Archive for March, 2012

Where are the Travel Deals for Spring Break and Summer 2012?

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Negril, Jamaica

Negril, Jamaica has beautiful beaches, hotels, and resorts for an affordable cost. (Photo courtesy of breezes.com)

Spring has definitely sprung. Even here in Denver, March has been unseasonably wonderful…I mean, warm. I just know Mother Nature is not done with one last winter wallop before Mother’s day. But for now, I can’t help but get excited for Spring Break and summer adventures.

Have you already had your Spring Break? Or perhaps you are waiting until school children are through filling up the top destinations to have a vacation (very smart) or are you already planning for the summer? Whatever the reason, peak vacation time is back.

According to the Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com, travelers are booking more last minute deals than in prior years. And I don’t blame them. While it’s important to book ahead if you know what you “have to have” and you don’t mind paying for it; more hotels, airlines, cruises, etc. are boosting their last-minute marketing strategies. The catch is that if you are going to wait for a last-minute deal then you have to be ready to book when you see a good value. Wait too long and you might have to rethink your trip plans.

The HPI also provided some helpful information as it relates to actual hotel pricing. In fact, hotel prices are on the rise, up four percent (4%) over 2010. But don’t fret – I see this as positive reinforcement of an economic recovery and in truth, prices have still not bounced back to the rates that we were seeing in 2005.

Sunshine Solutions for Spring and Summer

Cancun is once again topping every list I can find as the destination for Spring Break.  Because of the popularity in combination with the peak season, expect to pay more for accommodations with an average price per night of $186.38.

Acapulco, on the other hand, feels more upscale while the average price is much less. Recent drug-wars in Mexico have become a tourist safety issue in our neighboring country. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Still, U.S. State Department officials are warning American tourists to stay alert and not to wander far from Mexico’s resort areas.

Nassau, Bahamas is such a pleasing destination. It’s one of those places where couples, families, and friends can all have their vacation needs met. The average cost per night was $207.07 in 2011 according to the HPI, expect that number to be a bit higher this year and definitely in the next few months.

A more affordable option may be Negril, Jamaica with an average price per night at $147.33. It’s home to the all-inclusive resort, which is a great way to know what all your costs will be BEFORE you get the bill.

Sliding Rock, North Carolina

60-foot long Sliding Rock, a natural water slide with a 7-foot deep natural pool at the base (Photo courtesy of travelandleisure.com)

Asheville, NC has been popping up on more lists as a top vacation destination. I don’t know if I should be happy or sad to let this best kept secret spot out of the bag. I’ve been going to Asheville and nearby cities, like Brevard, since I was a kid. With the average hotel price around $108 per night, Asheville is an affordable vacation destination with an abundance of activity to keep you interested.

Amazing restaurants and art galleries abound in the North Carolina resort town. Guests to this town have a variety of options including: trekking the Big Fork Ridge Loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; whitewater rafting on the Class IV rapids on the French Broad River; or sliding down the 60-foot long Sliding Rock, a natural water slide with a 7-foot deep natural pool at the base (don’t worry, lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day).

Lihue, Hi is located on the island of Kauai and is a bit more affordable than nearby Maui and Honolulu, where prices are up 10% from the year before. Enjoy the beaches, the surf, and a traditional Hawaiian hula. Here are a couple of helpful tips when visiting the Hawaiian Islands. I’ve also noticed some amazing airfare deals for Hawaiian destinations on Twitter. So follow the major airlines that fly there and get the jump on super savings.

Do you have a best-kept secret spot you would be willing to share with us here on the Travel Smart Blog? Tell me all about it. I’m always looking for a new adventure! I’ll be heading to the Florida beaches in a few weeks with the kids and I already have Zac Brown Band playing in my head constantly “Toes in the water…Life is good today.”

 
 

 

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10 Budget-Friendly Packing Tips for Fashionistas on the Go

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Kathryn Finney is the creator of the wildly successful blog, The Budget Fashionista.

While most people know a couple of handy tips on how to save on travel, truly savvy travelers know that smart packing can save you big bucks too.  So we put together eight easy tips to help you pack for your next vacation without breaking the bank.

1. Organize. Set aside some time to organize, plan, and strategize. Take a piece of paper, or in this digitally savvy age, create an excel spreadsheet. Write down each day of your trip across the top, making sure to include your day of departure and day of return. Under each day, write down every type of activity you’ll be participating in on that day.

Next to each activity, write down all the clothing and accessories you will need (and we mean everything, including undies and socks). Do this for each day of your trip. Look through your list and cross off anything that can be worn more than once. For example, you can wear the same flip flops to the beach and site seeing the next day. The result should be the list of items you need for the trip. Here’s my own trusty travel wardrobe list.
Pack items you can wear at least two times.  Remember: packing lightly is the key to saving time, money, and grief from travel hassles.

2. Don’t forget the little things! Even the smallest item can cost you big bucks if you forget it, and trust us, you don’t want to spend $5 on a tiny tube of toothpaste at the hotel gift shop. So spend some time thinking of what you use every day, especially the obvious items like toothbrush, lotion, etc.

3. Check your airline requirements first. Most airlines want your liquids or gels in a 3 oz. container or less, and all liquids or gels together should fit in a quart sized Ziplock bag. Even if your container is half full, we still recommend transferring your product to an empty bottle so that you don’t have to hand it over to airline employees.  Seriously, there’s nothing sadder than giving up half full bottle of Chanel perfume to the TSA.

For your convenience, there are also purposely-created airline-approved beauty products designed for jetsetter fashionistas.

4. Stop. Drop. Roll. We know the feeling. You’re jetting off to Tahiti, and you want to pack all the cute sun dresses in your closet. Yet now is the time to pick and choose because packing just one bag is the most budget friendly way to travel. It limits the amount of fees you have to pay to the airline and in your hotel.  Who needs to tip a bellhop if you can roll just one bag on your own? That being said, choose items that can be rolled tightly to take up less space in your bag. Also, select items you can wear again and again. In other words, think khaki shorts as opposed to zebra print pants.

5. Weigh in! Check the stats on your airline’s website for baggage weight limits. Break out the tape measure and/or place your bag on the scale to make sure it’s not overweight. Yes, it’s annoying, and we know you’d rather spend the time dreaming about working on your tan in Hawaii, but taking the time to complete these tasks ahead of time can save you from those pesky airline fees.

6. Bring Washing Powder. A small bag of washing powder for your clothes can be a godsend when traveling, as it allows you to pack less clothes. You can also use body soap and/or shampoo to wash your clothes as well. If you’re going somewhere extremely hot, you’ll thank us for this tip.

7. Keep it Neat! We’ve all had various items break in our bags. Yea, it sucks, but try controlling the sucky factor. Take anything that’s a liquid (lotion, foundation, lip gloss, etc.) and place it in its own zip bag. That way, if it breaks in your bag, it won’t leak and ruin your clothes.

8. Zip it up! Some airports may ban carry-on bags, leaving you juggling your phone, long wallets and other bulky stuff. (Or worse, sporting clothes with large, ugly pockets to hold them in). You may want to opt for a small zip travel bag from stores (like those that I buy in Lands End and Target) instead.

9. Be both comfy and cute. When traveling, try to pack fabrics that stretch, such as cotton knits or blends (nylon/lycra/spandex). You don’t necessary have to wear sweats or tank tops and shorts to be comfortable on a flight. Just throw on a plain white t-shirt, jeans, and a cool cardigan to have a chic, relaxed look that you can reuse while you’re out on the town.

10. Take the little black dress. A great black dress will always take you far. Depending on how you style it, this all-around dress can easily be transitioned from day to night, making you the ultimate fashionista.

With these tips at hand, you’ll find more reasons to enjoy your time away from it all. Bon voyage!

This guest post is brought to you by fashion expert and founder of The Budget Fashionista, Kathryn Finney. Kathryn Finney is also CEO of TBF Group, LLC, parent company of Simply Good Media, an information network with the sole mission to teach you how to live your best on less. A Minneapolis native, Kathryn lives in New York City with her husband and 35 shoes. For more budget fashion tips, please check out The Budget Fashionista.

 
 

 

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Vancouver: A Spring Break for All Seasons

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
Cliff Walk at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

photo courtesy of capbridge.com

If you are looking for a Spring Break locale that is warm, boasts mountains and water, history, culture, outdoor adventure and entertainment then point your compass toward Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vancouver is an interesting mix of city and surroundings with speedy and easy access to Whistler Resort, Victoria, Vancouver Island, and the Canadian Rockies.  It’s also the home port for Alaska cruises May through October. Canada has two official languages – English and French. English is the predominant language in British Columbia.  And Canada does have its own currency.  While some places accept US currency, you should try to use Canadian dollars and coins.

Vancouver sits above the U.S., warmed by Pacific Ocean currents and protected by a range of mountains. Its weather is mild year-round from high 70′s Fahrenheit in summer to a mild mid 40′s Fahrenheit in winter, the climate is always welcoming. And as our winter turns to spring, Vancouver comes alive with 40,000 cherry trees bursting with beautiful blooms. 

There is so much to do outdoors and festivals are aplenty, too and truly make for a Spring Break like no other for visiting families. There are events for every taste in music, art, film and more. Vancouver’s summer signature event is the Celebration of Light, the city’s annual free fireworks tradition, held over four evenings at English Bay. It’s the largest international fireworks competition in the world held every year. 

Things to Do In Vancouver

Sewell Marina. Creating memories for over 80 years with the largest boat fleet in Vancouver, Sewell Marina is located just 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver. You can take a guided eco-tour, drive your own speed boat or take a guided salmon charter.

Explore the lush Pacific Northwest rainforest from the unparalleled vantage point of Capilano Suspension Bridge, a 450-foot bridge that stretches over the Capilano River and through emerald green treetops. Afterward, venture through the rest of the 27-acre park, which touts colourful totem poles, a cantilevered walkway above Capilano Canyon and other forest adventures.

Cycle City Tours offers daily bicycle tours through some of Vancouver’s most vibrant neighborhoods.  Riders can visit attractions such as the Stanley Park seawall, Granville Island Public Market, Chinatown and Gastown. Tour prices (@ $65-$85 per person) include the use of a cruiser bike, helmet and bike lock.

Hotels in Vancouver

Vancouver has some amazing accommodations from luxury and large to boutique and remote.

Romantics and families will like the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.  Even the youngest guests (and parents) can enjoy their stay by taking advantage of Rose Buds. This special program offers amenities such as Baby Primrose skincare products, full-size cribs and linens, child-sized bathrobes and slippers, a children’s menu for in-room dining and more.

At The Westin Bayshore, guests can make an eco-conscious choice. All guest rooms have energy-saving appliances and in-room recycling bins, and visitors can take part in the “Make a Green Choice” program, where each day of declining housekeeping will earn them a $5 voucher. The Westin Bayshore also composts organic food waste from the kitchens and donates servable food leftovers to Vancouver Food Bank

 
 

 

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How to Get Lucky When You Travel

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
Leprechaun with four leaf clover

Time to get lucky this St. Patrick's Day. No not like that! By scoring amazing travel deals! (Photo courtesy of christmastimeclipart.com)

Ok – that’s enough. Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about the “Luck o’ the Irish” or the kind of luck that saves you money or time; and leads you to great experiences. For me, getting lucky is stumbling upon an experience that wasn’t planned, necessarily.

Last year when my husband and I were in Italy, we were initially unaware that our trip coincided with the Beatification of Pope John Paul II. It was indeed a special time to visit Rome. There were free concerts and celebrations all over the city packed with people from all over the world.  Excitement and reverence filled the air. It was just dumb luck that put us in the right place at the right time.

You have to make your own luck. Sure, sometimes we stumble upon really good deals. But today, getting lucky means being smart and often vigilant in your quest to plan the ideal trip. Start early; watch for deals online through travel-specific emails and social media channels.

And most importantly, when you recognize that you have a good deal in front of you whether it’s because the price is too good to pass up or because your travel dates and desired lodging match up – whatever the reason – Book it! If you snooze, you lose. I just missed out on a great “Hacker Fare” from Delta Air Lines this weekend, because I thought it might get a bit better. Now the fares are even more expensive. See – it happens to me, too.

Here are a few of my best tips for saving a dime, scoring a deal, and overall – just getting lucky when you travel.

1.  I always look for things beyond just the sticker price. Look for “stay two nights get a third night free,’ options or “stay two nights and earn a $50 resort credit’ that can be used at restaurants and casinos. Check out How to Get VIP Treatment When You Travel for more tips.

2. Score great prices during the off- and shoulder seasons. You could even get a suite for a steal! Get more tips in 7 Strategies for Hotel Upgrades.

3. With fuel prices on an upward trajectory toward summer, these Tips on Saving Gas on Summer Road Trips should help you get a bit luckier when you hit the road.

4. Traveling by yourself can actually be the times when you can “luck out” the most. I have gotten one, singular, amazing seat at coveted Broadway shows purchased at the half price ticket window in Times Square simply because I only needed “one ticket”. Enjoy some solitude and be safe with these tips that have nothing to do with luck: stay safe when traveling by yourself.

5. Reward yourself. Sign up for the Hotels.com WelcomeRewards program. It’s simple and easy, and FREE to join. When you book any 10 nights, you earn a free night stay. I use my WelcomeRewards nights often and I find the program so gratifying. The program is a great way to experience a variety of hotels with the benefits of a true loyalty program. How to Get a Little Luxury for Less

Of course there are those opportunities for some real good luck, like winning the lottery or an amazing vacation. Of course, you actually have to play to win and even then the odds aren’t always in your favor. Here’s one chance that you should take: There are still five (5) weeks left in Hotels.com’s Suite Escapes Giveaway. Hotels.com is giving away 16 luxury vacations as part of their Suite Escapes Giveaway. Each week there are three luxury trips up for grabs and all you have to do is choose one and invite three friends to come along! You can enter to win a holiday at three different hotels each week (make sure to enter them on different days of the week for a better chance to win a daily spot prize).

In the spirit of pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and cute lil’ leprechauns, Here are a few ideas if you are considering a St. Paddy’s Day vacation this year. Worldwide Attractions Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

 
 

 

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