Family Reunions, Family Travel and Reunions, Uncategorized

Ideas on How to Stay in Touch Between Family Reunions and Vacations

If you’re like me, you start to miss that time you’ve spent with family the minute you climb in the car to drive home after that family vacation or reunion. Everything is cleaned up and the open space looks kind of empty. Everyone is headed their separate ways. My hubby calls this the “walk of sadness” as we give those last few hugs goodbye. It’s about this time I know that I need to stay in touch and keep those connections I’ve made with my family.

In my head, as while we are still driving home, I am already beginning to plan not just for the next time we get together, but also how we can stay connected until then.

Why is it Important to Stay in Touch with Family?

An article by WebMD provides the following information on how staying in touch with family benefits us:

“This idea of feeling connected becomes very reinforcing, to all of us, and contributes to happiness, it contributes to mental health and it does contribute also to physical health.”

John northman, psychologist
Stay in Touch with Family Through Social Media
Photo by Cristian Dina on

The article discusses how keeping in touch with family benefits us:

  • Emotional Support: It makes us feel better when we are able to share happy moments and memories together.
  • Esteem support: We can feel good about ourselves. Our family can validate that we’re doing well and help us out when we aren’t doing so well.
  • Informational support: We can teach other things by passing on our knowledge…like hobbies and family recipes…hints and tips on how “Grandma always did it.”
  • Network support: It gives us a sense that we belong. It’s really important to have a place where you feel like you’re accepted and you belong.
  • Tangible support: What college kid doesn’t enjoy getting birthday money in a card or a care package from home?

Ideas to Stay in Touch with Family Online

I’ll be the first to admit that although I may not always be the most adept at using technology, I love all of the fun ways available to connect online. It’s never been easier to come up with new ideas to stay in touch with the family.

Below are a few ideas on how to stay connected online between vacations, reunions…and even during a pandemic. Pick and choose and create an online family reunion. Want more information on how to hold an online family reunion? Grab the free downloadable guide to coordinating an online family reunion on the sign-up at the bottom of the page.

Baking or Cooking Together

Send out an invite with a recipe, let everyone gather their ingredients, and spend a Sunday afternoon making Grandma’s pot roast via video call together.

It’s a great opportunity to share helpful hints or the “secret” ingredient Grandma left off her recipe card. My mom used to leave ingredients off of recipes she’d hand out so no one’s tasted just like hers. Over the years, we’ve compared her recipes and finally been able to figure out her real recipe. Sorry, Mom, but we loved yours so much we just had to play detective to be sure we got it right.

Or spend an evening baking or decorating cookies. Traditionally, the cousins (now grown) have gathered to decorate Christmas cookies together. This year, during the pandemic, they can gather via video and still decorate cookies. They can share their funny creations…just at their own homes through video.

Stay in Touch with Family by Decorating Cookies Together Virtually.
Photo Credit: Bluebird Bakes

Bluebird Bakes offers seasonal “decorate yourself kits” if you’re running short on time to do your own baking and frosting making.

Chocolate (or wine or soda or cookie or anything) Tasting

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic had many businesses needing to quickly pivot their business models. Here in Washington, we saw wineries that offered virtual wine tastings. You could simply have your wines shipped or pick-up them up for your virtual wine tasting.

I have seen friends and family take this a step further offering virtual chocolate tastings and virtual soda tastings together. Order everyone a bag of assorted Ghirardelli minis. Jones Soda offers some great variety packs of soda that can be ordered online.

Simply connect virtually with your goodies and compare your tastings with your family. Use your creativity and and find something that is perfect for your family!

Play Games Together Online

Our family has been enjoying virtual game nights every month for the last nine months and probably will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t matter where in the world family members are, as long as they have internet, they can participate.

We’ve had trivia nights, as well as played games like Family Feud and Never Have I Ever. Next on our agenda is a game of Harry Potter-themed Hollywood Squares. Zoom is perfect to hold these as it allows you to share your screen if you’ve got a game board.

Social Media Challenges

In the past, we’ve seen big social media challenges like the “ice bucket challenge.” You can create your own social media challenge for just your family. Maybe it reflects something that has meaning to your family…like taking a picture with a spoon hanging from your nose.

Stream a Movie

While you may miss those in-person movie nights, there is a way around that. Make a video call, choose a movie, and have everyone start it at the same time. Better yet, there are apps like Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) that let you view movies or TV shows simultaneously.

Video Call

As people get older, sometimes they tend to talk less. A video call is a great idea to stay in touch family…and pretty easy. The number of apps and programs available are pretty numerous. Some of our favorites are Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook.

Virtual Book Club

I have always wanted to be a part of a book club. So pick an evening, set a time, gather some snacks for an hour or two of sharing what you’re reading and whether or not you’d recommend it. Alternatively, you can have everyone read the same book and discuss it.

And for those with younger kiddos in the group, maybe Grandma and Grandpa could do a book reading. Can’t get together for the annual reading of “The Night Before Christmas”? Set up a call where it gets read virtually or record a video and share it with family.

Ideas to Stay in Touch with Family Offline (aka the Old-Fashioned Way)

Care Packages

There is nothing like getting a care package. It shows that the sender…well…cares about you! You know someone is thinking of you. If you’ve got an upcoming family reunion or vacation planned, it can contain things to help build excitement…like a countdown calendar or packing list or suntan lotion.

A care package can also be themed to a holiday. Think outside the box. Is Global Handwashing Day coming up? How about a box filled with nicely scented hand soap and lotions? Be creative and try to make it fit your family.


A family newsletter is the perfect way to let everyone know what’s going on throughout the extended family. A newsletter can be sent as an attachment via email…and if Great Aunt Edna doesn’t “do” email, you can send her a copy via snail mail.

Phone Call

In today’s world of text messaging, it’s easy to forget how simple it is to just dial a family member and give them a quick call to check in on them. Ask them how they’re doing. You’re probably not the only one struggling with being separated from family. It’s such a small act that can mean the world to someone.

Send Cards and Letters

Stay in Touch with Family Through Sending Cards
Photo by Claire Morgan on

My grandma never missed a birthday. She always signed them “Loads of love, Grandma.” This was no easy feat considering she had 6 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren and numerous friends and extended family she kept in touch with. Going through her things after she passed, we realized what a large part of her days were probably spent letting people know that she was thinking of them.

I still love to send (and receive) real, physical birthday and Christmas cards. We send them to our nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews, siblings, etc. If you’re 18 or under, you still get $10 from us. I love to hear how the kiddos use that money. The most recent purchase by a great-nephew was for a stuffed baby Yoda. Oh, that makes my Star Wars-loving heart melt.

Stay in Touch with Family Through a Virtual Reunion

The perfect way to stay in touch with family between those in-person reunions and vacations is to connect virtually. Our family has had so much fun the past few years playing games online, sharing recipes, and so much more through our family Facebook group.

In addition, many families can’t manage to coordinate a family reunion or vacation every year. Holding an virtual reunion can be the perfect way to substitute an in-person reunion with a virtual one. We’ve put together some great articles and a free quick guide for holding an online reunion. Sign up below and leave your ideas in the comments below on how you stay connected with your family when you can’t be together in-person.

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    Universal Orlando

    Visiting Three Broomsticks Restaurant at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

    The first time I entered Three Broomsticks, I didn’t give a second thought to the theming of the restaurant. I was hungry and the menu looked much better than anything else we’d seen…like the gratuitous theme park burgers and pizza.

    Now, we try to visit Three Broomsticks restaurant at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park whenever we can. I would say it is a must-do for anyone (or any family) who is fan of the Harry Potter series of books and films. Seriously, eating at Three Broomsticks can enhance a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and should be included in any planning.

    Entrance facade to Three Broomsticks Restaurant
    Photo Credit: Touring Plans

    Three Broomsticks has the feel of a rustic British tavern. It is the perfect place to sneak away to for some friendly conversation and good food. The outside facade showcases a cozy, snow-capped inn…and is the place where Harry Potter had his first taste of sweet Butterbeer. It has welcomed many a student from the neighboring Hogwarts.

    Three Broomsticks holds a role in some of the pivotal moments of the Harry Potter movies and books. Knowing and understanding this history can enhance any visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando (you can read about them below).

    A trip to Three Broomsticks is a must-do if you want to immerse yourself in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For that reason, I have created this one-day Wizarding World ultimate fan itinerary for my clients. You can grab your copy below and craft the perfect Wizarding World experience for yourself or your family.


    Send me the free one-day itinerary.

    This one-day itinerary for at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is perfect for any person or family who enjoys the Harry Potter series.  

    Join our newsletter for more fun!

    Thank you for subscribing!

    Before we get into the history, here are some details that will help you in planning your trip.

    About the Three Broomsticks Dining Experience

    I often get asked if you need reservations to eat at Three Broomsticks. My answer is…yes and no. Although reservations are available for breakfast, they really aren’t needed. Reservations are not available for lunch or dinner.

    Three Broomsticks is located within the Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park. You can find it nestled back in the Hogsmeade area of the park. It is modeled after the Three Broomsticks Inn featured within the Harry Potter films and books. As far as quick service restaurants within the park is concerned, Three Broomsticks offers the best visual details. It has dark wood furniture, open beams, and tiny details from the film. It’s the perfect place to sit a while and enjoy a Butterbeer.

    Looking around Three Broomsticks, if it weren’t for the ordering area, you might forget where you are for a moment. Tastefully, Universal has managed to hide most other modern-day things (like air conditioning vents) behind the 18th-century decor.

    If you’re like me and a little hesitant to eat indoors during flu season (or a pandemic like Covid-19), there is a nice little outdoor seating area behind the restaurant. It is usually less crowded than the indoor space.

    The Food of Three Broomsticks Restaurant

    The food offerings at Three Broomsticks have British twist to them. They offer a selection of breakfast items as well as lunch/dinner options later in the day.

    As of the day of that I am writing this post, these are the current menus:

    Breakfast (served until 10:30 am)

    • Traditional English Breakfast: Fresh scrambled eggs, sausage links, black pudding, English bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms, and breakfast potatoes.
    • Porridge Breakfast: Old-fashioned steamed oats with fresh fruit and butter croissant.
    • Continental Breakfast: Colorful array of fresh fruit served with croissants accompanied with assorted jams.
    • American Breakfast: Fresh scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, crisp bacon, and link sausage with butter croissant.
    • Pancake Breakfast: Three fluffy buttermilk pancakes, crisp bacon, and link sausage with butter croissant.

    Lunch and Dinner (served 11 am until closing)

    A meal of beef pasties, BBQ ribs, and Butterbeer at Three Broomsticks Restaurant
    Photo Credit: Touring Plans
    • The Great Feast: First course will be a fresh garden salad tossed with signature vinaigrette dressing. Main course will be a combination of rotisserie smoked chicken & spareribs, corn on the cob, and roast potatoes. The Great Feast serves four.
    • Shepherd’s Pie with Garden Salad: Ground beef, lamb & vegetables crowned with potatoes.
    • Fish and Chips: Fresh north Atlantic cod battered and fried with chips and tartar sauce.
    • Beef Pasties with Garden Salad: Flakey pastry pies filled with ground beef, vegetables, and potatoes served with a side salad and choice of dressing.
    • Rotisserie Smoked Chicken Platter: Served with corn on the cob and roasted potatoes.
    • Spareribs Platter: Served with corn on the cob and roasted potatoes.
    • Chicken and Ribs Platter: Served with corn on the cob and roasted potatoes.
    • Smoked Turkey Leg: Served with wedge fries.
    • Beef Sunday Roast: Slow roasted prime rib, vegetables and potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and au just.


    • Butterbeer (Non-Alcoholic)
    • Frozen Butterbeer (Non-Alcoholic)
    • Apple Juice
    • Cider (Non-Alcoholic)
    • Draught Beer (Hog’s Head Brew or Dragon Scale)
    • Fresh Brewed Coffee
    • Gillywater
    • Hot Beverages (coffee, hot tea, hot cocoa)
    • Iced Tea
    • Lemonade
    • Milk
    • Orange Juice
    • Pumpkin Fizz
    • Pumpkin Juice
    • Sparkling Water


    • Butterbeer Potted Cream
    • Chocolate Trifle: Layered chocolate cake with fresh berries and cream
    • Cup of Ice Cream: Butterbeer, Strawberry and Peanut Butter, Vanilla, or Chocolate
    • Freshly Baked Apple Pie

    The History of Three Broomsticks Restaurant

    In the books and films from the Harry Potter series, the Three Broomsticks is a beloved inn located in the village of Hogsmeade. The students from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry often visit it. The restaurant is often busy, warm, a little smoky…but always welcoming to witches and wizards.

    Interior of Three Broomsticks Restaurant
    Photo Credit: Orlando Informer

    Early History of Three Broomsticks

    Rumor has it that Three Broomsticks originated with the village of Hogsmeade itself. There is tales say that the village founder, Hengist of Woodcroft, lived there all the way back in medieval times.

    The owner of Three Broomsticks restaurant during the Harry Potter years was Madam Rosmerta. She ran the popular inn for at least twenty years…since at least Harry Potter’s father, James Potter, attended Hogwarts.

    Three Broomsticks in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

    Three Broomsticks first appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. During their third year at Hogwarts, Harry and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasly enjoyed drinking butterbeer here. They frequently bumped into some of the regulars…such as Rubeus Hagid.

    Technically, Harry is unable to actually attend Hogwarts during this year due to Sirius Black’s escape from Azkaban. But that doesn’t stop him from sneaking into Hogwarts so that he can take the time to enjoy a butterbeer with his friends at Three Broomsticks.

    It is at Three Broomsticks that the trio eavesdrop over a conversation being had by a group of Hogwarts professors who are talking with Cornelius Fudge. They are speaking about Sirius Black. Harry Potter cowers under a table to listen in on the conversation…and the professors unintentionally reveal that Sirius Black is Harry’s godfather.

    Since Sirius Black has escaped prison, several Dementors have been stationed to patrol Hogsmeade Village. Unfortunately for Madam Rosmerta, this means visitors to Three Broomsticks are few because no one likes the the bleak mood that their presence brings.

    Three Broomsticks in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    In this installation of the Harry Potter series, it is at Three Broomsticks Restaurant that Harry Potter meets with Hagrid. Hagrid invites him to go with him to get a look at the first task of the Triward Tournament–dragons.

    It is also at this same time where we learn that Alastor Moody’s magical eye has the ability to clearly see through Harry’s invisibility cloak.

    At a return to Three Broomstick later on in the tournament, Ludo Bagman offers to give Harry a tip on beating the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. Harry refuses to take the information from him.

    On a side note, it is at Three Broomsticks Restaurant that Hermione, getting very frustrated, gives Rita Skeeter a piece of her mind…which Rita does not take very kindly to. In retribution, Rita publishes a slanderous story for Witch Weekly about Hermione.

    Three Broomsticks in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

    In Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts, there are a number of meetings that take place at Three Broomsticks. Initially, needing a place to meet with other students, Hermione opts to have the meeting at the Hog’s Head next door to Three Broomsticks. She believed it would provide more secrecy. This group of students wound up being the beginning of Dumbledore’s Army.

    Unfortunately, Hogs Head did not wind up being as private as Hermione wished. This is probably why Hermione chose Three Broomsticks for a meeting later on with Harry, Luna Lovegood, and Rita Skeeter.

    Harry talked briefly at this meeting with a gloomy Hagrid, who was absorbed with thoughts of his family. Harry was then interviewed about his ordeal of Voldemort’s return the previous year for an article for The Quibbler. The Daily Prophet (the leading newspaper for wizard news) was swayed by the Ministry of Magic and therefore would not print information about Voldemort’s return.

    Three Broomsticks in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    During Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry and his friends only visit Three Broomsticks once. It is a somber visit. After the visit, the group of students witness Katie Bell being jinxed by a package that she had received while at Three Broomsticks. It is because of this that Hogwarts decides to cancel all weekend trips into Hogsmead for the rest of the school year.

    While Harry doesn’t enter Three Broomsticks the rest of the year, he does pass by the outside of it with Professor Dumbledore. Dumbledore speaks with Madam Rosmerta and tells her that he is looking for a place less busy to have his drink and walks towards Hog’s Head.

    In reality, Harry and Dumbledore head off toward their real task…which is retrieving one of Voldemort’s horcruxes from a mysterious cave. As they return from their adventure, Harry with an exhausted Dumbledore, heads back towards Hogsmeade. They bump into Madam Rosmerta who warns them that there is Dark Matter hovering above Hogwarts.

    Madam Rosmerta lends them a couple of brooms. Harry and Dumbledore quickly fly back to Hogwarts where the Battle of the Astronomy Tower starts.

    Harry has his suspicions that Draco Malfoy has become a Death Eater. Harry’s fears are correct. Voldemort gives Draco the task of killing Dumbledore. It turns out that Draco had put Madam Rosmerta under an Imperious Curse…and because of this he has been aware of Dumbledore’s time away from Hogwarts.

    While under this curse, it was also Madam Rosmerta who had gifted Katie Bell the jinxed necklace earlier in the school year.

    Three Broomsticks in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    In Harry Potter’s seventh year, he does not return to Hogwarts as a student. But he does go back to search for the last horcrux. When Harry apparates into Hogsmeade, it activates the Caterwauling Charm which prompts the Death Eaters to come out of Three Broomsticks.

    Fortunately, Harry and his companions are given refuge by Aberforth Dumbledore. Aberforth is the barman at Hog’s Head (and Albus Dumbledore’s brother).

    Why We Never Miss a Chance to Eat at Three Broomsticks Restaurant

    While I am a Harry Potter fan (although not necessarily a Harry Potter nerd), I never miss the chance to eat at Three Broomsticks.

    My family loves the decor and how it immerses you into the world of Harry Potter. I can imagine myself watching the Hogwarts students come in and grabbing a snack and a butterbeer…and enjoy a nice chilly butterbeer myself.

    The food is a nod to British cuisine you might find while traveling the countryside. In addition, it’s some of the better food available within the Islands of Adventure theme park. Hats off to you, Universal!

    Want your free downloadable pdf of the ultimate Harry Potter fan one-day itinerary? Sign up in the form below. I can’t wait to share it with you!


    Send me the free one-day itinerary.

    This one-day itinerary for at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is perfect for any person or family who enjoys the Harry Potter series.  

    Join our newsletter for more fun!

    Thank you for subscribing!

    If possible, take the time to visit this eatery on your next visit. Eating a themed restaurant like this can really enhance your vacation. If you’ve had the chance to eat there in the past, let me know in the comments below what is your favorite thing about Three Broomsticks?

    Please pin or share this post if you or someone you know is planning a trip to Universal Orlando in the future.

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    Road Trips

    Road Trips That Highlight the Best of the USA

    On our recent trip o San Diego, we were sitting outside by one night by one of the hotel’s five firepits. Another couple sat down across from us on the other side of the fire pit. As we chatted with the couple, we started talking about what it is we do for a living. When mentioning that I specialized in travel, I was asked what type of travel was popular right now. I mentioned how popular road trips are right now…and how they highlight the best of the USA.

    Like my family, this couple had spent most of the late spring and summer taking short little local road trips. As they were beginning to venture out a little more, they wondered what were some of the best destinations. I get this question a lot lately. So I thought I’d put together a list.

    Below is a short list of road trip itineraries that highlight the greatest adventures and sights the USA has to offer.

    Acadia National Park

    Acadia National Park is a part of coastal Main where the north woods meander down to meet the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first National Park east of the Mississippi River.

    But, honestly, winter on the eastern seaboard may not make for the most ideal road trip. A much better time to drive to Acadia National Park would be during the summer months. You will have plenty of time to explore these islands that are along the rocky seashores of the northern Atlantic Ocean.

    Bayou Back Country

    The Disney Movie The Princess and the Frog has a delightful little song titled Gonna Take You There which talks about a taking a trip down the bayou. The bayou are the swamplands located in southern Louisiana. A trip through the bayou offers a very unique mix of cultures like African American, Creole, French Canadian, and Native American.

    A road trip through Bayou country is the perfect way to see the southern USA.
    Photo by Henning Roettger on

    A road trip through the Bayou highlight the offerings of southern USA…like roadside shacks that offer delicious indulgences like a crawfish boil with the freshest of ingredients. While exploring bayou territory, take the time to find some live zydeco music. Zydeco is a mix of Creole, Cajun, gospel and the blues.

    Blue Ridge Parkway

    The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for its scenic beauty. It passes through Appalachian countryside from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains. The Blue Ride Parkway is the nation’s most driven National Parkway.

    Annually, over 15 million people take this drive visiting historic battlegrounds as they enjoy the spectacular scenery of hills, valleys, and pastures. Listening to Bluegrass music along the way helps set the mood for this special drive.

    Grand Canyon

    The Grand Canyon was cut out by the Colorado River. The colors of the canyon are spectacular and showcase the different strata of rock in the canyon. The scenery will take your breath away. Thankfully, the Grand Canyon is protected as a National Park as well as being located on Native American tribal lands.

    The highlights of a road trip through this part of the USA are many. You will find waterfall springs…and buttes that reach up towards the sky…and naturally chiseled cliffs. The beauty of the the area changes as the sun moves through the sky and as the seasons flow through the year.

    The Grand Canyon is will leave you totally amazed and in reverence at Mother Nature.

    Great Lakes

    Michigan’s Gold Coast is known for its miles of golden sandy beaches. A road trip along Michigan’s Gold Coast will have you discovering all the gems along the dazzling Great Lakes. You will discover huge inland seas. Explore the lighthouses located on rocky shores. Ernest Hemingway once wrote that the best sky is in “Northern Michigan in the fall.”

    Are you ready to see all the highlights of the Great Lakes on this USA road trip?

    Slowly roam southward down by the Mississippi River. Then drive west to experience a retro piece of Route 66 and all the delights you can find there. Or maybe take some time to head on up to the Canadian border. The views will not disappoint.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    The Great Smoky Mountain National Park entertains more visitors very year than any of the other National Parks. The Smokies cover an 800-square-mile area of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Here you will find ridges of the mountains covered with beautiful trees. Wildlife abounds here where you just might spot a wild turkey, black bear, or a white-tailed doe. This destination is the perfect refuge with over 1,600 different species of wildflowers.

    If you choose to highlight the USA with this road trip, consider taking it during the fall when the weather is more temperate and the leaves are turning gorgeous with fiery hues of red, orange, and gold.

    National Mall

    Okay, okay, the National Mall is not a road trip. But it does make for a fantastic place to start a road trip (or finish one).

    The National Mall is the perfect place to start a road trip that highlights the best of the best of the USA.
    Photo by Pixabay on

    The National Mall is found in Washington, DC. It is at the heart of the capital of the USA.

    Along the National Mall you’ll find historical monuments. Many of them are styled after ancient Greek and Roman architecture. You’ll find memorials honoring both civic as well as war heroes. And don’t forget to visit one of the numerous Smithsonian galleries and museums.

    This place is one like no other. It is a place with a rich history of both protests and celebrations along the elongated grassy lawn.

    From the National Mall you can begin a road trip highlighting Maryland’s historic road or a tour of the USA’s Civil War history.

    Pacific Coast Highways

    The highways of the Pacific span from north to south…from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico. The view along the way is filled with bewildering beach cliffs. And scattered throughout are little beach communities each with their own quirky charm.

    If you take a trip along the USA’s Pacific Coast Highway via road trip, you’ll come across some real hidden treasures. See the timeworn forests of redwood trees. If you enjoy seafood, you’ll find an abundance of fresh seafood…along with many local fishing tales. And never miss the opportunity to watch a sunset on an old wooden pier.

    Rocky Mountains

    The Rocky Mountains really call to those who enjoy the great outdoors. It runs along the North American Continental Divide. Driving through the Rocky Mountains during the spring or summer you’ll discover myriads of wildflowers and serene lakes.

    The Rocky Mountains offer a rare mix of experiences that speak to many different interests. It has an abundance of wildlife, a rich history of pioneer heritage, as well as the opportunity to get a glimpse into Native American traditions. Many say that the Rocky Mountains highlight the American frontier spirit…perfect of a road trip wanting to experience the USA.

    Fun side trips can have you visiting ghost towns of the Old West.

    Route 66

    Route 66 is the mother-of-all road trips. It is THE classic of all road trips. The personality of this delightful road trip can be seen in the original Cars movie by Pixar/Disney.

    A road trip via Route 66 can highlight a retro vision of the USA.
    Photo by Pixabay on

    Route 66 is over 2,400 miles long. It starts out in Chicago, the Windy City, and takes you all the way to the west coast and sunny Los Angeles, California. I’d like to think if I am able to ever do a Route 66 road trip, that I’ll end with a day at Disney California Adventure theme park and spend the day in Carsland re-living my adventure.

    This journey takes place along a mostly two-lane highway. Along the way, you’ll pass through small towns with tiny little old motor hotels (motels), neon signs, lots of greasy spoon diners with some of the best pie that tastes just like mom used to make. And, occasionally, you’ll pass by a drive-in theater.

    One of the highlights of this road trip is that you get to meet such diverse set of small-town folk…who always seem to eager to have a friendly conversation with those passing through.

    Southern Beaches

    If you want to take a road trip during the winter months, nothing highlights the USA like the beaches of the south. They are fortunate to have warm sunshine almost the entire year.

    The state of Florida is a peninsula that is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the western side and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side. It’s gorgeous with its semitropical weather and white-sand beaches. The turquoise waters allow for stunning sunrises on the east coast and sunsets on the western coast.

    There are so many beaches in the south, that it would be easy to visit a new, distinct one every…single…day.

    Yellowstone National Park

    A road trip to Yellowstone National Park highlights the some of the best that the USA has to offer. It is the oldest National Park. Its natural rainbow-colored hot springs and geysers that shoot up into the air can’t be found anywhere else. But one of its most dazzling features is the USA’s largest ecosystem that is still intact. The ecosystem features an abundance of animals such as bison, elk, grizzly bears, moose, and wolves.

    In addition, you can combine a road trip that includes a visit to the Grand Tetons, and you’ve experience the best of the western wilderness.

    Going with the Trend of the Great-American Road Trip

    Like the couple we met in San Diego, I see a lot more road trips in my family’s future. As I have researched how a road trip can highlight the best of the best in the USA, I realized how much of the country I still haven’t seen…but plan to see in the near future.

    The great-American road trip continues to be a large and growing trend in the travel industry. I am committed to writing about each of the above itineraries in much greater detail in the coming months to help out my readers. As you plan your trips for the coming year(s), I hope you will find plenty of resources to help you in your planning.

    If you have any specific questions, please let me know below as it helps me when I am doing my research and creating articles.

    Please share this article freely with anyone you might know thinking about or talking about taking a road trip or two or three or more. I will continue to get update it as new information is added.

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      Disney Destinations, SeaWorld

      SeaWorld San Diego Review for September 2020

      Although we’ve taken a few road trips close to home during the pandemic, somewhere around mid-summer we decided we wanted to venture out a little further this fall. We decided to try somewhere with a short flight. San Diego seemed like a great idea. The only theme park open in San Diego during our chosen dates was SeaWorld San Diego, so we decided to give it a try and review it.

      Disclaimer: Theme Park During a Pandemic

      I am going to be honest here. While we decided to visit a theme park during a pandemic, the decision to visit a theme park should be solely yours. I am not going to recommend or not recommend traveling. We chose to travel in a way we felt safe, but others may not have felt safe. Honestly, there were a few times when we had to skedaddle out of a situation where we did not feel protected as people were not following protocols.

      Every person must decide for themselves what risk(s) they are comfortable with when it comes to travel. I also feel it important not just to protect myself but also to protect others I may have come in contact with. It’s just me. Better safe than sorry.

      It is also important to note that our trip was also accompanied by wildfire smoke. This left quite a smoky haze in the air that made everything appear gray. While I am admittedly not the best photographer, be aware that in this case Mother Nature was a factor in the photos I took.

      SeaWorld San Diego Review

      There were a number of things I was looking to review during my visit to SeaWorld. Among them were:

      • Highlights of the Day
      • Overall Covid-19 Health and Safety Protocols
      • Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews Program
      • Open Attractions

      Highlights of the Day

      I am a total theme park nerd. It is not uncommon for me to have annual passes to the Disney parks and sometimes Universal Studios. Going seven months between visits to a theme park – any theme park – is highly unusual for me. Needless to say, when I entered the SeaWorld, there may have been a tear or two shed. It was a great feeling.

      Below is a short video I made of our day. The music I chose was the same music playing in the background and seemed appropriate to the occasion.

      We showed up about a half hour after opening. The process to enter was quick and well marked to keep socially distanced. The employees at the front were energetic and seemed genuinely happy to be there. The mood was set for a great day.

      Entry into SeaWorld included their current Bayside BBQ & Brews promotion. I’ll go into that a little later. Suffice it to say, we ate all day long…

      SeaWorld San Diego Relax by the Bay
      SeaWorld San Diego – Views, Drinks, and Live Entertainment

      I think one of the hidden gems while we were there was the relaxation areas. There were chairs by the bay, a live acoustic guitar player, and pretty much no one else in the area during the time we spent here. We were allowed to take our masks off and just enjoyed the scenery and all the boats out along the bay. It was heavenly!

      Review of SeaWorld San Diego Covid-19 Safety Protocols

      The attention to protocols at SeaWorld San Diego were apparent from the moment you walk to the front. There were socially distanced circles on the ground approximately every 6 feet. Each group was supposed to stand on a circle. Since we showed up a half-hour after opening, there was no line. We just wound our way around the ropes to get through.

      There was to be a temperature screening right as you walked in. No problem. If they took my temperature, I must have missed it. I did see children without face coverings actually having their temperature checked. According to state guidelines, your temperature must be under 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

      Face coverings were required for anyone aged 2 years or older. You are allowed to take them off when eating, drinking, or in designated relaxation areas. Most people were compliant, but I noticed as the day wore on that employees were less likely to enforce this rule.

      There are reminders everywhere to emphasize social distancing. While most people were respectful of this, the ones who weren’t generally were not wearing their face masks correctly. This became a sore spot for me since we have seen firsthand the devastation that Covid-19 brings to families and healthcare workers.

      Cleaning and sanitation protocols were spot on! Employees were constantly cleaning high-touch areas. In addition, there were hand sanitizer stations and hand washing stations everywhere. By the end of the day, we did notice that some of the hand sanitizing stations were not being refilled. It was getting difficult to find hand sanitizer. Luckily, we brought our own.

      Bayside BBQ & Brews Program

      During our visit, our entrance fee included a lanyard for the Bayside BBQ & Brews. Your lanyard included an area to punch allowing each guest up to six items of food or drink. We knew going in that it would be more than enough food for the two of us.

      As far as the food goes, we each enjoyed a lunch entree, an early dinner entree, waters, soda, a slice of cheesecake AND a slice of chocolate cake. We took the pieces of chocolate cake back to the hotel with us as we were so full. But the surprise was that non-alcoholic drinks only counted for a half a punch…so two Diet Cokes were just one punch.

      My hubby decided to see if he could grab a snack from a stand for a punch. He got a bag of Planters Trail Mix. When he went to get his lanyard punched, the employee explained to us that it was only half a punch, so we picked up another bag to go. When we left SeaWorld, we still had one more punch left unused and had a backpack filled with chocolate cake and trail mix.

      The food was better than the typical fare of theme park burgers or pizza. That being said, it did not even come close to the quality of food that you enjoy at a Disney festival. Not complaining, but we’re not talking gourmet food here either.

      Open Attractions During Our Visit

      During our visit, it is important to note that none of the rides were open. While initially it seemed a little disappointing, there were still a lot of activities to enjoy.

      It appeared that all of the animal exhibits as well as the animal presentations were open. This included the Orca whales, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, turtles, and so much more.

      There were a few stages set up where you could enjoy live musical performances. As I mentioned earlier, listening to the acoustic guitar while sitting by the bay was a real treat.

      The information we received mentioned there were character meet-and-greets. We didn’t see any of these while we were there. I think they were happening in the Sesame Street area of the park. Since we didn’t have little ones with us this trip, we didn’t stop there.

      Review of SeaWorld San Diego Final Thoughts

      In the time of Covid-19, things are constantly changing. It is great to see parks reopening in ways that are thought out and intended to keep people safe.

      I was definitely happy to be back inside of a theme park…even if the rides weren’t open. It was a feeling that there is a return back to normalcy (even if it means wearing masks for a little while).

      I would love to see employees trained on how to ask guests to put their mask back on when appropriate. They all seemed unsure of how to address the issue with guests who were pulling their masks down in high-traffic areas.

      There was also a little confusion in the shops about how the process for check-out worked. A little signage would have gone a long ways for those of us unsure how to make our purchases. Some people put items back and walked out. I am sure they could use all the revenue they can get right now.

      The Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews program was a great way to kick off their reopening. For the most part, the employees seemed to be back to work. I would rate the experience overall a 7 out of 10.

      In its current form, we would not hesitate to return to SeaWorld San Diego. It would be a great place to take the kids right now. Have you returned to a theme park since reopening after Covid-19? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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        Road Trips

        Experience the USA Via the Great American Road Trip

        A road trip in the USA is an experience like no other. Don’t let the opportunity to see America in the family car pass you by because you are waiting for the perfect time. There is no better time than the present.

        This past summer my hubby and I have been on more short road trips than ever before as we have tried to travel responsibly during a pandemic. It has been so much fun and we have been able to discover some real hidden gems and enjoy some new experiences.

        Buckle Up, Buttercup

        Pack your bags. Grab some snacks. Jump in the car. Gas up and get going on your adventure!

        Buckle up to experience the USA via road trips.

        The fact is that the USA is an amazing country and a road trip is the best way to get a taste and appreciation for that it offers. The USA is so expansive and there are so many regions and cities each with their own sub-culture and history. I am fascinated when I arrive someplace new and get learn their unique history, wildlife critters, and pop culture. No two places are alike if you stop to experience them.

        Weekend Getaways for the Win!

        For example, late last spring my hubby and I decided to do a long weekend in Richland, Washington. Although it’s a fairly small city, it is becoming a real up-and-coming place to visit. It is surrounded by wineries and has lots of outdoor activities like fishing, boating, paddleboarding, biking, and a 7-mile walking path along the Columbia River.

        We stayed at The Lodge at Columbia Point. It was located right at the beginning of the 7-mile Riverfront Trail along the Columbia River. It was within easy walking distance of some fantastic restaurants like LuLu Craft Bar and Kitchen. (I highly recommend the fish ‘n chips.) It was a beautiful hotel, the staff were very friendly and attentive, and we had a view of the river from our room. An added bonus was the fact that they had free bikes for hotel guests to use if they wanted to take a ride. We enjoyed it so much we went back just six weeks later to see more of the area.

        The walking path along the Columbia River had markers that gave tidbits of information about the area. You can learn about native species of animals in the area as well as some local history. For instance, did you know that during the Cold War Russian submarines would cruise up the Columbia River hidden from plain view?

        Driving Around the Bend…

        Road trips can take you north to south, east to west, kitty-corner from Washington to Florida…or any route in between. Does your bucket list include visiting each state in the USA? A road trip is the perfect way to knock out those bucket list destinations.

        There are tons of books, magazines, websites, and blogs to offer advice on how to experience a road trip in the USA. No excuses not to get started. We will be offering our own articles on planning, itineraries, snacks, and lots of other great advice for road trips.

        Is there anything specific you want to know? Please feel free to let us know in the comments below so we can be sure to include content you’ll find helpful.

        Wanna take a foodie road trip with your sisters? Visit all the National Parks with the kiddos? How about a New England Fall Foliage with the parents? Surfboarding on a river (yep, that’s a real thing)? We have you covered!

        Connecting the Dots on the Map

        The opportunities and itineraries are pretty much endless. Wanna take your kids on a walk, bike, or drive through a tunnel cut into a giant sequoia tree? We’ll be discussing lots of options, so simply pick and choose the ones that speak to you! No two people or families are alike. That’s okay! That’s one of the things that makes this country so awesome!

        If you only have time for a day visit, there are lots of little getaways near you to check out.

        A perfect little day trip from our house is the little Bavarian village of Leavenworth. As you drive Highway 2 through the Cascade Mountains in Washington, you just might miss it. This little town used to be a lumber town. However, when the local lumber industry looked like it might be in trouble after the cross-continental railway threatened to take it out, the town had a German makeover.

        Leavenworth, Washington, is the perfect little Bavarian town nestled in the Cascade mountain range.  See it via a USA road trip.

        There are lots of great little restaurants serving bratwursts and wienerschnitzel. On a nice summer afternoon you can see polka performances, browse art outdoors, and visit all the cute little shops. During the summer, you can see an outdoor performance The Sound of Music set against backdrop of the alps of the Pacific Northwest.

        If you enjoy the outdoors, take a whitewater rafting trip down the river. If you enjoy hiking, enjoy a short hike in the nearby Alpine Lakes Wilderness area or the Wenatchee National Forest. With all the available activities, Leavenworth makes for a great road trip destination in the USA.

        Are Road Trips Good for Families?

        I would say a resounding yes! How you approach a road trip like the length of time and the activities you choose will help you create the road trip perfect for your family. Similarly, awesome trends in the travel industry are making travel so much more family-friendly.

        Read More: Trends in Travel Making Family Friendly Travel All the Rage

        And if you have concerns about traveling with little ones, you can determine the best type of trip (and destination) for your family. With a little planning ahead of time, there is no need to worry about traveling with the kids.

        Read More: What is the Best Type of Trip for Your Family? and Conquer the Top 4 Worries of Traveling with Kids

        And always remember: The family that plays together, stays together!

        Meet the USA via the great-American road trip! Create an itinerary that speaks to you. Sign up below to keep informed of all the latest activities and news in family travel.