Aug
28th
  Hotel of the Week: In an Italian Coastal Town it’s Time you Knew About

I was all set for my trip to the Italian coast this past summer – just needed to book that final hotel room in Cinque Terre and I’d be set.

But something didn’t feel right – I spoke with a few hotels, & even though Cinque Terre had been on my bucket list for years, the hilltop towns just weren’t gelling for me for a family vacation. I have two teens and one active 10 year old, & thought perhaps it might be too quiet for them. I also thought they wouldn’t like the rock beaches with no waves…so I slept on it – and then researched. And I’m so glad I did.

California Park Hotel, Forte dei Marmi, Italy

California Park Hotel, Forte dei Marmi, Italy

At the last minute, I was booking at the California Park Hotel in Forte dei Marmi. My impetus?

Forte dei Marmi, Italy

Forte dei Marmi, Italy

Forte dei Marmi, a resort town right on the Tuscan coast in the province of Lucca, boasts nice, clean, sandy beaches …

Forte dei Marmi, Italy

Forte dei Marmi, Italy

with waves for my kids to body surf all day. Some Italian beaches like those in Cinque Terre had smaller waves, which might be better for younger children.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy

Forte dei Marmi’s location in Northern Tuscany still enabled us to take a day trip to Cinque Terre – and Pisa and Florence for that matter.

(And I loved the fact Forte dei Marmi is not in any of the major guide books I checked, but it is a town worth noting for so many reasons. )

Let me warn you however, since Forte dei Marmi is a definite resort town, most of the hotels seemed sleek, and somewhat cold – not places where kids could roam freely…& the prices were not that kid-friendly either! Forte dei Marmi is not a cheap escape, but if you research, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

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I felt like “Golidlocks” discovering the California Park Hotel- “this one is just right”… elegant simplicity and unpretentious.

California Park Hotel, Forte dei Marmi

California Park Hotel, Forte dei Marmi

Not to mention, the hotel is surrounded by park-like grounds…tons of grass and trees and space for my kids to run around or kick a soccer ball.

It is located in an upscale residential area, that very much reminded me of Montecito, CA..rugged but pretty surrounded by villas.The room prices are still about two times more than other areas of Italy, even with the strong dollar, but lower than others in Forte dei Marmi.

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Another reason I liked the hotel is that, unlike many other hotels, it has rooms to accommodate families larger than four people. Woot woot! We had villa #506 – a simple, but clean & stylish two bedroom suite. Not the largest space, as there is no common area – just two rooms with a connecting hallway and bathroom…..but the bonus to this room is that there is an outdoor terrace that becomes the living room – late night card games, pre-dinner drinks and appetizers…

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with a great view of the large, pretty pool. The kids enjoyed the pool – not stuffy, and there were other children around.

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The hotel certainly has charm – it is rooted in tradition, and it still uses old fashioned keys – which, although cute, made for a longer time trying to get into the room LOL. And the super small bedside tables were for another era – one that didn’t require charging phones and e-readers bedside so one could read and check emails.

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But the old fashioned elegance certainly put me in a good mood every morning when I got to drink my latte al fresco in this gorgeous china. Who does their best china every morning?!?!? What a great idea. :)

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The outdoor dining area was so pleasant, and the breakfast buffet was filled with lovely pastries, meats, etc.

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There’s also a little bar area that I loved – refreshments and cocktails all day, and late night snacks if you need.

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The hotel offers bike rentals right on the property – another charming, family friendly thing about Forte dei Marmi is that you ride bikes E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E!! The hotel is close enough to the beach, and the center of town, so we rode to each meal off the property.

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Forte dei Marmi has a number of beach clubs right on the sand, but the hotel has a relationship with one that will give you a discount – it will cost $50 a day for two chairs and an umbrella to sit on that beach – it may seem like a lot, but that is typical for that area. Yes, I have spent a lot less in other Italian beach towns for a beach club, but Forte dei Marmi is an upscale resort town, so you pay for it. TIP: Here’s one way to save… that we discovered just because we were getting late starts each day due to jet lag – show up after 2PM, and some clubs give you a discount.

There is no hotel gym, but a tiny outdoor gazebo overlooking the pool with two treadmills…

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The staff was very nice, and the hotel was especially clean. I would love to return for a longer time! You could stay a week, and take multiple day trips, and still enjoy the nightlife and beaches of Forte dei Marmi.

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I’m so glad I listened to my gut and changed my plans from staying a few nights in Cinque Terre, to Forte dei Marmi.

http://www.californiaparkhotel.com/en/

 
Aug
25th
  Train Travel in Europe – Will it Ever be Secure?

We’ve all heard the story by now, but the names are worth repeating: ‪#‎AlekSkarlatos‬, ‪#‎SpencerStone‬, & ‪#‎AnthonySadler‬, the three young Americans who put their own lives in grave danger and stopped what could have been carnage on a train to Paris. Let’s also not forget Mark Moogalian and British grandfather Chris Norman who said “I would rather die trying to get him down than simply sit in the corner and be shot.”

For any of you who have taken the European trains, I’m sure you pictured yourself in a car,witnessing the frantic scene, thinking “What if that happened to me?”

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I was just riding the trains this summer with my children. I cringe and shudder at the thought of children being in danger like that.

But really, what can be done in the future? The passengers on that train got very lucky having such honorable and brave men aboard. EU officials are reportedly meeting in October to discuss train security, and the latest reports say security is beefed up at train stations now.

But you train travelers know – the train stations are crowded, chaotic, & a security nightmare. Some 15,000 trains cross France alone in a day, with some 3,000 stations. How effective can security be? Officials even knew about the man arrested for the train incident, but can they prevent him from boarding a train? Some say metal detectors would be almost impossible to effectively implement because so many people transfer trains with seconds to spare.

Europe prides itself on the ease of which people can move between borders – enhanced by the “Schengen agreement” eliminating border checks. Not many people want to see the freedom change.

According to French President Francois Hollande, to be more secure in the future, we will all need to hope for the courage of average citizens to dig deep and stand up – as displayed by the heroics of Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler.

Here’s a great article on train security via Time magazine:

http://time.com/4008276/europe-terror-trains/ ‪#‎traintravel‬ ‪#‎travel‬ ‪#‎traveltuesday‬

 
Aug
18th
  Attacks in Thailand and Turkey in One Week: Resources to Research How Safe a Foreign Country is.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

I was just in Istanbul last summer… so the last week’s attacks there hit close to home. That news, along with Bangkok, Thailand bombings in the past 24 hours – a popular tourist destination – should make travelers realize that the climate in foreign countries can change… and one needs to be informed before planning a trip overseas.

So how can we do that? Well – governments issue travel advisories through their state websites. These warnings and reports are designed to let their citizens know about any safety concerns.

In the US, advisories are issued by the state department and can be found at www.travel.state.gov.

However, I recommend checking with other government websites as well, like from that of the UK and Australia: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel and http://www.smartraveller.gov.au . Why? Well, for example, I find them to be more detailed.

Just checking today, both the UK and Australia have updated, current information about the bombing in Thailand this morning on the front page of their site. On the US site, you have to dig back a few pages… and even then, there is not as much information about regions of concern, or that western travelers are targets in certain areas. On the foreign sites, there are maps highlighting areas not recommended to visit.

And did you know that being caught with any slight bit of drugs on you in Thailand could warrant the death penalty? Not that you are planning on bringing any into the country – but local laws are often posted on government websites as well – I found this information on the UK and Australian sites. Information like local laws that are good reasons to cross reference government websites.

Be sure to read each warning carefully – don’t be discouraged from traveling to a country if one small part of the country is considered dangerous… Tourism is a vital part of many economies, so before you cancel travel plans to one city because there is violence 300 miles away, do your research – is not always necessary.

Also, take certain warnings very seriously- for instance, if there is known intelligence that western travelers are targets, that is significant.

Once you decide to go – make sure to register with your country’s embassy or consulate. In the U.S., we have the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Go here https://step.state.gov/step/ to sign up, and you will receive important travel advisories and info regarding your destination…and it will help the U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency.

Safe travels!

 
Aug
04th
  Car-less, Cow Bells, & Cable Cars all in one Swiss Adventure
Switzerland, Lauterbrunnen Valley

Switzerland, Lauterbrunnen Valley

I am so NOT neutral about my recent summer visit to Switzerland. The stunning natural beauty.. & cookie-cutter perfect villages with flower-box windows that we’ve all come to expect did not disappoint. But – what was really exciting was staying in a small village that wasn’t in many of the major guide books. I have some crazy addiction to the thrill of experiencing the road less traveled!

Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

We stayed in the Bernese Oberland… a region south of the Swiss capital Bern with an incredibly diverse landscape – deep valleys with waterfalls…snow capped mountains…

DSC04581… and green pastures where you only hear a symphony of cowbells. NO joke.

Hiking trails in Bernese Oberland

Hiking trails in Bernese Oberland

All of this is best witnessed by hiking around the area, free to explore whatever path you wish. From our base in the precious Bernese Oberland village of Wengen, we hiked all over the region. We stayed at Hotel Baren, & loved it. It must have the best food in the village. http://www.baeren-wengen.ch/

Wengen, Switzerland

Wengen, Switzerland

Wengen may seem touristy at first glance – there is a big map of the quaint village once you get off the train at arrival, and a few t-shirt and souvenir shops – but it didn’t feel that way at all… maybe because no cars are allowed in so its very quiet.

DSC04463It has only about 1,000 year round residents, but during summer season & then winter season it swells by a few thousand.

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I don’t want to sound cliche, but it is absolutely charming – perfect village for kids. Everything is walking distance… there is mini golf, life-sized chess, and volleyball courts that we “tested” after our outing of the day.

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We appreciated all that even though we spent most of our time exploring – We hiked from village to village and down to the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Wengen train station

Wengen train station

The train stops is right in Wengen – and the train system is fantastic – again, the Swiss stereotype of clean and efficient holds true for the transportation around the Alps here.

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You can take a train to another village, (or hike there,) then take cable cars to your next destination, etc… My kids absolutely loved it.

DSC04321The network of public transport was an adventure itself…and the views from the trains & cablecars offer a wider scope of beauty.

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One day we hiked to the village of Murren… which some people in the Swiss tourism office, and other seasoned travelers recommended as a place to stay- but with kids (and perhaps even without kids) I preferred Wengen. Wengen captured me – and seems like a happier place.

DSC04586The hiking trails to Murren were so clean and well paved… with views all around. They are not difficult, evidenced by the number of older women we saw out hiking by themselves.

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From Murren we caught a cable car down to the spectacular Lauterbrunnen Valley – often called the “Valley of 72 Waterfalls.”

IMG_9133From what I’ve read, it’s the deepest valley in the world… with bluffs rising some 3000 feet around you, only to be punctuated by dozens of picturesque waterfalls.

DSC04601Fresh air.. lush surroundings.. high peaks surrounding you. It is breathtaking.

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You must stop & see Trummelbach Falls in the Lauterbrunnen… a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is glacier fed waterfalls inside a mountain, that is accessible through elevator, platforms and stairs. Nature’s forces at work – the falls carry 5200 gallons of water per SECOND. Special note – it is wet, and perhaps a hard climb for anyone with mobility concerns.

You could spend a few days here exploring the region… There are so many hiking trails. ..and trains to highlights like Jungfrau, said to be “the top of Europe. ” And although I don’t recommend staying in Interlaken after having stayed in Wengen (I stayed inInterlaken years ago – it is a popular base for hostelers, but certainly feels more like a city situated between two lakes, more touristy, and not as authentic) you could also go down to Interlaken to spend some time on the lakes.

To get to Wengen, we took a train from the Zurich airport… If you have a choice of airports, even though Bern is closer, the train station is conveniently located downstairs in the Zurich airport. It’s not super easy to get to Wengen – but worth it. You have to change trains a few times – but the Swiss are so punctual it is like clock work that you arrive at the time they say, and the next train leaves on time as well. You can tell you are at your stop just by looking at your watch and comparing the train schedules.

This is one of my kids’ favorite places I’ve taken them. Understandably, it is popular in winter also. Although the Swizz franc is not cheap, if you can get here, I’d definitely recommend it. We made wishes to return soon…

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Jul
22nd
  It’s the little things that make a difference at the Roman Colosseum…

DSC05341The Roman Colosseum is the most famous and awe-inspiring monument to have survived ancient Rome. Can you believe it is some 2000 years old?

So of course you are going to fight the crowds, sizzle in the Mediterranean heat, and drag your kids to this ancient amphitheatre when you go to the Eternal City!

You just don’t want to end up like some of the gladiators when you do- beat and conquered. If you are traveling with family, then you know you need to be even more prepared because keeping children happy can be more challenging. This can be one of their favorite experiences if you do it right. I promise, I’ve lived it. Teens who have studied this at school will especially appreciate it.

By the way -a ticket to the Colosseum also gets you to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – all must sees. They are fascinating.

Here are some things to remember to make the trip a victory… sometimes the most obvious practices vanish in the jet lag haze….

1) My top recommendation to make it an enriching, memorable experience is to bite the bullet and hire a tour guide. There are all kinds of tours you can find online, but try to get a personal recommendation from someone who has done it. If you have kids, book one that specifically states it is child-friendly – they do exist.

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We had a phenomenal guide… we got SO lucky – she was an archaeologist, with advanced degrees, who has literally dug up parts of Rome. There wasn’t one question of ours she couldn’t answer in great detail, and she also made it interesting. I don’t usually recommend just one company, but she was so good, this might be valuable for you. This company says they only use licensed tour guides: www.walksinsiderome.com Ask for Valentina Amato.

BONUS: Amato speaks fantastic English – not a trace of an accent. We used the same company the day before at the Vatican tour, and sadly, the accent was so thick, it was not easy to understand the other guide.

2) Did I forget to say that one of the logistical perks to taking a tour is YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAND IN THOSE LOOONG LINES. Whew. Glad I remembered. If you do decide to stand in line and not pay for a tour, then definitely don’t stand in line at the Colosseum – go to the Palatine Hill or the Forum entrances for the same entry ticket, but lines over at those two attractions can be shorter because people don’t realize you can buy Colosseum tickets there.

3) Bring your own water. If you have a water bottle, or bring a collapsable one from home, you can fill up almost anywhere in Rome at public fountains. However, at the Colosseum, even the former emperors would have a hard time finding H2O there today..unless you want to be at the mercy of the peddlers trying to sell water bottles for $5. Trust me, you will get thirsty.

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4) Bring an umbrella if you really want to stay out of the sun – the Forum and Colosseum are almost all in the sun. You will catch a patch of shade here and there in the Colosseum depending on the time of day. Sunscreen, hats, misters – all good too.

5) That being said – try to visit early or late in the day to avoid peak heat, and get better photo-taking light.

6) If you take the subway there – it is really easy – there is food in the station – but it is pretty gross. Sadly, many travelers overpay and give in to the food right there because it is easy – but if you can walk a couple blocks to the end of the Colosseum opposite the Forum, you will find a few cafes and take away places. They aren’t visible from the Colosseum, so ask a local if you need to. That’s my MO.

Have a great time. This is one destination I have visited perhaps four times, and I learn something new each visit.

 

 

 
Jun
13th
  Tips From the Trip: International Travel with Kids

DSC03943From the London files….  One very jetlagged teen, after spending only half a day scratching the surface of all the magnificence London has to offer says : “Ok – looks like we’ve seen everything. Let’s go back to the hotel.”

Ok – that happened to be my son… I’m sure other parents out there can relate. You put all this effort into what is going to be a wonderful and memorable experience, only to be met with some occasional indifference, intensified by jet lag.

Here is what I have learned – and continue to learn, even on this trip to London from which I write , about traveling internationally with kids of all ages:

1) Lower your expectations. If you think you will accomplish a certain amount in a day, cover a certain amount of ground, with kids it will always always be less than you envision. They don’t move as quickly, need more breaks, and just generally take longer. If you construct an overly ambitions plan, it could cause anxiety that you aren’t seeing all you had intended. Along that same advice, you might not want to book back to back and pay for events in advance… the stress of having to make something because you prepaid when someone is having a  jet lag melt down just isn’t worth it.

DSC03908 2) Allow time for naps – and be flexible with the irrationality that jet lag breeds. If you have to, go back to your hotel room in the middle of the day and take a short nap to refresh and hit the restart button. It is a much better plan to let a child sleep then have him or her get cranky. Because we are in a big city (London) we even pulled into a park and let our kids rest since our hotel room was across town.

3) If you like trying good restaurants and sampling foreign cuisine, I would try to plan out the restaurants in advance if you know the neighborhood in which you will spend a day. Otherwise, at mealtime you could be aimlessly wandering, unfamiliar with the area, and end up at some horrible tourist trap just because the kids really need to eat. I have found that asking locals on the street “in the moment” just isn’t good enough.

4) Always have snacks handy. Hunger just exacerbates jet lag, and keeping a child’s blood sugar steady helps.

Bringing kids abroad is hard, I’m not going to kid you, but I think it can be worth it!

 
Jun
09th
  Pet Travel: How to Make Travel Smoother for Fido this Summer.
Stella, my sweet dog!

Stella, my sweet dog!

If you are a pet owner, part of the process of planning a summer vacation involves finding a plan for your precious pet while you are away.

While there are a growing number of travelers who bring their pets – there are still others who find it easier to leave their loved animals at home. So whether you travel with or without Fido, here are some important things to think about.

TRAVELING WITH A PET: Lisa Fimberg, owner of Petpav.com, a social networking site for pets and their owners, says you really need to stop and think about how your pet can handle traveling. You know your animal better than anyone – what is his or her temperament? Do new surroundings freak him or her out? Some dogs or cats can handle being on a plane, some can’t. Same with a hotel.

If you will travel on a plane, you need to know the airline’s policies toward traveling with pets: Major airlines allow cabin travel for pets under 20 lbs that can fit in a container under the seat in front of you. If not they need to go in the cargo.

Fimberg also says if you think you can sedate your pet – that is not a good idea. The American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals discourages it, saying some meds can have adverse reactions, especially at high altitudes.

If you do put your pet in cargo, think about the time you fly – it’s cooler in the morning and evening so your pet doesn’t over heat. Try and book non stop and direct flights.

Most importantly – know that there is a risk to flying with your pet in the cargo – Sadly, some pets have not made the journey back alive.

If you are staying at a hotel, there are a number of great hotels that allow pets – just ask about their policies in advance. Make sure your hotel allows you to leave your pet in the room unattended if you have plans that can’t include the animal. Spend a few hours with your pet in the room to acclimate him or her and reduce any anxiety .

If you are allowed to leave the pet in the room, make sure you give the front desk your cell phone number when you step out. Animals are unpredictable, so you need to take caution.

Some hotels charge pet fees so ask about that in advance.

Here are some websites that list hotels that are pet-friendly:  www.petswelcome.com www.hotelguides.com/pet-friendly-hotels.html

Kimpton Hotel, Cambridge MA

Kimpton Hotel, Cambridge MA

You would be amazed at some of the perks hotels offer our furry friends these days!

TRAVELING WITHOUT PETS:

The most important thing is to consider where you keep your pet. Fimberg says separartion anxiety is real… so if you can, take your dog to the place where he or she will be staying first to get them used to it with you there. Practice leaving for small periods of time.

The best scenario would be to have a family member of friend your pet knows to watch him or her. If you go this route, consider getting an inexpensive dog collar with the petsitter’s info so that person can be reached if your pet gets lost. If you are in 5 different time zones you may be hard to reach. A professional pet sitter is also an option.

Remember to pack your pet with his or her favorite toys and bedding to make him or her feel as much at home as possible.

If you would like to belong to a social network with other pet owners to learn more about all pet topics, check out www.petpav.com…It’s free and fun!

Petpav is also on Facebook and Twitter!  www.facebook.com/PetPav?fref=ts  @petpavpets

Happy and safe travels everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
May
29th
  Hotel of the Week: Paws Up in Montana… Glamping!
Paws Up Resort, Montana

Paws Up Resort, Montana

I posted some photographs on Instagram and Twitter of a trip I took recently, and got a lot of feedback – it seems there is a lot of curiosity about Paws Up Resort in Montana.

Paws Up Resort

Paws Up Resort

And rightly so… any place that combines unspoiled, wide open, gorgeous wilderness with first class creature comforts certainly stands intriguing.

What is “Paws Up?” Paws Up is a 37,000 acre working dude ranch located in Greenough Montana, in the Blackfoot Valley. Missoula is the closest airport about 35 miles away. DSC02381

But it’s not your typical dude ranch -not a chance partner.

What makes it stand out is that it offers luxury tents as accommodations – that’s right – no pitching a little pup tent with a polyester sleeping bag as your berth- guests get a comfortable bed, headbaord and all,  with a down comforter and electric bed warmer for those really cold Montana mornings…which by the way, are super cold. It is hard to get out of that bed.

DSC02382 In addition to real beds, you get a tile-floored bathroom with a  porcelain sink and toilet with plumbing inside your tent. It makes some chain business hotel bathrooms look like out houses.

This, dear traveler, is GLAMPING.

The tents are set up for families, and ours had a separate room IN the tent for the kids-…kids all slept on cots, so the beds are reserved for the grown ups. :)

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TIP: I really enjoyed having a tent right on the river. It’s a nice view, and we could go out and fish anytime – the resort makes the rods available with your stay. Kids also enjoyed skimming rocks on the river.

The resort also offers luxury homes to rent… but the novelty of the luxury tent is really what makes this places special, in my opinion . But the homes might be better for large family groups wanting to stay together.

Now before you get all excited  in your boots, here’s the kicker:  Paw’s Up ain’t cheap cowboy.

The tent or house rates are one thing – starting at $1200 a night depending on the season – but you’re going to want to take part in all of the activities that Paws Up coordinates so you can explore the many acres of wilderness. And that’s what you really need to take into consideration.

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Fly fishing is an absolutely gorgeous experience… It is a beautiful and peaceful day out on the Blackfoot River- to relax with kids on the water, with no electronics, was beyond pleasurable. DSC02402 DSC02417

We spotted eagles, and other wildlife out on the boat, in addition to our catch of the day. My 9 year old even caught a fish.

You do need to know that no more than 2 can go in one boat at a time, so if you have a larger family you’ll have to split up. And the price is a staggering $450 a boat for a four hour ride, with a guide If you have four people in your family, that’s $900.

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Another activity we tried is paintball in the pine trees… The resort staff takes you out in a big patch of wilderness (not hard to find here) for a thrilling afternoon of washable paint warfare in the towering trees. It was fun -& yes, it does hurt when you get hit by the paint pellets, but it didn’t seem to bother the 20 adolescent boys with whom my daughter and I played.

Other activities offered are horse back riding, kayaking, hiking, river rafting, hot air ballooning, and much more. MAKE SURE you read each activity carefully before you go- there are age restrictions for some, so plan in advance to avoid disappointment if you have younger kids who may not be able to do everything. Some activities fill up so book as soon as you can. IMG_7667

Archery  is included with your stay… as well as access to a fitness center – but who has time for a gym when you are there?

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Honestly, you don’ t have to take part in activities every day if you choose not to. Sitting out by the river with a book for part of the day is peaceful, and you can take unorganized hikes as a family on your own.

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If you stay in a tent, the morning starts gathered near a campfire, while your tent butler makes you breakfast of your choice. The tents are all arranged in clusters, so you eat with members of about 5 other tents.

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The resort is rather spread out… it is 37,000 acres large, so you really feel the vast wilderness. Although that makes it a little bit more inconvenient for getting around the resort, and getting to your activities on time, it makes you feel how big and open Montana really is – it’s the 4th largest state by area. There are shuttles within the resort to take you where you need to be.

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The food is good, and there is a restaurant for other meals… watch in the summer though there are a lot of bees on the restaurant patio.

Paws Up offers different packages for families, and also has babysitting services if you have small children. If you can afford it, it makes for a trip the kids will love, a trip where you will spend many fun hours together with little distraction of electronics, and a trip where you will feel very comfortable in your home on the range.

For other glamping options, at different price points also try:

www.elcapitancanyon.com

www.terravelotours.com

www.pawsup.com

Happy Travels!

 
May
26th
  Booking a flight with children? Read this first…It can save you $$
From airlinereporter.com

From airlinereporter.com

The airlines these days have found ways to charge us fees for everything – at one point one airline was looking to charge us to use the lavatory!

These fees have earned the airlines billions of dollars, so don’t look for them to go away anytime soon. However, we can be smart fliers and know how to fly with minimal fees.

Econ

For instance… listen up family travelers. Most airlines – particularly US airlines, charge parents extra to reserve a seat next to children. But if you are traveling on a foreign airline with any children younger than 12, and budget is a consideration, don’t pay to reserve your seats.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, because you need to sit next to young children on planes, but what some foreign airlines don’t tell you upfront is that they automatically place you together if you are traveling with someone younger than 12 years of age. **Please note this is for many airlines – I would call in advance to confirm your airline does this. Also double check the age where they would automatically assign seats together, because that could be different too.

I asked one airline – what if all the other fliers book their seats and there are no other seats for us together – this particular airline said they move everyone around at the gate to accommodate people flying with children – even if we are a group of five and only have one child under 12.  (Honestly, that doesn’t seem totally fair either  – moving  those have paid to sit next to a window, but that’s the airline’s policy.)

If you are the type who doesn’t trust leaving it in the hands of the airlines, make sure you do the following:

1)Enter the age of your fliers when you book your flight- especially the one under 12 so the airline will know to put you together.

2) Get to the airport early and go to the gate to make sure they know you are traveling with children. Attendants can choose your seats then… or work it out in the system.

Think about it: Most airlines don’t want kids not seated next to their parents for everyone else’s sake!

It’s actually ridiculous some US airlines still don’t automatically place families with young children together. There has been legislation lingering in Congress to change this, but it doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere.

Again, it helps to call ahead on ANY airline to research the airline’s policies. I know there have been sympathetic agents who have helped families work it all out.

Happy travels – this is going to be a busy summer season!

 

 
May
22nd
  What You Should Know Before a Beach Vacation: The Dangers Lurking

A beach vacation can be a care-free family vacation – no need to plan what you are going to do every day – you have the beautiful blue ocean right there for you.

But sometimes when we wade into a pretty new environment, we are so mesmerized with our surroundings, we can neglect cautionary facts about our location.

Did you know that according to the CDC, 4,000 people die each year in the United States from drowning? About 50-75% of them are drownings in open waters, like the ocean.

Most are preventable.

So parents – watch your kids, and take heed of these beach safety tips.