz Labs, chart trends and can help travelers pick personalized hotel options as well as discover the best travel prices and most popular destinations.
(BPT) - There’s no place like home for the holidays, but getting there can be a less-than-joyous experience. While busy airports aren’t known to inspire a holly, jolly spirit, a few tips and tricks can help you breathe a little easier as you make your way home.
“This is the busiest travel time of the year,” says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com. “While there are a lot of factors outside of your control, being more prepared and on top of the things within your power leaves you in a much better position to handle the unexpected.”
Taking that into consideration, here are five things to keep in mind as you begin the oftentimes long, but equally rewarding, trek home.
Arrive early at the airport
This one might be pretty obvious, but it’s worth stressing - get to the airport early (two hours before domestic flights and three before international). The earlier you can get through security, the better. If check-in and TSA lines end up being shorter than anticipated, that just leaves you with extra time to decompress and get organized before boarding. There’s nothing worse than feeling rushed in a busy airport.
Don’t take wrapped gifts through security
While those X-ray machines can certainly see through wrapping paper, that doesn’t leave gifts immune to further inspection. Just as you might be required to open your suitcase, you might be required to open a gift. Gifts won’t necessarily be unwrapped, but spare yourself the frustration and skip the paper.
Fly on a holiday
If you fly on Christmas Eve or Day, you’ll likely encounter cheaper flights and quieter airports. While you might be cutting it a little close, strategic planning can get you home just in time for dinner, without crowds, and for less money.
Bring a surge protector/power strip
An Orbitz survey found that the average family of four plans to travel with at least one computing device per person this holiday season, with nearly half expecting to pack a combination of at least seven smartphones, tablets and laptops. That’s a lot of devices. Consider bringing a power strip to help spread the electricity (and holiday cheer). If an outlet is in use, ask the person if he or she doesn’t mind sharing. You and your family benefit, others benefit. It’s a win-win.
Be patient. Be kind. Be helpful.
In the midst of all the craziness, it’s easy to forget that everyone is trying to get somewhere and is under just as much pressure as you are. Take a deep breath, smile, and lend a helping hand where you can. It is the holiday season after all, and a little goodwill can go a long way, particularly in a busy airport.
Major cruise lines market their ships as all-inclusive floating luxury resorts – a winning strategy for many of the nearly 17 million passengers that the Cruise Lines International Association says took a cruise in 2012. However, a growing number of discerning cruisers are also discovering that it’s not necessary to sacrifice intimacy in order to experience adventure and luxury.
Small ship cruising delivers all the plusses of traveling on larger ships with the added bonus of greater access to a variety of smaller, less-traveled ports. Plus, while large ships commonly carry thousands of passengers per voyage, smaller ships carry just a couple hundred adventurers, virtually ensuring a more personalized, intimate journey. These factors ensure small ship cruising is a world apart from large ship vacationing.
If you’re ready to dive into a smaller ship experience, voyages like Tauck’s Treasures of Southeast Asia itinerary showcase the advantages of small ship cruising. This 16-day passage aboard either Le Soleal or L’Austral (ship varies by departure date) through the exotic South China Sea takes in ports both large and small, and ferries travelers to locales often overlooked by larger ships.
Sister ships Le Soleal and L’Austal host a maximum of 264 passengers. Each 466-foot, six-deck ship boasts elegance, eco-friendly technology and top amenities, including multiple observation areas, a dining room serving French and international cuisine, a casual grill restaurant, three lounges, live entertainment, a state-of-the-art theater, fitness and beauty facilities, and a medical center. Stateroom sizes range from 200 to 210 square feet, suites range from 301 to 398 square feet; all offer ocean views and most feature private balconies.
Two-night stays in Hong Kong and Singapore bookend the voyage, and afford guests the opportunity to savor the wonder of both historic, culturally rich ports. The days between are filled with one-of-a-kind sights and experiences as travelers visit key Vietnamese cities, cruise Ha Long Bay on a Chinese-style junk, and absorb the history and robust development of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
A welcome reception and dinner at the acclaimed Marina Bay Sands Singapore launches the Southeast Asia cruise. On day two, coach and walking tours encompass Singapore’s Chinatown, Little India and Little Arabia neighborhoods. You’ll also visit the Asian Civilisations Museum for a guided tour, followed by a free afternoon to explore and experience this vibrant city. On the third day, you’ll embark on your small ship, but not until you’ve first visited the futuristic Gardens by the Bay, where solar-powered Super Trees of steel and concrete provide the framework for vertical gardens. Bromeliads, ferns, vines and orchids flourish throughout the gardens and climate-controlled conservatories house a plethora of tropical plants.
At sea, a private lecturer will discuss the history, economy and politics of the region, and Tauck tour director briefings will help you maximize your time ashore. Tauck’s yacht will sail from the South China Sea up the Saigon River to Ho Chi Minh City. A visit to the Skydeck of the Bitexco Financial Tower, 49 floors above the city, and a dinner of Vietnamese cuisine will set the stage for your exploration of Vietnam’s most populous city.
Your small ship cruise of the South China Sea will also encompass Vietnam’s third-largest city, Da Nang, where you’ll visit the ruins of My Son, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating from the fourth to 13th centuries, the complex was built of precisely stacked bricks, without the aid of mortar.
From Hon Gai, you’ll cruise Ha Long Bay on a traditional junk-style boat, savoring the limestone formations that make up the bay’s 1,600 islands and islets, and encountering floating fishing villages where entire families spend their lives aboard floating homes with quaint tiled roofs and modern-day electronics. Your adventure will also encompass the sights and sounds of Hai Phang and Hanoi, where the city’s Old Quarter boasts a history that stretches over 1,000 years.
To learn more about small ship cruising and Tauck’s Treasures of Southeast Asia cruise, visit www.tauck.com.
When it comes to traveling with family members, you really want to get it right. When done properly, family travel can bring different generations together and leave everyone with memories they’ll treasure for the rest of their lives. Given that potential, and considering the fact that family travel can involve substantial expense, it’s a smart idea to rely on experts in the field to make your family travel plans a reality.
Guided tours and cruises designed specifically for families, like those offered by Tauck Bridges, allow families to tap all the benefits of traveling together – from seeing once-in-a-lifetime sights together to uninterrupted time together – without having to worry about the details. With everything taken care of, including hotels, sightseeing, on-tour transportation and entertainment, families are able to focus on the experience of being together in a new place – and simply enjoy each other’s company.
Whether you’ll be traveling with just your immediate family members, or vacationing with extended family in a larger group, the travel experts at Tauck have some advice for choosing the right tour:
* Look for a tour with destinations that will spark the passion and sense of wonder for every age within your group of traveling companions. A tour should offer sights and activities that are accessible for both the youngest and oldest members of your group.
* All-inclusive tours offer the best value and a stress-free experience. Tauck Bridges family tours handle every detail, from transportation arrangements and hotel accommodations, to booking attractions, sight-seeing tours and even gratuities. Not having to sweat the small stuff leaves families free to fully experience the joys of traveling together.
* Be sure your tour offers up-front pricing, with no hidden costs or surprises.
* Consider a tour that allows your family to meet and travel with other like-minded families. Sharing your travel experiences with other families can enhance the fun, and many Tauck Bridges families develop lifelong friendships after their tour together concludes.
Not sure where to go on your next family vacation? Consider these popular Tauck Bridges Family tours:
* Tanzania: A Grand Family Safari – This 11-day tour takes families from an African lodge at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the African bush where they rub elbows with Maasai warriors, all the way to the Serengeti, where they may spot an elephant, gazelles, wildebeests or even a big cat or two.
* Wonders of the Canadian Rockies – For seven days, families can immerse themselves in the sights and flavors of America’s neighbor to the north. From visiting a glacier and an ancient canyon once covered by a long-vanished sea to whitewater rafting on the Athabasca River and moose- or elk-spotting along the Icefields Parkway, this trip has something for all ages.
* European tours – With so many Americans tracing their heritage to Europe, a trip across the pond virtually guarantees a chance to reconnect with roots while experiencing something new. Tours take in historic cities in Spain, Italy, Ireland and Switzerland, or convey guests on a cruise down the Danube. Tour lengths vary from seven to 10 days. For a full listing of tours, visit www.tauck.com.
* The Americas – North and Central America also offer adventures for families, and Tauck tours encompass some of the most interesting sites and exotic landscapes in the U.S. and Latin America, including Alaska, California and the Eastern seaboard from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and the Galapagos Islands, Peru and Costa Rica.
For more information on family travel, visit tauck.com.
(BPT) - Looking to take a road trip but dread hearing the infamous “Are we there yet?” or “Can we please, please stop for fast food?” questions.
Never fear, Registered Dietitian, author and mother, Pamela Nisevich Bede, offers creative ways to keep your family (and you) satisfied and entertained while traveling.
* Who cares if we’re there yet? Avoid hearing “Are we there yet?” by packing plenty of entertaining options for little travelers. In addition to today’s technological offerings, think back to what kept you occupied while sitting in the backseat. Equip your pint-sized passengers with books and travel board games, and play no-equipment-needed games, such as license plate bingo, I spy, or 20 questions.
* Energy to burn. You’ve got their minds exercised now, but what about their bodies? Do a little research ahead of time and plot your stops at rest areas that have green space. When you get there, do a quick round of family jumping jacks or a 10-minute game of tag. It might feel silly, but releasing pent up energy will definitely make the car ride more peaceful.
* Plan ahead. There’s nothing worse than being buckled in the car for hours with nothing healthy to snack on. For your next trip, avoid feeling trapped by packing all-natural, healthful snacks such as those from Gourmet Nut. They combine great flavor and healthy ingredients in a line of Gourmet On the Go snack mixes, such as Mega Omega and Almond Cranberry Crunch. They are full of protein-containing nuts and antioxidant-packed, fiber-filled dried fruits sure to please the pickiest passenger.
* Drink up. Make sure you and your family stay hydrated during road trips by packing refillable water bottles for the long ride. Visit your local dollar store to stock up on different colored water bottles to assign to each person. If you’re feeling crafty, have your kids decorate their own bottles with markers, stickers, puffy paint and anything creative from the craft store. Your family will not only enjoy drinking water from their own personalized bottle, but everyone will be proud of their handiwork.
* Don’t fight it. As the saying goes, timing is everything. When planning your next road trip, work with your child’s schedule and not against it. Put them to bed at their regular time and feed them breakfast as you always would. For example, leave before the sun comes up so your child is still able to sleep during part of the ride. Once it’s time for a rest stop, you’ll be able to gas up and give your kids a proper, healthy breakfast at their regular time. You’ll be grateful for the quiet moments at the start of your trip and for happier children as the ride continues.
For more information on the snacks listed above, visit GourmetNut.com.
Few cities in South America possess the exotic cache of Rio de Janeiro. And whether you go to savor the excitement of a carnival event or to bask in the solemnity of the towering Christ the Redeemer statue that towers over Brazil’s largest city, a visit to Rio is sure to be one you’ll never forget.
There’s so much to see and do in Rio – at any time of year – that it can be hard to know where to begin. As you’re planning your Rio trip, keep these must-see sights and must-do activities in mind:
* Tijuca National Park and Corcovado – Whether you hike or tour by Jeep, visiting the world’s largest urban rainforest (8,300 acres) promises visitors glimpses of exotic wildlife, abundant flora, plenty of activities and amazing views. Corcovado, the highest mountain within the national park, affords panoramic views, and is a breath-taking stage for the 125-foot-high Christ the Redeemer statue. Admission to the park is free, but there is a fee to visit the statue.
* Beach time – Rio is famous for its beaches, and no trip to Brazil would be complete without a visit to the city’s shoreline. Whether you choose to revel in the vibrant atmosphere of popular beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana, or go farther afield to the less-crowded but equally beautiful Grumari Beach, you’ll want to relax in the sand and play in the sun for at least a few hours during your Rio tour.
* Petropolis and the Summer Palace – Snuggled in a valley between the Piabanha and Quitandinha rivers, the “City of Saint Peter” boasts a rich history and lots to see and do. You’ll not want to miss the Imperial Museum, the former Summer Palace of Brazil’s second emperor. While you’re in Petropolis, be sure to take in the Crystal Palace – a glass and steel outdoor ballroom that dates to the late 1800s.
* Enjoy some Bossa Nova – What visit to Rio would be complete without a chance to savor the sounds of Brazil’s iconic musical style? While Elvis was rewriting music history in the states during the 1950s, a group of talented Brazilian musicians was creating this singular fusion of samba and jazz. Whether you attend a Bossa Nova dinner party or enjoy the styling of some street musicians, don’t miss the opportunity to experience this uniquely Brazilian music.
* Sambadrome – When you think of Rio and carnival, you probably imagine bright floats and costumed performers parading down the street. But Rio’s Sambadrome stadium plays an important role in carnival. Built in just 110 days in 1984, the Sambadrome is now the official staging area for Rio’s carnival parade.
* Carnival – Of course, when you hear the word “Rio” your mind immediately conjures images of Carnival, the world-famous festival held every year before the beginning of the Lenten season in largely Catholic Brazil. More than 2 million people participate every year with parades, floats, costumed performers and samba competitions.
Organizing a Rio trip that encompasses all these must-see/must-do opportunities could be a challenge if you attempt it on your own. Leading tour companies like Tauck can make the planning and traveling easier by handling all the details for you. In 2015, Tauck will host a once-in-a-lifetime, six-day Rio event celebrating carnival and highlighting many of Rio’s greatest sights and attractions.
The fully-guided, all-inclusive event takes care of everything for you – hotels, itinerary planning, on-tour transportation and much more – ensuring you have plenty of time to enjoy the trip, without worrying about potential bumps in the road. What’s more, Tauck’s 89 years leading luxury tours ensure you’ll get special “insider” access to unique places and experiences you’d never enjoy if traveling on your own. To learn more about the Tauck Rio trip with carnival event, visit www.Tauck.com.
(BPT) - Cruise liners are no longer just giant ships heading to enviable destinations. They are small, floating cities, destinations unto themselves, packed with unexpected entertainment from on-board planetariums to skydiving experiences.
“As cruise ships add more exciting features to their decks, they can offer a well-rounded vacation experience for the whole family,” says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com.
Here are five of the coolest cruise features around.
Royal Caribbean wants you to pull the ripcord by taking a sky dive at sea. Available on Quantum of the Seas, the RipCord skydiving experience is more floating on air than leaping from a plane. Adventurous passengers step into a wind tunnel that propels them vertically. RipCorders get the benefits of flying high with the sea on both sides without any of the drawbacks of having to pull their chutes.
Home to the only on-board planetarium in the world, the Queen Mary 2 offers multiple space shows daily and courses on celestial navigation for those lucky enough to be on board. If scoping the stars isn’t your thing, the ship also offers a rich array of on-board speakers, wine tastings, golf simulations and a casino to keep you busy.
Sports rule on the Royal Princess from Princess Cruises. In addition to the standard workout center-jogging track-fitness class trifecta available on many ships, the Royal Princess also features a full indoor driving range and a laser shooting range so you can blast your travel companions away. Cool off at night by getting a gander at The SeaWalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that hovers above the ocean and offers stunning views of the outside world.
Just because your kids are on vacation doesn’t mean their brains have to be. Boasting an on-board science lab for children, Royal Caribbean‘s Oasis of the Seas is as educational as it is relaxing. Winter and summer converge on this pleasure vessel since passengers can choose between fun in the sun in the ship’s pools or cool it off at night by either hitting the on-board ice rink or taking in a chilly skate show.
Make a splash
Most ships have on-board pools. Yawn. Some even come with private pools for the ritziest passengers. But only one has a full-scale water coaster. The 765-foot AquaDuck slide available on Disney Dream cruise ships sends guests plunging down four deck lengths and into a lazy river. But don’t worry, there’s something for passengers who want a more relaxing vacation. Disney Dream also offers an adults-only Quiet Cove Pool that’s scream-free.
Modern cruising now incorporates all the luxury you expect from a cruise experience and spices things up with one-of-a-kind ship attractions that bring the adventure back on board.
Baseball’s popularity transcends generations; the great games, players and baseball events of the past still ignite discussion when comparing them to today’s stars and match-ups.
Now you can celebrate baseball’s incredible history and culture at the Tauck Baseball Event: America’s Pastime. This once-in-a-lifetime four-day exclusive Ken Burns event offers you a chance to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. and learn things about the game you never knew before.
Burns himself is a famed baseball historian and the producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary “Baseball” and its follow-up, “The Tenth Inning.” He has countless encounters, stories and experiences to share about the game’s great players.
This event is built around rotating baseball-themed “innings,” allowing groups of 30 to 35 people to enjoy a more in-depth, hands-on experience. Your visit also includes three nights in the historic accommodations of The Otesaga Resort on Otsego Lake in Cooperstown. But there is plenty to do besides relax in these lush furnishings.
Here are just some of the other insider activities you’ll enjoy when you take part in The Tauck Baseball Event: America’s Pastime:
* Meet Ken Burns during an exclusive private evening at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum following his keynote address; exclusive for the Tauck event.
* Meet and mingle with Hall of Fame players at historic Doubleday Field and enjoy a private session with their coaching. Past guests include 318 game-winning knuckleballer Phil Niekro and 13-time Gold Glove winning shortstop Ozzie Smith.
* Hear presentations from Major League and All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players, baseball historians and other experts to get their take on the game. You’ll learn valuable insights into the game and discover baseball’s origins to find out how a simple stick and ball game became The Great American Pastime. Past speakers have included: author Daniel Okrent, broadcaster, author and former MLB Doug Glanville and former women’s league player Lois Youngen.
* Take a behind-the-scenes VIP tour of the Hall of Fame Museum and see rare artifacts. You’ll also have time to explore the Hall of Fame after it has been closed to the public.
* Enjoy reserved seats in rows three and four for a once-in-a-lifetime event at the Clark Sports Center: the 75th Anniversary Concert of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This concert will feature the Boston Pops Orchestra, top recording artists, film and television celebrities including guitarist and former New York Yankees All-Star Bernie Williams.
This travel event is limited to 130 guests so don’t delay. To learn more about this event, call 800-468-2825 or visit Tauck online at www.tauck.com.
(BPT) - Traveling over the holidays to visit family can be a bit stressful. As you travel during this time of year, consider the following tips to help you reduce your stress and better enjoy the time spent with family while away from home.
* Pack flexibly – Family schedules can change quickly when large groups come together. You may discover yourself needing to dress for an evening out to attend your granddaughter’s school concert, or in need of warm and comfy walking shoes for an evening of Christmas caroling. These plans may not be finalized until you arrive, so pack your suitcase with multi-purpose clothing. For example, a pair of black slacks can easily be dressed up, or dressed down, depending on the look you need. Also throw in a pair of comfortable walking shoes and a pair of dressier shoes to create different looks.
* Stay smart – Whether you’re on the road, or there just isn’t space at your family member’s home, or you simply want a comfortable bed with quiet surroundings for a good night of sleep, many times you’ll need to find hotel accommodations during the holidays. Hilton Garden Inn provides these comforts, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi, cooked-to-order breakfast and in-room Keurig brewers, helping you to start your mornings right. In addition, guests who book the “Breakfast with Heart” room rate will receive a complimentary breakfast and support Hilton Garden Inn’s partnership with Feeding America to provide more than 670,000 meals for those in need.
* Take time for yourself – While it’s great to reunite with family over the holidays, coordinating with a big group can be overwhelming at times. When you stay at a hotel, you can find ways to take time for yourself, or with another member of the family. Consider inviting your daughter out for a lunch away from the crowd. Or settle into a comfy chair to watch a college football game. Or at the Hilton Garden Inn, you can work off some of those holiday calories in the fully equipped fitness center. Just be sure to take time away from the crowd so you can recharge and enjoy spending the holiday with family.
* Find the hidden treasures in the community – Every neighborhood and community has hidden treasures that would be fun to explore with your family. Maybe it’s driving around the town looking at the holiday lights and decorations. Or someone recommends a local cafe that serves the best hot chocolate and pie. Or a bookstore with ornate architecture and hard-to-find used books. Make the effort to really visit the community where your loved ones live, and learn more about those fun and unique places that you’ll want to visit again during future holiday gatherings.
With these travel tips, you can enjoy your holidays with family away from home. So sit back, grab another holiday treat and enjoy the stories being shared by your loved ones.
(BPT) - Your right foot holds the key to better gas mileage. How aggressively you apply the gas or brakes affects how frequently you have to stop for fuel. And driving style is even more important with today’s cars as the spread between a vehicle’s best and worst mileage may be 10 mpg or more. Here are some tips you can use to improve your gas mileage during the miles ahead, using your car’s technology.
* When you are in the driver’s seat be aware of the vehicle’s numerous computers. “Many newer cars have body, brake and transmission computers as well as engine computers,” says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of auto parts retailer RockAuto.com. These computers adjust vehicle systems and performance. Gas will be wasted whenever you do something that misleads a computer into thinking you are not driving to maximize mileage.
* Aggressive steering, acceleration or braking tells your car that gas mileage is not your top priority. The car’s computers calculate you must be having fun, avoiding a hazard or climbing a steep grade. The computer might adjust the transmission so the engine speeds up, activate the brake calipers on one or two wheels to avoid a skid or increase the flow of fuel and air in anticipation of the need for even harder acceleration.
* A hybrid car might turn on the gasoline engine once it receives input that the driver needs performance instead of gas mileage. Many modern engines deactivate cylinders to save gas. Cylinders shut down so a V8 becomes a V4. The computer reactivates all the cylinders when the driver’s foot presses harder on the gas pedal. If the car continues to get mixed signals from the driver, it may remain in performance modes and continue to use more gas than necessary.
* Many drivers also mistakenly believe they can do a better job of saving gas than the computer. New cars frequently come with paddle shifters on the steering wheel so the driver can control the transmission. A driver might decide they will shift the gears manually to save gas. Modern transmissions may have eight or more gears. Meanwhile, continuously variable transmissions (CVT) have no conventional gears at all. The computers will always maintain some control of the transmission. Using the paddle shifters leads the computer to assume the driver wants to have fun or is driving in challenging conditions. While the paddle shifters are in use, the computers may completely turn off engine cylinder deactivation. This means all of the cylinders will be using gas all the time. The computers may maintain higher engine speeds and use more low gears to enhance performance.
* Shifting into neutral and coasting does not save gas. When the vehicle is coasting with the transmission in gear, the computers turn off the fuel injectors until the engine slows to near idle speed. The engine is still turning over but using no gasoline. “Turning off the fuel injectors means the drivetrain is turning the engine rather than the engine turning the drivetrain,” says RockAuto.com’s Taylor. “This actually helps slow the vehicle and slightly reduces brake pad wear when coming to a stop.”
Some common-sense fuel saving tips are still valid. Follow the maintenance schedule outlined in the owner’s manual and avoid hauling unnecessary weight in the trunk. Tires should be kept inflated, but air pressure is something the computers now also help monitor. “Cars in the near future are likely to be able to inflate their own tires rather than just warning the driver if the sensors detect that pressure is low,” says Taylor.
A recent EPA report states that vehicles sold in the U.S. attained a new fuel-economy record of 23.6 mpg for model year 2012. Impressive, but vehicle manufacturers need to more than double that to meet a regulatory goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Expect to find all sorts of new technology and materials in future cars. To maximize gasoline mileage, just drive smoothly and let the computers do their work.
(BPT) - Traveling Europe may seem like a distant dream; tourists inundate cities during peak season, driving prices up. But your European dreams are attainable – if you travel during winter months. Europe can be much more affordable in winter and the quiet cities offer a more intimate and authentic experience.
During the winter months, cheaper flights and discounted hotel rooms are easier on your budget. The Michelin Must See guides, such as Michelin’s Most Famous Places Italy and France editions, will help you gather all the details necessary to plan your intimate European getaway even in the depths of winter. Colder weather also means indulging in the decadent cuisine and bold wines, so cozying up in a picturesque café won’t be unseasonable.
If you are looking for a low-key getaway with all the culture and luxury that the region offers, consider visiting two of Europe’s most breathtaking cities in winter. Each offers a rich history to feed the mind and lavish sights that will arouse your psyche.
Situated just north of the French Alps, Annecy offers the perfect backdrop for an ethereal French adventure. Surrounded by a lake, river and mountains, Annecy has quintessential French charm. The old town is speckled with colorful markets, arcaded architecture and inviting cafes that will transport you into a French dream world.
“Annecy is one of my favorite places in France,” says Michelin editorial director, Cynthia Ochterbeck. “A great way to get there is to fly directly to Geneva, Switzerland, as it is not far away. Then rent a car, and make your way south. That way you can enjoy the beauty of Annecy as well as get out in the Alps for some breathtaking drives.”
From the old town, the River Thiou runs into Lake Annecy, which offers stunning views. Take a stroll or ride around the edge of the lake via the Avenue d’Albigny. While the boats may be out of the lake for the winter, there is no reason to miss the beautiful Chateau d'Annecy. And if you are traveling with a special someone, steal a kiss on the middle of the Pont des Amours.
If a cold wind brings in freezing temperatures, take the opportunity to view some on the most beautiful Basilicas and mausoleums that the city has to offer. The warm gold and shimmering jewel tones will quickly warm your senses. Let the intricate mosaics tell the story of the city with their striking patterns, colors and rich symbolism. Don’t miss those in the Basillica di San Vitale, which is an architectural piece of art itself. You will feel as though you are royalty as you walk in awe through the ornate structure filled with dazzling carved Byzantine capitals, frescos and mosaics. These beautiful works of art fleck the city, telling of a time when the city was the capital of the Western Empire.
If you cannot imagine a trip to Europe without making a stop in one of the landmark cities, visit the beautiful island city of Venice after your stay in Ravenna. As the temperatures drop, the major sites offer photo opportunities free of fellow tourists. Crowds and prices will spike during Christmas and again during the festival of Carnevale, so avoid those times if a serene, budget-friendly vacation is your objective.
Once you return from your vacation, you will be eager to discover all the other areas of the world that offer beautiful winter escapes with great deals.
Visit the www.MichelinTravel.com for more travel tips for your next escape.
(BPT) - Traveling during the holiday season can be fun, but it also offers its fair share of anxious moments, stress and expense.
This year, between Thanksgiving weekend and New Year’s Day, an estimated 100 million Americans will travel by car, train or air to visit family or go on vacation, based on forecasts issued in previous years by the American Automobile Association (AAA).
The key to avoiding stress and potential legal issues during the busy travel season is planning, according to FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information.
Here are some additional tips from FindLaw.com to keep your holiday travel plans safe and stress-free:
* Be sure you have all necessary travel documents. A valid ID, such as a state-issued driver’s license, is necessary beyond the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at the airport, and will certainly be essential if you want to rent a car at your destination. If you plan to leave the United States, you must have a passport. According to the State Department, “all minors regardless of age, including newborns and infants, must have their own passport when traveling internationally by air.” FindLaw advises that you apply for your passport at least six weeks before your trip. Also, make photocopies of all travel documents – the front and back of your license, or the information pages of your passport – and store them in a safe place in the event that your wallet or purse is stolen, or your luggage is lost.
* Don’t advertise your trip on social media. Posting your travel plans online such as on social media sites is an open invitation to thieves. Contact your local law enforcement agency and notify them of your travel arrangements – they can offer you tips, help assess the risk of crimes in your neighborhood or add your property to a “watch list” if you are gone for an extended period. Also, make sure your neighbors are aware of your travel plans so they can watch for suspicious activity. Save the social sharing for after your trip.
* Pack smart and carefully. Avoid packing items that cause delays at airport security checkpoints. Ship gifts ahead of time and pack electronics and liquids as directed by the TSA (www.tsa.gov). For liquids, gels and aerosols, use the 3-1-1 rule – 3.4 ounce bottle or less, by volume; placed in a 1 quart-sized clear, zip-top plastic bag; 1 bag per passenger. Carry all prescriptions in their original, clearly labeled bottles. Carefully follow all TSA rules pertaining to metal objects, including unloaded firearms, which must be declared at time of check-in.
* Check your insurance coverage. If you’re going to take an extended trip overseas, consider upgrading your insurance to ensure you have proper coverage. If you rent a car, have copies of your auto insurance card and information on hand. Carefully check your personal policy for rental coverage to make sure you are covered. Consider travel insurance to reduce the financial blow if you are forced to cancel or interrupt your trip. Read the insurance policy carefully before accepting and only go through a respected insurance provider.
* Check your cell phone plan. Don't assume your cell phone will work in another part of the country or overseas. Check with your provider to see what kind of coverage you will have at your destination, and if you’ll need to upgrade to use your phone. If you travel out of the country, research local calling procedures before you leave home. Learn, for example, how payments are handled, country calling code, etc. Avoid the helpless feeling of trying to operate a payphone; operator assistance and automated instructions may come in a language you can’t understand.
* Plan for an emergency while you are gone. Make sure your trip is fun and carefree by planning ahead for the worst. Check weather forecasts and set your travel schedule accordingly to avoid potential setbacks. If you are traveling overseas, or in an area you are not familiar with, check the State Department website for updated travel warnings and current credible threats, and determine the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be travelling. Always, be knowledgeable of local laws and customs.
To read more about how to travel safely this holiday season, visit FindLaw.com.
(BPT) - Now that frigid temperatures and stormy days have come back in earnest, it’s time for car owners to think seriously about the road conditions ahead and take the simple but important steps to ensure safe winter travel this year.
Bad weather is linked to 7,000 deaths, 800,000 injuries and more than 1.5 million crashes every year, according to a long-term study published in the American Journal of Public Health. While these numbers are scary enough, even minor breakdowns can lead to real trouble on snow-packed roads.
"There's nothing worse than breaking down on a cold winter night, stranded on the side of the road," says Jim Fults, auto insurance leader at Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. "A few basic precautions can dramatically reduce the risk of getting stuck on the road, including roadside assistance provided through your insurance policy.”
People can avoid or minimize dangerous weather-related breakdowns and accidents by performing regular checks, so motorists are advised to follow these steps to increase the odds of arriving safe and sound:
* Get your car checked: A professional check is worth it, for added peace of mind.
* Check your tires: Rain, snow and ice can make roads lethal. Check your tire tread and make sure the air pressure is OK.
* Light the way: Keep lights clean and make sure they are working.
* Get charged up: A dead battery is the main cause of breakdowns, so get it checked and replaced if necessary.
* Cooling system: Ensure this is checked and that the anti-freeze content meets the manufacturer requirements.
* Wipers: Check windscreen wipers and replace if they fail to clear the screen correctly.
* Fuel: Ensure you have more than enough for your journey.
Be prepared and take the following items with you:
* A fully charged cellphone
* Shovel in case of snow
* De-icer and a scraper for windows
* Blanket and warm clothing in case the worst happens
* Sturdy shoes or rubber boots
* Some snacks, such as energy bars
* Extra fuel "We urge motorists to set aside some time to carry out a series of simple checks," Fults says. "Some may seem like common sense, but you'll be surprised at how many drivers forget after the summer. For example, it is crucial to ensure all your lights are clean and working properly. Always replace any broken bulbs immediately. If you don't, you will not only find it difficult to see the road clearly, you run the risk of not being seen by other drivers."
In addition, it is a good idea to put together an emergency winter survival kit so that you are prepared should you breakdown. Remember to include a flashlight, blanket, ice scraper and a first aid kit.
(BPT) - Ringing in the new year on a budget? The high price of New Year's Eve hotel accommodations doesn’t have to keep you from celebrating in big-city style. Even the most sought-after New Year’s Eve hotspots have nearby alternatives that give travelers access to big-city countdowns without the big-city price tags.
“Surveys have shown that two-thirds of travelers will choose a destination first, then search for ways to make their plans and accommodations fit into their travel budgets," says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com. "A great way to do that is by considering hotel accommodations in the suburbs just outside the city you're looking to visit. For New Year's Eve, travelers will see incredible savings and still have easy access to the spectacular big-city celebrations."
For example, for a new year south of the border, travelers can save up to 42 percent by staying in Cozumel instead of the crowded Cancun strip. Families interested in visiting Orlando, Fla., for the holiday might prefer to say in nearby Kissimmee and save more than 20 percent. Here are a few other top New Year’s destinations and their money-saving alternatives:
Las Vegas strip/off-strip: It's easy to see why Las Vegas is the nation's top destination for New Year's Eve with its world-class celebrations and ultimate parties. But, not to worry, staying at hotels off-the-strip means a 31 percent hotel savings, without missing out on all the New Year’s party action. Travelers will still have convenient access to the New Year's fireworks and live music on the strip and at the Fremont Experience. Whether you're ready to let loose and party or looking for a classic New Year's celebration, Las Vegas has it.
New York City/Newark, N.J.: The Times Square ball drop is the most iconic New Year's celebration of all and this year it's easier than ever to afford a trip to the Big Apple by staying in one of the many New York City suburbs. If you book your New Year's Eve hotel in Newark, N.J., a quick train ride will drop you in the center of all the action, and you will have one more reason to celebrate - 68 percent average savings.
New Orleans’ French Quarter/Garden District: When it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve in grand style, it’s hard to top New Orleans. And, best of all, much of it is free. Jackson Square is ground zero for the evening’s fun and excitement, complete with live entertainment. Just before midnight, the crowd turns its attention to the roof of Jax Brewery, waiting for an 8-foot-tall fleur-de-lis to drop and ring in 2014. Want to join in on the fun without the big price tag? Savings of 33 percent can be found by staying in the mansion-lined Garden District, just a short streetcar or cab ride from the action.
Understanding the past can help us better appreciate the present and look toward the future. If you want a more meaningful vacation, an excursion to one of America’s most significant sites can be a step straight into history. Why not celebrate the Gettysburg Address’ and Yosemite National Park’s 150th anniversaries by delving into the rich landscape that hosted each monumental achievement?
Allow your mind to explore the wonderful places past and present with one of Tauck’s all-encompassing, all-inclusive tours. Two Ken Burns's documentaries have inspired tours featuring some of the most revered places in America. From a turning point in the American Civil War to a turning point in the struggle to save America’s wild places, these two tours will inspire every visitor.
The Ken Burns documentary “The Civil War” focuses on a pivotal time in America’s history, but nothing can compare to visiting the conflict’s actual sites and hallowed grounds, and experiencing the history for yourself. Feel the power that the places still hold and hear exclusive talks from experts. Visitors will find a new appreciation for what it means to be an American as they travel from Washington, D.C. through Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, to Richmond, Va.
* National Archives. Get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the place that houses the nation’s founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Visitors will also see how the archives are preserved to share the stories with future generations.
* Iconic battlefields. Visit Gettysburg, Antietam, Petersburg and Appomattox Court House while being guided by area experts. These private tours will give visitors a greater understanding of what happened on the battlefields and how those past events still affect life today.
* Exclusive lectures from great historians. Feed your mind as you travel the most prominent locations of the Civil War. Tours are accented by brief films produced by Ken Burns that give unique perspectives on the conflict and how it continues to shape the nation today.
The national park system helps to preserve some of the most awe-inspiring areas of the nation. These untouched swaths of land can tell endless stories of the past, while making visitors feel the overwhelming power of nature. California’s Yosemite National Park was the nation’s first protected wild land, making it one of the most astounding parks both for its dense history and unscathed backdrops. The Tauck Yosemite Event marks the park’s 150th anniversary and guides visitors through the park, mirroring themes explored in the Ken Burn documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Travelers can expect to get an insider look at the past and the present of this breathtaking park.
* The Bracebridge Dinner. This black tie affair dates back to 1927 and transforms the main dining room in Yosemite’s historic Ahwahnee Hotel into a 17th century English manor for one night. Tickets to the four-hour, seven-course meal (complemented by extravagant performances) have historically been nearly impossible to obtain, but Tauck is including the Bracebridge Dinner in its Yosemite Event. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the traditions of Yosemite and the holiday season.
* Attend the Tauck event, and besides touring Yosemite, you’ll enjoy other memorable experiences in the region. Feel dwarfed as you stroll under the towering canopy of Muir Woods. The winding paths will guide you through some of the most humbling places of the majestic forest. Get off your feet and take a scenic train ride through California’s Central Valley. (The rail follows the route the historic Buffalo Soldiers took in the 1800s.) Tour iconic locations in beautiful San Francisco, and enjoy a combined three nights at the St. Regis San Francisco (along with two nights accommodations at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite).
* View the amazing works the park has inspired. Celebrate Yosemite’s milestone while attending galas and events that shine the spotlight on the natural wonders. Get the inside look at how the beautiful land inspired great photographers like Ansel Adams and timeless films like Little House on the Prairie.
Traveling through historic sites satisfies both wanderlust and the yearning to learn more about the complex past of America. A rich historic tour is sure to inspire passion and awe in all visitors, no matter how little or how much they already know about American history.
For more information on historic, all-inclusive tours, visit Tauck.com.
(BPT) - Heading on vacation? This year, instead of settling for just sitting on the beach, think about embarking on an experience-based adventure.
“Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or by yourself, there are all kinds of activities to enhance your vacation experience,” says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com.
Here are four ideas to get you started on planning your trip:
Expand your skillset
They say there is no time like the present. Your next vacation could be the perfect time to cross a lesson or two off your bucket list. The Hawaii Style Surf School offers training in surfing and paddle boarding in the calming currents off Maui’s coast.
Learn something new
Whether you are an expert or casual admirer of a subject, there is always more to learn. Consider vacationing where you can provide an educational experience for the entire family while still having a great time. The Ultimate Space Experience at Kennedy Space Center in Orlando offers an in-depth tour, lunch with an astronaut, and the chance to try the G-Force Simulator.
Travel “back in time”
Who says history can only be taught in school? Many historic sites offer activities and tours that immerse travelers in the sights and sounds of the past. The WWII Pearl Harbor Heroes Adventure in Oahu, Hawaii, allows groups to walk in the exact footsteps of America’s most courageous heroes, see genuine artifacts from the era, and visit the deck of one of the world’s most famous battleships, the USS Missouri.
Pump some adrenaline
For those seeking an adventure in the truest sense of the word, pushing yourself slightly out of your comfort zone can make for some great memories. So while the Grand Canyon is cool, you may want to try something even cooler. Try exploring one of the greatest sites in the world from a different perspective – a helicopter. The Grand Canyon Wind Dancer Helicopter Excursion, based out of Las Vegas, offers the opportunity to see the region like you’ve never seen it before.
Beach vacations can be great, but if you crave something new and exciting, it’s easy to find and book one-of-a-kind attractions, trips and tours – especially if you use online tools. So on your next vacation, why not try something you’ve never done before, and make some memories you’ll never forget?
(BPT) - It’s no secret that families are busy these days. Between mom and dad’s careers, the kids’ school demands and extra-curricular activities, quality time together as a family is hard to come by. This busy lifestyle is inspiring a new travel movement, and 2014 is positioned for the grand rebirth of the family vacation.
If you want to take an unforgettable family vacation this year, the idea of planning might seem overwhelming. But travel experts agree that planning ahead and researching your options are important steps to ensure your trip is stress-free and full of fun.
Follow these five steps to plan a trip your entire family will love and remember for years to come:
Step 1: Make a travel wish list Kick off your travel planning by talking to all family members about what they’d like to see and do on vacation. Keep it light-hearted and have some fun – chat with your 4-year-old over breakfast or text your teen after school. As you have these conversations, notice commonalities, such as location and experiences.
Step 2: Research, research, research After your initial conversations with your family, it’s time to do your research. The Internet has made selecting a travel destination that much easier – or harder because there are so many options. Check out tourism organizations, such as a Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB). Look up online hotel and travel reviews – these sites can provide invaluable information for travelers. Many sites even have free online travel planners or visitor’s guides.
Step 3: Choose a destination for everyone Perhaps the most important consideration when planning a family vacation is to select a destination that has something for every person in your group. Myrtle Beach, S.C. is a great example of a location that is great for all ages. The 60 miles of pristine beaches are just one reason to visit – foodies can indulge on the best Southern and low-country cuisine; cultural enthusiasts can experience beautiful art museums and plantations; golfers tee off at a one of the many championship courses in the area. From water parks to natural wonders, Myrtle Beach is a true gem for family vacations. Visit www.visitmyrtlebeach.com to learn more.
Step 4: Select your ideal accommodations Whether you’re vacationing for a long weekend or multiple weeks, it’s important to choose the right accommodations for your family. For example, if you know you’ll be at the beach daily, stay at a shore-side resort. If you want to save on eating expenses, look into condos with kitchens. For big groups such as family reunions, consider a beach house that allows everyone to stay in their own room within one shared space.
Step 5: Create a fun-filled itinerary This is a vacation, and while you shouldn’t plan out every hour of every day, having a basic itinerary gives direction to your trip and will help your group build excitement prior to your departure. Plus, planning ahead allows you to seek out deep discounts on tickets to shows and theme parks like the Alabama Theatre or Wild Water & Wheels in Myrtle Beach. You can even explore free activities like festivals and celebrations in the area that would be worthwhile to attend.
If you feel like it’s time for your family to take a break from the stress of everyday life, a family vacation might be just what everyone needs. Follow these steps to select a family friendly destination such as Myrtle Beach to ensure a vacation full of unforgettable memories.
Kids love dinosaurs, and with the new 3-D motion picture “Walking With Dinosaurs” in theaters nationwide for the holidays, parents of precocious paleontologists everywhere are scrambling to find the perfect dino-themed gift to put under the Christmas tree.
For parents seeking something more enriching than yet another plastic T. Rex, a brand new “Walking With Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time” family vacation package might be just the ticket.
Tauck, a leader in guided luxury tours and cruises, has teamed up with the nature documentary filmmakers at BBC Earth to offer the new five-day dinosaur adventure in and around Calgary, Alberta – an area that’s home to some of the world’s richest dinosaur fossil beds, not to mention one of the leading dino museums on the planet. The July 17 to 21, 2014 event will draw on the expertise behind the original BBC television series “Walking with Dinosaurs,” which reached a global audience of more than 700 million and inspired a generation with a fascination for dinosaurs.
* Themed daily sightseeing tracks. Guests will divide into small groups of 30 to 35 people for daily themed sightseeing “tracks,” ensuring an intimate, interactive experience. Different groups will experience these tracks on different days over the course of the event, so all attendees enjoy the same overall experience.
* Fossil hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Guests will travel with a paleontologist to explore Dinosaur Provincial Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has yielded fossils from 40 different dinosaur species, including over 150 complete dinosaur skeletons.
* An exclusive visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. With a collection of 140,000 fossils, the Royal Tyrrell Museum is one of the world’s foremost institutions devoted to paleontology. Attendees will tour the museum’s exhibits, gain insights from a paleontologist, and enjoy a hands-on demonstration revealing how scientists make detailed plaster casts of dinosaur fossils.
* An insider’s look at how BBC Earth filmmakers practice their art. Guests will also discover how the filmmakers at BBC Earth draw equally on science, art and technology to showcase the wonders of the natural world.
* Special evening gatherings. Evenings will be highlighted by special dinner events at unique venues, including the Calgary Zoo, the TELUS-Spark Science Centre, the indoor, rooftop Devonian Gardens and the Heritage Park Historical Village.
* Accommodations at the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This four-diamond rated hotel is great for families because it’s an all suite property, and popular with children thanks to its heated indoor swimming pool complete with 50-foot waterslide.
Cost of the tour includes airfare, entertainment, sightseeing, activities, admission to attractions, gratuities, ground transportation and most meals. For additional information go to www.tauck.com.
The 3D movie Walking with Dinosaurs is a major new blockbuster presented by Twentieth Century Fox and Reliance Entertainment in association with IM Global. A BBC Earth and Evergreen production in association with Animal Logic, the film is set for global release in December 2013.
About BBC Earth. BBC Earth is the leading factual brand for BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC. The brand exists to inspire audiences globally with new insights, amazing stories and incredible facts that will spark a journey of discovery. BBC Earth works with the world’s best filmmakers, creators and innovators to develop a range of new and unforgettable experiences to reach their broad base of fans. The BBC Earth team uses cutting edge technology to create exciting live events and theatric releases, creating top quality products and taking their content to new digital platforms to connect with audiences around the globe.
(BPT) - Each winter drivers from Maine to Texas are reminded just how dependent we are on our cars and what happens when snow and ice get in the way. More than 116,000 Americans are injured and over 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy pavement every winter.
Snowfighters, tasked with the job of keeping travelers safe, know that road salt is the most effective way to treat road surfaces. A Marquette University study examined highway accidents in snow and found that road salt reduced crashes by 88 percent while injuries and accident costs were reduced by 85 percent.
The safety impacts of using deicing salt before and after a snow event on four-lane highways reduced accidents by 93 percent, according to a University of Waterloo study. Untreated roads also carry a significant economic cost. A one-day major snowstorm can cause a state $300-$700 million in direct and indirect costs, according to a Global Insight study.
“Lost wages of hourly workers account for about two-thirds of the direct economic impact of a major snowstorm, says James Gillula, the principal researcher of the study. “Among all workers, hourly wage workers can suffer the most painful economic losses.”
This winter season has been especially harsh even in parts of the country not used to snow or ice. Residents of Atlanta experienced what happens without road salt to keep their streets clear. Children had to spend the night at school sleeping on gym mats when buses could not safely get them home. Workers became stranded in their cars for hours as traffic was completely gridlocked due to ice and accidents. Many vehicles were simply left abandoned. News reports were filled with images of people sleeping on the floors of area grocery stores.
Across the country news accounts are warning of limited road salt supplies and no one wants a repeat of what happened in Atlanta. “There isn’t a salt shortage,” says Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute. “Salt is in abundant supply, however, some of the country is experiencing a more severe winter than normal leaving some municipalities and departments of transportation with low inventories. While many agencies try to have enough salt on hand in the fall to get them through an entire winter, recent weather is forcing many to order again mid-season which is not an ideal situation as there is a lead time for delivery.”
Today, snowfighters across the country are using advanced technology that guarantees the right amount of salt at the right time, ensuring highway safety, protecting commerce and minimizing any possible harm to the environment. In some areas snowplows and even roadways are fitted with GPS systems and sensors to keep track of road conditions and temperatures, and fine tune the amount of salt and type of salt they need to apply. A recent comprehensive study by environmental researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and Environment Canada, found that best practices in salt management deliver significantly improved environmental results.
The Salt Institute promotes the latest environmentally-friendly application technologies and management practices with its "Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting" program and award. The institute also partners with other organizations like the Ontario Good Roads Association and the American Public Works Association to provide training and information to snowfighters across the United States and Canada. To learn more visit www.saltinstitute.org.
(BPT) - A flurry of congratulatory phone calls, social media announcements and sparkling ring pictures all mean one thing: engagement season has arrived. With approximately 39 percent of marriage proposals taking place between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, engaged couples are taking note of one of the fastest-growing nuptial trends – destination weddings.
These days, one in four weddings is a destination wedding, giving couples – and their guests – a reason to blend the joy of a marriage celebration with a fun and memorable vacation. Planning a destination wedding suitable for all your attendees is easier than you think, thanks to some key insights from Myrtle Beach-based expert wedding planner, Cheryl Cox.
1. Plan ahead Cox says nine to 12 months is the optimum planning time, especially for a destination wedding. Many couples start planning a destination wedding as soon as they get engaged. While the summer months are typically most popular for couples, when choosing a date, Cox recommends considering a Friday or weekday wedding, or planning the big day during the less-crowded but still desirable shoulder seasons (spring and fall).
2. Select a destination that caters to all guests Consider a location with something for everyone. Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the perfect example. The destination offers pristine greens for golf enthusiasts, museums and historic plantations for cultural buffs, delicious Coastal Carolina cuisine for the foodies, fun in the sun with a day at the beach or one of the many water parks, and for brides looking for some quality time with the girls, numerous spas for a day of pampering. Plus, there are plenty of lodging options for your guests including oceanfront resorts, beach home rentals and quaint bed and breakfasts.
3. Research ceremony locations Beautiful and unique ceremony locations are one of the perks of having a destination wedding. “Research wedding venues, travel and accommodation options, and rates, then rank the venues you like best,” suggests Cox. As a Myrtle Beach wedding planner, she notes that the area’s 60 miles of stunning coastline make the perfect romantic backdrop. Whether you’re looking for a beachside wedding outside a charming beach home or at the Myrtle Beach State Park, or a historic location like Litchfield Plantation or Pine Lakes Country Club, there are countless ceremony locations to choose from. You can even tie the knot 200 feet above the ground on the Myrtle Beach Skywheel. Visit www.visitmyrtlebeach.com for more information.
5. Help guests plan activities Travel is the foundation for long-lasting memories. In fact, a recent Harris Interactive survey found 62 percent of adults said their earliest memories were of family vacations taken when they were between ages 5 and 10. Help your guests – particularly families with young ones – get the most out of their trip by suggesting activities or even making reservations for dinners, tee times, theme parks, museums, etc., before arrival.
6. Hire a wedding planner Planning a destination wedding doesn’t need to be stressful – hire a wedding planner. “Wedding planners know the local wedding professionals and venues including the city regulations for beach weddings,” says Cox. The perfect beach wedding can be accomplished with the help of a wedding planner as they know the ins and outs of planning a beautiful beach wedding so couples and their guests can enjoy the true beauty of a beachside wedding.
7. Consider a pre-wedding visit “If possible, attend a local wedding show to meet wedding professionals one-on-one or plan a ‘wedding planning trip’ to visit venues and meet with wedding vendors,” Cox suggests. “Remember to take notes so you can recall all the details when you’re back home.”
8. Get wedding insurance Give yourself peace of mind by purchasing the appropriate wedding insurance. And, Cox notes, “Research to find the best coverage for your wedding – I highly recommend it.”
9. Be mindful of budget Start your marriage off on the right financial foot by keeping your wedding on-budget. Many couples planning destination weddings find them to be similar or even more affordable than traditional weddings back home. Myrtle Beach offers a variety of wedding venue options at various price points, so you can have your dream beach wedding and still stay on a budget.
10. Enjoy!This is perhaps the most important step of all. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience of planning this memorable day and enjoying the company of your guests. Take pictures, sample cakes, pick out flowers and remember these moments and the beautiful destination you selected.
(BPT) - With snow falling, the wind blowing and everyone bundling up in extra layers of clothing, the last thing you probably have on your mind is the condition of your feet. But time passes quickly. Before you know it, the temps will be rising, and you’ll be digging in the back of your closet for sandals. Will your feet be ready for their reintroduction to society?
With spring break plans in place and summer just around the corner – sandal season will be here before you know it. It’s time to put foot care on your immediate to-do list so your feet will be up to the task of showing off your newest pair of sandals with pride the second temperatures creep into the warm zone. Don’t forget to start these simple foot-care tips now, giving your feet a beautiful new look come spring:
* Spring showers bring softer feet – The dry winter air not only creates deep dry crevasses in the soil, it can leave feet cracked and scaly, which isn’t pretty for men or women. White and flaky feet don’t go well with the latest fashion in sandals. Cracked and scaly feet are also a health concern, putting you at risk for an infection. Use a good moisturizing lotion frequently, concentrating on the heels, balls and toes of your feet – areas where the biggest problems build up.
* Massage away the stresses of winter – Foot care isn’t just about how your feet look – it’s also about how they feel. Massage and moisturizing go together like peaches and cream. Massage the lotion into your feet and toes, helping to improve your blood circulation and easing the aches and stresses caused by long days wearing socks and heavy shoes. Massage also will refresh the skin on your feet, giving them the soft appearance needed to look great once the socks are removed.
* Scrub off the cold – When bathing, soak your feet and exfoliate areas where calluses – caused by the friction of socks rubbing against the insides of your shoes – build up. This often happens on the heels and balls of the feet – those same areas that need the extra lotion. Use a pumice stone to help keep those calluses in check, leaving you with soft feet ready for the beach and playing in the sunshine.
* Yellow is the color of the sun, not your toenails – Yellow toenails are a sign of a fungal infection, which can be treated with Dr. Paul’s Piggy Paste. About 14 percent of Americans have this type of fungus, which leaves nails looking textured with a dark yellow coloring. Dr. Paul Kinsinger developed the gel to treat his patients at his Illini Family Medicine in Washington, Ill. With proper usage, you’ll start to see improvements between two to six weeks, leaving you with beautiful-looking toes by the time spring has sprung.
* Cabin fever? Give your feet a breath of fresh air – You wouldn’t think you’d have to worry about sweaty feet in the winter months, but when confined to socks and shoes, moisture can build up. Wear sweat-wicking socks to help prevent blisters when working hard like shoveling snow or going for a winter hike. And take off your shoes and socks every once in a while to let your feet breathe.
* Surprise your feet with a spa package – This tip is for both men and women. Establishing a pedicure schedule will keep your feet exfoliated and moisturized on a consistent basis, and your toenails will be trimmed to a suitable length, helping to prevent any ingrown nails. And if you are planning a tropical spring break trip, be sure to schedule a pedicure just before you leave, so you’ll be ready to show off your feet at their finest.
It takes time to pamper your feet to be ready for sandal season, so be sure to get started moisturizing and treating any infections immediately. Your feet will thank you.
(BPT) - With the Olympics right around the corner, skiing is on a lot of people’s minds. While ski trips can get pricey quickly, there are ways to give your budget a lift.
“It’s not unusual for ‘ski vacation’ to be synonymous with ‘expensive getaway,’” says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. These seven simple tips and tricks can stretch your dollar and get you slopeside for a fraction of the price.”
* Borrow your ski equipment. One of the big expenses of a ski vacation – especially for new skiers – can be gearing up. Tap friends and family to borrow ski gear for your trip – from coats and ski pants to ski boots and snowboards.
* Travel’s new rule: Pack light. Most airlines let you travel with a ski bag as one of your checked bags. Just be conscious of the weight allowance and take as much as you can in a carry-on bag to avoid extra fees.
* Choose an easily reachable resort. Flying into to smaller airports can mean heftier prices and inconvenient connections. Look for ski resorts that are within close proximity of major airports where there is more airline competition. Ski destinations like Keystone and Breckenridge are both family-friendly and an easy drive or shuttle ride from Denver International Airport.
* Stay in a vacation rental. Large ski areas have plenty of lodging options aside from hotels. From condos, cabins and private homes, vacation rentals are a great alternative, especially for large groups and families. Vacation rentals typically go for a flat daily or weekly fee, so the more people you invite, the less it will cost per person.
* Location, location, location. While slopeside hotels let you walk out your door and hop on the lift, opting for lodging a little farther from the mountain can save you cash. And most ski resorts offer free shuttle services with stops throughout town, so getting to the lifts is not a hassle.
* Discount lift tickets. If you’re a student or a senior, be sure to bring identification to take advantage of any discounts available. And for those who enjoy sleeping in, you can opt for half-day or evening lift tickets that are discounted compared to full-day passes.
* Timing is everything. Many travelers end up paying too much for a ski vacation simply because they choose to vacation when everyone else does. In general, lift tickets and lodging will be most expensive over Christmas and New Year’s, MLK weekend, the President’s Day holiday and spring break during the month of March. Prices are relatively low in the early season, which occurs November through mid-December. They will often drop again in April, after spring break. The month of January is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets to skiing on a budget. After the December holidays, you’ll find plenty of snow without the crowds, typically resulting in lower lodging rates.
No traveler can truly say they know Europe if they haven’t thoroughly explored two of its classic cities London and Florence. Between exploring everything royal and Renaissance, eating delectable foods at little cafes tucked on every corner, and touring the museums, these two world cities have so many sights to see, you’ll want to immerse yourself fully in the culture, history and “off-the-beaten-path” delights of each.
Some of the must-see sights in London include:
* Everything royal – Explore Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, celebrate tea time at Fortnum & Mason, and take a walking tour highlighting the romance of Prince William and Kate Middleton, from their first meeting to the royal wedding. London’s West End is also a great place to explore the shops where the royals are frequently seen.
* Trace Shakespeare’s literary footprints – While the original Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s playhouse in London, was destroyed in 1644, it has been reconstructed to let actors perform the Bard’s plays exactly as they would have in his day.
* World War II history – London was a big player in World War II, surviving many raids by Nazi bombers. The city is full of stories about the Blitz, from tragedy to heroism, and has a memorial established at St. Paul’s. Walking through the streets also showcases existing damage still left from the bombing.
These stories and sights are all included in Tauck’s “World Cities” tour of London. This six-day tour will explore London as the Londoners live, and this all-inclusive, in-depth experience includes everything from hotels, sightseeing, meals and on-tour transportation to special entertainment.
Some of the sights to see in Florence include:
* Art exploration - Florence is a city of art, from the magnificent David statue to street artisans selling crafts and paintings. Art is also found in much of the city’s architecture – from the Baptistery of St. John to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral’s Duomo, one feature of Florence’s skyline you can’t miss. In fact, the Duomo’s museum is where Michelangelo sculpted the original David. His masterwork is now on display at the Galleria Dell’Academia. Also tour the Medici family museum and the Uffizi Gallery, which includes a hidden passageway lined with self-portraits of many famous artists.
* Learn from da Vinci – Not only did Leonardo da Vinci create masterpieces of art, he also was an inventor – and some of his inventions will probably surprise you. Just a short drive from Florence into the Tuscan hills will take you to Vinci, the village where Leonardo was born.
* Italian food and drink – A trip to Italy and Florence is not complete without enjoying the region’s delicacies. From freshly grown ingredients and handmade pastas to wines fermented from grapes grown on Tuscan hillsides, sampling the local cuisine is a “magnifico” experience. And what better way to fully appreciate the region’s bounty, than with a lesson in wine tasting and appreciation from a master sommelier?
Tauck‘s “World Cities” tour of Florence gives you all these experiences and more over an enriching and memorable six-day immersion in Florentine culture. The company has spent 88 years designing authentic, engaging, all-inclusive travel experiences, ensuring you’ll enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime exploration of Florence.
To learn more about both of these tours, visit Tauck.com to find e-brochures on London and Florence.
(BPT) - As vital as vacations are for our mental well-being, many of us find ourselves compromising on nutrition when we travel. Being away from our routines - and our own kitchens - can throw our weight loss efforts for a loop. Eating while traveling with limited time and restaurant choices is often the hardest part of keeping up with a healthy diet. Not to mention the challenges of finding time and a place to exercise.
All that said, you don't have to lose your healthy habits at the next exit. Instead, consider these strategies from Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company for maintaining a healthy way of eating even on the open road.
1. Bring your own. Let’s face it: fast food snacks are typically not ideal for those looking to stick to a healthy way of life eating plan. By far, the best choice is to bring your own. With a little planning and few minutes of preparation, you can stock a snack bag full of healthy foods that will save you money and spare your healthy eating goals. Consider snacks such as chopped veggies with Greek yogurt dip or hummus, hardboiled eggs, fruit slices with almond butter, nuts, string cheese or homemade trail mix.
2. Fuel up at the gas station. You’d be surprised at what you can find if you're willing to sift through the aisles of unhealthy items at a gas station. Look for protein bars, assorted nuts and seeds, jerky or snack sticks, canned or bagged tuna, hard boiled eggs, fruit, Greek yogurt and oatmeal. They are all good options that are readily available at most gas stations.
3. Seek out salads. While eating a greasy sandwich and fries may taste good in the moment, an hour or two later you’ll likely feel like the energy was sucked right out of you. Instead of a sandwich or burger, try a fresh salad with some kind of protein such as fish, chicken or beef, but beware of the sweet-sounding vinaigrettes. If a sandwich is a must, ditch the bun and skip the fries or chips, opting for a side salad or fresh fruit instead.
4. Check ahead for available health clubs. If you know you're going out of town for a weekend or longer, look online for a health club in the area. Find out information like location, cost and what equipment is available to use, and ask if they offer short-term or day passes. If you are a member of a health club, such as Life Time, check to see if there are destinations in the city you’re visiting and ask if you can use their location. Even if you’re not a member, Life Time locations across the country often provide seven-day pass access. No health club? Take advantage of travel tools. A heart rate monitor and pedometer are two simple tools that will fit right inside your carry on. Also, there are many “travel specific” resistance bands which have a door attachment that allows them to be anchored on the wall for additional exercises. Otherwise, go for ultimate packing efficiency by relying on your own body weight for exercises like push-ups, crunches, lunges or squats.
5. Be good at the buffet. Many hotels offer buffet-style meals included with your stay or for an incredibly good deal. There is no reason to avoid eating at a buffet, but you do need to be cautious about how you fill your plate. The most inexpensive foods at the buffet are the breads, rolls and other starchy foods so think about getting the most value out of your meal both financially and nutritiously. Eggs, meats, cheese and vegetables will not only keep you from eating as much, they will also keep you full throughout the day.
It isn’t always easy to make the right decision when you’re traveling and the variety of pit stop options make it tempting to indulge, but the satisfaction of making healthy and nutritious choices lasts long after vacation is over.
(BPT) - Nearly 150 days separate the last day of the winter holidays from the first unofficial day of summer – Memorial Day. After holiday decorations get packed away, and winter sets in, it’s not uncommon to experience a touch – or more – of winter boredom.
Some people may find themselves in a rut during those long 150 days. Fortunately, a number of tactics can help perk up your spirits. Here is a handful to consider as you enter 2014:
Escape the routine
Traveling during winter has many benefits. In many areas of the country, winter months are slower business times for hotels and resorts, and you may find great deals. What’s more, breaking up the routine and going somewhere new and exciting – or relaxing – may help alleviate winter blues.
Immersing yourself in relaxation and pampering could be just what you need to release winter tensions. Places like The American Club resort in the quaint Village of Kohler, Wis., offers luxurious accommodations and the opportunity to step outside the winter routine. The newly renovated Carriage House sits above the five-star Kohler Waters Spa. Owned by Kohler Co., the leading manufacturer of bathing products, it’s no surprise the spa is renowned for its cutting-edge bathing and hydrotherapy services.
Such destinations offer you the opportunity to immerse yourself in luxury and do absolutely nothing, or get your blood pumping with all the exciting attractions, activities and culinary experiences at the resort and surrounding area.
Refresh your environment
Travel isn’t always possible, but you can still experience a change in perspective when you make changes in your home environment. Kitchen and bathroom renovations are top choices and winter is a great time to tackle those projects.
If you have the budget, by all means – go big. But if your budget is more modest, don’t despair; even small changes like new shower heads, faucets and accessories can give a room a spirit-lifting new look and feel. Doubt the power of a shower head to transform a bath? Consider the KOHLER Moxie Showerhead + Wireless Speaker. Its wireless speaker pairs with devices enabled with Bluetooth technology, offering a delightful and energizing showering experience. Available in four new colors (Chartreuse, Retro Blue, Navy Blue or Cherry Red), this showerhead will not only provide new decor but also an upgraded showering experience.
Make your own holidays
Who says you have to limit spirit-lifting celebrations to specific days of the year? If gathering with family and friends around the dinner table makes you happy, why not choose one day a month and have everyone over? Decorate for a theme that you enjoy – such as the beach or even the Fourth of July in January.
Celebrate each family member with a special outing. Perhaps in January, your first-grader will choose a trip to the local indoor playground. In February, your husband might opt for a family bowling night. Allowing each member of the family to choose a destination gets everyone involved and excited. Plus, unusual family outings are a great way to brighten winter days.
The days between New Year’s and spring don’t have to drag. Just step outside the routine – whether through travel or innovation at home – to help beat the winter blues.
Winter’s dark nights are for more than just regular dreaming: They’re for conjuring up pleasant images of that satisfying cold-weather escape we all envision. But just where are Americans’ winter travel dreams landing these days?
DreamPlanGo, the travelers’ website for destination ideas and inspiration, asked a cross-section of followers what wintertime journeys were on their wish lists and in their plans.
Sun or snow?
We’re talking about more than just dreaming here: More than 70 percent of survey respondents said they actually were planning to do some kind of winter travel.
As may be expected, two-thirds (66 percent) of those planning such travel said they would head to the beach or other warm-weather destination.
More than 18 percent of traveling respondents said that visiting friends and family was on their winter travel itinerary. For the luckiest travelers, “friends and family” and “warm weather destination” will not be mutually exclusive.
Of course, snow sports are another popular winter pastime, and almost 16 percent of travelers had a skiing, snowboarding or other “white stuff” related trip on their wish list for this winter.
Following the sun
The survey’s top dream destinations for finding sunshine, sand and warmth include:
Bora Bora (60 percent of respondents)
Hawaii (57 percent)
The islands of the Caribbean (55 percent)
Costa Rica (30 percent)
Respondents could indicate three trips, hence the 100-plus total. How do those vacations compare to your tropical dreaming?
Other expedition-level adventures that made the top tier in the survey include Fiji, Tahiti and Bali… definitely providing a South Pacific flair to the results.
Those are some big-time, bucket-list type of journeys. For the more annual or bi-annual kinds of escapes on travelers’ minds, here are the top destinations:
Mexico (27 percent)
Florida (16.1 percent)
Jamaica (15 percent)
Bahamas (15 percent)
Key West was frequently mentioned, either on its own or in conjunction with a Florida visit, indicating the popularity of this southernmost tip of the continental United States. Jamaica and Bahamas were common specific mentions within the Caribbean category.
But folks are looking for junkets, getaways and escapes too. Whatever you happen to call these shorter trips, here are some of respondents’ favorites:
Las Vegas (25 percent)
Florida (12.5 percent)
California (10 percent)
For Las Vegas, it was the shows, night life and maybe a little bit of gambling that provided the most attraction to travelers. For Florida, it was the Orlando area and its theme parks, as well as the chance to lounge on a warm beach on either coast.
Seeking the snow
While warm weather escapes dominated the survey, snow lovers’ opinions came through as loud and clear as a blue-skied day on the slopes. Four ski destinations were most-mentioned as dream expeditions:
Swiss Alps (31 percent of snow lovers)
Tahoe (20 percent)
Colorado (17 percent)
Whistler (15 percent)
Other top ski destinations included Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Sun Valley (Idaho), Utah in general (and Deer Valley and Park City in particular), and Montana in general.
While this quarterly survey focused on cold-weather journeys, DreamPlanGo inspires travelers to discover and visit new places every season of the year.
Visiting Europe in the weeks before Christmas adds a whole new character to the holiday season, one that’s quite different from what is celebrated in the United States. Decorated to the hilt with greenery and lights, the towns and villages in Austria, Germany and France will delight visitors with traditional Christmas markets that each year overflow with unique holiday gifts, decadent Christmas goodies, and endearing holiday customs.
The best way to experience Europe’s beloved Christmas markets is on a riverboat. Both the Rhine and Danube rivers are still navigable in mid-December, giving travelers the opportunity to explore these enchanting holiday markets when the pre-holiday excitement is at its very peak. Some of the top sights to see at this time of year include:
* Christmas markets – Nurnberg, Germany has what is arguably the most famous Christmas market, attracting 2 million people each holiday season. Stocked with authentic ornaments, crafts, candles and delicious goodies, this market is a must-see for a European holiday season vacation. Regensburg – just a bit further south on the Danube River – is well-known for its sausages, and Passau on the Austrian border is where you can see how delicious gingerbread is made, and buy some to take home with you. In France, Strasbourg has five themed markets filled with holiday goods to enjoy.
* Holiday music - The Regensburger Domspatzen Choir in Regensburg German fills the holiday with festive sound. Another jaunt up the river takes you to Passau on the border of Austria, where the largest pipe organ in Europe is featured in frequent holiday concerts at St. Stephan’s Cathedral. And a musical trip to Europe isn’t complete without a visit to Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett, a museum featuring many mechanically run musical instruments housed in a 16th-century castle.
* Experiencing Christmas traditions – The village of Riquewihr in France is steeped in tradition – other than electricity used to power the decorative holiday lights, not much else has changed. It’s the perfect location to celebrate Christmas in a fairy-tale setting, just like it was celebrated years ago. In Baden-Baden, France, the living Nativity blends in with the Christmas market, and you probably will want to take a dip into the reputed healing waters of the natural hot springs that bubble up in the town. Heading further north along the Rhine River, you’ll want to don some skates in Heidelberg and float across the ice to the holiday tunes.
Tauck, named the “World’s Best River Cruise Line” by Travel + Leisure magazine, features two river cruises celebrating Europe’s Christmas markets, and both perfectly capture the holiday spirit. “Christmas Markets Along the Danube” is an eight-day cruise from Nurnberg to Vienna, while “Christmas Markets Along the Rhine” (also eight-days) sails from Basel, Switzerland to Koln, Germany. These memorable cruises are all-inclusive, with luxury riverboat accommodations, all shore excursions and sightseeing, meals and beverages, gratuities, on-tour transportation, special entertainment and more all included in the price. Visit Tauck.com to learn more about these tours and plan your European holiday getaway for your family.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “the Earth laughs in flowers,” and there’s a good chance this thought came to him while he was touring England, a country filled with spectacular gardens. London itself has many beautiful gardens, from royal parks surrounding the palaces to small green spaces maintained by volunteer groups. These gardens help to bring out the beauty of the city’s landscaping.
But what really makes London stand out in the world of flowers is the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show, having its 101st showing May 20 to 24, 2014. This is considered a top flower show around the globe. With many different contemporary and artisan garden designs on display, plus a wide array of demonstrations and garden shops, this event is a must-do for anyone with a green thumb or who loves to stop and smell the flowers.
Tauck is offering The Tauck London Event tour to the 101st RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The six-day tour starts May 22, 2014, and includes a day at the show, topped off with a gala evening including a cocktail reception and dinner inside London’s historic Guildhall. Tickets for the flower show are hard to come by, and Tauck not only takes care of acquiring them, but also handles hotel arrangements, sightseeing opportunities, on-tour transportation and special entertainment during the week. At the show, wander the acres of planted gardens, visit the “how to” demonstrations, browse the stalls and shops and listen to lectures from the top gardeners in England.
The rest of the event showcases other iconic London-area locations, including a tour of the Tower of London; a trip to Greenwich to see the Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory; a historic walk through Victorian-era London including a tour of the Foundling Hospital; and a visit to sites that show the rebuilding of London after the World War II Blitz that nearly destroyed the city.
The tour also has several afternoons free, allowing time to visit the many royal gardens or wander into London’s smaller gardens laid out perfectly for the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike.
You don’t want to miss London in the spring, with flowers blooming in a variety of colors, creating a luxurious perfume in the air. Visit Tauck.com to learn more about the London event.
Let’s face it – cramped quarters, stale air and little leg room are nobody’s idea of comfort. But just because you have to reevaluate the size of your personal bubble as soon as you step foot onto an airplane doesn’t mean your entire flight has to be miserable. Travel inspiration website DreamPlanGo suggests following these 10 travel tips to make your plane ride as comfortable as possible. You’ll arrive at your destination in the mindset that your vacation has already begun:
Ditch the salty food. Are you prone to bloat? Skip the salty food before your flight and you’ll be glad you did. Excess sodium can cause fluid retention (bloat) and make you feel uncomfortable, creating crummy conditions when you are stuck in a small space for hours on end. Instead of the chips, try an apple, grapes or other water-rich, low-sodium snacks.
Plan your seat. If you’ve ever been on a plane before, you know that some spots can be less than ideal if you’re searching for extra leg room or quiet surroundings. Seats in the back of the plane often encounter the highest traffic because of bathroom facilities, while seats over the wings are often louder. Most airlines give you an option to choose a seat for a nominal fee. If you want your peace and quiet (and leg room), the investment is well worth it.
Hydrate. It’s so easy to get dehydrated when you’re on a plane because of the constant dry-air circulation. You don’t have to go into camel mode on the plane. Instead, prepare to fly by drinking plenty of fluids for a few days before you take off, and then make sure you have access to water while on the flight. Some travelers carry mineral water facial spray to feel refreshed during the flight, while aloe-filled saline nasal gel can help restore moisture to dry nasal membranes.
Defend your leg room. What if your legs didn’t always have to be held captive behind the traveler who insists on reclining the seat for the entirety of the flight? Enter Knee Defender. This small, plastic device that prevents airplane passengers from reclining has caused a stir since hitting the market in the 2000s. Although not banned from airlines, many people have balked that this product impedes the right of passengers so you may get some pushback if you try using it. Then again, if you’re tired of your long limbs being squished into small spots, you might want to go for it.
Don’t clutter your foot space. Leg room is pretty important on flights lasting longer than an hour. One of the best ways to optimize your airplane seating space is to pack lightly. Ditching carry-on luggage can open up valuable real estate below your seat. That means extra room for your legs, feet and less chance you’ll develop claustrophobic feelings.
Slip into slippers. Comfort might be hard to find in a two-foot space, but it doesn’t mean your feet have to suffer. Find pleasure in the small stuff by packing a pair of cozy socks or slippers you can slide on after taking off. Slippers with treads on the bottom mean you don’t even have to re-shoe when you need a bathroom break.
Consider compression socks. If circulation is an issue for you, don’t leave home without a pair of compression socks. Medical and non-medical gradient stockings not only help with circulation in your legs, they can prevent serious blood clotting conditions, like deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Compression socks aren’t just for people with circulatory problems, either. A pair of supportive socks can help beat restless legs and ultimately make your muscles feel more invigorated.
Save your seat. Hours in a hard airplane seat can make anyone’s backside hurt. Instead of enduring the ergonomic nightmare, consider a self-inflating seat cushion. It takes seconds to prepare and can offer hours of back relief by alleviating pressure on the spine and tailbone.
Drown out the noise. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll fall asleep if you take a red-eye flight or overseas airplane adventure. One of the best ways to get a good night’s (or day’s) sleep? Noise-canceling headphones. Although some brands can be pricey, the soundless environment it creates and the ability to drift off to dreamland to only the beats of your favorite song might just merit the price tag. Disposable earplugs are a cheap (and slightly less-soundproof) alternative.
Prevent plugged ears. Ear congestion is one of the most irritating and uncomfortable side effects from flying. Even though airplane cabins are pressurized, elevation changes cause minor changes in pressure that are felt in the middle ear (specifically, the Eustachian tube). Some travelers are more prone to “plugged” ears than others, especially those battling colds and sinus problems. To combat airplane ear, try taking an antihistamine or decongestant 30 minutes before boarding your flight. They will help reduce swelling, meaning air will more easily pass through your middle ear.
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