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July 19, 2011

Best Cruise Lines for 10 Types of Cruisers

Best Cruise Lines for 10 Types of Cruisers

By Jason Cochran, dealnews contributor

Just like cars, houses and universities, the cruise deal you choose for your vacation is as much a reflection of your lifestyle and expectations as it is of your budget. Thirty years ago, cruising was more or less a one-size-fits-all proposition, but now, it's a $30 billion-a-year industry within the travel deal industry, with various lines jockeying to command its particular niche.

Experienced cruisers know that the line you choose can define the quality of your holiday. So which one should you pick? Here are 10 considerations a vacationer might have, paired with the line that answers them best.

"I want to feel like I'm in Titanic."
Sinking aside, the grand liner experience is one worth cherishing, and it lives on in just one brand: Cunard Line, which has been sailing since the 1830s. In the summer, it makes regular five-day runs between New York City and England aboard the Queen Mary 2, which was designed and constructed just for the task. Its other two ships usually sail farther afield than the North Atlantic, going as far as Australia, but all three strive to offer elevated, dignified diversions including lectures by university professors, the largest libraries at sea, and always a smattering of black-tie-only evenings. All of that means it tends to attract an older, educated, more experienced crowd that can appreciate the trappings that Cunard's long lineage provides.

"I want to see Europe."
Most of the major lines (including Princess, and Disney) and Royal Caribbean with deals like this 10-night 2-for-1) make summer forays into Europe, but my advice is to stick with ships that are on the smaller side. Why? Europe's medieval back streets were not meant to handle the simultaneous disgorgement of thousands of American tourists, so smaller ships will yield more copacetic day trips. Smaller ships can also venture to smaller ports, which Europe has plenty of. While seeing the great coastal cities of Europe in six-hour shifts aboard a traveling hotel will never be ideal, Costa Cruises has generally modest-sized ships and it has been a player in the region for decades. It's also mainstream enough to please Americans who are used to a few bells and whistles on their vessels, but not so rarefied that it's daunting. For a similar, sensibly-sized experience in Asia, there's Star Cruises.

"I wanna party!"
Belly up to the casino bar on a Carnival ship, my friend. Most of the vessels in the Carnival fleet, while jammed with opportunities to drink and eat yourself into a stupor, are fairly indistinguishable from each other thanks to being dominated by long-time designer Joe Farcus. Count on twinkly signage, neon tubing, lots of brass and faux pink marble, piles of crowd pleasing grub in restaurants with unchallenging names such as Grand Buffet, Chic, and Taste of Nations. Each ship comes equipped with a signature water slide (its ships being family-targeted, kids are well served with arcades and activities), and the cabins are a notch more spacious than those of most of its competitors, but it's still not a line that bears snobs comfortably. Because of its mass-market predictability, Carnival is the Burger King of the seas, but there's no judgment in that: Sometimes you just want a Whopper. [Full story]

July 11, 2011

Destination Review of San Clemente, CA

San Clemente, CA Destination Review

by Kelly Bowlin

Nestled on the coast at the southern tip of Orange County, lies the historic, unique, and picturesque city of San Clemente. Once called the Spanish Village by the Sea by its founder, Ole Hanson, “SC” (as it’s now referred to by locals), might be considered the board-shorts, sandal-wearing, conservation-minded, step-child to its wealthy, sister-cities to the north like Irvine and Newport Beach. There’s nothing corporate about SC, in fact it feels more like a village than a city with its original old buildings, family owned restaurants and one of a kind specialty shops. San Clemente also is also a stop for the coast-liner metro-link that arrives from both the north and south at regular intervals.

Surf Culture Personified

San Clemente is a surf town. Much of its culture revolves around surfing. At last count, there were over thirty surf shops within its boundaries. No wonder, because it features some of the best, most consistent breaks on the west coast, from Old Mans to Trestles, to T-Street. Practically every other local car in SC has surf-racks and it’s not just young surfers (grommet’s) who hit the waves. In SC, seemingly everyone surfs from young and old to male and female, from amateurs to touring professionals. Most surfers simply walk, skateboard or peddle their beach-cruisers adapted with side racks. Leave the blazer and dress slacks at home. In San Clemente you’re at the beach. If you want to fit in here, wear board-shorts, bikinis, sandals and a hoody if it’s cool.

Unlike other surf spots along the coast, San Clemente has an almost neighborly feel. I’m a gravitationally challenged writer in his fifties who needs a surfboard big enough to float four people and yet in the water at T-Street, several locals almost went out of their way to give me advice in the water, “wait…wait…start paddling now! Owww, bro… that’s why you need a leash. Are you okay? That gash above your eye looks pretty nasty.”

[Read full article]

June 29, 2011

Top 10 Beach Destinations in America

Top 10 Beach Destinations

Family barbeques, picnics, festivals and beach parties are some of the ways Americans spend the summer. Enjoy the season in true summer fashion – at the beach.  Whether looking for a quiet seascape to catch up on a novel, or a bustling coastal town filled with events and entertainment, Cheapflights.com has the perfect shore spot for you.

  • Hilton Head, South Carolina - Renowned for its East Coast vibe, Hilton Head offers quintessential beach activities for couples and families alike. Spend your days biking the 100 miles of cycling trails throughout the Atlantic island – breaking only to catch waves, soak up the sun and savor the area’s fabulous restaurants. For cheap grub, head to the Sea Shack and roll up your sleeves for affordable shrimp, crab and blackened fresh fish. At night, check out The Salty Dog Café. A $5 admission is required to get in the restaurant, situated on a resort plantation, but the nightly live music and souvenir T-shirt you’re bound to buy, make it well worth it.

  • Hermosa Beach, California - The year-round beach destination pulls out all the stops every Memorial Day weekend for Fiesta Hermosa.  Hundreds of vendors set up shop along Hermosa Avenue, Pier Avenue and Pier Plaza in downtown Hermosa for three days of great food, drinks and live music. Kids can switch between amusement park rides and sand castles until 6 p.m. nightly as parents peruse local shops and the ever-popular beer garden. If you get to town by Friday, take part in the Samburu Project’s Walk for Water, an event that raises awareness and funds for clean water initiatives in Kenya.   [Read full story]

June 28, 2011

7 Common Travel Mistakes - How to Prepare

7 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Traveling

With 17 years experience in the travel business, Ellen Paderson has seen it all. Whether her clients are first-timers going on a Caribbean cruise or veteran world travelers headed for Australia, she has compiled a list of ‘7 Common Travel Mistakes’ from which all travelers can benefit.

(1) Take along your over-the-counter medications – Surprisingly they’re hard to find. If you do find them, they’re very expensive, especially on Caribbean islands. Bring your Dr. and insurance contact info list of prescriptions and RX numbers, Carry meds with you.

(2) Check your Passport expiration
– It cannot expire within 6 months of your return travel date.
 
(3) Expired passport? Take your confirmed itinerary to the immigration office. They will issue a passport that day if your travel starts within 10 days.

(4) Check your flight schedule the night before you’re scheduled to travel to make sure flights haven’t been changed or cancelled.

(5) Leave enough time between connections -- You need at least 90 minutes to go through Customs, pick up luggage and recheck before going on the next leg of your flight. Note that leaving the U.S., you don’t need to go through Customs, but you do on the way back, re-entering the country.

(6) Notify your bank if you’ll be using a credit or ATM card outside the US. If the bank is not notified, the ATM will keep your card, and your credit card will be declined.
 
(7) Take comfortable shoes. To quote world travel expert Rick Steves, “Footloose and fancy-free is not so easy if you have the wrong shoes. Now is the time to start breaking in what you plan to wear on your next trip.” Take more than one pair of tested footwear in case one gets wet, torn or lost, or isn’t as comfy as you thought. Do you need hiking boots, walking shoes, or sandals?

[Read full story]

June 24, 2011

Summer Safety for Teen Travelers

Teen Summer Travel Safety Tips & Advice

Tips for Parents & Teens from Industry Veterans

Whether you are sending your child to a traditional overnight camp, on a school field trip or half way around the world, safety is always paramount in a parent’s mind.  For 20 years a Chicago-based service adventure travel company called The Road Less Traveled has been providing teens and young adults the chance to embark upon unique, life-changing experiences in some of the world’s most incredible locations.  Whether participants are hiking the Andes Mountains in Ecuador or scuba diving and replanting underwater reefs in the Florida Keys, the programs’ first priority is always safety.
 
To ensure the best and safest journey possible, here are some safety tips for teens and parents from the staff of The Road Less Traveled:
 
For Parents…

Choose A Credible Company: With so many teen tours, adventure trips and service-focused programs available to teens these days it can be hard to know which one to go with.  Select a program that has a great track record and an established reputation.  Don’t be afraid to ask for references or testimonials from previous participants.  Another consideration is to choose a program that is accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). [Read full story]

June 21, 2011

Asia's Top 10 Sacred Sites

Top-sacred-sites-asia 
Asia’s Top Ten Sacred Sites

Temples, Devotees and Rituals Enrich Travel to Asia

From the holy city of Varanasi in India, to the world’s largest Buddhist monument in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, to the Emerald Buddha in Thailand, this divine list of the top ten temples, shrines and places of worship portrays Asia’s most intriguing sacred sites:

1. TAKTSHANG MONASTERY (Bhutan) - Easily Bhutan’s most iconic temple and the country’s most sacred spot, Tigers Nest monastery clings dramatically to a cliff almost 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley floor.  

2. VARANASI (India) - It is said that this holy city for Hindus rests on the trident of Lord Shiva and a ritual cleansing in the holy waters of the Ganges at Varanasi absolves the believer of all sins, enabling a higher birth in the next life. Millions of Hindus make their way here annually and so do travelers from around the world.

3. SHWEDAGON PAGODA (Myanmar/Burma) - Sheathed in gold plates and topped by a 76-carat diamond, the great golden dome that rises 322 feet above its base in Yangon is Burma’s most sacred site, visited by Buddhist worshippers and monks daily. You can perform a clockwise walk around the complex that is believed to have been constructed over 2,500 years ago, praying at various stations, to complete a personal pilgrimage. 

4. DAMBULLA (Sri Lanka) - The most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples, Dambulla is a World Heritage site consisting of five caves with over 6,000 square feet of painted walls and ceilings, creating the largest continuous series of paintings in the world.

[Visit Ful List of All 10 Sacred Sites Here]

June 20, 2011

Essential Insurance Tips for Travel

Trave-insurance-header 
by Miles Walker

Travel insurance is an essential investment for every traveler. With so many unpredictable factors threatening vacations, business and emergency travel, the small price to pay for such a beneficial accessory is crucial. This post will explain the most essential forms of coverage to purchase before traveling.

Driving

Road trips warrant the need for travel insurance, even though they're the most commonly-overlooked type of trip when it comes to travel insurance. There are hundreds of things that could happen while driving, but there are a few very necessary types of insurance to purchase for any road trip.

Medical Coverage

Even when personal medical insurance is available, travel medical insurance is a good investment. For the small price of a premium payment, medical expenses will be covered well, assuming the company sells a solid policy. Make sure emergency care is covered, as well as lost or stolen prescriptions. Many people lose their medication while on vacation. If narcotics are lost and there is no travel insurance, it could be virtually impossible to obtain more. Most personal medical insurance policies have a high deductible for emergency care, especially out of the country. Always be sure that a travel insurance policy has generous medical coverage for both international and domestic travel. Also, the deductible must be affordable. [Read More]

June 13, 2011

Vet Pilot Offers Summer Travel Tips

Veteran Pilot Offers Summer Travel Tips

CAPTAIN KAREN KAHN OFFERS TIPS FOR TRIPS
 THIS SUMMER SEASON

Summer is just around the corner and the thought of a relaxing vacation is on the minds of grounded jet-setters who are itching to get away. Many are already beginning to plan out their summer destinations and this popular travel season is sure to be a busy one yet again. Knowing this better than anyone, seasoned commercial airline pilot Captain Karen Kahn offers several tips to help restless travelers keep their cool at the airport this summer.

Before Arriving at the Airport:

•    Pack smartly. Place all your valuables (jewelry, electronics, etc.) in your carry-on luggage. Bags are subject to screening and hand-searches and many airlines are not responsible for lost or damaged items. In addition, place an identification tag on the outside of your laptop as they are the most forgotten item at screening checkpoints.

•    Know your limits. Don’t forget to place all of your liquids and gels in a quart-size Ziploc bag.  Many stores now offer miniature sized toiletries for this reason.  Additionally, many airlines tack extra fees onto bags that exceed their weight limit rules. Pack only what you need and check with your airline regarding their specific regulations.

•    Go online. With many airlines you can print boarding passes on their website to skip long waits at the airport.  Some companies also offer text, email or phone notifications regarding your flight so you stay updated on your flight’s status.

•    Dress: Less is better. Keep in mind all of the airport’s security screening procedures.  If possible avoid items such as belts, hard to remove shoes, hats, and any jewelry that contains metal as removing these items takes unnecessary time that could make the difference between making and missing your flight. [Read More]

June 02, 2011

10 Tips to Planning an Active Vacation

Action-adventure-may15-header 

It is summer vacation planning time again and knowing how to find and vet the best options is an important step. Following are Ten Tips from a “world’s best” tour operator to take you from research to R&R as you strategize when and where to spend precious vacation time and dollars.

The first bit of advice in choosing the right tour operator is to get everyone involved and as Austin points out, “remember it’s the journey, not the destination that counts.” To help guide the consumer through the maze of vacation options, the tour experts at Austin-Lehman Adventures offer these useful tips (http://www.austinlehman.com/adventure) when starting the trip planning process... [Full Story]

Visit Road & Travel Magazine for thousands of more articles.

May 30, 2011

How to Fly First Class For No More Than Coach

First class Fly first class for no more than coach? Not only is it possible, such fares are available all the time, says Unpublished Airfare Analyst Matthew Bennett. Bennett, also known as "Mr. Upgrade," has launched a web site that posts free and low-cost upgrade deals on dozens of domestic and international airlinesfirstclassflyer.com. "Since first and business class travelers represent less than 20 percent of the total airline passenger market, not much has been done to identify these little-known offers," said Mr. Upgrade. "Our job at firstclassflyer.com is to continually research all those elusive specials. They're available — if you know where to look. If there's a deal out there that will get our subscribers an upgrade, we'll find it."

First Class Flyer's paid subscription service will have you sitting pretty, knowing you booked the best seats and value for your money.

For more air travel advice, visit RTM's Airline Rules Section.