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April 2008

April 29, 2008

Baring All--Or Not--On Your Next Beach Getaway

By Liza Prado

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Easy, Tiger: Respect local culture and customs before stripping off (John Foxx/Stockbyte)

I've had a hard time writing this blog because each time I start it (this is my fourth effort), I end up sounding like someone other than myself. So let me just say from the start, I'm not a conservative. Or a prude. Or someone who often wears a one-piece bathing suit. But despite all of those things, it really bugs me that travelers are so quick to go topless or nude when they're on their beach vacations. It seems that when faced with the decision between having a perfect tan and offending local residents, the tan wins out. I can't count the number of times I've seen locals swimming in oversized T-shirts trying their best to overlook the scantily clad foreigners stretched out in the midday sun. I don't get it. For most people, it'd be like going to your neighborhood playground and seeing a bunch of foreigners sunbathing nude. It'd be upsetting and disrespectful (not to mention illegal in all 50 states).

So why do it? I think it's easy to travel to another country and to do whatever you're used to doing at home. Especially when you're heading to a place that caters to foreign travelers. From bagels and Bud Light to rental cars and English speakers, you can travel to just about any beach destination and experience some semblance of your everyday life. But, part of the rush of traveling is to experiment trying new things—c'mon, how often are you going to eat a mango on a stick? Or dune surf? Or ride in an overcrowded chicken bus? Traveling can be a life-changing experience, giving you an insight into different cultures and ways of doing things. Sounds cliché, I know, but I wholeheartedly believe it.

Continue reading "Baring All--Or Not--On Your Next Beach Getaway" »

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It's Greek to Me

Through the Looking Glass: Matala Beach, Crete (Nicholas Pitt/Digital Vision)

It's impossible to head to Greece and not show the kids the famous columns of the Parthenon atop the lofty Acropolis, but after that you've earned your ticket out of Greece's dusty, chaotic, and hot capital city. And if you're smart, that ticket should put you on a flight to Crete. This 156-mile-long island offers the quintessential Greek experience, where a lengthy history merges with the mountains and beaches of a glorious landscape.

Stay in Chania, a northern port town nestled between hillsides and the Med. Narrow streets wind from the waterfront to buildings still standing from Venetian times. The Creta Paradise hotel has its own petting zoo, though you won't need one in May and June, when turtles swim back to the beach to lay their eggs. Families with older children should opt for the daylong hike through 11-mile-long Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in all of Europe.

Visit's European Family Vacations Guide for more of the best place to visit across the continent, from the outdoor wonders of the Scottish Highlands or Swiss Alps to world-beating cultural capitals like London or Rome.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation

April 24, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime: Biking the Pan-American Highway with Ten-Year-Old Twins

By Guest Blogger

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In our line of work, we get to hear about some amazing travel adventures, and this week's guest blogger, Nancy Sathre-Vogel, is about to undertake one of the most incredible and admirable yet: a 20,000-mile, 30-month bike journey down the Pan-American Highway with her husband and ten-year-old twins. Follow the family's preparations and journey at

"Hey, Davy! Get your math book, would ya?" I asked my ten-year-old son as I sat beneath a towering cardón cactus somewhere in Baja California, Mexico. Rummaging through one of my bike panniers, Davy retrieved his math book from its storage place next to our cooking skillet before joining me on our tarp for his lesson on fractions.

His education may not be a traditional one but, we believe, it's the best thing going.  Davy and his twin brother, Daryl, spent their entire third grade year (in 2006-07) bicycling 9,300 miles around the U.S. and Mexico, learning from the best teacher there is, Mother Nature herself. And now they are getting ready to head back out to spend Grades 5, 6, and 7 on the road.

My family (including our boys, my husband, me, and our dog) will begin pedaling from the northern terminus of the Pan-American Highway in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on June 8, and we'll keep our bike tires pointed south for the next 30 months or so until we arrive at the southernmost point on the same road in southern Argentina. If all goes to plan, our boys will become the new Guinness World Record holders as the youngest people to cycle the Pan-American Highway.

Continue reading "Trip of a Lifetime: Biking the Pan-American Highway with Ten-Year-Old Twins" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Outdoor Adventures · Road Trips

April 22, 2008

Top 15 Whitewater Rafting for Families

Stuck with the vacation-planning blues? Faced with too many options and too little time? Fear not, friends, we've recruited the adventure-travel experts at to join our crack team of travel bloggers. Part of a regular series, this column will help you pinpoint that trip of a lifetime, whether it's a supported trek through the Swiss Alps, a multi-day family rafting adventure, or a quick outdoor getaway for next weekend. -- The Editors

With some parts of the U.S. enjoying record snowfall this past winter, it's now the turn of river rats to rejoice, with heavy spring snowmelt turning rivers from Vermont to California into raging torrents of whitewater. Young families or newcomers to whitewater rafting will want to steer clear of the big waves, but we've already done some of the sorting for you with our top 15 picks for the best whitewater rafting (and some canoeing) for families. Whether you're looking to take in some dramatic mountain scenery, observe otherwise-hard-to-spot wildlife, or bond with the family on a longer multi-day trip, we're pretty sure you'll find something to suit your level of watery action. Check out the map below for details on our top family picks, plus browse's 2008 Whitewater Rafting Guide for more river highlights, travel-planning info, and links to the top guided rafting adventures on over 80 of the country's best rafting rivers. -- Linda Long




1. Trinity River, California
2. Colorado River, Colorado
3. San Miguel River, Colorado
4. Main Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho
5. Kennebec River, Maine
6. Smith River, Montana
7. Flathead River, Montana
8. Upper Missouri River, Montana
9. French Broad River, North Carolina
10. Rogue River, Oregon
11. Lower and Middle Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania
12. Green River (Desolation Canyon), Utah
13. James River, Virginia
14. Shenandoah River (South Fork), Virginia
15. Skagit River, Washington

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Adventure Escapes: Hut-to-Hut Biking in Colorado and Utah

By awayblog

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Solitude and singletrack in Colorado's San Juan Mountains (courtesy, San Juan Hut Systems)

Stuck with the vacation-planning blues? Faced with too many options and too little time? Fear not, friends, we've recruited the adventure-travel experts at to join our crack team of travel bloggers. Part of a regular series, this column will help you find that trip of a lifetime, whether that's a supported trek through the Swiss Alps, a multiday family rafting adventure, or a quick outdoor getaway for next weekend. -- The Editors

With gasoline prices not going south any time soon, why not take a self-guided trip using your own pedal power this summer? San Juan Hut Systems, one of's newest providers, is offering a pair of self-guided mountain-biking trips ($750 per person per week) that cut across the high alpine terrain of Colorado's San Juan Mountains and down into the famous slickrock canyons near Moab, Utah. Departing from either Durango or Telluride, riders will cover about 215 miles total, bedding down each night in remote mountain huts set amidst some the country's most beautiful national forests.

Continue reading "Adventure Escapes: Hut-to-Hut Biking in Colorado and Utah" »

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Related Topics: Outdoor Adventures · Trip Ideas

April 21, 2008

Insider's Guide to Seattle

By Guest Blogger

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Book It!: Seattle's new Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaus (Peyman Oreizy)

Seattle resident and mother of two young kids, Debbie Dubrow is the voice behind, a blog filled with insights about traveling with kids and featuring numerous family-friendly city guides.Contact us if you'd like to contribute.

Seattle's walkable urban areas, beautiful natural setting, and laid-back atmosphere make it a great vacation destination for anyone regardless of age, but you might be surprised to learn how well it accommodates its youngest visitors. Not only are there lots of activities specifically for kids, but Seattle's major sites (and some of its most popular restaurants) are just as much fun for children as they are adults. Living in Seattle has given me plenty of opportunities to explore the best of the city with my two young children, so here are a few of my favorite locales—some of them well-trod, others more off-the-beaten track!

Pike Place Farmer's Market is the classic Seattle tourist attraction. The colorful market, filled with fresh fruit and flowers, is interesting for all ages, but kids in particular will be drawn in by the live crab displays and the "flying fish" at Pike Place Fish Company. On summer weekends, scheduled kids' activities, including cooking demonstrations, face painting, and games and music, make the bustling market even more fun. After taking in the sights at the market, head across the street to Beecher's Handmade Cheese, where kids can watch as cheese is made, sample fresh cheese curd, and feast on the city's best mac and cheese.

Continue reading "Insider's Guide to Seattle" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Tips

April 18, 2008

We [HEART] Planet Earth

Sitting Pretty: Red-necked grebe (PhotoDisc)

Earth Day 2008 will present thousands of opportunities for people all over the world to put the planet first for a moment, from high-minded calls and concerts agitating for action against global warming to community-minded eco-events to clean up local watersheds or plant more neighborhood trees.

Many of the major events will be happening this weekend, including eight outdoor concerts around the U.S. featuring headline bands like Thievery Corporation, Arrested Development, and The Roots. Venues include the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Central Park in Manhattan. Admission is free, with more info available at the Green Apple Festival website.

U.S.-based families should also check out the kids-focused National Park Week, including a number of dedicated events on April 26 to mark the second annual Junior Ranger Day. Program highlights in places like Kentucky's Mammoth Cave or Maine's Acadia National Park will include fishing lessons, wildlife walks, evening stargazing parties, scavenger hunts, and hands-on reptile encounters.

Continue reading "We [HEART] Planet Earth" »

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April 17, 2008

Weekly Travel Radar: Spotlight on Earth Day

By Karen Chen

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Lounging in Laos: The Southeast Asian country scores high on green points (Corbis)

In honor of Earth Day coming up April 22, this week we've rounded up the Web's best links on eco-friendly travel. After all, now that the weather outside isn't so frightful anymore, it's time to get outside and love the land you've got.

With 900 million international travelers in 2007 alone, no matter how socially conscious those travelers may be, the effects of tourism on the environment are inescapable. The United Nations has taken action and created the Green Passport initiative, designed to educate and encourage people to be more responsible world travelers, from making more eco-friendly choices to learning about the customs of different societies to be a more respectful visitor. The website even reminds us that "when appropriate, balloons, horses, donkeys, sailboats and dog sleds are also transport solutions." Touché, U.N.

But when those donkeys are out to pasture, one of the best ways to "green" your transport is to cut out the vehicles that gulp down fossil fuels, and to take to the streets on bike or on foot. As a nod to Earth Day, on April 22 W Hotels Worldwide, which has 21 properties in major cities across the U.S. and around the world, will be giving guests free bikes and helmets as an alternative to riding cars.

Continue reading "Weekly Travel Radar: Spotlight on Earth Day" »

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Travel Survival Guide: Renting a Car Abroad

By Gary Chandler

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Renting a car can be a great way to explore beyond your hotel grounds, especially in the Caribbean, where a short drive often leads to amazing hidden beaches or that "secret" fish shack only locals know about. And where else are there so many countries that can be circumnavigated in a day? You may have to drive some rough roads—and possibly from the "wrong" side of the street—but the reward is well worth it. Here are a few tips on renting cars abroad:

Don't buy insurance (...because you probably already have it). Buying insurance can easily double your rental car bill. Fortunately, most Visa, MasterCard and AmEx cards include insurance (for free or a small fee) when you use them to rent a car abroad. Expect the rent-a-car guy to do everything to scare you into buying a policy—after all, they earn commissions on insurance, not the actual rental. It once took me two exasperating hours to get a car at the Cancun airport; after haranguing me to buy their insurance, the rep claimed the car wasn't there, the car wasn't washed, the key was bent, the moon was out of alignment, everything... but eventually I got my car and saved a bundle in the process. Be sure to review details of your card's insurance before you leave—some don't cover pickup trucks or rentals longer than 15 days, and most require you to pay damages up front and file a claim once you return home. And remember you have to actually use the credit card on the rental to get the insurance—some rental agencies offer discounts if you pay in cash, but you won't activate your coverage that way. Of course, if your credit card doesn't offer insurance, bite the bullet and buy a policy from the agency.

Continue reading "Travel Survival Guide: Renting a Car Abroad" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Travel Tips

Fiesta!: San Antonio Cuts Loose

Town With a Mission: San Antonio's historic Alamo (PhotoDisc)

San Antonio knows how to throw a party, especially when it comes to its ten-day extravaganza called Fiesta San Antonio. Held April 18-27, 2008, the celebration features more than 100 events including parades, concerts, art fairs, and sporting events. Yet, if you can't make it to town during Fiesta, don't sweat it. This is Texas, after all, and San Antonia features Texas-sized fun for the family. Home to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld, and several water parks like Splashtown, kids will have a blast. If you need a dose of history, don't forget the Alamo or Mariachi Mass every Sunday at Mission San Jose. The church was built in 1778 and is part of San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Close to Six Flags, the Westin La Cantera has a decent kids' club and two pools for children only.

For more super-sized vacationing fun in the Lone Star State, follow's weeklong Tex-Mex Americana road-trip itinerary. More family-centric, asphalt-based adventuring can be found in the Family Road Trip Guide.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel News

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