Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

Mulled Wine, Snowshoes and Ice Climbing – Best Ways to Brighten Your Winter Months

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Skiing and snowboarding may be winter’s top activities but there are plenty of other fun ways to embrace the cooler temps. If you’re looking for something to do this winter, whether with friends, on a date, or just some family fun, try a few of these winter must-do’s.

  1. Drink hot buttered rum and mulled wine – and hot chocolate for the kiddos, of course.
  2. Hot tubbing – Kick back in an outdoor Hot Tub. Is there really anything better?
  3. Take a carriage ride through downtown – Assuming that the weather outside is above zero, take a romantic carriage ride through a downtown near you.  By day or by night, there’s something special about snuggling with blankets and the gentle jingle of bells tinkling to the stride of strapping horses.Snowmobiler Driving Through Snow
  4. Ride on a snowmobile – A snowmobile is winter’s convertible.
  5. Take a trip to Reno - The city’s proximity to ski resorts and other recreational areas make Reno a top winter vacation spot. You can find 18 ski resorts in the Reno and Lake Tahoe area.
  6. Stay in the Québec Ice Hotel - The Hôtel de Glace is a must-see attraction to discover each winter. With its huge snow vaults and its crystalline ice sculptures, the Hôtel de Glace impresses by its dazzling decor. From January 5th to March 23th, enter this magical universe and live an incredible experience by visiting this ephemeral work of art.
  7. Strap on some snowshoes – Even your backyard can become a new adventure.  Local outdoor stores have hourly rentals for a one-time extravaganza.
  8. Try ice climbing – Learn to climb waterfall ice in New Hampshire. There are multiple guide companies to help you get your crampons.
  9. Visit Old Faithful and Yellowstone National Park - The famed national park is even more splendid in the. For a very unique experience stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The only way to get there is by a commercial snow coach.
  10. Watch the 2014 Olympic Winter Games – A great excuse to veg out on the couch and cuddle up by the fire in the dreariest month of the winter.

 

 
 

 

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Travel App of the Month: EpicMix

Friday, December 27th, 2013

The FREE and dare I say, addictive, EpicMix (EpicMix for Android) ski app keeps you in the “snow” if you ski in Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone (all in Colorado), Heavenly, Kirkwood, or Northstar (all in California). The app is feature-rich, and brings a whole new level of interactivity to your ski vacation.

EpicMix uses scanners mounted on lifts at each of these Vail Resorts ski areas to automatically read radio frequency identification tags embedded on people’s lift passes. Get on a lift and your elevation is automatically tracked. I find it especially interesting to see where my family (my son, in particular) has skied that day since they are typically more adventurous than dear ol’ mom.

EpicMix lets you:Familyskiday

  • Track your vertical feet
  • Access trail maps, lift status, run conditions, weather reports, web cams, and the latest traffic info for all six mountains
  • Race against your friends, family and even four-time World Cup Champion Lindsey Vonn
  • View and download photos taken by the EpixMix on-mountain photographers
  • Connect with friends and family within the app to share your ski results; and you can connect with Facebook and Twitter to share your action photos, activity, and special accomplishments

Special accomplishments? Yes! Skiers who have an RF-enabled Season Pass, Epic Day lift ticket, or PEAKS card earn digital pins for their ski activity and accomplishments on the mountains.
 If you are competitive or curious, it can be a lot of fun. Skiers collect points for each digital pin they earn and can choose to share their point totals to see how they measure up against all skiers and achieve some serious bragging rights. EpicMix posts nothing publicly until a user activates an EpicMix account and chooses to share information.

New for the 2013/2014 Ski Season: lesson goers (that’s me) can track their progress in Ski and Snowboard School with EpicMix Academy.

 
 

 

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The College Bowl Game Predicament

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Dedicated college football fans live and die by their team’s success each Saturday during football season. The thrill of watching your favorite team from the bleachers and not from the living room is a privilege that doesn’t come cheap. Travel to a bowl game, and the cost gets even higher. This bowl season, several teams (and their fans) are making cross-country trips, including the National Championship game, featuring Auburn and Florida State University.

College bowls are typically played in cities that make for a good winter weather escape: Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, Orlando, Atlanta, for example. This year, college football fans are finding it difficult to afford the travel cost of the bowl experience. And in turn, their universities are having trouble selling the ticket allotment they were required to purchase.

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Finding decent prices on airfare with such a quick turnaround is extremely challenging for fans. Tickets to the bowl games range from $95-$275, legitimately. Factor in other expenses such as organized festivities, celebrating after the game, lodging, food, attire, and it could get pricey quick.

Take UCF in Orlando. The team will square off against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona on January 3rd, but it’s going to be without its fan base. The high cost of plane tickets from Orlando to Phoenix during bowl week has jumped to more than $700; and has left the school with 75% of its ticket allotment.

Here are a few money saving tips if you’re hoping to attend a college bowl game this season:

  • Book now
  • When shopping for flights, consider flying into a larger airport within driving distance and then renting a car or taking a bus to the bowl city
  • Choose a hotel located 10-15 miles away from the bowl venue. Hotel prices and occupancy will be much higher the closer the hotel is located to the stadium.

 

I want to make a special shout-out to my hometown, Tampa, which will host the College Football Championship in 2017 for the first time.

 
 

 

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Where to Stay in Charlotte: TSB City of the Month

Monday, December 16th, 2013

From gleaming high-rise banking hotels to local B&Bs and water park resorts, Charlotte’s mix of hotel accommodations matches the city’s diversity of business, art and culture. So no matter what you are looking for when planning a visit to Charlotte, you’re sure to rest comfortably in ‘The Queen City.’

For Shopping

In the affluent SouthPark neighborhood, the Hampton Inn & Suites SouthPark at Phillips Place is just steps from shopping, wining and dining. Not to mention this gem is affordable too, with rates from $145/night on Hotels.com.  In the same area you may also want to consider a stay at the Marriott Charlotte Park Hotel.

For Sports

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If you want to get in the middle of Charlotte’s Center City, and close to Bank of America Stadium, reserve your room at the Westin Charlotte. It

has 700 rooms offering beautiful views; there’s even an indoor pool.

The Embassy Suites Charlotte/Concord Golf Resort & Spa is the “official” hotel of Charlotte Motor Speedway and is actually within walking distance. Many NASCAR drivers and teams actually stay here. But fast driving shouldn’t be the only reason to consider this resort; it also features a spa and golf course.

For Romance

It’s hard to not feel the love at the Charlotte landmark hotel where southern charm meet modern luxury. Duke Mansion was built in 1915, features 20 roomsand is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s played both home and host to plenty of prominent figures. The hotel operates as a non-profit with proceeds going to preserve and protect the Charlotte treasure.

For Business

A business traveler’s home away from home, The Hyatt Place Charlotte – City Park offers free parking, free Wi-fi, a convenient café/coffee shop for snacks on the go and conference rooms equipped with A/V resources.

2733328_25For Families

Smart parents know that when you are traveling on a site seeing vacation with the kids, planning some “quality kid time” is critical to the trip’s success. Charlotte’s Great Wolf Lodge is a great family destination and even makes for a great staycation for families living in the surrounding communities. A stay at this hotel includes access to the property’s 80,000 square foot water park.

 
 

 

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Things to do in Charlotte, NC: TSB City of the Month

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Charlotte is a fast growing city with much to enjoy for people of all ages. While most visitors head to ‘The Queen City’ between the spring and fall, there’s still plenty to do during the winter months; and right now during the holidays is no exception.

Holiday Happenings in Charlotte

Just 15 miles west of Charlotte is the small town of McAdenville (population 700). For the past 50 years, McAdenville, otherwise known as “Christmastown USA” has kept the Charlotte area merry and bright with its amazing light display that drawls more than 600,000 visitors each year and has even garnered the attention of TIME Magazine. There’s only one way through town so you can’t miss anything. Locals say the lights are best experienced on foot.

An animatronic orchestra of computerized bears, the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra, is one of Charlotte’s favorite Christmas attractions. The “Bearstein Bears” complete with singers play favorite holiday classics at Founders Hall for free daily throughout December.

200177110-001Things to Do in Charlotte

One of the city’s oldest cultural institutions is the Mint Museum. The historic building used to house the United States Mint – hence the name – but today its two-campus set-up houses both an impressive art collection and a popular craft and design museum.

North Carolina is regarded as the “Birthplace of Aviation,” and the Charlotte region is steeped in flight history. Located on the grounds of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum has a collection of over 50 aircraft and a large collection of smaller historic items related to aviation in the North and South Carolina.

The museum even recently added the body of US Airways flight 1549, the famed “Miracle on the Hudson” plane.

For the theme park enthusiast, you’ll be thrilled to know that Charlotte is home to Carowinds. This theme park actually crosses the borer between NC and SC, so you can be in two states at once. And, if it’s a water park you are looking for, Charlotte is also home to a Great Wolf Lodge, doubling as a great hotel option for your visit, too.

The first actually documented gold found in the United States occurred in the nearby Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC. There’s no charge to tour the mine or see the museum and it is $3 to pan for gold.

Food for the Soul in Charlotte

Charlotte’s unique blend of business and southern hospitality seem to be the right ingredient for culinary success in the city. You can find just about anything in Charlotte to please even the most discerning palettes. Here are a few dining recommendations for your visit to Charlotte.

Mert’s Heart & Soul serves southern cuisine that is as authentic as it comes. All I can say is “Yum”. Mert’s has the best fried chicken, shrimp & grits, fried catfish around. Be sure to stop by for all the fixins.

The North Carolina Barbecue Society created a BBQ Trail all the way to Tennessee featuring 24 historic barbecue pits. I’m not sure whether to file this under “things to do” or “where to eat” but either way it would be deliciously fun.

Soul Gastrolounge is a hip and delicious choice for dinner. It stands in the top ten of Zagat’s best restaurants in Charlotte list. And, you can even catch a glimpse of the restaurant as it’s a backdrop spot in the new TV series, The Novice.

Be sure to make dinner reservations early enough in the evening so you’ll be able to get downtown for the Bobcats game at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena. The new team brings a lot of new excitement to the area.

We’ll round out the week with a few hotel recommendations for when you visit Charlotte whether on business, pleasure, for romance or with family.

 
 

 

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The Digital Detox: Can You Really Disconnect on Vacation?

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Thanks to WiFi and 4G and the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to escape the going-ons of life, whether for work or social pleasures.  That’s why “digital detox” vacations are becoming more popular as people find themselves wanting to unplug and go off the grid for awhile, and actually enjoy some quality time with family or friends.

A number of great hotels and resorts in America are ready to help travelers disconnect while on vacation whether its through their remote locale or their take-no-prisoners approach to removing that cell phone from your hand.

Do you need a digital detox?

The hoteliers I spoke to say that it takes a few days for most guests to stop feeling antsy as a result of the separation from their devices. Physical activities, like surfing and yoga, help make the transition easier.

Off-the-Grid at Amangiri Resort

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Located in Southern Utah, just shy of the border with Arizona, sits the luxurious and unparalleled off-the-grid desert oasis, Amangiri Resort. With 600 protected acres looking out towards the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, this resort and its minimalist architecture blends spectacularly into the landscape. The resort pampers its guests with exquisitely prepared meals, the 25,000 sq. ft. Aman Spa, and a pool sunken into the rock formations that will take your breath away.

Escape to Little Palm Island

No phones, no TVs and no shortage of fun and romance with a private beach, outdoor pool, and fitness facility at Little Palm Island (a Noble House Resort). Located on Little Torch Key, the only way you are getting to or from this resort is by seaplane or boat. The cottages are lovely (outdoor showers, freestanding soaking tubs), the beaches are private and magical, and the opportunity to unwind and disconnect is yours the minute you make a reservation at this Florida Keys resort.

Silence in the City

Chicago is anything but off-the-grid, yet one hotel is helping some guests achieve silence in the city. The Hotel Monaco Chicago provides guests with a “black-out” option, whereby they surrender their gadgets to reception upon checking in. Guests can fight their gadget addictions and enjoy their stay sans digital intrusion with the help of the hotel’s attentive staff.

Disconnect to Reconnect at the Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

Guests at the Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo can have both an eco-adventure in the Costa Rican jungle and a serene surfing sanctuary. Through a partnership with iPhone case company, Uncommon, guests can choose to surrender their iPhones for 24 hours. And then the resort provides them with a list of 24 things to do without technology during that time at the resort. Phones are returned after the allotted time with a choice of four Costa Rican-themed iPhone cases. Activities include a Costa Rican coffee scrub treatment at the spa, and sipping fresh coconut water by the pool.

Tech-free Zones at Marriott Caribbean and Mexico Resorts

The JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa is one of nine Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean and Mexico Resorts featuring “tech-free zones” throughout their properties. These zones are designated to encourage guests to leave their digital devices in their hotel rooms and relax, read, or enjoy quiet conversation. I’d spend my time in the

14-foot dive pool with the artificial reef!

Focus on the Family at the Renaissance Pittsburgh

The Renaissance Pittsburgh is trying to keep families connected with its
“family digital detox package.” Instead of families occupying the same rooms but not sharing in the experience, the hotel encourages them to reconnect with one another. All laptops and mobile phones must be surrendered on check-in, and the television, telephone, and iPhone docking station are removed from the guest room. Instead, families are provided board games and playing cards.

How willing are you to disconnect on vacation?

 
 

 

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Family Obligation or Vacation? Try an Oblication!

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Stressed TravelerMany of you will be taking that obligatory family vacation over the holidays. And even though you’ll be taking your hard-earned time off of work, it doesn’t always feel like a vacation when you are going to visit your brother, in-laws, or attending a wedding or a family reunion across the state or across the country. It’s called an Oblication (Get it? Obligation + Vacation); and in fact, most of us can admit to traveling in the name of “duty” over “desire”. But the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

On the contrary! It’s entirely possible to make a mini-vacation out of almost any type of travel, whether that’s a family visit, wedding weekend, work trip, or even over Thanksgiving: the most popular holiday for an Oblication. Look for opportunities to combine obligation and leisure travel. For example, a family reunion in Chicago is an ideal set-up for a getaway whether you stay a few extra days to tour the Windy City or to visit Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (about 75 miles away). When we visit our families in Florida each year, we try to take time for some added excitement at the amusement parks of Orlando.

Tips That Will Have You Looking Forward to Your Next Oblication!

Get a Tour: What a better way to spend time with family and friends than in exploring their city or nearby attractions. You might be surprised what you’ll discover, so ask relatives to give you a tour. I enjoy playing tour guide to family and friends visiting with us in Colorado. I even take it as a challenge to show repeat visitors something new each time they come to town.

Leave Time for Off-the-Map Adventures. If you’re driving to an obligation like a wedding or family visit, allow yourself the time to enjoy the sights along the way. There are some great road trip travel apps that can help guide you to these roadside wonders. Plus, you may just end up with a good story to tell the in-laws.

Royalty Free stockAnd because so many of you will be traveling later this month, here are a few Holiday Travel Do’s and Don’ts to remember.

Extend Your Trip. If you have more than a few extra hours to spare then add a day or two to the beginning or end of your trip and visit a place you’d really like to see before you go home. Doing this will help you feel like you did get something special out of your trip, something just for you. TSB Insider Tip: booking multiple one-way tickets is often less expensive than booking one multi-city airfare when you are traveling to more than one destination.

Pack your patience. Anytime you are traveling and a larger group is involved, whether a holiday or if you’re attending someone else’s special event, things are automatically more complicated. Accept that schedules will be delayed or changed; some people may disagree. The travel tips in a recent post Travel Sticky Situation: Vacation with the In-laws are tailor-made for oblications!

What about you? Do you feel like most of your travel is devoted to obligation trips? Do you try to turn some of those trips into potential leisure getaways? What, in your opinion, are the advantages and disadvantages in doing so?

 

 

 

 
 

 

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The Best of Halloween Haunts 2013

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

It’s scary how big of a business Halloween has become. Here are some of the best boo-tastic events of the season.

Most Authentic Halloween Haunt

Jack o'lanterns in row, duskSleepy Hollow: Not just the stuff of legends and TV shows. The actual town of Sleepy Hollow, New York “comes alive” this time of year. There’s something for everyone in Sleepy Hollow Country: haunted hayrides, Gothic mansions, blazing jack-o’-lanterns, cemetery tours, farmers markets, live music, street fairs, parades—and even the Headless Horseman himself. Throughout October, the 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor transforms into a fearsome landscape ruled by vampires, witches, undead soldiers, ghouls, and ghosts. This weekends-only event is NOT suitable for small children or for the faint of heart, but it is Sleepy Hollow’s premiere haunted attraction, right in the heart of the village.

Getting there isn’t so tough, Sleepy Hollow is located 2.5 hours from Philadelphia, 3.5 hours from Boston, and 5 hours from Washington, DC. If you fly into any of NYC’s three main airports, you can rent a car or perhaps take a hotel shuttle and you’ll reach Sleepy Hollow faster than you can say Washington Irving!

Best Amusement Park Halloween Haunting

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights in both Hollywood and Orlando locations could be the best Halloween extravaganza ever. With so many attractions already suited for Halloween: ‘Jaws’, ‘Men in Black’, the Monster Café, the Horror Make Up Show, even Shrek 3D movie is based around Halloween. Universal also creates some of the most detailed haunted houses around complete with super scare zones throughout the parks.

Tampa Busch Gardens wins on unique originality and hard core haunting. Howl-O-Scream takes place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through October from 7:30pm – 1am. Prices begin at $35/person. It looks so scary, I could hardly look at the website!

It seems so scary that the warnings were enough to keep this squeamish girl away, but for those of you who love a good haunting, Nightfull in Old Tucson is one Halloween spooktacular event not to be missed! Plus, October is a perfect month for visiting Arizona. Check out these Tucson hotel deals from Hotels.com.

Best Not So Scary Halloween - Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

On select nights between now and November 1st, The Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando, FL hosts a fun-filled, trick or treat event from 7pm – Midnight. Tickets start at $57 per child. I love Disney in October: the crowds are fewer, the temperatures are lower, and the hotels are cheaper, too. This is more my speed.

Happy Haunted Halloween!

 

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Atlanta – Hotel Highlights

Friday, September 27th, 2013

TSBCotM

 

 

 

 

Hotels in Atlanta – Where to Stay When You Are There to Play

Atlanta is equally matched with a great selection of accommodations as it is with great things to do while you are visiting the Cultural Capital of the South. Hotels.com lists 487 choices for hotels around the metro Atlanta area. Narrowing it down to just a few wasn’t easy, but here are the Travel Smart Blog recommendations for hotels in Atlanta.

Best Royalty for a Weekend Hotel: St. Regis Hotel - This five-star luxury hotel has more accolades than I can list, including being #1 on US News list of Best Hotels in Atlanta and is tops on the list of Best Hotels in the US. The hotel’s décor and amenities are fit for a king. Located in the chi-chi Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Buckhead is one of the loveliest — and busiest — parts of town, offering exceptional nightlife, dining, and shopping. It’s near the Atlanta History Center and the Swan Coach House.

  • AtlantaTSB Insider Tip: Swan Coach House - This historic carriage house turned restaurant in one of my most favorite girly places in the US. If you’re in Atlanta for a girlfriend’s getaway, looking for the perfect mother-daughter lunch spot, or shower locale, experience the southern hospitality and elegant cuisine of the Swan Coach House.

Most Attentive Staff: Mandarin Oriental Atlanta is the former Mansion on Peachtree Hotel and takes the cake when it comes to guest service! This luxury residence hotel employs three staff members to every overnight guest. Where else does a private butler come with every hotel room? And don’t overlook the views! The views from this 40+ story hotel are unparalleled.

Most Fun on a Saturday Night: Where do the locals go for fun on a Saturday night? Loews Atlanta Hotel has a fantastic lobby bar attracting locals and visitors alike. Located two blocks from Piedmont Park and a five minute walk to the Woodruff Arts Center, the Loews Atlanta is the centerpiece of 12th and Peachtree, a new, luxury, shop-eat-play area in Midtown Atlanta.

Best Hotel for Families: Residence Inn by Marriott Atlanta Buckhead -This reasonably priced all-suite hotel offers accommodations large enough for my family of five. Plus fully equipped kitchens, washers and dryers, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, barbecue grills, and basketball, volleyball, and paddle tennis courts. Complimentary breakfast is served every morning. Many rooms even have fireplaces. And it’s close to Legoland Discovery Center and Lenox Square Mall.

Best for Pets: Leave no man or pet behind when you stay at the trendy Hotel Indigo - All pets are welcome — no fees, no weight limit. If you’re in town on Tuesdays, don’t miss Canine Cocktail Hour in the bar. And you are dog-walking distance to the famed World of Coke and Georgia Aquarium.

Best Aparthotel: Twelve Atlantic Station is a premier all-suite boutique hotel that offers guests the experience of staying in an upscale urban condominium, while enjoying the vast range of shopping, dining and entertainment options that are available in exciting Downtown Atlanta. Twelve Atlantic Station is within walking distance of anything you could possible want to do. Don’t miss the Museum of National Patriotism and The Whole World Theatre.

  • TSB Insider Tip: Whole World Theatre - If you enjoy Improvisational Comedy then spend a hilarious evening with the talented company of the Whole World Theatre.

 

 

 
 

 

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Hotel Price Index: Family Travel Spotlight

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

In the latest edition of the Hotel Price Index, the Family Travel Spotlight identifies five key values of family travelers; value-consciousness, making memories, staying healthy and safe, providing activities for kids and adults and staying close to home.

Hotels are changing the amenities and services offered based on changing family vacation needs. Some of the top destinations that are catering towards family vacationers are San Antonio, Texas ($126 USD per night according to the HPI), Punta Cana, Dominican Republic ($267 USD), Chicago, Illinois ($162 USD), Orlando, Florida ($101 USD), and Vail, Colorado ($261 USD).

See the Hotels.com Family Travel Spotlight video below to find out which hotels are stepping up for these ever-changing travelers!

Have been to any of these hotels or know of other kid/family-friendly destinations that are worth a visit? Let us know in the comments below!

 
 

 

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