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Travel Through France This Summer with TripUSAFrance

TripUSAFrance is a great way to experience French culture in a non-traditional way.

Lots of tourists choose Arlington based tour company TripUSAFrance to visit Normandy and the South of France/Provence regions because of its small group sizes (including private tours) that allow them to blend in and interact with the locals.

There are also more opportunities to see hidden gems that usually aren’t part of big tour itineraries, including some of the most beautiful villages of France.

The tours are led by locals who walk groups through historic sites and share their culture and personal traditions. For instance, groups enjoy a French picnic, eat at authentic French restaurants, and dine at the guides’ homes. Since groups range from four to fourteen people, participants get plenty of attention from guides along the journey and make friends with other travelers.

The goal is to make sure that you spend memorable time enjoying your trip.

That’s why TripUSAFrance carefully plans everything for you, which includes personal help from a staff member to coordinate your travel plans. TripUSAFrance even gives participants cell phones to reach tour guides during free times from group activities.

For stress-free planning, the cost of the vacation includes ground transportation, hotel, breakfasts, lunches, at least three dinners, snacks, admission fees for stops on your tour, wine tastings and more. Participants only need to pay for their plane tickets, extra dinners and drinks, and souvenirs from their unforgettable experience.

There’s still availability left this summer so don’t wait to book your trip!

Some highlights of their South of France / Provence tour:

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Who’ll Run The World (Finals)? Glebe’s Girls

Maybe girls really do run the world — or at least, perhaps, world finals.

An all-girls group of problems solvers from Glebe Elementary School is heading to the 2018 Odyssey of the Mind world finals next month after becoming state champions on April 14 in Newport News, Va.

The competition pushes students to work creatively as a team to “create original solutions to… divergent problems,” according to the competition’s website. This year’s theme is “emoji, speak for yourself.”

Seven girls — Buse Arici, Maddie Brown, Audrey Ferguson, Nora Johnson, Zella Mantler, Katie Martin, and Kaitlyn Nowinski — comprise the state championship-winning team.

Getting seven children to work together as a team takes a lot of effort, and the school estimates that the girls have dedicated more than 100 hours toward their competition submission.

The pursuit of problem solving — in their case, finding a way to communicate the story of a forgotten emoji without speaking, by just using emojis — led the seven girls to build “a texting machine that prints a message” and two emoji machines. In the process, they learned to use 3D printers, Adobe Illustrator and power tools to design their prototypes and their own costumes.

The silence stipulation alone will be quite the challenge for the group, a lively and talkative bunch whose excitement bubbled over into constant eruptions of euphoria while meeting with ARLnow at their elementary school on Wednesday (April 25).

The program was first brought to the school in 2015, and the team is the first from Glebe to win at Odyssey’s regional and state competition, according to Arlington Public Schools.

The world finals, hosted at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, will pit the nine- and 10-year-old girls against about 850 teams from 25 countries. According to the competition’s website, tens of thousands of students are anticipated to descend on little Ames, population just over 66,000, from May 23-26.

Getting the team to the competition will also prove challenging, and the girls have set up a fundraising campaign to raise money for their transportation and other expenses. The overall goal is $17,000, the girls said, but the fundraising webpage’s goal is much lower, at $6,000.

The team will be hosting other fundraising efforts, like a bake sale, to raise the remaining funds.

Photo courtesy of Arlington Public Schools

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Reagan National Braces for Extra Travelers During Thanksgiving Period

Reagan National Airport is preparing for one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

Between Friday, November 17, and Tuesday, November 28, more than 28.5 million passengers will travel on U.S. airlines for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 3 percent from 2016, according to industry estimates.

Trade association Airlines for America said it expects the busiest travel days to be Sunday, November 26 and Wednesday, November 22, while the lightest is expected to be Thanksgiving Day.

Anyone travelling to and from the region’s airports can expect more congestion on the roads and inside the terminals, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

MWAA had the following tips for travelers, after the jump.

Plan before you go

  • Pack smart –– Know your airline’s checked bag policies and fees, remember not to pack laptops and other devices with lithium ion batteries in your checked bags, leave gifts unwrapped and pack liquids you plan to carry on with you according to the 3-1-1 rule.
  • Check with your airline –– Confirm your flight status and gate location before departing for the airport, and make sure you’re aware of airline policies regarding check-in times, boarding processes, fees and rebooking options.

Arrive your way

  • Consider your options –– Reagan National and Dulles International are both accessible via car, taxi, ride share services and public transit. Reagan National is accessed directly by Metrorail on the Blue and Yellow lines while Dulles International is connected to the Silver line via the Washington Flyer Silver Line Express Choose the most convenient or most economical option for you and your family.
  • Park with confidence –– Reagan National and Dulles International airports provide economy, daily and hourly parking options depending on the length of your travels. Keep in mind certain lots at Reagan National may fill up on peak travel days, so ensure you’re able to park by reserving a parking space in advance online.
  • Leave early –– Allow for extra time getting to and through the airport, as holiday travel can cause backups on roadways and longer passenger queues throughout the terminal. The Airports Authority recommends arriving at the airport at least two hours before domestic departures and three hours before international departures.

Minimize your wait

  • Prepare for new screening procedures –– The TSA is implementing new screening procedures in standard security lanes, which require passengers to remove electronic devices larger than a cell phone from carry-on baggage. The TSA also recommends placing food items in bins for easier screening. Pack your carry-ons accordingly by putting items like electronics, toiletries and food in easily accessible places.
  • Enroll in a trusted traveler program –– Trusted traveler programs like TSA PreCheck and Clear provide passengers an easy alternative to standard screening procedures and speed-up the security screening process. If travelling abroad, consider enrolling in Global Entry or using Mobile Passport to expedite Customs processing upon your return.

Enjoy your journey

  • Relax in our new restaurants –– A multi-year effort to transform the concessions offerings at Reagan National and Dulles International is almost complete. Check out locally inspired offerings like Ben’s Chili Bowl, The Burgundy & Gold Club and &pizza, along with national favorites like Chick-fil-A and Five Guys.
  • Shop for those last minute gifts –– Give the gift of travel this holiday season by sharing new experiences with family and friends to one of many new nonstop destinations, or pick up one of the many items featured in the #FlyWashington magazine gift guide.
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Summer Travel Tips for Flying Out of DCA or IAD

Summer is officially here and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has some tips for reducing hassles at the airport during the summer vacation season.

MWAA, which operates Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport, says that travelers should plan ahead, keep an eye on the weather and monitor social media.

Among the tips from the airports authority:

  • “Be aware of airport travel peaks and when to arrive: Passengers should arrive to the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Peak travel times at the airports include the early morning (6 a.m. to 8 a.m.), mid-day (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and late afternoon (3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.).”
  • “Check in online and print your boarding pass before coming to the airport.”
  • “Follow airport social media accounts for up-to-date information. Passengers should follow @Dulles_Airport and @Reagan_Airport on Twitter and check out FlyDulles and ReaganAirport on Facebook.”
  • “Confirm the status of your flight before coming to the airport. Weather here or even in other parts of the country may affect flight schedules.”
  • “Pack wisely with no prohibited items in carry-on luggage and no valuable items in checked luggage. With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, passengers should remember that fireworks are prohibited at all times.”
  • “Label your luggage so your name is clearly visible.”
  • “Economy lots tend to fill quickly during the summer. Be sure to check parking availability for Reagan National online at flyreagan.com/parking.”
  • Reserve a parking spot: “At Reagan National, ePark allows travelers to assure a parking spot. Travelers can make reservations from 24 hours to six months before their trip. Reservations can be changed or canceled online up to 24 hours before arrival time, free of charge.”

“Travelers should prepare ahead of time, make full use of airport websites and follow airport social media accounts to have the best experience possible,” MWAA said in a press release.

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Be Happy in Pennsylvania

School is back in session, work is heating up and vacation time is over. Or is it? We in the “DMV” are fortunate to have the “P” waiting to welcome us just to the north.

Pennsylvania is close enough for interesting day trips to historic city sites–where you can be out in the morning and back at night–and big enough for extended stays in scenic countryside that varies from picturesque lake fronts to slow rising mountains.

The scenery amid Pennsylvania’s 46,055 square miles seems to change every few miles: If you make the drive north and a little west from points in D.C. and Northern Virginia, you’ll reach the 51 miles of shoreline with Lake Erie; go east and you’ll get to the 57 miles of shore along the Delaware Estuary.

In between are opportunities to explore the Poconos and the Alleghenies, the Lehigh and Susquehanna Valleys, as well as, of course, the history, arts and cultural offerings of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Need ideas for destinations and activities? There is the handy “Happy Traveler” guide created by the Pennsylvania Tourism Board that catalogs the Keystone State’s highlights as well as some of the attractions off the beaten path (a trip along Dutch Country roads, anyone?). Download it at this address.

Meanwhile, consider some of these day trips that are an easy drive from D.C. and NoVa and start making plans for one- to three-day weekends this fall.

  • York: Explore Colonial history at the York Heritage Center.
  • Pittsburgh: Celebrate the city’s 200th birthday (born: 1816!) at the Senator John Heinz History Center.
  • Hershey: Hmmm. Let’s think. Oh, right, chocolate. Explore the candy at Hershey Chocolate World.
  • Bethlehem: Speaking of candy, did you know PEEPs were invented in Pennsylvania in 1953? Get the facts at the PEEPs Company Store.
  • Nazareth: Speaking of inventions, C.F. Martin built his innovative Martin guitars here. Visit the museum and factory here.

And we didn’t even get to Gettysburg yet.

The preceding post was sponsored by Pennsylvania tourism and written by Buzz McClain

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Nearly 1 Million D.C. Area Residents Expected to Travel This Weekend

Traffic on I-66

If you’re planning on leaving home this Memorial Day weekend, you’re not alone.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, nearly 966,000 D.C. area residents will travel at least 50 miles for the holiday.

This is the highest travel estimate in the last 11 years and it represents a nearly two percent increase over the 951,000 residents who traveled at this time last year, according to AAA.

The heaviest congestion on area roads is predicted to occur Thursday afternoon between 5-6 p.m.

“The great American road trip is back due to cheaper gas prices. We’re seeing this play out for Memorial Day, with a projected 869,600 people in the Washington metro planning to drive to their Memorial Day destinations,” said AAA’s John Townsend, in a press release.

Gas prices this year are noticeably lower compared to previous years with the national average at $2.29 a gallon, 45 cents cheaper than a year ago. Prices in the D.C. area are also down, averaging $2.28 a gallon, 41 cents cheaper.

Along with the roads, air travel is also expected to increase with a predicted number of 69,100 people expected to fly, a 1.7 percent increase from last year’s numbers.

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TripUsaFrance: Making Europe Easily Accessible and Affordable

For many, a vacation to the South of France is a considerable expense and represents one of the biggest investments of time and money spent for the year. There is trepidation, particularly for first-time travelers, as they worry if they are doing the right thing.

Arlington-based TripUsaFrance is on hand to break down that barrier by making the entire experience–from booking to embarking to coming home–as frictionless as possible. Because this isn’t their first trip.

Customized tours with TripUsaFrance to the less-touristy, authentically French region of Southern France are kept small so that the travelers have flexibility in their movements (no tourist traps!) and wind up getting to know each other as they experience the enrichment of traveling through such a historic and beautiful country.

The family-owned firm is operated by Julia Girard-Gervois, who is also your tour guide. A native of Montpellier, Julia takes the responsibility for getting you from the Montpellier airport or train station to your hotel which will be your home base for her carefully crafted tour for a unique experience of French culture. She’ll take you to restaurants familiar to her, show you landmarks that she knows well: Medieval cities, ancient castles and chateaux, canals, wineries, beaches and markets–an insider’s trip where history meets today.

“We do the planning for you to make your trip as authentically French as possible,” Julia says. “Once you get to Montpellier by plane or train, we take it from there.” Inclusive pricing provides you with three meals and snacks, local transportation and accommodations, admission to wine tastings and other activities.

Tours are available for adults over 18 as well as a family option, but no matter which type you go on, your tour will have no more than 12 travelers.

And along the way the former French teacher Julia will help you learn un peu la langue française. Which will make your next trip to France all the more enjoyable.

The preceding post was written by ARLnow.com on behalf of our sponsor, TripUsaFrance.

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Arlington Chamber Plans Cuba Trip

Arlington Chamber of Commerce logoThe Arlington Chamber of Commerce is planning a trip to Cuba for Chamber members and interested members of the community.

The trip will take place Nov. 10-14. With the thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, many in the business community see a land of opportunity in the Communist-ruled island nation just 90 miles from Key West.

A press release from the Chamber (below) has details on the itinerary and the costs.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce a new partnership with Chamber Explorations to send travelers on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to explore Cuba, a country where time has stood still. From November 10-14, participants can travel to Cuba with business colleagues, family, and community members. Travelers have the option of beginning their trip from Miami, or flying locally from Washington Dulles International Airport at an additional cost.

“We are thrilled to expand our Chamber travel program with the addition of the Cuba Getaway,” said President & CEO Kate Bates. “We look forward to continuing to provide our members and the community unique opportunities like this trip to Cuba.”

In a key time for Cuban-United States relationship building, current travel to Cuba is limited to “people-to-people” trips such as this one. With an itinerary reflecting a leisure trip, Cuba Getaway travelers will visit sights such as Ernest Hemingway’s farm, the Museum of the Revolution, and a Havana cigar factory. Travelers will also have the opportunity to meet with the local Old Style Car Club owners and learn why Havana’s streets are filled with vintage American automobiles and understand what it takes to keep them on the road.

  • The trip package includes:
  • Flights to and from Cuba
  • First class hotel accommodations
  • Bilingual Cuban Tour Guide
  • Itinerary Interactions & Admissions
  • Eight meals – three breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners
  • Cuban medical insurance
  • Deluxe Air Conditioned Motorcoach
  • And more!

Full details can be found in the trip itinerary on the Arlington Chamber Travel page.

The Cuba Getaway early bird cost (ending May 31, 2016) is $2,695 for Chamber members, their families, and guests. Non-member early bird registration is $2,895. After May 31, registration increases to $2,795 for Chamber members and $2,995 for non-members. To register, visit the Chamber website and download the Cuba Getaway 2016 Registration Form (also found here). Final registration deadline is August 27, 2016.

For more information about the trip, contact the Chamber office by calling 703-525-2400 or emailing [email protected] Trip itinerary is available through the Chamber.

Please note: Rates are based on double occupancy. There is a $500 fee for travelers who choose to have a single room.

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Reagan National Airport Calm Before Potentially Historic Storm

It’s the calm before the storm.

Reagan National Airport was surprisingly empty of departing and arriving passengers before lunchtime today, where several airlines have already cancelled flights ahead of the impending snowstorm.

TSA security lines were short, and passengers moved through in unusually quick fashion.

But the tranquility was temporary, according a friendly TSA officer on break who declined to be identified. “We’re about to get slammed,” he said. “Come back around [3 p.m.] and see the difference.”

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Morning Poll: Are You Traveling This Thanksgiving?

A decorative Thanksgiving turkeyAn estimated 1.15 million D.C. area residents will travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday. Will you be among them?

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, holiday travel will be virtually unchanged this year, down 0.2 percent compared to 2014.

That’s despite lower gas prices and better weather — it’s supposed to be mostly sunny and cool this week, compared to the snowstorm that was predicted around this time last year.

About 90.5 percent of all D.C. area travelers will travel by car, compared to 7.3 percent traveling via air and 2.2 percent via other modes of transportation.

Will you be among those traveling outside of D.C. this year?

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Morning Poll: Will You Be Going Out of Town for Labor Day Weekend?

Plane taking off at Reagan National AirportAAA Mid-Atlantic came out with its annual Labor Day travel forecast earlier this week, predicting that 850,700 D.C. area residents will head out of town for the holiday.

That’s a paltry 0.4 percent increase from last year, with 743,200 residents expected to drive to their vacation destinations, 62,500 expected to fly and the rest expected to take trains and other modes of transportation.

AAA says there would have been more locals traveling this year, had Labor Day not fallen on Sept. 7, the latest possible day it can occur. Historically, that dampens holiday travel.

“While increasing travel volume is great news for the industry and economy, our survey shows a decidedly ‘un-laboring’ take on the Labor Day holiday,” said AAA’s John Townsend II, in a press release. “Many would rather spend the holiday at cookouts, relaxing or simply at home to avoid heavy holiday traffic congestion or additional spending, especially if they have already taken a vacation this summer.”

Are you planning on skipping town for one last summer trip — or staying put and firing up the grill?

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VDOT Preps for Snowy Pre-Thanksgiving Travel

Snow 3/3/14 (file photo)VDOT has about 400 trucks staged in Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties this morning, in preparation for a storm that’s bringing a combination of rain and snow to much of the the east coast.

The timing of the storm, on one of the busiest travel day of the year, could create major problems on local highways and byways.

VDOT urges drivers to “use extra caution, particularly on bridges, overpasses, curves, hills and ramps, which become slippery first,” as the snow starts falling later today. Crews are not pre-treating roads since the rain would just wash the treatment away.

The snow is expected to start falling in Arlington as the storm begins to taper off, between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m., according to the Capital Weather Gang. It’s expected to begin snowing this morning in northern and western parts of the region.

AAA Mid-Atlantic, meanwhile, is warning of the potential for “massive traffic woes and havoc on the treacherous roadways.”

“Wednesday can turn into a chaotic and frightening scene of events on the roadways along the East Coast,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend. “With over one million travelers in Washington, D.C., another 1.1 in Virginia, and nearly 900,000 in Maryland taking to the roads this Thanksgiving, AAA is warning motorists to heed all travel warnings and stay home until road conditions improve.”

Some 24 percent of weather-related crashes happen due to snowy or icy pavement, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

For those who do have to travel today, WJLA meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts is advising that the best time to head north is before 10:00 a.m., while the best time to travel south is after 7:00 p.m. All major area highways are expected to see weather impacts, Ricketts said.

Arlington Public Schools students have a pre-scheduled off day today for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Morning Poll: Has the Storm Changed Your Travel Plans?

Snowstorm hits Arlington 1/21/14 (Photo courtesy @albers_eric)An east coast storm could bring some sloppy snow and rain to Arlington and up to a half foot of snow accumulation to the outer northern and western parts of the D.C. region tomorrow.

Forecasters say above-freezing temperatures should preclude more than an inch or so of accumulation locally. Still, the storm has the potential to have a major impact on Thanksgiving travel from Washington to Boston on Wednesday.

If you’re planning to travel for the holiday, is the storm affecting your travel plans?

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Morning Notes

Blue jay (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

AAA Thanksgiving Travel Forecast — About 1.1 million Washington area residents will travel 50 more more miles this Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That’s up 3.1 percent over 2013. About 90 percent of those travelers will journey to grandma’s house via automobile, AAA says. The lowest gas prices since Dec. 2010 are helping to drive some additional travel this year. [Reston Now]

What’s Next for the Pike? — Now that the streetcar is dead, articulated buses may be next for Columbia Pike. But that would require reinforcing the roadway and building a new bus depot. [Greater Greater Washington]

Beyer Joins ‘New Democrat Coalition’ — Arlington’s newly-elected representative in Congress, Don Beyer, has joined the House New Democrat Coalition, a group of pro-growth Democrats. [Blue Virginia]

Moran Laments Loss of Earmarks — Outgoing Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says earmarks, while demonized by the media and some politicians, actually helped the legislative process. The loss of earmarks has slowed Congress to a crawl, Moran said. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Poll: Leaving Town for Labor Day?

United plane at the gate at Reagan National AirportFourteen percent of the D.C. metro area’s population will be going out of town for Labor Day this weekend, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

That’s 842,100 local residents hitting the local roads, rails and airways. Nine out of ten of those traveling — 735,000 residents — will doing so by automobile, the association predicts. That’s up 0.8 percent from 2013, and AAA says the lowest Labor Day weekend gas prices in four years are helping to drive the increase.

“It remains the preferred and cheapest mode of transportation for a couple traveling with children trying to squeeze in a memorable family getaway before the school year goes into high gear,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs, in a press release. “With the wind to their backs, they will also be buoyed along by a positive consumer outlook and improvements in the labor market.”

Air travel, meanwhile, is expected to dip slightly, down 0.3 percent to 64,200 residents who will be flying out of the D.C. area. “Other” modes of transportation, like rail, are predicted to dip 0.5 percent to 43,100 travelers.

Are you planning to travel this weekend? How will you be getting to your destination?
 

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