Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Airline Baggage Disclosure Rules

Travel Weekly reports that U.S. regulators ruled that two new federal airline regulations related to the disclosure of baggage allowances and fees will take effect on July 24 without further delay. The rules require carriers to disclose (in e-ticket confirmations and online receipts) any fees and allowances for carry-on bags and first and second checked bags and to apply those allowances and fees to all parts of any multi-segment tickets to, from, or within the U.S.A. (including codeshares and multi-carrier itineraries).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Four Corners National Monument / Monument Valley

Call us a glutton for punishment, but our next day of vacation included between eight and nine hours in the car. We got it accomplished in 2-3 hour increments, so it wasn’t that bad. Things in the West are definitely spread out.

From our base in Moab, Utah, Four Corners National Monument was about a three-hour drive. We made a stop about halfway to visit a dinosaur museum in Blanding. It had a few actual fossils and quite a few replicas. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was very inexpensive to get in, so it was worth it.

The Four Corners monument is a “national” monument, but the nation referred to is the Navajo Nation and not the US National Park Service. The monument marks the only place in the United States where the boundaries of four states meet.

This makes for some interesting photos, especially for kids who can have appendages in four states at one time (a leg in Arizona, a leg in New Mexico, a hand in Colorado, a hand in Utah for example). We also took a family photo with each of us standing in a different state.

I was very pleased to see that visitors to the attraction made a nice orderly line so that everyone could get their picture taken at the intersection of the states.

Admission was $3 per person. There are a host of Native American vendors at the site selling native crafts. There are also a couple of booths to purchase Fry Bread Tacos.

Four Corners is in the middle of nowhere, but it was appealing to our kids.

From Four Corners, we drove west on Highway 160 to Kayenta, Ariz. There we turned north on Highway 163 and headed through Monument Valley. We didn’t make any stops for hikes, but simply drove through to marvel at the scenery.

It took us 2-3 hours to get to Natural Bridges National Monument, which you’ll read about in our next post.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Canyonlands National Park

There simply aren’t enough words to describe the beauty of Canyonlands National Park. Divided into three sections with separate entrances, it’s a marvel of canyons, buttes, arches, spires, etc., etc., etc.

The closest park entrance to Moab is about 30 miles away and provides access to the Islands in the Sky section, which is the most accessible part of the park. The Needles section and the Maze are more primitive and require mostly 4-wheel drive vehicles.

We stopped at the Visitor Center first to get a better feel for the park and what we should see.

A few miles from the Visitor Center, our first stop was Mesa Arch. Even though we saw a number of arches the day before, this one was special. Mesa Arch is located at the edge of a cliff, and the view of the canyons behind it is spectacular. The trail to Mesa Arch is only ¼ mile.

We followed the main road to its end at Grand View Point, where on a clear day, you can see more than 130 miles. There’s an overlook or an option to do a 1-mile trail along the rim.

Close to Grand View Point is a picnic area with covered picnic tables. We made that our next stop to refuel.

We then made the drive to Whale Rock. The trail is 1/3 of a mile and is fairly steep at places as you climb to the top of an enormous rock. Generally, it’s a fairly easy hike, and kids are encouraged to climb all over the rock. We made it to the top in about 20 minutes, and it was well worth it.

At the top of the rock, you are afforded an unbelievable 360-degree view of the amazing landscape.

We spent a little more than 4 hours in Canyonlands National Park. Like Arches, the entrance fee is $10 and is valid for seven days.

To view more pictures of Canyonlands National Park, visit our Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Arches National Park

Some of the greatest scenery and untamed wilderness in the United States is found in southern Utah.

Arches National Park is located just 6 miles north of Moab. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so if you want to see sunrises, sunsets, or anything in between you can do so.

Visiting in summer isn’t necessarily the best time of year as temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees (but it’s a DRY heat!), but let’s face it, most of us have more opportunity to use our vacation in the summer.

We rose early our first day in Moab and were in the park by 7:45 a.m. when the temperature was still in the low 80s. Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in the park, gracing the state’s license plates and pretty much every pictorial you will ever see about the park.

We bypassed the Visitor Center and drove about 12 miles to the trailhead. The hike to Delicate Arch is 1.5 miles each way with a 480-foot elevation change. The first 30-40 minutes are fairly easy, but then you hit a stretch of slickrock that’s out in the open sun, and that’s the most grueling stretch. Make sure you have lots of water, a hat and sunscreen. It’s part of the adventure, and a story to pass on for years. (I did it with my 20-month old daughter on my back in a backpack.)

The arch of course is spectacular. You can photograph it from a distance, and you can walk right to its base.

By the time we got back to our car, 2 ½ hours had passed and the temperature was in the low 90s.

We took it easy for a while, touring the park by car. We drove past the Fiery Furnace (where guided hikes are required and must be reserved well in advance), and past several other arches visible from the road.

We headed up to Devil’s Garden where there’s a picnic area and a place to refill water bottles with desert spring water. We refilled our bottles, drank, refilled again, ate lunch and refilled again.

With our energy restored, we drove over to the Windows area where four arches are easily accessible. The North and South Windows and the Turret Arch can all be accessed via one trail.

A separate trail from the same parking lot leads to Double Arch. Those hikes are about 15-20 minutes one way.

We ended our 4-5 hours in the park with a stop at the Visitor Center on the way out.

Entrance to the park is $10, but it’s valid for multiple entries over seven days. We took advantage of that fact by returning two more times. The first time we picked up a Junior Ranger workbook for the boys to complete. The second time we returned so they could pick up their badges. We also drove to Balanced Rock for a short hike. We could have done much more in the park. Landscape Arch is also very well known, but alas, we didn't make it there.

See more photos of Arches National Park on our Facebook Page.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Antelope Island State Park

Our 2012 summer vacation started with a direct flight from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City. Although our final destination was Moab, we didn’t want to follow a three-hour flight with a four-hour drive, so we decided to spend one day in Salt Lake City.

Famous for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, that sort of thing wasn’t high on our list, especially with three young children, so we opted to spend some time outdoors.

Antelope Island State Park is about 30 minutes north of the airport and is accessible via a seven-mile long causeway built up with the Great Salt Lake on both sides. Because of its salinity, the Great Salt Lake is home only to small organisms, including tiny shrimp. This attracts a variety of water fowl, including gulls, pelicans and pipers. The birds dot the shoreline as you make the drive along the causeway to the island.

The entrance fee is $9 per vehicle. Make a stop at the visitor center for a complete listing of trails and a history of the area. Bison were introduced to the island and now number close to 600. We hiked up to Bison Overlook, which offers great views of the lake and of the island, but the closest we came to any bison was seeing large clumps of dung.
We did spot a few mule deer, and overall our 2-3 hours at the park was well worth it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

New Bicycle Tours In Israel

Travelers and sport enthusiasts traveling to Israel can now experience the Christian holy sites in the Galilee and Jerusalem by riding one of the new "Biking the Path of Jesus" tours.
The 12-mile biking routes are available in two-day or week-long tours and depart from destinations in northern Israel, including Nazareth, the town of Jesus' birth, and travel through Mt. Carmel, Mt. Gilboa and Mt. Tabor to the rolling hills and olive groves surrounding Kibbutz Lavi. The two-day tour will leave from Kibbutz Lavi and travel through the Horns of Hattin fort to the Druze pilgrimage sight of Nebi Swe'be, and onto the Arbel Valley, Sea of Galilee and Capernaum. And for advanced cyclists, the week-long tour travels from Mt. Hermon in the north to Mt. Carmel near Haifa and through Caesarea, Jerusalem and Masada.

"The new bike tours around the Galilee are a new and innovative way to experience Christian holy sites in Israel," said Haim Gutin, Israel Commissioner for Tourism, North and South America, "and will provide some additional excitement for travelers arriving in the Holy Land this year."

The tours are available for beginner to mid-level riders and suitable for children, ages 13 and above.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Israel kicks off summer ad campaign

The Israel Ministry of Tourism is mounting an advertising campaign directed at North American Christians this summer, as part of its ongoing effort to increase the number of visitors to the land that is uniquely both "The Holy Land" as well as "The Jewish State."

The $1.5 million campaign will include print, radio and Internet messages in a variety of media reaching specific niche markets that include Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics. Separate advertising messages will be directed to Hispanic audiences. 

Evangelical ads

Tourism to Israel is breaking all records, with 2009, 2010 and 2011 the best years ever for travel to Israel, and with 2012 projected to show an additional 5% increase.

It is estimated that some 40% of American tourists to Israel are Christian travelers touring the Holy Land. The advertising messages will underscore the Ministry of Tourism's campaign theme "Visit Israel. You'll never be the same."

Tell us if you've seen some of the ads.