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Be Happy in Pennsylvania

by Buzz McClain — September 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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

by Adrian Cruz — May 26, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

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.

by Buzz McClain — April 5, 2016 at 9:40 am 0

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.

by ARLnow.com — March 30, 2016 at 10:55 am 0

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.

by Buzz McClain — January 22, 2016 at 1:10 pm 0

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.”

by ARLnow.com — November 23, 2015 at 10:05 am 0

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?

by ARLnow.com — September 2, 2015 at 10:30 am 0

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?

by ARLnow.com — November 26, 2014 at 6:20 am 0

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.

by ARLnow.com — November 25, 2014 at 10:00 am 1,118 0

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?

by ARLnow.com — November 21, 2014 at 9:35 am 1,160 0

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

by ARLnow.com — August 26, 2014 at 9:20 am 0

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?
 

by Katie Pyzyk — December 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm 0

Heavy traffic on I-395 (file photo)If you’re preparing to travel during the holidays, you’re in good company. AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts nearly half of the residents in the D.C. metro region will leave the area in the next few days.

Nearly 2.4 million people, or about 41 percent of the metro region’s population, are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the time period from this Saturday, December 21, through Wednesday, January 1. That’s a small increase of 0.1 percent over last year. This will be the fifth consecutive year for such an increase, and the highest recorded travel volume for the winter holiday season.

“Unfortunately, a number of Washingtonians sat out three of the first four holiday travel periods of the year as an upshot of all the political drama in the nation’s capital and the economic stress it engendered. But they will not be denied nor deny themselves or their families during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday travel period,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.

Air travel is expected to slightly decline to 129,300 travelers, compared with 130,400 last year. The number of people traveling by train or bus is also down this year, by about two percent. Automobile travel, however, is expected to increase by 0.3 percent, to more than 2.1 million people.

D.C. metro area residents plan on traveling an average of 965 miles for the holidays. That’s up from 805 miles last year.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 27, 2013 at 10:30 am 0

Traffic on the 14th Street Bridge (7/14/11)Today is perhaps the busiest travel day of the year — in the middle of the busiest travel week of the year — travel experts have some advice for travelers to make their journeys home as smooth as possible.

For those flying on Thanksgiving, expect crowded airports and airport parking lots until Monday, Dec. 2, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The peak times for holiday flights is early in the morning, between 5:30 and 8:00 a.m., and late afternoon, between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

Because of the heavy volume of passengers, MWAA recommends getting to the airport two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights. Because planes will be so full, MWAA recommends packing lightly to ensure carry-on luggage fits in on-board compartments and under the seats.

For those leaving the area in their cars, the Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock writes that on the I-95 corridor, traffic will only begin to ease up tonight after 11:00 p.m., and it will start to get heavy again on Thursday at around 9:00 a.m.

Those going south on I-95 should remember that there’s a 29-mile work zone south of Springfield, so drivers can take a 20-mile workaround by taking I-66 West to Route 28 South in Centreville, then to Route 17, which meets up with I-95 around Fredericksburg.

File photo

by ARLnow.com — November 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm 0

A plane takes off from Reagan National AirportMore than 1 million D.C. area residents will travel at least 50 miles during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period, AAA Mid-Atlantic projects, but the number of travelers will actually be lower than last year.

AAA says 1,058,000 people will journey out of the Washington area, down from 1,070,5000 last year. A projected 90.7 percent of travelers will get out of town via automobile, while 6.9 percent will take planes. The remainder will take rail and other travel methods.

The D.C. region was home to about 5.9 million residents as of 2012.

From the AAA Mid-Atlantic press release:

All in all, that’s 12,000 fewer persons this time around, but you probably won’t notice any difference on area roads, or at airline ticket counters and bus and train stations in the Washington metro area. Remarkably, the overall volume of local holiday travelers has numbered over one million persons for the three past Thanksgiving holidays, and the same is true this year too, after rebounding from the recession-driven declines in 2008-2009. That’s when Thanksgiving travel fell by a staggering 25 percent.

“Still over one million local residents are in the travel mode and mood this Thanksgiving holiday period, as the number of Thanksgiving travelers tops the one million person mark for the fourth year in a row,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Despite the big drop in gas prices this holiday when compared to last Thanksgiving, local residents have been coping with the lingering impact of the sequestration and they are still reeling from the effects of the federal government shutdown in October, both of which hit the regional labor market really hard, especially government contract workers, at the psychic, pocketbook and deeply personal levels.”

by Ethan Rothstein — September 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm 1,965 0

France flag (photo by wox-globe-trotter via Wikipedia)

A high school and middle school exchange program to France could be on its last legs after Arlington Public Schools administration took a closer look at its travel policies.

Up until this school year, teachers had been granted “professional leave” for a two-week student exchange trip to Reims, France, one of Arlington’s sister cities. But that is coming to an end, jeopardizing the Reims exchange program — a possibility that’s upsetting some parents.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Constance Skelton said it has been APS policy that teachers were not permitted to take professional leave for international trips. The Reims program has apparently been an exception. Starting this year, however, teachers will not be able to take more than one day of paid leave — a personal day — before the spring break trip to France.

“We realized within our own policies that we do not allow administrators or teachers to have professional leave for international trips with student groups,” Skelton told ARLnow.com. “When this all came to light, we said ‘we have to go with our policy.’ We had to make that clear.”

Skelton said there was confusion about who was actually approving the trips and teachers’ paid leave. She said Superintendent Patrick Murphy was concerned about the potential for APS’ liability in case an incident were to happen overseas.

“People were not aware of the policy,” Skelton said. Instead of the leave going through typical approval channels, “none of that had ever been happening, the trips were just occurring.”

Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Brenda Wilks — a former foreign language teacher — said that despite the renewed enforcement of School Board policy, it is APS’ hope that trips like the Reims exchange program continue.

“We never wanted to discourage travel,” Wilks said. “It enhances students’ education, we just need to adhere to the board policy.”

Parents of students who have taken the trip are convinced that the change in enforcement will kill the trip entirely. APS wants the Arlington Sister City Association to “separate the trip from the school” — to be responsible for collecting money and organizing trips and chaperones.

“The teachers who are involved told parents that there has been a definite sea change that will seriously inhibit their participation and thereby threaten the program as it has been conducted in the past,” one parent, Lori Rottenberg, said in an email. Lori and her husband, Chuck, said they have a child who has gone on the program and they have hosted a Reims student in their house. “All that the teachers do to prepare and run the trip cannot be done in a day, and the trip itself would be ridiculous if limited to just 7 days because of the length of the time involved to travel overseas.”

Rottenberg said that the teachers involved informed parents that the trip “may not happen this year” because of the new enforcement of school policy.

“This drastic action on the part of the school administration essentially signals the death knell of a wonderfully unique program that benefits students as well as the entire Arlington community,” said Natalie Roy, a Washington-Lee High School parent.

Representatives of the Arlington Sister City Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Photo by wox-globe-trotter via Wikipedia

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