Houseboating in Raystown Lake, PA

When we told people we went houseboating last weekend, we got a lot of questions. A lot of questions means a lot of interest, hence here’s what you need to know if you want to rent a houseboat in Pennsylvania on Raystown Lake!

One of the houseboats at Raystown Lake. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

My travel planner (i.e. my husband) planned this rental out probably six months in advance. These things book up quickly, so if you’re interested, don’t wait. Continue reading “Houseboating in Raystown Lake, PA”

Review: Lincoln Caverns in PA

For cave lovers like me, Pennsylvania is a hotbed of cavern activity, with eight commercially developed caves in the state. I have a lot of driving to do!

We checked out Lincoln Caverns after houseboating at Raystown Lake. Lincoln Caverns were discovered in 1931. The William Penn Highway was being built just above it, and a large steam shovel machine fell through into the caves during the blasting process. It fell into what is now called Devil’s Pit. I’m not sure what damage it die to the formations below, but that area is full of wonder after wonder.

One of the formations in Lincoln Cavern. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Continue reading “Review: Lincoln Caverns in PA”

Review: Camelback Ski Resort With Kids

Camelback Mountain

For some relatively local (to us) Pennsylvania skiing, we headed to Camelback Ski resort with kids this year. It’s funny to see the outdoor water park slides covered in snow, as this resort is also a summer destination.

Camelback is in the Poconos. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Camelback is in the Poconos. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Given all the crazy weather this season, we were happy to see a solid base. Plus, they make snow, and we got to experience that ourselves, with snow machines at the base and on some of the slopes. I never realized how loud they are. It’s like going past a jet engine. After one run where about 6 of them were blowing in a row, we had to go in and take a break, as our faces were so cold from the blowing snow.

As for mountain stats: Continue reading “Review: Camelback Ski Resort With Kids”

Hershey Half Marathon Tips for Runners and Spectators

I don’t think I’ve posted race tips before on my site, and don’t plan to in the future. BUT we don’t usually travel for races. My husband and his running group ran the Hershey Half Marathon this weekend, and while it’s fresh in my mind, I wanted to share some tips for runners and spectators to make it easier should you run this race.

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We spent a lot of time figuring out logistics for where to park the car, where to meet up after the race and how to plan our morning as spectators. Here are my Hershey Half Marathon tips: Continue reading “Hershey Half Marathon Tips for Runners and Spectators”

Hershey Chocolate World with Families Review

I didn’t think it would be possible to get sick of chocolate. But after spending 27 hours in Hershey, drinking milkshakes, eating s’mores, drinking hot chocolate, eating chocolate cookies, eating candy bars, making candy bars and smelling pumped in fake chocolate aroma, my daughter declared “I’m sick of chocolate.”

While I’m not giving up on the treat any time soon, she had a point. And being immersed in Hershey land for 27 hours does make you a little jaded and longing for a salad.

Here’s our Hershey Chocolate World with families review!

Hershey Chocolate World - a world of commerce. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Hershey Chocolate World – a world of commerce. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Free Chocolate Making Tour Continue reading “Hershey Chocolate World with Families Review”

Hershey Create Your Own Candy Bar Experience

We went to Hershey last weekend for the first time, and I wanted to cram in as much as we could. My husband was running the Hershey Half Marathon, which make planning a little more difficult, so I had to prioritize what we were going to do. I heard about the Hershey create your own candy bar experience, though, and knew that was top of the list.

We arrived at the entrance at our appointed time. It wasn’t a formal tour, so you literally just show up at your ticket time. They give you an apron, hair net and if needed, a beard net. My 12 year old took one of those just because it was fun. Not sure why you need an apron, since you don’t go anywhere need the food. The hair net, I kind of get, even though everything is behind glass.

You choose your own chocolate base bar and toppings, using your ticket's bar code for tracking. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
You choose your own chocolate base bar and toppings, using your ticket’s bar code for tracking. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Continue reading “Hershey Create Your Own Candy Bar Experience”

Hersheypark in the Dark Tips for Families

It’s rare to be at an amusement park on the weekend with virtually no lines. That was the upside to going to Hersheypark on a cold October day where it hailed on us three times plus rain (of course we had no ponchos or umbrellas, though everyone in our group except for me had hoods). I’ve included some Hersheypark in the Dark tips for families here.

Hail storm at Hersheypark. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Hail storm at Hersheypark. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Six hours in an amusement park is generally not enough time to ride a big coasters numerous times, eat lunch and do some low-key rides too. But in our six hours we did quite well, riding: Continue reading “Hersheypark in the Dark Tips for Families”

Weekend in Philly

My family went to Philadelphia over our fall break (i.e. NJ Teachers Convention break) last November. It was a whirlwind of sightseeing and an awesome trip (I wrote a ton of posts on what to see in Philadelphia with kids here). But when a friend was organizing a girls’ weekend in May, I jumped at the chance. Though we had one overlap in activity (the Barnes Foundation), the entire weekend was a different experience than traveling there with kids, and even my visit to the Barnes was completely different.

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My girls’ weekend group, after the evening tour at the Barnes Foundation followed by free cocktails

Coming from the Northern NJ area, people here don’t think about spending the weekend in Philadelphia, given that the much larger New York City is so close. But Philly is close too – and there is so much to do and see there that you can’t cover it all in a weekend – or in a weekend plus the November break. Here’s how we spent our almost-48 hours. Continue reading “Weekend in Philly”

Avoid the Nightmare Rental – Tips to Choosing a Vacation by Owner Property

Recently I spent a girls’ weekend in Philadelphia with other travel writers. With six in our group, we wanted a place we could hang out, and a good location. It didn’t have to be luxurious, but it should be nice. Instead of going the hotel route, we went the rental by owner route. We hated our rental.

How can you avoid the mistakes we made when renting from an owner? Here’s how, using an in-depth review of the Perle Mesta Inn B&B in Philadelphia as our example.

One of the house perks: an alligator skin from Thailand
One of the house perks: hanging out with the alligator skin from Thailand

How the services work

Several established companies offer room/home rentals by owner. These companies act as a listing service and do some vetting (but do not manage the properties, nor do they physically see them).

When I looked at how it works on FlipKey (disclosure: they paid for our rental), owners can create a free listing. They upload all the details and photos, and can take payment through the site. They pay FlipKey a 3% charge for each booking. Guests booking pay a 5-10% booking fee.

We’ve been very happy with our VRBO.com rentals both domestically and internationally. My friend Paige used airbnb.com extensively during her 11 month family trip around the world, and was happy with their services.

The key is to ask lots of questions. Don’t assume that the rentals are heavily vetted or inspected personally.

How are the rentals vetted? Continue reading “Avoid the Nightmare Rental – Tips to Choosing a Vacation by Owner Property”