Washington, D.C.: Capital Diversions

So many museums, memorials, houses of government, national landmarks, and historic places of interest fill the 67-square-mile area that comprises the nation's capital, a visitor soaking it all in should receive an honorary college degree.

Washington_dc_capitolThis is not dry educational overload, however. Many of the sights can be toured with knowledgeable and entertaining guides — and many offer reserved tours and special events for groups — and intriguing opportunities for witnessing the city in action can be had, such as watching the Senate in session or money being printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

At night, the suits come off and the atmosphere turns from all-business to a lively urban scene. The performing arts season lasts all year, from the National Symphony performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to jazz combos at various hip nightclubs to theater, opera, ballet, comedy, rock concerts, and children's shows at venues all around the city. A number of the metro area's museums and historic sites offer their own events: cultural film series, early-music concerts, Shakespearean theater, author readings, and lectures that discuss the latest findings in their field. There's plenty of dance clubs to satisfy the party-people in the group, and the city has become a gourmet's destination for fine fare from celebrated chefs.

Yet amid all of this culture and Capitol conduct lies a surprising amount of open green space, where visitors can clear their history-saturated heads with an afternoon of bicycling along a historic towpath, riding horseback along paths once trodden by Civil War soldiers, or simply getting the group together for an easy hike in summer or heading to an ice-skating rink in the cold months. Not bad for a city that 200 years ago was nearly abandoned for being a mosquito-infested swamp.

Top Attractions

What's not a top attraction in the nation's capital? Yet with so many places of interest in close proximity to each other, it's easy to fill the must-see list with check marks. Start at the tree-lined National Mall, a two-mile-long grassy expanse flanked by the U.S. Capitol on one end and the Lincoln Memorial on the other. Guided group tours (reserve in advance) of the Capitol visit several floors and allow a peek into the galleries if the Senate or House is in session. Public tours are also offered at the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court (when not in session). Get some fresh air by strolling the U.S. Botanic Garden; groups can reserve a 45-minute guided tour of the 4,000-plant Conservatory.

The Mall's monuments, memorials, and museums guarantee hours — really, days — of enlightening exploration. A gauntlet of Smithsonian museums lead to West Potomac Park, crowned by the Washington Monument and its photogenic reflecting pool and also site of the Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR memorials, and those honoring veterans of World War II, the Korea War, and the Vietnam War. Surrounding all that marble are the Constitution Gardens and the Tidal Basin's necklace of cherry trees, whose spring blossoms merit their own festival. North of the Washington Monument lies the White House, which groups of 10 or more can tour if they put in an advance request with their member of Congress.

Visiting this nucleus of historic sites and beyond can easily take up an entire vacation. One way to squeeze it all in is an Old Town Trolley Tour, accessed at any of the trolley's stops, including those on the Mall as well as the National Zoo, the National Cathedral, and the two-centuries-old houses of Georgetown. The Tourmobile follows a similar hop-on, hop-off route that also includes Arlington Cemetery, where visitors pay homage to the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Kennedy gravesites, and the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial. There's no need to rent a car for self-guided explorations — public transport is comprehensive and easy to navigate, even off the tourist routes to places such as the 18th-century Octagon House and the Woodrow Wilson House and presidential museum (both offering group tours).

Outdoor Adventure

With more than 300 parks in this cultural hub, urban green space is easy to find. National Mall visitors can take a breather in East Potomac Park, where diversions include golf courses, a public pool, and biking paths along the river. Anacostia Park in northeast D.C. has a golf course and driving range, an aquatic center, tennis courts, and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Visitors craving wild nature should head out to Rock Creek Park, a 12-mile vale that deserves a day's exploration in itself, or at least a few hours to relax in the ample play and picnic areas, golf, hike or ride horseback on wooded trails, or bike or skate paved pathways. Combine exercise with edification with stops at the 1765 Old Stone House and the remains of the 1861 Fort DeRussy, both within park boundaries.

Perhaps D.C.'s best example of historic value meeting outdoor fun is the Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Historical Park, which follows the 185-mile-long canal — from 1824 to 1928, the main route for transporting coal to the city — from D.C. into Maryland. The towpath is a popular ride for bicyclists; hiking trails lead into deciduous forests where woodland creatures may be spotted. The gentle canal waters offer a view of the park from a kayak, canoe, or mule-drawn canal boat tour (summer only). In winter, birdwatchers are often rewarded with sightings of pileated woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and hooded mergansers.

Sports fans in the group can cheer on the Washington Nationals baseball team at RFK Stadium; in fall, the Washington Redskins provide spectator thrills at FedEx Field. Come winter and early spring, park hiking and biking trails become cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, and outdoor ice-skating venues can be found throughout the city.

Arts and Culture

Few cities offer so much by way of the arts: The Smithsonian museums alone warrant many hours of perusal amid African textiles (National Museum of African Art), Southwestern pottery and basketry (National Museum of the American Indian), dinosaur skeletons (National Museum of Natural History), moon and Mars roving vehicles (National Air and Space Museum), Christo and Muñoz installations (Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden), and much more. All Smithsonian museums are free and most offer highlights tours. (Note that some museums may be closed for renovations; check the Smithsonian website for updates.)

Outside the Smithsonian's aegis lie many other collections sure to intrigue, with the International Spy Museum a top priority for kids and fans of James Bond movies. At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, exhibitions provoke meaningful conversations (reserved group visits receive a personal orientation). Architecture buffs won't want to miss the National Building Museum's vast collection of plans, drawings, and photographs; an array of artworks spanning six centuries awaits art lovers at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Many museums offer regular events, such as the lecture and film series at the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, which hosts readings, plays, and early-music concerts.

Visual art gives way to that of the performing variety at some of the nation's most venerated venues. One is even a national park: the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, where performances ranging from National Symphony Orchestra Pops concerts to Irish music festivals, sketch comedy to kids' theater take place in the airy Filene Center in summer, then move into the cozy Barns at Wolf Trap come fall. The same eclectic variety can be had at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, whose September Prelude Festival kicks off nearly a year of performing arts (check on discounts and special events for groups of 20 or more). The Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Rock Creek Park and the Frank Gehry-designed Merriweather Post Pavilion are both outdoor concert venues primed for good times in natural settings.

Attractions Great for Groups

Day Trips

  • Colonial Williamsburg The world's largest living history museum lies 150 miles from the capital. Served by tour operators and Amtrak, with group packages available.
  • Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park The serene landscape of these four Civil War sites belie their legacy as among the U.S.'s bloodiest battlefields.
  • Harpers Ferry National Historic Park John Brown's armory raid to free the slaves is just one of the historic events that took place at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah.
  • Monticello Thomas Jefferson's grand estate in Charlottesville, Virginia, about 125 miles from D.C. A number of tour operators offer day trips.
  • Mount Vernon George Washington's home includes original furnishings, outbuildings, and a working farm; groups can arrange for a colonial-style lunch.

Washington, D.C. Events Guide and Calendar

  • St. Patrick's Day Parade Pipe bands, floats, Irish dancers, police and firefighter contingents march down historic Constitution Avenue, Sunday closest to St. Patrick's Day.
  • National Cherry Blossom Festival Two weeks of art exhibitions, Japanese cultural performances, and fireworks, culminating in a parade and a Japanese street festival. Late March-early April.
  • Smithsonian Kite Festival Handmade kite competition, kite battles, and a "hot tricks showdown" over the National Mall, last Sunday in March or first in April (weather permitting).
  • Washington International Film Festival Twelve-day film fest screening more than 100 international features, documentaries, and shorts at cinemas throughout the city, April.
  • Capital Pride Events at the nation's fourth-largest gay/lesbian celebration include a parade, street festival, and the Mr. Capital Pride Leather Contest, nine days in early June.
  • DC Caribbean Carnival Watch bands of masqueraders parade in outrageously colorful costumes to the music of steel bands, plus food, crafts, and more, late June.
  • National Capital Barbecue Battle Pennsylvania Avenue hosts a weekend of beef and pork mania as teams compete for $25,000 and the National Pork BBQ Champion title, late June.
  • Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebration of global living traditions with performers, crafters, food, and hands-on kids' activities on the National Mall, late June to July 4.
  • Independence Day Celebration The nationally televised one, with a noon parade, the National Symphony Orchestra, and a 30-minute fireworks display, July 4.
  • Legg Mason Tennis Classic A U.S. Open series tournament, with crowds packing the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center to see top-seeded players on the hard court, early August.
  • Kennedy Center Prelude Festival A month-long series of symphony, comedy, and theatrics celebrating the start of the center's performing arts season, September.
  • Adams Morgan Day Community festival with artwork, vendors, a kids' fair, dance troupes, and two music stages, second Sunday in September.
  • Black Family Reunion Celebration Gospel and R&B concerts and an international marketplace highlight this celebration of the African American family on the National Mall, in mid-September.
  • National Book Festival More than 80 authors read from their works at this one-day fest in late September.
  • National Christmas Tree Lighting Long-honored lighting of the capital tree, followed by three weeks of nightly concerts at the Ellipse, December.

Photos courtesy of the Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corporation


San Diego: City for All Seasons

Families fit into San Diego's cheerful profile like feet into flip-flops. This coastal city's perennial sunshine, sandy beaches, and kid-friendly attractions make it easy for adults to trade workday stress for an endless-summer attitude — even in December. San_diego_rugged_coastline_1 The agreeable climate engenders a laid-back, welcoming aura that pervades from mountain town to beachside community. And this is truly a year-round destination: Visit in fall and winter to get a healthy dose of vitamin D on beaches offering plenty of elbow room. Come in spring for the spectacular wildflower show in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Early summer sees the city caressed by a cool marine breeze before heating up for events such as the San Diego County Fair, the World Championship Over-The-Line beach softball tournament, and the US Open Sandcastle Competition.

America's Finest City is not just one long strip of beach, however. Mountains border the county's eastern reaches before dropping into a vast desert valley; in between lie scores of diverse neighborhoods that blanket the region's tawny hills. San Diego is a military municipality, a college town, a center of Mexican-American culture; wholesome and yet tolerant of its more counter-cultural facets. And it is a city on the cutting edge of urban renewal, having taken a shambling downtown and reincarnated it as a vibrant destination for entertainment, dining, shopping, and strolling. No visiting groups should miss the Victorian charm of the Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza's colorful complex of shops and cinemas, and the revitalized areas surrounding the city's architecturally distinct convention center and PETCO Park, new home of the San Diego Padres.

Top Attractions

San_diego_zoo_apeThanks to San Diego's temperate climate, animal lovers can get their share of critter-viewing and then some: at the San Diego Zoo, where a pair of panda cubs delight amid Tasmanian devils, sun bears, two-headed snakes, and a kingdom of creatures; the San Diego Wild Animal Park, 1,800 acres of African-style savannah with free-ranging lions, zebras, elephants, and other beasts; and SeaWorld, home of Shamu and his orca descendants, dolphins, penguins, and the seasonal Cirque de la Mer.

For a constructive take on theme parks, head to LEGOLAND, the original plastic-brick playland, with 15,000 LEGO models built from more than 30 million pieces. Or combine old-fashioned amusements with hot new rides at Belmont Park, right on Mission Beach. Ride the restored wooden Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, built in 1925, then hone surfing or skateboarding chops on the new FlowRider, a continual sheetwave that provides a steady supply of excitement for all ages.

Get immersed in the city's history, starting at Mission San Diego de Alcala, founded in 1769 and first of the California missions. At Old Town State Historic Park, original adobe buildings showcase furnishings, artifacts, and skills from San Diego's beginnings. The 1863 Star of India anchors the flotilla of historic ships that comprise the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Tour the decks and exhibits and try to catch a sailing aboard the tall ship Californian. Wrap up at Cabrillo National Monument, which commemorates the 1542 landing of explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo and, incidentally, provides commanding views of San Diego Bay. Betrothed couples take note: All of these locations, including two of the historic ships, make for popular and unique wedding settings.

Outdoor Adventure

San_diego_pacific_beach_palmsNaturally, with 300 days of sunshine a year comes a wealth of opportunities for outdoor adventure. The Mission Beach Boardwalk provides an ideal way to people-watch while zipping along on inline blades or bike. Pick up wheels from one of several rental shops, or rent a bodyboard and surf the friendly waves. Mission Bay's mellow inlets and coves make a family sailing on a rented sloop a breeze; groups can charter a boat for private cruising, diving, and sportfishing in the harbor and beyond.

Golfers wanting seaside vistas can tee up at the 18-hole Torrey Pines Golf Course, a junior-golf-friendly set of championship greens and fairways. Hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians of all ages can tackle trails in the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains, where meadows and woods are rapidly recovering from the wildfires of 2003 (find stables and more in the nearby gold-rush town of Julian). Closer in, 40 miles of trails traverse the oak woodlands and open chaparral of Mission Trails Regional Park, including three paths that ascend 1,400-foot Cowles Mountain.

For a break from attraction overload, pack a picnic basket and head to the park. Balboa Park, San Diego's queen of green space, surrounds cultural attractions with 1,200 acres of woods, gardens, and sports fields. Mission Bay Park is an ideal setting for family reunions, with its 27 miles of meandering shoreline, sandy beaches, and grassy swards with picnic tables and firepits. Perched high above Pacific Beach, Kate O. Sessions Park offers views, ocean breezes, and sloping runs of grass perfect for kite flying.

Arts and Culture

Playtime isn't just for the playground. San Diego's renowned theaters offer up year-round theatrical diversions of award-winning caliber. The Old Globe Theatre brings Shakespeare out under the stars during the summer-long Shakespeare Festival, while other seasons see new works and revivals on the boards. Celebrated playwrights often premiere their latest at the La Jolla Playhouse, a 1993 Tony Award winner for America's Outstanding Regional Theatre residing on the UCSD campus.

Performing within the historic confines of the 1929 Copley Symphony Hall, the San Diego Symphony pleases classically minded parents as much as it does fun-loving kids, with its occasional Family Festival (with free pre-concert activities) and annual Summer Pops series, where families can spread a blanket on the lawns of Embarcadero Marina Park South and enjoy programs like classic cartoon tunes and Tchaikovsky's thunderous 1812 Overture.

Nurturing an appreciation of the arts and sciences is easy at Balboa Park, the urban cultural oasis that mingles museums with lush greenery and a nonstop sense of fun. Kids willingly accompany mom and dad to view the collections at the San Diego Museum of Art, knowing they'll also see the cool displays at the Aerospace Museum and Model Railroad Museum, plus virtual-reality exhibits and IMAX movies at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Teens dig the WorldBeat Cultural Center's music-oriented exhibitions and drumming classes. The park also features a miniature railroad ride and a 1910 carousel, not to mention restaurants and dozens of other absorbing sights to see.

Activities Galore For Families

More San Diego Fun

Day Trips

  • Tijuana guided tours: Visit the bustling Baja city without the hassle of border crossing lines.
  • Orange County theme parks: Two Disney and two Knott's Berry Farm amusement parks lie a two-hour or so drive north.
  • Catalina Island: An attractive town and miles of hiking trails on a protected island off Long Beach reached via high-speed boat.
  • Temecula wine country: So-Cal's hottest wine-growing city offers hot-air balloon and biplane rides above vine-covered hills.

Events Guide and Calendar

  • Buick Invitational Golf Tournament, San Diego's original golf tourney, played in January amid the seascapes at Torrey Pines Golf Course.
  • Accenture Match Play Championship, PGA championship golf arrives every February at the two par-72 courses of La Costa Resort and Spa.
  • Carlsbad Village Faire, one of the state's largest street fairs, held on the first Sunday in May and November, with art, food, pony rides, and performances.
  • Old Town Fiesta Cinco de Mayo, a lively celebration of Mexican-American culture with music, an equestrian show, and a Kids Village, first weekend in May.
  • Summer Pops Series with the San Diego Symphony, Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.
  • Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe, June to October.
  • San Diego County Fair, top-name performers and thrill rides at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, mid-June through July 4.
  • Del Mar Racing, thoroughbred races where the surf meets the turf, mid-July through Labor Day.
  • OMBAC World Championship Over-The-Line Tournament, the city's unique beach softball tourney, on Fiesta Island, weekends in July.
  • US Open Sandcastle Competition, one of the country's largest sandcastle events, held at Imperial Beach over three days in July.
  • Street Scene, big-name bands performing on various stages across Qualcomm Stadium's parking lot on a July weekend.
  • San Diego Pride Two-day gay and lesbian celebration with a parade, music, dance, and beer gardens at Marston Point in Balboa Park, July.
  • San Diego Thunderboat Regatta, hydroplane races on Mission Bay, September.
  • Traditional Gathering and Pow-Wow, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation welcomes tribes from around the nation and visitors for dance, competition, games, and crafts, second weekend in September.
  • Cabrillo Festival, re-enactment of Cabrillo's landing, plus dance, music, and food, first Sunday in October.
  • Little Italy Festa, a weekend of food, bocce ball tournaments, and Italian crooners, second week in October.
  • Miramar Airshow, three days of aerial performances and aircraft displays, capped by the Blue Angels, mid-October.
  • For more listings, see The San Diego Event Guide.

Photos courtesy of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau


Wedding Planning Guide

Oh, the joy. A bride. A groom. A ceremony filled with romance, happiness, heart-warming vows, and wedding guests blinking back tears or counting the minutes 'til they can drink heartily and dance the night away.

Whether you're planning a destination wedding or a hometown ceremony, here are helpful tips for engaged couples, the wedding party, families, and wedding guests.

Group reservations
Get the inside scoop on how to book group reservations for hotels and flights, including what to look for and what to beware of and common group discount myths.

How to delegate with panache
Delegating is an art. You want as wide a canvas as possible for a wedding. Share responsibilities and only take on what you need to do yourself. These tips for delegating apply to family reunions also, but you'll see the parallels to wedding planning (aren't weddings another form of reunions?).

Why plan a destination wedding?
Benefits of destination weddings can often far outweigh the costs (or misperceived costs). Find out why the popularity of saying "I do" abroad or outside of your hometown is on the rise.

Top destination wedding hotspots
What are the best locations to get married? If your neighborhood church is booked on your chosen date, consider any destination wedding hotspots such as Las Vegas or Hawaii. They cater to weddings and offer idyllic settings for honeymoons.

Licenses and rules for destination weddings
Will your marriage abroad be valid? Learn about licenses and rules for destination weddings so you are as prepared as possible for the big day.

Bachelor and bachelorette party inspirations
He proposed. Finally! Now the planning can begin – for the best man and maid of honor that is. Here are tried-and-true tips for successful (and classy) bachelor parties and bachelorette parties.

More Wedding Planning Tips

Best of the Web (Wedding Related Links)

 


Group Reservation Guide

Getting the family together for a reunion? Going on a weekend getaway with friends? Planning a wedding? Group reservations can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are new to the process or on a tight timeline.

Here are tips to help you navigate group bookings with a little more finesse.

What defines a group?
Despite what might seem logical, a group is not commonly defined among the travel industry. Hoteliers, airlines, and cruise lines all have different definitions (10 passengers on the exact same flight vs. 10 rooms double occupancy for hotels).

Air and hotel reservation benefits
Become a bit more of an expert before you plan a group trip with friends, family, or another group. Know when to use air or hotel group reservations.

Group discount myths
Know before you go: group myths are a reality and you may not always get the best deal by booking bulk. Here are some group discount insights.

Speedy group reservation secrets
Want to get a jump on moving the group reservation process along, or making it easier on yourself and your group? Here are a few helpful tips to expedite group reservations.

 


Group Getaways with Friends

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Traveling is no exception. Vacations are more enjoyable with buddies from college, girlfriends from home, friends from life (soccer or baseball teams), and any other groups.

Reconnect with old friends, reminisce about the good old days, and make new memories that make you laugh 'til you cry with these getaway tips.

Girls getaways
Ladies, start your engines. The games, the energy, the synergy, and the drinks are about to begin. Take a wild or relaxing vacation with your gal pals on a spa getaway, wine-tasting soiree, birthday celebration, or anything goes. Can't go far? Try a mini girls getaway?

Beach getaways
Hit the beach year-round (and more heavily in the summer) at your favorite beach. Try a nude beach, join your friends at your most memorable beach, or find a new beach while on a weekend away. Here are TripAdvisor's top 10 U.S. beaches.

Road trip planning guide
Zoom, zoom. Friends, families, and other vacationers are hitting the highways and dusty roads for campgrounds, national parks, family reunions, and zero obligations. Along with sunblock, prepare for a stress-free road trip with these tips. 10 gas and money-saving tips should help as well.

Golf trip meccas
Swing and putt your way down the fairways, slugging beer and making bets against your comrades the whole time. Golf is a great way to relax and visit with friends while working on your game. Also, here are quick tips for planning a group golf getaway.

Bachelor and bachelorette parties
Are you the best man with no clue how to honor your pal with a party? If the only thing that comes to mind is a stripper, see these bachelor party tips first. Ladies, looking to make the bride smile and proud to call you her friends? Here are helpful hints for bachelorette party planning.

Spa Getaways
Just say ahhhh. Spa vactions are on the rise and spas are increasingly catering to groups (girls getaways in particular). Before you go, brush up on some basic group etiquette (so the spa invites you back!). Try vinotherapy at a wine spa, chocolate massages, or any other spa treatments for you and the gang.

More Tips for Group Getaways with Friends

Best of the Web (Getaway Related Links)


Groups Flock to Las Vegas

With Las Vegas dubbed the Entertainment Capital of the World, it's no wonder that our research at TripHub shows more groups planning trips to Las Vegas than any other destination.

Las_vegas_group_travel2_1Surprised? Don't be. Las Vegas has long been popular for bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, weekend gambling getaways (and gawking) for guys, easy-bake wedding ceremonies or full-blown weddings, and a launch pad for visiting the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and other area attractions. And when conventioneers converge there, attendees often extend their stay and invite family or friends to join them.

Vegas continues to evolve, offering world-class shows (think Cirque du Soleil's Mystere, O, Zumanity, plus a bevy of Broadway, magic, and variety shows that thrill 'til dawn), concerts by renowned music artists, and more high-rolling resort casinos than anywhere else on Earth.

Even the anti-glitz travelers (ahem, like myself) who prefer tamer, more au naturale vacations, often admit that Las Vegas is good for entertaining and best enjoyed with a group of friends when you can double dare them to keep betting on the roulette table or give them a dollar bill to tip the dancer (that would be for the guys). The sweeping view from the top of Mandalay Bay is worth seeing, the Bellagio waterworks display dazzling, a massage at any of the luxury hotel spas relaxing, and other activities can fill your every waking moment. Sleep when you return home.

Planning a trip to Las Vegas with family or friends? Here are ideas to get you started:

  • Las_vegas_group_travel_2Plan a weekend getaway with friends, bachelor(ette) party, family vacation, or wedding using TripHub by setting up a home page for your group, inviting guests, discussing hotels, sharing itinerary information, and more
  • Book a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Soar above Las Vegas on a helicopter night flight
  • Hover over the Grand Canyon by air, helicopter, or tour via bus
  • Tour Hoover Dam, engineering masterpiece
  • Catch Las Vegas shows from Splash to Blue Man Group
  • Las Vegas wedding chapels and locations
  • Fremont Street Experience


Photos provided by Las Vegas News Bureau


Family Reunion Planning Guide

Gathering the generations together at one time is challenging. So many siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws. 

But family bonds grow stronger, stories accumulate, shared activities unite all age groups, and celebratory occasions (Uncle Bob's 50th birthday, etc.) entertain, making family reunions worth every ounce of effort.

Simplify the planning process with these family reunion tips and free the planning guru within.

Family Reunion Checklist 101: Budget, Guest List, Dates
Congratulations, you've just volunteered - or been volunteered - to organize your next family reunion. Dozens of relatives are counting on you. Don't stress out. Early essential steps will lead you to success (and peace of mind).

Checklist 102: Location, Accommodations, Activities
Location. Location. Location. And all other critical considerations you simply can't forget. Where will guests stay? What will the main events or activities be? These big ticket items set the pace, timeline, structure (and budget) for any family reunion.

The Art of Delegation
Delegate projects, tasks, "to do" lists with pizzaz and be an expert family reunion project manager by sharing the responsibility. No one is an island.

Make Every Communiqué Count
He said. She said. Who's on first? Communication is vital for a family reunion to succeed and that starts the very first day of planning. Here are tips to avoid over or under-communicating.

More Family Travel Tips:

Best of the Web (Family Reunion Related Links):


Road Trip Planning Essentials

Friends, families, and other groups of like-minded vacationers will hit the road this summer for campgrounds, national parks, attractions, family reunions, and other adventures. Memorial Day was just the beginning.

In planning a road trip with a group of friends recently, I was reminded of the need for services like TripHub, where you can coordinate, collaborate and centralize any type of group trip information easily. In the spirit of simplifying planning, here are helpful tips to make any road trip stress-free.

1. Designate a point person
This person may or may not be the same person who initiated the trip. Usually, one person in the group enjoys coordinating plans and doing research on where to stay. When there are multiple type A personalities in the group, making one point person clear to all becomes critical to avoid confusion and duplication. However, delegating is wise when planning any trip. You can funnel all major and minor questions to the point person. (Of course, it helps to have someone willing to be point person… so preferably this person will volunteer.) This person can send out the initial invitation for the trip and create the trip home page.

2. Decide who's driving
Determine how many vehicles and when those vehicles are leaving and returning. If Dick and Jane are each taking their cars, you'll need to know how many people can they fit in their cars comfortably (don't forget room for bags, equipment, etc.), and get a commitment from drivers on day and time of departure so the other passengers can plan their schedules accordingly.

3. Decide who brings what
Create a checklist of "must-haves" such as water, cooler, Oreos, first-aid kit, car maintenance kit, pillows, certain CDs or an iPod full of music, and other accoutrements. Camping trips require bringing your accommodations and food along for the ride, so getting a list of what people have to bring/contribute is helpful. Someone can then consolidate the list to determine what's missing. Food, tents, firewood, tarps, folding chairs, age-appropriate games for the group, binoculars, coolers, and lighters/matches all come to mind. For any other road trip, think about car games (including kid games for families), cooler full of ice + water + snacks, maps, travel books on nearby points of interest, etc. All shared costs can be divided among the group (and the organizer can track money owed using TripHub).

4. Split the cost of gas fairly and tactfully
How? Discuss this well in advance of the trip so expectations (and budgets) are clear for all road trippers. The record gas price spikes are challenging for everyone and splitting the cost of gas is perfectly acceptable. If you're traveling with a group of friends, factor gas costs into overall budgets. For instance, big ticket items such as hotel room(s), activity entrance fees, and food are typically split in groups. Drivers especially should speak up to remind people that sharing the cost of gas should also be considered in the overall cost of the road trip. Agree with your group how the cost will be divided and when. Nothing's worse than getting stuck with a bigger bill than necessary due to lack of communication. TripHub makes it easy for the main trip organizer to include gas as a shared cost factor. Three ways to share gas costs:

  • Barter and trade. If one person buys food for the group, another buys gas, and yet another gets one night’s hotel room. This can be hard to track when groups get larger (5 or more), but I’ve found it works well in smaller groups, especially if shared costs are tracked and tallied daily or with a close-knit group of friends with built-in trust are on the road trip.
  • Determine cost for gas ahead of time per vehicle (calculate miles per gallon by approximate tanks of gas by mileage – mathematicians in your group can create the best calculus algorithms). Geeks in your group will derive much pleasure out of figuring gas costs using this method (and everyone will love them for accurate and reliable results to the penny!).
  • Drivers gather all gas receipts during the trip, total up the amount at the end, and collect money or let the group organizer collect money from the group for gas along with other shared expenses. TripHub's money owed tool can help organize who owes money before, during, and after the trip.

5. Make your road trip fuel-efficient
…with 10+ vital gas-saving tips; a little prep will go a long way, especially on longer road trips. Gas prices will affect every road trip, but if you do a little homework and find the cheapest gas station near you (thanks to Gas Buddy), plus share the cost of gas with friends or family on road trips, you're less likely to break your piggybank while winding through stunning scenery on an unforgettable vacation.

6. Decide on the best route (and alternative route)
Plan ahead with research on various routes to your favorite destination(s) in case of emergency road closures or summertime construction. Check U.S. Department of Transportation's traffic and road closure status for any state before you go.

7. Agree on flexibility before leaving
Rain may spoil a camping road trip, so doing a little pre-trip research to find nearby B&B's or hotels may save you headache along the journey. Make sure everyone is in agreement to be flexible. Trip organizers can do a little research before the trip to give recommendations and alternatives to original plans (local festivals, for instance). If your group is set on hiking a certain Rocky Mountain trail along the road trip, the group may discover another trail off-the-beaten path or bag the hiking idea in favor of relaxing with a picnic and majestic Rocky Mountain skyline.

8. Get and give personal space
Cramming yourselves in a car is fun for a weekend getaway or longer trip, but everyone eventually will crave some solo time. I recommend agreeing on one or two stops along the drive where people are free to explore a town or area, iPod in hand.

What are best road trip tips you've experienced? Any lessons learned on simplifying? What types of people make the best road companions?