Archive for June, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend: Fireworks and Festivities!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Happy 4th of July, enjoy the fireworks!(Photo courtesy of mediabistro.com)

I know many of you are looking forward to the long Fourth of July weekend ahead for some summer sun and fun! Here are a couple of reminders, tips and ideas to consider.

Fireworks

Next weekend, pretty much anywhere you are in the United States, you should be able to catch some fireworks bursting in the night sky. Check the local paper and town websites to get the 411 on times and locations.

If you want the biggest, most spectacular display of fireworks, then consider these three favorites!

New York City

The 35th Annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks will delight New Yorkers and the nation with an awe-inspiring display of patriotic firepower. You can also watch the display on NBC, July 4th at 9 pm EST.

Hollywood

Celebrate the USA’s 235th birthday all weekend long with the Fireworks Spectacular with Daryl Hall & John Oates at the Hollywood Bowl.

Atlanta

The Atlanta Braves play the Colorado Rockies to kick-off a four-game series at Turner Field. Cap off the weekend with an extravagant Independence Day post-game fireworks show starting directly after the game, which is one of the best shows in the Southeast.

Theme Parks

Tis’ the season to take on one of America’s favorite past times – theme parks. Here are a few of the changes and additions to some of the most popular venues.  

Higher ticket prices

Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World Orlando increased their one-day ticket prices to $85 per day. Disneyland Resorts Anaheim also increased prices 5%.

New Attractions

Combining animal interaction with a heart-palpating thrill ride, the new Cheetah Hunt roller coaster is now open at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

The much-anticipated Star Tour Adventure just reopened in May after a reimagineering at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando.

Theme park guests in Anaheim can ride the new Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure attraction, which opened this month at Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Scheduled for completion this summer a new high-flying thrill ride, WindSeeker, is set to take visitors more than 300 feet in the air for a swinging, spinning ride at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA.

Gas Prices

Gas prices continue to dip after the release of fuel from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. So why not get in the car for a spontaneous road trip? If you’re wondering where to go, hop onto Google Map maker and plot your path of adventure. Don’t forget to check out the 4th of July Sale on Hotels.com for savings up to 30%!

Traveling with Kids

Many Hotels have great summer activities for their guests from drive-in movies to beach-side s’more roasts and of course, their own firework displays. Be sure to look into hotel happenings when you make your reservations to ensure the most fun on your vacation! Here are a few of my Tips on Choosing a Family-Friendly Hotel.

Where are you planning on seeing the fireworks this year?

 
 

 

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BabyMoons: The Hottest Trend in Couples’ Vacations

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Taking a Babymoon is the perfect way to unwind before those late nights. (Photo courtesy of kissesfromamommytobe.blogspot.com)

Romance and relaxation: what could sound better to a couple? How about a baby on the way?

A Babymoon is that last vacation before a new baby joins the family. It’s a time for a couple to relax and reconnect before lack of sleep and midnight feedings take over. In fact, many hotels and resorts are now catering to this special group of travelers by offering “Babymoon packages” and special pre-natal massages and treats for expectant mothers.

Statistically, more babies are born between September and November than any other months, which makes summer the perfect time for parents-to-be to take a Babymoon!

Whether a couple is welcoming their first or fifth child, a romantic getaway may be just what they need! Where should expectant parents go for this memorable trip? Some place fabulous! After all, it may be a while before they travel sans diapers and bottles.

Peter Island Resort & Spa, Peter Island, British Virgin IslandsIf you really want to escape to paradise than look no further than this resort. Between the oceanfront suites, the soft sand beaches and the hammocks that pepper them to the amazing service you will receive, Peter Island Resort does not disappoint. It just might be the perfect place to relax before a new bundle of energy arrives!

W New York Times Square, New York City – Be sure to inform the staff of the W that you are on your Babymoon and order off the Womb Service menu which includes pickles, milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches. Stay out late, sleep in, see a show and don’t worry about the babysitter…just yet! Be sure to visit FAO Schwartz for baby’s first NYC souvenir!

Grove Park Inn, Ashville, NC  – Set in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Grove Park Inn is as charming as it is historic. The Spa features a Mother-to-Be package as well as various single services. And dad-to-be can enjoy a round of golf on this hotel’s famed greens that are more than 100 years old.

The Avalon Hotel on Catalina IslandAvalon, CA – Intimate. Friendly. Indulgent. Relaxing. These words best describe this 15-room island retreat. From romance to adventure, the gracious staff is helpful in planning activities at every turn; perhaps a picnic at Two Harbors or a helicopter ride?

The Ritz Carlton, Naples, FL – Luxurious accommodations on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches is the perfect backdrop for a pre-baby getaway. The tropical setting is only a part of the allure of this five-star resort. Women in their second or third trimesters can even indulge in the amazing Mama Mio Mama’s Touch™ spa treatment.

 
 

 

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Top Mancations for Father’s Day

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Sometimes you just need to get away with the guys for a Mancation. (Photo courtesy of parade.com)

Where can a guy be a guy? With his friends, of course! Just as every girl needs her girlfriend getaways, every guy should enjoy a Mancation.

I spoke with the guys about the best bro-ventures they have experienced to put together the best list of Mancations. Here are my top five recommendations.

Colorado Mountain Biking – Where can you combine rugged outdoor adventure with professional sports, renowned concert venues, one-of-a-kind brews and a lot of fun? Denver, of course! Rent the bikes and gear and choose from 149 trails for some awesome mountain biking, take in a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater and then check out New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins for a complimentary beer flight followed by a night of fun in LoDo (Lower Downtown).

The Hangover Las Vegas – Crazy guys in Vegas are not just for the movies! Stay at The Palazzo Resort Hotel & Casino at the Venetian featuring the ultimate sports bar and sports book in Las Vegas – Lagasse’s StadiumSM. Located on the Strip, fellas will be in the right location for the best Las Vegas has to offer. Check out these fare deals from airfarewatchdog.com.

Surf’s Up – Grab your boards and head to Costa Rica. Whether you surf like a pro or are looking to experience your first surf camp, the waves are ripe for the picking with breaks 365 days a year. Costa Rica can be as chill or as extreme as you need it to be, which makes it a great group destination.

Nascar Weekend – What guy hasn’t dreamt of driving a racecar 150 MPH? Turn that dream into a reality with a trip to Atlanta and the Atlanta Motor Speedway Driving School. Combine it with a weekend of professional racing at the AdvoCare 500 Race – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series taking place September 2 – 4, 2011. Dare I mention the trackside camping opportunities?

Fish On! Tarpon. Snook. Redfish. Florida’s fishing season is heating up just about anywhere you drop your hook this summer from The Forgotten Coast to Tampa Bay and Sebastian Inlet.  So catch a charter and set your sights on a deep-sea Mancation.

Have you ever taken a Mancation? Where did you go and what did you do?

 
 

 

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Celebrate the Mavericks NBA Championship with Great Hotel Deals in Dallas

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Find the best hotels in Dallas to view the Mavericks NBA Championship victory parade.

With the Dallas Mavericks beating the Miami Heat four games to two in this year’s NBA Championship, fans from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as transplant fans from other cities will converge on the city of Dallas on Thursday morning, June 16th, at 10am to join the players, coaches and city of Dallas in well-deserved jubilation during the Maverick’s victory parade.

To help fans find a room with a view (or a place to stay afterwards,) hotels.com has compiled the below list of Dallas hotels along the parade route for the most devout Mavs fans.

With this parade celebrating the first-ever Mavs National Championship, an attendance estimated at 250,000 plus, finding a spot to view the festivities might be difficult. For those who want to enjoy the fanfare without obstructed views and crowded sidewalks, here is a list of Dallas hotels with a vantage point for parade watchers:

For fans traveling to Dallas from out-of-town, and making a full vacation day, or long weekend out of the parade, hotels.com suggests booking through the currently running Summer Sale, which will provide fans with 30% off select rooms while providing summer gifts just for booking.

 
 

 

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Museums for a Man’s Man

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Take dad to the Louisville Slugger Museum for a special Father's Day. (Photo courtesy of everywheremag.com)

Father’s Day is next weekend and instead of getting dad another set of grill tools; why not take him to visit one of the most distinguished cultural institutions in the United States? No, I’m not suggesting you drag your dad to the ballet or an art museum (unless that is what excites him most) but a place that has chronicled a piece of our country’s history. Here are a few of the top museums that are dedicated to the passions of many American men.

National Air and Space Museum: Washington, D.C. Take the man in your life to see the largest collection of air and spacecraft in the world. Housed in two different facilities, the museum is located on the National Mall and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located near Washington Dulles airport. Udvar-Hazy Center is hosting an aviation display on Saturday, June 18th with more than 50 aircraft on deck plus the flight simulators that are waiting for your take-off.

Classic Car Museum: Sarasota, FL. This museum houses more than 125 cars: The RoboCop patrol car, The Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee, the original Batmobile, and the original Starsky & Hutch Ford Gran Torino have all rotated through. And when you are done, you can take dad searching for pirate treasure on the nearby beaches of Siesta Key.

Louisville Slugger Museum: Louisville, KY.  There’s just something about the crack of a baseball bat! Dad can see how the famous bats have been manufactured since 1884 and even take a few hacks as well.

Nascar Hall of Fame and Museum: Charlotte, NC.  “Gentlemen start your engines!” This interactive museum will let the race fan in your life put the pedal to the metal. Whether your guy is a gear-head or a history buff this museum will please them all.

USGA Museum: Bernards Township, NJ.  The United States Golf Association is home to the world’s largest collection of golf artifacts and memorabilia. Visitors can even play the Pynes Putting Course, inspired by the renowned Himalayas putting course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

And don’t forget to take advantage of the great Father’s Day Sale from Hotels.com with featured destinations from Anaheim to Vancouver and plan a trip for dad!

What are you planning to do with the man in your life on Father’s Day this year?

 
 

 

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Tips for Tipping When You Travel

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Remember to tip your bellhop $1 per bag. (Photo courtesy of visualphotos.com)

Whether traveling for business or pleasure chances are that you will dine out, stay in a hotel, take a taxi or all of the above. It’s a good idea to be aware of the service gratuities expected wherever you are visiting.

Always check your bill to see if gratuity or a service fee is included before you add your tip.

Tipping in the U.S.

Here in the States, bartenders and restaurant wait-staff typically make far below the minimum wage as they are expected to make up the difference in their tips. Tipping 15% of the total bill is standard but 20% for good service is customary. Many New York City restaurants are adding 15-20% gratuity to their bills regardless of the size of the party that is dining with them. So again, check your bill BEFORE you tip.

Did you know the appropriate service gratuities for tipping taxi drivers is 15% of your total fare?  Be sure to ask if taxis accept credit cards or only take cash BEFORE you get in the cab.

Tipping at Hotels

Tip your bellman $1.00 a bag when he delivers your bags to or from your room. Tip them more if you ask them to do anything additional, like hailing taxis or if you have a lot of luggage.

Tip the housekeeping staff $2 or $3 if you have additional items delivered to your room such as extra pillows, hangers, or an iron. For exceptional care in housekeeping, tip the staff a couple of dollars each day with a note that says “thank you”.

Valet Parkers: $2 - $5 (when picking up car).

Tour Guides: 15% of tour price is a standard tip for a tour well given.

Tipping Outside the U.S.

If you are traveling to another country then check the customs of that country before you visit. When tipping, do try and give gratuities in the local currency. And always keep small bills and change on hand when you travel.

I recommend always checking with the front desk or concierge at your hotel as to the local customs for gratuities. Then you will know, for sure whether service tips are included or not.

In general, European servers are well-paid, and tips are considered a small “bonus” to reward great service. In most countries, 5% is reasonable. At hotels in Europe, porters expect a euro for each bag they carry (another reason to pack light). Leaving the maid a euro per overnight at the end of your stay is a nice touch. Round up the taxi fare throughout Europe to the nearest €.

In Mexico, most service employees earn very little or no base salary and the tips they earn comprise the vast majority of their overall income. This is true for restaurants and hotels in Mexico. Just like the United States, 10-20% of the bill is a good tip. Tips in dollars or in pesos (the Mexican currency) are accepted but pesos would be easier for the recipient.

When taking a taxi in Mexico, agree to a price BEFORE the driver begins to drive. Never accept the first price you’re offered, but be realistic with your offers, and don’t become too aggressive with your position. Once agreed, pay that price.  It’s best never to hail a taxi on the street, especially at night. Be sure to use the Taxi Ranks to secure a licensed driver.

In most South American countries, the service charge is added to the bill; so it is only necessary to leave the small change. However, please check your bill prior to paying. In South America, pay the person directly when dining in a restaurant. Don’t leave the money on a table.

In most Asian countries, tipping is not really essential but is highly appreciated (except in countries like Japan). In many countries, tipping is done to get things done and for better service. It is better to observe what the locals do and follow suit rather than insulting someone’s culture.

Tipping on a Cruise

Tips are customarily given to service staff on the last evening of your cruise. Most cruise lines will provide you with gratuity recommendations based upon the position of the service personnel. As a general rule, dining room waiters receive $3.50 per person/per day. The room steward, for all his/her efforts, receives $3.50 per person/per day. Other personnel, such as bar waiters, bellboys and deck stewards may be tipped as service is provided. 

Just remember, you are always welcome to tip more if service is excellent. It’s definitely a great way to ensure VIP treatment when traveling. So enjoy your vacation and…

Don’t forget to tip!


 
 

 

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How to Get the Proper Workout When Traveling

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Bikini season has arrived, great summer hotel deals are available, and many don’t realize how easy it is to incorporate a workout into their everyday lives – even while traveling.

Hotels.com is making travelers sweat in a good way, with their recently launched luggage workout video designed for travelers looking to feel the burn while waiting for their plane, train or automobile.

According to a recent Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health study, road warriors who travel for business two weeks or more a month have higher body mass index, higher rates of obesity and poorer self-rated health than those who travel less often.

One in five travelers checked a suitcase when traveling abroad, meaning the other eighty percent are most likely trying to beat those annoying additional baggage charges by hauling, pushing or dragging suitcases around airports. But what many travelers don’t realize is that suitcases and bags make for fantastic impromptu gym equipment.

With the help of fitness guru Troy Dureh, hotels.com has devised a workout that aims to help travelers make the most of their journey, with a number of simple exercises that are perfect to fill the hours spent waiting at airports. Dureh is one of the most versatile international fitness presenters in the U.K., known for his dynamic personality, unique teaching style as well as delivering high energy, motivational workouts.

Instead of only working out biceps while lifting a pint of beer or glass of wine at the airport bar, travelers are encouraged to utilize weightlifting techniques from the “suitcase struggle” to “carrying curlers.” The luggage workout comprises of a range of specially designed exercises available using your own weights, your luggage.

Available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUyXJ89npFc, fitness fanatics can watch Troy showing frequent flyers a number of specially designed exercises.

 
 

 

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Tips on Saving Gas During Summer Road Trips!

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Don't let gas prices scare you away from that road trip you've been planning. (Photo courtesy of prlog.org)

It’s here! Summer’s here! And so are the startling gas prices at the pump. But please don’t let this curb your enthusiasm for that coveted summer road trip. So what can you do to minimize your dollar damage when refueling your car? Here are a few tips to help you get a few more miles out of your gas tank.

1. Get gas in the morning. You will actually get more gas as the gas is cooler and denser earlier in the day. Because the temperature of your gas is a factor, keep at least a half tank full to avoid losing some to vapors when you take off your cap.

2. Avoid braking hard or accelerating unnecessarily, you waste gas each time you accelerate just to brake a few seconds later.

3. Slow down. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at higher speeds. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.

4. Calculate how much a trip will cost in gas when you are planning your trip. You can use AAA’s gas calculator and then compare it to bus, train or air fares. You may find it cheaper to fly to your destination!

5. Don’t be an American “idle”. If you’re going to idle your car for more than a minute, it’s worth turning off the engine. If it’s going to be under a minute, just leave the car running.

6. Find ways to save. I earn gas savings through my grocery loyalty card – 10 cents a gallon every time I pump.  Check out your local grocers to see who is offering gas discounts!

Summer GIFTaway

You can earn a $25 gas card and win other prizes when you book two nights through hotels.com during its Summer GIFTaway event!  Check out the prizes and savings when you are planning your summer getaways!

Are you planning on taking any road trips this year?

 
 

 

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