Tag Archives: travel

Gift Idea for Coffee Lovers

Tis the season to consume.

Especially coffee. As the weather gets colder, it is easy to pop into a coffee shop more than once a day to treat yourself and get that extra caffeine boost.

Don’t worry, we have no intention of telling you to cut back on your coffee. What we are concerned about, however, is the amount of coffee cups that are being sent to the landfill.

You’ve already heard the environmental reasons why you should recycle or use reusable cups instead of the disposable kind. What you might not know is that most coffee shops actually offer a discount to customers who bring their own cups. This is true for larger chains and local coffee shops alike. A few cents off each cup of coffee adds up, and you are also doing your part to keep our world a little cleaner.

20oz-tumblers Healthy Human makes it easy to do your part, save a little money, and look stylish while you do it. Their line of stainless steel stein bottles, tumblers, pints, and growlers are perfect for all of your camping and daily needs. They also sell travel pet bowls that can be layered and clipped together for all of your pets on the go needs.

61y06gTSsFL._SL1000_Visit www.healthyhumanlife.com to view their complete line of products for your entire family. These make excellent holiday gifts, and you can get 10% off of your purchase by using the code bellam10 from now until 12/31/2015.

 

Product Spotlight: Little Passports

Help your little explorer learn fun facts about the United States and other countries with Little Passports’ Explorer Kits for Kids!

Choose from Early Explorers (for ages 3-5), World Edition (ages 6-10), and USA Edition kits (ages 7-12). The first month you will receive an introductory kit complete with everything your child needs to get started with the program (based on which one you choose). For the USA introductory kit, customers will receive a USA Field Guide, Scratch Book, a wall-sized USA map, a welcome letter, and a disposable camera.

Subsequent kits in the USA Edition include information about the two states featured each month. Enjoy a 32-page activity journal, stickers and postcards, pop-out models, and access to more information and activities online.

You can win The Discovery kit AND one State Adventure kit from the USA Edition on our Facebook page!

 

 

A Guide to Last Minute Traveling

UnknownIf you’re anything like us, you probably like to begin planning for trips and vacations at least a few weeks ahead of time. But sometimes things pop up and you need to make travel arrangements quickly and cheaply. There is no need to panic if you are unable to peruse your favorite travel sites for the best deal. Your smart phone has the potential to help you plan your entire trip in less than fifteen minutes. There are many different travel apps that you can download to make things easier. Here are a couple of our favorite free ones:

mzl.xbhlyiabHotel Tonight: Finding a hotel last minute can be a hassle. You know what you want, and the price you need, but eliminating those that are completely booked can make this task seem impossible. Fortunately, Hotel Tonight helps you find a hotel where you want at a price that works. You can book for up to one week ahead and reserve your room for one week at the most—giving you a little extra time to look for additional options if you will be staying in one location for a while. The app tells you when there are only a few rooms left at a hotel, and won’t show you any that have no vacancies. They also have a nice little classification system. Hotels are ranked as “crash pads, basic, solid, charming, hip, luxe, or high rollers.”

6284824fa2dc70a3c213aa175a4ae0c6Couchsurfing: If you’re a more laid back and adventurous person you might want to try the Couchsurfing app. On Couchsurfing, you can look for people who have opened up their homes to travelers or you can open up your own couch for visitors. Couchsurfing is free; it is about meeting people and exploring the world, not making money. So it’s great if you need to travel but are strapped for cash!

There are many more travel apps out there. The best way to find one to fit your needs is to experiment with a few of them. You may also want to try Travelzoo, LMT Deals, and Tripit. Some of them can help you secure airfare, transportation, AND accommodations. Others have fun day planning and excursion features.

Unexpected detours or obstacles can make traveling a hassle, even if you are an excellent planner. So relax, pull out your smart phone, and let these apps take care of everything for you!

Written by Krista Knauer

Weekend Getaway in Lewisburg

In our June issue, we mention Lewisburg, West Virginia as a great weekend getaway for couples or families. A two hour drive from Roanoke, it has so much to offer including a rich history of which too many are unaware. The Greenbrier Historical Society’s Home and Garden Tour on Saturday, June 13 is the perfect opportunity to explore the city and learn about the earliest recorded history of the Greenbrier Valley.

One of Greenbrier Valley’s early treasure houses is situated on a bluff above the Greenbrier River near the Greenbrier River Trail. Built in 1796 of stone, this venerable structure served as the home of Benjamin Grigsby, the second pastor of the Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg. The site was beautifully located on a bluff overlooking the Greenbrier River. Reverend Grigsby left his ministry at Old Stone in 1801 for a new call in Norfolk and his property passed through many hands before becoming the home of the Totten Family in 1902.

More recently, it was thoughtfully restored by Richard and Judy Lewis as a Bed and Breakfast Inn. Later, the panoramic views and proximity to Camp Allegheny attracted Dr. and Mrs. David Hunt to purchase the property and make it their own.

The home features gracious living room and dining rooms with fireplaces and an entry hall with murals depicting local history painted by Judy Lewis. The superlative kitchen is state of the art seamlessly blended into the fabric of the early structure. Outdoor spaces are appealingly integrated into the terrain.

An example of the “noggin” used between the logs of the oldest house in Lewisburg owned by Glen and Carol Jewell.
An example of the “noggin” used between the logs of the oldest house in Lewisburg owned by Glen and Carol Jewell.

“Comfortable, convenient, and colorful” is how Glen and Carol Jewell describe their house built by Jesse B. Bowlin in 1784 on “Hardscrabble Hill”. It is the oldest surviving house in Lewisburg. It certainly lives up to those descriptors now that the Jewells have nearly completed their renovation.

Just imagine seeing exposed logs that were put in place before the United States was born; a fireplace surround from 1750; a dining room ceiling that has never been painted; and whitewash or bright colonial colors throughout. The modern kitchen has cleverly hidden conveniences and room for a gourmet cook.

Many of the special touches were created by Mr. Jewel whose skill as a wood worker is apparent in the furniture he has made as well as his ability to add modern conveniences while making them look like they belong.

Mrs. Jewell’s love of fine fabric is apparent in the upholstery materials and window treatments. She had one room painted to showcase a set of crewel bed hangings which will soon be installed.

For more information on the tour, please call the Greenbrier Historical Society at 304-645-3398. Tickets, available at the North House Museum and the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau, are $50 for the gala on Friday evening, $30 for the Homes tour on Saturday, and $10 for the church tour and concert on Sunday afternoon. A combination ticket can be purchased for $80. The lunch at the church is a separately ticketed event and tickets are available for $10. Both the gala and church lunch tickets must be purchased in advance and by Monday, June 8Saturday Home Tour tickets and Sunday Church Tour and Concert tickets may be purchased at the door.

Be sure to pick up a copy of our June Travel issue for more great weekend trip ideas to consider this summer!

 

 

The Risks We Take

I’ve always admired risk takers. You know, thrill seekers in helmets jumping off bridges or flying through the air with GoPro cameras strapped to their heads. I envy their rosy cheeks and deep smiles and brightly colored outfits.

Everything about them screams “I’m alive!” while everything in me just screams at the thought of zip lining across a 400 foot mountain gorge.  My lack of risk taking has long been a dark spot on my soul. I even have a difficult time hitting on a guy in a bar.

Until I realized risks don’t always mean jumping off a cliff.

I have a good friend, named Kurt. I adore him. And as it happens, he adores me. One night over dinner he asked if I would join him in completing his global To-Do list. As soon as the question left his mouth, my brain became a vortex of possible complications… what about my dog? My apartment? My parents need me and there’s all those planes disappearing in that pesky ocean.

My late thirty-something self couldn’t do it. My girlfriends thought I was insane. Who would turn down a proposition like that?

Me. I would. The girl who doesn’t take risks. I wasn’t saying no to traveling all over the world, I was saying no settling for someone I adored instead of loved. Even if that person did come with two plane tickets to Bali.  I believed something bigger was waiting for me.

Not long after Kurt, I decided to do something really stupid: become an artist. Just me and my craft facing the world and my checking account! I would pursue my artistic dreams. When I told friends, they were in awe. I could see the gleam of envy in their eyes. Or maybe it was shock at my lack of desire to work in an office for the rest of my life with health insurance and a regular paycheck.

heatherAfter I downed a bottle of my favorite wine, I convinced myself I was indeed doing the right thing. But this kind of risk is terrifying. Everything in my life is a variable upon things I can’t control… like the weather or if my dog decides he wants to pee on my running shoes.

However, I’m breathless when I look back on my decisions. The risk taker would understand. The thrill seeker jumping off the side of a mountain to fly around like a bat on a summers’ day would get it. I’m one of them now.

 

Written by Heather A. Haines

The beauty of holiday traveling

Vocalists from Perry Como and the Carpenters to Michael Buble have warbled about how wonderful it is to be home for the holidays. But who says you have to buy into that belief? Not being home for the holidays offers many advantages, including the opportunity to travel, visit far-off loved ones or just immerse yourself in total relaxation during one of the most hectic times of the year.

While families with small children may embrace the experience of decorating, cooking and gift-giving in the comfort of their own home, other groups – such as families with teens, couples without kids, and baby boomers who love to travel with friends – may feel ready to revel outside their home zone. Like traveling at any time of year, holiday trips are not without hassles, but the benefits can make the challenges worthwhile.

Here are a handful of reasons why not being home for the holidays could make the season bright:

* Total relaxation – Instead of hurrying to decorate your home, host a soiree, accept every invitation, prepare enough food to feed an armored battalion, and find exactly the right gift for everyone you’ve ever met, going away to a resort during the holidays can help ease holiday stress. Opt for a quintessential winter getaway and you’ll enjoy a snowy holiday season, complete with carolers, hot cocoa and holiday decor around every corner.

* Visiting far-away loved ones – Is there an adored cousin whom you just don’t get to see that much anymore? A brother who lives five states away whom you haven’t shared the holidays with since you both lived with your parents? Giving up being in your own home for the holidays affords you the chance to enjoy part of the season in the home of loved ones you see infrequently. While you spend the whole year with the family you live with or the ones who live nearby, the holidays are the perfect time to re-connect with family and friends who live far away. And, if you don’t want to add to their stress during the season, you can find plenty of great hotel deals in cities across the country.

* Savoring seasonal flavors without the work – Holiday cookies, pumpkin pie and elaborate dinners are an integral part of the season for many people, but they’re also a lot of work. Staying in a hotel or luxury resort during the holidays ensures you’ll be able to enjoy all your favorite flavors of the season – prepared by a professional chef and leaving cleanup chores to someone else. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen preparing and cleaning, you’ll get to share those seasonal flavors with your traveling companions.

* Great travel deals – Knowing many people prefer to stay home for the holidays, top hotels and resorts across the country offer travel packages, deals and incentives to entice holiday travelers. Add-ons abound, from all-inclusive offerings with meals, parties and special dinners, to shopping packages that provide travelers with access to and discounts for premium shopping venues.

Travel like a local

Americans are on the move: logging two billion business and leisure trips of 50 miles or more from home for at least one night last year alone, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Today, more people are looking for authentic travel activities – ones that are outside the traditional museum or monument visit. To get more out of your next vacation, consider expert advice on how to break out of the tourist rut and have a truly authentic local experience.

“The single biggest thing you can do to trigger these experiences is to talk to people – talk to locals,” says Reena Ganga, Gadling blogger and Wanderplex Founder. “But since that’s easier said than done, I think there are several ways you can try to foster interactions with locals and put yourself in a position to create great travel memories.”

Hyatt House, an upscale extended stay hotel brand located across-the United States,-has teamed up with Ganga and America’s favorite lifestyle maven, Martha Stewart, to help vacationers learn the tricks of travelling like a local with the following tips:

Reena Ganga’s tips:

* Trek like the locals. Don’t limit yourself to sightseeing buses or taxis. If the locals travel in communal mini-vans or via bike, do it too. Locals who aren’t used to seeing tourists take that form of transport often find their tenacity endearing and will make the effort to talk to them.

* Go off the beaten path. Make time to head to the smaller, secondary cities when you travel. These are often the places that feel the most culturally distinct. If you’re in a big city, head outside the tourist zones and into interesting neighborhoods where the locals spend their time.

* Choose a place that feels like home. Instead of staying in a traditional hotel, think about staying in a serviced apartment or an extended stay hotel like Hyatt House, where you have a living room and kitchen. Then head out to the local market and talk to the vendors. You’ll discover the produce and products that are special to that area, and you never know where the conversations will lead.

* Eat with the locals. Don’t just eat at chain restaurants that you’re familiar with or that only have English menus. Go where the locals congregate. Whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant or a street stall, local eateries are likely to have more authentic food and the locals are often eager to tell you about the food, how to eat it, etc.

* Put away technology. If you find yourself lost while traveling, don’t immediately refer to maps on your phone – stop and ask a shopkeeper for directions. If you need a restaurant recommendation, don’t just search online. Ask locals for their tips – it’s a great excuse to strike up a conversation.

Keep in mind, traveling with a local mindset means taking a new approach to packing, too. Stewart offers these smart packing tips:

* Distribute weight evenly. Pack the heaviest items, such as shoes and toiletry bags, at the bottom. Pack socks inside shoes to prevent footwear from getting squished.

* Skip checked baggage. A canvas bag with a sturdy strap is great for packing for any length of trip. Remember, if you forget something, often hotels can help. Hyatt House has the Hyatt Has It – Borrows program, which can supply everything from a phone charger to yoga mats.

* Carry-on with care. Because you never know when weather or unforeseen events will cause travel delays, pack a carry-on bag containing items you would be very unhappy to lose, such as medications and toiletries.

* Stay clean on the run. Travel-size packaged antibacterial towelettes are great for keeping your hands and face clean.

* Regulate wrinkles. Use large drycleaner bags to pack bulky sweaters or cardigans. The plastic helps prevent wrinkling.

* Secure belongings. If you’re traveling a long distance, use a lock and key or combination lock to protect your belongings.

These simple tips make it easy to travel like a local and get the most out of your next vacation. You’ll be delighted by the unique memories and wonderful stories you get by traveling with a local mindset.

Sources: Martha Stewart Living, June 2003; Martha Stewart Digital, Article: Smart Packing Tips; Martha Stewart Video – Organizing: Helpful Tips for Packing Travel Bags; The Martha Stewart Show, Season 7, Episode 7099 (How to Pack a Suitcase Lightly for Easy Travel)

Turn a New Leaf: Family Road Trip

With the cooler temperatures of autumn flowing in, many Americans will be hitting the road to discover the natural beauty that the season brings. Whether they crave adventure, want to see the fall foliage or are just getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, families need to be prepared to ensure they are getting the most out of this travel season.

“When it comes to fall travel, there is no experience quite like the autumn day drive – it’s your last taste of crisp air and warm colors before the blanket of winter hibernation sets in,” says Editor in Chief of “Road & Travel Magazine,” Courtney Caldwell. “The keys to a successful road trip lay within the amount of preparation you do for your family and vehicle before you put either into motion.”

Nothing puts a damper on a weekend getaway like car issues that could have easily been prevented by simple maintenance.

The American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Motor Oil Matters (MOM) program has been established to provide information to consumers on the importance of using high quality motor oils, and verifying the oils are properly identified on invoices and receipts. Oil-change locations and motor oil distributors that share MOM’s commitment – and submit to independent, third-party auditing – have the opportunity to be recognized by MOM through the Motor Oil Matters distributor and installer licensing programs.

MOM and Caldwell recommend fall travelers arm themselves with a simple plan of action and preparation to help get to their destination:

Don’t fall behind on your vehicle maintenance:

* Change that oil: Motor oil is the lifeblood of your engine. One of the simplest steps you can take to ensure your vehicle is maintained is to change your motor oil with an API-licensed motor oil that meets your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations. Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true, and make sure your value-priced oil change includes high quality motor oil. MOM has put together a checklist for consumers, to ensure they are confident when going into a shop. To download this checklist, please visit www.motoroilmatters.org.

* Breathe free: Replacing a dirty air filter can increase a vehicle’s life expectancy and fuel efficiency by reducing the strain on the engine, especially during warmer months.

* Check your tires: Pay attention to your tire pressure and tread depth, as they are essential for increased automotive safety and optimum driving performance. The lower the tread depth is on your tires, the less traction you will have on wet and dry roads, and the greater the distance you will need to stop.

Enjoy more than the season:

* Keeping everyone happy: Write out a packing list for each family member. Store these lists on your computer so you can adjust them for different seasons and trips. Kids can be easily entertained during long car rides in the backseat with trivia, coloring books, games, books, assorted toys and stuffed animals.

* Stop and pop: Bathroom breaks are always a good thing. They force you to get out of the car and talk with locals. A 10-minute break every two hours also increases alertness and adds to the overall sight-seeing experience.

* Expect the unexpected: Always have a car-safety kit packed for you and your family. It should contain: an auto escape tool, blankets, cell phone charger, cleaning items, flashlight, jumper cables, matches, pencil and notepad, warning lights or road flares, bottled water, non-perishable items and drinks, extra (hidden) cash, and a well-equipped first aid kit.

* Keep it clean: Save and bring a handful of plastic grocery bags in the car to use for trash, damp clothes, or a “sick” bag for any car-sick passengers.

For more tips and to read about potential travel destinations, visit www.roadandtravel.com. For more information on MOM and to download MOM’s Oil Change Checklist, and the importance of using high quality motor oil, go to www.motoroilmatters.org. Be sure to also check them out on Facebook and Twitter (@motoroilmatters) for the most recent updates and news.