Category: Summer

How to Cut Costs on Your Summer Road Trip

The most memorable road trips are often the byproduct of ample planning. Careful examinations of maps months before a trip begins can help vacationers find the best sights to see and uncover must-visit restaurants. In fact, many people find pre-trip planning nearly as enjoyable as the trip itself.

Vacationers who planned road trips months ago likely did not think they would be forced to contend with extraordinarily high gas prices, but that’s precisely the position drivers find themselves in this summer. The average gas price in many parts of North America exceeded $5 U.S. dollars per gallon by early June, and economic forecasters predicted prices could climb even higher as June gives way to the summer travel season.

High gas prices likely won’t compel most vacationers to cancel their travel plans this summer. And those who are staying the course can rest easy knowing there are plenty of ways for them to cut costs and still enjoy a memorable summer road trip in the months ahead.

Book a vehicle maintenance appointment

Prior to heading for parts unknown, visit your local auto body shop and have your car or truck serviced. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that regular engine tune-ups to ensure a vehicle is running efficiently increases fuel economy by an average of 4 percent. Schedule an oil change and tune-up shortly before your departure date so your car won’t be forced to work extra hard, and thus consume extra fuel, during your trip.

Reconsider your ride

Vacationers with more than one car to choose from may want to reconsider which car they drive on their road trip this summer. For example, families with one SUV and one sedan may save money by driving the sedan instead of the SUV, which is likely less fuel-efficient than the smaller vehicle. In addition, consider the type of fuel each of your cars requires and let that inform your decision. For instance, certain vehicles require more expensive high-octane fuel. If you own a car that requires the more budget-friendly regular 87 octane fuel, take that one on the road with you this summer.

Look to save on lodging

Roadside motels have undergone something of a rebirth in recent years. Many motels have been given full makeovers but remain budget-friendly lodging options for road trippers. Motels won’t offer all the amenities of five-star hotels, but they’re affordable places for vacationers to lay their heads for a night before traveling on to the next adventure the following morning.

Take your foot off the gas

Another way to conserve fuel during a summer road trip is to resist the temptation to drive too fast. Avoiding excessive speeds isn’t just safer; it’s also more fuel-efficient. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy reports that fuel economy for a light-duty vehicle traveling at 80 miles per hour is about 27 percent lower than when traveling at 60 miles per hour.

Vacationers may be worried that high fuel costs will bust their budgets during road trips this summer. But there are various ways to cut costs and still enjoy memorable trips, even when fuel prices are especially high.

How to Conserve Energy While Keeping the AC On

Air conditioning is a welcome luxury come the dog days of summer. Few people can imagine getting through a hot summer afternoon without turning their AC on, which can make July and August some of the more costly months on the calendar regarding energy consumption.

Though the months of July and August may not seem well-suited to cutting energy consumption, there are ways to conserve that doesn’t require turning off the AC.

Reconsider the location of your thermostat

The Performance Building Institute, Inc. notes that thermostats are sensitive to heat. Thermostats located near heat-generating appliances like lamps, televisions, and computers may be fooled into thinking a home’s interior is warmer than it actually is. That will keep a temperature-controlled AC running longer and more frequently than is necessary. If necessary, move the thermostat to a part of the home where there are no electronics and appliances.

Emphasize maintenance of the AC unit

Even the most energy-efficient AC unit will be forced to work harder, and consume extra energy if it’s not well-maintained. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy notes that ENERGY STAR-certified HVAC equipment can yield annual energy savings of 10 to 30 percent. But such products must be maintained. Annual maintenance appointments with an HVAC technician can ensure the unit is clean and refrigerant levels are correct, helping it run as efficiently as possible.

Embrace natural ways to keep a home’s interior cool

Cranking the AC is not the only way to maintain a comfortable temperature inside a home during the months of July and August. Closing curtains on hot days keep the sun out and makes it easier to maintain comfortable temperatures inside without lowering the temperature on the thermostat. Avoiding the stove on hot nights and preparing cold meals or firing up the grill outside is another way to keep the house cool.

Address insulation issues

Cracks around windows and doors affect the temperature inside the home, making it colder in winter and warmer in the summertime. Seal cracks around doors and windows to keep the cool air in during the summer. Keeping that air in should allow you to raise the temperature on your thermostat without compromising comfort.

Come the dog days of summer, conserving energy needn’t come at the cost of comfort. Various strategies can help people reduce their energy consumption and keep their air conditioners on.

Scenic Campgrounds Across North America

Thousands of campsites litter the North American landscape, providing an opportunity for campers of all ages and interests to find a place to call home for a few days. Many campsites feature some spectacular scenery and other attractions that make them coveted spots to pitch a tent. Here’s a look at a few camping locations that boast incredible views.

• Bartlett Clove Campground, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska: This remote and stunning campground offers views of crystal blue glacial water with a thick forest that surrounds the shoreline. Visit in the summer when the days are long and warm.

• Hanakoa Campsite, Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii: The Napali Coast is recognized as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and camping here can feel like you’re camping in paradise. Cliffs, waterfalls and streams make this location picturesque.

• Garden Key, Tortugas National Park, Florida: Tortugas National Park is a remote series of islands which are accessible after a two-hour ferry ride from Key West. It offers a tropical camping experience under mangrove trees, sitting on the edge of beautiful blue waters. Lighthouses and historic forts are adjacent, while one of the world’s largest barrier reef systems can be steps from your tent.

• Jedediah Smith Campground, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California: If you’re intrigued by the opportunity to camp beneath towering, ancient redwoods, look no further than this campground. Camp among the natural beauty with plenty of solitude and space. It’s possible to spot black bear, river otters, bobcats, and other indigenous animals while traversing 20 miles of hiking trails.

• Buttle Lake and Ralph River Campgrounds, Strathcona Park, Canada: Visitors can behold the view from Golden Hinde, the highest peak on Vancouver Island, which towers at 7,210 feet. Also worth checking out is Della Falls, the highest cascade in Canada, which requires a multi-day excursion by boat and foot. Soaring mountain peaks, waterfalls and rivers also are accessible within these campgrounds.

• Assateague Island, Maryland National Seashore: The scarcity of tree cover on the island offers nearly unblemished views of miles of ocean. Campers can enjoy herds of wild horses and the siren’s call of the beach and ocean. While open year-round, late summer and early fall are the most comfortable time for camping.

• Watchman Campground, Zion National Park, Utah: This campground is surrounded by rocky peaks, juniper woodlands and massive sandstone cliffs. Bike trails along the Virgin River and other hiking opportunities help set this campground apart. Breathtaking sunsets also attract thousands of visitors to this area of the country.

Camping is made even more special when visitors spend time at a stunning campsite with awe-inspiring views.

North America Is Home to Many Beautiful Beaches

The warm breezes and crashing surf draw millions of beach-goers to coastal locales each year, making a day at the shore one of the most popular summer pastimes. It’s easy to forget your concerns while basking in the glow of the sun and counting the seagulls coasting over the horizon.

Even though people travel all over the world to dip their toes in the sand of beautiful beaches, many may not have to venture too far from home. Beautiful beaches make up the coastlines throughout North America. Here’s just a few of those awe-inspiring spots and what makes them unique.

• Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina: Visitors to the Outer Banks understand just how magical these barrier islands can be. This beach has the region’s hallmark sandy dunes and frothy surf, and stretches for 72 miles. It’s an ideal spot to get lost while beachcombing or diving through the waves.

• La Jolla Beach, California: Found in northern San Diego, this beach has something for everyone. The waves are great for surfers and the north end of the beach has scenic cliffs. For those who want to enjoy the beach without all the sand, there’s a palm tree-lined promenade.

• Waikiki Beach, Hawaii: No best beaches list would be complete without a mention of one of the most picturesque beach locales in North America: Hawaii. Vacationers flock to this island state for the azure waters and impressive surfing conditions. Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous surf spots in the world. It also provides the full Hawaiian tourist experience. There are endless restaurants, resorts and nightlife along this two-mile strip of sand.

• Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada: The white sands of Wasaga draw scores of visitors every year to create a party atmosphere similar to Florida beaches during college students’ spring break vacations. Cottage rentals are available and there are tourist-friendly shops selling mementos and beachside essentials.

• Main Beach, East Hampton, NY: When it’s time to get away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, A-listers and others flock to the eastern shores of Long Island, namely the Hamptons. With sprawling mansions and picturesque towns, this area is much quieter than Manhattan’s bustling streets. Plus the white sands and delicious foods are powerful draws.

• Clearwater Beach, Florida: The beaches of Florida’s eastern coast certainly are popular, with Jacksonville, Daytona, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami Beach high on visitors’ lists. However, the west side of Florida has its own vibe. Broad, sandy shores on the Gulf Coast, also straddling Tampa Bay, entice families and other vacationers year after year. Take a dolphin-sighting cruise or just enjoy the magnificent sunsets while you’re at Clearwater Beach.

Let’s not forget Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and several others. Vacationers don’t need to fly to the tropics to enjoy beautiful beaches. Many are very close to home.

Gear to Simplify Your Next Beach Trip

Days at the beach are tailor-made for anyone looking for a little rest and relaxation. If there was a recipe for calmness, it would no doubt include the sounds of waves crashing on the shoreline and seagulls flying overhead. Beach days are even more relaxing when beach-goers load up on the right gear. As beach season begins anew, people who can’t wait to dip their toes in the water can load up on these items to make their trips even more relaxing.

Beach wagon: Beach wagons make it easy to transport beach chairs, umbrellas, toys, and other must-have beach items, all in one convenient trip. There are many varieties of beach wagon, and consumers should look for ones with all-terrain wheels that can easily navigate sandy beaches. Load capacity is another factor to consider before buying a beach wagon, as beach-goers will want to make sure their wagons can tote everything they typically take to the beach in a single trip.

Beach coolers: A great beach cooler can make all the difference in regard to refreshment on hot days at the beach. Rolling coolers may or may not be able to take on the sand at the beach, but it doesn’t hurt to look for one with sturdy, all-terrain wheels. But cooling capacity with enough insulation to keep food and beverages cool during a long day at the beach should be shoppers’ biggest priority.

Beach bags: Water-repellent beach bags can protect devices like smartphones, tablets and e-readers from sand and surf. Separate such devices and other electronics, like a portable speaker or radio, in their own bags to reduce the risk of getting sand on them. Store items that will inevitably gather sand, like towels, clothing and beach toys, in their own designated beach bags.

Backpack chairs: Many beach-goers have a favorite beach. If it’s a long walk from the parking lot of your favorite beach to your preferred spot on the sand, bring along a backpack chair for each person in your group. Such chairs can free up space on your beach wagon, and chairs strapped over your shoulders like a backpack won’t be a nuisance to carry, even if it’s a long walk from the car to the sand.

Quick-dry beach towels: Soggy beach towels can take a while to dry, especially as the day wears on and the sun begins to set. Quick-dry beach towels typically employ microfiber technology that allows them to dry more quickly than traditional cotton towels. That saves beach-goers the trouble of lugging around heavy, wet beach towels and also ensures items like beach bags and chairs are dry by the time you go home.

Beach days are the epitome of relaxation, especially when beach-goers stock up on certain essentials designed to make such days more enjoyable.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Fire Pits

Many homeowners relish any opportunity to retreat to their back yards, where they can put up their feet and relax in the great outdoors. That retreat-like escape is made even more relaxing when sitting around a fire pit. Fire pits can be found in millions of suburban backyards across the globe. Fire pits have become so popular that a 2016 survey of landscape architects conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects revealed they were the most sought after outdoor design element. Fire pits remain wildly popular a half decade after that survey. Homeowners who are only now joining the fire pit revolution can keep these dos and don’ts in mind as they plan their summer s’mores sessions.

DO keep the fire pit a safe distance away from the home. Fire pits should be located a safe distance from the home at all times, but especially when they’re in use. Home design experts recommend keeping fire pits a minimum of 10 to 20 feet away from a house or other structure, such as a shed or a detached garage. The further away the fire is from houses and other structures, the less likely those structures are to catch on fire.

DON’T place the fire pit beneath trees or next to shrubs. Though fire pits should be kept safe distances away from a house and other structures, it’s important that they’re not placed beneath trees or next to shrubs. Shrubs and low hanging branches can easily catch embers and be lit ablaze, so make sure fire pits are not placed in locations that increase that risk.

DO clean out seasonal debris. It can be tempting to let seasonal debris resting inside the fire pit burn away during the season’s first s’mores session. But burning debris poses a serious safety risk, as embers can easily be blown out of the fire pit and catch nearby trees or shrubs or even a home on fire. The National Fire Protection Association advises homeowners that embers blowing from a backyard fire pose the same threat to homes as if they are from a wildfire.

DON’T let fire pits burn near flammable materials. Store firewood piles a safe distance away from the fire pit while it’s in operation. It may be convenient to keep firewood right next to the fire pit while the fire is burning, but that increases the risk that embers will land on firewood and start a fire outside of the pit.

DO check the weather report prior to starting the fire. Windy weather increases the risk of embers blowing around and potentially landing on the house, other structures around the property or trees. If the weather report is calling for gusting winds, burn a fire on another night.

DON’T leave a fire pit fire burning. Unattended recreational fires are illegal and incredibly dangerous. Homeowners should never leave fire pit fires burning unattended or allow fires to slowly die out overnight. Always extinguish the fire before going inside and stop adding wood to the fire roughly one hour before you plan to go inside. Water or sand can be poured on ashes to extinguish the fire. Once homeowners are confident a fire has been extinguished, ashes can be spread around to ensure there are no hot spots still burning. If there are, start the extinguishing process over again.

A night around the fire pit is a summertime tradition in many households. Safety must be as much a part of such traditions as s’mores.

How to be Safe in the Sun

A relaxing day outdoors soaking up some of the sun’s rays is how many people prefer to spend their free time when the weather allows. While the very vision of a warm summer afternoon spent outdoors can invoke positive feelings, it’s important that people take protective measures before going outside and continue to do so while they’re out there. According to the American Cancer Society, most skin cancers are the result of exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight. UV rays are a type of radiation that do not have enough energy to penetrate deeply into the body. As a result, they primarily affect the skin. Overexposure to these rays can lead to skin cancer.

Protection from UV Rays

The ACS notes that there are no safe UV rays, so it’s imperative that people take UV protection seriously. The following are some of the many ways to protect yourself while still enjoying sunny days outdoors.

• Go out at the right times of day. The ACS notes that UV rays are at their strongest in the middle of the day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so staying inside during these hours can protect your skin. This is especially important in the spring and summer, as the ACS says UV rays are stronger during these seasons than other times of year.

• Employ the shadow test when going outside. It may not seem especially scientific, but the shadow test is a simple way for anyone to gauge how strong UV rays from the sun are at any given moment. According to the ACS, if your shadow is shorter than you, that means the sun’s rays are at their strongest. This simple test can help people immediately determine how strong the sun’s rays are, compelling them to be extra cautious if necessary.

• Apply sunscreen early and reapply often. The ACS recommends using sunscreens with broad spectrum protection that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, and applying them before leaving the house and reapplying often while outdoors. When choosing a sunscreen, choose one with a minimum sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30. Understanding SPF can help people recognize the importance of reapplication. When an SPF 30 product is applied correctly, a person gets the equivalent of one minute of UVB ray exposure for each 30 minutes he or she spends in the sun. So one hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending two minutes totally unprotected. Reapplying SPF 30 sunscreen often can ensure you are protected at all times.

• Wear a hat. Hats with a brim that is at least two to three inches all around protects vulnerable areas such as the eyes, forehead, nose, ears, and scalp. Choose a hat with a dark, non-reflective underside, as such a hat can lower the amount of UV rays that reach the face from reflective surfaces such as water.

Sun protection is important year-round, and especially so during spring and summer.

Improve Comfort When Dining Outdoors

Warm weather entices people to enjoy long hours outside basking in the sun or relaxing on balmy evenings. Many of the activities people once reserved for indoors when temperatures were chilly, including dining, are moved outside as the weather warms. Even though outdoor dining can be quite enjoyable, certain factors need to be considered to ensure that each experience is as pleasurable as possible. This means focusing on comfort whenever meals are taken out-of-doors.

Address Insects

Insects are equal opportunity invaders. Once they smell sweet or savory food items, they quickly descend for an easy bite. This means extra steps are necessary to dissuade insects from coming by. Invest in citronella candles, which can be placed around the patio to repel flying bugs. Clean up crumbs and spills promptly. Bees and wasps can be lured away with sweet traps placed around the perimeter of the property.

Offer Shade

Too much sun can make outdoor meals less enjoyable. A patio umbrella, pergola or canopy can cut down on glare and make the dining area more comfortable. Check to see that the shade source can be adjusted to guard against the sun as it moves across the sky.

Dress Up Seating

Just because furniture is made for outside doesn’t mean it has to be uncomfortable. Many companies now produce very durable and attractive outdoor furniture. Weather-resistant fabrics mean rain or sunlight will not age items too quickly.

Reusable Place Settings

If you frequently dine outdoors, you may want to dine in style. Instead of disposable paper or plastic place settings, invest in colorful, durable, reusable plastic dishes, glasses and flatware, which will not break if dropped and can hold up to a dishwasher when it is time to clean up.

Create the Right Ambiance

Invest in outdoor lighting, candles and hidden speakers to pipe in music and create ambiance. Install privacy screens and foliage to establish a nice nook for outdoor dining.

Outdoor dining areas can be improved with some easy modifications to existing spaces.

Kid-Friendly Staycation Ideas

Adults may see staycations as great opportunities to catch up on summer reading and finish projects around the house. Children, however, may not always approach time off at home with that same enthusiasm.

Parents confronted with the challenge of keeping kids happy and engaged during staycations can try these kid-friendly ideas to ensure everyone enjoys their time off, even if the bulk of it is spent at home.

• Find a place to swim. Whether it’s a nearby lake or a day at the ocean, a weekday afternoon spent swimming is a great way to remind the family that a staycation is still a vacation. If swimming in a lake or in the ocean is not possible and you don’t have the luxury of a backyard pool, purchase an inflatable pool (or two) that the whole family can enjoy.

• Embrace your inner artists. Parents can visit a local arts and crafts store and spend a day painting or making projects with their children. Choose a theme, like making jewelry or painting a family portrait, and then exchange your masterpieces or create a family art exhibit when the session is over.

• Go fishing. Fishing can be a fun activity for the whole family and a great way to get out of the house without breaking the bank. Create a competition to see who can catch the most and/or the biggest fish. If you catch fish that you’re allowed to take home, involve the whole family in making a delicious fish dinner that night.

Staycations can be fun for the whole family, especially when parents take time to organize a host of kid-friendly activities.

Sunglasses Buyers’ Guide

Blue skies and ample sunshine help makes summer special. Come summer, many people spend more time enjoying recreational pursuits and everything seems a bit more laid back. Even though people may take a more relaxed attitude in summer, the National Eye Institute says people should wear sunglasses that block UV radiation whenever they head outdoors in daylight hours. This is essential for men, women and children. Sunglasses are necessary during the times of day when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, but wearing them anytime the sun is out can protect one’s vision.

Sunglasses present a great defense against UV rays that can cause short- and long-term eye damage, states the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Diseases such as cataracts, cancer and growths on the eye all can result from prolonged exposure to UV rays, which can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. Prolonged exposure to UV rays also may affect retinal cells. When purchasing sunglasses to protect the eyes, consumers should consider these important factors.

• Ultimate protection: The American Optometric Association says that sunglasses should offer 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Some glasses will simply list a numerical indicator. In such instances, sunglasses that offer protection against UV 400, which will encompass the wavelengths for both UVA and UVB rays, are best.

• Buy from a reputable retailer. Not all sunglasses live up to their claims. Sunglasses sold at doctors’ offices, department stores and sunglass speciality shops often meet the standards for protection, advises The Vision Council, a trade organization for the optical industry.

• Choose tint for activity. Tint will not affect UV protection, but it can make certain activities more enjoyable. Darker lenses may help at the beach, where there is more reflective light. Orange or yellow lenses increase contrast while driving or fishing. On cloudy days, amber or rose lenses can help improve contrast. Customers should choose a tint that makes them feel comfortable.

• Polarized lenses help fight glare. Polarized lenses and those with anti-reflective coatings can alleviate glare. Such lenses work by only letting in specific amounts of light at certain angles, which helps to reduce the brightness of that light, says the Discovery Eye Foundation.

• Go big. Bigger frames or wrap-around designs can further block UV light from different angles, particularly the side of the eye. Consumers should consider various factors when shopping for their next pair of sunglasses.

For more eye safety tips for the summer , visit www.aao.org.