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Mother Nature is calling: Check out the 6 most...

(BPT) - The smell of the fresh air. The gentle rustle of the wind through the trees. The wonderment of kids exploring Mother Nature. More families are joining the movement to unplug from their electronics and get outdoors. Is your family one of them?

Spending time outdoors has numerous mental and physical benefits, plus for families it's a wonderful way to bond and create lifelong memories. You can make nature a part of your life by getting a recreation vehicle and exploring parks both near and far.

These aren't your grandpa's RVs. Today's RV options are as varied and unique as the families who buy them. Just take a look at some of the most popular RV choices as per the experts on GoRVing.com.

1. Travel trailers

Available in a range of sizes to fit your needs, travel trailers are easy to attach to a variety of vehicles. Lightweight models can often be towed by mid-size vehicles, including the family car, minivan or SUV. Larger trailers can be towed by a pickup truck or larger SUV. Fifth wheel models feature a raised forward section that provides a spacious bi-level floor plan, and can be towed with a pickup truck.

2. Folding campers and expandable travel trailers

Also known as pop-ups or tent trailers, folding camper trailers feature soft sides that extend to reveal queen-sized beds and kitchens and are a great entry-level option for families who enjoy sleeping in a tent without sleeping on the ground, along with the convenience of an RV. Expandable travel trailers are a cross between a folding camper and a hard-sided travel trailer. They feature ends that pull out to offer more sleeping room and a generous amount of living space. They’re lighter than conventional travel trailers and often more affordable.

3. Motorized RVs

When most people think of the classic RV, motorized designs come to mind. These all-in-one recreation vehicles allow you to bring all the creature comforts with you on the road. Home-like amenities abound, including kitchens, bathrooms, living areas with entertainment centers and heating and air conditioning. Drive virtually anywhere — from sea to shining sea — and bring your "house" with you. Motorhomes are classified by types, ranging from the largest and most luxurious Type A versions to Type C motorhomes that feature an over-the-cab sleeping area kids love.

4. Van campers

Van campers, or Type B motorhomes, are smaller in size and often get outstanding fuel economy, but still have all the conveniences of home on the road. Easy to maneuver through narrow mountain roads, curvy coastal byways and busy downtown settings, they’re a trending choice for couples touring the country or families traveling for weekend tournaments and competitions.

5. Toy haulers

Toy haulers, or Sport Utility RVs, are for the active family who wants to take motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs or other motorized toys on the road. Available as a motorhome or towable unit, toy haulers have a rear end that drops down, forming a ramp into a “garage” area where motorized toys can be safely stored. In many models, the ramp does double duty as a back porch or outdoor living room.

6. Rentals and park models

Not ready to buy? Consider renting to test the waters. You can rent different types of RVs so you can find the right one for your family's needs. Check out El Monte RV, Outdoorsy and Cruise America for rental information. Another choice to consider is a park model RV, offered by many campgrounds. You just drive to the campsite with your supplies, and an RV (which looks and feels like a mini cabin) is ready for your arrival.

Now that you know your options, it's time to get inspired. Visit @GoRVing on Twitter or Go RVing on Facebook to get more ideas and outdoor inspiration for your next RV trip. And see families like yours enjoying RV adventures at Away.GoRVing.com.

Bridging the summer learning gap: Travel and...

(BPT) - “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” — Saint Augustine

The benefits of travel have been written about for centuries, connecting the experience with cultivating awareness and expanding perspectives. The story of travel connotes a journey of self-discovery. The introduction of every new culture is the beginning of a new mindset. For many, travel is at once a decentering and unifying experience. The encounter of something new leads to being fully present, evaluating preconceptions and rewiring beliefs. The effects of travel on adults is well documented. But how does travel affect children, who rely so much on stability and who, in many ways, already live in the moment, and experience the world with eyes wide open? Does the disruption of place hinder or complement a child’s intellectual development?

It’s been eight years since the U.S. Department of Education took a closer look at the effects of travel on childhood education. In a 2009 study, which analyzed findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of the Kindergarten Class database, family life was assessed, as were summer activities and school experiences. The study collected data from 21,600 children from grades K-5; a subset of 5,047 parents also were asked about their family excursions during the summer. Study results showed improved standardized test scores in reading, math and general knowledge from the children who traveled during the summer with their families.

The study findings are important because they provide an alternative to learning loss in kids during the long summer months away from school. Kids who don’t engage in activities during the summer are at risk of falling more than four months behind their peers. This statistic goes all the way up the ladder to college students. Today, many parents consider the arc of the travel experience — seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, attending concerts and visiting historic sites, monuments and art museums — as an opportunity to not only enhance the emotional depth and patience of their children, but their academic outcomes as well. As a result, some parents are opting to “world school” their children during the summer, with noted benefits of bonding and spending quality time with family, building an interest and respect for other cultures, and making learning interesting and deeply engaging.

Can we simply conclude that vacations make kids smarter? We reached out to travel expert Jim Menge for the answer. Menge has been to more than 100 countries, and is a believer of the benefits of travel. Menge is also the President of Rovia, an industry-leading travel and lifestyle service provider, headquartered in Plano, Texas. “Not necessarily,” Menge says. “But the immersive experience of travel and all the delight and disruption that go along with it can have a real effect on childhood learning. And when kids start early, they broaden their horizons, and develop a real appreciation for the world they live in.”

If summer travel can have such a profound influence over the intellectual development of kids in grades K-5, what effect, if any, does it have on college students? In the year 2000, the University System of Georgia, comprising 35 institutions, conducted a 10-year study to see if study abroad contributed to the academic performance of college students. They found the experience not only resulted in improved academic performance, higher GPAs and graduation rates, but it benefited the performance of at-risk students as well.

Clearly, travel and education can create powerful combinations. If you have children, consider taking a vacation over school breaks and during summer months. It will add to their development and character. And if you have kids in college, study abroad has become an even more compelling option. The shared experience of travel can bring families together, creating bonds and lifelong memories. It’s time to consider the data that promotes travel as the ticket to a world of increased engagement and enhanced academic performance. Bon voyage!

5 budget strategies to enjoy your summer vacation

(BPT) - The American summer vacation is a seasonal tradition. It's when memories are made, experiences are shared and sometimes when bills pile up. In fact, research shows that more and more families across the country are planning responsibly and considering their budget when it comes to summer travel plans to make the most of their vacations without breaking the bank.

Nearly 70 percent of parents planning a summer vacation said they expect to spend the same or less this summer than they did last year, according to a Coinstar survey among U.S. adults with children at home, aged 5 to 18. In addition, 68 percent said they plan to fund their vacation using cash on hand. The top three goals reported for summer vacation include rest and relaxation, increased family bonding and enjoying outdoor activities. Fortunately, all of these activities can be enjoyed inexpensively, a sign families aren't willing to cut their fun as they trim expenses.

Planning ahead means planning smart and will give you the best shot at scripting the perfect vacation for your family and your budget. Consider these tips to maximize your vacation budget.

* Take the road less traveled. Many vacation destinations are priced based on supply and demand. That means you can make your vacation more affordable by traveling to a location that doesn’t typically see heavy summer traffic. There are plenty of exciting destinations in the U.S. that may be off the beaten path. Check out Groupon offers for getaway deals as well as packages from airlines and resorts. You may just find your best trip was to a location you never expected to love.

* Stretch your budget with found money. You may have vacation funds that you’re not even aware of — like that hidden jar of change in the closet. It’s like a mini savings account, so cash it in at a Coinstar kiosk to boost your vacation budget. If you don’t have a coin jar, start a vacation fund using the change you collect over the next year and encourage your entire family to add to it when they can. In addition to using your spare change, this may also be the perfect time to cash in your credit card or airline points to stretch your budget even further.

* Travel together for savings. When it comes to cutting costs, don't be afraid to use the buddy system. Go on vacation with family or friends and rent a home together or split other costs. Look for accommodations that have a kitchen and you’ll be able to save on restaurant expenses. Finally, if you are eating out, find restaurants where kids can eat for free or at a highly-reduced rate when an adult meal is purchased.

* Look for free or low-cost activities in and around your travel destination. There are plenty of family-friendly activities that can also be free. Walking tours, museums, historic landmarks and parks all present options for places you can visit without putting a dent in your budget. To find opportunities around your travel destination, check out AAA or the local travel and tourism office as well as convention and visitors bureaus. You can also simply Google free things to do in the area you intend to visit. You may be surprised at what pops up!

* A ready vehicle will ease your mind and budget. If you plan on driving to your destination, make sure your car is ready. Change the oil in your vehicle and fill your tires properly. These simple steps will do more than just help you avoid a breakdown, they will maximize your fuel efficiency and save you money.

The summer vacation is an annual tradition, and while the memories of your trip will extend far beyond the season, the costs don't have to. Apply the five tips above and you'll make your trip a sound investment in both resources and experiences.

4 quick tips to keep you safe on the road

(BPT) - The warmer weather means longer days, backyard barbecues and weekends away. Before setting out on the open road, make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the journey ahead. Hankook Tire took a look at driving trends and behaviors to identify what drivers do (or forget to do) to keep safe on the road this season.

1. Keep your eyes on the road.

One of the easiest ways to avoid accidents, wrong turns or other highway mishaps is to stay focused. Cell phones are most often responsible for distracted driving, according to the latest Hankook Tire Gauge Index. One-third (33 percent) of Americans regularly take phone calls while on the road, and one in 10 drivers (11 percent) admit to texting while driving. To help put this risk into perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports texting while driving on the highway is equivalent to driving blindfolded for the length of an entire football field. Promising news for drivers is that the Gauge also found that nearly one-half (49 percent) of drivers use Bluetooth, dictation or do-not-disturb features while driving to maintain better focus while on the road.

2. Take advantage of tech.

As automotive technology continues to advance, cars are constantly updated with the latest and greatest to make your time behind the wheel more comfortable, more efficient and safer. Over one-third (34 percent) of drivers reported their vehicles are equipped with a rear view camera, and 26 percent have adaptive cruise control, which automatically adjusts the vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe driving distance. While 73 percent of Americans find these enhanced safety features very useful, the Gauge Index found that more than half (57 percent) of drivers don’t actually use them. Regardless of the features in your car, it’s important to not let the summer fun distract you from checking rear and side view mirrors, blind spots and speed.

3. Don’t tread lightly.

Before a road trip, most people fill up the tank, gather snacks and make sure the kids are set up with movies and games. What about your tires? Americans are mostly likely to check the condition of their tires if they appear to look low or uneven (65 percent) or if a warning light appears (49 percent).

Even if not prompted by a warning light or unusual sounds, always double check your tires’ air pressure and tread depth before an extended trip, as healthy tires improve gas mileage and save money at the pump. In addition to the financial benefits of healthy tires, Americans also recognize the importance of tire tread in providing safety and control, as 75 percent of drivers think about how effective their tire tread is when driving through heavy rain, and 61 percent are mindful of their tread when driving on a hairpin turn. Additionally, close to one-fifth (18 percent) of Americans believe enhanced tire grip provides more safety on tough turns than wider lanes, reduced speed limits or road sign warnings.

4. Who ya gonna call?

Even the most prepared and proactive drivers can end up on the side of the road because of unforeseen driving events. Whether it’s a flat tire, dead battery or overheated engine, 41 percent of Americans listed an auto club as their first phone call, followed by their significant other at 27 percent, according to the Gauge Index. Only 3 percent of respondents recognized that their first call should be to local authorities, who can update traffic information, create a safe roadside situation and send the proper help to get you back on the road safely.

By following these quick tips and guidelines to safety, you can go full steam ahead to wherever your destination this summer may be!

Staying Healthy While Traveling Overseas

(BPT) - Each year, travelers from the United States (U.S.) head to popular destinations. And while many have Zika on their mind while traveling, and are aware of the need to bring sunscreen, bug repellant and other travel necessities, many don’t know that cholera may be a bigger threat than they thought and most don’t take the necessary measures to protect themselves from it.

Cholera – an infection that affects the intestinal tract and can cause severe watery diarrhea is currently estimated to be present in over 60 countries, mostly in the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. Of the top 20 international travel destinations for U.S. travelers, five are to cholera-endemic countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, China, India and the Philippines. Mild forms of cholera can be mistaken for traveler’s diarrhea, which can leave travelers in an uncomfortable state due to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and mild to severe dehydration and ruin travel plans. You can get cholera by eating or drinking contaminated food and water.

Every year, millions of people around the world become ill due to cholera. However, fewer cases are reported to health authorities than the global estimates. There are more than 8 million U.S. travelers per year going to countries where cholera is endemic. In recent years, there has also been a re-emergence of cholera in Ecuador, Haiti, Cuba and Mexico. However, despite the recent re-emergence, cholera remains underreported.

Still, plans to go abroad don’t need to be canceled or changed to avoid getting sick. You can protect yourself from cholera (and other food and waterborne illnesses) by drinking clean (filtered or bottled) water, washing hands frequently and eating foods that are from sealed packages or cooked well. However, almost 98 percent of travelers do not comply with these guidelines.

Getting a vaccine before travel may also help to ensure that your travel plans are not inconvenienced by illness. The CDC recommends that adult travelers (ages 18-64) who are going to areas of active cholera transmission get vaccinated for cholera.

If you are traveling abroad to an area where cholera is present, make sure you are prepared by talking to your doctor or pharmacist at least two weeks in advance about getting vaccinated for cholera.

Military Appreciation Month: Remembering the...

(BPT) - As a day to remember those who fought and died in service to our country, Memorial Day was originally called "Decoration Day." Waterloo, New York, was declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson to be the birthplace of Memorial Day back in May of 1966.

The purpose of Memorial Day sprung from wanting to honor the dead during the Civil War. General John Logan first proclaimed that a day would be set aside in the month of May to honor those who died in service:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land."

May 30 as a date was chosen at the time because no specific battle was commemorated on that day. Currently, the last Monday in May holds the honor of being Memorial Day.

It is important that we remember those who fought for our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe here in the Unites States. There are many ways you can pay your respects to those who fought and died for us. For example, you can help arrange official color guard ceremonies for Memorial Day events and year-round for church services, athletic events and school programs.

The National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed back in 2000, and asks all Americans on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. to “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.'”

If you are going to be in the Washington, DC, or New York areas for Memorial Day, there are activities to help honor your veterans throughout the weekend:

May 27 - World War II Memorial, Washington, DC:

There will be a free Ranger Talk from 2:00-2:45 p.m. and 4:00-4:45 p.m.

May 28 - National Memorial Day Concert, Washington, DC:

From 8-9 p.m., PBS will sponsor a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. General Admission gates for the event will be open starting at 5 p.m.

May 29 - Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade, New York:

The parade will take place at 11 a.m. and will follow a route from 78th St and Third Ave., along Third Ave. to Marine Ave. up to Fourth Ave. and over to John Paul Jones Park to 101st St. and Fourth Ave. for a memorial service.

May 29 - National Memorial Day Parade, Washington, DC:

The parade will take place at 2 p.m. starting at the Constitution Ave. and 7th Streets, NW and ending at 17th Street.

The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring our heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country. Nearly 90 percent of cash donations the Purple Heart Foundation receives provide funds for programs that help the National Service Officer Program, the Scholarship Program, as well as other programs. It is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.

4 tips for less stress and more fun during this...

(BPT) - Highlights of summer travel include exploring new cities, theme parks, sightseeing and sampling local eats with loved ones. Yet too often, the logistics of planning a summer vacation can create stress that makes it difficult to appreciate the trip itself. By making smarter choices, the planning process will be easier and the journey more enjoyable.

For example, affordability is a top concern for families planning a vacation. According to a survey by the Family Travel Association, the majority of family travelers prefer to stay in hotels, and more than half spend between $1,000 and $5,000 on travel. Travelers looking to save money might find greater value in all-suites hotels that offer larger spaces and in-suite kitchens or kitchenettes to help reduce dining expenses.

An all-suites hotel means every room is an affordable suite, so there’s room for more — travelers don’t have to worry about packing light. No matter what type of baggage a traveler brings, literal and figurative, an all-suites hotel can make the experience that much better. Ahead of this year’s summer travel season, here are four simple vacation planning tips to ensure families can focus on what really matters – enjoying the adventure while making new memories.

Consider staying local

The annual family summer vacation doesn’t have to involve driving for days, or costly airfare. If you live within a half day’s drive of a major city, consider researching what that location has to offer by way of attractions, historic sites, shopping and dining.

Once the decision to stay close to home is made, value-conscious travelers should consider a hotel that offers plenty of space and prime access to local attractions. For example, Home2 Suites by Hilton Atlanta Downtown is steps away from the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park, and other attractions such as the World of Coca-Cola. Plus, staying closer to home means you’ll spend less time getting to your destination and more quality time with the family.

Travel together

Instead of just traveling with your nuclear family, consider making this the summer to get away with extended loved ones or another family with children close in age. All-suites accommodations provide ample space to comfortably fit larger groups. After all, a spacious suite means more room to both spread out and come together.

Sixty-five percent of all family reunions occur during the summer, making it the perfect time to get away. Selecting an all-suites hotel can be particularly helpful for families traveling with children for an extended period of time. For example, each suite contains a separate bedroom and living area, so parents can take a break from the kids (at least for a moment) to catch up with other family members during a reunion.

Don’t overdo dinner

For families of all sizes, dining can be a significant summer travel expense, especially if you eat out for every meal. Of course, one or two special meals are a must when you’re on vacation, but you can make your dollar go farther by choosing hotels that offer complimentary breakfast, in-suite kitchens, on-site convenience markets for grab-and-go items, for-guest-use outdoor grills and complimentary grocery shopping services.

For example, Homewood Suites by Hilton Dallas Downtown offers an on-site 24 hour Suite Shop(R) convenience store, fully equipped kitchens in every suite, hot full breakfast daily and complimentary refreshments at an evening social Monday through Thursday. After a full day of sightseeing, making dinner plans can feel like a hassle. Choosing a hotel with multiple meal options and amenities can make dinnertime the easiest part of the day.

Decompress in the evening

With so much to see and do, getting enough “R&R” can seem like the last thing you tend to when you’re on vacation, especially when you’re busy with the family. However, allowing yourself some downtime — and getting a good night’s sleep — can help you avoid that burned-out feeling you can get at the end of a long, active vacation.

Comfortable sleeping accommodations are key, of course, but it’s also important to choose a hotel that offers space and amenities for relaxation. Whether your version of winding down is a quick dip in the pool, a round of tennis or basketball, or an evening cocktail, that downtime can help you recharge for the next day’s activities. For example, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile offers drinks and snacks at its complimentary evening reception, and a heated indoor pool, sauna and fitness center to help you decompress.

Whether planning a week-long summer trip, weekend getaway with family or large family reunion, we all want our vacation to go off without a hitch. To find an all-suites hotel for your summer trip, visit HiltonBringIt.com.

Burglaries peak in summer: Is your home secure?

(BPT) - Long days, moonlit nights and endless opportunities for adventure are probably causing you to daydream about travel. Whether you're planning a day trip or a month-long extravaganza, summer is full of opportunity for you. But what about your empty house while you're away?

Unfortunately summer months are also peak periods for home burglaries. Seasonal patterns exist in household burglary rates, according the U.S. Department of Justice, with these crimes happening more frequently in the summer than during other seasons of the year because people are traveling more and are away from their homes.

Planning your next weekend at the cabin doesn't have to involve worry about a break-in back home. Give yourself peace of mind no matter where you are by taking a few proactive steps to protect your home today.

Step 1: A smart home is a secure home

Law enforcement agencies agree that one of the best ways to protect a home is with a security system. Something as simple as a sign noting an alarm system is onsite can be enough to deter a potential theft. Closing and locking all doors (including dead bolts) and then setting an alarm dramatically decreases burglary odds.

Smart home technology is creating greater innovation in home security, with systems like Iris by Lowe’s allowing homeowners to create a do-it-yourself, tailored system that's not only convenient but effective security. This affordable system features more than 100 compatible devices that include security cameras, motion sensors, smart locks, adjustable light bulbs, connected thermostats, smoke alarms and more.

For an even more secure home, Iris now offers professional home monitoring for less than $15 a month. The service gives homeowners the ability to have emergency responders dispatched to their homes in the event of a security, smoke, carbon monoxide or panic alarm, with no long-term contract required. Whether you're at work or across the country, you can rest easy knowing someone will respond quickly to any home emergency.

Step 2: Avoid signs that show your home is vacant

An empty home is an easy target for break-ins. It can be pretty obvious when homeowners are away, especially if they've been gone for a while. But with a mix of simple steps and effective technology, you can give your house a “lived-in” feel, even when you’re miles away.

Stop your mail and newspaper delivery when traveling, or ask a neighbor to gather these items for you so they don't accumulate on your property. Have someone come and tidy your yard and water plants so everything appears tended to. Use your Iris smart home system to set lights to turn on and off throughout the day. You may even ask a neighbor to periodically park in your driveway to give the impression people are coming and going.

Keep in mind social media has become a rich resource for criminals. Keep profile settings to private and never post photos or other messages on social media about your vacation while still away. Travel posts are like news alerts that your home is empty. It's best to wait until you return before sharing those precious images with friends and family.

Step 3: Rid your property of hiding spots and easy points of entry

Homes with lots of overgrowth and natural coverage provide hiding spots that make break-ins simpler. That means now is the time to trim bushes, hedges and trees, especially around entrance points in the home.

Next, look for vulnerable areas of your house. For example, the garage door may be easier to open than you think. Consider using a C-clamp on garage doors while gone or integrating a smart garage controller so you can keep tabs on whether it's opened or closed from your smartphone.

Windows are another common way for burglars to enter a home. Hot summer months often mean cracked windows, so double check all are closed and locked. With a smart home system like Iris, you can even check on this remotely and get notified if a window is opened or broken. If you have a window air conditioning unit, you may want to install window frame locks to prevent a criminal from pushing out the unit and entering the home.

Summer should be a time of relaxation instead of worry. These three steps can help you be smart about securing your home so you can actually enjoy that vacation.

Visit MyIrisSecurity.com or your local Lowe’s or to learn more about installing Iris in your home today.

Pack your bags: Pittsburgh makes for a...

(BPT) - With all the fun things to do around here, it’s no wonder that Pittsburgh is KidsBURGH! Enjoy new activities as a family this year at up to 50 percent off regular admission prices when you book on VisitPITTSBURGH.com. So what’s there to do, you ask?

You can experience a brand-new movie at Kennywood Amusement Park’s 4-D Theater, explore 18 lifelike dinosaurs at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, discover a tropical forest at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, or go hog wild with the Hands-On Harley-Davidson exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

At Kennywood, a new LEGO Movie 4-D Experience opens in May 2017. The kids will love this sequel to the 2014 blockbuster hit, which features Emmet and his Master Builder friends. Also new this year is a virtual reality experience where visitors will be immersed in a world that lines up with the on-ride experience offered by the Sky Rocket roller coaster.

“So, when Sky Rocket launches riders from 0 to 50 mph in under 3 seconds, up a 90-degree hill and then straight back down, riders wearing the VR headsets will see the same thing happening in the virtual world they’ve been immersed in,” says Nick Paradise, a spokesman for Kennywood. Both attractions are included with admission.

When you visit the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, keep your eyes peeled for the baby rhino and be sure to check out Jungle Odyssey, a new, permanent exhibit that features a pygmy hippo, giant anteaters, capybaras and more. Another exciting addition, available Memorial Day to Labor Day 2017, is Dinosaurs, an add-on experience that takes guests back to prehistoric times with 18 anatomical, lifelike dinosaurs.

Check out The Power of Poison, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s new exhibition focused on nature’s most dangerous chemicals. At the museum, which is attached to the Carnegie Museum of Art, the whole family can explore a tropical forest and continue on an adventure that includes a sleeping Snow White and a spooky smoking cauldron. This exhibit allows kids to solve a mystery using iPads and turn the pages of a giant storybook with just the touch of their hands. It truly offers something for everyone, with live animals, interactive technology and surprising science.

At the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, families can participate in Hands-On Harley-Davidson, an interactive area exhibit that includes a kid-sized motorcycle dealership and engineering lab that lets kids (and adults) “Dream It. Build It. Ride It.” This exhibit runs May through September 2017. There are also plenty of permanent areas to enjoy, including Waterplay, an art studio, the Attic's Gravity Room and more.

Take to the rivers on Saturdays and Sundays all summer long aboard the Gateway Clipper Fleet’s new family-friendly sightseeing cruise. It features the one and only Captain Jack. There are also several kids-themed cruises where the little ones can meet their favorite princess and superhero, or take part in a galactic battle. Also new this year is the “Be Our Guest,” “Under the Sea” and “Wizards School” specialty cruises.

At the Highmark SportsWorks section of the Carnegie Science Center, Ropes Challenge is a major new attraction. It’s a multi-user, two-level experience where harnessed guests navigate a series of obstacles and challenges: tightropes, rope bridges and even a zipline. For younger family members, the SkyTykes course is closer to the ground. There are also SportsWorks exhibits where visitors can become human yo-yos, scale a 25-foot rock wall, do high-flying bungee tricks, compare their running time against an Olympic silver medalist and test their reaction speed against an ice hockey goalie.

If you’re looking to cool off, head to Idlewild & SoakZone, just 50 miles from the city. Here, you can splash, slide and relax at Float Away Bay, or “ride the tide” at the Wowabunga Family Wave Pool. For dry fun, you can take a trolley ride through Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The attraction is based on the hit TV series inspired by the original Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. Kids love Story Book Forest, home to characters from cherished nursery rhymes and children’s tales. In all, there are over 35 different rides, attractions and shows for all ages at Idlewild.

Visit Pittsburgh this summer for a fun-filled affordable family getaway! Save big by booking your adventure through visitpittsburgh.com.

Let's go boating: 4 ways to vacation on the...

(BPT) - Want to get away this summer? Skip the plane ride or long car trip and get out on the water. Whether it’s an hour after work cruising, a morning of fishing or a weekend of watersports, boating provides all the benefits of vacation at your convenience, close to home.

In a recent study by Discover Boating, four out of five Americans said being around water relaxes them, and 72 percent feel healthier after spending time on the water. With Americans working longer hours, the need to take vacation time is greater than ever. According to the U.S. Travel Association, four in 10 Americans are not using all their paid time off.

Boating benefits a person's overall well-being and can be more accessible than many think. In fact, millions of Americans go boating each year on more than 15 million boats in the U.S., according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

"Boating offers the opportunity to get away from it all without going very far from home, allowing you to disconnect from stress on land, enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, and have fun with your friends and family,” says Carl Blackwell, president of Discover Boating. "Vacation time doesn’t need to be reserved for long trips — you can enjoy all the benefits of vacation more frequently and close to home when you go boating.”

Want to go fishing, sailing, wakesurfing, cruising or ride a personal watercraft? Whether on vacation or staycation, these insider tips provide fun, stress-free ways to get on the water this summer.

Take a class. Sign up for a boating lesson to hone your powerboating, sailing or watersports skills by mastering the basics while having fun along the way. Popular options around the U.S. include boating classes, on-water training courses, watersports camps, youth boating programs and more.

Rent a boat. Rental options are available on most waterways and provide hourly or daily access to a variety of boat types. Rental outfitters should provide tutorials on operating a boat, share safety instructions and offer suggestions on destinations. New to the mix are peer-to-peer rentals, allowing you to rent someone else’s boat, which usually includes insurance coverage and captains for hire.

Share the fun. You don’t need to own a boat to join a boat club. Clubs and shared ownership programs allow you to share a boat with others, split the costs and book your time on the boat online. These clubs and programs also maintain, clean, insure and store the boats and many provide on-water training.

Float your own boat. There are no limits to going on vacation when you own a boat. Chart your own course to boat ownership by visiting DiscoverBoating.com, where you’ll find a boat selector and loan calculator to help you determine your budget and identify the different types of boats that fit your lifestyle and interests. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, the site can connect you with manufacturers whose boats best fit your needs and wants.

Find ways to get on the water by using Discover Boating’s Go Boating Today tool. Just enter your zip code to find rentals, classes, boat clubs and more close to home.

5 ways to make your staycation feel like an...

(BPT) - No stringent schedule. Eating new, exotic foods. Getting lost in a page-turning novel. Trying a new activity that takes you outside your comfort zone.

These are the types of things that make for a memorable vacation. The problem is, you're not traveling this year and instead are opting for the increasingly popular staycation.

Yes, you're taking PTO and staying put, but that doesn't mean you can't have an incredible time. In fact, many of the activities that make a traditional vacation so wonderful can be emulated while at home.

To help make your staycation feel like a real getaway, follow these five steps. You'll have just as much fun as leaving town, but you'll save tons of money, plus get to sleep in your own bed.

Limit technology: When you travel to a faraway location, you probably have limited-to-no access to your cell phone and email. That disconnection helps you unwind. Mimic that feeling by limiting your technology use during your staycation.

Leave your phone upstairs, turn the computer off and resist grabbing the tablet. You should consider changing your email and phone message to say you'll have limited access over the time you're off, so people who contact you know it might be awhile until you get back to them.

Escape with a destination-specific book: Want to feel like you're leaving town without leaving the house? Historical fiction can transport you to a different time and place, no matter how short or long your time off. For example, New York Times best-selling author Anita Shreve's newest novel, "The Stars Are Fire," vividly brings 1947 New England to life. Based on a real event — “the year Maine burned,” when more than 200 fires raged across the state — the book introduces us to Grace Holland, five months pregnant and the mother to two toddlers. As flames rip through the town, Grace must flee into the ocean to survive, spending the night in the frigid sea as the fire sends debris and smoke onto the beach. In the morning, she discovers her husband missing and her home completely destroyed. Amid devastating loss, Grace must rebuild her family’s life, and find strength she didn’t know she had. The novel asks her, and its readers: What would you do if you could begin again?

People Magazine called the book “original and gripping,” the perfect recipe for a staycation. And USA Today gave the book three and a half out of four stars: "Shreve is masterful at creating compelling characters whose inner conversations about love and intimacy are both heartfelt and heartrending … [this] quiet novel about marriage, duty and passion lingers long after the last page is turned, like the smoke from a wildfire."

Eat exotic and amazing fare: Every corner of the world offers cuisine that represents the culture of the people who live there. When you travel, eating these types of foods enhances the vacation experience. During your staycation, skip standard weekly meals and try new destination-inspired recipes and make a few at home.

Try your hand at a New England clam bake, the Midwest-famous Watergate Salad or chili rellenos from the southern U.S. states. Or, for a more exotic taste adventure, explore ethnic recipes from around the world. Whatever you choose, you're sure to have fun making and eating the unique dishes.

Drink and be merry: While you're expanding your staycation experience with new cuisine, why not drink that way too? Complement your meals with a traditional location-inspired libation, such as a Manhattan from New York, Mai Tai from Hawaii or Vieux Carre from New Orleans.

Of course there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to wet your whistle, too. Feel the southern charm with a traditional sweet tea, or sit down with your book and instead of a classic cup of joe, indulge in an Italian espresso or an iced coffee.

Break routine with a daily adventure: You may be home, but that doesn't mean you can't explore areas of your city that you rarely venture to. By doing new things, you'll feel like you're really on vacation!

Visit that museum. Go to that quiet park. Take a hike down by the river. Go to a movie in the middle of the afternoon. Try something new, such as paddle boarding or rock climbing. Just because you're "home" doesn't mean you can't have unique adventures that make for unforgettable memories.

Staycations continue to grow in popularity, and with these tips, it will truly feel like a getaway rather than just bland days off at home.

Don't sweat your summer move: 10 tips for...

(BPT) - Summer isn’t just vacation season, it’s also peak moving season. Studies show more people move during summer months than any other time of year; kids are out of school and weather is less likely to delay moves. However, moving is hard work no matter what time of year you do it. You’ll need careful planning and smart packing to ensure your summer move goes smoothly and safely.

These 10 tips can help:

1. Rent the right size moving truck.

Choose a truck that’s too big, and you’ll waste gas and space, plus empty room inside the truck means your belongings are more likely to shift in transit. Choose one that’s too small, and you could face multiple trips or the hard decision of what to leave behind. Penske Truck Rental professionals recommend you allow 150 cubic feet of truck space for each fully furnished room you’ll be moving. A 12-foot truck that offers 450 cubic feet could move three rooms — the equivalent of a one-bedroom apartment — while a 26-foot truck affords 1,400 cubic feet, approximately enough to move a two- or three-bedroom house.

2. Perfect your packing schedule.

Pack too soon and you’ll be living surrounded by boxes, some of which might contain stuff you need right now. Pack too late and scrambling at the last minute could mean you make mistakes that lead to damage. Pack out-of-season and non-essential items several weeks before moving day. Donate or sell anything you won’t need in your new home. Wait until the day before or morning of your move to pack essentials like personal necessities and basic cookware.

3. Protect packed items.

Nothing’s worse than opening a box at your destination only to find something broken. Use plenty of paper and bubble wrap to protect packed items. Towels, socks, pillows and other soft materials can help protect breakable items, too.

4. Reserve your rental truck early.

It’s no surprise that truck rental places get very busy during summer months. Reserve your rental truck at least two weeks prior to the move — earlier if you’ll be moving during a peak month like July or August. You can reserve a truck from your smartphone at PenskeTruckRental.com.

5. Clearly label all boxes.

Remember to label every box with what’s inside it and the room it will go to in your new home.

6. Have plenty of help on hand.

Having help loading and unloading boxes will make the move go more smoothly — and reduce the risk you’ll get hurt trying to do everything yourself. Enlist friends and family to help out. If you have large, heavy or very delicate items, consider hiring professionals to help load and unload those items.

7. Load the truck efficiently.

How well you load the truck will affect the safety of your belongings. Load heavy items like big furniture pieces and heavy boxes first, then stack lighter boxes and items to fill the remaining space. Be aware of the possibility that contents can shift in transit, so try to eliminate excess space that might allow the load to shift.

8. Lift carefully.

Improper lifting can cause injury. When lifting, bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back. Get help lifting heavy items and use hand trucks and moving dollies to move heavy or bulky items. Take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated.

9. Schedule your drive to avoid peak traffic times.

You already know when peak traffic times occur around your current neighborhood, and a simple online search can help you identify rush hour at your destination. Schedule your drive so you won’t be on the road during the worst traffic times. Leaving very early before morning rush hour can help you avoid the frustration of sitting in traffic, and give you extra time to unload at your destination.

10. Learn safe truck driving practices.

Most people don’t have a lot of experience driving moving trucks, so take extra care to ensure your own safety and the security of your belongings. Ask your rental professional to familiarize you with the vehicle. For safe driving tips, visit pensketruckrental.com.

The advantages of an RV vacation [Video]

(BPT) - Vacations are a time to bring the family together and create life-changing experiences. But the airport hassle, hotel room fees and unexpected scheduling hiccups are not the memories you want to leave behind.

Instead, bring home with you wherever you go with an RV vacation. Sound too good to be true? Watch this video to learn more.

How to find a hotel that can cater to your...

(BPT) - You arrive at your hotel and pull out your smartphone. After an incredibly long sign-in process, you connect to the Internet. It works fine in the hallway but not in your room, so you go to the business center to check email and print tickets to tonight's show. The center is packed, so you head back to your room to wait. Meanwhile, your kids are trying to stream a movie and the Internet connection is slow.

Both business and leisure travelers rely on technology to stay connected and streamline to-do's. However, poor Wi-Fi and minimal tech-focused amenities leave many travelers disappointed. That's why before booking a hotel, you should always ask questions to ensure you get as much out of your technology while travelling as you do while at home.

Ask these eight questions to make sure your technology needs are met while staying at any hotel, no matter how many devices you plan to use.

Is the room suited for technology?

Whether new or remodeled, modern hotels should feature room designs that support technology. For example, ask about easy access to outlets and charging stations while you're in the room to ensure you can plug in your phone, charge your tablet and use your computer all at the same time.

How reliable is the Internet?

Fast, reliable Internet is critical for anyone traveling for business or pleasure. When you stay at IHG hotels, you can feel confident you get superior Internet service. IHG Connect provides advanced Wi-Fi technology with increased bandwidth to meet the demand and volume needs of guests.

What is the login process?

Lengthy login processes are a hassle, especially if you're connecting multiple devices. Some hotels offer streamlined methods which is a big time-saver. Want to log in just once? IHG Rewards Club members log in and then they'll be recognized and automatically connected at every IHG Connect-enabled hotel.

How secure is the Wi-Fi network?

Most hotels today offer Wi-Fi to guests, but it might not be a secure network. To ensure private information stays private, only stay at hotels with a private and secure Internet connection for guests.

Is there an extra cost for Wi-Fi?

Some hotels charge extra for fast Internet access. Ask about costs and look into membership perks that wave these fees. For example, IHG Rewards Club members receive free Wi-Fi at all IHG properties.

What is available at the business center?

A good hotel will have a business center available to all guests. Inquire as to what is included at the center to ensure your needs are met. Printers, fax machines, computers and a variety of outlets should be available.

What are the hours of the business center?

Ask about the hours of the business center so you know you're covered, whether you need to book a last-minute reservation to the city's hottest attraction or print out that big report for tomorrow's presentation.

Are meeting spaces available?

For business travelers, impromptu meeting spaces are great for quick meetups or when you want to get out of your room for a change of scenery. For more formal gatherings, ask the hotel about the availability of meeting planners who can assist in organizing the technology needs of large groups of people and corporate events.

Keep your technology moving as fast as you do by asking these questions now. That way your hotel stay will be that much more enjoyable, comfortable and productive.

Must-do tips to get your vehicle ready for spring

(BPT) - With the sun out and shining for spring, drivers are getting themselves and their cars ready for more outdoor activity. Before setting off on that next adventure, drivers should check the health and maintenance of their vehicle, as April marks the start of National Car Care Month. In light of the awareness month, Hankook checked in with drivers across America to see how they maintain their vehicles, uncovering trends on general upkeep around tire replacement, vehicle mishaps and roadside emergencies.

Sounds and smells mean service

If you are driving a car that clunks or a ride that rattles, it's likely an indication of some much-needed service. According to the latest Hankook Tire Gauge Index, over two-thirds (70 percent) of Americans will immediately schedule a trip to the repair shop after hearing irregular sounds from their vehicle and 59 percent of drivers will take their car in if they smell something funky. While your senses can certainly help indicate when it's time for a visit to the mechanic, it's important to consider the date since your last visit to the shop, which less than half (46 percent) of Americans do. Remember to check the little things like air filters or that your air conditioning system works now as pollen starts to dust the roads and temperatures climb.

While you might be able to hear or smell the problems within your vehicle, how do you know when to change your tire? A majority of Americans (65 percent) trade in for a new set of tires when the tread looks worn down. However, only 8 percent adhere to the mileage rating of the tire to help make more accurate decisions on when it's time to replace their tires. Major tire manufacturers will list the tread life/mileage on their website, but you can also use the Tire Tread Indicator on the bottom of the tire's grooves to ensure the tread depth is sufficient for optimum safety and performance.

Trouble on the road

While drivers can make sure their cars are in tip-top shape, the condition of roads and highways can be another issue. Nine in 10 Americans believe the infrastructure or condition of roads and highways is a current issue for drivers. This sentiment might stem from the fact one-third of drivers have had their vehicle or tires damaged from a pothole, and more than a quarter of drivers have had a flat tire as a result of a pothole. Not only can potholes be a hazard, but Hankook found that over a quarter (26 percent) of drivers don't know how to change a tire, including nearly half (43 percent) of all women.

Spare me the details

In case you do find yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire, it's important to regularly check the health of your spare tire. By design, spares are often just a temporary solution to get to a mechanic, as performance and safety are limited by their smaller contact patch and overall diameter compared to a standard tire. In addition, a spare is also not nearly as durable by comparison, making any road hazard more dangerous.

However, the Hankook Gauge found that 34 percent of Americans will drive straight to the mechanic with a spare tire, but almost one-quarter (22 percent) of Americans will drive over 50 miles on a spare. If you are a driver with worn-out tires or currently driving on a spare, there are deals available to help you save on tires, including Hankook's Great Catch Rebate program.

As the weather heats up, there is not a better time to check the health and safety of your vehicle to get you out on the open road.

Tire tips for those in the fast lane

(BPT) - The weather’s finally warming up, the roads are dry and your sports car is beckoning you to hit the road for a fun trip. The question is: Are your tires up to the task?

“Tires influence braking, steering, comfort, handling and even fuel efficiency,” says Bob Abram, consumer tires product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation. “Whether you drive a sports car, minivan or high-end luxury vehicle, it’s important you have the right tires because choosing the wrong ones can result in a disappointment with the handling, ride and treadwear.”

When it comes to fast and fun vehicles, Abram said ultra-high-performance (UHP) tires might be the best bet, depending on driving styles and vehicle performance. Finding the best one could be daunting, so he has some quick tips to get you rolling.

1. Take extra time to research. When conducting online research, make sure the reviews (and reviewers) are using the vehicle the way you do. If you need to drive in snow, but the reviews don’t mention winter driving, then that tire might not work best for you. In short, don’t look for the top-rated tires in regard to just “performance”; make sure to add in how and where you drive.

2. Look for a mileage warranty. The best UHP all-season (A/S) tires now have a mileage warranty to give you peace of mind about a balance of performance and tread life. For example, the ADVAN Sport A/S has a 50,000-mile limited treadwear warranty for W- and Y-speed models.

3. Look for balanced performance. Most drivers will be happier with a tire that handles well in all seasons, but also offers a smooth, comfortable ride and good treadwear. Usually the best UHP all-season tires do many things well, not just one or two. This is where your research will really pay off.

Once you decide on the right UHP tires for your vehicle, Abram says, maintaining them is essential to get their full benefits. “It always starts with checking your tire pressure regularly, which is at least once a month. It only takes 5 minutes and can really help, because a tire that is underinflated by only 8 psi can reduce fuel economy up to 2 percent.”

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) recommends checking the tires when they are cold — at least four hours since the vehicle was last driven. Abram says to always use an accurate tire gauge and make sure the valve is free of debris and water.

“The correct tire pressure is specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the tire manufacturer,” Abram says. “The proper inflation levels can be found on a placard on the inside of the car door and/or in the owner’s manual.”

Abram offers more tire tips that will help you throughout the year:

* Check your tread depth by placing a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tire’s tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires.

* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit). It’s best to replace them before they reach 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and based on the type of streets).

* Rotating your tires regularly promotes even wear of the tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

* Check your alignment at least once a year or sooner, especially if the vehicle is pulling to one side. This will help avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.

For more tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com/tires-101 or www.rma.org.

10 must-read books to inspire travel

(BPT) - A great book is an essential travel companion. But what if you are months from vacation, low on travel budget, or need inspiration for your next trip?

The Amazon Books Editors have you covered. They read hundreds of thousands of pages a year in order to curate lists of the best books for all kinds of readers.

"Whether you are planning your next vacation or just looking for an escape from your daily life, we have created a list of books that will inspire, educate and take you to a whole new world," said Chris Schluep, Amazon Books Editor.

Location specific reads: Have a destination in mind? After the plane tickets are purchased and the Airbnb confirmed, your next step should be to choose your book. The Amazon Books editors recommend the list below, inspired by some of the most popular travel destinations.

New York City

In the memoir Insomniac City, author and photographer Bill Hayes pays tribute to his relationship with Oliver Sacks, giving intimate, yet reverent insight into the man the "New York Times" called "the poet laureate of medicine." It's also a paean to one of the other loves of his life: New York City. Join Hayes as he gives you a completely different view of the city that never sleeps.


Alaska offers beauty that lures travelers who long for adventure and untouched wilderness. Read "Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube" by Blair Braverman for fantastic insight on what it took for her to live in this unforgiving, yet breathtaking, landscape.


Margaret George brings the backstabbing, cutthroat politics of Roman rulers to vivid life through her atmospheric novel, "Confessions of a Young Nero." This book will transport you to the eternal city at a pivotal time in its history through the eyes of the legendary emperor.


If you're binge-watching the addictive PBS/Masterpiece drama "Victoria" and thinking about a trip to England as a result, check out the book on which the show is based: "Victoria" by Daisy Goodwin. Get ready to dust off your passport!


Want a tropical vacation in your own living room? Try out "Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of the Tiki." Hawaiian shirts are optional, but you'll be inspired to pull out the tiny umbrellas and swizzle sticks as you learn more about the lore and legend of tiki, a misunderstood movement in American cultural history.

Experiential travel reads: Many of the best books focus on the adventure of traveling itself. The books below will speak to the explorer in you!

Road tripping

"The Wangs vs. the World" by Jade Chang is about a wealthy Chinese-American family that loses it all and then decides to set out on an epic road trip. You'll laugh out loud as you join this family on this surprisingly hilarious ride, perhaps inspiring your own road trip adventure.

Off the beaten path

Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, "Atlas Obscura" celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. Through this book, you'll visit the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, a baobob tree in South Africa that's so large it has a pub inside, and an eccentric bone museum in Italy.

Escape at home

Bill Bryson's collection, "The Best American Travel Writing 2016", begins by asking why people like to travel then sets out answering this question through the collected works of contributors who travel for different reasons. Whether traversing the Arctic by dogsled or strolling the streets of a fast-changing Havana, each story offers insights into the world and the human condition.

Low-budget, nature

It started as a far-fetched idea - to hike the entire length of the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline to draw attention to global warming. But an idea turns to an irresistible adventure in "Trespassing Across America," by Ken Ilgunas. This memoir is filled with colorful characters and tales of harrowing physical trials.

Girlfriends' getaway

Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin takes readers on a cosmopolitan jaunt inspired by famous urban settings and the famous, groundbreaking women who explored them before her. Elkin charts a path between literature, art, history, and film and the relationships women have with these urban centers.

For additional travel reads, check out the Amazon Book Editors' favorites on Amazon.com.

7 tips to conquer your packing challenges while...

(BPT) - Whether it's business travel, family road tripping or a romantic getaway, exploring new places is exciting. You may be counting down the days until you leave, but if there's one thing you dread, it's packing. Deciding what earns a spot in your suitcase is hard enough, let alone figuring out how you can fit it all in.

Do you look with envy at savvy jet-setters who seem to navigate airports with ease while only toting a small carry-on? It's because years of travel experience has taught them some packing tricks that make the process simple. Now you can use these same strategies to pack with ease no matter how near or far you plan to travel.

Select double-duty clothing items.

Check the weather for your destination so you pack only items appropriate for the forecast. You won't need that big sunhat if rain is coming. Want to take it one step further? Choose items that multitask. For example, a large scarf can be a stylish accessory and also be used as a blanket on the plane or at the beach.

Pack toiletries strategically.

If possible, only bring samples and travel sizes of items to save space. Then leave them behind at the end of the trip to open up luggage space to bring home mementos. To avoid luggage spills and explosions, place toiletries in plastic bags or add plastic wrap to the tops before screwing on the cap.

Choose time-saving tools.

Air drying hair takes forever and hotel hair dyers are often slow and unreliable, so pack a lightweight, folding dryer like the Panasonic EH-NA27-K Nanoe Compact Hair Dryer to streamline your beauty routine. The nanoe technology draws moisture from the air to create moisture-rich ions that penetrate each hair shaft and enhance hair's smoothness and shine. Need more incentive? The unique Quick-Dry Nozzle is designed to dry hair faster, so you can spend less time getting ready and more time enjoying your vacation.

Fold to prevent wrinkling.

To prevent wrinkles on delicate items, try wrapping them around soft, bulky items. For example, wrap a silk blouse or cotton trousers around a sweater. Avoid folding clothing any more than necessary. In fact, many people use a rolling method for packing clothes to save space and prevent wrinkles.

Utilize odd-shaped items.

Shoes take up a ton of luggage space, so strive to select no more than three pairs, and wear the heaviest or bulkiest pair while traveling. Place shoes along the sides or bottom to strengthen the bag and then stash items inside to maximize space (like socks, nylons and deodorant).

Eliminate makeup mayhem.

Only bring makeup essentials on a vacation and pack multi-use items such as a lipstick that can also be used as a blush. To prevent shadows and pressed powders from cracking, place a pressed cotton pad between the powder and the lid.

Grab a few plastic bags.

One of the most versatile things you can bring on a trip is also one many people forget: resealable plastic bags. Whether you need a bag for bringing toys down to the pool, a place to put dirty clothes throughout your trip, or something to place that soggy swimsuit in before you check out of the hotel, plastic bags are your secret weapon.


Outdoor adventures offer out-of-this-world fun...

(BPT) - When winter cold and snow force you indoors, you might dream of getting away to somewhere warm and sunny that offers plenty of energizing fun and a much-needed change in the weather. Planning for your spring and summer vacations is a great way to score some budget-friendly deals. It also helps you beat the winter blues by giving you something to look forward to.

But where to go, you might ask. One great option is Florida’s Space Coast, a destination that, while renowned for its ties to the U.S. space program, also offers an astonishing abundance of adventure-filled, outdoor vacation activities.

If you’re starting to explore your spring or summer vacation possibilities, here are some can’t-miss things to do that make the Space Coast an out-of-this-world destination:

* Take a nighttime “bioluminescence” kayak tour along the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge or Cocoa Beach. These tours allow you to get up close and personal with some of the glowing creatures who magnificently inhabit the waters along Florida’s Space Coast.

* With so many great beaches, the area is an ideal destination for surfers and other water sports enthusiasts. Here, you can visit the flagship Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach – a 52,000-square-foot, multilevel store offering a huge selection of surf boards, swimming attire and other surf-brand apparel. Meanwhile, at the nearby Ron Jon Surf School, you can arrange a surfing lesson or even rent a paddleboard.

* Immerse yourself in nature at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 140,000-acre park that is home to at least 1,500 species of plants and animals, including alligators, manatees and a wide variety of birds. If the time of year is right, you can also take a guided nighttime Turtle Walk to observe sea turtles as they lay their eggs.

* The region is a paradise for birds, making it the perfect place to host the annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, normally held early in the year. Bird-watching, or “birding,” is just part of the fun at the festival, which also offers entertainment, unique dining experiences, special events and more.

* In Titusville, sign up for a Coast-to-Coast Bike Tour and get an up-close view of the region’s vibrant wildlife areas and historic sites. Or, for an epic ride, venture out on your own along the Coast-to-Coast Connector Bike Trail.

* Get your adrenaline pumping with a zip line aerial tour. Brevard Zoo’s Treetop Trek allows you to zip line, crawl or climb your way through acre after acre of lush Florida landscape.

* The Space Coast is one of the few places you can personally witness a rocket launching into space, and it is breathtaking. Rockets carrying satellites into orbit or transporting cargo to the International Space Station launch periodically throughout the year. You can find the launch schedule at SpaceCoastLaunches.com.

To learn more about Florida’s Space Coast and plan your spring or summer getaway, head to visitspacecoast.com.

Tips to avoid distracted driving

(BPT) - The pace of business never seems to stop, and thanks to the convenience of cell phones, many people work on the go, even while they’re driving. Yet cell phone use is one of the most common type of distracted driving, and it claims thousands of lives and causes thousands more injuries every year.

More than a quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use, both hand sets and hands-free, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports. In 13 percent of fatal crashes, the drivers were using cellphones, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. The actual number of cell phone-related accidents is likely much higher, since many states don't yet compile and report data on cell phone use following a crash.

Employers take up the issue

Recognizing the ethical and liability issues that arise when employees drive while distracted, employers across the country have begun implementing distracted driving policies. Typically, these policies prohibit employees from using cellphones while driving on company time.

In January 2017, the NSC reported that Cargill was the largest privately held company to prohibit the use of mobile devices, including hands-free technology, while an employee is driving on behalf of the company. The ban also covers work related calls while commuting to and from work, even if employees are driving their own vehicles.

“There is a time and place for doing business, and it’s not while you’re driving,” says Melanie Burke, director of health and safety at Cargill, a Minnesota-based privately held company with 150,000 employees around the world.

Even Cargill’s Chairman and CEO David MacLennan is subject to the ban. In announcing the policy to employees in late 2016, MacLennan noted he was 138 days into cell-phone free motoring. “It’s been liberating,” he told employees.

NSC data shows about 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have instituted cell phone bans, and of those, just 1 percent believe the ban affected productivity.

Replace risk, keep productivity

Taking care of business doesn’t mean you have to risk a crash. Here are six ways to keep up with the pace of business without using your cell phone in the car:

* Use an automated response app to let callers know you’re driving and can’t take their call at the moment. These free apps allow you to personalize the response and set your phone to automatically reply with a text message to incoming calls or texts.

* If you’re driving a vehicle outfitted with communication technology, use its “do not disturb” feature to unplug from calls and texts while behind the wheel.

* Use shared calendars to block off times when you’ll be on the road and unable to answer a call. The calendar item will help alert coworkers and anyone else connected to your calendar when you’ll be out of touch and when they might be able to reach you again.

* Remove temptation. A study by AT&T found 62 percent of drivers keep their phones within reach in the car. Put yours away where you can’t see or reach it. You can place it in your purse, briefcase or messenger bag, and place the bag in the back seat. Further reduce distraction and temptation by turning your device off before stowing it.

* If you absolutely must take a call while on the road, pull over in a safe location. If a call comes in while you’re driving, allow it to go to voicemail until you’re safely pulled over, then return the call.

* Be aware of other dangerously distracting behaviors, such as putting on makeup, tying a necktie or eating while driving. Do all your dressing and personal grooming before you leave home, and if you must snack while driving, choose food that is easy to manage, like a granola bar (unwrap it when you’re stopped), rather than something messy like a burger with all the fixings.

“Before we had cellphones, if you had to take a business call while on the road, you would pull over and find a pay phone,” says Burke. “Productivity was fine and business got done. When it comes to time behind the wheel, safety is everyone’s most important job.”


7 steps to secure your home while you're on...

(BPT) - Warmer temperatures, budding trees and blooming flowers are all lovely parts of spring, but what you really look forward to is the start of vacation planning season! Deciding where to go and what to see, making arrangements and planning your wardrobe are all exciting aspects of summer vacation planning. But before you pack up to leave on your getaway, be sure to take care of the most important asset you’ll be leaving at home — your home itself.

“Before going away on vacation, homeowners do a lot of things to prepare for the security and safety of their home while away, including stopping the mail, powering down electronics and turning off water and gas,” says Emily Lewicki, brand manager with Coleman Heating and Air Conditioning. “Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that a home's temperature needs to be monitored, which can easily be done by using a programmable thermostat.”

While you’re savoring the fun of your vacation planning, here are seven steps you also should take to prepare your home to remain secure while you’re away:

1. Stop the mail. Home safety experts agree: a stuffed mailbox is a sign of an empty home. The United States Postal Service allows you to request a vacation hold on your mail up to 30 days before your departure date. Go to holdmail.usps.com to see if this service is available in your area. You should also put newspaper and package delivery on hold, too, as uncollected newspapers or parcels in front of your house could also alert others that you’re not home.

2. Turn off water and gas. If a water or gas leak occurs while you’re not there to address it, the emergency could cause significant damage to your home. You can reduce risks by turning off water flow to appliances like the clothes washer. To conserve energy and money, you can also turn off the gas flow to your water heater.

3. Adjust the thermostat. You don’t need to spend money to heat or cool your home to a comfortable level when you’re not there to enjoy it. Turn down the thermostat, but don’t turn your HVAC system completely off. Extreme temperatures can harm your home and its contents. A programmable thermostat can take care of temperature adjustments for you while you’re away. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, consider installing a model like Coleman’s Hx(TM) thermostat. The touch-screen interface makes it easy to program the system, plus a free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone, no matter where you travel. Just be sure to leave your internet connection active at home so your thermostat can communicate with the app while you’re away.

4. Put lights on timers or sensors. A well-lit home looks lived in and is less appealing to burglars. Put outside lights on sensors so they’ll turn on when the sun goes down. Use timers to turn interior lights on and off at appropriate times.

5. Prep your kitchen. Go through the refrigerator and pantry and throw away any food that could go bad while you’re away. No one wants to come home to smelly, spoiled food. Empty the trash and arrange for a neighbor to put the trash at the curb on your scheduled pickup day. Unplug all small appliances like the coffee maker, toaster ovens, food processors, etc.

6. Power down electronic devices. Items like computers, TVs and phone chargers all draw power while plugged in, even if they’re not switched on. Turn off and unplug electronic devices to reduce power usage in the house and protect electronics from power surges while you’re away.

7. Secure the garage. This is especially important if your home has an attached garage with direct access into your home. Most garage doors have a simple bolt lock that can be engaged from inside to prevent the door from being raised. Remember to also lock the door from the garage into your house.

Everyone looks forward to vacation. With some simple prep, you can ensure your home stays secure while you’re away. To learn more about home heating and air-conditioning, visit www.colemanac.com or follow Twitter @ColemanHVAC.


How to plan a successful spring getaway

(BPT) - No matter where you live, spring travel is synonymous with the search for warm weather. While the sunshine may help keep the blues at bay, it takes more than just golden rays to make a trip unforgettable.

Whether you're taking a family vacation, a couples escape or a getaway with friends, these insider tips will help you plan a successful trip:

Look for deals at well-known destinations

The best trips happen when you find a destination that everyone loves and you stay on budget. Start by researching areas that have something for everyone so no one feels left out. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina — with virtually endless attractions, world-class dining and 60 miles of beautiful shoreline — is one of these gems that also happens to be affordable. Countless deals can be found in any season at www.visitmyrtlebeach.com.

Once you determine your destination, dig in to find the deal that's right for you. Some hotels and resorts offer themed packages that also provide deep discounts on museum tickets, concerts and other special events. Or you can make your own trip, allowing each member of your party to pick their favorite must-see attraction.

Try something new

It's important to enjoy some R&R, but also make time to try something new on your trip. This will take you outside your comfort zone, which can stimulate the mind in new and exciting ways. What's more, it's how you create lasting memories.

With growing interest in adventure travel, many destinations are offering exciting and fun experiences for all age groups. In Myrtle Beach, for example, you can try cable boarding at Shark Wake Park, which allows you to wake-board without a boat, or indulge your inner speed demon by racing around a track in the area's NASCAR Racing Experience.

Embrace experiential eating

Eating is one of the best ways to truly experience what makes a destination unique, so be sure to eat like a local, and maybe even fish like one, too. Eating turns into a memorable experience when you've helped catch your main dish. Sign up for a shrimping, crabbing or a deep-sea fishing excursion and enjoy an adventure plus a delectable meal.

If you'd rather avoid the open sea, you're not out of luck. Seek out restaurants that source ingredients locally. That could mean eateries that boast a farm-to-table or sea-to-table experience so you enjoy the freshest fare available.

Become a history buff

Virtually anywhere you go in the United States, you'll discover a fascinating history of how it came to be. When you make time to explore museums, walk stunning gardens and visit memorials, you'll be able tell tales back home that you would otherwise have never known.

For an insider's glimpse into history, check out National Historic Landmarks. For example, Hopsewee Plantation in the Myrtle Beach area was built an estimated 40 years before the Revolutionary War. In addition to beautiful scenery, you'll experience the heritage of the area up close.

These four steps will help you plan a vacation that your travel crew will be raving about long after you return home. Best yet, you'll have memories that will last a lifetime.


5 reasons ridesharing is on the rise

(BPT) - The rideshare industry has exploded in popularity over the past several years, with companies devoted to making transportation safe, reliable and enjoyable. At the swipe of a finger and tap of a button, you can hail a car through your smartphone. Within minutes, you are picked up at your desired location and whisked off to your final destination, whether it's the grocery store, movie theater or the hottest restaurant in town.

Here are five reasons why millions of Americans are requesting a ride every day:

1. Owning and maintaining a car is expensive. At more than $9,000 per year, per household, a car is the second most expensive purchase Americans make, yet the average car in the U.S. gets only 4 percent utilization per day. The rideshare industry was born from the idea that by pairing drivers and passengers headed in the same general direction, not only is traffic significantly reduced, but car ownership ultimately becomes optional when you know you have a ride you can rely on.

2. It's a safe way to get around. While pairing drivers and passengers who don't know each other might seem unorthodox, thanks to stringent background checks, car safety checks and real-time ride tracking, hopping in an on-demand ride has become commonplace for people across the country. In fact, Lyft, the fastest growing rideshare service, currently covers 55 percent of the U.S. population, meaning 177 million people are able to request a safe, reliable ride every day. By the end of 2017, that number will increase to 231 million, or 72 percent of the country.

3. Ridesharing promotes community and economic growth. Not only is it an efficient way to get from point A to point B, ridesharing connects both people and communities. In 2016 alone, more than 162.5 million Lyft rides were taken. This opens the door for people who wouldn't normally cross paths to share a car together. Drivers get to drop off passengers in neighborhoods they might not regularly venture to, and business owners serve customers that previously didn't have easy access to their location. Ridesharing is a powerful driver of economic growth, encouraging local spending and pumping money back into the enrichment of neighborhoods.

4. As a driver, ridesharing provides an excellent source of income. Be it primary or supplementary, driving provides flexibility and allows people to own their schedules, clocking in and out when they want, where they want. From coast to coast, teachers, retirees, aspiring musicians and everyone in between is using ridesharing as a source of income. Lyft is the only platform that allows passengers to tip, with more than $150 million dollars going directly into the pockets of their drivers.

5. On-demand transportation is proven to reduce drunk driving. According to a recent study, 88 percent of passengers say they are more likely to avoid driving while impaired because of Lyft, and 53 percent of passengers use the platform to safely get friends and family home who are intoxicated. One tap of a button ultimately leads to saving lives by reducing the number of intoxicated drivers on the road.

Whether you're a passenger or driver, ridesharing seeks to get you where you want to go, be it a final destination or a financial goal. Local communities deserve friendly, safe transportation they can rely on, and the rideshare industry is close to making that a reality for all people.


5 family-friendly cities you should visit in 2017

(BPT) - Family vacations are as unique as the families that enjoy them. If your family vacations in 2016 involved returning to the same destinations again and again, 2017 is a great time to take embrace the weekend, step away from the traditional and explore a new city. So grab your family, pack your bags and plan your next family vacation around the activities available in any of these five family-friendly cities.

1. Dallas

Dallas may be known for its business district and professional sports teams, but the city has plenty of other, lesser-known attractions that make it a great place for a family vacation. Animal lovers must visit the Dallas Zoo. As the largest zoo in Texas, it spans more than 95 acres. For those who enjoy aquatic wildlife, the Dallas World Aquarium is a must see. Finally, if you think your inner ear is up to it, thrill seekers will love Zero Gravity Thrill Park. There, you can bungee jump seven stories, or simply drop 16 stories into a large net at the Nothing but Net ride. All of it makes for an exciting, memorable visit.

2. Chicago

The Windy City has plenty of activities for the kids. Museums such as the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago History Museum provide plenty of conversation starters. Navy Pier is a historic landmark with a wonderful carnival and great restaurants. If you want to get a view of the entire city, nothing beats the Sears Tower.

3. Atlanta

The Alliance Theatre, widely recognized as the flagship theater in the southeast, performs kid-friendly shows all year. Meanwhile, fans of the screen will enjoy movie tours of the sites used in The Blind Side, The Walking Dead and Anchorman 2. And in Atlanta, how you see the city is half the fun. Stir your nostalgic side with an old-fashioned streetcar ride or step into the modern day with Segway and electric car tours. Whatever you decide, there is plenty to see and do.

4. Washington D.C.

Our country's capital is a site worth seeing at least once and is a great opportunity to share a more cultural and historic experience with the kids. The National Mall is home to the Smithsonian museums, the White House and the U.S. Capitol. For the most rewarding experience, it's best to choose a hotel nearby. For example, Embassy Suites by Hilton Washington D.C. Convention Center hotel is centrally located. Plus, it's perfect for families considering it is just a short ride away from the National Zoo and other Washington D.C. attractions. When was the last time your family visited the zoo all together?

5. Philadelphia

Philadelphia's draw starts with the Please Touch Museum. Designed specifically for children ages 1-7, the museum is more than 100 years old and includes two floors of interactive areas designed especially for kids. In addition, the city is also home to Sesame Place, the only theme park in the nation dedicated solely to the beloved characters of Sesame Street. Finally, if you're interested in teaching your children more about the country's history, Philadelphia and its Independence National Historical Park can't be beat.

Plan your vacation today

Once you have chosen your destination, make sure to choose a hotel with lots of added value. Embassy Suites by Hilton's two-room suites will offer parents some private time at the end of a long day and with a free, cooked-to-order breakfast, it should satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Plus, once the kids are in bed, parents can take advantage of the evening reception, which features complimentary snacks and drinks for two hours every night.

A great family vacation starts with a great plan so don't delay. Gather your family together and map out your next trip by choosing the events that look most interesting to your group. Wherever you decide to go, with the entire family together, it's going to be great. Visit embassysuites.com to plan your weekend getaway.

Articles last updated at May 27, 2017 08:08:25am.
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