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“Bubble Cheeks” by Susan

Who could resist those “Bubble Cheeks?” Certainly, not us.

This week’s winner in the “Travel Fun for Less” category is Susan, who says “I was enjoying a fun afternoon in the pool with my 4-year-old nephew, who is learning to swim. He was showing me how to make ‘bubble cheeks.’”

Congrats, Susan, on winning a $500 Choice Hotels voucher to use at any location!

See the other finalists from this week below, and remember we have 3 grand prizes left! Upload your best vacation photos now for a chance to win.

“African Dream” by Rochi

“Midnight Sun in Iceland” by MikelDallas

“Hiking up High” by MANelson

For more information — or to size up the competition — check out our 2013 photo contest.

istock

Dilemma: You want to squeeze in a sweet camping trip before summer runs out. But unfortunately, your family, friends and perhaps even your entire social network have used up their vacation days already. Should you let that stop you? Absolutely not. In fact, without companions, you’ll likely pack less and take your outdoor therapy to a new level. Plus, park rangers won’t have to bust a loud campfire sing-along after quiet hours.

Here are the best campgrounds for solo travelers — featuring all the perks from easy-access boat landings to secluded sites where you’ll feel like the only person on Earth. Hello, sleeping under the stars!

 

For the Multi-Adventurer: Burke Mountain Campground, Vermont

Solo travelers who are also adventure sports enthusiasts should head to this small 26-site campground located on Burke Mountain, VT. You can hike or bike the extensive network of single- and double-track trails around the mountain. And less than 20 miles away, glacially formed Lake Willoughby offers fishing, swimming and paddle boarding over depths up to 300 feet. Consider this haven your leisure playground that’s guaranteed to satisfy your itch for adventure.

For the Ocean Goer: Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon

This quaint little Oregonian campground is nestled on a sand spit between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It features more than 8 miles of forest hiking trails lush with wildlife. And if you’re the solo traveler who wants a little free entertainment, get this: Cape Lookout and nearby Cape Kiwanda and Cape Meares together make the Three Capes Scenic Route — a popular launching pad for hang gliders and paragliders. Come here for both beach and bay access, and don’t forget to look upward!

For the Island Hopper: Big Bay State Park Campground, Wisconsin

The Apostle Islands, a 21-isle archipelago off Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shore, has a rich history of logging, shipping, stone quarrying and fishing. From Bayfield, WI, ferry to Madeline Island and sleep on Big Bay State Park Campground’s lakeshore. Want to see more islands without having to paddle solo on Lake Superior’s unpredictable water? Take the 55-mile Apostle Islands Cruise authorized by the National Park Service. The boat goes daily from Bayfield (May to October) and gives you a solid overview of the chain.

For the Backpacker: Sykes Camp Trail, California

If car camping isn’t your thing, try this moderate 19.5-mile backpacking trail located in the Ventana Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest, CA. Master moderate elevation gains through redwoods and stream crossings to natural hot springs. Select your camp at miles 5, 7, 10 or 12 and crash for the night. Added bonus: It’s a favorite for weekenders, so you’ll never be far from fellow hikers if you need help. For more inspiration, check out our best camping spots in California.

 

Camping solo means you need to be even more focused on safety. Check out Travel Channel’s camping tips before you go:

Off-the-Grid Camping Safety
Camping Do’s and Don’ts
Camping Tips and Tricks

by Patty Hodapp

Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Elon Musk

Planes, trains and automobiles may be a thing of the past if US entrepreneur Elon Musk has his way. The billionaire has unveiled plans for a HyperLoop transportation system that will transport passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under a half hour, compared with the nearly 6-hour drive that commuters now face on a good traffic day.

Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors Inc., says the solar-powered system would shoot 28 passengers in an enclosed capsule through a low-pressure steel tube at 8oo miles per hour. According to the 57-page design plan, the project would cost less than $6 billion and transport 7.4 million people each way every year. The tube would be built along I-5 interstate highway, the busiest traffic corridor on the West Coast.

Although an innovative plan, HyperLoop still has a few huge hurdles to clear before it becomes a reality, including receiving the California state government’s approval for the project.  In addition to Cali’s stamp of approval, private companies would have to step in and build the HyperLoop because Musk will be too busy running electric car company Tesla and rocket manufacturer SpaceX. Any takers?

“Heavenly Thoughts” photo by Tintern Abbey

Today marks the end of the first week of our month-long photo contest.  We asked you to proudly show off your camera skills and brag about your summer escapades.  Now it’s time to reveal the first Photo Contest winner! (Drumroll please)…In the category of Road Trips, the grand prize goes to “Heavenly Thoughts” by Tintern Abbey.  Congratulations on winning a $500 Choice Hotels voucher to use at any location!

We have 4 more grand prizes left, so make sure to upload your best vacation photos now for a chance to win.  You can enter as many times as you wish and take your pick from any one of the five categories: Outdoors & Adventure, Family Getaways, Road Trips, Romance & Honeymoons, or Travel Fun for Less.  You could also get your photo featured in a Travel Channel slideshow as an “Editor’s Top Pick.”  Travel Channel and Comfort Inn® are giving away prizes every week, and with 4 more weeks left, you don’t want to wait!

To get more information – or if you merely want to size up your competition – check out 2013 Photo Contest.

Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Two Sumatran tiger cubs were born at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, on Monday evening.  Not only are these cubs the cutest new zoo babies around, but they are also a huge conservation success for the zoo, since Sumatran tigers are critically endangered – there are only 400-500 left in the wild.

Don’t run to the National Zoo just yet to see the lil’ cubs. The zoo is giving the first-time mother – 4-year-old Sumatran tiger Damai — time to bond and care for her little ones, so the cubs will most likely not be on exhibit until the fall.

In the meantime, you can watch the newborn tigers grow (they haven’t even opened their eyes yet) on the zoo’s live webcams. And their dad, 12-year-old Sumatran tiger Kavi is holding down the den as usual at the Great Cats exhibit.

“It’s taken more than 2 years of perseverance getting to know Damai and Kavi and letting them get to know each other so that we could reach this celebratory moment,” Great Cats curator Craig Saffoe said in a release.

“All I can do is smile because the team has realized our goal of producing critically endangered tiger cubs. Damai came to us as a young tiger herself, so it’s really special to see her become a great mom.”

In addition to these rare cubs, there are only 65 Sumatran tigers living in accredited zoos in North America.

Check out more photos and videos of the tiger cubs here. And take a look at our roundups of adorable animal newborns: zoo babies, aqua babies, safari babies and snow babies.

 

You May Also Like:

America’s Wildest Zoos
Sleeping With the Animals
Best Aquariums in the US

Lindsey Simmons of Girls Gone Bayou

Some small towns are hot destinations. Take Bastrop, LA, for instance. Never heard of it? If you are a hunter or an avid outdoorsman, you have. Bastrop, just outside Monroe, LA, is home to Simmons’ Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods stores in the country, drawing customers from across the South and selling everything from camouflage and camping gear to guns and ammo to ATVs and 4-wheelers. Bastrop also happens to be home to TravelChannel.com’s new exclusive web series, Girls Gone Bayou.

The series follows the quirky adventures of Lindsey Simmons, as she takes over day-to-day operations of Simmons’ with some help from gal pals, Lori and Kila. Lindsey’s got to convince her overbearing dad, Jeff, that they are up for the challenge, and prove that she and her blonde bombshell BFFs can hunt, fish and trap better than any good ole boy in the bayou. You can watch all 9 episodes of the series, starting today, on TravelChannel.com

We asked Lindsey what people should know about Bastrop and to share her favorite places in her hometown.

“Obviously, one of the biggest attractions for our town is Simmons’ Sporting Goods,” Lindsey says. “We have people that drive from a 5 state radius just to come to our store! They bring their RVs or stay in hotels and make a weekend out of it.”

Lindsey also recommends a stroll through Bastrop’s Town Square at the intersection of Highway 165 North and Highway 425 North to visit its antique shops, jewelry stores and theater.

“It’s a great place to explore Bastrop,” she says. “I guarantee you, when you pass people on those streets, they WILL smile and make you feel at home. I just love that!”

Finally, there’s the Morehouse Activity Center, known as “The Mac,” on Marlatt St.

“On Saturday night you can find everyone in town there to watch a rodeo,” Lindsey says. “Talk about a good time!”

Bastrop has some famous frequent visitors, too. The Robertsons of Duck Dynasty have been doing business with the Simmons’ ever since they started making duck calls. The popular reality-TV family signs autographs at Simmons’ every year.

“They are a great family and are truly as wholesome as they seem on TV,” Lindsey says. “Willie is a hoot. He’s down to earth and hilarious.”

Sounds like another family we’ve come to know. Get to know Lindsey, her family and friends on Girls Gone Bayou. Watch the first episode, now.

REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

The world finally returned to normal after last week’s royal baby mania with less-than regal celebrations this week like a flash mob pillow fight in Ukraine, the Lumberjack World Championships in Wisconsin and the so-called Mud Olympics in South Africa. See more highlights from the week in This Week in Photos.

Check out more travel buzz on our radar this week:

Twitter-Themed Hotel: Is this the future of travel? Daily Mail UK goes inside an anti-digital detox stay at @SolWaveHouse hotel in Majorca, the world’s first Twitter-themed hotel. Check in and order room service by hashtag? We say it’s #brilliant

Swimming with Sharks: Intrepid blogger LandLopers doesn’t just watch Shark Week — he lives it while swimming with whale sharks in Mexico. There’s nothing to fear, he says — they’re just very large fish.

Call it a Comeback: Gadling shares the top tourist spots that were once  “no-go zones” for travelers. Better put these new-and-improved cities — like Berlin, Buenos Aires and New Orleans — back on your radar.

Keep Calm and Don’t Carry On: Skift reveals the latest new hidden airline fee popping up. More and more budget airlines, like Spirit and now Frontier Airlines, are charging for carry-on bags. Our advice? Fly in cargo pants.

Fancy Yourself a Gypset? What’s that, you say? Our favorite travel shopping portal, L-Atitude showcases the globetrotting gal who coined the term “Gypset” and the iconic style — gypsey meets jet set — it symbolizes.

Travel Channel's Summer Photo Contest

There’s nothing better than a summer vacation that leaves lasting memories — except maybe capturing those moments on camera. Now you can upload your summer vacation photos for a chance to be featured on TravelChannel.com and win prizes from Comfort Inn®.

Every week, we’re giving away another $500 Choice Hotels voucher for a stay at the location of your choice! So what are you waiting for? Enter the contest now and check the blog every Friday through August 6, where we’ll reveal the week’s finalists and the lucky winner.

This Week in Photos

Let’s be real: All eyes are on the royal baby, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, in This Week in Photos. And we aren’t the only ones with baby fever — literally EVERYONE has something to add. Read on for some of our favorite royal travel posts.

Johnny Jet presents “Babymoons” for England’s royal baby moon, otherwise known as the best vacations and travel experiences for new families.

HuffPost reveals Las Vegas has invited the royal baby to visit … in 21 years.

DailyMail says England hopes to see a tourism surge as well-wishers flock to the UK.

The NYT has a roundup of merchandise hoping to cash in on the royal baby, including, but certainly not limited to “books, brioche and baby clothes.”

And yes, Gadling not only has travel advice for Prince George (and his parents), but also 7 travel options for those obsessed with the royal baby.

 

Photography by Christopher Herwig / Aurora Photos

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