USA National Parks-The Perfect Family Getaway

There are 418 national sites across the United States, with 62 of them designated as national parks. These are areas that are protected by the US government to maintain the beauty and wonder of these sites. Whether you are looking to explore glaciers in Alaska, view the depths of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, or hike the Rocky mountains, there is something for everyone to enjoy!

National parks make great destinations for family travel and offer varying degrees of activity level, making them great from the toddler years all the way to adulthood. These parks will leave all marveling at the beauty of nature and give you a new sense of just how glorious the earth is (at least it did for us!). A group of travel bloggers compiled this list of great national parks throughout the country to inspire you to visit them!


Mount Rainier National Park

The Wandering Queen

Mount Rainier National Park. Photo credit: The Wandering Queen.

One of the best places to visit this summer with the family is Mount Rainer National Park, located in Washington State. This 369 square mile park has it all! It has waterfalls, mountain views, lakes, beautiful old grove trees, wildlife and not to mention the beast: Mount Rainier Mountain. Mount Rainier, at 14,410 feet, stands tall in the center of the park. It is the most popular attraction of the park, but there is so much more to do than stare at Mount Rainier.

One of the best things to do is to hike the extremely popular Skyline Trail. This hike is located in the Paradise section of the national park. It is one of the most popular family-friendly trails in the park. The whole path has breathtaking views of Mount Rainier. There is also a waterfall called Myrtle Falls at the end of the trail. If you go on a clear day, you can get a perfect picture of the waterfall with Mount Rainier in the background.

Another family-friendly hike is the Grove of the patriarchs trail. It is a very easy trail with beautiful forest views, a stunning bridge, and the trees are enormous! It is a great beginner’s trail for all family members. It is a very popular and fun hike. If you are looking for a less popular trail nearby with a waterfall view, try out Silver Falls. The trail is more of an easy to moderate hike but without the crowds. The color of the green-blue river is astonishing, and we were pretty surprised at how few people were there to enjoy it.

If you are looking for a fun national park where you can see cute wildlife, gigantic trees, and enormous mountains, then Mount Rainier National Park is perfect for your family. 

More Mount Rainier Hikes

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Redwood National and State Park

Evergreen and Salt

Redwood National Park. Photo Credit: Evergreen and Salt.

A trip to Redwood National and State Parks is a total treat for kids. Big trees you can climb on and over, and even drive through? A win all around for families since parents will also be astounded by the beauty and grandeur of the Redwoods. The region of Northern California that is dominated by Redwoods is located a couple hours north of San Francisco, where you’ll find a sprawling forest of trees that are designated as both national and state parks. While the National Park may be more well known, you won’t want to miss Humboldt State Park right by it, where you’ll find a number of drive-thru trees like Myer’s Flat that are large enough for a small SUV to fit through. Humboldt State Park is also home to the Avenue of the Giants, an epic part of Highway 101 where you’ll drive through some of the world’s tallest trees. Kids will also appreciate the numerous short hiking trails through the tall trees and even the fact that many road stop gift shops and cafes are right by massive trees and even old hollowed out logs that can be climbed through.

Families will also love the fact that a Redwood forest vacation takes you right by the Lost Coast, a stretch of undeveloped coastline that is stunningly gorgeous and remarkably secluded compared to the rest of California’s coastline. Stop in the tiny town of Shelter Cove located on the Lost Coast for an ice cream and to see its charming lighthouse. Then head down to the black sand beach for some time walking along the shore or visit the tide pools of the rocky beach beneath the lighthouse. Just be sure to always face the water since large sneaker waves can quickly come upon you. Whether you choose to spend most of your time among the giant Redwoods close to the ocean or deep within the forest, you and your family will appreciate the history and beauty the region has to offer.

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Haleakala National Park

I’m Jess Traveling

Haleakala Crater. Photo Credit: I’m Jess Traveling

Haleakala National Park can be found on the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Maui. Haleakala is Maui’s volcano and covers a whooping 75% of the island. There are 2 parts of the park to explore, the Kipahulu district and the summit. 

The Kipahulu or coastal district can only be reached from the east side of the island about 20 minutes past the town of Hana. Here you can experience the dramatic coast line, volcanic inlets and waterfalls!

Inside the park is a drive up, first come first serve campground perfect for the family traveling on a budget. Campsites are well maintained and walkable to the pools of Ohe’o and one of Maui’s most popular hikes, the Pipiwai Trail. This family friendly hike takes you past ancient banyan trees, through an enchanting bamboo forest and ends up at a 400 foot waterfall.

Another way to explore Haleakala National park is by accessing the summit. I recommend coming for sunrise to witness the sun rise above the clouds, an experience that is truly out of this world. To catch sunrise you must make reservations in advance here.

There are a handful of hikes that take you in, through or around the crater. The Pa Kaoao Trail is a short hike that will give you panoramic views of the crater and provide several photo ops perfect for the cover of your next family Christmas card. For a more challenging hike the Sliding Sands Trail will take you down to the crater floor. You’ll feel like you are traversing the surface of Mars and is a personal highlight of mine.

Don’t forget to dress warm, as it gets cold at the summit of 10,023 feet! However you explore Haleakala National Park, you’ll leave with unforgettable memories and have a trip of a lifetime.

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Red Rock Canyon

It’s a Family Thing

Red Rock Canyon from lookout. Photo Credit: It’s a Family Thing.

Many people do not think of Las Vegas as a destination for families, but you will be surprised how family-friendly Las Vegas can be. Located only 30 minutes away from the Las Vegas strip, Red Rock Canyon is the perfect place to take in scenic natural views with your family. Be advised, there is a $15 charge per car and no cell phone reception once you arrive at the canyon.


If you have a little nature enthusiast, they will enjoy the exhibit in the visitor’s center. Our son is going through a rock phase, so we spent an hour at the visitor’s center learning and playing with rocks. There are lookout posts for you to see the scenic mountains and desert for miles. We were even able to spot a few sleeping desert turtles. The volunteers are very nice and are informative if you would like to know more about the Canyon. This is the perfect place for families to spend the day enjoying everything nature has to offer.

Although it is a desert the beauty is indescribable. Red Rock Canyon will give you a whole new appreciation for an ecosystem that is oftentimes forgotten. After leaving the visitor’s center be sure to fill up on cold water outside before heading for the scenic drive around the canyon. The scenic drive is 13-miles and will take 35 minutes if you drive without stopping, but if you plan on making a lot of stops prepare to be there for 2 – 3 hours. There are over 25 hikes and trails for you to enjoy with your family. The kid-friendly hikes are Willow Spring Loop, Moenkopi Loop, Lost Creek – Children’s Discovery, and Oak Creek Canyon. Why not pack a lunch and explore?


Bonus: If you go between December and April you may see the hidden waterfall. How cool is that? A waterfall in the desert.

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Grand Teton National Park

Travel Collecting

Grand Teton National Park. Photo Credit: Travel Collecting.

Grand Teton National Park is a great place for families.  The Grand Tetons are a range of jagged mountains that rise dramatically right out of the plains.  The main gateway town is Jackson Hole, which is worth spending a day or two in.  The entrances to the main square in town are arches made from elk antlers, which is fun for kids to see.  Thousands of elk shed the antlers each year, and they are gathered and sold in the square in spring. 

There are plenty of viewpoints to see the mountains.  A famous view is from Mormon’s Row, with a historic barn in the foreground.  Other famous lookouts include Snake River Overlook, Oxbow Bend and Schwabacher’s Landing.  This is also a great place to see moose early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  Sightings are not guaranteed, of course, but moose often gather in the shallow waters of the river.  Another common place to see moose is the aptly named Moose Pond.  Park rangers often lead guided walks to see moose grazing in grasses that grow in the pond.  The walk is short and easy for kids to do.  This hike leaves from Jenny Lake, which is another highlight of a visit to Grand Teton national Park.  A shuttle boat crosses the lake, from where more adventurous families can do the Cascade Canyon hike.  The first section of the trail is uphill, but once you get into the canyon, you are rewarded with breathtaking views and an easy walk alongside the river that runs through the canyon.  Black bear sightings are possible (so take precautions) and if you are lucky, you may see river otters darting around the water. The other main lake is Jackson Lake and this is a popular spot for fishing and boating.  

There are several campgrounds and cabins near Jenny Lake and along the shore of the larger Jackson Lake.  Whether you go there for the mountain views; to spot wildlife; or to relax on, in and near the water, there is something for the whole family at Grand Teton National Park.

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Acadia National Park

The Nomadic Fitzpatricks

Acadia National Park is the only park in the northeastern United States, and embodies
everything New Englanders love about Maine! Located on Mount Desert Island outside of Bar Harbor, this picturesque park combines the beauty of the ocean and beaches alongside forests and small, easily hike-able mountains. It’s a perfect location for families to camp or to spend a weekend away.


Families with children will enjoy Acadia’s size and the small hikes it offers. You can drive through the park to most trailheads and the mountains are small. The highest mountain in the park is Cadillac Mountain, which sits just above 1,500 feet! In addition to smaller hikes like Gorham Mountain Trail and Jordan Pond, Sand Beach is the perfect place to spend a day soaking up the sun or searching for crabs in the ocean. Visit Thunder Hole to see the large seaspray along the beach.

You can opt to stay at a B&B or hotel in Bar Harbor, just fifteen minutes from the park, or you can stay within the park at Blackwoods or Seawall campground for cheap. From Blackwoods Campground you can hear the ocean waves, roast marshmallows over the campfire, and later walk down to the rocks for stargazing. The campsites are well equipped and the grounds are perfect for walks, bike rides, and making friends with fellow campers.


There are many restaurants in Bar Harbor, but the closest large supermarkets will be 30-45 minutes away, so plan accordingly. Firewood must be purchased within the state of Maine to be used inside the park. You’ll need a National Parks Pass to enter the park and stay within the campgrounds, or there will be an additional fee.


Acadia is our favorite place to camp every summer, and we always come back year after year!

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Muir Woods National Monument

Planning Away

Muir Woods National Monument. Photo Credit: Planning Away.

Located just outside of San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument.  Muir Woods has impressive redwood sequoia trees! If you are looking for the top things to do in San Francisco with kids, Muir Woods is perfect.  It is very easy to get to, you can take a ferry across the bay to Sausalito and jump on the designated bus that will drop you off right at the park.  Or you can drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and park directly at the park.  There is an entrance fee of $15 per adult and children under 15 are free.  If you have the 4th grade pass or the National Park Pass this park is included.  


These trees are over 1000 years old!  The tallest tree in Muir Woods is 258 ft.  tall. They are truly incredible to look at. There is a wooden walk way that will guide you to the most spectacular trees in Muir Woods.  The trail wind’s around the trees to two spots the Cathedral Grove and the Bohemian Grove. 

There are a few hiking options: 

  • 1/2 hour loop
  • 1 hour loop
  • 1 1/2 hour loop

The 1 1/2 hour hike extends into Mount Tamalpais State Park.  Muir Woods is a great refuge away from the city.  It is also a great way to see the Redwoods without driving long distances to Redwood National Park or Yosemite National Park.
I highly recommend making a trip and seeing this spectacular National Monument. 

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Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Meals and Mile Markers

Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Photo Credit: Meals and Mile Markers.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, located in Tennessee and North Carolina, is a beautiful portion of the Appalachian Mountain Range. These mountains are a popular vacation spot that many Americans even visit annually. The park and its surrounding area offer a wide variety of attractions and activities so that everyone will find something of interest! The most popular activity is, of course, hiking. Whether you’ve never been on a hike in your life or if you’re a seasoned hiker, there will be a trail for you! If you have small children, Laurel Falls is a great option because it’s just over 2 miles long roundtrip. At the end of the hike, you will see a lovely waterfall that the entire family will be excited to discover! The Gatlinburg Trail is also great for all ages because it is paved and showcases some beautiful scenery. 

If you would like a more challenging hike, Rainbow Falls is popular as it is about 5 miles roundtrip and takes you to a waterfall that is not nearly as busy as Laurel Falls. The Chimney Tops trail is also a favorite. It’s only about 2 miles each way, but it’s also straight up and down. This is a very rocky trail and offers rock hopping, which is quite enjoyable for adventurers! Then, there are the trails that require a bit more effort, such as one of the five trails that leads up to Mt. Leconte, one of the highest mountains in the Eastern United States. The different trailheads vary in length and difficulty, but each of them will bring you to Myrtle Point, which offers panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains.

Fortunately, hiking is only one of the many activities in the area. If you choose to stay in Gatlinburg, which is home to many of the trailheads found within the park, you will have plenty of options in the evenings, as well as on the days when you don’t feel like hiking. You can find some Ripley’s attractions, many unique shops, miniature golf, and even some other adventurous activities!

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 Looking for more ideas about natural beauties to visit? Check out Prince Edward Island as told by Meals and Mile Markers.


Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Yonderlust Ramblings

Carlsbad Caverns. Photo Credit: Yonderlust Ramblings.

If you are looking for the perfect National Park to take the whole family, there is no better choice than Carlsbad Caverns National Park! This region of New Mexico embodies the best of the Southwest’s outdoor adventures, and this National Park continues the trend by excelling at combining outdoor adventure, educational learning opportunities, and unique activities all in one place, perfect for any family! At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, there is something for everybody! Children have a chance to learn and witness the wonder of some of the most unique geographical formations in the country, on a short, underground, self guided trek through the Caverns. They will likely never forget some of the whimsical creations they will see, such as the enormous Big Room, the Devil’s Den, or Iceberg Rock. Become like the early explorers and venture on a ranger guided tour, which provides even more magical and life-changing memories of exploring the Caverns lesser visited “rooms”, such as the Hall of the White Giant, Slaughter Canyon, or Left Hand Tunnel tours.

For those that enjoy above ground explorations, there are several trails that wind through the unique topography and ecosystem of the Chihuahuan desert, home to a plethora of unique species of plants and wildlife, sure to pique the curiosities and interests of any age! Choose from short and easy nature walks, like the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail, or expand your horizons on some longer treks, such as the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail. As the day winds to a close, be sure to stick around for one of the highlights of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the nightly bat flight program! This above ground dusk event includes an educational briefing by park rangers, followed by the exhilarating exit from the depths below of the Cavern’s resident population of Brazilian free-tailed bats, as they embark on their nightly ventures! Wherever your explorations of this National Park take you, be sure to bring plenty of water for the arid New Mexican environment, sturdy shoes with good traction for the wide variety of trails that exist here, and a light jacket for below ground, as the temperatures stay cool year round!

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Yellowstone National Park

Passports and Adventures

Clepsydra Geyser. Photo Credit: Passports and Adventures.

One of the best US National Parks to visit with kids is Yellowstone National Park. This amazing place found mostly in Wyoming, is home to bubbling springs, steam vents, bursting geysers and unimaginably beautiful landscapes. It is also home to an abundance of wildlife and you will be hard pressed to miss some of its occupants in the form of bison.

The most famous geyser on the world is in Yellowstone, Old Faithful, so called because of its predictable eruptions. This makes it easy to visit with kids, given that the Visitor Centre close by can tell you the approximate time of the next eruption so you are not waiting around for hours. There are other geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin that are on constant eruption. As well as the geysers, mud volcanos and springs, such as Grand Prismatic Spring, there are waterfalls, hikes, rivers and plenty of Visitor’s Centres to bring the kids to.

Yellowstone with kids is best enjoyed over several days, at least three, preferably four or more. You will need a car to get around, as it gives you the freedom to stop wherever and whenever you want.

Pro Tip: Do not underestimate the driving distances between points of interest in Yellowstone. It takes a lot longer than you think to go from point A to point B in the park.

You should plan a list of things to do with the kids and then plan your itinerary accordingly. For instance, plan to drive the lower part of the Grand Loop one day, and the upper part another day. If you elect to stay outside of the park, you need to factor in driving time to the entrance and then driving time to your first stop of the day. You should also factor in time for stops as you never know when you might spot something to stop at or pull over for. Don’t forget binoculars to help the kids spot wildlife.

Pro Tip: Get into the park early for popular places like Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful and the waterfalls of Yellowstone River, mainly to grab a parking spot. Being in the park early means you will miss the crowds and get to enjoy the popular areas at your own pace.

Yellowstone is an incredible place to bring kids as it is vast and diverse. There is wildlife to spot, incredible sights from nature to see and more.


Everglades National Park

Wayscaped

When most people think of national parks in the United States they picture sweeping scenic views of mountains and canyons. Everglades National Park, however, attracts visitors for its unique ecosystem and diverse species. Located on the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades is the perfect place to bring your kids to teach them about the importance of preserving the natural environment and fighting climate change. This ecosystem is incredibly vulnerable to rising sea levels and, according to the National Park Service, is already experiencing the effects of increasing salinity from seawater.

I recommend you start your visit at one of the park’s four visitor centers. If you only have time for a day trip, Shark Valley, which is accessible from Miami, or Gulf Coast, which is accessible from Everglades City, are good choices. If you plan to spend longer in the park, you can visit the southern centers, Royal Palm and Flamingo, via Homestead.

Unlike your typical national park, one of the most popular ways to explore Everglades National Park is by boat. Airboat tours through the mangroves are incredibly exciting and will be a hit for any kid who loves amusement rides. If you are looking for a quieter experience on the water, the park has endless trails and coastline to explore by canoe or kayak.

For hiking, there are a number of short educational trails throughout the park. The longer trails are often more wild and are not maintained by the park service due to the presence of endangered species. The visitor center at Royal Palm offers a program in Slough Slogging, or off-trail hiking through the water (ages 12 or older).

Check out this blog post for a 2-week itinerary highlighting the culture and nature of authentic Florida beyond the theme parks, including a stop at Everglades National Park.

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There you have it…many great national parks to choose from, and these are only a few! I encourage you to do some research and head out to start exploring these great locations across the United States! Before visiting be sure to read up on outdoor etiquette to make sure you are protecting these great landscapes!

Hometown Series: Delhi, India

Week 4

Written by Travel Melodies

This week we continue to explore the hometowns of travel bloggers around the world while diving into Delhi, India as told by local Anjali of Travel Melodies. Delhi is the capital of India and a pretty well known destination. However, taking a look at Delhi from the perspective of a local will give us a different spin on the destination.

In previous weeks we explored Leeds, Yorkshire from Get Lost Travel Blog, Ann Arbor, Michigan from Ann Plans Travel, and my own hometown, Herkimer, NY.

Delhi – A Local’s Guide


The vibrant capital of India – Delhi is known for its rich history, fascinating cultural traditions, chaotic yet colorful streets and markets, and mouth-watering street food. It’s a city that not only strings the people of many faiths and religions together but welcomes its guests with an open heart and mind.

As you travel across the narrow lanes of historic Old Delhi to wide boulevards of New Delhi, you’ll fall in love with the contrasts and the way the old and new blend together seamlessly.

Delhi is huge. There’s so much to see and do, to immerse yourself in from historic sites to iconic buildings to lively markets and streets soaked in the tastes and smell unique to India – you definitely need a plan to explore Delhi.

If you are a first-timer, you might get panicked and lost in the pandemonium. I’d recommend taking one of many cultural tours and heritage walks to understand the soul of the city. Delhi by Locals is one of the best tours in Delhi. A great way to see the city through the eyes of a local.

The best time to visit Delhi is during winter (October – March) as the city’s summer is harsh.

Must See Attractions

The Lodhi Gardens – a beautiful public park housing the historical monuments, is a delight to visit. The park is packed with fitness enthusiasts, bikers, runners, and families with kids indulging in various activities every morning. The adventure-loving families love walking the Lodhi Gardens Heritage and Nature Trails.

Lodhi Gardens. Photo Credit: Travel Melodies.

The iconic Mughal Garden located inside Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) opens its doors to the public during spring every year for people to admire the endless variety of flowers in full bloom.

If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to visit the Nehru Planetarium. Kids will be able to learn about astronomy and solar system through an interactive presentation. Another museum you should visit with kids is the National Science center. The Science Fun Centre at the museum is the best where kids can try their hands on various fun science experiments. A fun way to learn!

Rashtrapati Bhavan. Photo Credit: Travel Melodies.

Another must-visit in Delhi is Waste To Wonder Park that features replicas of seven wonders of the world made entirely from the waste. Delhi is home to some of the famous Mughal architectural wonders like Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Safdarjung Tomb, Tughlaqabad Fort, and the list is endless. History lovers can have an awesome time here in Delhi!

You can’t visit Delhi and not go to India Gate, the iconic landmark aka All India War Memorial. It’s one of the top places to visit in Delhi.

Food

You can enjoy some delicious north Indian food at Pandara Road, spicy street food at Bengali Market, or head to Gole Market for a variety of Indian food.

Be sure to take a stroll around Chandani Chowk. The narrow and chaotic lanes of Chandani Chowk hides some of the best street food joints, and colorful markets to go crazy over. Stop by at Firdaus Mithai Shop for the best chai (spiced Indian tea) in Delhi. Don’t forget to visit the famous Paranthe wali Gali lined with small shops selling yummy paranthas (an Indian flatbread) and Old Famous Jalebi Wala for the delicious Jalebi (an Indian sweet).

Delhi’s street food is infamous for causing Delhi Belly. So, how do you not miss delicious street food without getting sick? Take the right food tour that allows you to taste the delicacies without the risk of Delhi Belly.

Tap water in Delhi or for that matter in India is not safe for drinking, so make sure to carry an eco-friendly reusable water bottle with a filter.

Drop by at Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest wholesale spice market to buy Indian spices to take back home as a reminder of your time in Delhi.
Dilli Haat is another colorful place where you can shop for handmade products directly from the craftsmen and enjoy food from all the Indian states.

Dilli Haat. Photo Credit: Travel Melodies.

How to Pacify the Travel Bug When You Can't Travel

If you are anything like me, travel is something that is always on your mind. When you aren’t able to travel, it can leave that wanderlust getting even bigger. If you are unable to travel due to whatever reason (which is the case for the majority of us right now due to the corona virus), don’t get discouraged! There are plenty of ways to help fight that wanderlust!

Here are nine great things you can do to feed your wanderlust when you are not able to travel:

1.) Read Travel Books

Use some of your extra time to read up on some of the latest travel books and get some ideas for your future travels when the world returns to normalcy. Reading may help quench some of that thirst until we are able to travel again.

Travel Book Ideas:

  • 1-Ten Years a Nomad by Nomadic Matt-explore the life of a digital travel nomad and how he traveled the world for a living for the past ten years. You may find some useful tips if this is your goal!
  • 2-The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho- read the story of a young Shepard boy traveling from Spain to Egypt.
  • 3-Unlikely Destinations: The LP Story-Explore the development of the well known travel company The Lonely Planet. The book begins in the 1970’s and continues on into the 21st century.
  • 4-How to Travel the World on $50 A day-explore some budget travel tips and learn how people are able to afford to travel the world.

2.) Work On Your Bucket List

Use this time to review your travel bucket list, check off goals you have met, and add new destinations/activities (let’s face it-there is always something to add!).

Ideas for creating your travel bucket list:

  • Include activities, not just locations. While your bucket list may contain numerous destinations, don’t leave out different activities that you want to try, such as scuba diving, sky diving, hiking a volcano, and so on.
  • Dream Big. Don’t limit your bucket list because you think its something you may never be able to do. When I created my bucket list I included everything I wanted to do and see, regardless of the possibility of doing so.
  • Search for off the beaten path destinations. Sure, the well know attractions should be on your list, but don’t let that be all. Do some research while you have the extra time and find some off the grid destinations to visit.
Photo by Jondave Libiran on Pexels.com

3.) Netflix Binge on Travel Shows

  • Street Food-a documentary that will take you around the world to explore street food and chiefs, introducing you to the local food of diverse cultures.
  • Stephen Fry in America-join Steven Fry as he journeys across the United States.
  • Pedal The World-join Felix Starck as he explores 22 countries in 1 year-all on his bike!
  • Expedition Happiness-watch the journey of a couple as they travel around North America in a bus converted into an RV.
  • Dark Tourist-this series takes a bit of a different spin on a travel documentary. It explores destinations around the world that are known for tragedy.

4.) Read Travel Blogs

When you are not able to travel do some research and find some great travel blogs to read! This will give you some inspiration and will help you to continue to build your bucket list!

Here are some ideas for travel blogs to follow:

5.) Learn a New Language

Being stuck at home is the perfect time to learn a new language! Do some research and find a program that will help you in learning a new language and connect to social media groups from around the world that will help you through the process. When you do travel again you may be able to better communicate with the locals!

6.)Experiment with Recipes from Around the World

Use the time that you are home to explore and try your hand at your favorite recipes from around the world. You may learn to make something new and it will be a fun experience for the whole family.

Here are some places you can find some great international recipes ideas:

Or, of course, look up your favorite international food recipe!

7.) Explore some of the nature attractions in your own backyard

Never underestimate the beauty that is right around you. Check out some of the local state/national parks that are right around, go for a hike, or take a walk. When the ability to travel is limited, take advantage of what is right around you.

8.) Explore With Virtual Traveling

There are plenty of different museums, zoos, performances, and national parks that offer virtual tours. Take advantage of this, explore a new destination, and make plans for your next trip! Explore places such as the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums in Italy, or the bottoms of glaciers of Alaska.

9.) Plan Future Trips!

While it is hard to say when the pandemic will end and when life will return to normal with borders re-opening, there is no reason you can’t make tentative plans for future trips! You don’t have to specific dates or make any final arrangements, but begin to plan itineraries and budgets for potential trips. Here are some tips for choosing your next destination-put it to use!

Virtual Museums You Can Visit While Being Quarentined Due to Corona

The Corona Virus is undoubtedly taking it’s toll on all aspects of our lives, including travel.The world’s top tourist attractions are closed and the streets of some of the world’s favorite cities remain barren. In many areas the kids are home from school for an undetermined amount of time. As a family it may be difficult to find things to stay entertained and as travelers’ our wanderlust may be at it’s highest. While we may not be able to get out and explore, there are plenty of opportunities for us to enter the virtual world of travel and continue to learn about and experience other cultures.

I will not sit here and give you medical advice on the subject, but as a long term care nurse I can tell you that this virus can be much more devastating to the elderly population and that is why such drastic measures need to be and are being taken to help prevent its spread. I will not focus much on this however, but will rather shift to what you can do to help feed your wanderlust and keep your young ones learning about the world during this difficult time.

There are plenty of museums around the world that are offering virtual tours to continue to allow guests to experience the museums-from the safety and comfort of their own homes.

1.) The Louvre

Perhaps one of France’s most famous museums, the Louvre has three different options available for virtual tours. Explore the history of the Egyptians with the Egyptian Antiquities virtual tour, discover the history and remains of the moat that once surrounded the Louvre (once a fortress built by King Philippe Auguste). View the works of art on display in the Galerie d’Apollon.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2.) The New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium may be closed to visitors at this time, but they are offering live videos of their everyday activities such as feedings, tours, and other behind the scenes looks, as well as at home activities that can be done as a family.

3.) Vatican Museums

Spend some time exploring the Vatican Museums of Italy, such as the Pio Clementino Museum, Sistine Chapel, Niccoline Chapel, and the New Wing. Explore the artwork and history of these museums from the comfort of your own living room.

4.) National Museum of Natural History

Explore a variety of different natural world permanent and temporary exhibits through virtual tours offered by the National Museum of Natural History. Also included are virtual tours of the Smithsonian Castle and Hirshhorn Sculptures.

5.) New York’s Metropolitian Opera

Although live shows for the rest of the season have been cancelled by the Met Opera, they are offering regular streams of the performances to be watched online, with a different performance offered nightly.

6.) British Museums, London

Explore interactive virtual exhibits through the British Museum that explore the culture and history of countries around the world. Explore exhibits from 2,000,000 BC to 2000 AD.

7.) The Georgia Aquarium

Visit the Georgia Aquarium’s webpage for live animal webcams where you can watch the daily routine of Beluga Whale, piranhas, sea otters, barrier reefs, and more.

Photo by Glenn Haertlein on Unsplash

National Parks in the United States You Can Visit Virtually-Google Arts and Cultures has produced interactive experiences with five different US National Parks that you can explore from the comfort of your couch.

1.) Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Take a virtual tour through Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska and see glaciers, fjords, and icebergs located through the park. You can view an educational video, interact with a crevase, watch a glacier melt, kayak through some icebergs, and learn about the effects of climate change.

2.) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

The virtual experience on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii lets you explore the Nahuku Lava Tube, fly over an active volcano, learn about the impact of a volcano eruption, and enjoy some views from volcano coastal cliffs.

Photo by Geno Church on Unsplash

3.) Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park is located on a small island approximately 70 miles west of Key West. The island features a Civil War era fort, barrier reef, and shipwreck, all of which you an enjoy through the virtual tour. View the variety of different ocean species located in the clear blue waters off of the island. Explore the remains of Fort Jefferson and take in stunning ocean views.

4.) Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a desert area located in New Mexico that is home to over 100 caves. Walk through the caves on a virtual tour, view rock formations, and you may even run in to some bats on the virtual tour.

5.) Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park is a national park consisting of a number of different rock formations. View the park at night under a star filled sky, explore the rock formations, and go for a horseback ride.

Photo by Michael Hoyt on Unsplash

Hometown Series: Leeds, Yorkshire

Week 3

Written by Get Lost

As the Corona Virus makes its way through across the globe and changes our current way of life, severely limiting our ability to travel, we will continue to focus on the beauty that can be found around us-our hometowns. I encourage you all to take the time to enjoy your hometown, explore nature, and realize all that it has to offer! (Be sure to maintain social distancing for the protection of all!)

This week we will continue the series on Hometowns and hear from Hannah of Get Lost about her hometown of Leeds, Yorkshire. In previous weeks we discussed my hometown, Herkimer NY and the Ann Arbor from Ann Plans Travel.

Leeds, Yorkshire

Leeds is a city in Yorkshire in the north of England. While this city has only been my home for the last 6 years, I’ve fallen in love with it. Since moving here in 2014 I’ve researched and experienced all of the amazing things this city has to offer; here is just a taste of what Leeds has in store.

What to see

Leeds and the surrounding area have an awful lot to offer visitors. With so much to see and do, you’ll be spilt for choice. To give you some ideas to get started, I’ve highlighted just some of the attractions on offer in the city center.

Leeds Armouries

The Royal Armouries is the United Kingdom’s oldest museum and was originally housed in the Tower of London from the 15th century, making it one of the oldest museums in the world. Today, the collection is divided across three sites, one of which has found its home in the vibrant Leeds Dock area. This huge museum spans 5 floors and is free to enter.

You could easily lose yourself in the museum for an entire day exploring the history of armoury and hunting from around the world. The highlight of the collection is undoubtedly the elephant armour. This is the only example of an almost complete, all-metal elephant armour in any public collection in the world.

Royal Armouries. Photo Credit: Get Lost

Leeds Art Gallery

In 1997, the British government designated a collection of 20th-century British Art at Leeds Art Gallery as a collection “of national importance.” The gallery features some fascinating pieces in a range of mediums. The building itself is also a work of art; make sure you stop at the Tiled Gallery Café on your visit. This stunning room was originally the library’s reading room and is covered completely in beautiful tilework from the floor to (and including!) the ceiling.

Tiled Gallery. Photo Credit: Get Lost

Millennium Square

Millennium Square is a large, paved square that was the city’s flagship millennium project to mark the year 2000. The square is a popular location for outdoor concerts and events, including a large Christmas market throughout December. If you pay a visit to the square, make sure you don’t miss Mandela Gardens. This idyllic oasis is an award-winning garden is designed to reflect elements of South Africa and Britain and has been visited by Nelson Mandela himself.

Mandela Gardens. Photo Credit: Get Lost

Kirkgate Market

This bustling market has over 800 stalls and attracts over 100,000 visitors a week. In traditional market style, it is the ideal location to pick up fresh fruit, meat and flowers. It is also the birthplace of a British icon. In 1884 the very first Marks & Spencer opened in Leeds Market as a penny bazaar.

Kirkgate Market. Photo Credit: Get Lost

Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange is a beautiful Victorian building with an impressive dome-shaped roof. Inside, you’ll find 30 boutique stores selling a variety of wares. Today, it is one of only three remaining Corn Exchanges still functioning as a centre for trade in Britain.

Corn Exchange. Photo Credit: Get Lost

Hidden Gem: Railway Lifting Tower

Looking to find something unique on your trip to Leeds? Hidden amongst a group of new office buildings known as Wellington Place you will find one remaining railway lifting tower. Once part of a pair, this tower was used to hoist wagons from the high-level access viaduct to the yard below using steam power and chains.

Shop like a local

If you’re looking to incorporate some retail therapy into your visit, Leeds is the perfect place.

Trinity Leeds

This mall in the city center boasts over 120 high street shops. It is an impressive retail structure that weaves its way around some existing buildings, creating a multi-level ‘high street.’ It’s all topped off with an iconic and impressive glass ceiling, and an imposing modern sculpture of a packhorse carrying cloth.

Victoria Quarter Arcade

If you’re looking for a more up-market shopping experience, the beautiful arcades of Victoria Quarter are a must. The County and Cross Arcades were built between 1898 and 1904, designed by the theatre architect Frank Matcham. Today, the arcades are filled with high-end boutiques but still retain the beautiful Victorian décor.

Victoria Quarter Arcade. Photo Credit: Get Lost

Victoria Gate

The most recent addition to the shopping scene in Leeds is the Victoria Gate mall. Victoria Gate was built as an extension just beyond the Victoria Quarter to utilize an undeveloped area of the city. Boasting a large John Lewis department store and several premium retailers, it’s the ideal place for some luxury shopping.

Eat like a local

If you’re feeling in need of a bite to eat but don’t know where to start, head to Trinity Kitchen. This cool canteen is home to street food from all over the globe, all under one roof. They also have a unique concept of rotates six new street food vans every eight weeks, so you can sample something different every time you visit!

Did you know?

As well as great attractions, shopping and food, Leeds is also full of great street art! In fact, it is home to the UK’s tallest mural and the country’s biggest 3D, anamorphic work. If you’d like to learn more, check out this guide to finding the best street art in the city center

Street Art. Photo Credit: Get Lost

Looking for more travel inspiration? Follow Get Lost on Instagram!

The Ultimate Guide to a Wicked Experience in Salem, MA (For Families)

Salem, Massachusetts is a small, picturesque town on the coast of Massachusetts. Salem is located just 22 miles from Boston, making it a must do day trip if you are visiting Beantown. Salem is the small town that was home to the 1692 Salem Witch Trails. During the trials 20 locals were sentenced to execution after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Of the 20, 19 were hung and one was pressed to death with stones. Four more people died in prison while awaiting trial.

Salem has much to offer visitors and many great family friendly attractions and events. Enjoy the smell of salt water along Derby Wharf, learn about the chilling history of the Salem witch trials, visit original sites of the trials and historic homes, visit an old fashioned apothecary shop, and shop at an old fashioned candy shop. Although Halloween is undoubtedly the best time to take in the spookiness of the town, you can still experience it year round.

How to Get There

1-Drive. If driving in to Salem, I would recommend finding a parking garage or somewhere on the streets to park. Salem is a very walkable town and traffic may get heavy at certain times of the year. Park the car and enjoy exploring the area on foot!

2-Take a ferry from Boston-Boston Harbor Cruises offers a one hour fast ferry service from Boston to Salem If going for a day trip this may be the best way to get there.

3-Take the MBTA Commuter Rail from Boston. The rail station is located in downtown Salem, within walking distance of many shops, restaurants, accommodations, and attractions. Times and fees vary, be sure to check the MBTA schedule before traveling.

Best Time to Visit

Halloween (and the entire month of October) is unarguably the best time to visit Salem. Throughout the month of October Salem hosts their Haunted Happenings events. Haunted Happenings includes a grand parade, family film nights, haunted houses, psychic fair, ghost tours, daytime and after dark tours of Salem, Halloween Boos cruise with Mahi Cruises, haunted witch village, and of course lots of spooky costumes!

Haunted Happenings is a great time to visit with kids as there are plenty of kid friendly activities taking place.Visit on Wednesdays for a whole list of activities to keep the kids entertained! Activities include costumed characters, crafts, face painting, costume parades, music and dancing, trick or treating throughout the entire month, and kid friendly haunted houses. Saturday nights feature family friendly movies at Salem Common.

Fun (and a little bit spooky!)Things to Do with Kids

1-Visit the Salem Witch Museum

The Salem Witch Museum highlights the history of Salem and the witch trials with thirteen life size sets depicting the history of the witch trials and a variety of exhibits. Outside the museum stands the notable statue of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem. The Witch Museum is open daily 10am to 5pm, with extended hours in July & August (10am to 7pm) as well as varying hours in October. Be sure to check before your visit! Cost is $13 for adults, $11.50 for seniors, and $10 for children 6-14. (***Note: Younger children may find this museum uninteresting)

2-Get your photos taken at Witch Pix

Witch Pix is a costumed photography shop where you and the kids can transform yourselves into wicked (or nice) witches. The shop features a number of different backgrounds and props to transform you into the supernatural. Choose from spooky, serious, of goofy poses. Packages range from $40 to $250.

3-Enjoy the Salem Kids Walking Tour

Salem has plenty of walking tours available, but this is the only family and kid centered tour available. It is a one hour walking tour with a costumed guide that explores the history of Salem through fun and interactive experiences. There is also a Spooky Walking Tour with ghost stories and off the beaten path exploration around Salem. The tour is $15 for adults and $10 for children. Tour times may vary, be sure to check and reserve before you go!

4-Take a ride on the Salem Trolley

The Salem Trolley includes a one hour narrated tour of Salem as well as all day shuttle services around Salem. Guests may get on/off at any of the 14 stops around Salem and explore at their own pace. Tours take place from April to November daily from 10am to 5pm. Tours are $20 for adults, $19 for seniors, $10 for children 6 to 14, and free for ages 5 and under.

5-Visit the Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum is an art museum that is home to a number of different collections, including African, American, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Maritime, and Native American Art. The museum also features photography pieces. While these may not be of great interest to children, the museum also features a child friendly area with great activities. On the weekends you can enjoy science themed crafts at the Art & Nature Center galleries. Story Trails takes place once a month and involves a read aloud, exploration of artwork, and a craft. Studio Discoveries allows the kids to explore art and make their own creations with professional artists.

The museum is open daily 10am to 5pm. Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $12 for students with ID, and free for ages 16 and under.

6-Visit the Witch Dungeon Museum

The museum features a live action show followed by a tour of a dungeon replica. The museum also includes a replicated village and Gallows Hill. The museum is open daily from April through November 1am to 5pm. Note, this may not be suited for younger children.

7-Visit the New England Pirates Museum

Enjoy an interactive, guided tour through the New England Pirates Museum and learn about pirate captains that played a role in the history of Salem, including Kidd and Blackbeard. Walk through a dockside village, pirate ship, and bat caved filled with pirate treasures. This is a great activity for the pirate lovers in your family!

The museum is open daily May through October, 10am to 5pm. Admission is $9 for adults and $7 for children, or you can purchase combination tickets to the Pirates Museum, Witch Dungeon Museum, and Witch History Museum.

8-Explore the  Salem Maritime National Historic Site

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site includes twelve historic buildings along Salem’s waterfront. The site includes a visitor center, replica of a ship (the Friendship of Salem), Derby Light station, Derby house, narbonne house, public stores, and Scale House. The site is open 10am to 5pm daily.

9-Explore Hocus Pocus filming locations

If you or your child is a fan of the Disney film Hocus Pocus, spend some time checking out many of the filming locations of the film that are scattered around Salem. Visit Pioneer Village where the opening scenes of the film were shot before Binx was turned into a cat. View the Phillip Elementary School which served as Max and Allison’s school in the film. View the Ropes Mansion, which served as Allison’s house. Stop at Old Town Hall in Derby Square which was the location of the Halloween party at the end of the movie. Relax in the Salem Common where many outdoor scenes were filmed. You can visit the exterior of Max’s home in the movie, but please be aware that this is a private residence. If you want to venture off a little bit take the 15 min. drive to Marblehead to Old Burial Hill Cemetery which was featured in the film. Be sure to re-watch the movie before visiting!

10-Visit the House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables is the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthrone, which, true, may not capture the attention of the young ones. However, the house includes some family friendly attractions, such as the Kids’ Cove at the Counting House and the Living History Labs. Special programs are also offered on school breaks for the kids to enjoy.

The house is open daily from 10am to 5pm with extended hours in the summer months to 7pm. Admission is $17 for adults, $16 for seniors, students, and ages 13-18, $11 ages 5-12, and free for children 5 and under.

11-Enjoy the Salem Willows Arcade

Spend the day or evening at this oceanfront arcade enjoying great food and games. This is a great attraction for both kids and adults alike. Also available are bumper cars and a batting cage. Outside you can find a waterfront park with picnic areas, gazebos, and tennis and basketball courts.

12-Visit a Cemetary

Salem is home to three cemeteries, including Charter Street Cemetery, the Howard Street Cemetery, and the Broad Street Cemetery. The Old Burying Point Cemetery on Charter Street is the final resting place of many notable people in Salem’s history, including witch trial judges and a mayflower passenger. This may not be something that everyone will enjoy, but I mention it because my daughter always seems to have a good time looking at the grave markers.

13-Walk the Salem Heritage Trail

The Salem Heritage Trail starts at the National Park Service’s Salem Visitor Center and takes you along a red line through the historic points of the town along with many of Salem’s top attractions. Stops along the trail include the Peabody Essex Museum, Witch History Museum, Daniel ow Building, Witch House, Old Town Hall, and Old Burying Point Cemetery.

14-Visit the Salem 1630 Pioneer Village

Salem’s Pioneer Village is the first living history museum in America. It spans across 3 acres and has various structures, such as cottages and a blacksmith shop. Pioneer Village is open for tours on the weekends June through September at 12:30pm, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm.

15-Enjoy a Picnic Lunch in the Salem Common

Get away from the spookiness and history for a while and enjoy a tranquil afternoon. The Salem Common is a large open square where you can relax and enjoy a picnic lunch. In the center sits a large gazebo.

Places to Eat

1-Flatbread Company

The Flatbread Company is a pizzeria that offers a variety of different wood fried pizzas and salads. The Flatbread Company also features a bowling alley, so enjoy some wood fried pizza while bowling with the family. The restaurant also holds regular benefits nights for local non-profit companies and have given back to 800 charities. Prices range from about $10 to $22.

2-Howling Wolf Taqueria

The Howling Wolf Taqueria is a full service restaurant and bar offering classic Mexican dishes with a family friendly menu. The kids menu features items such as cheese quesadillas, cheese nachos, chicken quesadillas, chicken fingers, and a beef burrito. Prices range from about $3 to $17.

3-Bambolina

Bambolina is an Italian restaurant that was named the “Best Pizza on the North Shore” offering a variety of pasta dishes, pizza, local craft beers and wines as well as a kids menu with plenty of kid friendly choices. Prices range from around $10 up to $25 for dishes.

4-Bit Bar Salem

Similar to Dave and Busters, Bit Bar Salem offers a full menu as well as arcade games for the kids to enjoy (adults too-don’t be ashamed!). Bit Bar Salem has a kids menu featuring traditional dishes, such as grilled cheese, chicken fingers, hot dogs, mac and cheese, pizza, and fish & chips. The price range is from about $10-$20. The arcade features a number of different classic arcade games.





Where to Shop

1-Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

Indulge yourself in some old fashioned treats at this classic, old fashioned candy shop. This shop produces hand made candy with some recipes dating back to original recipes in the 1800’s. This shop is right across the street from the House of the Seven Gables, so combine your tour of this historic house with some mouth watering treats.

2-Artemisia Botanicals

Artemisia Botanicals is an apothecary shop located in Salem that sells over 400 different herbs, 100 different types of teas, saps, essential oils, and a variety of other homemade items.

3-Coon’s Card and Gift Shop

Coon’s Card and Gift Shop is a great shop for souvenirs, including clothing, mugs, shot glasses, key chains, magnets, as well as “witchy” stuff like tarot cards, herbal blends, candles, cauldrons, crystal balls, and spell kits.

Special Events

1-The Salem Haunted Happenings Festival

As discussed above, the Haunted Happenings Festival occurs annually in October and includes many family friendly attractions. Get into the spirit and enjoy the history and atmosphere of Salem in your favorite costume.

2-The So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Festival

The So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Festival i held annually in February. The event is a collaboration between The Salem Chamber of Commerce, Destination Salem, and local retailers The festival is full of decadent chocolate and ice sculptures. During the festival 20 plus sculptures are scattered throughout Salem and left until they melt. The festival also includes a chocolate and wine tasting.

3-Salem Maritime Festival

The Salem Maritime Festival occurs annually at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. The festival offers live music and dancing, harbor cruises, arts and crafts, and a variety of different demonstrations and activities. The festival is free!

Tips for Visiting with Children

1-Have Some Backup Plans

You may think that your child will enjoy an attraction, such as the Witch Dungeon Museum, but when arriving they may be frightened or not want to sit through the duration of the reenactment. Have a backup plan with other things nearby that the kids will enjoy in case something turns out to be a little too spooky.

2-Be Sure to Consider the Crowds

If you chose to visit during the time of year when special events are occurring, especially the Salem Haunted Happenings Festival. If crowds are something that your child does not do well with, it may be wise to avoid this time of year. If they are okay with crowds-go for it!

3-Do Your Research

Before visiting an attraction be sure to do your research and make sure that the attraction is appropriate for your child. Depending on age some attractions may not be suited for them. Do some research online and if you would like call ahead and ask if the attraction is appropriately for the age group of your child. Don’t risk wasting time and money on an attraction not designed for your child’s age.

4- Be sure to Bring a Stroller

Salem is a very walk-able town with many of the main attractions being in close proximity to each other. However, for younger kids with little legs getting around may prove to be more difficult. Be sure to bring a stroller or have some kind of alternative method of getting around, such as the Salem Trolley.

5- Verify That Your Hotel is Kid Friendly

Most hotels in the Salem area are kid friendly, with the exception of a few such as the Curwen House. Be sure to check with the hotel before booking to make sure that the accommodations are appropriate for your family.

Hometown Series: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Week 2

Written by Ann Plans Travel

This week we are continuing our series on hometowns. The purpose of this series is to remind us to never forget about the beauty of what is right around us and to discover all that these off the beaten path destinations have to offer. Last week my hometown, Herkimer, NY was discussed. This week we will be reviewing Ann Arbor, Michigan, as told by native Ann of Ann Plans Travel.

Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is a place where school pride runs deep among students, alumni and residents—all of whom are wolverines to the core. All prepared to cheer their team on no matter the season or sport. Gameday weekends crowd the city streets with over one hundred thousand people ready to cram into “The Big House ” and thousands more preparing to watch from the comfort of their homes. Everyone is decked out in bold yellow & blue, Michigan’s school colors. 

During the summer, the Border-to-Border Trail (B2B) is packed with runners, bikers, skateboarders and families walking along the trail passing through the heart of Ann Arbor. With geese waddling along the river at every turn and squirrels running up and down trees, you’ll never run out of wildlife to see. If you’re traveling with kids, take an afternoon to visit the Hands On Museum. They will be able to interact, experiment and explore the exhibits all while learning about science. The newly renovated Natural History Museum is not only free but another world class museum that you can visit as a family. 

B2B Trail. Photo credit: Ann Plans Travel

Downtown Ann Arbor is home to a vast array of local breweries—Grizzly Peaks and Jolly Pumpkin are both local favorites. Both offer a variety of ales, beers, wines and freshly prepared burgers, salads and entrees. After you’ve gotten a bite to eat, make your way over to Cherry Republic for a free sample of Michigan grown cherries. If you’re up for a short walk, stop by Graffiti Alley to see the latest creations of local artists. The University’s main campus is right across the street as well, so be sure to take a stroll around if you have time! Stop by The M Den for a Michigan-themed souvenir to remind you of your time in Ann Arbor. 

Ann – Ann Plans Travel (Follow Her on Facebook)

Leave No Trace

Ethics for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Exploring the outdoors can be intriguing for many, but for many environmental conservation is not at the top of their minds. Every person that spends time exploring and enjoying the outdoor world has a responsibility to preserve and protect it. As travelers we need to make every effort to preserve and protect the world we are so enthralled to explore.

The Leave No Trace Philosophy

Leave No Trace is an organization that promotes the protection of the natural environment while exploring the outdoors. Leave No Trace leads research and initiatives while providing education to the public on the importance of maintaining the environment.

1.) Plan Ahead and Prepare

Preparing for your adventure can help maintain the safety of travelers as well as protect the environment. Research the area you will be visiting including any alerts, restrictions, and bans. Leave No Trace recommends several steps that should be taken when planning a trip, including identifying and recording the goals of the trip, identifying the skill and ability of the participants, gaining knowledge of the area you are planning on visiting, choosing the right equipment and clothing, and planning your trip activities based on the above. Being prepared helps with keeping yourself and the environment safe.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2.) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Stick to the trails. Walking through untraveled areas can cause damage to the environment, including damage to vegetation and communities of organisms. If you must go off the trail or are in an area that does not have a trail be sure to stay on durable surfaces, such as rock, sand, and gravel. Also be cautious of vegetation and living soil. When camping try to find durable surfaces or pick an area that has been frequently used in the past and that you are not likely to do any further harm to.

3.) Dispose of Waste Properly

Before visiting a location be sure to research the guidelines for disposal of human waste. In some cases, cat holes may be acceptable and in others it may expected that it is carried out. If burying you should ensure you are at least 200 ft. from a water source, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep, and be sure to fill it back in and cover it with natural items such as branches and pinecones. Never leave toilet paper behind, be sure to carry it out with you.

In regards to other forms of waste, be sure to carry all trash out with you. Plan meals so that you don’t have a ton of strong smelling garbage that may attract wildlife. Avoid use of single use items, bring reusable items whenever possible.

4.) Leave What You Find

Leave natural items where you find them, including rocks, plants, shells, and other items. In many national parks it is actually illegal to remove items. In the past I have been attempted to take souvenirs from the natural world, but have since learned of the damaging effects that can have. Leave camp sites as you found them, don’t alter them. Don’t dig trenches for tent placement. Do not damage trees-do not carve initials into them! Do not pick wildflowers.

Photo by Julius Silver on Pexels.com

5.) Minimize Campfire Impacts

When thinking about starting a fire be sure to consider what damage it may do to the environment. Be careful about where you start the fire and if camping be sure to use only the designated areas. A great alternative to a fire is a portable stove, which are quickly becoming more popular. They are easy to use and eliminate the need for wood, therefore lessening the effect that has on the environment.

6.) Respect Wildlife

Do not disturb wildlife to get up close to them. Observe them quietly from a distance. Do not make excessive noise that will frighten the wildlife, (traveling in smaller groups helps), feed them , or touch them. Touching animals, especially young animals, can cause their parents to abandon them due to the smell, leaving them at risk. Keep your food secure and garbage put away. Camp at least 200 ft. away from water sources to ensure the wildlife is comfortable with reaching it.

Photo by Annika Thierfeld on Pexels.com

7.) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Be aware of other visitors exploring the same trails/location as you. Don’t be overly noisy, know generally expected rules about yielding the trail (e.g. mountain bikers, group tours, etc.), clean up after your animals, and keep your pets in line.

Tips On How Can You Contribute to Protecting the Environment While Exploring the Outdoors

1.) Bring a reusable water bottle

Water is essential when hiking and participating in strenuous outdoor activities, but bringing (and leaving behind) plastic water bottles can be harmful to the environment, ocean, and wildlife. Bringing a reusable water bottle can meet your hydration needs and help preserve the environment.

2.) If you see trash, pick it up!

If you see trash lining the trails don’t be afraid to take one for the team and pick it up. If you are visiting a beach and see trash lining the sand, pick it up! While it is not your fault/your trash, picking it up can do wonders for the environment and wildlife. Bring a pair of gloves (reusable) and help keep the environment clean so that we can continue to enjoy the natural world.

Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

3.) Keep Your Fires Small

While having a fire while camping can be enjoyable they can be very dangerous and harmful to the environment. Keep them small and manageable and start them only in designated areas. Always be sure to check for any location specific restrictions or bans.

4.) Minimize the use of single use items

Minimizing the use of single use items can reduce the amount of waste going back into the environment. Use biodegradable items to avoid leaving behind substances and chemicals that can be damaging to the environment (such as toothpaste, soap, and toilet paper).

5.) Be mindful of what you burn

If you have to have a fire, be careful of what you are burning, stick to dry wood//branches. Do not burn aluminum cans or other trash that may release harmful chemicals/pollutants into the environment.

6.) Replace commonly used items with natural products

Avoid the use of lotions, suntan oils, and make-up that can pollute the water sources. Replace commonly used items such as bug repellent with natural products, such as lemon eucalyptus. Do some research and find natural replacements for potentially harmful items.

Photo by Mã Minh on Pexels.com

Eco-Friendly Gear

What Should You Look For in a Company When Buying Eco-Friendly Gear?

When considering what company to buy from, some things to consider include:

  • the company’s mission and commitment to sustainability (what steps have they implemented to contribute to a healthier environment: use of renewable energy, installation of solar panels, production process, etc)
  • the company’s use of recycled materials
  • certifications: Does the company have any certifications that demonstrate it’s commitment to sustainability?
  • How are shipments packaged? Are they ecofriendly or is excessive plastic used?
  • The company’s commitment to animal welfare
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hiking Gear that is Eco-Friendly

1.) Reusable Storage Bags

Avoid the use of plastic bags that can be harmful to the environment and replace them with reusable silicone bags. These bags are recyclable and create nonhazardous waste and be used multiple times.

2) A Reusable Water Purifier Bottle

Purchasing a reusable purifier water bottle will reduce the use of plastic water bottles, which are horrible for the environment. A reusable water bottle with a filter will provide you with protection against potentially harmful bacteria/microorganisms in the water and will eliminate the need for you to use plastic bottles.

3.) Million Mile Light

The million mile light is an LED light that does not require batteries and will never die. It does require fast movement to work, so it may be better suited for runners, but certainly may come in handy while hiking depending on your speed. It can be purchased for $20, but can last for years.

4.) Eco-Friendly Sleeping Bags

There are plenty of options for sleeping bags that take into consideration the welfare of animals in the making of the sleeping bags as well as use recycled materials with minimal harm to the environment.

Patagonia follows the BlueSign Standard in producing eco-friendly sleeping bags. They are also comitted to animal welfare in the creation of their sleeping bags.

MEC is another eco-friendly brand that follows the Blue Sign standard in the creation of their products. MEC has developed hyperloft Eco technology insulation which is produced from 50% recycled materials.

5.) Eco-Friendly Backpacks

Find a eco-friendly backpack from Eco-Gear, a company that is committed to creating gear that has low impact on the environment and is made from recycled fibers from plastic bottles. Ecogear offers a variety of options, including backpacks, hiking packs, hip packs, and rolling bags.

6.) Clothing

Purchase eco-friendly hiking clothing for your adventures and contribute to protecting the environment. Patagonia has a line of clothing that is produced from recycled polyester and the company is committed to producing products that minimize harm to the environment.

7.) Cookware/Utensils

Purchase reusable, foldable dishes and titanium cookware and avoid the use of plastic/paper that will be thrown away. Avoiding the use of plastic utensils that will be thrown away will also prove beneficial for the environment.

For a durable, eco friendly ravel set check out this portable utensil set by DINNA.

Check out Earth Hero for a variety of Eco-friendly products.

***Note: These are not affiliate links and I have not been asked by the companies to include them. These are recommendations ONLY based off of personal experience.****

Hometown Series: Herkimer, New York

Those of us who have permanently been inflicted with the travel bug constantly seek to explore the world, see the depths of the seas and tops of the mountains, go on new adventures, and uncover experiences we only imagined in our wildest dreams, but the beauty and charm of our hometowns should not be forgotten.

Each week we will be exploring the hometowns of fellow travel bloggers, exploring the small town (or big city) charm, unique experiences, and mouth watering food. This week we will begin with my hometown (and some surrounding areas-it is a VERY small town): Herkimer, NY.

Why Visit Herkimer, New York?

Herkimer, NY and surrounding areas have much to offer in the way of family fun, nature, history, the arts, and cuisine. Herkimer lies within the Mohawk Valley and is a short drive from the Adirondack and Catskills Mountains and larger cities such as Syracuse and Rochester.

Best Time to Visit

Summer is a great time to visit Herkimer and the surrounding areas. The weather is warm, but not to hot and there is plenty to do to keep you cool. Fall is a great time to visit the area as well as this is when the fall foliage peaks and you will be amazed with stunning views throughout the Adirondack Mountains. Unless your a big fan of winter sports, I would recommend skipping the winter time, it can get very cold and wet with sometimes feet of snow on the ground.

Must See Attractions

1.) Dig for diamonds at The Herkimer Diamond Mines

The Herkimer Diamond Mines are home to unique double-terminated quartz crystals that are believed to be 500 million years old. You can visit the above ground mines and search for these crystals, and are free to keep whatever you find. You can also visit the gift shop, experience a variety of dining options, the kiddos can attend a STEM camp, or enjoy the outdoors at the nearby KOA Campgounds.

  • Hours: April through November 9am to 5pm daily
  • Cost: $14 for ages 13 and up, $12 for ages 5 to 12, and free for ages 4 and under (admission includes the use of a rock hammer, zip lock bag, and mining information).
  • Location: 4601 NY-28, Herkimer, NY 13350

2.) See a show at the Stanley Theater

The Stanley theater is a historic Baroque movie palace that has a long history dating back to 1928. The interior design is quite extensive with stunning details, including lions, Indian faces, angels, and cherubs. The theater is still alive today with performances throughout the year, including musicals such as Cats, The Color Purple, Scrooge, The Nutcracker and concerts.

  • Hours: Varies, visit their website for show times
  • Cost: Varies based on the performance, visit their website for showtimes and prices
  • Location: 261 Genesee St, Utica, NY 13501

3.) Visit the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Museum

Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts museum is an art museum that also offers art and photography classes throughout the year. The museum is home to many internationally recognized pieces of artwork, including American and European pieces.

  • Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 1pm to 5pm, closed on Mondays
  • Cost: $12 for ages 12 and up, free admission under 12
  • Location: 310 Genesee St, Utica, NY 13502

4.) Watch or Join in the Boiler Maker

The Boiler Maker is often referred to as the country’s best 15K road race. It first started in 1978 and now occurs annually through the city of Utica, attracting over 20,000 runners from around the world. The week leading up to the big race is know as Boiler Maker Weekend and features a number of different activities for runners, such as a kid’s race and a health and wellness expo. To celebrate the end of the race an after party is held at the F.X. Max Brewery. The race occurs on the second Sunday of July.

5.) Visit Old Forge

Old Forge is located about an hour and a half outside of Herkimer, NY within the Adirondack Mountains. It’s a small hamlet, but has much to offer year round. Old Forge is home to the largest water park in New York State, Water Safari. Open during the summer months Water Safari offers 32 heated water rides as well as dry rides, a circus show, a storybook village, a petting zoo, old fashioned candy shop, and theme park games. Old Forge also offers water activities such as tubing and kayaking and hikes doable for hikers of all levels.

6.) Tour the F.X. Max Brewery and attend a Saranac Thursday celebration

The F.X. Max Brewery is a local brewery located in Utica, NY that dates back to the early 1900’s. The company started off making craft beers (West End IPA), a variety of craft beers during the WW II era, referred to as Utica Club, and the Saranac brand which originated in the 1980’s. The brewery hosts Saranac Thursdays weekly throughout the summer months with brews and musical concerts.

  • Hours: Tour times vary, be sure to check before your visit, but are currently being offered on Fridays hourly from 1pm to 4pm and Saturdays at 1pm and 3pm.
  • Cost: $5 for ages 12 and up, under 12 are free
  • Location: 830 Varick St, Utica, NY 13502

7.) Take a Ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is a tourist railroad that stretches from Utica to Lake Placcid. Guests can enjoy a scenic trip through the Adirondack Mountains. The company also offers themed train rides, including a beer and wine ride, easter bunny ride, halloween themed ride, and Polar Express ride. Ride times and costs vary depending on which ride, be sure to check their website prior to your visit.

8.) Take in some history at the Herkimer Home, Fort Stanwix, or the Oriskany Battlefield

The Herkimer Home is a historic mansion overlooking the Mohawk River that was home to General Nicholas Herkimer. General Herkimer was the general who led troops to defend Fort Stanwix in the Battle of Oriskany, a battle that is said to be a turning point in the Revoluntionary War. Today you can tour the home, wander the grounds, take in the views of the Mohawk River, and visit the visitors center. The home is open for tours May through September 10am to 5pm Wednesdays through Sunday. Admission is $4 for adults with children under 12 free.

Fort Stanwix, located in Rome, NY, is a reconstructed version of a fort built to safe guard the Oneida Carry during the french and Indian War. You can explore the fort and participate in living history programs to learn about the history of the site. You can also visit the visitors center to learn more about the history of the fort. Open daily 9am to 5pm with no admission fees.

The Oriskany Battlefield is the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution. The battle occurred in 1777 and was the battle that resulted in the fatal wounds of General Nicholas herkimer, the general that Herkimer, NY is named after. Today you can explore the field, view the monument, and visit the visitors center. The site is open May through September 10am to 430pm.

9.) Attend the Great American Irish Festival

The Great American Irish Festival is a three day celebration that takes place annually and highlights the Irish culture with music, dancing, educational programs, a bagpipe band competition, Irish mass, kids’ activities, and great food.

  • Hours: varies by year, takes place in September
  • Cost: Varies depending on the day, but ranges from $10 to $18, with three day pass options available for $35
  • Location: Irish Cultural Center, 623-601 Columbia St, Utica, NY 13502

10.) Test your luck at the Turning Stone Casino

The Turning Stone Casino has much to offer, including an abundance of dining options, slot machines, poker games, bingo, spa amenities, a golf course, nightclubs and bars, and plenty of concerts and shows. In the winter time the Turning Stone is full of Christmas decorations and is home to a gingerbread village.

  • Location: 5218 Patrick Rd, Verona, NY 13478

11.) Empty your wallet at Destiny USA (and have some family fun)

Destiny USA is a shopping complex located in Syracuse, NY that offers six floors of shopping and entertainment. It is home to many brand names stores including Macy’s Lord and Taylor, Aeropostale, American Eagle, and Coach. The complex also offers many different options for entertainment, including a mirror maze, climbing course, lasertag, indoor glow mini-golf, a movie theater, imax theater, mystery room, and wonderworks. The shopping complex is also home to a 1909 carousel that sits beside the mall’s food court and is open for rides daily.

  • Hours: Monday through Saturday 10am to 930pm and Sunday 11am to 6pm
  • Location: 9090 Destiny USA Dr, Syracuse, NY 13204

12.) Visit an old school amusement park at Sylvan Beach

The Sylvan Beach Amusement park is an old fashioned amusement park offering rides, games, an arcade, carnival food, shopping, and beach access.

  • Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 12pm to 8pm, with extended hours to 10pm on Friday and Saturday
  • Cost: $29.95 for an unlimited ride band for adults and $19.95 for kiddie land
  • Location: 112 Bridge St, Sylvan Beach, NY 13157

13.) Attend a Utica Comets game

Utica is home to the Utica Comets, a professional ice hockey team that belongs to the North Division of the Eastern Conference of the American Hockey League. If you or your travel companions are into hockey it is a great way to spend an evening.

  • Hours: Vary, check the schedule for game times during your visit.
  • Cost: Ticket prices vary depending on seat options, but range from $20 to $32
  • Location: 400 Oriskany St W, Utica, NY 13502

14.) Take a Erie Canal Cruise

Take a scenic boat ride along the Erie Canal, go through a working lock, and learn about the history of the Erie Canal. Erie Canal Cruises also offers a living history cruise, which includes a tour of the historic Herkimer Home (home of an American Revolution general), BBQ lunch, an 18th century chocolate making demonstration, and cruise through the Erie Canal and working lock. This tour is offered on select dates throughout the summer.

  • Hours: May through October, departing twice daily at 1pm and 3pm
  • Cost:$20 ages 10 and up, $12 ages 4 to 10, and 3 and under free, the Living History Cruise is $64 a person
  • Location: 800 Mohawk St, Herkimer, NY 13350

15.) Spend the day hiking

Herkimer is a short drive away from the Adirondack and Catskills Mountains, both of which are filled with great hikes for hikers of all skill levels. Check out easier hikes such as Bald Mountain, Panther Mountain, or Overlook Mountain, or if you are a more advanced hiker try your hand at any of the Adirondack high peaks.

16.) Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame

Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and explore the history of one of America’s favorite pastimes in it’s birthplace: baseball. The museum is home to over 40,000 baseball artifacts and tributes to some of the most famous baseball players in history.

  • Hours: Daily 9am to 5pm labor day through memorial day and 9am to 9pm from memorial day to labor day
  • Cost: $25 for ages 13 and up, $15 for ages 7 to 12, and free for children 6 and under
  • Location: 25 Main St, Cooperstown, NY 13326

17.) Visit the beach or get out on the water

There are plenty of great state parks featuring great beaches, hikes, and nature walks as well as camping during the warmer months. Several of these beaches also offer kayak rentals for you to get out and explore the lake on your own. Check out Glimmerglass State Park, Delta Lake State Park, and Green Lakes State Park.

Must Try Foods

1.) Half Moon Cookies

Growing up with morning runs to the grocery store to grab a half moon cookie, I never even considered that these cookies were unique to Utica, NY. But after traveling a little bit I soon realized that that was the case. Many people I encountered had never even heard of this delicious treat. The cookie was first designed at a local bakery opened in 1925 by Harry Hemstrought. Although the cookie has spread in popularity and can now be found in many places throughout the state and beyond, the half moon cookie remains a local favorite. You can find half moons at many locations, but you must be sure to try them at Holland Farms.

2.) Utica Greens

Utica Greens is a Italian American dish that includes hot peppers, sauteed greens, chicken stock, escarole, cheese, pecorino, bead crumbs, and in some versions a variety of meats. This dish was popularized in the 1980’s at the Chesterfield Restaurant. The greens are now found at a number of restaurants throughout central New York.

3.) Chicken Riggies

Chicken Riggies are a mildly spicy pasta dish that originated in the Utica-Rome area. The dish consists of chicken, rigatoni, and hot or sweet peppers in a creamy tomato sauce. The dish is believed to have originated in 1979 at the Clinton House, but the original recipe did not include the creamy sauce that is seen in most chicken riggie dishes today.

4.) Tomato Pie

Although tomato pie did not originate in Utica, tomato pie is a very popular dish in Utica and surrounding areas. Utica tomato pie consists of a thick, soft dough topped with a tomato sauce, grated pecorino romano cheese, and sprinkled with oregano.

Where to Eat

1.) Yetty’s Pizza

Yetty’s Pizza is an Italian restaurant and pizzeria. Yetty’s is known for it’s unique upside down pizza that is sold and shipped around the country and their original creamy western wings. You can choose to have an eat-in dining experience or order pick up or delivery.

2.) Empire Diner

Voted as the best diner in Upstate New York, the Empire Dinner serves mouth watering dishes in large portion sizes. The diner itself is a 1952 mountainview diner with original features. The diner offers a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

3.) Napoli’s Italian Bakery and Deli

Home of what is arguably the best tomato pie in the area, Napoli’s Italian Bakery and Deli offers a wide selection of baked goods, sandwiches, subs, calzones, and a variety of fresh cheeses and meats.

4.) Babes

If you are looking for a wide selection of delicious riggie options Babes is the place to go. Every now and then they have what they call Riggie Fest, during which they offer a wide selection of Riggies, including vegetarian riggies, chicken riggies, and sausage riggies. They also serve the famous Utica Greens. Enjoy a sit down meal in a relaxing, family friendly environment.

What You Need To Know About Planning For Your First Cruise

Cruises can be great…you get the relaxation and a stress-free atmosphere all while visiting multiple countries and experiencing multiple cultures in a short time frame. Once on-board 99% of the stress of vacation planning falls away, you don’t have to worry about transportation, time frames, parking, finding your destination, etc. However, it can take a great deal of planning prior to the cruise to ensure that the trip is as stress free as possible. Here is a timeline and some planning tips to make the process a little easier and more enjoyable for you:

Cruise Planning Timeline

18 months before sailing

  • Book the cruise. While you can generally book a cruise anywhere from abut 18 months to a week before the cruise sets sails, you will want to do it well in advance to ensure adequate time for payments and planning. Last minute getaways are great a well, but planing ahead can reduce the stress and frustration of trying to do in a rush.
  • Plan out your cruise budget, taking into account the cost of the cruise, airfare, transportation, any hotel costs, on board activities, shore excursions, food/drink, tips, and any port activities if you are spending some time in the port city.

12 to 18 Months Before Sailing

  • Make sure you have bought travel insurance, if you are going to. I would highly recommend it, you never know what might happen and if a situation arises where you need it the last thing you want is to have to regret not having it.
  • Check the expiration date on your passport. You will want to make sure your passport is good to get you through your trip, if not make sure you renew or in the case that you don’t have one-order one. This will ensure that you will have it in plenty of time before departure. (Do note that for most closed loop cruises (cruises starting and ending at the same port) you do not need a passport-but be sure to check with your cruise line).

6 to 12 Months Before Sailing

  • Verify required travel documents and make sure you have all needed documentation (such as passport, visas, birth certificates, photo ID, etc.). Check with your cruise line and destination ports for required documentation.
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3 to 6 Months Before Sailing

  • Make sure you have made the final payment on your cruise.
  • Book shore excursions.

1 Month Before Sailing

  • Confirm all reservations.
  • If needed, arrange for a house sitter, pet sitter, or child care.
  • Make sure you have made reservations for any applicable on board activities, such as photo opportunities or spa treatments.
  • Ensure that you have checked health alerts for the destinations you will be visiting and have received all recommended vaccinations.
  • Check your wardrobe and make sure you have everything you will need. Purchase anything you may not have.
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2 to 4 Weeks Before Sailing

  • Make sure that you have your needed travel documents (cruise line documents, airline documents). Ensure that all information is accurate.
  • Make sure you have an adequate supply of all prescription medications. If needed obtain a written statement from your physician on the need for the medication.
  • Exchange some money for local currency of the destinations you will be visiting.
  • Make photocopies of all important travel documents.
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One Week Before Sailing

  • Pack
  • Verify any house sitters, babysitters, and pet sitters.
  • Notify your bank that you will be traveling with dates and destinations.
  • Arrange to have your mail held at the post office.
  • Print a copy of your itinerary and leave it with family or friends.

One Day Before Sailing

  • Attach your cruise line luggage tags
  • Make sure your electronics (cell phone, camera, etc.) are charged and ready to go. Pack the chargers.
  • Check in online for your flight.
  • Double check to make sure you have packed everything you will need.
  • Get rid of perishable foods.
  • Make sure all bills are paid as needed.
  • Get a good night’s sleep so you are ready for your big adventure!
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Tips For Your First Cruise

  • Arrive to the port early. If you are booking your flight separate from the cruise, be sure to plan your arrival extra early. I would recommend planning on arriving the day before in case of delays, you don’t want to be late-the cruise won’t wait for you.
  • Be prepared for sea sickness-get an over the counter remedy just in case you get sea sick-it may save your vacation. Another option for preventing sea sickness is reserving a cabin higher up. The higher up the cabin the less likely you are to experience the motions that cause sea sickness.
  • Choose your cabin type wisely-if you are claustrophobic make sure you choose a room with a window or balcony room.
  • Pack a day bag with all your essentials. When arriving to the port your luggage will be taken to your cabin, likely before you are allowed access to the cabin. Make sure you have all your essentials in a day bag, including your travel documents, cell phone, wallet, medications, etc.
  • Make sure you check the dress codes. Some cruises have themed nights and require certain apparel. If you do not dress appropriately you will likely be turned away.
  • Skip the elevators. While on board, use the stairs over the elevators. Elevators tend to be overly crowded and you will waste valuable time waiting for them. Plus…taking the stairs will give you some extra exercise!
  • Plan a couple extra days to explore the port city. Plan on arriving early or staying a couple days after the cruise to explore the city. There is plenty to do and see and most cruises even offer excursions in the city that you can book through the cruise company.
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