Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Spring Break TravelTIPS - Think Out of the Everyday Box

In Colorado, if you aren't an avid ski family, Spring Break hits at the right time-still chilly out but the sun shines and makes us hopeful for the coming warmer days of late spring. Spring Break is a great time to seek out new destinations for your family to show them the world in a new way. Spring Break is a great time for beaches and 100% pure amusement, but it also is a perfect time to build in some activities planned by your kids to help them feel empowered in the planning process. Here are some ideas for Spring Break that won't leave a hole in your wallet and may even help your kids feel empowered in their own life journey.

Destination Concept:
Club Med - Sandpiper Bay - Port St. Lucie, Florida - This resort set on the St. Lucie River was the first to set the stage for the all-inclusive vacation which builds in tremendous value for your dollar. Built in 1971, the resort is one of the resort chain's oldest but well maintained and boasts the title of being the ONLY all-inclusive resort in the United States.

The all-inclusive price includes lodging, delicious ethnically diverse and healthy buffet meals and drinks, house wine and drinks at the bar, sporting activities and group lessons to meet everyone's needs in tennis, trapeze, volleyball, sailing, golf, yoga and strength training. The resort layout and amenities includes great walking paths and three pools to enjoy throughout your stay. Right now with their Winter Escape sale, you can take a family of four from Denver - including air - for $5,478 (this includes required Club Med membership fees during your stay). For a day off of the resort, Port St. Lucie is close to West Palm Beach and other south Florida destinations for beach time.
Note that this is also a great option for pregnant women as current travel alerts for Zika Virus (mosquito borne virus which has now been linked to birth defects) discourage travel to Central America and some Caribbean destinations.

Planning Concept:
Empower your Kids-Let them Plan It! Provide your kids with some healthy parameters (budget, local or international, air or drive) and let them identify a destination they've been studying in class or heard about via their friend's SnapChat/Instagram stories. It might seem like a chore when you ask them, but if you break it into small tasks and not a day-long planning slog, they will come to you with ideas for further exploration.

On a recent trip to Holland, my kids asked to replace a museum visit with an Escape Room adventure. This was my son's most memorable part of vacation - not because we failed miserably at solving the crime) but because it was his idea, we listened, he researched the venue (family of 4 for $100), and we happily worked together as a family. Vacations can be as stressful as they can be relaxing, so when your kids find amusement that fits the whole family, everyone is happy and leadership skills are built in the interest of a group activity - skills for life!

Activity Concept:
Scavenger Hunt Walk! Spend less time in the car, and discover a new place through local scavenger hunts. Everyone benefits from the exercise and you'll discover many things that lots of tourists won't with these low-cost high discovery activities. In Denver and other cities, you can try this out with Urban Adventure Quest . Try it locally-start at the Capitol building and discover gems down the 16th Street mall and in and out of courtyards and buildings steeped in Denver history.
If you leave town, enhance your City exploration by starting with a stay IN the city (not a suburb) and walk or take transit to sightsee and explore local eateries. New York City, for instance, isn't just for Broadway shows and high-end fashion. There are many great hotel deals in the heart of the City so you can live amongst the stars, but New York's lovely Spring weather (like many of our country's four-season cities) is great for pedestrians. Feel free to explore 2-3 miles any direction on foot, bus or subway and discover the neighborhoods in the REST of the city.

From Greenwich Village to the High Line (abandoned elevated railroad turned public park and trail), Chelsea Pier, and even a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, there are activities to keep you busy and to let you rest, and you'll show your kids how the world looks as a pedestrian in neighborhoods that were originally designed for people, not cars.

The world is full of great places to see and so many ways to discover them! Use your next Spring Break to engage your family in some out-of-the-box activities and off-the-beaten-path places and expand everyone's horizons beyond their everyday.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New York TravelTIPS

New York, New York! So many people know New Amsterdam's charms from the days the Dodgers lived in Brooklyn to the City's remarkable, thoughtful and graceful recovery from September 11, 2001. As a child, I frequently visited New York with my parents, both NewYork City natives. Most of my family still lives in three of New York's five boroughs, so my view of the City was always of the native variety, and never quite from the tourist perspective. In recent months, I have had the pleasure of planning travel for clients who are either visiting for a targeted theatre engagement, or who want to show their children the wonders of the City, taking in every lovely tourist twist and turn along the way. Here are some of my favorite itinerary items that you just might want to add the next time you visit the City you think you know.

Transportation: Using Central Park as your compass, you can easily traverse New York's borough of Manhattan (commonly referred to as "the" New York City) on foot as the island is only 26 square miles. Of course common alternatives to pedestrian routes are city transit including bus, subway, elevated lines, Circle Line on-and-off ferries, and good ol' fashion taxis (now being topped by Uber) for rides across town. Explore differently next time you travel into the City-check out the subway lines that take you from Manhattan to Brooklyn, or even from the World Trade Center to north of Central Park. Short rides with the locals will give you a better view of this fast-paced city from the reality made of people, noises, tunnels filled with music, and families who all choose alternative transportation to get around New York as that is the easiest and fastest way to do it. The most popular trending transportation for more adventurous travelers is the city's bikeshare program. While in it's relative infancy, it is popular for those who are comfortable riding on-street in designated bike lanes. Manhattan and surrounding boroughs are splashed with bike stations every few blocks, so a trip on foot is even quicker when you take to the pedal.

Don't get too overwhelmed when you are determining the city's "must see" and "can't miss" list. Depending on your interest, these lists can be different for everyone. Adults can find plenty of things to do in the day and the night, so I will quickly list a couple favorite kid stops to fill the time in between Broadway shows, Circle Line cruises, the Status of Liberty and Ellis Island.

For families with kids: Endless miles of walking and museum tours can actually be possible if you build in time at the NYC Children's Museum. It's been years since we were there, but as avid pedestrians in the city, we walked everywhere and found the break at this lovely museum just two blocks west of mid-Central Park was a perfect resting point and entertaining for the littles. Follow up a visit inside with a quick taxi ride or bus to the Central Park Zoo or hit the playground for some pre-dinner action! While Broadway-and off-Broadway shows will always be on my to-do list, I would add the High Line, a former elevated train right-of-way abandoned and reclaimed as one of the most awesome public parks and trails in the nation. It traverses the southwest section of Manhattan along the popular Chelsea district. Hop on and off the trail to delight in local cafes and bars for a great local experience. If you really want to step outside most tourist's everyday visits to NYC, try a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and stop in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. With a great kids playground and in the summer a splash zone for little ones, this is sure to be a great hit for the family and lovers of this Olmsted/Vaux park in the City.

Central Park as your Compass: From Central Park, you can walk any direction for 2-5 miles and be somewhere you want to be. Plan your visit to the World Trade Center Museum and Memorial on a day when you want to traverse south in the City. Take the High Line Trail for a walk in between, and visit Greenwich Village and Chelsea along the way. These are also neighborhoods where you will find better food and local eats as compared to the more popular tourist establishments in Times Square. If you want to spend time IN the park, try out the popular Scavenger Hunt option to find your way through this iconic green playland in the City. Assuming you are staying at a hotel in Manhattan (if not, you should) spend your "downtime" days in Times Square for shopping and theatre.

If you would like help planning your trip to New York, please contact