9 Incredible Pieces Of History You Can Only See In Philadelphia


photo©Chris Brown

Take a moment to think about the history of America. Think about the wars, the Declaration of Independence, and the houses people built to settle and make their home. What city comes to mind first? While most people think of Washington, D.C., when discussing history, Philadelphia is a city that holds some of the most powerful artifacts and pieces of history. So much happened in and around this special place. From wars fought on its land to buildings of significance, Philadelphia played a huge role in the colonization and freedom of America.

1. Eastern State Penitentiary

When I think of a prison, thoughts of pretty architecture are the furthest from my mind. Benjamin Franklin, eager to help instead of punish prisoners, had this stunning penitentiary built. With castle features, stone walls, and isolated cells, this building is a mixture of beautiful and creepy.

2. Independence Hall

When I think about the start of America, my mind automatically thinks of the Declaration of Independence. So you might say that this building is where America all began, when that life-changing piece of paper was signed.

3. Franklin Court

Fall back in history with a stroll down Franklin Court. In the early 1800s, Benjamin Franklin’s house was torn down, but in its place is an outline of his home built with a steel frame. There is an adorable original post office where you can send some mail to loved ones back home.

4. The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell is a piece of history that signifies America’s freedom. At the Liberty Bell Center, you can get historical information and see this storied artifact for free.

5. Valley Forge National Historical Park

While pondering our freedom, I am always reminded of the lives lost at war to obtain this luxury. Here on the open fields, you can be reminded of the deadly battle fought at Valley Forge.

6. The Betsy Ross House

This house is really old — I am talking a 250-year-old house. With furniture created for the time period and a Betsy Ross re-enactor, this place gives you a real taste of what life was like back then, along with a remembrance of the first sewn American flag.

7. Elfreth’s Alley

This street is a fun sight to see. It’s the first residential street in America, and you can believe that American history really did begin here. There are original homes and a museum along the road to see and even explore. Some homes even have people living in them. How amazing would it be to live in one of the first homes ever built in the United States? Amazing!

8. Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Whether you have a soft spot for literature or not, this house, lived in by one of the first American writers, is worth a visit. With red brick and an authentic city feel, this house will charm your heart.

9. Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion and the Grange Estate

With design on my mind, there is nothing more fun than looking at historical mansions. The Victorian era is one of my favorites for architecture, and these homes captures every tiny detail with eloquent touches. Homes like these add to the overall authentic history of Philadelphia.

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14 Fun Foodie Highlights Of Los Angeles


photo© Terry Robinson

Oh sunny California, I do miss you. Growing up near the beach was magical, and my family always stayed busy with the unlimited sources of entertainment. Los Angeles is the ideal vacation destination for those wanting to enjoy warm weather, tasty food, and big-wave beaches without the annoyance of humidity. One of the things I love about LA is the diversity of cultures that brings in an abundance of yummy cuisines. From comfortable cafes to food trucks, LA is one place you will never go hungry. Here are 14 fun foodie places you have to try while visiting the sunshine.

1. Nickel Diner
This diner basically is the best. I am not lying or exaggerating; it is the best. Trust me. You can eat here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — possibly all three. The price is inexpensive, the portions are heaping, and everything has a yummy homemade flavor. Try the homemade jam or salsa; both are remarkable.

2. Fishing With Dynamite
The wait to get in can be long but is only proof of how good the seafood is. The most famous and praised item is the raw scallops, but getting an entire platter will allow you to taste more of the seafood goodness.

3. Eatalian Café
Located in an industrial area, the appearance of this place might look a little sketchy. It’s a safe area, but more importantly, this huge warehouse restaurant serves the best pizza and pasta around. It is definitely one of the best LA restaurants.

4. Cousins Maine Lobster
Before I dive into how tasty the lobster is on this truck, I have to mention that this truck was on Shark Tank. That right there should get you ordering off of their menu. The food is yummy, affordable, and tender. If you want to be blown away, I would recommend the Connecticut Roll.

5. Apple Pan
This place has a big focus on burgers, and the many loyal customers will argue this is the best burger place around. Try the Hickory Burger and a slice of banana cream pie and you will join the Apple Pan fan club, too.

6. Flying Pig
This Asian restaurant serves tacos, and although it might sound strange mixing the two, it makes the tacos drip with flavor. The Pork Belly Bun is the item customers drool over.

7. The Grilled Cheese Truck
I love comfort foods that bring back memories of being a kid, and this is one of the best trucks roaming LA — it takes a simple food and dresses it up. The truck serves gourmet melts, tomato soup, and sandwiches, and you will be lining up for seconds.

8. Daikokuya
As one of the most famous restaurants in Los Angelos, Daikokuya has served thousands of customers delicious food and a memorable experience. With a focus on ramen, this Japanese restaurant serves bowls of ramen dripping in delectable sauces.

9. Pie ’N Burger
Nothing screams American food more than a perfect, classic, grilled hamburger — well, unless you eat it with a side of pie. The homemade pies can be bought full-size, which is good since you probably won’t be able to stop at one slice.

10. Border Grill Truck
Here is a food truck that takes tender meat and places it in a delicious taco. The citrus chicken taco has a fresh taste that is bursting with flavors.

11. Philippe
Located in Chinatown, this little restaurant makes the best French dip sandwich you will ever live to taste. If you aren’t a sandwich eater, fine; try the chili — it is equally tasty and will also be the best chili you will ever live to taste.

12. Kang Hodong Baekjeong
I love barbeque and Korean, so this busy little restaurant gets double yummy points. The wait can be long, but this Korean barbeque is screaming good!

13. Nozomi
I couldn’t create a list without adding sushi, and this place lives up to sushi-foodie dreams. From the miso soup to the uni don, you will be satisfied with the fresh but powerful flavors.

14. Little Sister
First, you are going to love the setting and atmosphere of this place; the walls, lighting, and music are quite romantic and tranquil. The Asian cuisine is, of course, delicious, as Chef Vuong knows exactly what to add to a dish.

With all of the wonderful restaurants to stop at while visiting LA, you might have to stay an extra few days to enjoy them all!

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Best Beaches Of Cape Cod


photo© LennyBaker

Choosing a place to spend my vacation is difficult. My bucket list has at least 500 places on it: I am not exaggerating. Some nights I will spend hours browsing through Pinterest and dreaming of beaches, mountains, and historical sights. The world is amazing! I want to see every waterfall, every rock, every beach, and every single thing that is worthy of snapping a photo of. If only I had an endless supply of money….

This brings me to Cape Cod. This place is truly incredible, no matter what time of year you decide to go. It is one of those places in the world that everyone should see. The sunsets, water, and views make you stop and breathe in the moment, and the countless activities keep you entertained. Even history can be found in traces on the sand. Finding the beach for you is the fun part. Here are the five best beaches in Cape Cod that will spark your interest and complete your vacation.

Old Silver Beach

Old Silver Beach is one of the most popular beaches for both locals and tourists. As a very family-friendly environment, it is easy to park, get to the beach, use the clean restrooms, and grab a bite to eat. The sand is that perfect white color and feels so good on the feet. The water is warm and is shallow with a gradual drop-off, making it a safe place for kids to play. Even if you decide to not get in the water, the views are amazing, along with the crash of gentle waves.

Sandwich Town Beach

Take a cute little boardwalk down to the beach, and spend the day enjoying the peaceful sound of ocean waves and searching for pieces of ship wreckage. An adorable town is right there, making it easy to eat, shop, and explore the beach for an entire day. The gorgeous setting of ocean and lights is ideal for walking along the water at night and is why this is one of the best beaches in Cape Cod.

Sandy Neck Beach

This is the longest beach in Cape Cod and captures a variety of scenery. Located on the Cape side in Barnstable, you can enjoy the long beach front, the town, or exploring the trees and brush. I love hiking and checking out new places, but trying the beach out on an ATV is an entirely new experience for adventure-seekers.

Bristol Beach

This beach does not have your typical white sand terrain but instead is made of rocks and crushed shells. That doesn’t take away from the beauty from the creek, ocean, and lush landscape. The small waves make it safe for kids to play in the water and swim safely. I love looking for shells and wildlife hiding beneath the rocks and swimming in the tide pools.

Head of the Meadow Beach

No matter what beach you decide to spend one or several days at, this is a museum beach that must be seen. I can try to explain how cool it is, but you really need to see it for yourself. Hundreds of years ago when ships would sink or crash, the wreckage would wash right onto the shores of this beach. As you walk across the sand, you will see different pieces of the ships. The best time to go is during low tide so more ship remains can be found.

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Traveling with Your Dog

Got a dog? Well, then you know – while you may be convinced that your furry friend should be welcomed everywhere, the unfortunate truth is that he isn’t. ‘Dogs drool too much!’ ‘Dogs shed too much!’ ‘Dogs smell terrible!’ You could say all the same things about me, but I’m still allowed to roam as I please.

Haters going to hate.

But some cities are surprisingly accepting of your canine companion. Below are the Top 3 Cities to Travel to with Your Hound.

1. Seattle, Washington
The Emerald City appreciates the value of having a dog on board. Seattle has long been considered a premier dog destination; there are plenty of dog parks, dog boutiques and some of the restaurants will even allow you and Rex inside to enjoy your a cup of java together.

Two of my favorite activities in Seattle to share with my lab are the Fremont Sunday Ice Cream Cruise and the Kenmore Air Tour. The Fremont Sunday Ice Cream Cruise involves eating ice cream on a ferry, and dogs are invited – how is this not on the top of every dog owner’s list, right? The Kenmore Air Tour is a flightseeing tour that actually allows dogs to come along for the ride. There’s nothing better than an aerial tour of the city with your best buddy riding shotgun.

2. San Diego, California
San Diego has anointed itself with the nickname, ‘American’s Finest City'; clearly, San Diego may not be the most humble of cities, but it’s a great dog destination, nevertheless. Without a doubt, the coolest place in San Diego to travel to with your canine is The Original Dog Beach. This place is awesome! As the name suggests, The Original Dog Beach is a stretch of beautiful white, sandy beach where dogs are able to work on their tans, splash in the ocean or just sniff each other in uncomfortable positions. It’s a can’t-miss stop.

If you find yourself in SD looking to burn off the calories your 12th burrito blessed you with, take your dog over to ‘SUP PUPS’ for some stand-up-paddleboarding. SUP PUPS actually allows your dog to come out on the water with you – a rare opportunity that you and your mutt will remember forever.

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Santa Fe is a fantastic city, and your dog will think so, too. My four-legged friend happens to be very well-cultured, and as such his favorite attraction in ‘The City Different’ is a trip to the Andrew Smith Gallery. This place is great! The employees of the gallery are top notch, and their Ansel Adams collection is tough to beat.

If Ol’ Ansel doesn’t excite you, then wander over to the Nedra Matteucci Galleries. Your dog won’t be allowed in all sections of this abode de arte, but he is welcome to check out their fantastic sculpture gardens.

If your hound is a bit more of a philistine, well, the world needs ditch diggers, too. Kidding, but if your dog can’t appreciate the strong underlying compositional order of well-balanced photography, then you may want to spend most of your time in Santa Fe at the Frank Ortiz Dog Park. There are a ton of cool trails to get lost on.

Traveling with your dog can be more difficult than it should be. Do yourself a favor, and check out these three great cities to travel to with your dog.

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Newbie’s Guide To The Florida Keys


photo© Ed Schipul

We all love vacations — who doesn’t like enjoying a break from work to bask in the sunshine while gorging ourselves on delicious food? The hardest part of planning that week or weekend getaway can be choosing where to go. Alright people: It’s time I told you something important and amazing. I thought about keeping it a secret, but I can’t. It’s too good! The answer is this: The Florida Keys are the best place to spend your vacation. They are unique, dotted with sandy beaches, restaurants, stores, parks, and scenery that is just breathtaking. It would take pages to even touch on their beauty, and since you probably aren’t interested in reading how I drool over islands, I will share how you can enjoy the unforgettable experience the Florida Keys offer.

Getting There

Did someone say road trip? That’s right! Whether it is in your car, a rental car, or even a bus, it’s time to pack up those suitcases and drive on over to the islands. Yes, I said drive, and yes, I said islands. Now, I have driven to an island or taken a ferry many times before, but exploring an entire chain of islands is something special. Getting there is one of the best parts, as you go across on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway; it begins near Florida City and stretches 127 miles to mile marker 0 on Key West. Don’t worry about being bored, either; along the highway, you can stop and explore the islands while you cross over 40 bridges and breathe in the ocean air. But if driving is not your cup of tea, you can fly directly into Key West or take a ferry. It all comes down to what you prefer. I love to explore and take my time.

Exploring Along the Way

If you decide to take the road-trip vacation from Key Largo to Key West, there are more places to stop and explore than you can fit in one trip. This is, of course, what I strive for: a few excuses to return multiple times. Starting at Key Largo, I would visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for a chance to swim in the first U.S. undersea park. After having some fun in the water, stop at Islamorada for some tasty food at the Hungry Tarpon while you soak in the view of the beach. Robbies Marina is located next door and is a fun place to explore. The best part is feeding the tarpons for only a few dollars. It is something kids love to do, and of course, us big kids get excited about it, too. At this point, I would call it a day, check in at my accommodations, and spend the rest of the night taking pictures of a stunning sunset while sipping a glass of wine in a comfortable chair. Excuse me while I take a moment to remember it … yep, it’s time to go back. Now, when you are relaxed, you can either linger longer or hit the road to Marathon. You will have to visit the Dolphin Research Center to pet, swim with, and even paint with the dolphins. Big Pine is the next place you can stop to kayak, paddle-board, or even just relax on the beach and enjoy a few of the restaurants.

Key West

You made it! Now that you have traveled across islands and bridges, you have finally reached Key West. Take a moment to snap a picture of mile marker 0, then get settled in for a few days. The Old Town Trolley will guide you through the town to the most popular spots, including the adorable Key West Lighthouse. The harbor is my favorite place to stroll and catch a bite to eat, including the fresh catch of the day. Don’t miss out on the ocean at your fingertips: Rent a bike and ride along the beach paths, go sailing, swim, scuba-dive, and live in the moment of experiencing this tropical paradise.


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The Absolute Best Eats In Cape Coral


photo©Justin Smith

Before we begin, I would advise you to go grab something to eat. It can be anything – crackers, chicken nuggets, peanut butter, butter. It doesn’t matter as long as your stomach is full. You are about to get very hungry, and if your stomach isn’t prepared, who knows what you will eat? Seriously, hunger does strange things to people, and if you aren’t careful you might be chewing on the edge of your computer within minutes after reading this. I am about to share with you the best places to eat in Cape Coral, FL with mouth-watering, flavor-exploding food. It might feel like food is a reoccurring subject on here, but we all have to eat on vacation and preferably somewhere tasty. Cape Coral knows a little thing or two about people; we all are different with diverse tastes and appetites. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy anything fried, vegetarian, or food with a Mexican kick, Cape Coral has it all. It is perfect for food lovers to get out and try a vast array of food, especially the popular Italian and ethnic restaurants. Here are the best places to eat with different cuisines and atmospheres.

A Romantic Feel for the Italian Lover: Ariani Ristorante Italiano

Come inside this cozy place and try authentic Italian food that is bursting with delicious homemade ingredients. The mozzarella is out of this world and made right in the kitchen along with marinara and other sauces. From the friendly service, inspired chef, moist meat, and light sides, critics and locals can’t say enough about this place.

Vegetarian and Vegan Approved Ethnic Food: Loving Hut

Now I am not a vegan, but this place is so healthy and fresh, that even we meat lovers find it hard not to fall in love. The food is filled with natural flavors, and the entrees are yummy and even taste like there is meat in them. To truly enjoy a vacation, eating healthy for most meals is a must. Vegan travelers know how hard it is to find good places to eat, and this adorable and affordable hut makes it possible.

Mexican with just Enough Kick: Iguana Mia

Not all Mexican food is created equal, and I demand extra flavor on my plate. Iguana Mia takes the basics and turns them into something amazing. The food says it all, but the margaritas are a stealer deal. If you happen to be traveling for your birthday, you better drop-in for a free meal. Who doesn’t love to eat for free?

Seafood and Steak and a Waterfront View: Rumrunners

A waterfront experience is unlike any other. If you have done it before, you know what I am talking about. The food is delicious, with fresh seafood and blasting with eloquent flavor. The view is breathtaking, and is the perfect topping to the excellent service and pristine food.

A Hidden Thai Gem that Screams Delicious: Siam Hut

Whenever I travel somewhere new, I make it a point to find a restaurant that disguises a yummy menu with a rough exterior or sneaky location. The Siam Hut is located in a plaza that is often missed. Step inside and get your Thai food as spicy as you want. A delicious place to fit any budget and hit the spot for foodies.

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Unleash Your Inner Explorer At Inner Space Cavern

Would you like to be Indiana Jones for a day? You know… exploring underground crevasses and formations with a flashlight, perhaps in search of some hidden treasure?

At Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, Texas, you can do at least some of that! You might not find a big room filled with golden artifacts, but you can explore a magical underground world filled with beautiful and interesting formations.


The Interesting Discovery of Inner Space Cavern


As Rick, one of the guides at Inner Space Cavern explained, the difference between a cave and a cavern is that a cave has a natural entrance, but a cavern is more like an underground bubble without an entrance. So how did they discover this cavern?

In 1963, when the Texas Highway Department was building what is known as highway I-35 today, they were drilling some test holes into the ground to make sure that there weren’t any sinkholes under the highway. Then, suddenly, the drill bit dropped several feet into what could only be open space. Voila, Inner Space Cavern was born!

Inner Space Cavern begins on one side of I-35 and stretches under the highway to the other side.


Exploring Inner Space Cavern


Adventure Tour

There are several tours that you can take at Inner Space. The Adventure tour is the most popular. Everyone in the family can go on this tour because you walk along an even-surfaced path for a total distance of about one mile.

The tour guide stops quite regularly along the way to point out interesting formations and explain what they are and how they were formed. Most of the “living” structures in the cavern are stalactites and stalagmites that grow towards each over thousands of years. Stalactites grow from the roof of the cavern, and stalagmites grow from the floor. When they touch, they form a pillar. For an unexplained reason, some of the structures grow sideways!

Our guide turned off the lights for a few seconds as well. Have you ever experienced complete darkness? Here you will!

This tour takes about one hour and fifteen minutes.


Wild Cave Tour

If you’re more adventurous, in reasonably good shape, and you don’t mind getting dirty, you may want to go on a Wild Cave tour to get that real “explorer” feeling!

They give you a helmet with a flashlight, gloves, elbow pads and knee pads. You go off the normal trails and crawl through narrow spaces to explore undeveloped parts of the cavern that most people don’t get to see.

This tour takes about four hours. As you can imagine, it is physically challenging and will be quite tiring. For this reason, they limit this tour to people who are 13 years or older.


Hidden Passages Tour

If you’re thinking, “isn’t there a tour that is more adventurous than the Adventure Tour, but not quite as adventurous as the Wild Cave Tour,” then the Hidden Passages Tour is perfect for you. You get a flashlight and a guide takes you along an undeveloped trail through the cavern.

The physical requirements aren’t that high on this tour, but you need to be able to move along an undeveloped trail and you shouldn’t be claustrophobic.


Other Tours

If going underground is not your thing, you can take the Sister Caves tour, which is an above-ground walking tour that lasts about one hour.


What You Need To Know

Here a few things you need to know if you go to Inner Space Cavern:

Take comfortable shoes, even if you go on the Adventure Tour.

Don’t take any food or water into the cavern.

Although the humidity is high in the cavern, the temperature is a comfortable 72°F. If it is cold outside and you wear a jacket, there is a place to leave your jacket after entering the cavern.

Don’t touch any of the formations in the cavern, unless your guide says you can. This is a live cavern and any touching can damage it.

With several different tours available, there should be a suitable tour for everyone. If you are in the vicinity of Georgetown, Texas, be sure to put Inner Space Cavern on your list of places to visit. It is an experience that you will remember!

JohnElsMy name is John Els. I am the founder and writer of Fun-Things-Texas.com I have been a computer programmer and website developer for many years. In 2006 I decided to create a website about vacationing in Texas, with emphasis on fun things to do in Texas. We enjoy vacationing in Texas, and want others to enjoy it too.

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Spending St. Patrick’s Day In Boston


photo©Adam Pieniazek

St. Patrick’s Day was one of those holidays that I often forgot. Someone usually informed me that I wasn’t “wearing green” with a painful pinch to the arm. It wasn’t that I disliked St. Patrick’s Day; in fact I love all holidays and the traditions that accompany them. I even like the color green. It simply was a day that we never really celebrated in my home, and wearing green was more of a pinch precaution; however, recently my neutral feelings towards St. Patrick’s Day have changed. Moving to Boston really opened my eyes to how much fun it can be to experience St. Patrick’s Day. I never knew how amazing March 17th could be! The celebrations, parade, and activities centered on St. Patrick’s Day made me want to paint my face and dye my hair green. If I had known this was the way people had been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day for years, then you can bet I never would have forgotten it.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The main event of the day starts out with a parade in South Boston. This is a tradition that began many years ago in 1724 by an Irish Society. It focused on celebrating culture and diversity in Boston while giving honor and remembering their Irish homeland; however, it was not the first parade that made this day monumental. In 1776, British troops lined the harbor and Boston city. When a storm hit, British troops and ships evacuated; sparing the lives of many from a battle avoided. Coincidentally, the evacuation was on the same day of the feast celebrating Saint Patrick. “Evacuation Day” was declared a holiday in 1901, and the city threw a huge parade in celebration. I am not surprised that the combining of two holidays made for something incredible. It is now the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the entire country, and has over 600,000 people attend. Even celebrities have made the journey to wave a hand and participate in the event. The parade begins in the afternoon and travels three miles across the city. It is filled with noise from performers, bands, beautiful floats, dancers, local teams, groups, and servicemen. The costumes, history, Irish culture, and specific details bring the entire event to life.

Bar Crawls

The parade is plenty for me to enjoy, but there is so much more to do in Boston. You can begin celebrating the luckiest day of the year by going to the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Kick-Off Day Bar Crawl. It is an event filled with drinking, of course, along with lots of partying and late-night fun. When it comes to celebrating this Irish-filled day, I always try a few new drinks. The local pubs are packed with people, and after the parade many head over to Stats Bar & Grille for an Irish experience and drink. Dressing up and grabbing a drink is the only way to experience St. Patrick’s Day in Boston. If you haven’t already been to this celebration, I strongly suggest you add it to your bucket list.

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Let’s Buy a Vacation Rental!

teaching new renters to trust
I think we all do it. We’re on holiday in a fabulous vacation rental and decide this must be a great way of investing; reaping the benefits of rental and getting to use the place when we want. So, we spend time exploring the Multi Listings Site and browsing in realtor windows.

I was speaking with a Florida realtor recently and she said that her inquiries are always the highest in the winter when the snowbirds are on the ground and they often lead to impulse buys because they see a ‘bargain’ and want it there and then. Buyer’s remorse can set in very shortly afterwards when the consequences of managing the property from a distance become apparent, and the costs begin to pile up.

Flashback to two weeks ago and I was in the Bahamas doing exactly that. There was a piece of property for sale next to the place we were staying and I got to fantasizing about building a house just like the one where we were staying. But….I have been there and done that before which is how we bought our first place in Ontario. It wasn’t such a bad buy but more research would have had us making wiser decisions.

We’ve bought six more properties since those early days and this is what I’ve learned:

There will always be another bargain
Even if that cute place on the beach looks perfect and the realtor tells you there are others sniffing at it, leave it alone until you have done all your due diligence. This may mean you lose it, but this is not a pair of shoes you can relegate to the back of the closet if they don’t feel comfortable after the first wearing. Once you are burdened with property taxes, insurance, and other fixed and sometimes unrelenting costs, you can’t take it back and change your mind, without the potential of considerable loss.

The time you want to vacation is usually high season for rentals
When people get excited about buying abroad, they are often there in high season. It’s unlikely they have traveled to the Bahamas in hurricane season, or Colorado in the summer; the excitement is coming from being there in prime holiday time which is precisely when the best rates are charged. So, buying a home and planning on being there in the height of the season is not a good economic decision. Plan a trip in the off-season to look at the area. If you still love it, then that is the time to plan to buy a vacation rental and make your property offers.

Keep emotions out of any decision-making
That wonderful holiday feeling as you relax on a sun-drenched dock, take a cocktail on the patio, or look out over the lake or ocean needs to fade before a buying decision gets made. Otherwise practical issues will be overlooked and the heart takes over. Just make sure you engage your brain and give rational thought to all the costs and benefits.

There is more to the cost than the purchase price
It’s important to factor in all the costs and this often gets skipped in the tropical warmth of a Caribbean sunset. “We can afford this” you say as you look at the price of the house that’s for sale down the road. Once the additional costs are introduced that initial figure can grow another 20% or 30% or more. Those costs include:

• Furniture and furnishings – and the cost of importing them if you are on an island or in a South American country. There’s no Ikea in Costa Rica!
• Maintenance – if you are not there to do the changeovers you’ll have to hire a property manager. Then there’s the pool maintenance, someone on hand to fix the plumbing when it goes wrong (it will), do the yard work, change the light bulbs, and on and on. Do not underestimate this cost.
• Insurance – no joking about hurricanes here; in high risk areas the insurance costs can hurt.
• Electricity costs – these can be horrendous in certain countries and the service may be so erratic you need a generator anyway.
• Marketing – There’s no way you can list a vacation rental these days and have crowds beating a path to the door. You have to fight for them every inch of the way, which means time and money spent on listing sites, web sites, blogs and social media.

If you are still eager to buy after all this, it’s time to get going on the research and I wish you luck. It’s exactly what I am doing now that I am back from the Bahamas and still as enthusiastic about buying as I was when I was there. I’ll keep you updated on my progress and would love to hear from anyone that is doing the same.

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A Sweet Valentine’s Day In Hershey PA


A Sweet Valentine’s Day In Hershey, PA

If you are like me, Valentine’s Day is a family affair, as well as a day to remember your sweetheart. In my house, I have two loves- the one I married, and the one I gave birth to. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love for us – not just the romantic kind. (And there is always after the kids go to bed for a nice amorous evening and eating dessert in peace.)

A great place to get away for a quick weekend (and how perfect that Valentine’s is on a Friday this year?) is Hershey, Pennsylvania. Of course, the famed park itself is not open, but nearly everything else in the area is- and without the crowds. As this is the “chocolate holiday”, what better time, really?


What to Do

Have a little time to yourselves? Or perhaps you would like to give your spouse a sweet gift and some “me” time. Check out the Spa at Hotel Hershey. The choices are truly delicious- but what would you expect of a place known as “the chocolate spa”? With dessert-inspired treatments, like the whipped chocolate fondue wrap, whipped cocoa bath, chocolate bean polish, cocoa facial experience, or the “Gentleman’s” whiskey facial, you will not only be relaxed, but good enough to eat when you leave. Kids 13 and older can get in on the action as well.


You can also pay a visit to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Open from 9-5 weekdays, and 9-6 weekends, they are hosting a month-long celebration of chocolate in February. Each day this month is a new way to enjoy chocolate in all its glory. Leave your diet at the door and enjoy!


Some of the Chocolate-Covered February Activities Include:

  • Chocolate Dinner Extraordinaire at The Hotel Hershey
  • Chocolate Tea at the Hotel Hershey
  • Chocolate Animal Treats at Zoo America
  • Chocolate-Covered Children’s Teas at Hershey Lodge
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Tasting Adventure at Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction
  • Wine & Chocolate Pairings at The Hotel Hershey
  • Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting at Cafe Zooka

You can download the full list at: http://www.chocolatecoveredfebruary.com/

There are also fun tours and activities that you can do as a couple or family, like the Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour Ride, where you follow a cocoa bean from its beginnings all the way to your candy bar; the tour is free and includes samples. There are also chocolate tasting adventures, Trolley Works tours, bake shops, and more.


samhavesippyA travel and parenting expert, writer, mother, and teacher, Samantha has dedicated her life to children and education. She feels that travel and culture should play an important part in a child’s development and exposure to their environment.

Samantha is a columnist and freelance writer who has been featured on various websites, magazines, and newspapers, as well as weekly radio show co-host. She has several regular columns on travel, products, and parenting. She also writes a multi-award winning blog, Have Sippy Will Travel, and is a Top Ten Ranked Social Media Expert.

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