Archive for May, 2012

Summer Road Trip Tip #4

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Our 4th ‘Summer Road Trip Tip’ comes from Andie. Andie says:

These days most road trip travelers carry a smart phone on their adventures. Not only is a smart phone great for an accurate GPS and keeping in touch with others, there are also a lot of useful apps that can be downloaded to help you make the most out of your road trip.

Time to fill up? The Gas Buddy App will give you the prices and locations of nearby gas stations so you can compare and choose the best deal. Great gas prices will let your road trip last, so go ahead and take the scenic route!

Feeling hungry, tired or adventurous? Road Ninja tells you everything coming up on the exits ahead. You can decide which exit you should take to eat at your favorite restaurant or which one has a park nearby for a nice break.

Check that speedometer if there is an officer ahead! Waze is an excellent social based driving app that helps alert you about every upcoming obstacle, from upcoming construction to an officer on the prowl. Make sure you add what you see out there as well to help your road trip buddy a few cars behind you as well!

Thanks Andie, for the great tips and photo! An Amazon Kindle is on its way! Remember, you still have until midnight tonight to enter your own road trip tip. Good luck!

 
 

 

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Summer Road Trip Tip #3

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Congrats to our 3rd winner of the ‘Summer Road Trip Tip’ contest, Diana! Diana shared the following tips:

We take road trips at least twice a month. I’ve found that you can bring everything you need, except gas. We pack a lunch and extra snacks, lots of extra snacks, you can always take the leftovers back home. Bring loads of water, it is crazy how thirsty you get when you are exploring. I always stop at visitor centers for free maps and information so that I don’t miss the more obscure local places. If you know where you are going in advance, do some Internet research and you will be able to find even more places that are off the beaten path. Don’ be afraid of small towns. They actually have a lot to offer, aren’t as crowded and the locals are usually fantastic. I recommend you plan ahead with things to entertain the kids, portable DVD players and hand held or travel versions of games, because as much as we adults love I Spy and sing-alongs, it grows old for the kids very fast. One thing I learned the hard way is always carry extra camera batteries and extra memory cards, I have run out of both batteries and space if I unexpectedly find a fantastic stop off. Make sure you are current with AAA or at least have a cell if you break down on a desolate country road. Have fun and relax, it‘s meant to be a good time! I try not to fret if time won’t allow me to see everything. I like to think of it as an excuse to go back later.


Thanks for your submission; we’ll be contacting you shortly about your prize! We still have two Amazon Kindles to giveaway, so encourage your friends and family members to submit their best tips!


 
 

 

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Summer Road Trip Tip #2

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Congratulations to our second winner, Ria! Ria shared the following summer road trip tips and story:

A few years ago, my mother, sister, myself and three kids piled into a rented PT Cruisercar and headed to Ft. Lauderdale from Atlanta, GA for a family wedding. I printed the directions from MapQuest and we headed out in the morning.

Tip 1- rent the right size vehicle. I was wedged into the door with a baby in my lap and 2 whining tweens squeezed in back with me. To this day I don’t know how I survived this. Next time we’ll splurge for the minivan.

After about an hour we realized we were headed north instead of south- thanks mapquest!

Tip 2- don’t forget your GPS

After driving for hours the baby began to cry incessantly. It turns out he had a stomach ailment. We had to find a drug store to get some Mylicon drops and of course, without directions, it took us forever to find one.

Tip 3- don’t forget your first aid kit especially when travelling with children.

We finally get to Ft. Lauderdale- it only took us 24 HOURS!

The next challenge was to find a budget hotel. We picked up a hotel finder book at the gas station and at 2 a.m without directions, tried to find a hotel with a great deal- we were short on cash, what can I say? We finally found a LaQuinta Inn and the manager was so sweet – he gave us an excellent deal on a room.

Tip 4- book a room ahead of time

So we made it to the wedding the next day and spent the next night in the hotel. When we woke up the next day, we had a flat tire. We called the emergency number in our car rental agreement and they said they would come out to fix it for some exorbitant fee (we didn’t purchase any coverage when we first rented.) We ended going to a local tire repair shop to save money but talk about the aggravation!

Tip 5- Join AAA. Trust me- it’s worth it!

When we made it back to Atlanta three days later we were exhausted and all agreed that the next time we would do things just a little bit differently.

Ria, we’ll contact you soon about collecting your prize!

 
 

 

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Summer Road Trip Tip #1

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Our first summer road trip tip comes from Terry.

Terry says:

Some of my road travel tips: 1) When traveling during holiday weekends, leave early in the morning before traffic gets too heavy. 2) Be sure to check your state’s “511″ web site to see where construction might be going on and ways to avoid it. 3) Stop every 2 hours to stretch your legs. 4) Pack a small cooler with water and healthy snacks. 5) Pack games, books, DVDs to keep the kids entertained. 6) Don’t forget the camera and most importantly, HAVE FUN!!!

Congratulations Terry! We’ll be reaching out to you soon so we can send you your prize!

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

 
 

 

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Road Trip Travel Tips: I’ll Give You Mine If You Give Me Yours

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Summer is almost here! Have you planned your summer vacation yet? (Photo courtesy of thechildbirthprofession.com)

The countdown to summer is on. Even if you don’t have school age children at home, you know that you too are looking forward to the extended daylight hours, warmer waters, and the idea planted in your head since you were a kid that “Hey, it’s Summer, I should do something fun!”

With Memorial Day weekend just days away, travel and travelers are expected to surge this summer compared to the past few. In fact, a Deloitte survey showed that 54% of Americans are planning to take a trip between June 1st and Labor Day. Kicking things off this weekend, AAA is forecasting 30.7 million Americans to travel by motor vehicles for the holiday weekend. According to the agency, the average distance traveled over the holiday weekend is expected to drop to 642 miles this year, from 792 miles last year. And that number is based on the price of fuel.

Gas prices through the spring have definitely cut into vacation funds but relief is on the way! Gas prices are actually expected to come down to around an average of $3.50 per gallon this weekend. With some states expected to see fuel prices near $3 into the summer.

If you are planning on becoming a road warrior this summer, save cash for the gas tank by remembering to stay at hotels that offer complimentary breakfast, free wireless Internet and free parking. The parking fees at some hotels can be more than $20 a night. Be sure you check that out BEFORE you pull in for the night.

Here are a few other helpful tips from the Travel Smart Blog:

Tips on Saving Gas During Summer Road Trips

Tips for Traveling with Pets

Planning a Trip to Historic Destinations

Share Your Road Trip Tips

If you’ve racked up a fair share of miles on your odometer and have a worthwhile tip (how-to’s, where to go, or what to do’s) or story (lessons learned) to share, please post it in the comments section below or send it to travelsmartblog@gmail.com by 11:59pm EST on Thursday, May 31st. Feel free to send pictures too!

Next week, we’ll choose the five most unique and helpful pointers of the bunch and post one tip daily right here on the Travel Smart Blog. Three runner-up advice-givers will each receive a $50 Visa® Prepaid Card and have their tips featured on the blog on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of next week. The providers of the two best tips will each receive an amazon Kindle and will have their tips spotlighted on the blog either Thursday or Friday of next week.

In the end, everyone’s a winner, because we all get to hear some great travel advice. Looking forward to hearing how you make the most of your road-trip travels!

Check-In, Cash-Out Hotel Summer Sale

And, if you want to plan a last minute Memorial Day Weekend getaway or an inspired summer vacation, Hotels.com is offering great sales.

Hotels.com Memorial Day Sale offers savings up to 30% off in top hotels and resorts from Chicago to Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Save up to 30% on your Summer Travel, plus earn up to a $100 prepaid Visa card, when you book your summer getaway. Now, that’s a deal! Remember to use your Hotels.com coupon code to receive your great gift. For questions on the Hotels.com summer sale, call 866-285-9498.

I can’t wait to read your road trip tips!! So send them in and find out next week if your travel advice earned a Visa Card or Amazon Kindle!

 
 

 

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Mexican Culture and Cuisine Through the Eyes of Richard Sandoval

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Colorful and cultural, the city of Puebla in the heart of Mexico was voted one of the best places to visit in 2012.

Colorful and cultural, the city of Puebla in the heart of Mexico was voted one of the best places to visit in 2012 by both the New York Times and Lonely Planet. With its safe, small town charm and warm, relaxed hospitality, Puebla belies the fact that it is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country with close to 2 million residents.

The famous Battle of Puebla was fought in the city in 1862, marking the Mexican army’s proud defeat over the French. Americans recognize this day as Cinco de Mayo – and this year celebrated the 150th anniversary of the victory. Few traces of battle devastation remain. Instead, dozens of architecturally magnificent cathedrals have been preserved in Puebla for centuries, along with other structures displaying the city’s signature azulejos, the festive ceramic tiles.

For Chef Richard Sandoval, the city of Puebla is rich with the culture reminiscent of his childhood, an intricate tapestry of people, food and history. A native of Mexico City, the young Sandoval would join his grandmother in the kitchen as she prepared authentic Mexican feasts from scratch. Through his grandmother and her tales of the family generations before, he learned to respect fresh, authentic ingredients and to create the vibrant flavors that turned family dinners into celebrated events.

The people of Mexico’s ancient centuries built the layers of flavors into its national dish- mole poblano, a complex sauce with humble beginnings. Legends speak of 16th century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla. Upon learning of an unexpected arrival of the archbishop, and with meager supplies on hand, they began roasting and grinding spices, nuts, chiles and chocolates to create a special touch to a simple meal. The resulting mole was a taste sensation that was coveted and copied. Mole poblano became the Mexican national dish for feasts and holidays.

There are as many variations as there are years since mole originated. Ingredients vary amongst recipes, but the extensive number of them remains a constant. There are often 30 or more items required to make a mole – “But that is half the fun,” laughs Chef Sandoval. “Shopping the markets of Puebla, the colorful baskets of chiles, the fragrance of spices, the bartering with vendors…. It’s all part of the experience that brings the dish to life.”

Visitors to Puebla can participate in a hands-on class to learn to make mole poblano at the charming and very rustic Mesones Sacristia. This hotel / restaurant / antique store offers packages catering to the whims of the traveler. The mole poblano class instructs the authentic technique of grinding the ingredients in traditional molcajetes. Students create four different moles, and enjoy tasting them over a relaxed lunch with wine pairings. Following lunch, a visit Mesones Sacristia’s antique store offers many delightful mementos of the inn. Complete the afternoon by discovering the local candy stores, famed for handcrafted nut and marzipan treats in surprising shapes and sizes – we loved the marzipan chickens!

This sounds like fun, but where’s the beach? True, Puebla and its charms are land-locked. So head west, towards Puerto Vallarta to a tiny peninsula called Punta Mita and check in to the oceanfront Four Seasons Resort. Join Richard Sandoval’s Bahia restaurant chefs on their morning trip to the wharf to seek out their favorite fisherman. Back to the resort, where the chefs will engage you with a ‘catch of the day’ cooking class on the beach, the inspiration fresh from the sea.

Can’t get to Puebla any time soon? This delicious recipe will make you feel like you are dining with the locals. Enjoy!

Zarandeado Snapper TacoLearn how to make the delicious Zarandeado Snapper taco with Sandoval's recipe.

Ingredients

For marinade

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup               Achiote paste
  • 2 ½ cups         Orange juice
  • 1 ½ tbsp          Garam Masala
  • 1 ½ tbsp          Cumin toasted
  • 4 tbsp              Chopped fresh garlic
  • 5 each              Chile guajillo seedless and roasted on the grill for 10 seconds
  • 1 cup               olive oil
  • To taste           Salt
  • To Taste         Pepper

Preparation

Blend the achiote paste with the orange juice, tomato sauce, garam masala, cumin, garlic in the blender. Add olive oil with blender running till emulsified. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

FISH

2 fish, 2lb each. Whole red snapper cleaned, boneless opened butterfly.

Season the red snapper with salt,  fresh ground black pepper and olive oil. With a brush cover the fish with the zarandeado sauce, place the fish on a grill basket. Cook the fish on grill with charcoal and wood.

FOR TACOS

12 medium size flour tortillas

CHAYOTE SLAW

1 each             Chayote peeled

½ each             red onion

1 each              carrot peeled

1 bunch           cilantro leaves

1 each              lime, juice only

Salt and pepper

Cut all ingredients in fine Julienne, in a bowl tossed ingredients with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

TACO PREPARATION Place tortillas on the grill to warm up, take a portion of zarandeado snapper on each tortilla and garnished with the chayote slaw.

 
 

 

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The Secret’s Out: A Suite Stay at HOTEL32 in Las Vegas

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
hotel32_room

HOTEL32 offers five room types from studios to two-bedroom penthouses. (Photo courtesy of HOTEL32)

There’s a reason (probably more than one) that Las Vegas is once again the #1 travel destination for Americans and #2 for foreign travelers, according to the Hotel Price Index (HPI) from Hotels.com. It’s fun; it’s affordable; and there’s plenty to do and see. This summer the sun will be shining bright on the Vegas Strip as travel industry reports point to more people traveling even with a slight increase in hotel prices. 2011 hotel prices were up 11% in Vegas, but at an average of $102 a night – It still an affordable playground for young and old alike. Where else can you stay in a three-star hotel for $15 a night?

One thing that I have noticed about Las Vegas is how many celebrities are always going there. Where do they stay? How are they treated compared to the rest of us checking into Vegas hotels? How can I get such treatment? I recently got those answers and today, I’m sharing a secret with you.

Blu-ray players integrated into the bathroom mirror are just one of the amenities at HOTEL32. (Photo courtesy of HOTEL32)

HOTEL32

Up on the tippy top floor of the Monte Carlo, is one of Vegas’ best kept secrets. HOTEL32 is the new, exclusive boutique hotel where everyone can feel rich and famous. My brother-in-law, Kevin Hockin, and his friends recently spent his 30th birthday at HOTEL32 completing a 30 hours in Vegas marathon (not the running kind). No matter the reason: trip with friends, romantic getaway, or just a reason to getaway, everything about HOTEL32 is designed to cater to your needs. Who wouldn’t like that?

Right from the start, you will know that you are in for a treat because each reservation includes round-trip airport transportation in your own private limo. When you arrive, a personal Bellman escorts you directly to your retreat – checking in privately within the comforts of your room. Goodbye registration lines! HOTEL32 offers five room types from studios to two-bedroom penthouses. And, celebrities aren’t the only ones receiving VIP treatment. A dedicated Suite Assistant makes sure you know every feature of indulgence included in your stay – including a Nintendo Wii, a Blu-ray player integrated in the bathroom mirror, a pre-stocked refrigerator with the guest’s preferences, and complimentary clothes pressing is included. Who would ever want to leave?

Be sure to follow HOTEL32 on www.Twitter.com/@HOTEL32 to take advantage of special promotions.  You can also check out their rooms by taking a virtual guided tour.

Heading to Las Vegas soon? Tell me about your stay.

 
 

 

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Choosing a Hotel for Your Destination Wedding

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Weddings can be more fun than stressful if you plan it right! (Photo courtesy of serendipitydesignsblog.com)

Wedding season is here once again. I know this because I just read 5 experts make wedding plans for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on USATODAY.com, and because according to popular wedding media, June, August and May – in that order – are the top months for weddings.

As we have become a more mobile society, it’s not only “destination” weddings that require accommodations and entertainment for out-of-town guests. Asking friends and loved ones to travel to the hometown from which the bride or groom grew up, or to the town or city in which they met, or merely the town that the happy couple now resides still requires effort for a large portion of wedding guests so choosing the right hotel is just as important as selecting the celebratory venue.

Tips For Choosing a Hotel For Your Wedding Celebration

Reserve Room Blocks: Most large hotels won’t require a financial commitment to block off 10-15 rooms. It’s a good idea, once you have your wedding weekend locked down, to block rooms at more than one hotel to give guests a choice of rates and rooms. This comes in extra handy when you want to keep Grandma away from some old fraternity buddies. The key is to keep in close contact with the hotel’s event manager, so as guest counts change both sides can adjust quickly.

Convenient Location: Look at how convenient the hotel is to your event venues, restaurants, activities and points of interest. Does the hotel have a spa or partner with one nearby? These are the types of things you want to ask BEFORE you commit to housing your guests there.

Hotel Shuttle: Many hotels offer complimentary shuttle to nearby locations. Make sure you book a hotel that can help transport guests to and from the airport or wedding venue and coordinated activities.

Package deals: Consider having the rehearsal dinner, reception and next day brunch all at the same hotel or resort. By hosting multiple wedding events at the same hotel, you can often get discounted rates or packaged deals. Most hotels also offer the services of a wedding planner and caterer to help you select the decorations and menu.

Welcome Bags: Hotels are happy to help you give your special guests the VIP treatment. Create welcome bags for the hotels to distribute as guests check-in. If most of your guests are from another area, they may appreciate tasting locally produced snacks or perhaps include toiletries not provided by the hotel.

Bridal Suite: Ask about the bigger suites for the bride’s and groom’s parties to be able hang out and have enough room to get ready for the big day. It’s a nice touch for the wedding parties to be able to get ready together. Be sure to order a pre-celebration treat for all to share.

Kids Suite: Sometimes it’s hard for guests traveling with their children to really have a good time. Book a suite in the hotel for the children of your hotel guests and hire a professional sitter to care for them, in case any of the kids lose interest in the reception and need to leave. That way, their parents can enjoy the party. Send an email out in advance of the wedding to families that might want to take advantage of this so you can properly prepare the babysitter and stock the suite with appropriate snacks and crafts.

Earn Points: Here’s a great incentive from Marriott Hotels for couples considering a destination wedding: Marriott Rewards members who book a qualifying destination wedding by December 1, 2012 to be held no later than December 31, 2013 will receive 100,000 bonus points, in addition to the base points of up to 50,000 with Rewarding Events for a total of 150,000 points. Then the only decision is where to redeem them for an unforgettable wedding getaway.

And if you happen to be one of the lucky guests invited to attend one of these lavish affairs: check out this article posted this week on the Huffington Post wedding blog sharing How to Shine (But Not Too Bright) At Summer Weddings.

 
 

 

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StubHub’s Top 10 Must-Pack Items for Bonnaroo

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Make sure you know what to pack before heading to Bonnaroo. (Photo courtesy of nashvillescene.com)

Coachella has come and gone, and now music fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next big festival: Bonnaroo, taking place June 7-10 in Manchester, TN. Tens of thousands will travel across the country to attend this multi-day music event, and StubHub will once again be on the ground as the Official Fan to Fan Ticket Marketplace of Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

Because we’re on-site at every major music festival, we’ve become pretty savvy on the ins and outs to have a great weekend at these events (rain or shine). With that insider knowledge, we’ve put together a must-pack list to help all fans heading to Bonnaroo get the most out of the experience:

1) Protection from the elements and dirt: Sunblock, sunglasses, rain ponchos, sweatshirt, wet wipes, toilet paper, anti-bacterial hand gel, first aid kit – be prepared for anything.

2) Comfortable shoes and socks: You’ll be on your feet all day and will be walking, if not running, from stage to stage, so ditch the flip-flops. Nothing will ruin the weekend like a pair of sore feet.

3) Portable charging device: If you absolutely need to be connected with the outside world, a portable charging device (solar or battery operated) will keep your phone juiced – plus, it beats draining the car battery charging a phone.

4) Campsite identifier: It’s tough to keep track of a tent in a sea of thousands – take time to build a 10-12-foot pole and attach a unique flag to it.

5) Potable and non-potable water: In addition to drinking water, bring a large jug of water to dump on your head to avoid the fees and lines at the showers offered for campers. Keep in mind, Bonnaroo doesn’t allow glass bottles of any kind on premises.

6) Flashlight/lantern/head light – It’s going to get dark at night and there are many trip hazards on the grounds.

7) Chair/hammock/stool – You probably won’t be able to bring a lounging device into the actual concert area, but you’ll need a place to take a load off at your campsite.

8) Small grill – Most festivals don’t allow fire pits for roasting hot dogs, so pack a small grill. Bonnaroo allows you to bring up to 40 lbs. of charcoal and a small container of propane. This is a great way to save money on meals, and ensure you have the variety of food you know will keep you fueled the whole weekend.

9) Dry ice -Ice is typically available in the campgrounds, but melts fast. A quick trip to a dry ice factory will save your bacon and eggs come Sunday morning.

10) Full tank of gas - Chances are high you’ll be sitting in traffic for a long time waiting to get into the festival grounds, and when you leave. Don’t risk getting stranded!

Of course, any fan will want to ensure they have made sleeping arrangements (whether it’s in a tent, RV or nearby hotel – which is a breeze to locate and book on Hotels.com), have cash handy and of course – their wristbands!

If you didn’t buy your Bonnaroo wristband yet, you can still head to StubHub for a selection of passes, ranging from General Admission to VIP. And, if you’re feeling lucky, enter our Bonnaroo sweepstakes that will give one lucky fan a VIP package to Bonnaroo worth more than $25,000! The sweepstakes is open to anyone 18 years or older, and the grand prize includes:

  • 8 tickets with All Access credentials, including exclusive viewing platforms and VIP access
  • Private tour bus with accommodations for up to 8 people
  • Onsite liaison / concierge on-call 24/7
  • Exclusive onsite gourmet catering and open bar
  • 24/7 golf cart service with chauffeurs for easy travel throughout the Bonnaroo site
  • Private ground transportation to/from airport

If you’re already planning to head to Bonnaroo, be sure to stop by the StubHub Digital Music Lounge on the festival grounds. We always have something fun going on, and we love to meet our fans. Hope to see you there!

 
 

 

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