The Top 13 Family Vacation Hot Spots

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When it comes to finding a great family vacation in the US, look no further than these top 13 destination hot spots of the year. Come delve through this list of fun and exciting things to do with your family. This list has been compiled by thousands of travelers. Who voted on what they felt were the best kid friendly place to visit. We hope this help you when deciding and planning your next trip.

#1 Orlando-Walt Disney World

Why go: Known for its timeless appeal, thrill rides and performances, Disney World is engineered specifically for families, and its formula is very successful. But if you aren’t up for putting on mouse ears, Orlando hosts a slew of theme parks that are sure to excite wee ones. There’s no other city in the United States — the world, even — that celebrates childhood quite like Orlando. The feeling that you get when you catch the light off Epcot Center’s Spaceship Earth (found in Walt Disney World, of course); or from your first sip of Butterbeer in Hogsmeade (located insideIslands of Adventure’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter); or when you witness the soaring heights of Shamu’s flips (during the “Believe” water show at SeaWorld) — all prove that being a kid is about state of mind, not age. The notion that only young ones will enjoy this city’s charms is just that — a notion. In reality, Orlando has a little of this and a little of that to appeal to all ages, and there’s more to do here than visit theme parks. The subtropical climate is great for golfing and the downtown city landscape is too attractive not to explore.

#2 Honolulu – Oahu

Why go: Honolulu — especially Waikiki — offers excellent child-friendly beaches and activities, like snorkeling, swimming with dolphins and the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park. Plus, many hotels sit along the shore, negating the need for public transportation or a vehicle. Oahu blends cosmopolitan luxury and breathtaking scenery more than any other Hawaiian island. The state’s capital city, Honolulu, showcases the island’s urban appeal. Nearby you’ll find a host of cultural and historical sites, from the austere USS Arizona Memorial to ornate ‘Iolani Palace. In the nearby Waikiki neighborhood, a skyline of high-rises and resort hotels contrasts with sprawling white-sand beaches. For a taste of rural Hawaii, visit the North Shore. Here, you’ll find the most brilliant blue waters and meandering hikes. But those three spots aren’t all Oahu offers. Its high-class restaurants, vibrant cultural events, and wild nightlife further showcase this island as a “Gathering Place” of Hawaiian culture.

#3 Yellowstone

Why go: Kids will get a kick out of watching Old Faithful erupt, and there’s nothing quite like an afternoon hike to bring the clan together. Hotels inside the park can be expensive, so make this a BYOB (bring your own bed) vacation. With dramatic peaks and pristine lakes, Yellowstone is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Multicolored pools swirl around hot springs; verdant forests weave past expansive meadows; and volatile geysers launch streams of steaming water toward the sky. With so much unspoiled natural beauty, it’s no wonder everyone suspected John Colter (a scout for explorers Lewis and Clark) was embellishing when he first described Yellowstone’s geothermal curiosities in 1807. Nowadays, there’s no doubt that the park is indeed extraordinary. While you traverse the park’s 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls, be prepared to share the trails with permanent residents like buffalo, elk and sometimes even grizzlies.

Although Yellowstone attracts about 3 million visitors every year, chances are — unless you spend your entire trip at Old Faithful — you won’t see much of them. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres creep from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the edges of Idaho and Montana, offering plenty of untouched territory to explore. Carve out a day or two to take in the view at Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs. But save some time for the trails through lesser-known regions, like the hot springs of the West Thumb Geyser Basin and the untamed wildlife dotting the Lewis River Channel and Dogshead Loop. While the sheer number of trails and wildlife-watching opportunities may seem daunting at first, remember: You can always come back.

#4 Yosemite

Why go: What makes Yosemite an excellent family destination is its numerous outdoor offerings, from hiking and camping to mountain climbing and rafting. And, unlike other parks, Yosemite boasts relatively easy accessibility (San Francisco is only a few hours away by car). One of California’s most formidable natural landscapes, Yosemite National Park features nearly 1,200 square miles of sheer awe: towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, daunting cliff faces and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. But despite its enormous size, most of the tourist activity takes place within a seven-square-mile area of Yosemite Valley. Here you’ll find the park’s most famous landmarks — Half Dome and El Capitan — as well as excellent hiking trails through the natural monuments. Even inexperienced hikers can enjoy Yosemite — guided tours and climbing lessons are offered from local adventure outfitters. Just don’t expect to experience it by yourself. Like so many other American tourist destinations, crowds are the biggest obstacles to an enjoyable Yosemite vacation — at least four million people visit a year. But if you go at the right time (and start your day a little earlier than usual), Mother Nature’s wonders will reveal themselves to you in a miraculous and serene way.

#5 Grand Canyon

Why go: The Grand Canyon is a universally admired family destination, perhaps due to the Brady Bunch and the Griswold’s. You’ll find lots to do here, including hiking, kayaking, rafting and riding Grand Canyon Railway. The Grand Canyon also manages to be budget-friendly. “Grand” doesn’t begin to do this canyon justice. Measuring approximately 277 miles in length, up to 18 miles in width and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is truly a natural wonder. For six million years, the Grand Canyon has expanded with the help of the mighty Colorado River, and for centuries, people from all over the globe have traveled to gaze out over its red and orange grandeur. Managed by the National Park Service and officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Grand Canyon leaves its approximately 4.5 million visitors per year awestruck.

But if you’re seeking a secluded escape to Mother Nature, you should be prepared: The Grand Canyon can be very crowded. The South Rim — home to the Grand Canyon Village and the well-worn Bright Angel Trail — is particularly popular for sightseers and hikers. It is on this side that you’ll find the most amenities. However, for a true escapist experience, head to the North Rim. This is the place for backwoods camping and hardcore hiking.

#6 Washington D.C.

Why go: The key to D.C.’s family appeal is the National Mall, which is surrounded by free, kid-friendly museums and renowned monuments. If you have some extra time, spend a few hours at the National Zoo (which also offers free entry) or snag a treat at one of Georgetown’s cupcake shops. With its marbled monuments and high-profile politicos, Washington, D.C., has long been saddled with a reputation as a stuffy government-driven town. A “city of southern efficiency and northern charm,” as John F. Kennedy once described it, Washington is often seen by outsiders as slow and inefficient. But these days, our nation’s capital is awash with a new energy, transforming itself into an exciting, faster-paced East Coast vacation destination. Although government is still the sun around which this city orbits, the District also offers a host of renowned museums and interesting neighborhoods. And with a recent explosion of restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and clubs, D.C. is transitioning into a thriving cultural hub. As the D.C. Tourism Board is emphasizing through its “DC Cool” campaign, this isn’t the Washington you remember from your middle school field trip — it’s much hipper than that.

You can choose a traditional D.C. adventure, filled with tours of classic attractions like the White House and the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. And there’s no better way to experience iconic D.C. than with a stroll around the Tidal Basin. (Plan to visit in late March or early April —just in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival — and you’ll be rewarded with a canopy of beautiful pink bloom.) But if you’ve already seen the national landmarks, get a feel for the city’s more youthful ambiance, highlighted by its urban neighborhoods, marquee art galleries and vibrant farmers’ markets. Follow foodies to Eastern Market, where Capitol Hill residents shuffle through stands for the freshest produce and trendiest clothing (before working their way through a mile-high stack of pancakes). Afterward, peruse the high-end stores peppering Georgetown or rub shoulders with savvy Washingtonians at the many bars and music joints crowding the U Street Corridor. While you’ll only need a few days to see the city as you know it from your history book, it could take months to experience the Washington that today’s locals know and love.

#7 San Diego

Why go: The simple truth: San Diego offers 70 miles of sandy fun. When the waves start to bore little ones, the creatures at the San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld are sure to hold their interest. Plus, if you need some relief from the sun, head to the museums of Balboa Park. Consistently sunny weather and 70 miles of magnificent coastline are what draw active types to San Diego throughout the year: that and the mouthwatering cuisine, thriving nightlife and one of the country’s favorite zoos. And then there are the beaches: Retreat to Mission Beach to soak up the rays, to La Jolla to catch a wave and to Coronado for a leisurely seaside stroll. When you’re ready to ditch your flip-flops and board shorts for more formal attire, you’ll find pockets of vivacious nightlife throughout, especially near the historical Gaslamp Quarter.

America’s Finest City is a confluence of different communities defined by the area’s military and Hispanic heritage: San Diego is home of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and sits adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border. In spite of constant growth (and its title as California’s second-largest city), San Diego maintains a small-town feel, making it a popular destination for families and anyone looking for a laid-back, Southern California getaway in the sun.

#8 Myrtle Beach

Why go: Myrtle Beach lacks the diversity of other destinations on this list. But in terms of accessibility and cost, Myrtle Beach offers an excellent family getaway. Meanwhile, Ripley’s Aquarium and Mount Atlanticus Miniature Golf are welcome distractions from the shoreline. The clean beaches are the main draw in Myrtle Beach, but there’s more to her than miles of brown sand. One of the best East Coast family vacation destinations, Myrtle Beach, S.C. boasts hundreds of golf courses for golfers at all levels; amusement parks that fling the kiddies around on water rides, roller coasters and race tracks; Dolly Parton singing and dancing for dinner guests; and Ripley’s Aquarium, which dares visitors to commune with the sharks. It might not be the ritziest vacation, but the casual capital of South Carolina’s 60-mile long waterfront, the Grand Strand, is a rambunctious smorgasbord of family fun.

#9 San Francisco

Why go: San Francisco is home to some excellent family-friendly attractions — Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, to name a few. The city is also close to great outdoor areas, including Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods. The only downside: It’s pricey. A jumbled collage of colorful neighborhoods and beautiful views, San Francisco draws those free-spirited types who have an eye for edgy art, a taste for imaginative cuisine and a zeal for adventure. It’s really not surprising that songwriter Tony Bennett left his heart here: The city boasts jaw-dropping sights, world-class cuisine, cozy cafes and plenty of booming nightlife venues — there’s no shortage of ways to stay busy here. Spend an hour or two sunning yourself alongside sea lions on the bay, admiring the views of the city from Twin Peaks, or strolling along the Marina. And for the quintessential San Franciscan experience, enjoy a ride on a cable car.

Often described as Los Angeles’ more refined northern cousin, cool and compact San Francisco takes the big-city buzz exuded by its southern counterpart and melds it with a sense of small-town charm. Here, you’ll discover a mish-mash of culture flourishing throughout San Francisco’s many vibrant quarters. Follow the crowds to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area (which offers spectacular views of Alcatraz) before heading along the bay to the Presidio for a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. But don’t forget to save time for the Mission district, The Haight and The Castro for exposure to all of the different varieties of the San Francisco lifestyle.

#10 Williamsburg

Why Go: Nearly everything in this tiny Virginia town caters to families. Colonial Williamsburg allows youngsters to immerse themselves in history. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t deny the kids a chance to cool down at Water Country USA or to ride the coasters at Busch Gardens. For such a historical town, Williamsburg — as tourists know it — is fairly new. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the downtown area of this Virginia Peninsula city was restored. Now you can tread the same steps that our Founding Fathers once took — in fact, in Williamsburg, you just might even find yourself trekking alongside those men (or at least, alongside some talented, costumed interpreters acting out their parts). The area isn’t a novelty, though. Instead, Williamsburg and the nearby cities of Jamestown and Yorktown are breathing monuments to some of the best-known figures of our colonial history. Patrick Henry, George Washington, John Smith, Pocahontas and more — they all receive their due.

#11 Anaheim-Disneyland

Why go: Similar to its Disney sister city, Orlando, Anaheim has enough mouse-themed attractions to keep parents and kids busy and smiling. Plus, Anaheim has the added benefit of its California location, which sits in close proximity to the beaches and sites of Los Angeles and San Diego. Many vacationers come to Anaheim for Disneyland. A plaque at the entrance of the park says: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy,” and for more than 50 years, this complex of amusement parks and hotels has remained a fun fantasy world. Even if you’ve been to other Disney resorts, nothing beats the original’s unique place as a vintage landmark in the heart of Southern California. This vibrant park is still a great place for families — in fact, your kids will most likely have so much fun with Mickey and friends that they’ll never want to leave. And with plenty of thrilling rides and a bustling Downtown entertainment district, you might not want to leave either.

But Disneyland isn’t the only thing luring visitors to this Southern California city. There are other parks like Knott’s Berry Farm and Adventure City, a picturesque nature park and even an “angelic” baseball stadium. And, although you might not know it as you’re sweating it out in the summertime, Anaheim is within a 30-minute drive to the cooling ocean breeze of Long, Huntington and Laguna beach’s.

#12 San Antonio

Why go: San Antonio contains an abundance of family-oriented attractions, including the Alamo, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld and several historic parks. Add plentiful family-friendly restaurants and a relatively unique setting and San Antonio truly is a first-rate family destination. Davy Crockett may have perished at the Alamo, but San Antonio clings to the Texan pride shown by the “King of the Wild Frontier” and his compatriots in 1836. This modern city’s history especially rears its noble head throughout downtown. In addition to the Alamo, you’ll find several other famous missions, all of which are now a part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. And amongst the gleaming skyscrapers, the austere San Fernando Cathedral still stands as a testament to the city’s religious past. But, don’t be fooled: You don’t need a hankering for history to enjoy this city. With theme parks, top-notch museums, professional sports teams and the famous River Walk, you might have too much to do to “Remember the Alamo.”

#13 Tampa

Why Go: Trade crowded, expensive Orlando for relaxed, affordable Tampa. Mingle with manatees at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center or look for lions at Big Cat Rescue. If your family can’t shake the longing for roller coasters, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island will do the trick. Everyone knows that Tampa is the place for families, and for animal lovers, also for conventioneers. But possibly — even if you don’t fit into any of those demographics — Tampa is for you too? This balmy city by the bay still has plenty of charms away from the amusement park, the aquarium and the convention center (although Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium are not shabby ways to spend a day). There’s lots of history here — for example, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders stopped here on their way to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. And you’ll also find a few choice museums, including the Museum of Science & Industry. And then there’s the sports — this is the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL). It’s the namesake city of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, and the actual spring training home base for several other major league teams. And when you’ve exhausted all that Tampa has to offer, you can just pop over to St. Petersburg for some sophisticated dining or to Clearwater for the beach.

Courtesy of Travel US News

Best Tips To Improve Traveling With Children

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Help is here. Traveling with children can be tricky. We are here to help you with tips and tricks to make your holiday season easier to manage. Just remember these key words. Stay calm and carry-on.

Do What Is Best For Your Family

You know your children better than anyone else. Some people will tell you to travel at night, because your kids are sound asleep. It makes driving at night easier as each driver takes a shift. This helps the other drivers sleep. Or reverse this situation with flying, it becomes magical because kids are sleeping or are easier to entertain, while you can get some shut eye. Sounds Amazing!

This scenario may not work for your family. You may stay up all night worried one of you may crash the car. Your child may decide they are not tired at three in the morning and have a meltdown. Whether you are driving or flying, they don’t call those flights red eye for nothing.

When flying or driving, consider your departure and arrival times. Think about the number of stops you will need to take, the length of each place before getting to your next destination. Think about food and snacks ahead of time. When flying request a child’s meal before your flight. These are things that will help you determine what is best for your family.

What To Pack?

Learn to simplify when packing. You learn to be selective in what you use. Cramming lots of stuff will make your life harder as you are carrying a lot of extra weight, and you have that much more to keep track of.

  • Try packing a “just in case” bag that has: an extra outfit, swimsuit, underwear. In case your luggage goes missing or your little one has an accident and needs that change of clothing. Have these things in a Ziploc bag to put soiled or wet items in. Also to find what you need in a hurry.
  • Pack a parent bag. These are things to keep close at hand for you and your kids. These are things you may want to keep separate from the kids bag.
    • Lots of snacks!!! Pack special snacks on top of the usual ones to make it more exciting.
    • Have an empty water bottle or sippy cup available to help fill up when the time arrives. Then, you don’t have messy soda cans or soft drinks all over the floor. These also make a quick snack cup in hurry.
    • Baby wipes of all shapes and sizes. That’s what it feels like anyways. These are a must! I would assume it is pretty self explanatory.
    • Extra Ziploc bags! They help keep anything and everything contained. Great for a smelling barrier as well. Use for leftover snack packages. The possibilities are endless.
    • Keep an extra copy of your travel itinerary. This will help you to stay more organized. Also a great resource to have when needed in a hurry to glance at.
    • Chargers for any all electronics. Even if you’re not by any outlets, these can be your saving grace. Also make sure all your electronics are fully charged and ready to go.
    • Extra diapers/pull-ups
  • Pack a Kids bag full of things to help keep your children busy, put these things in a Ziploc baggie. To help with traveling light. You could include:
    • Paper /coloring book
    • Twisty crayons / markers /or mechanical pencils (don’t need to sharpen them)
    • Snacks
    • Travel pillow/sleep mask for all the lights at night
    • A special surprise you got them.

Dress The Part

Just as you would wear certain things when camping or going to the beach, when traveling, you never know what kind of surprises you will be in for. So first things first. Dress yourself with comfortable clothing. This will one of the best things you can do. Avoid things that are restricting or things that don’t breathe well. Your body will thank you when you’re sitting for hours on end. Try and wear layers, that way you can take things off and on easier. And wear comfortable shoes!

Be prepared For Delays

Nobody like detours, road closers, flights being canceled, or delayed. Try and make the best of things. Realize sometimes you can’t control every little detail, even with the best of planning. Just try and stay upbeat and not show signs of stress. Make the best of the situation.

  1. Watch a movie together on your electronic device.
  2. Remember those snacks and activities, now is the time to use them.
  3. Explore whatever is around you, make it fun.
  4. Try going somewhere to sit down and eat.
  5. Play a game together.
  6. Sing songs

Enjoy

Take time to enjoy and soak it all in. Children grow up fast. And the more prepared you are the happier you and your children will be. Besides, children love all the excitement of traveling.

What are some travel tips you would love to share?

8 Tips to Help You Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Overseas

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If you’re a huge travel buff, you may not always find yourself in your American homeland during the holidays, including Thanksgiving. Luckily as you explore some of the top tourist destinations in the world, there will always be something you can do to incorporate Thanksgiving into your travels. Here are a few things you can do to help make your Thanksgiving fun and memorable no matter where you are in the world.

How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad

There are many reasons for why you may not be home during the Thanksgiving holiday. You could be traveling abroad for work, volunteering in another country or attending school overseas. No matter the reason, it is still possible to have an authentic American Thanksgiving. Or, if you are going to be overseas for many Thanksgivings to come, you might be able to come up with your own traditions based on the country you are in.

1- Be Prepared

Celebrating Thanksgiving in a different country will have its challenges. The biggest one is that those in your area will not be celebrating the same holiday as you are (unless they too are from the United States). The stores will not carry holiday-themed decorations or the food needed to cook a traditional turkey dinner. For example, local grocers may not carry turkeys in stock. It may have to be a special ordered and that could take a lot of time to receive and be rather costly to order.

Another challenge is the size of overseas kitchens. Not all countries have apartments or homes filled with the kitchen luxuries we have here in the States. Smaller kitchens and a lack of necessary kitchen appliances could hinder the ability to cook a full turkey dinner.

Knowing both of these setbacks before Thanksgiving arrives will help you better prepare around these obstacles and avoid disappointment.

2- Find Others

Thanksgiving is not just about turkeys and pilgrim decorations. It is about spending time with others and being thankful for what you have. Make the most of what you have around you. Go out and find other travelers.

Go out to dinner and spend the holidaywith others in the area. You may run into other Americans who are dining out for the holiday. But if you do not find others from back home, you will be out and about already so celebrate with the locals you meet. They may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but they will understand that you do and will help make the most out of your holiday away from home.

3- Find Substitutions

You may not have a traditional turkey and all of the fixings available to you overseas, but that does not mean you cannot get together with local friends for a large meal that will leave you as stuffed as the turkeys back home. Plan a potluck and have every person bring their favorite holiday dish. Of course, their favorite dish may be from a different holiday, but it is a holiday dish and could become a new staple in your future Thanksgiving celebrations.

As mentioned earlier, turkey and other fixings may not be available in the country you are in, but there are many other foods available that could easily replace what is in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. For example, when in Europe you can replace traditional mashed potatoes with tabbouleh and use tea cookies in exchange for pumpkin pie. Or consider cooking a goose, duck or chicken instead of a turkey. Stop by your local grocer to see what options are available to you.

If you miss heading out for Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving, you can still go shopping the day after. A great substitution for Black Friday is visiting the different Christmas markets in Germany or finding a small market featuring local vendors.

4- Decorate

Just because the stores in a different country will not carry Thanksgiving decorations does not mean that you have to go without. Fill your room with the colors of fall, including leaves, turkeys and pilgrims. If planning a potluck dinner, make pilgrim and turkey hats for everyone to wear. If you have kids, gather fall-colored construction paper and crayons and plan an afternoon of coloring and creating your own decorations to hang up.

5- Share Traditions

Share your Thanksgiving tradition with others you meet in foreign countries. This will give you an opportunity to remember previous Thanksgivings and reflect on how thankful you truly are. As a courtesy, ask others you meet about their traditions. You may be surprised to learn that they have customs similar to our Thanksgiving holiday.

6- Watch the Parade

Get online to watch a Thanksgiving Day parade. Some satellite channels overseas may carry some of the bigger parades, such as the Macy’s Day Parade from New York. You might even get lucky enough to catch a football game via satellite.

7- Connect with Family

Technology has made it easier to stay in touch with friends and family when away. Take time to connect with your family, especially with those not lucky enough to be overseas with you during the holiday. Make a phone call or set up a webcam for a video call.

8- Go Sight Seeing

Take your mind off of being away from home over the Thanksgiving holiday. Go out and see the sights. Keeping your mind occupied with local landmarks, museums and other popular sights will take away the feeling like you are missing out on Thanksgiving. Since the country you are in does not celebrate Thanksgiving, finding something to do should be easy, since everything should be open.

Remember that Thanksgiving is not just about the food and being in America. There are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday while abroad. Spend time with others, go sightseeing or sit back and watch a parade on the computer. No matter what you do, you will find a way to make it possible to celebrate Thanksgiving in a foreign country.

Courtesy of CBS Baltimore

Brilliant Suitcase Packing Secrets!

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When it comes to packing up for a trip, most of us want to swiftly stuff our suitcases with as many items as humanly possible. However, it is a tricky business; packing. Sometimes the task of carefully placing clothes, shoes and toiletries can take hours to complete. Thankfully, there is a strategy. Actually, a few secret strategies that can help you. Not only is there a way to easily fit everything you need into your bags but these strategies can also keep your belongings from being damaged from all the tossing and turning your luggage goes through from airport to airport. Try these out the next time you take a plane to your favorite tourist destinations.

The Best Way to Pack a Suitcase

Experts reveal their trusted, time-honored solutions.

Your Clothes

Step 1: Gather all the garments you anticipate needing. Then put half of them back. Select clothes in the same color family, packing more tops than bottoms. For a five-day trip, you’ll likely need five shirts, two pairs of slacks or jeans, and one skirt, says Kathleen Ameche, author of The Woman Road Warrior ($15, amazon.com). The average 22-inch check-in bag fits roughly two pairs of jeans, three sweaters, two dresses, and five shirts.

Step 2: Choose knits, wools, and cottons. These fabrics tend to resist wrinkles and are versatile (some garments can do double duty, like yoga pants that moonlight as pajamas).

Step 3: Roll softer garments and fold stiffer ones. Underwear, T-shirts, jeans, cotton pants, and knitwear won’t wrinkle when rolled tightly, says Judy Gilford, author of The Packing Book ($13,amazon.com). Stiffer fabrics, such as starched cotton shirts, blazers, dressy pants, and skirts, should be carefully folded.

Step 4: Arrange rolled items in the bottom of the bag. Think of your suitcase as a three-layer cake. The suitcase is the icing; the rolled items make up the first layer.

Step 5: Place folded garments next. For your (cream filling) middle layer, start with the longest items, like skirts and slacks. Stack the garments on top of each other, alternating waists with hems. Position the pile flush with the suitcase, draping leftover fabric over the opposite end. (This conserves space since thick waistbands won’t be piled on top of one another.) Wrap the draping ends of the pile into the center. Next, lay collars of shorter items, like shirts, at the hinge with the ends over the handles. Fold the collars and ends over once and fold the arms in.

Step 6: Cover the pile with a dry-cleaning bag. It’s like Botox for your clothes. Because of the bag’s slippery surface, folded clothes don’t stay in one place long enough for creases to set. Easy upgrade: Place a bag between each layer of clothing. To get to a certain layer easily, simply pull the ends of the bag up on either side.

Step 7: Top the pile with the clothes you’ll need first. Anything goes with your top layer―a bathing suit or pajamas.

Step 8: Snake belts around the perimeter of the bag. This cradles your three layers.

Your Shoes

Step 1: Follow the rules of three. Consider one casual sandal or loafer, sneakers, and an evening shoe to be your holy trinity. “Because of their shapes and heels, shoes take up the most room,” says Marybeth Bond, author of 50 Best Girlfriends Getaways ($16, amazon.com). Wear the heaviest pair and pack the other two.

Step 2: Stuff shoes with sunglasses and electronics chargers, says Anita Dunham-Potter, a cruise columnist for MSNBC.com.

Step 3: Slip shoes into one-gallon-size resealable bags. Then set them along the sides of the bag, says Gilford.

Your Beauty Products

Step 1: Opt for travel-size multitaskers. Choose a tinted moisturizer that serves as foundation, a soap, and shampoo in one, and wipes that clean hands and face. (If you’re flying with a carry-on, check current regulations for liquids at tsa.gov.)

Step 2: Fill empty bottles with your favorite brands. Evelyn Hannon, creator ofjourneywoman.com, a travel-advice website, swears by Japonesque’s Gotta Go Weekend Travel Bag ($20, amazon.com). A mere four inches high by four inches wide, it’s stocked with eight clear containers for lotions, contact-lens solution, and the like. Fill them three-quarters full. “The storage department on a plane is not pressurized, so items filled all the way to the top will overflow,” says Bond, who learned that the hard way when a sample of Pepto-Bismol exploded all over her clothes.

Step 3: Protect your belongings from ugly mishaps. Denise Boyd, a flight attendant for JetBlue, slips socks over her coarsely bristled brushes that “can tear into clothes and cause snags.”

Step 4: Group similar products in sealed resealable bags. Designate one sack for your cosmetics, one for your hair products, and one for skin-related items. Tuck the bags in the side corners of your suitcase or in a zippered outside pocket.

Your Jewelry

Stow inexpensive pieces in a seven day plastic pillbox. Or store them in a 35-millimeter film container lined with tissue. If you must take precious gems, wear them during your travels to reduce the risk of loss or theft, suggests Gilford.

Your Breakables

Wrap fragile items in sturdy clothing. Place them in the center of your bag surrounded by a buffer, says Laura McHolm of NorthStar Moving, a Los Angeles–based company that relocates 5,000 people (and their precious porcelain) each year. If you’re carting liquor bottles, secure them in the bottom center of your bag.

Your Dirty Laundry

Shrink it. Jessica Ellis, a graphic designer who travels between New York City and Chicago every other week, piles clothing into Eagle Creek Pack-It Compressor bags ($10 to $26, rei.com). “Zipper them, and they take out 80 percent of the volume.” Warning: This can have wrinkly consequences, so if the clothes don’t yet require laundering, lay them flat and place fabric-softener sheets between them. Consider your fresh-smelling clothes a welcome-home present.

Special thanks to Real Simple

7 Travel Tips You Should Know For Traveling Solo

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If you traveling by yourself, you are not alone. Solo traveling is becoming quite the trend in this fast paced world of ours. There are so many rewards for heading off by yourself to one of the top tourist destinations, but these rewards could be thwarted if you don’t take precautions for your own safety.


Here are 7 great tips if you are traveling by yourself..

1. Keep Connected

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Image from lahorimela.com

Before you head out, be sure and check if you cell phone has roaming abilities at the place you are traveling to. If it doesn’t, you may want to rent a mobile phone once you get there, or purchase an international SIM card if your phone has an unlocked GPS. Make sure that you won’t be without a way to keep connected with friends and family in case something should arise.

2. Let Others Know Your Daily Itinerary

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Image from Coloradofilm.org

It’s important to keep specific family members or friends apprised of your daily schedule. Maybe even your hotel concierge or innkeeper. If you don’t arrive back when designated to, they can be on alert to make sure you are okay. When exploring by yourself in a wilderness or parkland, be sure to let someone know when you plan to return and what your specific route is. Then stick to that plan

3. Store Passport, Credit Cards and Cash in Different Spots

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Keep your credit cards and cash in your purse or wallet, and other cash and credit cards in a pocket or pouch. During your tour or sightseeing, have only a copy of your passport’s data page but keep your original passport securely locked in the safe at your hotel. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of this data page with a friend or family member back at home. When you are traveling, you will want to have your passport carried separately from your credit cards and cash.

4. Research About Your Travel Destination

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Knowing any safety concerns as well as of etiquette of clothing and local customs can be a huge benefit. If you aren’t sure, got for a more conservative choice. Female travelers will want to know beforehand if harassment might be an issue. Also check information regarding the safety of public transportation. Speak with locals about certain areas or neighborhoods to avoid, specifically after the sun goes down. Have all the local phone numbers for any emergencies on you too

5. Be Sure Where You Lodge is Safe

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This may be obvious but be sure to keep your hotel door locked and any security chain fastened as well. It would be preferable to acquire a room close in more public areas like the elevator or concierge desk. Keep away from ground floor rooms where it’s possible to climb in through a window easily. If you are not expecting anyone, don’t answer the door.

6. Stay in Good Health

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Find out if the water is safe to drink, or if snake or spiders are a problem. Health issue with mosquitoes? Does your cab driver have an excellent safety record? Have an extra supply of any medications you take and even an extra prescription in case you need it. Bring hand sanitizer and use it as needed.

7. Stay Alert and Smart

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Being a solo traveler doesn’t mean you need to hide in your hotel room. Part of the thrill is venturing into the unknown and exploring where you haven’t been before. New discoveries and adventure await you. Just try not to get too distracted by every sound and sight, or by taking so many pictures and videos that your guard drops a bit. So most importantly: Do not leave your common sense at home.

Traveling the World by Chocolate

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Chocolate lover: an individual who is slightly, somewhat, totally gripped with an obsession for smooth, mouthwatering chocolate. This fixation is unexplainable and unquenchable. If you are not a chocolate lover yourself don’t even try to understand and don’t try to stop it. You can’t and you won’t. All that you can do is make sure your chocolate infatuated friend gets their craving mollified during your traveling excursions. Luckily there is many a destination throughout the world that has the most crave-satisfying chocolate desserts. Here are just a few places you can expect to stop by if you’re traveling around the world with a chocolate lover.

 

Vienna, Austria

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Austria is home to the Vienna’s Hotel Sacher, which was built in the 1800s and serves some of the most world renowned chocolates. The hotel was opened as a result of the popularity of the chocolate sponge cake invented in Austria. The cake was originally made to impress business prospects and celebrity persons of that era. The Vienna’s Hotel Sacher still stands today so that you can gratify your taste buds with a variety of Austrian-made chocolate desserts

 

Brussels, Belgium

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Hosting more than 20,000 chocolate shops, 16 chocolate museums and 12 chocolate factories, you could consider Belgium the international gathering place of chocoholics. Brussels in particularly is the proud location of 2 of the largest chocolate companies in the world, Leonidas and Godiva. These two businesses can be found next to many other chocolate shops like Pierre Marcolini, Wittamer and Zaabar. All of these neighboring outlets are located at the heart of Brussels in a little square called Grand Sablon.

 

Cologne, Germany

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Cologne is home to the Imhoff Stollwerck museum of chocolate. The museum, which started out as only an exhibit, was created in celebration of the Stollwerck chocolate company’s 150th anniversary. The museum features a giant chocolate fountain, interactive exhibits and a history of chocolate from all over the world. Stollwerck chocolate, though not produced from the museum, is available in many stores from eight various factories found in Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. You can also enjoy many other chocolate shops in Cologne such as Demnitz Chocolaterie, Weibler Confectionery, La Maison du Chocolate and Mama Chocolate.

 

Tabasco, Mexico

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That word that is almost as delicious to say as it is to eat, “chocolate,” stems from the Mayan name “xocoat” which means cocoa. The Mayan style of chocolate consists of tiny amounts of chilli within the bittersweet cocoa and is a popular favorite throughout the world. With it’s rich chocolate history, some people regard this part of Mexico as the birthplace of chocolate itself. Thus it is another must-see for chocolate lovers.

 

Madrid, Spain

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Known for its high ranking chocolate dipped churros, Madrid is not a city to be looked over. Growing in popularity, this treat is known as “churrerias” or “chocolaterias.” You can purchase these delectables from any street vendor that’s offering it. You can enjoy watching them create this waffle stick from fried dough and then dip it into rich, bittersweet chocolate. If you have not yet tasted it you might want to add it to your bucket list and give it a shot the next chance you get to travel to Spain.

 

Broc, Switzerland

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While searching the globe for world renowned chocolate venues, you must not forget Broc, Switzerland. The quaint village of Broc has been in the chocolate business since 1898 and is home to some of the world’s oldest chocolate makers. You can watch these chocolatiers hard at work inside their shops handling some of the highest quality chocolates in the world. Many of these little shops within Broc even allow you to sample new and exciting flavors of delicious chocolate.

 

New York City, USA

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If you want to hit all of your chocolate explorations in one stop, you might want to check out the streets of New York City. Tours are available specifically for chocolate lovers including the Luxury Chocolate Tour and the New Cuisine Chocolate Tour. These two tours teach you the backgrounds of the many chocolate shops, most of which employ chocolatiers from all around the world. These chocolate makers bring with them recipes from their homelands to provide an incredible variety for your taste buds. There are so many scrumptious places to stop by including Richart Design et Chocolat, Chocolate Bar, Li-Lac, Jacques Torres Chocolate and MarieBelle to name a few.

Rich in taste and history, chocolate is a worldwide wonder that has captured the hearts and the taste buds of many. From coast to coast and from city to city you will never be more impressed with such delicacies than with those created in these chocolatier cities. Whether you taste the chocolate sponge cake of Austria or sample the specialty dipped churros of Spain, you’re sure to wake up in a chocolate paradise with every bite. Who knows, you may even discover your own inner chocolate obsession.

10 Things To Do in Singapore

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One of the best places to travel is Singapore, a small country on a beautiful island that is quite densely populated. Here you will find an enchanting garden city. If you are traveling to Singapore and want to see the places that aren’t listed in the common travel guides, check out these 10 things to do on your trip. You can see and enjoy Singapore on a new level.

Singapore: 10 Things to Do

By Daven Wu

best places to travel

Singaporeans moan that besides shopping, dining and the movies, there’s not a lot you can do here. Ignore them. The must-see list for the one-day visitor to Singapore, especially the first-timer, is absorbingly long. There is very little chance you’ll get bored. Most tourists tend to gravitate first towards the famed retail stretch of Orchard Road. Fine, get your fix of bold-faced names like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and every other couture label under the sun. When you’ve gotten that out of your system, dump your purchases back at the hotel and head out into the ‘burbs where the real charm of Singapore lies. We’re here to guide you to the top 10 places where tourists don’t normally go; in short, the places where Singaporeans in the know live and play.

 

1. The Botanic Gardens

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So, you’ve arrived. It’s early and nothing really opens for business until around 11 a.m., so how are you going to kill time? Slip on the trainers and head out to the Botanic Gardens (open 5 a.m. to midnight). At this time of the day, downtown Singapore’s last remaining green lung is a cool, bucolic retreat filled with joggers, dogs and tai-chi practitioners. Wander through the swaths of virgin rainforest (the main boardwalk through it is entered from Upper Palm Valley Road) and then take in the National Orchid Garden’s many-colored collection of 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids. When you’re done, drop into the food court near Tanglin Gate for a traditional local breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, coffee and toast slathered with coconut jam.

 

2. Artwork at the Rtiz-Carlton

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It may seem a little strange to head to a hotel to look at artwork, but the Ritz-Carlton is no ordinary hotel. The massive three-ton Frank Stella installation at the entrance and the pair of Dale Chihuly crystal glass sculptures that anchor both wings of the building kick off one of Southeast Asia’s finest (and under the radar) collections of modern and contemporary art. The majority of the pieces were specially commissioned for the public spaces and guest suites. The treasures on view include Andy Warhol and David Hockney’s exuberant colors, Rainer Gross’s geometric compositions, Henry Moore’s restrained monochromatics and the lush botanicals of Robert Zakanitch. It’s all free to view, and you even get an iPod-guided tour.

 

3. Chinatown Heritage Centre

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Let the other tourist hordes charge over to the newly minted Peranakan Museum or the gloomy Asian Civilisations Museum. If you do only one cultural thing during your 24-hour Singapore layover, it must be a tour of the unheralded Chinatown Heritage Centre, where entire sets of bedrooms, kitchens and street scenes from the late-19th century and early-20th century have been faithfully recreated. It’s an authentic slice of Singapore’s history that’s made all the more fascinating by the gleaming skyscrapers just a few blocks away. And if you must, pick up a kitschy souvenir from the gift shop on your way out.

 

4. Plastic Surgery

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In case you missed the memo, the place for plastic surgery is Asia. While many people head to Bangkok and Seoul for assorted nips and tucks, the locals make a beeline for the ultra-swish, Richard Meier–designed Camden Medical Centre. You may not have time for a full makeover, but squeeze in a spot of Botox or a non-surgical facelift with local celebrity surgeon Woffles Wu. And then adjourn downstairs for snapper pie and Pavlova at Whitebait & Kale.

 

5. Electronics for Cheap

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Tokyo may have the latest in electronic gadgets, but Singapore has the widest range, and luckily for the time-pressed shopper, they’re all clustered in two massive multistory emporia. Handicams, portable DVD players, mobile phones, hi-tech cameras, MP3 players and laptops in just about every imaginable configuration are up for grabs at Funan Digitalife Mall and Sim Lim Square. The prices are usually about 10% to 20% cheaper than at other commercial outlets. At Sim Lim Square especially, good deals can be had with some serious haggling, and many retailers will knock off a few extra dollars if you pay in cash.

 

6. Haji Lane

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This tiny lane, hidden away in the heart of the Muslim quarter, is a fashionista’s paradise. With very little fanfare, the collection of narrow shop-houses have, in less than a year, been transformed into an aggressively hip retail stretch recalling Le Marais in Paris or New York’s Meatpacking District. Know It Nothing is a stylish industrial space that stocks beautifully tailored dress shirts stitched with silver skull buttons by Japanese label Garni. Next, pop into Pluck for its shabby chic collection of Austin Powers–inspired cushion covers and a cute ice-cream parlor. A few doors down, Salad boasts a range of home accessories like laser-cut table mats and Hong Kong–based Carrie Chau’s quirky postcards. If you’re feeling peckish, have an authentic Middle Eastern lunch around the corner at Cafe le Caire.

 

7. The Singapore Flyer

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The 165-meter-high Flyer is Singapore’s answer to the London Eye. For the moment, it is the world’s largest observation wheel (that title will go to Beijing when its version opens in 2009). Despite much fanfare and hype, the locals have never really taken to the Flyer, grousing that it’s too far from anywhere (it’s not) and S$29.50 is a lot of money to pay for a 30-minute ride. Lucky you, since this means you’ll almost never have to wait in line. The best time to hitch a ride is at dusk when the entire row of downtown skyscrapers is softly lit. Back on the ground, head for a dinner of chili crabs at Seafood Paradise.

 

8. The White Rabbit

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Back in the ’50s, Dempsey Hill was home to the British Army. These days, the former barracks, set amidst lush jungle, have been transformed into a fine collection of restaurants, bars, art galleries, epiceries and spas. Recently, the long abandoned garrison church was reopened as the White Rabbit, a restaurant and bar serving up Euro comfort food. After extensive renovations, its lofty interiors are now a mood-lit bolt-hole that heaves with tout le monde. When people aren’t busy air-kissing and waving to one another across the crowded dining space, they’re tucking into chef Daniel Sia’s cleverly re-imagined classics, like macaroni and cheese drizzled with truffle sauce and a deconstructed Black Forest cake. After dinner, head up the hill for a chilled mojito at Margarita’s.

 

9. Geylang

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Once upon a time, Bugis Street was Singapore’s premier red light district (and forever immortalized in Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack), but the crown has long since passed to Geylang, an atmospheric quarter on Singapore’s east coast that bristles with great period architecture, leggy street walkers and some of the best local food on the island. On offer is a greedy grab of Peranakan, Indian, Malay and regional Chinese standards including the coconut rice and curry chicken at Bali Nasi Lemak, spicy noodles with roast pork and prawns at Kuching Kolo Mee and the Hakka favourite of rice, vegetables, tofu and peanuts in a tea-based broth at Lei Cha

 

10. Zouk

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Despite its prim, straight-laced reputation, Singapore’s nightlife is actually quite racy, though compared to Barcelona or New York, the party ends early (around 3 a.m.). After nearly two decades, Zouk is still the throbbing heart of the action. The pulsating institution is a strobe-lit, rambling warren of dance floors, figure-hugging outfits, swagger and seasoned moves. For many of the pretty young hipsters here, it’s a rite of passage. If it isn’t enough to satisfy your urge to groove, drop into the mammoth Ministry of Sound for a quick shimmy.

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