Category: Family


Letters to Our Younger Selves: Dear Nina

Filed under: Family, Arts & Culture

Nina Kokotas Hahn Dear Nina,I came across this photo of you, and that little face of yours made me smile. It wasn't just the chubby expression or the pink swim cap, but the tongue darting in delight and determination, the in-it-to-win-it glee of a fearless 4-year old. That our travel agent mom is at your side is perfect because she's the reason you were on yet another vacation (this one at Wet-n-Wild, Orlando, circa 1978) and the reason travel will inspire your life as it ultimately does.I know you're shuddering at the thought of your very uncool mom now that you're a teenager, and you've already decided you want to be a veterinarian or a doctor, but that will change. One day, you'll recognize a strong pull toward adventure and a need to keep canvassing the world. Gratitude will hit you when you realize that you are who you are because of this unconventional, ballsy woman and the gift of travel — of conquering — that she shared with you.You'll ditch medical school to pursue writing, coming full circle when you discover that travel writing is where you were headed all along. You just have to trust me on this; I'm you, only older and wiser, and now a mom myself.You'll look back and see that it started with the souvenirs Mom could not unpack fast enough. A boatswain whistle from Alaska, a necklace bought during Carnival in Brazil, Guatemalan worry dolls, a guiro instrument from Acapulco. You brought them all to school because they were like nothing you and your friends had ever seen. The souvenirs spurred an insatiable curiosity.Bring home only the most exotic souvenirs for your children; your heart will light up someday when your daughter, opening her gift, tells you that it only makes her want to see more of the world.Subscribe to the belief best shared by Keith Bellows that the passport is the new diploma, and take your daughter and your son everywhere, just as your mom did for you.Right now, your many family vacations are the best kind of break from school. But later you'll understand that travel laid a powerful foundation, propping you up with pillars of daring, spontaneity, unconventionality and open-mindedness.From New York's Little Italy and Mardi Gras in New Orleans to Caribbean cruises and countless road trips, you've already had a small taste of cultural differences. Down the line, you'll crave more of what lies off the beaten path; as I write to you now, I'm dreaming of Myanmar, Cape Town and Croatia. Adventure will make you slightly uncomfortable at first, but remember: you were made for it.You have stayed up later than most kids for beignets and café au lait in the French Quarter and midnight stars on the deck of a cruise ship. You've been encouraged to choose things you like (even if it's boy stuff like riding a go-kart and collecting Civil War souvenirs) and taken a wash rag bath on a train after visiting a Missouri pig farm. As you get older, breaking from convention — taking your kids out of school for a trip, or leaving them home so you can go solo — will seem like a bad thing, but embrace it. You and your family will experience nothing more liberating or fulfilling than seeing the world often and on your own terms.Although you're just like your mom now — brave and determined — there will be big moments that shake you. A terrorist attack on U.S. soil will take down several planes and the Twin Towers (the same ones you stood at the very top of with Mom). A few rocky flights, one involving lightning, will rock your world. Panic and fear will begin to work you over, and you'll wonder where that fearless girl has gone.Look back to your biggest adventures and to photos like this one — that girl is always there. Listen close and she'll have you jetting off and confronting those fears over and over again, keeping your eyes on the reward that lies at the end of every plane trip.Your older you forever,NinaMORE: Read more Letters to Our Younger Selves
In sharing this story, and others, we hope you are inspired to Raise Your Hand for girls' education, helping us spread the word on this crucial effort.Nina Kokotas Hahn writes about travel and adventure, loves both the city and the great wide open, and dashes stress via marathon running, Shark Week and good wine. Follow Nina on twitter (@ninakhahn) or at Chicago magazine, where she pens a weekly travel column.Follow AOL Travel on Facebook and Twitter
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Newlyweds’ Drunken Squabble Causes Airplane To Make Emergency Landing

Filed under: Air Travel, Family, News, Weird

Getty Images

Delta Air Lines Flight 901 from Atlanta to Costa Rica made an emergency landing on Grand Cayman island Sunday night after a drunk groom kicked off his honeymoon by getting into a tiff with his new wife.According to the Chicago Tribune,

The U.S. citizen was escorted from the flight after it landed by Cayman Islands police and was being held in custody on a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct, according to Royal Cayman Islands Chief Inspector Raymond Christian.The bride remained aboard for the flight to San Jose, Costa Rica, he said. He did not name the bride or the groom involved in the incident other than to say the groom was a U.S. citizen.

The groom has not yet been identified. But if you know the couple, probably best on waiting the entire year before sending a gift.Read more
Find Your Perfect Caribbean Island
'Airplane!' Cast Reunites for Wisconsin Tourism Ad
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Letters to Our Younger Selves: Dear Terry

Filed under: Family, Arts & Culture

Terry Ward Dear Terry,I see you cruising down I-95 in the family station wagon. You're wrestling with Janet and James and crying out, "Are we there yet?" Your parents are in the front seat singing along to Bob Dylan and blocking out the mayhem.You don't know it now, but this is the start of a life full of adventures. Relax, settle in and enjoy the ride.Those summer trips to the Outer Banks were your first step into the greater world. For a young girl raised in the privileged suburbs of Washington D.C., North Carolina was a wonderland of beaches that breathed danger and adventure with frothy riptides and tow-headed surfer boys from faraway places like Florida.But then summer would end and you'd be back in school — playing the right sports and wearing the right jeans. You play lacrosse and field hockey because that's what girls do if they're not donning a cheerleading uniform, but they weren't your thing.Keep following the ocean and doing what you love. Eventually you will find your true passion while snorkeling in the Florida Keys. You'll tell yourself that someday you'll learn to scuba dive so you can swim with sharks. And you will.Your parents will take you to Germany and Switzerland one summer. You'll see snails in the Alps the size of your palm, feed swans in a Swiss lake and happily gobble Wienerschnitzel for dinner every night.The world will open up wider.Then you'll be back to hitting the best parties in high school while trying to keep up your grades so you can get into a "good school." You love Spanish class, and you're good at it! Keep studying. Someday you will learn languages much more efficiently, in the places they're spoken — you'll venture to Morocco to study Arabic and stay a while in Toulouse to learn French. You'll live with host families and realize the best lessons in life and language take place beyond the classroom's walls.Geography class will fill you with angst (only physics is worse). If you get a B or a C, will you still be able to get into your first-choice college? Try not to stress so much about your grades and memorizing places on maps. Someday you will live the ideas and places you're only seeing on paper right now. You won't truly understand how the world's countries are connected until you travel through them — like on the road trip you'll take from Florida through Mexico and Central America to the very edge of the Panama Canal.In college, you'll have to make some big decisions: do you study something you're passionate about, like languages and cultural anthropology, or do you listen to the voices urging you to major in something with more marketable job prospects?Be true to yourself and study what you love. Heck, consider taking a year off to travel before you apply to college — in the UK they call it a "gap year."If you're unsure of what you want to do, go out in the world. Volunteer in Africa or teach English in Asia. You'll get to know your interests and what you're capable of far better than by diving headfirst into a small-town America college party scene.As for strangers, don't talk to them. Talk with them, anywhere you meet them, and don't be afraid to go deep. Don't let a fear of the unknown close you off. On the streets of Vietnam, you will be invited into a family home, and you will go because you've learned to trust random encounters. You will drink rice wine with people you just met, you will rock a random baby, and you will learn about lives different from your own. You will meet someone on an airplane with whom you will share a hotel room because that's what travelers do. You will make friends all over the world just because you are open to doing so.And one day, whatever your geography and physics grades were, you will get a good job, one with "benefits" that delight your parents but feels like a prison sentence to you. A wild-haired, wild-hearted surfer boy you've fallen in love with, from exotic Florida no less, will come up with a better plan for getting some life and work experience. He will give you the courage you were looking for to try a different path. You'll fear telling your boss that you're leaving when he's just promoted you. But you'll abandon the corner office and all the security that comes with it to make the world your classroom. You'll go freelance, and you'll earn less but learn more.And when you leave, your boss and your parents will give you all their support. After all, they're older and wiser. Your going-away gift will be the Dr. Seuss book that says it all: "Oh the Places You'll Go." And you will.Bon voyage!TerryMORE: Read more Letters to Our Younger Selves
In sharing this story, and others, we hope you are inspired to Raise Your Hand for girls' education, helping us spread the word on this crucial effort.Based in Florida, freelance travel writer Terry Ward spends roughly half the year on the road. Her favorite travel destinations are Norway, France, Bali and Morocco. She recently made her first ocean crossing on and her dream is to someday sail around the world. Visit her website, AOL Travel on Facebook and Twitter
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Love Your Pet Day: 4 Hotels Across the U.S. to Pamper Your Pooch

Filed under: Family, Hotel, Luxury

AlamyTake Love Your Pet Day to the next level at one of these four hotels.

Love Your Pet Day is today. Feb. 20. Of course, if you really do love your pet, you probably knew that.According to a May 2013 U.S. News & World Report article, Americans spend more than $60 billion annually on their four-legged family members. It comes as no surprise, then, that traveling with pets is rising — and hotels are responding by offering pet amenities to make their four-legged guests feel welcome, too. Be it Love Your Pet Day or any other day, these four American hotels take dotting on your doggie to the next level.1. Canine Massage at the Loews Don Cesar Hotel, St. Pete Beach, FloridaDogs can get their spa on with this 60-minute, $130 massage at the Loews Don Cesar Hotel. It's offered in guest rooms, so both you and your pet can spend an afternoon in pampered bliss. In addition to the massage, canine and feline four-legged family members can choose from a gourmet room service menu; relish in creature comforts such as special bedding, leashes, collars, litter boxes, toys and treats; and enjoy pet-walking and pet-sitting services. The hotel has a $45 per night fee for pets.Loews Don Cesar Hotel2. Pamper Pup massage at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch; Beaver Creek, ColoradoThe Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch also offers in-room doggie massage presented by The Bachelor Gulf Spa. In addition, the Bachelor's Pack amenity is presented to every four-legged visitor: a dog-friendly handbook and area guide; a pewter, wine-barrel collar charm; a logo'ed bandana; dog treats and a toy; and Miner Munch, a peanut butter doggie treat recipe. The resort assesses a pet cleaning fee of $125 for the first three nights, and $25 for each additional night ($25 of which is donated to the ASPCA).Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch3. Dog Days at the Inn at Inn by the Sea, Portland, MaineFor more than 20 years, Maine's Inn by the Sea has welcomed pets of any size (multiple pets welcome, too), without extra fees. Your fur child can join you for outdoor dining — and choose from the gourmet dog menu (like the Meat "Roaff"). Additional dog amenities include turndown with organic treats, and during the summer, happy hour with complimentary ice cream. Dress code: casual leashes.

Inn by the Sea4. Kimpton Hotels, All LocationsAcross the board, Kimpton Hotels welcomes any pet, regardless of size, weight, or breed, and doesn't charge a fee for your furry family to stay with you. What's more, loaner beds, water bowls and food and snacks are available, as well as a concierge list of local pet-friendly attractions and businesses. Select hotels even have a director of pet relations to greet you with a warm wag, like Charlie at the Hotel Monaco Alexandria (Virginia). And if you had to leave your pet at home, Kimpton Hotels will deliver a pet goldfish to your room to keep you company.If traveling to Denver, book the Pampered Paws Pet Package at Kimpton's Monaco Denver and you and your furry friend can stay in deluxe accommodations, while your pup enjoys a pawdicure, pampering bath and FURminator treatment at Dog Savvy Doggie Boutique and Spa, with treats delivered to your room. Rates from $179/night; booking code PPET.Hotel Monaco Alexandria
See also
A Day in the Life of a Pet in Airline Cargo
Pet Travel: How to Fly Smart With Your Animal
Susan B. Barnes is a travel writer based in Tampa, Florida. She enjoys all aspects of travel, from adventure to luxury to traveling with her Miniature Schnauzer, and everything in between. For more, visit her online at, follow her on Twitter at @travlin_girl or check out her Facebook page.Permalink | Email this | Linking Blogs | Comments


Letters to Our Younger Selves: Dear Pam

Filed under: Family, Arts & Culture

Pam Mandel Dear Pam,Here's the thing: You're going to drive a borrowed car into a ditch in a cornfield outside Altamira, Spain.You are not going to get hurt, though you are going to feel like an idiot when you realize what you have done. You will have to go get help, which means you'll walk into a tiny country bar where there are two big farmers in blue overalls having an afternoon break. You are going to explain to them, in your halting Spanish, that you can't get your car out of a ditch in a nearby cornfield and ask them if they could come give you a hand. You just need a little . . . push.And they're going to laugh, but it will be a very good-natured laugh, and they'll help you and send you on your way. You'll watch them in your rearview mirror as they wave and shake their heads and smile.Why was your car in a ditch in a Spanish cornfield? Because you were looking for cave paintings and got lost. But never mind getting lost. You're going to do that a lot. And nothing bad is going to happen to you because you're surprisingly well prepared.Hold on to that passion for art, and it will lead you to amazing places. Stay with the art history. Most of all, cultivate your gift for languages. All that curiosity and bookish creativity will turn into the most amazing adventures. You'll get plucked out of the language program in high school and sent on foreign exchange. Later, before you get stuck in the ditch, you'll see real cave paintings in France. And you know who will translate for that big Texan who doesn't understand the guide? You will.It will take you many more years to get that sense of direction working properly, but you know what you'll have in your toolkit when you're lost? Languages not your own.They will open the world for you in ways you can't even imagine now. You'll be able to argue politics — the most complex and nuanced of topics — in German and Hebrew. You'll fake your way across Portugal with a mash of Spanish and French. You'll travel alone with amazing confidence for someone so young, and you will have a great time.There's also something else. You're going to know what it's like not to understand.This knowledge is going to make you shockingly patient in situations where you have no common language.When it takes you 20 minutes to figure out that the Warsaw deli is selling yogurt, not milk in those little glass bottles, everyone in the tiny shop — including you — will laugh and laugh when you finally complete the transaction, handing over a fistful of confusing zlotys.You're going to laugh like crazy when a friend makes the sound of a chicken so you can have eggs for breakfast in Hanoi. Your language education isn't just going to teach you how to speak foreign languages; it's also going to teach you how to communicate when you don't have language on your side. And this skill will open the world to you as you travel through places like Karachi and Ushuaia and Bordeaux and Cairo and so many places you can't even imagine.Language — it's your gift. You'll make peace with math, and you'll never quite stop falling into holes (you might stop reading and walking at the same time; you're going to break something one day), but words will take you everywhere. Don't apologize for your love of books, and don't ever give up on language. Flirt with Chinese and Swedish and learn that hilariously regional German and go into the world. It's going to be amazing.You go, girl.Pam

MORE: Read more Letters to Our Younger Selves
In sharing this story, and others, we hope you are inspired to Raise Your Hand for girls' education, helping us spread the word on this crucial effort.Pam Mandel has written for Conde Nast Traveler Online, Gadling, Afar, World Hum, WGBH (Boston's Public Radio Station), Lonely Planet, MSNBC, Thomas Cook, and other outlets. But she's a blogger first and has been writing about her travels at Nerd's Eye View since 1996. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

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