Tag Archives: travel

V4K’s Favorite Travel Apps

19 May

As of today, here are our favorite travel apps:

1. Kayak – easily compare multiple travel sites at once and also save favorite searches.  We love the calendar that tells you the history of fares for your destination.

2.  TripIt – the PRO version is heaven for business and vacation travel alike.  TripIt will scan your email for travel confirmations and automatically add them to your itinerary.  TripIt keeps you informed of flight delays, directions…it’s fantastic!

3.  It Happened Here – a VERY cool app that brings a city’s past to life by providing descriptions of the most interesting events that have taken place at or near your location.

4.  Open Table – the easiest way to make restaurant reservations…period.

5.  InnTouch – looking for the quaint inn or bed & breakfast?  This is the app for you.

6.  Virginia is for Lovers – the official travel guide for Virginia.  Customize your travel based on your present or future location.  You can also subscribe to special offers via text message.

7.  Virginia Wine in My Pocket – THE guide for traveling Virginia’s wine country.  Great “Best of” recommendations – including those that might not be so kid-friendly!

8.  Virginia Map – yep, that’s what it is…and more.  This is a new (and free) app from the Virginia Information Technologies Agency’s Virginia Geographic Information Network.  Not only do you get the roads throughout Virginia, but also aerial photography, parks, rivers and lakes.

9.  My Little Suitcase – a kids travel app where they get to pick where to go and pack for their family vacation.  Developed by parents, this app is colorful and fun and will keep the little ones occupied!

10.  Postman – forget the hassle of buying postcards, writing them out, stamping and mailing via snail mail!  Send an instant postcard, designed by you (or your kids) in the forms of an SMS or email message.  Grandma will be so excited to hear how the vacation is going!

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Taking the Train in Virginia

18 Jul

I was practically raised in an airport.  Well, not really, but for a large part of my life, I have spent time in the airport.  My father worked for the FAA and after I graduated from college, I became a Flight Attendant.  Needless to say, I have always been partial to flying….until recently.

The last time my son and I flew together, he was “selected” by TSA for inspection.  Yes, my 7 year old son who has been flying without terrorizing since he was 3 months old.  Between that and now having to pay for luggage to be checked, I’ve become very frustrated with the whole flying experience.

So, when we decided to take a trip to New York, we opted to take the Amtrak train.

The booking experience was quick and painless online.  With our AAA discount, the tickets were only $177 round trip for the two of us to travel from Lynchburg to Penn Station on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional.

While we arrived at the train station about an hour prior to our train departure, we learned as other’s arrived that it is really not necessary to be there so early.  We also learned that while Amtrak has a very liberal baggage policy, it’s best to pack a bag that’s easy to manage as you need to lug it onto this train yourself.

Our seats were spacious and comfy with lots of legroom.  We were both excited to see an electrical outlet next to our seats for all the electronic “toys” we had with us.  We didn’t use those toys for the first few hours though as the scenery heading north through Virginia was beautiful.  We passed pieces of history where there once was a thriving train industry.  We climbed mountains and crossed scenic rivers.  As we approached Washington DC, we had a great view of the Washington Monument.

Unfortunately, as we headed further north, the scenery became, well, not-so-scenic.  At that point, we headed to the dining car where there was a nice assortment of pre-made food at very reasonable prices.  In addition, I was able to get work done (thanks to my wifi card – Amtrak does not have wifi service on all of their trains) and answer business calls.  G had a great time watch videos, playing games and took a long nap.

Our trip to NYC took about 7 hours.  Overall, we found it to be a very low-stress and pleasant experience.  I hope to see Amtrak expand service to others areas in the Commonwealth – especially those areas that were once thriving railroad towns.  Beginning July 20th, Amtrak will begin daily round-trip service between Richmond and Washington DC.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is currently subsidizing some of the Amtrak routes in Virginia.  If the trains meet ridership goals, then service will continue and possibly expand.  Per recent news releases, expansion plans include Hampton Roads and Roanoke markets.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

16 Jan

Blue Ridge Parkway

The dead of winter is probably not the best time to write this post; however, I happen to think the Blue Ridge Parkway is still beautiful even when it is so cold outside.

If you are looking for an inexpensive day-trip, this is it.  Filled with beautiful scenery, awesome history and very few tourist-traps, it’s a great way to spend a day with the family.

A designated All-American Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles through mountainous terrain from Shenandoah National Park all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This is not a short cut to avoid I-81 – the speed limit is only 45 and well enforced.  This is a place to take your time and enjoy the scenery.

The Parkway incorporates several recreation areas, some exceeding 6,000 acres.  These parks within the Parkway have visitor centers, camp grounds, picnic areas, trails and, in many instances, concessionaire-operated lodges, restaurants, and other facilities. Order a FREE travel guide for the Blue Ridge Parkway by clicking here.

A few of my favorite stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway include:

Mabry Mill – A beautiful location that has been photographed and painted many times.  Restored gristmill/sawmill/woodworking shop and blacksmith shop.  Old time skills (basket weaving, seat caneing, spinning, and weaving) demonstrated.  Applebutter making on Sundays in October – Oldtime bluegrass music on Sundays 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.  Lots of fun for the kids seeing a real working Mill!  Milepost 176.1

Chateau Morrisette – Yes, I know a winery is not really what you would consider “child-friendly”; HOWEVER, the outdoor concerts are very child friendly.  The kids get to run around up and down the hills and dance while the grownups get to sip on some wonderful Virginia wine.  Milepost 171.5

Tina’s tip:  purchase a few inexpensive disposable cameras for the kids before leaving for the drive (they will be twice as expensive if you buy them on the parkway).  Stop off at lots of the “scenic view” stopping points along the parkway and let the kids snap away.  They will love seeing their pictures and putting them into their own albums.  If the weather is mild enough, pack a big picnic lunch too.  There are plenty of picnic areas and bathroom facilities along the parkway that are all clean and well-maintained.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

23 Sep
Monticello

Monticello

As probably one of the top 10 places to see in Virginia, Monticello is a tourism destination.  Monticello consists of the house, grounds and gardens and the plantation.  The house is an autobiographical structure of the life of Jefferson which was built and rebuilt over 40 years.  The gardens and grounds are still meticulously tended to with plants from all over the world and a large vegetable garden.  The plantation consists of over 5000 acres and was an architectural as well as industrial center.

So, who was Thomas Jefferson?  In a nutshell…he was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia — voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era. As public official, historian, philosopher, and plantation owner, he served his country for over five decades.

Do not plan to just “show up” at Monticello.  A planned visit is the best way to get the most out of your trip.  Arrive in the morning before the crowds and buses and give yourself plenty of time to explore.

What I love about Monticello is that they have activities and tours designed JUST FOR KIDS!  I was pleasantly surprised while we were there about how friendly the guides were and helpful in steering us toward the best things for kids.  Better yet, they don’t banish kids to a certain section or area – rather, Monticello gives them the special attention they need to make the most of their visit.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Exploring Monticello: A Guide for Young Learners

Now, when you tour Monticello, you park in the lot, buy your tickets (if you haven’t done so already) and

Tours for Children

Tours for Children

then a van transports you to the site.  There is a lot of walking and snacks are limited at the site so be sure to bring a stroller (if necessary) and some water bottles.  Here is a list of “guidelines” that you will also need to know:

  • Bags and Backpacks. No bags or backpacks exceeding 11″ by 15″ by 4″ are allowed beyond the Shuttle Station.
  • In the House. Eating, drinking, chewing gum, and using tobacco products are prohibited in the house. Cell phones and other electronic devices must be turned off. Still photography, filming, and video recording are prohibited. Visitors are urged not to touch or lean on walls or furnishings.
  • On the Grounds. The West Lawn is open to visitors. Otherwise, visitors are asked to keep to the designated paths and trails while on the grounds. Smoking is not permitted near the House or its dependencies and terraces.
  • Photography. Still photography, filming, and video recording for personal use are permitted on the grounds of Monticello. No photography of any kind is allowed inside the house.
  • Pets. Pets are allowed on the grounds if leashed. Pets (excluding certified service dogs) are not allowed in any buildings or on the shuttle buses. Visitors bringing pets are required to clean up after them.
  • Smoking. Smoking is prohibited in all buildings, in the shuttle buses, and in the vicinity of the house. Smokers are asked to be careful with their matches, lighters, ashes, etc.
  • Visiting with Kids. Parents with toddlers are encouraged to use small strollers when touring the house. Parents of active or restless young children may be asked to take turns touring the house, as a courtesy to other visitors.

There are tours at Monticello designed just for children.  They say that the tours are for children ages 6-11; however, my son, who is 5, did just fine.  The guides really know how to relate to children and point out the items that they find to be “cool”.  I really loved how when our tour started in the main foyer, the guide sat down on the floor with the kids and acted like she had all the time in the world to show them things and answer their questions.  The tours are 30 minutes and in each room, they show the children what it was like to live in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  The Tours for Children and their Families are typically conducted at 10, 11, noon, 1, 2, and 3 daily from June 14-August 17.

Children's Activity Center

Children

Plan to arrive early and tour the grounds before your tour.  Also, if time permits, there is a children’s activity center: Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center – Write with a quill pen; play 18th century games; piece together a replica of Monticello’s parquet floor; and many more fun, family-oriented hands-on activities. Hours for 2008 are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14-Aug. 31, excluding  a limited number of weekdays between June 19 and July 24, when the center will open at 1 p.m., and July 4, when it be closed. Location: Below the North Terrace adjoining Monticello’s main house.

Lastly, Monticello has a classroom website filled with information for teaching your kids all about their visit.  My recommendation is to download some information before your visit to entice your kids and then after as well to reinforce what they have learned.

Tickets for Monticello are as follows:  Adults $15.00, Children 6-11 $8.00 and children under 6 are free.  You can buy tickets in advance online by visiting the Monticello website.  For some strange reason, there is a $1.50 “service fee” for purchasing tickets online.  Under Monticello’s “Good Neighbor” policy, residents of the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County and University of Virginia students receive discounted rates for House Tour and Grounds Tickets with proper proof of residence, such as a valid driver’s license, or current UVA ID.

Listen to a podcast on the Children’s Tour here!  Monticello Children\’s Tour Podcast

Tina’s Take:  this was a wonderful experience (though a very hot day!).  My son learned so much (so did we!) and really enjoyed the children’s tour.  He learned all about the nickel and the picture of Jefferson and Monticello on it.  Bring water and perhaps a few snacks since your will spend a few hours at the site.  The property is very well maintained and organized well.  Plenty of bathroom facilities and space for kids to run around.  There is a large gift shop with lots of items which kids will be drawn to.  I recommend maybe purchasing a few things on the internet before your visit and bringing them with you as “surprises”.  Don’t try to add much to the day besides Monticello, especially with young children.  Have a late lunch at Michie Tavern and call it a day!

Welcome!

22 Sep
Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Welcome to Virginia is for Kids!  This blog was born out of my love for exploring the beautiful state of Virginia with my family.  I hope to share some insight into what has been successful, what has not and also how to have a wonderful time traveling through Virginia!

My name is Tina and I am a full-time working, married mom of a 5 year old boy.  My husband was born and raised in Virginia and I have lived here most of my life.  We enjoy learning about the rich history of our state and finding relatively unknown nooks and crannies along the way.

We travel a lot….locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.  After graduating from college, I was a flight attendant and made the most of exploring the various places where I had to layover.  Fortunately, I have a husband and son who share my eagerness to explore and learn.

Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy this site!

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