Archive for the Category »Travel «

Sep
16th
  Top Travel Spot Cabo San Lucas Gets Slammed: How to Travel During Hurricane Season

“Demolished paradise” is how one observer describes Cabo San Lucas after the beach resort town was hit by an unprecedented hurricane – Odile. The storm roared through Monday with 125 mph winds, causing all sorts of infrastructure damage and making a mess out of luxury hotels. There were hundreds of injuries reported, and thousands of tourists evacuated, but at the time of this writing, no deaths.

Many people without school age children travel this time of year called shoulder season – and with good reason.  In hurricane-prone areas especially, prices are generally lower, and there aren’t the crowds. We take a chance traveling now when we book near the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mexico from June-November, with most hurricanes historically hitting after August.

If you do decide to travel during this time, there are some precautions you can take to  minimize your risks.

–Purchase travel insurance and make sure you’re covered in the case that you must cancel or cut short your trip due to a hurricane. Shop around for a policy that meets your needs.  Some insurance providers sell a plan called “Cancel For Any Reason, ” which really follows it’s name. If your cruise ship is rerouted due to weather to places you’ve already been and don’t want to see them again… or some other reason….you can usually cancel two days before departure. It depends on what kind of plan you bought as to how much money you get back.

I highly recommend it so you don’t lose money you spend on this vacation for which you’ve been saving. Typically travel insurance costs 10% of trip.

—Ask if your hotel has a hurricane policy, or some sort of evacuation plan

—Stay aware of the weather. Don’t completely abandon reality. Check with the National Hurricane Center website.

—Leave a detailed itinerary with family member or friend.

—If this is an out of country trip, register with your country’s embassy. Also, think about buying an international calling plan so you can make emergency calls or texts if needed.

Remember, there are always risks when we travel, and the potential for unexpected hazards. The best thing you can do is be prepared.

Meanwhile, our thoughts are with the people of Baja California  – According to AccuWeather. com Odile will “continue to bring life-threatening impacts, such as significant flooding and tropical storm-force winds.”

 

 
Sep
11th
  Here’s to you New York, on this Day of Remembrance – NY on $20 a day
Sept 11 Memorial, NY

Sept 11 Memorial, NY

It’s been 13 years. And New York City, as well as the rest of our country, has come a long way… even though we are still battling the forces that instigated the deadliest act of terror on United States soil Sept. 11, 2001.

New York City is vibrant again. New Yorkers are strong… all kinds of ethnicities and religions walking the streets together seemingly in peace. I often marvel how a city that to me is so nostalgic, can also be so avant-garde at the same time.

But we all know – we definitely pay for that energy… that no where like it vibe… those one of a kind experiences the city provides.

New York City one of the world’s most expensive places to visit. Fall is a gorgeous time to go!  So here’s a full day in New York that is pretty contained to one area, and should cost you less than $20 per person, not including hotel room.

Here’s to you New York, on this day of remembrance.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

Start the day by visiting the new 9/11 Memorial that just opened in Lower Manhattan, in the footprints of the Twin Towers. It is free to visit and walk around the plaza. The two waterfalls in the place of the towers are the largest man made waterfalls in North America, and the sound of the water forcefully flowing downward, provides a loud white noise effect that might otherwise be an empty, sad silence. It is powerful, and the names of all those who died on Sept 11 here, at the Pentagon, and in Penn are inscribed in bronze around the twin memorial pools. (As well as those who died on Feb 26 1993.)

If you bring drinks, or food, note that there are no trash cans around for security reasons. So please don’t litter – you’ll just have to hold on to your trash.

9/11 Memorial Museum, NYC

9/11 Memorial Museum, NYC

Over the budget: The Sept 11 Museum beside the Sept 11 Memorial is NOT free. You can purchase your tickets months in advance to guarantee your time of visit – there are long lines if you don’t. Adults are $24 to visit.

It is a question many parents ask me – did I bring my kids in? Tough decision because you want your kids to learn from this tragedy… yet you have to know your kids. My youngest had just turned 9, and being the sensitive guy he is, we decided not to go in. There are some moving exhibits, multi-media displays, and narratives. Honestly, our other concern was that we didn’t want to make him afraid of flying. We can take them in a few years.

photo 5

Near the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is the Brooklyn Bridge. You can walk to the pedestrian ramp at the end of Centre St and stroll all the way over the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn for free.

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge

Great views of the city. It can be crowded, more than 4000 pedestrians cross daily, so avoid the weekends if possible.

Brooklyn Bridge, NY

Brooklyn Bridge, NY

The bridge is a National Historic Landmark, and when it opened in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge at the time. It was a sign of optimism, and source of fascination because of the new technology used to build it. It is a beautiful structure from many angles.

After working up an appetite, make your way to Chinatown near the bottom of the bridge back in Manhattan. Yes, there are many uber-expensive world class restaurants in New York… but don’t skip your chance to try something authentic and cheap in one of the country’s most bustling Chinese neighborhoods.

Cheap Eats in Chinatown, NYC

Cheap Eats in Chinatown, NYC

My nephews who live here were our tour guides, and knew the good places to eat and visit. It isn’t glamorous, and the streets don’t sparkle, but you feel like you’ve entered a different world where the kids will enjoy seeing all sorts of interesting items – we ate at a top rated dim sum restaurant that was very good – and very cheap!

Chinatown Menu

Chinatown Menu

Chinatown NYC cheap eats

Chinatown NYC cheap eats

If you can see the prices on my blurry menu , LOL, you will see some dishes are $4.00. You eat family styles so you can try a number of dishes – great for the kids to discover what they like.

Central Park, NYC

Central Park, NYC

There’s no better place in New York City than Central Park. One can visit every trip and still discover a new detail.

Cannoli in Central Park, NYC

Cannoli in Central Park, NYC

It is the heart and soul of the city that never sleeps… and one can actually catch a nap here pretty easily if he or she isn’t too busy with all the other activities.

Childrens' Zoo, Central Park NYC

Childrens’ Zoo, Central Park NYC

The Childrens’ Zoo is a highlight, as well as Turtle Pond.

You’ll have to take the subway or catch a cab from Lower Manhattan to get here…  http://www.centralparknyc.org/

NYC used book vendors

NYC used book vendors

If you have some money leftover after a very inexpensive day, look for the used book vendors that sell everything from cookbooks to classics along the perimeter of  Central Park. You can find some treasures at great prices… perhaps to read while relaxing in the park while the kids run around.

If you plan a longer stay on a budget, there are definitely more free things to do in NYC – you just have to research and look for them.  www.nycgo.com/free/

“One hand in the air for the big city..Street lights, big dreams, all lookin’ pretty.. No place in the world that can compare.. Put your lighters in the air…”

 

 

 

 
Sep
09th
  Money Money Money…While Traveling

It’s always confusing traveling to a foreign land to face a different currency and exchange rate. But there are always other little fiscal factors that can contribute to whether you will make the most of your money while traveling.

Here are some solutions to save you cents and sanity on your sojourn.

From turkeytravelplanner.com

From turkeytravelplanner.com

1) ATMs: I can’t tell  you how many times I’ve come across ATMs that only have numbers on the keypad. If your PIN is a word comprised of letters, you better memorize the number arrangement as well….

2) Before you leave for your trip, don’t call only your credit card companies to tell them you will be abroad – call your bank for your debit card as well. They most likely will ask you where you will be each day so they don’t shut down your card. And make sure your card doesn’t expire while you are away!! Check that date or you will be out of luck.

From newsonline.com.pk

From newsonline.com.pk

3) I’ve actually had this happen to me: A foreign ATM ate my card. Luckily, it was attached to a bank, so I was able to go to the bank for help in retrieving it. However, I had to wait until the next day because it was after business hours. My tip: Don’t use stand alone ATMs if possible – wait until you see one attached to a bank. And use them during business hours in case you need help! Just think if it had been my last day and was leaving for the airport the next morning.

4) I got slammed with some big ATM fees this summer traveling in Europe. I didn’t know how much I was going to spend, and kept taking out small amounts to avoid having any left over Euros. However, check to see what your transaction fees AND currency conversion fees are. (It is ridiculous!) It may pay to take out large sums rather than get charged for many visits for smaller amounts.

Again – happy travels!

 

 
Aug
13th
  It’s Not Too Late To “Travel” To Italy This Summer…

It has been a summer full of travel. I am grateful, but it has also taken me a while to transition back to reality between trips.

So when I took my kids to see Pompeii just last week, I was energized by the ability to get there and back in one day, and still see a truly fascinating bit of history.

pompeii-banner

That’s right – “Pompeii: The Exhibition” is on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles through January 4, 2015. For those of you visiting Los Angeles this summer, and for those of you looking for one last outing with your kids before school – or even on the weekend – this is one I recommend.

I realize I may be biased because I’ve been to the real city of Pompeii and am utterly amazed by the ruins, but I think this exhibition does a spectacular job of organizing the event in small rooms with engaging displays and audio guides that kept even a group of 8 kids interested…including one reluctant teenager.

Quick history lesson: In the year 79 AD Pompeii virtually disappeared beneath ash spewed by Mount Vesuvius. What is remarkable is that the town wasn’t dug up and rediscovered until the 1700s!!! The very same area that nature destroyed, it also preserved under thick layers of ash.

If you visit, you will be amazed at how well some things were preserved for so long. You will also be undoubtedly disturbed by the terror through which these residents lived in a short 24 hour period – in that many hours, nothing was left alive within a certain radius of the volcano.

On display are more than 150 artifacts straight from the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy, through which you will not only learn about the volcanic destruction, but life and customs in a Roman city. Much of what we know of the Roman Empire comes from the ruins of Pompeii.

Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Calif Science Center, LA

Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Calif Science Center, LA

You can see items once belonging to opulent villas….

photo 2

.. Italian paintings, which emerged unscathed after an eruption that brought down buildings…

photo 3

and mosaic floors that were still in their places.

photo 4But the most moving items were the casts made in the exact twisted and sometimes convoluted form of bodies that were found- exactly in the shape they took at the time of death. Sadly, many of the people perished from the immense heat and noxious gases that accompanied the eruption.

There is a great movie at the end of the exhibition that documents eruption day hour by hour …. and of course, a gift shop and play area at the final exit.

photoOur little gladiators did dress up in the play area, but didn’t soon forget the compelling story of Pompeii documented and displayed here.

Tickets are available online – but you must purchase at least three hours before the time you’d like to go, otherwise buy in person and avoid the online service charge.

https://www.californiasciencecenter.org/Exhibits/SpecialExhibits/pompeii/pompeii.php

 

 
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.