Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park is a Disaster in of Itself

Blizzard Beach Water Park at Disney World in Orlando, Florida is one of the most disappointing water parks ever made. It’s one of two water parks in Walt Disney World Resort, the other being Typhoon Lagoon, which is where you should really be spending your time if you want some cool water park action, not here. Maybe I’m being a little too harsh, Blizzard Beach actually does have some cool rides but they’re a pain in the butt to get to (I’ll get into that shortly) and the running theme and concept behind this water park is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it’s very cool and it’s something different, then again, it’s a curse because it makes commuting from ride to ride a living hell.

See, the idea behind Blizzard Beach is some big snow storm attacked Florida and now there’s a ski resort there. And then somehow the warm weather returned, thus beginning the melting process. Now what you’ve got as a result is a ski-themed water park. So let’s talk about the good stuff first. Blizzard Beach houses one of the biggest and fastest water-slides in the world which is Summit Plummet — standing at 120 feet high, it’s a free-falling water-slide with a 12 story drop at a speed ranging between 50 to 60 miles per hour. Other cool water-slides include the Slush Gusher, Snow Stormers, the Downhill Double Dipper, and Toboggan Racers.

Then you’ve got your tube and raft-based rides like Teamboat Springs and Runoff Rapids. Furthermore, there’s the main star of the water park — the almighty chair lift. While it’s not necessarily a ride in the sense of the other attractions at Blizzard Beach, it serves as a mode of transportation and nothing more. However, this the park’s mighty downfall, so to speak, because having to wait to go back and forth on the chair lift is quite torturous. To make matters worse, it’s the easiest way to get to the top of the park where most of the rides await, otherwise you’ll have to navigate your own hectic journey up Blizzard Beach’s pathways and stairs.

Last but not least, you’ve got the two most important attractions which a water park can not live without – the wave pool and the lazy river. Every water park has them, to take them away would be like taking french fries off of McDonald’s menu. At Blizzard Beach, Cross Country Creek fills the shoes of the lazy river quite well. Then there’s Melt-Away Bay, the park’s very own wave pool — spanning over one acre, this wave pool is decorated with a number of waterfalls and extends up to about eight feet. Overall, if you want your time well spent in the water at Disney World, you’re probably better off at Typhoon Lagoon.

Winter Fun and Travel

Time to Book Your 2011 Winter Fun and Travel

Booking a winter wonderland vacation means many different things to the traveler. It is that time of year to begin looking into booking that winter trip. Remember the first tip to planning an inexpensive trip is booking early.

Make a list of those great places that you want to visit. This is the most important planning step for any traveler. Once the list is created then it is time to check and see who will be traveling with your party. Perhaps this winter you wish to take children or grand children. Prices always change from season to season and it is best to remember that traveling with children can be less expensive if you choose the off season for those theme parks and other activities geared to the young.

If getting away from your hometown’s weather is the reason for a wintertime trip, plan to visit a place that is experiencing summertime during your winter months. Places like South Africa have their spring in August. Research every detail of the weather and be sure to search out the historical weather patterns of the area being considered. Recently when planning a trip to South Africa myself, I used Accuweather at www.accuweather.com/ to check on the best time of year for travel. Don’t always depend on your travel agent to know exactly what the weather has been like or will be like in the future.

After choosing who is going and where you are going now it’s time to find out the price of that trip. When booking for overseas travel it is best to use a travel agency. One like Costco Travel can give a traveler a great price. Their upcoming 2011 season includes trips to the Caribbean, Jamaica, Italy, Spain, and more. When using a travel agency they are able to find some all-inclusive packages for travelers that include ground transportation and meals in the total cost of the package. Keep in mind that the agency is adding a cost for their services so a comparison of prices when booking with your agency and on your own can save money in the long run.

Booking a trip from beginning to end can be stressful but it can be done. Choose the dates, air travel, hotel, and then visit Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity and use your search guidelines to include air, hotel and rental car. It is a good idea when booking a trip like this to put in anytime as your flight time, locking yourself into a specific time of day can cause the prices to rise considerably.

If your choosing a place such as Italy, Spain, France or another destination that may have lots of driving, it may behoove you to chose to stay in more than one hotel/motel or even a villa. Research for these extras will need to be done separately as you cannot put in more than one destination when using sites such as Priceline, Expedia, or Travelocity.

Make sure when booking an overseas destination that the cost is being quoted in US dollars and not the currency of the geographical area. It is easy to use the currency calculator but the rise and lowering of the currency exchange can be several hundred dollars from day to day. Travellers need to keep this currency exchange fluctuation in mind when travel time comes also. Pick up some of the local currency at the airport before leaving the US. Most major airports have a currency exchange office. There will be a charge to change money over both leaving and coming from and to the US.

Travelers Checks and credit cards are not recommended. During our recent travels in South Africa we used a personal credit card, which was then compromised and used in Italy, Spain, and with several rental car agencies. If a credit card is a comfort issue then purchase a pre-loaded credit card to use on your travels. That way if the card becomes compromised it is for a specific dollar amount and will not affect your personal credit.

Passport to the Future

Malta’s Past is Its Passport to the Future

I first visited the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta in the early 50s.

I stayed for 5 magnificent years. It was where I found my passion for things archaeological. I was Associated Press’s stringer on the island (amongst other things) when I was invited to join Cambridge University’s archaeological team under the direction of Dr. David Trump, to record artifacts and excavations at the catacombs of St. Agatha’s in Rabat, adjoining the ancient capital of M’dina.

Prior to this I had been assigned the task of recording (photographically) many of the artifacts currently displayed in the churches that abound on this small catholic island and many of which dated back to the historic Knights of Malta. (1530-1798). My assignment at that time came from the then Central Office of Information, now replaced by the Department of Tourism and Heritage Malta.

Six years ago I returned to my beloved Malta for the first time in some 50 odd years. (‘Odd’ being the operative word here!) The only item I excavated on this occasion however was my lovely wife Rosaria. I stayed for another 4 years and left I must admit a broken hearted man. The heart I should add that I had bequeathed to my beloved Malta.

Although the country was moving ahead by leaps and bounds since severing its ties with Great Britton and now becoming one of the newest members of the European Union (EU), it had lost or perhaps better described, was losing, its focus on the one element that truly held its passport to greatness in the future, the archaeological and historic past that is surely unequaled anywhere in the world.

Across the island magnificent remains of this glorious past stood unattended and uncared for, the public even in government controlled sites like St. Paul’s Catacombs were allowed to wander unescorted, allowing them to add graffiti and untold damage to this magnificent site. By contrast across the street the magnificent catacombs of St. Agatha’s with its amazing original fresco’s remained intact only because the site is owned and maintained by the Sacred Order of the Society of St. Peter  amp; St. Paul, whose monastery and school is located above this remarkable crypt and catacomb complex.

Fr. Victor Camilleri whose side I was privileged to work at during the 50’s, still to this day (although his sight is almost gone) continues to safeguard some of Malta’s most sacred and amazing treasures.

Over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to again re visit with Victor and once again explore some of my old haunts. Certainly there have now been changes. It appears that the preservation on many of the ancient sites are under the care of private contractors though it was my impression that the government still retains an active involvement. Protective covers have been placed over some of the more spectacular archaeological sites to provide a modicum of weather protection, though somewhat taking from their previous visual splendor.

I discovered a new and very pleasant visitor’s center at the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra site. However sites like “Clapham Junction” with the remarkable and unexplained ‘cart ruts’, sit unsupervised and unprotected!

I took the time to re visit the Palace State Rooms and the Armory which by the way contains a collection unequaled of weaponry used by the Knights in the fortification of their home for several hundred years.

Though as remarkable as it is, it lacks attention to detail and the atmosphere brings no excitement to what should in this archaeologist’s opinion be a lifelong memorable experience. The same could be said of the Palace Staterooms with their magnificent paintings and memorabilia.

Mother nature has done her part in the preservation of much that remains on the Island but the time has come for the government to step up and preserve the remarkable wealth that history has placed in their hands. I recall a conversation with a fellow archaeologist in Egypt some years ago when he described the Pyramids as being Egypt’s Oil Well! Meaning of course that the countries ancient treasures would be its source of wealth for as long as they were maintained and treasured.


Pittsburgh Airport Parking Some Fairly Cost-Effective Long Term Parking Facilities

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is actually renowned as one of the best airports in the country today, evaluated in consideration of quality and customer satisfaction rankings. Amenities and services here, like Pittsburgh Airport parking for instance, are the envy of other airports of comparable size to Pittsburgh Airport. Well over 8,000,000 passengers pass through Pittsburgh every year, but even with the moderately great number of passengers, airport parking at PIT is usually pretty adequate.

There are approximately 13,000 PIT parking bays available to passengers on-site. Let’s review your choices.

Airport Garage Parking

Garage Parking is, naturally, the most hassle-free parking choice at Pittsburgh Airport. This is a short-term alternative accessible in the 2 airport garages located right in front of the terminal. At $24 per day ($1 for the first hour, $3 for each additional hour), terminal garage parking is best used for short trips to the airport picking up or dropping off a passenger.

Airport Long-term Parking

Long-Term Parking is also a convenient service and much friendlier to the wallet. There are 3,750 spaces reserved for long-term Pittsburgh Airport parking. These are spread in the lots adjoining the Hyatt-Regency hotel and are connected to the Landside Terminal via a moving walkway. Parking here will cost you $12 per day and may be the perfect choice for passengers on quick trips, guests, and sightseers.

For anybody on a budget, the most practical airport parking solution is Extended Parking at only $8 per day. There are 7,350 parking bays designed for this option found just at the back of the long-term parking lots. The facility is served by cost-free luxury shuttle vehicles working continuously to take passengers to and from the Landside Terminal building.

Off-Site Parking

Like in every busy airport, the airport-operated parking facilities generally be at full capacity at some time during a given week (especially during the holidays), it’s always ideal to have other options in addition to the airport. There are quite a few private parking companies that can assist you in the event that there’s no longer any place to park at the airport. The good thing with these locations apart from the moderate prices is that you can in fact guarantee your Pittsburgh Airport parking space with them prior to your scheduled flight.

To point out one or two sites, Charlie Brown’s Airport Parking place on Flaugherty Run Rd features fees that are equivalent to the Extended Parking rate at the airport. The neighboring FastTrack Garage also offers equally cost-effective rates and both establishments operate their in-house free shuttle services to take passengers to (or collect them from) the airport terminal.

Pittsburgh Airport parking, specifically throughout the holidays, can be a bit of a bother for some people who decide to chance it, without reviewing availability early on with the airport’s website (they do put up real-time parking status in those facilities). Oftentimes, the on-site facilities are already jam-packed and that could certainly be a problem if you’re in a hurry to catch a plane.

If you’re commuting through peak season, the ideal course of action from my point of view, is to plan your trip in advance and reserve your airport parking via internet with the outside companies. Traveling can at times be stressful if you have a tendency to fret about a lot of things. Pittsburgh Airport parking need not be one of those.

Looking for a good Pittsburgh Airport parking space? Get directions for the best PIT and Philadelphia Airport parking spots at BestParking.com. Compute for parking rates fast. Secure your parking, today.

Buck Creek Winery

Buck Creek Winery Will Delight Your Palette

Buck Creek Winery was originally established as Durm Vineyards in 1991 by Jeff and Kelly Durm with the planting of 1500 vines. By 1996 Jeff was producing award winning wines, including ten medal winners at the Indiana State Fair that year. During those early years some grapes from the vineyard were sold to other vineyards and the public, including Korean and Amish church groups.

This enterprising family business had gained a state wide reputation for producing excellent wines and grapes. After Jeff retired from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in 2004, he and his family were able to realize a long held dream: Opening a winery complete with store and tasting room. The Buck Creek Winery opened in April, 2006. Its growth in the number of varieties of wine produced and awards received since the opening has been remarkable, to say the least.

On the clear crisp January day that we visited Buck Creek Winery we were greeted by Dick and Josette Randolph. (Josette is Kelly Durm’s mother.) Dick gave us a tour of the production and warehouse portion of the winery. Dick explained that when the winery began they only needed four wooden barrels and one stainless vat. Today I counted 37 barrels and eight large stainless vats. Buck Creek employs five people full time and four people part time. Volunteers often help during bottling time. “Many people like to volunteer when we bottle” Dick told me with a smile on his face. “It’s fun to bottle, cork and label the wine, and you get free wine to drink!”

Jeff Durm was kind enough to spend some time with us in the store and tasting room. He talked about their vineyard with its 2500 vines representing 14 different varieties. He described ripping out of one poorly producing variety and replacing it with a more viable type of grape vine. Then he asked if we wanted to do some tasting. “But of course!” was my reply.

Alley Cat, a red table wine is their best seller. Winner of an Indiana State Fair Gold medal, this wine tastes of cranberries and strawberries with a hint of spice. We also partook of samples of red raspberry and blackberry styles. All the wines we tasted were delightful on the palette. And then there was Pleasant View Pink, a wine named after a small burg just down the road from the winery. I asked Jeff what set Buck Creek apart from other wineries. “For one thing” he said, “a full 50% of our wines are made with Indiana fruit. Few Indiana wineries can say that.” In addition Jeff pointed out that “Here you will like most everything you try.”

Last year the winery produced 60,000 bottles of wine, or approximately 12,000 gallons. Buck Creek now offers 34 varieties of wine. In the most recent Indy International Wine Tasting Competition Buck Creek was awarded 22 separate medals, the most of any winery in the competition. After our visit, we realized why they have won so many awards through the years.

Buck Creek Winery is located at 11747 Indiana Creek Road, South, Indianapolis. See their web site for details and hours.

Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel Review

Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel Review

Having owned a cat that chewed her way out of a fabric pet carrier, I knew when I purchased the Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel that it might not work for my 10 pound Australian Silky Terrier. However, the price was too good to pass up! This retailed for $24.99, but Kohl’s had them on sale for only $7.99. It was worth a try.

The Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel is a very handy, portable kennel that can be placed in a car, as well as inside or outside of your home. It is made of a weather resistant fabric that resembles what most tents are made from. It comes in two colors, blue and brown.

The kennel has dome shaped ends, with three ventilated windows and a large ventilated door that zips closed. All of these openings also have flaps that can be dropped down to give a pet privacy and darkness, or they can be rolled up and secured at the top of the doors and window with a loop and plastic tab.

It measures 20″ wide by 22 length and is 20″ high. What I love about this kennel is the way it folds flat to take up very little room in storage. We used to have a hard sized kennel, and it was just to large to have around the home for occasional use, and we got rid of it.

While the Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel does have a floor, it is very thin and I feel this needs some type of bedding to make your pet comfortable. The picture on the front of the box shows the kennel with a plush flat bed inside of it.

Set up is not hard, but I did run into one problem that I will mention in a few minutes. To set up the Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel you spread it open and turn it upside down. There are two sleeves on each side of the kennel and you thread two of the poles through these two sleeves, securing them via hook and loop style closure tabs. Turning the kennel right side up, you do the same with two end sleeves and one center top sleeve. This is where I ran into a problem.

The kennel has a fabric handle running along the top, which is sewn into the middle of each end area. On my kennel the handle was sewn right into the closure for the middle sleeve, and I could not open the sleeve to secure the pole. I got out my pointed sewing scissors and snipped the threads to separate the handle from the closure, and this did the trick. The handle now is in the correct position for carrying, and the pole is secured in place. I will mention that the poles are a bit hard to put in place! I did a lot of pulling and stretching to get them where they belonged, and if you have to take this down and put it up very often, I personally wonder how well the stitching will hold up over time.

The kennel bears the Animal Planet logo on the side corner, so I know this is an authentic Animal Planet product. It seems like a good temporary solution to carrying your pet when travelling. Since my dog is a small breed dog, and she isn’t very aggressive at her age, I don’t have any issues with this kennel. However, I could see a larger dog or any aggressive animal being able to claw their way through this product.

Restaurant and Lodging Business Owners

Profit Generating Tips for Restaurant and Lodging Business Owners

Over my years spent in the travel and tourism industry I have used several successful, low cost marketing methods to increase a business’s share of the group travel market.

As such, what follows are four of my easy, low cost steps that any lodging, restaurant or attraction business owner can employ to increase their share of the group travel market in 2011.

Step One

First and foremost, those that want to build their share of the group travel market should become familiar with the following organizations and their publications; “National Tour Association”, “American Bus Association”, “Pennsylvania Bus Association”, “Maryland Motor Coach Association”, “Ontario Motor Coach Association”, and the “Group Travel Leader.”

Examples of the publications include but are not limited to; “Group Travel Leaders”, “Bank Travel Management”, “Going on Faith”, “Winning Sports Meetings and Destinations”, “Destinations”, “Courier”, “Tuesday Newsletter” and the “NTA Trip Planner.”

These magazines, newsletters and e-zines are produced throughout the year and focus on different market segments central to increasing group travel market share.

For example, “Group Travel Leader” magazine is published monthly and has a circulation of 30,000 group travel leaders. 74 percent of the magazine’s readership includes visits to theaters in their trip planning.

Step Two

Once one is familiar with the previously mentioned organizations and their publications, it is time to obtain copies of their media kits, editorial and event calendars.

Accessing the editorial calendars of each is a simple task. Most of the publications maintain websites wherein current media kits can be readily downloaded.

These items will be needed in order to implement the next suggested steps for building one’s share of the group travel market.

Step Three

With information in hand, one should begin to review the editorial calendars first to see when the publications are focusing on things pertinent to one’s marketing efforts.

For example, “Destinations” magazine’s 2011 editorial calendar indicates that the March/April issue will be devoted to highlighting culinary tours, food festivals, farmer’s markets and agritourism.

Therefore, restaurant marketing managers may want to consider writing articles on their businesses and sending them into “Destinations” magazine for possible inclusion in their March/April issue.

The restaurant manager may also want to consider purchasing advertising space in that issue as well. Doing so will give the manager more proverbial “bang for her buck.”

Step Four

After the editorial calendars have been reviewed it is time to look at the organization’s event calendars. The event calendars generally contain such pertinent information as a list of upcoming trade shows, FAM trips, special events and other joint industry marketing opportunities.

This information is important because it gives tourism industry suppliers a chance to showcase their wares on a broader scale through such things as sponsorships, door prizes and gift baskets. Often times the cost of participating in the event is as low as the price of the item one is donating.

For example, organizations such as the “Pennsylvania Bus Association” participate in “National Travel and Tourism Week.”

For the uninitiated, “National Travel and Tourism Week” is an annual event that is scheduled to take place this year from May 7th until May 15th, 2011.

Those businesses that feel that it is too cost prohibitive to make their own gift baskets may want to consider soliciting the help of various related businesses in their area to make up one basket.

The gift baskets should then be given to organizations such as the “National Tour Association” to be distributed during key local, state and national events.

Additional Information

The above are just four easy steps to take towards increasing one’s share of the lucrative group travel market in 2011.

Those that would like to learn more about travel and tourism marketing techniques should consider consulting with their local tourism marketing professional.

Winter Car Travel Tips for Vacations in Ice or Snow

Winter Car Travel Tips for Vacations in Ice or Snow

Everyone wants to have a fun filled vacation no matter what season it is. Before you hit the open road, it’s important to read up on winter car travel tips. Taking precautions can prevent problems on the road and can make it easier if you do get stuck.

Several years ago my family learned the value of using winter car travel tips to prepare for a trip. We successfully drove from Raleigh, North Carolina to East Tennessee in one of the worst snow and ice storms that has been recorded. Travel was dicey at times but we made it home.

I now live in the higher elevations of East Tennessee. I now put many of these winter car travel tips into practice frequently. So far, they’ve been invaluable.

Car maintenance

Maintaining your car doesn’t guarantee that it won’t break down but it does reduce your chances. Drivers should be especially careful in cold weather. One of the best car travel tips is to inspect your car before leaving the driveway. Don’t just check the fluid levels. Check all lights, brakes and tires at the very least. Fix anything that you find wrong.

Tires need to have good tread to hold onto snow or ice. Checking your tire tread depth doesn’t require a fancy tool. Here are instructions on how to use a penny to check it out. You’ll also want to check your tire pressure. This can be done at almost any gas station.

Car emergency bag

Another good winter car travel tip is to pack an emergency bag. Commercially prepared bags can be picked up at any auto parts store. Flashlights, electrical and duck tape, tools to fix or change a tire, reflective triangles and glow sticks are all popular items. Your car mechanic can make other suggestions.

Cell phones versus two-way radios

Believe it or not, you may want to have both available. For either one to work they will need to have fully charged batteries and be able to get a signal. Terrain comes into play with both.

Nothing is ever a guarantee but a winter car travel tip is to always to have a back up to your cell phone. Cell phones may not work in remote or mountainous areas so a two way radio (walkie-talkie) may be helpful. The radio signal strength is more limited than a cell phone but has its advantages. The channel may be used by other people or monitored by emergency services.

Tell your family

Be certain of your route and tell your family or a friend. Winter car travel tips include leaving your vehicle description, license plate number and cell phone number with another person along with an estimated departure and arrival time. If you don’t make your destination as scheduled someone will know to look for you and where to start.

Auto club

Auto club membership can provide you with roadside assistance. Some plans will help you with unexpected trip expenses if your vehicle becomes damaged.

Dress for the weather

Heels might be pretty but they won’t help you in the snow. Wear solid shoes or boots. You can dress up later. The same goes for jackets, hats and gloves. Wear them (or at least bring them) and be ready to use them.

Comfort items

Winter car travel tips include packing bottled water, snacks, blankets, music and other comfort items. In case you get stuck roadside you may want them. If you are taking regular prescription medications be sure to bring the prescription bottles. You may need more than you think. Parents with small children should have more diapers and formula than the anticipate needing.

These winter car travel tips aren’t meant for severely isolated areas but for general travel on interstates and main thoroughfares. Extra research and planning is required for the remote Cassiar Highway or any similar route.

Helpful Tips when Planning a Trip

Helpful Tips when Planning a Trip

Planning a trip is exciting. Just the thought of getting away from routine is exhilarating. But planning a vacation can also be stressful. Will you forget to bring an extra pair of shoes? Will you remember to print out your boarding pass? Will you miss your flight?

Relax. The whole point of taking a trip, unless it’s for business, is to relieve anxiety and tension, so when you decide to take a vacation, preparation will make the trip run smoothly and it will make your life much less stressful.

Some helpful tips for planning a trip follow:

Setting a Destination (U.S.)

Unless you’re one of those people who likes to get in the car and just go wherever life takes you, utilize Yahoo Maps. Yahoo Maps tell you not only how to arrive at your destination, but also how long it will take you to get there.

Along with Yahoo Maps, GPS systems provide a great backup plan to help you arrive at your destination with less stress. However, if your GPS system is more than a couple years old, you will have to update it.

When my sister and I took a trip to Florida recently, we took along my GPS. Orlando’s roads had changed since I got my GPS system, though, so we were routed to a road that no longer existed. Unbeknownst to me at the time, most GPS systems offer update software online. Garmin, for instance, offers updates at Garmin.com (click the link).

Setting a Destination (Abroad)

Utilize the help of the U.S. Department of State. They offer travel information and alerts, and if you sign up for their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, they will assist you in case of an emergency. Their web site also provides links that will help you become better acquainted with the laws of the country you will be visiting. Visit the U.S. Department of State Tips for Traveling Abroad for more information on how to have a safe trip.

Also, when traveling abroad, check your insurance coverage to make sure you are covered for medical emergencies in other countries.

Military, AARP, and Other Discounts

If you belong to the military or AARP, ask about discounts. Most places won’t offer that information up front – you have to ask. My son, a U.S. Marine, along with his wife and children, stay at the Hyatt whenever they travel. Not only do they get a great break on hotel prices (comparable to priceline.com and expedia.com), but they also accumulate points they can use toward future stays. Right now they have almost enough points to stay at a hotel in Hawaii FREE for a week!

Pack Like a Pro

Before you go anywhere, you have to pack. Knowing what to pack for a trip requires some forethought. Questions you need to ask yourself are how many days you will be gone and what types of events you will be attending.

Start a list. You will refer to it both before you leave and again when you pack to return home. Once you know what types of clothing you will require, pack all necessary blouses, shirts, skirts, dresses, shoes, socks, panty hose, jewelry (you might want to keep your expensive jewelry at home in a safe), hair ornaments, and other accessories. Don’t forget sleepwear, swimwear, and underwear.

One item often forgotten is sunglasses. A second pair of glasses or additional contacts (along with contact solution) could help, too, in case something unforeseen lengthens your stay.

Pat attention to weather changes. Dress for the climate. But also dress for whatever the temperature will be when you return home. I once left a jacket in San Diego that I didn’t remember until I arrived at Midway Airport in Chicago one cold winter day.

The best way to make sure you don’t forget anything is to go through your day from beginning to end. From the time you awaken in the morning, write down everything you need. Items you use in the shower might be available in hotels, but if you have a preference for specific shower items, make sure you pack them.

From razors to makeup to personal sanitary products to hair supplies, continue writing your packing list. If you take medication, make sure you pack enough meds to take you a couple of days beyond the date of your return in case of inclement weather. Most medications can be purchased in drug stores across the country, but if you are receiving aid from the state in which you reside, you will have to pay full price for your medication across state lines.

Pack laptops, cell phones, iPods, or any other electronic devices you might need for yourself or for other family members, and don’t forget the chargers. If you will be driving a rental, don’t forget to pack your GPS device.

And finally, don’t forget your outerwear, boarding pass, passports, visas, photo IDs, day planners, tickets, itineraries, and your packing list.

Allow Yourself Plenty of Time

If you are someone who is notoriously late, the last thing you want to do is miss your flight. Pretend you are leaving an hour earlier. Rushing is counterproductive. The more relaxed you are when you leave your home, and the more time you give yourself, the more likely you will get to the airport on time.

Airport Security  amp; Homeland Security

Before you leave home, check the current threat level through the Homeland Security Advisory System. As of this writing, for instance, the threat level for all domestic and international flights in the U.S. is High, or Orange. The higher the threat level, the longer the time you will spend going through security.

Homeland Security also asks travelers to establish an emergency preparedness kit and to prepare an emergency plan (links are provided for both by clicking on them).

Depending on where you go, you might have to pay an airport security fee. Guatemala, for instance (as of this writing) requires a fee that equals approximately $2.50.

Check with the airline(s) to see how many suitcases you can bring on board and how many you are allowed to check in.

Also, check the contents of your carry-ons. Something as simple as hand lotion may be confiscated at the security check point. You must dispose of water bottles too.

How to Meet Your Friends Halfway

Sometimes travel includes meeting friends or relatives, but finding a midway point is difficult. Even grabbing a map and measuring the distance doesn’t help, because you don’t always know exactly where to meet. Midway points need not be a problem though, due to Geomidpoint’s “Meet in the Middle” tool. Geomidpoint helps travelers find the midway point between two cities. It also offers choices for restaurant, hotels, movie theaters, golf, shopping, entertainment, and more. Just plug in both addresses, or both cities, and you will find your midway point, along with some places to meet.

Bring an Empty Suitcase

If you plan on shopping while you are gone, you may want to bring an extra empty suitcase. Souvenirs take up room and if your luggage is already packed to the gills you won’t be able to accommodate any additional clothing or gifts.

Customs Inspections

Make sure the items you purchase as souvenirs will pass inspection. If you are carrying items that you think other countries might find suspicious, contact the Customs Inspections departments for the country you will be visiting. For information on acceptable entry items into the United States from other countries, go to CBP.gov.

In Closing

Tell at least one person where you are going. While getting away from everything and everybody seems like a great idea, leaving without telling somebody can be a deadly decision. Somebody should know how to reach you. People who love you, if they haven’t heard from you shortly after you are supposed to return, will be grateful for having a way to contact you. Leave behind a copy of your itinerary, and alert at least one person if you expect a delay in your return.

Finally, be safe and enjoy!

Preschool Aged Children

Educational Road Trip Games and Activities for Preschool Aged Children

Long car trips with preschool age children are a challenge for both the kids and the parents alike. Make your car time with the family more enjoyable and educational this season with these travel games and activities for preschool aged children.

Play I Spy Say to your child, “I spy with my little eye something blue,” and let your child guess what you are saying. If she spies anything blue-a car, a billboard, the sky-she “wins” and gets to say the next I spy riddle. (Vocabulary and observation skills)

Pack a Trip Bag Load up a backpack or canvas bag with some of your child’s favorite toys that can be played while sitting: white boards and markers, small toys, Silly Putty, travel games, coloring books, etc… Include a few new games and toys, especially ones related to travel such as toy cameras, toy binoculars, journals and toy cell phones. (Creativity, role play, small motor skills)

Make a Map Take a hint from Dora the Explorer and make a simple map of where you are going and some of the landmarks you will be passing. Use simple drawings as icons of what you will be passing: forests, cities, bridges, mountains, lakes, rivers, and towns. Every so often take out the map and show how far you’ve gone. (Visual skills, map skills)

Pack a Sing Along Tape Preschoolers love to sing and they love when their parents sing with them, too. They also don’t care if you sing off key. (Vocabulary skills)

Play Travel Bingo Draw or find clip art pictures of items that you commonly see on the road and make a few bingo cards with nine pictures (three across and three down) or sixteen pictures (four across and four down). Make sure the pictures are items that you commonly see on a road trip, such as stoplights, RVs, Exit signs, airplanes and so on. Let your child look for the items on the card until he gets Bingo. (Observation skills)

Silly Sounds Make up sound effects to go with the things you see on the road. Say “moo, moo” every time you see a cow, “beep, beep” when you see a bus, “splish, splash” when you cross a river, and “vroom, vroom” when you pass a convertible. Your child will be giggling all the way to you destination. (Oral language skills)

Counting Signs Give your child a piece of paper and a pencil. Ask her to keep track of how many items she sees in two minutes, such as stop signs, cows, big trucks, and other common items. Show her how to make an X on her paper every time she sees the item. At the end of two minutes, say “stop” and count the Xes. (Math and small motor skills)

Group Drawings Give your child a piece of paper and crayons and let him draw one thing on the picture, such as a person or a tree, and pass it to the next person. The next person adds something else to the picture, such as a sun or a house, and passes it on. Continue until the entire paper is full. (Creativity, small motor skills)