Tips For Traveling with a Young Child

By Rebecca VanGinkel

My husband travels nearly all year long, all around the United States for his job. After our young son was born, he took a few months off work, but when our son turned eight months old, my husband was back on the road, and so were the baby and I. It was very hard to learn to live out of a suitcase at first, especially when our young son pretty much needed everything in Wal-Mart to survive! But, once we got into a routine, and learned how to pack right, everything got much easier on us.

Our first lesson we learned was to never travel anywhere without wet wipes, not even down the street a half block. Every time we turned around, our son had something messy in his hands, either eating it, wiping it in his hair, or wiping it on our car seats! We learned at a fast rate that napkins do not work wonders on children and their messes, but I have yet to come across a mess that wet wipes could not clean.

Also, always keep a small bag full of toiletries inside your car. I always pack bandages, facial tissue, liquid hand cleaner, lotion, q-tips, a fever reducer and pain reliever, and whatever else you may need during your trip. I pack mine in a freezer bag and store it in the glove box. I also never leave home without packing an overnight bag for my son. You never know when you may have to sleep over in a motel, or when your child might not make it to the bathroom in time when you are traveling, and it is best to be prepared. Inside the bag, I keep an extra change of clothes, a light jacket, wet wipes, a clean towel, and a few of his favorite toys. I also always kept extra diapers in my car and in my sons’ overnight bag when he still needed them.

When driving for long distances with a young child, it is ideal to pack lots of their favorite toys and books. If you bring things that your child is not interested in, your ride is going to be full of crying and whining! I found that my son loved to color in the car, so when we travel, I pack a few crayons in a locking school box, and his favorite color books. He stays happy for hours, and we do not hear a peep out of him. Another good toy to bring along is a Leap Pad, or something similar to it. A Leap Pad talks to your child, reads to him, and even helps him learn. The pen on the Leap Pad is attached so you never have to worry about losing it. You can buy many different books and cartridges for it, so you will definitely be able to find a program that your child will be interested in.

Another thing that has helped us out a lot is the DVD player that my husband and I have recently purchased for our car. It came with dual screens, so my son and husband can both watch a movie at the same time. On the other hand, if only one of them wants to watch a movie, we can just turn one off with the push of a button. It also comes with dual sound control, so we can easily adjust the volume, from the front or back seat. This has made driving for hours seem like driving for minutes.

If you make a schedule and stick to it, your ride will go a lot smoother. Schedule bathroom breaks and gas breaks at the same time so that you are not making any unnecessary stops. But, make sure you stop often enough if you’re traveling with a young child. They always seem to need to go to the bathroom twice as much as adults!

Last but not least, always make sure your child is safely buckled in. It is best to check from state to state to find out the laws on different car seats and booster seats. Since laws vary from state to state, you want to make sure that you are not breaking any laws. Always bring your car into the shop to get it checked out before driving for long distances. They will let you know if your tires are in need of repair or anything else should be done to make your trip a safer one. A flat tire will always put a damper on your fun! So, if you pack and plan ahead, know that traveling with a young child can be a lot of fun!

Visiting Corning, Arkansas

This past summer, my son and I traveled with my husband to Corning, Arkansas. My husband is in the cable business, and he had to go there to upgrade their cable system. I researched Corning on the internet, and found that it was a very small town, with not much to do. I didn’t even know if they had a hotel for sure! But, when we arrived, I got quite a surprise. It was a small town, but the people were very friendly, and we found a few interesting things to do to pass the time.

We stayed in a hotel right on the main street called The Relax Inn. It was owned by the family who ran it. They were so friendly that we felt like we were staying in someone’s home instead of a hotel. We had barbecues with them and played games outside. They had a small pool in back that they let me and my son use while my husband was at work. We were grateful, because it was almost ninety degrees every day we were there. The owner had two young grandsons that came and played with our son a couple days a week. They quickly became friends.

There was a small restaurant right across the street. It was named Breakers Drive In. They had the best food and it was really cheap. Breakers had a different dinner special every night. It was always something off their regular menu, but it was cheaper than usual. They sold everything from shrimp dinners to corn dogs. You could either go in to eat, or go through the drive through. They also had a gazebo outside where you could sit and eat if it wasn’t to hot. We ate lunch and dinner there almost every night of the week. They also had the best ice cream in town. I don’t think a day passed that we didn’t walk across the street in the early evening to get a malt or a hot fudge sundae.

During the day while my husband worked, I would take our son down to the community pool. It was a large outside pool where you could swim all day for fifty cents, or half of a day for a quarter. There was always two trained life guards on duty, and one other person walking around the pool to keep an eye on rambunctious children. They also had a small kitty pool for toddlers and infants. In the big pool, there was a diving board that the older children loved. There was always a long line at it, but everybody waited for their turn anxiously.

Right next to the community pool was a large playground. It was right next to the school, but the public was aloud to use it, also. Right down the road was the local Wal-Mart, and Pizza Hut. On the other side of town was a small mall that had the grocery store Wallace and Owens, and a few other small stores including the video store and a dollar store. Also in the mall was a building where every Saturday they had a large auction. We went once and my father in law won a Deluxe Scrabble game for a dollar! What a buy! Next to the grocery store was Sonic’s, the fast food chain. Also in town was a great little shoe store, a hair salon, and a couple of gas stations.

On the outside of town, there were a couple more restaurant, and a large Community Center. You could go to the Community Center every weekday morning for a quarter. You could play basketball, ping pong, or golf. You could also use their weight training rooms, and walk around the top of the basketball gym. To play golf, you had to pay more than a quarter, but you could rent equipment and golf carts there. It was a full eighteen hole golf course. The building was very modern, and pretty. It had a huge water fountain right out front. Once in awhile there would be ducks swimming in it.

Around the town of Corning, there were a lot of rice fields. I had never seen rice fields before, and they are very interesting looking. Also around Corning, there were many fruit stands that sold all kinds of fresh fruit like watermelon and all other kinds of melons. There were also a few small flea markets every weekend.

We were very sad to leave Corning, Arkansas, but we have great memories. If you ever get a chance to visit it, try staying in the Relax Inn and eating at Bumpers. I’m sure you will have a great time.

Visiting Stone Mountain

By Rebecca VanGinkel

This past November, my family and I were lucky enough to be able to visit Stone Mountain. We first heard of Stone Mountain when we were staying in Atlanta, Georgia. This is one of their many different attractions located in the city that any family could spend hours of their time exploring. Since there are so many different activities, Stone Mountain is a perfect place to bring your whole family, newborns to grandparents welcome!

Since we visited in November, we got a chance to visit their Christmas village. Our son actually got to see Santa arrive in his sleigh, and to sit on his lap and tell him what he wanted for Christmas. There were many carolers singing and getting everyone into the Christmas spirit. The huge Coca Cola Christmas tree is also one of the big attractions. You can see it from almost anywhere in the village. We also got to go to a 4-D Christmas movie, which our son also loved. Can you imagine, the wind was really blowing hard and it was snowing on us while we were enjoying the movie!

We also went on the train, which travels five miles around Stone Mountain. During the ride, Christmas music played and the conductor told us stories about Stone Mountain in the early years. We passed many Christmas lights on our ride. We even passed an old ghost town in the middle of nowhere that was decorated in Christmas attire. The whole village has a lot of spirit.

Besides the Christmas village there were many other things to see and do. We rode a cable car up the side of the mountain and got out on the top. They gave us a choice to ride back down, or hike down the back side of the mountain. We chose to hike down. It was kind of steep, but nothing we couldn’t handle. About halfway down, we saw an electrical pole that was covered in gum! It was covered 10 feet high with hundreds of pieces of chewing gum. Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, you have to wait for the train to make its rounds and pick you back up, or you can visit a museum and wait for the train to come at a different time.

One of the biggest attractions of Stone Mountain is the huge carving in the side of the mountain. The carving is 400 feet above the ground, and measures 90 by 190 feet. It is set back 42 feet into the mountain. It shows General Robert E. Lee, Lt. General Thomas Stonewall Jackson, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis riding a horse with their hair whipping in the wind. It is the largest carving of rock, even bigger than Mt. Rushmore. The mountain itself is 825 feet tall and covers 583 acres. The guide in the cable car told us that you could fit three school buses on the rear end of the horse and still have room to walk around. After dark, they show a laser light show projected on the mountain. Since it was Christmas time when we visited, we watched the Twelve Days of Christmas. After the spectacular laser light show, we sat in the huge field and watched an amazing fire works show. It was one of the best that we had ever seen.

After all this excitement, my husband and I wanted to relax awhile, so we took our son to the playhouse so that he could play while we watched, or so we thought! This huge playhouse consisted of 5 floors and so much fun that nobody could just sit and watch, not even grandparents. When you first arrived they gave you a bag to place in it as many foam balls as you could, and a bracelet for scanning. You then shot the foam balls out of many different air guns and tubes to try to score points which registered when you would scan your bracelet. Besides this, there were many different slides, a trampoline floor, and nets for climbing. There was also a separate play room for babies and toddlers, where they wouldn’t get stepped on by rambunctious older kids.

After all that excitement, we went for a beautiful scenic drive. We even drove inside one of the few covered bridges that are left. We also got to stop and walk around by an old grist mill. It had very pretty landscaping around it with many plants and flowers that were still in bloom.
We ended up spending the whole day at Stone Mountain, and there were still things that we didn’t get to do. We didn’t get to ride the Georgia Ducks, or visit the antique car models, and we missed many of the shows in the Christmas Village. We have decided that we are going to have to go back some day soon.

The hours of Stone Mountain vary from season to season, but if you or your family members are interested in visiting the great Stone Mountain, you can call this toll free number 24 hours a day for in park information- 1-800-401-2407.

Make a “Splash” in England’s Bath!

Many travelers to Bath, England, would suggest with a hint of a smile that you should do just that; take a bath in your hotel for symbolism! However, if you take the time to make a splash as soon as you arrive, it will take away from the time you should utilize seeing the real baths for which the city is famous.

First things first; if London is your original destination, as it is for many travelers, Paddington station in the capital city offers transportation to Bath every 30 minutes. Once you’re in Bath, you should take at least a few days to see everything the area has to offer. The Roman baths are certainly not the only attractions. You’ll also find numerous historical buildings such as the Sally Lunn house, early 16th century Bath Abbey, a 16th century theater, and much more!

Of course we should begin with the baths. You can visit virtually any day of the year except Christmas and December 26, and it pays to take advantage of this great opportunity. If you are traveling with babies or small children, strollers are not accepted into the baths, but a carrier will be provided without extra charge. It seems impossible to leave the Roman baths without an appreciation for history. Tours are given daily to explain the significance of the site where Roman and Celtic influences combined. It is hard to imagine that our ancestors bathed here thousands of years ago and fraternized with friends, perhaps on the very grounds on which we stand.

Bath Abbey, finished in the 1500s, is one of Bath’s most beautiful buildings. You can easily spend hours enjoying and exploring this wondrous Romanesque-style abbey, and since it is located very near the baths, it will not be difficult to find. Bath Abbey can be visited year-round. Check for how late the abbey will be open when you have determined the time of your visit. You will want to keep in mind that, although admission is free, a donation is always appreciated to help with the huge costs of up-keeping this historic structure.

History enthusiasts (or children who like to dress up) might enjoy the Museum of Costume, which has a unique presentation of what people wore from the Renaissance era to modern times. It’s truly amazing to see what women actually wore in the olden days and your kids will have a fun time imagining what it was like to get up every morning and put on a corset, hoopskirt, or the like. The colorful clothing makes a nice presentation and the museum has much educational value, especially for school-age children just learning about England’s history.

For another dose of history try the King’s Circus. Another reminder of Bath’s partially- Roman origins can be found at the King’s Circus, finished by architect John Wood. The Circus is actually considered to be a street and its unique rounded shape, made by forming many oddly-shaped buildings together, is modeled after the ancient Coliseum. You may notice the overabundance of acorn designs. John Wood also drew on the Celtic Druids’ reverence for oak trees and used an acorn motif to complete his venture.

The Montacute House is a wonderful example of Elizabethan architecture; it is difficult to have a 16th century home that has been so strikingly preserved throughout the ages. Sir Edward Phelips turned his dream of the perfect manor house into a reality at Montacute. You can also find a cafe, a restaurant, gardens, and stunning paintings and artifacts here. You should know when you will be visiting and find out if the gardens and/or manor house will be open to the public at that particular time.

You can’t visit Bath without seeing the famous Avon River and capturing this beautiful sight in your memory banks. You can tour by boat or just sit by the banks and read, draw or record your feelings for future reference (if you have a few quiet moments during your visit, of course!) It’s highly recommended to soak in Bath’s beauty because once you leave you’ll wish you had remembered every tiny detail.

For a shopping experience, try Rossiter’s, which is one of England’s equivalents to the “up-scale” American department stores. Even if high prices cause you to be content with window-shopping, the exterior of the store is also beautiful to look at. It is a merchant’s home, built in the early 18th century.

Top Spiritual Travel Destinations of the World

Faith is a powerful motivator, and sometimes it motivates us to travel to spiritual sites all over the world and see the places that our ancestors considered to be holy. Many faiths have their own shrines, memorials and quiet places of reflection that are soothing to the soul. To get away from the deafening noise and uncomfortable claustrophobia of big-city travel, try seeking out some spiritual destinations that will soothe and relax your spirit.

You don’t only have to see the places of your own religion; spirituality can be comforting in any faith, and peace can be found at any religious haven regardless of your own creed. The world is scattered with these monuments of faith; some are huge shrines with throngs of people; others are tiny chapels on beautiful grounds with many places to relax and unwind. The spiritual traveler need only know where to look.

It doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re traversing, because you’ll always be able to find a sanctuary that speaks to your inner being. Whether you’re traveling to the Middle East, Europe, or even staying in America, you will find a place where you can feel at ease and can uplift your faith.

Europe
France’s Lourdes Shrine (Catholic)

Lourdes Shrine is one of the most well-known religious retreats in the world; many rank it second in importance to the holy city of Rome. Church history says a girl named Bernadette witnessed the miraculous vision of the Virgin many times in the year 1858. The site soon became a shrine where miracles are purported to have happened, and is a wonderful place of pilgrimage. Millions of Catholics, originating from all over the world, visit each year to witness the spot where the visions occurred. The town itself, outside of the shrine, is a great destination as well. The Pyrenees Mountains stretch out above the quaint town; climb as high as you can to enjoy a wonderful view that will also fill you with a spiritual calmness and serenity.

Vatican City (Catholic)

It’s strange to think that Vatican City is actually a country in its own right, but the idea is catching on. Since time immemorial, Rome has been a sight of pilgrimage not only to Catholics, but to Christians of all denominations. Vatican City, a dependency, is home to the Pope, the Holy Father of the Catholic faithful, and many monuments to Catholic faith. The larger city of Rome, of course, encompasses many more Christian monuments that are of interest to both Catholics and Protestants. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Catacombs where countless early Christians are buried are just some of the things to see here.

Germany’s Castle Church Door, Wittenberg (Protestant)

Those of the Protestant faith may consider Wittenberg’s Castle Church a sort of “shrine” in its own right; it was here in the turbulent year of 1517 that Dr. Martin Luther put up his “95 Theses,” shaking the age-old authority of the Catholic Church. This act led to a religious revolution that soon turned many from the Catholic hierarchy and to a new faith eventually known as Protestantism. Although the door on which the Theses were posted was destroyed by an 18th century fire, a bronze door emblazoned with the 95 Theses now stands in its place.

Middle East
Mecca (Muslim)

The obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca is rooted deep in Muslim religious traditions. For hundreds of years, followers of Islam have been coming to the shrine of Mecca, participating in various religious rituals including the “Stoning of the Devil” and purification ceremonies. Any Muslim who is able to travel physically and financially is firmly urged to complete this mission. Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia, is a huge place complete with a mysterious black stone that sits in the middle of the Kaaba shrine. This stone is considered to be of special symbolism and was not destroyed when Muhammad purportedly destroyed the other idols of pagan Mecca.

The Wailing Wall (Jewish)

Although not strictly of interest only to Jewish visitors, those of the Jewish faith hold Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall in high regards. It has long been a place to pray, to worship together, and to soak in the spiritual symbolism of the ruins. The wall is said to be the only remains of Solomon’s temple. Christian visitors will also find a peace in coming to pray here in this holy place, and may wish to leave a note or a prayer to put between the cracks in the ancient walls.

Camping at a State or County Park

By Christina VanGinkel

With summer still several months away, I am already looking forward to the weekends when we can escape to the woods for some spontaneous camping outings. We live in the north woods of Wisconsin, where campgrounds at state and county parks are in abundance, but no matter where you live, there are probably at least a few similar within easy driving distance of your home. Operated by the individual states and/or counties, park fees may differ but are usually quite affordable. Amenities will also vary, but a quick phone call to the park you are interested in staying at will provide you with the answers you need, and also alert you to the facts of whether they take reservations or not. If you plan to stay at a park during peak camping season or during any of the summer holidays, such as the Fourth of July, or Memorial weekend for example, reservations may be prudent.

Most state and county parks offer electricity hookups at a percentage of their spaces. Some offer bathroom access, but this can vary from flush toilets to old fashioned out houses. Some of the more modern facilities may even offer hookups for motor homes. Shower facilities are also occasionally available, but this is rare at those campgrounds close by to where we live. Many of these same parks also offer cottages on a rental basis. Surprisingly, the one closest to where we live offers two cottages for rent on a day or by the week basis, yet we never knew about them until this past year, as they do not advertise them locally. If you are interested in staying at a county or state facility but would rather not stay in a tent or camper, then be sure to inquire if the campground you will be staying at has any cabins available. Again, fees vary, but are usually much cheaper than if you rented a similar cabin through a private person or business.

Camping can be the ideal getaway if you enjoy the outdoors, and if you prepare for it in a practical manner. Too often, a camping expedition of a single overnight stay, or even one that is going to last two or three days, will account for enough supplies being gathered that you could potentially stay for weeks, and still realizing that you forgot essentials. Packing sensibly will not only make the getaway more convenient as you will have less to carry, it will also be friendlier to your budget, as you will not be paying high prices for forgotten items at a gas station or convenience store. Follow a few set preparations each time you plan to head out for the night or weekend, and you will be soon wondering why you do not do this more often. First, make sure the campground you will be staying at has openings. Check the equipment you will be using for sleeping. If it is a tent, waterproof it each season, and as needed throughout the season, depending on how often you use it. If you have a camper, at the start of each season, go through your checklist of what was closed down and prepared for winterizing at the end of the previous season. Drain any antifreeze that you poured into drains, check the gas levels on stoves, and go over any windows, doors, and the ceiling for any damage that might have occurred during storage. In addition, check tire wear, and remove any winterizing such as mothballs or mousetraps. Your local service provider can provide you with a more complete list of items to check each season. Keep sleeping bags clean and ready to go, and be sure to use those that are properly rated for the coldest temperatures you plan to use them. If you do camp often, a second set of sleeping bags may be a good idea, especially if you camp during more than one season. Keep your cooking supplies ready and separate from other household equipment. This will save you from arriving at your destination and realizing you forgot several pertinent pieces of cooking gear. Food will need to be packed each trip, and you will need to judge how long you will be gone, and how you plan to eat. We always fill up on lots of trail type foods that are easy to toss in a pack for a hike or that do not take a lot of preparation. Coolers are part of your cooking gear, and should always be cleaned and stored after each trip so they are ready for your next time out. Clothing will need to be packed each time, and you should pack in what I refer to as layers. Even if the temperatures are supposed to be warm, still take into consideration cold evenings and nights, and the unexpected downpours that are every camper’s best friend! Shoes should always travel in two, two pair that is, with extra socks. Shoes can become wet, and if you plan to hike, good quality hiking boots are a necessity.

Camping getaways are great stress busters and easy on a budget, especially when you plan accordingly. If you think, you would like to try a camping getaway, check with your local or county park for a list of those campgrounds within easy driving distance of your home, and get set to experience what relaxation is really all about.

Grab a Danish and Visit Copenhagen!

Denmark . . . land of the Vikings. These fair-skinned warriors came from Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and their ancestors who began the city of Copenhagen were determined to create a city that would stand the test of time. Those who visit Copenhagen will see it in a variety of ways; some will see many parallels with a modern city of America, and others will notice the age of its monuments and the attention to historical detail. Copenhagen is a huge part of Denmark’s ancient history. The city’s name means “merchant’s harbor,” attesting to the seagoing past of this illustrious city.

Copenhagen perhaps would not have existed if a medieval fortification would not have been built here in the mid 12th century. Despite these humble beginnings, Copenhagen grew into the massive city that is now a huge part of Denmark’s tourist industry. Surprisingly, it is located on two islands (Zealand and part of Amager) and is not a “landed” city. The strait of Oresund runs between the city and Sweden; on a clear day, you might imagine that you are able to see the neighborhood country while standing on the shore.

No European city seems quite complete without its own castle, or in Copenhagen’s case, a few castles. Rosenborg Castle was begun in the 17th century by Denmark’s King Christian and was not harmed by the fire and warfare that destroyed the main city. As a result, the castle has not changed the appearance that it had during its early days and is a monument to good fortune and the opulence of Denmark’s royalty. Once inside the castle, you will find that all of the rooms are named for one of Denmark’s past monarchs and each part of the castle holds its own treasures. Just some of the things you can see include the king’s and queen’s separate living quarters, a dining hall, and wonderful decor such as tapestries and paintings.

Check informational brochures to see if and when Amalienborg Castle will be open during your visit. Amalienborg is still used as the home of Denmark’s royalty and is a beautiful architectural achievement. The facade is huge and covered with ornate walkways and columns; think Colonial Williamsburg-type buildings and you’ll have a good idea of the opulence of Amalienborg. If you are lucky enough to be at the castle in the middle of the day, check out the changing of the guard at noon. This is a daily event.

No trip to Copenhagen is complete without a visit to the city’s national museum. It is always good to understand the history and the full importance of the places you will be seeing. The exhibits include huge collections of paintings and antiques. If you are interested in art and culture, spend at least half a day here soaking up the history of this grand city, and perhaps gaining a new appreciation of artistic design.

Do you have any idea what a “botanisk have” is? It’s a Botanical Garden located at the University of Copenhagen. It is home to countless arrays of plants and provides a beautiful natural setting. Small parts of the old walls that once stood here can be found throughout the gardens, mixing the old with the new. You probably would not expect to see a cactus in Copenhagen, but you can that species here as well! The Botanical Garden is a great experience for flower enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. It should be noted that most, but not all exhibits are available to visitors, so find out what will be on the agenda when you visit.

For a unique religious experience, visit the Marble Church. Like many grand churches and cathedrals of Europe, this church wasn’t finished at one time, but was gradually worked on over the years. Marble Church wasn’t actually completed until the late 19th century, but visitors will attest that it was worth the wait! The first builders of the Marble Church (Frederikskirke) wanted to give Rome’s St. Peter’s Cathedral a run for its money, but due to the long time it took to complete the building, this was a dream not quickly realized. Good hikers can climb almost 300 steps and find the church’s balcony; it’s a long haul, but the view of the city will be well worth the exertion.

Venice on a Dime – Inexpensive or Free Attractions

Venice, Italy has been known for centuries as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Idyllic canals, gondola rides, and architectural wonders fit for royalty are just some of the exciting things you can see here. If you’re like me, however, longing to travel the world and not having the hugest budget, you’ll need to know where in the historic city of Venice you can go without spending every last penny.

Top priority before you travel is finding a hotel before you start your vacation. Ideally, we would all have long lists of possible lodging, call to find out rates and amenities, and have everything arranged by the time we arrive. Spur-of-the-moment travelers often don’t use that logic. They get to Venice in one piece and have to start from scratch concerning lodging. If you’re traveling with a friend, share a room; it will cost less and leave you more cash for more important ventures (like sightseeing and eating!)

Don’t think that every hotel in Venice is beyond your price range; talk to tourists who have visited before, find out which places have the best amenities and cost less. Ask locals what they recommend. It’s a great relief to finally have a room to flop down your bags, change into some comfortable clothes, and begin your tour of Venice.

It’s true that the best things in life are free; looking doesn’t cost anything! Take in the fabulous sights of the canal bridges, Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square, and the cathedral basilica. Don’t forget plenty of film or a digital camera. You can spend the whole day enjoying beautiful Venice’s nooks and crannies and still have every precious cent safe inside your pockets.

For a little history: Doge’s Palace, home to some of Venice’s most well-known architecture, is a whimsical centuries-old residence that has been many different things over the years. It was used for law, administrations, political gatherings and even a jail until about 200 years ago when Venice underwent political changes. St. Mark’s Basilica is also a beautiful building where you should expect to take many pictures. Standing outside and gawking at the architecture, wondering how someone could construct such a church without modern technology will be a priceless vacation memory.

St. Mark’s Square (or more romantically, Piazza San Marcos) is an essential Venice stop-off. Try to get here in the early morning (the later the day progresses, the more crowds you’re sure to find). Take a journal or video camera to record what you’re seeing and the thoughts that come to mind. For a cheap, quick lunch, don’t opt for the four-star Italian restaurant that’s being talked about in all the culinary magazines; try a simple slice of pizza! What’s more authentic than pizza in Italy? (Whether or not it originated in that country). Don’t waste your sightseeing time sitting in a crowded restaurant. Take your lunch with you to St. Mark’s Square, the slopes of the canals, or a quiet public staircase (if anything in Venice can indeed be quiet).

Another idea to save money while vacationing in Venice is to buy one larger meal that will serve as both lunch and dinner. Around 2:00 P.M. or so, spend $20 on an Italian meal at a not-so-ritzy restaurant. You won’t be hungry again at dinnertime and won’t have to spend another $20 on another meal. If it’s a restaurant that allows you to take “doggie-bags,” bring back a little in case you do get hungry later, instead of going out on a snack binge. There are little ways to save money in every part of your vacation if you put your mind to being frugal.

Want to know another attraction that doesn’t cost a cent? Travel outside of Venice for an outstanding island known as Burano. You won’t find an abundance of marketplaces or restaurants here, but the architecture alone is enough reason to visit. Stroll through the streets and find beautifully decorated riverfront homes in many colors. The place has the air of antiquity, resembling a busy harbor of the olden days. Like Venice, canals split the streets; if you haggle enough, you may be able to get a boat ride. You won’t leave Venice (and Burano) without dozens of pictures. Of course, even that many pictures may not do these beautiful cities justice.

Visit a Roy’s Restaurant on your Next Trip

By Christina VanGinkel

If you happen to be in one of the states that have a Roy’s Restaurant, and you are looking for a meal that will leave you satisfied and wanting to make your next reservation before you are even finished with the meal in front of you, then check out this restaurant chain. Located in the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas, these restaurants are the culmination of a man’s memories of his childhood, when he visited Maui with his grandparents. There, he was treated to the dishes of the islands fresh from the oceans, and these mouth watering delicacies made such an impression on that child that years later he vowed to bring those tastes and feelings to his own customers.

Roy Yamaguchi, though born in Tokyo, must have a bit of his heart from Hawaii, because he has managed to make sure that each of his restaurants makes you feel as if you are in Hawaii, at least a bit, even if you happen to be seated in Maryland or Pennsylvania.

A Culinary Institute of America graduate; he continued his education in the art of food and went on to become a Master Chef. All of these experiences and education prepared him to open his first restaurant in 1984 in Los Angeles, though it was not a Roy’s Restaurant as so many have come to know and love. Not until 1988, when he returned to Hawaii, did he open the first of what was to become many Roy’s Restaurants.

He has dubbed his menu what he refers to as Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, which is literally a fusion of those first dishes he tasted when visiting Maui with his grandparents and local ingredients (which is a testimony to his own excellent tastes and ability to take regular foods and turn them into some of the finest dishes you will ever taste). Add to that fresh fish, along with some of his own favored European sauces, and Asian spices, a mouth-watering assortment of desserts, and you have a menu that will please even the most discerning diner.

I visited my first Roy’s restaurant many years ago when on vacation with family members, and my brother promised me a meal that would make all future dining experiences pale in comparison. The thing you need to know though is that I was never a fan of seafood or fish. I enjoyed the occasional deep fried shrimp basket at a local diner, along with a side of just as deep fried French fries, but somehow, I do not think that qualifies as having a basis to say that I liked seafood. Actually, if asked back then, I would have chosen any other style of restaurant o go to over one that served mainly, as I saw it, fish and seafood. My brother promised me a meal to remember and one that I would definitely enjoy, and so with just a bit more prompting, we went.

I did enjoy the meal, immensely. It was a full course meal, starting with an appetizer, followed up with Hibachi Style Grilled Salmon which was as mouth watering as it sounds. This was followed by a dessert that I cannot remember the name of, but was the most tempting display of chocolate in a souffle type serving that I have ever had. To top the whole meal off, the pricing was not even that outrageous. I believe that for four of us, our meal came to less than two hundred dollars. My brother paid on that occasion, so for me the price was even better.

I have since gone on to recommend these restaurants every chance I get, and I can promise you that you will enjoy both the cuisine and the atmosphere at any Roy’s Restaurant you visit. Gift cards are available for gift giving at any of their locations, or they can also be ordered online. If you have friends or family nearby one of their many locales, a gift card for a meal out would be an excellent choice of gift for just about any occasion I can think of. Gift cards are designed to be as pleasing to the eye as the meal it will provide will be mouth watering delicious!

Other Things To Do In Las Vegas

When most people think of Las Vegas, they think of the strip – casinos, drinks, shows, lavish hotels, and Elvis impersonators. However, there are many more things to experience in the Las Vegas area. This area of our country is beautiful and offers wonderful landscapes often overlooked by the casual traveler. Las Vegas is also a town full of history that is fun to experience. After a few days of Las Vegas drama, you might welcome the change that these sites bring.

Red Rock Canyon
Not far from Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon Park. This area offers a beautiful, unique landscape that can be breathtaking for those used to the city. Drive on a winding road that weaves through enormous red rock formations. Pack a meal and stop at one of the picnic areas for a memorable outing. Several designated areas are perfect for light recreational rock climbing or relaxing on a high rock overlooking the beautiful landscape. Trails are labeled for those who want to connect with nature and get some exercise. Whether you decide to just drive through or if you stop and enjoy the outdoors, this is one unique location that should not be passed up.

Fremont Street
Visit Fremont Street to experience the history of Las Vegas casinos. This older strip of casinos gives you the feeling of the rat pack days. Back in the day, this was where everything was happening in Las Vegas. Today, this smaller and older casino area is not quite as lavish as the newer strip, but still a fun experience. Live music often fills the streets, and everything is alive. Visit at night to see the famous lighted outdoor ceiling. This extensive overhead display is hard to describe with words. Frequent “shows” are played out in lights to music for your enjoyment. Go see it for yourself… it is definitely worth your while.

Hoover Dam
If you are up for a drive through the desert, Hoover Dam is an excellent destination. Scheduled tours are available if you enjoy them and want to learn more about the function and history of the dam. If you do not enjoy tours, simply driving through the area surround the dam and seeing the dam itself are worth the experience. The winding roads leading up to the dam display a beautiful landscape. The dam itself is an astonishing site to see. Do not just drive over the dam. Make sure you get out of your car and gaze down into the concrete dam. At night, the dam is lit and becomes even more dramatic and beautiful.

The Grand Canyon
Many daytrips to the Grand Canyon originate from Las Vegas. You can plan ahead, or decide to join one while on your vacation. Many hotels and ticket booths on the Las Vegas strip sell these tickets. Usually a bus will pick you up from a location on the Las Vegas strip in the morning, take you to the Grand Canyon, and return to the strip in the afternoon or evening. If you have access to a car, you can plan your own site seeing trip that includes the Grand Canyon. If you plan ahead, you might be able to find a travel package that includes a Grand Canyon tour at a steep discount.

The Desert
If you are not familiar with the desert landscape, you might enjoy simply driving out into the desert and seeing what it has to offer. The desert offers many unique features that can create a fun experience for a visitor.

Museums
Escape into one of the many museums found in Las Vegas to learn about Las Vegas history, or to see some interesting items. Ask at your hotel desk for brochures on the local museums. Some hotels themselves even contain free museums for guests.

For more ideas on unique things to do in Las Vegas, ask someone at your hotel desk, a waitress, or a local Las Vegas resident to recommend some must see or unique sites. After a few days in sin city, it is easy to grow tired of the noise, lights, and mayhem. A change of scenery can be most welcome!

So, next time you visit Las Vegas, plan to see a bit of history, or visit a natural or man-made wonder. It will certainly help balance the craziness of the strip, and give you a more well-rounded experience.