Archive for July, 2012

What to Do When the Weather Has Other Plans for Your Vacation

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The best thing to do when traveling during hurricane season is be prepared. (Photo courtesy of connectyourhome.com)

So far this summer, we’ve been pretty lucky to not have any major weather events disrupting vacations. However, hurricane season lasts through November. If you are planning a getaway during this time to the Caribbean, any of the Gulf Coast states, or Mexico, then the reality is you need to be prepared to deal with the possibility of a hurricane.

The Good News: August through November can be a great time to take your tropical getaway; the temperatures are usually milder, the waters warm and the beaches are less crowded. And best of all, prices are usually lower and much more affordable than the rates of just a few weeks ago. In fact, the Caribbean from now to December can be a real bargain for those looking for a great deal.

Booking Travel During Hurricane Season

When you make your reservation, make sure that you:

1. Look for a hotel with the shortest cancellation window as possible. Weather can dramatically change within a week so it’s nice when a property has a no-charge cancellation policy that is 72 hours or less.

2. Clarify the hurricane policies of the airlines, hotels, cruise line and tour operators with which you may be traveling. Some offer a hurricane guarantee so that if all or part of your vacation is affected by hurricane weather, you won’t completely lose out. Most that have hurricane policies will either refund disrupted travel or rebook accommodations without additional charge.

3. Additionally, if you book with a site like Hotels.com, note that while Hotels.com does not charge a cancellation fee, the hotel might impose change or cancellation charges, which they are required to pass along (during normal circumstances). Hotels.com will advocate on your behalf and can also inform you of the property’s hurricane policy. You can always call them (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) at (877) 903-0071.

Airlines make it slightly harder because you really have no recourse until the storm is impacting an area. Airlines typically waive flight-change fees for passengers affected by a hurricane. Once an airline actually cancels your flight, you can get a full refund on even a nonrefundable ticket.

What to do if you are caught in a weather event:

  • Monitor any named storm that is making news within two weeks before your vacation or during your trip. You won’t need to cancel your trip yet, but you should be aware of the possibility and begin considering alternate plans.
  • You are your best advocate. Have the hotel phone number, airline number, all of your confirmation numbers, etc.
  • Pack your patience: you are probably not the only one trying to cancel and rebook – be kind, don’t give up.
  • Once on property at your hotel, ask the manager to clarify the hurricane policy in writing.
  • Claim any reimbursement you are entitled to in writing and keep a copy.
  • Forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.
  • Within 60 days of the end of your trip, write to your credit card company to request reimbursement.

Don’t ever let the weather be the reason you don’t plan a vacation. If the idea of worrying about a hurricane or a blizzard is just too much to deal with, then choose a destination that is weather-safe for the month that you select to take your trip. And remember, things happen. Remain calm and try to make the best of the situation even if that means rescheduling for another time.

 
 

 

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50 Things To Do In 50 States

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

We’ve been sharing more about European destinations with so many events taking place across the Atlantic this summer. But you don’t have to go to other continents to experience something new, historic, romantic or adventurous. Our 50 United States of America are full of interesting places just waiting for you to visit.

Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches, Delaware

If you are looking for a beach that you’ve never been to but once you visit, you’ll want to go back year after year then give Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches on the Delaware Coast a try. This 30-mile stretch of best-kept-secret beach towns is a summer favorite to many families who can’t wait to come back again and again. From bonfires on the beach to antiquing and biking, there are activities for everyone and great hotels, too.



Holiday World and Splashin Safari, Indiana

Home to the most popular wooden roller coaster on the planet AND the longest water coaster is Holiday World and Splashin Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana. From the big kids to the tiny tots, there will be non-stop excitement at this oasis of fun located just three hours from Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and St. Louis and two hours from Nashville and Lexington, plan a day of fun at “America’s Amusement Park”.



90 BBQ Restaurants, Missouri

I don’t know about you but I love me some barbecue! And Kansas City, MO is the place to get it. With more than 90 BBQ restaurants, Kansas City is the Barbecue Capital of the World.  It’s worth a visit to try it sweet and smoky, or hot and sassy, and maybe enter your own recipe in one of the area’s barbecue competitions.



Insectarium, Louisiana

I know you have heard of Mardi Gras, and the French Quarter in New Orleans, LA. But did you know that it is also home to the Insectarium, North America’s largest museum dedicated to insects and all of their relatives? Inside you can wander, bug size, through a Louisiana swamp. This Audubon Institute attraction also features an Asian-inspired butterfly garden.


Mackinac Island, Michigan

Ranked one of the top 10 islands in the world by Conde Nast Traveler, Mackinac Island, Michigan, takes you back, Somewhere In Time. Stay at one of the historic inns and bed & breakfasts or the grand dame, Grand Hotel. You can explore on foot, by bike, take a horse-and-buggy but there are no cars on this enchanted island.




50 THINGS TO DO IN 50 STATES

Alabama: African American Heritage Trail, Mobile Alabama.
Alaska: Denali National Park, Denali, Alaska.
Arizona: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
Arkansas: Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
California: Channel Islands National Park, Ventura, California
Colorado: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colorado.
Connecticut: Sheffield Island Lighthouse, Norwalk, Connecticut.
Delaware: Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches, Rehoboth, Delaware.
Florida: Gatorland, Kissimmee, Florida.
Georgia: 6th Sense World™, Savannah, Georgia.
Hawaii: Historic Kailua Village, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Idaho: Sun Valley, Sun Valley, Idaho.
Illinois: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, Illinois
Indiana: Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Indiana.
Iowa: The Danish Windmill Museum, Elk Horn, Iowa.
Kansas: Kansas Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, KS.
Kentucky: Keeneland, Lexington, Kentucky.
Louisiana: Insectarium, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Maine: Marginal Way, Ogunquit, Maine.
Maryland: The U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland.
Massachusetts: Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts.
Michigan: Mackinac Island State Park, Mackinac Island, Michigan.
Minnesota: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Mississippi: Mississippi Children’s Museum, Jackson, Mississippi.
Missouri: Kansas City Barbecue, Kansas City, Missouri.
Montana: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, West Glacier, MT.
Nebraska: Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska.
Nevada: Dig This, Las Vegas, Nevada.
New Hampshire: Prescott Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
New Jersey: Atlantic City, Atlantic City, New Jersey.
New Mexico: Albuquerque’s Historic Old Town, Alburquerque, New Mexico.
New York: Chelsea Market, NYC, New York.
North Carolina: Fall Color by Scenic Drive, Statewide.
North Dakota: Five Nations Art Depot, Mandan, North Dakota.
Ohio: The Wilds, Cumberland, Ohio.
Oklahoma: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Oregon: Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon.
Pennsylvania: The Magic Gardens, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rhode Island: Newport Mansions, Newport, Rhode Island.
South Carolina: The Old City Market, Charleston, South Carolina.
South Dakota: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis, South Dakota.
Tennessee: Sun Records, Memphis, Tennessee.
Texas: Austin Bats, Austin, Texas.
Utah: White water rafting.
Vermont: Ben & Jerry’s Factory, Green Mountains, Vermont.
Virginia: Civil War Trails. Statewide.
Washington: Underground Tour, Seattle, Washington.
West Virginia: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Wisconsin: Dr. Evermor’s Sculpture Park, Madison, Wisconsin.
Wyoming: Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

 
 

 

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Spotlight on Paris: Oui, Oui!

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Visit the Arc de Triomphe while in Paris, France for a romantic stroll. (Photo courtesy of practicalenrichment.wordpress.com)

I don’t think that it would take reading the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, to understand why a visit to Paris, France should be on everyone’s bucket list.

In fact, Hotels.com recently conducted a Plus One Survey asking Americans about the most popular vacation destinations they would choose to spend a free night. Popular cities such as Rome and Las Vegas came in first and third respectively while Paris took second as the ideal vacation destination in the hearts of Americans.

I’m not sure there’s another city on the planet that is as loved as Paris. It’s charming and romantic, historic and mysterious, modern and inviting, deliciously ornate, and perfection in any season. The thing I adore about Paris is that you can amble and explore and discover your way through the city or you can spend two itinerary packed days there and either way, you will have a momentous experience.

Airfare to Europe, generally speaking, is surprisingly affordable these days if you book your flights with 21 days advance purchase. European airlines are fiercely competitive for travelers so compare, compare and then BOOK it when you recognize a good deal! There are so many hotels in Paris with accommodations to fit any budget including the student-backpackers, the honeymooners, the family of four and more. To help you narrow down the choices, here is a Hotels.com list of top hotels in Paris.

Whatever reason you have for going – just go – and while you are in The City of Lights, add these items to your agenda!

Things I Must Do When I Visit Paris:

  • The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. You can get overwhelmed by the 35,000+ pieces of art so take a few hours and view the glass pyramids, a few select galleries, the lady, Mona Lisa, and save the rest for the next time you visit. Believe me, you will want there to be a next time!
  • The Musee d’Orsay closes on Mondays. Set inside an old train station; enjoy the works of Monet, Degas and Van Gogh.
  • Moulin Rouge, The most famous cabaret show in Paris sells out months in advance. Get tickets as soon as you plan your trip. It’s worth it.
  • The Eiffel Tower is fun for all ages. Zip up the elevator or hike the stairs (part of the way). The view on the way up just gets better and better!
  • Seine River Boat Cruise is one of the best ways to see the city. This hop on/hop off Batobus takes you to practically every important site.
  • St. Germain des Pres neighborhood is swanky and sophisticated and so delightful for a croissant and coffee in one of its sidewalk cafes. This is the spot to get lost in Paris!
  • The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most recognizable icons of Paris. Built by Napoleon Bonaparte to honor his conquests, it is still a modern traffic marvel. You get a fantastic view of the city as you peer down the twelve avenues that branch off of it. One of them is the chestnut tree lined Avenue de Champs Elysees.
  • The Churches of Paris are such an important part of French history and culture. Take time to visit a few. Favorites include: Sacre Coeur Basilica, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Saint Chappelle.

Mon Dieu! There is so much to do in Paris. One trip just won’t suffice…but it is a start.

What would you want to do if you could spend only one day in Paris?

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Healthy Traveling Tips From VitalJuice

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Eating healthy in Israel

How, at 30,000 feet, with recirculated air, a cramped coach seat and more processed food than not, can a person stay healthy? Read on.

By Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh, Editor-in-Chief of VitalJuice.com

The itinerary:

Four days/three nights in Lugano, Locarno and Ascona (LAX to O’Hare to Zurich; train to Lugano)

Seven nights in Israel (train to Zurich to TLV)

Three nights in Geneva (TLV to Zurich, train to Geneva/ Geneva to Dulles to LAX)

Seven flights. Three train rides. How does the editor-in-chief of Vitaljuice.com, an email all about healthy living, stay healthy on a long-haul trip? Here’s the rundown, by the numbers.

Months of preparation: 2

Almost two months before departure, I created a work schedule so that my mind would be free of work (almost) by flight day. This worked well: I was actually able to free a day for errands the day before I left.

Pre-travel exercise sessions: 3

Before leaving, I boosted my activity because I knew I’d be sitting a lot on planes and trains. I attended a yoga class with Linda Eifer in Beverly Hills http://simchayoga.com/ (stretches, handstands and lots of physical alignment work) and a kundalini class with Tej Kaur Khalsa in Hollywood at Golden Bridge Yoga (meditation, chakra-aligning exercises, yoga philosophy). Finally, I took a brisk, hour-long walk the night before flying.

Lounging by the pool in Geneva

Carry-on: 1

What’s in it:

Food. Domestic flights no longer provide food, and though international flights do, I know from experience that the cuisine can be an energy-killing, processed carb-fest. Instead, I brought a whole wheat Ta-Da falafel wrap from Whole Foods, heated and wrapped in foil before leaving. Two organic apples from the local farmers’ market, a bag of LA-made Gnosis Immune-Boost Trail mix (including raw chocolate and dried persimmon, among other things), and a bag of kumquats from a friend’s tree. Several PROBAR natural meal replacement bars. They’re filled with nuts, seeds and fruits. Also, a Platypus collapsible water bottle. I fill it, drink it all at the airport and take the bottle to refill on the plane. Those little bottles they provide are never big enough.

Seat Solution cushion. This $15 cushion is a back- and bottom-saver. It just fits into my rolling carry-on, and I pull it out before boarding. I used to have tail bone pain and back aches; not anymore. I even managed to doze on the red-eye without contorting myself, thanks to this.

Socks with treads. These aren’t tight around the ankles, so I won’t get sausage legs from in-flight swelling.

Lip balm, ear plugs, book, laptop. The laptop is a MacBook Air–it’s light enough to carry without hurting my shoulder. The book is The Last Good Man by A.J. Kazinski. I’d take something slimmer, but this is only available in hardcover, and I’m passionate about conspiracy thrillers. Plus I need to read during those minutes in flight when the laptop can’t be opened.

Dressy flats. These make me look like a put-together local when I land–and yet I can walk around in them like a traveler.

Cups of water: as many as possible. It’s never too much.

Times I get out of my seat: at least 2 per flight

Movement is life. Go on; inspire your seatmate to move.

Croissants I eat en route to Switzerland: 1

It’s easy for an airline to offer you extra rolls and croissants, and they will. Bread is an inexpensive incentive that’s supposed to make you feel like you’ve received added value. I’ll have a second cup of water or a tomato juice, instead.

Yoga poses done in my seat: 1

I do seated cat/cow (curve spine forward and back). It’s effective at limbering up the back, and doesn’t look insane to your seatmates.

You could say…it’s a trip.

 
 

 

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European Summer: This Summer’s Featured European Cities

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Just one of the reasons to visit Barcelona, Spain is the amazing architecture. (Photo courtesy of traveldk.com)

This summer all eyes are on Europe from London and the Olympics to the host cities and teams of the Euro Cup Soccer (futbol) and the roadways of the Tour de France.

As we celebrate our nation’s inception some 236 years ago, for many Americans, it’s hard to fathom living in a town with buildings and traditions that are thousands of years old. A visit to many European cities is a well-blended mix of historical treasures with modern day necessity. I find Europe so refreshing as the people there seem to know exactly who they are and hold tight to the traditions and cultures that makes them unique.

Take a look at a couple of this summer’s shining stars:

Reasons to Visit Spain

Home to the Euro Cup Champions, Spain dominated the last two soccer cups in 2008 and 2012. The team’s fans are as passionate about their country as they are with their team. Here are a few reasons why:

Spain is known for art, architecture, beautiful beaches, Flamenco dancing, Seafood (Paella), Gazpacho, Manchego cheese, and “Jamon Serrano/Iberico” (cured ham), to name a few. From Madrid (capital) to Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville, Spain’s cities are a colorful blend of tradition and creativity and getting around the country is simple. Thanks to a newly expanded high-speed rail service you can now get from Seville to Valencia in less than four hours.

This month, thousands will flock to the streets of Pamplona for the famous Running of the Bulls.

On my list of must-see spots in Spain

Torrequebrada Hotel in Benalmadena has one of the best Flamenco shows in the country that features the world famous Carmen Mota Spanish Ballet group.

Barcelona is the spot for architecture, where visitors can marvel at masterpieces from Antoni Gaudi such as La Sagrada Familia, the most famous site in the city.  His Art Noveau style is something everyone can appreciate.

Where to Stay in Spain

There are wonderful hotels and bed & breakfasts throughout Spain. Thanks to hotels.com, I found a couple of stellar deals for this summer.

In Madrid, consider a stay at the Agumar Hotel and when in Barcelona, stay at Hotel 1898.

The other standouts of the Euro Cup were the host cities. They shone as brilliantly as the cup itself. In Poland, events were held in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Wrocław, and Poznań. In the Ukrainian, Kiev, Lviv, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk also hosted games.

Reasons to Visit Poland

Poland’s European roots are long, with more than a thousand years of tales and castles to explore. WWII history buffs are also well served here. Most known for its music (folk, classical/Chopin), Pierogies, Kielbasa, art and cinema; Poland’s main tourist offerings are thought to be based around city-sightseeing and extra-urban historical monuments, agrotourism, and mountain hiking.

Gdańsk is a chic medieval port city, while Warsaw is the vibrant, culturally-rich capital city. Warsaw was flattened in WWII and the country has been in a constant state of reconstruction ever since. The city’s calendar is full of street fests, art openings, and Chopin-inspired music festivals.

Where to Stay in Poland

Travel throughout Poland is surprisingly affordable with four and five-star hotels easily booked for under $100/night. Consider a stay in Warsaw at the Radisson Blu Centrum Hotel or the Residence St. Andrew’s Palace. In Poznań, spend an evening at the Sheraton Poznan Hotel.

Warsaw is the vibrant, culturally-rich capital city of Poland. (Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk)

Reasons to Visit the Ukraine

Did you know that with an area of 603,628 km², the Ukraine is the second largest contiguous country in Europe? If that’s not enough, let beauty be reason enough to venture to this central European country.

Along with cities: Kiev (capital), Kharkiv, and Odessa, the Ukraine is best known for folk music, art (woven textiles), decorative Easter eggs (“pysanky”), and architecture. The Carpathian Mountains are suitable for skiing, hiking, fishing and hunting during winter getaways and the coastline of the Black Sea is a popular summer destination for summer vacationers. The Seven Wonders of Ukraine are the seven historical and cultural monuments including Sofiyivsky Park in Uman and Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves).

Where to Stay in the Ukraine

Kiev has some beautiful hotels including the Opera Hotel and the Hotel Dnipro.  In Odessa, enjoy your stay at the Londonskaya Hotel.

Let the athletic events debuting on the world stage this summer motivate you to see these destinations for yourselves. Have you seen a city televised so far that you would like to visit?

 
 

 

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