Great Kid-Friendly Travel Destinations

After a long winter across the United States, it’s refreshing to watch as cars make their way down the freeway with kayaks, bikes and other active family vacation gear in tow. As the summer travel season gears up, many people are considering where to go. Of course, the perfect family getaway might be a place that includes attractions to captivate the interest of children and adults alike. No matter where you are at with planning your next family trip, here are a few kid-friendly locations for you to consider.

– Mount Rushmore: South Dakota George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Theodore Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. These past presidents of the United States will be forever remembered for their place in time during a 150 year span of American history. This larger-than-life destination can be fun and educational for the whole family. Learning about each of the presidents can be a fascinating history lesson for children, because of the mountain’s sheer magnitude and size.

– Cayman Islands Nothing spells family fun like a vacation on the beach and a chance to interact with tropical sea life. If your family plans to visit the Cayman Islands, you’ll want to make sure you take the opportunity to swim with tropical fish and sea turtles. There are also powerboat tours, opportunities to kayak on the crystalline waters of the Caribbean, wave pools, skate parks, and more. 1

– Grand Canyon: Arizona Talk about a grand experience! One visit to the Grand Canyon and your family will be hooked. Visitors can view the canyon from various viewpoints or they can take a mule-ride into the canyon. Kids 7 and up can ride for an hour, 10- and 11-year-olds for half a day, and 12 and up can take a full-day journey.2

– Statue of Liberty: New York City What’s the one of the most recognizable symbol of American freedom? If the Statue of Liberty came to mind, you’d be correct. Why not take your kids to see Lady Liberty in all of her glory? Back open in summer of 2013 after extensive repairs, this monument has never shown so bright. Families can add to the experience by viewing the statue from a ride on the free Staten Island Ferry.2

– Colonial Williamsburg: Virginia Remain “true to the crown” or undermine the king’s authority? This was the question many New Englanders had to answer if they lived during the Revolutionary War in America. A family visit to Colonial Williamsburg is a living history lesson, with a whole town of shops and activities straight out of the late 1700’s. The people who walk the streets even dress up in period clothing and conduct reenactments of events that happened during that time.3

Whether it’s a flight across the country or a road trip to a nearby state park, it pays to make family memories this summer. Wherever you decide to go, make sure you click here for helpful travel tips about what to pack, airport advice, international travel and more.
1 http://www.parents.com/fun/vacation/us-destinations/7-places-to-take-your-kids-before-they-grow-up/
2 http://www.parenting.com/article/best-national-parks-families?page=0,1
3 http://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/do/revolutionary-city/

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How to stress less while traveling with kids

Traveling with family can be a very memorable and fun time to bond for parents and kids. Unfortunately, sometimes kids can sometimes cause a bit of stress. But, never fear – here are a few tips to help take the stress out of traveling with kids so you can focus more on enjoying family time and creating memories.

 Prepare

Depending on your destination, try to plan different activities to satisfy the varying interests among your family members. Not every activity will be enjoyed, by everyone but having a few different options that makes everyone happy can really make a big difference. Include all members of your family, especially the kids, so that everyone feels like they contributed and some sense of control in the trip. These different activities can also be used as a reward system to reinforce good behavior while traveling.

 If you plan to fly for your family trip and it’s the first time for your child will experience an airport and flying, it can be helpful to explain some things that your child may experience. While flying can be exciting for some kids, it may be terrifying for others, which is why it is important to prepare them for what to expect. Even if your kids are a little older, it doesn’t hurt to do a quick run through of the security and boarding procedure. And don’t forget to talk about what to do should you get split up in the airport. Have your kids take a carry-on backpack which includes a copy of the itinerary and your contact information so that even your youngest child can get reconnected with you should you be seperated.

 Snacks

Having a “hangry” (hungry + angry) child, or any traveling companion at that, can really put a damper on your trip. Packing portable snacks can help stave off hunger and keep everyone calm. Kids can also be pickier eaters than their adult counterparts so having something familiar for them to eat when other options are not so familiar can reduce both their anxiety and yours. Try to pack healthy snacks like vegetables, fruits, and low-sugar beverages. Traveling will limit meal options, especially for kids, so having alternatives ready can help simplify things in times of need.

 Keep the Kids Occupied

Whether it’s during a long car ride or wait in the airport, kids will get bored. Consider bringing along some portable entertainment that won’t necessarily bog you down with weight nor drive you crazy due to noise. A tablet or portable gaming console are great options to keep the kids entertained for long periods of time with the added benefit of a headphone jack so you don’t have to listen to whichever noisy game they may choose to play. If you want to keep things, encourage your kids to bring a book or two to indulge in across the miles or suggest some road trip activities that like keeping track of all of the different state license plates they see.

 Kids are as capable as their parents allow them to be, so why not assign them some titled jobs so that they feel like they are contributing and being adult-like (with parental supervision as needed, of course). There are many little “jobs” that can be done while traveling such as navigator, time checker, or bag checker. Traveling and keeping track of all the details can be hectic enough so giving your kids some responsibility will not only occupy them but also make them feel that independence and can help you out along the way.

 Check out this article from our Travel Lounge.

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Interesting Festivals Around the World

Searching for something new and exciting to experience? Whether it is art, music, dance or throwing tomatoes, these festivals may spark that itch for a new trip you’ve been thinking about.

Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA[1],[2]

Burning Man is an annual event, hosted in Black Rock Desert of Nevada, focusing on “the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.” Their motto is “No spectators,” meaning everyone must contribute something, whether it’s a piece of art or a performance. This event started almost 20 years ago and has grown from an art exchange among eight people to tens of thousands of participants. Organizers and participants of the event claim that in order to truly understand this festival, you have to experience and participate in it.

Burning Man is unique in that its main focus is on the creation of community, relationships and respect for your surroundings. Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man, has ten principles, defining the culture and atmosphere of this inclusive and participatory art festival. There is a major emphasis on reconnecting with those around you and ensuring that people leave the festival without a trace.

 Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil[3],[4]

The Carnival of Brazil is an annual festival held during the Friday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Because of Lent traditions, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstain from eating meat on certain days, which is where the word “carnival” came from – originally the Latin word carnelevare, which means “to remove.”

Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and as a result, most non-festival related stores shut down for the festivities. There are celebrations all day and night with many parades, costumes, music, dance, and food. In particular, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival drew 4.9 million people in 2011, with 400,000 being foreigners.

Rio de Janeiro originally adopted the European style of carnival but eventually incorporated elements from Native American and African cultures. Samba schools, sponsored by major organizations, work year round to prepare for the carnival parades and dances. These samba schools are very important to carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, as they typically set the standard for parade style, costumes and music.

La Tomatina, Buñol, Valencia, Spain[5]

In the Valencian town of Buñol, they get their tomato throwing on during La Tomatina. Although the real story behind how tomato throwing got started is unclear, there are a few fun and mysterious legends to share. One story says that during a parade in 1945, a tomato (aimed for a rabbit) accidentally hit a person, causing a slew of people throwing tomatoes at each, and eventually the police had to intervene to break it up. The story continues with the young people repeating the tomato fight on the same Wednesday of August in subsequent years but the town banned it for nearly a decade. Finally, after considering the high demand, the tomato throwing festival became official in 1957, with explicit rules and guidelines to ensure the safety of participants.

The festivities begin late morning, with the palo jabón or greasy pole. The goal of this is for someone to climb a greased pole with a ham on top, and once someone is finally able to get to the top and drop the ham in to the crowd. After this, the tomato fight begins, signaled by water being shot in the air with trucks rolling in, loaded with about 150,000 tomatoes. At about 11:00 a.m., the fight commences and lasts for exactly one hour, after which the whole town square is covered in red and tomato juice flows down the streets.

In 2013, Buñol limited the fight to only 20,000 participants, allowing 15,000 non-locals and 5,000 locals to participate by purchasing tickets online, costing about ten Euros per person.

 Holi Festival, India[6]

Similar to La Tomatina, the Hindu Holi Festival of India also celebrates by throwing things but what’s being thrown is colored powder and water. This festival is observed on the last full moon day at the end of the summer season, which is typically around late February.

There are many reasons for celebration for Holi, such as celebrating the new season of spring for good harvest and fertile land as well as the religious aspect. It is also said to be a time marking the New Year to many Hindus, a time during which conflicts should be resolved and relationships renewed.

The festival begins with bonfires on the eve of Holi around which people gather around the fires to sing and dance. The next day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, is celebrated by youth by throwing colored powder and water. Elderly people also participate in the colorful celebrations but instead smear colored powder on each others’ faces.

All of the festivals are unique, not only in regard to their histories but also the practices that occur during celebrations. It is always exciting to try something and venture out beyond the borders of comfort. Perhaps you’ll participate in one of these festivals and make one of these places your next destination. If you’re feeling the itch to start planning, check out our travel destination planners.

 

Sources

[1]http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/about_burningman/principles.html#.U0amPKhdUnY

[2] http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/

[3] http://www.rio-carnival.net/

[4] http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-entertainment/carnival/carnival-in-rio-a-short-history/#

[5] http://spanishfood.about.com/od/holidaysfeasts/a/latomatina.htm

[6] http://www.holifestival.org/significance-of-holi.html

 

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Tips for Hurricane Season Travel

Being aware of hurricane season and what that means for your travel plans is important. Hurricane season is officially here again, running from June 1st to November 30th in the Atlantic, and from May 15th to November 30th in the Eastern Pacific1. So what’s in store for 2014? According to Colorado State University, the season is supposed to be less active than normal.1 But, that doesn’t mean that the hurricanes that do make landfall won’t be extremely damaging. No matter the year, it’s important to be prepared for traveling during hurricane season. Here are a few tips to get you started.

 To help prepare yourself during storm season (hurricane, tornado, severe thunderstorms), what precautions should you take when planning you summer travels?

 Plan Ahead

Review your resort/hotel/vacation home’s evacuation procedure and know where you need to go and how to get there in the event of a tropical storm, severe weather or tornado.

 Monitor Weather Conditions

Pay attention to the daily weather forecast. Is there a tropical storm or severe weather brewing? If the words “evacuation” or “take cover” are mentioned, take it seriously and get to a shelter. If you have time to evacuate before a forecasted storm hits, or need assistance departing as soon as possible in the aftermath of a storm, call Travel Guard for assistance in getting home safely.

 Contact Family

If you are evacuated to an emergency shelter, contact family or friends at home to let them know your status/location and what’s going on. Chances are your loved ones have heard about the inclement weather and are wondering if you are ok. It is likely that cell phone networks will be overloaded with people trying to reach family members but a text message may get through if you’re having trouble making a call.

 Get Updates

Consider bringing a small radio or smart phone with you to the shelter or basement to listen for weather updates or when the “all clear” is given. You may want to purchase a battery-operated charger so you can keep your phone charged even if the power goes out. These potentially life-saving travel apps might be worth downloading before you go, too.

 Drive Safely

If you are going on a road trip be sure to know what to do if you encounter severe weather. Don’t try to out-drive a tornado; seek shelter in the nearest building. If there is no building nearby get out of the car and lie in a ditch. If you encounter flooding while driving, don’t try to drive through the flooded roadways – turn around and find another path. Knowing how to react to severe weather is imperative. More severe weather driving safety tips are available here.

 Pack Travel Insurance

Remember to pack a travel insurance plan through Travel Guard for 24/7 travel assistance in re-booking flights out of an area or for other types of emergency travel assistance. Travel insurance plans can also provide coverage for medical expenses and emergency medical evacuations, as well as reimbursement for your pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs in the event that inclement weather causes the cancellation or interruption of your travel.

 Always read the terms of your policy before purchasing to make sure the plan you’ve selected includes the weather coverage you’re seeking, as coverage varies by plan. (Need assistance? Call our World Service Center anytime at 800.851.0048; they’ll be glad to help you.)

 Sources:

1: http://www.weather.com/news/weather-hurricanes/hurricane-season-forecast-2014-colorado-state-university-20140409

 2: http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2013/dec2013/dec2013.pdf

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How to travel green

Traveling green may seem challenging while on the go but by taking a few of these tips and making a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, you’ll soon be reducing your eco footprint without even realizing it.

Before you leave

One of the first steps in being green is taking preventative measures, which include doing a little pre-trip check of your home before departure. Not only will these tips help you become more eco-friendly, they can also help save you money while you’re away.

  • Make sure that any and all electronics and appliances are in “shut down” and unplugged from outlets. Even if you shut down those electronics and appliances, they can still draw out electricity which not only is a wasteful use of energy but also increases your electricity bill. And don’t forget the ice maker. If a pipe or tube breaks while away, having the ice maker turned off can save you energy, money and potential flooding. Also, be sure to reduce the settings on your heat/AC and water heater so that you don’t use unnecessary amounts of energy to heat or cool your home.
  • If you will be gone for more than a weekend, don’t forget to turn off the outdoor water supply. This can prevent possible flooding and unnecessary water usage should the pipes break while you’re gone.
  • Pack reusable water bottles and utensils to use while on the go. The conveniences of having disposable tableware is great but think of how much plastic waste goes in the landfills after millions of people toss out their used water bottles and utensils. According to a 2013 article in the Huffington Post, approximately 50 billion water bottles are used each year and 60% of those (30 billion) come from the U.S.1 Not only is that a lot of plastic waste, it also takes about three times more water to make the bottles than the water to fill them.1
  • Pack light: more weight means more fuel. Whether you’re flying or driving, added weight will use up more fuel than usual so try to pack clothes that can be easily mixed and matched and cover most of your weather bases.

While Away

Even while on your trip, it is easy to be green by making a few small adjustments to your typical travel practices.

  • Hotel hospitality is wonderful, providing fresh, fluffy towels and recently washed linens. However, all of that washing uses up a lot of water and energy to dry. One way to reduce your footprint is to request that room service not change your linens and provide new towels every day. Many hotels today provide a door hanger or sign in your hotel that you can easily use to show that you want to re-use towels and linens to help reduce water and energy.
  • Using public transportation such as trains and buses are a great way to not only be a greener traveler but also see more parts of the area you are visiting. Renting bicycles also gives you more flexibility to go down those interesting side streets that may not be accessible by car or bus.
  • Eating local helps support the local economy by putting your dollars directly to the owners rather than buying food from fast food chains. Additionally, many local restaurants purchase their supplies locally, further supporting local businesses and reducing fuel usage to transport supplies.

 It’s really not that hard to be green, even while traveling. All it takes are a few, slight lifestyle adjustments and in no time at all, you won’t even know that you’re doing it because those adjustments have become a natural part of your day. Visit our Travel Tip and Tricks section for more travel ideas and news.

 Sources

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norm-schriever/post_5218_b_3613577.html

 

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MEDICAL EMERGENCY AT SEA

Richard and his wife were on a dream vacation – a seven-day tropical cruise with stops in Belize, Honduras, and Mexico. The vacation was a gift to Richard from his wife of 47 years to celebrate his 68th birthday. Unfortunately, what should have been a time of celebration, turned into a terrifying ordeal.

“I wasn’t feeling well a few days into the cruise, so I went to our cabin to lay down that evening,” said Richard. “My wife, who happens to be an intensive care unit nurse, noticed that I was extremely pale.” Luckily Richard’s wife recognized the importance of getting him to a doctor because soon after Richard passed out from loss of blood. The on-board doctor realized the severity of the situation and asked Richard’s wife for her permission to transfuse his own blood into Richard, a move that saved Richard’s life. An announcement was made over the loudspeakers on the ship asking others to donate their blood, and within minutes the room was filled with donors.

“After receiving a total of five units of blood, I was transferred about eight miles out at sea to a small Mexican Navy boat. An hour and a half later, I was brought to a hospital in Cancun where they repaired and stopped the bleeding. The wonderful people at Travel Guard were notified and a decision was made to airlift me to a hospital in Miami, Florida, for further care,” said Richard.

With a medical crew in tow, Richard was airlifted to a hospital in Florida where he was in the ICU for several days and received further treatment. Travel Guard stayed in daily contact with Richard’s doctors and received regular updates on his status and condition. After a few setbacks, Richard was eventually fit to travel and was looking forward to getting home with his wife.

“Once my doctors deemed me fit to travel, Travel Guard coordinated a medical escort to assist me on the flight home,” said Richard. “Travel Guard took care of all the flight arrangements and ensured I got home safely. The people at Travel Guard are the best, I really can’t say enough about the professionalism and service I experienced.”

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Reasons Why We Love Travel – February

So many people love to travel and it isn’t difficult to understand why.  Through traveling, we have the opportunity to experience a world that we may not be so familiar with.  Although unfamiliarity may seem scary to some, the invigorating feeling we get from travel cannot be matched by many things.  Here are some of the top reasons why we here at Travel Guard love to travel.

 The Foodie Experience

We need food to survive and it’s no surprise that one of main things people tend to think about when traveling is food. Although the wide array of ethnic food available in the U.S. is tasty, the difference in flavor and taste is noticeable when you eat the food straight from the source.  Not only do we receive the amazing experience of enhanced flavors and cooking styles straight from the source, eating local cuisine is also a wonderful way to connect with the local people and culture.

 People and Culture

Establishing, building and maintaining relationships are what makes us who we are.  Traveling with friends and family can be meaningful because of the memories created through travel experiences.  However, many people also have the desire to create new friendships when traveling, making this another one of the reasons to love travel.  Meeting new people not only broadens our friendship circles, it also allows for organic sharing of ideas and experiences which can provide avenues for us to learn about things we might have not known before.

 Culture is one of the ways we differentiate ourselves from other people, but what better way to learn about different cultures than to completely immerse yourself through travel.  We often think that cultures start and end at international borders but that is not necessarily the case – there may be a completely new and unfamiliar culture awaiting you just over state or province lines.  Culture is created through shared meanings and understandings of social norms, symbols and words. So wherever travels take us, we will always have the chance to experience a new culture, opening our eyes to things we may not have understood before.

 Adventure, Challenges and Self-Discovery

When we overcome challenges, we thrive and grow. Many people work hard to earn the money and time-off necessary to travel. Traveling allows us to step outside of our comfort zone, to immerse ourselves in a location, culture or language we have yet to know. Whether it is summiting Mount Kilimanjaro or learning key phrases in a new language, there will always be a sense of excitement and personal accomplishment in discovering ourselves through the lens of a new culture.

 Self-discovery is yet another top reason we love and appreciate travel. The culmination of all of the wonderful experiences we receive through traveling allows us to see what we truly value and what we want to change about ourselves.  Through this comparison of our “travel life” and “home life”, we have the opportunity to reflect on who we are now; who we want to become; what we want to achieve; and what are our values and beliefs.  We learn to think differently about the world in which we live and can be inspired or motivated, by those we meet through travel, to do something more in life.  Discovering what is at our core can be a life-changing experience. 

 Traveling is really just a self-made opportunity to put ourselves “out there” and take in all that any new experience has to offer.  If you’re itching to start planning a new trip, be sure to check out these great travel tips and tricks.

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