Category Archives: Family Travel

Data analysis shows January to be good time to find cheap airfare

Hey Travelers! Happy New Year! I know you are probably getting settled back into real life, and possibly just coming back from a holiday vacation, so planning a trip may not be on your mind. BUT – these next few weeks are a great time to save money on airfare. It would literally pay to consider your next travel plans right now.

The website Skyskanner, which looks at data to figure out the best prices for flights, has determined the first few weeks in January offer the “most cost-effective” flight options for many destinations. This is after the peak of holiday travel, and before the peak of spring break, so of course, airlines want to give you incentive to book when demand is down.

How good are these deals you may ask? well..
On United Air :
Book by Jan 25:
Los Angeles to Salt Lake City – $116 RT
Chicago to Orlando $198 RT
San Francisco to Las Vegas $112 RT

On Southwest Air
New York City to Miami – $174 RT
Los Angeles to Las Vegas – $80 RT

WOW Air –
Los Angeles to London $340 RT
San Francisco to London $340 RT
Miami to Amsterdam $300 RT

Don’t wait – Skyscanner’s analysis also shows that prices go up by March as much as 13 percent over the yearly average for domestic flights, and international prices could go up by about 56% more than the year-round average.

Happy Travels!

Need ideas for winter break? Why not Nicaragua!


Nicaragua as a travel destination is not on everyone’s radar, but had been popping up in some internet articles recently. Every time I would come across  the Central America country’s name, my brain immediately went to “Contras and Sandinistas, ” and thought, “Is it safe?” I was curious to find out what it offers the traveler.

So, I decided to find out on a family vacation. Yep, I went ALL in and took the family, but admittedly after some research and preparation. I wouldn’t risk taking my children somewhere about which I don’t feel comfortable.

All my concerns about safety were put to rest. The Nicaragua revolution and Iran Contra Affair took place in the 70s and 80s, and has of late been called the safest country in Central America, with only Chile being safer in Central and South America.

The government and business leaders have been developing its tourism, and are priming it to be the “next Costa Rica.” And why not? It has the largest area of primary growth rain forest north of the Amazon, volcanoes to explore, and Spanish colonial cities with distinctive architecture. It’s world renown beaches have been sought after for decades by surfers chasing the perfect wave.

What I didn’t realize, is that this small country has an such an interesting history; It is the first Latin America country to have a woman president.

All sounded intriguing… I was just concerned that we would be going “off season” or “wet season” which is our summer. However, I discovered a secret: The advantages of going during wet season is that everything is so green..and it really only rains late in the afternoon for a short period. On top of that, there is a period called something like “verano pequeno” or small summer, because  two weeks at the end of July it doesn’t rain at all.

So I booked during that time frame two different hotels on the Pacific Coast, south of Managua, near Tola. (Most travelers do visit the Pacific Coast because its roads are more developed.)

One – Mukul Resort… swanky and upscale, and the other – Rancho Santana, a smaller more modest property . I wanted to get a taste of both places, because they are very different. And guess what? It only rained for maybe five minutes the entire trip!

Rancho Santana

We stayed at Rancho Santana first. I really didn’t know what to expect, even after reviewing the website many times… it is hard to capture 2700 acres of lush land, and two miles of shoreline on a few web pages.

Rancho Santana

But it is actually very simple in person. The Inn at Rancho Santana is the heart of the entire ranch area, and is situated right on the Pacific Ocean. The Inn was remodeled a few years ago, and fits the landscape perfectly, without giving up rustic elegance. More importantly, the  architecture feels authentic to the property.

There are 17 rooms at the inn, but we stayed in one of the condos that are part of the property, because they offered our family of five more room. We got a three bedroom, two bathroom place with a kitchen and living room for about $300 a night. It was right near the main hotel and pool area. The only downside is that each condo has a different owner, different style, and was not part of the recent remodel.

All of the rooms at the Inn revolve around a courtyard, and are right near all the action, like the
quick breakfast cafe that makes the most delicious Nicaraguan breakfasts.

They were my favorite meals the entire trip: eggs, with guacamole toast and cabbage over a homemade tortilla. We enjoyed our flavorful breakfast on a lovely patio overlooking the property with an ocean view.

A little further down a walkway is the main restaurant, with a bar and pool table – which led to many hours of late-night family fun. The restaurant is lovely – with seating over the dramatic waves at night.

There is also bocce! A family favorite. And remember, all of this is right in the center of the ranch.

Right nearby are all of the fun features – the pool, cabanas, outdoor bar, and the perfect perch to watch the most incredible sunsets.

I would consider myself a “sunset specialist”… and these from Rancho Santana were the most dramatic and beautiful of anywhere I have ever experienced in the world.

There were plenty of activities to keep all of us busy. The ranch has five different beaches from which to choose. All are pretty, and offer something different – whether it be sand surfing, or regular surfing, but our favorite beach was Los Perros because it had the open-air taqueria right on the sand, next to hammocks to nap off the quesadillas and garden-fresh salsas.

No other word describes it better than “chill.” Grab a cerveza and a taco in a corn tortilla that is made right there, and enjoy it on the beach? It was a nice touch.

Another thing to point out, is that the beaches here are almost empty… and rugged, which means there are no umbrellas and chairs set up for hotel guests to use. At Los Perros beach, you can request chairs for the sand. This is something to consider because you might not want your children in the sun all day, so pack an umbrella or ask where you can get one.

We broke up our time on the sand with surf lessons and hiking around the property’s trails. The one thing I think the ranch could improve is the gym. There is yoga in a nice environment, but the gym is across the street, and is nothing really nice – more of a high school gym.

On one of our most memorable days, we hired a guide from the hotel to take us into Granada.

Granada is Nicaragua’s oldest colonial city, situated right on Lake Nicaragua. It’s home to many Spanish-Colonial landmarks that have survived pirate invasions, and the town square is just eye candy with all the vibrant colors of the structures.

The trip into town was a fantastic way to break up all the beach time with some culture. I always love talking to the local guides and learning about life in their native town or country, and the two hour drive into Granada gave us time to do just that. The drive also allowed us to see the countryside..and sadly, the poverty. I can see why the guides do not like to make the trip home in the dark – there are many large animals that roam the roads freely.

On the way, to Granada we stopped to hike Volcano Mombacho, and also zip line across the rain forest.

There were very few tourists – which was so refreshing. We didn’t have to wait on any line for the canopy tours, and because it was quiet, we saw some baby monkeys on the hike.

Once in Granada, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the middle of all the colorful Spanish-Colonial churches and cafes. It really is a lovely town and something to see. I only wish we had had more time to wander around.

At the wharf of Granada, there are boatmen offering people rides on Lake Nicaragua. What is interesting about this boat ride, is that there are hundreds of islets in Lake Nicaragua, which provide habitats for birds and animals, and there are some that have one house on them for people to live on their own private islands.

The islets all range in size, and were formed when rocks flew from a volcano eruption thousands of years ago.

We took the boat ride, and had one of the most epic moments of the trip. There is one island that has a handful of monkeys living on it.

As we approached the monkey island, the boatman slowed down and eventually stopped right in front of it so the kids could see the monkeys.

The most astonishing thing then happened – one of the monkeys jumped on board… and walked directly over to the driver and gave him a long hug.

It was remarkable to witness the capacity for emotion these monkeys have. They clearly recognized the boatman, as he takes people out 1-2 times a day he says, and sometimes offers them food.

My children were stunned silent..but then of course wanted that important selfie with the monkey!

It was a nice outing, especially at sunset with the volcano in the background. We accomplished all of this sightseeing in one day between 8:30 AM and 7PM. It was worth it, and the price at Rancho to do this was substantially less than what it costs at Mukul to hire one of their guides.

When we moved to Mukul after a few days, let’s just say the sexy, open-air lobby grabbed me.

But there was also a hugely impressive array of glass bottles of alcohol set up right there – so right away I felt a different vibe than at Rancho Santana.

Our rooms (little bungalows in the trees called bohios) were beautiful, but small, and unfortunately, not conducive for families. We had to book two bohios because the most one bohio could sleep is 3 people.

The resort does have 12 2-bedroom beach villas, with their own pools, but they were approximately $1000 more a night than two bohios. The bohios were fine for privacy, but they aren’t so close to each other, and made organizing the family a little more complicated.

The nice touch is that coffee is delivered to your bohio every morning at a time you request. The coffee comes with a couple cookies, but I don’t understand why this is still the case – there are aggressive birds around the resort who are not afraid to come after those cookies and disrupt your peaceful morning coffee on your deck, so beware 🙂

This resort is also right on the beach, with the pool steps away.

Wander down the beach a bit and there is a cafe and a recreation area with volleyball courts and water sports. We took another surf lesson, for about double the price of Rancho Santana – but, as the instructor promised, it really was the best surf lesson I’ve ever had.

The nice thing about Mukul’s beach is that there are dozens of palapas with thatched rooves under which a handful of people can lay on the lounge chairs.

There is a beautiful spa and golf course, but the golf course was not in the best shape, which is surprising because we were there during the wet season, so you’d expect it to be green and lush. But at Mukul, we strangely felt like it was “off season” – not as many servers near the pool so you had to track someone down to order food or a drink, the cafe closed earlier than normal, our morning coffee wasn’t always delivered when we requested the night before, etc. It just seemed understaffed.  In all fairness, I had a friend visit Mukul during the winter, and had a better experience with the service.

If you are thinking about going to Nicaragua – here are some nuts and bolts:
Flying into Nicaragua is actually easier than one may think. The easiest way is to fly into Managua, and either book the hotel’s transportation service to pick you up and drive you for a couple hours to the resort, or take a 1/2 hour connecting flight to the small regional Costa Esmeralda airport, which is about 15-20 minutes from either resort.

Or you can fly into Costa Rica’s Liberia airport, where there are more flight options. From there I would recommend taking a flight into Costa Esmeralda – If you have the hotel pick you up at the airport and drive to either resort, it’s a long rough 4 hour drive with a stop at the border.

Flight times from the following cities to Managua: Dallas – 3 hours, New York – 6 1/2.
Flight times from the following cities to Liberia; Baltimore – 4.5 hours, Los Angeles 5.5 ***Southwest and Jet Blue fly from certain destinations to Liberia.

Happy Travels!

Best Time to Buy Holiday Airfares

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After a day like yesterday, many of us just want to hug our little ones,  spend time with those who mean the world to us, and truly appreciate all we have. Although that is a great mantra every single day, the official day on the calendar to do just that is around the corner – Thanksgiving. If you want to visit with family this holiday, I’ve got some news about the best time to buy airline tickets to save you money. (Oh my – some GOOD news!)

I’ve been researching this for a long time, and different websites, travel groups., etc  all seem to have varied takes on this. But – I found a group that analyzed LAST year’s travel data and all tickets purchased to arrive at the best time to buy tickets this year. They used current data, which I like, to tell us when we can save the most money.

The answer? Drum roll please – The best deals are found 55-65 days before the day you want to travel for Thanksgiving… and the price steadily creeps up each day after that. So based on this information – you should have booked your ticket last week as today it is about 51 days before Thanksgiving itself!

(And if you are looking ahead, you should buy 85 days before the day you want to travel around Christmas)

Of course, this all depends on where you are going – but you can use this as a guideline. Prices reportedly skyrocket 20 days before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As a very general rule, the sweet spot to buy any domestic ticket is between 3 months and 3 weeks before travel. But no matter what study or analysis you listen to – it’s time to start looking for holiday airfares!

To read a complete report for other holidays too:

https://www.dealnews.com/features/Heres-The-Best-Time-to-Book-a-Flight-for-Every-Holiday/1929086.html

Happy and safe travels everyone.

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Stargazing after theSolar Eclipse: Where to take the family

Today’s solar eclipse  has many of us in North America focused on science, space, and nature. If  you are one of those star stuck after the big event, that’s great news! There are many places around the country to explore yourself, or take your family of budding astronomers to keep everyone engaged with space. Many of these places have incredible shows with the newest technology. It’s not your mama’s telescope anymore!

Some of my favorite planetariums and why you should visit them:

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles from pachd.com

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles from pachd.com

  1. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

The Samuel Oschin Planetarium at the Griffith Observatory (In my hometown Los Angeles) It got is “close up” in this year’s Academy Award winning La La Land, and the Griffith Observatory is a classic landmark overlooking an fantastic view of the City of Angels. The regular exhibits are a little advanced for the younger kids, but the movie inside the planetarium theater is interesting and can hold the attention of most kids.

My favorite thing about this observatory is the once a month public star gazing party outdoors.          Knowledgable astronomers are on hand to help look through telescopes, and it is an engaging experience. http://griffithobservatory.org/

Hayden Planetarium, NY photo by AMNH.org

Hayden Planetarium, NY photo by AMNH.org

2) Hayden Planetarium New York :

One would expect New York City, with all its museums and resources,  to offer a top notch experience in astronomy. The Hayden Planetarium doesn’t disappoint, and it’s located in the equally as interesting Museum of Natural History. What makes the Hayden special is the digital universe atlas it has developed, mapping our world in 3D!! This can be seen in the 429-seat Space Theater. The Museum’s Space Shows are also displayed here. In addition – Check out the incredible programs and speakers scheduled it you visit New York! In addition to the  star shows, the planetarium has live sky talks once a month, as well as lectures by prominent authors and astrophysicists. (BTW if you are a fan of the show “Cosmos,” the accomplished director of the planetarium is the host of the show!)  http://www.amnh.org/our-research/hayden-planetarium

Burke Baker Planetarium, Houston Photo by HMNS

Burke Baker Planetarium, Houston Photo by HMNS

3) Burke Baker Planetarium in Houston, TX

Houston, we have a planetarium. If your travels take you to this Texas city , the Museum of Natural Science and its Burke Baker Planetarium should be the first stop in your space museum exploration. It is an exciting place to visit as it is home to a dome theater that is actually used to train NASA astronauts in star field identification. The planetarium offers a large number of special shows.

(And while you are in Houston, take advantage of all the space edutainment offerings and visit  NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center too!)  http://www.hmns.org/planetarium/

4) Gates Planetarium in Denver, CO :

At the Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, visitors get a closer look at one of the most mysterious astronomical phenomenon, black holes. For the younger set, the museum’s One World, One Sky show takes you on a journey with Big Bird and Elmo to the moon and back in an educational yet entertaining journey.  http://www.dmns.org/planetarium/

5) Morrison Planetarium, San Francisco, CA:

Not surprisingly, the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Arts and Sciences, near the center of the tech world , has the largest all-digital planetarium in the world. The programing lineup includes traditional star shows, live tours of the universe, live NASA feeds and broadcasts from  researchers reporting from the field. The CA Academy of Arts and Sciences was remodeled about 8 years ago, and is considered a cultural gem – so overall a lot to see at this one destination.  http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/morrison-planetarium

Adler Planetarium, Chicago photo from Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium, Chicago photo from Adler Planetarium

6) The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Il – This is reportedly the first planetarium built in the United States..and certainly one of the most entertaining. There are so many programs here, you are sure to find something interesting when you visit Chicago.  At Doane at Dusk, guests will enjoy nighttime telescope viewings and related discussions with Adler Astronomers after museum hours. And if you are looking for a unique date night, Adler at Dark is for ages 21 and above and is a different space-related experience once a month… Or how ’bout a truly spiritual yoga class on Satrudays in the planetarium while star gazing? Keeping up with the times, there is a special exhibition about Eclipse Chasing at the planetarium right now. http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/#h2AhH0tYMpSyIR7r.97

7) You don’t have to visit a planetarium to engage with the universe – when traveling takes you to remote areas far from big cities, where the night sky is more clear, that is an excellent time to break out the various apps that help you star gaze and identify celestial bodies. Some recommended apps:

Night Sky 4 (IOS) ..Night Sky Lite (Android)…Star Map…Star Walk 2.

And lastly… wherever your travels may take you – Here’s  a complete list of planetariums around the country:  http://www.go-astronomy.com/planetariums.htm

 

 

How NOT to get bumped from a flight

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I have been processing that disturbing video of the United Airlines passenger getting dragged off the plane, and like most, can’t believe the way that situation was handled. Yes, it is within the airline’s legal rights to remove passengers, but c’mon , there could have been more humane ways to deal with the situation…especially because they were kicking that passenger off to make room for their own employees!

Everyone has a price they will take to voluntarily get bumped –  why not just offer two round trip tickets anywhere in the US – or world – next time? Sign me up! It is now costing the airline much, much more.

That being said.. Overbooking, while rearing it’s ugly head in this isolated incident, actually makes airfares lower by enhancing the airlines’ revenues ensuring flights are booked. In 2016, airlines posted an involuntary bumping rate of 62 per 1 million fliers, according to the Bureau of Transportation.

So as we head into summer – one of the busiest travel seasons -what can you as a consumer do to protect yourself from being bumped?

According to the  Department of Transportation , “it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities,” but for the most part, these tips reflect those priorities:

  • Check in to your flight as early as possible – print that boarding pass 24 hours in advance.. or if not possible because you are camping in the wilderness, LOL, download to your mobile as soon as you can!!! The last to arrive, the first in line to get bumped.
  • If you are loyal to one airline and have elite status, you are lower on the list to get bumped.
  • Same goes with the kind of seat you buy – the cheaper the seat, the more likely you are easily bumped.
  • If you are bumped voluntarily or non-voluntarily on a domestic flight – know this: You  are entitled to 200% of the one-way fare in compensation (but no more than $675) in cash if their delay is between one and two hours, according to a federal regulation. If the delay is more than two hours, customers are entitled to 400% of a one-way fare (but no more than $1,350) in cash. Be firm, and negotiate what you want. Check the contract of carriage on your airline.
  • Consider the airlines – according to Crankyflier.com, JetBlue doesn’t oversell flights.

While involuntary bumping could happen to any of us, consider these tips and it can be less likely. Safe travels everyone!

 

 

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All Eyes On DC: My Top Things To Do With Kids In Our Nation’s Capital

This is probably the one non-political post about Washington DC today – so if you want a break from transition of power topics, read on!

On other days, when Washington DC is not so crowded, it is one of the best places I’ve ever been to take children – kids of all ages for that matter. Here are my top eight things to do in our nation’s capital:

 1) You gotta see the National Mall and Memorial Parks. This area is made up of greenspace, as well as memorials and monuments honoring former presidents and fallen soldiers, to name a few. It’s a nice walk all around, but it’s longer than it looks on the map. There are bikes you can take out right there – but be warned, there are few for small children.  Also – right near the Jefferson Memorial is Tidal Basin, where you can rent paddle boats and see the monuments from a distance, but from the water!  Tip: The Washington Monument is closed until spring of 2019, so you can’t go up to the top. When it reopens, there can be quite a line to go up… go around late dinner time, right before the sun sets and  when all the tourists are eating.

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2) The Capitol – Touring the Capitol is more than a look at the workings of government. The art and architecture are impressive, and stories about them are not lost on kids. Tours are free and try to book before -but if you don’t some same day tickets are available. Visitors can also see the House and Senate galleries, but that takes planning ahead. Tip: Be sure to go to the Library of Congress right next door – fascinating, and it has inauguration souvenirs and speeches on display, if you get inspired today. https://www.loc.gov/

3) The Smithsonian Museums – What people DONT tell you is that you could spend two or three days just exploring http://www.si.edu/Visit/Hours

The Air and Space Museum is overwhelming – so much stimuli, you have to take it in small doses..There’s also the Natural History Museum and the American Art Museum , just to name a few. ALL are free!!

4) The International Spy Museum – After all the culture from the Smithsonians, this is a fun, but well curated collection of spy culture history. Intriguing for mystery-seekers of all ages, it features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts on display to the public.

5) The White House – aka Mr Trump’s residence now. No matter what your politics, it’s a must see. BUT you really need to plan about 6 months in advance to get tickets through a member of Congress. When you book through your member of Congress, and need special hearing or visual assistance, you need to let them know in advance.

6) National Archives – Go on your own “national treasure” hunt and see where the Declaration of Independence is, as well as other documents from our nation’s beginnings.

7) The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing: The kids will love to see how money is printed, and how we protect from counterfeiters.  https://www.moneyfactory.gov/services/takeatour.html

8) Just outside of Washington DC , almost 15 miles away – but SO worth the trip , is Mount Vernon – the plantation home of George and Martha Washington. Right on the banks of the Potomac, this is one of the most kid-friendly and interactive attractions. The tour of the Washington home gets intimate, showing the very room where George Washington took his last breath. The museum on the property explains slavery, war, in relationship to Washington’s life, and includes a look at personal moments – like George and Martha’s relationship – in very clear terms for all. You can even see Washington’s infamous dentures!  http://www.mountvernon.org/

Happy Travels!

What I was reminded of while traveling in 2016 & will keep in mind in 2017…

I’m not going to sugar coat this – 2016 was a dramatic year. There was tension in the air with the presidential election looming… more terrorist attacks in beloved destinations… and too many deaths of well-known contributors to society.
Sprinkled in between, I took a higher number of trips than normal, which were great, but with the backdrop of unsettling world events, it felt like a little much. (Did I just say that?) This leads to my number one thing I was reminded of regarding traveling:
1) If you travel for business, or are just able to travel a lot for the heck of it, don’t underestimate the importance of pacing out the trips! If your dopp kit or cosmetic bag is still packed with your toiletries by the next trip, it’s probably too soon.
That’s just me, but I like to recharge so I can fully appreciate the next destination.

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2) I’m a fan of traveling during the off-season to avoid crowds and grab some deals. However, you need to do your research to make sure it’s still the type of atmosphere you want. For instance – I visited two hotels in Nicaragua last summer – Rancho Santana, and Mukul Resort.

Rancho didn’t miss a beat. However at Mukul, service must have been cut because it was slow season as it was hard to find anyone to help poolside or on the beach… And – one of the restaurants closed earlier.
By the way – the last couple weeks of July are still a fantastic time to visit Nicaragua – it is green from rains, but typically doesn’t rain during this time very much. We only got about 10 minutes of rain the entire week.

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3) Don’t assume it will be cheaper to use Uber in a city than renting a car, especially in San Francisco where it is ALWAYS peak hour rates. So many people use it in that tech universe, that it is so much more expensive. Take into account parking costs, then figure out if renting a car or a ride service like Uber or Lyft is cheaper…or consider a form of public transportation.

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4) When renting a home, try to talk to someone local who may be managing the property, instead of the owner who may live far away. They might be more qualified to tell you: Is there construction going on? If there are facilities like a pool or gym, will this be open while you are there? You can even go as far as to ask for contact information of guest who have recently stayed.

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5) If you can, go to Hawaii when school is in session – not in summer or any of the traditional school breaks. Even Waikiki seems quiet then! It is easier to get reservations for any activities, hotels, or restaurants…and the weather is fabulous all year round. I always say to truly appreciate the Aloha State is to get off your lounge chair and go beyond the nice hotel. That’s where you’ll find the true Aloha Spirit. Take a hike…visit a mom and pop eatery. But whatever you do, if you explore all the beaches, make sure you go to one with a lifeguard who knows the riptides, and where there are rocks.

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Nashville TN

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Nashville TN

6) Nashville is so much more than the music scene. Yes, it’s all that – but honestly, you could spend days there exploring and having a great time without ever stepping foot on Broadway! (Although, you must do that too.) There is so much culture and history… Plantations, Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Cheekwood Gardens to name a few.

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But when you do get your dancing shoes on – wander to the strip and find the place that is right for you. There are tons of clubs – many packed with bridal showers and revelers – so do’t stop at the first one you come to. There are plenty – most with amazing music.

Happy travels in 2017 everyone – may they be safe, yet meaningful.

 

What women want right about now… places designed for you

Fall can be hectic for many women – back to school schedules for moms, and more rigorous job demands as corporate America also digs in a little deeper after a summer pace.

Some hotels are marketing to women’s daily challenges and chores this time of year by offering women’s wellness weeks – Women guests only, focusing on better living. I have heard of at least four taking place in October!

If this sounds interesting to you, you can check these out:

1) Cal-a-Vie, San Diego, CA –

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Probably one of the most luxurious spa retreats in the country, this ultra luxe (and pricey) oasis in San Diego is offering a women’s wellness week Oct 13-19…with emphasis on reducing stress and living a healthier lifestyle. The message will be driven home with presentations and discussions on effects of hormones, cooking, staying fit for life… in addition to the normal mind/body/spirit program usually offered. You can participate in many different yoga classes, get spa treatments, all at the same time focusing on good nutrition.

From panachemag.com

From panachemag.com

Cal a Vie is in a gorgeous French countryside type setting… Women only will be allowed this week.

www.cal-a-vie.com

2) Staying in the San Diego area, Ocean Pearl Spa is offering Women’s Wellness Weekend Oct 4-6.

 

From Sandiego.com

From Sandiego.com

This spa is in the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa… right near Legoland. It might be hard to leave the kids at home when you are so close to a favorite amusement park, but if you decide to, here is what the weekend offers:

–Workshops on anti-aging, nutrition injection therapy, stress management.

–Sunset yoga on the terrace

–Spa treatments

–Meals

Ocean Pearl Spa form lajollamom.com

Ocean Pearl Spa form lajollamom.com

This isn’t a women’s weekend only at the resort, just womens’ special activities at the spa. The spa is beautifully decorated, with calming colors and a chic aesthetic. It offers a nice menu of treatments. The hotel location is very close to downtown Carlsbad, the beach, and other attractions in San Diego. There is a nice price point for this weekend of wellness too.

www.sheratoncarlsbad.com

3) Lake Austin Resort, Austin, TX

LakeHouse-Spa-at-Lake-Austin-Spa-Resort

Oct 1-12 is the “Gathering of Wise Women.” During this time guests can meet with relationship coaches, and listen to discussions on the power of positivity. Of course, there are fitness classes and an emphasis on nutrition too. This resort is quite lovely, on sprawling grounds. There are pet friendly rooms, which is a plus for animal lovers, and rooms with private porches to idle the days away.

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http://lakeaustin.com/spa-resort

4) How does fly fishing, mountain biking and sea kayaking sound?

From voga.org

From voga.org

Kayaking2

A little more active adventure than the all women packages above… but at Doe Camp with Vermont Outdoor Guide Association for women, that’s what’s on the agenda. It is the ultimate weekeend retreat for adventurous women! It takes place this year from Sept 27-29 at Jackson’s Lodge in Canaan, VT….. so it is most likely too late for this year – but bookmark for 2014.

www.voga.org/fall_doe_camp.

Looking out for you ladies! Grab some gal pals and treat yourself to some time to rejuvenate. It is important for your health and well-being.

 

 

 

 

 

A Cultural Family Trip of Epic Proportions: Machu Picchu & Peru

My spiel is to encourage families with children to travel to all sorts of destinations…and still remain sane! At the same time, I realize there are certain locations that would require so much work, planning, schlepping, and research because of the exotic or geographic nature, that we all need a little help.

Enter, stage right : Disney. They own the family brand, and rule the theme parks, but did you know they have a whole family travel division? The Disney cruises are probably the most well-known.

For the next week or so of posts, I am going to blog about the bucket list trip I took to Peru with a lesser known Disney travel area: Adventures by Disney guided vacations. Yes! We took the kids to Peru ….

Machu Picchu, Peru

…climbed the Inca Trail… and got spiritual at Machu Picchu…

Awana Kancha Llama Farm, Peru

….and went loco for llamas at a llama farm.

Was it easy? Surprisingly, yes. If you don’ t believe me, just ask my husband who is a little more the reserved roamer than the passionate pilgrim that I am.

Adventures by Disney organizes tours around the world: See the Great Wall in China…. cruise down the Nile in Egypt… or search for the Big Five in South Africa.

Let me just say that I have never been attracted to organized tours because I have traveled a lot, and like doing things on my own time. But I was impressed with how much easier an organized tour makes family travel. Do you get to pick your own hotels? No. The restaurants? Not all of the time. Make your own schedule? Nope.

However… Travel stress melts away as everything is organized for you – your hotels booked: Check. Luggage picked up at airport and you don’t have to even TOUCH it : Check. Transportation from airport to hotels, to attractions: Check . Check. Check. Key in a third world country like Peru.

Pisac Market, Peru

You also save countless hours in planning and researching every activity and hotel…and with a little Disney magic, you can avoid crowds at some of the most packed tourist attractions, and have access to true treasures otherwise off the tourist trail.

If your idea of vacation is to move around a lot, learn a bout other cultures, be chauffeured around the world without a worry, and mingle with other families – then this is something you might want to consider.

If you like slower pace with lounging at a pool – that is a different trip, and frankly, you don’ t need to pay to have guides show you that. There was little down time on the tour I took – This is a special immersive experience for which you have to have the energy.

Disney Guide and Jr Adventurer

If you don’t think you have the energy, you almost certainly will once you arrive because if Disneyland is the happiest place on earth…then the Disney adventure guides are definitely the happiest people on earth. They have the personalities and patience to have fun with the kids from all different time zones, and at the same time work hard to make sure the adults have ever single thing they need, without ever breaking a sweat.

In our group, an American Disney guide was paired with a couple local Peruvian, Disney-trained guides. The American guide is the heart and soul if you will…. and the local guides are well versed in their country’s history, know the language and customs, and can answer all questions. We tried really hard to stump ours – it became a game – “Stump Ernesto.”

If you do consider a guided tour for any trip, here are some things to think about:

1) Make sure the destination is age appropriate for your children. Only you know your child best. For example, I would recommend waiting until your child is 7 or 8 to go to Peru. Not only will they get more out of it, but if they are bored or fidgety, you will not have a great time.

2) If you think the price sounds expensive, try itemizing what it would cost to go it alone at comparable quality hotels and attractions. Often these tours sound expensive, but are better-priced because they have the power to negotiate good rates since they bring in more business… and some mistakes you may make with transportation, etc could cost you more in the long run. Plus, you have little extras that you may not even think about when calculating the cost of your trip- Disney had water bottles for us whenever we needed.

3) Find a tour group that fits your personality. Adventure? Scholarly? Volunteer-oriented? Family? Disney for example, makes family the focus.

4) If it is an international trip, I would highly recommend flying in a day before the tour begins to adjust to any time difference. Trust me, it is worth any extra money. If you are a zombie at the beginning of the trip, it is hard to recover.

Now that you have a general idea of a family vacation option, the next few days will take you on a more personal look at my vacation of epic proportions…a day by day journal of our adventure through Peru. From river rafting, to hiking the Inca Trail overlooking Machu Picchu, it was a trip we will always carry with us.

www.adventuresbydisney.com

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Happy Campers: Women reclaiming their lives over campfires, canteens, and classes

Believe it or not, it’s that time to start signing your kids up for summer camp to secure a spot. But how many of you long for the days of your summer camp youth? While signing your own child up to spend a few weeks on Sebago Lake in Maine, water skiing, swimming, and making s’mores are you secretly longing YOU were going again?

Campowerment

Campowerment

Well guess what? There is a camp for you. Campowerment. Sleep away camp for adults. It aims to bring out our your inner child, yet nurture the mature you.

Campowerment

Campowerment

Campowerment combines the magic of childhood summer camp with empowering, interactive workshops led by experts in health, wellness, love, spirituality, parenting, personal style, and business empowerment. Three days of growth, and learning from pros… and a lot of unbridled fun.

Campowerment

Campowerment

Women go to camp in the wilderness to disconnect, and end up connecting with each other, total strangers, through all sorts of camp-like activities – some challenging, some calming. From typical summer camp arts and crafts… to a ropes course and zipline… to sunset yoga, and of course – camp fires and flashlight chats. When the campers have had enough, they turn in for the night in their cabins, just like your old summer camp.

Campowerment

Campowerment

It’s a refreshing way to focus on different areas of your life with other women, while at the same time having some good old fashioned fun.

As of now, camps are in Malibu, CA… The Poconos, PA…Orange Springs, FL… and the Catskills, NY. The current price is $999, which includes all meals and activities.

The camp director, and brains behind the bunks, Tammi Leader Fuller, says she started the camp because …well, heck… I could never describe it like she does. Her story is a moving tale. Life led her to this path. She wants you to have enlightened fun. Please read it on her website when you visit. Here’s the link: www.campowerment.com/#!meet-tammi/c1asl

And here’s the homepage for s’more camp info 🙂 www.campowerment.com

Bring on the Kumbaya, Campowerment style.