Jul
08th
  Harry Potter Opening & What They Don’t Tell You About Visiting Universal Orlando

The brand new Universal Orlando attraction, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, is officially open as of this morning! Enthusiastic fans showed up at 4 AM EST for an 8 AM EST open… and lines at the time of this writing were reportedly 5 hours to check out the second Harry Potter themed adventure at Universal Orlando in Florida.

This latest Harry Potter themed area is at Universal Studios, where as the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade is at Universal Islands of Adventure – the sister park walking distance away. It becomes less confusing once you visit. And visit recently, I did!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

Here is a photo of what it looks like, without any of the barricades.

Kings Cross Station, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

Kings Cross Station, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

There are plenty of articles to describe Diagon Alley, and what the fanfare is about, but I want to share with you things I discovered about which you may not read.

1) Because Walt Disney World Resort is also in Orlando, and offers so many amazing resorts of all different price points and themes, many visitors stay at a Disney hotel and then venture over to Universal. BUT  – if you stay at a Universal upper-end, premium resort, you get perks that even Disney hotels don’t offer to it’s own parks.

For instance – —Fastpasses to all the rides except Harry Potter.

—-Early admittance to Harry Potter Hogsmeade (not the newer Harry Potter Diagon Alley) . Enter the park an hour before open to experience one of the most popular attractions there.

—-$20 off ticket price that you would pay buying at the park

2) Having said that, let me dig a little deeper into those perks. You will read different things on various forums as to whether the Fastpasses are worth it. I found them to be worth it. Lines to rides were significantly shorter. If you stay only one night at a Universal resort, you still get two fast passes if you buy a 2 day ticket.

3) The other perk: Early admittance to Harry Potter Hogsmeade: Not worth it. And don’t be fooled into thinking you get on all the rides with this early admittance – just Harry Potter Hogsmeade.

We went in the park the hour early, and there was still an hour wait for the Harry Potter rides.  But – we were there for two nights, and each night at around 8PM we could walk right up to the rides, with NO line. It is very cool to ride the Harry Potter Dragon Challenge roller coaster watching the sun set by the way. So sleep in and visit Hogsmeade later in the day.

4) If you visit in summer when it is very very hot and humid, start at the park around 2 PM… It is so pleasant right around 4 until closing, and the lines were a lot shorter, and you can still see a lot of the parks.

photo

5) It can rain a lot in summer. Some roller coasters close in the rain – so AS SOON as you see some dark clouds, head for some of the indoor rides, especially at Universal Studios where there are many 3D rides. The lines for those attractions grow longer once the other rides close temporarily for rain.

6) Some of the food concessions don’t stay open until closing, but City Walk, the stores and restaurants you walk through to get to Islands of Adventure stays open late. If you don’t want to leave the park to go to City Walk, plan accordingly.

7) This is my OMG tip: Parents, pace yourselves. There are SO many 3D rides and coasters that shake and spin you, if you go on all of them like I did, you may be feeling woozy. But don’t miss Spiderman. Avant -garde when it opened about a decade ago, it is still my favorite ride :) For detailed information about the fan-crazed opening to Diagon Alley, and details about the attraction, visit www.Orlandoinformer.com  or www.Universalorlando.com

Happy summer travels!

 
Jun
06th
  Hotel of the Week: Nantucket Now!
Nantucket, from TheNantuckethotel.com

Nantucket, from TheNantuckethotel.com

Just saying the word Nantucket automatically conjures up images of beaches dotted with wild grass… lighthouses… and quaint villages.

21 Broad Hotel

21 Broad Hotel

But now, a sort of iconoclastic hotel gives visitors a modern vibe to this Massachusetts town rooted in tradition.  It is a fresh burst of energy amidstt the cobblestone streets and historic sites.

21 Broad Hotel, Nantucket

21 Broad Hotel, Nantucket

21 Broad is ideally located near the beaches and walking distance to the island’s one town replete with good restaurants, bike rentals,  yacht filled harbor,  everything else you need to enjoy lazy days. The charmer this opens this summer.

21 Broad Nantucket

21 Broad Nantucket

Even though the island, 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, is known for it’s isolation, that’s what the crowds of tourists every summer like. Homes and hotels rent out quickly in Nantucket, so this one is one to keep on your list, especially if you like transitional design with a casual coastal feel.  According to the website there are still room available this summer – and there is a special running for first time guests – $21 off each night of your stay when you enter ” 21 days” in the promo code.

With 110 miles of coastline and gorgeous beaches in which you will want to sink your toes, the hotel offers its guests beach bags and beach chairs – a nice touch. If you like stylish and hip, this hotel stands out in one of America’s favorite old world islands.

www.21Broadhotel.com

 
May
28th
  Travel

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry & die, it can introduce the idea that if we try & understand each other, we may even be friends.

—Maya Angelou

 

 
May
23rd
  Barcelona: The Eye Candy You Won’t Want to Miss – With Kids Too.

It is the unofficial start of summer!! I feel it and am excited. If you are thinking about summer travel to Europe, Barcelona is an interesting addition to the itinerary.

It is Spain’s second largest city – and holds all of the wonderfully European highlights you’d expect: old neighborhoods, beautiful churches, street lined cafes. But Barcelona offers a bit more eclecticism: architecturally, it is a Gothic and Modernist marvel. There is so much eye candy, in a cosmopolitan setting, that you may forget this is also a beach town.

If you are traveling with children, here are some attractions that even the kids will find fascinating!

Cosmocaixa, Barcelona

CosmoCaixa
For families with kids, CosmoCaixa is an engaging museum. The museum offers a variety of temporary and permanent exhibits, all of which showcase the environment, nature, science, and space. Some highlights include the Flooded Forest, which allows kids to experience the Spanish forests, and Touch, Touch!, which houses living creatures from around the world.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and tickets are $19.38 (4 euro),  kids 16 and under are free. Check out http://obrasocial.lacaixa.es/nuestroscentros/cosmocaixabarcelona/cosmocaixabarcelona_ca.html for details.

Sagrada Familia Basilica from Oyster.com

Sagrada Familia Basilica from Oyster.com

Sagrada Familia Basilica
This is an interesting story – The Sagrada Familia Basilica (or, the Church of the Holy Family) is still under construction since it’s commencement in 1882. That’s partly because famed architect Antoni Gaudi died with only 1/4 of it complete. There have been conflicts over the continuation of the church since his death. Families can witness history in the making, and see the gothic work of the famous architect.

The church has been described as ” the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.” Touring around guarantees gasps of awe.

An interesting addition: The church offers audio guides and a variety of exhibitions on the life and work of Antoni Gaudí. Ticket prices vary depending on what you want to see, but the basic package is $26.73 (19.30 in euro). Visit http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/ for details.

Tibidabo AMusement Park from cometobarecelona.com

Tibidabo AMusement Park from cometobarecelona.com

Tibidabo mountain.

Imagine the view atop that ferris wheel!

Tibidabo mountain offers a variety of activities, including an amusement park for kids. The views are unparalleled, and there is a beautiful church, known as the Temple de Sagrat Corazon (Temple of the Sacre Heart of Jesus) on top of the mountain that is worth the visit. There is also a sky walk that attracts many .

You can either drive, or take the Tibidabo tram to appreciate the views better.  Adult tickets to the amusement park are $39.47 (28.5 euro), but kids under 48 inches (120 cm) can get in for $14.26. The church is free to enter, and offers services at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., 5 p.m., and 11 p.m. The tram runs every 15 to 30 minutes, and is $5.82 (4.2 euro) per ticket. Visit http://www.tibidabo.cat/ for details.

FCBarcelona_6_.v1312288446

Barcelona FC Camp Nou
For soccer fans, or shall I say “futbol” fans, Barcelona FC Camp Nou is the perfect tour. It’s a way to get a feel for the pop culture or ahem, pop obsession.

There is a museum exclusive to people on the tour that offers interactive stat viewings, the 22 Liga and 4 Champion League trophies that FC Barcelona has won over the years. The tour also includes the player’s tunnel, the pressroom, commentary boxes, as well as the playing field itself. General admission tickets are $33.93 (24.50 euro) while kids ages 6-13 are $25.62 (18.50 euro) and kids 5 and under are free. Visit www.fcbarcelona.com/camp-nou for details.

Parc Guell, from Barcelona-home.com

Parc Guell, from Barcelona-home.com

Park Güell by Antoni Gaudí
Surround yourself with beautiful modernist art!

Park Guell is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona. It too was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914.  On top of being just down right colorful and entertaining to see,  it one of the largest architectural works in south Europe. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí”.[1]

The Park Güell offers 8 areas to tour, including a museum in what was once Gaudí’s home. The park is full of sculptures by the famous modernist, including the famous Gaudí’ lizard. General Admission tickets are $11.09 (8 euro), while kids 7 to 12 are $7.76 (5.6 euro), and kids 5 and under are free.  Check out www.parkguell.es/en/portada for details.

TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN VISITING BARELONA:

1) August is the busiest time, yet about 10% of stores and restaurants close as owners go on vacation.

2) The Spanish people are very kind and tolerant of children

3) Remember your different adapters for all your chargers and electronics!

 
May
20th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: When’s the Best Time to Avoid Holiday Traffic this Memorial Day Weekend?

memorial-dayAnyone going anywhere this Memorial Day weekend? Lucky you!

From AAA

From AAA

But be warned -you may have heard by now, AAA is predicting  an increase in the number of travelers getting out of town this year – one of the highest numbers since the year 2000.

But what you may not have heard is that AAA is also predicting a 25% increase nationally in traffic congestion over a year ago this holiday weekend. Yuck.

So wouldn’t it be nice to know the best times to hit the road to avoid traffic? Well, I’m going to tell you! This may be intuitive, but according to INRIX, a company that officially measures traffic delays, the best time to leave to avoid sitting in extra heavy traffic is Thursday before 1 PM… Friday between 10 and 11… or wait to leave until after 7PM Friday.

It may be impossible to avoid any traffic… but drive safely to wherever your destination, and enjoy your three day weekend. :)

 
May
16th
  Happy Campers: Women Reigniting their Lives over Campfires, Canteens, and Classes of sorts.

How many of you long for the days of your summer camp youth? While signing your own child up to spend a few weeks on Sebago Lake in Maine,  water skiing, swimming, and making s’mores are you secretly longing YOU were going again?

Campowerment

Campowerment

Well guess what? There is a camp for you. Campowerment. Sleep away camp for adults.  It aims to bring out our your inner child, yet nurture the mature you.

Campowerment

Campowerment

Campowerment combines the magic of childhood summer camp with empowering, interactive workshops led by experts in health, wellness, love, spirituality, parenting, personal style, and business empowerment. Three days of growth, and learning from pros… and a lot of unbridled fun.

Campowerment

Campowerment

 Women go to camp in the wilderness to disconnect, and end up connecting with each other, total strangers, through all sorts of camp-like activities – some challenging, some calming. From typical summer camp arts and crafts… to a ropes course and zipline… to sunset yoga, and of course – camp fires and flashlight chats.  When the campers have had enough, they turn in for the night in their cabins, just like your old summer camp.

Campowerment

Campowerment

It’s a refreshing way to focus on different areas of your life with other women, while at the same time having some good old fashioned fun.

As of now, camps are in Malibu, CA… The Poconos, PA…Orange Springs, FL… and the Catskills, NY. The current price is $999, which includes all meals and activities.

The camp director, and brains behind the bunks, Tammi Leader Fuller, says she started the camp because …well, heck… I could never describe it like she does. Her story is a moving tale. Life led her to this path.  She wants you to have enlightened fun. Please read it on her website when you visit. Here’s the link:  www.campowerment.com/#!meet-tammi/c1asl

And here’s the homepage for s’more camp info :) www.campowerment.com

Bring on the Kumbaya, Campowerment style.

 

 

 
May
08th
  Packing SOS: How to Pack for Kids

For Mother’s Day, we’re reaching out to the packers of the family… the tireless suitcase soldiers who think about each minute of the family vacation, and what the kids might need along the way… and then – take the time to pack it all up for the road.

That’s you, right moms?

Here are some tips form my work on PBS’s Travel Detective. You can find more helpful travel information at the website: http://traveldetective.petergreenberg.com/how-to-pack-for-kids/ and make sure to check your local listings for the show! http://traveldetective.petergreenberg.com/wheretowatch/

 
May
06th
  Don’t Get Taken for a Ride in Your Las Vegas Cab – Save Some $$
Girls trip to Vegas

Girls trip to Vegas

Some girl friends and I were  just in Las Vegas … where I foolishly lost some wages. But not where you think: It was in the cab rides.

Las Vegas Cab

Las Vegas Cab

A total of 6 cab rides in 24 hours…. and I paid for most with a credit card, until I discovered there is a $3.00 fee in all of Las Vegas every time you pay for a cab with plastic. (See “voucher” cost in below photo.) That almost cost an extra $18 in one day… which adds up if you stay longer!

 

Credit Card Machine in Vegas Cab
Credit Card Machine in Vegas Cab

Know BEFORE you go!

Las Vegas has contracted with credit card machines that know they have you: You’re having fun, maybe not paying too much attnetion in the cab,  you get a credit card out and swipe. None of the cab drivers  told me that $3.00 would be added to any cab fare paid with credit card.

So who is getting this extra money? I was told the credit card processing company – or whoever owns the machines – gets $2.50 and the cab company gets $ .50. I can’t think of another city in which I’ve traveled where there is a $3 fee just for using a credit card.

Bottom line: Bring cash. And leave with it :) You dont want THAT staying in Vegas….

 
May
02nd
  Hotel of the Week: A Hotel Room that Fits Families of 5 or More for $300 a Night

rouge hotel main room

I like hotels with personality. Hotel Rouge in Washington DC would qualify as personality plus.

Besides the great location in Dupont Circle, just five blocks from the preeminent landmark the White House, the 137 room boutique hotel offers some unique amenities that can make for a memorable stay.

Hotel Rouge Bunk Bed Suite

Hotel Rouge Bunk Bed Suite

The one that stood out to me, as a mother of three children, is the bunk bed suite : If you have a large family you know the travel dilemma – You often can’t fit comfortably in one room, but get more than one room and spend a fortune.. and what if your children aren’t old or mature enough to have a room by themselves?

At the Rouge, choose from a king bed with bunk beds, or two queens with bunk beds – that could sleep 6 people if needed ALL in one room. There are also rooms with kitchenettes if you like to be able to have food in.

Other fun touches: From pets to pedals….

rouge hotel goldfish

Hotel Rouge is a pet friendly hotel . But if you can’t bring your own pet and crave something to take care of, the hotel gives it’s guests gold fish for their stay.

And… there are free bikes to use… to pedal your way to the sights.

rouge hotel queen queen

The design itself is bright and perhaps a little over the top for some. It is a Kimpton property so flamboyance shouldn’t be a surprise – but I warned you: personality plus. Thankfully, Not price plus. A King Deluxe room starts at $243. And that King bed or Queen Queen bed room with bunk beds to sleep a family? Both are less than $365 a night.

See our nation’s capital in style, while saving money.

www.rougehotel.com

 

 

 

 

Rouge: A Washington DC Boutique Hotel Near Dupont Circle

If colors could speak, red would beckon us to wake up and smell the roses. Like the hue it celebrates, Hotel Rouge is a Washington, DC hotel that welcomes and energizes you. If you haven’t stayed with us recently, come see the luxuries we added during our multi-million dollar refresh. Of all the hotels near the White House, Rouge is a straight five-block walk to that renowned landmark, and three blocks from Dupont Circle.

At our boutique hotel in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, you can expect a signature Kimpton experience, including:

  • 2013 Certificate of Excellence, awarded by TripAdvisor
  • Use of a yoga mat in every room, free of charge
  • Newly redesigned hotel accommodations, including specialty Bunk Bed Suites for families or girls’ getaways, Kitchenette Suites, a Conference Suite, and the Rouge Premiere Suite
  • Free WiFi and $10 credit to Raid the Bar for Kimpton InTouch members (Join now for free)
  • Hosted Evening Wine Hour and free morning coffee and tea
  • Complimentary use of our custom PUBLIC bikes. Our hotel bikes are available on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Wine on tap and ethnic cuisine at Bar Rouge, a local hangout
  • Pet Friendly hotel in DC – No fees, no restrictions, no worries
  • 100% non-smoking Washington DC hotel

Accessible Hotel Features | Accessible Accommodations

- See more at: http://www.rougehotel.com/#sthash.ptziZKEc.dpuf

Rouge: A Washington DC Boutique Hotel Near Dupont Circle

If colors could speak, red would beckon us to wake up and smell the roses. Like the hue it celebrates, Hotel Rouge is a Washington, DC hotel that welcomes and energizes you. If you haven’t stayed with us recently, come see the luxuries we added during our multi-million dollar refresh. Of all the hotels near the White House, Rouge is a straight five-block walk to that renowned landmark, and three blocks from Dupont Circle.

At our boutique hotel in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, you can expect a signature Kimpton experience, including:

  • 2013 Certificate of Excellence, awarded by TripAdvisor
  • Use of a yoga mat in every room, free of charge
  • Newly redesigned hotel accommodations, including specialty Bunk Bed Suites for families or girls’ getaways, Kitchenette Suites, a Conference Suite, and the Rouge Premiere Suite
  • Free WiFi and $10 credit to Raid the Bar for Kimpton InTouch members (Join now for free)
  • Hosted Evening Wine Hour and free morning coffee and tea
  • Complimentary use of our custom PUBLIC bikes. Our hotel bikes are available on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Wine on tap and ethnic cuisine at Bar Rouge, a local hangout
  • Pet Friendly hotel in DC – No fees, no restrictions, no worries
  • 100% non-smoking Washington DC hotel

Accessible Hotel Features | Accessible Accommodations

- See more at: http://www.rougehotel.com/#sthash.ptziZKEc.dpuf

 
Apr
22nd
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Clearing the Air About Non-Smoking Hotel Rooms – They’re Not as Clean as You Think
Marriott Shadow Ridge Villas from Timesharejuice.com

Marriott Shadow Ridge Villas from Timesharejuice.com

Last week while I was in Rancho Mirage CA, my kids and I visited some friends staying  at Palm Desert’s Marriott Shadow Ridge villas.

I discovered this is a completely smoke-free hotel. I had heard of lodging with nicotine no-nos, but had never run across one. This reminded me of a study published recently, that is important if you have smoke allergies, or are just concerned about your health.

cigarette

The study looked at a random sample of hotels :  some with non smoking rooms, and hotels with complete non smoking bans. Surfaces and air from both types of hotel were analyzed for tobacco smoke pollutants. Not surprisingly, levels were highest in the smoking rooms… BUT what’s significant is levels in non-smoking rooms were much higher than those found at smoke-free hotels.

And…volunteers who stayed overnight in the smoking hotels ended up with sticky nicotine residues on their fingers, even if they stayed in non- smoking rooms. However, urine tests found additional evidence of nicotine exposure in those who stayed in smoking rooms, but not those who stayed in the non-smoking rooms.

It seems third hand smoke  – smoke that seeped under doors, for example – can still linger in drapes, carpet, etc. in non-smoking rooms. We don’t know how dangerous that is, but it is reason to be cautious as we do know that second hand smoke is carcinogenic.

The conclusion is that it’s best for your health to stay in non-smoking hotels whenever possible. Partial smoking bans in hotels do not protect non-smoking guests from exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco-specific carcinogens

Thankfully, it’s not so hard to find a smoke-free hotel – even in Vegas! –  because the trend is growing. The most comprehensive list I’ve found is here: http://hotelmagician.com/smoke-free_hotels/

And remember, if a smoke-free hotel is not available, and you are booking a hotel online – call the hotel and request a smoke free room if the website doesn’t give you the option. There’s nothing worse than having to spend then night in room with even a hint of cigarette smoke if you are a non-smoker.

As a non-smoker and a mom who travels with kids, I’d like to applaud Marriott and Westin, two chains who offer a number of non smoking hotels across the country. Today on Earth Day, they are good models of those in the industry taking care of our air!