Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

Seeing Southern Utah for the First Time

July 29th, 2015

I intentionally kept the beauty of Southern Utah under wraps as we prepared for our cross-country road trip because I wished for my daughters to be in awe of the natural beauty; I didn’t want them to recognize it from a Google image. And so shortly after abandoning the relative safety of Highway 70 for the eerie desolation of Route 128, a moment when it looked as if there was the potential to become a hungry vulture’s next al fresco dinner, and after I’d called my parents to half-jokingly say “just in case this is the end, I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me”, we came upon the Colorado River and a massive red riverbank wall. I slammed on the brakes of our Toyota Sienna, red clay spraying forward in reply, and we climbed down into the muddy water, the same water that runs through the Grand Canyon and gets bottled up at the Hoover Dam, two sights we’ve already experienced together. My girls were flabbergasted at this information. We’d barely scratched the surface of what Southern Utah offers adventurous families and they were already aglow.

Dramatic Sky Above Arches National Park

Arches and Moab National Park
We’d eventually dry off and make our way to Arches and Moab. The former was my number one most anticipated destination and the vast area of spires and, of course, arches didn’t disappoint. Having already been in water, my daughters were itchy to climb on something, anything, as they once had in the Valley of Fire outside Las Vegas a couple of years ago. They got their wish as the sun dipped and painted Arches National Park with a set of deeper hues. I pulled over to the side of the road, while the light of day was still strong enough for us to avoid cacti and spot any snakes or other creepy desert crawlers. My daughters attacked the rocks (not the fragile arches, of course, although many people were busy ignoring the emphatic ‘FRAGILE-KEEP OFF’ signs), sneaking into enclaves and climbing up high to enjoy a bird’s eye view.

Moab, a small desert town just south of Arches, was described to me as freaky and strange — so naturally I had to see it — but the string of budget chain hotels on the drive in and kitschy gift shops lining the main drag quickly convinced me that if Moab was once a haven for oddballs, it’s now just another tourist destination with cheaply made junk for sale at every turn. Still, the breakfast-for-dinner we enjoyed at the Moab Diner and the amazing ice cream from The Spoke on Center (try the Pralines and Cream) were worth the very short detour.

Two People Walking Uphill in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park
We didn’t open the door to our deluxe cabin at the Cannonville/Bryce Valley KOA until very late, but were excited to see an air conditioner, shower, toilet, and bunk beds for the kids. This is how I like to camp — in comfort and in some modicum of style. The girls have become fond of these non-hotel accommodations, too, and the prime location of this one made exploring Bryce Canyon the next day super easy.

The Bryce Canyon hike we took is 3 miles long — Queens Garden to the Navajo Loop trail — and has been described as the “best hike in the world.” While I admittedly have very few hikes under my belt to compare with it, this was certainly an outstanding way to spend three hours with my wife and two kids, challenging ourselves physically (but not too much) and experiencing the temperature and topographical changes. We saw chipmunks, Stellar Jays and prairie dogs, and had so much fun singing Okee Dokee Brothers adventure songs and telling corny jokes to keep our spirits up as we rationed water and pretzel Goldfish.

After I posted photos from our day hiking at Bryce, a few Facebook friends commented that they like that national park better than the Grand Canyon. The contrarian in me wanted to agree straightaway — I mean, who doesn’t cheer for the underdog — but those discerning online pals of mine have a point on merit alone. Bryce Canyon National Park is ridiculously stunning! It’s a deep canyon filled with a forest in some spots and hoodoos in others (picture dripped wet sand at the beach, and how it makes those lumpy towers in all kinds of curious shapes — and now picture all of those in bright orange and super tall!) Bryce is one of a kind.

Two Girls in Zion National Park

Zion National Park
The finale of the Southern Utah National Park trilogy was Zion National Park, on our way to Vegas, but we got yet another late start (a bad habit we’d picked up on this exhausting road trip) and didn’t have time to find a parking spot outside the park, catch a shuttle in and then board another bus to cruise the scenic Zion byway no cars are allowed on. We saw a lot of Zion but not the famous bits, but even without the full experience, we all knew this was a magical place that deserves a proper visit.

Our few days in Southern Utah provided many jaw dropping moments for each member of my family. The contrasting colors, deep canyons, sharp mountains, rushing rivers below and dramatic skies above impressed us like nothing else we’d ever seen before or since (including Yosemite National Park, where this post was written). A Southern Utah encore is definitely in our future, and should be in yours, too.

— Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad of two pre-tween daughters. He writes about parenthood, family travel and all things childhood on his site He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world. Jeff also writes for PBS.

5 Easy Hikes for Kids in Maui

July 28th, 2015

Hawaii is, without a doubt, an expensive place to take your family. Most popular activities will hit your wallet hard, so it’s good to have a few freebies lined up on your itinerary. Taking a hike is almost always going to cost you absolutely nothing, and it might just be the most memorable thing you do during your trip.

Kaanapali Beach in Maui

Picking the right trails to explore is key to an enjoyable experience. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, you will want to limit your hiking to half a day or less to avoid tantrums and breakdowns (anything over 5 miles is probably too much). On our recent family vacation to Maui, we took five easy, kid-friendly hikes that gave us a taste of the islands without making anyone feel too tired. Consider one of these hikes if you plan a vacation to Maui.

1. Kapalua Coastal Trail
This is a 2-mile walk from Kapalua Beach to D.T. Fleming Beach. The highlight here, besides the stunning beaches and wild rocky coastline, is the Dragon’s Teeth area, a unique lava formation that juts out into the water and really does resemble a giant set of dragon’s teeth. Kids could spend an hour alone at this one spot, scrambling over the rocks, watching for sea turtles in the water below, and letting their imaginations run wild. The trail is accessible from several places, but we recommend parking near the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, exploring the Dragon’s Teeth, then heading west toward Kapalua Beach.

2. Iao Valley State Park
This lush, tropical area is home to the famous Iao Needle and was the site of an important battle during King Kamehameha’s unification of the island in the late 18th century. The history and natural beauty make it a great place to hike and learn. Several short trails are available, including a paved path to an outlook, as well as a garden trail that leads you through thick vegetation. It’s nothing more than half a mile. There are picnic tables and restrooms in the park, so take your time and admire the scenery.

3. Twin Falls
These are the first waterfalls you’ll see on the famed Road To Hana, in Ho’olawa Valley on the north shore of the island. Bring your swimsuits and water shoes, because you and the kids will want to take a little dip in the pools at the base of each falls. The first is a 10-minute walk, and the second is another 15 minutes beyond. It’s a little slippery in places, but worth the effort. There are porta potties and a snack stand back at the parking area.

4. Pipiwai Trail
This is the most challenging hike on my list. At 4 miles, it’s also the longest. The reason I found it so challenging is not the trail itself, but the fact that you must drive the entire Road To Hana to get to it. If you can manage that drive, the trail is worth the effort. The first 2 miles are uphill, but kids will love the surprises they find along the way. Highlights include a massive banyan tree, Pipiwai stream, Makahiku Falls, several wooden bridges, a breathtaking bamboo forest and, at the end of the trail, the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. There is so much to see along the trail, you barely even notice you’re hiking. The way back to the parking lot is just as stunning, and all downhill. If your kids can manage a longer hike, this is the one they’ll remember the most.

5. Ka’anapali Beach
This particular hike isn’t really a trail, but it might just be our favorite non-trail trail in Maui. Ka’anapali Beach has been called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and after visiting it, we know why. The entire beach is about 3 miles long, but we recommend walking the lower mile from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa north to Black Rock at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. Park your car at the Hyatt, stroll out to the beach, take your shoes off, and leisurely walk north along the powder-like sand. Just this one mile might take you several hours, because the kids will find so much to see and do along the way. It’s a great place to watch surfers, swimmers, boats, parasailers, snorkelers, and even the occasional drone buzzing through the air. Off in the distance, you can see the islands of Lanai and Moloka’i. If you’re there in early spring, it’s a prime spot to view humpback whales. Once you reach the Black Rock area, you can rinse the sand off your feet, put your shoes back on, and walk back on the boardwalk, where you can gawk at the resort and condo complexes. Stop in at Whaler’s Village for a bite to eat, or some shopping. Ka’anapali Beach is, by far, the most beautiful beach my family has ever had the pleasure to walk on.

— Phil Corless

Phil Corless is an at-home dad of two living in the Pacific Northwest. Since 2004, he has been writing about fatherhood and family at the Idaho Dad blog. He believes the best way for kids to learn about the world is to travel through it.

9 Boston by Foot Tours for Families

July 26th, 2015

Of all the cities we’ve been to, we have to admit that we love Boston because it is truly walkable. It’s smaller then New York City and kid-friendly attractions are all over the map, within walking distance of one another. Rather than navigate the streets yourself on your next family vacation to Beantown, sign up for a tour with Boston by Foot. Here are nine of the regularly offered tours.

The Old State House in Boston

Back Bay
The Back Bay neighborhood of Boston is easy to navigate and is filled with elegant homes and historic architecture. On this tour, families will see Trinity Church, Boston Public Library, Old South Church and the Back Bay townhouses. Additionally, tour guides will tell the history of the area, and how it was once a body of water before becoming a neighborhood in the mid 1800’s. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 90 minutes.

Beacon Hill
On a tour of Beacon Hill, families will see the State House, the Federal and Greek Revival row houses and the homes of Louisburg Square. Plus, afterward, families can enjoy lunch and dinner at one of the many restaurants and cafes on Charles Street. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 90 minutes.

Boston by Little Feet
This tour was made for children. Throughout the tour, families will see the sights along the famed Freedom Trail, as well as the first public school in America and the oldest burying ground in Boston. Tickets are $12 per person and free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 60 minutes. It is only offered on Friday and Saturday.

Heart of the Freedom Trail
Families will see all of the same sights as those offered on the Boston by Little Feet tour, but with more time to explore them all. Enjoy learning about the Faneuil Hall, the Old State House and more. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 90 minutes.

Literary Landmarks
Families on the Literary Landmarks tour will see the homes and meeting places of famous authors, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Charles Dickens and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 90 minutes. It is only offered on Saturday.

Reinventing Boston: A City Engineered
Families interested in Boston’s history and its growth overtime will enjoy this tour. Stops include the place where the first American subway stood, the harbor, Ben Franklin’s favorite swimming hole and more. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 90 minutes. It is only offered on Sunday.

Road to Revolution
Stand where the Boston Massacre occurred and where the Boston Tea Party took place on this tour, which explores the many historic sites that play host to events that led to the American Revolution. Tickets are $17 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 120 minutes.

The Dark Side of Boston
If you dare, explore the dark side of Boston on this tour. Guides will take families along the small streets that played parts in vandalism, robbery, danger and more, while telling the stories along the way. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 90 minutes.

The North End: Gateway to Boston
The North End of Boston played a large role in bringing culture to life. It is known as the gateway to Boston and families on this tour will learn about the immigrants who made their way here long ago. Sites include the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground and the Paul Revere House. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12. It is free for children ages 5 and under. The tour lasts about 90 minutes. It is only offered on Friday and Saturday.

For more information and to book a tour, visit the Boston by Foot website.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

What Your Family Needs to Know About Global Entry

July 25th, 2015

An international family vacation is very exciting. Between packing for a new country, taking a long flight and getting passports stamped, kids will be anxious to dive into the new culture.

The only thing that can dampen the trip is a long wait in customs – even when it’s on the way home. One way to make the process smooth and fast, and to prevent children from getting antsy, is to sign up for Global Entry. But what is it exactly? And what does your family need to know?

Father and son at kiosk in airport

The Basics
Global Entry is a program that allows traveler to get pre-approved for entry into specific countries. The program is open to U.S. citizens and residents of Germany, the Netherlands, Panama and South Korea, plus Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry through the NEXUS program. Teens and children under the age of 18 must have parent or legal guardian consent. All participants must have a machine-readable passport or a U.S. permanent resident card.

The Perks
When re-entering the U.S. at an airport with Global Entry kiosks, families and travelers receive head-of-the-line privileges, helping them move through customs and security faster. Plus, with the electronic kiosks, there is no paperwork and wait times are reduced at all airports where Global Entry is available.

The Process
To apply for Global Entry, simply visit the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) website and fill out the application. There is a $100 non-refundable fee. Once the application is reviewed and approved, you will need to schedule an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers, which are located throughout the U.S. ans the international countries where Global Entry is valid.

At the interview, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will ask questions, take your photo and will scan your fingerprints, among other things, to determine if you are eligible for the program or not. Be sure to bring your passport, driver’s license, ID card and permanent resident card (if applicable) to the interview.

The Locations
Global Entry kiosks are available at more than 50 airports around the U.S. and the world. International locations include San Juan-Luis Munoz International Airport (SJU), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW), Nassau – Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport, Bahamas (NAS), Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ), Guam International Airport (GUM), Edmonton International Airport (YEG), Dublin Airport (DUB), Shannon Airport (SNN), Calgary International Airport (YYC), Aruba – Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA), Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG) and Aby Dhabi International Airport (AUH).

For a full list of airports that participate in the Global Entry program, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. And for more information on flying with kids, see our Air Travel section.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz