Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Family Fun in South Dakota's Black Hills

On your family trip to the Black Hills region, you've likely experienced nature, western and Native American culture and American history.  If you're traveling with younger kids who are looking for old fashioned fun, there's plenty of that too.  

In Keystone, 10 minutes from Mount Rushmore and a town with an old west vibe, check out Big Thunder Gold Mine for a tour of an authentic gold mine and mining museum, and the chance to pan for gold from streams that brought miners to the Black Hills in the 1800s. Right nearby, Rush Mountain Adventure Park offers an hour-long tour of the limestone Rushmore Cave, an underground wonder full of dramatic stalactites, plus three heart-pounding exciting attractions - a 630-foot zipline ride, a 3,400-foot mountain coaster ride with speeds up to 30 mph and an interactive gunslinger 7-D ride with three thrilling journeys. Get your laser guns ready! 


There's lots of fun to be had in the environs around Rapid City. Want to see more animals? Bear Country USA, is a drive-through wildlife park where your family can take a safari from the air-conditioned comfort of your car and bring you face to face with bear, buffalo, elk, reindeer and mountain lions. However, it is worth it get out and stroll through to visit Babyland, the animal nursery area -- baby black bears are truly adorable. 

Baby Bear Cubs at Bear Country USA

Reptile Gardens, celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2017, is a family-owned attraction that welcomes thousands of visitors every year to the world’s largest reptile collection. You will see all kinds and sizes of snakes, lizards, frogs, alligators and crocodiles and have the chance to pet a giant tortoise and a baby alligator. There are beautiful birds, a prairie dog area, animal shows, and a botanical garden with plants and flowers from around the world.
Local flavor is offered at the Fort Hayes Chuck Wagon dinner and show. Wait for the bell to ring, line up for your authentic cowboy dinner: baked potato, BBQ beef, baked beans, biscuits, apple sauce, lemonade and spice cake served on tin plates, and watch the western-themed variety show featuring gee-tar players, fiddlers and other musicians who perform a family-friendly show with cowboy spirit.
An Entertaining Show at Fort Hayes Chuck Wagon
For more local flavor, don’t miss Wall Drug, another family-owned local landmark since 1931. And, you really can’t miss it because there are tons of signs along Route 16A as you approach the town of Wall, and it's less than eight miles from the Badlands. It’s kitchy and fun, and nothing like a drug store you've seen anywhere else. In 26 shops, they sell everything from Black Hills gold jewelry to delicious donuts, to western wear such as pricey cowboy boots and hats, to historic photographs, books, and souvenir upon souvenir. There is an outdoor area with fun stuff for the kids (like a giant jackalope to climb upon), and a restaurant which serves buffalo burgers and other casual fare, decorated with oil paintings by noted western artists. Also, free ice water is available to all. If you don’t know that story, you will after a visit to Wall Drug.
If you are need info on the classic destinations of the area read our story on Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.  And, if you plan to continue from South Dakota on a road trip to Yellowstone National Park and/or Jackson, Wyoming, read our Road Trip USA: Great Sights of the West story.
Further information and South Dakota itineraries are available at Travel South Dakota.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

New Scholarship for Student Travelers

As the Family Travel Forum 2017 TeenTravel Writing Scholarship submission period draws to a close July 14, we are happy to share the news that (our sponsor) Allianz Global Assistance USA, a leading travel insurance provider, hosts their own scholarship program, ScholarTrips. 

ScholarTrips gives students the opportunity to travel abroad and experience new places and cultures. The company has provided over $150,000 in travel grants to students across the county.

Last year, students were asked to submit a video or essay response to a question about the impact travel may have on a person. The contest was open from October 10, 2016 through November 10, 2016 to students over 14-years-old who are U.S. residents. 

Some Scholartrips Honorees use their Scholarship for More Travel

Six winners were announced earlier this year and were awarded a grant of $2,500 for their travel expenses. Click here for a list of this year’s winners and check back on the ScholarTrips site for information on the next scholarship so that you can apply.

"We believe that all students should have the opportunity to travel abroad and to experience the world they live in,” said Joe Mason, chief marketing officer of Allianz Global Assistance USA. "We are proud to offer this great opportunity to students across the country and we sincerely wish entries the best of luck."

Allianz Global Assistance offers travel insurance through most major U.S. airlines, leading travel agents, online travel agencies and directly to consumers. For more information on Allianz Global Assistance and the policies offered for travelers, please visit: Allianz Travel Insurance visit them on Facebook at Facebook.com/AllianzTravelInsuranceUS.

We thank Allianz Global for their sponsorship of FTF's 11th annual Teen Travel Writing Scholarship.




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What We Learned at IPW

 Or, One Big Welcome from the Travel Industry

Between June 2- June 7, 2017, more than 6,300 international travel buyers, American sellers and international media representing 70 countries met in Washington DC at IPW. The travel convention, formerly known as International Pow Wow in a nod to the world’s affection for America’s cowboy and Indian mythology, is one of the industry’s largest gatherings; the place to sell the “See the USA” message to foreign tour operators, agents and media.  

Media Marketplace encouraged global media to meet with U.S. destinations.


As hosts U.S. Travel and Brand USA repeatedly remarked, at no time in IPW’s 49-year history is it so important for foreigners to feel welcomed in the nation’s capital

Travel Media More Diverse than Ever


Media were invited to IPW’s opening brunch at the Newseum, a fascinating museum celebrating the 24-hour news cycle, classic print journalism and freedom of the press. 
The booming hiphop of Rare Essence highlighted the diversity of international media voices – who was bouncing, who networked, who sought earplugs -- as much as the universality of music, underscoring the IPW theme of “One Big Welcome.”

Media had one-on-one appointments with destinations at IPW's Media Day

The Value of USA’s Self Promotion


Chris Thompson talked to delegates as president & CEO of Brand USA, the country’s public-private marketing organization whose funding is now in question. His numbers spoke loudly about the value of travel promotion, because Brand USA is already active in the 40 markets that include 90% of all inbound travel to the USA. In the past 4 years, they have seen an increase of more than 4.3 million visitors who spent an additional $14 billion in the U.S., representing an estimated $30 billion in economic impact and 51,000 more jobs. 

Brand USA’s upcoming promotions include a new website that focuses on easing trip planning and a new film about US culture and music, “American Treasures,” hosted by performer Aloe Blacc. Shooting in IMAX, it follows the success of the award-winning "National Parks Adventure," currently showing in 400 markets around the world. Videos about different regions narrated by locals and tagged with #visittheusa are also being produced for social channels. Additionally, we learn that 2017 is a year of US-India Travel and Tourism Partnership, to boost visitation from a country which last year sent the US 1.3 million visitors valued at $11.8 billion.

The Trump Administration’s View of Travel

IPW delegates volunteered with Tourism Cares in a clean up dasy at the National Mall.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross addressed a skeptical crowd at lunch. “On behalf of President Trump,” he said, “I am glad to extend one big welcome to you.” While acknowledging that inbound tourism was dropping, he noted that the high cost of the US dollar was presenting a challenge for many in the audience and suggested that travel sellers promote “some low cost, lesser known but not less interesting destinations” to foreign visitors.  

“This administration recognizes the power of travel as an enabling platform for business, a gateway to education, and a bridge to bring people together,” he said.

After several references to the importance of security, he closed with, “America is open for business, America is open for travel and open to the millions of international visitors who wish us well.”

E-TurboNews reported that Roger Dow praised Secretary Ross’ comments, saying, “In honesty, a number of people probably walked into the room with misgivings about this administration’s views on international visitors, but I’m certain they walked out encouraged that the U.S. government grasps the immense value of inbound travelers.” 

What Effect is the Trump Effect Having?


After several discussions of the IPW message of welcoming the world, and of the US Travel Association’s efforts at keeping America’s doors open to travelers, Roger Dow, USTA Chairman, shared the latest travel research. Surprisingly, it showed that foreign travel to the US is stronger than expected. 

According to the USTA’s Travel Trends Index, April 2017 saw international travel up by 4% over the same month in 2016. 

According to Dow, USTA research indicates that the average international visitor arrives in the United States after 56.9 days of planning, indicating that April 2017 numbers would be the earliest indicator of world travelers' reaction to the administration’s January and February 2017 travel bans. 

Hopefully, April’s inbound tourism results are the beginning of a positive trend. Given all the unwelcoming rhetoric coming from the president, perhaps the industry's “One Big Welcome” message is working, after all. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How to Get Free Flights on Spirit Airlines

It's not often that Spirit Airlines, the notoriously cheap low cost carrier, gives anything away.

In fact, they like to boast that, on average, their fares are 30% less than other airlines. They love to promote their "unbundled, stripped-down Bare Fare" and "Frill Control" which allows fliers to pay only for the options they choose – like bags, seat assignments and refreshments.

Photo courtest Spirit Airlines


And maybe the Bare Fare is the most relevant to this story, as on a recent flight, a passenger gave birth to a baby boy. We'll let Spirit Airlines share the happy story.

"Experiencing a little turbulence during air travel is not uncommon.  But giving birth to a baby during a flight is a whole different kind of turbulence.  That’s what took place on a recent Spirit flight.  Originally, Spirit flight 971 was to go from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas/Ft. Worth. But about thirty minutes into the flight, Cristina Penton of Phoenix, Arizona, who was 36 weeks pregnant, told flight attendants she wasn’t feeling well and asked for medical assistance.

“Everything started happening very quickly,” said Penton. “I didn’t think I was having the baby because it was too soon, but after a few minutes I knew I needed medical attention. The flight attendants contacted doctors on the ground and they advised the flight attendants to see if there were any medical personnel on board.  As it turned out there was a pediatrician and a nurse.  Soon after that, it was clear I was having my baby, and I was in pure panic.”

According to Spirit's PR team, the flight was diverted to New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport (MSY), and emergency medical crews were summoned to meet the plane upon arrival.  However, before the plane could land, baby Christoph Lezcano was born on the aircraft.  He weighed in at an even 7 pounds and was 19.5 inches tall. Both were taken to Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana.  Both mother and baby are fine.

“A baby being born during a flight is very rare,” said Spirit spokesman, Paul Berry.  “But our flight attendants are trained to handle medical emergencies in flight and they have access to doctors on the ground via inflight communication.  In this case we were fortunate to also have a pediatrician on board who brought even more care and comfort to the situation.”

“The Spirit crew was very attentive and took care of me throughout the flight,” added Penton.  “They helped make what could have been a terrible situation as good as it could possibly be.”

Today, representatives from Spirit Airlines met Cristina and baby Christoph at Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana, to deliver some gifts including free flights for Christoph and a guest to anywhere Spirit flies on his birthday, for life. The airline is also planning a special sale in honor of Christoph.

Now that's a happy ending for him, his family, and the rest of the flying public.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ScholarTrips 2016 - Sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance USA

Leading travel insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance USA has created ScholarTrips to give students the opportunity to travel abroad and experience new places and cultures. The company has now provided over $150,000 in travel grants to students across the county.
ScholarTrips Honoree Using Her Scholarship to Travel
This year, students were asked to submit a video or essay response to a question about the impact travel may have on a person.
The contest was open from October 10, 2016 through November 10, 2016 to students over 14-years-old who are U.S. residents. Six winners were awarded a grant of $2,500 for their travel expenses. Click here for a list of this years winners and check back for information on next year's scholarship program.
"We believe that all students should have the opportunity to travel abroad and to experience the world they live in,” said Joe Mason, chief marketing officer of Allianz Global Assistance USA. "We are proud to offer this great opportunity to students across the country and we sincerely wish entries the best of luck."
Allianz Global Assistance offers travel insurance through most major U.S. airlines, leading travel agents, online travel agencies and directly to consumers. For more information on Allianz Global Assistance and the policies offered for travelers, please visit: Allianz Travel Insurance or like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/AllianzTravelInsuranceUS.
We thank Allianz Global for their sponsorship of FTF's 10th annual Teen Travel Writing Scholarship.