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Travel Tips

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A healthy travelerA few years ago in Cozumel, Mexico, my friend Susan made a late night run to the local emergency room with a severe respiratory illness. The stress of feeling terrible was compounded by the language barrier, by the fear of a substandard facility, and by not knowing exact directions. The vacation gods were on her side that night; a few hours later she and her husband returned reassured by a competent physician who spoke excellent English, and armed with strong antibiotics. Her bronchitis was a bump in the road on an otherwise excellent vacation.

Who plans on getting sick on vacation? If we did that, we’d just stay home, right? There’s no way to predict the mishaps that can take place, but there are a few ways to plan ahead and make such bumps in the road just a little smoother. Some of these steps to a healthy vacation require planning before you ever leave home; some depend on where you travel; and some are common sense practices that we all should be doing anywhere, whether traveling or staying home.

First, know your insurance policy. You pay them loads of money for the policy, so dig up that customer service number and give them a call. Find out if your coverage is different in the area you’ll be traveling, especially if you are going abroad–if so, consider purchasing short term medical or travel insurance. Ask whether you need approval for emergency care, and whether the insurance company offers a hotline for advice on symptoms (add this number to your phone’s contact list). Also, let them know the dates you’ll be traveling and the general area, so there are no surprises.

If you are heading out of the country, add the American embassy phone number to your contact list. They can supply information on physicians in your area, and help out in case you have a more serious emergency. If language is a barrier, buy a small travelers dictionary with a large section on words for body parts, maladies, and other terms you’d need to talk to a physician.

Second, pack like a seasoned adventurer: Stock the first aid kit with benedryl, immodium, pepto bismol tablets, and a thermometer. Add a tube of numbing antiseptic cream, butterfly bandages, and a tube of cream for bites and rashes. Pack a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer in your carry-on, and use it liberally.

Finally, in order to stay healthy on vacation, just remember all the advice your mom gave you when you went off to summer camp: Wear sunscreen! Don’t go barefoot! Stay hydrated! Eat your fruits and vegetables, but only if they are peeled or cooked! Tuck your pants into your socks when you hike—there might be spiders or ticks in the woods! Wash your hands before you eat! Get a good night’s sleep! Seriously, mom’s advice goes a long way toward staying healthy, especially in an environment teeming with germs just waiting to meet you.

And if, despite your best precautions, you find yourself seeking medical help in unfamiliar territory, just remember Susan. Chances are you’ll come home with the right medication, feeling reassured, and with a great story to tell.

Stay Healthy on VacationVacation gives you the time you need to relax and stimulate your mind and body. It can also be the perfect time to indulge. But unless you’re traveling to a raucous bachelor party, you should return home feeling refreshed – not feeling like you gained weight, got too much sun, and generally overstressed your system. Here are some fun, easy, and affordable ways to make your next trip a healthy one.

  1. Walk, bike, paddle, swim, dance. Pursue active ways to explore your new surroundings, and your body will thank you. Besides burning calories, you could learn a new skill and uncover delightful details that you couldn’t see from a car or from your beach chair. Whatever your travel style, you can find an activity that involves exercise: picking blueberries from a canoe in Maine, snorkeling to ogle at colorful fish in Hawaii, biking across the historic Brooklyn Bridge in New York, or taking salsa dance classes from professionals before hitting the clubs in Miami.
  2. Learn to enjoy the shade. In addition to the well-known dangers of sunburns, skin cancer, and premature wrinkles, spending too much time in the sun just makes you dehydrated, which affects your body’s overall health. Some ways to limit your sun exposure without limiting your fun include investing in a sturdy beach umbrella under which you can read your juicy paperback; treating yourself to a fabulous wide-brimmed hat or celebrity sunglasses; covering up family members by burying them in the sand; playing a board game inside after lunch.
  3. Bring your own food for your journey. With just a little extra preparation, you can start your vacation off right by bringing your own meals and snacks for the drive, flight, train or bus ride. If you’re scrambling to get ready and really don’t have time to pack food for the road, at least look up a few healthy places to stop when the kids get hungry. The Eat Well Everywhere map can help you find better alternatives to fast food meals and gas station snacks.
  4. Don’t eat every meal out. When you arrive at your vacation rental, one of your first activities can be a trip to the local grocery store for perishable items: stock up on ingredients for easy meals that will prevent you from spending a fortune at restaurants. To make things even easier for yourself, consider bringing frozen homemade meals that you can just heat up for dinner during your vacation. That way, you won’t have to spend so much time cooking and doing dishes, and your digestive system won’t protest either.
  5. Limit drinks and desserts to the most special spots. If you do your research to track down the best locally brewed beer in Vermont or the best key lime pie in Florida, you won’t be as tempted to over-order every place you go. Not only will you save money; you’ll also be able to truly appreciate the treats you do indulge in. No matter how hot it is or how much of a sweet tooth you have, it is actually possible to eat too much ice cream.
  6. Factor in some down time. For those of you who like to plan a million and one things to do and see, remember: you’re on vacation to relax. So bring a book or some playing cards, and don’t be afraid to stay in for the night or leave an entire day unplanned. Without this down time, you may get burnt out from the constant sightseeing – and return from your trip almost as frazzled as before. Besides, the best travel moments often come when you least expect them.

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.

Guest Post by Alan LeStourgeon

About three years ago my wife and I discovered the quaint beach towns of South Walton County in the Florida panhandle. Many people vacation along this 18-mile stretch of route 30A to enjoy the shopping, great restaurants, beautiful state parks, small community feel and easy access to the fine white sands that line the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Coastal Dune Lakes

But, beyond the relaxing resort atmosphere and just behind the tall dunes marking the end of the beach lies an unspoiled secret that few tourists take advantage of, and many may not even know is there. The secret treasure is a phenomenon known as coastal dune lakes and they can only be found in six locations worldwide (when you visit, don’t go climbing all over the dunes, but approach the lakes from the proper access points).

Australia, Madagascar, New Zealand, Oregon, South Carolina and Walton County Florida are the only places on the planet that feature this scarce natural attraction. Walton County is home to 15 of these lakes that usually average about 5 feet in depth and can contain varying levels of salinity – the hardest coastal dune lakes to come by contain completely fresh water. They range in age from 2,000 to 10,000 years old and are vital to the ecosystem in which they exist.

Many of the lakes protect the coastal regions as retention ponds that minimize flooding during hurricanes. They can also act as breeding grounds for insects that form the beginning level of various natural food chains. They also contain unique species of flora and fauna and are home to a variety of wildlife including otters, turtles, and little blue heron. Warning: some are home to alligators, so be careful as you wander around the shorelines. Just because you are near the beach doesn’t mean you won’t encounter Florida’s largest reptile.

Because of their proximity to the ocean, these lakes are sometimes fed by storm surge and exceptionally high tides that may only occur one or two times a year. Excessive rain occasionally fills the lakes to overflow capacity, at which point they empty into the gulf and can be counted as a unique experience if you ever get to witness an outlet bursting open.

Two of the rarer lakes are located in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and are unique because they contain completely freshwater. Stand on the shore of either Campbell or Morris Lake and you are looking at a completely unspoiled ecosystem that hasn’t changed much in the last 5,000 to 10,0000 years. It is worth the short hike off the main park access road to view these unspoiled treasures that also boast some of the highest beach sand dunes in Florida at over 25 feet tall.

Enjoy everything there is to see and experience on your next vacation to the quaint little resort communities that grace Highway 30A in the Florida panhandle. There are a variety of gorgeous vacation rentals, superb restaurants, exclusive shops and beautiful beaches to spend your days simply relaxing on, but don’t miss the hidden treasure of the rare lakes just beyond the dunes.

Alan LeStourgeon works at home writing on a variety of subjects including his travel adventures around the United States. You can read his travel blog and follow him on Twitter @Affconfession for more updates.

Yoga on the BeachIn a town known for dive bars, drag shows and Jimmy Buffet, it quickly becomes clear that there is something in Key West for everyone. Here are some of the best opportunities to do as the locals do and get outdoors in the Florida sunshine if daytime is more your speed than nightlife…

1. Yoga on the Beach

Yoga on the Beach is an absolute joy in Key West. Don Bartone and Nancy Curran run this daily ocean-side yoga class. Most of the classes take place in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, on a beach that’s preferred by locals. There are three styles of yoga: Yoga for Everybody, a more traditional hatha practice; Yoga Rhythms, a non-conventional yoga that focuses on dancing and movement; and YinYoga, which slows down movements and holds poses for five minutes or longer. Thanks to the contemplative music and the sound of waves lapping against the shore, the $18 class fee is worth every penny, as it includes park entrance and equipment rental in addition to making you feel as if you are practicing yoga on the set of the most tranquil DVD shoot. Check the website for dates and times as Dan and Nancy head north for the summer.

2. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is also a great place to explore on your own. The beach where the yoga practice takes place is, in my opinion, the most beautiful beach in Key West (a great find on an island not exactly celebrated for its beaches), and a perfect place to spend the day under the pines if you are looking for some seaside shade. The fort itself was built in the mid-nineteenth century as a defense against the Spanish and can still be visited, with tours available daily. Fishing and snorkeling are encouraged in the park, and there are bike paths and nature trails for visitors to enjoy.

3. Rent a Bike

Renting a bicycle is another great way to get out and enjoy the island. Key Lime Bike Tours has reasonable rates by the hour, day or week and offers a $39 guided tour (which includes bike rental for the day). The tour focuses on the history of the Conch Republic, stops at island sites such as the Southernmost Point and Ernest Hemingway’s House, and finishes off with a piece of Key Lime Pie. Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour is an “eco-tour” of Key West that takes visitors through quieter, lesser known streets and seeks out the tropical flora and unique architecture of the island.

4. Go Fishing

If you’re looking to go fishing independently while you’re in Key West, then you can rent equipment and buy bait at the Key West Bait & Tackle Shop in Old Town. For a little more adventure, why not try a boat excursion? The Tortuga IV departs Conch Harbor in Old Town for two fishing trips daily, from 9am-1pm and from 2-6pm. An additional night fishing trip leaves at 7pm. Rod, reel, bait and license are included. The galley is fully stocked and the crew will even clean your catch for you when you return to Key West. A fishing trip is a great idea if you are a fan of yellowtail snapper!

5. BYOF (Bring Your Own Fish)

A fun local trick is to bring your catch of the day to a restaurant and have the house cook it for you. The Hogfish Bar and Grill on neighboring Stock Island is a little tricky to find, but it’s a real local favorite. They charge $10.95 per pound to cook your fresh catch and serve it with rice and veggies, a fun alternative if you are craving a little island atmosphere and don’t feel like cooking at home. Also great are their buffalo shrimp, Baja-style tacos and daily happy hour – on an island that celebrates Jimmy Buffet, you deserve that margarita.

Mary-Elizabeth O’Neill is a New York based event designer who has lived in Paris and London. She travels frequently, loves writing about her adventures and appreciates your comments! You can find Mary-Elizabeth on Twitter as @m_oneill_nyc.

As airlines continue to increase their checked baggage fees, travelers are getting around the extra cost by carrying on luggage. For families traveling together, this strategy can be challenging. Deciding what to bring and what to leave home is a difficult choice for everyone. Here’s some advice on how to pack everything you need for a family vacation in carry-on bags.

1. Share the Stuff

Sit down as a family to make a master packing list. You can use the list to make sure nothing is duplicated, such as toothpaste or other toiletries. In addition, consider packing items that can be shared, such as a paperback book that everyone’s been anxious to read. Also be sure to check with the rental property to see what is included so that you don’t pack anything you don’t need, such as towels or toilet paper.

Travelers should also remember that, at most destinations, a pharmacy or grocery store is nearby. Sometimes buying that toilet paper or toothpaste once you reach your destination is a good way to save on luggage fees. Also, if anything essential was forgotten, it can be purchased again.

2. Whittle Down the “Wants”

Carefully choose which clothing, accessories, toys, and other items each person packs. For clothes, put together an outfit for each person for each day – remember to mix and match items such as sweaters and pants that can be worn more than once! Then, roll each item up individually to pack into a suitcase. Also keep in mind that laundry facilities may be available; if this is the case, just plan to do a load or two of laundry at the destination instead of over packing.

Now is also a good time to pack those garments or other items that only have one more use out of them (such as almost-empty toothpaste tubes or shirts with a yet-unnoticeable hole) – pack them, use or wear them, and toss them. You’ll make more room for souvenirs on the way home.

Shoes take up a lot of space, so only take the pairs you need. Pack them around the outer perimeter of the suitcase and tuck socks and other small items into them.

Ask kids to pick no more than one or two favorite toys to bring with them, and remind them that the rest will be safe at home when they get back.

3. Suitcase Smarts

Each family member should be responsible for at least one bag. For young kids, this can be a small roller bag or a backpack that isn’t too heavy for them. Help them pack their essentials (read: toys) in these bags, along with a change of clothes and any other important items. Then, on the plane, they can keep the bags stored under the seat in front of them, saving space in the overhead bins for the larger suitcases.

Packing for a family vacation in carry-on bags means bringing no more than you need. Pack smartly by deciding as a family what everyone will bring on the trip and making sure to keep it simple.

Teresa J. Shaw is a Michigan-based writer specializing in travel and family content. Read more of her work at www.teresajshaw.com and follow her on Twitter @TeresaShaw.

New York Walk Light

One of the best ways to de-stress, get exercise, save money, and really enjoy your surroundings while on vacation is to simply ditch your car for the week. Here are some of the most pedestrian-friendly destinations in the U.S. – consider it our guide to skipping the gas stations in favor of a walking vacation!

1. New York, NY

Fast-walking pedestrians and jaywalkers rule this city, and most residents don’t even want to own cars – it’s not worth the hassle. When you visit Manhattan, you can join the crowds surging through Times Square, Wall Street, and other world-famous locales. Or, for more peaceful walks, try the Hudson River Greenway (which runs almost the entire length of Manhattan), Central Park (over 800 acres of carefully planned park land), or the High Line (an elevated train trestle that was recently converted into a public park).

2. Boston, MA

You might get lost trying to drive the curved and cobblestone streets of this historic city, but walking is a cinch. Pedestrians have easy access to the waterfront, shopping districts, green space, and residential neighborhoods. If you’re interested in our nation’s history, follow the Freedom Trail, a red line on the sidewalk that leads you to 17 historically significant spots. Nature lovers will appreciate the Emerald Necklace, a series of connected parks and waterways that provide ample opportunities for walking and feeding the ducks.

3. San Francisco, CA

Dense, scenic and culturally diverse, San Francisco earned the highest ranking in Walk Score’s 2008 list of the most pedestrian-friendly cities. It’s easy to find everything you need within walking distance, and there are always people out and about on the sidewalks. But the hills here are no joke, so be sure to get in shape before your trip, and wear comfortable, supportive sneakers; that way, you’ll be able to appreciate the stunning angles at sites like Coit Tower and Lombard Street. When your legs just can’t take it anymore, you can always hang onto a cable car and let it pull you up the steepest blocks.

4. Philadelphia, PA

Philly feels relatively small, friendly, and easy to get around on foot. You can wander residential neighborhoods to admire the quaint cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and patriotic décor, or join a walking tour to soak up some history. Another fun way to see the city is by following the colorful route of the Mural Mile, which offers a self-guided tour of some of Philly’s most creative and socially significant spots.

When it comes to indulging in a last-minute getaway, one of my favorite things to do is hop a red-eye flight to Fiji for a week of fjord hopping and relaxing on white sand beaches. At least I assume that would be one of my favorite things to do, seeing as I’ve never actually done it.

When it comes to a real last-minute getaway, nothing beats the great American road trip. Unlike a trip to Fiji, all it takes is hopping in your car and choosing a direction. At least that’s the theory… One thing I’ve learned in the past decade of road tripping is that it helps to have an awesome destination to look forward to—and the perfect FlipKey rental to relax at. So whether you’re a permanent resident of the Emerald City, like myself, or only visiting for a short while, I think you’ll find that a visit to the following list of destinations Is worth the price of gas.

Click on the destinations and images below to see all available FlipKey rentals in that location. Staying in a rental means extra living space, a full kitchen, and amenities like laundry or outdoor barbecue area.

Rearview shot of a couple reading a map while sitting in a car

Day Trips

Tacoma, WA (35mi, <1hr)

One of the top reasons to make the drive to Tacoma is to admire its world-renowned glass art. The Museum of Glass showcases hand-blown glass pieces from around the world and includes a glassblowing studio. The Museum District is connected by the Bridge of Glass and pays homage to the craft with more art, glass, and history, including installations by the native Dale Chihuly. Other cultural attractions worth stopping for are the Tacoma Art Museum, the Le May-America’s Car Museum and the Washington State History Museum. Although, Tacoma is rooted in the arts, it is ideally situated on the banks of Puget Sound and offers a vibrant, urban pit stop for road trippers. Shop in the historic Proctor and Stadium districts or stroll through the city’s parks and gardens. Explore the shores by kayak or boat to see the abundance of wildlife that inhabit Tacoma. If you’re looking for a nature wonderland where hiking boots aren’t required, then Tacoma is the destination for you.

See all rentals in Tacoma!

Fall City, WA (30mi, <1hr)

Fall City is situated within the scenic Snoqualmie Valley, an area just east of Seattle, criss-crossed with quiet back roads that carve paths through forests, mountains, and a network of streams feeding into the Snoqualmie River. On your drive in to town, you’ll notice totem poles scattered about Fall City, evidence that the town was originally home to the Snoqualmie Indian tribe, as well as the 130-year old Hop Shed where farmers brought hops to be transported to the Puget Sound. The massive Snoqualmie Falls is arguably one of the biggest attractions for visitors to Fall City. The 270-foot falls boasts magnificent views from the top and bottom and is an impressive site to see. Snoqualmie Falls isn’t the only attraction, though. Odds are you’ll find yourself sticking around to tour the wineries, hike the trails, and maybe even do some antique shopping.

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The majestic Snoqualmie Falls in Washington plunges into the water below.

The majestic Snoqualmie Falls in Washington plunges into the water below.

Ashford, WA (80mi, <2hrs)

Hidden amongst towering fir and cedar trees at the foothills of Mt. Rainier National Park, Ashford is a popular “base camp” location for those venturing deep into the Cascade Mountain Region of Central Washington. However, this enchanting area has plenty of natural wonders to offer the day tripper as well, including the nearby Alder and Mineral Lakes, over 300 miles of hiking trails, plus snowshoeing and sledding in the winter. Adjacent to Ashford you’ll find the small town of Elbe, where you can board the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, which is by far one of most relaxed ways to take in the secluded back country of Mt. Rainier National Park.

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Leavenworth, WA (120 mi, 2hrs)

Leavenworth is unique in that the town offers visitors an authentic German experience, right in the heart of Washington State. Boasting a Bavarian village main street, replete with Tudor revival architecture, this mountain town plays host to monthly festivals, one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States, and an annual month-long Christmas extravaganza that has to be seen to be believed. While you might expect the hiking, biking, and skiing adventures waiting to be had in the surrounding Cascade Mountains, what you might not expect from this Pacific Northwest landmark is the 300 days of sunshine they receive every year!

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A couple drives down the road on a road trip in their red convertible.

Weekend Trips

Vancouver, BC (140mi, 2.5 hours)

Canada’s third-largest city, and one routinely featured on lists of the world’s greatest places to live, has been thrust into the global spotlight thanks in part to its young metropolis vibe, overall quirky appeal, and role as the host city for the 2010 winter Olympics. A melting pot of cultures nestled between city beaches and lush waterfront forests, this British Commonwealth is still very much forming its identity: something reflected in its eclectic art scene, diverse shopping districts, and laid-back hipster hangouts, all topped off with the myriad of outdoor activities right outside their door. Make Vancouver your destination if you want to experience both bustling city life with attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium and the Orpheum Theatre as well as a quiet, oceanfront setting that is home to a variety of wildlife, including fish, birds, and whales.

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Portland, OR (175mi, 3 hrs)

If you’ve never been there, you might be inclined to assume that Portland and Seattle are interchangeable from a destination standpoint, especially given the similarities in their cultural and natural landscape. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Where Seattle offers more of an urban flavor, Portland has a quaint, almost small town feel relative to its size. Although replete with museums, fine dining, and a vibrant night life, Portland provides a level of hospitality and accessibility to these attractions unparalleled anyplace else in the Northwest. While in the area, popular things to do in Portland include touring the Portland Japanese Garden, exploring the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and browsing at one of the many Portland farmers markets. With so much to do and its laid-back, friendly atmosphere, Portland is a must-visit place along the Pacific Northwest.

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Sunrise view overlooking the city of Portland, Oregon

Sunrise view overlooking the city of Portland, Oregon

Friday Harbor, WA (100mi, 3hrs including ferry travel)

One of the main hot spots in the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor has long been recognized as a top travel destination in Washington. Although relatively small, the island offers a dynamic landscape ranging from pebble-lined beaches, to lush valleys and mountain meadows. Since it rests in Seattle’s rain shadow and is often sunny when nowhere else in the Puget Sound region is, it is routinely referred to as “nature’s playground.” One of the top attractions here is orca whale watching in autumn, although many animals such as harbor seals, porpoises, and sea otters are year-round residents. To really get into the casual spirit of island living, enjoy an art tour, or of course, find your own little corner of paradise on one of the many pristine local beaches.

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Seaside, OR (195mi, 3.5hrs)

The North Oregon Coast is a place of great history, entertainment, and natural beauty. While scenic vistas and amazing day hikes can be found throughout the region, Seaside has really become the place to go for a wide variety of traditional “coastal” activities, such as bike tours, festivals, and fresh, local cuisine. Wander along the Tillamook Head Traverse Hike for impeccable views of the landscape and dine by the ocean to start your day. When you’re ready to hang on the beach, you’ll be delighted with how wide they are here, leaving plenty of room for sand castle building, cookouts, or even a round of beach volleyball. Make sure you also swing by Funland Arcade, the largest on the Oregon Coast, to take a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl and feel like a kid again! Whether you’re on a romantic road trip or embarking on some family fun, Seaside has something for everyone in your car.

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Victoria, BC (185mi, 4.5hrs including ferry travel)

Green and beautiful year-round, Victoria offers an enchanting place for visitors to escape every day life. It is the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest, and here, new world experiences complement old world charm. Snap photos of the spectacular parliament building  and tour the opulent rooms inside. Nearby churches and castles showcase impressive architectural designs and interesting historical significance. Take a walk through the historic James Bay neighborhood or head to the boutiques on Johnson Street and Trounce Alley to purchase wares from local designers. The island has a mild climate throughout the year making it an ideal place for outdoor exploration. Whether you drive through the city, cycle one of the many trails or swim in the ocean, Victoria’s lush landscape can be enjoyed by all. Before getting back on the road, enjoy the time-honored tradition of high tea at the Empress Hotel National Historic Site of Canada.

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A young man sits down with coffee to plan his US road trip on a map.

Week Trips

West Glacier, MT (550mi, 9.5 hrs)

West Glacier is really more of a gateway destination, as it anchors the western entrance to Glacier National Park, offering an ideal location for lodging while exploring the surrounding area. A trip to Glacier National Park is without a doubt more rooted in natural beauty than it is commercial obligations. The views as seen from the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road are breathtaking as you cross the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass, and will undoubtedly stay with you forever. The town of West Glacier and the surrounding National Park play host to a huge assortment of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, including whitewater rafting, golfing, hiking, and horseback riding.

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San Francisco, CA (800mi, 13hrs)

If I was going to recommend travel to any major city in California, or the entire West Coast for that matter, it would have to be San Francisco. Most endearing about this city is that even when you partake in one of the more cliched tourist activities like exploring Pier 39 or climbing one of the 40+ hills, you still never know what to expect. Take a drive down the city’s well-known Lombard Street, one of America’s crookedest streets, before ditching your car to cling to the side of a vintage cable car. Explore the neighborhoods like the Upper Haight or the Mission to see the different parts of the city that make it so unique. From the Marina district, enjoy picture-perfect views of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge before people watching at one of the hip bistros nearby. San Francisco is a city teeming with outlandish free thinkers and lovable weirdos, yet it manages to quickly find a place in the heart of your average Joe.

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge giving drivers access to San Francisco

View of the Golden Gate Bridge giving drivers access to San Francisco

Lake Tahoe, CA (750mi, 12hrs)

Lake Tahoe is a haven for outdoor adventures year-round. In the summer, visitors can enjoy swimming, windsurfing, and boating on the picturesque lake, while the surrounding parks and trails beckon to hikers. Mt. Tallac Trail and Emerald Bay State Park offer magnificent views of the lake area while the Gondola at Heavenly provides a peaceful ride with incredible panoramic views. During the winter, strap yours skis or snowboard onto your car and enjoy the epic amounts of snowfall that transform Lake Tahoe into a winter wonderland. Hit the slopes at Northstar or Squaw Valley for a fun day in the snow. Other things to do in Lake Tahoe include making a visit to the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum or placing some bets at one of the 24-hour casinos in the area. Because Lake Tahoe straddles the border between California and Nevada, the area does also has a flashy nightlife scene and vibrant atmosphere. The area is perfect for a girls’ week away or a family getaway – it’s up to you!

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Las Vegas, NV (1,150mi, 19hrs)

Ah, Las Vegas. Some would say that no matter where you reside in this country, a rubber-meets-road sojourn to Sin City constitutes the ultimate road trip – a statement I’m very much inclined to agree with. Even if you’re not into the well-lit, nonstop party element Vegas is so famous for, you’ll find yourself easily charmed by its rugged beauty and frontier-inspired sightseeing opportunities. One thing is for sure though: going from Seattle to Las Vegas by car is a must-have experience. Cutting through the southern half of Central Washington, skirting the northeast corner of Oregon and the northwest corner of Idaho, then dropping straight down the eastern half of Nevada is an amazing journey that is nearly impossible to match. The ever-changing landscapes and classic roadside attractions encountered along the way make this trip completely worthwhile, even if all you do in Las Vegas is fill up your gas tank and turn right back around.

See all rentals in Las Vegas!

Original post was written by Jay Ferris, a Seattle-based writer, husband, and father of three, whose penchant for outdoors-based travel is rivaled only by his dependence on a steady internet connection and spider-free existence. Follow him on Twitter at @jayferris.

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It feels like spring has finally arrived. Here in Boston we have definitely started to get our April showers, which bring with them high expectations for May flowers. Travelers with children in school may have a spring break coming up, but for most of us it’s time to start thinking about summer travel. Whether you’re planning a couple weekend getaways or one long summer vacation, now is a good time to start looking for deals and availability on FlipKey – it’s a great way to stay dry and optimistic on rainy April days!

Summer vacation rental bookings are heating up. According to a New York Times article, bookings in some popular vacation spots are “up twenty percent compared to last year.” If you want to have your choice of vacation rentals, then don’t hesitate to begin planning your summer getaway!

Do you travel with your best friend? The four-legged one, that is. If so, you might be interested in a useful new tool from pethotelsofamerica.com that helps you search for pet-friendly rental cars.

Today, the Key West City Commission will officially oppose a pair of Florida state senate bills that would “essentially remove the ability for municipal governments to regulate short-term vacation rentals,” reports KeysNet.com. The city commission wishes to retain the ability to control short term rentals through licenses and taxes.

Tell us about your summer travel plans! Will you be traveling with pets? Visiting Key West? Where do you dream of visiting when it’s raining at home?

Road Tripping

Steeped in history and filled with impressive attractions that have inspired awe in millions of visitors, Washington, DC is one of America’s most visited major cities. Yet, as someone from the MD/DC area, I had visited every historic site and every museum that you could think of by age 12. Road tripping became my solution to escaping the “same-olds” of the tri-state area. Here is a list of the top 10 road trip destinations that I have taken in the area. Some of these destinations make excellent day trips for visitors to the Capital, while others make great weekend destinations for locals looking to escape the city.

1. Annapolis, MD (40 mi, <1 hr)

Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, is only a short drive away and has a beautiful old town aesthetic. You can enjoy historic sites such as the Maryland State House or get into the thriving community theatre scene by catching a show performed by the Colonial Players. At night, check out the Annapolis Harbor and have dinner on the waterfront by candlelight!

2. Baltimore, MD (47 mi, 1hr)

An architectural masterpiece, Baltimore is filled with everything from 18th century structures to I.M. Pei’s modern masterpieces. My favorite area is the Harbor: home to the incredible Baltimore Aquarium and tons of fun places to grab a meal or a drink by the water. When it’s warm out, you should definitely go for a paddleboat ride for a sea-level experience!

3. Richmond, VA (100 mi, 2 hrs)

Discover history and adventure in nearby Richmond, VA. Here, more than 400 years of American history live on through magnificent architecture, monument-lined cobblestone streets, and world-class museums. Brave the gorgeous yet intense James River: the only urban setting with Class IV rapids. Rafting is just one of many outdoor activities close by. For more urban adventurers, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is constantly expanding its world-class offerings, and more than 900 restaurants make Richmond a foodie paradise.

4. Shenandoah Valley, VA (112 mi, 2.5 hrs)

Blanketed in shades of amber, gold, and green in the fall, Shenandoah is a mandatory road-trip destination for anyone looking for a slice of nature in the tri-state area. The Valley has many areas that are open for camping, as well as plenty of cabins for rent. Plan a visit to one of the pristine limestone caverns for sights that will truly take your breath away. The most famous underground adventures are the Luray Caverns, which also boast a mind-boggling hedge maze right outside the caves!

5. Bethany Beach & Rehoboth Beach, DE (134 mi, 3hrs)

South Bethany Beach is one of the best-kept secrets along the east coast. The friendly inhabitants of this tucked-away city will be happy to show you its picturesque boardwalk, miles of crystal clear waters along the beaches, great shopping and more. Most of the trendy boutiques and restaurants serving up fresh local seafood can be found along South Garfield Parkway, but there’s plenty to do across town as well.

A word to the wise: If you want to enjoy a relaxing beach vacation free of hordes of local teenagers, then steer clear of these destinations, as well as Ocean City, during the first half of June. When school lets out for the summer, High school students from the surrounding areas overrun the typically peaceful spot during “beach week.”

6. Ocean City, MD (153 mi, 3hrs)

Ocean City is a fun, family-oriented beach destination with an incredible boardwalk, fun nightlife, delicious seafood and more mini-golf courses than you can shake a putter at! My family frequented this beach for years, and I still have not managed to try every mini-golf course (not from lack of trying!). Ocean City can be a good choice for frugal travelers who don’t need to spend extra to stay in more posh communities like Bethany.

7. Philadelphia, PA (142 mi, 3 hrs)

Famous as the birthplace of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Philadelphia offers much more than just cobblestone streets and historical landmarks. Cultural, culinary, artistic and ethnic treasures abound in this city and its surrounding countryside. What makes Philadelphia so memorable are the unique blend of experiences that you have to discover in person. By day, explore four centuries of history and architecture, beautiful neighborhoods, and remarkable museum collections. After the sun sets, the city heats up with acclaimed performing arts, amazing dining and vibrant nightlife. And don’t forget: it’s worth the trip just for the city’s signature cheese steak!

8. Atlantic City, NJ (197 mi, 3.5hrs)

From New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse to deep-sea fishing, and everything in between, you can always find excitement in Atlantic City. Relax at one of the Atlantic City casino spas, go all in on the excitement of 24/7 gaming, experience the thrill of a full house, feel the sand between your toes or visit one of the many attractions in this historic resort town. Atlantic City also offers an extensive boardwalk, pristine golf courses, and a variety of water sports to enjoy on your road tripping adventure.

9. Pittsburgh, PA (255 mi, 5hrs)

Previously known as a blue-collar city responsible for half of the steel production in the states, Pittsburgh has truly transformed itself into a unique and exciting travel destination.  Whether its catching a game of one of the city’s three professional teams or checking out the top notch museums and fine arts centers funded by the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, the city truly exhibits a unique flavor. Pittsburgh has many public green spaces, parks and riverside trails maintained throughout the city’s hilly landscape. From many of these areas, walkers, joggers and bikers are treated to spectacular views of a skyline that’s scene sleek, towering glass and steel architecture is a dramatic departure from the days when the grey cloud of industry loomed over the ‘Burgh.

10. Raleigh, NC (256 mi, 4.5 hrs)

When you’re looking for the excitement and attractions of a great city, combined with the affordability, approachability and appeal of a classic town with authentic southern hospitality, look no further than Raleigh. Best known for its world-class museums, best-of-Broadway shows, Capital area historic sites, professional sporting events and shopping mecca status (nine major retail areas!), Raleigh truly offers a variety of entertainment all in one park-like, scenic setting.

Moe's BBQ, Alabma

If setting the clocks forward for Spring doesn’t get you looking forward to long summer days and warm summer evenings, then you probably already live in a tropical climate. For the rest of us, warmer weather and more sunlight spells the beginning of grilling and chilling season. This week, we started to get the first whiffs of what’s cooking for 2011.

Hilton Head visitors will be excited to hear about the annual Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival, which was held from March 8-12. The festival kicked off the season, showcasing great chefs of the South and fine wines from around the world.

Don’t worry about going hungry if you missed the Hilton Head Festival. . . Just head south. Alabama has a whole series of BBQ cook-offs, tastings, and festivals that’s just getting underway. This weekend is the BBQ and Blues festival in Foley, and you can find a culinary and cultural gathering almost every weekend through the summer. To plan your feast, check out the schedule here.

Travelers and homeowners with an interest in London vacation rentals will want to check out the London Vacation Rental Market Report, released last week by New York Habitat. The report shows that “renewed growth in the worldwide travel market brought more customers to London in 2010.”

An article in Colorado’s Summit Daily reported that Western ski towns are “moving forward with plans to hunt down illegal vacation rental owners.” Wherever your vacation rental is located, all rental owners should pay attention to local regulations and be sure to pay any taxes on your properties.

Happy Travel Tuesday! Have a great week and enjoy the daylight!