Category: vacations

The Top Texas Destinations to Fulfill Your Taste Buds

No one makes ’em bigger–or better–than Texas! And that goes double for the Lone Star state’s delicious cuisine. When traveling through or camping in the large state, there are a number of Texas destinations you’ll want to stop by to sample everything it has to offer.

Such notable Texas destinations for great food range from the urban cities to the rural southeast part of the state.

Central Texas

Central Texas is the home of the “Texas Trinity”: ribs, sausage, and brisket. Ribs come in either full-size spare ribs (which come from pork) or big beef ribs. Texas sausage is usually made of beef, but sometimes you’ll find it made of pork.

The Texas Trinity formed way back in the 19th century when Czech and German immigrants made their way to the center of the state. Both Czech and German cultures are noted for their love of meat, so it’s only natural that their mingling would lead to new meat creations.

Specifically, the Texas Trinity is the result of the two cultures finding new ways to preserve and recycle leftover meat. Some immigrants smoked it inside enclosed brick smokers while others ground it up to produce new sausage.

East Texas

Hot links, an east Texas delicacy, came to be in 1897 in Pittsburg, TX. That year, butcher Charlie Hasselbach sought a way to efficiently recycle scrap pieces of meat such as cheeks and tongue. He ended up grinding them into a paste which he then molded into raw hot links.

The original hot links took a hit of water and binder as well as some spice to mask any “outdated” flavor. Today, Texas hot links are made with fresh meat and sold at a myriad of different restaurants, stands, and food trucks.

In addition to hot links, you’ll find a great deal of Cajun food in east Texas (specifically southeast Texas). That area of the state’s close proximity to Louisiana has caused it to adopt some of the Pelican state’s cuisine.

The most noteworthy Louisiana-Texas crossover food is crawfish. Crawfish is a staple at mud festivals and other popular Texas events.

The Gulf Area

Without a doubt, the most popular food found along the Gulf coast in Texas is oysters.

While not as popular as east or west coast oysters, a true Texan appreciates oysters from the Gulf. They’re best eaten in-season when they’re plumper and sweeter.

South Texas

Much like southeast Texas has adopted some of its neighbor Louisiana’s delicacies, Mexico has influenced its neighbor south Texas’s cuisine.

Mexican staples such as tacos, fajitas, and the like first became popular in the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio. Their popularity has since spread north to Austin and beyond, though, so you don’t need to learn how to make migas or any other ingredient to enjoy them!

Other Texas Destinations For Delicious Food

Texas is a huge state, and the number of amazing delicacies that it offers is endless. If you know of any other great Texas destinations for excellent cuisine, feel free to comment below or shoot me a line!

5 Essential Tips for Safe Travels with Your Family

Road trips with your family are a great opportunity to bond and make memories on the way to a getaway.

They can also be stressful, heavy on the wallet, and potentially dangerous.

But you’re a great parent, so you want to ensure safe travels on your road trip.

I’ve put together 5 essential tips to ease your mind and enjoy your next big road trip with your loved ones.

1. Stock Your Emergency Road Kit

If you don’t have a basic emergency road kit, you need to get one.

You should have jumper cables, a small battery charger, spare tire, and a small plastic gas can. Make sure you have your bases covered.

You should also consider a small first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic wipes, and aspirin. Being able to treat small cuts or deal with minor aches will keep your moving.

I also consider my travel mug as part of my emergency road kit. One less stop for coffee keeps my trips on schedule.

2. Visit Your Mechanic

Make sure your inspections are up to date to provide safe travels.

You’ll want your mechanic to check tire pressure, brake pads, and all of your fluids before you hit the road. Looking for a mechanic in a strange place can be costly and can disrupt your trip.

If you’re planning far enough ahead and don’t feel confident about your vehicle, this could be the perfect opportunity to lease a new or used car.

Plenty of vehicles made in the last ten years have all the safety options, charging ports, and storage options you need for a road trip. If you’re trying to decide whether to buy new or used, there’s a great breakdown of pros-and-cons here!

3. Start Hands-Free and Stick to It

I recommend keeping maps in your car since you never know when you’ll be in a low service area.

I wouldn’t recommend using them as your main navigation tool, though. Before you leave, set your smartphone or GPS to your destination and leave it alone. You need your hands on the wheel at all times.

If you have voice activation options, set them up in advance of your trip rather than figuring them out on the road. You can keep your music going and skip tracks without looking away from the highway.

4. Need Medication? Bring Extra

If members of your family need medication, pick up your prescriptions in advance.

Get a pill organizer to ensure you have what you need for each day of your trip. If you need to keep medications cool, try a lunchbox with an ice-pack for an efficient solution.

5. Power Up

Does your family use lots of electronic devices on a road trip?

To make sure you can focus on safe travels and keep your eyes on the road, charge your devices the night before.

Depending on the length of your trip, consider portable chargers, extra cables, or even a power strip. The last thing you want to be doing is digging around for a cable when you’re on the highway.

Safe Travels

Family road trips are some of the most fun memories I have of my childhood.

They’re also some of the best memories I have with my kids. Planning ahead can ensure that you can keep your mind on your trip and have the best time.

5 Family Camping Tips You Need to Have

hike, travel, tourism and people concept – happy family roasting marshmallow over campfire

When you are inundated with emails from work at all hours of the day and night, you need to hit the great outdoors! When your children refuse to look up from their tablets and smartphones at the dinner table, it’s time for a family camping trip.

However, if the mere suggestion of camping strikes fear in your loved ones, here are some helpful family camping tips which will help you all disconnect from daily life and remember the thrills and serenity of nature.

1. Pack Right

You do not want to overpack on your voyage, but it is likely you will need a variety of outfits even if you are only away in the woods for a few days. Layers are important for cold nights and misty mornings; you can then discard the fleece pullovers and leggings as the day warms up.

If you are near a lake or a swimming hole, make sure you remember bathing suits. And take into account the fact that everyone may get muddy- so one extra pair of socks per person is advisable.

Invest in a lightweight travel pack for each camper. Kids can help out by carrying their own stuff and learn a lesson in prioritizing essentials. Not every teddy bear gets to go on the camping trip!

2. Plan your meals

Meals may be the biggest challenge of the family camping trip, especially when everyone has different palates. Most kids are used to grabbing whatever they like from the refrigerator at every hour of the day.

One of my favorite family camping tips is to pack a dutch oven. These handy items can cook a meal for a crowd easily and you can use them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can find a wide variety of cast iron dutch oven recipes for camping which will help you please even the pickiest eaters on your family camping trip.

3. Leave the electronics at home

To really reap the rewards of a family excursion into Mother Nature, you need to put down the iPhones and the computer. If you need your cell to stay in touch with work or you are concerned about a medical issue, lock it up in the glove compartment of your car so you can get it if you need it.

If your kids are not used to entertaining themselves without their devices, now is a great time to “get crafty.” You can show them how to create a nature journal to describe or sketch the flora and fauna they see, or they can make artwork out of leaves, twigs and stones.

4. Don’t forget the first aid kit!

From bug bites to blisters from new hiking boots to the ill-timed fever, you will want to be prepared with some medical care essentials when you are out in the woods. Make sure you pack band-aids, insect repellent, aspirin and rubbing alcohol to deal with those unexpected bumps and bruises.

It’s not just the kids who may require medical attention. Include any regular medication needed by the grown-ups on the trip. You don’t want to be an hour’s drive away from the nearest pharmacy if predictable health conditions arise.

5. Let everyone know what to expect

Another one of the most important family camping tips to remember is communication.

If there are family members new to camping, it’s important to prepare them for what they can expect. Children who are scared of the dark should know they will be sleeping outside under the stars. Grandma should be alerted to the fact that the public bathrooms are a fifteen-minute walk from the campsite.

Put a positive spin on the adventure! You all will be making memories that can last a lifetime.

Just let the first-timers know what it means to “rough it” if this is not one of their regular activities. Otherwise, you may expect some complaining to mar the fun.

Follow These Family Camping Tips For a Happy Escape

Whether you are exploring one of our country’s amazing national parks, or just starting out at a local campsite, a family camping trip can be the perfect way to reconnect with your loved ones. Without the distractions of the modern world, you can share good grub, fresh air and plenty of laughs by just getting away from it all.

Start planning your camping trip today!

Why Rent a Smoky Mountain Cabin For Your Next Vacation

fotolia 109068753 subscription monthly mLooking for your next family vacation destination? Consider renting a Smoky Mountain cabin to enjoy fresh mountain air, some peace and quiet and incredible views year-round.

The Great Smoky Mountains range is on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Vacationers have been going there to get away from the bustle of the big cities and to enjoy the colorful nature.

The best way to stay in the Smoky Mountains is to rent a cabin, and they’re much more affordable and cozier than hotels.

So keep reading to discover why staying in a mountain cabin in the Smokies will take your family getaway to the next level.

You’ll Have Plenty of Space for Rest and Relaxation

Mountain cabins are cozy, functional and spacious enough to accommodate all of your needs. They come fully equipped with everything you need for a nice, relaxing holiday.

Many cabins even come with hot tubs, rocking chairs and rec rooms, so you and your family can have some fun, but also rest when you need it.

Cabins offer a sense of privacy that you won’t find in hotels. You have the entire lodge to yourselves and you won’t need to share anything with anyone else.

You’ll Enjoy Quality Family Time

Renting a Smoky Mountain cabin with your family means spending quality time together.

You can do tons of activities such as hiking, bird watching, soaking up the sun and playing outdoor games.

At night, you can watch the starlit sky outside or light up the fireplace and tell funny stories inside.

You’ll Wake Up to Breathtaking Views

Imagine waking up to a view so majestic, you’ll want to keep it in your memory forever.

Well, you can! Staying in cabins in the Smokies can give you incredible views of the vast mountain range and unparalleled sunrise and sunset.

Listen to the birds singing, watch the breeze make the leaves tremble and breathe in crisp mountain air as you sip your morning tea or coffee.

Consider coming here in early October to mid-November to witness the fall foliage that’s unlike any other.

You’ll Save Money

Renting a mountain cabin in the Smokies is a true money-saver. It’s a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel. And well-equipped cabins have almost all the amenities offered by hotels.

Being cozy and comfortable while staying in cheap cabins is not only possible but also good for your budget. And you can use the money you save to prolong your stay or take a short trip to nearby places.

Many cabin rental companies offer money-saving deals and specials. You can get an extra night free of charge or win admission passes to attractions in the area.

Final Thoughts on Renting a Smoky Mountain Cabin

Staying in a quiet, cozy cabin in the Smoky Mountains for your family vacation will give you all the rest and relaxation you need.

Share this article with your friends and family and contact me if you have any questions or comments. I’d love to hear from you!

5 Smart Travel Tips for Your Next Family Roadtrip

smart travelDoes the idea of a road trip sound great in theory, but make you groan when you consider all the details? You’re not alone.

Family road trips often sound like an amazing opportunity for quality time and bonding. But the tenth cry of “she hit me” and repetition of the Wiggles soundtrack can quickly drive you crazy.

Luckily, we’ve got all the info you need to make your family road trip a success. Read on for some smart travel tips that’ll help you actually enjoy your next adventure.

Making the Most of Family Roadtrips

A road trip is a great way to travel as a family. You have the freedom to go wherever you want and can easily pull the car over for food and bathroom breaks. You’ll also get to explore parts of the country that you would miss if you were flying to your destination.

But it’s not all fun and games, and a road trip can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t prepare correctly. Here are some smart travel tips to get you started:

1. Do Your Research

The best thing you can do to make your trip go smoothly? Research. Get online and find where other parents drove, where they stayed, and the activities they recommend.

Speak to other parents and get suggestions for experiences or itineraries. Keep in mind the ages of your kids (and theirs) so you can ensure you’re getting the best advice for your situation.

2. Travel With Other Parents

What’s better than a road trip? A road trip with other parents and kids. The more people you travel with, the less likely you’ll hear “I’m bored” from your kids.

You’ll also be making decisions as a team, and can enjoy a well-earned glass of wine at the end of the day.

3. Drive Safe

Before you leave, it’s a good idea to get the car checked out. Whether you have a teeny Toyota or a handicap van, take it in for a service and check that everything is working as it should.

Before you leave, check the tires. You may also want to check the back seat to ensure all windows and doors have the child safety locks activated and there are no choking hazards back there.

4. Take Entertainment

There are now more ways to entertain your kids than ever before. But even the most prepared parent can still hear whining on a long drive.

The answer? Pack more options than you think you’ll need.

However you feel about screen time, most parents allow at least an hour or two on road trips. Here are some other great options:

  • Reading
  • Family podcasts
  • Games like “I Spy”
  • Audiobooks
  • Talking
  • Looking up information about the area
  • Listening to songs
  • Writing in journals

5. Take Frequent Breaks

If you’re close to your destination, it can be tempting to keep driving, even when the whole family is tired. Instead, avoid setting a strict schedule and play it by ear.

That means regularly taking breaks for snacks and the bathroom. Encourage the kids to run around (set up a quick game of tag or race around the car), and try to stretch your legs yourself.

Smart Travel is Sane Travel

A family road trip doesn’t need to be stressful. By following the above smart travel tips, you can enjoy spending time together as a family and see the sights without losing your sanity.

What are your top road trip tips? Leave a comment below and let us know! Then, check us out for more tips on thrifty living and more!

Nature Therapy: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking With Kids

hiking with kidsAre you looking for a way to get your kids off the couch and outside?

Hiking is an amazing outdoor experience. Not only is it a great form of exercise, but it provides fresh air and allows for a little one-on-one time with Mother Nature.

Hiking with kids is an excellent family activity. With a little preparation and research, you can plan a fun-filled day your kids will love.

Read on to find out how.

Pack Wisley

What you bring when hiking with kids is almost as important as where you decide to hike.

There are some essential items that you won’t want to find yourself without.

Food and Water

It’s always important to stay hydrated, especially if you’re hiking in warm weather. Bringing enough water for everyone, and maybe even some extra bottles, will prevent dehydration side effects including dizziness, weakness, and dry mouth.

Snacks are also important when hiking with kids. Bring non-perishable and easy to eat foods like pretzels, granola bars, and trail mix. You can even pack a small picnic lunch with sandwiches, as long as it’s not too difficult to carry and keep cold.

Bug Spray

This is an essential item when hiking in wooded areas. You may encounter any number of insects on your adventure from ants to flies, ticks, and mosquitos.

A quality bug spray will help keep you and your children protected from unwanted bites and irritations.

Proper Clothing

The appropriate clothing for your hike will be determined by the location, expected weather, and time of year.

Since you’re more likely to hike in warmer, more pleasant weather when hiking with kids, you’ll need thin, cool clothing. Lightweight material is best for both shirts and pants. To avoid sunburn, bug bites and cuts from sticks and rocks, long-sleeved apparel is recommended.

The proper hiking shoes will also make the trip easier for both you and your children. Do a little research about the terrain you’ll be hiking on and what boots are best for the job.

Pick a Fun Path

Choosing the right path will make the difference between a pleasurable hike and a miserable one.

Dependent on your child’s age and ability, choose a route that will be mildly challenging, but mostly enjoyable. Paths with a lot of beautiful scenery or a gorgeous view at the end will keep kids interested and moving!

If you and your children are just beginning to explore the world of hiking, choose a place with clearly defined pathways and marked trails.

Know the Wildlife

Anytime you’re embarking on an outdoor adventure with kids, it’s important to know your surroundings well. Be aware of what type of wildlife you may encounter.

Some areas are densely populated with deer and other relatively harmless animals such as raccoon, squirrels, chipmunks, and various bird species. These animals might be fun for you and your children to observe.

But you must also be on alert and prepared if you encounter more menacing wildlife such as bear, bobcat, or mountain lions.

Bring the Right Hiking Gear

Aside from the necessary items listed above, some additional, trail specific items may serve you well when hiking with kids.

A compass will help you navigate if you and your family get off track. Be sure to bring binoculars so your children can observe wildlife, flowers, and spectacular views.

If you think you or your child might need help scaling steeper inclines, these trekking pole reviews will help you choose the right hiking poles and walking sticks for your trip.

Be Patient When Hiking With Kids

As wonderful as a day of family hiking can be, it’s important to remember that kids can get tired and cranky after a long day of activity.

It’s important to remain patient and encourage your children to take breaks when needed. Try motivating each other with words of encouragement. Show your child on the map how close you are to your destination.

If you give your children jobs such as “compass reader” or “animal look out” it will help keep their mind occupied and their focus off the length of the trip.

Looking for other fun activities to do with your children, like making ice cream? Are you a coupon-clipper working on a budget? Visit our site for some great ideas.

If you have other, affordable and fun tips for families with children, leave a comment below.

Colorado Vacations: What to Do in Colorado Springs

colorado mountainsLooking to start planning your next family vacation but aren’t sure where to go?

Colorado Springs is the perfect spot. It has something for everyone to enjoy.

There’s outdoor sports and adventures, amazing sights, and lots of culture. With so much to do, it’s hard to figure out where to start planning!

Thinking of what you should do on your next Colorado vacation? Then don’t miss out on this awesome list of things your family can do in Colorado Springs.

There’s All Sorts of Sunny, Outdoor Fun

Colorado Springs has a comfortable, sunny climate. In fact, there are 300 days of sun a year!

There are plenty of places to golf, camp, hike, and horseback ride.

For heart-pounding adventure try white water rafting on the Arkansas River. It’s the most popular place to raft in the country.

The area is also known for outdoor rock climbing. There are many rock formations to try.

One activity Colorado Springs is not known for is skiing. After enjoying the warm weather, head North for some skiing.

Vail, Colorado has some of the best skiing in the US. Leave your gear at home because there are plenty of great ski rentals in Vail.

Colorado Springs isn’t just about adventure. There’s plenty of other things to see.

Visit One of the Many Sights and Attractions

Colorado Springs has fabulous sights and attractions. Some are man-made, some from nature.

A must-see on your Colorado vacation is Garden of the Gods Nature Center. Its beautiful red rock formations make for incredible views.

Nearby, check out Pikes Peak. This majestic, 14,000-foot purple mountain was the inspiration for the song “America the Beautiful.”

At the bottom of Pikes Peak you’ll find Santa’s Workshop. It’s an amusement park with 2 dozen rides. The park is open from May through December.

Other attractions include The Ghost Town museum, The Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, and America’s only mountain zoo!

Though this is an active city, there’s still lots of culture and relaxation to enjoy.

Dine, Play, Sip, and Stroll

Enjoy dinner at The Airplane Restaurant. You can have a great meal inside a Boeing KC-97 tanker.

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad is another unique dining experience. They serve a 3-course dinner on a 3 hour roundtrip train ride.

For a little adult fun, there are casinos and wine-tasting rooms. There are 14 breweries and distilleries to tour. Print out a brewery tour passport and map to plan where to go.

There’s also a vibrant arts scene in Colorado Springs. Take in a show at the Philharmonic. Go to the Old Colorado City ArtWalk and tour galleries and outdoor installations.

Are You Planning a Colorado Vacation?

If so, then Colorado Springs is the perfect place to go. There’s so much to do you’ll be able to appease everyone in the family!

Before you start planning what you’ll do there, plan how you’ll afford to get there. Going on a family vacation doesn’t have to mean putting yourself in debt. Check out this post: 5 Tips for Handling Your Travel Finances Next Vacation.