Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

 In today’s world, a little kindness goes a long way. And research shows that teaching kids to be kind has a positive influence on a slew of academic, health and social outcomes including increased self-esteem, motivation to learn and resilience. 

Here are five ways to incorporate random acts of kindness into your next family vacation. 

thank you note

1. Pack an attitude of gratitude.

Leave impatience and judgment behind and showcase an attitude of gratitude. Lead with a smile and offer thanks to those you meet along the way. From harried flight attendants, pilots, TSA agents and front desk personnel to tour guides, bus drivers, restaurant servers and room attendants, encourage the kids to say thank you whenever appropriate. Consider leaving a handwritten note or crayon drawing along with your tip, an extra effort sure to garner a smile from the recipient. If you loved your hotel stay or cruise ship experience, leave a note congratulating the whole crew for a job well done. 

Kindness

2. Be aware of your surroundings. 

Encourage the kids to take note of the pregnant woman, the elderly or handicapped who might be standing in a crowded bus, airline terminal or hotel lobby while the young and able lounge in chairs. Discuss (and model) how offering a seat, a hand or opening a door can be helpful. Encourage the heavily laden or parents managing a cranky child to go ahead in line. Perhaps a strong teen can assist a frail adult with removing a heavy piece of luggage from the overhead compartment.

In the queue for a soda or coffee? Quietly pay for someone in uniform or an elderly person behind you in line. By simply taking notice, opportunities for extending kindness will multiply.

Pack for a purpose

3. Pack for a purpose.

Reserve a little space in your luggage for books, clothing or school supplies that will make a difference in the lives of others in your destination. The non-profit organization, Pack For A Purpose,  works with hundreds of hotels and tour operators in 60 countries to help travelers contribute to those in need. Whether you stow pencils, a deflated soccer ball, a stethoscope or pet supplies in your bags, you and your family will return home knowing you’ve helped spread kindness beyond your own backyard. 

Contact: www.Packforapurpose.org.

kids run for charity

4. Walk, run or bike for charity. 

Research your destination to determine if there is an opportunity to combine healthy exercise with the chance to give back in your getaway spot. Ask your hotel about opportunities or connect with the local tourism organization for ideas. The Humane Society may be able to suggest events that will help homeless animals. If there is a charity you support or have interest in at home, give them a call to see if they can provide a contact in your intended destination. LiveStrong has combined a list of nationwide events on their website. Peruse the options for a match. Contact: 

https://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1011211-10-races-can-run-cause/#slide=1

Sandals Foundation

5. Take a volunteer vacation. 

Whether you offer an hour, a day or a week, giving back of your time and resources makes for a meaningful holiday. Spend time reading to kids at a nearby school, help save sharks or turtles, share the gift of language or scoop ice cream and assist with pony rides for kids with life-threatening illnesses staying at a non-profit resort. 

Contact: beaches.com; www.Projects-Abroad.orgwww.gktw.org

Resource:

Contact the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/

Avalon Waterways has announced  that Elizabeth Gilbert, acclaimed author of the award-winning, New York Times-bestselling EAT PRAY LOVE, will christen the Avalon Envision on the Danube River during an international ceremony this Spring in Budapest.

 “As somebody who is almost pathologically obsessed with travel and adventure, what could be more fun than being named the godmother of a beautiful riverboat? I’m honored and delighted to be part of this lovely endeavor,” Ms. Gilbert said of her godmother duties. 

“From EAT PRAY LOVE to BIG MAGIC, as an author, Ms. Gilbert has invited her readers to envision something different; a hint of a life or journey outside their comfort zone,” said Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways. “An inspired choice as godmother of the Avalon Envision, she has helped us embrace curiosity each day in search of extraordinary. This is something we ask our travelers to do on their journeys across the world with Avalon.”

Avalon Waterways

After the christening ceremony, the 443-foot, 166-passenger Avalon Envision will join an all Suite Ship fleet to sail the Danube River throughout 2019.

“With the addition of the Avalon Envision, there’s only one point-of-view on an Avalon Waterways cruise – the suite view,” said Hoffee.  “For the first time, our entire fleet in Europe and Southeast Asia is comprised completely of Suite Ships, each featuring our signature Panorama Suites with the industry’s only Open-Air Balcony and an inviting bed facing the ever-changing scenery on two full decks of every ship. Even seasoned travelers have never seen – or experienced – the world like this.”

Creating wider openings for the wide-eyed, Avalon Waterways’ Open-Air Balconies were designed with views in mind. A Panorama Suite highlight on all of the Suite Ships of Avalon, these wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows open 11-feet wide in Europe and 14-feet wide in Southeast Asia. Wider than any other balconies in the industry. They blur the line between outside and in while forming a comfortable and spacious seating area without compromising room space. As a result, Avalon guests can enjoy 100 percent of their Panorama Suite, 100 percent of the time.

Oceania Cruises' “Superbowl at Sea” Aboard Riviera’s Reef & Ruins

Just because cruise-goers are hopping between destinations like Belize, Mexico and Cuba on an adventure of a lifetime, does not mean they’ll have to miss tuning into the action on the biggest football game of the year when the Patriots take on the Rams. 

Oceania Cruises Riviera will be hosting a live Superbowl Sunday viewing party, allowing football fanatics onboard to witness the action of the game in real time. The party will include football-themed decor and the traditional Superbowl party food, from wings to burgers and chips and dip. The 10-day Caribbean cruise, which departs from Miami January 26th, will include multiple stops in beautiful ports and array of excursions. Cabins start at $3,099 per guest.

For those who want to spend Superbowl Sunday aboard, book today at www.oceaniacruises.com.

When it comes to making travel plans, the options can be overwhelming. 

Five intrepid family travel experts add to the mix with their top picks for a memorable winter season adventure. 

White Key Villas FamilyTravel.com

Go for a Greek Getaway. 

"People tend to stay close to home with kids. But, I firmly believe in opening their hearts and minds early with further flung travel,” explained Becca Hensley, an Austin-based parent and travel and lifestyle writer.  “That doesn't mean you shouldn't have support though. You'll manage to relax, spoil yourself and hang with the family in style if you book a villa with Greek-owned, White Key Villas.”

“They're congenial and involved--and they love kids and catering to families,” adds Hensley.  “With more than 200 handpicked villas to choose from,  in destinations from Paros to Patmos, the homes are all privately owned, and vary in size and orientation. Costing the same as villas in Hawaii or the Caribbean, the Greek villas come with outstanding staff support, VIP experiences, and special treats for children.” Contact: www.whitekeyvillas.com; www.BeccaHensley.com

 Quebec City

Chill in Quebec City, Canada

“Unlike many Americans, most Canadians seem to enjoy winter — even celebrate it, “observes Rainer Jenss, founder and CEO of the Family Travel Association, an organization that advocates for 

  travel as an important part of every child’s education.“That’s why I have often packed up the car and driven north of the border with my kids — to take advantage of all the festivities in a frigid, but fun wintertime destination,” explained Runs, father of two and a New York resident.  “Winter Carnival, held every year in early February, has what every kid loves: parades, snow sculptures, shows, skating. and plenty of hot chocolate. It’s also culturally rich, since French is the predominant language, adding another dimension to the getaway for Americans .” 

Contact: https://www.quebecregion.com/en/www.FamilyTravel.org.

 duderanch.org vista verde familytravel.com

Winter on the Ranch 

Vista Verde, a Colorado guest ranch,  is a winter wonderland for families with kids of all ages, advises Nancy Schretter,  the Founder & Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network. “There are so many fun things to do there - from snow tubing and cross-country skiing to snowmobiling, snowshoeing and fat tire biking in the snow. They also have a great kids program.” 

“We went horseback riding along snow-packed trails and riding in a one-horse open sleigh ... something I always wanted to do,” added Schretter, who writes about travel from her home in Virginia. 

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are available at nearby Steamboat Ski Resort and one of the ranch's vehicles will take families there, notes Schretter. 

 Contact: www.VistaVerde.com ; www.DudeRanch.org 

 Costa Rica cloud forest

Consider Costa Rica 

“it’s my favorite destination for families who love nature and wildlife,” explains LiLing Pang the Co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo.com, an independent family travel community.

“This Central American country is safe and easy to negotiate even for those who do not speak Spanish. In a week, you could be bird watching and zip-lining in the Monte Verde cloud forest, surfing and boogie boarding along the white sand beaches of the Guanacaste region, and watching playful monkeys and sloths in the rainforest,” offers the California-based mom and entrepreneur. December through May is the dry season in Costa Rica, adds Pang, which makes exploring that much easier. 

Contact: www.VisitCostaRica.com ; www.trekaroo.com 

Susan Pohlman. FamilyTravel.com

Always Italy 

“Italy is a great family destination any time of the year,” suggests Susan Pohlman, a mother of two, who’s award-winning book 

'Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home, chronicles her family’s adventures during an unexpected sabbatical in the small town of Nervi, near Genoa, Italy. 

“Italians are all about family, so we felt welcomed at every turn,” explains Pohlman. “The food, the rich culture and history and the extraordinary landscape make for a great family experience in every season.” 

Contact: www.Italia.it;  www.SusanPohlman.com 

If winter’s dreary weather has you down, take action. 

Here are five ideas to consider. 

1. Make a plan. 

We all like to look forward to an adventure. And research shows that by planning ahead, more families will actually take much-need vacations and thus reap a multitude of personal and professional benefits. By crafting a strategy in advance you’ll have your pick of departures, the best cabins on a cruise ship and more options in popular resort areas. While you are at it, scan the year ahead and be the first to claim vacation days around existing holidays and school breaks, creating a future stretch for relaxation and enjoyment. Knowing good times are on the horizon will help wash the winter blues away.  

2. Embrace a new winter sport and then dine in style.  

Perhaps this is the year to push beyond the local sledding hill and expand your winter sports experiences. Lace up the skates, strap on the snowshoes, learn how mushers round up their sled dogs or consider an ice climb. Go downhill, cross-country, into the back-country and then warm up in a steaming hot spring. Skate ski to dinner served in a yurt or ride aboard a horse-drawn or snowcat sleigh headed to a cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside.

Beanos cabin Beavercreek

Visit Beaver Creek and plan to dine at Beano's Cabin. During the winter months you'll have fun traveling through Beaver Creek's iconic aspen groves during a 20-minute open air sleigh ride pulled by a snowcat. Blankets and tarps are on board but be sure to dress warmly.

Tucked into an on-mountain meadow at the base of Larkspur Bowl, this luxurious log hideaway is elegant in a mountain kind of of way, yet  comfortable with kids.   

Upon arrival, tuck your warm wraps away and relax in the inviting, cozy environment where a fire is blazing, conversation is swirling and mouths are watering with the prospect of what is to come in this popular and top rated Colorado dining spot.

An open kitchen make it fun to watch the pros in action as they prepare gourmet, five-course meals comprised of traditional Colorado fare. (We sampled the elk and the venison. Both divine.) Take a look at the lengthy wine list and know that a sommelier is on hand to help with your selection.  (It's nice to know someone else will be driving the sleigh home.) It's a most delicious and memorable way to end a perfect day on the slopes. 

Contact: www.SunValley.com ;  www.Vail.com. www.BeaverCreek.com 

3. Connect with family and friends. 

Geographic spread, busy careers and school and sports schedules make it more difficult than ever to spend time with the people who matter most. Check in with your clan and craft a plan to celebrate an upcoming birthday, anniversary, or to honor a family member’s special achievement, acknowledging the kind of touchstones that can be a meaningful part of a family’s legacy. At the same time, who needs an official event to enjoy the company and support of your loved ones?

Take advantage of last minute travel deals and vow to focus on the joys of winter together.

Contact:  www.HotelTonight.com

4. Seek the sun.  

Visit Curtain Bluff, a laid back, but luxurious, family-owned resort in Antigua for an all-inclusive experience that offers extensive water sports including water skiing, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, paddle-boating, tennis, yoga,  and sailing. As the kids burn off energy with the Cee Bee kids club, relax in a hammock you’ll find tucked within the palm trees. Spend an afternoon at the spa where open air massages provide a perfect end to sports-filled day.  

Closer to home, consider Southern California’s iconic Hotel Del Coronado, nestled on a wide stretch of sand with easy access to the water and a host of sea side activities. Get out your boogie board, take surfing lessons or watch Navy seamen from the nearby Coronado Island base train along the beach. 

Contact:  www.CurtainBluff.com ; www.HotelDel.com 

5. Unplug. 

According to a recent survey commissioned by 

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, an increasing number of travelers plan  to completely disconnect and turn their time off into an escape from the pressures of their jobs and other responsibilities. Whether you stay close to home or plan an exotic family getaway, taking a vacation from news reports, social media alerts and a never ending stream of emails can reduce stress and  provide more time to pursue activities you enjoy.

Contact: www.Enterprise.com/pursuits

Make family travel memories in the year ahead.

Here are five great family vacation destinations to consider: 

Grand Canyon Lodges El Tovar

Northern Arizona. 

The Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating a big birthday in 2019.  So why not join the in the centennial celebration? Millions visit this wonder of the world each year to marvel at  the mile-deep gorge, exploring by foot, on a mule, or capturing the vast beauty with a camera or the mind’s eye. Stay on the South Rim where year round access is possible and you’ll have access to ranger programs, dining options and stunning views. Explore other regions in northern Arizona for hiking, biking and a history lesson along Route 66. Take in the stunning beauty of Monument Valley, the Petrified National Forest and the picturesque red rocks of Sedona. Pose for a photo while standing on a corner in Winslow, ride horseback at a guest ranch or rent a houseboat on Lake Powell. 

Contact: www.VisitArizona.com; www.NPS.gov/GCNP ; www.GrandCanyonLodges.com.

 Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, NY. 

Hear it roar. And feel the mist. But, don’t worry.  Ponchos are provided when you board the iconic tour boat, the Maid of the Mist, to feel the power of the historic falls. Formed some 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls, straddling the US border with Canada,  has long been a magnet for explorers and adventurers, as well as honeymooners travelers. By day, explore the area from multiple angles, via lush nature trails, a water-skimming jet boat or high-flying helicopter. 

Inside the Niagara Falls State Park, visit the Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the three main falls - American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. Each night, the park offers an illumination of the Falls, along with seasonal fireworks. 

Contact: www.NiagaraFallsUSA.com

The Bahamas. 

You’ll find lavish resorts in a bustling enclave or quiet getaways on tiny spits of sand, all just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred sun-drenched environment from among 700 islands, embraced by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, diving, salt water fly fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, kayaking or just relaxing on soft sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to plan a visit to this breathtaking archipelago. Contact: www.Bahamas.com.

 

 Tennessee.

The Volunteer state is within a day's drive of 65 percent of our nation's population. There, in Tennessee, you’ll find natural beauty, great music and vibrant communities ladled with a dose of Southern hospitality. Enjoy the 800-square mile wonderland that is the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. Add a musical note to your trip with a stop by Graceland to see how the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley lived and worked.

Spend time in Music City USA, otherwise known as Nashville, to discover the rich origins of country music. Visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn  how folk, gospel music and front-porch jamming evolved into the sounds we know today.

Nature-loving families may want to consider a hike on the John Muir Trail in the Cherokee National Forest. It’s a relatively crowd-free portion of the state that's said to look much the same as it did in Muir's day. 

Contact: www.TNVacation.com.  

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  

A four-season playground for nature lovers, Michigan’s UP nudges up against three Great Lakes - Superior, Huron and Michigan. That said, water and beach activities are plentiful with kayaking, sailing and fishing as warm weather staples. Inland, visitors venture along rivers that feed the Great Lakes, explore old-growth forests and fly fish small streams. 

From the Porcupine Mountains, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior and considered one of Michigan’s most wild landscapes, adventurers can hike from a summit to the shore in one day. During the winter months, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular pursuits. Contact: www.Michigan.org

Where will you go in the year ahead? 

So many options.

Plenty of time.......If you plan now! 

Grand Canyon celebrates centennial

Traveling with the grandkids?

Check out these options from our Grandparent Travel Collection.

Looking for the year's hot spots?

Then have a look here. 

And some vacations are simply epic and have earned a spot on your bucket list.

That's this list.  

Happy traveling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make family travel memories in the year ahead.

Here are five great family vacation destinations to consider: 

Grand Canyon Lodges El Tovar

Northern Arizona. 

The Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating a big birthday in 2019.  So why not join the in the centennial celebration? Millions visit this wonder of the world each year to marvel at  the mile-deep gorge, exploring by foot, on a mule, or capturing the vast beauty with a camera or the mind’s eye. Stay on the South Rim where year round access is possible and you’ll have access to ranger programs, dining options and stunning views. Explore other regions in northern Arizona for hiking, biking and a history lesson along Route 66. Take in the stunning beauty of Monument Valley, the Petrified National Forest and the picturesque red rocks of Sedona. Pose for a photo while standing on a corner in Winslow, ride horseback at a guest ranch or rent a houseboat on Lake Powell. 

Contact: www.VisitArizona.com; www.NPS.gov/GCNP ; www.GrandCanyonLodges.com.

 Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, NY. 

Hear it roar. And feel the mist. But, don’t worry.  Ponchos are provided when you board the iconic tour boat, the Maid of the Mist, to feel the power of the historic falls. Formed some 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls, straddling the US border with Canada,  has long been a magnet for explorers and adventurers, as well as honeymooners travelers. By day, explore the area from multiple angles, via lush nature trails, a water-skimming jet boat or high-flying helicopter. 

Inside the Niagara Falls State Park, visit the Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the three main falls - American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. Each night, the park offers an illumination of the Falls, along with seasonal fireworks. 

Contact: www.NiagaraFallsUSA.com

Bahamas

The Bahamas. 

You’ll find lavish resorts in a bustling enclave or quiet getaways on tiny spits of sand, all just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred sun-drenched environment from among 700 islands, embraced by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, diving, salt water fly fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, kayaking or just relaxing on soft sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to plan a visit to this breathtaking archipelago. Contact: www.Bahamas.com.

 Nashville

 Tennessee.

The Volunteer state is within a day's drive of 65 percent of our nation's population. There, in Tennessee, you’ll find natural beauty, great music and vibrant communities ladled with a dose of Southern hospitality. Enjoy the 800-square mile wonderland that is the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. Add a musical note to your trip with a stop by Graceland to see how the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley lived and worked.

Spend time in Music City USA, otherwise known as Nashville, to discover the rich origins of country music. Visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn  how folk, gospel music and front-porch jamming evolved into the sounds we know today.

Nature-loving families may want to consider a hike on the John Muir Trail in the Cherokee National Forest. It’s a relatively crowd-free portion of the state that's said to look much the same as it did in Muir's day. 

Contact: www.TNVacation.com.  

Michigan

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  

A four-season playground for nature lovers, Michigan’s UP nudges up against three Great Lakes - Superior, Huron and Michigan. That said, water and beach activities are plentiful with kayaking, sailing and fishing as warm weather staples. Inland, visitors venture along rivers that feed the Great Lakes, explore old-growth forests and fly fish small streams. 

From the Porcupine Mountains, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior and considered one of Michigan’s most wild landscapes, adventurers can hike from a summit to the shore in one day. During the winter months, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular pursuits. Contact: www.Michigan.org

Managing young children in small spaces can be a challenge. Take that effort to 30,000 feet and, well, doing a little research before embarking on an air travel adventure is advised. 

According to a recent report, Best Airlines for Family Travel, issued by The Points Guy (TPG), some airlines are inherently more family friendly than others. 

Here are five factors to consider. 

Top Honors. 

TPG examined the ten largest US airlines, looking at ten different, equally weighted criteria relevant for traveling families. Southwest Airlines came out on top. 

Its coveted Southwest Companion Pass, no extra fees and family boarding policy nudged the airline to the top of TPG's picks for family travel. Its extensive – and expanding – domestic route and award program are an added bonus.

A Close Second. 

When considering seat comfort, snacks and entertainment, JetBlue offers a better onboard experience than Southwest and is consistently a top pick for families, the report determined. Its less than stellar on-time arrival ranking, important when traveling with youngsters,  bumped it down just shy of the top spot. Hawaiian Airlines received the best on-time score.

Early Boarding Matters 

 “While there's some logic to boarding young children on the aircraft at the absolute last second to minimize time on the plane, the reality is that if you need to install a car seat or ensure space for your carry-on bags, being onboard early is crucial, “ explains Summer Hull, the TPG family travel expert. United and JetBlue take TPGs top spot for early boarding, as they allow young families onboard early in the process. In fact, United enables families with children two and under to board even ahead of first class.

Seat Assignments are Key

Have you ever negotiated a seat trade with a perfect stranger so you could sit with your child? Securing seats together is a top priority and families don’t want to  pay extra for the privilege. According to the report, the top airlines in this category are JetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaska, which all include complimentary seat assignments for all tickets. 

Southwest's open seating policy is also a way to ensure prime seating, as children ages six and under can board after Group A.

Airline Loyalty Program for Families

Making the most of travel dollars and creative resources is key for families. Airline loyalty programs can make a difference. JetBlue offers the most family-friendly policies due to its "free family pooling of miles" option for all members.

For this report, TPG focused on the ten largest U.S. airlines — Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, Hawaiian, Alaska, United, American, Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant — as measured by their total number of domestic passengers.

For more information: www.ThePointsGuy.com

As the year comes to an end, look to the starry sky for inspiration.

Oasis at Death Valley

In Death Valley National Park, a 3.4 million-acre expanse and the region’s clean, dry air combine to provide an ideal vantage point for observing shooting stars, meteor showers and constellations galore. The conditions have earned the park the prestigious Gold-Tier Dark Sky status. The area shares a strong commitment to avoid light pollution and keep the night sky visible. Stay at the Oasis at Death Valley (choose from the Inn or the Ranch) and join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society for Star Parties on selected evenings or enjoy the gem-studded sky on your own. 

Find other star-filled destinations to consider here.

 

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