#Travelphotography Tips for Wintry Photos

It’s easy for your travel photos to look stunning on summer trips when the world is colorful and alive and everyone is feeling laid back and breezy. The winter is a different story. If you’re feeling a bit lost when it comes to making your travel photos from your winter trips really shine, read on for some handy tips.

Embrace the Moodiness

Winter is a visually moody time of year. With no leaves on the trees, forests look like a wall of grey. The grass is dead and brown. Less sunlight means more shadows. Since you can’t make a dark landscape like that be what it isn’t, embrace what you’re given and lean into it when you edit the photos. One tip is to cool the photo by adjusting the warmth down or playing with the color curves to make the blue and green tones more predominant. Another helpful step is to desaturate colors a bit. Finally, giving it a bit of a vintage film look with grain or vignette adds to the mood.

Be Prepared

It’s not always about aesthetics with winter photography. After all, if you can’t get the shot, you can’t begin to worry about what the shot looks like. So, when shooting winter photos, you must be prepared for winter weather. Did you know winter weather can affect your camera? For example, battery life gets shorter when temperatures are under freezing. Therefore, you’ll need to come prepared with extra batteries. You’ll also need to make sure you are able to withstand the cold. Aside from the obvious, like a warm coat, make sure you have gloves that keep your fingers warm enough and still allow you to use your camera, and that you protect extremities like your toes, ears, and nose, which quickly become painfully cold in low temperatures.

Wear a Bright Color

Winter landscapes have a definite quality of sameness to them. Think endless white snow reaching as far as the eye can see. To add visual interest, you want to shoot a subject that really pops against the greys or whites of your winter background. For example, if you’re shooting a person against a landscape, having them wear a bright color makes them stand out. Red and yellow are great colors for coats and parkas that add some life, and even whimsy, to your winter pictures.

Mind Wear You Walk

We’ve all heard of people tragically dying while trying to get a perfect travel photo by falling off a cliff. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings in any season, especially when you’re distracted by trying to frame a photo. But in the winter, this becomes even more complicated. Surfaces are often more slippery and when everything is blanketed with snow, it’s easier to step on a rock or in a hole and hurt yourself. You’ll also want to be careful of where you step for aesthetic reasons -no one wants to try to get a perfect picture of a fresh snowfall, and then realize they’ve made a bunch of tracks in the snow!

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Romantic Valentine’s Day #Hiking Ideas

Valentine’s Day is coming, but we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic. Many restaurants are shut down across the country and traditional ways of celebrating the holiday are a bit tricky. But if this year has taught us anything, it’s that we just have to get a little creative to still have fun and keep up traditions!

If a romantic candlelit dinner at a nice restaurant is your typical go-to to treat your special someone, you might be wondering what to do instead this year. A fresh idea that’s super social distancing friendly is going hiking as a couple! Read on to see why hiking can be romantic.

Summit a Peak

Challenging yourselves together as a couple and working together to get over a shared obstacle is a wonderful bonding experience that will bring you closer. And it doesn’t have to be anything crazy to work! Sure, if you’re both experienced mountain climbers, you’ll want a true mountaineering challenge. But even if you’ve never been on a hiking trail, you can find a way to bring some challenge -and fun- to the experience. Plenty of hikes are steep without needing to take all day to complete and without requiring any technical skills. Look around to see what trails like that you might have near you! The best feeling is when you reach the top, endorphins pumping, enjoy a beautiful view together, take a collective breath, and look at each other to say “We did it!”

Photo Shoot

Do you have enough photos together as a couple? If not, planning a day where you enjoy a photoshoot together is tons of fun, and you’ll have lovely pictures to look back on forever. A hiking trail is a great place to do your shoot, because you can get a variety of action shots, dreamy shots looking off into the distance, and that perfect one of the two of you in front of an awesome view that you can frame in your living room. You can keep it as simple as taking pictures of each other with a few self-timer selfies thrown in, or you can look into hiring a photographer to make the day extra special!

Picnic

There’s nothing more romantic than a picnic, and packing up a picnic in your backpack on a hike is a wonderful surprise for your special someone! You can even scout out the trail ahead of time to find the spot with the best view. Make it extra special by bringing candles and flowers or packing a romantic spread that includes things like chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. Of course, this idea is more pleasant if you live in a warmer clime. But even if you’re hiking somewhere with snow and chilly temperatures, you can still have an awesome picnic. Just bring a waterproof tarp for under your picnic blanket, some cozy blankets to snuggle in together, and a thermos with a hot beverage!

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#FamilyTravel Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe During the Pandemic

It’s 2021, people are beginning to get vaccinated, and many people are starting to tentatively begin to travel again. However, we are still very much in a pandemic. While there are many ways to have an awesome family travel experience, everything requires a little extra research and planning right now. To help with this, we’ve compiled some tips to help you keep your kids safe and healthy during family trips.

Outdoor Safety

We all know being outdoors is best, and so you’re going to want to gear your vacation activities around outdoor activities like nature walks and beach time. However, you need to make sure your kids understand that even outside, it’s very important to take precautions. Try to avoid letting them go on playground equipment, use public water fountains, or touch tactile exhibits at places like zoos and nature centers. While it remains unclear how long the virus can live on surfaces, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Instead, pack your own fun activities, like a frisbee or football, and plenty of water for everyone.

You’ll also want to instill in your kids the importance of staying six feet apart from others while outdoors. You can guide them while you’re walking together, but it’s also helpful for them to have a good idea of what six feet is. A fun trick is to visualize objects that are six feet long, which include the average dog leash, the height of a refrigerator, and the length of a cow. See what other fun ones you and your kids can come up with!

Mask Wearing

The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask, and you need to enforce this with your kids. That can be easier said than done with young children who don’t like wearing a mask, so the key is to try to make it fun. Ideas include grabbing a pack of markers and letting them decorate their mask, or making a special mask for their favorite doll or stuffed animal to wear.

For kids 2 and under who should not wear masks, you’ll want to make doubly sure you always keep them six feet away from people who live outside your household.

Sanitize

Frequent handwashing is key to everyone’s health and safety, so you’ll want to have your kids wash their hands every time you all return to your hotel. Supervise younger kids to help them make sure they’re washing their hands thoroughly and for the required time. You probably know by now that singing Happy Birthday twice is the right amount of time for handwashing, but other songs you can sing with your kids to mix things up are the chorus of Baby Shark, the chorus of Let it Go, or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star twice.

When you’re out and about all day enjoying your travels it’s harder to wash hands, so bring plenty of hand sanitizer for everyone. Older kids can have their own container of it, maybe on a cute lanyard attached to their backpack. Make sure to supervise younger kids when they’re applying sanitizer.

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Here’s Your Update on How Top #Airlines are Currently Handling Health and Safety

Last month we gave you an update that checked in on top airlines’ travel policies in response to the virus. This month, we’re adding a few more airlines to that list. Read on for more information.

United Airlines

·        Safety: Their United CleanPlus commitment policy has been implemented to put your health and safety first. They’re doing that by partnering with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to ensure strict cleaning protocols are in place. These include disinfecting all high-touch areas, providing you with antibacterial wipes upon boarding, and using electrostatic spray to clean the cabin between flights.

·        Flexibility: Change fees have been permanently eliminated for most Economy and Premium flights within the US and/or originating in the US.

·        Requirements: Face coverings are required on flights for all passengers over the age of 2 (of course, the crew will be wearing them, too). You’ll also need to acknowledge that you don’t have any COVID symptoms when you check in.

·        Other Things to Know: Snacks onboard are being served in an “all in one bag,” which includes a water bottle instead of a drink poured in a cup.        

Alaska Airlines

·        Safety: Strict cleaning protocols are in place, including 2 HEPA filters on every aircraft, cleaning aircraft with electrostatic disinfecting spray between flights, and handing everyone antibacterial wipes upon boarding. Alaska no longer blocks middle seats, as of January 7th, 2021.

·        Flexibility: Their Peace of Mind waiver gets rid of change and cancellation fees for flights booked through March 31. Beginning April 1, all change fees will be eliminated permanently.

·        Requirements: Face coverings are required on flights for all passengers over the age of 2 (of course, the crew will be wearing them, too). You’ll also need to complete a health agreement acknowledging that you don’t have any COVID symptoms when you check in.

·        Other Things to Know: You can make your experience as contact-free as possible by downloading the Alaska app.

JetBlue Airways

·        Safety: JetBlue is taking a multilayered approach to health and safety, with their Safety from the Ground Up policy. This includes temperature checks and paid sick leave for crew members, frequent cleaning of commonly touched surfaces, and electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft between flights.

·        Flexibility: Their Peace of Mind waiver gets rid of change and cancellation fees for flights booked through March 31. Beginning April 1, all change fees will be eliminated permanently.

·        Requirements: Face coverings are required on flights for all passengers over the age of 2 (of course, the crew will be wearing them, too). You’ll also need to complete a health declaration form acknowledging that you don’t have any COVID symptoms during the check in process.

·        Other Things to Know: JetBlue has the most space between rows of any other airline in the United States. You’re encouraged to download the JetBlue App to make your check-in process as contactless as possible.

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Mardis Gras #Adventure Ideas that Aren’t in New Orleans

We all are expecting Mardis Gras to look a little different this year given the fact that we are still in a pandemic. If you’re looking to have an adventure and celebrate the season, but avoid the larger crowds in New Orleans, the good news is that several cities across the South have very nice celebrations. Read on to see!

Atlanta

Georgia’s capital is a wonderful Southern city to adventure to for Mardis Gras if you’re in the surrounding region. This year, they’re having a big block party to celebrate, and don’t worry, COVID-19 safety rules will be in place (make sure to bring your mask!). The Midtown Block Party will be held on February 26th and 27th, with tickets $30 per person. Your ticket includes a complimentary shot, beads, food, and access to live music, face painting, and a photo booth! Over 15 bars and restaurants will be participating and offering New Orleans themed foods and drinks. So, dress up, gather some beads and friends, and get ready for a Big Easy style adventure right in Atlanta.

Raleigh

You may not think of Raleigh, North Carolina when you think about Mardis Gras, but they have two fun events planned for this year. There’s a bar crawl on February 20th that’s known for extravagance: attendees are encouraged to wear “outrageous colorful costumes, masks, and a whole lot of beads” to escape their everyday life and be whoever they want for the night! Another fun option is the Mardis Gras party at Raleigh’s own Big Easy, The Big Easy NC. This New Orleans themed bar is serving up Cajun and Creole food, mixing up some hurricanes to wash it down, and providing live music from Mike Mixer. It’s all happening on February 16th, so make sure to mark your calendar!

Orlando

If you want a family-friendly way to celebrate Mardis Gras with your kids, the party happening at Universal Studios Orlando is the one for you! This shindig happens every year when Universal Studios transforms into a New Orleans style party, and this year is no exception, though of course, it will look a bit different. There can be no parades or concerts this year in order to promote social distancing and you will need to wear a mask at all times (except when eating or drinking). However, you’re still in for a load of fun. There will be a Mardis Gras themed scavenger hunt you can do with the kids and a Mardis Gras Tribute Store where you can do a little shopping. While there are no official concerts, music and street entertainment will be sprinkled throughout the park for you to enjoy while you stroll. And similarly, while there is no formal parade, the spectacular Mardis Gras floats will be on display! The big event of the season, running from February 6th to March 28th, is the International Flavors of Carnaval celebration, where you can sample traditional Carnaval foods from various countries.

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How to Prepare for an Upcoming Trip Through #Heathrow Airport

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel policies are changing constantly and many people haven’t taken flown in a very long time. If you have any upcoming trips coming to, from, or through Heathrow Airport, you may be wondering what looks different since the last time you’ve flown. We’re delving into what travel through the airport looks like these days.

COVID Testing

While testing rules for entering countries varies depending on where you’re going, Heathrow has you covered for in-airport COVID testing. There’s a whole range of private test options that you pre-book ahead of time. These include different testing methods and tests with results that come back quickly (45 minutes) or tests that take longer (next day and 48 hours). All of them come at different price points.

You should also know that testing will allow you to reduce your quarantine period when entering the UK. Beginning November 24th of last year, it was announced that the self-isolation period for international arrivals to the UK would be reduced to 5 days, as long as you get a negative COVID test after that time period.

Convenience

You can now pre-order food and drinks at Heathrow airport from a variety of participating restaurants. This is welcome news for anyone hungry and stressed about making a flight while waiting in a security line or trying to make a quick connection, but it’s also wonderful in this new era of social distancing. Pre-ordering allows you to skip standing in a line with other people or engaging in an extended transaction with a cashier. All you have to do is download the Heathrow app, select the food you want, pay for it over your phone, and then go pick it up.

Safety Measures

There are many safety measures currently in place at Heathrow airport to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 between travelers. First of all, face coverings and social distancing are required throughout the airport. But the airport is going beyond the standard, with lots of ways to help you avoid contact during transactions. This includes contactless payments at shops and restaurants, automated water bottle filling stations, and plexiglass screens at check-in counters.

You’ll also be glad to know that Heathrow has very extensive cleaning procedures in place. Most surfaces you might touch within the airport have been covered with an antibacterial coating and elevator buttons have even been covered with self-cleaning covers! Trolley handles are being sanitized constantly by Hygiene Technicians, and they’re providing antibacterial wipes so you can give the handles an extra wipe down if you would like. Finally, UV light cleaning technology (which eliminates the bacteria of DNA and makes them harmless) is in place in restrooms and on escalator handrails.

Flexibility

Many airlines have enacted new flexible policies to help travelers feel comfortable booking flights in this new uncertain era. Heathrow has met the bar with its own flexible policies for onsite parking. You can feel fine about booking official Heathrow parking for your trip because even if your plans change, you can cancel your parking reservation up to 2 hours ahead with no cancellation fee.

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Tips for Planning Your Next #adventure with Your Extra Time During Quarantine

Got extra time on your hands given how most activities are shut down at the moment? Craving a getaway as soon as borders open up? Why not use this time to prepare for your next trip (or two!)? If you want to get planning but don’t know where to begin, read on, because we’re walking you through some handy steps to help you get ready to pack your suitcase and go on an adventure!

Transportation

You’ll need to decide how you’re getting around on your vacation. Some destinations are just made for a road trip, and of course, renting your own car will give you freedom to go wherever you want on your own schedule. You’ll need to check to make sure your driver’s license is valid in the location you’re going to, make sure you’re comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road if applicable, and study up on local road signs and traffic rules.

Don’t be afraid to take public transportation, either! Trains and buses are often a cheap and easy way to get from A to B. Just make sure you research whether or not you’ll need to buy fares in advance.

Lodging

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing where to stay on your next trip, and some of them depend on your transportation of choice. For example, if you’re renting a car, don’t forget to make sure that your lodging comes with parking! If you won’t have a car, you’ll either want to stay inside a city center close to public transportation, or be sure the country you’re visiting has apps like Uber.

If you’re looking to save a little money on your vacation, consider staying a bit away from the popular touristy spots. An added advantage is that you’ll also get a more authentic feel for the area and see how the locals live! Also, try to get a place with a kitchen or kitchenette. Preparing a few of your own meals will save you a lot of money.

Other Nuts and Bolts

There are a few very important things you need to check on for every trip. They may be less fun to research than local must-see sights and must-try flavors, but they’re nonetheless essential preparation:

·        Visa Requirements: Depending on where you’re going or how long, you may need to apply for a visa for entry. Check here for resources for American citizens.

·        Passport Requirements: Similarly, many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months past the end of your trip. So, make sure you have plenty of time left on your passport!

·        Travel Insurance: Insurance has always been important for travelers, but the pandemic has really taught us just how essential it can be. Check here for more information on how to choose a smart plan for you.·        Vaccinations: Some destinations are going to require that you get certain shots so that you don’t get sick on your trip, and depending on what vaccination you require, you might need to start getting the shots at least six months in advance. Check out this page for more details!

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Here’s Your Update on How Top #Airlines are Currently Handling Health and Safety

It seems like things in the travel space are changing at a rapid-fire pace these days. Now that we’re 9 months into the Pandemic, the vaccine is beginning to be distributed, and we’re on the cusp of a New Year, it’s a good time to check in on airlines’ travel policies regarding the virus. Here are how the three biggest airlines in the US are handling the situation right now and going forward into the New Year.

American Airlines

·        Safety: American Airlines has a Clean Commitment policy which includes spraying planes weekly with electrostatic disinfectant, being the first airline to coat surfaces with SurfaceWise2 (which helps kill 99.9% of viruses on surfaces), providing Purell Hand Sanitizer in their lounges, and allowing for touchless check-in.

·        Flexibility: Change fees have been eliminated for most flights, excluding Basic Economy fares and long-distance international flights.

·        Requirements: Face coverings are required on flights for all passengers over the age of 2 (of course, the crew will be wearing them, too).

·        Other Things to Know: The airline has temporarily stopped checking large pets, but small pets, service animals, ESAs can still fly in the cabin.

Delta Air Lines

·        Safety: Delta has enacted the Delta CareStandard, meant to keep every step of the travel experience safe. This involves circulating all cabin air through a HEPA filter every 2-6 minutes, partnering with Lysol to disinfect surfaces, and getting the Mayo Clinic to review their service standards. Delta is one of the few airlines still blocking middle seats and limiting passengers aboard their flights (through March 30, 2021).

·        Flexibility: Peace-of-Mind-Purchasing which eliminates change and cancellation fees on tickets purchased between March 1, 2020 and March 30, 2021 and other benefits.

·        Requirements: Both customers and staff are required to wear face coverings on flights.

·        Other Things to Know: To reduce contact, flight attendants will no longer be proactively assisting customers with lifting carry-on baggage into overhead bins.

Southwest Airlines

·        Safety: The Southwest Promise for safety is threefold: enhanced cleaning (electrostatic disinfectant sprays, anti-microbial surface coatings, and overnight deep-cleans), air filtration onboard (with HEPA air filters), and physical distancing measures (like modified boarding procedures and plexiglass and counters).

·        Flexibility: Southwest already did not charge change and cancellation fees for their regular flights, but starting on September 8, 2020, they also started allowing travel credit from their nonrefundable Wanna Get Away® tickets to be used for up to one year from the original purchase date.

·        Requirements: Everyone over the age of 2 must wear a mask on flights, and there are no medical exemptions. You’re asked to download a mobile boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport to limit making pre-flight contact with others.·        Other Things to Know: Southwest is continually evaluating and adjusting its policies with advice from the following: Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The International Air Transport Association (IATA), Boeing, U.S. Department of Defense’s U.S. Transportation Command, and medical professionals and infectious disease experts who have been retained for advice during the pandemic.

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3 Travel #bucketlist Activities You Can Do in the United States During the Travel Ban

It’s hard during this time of restricted travel not too long for far-flung adventures. But there’s no reason this should all be wasted time! There are many travel bucket list experiences you can have locally while you’re waiting for international travel to open back up. We’ve highlighted three of them below to get you started, but if there are other activities you’ve been dying to try, we encourage you to do a little research and see if you can make it happen somewhere near you!

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Hot balloons are a very unique way to experience a place from above, and you don’t have to go to France or Cappadocia to enjoy this travel bucket list item:

·        Napa Valley: Located only an hour north of the big cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California, Napa Valley is one of the best places in America for hot air balloon rides. And of course, you can make a long weekend of it by touring the many wineries in the area.

·        Willamette Valley: If you’re located near Portland, Oregon, you’re going to want to head 40 minutes south to Vista Balloons for an adventurous tour.

·        The Rockies: For a true thrill, journey an hour and a half from Denver, Colorado to Grand Adventure Balloon Tours. You might even get to see a bear (from the safe distance of your balloon).

Wildlife Encounter

There are many life-changing ways to have a wildlife encounter. Epic ideas that come to mind are a safari in Kenya, a journey around the Galapagos Islands, or a trip to Komodo Island in Indonesia. But for now, you should try:

·        Whale Watching: There are lots of places to get up close and personal with whales in the United States. Get started around Boston, Massachusetts with tours to see humpbacks leaving from Plymouth, or around Seattle, Washington with orca tours in the Puget Sound.

·        Dolphin Encounters: While swimming with dolphins isn’t always great for the dolphins, you can still get up-close and personal to these magical animals in underwater viewing pods on tours like this one in California.

Just make sure you do your research and find eco-friendly tours that are conducted in a way that promotes learning and conservation and minimizes disturbance to the animals.

Give Van Life a Try

You’ve probably seen the Instagram photos of folks who have converted an old van into their own personal paradise and park it in front of natural wonders for the best bedside view ever. If you want to try this adventure out for a bit, here are some ways to do that:

·        Trekker Vans is locally-owned and operates out of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

·        Escape Camper Vans rents vans brightly painted with artwork from many locations including New York City, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver, and Salt Lake City!

·        Peace Vans Rentals specializes in the Pacific Northwest, renting out of Seattle.·        Native Campervans offset the carbon footprint of their vans! You can rent them from Denver, Salt Lake City, or Las Vegas.

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Most Festive Christmas Towns in the United States to Visit for #familytravel

Travel is lovely any time of the year, but there is something extra special about finding yourself in a cute town that’s all dolled up for the holidays. If you’re thinking about taking your family somewhere special for the holidays, we’re here to help! Read on for four towns and cities in the United States that really get in the spirit of the season!

Alexandria, Virginia

Located only 20 minutes from Washington, DC, Alexandria transforms into a quaint town from a Hallmark movie during the holidays.  The Old Town will quickly make you forget you just came from the big city. You and your family can admire all the shop fronts covered in lights and decorations while you do a little holiday shopping along the King Street Mile. If your family includes kids, check out this guide for ideas of more fun things to do on your trip.

Boston, Massachusetts

Due to Boston’s roots, its Christmas decorations tend to be very traditional: think old houses on cobbled streets with red-ribboned wreaths and candles in the windows. You and your family can walk around neighborhoods like Beacon Hill while sipping hot chocolate and taking it all in! Public places like Faneuil Hall and the Boston Common also decorate with lots of lights and are stunning to explore at night.

To get away from the city, take an hour’s drive to Sturbridge, Massachusetts where Old Sturbridge Village is holding a Christmas festival. Your family can step back into the 19th century at this living history museum and enjoy activities like sitting by bonfires, taking horse-drawn sleigh rides, or watching demonstrations of traditional wreath-making and stocking knitting.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Germany is known for its beautiful Christmas celebrations and markets, but of course, Americans can’t go to Europe to celebrate this year. Did you know, though, that just an hour and a half north of Detroit is Michigan’s Little Bavaria? Frankenmuth is a great place to celebrate Christmas all year long because it’s home to the world’s largest Christmas store –Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. During the holiday season, you can also visit a German-style Christkindlmarkt, meet Santa at his Reindeer Farm, taste some Glühwein, or enjoy the entries in the House Decorating Contest around town.

New York, New York

Old-school charm and small towns aren’t for everyone, so if you’re looking for a little more excitement for your family Christmas vacation, New York City is your answer. While a lot is looking very different in the city right now due to the Pandemic, New York City is still one of the most decorated places in the US! And the good news is that the Winter Village at Bryant Park is still happening this year. Whether you’re checking out the opulent window displays along 5th Avenue and the massive tree and Rockefeller Center or heading across the bridge to stroll the beautifully decorated neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens and Dyker Heights, you’ll be having a very festive time.

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