Tentrr, A New Way to Camp

Are you camping-curious, but not sure you want to deal with all the tent and sleeping bag related hassle? Have a hesitant spouse? Or perhaps you love camping, as we do, but are ready to try something new and different with your friends and family this fall. We recently headed out with Tentrr, a new company that gives you the camping experience you are after, from the most basic and remote locations to the “glamping” end of things as you desire. The best part? No set up or breaking down, you just go. When you arrive, everything is ready for you, just like a hotel (but way cooler, since you are outdoors and get to spend some time in nature).

easy camping

There is no end to the benefits of spending time in nature, from *physical health benefits like improving your immune system as well as mental and emotional health and well being (boosting you mood and giving you a creativity boost for examples), your whole self will benefit from your time camping. It doesn’t matter if you choose to really “rough it” or not, just being outside with your family will give you a wonderful bonding experience and memories that you can keep forever.

(*These and other health benefits of spending time outdoors can be found at  https://www.health.harvard.edu)

camping with kids

In a similar manner to Airnbn, Tentrr works with private landowners to cater to the camping community. These landowners install a “fully-equipped campsite on their property. Each campsite comes with a canvas wall tent on an elevated platform, bed, wood stove, Adirondack chairs, fire pit, grill, picnic table, sun shower, and camp toilet. Tentrr is perfect for families who love the outdoors but don’t love all the work associated with camping like packing a car full of stuff or pitching a tent.” (Via Tentrr)
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Visit Barbados. Like, Right now.

I’ve been obsessed with Barbados since I was a kid, when I read the Newbery Medal winning book “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare. For anyone who somehow managed to escape their summer reading, the book is about a fictional 17th Century young woman who, orphaned, must leave her home in Barbados and travel to New England. Now in Puritan Connecticut, she often reminisces about her home and her childhood growing up in beautiful Barbados.

Yes, as an adult, I now realize the colonizer themes that ran rampant in the book. However, the images left in my mind’s eye of the lush and balmy Barbados had impressed on me the desire to make my way over to the tiny island as soon as I was able.  No better time then the present, so we headed over to finally see the nation well known as the birthplace of rum.

Located in the lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of North America, Barbados is about a 5 hour flight from New York City.  Just 166 square miles in total, it dwarfs the smallest state in the USA by quite a bit (Rhode Island, at 1,034 square miles), it packs a lot into a small space.

Though she be but little, she is fierce. Alright, perhaps not exactly fierce, but definitely a force. On this wisp of an island, you will experience amazing food (yes, quite a lot of seafood, but vegans and  vegetarians rejoice, there are plenty of options on this very foodie-progressive island), blissful beaches, friendly people, and incredible scenery. No matter what you are interested in, you will find plenty to keep you occupied while you vacation in beautiful and diverse Barbados.

Not ones to lay about the beach and resort all day, we wanted to see as much as we were able to in our (much too short!) stay. Not that lying about has anything wrong with it- you couldn’t pick a more picturesque place to relax and take in the sun and sand. We did our share of lazing, but spent most of our time exploring the island.  The history of the island is as colorful as it’s gardens, and during our stay we enjoyed learning about the island’s first peoples through events in our current time period. Luckily for us, there are some fantastic tour guides who are gracious enough to share Barbadian culture and history with tourists, and they are very thorough. The best part is, the more you learn, the more you want to know.

The Arawaks and the Caribs were the first inhabitants of what became known as Barbados. English Captain John Powell arrived in 1625 and claimed the island for King James I of England. After returning to England and back again, the island was given the name “Los Barbados”, a variation of “Os Barbados”, used by the Portuguese sailors since 1536.  It was named after a tree that grew on the island, the “Bearded Fig Tree” aka  Shortleaf Fig (Ficus Citrifolia) that the sailors thought looked like a bushy beard. As Barbados was named for it’s magnificent foliage, you can rightly assume that the natural beauty surrounding is going to make it hard to put your camera away.

Regardless of what kind of touring or adventure you are after, you are bound to be excited by and admiring of the natural beauty that will envelop you. One of the first tours we opted to take was a walking tour of Historic Bridgetown. This 3 hour walking tour was the perfect introduction to the area, and was led by local professor and historian Morris Greenidge. Extremely passionate, knowledgeable, and just honestly impressive, Mr. Greenidge is “the” expert, called to discuss Barbados and topics that intertwine with the local history on panels and conferences worldwide.

When there was not enough history or information available, Mr. Greenidge just decided rather than lament it, he would research and write the histories himself. Almost all by himself, as well. Self taught, he has researched and written the history of the island from it’s founders to local legends and heroes as well as walking guides and more. (Side note, some of these books are hard to find outside of Barbados, so you may want to buy them while you are there if you like them. Bonus, he will be happy to sign them for you. I regretfully only bought two of his books at the time, and am having a rough time finding some of the others. Lesson learned, hopefully you can avoid my error.) There are not a ton of books out there on the history of Barbados, not many novels either, so they were a good find and give good insight from that of a lifelong inhabitant. As well, I have to admit that after having spent time with Mr. Greenidge, I hear the books in his voice and they are quite a fun and unique reminder of our time spent touring.

Meeting us in dress slacks, crisp shirt, and suspenders on a blisteringly hot day, Mr. Greenidge speaks slowly and deliberately, often pausing in thought, giving an incredibly thorough tour of a place you can see he loves dearly. We began the tour at Chamberlain Bridge in aptly named Bridgetown (the capitol and by far largest city in Barbados) under Independence Arch. The bridge connects Bridgetown over the Careenage aka Constitution River, which cuts the city in two parts. Formerly a swing bridge that was vital to the shipping industry as well as connecting one part of the city to it’s other half, it’s now rebuilt and designed for the current needs of the island- mostly pleasure boating and fishing. Not only one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean, but also a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is a lot to experience in Bridgetown.
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Coconut Bay Resort, St. Lucia

No matter what kind of vacation you are looking for- family trip, a romantic couples retreat, girlfriends getaway- you can find what you are looking for on the diverse island of St. Lucia. Coconut Bay is located near the airport (in fact, just five minutes away), so you won’t have a long trek to your room once you arrive. That’s never a welcome surprise, is it? Once there, you are greeted by friendly staff with cool towels and cold drinks of your choice- water, rum punch, or champagne.

Coconut Bay

As you refresh and cool off, you and your entourage check into your room.  You can take your bags or have them taken to your room for your, and your vacation really begins. A recently renovated resort on 85 acres, the all inclusive Coconut Bay offers plenty to see, do, (eat!) and explore.  There are nine restaurants, seven bars, five pools, a fully functional and not all all lacking fitness center (lets face it, often “gyms” while vacationing are weak sauce) the largest waterpark on the island, and more. Did I mention it was all inclusive? Because that makes things so. much. easier. Also, the beach is just past the pools- no long hike to and fro.

best family vacation

We took my daughter for a long weekend, and there was definitely not enough time to see all that we wanted to on the resort, let along the island. So it’s a great spot for a quick getaway, but for sure even better for those who like a more immersive experience. If you are traveling as an adults only getaway, you will likely prefer to stay o the “Harmony” wing of the resort, which does not allow children. When you get a moment to get away from it all- your routine, the kids, the noise-  the last thing you want to hear is someone else’s kids screaming, and that’s totally fair and understandable- and other adults get that. It can be hard to find time to reconnect as a couple, and Coconut Bay makes sure you can have those quiet moments you are looking for, complete with hammocks and lounge chairs everywhere you look.

St Lucia Resort

Brining the kids? Totally cool. I usually do as well. The “Splash” wing is for families, and where you will find the waterpark, the only resort petting zoo on the island (and the only one I can remember seeing ever in my own experience), the Kidz Club, and even a paintball course.  It is for sure the louder side of the resort, and there are plenty of family friendly activities to keep everyone busy. Also, a note for those looking to keep active while traveling- they have really good fitness classes offered. Actual quality, that are both fun and challenging. You will be working up a sweat but enjoying yourself at the same time. Again, not something I see all the time. Places might have gyms and classes, but they are not usually anywhere near this intensity, and we were super impressed.
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Waterville Valley, New Hampshire

Looking for an all-season resort you can enjoy with the family? Look no further then the beautiful Waterville Valley Resort, set in the always stunning White Mountains of New Hampshire.

We are lovers of NH, it’s not hard to find a reason to get us to head up for a visit. If you have ever set foot in the small but stunning state, you likely are as well. Outdoors Enthusiasts will be hard pressed to be kept away, no matter what the sport(s) or recreational activities of their choice might be.

white mountains

With endless outdoor fun at your fingertips, and natural beauty as unspoiled as you can find without heading way, way out (and you can do that as well if you desire more solitude and untouched nature),  the hardest part of your vacation will be choosing what activities you have time for on this trip- and planning when you can make a return visit.

Everyone needs a comfortable spot to lie their heads at night, and choosing your “home away from home” can be stressful. No matter what the reviews say, it is always a crapshoot- you never really know what you are going to get. Personal experience is always the best, and from my own experience, I can tell you I’ll be heading back to Waterville Valley Resort. It was as advertised, comfortable (ad clean), with amenities and multiple (clean!) restaurants and stores within a stones throw from your room. Forgot something, lose something? Always, right? Not a problem, there is someplace that sells what you need in the resort.  And there’s not price gouging, either, which is both refreshing and oh-so rare. You can even souvenir shop while you meander about.

hiking in new hampshire

Truly a nature lovers paradise, you can enjoy the fall foliage, winter wonderland, spring blooms, and summer splendor all from the mountain valley with a 360 degree views.  The location is truly stunning. As Waterville Valley Resort is nestled deep within the White Mountain National Forest and hosts a wide selection of activities for everyone within it’s grounds. You can always venture off property as well, but if you wanted to stay in one general spot and still be able to see and do, this is a fantastic spot to be in. (Bonus? The staff is amazing. Nice, friendly, accommodating, helpful- honestly. Apparently, they are trained this way. Imagine! Training to put the guests experiences first. What a throwback, and a most welcome one.)
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Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts in Riviera Maya, Mecico

It’s that time of year that feels like winter will never end. First, Winter. Then, “False Spring”, wild cold snap, at least one more blizzard that will lead to “second False Spring”, and then maybe we can finally start to melt. I’m thinking about a shortcut to getting warm.

Mexico is calling. It’s just a short plane ride away, and it’s beautiful beaches, resorts, and diverse entertainment are just the thing to help wipe away the winter blues. Not to mention the food….don’t even try to stay on your diet. Just GO with it.

riviara maya

Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts has beautiful options to fit all sorts of budgets and travel styles. What they call experiencing the ‘Mayan jungle without sacrificing luxury’ in Riviera Maya, you can visit Mexico and stay in a resort within a giant resort that you are free to move about in.

Bringing the whole family? That’s great, there are rooms and portions of the resort designed with you in mind. Events just for kids, treasure hunts, kid friendly foods and activities, and no adults who don’t want to be around kids glaring at you when your child has an inevitable meltdown. Hey, kids are kids, even on vacation, right?

mexico all inclusive resort

Running away from the kids? That’s fantastic- mom and dad need some time off sometimes. You are people, too, after all. Maybe all you want is some kid-free time. That’s totally doable at Bahia Principe, there are adults only beaches, pools, restaurants, and resort areas where you won’t have to see a single under 18 if you don’t want to.

No matter how you choose to travel or whom with, you will love the white sand beaches and lush natural scenery. If you are interested in Maya culture, this is the place to visit. The resort is located within close distances to iconic landmarks such as Chichen Itza and the ruins of Tulum that you won’t want to miss. While you are there, active travelers and nature lovers will want to take the time to visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a natural reserve offering tropical flora, an equally impressive underwater world that is home to plenty of fish and coral formations, and Cenote Dos Ojos, which is part of the world’s largest underwater cave system- truly impressive. 

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Rhode Island Bound

rhode island

When planning your trip to Rhode Island you might not be thinking of horseback riding on the beach, but you should be. C and L Stables located in Goddard Memorial State Park and offer access to 18 miles of trails or beach rides along the East Greenwich Bay. Riders of all levels are welcome and the stables has even been awarded the North American Horseman Association “SAFETY AWARD” ten years in a row.

rhode island museum

If history is more your style visit the Cloud Hill Victorian House Museum. An authentic example of Victoriana and Rhode Island architecture designed by William Walker & Sons the house was originally a wedding gift and has remained in the family since then. One of these family members is Anne “Nancy” Allen Holst, whose history you can learn more about. She is an inspiration for her work fighting fire and became the world’s first female fire chief.
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There’s More to NY than NYC

New York’s Finger Lakes region is a beautiful destination filled with history, adventure, and the great outdoors. Hikers, historians, artists, and literary buffs alike can find numerous attractions to draw them to the area. From Mark Twain’s time spent writing in Elmira, to the Corning Museum of Glass, and the natural splendor of forests and lakes, this is a truly inspirational trip.

NY State vacation

Mark Twain Country

One of America’s greatest writers, Mark Twain, was a regular visitor to Elmira NY. He summered there for over 20 years, his words flowing as he looked out over the countryside, penning such works as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Now tourists can have their own adventures in the very same surroundings.

You can visit the octagonal study where Twain wrote, which he called “the loveliest study you ever saw.” USA Today list it as the “number one literary attraction in America”. Now located at Elmira College, tours of the study are offered. Or perhaps a trip to Woodlawn Cemetery to see the author’s final resting place. Don’t be surprised to see a cigar or two, a common offering to the memory of the great Mark Twain.

In July and August the hour long Trolley into Twain Country Tour is available. Starting at the Chemung Valley History Museum the narrated tour hits multiple historic stops in Elmira touching on Twain, Civil War Sites, the restored Powers Theater, and Dunn Field, “home of the Elmira Pioneers baseball team”.

Tanglewood Nature Center even features a Mark Twain trail. Quotes from the author are posted along the trail. His voice still resonates surrounded by the very places he too visited. Twain’s appreciation of the natural world is reflected in all of his work, and though he traveled all over the world this is the countryside he returned to time and time again.

Younger visitors may find the Children’s Trail more up their alley. This path includes some obstacle courses while following “a disassembled nature-themed book along the way.” The Nature Center is home to more than 40 species of live animals most notably their birds of prey. They have ongoing education programs and events for kids and families.

gliders

Soaring Above Harris Hill

Searching for a loftier view? Try a trip above the tree tops. Soaring is a familiar word, but what does it mean when you are entering the “Soaring Capital of America”? An opportunity to take to the skies in a glider, high above the terrain that inspired some of America’s greatest literary works.

You can visit the National Soaring Museum to learn about these motorless planes or head over to Harris Hill Soaring Corporation in Elmira NY for a ride in the passenger seat. Weather can be an issue with gliding, but on a clear day there are no prettier view for your silent 15-20 minute flight across the sky.
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The Hermitage Club of Southern Vermont

The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain is a premiere destination for any New England visitor or local. Southern Vermont is easily accessible, just two hours from Boston and four hours from NYC, and puts you right in the center of the East Coast’s only private ski resort. Members enjoy year round entertainment surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains.

family ski trip

Spa, dining, and luxury accommodations are a fixture at the Hermitage Club while providing a safe environment for outdoor and indoor activities on the 1,400 acre resort complete with private mountain. Ski slopes, bike and hiking trails offer access to the beautiful scenery. Seasonal programs, with age specific focuses and even day care for the little ones are available so that parents and older siblings can hit the slopes or trek the mountainside make this a perfect option for all family members.

family travel

There are multiple lodging options for visitors to meet any preference. The Vermont House is located in downtown Wilmington Vermont offering the historical experience of an 1850’s colonial inn or the Inn at Sawmill Farm where you can spend your night in the renovated Carriage House. The Brook Bound Inn is near the Hermitage Clubhouse and offers a variety of rooms and even full house rentals for larger groups. Pools for swimming, a golf course, tennis and basketball courts are just the beginning of the features.
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