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About the author  ⁄ Susan Tucker

Susan lives with her husband, two young sons, and a new super-cute puppy near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado. When she’s not chasing her boys on the ski slopes or watching them on the sidelines of the soccer fields, she helps start-ups with social media and online marketing. Susan is social media junkie and you can often find her live tweeting from just about everywhere she goes.

Fall is a spectacular time of year to travel. In some ways, I enjoy fall travel more than summer travel. It’s cooler outside, the leaves are changing and there is a cozy feeling in the air. There are usually less crowds and a long weekend is often a welcome respite from the initial back to school craziness.

long weekend travel ideas

From where to go to beat the crowds to navigating school obligations, here are your long weekend travel ideas.

Deal sites for travel deals

If you’re not sure where to go on your long travel weekend, check out deal sites. Living Social and Groupon offer a travel section, and other popular travel sites (Kayak, Travelocity, Hotwire, Last Minute Travel, etc) have entire pages dedicated to long travel weekends. Go in with an open mind and flexible travel dates and you’ll be surprised at how many options there are for long weekend getaways.

Social media for travel ideas

Chances are you have friends who like the same things as you do. Reach out through social media to find out what some of your friends favorite long weekend travel ideas are. My group of mommy friends has talked about putting together a shareable document for each person to add little travel tips and tidbits to (such as awesome campsites or kid-friendly resorts). A Facebook Group and/or a group Pinterest board are additional spots to share travel ideas.

Prepping the school for your long weekend

If your family decides to travel on a designated long weekend, obviously no prepping is needed. However, some families may want to extend a weekend on a non-school-designated long weekend in which case it’s a good idea to prepare. Tell (don’t ask) the school and the teachers; find out what work your kids need to take with them in order not to fall behind and prep your children that they will need to set aside some time for school work during the long weekend.

Enjoying your time away

Of course, you want to squeeze in as much family and relaxation time as possible on your long travel weekend, so here are some tips for making the most of it: only book non-stop flights, try to pack only carry ons, stay in a hotel close to the action (or in an all-inclusive resort), pre-plan the “bigger” activities and don’t plan the rest (so you can plan TO rest) and make sure you’re prepared with your clothing… fall is an unpredictable season in most parts of the US.

Now that you have some long weekend travel ideas, it’s time to book your trip! Let me know how your trip goes.


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When your family consists of more than one child, life can oftentimes feel like a survival series. Once school is back in session — with the constant stream of after-school activities, homework and getting ready for the holidays — life can seem like a tornado coming at you full speed ahead. Slow down and connect with each of your children by planning a one-on-one travel date and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn about your kid and how much fun you can have.

kid travel ideas travel date

I have been lucky enough to take each of my kids on a one-on-one travel date and to some pretty cool spots, too. On these trips, I have had the MOST fun connecting with each of my boys and I hope to make this a regular event.

Planning your one-on-one kid vacation

When you’re coming up with kid travel ideas for your one-on-one travel date, it’s really important to focus on what your kid likes. If your kids are anything like my kids, they have completely different interests. My older one is more adventurous and athletic, while my younger one is inclined to take things more slowly. Needless to say, each of our trips will be completely different, and it’s important to plan accordingly.

Here are some tips:

  • Include your child in the planning process. What activities does he want to do? Where would he want to go? How does he want to spend his one-on-one time with you?
  • Coordinate with school. Your kid will survive a few days out of school – you’ll make it educational anyway, right? Ask your child’s teacher any work you can take along with you on the trip and carve out time daily to complete it.
  • Prep your other child(ren) for your special one-on-one time and simply remind them that their time will soon come, too. You may also need to prep your spouse (you can encourage him/her to enjoy their own special time with the kid who is staying).
  • In fact, you should encourage your spouse to take his own travel date with the kids. He will give them a totally different, completely memorable experience.
  • Choose a destination that will give you a variety of activities, and give you maximum flexibility. I  know in both of my one-on-one travel dates, I had all these grandiose plans for how things would go, but something inevitably happens. Must. Be. Flexible.
  • If you’re heading out of the country (and might I recommend Mexico or the Bahamas?), you should go ahead and order your child’s passport. Actually, go ahead and order their passport anyway (we should all have an up-to-date passport!)
  • Also, when traveling without the other parent, it is required by law to bring a notarized letter acknowledging the trip is ok. Read more about this on the US Border Patrol and Customs Protection website.
  • Record as much as you can; video, photos, journaling. Then, when you get home create a hard copy photo album and an online album, too.

I found that traveling one-on-one with each of my kids incredibly eye-opening. Come to find out my oldest is not nearly as aggravating when his little brother isn’t around, and my youngest is much more self-sufficient than I give him credit for. I was able to get to know my kids individually without the distractions of everyday life.

one on one travel date collage

Getting away with one of your kids is totally fun and incredibly rewarding. Look at that face!

Kid travel ideas

Plan a BIG trip for a particular birthday, such as Hawaii, Europe, or even a long road trip and plan to go on big adventures. (Your spouse may be jealous, but you and your special guy will have the trip of a lifetime!).

Can’t do a big trip? No problem, stay stateside. Our friend Tonya of Letters for Lucas, recently took her guy to Chicago, Keryn of Walking on Travels took her little guy on a boat in Seattle and I was able to spend a few days with my little one here at Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado. The point is, that there are so many options for adventure when you consider the what kind of stuff your kid is into.

So, what if you don’t have the budget to fly somewhere? Consider a stay-cation in your very own community!  I have not done this yet, but I love the idea of taking one of my boys to a local hotel (that has a pool) and staying the night. We would consider local “adventures” and I would let them run the show.

Really the possibilities are endless when thinking about kid travel ideas. They enjoy the one-on-one time as much as we do.

one on one travel date collage

A one-on-one travel date will create lasting memories. I sure do love this kid!

Your family is a precious commodity and investing in life’s moments not only adds a richness, it also creates a deeper connection when you take the time to create memorable one-on-one moments. It just goes by too quickly!

What are your favorite kid travel ideas for a one-on-one travel date?
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The United States has 29 National Memorials spanning 14 states. These national landmarks have been a part of our nation since the first one (Washington Monument) was designated in 1884; they range in structure from statues to buildings to natural settings. All are spectacular in their own right, but few are as breathtaking as Mount Rushmore.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

I have been dreaming about a trip to Mount Rushmore for longer than I can remember. Before I had kids, I would envision the whole family road tripping to this iconic landmark. Finally, this summer, my dream became a reality. Our Mount Rushmore vacation was everything I dreamed it would be, and more!

Little did I know the Black Hills area around the monument was so packed full of wonderful family activities. If you have ever considered a Mount Rushmore vacation, plan to stay a while and check out the beauty and family-friendliness of South Dakota.

Here are my Mount Rushmore vacation travel tips.
Where to Stay

First off, if you plan a Mount Rushmore vacation, you’re going to camp, right? If there is no camping in your future, you may consider checking out this site for a long list of hotel-ish lodging options.

For a camping family like ours, I cannot recommend highly enough Custer State Park. There are more than a dozen campgrounds to choose from: from group to waterside to wooded sites, there are a variety of campsite choices for every style family. Our campground was nestled in the woods. The kids enjoyed running through the trees with other kids at the campground.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

Another great campground, which is a bit further from Mount Rushmore (about 1.5 hours), is at Angostura State Recreation Area. We loved our waterfront campsite and the kids thoroughly enjoyed riding bikes on paths next to the reservoir.

You may also like: 7 Off-the-beaten-path National Parks you must visit this summer

What to Do

Learn the history of Mount Rushmore. An awe-inspiring, larger-than-life sculpture, Mount Rushmore is a sight to behold. You cannot help but to feel your national pride as you approach these four stone faces whittled into the mountainside. The history of how it came to be, why these particular presidents were chosen and the lives of the men who helped create it, helps to connect us to the rich heritage we share. Take time to enjoy the presentation offering once you are there.

Watch a guy wrestle a gator. Reptile Gardens recently won the Guinness Book of World Records as being the World’s Largest Reptile Zoo, and boy, do they have a TON of reptiles! If you’re not squeamish (and some of us in this family are), you can enjoy a sneak peak into the lives of thousands of lizards, bugs, tortoises, crocodiles, alligators…the list goes on and on. Needless to say, for two certain boys, this was the coolest thing EVER! Oh, and gator wresting shows are scheduled five times a day. Those guys are crazy.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore | reptile gardens

Visit the city of presidents. The bronze presidential statues in historic Rapid City are hidden gems of South Dakota. Take a stroll through downtown and challenge your kids to guess the president and era they were in office. Good educational fun!

See a live paleontological dig. The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs is an undeniably unique experience. More than 26,000 years ago a spring-fed pond claimed hundreds of mammoths and other animals of the era. The earth shifted and bones were buried. To date, more than 61 mammoths have been identified. If you think these enormous animals are the product of a movie writer’s imagination, think again! This live dig is a spectacular treat into prehistoric times.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

Get your hat blown off. Wind Cave National Park, about 45 minutes from Mount Rushmore, is spelunker heaven. Tucked beneath rolling, Bison filled prairies, lie hundreds of miles of underground passageways, rooms, and geological gems – with more being discovered daily. Wind Cave gets the name from the wind pressure that comes from the caves only natural opening. Stick your head in the hole and your hat blows right off.

You may also like: Summer travel pinspiration

Make it Fun

We love, love, loved the Jr. Ranger Program offered at all National Parks, as well as Mount Rushmore. Custer State Park also had a similar program called Junior Naturalist Program. The Jr. Ranger Program is activity-based and jam-packed with fun facts and info that is easily digestible for short attention spans. Our kids loved the activity books, the trivia questions, and fact-finding on-site activities.

Our favorite activity was during the Junior Naturalist Program of Custer State Park which included an 18-mile Wildlife Loop drive with a State Park Ranger. We learned all about Bison, were able to feed wild burros and enjoy a wild-raspberry lined hike.

Celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

A trip to Mount Rushmore is so much more than a trip to Mount Rushmore! Dive into the culture, the history, and the beauty that South Dakota has to offer.

You may also like: Family fun in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Have you ever been? What were your favorite Mount Rushmore vacation activites?
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The kids are back in school after a fun-filled summer of family time. What better way to celebrate – ahem, I mean grieve – than to plan a little weekend getaway with the hubs.

grownup getaways | couples vacation

Fall is a great time to plan a couple’s vacation; there are travel deals galore. In order to start planning your grownup getaway, first you should decide what type of vacation you want. Do you want to lie leisurely on the beach? Seek thrills? Party in Vegas? Go on a cruise? Whatever you decide get started with your plans now.

Making Your Grownup Getaway Plan

In order to get your ball in motion, you need to make a plan. Here are some quick tips for moving forward.

  • Download your favorite travel apps and start your research.
  • Determine whether you want a luxury couple’s vacation or if you need to stick to a limited budget.
  • Maximize your leisure time together by choosing a destination within a couple hours (plane or drive time) away.
  • Commit to a digital detox during your special time together. There is nothing less romantic than constantly checking your phone.
  • Open your mind to new experiences and be flexible in your grownup getaway plan.
  • Just because you have planned a couple’s weekend, doesn’t mean you can’t take the kids with you. Many resorts offer wonderful kid programs and babysitters onsite.
Getaway Ideas for a Couples Vacation

grownup getaways | couples vacation

Go on an urban retreat

Heading to a larger city can be a great way to stimulate all the senses; Broadway shows, cultural exhibitions, museums and a wide array of restaurant offerings. The sights, sounds, smells and activities in a bustling city can be just the thing you need to reconnect on a wonderfully adult, kid-free level.

You may like: City Gems: Seattle, Vancouver, BC, Date Night in Chicago or Toronto in the Fall.

Romp at a ranch

On the opposite end of the spectrum from an urban retreat, is an adults-only weekend at a wide-open ranch. If you spend much of your time around a lot of people in a tech-filled environment, you’ll love the solace a ranch can offer. Imagine horseback riding through a prairie or rounding up cattle during the day, and enjoying a relaxing spa treatment before a chef prepared meal in the evening. When you see your man being all “manly,” you’ll love him that much more (trust me).

Must Consider: Adult Only Week at Vista Verde Luxury Ranch Resort outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado

You may also: Exploring Colorado in the Fall 

Relax on a beach

Probably the most common and desired couple vacation is a beach vacation. Fruity drinks, dreamy sunsets, and a cool ocean breeze are the perfect concoction for romance, in my mind. By choosing an all-inclusive resort, you can spend more time relaxing with the hubs and less time dealing with logistics.

Places to consider: Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun, Grand Lucayan Resort in the Bahamas, The Saguarao Hotel in Palm Springs, Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar in Cabo San Lucas or the Westin in Los Cabos.

What will you be escaping to on your couple’s vacation this fall?
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Boulder, Colorado Flatirons

Image Source:

A family trip to Boulder, Colorado can be packed full of activity, food, and fun – as many top 10 lists will tell you. Find out where Boulderites like to hang out, and how you can cram in a weekend of fun in this vibrant Colorado community.

Where to Stay

Where to Stay in Boulder Boulder is home to two distinctly different, completely awesome hotels that are note-worthy. So, depending on your style and desired experience, you can choose between the two. I would recommend visiting Boulder at least twice so you can try each of them.

St. Julien Classy, sophisticated, modern and home to a world-class spa, the St. Julien is a true luxury experience. I love sipping Chardonnay in the super-comfy and oversized lobby or lounging on the patio while listening the live music. The halls are peppered with artsy-local photos, the views are spectacular and the beds are heavenly.

Hotel Boulderado Hotel Boulderado has been a Boulder staple for more than a hundred years. The historic details are simply stunning; designed to be a combination of Italian Renaissance-style with Spanish Revival features. It also has a mosaic tile floor, a stained-glass canopy ceiling and the original, still-working elevator. Taking the historical experience to the next level is easy-to-do with the recently revamped onsite lounge, License No. 1. You can access this swanky lounge through a secret door inside (password required!) or from the street. I love the throw-back vibe of the décor and the super-fancy cocktail options. Grab some apps at the onsite Corner Bar or sit down for dinner at the brand-spankin’ new restaurant Spruce (opening Aug 2014). Truly, you won’t have to leave.

Where to Eat

Where to Eat in Boulder

The bigger question is where DON’T you eat in America’s Foodiest Town (another reason to visit twice). Experience more in less time when you sign up for a Local Table Tour – you can sample several restaurants at a time – or here a few suggestions…

Aji for apps. You would not necessarily think about coming to Boulder for Latin American cuisine, but Aji can change that. I love their happy hour menu which includes a nice selection of empanadas, street tacos, and bacon wrapped dates, all topped off with a refreshing house-made Sangria. A delightful way to spend an afternoon in Boulder!

Kitchen Next Door for family-friendly dining. Sister restaurant, The Kitchen, has been a foodie favorite for years, but reserved for date nights and client dinners. When they opened up the more laid back and family-friendly Kitchen Next Door (located, next door, of course) I was thrilled. Not only do they have wine on tap (say what?), they have a delicious farm-to-table entrees, a robust kids menu (of which they donate a portion of sales to fund local kids agricultural programs) in a fun, bustling atmosphere.

Piece Love & Chocolate for dessert. Pure decadence! Sometimes I just go to Piece, Love & Chocolate to absorb the rich, earthy, sweet chocolate aroma into my system. Floor to ceiling shelves of chocolate makes this mama’s paradise on earth. Pick up some chocolate candies, a slice of decadent cake or try out a petite pastry. You won’t go wrong with any of these options.

Tip: Boulder is home to more than 20 breweries and tasting rooms. If you like beer, you can arrange your entire trip around craft brew and it will not disappoint!

You may also enjoy: Top 7 Family Friendly Restaurants in Boulder

Where to Shop

Where to Shop in Boulder McGuckin Hardware Did you forget something on your trip? No worries! McGuckin likely has whatever it is you need … they have everything. And, even if you don’t need anything it’s a great place to people watch. McGuckin, the local’s hardware – and so much more – store, is a Boulder icon. Heck, there was even a wedding thrown in the tool aisle recently.

Boulder Bookstore Thousands upon thousands of books, from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall; Boulder Bookstore is a bibliophile’s dream. Exploring three floors of books are just the beginning. Settle in for some great local conversation or set your child free in the expansive kids section and you’ve got an afternoon of entertainment set!

Emilia Ceramics When you’re in Boulder, you’ll likely want to bring home something beautiful for yourself and Emilia Ceramics will most certainly have something you cannot live without. A quaint little shop at the east end of Pearl street, you can bring home the Old World Charm of hand-painted ceramics that have been meticulously selected from artisans in Mexico and Europe.

Where to Play

What to do in Boulder

Pearl Street Street performers, shops, restaurants and street vendors pepper four full blocks of a pedestrian mall downtown Boulder. Some would say that Pearl Street is the heartbeat of Boulder; a place to experience all the great (and crazy!) things this vibrant city has to offer.

Bike the City With more than 300 days of sunshine, and an equal number of bike paths, there is no better way to dive into the city than by bike. Rent a bike at Boulder Bikesmith or at one of many rent-by-the-hour bike-share stations, then head out on the trails (many of which go right along the creek) and you can get anywhere in town.

Eldorado Springs Swimming Pool I really should not be talking about the Eldorado Swimming Pool, because it a true hidden gem of our community and part of me wants to keep it that way. Located south of Boulder, Eldorado Springs Pool has a rich history. Rumor has it even the Eisenhower’s frequented this turn of the century favorite; in fact in 1910 it was the largest pool in U.S., and folks came from across the globe to experience it. Sadly, a 1928 flood knocked out most of the resort, but we still have an awesome spring-fed pool to splash around in today, and it is spectacular.

You may also enjoy: Best Colorado Towns for a Summertime Family Getaway Boulder is unique, vibrant, outdoorsy and fun. This list of gems is just the tip of the iceberg. Come for hiking, kayaking, eating, or to simply enjoy the sunshine … activities abound!

Have you ever visited Boulder, Colorado? What were your favorite things?
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When I was offered a car to review for a week, I was like “Heck yeah! Bring on the Beamer!” but then, when they told me it was a Kia Sorento SX. I have to admit, I had a brief moment of disappointment. I thought to myself, “a Kia, really?” Boy, was I in for a nice surprise! kia sorento review The Kia Sorento SX is classed as an affordable midsize SUV, in other words it’s got mini-van features without being a “minivan.” Now, after a few days of driving this thing neither the “affordable” nor “minivan” descriptions seemed to fit. I mean, this Kia is surprisingly luxurious (smart and fun, too). It reminded of the shy, nerdy guy in high school that grew up to be the hot, well-dressed millionaire. Yep, the 2015 Kia Sorento SX is like that.   Here is a breakdown of what I loved about driving the Kia Sorento (and would still be driving it, if they didn’t have to peel me out of that fine leather drivers seat).

kia sorento

Cargo space galore

When the split-level third row seat is down, you can fit tons in the back of the car. I loaded it up with firewood for a camping trip, and couldn’t believe I could also fit all our groceries and water too.

Um, hello sunroof

Driving through the mountains was a completely different experience when you can look up from anywhere in the car — even in the backseat! — and see the amazing views. The kids thought this was a pretty sweet feature.

Built in window shades

Maybe all new cars have this feature?! I thought it was pretty nifty to have back seat window shade built into the door. I was wishing that was a feature when I had little babies riding back there. That is pretty cool and totally family friendly.

Channel 8 on Sirius

Ok, I know this is not a Kia-specific feature, having Sirius, that is. But, between the super-fancy, connected-to-everything, voice-controlled data center that easily connected to my iPhone (officially called Voice-Command Navigation with 8″ Display & SiriusXM Traffic) and the side mirrors that flash when someone is in your blind spot, this car is definitely smarter than my current car. Did I mention all the ’80’s music I enjoyed this week, too?

Manual shifting option

The Kia is an automatic, which is fabulous on a normal driving day. However, if you’re in a line of traffic going down a steep hill, having a manual option can literally save your breaks. I loved being able to downshift, quickly and easily when driving through the Colorado mountains. There are six gears to shift through. I need this car in the winter here!

Smooth ride

We took the Kia on bumpy dirt roads in the mountains, but you would never have known. I was struck not only by how smooth it drove, but by how solid if felt. THIS is a car I can feel safe with my family in, and I like that. The Kia Sorento SX is a surprising option that I would have previously never considered. It’s comfortable, roomy, easy to drive, and has some really great family-friendly features. When I look at new cars next year, this will certainly be on my list of choices! The 2015 Kia Sorento starts at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $24,995 and climbs to just shy of $42,600 for the Nappa-leather-clad SX Limited specialty trim.  While I was invited to test drive the Kia, all opinions are my own.

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The 2010 U.S. Census reveals a draw-dropping statistic… dogs are outnumbering kids, by the millions! Not only are we adding four-legged friends to the family, many of us are treating them like – or even better than – our kids. But, with 89% of Americans planning a family vacation this summer how do we prepare for dog friendly summer travel?

dog friendly summer travel

Photo credit: Rollan Budi

In a recent study performed by DogVacay, the service connecting traveling dog owners with a pet sitter in their neighborhood, 60% of dog owners stated that arranging accommodations for their dog has an impact on their vacation plans.

  • Half (50%) say finding a good kennel or pet sitter has affected planning for their vacation.
  • Over a quarter (27%) say financial challenges such as kennel fees or paying a pet deposit at a hotel have impacted their vacation plans.

Findings reveal dog owners have delayed or skipped vacations altogether, find it harder to enjoy their trip whether they’re traveling with or without Fido and face added complexities when planning a trip

So what are summer travel options when considering our furry family members?

Getting Fido There

However you’re planning to get your dog to the desired destination, make sure he has plenty of exercise right before you leave. If you’re driving to your destination, having your dog ride along is a no-brainer. Things to consider, however, are:

  • How hot will it be? Never leave your dog alone in a hot car! Even 78 degrees can get up to a sweltering 100-120 quickly. Options are to make sure to stop at places (restaurants, shops, etc) that are dog-friendly or have someone outside with the dog during that time.
  • Consider crating your dog for the car ride so that it’s safer for you and your pet. If crating is not an option, just be sure he can have a comfortable place to lie down.
  • Do not feed your dog a lot of food prior to a long car ride.

If you’re flying. Check with the airlines on their requirements. A few pet-friendly airlines are: JetBlue, Delta, Air Canada, Southwest and United.

Dog Friendly Accommodations

Booking accommodations with your dog can be tricky. If staying at a hotel, first you need to find one that will actually take the dog, then you have to read the fine print as there are often restrictions (size, weight, etc). Some of the home share sites such as HomeAway, AirBnB, and offer the pet-friendly choices.

A few sites to consider for pet-friendly accommodations are and

Here is a sample list of hotel chains that are dog friendly:

Dog Boarding

While boarding your dog is an obvious option, who wants to board their furry family member? Not me! Not only is it pricey, I would much rather have my pet with me on our summer travel adventures. However, if you have no other choices, then this isn’t a bad option. Questions to ask when choosing a spot to board your dog during summer travel:

  • Is the kennel certified? To find out if a kennel has been certified, ask to see a Voluntary Facilities Accreditation (VFA) certificate.
  • Could I tour the facility? To gain the utmost confidence in Fido’s stay during your family vacation, make sure the kennel is up to par to your standards. Is it clean? Is there a large play area? Is the staff “into dogs”? The last thing you want is for the family pet to be crated the whole time.
  • What immunizations should my pet have?
  • What kind of play/exercise time do you offer?
Dog Sitter

There are two options here; find a local dog sitter to come stay with your pet at your house or find a dog sitter at your destination. (the AirBnB for dogs!) is a pretty new service that offers either of these options. Now, either of these choice can be good as long as there is a level of trust. When inviting a dog sitter to come into your home, be sure to ask for references. not only offers dog sitting services (with pre qualified candidates), they also have a dog boarding option where your pet can stay in the home of a pet sitter (either in your home town or at your destination).

Once There

So, if you’ve decided to take your pup along on your family vacation, you may still need to consider a few things. For example, are you planning to explore your vacation area? Are dogs allowed? If not, you may not want to keep him in the hotel room all day. Plan ahead for a dog sitter (using on the days that the family will be out and about. Be sure all shots are up to date, and you may even consider an additional Bordetella shot (aka kennel cough).

No matter what you decide to do with your dog for summer family travel, educate yourself on your choices and be prepared. Fido deserves it!

Do you travel with your dog? Or leave him at home? Share your stories below.
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Sure, you’ve heard of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone. But, what about Isle Royale or Gates of the Arctic? These off the beaten path National Parks will make your summer family vacation a truly spectacular (and crowd free!) treat.

off the beaten path national parks


1. Gates of the Arctic (Alaska)

You’ll think you’ve gone back in time millions of years when you visit Gates of the Arctic, one of many parks in Alaska. There are no roads, trails, established campsites or cell phone services in this vast (8.4 million acres!) landscape. Needless to say, this park is not for the faint of heart. If you have an outdoorsy family and you want to step back in time, you’ll love the connection with nature when you fish, hike or simply watch the wildlife

2. North Cascades National Park (Washington)

Boasting more than 300 glaciers, the North Cascades National Park is less than a three-hour drive from Seattle. Kids will love the Junior Ranger Program while you and the hubs float through magnificence on a canoe trip at the new North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

As of this posting there are park alerts in effect. Be sure to check the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information.

3. Dead Horse Point (Utah)

Legends say that around the turn of the century cowboys used the top of this mesa in Utah to corral horses; at one time horses were left corralled and waterless, thus the name Dead Horse Point stuck. Regardless of this grim beginning, Dead Horse Point offers stunning views not seen in other parts of the country. A popular destination for mountain bikers and photographers, Dead Horse Point also offers a stunning backdrop for ATV’s and hikers, alike. It is routinely called Utah’s “most spectacular” state park.

4. Mesa Verde (Colorado)

History buffs will love a trip to Mesa Verde! Packed with nearly 5,000 archeological sites, there are 600 “cliff dwellings” that will give you a peak into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there A.D. 600-1300. Kids can get an in-depth look at the lives of the Pueblo Indians through the History Program for Kids and grown ups can hike the trails to the mesa top sites and cliff dwelling overlooks, and enjoy the tram service.

5. Isle Royale (Michigan)

Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale is an island 45 miles long and 9 miles wide. In prehistoric times, a large amount of copper was mined from this island, but soon became a prominent hunting and fishing ground for locals. Visitors can currently enjoy hiking, fishing, boating and kayaking. You can plan to go on one of several guided tours or even go scuba diving!

6. Shenandoah (Virginia)

Bird watching is a popular activity of the Shenandoah National Park, just 75 miles north of Washington DC. Over half the 200 species of birds breed solely in the park, making for a spectacular and unique experience. Visitors also enjoy the park for their GeoCacheing adventures – a real-world treasure hunt! Other great family-fun includes: rock-climbing, rappelling and horseback riding.

7. Dry Tortugas (Florida)

If sand, sun and picturesque blue waters are your kind of national park trip (and who wouldn’t want that?) then, Dry Tortugas, north of Key West, is the place for you! The park is only accessible via seaplane or boat and is a part of a seven-island chain. Marine life is abundant and you can plan your entire trip around learning more about it. Camping, snorkeling, bird watching, fishing or water-gazing from white sandy beaches will complete a visit to Dry Tortugas….sounds ideal to me!

What are your favorite, crowd-free, off the beaten path national parks?
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Think you need the latest guide book for ultimate trip planning? Not with Pinterest! Plan your summer trip — AND fill your bucket list — with these tips and tricks for using Pinterest as your travel guide.

Summer Travel Pinspiration

To get started using Pinterest for summer travel inspiration, log into your Pinterest account (you have a Pinterest account, right? If not, go here to set up yours) and create your travel planning boards. I like to start with Bucket List, Destination Boards, Planning Boards and Sharing my Trip. These four categories will help you organize your travel planning, and help you easily share your experience.

Dream It

On your Bucket List board you can pin everywhere you think you want to go. Simply query your desired destination in the search bar in the upper left-hand corner or go directly to the Travel category and see what pops up. Most pins have AMAZING photography and as an added bonus, many pins link to a website that offers more information.

Now, you may not actually be able to go to most of these places, but searching the options will help inspire an actual trip. Once you’ve become inspired you can create boards of specific places you can realistically go to, these will be your Destination Boards.

Tip: If you’re not sure you want all your followers to know your travel plans, make your board a Secret Board

Summer Travel Pinspiration

Plan It

Once you have created a few Destination Boards, now it’s time to create your Planning Boards. For example, I am planning a trip to Mt. Rushmore with the family this summer. I have created several boards around this trip: Camping near Mt. Rushmore, Where to Eat in Rapid City, Things to do with Kids in South Dakota, History of Mt. Rushmore and — of course! — Hiking Outfit Ideas. Not only have I found great tips and ideas through Pinterest, I have also pinned posts from all over the Internet to these boards (such as the area’s tourism department and other local sources.)

You can also use the autofill tool of the search bar to find more great pins. When I typed in Mt. Rushmore, I got the option to choose from “Mt. Rushmore Vacation”, “Mt. Rushmore Trip” and others. Another great way to find relevant pins is when you find a pin you like, Pinterest will suggest other pins and pinners pinning similar content (that’s a lot of “pinning”)!

Tip: Don’t just stick to pinning images… videos, infographics, and slides make for great content, as well!

Summer Travel Pinspiration

Share It

Did you discover a new or interesting café on your trip? Or did you capture some really amazing images? Share your experiences, too! Not only can you share your images, you can map your trip using Pinterest’s new-ish feature called Place Pins. This offers a great visual to look back on after your trip.

Tip: Invite your friends to share with you on a few of your travel planning boards. If they like something you likely will, too!

What Pinterest Boards are inspiring YOUR summer travel?
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I didn’t get the opportunity to go to an overnight camp until I was about 15 years old. It was one of the best, most memorable experiences I have had in my life and I always wished I could have gone to one earlier in my childhood. Maybe you also went to camp – or wanted to – and are looking forward to offering your child this same kind of experience. But how can you determine if overnight summer camp is right for your child? And, how can you prepare?

is overnight camp right for your child | savvy sassy moms

Image sources: Unsplash, Camp Chief Ouray

I recently sat down with the Assistant Director of Camp Chief Ouray (CCO), Matt “Sully” Sullivan, to get his feedback on whether my son would be ready for his first camp later this summer and how I can prepare for a positive experience for him AND for myself. Here is what he had to say.

Are there any personality types that should NOT go to an overnight camp?

In short, no. Sully says that overnight summer camp can be for every personality type. Not only that, but at CCO, they actually specifically hire counselors of all personality types to help all campers feel welcome. In this type of diverse-activities camp, I think this is fabulous. That way, campers can chose an activity that appeals to them (this particular camp option has many to choose from), and they will likely have camp counselors they can relate to and therefore help make them feel more comfortable.

Taking this concept one step farther, I also discovered that there are tons of overnight camp options that actually appeal to many personality types: outdoorsy camp, sports camp, music camp, acting camp, artsy camp… the list goes on!

What steps are taken to make sure my child is protected at overnight camp?

Every single camp counselor and staff member at CCO undergoes stringent background checks (checked against the Central Registry for Crimes Against Children and the Colorado FBI) and is chosen through a detailed application and interview process. Protocols are in place to make sure campers are in the safest possible situation and never alone with only one staff member. Also, counselors have extensive training for any possible bullying situation.

Here are some questions to ask for any overnight camps you are considering: are criminal backgrounds checked on all your employees? Is each person checked through the National Sex offender registry? What steps are you taking to decrease the risk of bullying at camp? Are you accredited by the ACA?

Always trust your gut and if you’re having doubts about a particular camp, don’t do it.

Tip: Another great resources for child safety is

How can I prepare my child for overnight camp?

Here are Sully’s tips for preparing your child for overnight camp:

  • Spend several months building up the excitement
  • Talk about it a lot and encourage your child to share his or her feelings about spending time at an overnight camp without you
  • Give your child plenty of opportunities to sleep in a variety of places through sleepovers, staying in hotel beds, camping – anything to help them become comfortable in different environments.
  • Have an open mind
How can I prepare myself for sending my child to overnight camp?

I am pretty sure my child is ready for sleep away camp, but I may not be. Sully recommended, in order to prepare mentally, that I plan something special with the hubs, as well use as all of the tips listed above that I will be doing to prep my child.

Overnight camp can be a wonderful experience for children. Not only will gain self-confidence and new skills, they will also take with them a lifetime of memories. I wish I could go back!

What are your favorite overnight camp memories? I’d love to hear them!


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