Archive for July, 2010

Where Is The Best Place To Have A Family Reunion?

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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Photo courtest of modernmom.com

I’m very excited to share the news with you that I’m currently packing and getting ready to attend a 75-person family reunion in Panama next week! During my 10-day trip I’ll be keeping a log of all of our activities and will post photos and let you all know how everything is going.

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to find out how everyone else would plan their own family reunion. Where would you go? What would you want to do?

Please take the following poll and let’s see the results!

Where is the Best Place to Have a Family Reunion?

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A Lesson in Saving Money: Traveling in the Offseason

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

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Photo courtesy of TheObsessiveShopper.net

If you’re like me then you dream of traveling the world visiting the small and obscure places, as well as large and illustrious destinations. And if you are also like me then the price tag on some of these spots can be quite prohibitive to fulfilling those dreams; unless you are flexible about when you see these wonderful locales. 

Traveling in the offseason can be quite beneficial. First, there is the cost savings; from flights to hotels, car rentals and attractions – everything costs less when the peak season expires. For example, resorts in ski towns such as Aspen and Whistler (Canada) do huge business in the winter, but cut rates significantly during the summer. The second reason is that the crowds are a lot smaller, too. Imagine not waiting with your children hour after hour, shoulder to should with other exhausted families, for the chance to experience your favorite rides at Disney World. Tempting, right?

Warning: There are reasons that it is called the “off-season”. Weather can be adverse such as parts of Asia during monsoon season and certain restaurants and attractions could be closed or at the very least could have reduced hours. Non-peak months are also a time of renovation for many hotels and resorts. So if you can put up with the lobby remodel or an obstructed view, you may benefit from reduced rates and perhaps even a complimentary upgrade.

What is a Shoulder Season?

A Shoulder Season is the period of time between the high and low seasons. For example, the Caribbean and Mexico have very nice weather in late April and May, but prices for flights and hotels go way down because Americans are in between Spring Break and summer vacations. The same is true for South America.

So when should you go where? Below is a brief rundown of popular destinations by their off/shoulder seasons. 

SPRING

1. Denver (April-May)

2. Egypt

3. Hawaii (March – May)

SUMMER

1. Australia (their winter/early spring)

2. Brazil

3. Florida

4. Las Vegas (July and August)

5. Phoenix

6. Ski towns (Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, Whistler)

FALL

1. Bahamas

2. Central America (September)

3. Hawaii (August – October)

4. Italy (late September – November)

5. New England (September until early October – before foliage season)

6. Orlando (October until mid-November)

WINTER

1. California

2. Greece

3. New York City

4. South Africa

5. South Padre Island (TX)

6. Wine Country (Napa Valley and Sonoma, CA)

Share Your Stories?

What’s been your experience traveling in an offseason? Post a comment, e-mail me, and let me know!

 
 

 

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Washington D.C. Voted Favorite Historical City Destination

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The Washington Monument (photo courtesy of businessweek.com)

The results are in and 60 percent of you voted in last week’s poll that Washington D.C. is your favorite historical city to visit. With so many things to do in the nation’s capital I can’t say I blame you!

Tied for second place with 20 percent of the votes were Boston and Williamsburg, Va.

Thanks to everyone who voted and keep your eyes out for the next Travel Smart Blog poll question!

 
 

 

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STICKS AND STONES: TALKING ABOUT GOLF & SPA VACATIONS

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys features a Teen Spa, which caters to the young adult traveler

Golf & Spa vacations are no longer only a “his or her” proposition.  On the contrary, more women are taking to the links and according to the International SPA Association, male consumers now comprise nearly 30 percent of all spa-goers. 

With resorts trying hard to add the most enticing amenities to their properties, spas and beautiful golf courses are not hard to locate in most any locale. In fact, economically it is a great time to plan your getaway. Deals abound and, as I often say, look beyond the price for that extra value. Resorts are packaging more goods and services together for one price, including meals, spa vouchers, golf-shop credits and the always-popular “unlimited golf.”

Expert Tip: Many resorts offer beautifully designed golf courses.  But staying in a nearby hotel rather than the resort property is often a more affordable solution when looking to play a championship course.

With the increasing popularity of spas, resorts are competing with each other to offer the most luxurious and exotic treatments for both men and women.  In fact, even teen spas are popping up in resorts around the country offering hip treatments for the coolest teens. For example, Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys is a 60 acre island resort in that features a Teen Spa, which caters to the teen traveler offering really great treatments and experiences for kids 12-18.

Your first spa visit can still be somewhat overwhelming. The many activity choices can make you feel like a kid on your first day at summer camp.  Remember, you can’t do everything.  Pick a focus based on what you need such as: pampering and pleasure; health and wellness; spiritual journey, or fitness – and let that guide your choice of activities.

Tips For Planning a Spa Vacation on a Budget

Destination spas can also vary a great deal in price. If you want to take a spa vacation but wonder how to get the best deals or how to make it more affordable, consider these options.

1. If you’re going to choose a destination spa, stay at a less expensive B & B or hotel the night before, then head over in the morning to get a full day of activities in. They’ll let you stash your bags and use a locker until check-in time. You can use the same strategy on the way out.

2. Stay during the week for the lowest rates. Destination spas usually have a three-night minimum. A Thursday night arrival will cost more than a Sunday night arrival.

3. Travel off-season. In the Northeast, rates are lower in the winter, higher in the summer. It’s the reverse in the Southwest and Florida.

TravelSmartBlog.com’s Picks for a Golf & Spa Vacation

THE BROADMOOR - Celebrating its 50th year as a five-star resort in the heart of Colorado Springs, CO will play host to the 2011 U.S Women’s Open. It recently added six deluxe cottages along the 18th fairway of the resort’s East Course. Golf aside, the resort is elegant, romantic and the Spa at Broadmoor is an oasis in the heart of the Rockies.

THE BOULDERS RESORT & GOLDEN DOOR SPA - Aptly residing in Carefree, AZ, The 33,000 square foot Golden Door Spa was ranked one of the 10 Best Spas in the World by SpaFinder.  Services include stretching, conditioning and yoga for golfers.  The resort features two award-winning, championship golf courses that are situated among stunning ancient boulder formations.

Expert Tip. One of the most magical ways to explore the Sonoran Desert is during the cool of the night on guided, moonlit bicycle tours. Tours are scheduled at the concierge desk.

Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa is home to the PGA's Players Championship

Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa - Home to The Players Championship, this resort is not short on things the whole family will enjoy from playing on the beach to first-rate children’s programs,  fishing in the surrounding lagoons, and more.

Casa Velas Hotel BoutiqueIts secluded location helps keep some of this Puerto Vallarta all-inclusive resort’s most wonderful secrets such as its luxurious, intimate and romantic environment, sensuous spa treatments, and outstanding service.  The hotel is surrounded by Marina Vallarta golf course and neighbors six other challenging courses.

The Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa - This historic Asheville, NC resort boasts an impressive lineage of noted guests from presidents to famous artists and entertainers. But what speaks volumes is how every guest feels special when on the grounds of the esteemed Grove Park Inn. Other features include beautiful views, delectable dining in its restaurants, golf in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an award-winning spa. 

The Fairmont Orchid - Recently listed as one of the 75 Best Golf Resorts in North America by Golf Digest, this Hawaiian Big Island resort is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. But you definitely won’t want to miss an experience in the Spa Without Walls.  Its impressive spa offering includes six private outdoor waterfall hale (huts) and oceanfront massage cabanas. 

 
 

 

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Vote Now!

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (photo courtesy of dc.about.com)

So now that I’ve given you a list of recommendations on some fun, educational destinations for you and your family to visit, I’d love to know which historical cities are your favorite! As always, if you have a different city that isn’t on this list, please leave a message below in the comments section and let me know which other educational destinations are your favorite(s).

What's Your Favorite Historical City To Visit?

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Visiting Some of America’s Most Historic Cities

Monday, July 12th, 2010

photo courtesy of nps.com

Wondering where to go for your next vacation? Wanting the family to learn a little something along the way? Consider a visit to one of the  more historic destinations our country has to offer. Whether you walk Boston’s Freedom Trail or take a trolley around Savannah’s historic squares, America is full of national treasures that make for the perfect family vacation!

New York, NY

It’s easy to forget that before Times Square and Central Park, the Dutch originally settled the Big Apple in 1625 and the British then conquered it in 1664. New York City has since played an important role in American history including becoming the financial capital of the world and a major center of academia, fashion and culture. I like NYC in the summer because there is so much that you can do for free (including tours and museums).

St. Augustine, FL

Visit the oldest city in the U.S. and get your dose of warm Florida sun and fascinating history. St. Augustine is known for its gorgeous sandy beaches, breathtaking architecture, and Spanish fortifications. There are some terrific local museums including The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park.

Savannah, GA

I briefly called Savannah, GA home and all I can say is that you should definitely spend some time in this sultry southern city. Magnolia trees draped in Spanish moss line the avenues, framing exquisite Southern homes and accentuating the warmth and beauty of Georgia’s very first city. One of few to be spared from the ravages of the Civil War, legend has it that General Sherman declared the city of Savannah too beautiful to be destroyed. The food is delectable, too. After all, Paula Deen hails from this southern sanctuary.

Boston, MA

History really comes to life in Boston; a city that blends modern day advancements and a rich legacy of America’s formative years. You will definitely want to take your walking shoes because you don’t want to miss The Freedom Trail or Boston’s Walk to the Sea (both free activities). And don’t worry, there are accessible tours and tours that accommodate little feet.  Boston is hip and historic and filled with an array of activities to keep you going from morning ‘til night.

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in what is the modern United States. The area has a very high concentration of artists with an abundance of galleries, sculptures and displays for you to peruse.  The preservation of its historic Spanish-Pueblo style of architecture is also remarkable and truly breathtaking.

Remember to Keep it Interesting for the Whole Family

History intrigues us because we gain a little insight and perspective as to how and why things have come to be (or not come to be) for a place.  We can appreciate the places we are visiting when we know more about them and what significance they hold. San Antonio is a great example of that. On it’s own it has the famed River Walk which is a treasure to stroll along with its beauty, art, and music but you are also steps from The Alamo, where the famous battle of the Texas Revolution took place. 

We just need to remember the ages of those we are traveling with and help them understand and appreciate what they are seeing on their level, so the historic vacation can be fun for everyone.  For younger family members, pick out the historic facts that they can understand or would find most interesting and perhaps save some of the more sedentary tours for the return visit when they’re older.

More Tips for Visiting Historic Destinations:

Talk to local people. They can tell you all kinds of things – and what better way to connect with a place than through human connections?

Take detours – planned and spontaneous - off the main highway. See what you can discover.

Visit the little museums. Most towns have one. Whether it’s funky or sophisticated, it can give you a glimpse into the town. And be sure to talk with the person at the desk! (It’s usually a volunteer who has lived there a long time.)

Stay local.  Get to know more about an area by choosing a bed and breakfast or historic hotel during your visit.  


 
 

 

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Top 10 Travel Tips For Couples

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

No matter how much you are looking forward to spending some quality time with that special someone, traveling together can be a bit stressful; regardless of whether you have been married for decades or are just testing the waters as a couple. So what can you do to ensure a blissful getaway? Here are a few surefire ways to keep the fires burning without getting burned.

1. Both Contribute to the Planning - It’s important that you both feel like you have a part in the trip’s success. A site, like hotels.com, is great because you can check out all accommodations from bed & breakfasts to boutique hotels, vacation rentals to spa resorts. Take the virtual tours, read the guest reviews, check out the location relative to the sites you want to see and book it, together. 

 

2. Work with Each Other’s Strengths - During planning, if one of you is a savvy researcher then perhaps that person can do the destination investigation while the other could be responsible for booking the flights or hotels. Working with each other’s strengths is even more important while traveling. Who’s the control freak (I mean backseat driver) between the two of you? Come on! Admit it?! Maybe you should drive while your partner navigates. Don’t be afraid to play to each other’s strengths versus struggling through a situation.

3. Pace Yourselves - Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t see it all in one either. Trust me! I know how fantastic it is to be on vacation sans work and children, but take time for the small moments and some relaxation. Factor in downtime for your vacation as well as extra time while sightseeing.  You never know when you will want to spend some additional time in a museum, on the beach, or sampling the vineyard’s newest harvest. And you’ll appreciate not having the pressure to be on time or the disappointment of missing out on an opportunity.

4. Communicate - Seems simple enough, right? Are you tired? Are you hungry? Do you want to stay in this town for another day? How quickly we forget that we are not mind readers. Be sure to let your sweetheart know what you’re thinking before it’s too late to do something about it. When traveling, you are out of your normal rhythm and routine so it’s important that you are sharing your needs and desires even if you are used to your honey knowing what those things are. 

5. Take Time for Yourself - It’s important on vacation to have some time for you, whether to relax or explore.  That’s when the tips above are most useful by working together, communicating and taking the time to really enjoy your trip; you should be able to get some coveted “me time”.  For example, you could check out the local village shops while he takes in a round of golf.

6. Do Not Disturb - Our sleep patterns can really wreak havoc with our vacations. Is your sweetie a snorer? Plan ahead and pack those earplugs.  Who’s the morning person? Be kind to your special someone and allow her that precious time to sleep-in by perhaps following the tip above for your “me time” and take a walk around town or read a few chapters of that book you have been wanting to peruse. 

7. Try Something New to Both of You - If you frequent the same destination then make sure you change it up by finding something new to do each time you go.  Experiencing something for the first time is a great way to bring a couple closer together. So whether the destination is new to you or perhaps it’s that zip-line adventure that you both have always wanted to try, give it a whirl…together.

8. Budgets and Splurges - Let’s face it money is often an issue for most couples.  It is important for a couple to understand their vacation budget, if they have one, before they embark on their trip.  It’s not fair to either person to feel constrained or overly frugal while traveling.  So know before you go! Allow and anticipate for splurges like dinner at that trés romantic restaurant you stumbled upon or a piece of locally created art. 

9. Use the Hotel Concierge - Here’s what frequent travelers know; the concierge can make things happen. They often have discount tickets to area attractions, know the best restaurants and want to help make your hotel stay special. Tell the concierge if your stay is to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, etc. and see how he/she can help you make it memorable.

10. You Don’t Have to Go Far to Get Away - A vacation is merely a break for the ordinary.  And sometimes staying in a nearby resort can feel like you are one million miles away. A staycation, or vacation close to home, is often a great way for new couples to test the traveling together waters as well as to have some fun. It’s also a great way for couples with children to have some alone time without the worry that comes with traveling away from your children. 

Think you and your partner deserve a vacation? Remember to enter the Hotels.com “I Need A Vacation” sweepstakes!

 
 

 

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Q&A With StubHub On Traveling And Getting Tickets To Your Favorite Events

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

StubHub spokesperson and super traveler, Joellen Ferrer, at the main gate at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia

With the MLB All-Star Game coming up, I thought this would be a great time to speak with Joellen Ferrer, spokersperson and public relations manager at StubHub. Hope you enjoy!

Q. How many times have you traveled in the past few months? All by air? Train? Car?

A. Live event tickets are a constant commodity, and the last three months alone have been a cross-country journey. I’ve been to Pebble Beach for the US Open, Chicago and Philadelphia for the Stanley Cup Finals, Las Vegas for the Mayweather-Mosley bout, Augusta for the Masters, and Los Angeles for a ticket giveaway. Next up is the MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim. Big events like these help us spread the word that fans can still catch all the action in-person, even up until the very last minute. 

Q. Since you are often in and out cities so quickly on short stays, any advice for people on how to pack for a short trip?

A. Most of my trips are two-to-three day stints, so I never pack more than a carry-on. Pack light and pack layers; you never know when the weather will throw you a curveball. And leave extra room (or pack a duffel) because if you’re heading off to a big event and/or a new city, chances are you’ll probably be coming home with unexpected goodies. Somehow, I still manage to bring home a t-shirt from every event, even though they rarely see daylight.

Q. With the MLB All-Star Game coming up, how busy a time is it for StubHub compared to other big events?

A. The MLB All-Star Game is perennially one of the hottest events on StubHub, regardless of the host city. We’ve already seen that fans across the county have begun purchasing tickets to this year’s mid-season classic at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. This will be my fifth All-Star Game with StubHub, and I’m excited to see how this one will shake out; every year it just seems to get better.

Q. Any insider tips on how to get tickets for hot events?

A. If you think of a ticket like a stock, you’ll begin to notice that prices similarly fluctuate on StubHub. Supply and demand are key factors, but variables like cities and venue sizes also come into play; typically events in larger cities skew prices higher, as do events in smaller venues because there aren’t as many tickets floating around.

The life-cycle of a ticket often follows a pattern – demand is up during the week tickets first go on-sale (read: higher prices), dips several weeks later when the buzz subsides (lower prices), increases again when the event gets closer (higher prices), then falls again at the tail end since tickets are a perishable item (lower prices). But be warned that selection is always lower in down times, so determine if price or seating location is your priority. Then have fun rolling the dice in the ticket market!

Q. What are the cities you’ve visited that you’d recommend are best for sporting events, seeing concerts, good family getaways, etc. Any cities that you may not think about on the surface?

A. Big cities like New York, LA, and Chicago are always great spots, but I’ve also found that some of the smaller cities offer local charm, lower ticket prices, and an excuse to check out a new city. College towns are a great example and are filled with rabid fans; our two newest partners are Georgia and Virginia Tech and definitely fit the bill. And as a huge baseball fan, I try to sneak-in a game wherever I am, in the hopes of eventually crossing off all 30 parks (I’ve gotten to 16).

Concerts are another great destination event. Big acts usually have more than 30 tour stops, some within reasonable proximity of each other. For example, Lady Gaga has several shows in New York, but Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Hartford, DC, and Boston are all a quick drive or flight away and offer more attractive prices for comparable seats in the Big Apple.

Q. Best way to get tickets last minute?

A. Stubhub reinvented the ticket space ten years ago and created a safe means for tickets to change hands – “sold out” is a thing of the past. Tickets are guaranteed and often available up until game time, so fans shopping on a whim have viable last minute options; though selection will be lower, there is potential for a relative bargain. Also, if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can easily score last minute tickets with our StubHub App.

 
 

 

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