A family vacation is the perfect time to unwind, but it can be even more relaxing with time spent outdoors enjoying nature in all its beauty. Whether you plan your entire trip around a specific activity or just build in a day or two along the way, you can create some unforgettable memories with these ideas.
Unplug with an Outdoor-Oriented Vacation
(Family Features) A family vacation is the perfect time to unwind, but it can be even more relaxing with time spent outdoors enjoying nature in all its beauty. Whether you plan your entire trip around a specific activity or just build in a day or two along the way, you can create some unforgettable memories.
Choosing your destination is the first big decision in planning a vacation, and selecting a location that offers plenty of attractions for the whole family is a smart bet. For example, Texas offers a variety of state parks with unexpected terrain, such as the second largest canyon in the United States at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, or Pedernales Falls State Park with its distinctive river banks where visitors can swim, tube and kayak.
Once you have your general destination selected, it’s time to consider exactly how you’ll fill your days.
Outdoor sporting. Fishing is a fun and affordable activity the whole family can enjoy. After all, there’s no age limit on the thrill of a catch. Lakes, streams, rivers and creeks are all potential fishing sites and each offers a unique experience, from the scenery to the types of fish you’re likely to catch. Before you head out, be sure to research what permits and gear you’ll need. Some destinations even allow you to rent necessities, so you may be able to save the hassle and expense of buying new.
Wildlife watching. You can see hundreds of species of animals in their natural habitats by visiting a state park or natural area, and bird-watching is chief among those activities for many visitors. State natural areas, prairies and lakes are all good places to catch sights of different bird species, and many of these locations offer hiking paths and trails that make it easy to enjoy some fresh air and exercise along with the scenery.
Search the skies. You’ve probably heard the old adage that even the stars are bigger in Texas, and there’s no time like a family vacation to discover whether it’s true. Get away from the city lights and take in some of the best night sky views around at a dark sky park like the state’s largest state park, Big Bend Ranch State Park in the Big Bend Country region. Some parks offer special stargazing programs, events and observatories, or simply bring a blanket, some binoculars and your camera to discover the new world that awaits above.
Honor history. There are glimpses into the past virtually anywhere you go, that appeal to practically any interest. Compare foot sizes with a dinosaur. Wonder at rock art that is thousands of years old. Trace the steps of Native Americans and Spanish missionaries. Churn butter on a farm. Participate in festivals and battle reenactments that pay homage to momentous events of yesteryear.
Digital discovery. If you’re skeptical of getting the kids to put down their devices long enough to enjoy some outdoor exploration, geocaching may be just the answer. Geocaching is essentially a modern-day treasure hunt, and there are geocaches to be found throughout Texas, including at Pedernales Falls State Park in the Hill Country region. Use a GPS unit or smartphone app to find the exact location of a geocache nearby. Be sure to make note of the terrain and difficulty levels to ensure the site is appropriate for your group then set out on your adventure, enjoying the sights along the way.
For more ideas and inspiration to start planning your next family vacation, explore TravelTexas.com.
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Texas Tourism Board
(BPT) - Taking a vacation is more than a fun getaway from the daily drudges of life. Turns out, travel has a multitude of benefits that can impact your health and wellness, too.
Beyond stress reduction, vacations can improve heart health, mental health and personal relationships. In fact, men who take annual vacations are 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. Women benefit too: Those who take vacations twice or more per year are “less likely to become tense, depressed or tired, and are more satisfied with their marriages,” according to the Wisconsin Medical Journal.
Wellness travel is growing 50 percent faster than travel as a whole, according to a survey from the Global Wellness Summit. This includes spas, adventure and fitness-themed trips. But that doesn't necessarily mean you need to go on a yoga retreat to get the healthy benefits of travel. Consider these five tips for adding a healthy dose of wellness to your next vacation.
Intentionally disconnect: A whopping 42 percent of employees feel obligated to check email during vacation and 26 percent feel guilty even using all of their vacation time at all, according to Randstad. Make it a point to focus on the present and ignore your phone or limit checking it to once per day. If email or social media is hard to resist, sign out of those apps for the length of your vacation.
Relax by the water: Water is a natural element that inspires relaxation, but also provides lots of opportunity to play. For example, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, offers visitors an incredible 60 miles of ocean to explore, including the famous Intracoastal Waterway. Go to visitmyrtlebeach.com to learn more about how to relax on the sand by day and fall asleep to the calming waves of the ocean by night.
Try a new activity: Trying something new can have positive mental and physical benefits. Never tried kayaking or paddle boarding before? Give it a whirl. Want to take a yoga class? Sign up for an introductory lesson on the beach. Feeling brave? Go skydiving, zip-lining or parasailing. Whether you end up discovering a new hobby or just have a one-time adventure, you're sure to fully enjoy the experience.
Get into nature: Many health studies show the benefits of being outside, so make sure to plan plenty of time to explore Mother Nature on your trip. In addition to fresh air, take a hike at a local park and explore new scenery. When in Myrtle Beach, for example, you can take a morning jog through Huntington Beach State Park, meditate at Brookgreen Gardens or plan a family bike ride at Myrtle Beach State Park.
Eat well by eating right: Going out to eat is a fundamental part of vacationing for most people, but that doesn't mean you need overindulge so much that you feel sluggish throughout your trip. To eat well, plan sensible meals that feature fresh local ingredients, such as fruit, vegetables and the daily catch of fish. You'll enjoy regional flavors that tantalize the palate without the heavy foods that drag you down.
From your own hometown to the far reaches of the globe, there are thousands of destinations just waiting to be discovered by adventurous souls. Gearing up properly is essential no matter where your travels take you. Make sure you’re well-prepared for your next epic journey with these must-haves for adventurous travelers.
Appetite for Adventure
(Family Features) From your own hometown to the far reaches of the globe, there are thousands of destinations just waiting to be discovered by adventurous souls. Satisfying your itch to get out and explore may take you across town or across the ocean, but adhering to some common principles can make your travels extra rewarding.
Gearing up properly is essential no matter where your travels take you. Make sure you’re well-prepared for your next epic journey with these must-haves for adventurous travelers and find more travel-friendly advice at eLivingToday.com.
Let it roll
Lay your head
Explore new lands
Protect your feet
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (travelers, bike, boots, tent, backpack)SOURCE:
(BPT) - When winter cold and snow force you indoors, you might dream of getting away to somewhere warm and sunny that offers plenty of energizing fun and a much-needed change in the weather. Planning for your spring and summer vacations is a great way to score some budget-friendly deals. It also helps you beat the winter blues by giving you something to look forward to.
But where to go, you might ask. One great option is Florida's Space Coast, a destination that, while renowned for its ties to the U.S. space program, also offers an astonishing abundance of adventure-filled, outdoor vacation activities.
If you're starting to explore your spring or summer vacation possibilities, here are some can't-miss things to do that make the Space Coast an out-of-this-world destination:
* Take a nighttime "bioluminescence" kayak tour along the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge or Cocoa Beach. These tours allow you to get up close and personal with some of the glowing creatures who magnificently inhabit the waters along Florida's Space Coast.
* With so many great beaches, the area is an ideal destination for surfers and other water sports enthusiasts. Here, you can visit the flagship Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach - a 52,000-square-foot, multilevel store offering a huge selection of surf boards, swimming attire and other surf-brand apparel. Meanwhile, at the nearby Ron Jon Surf School, you can arrange a surfing lesson or even rent a paddleboard.
* Immerse yourself in nature at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 140,000-acre park that is home to at least 1,500 species of plants and animals, including alligators, manatees and a wide variety of birds. If the time of year is right, you can also take a guided nighttime Turtle Walk to observe sea turtles as they lay their eggs.
* The region is a paradise for birds, making it the perfect place to host the annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, normally held early in the year. Bird-watching, or "birding," is just part of the fun at the festival, which also offers entertainment, unique dining experiences, special events and more.
* In Titusville, sign up for a Coast-to-Coast Bike Tour and get an up-close view of the region's vibrant wildlife areas and historic sites. Or, for an epic ride, venture out on your own along the Coast-to-Coast Connector Bike Trail.
* Get your adrenaline pumping with a zip line aerial tour. Brevard Zoo's Treetop Trek allows you to zip line, crawl or climb your way through acre after acre of lush Florida landscape.
* The Space Coast is one of the few places you can personally witness a rocket launching into space, and it is breathtaking. Rockets carrying satellites into orbit or transporting cargo to the International Space Station launch periodically throughout the year. You can find the launch schedule at SpaceCoastLaunches.com.
To learn more about Florida's Space Coast and plan your spring or summer getaway, head to visitspacecoast.com.
(BPT) - The big skies and open spaces of the American West have captured the imagination for hundreds of years. Whether it's the beauty of a desert sunset or the cold majesty of snow-capped mountains, there's something about the landscape and the clean air that reinvigorates the spirit.
Seeking relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life, people from all over stay at one of many dude ranches across the country. Here, an intimate blend of adventure and comfort allows visitors to experience the majesty of the west in style and unmatched luxury.
Since 1926, members of The Dude Ranchers Association have served as stewards of both the land and the traditions of the American West. Always eager to share their way of life with guests from the big city or just down the road, they have transformed the rancher's way of life into one of the most incredible vacation opportunities around.
For a taste of the variety offered, here are five reasons all kinds of people return to dude ranches across the country.
1. Roughing it has never been so luxurious. Simply put, it's hard to find a more relaxing experience. With many ranches offering morning yoga to limber you up before you get in the saddle along with spa services to induce a state of complete relaxation, you'll think those cowboys had it easy on their cattle drives!
2. An educational adventure for the whole family. Many dude ranches have an array of kid-friendly activities. Children of all ages can ride horses, play, learn about animals and the wonders of the great outdoors. Parents treasure this direct, hands-on learning, and kids, well, they hardly know that what they're doing is educational.
3. A perfect getaway for animal lovers. There is no shortage of people who visit a dude ranch in order to live their childhood dream of having a horse or a pony. Horses are an integral part of the dude ranch experience, and whether you ride them through the mountainside meadows or learn some grooming techniques, working with these animals is a magical experience.
4. Indulge in a meal like none other. After a day luxuriating in the crisp western air, nothing is better than sitting down with your family for a gourmet meal paired with the perfect wine. Yes, the food is a world-class combination of classic favorites and new flavors, but it's also a chance to share stories with your loved ones, hear about the things your kids discovered and create lasting memories.
5. Discover something about yourself. Each year, there is no shortage of people who come to relax and let the stress of daily life melt away. While doing this, they also manage to participate in things they never imagined. Whether it is zooming down a zip line, going whitewater rafting or mountain biking, many people discover new experiences that give them a new perspective on life.
Founded in 1926, The Dude Ranchers' Association was founded to preserve, protect and promote this unique vacation experience. Since then, the core principles of dude ranching remain the same: horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart.
With more than 100 accredited members, all of which are required to uphold the highest quality and standards within the dude ranching industry, The Dude Ranchers' Association can help you find your next dream vacation.
This weekend mindset has inspired a new travel segment known as the Seekender. Seekenders are bold adventurers who take advantage of the weekend to pursue their passions. Sound like you? Check out sports reporter and blogger Kristen Hewitt’s favorite travel tips to get the most out of every moment of your next three-day trip.
(BPT) - The arrival of warm weather signals the season of three-day weekends and more people are using that time to travel. Whether it’s three glorious days off due to a holiday, summer office hours or simply cashing in on precious PTO time, weekend warriors are taking advantage.
This weekend travel trend may be attributed to more people “working to live” rather than “living to work.” In fact, 68 percent of Americans would rather embark on a bucket-list trip than get a big promotion, according to a Hampton by Hilton survey.
These trips don’t have to break the bank, especially when flying isn’t always essential for a memorable adventure. Hopping in the car this summer is a cost-effective, easy way to jumpstart your vacation. According to AAA’s 2016 Your Driving Costs study, gas prices in the U.S. are at a record low. With that in mind, this summer is the ideal season for road trips.
“You don’t need a full week to enjoy a vacation. Many of the best times I’ve had with my family have happened on three-day travel adventures,” says Kristen Hewitt, sports reporter and blogger at www.MommyInSports.com.
This weekend mindset has inspired a new travel segment known as the Seekender. Seekenders are bold adventurers who take advantage of the weekend to pursue their passions. Sound like you? Check out Hewitt’s favorite travel tips to get the most out of every moment of your next three-day trip:
Target the four-hour mark
You don’t want to spend two days of your three-day vacation traveling, so pick a destination you can access in four hours or fewer. Following this rule ensures you have as much time as possible to enjoy your destination. Plus, if you travel with kids, they’ll be much more mellow and you’ll avoid those “Are we there yet?” moments.
Select an accommodating hotel
Choose a hotel with a variety of locations so you’ll be close to the action and attractions. With more than 2,100 properties globally, Hampton by Hilton is ideal for weekend wanderers.
Pack right, pack light
Resist the temptation to over-pack by packing for versatility. Don’t forget to add a few accessories that transform outfits quickly, such as statement jewelry and summer hats. A simple packing trick to get the most out of the space in your carry-on is to roll clothing. You’ll fit more in and eliminate wrinkles!
Free up the itinerary
It’s tempting to pack as much as possible into three days, but you’ll end up stressed and exhausted by the end if you do. For long weekends, select one main activity you want to do — such as a tourist stop, museum visit or day at the beach — and leave the rest of the time open for casual exploration. Spontaneity often inspires the best adventures.
Stay on budget and eat well
If you can cut down on your food bill, your entire trip will be more affordable. Look for a hotel that offers free breakfast so you can start your day with a full belly. For example, Hampton by Hilton guests enjoy hot breakfast and freshly brewed hazelnut coffee at no extra cost. When out and about, never underestimate the appeal of a picnic in a park — a more affordable alternative to restaurant dining.
Indulge your wanderlust and begin planning your next three-day weekend trip. For inspiration, follow Hewitt’s Seekender adventures on HamptonSeekender.com and join the conversation on social media at #WeGoTogether.
(BPT) - Rugged gorges, epic waterways and beautiful ocean views: this could only be describing the bewildering terrain of Western Australia. But if you're really looking for the best sightseeing and activities, head north to the Kimberley, the gem of North West Australia. Famously known as being "the last wilderness" region, the Kimberley is the ultimate "bucket list" destination for adventure-seeking travelers.
The Kimberley has two distinct seasons, the dry and the wet. During the dry season, which runs from May until October, the temperature is warm and comfortable with blue skies and easier access to beautiful gorges, waterfalls and swimming holes. The wet season, which extends from November until April, is characterized by heavy and short downpours in the evening or late afternoon, providing a refreshing change to the heat of the day. The wet is when the landscape is refreshed and transformed into a lush, green environment with overflowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls.
From 30 million-year-old rock formations and waterfalls, to more than 1,300 native animal species, the Kimberley region is the perfect destination for those envy-inducing Instagram photos. Whether you're seeing the destination by land, sea or air, here are some key experiences you'll enjoy in the Kimberley region:
Rich history and culture on land:
* The Gibb River Road, which links the exotic pearling town of Broome to the town of Kununurra, is one of Australia's most renowned four-wheel drive challenges. This legendary 600-kilometer (410 mile) stock route was originally used for droving cattle, but is now also a captivating destination for travelers seeking the ultimate Australian outback experience.. Campsites, swimming holes, waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and walking opportunities are plentiful along this route. If self-driving on the other side of the road is not of interest, companies such as Kimberley Outback Tours offer hosted excursions.
* In Broome, Western Australia's pearling town, you can shop for strands of pearls found in warm, crystal clear waters - and even tour a pearling farm for a firsthand look at the cultivating process! And, in both Broome and Kununurra, you can watch master jewelers at work on pieces incorporating some of the most exquisite pink and natural diamonds on earth, all mined within .the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
* El Questro Wilderness Park, located in the east Kimberley, extends about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north to south, totaling one million acres in size. Its landscape offers outstanding diversity including rainforests, gorges and waterfalls. Enjoy an abundance of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and invertebrates congregating near one of the four major river systems, try your hand at barramundi fishing or set out on a horse trek to see beaches and dazzling landscapes all around. To stay right near the action, check out the lodging options at El Questro.
Fascinating sea adventures:
* Cruise the pristine waters of the Kimberley with a smaller ship operator, such as True North, for an adventure into the true wilderness, which offer a more personalized experience and opportunities to explore secluded gorges and swimming holes that are not accessible by larger vessels. You'll journey past towering red cliffs and pockets of rainforest, observe rare wildlife and ancient Aboriginal rock art, swim in cloudless pools and shower underneath dramatic waterfalls.
* For stunning sights of wildlife and nature, divers and snorkelers can check out the Rowley Shoals off the coast of Broome, as it ranks amongst the most remote and pristine marine areas in the world. Amongst the three coral atolls found here, you'll see colorful gardens, giant clams and schools of tuna and mackerel.
Excursions in flight:
* You can explore the Kimberley by air via the Kimberley Aerial Highway, which is a series of airstrips offering views of the region's most iconic landscapes and one-of-a-kind accommodations. Along the highway, snap photos above or land near natural attractions such as the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park, Cape Leveque, the world's only Horizontal Waterfalls at Talbot Bay, and the El Questro Wilderness Park. For the ultimate in flight luxury, stay at the Berkeley River Lodge, accessible only via its private airstrip.
* Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures offers a four-night expedition, providing an exciting way to explore the untouched natural wonderland of the Kimberley. You'll experience a seaplane flight over the Buccaneer Archipelago followed by a water landing on Talbot Bay. State of the art fishing and expedition vessels, helicopters and luxury houseboats await for amazing landscape views, personalized excursions and endless opportunities for private romance.
No matter how you want to explore, you'll find an experience in the Kimberley that's perfect for your sense of adventure. For more information, and to start planning your trip, visit westernaustralia.com.
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