Tag Archives: vacation

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Money

Millions of people have embraced the convenience of managing their finances online. If you haven’t yet taken the plunge into this digital land, you may wonder how it works, if it’s safe, and why it could be better than traditional methods. Even if you’re savvy online, these five tips could help make it a little easier to manage your money while you’re away from your local branch or your home.

Sign up for online banking. Check in on your accounts from the comfort of your couch, the convenience of your office chair, or when you’re miles away from home. Online banking gives you around-the-clock access and is a great way to monitor activity, check balances, and make transfers, as well as providing other useful features that you perhaps thought had to be done in person at a branch. Contact your financial institution for instructions on how to sign up. 

Get electronic statements. Let’s face it—account statements from your financial institution clutter up your countertop and eventually end up in the shred pile. Stop the cycle and sign up to receive them by email instead. That way, you can opt to look them over and move on, or print them out yourself. Plus, it’s faster than waiting on the mail, and you’re helping the environment by reducing waste.

Enroll in online bill pay. Never forget to pay a bill on time again with online bill pay. This can especially come in handy when you’re away from home. You can schedule automatic payments at the same time each month from any account.

Set up digital wallets. This is a feature on your phone, tablet, or smart watch that allows you to enter your credit, debit, and reward card information to make payments at eligible vendors. Payments are made by hovering your device over the payment terminal, then entering a code or using fingerprint recognition to confirm. It’s more secure than carrying your cards and can be shut down if your device is lost.

Notify your financial institution. Before you hit the road, hit up your financial institution to let them know your plans, including your destination and travel dates. Nothing could ruin a vacation faster than a lack of funds, and doing this helps keep your accounts safe and avoids interruptions in your credit or debit card services while you’re out of town or the country.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Warm Up to Responsible Spending

With warm, sunny days upon us, it’s time to plan for more than just your tan: summer spending. Vacations, airline tickets, dining out, and entertainment—it adds up. If you haven’t budgeted for these expenses in advance, a quick swipe of your credit card takes care of it. But if responsible credit card use isn’t your strength (or you just need a refresher), these tips could help curb the temptation to overspend this summer.

Be selective. There are several factors to look at when picking a credit card. First, you’ll want to see what your limit is. If you don’t think you can handle the freedom of a credit card, start with one that has a lower limit, like $1,000. Additionally, look at the credit card’s annual percentage rate or APR. That interest will add up if you’re not planning on paying off the total each month, so shop around for a low APR. Finally, look out for cards that charge annual fees just for keeping them open.

Monitor your balance. You should keep credit card payments to 10 percent of your monthly take-home income. For example, if your monthly income is $2,000, your monthly credit card payment should not be more than $200. This doesn’t mean your balance should not exceed $200, but make sure your minimum payment is no more than that. Keep in mind, however, that paying off the entire balance each month is in your best interest financially.

Know the benefits. By making purchases with your credit card and paying the balance off each month, you’re proving to lenders that you’re a responsible, creditworthy consumer. It boosts your credit score and will help you in the future if you ever want to get a loan—or another credit card.

Stick to a budget. It’s important to set parameters for yourself when using a credit card. One simple way to do this is to use the credit card for one specific purpose, like gas or groceries, so it’s easier to keep your spending in check. Another way is to get a card with a low limit. This forces you to keep your spending under a certain amount.

Smart credit card use doesn’t have to be a mystery or limit your fun this summer. Follow these simple tips and your poolside lounge session (while possibly chasing the kids) will be that much more relaxing.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Top Ten Kid-Friendly Apps

It’s unavoidable, we live in an age of technology. Our children seem almost glued to anything with a screen. There are many ways that you can use your child’s love of smartphones and tablets to your advantage. One way is to foster continuous learning, even during summer break. There are an abundance of apps designed specifically for learning.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Unknown-2Duolingo is a free language learning app. You can choose from ten different languages to learn. It is a great app for all ages, so you can learn alongside your child.

Lumosity is a fun brain-training website that helps you increase your attention span and increase memory retention. The app is free and was designed for all ages.

Star Chart by Escapist Games Limited allows kids to learn all about the universe. You can hold it up to the sky and find out exactly what stars or planets you are looking at. The app is free, but there are some in-app purchases.

THE aMAZEing Labyrinth has puzzles and mazes that will challenge your kids to think and problem solve. It costs $3.99.

toca lab logoToca Lab allows your children to learn about chemistry, magnetism, and electricity in a safe and fun way. The app costs $2.99.

Kids Numbers and Math by Intellijoy focuses on helping pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade children learn numbers and early math skills. There is a free version, but the full package costs $2.99.

Unknown-1Endless Alphabet by Originator Inc. teaches youngsters the alphabet and basic vocabulary with fun and engaging games. A smaller version of the app is free, but the full package must be unlocked by an in-app purchase.

Dr. Panda & Toto’s Treehouse is a fun app where kids can play with and take care of Toto the Turtle. The app includes many activities, so there’s endless replay value. The app costs $2.99.

UnknownFarFaria Free Children’s Books includes hundreds of choices so your child isn’t stuck reading the same story over and over again. It is best for ages 1-9. The app is free, but there are some in-app purchases.

The NASA App allows you to view video hundreds of photos and videos to learn more about different ongoing projects. It is free and is a great resource for young rocket scientists and astronauts.

 

Written by Krista Knauer

Adventure Awaits!

Summer and fun – while these words aren’t technically synonyms, they probably should be. School is out for the children, you have summer vacation time from work stocked up, and the nice weather across the country is beckoning.

Are you in search of some fun ideas for your summer activities? Check out these family-friendly ideas everyone will love!

Camp – Sleeping under the stars is just the first great benefit of going on a camping adventure. You can plan plenty of fun and kid-friendly activities to keep you busy all summer long. Hiking, cooking over the campfire, fishing, swimming, catching fireflies, telling ghost stories and toasting marshmallows all add to the fun. Just remember to pack plenty of bug spray and sunblock so your fun doesn’t get interrupted by painful or itchy skin.

Ride the Trails – Taking the family for an ATV ride is an adventure all in itself. You get to see the country in a new way, plus you’ll have fun trekking across the countryside. However, we recommend riding with an experienced driver and ALWAYS follow all safety precautions, including wearing a helmet.

Develop a Family Project – It’s always fun to spend time together as a family working on a project. Let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you. If you want to explore your creative talents, consider producing a short play or movie. Everyone can get involved in writing the script, the acting, set creation and finding the perfect costumes. Or consider participating in a community service project. Maybe you have an organization close to your heart you could raise money to help support. Ask the organization if there is something your family can help with this summer.

Road Trip – A themed road trip can create a lot of excitement for your family members. For example, maybe you want to create a theme of seeing all the odd tourist attractions like the world’s largest ball of twine or the country’s biggest collection of autographed baseballs. Perhaps you want to visit as many national parks as you can. Have your children help with the planning and you’ll have a very interesting road trip adventure.

Museums – Make it an educational summer by planning visits to all the museums in the nearest city. Include the local zoos and planted gardens on the list, and you’ll be sure to pique the interest of every member of your family. Plan for one family museum visit a month or every other week, and combine it with a family dinner out or a picnic in the park.

You can combine several of these ideas together for even more fun this summer. So whether you go camping, road tripping, or tour museums, you know every member of the family will enjoy the summer activities!

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

Let’s Go for a Ride!

When I was a kid in Southern California, “let’s go for a ride” usually meant a long family drive through the mountains or skirting the desert basins far outside of the city. Sometimes, we would take curving cliffside roads that afforded a view of the Pacific. The vistas were incredible, though generally relegated to the opposite side of a window, and came at the cost of a few gallons of gas and the risk of motion sickness.

Now, “let’s go for a ride” has a different meaning. Once spring finally muscles winter out of the way and everyone is eager to get outside, my daughter and I strap on our helmets and hit the Roanoke River Greenway on our bicycles. Each year, there’s more of the greenway to explore. It is as if small, secret parts of our city are constantly being revealed, opening themselves up for adventure.

jeremyPenelope loves the freedom and speed of the bicycle. She loves moving under her own power, and she loves the real sense of growing stronger she gets each year as she’s able to ride faster, for longer distances, and up steeper hills. I, of course, simply enjoy being along for the ride and sharing these experiences with her.

Some of the best parts of the trip, though, having nothing to do with riding, but come from the spontaneous moments of discovery that being on a bicycle allows:

  • Coming across a bridge and deciding, all of a sudden, that what we really want to do is hop off the bikes and explore the banks along the stream that runs underneath it.
  • Stopping to watch a heron stalk a stretch of low water, dipping its head under the surface as it hunts for fish.
  • Making friends with a tailless stray cat who has taken up ownership of nearby playground.
  • Drowsing in the grass, helmets still on, watching the clouds drift past the tree branches high above.

What you can do on a bicycle that you can’t do in a car is stop, right where you are, and explore. You never have to worry about your kids spotting something fascinating, only to have them struggle to describe it long after you have driven past. You can take a moment to appreciate the small and sudden. Best of all, you can let your child take the lead, and their curiosity take the wheel.

Visit http://www.ridesolutions.org to see how you can get out and ride this summer!

Written by Jeremy Holmes

A Vacation in Virginia

Still trying to think of a last minute way to relax over one of your long weekends this summer? Fortunately, you do not have to venture outside of the state to relax and unwind. The perfect weekend getaway can be had at one of Virginia’s amazing resorts nestled in the heart of our iconic mountain landscape.

The Homestead luxury resort is perfect for couples OR families. Beckoning from Hot Springs, Virginia, the destination offers many opportunities to unwind and bond with those you care about most. For the more active adventurer, choose between horseback riding, falconry, and paint ball. If you would rather spend the time relaxing, enjoy spa services or a day by the pool. Sprinkle in one (or several) farm-to-table approach meals at one of the resort’s restaurants.

There are many formal dining options available for guests. One of our favorites is the Main Dining Room. They offer delicacies like Virginia grass-fed beef, Allegheny mountain trout, and Chesapeake crab.

For the active family, “Downtime” is a great place to enjoy a meal while taking in amenities such as mini bowling, pool tables, shuffleboard, air hockey, arcade games, and more!

Finally, for the nature lovers, two major hot springs flow through the property and are available to enjoy during your stay. One thing is certain, you won’t get bored on a vacation to The Homestead! Visit www.omnihotels.com for more information and to book your room today.

The Primland is another one of our favorite getaways. Their gorgeous rooms and spa services would be enough to inspire us to book a room there for the weekend (or longer!), but there are so many additional reasons you should visit. Primland is committed to being environmentally respectful, and their natural surroundings are a reflection of that commitment. Enjoy scenery that could include whitetail deer, wild turkeys, rainbow trout, songbirds of all varieties, and beautiful wild flowers.

The resort is also famous for its stargazing opportunities. Study planets, nebulae, and celestial objects in their Observatory Dome. Telescope and dome presentations can be scheduled during your stay by resident astronomers as weather conditions allow.

When you aren’t stargazing, take advantage of other amenities including golf, nature walks, mountain biking, fly fishing, horseback riding, or ATV trail riding. Mabry Mill and Fairy Stone Park are also close by and worth a visit.

vacation2Regardless of your itinerary, don’t miss out on the variety of dining options available. Each venue uses seasonal fresh farm products to create their dishes. On June 20, you can register for Primland Cooking School and watch Chef Gunnar Thompson demonstrate how to create healthful dishes showcasing a natural abundance of the freshest local ingredients. Go to www.primland.com to learn more about this destination.

Massanutten is a great place to escape with the family. A short two hour drive to Harrisonburg, Virginia, it is a relaxing place for parents and a vacation the kids will not forget. Featuring a spa that offers manicures, pedicures, massages, skin care, waxing and tinting, the resort offers many opportunities for adults to spoil themselves throughout their stay!

If spas are not your cup of tea, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy from mountain biking and horseback riding to disc golf, zip line experiences, and river adventures. There is even a full service bike shop on site where you can rent, purchase, or repair a bike before your big adventure.

An awesome waterpark awaits children of all ages (mom and dad, this means you too!). There is something for EVERY water lover in this park— tube slides, body slides, water falls, pools of varying depths, and a Pipeline where guests can learn to surf!

We couldn’t mention Massanutten without talking about the food. They partner with local farms like Creekside Angus and Mountain View to supply fresh beef and artisanal cheeses. Their chicken is sourced from Broadway, Virginia, and their seafood is fresh from Virginia’s famed saltwater rivers. With several dining options using local and regional ingredients, it is nearly impossible to go hungry!

Go to www.massresort.com for more information on activities, upcoming events, and making reservations.

A Staycation You Won’t Forget

If you love music, fun, and meeting great new people—FloydFest is the place for you! This weekend, from July 23-27, an 80-acre plateau right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, Virginia will come alive for a summer celebration. Attendees will experiences a 5-day staycation with a new “Revolutionary” theme. With performances from Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Lauryn Hill, Ziggy Marley, Buddy Guy, Madrone, Lettuce, and many more, there is something for every taste in music. Visitors will also enjoy healing arts, sustainable workshops and panel discussions, safe and fun activities for young children and teens, and other functions throughout the festival grounds.

Since its inception, FloydFest has placed a strong emphasis on promoting sustainability and green initiatives. The FloydFest family has gone through great lengths to ensure that the festival area they love stays as unspoiled as possible. In 2011, FloydFest partnered with Klean Kanteen to provide free drinking water to all patrons and re-usable, stainless steel cups are available for festival-goers to purchase. The festival also hosts a multitude of sustainability panels and discussions ranging from composting workshops to water quality information sessions. Each year during the festival, a volunteer “Green Team,” monitors recycling stations, compost piles, and water bottle refill stations that are easily accessible to festival patrons throughout the entire venue.

FloydFest’s unique location opens the door for a wide range of easily accessible outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, disc golf, and more. Back at the festival site, the Healing Arts Village offers massages, yoga classes, meditation sessions and sustainability workshops. FloydFest’s strategically built concert stages, such as the Virginia Folklife Workshop Porch, provide a sweet concoction of picturesque views and intimate mountain sound that you can’t find anywhere else.

Go to www.floydfest.com for more information and a complete line-up of performers. You can even build your own custom schedule to ensure you don’t miss performances from your favorite artists. Spend a couple of days (or the entire weekend) enjoying the scenery, the people, and the music of FloydFest. We will see you there!