Georgia mountains on my mind

Before going on a vacation with my family I always read the reviews. I focus on travelers looking for the same things I do: family friendly, a variety of activities, and great outdoor adventures. In addition, I like to call the resort staff and speak with someone from the area.

I called Country Hideaway at Mountain Lakes and spoke with the sweetest lady. I felt an immediate reassurance that this was the right place for my family and our guests.

Our unit was clean and well stocked, with a wooden deck overlooking a perfect lake. I fished each morning as the coffee brewed. Hummingbirds, ducks and geese were our pets for the week. We had the run of the place with water slides, a country store, a clubhouse with every amenity possible, trails, horses, etc. My son loved swimming in a lake without alligators! The fireworks for the 4th of July (one week early for resort guests) were picture perfect over the lake...we watched from our deck. The area boasts the town of Helen, the Blue Ridge Parkway, loads of state parks and waterfalls...too much to name. We had our first whitewater rafting trip on this vacation; pure joy! We long to return to the mountains...we booked our Christmas Holiday at another resort, this time in North Carolina. I'll let you know how that goes!

-Susan R. from DeBary, FL

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Son's favorite vacation

Our Arkansas vacation was one of the best vacations. We went with my cousins making a group of 11 people (two adults and nine kids under 12 years old). We went swimming, boating, fed a 2 foot long fish and visited Sugarloaf Mountain, an island in the middle of the lake. We climbed to the very top and the view was just stunning. We had a puppet show with puppets we bought from a store nearby. We went miniature golfing. I remember exactly what the room looked like, very big and comfy. I have to say that I can't pick my favorite part because it was all just so much fun! My cousin and I built a fort in the woods. It took us about two days to complete. We enjoyed our stay very much and I wish I could do it again sometime. Thank you for the wonderful stay.

-Crystal B. from Princeton, IL

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Need a Scenic Escape? Try the Poconos

Karen PI’ve blogged before about the Poconos being a great vacation destination for outdoor lovers and adventure enthusiasts.  But, if you are just in the mood for a relaxing getaway and want to simply enjoy the scenery and fresh air, then a trip to Pennsylvania may be in order.

Lake Wallenpaupack (actually a reservoir in Pennsylvania) is perfect for boating, swimming and fishing, but its shoreline also lends itself to hiking and gazing at wildlife.  I spent many summers on its shores with my extended family, enjoying each other’s company and the natural beauty of the area. I truly cannot think of anything more relaxing.

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have also enjoyed vacations made complete with stunning lakes and natural beauty. Be sure to come back to take a look! Are you heading on a lake vacation this summer? Let us know where by commenting below!

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The views of Sedona, Arizona

Catherine SI took my first trip to Sedona with my family ten years ago.  From the moment we arrived, I was absolutely in love, and it remains one of my favorite places to visit (and where I hope to someday retire!).

The red rocks are the main attraction in Sedona. There, we took a Jeep tour, which is a fun (and bumpy) way to see the sites up close.  The tour allowed us to get to areas that are off limits for hikers and gave us the opportunity to experience breathtaking views.

Another great place we found in Sedona was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which sits nestled among the red rocks.  From its perch, it gives a great opportunity to see some of the other well-known formations, including Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.

Sedona also offers amazing artwork and jewelry from artisans who flock to the area.  I always find something new and unique to bring home when I visit, and need to leave room in my suitcase for my finds!

So until my retirement, when I hope to take up permanent residence, Sedona will remain at the top of my list of vacation destinations, and the place I personally believe to be the most beautiful in the country.

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Escape the Heat

We left the heat of Phoenix in August to the blissful cool of Vail, Colorado. Our vacation was perfect! We went horseback riding in the mountains, relaxed on our lovely patio overlooking Gore Creek, hiked and explored, and spent one memorable Sunday at the Vail farmer's market and art fair.

There were hundreds of booths with produce, prepared food, art, and unique items for sale. It was a really unexpected treat, all within walking distance of our unit at The Wren.

Another treat was the gondola ride up Vail Mountain. We got to the top and there were a myriad of things to do. We hiked a bit with walking sticks available for us to use free of charge. We had lunch at a nice cafe at the top, and then we took a Jeep ride from there.

The Wren is walking distance to Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. We took in the gardens and walked to the theater for a free Thursday night outdoor concert. What a great location!

The staff at The Wren was terrific and they made great restaurant suggestions and provided us with area maps and tourist tips. They also had great muffins for us on Sunday morning and provided coffee, tea, and lemonade all day, everyday. Their courtesy and friendly advice made our stay special, as did The Wren barbeque and pot luck.

Add in the incomparable scenery, the wonderful restaurants and shops in the area and the proximity to great mountain towns like Leadville and Dillon, and you have a perfect vacation.

-Nikkin W. from Phoenix, AZ

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Pagosa Springs Trip

We needed a week away, so reserved a Last CallSM vacation in Pagosa Springs. Although we've lived in Denver for more than 40 years, we had never been to that part of Colorado. We spent the week seeing the area, relaxing in the Pagosa Hot Springs, riding the train in Durango, and just relaxing at the condo.

The Pagosa Hot Springs have several pools with varying temperatures and beautiful views over the river. The train from Durango was an experience! We got a chance to see and feel what travelling in the 19th century was like. You smell the coal and feel and hear the "click, click" of the train as it wound through the beautiful scenery. The accommodations at Wyndham Pagosa were perfect for relaxation. Our unit was located on their golf course. We enjoyed interacting with the golfers, and (quietly) judging their shots.

Overall a great relaxing week.

-William L. from Parker, CO

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Colorado: A Great Surprise!

Jenny DBefore my parents-in-law moved to Colorado, I had never visited the state, and believed that the only thing people did there was ski. So when my husband and I planned our first trip to visit his parents a few years ago, I was not very enthusiastic (seeing as my favorite vacation spot is the beach!). Since that first visit, we’ve been back to Colorado many times, and each time there is something new and so very different from my home-state of NJ, that I now very much look forward to our visits.

Once, we visited a little amusement park called Santa’s Workshop, built into the slopes of the Pikes Peak mountain range (that was certainly a first for me).  And don’t be fooled by the name! It is a Christmas-themed amusement park and open from mid-May until December 24. On another visit, we spent time at the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, an amazing up-close encounter with rescued wolves of all types and sizes, who even treat you to a serenade at the end of your walking tour! And although I’d never imagined standing next to a rock the height of a skyscraper, I was amazed at the beauty of the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. The stunning views were like something I’d only seen on the National Geographic channel!

All in all, Colorado has now become a favorite place to visit, and I always leave having seen or learned something interesting and new – and very different from my East Coast roots.

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to Colorado. Come back and take a look!

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The rain in Maine…

Emily SLast fall, after attending the wedding of a friend in New Hampshire, my boyfriend Blake and I decided to extend the weekend and head over to Maine for a couple of nights. Having both never been, we made a short list of must-do’s before we went, which included shopping, sightseeing, and, yep, lobster.

From New Hampshire, we decided to drive over to Route 1 in Maine to start our journey – a bit of a longer way to get there, but it allowed us to stop at a few antique stores along the way. An added bonus, we were able to stop by Kennebunkport, a great little town on a river, to walk around and grab lunch. After checking out a few of the stores, we wandered into a small shop called The Old Salt’s Pantry for our first – and what would be our best – lobster roll of the trip…and, believe me, we tried countless other delicious lobster rolls! We even had somewhat of a strategy when it came to trying them: we’d only order one lobster roll at each place and each have half so that we could try them at a few different places in one day (without feeling too guilty!).

Next up was Portland. And while it rained most of our time there, we still made the best of it. We walked around Commercial Street where there’s a bunch of restaurants, coffee shops, and stores of all kind – clothing, jewelry, accessories, kitchenware. After that, we drove over to the Portland Head Light lighthouse and snapped some photos of the beautiful, yet stormy, views.

Finally, what trip to Maine wouldn’t be complete without a visit to L.L. Bean’s flagship store? Blake is an outdoor nut, so seeing this was at the top of his list. It’s located in Freeport, a short drive from Portland. And – it’s open 24 hours a day, so of course we went at midnight…and we spent about 2-3 hours there! We even took a picture with the gigantic L.L. Bean boot, which is located right outside the front of the store.

Whether your Maine vacation is filled with sunshine or rain (like ours), you can still have a lot of fun. This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to Maine. Be sure to come back to take a look at their fantastic pictures! And check out a couple photos from my trip below…

Lobster roll at The Old Salt’s Pantry

Lobster roll at The Old Salt’s Pantry

Portland Head Light Lighthouse

Portland Head Light Lighthouse

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Unexpected "Thank You" from a Teen

"Mom thank you so much for bringing me on this vacation!" my thirteen year old daughter said as we left the lodge. Nearly speechless, I couldn't say anything else but, "You’re welcome." We had a great time visiting Yosemite National Park and the giant Sequoia trees on the way. We played a family-modified game of miniature golf at the resort and enjoyed some videos they had available for our use. Our white water rafting trip on the Truckee River capped off the experience. While my daughter will remember the things she saw and did, I will always remember what she said. It made all of my planning and paying worthwhile. So often I feel like we are dragging our kids on vacation and they fight and complain so much. It was really nice to hear gratitude for a change.

-Cassandra R. from Cedar City, UT

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New Zealand Icon

New Zealand Icon

While vacationing in New Zealand, my wife took this photo of a Fern head - now we know why their national symbol is the silver fern. The area was so green and lush on the North Island - we will be returning!

-David V. from Thunder Bay, ON Canada

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Texas Relatives

As suggested by an RCI Vacation Guide, we visited Galveston, Texas. I met one of my cousins and her family that I had not seen in over 30 years. We grew up in upstate New York. We visited Lake Jackson where they lived and many of the sights in the area. One great memory was eating local BBQ - finger lickin' good! People were so friendly that we went back again through another RCI exchange. It was one of our best exchanges, with the beach across the street from our resort. May not sound like much to some, but it was a wonderful experience connecting with relatives that had moved far away.

-Joyce M. from Enfield, CT

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The Texas Coast

This was my first vacation through RCI. I took my boys, ages 12 and 13, along with their friend to the Texas Coast. One of the days we were there, we checked out the waterpark at Galveston Island. My boys loved it. We rode the lazy rivers all day long. My boys didn't want to leave and laughed the entire day. It was priceless.

-Jennifer C. from Baton Rouge, LA

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Perfect bird for a perfect birding vacation

Perfect bird for a perfect birding vacation

Being birders means traveling to find the ideal spot where birds are plentiful (and/or of a rare type). For us, last year in Brownsville, Texas, a wind change caused a "fall-out" of birds of all types and descriptions. This tired, beautiful little fellow was one of them.

-Robert S. from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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Texas Turtle Hatchlings

Texas Turtle Hatchlings

Timing is everything. My wife and 2 daughters were surprised to find out that our vacation was in perfect timing with the baby turtle release at North Padre Island. The ridley eggs generally hatch at night and the release takes place at sunrise. Park staff carry the baby sea turtles to the beach in coolers and place each one gently on the sand. The hatchlings immediately head toward the surf, towards the sun. Once they reach the water, the surf carried them into the water. We'll remember this trip for a lifetime.

-Ernest G. from Kyle, TX

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Florida in July

We spent the Fourth of July in Florida. My daughter and my three grandchildren went with me to Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Orlando. I did an exchange through RCI about ten months before to book the July 4th weekend.

We had no problem finding the resort and checking in. While I checked in, the others checked out the pool, shops, and activity center...Our unit was one building away from the pool and activities. We had a three bedroom, which was actually a two bedroom with a lock out unit. This was great for my two oldest grandkids. They had a place of "their own." The whole unit was very roomy for all of us. The kitchen was fully equipped, as you would expect from a Hilton resort. This resort is close to International Drive, which has many nice restaurants, so we ate dinner out several times.

Fourth of July we drove to Cocoa Beach and spent the day there and stayed for the fireworks on the beach. It was a great day and only a little over an hour drive to get there. We were back to the resort by 11:30 p.m...

The next few days we spent at the resort relaxing. The pools were large with a fountain and a waterfall and plenty of lounge chairs. We played shuffleboard and there was a nice playground for the kids. There was a bingo game one day by the pool. I won a beach towel and $5 gift certificate for the snack shop...

Altogether this was one of our best vacations. The resort is beautiful and I was glad to get it through RCI. If anyone has a chance to exchange into this one, go for it!

-Carol S. from Charter Township of Clinton, MI

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Our first vacation through RCI

My husband and I purchased our timeshare while we were vacationing alone. The following year we took our 2 daughters and a friend on vacation with us to the Sheraton Vistana Resort in Orlando. Since our previous vacations had always taken place in hotel rooms we were anxious to see their reaction when we arrived. We gave them the key to our villa and told them to go open the door while we grabbed luggage. We waited outside. When they walked into the villa we heard screams. They came running out and the look on their faces were priceless. They were so excited about staying in a 2 bedroom villa at a luxury resort for a week instead of a cramped hotel room and so were we!

-Bonnie R. from Richmond, MN

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Florida Vacation

We went to Summer Bay Resort near Orlando, Florida and absolutely had the best time. My daughter and I took my 2 grandkids and we went to Walt Disney World. My grandson, Jordan, turned 4 while we were there and had a little birthday party at the resort. He had such a wonderful time. It rained almost everyday while we were there but we made a good trip out of it even with the rain. Summer Bay Resort was the most awesome place to stay and such a beautiful resort. We loved it so much that we are going back next month to celebrate my granddaughter's birthday as well. Her name is Taylor and she will be 2 years old. This trip was by far the best trip I have ever been on through RCI.

-Deborah M. from Denver, CO

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An Orlando Convert!

Paul MI’ll be honest – Orlando originally wasn’t on the top of my “places where I’d like to holiday” list. I always preferred the buzz of a city – eating in one-off restaurants, digging for records in little independent music stores, and soaking up the atmosphere.

But a few years ago, things changed. When it came to choosing a vacation destination, there was a new dimension – a child. That’s right. We had welcomed a beautiful little boy, Cal, and a year later, we decided that we might be able to stay awake long enough to make it to the airport and onto vacation. It was far from a certainty, but we took the risk. After weighing up flight length from New Jersey, kid-friendliness, and chance of sunshine, Orlando was the best choice.

And I have to say…what a fantastic choice it was! We ate at nice restaurants with no frowning at the request for a high-chair. We took things at our own pace and enjoyed fantastic amenities at our resort. We went to a couple of theme parks and acted like kids. It really was a great family vacation.

Three years on, we’ve been back four times. We arranged a family reunion with both sets of doting babysitters (sorry, grandparents) and also met good friends from England with their toddler. We’ve had so much fun, enjoyed excellent food, found countless bargains at the outlet malls, and “ooh’d” and “aah’d” at the theme parks and shows.

Best of all – I even found an awesome record store.

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have also visited Orlando. Be sure to come back to read about their vacations!

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The Grand Cenote

The Grand Cenote

During our vacation to Playa del Carmen we visited the Gran Cenote. What a beautiful place it is. Loads of fun swimming and jumping into the water.

-Julie B. from Saratoga Springs, UT

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Our Mexican Memory

For our anniversary many years ago we decided to fly away without our girls and have some special time with just the two of us.

What a grand idea that turned out to be. The resort we stayed at in Cancun offered everything we wanted and needed for the two of us to renew our relationship, in every way.

We relaxed together, we enjoyed the beautiful beach with the soft white sand and clear waters and the fabulous views from our suite, and had delicious food in all of the on-site restaurants! One day we even had our dinner served to us, out on the terrace of our room, while the sun was setting.

All the reasons we married 10 years earlier were remembered and we came home with a renewed commitment to each other and our girls! This year we begin our 30th year together, and vacations are still important to us. Time to relax and renew.

-Donna H. from Wernersville, PA

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