(BPT) - The American summer vacation is a seasonal tradition. It's when memories are made, experiences are shared and sometimes when bills pile up. In fact, research shows that more and more families across the country are planning responsibly and considering their budget when it comes to summer travel plans to make the most of their vacations without breaking the bank.
Nearly 70 percent of parents planning a summer vacation said they expect to spend the same or less this summer than they did last year, according to a Coinstar survey among U.S. adults with children at home, aged 5 to 18. In addition, 68 percent said they plan to fund their vacation using cash on hand. The top three goals reported for summer vacation include rest and relaxation, increased family bonding and enjoying outdoor activities. Fortunately, all of these activities can be enjoyed inexpensively, a sign families aren't willing to cut their fun as they trim expenses.
Planning ahead means planning smart and will give you the best shot at scripting the perfect vacation for your family and your budget. Consider these tips to maximize your vacation budget.
* Take the road less traveled. Many vacation destinations are priced based on supply and demand. That means you can make your vacation more affordable by traveling to a location that doesn’t typically see heavy summer traffic. There are plenty of exciting destinations in the U.S. that may be off the beaten path. Check out Groupon offers for getaway deals as well as packages from airlines and resorts. You may just find your best trip was to a location you never expected to love.
* Stretch your budget with found money. You may have vacation funds that you’re not even aware of — like that hidden jar of change in the closet. It’s like a mini savings account, so cash it in at a Coinstar kiosk to boost your vacation budget. If you don’t have a coin jar, start a vacation fund using the change you collect over the next year and encourage your entire family to add to it when they can. In addition to using your spare change, this may also be the perfect time to cash in your credit card or airline points to stretch your budget even further.
* Travel together for savings. When it comes to cutting costs, don't be afraid to use the buddy system. Go on vacation with family or friends and rent a home together or split other costs. Look for accommodations that have a kitchen and you’ll be able to save on restaurant expenses. Finally, if you are eating out, find restaurants where kids can eat for free or at a highly-reduced rate when an adult meal is purchased.
* Look for free or low-cost activities in and around your travel destination. There are plenty of family-friendly activities that can also be free. Walking tours, museums, historic landmarks and parks all present options for places you can visit without putting a dent in your budget. To find opportunities around your travel destination, check out AAA or the local travel and tourism office as well as convention and visitors bureaus. You can also simply Google free things to do in the area you intend to visit. You may be surprised at what pops up!
* A ready vehicle will ease your mind and budget. If you plan on driving to your destination, make sure your car is ready. Change the oil in your vehicle and fill your tires properly. These simple steps will do more than just help you avoid a breakdown, they will maximize your fuel efficiency and save you money.
The summer vacation is an annual tradition, and while the memories of your trip will extend far beyond the season, the costs don't have to. Apply the five tips above and you'll make your trip a sound investment in both resources and experiences.
(BPT) - There was a time when cities like Paris, Berlin, New York or Tokyo were at the top of many travelers' lists. The glamour, the glitz and the history of these cities lured many, but times have changed and more people are eager to discover some of the lesser known gems. Cities that, though smaller and less renowned, are just as stunning and full of surprises.
One of these treasures is Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Also known as Mill City, the Mini-Apple, or the City of Lakes, Minneapolis is home to a vibrant music scene, miles of bike trails, a community of creative entrepreneurs and an energy that you just can't find anywhere else. It’s true that a lot of people shy away from the winters, which can be fierce, but those who go during the summer usually leave with plans to return. Here are five reasons why.
We could go on, but it might be more fun to make your own list of favorites by visiting Minneapolis yourself. Summer is here, so book a room at the new Radisson Red Minneapolis, stay in the heart of downtown, and discover one of America’s great cities.
(BPT) - When planning a Florida vacation for the entire family, two things typically first come to mind: winter getaway and busy theme park. Nothing wrong with that, but if you stop there, you're limiting your possibilities.
Along the state’s Atlantic coast, there’s another side of Florida that’s waiting to be discovered. With extensive waters, diverse wildlife, enthralling history and countless fun things to do, this is a unique area that will have everyone in the family catching the spirit of adventure. For a vacation that delivers hands-on, memorable experiences, why not pack up the family and explore Florida’s Space Coast?
For starters, there are miles and miles of Atlantic shoreline to enjoy. Along the Space Coast, it’s always a perfect time of year to pass the day at the beach. Rent a beach umbrella near the historic Cocoa Beach Pier and relax with a frozen drink while the kids play in the sparkling surf. In the same area, you can also climb aboard for a two-hour boat tour operated by Island Boat Lines and piloted by a United States Coast Guard-certified captain. The tour winds through The Thousand Islands, which are a maze of trails and canals through mangrove islands and hidden hammocks. You'll learn from a professional naturalist who will point out some of the dolphins, manatees and coastal birds that are among the numerous wild creatures making their home in and around these captivating waters.
For something else that truly amazes, try a nighttime kayak tour on the Indian River Lagoon within the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. Dip your paddle, trail your fingers in the water or just watch for mullet swimming by — simple water movement activates a glow-in-the-dark trail of neon blue-green along the river surface. What you’re seeing is plankton magic, or, more scientifically, “bioluminescent dinoflagellates” defending themselves against potential predators. Between that astonishing glow and the extraordinary view of the night sky enveloping the undisturbed refuge, your family members will feel like they’ve entered a portal of enchantment.
If you’re interested in observing more nature in action, the Space Coast is home to the second-largest loggerhead nesting area in the world, with more than 15,000 sea turtle nests. At Carr National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can take a turtle walk to observe the nesting of these beautiful creatures and learn valuable information about conservation efforts.
Enter the cool zone
The Space Coast also features plenty of entertaining museums and other indoor attractions and activities that will get you out of the sun, without sacrificing the fun. In Palm Shores, don’t miss the challenges and rollicking good times at Adventure HQ, which has tons of inspired and wacky climbing tests that kids can’t resist. (Who wouldn’t want to try scaling a beanstalk?) Then head over to Port Canaveral’s Exploration Tower to learn all about this area's rich history — from its earliest inhabitants to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and all the way to the men, women and machines behind our present-day space exploration — as told through interactive exhibits. Finally, take a walk among giant dinosaur skeletons and inspect a detailed replica of King Tut’s shining tomb at the newly opened Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, in Cocoa Beach.
On the Space Coast, there’s no need to stand in line for hours to experience thrills and excitement. For those who like their adventure high up in the trees, Brevard Zoo’s Treetop Trek has zip lines, cool swings and three aerial obstacle courses perfect for kids and kids at heart. You can get your ticker racing another way by taking a go-kart for a spin at Andretti Thrill Park, which also features mini-golf and a ropes course. For even more drama, an up-close encounter with the space program offers its own special kind of thrill, and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is simply jam-packed with a solid day’s worth of jaw-dropping exhibits, including the rockets, shuttles and out-of-this-world astronaut stories that will capture the imagination.
For ideas and tips on planning your fun family vacation along Florida’s Space Coast, visit visitspacecoast.com.
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