Posts Tagged With: samantha brown

Summer Travel on a Budget

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As of Wednesday, June 21st, it is officially summer! With summer comes no school, longer days, and more traveling. However, taking trips can be expensive. But, never fear, there are still ways to travel and enjoy the summer season without breaking the bank.

Start a Travel Fund: Start collecting your spare change or setting aside money for an upcoming trip. You can also create a savings account just for traveling. Little by little your money will add up, and before you know it, you’ll be in your dream vacation spot.

Go During the Middle of the Week: Did you know hotel rates and other travel expenses are lower during the middle of the week than the weekends? Try going on vacation during the week. You’ll end up saving more money and won’t have to deal with crowds at popular tourist attractions. Another way to save is to travel during the off-season. Research your destination and see when the crowds are the lowest. For some places, winter is the highest tourist time, while summer is the busiest for other destinations.

Visit Nearby Destinations: While staying in one place, explore the surrounding areas. For example, if you are staying in a major city, take the time to venture out to nearby tourist attractions. This will save you time and money without having to plan another trip.

Have a Staycation: There are probably places in your own hometown you have never explored! Take a day or two and get to know your city a little bit more. Visit the little, unknown places, historic sites, and more. You never know what history you’ll learn about your hometown. Also, read your newspaper and look online for free events and festivals to take part in.

Research Your Accommodations: Hotels aren’t the only place to stay while on vacation. Vacation rental websites, such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, are great places to search for cheaper accommodations in different cities. Plus, you’ll get to live like a local while exploring a new place. Another benefit is the possibility of having a kitchen, where you can make your meals and save on food. Be sure to read the rentals’ ratings and reviews before booking.

Take Advantage of Free Things: There is no shame in taking advantage of free entertainment, attractions, and transportation while on a trip. Sites like museums and parks can be free to visitors. Also, look into your location’s events, including concerts, art shows, and more to experience. Another way to save money is by using public transportation or, when possible, walking.

Fly Right: Prices for plane tickets vary throughout the time of the year and day of the week. It is recommended you purchase your tickets 50 to 100 days before your trip. Another way to save money is research prices through travel websites, such as Kayak, Expedia, and Airfarewatchdog.com. Try to plan your departures on a Thursday and returns on Monday to save more. When traveling abroad, fly to your destination during the off-season for cheaper airfares.

Use Travel Saving Websites and Apps: When it comes to any trip, the best thing you can do while planning is to research the best deals for accommodations, transportation, and more. An easy way to compare prices is by using travel saving websites and apps. In addition to the websites listed above, the Travel Channel recommends using jetsetter.combudgetplaces.com, and momondo.com.

Save Money on Food: You don’t have to eat out every meal while on vacation. When you first arrive, go to the grocery store and stock up on the essentials and items, such as sandwich supplies and easy to-go meals. This way you can pack your lunch, dinner, and snacks to take with you while site-seeing. Plan to splurge and eat out for maybe one or two good meals during your trip, and pack the rest.

Vacation expenses can quickly add up when you aren’t looking. However, there are still ways to save money and have the time of your life exploring a new place and making memories.

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Taking the Stress Out of Traveling with Kids

Traveling-With-Kids

It’s summer time! And with summertime come trips and family vacations. Spending long hours traveling in a car, on a plane, or another mode of transportation can be tiring on both parents and children. But, there are tricks to keeping kids engaged and not asking the typical, “Are we there yet?”

Keep the Activities Coming: Pack a travel bag full of games, puzzles, coloring books, stickers, and more to keep your kids occupied. If you are traveling for several hours, try handing out a new item once per hour. Take the travel bag a step further and create a small bag for each child. This bag can be a pencil pouch or something of a similar size and include items that are interesting to that child. Lastly, play family games along the way. Have printable road bingo or a road trip scavenger hunt. Another classic family game is the license plates game, where everyone competes to see how many different license plates they can find. When traveling by airplane, it can be hard to pack all of these items into your carry-on. Instead, try downloading kid-friendly apps with games and videos on your iPhone or iPad. This way, your children will stay engaged in an activity other than running up and down the aisles of the plane.

Pack a Snack Bag without Sweets: Kids will get hungry going from place to place. Be sure to have their favorite treats to ease their hunger and avoid the hangry mood (hungry plus angry). However, remember one thing: don’t include sweets. There is nothing worse than being in a public tourist attraction with a child having a sugar rush. Include in the bag savory treats like cheese cubes, pretzels, fruit, and veggies. Don’t forget water to drink!

Start a Travel Journal: Put an educational spin on your trip and have your kids start a travel journal. This travel journal can include drawings, lists, and stories about the interesting places you visit, food you eat, and the various activities you do. Also, collect postcards from the different places. With these postcards, you can either write a message on the back and mail them to yourself or include them in the journal. Another way to engage your kids in the travel journal is to give them a camera to take pictures. This child-friendly camera will allow kids to capture their favorite sites and what interests them. Types of cameras can include disposable or Polaroid.

Have a First-Aid Kit and a Clean-up Kit: When you are traveling with kids, anything can happen. Be prepared with a First-Aid kit and a clean-up kit for spills. In the First-Aid kit, include band aids, gauze pads, a digital thermometer, cold pack, sunscreen, bug spray, aloe vera, saline solution, antibacterial wipes, medicine, and anything else you would normally include. For the clean-up kit, put in antibacterial wipes, paper towels, small garbage bags, zip-lock bags, and extra clothing and diapers.

Plan Ahead: Plan your trip and make your reservations well in advance. Along with hotel and flight reservations, buy tickets for attractions ahead of time. In addition, plan out a schedule for your trip, including the various activities for each day. Check out the websites for the places you’ll visit, see the nearby restaurants, and other sites to help your trip go smoothly. However, one of the most important things to remember is to stay flexible! If you have one attraction planned for a day and end up doing something else, don’t worry! Don’t plan too much or too little. The ultimate goal of the trip is to have fun and make memories with your family. Also, have a plan of what you’re going to pack in regard to clothes for your kids. Have a to-do list and schedule of what needs to be done in the final days leading up to your trip.

Bring Your Child’s Must-need Items: Don’t forget to bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, toy, or blanket—anything they normally carry around and need to have at home. These items will help kids feel safe and comfortable while exploring new surroundings. Plus, it might help prevent some emotional break-downs.

Traveling with kids can sometimes be stressful. However, use the tips above to ease that stress and create lasting family memories.

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Winter in Europe



“Oh, the weather outside is frightful.” These song lyrics are never more true than when you are in Europe during the winter. While the temperatures are chilling and snow covers most of the ground, there is also no better time to travel to this continent. The scenery of the different countries is beautiful and you’ll leave with tears in your eyes, wanting to stay. Here are your top tips for planning your trip for winter in Europe.

Where to Go:

  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Hungary

When to Go: 

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April

What to Pack:

  • Fleece Jacket
  • Insulated Coat
  • Warm Pants
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Wooly Socks
  • Winter Shoes
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Winter Weather Driving Tips

It’s the season for winter weather. Snow, ice, and sleet are likely and can make travel a little sticky. The most important tip is if you don’t have to go anywhere, stay home. But, if you do, follow the below advice for safe travels.

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Homemade Spanakopita

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This past weekend, I went to a Greek bake-sale in my hometown. Yum! I could have bought everything on the menu. One of the items I purchased was Spanakopita, which was devoured in no time. So, I decided to try to make some at home and wanted to share the recipe with you. Here is my homemade Spanakopita recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 to 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup  unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound filo pastry sheets

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauce pan. Add half of the spinach and saute until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove spinach and squeeze out excess liquid, then chop roughly. Repeat with remaining spinach, using 1 more tablespoon of oil. Pour off any liquid from the pan, and add remaining oil.
  2. Add scallions and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach, parsley, salt and pepper to the scallions. Cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from to cool.
  3. Stir the feta and beaten egg to the cooled spinach mixture.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a baking sheet with the melted butter.
  5. Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and keep it covered with waxed paper and a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo into 3 by 11 inch strips, and recover with the towel. Use a pastry brush to brush a strip of filo with melted butter. Place a small spoonful of spinach filling 1 inch from the end of the pastry. Fold the end over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold up the strip in triangles, like folding up a flag. Continue with remaining strips of dough, placing filled triangles on the baking sheet and keeping them covered with a towel until ready to bake.
  6. Brush the triangles lightly with butter, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Enjoy!

 

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Giant’s Causeway – Northern Ireland

  
Known as one of the most beautiful sights in Northern Ireland, Giant’s Causeway is made up of more than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which are a result of volcanic activity. However, people believe the site was a bridge built for giants.

Legend has it that Finn MacCool was an Irish giant, who was challenged to a fight by Scottish giant, Benandonner. MacCool accepted the duel and built the causeway to travel the North Channel to meet Benandonner.

As for the rest for the story, there are different versions. One states that MacCool defeated Benandonner. Another says he disguised himself as a baby and hid once he saw how big Benandonner was. Benandonner went looking for MacCool, but when he saw the baby’s size, he ran thinking the real MacCool must be even larger than him and destroyed the causeway.

However the legend ends, we can all agree on one thing – Giant’s Causeway is absolutely breathtaking and a must-see.

Some little known facts about the location are:

  1. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.
  2. In 1987, it became a national nature reserve by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.
  3. The column’s tops form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot to under the sea.

 

 

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What NOT to Do in Washington D.C.

  
When planning a trip, you probably focus on what to do while at your destination. However, it is just as important to know what NOT to do. 

Every now and then, I’ll take a look at various places and give you the insider’s scope on the do not’s, starting with Washington D.C.

  1. Don’t spend all your time on the mall. Venture into other areas of the city and go where the locals go for shopping, dining, etc.
  2. Don’t drive or take taxis. Instead, use D.C.’s metro and be sure to purchase a SmartTrip card if you are making multiple rides.
  3. Don’t be afraid to cross the Potomac River into Northern Virginia. Arlington National Cemetery is there, as well as, the Iwo Jima memorial and Mount Vernon.
  4. Don’t skip the Mall at night. At night, the monuments are lit, adding a powerful and historic feel to them. The monuments are open 24 hours and park rangers are on duty until 10pm.
  5. Don’t visit in the summer. This is one of the busiest and most crowded times, especially around the 4th of July.
  6. Don’t try to visit every museum in one trip. There just isn’t enough time. 
  7. Don’t dine at chain restaurants or tourist traps.
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Why I Travel

To travel – it’s a verb with a heavy definition. . What exactly does it mean “to travel?” Well, it means something different to everyone, so here is my definition.

Growing up, I remember watching Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown and her shows, Great Hotels and Passport to Europe. With every episode, I kept thinking “Samantha has the best job in the world and I wanted to grow up like her.” As I watched the shows, I quickly realized I had a passion for traveling.

The reason why I travel is simple-to see the world and gain experiences. There is so much learning to be had outside of your comfort zone. My travel philosophy is to travel as much as possible, while learning about the history of an area and the people who live there. It also includes being adventurous and making memories. This philosophy plays into my five step travel list.

For every trip I take, I must:

  1. Take tons of pictures. I always come home with about 1,000+ photos.
  2. Meet and talk with the locals. You’ll get the best information about where to eat, what to do, and learn more about the area from a person who lives there.
  3. Research the location’s history and plan out my must-sees. However, I am careful to not plan too much and allow time for adventures.
  4. Get lost—on purpose. Take a back road, walk down a different street, just get out and explore.
  5. Go back to that same destination. It might not be the next year, or the year after that, but sometime in my life, I will make the time to go back.

If you want to get out of your comfort zone and see the world, you must travel. It doesn’t have to be a three week excursion. It can be a day trip to a nearby city or even a stay-cation in your own town. Just travel!

Trust me-adventure is out there. You just have to make up your mind and go!

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The Mile High City

The history of Colorado’s capital, Denver, dates back to the American West. Today, the city is known for the arts, museums, and a long list of things to do, including the ones below.

Denver Zoo: An 80-acre zoo located in City Park of Denver and was founded in 1896. Today, it is home to many different types of wildlife. 

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Downtown Aquarium, Denver: A state of the art modern aquarium that is home to over 500 species and includes a restaurant and lounge. 

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Dinosaur Ridge: Just west of Denver, Dinosaur Ridge is part of the Dakota Hogback. It is also one of the world’s most famous dinosaur fossil locations. 

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Denver Mint: A branch of the United States Mint that first made coins in February 1, 1906. Today, the mint is still operating and producing coins for circulation. 

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Molly Brown House: A survivor of the Titanic, activist, and philanthropist,  Brown’s home has now been turned into a museum with artifacts of her life. 

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Elitch Gardens: An amusement park in the heart of Denver, Elitch Gardens is known for it’s rides. 

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Fillmore Auditorium: Founded in 1907, the Fillmore Auditorium is a premiere concert venue for both, public and private, functions. 

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Simply Carolina: Going to Carolina in My Mind

 

North Carolina-one of my favorite places in the world. Trust me, I could make you fall in love with everything Tarheel state related and here’s why:

1. We have the best of both worlds-beautiful mountains and beaches.
2. UNC v. Duke basketball rivalry is a can’t miss.
3. The Wright Brothers and the gift of aviation.
4. We have all four seasons.
5. BBQ–need I say more?
6. There is a city for all types of people.
7. There are TONS of places to have fun for a day-trip, such as Carowinds, The Biltmore Estate, and the Outer Banks.
8. We all know the wonderful taste of Cheerwine.
9. North Carolina is known as “The Hollywood of the East Coast.”
10. You can’t beat the music and musicians from the state. James Taylor, Scotty McCreery, Ben Folds….(the list goes on and on:) )

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