America The Beautiful-My Favorite Travel Destinations By Jodi Samuels, Manhattan, NY


Recently I have travelled a lot even by my standards; I was in North Carolina, home 1 week then Miami, home a week and then South Africa for a family visit that included a 17 hour flight each way and 3 nights on the ground. Then, I was home for a week and for my kids' winter break we are now in Arizona. Gavin and I realize that we have an unusual set up where we both can work from anywhere and we also make use of the miles and hotel points acquired on Gavin's frequent business travel. 

My challenge is the more I travel the more I want to travel – I am never satiated. I am always making lists of my top 10 places and my kids are always searching the internet for what to do. People always ask for my favorite places so I thought I would share below. We travel budget style so there are no 5 star hotels, and we only fly when we use miles otherwise we are known to drive many long road trips. When we use miles we take the cheapest point flights so that we can get the maximum travel value – a flight with a stop may be 25k points and without 50k.  When you are traveling with a family of 5 that's 125k points for another family vacation.

Travel is not always easy and has many stresses, so I have key points that frame the experience which include:

* Be flexible – plans change, hotels or cabins can be horrible. Unless they are dirty, we just deal with it. Likewise bad weather can affect your plans so just go with the flow. We have many great stories about how we changed plans last minute with great outcomes.

* Kids mimic you, so if you are enthusiastic even when you wake up at 4 am for a flight, they will be too.

* Make a packing list and always update it with new ideas of things to pack. From tape to switch the fridge light off for Shabbat to a small stain remover, these things make a difference.

* Keep certain bags of travel supplies and travel toiletry bags packed and stored so that you don't have to repack each time.

* Compartmentalize parts of the travel experience like stressful check-in and security, and don't let that effect the big picture.

* Make traveling for the kids fun. We don't have a DVD, we don't plan around kids’ activities, and we don't usually spend money on theme parks, however we make sure that the kids have books for the car, we discuss the places we are going and build excitement, we do fun family things and enjoy extra snacks. One long Shabbat in the middle of nowhere, we did a family effort on a 5000 piece puzzle. Instead of a boring Shabbat, we had a team building and fun experience.

* Like everything in life, kids will see what is important to you and your passion and it will become theirs too. 

Now for my favorites, in no specific order in the US – I need another blog to highlight my favorite international spots as I have been to 72 countries. We have visited almost all the top ski resorts. We have never skied but these places are gorgeous and ski towns are usually fun places. We love outdoor places and national parks and cities that have culture and beauty.

* Traveling the island of Maui in Hawaii

* Alaska – self-drive tour starting in Anchorage

* Yellow Stone National Park – including Jackson Hole,Wyoming

* Colorado-so many beautiful places and parks including Aspen and Vail

* Sedona and Grand Canyon

* Zion and Bryce Canyon

* Yosemite National Park and Lake Taho

* Beautiful and stunning Lake George just 3 hours from NY

* San Diego – beautiful and fun

* San Francisco – a city with so much to do

* New Orleans – so much fun especially if you like jazz – we go off the tourist track and it's amazing

* Miami South Beach – best enjoyed without kids, although Miami has lots of kid friendly stuff and it's super easy on the kosher side

* Washington DC – so many amazing museums we could visit again and again

The list goes on but if you visit these places you will have seen the best places, the most scenic spots in America, amazing Chabad hospitality in small towns, and proven that you can do all this kosher on a budget with 3 kids.

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