The Complete Guide to Packing for Family Road Trips

The classic road trip can be one of the most memorable trips a family can make, not to mention, in comparison with the alternatives, it tends to be fairly budget-friendly. The entire family can pile into the car without having to buy individual tickets for each person. Also, families can see a great deal more when they go by car. However, packing for family road trips is not always a picnic. To make the process easier, be sure to add these items to your road trip packing list.

1. Baby Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

Road trips can be messy and germy. If you stop at gas stations to fill up, or at rest areas to allow the kiddos to get some air, they are probably going to end up touching very germy surfaces. Hand sanitizer can help keep the germs away. Also, it’s a good idea to have baby wipes on hand for spills if mom or dad hits a bump in the road.

2. Healthy Snacks

While it might be tempting to load up the cooler with sugary sodas and salty bites, healthy snacks are always best for keeping energy levels up on long road trips. Not to mention, if you avoid all of the sugar and salt, you help to eliminate the likely possibility of upset tummies when stuck in the car for hours on end.

3. Pillows and Blankets

If you hope to keep the backseat quiet, it helps to make sure those little road warriors are comfy before they start complaining. One of the easiest ways to eliminate the whines about being uncomfortable is to bring pillows and blankets from home. Not only will these keep the whole family cozy, but your clan will also be better rested as you stop at attractions along the way.

4. Something Educational

While the family road trip should be fun, you also want to pack something educational such as your child’s favorite book or a little homework if they need to attempt to keep up if they’re missing school days for the trip. When everyone’s mind goes into zombie mode, an entertaining read can kill several hours in the car.

5. Color-Coded Packing Cubes

One of the hardest aspects of packing for a family road trip isn’t so much about determining what to bring, but more so about how to keep everyone’s belongings organized. For bigger families, you can keep track of every child’s clothing and belongings by assigning each family member their own set color of packing cubes. Packing cubes can keep everyone organized when the road trip grows a little chaotic with each stop.

6. Chargers

When the tablet runs out of juice or your smartphone dies in the middle of nowhere, the car can turn into every parent’s worst nightmare. If your child reads or plays games on a handheld device, be sure you have the car charger for it. Also for safety reasons, it is always a good idea to have a phone charger in the car.

7. Children’s Travel Books

The road trip will be much more bearable if your kids are excited about where they are going. Parents can pick up a few child travel books about their destinations so that the backseat can get excited as to why they are logging all these miles for the endpoint.

8. Disposable Cameras

Part of the fun of a road trip is the places your child will get to see and experience along the way. While outdated to some, disposable cameras allow your little one to capture what they are seeing through their own eyes. It’s always a treat to come home and develop the film to find out what, exactly, intrigued your little one along the way.

9. A Paper Map

While you might have a fancy pants GPS system built into your vehicle, it’s always fun for kids to know where you’re headed on a family trip. A paper map is the best to show the whole car where you are and where you need to travel. If you’re a AAA member, you can probably pick up maps for free from your local office.

10. A First Aid Kit

While you would hope that you never have to open a first aid kit on your family road trip, accidents can happen, and it seems they most often do at the worst possible moment. When someone needs a band-aid, you will want to have a first aid kit ready and accessible.

One thing you won’t have to pack with a car full of kids is loads of extra money to pay for the little ones at your hotel. Extended Stay America offer a kids stay free policy, cutting down the costs of that family road trip.

 

December 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top 10 Winter Driving Tips

When the weather outside is frightful, the last place you want to be is behind the wheel of a car. Driving in adverse weather conditions, whether it’s for holiday travel or for a simple weekend getaway, requires some essential preparation and education. Don’t leave home in the winter without these 10 frosty driving tips.

1. Don’t Use Cruise Control

While it might be convenient for road trips, you never want to use cruise control in poor conditions. On snow and ice, there’s the risk you will not be able to control the speed of the vehicle as quickly as you may need to if your cruise control is turned on.

2. Pack a Prepared Car

Bad things can happen when it comes to driving in wintry conditions. Ice can develop. Snow can pile up. Your battery could die. It is always best to pack a prepared car with items like jumper cables, a shovel, an ice scrapper and blankets. Some extra food and snacks can be helpful too.

3. Don’t Brake Suddenly on Ice and Snow

If you brake hard for that yellow light in snow and ice, the chances are great you will either slide or fishtail into another lane. Braking suddenly in winter weather conditions can cause a loss of control. You’ll want to be even more focused than normal on what’s ahead, so you will have a better chance of anticipating and reacting to changes in speed.

4. Slow and Steady Wins The Race

One of the easiest tips to keep in mind for driving in the winter is to merely slow down. In adverse conditions, it always takes longer to accelerate, stop and turn. Speeding makes it harder to slow down if you hit poor conditions suddenly.

5. Clear Up Your Exhaust Pipe

When it’s snowing, there is more of a potential for your exhaust pipe to clog with mud, snow and ice. Before you start driving, be sure the pipe is free and clear. If it isn’t, you could face a carbon monoxide problem.

6. Steer and Look Where You Want To Go

When you hit icy driving conditions, you might have a tendency to over-correct where the car is headed. Rather than jerking the wheel in one direction or another, it’s best to steer where you want to go - be sure to also look in that direction as well.

7. Use a Lower Gear After a Stop

When you come to a stop on icy and snowy roads, you might be worried about spinning out when you try to accelerate after the light turns green. Rather than stepping on it, it is best to use a lower gear to get going again.

8. Be Particularly Cautious on Bridges, Ramps and Overpasses

Bridges, ramps and overpasses are always the first to form ice in a winter storm. While you might be cruising along a road and have no problem, once you hit a bridge, there is a greater possibility of spinning out as you hit a patch of ice. When you approach bridges, overpasses and ramps, always try to slow down gradually in anticipation of hitting ice.

9. Get Some Rest

A fatigued driver is one of the biggest dangers when driving in winter conditions. As a general rule for winter driving safety, you need to be extremely alert when you are driving in snow and ice. If you are headed on a family road trip or business trip, get some rest. Being tired never mixes well with winter driving.

10. Don’t Go Out If You Don’t Have To

It might sound simple, but one of the best winter driving tips is merely to avoid the roads altogether. If you don’t think your vehicle is suited for winter driving, stay home if you can. If you’re on the road and find yourself in unexpected nasty weather conditions, consider pulling off and checking into a nearby hotel until it is safe to drive again. With Extended Stay America’s convenient locations across the country, you could be cozy in a warm room no time, safely waiting for the storm to pass. 

December 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

5 New England Towns with the Most American History

New England, the Northeastern corner of the United States, boasts a rich and colorful sense of history that is unparallel to any other region in the country. The area was an integral component in the shaping of our country’s history. The six states that make up the region, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, are full of history that any traveler can appreciate. But, when planning your New England vacation, which spots are must-sees? We cover five towns every history buff must visit at least once.

 

#1. Castine, Maine

Home to Maine Maritime Academy and a plethora of old forts, Castine is one of the oldest towns in Maine. The historic Fort George State Park marks the site of the last post that was surrendered by the British during the Revolutionary War - you can just envision the battle that took place while standing on the grounds.

DON’T MISS: The Wilson Museum - witness a cultural collection of artifacts spanning centuries. Be sure to check out their hours before planning your trip, though. The museum isn’t open year-round.

#2. Weston, Vermont

Tiny Weston, Vermont is seeped in history. In fact, the entire town itself is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The town common is gorgeous, and while small, definitely worth a stroll. The local shops and historic houses of the town are a walk through time.

DON’T MISS: The Vermont County Store - the store with something for everyone. You’ll feel like you walked back in time.

#3. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

If touring over 40 historic buildings that date back to the late 1600s sounds intriguing, you won’t want miss Portsmouth. This seaport town is a summer destination for tourists all over.

DON’T MISS: The Strawbery Banke Museum. You can explore historic buildings and gardens and experience what lives up to a live interactive history lesson, an outdoor museum of sorts. This trip needs planning too, though, as the museum isn’t open year round.

#4. Mystic, Connecticut

With a quaint combination of ancient coastal life and modern appeal, Mystic is a stop on the New England tour you should make. Olde Mystick Village has shops, museums and eateries that are the epitome of New England coastal life. The Charles W. Morgan, a historic whaleship, is the oldest commercial ship still in water and resides at the Mystic Seaport.

DON’T MISS: Mystic Pizza - Grab a delectable slice of pie (cheese, not fruit) from the now-famed pizza joint - yep, the one from the movie. Mystic Pizza will fuel you for the rest of your trip.

#5. Boston, Massachusetts

Taking a tour of the capital city of Massachusetts is a must. Known as the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston has something for everyone. From Fenway Park to appease sports enthusiasts, to The Boston Common for general history buffs, this is one town that must be crossed off your bucket list.

DON’T MISS: The Freedom Trail - Take a self-guided tour or journey with a costumed-donned guide, leading you on a 2 ½ mile tour, visiting sites like Paul Revere’s home and The Boston Common.

The vast history of New England is something that everyone can appreciate, from the scholarly history enthusiast to the young child. Take the time to plan your New England road trip so you get the most out of the experience. And when you’re weary from exploration, head back to the comfy confines of your Extended Stay America hotel room to rest up for your next adventure. 

December 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stop at These Deals Malls for Black Friday Deals

Massive lines, midnight deals and a little elbowing seem to be the vision dancing through a Black Friday shopper’s head. The bargain hungry go through the madness for one reason and one reason only, the thrill of the deal. If you find yourself on the road for Thanksgiving, or if you merely just want to seek out the best spots for your own slice of Black Friday madness, don’t miss these six malls across the country for Black Friday deals.

1. Mall of America (Bloomington, Minnesota)

If you are truly going to do Black Friday, you may as well begin at the mall of all malls, the Mall of America. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Mall of America sets up in Bloomington. While the mall boasts your traditional department stores and small boutiques, it also packs in the attractions with an aquarium and a theme park. For Black Friday shoppers, the Mall of America kicks off the frenzy early with a 6PM opening on Thanksgiving Day and a Friday closing of 10PM.

2. The Country Club Plaza (Kansas City, Missouri)

Kansas City might be known for its barbecue, but the Country Club Plaza is equally worth the trip to Middle America. The famous shopping, dining and entertainment district spans roughly 15 blocks and is full of impressive grand Italian-style buildings. If you want to do Black Friday under a blanket of twinkling Christmas lights, Country Club Plaza is the right spot. On Thanksgiving Day, the outdoor mall hosts the Plaza Lighting Ceremony, where many of the mall’s buildings are decked out in holiday lights. For Black Friday, a number of shops give away freebies and chances to win prizes.

3. Macy’s at Herald Square (New York, New York)

While not technically a mall, the Macy’s at Herald Square in New York City is an icon in its own right. Most people link Macy’s to the Thanksgiving Day Parade on television, but the largest department store chain in the world actually kicks off the holidays at its New York City location in style. Generally opening on Thanksgiving evening, Macy’s rolls out the deals on many of its top brands for Black Friday. Your miracle on 34th Street might just be snagging a Black Friday special - if you don’t mind the hordes of people joining you.

4. The Beverly Center (Los Angeles, California)

If you’re looking to do some holiday shopping in Los Angeles and you want to throw in some star sightings too, any local will tell you to head to the Beverly Center. The premium shopping mall boasts all the major retailers like Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Banana Republic. Sprinkled into the mix are also designer shops where you could spot a celebrity if you’re lucky. For Black Friday, the Beverly Center typically offers special deals and holiday events.

5. King of Prussia Mall (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania)

The largest mall on the East Coast opens up for Black Friday at 8PM on Thanksgiving evening. King of Prussia Mall kicks off the mega-shopping day with extended hours. And with over 400 stores, you are sure to find a deal for all of those people on your gift list this year. King of Prussia Mall sits just 25 miles from Philadelphia.

6. Sawgrass Mills Mall (Sunrise, Florida)

If it’s 27 hours of Black Friday shopping you want, it’s 27 hours of Black Friday shopping you’ll get at Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, Florida. With over 350 stores, Sawgrass Mills Mall is  the largest outlet and value retail shopping destination in the United States. And as the mall values outlet shopping, the deals pile up for Black Friday. Sawgrass Mills Mall will be opening at 6PM on Thanksgiving, staying busy with shoppers for a straight 27 hours, well into Friday night.

 

When you need a spot to rest up from all of that Black Friday shopping from New York to Los Angeles, Extended Stay America is right where you want to be. Locations cover the country, offering amenity packed suites for the entire family. 

November 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

5 Thanksgiving Travel Tips You'll be Thankful For

So you’re heading over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving - you and everyone else it would seem. Traveling for Thanksgiving leaves you feeling like you have little to be thankful for with bottlenecked highways, icy conditions and plenty of crowds to fight on your way to turkey time. To make Thanksgiving travel a little less painful, practice these five tips for a stress-free holiday weekend.

1. Have Your Car Serviced Before You Go

If you’re traveling by car for Thanksgiving, the last thing you’d want to deal with is a roadside breakdown halfway through your trip. To cut back on the possibility of a special-order part breaking or a mechanism malfunctioning when you are halfway to your destination, have your car serviced by your regular mechanic before you go. Travelers should have their local auto shop take a look at fluid levels, the oil, the tires and the brakes in particular.

2. Pack Hand Sanitizer for the Journey

Whether you are going by car for Thanksgiving or traveling through the airport, you’ll want to be careful so you don’t pick up a nasty bug or cold just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. With more and more people traveling, someone in your carload could easily succumb to a germy door handle or two. To lessen the chances of catching something during holiday travel, you will want to have a bottle of hand sanitizer handy in the car. After each stop or visit to an overly crowded area, have the whole family lather up with antibacterial.

3. Avoid Traveling on the Busiest Days and Times of the Weekend

Everyone and their mother - and their uncle, and their cousins and their ex-brother-in-law - wants to jet set for their Thanksgiving destination on the Wednesday before the holiday. And, when returning home from a never-long-enough weekend of Thanksgiving travel, the crowds tend to milk their time for all it’s worth and not leave until Sunday evening. If you don’t want to be stuck in traffic or packed in like sardines on your flight, try to avoid these busiest travel times of the extended weekend, namely Wednesday and Sunday. If you can leave early Thanksgiving morning and go home on Monday, you stand a better chance of not getting stuck in a literal jam (traffic, that is).

4. Keep On Top of Weather Forecasts

Especially if you are driving for Thanksgiving, you don’t want to hit the road when a storm is on the horizon. Beginning with the week leading up to your trip, you should start monitoring the weather situation. If local forecasters are advising to stay off the roads, don’t risk it.

5. Know Your Routes

In the case of bad weather or road closures during the peak holiday travel times, you won’t want to be stuck without a map to guide you on an alternate route. Before you take off for Thanksgiving, be sure to research the route you want to travel, along with any other alternative routes you may have to take. This step will save you from that sense of panic when you find out the highway you planned on taking is shutting down due to weather.

For families traveling across the country for Thanksgiving, you will be particularly thankful when, after the long travel day, you select accommodations that have everything you need. Extended Stay America properties come chalk full of amenities from complimentary television channels to pools and hot tubs. 

November 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

10 Tips for Traveling in Cold Weather

Vacation: It often evokes images of hammocks, sandy beaches, palms trees and blue-green waters, but traveling to a Winter Wonderland can be just as relaxing and fun, if you prepare. Knowing what and how to travel in winter can be the difference between a trip to remember for a lifetime and one that you can’t wait to get home from.

Follow these travel safety tips and tricks to know what to expect and to prepare for your trip so it’s smooth sailing once you hit the road.

1. KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING. Whether you’re traveling by plane or going on a road trip, winter travel can be both daunting and dangerous. Have a clear path mapped out ahead of time. Be aware of places where inclement weather can alter your plans - airports in snowy hubs or twisty roads over high elevations may require a Plan B.

2. STRAIGHT SHOT. If you’re flying, and a nonstop flight isn’t possible, try to book connecting flights in places where weather doesn’t tend to be as big an issue. True, there are never guarantees that you won’t have a delayed or cancelled flight, but some airports are either better equipped to handle, or just don’t have as big a problem dealing with weather-related issues. Also try to book early-morning flights. Giving yourself more time during the day to deal with delays and cancellations can be the difference between getting safely to your destination and spending the night in an airport.

3. HYDRATE. Hydration is always important, and traveling is no exception. Even in winter, dehydration can be deadly. Be sure you’re drinking enough water and, if driving, keep extra water bottles on hand.

4. SLOW DOWN. Literally - on the road or in the air, be sure to plan enough time so you don’t feel rushed. Taking it slow is important for obvious reasons when driving, but equally true when flying. Not allowing ample time to get to your destination can cause stress, especially when navigating icy road conditions, so it just doesn’t make sense to be in a hurry. Make the journey part of the adventure.

5. EAT YOUR WHEATIES. Be sure to eat nutritious foods and snacks when traveling. While grabbing that McSomething on the go can be tempting and easy, it’s just as convenient to grab a healthy high-energy bar or snack pack of nuts to get a boost of energy. Toss a few extras into your carry-on or in the car in case you are delayed.

6. STAY ALERT. You should plan a time to rejuvenate throughout your journey. A 12-hour trip will leave you tired and not ready to hit your destination-ground running. Especially when driving, you should work into your trip regular stopping time to stretch and get some air. Be sure you’re pulling over in a safe location, though.

7. TRAVEL KIT. Pack a safety travel kit to have on hand. Think outside the typical first aid kit, too. While Band-Aids and gauze are important, think about cold weather necessities - blankets, an ice scraper and a flashlight are just a few things you may find you need.

8. CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT. Whether in your own car, or if renting one after a flight, be sure to check your tire pressure and tread. Carrying chains in snowy or icy conditions is always a good idea.

9. COVER THE CAR. When you get to where you’re going, try to park your car in a garage or covered space.

10. STAY PUT. If you get stranded somewhere, try to stay where you are. If you’re in a clear, safe spot on the side of the road, the safest thing to do is stay in your car and wait for help. Be sure your exhaust pipe is clear though - you don’t want ice or snow built up around it as it could result in carbon monoxide building up in the car. To keep warm, you can run the car for about 10 minutes every hour, cracking the front window during.

 

There are many cold weather safety tips you can use to ensure you have a magical winter wonderland getaway, but the most important tip is to simply plan ahead. Knowing the potential issues that may arise based on where you’re going and the road to get there can help you prepare for any possible issues that may arise. Being prepared will let you get to your destination, settle into your Extended Stay America suite and start making memories. 

November 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Don’t Forget the Diaper Bag! An Essential Vacation Packing List for Traveling with Children

Packing for any kind of trip can be a challenge. When you have to pack for a whole family, including infants and toddlers, for vacation, the amount of bags you take can grow and grow. To make the packing process a little bit easier, here are a few essentials to toss into that diaper bag.

Medicine, Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

One of the worst things to occur on your vacation is illness. You don’t want your babies or toddlers to get sick while traveling, but things can happen. You should talk to your pediatrician about what medicine to have in case of a problem. Also, parents shouldn’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent, which are essentials for most vacations where you will be outdoors. It is important to make certain that the products can be used on your children; some sunscreens, for example, aren’t intended for babies.

Extra Changes of Clothing

You might be going on vacation with your tiny ones for just a few days, but babies and toddlers often require more outfit changes than a Broadway show. Especially if you are taking a plane, you will always want to have a change of clothing with you and several outfits to get your bundle of joy through those messes on the road.

Changing Pads, Diapers and Plenty of Baby Wipes

Parents with an infant in diapers have to travel with a portable changing station. You can pack changing pads to make it easy to change your little one on the road. If you are flying or going to be in transit for several hours, you will also need plenty of diapers and baby wipes to make it to your destination. Nothing is worse than being stuck in a confined space with no extra diapers.

Toys and Games to Keep Everyone Entertained

When little Johnny decides to have a temper tantrum in the middle of your tour or while you are out to eat, toys and games will be your saving grace. While the whole toy chest won’t fit in your suitcase, a few basic toys and games will be welcome distractions when it seems the sky is falling on your wee one.

Baby Bottles, Formula and Snacks

As part of your vacation packing list for children, you shouldn’t forget to pack baby bottles and formula for infants and also snacks for the rest of the crew. Sometimes a tantrum is merely caused by hunger. However, being on the road or on an airplane can make it difficult to get your child what they want. A few plastic containers of snacks should always be with you wherever you go.

Cameras

Parents and families won’t want to forget one of the most important items that might not stop a temper tantrum or cure a runny nose, but it will have a lasting impact on your trip. Families should always travel with a camera, preferably with video capabilities, to document a child’s first few times seeing the rest of the world. For children who are a little bit older, you can give them disposable cameras to document what they see too.

 

For families traveling, you want a space that feels a little bit like home to keep some normalcy with the little ones. Along with a kids stay free policy, Extended Stay America suites allow families to create mini-homes away from home with separate bedrooms, kitchens and living spaces. 

November 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)