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Travel Advice

North America, Travel Advice

Spotlight on Joseph Strauss, Chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge

July 20, 2016 • By

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I must confess.  Until we actually arrived in San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge in person, I had no idea that it was flanked by the Golden Gate Park!

Located in the center of it, was a statue of a man that I was not familiar with.  His name was Joseph Strauss and he along with Charles Alton Ellis, the man who is largely credited with the actual structural design, is responsible for bringing the Golden Gate Bridge to life.READ MORE


Consumer Advice, Lifestyle, Travel Advice

The Top 5 Carry-on Bags Under $60

July 12, 2016 • By

Recently, after years of inadequate solutions to my carry-on bag problem, I had to finally purchase one that suited all my needs. The search was far too long and tedious. After all, how hard is it find a tote bag with a shoulder strap, multiple organizer pockets and a laptop compartment?

Apparently, I underestimated what’s out there and, perhaps, my overly critical eye because it took several months to locate the perfect bag. Now that I’ve been through the fire, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the concerns of today’s jet setter and I’ve compiled a list of options that should satisfy the most persnickety amongst you- at an affordable price.

 

For The Traditionalist – $49

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Lifestyle, Travel Advice

Exploring The Negro Motorist Green Book

July 5, 2016 • By

It was a precursor to today’s TripAdvisor but it literally saved lives……

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In the not so distance past, traveling for black people was not as pleasant an undertaking as we may view it today.  Right after Reconstruction, laws were passed to ensure the permanent second class status of black people.  Many whites felt that blacks were ‘too free’, so laws were instituted to make sure that they knew their ‘place’ in society.

They were not allowed to travel freely like white people.  Many hoteliers refused them service as did restaurants, gas stations, amusement parks, etc.  It was literally life-threatening for those who found themselves in the unfortunate situation of being caught in ‘Sundown towns’.  It wasn’t unusual that direct eye contact with or speaking to whites could get you thrown in jail for the offense of ‘reckless eyeballing’, assaulted or even killed.READ MORE


North America, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

A day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains

June 28, 2016 • By

You may recall that I purchased an annual National parks pass in anticipation of my visit to Utah last year.  Since I was  visiting Gatlinburg again to spend time with family, I figured that we might as well check out the Great Smokies while we were there.

Due to an agreement between the state of Tennessee and the Federal government, the Great Smoky Mountains does not have an entry fee, so no annual pass was needed.  However, as we drove past the entrance, it reminded me of our time at Zion National Park, where you traverse a long winding road that has various points of interest on the side of the road along the way.

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North America, Travel Advice

A Fisherman’s Paradise called Lake Ramona

May 24, 2016 • By

 

It’s the unexpected, magical things in life that keeps you excited about it.  There’s always something special that you can find in your own backyard that makes you realize how lucky you are to be in such close proximity to it.

Lake Ramona is such a place.  I was surprised how close it was to my own house.  Literally, serenity is just a short drive away from my humble abode.  This man-made lake was built by  William Abner “Bill” Waters and his family.  After four years of construction, he opened it up to the public in the summer of 1968.READ MORE


City Views, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

48 Hours Discovering the Magical Parks of Utah

November 30, 2015 • By
utah

The Petroglyphs of Monument Valley, Utah

A Few of the Many Beautiful Sights of Utah

I’ve developed a fond appreciation for brief vacations.  If nothing else, it proves that you can still enjoy and experience a great deal that a city has to offer without spending an extended period of time there.  I’ve spent 24 hours in Amsterdam and 36 hours in Savannah and didn’t feel like I sacrificed anything in the process.  When I managed to find an exceptional fare from Atlanta to Salt Lake City for $139.00 RT via Google Flights, I  knew that I had to book it.

While I enjoy touring cities with the best of them, nothing makes me feel closest to the Creator than experiencing the Great Outdoors.  I have a poster of the Petroglyphs in Monument Valley in Utah hanging in my office.  After looking at it for five years, I decided that there was no time like the present.  In fact, I booked the trip for early November which happened to be during the off season, but thankfully the parks were still open.

My first order of business was to order an annual park pass for $85.00 (including shipping; it arrived in less than a week) from the nearly century old National Park Service.   The passes are free for park volunteers, members of the military and the disabled.  Citizens 62 years or older can get a lifetime pass for $10.00.

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to using Google Flights to search for the best fares

October 26, 2015 • By

Planning trips can be confusing to the inexperienced.  But if there is only one thing that you take from this post let it be this: “Booking your flight is the absolute first thing that you must do when planning your vacation.”  Why?  Because airfare will arguably be the most volatile expense that you will incur.  The cost of gas (as of this writing) is steadily declining, so airlines are offering fantastic bargains as a result.  However, these great fares aren’t available for all destinations.

That makes it all the more critical to plan ahead, monitor flight prices, be flexible with your departure dates and destinations as much as possible because some times are better than others.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, my suggestion is that you start with “Google Flights“.  Much like its search engine counterpart, it allows you to search for the best flight deals to any destination.

Here’s how it works:

Once you have reached the Google Flights home page, you will see a search box.  The first screen will give you the option of selecting a round trip (where you travel to one destination and take a return trip back to where you started), a one way (is just as it sounds, you go to a destination with no plans to return or if you’re not exactly sure when you will, you can purchase a return one way ticket at a later date) or you can choose the multi-city option if you are planning on visiting several locations during the course of your vacation.

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Budget Tips, Lifestyle, Travel Advice

Introducing “Eat With” – The New Way to Eat Locally and Deliciously

August 31, 2015 • By

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Traveling can sometimes be a lonely endeavor.  Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in a strange town surrounded by people you don’t know.  

At dinnertime, you will call down for room service, pull out a menu from one of the local restaurants from your hotel nightstand or you venture out into the darkness hoping that something will spark your interest.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you are familiar with how the online website, AirbNb works, then Eat Withmay be just the thing for you when you would like to eat locally. The website describes itself as “ a technology platform that brings people together. Sharing a meal, sharing stories, sharing laughs with new people in someone’s house is deeply personal, authentic, and intimate… it also happens to be the original social network.”

You can enjoy a home-cooked meal specially prepared for you and other guests in the private homes or exclusive private venues of chefs and cooks who’ve registered with and have been vetted by the site’s owners.READ MORE


Travel Advice

20 Top Tips for Planning a Dirt Cheap Vacation

June 30, 2015 • By

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Helpful Tips for Planning Your Next Vacation

 Plan ahead!

* The sooner that you decide where you want to go on vacation, the more likely you are to realize your best deals. Visit travel oriented websites like Frommers, Fodors, Virtual Tourist, Lonely Planet and Rick Steves among others to get solid ideas of where you would like to travel. Once that has been established, start looking for airfare and hotel deals to the destination.

* Consider the possibility of getting a package deal which consists of air, hotel and some taxes and junk fees. It’s a kind of one stop shopping where you often realize discounts by purchasing them together.  Also, if you are going with a partner, you may find that this is the most economical way to travel because single travelers are often hit with a supplemental fee to offset the lost revenue that a couple would bring.

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You may find that it is cheaper to book a package deal where you pay for a visit to two or more cities, round trip air, hotel, attraction tickets and train fare b/t cities for one low (or at least reasonable) price. There are several reputable online travel agencies that have exceptional vacation package deals like Go Today, Gate 1 Travel and Nordique Tours, among others.

* The further out you plan your itinerary, the more lead-time you will have to locate deals, especially during your destination’s “off-season”. While there are last minute deals to be had via sites like Travelocity, it’s prudent to take a proactive approach and plan early. Once, I missed a great fare deal to Paris because I took to long to decide if I really wanted to go; when I finally decided the fare was long gone, which meant that I had missed an opportunity to save a lot of money because I was not decisive.

* Be flexible about your travel dates for your vacation, fare amounts can be extremely volatile and change radically from one week to even one day to the next. If you can save hundreds by postponing your trip by a week, isn’t it worth it?READ MORE


Consumer Advice, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Booking Accommodations -Part 2

June 1, 2015 • By

brownshouse

Back Again With Helpful Tips for Booking Accommodations

Today we are continuing with the second installment of our three part series that breaks down the choices one has in booking accommodations for vacations or holidays. We will now look at mid-range options for those travelers who want a little more comfort than hostels can provide but at a more reasonable price than hotels.

If you think you are up to the task, I would recommend trying Priceline when booking accommodations because it allows you the chance to place bids on the price of a hotel room.  However, if you don’t like taking risks, then I would suggest trying aggregator websites like Home AwayVRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and AirBnB.  They list homes, rooms, guesthouses and cabins owned by people who want to rent them out to vacationers for a set daily, weekly or even longer rate.

Some of the aggregators will charge a service fee that will not be refunded should you cancel.  However, you should always note what the owner’s cancellation policy is because you are usually charged for the full stay as soon as you book it.  Most will refund your money if you cancel well in advance of your stay; some are generous enough to refund in full with one day’s notice.READ MORE