Monday, July 13, 2009

Best Family Beach Vacations

The best beaches can be found along the Atlantic and Pacific Coast. Here are a few ideas you may wish to consider for your next family beach vacation.

Florida. From Ft. Lauderdale to Miami Beach, Florida is a prime resort area for family vacations. With perfect weather and miles and miles of beaches, this area is affordable, diverse, and has a wide variety of water-sports, restaurants, and a myriad of activities for children. Cocoa Beach is only an hour away from the Kennedy Space Center and Disney World. In addition, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is considered one of the best in Florida.

Myrtle Beach. Among the many favourite activities for children include: Ripley’s Aquarium, Le Grande Cirque, a show quite famous for its acrobatics and other circus performers; and Myrtle Waves Water Park. For older children, a definite must-see is the NASCAR Speedpark.

With a myriad of dining options, shopping, and other historic sites; Myrtle Beach has been named the number one choice for beach family vacations in the U.S.

Hamptons. One of the most affordable vacations for beach-loving families is East Hampton, New York. The best place to stay is at the East Hampton House. The rooms are available in one and two bedroom units that contain fully-equipped kitchens and/or kitchenettes. Moreover, you have guest privileges at the nearby beach.

Although this vacation spot does not offer food, it does have an indoor gym and offers morning coffee there as well. But, across the street is a deli that has an array of items on their breakfast menu and is very affordable. In addition, there is a Chinese restaurant across the street as well as a take-out barbeque, and deli.

The grounds are impeccable and there is a very large pool (one for the kiddies, too) where you can lounge in the sun. A tennis court is also on the premises. Every room has its own balcony with lounge chairs and a table.

If you live in the New York area, it is a 90-minute trip by car. The East Hampton Inn is centrally located – five minutes from town, restaurants, shopping, and a movie house. You can even take a short trip to Montauk and visit the historic lighthouse or spend time at the beach there.

Hawaii. Of course, nothing can compare to the beaches that are in Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. No matter what island you choose, Hawaii has the most pristine beaches anywhere in the U.S. Moreover, there are black-sand beaches on the island of Maui as well as a myriad of activities for the entire family.

San Diego. Shifting to the west Coast, your family might enjoy a stay at the Beach Cottages. This site offers numerous amenities such as water sports, biking, as well as an amusement park. For the kids, San Diego Zoo and Sea World are not far from the Beach Cottages.

Centrally located to restaurants and shopping, Beach Cottages is an affordable vacation spot where the family can enjoy the sun, the surf, and other amenities available. In fact, you can book a studio that offers a fully equipped kitchen.

Redondo Beach. Located on Santa Monica Bay, this report haven is perfect for family beach vacations. Here you can enjoy water sports, fishing bicycling, kayaking, as well as fine restaurants shops located not far from the Santa Monica Pier. There are many hotels that are situated across the street from the beach or within walking distance. Each has its own set of amenities that are geared towards families.

Have a happy beach adventure!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Time for a Family Road Trip!


Deciding on a family road trip can be a daunting challenge, not to mention an exercise in patience. However if you prepare ahead of time, the trip can be one of the most memorable experiences of your family’s life.

Here are some quick and easy tips for making your family road trip a fun and safe one.

First, prepare a checklist of items you will need. This will include first aid kit, food, snacks, drinks, and lots of toys, coloring books, paper and crayons, a portable DVD player so your kids can watch their favorite movies; and a cooler. A good idea is to ask the kids what games they would like to take, within limits of course.

Ensure that the snacks are healthy in nature. Too many sugar snacks can have the kids bouncing off the car seats. Remember, this is a relaxing family vacation and you want to avoid the kids getting bored or repeatedly asking you when you are going to arrive.

Check online to print out games for the road that you and the kids can play along the way. There are an assortment of puzzles and riddles as well.

In addition, if you have very young children you will need to take the diaper bag and wipes for the occasional spills, blankets and pillows if applicable and a favorite item or stuffed animal for the young ones is a good idea as well.

Second, decide on the destination and then contact AAA for a trip ticket. Ask for the scenic route, one that is much more calming and pleasing to the eye, especially the driver!

Third, as you check out the planned route you may want to check online to find gas stations along the way that offer the cheapest gas. Also if there are any points of interest along the route mark them on the map and plan to stop at these sites.

Fourth, while on the road ensure that you make pit stops regularly. This will allow the kids to run around and let off some steam, while allowing the adults to stretch and reenergize. Bring along a football or soccer ball so that the entire family can have some fun while exercising at the same time.

Finally, it is very important that safety concerns are met. This includes having the car checked at your local mechanic or gas station. Ensure that the oil and filter are changed; the tires are well inflated (don’t forget the spare tire, too); the windshield wipers are replaced (if needed); and the car is in great condition before you head out.

In addition, you may want to place the following items in your trunk: a lawn chair, extra blanket, emergency road kit, umbrellas, water, flashlight and batteries, a battery-powered radio, and windshield wiper cleaner. In the glove compartment include a first aid kit and cell phone charger. Keep all medications in a Ziploc bag in the glove compartment as well.

Another good idea is to take a list of telephone numbers including the hotel or motel where you are staying as well as those of family and friends you may need to contact.

If you enjoy scrapbooking, this road trip may be a perfect opportunity to add new treasures to the book. As you make stops at some scenic sites, ask the kids to find an item they would like to include in the scrapbook. Or if the kids point out something along the way that they find fascinating, take a picture of it to include in the scrapbook as well.

Engage the kids in the decision making, age appropriate, and allow them to decide what they would like to bring. Have them pack their clothes (check the suitcases afterwards) so they feel part of the overall experience. Planning ahead of time for a family road trip will save you time, stress, and money. And the kids will enjoy this adventure, too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Romantic Weekend Getaways

Some of the most romantic weekend getaways exist in the most populated destinations in the US. Here are a few to consider.

I’ll Take Manhattan. You can spend a fabulous weekend in New York City and stay either at the Marriott Hotel on Broadway, for example, which is right near the Theatre District; or you can book a weekend at the Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park. Perhaps you would like to stay at the Mandarin Hotel and Spa where you can both be pampered for the weekend. No matter what your budget is; Manhattan is more than accommodating.

Needless to say, Manhattan is considered one of the most romantic spots in the U.S. Whether you enjoy dinner in your hotel suite or dine at any one of the five star restaurants, the night is always young for lovers who seek solitude in a city that hosts millions of tourists each year. Whether you take a carriage ride through Central Park, enjoy an opera or symphonic performance at Lincoln Center, or walk along Fifth Avenue during the evening hours; the city offers something for everyone.

San Francisco. With its rolling hills, fantastic cuisine, and friendly people; San Francisco offers hotel stays that are sure to enhance your romantic side. Among the most notable hotels are the Fairmont hotel, located in the Nob Hill area; the Mandarin Oriental, which is known for its best views of the Bay and the city; or the downtown W San Francisco hotel that is close to cable cars, shopping, restaurants, and theatres.

Stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf and stop by Ghirardelli Square where you can pick up some of their famous chocolate before having dinner at one of the many seafood restaurants there such as McCormick and Kuleto’s, where the panoramic view of the Bay, as well as Alcatraz island; both of which are a stunning backdrop. You may also wish to stop by O’Neill’s Irish Pub for an after-dinner drink. You may leave your heart here after departing this great city by the Bay.

Las Vegas. Time will stand still at this resort destination. With a myriad of hotels to choose from you can enjoy your time here without having to worry about time, because there are no clocks in the casinos.

With great weather year round (hot, but always dry), you can wile away the early morning hours at the hotel’s pool and enjoy the evening attending a fabulous show or visit lady luck at the casino.

Whether you take a stay at the Venetian Hotel and enjoy a romantic ride on a gondola; enjoy the Spa and Salon at the Hotel Bellagio; or marvel at the lush indoor gardens, aquarium, and the Secret Garden at the Mirage; Las Vegas is both affordable for any budget and is the perfect weekend romantic getaway.

Lake Placid. Far away from the maddening crowd, you will find comfort and romance at the Mirror Lake Inn. With gorgeous mountain and lake views, fireplace, and very large tubs, you will find the accommodations more than satisfactory. In fact, they are quite conducive to a romantic weekend.

Among the many things you might like to do is to take a walk to the neighboring town of Lake Placid, only two miles away. Here you will find shops along Main Street and you can stop at the Cottage for lunch. Swimming, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking are some of the activities available at Mirror Lake Inn.

The calm and quiet ambience of this Inn is the perfect weekend getaway destination for couples.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg and Your Family

In 1781, George Washington came to Williamsburg as Commander-in-Chief of the American army. As a student at the College of William and Mary, Thomas Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia. Patrick Henry delivered his infamous line, “Give me liberty or give me death,” speech and was also Governor of Virginia.

On May 11 to May 13, 2007, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown celebrated the 400th Anniversary of America. Since all three cities in Virginia claimed they were the original birthplace of our great nation, it seemed only fair that all three celebrated this momentous occasion.

As visitors to Colonial Williamsburg, your family will become immersed in the rich heritage and historical significance of this city. You will explore the many sites and sounds associated with Yorktown, were the last battle of the revolution took place; discover how the Indians, Europeans, and African Americans came together to form the US; and truly understand the words and ideas that embedded three unique and distinct words in the Constitution of the United States – freedom, equality, and independence.

Your family will learn about the revolution that spawned a free republic under the leadership of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Visit the College of William and Mary, which was attended by Thomas Jefferson. In addition, you can take a local tour of the three cities: Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg where you will be transported back to the beginning of our country’s history and how the fight for freedom and equality led to where we are today.

Your kids will be enthralled by the Fifers and Drummers as they perform their unique skills. More importantly, your kids will learn that only boys were allowed to become part of this regiment. Today, however, both girls and boys are able to participate and continue the tradition of military music. Equality rules!

In Colonial Williamsburg, your family will learn about life as it was over 400 years ago. You will be able to meet people who lived during the revolution by participating in an interactive program. This program includes people of historic towns who dress in costume and re-enact life as it was then. You can visit the sites which have become treasure troves of historical and cultural data studied by history buffs and by those who wish to become American citizens.

In addition, there are some very special theme parks you can visit as well, including: Busch Gardens and Water County, where you can take park in the variety of water adventures available to your family.

Understanding the history of our country is as important as embarking on your family tree. Colonial Williamsburg offers a glimpse into the past, and is not only a fun place to visit, but offers a unique educational experience your family will never forget.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Finding the Best “Kids Stay Free” Deals

One of the most affordable vacations for families encompasses packages wherein kids stay free. The good news is that there is a mountain of online sites which offer such package deals for families. Let’s take a look at a few vacation spots that are all inclusive.

* Holiday Inn in Aruba
* Kaanapali Shores in Maui, Hawaii
* Barcelo Beach Resort in Ixtapa, Mexico
* Melia Cabo Real Beach & Golf Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico
* Sunset Beach Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica
* Paradise Island Resort in Nassau, Bahamas
* Crown Paradise in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
* Riu Bambu in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

In addition, you can also find kids fly and stay free in most of the Orlando packages as well. If you are thinking about traveling to Europe, the Novotel chain is offering free stay for kids ages 16 and under. With a few hours time, you can find virtually any travel destination that accommodates kids for free and offers inclusive air and hotel packages as well.

Also, you can also check with the airlines, such as Delta, who is also offering kids stay free packages to destinations including: Hawaii, Las Vegas, Orlando, Florida, Cancun, Cozumel, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica.

Other online sites offer kids stay and eat free to places in Mexico, including: Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Hualtulco, Ixtapa, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.

If you prefer a cruise, many of the top cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line offer kids stay free packages to many Caribbean destinations.

For more information on kids stay free deals, check your local papers every week and on Sunday. They offer travel packages designed for families and/or highlight resorts, cruises, and other packages along with the price, including air fare.

Since the rise of online travel sites, more and more families have the opportunity to find the best deals on packages around the world. Furthermore, whether the packages include airfare or not, you can certainly find just as many sites which offer great savings on flights as well.

Take the time to research the many sites available online and you will be sure to find destinations that offer kids stay free deals. Also, you may also find destinations that are a bit off the beaten path. Whether you are traveling during the summer months or off season, there is a package out there for your family.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Adding Activity and Involvement to your Vacation

When deciding upon a destination for a family vacation, it is important to choose places which are conducive to kids and adults as well. Including a mixture of fun, learning, and
adventures are prerequisites for any great family vacation.

For example, a trip to the Grand Canyon is not only fun but educational as well. Perhaps you have a teen who loves photography. This would be a perfect place for him to exercise his photographic skills. Or perhaps one of your kids is proficient in a specific second language, such as German. Traveling to Germany can afford the teen the opportunity to practice the language and engage in conversations with local people throughout the trip.

Introducing children and young adults to different cultures, whether in the US or abroad, can become an invaluable tool both educationally and socially. A trip to the Amish country can be just as rewarding as a trip to Japan. In addition, the more children and young teens travel, the better equipped they will be when heading off to college as well as gaining a better understanding of other cultures and people.

As children, we didn’t have the opportunities most kids have today. A family trip was more for enjoyment and relaxation than anything else. Today, families can venture to far off places where, for a short time, they can learn about local customs, recipes, music, and the daily lives of those living in a small town. For example, perhaps you are taking the family on a trip to Greece. One of the most magical places is Santorini, an island off Greece. All of the homes are white, and the town’s main source of food is derived from the sea. Donkeys are used to transport people up the hilly slopes to the center of town. People come from all over the world to watch the sunset in Santorini.

Kenya is another place in which a family can enjoy the activities offered and, at the same time, learn the significance and importance of wildlife conservation. Visiting a Masai village to learn how they live, work, and play is an experience no child or adult can ever forget. For example, photographs of Masai women are forbidden as they believe it steals their souls. Respecting the tradition of other cultures is just part of the learning experience when traveling to any foreign country.

Experiencing life in different countries, up close and personal, is important for our kids. Learning tolerance, respect, and preservation of our environment and wildlife are equally important. The next time you decide to take a vacation, think about the places which are not only enjoyable but offer more than just a typical vacation. Whether it’s traveling to Lancaster, Pa. to learn the customs of the Amish or taking a flight to Africa, where wildlife conservation has become more urgent than ever before; family vacations can incorporate activity, involvement, and a learning experience unlike any other.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Camping Free Style

One of the more affordable vacations your family can engage in is camping. Whether it’s choosing a location at a state park or camping grounds in national forests, you can be assured it will be a family vacation filled with memorable moments. While there are several methods one may choose when preparing for a camping trip, most people prefer the free style, that is, pitch a tent and let the good times roll.

Even though you have to purchase tents, sleeping bags, and other gear for your trip; the cost is minimal as compared to utilizing an RV or staying at a camp site that offers plenty of amenities, which tend to minimize the true camping experience.

Camping free style affords you the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, have conversations around the campfire, live off the land, and become one with nature. Camping combines adventure, excitement, fun, and a rare opportunity to discover just how rich an experience this type of family vacation can be.

As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to purchase the basic camp equipment such as a tent,
preferably one that will house the entire family, food, a cooler, ice, sleeping bags, camping stove, as well as the following items: pillows, cleaning supplies, folding table, cookware, utensils, cups, and toilet paper (especially if there are no restrooms around), first aid kit, and board games, fishing gear, flashlights, and extra batteries.

Expert campers recommend purchasing a tarp to place under the tent, especially in inclement weather, to prevent water from seeping into the tent. It will also serve as a tent floor as well. Also recommended is a battery lamp. These items can be purchased at any of your local department stores.

In addition, now that you have the basic supplies, you can always supplement your gear with additional items you need the next time you go camping. You can easily check online to find a campsite in your state, as well as the low cost for staying in a national park or forest reserve.

Spending quality time with family has become the exception these days. Camping gives a family the opportunity to come together, without any distractions, and bond in a unique setting. Whether dad takes the kids fishing, while mom has some leisure time; or mom takes the kids hiking while dad enjoys some quiet time – or whether the entire family engages in both activities – camping reunites the family unit in a way no other type of vacation can.

If you are looking for an affordable vacation, camping is the way to go. Think of all the laughs and memories you’ll be able to share with each other in years to come!