How To Survive A Family Vacation

So grandma forgot her passport, David and Alex won’t stop fighting over the iPad, you accidentally packed the ear plugs you can’t live without in your checked luggage and you haven’t even boarded the plane yet! Traveling with family is an enriching, amazing and challenging experience. Read these tips to keep everyone smiling in those photos and bonding over your shared adventure…

Choose a destination Stop searching for the ideal place that will make everyone happy and focus in on a destination that allows for the family to be together for some activities and split up as needed.

Keep it simple Don’t focus on seeing and doing everything in one week. Instead enjoy the destination and immerse yourself and your family in the culture of the country you are visiting.

Wide-open spaces Remember that just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you have to be glued together the whole time (in fact if you want to make it home alive, it’s best if everyone can have some solid ‘me’ time).

Mix it up Just like you don’t have to be together 24/7, it’s also great to spend time in smaller family groups. Have a girls afternoon walking around town looking at artwork and getting ice cream while the boys try their hand at sailing. The next day, switch it up and spend time with another member of the family. This special time allows you to bond over new shared experiences.

Get a little uncomfortable So you’ve never surfed before in your life. There’s no better time to step outside your
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Submit Your Entries! 2014 Photo & Video Contest

Dear Westcoast Connection / 360° Families,

The deadline for our annual Show Us Your Summer photo and video contests is September 14th, 2014.

Here is your chance to win many prizes including a prize valued at $1,000 ($500 and a $500 voucher towards a future WCC/360° trip)!

Details are below.

 Good luck!

Photo Contest

There is a prize of $50 for each photo selected for our brochure and a $250 prize for the winning photo entry. The top 10 photos selected by our Directors will be posted on Facebook for voting by the public. The photo with the most votes will win our grand prize of $250!

By submitting photos your name will also automatically be entered into a drawing to win one of five 50$ iTunes gift cards.

Photos selected for use on our website or Facebook page are not eligible for prizes.

All entries must be received by September 14th, 2014.

Video Contest

We’re looking for the best trip recap! Put together a creative montage (no longer than 4 minutes) highlighting your summer experience. Use all of your photos, videos, and anything else that you’ve acquired. Be creative! Add captions, testimonials, transitions, sounds, music… anything that you can think of to make your video stand out!

The grand prize winner for our “SHOW US YOUR SUMMER” video contest will win a prize valued at $1,000 ($500 plus a $500 certificate for travel in 2015).

Our directors will narrow down the selection to the top 5 videos. After that, we will post them to our Facebook page and let YOU decide the winner!

Official Rules of “Show
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Rock Me Mama Like a Wagon Wheel- California and the Canyons

We rode through the Sedona Desert in style. Our pink jeeps shimmered in the hot sun as we cruised around enjoying the beautiful scenery. Zack B had a good chat with one of our tour guides and Grant even knew some of the info about the gulches before the tour guide could explain them! Justin, Annie, Jordan, Sophia, Vivian and Lexi rode together trying to attract animals with their bird calls, making their tour guide burst out into laughter. That night we made our way to Dave and Busters where we played games and got to buy some cool things with our prize tokens.

On our final day in Scottsdale, we headed to the Cheesecake Factory, and then soaked up the sun by the beautiful pool. Jess, Sammy and Jacob E started a game in the pool that had everyone racing and cracking up laughing! We concluded our adventure with a banquet and dance that no one wanted to have end.

So there we have it; just as quickly as we made new friends, the end draws near just as fast. These past few days have been bitter sweet, But there’s no doubt that Jacob E will never lose touch with his buddies Jacob S and Evan, nor will Annie forget about the hilarious and silly things that spew out of Jordan’s mouth. We won’t forget the swag Justin brought to the group, or Lexi’s you-gotta-be-kidding-me face when someone says something truly hilarious. Jess and Sammy will never stop giggling. Jackie and Kiki’s voices
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Cowboys and Canyons – California & the Canyons

Leaving the sandy beaches of San Diego behind us, our trip bid farewell to California and has moved on to the Southwest.  The crowds of people and fun, loud music had everyone ready for our Vegas adventure to begin. As we retreated from the desert heat to the multiple pools at the Monte Carlo Hotel, Sammy, Kiki and Jackie swam around giggling while Jacob E. relaxed and enjoyed a ride down the lazy river pool. We explored the city at night and admired the lights and street acts; we even passed by an adorable young Michael Jackson impersonator!  Justin ranked the young Michael’s dance skills as being “alright” and since he has proved to be the true king of the dance floor on our trip, we took his word for it.

We settled in to have dinner and celebrate Danny’s birthday at Buca di Beppo where Jacob S. lathered some whip cream on Danny’s face to close off the birthday ceremony. Danny almost fell of his chair from laughter with his great laugh that makes everyone smile. Our night ended beautifully at the Bellagio water show.

The next day was about discovering the city and enjoying some thrill rides. The Big Shot at the stratosphere was the coolest ride of Josh’s life and had Jack wide eyed and smiling after he came down.  Shopping around, Brett picked up some new tricks at the Las Vegas magic shop to wow everyone at home. The New York New York rollercoaster was the real thrill
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Amazing Views on the American Voyageur! – American Voyageur

Hello Voyageurs,

Here is our final blog updating you on the happenings of the past 5 or 6 days…

Although Vegas is known as an adult playground, there was plenty of stuff for us to see and have fun with.  We stayed at the Monte Carlo which had an awesome pool with a wave pool as well as a lazy river.  After checking in and chilling at the pool for a couple hours, we had dinner at Bucco de Beppo. This is a family style Italian restaurant with huge portions. When we were all filled up, we headed to the Venetian to wander around the shops and check out the river with the gondola. We headed to the Bellagio afterward to check out the famous fountain show and it was just as cool as we expected.

The next morning we got to sleep in late and then headed to the Stratosphere to go on the thrilling rides. High above the lights, we did the XScream ride. It was terrifying!  We then had a great time in the Forum shops and again used the pool and hotel facilities. That night we went to the New York New York hotel to go on the roller coaster and it was probably the best ride of the summer! We rounded out our stay in Vegas with a quick visit to Coca Cola and M&M worlds!

On our way to Bryce Canyon the next day, we stopped in Zion for a hike with beautiful scenery.  The girls obviously took a
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Laughing with Leno and Meeting with Mickey! – California & the Canyons

Our LA journey started with an animated tour of universal studios where we had to fight off the Jurassic Park dinosaurs. Rachel shrieked when the 3D T-Rex came at us and Kyla almost jumped out of the tram when she saw the Mindy Project being filmed at a studio. The rides were awesome and some were pretty scary… You should have seen the look on Justin’s face running out of the haunted house with his hands in the air, let’s just say he was scared! Later that night we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and Zach B and Cody bought and rocked some pretty cool visors around Universal City.

The following day our group was inquisitive and respectful in the Museum of Tolerance where we sat down and heard an incredible story. Marissa and Josh asked some really in depth questions, which made the group think a lot. Later on, We went to the Farmers Market for lunch and Jordan and Nico started a group trend by buying the best Grenada smoothies, which were made from all natural & delicious ingredients!

The next day started with a walk on Venice beach where Vivian, Sophia, Taryn and Sam S bought some cool customized t-shirts. Jacob S. and Will watched the muscle men workout and wondered if they would ever be able to lift like that! After the beach we had some time to hang out and check out the UCLA bookstore, which was more like a mini Target with so many
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Another Amazing American Voyageur Adventure! – American Voyageur

Hi Everyone!

Here we are, reporting to you for the very last time this summer. We arrived in the beautiful state of Arizona a few days ago.

On our first evening we had dinner at Chili’s, where Jared A and Max Sa. enjoyed a quiet ‘date’ and Jamie and Lindsay had some fancy hot chocolates. The following day we hiked the Grand Canyon! With Sam J leading the pack, we enjoyed some gorgeous scenery and rigorous exercise!

We then continued our journey in Arizona, stopping in Sedona for some off-roading, pink jeep style! Seth, Gabe, Eli and Amanda screamed their heads off as we climbed the hills and went over bumps. We love our drivers, even calling one “Uncle Geoff”. We explored the town of Sedona a bit and then made our way over to Scottsdale. That afternoon we had a pool party and then spent the night at Dave and Busters, where Logan and Hanna B won thousands of tickets.

Yesterday, we had a great brunch at the Cheesecake Factory and then spent the day lounging by the pool, soaking up every last second we have together. We then had our final banquet where we shared our favorite memories of the summer and shed a few tears.

We could not have asked for a more loveable, outgoing, crazy, entertaining and absolutely amazing group of people to spend the summer with. We will cherish our memories forever and have every intention of keeping in touch!

Until our next summer on Westcoast!

The Westcoast blogger

That’s All Folks! – U.S. Explorer

Parents oh Parents!

With one more night to go, we can hardly believe how fast the trip has gone by. So much has happened in the last 10 days, and we couldn’t have asked for a better end to the summer.

Our 5-day stop in L.A. started with a visit to the world famous Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, where Noah R. and Matt had some fun posing with a few Hollywood icons. That night, we hit up the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and posed in front of the historic Hollywood sign for some more sightseeing. We spent the next two days at Universal Studios and Disneyland Theme Parks. At Disney, Jacky, Olivia, Lily, Carrie, Remi, and Emily C. let their inner princesses shine by getting their faces painted like Frozen’s Princess Elsa. The following morning, we visited the Museum of Tolerance. A truly eye-opening experience, trip members got a chance to learn about accepting others, and approaching situations from different perspectives. That night, we headed to Santa Monica for dinner, and ended off the evening with a ride on the ferris wheel, where Sam, Ashley, Sydney and Sammi S., all took in the bright lights of the city from high above it. The next day, we headed back to Santa Monica for a walk on the pier, before heading to the famous Rodeo Drive. While all the trip members had their eyes peeled for celebrities, Jordan and Will got a chance to meet Detroit Piston’s player Andre Drummond. That
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Coastin’ through Vegas & Climbing in Bryce Canyon! – American Voyageur

Hi Everyone!

We are now in the home stretch and wanted to update you on our travels.

We had a great couple of days in Sin City. We arrived and headed straight for the “happening” pool. It was full force Las Vegas – complete with a DJ, wave pool and great people watching. That evening we enjoyed family style Italian food at a restaurant that had a real old Italian feel to it, complete with black and white family portraits on the walls. Afterwards, we walked through a sea of people on the strip to see the light show at the Bellagio. Adam S., Danny and Noah were blown away by the show, while Dahlia snapped some Instagram worthy photos. We walked through the Bellagio afterwards and had some time to enjoy the world famous crepes. Max Sh. said it was the “best crepe” he has ever tried. Jessie and Hanna B. proudly sported their messy chocolate faces.

The following morning we enjoyed a bit of a sleep in (after over 30 days of traveling, we had no trouble sleeping in the city that never sleeps!). We then ventured over to the Stratosphere where we bravely rode the rides that go over and above the 109 floor building. Ali L and Sam J. saw a 360 degree view of the city on the spinning ride, while Jack M. and Eric did the “Big Drop”. We enjoyed lunch at Caesar’s Palace that day and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the beautiful
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An Eye-Opening Experience – Costa Rica Community Service

Hola amigos!

We are back in the Central Valley! A couple of nights ago, we said goodbye to four very loved members of the crew! Ali, Remi, Brett, and Cole spent their last day souvenir shopping and snacking in La Fortuna, and then participating in a hilarious night of Minute To Win It! We laughed uncontrollably as Cole tried to fan a tissue fish across the room, as Ali and Piper tried to pop balloons between them. Remi proved her impeccable aim, and Brett used a straw to blow cups off the table. It was an emotional farewell, but we know the bonds made will last for a long time to come!

For the rest of us, we were lucky enough to have the founder of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, an incredibly inspirational lady named Gail, come to the hotel and share with us her story.  Everyone was touched by her positive outlook and dedication to helping those in need. Following her introduction, we were all eager to start a new stage of community service. The next day, we travelled to Puriscal to bring a little fun to the children of the community, many of whom seldom get the opportunity to interact with new people and just be kids. We set up stations in a park that offered arts and crafts, soccer, skipping rope, and reading. We definitely made use of Allison and Laura’s Spanish skills as they did a lot of translating. Emma bonded with many kids by surprising them
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