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Save Budget on Ski Vacations Tips

ski-vacationFamily ski trips can create wonderful memories that last a lifetime, but if you aren’t careful they can create credit card bills that feel like they last a lifetime as well. Here are tips to save budget on ski vacation tips :

# Search Flight Comparison Sites

If you don’t have any miles and points to use, then search for airfare into larger airports like Salt Lake City, which sees more competition and often competitively low prices as a result. Search sites like Kayak.com, Hipmunk.com or Travelocity.com that compare rates across airlines. I like to start searching months in advance, and then purchase when the fare drops to a price I can afford. Sites such as Airfarewatchdog.com will even allow you to set an alert for when the price of a ticket drops below whatever threshold you’ve set.

# Fly Into Smaller Regional Airports

You can save this way by avoiding a lengthy drive to the mountain after the flight, and potentially eliminate the need for a rental car at all. Also, with many traditional airline mileage programs, such as United, American Airlines, and Delta, a ticket into a small airport near the slopes won’t cost you any more miles than if you flew into a major airport. For example, flying into airports in Vail, Aspen and Telluride typically requires the same number of frequent flyer miles as flying into Denver. Credit cards such as theChase Sapphire Preferred, the United MileagePlus Explorer and the Citi AAdvantage can all earn you miles for flights.

# Fly JetBlue, Southwest for Waived Baggage Fees

If you don’t have any way to avoid baggage fees, then you may want to consider JetBlue or Southwest. Not only are JetBlue and Southwest famous for their nationwide fare sales, but also neither airline charges a fee for the first checked bag. Southwest even goes so far as to offer 2 complimentary checked bags — just make sure they meet Southwest’s carryon baggage parameters.

# Minimize Baggage Fees With Airline Credit Cards

Airline baggage fees (often $25 one-way for the first checked bag) can quickly add up, especially when ski gear is involved. To minimize such fees, consider flying an airline with which you have a co-branded airline credit card; certain cards may exempt you from some baggage fees. For example, the Gold Delta Skymiles American Express Card allows up to 9 people on your reservation to check a bag for free.

# Use Starwood Points for Your Slope-Side Hotel Room

Cash and points availability can be tight at Starwood hotels during ski season, but when it is available it is often the best overall deal. For example, a room at the all-suites Westin Resort & Spa Whistler often sells for around $400 to $500 during ski season. However, the same room can be reserved for 16,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points per night through a Starwood Preferred Guest Amex. While searching on Starwood Preferred Guest I have even seen decent sub-$200 rates, and amazing availability when staying either on points or cash and points for much of the ski season (November through April). If you don’t have access to any hotel points, then renting a house or condo on a site like VRBO can be an affordable option.

# Ski Rentals — Reserve in Advance

Don’t have any ski equipment? You can save money on ski and snowboard rentals by planning ahead and reserving your equipment online. For example, Winter Park Resort in Colorado offers a 25% discount on equipment rentals of 4 days or longer when they’re booked at least 48 hours ahead of time online. You can often save an additional 20% to 30% by renting your ski and snowboard gear at a rental shop that is located off of the mountain. For example, many rentals at Epic Mountain Sports in Winter Park, CO, start about 25% less than for similar equipment on the mountain.

# Snag Discounted Lift Tickets

Lift tickets at popular resorts like Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and Whistler can be $100 or more per day. You can save money by purchasing tickets online at least a couple weeks ahead of time at the mountain of your choice. (You can also search sites such as Liftopiafor discounted advance lift tickets.) Purchasing multi-day tickets will also lower the cost per day by about 10 to 20% when compared to buying several single-day tickets. Also, going either early or late in the season (such as November and early December, or in April) can result in savings of $10 to $40 per day on lift tickets. If you plan to ski more than 4 days, or are heading to the slopes on more than one trip this winter, then explore a season pass; it may be the most cost-effective option. It can also be worth a stop at a gas station or grocery store near the ski resort to see if they have coupons or discount lift tickets available for sale.

# Or Get Lift Tickets – for Free!

Several resorts such as Beaver Creek (near Vail) and Squaw Valley (near Lake Tahoe) provide a free lift ticket if you ski the same day that you fly into the local airport. Another option: If you have children, consider skiing or snowboarding at Keystone. The ski resort, 70 miles west of Denver, offers free lift tickets to all children 12 and under when their families are staying in Keystone accommodations. This offer has no blackout dates and can result in hundreds of dollars in savings!

Adventure Vacation Destinations

new-zealand# NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand is the favorite destination of Kathleen Ventura and Brock Delinski, the creators of the Our Favorite Adventure website. The island nation has unlimited spectacular coastlines, with high mountains plunging into the surf. The North Island has surfing, snorkeling, diving, boating and swimming, as well as natural forests to explore, says Ventura. The South Island has some of the most epic national parks and is home to many of the country’s Great Walks, or premier tracks that pass through forests, lakes, rivers, mountains and gorges. Be sure to take the Abel Tasman Great Walk for the hiking trails that take you in and out of some of the most beautiful, turquoise water coves and directly down onto the beach, says Delinski. The town of Kaikoura also offers year-round whale watching.

# ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA

The ruins of the ancient Khmer kingdom are an awe-inspiring place to explore history and hike in the Cambodian jungle. The world’s largest religious monument, it was built in the first half of the 12th century. The temple complex was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, but subsequently became a Bhuddist shrine. It is an architectural masterpiece filled with intricate columns, squares, roofs and carvings. After Angkor Wat, travel to the nearby ruins of Angkor Thom, the former Khmer capital of Cambodia. Be sure to view Bayon temple to see thousands of large carved, smiling faces that are said to be images of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are easily accessible from the city of Siem Reap. You can hike the entire complex or rent bicycles. There is bus service from the capital, Phnom Penh, but a much more pleasant way to get there is by boat, roughly a six-hour trip.

# NORTHERN INDIA

The Himalayas in Northern India have been a center for traditional healing practices of ayurvedic medicine for centuries, says Paul Joseph of Health and Fitness Travel, a company that designs vacation for active people. Numerous spots in cities like Hardiwar and Rishikesh offer visitors the chance to learn yoga or take part in a liquid detox. You can visit tea plantations and the Tibetan expatriate community, led by the Dalai Lama, in Dharamsala. Visit Corbett National Park on the Ramganga River in the foothills of the Himalayas. India’s first national park, it is a protected area for endangered Bengal tigers. Kanha National Park, also a tiger reserve, was the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”

# ZHANGJIAJIE, CHINA

Have you ever seen those otherworldly landscape paintings from China, featuring perpendicular peaks shrouded in mist? They really do exist. These eerie landforms in southern China’s Hunan Province inspired the makers of the movie “Avatar” in designing Pandora. Adventure travelers will enjoy a hike through the sandstone landscapes, such as the Xianren Qiao, the Bridge of the Immortals, a narrow rock bridge over a deep chasm. Don’t miss Huang Shi Zhai, the highest village in the area at 3,450 feet, reachable only by a 3,800-step stairway, and be sure to catch a glimpse of Yupi Feng, the famed grouping of thin spiky columns hundreds of feet tall. After a long hike, a rafting trip down the Mengdong River ─ described by some travelers as providing the best whitewater rafting in the world ─ will take you through deep gorges for 100 kilometers.

# MOROCCO

When you think of Morocco, surfboards may not come to mind, but the coastal city of Agadir is actually a surfer’s paradise, says Paul Joseph of Health and Fitness Travel, a company that designs vacation for active people. “It’s got a very strong surf that’s appealing to beginners and experts,” Joseph says. When you’re ready to move on to dry land, head to the Atlas Mountains, located inland, for hiking, trekking or even a yoga retreat. Marrakech offers a romantic history, but it can get a bit touristy, adds Chris Chesak of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. Try to get out of the city and soak up the culture at a local kasbah, or lodge, he adds. The settlements of Merzouga and M’Hamid, at the edge of the Sahara, offer trips into the desert by camel or ATV.

# LAKES REGION, CHILE

The southern lakes region of Chile near Puerto Montt has strong Swiss and German influences and is dotted with quaint restaurants and cafes. Just a few miles north, in Puerto Varas, visitors can go sea kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, trekking, fly fishing and whitewater rafting, says Chris Chesak. “There’s tons of culture, great food and great walkable towns,” Chesak says. Definitely stop at Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, the country’s oldest, which features sharp-peaked volcanoes, a temperate rainforest and pristine lakes and rivers.

# YUKON, CANADA

With a land mass larger than Germany and Belgium combined, Yukon offers some of the most pristine wilderness for adventure travelers, says Chris Chesak. The capital of Whitehorse is a good spot to set up base before heading out to activities such as glacial whitewater rafting and alpine climbing. Some visitors take in the vastness by “flightseeing,” booking a small plane to fly up to the top of a glacier and go for a hike. The long hours of daylight during the summer also mean more time to enjoy Yukon’s natural beauty. Try to visit on June 21, the day of the summer solstice when the sun never sets.

# BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH DAKOTA

The grasslands of the American prairie at Badlands National Park offer a starkly beautiful landscape, with eroded buttes and dry canyons. The northeast part of the park is on U.S. land, while the southwest portion, known as the Stronghold Unit, lies within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and is managed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe. There are two campgrounds in the park, which is home to a huge number of 23-to-34-million-year-old fossils from the Oligocene Epoch. You can also visit nearby Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument, and Pipestone National Monument, where Native Americans from many tribes still go to quarry the unique stone to make bowls for their ceremonial pipes.

# ICELAND

The volcanic nation of Iceland is a unique spot to snorkel and scuba dive. “The water is so cold that your face gets numb, but it’s just this amazing blue, it almost looks tropical,” says Chesak. Iceland is a perfect stopover for travelers going from the United States to Europe. For a warmer experience, you can visit the famous Blue Lagoon, a hot spring just 25 miles from Reykjavic. It’s a common activity during layovers between flights; it’s easy to book a quick trip directly from the airport, if you stay longer, you can see the countryside from the back of one of the country’s famous and hardy Icelandic ponies.

# SOUTHERN UTAH

Southern Utah is home to five spectacular national parks, as well as the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Zion National Park’s amazing natural formations are not to be missed, especially the 1,488-foot-tall Angel’s Landing, says Kathleen Ventura of the Our Favorite Adventure website. From there, it’s a few hours by car to Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. All can be explored by hikers, mountain bikers and backpackers or on horseback. You can visit the many holistic retreats for meditation, yoga, pilates and tai chi, adds Paul Joseph, co-founder and director of Health and Fitness Travel, a company that designs vacation for active people.

# OLYMPIC PENINSULA, WASHINGTON STATE

With its 73 miles of protected Pacific coastline and old-growth temperate rainforest, the Olympic Peninsula is just a short ferry ride from Seattle. There’s fishing, boating, wildlife watching, hiking and camping. Olympic National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, covering nearly a million acres. Olympic National Forest covers nearly another half-million acres. You can bike down Highway 112, the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway, which follows the breathtaking shoreline between Port Angeles and Sea Stacks. The byway is the most northwest point in the continental United States and is home to old-growth forests, bald eagles, migrating gray whales, puffins and auklets. After a long day traversing the wilderness, savor delicious fresh salmon, or take a soak in the many natural hot spring pools in Olympic National Park.

# NORWAY

The Scandinavian country that inspired the animated movie “Frozen” is a stunning place to visit, says Chesak. Sparsely populated, it remains largely unspoiled, and its natural beauty attracts visitors in the hundreds of thousands each year. Visitors can go hiking, biking, boating, horseback riding and fishing, as well as skiing, sledding and dogsledding. View huge fjords with tall cliff faces that drop right into the ocean. You can also travel north of the Arctic Circle to the city of Tromso to view the Northern Lights and take a ferry down the country’s coast, where you can hop on and off to take part in the outdoor activities each port has to offer. Intrepid winter travelers can visit the famous ski jump at Holmenkollen outside Oslo, site of the 1952 Winter Olympics, which has hosted ski jumping competitions going back to the 1870s.

# DIAMOND HIGHLANDS, BRAZIL

Travelers to Brazil often don’t realize the massive size of this country, says Chesak. The tropical country is nearly as large as the United States, and offers diverse activities for the adventure traveler. Visit the Chapada Diamantina highlands, named for the region’s famous diamond mines, to see beautiful waterfalls, and swim in Poco Azul, a pristine underground cavern pool. Many travelers have described the area as a giant garden, filled with wild orchids and other exotic plants. Explore the sanctuary of Mucugezinho with its waterfalls, along with the flooded Cave Partinha, and crystal-clear Lake Paratinha. You can also take a hike up the tabletop mountain Morro Pai Inácio. Many of the region’s waterfalls run over large, flat rocks that overlap, and visitors can slide down the rocks in their swimsuits, Chesak says.

# SEDONA, ARIZONA

The red sandstone formations of Sedona have awed many a traveler. Some say the rocks harbor mystic vortexes of energy. Even if you’re a skeptic, you’ll surely appreciate Sedona’s ability to rejuvenate the soul through hiking, camping, mountain biking and yoga. “Sedona could keep you busy for weeks,” says Kathleen Ventura, co-creator of the Our Favorite Adventure website. The town has served as a backdrop for movies dating back to the 1920s. Be sure to check out Devil’s Bridge Trail and the petroglyphs in the Coconino National Forest. The town is host to an international film festival as well as music festivals throughout the year, ranging from bluegrass to jazz to classical.

# THE SWISS ALPS

In both summer and winter, the Swiss Alps are an active traveler’s dream. The skiing in winter is unparalleled, and in summer there’s no better place for hiking and even biking. You can stay in one of the region’s famous chalets and explore the region’s many highland lakes and meadows. Be sure to try the sledding, also known as sledging. “You ride on Swiss sleds that take you down several kilometers,” Chesak says. You can also visit in the Swiss National Park in Graubünden and the Parc Ela, a 600-square-kilometer protected area.

# BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA

The breathtaking views on this part of California’s coastline, where the Santa Lucia Mountains drop into the Pacific, have long inspired travelers and artists. Inaccessible by road until 1937, it was one of the state’s most remote areas. Walk in the footsteps of Novelist John Steinbeck, beat generation writer Jack Kerouac and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, all of whom who once called the region home. There’s ample hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing and beach combing, but ocean swimming can be dangerous. Take a dip instead in the Big Sur River, which has many access spots. You can camp among the redwoods at the state parks in the area. Take the hike to Pfeiffer Falls, and if you’re fit, try the challenging trail to Sykes Hot Springs. You can also visit the historic Point Sur lighthouse. Big Sur is home to the Esalen Institute, a famous retreat center with its own hot springs and spectacular views.

# ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE

Back in 1604, the explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed down the coast of Maine and spotted a large, rugged island dominated by tall mountains. Today Acadia National Park takes up most of Mount Desert Island and is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi. Travelers come to hike, bike, swim, row, fish and ski. It’s probably best to visit in summer, as many of the roads are closed in winter due to heavy snowfall. Visitors should check out the many spots to do “via ferrata” climbing, using ladders, iron bars and cable attached to the rock to allow climbers a protected route to explore the scenery. You can hike the miles of carriage trails throughout the park, originally commissioned by industrialist John D. Rockefeller.

# ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK AND SKELETON COAST, NAMIBIA

Namibia’s commitment to conservation is very attractive to active travelers, says Chesak. More than 40 percent of this country on the southwestern coast of Africa is under conservation management. You can visit Etosha National Park in the north to see the largest free-roaming populations of black rhinos and cheetahs, as well as lions and elephants. Travel the northern Skeleton Coast to view dramatic sand dunes that run into the Atlantic Ocean. The coastal city of Swakopmund, 170 miles west of the capital, Windhoek, is a good starting point for adventure travelers to book trips to go sand boarding or sand sledding on the dunes.

# GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR

For an adventure vacation like no other, visit Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Walk in the footsteps of naturalist Charles Darwin as you learn how the geological history of this chain of islands allowed unique animal species to flourish. You can see endangered giant tortoises, sea lions, flamingos, Galapagos penguins, sleeping sharks, marine iguanas and birds such as the finches that first inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. There are also plenty of opportunities for diving, snorkeling, surfing, boating and hiking. If you have time, don’t miss the Ecuadorian mainland, which has some of the most beautiful canopy walks ─ raised walkways above the forest floor ─ in the world, says Chesak.

# HARPERS FERRY, WEST VIRGINIA

The Appalachian Trail passes through Harpers Ferry, a small town only 60-odd miles from Washington, D.C. You can look down from high bluffs to the dramatic meeting point of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, where the borders of West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland come together. It’s also where white abolitionist John Brown led a failed slave revolt in 1859 after raiding a U.S. armory. Many active travelers arrive by bike on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal trail and stay at the town’s cozy bed-and-breakfast accommodations. “It’s a fantastic multi-day bike trail from D.C. to Harpers Ferry and beyond,” says Chris Chesak. Go for a day hike or stay longer to raft, fish and canoe. You can also go zip lining and rock climbing.

# MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA

Located in the Gulf of Mexico just at the edge of the Florida Everglades, Marco Island is a short distance from hiking, canoeing, kayaking and camping. “You can go camping on platforms that are built right on the Everglades and then paddle from platform to platform setting up tents,” says Chesak. Platform camping reduces the impact on the dynamic ecosystem of Florida’s tropical wetlands. Be sure to visit the nearby Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of the few mangrove estuaries in North America that’s a popular spot for fishing, bird watching and beach activities.

Dubai Dessert Safari, Here Its Tips

dubai-dessert-safariDesert Safari and Dune Bashing visits are on the highest priority on the rundown of things to do in Dubai. Ask any individual who has been there, and they’ll let you know it is the best time you can have in the desert.

Most visit administrators offer generally the same experience though at various costs. It is the expertise of the drivers, the protection and the campground offices that separate them. Costs differ so it looks on the web and approach your attendant for a suggestion.

The afternoon Desert Safari and Dune Bashing with a BBQ dinner is the most popular excursion. There are day trips to the desert but these can be uncomfortable due to the heat which can reach up to 55 degrees Centigrade. There are also night tours with an overnight stay in the desert which may not be a lot of fun but not too convenient to many visitors.

# Wear comfortable and loose clothing. Unlike elsewhere in Dubai, you will be solely in the company of other tourists and modest clothing is not mandatory. Shorts and thin strap tops are acceptable for women. Men can also wear shorts. I wore a lightweight top with linen trousers which I found to be comfortable and cool.

# Bring a hat, sunglasses, a camera and a video camera if you wish.

# The tour takes approximately six hours. It starts around 3.00 pm with pick up from the hotel and ends around 10.00 pm back at the hotel.

# Have a light and early lunch, nothing that is likely to upset your stomach. It is best not to eat too much or drink a lot of water before as dune bashing is very bumpy and can make some people feel nauseous.

# Bring some cash and a credit card. You may need them for water/snack at the comfort stop, the souvenir shop and if you decide to buy photo/video from the official photographer.

# As you will be getting in and out of the vehicle frequently and onto the sand, open shoes, thongs (flip flops) or sandals are preferable to socks and sneakers. The sand is so fine that it gets everywhere inside your shoes.

# There is no need to bring water with you as there will be a comfort stop before dune bashing starts where you can buy refreshments and snacks.

# The location of the desert is not as remote as you may expect. It takes roughly 45 minutes from central Dubai to reach the sand dunes but don’t let this put you off the experience.

# The 4WD drivers are highly skilled and in perfect control of the vehicles so there is no need for concern. We had high praise for our driver’s skills on the sand dunes no matter how steep the ride was.

# When you arrive at the campsite, secure a good spot by the dance floor before you partake in other activities, particularly if you come with a large group.

# You will be given some free time at the campsite before the BBQ dinner is served. There are several activities and you may not have enough time to do all of them. These include: drinks at the bar (note: alcohol is at an additional cost), henna tattoos, camel rides, Arabic coffee and dates, smoking an apple shisha, taking photographs, dressing up in traditional clothing.

# If you’d like to ride a camel, do it sooner rather than later as there was no one around after the initial rush when we arrived.

# Tempted as you may be to buy souvenirs from the campsite, (they even take American Express and can swipe your card in the desert!), the mark up price is horrendous. We found similar items in the Mall of the Emirates for less than half price. Beware of offers of sand-filled bottles personalised with your names. They rarely resemble the sample they show you. Don’t give them your name(s) unless you are willing to buy or you may find yourself pressured to make a purchase like one couple in our group.

# The Bedouin campsite with its modern look and amenities may not feel authentic. Don’t overthink it. You are in Dubai. You are in the desert. There is so much  around you to enjoy.

# Desert Safaris are a lot of fun and worth dedicating your afternoon and evening time in Dubai. Just leave yourself in the hands of your skilled driver, enjoy the Arabic hospitality and go along for the ride.

Wild Zoos in America

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World’s largest theme park, Animal Kingdom, spans some 500 acres and offers guests the opportunity to commune with more than 1,700 animals representing 250 species. The park’s habitats are divided into 7 areas, including Africa, Asia, Camp Minnie-Mickey and DinoLand USA.

While Disney’s Animal Kingdom includes an expected assortment of animals such as zebras, elephants and hippos, it’s also earned acclaim for its rides and attractions, including the Expedition Everest high-altitude roller coaster, the Kali River Rapids raft ride, the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition and the Wildlife Express Train.

Daily performances also make Disney’s Animal Kingdom exceptional: Must-see shows include Finding Nemo — The Musical and Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade, featuring nearly 60 characters and cast members, including puppets and stilt walkers.

Bronx Zoo

Tourists and locals alike flock to the Bronx Zoo, the nation’s largest metropolitan animal park, stretching some 265 acres. Opened in 1899, it houses more than 4,000 animals, representing 600 species, in an environment that emulates a variety of habitats, including African plains, Himalayan mountains and Asian forests.

The experience is sure to make visitors forget that they’re a mere subway ride from America’s most massive city. Get up-close and personal with beastly Siberian tigers at Tiger Mountain, a sprawling viewing enclosure, and meander through the Wild Asia Complex, which re-creates Asian rain forests, complete with native birds, leopards, gibbons and lizards.

Catch a gander at a variety of wildlife while taking a load off your feet with a ride on the Wild Asia Monorail, a safari in miniature that winds through enclosures housing elephants, rhinos, antelope, horses and deer. To beat some of the zoo’s notorious crowds, arrive as early as possible, or visit on a weekday or during the winter offseason.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo may well be the city’s most popular tourist attraction, and deservedly so; more than 4,000 animals representing 800-plus species call the sprawling, 100-acre animal park home. Visitors will encounter all manner of creatures, including giant pandas, polar bears, elephants and cheetahs, at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.

While the animals are the main attractions here, the grounds are also a veritable wonder, having been accredited as a botanical garden featuring more than 1 million plants. To traverse the enormous grounds, jump aboard the 35-minute guided bus tour, which offers a narrated ride covering some 70% of the zoo. Or take the express bus, a hop-on, hop-off affair that makes 5 stops throughout the grounds. For a literal overview of the zoo, get sky-high on the Skyfari aerial tram, which gives riders an aerial perspective of the grounds.

Must-see stops include the Scripps Aviary (filled with 130 African native birds), the Polar Bear Plunge and the Panda Trek, where visitors can wander through a bamboo forest spotting giant and red pandas.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

“Jungle Jack” Hanna, the zookeeper whose frequent television appearances on shows such as Late Night With David Letterman helped make him an animal-loving legend, is the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, helping it earn a distinguished reputation as one of the best zoos in America. Hanna helped refurbish the Columbus Zoo’s 588 acres, build its bevy of animals to some 7,000, and expand the grounds to include a theme park, water park and golf course.

Notable zoo exhibits include Animal Encounters Village, the largest manatee exhibit outside Florida, a 100,000-gallon coral reef exhibit and an African forest that features rare bonobos, gorillas and apes, including Colo, the first gorilla born in captivity, in 1956 — and now the oldest living one in captivity anywhere in the world.

Philadelphia Zoo

America’s oldest zoo opened in 1874 in the City of Brotherly Love, and today, it entertains visitors with habitats featuring more than 1,300 animals spread across 42 acres near West Fairmount Park. The zoo’s relatively intimate size means it’s easy to enjoy most of its attractions in a single day.

Highlights include the PECO Primate Reserve pavilion featuring gorillas and orangutans, as well as First Niagara Big Cat Falls, where visitors will encounter tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars — try to visit here during feeding times. Families will also enjoy the McNeil Avian Center, a rain-forest habitat where visitors will discover more than 100 bird species from around the world.

Opt for a unique experience riding in the Channel 6 Zooballoon, a 30-passenger helium balloon that rises 400 feet above the zoo, offering glimpses of giraffes, zebras and even the Philadelphia skyline. Finally, pay a visit to the Reptile and Amphibian House, where simulated thunder and lightning “storms” periodically refresh the creatures.

Item You Should Bring while Camping

A warm winter hat for chilly mornings and evenings.

# Wind and rain layers. Always carry them, no matter what the climate.

# Sunscreen, sunglasses and sun hats. Kids’ skin is very sensitive to the sun, and keeping them covered constantly is the best plan.

Headlamps are useful on any trip, and kids love to have their own.

Snacks. When children are exerting themselves outdoors, they’ll need more than breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure to have plenty of healthy snacks packed for each day. We create a daily snack bag for our boys and allow them to choose something from it every hour.

# Pedometers. They’re a great way to encourage walking. Both our boys recorded the steps they took on our multiday treks. Just make sure to attach a tiny string as a tether from the pedometers to their belts, as they slip off young kids easily.

Once you’re all packed and on the road, keep these important tips in mind.

– Always be ready to alter plans based on weather and health. Don’t get tied to the schedule you set from the comfort of home. If things are going well, press on. If the kids need a break, stop.

– Work downtime into every day. Adults can hike from breakfast to dinner, but not kids. They need big chunks of time to explore beaches, play with pine needles and watch ants crawling across blades of grass. Throwing rocks into water is also crucial. Plan that time into each day. Avoid turning the journey into a sufferfest!

Seaworld Orlando

At SeaWorld Orlando, the resident animals are more than just photo ops – they’re the main attraction. Submerge yourself in the murky, underwater world of the endangered Florida manatee. Feed and touch dolphins in a tropical lagoon. Walk through a frozen tundra as penguins and puffins cavort above, below and beside you. And get up close and personal with denizens of the deep, including eels, barracuda, venomous fish and sharks, in an underwater tunnel that traverses a deep-sea aquarium.

If that’s not enough to satisfy your animal instincts, go behind the scenes with one of the park’s exclusive tours. Or hop aboard the Adventure Express for backstage access to shows and front-row seats for a private feeding of park animals. An expert guide leads the 5-hour tour, which also includes front-of-the-line access to SeaWorld’s rides.

To the Rescue, another SeaWorld exclusive, highlights the park’s animal rescue and rehabilitation program for sea turtles, aquatic birds, seals and manatees, all of which are released into the wild upon recovery. This hour-long, tour provides a peek at rehabilitation techniques rarely privy to the public.

Still thirsting for something wet and wild? Answer the ultimate call of the wild by enlisting in the Trainer for a Day program. Slip into a wet suit for a try at the glamorous role of Shamu’s tutor. Shadow a real trainer to learn training techniques and receive one-on-one interaction with whales, otters, walruses and sea lions. Later, hang with the heavies backstage for the inside scoop on area cleanup and animal care. The package includes lunch and is limited to three “trainers” daily. Call well in advance for reservations.

SeaWorld is also home to a number of rides, including a collection of killer roller coasters. Kraken, named for Poseidon’s mythological underwater beast, is Orlando’s highest, fastest, longest and only floorless roller coaster, dangling riders above the track on pedestal seats at speeds of 65 mph. The Wild Arctic zips and zings riders through the frozen North Pole – complete with walruses, harbor seals, polar bears and live beluga whales – in a simulated jetcopter. And Journey to Atlantis, a hybrid roller-water coaster, soaks and spins riders to Atlantis with not one, but two of the steepest, wettest and fastest drops in the world.

Of course, there are options for those who prefer to keep their feet on solid ground, including the world-famous Shamu Adventure, featuring performances by the park’s 7 killer whales, and Cirque de la Mer, a Peruvian circus filled with special effects and unbelievable acrobatics.

Know These Family Activities in Maui Hawai

# Watching Sunrise at Haleakala

Sunset from Kaanapali Beach is pretty remarkable, but sunrise from the top of Haleakala, the shield volcano that represents Maui’s tallest point, is downright breathtaking. Most “suncatchers” take in the spectacle from the Haleakala National Park visitors center, a structure that sits 9,740 feet above sea level. From there, above the clouds, morning explodes in resplendent hues of purple, orange and pink.

# Zip-Lining Through the Jungle

Provided you aren’t afraid of heights, zip-lining can be an exciting way to experience Maui’s jungle. Strap on that harness and get ready to zip along at speeds of up to 25 mph. A handful of island operators offer the rush, but the best is still the oldest: Skyline Eco-Adventures.

# Whale-Watching

Every year between December and March, humpback whales congregate in the warm waters near Maui to mate and birth their young. There are so many whales over such a small area that 1 researcher has called it “whale nirvana.” Dozens of whale-watching companies run 2-hour inflatable-boat trips out of Lahaina and Maalaea harbors. Our favorite: Ultimate Whale Watch.

# Snorkeling Black Rock

Most snorkeling-minded tourists pay top dollar for a motorboat cruise to Molokini, a partly submerged atoll off Maui’s southwestern side. But the snorkeling by Black Rock, near the Sheraton at the west end of Kaanapali Beach, is just as amazing. There, you’ll come face-to-face with everything from colorful fish and moray eels to sea turtles. Listen closely, and you might even hear whales singing.

# Learning to Surf

With warm water and baby-size waves, beaches on Maui’s west coast are great places to learn to surf. A number of surf schools do business there, but our favorite is the island’s oldest: Maui Surf Clinics. Owner Nancy Emerson got things rolling back in 1973; to this day, instructors are known for being patient with kids.

# Driving the Hana Highway

It just might be the windiest road in America, but the 68-mile stretch between Kahului and Hana is worth the drive. The road stretches past dense jungle, along deserted beaches (some with black sand) and through adorable little villages. Although Hana is only 50 miles from Kahului itself, the drive usually takes 3 hours. Bring a picnic lunch and plan to stop midway.

# Experiencing the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe
Ancient Hawaiians (and some modern ones, too) went island-hopping in boats known as sailing canoes. Today, families can re-create this experience with a 3-hour tour throughHawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures. The cruise is relaxing and informative; naturalists share creation myths and the history of the islands. The boat leaves from the beach in front of the Fairmont Kea Lani.

# Visiting Maui Ocean Center

Because the ocean in these parts teems with wildlife, a land-based aquarium might seem counterintuitive. Still, the Maui Ocean Center in Maalaea is worth investigating. The facility opened in 1998 and is home to more than 300 species of local marine life — the largest collection in the state. Touch tanks are particularly popular among young children and landlubbers.

# Eating Malasadas in Makawao

Think of malasadas as Portuguese doughnuts; the delicacies are fried balls of yeast dough (usually) stuffed with something yummy and then coated with sugar. At the Komoda Store & Bakery in the sleepy town of Makawao, these dough balls are an honest-to-goodness delicacy. Try one filled with guava; it’s the best jelly doughnut you’ll ever have. Just call first, because the store keeps odd hours.

# Touring by Helicopter

Superman had it right: Views from above rule. With this in mind, some of the most exciting tours of Maui unfold from the seats of helicopters. Most whirlybird operators take visitors up and over the jungle so they’re looking down on lush landscapes and spectacular waterfalls. Some head up to the top of Haleakala, the island’s largest volcano. Our favorite outfitter: Air Maui.

Last Minute Vacation Destination

# Affinia Fifty

Families love the Affinia Fifty, given its safe, convenient location in Midtown East, its large rooms (most of which sleep at least 4 people with sofa beds and can attach to other rooms), and its laid-back lounge with plenty of board games. Affinia also runs a popular “Jet-Set Kids” promotion, where young guests receive a New York City guidebook for kids, plus NYC stickers, a scrapbook, and even a digital camera.

# Nickelodeon Suites Resort

You know when you stay at a hotel with “Nickelodeon” in its name that you’re in for a kid-tastic treat. Dedicated entirely to children’s comfort and entertainment, “Nick Hotel,” as it slangily refers to itself, is literally made for families. Accommodations are configured to give parents and children separate bedrooms, with plenty of shared living space and the convenience of kitchenettes. The entertainment and on-site amenities are unmatched outside of Disney and include 2 water parks, a mall, and — during the busiest seasons — activities like live entertainment at the pool and Studio Nick.

# Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

From the gazelles and giraffes freely roaming the grounds to the enormous pool with a water slide, the safari-themed Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge was designed to amaze and delight children. Throughout the day, staff members lead free educational activities for children like craft-making, African drumming, or mini-lessons about the where giraffes come from. Here, even the learning is captivating.

The Mirage

The Mirage has endless ways to keep kids entertained, including the nightly eruptions of the hotel’s signature man-made volcano and the lions and dolphins at Siefried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. The entertainment options, like Cirque du Soleil shows and performances by puppeteer Terry Fator, are relatively wholesome compared to some of Vegas’ other offerings. And there’s a kids’ menu at California Pizza Kitchen and kid-friendly fare at Carnegie Delicatessen and Paradise Cafe.

# Hotel Marlowe

A “discovery” theme (hallway carpets patterned with stars and moons), kids’ menus, large guest rooms, and lots of freebies — welcome treats for kids, free use of bikes and kayaks, a free lending library of books, free cribs and playpens, free child-size bathrobes — make Hotel Marlowe a great choice for families. Plus, across the street, hotel guests get free use of the telescopes at the Museum of Science observatory.

Trump International Beach Resort

Unlike at most other Miami hotels, the Kids Club at the Trump is free. The large, family-size rooms all have kitchenettes, and many suites also include washer/dryers. The grotto-style pool comes with a broad shallow area that’s great for little swimmers. Plus, there’s always Globie — the hotel mascot — who entertains kids around the pool.

The Colonnade Hotel

This classy hotel features the city’s only rooftop pool, making it a hit with the kids during the summer. Kids’ menus are available for in-room dining; and at 350 square feet, the standard rooms are large enough to accommodate a crib or rollaway bed (which are available for free).

Hilton Times Square

Large rooms, special kids’ menus, an on-site movie theater, and plenty of nearby attractions in Times Square make the Hilton a great choice for families. Kids stay free in rooms with their parents, and standard and deluxe rooms with 2 double beds range from 330 to a palatial 360 square feet — far bigger than the standard rooms in most New York hotels. The kids’ breakfast buffet at Restaurant Above costs $10 and includes toast, eggs, pancakes, bacon and juice.

Wilshire Grand Los Angeles

The rooms at this affordable hotel, at 240-square-feet, may be a tight squeeze for parents and kids, but who’s hanging out in the room? From this downtown base, Universal Studios is a 20-minute metro ride (no car!), and Hollywood is 15 minutes by train. In town for a game? The Staples Center is within walking distance, and Dodgers Stadium is a 5- to 15-minute drive depending on traffic. Even though the hotel attracts business travelers, kids can comfortably run around the large, carpeted lobby and swim in the pool without raising eyebrows.

Newport Beachside Hotel and Resort

Kids gone wild, with parents (usually) in tow. The Newport Beachside is a lot like a cruise on land, with organized kids’ activities all day long, entertainment at night, and tykes dominating the landscape. Plus, the hotel has two video-game rooms, a make-your-own-album CD creator, and family-appropriate movie nights.

Le Parc Suites Hotel

An enormous suite at a reasonable price is the story here. The 650-square-foot suites have fully equipped kitchens, two TVs (one a 42-inch plasma TV), a living room with a gas fireplace, and balconies. A rooftop pool and tennis court sweeten the deal, and from the hotel’s West Hollywood location, Universal Studios is only a 15-minute drive.

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

This national park is the home of two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Part national park, part tropical oasis and part geological masterpiece: any way you look at it, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a literal hotbed of activity. Few national parks can boast having 2 of the world’s most active volcanoes spewing molten lava, and for that fiery sight alone, Hawaii Volcanoes is worth the trip! Standing in view of the fountains of flame pouring from the mouth of Mauna Loa, it is quite easy to realize that visitors are watching live-action footage of geological history in the making. With each hardened layer of lava, the Hawaiian landscape is slightly changed in a process that began so many millions of years ago and will continue millions of years from now, and visitors to this Hawaiian treasure are privy to the action.

The park is considered one of the world’s most diverse biosphere reserves because of the vast numbers of plant and animal life that call the park home. As the Hawaiian chain of islands was created, it provided an environment away from the grazing predators of the mainland that proved to be a perfect breeding ground for countless species brought to the islands via birds, water, or wind. Over 100 landbirds are unique to Hawaii, as are numerous fish, plants and insects. Extreme variations in altitude (i.e., 11 miles from Mauna Loa’s base to its summit) provide ideal climate conditions for a variety of landscapes – from the rich flora of rainforests to charred expanses of lava. Sadly, the integration of humans into this paradise has wreaked havoc upon the environment. As settlers such as the Polynesians and Europeans brought non-native plants and animals onto the island, the endemic creatures suffered, including the endangered nene, Hawaii’s state bird.

Geological History
The islands of Hawaii were formed when magma from below the Earth’s crust repeatedly erupted out of fissures on the ocean floor. As the layers of lava hardened, mountains formed and eventually rose above the surface of the ocean, and evolved into islands. The Big Island of Hawaii is the newest in the chain, and the volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa are still active, continually adding land to the island with their eruptions.

Park Activities
It’s not every day national park visitors get to sidestep steaming lava beds in mid-hike, but at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, molten lava and belching volcanoes are the norm. When they’re not gasping in wonder at Hawaii’s delightfully lush and colorful landscape, visitors to the park have made it their business to hike at least one of 150 miles of trails like the Mauna Loa Summit Trail or Kilauea Iki Trail, which take hikers through rainforests and into a volcano crater. Exploring Crater Rim Drive by car or bicycle is another must-do activity, featuring up-close views of Sulphur Banks, Steam Vents, Jaggar Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater (home of Pele, goddess of volcanoes), Devastation Trail, Kilauea Iki Crater and Thurston Lava Tube. Speaking of lava tubes, the 20-minute walk at Nahuku (Thurston) Lava Tube takes hikers through a 350,000-year-old tunnel of lava.

Where to Stay
A cozy retreat in the heart of Volcano Village, Kilauea Lodge’s 12 rooms and 2 guest cottages are an ideal respite after a day of touring the park. Many of the rooms feature fireplaces, balconies, original stained glass windows and luxurious heated towel warmers. The lodge’s restaurant features a menu full of delicacies that include apricot-mustard-glazed Duck l’Orange and an Ostrich Filet with an Amarula-A-Masula-Fruit cream sauce.

Hike The Grand Canyon?, Follow These Tips

There may be no other hiking destination in the country that is more famous and more revered than the Grand Canyon. It’s earned this reputation by its dramatic beauty, of course, but also by the sheer difficulty of its steep, rugged, desert trails.

Nearly 5 million people visit this natural wonder each year. While most stick to the relative comfort of overlooks and lodges on the rim, many venture down into the canyon to gaze up at the massive rock walls or feel the crisp Colorado River. Hiking the Grand Canyon isn’t a simple endeavor, but anyone in decent physical condition can experience at least a few miles of its spectacular trails.

Below you’ll find tips on day hiking, overnight stays, more advanced adventures, and a few trail profiles. No matter your level of experience, you should find this guide helpful for your grand journey.

# Day Hiking

Day hikes are by far the most popular type of trip into the Grand Canyon. A down-and-back excursion lets you commit to traveling only as far as you think you can handle, and it allows for carrying less of a load to weigh you down. Nonetheless, hiking here presents many unique challenges, many that you may not think about on hikes elsewhere.

– Weather can be extreme

Seasonal extremes are part of this rugged landscape. Most people visit the Grand Canyon in the summer when temperatures regularly reach 110 degrees near the bottom of the canyon, yet temperatures at the breezy, high-elevation rim are often comfortably cool. In the Grand Canyon, temperatures rise as you descend. If you are not accustomed to physical activity in hot, dry conditions, hiking into the canyon can be more taxing than you might expect. In the winter, even though bright sun usually thaws the rim fairly quickly, ice can linger on shady switchbacks well into the spring. Winter hiking often warrants the use of trekking poles and spiked boots in the upper reaches of the canyon.

Weather can be unpredictable, as well. During the summer monsoon season, thunderstorms sweep up over the rim from out of sight, and winter snowstorms can approach just as suddenly. The North Rim, sitting at a higher elevation than the South Rim, is so susceptible to bad weather that it is closed during the winter.

Be prepared for conditions you might encounter, and while you should anticipate brutal heat in summer and bitter cold in winter, don’t be surprised if you get caught in exactly the opposite conditions.

– Climbing out will take more time

This seems obvious, but many hikers get lured into descending further than they can reasonably return in a day. The trip downhill can be deceptively easy, but don’t let yourself get carried away; monitor your progress, your food and water, your energy, and how much daylight remains. You might be surprised at how quickly it gets dark once the sun drops below the canyon rim. Know when sunset is (remember that Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time), and remember to pack a headlamp and extra layers if you think you might be out later. Roads remain open in the park all night, so getting “nighted” isn’t necessarily a big deal as long as you are prepared.

If you are determined to get as far as you can in a day, plan your route and set a turnaround time before you even set foot on the trail to make sure that you have enough time and energy to get out before dark. Know your average hiking speed, and expect to go slower than normal when climbing out of the canyon. Maps are available for free at the park entrance, and rangers can provide detailed information on weather and trail conditions for the day.

While a round-trip day hike to bottom of the canyon is a lofty accomplishment, the National Park Service does not recommend it, especially during the warmer months. While the complete Rim-to-River and back is frequently completed by people who are physically fit and well prepared, you should only try it if you are experienced in desert hiking and confident in your abilities.

– Carry plenty of water and food

In general, expect to eat and drink up to twice as much than you do in a normal day. Bring lots of dense, salty, high-calorie snacks; this may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to stay hydrated, but salt and other electrolytes are essential to keep your body working properly. One of the most common life-threatening conditions in the canyon is hyponatremia, wherein one drinks too much water without replacing electrolytes, and the body’s sodium levels drop dangerously low.

How much water to bring really depends on the weather and on what trail you are doing. Dehydration can be serious, so bringing too little is dangerious; but carrying too much water can be exhausting. Temperature forecasts are available at the visitor center and ranger stations each day, but remember that the inner canyon is always hotter than the rim. Also, some trails have plentiful water (like Bright Angel), while some have none (like South Kaibab). As a general rule, plan to drink up to one full liter of water per hour of hiking in hot weather. Pack enough bottles to carry up to three liters of water at a time, depending on the length of your hike. Also, water sources anywhere other than on the corridor trails may require purification, so pack accordingly.

– Pack light and wear good shoes

The less you carry the more quickly and comfortably you can travel, and this means packing only the essentials. Water and food should make up the most weight and space in your pack, but sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are also high priorities. Layers for warmth and light rain may be called for, and bring a headlamp if you might get caught in the dark. A small first aid kit (that you know how to use) should always be with you. Many people bring heavy camera equipment into the canyon, and this is truly one of the most photogenic places on Earth. Consider what you need and don’t need to get the shot. That tripod and those extra lenses will feel a whole lot bulkier on the hike back up.

Hikers on short trips can probably get away with wearing any decent tennis shoes or outdoor sandals, but hikers on lengthier hikes or more rugged trails will want lightweight, durable hiking boots—ones that have already been broken in and won’t give you blisters. Soft and snug socks are important to minimize the friction that causes blisters. Also, be careful to keep your socks and shoes dry; although splashing in Bright Angel Creek along North Kaibab Trail is inviting, you may want to do this barefoot so your feet won’t be soaked for the rest of the hike.

– Listen to your body

Be honest with yourself about your own limits. According to National Park Service surveys, nearly all first-time Grand Canyon hikers report that their trek was more difficult than expected. A little suffering to experience the inner canyon is par for the course, but there is often a fine line between a worthwhile endeavor and a miserable trip.

Pace yourself throughout the hike. If you are breathing too hard to talk while you walk, you should slow down. Take breaks often—to drink water, eat food, take in the scenery, snap photos, talk to other hikers, or whatever. If you know you have a condition that might hinder you on the hike, respect your limits and make sure others in your group are aware that you may need extra time or attention. Small problems, like sensitive knees or weak asthma, can quickly become major problems with sustained exertion. Whether you have a pre-existing condition or not, slow your pace and take breaks more often to avoid making the problem worse.

# Overnight Backpacking

Spending the night is by far the best way to experience the Grand Canyon. You can take more time to enjoy the scenery on your trek and also travel farther in order to see more of it. Traveling to the bottom of the canyon in one day, camping at the bottom, and coming up the next day is the best strategy for seeing the Colorado River. Most people do not make it the river and back in one day.

– Camping requires a permit

Aside from Phantom Ranch Lodge, all overnight stays in the canyon require a paid permit from the park’s Backcountry Office, and documentation must be carried with you on the hike and displayed at your campsite. Permits specify the number of people in a party, the site(s) to be used, and the dates of stay. The park has a special system for administering a limited number of permits, so they are not always easy to get. Certain campsites, such as those at Bright Angel Campground in the bottom of the canyon, are in high demand and fill up fast.

The best way to secure a permit is to make reservations by mail, fax, or in person up to four months in advance of your trip. You can only request permits in person at the Backcountry Office between one and three months prior to your start date. The office also reserves a certain number of permits for last-minute in-person requests that can be arranged less than a month prior to your trip. All permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, and they can never be requested by phone or email. For details on permits, visit the Grand Canyon Backcountry Office.

– Anticipate temperature swings

If you are camping in the bottom of the canyon in the summer, chances are temperatures will remain comfortable through the night. During the winter, spring or fall, however, expect it to get uncomfortably cold after the sun goes down. If you are camping on the rim, you will probably want a warm layer after dark even during the summer. The Grand Canyon’s dry air does not hold heat very well, so temperatures drop quickly at night. Be sure to check the weather forecast and pack accordingly.

– Pack light

Whittle down your packing list to only the essentials, and tailor it carefully to the particular route and campsites you are using. For example, backcountry sites at Bright Angel Campground have picnic tables, food boxes, and bathrooms with running water. Other backcountry sites in the park do not, and some of them don’t have any type of toilet. Plan for water availability as well. Not all trails have plentiful water, so you may have to carry more with you. Many water sources require treatment, but if you can get by without it, leave the filter at home to save weight. Research your campsites, trails, and weather forecasts on the national park’s website beforehand so you know what to bring and, more importantly, what leave.

– Don’t feed the animals and pack out your trash

We share the Grand Canyon with all kinds of wildlife, but it’s best for those creatures to stay wild and stay out of your food. Be sure to bring enough animal-proof boxes or bags to store all your food or they may chew holes in your pack to get inside. Even if you wander a short distance from your campsite during the day, your food should be safely stowed. Sunlight does little to deter some of the bolder furry fiends.

There is no garbage service at backcountry sites, not even at Phantom Ranch. All trash that you generate must be carried out with you. Some backcountry sites have toilets, but not all. Be sure to review the details of the campsite on your permit so you know what to expect.

# Advanced Adventures

If you have already conquered the Rim-to-River or Rim-to-Rim in a day and now want to go faster or farther, read the tips in this section. You will also find these tips useful if you want to take on any multi-sport activities, like technical canyoneering or rock climbing, that require more gear and cross-country travel.

– Plan, plan, plan!

Success depends on proper planning for logistics and packing. As soon as you start using obscure access points, combining multiple trails, or traveling cross-country, navigation gets exponentially harder. Know your intended route in addition to alternative routes, and be sure to take a topo map and a compass. Good trail maps for the Grand Canyon are hard to find online, but they are available for purchase at the park visitor center. USGS topo quads are also useful and come in print or as smartphone apps.

Scouting your route is even better; having your route dialed ahead of time is crucial. You can identify any landmarks that will help with navigation and leave rock cairns at tricky spots. And just like any other Grand Canyon excursion, you will want to carry only the essentials. For a one-day speed or distance push, your packing list won’t be much different than for a typical day hike. The key is to avoid carrying extra water by planning for spots to refill. Overnight trips or technical endeavors will require more gear, but you can minimize your load by searching online for information or talking to people who have done it before. Scouting the route yourself can help with this too.

– Get creative

If you want to go big you have to think big, and there are several handy tricks that may not be obvious. Here are just a few ideas, but there may be plenty of ‘outside the box’ options for your trip.

If you make a scouting mission, consider stashing water and food in a strategic location so you won’t have to carry as much on the big day.

Setting a vehicle for shuttle may be necessary, even if this means many hours of driving. It can take up to eight hours to drive from the South Rim to more remote locations on the North Rim, but a shuttle may be the only way to accomplish your big push. You could also arrange for a very nice someone to either drop you off at the start or pick you up at the finish to cut down drive time for yourself.

Packrafting is allowed on the Colorado River. With just a normal backcountry camping permit, you are allowed to packraft up to 10 miles on the river as part of your route. The catch is that you have to plan your route with the Backcountry Office in person or provide a very detailed letter by mail. They will only authorize floating if there is no overland alternative to get where you need to go. It isn’t always the most convenient option, but if you have access to a packraft, keep this possibility in mind.

If you are lucky enough to know people on a river trip, you might arrange for them to drop off or pick up gear in the bottom of the canyon. If you are doing an especially long route or anything that requires a lot of gear for only part of the trip, coordinating with a river trip can be the ultimate strategic advantage. You can even stash gear near the river to be picked up at a much later date.

– Don’t screw it up.

You should only embark on a grand adventure in the Grand Canyon if you are confident you will succeed. You don’t have to travel far to be truly on your own, and cell phone and radio reception is limited to non-existent. If you are prepared to get yourself into a dangerous situation, you should be prepared to get yourself out of it as well.

Aside from your own personal wellbeing, keep in mind the privilege of access for everyone else. Grand Canyon National Park is a great gift to the world. Be sure to keep it preserved by minimizing your impact on the land and ecology. Incidents like deaths and rescues can compromise future access for everyone. If you become a statistic, you may encourage park managers to impose tighter restrictions that hinder others from doing the activities you enjoy.

As an experienced Grand Canyon traveler, you know your own abilities and limitations. There is nothing wrong with pushing these, but the Grand Canyon is never the best place to do it. Don’t be afraid to dream big, just make sure to stay smart and stay safe.

# The Trails

There are far more routes into the canyon than many people realize. However, there is a relatively small collection of trails dubbed as “corridor” trails that are maintained for heavy traffic and access the park’s only bridges across the Colorado River. Also included are brief descriptions of a few unmaintained trails in the park. Note that Bright Angel Campground is located next to the Colorado River in the bottom of the canyon, so mileage to this point is the approximate distance to the river.

– South Kaibab (Corridor)

This is the shortest route to the Colorado River, but not necessarily the easiest. It is steeper and hotter than the Bright Angel Trail, and there is no water available anywhere on the trail until the bottom of the canyon. Nonetheless, this trail remains extremely popular because it gives the best views in the shortest span of trail. You need only descend about 1 mile on this trail to gain sweeping panoramas of the inner canyon.

In total, it is 6.4 miles to Bright Angel Campground and 6.9 miles to Phantom Ranch. Many people make a short day hike by descending to Cedar Ridge at mile 1.5, taking plenty of pictures, and then turning back.

– Bright Angel (Corridor)

This is the most popular route to and from the Colorado River. Although not the shortest trail, it has the most rest stops and water availability. The trail follows a natural fault line through the upper rock layers, then a series of spring-fed creek gorges the rest of the way down. It crosses the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch and provides easy access to the lodge and campgrounds there.

The trail is 9.3 miles to Bright Angel Campground and 9.8 miles to Phantom Ranch. Indian Garden, located about halfway at mile 4.5, is a shady oasis on a flat plateau. This is the day hike destination for many visitors who relax by the creek under huge cottonwood trees before turning back uphill.

Drinking water is available at mile markers 1.5 (First Resthouse), 3 (Second Resthouse), 4.5 (Indian Garden), 6.1 (Plateau Point), 9.3 (Bright Angel Campground), and 9.8 (Phantom Ranch). Water is reliable throughout the summer, but the Park Service only guarantees year-round availability at Indian Garden, Bright Angel Campground, and Phantom Ranch.

– North Kaibab (Corridor)

This is the main trail descending from the North Rim. This side of the canyon is more remote and less visited, so this trail is less popular than the other corridor trails. This trail is, however, the most comfortable in summer and provides a wealth of spectacular side hikes. The trail follows Bright Angel Creek, which flows year round with cool, clear water. During the heat of summer you can wet your clothes or splash in the creek at many points along the trail. Side trails will take you to amazing spots like the famous Ribbon Falls.

This is also the longest corridor route to the Colorado River, reaching Phantom Ranch in 14.0 miles and Bright Angel Campground in 14.5 miles. Drinking water is available at mile markers 1.7 (Supai Tunnel), 4.7 (Roaring Springs), 6.9 (Cottonwood), 14.0 (Phantom Ranch), and 14.5 (Bright Angel Campground). Only Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground are year-round potable water sources; the rest are turned off when temperatures get below freezing.

– Grandview Trail

This trail is further east than the corridor trails, and it accesses the spectacular Horseshoe Mesa halfway down the canyon. You can also continue all the way to the Colorado River. A short day hike is to Coconino Saddle and back (2.2 miles round trip), and the longer option is to Horseshoe Mesa and back (6 miles round trip). There is no water available anywhere between the rim and Horseshoe Mesa, but some seasonal sources can be found if you continue past Horseshoe Mesa.

– Hermit Trail

This is an unmaintained but well-traveled trail in the western side of the park. It offers entirely different views than any of the corridor trails and is used to access popular backcountry campsites at Hermit Creek andMonument Creek. A good day hike is to go to Dripping Springs and back (7 miles round trip) via the Drippings Springs side trail.

Water is available seasonally at mile 2.5 (Santa Maria Spring) and year round at mile 8.2 (Hermit Creek). If you take the side trail to Dripping Springs, you can get water seasonally at mile 3.5 as well. All these water sources are considered non-potable and require purification before drinking.

Wonders of Iceland and Norway

Iceland is a unique country with sprawling glaciers, active volcanoes and unusual terrain, while Norway is filled with awe-inspiring fjords. Visit these European countries to experience some of the Earth’s best natural wonders.

Norwegian Fjords – Norway
Norway is known as the Land of Fjords thanks to its unusually high concentration of sculpted coastal inlets along the country’s western shores. There are over 200 scenic fjords, including the daunting Sognefjord, or King Fjord, that beckons adrenaline junkies to go base-jumping from the 6,000-foot cliffs. Jumpers on this wild ride can reach speeds up to 120 miles an hour as they freefall through Norway’s natural wonders.

Vatnajokull Glacier – Iceland
Iceland’s Vatnajokull Glacier is the largest ice cap in Europe, covering over 5,000 square miles and plunging to depths of over 3,000 feet. This glacier encases active volcanoes similar to those under Eyjafjallajokull Glacier that erupted in 2010 causing travel snafus throughout Europe. Vatnajokull is so large that it can easily be seen from space, but forgo the spaceship and book a tour on a snow mobile or customized jeep to travel across the rocky, icy glacier.

Thingvellir National Park – Iceland
You can witness the spot where the Earth’s giant tectonic plates shift and pull apart at Thingvellir National Park, which is where the European and North American plates meet. These powerful forces are still hard at work as red-hot magma fills the gap 6,000 feet underground between the tectonic plates. This intense heat creates pressure that fuels the Strokkur geyser, sending water and steam erupting 100 feet into the air. The country harnesses this natural energy to generate electricity and stoke the tourism industry at the Blue Lagoon Spa, which uses the clean, mineral-rich and naturally heated water that is run-off from the power plant.

Lake Myvaten
Iceland
Located on the northern end of Iceland, Lake Myvaten is an unusual spot with volcanoes, steaming vents, bubbling hot mud and weird rock formations, including the vaulted cave known as the Cathedral. The terrain is so strange that NASA used the area to train the Apollo astronauts because the expansive lava fields replicate otherworldly geography. Despite the bizarre conditions, there’s a thriving wildlife community, including the largest collection of bird species in all of Europe.