Family Road Trip Ideas

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If you’re thinking of heading out on the road this summer, you’re not alone.  In 2012 a vast majority of travelers used their cars to get to their summer vacation destination.  How much of a majority? Close to 90% according to AAA. With airfares still high, it’s much cheaper to travel by car, especially for families.

The next question to consider is where to go.  Below are a few ideas for a summer road trip that you can propose to your family.  If you want to ensure a successful trip, you need to involve the entire family in the planning.  While you may not be able to give everyone their first choice trip, you may be able to let everyone choose one favorite activity along the way.  That way everyone will be invested in the enjoying the trip.

grand canyonRegional Getaways

Rather than choosing a single destination, consider targeting a region of the US and making a true road trip where you visit several different cities and attractions in a specific area.  New England offers a mix of big cities and small towns with a lot of historical landmarks.  The western US has a plethora of national parks as well as outdoor activities and even some old mining towns.  Other regions with lots to offer include the Gulf Coast, the Great Lakes, the California Coast, The Pacific Northwest and the South.

Here are just a few attractions that you could fit into a road trip through the Southwest/Western US:

  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Red Rocks of Sedona
  • Grand Canyon
  • Monument Valley
  • Valley of the Gods
  • Hoover Dam
  • Las Vegas, NV

Theme Trips

Another popular way to spend a summer vacation with the kids is to design a route filled with historical landmarks or museums and cultural sites.  Traveling to Civil War battle sites or the art galleries of New England are theme vacations, but so is attending games at all the major league baseball stadiums in driving distance or driving to all the major theme parks in southern California.

Here are a few other ideas for theme vacations:

  • roadside attractions on Route 66
  • Rocky Mountain mining towns
  • cowboy attractions in the Great Plains
  • tribal landmarks in the southwest

Local Trips

statue of libertyFor those who are tired of staycations but don’t have the money for a full-on vacation, consider planning a series of day trips to attractions in your area.  Virtually every state has its own interesting destinations and most people are too busy dreaming of faraway trips to visit their own backyard.  Just ask New Yorkers how many have been to the Statue of Liberty and how many people in Boston have walked the Freedom Trail.

While going to attractions in your own town counts as a staycation, driving one or two towns over or taking a day or overnight trip to a nearby lake, park, or beach is definitely a “road trip.”  This is easier than it seems because most towns have something that they are known for or want to be known for and you can go check it out, whether it’s a museum, a factory tour or the deepest natural well in the US.

To save up for your road trip(s), visit www.moneymutualfast.com for money management tips and suggestions.

A little imagination, a few tanks of gas, and a desire to have a good time are all that’s really needed to plan a fun and memorable family road trip this summer.  Enjoy!

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Popular Spring Break Locations

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With winter still raging on in many areas, loads of citizens are focusing their thoughts to warmer weather and a chance to let loose. Spring Break is just around the corner, and there are plenty of places to let loose and bask in the warm sunny weather. Whether you are traveling with your family, or you’re trying to skip town with some of your roommates, there are plenty of Spring Break destinations to choose from. Read on for a look at five of the most popular Spring Break destinations for fun in the sun and some good ol’ R&R.

bahamasBahamas

The Bahamas is an excellent option for a Spring Break vacation. Whether you are traveling alone or with a group, there is plenty to see, do and enjoy. Catch some rays on white sandy beaches, enjoy the local cuisine at top eateries such as the Bahamian Club, Nobu, and Moso. If you’re in the mood for a little excitement, go to Blue Lagoon Island and see how many dolphins you can catch a glimpse of, go kayaking on crystal blue waters or check out the underground dungeons at Fort Charlotte.

Hawaii

Another popular Spring Break vacation spot is Hawaii. The beautiful islands offer a picturesque backdrop for relaxing, unwinding and enjoying the rich culture. Enjoy fine seafood dishes at local restaurants, learn how to hula with the best instructors, or see history in action and visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

Punta Cana

Punta Cana is another great vacation spot for Spring Break. Located in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is an affordable vacation option that offers a lot of bang for your buck. Hit one of the island’s many lush golf courses, take a dinner cruise and delight in decadent cuisine and luscious sites, or partake in one of many beach-based activities such as scuba diving or snorkeling.

Puerto RicoPuerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a dream vacation for many people. Featuring a rich culture, beautiful scenery delicious food and a vibrant history, Puerto Rico is a top spot for Spring Break. Whether you take in the sights of historic San Juan, stroll along the picturesque beaches of Caguas or enjoy top cuisine at one of the island’s high-rated eateries, Puerto Rico is an excellent choice for many travelers.

Jamaica

Many people find a Spring Break in Jamaica to be just what the doctor ordered. With beautiful sights, plenty to see and do, as well as friendly locals, Jamaica will leave you wishing you could stay forever.

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Planning a Successful Family “Field Trip” Vacation

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Call it what you will – a field trip vacation, a day outing, a “stay-cation” – the fact is that in these tough economic times many of us are finding ourselves in the position of having to scale back our vacation plans. If a full-blown vacation is not in the budget this year, here are a few ways to make the most of the money you do have to spend and show the family a good time, even if it’s just for a day.

Parents can learn from teachers who have to plan field trips to engage and enlighten their students throughout the school year.  Tips #1-3 below come straight from educators while #4-5 are adapted specifically for families

field museum1. Plan Ahead

Make a list of every interesting place you can think of that is within comfortable driving distance or that is along the route of your preferred mode of transport (bus, train, etc.). Start with your own town or region and work your way out from there. You may be surprised at how much there really is to do close to home. Use local websites and other resources to find out about events that you may have overlooked in the past. Pay special attention to educational and historical sites as these will combine learning with fun.

If you are looking for activities to fill several days, make sure you aren’t outspending in transportation costs what you would be spending on a hotel stay. That just defeats the purpose.  Once you have a decent-sized list of places to go, sit down with the family and decide on one (or two, or however many you are looking to plan).

2. Know Your Budget

The amount of money you spend will determine the number of “field trips” you can take, so if you have several days to fill, select several inexpensive destinations. If you only have a day, you have more room to splurge. You might also want to investigate free activities that may be hosted by local communities and incorporate them into your day trip. Many towns offer free concerts, movie nights, outdoor plays and other family-oriented activities as part of their civic calendar, especially in summertime.

3. Be flexible

Try to have some flexibility when it comes to the dates of your field trips. Weather can put a huge damper on your plans. If you have to use a specific day or set of days, consider having two sets of plans that compensate for indoor and outdoor activities or simply plan to go on the spur of the moment when the weather is perfect.

4. Pack a cooler

If you have young children, consider packing your meals and saving the food dollars for fun things like ice cream or other treats. Packing meals will also free up funds for souvenirs and it will relieve the stress of having to seek out “kid friendly” eateries. Make mealtime part of the event. Make a big deal over your picnic. Pack everybody’s favorites and have fun sharing that time together.

5. Most of all, have fun

Keep the atmosphere of your field trip vacation light and positive. You want to walk away from even these simple trips with great memories so that, if your circumstances haven’t improved next year, everyone can still be excited about the time the family gets to spend together.

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Romantic Getaways for Valentine’s Day

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valentineStores began stocking their shelves with boxed candy, heart balloons, stuffed animals and other sugary sweet sentiments that you could give your loved one this Valentine’s Day almost before Christmas was over. While some couples prefer to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day the traditional way by exchanging gifts and enjoying a night out on the town, other couples prefer to take a more romantic and intimate option. What could be more romantic than going on a private, impromptu getaway for Valentine’s Day weekend? Read on for a look at five romantic getaways for Valentine’s Day.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine is an excellent suggestion for a Valentine’s Day getaway. With picturesque scenery, top-rated seafood and lobster houses and more than their fair share of top shelf bed and breakfasts, Bar Harbor is an inviting location for couples looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day. While Bar Harbor is chilly in February, you can still enjoy what Maine has to offer from dining, lodging and entertainment.

New York City

A trip to New York City is another viable option for a Valentine’s Day getaway with your sweetie. With the excitement of Times Square, the appeal of Broadway and not to mention the long list of delectable dining options to choose from, the Big Apple is an outstanding choice for couples looking to break out of their ordinary Valentine’s Day routine. As a word of caution, be sure that you obtain dinner reservations prior to your trip as many restaurants fill up fast for Valentine’s Day and the days leading up to it.

napa valley grapesNapa Valley

Napa Valley is known as Wine Country in California and it is an amazing option for a couple’s getaway. Basque in the warmth of the California sunshine, enjoy wine tastings at one of Napa’s many vineyards and take a luxurious drive down California’s coastal highway. Napa Valley is a refreshing option that many couples will find enjoyable.

Denver, Colorado

Another great location for a Valentine’s Day couples retreat is Denver, Colorado. Imagine brilliant, a picturesque scenery, opportunities for fun on the slopes, and top rated restaurants to enjoy. Denver is a fun and romantic option for couples.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Take a step back in time with a couples retreat in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. This is a great option if you and your significant other love to learn new things, soak up history and culture and enjoy delicious dining and exciting shows.

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Take a Trip to Formula One

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Every race fan recognizes the unique experience offered by attending a Formula One event.  It’s not just a matter of watching some of the best drivers in the world race amazing vehicles at top speeds. It’s the locations where the races are held. In any given year an F1 groupie can travel across five continents and attend races in some of the most exotic and exciting locales in the world.

While it’s usually royalty and celebrities who can afford to follow their favorite F1 driver around the world, fans of more modest means can still plan a trip to Formula One as a dream vacation.

Choose a Race

The United States typically hosts at least one F1 event a year. There may still be time for fans to get tickets to the 2013 United States Grand Prix to be run November 15th-17th in Austin, Texas.  If not, there are races in Korea, Japan, India,, Abu Dhabi, and Brazil remaining in 2013.

Singapore Grand PrixFor fans who need to plan further ahead, the 2014 schedule has already been announced with 21 races on the calendar.  The season kicks off in Australia in March beforee traveling through Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Russia, The US, Mexico and Brazil. Planning a vacation is simply a matter of choosing which country to visit and setting the visit to include the Formula One event.

Logistics

Formula One’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), makes it easy for race fans to attend events. The F1 website offers travel packages as well as tickets and information on hotels. It is also possible to work with a travel agent to design a vacation package with F1 as the focal point. And, of course, many attendees choose the do-it-yourself option of putting together their own travel, accommodation, and ticket arrangements.

Once the tickets are bought and the travel arranged, fans need only think of a few other considerations.  A passport will be needed for foreign travel. Local currency may need to be acquired. Climate-appropriate clothing should be chosen and perhaps a language phrase book. Travellers should also reseach when going to foreign countries whether their technology, such as smartphones and tablets, will work with foreign networks.

Other than all that, it is a matter of identifying local sites to see and deciding which racers to root for!

Robert Zelman is a sports and travel blogger who loves nothing more than to travel to the top sporting events around the world.  In addition to covering Formula One’s European leg, he also attends the 24 Hours of Le Mans to watch top drivers like Scott Tucker and Mark Patterson.

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Safe Summer Fun

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Summer is here and that means lots of time will be spent outside running and playing and swimming. While we all want to relax and enjoy our various summer activities it’s even more important that we are vigilant about watching our kids around water.

In the US there are approximately 3,500 unintentional drowning deaths each year, about 10 per day. And children between the ages of 1-4 are most often the victims. Whether you are at a public or residential pool or a natural body of water, nothing can replace always knowing where your child is.

Water safety is a serious issue and fortunately there are several things that you can do to keep yourself and your child safe this summer.

Swim lessons. Knowing how to swim is the first and most important step that you can take to stay safe in the water. And your never too young, or too old, to start learning. Being able to get to the edge of the pool or float on your back until help arrives can mean the difference in life and death. There is a video on YouTube that has gone viral that shows a 16 month old swimming back and forth across the pool and back floating when she gets tired. It’s never too early to get your kids in swim lessons.

Barriers. There is nothing like locked doors and fence to keep the kids out of the pool when there is no supervision. Keeping pool toys cleaned up around the pool will also help reduce the allure of the pool. Regardless of the obstacles you put in place, kids can be ingenious when it comes to overcoming them, you must still be constantly aware of where they are and what they are doing.

Follow local laws and regulations when out on natural bodies of water. Always wear a life jacket. This rule applies to everyone. Even the most experienced swimmer can drown if they get caught in a current or hit their head. Be mindful of currents, rip tides, or other safety concerns for the specific body of water you are at and follow recommendations if you get caught in one.

Summer is a fun time to experience new things and spend quality time with friends and family; taking time to make sure that you and your kids are safe will increase the chance that your summer stays fun and doesn’t end in tragedy.

 

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Squatting Laws Can Take Away Vacation Property

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houseMany people don’t know the laws surrounding the property they own. They might know the property tax laws, or at least the basics, but for the most part they probably only know how much they have to pay each year, and they may not even know that much. There are a number of laws that can cause a person to no longer own their land anymore, and all home owners should know about this. Squatters are a big problem in many areas and owners who do not live near their property should always have a company that can fit their needs to help them out.

Richard owned 15 acres of land in the middle of nowhere. He planned on building a house on it and moving out there when he retired. He wanted to have a little farm and live out his days in the wilderness. In the meantime he told his neighbor that they could use the land to plant some plants. He figured that it would help the land become fertile until he could start working it. Unfortunately he lost his job and couldn’t afford to keep paying the taxes on it, so he went to sell the land. His neighbors protested and said that the land is theirs not his so he can’t sell it. The judge, in seeing that he wasn’t using it and they were, decided in their favor. Now he can’t even sell that land to help himself out, or to move onto when he gets older.

This is a real situation that can happen. It is called squatting and was set into law during the Great Depression. This more than anything else explains what is meant by “Possession is nine tenths of the law.” It turns out that if an owner is not using a property someone else can simply take that property by living there and using the land or house for a specific period of time. This time period has changed, and you may want to find out how long it is in your city, but better than that would be to hire an attorney to evaluate the situation.

These people will take care of a place and will make some money for you in the process. Many others can take a second or third home and get it ready to be rented out, used to make extra money. They will make sure that renters are placed in empty houses and that houses that they haven’t found renters for are empty and don’t have people living in them. If someone breaks into a place and lives there for that same amount of the time they can take possession of the house.

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Vacation Homes in Canada

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CanadaMost Americans think of Canada as a snowy, cold wasteland.  They can’t imagine buying a vacation home there instead of someplace warm and tropical.  However, Canada has a lot to offer in the form of vacations, and vacation homes.  From seaside cottages on Prince Edward Island to upscale condos in Montreal or Toronto, to ski homes in the Canadian Rockies, there are a plethora of vacation home options.

When it comes time to actually invest in a vacation home to return to year after year, there are some things that American buyers need to keep in mind.

1. Where/What to buy?

Just as when buying a primary residence, location, size, and home features are going to be important.  It’s not just about being close to the beach and having great views. Buyers need to consider whether mountain roads get closed leaving them snowbound for weeks or months, utilities, maintenance of the property during off-season, and whether they need to store sports equipment year round or have adequate parking for their car.

2. Legal Matters

Living in the home less than six months out of the year makes the homeowner a non-resident.  Some Canadian provinces (Alberta, PEI, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) have restrictions on the type and/or amount of property non-residents can own.   Mortgages for non-residents require a higher down payment than for residents (usually 35% versus 25% for residents) and must be obtained from a Canadian bank, not a foreign one.

3. Sharing

Since a vacation home, by definition, is only used a short time each year, many buyers choose to share ownership.  This may be through a formal time-sharing agreement or an informal one with family or friends.  In the latter case, it is important that all those involved understand whose name will be on the deed and how much time each buyer is entitled to based upon the amount they pay.  It’s probably a good idea to have a written agreement even amongst family members who are sharing ownership of a vacation home, if for no other reason than to avoid arguments about who gets the house when.

4. Caretaking

During the off months someone will need to keep an eye on the property, even if it is closed down.  Checking on the condition of the property or maintaining it during off-season requires a local caretaker.  This may be someone who is paid a fee or someone who lives on part of the property year-round in exchange for caretaking. An alternative is to rent the house out to a tenant during the rest of the year.  This works well for students or other seasonal residents whose schedule is complementary to the owner’s use of the home.

These are hardly the only considerations when shopping for a Canadian vacation home, but it is a good place to start in doing research and beginning the process.

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photo by: Яick Harris
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Pawtucket Falls and Lowell

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Thirty miles outside of Boston, you’ll find Pawtucket Falls and the site where Pennacook Indians lived, fishing and growing crops, but when settlers from Europe arrived, sometime in the late 1600s, there was a need for more food than what the local means of agriculture could provide, so eventually two canals were built, Pawtucket and Middlesex, opening the path for various glassworks and mills, both saw and spinning.

PawtFallsThe city of Lowell was founded in 1820, but begun by Francis Cabot Lowell, when he turned created power from the waterways and turned the textile industry on its head.  Boott Mill was the first textile mill Lowell built, and it’s now a part of the Lowell National Historical Park, where a number of these early days have been preserved for future visitors.  Lowell is also considered the first American factory town; when the Great Depression hit over a century later, the area fell on hard times, but today, there’s a number of sports teams and revitalization to the old mill buildings.  Lowell has had a rebirth as a tourist town, a national park, and a city filled art galleries, boutiques and restaurants.

If you make this place a vacation destination, you’ll see that the hotels lowell offers its traveling public are among the best available, and you’ll find great views of the Merrimack River.

The museums offer an excellent history of the lives of the people who used to work in the first factory town, but if you’re looking for Pawtucket Falls, you may not find exactly what you’re expecting.  The name of the falls means “Great Falls,” and the waterfall and rapids dropped 32 feet in under a mile; however, the falls impeded travel along the river and the new settlers to the area built the canals, which allowed Lowell’s residents to use hydropower, running the various textiles factories through a canal system.  In the 1820s, a dam was built at the head of the falls in 1820 and again twenty years later in the 1840s.  You can still see the work of that last expansion — a stone dam that channels much of the Merrimack River into the canal, which is why the Pawtucket Falls today are dry, although, when heavy water flow comes over the dam, the falls exist again, if only for a little while.

 

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Live the Outdoor lifestyle

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spaIn the summer, Americans basically live outside. From Memorial Day to Labor Day we grill our meat over an open flame, chill in our hottubs or by the pool.  Making the most of your outdoor living space is never a bad idea. Here are a few ideas to consider if you want to remodel your backyard and turn it into a backyard oasis.

If you have a pool in your backyard you should think about adding a hot tub spa to your outdoor repertoire. They are great for relaxing. Especially if you are an athlete or older and have any aches and pains, are working on weight loss or losing belly fat  – then a spa is a great way to help with those. In fact, that is what the technology was originally invented for. The inventor made a pump to attach to his son’s bath tub because he had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from birth. After the technology worked for him, the inventors decided to manufacture it and make money off of it. That family was the Jacuzzi family. And you thought that was just a funny name for one.

Another great way to spend time outside with your family is with your grill. If you use your grill a lot you should consider getting a built in grill. They are great in making your outside living area more tailored to your needs. You can get all the bells and whistles to go along with these types of grills as well. If you grill often it could be a good use of your money to upgrade your outdoor cooking abilities. They have something to suit your every need depending on your lifestyle.

Taking to your backyard can be more fun and rewarding with a few upgrades. Nothing beats spending time with your family and if you give them a place to hang out together it will be easier to have fun.

BBQ Shrimp

bbqEverything seems to taste better on the grill. Steaks and burgers are as classic as the hot dog, chicken is a favorite standard, and ribs are a long process that’s worth every minute. Shrimp, however, is one of the quickest delicacies to prepare, and has a relatively short commitment. Shrimp on the barbie is as classic as it gets. The grill brings out a very special flavor, and when the marinate is just right, these flavors all marry in a pretty spectacular way. The cooking time for shrimp is only about seven minutes, a very wonderfully short amount of time for any meal. This means that shrimp just might have the market cornered for their level of return for the investment. The secret, then, is in the marinade, since the cooking time is easy and reasonable.

The marinading process, likewise, isn’t very complex, just a bit time-consuming. With this, it’s going to be an addictive habit to experiment with the flavors. A short cooking time means that you can play around a lot with ingredients, and there’s little time lost, because almost anything is going to be pretty delicious. Barbecue sauce is one possibility, and for that there’s no preparation. Brush it on before putting it on the grill, again, for about 7 minutes on a medium to medium high flame, turning halfway through. Other favorite ingredients, and here is where it gets very juicy, are butter, oil, garlic, lemon juice, as well as basil and parsley. Try melting butter and mixing with olive oil. Add a little lemon juice, and a generous amount of crushed garlic, and let the shrimp soak in this mixture for at least two hours. These are some of the finest flavors that shrimp connoisseurs love, and it’s fun to experiment with marinading times. The cooking process here, is also the same. 7 minutes, and turn once halfway through. The shrimp are done when the color of the meat starts to change. Fantastic and reliable!

 

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