Archive for the ‘Vacations’ Category

In order to plan a great travel experience, it is necessary to plan ahead as much as possible. I enjoy reading articles that will assist me in enjoying my next adventure with as few mishaps as I need to encounter. I like to see what advice fellow travelers have, research out locations, price different activities and plan my trip out as much as possible.

Last summer, I had a great time in New York and I plan on going again sometime this fall. Despite what some people might think, it’s possible to have a great time on a decent budget in the city that never sleeps. There’s also a wealth of information out there, numbers, websites, and tips for the weary New York traveler that I thought I would share:

Having your Hotel’s Local Phone Number- I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve gotten into a cab, given the address to my hotel only to sit there while he or she circles the same few blocks trying to “find” my hotel. It’s so helpful to have your hotel’s number on hand for this reason and so many others. If your flight is delayed and you want to let them know you’ll be arriving late, you’ll be able to easily let them know so they don’t give away your room. If you’re heading back to your hotel after a late night out and can’t remember the exact address, a quick phone call will make it easy to get home safely.

Airline Phone Number- Whether you need to change your ticket or want to see if your flight has been cancelled or delayed due to bad weather, calling the airline directly is your best bet.

Dial 311-New York City has a fantastic free information service: 311. Government information and non-emergency assistance is a quick phone call away and all calls are answered by a live person, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Translation services into over 170 languages are available via 311. For calls made from outside of New York City’s five boroughs, you can access the same free information (with 24 hour live operators) by calling (212) NEW-YORK (212-639-9675).

NYC Car Service Phone Number- Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to hail a taxi, so having a car service number can be a tremendous help. When you’re stuck with lots of bags from a serious shopping trip, out in the boroughs looking for a ride back to Manhattan or trying to get to the airport, a quick call to a car service can get you a ride to your destination with little hassle.

NYC & Company Visitor Information Phone Number- If you’ve got a tourism related question, call 212-484-1222 to speak to a Visitor Information Counselor Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. They can help you with questions about attractions, tours or anything else related to New York City tourism.

Phone Numbers for Restaurants Where You Want to Eat- Even if you already have reservations, it’s a good idea to call and confirm them the day before. If you don’t reservations, it can be a good idea to call to see if they have suggestions about good times to get a table or if they have any same-day reservations available.

Travel Agent’s Phone Number-It’s not surprising that even the best laid plans can sometimes run into a snag. Having the phone number for your travel agent will make it easier to rectify any problems you might run into, whether it’s delayed flights, an overbooked hotel or a rained-out tour, your travel agent will be able to fix things more easily the sooner you let him/her know you’ve run into a problem.

Tour Operator Phone Numbers- If you’ve pre-booked tours or events on your own, it’s a great idea to store these numbers in your phone as well. It’s easier to let someone know you’re lost or running late if you can call them directly.

Traveler’s Aid Phone Number- Should you need travel assistance and don’t have somewhere else to turn, give Traveler’s Aid’s JFK agency a call at 718-656-4870. If you lose your ticket, find yourself at the wrong airport or run into another travel snafu, Traveler’s Aid may be able to offer you assistance.

New York Area Consulate Emergency Phone Number- For international travelers, it can be helpful to have the number of the nearest consulate available. Should you lose your passport, run into legal problems or need other assistance, the Consulate office of your home country can often provide help.

Securing Discount Broadway Tickets- Broadway discount tickets purchased at a TKTS Booth are typically 25-50% off full-price, meaning you’ll pay about $50-$75 per ticket. Standing Room Only and Rush Broadway discount tickets will cost approximately $25. Broadway discount tickets purchased through Broadway discount ticket newsletters and websites are typically 25-50% off full-price, meaning you’ll pay about $50-$75 per ticket.

Your best to get these tickets is to sign up for on discount Broadway ticket newsletters and websites — these sites offer discounts on advance sales for many Broadway shows. You should also check the websites for Broadway shows that you’re interested in seeing — they often have email newsletters and special offers available.

Where can I get same-day Broadway discount tickets- There are two TKTS Booths in Manhattan offering discount Broadway tickets. Standing Room Only (SRO) and Rush Tickets are available the same day of a performance, typically for around $25 at the box office.

What Broadway discount tickets are available for students-Many Rush Tickets are available only for students with ID. What Broadway discount tickets are available for Seniors? Some Rush Tickets are available to seniors as well as students with ID.

Broadway Discount Ticket Sources
TKTS Booth Discount Tickets
Online Broadway Discount Tickets
Standing Room Only and Rush Discount Tickets

Wishing you a fantabulous travel experience!!

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others
stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we
are never the same.”



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Now, I am not a kill joy, but my grandchildren understand only Disney World. Don’t get me wrong I like Minnie, Mickey and my favorite Donald Duck! I am sure it has to be his sexy quack that really turns me on! Excuse me I regress to my childhood remembering my Donald Duck lunch box.

Well, I foolishly tried to explain there were other sites there as well. My little darlings would have none of that. The only redeeming part of Florida is Disney World. But, for the rest of us, here are some great sites to see in Florida once you’ve expended all your energy for Flash Mountain.

Best Miami Attractions for Kids

Biscayne National Park

Courtesy of: QT Luong

Courtesy of: QT Luong

While enjoying the natural parks in Miami, don’t forget about the one located under water! Kids of swimming age will find a bounty of treasures in this 181,500-acre wonderland, located just off the Miami coast. You can explore the vibrant coral reefs in a myriad of ways, including glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, fishing, and more. There is more fun to be had on land, on hiking trails or while camping on Elliot Key, or the more rustic Boca Chita Key. Visit the Convoy Point / Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead to start your adventure.

Crandon Park BeachCrandon
Crandon Beach has been ranked one of the Top 10 Beaches in the U.S. A short stroll along the promenade takes you to the Amusement Center – a hub of activity including a carousel, outdoor roller rink, splash fountain, and playground. The park also features concession stands, picnic areas, various nature trails and tours, and kayaks and cabanas to rent.

Everglades National Park

Courtesy of: Jim Richardson & National Geographic

Courtesy of: Jim Richardson & National Geographic

Make reservations ahead for a two-hour tram tour starting at the Shark Valley Visitor Center. This is the most family-friendly of the visitor centers and the one closest to Miami. You will see plenty of alligators, birds, and other wildlife. The Bobcat Boardwalk is an easy ¼ mile trail that kids will enjoy walking.

Gold Coast Railroad Museumthe-gold-coast-railroad
The museum is home to several historic train cars, including the Ferdinand Magellan, built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and used by several Presidents after him. Short train rides are offered on several types of trains, depending on the day. There is also an extensive model train exhibit, and a huge toy train set that children can play with.

Historical Museum of Southern Florida
Learn about South Florida and Caribbean history at this lovely museum in Downtown Miami

Miami Children’s Museum
Younger children will marvel at the plethora of interactive exhibits, and be delighted that they can touch and move anything they want.

Wishing you a marvelous travel experience at Disney World and beyond!!

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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french_flag_arc_de_triompheIf you recall we did an article about passengers may having to pay to use the toilet with certain airlines. Now it seems as though it may be difficult to use the facility in another locale when nature calls! Read on to look at the challenges you may have in France.

Using a toilet may sound like the simplest of tasks, but if you aren’t used to France’s plumbing it can be an experience. The public toilets in France are often broken down and sometimes a little scary. You need to know how to flush, how much it will cost you and other secrets to using the restroom.

Here is your toilet guide information on how to answer natures call:

  1. Find a bathroom. This isn’t always that easy, as public restrooms aren’t necessarily plentiful. Shopping centers or malls usually have a public restroom, as do some popular outdoor areas. Parks tend to have the public restroom pods. Worst case scenario, pop into a cafe, order a coffee and use their facilities. If you’re bold, march into a busy one and go straight back to the bathroom, then leave and save yourself a couple euros. Look for signs saying, “toilettes” or “W.C.”
  2. Look over the bathroom once you enter. While it is much less common these days, some have a glorified hole in the floor. You are supposed to squat and hover how would you handle this with arthritis and nature is calling? I guess the answer would be excitable!! This is one that I wouldn’t recommend.
  3. Flush. The flushing mechanisms on French toilets are almost never on the back. Sometimes there is a chain pully from above, sometimes a foot petal on the ground. Sometimes there is a button on top, sometimes two (pushing both will make the toilet keep flushing). Often, there is a large, rectangular bar on the back wall. Push or pull whatever you find.
  4. If you encounter an outdoor public pod-style restroom, they are a bit of their own category, and can be rather intimidating and confusing. Simply step up and look to see whether it’s occupied (red or green dot by the door). Put in your change, and wait for the door to automatically open. Step in, and the door automatically closes. Some individuals like to take a book or magazine with them when nature calls. But if you use this particular facility if you are there 15 minutes or more, the door WILL open. No book or magazine for this one!! These seem dirty, but they actually are disinfected after each use.
  5. Always have small change on you. Many restrooms are pay, sometimes manned by an attendant and sometimes accepting change to enter. The outdoor restroom pods require exact change, so have 5- and 10-centime pieces.
  6. Don’t be surprised by unisex bathrooms, or men’s and women’s rooms with a common lobby. The French are not nearly as hung up about separate restrooms as, say, the Americans.
  7. Before you enter, check to see if toilet paper is outside the stall. Sometimes, there are dispensers in the sink and mirror area, but no paper inside the stall.
  8. If you are visiting busy fast food restaurants, SAVE YOUR RECEIPT. It usually contains a code to get into the restroom there.
  9. Don’t be surprised if the outdoor pod-style public bathroom is broken down. Go to the next park

Wishing you the best with this nature call because really it is a travel experience!!

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
– Michael J. Fox

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The Ritz Paris

The Ritz Paris

If you’re going to visit the luscious city of Paris and you have the means, why not do it in true style at a Parisian luxury hotel? Paris has some of the world’s finest, most luxurious hotels. This is a city that is well-suited to upscale services.

Four Season George V Luxury Hotel
A stay at the George V (pronounced George Sank) is the ultimate Parisian experience. This luxurious hotel near the Champs Elysees has long been famous for catering to its guests. With private terraces that command all Paris; 17th-century tapestries, lovingly restored; and a spirit that lives on in thoroughly reborn, highly advanced spaces, Four Seasons George V Paris redefines luxury service in the City of Light.

There is something about the Jess Leathan flower arrangements and the world renowned Sodashi Spa that resonate luxury and opulence across the globe. You may also recognize its delicately appointed lobby, which was the setting for a scene in the film, “French Kiss.”

Paris Le-Grand
The Inter-Continental is another of Paris’ best addresses. The hotel, already upper crust, recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation that kept it closed for a year and a half. The best part is, with the newly-unveiled hotel, there are some deals that make this upscale hotel within the price range of some commoners, at least for a night. Inside the lavish hotel you will find the legendary Café de la Paix, which is renowned for classic French cuisine and since the hotel is a historic monument in France the whole building is brimming with timeless beauty.

Victoria Palace Hotel
The Victoria Palace in Paris is a delicately-appointed oasis in the city’s hip Montparnasse neighborhood. While it isn’t in the center of Paris, it is close to Luxembourg Gardens and St. Germain de Pres. The hotel has been a landmark on the Left Bank since 1913 and served as Parisian home to such major figures as the Irish writer James Joyce and the Italian painter Giorgio De Chirico. The rooms are rather large, especially for Paris.

The four-star hotel has several nice touches such as the weather report delivered nightly to your room and the welcome package given to all children staying for at least two nights ages 4-12. It’s the little things and the outstanding services that make visitors feel like royalty.

Ritz Paris
Feel like royalty, if for a brief time, with a stay at the infinitely regal Ritz Paris. The rooms and the hotel itself are like a mini visit to Versailles and the food has been legendary in France for decades. The first head chef of the Ritz, Auguste Escoffier, was the creator of Peach Melba and many other dishes that became the epitome of fine French cuisine. The Ritz continues that tradition with the Auguste Escoffier School by creating future generation of five star chefs.

If you truly have the means, splurge for one of the prestige suites like the Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel or Elton John. This is also the ultimate place for families. Children are indulged, with a welcome gift, pint-sized robes and a cuddly toy. Little ones can also take swimming or cooking lessons.

Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome is not just any hotel. It’s a fantastic, artfully decorated, courteously staffed hotel, with a newly renovated, gorgeous site that has been brilliantly constructed out of five different buildings. The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome offers guests every amenity possible. From cocktail courses for the budding hostess to the Universe of Senses stay for any luxury traveler. The neighborhood is first-class, a brisk walk from some of the most chi-chi shops in all of Paris, and so is the staff.

Chateau d’Esclimont
There are few things more indulgent than staying in an actual castle. Live like royalty at magnificent Renaissance château and former home of the La Rochefoucauld family, Château d’Esclimont, just an hour from Paris. The rooms are beautifully decorated, and the 150-acre grounds are ideal for walking. The restaurant has fine, memorable cuisine. It is, however, in an ideal for location for exploring Versailles, Chartres and the lovely, chateau-filled Loire Valley possibly with a hot-air balloon ride or helicopter flight and see the château and surrounding area, in all its magnificence, from the air.

From the towers, belfries and delightful grounds to the pretty bedrooms with fresh flowers, balconies with filigree railings and the calming moat below – everything here has a sense of true romance, and all with typical French flourish.

Have a luxurious travel experience!!

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.”

-Ernest Hemingway

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Everyone looks for travel bargains, and perhaps a few will pan out for you. But all of us know that there are unscrupulous businesses and individuals in this real world. Here are some suggestions to assist you in dodging some of these scams.

free-moneyPre-payment usually is required for travel products. That is why scam artists often concentrate on travelers. The Internet provides growth opportunities for such illegal and unethical activity.

Watch out for these top 10 travel scams when planning or on your vacation!

1. Advance Payment is Required Without a Written Contract
Travel payments often are made before a trip, but you are entitled to a written contract stating the product(s) for which you are paying. This is true whether it’s a deposit or payment-in-full. Scammers often attempt to gain your trust with friendly phone pitches that result in credit card transactions. Reputable vendors will always spell out their offers in writing.

2. Transactions by Courier Service Rather than Post Office
Anyone who insists on transacting travel business using only a courier service should be treated with suspicion. It’s quite possible they’re trying to avoid mail fraud statutes.

3. Transaction Can Only Be Carried Out by Telephone
There are reputable travel firms that do business only on the Web, but if you encounter a vendor that will only book by telephone, ask questions: Why is that your policy? Will I get a written contract to examine before I make my payment? What is your office address? Frequently, you’ll get evasive answers–a signal it’s time to hang up the phone.

4. Offer is for a “Limited Time Only”
We’re not talking about airfare sales and other special offers here. They expire, and sometimes you must move quickly to meet the deadline. But an offer of deep discounts that must be booked immediately is suspicious. Triple your suspicion level if you must pay immediately for a departure date at least 60 days in the future, because that’s the time limit for disputing credit card charges at many banks.

5. Different Names for Travel Provider and Seller
Why would these names be different? Frequently, a telemarketer or some other agent has been employed to make the sale. It’s very likely this go-between is far more interested in pleasing the vendor than the consumer. They get paid for closing deals, not for customer satisfaction. It’s also possible the names are different to avoid responsibility for the product. Either way, it’s not good news.

6. Hotel Names, Airlines or Other Vendors Not Disclosed in Writing
Online auctions like Priceline and Hotwire do not disclose vendors until after your bid is accepted. That’s part of the risk you take in saving money with those services. However, if you’re booking a trip in a conventional way, there is no reason whatsoever for withholding this information if hotel, airline, or car rental information is not disclosed, and the discussion and shop elsewhere.

7. A price Far Below Market Value
This one must be applied on a case-by-case basis. There are rare mistake fares that should be booked, but $199 for a one-week vacation in the Caribbean clearly is not going to be profitable for the vendor. Why make the offer? Perhaps you’re a prime target for a high-pressure sales pitch. Maybe the fine print says $199 is a base price from which add-ons will be assessed after you’ve paid. No vendor wants to lose money without gaining some other advantage in the process.

8. Offers to Make You a “Travel Agent”
Scam artists offer to certify you as a “travel agent” and gain access to all sorts of free trips. It’s true some travel agents get these perks, but the offers go to established people who are strategically chosen. No one is required to offer any travel agent a free trip. Some of these offers send you course materials, others just require a “fee” for “certification.” Both are a complete waste of money. If you want facts on becoming a travel agent, consult professional organizations like ASTA.

9. Hints of “Split Pricing”
Split pricing is the practice of offering below-market pricing and then adding charges for items that appeared to be included in the first quote. Reputable firms will offer vacations “starting at” a certain price, and show you all the upgrades. Scammers bury their pricing structure in the fine print. Don’t find out too late that your bargain tropical vacation involves a hotel 10 miles from the beach or your ski chalet is 30 miles from the slopes.

10. Frequent Use of Words Such as “Complimentary” and “Free”
Offers peppered with these words frequently are trying to distract you from some other reality. Your job is to find that hidden agenda or perhaps just reject the offer immediately. Let’s face it: Very few people on this earth offer complimentary items without some string attached. That string might be a time-share sales pitch or the obligation to buy something. Don’t let that obligation damage your travel budget or rob you of precious vacation time.

Have a safe travel experience!!

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”
-George Orwell

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Even though the economy is slow right now, people still want to travel locally or abroad. With some adventures, a car is a must in reaching a particular destination. With Earth Day upon us, I tried to think about some environmentally friendly, budget travel tips.

Ever heard of car sharing? This is not borrowing a friend’s car to do some shopping. It’s a form of car rental in which you, as a member of a car sharing club, have access to a vehicle for an hour or two. You swipe a card in a reader by the windshield to gain access and you’re off. Hourly rates at car sharing clubs sure beat renting a car for several days and paying expensive overnight parking fees; not to mention, that car sharing clubs typically pick up your gasoline costs and insurance, too.

I find that car sharing meets the needs of individuals needing a car. This car sharing can be a blessing for a family wanting to just take a one day outing.

Read more about car sharing here to consider if it might benefit your travel budget. And be sure to check out this site and this one for information on Earth Day and how you can do your part to help the environment today and everyday!

Have yourself a great travel experience!!

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
-Native American Proverb

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Sometimes we forget that while we travel, we have an obligation to do it eco-consciously. The large hotels, pampering, and time off take our minds so far out of the realm of environmentalism. That’s why I think it’s important to remember that eco-friendly traveling requires making a few simple changes and can be so much more meaningful.

1. Use Public Transportation
Trains can be a great way to see parts of a country that roadways don’t traverse. Once you arrive at your green vacation destination, take advantage of buses, monorails, ferries, and subways rather than traveling by yourself in a gas guzzler.
Worried about what to do when you go abroad? Well, passengers on the highly regarded Swiss Train System can rent bicycles at stations and bring them abroad.

2. Pack Light
I am a large supporter of the “One Bag Rule” while on vacation. Take advantage packing light, making sure that you bring quality items that you can use repeatedly. Wrap up travel size toiletries in re-usable bags that will undoubtedly come in handy during your green vacation. Just make sure that you don’t more luggage than you need on a green vacation. It adds weight to whatever means to transportation you use, requiring more energy while adding more to the burden that you carry.

3. Take a Volunteer Vacation

Keep your vacation green by doing good while you’re away from home. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Global Volunteers allow travelers to take a meaningful vacation while giving back to an underdeveloped community. You can participate in projects such as helping to construct a holding tank for a community’s water supply, building classroom furniture and playground equipment, and installing footbridges that cross local rivers.

4. Book an Eco-Friendly Hotel

Put your money where your beliefs are and support eco-resorts, eco-lodges, and eco-hotels constructed from recycled materials. Don’t think that by doing this, you’ll have to forgo luxury on a green vacation either! At The Tides Riviera Maya for instance, natural materials are used throughout and no motorized vehicles are allowed on the property. If you’re worried that your eco-friendly choice might break the bank, be sure to check out TWDHF’s secondary blog: Budget Travel for some great tips and locations to check out.

5. Shoot Digital Shots
Carry a digital camera to take great vacation photos rather than a disposable or an film SLR camera. Not only does this cut down on waste to the environment, but you will take up less space in your suitcase with one camera and small memory cards. Be even more eco-friendly and use rechargeable batteries instead of disposables.

6. Acknowledge that Some Destinations Should be Off-Limits

Known as eco-tourism, there are destinations whose ecosystems are so fragile that the arrival of you and hundreds of other tourists can create severe, irreversible environmental impacts. Among them are the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest.

7. Rent a Smart Car or Car Share
If you must rent a car on your green vacation choose a hybrid or a compact model that goes farther on less gas. Not only get a car that is easier on the environment, but if you can, try to group together when you travel and share a car. The extra people will lessen the impact gas emissions have on the ozone and save you money. Whichever route you choose, just make sure to stay at or below the speed limit to ensure that you’re conserving energy.

8. Conserve In-Room Energy

Just as when you’re at home, shut off the lights, TV, and air conditioner when you leave your room.

9. Don’t Generate Any Unnecessary Laundry

Must you have your towels and sheets changed everyday? The energy and the water required to wash them are wasteful. It’s become accepted practice for travelers to leave soiled towels and sheets on the floor and it is understood that everything else in the room does not need to be changed. When it comes to clothing, make sure that the items you’ve packed do not require any special laundering. Pack clothing that can withstand more than one wear to eliminate excess laundry.

10. Consume Locally
Maine lobster that you order in San Francisco or New Zeland lamb that you’re served in New York are the results of extensive long-haul shipping and handling. Instead choose locally grown meats, vegetables, fruits, and wines on your green vacation; you’ll develop a fuller appreciation of your area while you savor it.

Have a great travel experience!!

“My future starts when I wake up every morning…Everyday I find something creative to do with my life.”

-Miles Davis

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