Summer in California is the perfect time for playing on the beach, exploring state and national parks, and enjoying theme parks all over the state. It shouldn’t have to be high season for prices, though. When planning your trip, check the tourist board website of your destination and you’ll likely find offers that shave a little (or a lot) off your hotel rate, or bundles in freebies and nice amenities. This summer, a number of Golden State destinations are offering free gas gift cards to sweeten deals in addition to rewarding travelers for booking early and staying on weekdays. Here are some ways to add value to your summer getaway. $1 to Kayak Location:ReddingWhat’s the Deal?: Redding is a prime spot for paddling, thanks in part to Whiskeytown Lake, where you can pay just $1 for ranger-led kayak or paddleboard tours. About an hour away, in Lassen Volcanic National Park, pay a vehicle entrance fee of just $30 to enjoy a week’s worth of swimming and hiking at Manzanita Lake. Mark your calendars for August 4 and September 24, which are free-admission days at all national parks. Deal Dates: On-going. Valid 9 am and 5 pm, Wednesday-Sunday Solo Traveler Win Location: MendocinoWhat’s the Deal?: Who knew solo travel had deal options? The perfect escape includes, in this case, $20 off your nightly rate. The adults-only Glendeven Inn & Lodge sits on 15 acres in Mendocino County and has a day spa, wine barn, and wandering llamas and goats (just type “Party of One” in the window as you book). Deal Dates: On-going $100 Gas Card Location: Big BearWhat’s the Deal?: Plan a two-night stay through the Big Bear website before June 30 and you can score a $100 gas card, which you can pick up at the Big Bear Visitor Center—just be sure to choose the “Gas Card” deal online. Planning further out? When you stay at the mountain resort’s Hillcrest Lodge, you can add a free night on either Thursday or Sunday when you also book a Friday and Saturday (good through Nov. 30). Or book a three-night stay at Cool Cabins, using the promo code GASCARD, and get a $50 gift card for fuel. Good through Nov. 23. Deal Dates: Before June 30 or Nov. 23 (gas) , now thru Nov. 30th (hotel) Summer Escape to Napa Valley Wine Country Inn - courtesy visitnapavalley.com Location: St. HelenaWhat’s the Deal?: Weekdays make for mellow visits to wineries, and this deal at the Wine Country Inn in St. Helena takes 20 percent off the rate for a three-night stay between Sunday and Thursday. Stays at the Napa Valley resort—comprised of 24 rooms, five cottages, and a pool—include a daily breakfast buffet and a split of local wine upon arrival. Good through August 31. Deal Dates: Now through August 31 Splash of Summer Location: Greater Palm SpringsWhat’s the Deal?: Summer in Greater Palm Springs brings lots of good pool time and prime deals, so a resort like Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa—with both a kid-friendly “Splashtopia” and an adults-only pool—makes a lot of sense. This deal bundles in a $100 food and beverage pool credit per stay plus an Omni pool towel. Book your trip up until September 10 for stays through September 29. The resort’s Stay and Splash deal, meanwhile, gives you 10 to 20 percent off your stay, depending on whether you stay one, two, or three nights (good through Sept. 30). Or check out the first Margaritaville Resort on the West Coast, where you can get 25 percent off through Sept. 5. Deal Dates: until September 10 for stays through September 29 Click here for more California deals!
Summer Vacation Tips: Your Ultimate Guide to Safety, Adventure, and Fun
Summer is a time to relax and regroup somewhere else. Anywhere else. But before you set off on your sun-filled journeys, we've put together some must-know intel and helpful tips to make your vacation easier, safer, and, of course, more fun. 1. Swim Safely Even the most skilled swimmer can encounter troubles in the ocean, so when water is on your agenda, safety should be top of your list of things to remember. (Right up there with a portable grill, hot dogs, sunscreen, and towels, of course.) We checked in with BJ Fisher, Director of Health & Safety for the American Lifeguard Association, for tips on how to stay safe in the summer. The most important is probably the most obvious: no matter how much at ease you are in the water, always swim where there’s a lifeguard and never, under any circumstance, swim alone. “Swim with a buddy,” he insists. “Many drownings involve single swimmers. If you can’t find someone to swim with, at least find someone to watch from the side of the pool or on the beach.” It’s easy to be lured by the open expanse of the ocean and forget just how suddenly and drastically the ocean floor can change. That said, best not to use flotation devices, like inflatable rafts, in unfamiliar areas or places where you might not be able to swim. If you fall off, that’s trouble, informs Fisher. And then there’s the ocean’s stealth sneak attack: rip currents. If you’re caught in one, he says, don’t fight it. “Swim parallel to the shore till you reach a spot where the current is weak. Most rip currents are narrow,” he instructs. And for those who like to tackle the water head-on, protect your head and neck when diving and body surfing. For divers he advises, “check for depth and obstructions and remember that feet first is far safer than head first. When body surfing, make sure you have at least one hand extended in front of you.” And, needless to say, if you’re at a pool party or a beach fiesta, don’t drink and dive. Alcohol is a huge factor in many drownings, he says. 2. Get Ready for the Road For most drivers, cruising down the highway is a matter of reflex. But a long road trip requires a completely different frame of mind. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, you might say. One of the biggest problems on the highway is drowsy drivers. More than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related accidents experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel, according to the American Automobile Association. “Drivers shouldn’t rely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue. Instead, they should prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep into their daily schedules,” says Tamra Johnson, former AAA spokesperson. Other rules of thumb: travel at hours when you’d normally be awake, schedule breaks every two hours or every 100 miles, avoid heavy foods and travel with alert passengers. Even better: take turns driving. And then there’s that other major traffic risk: distraction. On city streets and highways, texting and driving has become astonishingly common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving—everything from texting to eating—is a factor in more than 10% of crashes. Nearly one in three drivers admit to typing or sending a text message or email in the past month, according to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. It also found that 40% of drivers report reading a text message or email at the wheel in the past month. It’s a risk that is all-too easy to eliminate. “Safe driving is a complicated task that requires your full attention, so drivers need to put down their phones and focus on the driving task,” Johnson said. Best tactic: designate a passenger as the chief navigator and texter. Solo drivers should take care of everything before turning the key. Adjust the radio, phone, and GPS system, decide on your route, then take off. Speaking of GPS, AAA offers a free app that travelers can use to map route, map a route, find up-to-date gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Even in our high-tech world, though, nothing is 100% foolproof 100% of the time. Road atlases and maps still work as effectively as they did for our parents and grandparents. Invest in a good one. And as an added bonus, it's a pretty dependable way to keep kids engaged and entertained. 3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors Summer is a prime time to heed the call of the wild. But while nature can be relaxing and rejuvenating, there are also plenty of factors that can put a damper on what would otherwise be a perfect trip. Most, however, are avoidable. Justin Wood, Director, REI Experiences, an active-adventure travel company at REI, the outdoors retail behemoth, has some ultra-helpful hints. He breaks them up into three categories: before, when you get there, and when you’re ready to leave. The before-you-go phase is easily the most important. “About 99% of how your trip pans out is determined by how you planned. Research so you can craft your experience to meet your needs,” he says. First, check up on the site you want to visit. A lot of places require a reservation and can book up six months in advance. There are, however, lots of first come/first serve sites, but plan smartly. Try to get there mid-week to avoid the rush. Need to learn about options in a particular area? He recommends Hikingproject.com, which drastically reduces the legwork you have to do by providing information on an assortment of trails and cool destinations in any area for any level of experience. But first: to pack. Use a checklist. It’s worth the extra few minutes to download and print one. Get your gear—your tent, your stove—ahead of time so you can make sure everything works properly and all the pieces are there. “The worst thing that can happen is you get there and realize something’s missing. It could be a small thing, but it can really waylay a trip,” he says, noting that REI has a program where you can rent gear, like tents, to try them out before you invest in one. Of course, sustenance is not least among importance when it comes to deciding what to bring. “Planning a menu is an important part of camping—what to eat, how to prepare it, how to store it. Storage is critical, especially if you’re in bear country or if there’s mice around the camp,” he says. He notes that dehydrated food has come a long way with lots of great options ranging from Thai and Indian fare to classic American grub. Dehydrated foods are a great way to keep it simple, which helps with prep and cleanup. Regardless, however, “everything tastes better outside,” he asserts. And good news for the caffeine-fueled outdoorsy types: you don’t have to give up coffee. There are so many great solutions for brewing gourmet coffee in camp, Wood assures, like French presses and pour-over options. Once you arrive set up tent in an established site, not on a hillside or anywhere there are rocks around. Look overhead to make sure there are no branches over where you plan to pitch your tent. And whatever you do, make sure your tent isn't too close to your fire pit. Embers will burn holes in the tent. And definitely pay careful attention when using knives and stoves. Most injuries from cooking and cutting things, Wood notes. Being weather-ready in the winter time is obvious: bring layers and a warm sleeping bag. You can always pile on more clothes to stay warm. Staying cool in the summer is a bit trickier. Of course, make sure you hydrate. At night, it’s important to set up a tent with the rainfly off to keep airflow moving through. In warm weather, ignore that rule about avoiding cotton, an imperative in the winter because once it’s wet it stays wet. That’s exactly what can help your stay-cool cause in the heat. "There's a misconception that camping means rouging it—but it can be such a comfy, wonderful experience. And the best, most experienced campers are always comfy," says Wood. "If you have everything, you never have to worry about being comfy. That means the right size tent—do you want to stand up in it? Does it have enough room for everyone sleeping in it? Can you properly ventilate it? Stay dry inside? Bring a bag that's rated for the right temperature at night.” When you're leaving, do one last sweep to make sure you have all your gear for next time. It's easy to overlook a chair behind a tree. And the cardinal rule of camping: dispose of all your waste and leave the site better than you found it. Follow that wisdom and you're guaranteed the happiest trails. 4. Include Every Family Member in the Fun According to AAA, most American are planning to travel as a family this summer. That means a whole lot of hours of kids asking if you’re there yet. And kids, of course, are the toughest—and usually most honest—critics, so once you get there, you’d better be ready to impress. It helps, of course, when they have some skin in the game. “Make sure to get the kids involved in planning. This will get them more vested in the whole vacation and will likely lead to much less complaining,” says Rainer Jenss, President and Founder of the Family Travel Association. “Letting the children choose activities will ensure they'll be more interested!” He also suggests getting actual cameras for each child, which will get them off their phones and tablets and much more actively engaged in where they are and what they’re seeing and doing. When they’re in the car, however, reading is obviously a better way to pass the time than movies and video games. “Bring along information on your destination, including low-tech options such as TourBook guides and maps, to make the most of your trip and as a source of entertainment for kids,” says Julie Hall, Manager of Public Relations at AAA.
Trying to plan a road trip? Here are the cheapest & most expensive states for gas
Gas prices have fluctuated significantly in the US (& the wider world), therefore, drivers will be paying very different prices for gas. Missouri is the state with the cheapest gas prices - it is now $0.13 more affordable than previous leader Mississippi. Despite this, prices have still risen by over a dollar in the past year. Kansas now ranks as the second most affordable, with a gallon of fuel costing a total of $3.80. Oklahoma is classified as the third most affordable state: a gallon of fuel costs just $0.01 more than in Kansas. Top 10 states with Cheapest gas prices: Missouri $3.78Kansas $3.80Oklahoma $3.81Arkansas $3.81Maryland $3.81Texas $3.86Nebraska $3.87Iowa $3.89Mississippi $3.91North Dakota $3.92Minnesota $3.92South Carolina $3.92 The study also looked at the most expensive states for US drivers: California was found to be the most expensive state for drivers. Fuel prices in California have risen 29.53% since last year, making it the most expensive state by $0.66. Top states with most expensive gas prices: California $5.91Nevada $5.25Hawaii $5.16Alaska $4.74Washington $4.73 To see more of this study click here.
Traveling, while enjoyable and fulfilling, takes a lot of expenses. It will take the use of strategic planning, different budgeting techniques, and financial confidence to make a limited budget work, especially when there are a lot of people traveling together such as with your family and with kids, at that! When you’re traveling with kids, the game changes and adjustments have to be done. Before making that next big trip, parents and guardians should consider several strategies so that their hard earned bucks are also well spent for them and their kids, ranging from finding affordable flights to bringing their own forms of entertainment. One efficient strategy is by “reverse engineering” your finances (or knowing the things that can potentially go wrong, instead of the ones that you should do right). That said, below are some of the financial mistakes to be avoided when families travel with kids. We hope that this guide prevents parents (like us) from making the same mishaps. 1. Not Being Prepared for Medical Emergencies Traveling is best done when precautions are in place. The first step in being prepared for medical emergencies is having travel health insurance. Getting you and your family covered will save you the trouble of paying for emergency medical expenses when traveling. Depending on the plan the family has, the cost will either be reimbursed within the plan limits or covered altogether regardless of injury or illness. Unfortunately, not many families come prepared with this, not even the parents themselves. It doesn't take a while to be acquainted with options, though, be it a comprehensive travel insurance plan that covers several problems (including baggage loss, trip delay, and trip cancellation), or a standalone medical plan limited to dental and emergency medical fees only. The bigger mistake is opting out of the travel insurance fee and then ending up spending more let alone on a different country when faced with medical expenses. 2. Not Prioritizing Convenience Over Ticket Price While flights can be as affordable as they can go, it is still best to be wise when choosing cheap ones but one that can compromise convenience. After all, going through delays and panicking one's way into making the connecting flight, with jet lagged children, toddler gear, and several pieces of luggage, is not an ideal experience when traveling, even if it allows youto save a little bit. For instance, don’t fall prey to a lap arrangement. It is recommended to buy a ticket for your child in order to prevent breakdowns and also have someone on your lap for an extended period of time. Parents, you will need all that muscle strength while traveling. Save your energy while in transportation. Also, isn't giving your family a bit of fun, convenience, and comfort a good thing to aspire for while traveling? If one can do this within a good budget without overspending, then it should be done. 3. Not Having Essential Items It is better to bring your children's essential needs, such as diapers and clothes, instead of buying them at the travel destination. After all, the availability of your children's needs, especially in terms of brand, may not always be around in certain countries. Securing these needs will save the unnecessary expense of buying something other than souvenirs and the experiences that should make the trip, not new baby clothes, prescription medicine, or diapers. A way to ensure doing this is to have firstaid kits and packing cubes. A firstaid kit and having it onboard is a nonnegotiable, and it should include items such as medicine for allergies, stomach ache, cold, flu, motion sickness, fever, and rehydration, as well as antiitch cream, thermometer, and bandages. Packing cubes, on the other hand, are fabric containers with zips. These can be packed with the basic clothes needed, including socks, as well one for dirty laundry and some detergent in case clothes need to be washed at the hotel. Imagine all the savings by dodging all those unnecessary expenses! 4. Not Bringing Enough Entertainment for Children It is a must to engage children of all ages when traveling. Otherwise, parents will find themselves with unnecessary expenditures on snacks, toys, and even inflight WiFi. It is best to pack some activity sheets, portable art materials, and even some books for the children to carry on their bags themselves. Be strategic when picking toys that won't be too missed in case they are damaged or lost. Make room for calming downtime activities too, so that the children can recharge and avoid having to ask for other things that are not needed. 5. Not Planning Properly Lastly, not planning properly for almost everything in the trip is a sure ticket to disaster. There are so many decisions to make. Lodging, for instance, is crucial for comfort, convenienceand affordability. Will it be better for you to book a hotel room? Or should you choose a spacious rental with kitchen access instead? More importantly, what are the activities you have planned each day? It would be best to keep things scheduled so you can avoid unexpected expenses and decision paralysis. Other Tips to Consider When Traveling With Kids Finally, don’t alienate your kids from the planning process. You’ll be surprised by how insightful their opinions are. Just remember that when it comes to choosing activities, your interests should come first, with the destinations as a second priority. Don’t forget to account for younger children as well. For example, going to a theme park with really young kids might not be the best idea since they will have limited ride options. Cruises, on the other hand, have a variety of activities for school age and teenage children. Family friendly cruise lines have added perks, too. Lastly, parents and seasoned travelers alike advise that less is really more. If the parents try to cram too much in a day, the trip might end up as a chore and not as an enjoyable way to spend time with the family. The Bottom Line At the end of the day, how much you wish to spend on your family travels is still up to you. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to strike a balance between cost effectiveness and overall, the fun, happy times that you signed up for. Safe travels! Jim Hughes is a freelance writer based in Sheridan, WY. Jim has significant experience covering financial and businesstopics. He’s been a financial advisor and also provided consulting and advice. At the moment he is the Director of Content atOpenCashAdvance.com
First Trip Together As A Couple? Beware - Dating.com Finds Nearly Half of Couples Break Up After A Trip
Whether it be a domestic weekend getaway or a lengthy trip to a far away destination, traveling as a couple for the first time can be just as stressful as it is exciting. When taking a first trip together, for the first time most couples experience truly uninterrupted time together. Side by side at every moment, many people will learn things about their significant other that they may not have previously known - and that they might not want to know. Dating.com, shared the top reasons for breakups following a couple’s first vacation. Their most recent survey has revealed the top reasons why couples trips can strain relationships, many of which some people might not consider before taking their first trip with their partners. Their findings offer insight to what you may unexpectedly experience while traveling with your partner for the first time, as well as some tips and tricks to avoid turmoil in paradise as a result. A recent survey of their members revealed the following insights on what commonly causes a couple to break up after their first trip together:IStock - RichLegg Weird habits: With travel may come the revelation of certain habits that our partner has that we simply cannot stand. 47% of survey respondents reported that they had a previous relationship end due to a quirk that emerged during a trip, one that they just couldn’t accept in a long-term significant other. Many respondents cited habits including:Leaving cold or raw food on the counter until it became lukewarmPlacing dirty laundry on clean sheets instead of in the hamperWearing “outside” clothes on the bedChewing loudly with their mouth openWaking up oddly early for no particular reasonStrange obsessions: Spending an extended period of time together can bring some obsessive compulsive traits to light. The top reported strange habits to cause conflict between couples included:Annoyance with their partner over the way they organize their suitcaseNot budging on seat preference on the flightNot compromising on their preferred side of the hotel bedPunctuality: Having an idea of activities and sights to see is important to keep the trip exciting, but it should also still be relaxing for the two of you. Putting too much pressure on your schedule can take the fun out of your time together. 31% of couples have ended their relationships after being woken up too early every morning and 38% called it quits over showing up late to dinner reservations. Some respondents also noted that they stopped seeing their partner after arriving late to the airport, resulting in a missed flight.Sharing a bathroom: Sharing close personal quarters like a bathroom can be a real test for couples if they are not yet fully comfortable with one another. 40% of respondents reported their partner leaving toothpaste smeared in the sink and forgetting to replace the toilet paper while on vacation was too disgusting to forgive after they returned home. Seeing your partner’s true colors: On vacation there are bound to be moments of disruption and inconvenience, from flight delays to language barriers, foreign stomach bugs, food poisoning, seasickness as well as lost luggage and travel documents. A person’s true colors come out in moments of frustration, and 31% of respondents reported that watching their partner snap at a flight attendant, tour guide, waiter, or even at themselves was a big enough turnoff to break up shortly after. Incompatibility: Many people have had the unpleasant surprise of discovering big differences in their seemingly compatible partners while on vacation together for the first time. 44% of respondents reported learning about such differences on their first couple trip. Istock - Deagreez “A couple’s first trip together is a major relationship milestone, whether it happens in your first six months of dating or on your honeymoon,” says Maria Sullivan, Vice President and Dating Expert of Dating.com. “Spending several hours with someone isn’t the same as spending several days with them, and even spending weekends together isn’t the same as spending several weeks together.” “Upon your return, it’s possible that you decide to split up,” continues Sullivan. “But it’s also possible that you are still a couple and love each other even more than before. Plan your itinerary thoroughly and prepare yourself emotionally for either outcome. A couples trip is a journey worth taking: in order to get to know your partner better, and to learn if you might want to take on life and the world with someone new.” Maria’s tips to ace “the first trip test” as a couple include: Don’t plan activities without your significant other: This is a definite ‘don’t’ on your first trip as a couple. It’s okay to have some alone time every once in a while, but make sure to give your partner a heads up. Disappearing can cause panic and a feeling of isolation for your partner during what’s supposed to be an enjoyable trip. The purpose of the trip is to spend time together, so creating plans to enjoy without them – or without keeping them in the loop - is sure to cause some issues.Make sure that the vacation is within both of your budgets: Giving a nice vacation as a gift to yourselves is romantic, but going into debt over it? Not so much. Financial friction can oftentimes cause problems in relationships, so it’s never a bad idea to consult your partner on what they’re comfortable spending (even if only one partner is paying).Book in your own name: Dating.com found that 25% of people broke up right before a couples trip. If your former significant other broke up with you right before a trip and caused disruptions and cancellations of your travel plans, it’s easy to understand why you might want to avoid a similar scenario the next time around. Any vacation, big or small, is a financial investment, and you should consider booking flights, accommodations and experiences in your own name. If your partner joins you, then you can enjoy the vacation together and arrange reimbursements with each other later. If you break up, you can still go it alone - and if you do, then you should be open to new discoveries and even new relationships on your journey.
Travel Tips on Getting to (and Around) Martha's Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts that has become the preferred summer destination to hundreds of families for decades. For those of you visiting us for the first time, you might be a little confused as to how to get to the island and eventually, how to get around island during your visit. We’re here to tackle all your questions, concerns, and overall comments - so here are our top travel tips to getting to (and around) Martha’s Vineyard: 1.There are only TWO ways to get to Martha’s Vineyard: you can fly into the MVY Airport or take one of the many ferries from the mainland. Check out Vineyard Ferries for details on all the ferries you can take to Martha’s Vineyard. If you’re flying, carrier options include Cape Air, JetBlue, Delta, and American Airlines - more details on getting to MV by plane. 2. If you want to bring your car on island, you must take the Steamship Authority ferry from Woods Hole on Cape Cod. The good news is that the Steamship Authority ferry operates many times a day, every day of the year. The bad news is that, while you can walk onto any of their ferries without a reservations, all car reservations must be made in advance, and space on ferries in July and August can fill up quickly. 3. If you still want to fly in and need a car, there are many car rental businesses on island ready to rent you a car, SUV, Jeep, or van. Car renting is common for visitors spending a few weeks on island at a time! 4. Rent a bicycle! There are so many locally owned bicycle shops on island and you can’t go wrong with any of them! Renting a bike will cost you between $25-45 a day - check out bike rental rates and ride safely! The island has more than 35 miles of paved, off-road bike paths, so it’s the perfect way to explore.5. Don’t want to rent a bicycle? Buy a Vineyard Transit Authority Bus Pass! The VTA public buses are a clean, safe and reliable way to travel around the Vineyard. The daily bus pass cost is $8, on/off as much as you like. Children under 6 ride for free, and seniors 65+ get a reduced rate of $5. Bus passes can be bought at the Steamship Authority terminal, and, if you have exact change in cash, right from the bus driver. 6. Don’t want to ride the bus? Walk/run! There are great walking trails and running paths in every town, and it’s a great way to work up an appetite for lobster rolls and ice cream cones! 7. Take a tour of the island! Whether you're here for the day or for the season, don't miss anything Martha's Vineyard has to offer and take a tour. From tour buses and vans, walking tours, food tours, lighthouse tours, and on-the-water tours, there's a tour for all guests.8. Don’t want to do any of the above? You’re in luck, because ride share, such as Uber and Lift are both available, as are local taxi companies. CARD WIDGET HERESponsored by Martha's Vineyard
Which road trip snacks are the most popular?
This road trip season, it's not just about the destination. It's all about the journey ... and the snack foods along the way! The team at Upgraded Points wanted to take a closer look at which road trip snacks are the most popular. Using Google Trends, they mapped out the most popular choices for each state. Here’s what they found: The potato chip was America's favorite, with ten states selecting it as the go-to munchie.Close behind are Combos, Rice Cakes, and Sour Patch Kids, which were all the top-choice for at least five different states.Trail Mix, arguably the healthiest snack on our list, was the most popular choice in just one state. Go North Dakota!Unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania chose Pretzels as its favorite road-trip snack. The popular pretzel company UTZ is headquartered in the state. Courtesy of Upgraded Points You can view the full report and your state’s favorites here.