Archive for January, 2012

Top 5 Ways to Be Anti-Super Bowl This Sunday

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Feeling anti-Super Bowl this year? Grab your friends and head to the golf course, enjoy a glass of wine or both! (Photo courtesy of merveonur.wordpress.com)

Not everyone will be watching the red, white and blue battle on Sunday between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. If you are among the anti-pigskin crowd searching for an escape then consider this: if you aren’t traveling to Indianapolis or Las Vegas the first weekend in February then you can actually score some great deals in cities across the U.S.

Hotels

Don’t know where to go? Check out the last minute deals from hotels.com. Look for deals such as stay two nights, get a third night free, resort credits and savings on up to 30% off your stay.

Airplanes

Not only will you get a seat on the plane, but there might also be an empty one next to you if you are booking a last minute flight on Super Bowl Sunday. JetBlue (JBLU) will be showing the game on DirecTV. The airline is also offering free Snyder’s Buffalo Wing Pretzels and $1 off alcoholic beverages.

Golf

Coveted golf courses will be more like ghost courses around noon on Super Bowl Sunday. Book your tee times now and look for those discounts.

Ski

Colorado is finally getting the fresh powder that ski enthusiasts dream about. Take advantage of 50% off at Copper Mountain. Many of the country’s best ski slopes are expecting to be light on the lifts. Significant savings on lift tickets can be found at Canyons in Park City, Utah at over 30% off and Vermont’s Jay Peak at 39% off. According to Liftopia, the online ski ticket source, expect discounts to average around 40%.

Theatre

According to The New York Times, if you want to score tickets to a Broadway show for less, then Super Bowl Sunday is the day to take in a show. New York City ticket prices for top shows such as “The Book of Mormon” will be 20% less compared with a typical Sunday evening in February. And “Wicked” will average 15% cheaper.

Wine

Why not fill your glass on Super Bowl Sunday…your wine glass that is. Golden Haven is featuring a number of great specials that will give you an added reason to visit Napa Valley and relax with Calistoga spa treatments. Go for the day, or spend the night.

Will you be watching the big game or doing your own thing on Super Bowl Sunday? Let me know in the comments section below!

 
 

 

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5 Tips for Staying Fit on the Road

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

This post is brought you by Jessica who writes for the advice packed travel blog, Globetrotter Girls. Stay connected with the Globetrotter Girls on their journeys around the world through Twitter or Facebook and don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family!

Look for ways to exercise outdoors, it's fun and free! (Photo courtesy of Dani Heinrich of globetrottergirls.com)

After packing up our London apartment in early 2010, we GlobetrotterGirls have been on the road for nearly two years now. Our health status has run the gamut – from taking vitamins and fitting in five workouts a week to coming down with stomach bugs, sinusitis and even an exhausting two-week bout with a tropical disease (read more about that a bit later). Having health issues on the road can be annoying at best. At worst, any sort of sickness can potentially ruin a trip all together and leave you longing for nothing more than the comforts of home.

Tip #1: Do your health research before you go

Even if you are just going on a short holiday, find out important information like whether tap water is safe to drink where you are going. The last thing you want is a case of Montezuma’s Revenge that could easily have been avoided. What about eating fresh fruits and vegetables? In some regions, like in Central America, it is advisable for first time travelers to only eat salads and fruits with peels if the restaurant clearly states they are washed in filtered water. While it is important to know before you go, unless we get way off the grid, perfectly adequate medical care for local issues like stomach bugs is almost always within an hour’s drive.

Tip #2: Get your shots

We love traveling beyond the comforts of North America and Europe, but we always get necessary immunizations before we go. Why risk it? Do your own research online to know just what you need for the countries you plan to visit and then talk to your doctor, who will either know the right sequence of shots (some immunizations, like Hepatitis A, require two shots weeks apart) or can send you to a specialist who does. If traveling to a region with malaria, your doctor might prescribe malaria pills for you, as well. We are not medical professionals, but as travelers, we have learned that with medicine like malaria pills, it is often more cost effective to buy them once you arrive in the country with the affected region, where they are readily available at a price that locals can afford.

Tip #3: Pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent

It might seem tempting to pack light and make these purchases in your vacation destination, especially if attempting to travel carry-on only to avoid baggage fees. However, we have seen prices for sunscreen as high as $25 a bottle at popular beach locations in Costa Rica or Mexico, with a small bottle of mosquito repellent not far behind. The items are absolutely necessary, and the stores know it. First of all, no one wants to be that bright red, burnt lobster that did not apply sunscreen, and more importantly, we have learned the hard way just how important mosquito spray can be. That tropical disease I mentioned earlier was Dengue Fever – an illness no immunization or pill can prevent, instead contracted through mosquito bites. If you have irresistibly sweet blood like I do, you’ll need to make sure you’re covered in mosquito repellant in any locations where there might be Dengue, because there is also no cure except water and sleep, which could ruin your entire trip.

Tip #4: Gobbling up local goodies is great…to a point

Make your workouts fun by finding outdoor aerobics classes. (Photo courtesy Dani Heinrich of globetrottergirls.com)

It might be tempting to declare ‘When in Rome…’ and start gobbling up as much of the local cuisine as you want on your trip. We are huge foodies, and believe that sampling local cuisine is an interesting way to interact with local cultures, but in reality, locals in Rome do not only eat pizza and drink wine; the French do not only eat cheese, croissants and chocolate tarts, and in Argentina people balance their diet with more than just steak. We encourage you to take part in sampling classic dishes, but health should still be priority number one. Before you go, locate two or three healthy restaurants near your hotel or near sites you plan to visit so that, when you are famished after sightseeing, you have healthy go-to options to choose from rather than grabbing that second pizza of the day out of hungry desperation.

Tip #5:  Keep up your workouts

No matter how long you travel for, there is no need to hit pause on your work-out regime. Keeping fit is the best way to ensure you can fight off colds common after sitting in enclosed airplanes and buses. Working out also keeps you from getting run down and ensures that we stay fit, no matter where we are in the world.  One way to do this is to book hotels with fitness facilities, a surefire way to eliminate any excuses. If your hotel doesn’t have a gym, find a gym nearby with affordable daily or weekly passes.

The more we travel, the more we have learned that fitness can be another great way to jump into local life, like when, in Mexico City, we joined hundreds of Mexicans jogging early in the morning at the gorgeous Viveros de Coyoacan park, and here in Asia we have come across dozens of free outdoor gyms or nearly free outdoor Aerobics classes in urban areas in Thailand, Laos, and Malaysia. How great to pump, sweat and dance in step with locals under the shining city lights around the world! However, if I am in a more remote location, feeling too shy or just want to squeeze in a quick workout, I make sure to have a workout DVD like P90X, Jillian Michaels or a Billy Blanks Tae-Bo DVD to pop onto my laptop and work out in privacy.

 
 

 

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Spotlight on Aspen: Glitz, Glam, and Snow Much More…

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Aspen is a beautiful place to visit and there's so much to do! (Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com)

Aspen is the country’s glitziest ski town. Nestled below the peaks of some of the greatest ski mountains Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass, its tucked away locale is what has given Aspen its exclusivity since the silver rush.

While the resort town is known as a travel destination frequented by the rich and famous, many visitors know Aspen for its extensive mix of arts programs, cultural events, family activities and cosmopolitan nightlife. The Colorado mountain town will host this year’s Winter X Games, has its own Fashion Week, Songwriters Festival, and Film Festival. But Aspen is so much more than that.

Aspen has a variety of restaurants, shopping, lodging and nightlife that caters to a range of budgets and experiences. I love Aspen because behind that glitz and glam is a Norman Rockwell-esque town where nobody locks their doors, you can find a playground on nearly every corner, families ride bikes together and friends get together for dinner in cozy restaurants.

In fact, if the cold is not your thing then visit in July. Summer is my favorite season in Aspen. I just love visiting the picturesque Maroon Bells, playing in the parks, and eating at Main Street Bakery and Little Annie’s.

Check Hotels.com to find great deals on a variety of Lodging in Aspen Ski Area, Colorado.

Winter X Games

January 26-29, 2012

The Winter X Games are completely FREE to the public! Be there as more than 200 of the world’s best athletes in Skiing, Snowboarding and Snowmobile throw down in four days of competition for the most coveted medals in action sports.

Aspen Fashion Week

March 11-14, 2012

With celebs stomping around in haute couture, and storefronts like Prada, Moncler and Loro Piana, it’s fitting that it hosts the ski industry’s only fashion week. You can attend runway shows featuring models donning the latest mountain fashions from helmets to fur-trimmed footwear to retro ski jumpsuits — you may even spot the occasional St. Bernard – and party après-show at exclusive events. Stay at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, which recently underwent a $40 million renovation.

7908 Aspen Songwriters Festival

March 21-25, 2012

Produced by Songwriter Hall of Fame member John Oates and the Wheeler Opera House, the third annual 7908 Aspen Songwriters Festival is the nation’s most intimate musical weekend where legendary writers perform side by side with the next great generation of songwriting talent.

Featuring 13 performances, ranging from Appalachian Americana through to top Alt-Rock and Pop, this year’s festival is so big that they have added an extra day. Festival co-founder and Wheeler Opera House Executive Director Gram Slaton said, “When there’s so much great talent that wants to be part of what you’re offering, you make room.”

Aspen ShortsFest

April 10-15, 2012

Recently named by indieWIRE as one of the world’s top-50 leading film festivals, Aspen Shortsfest is widely recognized as a premier North American showcase for short film and video. More than 80 short films, representing two-dozen countries and exploring many more, will be shown in this year’s International Competition.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival

June 22 – July 7, 2012

This festival is a ten-day event that includes four nights of headline concerts from world-class musicians like Sheryl Crow and Jennifer Hudson. Warm days and cool Colorado nights make this an amazing excuse for any music lover to take a vacation.

Have you been to Aspen? What’s your favorite activity to do while you’re visiting?

 
 

 

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So You Want to Go to Disney? Tips for Surviving the Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Your kids will enjoy meeting the Disney princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table Fairy Tale Dining.

There’s a small window in our lives when Pixie Dust makes you fly and meeting giant mice wearing clothes is better than winning the lottery. With a trip to Walt Disney World, we get a chance to channel our inner child and experience that magic.

Taking children to Disney should be on everyone’s list of life to-do’s because there is something truly special about experiencing the “Happiest Place on Earth” through their eyes. That task can also be a bit overwhelming if you are not sure what you are doing. After all, it is an investment. Tickets, dining and lodging are not cheap and you certainly want to get the most bang for your buck.

So here are a few tips for a successful Magic Kingdom vacation. When you finish reading this, if you still have questions – just ask me. I’m glad to answer any questions; we’ll post the answers here on the Travel Smart Blog.

Let me begin with the MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL: Have fun and don’t overschedule your family to the point that you aren’t having fun. It can almost be sensory overload – in a wonderful way, of course – so slow down and take it all in, especially on your kids level. Smaller kids will move slowly and that’s fine. Tweens and teens may want to hit ride after ride – and that’s great too. Depending on how much time that you have allowed for your visit, you may not get to everything, but that just leaves opportunity for you to come back again some day.

PLAN YOUR ROUTE

The lines for favorite and new attractions at any of Disney’s Parks get very long very quickly so head to those first and/or grab your Fast Passes.

You don’t have to be militant about your daily agenda but you should look at park maps and decide with your group what you want to see/ride each day. Then you can loosely plan a course of attack. I am a big fan of allowing for spontaneity but navigating Disney does require some strategy in order to not spend the bulk of your time in line. If you don’t have an agenda, then it’s a good idea to head to the back of the park first and work your way to the front. This way you’ll get the shortest lines, at least during the beginning of your day, as everyone else will be starting from the front.

USE FASTPASS

Master the FastPass system! Your park admission tickets do much more than just gain you entrance to Disney theme parks. They also enable you to get FastPasses, which keeps you riding rides instead of waiting in lines. They are FREE, simple to use, and will save you tons of time in line for the most popular rides. Get the most out of FastPasses– and your whole Disney World vacation– by using them strategically. Check out these Tips for Using Fastpasses.

Expert Tip: Have one person keep all the tickets for your group. 1. You don’t want to lose them and 2. You need them to get a FastPass.

MAGIC KINGDOM: Go Early – Leave – Come Back

The earlier you start your day, the better. Eat an early breakfast (or grab a yummy waffle sandwich at Liberty Park inside the MK) and then head over to the Magic Kingdom 30 minutes before the stated opening time. You can be first in line and catch the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show. You’ll never forget the look on your kids’ faces when they see the steam engine pull into Main Street Station with all the characters aboard waving at them.

Disney novices tend to sleep late, arrive at the park midmorning and then exit by early evening, exhausted by the heat and the crowds. My advice? Go early, have lunch at the park and then return to your resort for a nap or a swim. Re-enter the park around 5 PM when many families with young kids are on their way out. The dinner rush at the parks is between 6:00 – 7:30 PM. Eat before you go back or as soon as you re-enter the park; then hit the rides while everyone else is eating their dinner. Plan to stay for the night parade.

When you first enter the park in the morning, head for the attractions that are most important to your group. If you have bigger kids or you are a big kid yourself then make a beeline for Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Hitting these early might even get you multiple rides. For the little ones: head to Fantasy Land and hop in line for a ride on Dumbo or fly off with Peter Pan. If your kids are brave and over 44 inches tall, Goofy’s Barnstormer is a great first coaster for preschoolers. And don’t forget to make your way to Frontierland and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Skip Main Street for the Parade

If you’re returning to the Magic Kingdom at night for the parade, head toward Frontierland for a spot on the parade route unless you want to be out of the park as soon as it’s over. People start holding their places on Main Street, in my experience, very early, which isn’t really necessary. There is lots of “front row” room in Frontierland. If you have seen the parade before then take the time while the parade is making its course to also ride a few more rides.

For Little Princesses: Cinderella’s Royal Table Fairy Tale Dining. Little girls, dressed like their favorite Disney Princesses, will think they have died and gone to princess heaven when they are treated to a dining experience inside Cinderella’s castle complete with her and all her friends. Speaking from experience, the meal is surprisingly excellent, which helped to justify the cost. However, it was all worth it to see my daughter’s reaction to the whole experience! Throughout your dining experience, the Princesses visit each table, are on hand to pose for photos and sign autographs. For a sweet finale, desserts include a sampler trio and other irresistible treats. Reservations and pre-payment are required. To make reservations, book online or call (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463. If they day/meal you are looking for is full – KEEP CHECKING. I didn’t get in on my first, second or seventh call but we finally got five seats at the special event.

DISNEY HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

If you are starting your day at Hollywood Studios then you want to head straight for the Toy Story Mania ride. Ride it and then grab a Fast Pass so that you can do it again. It’s one of my favorite rides in Walt Disney World.

For Star Wars fans: Jedi Training Academy. If you are visiting Hollywood Studios, you want to get to the park early and let “the Force” navigate you to the Jedi Training sign-up line. Kids ages 4-12 can participate and it is FREE to do it. There are multiple shows throughout the day but only 15 training spots per show. So be sure to sign up for a time early – check out the video of Travis, my son, taking on Darth Vader – just return at your scheduled time. You can even get your FastPass for the new Star Tours attraction. It is a great experience for the kids, entertaining for the adults, super photo ops and participants get a great certificate at the end.

SNACKS!

Eating in the parks is not cheap so to avoid a potential financial hemorrhage you should stop and buy snacks when you get to Orlando. Fruit snacks, crackers, juice boxes, etc. – carry them in a backpack around the parks. Your wallet and the kids you are with will thank you. Dole them out while standing in line for rides.

WEATHER

It can actually be cold in Florida especially in the evenings. Check the weather and make sure to pack jackets for your visit.

CHARACTER MEET & GREETS

A great, affordable souvenir that also has a function during your visit to Walt Disney World is an autograph book. Buy one for each child at any Disney store (and a pen) and begin collecting character autographs and photo memories of your visit. Character locations are displayed on maps of each theme park. Mickey’s Toontown® Fair at the Magic Kingdom is a great place to meet Characters like the Princesses and Tinkerbell and her fairy friends. To see Mickey, go to the Judge’s Tent. You can take your own photos or get a photo pass card from a Disney photographer and review your photos post-trip.

USE DISNEY TRANSPORTATION

The Disney buses, monorails and watercraft make it easy to get around and can be part of the fun. I hate to say it but I think my kids looked forward to the “free” bus and monorail rides most of all.

RIDER SWAP PROGRAM

Theme Park “rider swap” program gives both mom and dad a chance to enjoy the latest attractions without the double wait. A parent who waits with a young child while the other parent rides the attraction can get on the ride with minimal wait time once the first parent comes off.

NEW ATTRACTIONS

2012 will have some fun new attractions for Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom will introduce the new Fantasyland later this year complete with a new Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid ride.

Thanks to 2012 being a Leap Year, Disney announced that there will be an extra day of magic called “One More Disney Day.” For the first time ever, both Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland parks will stay open for 24 hours straight. From 6 AM, February 29 to 6 AM, March 1, 2012, local time, you can fill the extra day with a marathon of Disney Parks fun!

Wow! I could go on and on but as they say…”Now it’s time to say good-bye…” Share with me your best Disney tips. I’d love to hear them and we’ll share them right here on the Travel Smart Blog!

 
 

 

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Top Ten Resolutions and Their Travel Fixes

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Make your New Year's resolutions more fun by accomplishing them while traveling! (Photo courtesy of blog.onwardhealthcare.com)

“Travel More.”  This is a common resolution that tops many Americans lists of at the start of each New Year. However, for some, setting off on a trip may seem like a perfect opportunity (or excuse) to take a hiatus from other commitments they have made to themselves for the year. (“Well…I am on vacation after all…”)

While it’s clear that the Travel Smart Blog is a go-to resource for spot-on travel advice, now that 2012 is here, we want to offer some tips to help our readers tackle other popular New Year resolutions while traveling or through the use of travel. You may be surprised how much easier it is to stay on track than you think!

* Check the hyperlinks below for more specific recommendations

In 2012, if you want to:

1) “Lose Weight” – It’s easy to feel like giving up on your diet and exercise regimens when you’re away from home and the comfort of your daily routine, but apps like GoodFoodNearYou help you locate nutritious meal options based on your GPS location. As for exercise, there are plenty of great ways to burn calories on a trip without hitting up the hotel gym. Instead of cabbing it to all the local landmarks, why not take a walking tour or utilize a municipal bike sharing system if available?

2) “Save Money” – Cutting back on spending doesn’t mean you have to forgo the fun of taking a trip altogether. There are plenty of ways to travel on the cheap such as taking advantage of loyalty programs, like welcomerewards™, that help you rack up free nights and early access to special deals. Other options are to take advantage of properties that offer perks with your booking such as free breakfast, passes to a local amusement, or credits to spend at area shops and restaurants. Staycations are always another fun, wallet-friendly option, too!

3) “Spend More Time with Family” – Between jam-packed schedules, to-do lists, and errands it’s always hard to put aside regular time for family game night or Sunday brunch each week. Taking a vacation is an ideal way to catch up on lost time and really reconnect with loved ones in a memorable way. Who says a family reunion has to take place in Aunt Sally’s backyard? Why not get the whole gang together in an off-the-beaten path destination and explore together? The bonding can start before you even leave for the airport when you let everyone in the family take part in the planning process.

4) “Give Back/Do Charity Work” – The holidays can be a time of overindulgence in everything from food to drinks to presents, so for the New Year you may feel like it’s time to start giving back. What better way to tour the world and help those in need than to volunteer? Otherwise known as voluntourism, many excellent opportunities exist to help you dedicate your time to do-good work like teaching English in India, participating in conservation work in South Africa or building houses in New Orleans. The world needs your help!

5) “Learn a New Language” – No habla Español? No problem! There are plenty of ways to learn a new language before or even during a big trip. Look for a language exchange Meetup group near you to not only practice your new language, but also immerse yourself in the culture of wherever you’ll be visiting! No time to prepare? That’s okay too! Experts say immersion is the #1 way to learn a new language. And don’t forget practice makes perfect!

6) “Be More Eco-Friendly” – Let’s face it, when traveling there’s no getting around taking a plane or driving to your destination. But once you get there, there are plenty of ways to reduce your carbon footprint and go green in 2012 like staying in an eco-friendly hotel or bringing your own toiletries.

7) “Find Love” – It’s difficult to determine exactly when and where you will fall in love, so instead, simply try to involve yourself in more activities that will increase the number of people you interact with. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your friends or even travel solo. And who knows, finding true love may actually be much closer than you think.

8)  “Stress Less” – Resolve to indulge more in 2012…not in sweets, but rather, why not “treat” yourself to a zen-cation? Take a load off by indulging in a health-and-wellness vacation filled with pampering massages, aroma baths, and facials. You know you deserve it! And if an action-packed adventure trip is more your speed than a week at the spa, breathe easy knowing you can shed the anxiety and frustration of trip planning by utilizing top-notch tools and resources from hotels.com like their mobile booking app, travel guides and risk-free booking.

9) “Run a Race/Marathon” – Traveling to another city to compete in a race is great motivation to ensure you actually make it to the starting line; the overwhelming flood of pride and accomplishment is what will ensure you make it to the finish line. There are plenty of great resources to help you find the ideal race location to fit your skill level – try the RaceWhere app, for example.

10) “Learn How to Cook” – Sure you could learn to cook in the U.S., but wouldn’t it be more fun to learn how to cook pasta in ItalyThai food in Thailand, or make sushi in Japan? Learn from those who have been cooking and eating these foods their whole lives and then come back home to impress your friends and family!

 
 

 

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