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December 26, 2012

Five Tips for Keeping the Family Sane on a Winter Ski Vacation

By Guest Blogger

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Mother and daughter skiing (iStockphoto) 119037284

I've been skiing with kids for more than a decade, and while it's sometimes difficult, the rewards have been well worth it. Our family now enjoys a life-long sport that we are all capable of experiencing together. Skiing with kids can be daunting and expensive, but if you plan it right, it can be the savior of your kids' winter blues. Here are five ways to save money, time, and hassle.

Have the right gear.
Quality outerwear and equipment is expensive, but families can reduce the cost by attending ski swaps and participating in "grow with kids" gear programs at local ski shops. Renting gear on the mountain is less hassle if families reserve skis or boards ahead of time and have them delivered directly to their lodge room or condo. (If your ski resort doesn't offer this service, check to see if a local ski shop does.) Warm gloves, jackets, and socks make the difference between a fun day skiing and a miserable one. Consider it an investment. After paying for lift tickets and lodging, do you really want to hear whining all day? Of course not.

Continue reading "Five Tips for Keeping the Family Sane on a Winter Ski Vacation" »

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October 05, 2012

Hotel Spotlight: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Aerial view of Amelia Island Plantation Resort (Visit Florida)

This well-regarded resort in Northeastern Florida underwent a change of ownership several years ago, yet the measure of Amelia Island Plantation Resort's quality is that it remains an excellent destination resort regardless of which brand logo hangs over the moss-shaded reception center. The reason? Spread over 1,350 acres of oceanfront real estate, threaded throughout with miles of biking and walking trails, the resort and its amenities blend into a landscape that immediately puts you at ease. The beach never feels crowded, and several on-property pools allow you to mix it up. (Note that the property is in the midst of continuing upgrades that mean the main pool and beach club facility will be closed until spring 2013; the resort has waived its daily resort fee for guests and upped activities and recreation equipment on the beach.) First-class tennis and golf facilities offer other recreation aplenty, while families will appreciate the nature programs and wildlife center. A variety of accommodations are available, from standard hotel lodging to self-catering villas and apartments. Before booking, be sure to check the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort's website for seasonal packages with discounts on activities such as spa treatments, golf, and dining. Our one knock on this resort, as with many others, is the expense of resort dining (including its more casual market and deli). To hold down costs significantly, make a run to the nearby Harris Teeter to stock up on groceries for meals in one of the self-catering units.

For more of the world's most stunning destination resorts, check out's Best Resorts & Lodges Guide.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation · Places to Stay

September 26, 2012

Virginia Beach: An Off-Season Travel Guide

Virginia Beach's King Neptune statue (Mark Atkinson) and turtle at Virginia Aquarium (courtesy, Virginia Beach CVB)

A summer trip to Virginia Beach can be maddening if you happen to hit the traffic that clogs the I-95 corridor south of Washington, D.C., and as you close in on the Chesapeake Bay through the snarl of Hampton Roads and Norfolk. Of course, the sunny delights of Virginia Beach's pristine stretch of sand and its festive boardwalk quickly wash away the lingering effects of a long day in the car, but for a totally refreshing take on this popular resort town, now's the time to make the trip. Here's our guide to the best of Virginia Beach in the off-season.

Rip the Boardwalk
Virginia Beach's three-mile boardwalk is the obvious centerpiece of all that happens here throughout the year, lined with hotels, restaurants, fairground rides, and historic attractions like the Old Coast Guard Station. Recently renovated, the boardwalk is broad and nicely landscaped, with a dedicated two-lane trail for bikes and surreys. However, in summer, there's no escaping a steady blitz of rollerbladers, skateboarders, joggers, and even errant bikers on the pedestrian portion of the boardwalk. Naturally, without the crowds, you'll get to enjoy even more of this pleasant oceanfront stretch to yourself, not to mention easy access to more crowd-free sand than you'll know what to do with.

Continue reading "Virginia Beach: An Off-Season Travel Guide" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation

August 13, 2012

The Idiot's Guide to Taking Your Kids to an Outdoor Music Festival

Main stage at FloydFest 2012 (Roger Gupta)

I recently took my kids camping to FloydFest, a four-day music festival located off Milepost 170.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in southwestern Virginia. This was my first outdoor music festival, so I went with some trepidation given it was just me, my budding young rockers, and a stack of gear to supply our camping foray amid a crowd of dyed-to-the-core hippies, teenage flower-power wannabes, yoga-loving urbanites, and plenty of other families. The good news is we had a great time, enjoying an eclectic lineup of artists ranging from alt-rock to bluegrass to American folk. And between the acts, we literally never had to make a plan, drifting from jugglers to trapeze school to climbing wall and back to magicians. So don't be shy about taking your kids to a music festival in your neck of the woods. But if (or when) you do, here are some tips to help you make the most of the mayhem.

Love Thy Neighbors
Forget the primordial instinct to be the sole provider of food and shelter to your offspring. If you, like me, have only one pair of hands to erect a tent while your kids roam the campground, then just strike up a conversation with your fellow campers. There's something to be said for the communal aspect of driving into the woods to listen to music and howl at the moon for a few days. We didn't meet an unfriendly soul, and all were happy to lend a hand stretching out a rainfly or chat with the kids while I fussed around. (OK, I confess, maybe the friendly vibe occasionally had something to do with the exotic scents filling the air.)

Read's guide to the best summer music festivals

Continue reading "The Idiot's Guide to Taking Your Kids to an Outdoor Music Festival" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Tips

June 01, 2012

Four Reasons Why I Hate Walt Disney World

Walt-disney-world-orlandoI recently took my family to Orlando's Walt Disney World, our first visit to the "House of the Mouse." For my two kids, this was certainly one of their trips of a lifetime, and they're itching to go back for more. The whole place is an incredibly impressive experience, and the Disney memory-making machine is certainly a well-oiled success. In 2010, almost 17 million people visited the Magic Kingdom alone; the company's worldwide parks and resorts generated a mammoth $11 billion in revenues in 2011. Big numbers aside, though, there were some areas where I left feeling a little disappointed. Here's why.

Food Fit for a Princess? Hardly.
I wasn't expecting gourmet food and knew that everything would be theme-park prices, but the food we had at both the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios was a huge letdown. We even tried dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge's more upscale Kidani restaurant and left feeling that even its more exotic menu was dumbed-down for mass consumption. Given the huge demand and global clientele, I think Disney's missing a trick in introducing bolder, more imaginative flavors to its theme-park fare. Yell at me all you like about tasting the food at Epcot, but why can't this be a resort-wide focus? Perhaps then I might feel less aggrieved at parting with $40 for lunch for a family of four.

See a photo gallery of scenes from around Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom theme park

Continue reading "Four Reasons Why I Hate Walt Disney World" »

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Related Topics: Disney Vacation · Family Vacation · Travel Rants

April 20, 2012

Hotel Spotlight: Virginia's Homestead Resort to Debut New Water Park

LET'S PLAY!: Artist's rendering of The Homestead's Allegheny Springs (The Homestead Resort)

Thomas Jefferson, inveterate tinkerer and inventor of things, would have approved. The historic Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, has been undergoing a $25 million upgrade that will include the nation's first spring-fed water park, plus a new 18-hole miniature golf course. Jefferson himself took to the waters in these parts in the 1800s and would no doubt have enjoyed a ride down one of the three planned waterslides and 400-foot lazy river. Construction is nearing completion on the two-acre water park, which is scheduled to open around July 4th. Consider this just one more reason to take the kids to this tranquil retreat deep in the Allegheny mountains of southwestern Virginia. Beyond the 2012 additions, The Homestead is packed with dozens of family-friendly activities including an indoor bowling alley, movie nights, fishing pond, hayrides, falconry, archery, and more. The resort food is good, though if you want to hold down costs, wander into Hot Springs for a cheap nosh at Lindsey's Roost. Service is friendly and the food is cheap (though not exactly nutritious—think burgers and fried-fish sandwiches). Check out The Homestead Resort's website for the latest seasonal deals and packages.

For more of the world's top family resorts, check out's Best Resorts & Lodges Guide.

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March 23, 2012

The Best of Easter: Five Places to Seek the Golden Egg

Decorated Easter eggs(Thinkstock Images,Getty Images,Comstock)
(Thinkstock Images)

Easter usually brings a break for school, basket's full of Cadbury eggs, and of course Easter egg hunts! So to help you decide which way you want to hop, we've found some unique egg hunts and other fun activities along the bunny trail.

The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt
London, England
The world's largest Easter Egg hunt began on February 21st in London and will go through Easter Sunday on April 8th, hosted by Russian jeweler, Fabergé. Over 200 two-and-a-half-feet-tall eggs were designed by famous artists, designers, and jewelers and have been placed throughout 12 "Egg Zones" in central London. So grab your Easter basket (or more likely your cameras and your phone to text each egg's keyword) and get to hunting. At the end of the egg hunt, the eggs will be auctioned off for charity and one lucky egg hunter will win the Fabergé Tribute Egg: The Diamond Jubilee Egg. Travel Guide: Going to London

Continue reading "The Best of Easter: Five Places to Seek the Golden Egg" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Trip Ideas

January 27, 2012

The World's Best Airports for Family Travelers

Butterfly garden at Singapore's Changi Airport (Andy_Mitchell_UK/Flickr)

There are certain world airports that stick out as perennial party poopers when it comes to traveling with kids (London Heathrow being my personal horror show, with its interminably long, draughty, and crowded corridors, which are a nightmare to navigate with jetlagged youngsters). But where are the airports that put some of the play back into travel? Here are our picks (caveat emptor: we can't vouch for freak weather events, transit delays, or unplanned kiddie meltdowns at any of these selections).

Europe Winner: Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)
Forego the strike-fuelled chaos of Paris Charles de Gaulle each summer, and use Amsterdam Schiphol as your European transit hub. This bright, smooth-running airport features a free "Kids' Forest" playzone with treehouses, slides, and climbing equipment, plus an outdoor observation deck for teens to get their first lungful of (admittedly, aviation-fuel-soaked) European air.

Regional Runner-up: Copenhagen Airport (CPH), for its home-turf Lego store and family-friendly quiet areas.

Continue reading "The World's Best Airports for Family Travelers" »

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January 19, 2012

2012's Best Family Vacation Destinations

By awayblog

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Mackinac Island, Michigan (

2012 may be the year you promised to take the kids to Disney Word. And if so, then we wish you the best. But if you’re looking for a family-friendly destination that goes beyond kiddie rides and water slides, we’ve got you covered with these hot-spots:

1. Mackinac Island, Michigan
A family vacation destination since the mid-1800s, Mackinac Island banned motorized vehicles more than 100 years ago. The result is a quiet yet bustling atmosphere that includes shopping, food, history, nature, and plenty of opportunities for relaxation. Check out:

Fort Mackinac: High on a bluff overlooking the rest of the island, this military fort-turned-museum offers information about 1800s military life, glimpses of authentic buildings, and an interactive children’s exhibit.

Mackinac Trails: Eighty percent of the island is a Michigan State Park, which is evident in the abundant trails for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling, plus rock formations and other natural attractions.

The Original Butterfly House and Insect World: Stroll through 1,800 square feet of tropical paradise surrounded by hundreds of live butterflies from four continents and check out impressive preserved insects, including a 14-inch walking stick.

For a full-service resort experience including dining, activities, and historic accommodations, stay at Mission Point Resort. This casual, kid-friendly resort offers two-bedroom family suites, a variety of restaurants, on-site movies, kid’s club, and a laid-back atmosphere. Mackinac Island Travel Guide

Continue reading "2012's Best Family Vacation Destinations" »

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November 28, 2011

I Heart NYC: A Big Apple Holiday for Every Kind of Traveler

Rockefeller Center of Christmas,NY(Top Photo Group,Thinkstock)
Rockefeller Center during Christmas, New York City (Top Photo Group/Thinkstock)

If one city in the continental U.S. represents everything the holidays stand for, New York City is that place. It has vibrant colors, soft white blankets of snow, beautifully decorated trees, ice skating rinks, and store window treatments that come straight from all of our childhood dreams. In our opinion, NYC is iconic and whimsical during the holidays, a place where even the most Grinchiest can find some sort of joy.

For The Dancer
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Say the word Rockettes and you automatically think of high kicks, glitz, and glam, which is why Radio City's Christmas Spectacular is a must-see over the holidays. The Rockettes dance and dazzle their way through The Twelve Days of Christmas Carol, the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, the Living Nativity, and more. Each 90-minute performance showcases 36 Rockettes (who are all between 5'6" and 5'10.5") and 1,300 costumes. Live animals such as donkeys, camels, and sheep are a part of the cast as well. Get your jazz hands ready!

For The Shopper
Holiday Window Displays
Many high-end stores on Fifth Avenue, such as Sak's, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, and others off 5th Ave, such as Barneys, Bloomingdale's, and Macy's have display designers working for months on the creations that they place in their store windows.  Long ago, Macy's started this tradition of creating magical tales of the holidays in their windows and the other stores have since followed. Children will be in awe of the displays and adults will appreciate the show of artist ability as well. Best of all, window shopping is free!

For The Arborist
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
A world-wide symbol of the season, the Rockefeller Christmas tree has been a tradition for over 75 years. This year it stands tall, bright, and beautiful; lit by 30,000 LED lights on five miles of wire and topped with a Swarovski crystal star. If trees are your thing, also hop around the city and check out the trees at Madison Square Park, Wall Street, South Street Seaport, Botanical Gardens, and a few of the museums like the MET.

Continue reading "I Heart NYC: A Big Apple Holiday for Every Kind of Traveler" »

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Related Topics: Budget Travel · Christmas Vacation · Family Vacation · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · US Travel

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