Archive for December, 2013

Do you believe in New Year’s Superstitions?

Monday, December 30th, 2013

In the U.S. and all over the world, many different superstitions exist around New Year’s and what will bring good luck for the coming year and chase bad will away. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10:

In the United States:

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  1. Open all the doors and walk around banging on pots and pans moving towards the doors to scare anyghosts or lingering spirits away.
  2. Eat black-eyed peas and rice for good luck in the new year. Alsoeat cabbage or greens for financial prosperity and ham for health.
  3. Wear all new clothing (shoes, socks, pants, shirts, underwear) on New Year’s Eve. The idea here is by beginning the year with new and good things,  you will continue to receive them for the remainder of the year.
  4. Don’t wash any clothes on New Year’s Eve or on New Year’s Day as you may “wash” out people you love from your life.
  5. The direction of wind during sunrise on New Year’s morning tells us about the coming year. Wind from south foretells fine weather and prosperous times ahead. Wind from north foretells bad weather. Wind from the east brings natural calamities. Wind from the west says plenty of food for all, but death of a person of great importance. No wind means joy and prosperity throughout the year.

Around the world:

  • Colombia: Tape a high denomination bill ($100) on top of the doorframe so wealth and prosperity will enter the house.
  • Russia: The tone of New Year’s Eve will set the tone for the rest of the year. A quiet evening may bring a quiet, uneventful year, while an exciting, happening New Year’s party will bring an exhilarating year full of new activities.
  • Uruguay: Have your cupboards and refrigerator stocked with food and your wallets filled with cash on January 1, to ensure a prosperous year ahead.
  • Vietnam: Pay off all your debts before New Year, or else you’ll be poor for the entire year.
  • Philippines: Turn on all the lights inside the house for a bright year ahead.

Do you have any to add? What are you superstitious about?

 
 

 

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Travel App of the Month: EpicMix

Friday, December 27th, 2013

The FREE and dare I say, addictive, EpicMix (EpicMix for Android) ski app keeps you in the “snow” if you ski in Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone (all in Colorado), Heavenly, Kirkwood, or Northstar (all in California). The app is feature-rich, and brings a whole new level of interactivity to your ski vacation.

EpicMix uses scanners mounted on lifts at each of these Vail Resorts ski areas to automatically read radio frequency identification tags embedded on people’s lift passes. Get on a lift and your elevation is automatically tracked. I find it especially interesting to see where my family (my son, in particular) has skied that day since they are typically more adventurous than dear ol’ mom.

EpicMix lets you:Familyskiday

  • Track your vertical feet
  • Access trail maps, lift status, run conditions, weather reports, web cams, and the latest traffic info for all six mountains
  • Race against your friends, family and even four-time World Cup Champion Lindsey Vonn
  • View and download photos taken by the EpixMix on-mountain photographers
  • Connect with friends and family within the app to share your ski results; and you can connect with Facebook and Twitter to share your action photos, activity, and special accomplishments

Special accomplishments? Yes! Skiers who have an RF-enabled Season Pass, Epic Day lift ticket, or PEAKS card earn digital pins for their ski activity and accomplishments on the mountains.
 If you are competitive or curious, it can be a lot of fun. Skiers collect points for each digital pin they earn and can choose to share their point totals to see how they measure up against all skiers and achieve some serious bragging rights. EpicMix posts nothing publicly until a user activates an EpicMix account and chooses to share information.

New for the 2013/2014 Ski Season: lesson goers (that’s me) can track their progress in Ski and Snowboard School with EpicMix Academy.

 
 

 

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Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Happy holidays to all of our readers! Thanks for reading our posts this past year!

In the spirit of holiday cheer, we wanted to share some of our favorite submissions from our #FilmItFriday series.

Thanks to everyone who submitted!

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“Fun with Santa” from @rkosully

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“Me and my furbabies” from @xriyah

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“Merry Christmas” from @juanrj83

 
 

 

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Hotels To Inspire Your Travel for the New Year

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

If you’re like me, then you’re already thinking about all the places you want to visit in 2014. But we can all use a dose of travel inspiration. And maybe it’s not where you go, but where you stay that needs that inspiration. Hotels.com® recently recognized some of the most outstanding hotels based on insights from the more than 10 million verified Guest Reviews found on the leading hotel booking website.

Best Ski Hotels

YMs68xaP7RI-C_SFKLgT1iF9fPYsbEzLYY_0k22nVtkThe Arrabelle at Vail Square in Vail, Colo. was rated 4.8 out of 5 by Hotels.com guests and for good reason; it has an ice skating rink on site! Hotel Madeline in Telluride is another excellent choice in Colorado, rated 4.7 by Hotels.com Guests, featuring everything from a ski valet to a wintertime hot chocolate bar. In Jackson, WY, The Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa is the place to go, with several acres to explore on ski, foot, sled, or snowmobile – it’s the winter outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

Best Spa Hotels

Relaxation-seekers will be hard pressed to find any better places to kick-off 2014 than at any of the top spa hotel picks from Hotels.com. The Guerlain Spa at The Roosevelt New Orleans (4.6 rating) is one of only three in the country and has a 180 year tradition in beauty and relaxation. New spas, like the one in the 2-year-old Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta (4.8 rating), are also offering unparalleled services that receive high marks from Hotels.com guests. In San Diego, the 4.9 rated Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa is an award-winning wellness oasis that includes a Yoga Pavilion, Pilates studio, advanced exercise programs and retreats.

Best Casino Hotels

The Wynn Las Vegas (4.7 rating) is among the most glamorous destinations on the Las Vegas Strip. Along with its sister property Encore at Wynn Las Vegas (4.6 rating), the two hotels offer a luxurious high-limit gaming experience with quality complimentary drinks and a number of high limit table games. The all-suite Palazzo Resort Hotel & Casino (4.6 rating) is the largest building in the U.S. after New York’s World Trade Center Towers (according to The Real Deal real estate magazine in New York City) and offers the most standard accommodations on the Strip.

Best Golf HotelssqJqTapHKWzo6Xj9V35EtH7Fzbohv6ucpw7LsXHz-Ws

The Mediterranean-inspired Grand Del Mar – San Diego (5.0 rating) offers everything from practice facilities and an instructional golf academy, to golf-hotel packages and a junior course for youth. The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (4.8 rating) features two striking golf courses that traverse around granite rock and boulder piles outside of Scottsdale, Ariz. The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (4.8 rating) boasts three 18-hole championship golf courses amidst the island’s natural beauty and even offers unique activities such as yoga for golfers.

Best Bed & Breakfasts

The Almondy Inn (4.9 rating) in Newport, R.I. is one of the top bed and breakfasts in New England, serving up afternoon wine and cheese within steps of famed Bannister’s Wharf. Visitors to Cape Cod’s Provincetown can stay in the luxurious rooms of the Revere Guest House (4.9 rating). Eva’s Escape at the Gardenia Inn (4.9 rating) in San Antonio offers guests in-room massages, as well as afternoon and evening desserts.

Feel Inspired? I sure do. Happy and Safe Travel for the New Year!

 
 

 

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The College Bowl Game Predicament

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Dedicated college football fans live and die by their team’s success each Saturday during football season. The thrill of watching your favorite team from the bleachers and not from the living room is a privilege that doesn’t come cheap. Travel to a bowl game, and the cost gets even higher. This bowl season, several teams (and their fans) are making cross-country trips, including the National Championship game, featuring Auburn and Florida State University.

College bowls are typically played in cities that make for a good winter weather escape: Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, Orlando, Atlanta, for example. This year, college football fans are finding it difficult to afford the travel cost of the bowl experience. And in turn, their universities are having trouble selling the ticket allotment they were required to purchase.

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Finding decent prices on airfare with such a quick turnaround is extremely challenging for fans. Tickets to the bowl games range from $95-$275, legitimately. Factor in other expenses such as organized festivities, celebrating after the game, lodging, food, attire, and it could get pricey quick.

Take UCF in Orlando. The team will square off against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona on January 3rd, but it’s going to be without its fan base. The high cost of plane tickets from Orlando to Phoenix during bowl week has jumped to more than $700; and has left the school with 75% of its ticket allotment.

Here are a few money saving tips if you’re hoping to attend a college bowl game this season:

  • Book now
  • When shopping for flights, consider flying into a larger airport within driving distance and then renting a car or taking a bus to the bowl city
  • Choose a hotel located 10-15 miles away from the bowl venue. Hotel prices and occupancy will be much higher the closer the hotel is located to the stadium.

 

I want to make a special shout-out to my hometown, Tampa, which will host the College Football Championship in 2017 for the first time.

 
 

 

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Travel Sticky Situation: Delayed/Stranded by Winter Weather

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Tis the season to be traveling, so as we prepare for another holiday travel week, let’s review the top winter travel tips. The good news is that The Weather Channel is not predicting any major snowstorms in the U.S. over Christmas. Nevertheless, Mother Nature is never beyond a good storm surprise, so let’s be ready for whatever she throws at us this winter.

Trouble Ahead! Travel To-Dos

AA046865When winter storms approach, airlines begin preemptively waiving change fees in order to avoid stranded travelers.  If you have a trip on the horizon, DO stay tuned to national weather forecasts and check the travel advisories of your airline for delays, cancellations and rescheduling policies to see how any of it may affect your trip. You may not need to cancel your trip yet, but you should be aware of the possibility and begin considering alternate plans.

You are your best advocate. DO always have the hotel phone number, airline number, all of your confirmation numbers, and directions ON PAPER in addition to stored in your smart phone. You never know when you’ll be without battery, coverage or a charger.

If you are heading to your destination and get delayed, DO be sure to keep your hotel informed of your situation so you do not incur unnecessary charges for a no-show. If you are heading home and find yourself needing to stay an extra night, check availability as soon as you can to avoid having to scramble for other accommodations.

If You Get Stranded…

Remember when weather puts your trip to sleep, it doesn’t mean the airline owes you a good night’s rest in a hotel.   If you are already at the airport when delays or cancellations occur, DO be sure to have enough of the essentials to get you through a day… or two. For me, that’s contact solution, my phone charger, laptop and cord.

  • DO pack your patience: you are not the only one trying to cancel and rebook – be kind, don’t give up.
  • DO claim any reimbursement you are entitled to (for example, accidental charges for change fees) in writing and keep a copy. File claims as soon as possible.
  • DO forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.

Road-Trip To-Dos

And if you are behind the wheel this winter, possibly one of the best to-DO suggestions is to make a trip plan.  Pilots file a flight plan before takeoff, so driving our cars shouldn’t be any different. Make sure you DO advise someone of your trip plans.  DO call ahead to your destination and let someone know when you intend to leave, what route you will be traveling and your expected time of arrival.  If someone at your starting point and someone at your destination know your plans, help can reach you much more quickly, in the event of an emergency.

Safe Travels throughout the holidays and a merry and bright 2014!

 
 

 

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Where to Stay in Charlotte: TSB City of the Month

Monday, December 16th, 2013

From gleaming high-rise banking hotels to local B&Bs and water park resorts, Charlotte’s mix of hotel accommodations matches the city’s diversity of business, art and culture. So no matter what you are looking for when planning a visit to Charlotte, you’re sure to rest comfortably in ‘The Queen City.’

For Shopping

In the affluent SouthPark neighborhood, the Hampton Inn & Suites SouthPark at Phillips Place is just steps from shopping, wining and dining. Not to mention this gem is affordable too, with rates from $145/night on Hotels.com.  In the same area you may also want to consider a stay at the Marriott Charlotte Park Hotel.

For Sports

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If you want to get in the middle of Charlotte’s Center City, and close to Bank of America Stadium, reserve your room at the Westin Charlotte. It

has 700 rooms offering beautiful views; there’s even an indoor pool.

The Embassy Suites Charlotte/Concord Golf Resort & Spa is the “official” hotel of Charlotte Motor Speedway and is actually within walking distance. Many NASCAR drivers and teams actually stay here. But fast driving shouldn’t be the only reason to consider this resort; it also features a spa and golf course.

For Romance

It’s hard to not feel the love at the Charlotte landmark hotel where southern charm meet modern luxury. Duke Mansion was built in 1915, features 20 roomsand is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s played both home and host to plenty of prominent figures. The hotel operates as a non-profit with proceeds going to preserve and protect the Charlotte treasure.

For Business

A business traveler’s home away from home, The Hyatt Place Charlotte – City Park offers free parking, free Wi-fi, a convenient café/coffee shop for snacks on the go and conference rooms equipped with A/V resources.

2733328_25For Families

Smart parents know that when you are traveling on a site seeing vacation with the kids, planning some “quality kid time” is critical to the trip’s success. Charlotte’s Great Wolf Lodge is a great family destination and even makes for a great staycation for families living in the surrounding communities. A stay at this hotel includes access to the property’s 80,000 square foot water park.

 
 

 

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Things to do in Charlotte, NC: TSB City of the Month

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Charlotte is a fast growing city with much to enjoy for people of all ages. While most visitors head to ‘The Queen City’ between the spring and fall, there’s still plenty to do during the winter months; and right now during the holidays is no exception.

Holiday Happenings in Charlotte

Just 15 miles west of Charlotte is the small town of McAdenville (population 700). For the past 50 years, McAdenville, otherwise known as “Christmastown USA” has kept the Charlotte area merry and bright with its amazing light display that drawls more than 600,000 visitors each year and has even garnered the attention of TIME Magazine. There’s only one way through town so you can’t miss anything. Locals say the lights are best experienced on foot.

An animatronic orchestra of computerized bears, the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra, is one of Charlotte’s favorite Christmas attractions. The “Bearstein Bears” complete with singers play favorite holiday classics at Founders Hall for free daily throughout December.

200177110-001Things to Do in Charlotte

One of the city’s oldest cultural institutions is the Mint Museum. The historic building used to house the United States Mint – hence the name – but today its two-campus set-up houses both an impressive art collection and a popular craft and design museum.

North Carolina is regarded as the “Birthplace of Aviation,” and the Charlotte region is steeped in flight history. Located on the grounds of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum has a collection of over 50 aircraft and a large collection of smaller historic items related to aviation in the North and South Carolina.

The museum even recently added the body of US Airways flight 1549, the famed “Miracle on the Hudson” plane.

For the theme park enthusiast, you’ll be thrilled to know that Charlotte is home to Carowinds. This theme park actually crosses the borer between NC and SC, so you can be in two states at once. And, if it’s a water park you are looking for, Charlotte is also home to a Great Wolf Lodge, doubling as a great hotel option for your visit, too.

The first actually documented gold found in the United States occurred in the nearby Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC. There’s no charge to tour the mine or see the museum and it is $3 to pan for gold.

Food for the Soul in Charlotte

Charlotte’s unique blend of business and southern hospitality seem to be the right ingredient for culinary success in the city. You can find just about anything in Charlotte to please even the most discerning palettes. Here are a few dining recommendations for your visit to Charlotte.

Mert’s Heart & Soul serves southern cuisine that is as authentic as it comes. All I can say is “Yum”. Mert’s has the best fried chicken, shrimp & grits, fried catfish around. Be sure to stop by for all the fixins.

The North Carolina Barbecue Society created a BBQ Trail all the way to Tennessee featuring 24 historic barbecue pits. I’m not sure whether to file this under “things to do” or “where to eat” but either way it would be deliciously fun.

Soul Gastrolounge is a hip and delicious choice for dinner. It stands in the top ten of Zagat’s best restaurants in Charlotte list. And, you can even catch a glimpse of the restaurant as it’s a backdrop spot in the new TV series, The Novice.

Be sure to make dinner reservations early enough in the evening so you’ll be able to get downtown for the Bobcats game at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena. The new team brings a lot of new excitement to the area.

We’ll round out the week with a few hotel recommendations for when you visit Charlotte whether on business, pleasure, for romance or with family.

 
 

 

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A Perfect Weekend Away in Charlotte, NC: TSB City of the Month

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

If you’re looking too get away for a long weekend and you want to visit a city that is not too bustling, but not too quiet, not too artsy or action-packed, then try Charlotte, NC. It’s just right for a getaway weekend with the perfect combination of everything that makes ‘The Queen City’ a favorite travel spot for friends, couples and families up and down the East Coast.

200177106-001Charlotte is the #2 banking capital outside of Wall Street and gives the city a certain metropolitan buzz that you’d expect in a downtown. One of the things I like most about Charlotte is how pedestrian-friendly it is. You can walk anywhere in the vicinity of Trade and Tryon (the two main streets) and encounter art, music, and great dining options. Downtown is also a great place to sit and people-watch. It was especially prime people watching when Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention last year.

And just outside the city are some fantastic, hip neighborhoods beckoning for you to explore them. SouthPark is full of wonderful shops and restaurants. For an inexpensive treat, park at South 21 Curb Service and experience the 1955 drive-in a modern twist. Indulge in thick chocolate milk shakes, hot hush puppies, and crispy onion rings…and a trout sandwich.

Charlotte’s artsy NoDa neighborhood features some of the finest art galleries around. Twice a month there is an art crawl, held on the 1st and 3rd Friday starting at 6pm, and let’s you peruse some of the city’s finest galleries. After you can chill at Dolce Vita, a low-key wine bar and neighborhood gathering spot.

And up the road in Concord, NC, you can get that small-town experience. Concord features three historical districts with many beautifully preserved homes worth driving around and the Memorial Gardens are a botanical delight in the spring and summer months. Union Street in Concord is a fun walk with local shops, restaurants, museums and art galleries.

Later this week, we’ll take a look at where to stay and more suggestions on what to do and areas to explore when visiting Charlotte.

 
 

 

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The Digital Detox: Can You Really Disconnect on Vacation?

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Thanks to WiFi and 4G and the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to escape the going-ons of life, whether for work or social pleasures.  That’s why “digital detox” vacations are becoming more popular as people find themselves wanting to unplug and go off the grid for awhile, and actually enjoy some quality time with family or friends.

A number of great hotels and resorts in America are ready to help travelers disconnect while on vacation whether its through their remote locale or their take-no-prisoners approach to removing that cell phone from your hand.

Do you need a digital detox?

The hoteliers I spoke to say that it takes a few days for most guests to stop feeling antsy as a result of the separation from their devices. Physical activities, like surfing and yoga, help make the transition easier.

Off-the-Grid at Amangiri Resort

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Located in Southern Utah, just shy of the border with Arizona, sits the luxurious and unparalleled off-the-grid desert oasis, Amangiri Resort. With 600 protected acres looking out towards the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, this resort and its minimalist architecture blends spectacularly into the landscape. The resort pampers its guests with exquisitely prepared meals, the 25,000 sq. ft. Aman Spa, and a pool sunken into the rock formations that will take your breath away.

Escape to Little Palm Island

No phones, no TVs and no shortage of fun and romance with a private beach, outdoor pool, and fitness facility at Little Palm Island (a Noble House Resort). Located on Little Torch Key, the only way you are getting to or from this resort is by seaplane or boat. The cottages are lovely (outdoor showers, freestanding soaking tubs), the beaches are private and magical, and the opportunity to unwind and disconnect is yours the minute you make a reservation at this Florida Keys resort.

Silence in the City

Chicago is anything but off-the-grid, yet one hotel is helping some guests achieve silence in the city. The Hotel Monaco Chicago provides guests with a “black-out” option, whereby they surrender their gadgets to reception upon checking in. Guests can fight their gadget addictions and enjoy their stay sans digital intrusion with the help of the hotel’s attentive staff.

Disconnect to Reconnect at the Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

Guests at the Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo can have both an eco-adventure in the Costa Rican jungle and a serene surfing sanctuary. Through a partnership with iPhone case company, Uncommon, guests can choose to surrender their iPhones for 24 hours. And then the resort provides them with a list of 24 things to do without technology during that time at the resort. Phones are returned after the allotted time with a choice of four Costa Rican-themed iPhone cases. Activities include a Costa Rican coffee scrub treatment at the spa, and sipping fresh coconut water by the pool.

Tech-free Zones at Marriott Caribbean and Mexico Resorts

The JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa is one of nine Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean and Mexico Resorts featuring “tech-free zones” throughout their properties. These zones are designated to encourage guests to leave their digital devices in their hotel rooms and relax, read, or enjoy quiet conversation. I’d spend my time in the

14-foot dive pool with the artificial reef!

Focus on the Family at the Renaissance Pittsburgh

The Renaissance Pittsburgh is trying to keep families connected with its
“family digital detox package.” Instead of families occupying the same rooms but not sharing in the experience, the hotel encourages them to reconnect with one another. All laptops and mobile phones must be surrendered on check-in, and the television, telephone, and iPhone docking station are removed from the guest room. Instead, families are provided board games and playing cards.

How willing are you to disconnect on vacation?

 
 

 

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