Thumb's-Up List for Family Travel

View Thumbs Up List in a larger map
We mentioned in a previous post that we're beginning a map of shame for gas stations who "don't have a bathroom." We figured it was only fair to give a pat on the back to those that do it well for families that are traveling across this great land of ours.

So we're starting a Thumbs Up Map. We'll update the Thumbs Up Map whenever we stumble across another great ice cream place, motel, restaurant, gas station, or any other place that makes family travel even better.

Another Source for Natchez Trace Information

A Google alert popped up for FamilyRoadTrippers last week -- it seems that the Fun Times Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway likes our video of driving the Natchez Trace Trail with George Jones playing on the radio (is there any other way to do it?)

Lynnette, the editor, lives in TN right near the trace and gives regular updates on it. If you're planninga family road trip down (or up) the Trace, be sure to surf The Fun Spot for current tips and attractions.

For example, if Fall colors are something that you'd like to coordinate with, Lynnette covered it.

Happy Trails!!

PS If you like the video, please give it a five star rating...

Camera Phone Blog

And it works.

If I blog with my thumbs, is it fair to call it th-logging?

It's a whole new day.

Can I Pubish Blogs From My Phone at Camp?

This is a thumb-written trial post. If it works, I'll try one with a photo.

If that works, we'll celebrate with a box of camp wine!

Getting the Itch for a Summer Road Trip

I need to be in Montana this summer for some video shoots and other job site visits. Was planning to fly the family out to Spokane and rent a car, but we're wondering if maybe we ought to seize the opportunity and drive the whole danged way.

This route would take us through Niagara Falls to Chicago where we could pick up Route 66. We could drive 'America's Main Street' to St. Louis where we'd head west to Colorado, then north to Montana.

The drive back could swing through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, through Ohio, and across Pennsylvania.

It's been about 13 years since Tinsley and I have had a 2,000+ mile road trip, and maybe time to really break in the kids (or break them down?)

What do you think?
What would YOU do?

Eat Well and Sleep Cheap in Dallas

A Dallas mini-trip report
I had a building conference to attend this weekend, (the National Green Building Conference). Not a family roadtrip, but a trip worth reporting on nonetheless. In a couple of days, I'll drive to Houston to visit sdome job sites and shoot video. I'll check in with a Houston mini-report too. an excellent suite for $50 per night
Well, not every night; it was $40 for a couple of the nights. The room has a nice living room with couch and desk. The desk faces one of two wonderful flat screen TVs. So I could actually work through my inbox and watch playoff basketball at the same time. Other features: luxe bathroom, fridge, microwave, and Starbuck’s coffee packets. Did I mention the little balcony? The king bed takes up most of the bedroom, which is ok for a single occupant. It would be pretty cramped, I imagine, for a couple

Uncle Julio’s: Great Mexican food

I like warm salsa. Uncle Julio’s has warm salsa. Normally I ask for more salsa as soon as they bring the first bowl because I know my track record. I forgot to ask for more this time, but when I saw that we were running low, I asked for more. Before I ran out of salsa, my dinner was served and then along came the salsa. I ordered a nice grilled chicken dish with rice and beans (can’t remember the name of it). The only thing that was a bit disturbing was that about 20%-25% of the items on the menu contained frog’s legs—which might be a hit with young boys.
Bottom line: Great food, expensive margaritas (and not great—stick to Shiner Bock beer), great service, and good prices (High teens, low $20s).

Gloria's: Excellent food
Gloria’s main room is one of those big rooms with a high ceiling and not much fabric on the walls to absorb sound. Consequently it was loud. Other than that, it had a nice atmosphere. The wait for a table was nonexistent if we chose to sit outside, so that’s what we did. Unfortunately the table we got was right under the speaker, so outside wasn’t much quieter than inside.

The food was fantastic. I had a Salvadoran grilled chicken and sausage dish with plantains, yucca, and a nice green salsa.
Bottom line: Excellent food, excellent service, good prices ($20s).

Frankies Sport’s Bar and Grill: Burgers and beer
We wanted to watch the Red Sox-Rays game, which was the Sunday night ESPN game, figuring we had a good chance we looked for a sport’s bar. Frankie’s had the Red Sox-Rays on about 60% of the twenty TVs inside. On the other 40% of the TVs was the Celtics-Magic playoff game, and on a couple of straggler TVs was the Bruins-Hurricanes playoff game. Good night for Boston Sports (All three Boston teams won).

I had the ‘Spank-me Burger’ (loaded with jalapeƱos, onions and a horseradish sauce).
Bottom line: good food, good atmosphere, good service and great prices $12-15s.

Another Disney World Tip (for Parents)

Disney days can be looooong. If you go for a week or at least more than one day, they can be really long. One way to shorten the day is to start late and go till the fireworks. But sometimes the parents need a little break in the middle of the day. One way to get some 'me' time is to break away from the kids and enjoy an adult beverage. Now, you can't just abandon the kids, you need to plan ahead and drag your sister along with you, like we did last time.

The Traveling Mamas, specifically, CajunMama, has some recommendations for finding adult drinks in Disney World. My favorite? Go to Mexico; I'm a sucker for Mexican food and Margaritas. In fact, Mexican joints are usually pretty kid-friendly with the chips and all...

Top Tips for Finding Adult Drinks in Disney World

Another Road Trip Word Game: Word Caterpillar

Here's a cool game I learned on a little drive with some friends when I was visiting San Francisco area a few months back. We were going out to dinner and had a little bit of a drive, so to keep everyone occupied we played this game.

It goes like this:
Choose a category such as food, animals, machines, etc. The youngest goes first to pick something within the category. The next person has to think of something beginning with the last letter of the previous person's choice.

So, for example if the topic were animals and the first person chose alligator, the second person would have to pick an animal beginning with 'R', such as Rat. The third person would think of one beginning with 'T' and so on.

It's a lot of fun. Ann said her son, Quinn, found it in a book called Gladstone's Games To Go, the game is called "Gourmet Grandma" in the book because they use food as the category. But it works well beyond food, so we like to call it 'Word Caterpillar.'

Do you have any word games you like to play?

Profile of a Road Trip Family

Family road trippers enjoy scenic drives and National parks. They don't sweat the gas prices, they prefer road atlases to GPS devices (although many like both), and they have a sense of humor.

We've been studiously collecting data from visitors since our site launch three years ago and have recently compiled the date into this interesting blog post. While these data in no way represent a scientific analysis of the real world, they do provide a good topic for a blog post.

We've run single-question polls in the left rail of the blog and also a multi-question survey at The highest response rates came from the poll questions right on the page:

Favorite road trip destinations:
Scenic drives: 30%
National Parks/ Monuments: 23%
Mountain cities and towns: 23%
Coastal cities and towns: 7%
Ski resort mountains: 15%
Big cities: 0%

How will higher gas prices affect your summer road trip plans?
Not at all: 19%
Stay closer to home: 11%
Buy a Prius: 11%
Fewer days on the road: 5%
Cheaper hotels: 4%

GPS or Road Atlas?
Road Atlas: 50%
Both: 36%
GPS: 13%

Why don't you answer polls?
My choice never wins: 37%
Don't trust polls: 25%
Too much work: 25%
Hate you: 12%

We're a little surprised that 12% of our readers hate us, but we suspect it may simply be that they have a warped sense of humor. Perhaps we won't include that choice in future polls.

The online survey told us that most of our readers (79%) have one or two kids and they take three or more road trip each year. They stay mostly in the 100 mile - 300 mile range, but quite a few (20%) go for the 300 - 600 mile range, and the same amount exceed 600 miles on a road trip. They typically stay in motels, although brand loyalty isn't the top priority, safe, clean, and convenient is.

We also learned how to word questions poorly
'Do you travel with pets?'
10% travel with a dog, 5% with more than one cat, and 85% probably would have answered 'No' had I provided that as a choice. Instead, they didn't answer the question.

Is Las Vegas a Family Destination?

In a word, maybe. In two words, probably not.

I've been AWOL from the blog in the last few months. Sorry about that, I've been working nights and weekends to get (my day job) launched. It's launched, I'm back. GreenBuildingAdvisor was launched at the International Builder's Show in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. It was my second time to Vegas.

In the past twenty or so years, Las Vegas has been trying to re-make itself as less of a 'Family' place and more of a family destination, if you know what I mean. Less La Cosa Nostra, more Ward and June Cleaver. Or something. Many of the casinos are themed: New York, New York, Excalibur Castle, and Treasure Island. But theme is only skin deep.

Beneath the surface is boobs, booze, and broke gamblers
Please don't get me wrong, the FamilyRoadTrippers are not prudes by any means. But there's still something unmistakably 'not-very family-oriented' about the place. While the incessant blinking lights are something that most kids will probably like, and the zillions of pictures of barely-dressed show girls are something that most boys aged 8 - 98 wouldn't object to, the round-the-clock-gambling and prostitution are something I suspect most families would rather avoid. As you walk down the street on the strip, people hand out business cards for prostitutes. Now, this can be a fun game, try to get fifty-two different cards to make a full deck from, it just sort of sends the wrong message to youngsters. And even if the card hander-outers don't hand them to the kids, the streets are littered with them (and kids are closer to the ground than adults, so they tend to pick up on it more readily).

If that's not enough, there are also the driving billboards
The last time I was there I saw one that said something like 'Full Service.' This time it was just 'Hot Babes Direct to You.' I wondered what I would say to Tom if he asked me what 'full service' meant. I suppose I would tell him that they'll change the oil in addition to filling the tank, but more likely I would change the subject.

What did I like best about my trip to Las Vegas?
A great little Italian restaurant outside of town.

Glad to be back in the saddle (so to speak), I'll see if I can get back up to my regular weekly postings.

Anyone have good stuff to say about Vegas?