Category Archives: Family Travel

How NOT to get bumped from a flight

United_787_800_FL

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!

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

IMG_6696

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.

img_3428

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.

img_1373

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.

img_2120

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.

img_1730

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.

img_1549

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 –

cal-a-vie

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.

Hammock_1000x417

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

Save

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.

 

 

Hotel of the Week: Orlando, for Less than $200 – Top Destination for the Holidays!

Magic Kingdom Main StreetAccording to an Orbitz travel survey, Orlando ranks as  the top place travelers are going this holiday season.While many of us are visiting Grandma, many more are apparently visiting Mickey and Minnie 🙂

IMG_1114I ‘ve been to Orlando a dozen times for work & pleasure, visiting  Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Universal Orlando, and all the other attractions. So I gotta tell you: For as much as Disney is SO great at making family vacations memorable and fun, choosing a hotel at Walt Disney World Resort can be VERY overwhelming. I am not kidding you when I say that if you look for a hotel at Walt Disney World Resort online, 30 very different lodging options pop up. Who has time to research which one is best?

(You can go through travel agents who specialize in Disney – They are also in the know about meal plans, ticket packages, etc & can steer you to the best savings. )

Most people booking the hotel themselves look at the price point for his or her budget- and there is a wide range…from thousands of dollars, to hundreds a night.

This past summer, my family and I tried one of their moderate/budget hotels –  we were only there two nights, with more time spent at the park than in our room. I was curious to see what $180 got you for one room where my entire family of five could stay together – two queen beds, and one pull down bed with  REAL mattress, not a roll away. A little squeezed, but as I said, the kids were up at the crack of dawn to get to the Magic Kingdom, and we were out late.

Port Orleans Riverside Walt Disney World ResortWe stayed at Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and were pleasantly surprised.

Port Orleans Resort RiversideLike all the Disney resorts, this one had a theme:  The Louisiana Bayou,  – think swamps and riverboats. Other Walt Disney resort themes are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, All Star Music, All Star Sports Resort, and a Beach Club to name a few.

Port Orleans wasn’t one of the more exciting themes for kids, but there is something nice about being in a tranquil setting near nature – ponds, greenery, etc – rather than neon lights and loud music. You’ll get plenty of that on the rides at Orlando’s theme parks.

Port Orleans Riverside, Walt Disney World Resort

The tranquil design is done really well -but lends itself to  be spread out on a lot of land. So if you can’t walk a lot, or get in late at night, try to request a room close to the main lobby BEFORE you arrive.  There are multiple pools and lounging areas and can make it more confusing when not in the light of day.

The rooms themselves are an ok size – But most importantly – they are clean. That is a consistent Disney trait. Port Orleans has connecting rooms for families as well.

Port Orleans Riverside

One trait that makes this resort unique is that it has a 95 foot waterslide on “Ol Man Island” – a man made island that is part of the hotel with a swimming pool and fishin’ hole. Think Tom Sawyer. Around the resort, there are five other pools. When it gets too hot in the middle of the day at the parks – and it DOES – it’s nice to come back & take a afternoon break. Although Disney does put spray misters on some of the park’s ride lines, they really can’t keep everyone cool – those lines can get really uncomfortable if they are long.

If you are a rare person who sleeps in late while at Walt Disney World, or anticipate being jet lagged, request a room away from any of the pools because they can be loud. Some of the favorite rooms are Magnolia Bend mansion rooms… closer to everything… & the Alligator Bayou Lodges are more rustic, & spread out.

photo 1There aren’t many places to eat here – one casual sit down restaurant open only for dinner, and heavy on Southern food – Boatwright Dining Hall.. or a food court with buffet service that is packed for breakfast!

photo 2One note – there are some Disney resorts like the Contemporary that are walking distance to the Magic Kingdom. Port Orleans is one of the farthest resorts from the park – it’s near Downtown Disney. (For those of you who know, Downtown Disney is like a Disney outdoor mall area, not part of the theme park.)  However – Disney offers great complimentary shuttle service to its resorts and parks. It is about a 15 minute shuttle ride from Port Orleans Riverside- which does seem like a long time at the end of a hot sweaty day at the Magic Kingdom- but for $180 a night? Worth it.

With tickets to the Magic Kingdom looming near the $100 range, my theory is that travelers will start compensating by staying at more of the budget hotels, not eating at the restaurants as much, and buying fewer souvenirs. If that’s the case – Port Orleans -Riverside should be considered.

 https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/port-orleans-resort-riverside/

War Memorials are Worth Visiting Beyond Veteran’s Day

Veteran's DayMany Americans today are giving thanks and appreciation to military personnel who have served in our wars. Around the country there are church services, parades, and moments of silence… as well as each of our own personal odes of gratitude.

Many of these formalities are taking place today at monuments or memorials specifically for our soldiers. But, while all the ceremony is nice, let’s not forget about these poignant public statues and reminders even when it’s not Veteran’s Day. There are so many educational displays dedicated to the remembrance of war and the warriors – many are great for families.

This summer I visited what may be the granddaddy of places to visit memorials – Our National Mall in Washington DC, where, in a matter of a couple hours you can visit three different war memorials.

Korean War Memorial, Washington DCThe Korean War Memorial happens to be my favorite – only because it is so different, and can be haunting when seen at low light.

National World War 2 Memorial

The National World War 2 Memorial is beautiful…

Vietnam Memorial from veteranstoday.comAnd the Vietnam Memorial is strikingly personal and human because of the more than 58,000 names you can read of those who sacrificed their lives in the war.

If you visit – here are some tips: In the summer, go at dusk when it’s not so hot and not so crowded. Pick a time when most travelers are eating dinner. BUT  – don’t wait until it’s too dark. The Vietnam Memorial is hard to see after dusk even though it is lit from the sidewalk.

Bring bottled water in a backpack or something, along with sunscreen and an umbrella. Wacky Washington DC weather can be humid, strikingly hot, and rainy all in the same minute.

bike rentals

Also – another way to get around is to rent bikes right there on the mall. The only downer is there are no kid-sized bikes, so teens and adults only.

Washington DC is obviously not the only place to learn about the sacrifices of our vets, and appreciate the memorials built for them. Here is a link to many others devoted to our men and women who devoted so much: www.usa.gov/Federal-Employees/Veterans-Memorials.shtml

Yes the pomp and circumstance is nice at many of these monuments on Veteran’s Day. But if you’d like to spend a more peaceful time, reflecting on our history with fewer people around, these special memorials are worth the visit year round.

And…In case you didn’t know – Veteran’s Day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War 1.

Thank you.