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Nancy Parode

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Travel Photo of the Week: Trooping the Colour, London

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Visitors to London enjoy seeing the pageantry of royal ceremonies, such as the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. If you're lucky enough to be in London on June 14, you can watch Trooping the Colour, the annual military parade held in honor of the Queen's official birthday. (Her actual birthday was April 21, but the official celebration is held in June because the weather is better for outdoor events.)

If you're planning a trip to London, whether in June or at another time, take a look at our tips for saving money on accommodations, food and activities in the UK's capital.

Photo © Mike Vam

Visit a State Capitol With Your Grandchildren

Tuesday April 22, 2014

If you're looking for an educational place to visit with your grandchildren, but can't stand the thought of yet another museum, consider touring a state capitol, either in your home state or during a grandparent-grandchild vacation. Your grandchildren will see legislative chambers, offices and perhaps even the State Supreme Court chamber. Visiting a state capitol is a great way to bring the governmental process to life.

If you've never visited a state capitol, you're in for a treat. Take a look at our tips for visiting a state capitol with your grandchildren.

Photo © Old Line Photography. Licensed to About.com.

Travel Photo of the Week: Genealogy Library Stacks in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tuesday April 15, 2014

My love of travel began with books and family stories. Long before I was old enough to plan trips of my own, I met relatives who drove from Wisconsin and Minnesota to California for family visits, and I read about children in other parts of the world who were just my age but had very different life experiences. My grandmother told me stories about her German ancestors and her own childhood. It's no wonder I fell in love with both travel and genealogy.

Last week, I discovered an amazing family history resource. On the second floor of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, you can visit The Genealogy Center, which is the largest public library genealogy department in the United States. Its manager, Mr. Curt B. Witcher, is a well-known genealogy librarian who gives talks and interviews around the US. Mr. Witcher gave us a tour of The Genealogy Center and showed us where to find city directories, printed family histories, African American and Canadian genealogy resources and digital microfiche readers. I freely admit to saying, "I have to come back here!" several times during our tour, and I meant every word.

If you're new to genealogy vacations, take a look at our genealogy vacation planning tips. Whether you're headed to The Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne or to an ancestral village, our tips will help you make the most of your time and resources.

Photo © Old Line Photography. Licensed to About.com.

An Outlet Sale Like No Other

Saturday April 12, 2014

If you're a Vera Bradley fan, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the place to be each April. The Vera Bradley Outlet Sale is so huge that it is held in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The checkout area has approximately 50 registers. Over 60,000 people attended the sale last year. And, yes, shoppers do line up in the wee hours of the morning to get the best deals.

I went to the sale on Wednesday and was amazed at how organized and calm it was. My understanding is that things were a bit crazier today; no tickets are required on Saturday or Sunday of the sale, and prices are marked down again, so die-hard bargain hunters waited until today to find their best deals.

I took careful notes, asked lots of questions and photographed the sale floor and some of the displays. Next year's Vera Bradley Outlet Sale begins on April 8, 2015. If you're interested in attending, you'll want to take a look at my suggestions for planning your Vera Bradley adventure (tip: start now).

Photo © Old Line Photography. Licensed to About.com.

American Airlines Changes Checked Baggage Policies

Wednesday April 9, 2014

According to an email I received yesterday, American Airlines has "updated" its checked baggage policies. I took a look at the airline's website and noticed the following changes:

For flights within and between the United States, Canada, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the fee for a fourth checked bag and any additional checked bags beyond that fourth item has increased to $200 per bag. A fourth bag (and any bag beyond that fourth checked bag) will also cost $200 if you are flying between airports in Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean or from airports in Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean to or from the US, Canada, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands. The fee for a fourth checked bag has also increased to $200 for flights between South America and the US, Canada, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands.

The message is clear: Pack light, or pay up.

If you're flying soon, be sure to check your airline's website for the latest information on checked baggage fees and carry-on bag policies. Take a look at our space-saving packing tips if you're searching for ways to minimize the number of bags you will need to check.

Photo © Alex Parode

Travel Photo of the Week: Science On a Sphere

Wednesday April 9, 2014

This image of the Earth from space is actually projected onto a sphere, using a data set from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), four projectors, seven computers and an iPad. You can find this Science On a Sphere (SOS) exhibit at Science Central in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It's an amazing way to learn about weather patterns, ocean currents, plate tectonics, planets and the Sun, because you can see satellite images taken over a span of time. The images playing across the spherical "screen" make the SOS exhibit appear to revolve right in front of you.

Fort Wayne's Science Central is filled with hands-on activities that teach people of all ages about science. A visit to the SOS exhibit is one of the highlights of a trip to Science Central, but you can also ride a high rail bike, watch a hot air balloon soar and trade some of your "treasures" from home at the Swap Shop for a rock, fossil or other science artifact.

If you're looking for a fun activity to share with grandchildren, visiting a science center or science museum is a great way to spend an afternoon together. We have some kid-tested tips to share with you as you plan your trip to a science museum.

Photo © Old Line Photography. Licensed to About.com.

Are Third-Party Car Rental Websites Your Best Option?

Monday April 7, 2014

It depends. Third-party websites such as Orbitz, Auto Europe and rentalcars.com offer quick and easy price comparisons, and most of us want to compare prices before we reserve a car. On the other hand, third-party websites may or may not be so transparent when it comes to damage waiver coverage, cancellation policies and country-specific rental restrictions.

Before you reserve a rental car through a third-party website, find out how third-party car rental websites work and learn more about problem resolution and rental car contracts.

Photo © Old Line Photography. Licensed to About.com.

Travel Photo of the Week: Amsterdam's Canal Bridges

Wednesday April 2, 2014

You, too, can take photos like this one if you take an Amsterdam canal tour. Amsterdam's canals are arranged in concentric rings (or partial rings), connected by radial canals. On a canal tour, you'll travel along a radial canal so that you can see the arched bridges.

Taking an Amsterdam canal tour might seem like a touristy thing to do - and it is - but it is an excellent way to see the historic center of the city and view the homes and houseboats along the canals.

Can't make it to Amsterdam? Take our Amsterdam Canal photo tour instead.

Photo © Old Line Photography. Licensed to About.com.

Infectious Diseases, Travel and You

Tuesday April 1, 2014

BBC News is reporting that an Ebola outbreak in Guinea has killed 83 people. This hemorrhagic disease has no cure, which is why health officials are carefully watching this outbreak.

Responsible travel includes paying attention to local and global health concerns. The International Traveler's Guide to Avoiding Infections by Charles E. Davis, M. D., is an excellent resource for travelers who want to protect themselves against exposure to infectious diseases in any part of the world. Read our review of this essential international travel resource.

What Should You Do if Your Rental Car Breaks Down?

Monday March 31, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I rented a car and began a 375-mile drive. All went well until I was on a New York State parkway outside of New York City and my oil light came on. I know what happens to a car that runs out of oil, so I pulled off at a service area in the center of the parkway and called my car rental company's emergency assistance number. That's when I found out that New York's parkways all have contract towing companies. My car rental company's customer service representative (CSR) wanted me to pay to be towed off the parkway and then wait for a second tow truck to take me to Westchester County Airport, where I could exchange the car.

It took a while, but I finally convinced the CSR to let me put some oil in the car and carefully drive it off the parkway myself. Two and a half quarts of oil and 15 minutes later, I was at the airport asking for a new car.

This isn't the first time I've had to deal with rental car problems, but it was the first time I've ever been told I needed to pay for emergency assistance up front. (I assume I would have been reimbursed at some point, but the conversation didn't go in that direction.) Lesson learned: Check the oil before leaving home.

Of course, there are many things that could go wrong with a rental car. There are things you can do before you reserve your rental car and when you pick up the car that can help you avoid problems and speed up the repair or car exchange process. Once you're on the road, you should contact your car rental company if problems occur.

Photo © Nelson Pavlosky / Creative Commons

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