8 Great East Coast Summer Vacation Ideas

June 9, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

When it comes to summer vacation ideas, minds often wander to Hawaii, California and many West Coasts destinations. While the sunny Golden Coast might be known as a fine spot to take the whole family, if you live on or near the East Coast, these ideal summer destinations are giving the west a run for its money. From historic cities to appealing beaches, from Maine to Florida, you’re sure to find a number of perfect stops on your summer vacation.  

1. Ocean City, Maryland

In terms of East coast summer vacations, Ocean City, Maryland is one of a kind. The Atlantic Ocean resort town is also one of the most popular destinations in Maryland and the Eastern Seaboard during the summer months. Ocean City is lined with gorgeous beaches, a three-mile boardwalk and mini golf.

2. Charleston, South Carolina

If you’re staying in Charleston, South Carolina, you’re already in a premiere East Coast vacation destination. With its dozens of historic buildings, centuries old mansions and magnolia filled gardens, Charleston oozes that sweet Southern charm. It’s also one of the South’s best-preserved cities. This South Carolina stunner makes for a fine spot to eat, shop and sightsee.

3. The Outer Banks, North Carolina

For those who seek East Coast beaches with powdery white sands, the Outer Banks of North Carolina will not disappoint. You can make the 114-mile drive along Highway 12 stretching from the northern town of Corolla down to Ocracoke to appreciate this remarkable part of the state. The Outer Banks has plenty for the whole family to appreciate including historic lighthouses, ocean views and popular sights like the Wright Brothers National Memorial where they were first in flight.

4. Acadia National Park, Maine

Maine is an appealing summer destination as it’s finally thawed out from winter, but doesn’t get too hot in the summer months. One of the best places to visit in the state during the summer months is Acadia National Park. Showcasing the rugged coast of Maine, the park is home to many plants, animals and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. The national park is a fine place to hike, bike or merely just enjoy the scenery.

5. Savannah, Georgia

Along the same lines as Charleston, Savannah, Georgia is one of the South’s great historic cities. While it’s known for heat and humidity in the summer months, the city still is a top destination for East coast family vacations. Savannah relishes in its live oaks dripping in Spanish moss, antebellum mansions, horse drawn carriages and salty history. You can leisurely roam its many streets or even get spooked on a ghost tour while in town.

6. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is one of the East Coast’s most popular cities to visit in the summer. And with the city’s popularity, there is certainly no shortage of comfortable hotels to make home for a few days.  In many ways, it is at its most pleasant when the large student population has vacated. Visitors can walk the Freedom Trail or the Esplanade along the Charles River. For history and art buffs alike, Boston has museums like the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts.

7. Amelia Island, Florida

In the summer, Florida is full of vacationing families. If you want to head a little bit away from the crowds that flock to places like Orlando, you can seek out Amelia Island. Just off the coast of the northeastern corner of the state, the island is home to 13 miles of beaches with steep sand dunes. Amelia Island also houses many historic buildings like the Civil War era Fort Clinch.

8. Alexandria, Virginia

For the history loving family, Alexandria, Virginia makes for a fine base to explore nearby Washington D.C. However, you may just end up wanting to stick around town instead, for the city’s Old Town boasts more than 2,000 buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Alexandria is also home to Mount Vernon, the famous home of first President George Washington.

Whether you’re looking for beaches or history, the East Coast has it all for your summer vacation. From the shores of Maine down to sunny Florida, summer along the East Coast is always an appealing idea for vacation.

 

KWS:

 

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Group Vacation Planning 101

June 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

If you typically only travel for work, get stressed out at airports or don't remember the last time you saw your friends, it may be time to consider taking a group vacation! Not only do many hotels offer better rates for groups, but now planning a group vacation has never been easier. Check out some of our favorite group vacation ideas below, and get ready to enjoy traveling again.

Make a Group Vacation Checklist

Packing — and deciding on an itinerary — will be a lot easier if you divide responsibility between parties. If you've got a foodie friend, let them be in charge of where you're going to have your meals. Your friend with a Master's Degree in history can finally put their degree to use by picking out the best museums in your destination. Fitness buff in your group? Have them check out walking tours in the area. Instead of bringing eight separate hairdryers, bottles of shampoo, and, of course, bottles of champagne, assign each person an "area" (toiletries, wine, quick snacks) of shareable supplies to cover. Cut down on your baggage weight and your cost! Check out one of the many lifestyle magazines that offer their own checklist of essential items made in travel size for easy access!

The Devil's in the Details

If you're wondering how to plan a group vacation, there are a lot of moving pieces to consider. It's best to come up with a budget ahead of time and make sure that it's reasonable for everyone — the last thing you want is to make a friend feel uncomfortable by selecting activities that are out of their price range. Apps like Venmo, which allow you to send your friends money, can help to keep everything organized and can make payment a breeze. Pick activities that interest your party, and remember, a lot of group traveling is all about compromise. Try to do at least one of the "must-do" activities on every person in your party's list. When in doubt, the old "raise your hand if..." technique tends to work well. Be sure to remember that everyone has different sleeping habits and patterns, and take that into consideration. It's ok to break up a few days and have your friends go in separate, smaller groups to check off a few things on your list. That way, the "early risers" won't waste half their days waiting for the night owls to wake up, and the night owls will actually be pleasant to travel with if they've had enough sleep.

Group vacations are surprisingly easy to plan, lots of fun and a great way to see more of the country while saving on many expenses. So get that group text going and plan your vacation!

Winter Adventure: Snowmobiling

February 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Looking to bump up your adrenaline? Are you known for your sense of adventure? Then taking a destination vacation completely dedicated to snowmobiling might be the perfect way to start your year off right. Instead of doing something predictable —how many times can you sit in front of a fireplace and drink hot cocoa before it starts to lose its charm? — gather a group of friends, book a hotel room and head to one of these places known for the ride of a lifetime. Read on to learn about some of the best snowmobiling in the US!

Snowmobiling in Yellowstone
Everyone already knows that Yellowstone is arguably one of the country's most beautiful destinations — but don’t cross this trip off your list just because it’s winter. Imagine how it would feel to see it covered in snow. Whether you want to snowmobile through this national treasure with a small group, or you prefer to be a part of a large group tour, you’re sure to have an experience you'll never forget while really getting up close and personal with nature. And no need to worry about packing up snacks and food for the day out on the snow — the park has it all figured out. Several restaurants and rest areas dot the paths of the best and safest snowmobile routes.

Snowmobiling in Denver
It's no secret that for the true thrill-seekers, Colorado is one of the best places to snowmobile in the country. With plenty of snow vehicles available to rent, you can explore over 100 miles of historic, carefully groomed trails that pass through Vail and the Rocky Mountain range. Though many opt for the self-guided tour option, the opportunity to travel with a guide is a wonderful option for novices or larger groups. The snowmobile tours also offer different trails based on your level of experience and on how much of an adrenaline junkie you are. The High Adventure tour is for those who are more focused on speed and jumps than those who are primarily interested in seeing every detail of the trail itself. And the Prospector Tour is for those a bit more interested in stopping to smell the roses. This option is best for those traveling with children, as this tour allows parents to ride with their children or allows for couples to take a romantic ride while sharing a snowmobile. Every tour comes with an instructional lecture by a professional, so there's no need to be concerned about feeling unprepared.

Whether you want to explore nature on your own schedule, have a group vacation that still lets everyone do his or her own thing or want to explore a new hobby, a destination vacation to Yellowstone or Denver will help make sure that your snowmobiling extravaganza will glide along smoothly. Don’t be afraid to embark on this unusual but thrilling excursion — book your trip today!

Chicago's Best Museums

January 2, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

If you're planning a vacation to Chicago, you probably already know that the city is a celebrated cultural hub. If you're looking for things to do in Chicago, some of the most fascinating attractions are without question the city's incredible museums. No matter what period of art, collections or even unexpected surprises may interest you, you'll find something that stimulates your brain. Once you've booked your Chicago hotel room, read our list below to make sure you don't miss the top Chicago museums.

Art Institute of Chicago

On the hunt for museums to visit in Chicago? Let's start with the classics. Last year, Trip Advisor deemed The Art Institute of Chicago as both #1 museum not only in the world, but also in the US. Home to several famous Rembrandt paintings, priceless works of Manet, Degas, and, perhaps one of the most beloved paintings of all time, Grant Wood's American Gothic, the museum beat out notable institutes such as Paris’ The Louvre. And for the book lover in your life, be sure to check out the Ryerson & Burnham Research Libraries, home to both rare books and fascinating tomes. If you're heading to Chicago for Valentine's Day, be sure not to miss the collection of Van Gogh's Bedroom paintings, on display at Regenstein Hall in the museum to see some of the world's greatest paintings up close and personal.

The Adler Planetarium

If you've got your head in the clouds, make sure to take a trip to the Adler Planetarium, arguably one of the best museums in Chicago dedicated to the stars and the sky. Perfect for all ages, the planetarium was the first of its kind in the United States. The museum includes the famous "Mission Moon" exhibit, which allows visitors to experience the lunar landing for themselves — including the actual Gemini 12 capsule used by Buzz Aldrin to orbit the earth! Be sure to check out the celebrated Sky Theatre, which is beloved for its realistic, virtual-reality interpretations of space travel.

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Want to get your culture on, but feeling the financial hindrances of a starving artist yourself? Never fear, Chicago has plenty of options for you, too. One of the best free museums in Chicago is the Museum of Contemporary Photography, whose permanent collection includes photographs from Czech artists, world famous photographer Dorothea Lange and heartbreaking photographs of the 1930s dustbowl in America. There are plenty of ongoing projects and exhibitions designed to help new photographers hone their craft, and even have the chance to display their work.

If you're planning a trip to Chicago this winter, you can't go wrong by checking out some of the city's most celebrated museums. Whether you're a space nut, want to feel extra cultured or just want to check out some powerful photographs, the various museums of Chicago offer something for everyone.

Family-Friendly New Year's Eve in Los Angeles

December 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Year's Eve is a time of celebration, of beginnings and endings, of gratitude and anticipation. While some insist there's nothing like New York City's Times Square, for a family-friendly vacation spot with just as much magic but without the crowded subway trains, book a vacation to spend New Years Eve in Los Angeles!

If you're looking New Years Eve family events in Los Angeles, the best place to start is by checking out the traditional Tournament of Roses Parade. Held on New Year's Day (so you'll have a good incentive to keep a steady head the evening before!) the Rose Parade is the precursor the world famous Rose Bowl Football game, which has been an American tradition since 1902. Most of the floats are made exclusively from flowers, so while your children can enjoy the excitement of seeing some familiar faces come to life, you can marvel at the craftsmanship of the creations, which take a combined 80,000 hours to construct. The parade also includes marching bands, live music, special surprise appearances, and, best of all, the chance for some fabulous street fare food.

If some of the younger members of your family aren't quite ready to stand and wait in line for hours leading up to the parade, there are plenty of rooftop restaurants where you can catch a glimpse of the floats, like the aptly named French bistro, Perch LA. Another option for viewing the floats? The city offers a Post-Parade viewing of all the floats you may have missed — or accidentally slept through! Head to Sierra Madre Boulevard and Washington Street to check out the floats in all their glory. Your children will love having the chance to get up close and personal with some of their favorite characters, while you'll appreciate not having to wake up at the crack of dawn on New Year's Day.

If you're looking for another type of New Year's Eve engagement, there's no better way to really feel like you're among the stars than by visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Home to over 2,500 of the famous stars celebrating Hollywood's legends, your whole family can have fun finding their favorite celebrities, posing for pictures with Hollywood impersonators, and, since it's New Year's Eve, partaking in many of the miniature booths and festivities set up along the avenue! If you're really dedicated, you can even pick up a "Star Map" and take a tour to see the outside of some of your favorite celebrities' homes!

Los Angeles is home to many kid-friendly New Years Eve events, from the thrill of the Rose Parade to the joy of the Hollywood walk, there's no reason to hold off on a memorable celebration because you're worried that the city won't offer something for every member of your family. Ring in the New Year with your children and loved ones alike, by celebrating in sunny Los Angeles!

Best Slopes Opening Soon

November 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

As the fall months begin to transition into the winter season, families around the country have started getting ready for the start of ski season! Whether you're a Black Diamond slope runner or haven't had your first day of ski school, there are countless ski resorts open in November — so you can get on the slopes before they become overcrowded. Take a look at two of the best resorts in the country that offer early-season skiing.

Salt Lake City, Utah
It's no secret that booking a family vacation in Salt Lake City, Utah will give you access to some of the best open ski resorts in North America this year. With plenty of opportunities for ski rentals, one-on-one lessons, passes available to skip long lift lines and even family classes and events, Salt Lake City is one of the most popular destinations for skiing in America for a reason. And if you're looking for something other than simply skiing, why not try your hand all the family-friendly activities that are available? You can hit the slopes in a new way — rentals and guides are available so you can enjoy snowmobiling, sledding, snowshoeing or even snowboarding! And for that perfect family-friendly après-ski pick-me-up, be sure to head to Salt Lake City's Hatch Family Chocolate to sample what many refer to as the best hot chocolate in the state. So grab your warm coats, fuzzy hats, snow boots and gloves and get ready for the vacation of a lifetime!

Breckenridge, Colorado
If you're looking for a small-town feel in one of the best ski destinations in North America, you'll find everything you need in cozy and quaint Breckenridge, Colorado. With a permanent resident population of just under 5,000, Breckenridge is a little town with a big reputation. It’s known world-wide for its attention to detail, luxury rentals, fine dining and shopping, exquisite art galleries and state-of-the-art spas and ski lodges. With multiple hills and mountains available to cater to every age and ability level, the town is known for bringing in some of the highest quality instructors in the entire nation. It's also the home of the International Snow Sculpture Championships, held every January. And if you ever decide to visit in the summer, the town doesn’t disappoint. Be sure to check out the historic hiking trails and mining history Breckenridge boasts.

They say the early bird catches the worm, but this year, why not catch the slopes? Chase the greatest early snow in the country and beat the crowds by taking your family for a surprise vacation to one of these best resorts for early-season skiing. Whether you're a novice or an expert, you’ll be sure to make memories for your whole family on an early-year ski trip. Sip hot chocolate with marshmallows, warm up in a ski lodge or take a family class on a vacation they'll never forget. 

Great Family Reunion Winter Destinations

November 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

There's no reason that arguing over who should host the family reunion this year should ever lead to any cancelled get togethers or hurt feelings. If you and your brood just can’t seem to figure it out, why not make a new tradition and find one of many affordable family reunion destinations the whole family can agree on? This year, why not just book a group hotel block of rooms, relax and actually enjoy your family time.

Pine Mountain in Georgia

Some of the best family reunion lodging can be found in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Enjoy a peaceful ambiance in this neck of the woods that truly has something for everyone. From down home country cooking to the Wild Animal Safari, Pine Mountain is sure to entertain everyone in the family. You can find a butterfly center, an expansive botanical garden, hiking trails and even a circus for the kids — one thing you can all agree on is that nobody will be bored in Pine Mountain.

Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania

If you're looking for family reunion destinations that are geared more towards the winter months, don’t miss the breathtaking Poconos Mountain Range in Pennsylvania. Easy to access from New York and the surrounding areas, the whole family can enjoy skiing or snowboarding, and if you have little ones, there’s even a ski school. For those wanting to move at a bit of a slower pace, winter hiking and snowshoeing can satisfy those who truly love the cold — you can brave the winter weather to venture out into some of the country's most beautiful game trails and parks. There are also plenty of indoor climbing centers, and even paintball courses, to keep the kids entertained while the adult members of the family can relax with a cocktail or enjoy an après-ski glass of wine. 

Great Lakes in Michigan

Another perfect family reunion destination? Consider somewhere with a lot of wide open space for hosting family talent shows, eating contests or simply running around! Areas surrounding the Great Lakes in Michigan, or even the lesser-known, hence much less crowded, Lower Herring Lake are ideal for families with lots of children who are old enough to entertain themselves with minimal supervision. Known for its cherry orchards, gorgeous views and spectacular sunsets, Michigan offers a myriad of activities for families, and is usually very open to larger crowds renting out a space. Golf enthusiasts will have no trouble at all finding an expansive, challenging golf course to play on in the area — while the children can take turns trying their hands at mini golf. 


Families can be chaotic, but finding the right destination for your next family reunion doesn't need to be. With the right venue, food and, most importantly, attitude, your reunion is sure to be a success. Don't let the fear of arguing over who has to host the family reunion prevent you from having one — instead, bring your clan together and create a new tradition by traveling to a different destination every year.

 

Whale-watching in Alaska

August 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alaska is a wildlife lover’s dream, where bears, bald eagles, sea lions and of course, whales are spotted not just daily, but by the minute. Particularly in the summer months, the state comes alive with road warriors seeking to see massive and strangely delicate whales. August is one of the peak times for whale watching along the Alaskan coast. Thousands of whales have made their way up to Alaska by this point in the year, and visitors can watch them in action. If you and your family want to see just how spectacular these creatures are, there are a number of whale watching tours available. And you don’t have to embark on an extravagant 7 day cruise to see the whales, as all of these companies offer hourly, half day and full day whale watching opportunities. So find a good deal on a hotel in Alaska and hop on board one of these whale-watching tours.

Alaska Tours, Anchorage

Based in Anchorage, Alaska Tours offers perhaps some of the longest daily whale watching tours. Many of the company’s tours span from 6 to 9 hours. Within those hours, guests visit the waters of Resurrection Bay, the Chiswell Islands and Kenai Fjords National Park. All of these areas are known for hosting whales come summertime. Tours start and end near Juneau and Anchorage, making them easy to reach if you are staying in either city.

Major Marine Tours, Anchorage

Also out of Anchorage, Major Marine Tours has convenient three hour, half day and full day cruises focused on finding Alaska whale populations. The company’s whale watching tours provide the chance to see blue whales, gray whales, fin whales, humpbacks and orcas. Cruises travel across Prince William Sound and near Kenai Fjords National Park. The family-owned business makes tours special by having National Park Rangers on board. These rangers can provide additional information to further educate you about the whales making the trip to Alaska.

Juneau Whale Watch, Juneau

If you are staying in or near Juneau, Juneau Whale Watch offers several different types of whale watching tours. Some of these tours offer a bit more than whale watching with city and glacier highlights also included. However, true purists can join the company’s classic Whale Watching Tour. Departing from Juneau, the tours take roughly three hours. In addition to seeing humpback whales and orcas, tours also often see bald eagles, seals, sea lions and much more Alaskan wildlife. Once a whale is spotted on the tour, the captain slows down the boat so that riders can head out to the viewing deck. You’ll want to bring your camera on this tour as the whales almost always come close to the boat once the engine has been turned off for viewing the whales.

Rugged and raw, Alaska provides one of those few opportunities in today’s world to truly marvel at nature, undisturbed. As many vacationing families plan their summer around the whales, you will want to be sure you have the chance to get up close and personal with these remarkable mammals. Vacation tours can be hit or miss at times, but these whale watching excursions provide the chance to be in awe of massive whales with every turn of the boat.

 

Government and Military Travel Tips

July 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

If you have to travel as a government or military employee, those business trips and assignments can be long, exhausting and even chaotic. Traveling for any job has its ups and downs, but for military and government workers, there are somewhat different tips to follow to get the most out of your travels. Before you take off on assignment for the long or short term, here are a few helpful travel tips to follow.

Tip #1: Take Advantage of Expedited Airport Security

If you have to fly for a business trip or a short-term assignment, you don’t want to spend too much time at the airport. In the U.S., military travel can be a little less painful with the help of TSA Pre Check for Active Duty Military. The program offers those in the military expedited airport security screening benefits. The program is in place at more than 120 TSA Pre Check airports. Active duty service members can easily travel through the airport more quickly and easily by not having to wait in the long security lines, remove their shoes or even take out their liquids. The program also includes any accompanying family members under the age of 12.

Tip #2: Always Ask For a Discount At Hotels

One of the main advantages for traveling military or government employees is the discounts, specifically those offered on hotels. Many military and government workers neglect to book properties that offer discounts on room rates. Extended Stay America is one of those hotels, offering deals to military and government employees, making government travel easier to afford. In most cases, you usually can select the discounted rate and show your government or military identification at check-in. By taking advantage of government travel rates at hotels, the wallet is less constricted so that you can still get out and appreciate your destination, despite being there for work.

Tip #3: Do Something Local

Working and traveling doesn’t always leave much wiggle room to fit in sightseeing while on your way or at your destination. Military and government employees should try to at least do something local. A business trip doesn’t necessarily need to be only about business. In addition to hotels, many attractions like museums also offer discounts or free admission to the military. Playing the part of tourist becomes a little bit more affordable in that case. Also, it can be beneficial to look for hotels near where you have to work. By being closer to the task at hand, you stand to have more time to escape the job and actually see something at your destination.

Traveling for business has its positives and negatives. While you might get shuttled off to a far-flung destination of your dreams, being able to enjoy it isn’t always on the table. However, by practicing these main military and government employee travel tips, you stand a better chance of dodging long lines at the airport, scooping up amazing hotel deals and seeing something local at your destination. After all, all work and no play tend to make for a dull business trip.

 

4 Los Angeles Hidden Hot Spots

June 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Like most major cities, Los Angeles juggles a busy agenda. The City of Angels crowds with landmarks, attractions and cultural givings famous all over the world. While most lists outline the must see attractions in Los Angeles, many visitors want to get to the core of the city. If you would rather seek out Los Angeles’ lesser known, hidden gems, here are four that are sure to give you that sense of Los Angeles off the grid.

Hidden Hot Spot #1: Virginia Robinson Gardens

If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Los Angeles, a fine place to start is the Virginia Robinson Gardens. Many don’t know about this gorgeous six-acre property right in the middle of Beverly Hills. The estate was built in 1911, making it the first estate in Beverly Hills. Named after the department store giant’s wife, the Virginia Robinson Gardens has even made it on the National Register of Historic Places. Located just behind the Beverly Hills Hotel, the property shows off a display garden, mansion and pool pavilion. Visitors can imagine the space decades ago when it functioned as the site of many lavish Hollywood parties. Tours of the estate include a walk through of the famous mansion’s buildings and gardens. However, like all respectable secret Los Angeles attractions, you must make an appointment to visit. The Virginia Robinson Gardens recommend reserving a tour at least two weeks in advance.

Hidden Hot Spot #2: The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Los Angeles features countless famous museums, but if you seek a more off beat museum space, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is for you. If you are staying in Los Angeles for a few days, you can catch one of the city’s most intriguing and strange exhibition spaces. The Museum of Jurassic Technology combines myths, superstition and natural wonders. Located on Venice Boulevard in Culver City, exhibits tend to have nothing to do with dinosaurs or technology. One of those weird and wacky displays includes the Garden of Eden on Wheels, a collection from Los Angeles area mobile home parks.

Hidden Hot Spot #3: The Underground Tunnels of LA

Created during prohibition when 11 miles of service tunnels became passageways to speakeasies, the Underground Tunnels of LA present yet another off the beaten path attraction in town. The pedestrian tunnels stretch from Spring and Temple Streets to First Street and Grand Avenue. The surviving tunnels run under many of the city’s main government buildings and have even been featured in films. While the Underground Tunnels of LA boasts a history for transporting mobsters, murderers and cash, today, travelers with a sense of adventure can explore the tunnels by way of a hidden entrance behind the Hall of Records.

Hidden Hot Spot #4: Time Travel Mart

If you fancy yourself a time traveler, Los Angeles has another hidden attraction for you. The Time Travel Mart is touted as a convenience store for time travelers. It features goods for sale from virtually every era. Filled with oddities, the space offers the chance to see Barbarian repellent, primordial soup in a can and dinosaur eggs. All of the proceeds from Time Travel Mark fund a non-profit.

Figuring out what to do in a major city like Los Angeles isn’t always easy. However, if you have a sense of adventure, a want to see the quirky and off beat, Los Angeles doesn’t disappoint with these quirky and hidden gems.