California Coast RV Road Trip

Most known for Hollywood celebrity sightings, California is also home to some of the most famous beaches and coastlines of the world. This is perfectly complemented by the seamless weather and temperature that lures in new residents and tourists every year. So if you are looking forward to enjoying the summer heat, regardless of the More »

Going to Orlando and its Parks

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Tag Archives: seasonal travel

Maine ski areas give out free skiing lessons

The Ski Maine Association is kicking off its third annual “Learn to Ski and Snowboard for Free Week.”

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Nine ski areas are taking part in the program, held from Jan. 8 through Jan. 13.

The ski areas are donating a total of 141 ski and snowboard packages that are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants get ski or snowboard equipment, lessons and limited beginner lift access.

Slideshow: Hit the lifts (on this page)

In the past, the openings have filled up within days of the announcement.

The participating ski areas are Bigrock Ski Area, Black Mountain, Camden Snow Bowl, Lost Valley, Mount Abram, Saddleback, Shawnee Peak, Sugarloaf and Sunday River.

Interested people can sign up on the Ski Maine website, .

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

5 festive holiday lights tours

Courtesy of Hershey Entertainment Resorts Co.

In Hershey, Pa., a two-mile drive-through wonderland features nearly 600 illuminated and animated displays.

Magical Nights of Lights, Atlanta

For the 19th year, visitors across the Southeast will head to Lake Lanier Island Resorts’ Magical Nights of Lights for an impressive seven-mile holiday light display and winter wonderland. Tune your radios to the local holiday station as you drive through animated displays featuring more than a million twinkling lights. Stop at the Holiday Village to roast marshmallows by the bonfire, sip hot cocoa, shop in a season store, ride on carnival-style rides and meet Santa Claus. A new attraction will even bring a smile to the faces of your adventurous teens: Night Light Canopy Tours, with 30-minute nighttime zip lining. Nov. 18, 2011 through Jan. 1, 2012, 5 to 10 p.m.

Slideshow: Holiday light displays

Hotel package: Stay overnight at Lake Lanier Island Resort with the Magical Nights of Lights Package, starting at $189. The package, for a family of four, provides accommodations, one vehicle pass, amusement rides for two children, and breakfast with Santa.

100 Miles of Lights, Virginia
Virginia does not take its holiday lights lightly. More than 2 million twinkling lights are offered in and around Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. In Richmond, more than 700,000 lights are on display at the Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Newport News offers a two-mile Celebration in Lights drive-thru. In Norfolk, walk beneath the two-mile sparkling Million Bulb Walk. In Virginia Beach, drive along the boardwalk for the Holiday Lights at the Beach. More holiday events include lighted parades.

Hotel package: Stay overnight at the Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel and receive accommodations, admission to Holiday Lights at the Beach and hot chocolate and cookies starting at $119.

Hershey Sweet Lights, Hershey, Pa.
Hershey makes an evening drive a sweet adventure with its two-mile drive-thru wonderland featuring nearly 600 animated and illuminate displays. Before or after the drive, visit Hersheypark Christmas Candylane to see the Hershey characters in their holiday attire, visit Santa’s reindeer, enjoy rides for all ages and more all beneath 2 million twinkling lights. Through Dec. 31, 5 to 9, 10 or 11 p.m., depending on evening.

Hotel package: Choose the Breakfast with Santa package and receive accommodations at Hotel Hershey or the Lodge at Hershey, breakfast or lunch with Santa and one-day admission to Hersheypark Christmas Candylane for a family of up to four. Rates start at $349 per night.

An Old Time Christmas, Branson, Mo.
Visit Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., for its annual Old Time Christmas and watch evening turn to day as 4 million lights sparkle and glow. Christmas on Main Street features the attraction’s biggest light show, while the five-story Special Effects Christmas Tree will dance to a number of holiday classics. Twice a night, the Gifts of Christmas Holiday Light Parade features more than 100,000 lights, and then families can enjoy Silver Dollar City’s rides, attractions and musical adaption of “A Dickens Christmas Carol.” Through Dec. 30, 2011.

Hotel package: Silver Dollar City’s Christmas Getaway Package provides two days of play and one-night accommodations at a hotel of your choice starting at $86.49 per person. Included in the package are two-day Silver Dollar City tickets.

ZooLights, Washington, D.C.
Washington‘s National Zoo illuminates the night with its own holiday light show, complete with dancing trees, holiday decor and lights strung around the zoo’s trees, walkways and buildings. Families can also skate in the iceless skating rink (it feels and looks like ice but is actually plastic!), check out the gingerbread habitat contest entry displays, and get a glimpse of the zoo at night — all for free! (Parking, however, is $16, and ice-skating is $5 for 30 minutes.) 5 to 10 p.m., Friday through Sundays, Nov. 25 through Dec. 11, then nightly until Jan. 1. Closed Dec. 24, 25 and 31.

Hotel package: Stay at the Marriott Wardman Park, just a block from the zoo, and enjoy accommodations, free parking, kids’ meal and zoo welcome kit with rates varying between $169 and $289 per night.

More from Family Vacation Critic

Your holiday travel plans in Tweets

Come the holidays, Twitter becomes a vast collection of up-to-the-second reports about how people are traveling. A basic search for the hashtag #travel on Tuesday morning turned up several items related to the holiday season, including mentions of impending winter storms, the best city to see seasonal decorations and how to avoid getting sick on packed planes.

But it’s impossible for the average user to get an overview of which airlines, rental car agencies, bus and rail services and hotels travelers are turning to on Twitter without a little help from the experts. Look no further, as the New York-based social media company Mashwork has created a handy infographic with all of this information.

Courtesy of

An analysis of Tweets reveals how people are traveling this holiday season.

The company analyzed more than 20,000 Tweets from between from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15 to better understand how Twitter users are traveling, where they’re staying and how they’re booking flights, hotels and rental cars. Delta was the most mentioned carrier followed by Virgin and JetBlue. Amtrak was tops among train lines with CTA, the Chicago Transit Authority, coming in second.

“This is not just about buzz,” Mashwork CEO Jared Feldman told The Tweets analyzed were specifically about fliers who, for example, booked a flight on Delta through Orbitz.

What the analysis didn’t measure was negative mentions of the companies and brands. We’re guessing Mashwork will have a whole other set of Tweets to analyze as the holiday travel season gets into full swing.


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Hotels add a little extra ho-ho-ho for holiday guests

Santa is in the house.

At least it may feel that way for travelers staying at some hotels this Christmas. From hosting private shopping events to delivering actual gifts, hotels and resorts are helping take some of the stress out of holiday shopping.

“Hotels are trying to figure out ways to simplify people’s lives while differentiating themselves from the competition,” said Glenn Haussman, editor-in-chief of “They’re saying, ‘We’ll take care of some of that holiday worry you’re feeling.’ ”

Consider some of this season’s more distinctive deals:

The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel: Stores across the country are out of stock on this year’s hot kids’ gift — the Let’s Rock Elmo and Leapfrog LeapPad tablets — but this hotel on New York’s Upper East Side has them. Through December 31, guests booking the Santa’s Shopper package will receive the Let’s Rock Elmo or LeapPad of their choice and other special amenities upon arrival. Nightly rates start at $780.

AKA Rittenhouse Square: On Monday, Dec. 19, this extended-stay hotel in Philadelphia will host a private shopping experience in conjunction with Kiehl’s, the maker of skin- and hair-care products. Guests can enjoy complimentary cocktails and appetizers, browse products that can be delivered to their suites and receive $20 in credit for purchases of $65 or more. Nightly rates start at $195.

The Peabody Orlando: During the hotel’s second annual “Stop In Shop” event (Dec. 20–23), the hotel spa will create and wrap gift kits and baskets designed to help men find appropriate last-minute gifts for their significant others. Kits are $10 and up; nightly rates start at $150.

For The Peabody, the Stop In Shop event continues a tradition of going above and beyond to ensure guests enjoy the holidays. Last year, for example, after a family staying at the hotel missed their flight home, the father expressed his dismay that his children wouldn’t get their presents on Christmas morning.

To prevent that, the hotel staff helped the guest track down gifts, wrapped and placed them under the large decorated tree in the lobby and invited the family to come down and open them at midnight on Christmas Eve.

“They got to celebrate Christmas under the tree,” said Marshall Kelberman, director of rooms, “and it was nice for us to be part of their family like that.”

Not surprisingly, The Carlyle’s LeapPad project took a bit more advance planning. According to managing director Erich Steinbock, the hotel attracts many guests who are visiting family in the area and, as a result, is well-integrated into the neighborhood.

“We talked with some of the mothers and fathers in the neighborhood in October and asked them what they thought the hot toys would be this year and what they thought the stores would run out of,” he told With the two LeapPads topping the list, the hotel bought a dozen of each.

“It’s wonderful for parents or grandparents coming to visit family to know they already have the toy and don’t have to be stressed out about it,” said Steinbock. “The stores are so crowded now that if someone doesn’t enjoy that atmosphere, this is a great way out.”

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

New Sugarloaf lift replaces lift that derailed

Maine’s Sugarloaf ski resort is opening its new chairlift that replaces a 35-year-old lift that derailed last December, injuring eight skiers.

The new Skyline lift is opening to the public at noon Saturday. The first 100 riders will receive a commemorative Skyline t-shirt.

The $3 million lift follows the same path as the old Spillway East lift. It travels 3,746 feet at a speed of up to 500 feet per minute.

The Spillway East lift cable popped out of place last Dec. 28, causing five chairs to fall 25 to 35 feet to the ground.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.