Looking for some travel inspiration? Need some visuals around the home or office to keep your eye on the prize? Follow us on Pinterest to check out some of these fun and creative visuals, repin your favorites, then download them here to print them and frame in your home, office or as gifts!
We love travel and want to share the joy of it with everyone to hopefully inspire others to get out and travel! We have lots more ideas for more printables but let us know what kind of variations you would like to see us make in the comment section below.
We're always looking for great travel boards to follow so comment below with a link to your travel inspired boards for us to follow.
Have you found yourself suffering from boredom on your business travel or while traveling with family for vacation? Sure there's plenty to do on your laptop or iPad, but the juice only lasts so long. If you're looking for something to do on your flight or while in your vehicle and worried about the battery running out on you - fear not, we have you covered!
I'm now a mini-van driving dad. Not by choice. I was forced into this decision by the other powers in the household - my wife and her cohorts, my 2 daughters and son. They are in heaven in our fully-loaded, state of the art family mobile for the new millennium. And if our kids had their way they would permanently move into the van.
Despite my hesitations, secretly I have enjoyed the new supped up transportation. Recently we took a drive through Northern Arizona and Southern Utah - which holds some of the most spectacular scenery and landscapes in the nation. A key benefit to the new mini-van set up is the second the kids inquire "Are we there yet?" we can easily flip a switch and they can be entertained with a DVD or game and my wife and I can enjoy the scenery on the road ahead.
As each passing day goes by and the news about the NHL Labour dispute, officially labeled a "lockout", doesn't change it seems more and more likely that there will not be any NHL hockey this fall and potentially all winter. In Canada, this is a major story, to put it in perspective especially for people in Southern States, this is our equivalent of the NFL or MLB. This is big news north of the 49th parallel.
As TSN (Canada's version of ESPN) scrambles to fill hours and hours of weekly content it is becoming more and more evident to Canadians that another season with no professional hockey is looking more and more likely. We endured a lost season in 2004-05 and now that we are less than two weeks away from what would have been the start of the regular season, it's starting to feel like a real possibility that another season will be lost.
College Football season is finally here (FINALLY) and as a NCAA Football enthusiast, I'm thrilled to once again spend my weekends entranced by the tradition of collegiate gridiron. Not only do I love the grit of age-old competition but hitting the road to see my favorite teams is an experience itself. I have great memories of traveling to see games, of which a majority have been Ohio State (raised in Ohio, Saturdays in the fall are not complete without a Buckeye battle cry) and this season has me dreaming of the games I would like to see live, on the grass with the roar of the crowd.
Anyone who has followed my blog over the last four years already knows that I profess my adoration and respect for www.BestWestern.com almost every week but this week I am kicking it up a notch.
I recently received a press release that was issued announcing how Best Western has made improvements to their already impressive website. One very notable enhancement is the addition of Trip Advisor reviews embedded directly within the site corresponding to each of Best Western's properties. To me it was another example of Best Western addressing an issue head on and putting the customer experience first.
By the calendar, fall has officially arrived. However, when you live in the southwest and temperatures are still hitting over 100 degrees, it makes it a little more difficult to accept that fact. Nonetheless, fall is here and my thoughts start turning towards holiday travel and fall festivals. One of my personal favorites is Oktoberfest whether I celebrate here in my own neighborhood or travel to Munich for the mother of all beer festivals. This year should be a particularly good year for those people who enjoy a refreshing frosty mug or two due to the increase in popularity of brew pubs and craft beers.
So, here are a few hints for any of you that might be thinking about going to Munich for Oktoberfest, which runs from September 22 - October 7, 2012.
Several years ago, maybe even longer ago than that, I never had to worry about how to pack pills, potions, capsules, cure-alls and other forms of medicine while preparing for a trip. But now that I have inadvertently become an elder(ly), I am forced to readjust my pre-trip packing routines as they apply to health matters.
One of my first decisions was to purchase a plastic pill box with several (but never enough) compartments marked with the days of the week on the lids. For normal pill-popping, this would have sufficed, but when I reached that point (as so many of us do) where I began counting meds in double figures, the little squares were no longer large enough to hold a full vacation supply.
Back in those long past days when I still had all my hair and it was brown, not white, I volunteered my body for some rather Adrenalin-rushing adventures. Among them, wing-walking and para-sailing. But now well into my senior stage, I no longer have any need for such foolhardy stunts. (Read that: There ain't enough tequila in the world to get me to stand on top of a biplane while it's flying 2,500 feet above the ground ever again.)
However, while traveling through the Hocking Hills area of Ohio, I was introduced to zip lining and a small portion of the desire for the thrills of my youth popped up again. It was exhilarating with just a slight hint of danger, and quite safe even for those who might have qualms about riding a steel cable high above the landscape.
Ladies and Gentlemen this is your captain emailing. This maybe a little premature but Canadian air travellers will soon have access to email and the internet onboard flights after federal regulators recently signed off on a plan to begin offering the service north of the 49th parallel.
The service is currently available with some carriers in the U.S. and has been launched as a fee-based option with rates around $2.00 for 15 minutes or a $20 flat fee for access for the entire flight.
Anyone from Canada born before 1990 knows exactly where they were and what they were doing eleven years ago. To me it is one of the days that I can easily call to the forefront of my mind and I remember vividly almost every aspect of that day. In fact, this year the weather reminded me of September 11, 2001, it usually happens in early to mid September, we get one of those bright and beautiful days but it's a little brisk. Given it's the end of summer it's a day that reminds you that jackets and mitts aren't too far away and you better get out and enjoy it, after what happened that's especially true, because you just never know.
On this 11th anniversary of the tragic events that took place on 9/11, we look back on a recent trip we took to the September 11 memorial, which has now been open for 11 months. The site is breathtaking and has attracted millions of visitors from around the world.
The project is still under construction and (once complete) is expected to house the National 9/11 Memorial Museum as well. If you are ever in NYC do not pass up the chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial.
By all accounts it appears that corporate travel in Canada looks as healthy as ever!
In fact, a recent study co-authored by Deloitte and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) has some pretty encouraging stats. Here are just a few:
84% of Canadian Business travelers are planning to travel as much or more this year, up 5% from last year, AND
International travel outside North America is expected to jump dramatically with 62% of corporate jet setters planning to be overseas in the next twelve months - that's up from 47% only a year ago.
Spelunking doesn't necessarily have to include scraping your knuckles and knees against rock formations in previously unexplored caverns like those shown on the television documentaries. Not hardly. Although you might miss the thrill of being the first one to see the stalactites and stalagmites that lie hidden beneath the Earth's surface, those of us in the upper ages brackets can get just as excited if we can ride an elevator down to the sights.
In fact, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico does have an elevator that takes visitors on a nine-minute ride from the surface to the depths. It's 750 feet one way and makes the trip a lot easier than taking the alternate entryway known as the Natural Entrance Route, which follows steep, narrow trails through a tall trunk passage. It's not for the weak-of-kneed or pot-of-bellied.
Anyone who thinks that road trips are dull doesn't know how to road trip!
The world is full of wacky roadside "wildlife" to bring excitement and hilarity to any road trip. We've collected a couple pictures to show you how to make your next road trip larger than life.
So anybody who knows me knows how much I love international travel. The food, the trains, the hotels, the history, and the culture! There isn't anything about traveling internationally that I don't like. I don't even mind all the extra passport checks and security pat-downs. It really isn't so bad! I've been through Ireland and Great Britain, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa and South America. However, I have yet to get to France or China. I would like these countries to be next on my list.
I was laughing to myself this morning. I drove by a fairly busy corner and there were five people waiting for the light to change all of them fully distracted by their smartphone or mobile device. The thing that really struck me was the diversity of this sample. The range was from a blue haired punk rocker teen to an elderly woman with her poodle. The scene got me thinking about how much our devices have changed our lives and I decided to research the impact it's had on travel.
Traveling with your kids is one of life's greatest adventures. It can be a splendid memory that they'll remember when they have children of their own, or if your kids are like mine, there had better be plenty to do while on those long hours on the highway or airplane otherwise chaos will ensue.
Here are some of my favorite hiking spots and trails on the west coast of North America, all worth considering exploring before we lose this lovely summer weather. These are (mostly) for all ages and can be a great family trip to take before we head into the busy fall and holiday season!
If you're a rock climber in the US, the final month of summer can be some of the most frustrating. Hot stone, a burning sun and crowds of campers make for an uncomfortable hike in and a poor night's sleep. But, don't despair. There are lots of climbing destinations within North America where you can go to avoid the crowds, sleep comfortably and climb in ideal temps for descending. Check out one of our favorites below.
In Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic 1945 musical State Fair, viewers were able to watch the drama unfold of the glory and excitement surrounding a state fair, whether attending as a contestant or to revel in the American tradition of bringing the best of a state into one central location. It's no wonder that the most popular song from the musical is, " Our State Fair is a great state fair... it's the best state fair in the state!"
Over 65 years later, a lot of state fairs have faded into history, but there are a few that are as popular as they ever have been. Here are three that still put on quite the show each summer:
There is a litany of information out there about all the things you should consider packing for your next trip or vacation. In fact, I've even written a few blogs on the topic myself. Today however I wanted to talk about all those things you can stop packing. There are many benefits to packing more efficiently including saving money with reduced weight on checked baggage fees, more flexibility and mobility and ultimately a more enjoyable trip.
Let's look at some things you can take out of your next pack.
We recently moved and yes I am still living out of boxes! As you can imagine, I have gone through the grueling task of changing my address seemingly a thousand times. While doing this I had to change my mobile phone plan and update my five favourite (or most popular) numbers I call, which got the creative juices flowing. Inspired by my mobile phone plan, I have created a travel version of "MY 5" which is a mini version of my travel favourite places. The five places I can count on and enjoy going back to again and again. Without further adieu, I give you MY Travel 5:
The major tourist attractions have always held my attention, but deep down inside, I harbor a strong and well-rooted desire to see and touch the little offbeat sights that don't draw the big crowds. It has nothing to do with reaching seniordom; it's more like a return to a childhood that included nurturing pet frogs and planting my own sunflowers.
So I seek out things like:
The University of Georgia's Marine Extension Service Aquarium in Savannah, Georgia. It's small (only 17 exhibit tanks and one "touch" tank), but it contains more than 200 creatures that represent most of the 50 species that inhabit the Georgia coast. Almost equally important on the funky scale: The facility is located on Skidaway Island, a name that sort of sticks to the inside of your brain when repeated 15 times in succession.
Airports are not on my list of favorite places, but I have learned to tolerate them because ... well, if you're going to fly, you're going to wait. And wait. And, sometimes, wait and wait and wait. But I have also learned that the time goes faster, even slips by in a hurry, when I'm waiting in an airport that features art exhibits on the various levels. Many terminals have been displaying works for a long time; others are getting on board in an effort to not only reduce boredom, but also enhance their city's image.
So, you've decided to go on vacation, awesome! Well, nothing will get your trip off on the wrong foot than the stress of packing.
Remember, you'll be hauling your luggage in and out of your car, through the airport, on and off the airplane, on and off the bus, we've all been there - so here are a few tips so you will thoroughly enjoy your vacation - without throwing your back out.
Summer's here (for now), school's out and kids are home. But the kids will be back to school before you know it. Looking for a last minute vacation? Never fear, BEST WESTERN has put together a few of our favorite kid-friendly destinations along with several ideas on things to do once you get there. For those who love Pinterest, this will make your summer planning a little easier.
Here is a list of our top 5 favorites:
Any time our family is driving down the highway and my kids spot a blue and yellow sign they shout out BeWe--in our family that means you've seen a BEST WESTERN hotel! These kids, ages 7 and 9, have fallen in love with the hotel chain. It makes sense. I work for BEST WESTERN and my kids have stayed in BeWes all over the country. But there are three main reasons why this hotel chain continues to win over their hearts.
Too soon, it was time to bid Calgary, the Stampede and the glorious Rocky Mountains farewell. This trip was definitely one of our best as a family and it was really special to have thirteen of us together for most of trip. Travelling is all about experiencing new things, growing, learning and most importantly making memories. I can safely say mission accomplished on all fronts.
For my mother-in-law it was the first time in her sixty-six years (we were able to celebrate her birthday during the trip) that she had ever been west of Ontario. It's always amazing to see the reaction of people who witness the beauty of the Rockies for the first time. They really are inspiring. Mary also loved the warm buffet breakfasts we enjoyed from BEST WESTERN to BEST WESTERN across Alberta!
With the Olympics finally here, my travel scope is tending to be to be a little more worldwide. So, in the spirit of these Olympics and my love for worldwide travel, I have constructed a Gold, Silver and Bronze ranking of summer travel destinations around the world.
If you've ever had to plan a wedding, you know how stressful it can be. These days, destination weddings are becoming more and more popular. Packaged deals fitting any budget can make planning easier on your wallet. Destination packages can also eliminate the stress of interviewing countless caterers, bakers, florists and other wedding vendors. Additionally, as soon as your wedding is over, you can roll right into your honeymoon as the last of your guests leave.
I've listed my top 10 favorite destination wedding spots around the world, from faraway weddings to destinations closer to home. Regardless of where you decide to have your wedding, you can be sure there's a Best Western nearby! What other places would you add to the list?
Another beautiful day in Alberta, literally our eighth consecutive day of high twenties, sunshine and no rain at all in the forecast. We started our day, with a similar pattern that I have really adapted well too, a buffet breakfast at Best Western. I can't emphasize enough what a tremendous benefit this has been for us on our family vacation. For me, breakfast is the best meal of the day and to have a warm buffet, prepared for me with no clean up is becoming a staple of any vacation I take moving forward. If you are planning a trip in the near future, remember to include things like breakfast, parking and internet access in the budget. Breakfast alone on this trip saved the five of us approximately four to five hundred dollars!
Our great weather experience continued as we woke up to sunny skies. We headed over to The Inn restaurant at the BEST WESTERN PLUS Jasper Inn & Suites and Suites for an excellent buffet breakfast. What a great start - scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, pancakes, French toast, hash browns, assorted yogurts, fresh fruits and juices, oatmeal and cereals and coffee and teas.
The highlight of our day was heading over to Maligne Lake, which is about 50 km's from Jasper but well worth the drive. In fact, this was the highlight of this leg of the trip. The drive from Jasper followed a rushing river that was spectacular and provided great opportunities to wildlife sightings. With 7 of us in the car there were lots of eyes peeled for bears, caribou, moose and deer. Despite all the eyes, we only saw one deer on the drive up.
The plan for today was to get from Banff to Jasper which is about three hundred kilometres northwest through the Columbia Icefield and Jasper National Park. We really got lucky because the weather was ideal to do one of the world's most scenic driving experiences. Highway 93 weaves through the most majestic mountain views, emerald coloured glacier-fed lakes and abundant forest landscapes. Everywhere we looked we were surrounded by breath-taking beauty. Everyone in the car was pretty quiet just taking in all in.
We made a quick stop at the Columbia Icefield which as the name suggests is the home of a huge glacial icedrift. Unfortunaely all the glaciers in Western Canada are receding glaciers which means more snow and ice is melting that is being replaced each year. Experts claim that within 75 years there will be no glacial ice left in this part of Canada which is unsettling after having the privilege of just seeing them in all their magnificence.
So, you've decided to go on vacation, awesome! Well, nothing will get your trip off on the wrong foot than the stress of packing.
Remember, you'll be hauling your luggage in and out of your car, through the airport, on and off the airplane, on and off the bus, we've all been there - so here are a few tips so you will thoroughly enjoy your vacation - without throwing your back out.
After another wonderful pancake breakfast at the BEST WESTERN PREMIER Freeport Inn and Suites we packed up, checked out and hit the road north-west for "The Rockies" and a couple days in Banff.
Banff is about an hour from Calgary and consistently voted Canada's number one travel destination. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains you definitely cannot beat the breathtaking views and mountain air. We arrived just before lunch and checked into the BEST WESTERN PLUS Siding 29 Lodge. Just to answer your first question right away, the name Siding 29 dates back to the early days of Banff in 1883 when the Canadian Pacific Railway made it's way west and the work camp, which later become the town of Banff was known as "Siding 29".
We woke up Sunday morning to Toronto-like conditions. A rare heat-wave in Alberta has temperatures climbing up to thirties celcius (nineties fehrenheit) so we felt right at home here.
One of the great traditions of stampede are pancake breakfasts where businesses, clubs and associations host a full western breakfast featuring pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, juices, coffees and teas. Of interest, the BEST WESTERN PREMIER offers a pancake breakfast every day with but they also feature waffles, fresh fruits, cereals, custom made omelettes, oatmeal, muffins, pastries, yogurts, juices, coffees and teas. Sixteen of us showed up at the Calgary Winter Club to stompin' country tunes, face-painting, cowboys & cowgirls as far as the eye could see.
We touched down in Calgary last night in the early evening and were met with fanfare and cowboy hats. After picking up our rental chariot for the week we checked into the BEST WESTERN PREMIER Freeport Inn and Suites and were immediately impressed. This was my first experience with a BEST WESTERN PREMIER and it did not disappoint (more details in tomorrows blog).
One of the great benefits that we experienced immediately was the onsite restaurant and lounge and they were extremely accommodating. There were 11 of us and they provided us with a private area, superb service, food and a great selection of wines.
I just came off a grueling weekend helping launch Oakville's inaugural ribfest! I was asked months ago to help our local rotary club and sat on the marketing committee to promote the festival to officially start summer! I am still suffering from Smokey Hickory withdraw from the sweet aroma that seven "Ribbers" from across north America emitted overt the last seventy two hours. The event was held at Sheridan College and it attracted almost 24,000 people crushing the initial goal of 15,000.
The countdown has been on for months in my house as we get set for a fantastic summer vacation in 2012. We are heading to Calgary this afternoon to start a nine-day getaway with lots of action.
The first cool point is the "we". Leaving from Toronto are my wife, Ruth and I with our two kids, daughter Caira who is nine and my son, Ethan who is 8 along with my mother-in-law, Mary. We are meeting up with my Mom and Dad in Calgary and my sister and her family. She has two girls, Alicia who is 4 and Julia who is almost 2. My Aunt and Uncle are also in Calgary, so for some of the events there will be thirteen of us!
Like many of us seniors, I am no longer interested in scrambling into uncharted territory just so I can view something most everyone else hasn't already seen and photographed. I prefer the attractions that are easily reachable, even though thousands have been there before me. But I have also come across a good sampling of lesser-knowns that have been well worth exploring.
Nothing says Independence Day quite like a colorful and thundering fireworks display. The only thing that would make it even more special is if you were celebrating it in the beating heart of the United States of America: Washington, D.C.
The National Mall with the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument on either side creates a stunning backdrop for fireworks that annually light up the 4th of July night sky. Make sure to claim your seat early in the day after the mall opens to the public at 10:00 a.m. You will need to enter through one of the security entrances, but once you've selected your spot, there is plenty to do. Activities on the mall include readings of the Declaration of Independence, a folk life festival and an evening concert by the National Symphony Orchestra out on the West Lawn.
We love Best Western fans. We love their sense of humor. Nowhere else is this more evident than with the Best Western Travel Caption contests. So we wanted to showcase a few of our favorite Travel Caption contest winners and celebrate their humor. You can find some of our favorite images below (HINT: We really love puns!) and if you're on Pinterest feel free to pin away!
By now we hope you've heard of Best Western's new advanced cleaning technologies program - I Care Clean. It's certainly been making a buzz in the national news and is being recognized as a benchmark for hotel cleanliness.
The new program empowers Best Western's Housekeeping to set a new standard for customer care with the use of UV Wands, Black Lights and Clean Remotes.
Take a look at what some of the media has to say about Best Western's I Care Clean!
LATimes.com, "Best Western Hotel Chain Goes After Overlooked Grime," Hugo Martin
It is not my intention to dissuade anyone our age from going to any particular travel destination, but my time on the road has left me with several impressions that might serve to alert others to possible danger. Well, not so much danger itself, but situations that might prove uncomfortable for some.
The Astronomical Clock in Prague, Czech Republic, is a magnificent attraction. Originally installed in 1410, it is the oldest working clock of its kind anywhere in the world. It was placed on the south side of the Old Town City Hall and has suffered repeated damage due to war, time and the elements but it keeps on marking the hours as it has done for more than 600 years. Every hour on the hour, wooden figures of the twelve Apostles march past windows on the face, while other figures flanking the clock are also set in motion.
Summer is here, and what's better than spending a warm summer's day or night enjoying great music and people watching? You might not think it but Canada actually has some pretty sweet music festivals that take place in the summer months. Below I have included a list of some sure-to-please events happening across Canada; there's a little something for everyone.
Pity the dad who opens his Father's Day gift to find a pinstripe shirt or a box of golf balls. Why not surprise the man of the house with a weekend getaway the entire family can enjoy? Here are a few ideas for travel adventures geared to dad.
Catch a fish on Idaho's Salmon River
Riggins lies deep in a canyon at the confluence of the Salmon River and the Little Salmon River in west central Idaho. It's a hub for outdoor adventure and you'll find a myriad of outfitters. You can cast for steelhead or sturgeon or hop in a raft for white-water thrills. Or, take a hike in nearby Hells Canyon Recreation Area.
Where to Stay: BEST WESTERN Salmon Rapids Lodge (Riggins, Idaho)
I am only days away from my annual golf retreat. This year we have twenty-eight guys and are heading up to the Muskoka region of Ontario for 3 days and 3 nights of great friends, good food and mediocre golf! I should clarify the golf courses are among the most beautiful in Canada, it's the golfers that don't do the game justice. Nevertheless it's an event I look forward to for months!
The second biggest challenge behind keeping your golf ball in play is sharing accommodations with three other friends for 72 hours. If you find yourself in this position here are my five tips to survive:
I bring a lot of electronic equipment with me on every motorcycle trip. I have at least two cameras, two video cameras, an iPhone, an iPod, a MacBook, a Kindle and a GPS unit. Each piece of equipment seems to have its own cables, plugs and chargers. And cables love to tangle, which annoys me and wastes my valuable time.
I used to consolidate all of my cables in one small carrying case to make sure that I didn't lose any. Cables being how they are, I discovered that every time I went to get a cable out to use it, a whole tangle of cables came out at once. No matter how neatly I put them away, the cables took on a life of their own and tangled up.
Every once in a while, a company finds an innovative way to dramatically enhance the customer experience. The result can be so impressive that within a short time frame the competition will have no choice but to follow suit and mimic the product or service.
In my opinion, Best Western has implemented just such a service enhancement. As part of its continued dedication to lead the hospitality industry in customer care, Best Western International is rolling out its "I Care Clean" program throughout 2012 that will bring advanced cleaning technologies used in hospitals, such as UV wands and black lights, to the more than 2,100 Best Western hotels in North America.
What do all 50 states as well as the ten provinces of Canada have in common that also make each unique? They all have a motto, many of which are abstract, but others that today live up to the short phrase coined years ago. Canada's motto, A Mari Usque Ad Mare means "From Sea to Sea," and the United States of America's E Pluribus Unum is translated to be, "Out of Many, One."
When each of these states, provinces or countries were formed, their motto was chosen to formally describe the general motivation or intention of that particular territory of land. There are many mottos that are completely ambiguous, but others that do a great job of describing the experience there. Here are five favorites who live by their mottos that I really love to visit:
With summer travel approaching, drivers are taking it to the nation's highways to explore the four corners of North America. This can be an exciting adventure, full of new sights and experiences, but it can also be confusing. Many motorists find themselves in a new place without really knowing what the local driving laws or road signs mean. Whether you're taking a trip to San Francisco or Louisville, here are five refreshers to help you stay safe on the road:
Yesterday marked a special occasion For Best Western, as our new program - I Care Clean - was launched via an exclusive in USA Today. Best Western continues its dedication to lead the hospitality industry in customer care with advanced cleaning technologies throughout 2012 in the more than 2,100 Best Western hotels in North America!
The new program empowers Best Western's Housekeeping to set a new standard for customer care with the use of UV Wands, Black Lights and Clean Remotes.
For the 7th year in a row Best Western brought together a panel of industry executives to discuss the state of leisure of travel in Canada. Once again I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion that was held at the Board of Trade in downtown Toronto. My task was made much easier with the strength of the panel. Dorothy Dowling, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Best Western participated in her seventh summit along with Tony Pollard, the President of the Hotel Association of Canada who was here for his fifth. Joining Dorothy and Tony as a panel rookie was Brenda Kyllo, Vice President of Travel at CAA.
Advancements in travel gadgets over the past ten years have made business travel a lot less stressful and no gadgets have had a bigger impact than smart phones and tablets. Armed with the right apps these devices can provide their owners with tools that once would have taken an entire suitcase to fill. Here are few great travel apps that will help you get the most out of your smart phone or tablet:
This year, I've decided to break out of the old routine and pack my bags for a road trip to new places that are slightly off the beaten track. Having grown up in the Midwest, my family traveled to surrounding states, but North Dakota got left out of the plans. I thought it was way past time to check out the state for myself and see what I missed seeing.
The first step in planning a road trip is to do your research and for me, that is learning about the state's past as well as the present. North Dakota sits in what is called the "Great Plains" - something I know I was taught in grade school, but it wasn't until now that I actually was interested in that bit of information. One other interesting fact is that North Dakota is considered to be the "Geographic Center of the North American Continent." This is actually a good piece of information to keep in mind for the next trivia game.
In those halcyon days I still longingly refer to as "my youth," dining while on the road was rarely more than a burger and fries, or a Twinkie with a chocolate shake. But as I continue the march into 'seniorhood', my away-from-home eating habits have undergone drastic changes. Now, rather than rush into a convenience market or a fast food outlet, I look forward to sit down, white napkin experiences that are a far cry from candy bars and salted peanuts (although they remain at least a minor part of my diet when traveling alone).
The first Mother's Day celebration was held on the 2nd Sunday of May in 1908 and in 1914 US President Woodrow Wilson declared the 2nd Sunday in May Mother's Day. The rest, as we say, is history.
Mother's Day is this Sunday and if you haven't made plans for Mom's big day - time is quickly running out. Trust me; if you just put a little planning into the day, everyone wins by seeing mom so happy.
For most of us, airport layovers can be almost unbearable. Spending several hours in a packed and uncomfortable airport lounge flipping through a magazine or fiddling with a smart phone just isn't the most enjoyable part of business travel. The good news is it only takes a little bit of prior planning to turn that dreaded layover into a fun and entertaining way to start your business trip.
The first step to planning a successful layover activity is figuring out approximately how much time you will have on the ground between flights. Obviously, flights aren't always on time and the exact time you have may be more or less than you planned, but at least you'll have a general idea of what activities will work for you.
I remember in my younger years, thinking that if I could dig a hole all the way to China and jump through it, I would fall all the way through and end up standing on my head. You know, because it's on the other side of the world and, obviously, that's how gravity works. Well, when I was about 8 years old I decided to try it - I'm sure you did too when you were a kid.
Many years ago, during my youth, the Soo Line Railroad tracks ran directly behind our house, so my brothers and I learned to tell time by the blasts from the old stream engines that belched across the North Dakota prairies. Taking the train to grandmother's house was a major adventure. When our dad got a job with the railroad, he'd let me ride in the caboose, where I'd sit up in the cupola and wave down to my pals. As I mentioned, that was a long time ago.
Cinco de Mayo! Here in the United States, it is a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Ironically, the day is barely noted in Mexico. Commonly mistaken with Mexican Independence Day (which is September 16th), it is actually an observation of the day that the Mexican Army had an unlikely victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla. If you travel the country on May 5th, particularly in the Southwest, you are likely to find the kinds of festivals, concerts, and celebrations that rival those of St. Patrick's Day.
If you happen to find yourself in the Phoenix area, there is a great family-friendly celebration downtown that includes live bands, boxing, dancing and other entertainment, as well as plenty of food and drinks. Around town, there are many other celebrations as well. Visit Macayo's annual 'Cinco de Macayo' at the Depot Cantina; Aunt Chilada's Squaw Peak; the Enchanted Island at Encanto Park and the Chandler Cinco de Mayo Festival in Chandler.
There is something about traveling that makes me forget about all my food morals. I'm sure I'm not alone. With fast food joints at practically every freeway exit across the country, it is quite tempting to give in and jump on the fast food band wagon. It seems so easy to just pull into the drive-through, grab a burger, fries, and a soda, and be on your way. However, if you plan ahead, and stay vigilant, you can have a guilt free trip - at least when it comes to food.
Feeling too sunny? Want to go cloud watching, but you live in the middle of the blue skies in Las Vegas or Tampa? There's nothing wrong with loving the view of a gentle drizzle falling over the mountains or sporting a raincoat next to the sea. As the month of April (and April showers) concludes, we take a look at three U.S. cities that are known for having the most rainy days each year, visit them and you may just catch a few drops:
It's almost the end of March, you're amazed at how well you've been holding on to this year's resolutions and then it comes- your assignment to travel for work. Don't let a small business adventure put your exercise goals at risk. With some planning and preparation, you can stay in peak condition while away from home and the office.
Here are the 10 tips to stay healthy and happy while working abroad:
After a very difficult three years, the Canadian Tourism Commission is full of optimism. The reason to smile is that for the first time ever in a single month (February 2012), the eleven markets that they have identified as the key markets for Canada were all up in visitor numbers to Canada. This is great news for all of us as travel and tourism has such a positive impact on our overall economy!
Leading the charge were Brazil and Australia and interestingly February is an attractive month for them to come to Canada to ski! Both Brazil and Australia are very active cultures and they came in droves this year to hit our slopes.
Have any of you been watching Frozen Planet on the Discovery Channel lately? What a great show. In some weird and unexplainable way it makes me feel even more proud to be Canadian. But I wonder if that's because this year in my neck of the woods it's been so mild?
Having been somewhat de-sensitized to the cold at least for this year, what will it do for travel and tourism in Canada?
In my younger years, when I was a carefree bachelor, most of my travels were solitary. I would, for example, select a destination but not a definite route, then hop in my car and drive there without concerning myself with trip durations, accommodations (I frequently bedded down in my hatchback), or lack of companionship.
During those times, I met several other travelers with similar agendas, and we discussed such important issues as fast food, parking lots that let you sleep in your car and, most importantly, rest stops. Life was good.
It seems that experts agree that there is no end in sight for rising gas prices in Canada. Even during the Hurricane Katrina, crisis prices for regular unleaded gasoline in Toronto never surpassed $1.40 per litre. According the National Post, analysts predict we could hit $1.47 before the end of this month.
It certainly sounds bad, but what does it actually mean to the average Canadian at the pump? I have had some trouble finding a reliable number for how much gas people buy in a typical month but it seems like it's between $250 and $500 depending of course on your vehicle and driving habits. So let's slice it down the middle and use $375. Gas prices have jumped about 20 percent in the last year and therefore it means an extra $75 a month right in the tank.
With airlines getting pricier and TSA getting fussier, going small is becoming important(er). So here are a few lesser-sized travel gadgets that we seniors could find particularly useful when it comes to finding, packing and retrieving.
Worried about the possibility of being accosted or even assaulted while walking along the streets and byways in an unfamiliar town? Buy a tiny alarm unit. They now make them so small that they can be attached to a belt, but they emit a 100-decibel shriek once the user pulls the cord. That'll scare off any mugger.
One of the age old debates for people choosing a hotel has been whether service or price was more important and to what degree. The "luxury" hotels polarized those who were willing to shell out lots of money to get a premium service experience, while budget conscious travellers chose to forego extra amenities to save money.
Although there is still that divide, the Hotel Association of Canada's recent Travel Intentions Study confirms that most travellers now want the best of both worlds.
Travellers expect or at least place significant importance on a number of amenities and services but at the same time are not prepared to break the bank to get them.
Here are a few of the results that illustrate this:
When it comes to baseball, Spring Training takes the cake. $8 tickets? Don't mind if I do. Seats so close you can see the players blink? Yes, please. I tip my hat to whoever came up with Spring Training games. However, after tipping my hat, I can't help but scratch my head at the locations.
You have two choices - you can bake and hang out with the local cacti while you enjoy Arizona's finest spring baseball, or you can steam and slurp on a juicy grapefruit while you enjoy Florida's finest Spring baseball. Whatever you choose you are likely to walk out with a sunburn and, possibly, a minor to severe heat rash, and, if you're lucky, a fly ball. It sounds unpleasant but, believe it or not, that doesn't stop thousands of people from flocking to Arizona and/or Florida to see their favorite players and teams play every spring - and sometimes for less than ten buckaroonies at that.
It's true, with such a mild start to 2012 in many parts of Canada, golf courses are opening up about a month earlier than normal. As an avid golfer in Ontario, Masters weekend (also referred to as Easter weekend) is when I start to look forward to the new season. In fact, I have never played in Ontario before mid-April in my life. This year, although I still haven't played, I have had offers to play in early March. What's even more bizarre is many of my friends who have played already, played comfortably in shorts!!
The other benefit of the mild weather is the fact the courses are not only opening early but they are in great shape. With the extended golf season, great weather and courses in fantastic shape this is a great time to start planning a spring golf getaway. Off season rates will still be in effect so thinking about an April or early May golf trip will combine the best of both worlds and you can enjoy mid season conditions at pre season prices!
Does it still feel like winter in your neck of the woods? Is spring disappointing you and the sun shining just a pleasant memory? If your thoughts are turning to summer already, don't despair. It is summer - you just have to go a little further to find it. While it may be winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, there are many exciting new destinations just waiting for you to explore in the Southern Hemisphere. So spread your wings a little and head out to countries that are in the throes of their summer. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Taking on the planning for a traveling sports team can be overwhelming. If you know the ins and outs of making the plans and how to have a successful trip, everything will go much more smoothly and you will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the trip once it finally arrives.
Kids are notorious for losing their homework let alone losing their important travel documents like IDs! You will want to make copies of all of the documents to have at home in case you would lose anything and need them faxed or sent to you.
It's almost the end of March, you're amazed at how well you've been holding on to this year's resolutions and then it comes- your assignment to travel for work. Don't let a small business adventure put your exercise goals at risk. With some planning and preparation, you can stay in peak condition while away from home and the office.
Here are the 10 tips to stay healthy and happy while working abroad:
I have just finished reading, "Advancing the Issues," the annual report that is produced by The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC). My good friend, Tony Pollard, who happens to be the President of the HAC sent me my advanced copy. This report has become THE barometer for travel intentions from Canadians from both a leisure and business travel perspective.
Each year in January the HAC get survey responses from approximately 1,500 Canadians and compare their intentions going all the way back to 2006.
Here are a few of the key highlights from this years report:
In our ongoing rush to go everywhere and see everything, we sometimes forget about the destinations that endeared us years ago but are now often ignored because they're close to home. So we tend to adopt a "been there, seen that" attitude toward them. I thought about that recently while Lyn, my wife, and I drove toward the Grand Canyon. We've been there several times, and we still marvel at its beauty, but perhaps we get a bit jaded even though it's one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
So we look for something different every time we visit. And, fortunately, they're easy to find. This time, we approached the Bright Angel Trail and looked down into the chasm below. But we didn't trod upon its well-traveled path. I did that once, many years ago when I was younger, stupider and very much out of shape. The trip down was a lark. I made it to the Colorado River in less that three hours. The return was an embodiment of everything hellish I could imagine at the time. Every step was agony and my legs grew heavier each time I plopped a foot down upon the wicked and rocky slants leading to the top. More than eight hours after leaving the river, I reached the South Rim and vowed never to (a) laugh about it and (b) do it again.
"La Fheile Padraig Sona Daoibh" and "Erin go Braugh". No, it's not gibberish, translated it means Happy St. Patrick's Day and Ireland Forever in Gaelic.
Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, I've come up with a list of the notable Irish Pubs around the U.S. and Ireland; who knows, some of you might just be lucky enough to live by one of these popular institutions. I can attest to the wonderful pubs in the Temple Bar area of Dublin, having wandered into one or two of them. I would be hard-pressed to name my favorites, since I thought every one of those pubs were delightful, charming and perhaps offering the best draw of a Guinness that I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. For those of you that enjoy a draught or two, a Guinness is something to be savored and leisurely lingered over, while joining in on a chorus or two of Danny Boy. (Warning, singing along with Danny Boy while enjoying a Guinness may produce a tear or two).
St. Patrick's Day is here again! What a great holiday celebrating Irish culture and heritage! Since its original parade in 1783, March 17 has evolved into feasts and festivals and celebrations of the pride and culture of Ireland - regardless of your own national heritage. As they say, "Everyone's Irish on March 17th!"
It really does seem like a long time ago since Sidney Crosby's golden goal, which became the unofficial closing ceremony on Vancouver and Canada's Winter Olympics. It has been more than two full years and in the coming weeks and months memories will be rekindled as we turn our attention to London for the summer games. The games start on July 27th.
As we look back, Canada now views the Vancouver games as a cultural turning point and without fail, Canadians take great pride in what happened on the West Coast in winter of 2010. But, it didn't start that way.
Are you thinking the ol' same ol' has got to go and it's time to take a little trip to get away from it all? But you don't have the time to stray too far from home, but you want to go far enough away to feel like you're not home. Who hasn't been there before?
First things, first - decide where you want to go. Are you driving or flying? Warm or cold weather preferred? Is Fido or Fluffy coming along for the trip? Well, no matter where you chose, you can be sure a Best Western hotel will be there and you're sure to be welcomed as well.
One of the fastest growing segments that we are seeing in travel and tourism today is "Girls Getaways". In fact, according to the Canadian Tourism Commission female bonding vacations in North America have spiked by 230% over the last 6 years! No longer considered a niche, travel providers are starting to take notice and cater to this powerful group's wants and needs.
Here are just a few examples of neat ideas as spring draws near that you can hopefully use as inspiration to begin to plan a well-deserved escape.
By now, you're either very familiar with social media, or at the very least, heard of sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. Social networking is often thought of as boring status updates or annoying friend requests. Look beyond that, and you will discover much more usefulness with it, especially when it comes to travel.
Smart companies have a prevalent presence in social media. That can mean a number of things, but just a little research during your travel into the places you're visiting and staying at can produce surprising discounts. Take Best Western for example. They have numerous benefits to being a participant in their social media.
If you are not so keen on skiing during March break,, how about a good old-fashioned road trip?
Some of my fondest memories as a child are from family road trips. My parents always stressed the importance of getting to know your local area, and now that I have my own family, I truly appreciate that advice and like to hit the road when possible.
I have reached an age in which extended walking has lost most of its appeal. I'd much rather drive there.
For that reason, a recent foray into the wilds of Ohio to drive the Shawshank Trail earned my personal high marks. There are a whole passel of things to see and, more importantly, I didn't have to wear hiking boots and carry a gallon of water to enjoy them.
The Shawshank Trail came about because of a movie, "The Shawshank Redemption." It was based on a short story by Stephen King and, although set in Maine, it was filmed in and around Mansfield back in 1996. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman portrayed the major characters. The plot revolves around inhumane prison treatment, corrupt prison officials and a happy ending where everybody gets what's coming to them.
For years now we have been talking about a family trip to go to the Calgary Stampede. The only reason we haven't done the trip already is a self-inflicted scheduling conflict with our annual family camp getaway. The Stampede and our week at Red Pine Camp unfortunately are always at the exact same time. This year however, we could no longer resist the allure and will be heading west for 10 days, leaving on July 4th.
If you have never heard of the The Calgary Stampede it is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta. The ten-day event, which bills itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", attracts over one million visitors per year. Literally the city shuts down and turns into a massive 10-day cowboy and cowgirl party! And yes, you are expected to be in some variation of a cowboy hat, boots and chaps the whole time! To add even more excitement this year it is the centennial celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the first event held back in 1912!
SPRING HAS SPRUNG!!!! How great is that?! I don't think it matters where you live, the 'spring feeling' has to be world-wide phenomenon. I also believe that the best spring travel destinations kind of depend on where you live and what you like.
For me personally, living in Arizona now, my favorite spring travel destination is southern California. Did you know there are more than 26 Best Westerns in the greater San Diego area? Including Coronado Island! I love walking around the Gaslamp Quarter, wandering the streets of Coronado, golfing for a few rounds, and of course hitting the beach!
Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone, we can reflect on the event as a whole - and you can't ask for a better Super Bowl than having it come down to the very last play of the game. Whether you were cheering for the New York Giants or the New England Patriots, you got an exciting game! A special congrats to the champions, the New York Giants, on a well deserved win. So... now what?
Since being named Black History Month in 1976, the month of February has accomplished a goal set by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a historian, who dreamed of seeing Black History recognized in mainstream America. February is a significant month in Civil Rights history, including birthdays of both President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery and Frederick Douglass, born into slavery, managed to escape and became a great advisor to President Lincoln during the Civil War.
Whether you chose to visit Black historical sites as part of a winter getaway or as a trip in itself, it will be something unforgettable for anyone who has a desire to learn about the events and people who have shaped the United States to be the place it is today. Here are three relaxing cities to instill civil rights history into anyone.
While traveling I've always enjoyed exploring the natural wonders to be seen in the area. One of the best ways to do this is through state parks. They are well maintained, with basic amenities and offer the best landscapes each state has to offer. Unfortunately whether for updates or as a result of natural disasters, many parks have to close to clean up and update the park. Here are a few reopened parks available for adventure.
President's Day is here! And who doesn't love President's Day? I know, most of you hear "President's Day" and immediately think of sales - everything from cars and refrigerators to old Christmas blow-outs. But Presidents Day is more than fighting for parking spots, finding the best deals, waiting in lines to check out.
Did you know that Presidents Day was originally created to honor George Washington's birthday? In fact, some states still refer to it as that. For me, President's Day makes me think of a 3 day weekend and where I can travel next. On this President's Day it seems only appropriate to consider Washington DC as a travel destination. And while DC may be the seat of our federal government, that is only one VERY small part of what makes the city so great.
This coming Monday, February 20, I'll be celebrating my fourth Family Day. It's a holiday that is not necessarily widely celebrated but still a day I like to enjoy with my family. This year, I plan to make Family Day more of a priority just like we do for Good Friday, May 2-4 weekend (Victoria Day), Canada Day and Labour Day.
Family Day was first celebrated in Alberta in 1990 to highlight the values of family and home that were important to Alberta's founding pioneers and give workers the opportunity to spend more time with their families. Family Day was introduced in Saskatchewan in 2007 and Ontario in 2008.
A recent newspaper story noted that seniors are susceptible to scammers and con artists because, according to the writer, we are "gullible." Although I find this a bit insulting, I'm also aware that as we grow older, we tend to become more trusting. And nicer. Unfortunately, that makes us targets for those who prey on people of our age.
Many of the scams center on travel. And, since many of us travel, we inadvertently become victims. This one surfaced recently:
Families show up at a residence, frequently a large house in an upscale neighborhood, expecting to spend their vacation living in high style. But they're greeted by the homeowner, who has no idea of who these people are and why they're there. When they say they have rented the house for their vacation, they are informed that the house has never been for rent. Even worse, they're probably not going to get their up-front money back.
Gentlemen (and Ladies) - start your engines! It's not too late to plan a romantic road trip with your favorite sweetheart this Valentine's Day. This year, forget the box of chocolates and flowers and surprise your loved one with planning a romantic weekend for two by hitting the open road. The possibilities are endless! You can pack your bag with clothes for every occasion and see where the road takes you or come up with a detailed itinerary with a planned destination in mind. Personally, from a woman's perspective, I would like to know where I'm headed so I can pack too many outfits, 10 pair of shoes that I will never wear and everything in my cosmetic drawer! Of course, this itinerary all depends on what part of the country you live in. Here are a few suggestions along with several great Best Western hotels to help you enjoy your romantic Valentine's Day:
My wife, Lyn, and I have used a variety of travel methods, including tour groups, senior-oriented junkets, solitary trips all by ourselves, and making arrangements with other couples. There are upsides and downsides to each. Fortunately, the good times have vastly outnumbered those that were not so good.
Since we are madly in love with each other, there are never any serious problems when we go it alone. And tour groups are always large enough so it's relatively easy to avoid those who talk too loud, those who have been everywhere and want everyone else to know about it, and those who crack their chewing gum. But traveling with another couple, or a couple of other couples, presents some situations that can often turn into problems so big that they can terminate friendships.
Now that I am past the mad rush of the holidays, my mind turns to the next really big thing. Not Valentine's Day (I don't really like chocolate). No...for me it is GROUNDHOG'S DAY!!! I know. It seems a little "off," but where I grew up (in Massachusetts) it meant that spring was finally coming! It meant that sooner or later, hopefully sooner, the snow piles would melt, street sweepers would come, and I could put my jacket, mittens, hats, boots, and snow pants away.
March break is fast approaching and last week I highlighted a few great ski vacation options for your consideration. Thanks to everyone who shared other great ski destinations and tips to help inspire a well-planned and enjoyable March break vacation.
This week I am considering a Disney vacation and here are my top 10 tips and tricks to get the most out of a March break at Disney.
Despite an oil spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico coast in 2010, things are back to normal, making a vacation getaway that is a perfect way to escape the snowy North. The beaches are clean and Southern hospitality is waiting to cater to your every relaxing desire.
Here are some of my favorite beach-front cities that are sure to give you the vacation of a lifetime and a reprieve from your stress.
Before embarking upon a journey to a foreign land where English is not the primary language, my wife and I try to acquaint ourselves with some of the more common terms we will more than likely be using during the trip. Simple things, like "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and, of course, the more important phrases like "two beers" and "where's the bathroom?"
We have found that it's a great ice-breaker because the locals respect our senior-oriented attempts and at least know we're trying. And over the years, we have also picked up more of the language because people are always willing to help us get beyond the hand-gesturing and loud-talking phases that usually accompany our attempts to communicate. Especially when asking for directions.
As we graciously move into the more advanced stages of life, we are finding that travel is no longer a simple matter of tossing some clean underwear and a toothbrush into an overnight bag and taking off. Now, every trip requires substantially more pre-planning, particularly in the areas of medicine, insurance and health care.
So before every extended trip, we create a check list of items that are absolutely vital to assure us that we'll get there and back without legal or medical problems.
Happy New Year! We were lucky enough to ring in the New Year in style in beautiful Scottsdale, Ariz. We had two weeks of the most consistently amazing weather you can imagine. It also was the longest period of time I have avoided some form of precipitation! I found it uncanny to check the long range weather forecast on my iPhone and see a beaming sun icon with zero percent chance of rain---day after day! What do weather forecasters actually do in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area?
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we take a look at the new MLK National Memorial that stands as a tribute to the great civil rights icon, Dr. King. In what has quickly become one of the must-visit sites in Washington D.C. the memorial is a mixture of water, stone and landscape that is tied to other landscapes and monuments.
Hot off the press. I just caught wind of a very cool festival about to kick off its inaugural year this February in my hometown of Vancouver!
City and Slope is a four day event jam packed with fun, music, exhilarating time on the slopes and entertainment, held on Vancouver's local mountains of Grouse, Cypress and Seymour as well as within downtown Vancouver. If you haven't already figured it out, there are two main parts to this four-day destination event.
Do you think of Oklahoma, and an image of a cowboy is one of the top things to come to mind? Well then the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is a must see attraction for you during your visit to Oklahoma City. Formerly known as the Cowboy Hall of Fame, this museum is a great family-friendly place that everyone will enjoy.
It's that perfect time of the year - especially if you're a snowboarder! With the winter cold comes loads of that glorious white stuff for boarders to ride on the mountain(s) of their choice.
Since I'm located up on the west coast of Canada, and am lucky enough to live in one of the best places to ski or board in - in the world - I thought I'd share some highlights from the local spots that are near and dear to me.
One of the most unique things about business travel is that it can take us to some really unique locations. While many of us dream about that summer vacation to Disney with the kids or a romantic getaway to Hawaii with our spouse, not many of us are planning leisurely trips to the more cultural places in America. Business travel has allowed me to travel forgotten highways in Pennsylvania, dine at roadside cafes in Iowa that can only be described as hidden gems, and most recently, took me to one of America's most renowned residences.
If you've traveled with your kids over the holidays, you know exactly how exhausting and taxing it can be for everyone involved. From deciding on whose relatives you're going to stay with this time, how you're going to travel there and how you're going to get all those presents there without ruining the surprise. It's a challenge, to say the least. It takes a lot of pre-planning and most of patience! Here are a few of my tried and true travel tips for traveling with the kids over the winter break.
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The holidays are over, but College Bowl Games have just begun!
It always makes for an interesting, rousing discussion at parties about the differences between college and pro football and which one is more exciting. Personally, I'll watch all of it and enjoy each and every game. But for the purpose of this blog post, I'm going to focus on the College Bowl games. It may not be too late to get your tickets, hop in your car and head out to the nearest bowl game for a real thrill of watching these collegiate athletes leave it all on the field, some for the last time of their college career.
As the clock strikes midnight and we ring in 2012, where will you be? We look at some at the biggest and best New Year's Eve celebrations in North America, and of course Best Westerns to stay at along the way!
Holiday festivals are exciting because they emit the feeling of the season and only come around once a year. They offer a great reason to explore other parts of the country or spend time together as a family. Here are some of my favorites across the USA:
This year, beginning at sunset on December 20th and concluding at sunset on December 28th will be the time when many Jewish Americans will celebrate the Hanukkah holiday. Hanukkah is generally known as the festival of lights and is an eight day celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple. This is recognized by the lighting of the Menorah (or candelabrum) and an exchange of gifts, along with traditional games and songs.
Each year there are many festivals that take place across the U.S. inviting people to enjoy the holiday together in celebration. Take a look at some of the festivals below and the Best Westerns to stay at along the way!
Those of you who follow my blogs probably know by now that I have a passion for travel. When I am not traveling, I am dreaming and plotting my next adventure. I'm happy to say that this love of travel has been passed along to our daughters and they are searching out their own new adventures to destinations either close to home or halfway across the world. This past fall, our youngest mapped out her own dream vacation backpacking through Southeast Asia.
A plan that both excited me but also made me more than a little nervous as she would be making this journey entirely by herself. Well, she spent five weeks meandering around Lao, Thailand and Cambodia and made it safely back home, to my relief. Simply put, she had an amazing time and fell in love with all of the countries she visited. For this blog post, I've decided to focus on Cambodia and three of her favorite stopovers.
Many of us have reached that slightly-elevated age where we don't really need any more stuff, things like neckties and bracelets, knickknacks and coffee table items. But since we also have more time to travel, now that we have achieved seniordom, we can appreciate gifts that can be useful on tours, junkets and getaways.
A GPS system is a good example, particularly for those who take leisurely motor trips across the United States. They're easy on the budget, and relatively simple to operate, even for us non-nerds. Some are also small enough to be hand-held and adaptable for foreign travel, which can be a blessing for those who get confused while walking along the back streets and crowded byways of such places as Venice, Munich and Tokyo.
The holiday season brings out the big crowds. Shoppers and carolers. Santas and lap-sitters. Children and elves. And pickpockets.
In my travels, I have encountered a pair of quick-fingered young Russians who lifted all my unexposed film from a hard-to-open camera case, an Argentinian couple who sprayed the back of my jacket then pretended to be drying it while trying to steal my wallet, and a Ukranian who was beating his son because he hadn't picked enough pockets that day.
I was recently doing some research for a corporate client regarding a project in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI) and discovered an amazing statistic. According to the Canadian Centre for Standard of Living, the happiest province in Canada is, in fact, PEI.
As we often travel to pursue happiness, this statistic would lead me to believe that PEI would make an excellent destination for travellers. Happiness is difficult to quantify, which of course makes this more of a perception index than reality, but I started to do some thinking as to what PEI offers that could make its residents happier than anywhere else in Canada.
If you are like me, the (holiday) dread is just starting to sink in. The clock is ticking and with every passing minute, the pressure to find that perfect Christmas gift mounts. My routine is both predictable and dysfunctional. Every year as time winds down until Christmas, the amount of time I spend worrying increases day by day.
This year will be particularly challenging because my family, including my mother-in-law, brother-in-law and his girlfriend, my sisters' family and my parents are all spending our first Christmas away in Scottsdale, Ariz. There will be no white Christmas for us this year...at least there better not be!
With business travel back in full swing and with countless travelers traversing the airports and highways soon for holiday travel, the spread of germs and sickness become almost inevitable. Many people will become exhausted from travel, thereby weakening their immune system and increasing the risk of travel induced illness. Some travelers will tend to not eat as well as they might at home and may also get off track with exercise goals and sleep habits, which can also increase the risk of getting sick. So what can you do to combat illness and make sure you stay healthy during your travels?
As the weather turns cold, now is the perfect to time to visit a film festival. There are many great film festivals coming around the corner. So silence your phone and prepare yourself for new, innovative and often independent stories on the silver screen.
Sundance Film Festival
Park City, Utah
January 19-29, 2012
I had a great conversation last night with a hockey teammate who is definitely what one would consider a "road warrior." He works in sales for a manufacturing company and spends more time in his car than anyone I know covering his territory of Ontario. In fact, he racks up nearly 40,000 kilometers every year working!
Last night I got the chance to probe him for some tips and tricks he deploys along his business travels. Here are some of his recommendations for anyone who is on the road often:
While it's usually a given that most families across America will be enjoying turkey this Thanksgiving, there are some regionally distinct Thanksgiving foods you may not be aware of. Depending on what part of the country you reside in, these unique dishes can range from fried Southern fare to classic Italian favorites.
With many people traveling to different regions for the holiday, we examine some of what you can expect at the dinner table this Thanksgiving, wherever you may be.
The changing of the seasons and the approach of Thanksgiving always bring to mind the history and charm of the New England states and in particular the picturesque village of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Also known as "America's Hometown", Plymouth offers a glimpse into the United States' early history as well as a sophisticated, thriving community offering many diverse outdoor recreational and cultural activities.
I must admit that I mainly associate Plymouth with the pilgrims' voyage across the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower and the landing at Plymouth Rock. When I visited the area several years ago, I was surprised to discover the town and surrounding area have so much more to offer. As Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, I thought it would be a good time to check out a few of the seasonal celebrations surrounding this holiday.
I am officially an "Apple" guy after two recent purchases. The first purchase was my new MacBook Pro (which I am using to write this blog) and the latest was my new iPhone 4S, my third generation. I was one of the 4 million consumers who rushed out on the first weekend and bought the new device.
Apple and iPhone have a done a masterful job lately demonstrating that their products are not just fun toys but well suited for the business crowd. I remember having a debate a while back with a friend who happens to be a lawyer. At the time, she felt that the white-collar crowd would never embrace the iPhone. I actually took a picture about a week later as our doctor used his iPhone to create a prescription, which he then sent wirelessly to a printer - and voila a literate prescription!
I am no economist (you only need to look back to my Economics course in college to verify that), but you also don't have to be a financial genius to know there is plenty of anxiety about the economy. And that is felt everywhere, including in the way we approach travel. But maybe these times provide an opportunity to think about our travel differently or at least take a different approach. Here are a few ideas for tackling travel in the midst of tougher times:
Make Loyalty Points Your Traveling Companions: Cash in points from air miles, credit cards and of course, Best Western Rewards points and use them to get discounts, vouchers and even free stuff for the trip. If you haven't jumped on the loyalty points bandwagon, now is a good time to start storing them up.
As 2011 comes to an end, concert fans start buzzing about what concerts will be the "must-see" concerts of 2012 and therefore, worth traveling for, no matter how far you may be from the venue. U2, The Rolling Stones and Guns N Roses have all held the title in the past and here's what us live music lovers can expect for big shows in 2012 worth traveling for...
I was asked last week by PROFIT magazine to provide tips for small business owners to save money on their corporate travel budgets. As the owner of a corporate travel management company who deals with small and medium-sized businesses every day, my list of tips came pretty easily. Here are some of the money-saving highlights I shared with PROFIT:
I was a very lucky child growing up with easy access to a number of national historic sites just outside of Ottawa, Canada's capital. I also spent most of my summers at my grandparents' cottage on the St. Lawrence River in the 1,000 Islands region, near one of Canada's oldest national parks: St. Lawrence National Park.
Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. was the first designated national park in the world, established in 1872. Almost 30 years later in 1911, Canada was the first country to create an agency specifically devoted to its national parks. This agency, Parks Canada, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and is responsible for assigning, managing and preserving these glorious landscapes. Its scope now includes 42 national parks as well as 167 of the nation's 950 national historic sites, and four national marine conservation areas.
Fall has arrived! A time for nostalgia, personal reflection and the beauty of Mother Nature at her finest in the changing landscape from summer to fall. Although living in the Southwest sometimes makes it difficult to tell the difference between one season and the next. Personally, I love the fall and the way the light plays out across the sky in the early morning and evening. Every year, I plan a trip back to the Midwest just to see an Iowa Hawkeyes football game and to experience the display of changing leaves near the banks of the mighty Mississippi. It is a breathtaking sight.
This year, I thought it would be nice to have a change of scenery and branch out to other locations around the country to see how this fall ritual plays out across the United States. Below are several outstanding scenic drives worth considering this fall:
A trip to New York can be the experience of a lifetime, but your trip to the Big Apple doesn't have to be all about eating and watching shows, but instead about setting healthy goals or seeing the limits of human endurance. Around the world, the word "Marathon" describes images of runners running through the streets of all five of New York's boroughs, over the Queensboro Bridge and to the finish line in Central Park. On your mark, get set, go!
The ING New York City Marathon, which will be held on Sunday, November 6, 2011, has gone from a humble beginning 127 runners running in circles around Central Park in 1970 to over 100,000 enthusiasts entering a lottery each year to participate in the world's most prestigious race. It has become a staple of New Yorkers and visitors who endure chilly November weather to see people from all over the world take life to the limit.
When thinking of summer vacations, one typically doesn't think of Helsinki, Finland. Nonetheless, it is one of the most beautiful places to visit during summers. While it doesn't have the wildly famous attractions as a Paris or London, there is plenty to see, do and experience in "The Land of a Thousand Lakes."
One of the coolest things about being in Finland in the summer is that because it is so far north, the sky is lit up long into the night. The "night" isn't really that dark at all. It's more like dusk. This gives the locals an energy that is much needed after long, cold, dark winters. The Finns appreciate summer because of the dismal winters and it shows. People are out on the streets until 11 pm and midnight just to enjoy the light and beautiful weather. Because Finland isn't a huge tourist country, all the people outside are locals so you're guaranteed to get an authentic experience.
Whether it is lower temperatures, the changing colors of the leaves or the abundance of the harvest, fall is a favorite among travelers of all ages. It might be the crisp feeling in the air or those scents we've come to love, but around the country, there are sights to see and fun to be had. Here are a couple family-friendly festivals to enjoy in this nostalgic season of the year.
Often it's the little things that make a big difference. And for those who are superstitious, one superstitious blunder or forgotten lucky item is believed to begin a shower of bad luck. With so many components and moving parts when traveling, it's no surprise that travel can invoke an extra superstitious nature in many individuals and companies. Take a look at some of the superstitious measures taken by travelers and travel companies I've seen during my travels.
If you fly Continental Airlines, Air France, AirTran, or KLM you're boarding pass will never see row 13. All of these airlines go from row 12 to 14. But even those who aren't particularly suspicious say if given the option they'd prefer not to sit in row 13. So why not eliminate the row altogether?
The costumes are ready. The candy bowl is full. And the jack-o-lanterns are set--glowing like a beacon to Halloween lovers nearby. While most people look at carving pumpkins as a fun and gooey family activity, for some individuals it's a serious competition.
Some competitions are regional and require all participants to carve their pumpkins at a pumpkin carving showdown. Others merely require a photo to be sent before an appointed deadline. Here are a few favorite contests:
As you very well may know, Winnipeg is the capital and largest city in the province of Manitoba. In fact, Winnipeg is the seventh largest city in Canada based on population. In relative terms, the seventh most populated city in the United States is San Antonio. The number seven is especially meaningful this year as the city welcomed back Canada's seventh NHL hockey team, The Jets, after a fifteen-year hiatus!
The city has been abuzz all summer and that excitement finally boiled over on Thanksgiving weekend as The Jets hosted their first home game. It was the hottest ticket in the country and many famous Canadians were on hand including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Scary movies and haunted houses--they're overrated. At least that's how you'll probably feel when you're lost in the middle of a gigantic corn maze. It's the ultimate Halloween thrill. These labyrinths cut into fields of corn are cropping up all over the country and there's probably one within driving distance of your home. To find one near you log onto the Corn Maze Directory or The Maize.
I'm packing my bags again and this time we're off to Italy. I've been busy planning our itinerary down to the last detail. The planning is almost as fun as the actual travel in my book. Once I decided which country to visit the rest was easy as this would be our third time traveling to the country that is full of history and culture.
Our first destination after landing in Rome will be Florence, located in the heart of Tuscany. It's a quick and easy train ride out of the Roma Termini Station to Florence, just about 90 minutes. Florence is known as the "cradle of the Renaissance" because of the many treasures it holds - Santa Maria del Fiore, probably better known as the Duomo, the Medici Chapel which holds the remains of the most powerful family in Florence from the 15th to the 18th century, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia housing the famous statute of Michelangelo's David. There are so many historical places to see in Florence not to mention making time for the shopping and dining. Yes, pasta, pasta and more pasta! If you need a break from the museums, the hills of Tuscany are waiting just outside the city.
KALAMBACA, Greece - The ancient ruins at Athens, Delphi and Olympia are impressive, awe-inspiring, and everything I had expected from reading about them as far back as grade school, which was several years ago, maybe even longer ago than that. But the site that affected me the most was the Meteora, located on the plains of Thessaly in the northeastern sector of the country.
It is mind-boggling, and that's putting it mildly.
Basically, the Meteora is a number of monasteries that were built on top of huge rock pinnacles centuries ago by monks using nothing but hand tools, ropes and pulleys. Alexander Eliot, writing for the Life World Library, described them as "monasteries perched upon the pinnacles like storks' nests on chimney pots."
If you think you've seen the sights and sounds of the world, you haven't seen anything unless you've experienced life under water. More than 70 percent of the earth is covered by ocean occupied by 230,000 forms of marine life. Scuba diving is truly awe inspiring and should not be missed during coastal travel.
To fully experience the world below the surface, you better plan ahead. Although some tourist destinations have scuba adventures for non-divers, you'll be able to explore more of the underwater world when you become scuba certified before your coastal vacation. If you don't live near the ocean, don't worry, there are scuba certification courses available in many landlocked states. By certifying before your trip you'll be able to become familiar with scuba safety and equipment before you dive into another world.
Those following college football have probably noticed change is in the air for conference allegiances. Most of the changes, so far, are in the West and Mid West, but as I write this Oklahoma is considering a move from the Big 12 and Texas A&M seems to be headed to the SEC and the ACC is adopting Syracuse and Pitt. The PAC-10 (now PAC-12) had Colorado and Utah join their ranks and the Big 10 now has Nebraska. Boise State, Nevada, Fresno and Hawaii left the WAC to join the Mountain West and Brigham Young University shunned a conference all together as an independent in football.
This week I am expecting the delivery of my new MacBook Pro and needless to say, I am very excited! The last two times I have upgraded my laptop I have been tempted to make the switch to Apple, but at the last minute I have chickened out. This time, however, I finally made the plunge.
The decision became much easier now as I have three years of experience with an iPhone and a full year under my belt with an iPad. In fact, the last year with the iPad has truly changed how I travel. Whenever possible, my iPad is my default travel device and I leave my laptop at home.
We were nervous - but we did it! On our recent trip to London (see my last blog - would like to create a link once it's posted) we decided that Ellie, our 8-month-old pup Bernedoodle was ready to make the trip with us. And if I'm being honest, we decided we were ready to bring Ellie.
The decision was actually very easy for a number of reasons:
First, Ellie is the best dog that ever lived. That may be a slightly biased exaggeration but we are very lucky. She is well trained and gentle and given that she now weighs 67 pounds, that's very important.
Second, we were staying at the BEST WESTERN PLUS Lamplighter Inn & Conference Centre and Best Western is the best hotel chain for catering to pets and pet owners! In fact, there are more than 1,600 hotels worldwide ready to welcome you and your pet. Lastly, this was the perfect time to test the traveling with your dog concept as we were relatively close to home and only away for one night.
I am really good at collecting points with reward programs, but, aside from my local coffee shop that rewards patrons with a free cup after ten purchases, I have not been as good about cashing in on my loyalty points. Last weekend, however, that all changed!
I have been a member of Best Western Rewards now for four years and until last week had not cashed in a single point. If you are not a member, you should enrol now, as it's quick and easy! My work with Best Western, its timely and valuable promotions and my travel schedule have allowed me to accumulate quite a few points over the past four years.
The ceremony and attention of the 10th anniversary of September 11th has passed and the official memorial in New York now stands as a permanent marker. Many Americans will reflect at the site and remember those who lost their lives on that tragic day 10 years ago. There have been many tributes and memorials over the years, but probably none more anticipated than the memorial now at ground zero, where the World Trade Center twin towers once stood. The memorial opened to the public on Monday, September 12th 2011 in New York City, and features a bronze engraving of victim's names around the edges of two waterfalls that cascade down into two acre-sized pools below.
Good news for traveling families: Today, the TSA announced that it's relaxing rules for screening children.
The organization is beginning to pilot programs that don't require children under 12 to take off their shoes or endure thorough pat-downs, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano shared before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Labour Day feels like the start of a whole new year - especially for students and parents of students (like me!). Labour Day is also the unofficial end of summer and the start of fall and in my neck of the woods, Mother Nature agreed as we woke up to a chilly morning with a temperature of only 12 degrees.
For Canadian travellers, fall is when most of us start to think about a winter getaway. For people with kids in school, it's important to think about travel and act sooner than later before popular school breaks like Christmas and spring are all booked up. Just last week we booked our first Christmas vacation in the desert and are looking forward to a big family get together in Arizona. We are leaving in 105 days, but who's counting!
Hotels rooms under $100, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cheap flights with long layovers and strange departure times. I'm used to seeking out deals when traveling. Our family can only afford to travel on the cheap.
It's true, only 90 minutes north of Toronto lies a hidden gem of Canada - Georgian Bay. My wife, kids and I recently spent a weekend along with a couple of great friends on Georgian Bay in Midland, Ontario. After our weekend there, I can sure see why it was voted "Best Hidden Gem in Canada" by The Canadian Tourism Commission's Local's Know campaign from 2010. Okay, so you've got me - it may be closer to a 120 minute trip if you leave on a Friday after work, but it's worth the drive!
Summer break is coming to an end for students in Canada and the Tuesday after Labour Day, we'll see everyone back in school for another year. Weather wise, this year was the warmest and driest in recent history. Although it went quickly, as it always does, I think we all can agree that we had a true summer!
As it comes to an end, parents are scrambling to make sure their kids are ready to go back to school in style and the annual shopping ads are taking over. One of my favourite ads is from Staples. If you have seen the commercial, you know it has become cult-like in the suburbs and can make even the Tiger Moms and Dads chuckle .
One of my favorite adventures that I used to do as a child with my family was visit the local tide pools in La Jolla, California - a beach town that is a suburb of San Diego, California. These day trips consisted of my brother and I running around the natural tide pools looking in the smallest holes and crevices to see the sea creatures. Because this location always had a low tide, it was bursting at the seams with tide pool wildlife. On any given day during the year these tide pools are frequented by local and visiting families, as it is a fantastic activity to do with children.
In early August, Canadian Travel Press ran an exclusive story highlighting a recent survey from Distinctive Travel Planner Services (DTPC) in Vancouver. The survey,conducted in the spring of 2011, polled more than 400 travel counsellors and owners across Canada and dissected the state of retail travel in Canada.
As part owner of a retail agency myself, the article and survey were of particular interest to me and the data highlighted a number of key trends. As more and more travelers turn online to research and book, it is forcing agencies to fight harder to find ways to add value to retain existing client and attract new clients.
Before we had the convenience of trains, planes and automobiles one of the world's most comfortable methods of travel was to take a boat to the heart of a city on the smooth surface of river. Whether it was the British army sailing up the Hudson or Mark Twain's characters having an adventure on a paddleboat down the Mississippi, America has beautiful sights to be seen from the water level.
Riverboats give visitors a unique way of seeing cities from the interior on a relaxing pace. You can expect some rides to offer an evening meal, while others help your family take part in the history and culture of the area. Whatever you're looking for, we're sure one of the riverboat rides below will suit your goal of living a little part of the American dream during your visit.
If your family loves the silver screen and thrill rides that may cause some to scream, Universal Studios is the place for you and your family this summer. Universal Studios is one of the oldest movie studios in Hollywood. The first theme park originated in Hollywood when it began giving studio tours. This theme park has expanded and has also led to the creation of other Universal Studios theme parks located in Hollywood, California, and Orlando, Florida.
Between the two locations and handful of Universal Studios theme parks there are plenty of rides and attractions to keep the family busy for days! Since time is of the essence I'm highlighting the "must see" attraction of Orlando and Hollywood.
Washington D.C. is one of the most picturesque spots in the entire country. Situated on the banks of the Potomac River and with so many things to see and do, it's difficult to see it all, but you can be sure that a Best Western Hotel is in the middle of it all.
You can start your tour with a visit to the Smithsonian Museum one of the largest museums in the world, you can see the countries national treasures and a range of subjects exhibits from art to space exploration.
Rio has big plans. Though it has long been a popular tourist destination on the world stage and perhaps the most widely recognized party town anywhere, Rio is getting ready to host two of the world's biggest events. As one of Brazil's major cities, it will play host to the 2014 World Cup as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics. It feels like this party town is getting serious on the world stage.
It feels like this party town is getting serious on the world stage. Soccer blood runs through most Brazilian's veins, so the World Cup seems like a natural fit for them (they hosted a World Cup back in 1950) and Brazil is the home of the most famous soccer player in history, Pele.
Last night I watched the animated movie "Aladdin" with my two kids. As my mind started to wander while watching the kids' classic with the big blue genie, I got to thinking about the notion of being granted three wishes. From a travel perspective it would be easy to pick my top three dream destinations, but I thought it would be more fun to think about the three things I would choose to improve about the travel experience in general.
January may be the time for making life improvements, but summer is the time for seeking adventure. The increased intake of revitalizing sun, the more carefree way of life during summer makes me hungry for something new, something daring.
This summer I hope to break out of the norm with a unique outdoor adventure that originally hails from New Zealand -- Zorbing. In this extreme recreational activity the individual climbs into a double-sectioned, large, plastic orb (almost 10 feet in diameter) and rolls down a hill.
Ever heard the expression "everything that glitters is not gold"? Well, if you're going to go panning for gold, you might want to keep that saying top of mind.
How did panning for gold get started? Well, talk of gold in California had been around for years before the Gold Rush and in December of 1848, President James Polk told Congress there were confirmed accounts of finding gold in California. By 1849 the Rush was on and people from all over the United States were jumping on the wagon train and heading to California with a touch of "Gold Fever."
Did you know that there are more bird watchers in North America than golfers? Some birders are passionate about traveling to remote places to get a glimpse of a rare species.
Canada alone has 630 different species of birds with 85 specialities or bird species only found in Canada. Our national bird, the common loon, is even found on our dollar coin. Check out this great list of provincial statistics on camacdonald.com
We spent our last full day in Montana driving through Yellowstone. We just hadn't gotten enough the day before and my husband desperately wanted to see the Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls. Due to heavy snow falls the rivers were higher than normal and the falls were dumping remarkable amounts of water. The water would fall down the face of the cliff, hit the river, and then bounce back up. The power of the water was tremendous.
In Montana, towns with red-brick buildings dating back to the 1800s and a few guys walking around in cowboy hats are a dime a dozen. Or so we learned on our road trip through this state filled with vast spaces and spectacular scenery and western towns.
I'm from California where Yosemite is our go-to national park, and Half Dome and the valley surrounding it are beautiful. But it's really just a drop in the bucket compared to Yellowstone. The park is massive, covering over 2 million square acres, and stretching into Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. It could actually be its own state and is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. And it's beauty is overwhelming. I knew that it would be spectacular but I wasn't prepared for it to take my breath away.
I'll let you in on a little secret: Motorcycles aren't all that different from cars. Not when it comes to cleaning and detailing, anyway.
So, when new products hit the market for automotive detailing, I take notice, and think about how I might use them to keep my motorcycle sparkling.
Before I start prattling on about new products, let me remind you of the Detailer's Hippocratic Oath -- Above all, do no harm. There are few worse feelings than discovering that you've just discolored your chrome when you were just trying to get some bug juice off. Before you apply any chemicals or products to your bike, try a little bit of good old-fashioned water first, and see how that does. Always work in the shade, and if you must try a new product, test it in an inconspicuous spot first (inside a saddlebag, on the bottom side of a pipe). You'll be surprised how often "no product" works as well as "new product."
We spend the sixth day of our trip exploring Bozeman. Here are the highlights:
1) Best Western Plus GranTree InnThis hotel is right off the freeway and only a couple minutes from downtown. The staff are friendly and helpful and the rooms comfortable and clean. And the indoor pool is heated--and super fun. At least that's what my kids would tell you. They spent the entire morning making up synchronized swimming dances in the pool.
After a few fast-paced days packed with driving and sightseeing we decide to spend a lazy morning at our hotel, the Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern. Our room is spacious and comfortable and its large curved windows look over the town. We take an hour to work and read. When you're traveling, sometimes you have to slow down.
Later the kids splash around in the heated indoor pool. We grab lunch at the nearby Bagel Company and the kids take one last spin on the Great Northern Carousel, just a block from the hotel.
We wake up early and drive directly from Dillon to Helena. Montana's capital is lively little town (pop. 28,000) with lots of history. We decide to dig right into its storied past and spend the day touring historical sights. Here's what we did:
1) The Parrot Confectionary, Helena
My kids' eyes get as big as saucers when they walk inside this old-fashioned soda fountain. As soon as you pass through door, there's a colorful display of hand-dipped candies.
We wake up early on our third day in Montana because we have a packed itinerary. Our plan is to continue our drive through the Bitterroot Valley along Highway 93, and then drive over Chief Joseph Pass, crossing the Continental Divide. We'll then cut through the Big Hole Valley along Highway 43, before hopping onto 278, which will take us to Dillon, where we will spend the night.
Here are a few highlights from our day:
1) Blodgett Canyon, Hamilton
Hamilton locals refer to the box canyon just outside of town as a little Yosemite. And as we walk the Canyon Creek Trail, which follows a rushing river, we understand why. Granite peaks loom overhead. Not Half Dome, but still impressive.
On the second day of our road trip we drive an hour from Missoula to Flathead Lake and then we opt to take the scenic route on our drive to the Bitterroot Valley. Here are a few highlights from the day:
1) Mission Mountain Range
We're driving through rural countryside (lots of hay bales) outside Missoula on our way to Flathead Lake, and then, Bam! Jagged, snow-topped mountains are staring us in the face. I'm so startled and excited that I scream. My husband points out that the mountains are spectacular because there aren't any foothills. They shoot right up from the valley floor. This is the moment when I fall in love with Montana and its mountains.
By now, we all know the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose Canada as their first official international travel destination since their April nuptials captured world attention. Canadians welcomed the couple with open arms as they made a jam-packed, nine-day, cross-Canada tour.
Our Montana road trip starts in Missoula, Montana's second-largest city located in the western part of the state. We instantly fall for this laid-back college town with leafy tree-lined streets and spend an afternoon exploring its riverfront park and downtown.
These are the highlights from our day in Missoula:
My husband and I have decided to drive through the state of Montana with our two kids--ages 6 and 8--this summer. Our plan is to fly into Missoula, dip down into the Bitterroot Valley, swoop up to Helena, spend a couple days in Bozeman and Yellowstone, and then finish up in Billings.
Back in March, I decided to revisit some of my favorite posts to a few of You Must Be Trippin's contests. I hope you enjoyed re-reading them as much as I did. I love that so many of you take the time to respond and write your touching, funny and always entertaining comments. I am following up with Part II - Sit back, relax and read-on!
Let the fun begin! Summer is here and kids across the country are ready to enjoy Canada's long days and warm nights. As we recently learned at the Best Western Leisure Travel Summit in Toronto, vacationers - and the optimism they bring - are back in a big way this year. The result is an action-packed summer full of fun, adventure and new experiences.
Here are my top five things to do with the kids this summer:
The kids are finally out of school. Now you have time to relax and the open road is calling your family to take an adventure. Whether you decide to go to another part of your home state or to take a drive from sea to shining sea, there is no more fun-filled method of travel than hopping in your car with the kids in the back seat and miles of pavement ahead.
When I was growing up my family drove thousands of miles each summer to places like Yellowstone National Park, the shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota and the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis. Although these trips made great memories, the younger siblings sometimes didn't get as much enjoyment from the hours of togetherness and sitting in a car. To help beat backseat boredom, we played car games that didn't require a board, cards or pieces and could begin within seconds of those younger children being on the brink of a panic attack. Here are four of my family's favorites that the whole vehicle can play together, no matter how big, small, young or old your family may be.
This summer you don't have to go to the ocean to have a great beach vacation. For many people, especially in the Midwest, going to the ocean leads to a long car ride or expensive plane tickets. There are a variety of benefits of making your next vacation lakeside. The beaches are generally less crowded giving you a more private experience on the lake. The mild-mannered waves are perfect for boating, fishing, tubing, jet skiing and swimming. To top it off, a freshwater getaway is less expensive than their ocean side counterpart--giving you a superb vacation on the beach without making waves on your budget.
ATHENS - If you come here expecting to find solitude and spend time running barefoot through the ruins while communing with the gods whose spirits are, allegedly, still hanging around the Acropolis, you will be in for a certain amount of disappointment. An estimated 12,000 people visit the site every day, and on most days, every one of them shows up. So if several tourist buses arrive at the same time, there's a potential for human traffic jams.
And that situation will be worsened if you're not wearing the proper shoes.
Since the Acropolis is an absolute must for sightseers, historians, dealers in antiquity and just plain curious folks, most are already familiar with at least some of its history. They'll know, for instance, that this isn't the only acropolis in Greece. The word is derived from akros (Greek for "edge" or "extremity") and polis ("city"), and there are many others in the country, usually situated on hilltops so the gods would have a better view of their realms.
Summer solstice is coming up - June 21st to be exact! Not that the sheer fact that summer is in full swing - cue leaving work with hours of sunshine to spare, warm nights for barbecuing, playing in the park past 9 and catching late sunsets - isn't enough, but there are a lot of cool events and festivities you can partake in, in a variety of areas and communities to honor the Summer Solstice. Here are a few that are worth checking out.
I love Father's Day. Mostly, because I can use it as an excuse to do whatever it is that I want to do on that day. Or if I am lucky it can extend out to a Father's Day weekend. All dads are different and I am sure everyone has their own special way of celebrating, but if I was to celebrate Father's Day with travel, these are the top spots on my wish list.
It's that loved (especially if you're a teacher) yet dreaded (if you are a parent) time of year again - another school year over and another summer of finding things to occupy your kidlets and keep them out of trouble! If you don't want to send your kids away to summer camp or day camp, here are a few ideas for you to consider that can easily be coordinated at your end.
Do you know which country in the world has the most coast line? You guessed it, it's Canada. Most people think of Canada's natural beauty to be our magnificent mountains, amazing national parks and glorious lakes, but there are some world-class beaches across this great land that can't be forgotten.
A few years ago when planning our annual summer road trip with the kids, my husband suggested that we visit the rainforest in Washington state when traveling through the Seattle area. I must admit at that time, I didn't know there was a rainforest in the United States.
After a slow start to the 2011 season, it seems that Best Western sponsored Michael Waltrip Racing has turned it on and created a bit of luck for themselves. With high hopes going into the season, the newly semi-retired Michael Waltrip and newly refocused David Reutimann, had a bit of hard luck to kick off their year. A crash to start the season at Daytona for Waltrip and a series of mediocre finishes for Reutimann weren't what the Charlotte based team was hoping for. In a quick change of luck, however, May couldn't have been sweeter for them.
My girlfriends and I are planning our annual 4-day getaway. We like to pick a place where we can do some heavy-duty discount shopping with a side of sightseeing. We want no distractions for the main event: finding deals.
We love outlet malls because there are so many different kinds of stores grouped together--we can all find something we love. The bargains are easy to find and we like the outdoor walkability of most modern outlet malls.
This is a guest post written by Roxanne Bridger, a travel blogger for flights comparison site CheapFlights.co.uk. If this post inspires you to travel to France, you can search lots of different dates for your flights to Biarritz, Corsica or Perpignan on their site to make sure you get the best deal around.
You do not have to be a cheese lover to enjoy France, but if you are, this is certainly the destination country for you.
Every region has its own specialty, and what is regarded as special in one place may not be so in another. A French proverb holds that "there is a different French cheese for every day of the year." Apart from the joy of taste, consuming cheese has many benefits. It's rich in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and many more essential nutrients.
My family will be hitting the road this summer. We've mapped out a week-long trip through Montana that takes us from Missoula, down into the Bitterroot Valley, up to Helena, back down to Bozeman and then onto Billings. We'll be covering about 700 miles.
We hope to make this a budget trip--limiting ourselves to only $150 a day. Sound tight? Yes, especially with gas prices expected to go through the roof this summer.
How will we ever manage to meet our budget goal and keep our gas prices low? We'll follow many of the tips and tricks offered up in a recent New York Times article, "13 Ways to Save on Gas this Summer."
Watching thousands of runners, from professional to novice, tackle 26 miles and 385 yards is never short of spectacular! I tend to always be a marathon spectator, never a runner, but the energy is exhilarating and the determination is contagious no matter if you choose to don the running shoe or the sit on the sidelines and cheer on the crowd walking shoe.
I am a beach bum. Given the opportunity, I would pick going to a beach and just chillin' as my premier vacation destination. Being from an island in the Caribbean, I have developed what I describe as a connoisseur's standard for what a "nice" beach is. Some people call me a "beach snob". Connoisseur/Snob...Tomatoe/Tomato; the bottom line is that if someone in my friends' circle of friends wants advise on a beach vacation, they call me.
As the family travel spokesperson for Best Western, I've stayed at dozens of properties all over the country--and most of the time I have my kids in tow.
My children have become so familiar with the brand that they scream out, "Best Western!" every time we pass a hotel while driving.
And on our recent trip to Florida it became apparent that they're becoming hotel connoisseurs. As they were walking from a hotel to the parking lot, I eavesdropped on a conversation in which they were discussing which Best Westerns were their favorites. It was hilarious because they were comparing how many waffle makers various properties had available at breakfast and which hotels had hot tubs and which ones had fast elevators.
Later back at the hotel, I asked them to re-create that conversation and I videotaped it. The end result feels a little forced and my children certainly aren't professional actors but I still think it turned out pretty cute.
Everyone's got a mom, or someone who provides them with that loving nurturing maternal guidance in life! Mom's really are the best (especially mine!). I've come up with two very different but equally awesome ideas for sure-to-please Mother's Day getaways, whether your mom is a pamper-me-pretty "princess" mom, or more of an adventurous "bad-a##" mom.
In 1922, a man named Ralph Samuelson created and experimented with the first ever set of water-skis. He got the idea from a pair of snow-skis he had just purchased, and wondered if the same technology could be transferred to the water. From that day on, a favorite American pastime sport was born. Now water skiing is one of the most popular spring and summer seasonal activities, and is competed in across the globe. Many different variations of water skiing now exist, from trick skiing to slalom skiing.
There are a variety of tulip festivals throughout North America, typically found in cities rooted in Dutch heritage. Not just for flower lovers, tulip festivals are a popular spring day outing that offers a variety of activities beyond just a beautiful view for the whole family to enjoy. Most festivals take you beyond the tulip and offer fun gardening information, local inspired food for tasting, vibrant parades for watching and live music from a local band for listening.
As I drove along Florida's north Gulf coast, I kept thinking, Where is everyone?
The flawless stretch of coastline between Cedar Key and Apalachicola was by far the most beautiful part of the state we'd seen on our trip--yet we seemed to be among only a few travelers.
I guess this makes sense. This less-touristy part of the state has miraculously remained untouched by the eager developers who have built ritzy resorts, glittering shopping centers, and exciting amusement parks up and down Florida's coastlines.
"Yellowstone in May? Isn't it under two feet of snow?" That's what I responded when my husband first suggested going to Yellowstone for Mother's Day. Luckily, he persevered and we packed up our four kids along with my in-laws, for one of the most memorable trips we've taken. Amazing animal sightings, crisp clear vistas, and a wonderful feeling of solitude were our reward.
The BEST WESTERN PLUS Beach Resort sits right on the beach, steps from southern Florida's pretty pale green waters. It's the sort of place where you could easily spend a week, walking the sugary white sand beach in the morning, playing a game of shuffle board in the afternoon, and falling asleep every night to the sound of the crashing waves.
My brother-in-law is a successful young consultant with a big International firm. As you can likely guess he also travels a lot. His most recent project is a ten week stint in San Francisco, but here's the catch ---he works every Friday in Toronto.
Every Monday morning Chris catches a direct flight from Toronto to San Fran, leaving early Eastern Standard Time; the flight is 5 hours. Thursday afternoons he repeats the process and arrives back in Toronto late in the evening. Friday mornings are especially tough!
I picked his brain recently to understand how he deals with the time changes. After all, during his high pressure, long hour days, he needs to be sharp.
Here are five tips to help fight jet lag:
A visit to San Antonio, TX should be considered incomplete without a visit to the famous River Walk. This network of walkways along the San Antonio River banks is lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and is one of the biggest pieces of the city's culture, not to mention a huge tourist attraction.
The two-story hotel is surrounded by a jungle of palm trees, ferns, and hibiscus. Skinny pathways wind through the vegetation and lead to the two pretty swimming pools and hot tubs. Breakfast is served outside from a grass-roofed hut. And kids have a blast hitting around balls at the miniature golf course.
You could stay at the hotel all day, or walk three-quarters-of-a-mile to the pristine, white sand beach. Downtown Naples, with its shops and restaurants, is only about two miles from the hotel.
I'm not a runner. NEVER have I been a runner. I've tried over the years to be a runner. I never could get the rhythm of it. I still will give it a go on my daily walks with the dog. I think about how nice it would be just to go out the door and take off on an effortless run. It seems like it would be so exhilarating to run for miles without stopping to catch your breath.
The stylish BEST WESTERN PREMIER Miami International Airport is just minutes from the airport and 20 minutes from the city. It's one of the hotel group's premier properties with modern decor, plush bedding, and 42-inch screens in all rooms. A hot breakfast, wi-fi, and rides to and from the airport are all complimentary.
Every year the most up and coming Country music stars perform at a 4 day festival known as Country Thunder in the farm town of Florence, Arizona. This even t is like no other, it boasts a 4 day camping, barbequing and music extravaganza where people from all over Arizona, as well as surrounding states set up shop for the weekend. This year's lineup of artists is extremely impressive, featuring stars such as Martina McBride, Troy Olsen, Toby Keith, Sara Evans and Eric Church - just to name a few.
The countdown begins! The Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton is about a month away and the world is a buzz. Invitations have been sent, merchandise is being sold, the guest list has been leaked and many Royal Family enthusiasts are wondering how they can be a part (if even a small part) of this extravagant, historic event. Why not get a little closer to the event by planning a trip to William and Kate's home turf?
No surprise here but Orlando is the #1 US destination for "family spring break". If you're planning your spring break in Orlando, there's a lot to see and do - all perfect for families of any age and size.
Most associate Orlando to Disney World. But there is so much more to this beautiful city of Orlando. There's SeaWorld and Discovery Cove and Aquatica Water Park, and a chance to see performances by Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group. Splash down at one of the two water parks in the area, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach - you and your family will love the water slides, wading pools, there's even a water play area for small children.
ON THE NEVADA BORDER - While driving south on U.S. 95 between Reno and Las Vegas, I spotted a small sign that read "Scotty's Castle" with an arrow pointing west. It might not have drawn my attention except for this one factor:
Several years earlier, I read a newspaper story about an old desert rat who used empty wine and beer bottles to build a house somewhere in the California desert. Always on the lookout for things of an unusual nature, I instantly figured that this must be the bottle place so I turned west on Highway 267 and went to take a look.
It's the most, wonderful time of the year! These words may make you think of an old Christmas song, but I am not referring to December 25th. It is the NCAA basketball tournament and this, for me, is by far the best time of the year. Not only is it just a pleasant time of year with spring starting to come around, but it is the sports that make it the best, and the absolute best of the best is March Madness, the Big Dance, the Tournament. Today kicks off the Sweet 16 and you better believe I will be glued to my TV tonight and tomorrow to catch all the action.
You Must Be Trippin' will celebrate its third year of blogging this summer. It's been a lot of fun featuring up great travel ideas and tips; but the best part of this travelogue journey has come from reading all the wonderful comments from readers.
We have written about summer vacations, business trip tips, traveling with the kids, best music for your driving travel, Harley Davidson road trips and the list goes on. There have been some great contests too. We've asked our readers to send in their favorite fall photos, vote in the "Who's Gonna Win" NASCAR races, best romantic vacation, time travel machine and our latest, "Where's the Ultimate Travel Destination". If you missed any of these posts, take some time and go back and read through some of them. You'll find they're even better the second time you read them!
Over spring break, our family is traveling across the country to Florida in search of sun. Our plan is to fly into Miami and then trace the edge of the Gulf Coast, finishing our trip in Fort Walton.
When I first started mapping out our trip two months ago, I checked flights from San Francisco to Miami. I remember seeing a $200 flight. When my trip plans were finally confirmed last week and I booked the tickets the cheapest airfare I could find was $430. Ouch!
Most Americans take St. Patrick's day for all its worth, wearing green on that special day, pinching friends who aren't wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage and drinking a green beer at the local pub. Something to consider is how the real Irish spend their favorite national holiday, and the answer is very enthusiastically.
There's something special about train travel. You can stretch out, relax, or walk around while often taking in some beautiful scenery. Train travel is not only calming, pretty much stress-free and "old world: romantic, but did you know it is also very "green"? In fact, train travel releases 10 times fewer greenhouse gases per average passenger journey than flying! Even better, you don't have to go through such a long-winded and aggravating experience with security checks (security for train travel is pretty much a breeze in comparison to airport security madness), and you can readily bring your bottle of water of newly purchased bottle of wine onboard with you.
Are you allergic to smoke? Sensitive to noise? Traveling with a newborn? When you make your hotel reservation, don't hesitate to speak up. Most hotels happily meet special requests--all you have to do is ask. You're on vacation after all and a hotel's job is to keep you happy and comfortable.
Until recently the Isles of Scilly were unknown to the average person. But now thanks to some royal wedding buzz this collection of British islands just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall are suddenly in the spotlight. Rumor has it that Prince William and Kate Middleton might be honeymooning here, and now the destination's tourism Web site is busier than ever, according to USA Today.
Best Western hotels are individually owned and each property has its own unique flavor. I know because as Best Western's leisure travel spokesperson, I've stayed in a range of properties all over the country, from the sleek President Hotel at Times Square in New York City to the rustic chic Kentwood Lodge in Ketchum, Idaho. The variety is the beauty of the world's biggest hotel family.
Now Best Western is introducing a new "descriptor" program to meet travelers expectations so they can find the right hotel in the Best Western family, at the right price, for any type of trip they are taking. Hotels will be identified as BEST WESTERN®, BEST WESTERN PLUS®, or BEST WESTERN PREMIER®.
Best Western is 65 years old, and The World's Biggest Hotel Family℠ is offering members of its rewards program several opportunities to stay, earn and win. Here are details:
Register at www.bestwestern.com/spring, stay three separate times during the promotional period, and earn a voucher for a free night toward a future stay.
Vouchers can be redeemed at any of the brand's 2,200 hotels in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean before June 30, 2011. Pay for the three stays with your Best Western Rewards MasterCard® and earn an additional 1,000 bonus points.
The cold weather is no reason to hole up indoors. In fact, one of the most fun and thrilling activities I've ever tried is one that can only be done in cold and snowy conditions! Especially great for those of you who are not skiers/boarders/snowshoers (or like me, admit to being a bit lazy come wintertime), snowmobiling is an exhilarating activity that gets your energy and excitement going but still allows you to sit back and enjoy the ride. So it's time to cure that cabin fever and get your adrenaline pumping!
Once a haven for traders and pirates, St. Thomas has gracefully emerged as one of the world's most popular vacation spots for a reason. America's Caribbean paradise features beautiful beaches, lush mountains, charming vistas and so much more.
There are theme parks...and then there's London. This brilliant, electric city with hundreds of years of history offers a dizzying array of family-friendly attractions, that might not turn you upside down but are certain to wow and delight the kids.
There's the Natural History Museum housing the world's most awesome dinosaur exhibit, and the Tower of London where Beefeaters lead tours and tell stories of the Medieval Palace's famous prisoners such as Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes and Ann Boleyn.
My family recently spent two weeks exploring the city, and here's a rundown of our 10 favorite things to do in London.
After an intense and exciting playoffs, the two teams that will be competing in this year's Super Bowl are decided, the Green Bay Packers vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. These two teams have been to the most Super Bowls out of any NFL team. Neither of these teams was high on the pre-season favorites to be winning a Super Bowl with the defending New Orleans Saints returning their championship team, and the usual suspect quarterbacks poised to have amazing seasons. Isn't that the beauty of it all though? Unpredictability.
Today, our nation celebrates the birth of one of the most important figures in history - Martin Luther King, Jr. In school, we learn of the clergyman's help in the advancement of civil rights, we learn of his non-violent teachings, his March on Washington and the "I Have a Dream" speech. But unless you were one of the fortunate Americans to have seen Dr. King speak in person, or been a part of the movement that rocked the nation and expanded our American values towards a color blind society, then it's all just another lackluster history lesson. My dream is to one year celebrate this iconic hero's birthday in Atlanta, Georgia, the birthplace of the Reverend and the epicenter of the civil rights movement.
January 1, 2011. The older you get, the more times you say to yourself "where did the year go?" This year is no different - the year just flew by. Statistically, 50% of us make New Year's Resolutions; how many of us keep them is anyone's guess. We say we'll go to the gym more, lose weight, eat better, work harder so we can play harder and the list goes on. This year my resolution is going to be to travel more....maybe revisit places I've been and explore new ones. So, below are a few travel resolutions that I'd like to make a serious attempt at keeping this year:
Planning a vacation is one thing, but planning a vacation that involves your kids is another! We're smack dab in the middle of winter and while some of you may be looking to jet away to a tropical beach for some sand and sun with the kids, many of you may also crave a "real" winter vacation with the whole family. Skiing, while relatively expensive, is an excellent family activity and one that promotes being active, appreciating the outdoors, and developing skills for life. Here are a few tips and thoughts to consider to make your family ski vacation as seamless as possible.
My husband and I decided to make the trip back to the Napa and Sonoma vineyards with friends and visited in November. The weather was perfect; the leaves on the vines had turned into breathtaking autumn colors and best of all, no crowds. At times it seemed we were the only ones traveling up and down the scenic roads in search of the smaller, quainter wineries. Another positive in touring at this time of the year is that with fewer people, the wineries have more time to tutor you in the fine art of wine tasting.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting Alyson Stoner and her mother Luane. Alyson, if you don't already know, is a star from the Disney Channel and has appeared in a number of movies including "Cheaper by the Dozen" with Steve Martin and both "Camp Rock" movies that feature the Jonas Brothers.
Alyson was in Toronto showing off her hip-hop dance prowess during a private party at the Best Western Roehampton Hotel & Suites with more than two dozen tweens from the Toronto area. Best Western and the Family Channel literally rolled out the red carpet for a very lucky Toronto family.
What's not to love about this time of the year? Whether you're celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas or other special holiday, it's all about being with your family and friends and traditions.
We all have ancestors that arrived from other countries or maybe we're the first generation to celebrate the holidays here, either way, traditional holiday foods have come with us. In my family, we adhere very closely to traditions. If I try to move the Christmas tree even one foot to where it always goes, there's an outcry because that's "not where we ALWAYS put it." The same goes for the foods we bake, cook and serve at our gatherings and at the dinner table. I'll start with what my family's traditions and work my way around the country.
The northeastern sector of Arizona is separated from the Hawaiian Islands by more than 3,000 air miles, a large body of water, climate, humidity and innumerable geologic and cultural differences. Despite that, they do have one thing in common - the Curse of the Rocks.
Visitors to the Petrified National Forest near Holbrook, Ariz., are warned that picking up petrified wood is not only illegal, it can also be costly. Fines for those caught trying to smuggle out pieces of the wood, even the tiniest sliver, can run as high as $275. Even worse, those who steal often run afoul of the curse.
The tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree has deeper roots than you might think. Egyptians brought date palms into their homes for the winter solstice. Romans used green flickering candles to celebrate the time of year. Legend has it Martin Luther began the tradition bringing a tree into a home as far back as the 1500s.
For many families grandmother's house isn't simply over the river and through the woods. Rather it's a long, four-, or six-, or even eight-hour straight shot down the highway. For kids in the car, this can be rather...b-o-r-i-n-g. And when the kids become bored, they drive mom and dad nuts.
Here are a few tips on keeping everyone happy and entertained on a long holiday road trip:
This is a guest post from Rebecca Kelly, a European travel expert blogger.
Most tourists on a European trip flock to the capital cities looking for history, culture and beauty. Paris, London and Rome are among the most popular tourist cities in Europe attracting thousands of visitors each month. The popularity of the capitals however can limit the amount of sights you see and increase the amount you spend. To avoid the higher than average prices and increased queuing times, avoid the capitals and try these cities:
In the 25th season premiere, Oprah gave her 300 of her biggest fans the surprise of their lives. "You're going to Australia! We are going to Australia! You and you and you are going to Australia!!"
On December 14, Oprah will tape two shows at the Sydney Opera House, the first time the show has been filmed outside of the United States. From the gorgeous beaches to the spectacular vineyards, the awe-inspiring Great Barrier Reef to the legendary Sydney Harbour, Oprah's lucky audience will experience it all. Have you been inspired to plan a trip Down Under? Here are our top Australian experiences:
Ansel Adams is one of my favorites. Photographers, that is. I think perhaps he was the best at capturing some of America's most beautiful and breathtaking scenery, most notably his black and white photographs of the West. There are so many places here in the United States and Canada that will simply take your breath away if you are fortunate enough to be able to travel and see them in person. I really wanted to be able to take photographs like you see in Arizona Highways or National Geographic; unfortunately my pictures were always slightly off- kilter, slightly out of focus or my hand in the picture. Ah well, I did the next best thing and married a man who has an eye and knack for capturing the perfect photograph.
I really don't start getting excited about the holidays until the sound of holiday music begins to fill the air. Nothing evokes holiday memories quite like the sound of bells, drums and a lovely chorus singing traditional holiday carols. While others complain that department stores and radio stations start playing holiday music "too early", I say "Not soon enough!" If you're like me, you'll want to know where the best holiday music can be heard live and up close from talented musicians. Most likely your local symphony will offer a holiday spectacular of the musical kind, so be sure to check out your local listings for shows. In addition, below are just a few can't-miss holiday musical events.
If you had to pick the new "it" spot in Canada I think most this year would have to pick the province of British Columbia and more specifically the city of Vancouver. After a rocky start the city and the province are now being recognized for hosting a spectacular event last February with Winter Olympic Games. The Games put a very bright spotlight on the region and it definitely answered the call.
November 11th is Veterans' Day for the US, Canada and many other countries around the world. Veterans' Day is designed to honor all Veterans' of wars, in particular living veterans, but also those that have passed on. The date of November 11th is significant as it observes the signing of the Armistice which officially ended World War I (fighting ended for WWI on the 11th hour, 11th day of the 11th month).
Veterans' Day is a federal holiday (which means not everyone gets the day off), but is also a solemn holiday to remember the sacrifices that so many have made and continue to make in defense of their country. In particular it is a day to honor living veterans and all active military personnel.
For more info on Veterans' Day you can check out this video from the Department of Veterans Affairs...
The temperature is dropping and it's the perfect time to getaway to warmer climates. While I personally love places like Mexico and Hawaii for the ocean and beaches and lively atmosphere, more elderly travelers may be more inclined to visit somewhere easier to get to and with more senior-friendly activities. Whether you are older yourself or you are planning a trip for your parents or grandparents, a no-brainer vacation getaway is sunny Palm Springs, California.
California is one of those states where the skies are predominantly blue, indicating amazing weather throughout the year. We have mild winters, beautiful springs and the perfect summer and fall weather. Being from San Diego, I had my fair share of perfect beach days well into October, it was one of the many perks of living in the coolest and most desired state in the US (according to me and my beach babe friends). As we cycle into our mid fall and early winter weather, a climate shift happens every year in California. Seasoned veterans, like my family, are used to this several week change, those who are out of towners, marvel at this change. It's known as the Santa Ana winds, and it throws everything people assume about fall weather, completely off base.
Call me a traditionalist but I still like the old Ontario slogan, "Yours to Discover." Recently, though --and quite successfully- the province has updated its tagline to "There's no place like this." Ontario Tourism has done a great job of showcasing the many things to see and do all across Ontario, and their catchy tune (I find myself humming it in the shower!) doesn't hurt either.
Ontario is home to more than a third of all Canadians. With more than thirteen million residents the province would rank as the fifth largest state in the U.S., just ahead of Illinois but well behind Florida. Density, however, is a different story: Ontario has fourteen people for every square kilometer. To put that in perspective, Illinois has eighty-five, and California has more than ninety.
Every year I set out to pick apples. This year I thought I'd be very highbrow about it and try to learn some history while I gathered fruit. So I set out to find a historic apple orchard. My search led to Boston, New York, Indiana, and Oregon.
I vaguely remembered that American apples originated somewhere in New England. The historical record tells us that there were apple trees planted from British seeds in Plymouth. It also places an early orchard on Beacon Hill in Boston. To my surprise and delight, a little research on Google Maps shows that there is still an Apple store in that area today! I packed my girls into the car and drove two hours to Boston, anticipating the fun of picking apples at their American genesis. When I arrived, I realized I'd made a slight mistake. There was no orchard on Beacon Hill, but I picked up a shiny new red Apple iPod to commemorate my misstep. It's fabulous.
Halloween is just around the corner, and what better way to get you into the spooky spirit than planning a fun weekend getaway around a visit to one of these terrifically terrifying Haunted Houses. I've surveyed my most devoted Halloween-lovers and Haunted House fanatics and put together this list of "must-see" haunts.
"La belle province," as it is affectionately known, is Canada's only province with a predominantly French-speaking population. It is the largest province in land mass and second in population, behind only Ontario. In fact, Quebec is three times the size of France! Les Québécois are very passionate people and their province is rich with history. Many battles have been waged along the St. Lawrence River and some of Canada's defining political moments have occurred with Quebec and its people at the forefront.
Many people who visit Quebec remark on its "European" feel. The urban areas, especially Quebec City & Montreal, certainly have an old world vibe. The language, the food and wine and the people are connected with their historical roots, while crafting a Canadian identity that is unique and celebrated.
I love the east coast of Canada. The Forbes are from Halifax and as children we typically were on vacation down east for at least two weeks every summer.
The four smallest provinces--New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island--comprise the backbone of Canada's East Coast. This region, which is also referred to as Atlantic Canada, is home to just under 2.5 million people or approximately eight percent of our country's population. In this case, the adage that "good things come in small packages" is definitely appropriate.
My initial visit to Gettysburg National Military Park was on a cold and dreary October day more than 20 years ago. It was so chilly, in fact, that my stay lasted less than an hour so, obviously, I didn't see much. Or learn much.
Determined to make up for that bit of wimp-related brevity, I returned in September and was amazed not only at what I had missed the first time, but by the addition of the splendid new Visitor Center and Museum. Opened in 2008, it is filled with history, artifacts, photographs and other reminders of the battle that took place here in July 1863.
Those who are fortunate enough to live in the United States are blessed to be surrounded by beautiful parks and recreational sites to enjoy for camping and other activities, right across the country. If you are an adventurer or nature lover, and can see yourself visiting several national park areas over a 12 month period, or even just during a single extended camping trip with multiple stops, you should consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass. This pass is the new and improved version of the Golden Eagle Pass which you may have heard of before.
Growing up on the north shore of Long Island, in a town where sailing is as common as brushing your teeth, it's no surprise any kind of boating activity is on my top 10 favorite things to do and see. And the Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge, Massachusetts is the ultimate location for the ultimate boating experience.
I can't say this is a passion of mine, but my father is bird watcher. I have spent some afternoons driving out to beautiful areas and relaxing while my dad pulls out his binoculars, bird book and rattles off the names of different types of birds while I take in the scenery. I am not an expert, but I have enough experience to know that this is a great passion for many people. It offers a great way to relax, enjoy nature and see new and beautiful places around the world. The great thing about birding is it is accessible to everyone in almost any location. All you need is some transportation, bird book and binoculars and you are ready for birding.
Ok, so I didn't coin this phrase, but every time I hear Hank Williams, Jr. or Faith Hill sing this song at the beginning of Sunday night and Monday night football, I get goose bumps. I'll just say it once, I LOVE FOOTBALL. Everything about it: looking ahead at the schedule for my favorite teams; checking on the weather to see if it's going to be hot or just merely hot (I live where it's always hot); what I'm going to wear (either the team jersey that's for hot weather or the team jersey that's for merely hot weather) and the all important questions - what time does the tailgate party start and what food are we going to have?
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This year, I'm recommending that everyone head to Michigan's Upper Peninsula in late September or early October for a spectacular view of the Earth in autumn splendor. The peninsula is heavily forested so any road you take will be a treat, but I'm going to offer up some ideas of things to see while you bask in the glory of the leaves. Specific driving routes can also be found at www.michigan.org.
I scream! You scream! We all scream for ice cream!
Summer isn't over yet! There's still time to treat your family to a cool treat.
USA Today put together a roundup of our country's best ice cream parlors. They asked local travel experts to name one great ice cream shop in each state and the District of Columbia. Here's a sampling of the top 50, and click here for the full story.
As a lifelong cat lover and owner, I've had to move/travel with cats on several occasions across the state and even across the country. While traveling in a car with a cat is significantly more nerve-racking than traveling with dogs, it doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. Below are some tips when you have to take your feline friend out and about:
If you're like me and you're fortunate enough to travel quite a lot, you likely find yourself looking for new ideas for destinations to get away too. Come summer time I find myself not so much looking for an exotic tropical paradise (I'd rather save that for the grey blah winter months).... I tend to look for more urban destinations to enjoy and explore new experiences. Here are a few of my suggestions for summer cities worth dropping in on that you might not think of visiting.
When my girls were younger, there would be those days when the dishes, laundry, schoolwork and shuttling them around to all of their activities, that I would just throw my hands in the air and wish I could just go away for a few days with a few girlfriends who were also experiencing mom "overload". I'd start dreaming about all the places I would go - just for a few days to regenerate - and then come home a happier and rested mom. My girlfriends and I would plot and plan our dream trip, but we never managed to get it done. Well, my girls are now off on their own and I have the time and the means to plan a weekend trip with my girlfriends.
When autumn arrives, my thoughts turn to the Black Hills of South Dakota because fall is the ideal time to go there and be amazed.
Situated just south of Rapid City, the hills are covered with pines that, from a distance, appear to be black. To the Lakota Sioux, the original inhabitants of the area, they were "paba sapa," or "hills that are black." The name has stuck despite more than a century of dispute over actual ownership of the land.
The hills themselves are worth a visit due to the dense forests, relatively untamed wilderness, herds of wild animals and a landscape dotted with unearthly erosions and strange rock formations. But it is the two massive stone sculptures that draw the most attention, and justifiably so.
Remember being a kid and excitedly embarking on scavenger hunts through your local park or camping destination? I still remember my 11th birthday party when my mom had arranged for a treasure hunt throughout the expansive park behind the house I grew up in. The thrill of seeking out unknown treats and the challenge and thrill of the chase made for a great time.
More recently I've been learning about the trend of Geocaching... Think along the lines of a global scavenger hunt of sorts, for kids or adults alike. It's a fast-growing activity that over 4 million people around the world currently take part in. "Geo" refers to geography and "caching" to the process of hiding a cache, which historically means a "hidden treasure" or concealed food, provisions or cash.
Late August is a perfect time to take a drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and stay in Asheville, North Carolina. This city, with its folk music, Southern hospitality, and location in the gorgeous and romantic Blue Ridge Mountains is bound to enchant. In fact, go ahead and play some fiddle tunes while you read the rest of this post: music.
The summer months are often full of great memories - pool parties, summer hikes, fun on the water (we all want to capture our first time up on a wakeboard!), beach sports and celebratory BBQs to name a few. Back in the day, the only option we had to share our memories was to develop photos and spend hours placing them in albums (Really...how annoying were those clear plastic adhesive pages. I could never get the air bubbles out of them!).
Today, there are a number of quick, easy and fun ways to share our best summer moments. These options are all relatively seamless to put together and very simple and enjoyable for the "viewer".
President Obama and his family traveled to Florida's Gulf Coast on August 16, 2010 to soak up some sun. The family trip is part of an effort to encourage people to visit those beaches that are free of oil.
Best Western is also encouraging travelers to proceed with their summer vacation plans in the Gulf states.
Beaches along the coast in all states are open for business, and popular inland destinations such as New Orleans and Orlando foresee no impact on visitors. It continues to be safe to travel to all states bordering the Gulf.
My parents, Jeff and Silvia, love to travel. When I'm looking for a new place to visit I sometimes call them to get ideas. While staying with them this week we ended up talking about one of their favorite places in the U.S., an area they've been to three times in the last ten years: Williamsburg, Virginia. They tend to favor sites that are either historic or naturally beautiful and consider Williamsburg, in Tidewater Virginia to be both.
The number one attraction there is Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg was the original capital of the Virginia Colony and when the capital was moved to Richmond, it became a backwater that did not grow. Lots of original buildings remain such as the House of the Burgesses, taverns, old homes, stables, stores, and inns. Fortunately for us today, the lack of economic progress in the area left it unchanged, which in turn made preservation and restoration of historical sites easier.
Summertime is prime time for kicking back and enjoying the sunshine with good friends. Nothing enhances the mood or vibe at a summer outing like a kick-ass playlist does! I surveyed my music-loving and hip-music-snob friends (with iPods in hand, a fruity cool cocktail in the other hand, and a beautiful sunset before us) and came up with the suggestions below.
When it comes to summer vacations, there aren't many that can beat a trip to the great state of Alaska. Sure its winters are cold enough to break records and it's really far away, but boy does it ever make for an amazing summer vacation!
Last summer my brother and I flew to Alaska for a week to visit our other brother who was living there. We had an adventure packed week with non-stop activities, dining, and picture taking (way too many to include here). The trip was one of a kind and I can't recommend it enough. Here are some of the things we did that I highly suggest you try when visiting "The Last Frontier" state.
I've been whale watching several times and while I've seen whales on all occasions, I've never experienced what some would consider a "close encounter" or even an extraordinary sighting. I've certainly never experienced anything like this that happened recently off the coast of South Africa! (ABC News: Kaboom! Whale Crash-Lands on Boat)
Anytime I think about fishing, the radio in my head starts playing the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's, Fishing in the Dark, and my summers of working at the Lodge in Fish Lake, Utah come flying back. My friends and I took those song lyrics to heart. We DID go fishing in the dark ... a few times.
I haven't been back to Fish Lake in almost 20 years - despite the fact that I still think it's one of the most breathtaking mountain locations on the planet and one of Utah's best kept secrets. Fish Lake is a cold, deep (160 feet in places), glacier lake located in the Fish Lake National Forest. With an elevation of 8,850 feet above sea level, it's the perfect place to escape the summer heat.
My parents forced me to hike as a kid. I had no choice. I had to walk up the mountain, or they'd leave me behind.
Their strategy might sound cruel but it worked. I've grown into an adult who loves spending weekends walking a trail, and now that I have my own kids I find myself bringing my own children--and using my parent's same no-nonsense approach. (It's frightening how we all turn into our parents.)
Operating for over 100 years is Seattle's famous Pike Place Market. When I heard they were starting renovations in April of 2009 in order to preserve the history, I figured I had to visit, surprised that I hadn't been there already. The Market consists of nine acres of historic buildings all housing an eclectic array of meat purveyors, bakers, farmers, fishmongers, artists and musicians. My kind of place.
TIs the season to be swimming! Since it's summer, chances are you've already made quite a few trips to the pool. Sure, it's nice to take a quick dip in your backyard pool, but sometimes you need something just a little bit more, something a little more exciting. You need to visit one of the amazing waterparks in your area. It's a great escape for families or friends and lets you truly experience summer in a whole new way.
There are more than 1,000 waterparks across the nation and chances are, you are probably closer to one than you think. Look up your local waterparks, but check out some of these famous parks to get you excited about taking your summer excitement to the next level.
Summer is in full swing, and more than likely, you are planning a weekend or vacation getaway somewhere that involves a coast line and eating seafood. If that's the case, be sure to include a crab festival on your itinerary.
We spend the last two days of our budget road trip in Seattle--and we luck out because the weather is glorious. We meet up with friends and relatives but we also find time to get out and see some sights. The highlights:
The drive between Portland and Seattle is short and easy, only three hours. But we decide to take our time and discover some of the attractions along the way. Here are the highlights from our day:
1) Lake Sacajawea, Longview, Wa.
My grandfather lived in Longview, an hour north or Portland, and he walked around this lake nearly every day. More than 100 different varieties of trees circle the lake and he could identify them all. There are also two fountains, an island with a Japanese garden, children's playgrounds, and several bridges, including one that's just for squirrels.
WAIALUA, Hawaii -Between the palm trees and a patch of bare land on Oahu, on the north shore of Hawaii's most populous island, there stands a huge wooden carving of the head of an Indian. He is weathered and stoic, having survived the plentiful rains and ample sunshine that beat steadily down upon his countenance. He is also the last of his kind.
The carving is the final giant head sculpted by Peter Wolf Toth, a Hungarian immigrant who became interested in the plight of the Indian while studying American history prior to becoming a citizen of the United States. He considered their early treatment by settlers and the federal government inhumane, so in 1972, he set out to make a statement of protest. He called it "the Trail of the Whispering Giants," and his goal was to carve and leave one of his massive sculptures in every state.
On days 5 and 6 of our I-5 road trip, we spend two nights in Portland. We have family and friends in the area so a lot of our time is spent with them, but we still get out and explore the city--even though it's raining most of the time. Here are the highlights:
1) $2 Tuesday, Oregon Zoo
On the second Tuesday of the month, the Oregon Zoo charges only $2 admission for kids and adults. Perfect for our budget!
We covered another 200 miles on Sunday, and I felt as if we zipped by many great stops: Castle Crags, Burney Falls, McCloud. We should have stayed a night in Shasta before continuing onto Oregon but our plan to meet grandparents in Portland and cousins in Seattle didn't allow us to dally. No matter, we found a few sweet spots.
On day 2 of our trip we covered 170 miles, traveling from Sacramento to Redding. Many would argue that this is one of the most boring stretches of I-5 but we found plenty to do. Here are six highlights from our day:
We started our day at this museum in Old Town. We took our kids here about two years ago, when my son was 3 years old and obsessed with Thomas the Train. Now that my kids are older, ages 5 and 7, they're actually interested in the stories behind the dozens of trains housed here.
There's something about the weather that ev'rybody loves. They call it the Indian spring of Sacramento. And when the sun is up in the sky The wind is blowing by the riverside most ev'ry day. You're in Sacramento, a wonderful town. Sing, sing, sing, din-di-din. --"Sacramento," Middle of the Road
Why is it that you always end up leaving for a road trip several hours later than planned?
Well, not quite. It's just my family piling into the car for yet another summer road trip. Yet while my husband isn't anything like Clark and would never crash the car through closed road barriers and sail us all through the air (we hope), there will certainly be some laughs on our trip with a 5- and 7-year-old riding in the backseat.
For those of us lucky enough to get past the ever threatening cloud of volcanic ash and the British Airways strike, there is a lot to look forward to in London this summer.
My personal favorite is the Hampton Court Palace Festival in June. Picture a picnic in the Palace Gardens followed by an open air concert in the Palace courtyard. Nine big name artists perform during the 10 day festival and, as of this writing, there are still openings for the likes of Michael Bolton and classical British favorite, Katherine Jenkins, just to name a few.
It's hard to have an appreciation for history when you're a kid. Sundays were always a day of rest for my family which always translated into all of us piling into the backseat of the family car and taking a "Sunday drive". Most of that time was spent with my head buried in a book and barely glancing out the window until we pulled back into our driveway at the end of the day. I'm pretty sure we covered every square inch of Iowa during those drives. Looking back, I wish I had looked out the window more than I did.
As a child, I can remember going to the Wisconsin Dells for summer vacation and decided it would be worth investigating as a vacation spot for my family. I was amazed to find that it has evolved into the "Waterpark Capital of the World" and the list of FUN family activities is endless.
With a nod to nostalgia, I wanted to make sure we took in the Dells "classics" and that starts with a river tour of the Wisconsin River. This river has unique sandstone formations along the banks, hidden grottos and hemlock trees clinging to the cliffs. It was discovered over 150 years ago and continues to be a big draw to the region. You can tour the river in amphibious vehicles called "Ducks", as well as, on the paddle wheel riverboat or on a jet boat. However you get there, be sure to look for the swallows nest built into the bluffs.
Where can you catch performances by Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews Band, Conan O'Brien, Jay-Z, John Fogerty, Weezer and Norah Jones all in one place? Yep, you guessed it. Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival happening June 10-13. Bonnaroo has taken over in the past decade as the king of all music and arts festivals featuring attractions like comedy shows, a movie tent, yoga classes, art, environmental talks and education, and of course, music genre diversity like folk, punk, rock, soul, rap....you name it.
I've got plenty of dream rides on my agenda. One that I'm sure I'll get to soon is to ride the ALCAN Highway.
The Alaska-Canada (ALCAN) Highway was constructed in the 1940s, and ever since then, it has represented a significant challenge to long distance motorcyclists. Though it is open year-round, the wise biker will not attempt to travel the length of the ALCAN Highway in any season other than summer. You may be able to make it from the southern end of the route in Dawson Creek, British Columbia to the northern end near Delta Junction, Alaska, but the trip is sure to be challenging in ways that will not be rewarding.
Budget Travel magazine has put together a list of 15 places all kids should see. This list is a great resource as you plan your summer travels.
You'll find an excerpt below and can find the full story by clicking here. 1) Ellis Island Museum, New York City: About 40 percent of Americans are descended from someone who immigrated through this station. Visiting is a powerful experience, thanks to the smartly curated exhibits--and you get a terrific view of the Statue of Liberty on the same ferry ride (ellisisland.org, free guided tours, audio tours $8).
There's a reason people are willing to sit in horrific traffic to reach the far eastern end of Long Island - it has beautiful beaches, picturesque towns, and world-class shopping, dining, and nightlife. Somehow the Hamptons manage to be both charmingly quaint and extraordinarily sophisticated.
If you've watched enough television, you've caught glimpses of life out there - manicured lawns, posh boutiques, privacy hedges, perfectly groomed people. The whole place may seem inaccessible and even uninteresting to anyone who doesn't have a hefty trust fund or a seven-figure annual income. That is not the case! This is a part of New York you do not want to miss.
I am not much of a history buff, but after catching HBO's Band of Brothers a few years back, I gained a greater appreciation for the history of the battlefield. And I also realized I didn't know too much about some of those terrible and incredible places that helped shape how I live now.
One of those rich places to visit is the historic site of Gettysburg. Here took place an epic battle which helped define the outcome of the Civil War. The field at Gettysburg conjures up vivid imagery of the legendary men who gave their lives for a greater cause. If you're looking for awe-inspiring views and sites, this is the place.
What better time to visit Chicago than during the sun-soaked days of summer? From the bustling beaches and citywide festivals to the cultural institutions and downtown Chicago real estate architecture, Chicago is a world-class destination that offers any newcomer or longtime frequenter a memorable vacation.