Archive for August, 2010

F IS FOR: FALL, FOOD, FOLIAGE, FESTIVALS AND FUN!

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

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Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati (photo courtesy of travelandleisure.com).

All over America during September and October you will find numerous festivals in cities big and small. Attending one (or more) of these annual events is the perfect way to experience a place you have never been.

From apple and pumpkin harvests to jazz festivals and the Oktoberfest celebrations that pepper the US., just about every city from Santa Clara, CA to Ithaca, NY has a reason to celebrate over the next few months.

If you need a few suggestions, here are a few of my picks for 2010’s fall festivities along with a nearby spot to rest your weary head, and if you know of any other events worth noting, add a comment at the bottom of this post and share it with everyone!

1. Jazz & Harvest Festival

Location: Corning’s Gaffer District, Finger Lakes, NY

Dates: September 10-11

Website: www.gafferdistrict.com/events_jazzfest.php 


Where to Stay: Allegiance Bed & Breakfast  

2. Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati

Location: Cincinnati, OH

Dates: September 17-18

Website: http://www.oktoberfest-zinzinnati.com/ 

Where to Stay: Millenium Hotel Cincinnati 

3. Inaugural Pacific Wine & Food Festival


Location: Los Angeles, CA


Dates: September 17-19

Website: www.pacificwineandfood.com 

Where to Stay: Avia Long Beach  

Bourne Scallop Festival (photo courtesy of bournescallopfest.com).

4. Bourne Scallop Festival

Location: Cape Cod, MA

Dates: September 24-26

Website: www.bournescallopfest.com 

Where to Stay: Isaiah Jones Homestead Bed & Breakfast 

5. The Whole Enchilada Fiesta


Location: Las Cruces, NM


Dates: September 24-26

Website: www.enchiladafiesta.com 

Where to Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Las Cruces 

 

 

 6. Aspen Filmfest

Location: Aspen, CO

Dates: September 29 – October 2

Website: http://www.aspenfilm.org/index.php/attend-ff  

Where to Stay: L’ Auberge D Aspen $99/night rate through Hotels.com (I’ve stayed here and love its charm and awesome location on Main Street). 

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (photo courtesy of itsatrip.org).

7. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Dates: October 2 -10

Website: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/  

Where to Stay: Hyatt Place Albuquerque/Uptown 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Hood River Valley Harvest Fest


Location: Hood River, Oregon


Dates: October 15-17

Website: www.hoodriver.org 

Where to Stay: Columbia Gorge Hotel 

9. “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia”


Location: Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center


Dates: November 25-27

Website: www.visitwilliamsburg.com 

Where to Stay: Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg  

 
 

 

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What Are Your Plans For Labor Day Weekend?

Friday, August 27th, 2010

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Will you be going to the beach for Labor Day weekend? (photo courtesy of jaunted.com)

Labor Day weekend is just around the corner and I’m looking forward to spending a long weekend with the family! But enough about me, what are you doing to celebrate this annual holiday? Please take the poll below and, as always, leave comments so we can chat about your travel plans and experiences!

Also, be sure to take a look at the great Labor Day sale Hotels.com is offering. Just look under the ‘Deal of the Week!’ section to the right of this post!

What Are Your Plans For Labor Day Weekend?

View Results

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COLLEGE GAME DAY: A GUIDE TO A FAN-FILLED TRIP!

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

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Introducing my daughter to the “Dawg Walk” before a Georgia Bulldogs football game in Athens, GA.

The 2010 college football rankings are out and regardless of where your favorite team ranks it’s always fun to plan a trip to watch some of this year’s action live and in person. 

I have to admit that I am a committed Georgia Bulldogs fan and, for me, there is nothing quite like being in Athens, GA on a Saturday afternoon! But my personal loyalties aside, college football has a culture all its own and worth experiencing from the bleachers at least once, if not at least once a year because there is nothing like being there with the melodious sounds of the marching bands, the extraordinary and copious tailgates, the cheers of arguably the most devoted fans, and of course, the inimitable college towns themselves. 

Here are my recommendations for a little college football weekend getaway: 

1. September and October are great months to catch a game in the Northeast in cities such as Boston. With Boston College and UMASS nearby, take some time to take in the autumnal display of foliage. 

2. If you’ve never experienced college football in the South, I encourage you to find a weekend and immerse yourself in the tradition and celebration that is (predominantly) the SEC. Consider Oxford, MS. (Ole Miss), Athens, GA. (UGA), Baton Rouge, LA. (LSU) and Huntsville, AL. (the University of Alabama is ranked #1 pre-season). 

Expert tip: Airlines will typically have NCAA fares in and out of cities near to top football towns. Sign-up for the deal emails and act quickly when you see the flight you want. Seats and fares are limited.

3. The crispness of fall is a bit more tolerable out west in places such as Tempe, Arizona. Consider Sun Devil Stadium to watch Arizona State where you can still wear shorts instead of that snowsuit you’ve been eyeing. 

4. If you want to join 103,000 fans in the world’s largest sing-along then head to Knoxville, TN for a few hundred rounds of Rocky Top in the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium located on the banks of the Tennessee River. Gatlinburg is another nearby city and worth a night’s stay for a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

5. Home of the College Football Hall of Fame, South Bend, Indiana is a great spot to pay homage to the legends of NCAA football and where a walk around the Notre Dame campus is a lesson in football history itself. 
Expert tip: Chicago is an easy drive from South Bend so consider accommodations there and drive over for the game. 

6. The Cotton Bowl is home to the annual Red River Shootout rivalary game played between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners. Played on neutral territory in Dallas, TX, it also coincides with the largest state fair in the U.S., the State Fair of Texas. And take it from someone who has been there; they can fry just about anything so get ready for some fun fair food and entertainment!

I know! I know! I left off a ton of great stadiums and schools. Remember, I write a blog not a book. BUT here’s your chance to share with me other great college towns and stadiums worth visiting this football season. 

 
 

 

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Labor Day, Don’t Delay!

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

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photo courtesy of myspace.com

Labor Day! The official end to summer and welcoming of fall; and it’s also a great excuse to take advantage of a long weekend away from the piles of laundry and overgrown grass in the backyard!

Need incentive? Hotels are rolling out the last minute Labor Day weekend deals from Napa Valley to Orlando. You can save 40% when booking through Hotels.com Labor Day Deals, which can be found here.

And remember: If you are little bit flexible with your dates and destination, you can find cheaper airfare. For instance: leave on Thursday, return on Tuesday. Labor Day is a popular weekend for road trips. So don’t follow too closely to the car in front of you. And stop and rest when you are tired.

The Hotels.com mobile application is also a great tool when you need to find a spot on the fly to rest your weary head. And make sure to be safe and stay on the lookout for drunk drivers, and expect sobriety checkpoints in major cities (local law enforcement typically stages these during the heaviest traffic weekends).

Happy travels!

 
 

 

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Panama: A Bloggerview – Part II

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

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Our Group Aboard the Observation Car of the Transcontinental Railroad Crossing the Isthmus of Panama

So now that I’ve told you about what surprised me about my trip to Panama, as well as when the best time to visit this region is, I wanted to give you even more insight into what there is to do in this great country!

What to see:  Everything! Panama’s regions are surprisingly diverse.  You can visit the city, the beaches, the mountains, and the jungle.   Must-sees include:

The Panama Canal: A visit to the Panama Canal Visitors Center at Miraflores Locks explains the history and workings of the most impressive Canal.  Insider tip: Ships pass through the canal in the morning before noon and again after 2 pm.  You want to see this!

Amador Causeway: A great area with spectacular views, open air restaurants, shops, bicycle rentals, a yacht club, and the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research Aquarium. 

The 1st Transcontinental Railway: This scenic 40-mile train ride transverses the isthmus from the Pacific to the Atlantic while you enjoy views of the Panama Canal and the lush rainforest. The train returns in the afternoon so plan for a tour of Colon’s free zone or visit other nearby historic sites such as the pirating town of Portabelo

Embera Indian Village: My favorite experience in Panama was visiting with the Embera Indians of Panama. It was like stepping into the pages of National Geographic.  The day begins an hour from Panama City, then you take motorized Cayugas (dug out trees doubling as canoes) down the Chagres River where you hike to and swim under a beautiful waterfall, then to the village where natives share their beliefs, customs and food, perform tribal dances, and sell their truly handmade creations.

Aboard the Cayuga on the Way to the Embera Indian Village

El Valle: This mountain town is worth a visit.  Take in the Nispero Zoo where you can see the indigenous golden frogs (only found in this part of the world) and a zip-line canopy tour in Panama’s jungle. The open air market of local artisans and growers is a great place to stop for Panamanian molas, woodwork and other gifts.

Where to stay: 

Panama City

Country Inn & Suites (we stayed here) 

Intercontinental Miramar Panama

 


Pacific Beach Resorts

Royal Decameron Golf, Beach Resort & Villas (we stayed here)

Coronado Golf and Beach Resort (we stayed here)

Breezes Resort & Spa Panama

 
 

 

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Panama: A Bloggerview – Part I

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

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My son Travis and his Uncle Garrett at the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal.

Here’s the good news: After 10 days in Panama I have so much to share with you about my family reunion that I have been confuddled on how to condense it for the purpose of a blog and not a book. So I’ve decided to make this a two-part series. Today I’ll share with you my initial thoughts on the country, what surprised me on the trip, and the best time of year to travel there.

The small Central American country of Panama is remarkable as it borders the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) and the Pacific Oceans. The country, which was discovered by Columbus and defended by the Spanish in the 1500s, has also seen the influence of the Columbians, French and Americans. 

What surprised me: Surprising to me is how new tourism is to Panama. Only since 2000 has the country begun to market itself as a destination. In fact, the country’s leadership has ambitions for the transcontinental spot to become a hub for central and South Americans from which to cruise and fly and development is underway for a major cruise and convention facility on the Pacific side of the country.

I’ve also  heard stories for years of Panama because it is the birthplace of my mother-in-law, an American born in the U.S. Canal Zone of Panama. The country has been through much change, political struggle, and growth since then with more than three million people living on the isthmus. The U.S. Canal Zone no longer exists and the picturesque towns, homes and shops remaining have deteriorated with time and lack of care (but the history is absolutely fascinating).

There is a stark contrast between wealth and poverty with beautiful skyscraping condominiums jockeying for an ocean view amongst the dilapidated shops and apartments of the country’s poor majority.  But, you can see the revitalization efforts underway, especially in cities like Colon. And the country is beautiful, its resources are enviable, and its people are friendly.

When to go:  The dry season is January to mid-March.  The rainy season is April through December with average rainfall totaling 200 inches annually.  We went in August and it did rain every day.  Most days, showers were in the early morning or the evening and only lasted an hour or so. The rain feeds the rivers, powers electricity and the important Canal.  Shoulder seasons of December and late-March are also a great time to visit.  

I’ll post Part II of my family reunion on Tuesday and tell you about what to see and where to stay in case you’re planning a trip to Panama!

 
 

 

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How To Choose The Right Travel Bag

Monday, August 9th, 2010

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Meaghan Mahoney Dusil, Founder and Editor of ThePurseBlog, shares her thoughts on how to choose the right travel bag

While preparing for a nice, long vacation to Panama, one of the most important things I had to do was to figure out what types of bags to bring with me. As such, I would be good to post an interview this week with Meaghan Mahoney Dusil, Founder and Editor of ThePurseBlog.

Whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure, not having an appropriate travel bag/suitcase can really slow you down. So I asked Meaghan for a few pointers in choosing the right travel bag.

1. Why is having the right travel bag important?

Having the right travel bag is very important. When you travel you want to pack all necessities while not having to lug around an extremely heavy bag. We all know about suitcases, but picking your carry on luggage and handbag are very important.

When it comes to carry-on luggage and your handbag, I advise to find something that is easy to carry, light weight, has tons of organizational pockets, and is easy to access. This way you can get to each item you need quickly.

2. I’m 5’2″, does it matter what size the traveler is when choosing a bag?

Yes! You don’t want to have an oversized bag that is awkward and uncomfortable. Pick a size that is spacious but not overly large. What matters most is what is comfortable on you. What works for one person may not work for someone else.

3. What features/styles should we be looking for in a travel bag?

Everyone has different travel essentials that they like to have accessible. I suggest picking a bag that can carry your essentials while being easy to carry and light in weight. And of course, a travel bag does not have to be plain in appearance. Pick a style that speaks to you while being usable as well! 

4. I’ve been reading about these new weight detector, and super light bags, are those a good choice?

The weight of your bag is important. If you find one of these bags that works for all of your needs, go for it! And if you are guilty of overpacking then a suitcase with a weight sensor might help keep you in check. 

5. What’s the biggest mistake people make when choosing a bag or packing a bag?

I am guilty of this as well, over-packing! It is easier said than done, but keep to your essentials, especially for your carry-on luggage and personal handbag. And while style matters, it is more important to find a functional bag.

 
 

 

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Hit The Road This Summer And Save Up To 40%

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

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Booking a last-minute vacation this summer? Be smart and save money!

Is it really August already?! Summer is definitely flying by but it doesn’t mean that you still can’t make plans for a last-minute vacation. Not only that, I wanted to alert you all to a great deal taking place on Hotels.com, which can be found at: http://www.hotels.com/deals/summersale/

If you book a hotel for your summer vacation or getaway, Hotels.com is offering you the opportunity to save up to 40 percent on hotels worldwide. There are some amazing deals in cities such as New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and more.

Plus, if you book 4+ nights at select hotels you also have the chance to win a free Flip Ultra camcorder -enter the coupon code FLIP6 at the time of booking.

So whether you are visiting loved ones or you want to checkout that summer vacation spot that you dreamed of – all at a budget conscious price – than make sure to take advantage of this great deal and let me know where you decided to go!

 
 

 

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Tips for Planning a Destination Family Reunion

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

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Here is a view of the Panama Canal, which I'm hoping to checkout on my family reunion this week! (photo courtesy of nationalgeographic.com)

This week I am actually enjoying and exploring the beautiful country of Panama. Am I alone? On the contrary! I am a small cog in the machine that is my husband’s family reunion. Yes, 70 of our closest relatives (how close can you be, right?) are touring the land that many of them grew up in, reminiscing and making new memories. This trip was a year in the making once the planning really got underway, and I am happy to report that on this one, I was a willing bystander to those who were in charge of the travel coordination.

Family Reunion trips are really special and well worth the effort to plan and attend such an event. However, planning is key so here are a few of my best tips for planning a destination family reunion.

1. Start early – The more time you have to plan the better and the more time your family has to make plans to attend. Not to mention that time = $avings.

2. Choose a date and length of the vacation – Summer is the most popular time for a family reunion because children are typically out of school, but there are many long weekends and holiday weeks throughout the school year that may work for your group. Ask potential reunion-goers via email about their interest in having a reunion as well as the dates and place.  Also, after gauging the initial interest, send 3-4 dates from that reunion-goers can choose the date that works best for them. Make it clear that the date with the most possible attendees will be the date selected. You don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable if they can’t make it.

INSIDER TIP: When dealing with communication to a large group, it’s better to give choices than to ask for suggestions.

3. Choose the location – Now that you know when you can go, where will you go? Perhaps, like my husband’s family, you want to return to or visit an area that the family hails from.  If your group has an interest in family history, exploring your roots can be a lot of fun for multiple generations. I know my children are really enjoying getting to see where Mimi grew up! Or, if ancestry isn’t the reason for the destination maybe recreation is. Beaches, mountains and amusement parks are also great locales for a gathering group. After all, you want the reunion to be about having fun together. Many attractions offer group rates and discounts so be sure to call them and inquire about those separately as prices are often dictated by your group size and not usually shared online. Celebratory reunions are a great reason to gather.  Is there a golden anniversary, birthday or special occasion that you can all get together to celebrate?  There are many destinations, resorts, and cruises that cater to just such get-togethers when location is merely the backdrop to all the great times that you will have together.

4. Facebook It! - Now that you know who is going, when the reunion trip will take place, and where you are going, create an event page on Facebook and invite all those attending as well as the potential attendees who might find themselves available at the last minute (Uncle Kenny). Where were we before Facebook?! Now you have a central location for your group to share their excitement, ideas, photos and old family stories AND all the details related to the actual reunion. Events can be made to be private so that only those that are invited to join the page can see and share its content. I recommend having more than one page administrator to share that responsibility. And, continue to use the event page post-trip to share photos, videos and your favorite reunion memories.

5. Make Accommodation Reservations – Having time to book rooms and secure great rates is pivotal to the success of your trip. Most hotels, big and small, including websites, such as Hotels.com, work with groups to help accommodate their needs. Even more reassuring is that they have dedicated personnel focused squarely on group business.  Here are the things that you need to know when booking accommodations:

  • Your group’s per night budget
  • Number of rooms required
  • Amenities (on-site restaurants, children’s programs, in-room kitchens etc.)
  • Nearby attractions
  • Meeting space, and catering services available (if required)
  • Shuttle service and parking

6. Plan Activities and Meals – Everything will run much more smoothly and your family will have a great time if you coordinate group activities and meals. After all, you are going on this trip to be together, right? Activities can range from site-seeing tours to group-bonding activities such as white water rafting, ropes courses and golf tournaments, visiting museums and cultural and historic landmarks, and of course, a few sit-down meals that you all enjoy together (And if you are like my mother-in-law, bring along a few silly reunion prizes to award on family dinner nights!).

So there you have a few tips to get you started planning that next great family reunion getaway! I look forward to sharing my experiences from the Panamanian family reunion with you. Have you planned or been on a recent family trip? I’d love to hear about it! Share it here! Also, if you aren’t sure about where to visit, remember you can checkout Virtual Vacation to explore some of the great destinations this country has to offer.

 
 

 

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