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Oregon Family Magazine

Family Travel Unplugged

04/12/2010 ● By Anonymous
(Family Features) Smart phones, PDAs, email, laptops, wireless Internet access — technology makes it easy to stay in touch with anyone, anywhere. But it can also make it difficult to get connected to the people you’re closest to — your family. When you add personal entertainment devices into the mix, a family trying to get away from it all can end up just getting away from each other.

Disconnect to Reconnect

It’s important to make the time to step away from the hardware and engage with one another — especially on vacation. The demands of work may make it feel like you have to be available 24/7, but in reality, you don’t. Here are some tips for getting unplugged on vacation, and some trip ideas that will keep you and your family engaged with each other and the world around you.

—Make Family the Priority. Talk about it as a family and agree to take a tech-break so that you can focus on having a great experience together. Keep the electronics to a minimum to keep the temptations at bay.

—Leave Work at the Office. Set up out-of-office messages on your phone and in your email — and provide back-up contacts for urgent requests. Make a list of true emergencies and tell co-workers not to call unless one of those emergencies occurs.

—Schedule Plug-Ins. If it’s just not possible to be completely unplugged, choose a specific time and time frame every couple of days when you will be available for phone calls or email check-ins. Setting aside a few minutes to plug in keeps everyone from complete tech-withdrawal, while keeping the focus on spending quality time with your family.

Family Trip Ideas

When considering destinations for your family trip, look at places that have plenty of opportunities for you to get — and stay — unplugged. Here are some destinations that fit the bill.

Washington, D.C. is one of the most family-friendly cities in the country. Most of the major sites and attractions are free, and the Metro subway system is clean and safe. Things to do:

—Watch cash being made at the Bureau of Engraving & Printing.

—Explore flight at The Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum. There is a large collection of airplanes (including the Wright brothers’ flier), rockets and space modules.

—Explore The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It has an insect zoo, dinosaur exhibits, and a kids’ Discovery Room.

—Rock Creek Park has 1,754 acres of trails and prime picnic spots.

—For a different kind of museum experience, check out the International Spy Museum ( to find out what it’s like to be a spy. Or immerse yourselves in the world’s greatest news stories at the interactive Newseum’s 14 galleries and 15 theatres ( Visit their Web sites for current admission prices.

Discover the Southwest with a trip to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Nature, culture, history and fun can be found in and around these two cities.

—Nambe Falls and Recreation Area is located on the Nambe Pueblo Indian reservation just 15 minutes from downtown Santa Fe. It features beautiful scenery, waterfalls, fishing, boating and hiking.

—Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a geologic wonder, full of towering cone-shaped tent rock formations created after volcanic eruptions took place six to seven million years ago.

—Take to the skies in Albuquerque with balloon rides and hot air balloon events, or on gliders and airplanes. Or get a pilot’s-eye view of the city and Sandia Mountain from the gondola of the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway.

—Visit Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center or the Petroglyph National Monument, which contains more than 20,000 images pecked into the stone.

For more great family itinerary ideas, visit

Smart Phone Apps for Family Travel

Travel technology can be helpful. Check out these practical — and cheap — apps that can free up more time to spend on having fun.

—SitOrSquat (free): Find a restroom or public toilet almost anywhere in the world.

—Taxi Magic (free): Book taxis directly from your phone without having to make a call. You can also track the taxi’s progress so you know when it will arrive.

—iPhone Airport Maps ($2.99): Detailed terminal maps help you navigate major airports in the U.S. and Canada.

—Rest Area Finder (free): For long road trips, locate the closest rest stop and get information on rest rooms, gas stations and food.

—Park Maps ($0.99): Don’t waste time getting lost in the wilderness. This app has a collection of GPS-enabled maps of over 250 U.S. national parks, monuments, and recreational areas. Download them ahead of time since internet connectivity can be spotty.

—Urban Spoon (free): Need to find a place to eat while on vacation? Get a list of restaurants filtered by cuisine type, location and prices.

—Kids Eat For ($2.99): This helps you find the nearest restaurants where kids can eat free or cheap.

Family-Friendly Hotels

Country Inns & Suites By Carlson has a “1, 2, Freee!” offer where guests can book two consecutive nights, and get the third night free at participating locations. Additionally, goldpoints plusSM loyalty program members will earn 3,000 bonus Gold Points® as part of the offer.

“We want to make it easy to plan family vacations, so we have created this opportunity to extend their vacation budget for a getaway,” said Aurora Toth, vice president of Marketing for Country Inns & Suites. Guests can book the “1, 2, Freee!” offer for stays now through May 15, 2010 in the U.S. and Canada. Country Inns & Suites has more than 490 locations. Visit for complete details.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images