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Great Natural Areas to Explore With Family

A good way to connect with your family is to leave behind the work and school routines. If your family has days off or a free weekend, consider planning a road trip to explore new places.

All throughout the United States there are recreation areas that offer a wide variety of activities for everyone. Below you will find some ideal places for enjoying what nature has to offer:

Boulder Creek, California

Location: This spot is in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, northeast of San Francisco.

Features: It has everything nature lovers would want, such as beautiful lakes, streams and mountains, as well as prairies surrounded by plants and animals.

Activities: It is a place where you can swim, fish, ride a boat or kayak, mountain bike and camp.

Alley Creek Camp, Texas

Location: On the edge of Lake O ‘the Pines, east of Dallas and near the towns of Jefferson and Marshall.

Features: There’s a magnificent lake surrounded by pine trees and the region’s native flora and fauna. The lake is a result of the construction of a dam, but now it’s considered an oasis of outdoor recreation.

Activities: Families can enjoy camping, swimming, hunting, fishing, boat rides, or hiking along trails and exploring nature.

Buck Lake, Florida

Location: This recreational area is located in Ocala National Forest.

Features: The Buck Lake area has the second longest forest in the state of Florida, and more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs that are popular tourist attractions.

Activities: This site offers a variety of ways to enjoy the open air, including fishing, boat rides, camping, picnics, hiking and more.

Camp Gateway, New York

Location: Situated at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, this park is a great natural space within the urban environment of New York City.

Features: The area’s meadows, trees, sand dunes, lagoons and beaches attract many tourists year-round.

Activities: You can choose among hiking, fishing, biking or camping. There are also guided tours and other programs available.

Apache Trout Campground, Arizona

Location: This spot is east of Phoenix, near the New Mexico border.

Features: Wide open spaces, pine forests, mountain scenery and Big Lake are all ideal for relaxation.

Activities: This is a good spot for outdoor activities like trout fishing, hiking, mountain biking, picnics and camping.

Note: The activities at these recreation parks vary depending on the time of year and season.

Use the search guide in Recreation.gov to find other activities and recreational areas.

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Motherhood Begins Before Pregnancy

Being a mother involves major responsibilities and love. That’s why it’s important to take steps before, during and after pregnancy.

If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, consider the following:

1. Plan your pregnancy

  • If you have doubts about pregnancy and motherhood, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a section titled My Reproductive Life Plan that provides a series of tips to help you.

  • Discuss your plans with your primary care doctor and get a referral to an obstetrician, gynecologist or midwife.

  • Keep a copy of your medical history. That way any doctor will have a record of any health issue that may affect your pregnancy.

  • Be sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle to contribute to your baby’s health 

2. Take care of yourself during pregnancy

  • Perform all the necessary prenatal tests that your doctor orders. This is the best way to prevent complications during and after childbirth.

  • During the third trimester the visits to the doctor will be more frequent. Tell your doctor about any issues or complications related to your pregnancy.

  • Choose where you want to give birth. You can have your baby in a traditional hospital or in a maternity clinic, or even have a home birth where legally allowed. Check what options are available to you under your health insurance.

3. After giving birth

  • Know the benefits of breastfeeding, like health advantages for mom and baby, saving money, and losing weight gained during pregnancy. Breast milk is also easier to digest and provides your baby with your body’s natural defenses.

  • Be sure to rest. After giving birth, make it a point to rest so that your body can heal and your mind can adjust to all the changes. Limit the number of visitors during the first few days after childbirth. Use this time to strengthen the bond with your newborn.

  • Be prepared for changes. Some women could have physical changes after childbirth. Your doctor can provide a safe exercise routine to get you back into shape.

  • Ask your doctor how much recovery time your body needs before you can have intimate relations with your partner.

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Government Benefits for People With Disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five people are affected by disabilities. Some of those disabilities happen at birth, while others are the result of injury, illness, or aging.

Despite the limitations these conditions may cause, there are government programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.

Social Security benefits
The Social Security Administration offers two programs to help people with disabilities and, often, the benefits can last for over a year. The programs are:

To apply for these benefits, contact the Social Security offices at 1-800-772-1213 or at 1-800-325-0778 (TTY for the hearing impaired).

Help for military personnel
There is also help for veterans who become disabled or injured while performing military service. Some of these benefits include:

  • Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay. This benefit is for retired veterans who are 50 to 90 percent disabled. The amount of payment is determined by the person’s degree of disability. Veterans who are completely disabled receive the full benefit.
  • Combat-Related Special Compensation. Retired veterans who were injured during military combat receive tax-free monthly payments.

Disabled military personnel and veterans can also receive financial help to buy a car that accommodates their needs, get dental care, a clothing allowance, and more. You can read more about benefits for disabled veterans (PDF).

You can apply for these programs by calling 1-800-827-1000 or by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

It’s worth noting that some veterans may also receive disability benefits from Social Security.

Help for special education
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides free education services to children with special needs, to help them develop, learn, and succeed in school.

Those who meet the requirements receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a plan that contains individualized learning goals as well as the services the child needs.

If your child has a disability, talk to the school staff to find out how to receive these special education benefits.

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Secure your child’s education with a 529 Plan

When they’re young, children dream about becoming doctors, artists, teachers, veterinarians, and many other things. But in order for those dreams to come true and for kids to actually become professionals, it’s important for them to attend and finish college.

A good college education can lead to that dream career. Though it’s a major investment, there are flexible payment plans that can help.

529 Plans

Known as the “College Savings Plan,” 529 Plans let you start investing early for your children’s future college career. These plans are generally sponsored by the state, state agencies or educational institutions.

There are two types of 529 Plans:

1. Prepaid tuition plans. Also called “guaranteed savings plans” in some states, this plan locks in future tuition rates at public institutions. Some private universities also offer similar plans.

2. College savings plan. This one is similar to a 401K retirement account, but the money you invest is only used to pay for your child’s education. You can choose the amount (free of taxes) to be deducted from each paycheck. The amount saved will be used to pay for college when the time comes, or it can be used for related expenses, such as housing, books or school supplies. 

To open a 529 Plan, contact your state’s program administrator.

Benefits

Depending on your choice, your 529 Plan will let you:

  • Select a plan regardless of your income or age of your children.
  • Transfer your plan from one state to another. You can use this online tool to compare state plans.
  • Have control of your money and manage it the way you want.
  • Allow anyone to contribute to the savings plan, whether it’s a family member or friend.
  • Transfer your plan to help someone else pay for school.

529 Plans are tax-free, as long as the money is used to pay for college. If, for any reason, you decide to use the savings for something else, you can withdraw the money as long as you pay the taxes due.

Resources

Use the College Savings Calculator to figure out the amount you must invest each month to cover all your child’s educational costs. The budget calculator will help you compare school expenses against your income and financial aid.

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A road trip can be a great family adventure

Going on a long road trip is an exciting experience for both young and old – you get to experience beautiful scenery, walk around in new places and get to know the customs and traditions of each destination you visit.

To avoid any disappointment and enjoy the best trip possible, planning for the journey must begin long before you get in the car. So if you’re planning to take a road trip, consider the following ideas.

Travel budget

A budget will help you manage your expenses properly and can include:

  • Car maintenance. A qualified mechanic can check the condition of your brakes and tires. The mechanic can also tell you if you need any additional maintenance or parts replaced, and if the car is in its best condition for the trip.
  • Fuel expenses. Gas prices tend to vary by location. Find out the actual price of gas and calculate how much you’ll spend during the trip. It’s a good idea to estimate a bit on the higher side in case there are any emergencies.
  • Lodging, food and entertainment. Figure out your food and hotel expenses depending on how many people will be joining you on the trip. Remember to budget for family activities like visiting a museum, a park or a fair.

Routes and safe driving

Before and during your trip it’s important to:

  • Choose your destination. Each state has tourist attractions that are open to the public. America’s Byways has a search engine that helps you find things to do depending on where you are.
  • Drive with caution. Drive carefully when traveling on the road, this way you’ll avoid getting a ticket and you’ll be sure that the people on your trip are safe. Always make sure that your passengers have their seatbelts fastened.
  • Make frequent stops. The car ride itself may be fun, but remember to make frequent stops to stretch your legs, use the restroom, have a meal or just enjoy the scenery.

Child passengers

On long trips, children have special needs. Remember to:

  • Provide safety seats. There are many car seats and boosters specifically for children that can be placed in the back seat of your car. Find the appropriate seat for your child’s age or size and make sure it’s properly installed. Use the Car Seat Inspection Station Locator to find the nearest place where a technician can verify the seat is installed correctly and according to the law.
  • Bring snacks. Pack a cooler with healthy snacks that are portioned appropriately for your child’s age. These snacks help ensure that children are getting enough to eat and drink on the trip.
  • Immunize your children. All children under age six should receive their necessary vaccines (PDF) to avoid picking up illnesses or diseases that could be transmitted through direct contact, or by food and water. Also remember to pack cold, allergy, headache and stomach medications.

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