03/31/2015

Top 5 Things To Do In Chicago, IL: Chicago Attractions

Whether you have been to Chicago or not, this city has all the offerings you’d expect for first time visitors or repeat Chicago lovers. From world-class food to vibrant nightlife, education to sports, Chicago has a little something for everyone.

The best time to visit “Chi-Town” are in the months of April and May or September through October when the temperatures are warm and hotel rates are reasonable. Many of Chicago’s top festivals take place during these months as well, like the Barbeque festival. The state’s largest BBQ competition, Red, White, and BBQ has live music, vendors, beer tastings, and of course award-winning barbeque.

With so many attractions to visit and see, we have compiled the top 5 must-see & dos in Chicago.

Millennium Park
Chicago Bean

For first timers, Millennium Park is a must! Even for repeat visitors, Millennium Park offers a gorgeous backdrop for an outdoor stroll. Located on 24.5 acres, the most popular sight to see is the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, better known as “The Bean.” One of the most unique and interesting sculptures in the world, The Bean invites visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives. It’s the perfect place for “selfies.” Millennium Park also offers Lurie Garden, a popular area within Millennium Park. Lurie Garden is an urban oasis that provides serenity within a big city. Dedicated to eco-friendly botanical landscapes, Lurie Garden offers self-guided tours perfect for a quiet, relaxing day still while being within the heart of the city. 

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03/27/2015

Three Vacation Hot Spots The Whole Family Can Enjoy

When you think of vacations your whole family can take part in, where and what do you think of? Mountains? Beaches? Museums? The old west? The East coast? Check out these three hotspots and learn more about why they are the perfect fit for your whole family! 

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03/26/2015

5 Ways To Survive That Dreaded International Flight

 

How to survive an international flight

If you fly often, you know how it is. You’re surrounded by thousands of people trying to get where they need to go in the airport, then you’re stuck with another couple hundred people when you actually get on your plane.

While some of you may find this routine, a lot of us cringe and bite our lip at the thought of being in close proximity to so many strangers on a plane all day or night.

Whether you’re traveling for business or exploration, reaching your destination is worth the long, uncomfortable flight. And luckily, there are five ways you can make your entire traveling experience more enjoyable, including the dreaded plane ride:

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03/18/2015

Walkable Cities Make for Happy Lives

 

Walking

Where will you be headed for summer vacation? Maybe your summer will be spent actually moving to another city entirely. Whether you’re planning a trip or getting ready to move to a new home, consider a city that’s pedestrian friendly rather than a commuter’s paradise.

While commuting everywhere is certainly easier and more convenient, it’s not always the best choice if you want to live a vigorous lifestyle.

According to America Walks, the top walkable cities in America are among the most sustainable and prosperous places to live and visit. The residents who live in these cities are also among the healthiest and happiest in the country!

We gave these five cities an A+ for being the most walkable cities in the U.S. Did your home city or vacation spot make the cut?

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03/17/2015

Three Spring Break Hot Spots for Students

Spring Break Hot Spots for Students

Why are these three destinations just right for your Spring Break getaway? Beaches and pools, for starters – but of course, there's so much more. Get the scoop here, plus three more great locations for a week of warm-weather fun. 

 

03/04/2015

Carry-On Essentials

 

Shutterstock_carry on

Your 3 Carry-On Essentials Guide When Flying

If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?

Hopefully you won’t ever have to answer this seriously, but the question applies to your carry-on bag, especially if your luggage gets lost. If your carry-on isn’t your sole piece of luggage for your flight, you’ll need to pick what items you want with you on the plane. 

But how do you decide what you should or should not pack in your carry-on? Here’s how you can break up your packing into absolute needs, basic needs, and comforts to help you put together the perfect carry-on.

Absolute Needs:

• Prescription medications and medical supplies for each day you’ll be away from home
• All forms of identification, including money and credit cards
• Jewelry and other fragile belongings
• Electronics

Basic Needs:

• A change of clothing if your luggage is lost
• A travel-sized tube of toothpaste, makeup, and other toiletries
o Make sure your carry-on toiletries are approved within the 3.4 ounce or less, per container policy. To review other items that you can and cannot bring in your carry-on, visit the TSA.gov website for further information.

Comforts:

• Music and books to help you pass the time on the flight
• Your laptop or tablet to watch movies or shows
• Snacks, especially if your flight doesn’t offer full meals
• A sweater or jacket to keep you warm during the flight

By following these packing tips, you’ll be prepared to pack your carry-on bag the next time you travel. Having items like toiletries, a change of clothes, and entertainment will help you have an enjoyable flight and give you the peace of mind you need if your luggage goes missing.

Note: Before you fly, check the airline’s carry-on size restrictions and pack your bag accordingly.

03/03/2015

The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling With Kids

Shutterstock_family at airport

 

Remember the scene in Home Alone when the McCallister family is rushing around frantically to get to the airport on time for their Christmas trip to Paris? The McCallisters make their flight in time, but end up forgetting Kevin, the youngest child in the family, at home.

A worst parents’ nightmare.

Then, in Home Alone 2, Kevin makes it to the airport with his family, but ends up on a different plane as a result of all the chaos.

Another nightmare.

Chances are you won’t leave your child at home or lose him on a different flight, but traveling with your kids can be a challenge. Check out the do’s and don’ts of traveling with your kids that will make the process much easier.

1. Pre-Trip Communication

Don’t: Arrive at the airport with your kids for the first time and expect them to behave. Flying causes anxiety for grown adults, so it’s understandable if your kids are frightened or nervous about getting on a plane.

Do: The night before your trip, walk your kids through what they should expect. From the security process and body machines, to the aircraft and the noises they will hear, taking the time to explain can help alleviate confusion and worry, and make airports a more peaceful place for your child.

2. Booking Your Flight

Don’t: Travel when you know your kids will be the greatest hassle. If you know your kids are energetic during the middle of the day and you’ll have to give them plenty of attention, don’t schedule a long car ride or a flight during that time.

Do: Work your travel plans around your kids’ schedules. If your children still nap, schedule your car ride or flight during the time that your kids are napping. If it’s easier to travel after your kids are down for the night, schedule a red-eye flight.

3. Seat Selection

Don’t: Ignore your ability to pick your family’s seats on a flight. If you know Jack and Sarah don’t get along, don’t sit them next to each other on a long flight.

Do: Use SeatGuru.com to check out the layout of your aircraft. This will give you a better idea of whether or not you want your family to sit in the same row or if there is a way to group people together for a much smoother flight.

4. What To Bring

Don’t: Forget to bring toys. This may be a given, but never travel with your kids without bringing something to keep them entertained. The busier they are during the trip, the less likely they’ll be to get bored and stir up trouble.

Do: Prepare a list of your children’s favorite An assortment of tasty snacks and activities like puzzles, movies, and magnetic travel board games can help pass the travel time for your kids.

Travel is a great way to expose your kids to new places, people, and cultures, so don’t let the stress of traveling with your children prevent you from booking your next trip. If you follow these do’s and don’ts, traveling with your kids can be smooth sailing!

 

03/02/2015

Spring Break 2015: Where Will You Be?

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March isn’t just the start of the spring season. March is when students of all ages break free from the classroom, ditch their textbooks and coursework, and dive head first into a week of spring bliss.

Whether you’re a college student or a parent of a K-12 child, now is the time to get out of town and enjoy a vacation. But with so many incredible destinations in the world, how can you find the perfect one for you, your family and friends, and your budget?

 

Check out our list of top six spring break destinations ranked from family-friendly to college hot-spots that are guaranteed to be fun getaways that won’t break the bank.

Outdoor Fun for the Whole Family:

Asheville, North Carolina
Located about two hours from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Asheville is the perfect outdoor getaway. With horseback riding, fly-fishing, hiking, and a thriving arts and food scene, your family will have plenty to do. Remember to pencil in some time to visit Sliding Rock, a 50 foot natural waterslide, the Botanical Gardens of Asheville, and Splashville, an interactive water feature in downtown Asheville.

Take Your Family to Texas:

Austin, Texas
Spring in central Texas offers beautiful weather without the punishing summer heat. From swimming in the naturally fed Barton Springs Pool, to riding Austin’s only Steam Train where you can take a step back in time, Austin boasts plenty of family friendly activities. Don’t forget to stop by the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex where you and your family can see a movie, go bowling, indoor roller skating, play at the arcade, and more!

The Ultimate Family Beach Getaway:

Key Largo, FL
Orlando and Daytona are well-known spring break spots, but have you heard about Key Largo? This is the perfect spot for water enthusiasts of all ages with parasailing, sunset cruises, paddle boards, and even the chance to swim with dolphins. Whether you spend your trip lounging on the beach, swimming, or touring the Everglades National Park, your family will have a blast at Key Largo!

Viva Las Vegas, College Students!

Las Vegas, NV
You certainly don’t have to be a high roller to have a good time in Las Vegas. Pool clubs like the Bare Pool Lounge at the Mirage and the Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan are popular and affordable for college students during spring break, especially if you’re looking for a place to mingle, party, and cool off. For the more low-key college student, the Eiffel Tower Experience and the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay are fun, budget-friendly activities to do while visiting.

Party It Up South of the Border:

Cancun, Mexico
A popular hotspot for spring break, Cancun is full of white sand, sparkling beaches, and electrifying nightlife. You can pet exotic marine life such as stingrays at the Interactive Aquarium and eat delicious food at Senor Frogs and Dady’O. If you’re looking to take the all-inclusive route, Oasis Cancun and Salvia are budget friendly and offer pools, beach, daytime dance parties, and more.

Visit the Land of the White Cane Palms:

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
In Punta Cana, it’s all about the beach. With over 21 miles of fine, white, coral sand beaches, Punta Cana offers the luxury of beach-side fun at all-inclusive resorts like top rated Majestic Elegance and Hard Rock Hotel. These resorts offer large lagoon-style pools, top shelf drinks, nightly entertainment, rock climbing, meals, and more! The island also offers other thrilling activities like zip line tours, snorkeling cruises, and Central Romana Corporation, the largest sugar cane plantation in the country. Punta Cana promises a week packed with fun for you and your friends!

 

01/28/2015

Winter Travel Tips

Winter Travel

Winter travel is appealing to many people across the country. Whether you prefer to escape bitter cold temperatures to a sunny paradise or hitting the slopes atop a snow crested mountain, winter travel offers plenty of reasons to getaway. But successful winter travel means navigating through the snow, ice, sleet, or even freezing rain that can be unavoidable during this time of year. To that end, here are some travel tips to help you avoid spending time stuck in airports or on the side of the road.

Managing Flight Disruptions

1) Airport woes can happen anywhere. Delays and cancellations are the biggest problems for frequent travelers, especially if your travel plans include one or more flight connections. If non-stops flights are unavailable or out of the question and you must connect, connect via a warmer hub such as Phoenix or Dallas; versus Chicago or Minneapolis for example.
2) Arriving at the airport early if your flight is affected can score you a better chance to hop on an earlier flight or book a different connection.
3) Purchasing travel insurance can pay huge dividends. Some benefits of travel insurance can reimburse you for substantial fees in the occurrence of covered trip delay or cancellation. Other advantages can include reimbursement for hotel stays, meals, and local transportation.


Safe Winter Driving Tips

1) Safety is at the forefront when it comes to driving during the winter months. Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for automobile travel. Some key tips to remember:
A) Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
B) Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids.
C) The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten.
2) Watching weather reports prior to a long-distance drive can help in determining if you should cancel your trip all together or if you can reroute your trip to avoid the path of the storm.
3) Before any trip you should make sure that your vehicle is in peak condition. Keeping at least half a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times and packing essential items such as extra blankets, food, water and any needed medication is advised.


Striking A Winter Deal

1) January and February are great months to find affordable winter vacations that provide far less crowds than December. Keep in mind with the holidays over, most schools are back in session and parents head back to work which equates to less congestion when traveling during this time.
2) In the coldest months, deals frequently emerge to lure hibernating travelers from their den. Some of the best travel deals are during “dead weeks” of mid to late January when, according to Peter Greenberg, travelers can save about 25%.
3) Many times after the holidays, airlines are left with half empty planes to fill. Airlines will often offer abundant fare sales and decrease ticket prices in order to fill these open seats. These winter sales may not always be advertised so checking out websites such as airfarewatchdog.com can be beneficial.

01/27/2015

Tips For Nervous Flyers

 

Nervous flyer

Does getting on an airplane make you nervous? If so, you’re not alone. According to Budget Travel, more than 25 million Americans suffer from flight anxiety, making aerophobia (fear of flying) the second largest fear in the U.S. after public speaking. 

You might be thinking your fear is warranted after nearly 1000 people died from plane accidents in 2014. But if your fear is so bad you’re thinking about skipping your next vacation, hold that thought. Here are five tips to help you combat flight anxiety and get you to that well-needed trip.

1) Flying is now safer now than it’s ever been before

Since the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 and most recently the devastating crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 with 162 people on board, the thought of stepping onto a plane might make you cringe. Despite what you hear in the news reports, flying is actually one of the safest ways to travel with less than one accident occurring for every 1 million flights. You’re more likely to get into a car accident on the way to the airport than wind up in a plane crash.

2) Share your feelings

Don’t conceal your fear. Many times if you share your apprehension with the gate agent when you check in and the flight attendant when you board, you’ll receive assurance and support. Often times, flight attendants will go out of their way to check in with fearful flyers several times during the duration of the flight, so don’t feel embarrassed to admit that you’re nervous about flying.

3) Avoid a hyper state of mind

Many nervous flyers drink caffeine or alcohol products while flying. This is a costly mistake that is important for travelers to understand and avoid. By pumping your blood stream with coffee for example, the caffeine actually intensifies your anxiety and can make you dehydrated. When you travel, make sure to drink planet of water and non-caffeinated liquids.

4) Treat turbulence like a pot hole

For many flyers, encountering turbulence is the most challenging and terrifying aspect of any flight. Pilots are thoroughly trained on air turbulence and typically receive general warnings from air traffic control or other pilots in the area flying near the same altitude. When air turbulence occurs, picture yourself in a car driving over a pothole instead of thinking about being in the air. It’s also important to keep your seatbelt fastened and allow your body to flow with the air movement instead of tensing up.

5) Choose the front of the cabin

At check-in or when selecting your seat at time of purchase, nervous flyers should ask for a seat at the very front of the cabin when at all possible. If air turbulence occurs during the flight, the effects are often less noticeable in the front of the aircraft than in the rear. If you have an extreme dread of flying, don’t try to overcome your fears on a long flight. Take the shortest flight you can and preferably in the biggest plane possible.

It’s important to keep these few tips in mind before you step into the airport. Visualizing your destination and imaging yourself there can be a powerful antidote to stress-and can help keep you focused. Close your eyes, relax, and focus on the positive aspects of your journey.