Archive for December, 2011

Spotlight on Ft. Lauderdale: An Easy Vacation

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

The Riverwalk is a great place to shop, eat, and spend some time in Ft. Lauderdale. (photo courtesy of

As the cold weather sets in across most of the U.S., I thought I would feature a destination that exudes warmth both literally in its annual temperature and figuratively in its charm and hospitality. Fort Lauderdale, Florida sits on the Atlantic coast with its calm, welcoming sophistication that feels a world apart from the frenetic culture that is only about an hour’s drive away – Miami.

Fort Lauderdale isn’t just another sleepy beach town. Sure, it has 23 miles of Blue Wave certified beaches, but it also has a thriving arts and entertainment scene, and exceptional shopping and dining options. I could eat my weight in fresh seafood when I am visiting this Florida coastal city!


This might be one of the best compliments I can give a vacation destination. Ft. Lauderdale is easy. Easy to get to, around, and depart from. Its airport (FLL) is easy to fly into. FLL offers the lowest fares in South Florida with 300 daily departures to over 100 destinations in the U.S., Latin America, Canada, the Caribbean and Germany. No-frills Spirit Airlines recently announced that it will begin daily service from Phoenix to Ft. Lauderdale.

Can’t resist Caribbean cruises? The city also boasts a thriving cruise port. Why not spend a few days on its beautiful beaches and then embark on a cruise out of Port Everglades? In fact, many area hotels have shuttles to the port for pre- or post-trip delivery.


You can’t ignore the indigenous surroundings unique to Fort Lauderdale. Immerse yourself in the heart of the swamp with a tour from Billie Swamp Safari and learn about the unconquered Seminole Tribe of Florida on the Big Cypress Indian Reservation. Swamp buggy eco-tours and airboat adventure tours depart daily through 2200 acres of everglades.

Fun for the whole family includes visits to Butterfly World and the Flamingo Gardens. Scooter, canoe, jet ski and other watersports are sure to thrill. Snorkel (no boat needed) from shore along Lauderdale-By-The-Sea’s three-tiered reef system and discover the many underwater treasures. Sea turtles nest along Greater Fort Lauderdale’s beaches. From May through October these creatures will return to their home beaches to lay eggs.

Downtown Fort Lauderdale Stroll, people watch, dine at an outdoor cafe and shop the chic boutiques along Las Olas Boulevard, a sophisticated mile of fashion, art and sidewalk cafes. Then “follow the red brick road” of Riverwalk, the landscaped park, to the Arts & Entertainment District.

IIGFA Fishing Hall Of Fame & Museum World-class state-of-the-art facility includes seven galleries, an outdoor marina, living wetlands, a theater, virtual fishing and indoor/outdoor demonstrations. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun noon-6pm. Adults $8, seniors and children 3-16 $5, under 3 free.


The A1A Marathon on February 19 is the perfect setting for runners and spectators. The 26.2-mile course attracts athletes from South Florida, 40-plus states, and 12 foreign countries.

The Sistrunk Parade and Festival on February 25 is presented by the Sistrunk Historical Festival – a cultural organization that celebrates the accomplishments of people of African descent – featuring floats, marching bands, drill teams, step dancers, and vibrant Caribbean Carnival dancers.


From the sea grass to the saw grass, Greater Fort Lauderdale offers thousands of lodging accommodations at a variety of hotels, luxury spa resorts, and small inn/motels.

The Atlantic Resort & Spa

This hotel continually receives excellent guest reviews. Its staff is courteous and helpful, the rooms are well appointed and comfortable, and the restaurant is delicious. Be sure to arrange for an oceanfront view. The Atlantic is perfectly situated to walk to restaurants and nightlife.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Owned by the Seminole Indian Tribe, the hotel features a four and one-half acre lagoon style pool complete with waterfalls and a 182-foot waterslide. A 130,000 square foot casino adds the fun that includes 17 restaurants, 11 nightclubs, a European-style spa and 22 shops.

Hyatt Regency Pier 66

Set on the Intercoastal Waterway, this hotel will not disappoint. Take a convenient water taxi right from the hotel to experience fun in Ft. Lauderdale. This hotel offers five restaurants, three pools, an aquatics center, private cabanas, and a lot of relaxation.



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A Last Excuse for Travel….This Year. New Year’s Eve Deals

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Seeing the ball drop in NYC is a great way to ring in New Year's Eve. (Photo courtesy of

I’ve always liked New Year’s Eve. It’s one of those holidays that can be big, celebratory and over-the-top or it can be intimate and removed. I like it so much that one time I actually celebrated it twice in one night, thanks to the proximity of two time zones.

When we were living in Atlanta – Eastern Standard Time – we celebrated with friends and then we (with those friends) quickly jumped in the car and drove to Auburn, AL – Central Time – for another New Year’s Eve celebration. Auburn had been ranked a Rolling Stone top 10 NYE celebrations that year.

The point is that perhaps a NYE trip is the best way to ring in the New Year whether you are looking forward to 2012 or wanting to hold on to 2011 for just a bit longer.

With New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday, travel-lovers and revelers can extend the festivities for a long weekend, or even a week-long vacation. So take that road trip, try someplace you’ve never been or experience NYC and the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration in the world.

New Year’s Eve Hotel Deals

Omni Hotels are offering a French Toast New Year’s Eve Package; rock it in with Stevie Wonder at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; celebrate surfside on Panama City Beach with its Beach Ball Drop; or party a mile high at the Grand Hyatt Denver NYE Celebration. How about an impromptu trip to jolly ol’ England for a stay at one of the Cotswold Inns & Hotels? offers deep discounts on the Deals Page on a variety of hotels and resorts around the world. For that last minute deal or if you need a hotel after that NYE party, use the mobile app, and book on the way to the hotel from the convenience of your smartphone, and take advantage of exclusive mobile deals.

No matter what you do, be resolved to have a great time welcoming in 2012. As for my resolutions for 2011, I did pretty well completing them all. I do think the key is to make them motivational yet still realistic and attainable. As for the answer to #5 on my resolution list: It’s definitely me and not the camera. Perhaps this year I will resolve to learn to take better photos!



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Three Cheers for a College Bowl Vacation!

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Where will you be when your favorite team plays this year? (Photo courtesy of

Sure this time of year is all about holiday cheer, but if you are a collegiate football fan then cheer might mean supporting your favorite team in one of the upcoming bowl games.

College Bowl Games begin next weekend through January 9th, 2012 when the BCS Championship Bowl Game is played between Alabama and LSU. And whether or not you agree with which Bowl your team may have been selected for (BCS and ESPN hand in hand), College Bowl games are a great excuse for a vacation.

There are plenty of events and opportunities to interact with the team and coaches and of course, the game itself. And let’s not forget all the attractions that the host city has to offer. According to a recent article by Businessweek, 16 states (including the District of Columbia) are directly involved financially in supporting their bowls, understanding that more than $1.75 billion in economic impact is generated in the respective regions.

With 35 Bowl games this year to choose from, I’m highlighting a few standouts for the combination of destination, competitive match-up, and hotel deals.

Maaco Bowl Las Vegas – Las Vegas, NV

December 22, 2011

Some say 11-1 Boise State deserve a BCS bowl for their impressively played season. Regardless, Las Vegas is one of the most hospitable and entertaining destinations in the world. Check out these hotel deals in Las Vegas.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – Honolulu, HI

December 24, 2011

Who doesn’t want to add a little hula to their football revelry? Nevada and Southern Miss fans can take in some Hawaiian hospitality in Honolulu while cheering on their favorite teams. There are some great hotel deals in this tropical paradise. The only downside to this match-up? Airfare.

Champs Sports Bowl – Orlando, FL

December 29, 2011

This year FSU and Notre Dame are competitively matched for what should be a great game AND they get to share in a week of events and some theme park fun in Orlando. After all, what athlete doesn’t dream of saying after a victory “I’m going to Disneyworld!”

Outback Bowl – Tampa, FL

January 2, 2012

My Georgia Bulldawgs are taking on Michigan State University in Tampa. Tampa has such a great mix of what I like to call sun, sand and something fun to do at night. Stay at nearby beaches in town to enjoy Tampa’s dining, shopping and entertainment.

Valero Alamo Bowl – San Antonio, TX

December 29, 2011

Want a chance to see the Heisman winner lead Baylor to a Bowl victory over Washington or looking for a good excuse to see the famed River Walk? Either way, plan a New Year’s trip to San Antonio.

Allstate BCS Championship Game – New Orleans, LA

January 9, 2012

I just love a good SEC battle and while the game alone may be reason to travel, New Orleans is at its best when there’s a reason to celebrate. Take advantage of the festivities and book your hotel stay in New Orleans this week on You can save up to 40% on your accommodations.

Headed to a different game? Check out to see even more bowl game hotel deals.



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Travel for the Season: Christmas Celebrations

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

In my opinion, December is the best time of the year to travel. After all, “tis the season to be jolly!” Practically every city in the world is decorated with lights and garlands and seems a little merrier than usual. And most cities also offer winter and holiday festivals and celebrations that make visiting a place that much more enjoyable.

Whether you are traveling to visit family or friends over the holidays or you are just merely traveling, take advantage of the local merriment and revelry wherever you go. And, if you are looking for a spot that particularly does the holidays well, consider adding one of these Christmas celebrations to your list of must-dos this season.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

You won’t find a more festive celebration than at Walt Disney World in Orlando, you can see Cinderella’s Holiday Wish Stage Show at the Magic Kingdom and perhaps get a ticket to the special Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (a special event on select nights in December. You can order tickets online or by calling 407-WDISNEY). Disney’s budget-tier of All-Star family hotels is super kid-friendly! They provide free shuttle access to the parks, themed pools, and cafeteria-style dining options.

Universal Studios Florida

The Macy’s Holiday Parade operates in the late afternoon every day at Universal Studios through Dec. 31. Mannheim Steamroller will perform six Friday and Saturday night concerts, Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18.

Islands of Adventure guests can see the stage show “Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular” multiple times daily or see Hogwarts during the holidays at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Consider staying at the affordable Nickelodeon Suites Resort where you can deck the halls in slime green and Nick orange this holiday season. Celebrate with a lineup of holiday events that includes: Visit with Santa, Candy Cane Stroll, Holiday Karaoke inside Studio Nick, Nick After Dark Holiday Style which is where kids play while the parents are away! And, don’t forget the New Years Eve Annual Slime Drop.

LegoLand Florida

LegoLand Florida just opened its doors in October and still has that new theme park smell. Families with children under 12 will be full of glee at the Sunshine State’s newest attraction that features more than 50 million of those multi-colored bricks. During this month all can enjoy Christmas Bricktacular celebration with a tree built from 270,000 Lego bricks. Located in Winter Haven, Lego Land is about an hour drive from both Orlando and Tampa. It is expecting to open a water park for the hot summer days just in time for the summer 2012 season.

New York, New York

New York City is more vibrant and breathtaking during the holidays than any other time of the year. From the tree at Rockefeller Center, to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, and all the lights and sounds in between, the magic is palpable! Visit Macy’s elaborate Santaland and ice skate and shop in Bryant Park. There are so many holiday events in New York City that the only problem you will have is deciding how to fit it all into your visit.

Southern California

The West Coast celebrates in style with a multitude of Christmas boat parades all month long along the California coast. My favorite is in Newport Beach: The 103rd Christmas Boat Parade is one of the oldest and longest in Southern California. The parade takes place five nights from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 14 through Dec. 18. Yachts to kayaks light up along 14 miles of the harbor starting and ending at Bay Island.

Branson, MO

Anyone that grew up with the Andy Williams Christmas Specials must take a holiday trip to Branson to catch the live show version. And if you didn’t, it might be time for you to experience the sights and sounds of an Ozark Mountain Christmas. Silver Dollar City celebrates the season with four million lights, a five-story, special effects Christmas tree, a parade and an elaborate musical stage version of “A Christmas Carol.” The annual celebration is touted as one of the best in the country by CNN, The Travel Channel and “Good Morning America.”

There are more than 100 stage shows in Branson, performed in 50 theaters. Those theaters contain 64,000 seats, more than all the theaters on New York City’s Broadway combined. Another terrific way to spend a couple of hours is to hop aboard the Branson Scenic Railway. Every night during Christmas, the Polar Express run is fun for kids of all ages.

12 Days of Gifts

Ready to go? When you book your hotel for your holiday stay, be sure to check out the 12 Days of Gifts when you book with You’ll save up to 40% on your stay and receive a gift when you book by December 12th. And be sure to download the mobile app for thousands of last-minute exclusive deals.



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