Nov 072013
London's Piccadilly Circus at Christmas

London’s Piccadilly Circus at Christmas

Many American college-age teens opt to study abroad in the United Kingdom.  The availability of world class academic and cultural  experiences, plus the familiarity of the language, makes it a natural choice whether your student is interested in economics, political science, mathematics, humanities or any range of topics.

Many families find that their college student’s semester abroad offers an opportunity to create a special family vacation with parents and siblings meeting up with the college student during a holiday break or at the end of the semester.  For families planning to connect with their traveling college students in the United Kingdom, finding the right accommodations can make the difference between a run of the mill vacation and a cherished family memory.  But where to start?

Our U.K. based travel partners gave us a great tip, suggesting we check out hotel bookings sites such as Star Stay to sort through the myriad of potential United Kingdom hotel options.    The best search sites will offer quick links to hotels listed by country, county, and town.  They will show you a quick overview of many different properties and allow you to check prices and availability and book online all at one site.   We particularly like the sites that show pictures of actual rooms and allow us to accurately evaluate whether a specific room will work for our needs.

Bed and breakfasts provide another option for getting to know an area, but, since most are independently operated it can be difficult to explore all the options and to check availability and prices.  Sites for bed and breakfast bookings are really helpful when it comes to exploring a wide range of options quickly and easily.   Most of these sites will provide photos, pricing, and availability information, but, we particularly look for sites that allow for instant booking and confirmation online.  It is so much easier to confirm a bed and breakfast reservation online via these types of services, in comparison to having to send emails or make international phone calls and deal with delays caused by different time zones.

Each town, county and country in the United Kingdom has a different personality and something to share.  Online hotel and bed and breakfast booking sites make it easy to consider your options and find the best match for your needs.   Let us know what you think.

Photo courtesy VisitBritain

Jul 182013

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Parking Spot for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Airport parking is usually expensive and challenging when traveling with kids. In many cities a day of airport parking can easily top $20 or even $30 a day. Plus you have to herd the kids and pull the luggage across large, often poorly lit garages and walkways before actually arriving at the terminal to check in for your flight. Off airport parking is often cheaper, but many lots offer unreliable shuttles or are located in relatively unsafe areas.

For families who want convenience and cost savings, The Parking Spot now offers some of the best airport parking available with affordable, safe and convenient near-airport parking options at 22 major US airports including Newark, JFK, La Guardia, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Orlando and many others. We love the fact that all lots are fully fenced and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each location offers a friendly shuttle that runs every 5-7 minutes as well as luggage assistance, a complimentary morning newspaper and chilled bottled water. Join The Spot Club to earn free parking.

Rates vary depending on location but The Parking Spot team aims to deliver a consistent cheerful near-airport parking experience whether their customers are taking advantage of open air or covered self-parking or even valet parking, which is available at some locations. Some locations also have car wash and oil change services available so you can come back to a car that is ready to roll. Reservations, although not required, are highly encouraged and can be made online for all locations. The system is set up to make check-in and check-out a breeze. Want to give The Parking Spot a try? From now through Labor Day 2013, the “Spot Easy Savings” program provides 15% OFF PARKING at The Parking Spot. The discount is available nationwide (excluding Newark and Orlando)

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UK Entertainment Ideas for Family Summer Holidays

 Posted by on May 20, 2013  Comments Off
May 202013

Flag_-_Great_BritainWhether you are natives of Europe or visiting the United Kingdom from other regions, summer is a great time for family holidays.  The summer holidays give parents the opportunity to spend much more time with their children, but the long time off requires a lot more planning and imagination than a quick weekend or even mid-school break.  Whether you are looking for a weekend in the city, time at the beach, or a world class theme park, our UK travel partners tell us that families visiting the UK will never run out of ideas for entertaining the kids on summer holiday.  Here are some of their top recommendations:

See a Show in London’s West End

London’s West End is world famous and is currently hosting a number of child-friendly shows including Matilda and Wicked, as well as the long running Lion King which is a timeless classic. We’ve seen both Wicked and Lion King on Broadway in New York City and can attest that these are great family shows.  Make a whole weekend of your West End experience and book into one of the London hotels on offer through Superbreak. Before or after the show, the family can check out the National History Museum, the London Dungeons, or enjoy a picnic lunch in the park.

Visit One of the UK’s Theme Parks

The UK is definitely not short of theme parks. Any Harry Potter fan would jump at the chance to visit the Warner Brother’s studios where they can discover how the magic was brought to life in the movies. And the best part, it’s less than an hour from London. LEGOLAND is similarly convenient, with a resort in Windsor, and even closer to the city is Thorpe Park, a theme park in Surrey offering 25 adrenalin-boosting rides. Chocoholics will love Cadbury World in Birmingham and Kelburn Castle is another option sure to inspire imagination with its brightly colored, cartoon-covered exterior, the mysteries of the Secret Forest, and a lofty adventure course.

Take a Short Flight for a Weekend on the Continent

The UK is conveniently located within a short flight of anywhere in Europe, yet people often take this for granted. A quick hop over to Europe for a few days is a whole lot easier – and cheaper – for families now, thanks to the growth in budget airlines and discount travel companies that specialize in affordable holidays. Try the south of Spain for the scorching sun or to Berlin for a cultural escape or even Prague for its fairy tale beauty.

Head to the Beaches on the Coast of Wales

Visitors to the United Kingdom don’t always think of it as a beach destination. However, the UK boasts some of the most spectacular coastline in the world. In terms of beaches, this is where Wales really shines. The Welsh coast is covered with rocky, limestone cliffs that form a dramatic backdrop to its sandy beaches and turquoise water. In summer you’ll find people enjoying all kinds of water sports, amateur fisherman casting out to sea, and families spending plenty of time enjoying the sunshine.

Every family has different summer holiday priorities – luckily the UK has lots of options to keep the whole family entertained.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Mar 242013
Photo of New York City at Night

New York City at Night

Spring Break season is ramping up and providing opportunities for a last minute family ski trip, a quick getaway to a sunny beach, or time to explore a new city or college campus.   Many of our favorite family travel bloggers have been posting about their family spring break vacation plans and sharing tips for getting the most out of your family spring break budget.   Here’s what they have to say:

Cities are Great Family Spring Break Destinations

Amy Querido of The Q Family Adventures shares her favorite list of things to do in DC for school-age kids in her post Fun Things To Do in DC for School Age Kids. It’s her family’s favorite spring break destination and they are going back there again this year.

Jen Miner of The Vacation Gals visited London with her 11- and 13-yr old daughters who made it clear they didn’t want to waste time at kiddie attractions like the zoo.  The  London Eye and the Natural History Museum, as well as the history and pomp of the Royal Parks and Buckingham Palace, were more their speed.  She shares their full itinerary in Things to Do in London with Kids.

Michelle McCoy of Trekaroo says there are lots of fun spring break things to do in Southern California and provides great pointers to camps, musical shows, and nature walks in her Spring Break Event Guide for Southern California.

New York City also offers endless family-friendly things to do on a spring break vacation with teens and tweens. We’ve got lots of tips of free things to do and budget accommodations in our recent posts  Top Five Free Things To Do On Family Spring Break Vacation in New York City with Teens and Tweens and Five Affordable New York City Family Spring Break Hotel Options.

You Can Never Go Wrong with Orlando – But Be Ready for Crowds

Disney World's Cinderella Castle

Disney World’s Cinderella Castle

Most family travel bloggers agree that Disney and the Orlando area is another all-time Spring Break destination for many families with teens and tweens.  Amy Querido recommends Top 5 attractions for School-age kids in Disney’s Hollywood Studio.  Jen Miner gives us the low down on how to best handle long lines at theme parks, backed-up traffic, and crowds, crowds, crowds in her post Spring Break Vacation in Orlando – 5 Tips to Save Time.    We also love Disney for Spring Break (or any time of the year). You can find our list of favorite things to do in our post Disney Days with Teens and Tweens.

Get Off the Beaten Path

Tonya Prater of The Traveling Praters focuses her writing on topics of interest to homeschool families.  Her article Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies features special pricing and programs for homeschool families, but any family would enjoy these suggestions.

Debbie Abrams Kaplan of Frisco Kid is a big fan of Dude Ranches for family spring break vacations.  Her list of Family Friendly Dude Ranches is a great resource to start planning yours.

Lesli Peterson of Expedition Mom shares a list of Nine Last Minute Spring Break Vacation Ideas Around the South that her two teens love.  She recommends daytrips and road trips ranging from waterparks, the Outer Banks and southern cities including Atlanta, Memphis, and Chattanooga.

Holly Rosen Fink, of Traveling Mom  recommends Iceland: An Unexpected Family Destination saying Iceland is truly one of those unexpected, exotic destinations that have helped her kids develop a love of travel.

Don’t Forget the National Parks as a Family Spring Break Vacation Option

The Emerald Pools Lower Trail is accessed via a footbridge over the Virgin River located opposite the Zion Lodge

The Emerald Pools Lower Trail at Zion National Park during Spring Break

We had a great time visiting Zion and Bryce National Parks last spring break.  Read our post:  Top 10 Things to Do on a Family Vacation to Utah’s Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  The scenery is amazing and there are trails for any ability.

Mary Penafiel Solio of The World is a Book suggests sandboarding at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  North America’s tallest sand dunes (as tall as 750 feet) are unexpectedly located in the middle of Colorado.  Specially designed sandboards can be rented outside the park and kept her kids busy all day.

Lisa Goodmurphy and her family from the Gone With the Family blog spent part of their spring break this year at the Grand Canyon.  Her Photo Memories from the Grand Canyon makes us want to head there directly.

Go Skiing

Here in New England, most of our snow has come in the second half of the winter.  The major mountains are all open and going strong and offering great spring skiing family packages including some of our favorites such as Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont and Bretton Woods and the Omni Resort in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire.

For those living farther west, Jody Robbins of Jody Robbins Travel with Baggage  recommends spring skiing in Canada’s Banff National Park in her article Spring Skiing Specials at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.  She promises that it’s a fab place for a family getaway.

We really enjoyed catching up with our travel blogger friends and hope all our readers have a great time on spring break.  Let us know where you go!

Mar 222013

This post brought to you by Cooper Tire. All opinions are 100% mine.

Our readers know we love good road trips and fun travel contests, so we couldn’t resist when Cooper Tire asked us to share the news about their “My Every Day Road Trip” sweepstakes.  Whether its taking the kids to school or teaching the teen how to drive, Cooper Tire is commemorating life’s every day road trips and offering Facebook fans the chance to earn an entire year of free gas plus other great prizes like a $100 Cooper Tire auto service voucher, a $50 gas card, a $50 iTunes gift card and Cooper gear.

From March 1 through March 29, fans of Cooper Tire’s Facebook page can share their every day road trip stories by submitting videos, written stories or photos.   Be sure to “Like” Cooper Tire’s My Every Day Road Trip Contest on Facebook and visit the Cooper Tire web page to to learn more about the company.  Cooper Tire has been making tires for nearly 100 years. If you can drive it, they probably have a tire to fit it whether it’s a passenger car, light truck or sport utility.

To get an idea of what they are looking for check out this video about the starring role Cooper tires play in  everyday road trips around this ostrich ranch!       

Be sure to visit the contest page on Facebook for more details on video, written and photo submission guidelines and to send in your entry by March 29th.  The top written story will win a $100 gift card to use toward gas for one week while the highest rated photo entry will receive a $500 gift card to use toward gas for one month.  Winners will be judged on originality, creativity, and their enthusiasm for Cooper tires!

The grand prize will go to one of five video finalists.  Each of the five video finalists will win a new set of four Cooper tires and advance to the final phase of the competition beginning April 15 when Cooper Tire Facebook fans can vote for their favorite Every Day Road Trip video to select the final winner. The video with the combined highest score and most votes will be awarded a gift card for $5,000 toward gas for one year!! Now that’s what we call a road trip!


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Dec 232012

This post brought to you by Edwards. All opinions are 100% mine.

Tots.jpgWhile many of our readers may be traveling to ski or sun this winter holiday, we know that families everywhere are also on the road to spend time together and share good food and gifts.  At the same time, many of us have donated money, time and toys to benefit those who need a little help this season. 

Toys for Tots is one of our favorite organizations so we wanted to let you know that Edwards Desserts is making a $1 donation for every Edwards pie sold in November and December.  If you haven't tried Edwards Crème pies, pick up one or two for your family holiday gathering.   We are partial to the Key Lime Pie like the one shown here.  We would send that as a gift to our Alaska cousins.

Edwards Frozen Premium Key Lime Pie

Edwards is making the holidays even sweeter by hosting a special holiday microsite that lets you send a holiday e-card and discount coupons for Edwards pies to you family and friends.    We used the e-card site and it only took a few seconds to send holiday cheer off to our far away family. We encourage you to give it a try.  We really liked the fact that not only did our  family and friends get discount coupons along with their e-card but so did we, just for sending the e-card!  

When you send your  e-cards, be sure to let your family and friends know that if they buy a pie this month they will help out Toys for Tots. The coupons will make the deal even sweeter for you and for them.  Enjoy!


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Oct 252012

For those of us who grew up with the space age it is bittersweet to see the end of the era with the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet.   Already the Endeavour has reached its final home and in just two weeks the Space Shuttle Atlantis will move to its permanent resting place at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Celebrate the Final Journey of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

The space shuttle will make a 10-mile rolling journey from the Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building to the Visitor Complex while sitting atop the Orbiter Transporter System.   The Space Center is currently constructing a new $100-million permanent home for the orbiter.  It is set to open in the summer of 2013.

The Space Center has a couple of different packages available for anyone from the public that wants to join in the day long  event titled “Atlantis – Celebrate the Journey”.  The more expensive package provides access and roundtrip transportation to Exploration Park and the opportunity to view and photograph Atlantis in 360 degrees from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m as well as an opportunity to see Atlantis travel along the roadway and enter the orbiter home from 5 p.m. to 6 p.   Less expensive packages have more limited photo opportunities but still allow visitors to see the Atlantis travel along the roadway.

Additional activities at Exploration Park will  include Space Shuttle Program astronaut appearances, interactive exhibits, displays of spaceflight hardware from past, current and future programs.   The Visitor Complex will host an Astronaut Autograph and Memorabilia Show benefitting the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation with more than 40 astronauts and special guests in attendance.

For more information check out the Kennedy Space Center “Atlantis-Celebrate the Journey” web page.  Tickets purchase orders are taken via 1-866-737-5235.

If your family travels will take you to the Florida Coast in early November, tickets to “Atlantis-Celebrate the Journey” might make a perfect early Christmas gift for the space enthusiast in your family.

Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Space Center