Archive for August, 2011

I’m Dreaming of a Fall Festival

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011


Fall is my favorite time of year because of the weather, leaves changing colors, and the festivals. (Photo courtesy of www.bobatkins.com)

All winter long, I dream of warm days. I visualize the hot sun, warm water and lots of sand. And yet, when it gets here (especially this year), it’s too hot and I find myself looking forward to the crispness of fall. If I had to pick a favorite season it would be the autumnal months of September, October and November; that is to say, November in some cities.

Fall ushers in its own brand of excitement with plenty of warm temps wrapped with some cool mornings and nights, changing foliage, football, and lots of festivals! And it’s in these festivals where you can really have some fun, experience a new destination and relish the colors of the season.

Here are my picks for the Top Five Fall Festivals in 2011.

The Largest Fair in the Northeast

The Big E!: September 16th – October 2nd

West Springfield, MA

For 17 days each September, New England celebrates the end of summer with The Big E! Set in West Springfield, Massachusetts, this colossal event features top entertainment, like my favorites Darius Rucker, Reba and Blake Shelton, The Big E Super Circus, The Avenue of States, Storrowton Village Museum, animals, competitive exhibits, rides, shopping, crafts, a daily parade and a Mardi Gras parade, and foods from around the world.

An Authentic “Old World” Oktoberfest in America

Mt. Angel Oktoberfest: September 15th – 18th

Mt. Angel, OR

Munich’s Oktoberfest is the ultimate fall celebration, but if you are keeping it stateside then it doesn’t get much better than the Mount Angel Oktoberfest.  Settled by German pioneers in the early 1800s, the Oregon town of Mount Angel looks like a scene straight out of Bavaria. Its first Oktoberfest celebration was in 1966, and today about 350,000 excited beer-drinkers flock to check out continuous live music on four stages, traditional beer and wine gardens, and 50 food chalets.

America’s Largest Oktoberfest Celebration

Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati: September 17th – 18th

Cincinnati, OH

More than half a million people will fill downtown Cincinnati and its historic fountain square district for the two days of revelry. Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati features loads of traditional and not-so-traditional activities like hosting the world’s largest chicken dance (it actually holds the world record) and the world’s largest kazoo band. The rest of the weekend plays host to folk dancers, concerts and contests.

The Ultimate Folk Festival

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival: October 13th – 16th

Ozark, AR

Pack your tent for this four-day event nestled in the heart of the Ozarks. You can even enter the Fiddlin’ and Pickin’ Contest! Sign up for Mandolin, Banjo, Flat-picking, and Fiddle to compete at the festival for a cash prize! The festival features an impressive lineup of musical artists, food vendors, and arts and crafts.

A Celebration of Color – Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage Festival: October 1st – 2nd, 8th – 9th

Bedford, PA

With the Pennsylvania leaves at their peak color in October, the mountains are a show of their own during the annual Fall Foliage Festival held over two weekends in Bedford. There will be entertainment and activities for attendees of all ages. In its 47th year, this annual salute to all things red, yellow and orange just might be the fall getaway you’ve been looking for.

And another event worth noting is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The event, which was supposed to happen this past Sunday, was postponed because of Hurricane Irene. So be on the lookout for the official dedication ceremony on a date yet determined in September or October.  Fall is gorgeous in the Nation’s capital and the Memorial is said to be open now so even if you can’t make the official ceremony; plan a trip to see the newest, and one of the most beautiful, memorial in D.C.

 
 

 

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New York City Steals and Deals

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011


New York City is beautiful when the leaves change colors and it's the perfect time to book a trip. (Photo courtesy of scienceline.org)

I’m not sure if there truly is a more lovely time to visit New York City than in the fall. It’s still warm outside but not blistering hot, the crowds are noticeably fewer but the energy that only exists in NYC is still vibrant and pulsing, and traveling in and around the city is also more affordable after its peak summer season.

From 30 percent off your stay to free nights, savings abound at some of the city’s top hotels.  Check out the hotels special deals in New York from Hotels.com.  Here are just a few deals worth noting:

-Save 40% off at The Alex

-Rates from $319.20 per night (down from $456) at the W New York plus stay three nights and get 20% off your stay.

-Save 20% when you stay one night at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers.

-Save 25% on stays before September 30, 2011 at the Flatotel New York.

-Pardon our dust! There’s a Renovation special at the Thirty Thirty Hotel New York with rates as low as $142 per night for stays before December 31, 2011.

With summer’s winding down, airfare prices are also taking a dip. Here are a few examples of great fares that I have found. Check airfarewatchdog.com to see the prices from your origination city.

  • $95 RT from Chicago on Delta, United and Continental
  • $144 RT on American from Miami
  • $164 RT on Southwest from Chicago (MDW). No minimum stay required.
  • $198 RT on Airtran from Atlanta to LGA
  • $238 RT on Frontier from San Francisco.

And when you’re there, consider some of these great ideas for strolling, sightseeing and shopping in New York City.

 
 

 

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Last-Minute Labor Day Hotel Deals

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

There’s still time to plan one last long summer weekend getaway! Take advantage of last minute deals and the upcoming Labor Day Weekend to squeeze in a trip.

It's not too late to plan a fun-filled Labor Day Weekend Vacation. (Photo courtesy of photographyalbumstoday.com)

If you want to fly, airlines are beginning to post their Labor Day fares and most will require a 14-day advanced purchase, so get booking! As for where to stay, Hotels.com has a number of deals with savings up to 30 percent in hundreds of cities for its Labor Day Sale.

Travel Tip: You will score the most savings if your schedule is a little bit flexible. Traveling on the Thursday before and the Tuesday after a holiday weekend is less competitive and therefore less expensive.

If you need some inspiration, try out one of these vacation destinations for a salute to summer.

Hotel Deals in Acapulco

For an unbelievable last minute hotel deal, rates at the Fairmont Acapulco Princess are just $100 a night beginning August 22nd.

Hotel Deals in Bend

Now’s a great time to visit the Pacific Northwest! The whole family will enjoy a visit to the Brasada Ranch in Bend, Oregon. Then go from the country to the city with a visit to nearby Portland. The temperature is just right for some unique experiences and great seafood.

Hotel Deals in Miami, FL

The stars are shining day and night on Miami Beach and the deals aren’t so bad either. Stay at the South Beach Plaza Hotel from $84 per night. If you stay three nights, you’ll save an additional 30 percent on your visit. You can get your fourth night free with a stay at the acclaimed Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

Hotel Deals in New Orleans

Airfarewatchdog.com is reporting some great flight deals into the Big Easy for Labor Day weekend on Southwest Airlines. Tickets do require a 14-day advanced purchase. Stay at the 3-star Queen & Crescent Hotel from just $63 per night and you can save up to 50% on your visit of three or more nights.

Hotel Deals in San Diego

Save 20% on your stay at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego located in the Gas Lamp Quarter from just $179 per night.  The Best Western Yacht Harbor Hotel from just $121 per night is a summer steal. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast each morning.

Are you planning on taking a Labor Day Weekend vacation? Where will you be traveling?


 
 

 

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Pet-Friendly Hotels

Thursday, August 11th, 2011



Kimpton Hotels is one of a select number of properties that is pet-friendly. (Photo courtesy of: http://www.kimptonhotels.com/services/pet-directors-monaco-chicago.aspx)


The days of sneaking your pet past the front desk and praying that they don’t make a squeak or a bark are over. Hotels have turned up their pet quotient over the past few years and many now go above and beyond in the name of our four-legged friends.

Remember these tips for traveling with pets and check out these Pet-tastic hotel programs!

KIMPTON HOTELS

At The Muse, a Kimpton Boutique Hotel in the heart of Times Square, you’ll find Ginger, the resident canine concierge. She’s even helped me share some tips on traveling with pets and kids. Kimpton hotels accept any type of pet; offer no fee or deposit, no limit on number of pets, and no weight limit. Kimpton also offers pet treats, bedding, dog walking services and even special meals in some properties. Kimpton’s pet friendly hotels pamper your pet with their special pet packages that include amenities and services like pet food, dog walking services and chew toys.

*At select Kimpton Hotels, the “Guppy Love” program allows travelers without pets to borrow a goldfish upon arrival to keep them company in their room throughout their stay!

Consider a stay at these Kimpton properties:

Hotel Monaco Denver – Denver, CO

Serrano Hotel – San Francisco, CA

STARWOOD HOTELS

The Starwood family, which includes W, Westin, and Sheraton hotels rolls out the red carpet for dogs and cats. At check-in you’ll receive a welcome packet with the following items, designated for either a dog or a cat: pet toy, pet treat, pet tag, clean-up bags, welcome letter with info about pet services available through Concierge and a list of items available. Upon entering the room, you’ll find the following: custom pet bed (at Westin’s it is the Heavenly Dog Bed), food and water bowl with floor mat, pet-in-room door sign, and a special treat at turndown.

*The animal weight allowed is different by property but is generally between 40-80 lbs and for those properties that require a fee it is usually $25-30 per night non refundable. Check individual hotels for specifics…

Consider a stay at these Starwood properties:

W Hotel New Orleans – New Orleans, LA

The Westin Verasa – Napa, CA

LOEWS HOTELS

The Loews Loves Pets program lets owners of pooches and kitties order from a pet room service menu with such items as Bow Wow Tenderloin and Kitty Salmon Supreme. All recipes are veterinarian-approved. Additionally, the hotels give a pet ID tag and a pet treat.  Pet owners are provided with a list of pet services in the area, including pet stores, veterinarians, groomers, parks, etc.

*Rooms designated for travelers with pets receive extra thorough cleaning. Loews Hotels charges a one-time $25 fee per stay.

Consider a stay at these Loews properties:

Loews Miami Beach Hotel – Miami Beach, FL

Loews Hotel Philadelphia – Philadelphia, PA

HILTON HOTELS

Hilton Hotels pet program, Pet Friendly, welcomes up to two pets per room at a maximum of 75 pounds provides all the “creature comforts” of home giving them such amenities as a travel tote with treats, biodegradable waste bags, a Crypton clean pet pillow designed by William Wegman, pet bowls and a placemat.

*The resort charges a one-time fee of $75 during a stay.

Consider a stay at these Hilton properties:

Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre – Dallas, TX

Millenium Hilton – NY, NY

OTHER INDEPENDENT HOTELS WORTH “BARKING ABOUT”

The Nolitan – NYC, NY

El Portal Sedona Hotel – Sedona, AZ

Inn on Destin Harbor – Destin, FL

Hotel Indigo – Atlanta, GA

Hofsas House Hotel – Carmel, CA

 
 

 

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Tips for Traveling With Pets

Monday, August 8th, 2011


Make sure you're prepared before traveling with your pet. (Photo courtesy of blog.mysanantonio.com)

Traveling with pets is becoming more of a norm for pet-owners than in recent years. From road trips to long-haul air flights to stays at beautiful resorts, four-legged companions are officially members of the family when they make the vacation roster.

If you are planning a trip with your four-legged friend then please keep in mind these tips for traveling with pets.

1. In the Car

Keep fresh water and a bowl available. Every time you stop, go ahead and fill it up. While you’re sipping on a drink throughout your drive, your dog is panting its way to dehydration.

And just like with your kids, plan for stops at rest areas or parks to let everyone stretch their legs, relieve themselves, and burn off some restless energy.

“Practice” traveling with your pets before heading off on a long drive or flight.

Keeping your dogs in a crate is a great way to recreate a familiar environment for them, which both soothes their anxiety and provides an extra bit of security in the event of an accident.

2. On Airplanes

Most airlines make flying with pets fairly painless. Many require a health certificate filled out by a veterinarian to be submitted ahead of time. An easy way to ruin a vacation is to find out that your pet can’t fly at the check-in desk. Be sure to check with an airline before you fly for all their specific restrictions and requirements.  For example, some airlines prohibit brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs and cats as checked luggage. Breeds represented include Boston Terriers, Pekingnese, and Shih Tzu.

Pet Airways, Frontier Airlines and Jet Blue recently took top honors in the Petfinder.com study on best airlines to travel with pets.

This summer, in particular, flying with pets has been more difficult as most airlines prohibit pets from traveling when the current or forecasted temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees C) at any location on the itinerary.   In fact, the following cities have embargoes on pet air travel through the month of September:

  • Ft. Myers
  • Las Vegas
  • Phoenix
  • San Antonio
  • Tampa
  • Tucson

And looking ahead to the cooler months, pets cannot be accepted when the ground temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees C) at any location on your itinerary. This is sometimes waived up to 20 degrees with a veterinary statement but never below this temperature. Also veterinary letters must be dated no more than 10 days from departure.

3. In Hotels

In my experience, pet owners see their pets as part of the family, and are fiercely loyal to the property and the brand that welcomes them into their temporary home away from home.

It is important while communicating with a lodging choice to make sure to find out what is expected. There may be fees, limitations on pet size, specific pet policies, and breed specifications that you need to know BEFORE you travel. Expect to pay pet fees at most hotels, vacation rentals and resorts. Companies that charge a fee should not be viewed negatively. People who are willing to pay the extra fees typically have pets that are better behaved.

If you wouldn’t let Fido run free in a friend’s house, then don’t do it in a hotel room either. Save yourself the possibility of fees for property destruction and help your pet feel secure by crating them while traveling. In fact, leaving a pet alone in a room is never a good idea, and usually not allowed by management. Be sure to keep them crated since maids will likely service the room.

Here are a few other hotel-friendly pet tips.

  • Leave the television or radio on to keep the pet company
  • Consider feeding a pet in the bathroom and avoid carpets, minimizing messes
  • Old towels, carpet cleaner, disinfectant spray, and trash bags are important for accidents
  • Ask the concierge about nearby pet-walking paths and parks

Later this week, we’ll take a look at pet-friendly accommodations. Have any other pet travel questions or a pet travel trip to share? Ask and share here at TravelSmartBlog.com. If we repost your question or tip, you’ll receive a TSB thank you gift.

 
 

 

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Traveling with Kids: Five Ways to Avoid a Travel Meltdown

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

A little rest on the trip helps everybody. Genna Grace liked her naps on the beach during our summer vacation.

I’m often asked by other parents, who are fraught with dread over traveling with their children, to give them some tips for a successful family vacation experience beyond how to get the best airfares and the best hotels for families. They want to know how to make sure things go smoothly during their trips.

We’ve all heard the stories and probably could tell a few ourselves of a time when a child, perhaps our own, was temporarily possessed by some demonic force and screamed their way through a dinner, or worse a flight with 300 passengers held captive on a plane for four hours. The whole family can avoid those times with a little preparation and practice before leaving on a family trip.

As I recently shared with Oprah.com in the article 11 Ways to Ruin a Summer Vacation, I’ll share with you now Five Ways to Avoid A Travel Melt-Down.

1. Make sure your child is well rested BEFORE you travel. This may seem counter-intuitive but the excitement and newness of a trip whether by road or by air will not induce sleep but prevent it. I like to travel first thing in the morning after a good night’s sleep or after an afternoon nap.  Children who are overtired are also often impossible to reason with or console. I once took my 18-month old son on a business trip with me and because of scheduling he missed his nap. What ensued ranks #1 on my list of worst travel experiences ever. He couldn’t sit still, he screamed, he was SO tired and I was to blame. My normally easy to manage son was unrecognizable and there was very little that I could do (and I was trying everything). I take full responsibility for his behavior that day and still feel so badly that I put him in that position. He finally fell asleep under my feet on the floor of the airplane and the flight attendant let me leave him there. Yes it happened but it will not happen again.

2. Involve the whole family in the trip planning. I’m sure you have heard me say it before but getting the whole family involved in planning vacation activities can definitely reduce conflict later. Once you have chosen the vacation destination, build some excitement and anticipation by learning about the trip together. Check out books at the library and search online for great activities for all ages. By allowing each member of the family (no matter how young) to choose something for you all to do, even as simple as selecting a restaurant for dinner, you give each person an equal stake in the trip’s success. It’s a great way to turn that apathetic teenager into a somewhat eager participant and to help a younger traveler understand that everyone is going to have a great time

I try to give them choices when choosing fun activities so they feel like they've helped in the planning too.

I try to give them choices when choosing fun activities so they feel like they've helped in the planning too.

3. Plan for no plans. 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, but take time for some rest and relaxation. Allow some downtime for the baby to rest at the hotel where it is cool and quiet. Babies absorb everything around them including new sights and sounds. Help keep the baby happy by not overdoing it. Even if you are the type to go, go, go, you never know when you’ll want to spend some additional time in a museum, taking in local entertainment, or simply hanging at the hotel’s pool. Even older children need their rest. The trip will go more smoothly by giving everyone a chance to relax and rebuild energy.

4. Embrace tween independence: Tweens enjoy vacations that allow them some independence in the midst of the family vacation. Whether it’s a ski vacation and they are allowed to meet up with their parents at the end of a run, or on a cruise where they can have “tween time” in the kids program. Being a tween is all about being “capable” so finding activities and opportunities for them to do this will help your trip to be more enjoyable. Vacations are a great way to give tweens a taste of autonomy in a fairly controlled environment.

5. Keep the kids busy. This is not to contradict #3 but when you are on a trip, in particular around other travelers such as on an airplane, make sure that you have plenty of what you need in your carry-on: diapers, wipes (which are great for a multitude of things), medications, change of clothes, lots of snacks, and a few secret activity/coloring books. Often times it is the boredom that begets bad behavior so keep little ones busy and keep everyone happy.

Traveling with kids can be so easy and enjoyable. Just like anything else, a little preparation goes a long way to staying calm and having a good time. After all, travel is a gift we should all experience. Providing opportunities for our children to experience other places, people and cultures will not only help broaden their horizons but give them perspective as they develop into the remarkable young people we hope that they will become.

Planning an upcoming family trip? Tell me about it and let me know your best family travel tip!

 
 

 

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Kick Off August with the hotels.com 48 Hour Sale

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Summer always seems to fly by, but it’s not too late to fit in another sand, sun, and surf filled adventure to an exotic locale or a short jaunt close to your home.

Today and tomorrow, hotels.com is running a 48-hour sale where you can save up to 50% on select hotels to places like OrlandoSan DiegoChicago, and even Barcelona.

So what are you waiting for? Book your hotel, pack your bags, and enjoy the last month of summer because it won’t be here again for another year. Where will you be taking your end of the season vacation?

 
 

 

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