Archive for the ‘Budget Travel’ Category

Booking your travel plans? This site is the way to go!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Plane Wing in the Clouds

I don’t usually gush about one travel booking site over another, but in this case I must make an exception.  As a travel writer, I travel frequently.  I recently discovered that an event I needed to cover back home had switched its dates, right over top of one of my flight dates.

I do all my airline bookings online, but I have never needed to make changes before.  So, I wasn’t sure what I was in for.  However, I pulled up the site’s contact number, and placed a call.

I was in for a big disappointment.

Read on. . .

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Mother’s Home Cooking? Try New Orleans, Louisiana

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Mother’s Restaurant - New Orleans

Ignore its dumpy exterior because if you want to eat in this New Orleans restaurant, you’ll have to get over first appearances.  Besides, the place was good enough for celebrities like Steve Martin, Jimmy Buffet, Kathleen Turner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and LeAnn Rimes.

Look for a plain building with a side entrance; one of the entrances probably has a busted door, so you’ll have to go to the side.  You’ll see lots of people coming and going; that’s always a good sign of good eats.  Once inside, don’t stand around waiting for any special attention, just grab a menu, and place your order.

Read on. . .

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Brownsville, Texas: Smallest sit-down hamburger joint ever!

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Rutledge table

Don’t let the look of the ketchup bottle put you off.  You simply must visit this tiny 84-year-old restaurant hidden away in historic downtown Brownsville, Texas.  You’ll be able to say you’ve rubbed shoulders in a place where American President, Lyndon Johnson, once rubbed shoulders, too.

And rub shoulders is exactly what happens here – the walls are only about 6 feet apart.

Read on. . .

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Renting a car? Why are you paying full price when all you need is a code?

Monday, March 24th, 2008

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Are you a frequent rental car user?  Do you do your research BEFORE booking a vehicle?  Or do you just book the first car you see on the first website you search. 

What a costly mistake!  You could be throwing away hundreds of dollars.

Read on. . .

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Hana, Maui, Hawaii: Dramamine and Orchids – the Perfect Pair!

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Photo by Sheree Zielke The road to Hana may be a cruel drive for those who suffer from motion sickness, but for orchid lovers, it might be the pathway to Nirvana.

Driving the road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii is a trip that can’t be committed to lightly. Replete with narrow roads and endless curves, driving to Hana is not for the squeamish.

But it is the way for orchid lovers to reach one of the prettiest places on Maui.  You might even see Oprah Winfrey’s land.

Read on . . .

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New York City: Meet the Line-up Police!

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Sheree with ExpodiskSheree with ExpodiskPhoto by Sheree Zielke

New York City has an ample supply of police and security personnel; that’s commonly known.  However, there is another type of policing official you might not know about: the “line-up police.”

If you are a theatre-lover, or a lover of the Bard’s works, and you plan to take in New York’s famous Shakespeare in the Park event, then you are guaranteed to meet the Big Apple’s line-up police.

Read on . . .

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Exotic Travel Destinations: Explore Without Leaving Your Armchair!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Is it hard for you or someone else you know to go traveling?  Maybe you are a grandparent who would love to take a grandchild traveling, but can’t afford the expense.  Or maybe you have some spare time; you like playing computer games, and you would like to explore some unfamiliar cities.  Here’s a cheap solution; it’s called Big Fish Games.

The online games site offers a variety of “hidden object” games that take the player to well-known tourist spots in big metropolitan areas around the world, like Rome, Venice, Sydney, and San Francisco.

The site’s “Travelogue 360″ games take players to Paris and Rome. Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco, California are featured in the site’s “Big City Adventures” games.

The games are challenging and can be easily understood by nearly any age of player.  And best of all, they are fun!

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New York City: Good-bye High Life! No More Park Lane for Me!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

It’s that time again; I’ve resisted long enough.  I must return to one of my favorite spots in the world: New York City.  Besides the fact I am addicted to NYC, I made a personal promise to myself that I would visit the Big Apple on every major holiday.  I’ve already done Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and St. Patrick’s Day.  So, now it’s time for one of the biggest hooplas of all:  Independence Day!

Airfares from Canada, especially if we fly on our own major holiday, Canada Day, are cheap, so now I must find a NYC hotel.  My husband and I took a liking to the Helmsley Park Lane (we’ve stayed there 3 times before), so I pulled up the hotel’s website, input our travel dates, and voila.  Yikes!  So much for the high life.

Read on…

 

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8 hours to pack a suitcase? That’s just nuts! No, it’s WINE! No-fail tips for packing wine, and other liquor!

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Actually, it was more like 12 hours, but I had already experienced enough derision from my travel mates.  So, I didn’t fess up to the real amount of time.  But…

I had precious cargo to transport.  And I wanted it to survive the ravages of airline luggage wranglers, airline conveyor belts, and airline scales.

I was not about to leave my hand-selected New Zealand wines behind; but neither did I want to ship the bottles only to have them broken in transit.  And I didn’t want to pay an overweight baggage fee at the airport.  So, logistical plans take awhile.  Okay?

I have brought back many fragile things in my suitcases — with almost complete success.  Especially wine.  I haven’t lost a bottle, well, except one to an unscrupulous airport security inspector, but that’s another story…

A Quick and Easy Guide

Here is a quick and easy guide for the supplies you will need, and tips for how to pack your imported wine for safe and secure transport in your suitcase….

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Choosing a Cruise Ship Cabin: Mushroom pit or Porthole? Which is best?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Celebrity Mercury in Christchurch by Sheree Zielke

 

Ocean view?  Porthole?  Verandah?  Penthouse suite?  Desolate mushroom pit?  Which is best for you?  Well, that depends.  Read on.

 

If you book your cruise early enough, you should be able to tell your travel rep where you’d like to live on your ship.  Choosing a cabin suited to your personality and biological needs is the first step in ensuring a memorable and happy cruise. 

  Let’s start with these three terms first: Amidships, fore, and aft.  Mercury ship side by Sheree Zielke

 

 

 

 

Amidships has its positive aspects especially for those prone to seasickness.  Consider this the middle of the seesaw while the fore (front) and aft (back) are the ends of the teeter totter yielding the most noise and hardest wave action.  The fore can be extremely noisy in rough sea as the hull is beaten by waves, but the aft, in calm waters, can provide a more private place to sun and rest.Rough seas by Sheree Zielke

 

A ship like the Celebrity Mercury houses its Shipmates Fun Factory at the rear of the ship on the Vista Deck, Deck 9.  Most people view a cabin near this area to be a negative placement, but quite the opposite is true.  You rarely hear the kids, and when you do, it’s usually a happy noise.  And you are only steps away from a quiet back area.  It’s an especially nice bonus for those not able to secure a private verandah or balcony.

 

A balcony is a must for very warm cruises, like through the Mediterranean, but definitely not in colder climes like Alaska and Australia.  A balcony is also a waste on a transatlantic crossing since all you’ll see is water, and more water.

 

 

If you can’t get a balcony, an unimpeded deluxe ocean view cabin is wonderful.  While you can’t step outside, you do get natural light, and you will always be able to see out in spite of salt-grimed glass.

 

An inside cabin (for me) is to be avoided at all costs especially by those suffering from even minor forms of claustrophobia or SAD (seasonal affective disorder).  An inside cabin is akin to a tomb or a coffin.  It is always dark, and upon awaking there is no way to tell the time of day.  But if you can stand living like a mushroom, then book an inside room (you will save a whack of money.)

 

Then there is deck height.  The higher the deck, the more you will feel the wave action.  But those passengers housed in lower decks will SEE the wave action, right outside their window.

 

Keep in mind, when booking your cabin, the side (port is left, starboard is right) of the ship it’s located?  Ask your travel agent the direction you’ll be cruising when alongside land; you’ll want to book your cabin on the side closest to the land, obviously.

 

For help in making a more informed decision about your particular ship, try CruiseMates or this USA Today article.  Other really good research sites are CruiseCritic and SecretCruises.

 

Above all, if you are picky, book early so you can secure a room to your liking.  Check if your travel agent or the cruise line is offering any deals; in many cases, upgrades may be available.  An upgrade could mean the difference between an unobstructed and an obstructed ocean view room.  You will appreciate the difference when you find your “ocean” view filled with a life boat or a window-cleaning platform.Mercury Side View by Sheree Zielke

 

Oh, and a room with a porthole?  Imagine having a view on the world about the size of your toilet bowl.  If you can stand this peephole outlook, you’ll have money left over for those other expensive ship extras like shore excursions, and soda pop (an endless pop on a 10-day cruise for two people is 100-bucks). 

 

Cheers,

Sheree Zielke