Five “I Will Not Travel Without” Items

Travel items
Travel items

Everyone has a security blanket.  No, not some warm piece of fabric that we’ve been carrying around since childhood.  In this case, the security blanket is the item(s) that you simply won’t leave behind because they either mean that much to you or they are really that practical.  Doesn’t matter if I’m hopping flights, camping out or simply visiting family, there are five items that I won’t travel without.  Want to know what they are?

1) Towel.  Scoff and mock all you want, but I will always have some form of towel on me when I travel.  Doesn’t need to be huge, just a hand towel will do (a washcloth is too small).  Why?  The best reason is because of a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I won’t spoil anything.  Other reasons are because it’s great to dry off with, wrap fragile items in, use as an emergency “here I am!” beacon and you never know what kind of scuzzy hotel you could end up in.

2) Harmonica.  Small, simple and easy to carry, these little guys have never led me astray.  I’ve kept myself occupied during layovers, played for change to get to the next bus station and sat in with incredible musicians all over the world.

3) Swiss army knife.  A bit tougher to travel with in recent times, the knife is always in my pocket or in my bag (unless I’m doing carry-on).  The reasons are many and range from the ability to open wine and cut cheese on a Paris bound overnight train to fixing a bike that has a few screws loose.  If it was good enough for MacGyver, it’s good enough for me.

4) Pad and pen.  This one should be fairly obvious.  I like making paper airplanes and shooting spit-balls.  Clearly.

5) Baby powder.  Sure, laugh it up, but I always travel with a small bottle of the stuff.  Great for masking the “I’ve been stuck on a plane for hours” stench, for freshening up clothes that may have gone a touch stale and, forgive me, it keeps things from chaffing if you’re walking around for hours or days at a time.  You feet will thank you, your traveling companions will thank you and then you’ll thank me.  Simple as that.

See?  A few simple and relatively cheap things that I won’t walk out the door without.  Feel free to steal from this list.  Feel even more free to add your own “must haves” in the comments section or on my Twitter.  What won’t you leave home without?  Watches, wallets, spectacles?

Steve Zimmermann has drank with Aussies in Italy, danced on floating stages in Austria, sailed with dolphins in St. Vincent and pulled boats through creeks in Ireland.  He is a Lancaster, PA based writer who worked on the PR side of travel tourism before embarking on a career as a copywriter who happens to do a lot of traveling.  Follow him @zedcreative and say hello.

Asia’s Top 5 Honeymoon Destinations

To properly enjoy your once in a lifetime vacation, look no further than Asia. Asia is a land of enchantment and many unique honeymoon destinations can be found on this beautiful and diverse continent. From the urban centers of Hong Kong and Beijing to the jungles of Vietnam, many beautiful honeymoon destinations are waiting for you to explore. Here are 5 of the most popular today.

1: China

Great Wall of China
Image by matt512

One of the most popular Asian honeymoon destinations is China. It is a country that still has remnants of an ancient civilization that can still be seen today. Some of these are the Great Wall, Terra-Cotta warriors, and the Yangtze river. Honeymoons in China could include tours of the modern city of Beijing which was made even more modern during its preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics. You could also include a tour of the country’s vast interior where you will come in contact with many of China’s friendly people and ancient customs while you enjoy regional cuisine at one of the many neighborhood teahouses. No visit to China is complete without a cruise up the Yangtze River. Today’s China is not only home to many international hotels such as Ramada, Sheraton, Hyatt, and Hilton, but also many hotels that are managed by Chinese firms to cater to the international travelers. Many of these hotels offer luxurious packages that include romance packages and spa packages so that you can enjoy time of relaxation while enjoying the sights of the beautiful and diverse country.

2: Thailand

Maya Bay of Koh Phi Phi
Image by Argenberg

Another great place to consider as one of your Asian honeymoon destinations is Thailand. This is a very popular destination for Americans because of its beaches, ornate religious temples, and destinations within the country such as Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many different honeymoon packages can be found that offer the best of this beautiful and enchanting country. Many hotels in Bangkok and Phuket offer the spa option where you can enjoy ultimate relaxation between visits to the cities. Tour the many temples and palaces of Bangkok that take you back 1000 years to early Thailand, and experience a traditional dance show like no other in the world. No trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to the floating market of the Karan people.

3: Japan

Mt. Fuji
Image by skyseeker

Japan is another one of the great Asian honeymoon destinations. Its relationship with the United States since World War II and it being the closest Asian country to the U.S. makes it a favorite tourist destination. It is appealing to honeymooners because it has urban cities, tropical beaches and islands, amazing countryside, and snow covered mountains as well as an ancient culture. A great way to tour Japan for your honeymoon is by taking a self-guided tour. These can range from the more romantic hot springs where you can get pampered with assorted spa treatments in between city excursions to one of the bustling cities of Kyoto or Tokyo. It can include a ride on the famous bullet train or a stay on the famous Japan sea coast in the Lamp-No-Yada hideaway which will provide you with a very unique romantic experience. There are also many opportunities to enjoy the beautiful tropical countryside in the shadow of the snow-capped Mt. Fuji.

4: Hong Kong:

Hong Kong
Image by Kabacchi

Now a part of China, Hong Kong is near the top of Asia’s popular honeymoon destinations. Though small, Hong Kong has many opportunities for romance on your once in a lifetime vacation. You can enjoy packages that include hiking in the country’s interior and dolphin and bird encounters at one of its parks. Maybe you have always wanted to cruise on one of the famous junks in the harbor on your island getaway or in the bustling city where you can experience the world renown nightlife of this modern city-state.

 

5: Vietnam:

Hanoi
Image by plusgood

Rounding out the top 5 honeymoon destinations in Asia is the country of Vietnam. This has become a top honeymoon destination in more recent years because there is much diversity within the country. You can enjoy a spa vacation at one of the luxurious resorts or you can enjoy a romantic honeymoon within the countryside where you can get a taste of the Vietnamese food and culture. You can spend time at the beach sinking your toes in the sand and then take a tour through the dense jungles that the country is known for.

Its your honeymoon, your vacation, your experience. Enjoy the enchantments of Asia.

It’s Relaxation Time – 12 Unbelievably Relaxing Vacations

Relaxing Vacations
Image by dMap Travel Guide

Ready, set, go — it’s vacation time and all plans are in motion. Luggage packed, pets safely placed in a kennel for a vacation of their own, doors locked and transportation ready and waiting. It’s time to head out and make that dream vacation a reality.

For those living in Canada, a relaxing vacation can be found by contacting Canadian Travel. Whether your vacation goals are to stick close to home or travel the world, Canadian Travel will help you put together the most relaxing and enjoyable vacation ever.

Favorite Beaches in Canada
Prefer to stick to land and close to home for your best vacation ever? The beaches of Kelowna and Enticton in British Columbia are fabulous for a romantic rendezvous; perhaps coupled with a relaxing wine tasting event on the water’s edge.

Cruising
Consider setting sail on a vacation cruise discovering The Baltic area. This incredible location has it all, including fabulous cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helskinki. Stockholm is amazing, and most cruise lines offer exclusive tours that include detailed information about the city, as well as stops as local restaurants and botiques. After a day of discover, return to the ship to enjoy a cocktail and The Baltic’s fantastic sunset.

Take a Fantasy Break in Orlando
Orlando, Florida is certainly a popular destination because the area is filled with fun things to do, including a “never to be forgotten” trip to Disney. There are many travel packages available and easily found by searcing the Internet for “Packages for Disney World in Orlando”. Whether your trip is a family affair or a romantic get- away, it’s vacation time anytime you take a Disney World Orlando trip.

New England
Enjoying the seasons of New England always makes for some great, relaxing vacation escapes no matter what time of year. The States of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island offer everything from camping, fishing and skiing to a good, old time evening at a Boston Red Sox game or a freezing, snowy day at Foxboro Stadium to watch the New England Patriots play.

The Cape and Islands
In Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands are a blessing, with beaches galore, fresh water lakes and ponds, trails, lighthouses to explore and more.

Discover Martha’s Vineyard on the Cape and enjoy twenty miles of scenic splendor and perhaps a glimpse of some of the rich and famous, who choose the Vineyard as their choice vacation destination.

More Seclusion
If your idea of a New England or Cape Cod vacation is quiet, yet still entertaining, make Nantucket your vacation spot. Nantucket, Massachusetts is far less crowded than the Vineyard or Hyannis and can easily be reached by catching a ride on a quaint ferry out of Woods Hole or Hyannis. Nantucket, because of its location and slightly more out of the way location, offers unspoiled, scenic trails, as well as beautiful, secluded beaches.

More Excitement
If you prefer New England city life, check out Boston, Massachusetts and/or Providence, Rhode Island. Boston, the bigger of the two cities, houses a bevy of historical sites. Rhode Island is home to Brown University and many fantastic restaurants that are a true treat to those who enjoy dining at its best.

Let’s Go Exotic
Bora Bora are French Polynesian islands and incrediablly popular tourist spots. Vactioners travel to Bora Bora to enjoy pristine, white sandy beaches, marine life and magnificant lagoons. Popular accommodations include ocean-side bungalows with tiny porches overlooking the ocean in order to enjoy splendid Bora Bora sunsets.

Tree House Anyone?
Mix nature and culture in Kerala, India by booking a night or two in the Tree Houses of Kerala. These unique retreats are a real gem and, for the most part, unknown to locals and tourists alike. True naturalists thrive in the Tree House environment nestled in trees that shoot over 85 feet into the sky. Don’t worry about amenities, because these tree houses are equipped with all the basics to make a stay enjoyable.

Relax on a Safari
Africa happens to be the largest wild life reserve and making this trip is a gorgeous way to spend a vacation. South Africa offers some of the best safaris in the world and some of the best spas and beaches as well. A safari in South Africa is what one might imagineto be like traveling through heaven watching animals in their natural habitant all at the same time. It is, undoubtedly, one of the best vacations destinations ever on this earth.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi06Tiu1OCM[/youtube]

Ryan McKenzie is a social media expert who specializes in Canadian Travel who loves to write about travel opportunities around the world.

Top 10 things to do in Edinburgh

Castles, festivals, lively pubs and one of the UK’s most charming city centres makes Edinburgh a fantastic choice for a getaway. The Scottish vibe takes on many different hues in this cosmopolitan city, where the top 10 list of things to do in Edinburgh includes everything from single malt tastings to hikes up extinct volcanoes.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh is a city made for walking. Its streets wind up, down, around and over the hilly terrain, where every new corner offers a surprise. Plenty of history is etched into the city core of Edinburgh, which also boasts a wonderful array of trendy cafés, bars, boutiques and art galleries. There aren’t many bad things to say about Scotland’s capital, but bring a stout rain jacket and some woollies to deal with the notoriously fickle weather.

Edinburgh Castle: the city’s top attraction deserves its popularity. For 1,000 years, this magnificent fortress has stood over Edinburgh and a tour offers both stunning and panoramic views as well as inspiring fantasies about kings, knights and days gone by.

Museum of Scotland and Royal Museum: these two repositories of Scottish heritage are simply loaded with cool antiquities, a cache of weapons and other engaging exhibits. The sleek, modern design of the building is the perfect balance to its contents, the Millennium Clock and the Victorian atrium.

Arthur’s Seat: how many other cities can boast an extinct volcano? A relatively easy climb rewards travellers who scale this mount at the city’s eastern edge with mind-bending views in all directions and a dose of exercise.

Royal Botanic Garden: the truly impressive collection of plants, trees and flowers in Edinburgh’s urban garden creates a great atmosphere for quiet strolls or an escape from the bustle of the city.

Princes Street: under the shadow of the castle is the city’s most exciting strip of high-end shops and funky boutiques. There’s a reason Edinburgh is the UK’s second-hottest shopping hub, and the dining options in the West End neighbourhood at the end of Princes Street ensure you’ll stay nourished for the next round.

Old Town: Edinburgh’s medieval core is a maze of cobbled streets and buildings all askew. Drop in anywhere along the Royal Mile and allow yourself to get lost. Hours of memorable wandering are guaranteed and a taxi is always on hand to return you safely to your hotel.

The National Galleries: Scotland’s exquisite collection of art is spread over five different buildings, including some real gems like the Burrell Collection. The artwork ranges from pieces by Renaissance masters to pop art.

The Edinburgh Festival: need a reason to visit Edinburgh? Plan your trip in August around the city’s world-famous Edinburgh Festival, a panoply of culture and art. It’s actually several festivals held in congruence around the city, featuring cool indie music at the Fringe Festival, classical Scottish dance and music at the International Festival and a host of smaller events.

Dean Village: this amazing grain-milling settlement from the 12th century has been completely restored and is open to the public as a living museum. Soak in the tranquil ambiance, learn a bit of history and leave time for a long stroll along the Water of Leith riverside path.

Palace of Holyroodhouse: another of Edinburgh’s fantastic royal legacies is this palace built by King James IV in the 16th century. The palace and its lush interior are open to the public whenever the royal family is not present. Adjacent is Holyrood Park, the city’s largest public park that’s like a microcosm of the Scottish countryside, with a loch, rolling meadows and crags.

John is a guest blogger from National Car Hire who provide car hire in Edinburgh and across the UK

Multi Centre Holidays in the USA

Sun, sand, sea and theme parks

theme parks
theme parks

For holidays with a theme, Florida in the south eastern US, is a perfect destination. With a surprising range of attractions, a vibrant history and unparalleled climate and natural environment it’s also a fantastic location for multi centre holidays USA style. Nicknamed the Sunshine State, for good reason, the climate is sub-tropical, making it a popular destination at any time of year. During the winter ‘snow birds’ descend from other parts of the US – seasonal residents escaping the colder climes further north. In the summer visitors include tourists from all over the world seeking sun, sand, surf and theme parks!

Early visitors

‘La Florida’ was discovered in 1513, by the Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon. It is possible that some previous contact with European ‘tourists’ had been made as de Leon did encounter at least one native who could speak Spanish, suggesting that holidays to Florida were already popular. However, de Leon is largely credited with the discovery and the city of St Augustine – the oldest continually inhabited in the continental states – was established close to his original landing site. For those visiting Florida on a twin centre holiday in the USA, Orlando is a good base for the first part of your trip. Located centrally in the state it is the home to the world famous theme parks – Walt Disney World® Resort and Universal Orlando Resort® being two of the most famous. For families an Orlando start to the holiday is a great way to satisfy the kids’ insatiable need for entertainment! It’ll also exhaust them, helping to keep them quiet for at least some of the holiday! Close by to the entertainment capital of the world is the Gold Coast, with stretches of unspoilt beaches and small, attractive, individual towns. Snorkelling, diving, fishing and sailing are all other adventures that you might want to indulge in along this coast.

Rich pickings and relaxed endings

Multi centre holidays in the USA are something of a must really – after all you can’t visit the States without making your own road trip. Florida’s attractive coast is one of the best places to take this trip, cruising along by palm-fringed beaches and tropical coasts while heading south, towards the glittering metropolis that is Miami. Clinging to the last bit of the US, Miami is popular with the rich, the stupidly rich and the unmentionably rich! It does however offer plenty of opportunities for entertainment, shopping and eating in style for the less well off – even here, it’s possible to find a cheap Florida holiday alternative! The beaches close to Miami ooze class, wealth and just a little attitude – but along the coast is Delray Beach, less well known and with a relaxed surfing culture, a good place to unwind. If the kids are still asking ‘are we there yet’ a trip along the Overseas Highway may well shut them up. Typically American, the State of Florida refuses to end just because of an ocean or two. The Florida Keys are a series of coral reefs, stretching out into the Straits of Florida, connected by a road that defies the usual requirement to be built on land. The Keys declared independence a few years ago, under the name of the “Conch Republic” but nobody took any notice – however with a relaxed approach to life, the islanders didn’t much care and carried on enjoying their lifestyle, based on relaxed, friendly ways. The people of the Keys combine Southern charm and hospitality with a streak of resilience and independence – making the Florida Keys a perfect laid-back location to end your twin centre holiday in the USA.

Visiting Copan, Honduras

Copan is a sleepy town in the foothills of Western Honduras.  It is known, primarily, for its Mayan ruins, which are some of the oldest and most impressive in the region.  However, the town also offers tourists a wide array of outdoor activities in the dazzling, lush rainforest it borders.  Does spending a few days in an authentic Honduran hamlet sound like something you would enjoy?  If so, here’s the scoop on how to get the most out of your trip to Copan.

Copan travel
Image by FHOTOGRAFO DE HONDURAS- CENTRO AMERICA -PARADIS (via flickr.com)

Getting There and Getting Around

If you’re heading to Copan from abroad, there are two options.  The first, and most convenient, is to fly into San Pedro Sula and take a three-hour bus ride to Copan.  The second is to fly into Guatemala City, where you can reach Copan by bus in five hours.

Once you arrive, snag a map from the tourist center located at the main plaza or one of the many hotels and guesthouses.  Copan is small and centralized, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting around.  Most streets are well-labeled and flow outward from the plaza, which is a great landmark in case you get lost.  While walking around Copan, it’s advisable to wear sturdy shoes, as the cobblestone streets can be a recipe for a sprained ankle.

Visiting the Ruins

The ruins of Copan are undoubtedly the village’s main tourist attraction.  Located approximately 2 km from the town center, the ruins are a collection of tunnels, plazas, temples, stairs and more, all of which were produced during the 7th century by the Mayans.  There are over 4,000 structures located at the ruins, so plan for a full day if you want to get the total experience. In addition to the majesty of these ruins, there are also a number of monkeys, sloths, giant parrots and macaws that congregate in the park.

Spending a Day with the Birds

Copan’s Macaw Mountain is a great way to soak in some of the region’s vibrant avian species. Approximately 3 km outside of town, this nature preserve consists of nine gorgeous acres of old growth forest, steeped in mahogany, Indio, Spanish cedar and fig trees.  The park provides guided tours with information about its over 100 birds, such as macaws, parrots, parakeets and more.  If you’re hungry, snag a bite to eat in the restaurant.  The food is delicious and the patio abuts a gurgling freshwater spring.

Horseback Riding

Another great way to enjoy Copan is by taking a horseback ride through its surrounding hillside.  Guided tours are available, which will take you on a jaunt down the Copan River, before ascending into the rainforest.  Popular destinations include waterfalls as well  as the Chorti Mayan Village—a great spot to buy colorful scarves and other souvenirs while supporting the indigenous population.

Brushing Up on Your Spanish

Copan is also known for its excellent Spanish immersion programs  Escuela Ixanblanque offers full-day one-on-one instruction at a reasonable price.  Lessons can also be coupled with a home stay, where participants can live with a local family for their stay.

The bottom line on Copan

If you’re looking for an easygoing spot to soak in authentic Honduran culture, few places match the tranquility and character of Copan.  With its beautiful natural scenery, compelling Mayan ruins and friendly locals, Copan is a worthy destination if you plan on visiting Central America.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzzgyIGAEGs[/youtube]

Dan Lawton is a freelance journalist and blogs about the outdoors for Backyard Chirper.

Happy Times in Hertfordshire

Five of the Best Family Days Out in Hertfordshire

Hampshire travel
Hampshire travel

The county of Hertfordshire is a delightful mixture of open agricultural landscape and natural woodlands, picturesque and historic market towns and vibrant cities. A former Roman settlement, the county is steeped in history with remnants of the Roman occupation preserved for visitors, alongside a stunning selection of some of Britain’s finest stately homes and gardens. With no shortage of fascinating museums, wildlife parks, outdoor activity centres, woodlands and grassland areas to explore and much more to see and do it’s tricky to pick favourites from all that Hertfordshire has to offer. If you don’t have time for anything else though, here are five of the best family days out to enjoy in Hertfordshire.

  1. Paradise Wildlife Park, nr Broxbourne – Paradise Park really is ‘where the wild things are’ in Hertfordshire! If you’ve ever wanted to come face-to-face with a white lion, meet a meerkats or take tea with a tiger then Paradise Park can make it happen. There are oodles of animals to meet and you can even feed them with the park’s specially prepared feeding bags. Kids will love playing in any or all of the park’s five adventure playgrounds, the Tumble Jungle or Paradise Lagoon. Tigers of a different kind will enjoy the ‘On Safari Adventure Golf’ – eighteen holes of animal-themed crazy golf. Aside from the exotic animals you can do some real wildlife spotting of your own; Paradise Park’s extensive ancient woodland is home to deer, beaver, owls, foxes, hedgehogs and butterflies as well as a host of interesting plants and flowers. And when you need a break from the excitement you can always get a snack or a drink in the Safari Suite or Tiger Treetops café.
  2. Knebworth House and Park, Knebworth, Stevenage – A stately home with dinosaurs?! It’s true. Not only is Knebworth House a magnificent example of a Tudor-Gothic mansion house and a fabulous place to spend a day’s exploration in its own right, but the house sits in 250 acres of rolling wooded parkland. Knebworth House is immediately surrounded by twenty-five acres of immaculately tended gardens, but beware the Dinosaur Trail. Follow this path and you’ll bump into seventy-two scarily realistic dinosaurs lurking amidst the shrubbery. Don’t be too shocked when you find a mammoth in the marigolds or a brontosaurus beneath the beech trees. If that all sounds a bit much, mums and dads can send the kids into Knebworth’s maze and lose them for a while, giving parents the chance to browse the kitchen garden and the herb garden or grab a cuppa from the Terrace Garden Room. In Knebworth Park, besides the rolling acres of picnic-perfect greenery there’s a miniature railway and an adventure playground.
  3. The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead – Whether you’re a first timer on the slopes or a pro when it comes to snow, the emphasis is on family fun at the Snow Centre. Giving ‘chilling out’ a whole new meaning. With the main 160 metre slope constantly refreshed by state-of-the-art snow cannons, as well as a slope for learners the choice of method by which you get from the top to the bottom is yours. Show-offs will want to ski or snowboard, but for pure fun and an enjoyably thrilling ride you can jump on one of Snow Centre’s nifty lightweight sledges, skim your way down on an inflatable Airboard or just crazily spin, slide and bounce to the bottom on a rubber ring. Do it once and you’ll be hooked, so it’s a good job there are lifts to save you the effort of trudging all the way up to the top of the slope again. When you feel like defrosting and watching others have fun on the slopes, the Edge café is the perfect spot for that warming après-ski refreshment.
  4. Willows Farm Village, St Albans – Willows Farm Village packs in a lot of fun for the whole family; where else can you try your hand a driving a mini JCB digger, indulge in a spot of sheep racing or jump aboard Tristan the Runaway Tractor? Willows farm has amusements for kids (and big kids) of all ages, from funfair rides to falconry displays and from ferret fun to Frisbee golf. Under-fives have their own indoor and outdoor play areas and there’s a pets corner of farmyard favourites, with lambs and chicks adding to the ‘aaah! – factor’. Elsewhere there are friendly wallabies and reindeer to meet; you can go panning for gold or go for a bounce in the Bouncy Haystack or on the trampolines. With so much to see and do it’s a good job that Willows Farm Village offers plenty of options for refuelling, from ice-creams to barbecued burgers. And if you happen to overdo lunch in the Farmhouse Restaurant, there’s always the option to walk it off with a stroll around the lake.
  5. River Lee Country Park, Broxbourne – Ah, the great outdoors. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a family day out in a great British Park. Few come greater than the award-winning River Lee Country Park which covers a thousand acres and stretches from Broxbourne, Hertfordshire to Waltham Abbey in neighbouring Essex. The park provides a network of paths that link numerous lakes, waterways and open spaces, so there are many different ways to explore the park. Wildlife is abundant, so those with a keen eye may spot Muntjac deer, barn owls, mink, grass snakes, water voles, kingfishers and more. Activities-wise, the park offers opportunities for white water rafting at the new Waltham Cross White Water Centre, whilst gentler boating pursuits can be found at the Lee Valley Boat Centre in Broxbourne. Bicycles can be hired from the Old Mill in Broxbourne, and those keen on fishing can obtain day permits to try their luck in the River Lee. The park is also home to one of Hertfordshire’s most historically significant buildings: the Rye House Gatehouse. One of the first brick buildings in Britain, Rye House is also one of the finest examples of a medieval moated site in Hertfordshire.

Like so many of Hertfordshire’s attractions, River Lee Country Park contains enough variety, surprises and activities for all of the family that you’ll find it provides not one great family fun day out in Hertfordshire, but many.

This was a guest post by John for Luton Hoo Hotel and spa Hertfordshire

5 Best Parts of Inland California

When you think of traveling to California, you’re probably picturing palm trees, sun, beaches and surfing. It is true that these are the most common activities for visitors, but there are even more interesting things to do in the inland areas of the state. Read on to discover the top five little-known destinations of inland California.

Image by J.G. in S.F. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jim-sf/)
Image by J.G. in S.F. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jim-sf/)

1. Placer County – You probably have never heard of this county, but it is full of small towns that have a rich history, especially in relation to the Gold Rush days. Abandoned mines and museums are the only remnants of those days, in addition to some statues in Auburn dedicated to the thousands of Chinese workers who contributed greatly to the mining of gold. Auburn is the county seat and is full of interesting structures, including an old Queen Anne style firehouse and an attractive courthouse dating back to the late 1800s. Placer County is a great place for hiking and outdoor recreation. There is a magnificent old bridge you can see while hiking outside of Auburn; it is called the Foresthill Bridge and towers a breathtaking 730 feet above the American River. You’ll definitely fall in love with Placer County – and you’ll surely see why so many people choose to make it their home. You don’t have to be a Placer County real estate agent to see why people love to buy homes in Placer County towns! If you’re a true hiking adventure lover, park at Donner Summit and take a hike to the old historic Soda Springs resort – it is an amazing experience.

2. Silver City Ghost Town – Thrill seekers and mystery lovers, this one is for you. This mining-camp-turned-ghost-town is located near Bodfish, California, not far from Lake Isabella. Listed on the National Directory of Haunted Places, the town’s ghost-sighting numbers are high. Visitors are welcome to tour the old general store, which is still filled with artifacts from days gone by. There is also an old post office, home dwellings, saloon and cabins. The original Isabella jail is still in existence there, as well. Silver City has appeared on several movies, so you may recognize it.

Silver City Ghost Town
Image by mlhradio (http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthigh/)

3. Miracle Hot Springs – You won’t need to travel far from the Silver City ghost town to arrive at this attraction. Yes, most people come to California for cool water and beaches, but these hot springs are much more invigorating and relaxing than a day on a crowded beach. There are other hot springs in California, but this is the only location that is free of resorts accompanying the springs. Enjoy relaxing in natural rock hot water pools. You may see remnants of the resort that once stood there, but everything has now returned to a natural state. You won’t need to pay resort prices to simply sit and relax here – less than $10 will get you in. Miracle Hot Springs is located in the Kern River Canyon, which is a quiet and secluded area. You’ll likely see less than 10 other people during a visit to these springs.

Miracle Hot Springs
Image by nora.starwaters (http://www.flickr.com/photos/norastarwaters/)

4. Redding – This city is very unique and offers visitors the opportunity to learn a lot about everything from natural science to art. It is nestled along the banks of the Sacramento River. One of the most unique bridges can be seen here – the Sundial Bridge. This magnificent architectural structure is a combination of a working bridge and a fully functional sundial. Nearby is the Turtle Bay and accompanying museum with a 20-acre garden area. Another interesting sight to see is the Art-Deco-style Cascade Theater. This historic structure was built in 1935 and is now a multi-function performance venue.

Redding
Image by Wood R.A. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wood_ra/)

5. Inyo National Forest – Commonly overlooked because it is so close to Yosemite National Park, this gem of a natural attraction is one that you won’t regret visiting. Sure, Yosemite is nice, but you have much more variety for hiking trails and secluded wading or swimming spots in Inyo National Forest. There are plenty of great locations for fishing also. The best part is that if you want something different to do, you only need to drive a short distance to reach multiple ski resorts with some of the best slopes in California. If you’re not native to California and plan to camp in this forest, you must know that it is imperative to have a campfire permit. You’ll need to buy this before setting up camp. With all the fires that occur each year, park rangers are very strict about permits.

Inyo National Forest
Image by Think Abe (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkabe/)

These are just a few of the great places to see in the inland portion of the Golden State. Although the popular destinations are pushed in mainstream tourism, I think you’ll find that some of these best-kept secrets of destinations provide an interesting and memorable experience for your next trip to California.

About the author: Patrick works out of the RE/MAX Gold Auburn and Roseville Placer County Homes offices in Placer County. Patrick’s experience includes helping countless clients purchase and sell homes in the region.

Tour Around Vietnam’s Most Beautiful Offerings

In Ho Chi Mihn City you can visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, some of which, humorously, have been made wider and taller for tourists. The tunnels are part of a greater network of tunnels beneath much of the tunnels, which were used during the Vietnam War. The War Remnants museum is in Ho Chi Mihn City, providing some historical context relating to the Vietnam War. Also worth a visit is Ben Thanh Market, one of the earliest surviving Saigon structures.

Top Vietnam Tours
Top Vietnam Tours

In the coastal city of Nha Trang you can go snorkelling as well as (or instead of) scuba diving or just enjoy the spectacular long sandy beach for a while. There are also wonderful hot springs and mud baths to enjoy in Nha Trang, especially useful if the weather takes a turn for the worse during your stay.

Chua Mot Cot
Tour Around VietnamRuud / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

The famous port of Hoi An is centuries old. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features a Japanese bridge, which is the only known covered bridge of its kind. There is also a house that has been beautifully restored. The hostess will offer you a selection of teas when you visit. There are many charming French colonial buildings here too. Hand-crafted colourful lanterns hover over some streets. Hoi An is also well known for its made to measure clothes. There are many tailors who can create garments for you within days. Have some clothes made while you visit the beach by motorbike.

Hanoi Temple of Litterature
Travel VietnamChuoibk / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

In Hue, you can visit the Imperial Tombs by motorbike and even expand the trip to a countryside tour. Hue is situated on the banks of the Perfume River, called after the flowers that fall into it in the Autumn, giving it an exotic scent. While in Hue, take a tour on one of the brightly coloured, intricately carved boats. The boat will stop at a pagoda and temples along the way and you’ll see lush green forest covering the hills and fishermen with conical hats, sheltering them from the sun.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum 2006
Vietnam ToursRungbachduong / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Before Hanoi take a trip around Halong Bay. Halong Bay is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bay has thousands of limestone karsts rising from its waters. There are some intricate caves hollowing out some of the karsts and some of the islets support floating villages of fishermen who live on their catches.

Công viên Y?n Phi
Vietnam best toursKhánh Hmoong / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

In Hanoi queue up early in the morning to visit the embalmed body of former president Ho Chi Mihn and gaze at the stilt house there, which rises above water filled with lotus flowers. In the evening choose one of the many excellent restaurants here before heading to a Vietnamese water puppetry show. Workers in the rice paddies of Vietnam would create puppet shows above the water for the locals in times of flooding in the past and the art is masterfully transferred to a theatre setting here.Tour Around Vietnam’s Most Beautiful Offerings

There are many wonderful Vietnam tours to take in this spectacular country of lush green rice paddies, wide rivers and ornate pagodas.

In Ho Chi Mihn City you can visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, some of which, humorously, have been made wider and taller for tourists. The tunnels are part of a greater network of tunnels beneath much of the tunnels, which were used during the Vietnam War. The War Remnants museum is in Ho Chi Mihn City, providing some historical context relating to the Vietnam War. Also worth a visit is Ben Thanh Market, one of the earliest surviving Saigon structures.

In the coastal city of Nha Trang you can go snorkelling as well as (or instead of) scuba diving or just enjoy the spectacular long sandy beach for a while. There are also wonderful hot springs and mud baths to enjoy in Nha Trang, especially useful if the weather takes a turn for the worse during your stay.

The famous port of Hoi An is centuries old. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features a Japanese bridge, which is the only known covered bridge of its kind. There is also a house that has been beautifully restored. The hostess will offer you a selection of teas when you visit. There are many charming French colonial buildings here too. Hand-crafted colourful lanterns hover over some streets. Hoi An is also well known for its made to measure clothes. There are many tailors who can create garments for you within days. Have some clothes made while you visit the beach by motorbike.

In Hue, you can visit the Imperial Tombs by motorbike and even expand the trip to a countryside tour. Hue is situated on the banks of the Perfume River, called after the flowers that fall into it in the Autumn, giving it an exotic scent. While in Hue, take a tour on one of the brightly coloured, intricately carved boats. The boat will stop at a pagoda and temples along the way and you’ll see lush green forest covering the hills and fishermen with conical hats, sheltering them from the sun.

Before Hanoi take a trip around Halong Bay. Halong Bay is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bay has thousands of limestone karsts rising from its waters. There are some intricate caves hollowing out some of the karsts and some of the islets support floating villages of fishermen who live on their catches.

In Hanoi queue up early in the morning to visit the embalmed body of former president Ho Chi Mihn and gaze at the stilt house there, which rises above water filled with lotus flowers. In the evening choose one of the many excellent restaurants here before heading to a Vietnamese water puppetry show. Workers in the rice paddies of Vietnam would create puppet shows above the water for the locals in times of flooding in the past and the art is masterfully transferred to a theatre setting here.

Images by Chris&Steve

Accommodate Yourself Right

Choosing a Hotel that Fits Your Needs

It often times happens that people will have a perfect vacation planned, but then for some reason, they skimp on the hotel. This could be for a number of reasons actually. Maybe after planning a vacation packed full of different activities, the budget just simply would not support the more luxurious hotel accommodations. It could just be that the upon viewing the hotel, it looked like more it cracked up to be, when in reality it was not. The fact remains though, that a perfect vacation could ultimately be ruined simply because the hotel led to an awful stay. In order to ensure that a vacation stays a vacation rather than turning into a nightmare, it is important that you choose a hotel that best suits your needs.

Accommodation
Choosing a Hotel

First of all, a hotel that does not offer the right amenities to suit you and your family’s needs could completely ruin what could be the greatest vacation. Some people require different things so choosing a hotel completely depends on the preferences of the person seeking to stay. If someone needs three beds in a room, but all the rooms in the hotel are equipped with only two, then that hotel could pose a burden. Likewise, if you needed wireless Internet to communicate with your place of work, or even to continue attending your MBA online classes, then you would need to make sure that the hotel you plan on staying at is outfitted with wireless Internet. Other amenities people look for are pools, restaurants, room service, fitness centers, spas, nightlife, breakfast options, and even TV channel options. The best way to figure out if a hotel is equipped with everything you and your family needs, is to go online and check to see if the hotel in question has a website. Most notable hotels will have a website that describes everything from amenities to pricing, in order to expand their exposure and attract more customers.

Good accommodation is importan
Good accommodation is importanMartin Sojka .. www.VisualEscap.es / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Aside from amenities, the budget you have allotted for accommodations is equally important. It may turn out that after the activities, food, and other essential vacation needs, that there is not enough money left over to stay in the hotel that you had in mind. No worries though, as there are a number of fine hotels that are not too harsh on the wallet. Also, with the Internet as popular and innovative as it is, there are a number of websites now that make planning and booking accommodations, and even travel arrangements, much more convenient. Sites like Expedia and Travelocity are some of the most popular vacation booking sites and have helped many vacationers find vacant rooms at luxurious hotels for cheaper prices. The reason that these site can do this, is because hotels use the sites to fill vacant rooms, usually meaning that a lower rate will accompany these vacancies to attract potential customers.

Consider choosing a good hotel
Consider choosing a good hotelWanderingtheWorld (www.LostManProject.com) / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC

Other things to consider when choosing a hotel is whether or not the hotel is family friendly, and the location of the hotel. If the vacation or trip is catered to strictly adults, then just about any hotel is an option. However, if kids will be present on the trip, then you do not want to stay at a hotel catered mainly to adults. A hotel filled with nightclubs would not only be boring for a child because they are not allowed in, but also just inappropriate. A child needs to be entertained when on vacation and if a hotel offers absolutely nothing in the way of entertainment or family-friendliness, then it would be safe to say that a different hotel should be considered. Likewise, if you are seeking a beach vacation that keeps you on the beach, then a beach-front hotel would be the most suitable option. If a hotel is four miles from the beach, but you want to be right on the beach, then a dilemma has been created. Therefore, when planning a vacation, it is important to take into consideration the actual address or location of the hotel.

A vacation can be one of the happiest, most memorable moments for a family; however, if the accommodations are not equally as great then the vacation as a whole will suffer. It is perfectly okay to plan that perfect vacation, and spend a little extra money on fun little things, but you want to make sure that you keep room in the budget for a hotel that satisfies the needs of you and your family.