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
We thank Allianz Global for their sponsorship of FTF's 10th annual Teen Travel Writing Scholarship.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lonely Planet Founders, Hard at Work, Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Tony Wheeler and Maureen Wheeler, founders of the widely-known Lonely Planet Publications have received the 13th UNWTO Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Nation's World Tourism Organization. The prize, given to individuals with visionary leadership and significant contributions to  the global tourism sector, is richly deserved.

Maureen and Tony Wheeler, founders of Lonely Planet; photo c. UNWTO

According to the UNWTO blog, a trek along Asia’s ‘hippie trail’ in 1972 led Tony and Maureen Wheeler to establish Lonely Planet Publications. Over the following four decades, they produced hundreds of guidebooks which have now sold well over 100 million copies in English as well as in numerous other languages.

Lonely Planet also ventured into many other travel areas including a television series and an award-winning travel website. The New York Times described Tony as ‘the trailblazing patron saint of the world’s backpackers and adventure travelers.’

We've always appreciated Maureen Wheeler's pioneering spirit, as evidenced in the Lonely Planet Travel With Children (Lonely Planet Travel With Children) series which she began.

Since the sale of Lonely Planet, Tony and Maureen have been involved in numerous other activities, many of them with a travel connection.

The foundation they first established within Lonely Planet now works with more than 50 projects in the developing world, principally in Southeast Asia and East Africa, mainly in education and health.

Additionally, the Tony & Maureen Wheeler Chair of Entrepreneurship at London Business School is held by Professor Rajesh Chandy, whose work concentrates on entrepreneurship in the developing world.

In Melbourne, Australia the creation of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas played a key role in the city’s recognition as a UNESCO City of Literature. Maureen is the Chairperson of the annual Melbourne Arts Festival and the Principal Patron of Opera Australia’s production of "Wagner’s Ring Cycle" in Melbourne in 2013 and 2016. Tony is a director of Global Heritage Fund, which works to protect and develop archaeological sites in the developing world.

Tony’s interest in our world’s more unusual travel destinations led him to write Lonely Planet’s Bad Lands and later Dark Lands.

He is currently working on a new book on The Islands of Australia – there are more than 8,000 of them – for the National Library of Australia and on Lonely Planet’s forthcoming Epic Drives of the World.

We can't wait to see what else they undertake in the lifetime left to them.

Blog post source:  UNWTO

Friday, January 13, 2017

Top Resorts for Learning a Snowsport (And Where to Find Lodging)

As snow resorts start reporting their daily snow totals, the season is officially underway. So far, no one can beat Lake Tahoe's record set January 11, 2017 -- 16'6" of powder fell in a 10-day period! So to celebrate the great 2016-2017 ski season everyone is hoping for, we've been checking out several of the "Top Mountain Resorts" lists.

Learning how to ski is awesome!

It's Learn a Snowsport Season

From Family Travel Forum comes "The Year's Best Ski and Snow Family Vacations," a roundup of more than 30 resorts with great kids programs and exceptional teaching staff.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, a time when mountains all over the country are offering low cost beginner lessons in skiing, snowboarding and cross country. (Their website has a directory of offers.)

Slopeside (or even shuttle-friendly) lodging can be a family's biggest expense at a mountain resort. So big in fact, that many families are forced to make very long drives on ski days and can't plan two days of lessons in a row -- a must to get really excited about a new sport.

Sunpeaks ski house featured on Airbnb in Kelowna, B.C. Canada

Recognizing that need, Airbnb is promoting its condos and private homes in ski country, many with hot tubs nearby, that accommodate an extended family and/or friends. According to their spokesperson, there are nearly 35, 000 listings between Canada and the US in ski-resort destinations, including homes with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, ample living spaces, kitchens, and convenient mountainside locations for easy access to the slopes.

Liftopia's Top Beginner and Kid Friendly Resorts by Region

Now it's time to review the resorts that Liftopia, an online marketplace for lift tickets and other mountain activities, has compiled. Their criteria were beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas across North America that are ideal for those looking to learn a winter sport, citing many of the smaller local mountains that are typically more wallet friendly, too.

West Coast: California has the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the West, including Tahoe Donner (first place in the family-friendly category), June, Boreal, Bear Valley, Snow Valley, Homewood, Donner Ski Ranch, Mammoth, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows and Sierra-At-Tahoe. Anthony Lakes (Oregon) is the #1 beginner-friendly ski area in the region.

The Burton Riglet Park at Northstar, near Lake Tahoe, is a great place for beginners to learn.

Where to Stay:  There's a great Airbnb in Truckee -- the rustic, three-bedroom Tahoe Donner Cabin -- described as spacious, quiet, convenient and sleeps 8, has a BBQ, free WiFi, fireplace and hot tub for just $225 per night.

Northeast: Bretton Woods is the #1 beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski area in the region. In addition to Bretton Woods, New Hampshire has the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the Northeast, including King Pine, Cranmore, Black Mountain, Pats Peak, Ragged and Attitash.

Where to Stay: There is the classic Omni Bretton Woods Hotel right at the mountain, plus a smaller inn. The Conway region has several small hotels and Airbnbs like Maggie's, which gives you two bedrooms within a larger, historic home for $129 per night.

High West: Utah is home to the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the High West, including Eagle Point (#1 Beginner-Friendly Ski Area), Sundance, Brighton, Powder, Alta, Solitude and Brian Head. In the Family Friendly category, Sipapu, New Mexico came in #1 in the region.

Where to Stay: All of the resorts mentioned have lodging, though it can be expensive. We suggest you review each ski area's website because the fewer facilities they have, the lower the rates will be. If you want to splurge on a big mountain, travel midweek.

Midwest: Michigan ski areas reign supreme in the Midwest, with the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas including Crystal Mountain (first place in both categories), Shanty Creek, Boyne Highlands, Caberfae, Nubs Nob and Boyne Mountain.

Where to Stay: There's a clapboard four-bedroom Airbnb in Mesick, Michigan near to Crystal that sleeps 6 for $155 per night. Note that it's off the grid if you want to unplug (no WiFi no TV).

Southeast: West Virginia has the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the Southeast, with Canaan Valley the number one Beginner Friendly and Family Friendly Ski Area in the region. Other winners include Snowshoe, Timberline Four Seasons and Winterplace.

Where to Stay: There's a lot of on mountain and nearby housing at Snowshoe, and other rentals available through, with rustic mountain homes near Canaan Valley from just $90 per night.

Airbnb Deals from Ski Areas

Here's a roundup of other suggestions from Airbnb, which shows such variety geographically that you can find a good deal practically anywhere there's a ski lift. Head out west, for example, and stay in Tannebaum by the River 301 (from $214 per night), a ski-in Breckenridge loft with six beds sleeping up to 10, and three bathrooms, right near Peak 9. This place is special for tiny travelers because it has two twin beds up on a 2nd floor loft, allowing those who stay up later to enjoy the fireplace and living room without disturbing early sleepers.

Elegant ski condo in Breckeridge, featured on Airbnb, is right off Peak 9 Lifts

Bring the adventure indoors at a Mammoth, California condo ($199) with three bedrooms sleeping up to 8. This casual home is on the shuttle line to town, has its own loft and rock-climbing wall -- perfect for tweens and teens to burn off extra energy.

Bolton Valley is a favorite area for beginners, and this two-bedroom Vermont Airbnb ($300 per night) sleeping 6 is cozy and convenient to the slopes. 

Of course, Airbnb is now available all over the world, giving families an even better chance to combine local culture, perhaps even a foreign language, with their snowsports learning adventure in many European countries.

Pack up the mittens, powdered hot chocolate and cozy pajamas and you'll be all set for a new family adventure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

5 Places to Ring In the New Year with Your Kids

If you’re a parent whose first New Year’s resolution is “spend more quality time with the kids,” there’s no need to wait until January 1st to act. Here are five favorite destinations that celebrate the arrival of the New Year with early and, often, alcohol-free public events designed for families.

MoonPie Drop over Mobile, Alabama. Photo Courtesy Tad Denson,

First Night in Boston, Massachusetts

The city of Boston was the first to produce a fee-free, alcohol-free, civic-minded First Night focused on performing arts more than 40 years ago, a tradition that has spread to more than 200 cities around the world. For 2017, First Night First Day festivities will take place indoors and out around Boston Common and Copley Square. All day into the night, families can see concerts, dance performances, holiday lights and ice sculptors at work. Art gallery tours begin at noon. At 6:00 p.m. there’s the annual People’s Procession and, at 7:00 p.m., family fireworks at Boston Common. Revelers can stay on till midnight for the even bigger Countdown to Copley fireworks illuminating the sky over Copley Square, or watch it live on NBC Boston from their hotels. On January 1, family and children’s entertainment will be live in Copley Square from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Sunset on Clearwater Beach, Florida

Don't expect much bubbly to flow on the sugar sand beaches of family-focused Clearwater Beach. On New Year’s Eve, like most other nights, everyone strolls over to Pier 60 on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline to admire the sunset, listen to live music, shop for crafts and watch fire-throwers perform daring feats. The free, nightly Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival takes place from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., after which most families head over to Frenchy's Original. In the past 45 years, the Quebec, Canada expat known as “Frenchy” has opened five very popular seafood cafes. Kids love the beer-battered grouper, garlic fries sprinkled with crabmeat, and key lime pie; a special menu will be available New Year’s Eve. If everyone’s still awake, lay your blanket out on the beach to wait for Light It Up Clearwater, the annual fireworks show amplified in spectacular fashion by reflections from the calm Gulf waters.

Twice the Fireworks in Denver, Colorado

The Mile High City of Denver is situated above 5,000 feet in altitude, and its thin air is ideal to view fireworks. Fortunately, New Year's Eve Fireworks Downtown are done twice:  at 9:00 p.m. for families and at the traditional stroke of midnight for night owls. Get to the 16th Street Mall by 8:00 p.m. for a good viewing spot, and enjoy the costumed characters, stilt walkers and balloon-making artists while you wait. If you’re traveling with preschoolers, start the last day of 2016 at the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. for running-around fun like confetti showers, bouncing on bubble wrap, and art projects. The Denver Zoo Year’s Eve party welcomes families to view its extensive holiday lights and enjoy a 9:00 p.m. countdown party.

The Big Orange over Miami, Florida

Whether you’re fans of Justin Bieber or Billy Joel, Miami has you covered, with private New Year’s Eve concerts by both superstars plus dozens of world-class DJ parties at area nightclubs. Families should head to downtown Coconut Grove at 2:00 p.m. December 31 for the King Mango Strut Parade, a silly parade of costumed locals whose first float features the winner of the Little Miss Mango Pageant. Hit the beach, have some Cuban food, then be at Pitbull's New Year Revolution at Bayfront Park by 10:00 p.m. Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg are hosting the free outdoor countdown concert that will thrill teens. (Younger kids can get in their PJs and watch it live on Fox TV in your hotel.) Keep an eye out for the 35-foot-wide Big Orange being hoisted up the side of the InterContinental Hotel. As it reaches the roof at midnight, fireworks illuminate the city, the park and Biscayne Bay -- where hundreds of party boats are waiting to host the city’s famed after-parties.

MoonPie Drop in Mobile, Alabama

They’re expecting 50,000 people for the Mobile New Year, which begins at 3:00 p.m. with the live broadcast of the National College Football Championship play-off game on big screens off Bienville Square. Mobile is known more for MoonPies marshmallow sandwiches than football – it’s the favorite treat thrown out by Mardi Gras maskers in the very first city to celebrate Mardi Gras, back in 1703. During New Year’s Eve, a 12-foot-tall, 600 lb. electric MoonPie hovers over the square while spectators chow down on the world’s largest edible MoonPie baked by the original Chattanooga Bakery. While awaiting midnight, dance to the live music of En Vogue, parade around with painted umbrellas, and find a viewing spot for the laser light show, fireworks and of course, the MoonPie drop.

Visit our colleagues at Family Travel Forum for more ideas on where to spend New Year's Eve with the whole family.

Happy New Year's!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Bucket List Roadtrips for Harry Potter and Star Wars Fans

With brutal winter storms expected across the Midwest over the upcoming Christmas holiday, we know many families will want to curl up in front of their big screen TV and catch up on favorite movies or... hit the cineplex and see something new.

For you couch potatoes, we share this delightful infographic produced by which details some of the actual places that these great movies and TV shows were filmed, to inspire you to future family travels!

Happy Holidays, safe travels!

View full infographic (via AttractionTix).