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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


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 3 | Cruising Checklist

April 13, 2015 • By

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Back Again With Helpful Cruising Tips

Now that you’ve actually booked your cruise, it’s important to make sure that you take care of a few things before leaving.  Here’s a handy cruising checklist to assure that you will be ready before the ship leaves:

 

  • Check with your medical and renter’s/homeowners insurance to see if you and your belongings are covered by your current policies when traveling abroad.
  • Check with your cell phone carrier for international rates; beware of exorbitant roaming charges.
  • Notify your credit card company and your bank of your travel plans.  They will usually deny suspicious transactions from foreign locales if they weren’t forewarned about your plans.
  • Make from 2-3 copies of your passport, birth certificate and identification. Have one copy of the documents on your person separate from the actual documents when in port cities, place a copy in your luggage and if you opt to utilize a stateroom safe, place a copy within it as well.
  • Make sure your passports are 6 months or more before expiration when traveling.  Most countries will not allow you entry otherwise.
  • Be sure to purchase travel insurance.  It truly buys peace of mind in the event that you find yourself unable to travel after booking airfare, car rental, hotel stays, cruise fare, etc.  If you do not have it, if you have to cancel, you will lose any monies that you’ve spent.
  • Your Cruise Line will probably send you self adhesive luggage tags that will have your stateroom number printed on them.  Be sure to affix them to your luggage as instructed before leaving home.  

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 2 | Cruise Day

February 20, 2015 • By

cruise day

 

What should you expect on cruise day?

 

Alright.  You’ve decided that you want to give this cruising thing a go.  You’ve determined where you’d like to go and have already booked your cruise  with your preferred cruise line.  What should you expect on cruise day?

How do I check in?

Each Cruise Line is different but Celebrity allows you to check in well before your sail date.  If it’s possible,  I would recommend that you do that.  If you are familiar with flight check- ins at the airport, this works the same way.  You will go to the cruise line’s website, create an account and put in your information.  This in effect, pre-registers you for the cruise.  You will be able to print out your guest ticket which will give you pages of info on what to expect on cruise day, during your cruise and your cruise itinerary, etc.

We received luggage tags via regular mail with our stateroom number stamped on it and were advised to affix them to our luggage before leaving home.  One can only imagine the logistics involved in keeping up with the luggage of thousands of passengers, so we made sure that we followed their instructions to the letter.

I’ve heard that it’s best to arrive one day before your scheduled cruise departure.  Why?

Most cruises, particularly, Caribbean cruises depart in the late afternoon.  That might lead most people to think that it’s a safe bet to fly in on the day of the cruise.  My advice is to plan on flying in the day before, this will allow you breathing room to be prepared for embarkation the next day. Can you imagine booking a flight on cruise day and something happens to delay the flight?  Trust me, the cruise lines will not wait for you, so save yourself the stress and fly in the day before.

 

What if I choose to drive directly to the port from my home?

This has become such a “thing” that you will find that hotels located close to ports will offer “Park, Sleep and Cruise” specials.  If you pay for one night’s stay, they will allow you to park your car on site for free and reclaim it at the end of the cruise.  They will usually provide a complimentary shuttle from the hotel to the cruise port.

This might be the most desirable option should you choose to drive in because port parking fees are high (approximately $20.00 per day).  I rented a car during my last cruise and after dropping it off at the rental agency, I was shuttled to the port by the agency for free.

What can I expect when I arrive at the port?

We flew into Fort Lauderdale (FLL) because the flights were cheaper but our port was in Miami.  We hired a shuttle service to drive us to our Miami hotel and the next day we took the hotel’s shuttle to the port.  It cost $10.00 pp but it was worth it to assure that we’d get to where we needed to be on time.  As soon as you reach your particular cruise line, the driver will remove your luggage and you will then turn it over to the porter who works for the cruise line.

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 1 | Booking Your Cruise

January 26, 2015 • By

 

booking your cruise

Helpful Tips for Booking Your Cruise

When you consider how busy people are these days, it’s no surprise that Cruising is one of the most popular modes of traveling.  Think about it.   Literally, you will have 3+ days of pure bliss on a floating resort, practically any type of food you’d like, be treated like royalty by staff, participate in daily activities like Zumba, volleyball tournaments, trivia games, try your luck in the casino, enjoy nightly entertainment from singers, ventriloquists, dancers and musicians, be pampered in the on-site Spa, eat till your heart’s content or burn those same calories at the full service gym. What’s not to like?

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Add on the fact that cruise ships visit different ports and it’s easy to see why this would be a very cost effective way to get away from it all. I will admit that previously, I’d decided that my first cruise would be my last and only  recently realized that perhaps, I’d been too hasty.

If you prefer a relaxing, care-free vacation where you only need to show up and have the time of your life or just opt to relax, lounge around the pool and do nothing, cruising may be the ideal solution for you.

That sounds lovely, but everyone knows that there are a billion cruise lines.  How do I go about choosing the right one for me?  

If you asked three people that same question, you would get three different answers.  The answer is highly subjective and truly depends on the type of cruise you are looking for.   Take Carnival Cruises, for example.  They have a reputation for being a ‘party’ cruiser, however, when I was aboard the Carnival Liberty, there were 4,000 kids there.  The lovely thing is that I saw maybe two of them.  Carnival has a very good program for the youngsters that keeps them well occupied for the length of the cruise.  Therefore, families should not be wary of booking with them and singles should know that they will feel that they are almost on an adults only cruise.READ MORE


North America, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

A Salute to Fall from Prince Edward Island!

September 29, 2014 • By

 

I first fell in love with Prince Edward Island through the narrow view of a photo lens.  Its’ vast beauty shined through whether it was the picturesque countryside or pensive seaside.   I was enamored with its quaint architecture, beautiful seashore and knew that one day I would have to bear witness to it to make sure that it was all real.

I was fortunate to get that chance around this time last October.  Fall was upon us.  The leaves had begun to change, the air was crisp and the island was only occupied by the people left behind to brave the cold weather that was yet to come.  Tourist season was well over which is what made this trip all the more appealing.

While there was public transportation, it was imperative to rent a car so that you could spend time exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the island.  There was always something incredible waiting just ahead and our impatience wouldn’t have been able to bear the constant interruptions of the leisurely island trams.

We wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and just relax and enjoy the wonders of nature.  We were not disappointed.  Now, a full year later, I want to share what makes PEI such a special place to visit.  Come along with me and explore the first installment of discovering the miraculous natural aesthetics of this wonderful island, won’t you?