Archive for August, 2012

Rooting for Richard…The Fastest Double Amputee Athlete in the World!

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Richard will be competing for Great Britain in the Paralympics in the 200m sprint.

With the start of the Paralympics this week in London, I’d like to spotlight Richard Whitehead who is a congenital double above the knee amputee. He started running eight years ago when he entered the NYC Marathon with Achilles International. Since then he has completed 24 marathons and two ultra marathons. He holds the world record for athletes with a double amputation, in both the full and half marathon distances. At the 2010 Chicago Marathon, he broke his own world record for athletes with lower-limb amputations with a time of 2:42:52.

Richard will be competing for Great Britain in the Paralympics in the 200m sprint and is considered by many to be the fastest double amputee athlete in the world.

He gives back. He has run half a dozen races with Achilles and mentors many of the Achilles Freedom Team made up of wounded veterans. He holds running clinics at Walter Reed Medical facility, where he spends time talking with recently wounded servicemen and women who have lost limbs. He gives them incredible support and encouragement to not only get up and walk but to possibly one day run.

“In 2004, Achilles offered me guides at the NYC Marathon and gave me the guidance, support and platform to become a World Record Holder! I now am able to mentor other athletes through their programmes and put something back into the sport I love.”

-Richard Whitehead



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Tips for Gulf Coast Travelers Affected by Hurricane Isaac

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

As part of its commitment to customer service, is working with partner hotels to assist Gulf Coast travelers who may have plans disrupted due to Hurricane Isaac. partner hotels are activating flexible booking policies in parts of Florida, Alabama and Louisiana to help travelers in need of making last-minute travel changes as the storm impacts the Gulf Coast region. Travelers who’d like to utilize flex policies issued by airlines can consider alternate destinations such as San Antonio, Houston and parts of Florida (Jacksonville, Daytona Beach), which have made inventory available and have enacted last-minute offers.

Gulf Coast residents being asked to evacuate the area are also being welcomed by by the cities of San Antonio and Houston.

“Houston is no stranger to the hazards that tropical storms and hurricanes pose to those of us living near the Gulf Coast,” says Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.  “Seven years ago this week we opened our doors to those escaping Hurricane Katrina. Just as we have during past storms, I know Houston hotels and our entire hospitality community will welcome our neighbors temporarily displaced by Isaac.”

If you’re traveling and do find yourself stranded due to the storm, here are some general tips to help you through it.

San Antonio


See all of our Florida Deals here

UPDATE 8/29, 3:05pm

Please be aware: “The San Antonio community is fully prepared to welcome anyone relocating due to Hurricane Isaac”, says Casandra Matej, Executive Director of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau. San Antonio has a welcoming tradition and will continue. We are here to be good partners to our sister cities.”



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City of the Month: Tampa

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Enjoy Gasparilla every January when a flotilla of pirates invades Tampa Bay and makes its way down Bayshore Blvd. (Photo courtesy of

Home to the 2012 RNC, Hurricane Isaac (for a few minutes) and SO Much More!

All eyes are on Tampa this week from the political-partiers to weather-junkies. I’m happy to have a great excuse to talk about the city that I know best: my hometown, Tampa, FL.

Tampa isn’t like your traditional Florida beach town. It has a rich, cultural history with a strong Latin influence. From its sports teams to the arts, shopping, and dining, it’s no wonder that Tampa is often host to some of our country’s biggest events.

Try Tampa!

What you’ll remember it for: Cuban food!! Order a pressed Cuban sandwich, Deviled Crab, and the often-intimated, rarely duplicated Tampa-made Cuban toast.  Good Latin-inspired eateries are almost as pervasive as Starbucks in this city.

Something you won’t experience anywhere else: Gasparilla! Each January, since 1911, a flotilla of pirates with cannons a-blazing invades Tampa Bay and makes its way down Bayshore Blvd (the longest uninterrupted sidewalk in the US at more than four miles long.) parade-style to take the key to the City from Tampa’s Mayor. It’s big, it’s loud and it’s fun! A children’s parade began a few years back on the weekend or two before the main event complete with less-menacing pirates, sounds and more fun for the kiddos!

A Sport for all Seasons: Tampa has a number of sports teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, The Tampa Bay Lightning, The Rowdies, and the Devil Rays. Some say Tampa is the place to be for baseball’s spring training season. Twelve of Florida’s 14 spring training stadiums are within about a 2 1/2-hour drive of Tampa. From the Yankees to the Phillies, get up close and personal with some your favorite players.

A Cultural Experience: Ybor City is the epicenter of Tampa’s eclectic history – Italian, Cuban and Sicilian. Visitors can get both a history lesson and an evening of great dining and entertainment in the city just minutes from downtown Tampa. The Columbia Restaurant, Florida’s oldest restaurant opened in 1905, is as popular and delicious as the day it opened. Try the signature 1905 Salad and some Sangria (the best anywhere). Once the Cigar capital of the world, take a walk through history at the Ybor City Cigar Museum (there’s a box of my great grandfather’s cigars in there -Marsicano Cigars).

Where to Stay in Tampa: Getting around Tampa is very easy by car. Staying on one of the nearby beaches of St. Petersburg or Clearwater is always a great option. To be right in the mix of all things Tampa, try the Marriott Waterside or the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza.

What is your favorite thing about Tampa?



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Happy Birthday Smart!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Happy Birthday to our very own Smart! You may not be able to party with him, but you can check out the one day sale in his honor. You might even find savings up to 50%!



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How to Extend Your Summer with Fresh, Flavorful Cocktails

Friday, August 24th, 2012

By Matt Durbin, Vice President of beverage and bar for T.G.I. Friday’s

While the weather outside is still nice, treat yourself to a summery cocktail.

As the dog days of August begin to slip away, many Americans are looking for ways to keep the spirit of summer alive. In the recent® Sip Statistics™, we took a look at the top travel destinations and identified the cocktails that locals in each market enjoyed. Regardless of your travel plans, you can always experience the refreshing taste of summer at T.G.I. Friday’s with these new drinks that add a fresh, premium twist to timeless classics.

Classic Cocktail Category: Long Island Iced Tea

New Twist: Blackberry Long Island Tea

Across the board, this is the favorite drink category among Friday’s guests, and for good reason—we invented it! With the Blackberry LIT as we like to call it, we’ve taken our signature, top secret recipe to another level with this cool creation that combines blackberries and our house-made sour mix with Bacardi Rum, Bombay Gin, Smirnoff Vodka and triple sec. Whether you’re visiting the birthplace of Friday’s and this drink – New York City – or enjoying a staycation at home, this cocktail is not to be missed.

Classic Cocktail Category: Mojito

New Twist: Fresh Watermelon Mojito

Guests in Denver, Miami and Chicago agree that the classic mojito is their favorite summertime drink. We’ve given this minty delight a fruity spin with our Fresh Watermelon Mojito that blends Bacardi Rum, lime juice, fresh watermelon, agave, fresh mint and fresh-squeezed lime.

Classic Cocktail Category: Tropical

New Twist: Strawberry Rum Smash

Check out the full SIP Statistics infographic by clicking the link below!

Who can resist a tropical drink with a little tutti frutti flair? At Friday’s, we’ve kicked this cocktail category up a notch with our Strawberry Rum Smash. Hand-crafted, this libation combines Premium Atlantico Platino Rum, the brand co-owned by Enrique Iglesias, with lemon juice, agave, fresh strawberries, fresh mint and fresh-squeezed lemons.

Classic Cocktail Category: Margarita

New Twist: The Tiki Torch

Love a good margarita but want a little twist? With this latest addition to our margarita family, The Tiki Torch, you can embrace the sweet heat of chipotle pineapple with 100% blue agave, Avion Silver Tequila, triple sec, lime juice, fresh pineapple, fresh lime and a sweet & spicy salt rim. And, you’ll be in good company: The Tiki Torch is the preferred drink among our guests in Austin, TX and is almost always among the top picks of our guests.

To take a closer look at all of the findings from the® Sip Statistics™, visit Cheers!



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Those Who Dream Most…Do Most! An Interview with Achilles International NYC Chapter Director Kathleen Bateman

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Inspire a Generation. That’s the theme for this year’s Paralympic Games, which begin next week in London. I am humbled by these individuals’ sheer determination to not only conquer life’s challenges but to dominate as athletes, too.

Achilles International is an organization dedicated to putting the “abled” back into athletes with physical impairments. I recently had the opportunity to ask Kathleen Bateman, director of the New York City chapter of Achilles International, a few questions. Her love of endurance sports led her to take over the paratriathlon team. She coaches weekly swimming, running, and cycling workouts, and facilitates athlete participation in triathlons and road races throughout the United States and abroad.

1. Achilles is such an amazing organization, what do you enjoy most about your job?

Every day I am surrounded by individuals who are passionate and fully engaged in their lives despite the challenges they face. Our athletes overcome obstacles to achieve what many people take for granted and other people could never dream of.

2. What is the biggest misconception that you think people have about people with disabilities?

Kathleen Bateman on her bike.

Society often perceives people with disabilities as weak and vulnerable. Achilles athletes challenge this widely held misconception. When you watch an athlete without legs complete their first 5k or cheer on a woman who was told she would never walk again finish her first triathlon, you cannot help but be awed by their strength, determination and spirit.

3. Traveling can be such a joy but what are some of the challenges that people with disabilities may have when taking a trip?

Non-accessible hotels, bathrooms, restaurants, and tourist attractions are unfortunately common. But perhaps the greatest challenge is constantly interacting with personnel who, while they may be well intentioned, are unable to advise or understand accessibility issues. I have heard hotels claim that they are accessible as there is only one step at the entrance. One step is like standing before a brick wall for someone in a wheelchair. Once a flight attendant informed an athlete she could be accommodated on the flight but her wheelchair would arrive the following day, which is like saying your legs will be arriving tomorrow.

4. What is your favorite destination? Why? And, can you share one specific thing that you would recommend to someone else when visiting that spot?

In May, the Achilles paratriathlon team traveled to Austin, Texas to compete in the National Championships. I loved the city’s laid-back atmosphere, charm, and the hospitality of its people. Anyone visiting needs to check out a live show from Austin’s music scene and should not miss Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Saloon. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like – you bet on a square of ground, and if the chicken “goes” on your patch, you win. Now that’s something you don’t see everyday!

Kathleen’s Travel Tips for a Person with Disabilities.

  1. Use online resource guides to research a location’s accessibility like or Disabled World News gives information on accessible travel for persons with disabilities with reviews of tours, cruises, flights and wheelchair accessible accommodation.
  2. Always call ahead to ensure that a hotel has a ramp, that the bathrooms and restaurant are accessible, and that the staff will be expecting them and ready to accommodate any special needs.
  3. Allow plenty of time to get through customs and baggage claim.
  4. Be aware of the American with Disabilities Act, which protects travelling with equipment like wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs from incurring additional fees.
  5. A successful trip means being your own self-advocate.

Read more about Achilles International in my spotlight on Paralympic competitor Richard Whitehead.



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Xtreme Booking Part 2: Running With the Bulls

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Ever try running from a 1,700-pound charging bull while booking a hotel room? Today launched its second Xtreme Booking campaign to highlight the brand’s mobile booking app – this time, featuring Freestyle Motocross (FMX) biker and Nitro Circus stuntman, Andy Bell, who booked a room while participating in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain

Illustrating the simple and user-friendly interface of the mobile app, the video features Bell quite literally running for his life to stay ahead of the bulls and navigate obstacles in the streets of Pamplona, all while booking a hotel room that he checks into shorty thereafter. Andy demonstrates that reserving a room on the app is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

See Andy run with the bulls below, and be on the lookout for a new interactive game that will launch next week where you can run with the bulls yourself!



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The American Guide to the World’s Best Food

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

We all love to eat and the Food Survey tells us where!

Half the fun of taking a vacation to an overseas locale is the opportunity to try authentic food from the country you are visiting. Whether it’s bratwursts in Germany, pasta in Italy or truffles in France, you don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy what the locals have to offer. released the results of a global survey that discovered some core facts about American food preferences internationally and domestically. Over 1,000 Americans participated in the global survey and 63 percent of the respondents specified food as an important factor when selecting a hotel for various types of travel.

Below is a sample of the survey results and what we learned about American dining habits. Do any of the results surprise you?

Best Cities in the World for Local Cuisine (According to American Travelers)

  1. New York
  2. Rome
  3. New Orleans
  4. Paris
  5. Mexico City
  6. Tokyo
  7. Venice
  8. Florence
  9. Chicago
  10. Bangkok

Best Countries for Family Dining (According to American Travelers)

  1. USA
  2. Italy
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Great Britain
  6. Mexico
  7. Spain
  8. Canada
  9. Japan
  10. India

Best Countries for Fine Dining (According to American Travelers)

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. USA
  4. Spain
  5. Germany
  6. Great Britain
  7. Japan
  8. India
  9. Belgium
  10. Australia



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Cycling: Pedal Your Way to an Excellent Vacation

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Consider taking a bike ride with your family, even if it isn't on a tandem bike! (Photo courtesy of

You don’t have to be a cycling pro to enjoy riding a bike. You don’t even have to like riding a bike to enjoy cycling. Whether you are a spectator, an avid cyclist, or just enjoy a leisurely pedal around the park, cycling can be a great way to visit a new place.

Be A Spectator

The sport once dominated by Europeans is now quite popular here in the U.S. The Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España are traditionally the premier cycling events, but races stateside are gaining momentum and credibility worldwide.

The Athens Twilight Criterium in Athens, GA (one of my favorite cities) is heralded by VeloNews as the “Criterium Not To Miss” and voted first by their poll of professional and amateur racers. The April evening event draws more than 30,000 spectators and some of the world’s best cyclists.

Attracting more than two million spectators, The AMGEN Tour of California really put cycling on the map in America. Each year the route varies and takes the riders and their followers across California for fast riding and lots of fun.

Coming up this month is the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. A 7-stage tour across the Rocky Mountain state let’s you follow the riders from Durango to Denver with visits to beautiful Telluride, Aspen, Colorado Springs, and Golden.

Here are some Hotels in Colorado for your journey.

Vacation Bike Tours

Trek Travel coordinates three to four-day weekend bike tours featuring quiet rustic roads, quaint inns, fresh local fare, social hour mingling, and even shopping or hiking. Sign up for the California Wine Weekend and take in beautiful vineyards, spas, and of course tastings along the way.

Western Spirit Cycling Adventures offers bike tours for the whole family with routes for bike trailers and beginning riders. Primarily centered on tours in the Western U.S., introduce the kids to both camping and cycling with the Hiawatha Rail Trail Family Trip.

City Tours

A bicycle is a great way to see a city, often giving you perspective and access to areas that you may miss riding on a tour bus. Ask your hotel concierge about bike rentals if you want to go it on your own around town. Hotels in some destinations even lend guests bicycles for the day.

For an organized tour, look for companies like Get Up and Ride, Brooklyn’s first bike tour company. This NYC Company offers two different tours that vary in duration, distance and price. The Classic Tour is just 10 miles in length and takes approximately 3 to 3.5 hours to complete. The tour, which features excellent views of Manhattan, even wraps up with a ferry ride at the end of the day.

While you can bring your own bikes along, most tour companies provide bikes that are designed to be fun, comfortable and easy to ride so even if it has been awhile since you’ve ridden you should feel right at home. You can always bring your own seat and pedals for the more serious tours and riders.

Road Cycling Safety Tips

Here are tips from Trek Tours when you do set your seat on two wheels:

  • Wear a helmet at all times when on your bike.
  • Obey all traffic signs.
  • Always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
  • Ride on the same side of the road as the direction of moving traffic.
  • Use the appropriate hand signals when stopping, slowing down, and turning.
  • Ride in a single-file line, leaving at least 2 bike lengths between you and the rider ahead of you.
  • Maintain a safe distance between you and the edge of the road.
  • Communicate with other riders—let them know when there are bumps, rocks, cars, or other hazards on the road.
  • Be ready for vehicles to pass you on the left.
  • Use both the rear and front brakes simultaneously—NEVER use the front brake alone.
  • When going downhill, pump both the front and rear brakes simultaneously, and increase the distance between you and the rider ahead of you.
  • Always maintain a speed that is comfortable for you.
  • Use caution when crossing over railroad tracks, cattle crossings, gravel patches, slippery or sandy roads, descending steeply, or when encountering a situation that is potentially dangerous or uncomfortable for you.
  • Always get off your bike and walk if you feel uncomfortable riding.
  • Gear up and gear down appropriately to maintain a safe and comfortable riding speed.
  • When admiring the view or taking a photo, always stop first and then look or snap.
  • Above all, have fun and enjoy your ride!


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