Archive for October, 2011

Top Ten Travel Nightmares for a Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Have a safe and happy Halloween! (Photo courtesy of freehalloweenclipart.blogspot.com)

Boo! Now that I have your attention; traveling, for me, is rarely a “trick” and most often a wonderful “treat”. Yet, sometimes there are moments when traveling can be just as frightening as a good horror flick. I had a lot of fun putting together this list of Travel Smart Blog’s most terrifying travel moments.

1. Bed Bugs! A hotel horror story

2. The Sniffler. (“I think I’m coming down with something”) You’re strapped in for the duration of the flight. There’s no escaping it. And you can almost mark it on your calendar – the day that you too will have the sniffler’s illness.

3. Pajama Zombies. Once upon a time there was a dress code on airplanes. Now it seems some weary travelers literally roll out of bed to catch a flight. Get dressed people and leave the pj’s to the kiddos!

4. The Big Snore. Whether you are sharing a room with the Big Snore, rooming down the hall or are lucky enough to get stuck next to this person on the plane, the blissfully unaware Big Snores prevent all concentration, rest and relaxation for those within earshot of their cacophonous melodies.

5. What’s That Smell? Offensive smells of any kind in a hotel, rental car or on a plane is enough to drive a sane person mad. Think next time before you pack that tuna and egg sandwich for your flight!

6. The Noisy Neighbor. There’s nothing worse than trying to get a good night sleep with your hotel neighbor slamming doors, flushing toilets, blaring the TV, and shouting at whoever will listen.

7. Broken Plumbing. 20 minutes into that four hour flight you have just finished that super-sized water you purchased before getting on the plane and then you hear it, “ladies and gentlemen we’re sorry to report our lavatories are malfunctioning. Please refrain from using them for the duration of the flight.” It’s almost too unbearable to think about!

8. Oh No! What’s That! Sitting next to the person who is afraid of flying, heights, confined spaces, and all things that go bump in the air.

9. A Middle Seat. No need to say more.

10. You Are Stuck! You’ve been planning this vacation for as long as you can remember right down to the last detail. It’s all under control EXCEPT for the weather. That’s right Mother Nature is keeping you grounded just long enough to keep you sleeping in the terminal, standing in lines and to watch this year’s vacation turn into next year’s do-over.

Have a super safe and very fun Happy Halloween!

 
 

 

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Congratulations to our Taylor Swift Giveaway Winner, Rachelle!

Friday, October 28th, 2011
Jesse with her ticket to see Taylor Swift.

Jesse holding her ticket for the Taylor Swift concert.

Congratulations to our Giveaway Winner Rachelle and her niece, Jesse who won two tickets to see Taylor Swift! This was Jesse’s first concert and it looks like they had a great time grooving to Taylor Swift in San Diego. Thanks for sharing your pictures with us, looks like it was a fun night. Stay tuned for more giveaways on the Travel Smart Blog!

Jesse and Rachelle outside of the Taylor Swift concert in San Diego.

 
 

 

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“Fall” in Love With Travel

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

"Fall" in Love with Travel with hotels.com by discovering a new region of the world each week.

Get ready to ‘Fall in Love with Travel’ because hotels.com is taking you to four different surprise regions around the world in just one month! Each week on the hotels.com Facebook page, we will reveal a new region and explore all it has to offer with fun facts, trivia, and stats.

The best part is, even if you can’t travel around the world anytime soon, you can win prizes inspired by the region of the week by simply liking the hotels.com Facebook page and filling out a contest entry form. Receive an additional entry into the contest when you share the sweepstakes with a friend!

This week’s region is: Europe. Enter to win the European prize pack, which includes a cashmere scarf, designer bag, and designer sunglasses to keep you looking chic whether you’re in Europe or any other part of the world.

Make sure to check the hotels.com Facebook page each week to explore a new region and enter to win exciting prizes! I’d love to know what your favorite part of Europe is – leave me a comment below explaining where you would choose and why.



 
 

 

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Trip or Treat: Halloween Happenings and Haunted Hotels!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

If you enjoy a good scary story that sends a chill up your sleeve then you must relish Halloween and its dedication to all things that go bump in the night. For a holiday “trick” why not take a trip as your “treat” for a frightening good time?

Stay in a haunted hotel this Halloween, just don't get too scared! (Photo courtesy of flickr.com)

Hotels.com is hosting a Halloween Sale with deals and other treats. When booking select hotels, customers can choose a $25 gift card when staying for two nights or a $50 gift card when staying for three nights or longer. Rooms must be booked by October 31st for travel through November 7, 2011.

Need some spirited guidance? Try these ghost-laden spots this Halloween.

Orlando

For more than 20 years, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida has ranked among one of the top Halloween celebrations in the country. Open through Halloween, the terrifying attraction is not recommended for children under 13 years of age.

  • Stay at the Sheraton Safari Hotel Lake Buena Vista from $43/night. Book two nights with hotels.com and get a $25 gift card of your choice. Stay three nights and get a $50 gift card of your choice.

San Antonio

Included with park admission now thru October 30th, visitors can experience the Howl-O-Scream at Sea World San Antonio. Things get creepier as the day turns to night. There are also numerous ghost tours offered in downtown San Antonio full of tales of past characters who are supposedly still around.

  • Stay in San Antonio’s most haunted establishment, The Menger Hotel from $79/night and earn a gift card from hotels.com. Originally built in 1859, The Menger Hotel is next door to The Alamo, and reportedly, is full of paranormal activity; just read the guest reviews! The first of many ghosts is a maid, who was murdered many years ago, and now wanders the upper hallways. Another ghost is that of lady, who is said to have died of a broken heart.

Denver

Since its inception as an early 19th century mining town, Denver has cataloged quite a few haunted hangouts. Explore the historic hauntings with a visit to the Mile High City, and take in a Halloween treat the whole family will enjoy: the Boo At the Zoo.

  • Stay at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa. Not only do I love the high tea at this historic landmark hotel but its also full of unexplained phenomena and spirits.  During October the hotel shifts its “historic tour” to the “haunted tour.” Be sure not to miss it.
  • Less than two hours away from Denver is an infamous haunted hotel.  Consider a stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. The paranormal property is the inspiration of Stephen King’s The Shining and its ghostly guests have been featured on numerous TV shows.

San Francisco

There are several haunted locations in the City by the Bay. The most haunted spot in San Francisco is Alcatraz. The island, affectionately known as The Rock, is most famous for the prison that was there between 1933 and 1962. Take a tour and hear the sordid tales of its former inhabitants.

  • Stay at the historic Queen Anne Hotel and be taken care of by original proprietor, Mary Lake. You may not see her but somehow you’ll know she is there. She may even unpack your bags for you.

New Orleans

All southern port towns have their share of haunted happenings but none more so than New Orleans. The city is full of haunted mansions, taverns, and graveyards as well as Halloween events.

  • New Orleans has its fair share of haunted hotels, consider a spooky stay at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel where a ghostly chamber maid may tuck you in extra tight.
  • The Bourbon Orleans Hotel is home to a myriad of spirited guests including a young man who still kisses the ladies who suit his fancy.

I wrote this post for you, brave souls, as I am a colossal fraidy-cat.  I, myself, will be looking for a haunt-free hotel this year but I am eager to hear about your Halloween exploits. So, do share and Happy Haunting!

 
 

 

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Plan an Autumn Weekend Getaway to Boston

Monday, October 17th, 2011

One of my favorite places to visit in the fall is the city of Boston. (Photo courtesy of boston.com)

If you leave a comment at the bottom of this post and let me know why you love Taylor Swift, you could receive two free tickets to her San Diego or Phoenix shows THIS WEEK! Read through the post to find out how.

If you are: seeking changing leaves and cooler weather, a sports enthusiast, a history buff, or just looking for some authentic Halloween adventure, then set a course for Boston for an autumn weekend getaway.

Boston is a breathtaking mix of historic and modern architectural wonders coupled with vibrant culture, dining and shopping. According the Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com, Boston is the 5th most popular East Coast City amongst both American and international travelers.

Seasonal Suggestions for a fall vacation in Boston

Fall Foliage in Boston is at its peak during the last few weeks of October. You can take in the vibrant leaves all over the city. Turn your kids’ fall break into some educational fun as you stand along the waterfront where the Boston Massacre took place or take in the Bunker Hill Monument site of the famed Revolutionary War battle. Be sure to cruise (by foot or rent a bicycle) the 2 ½ mile Freedom Trail where you can take in 16 historic sites including the USS Constitution and Paul Revere’s house.

Savings on Site-Seeing

The Family-Friendly Value Pass available through the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau through the end of October makes it easy to stay and play affordably in Boston. It is a free pass, which offers substantial discounts and freebies at a variety of venues and eateries throughout the city. Another avenue of savings is the Boston City Pass, which gives you admission to five signature attractions and a significantly reduced cost.

A Brew Tour or Two

For fans of authentic New England brews, tickets are available for the Freedom Trail Pub Crawl every Tuesday at 5:30 P.M. from the ArtsBoston Booth at Faneuil Hall. Call (617) 357-8300 for more details and to make a reservation. For a suggested donation of $2 – all of which goes to support local charities – beer enthusiasts can also enjoy an affordable tour of the Sam Adams Brewery, including product samples and historical factoids about the famed brewer himself.

Haunted Happenings

Boston is one of the most haunted cities in America and with Halloween right around the corner, the tricks and treats are around the city.

Head up the coast just 16 miles north of Boston to the town of Salem, the infamous site of the 1692 witch trials, and join the town’s popular one hour outdoor candlelit tour, led by well-known historian and author Jim McAllister. The tour explores the sites and story of the witch trials, Salem’s darkest hour. Catch the tour Thursdays through Sundays through October 30th at 7pm.

Get your scare on at the The Fear at Fenway at historic Fenway Park with three ‘spooktacular’ attractions and even a lights-on version for the kiddos. Another popular attraction is the Ghosts and Gravestones Tour around Boston led by a host of ghoulish characters.

Hotels in Boston

A wonderful hotel for its location and service is the Omni Parker House Hotel.   It’s also Boston’s most haunted hotel. Plan a visit with some of the hotel’s more bizarre and permanent guests. Prices of hotel rooms in Boston are going up, HOWEVER, Americans are also spending more, both domestically and overseas –spending an average of $5 more a night on U.S. properties and $11 more at hotels internationally over last year.

Traveling during the fall is one of my favorite times to explore a new city but don’t let the season keep you from seeing Boston. And when you go: be sure to brush up on your New England speak. If you want to sound like a local in Boston, take some tips from The Wicked Good Guide to Boston English.

I can’t believe we’re already halfway through October and nearing November! November’s ‘City of the Month’ post will highlight the wonderful city of Phoenix, Arizona. In honor of November’s ‘City of the Month’ we are giving away two sets of Taylor Swift tickets for her San Diego (Thursday, October 20) and Phoenix (Friday, October 21) shows. If you’ll be in either of these cities THIS WEEK, leave a comment telling us why you love Taylor Swift and what city you would like to see the concert in for a chance to receive two free tickets. Good luck!

 
 

 

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Tips on Planning a Trip Start to Finish

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Plan with everyone who will be on the vacation. (Photo courtesy of satellitewireless.net)

Include everyone who will be on the vacation in the planning process. (Photo courtesy of satellitewireless.com)

The idea of being on vacation is something we all daydream about, but planning that vacation can often seem like a nightmare. You find yourself asking, “Where do I begin?” “Can I really do this myself?” “How do I know if I’ll like it?”

Here are some things for you to consider when you are planning a vacation to ensure that you have the desired outcome that you are looking for…even if you don’t know what that may be quite yet.

1. Believe in yourself

First of all, a vacation is a major expenditure for most families so it is completely understandable that you would want to get it right. And thanks to the Internet, and Steve Jobs and the many applications that he has enabled to exist, travel planning is merely at your fingertips. Here is my list of helpful travel terms, too. So, have faith in yourself! This is step one.

2. Start with what you don’t want (it’s easier)

Sometimes it’s easier for us to start planning a trip with what we don’t want before we can get down to what we do want out of our vacation. This is true especially when we may not understand all the options a destination or type of trip offers when we first start investigating. Make a list and be honest about the things that you don’t want to do on vacation; don’t want to eat, or see or experience and keep track of the “maybes”, too. Also include the desires of the people traveling with you in your list because traveling with kids is very different than traveling as a couple. This “what I don’t want list” will often begin to paint a clear picture of what you do want out of your vacation.

Here are just a few questions to get you started:

  • Do you have a budget?
  • Do you want to go far from home?
  • Do you want hot or cold weather?
  • Do you prefer sun, sand and large bodies of water or mountains, trees, and streams?
  • How active do you want to be?
  • Does the type of hotel matter to you? Do you want it to be indulgent or bare bones?
  • Do you want to eat out for all your meals or do you want to cook?
  • Do you prefer destinations/hotels that are family-friendly or no kids allowed?

Once you ask yourself these questions, then you can begin to look beyond your answers for the vacation ideas that support your responses.

3. Time to start booking

When you have chosen a destination or two, it’s time to consider how you will get there. If by air, then you need to look at the flights. While last minute deals are certainly available, it’s always advisable to plan a few months ahead especially if you are trying to use loyalty points or airline miles. School vacations and traditional holidays are going to be your busiest travel periods so expect prices to be higher in most leisure destinations and plan in advance to take advantage of the best availability and pricing. And, factor in the additional fees for checked bags, pets, taxes, etc. when you are comparing ticket prices.

Figure out how you will get to your destination and try to book early. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com)

If timing isn’t an issue for you but money is; consider traveling in the off seasons to avoid big crowds as well as those high-season prices. Just remember that there are reasons that it is called the “off-season”. Weather can be adverse and certain restaurants and attractions could be closed or at the very least could have reduced hours.

Trip Insurance is a good option for you if you can’t afford to lose the money you have already spent on the vacation. Read the fine print to understand what is included in the coverage. Do your homework and shop around for a policy that meets your specific needs. If you have to cancel your trip, be sure you follow the exact rules of your policy for cancellation.

Once you have the destination selected, lock in your travel dates, book your flights, and then choose where you will stay based on availability at that time. A site like hotels.com is a great place to start because you can get a broad overview of the type of accommodations available to you in a given locale. Which brings me to the next step…

4. There’s no place like “hotel”

Where you stay during your vacation can really impact your overall travel experience. Sure, a bad road trip can be uncomfortable; a flight could get delayed; but 10 days in a hotel that doesn’t meet your expectations can be downright miserable. Whether you select a big resort, a small boutique hotel, an intimate bed and breakfast, or your own private vacation home, ask yourself these questions that will help you find the right spot for you:

  1. Do you prefer big or small resorts?
  2. Do you need room service and/or daily housekeeping?
  3. Do you need a separate kitchen?
  4. Do you want lots of on-site activities and entertainment included or to find your own?
  5. Are children’s programs important?
  6. Do you want a romantic setting?
  7. Do you want it to be pet-friendly?
  8. Do you want a place to gather with friends?
  9. Do you want to be close to area attractions (beach, theme parks, museums)?

If your heart is set on staying at a particular resort then check rate calendars to determine the best time of year to get the accommodations you are looking for at the price that works for you. And be honest with yourself, if sun and warm water are a pre-requisite for your trip then visiting your desired resort in its coldest season may not be worth the savings to you.

5. Plan for the fun

Once your travel arrangements are secure, you can fill in your trip itinerary as much or as little as you desire. Every city in the world (practically) has a website for visitors to glean information on area tours and sites of interest. Hotels.com has a nice selection of travel guide articles to use as a reference. Just remember to allow time for the unexpected and some relaxation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to make specific requests of a resort or a tour company. If you don’t get the response that you are looking for then decide if you are okay with the answer or simply find another option. There is always another option.

After all, this is your vacation so make it great!

If you have any specific questions for me about trip planning, comment here on the blog and I will get those answers to you!

 
 

 

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How To Pick The Best Sunglasses For Your Trip

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

If you leave a comment at the bottom of this post and let me know where you would use N3L Optics sunglasses, you could receive a certificate good for a custom pair of N3L sunglasses!

Are you planning a getaway to sunny islands, snowy slopes or a great city walking destination? Don’t forget to pack a great pair of shades.

According to a 2011 national survey from N3L Optics, only 66 percent of adults wear sunglasses consistently when outdoors, and three out of five have experienced an eye injury while participating in outdoors sports or activities. Having the right pair of shades helps your vacation look and feel its best, enhances your vision and safety, and protects your eyes from the harmful UV radiation, wind and debris.

The right pair of sunglasses also help you to get your game on so you look and feel your best.

Here are a few tips to help you pick the right pair of sunglasses to enhance your trip.

If you’re planning to hike or climb…

  • Look for lightweight frame materials like nylon and lens materials like polycarbonate to enhance comfort.
  • Resilient frame materials with rubberized grip points on the nose bridge and temples keep eyewear secure.
  • More lens curve maximizes peripheral protection against sun, wind and debris.
  • Amber, bronze, and rose lens tints boost the color contrast of the surrounding greenery so you see the trail better.
  • Hydrophobic lens coatings bead sweat and rain off your lenses to keep your view clear.

A good sunglass for hikers and climbers is the Oakley Fast Jacket. It’s unique interchangeable lens design lets you match your optics to your environment, and switching out the lenses is fast and easy.

If you’re planning to be on or near the water…

  • Polarized lenses block blinding glare so you see objects more clearly. The lenses also boost colors to make your view of the world more vibrant.
  • With hydrophobic lens coatings, water beads up and falls off the lens to keep your view clear.
  • Dark amber and bronze contrast lens tints create greater clarity by enhancing contrast and blocking blurring blue light.
  • For shallow water up to 12 feet deep, select a lens with contrast to help you spot underwater features.  For deeper water, go with a darker contrast or neutral lens tint to shield your eyes from the intense sun.
  • More lens curve maximizes peripheral protection against sun, wind and water spray.
    • Mirrored lens coatings help you see more clearly by reflecting the sun rays bounced off the water.
    • Resilient frame materials with rubberized grip points on the nose bridge and temples keep eyewear secure on your face.

A good sunglass for water sports is the Revo Guide. It has specially engineered, polarized lens that provide great optimal clarity, comfort, and color enhancement in water environments.  The lenses eliminate blinding glare and repel water, dirt and oil.

If you’re planning to bike ride or cycle…

  • Look for lightweight frame materials like nylon and lightweight lens materials like polycarbonate to enhance comfort.
    • Lens materials like polycarbonate are virtually shatter proof to protect during impact.
    • More lens curvature maximizes side protection against sun, wind and impact.
    • Hydrophobic lens coatings create an invisible barrier that easily sheds sweat, rain, sunscreen, skin oils, dirt and dust off the lens.
    • Rubberized grip points keep the eyewear in place during strenuous activity or with rapid moments.

A terrific sunglass for bike riding or cycling is the Oakley Jawbone. The lower part of the frame opens for quick and easy lens changing. Vented lenses enhance airflow that helps prevent fogging.

If you are planning to walk or run…

  • If your walking route mainly covers roads and sidewalks, polarized lenses are best for blocking the annoying glare reflecting off these surfaces.  If you prefer to walk with Mother Nature, contrast lens tints like amber, bronze and rose boost the color contrast of the surrounding greenery so you see the trail better.  If you mix up your routes, look for a polarized contrast lens.
  • Look for lightweight frame materials like nylon and lightweight lens materials like polycarbonate to enhance comfort for extended wear.
  • The more lens curve the better your peripheral view and protection against sun, wind and debris.
  • Larger lenses provide more protection for the eye and the delicate skin surrounding it.
  • Resilient frame materials with rubberized grip points on the nose bridge and temples keep the eyewear secure so you won’t have to continually adjust them.  Some manufacturers use special water-absorbing rubber on the frame that actually increases its grip with perspiration.
  • Hydrophobic lens coatings bead sweat and rain off your lenses to keep your view clear.
  • An interchangeable lens design or photochromic lens allows you to change lens tints to better match the current light environment or sport application.
  • An open-edge lens design or vented lens will increase airflow to prevent the annoyance of lens fogging.

A great sunglass for walking is the Oakley Miss Conduct Squared. It’s squared–off shape and rimless toric shield truly shield from the elements.

If you are planning to hit the slopes…

  • Polarization reduces the blinding rays of glare reflected off flat surfaces.
  • Lens tints, like brown, copper, and rose enhance the wearer’s ability to more accurately judge distances between objects and improve visibility by enhancing the eyes’ ability to recognize colors. This can help avoid obstacles and better judge course layouts.
  • Special lens coatings and venting ports help to ward off the evils of fogging.

A great sunglass for winter sports is the Smith Parallel Max. It provides the value and versatility with three interchangeable lens options to adapt to any light condition on the mountain.

N3L Optics (Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion) is a new and revolutionary sunglass store committed to carrying the world’s best assortment of sport performance optics. For more information, visit www.N3LOptics.com. And be sure to ‘like’ N3L Optics on Facebook!


 
 

 

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