Archive for February, 2011

Best Hotels In Cities Where Oscar-Nominated Movies Were Filmed

Friday, February 25th, 2011

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, movie buffs and excited travelers can enjoy staying at top guest-rated hotels while touring the cities where this year’s Oscar-nominated movies were filmed.

Here are some of the best hotels to check out:

New York City Hotels

Known for its collection of arts and culture, fans of the movie Black Swan can experience a show at the New York Ballet where scenes of the movie were filmed. Recommended by 95 percent of past guests, the Salisbury Hotel is centrally located and a short walk to Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Plaza. 

Boston Hotels

Boston is home to Harvard University where movie scenes from Best Picture nominee, The Social Network, were filmed. Movie lovers can visit the Ivy League university where the most popular social networking site was invented and stay at the Harding House. This bed and breakfast property is recommended by 100 percent of past guests. 

In addition, Jeremy Renner is nominated for his role in The Town, featuring Boston native, Ben AffleckThe Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston treats guests to sweeping views of the Charles River and the Boston Skyline. This 4.5-star guest-rated hotel is recommended by 93 percent of past hotel guests and offers complimentary wireless Internet, an indoor pool and a complimentary, 24-hour fitness center.

Paris Hotels

The imaginary Café Debussy, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb teaches his new protégé Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, how to manipulate dreams in the visually stunning movie Inception, was shot in Paris, the City of Lights. Travelers can indulge in a stay at the four-star Terrass Hotel where one guest commented, “Perfect setting, this hotel. All around the hotel was narrow streets, cafes, and a five minute walk to street artists, and musicians. The hotel itself has an amazing restaurant on the roof, where I sat eating amazing food looking at the Eiffel Tower light the sky.” This property is also recommended by 94 percent of past guests. 

Montreal Hotels

Based on the award-winning Canadian novel, Barney’s Version features one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, Montreal. Movie aficionados can see all the sites in Montreal where writer Mordecai Richler was inspired to write by staying at the boutique property, Hotel de la Montagne. Guests can experience a range of Montreal’s attractions such as at the Fine Arts Museum, and Mont-Royal Park, all positioned one kilometer from this property located in the centre of the city. 



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One Day Left to Enter ‘Clay Yourself’ Contest

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Make sure to watch this ‘Clay Yourself’ clip from the TODAY show!
(Either JavaScript is not active or you are using an old version of Adobe Flash Player. Please install the newest Flash Player.)

The “Clay Yourself” contest from has received more than 215,000 entries, but there is still one more day left to enter!

Throughout the contest, seven weekly winners have received $200 coupon vouchers that will continue through the last day of the contest, which is today. Follow on Facebook to see the winning clay avatars, and for more information, please visit:



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Grapefruit or Cactus? Tips for a Spring Training Trip

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

There’s something about the sound of a ball popping into a leather glove, the crack of the bat, and the call of the umpire. For thousands of baseball fans, the next 45 days are a calling, like birds migrating to warmer waters. 

Baseball’s Spring Training is more than just the teams’ practice season; just ask any of the repeat visitors each year that faithfully flock to the baseball fields. It’s special.  It also makes for a great respite from the typical frigid months of February and March for much of the Midwest. After all, what can be better than a winter escape to Florida or Arizona?

Games are practically every day through March right up to the start of the regular season. The stadiums are intimate and the atmosphere is relaxed and playful. If you show up early, you can hang right along side the field during batting practice. Players and coaches are often willing and happy to chat with fans and sign autographs. In some ballparks, you can even spread your blanket in the outfield for a lawn seat.  If you really want to be close to the action, take a look at the Spring Training practice schedule and attend a practice. And don’t forget your sunscreen. 


15 teams practice in Arizona’s Cactus League. Most teams are in Phoenix and a few, like the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, are in Tucson – just two hours away. The Arizona Diamondbacks and my favorite team, the Colorado Rockies, are enjoying the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick facility. This brand new Cactus League stadium is located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian reservation. It is the first Major League Baseball spring training facility to be built on Indian land in the nation.

All major airlines fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Phoenix is home to some of the best spas and resorts boasting golf courses, a multitude of pools and one-of-a-kind spa treatments. 

There are many things to do Phoenix that if you are a traveling spouse, you can stay busy. Sedona is a must-see on my list, especially for hikers and horseback riders. The Grand Canyon is about four hours north. Be sure to take in a beautiful Arizona sunset (it would be hard to miss).


Florida’s Grapefruit League is made up of the other 15 teams, which are mainly spread out around central Florida near Tampa/St. Petersburg (NY Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays) and Orlando (Atlanta Braves) with a few further South in Fort Myers (Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins). 

Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are within an hour’s drive, so you can couple a fan trip into a fan-me-on-the-beach trip.  Sarasota  is the winter home of the Baltimore Orioles as well as home to the serene beaches of Siesta Key, The Ringling Circus Museum, and great shopping.

You don’t have to have a favorite team to enjoy a Spring Training vacation. Many visitors choose to take in games at multiple venues. And many venues hold special events throughout the early season such as playing international teams, hosting golf tournaments, and festivals. Tickets for events and individual games are currently on sale.

Where will you be traveling and who are you rooting for this season? Leave a comment below and let me know!



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New Loyalty Program Offers Travelers Special Rewards and Privileges

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Sign up for welcomerewards from for a chance to become a FIVESTAR member

Looking to save even more money and receive special travel offers? Of course you are! Well there’s no better way than to take advantage of the new FIVESTAR status program!

Designed to reward the most loyal customers with unparalleled industry perks, this exclusive loyalty program is complimentary and members are selected based on their booking activity with

Some of the FIVESTAR Program Features include:

  • A Dedicated members-only customer service hotline to specially trained agents. FIVESTAR members are offered the courtesy of specialized, case-by-case assistance which can include waiving hotel cancellation fees.
  • Hassle-free travel guarantees for changing and canceling reservations
  • Early access to exclusive special deals and promotions
  • Special FIVESTAR rewards and perks

In addition to the features listed above, all customers who book and stay more than ten room nights in a calendar year will qualify for the FIVESTAR program. customers who have registered for the welcomerewards program are also eligible for the FIVESTAR program. With welcomerewards, customers get one free night for every ten nights stayed at any partner property.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for welcomerewards, book often and save money!



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Best Chinatowns in North America

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Thousands of people take part in this Chinese New Year Parade in Vancouver (photo courtesy of

Happy year of the rabbit! In recognition of the new Chinese New Year, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of North America’s best Chinatowns. 

What makes a Chinatown so valuable to its inhabitants is the strong sense of community. But for us, tourists who visit Chinatowns, we are given the chance to learn about Chinese culture. We can partake of the goods and foods that make these cultural nuclei such a pleasurable experience. Whatever their origins, you can find a Chinatown in almost every major city in the world. They vary in size — from a couple of streets to small cities within a city. Festivals occur in Chinatowns year-round and the larger ones offer a number of walking tours letting you in on the history and nuances of their Asian cultures. The paper lanterns, pagoda-style arches, Chinese dragons, and beautiful temples always captivate me.


San Francisco

San Francisco is home to the largest Chinatown on the West Coast and it’s also one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. The history of this Chinatown dates back to the gold rush days of the mid 1800s. It is world-renowned for its exotic ambience but I have always been struck by its authenticity and its ability to transport me to the markets of Southeast Asia. And I have to admit, I like being about to make my own fortune cookies at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company.

Remember, you can save up to 30 percent on San Francisco hotels.

New York City

Found in lower Manhattan, Chinatown in New York takes up two square miles. It is the largest Chinatown in the U.S and has the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere. NYC’s Chinatown has hundreds of restaurants (especially on Mott and Doyers streets), booming fruit and fish markets, and shops. I don’t know what I enjoy more taking in the smells and shops or merely people watching one crowded block after another.

There are also some great deals on New York City hotels to check out.


Chinatown is one of the must-sees on the island of Oahu. Like most Chinatowns, it boasts great restaurants and food stalls, markets teeming with fresh, local produce and lots and lots of local flavor. The historic area has well-restored buildings that date back to the bustling late-19th century. Hawaii’s Chinatown is a colorful and eclectic blend of Southeast Asian cultures.


Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is home to the third largest Chinatown in North America. It is divided into a market section and a merchandise section. In Chinatown, countless shops sell an array of imported goods at bargain prices, from silk, woven baskets, rugs, teapots and authentic Chinese art, and to fashion accessories. The best and easiest way to find what you are looking for is to explore the shops on foot.


Chicago’s Chinatown is on the Windy City’s South Side and is home to more than 70,000 Chinese people. Sites to see include the Ping Tom Memorial Park, Chinatown Square, and The Chinese American Museum of Chicago. And make sure to take a look at these last minute Chicago hotel deals.



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10 Safety Tips for Traveling Solo

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Becoming friendly with the hotel concierge will help you get perks AND stay safe (photo courtesy of

1. Keep In Touch: Check in regularly: Before your trip, make arrangements to regularly contact someone you trust: a significant other, friend, or family member. Give your contact a copy of your schedule, especially contact numbers for hotels, and agree to check in on non-travel days, be it via text message, a quick email, or a phone call.

2. If you are traveling internationally, register for STEP with the U.S. Department of State. The online process is really quick and easy, and if something newsworthy happens, the State Department will contact you.

3. Protect your privacy. Be discrete about discussing your travel plans. Don’t disclose where you’re staying or give specifics on your itinerary or schedule. Always choose a hotel with one primary entrance and rooms that are located off an internal hallway versus outside walkways (like many motels).

4. Stay on a higher floor in hotels.

5. Use your deadbolts, locks and the in-room safe. 

6. Introduce yourself to the concierge, and even the housekeeping staff. Not only is it great to make friends with hotel personnel for great tips and an extra shampoo but having someone who recognizes you is important to keeping you safe. 

7. I love walking around NYC by myself at night but I always am aware of my surroundings. Don’t dawdle too long in any one place, walk with a purpose and stay in well-lit areas.  

8. Keep your cell phone in your pocket along with the numbers for a local taxi company or the hotel shuttle.   

9. When taking a taxi by yourself, be sure to know the exact route you would like the driver to take BEFORE you get in the cab. Once in the cab, call someone on your cell phone and let him/he know where you are, where you are headed, and when you expect to arrive. Call that person back when you arrive at your destination.  

10. Being out at night is enjoyable but be cautious. Schedule your taxis to take and pick you up.  Also, look for evening tours that will provide a social opportunity as well as a cultural one. I enjoy the candlelight ghost tours in Savannah, GA. If you are a woman traveling solo, be aware of parts of the world that may frown upon women out after a certain time (dusk).



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Celebrating Single: Destination Spots For Solo Travel

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Rafting is one of the many fun, affordable things that singles can do in Costa Rica (photo courtesy of

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner I thought it only fair that I not leave out the 104 million unmarried Americans

Whether you have permanent single status or find yourself newly single again, there is something exhilarating about traveling on your own. Why wait for someone else to experience all that the world has to offer? Embrace your independence and set a course for a solo adventure in the near future! Who knows, you may just meet someone…

Here’s a few great destinations that you should consider checking out:

1. New York - It’s the kind of city you can visit over and over and always see something new just by staying in a different neighborhood. The Tavern at Gramercy Park is a delicious spot for dining and especially great if you are traveling alone as it offers a welcoming bar for casual dining. Stand in line for discount Broadway show tickets. I have often been able to score a great seat for half the price because I was alone.

2. London - If you are wondering what, as a savvy singleton, there is to do in Great Britain add these must-do sites in London to your list.  You can hike around the Scottish Highlands, Stroll the River Thames, and definitely enjoy the museums which are one of the top bargains in the world. Unbelievably, the best are free: the National Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the British Museum. Ride on the top of a double-decker bus around the city. And experience, in my opinion, some of the best tour guides in the world. If you are looking for a great way to meet people and stay very affordably then consider a hostel. The Palmers Lodge Hostel has rates starting from $27 and received a 4.8 rating from previous guests.

3. South Beach, Miami, FL  - In addition to the famous clubs and beaches, singles will also want to devote attention to the shopping and sightseeing in Miami as well, since you never know what will happen in this vibrant city. Many of the hotels are destinations all on their own complete with exclusive pools, restaurants and clubs. It’s definitely the spot to see and be seen and loads of fun for singles seeking revelry.

4. Costa Rica  - This Central American country’s reputation for safe travel is well deserved. Travelers keep coming back to Costa Rica to lie on one of the country’s dozens of Pacific beaches, go rafting on the Reventazón River, surf in Malpais, and to explore the volcano and geysers at Rincón de la Vieja National Park. And for a solo traveler, it’s also very affordable.

Solo travel is the ultimate opportunity to try something new but safety should also be a top concern. Tomorrow I’ll post a few tips on how to keep safe while traveling on your own.



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Six Travel Recommendations For A Valentine’s Day Getaway

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Nothing says "I Love You" like a Valentine's Day trip! (photo courtesy of

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and instead of running from the holiday committed to romance, embrace it by whisking that special someone in your life away for a night, or two, or seven!

Here are a few romantic destinations and suggestions for a Valentine’s Day trip your honey won’t soon forget!

1. If you want her to melt in your arms, try catching one of Brad Paisley’s H2O Frozen Over Tour concerts in Atlanta on February 11th, Birmingham (AL)  on the 12th and Lafayette (LA) on the 13th. His song, She’s Everything, will say it all for you.

2. How about trying something together that neither of you have ever done before? With miles of sandy beaches and mild temps in February, San Diego is a wonderful weekend getaway. And, it’s the perfect destination for sailing or surfing lessons. It’s easy to be active in San Diego and to try something new. As the saying goes: the couple that plays together, stays together!

3. A trip to the Big Easy can give your valentine a weekend of excitement and romance. There’s something about New Orleans that oozes love whether it’s the European influence, its history, the aromas floating through the French Quarter, or the multitude of places perfect for stealing a kiss.

4. You’ll need more than a weekend for relaxation and romance in Hawaii. Whether you enjoy amazing entertainment of an island luau or snorkel hand in hand in the Pacific, Hawaii puts you in the mood for love. You can reconnect with that special someone while you take in a beautiful sunset, experience the islands from a helicopter, and chase waterfalls.

5. If time, budget or distance is an issue, then consider a Staycation. You don’t have to go far to really get away. Leave the laundry and your daily routine behind and explore what’s in your own backyard. Whether it’s the city you live in or one just up the road, take in a museum, check into a nearby bed & breakfast or boutique hotel and take advantage of the day designed to celebrate being in love. 

6. Nothing quite says “you’re special to me” like a well thought out plan for a romantic evening or weekend. And as a parent, I can attest to the fact that being surprised with a babysitter for an evening or two away is certainly magical. It’s also important for children to see their parents enjoying time alone with each other.

Don’t forget, if anything, Valentine’s Day is just a great excuse to take a trip. Here are a few more tips for traveling as a couple.



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Travel Safety Tips When Visiting Cold Cities

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

With more winter storms hitting much of the U.S. this week, it's important to remember how to keep safe

From Denver to Boston you may be experiencing extremely cold temperatures. Whether you live in these areas or have a trip planned, you should be prepared when you are outside. Here are a few tips for handling the below freezing temperatures and wind chill so much of the U.S. is experiencing this week.

1. Many people make the mistake of underestimating the layers of warmth they will need, and their experience suffers greatly because of it. Make sure that you have a few layers of loose clothing. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Sweating actually lowers your body temperature so you want to avoid getting over-heated by removing layers when you get indoors.

2. Walking on ice is extremely dangerous. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches.

3. Always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions.

4. For your car – During winter, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

5. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

6. Children have less muscle mass and can become colder quicker than adults at the same temperature.

7.  If you have a heart condition, heart disease or high blood pressure, remember that cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

8. If you have an upcoming trip to New York or Chicago, in particular, check the travel advisories of your airline for delays, cancellations and rescheduling policies. Following them on Facebook and Twitter is a quick way to find out about delays and cancellations. It may be better to delay that business trip than to get stuck. After all, time is money.

9. If you are already in route or at your destination and trying to get home from or to a weather-impacted area, make sure you keep your hotel informed of your situation so you do not incur unnecessary charges for no-show. If you will need to stay an extra night, check availability as soon as you can to avoid having to scramble for other accommodations. 

10. Allow for extra time when traveling to the airport as well as once you get there. Lines will be longer than usual and many flights will be delayed due to de-icing.  



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