Travel Advice & Tips


Save Fuel with Tires in Tip-Top Shape

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77005428 (1) Did you know that if your tires aren't kept at the recommended pressure you could be losing 3 to 4 percent fuel economy every time you turn the ignition? 

Your dashboard tire pressure gauge may not indicate any problems, but it's worth taking a look on a weekly basis to ensure that your vehicle is as safe - and fuel efficient - as possible. After all, escalating summer temperatures can change tire pressure by an average of 1 psi for every 10 degrees it heats up!

Wondering how to take care of your tires and reap the rewards? Rely on these simple tips:

  • Check tire pressure when the tires are cold; in other words, before they have been driven on. Do not bleed air pressure from hot tires. Follow the recommendation in your owner's guide for proper bleeding procedures.
  • The proper air pressure for the front, rear and spare tires is listed on a sticker on the vehicle, usually on the driver's door jamb. The pressure listed on the tire sidewall is the maximum for the tire and not the recommended inflation pressure.
  • Check tire pressure at least once a month and always before trips. Even if the tire pressure warning light is not on, the tires could be under-inflated.
  • Always remember to check the air pressure in the spare tire when you check the road tires.
  • Check tire inflation pressures with an accurate (+/- 0.5 pounds per square inch, or psi) digital tire inflation pressure gauge.

But don't stop with a tire-pressure check. Be sure to also monitor the alignment of your wheels to avoid rapid tread-wear, the rotation of your tires to ensure uniform wear and the tread grip, which will keep yoou safer in rough road conditions.

With your tires are in tip-top shape, prices at the pump may just become a little more bearable.

(Sources: Ford Motor Co., AAA) 


Top 10 Summertime National Parks Hikes

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200410013-001This summer, why not kick off the flip flops and lace up some hiking shoes? Here in the U.S., we've got 84 million acres of stunning national parks just waiting and ready for you to explore. Not only are our nation's pristine parks an idyllic ecotourism destination - they're the ultimate in inexpensive activities!

If you're not familiar with the most sought-out trails, that's okay. Take a day or two to find your own favorite nooks, crannies and cliffs to call your own. Or, if you're eager to see what everyone is talking about, try one of these hot spot trails that are known for their nationwide popularity: 

  1. Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park
    Painted Desert Rim Trail (One mile round trip)
    This trail winds through the rim woodland and offers up various species of plants, animals and spectacular views.
  2. California: Yosemite National Park
    Wapama Falls (Five miles round trip)
    Taking you to the base of Wapama Falls, this trail passes two waterfalls and bounties of wildflowers.
  3. Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison
    Rim Rock Nature Trail (One mile round trip)

    A self-guided nature trail that's mostly flat and follows the canyon's rim. You'll catch excellent views of the Gunnison River.
  4. Florida: Canaveral National Seashore
    Turtle Mound Trail (.3 miles)
    Hike to the top of a 35-foot-high Native American Mound and choose one of two awesome views.
  5. Georgia: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
    General Bragg Trail (Five miles)
    Cehck out Georgia Regimental Monuments, Strahl's Brigade Tablet and General Bragg's Headquarters as you hike back through history.
  6. New Mexico: White Sands National Park
    Interdune Boardwalk (650 yards round trip)

    Easily accessible for strollers and wheelchairs, this walk offers vast views of wildflowers aplenty.
  7. South Dakota: Jewel Cave National Monument
    Canyons Trail (3.5 mile loop trail)
    You'll surely encounter limestone cliffs, ponderosa pine forests, deer, birds and bats on this trail.
  8. Texas: Big Bend National Park
    Dog Canyon Trail (4 miles round trip)
    Glimpse a narrow canyon cut between massive limestone layers on this medium-difficulty trail.
  9. Tennessee: Great Smokey Mountains
    Andrews Bald Trail (3.5 miles round trip)
    At 5,920 feet, Andrews Blad is the hightest in the Smokies. Enjoy breath-taking views of the southern mountains from the top.
  10. Maine: Acadia National Park
    Ocean Path Trail (4 miles round trip)
    Sand beaches and sea cliffs. Enough said, right?

Source: National Park Foundation


Up Your Energy with a Relaxed Stay-cation

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With “stay-cations” taking the place of traditional vacations for many families around the country during these tough economic times, people must still find ways to relax and enjoy their time off.  A challenge, to be sure – but there are innovative ways to chill out, recharge your batteries and feel refreshed – all without leaving home.  

Dr. Ann Marie Chiasson, MD, and Dr. Andrew Weil, of Self-Healing with Energy Medicine, has some smart tips for those seeking the benefits of a vacation, without the price tag of a travel-heavy get-away. Up your energy the all-natural (non-caffeinated way) with these simple mind/body exercises:


  • Gather energy for each day – Use your slowed breath, movement or exercise to consciously bring vitality and energy into your body to greet the demands of the day. This is particularly useful for mornings when you know you will be facing a hectic day.
  • Tap your toes together or your fingertips to relieve stress - Lie flat in bed and rotate your legs to allow your toes to tap together over and over, quickly and rhythmically. If you are upright, tap your fingertips together to allow energy to move through your body.  This moves the stress through instead of allowing it to disrupt the nervous system.
  • Breathe – Breathing can shift your nervous system from overload to relaxed.  Slow your breath down. Breathe in gently through your nose for the count of four. Hold for the count of seven and breathe out through your mouth for the count of eight.  Repeat this four times, at least twice a day or during times when you feel your stress level rising.
  • Shaking the Bones – Imagine a cord attached to the crown of your head, reaching up to the sky. Allow your body to relax like a rag doll hanging from this cord. Let your neck relax and fall to one side. Bounce gently up and down from your knees, and allow the rest of your body to shake. Shake your shoulders and your arms; let your neck gently roll from side to side. Use your breath with each movement to shake out old experiences, feelings, or tensions that come into your awareness during this exercise. Do this practice for 2 to 5 minutes a day initially, and work up to 10 minutes a day.  If you have knee problems, sway from side to side while you shake. If you experience a moderate to severe amount of pain at an old injury site, stop the practice and come back to it the next day. Practice shaking the bones every day this week and anytime you feel overwhelmed or if you feel you need a quick pick me up. 
  • Connecting to the earth – Begin this practice by lying flat on the ground or sitting in a chair. Relax and allow your body’s energy field, or the feeling of your body’s edges, to merge with the energy field of the earth. Feel the interface of these energy fields as they come together. After you feel this connection, if you are lying on the ground, place one ear on the earth and listen. If you are seated in a chair, focus on one ear and listen to the energy and sounds around you. Rest in this position for a few minutes, and then switch sides and listen with the other ear. Continue to rest and listen for a few more minutes.
  • Slow down, time bends – Slowing our pace in each moment by practicing the art of not rushing allows us more time to get things done.  This shift happens in a fraction of a second. You must try this perspective to reap its benefits.
  • Day 7 - Laugh as much as you can – Laughter is a wonderful way to connect to yourself and relieve stress.  Try renting funny movies, remember and re-tell funny stories and read funny books. Laughter is a profound way to enjoy yourself and your family.

Source: Dr. Chiasson


Safe and Sustainable Sunscreens

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Sunscreen Beachy vacations are a summertime must, and so is slathering up with sunscreen. We wanted to know which sunscreens work best, which are dangerous to our health, and what other options exist for protection agains harsh UVB and UVA rays.

In a recent Consumer Reports Health study, two products stood out among the rest—Target’s “Up & Up” Sport SPF-30 and Equate Baby SPF-50. Each of these provided excellent protection against UVB rays, and “very good” protection against UVA radiation, which can cause slightly more harm to our skin due to deeper-penetrating rays. In addition, they’re also both devoid of retinyl palmitate, a antioxidant that animal studies have linked to increased risk of skin cancer. (Yes, a sunscreen that could potentially lead to skin cancer!) The shocking truth is, most sunscreens contain this ingredient, along with others known to cause adverse health effects in animal studies, like oxybenzone, nanoscale zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

What a mouthful, huh?

Consumers, however, shouldn’t rule out natural sunscreens made by brands like Aveeno, California Baby, Soleo Organics and UV Natural, most of which can be picked up at your local drugstore.

In addition, there are extra steps that can minimize your exposure to the sun. Consider a broad-brimmed hat, tightly-woven clothing or an umbrella to stick in the sand. Better yet, pop a tent for adults or kids to crawl into when they need a break. Most importantly, if possible, avoid being outside during the mid-day hours, when the sun is directly overhead and its rays are the strongest. For more information, Consumer Reports Health.

Visit EWP Blogazine's partner, Earth Tones, for more eco-friendly tips.  


Farm-to-Table Getaways in Colorado

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Organic-farms Locally-driven lifestyles are sweeping the nation and today, people want to know where their food comes from and that it’s sustainable. This summer, why not delve into fresh agricultural offerings with an experiential vacation? Across Colorado, travelers to get their hands dirty and enjoy the fruits of their labor on farm and ranch stays. Travelers can take part in organic cooking and butchery classes; cultivate crops; herd cattle or bison; and actually take part in the development of a farm or ranch.

The authentic experiences not only open the eyes of the everyday urban warrior, but fill the stomach! What better way to escape?

Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse (Paonia, Colo.)
Known for its commitment to locally- grown food, Fresh and Wyld maintains its own veggie gardens, chickens, goats, berry patch and heirloom apple trees to feed its guests. The Inn serves communal-style home-cooked meals and also offers organic cooking classes, butchery classes, farm school classes and heritage farm art workshops.

Mesa Winds Farm (Hotchkiss, Colo.)
A 36-acre farm, Mesa Winds produces USDA Certified Organic peaches, apples, grapes, raspberries, asparagus, vegetables and honey. Visitors sleep in rehabbed "picker cabins" and are welcomed to lend a hand with the farm work and dine on organic food fresh from the farm. Orchard camping opportunities are also available.

Smith Fork Ranch (North Fork Valley, Colo.)
A private luxury ranch Smith Fork Ranch offers fly fishing, horseback riding, hiking and a unique farm-to-table experience. The ranch has a garden farmstead that provides the majority of the vegetables and herbs for the ranch meals; they also raise free-range chickens that provide farm fresh eggs. The ranch also offers guided and unguided local farm and winery tours. 

Zapata Ranch (Sun Luis Valley, Colo.)
A 103,000-acre authentic working cattle and bison guest ranch, Zapata borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Owned by the Nature Preserve, vacations at the Zapata Ranch revolve around learning through experience, about real ranch life and the great outdoors. Zapata prepares meals with their grass-fed bison and beef and locally grown produce.     

(Source: Colorado Tourism Office)


Day & Night Rainforest Adventures

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Take Eco-friendly Tours through Costa Rica’s Rain Forest

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sensitive multi-sport lodge set on a 165-acre private preserve in the undeveloped Pacific Coast of Southern Costa Rica. The Lodge embraces conservation and harmony with the natural environment and caters to travelers interested in enjoying ecotourism, nature, adventure and sports. Tours and activities are conducted in the most safe and respectful manner possible.

Playa Nicuesa Lodge - Cabin
Playa Nicuesa Lodge - Cabin

One of the many eco-friendly ways adventurers can experience Playa Nicuesa is through nocturnal and early morning adventures into Costa Rica's largest intact lowland tropical rainforest finds guests of all ages immersed in a symphony of screeches, cooing & croaks.
For the animal watcher and rain forest lover, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge offers excursions in search of elusive Osa Peninsula-Golfo Dulce fauna, such as crocodiles, poison dart frogs, eyelash pit vipers, bats, kinkajous, mapaches, peccaries and more.

[Full Story]


Top Vegetarian Restaurants in the U.S.

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Veg restaurant No longer do vegetarians have to resort to nibbling pasta when hitting up the best restaurant in town. Today, seasonal, organic ingredients are plentiful are menus across the nation - and we've compiled a list of some of the best dining hot spots to score a delectable, planet-friendly meal, as recommended by AAA travel inspectors.

3 Sisters Cafe
Indianapoils, Ind. 
Locals and tourists alike flock to this slightly worn but charming Victorian-style restaruant. Vegetarian and vegan options abound and an awesome all-day breakfast menu continuously tempts. Their homemade black bean burger always garners a thumbs-up.

Claire's Corner Copia
New Haven, Conn. 
Distinctive koscher, Italian and Mexican dishes feature organic ingredients at this college hang-out, where Yale students have been coming for more than 30 years. Checkered tile floors and original artwork for sale on the walls only add to it's charm.

Dragonfly Neo-V Cuisine
Columbus, Ohio
A well-established vegan mecca owned by Chef Magdiale Wolmark features a menu made of plant-based foods - from soup to dessert. Specialties like mock duck and orzo "mac and cheese" are all-time favorites.

French Meadow Bakery and Cafe
Minneapolis, Minn. 
The smell of baked goods wafting lures in passers by to this farm-to-table restaurant, where brown rice bread is a claim to fame. 

Green Vegetarian Cusine and Coffee
San Antonio, Texas
A century-old brick building with a front yard herb garden and patio dining is enough to soothe anyone. Add a vegetarian-ham Reuben, enchiladas, stroganoff and wraps to the mix and things get a little more exciting.

Horizons Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pa. 
The seasonal menu at this restaurant earns smiles from vegetarians and carnivores alike, and includes specialty cocktails and savory delights like Jamaican BBQ seitan and Cuban paella. The perfect date spot.

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
Boulder, Colo.
Artistic food presentation and elegant decor make dining here a special experience. Complex flavor and visual appeal make the sweet onion tart a much-loved sweet, but the most memorable menu item is a ginger lemon shurb - a zesty fruit beverage dating back to colonial times.

Lovin' Spoonfuls
Tuscon, Ariz.
Locally-owned and operated, this all-vegan restaurant sets the bar when it comes to eco eating. Mouthwatering appetizers include cashew mushroom pate, hummus dip and marinated grapevine leaves stuffed with seasoned rice.

McFoster's Natural Kind Cafe
Omaha, Neb.
A quaint, worn-in restaurant surrounded by gardens, this destination offers up delectable and nutritious dishes alike. Popular items include the huge salads, soups, and entrees like eggplant parmesan.

Sage's Cafe
Salt Lake City, Utah
Featuring international, organic vegetarian cuisine and locally grown foods, this cafe is known for it's carrot butte pate, raw pad Thai salad, vegan Philly "cheese steak," French toast dipped in tofu batter and house-made root beer.

Tille Gort's
Pacific Grove, Calif. 
A small restaurant with a big menu, Tillie's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner meals that span the cultural gamut - from Italian, Mexican and Indian to American. Their "No Meat Loaf" is a favorite among customers.

For more Earth-friendly articles, visit Earth Tones.

Hungry yet? Check out AAA's travel blog - - for more dish on veggie-loving restaurants nationwide. 


The Carbon-Friendly Commute: Bicycling

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Bicycling to work 

Biking to work may not be the most practical option for all of us - especially those of us who wear skirts on occasion, or need to drop the kids off at daycare - but it remains an option. If you're one of the brave few who strap on a helmet daily, we've provided a reminder round-up of safety tips to keep in mind. 

And for those of you who have never even considered biking to work, give it a second thought. With gas prices skyrocketing, it's a sure way to save some cash and get a good workout in at the same time! 

1. Be bike safe (and smart)
Just like you would tune-up your car before a trip, take stock of your bicycle and take time for proper maintenance.  For more tips, visit the League of American Bicyclists.

  • Wear a helmet
  • Check the air pressure in both tires; know what pressure is best for your tires and your terrain
  • Pack a portable pump and extra inner tubes or a patch kit so you are ready to fix a flat
  • Know the bicycle safety and traffic laws for your area 

2. Turn your bicycle into the ultimate commuter
Forgo the racks or panniers and opt for a lightweight trailer like this one from BOB.

  • Easily attaches to your bicycle’s back wheel
  • Has a low center of gravity to keep weight off of your bicycle frame, which means better bike handling
  • Tracks with your back wheel, which means it’s easy to navigate your commuter route
  • Provides plenty of storage capacity for all of your gear, plus anything you need to pick up along the way

3. Dress for commuter success
When commuting by bicycle, be prepared by anticipating changes in weather and wearing comfortable clothing. These factors can make or break an enjoyable commute. 

  • Dress in layers made of breathable fabrics.  It may start out cooler at the beginning of your morning ride, but you’ll warm up quickly and may want to shed layers
  • If your ride is longer, consider wearing bicycling shorts
  • Don’t forget to tie down your right pant leg – your drive train can easily chew up loose fabric
  • Shoes should be sturdy with rubber soles to provide traction on pedals

4. Map your ride
Find the best bike route and get mentally prepared using Google's Bicycling Directions. Even take a virtual ride before you go.

5. Pack up essentials
Take a few minutes and consider what you’ll need to make it easy, convenient and fun:

  • A change of clothes or shoes
  • A travel set of toiletries such as deodorant, hair brush and cleansing body-freshening wipes to transition from the bike lane to the office setting
  • Pack your lunch and snacks to maintain energy throughout the day

For more earth-friendly transportation ideas, visit our Road & Travel Magazine partner, Planet Driven.

(Source: BOB Gear)


Ten Tips for Taking a Volunteer Vacation

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Volunteer Vacation

These days, many travelers are forgoing traditional vacations in order to take part in a volunteer vacation. Volunteer vacations gives average travelers the chance to volunteer abroad by taking part in a worthwhile project such as helping to preserve endangered wild animals or ecosystems through wildlife conservation programs, often in remote parts of the world, and much more. Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of non-profit wildlife conservation volunteer organization Biosphere Expeditions, offers his top ten tips on how to choose the right volunteer vacation for you:

1. Make sure it is a well-established organization with a proven track record of making a real difference in the projects it has become involved with – has it won any awards for its work?

2. If, for example, the project is about wildlife conservation, make sure that the program is run on verifiable scientific grounds. While you give your time as an interested traveler who wants to make a difference, you need to have peace of mind that the project you are helping with is being run by a qualified scientist.

3. Ask where your money goes. To truly make a difference, it is best if as much money and resources as possible go to help the local environment in the country the project is in. Reputable organizations will always publish information about how funds are distributed to the public.

4. Make sure that the organization keeps you up to date on how your volunteer project is progressing. Even though you may have only been there for one or two weeks, many volunteer programs run for many years. Make sure that you will be sent regular reports to see what is happening with the program.

5. Many volunteer vacations will take place in remote parts of the world where you may have close encounters with potentially dangerous wild animals. Make sure the organization that you are volunteering with has an excellent safety record and takes the whole issue seriously.

6. Do some background research on your expedition leader and make sure that they are qualified. To some extent you may be putting your life in their hands, so you need to be sure they have all the necessary qualifications.

7. Determine what new skills you will learn on your volunteer vacation and how you will be taught these skills. One of the biggest bonuses of a volunteer program may be learning something new in an exciting environment and you want to make sure that the people who are teaching you are well qualified.

8. Make sure that you have clear goals about what you hope to accomplish out of the whole experience and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek the views of travelers who have gone before you. Reputable organizations will always offer to put you in touch with previous travellers – if they don’t, beware.

9. Find out who you will be traveling with. As you may be virtually living “next door” to each other for some time, you need to be comfortable with the type of people you are likely to be with. The organization should be able to tell you about the kind of people who typically attends their projects. Facebook, blog pages, and social media outlets can be invaluable information gathering tools for volunteer vacations.

10. Most importantly, determine if it will be fun. Although most volunteer vacations have a serious purpose, you should have fun considering that you are spending your valuable vacation time “giving back”.

For more tips, advice, and information about volunteer vacations and volunteer wildlife conservation programs visit Biosphere Expeditions.


The Cleanest Cities in the U.S.

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Clean cities More than half of all Americans live in cities with unhealthy levels of air pollution, most commonly masking itself as smog or soot, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). What's worse is that breathing in partical pollution can increase your risk of early death, heart attack, stroke or serious illness if you already suffer from asthma, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. 

When its inhaled, ozone irritates your lungs, causing a reaction similar to a bad sunburn inside your body.  And shocking as it is, despite the Clean Air Act and our nation's attempts to cut back on emission levels, air pollution has actually become worse in some parts of our country over the past year.

Two cities, however—Honolulu, HI and Santa Fe, NM—ranked among the cleanest in the U.S. in the new 2011 State of the Air report by the ALA. They're not alone. The following areas were ranked as the Top 10 Cleanest U.S. Cities for Year-Round Partical Pollution:

#1: Cheyenne, WY
#2: Santa Fe-Espanola, NM
#3: Tucson, AZ
#4: Honolulu, HI
#4: Great Falls, MT
#6: Anchorage, AK
#7: Amarillo, TX
#7: Albuquerque, NM
#9: Redding, CA
#10: Salinas, CA

Are you lucky enough to live in one of these clean, green cities? To see your state's air pollution grade, visit the State of the Air website

For more earth-friendly tips, visit RTM's Earth Tones.