Pretty Awesome Weekends: Summer Travel Edition
Best of the Web for Summer Travel – Family Style
It’s the 3rd installment of our Pretty Awesome Weekends, and this week we have some web awesomeness to share with you all about travel since the Live Pretty crew did some road tripping this summer.
So grab something to drink, preferably cold and yummy, sit back and do some clicking around to plan your final summer trip, or dream about what you want to do next year!
The Big Guys: These are my two, hands-down, favorite domestic travel sites – Trip Advisor and Kayak. Why? Trip Advisor is spot-on and the reviews are great in planning a trip anywhere (as we found when road-tripping it and stopping in several Southern towns none of us knew anything about). Kayak is great if you are a comparison shopper. Just select your city, your dates and, voila, links from all the major booking sites come up in beautiful columns on your screen. Also make sure to download the Trip Advisor app on your smartphone before going to an unfamiliar destination — it was a lifesaver for us when trying to find dinner and other things to do after being cooped up in the car for hours.
National Park Service Find A Park: OK, I am NOT, I repeat, NOT, a nature gal … However I do appreciate a stroll through a beautiful park, and some of our natural treasures make great road trip picnic spots and destinations in themselves. For example, during the longest-drive-day-of-my-life, the exhausting 5-hour stretch through beautiful, twisting, winding West Virginia was made much more delightful when our family crew stopped at the New River Gorge park to see wonderful scenery and let the little ones run wild for a while. So, as you plan your road trips, pack a picnic and plan to stop at one of our nation’s amazing national parks.
Find Fido (and Your family) A Place to Stay: We were traveling this great country of ours with the awesome, fun and loving Bailey.
Awwwwww … isn’t she cute? Yep, she’s our mom’s baby :-).
But, to our surprise, not all hotel owners want Bailey hanging out, and well, to be honest, I did not want to stay in many of the hotels that want Bailey. So, on the last leg of our road trip, I used this site – Pets Welcome – to find a great hotel that would allow Bailey to romp around a bit before snuggling with her mommy overnight, and that would also make me happy. (Thanks for a great stay LaQuinta Inn Dothan, Alabama!)
Lonely Planet: Several years ago Mr. Man and I had the pre-baby trip of a lifetime in Scotland, and Lonely Planet helped me plan so much — essentially is the best site ever for planning a trip overseas. Just know that British and European hotel standards are different, so do tons of research on your hotels if you are picky like me.
Tourism For the Win: The tourism development councils, tourism boards and convention and visitors bureaus representing any place you visit are going to be the BEST source of information about your destination. These groups have the daily job of making sure that you, the visitor, know everything there is to know about a destination and are able to plan a great trip. For example, the second half of our trip was at the beach in beautiful South Walton on Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast. (More to come on this trip soon). The Visit South Walton Web site was key to planning our trip and finding things to do once we arrived. So, search a bit on the web for your next destination and find their CVB, TDC or tourism board before heading out.
Small-Town Americana at It’s Best: We had the opportunity along this trip to visit the Great Smokey Mountains for a few days. And, wow, what a treat that is often overlooked as a place to visit. I highly recommend that you take the family there at least once. Drive through the park (which takes several hours) and walk up toClingman’s Dome to take some beautiful photos with the family — really just see and take-in the beauty that America has naturally all around us.
But, most of all, skip the nearby over-developed region that is Gatlinburg and visit Bryson City on the North Carolina side of the park. It is a beautiful small American town with great road-side inns, shops and family entertainment that takes you back to the America of the past, something you can not get much of these days. And, most of all, make sure to stop by and meet Jim and Mary at the Gear Head Inn — stay for a few days with them in their retro inn, splash in the pool, and enjoy great hospitality and an awesome night’s sleep.
Hope these links are helpful in planning your next family vacation! If you have any you would like to share, drop a comment below so we can include them next time.
Disclosure: Yep, I paid for every part of the trip mentioned here … a great personal vacation with nothing listed here influenced by any entity, group or person.