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November 21, 2012
Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year, and according to AAA’s projections, there will be more than 43.6 million travelers this year. 90% of them will travel by automobile and the rest will fly, but either way, the organization predicts that spending will drop about 10% this year as travelers look for ways to save money. So during this holiday season, as so many people hit the road, there may be some lessons to learn from the original Thanksgiving travelers.
The Mayflower left Plymouth, England in September 1620 to arrive in North America a couple months later in November – just in time for a really harsh winter. The pilgrims who made this journey faced many difficulties along the way and their fledgling colony needed a lot of help to survive. While most of us won’t come up against these types of difficulties in our own travels, there are some important tips we can gather from their experience.
1. Prepare For the Unexpected
When the pilgrims left England the weather was in their favor and the entire first month on the ocean was relatively calm. The second month, however, was filled with strong winter gales that battered the ship and caused some structural damage to it. You never quite know what will happen on your trip – the weather could turn against you, the tourist attractions could be closed, people might get sick – so always have contingency plans and be prepared for even the most unlikely events.
2. Be Flexible
The Mayflower was originally headed to an area near the Hudson River in Virginia but was forced off course by the horrible weather. Even after arriving in the Cape Cod area they tried for several days to continue their journey to Virginia, but the winter weather forced them to return to the harbor where they finally anchored and set up their colony.
Some travelers are planners while others just pick a destination and go. There are benefits to both methods, but it may be more effective to take the best of both worlds. Plan your travels, but leave room for spontaneity. This way if something unexpected happens or you come across something better, you can make the changes and still do most of the activities in your original plan.
3. Don’t Let Setbacks Get You Down
At one point during the pilgrims’ trip, the weather and sailing got so bad that the captain wanted to turn around and go back to England. The only thing that stopped him was the realization that turning back would probably only make things worse. No matter how much we plan, obstacles will get in our way. Turning back should only ever be the last resort, though. Look for new options and alternatives to your original plan and have a little determination to make sure your trip happens.
4. Learn the Local Customs
All pilgrims are travelers, but not all travelers are pilgrims. By definition, a pilgrim is also seeking a way to increase knowledge as they journey. The pilgrims had to quickly learn the lay of the land, find the best places to plant corn, catch fish, and procure the other things they needed.
You can save yourself a lot of trouble by taking the time to learn more about your destination before you ever leave. Find out where the best places are to stay, what the local cultures are like, and how you can best respect them. When you do finally arrive, then, you should never expect anything and focus on learning everything.
5. Work Together
The pilgrims had an uphill battle to survive their first winter and half of the original company didn’t make it. The ones who did had to rely on each other and help from the locals. Having a unified goal can help when things get extremely difficult. So while it isn’t likely you’ll be fighting for survival on your next trip, things will feel a lot more difficult if your family or friends want to do things differently than you do. Listen to everyone’s ideas and delegate responsibilities so that everyone feels like they are part of the decision-making process and contributing to the success of the journey.
November 14, 2012
The Thanksgiving holiday is a special time of year to give thanks and spend time with family. Whether traveling to an adjacent state or across the United States to celebrate the holiday, here are a few vacation tips that you may find helpful for easier holiday traveling, especially while traveling for a vacation over Thanksgiving.
Planning ahead for Thanksgiving travel is a huge indicator in cost difference for your vacation. Early fall and the first two weeks of October are the best time to buy airline tickets because more seats are available (due to many people not yet booking flights) and rates are lower. The same goes for hotel, rental car, airport parking lot and attraction bookings.
Planning ahead also allows for price comparison and avoidance of peak holiday travel days. The peak days are the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving. Traveling on the actual holiday or celebrating a week after or before Thanksgiving allows for avoidance of crammed airports and roadways as well as fully booked hotels. Airlines also provide costs lowered by roughly 30% for travelers who travel the week before or after Thanksgiving. Avoid peak days to save in sanity and stress during your Thanksgiving travels.
During the Thanksgiving holiday traveling season we recommend using lesser known airports. In Chicago, many people travel through O’Hare but the Midway airport is less crowded and more convenient for many people, similarly using the Long Beach Airport for traveling to or from the Los Angeles or Anaheim areas saves on costs and time compared to the busier and better known LAX airport. These airports have smaller security lines, faster boarding, less delays and smaller costs compared to traveling through larger airports within the same areas.
Another plus of using lesser known airports is that there is less traffic in the routes to the airports and in the drop off lanes. If you are planning on driving yourself to the airport, we recommend making an early reservation for airport parking lots. During the Thanksgiving traveling season, many parking lots fill up fast and by reserving a spot early you can prevent costly fees and time looking for a place to park. If at all possible use public transportation or have a friend take you to the airport. This eliminates parking fees and stress about leaving your car for a long period of time in an unknown place.
Through traveling light, you can save time in airport security and save costs by not having to check baggage. Larger items that can be shipped, such as gifts, should be sent on ahead to prevent large unnecessary traveling items. If you must take gifts with you on your Thanksgiving travels, do not wrap them until you’ve arrived at your destination to prevent TSA problems. Also bear in mind the TSA regulations on containers with liquid, food and other items.
And as with any traveling, remember your ID and leave early for airports or long drives to prevent delays. When flying, print out your boarding pass at home so you may head straight to security when arriving at the airport. When driving, be sure to map out your drive and be aware of construction, high traffic and delay filled areas.
Along with knowing possible problem areas on your preferred driving route, it is important to avoid heavy traveling days. As discussed above, avoid traveling during the evening on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday. These days are filled with holiday drivers and carry increased accident rates. These accident rates can also be increased by road conditions, so be sure to become aware of the road conditions along your driving route while preparing for all possibilities. Have snacks, drinks and emergency items within your car along with pillows, blankets, jumper cables, tire chains and other possible necessary car tools.
It is wise to carry emergency car items, but to also have your car checked before traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. This provides peace-of-mind for you as travel and ensures you will reach your destination safely.
By planning ahead and using common sense while traveling for the Thanksgiving holidays, you can save money and your sanity during this family oriented vacation season.
November 7, 2012
One of the best things about traveling is the opportunity to taste the destination’s culture through the wonderful world of food. Throughout the United States, there are a few cities and regions that are known for their spectacular food, moreover their soups. The northern states are known for their fantastic potato soups, and the South for their seafood gumbos. The East Coast boasts their clam chowder and the Southwest raves about their tortilla soups. And to the rainy Northwest, not unlike the East Coast, they have chowder as their staple soup. Within these regions there are few standout restaurants that serve the best regional soup and attract foodies from all over the country.
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To the North
For those looking to experience the best potato soup you can find towards the north, Chicago is the place to go. Many of the northern states are known for having amazing potato soups but the Sweet Potato Soup found at Macku Sushi in Chicago is the soup to beat all others. Served at eight dollars a bowl, this soup has a sweet combination of lobster broth, black tiger shrimp, chives and pureed sweet potatoes.
In the South
The South is known for its wonderful and almost exotic tasting food and many travel to the South to experience the delights of gumbo. The best gumbo of the South can be found at Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans at six dollars and seventy five cents a bowl. This Seafood Gumbo is a classic gumbo served with a wonderful blend of gulf shrimp, okra, crabmeat, and oysters.
On the East Coast
Clam Chowder is a common soup but along the East Coast, clam chowder is a way of life. Of course the best New England clam chowder is found in Boston at a restaurant called the Atlantic Fish Company. New Englanders and tourists travel for miles to taste the award winning New England Clam Chowder soup dished up in a bread bowl at seven dollars a serving.
The desert Southwest is home to Poco and Mom’s restaurant in Tucson Arizona and their famous Chicken Tortilla Soup. Served at five dollars and twenty five cents a bowl, this mouthwatering delight is topped with guacamole, sour cream and sweet southwest melted cheddar cheese. This soup is a local favorite and icon of southwest flavor.
In the Northwest
Much like the East Coast, the Northwest is known to serve chowder in all of their restaurants. Combating the rainy weather and cloudy skies, local Seattle natives partake in eating clam chowder from a restaurant called Pike Place Chowder. Pike’s chowder won the “Nation’s Best” at the Rhode Island Great Chowder Cook-off with their New England Clam Chowder served at seven dollars and forty five cents a bowl. A special bland of herbs and spices mixes with hearty pacific clams, bacon and cream creating this perfect Northwest soup.
No matter where you are in the United States, these five soups and the amazing cities they are from are worth traveling to. Taste the flavors of the Southwest, the Northwest, the North, the East Coast and the South in these amazing and savory soups.
September 25, 2012
Finding the right mix of accommodations, ticket packages and dining options can help you make the most of your trip to Disneyland no matter what your budget. Whether you want to get the most value on a small budget or you are looking for a complete, deluxe vacation, there are some simple tips you can follow to make sure your next trip is truly memorable.
One of the best ways to save money at Disneyland hotels is to travel to Anaheim during the off season (Jan, Feb, Oct, Nov, Dec Ð but not during any holidays in the month). And for those who really want some memorabilia to mark the occasion, Disneyland actually offers plenty of affordable souvenirs that fit any budget.
The big question is how much you can expect to spend on accommodations and dining while visiting the park. The average price for a night at one of the Disneyland Hotels could range anywhere from $250 to $515, and the average family can expect to pay between $150 and $360 on food.
The key to enjoying a Disneyland vacation and staying within your budget is to weigh your priorities and then mix and match your accommodations, dining costs, and ticket packages accordingly. Perhaps itÕs worth taking the value hotel so you can stay in the park a few more days. Or maybe you want to shorten your trip but really enjoy some of the best food in the park and the hotels. The choice is yours, and there are plenty of options for your next visit.
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September 13, 2012
Traveling can be a wonderful adventure to new countries, cultures and experiences; however one thing always seems to stand in the way of starting our next adventure. The cost of traveling can be expensive and while we wish we could travel, bills and other expenses tend to take priority. So how can we travel while seeing more of the world and spending less? There are five simple tasks that can be done to save money while fully embracing your destination and travel experience.
There are over 40 countries with commonly exchanged currencies, making exchange fees big money for companies looking to make an income off of travelers. If you are traveling to a place where you will need to exchange money, be weary of commissions and exchange fees. Most travelers exchange their money once they are in the airport of their intended destination, but airports tend to have the highest exchange fees and we’re sure there are better things you’ll want to spend your traveling budget on.
To avoid high fees, call your bank a few days before leaving for your trip and let them know you’d like to exchange currencies. Your bank will order in the currency and within a few days you will be able to exchange your cash with lower fees than you’d find anywhere else. Some banks even waive currency fees for their best customers, so be sure to ask if that is possible.
To save money and earn rewards, use a credit card for your more expensive purchases, such as accommodations. Cards with high international reward points and low transaction rates can be a safe and friendly way to save some money and earn points for future trips.
Many countries have excellent public transportation systems, and by researching ahead of time, you will be able save money and see your destination from the eyes of a local. Renting a car has daily costs and fees, not to mention the cost of gas. Taxis are also expensive and some drivers will “take the long way” to tally up your bill. So avoid all that by using public transit. However, a word of caution, watch out for pickpockets on the public transit systems and keep money in your front pockets.
Experience Lesser Known Attractions
By seeing the country’s most touristy attractions, you are getting overcharged. Try to limit your trip to one big attraction (think the Eiffel tower) and then visit the lesser known attractions. By seeking out attractions that are less touristy, you gain a deeper understanding of local culture and save money in the process.
Eating out can be a very expensive thing while traveling. By seeking out grocery stores, you can make quick meals for an inexpensive cost. If cooking while you travel isn’t your speed, talk to locals about good spots that have local specials and aren’t filled with tourists. Also think about children’s meals, they are less expensive, and tend to be healthier.
If you must eat out and do not want kid portions, eat more during the meals of breakfast and lunch. By doing so, you should be fuller for dinner which is the most expensive meal of the day. By eating less at dinner, you’ll shave off a few dollars.
Vacations are about getting away and exploring new places. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore, relax and enjoy your trip. Any money spent on a trip where you had an amazing experience and returned relaxed is well worth the money spent.
By following a these easy tips, travel expenses will decrease, allowing you to see more while spending less.
September 11, 2012
Who doesn’t love a steaming hot slice of tomatoey, cheesy, delicious pizza? Pizza was brought to the United States by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century, and since then Americans’ love affair with this dish has only grown with whole legions of fans devoted to geographically-specific pizza varieties.
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New Haven-style pizza, or “apizza” as it’s known locally, is so good that Frank Sinatra used to send a driver from New York (which itself has no shortage of famous pizzerias) to this Connecticut city whenever he had a pizza craving. New Haven pizza is unlike any other pizza out there—it is brick-oven baked and comes topped with garlic, oregano, tomato sauce, and hard cheeses like pecorino romano (mozzarella is considered a topping—you have to ask for it you want it).
People are sharply divided as to whether Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (Pepe’s) or Sally’s Apizza (Sally’s) serves the best pie, so you’ll just have to try them both to find out for yourself. Be sure to check out the white clam pie—it’s a local favorite that’s made with fresh little neck clams and grated cheese.
A good case for the best place to get authentic Italian pizza anywhere can be made for Miami Beach. While this burg is better known for its party atmosphere, there are several great restaurants here that serve incredibly delicious Italian fare.
Piola on Alton Road serves up genuine thin-crust pizza like no other. Choose the toppings you want or go for a classic Neapolitan. While you’re there, order up a Sgroppino—an Italian cocktail and the house’s specialty drink. Spris is another favorite for thin-crust lovers with pizza that’s made in a wood-burning oven.
Old Forge, PA
This small town in Lackawanna County is the self-proclaimed Pizza Capital of the World. With a population of a little over 8000 people, Old Forge is home to at least 20 different pizza cafés (as they’re called locally), which makes it a serious contender for most pizza per capita.
The town is famous for a pizza style called “white” pizza that is essentially a rectangular, double-crust pizza that’s stuff with a blend of soft cheeses and topped with rosemary and olive oil. There are variants on this theme, of course—“red” pizza starts out with inch-thick dough and is topped with tomato sauce and a blend of American, Provolone, Monterrey Jack, and Scamorza cheeses.
You won’t find pizza in Trenton, but you will find “tomato pies.” What’s a tomato pie you ask? Most pizzas are made with crust first, then tomato sauce, then cheese, then toppings. In Trenton, they like to put their cheese directly on the crust, then toppings, and only then, the tomato sauce.
Two of the best places to go for tomato pie are two restaurants named De Lorenzo—one on Hudson Street and the other on Hamilton Avenue. Which is better? Again, there are strong opinions on either side of this pizza debate—De Lorenzo on Hamilton has crisper crust, while Hudson’s is thinner and smokier in flavor.
Seattle-ites may be better-known for their love of coffee, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put away a pizza when the occasion arises. In fact, foodies looking for A LOT of pizza, can find a little slice of heaven in this city. Local favorite Talarico’s offers up tasty pies for extremely hungry customers—their slices are 14 inches long (for those of you keeping track at home, that’s longer than most people’s forearms) and topped with delicious things like kalamata olives and goat cheese in addition to the standard fare.
If that’s not enough pizza for you, you can always take on the “28-inch” challenge where you and a friend must chow down on an entire 28-inch pie (find a great one at Seattle’s Ballroom Bar) in under an hour. It’s not an easy feat, to say the least.
Detroit pizza is rectangular and more Sicilian in nature than other pizza styles. Its crust is deep-dish thick and slightly chewy in texture. Like Trenton, many Detroit pizzerias like to put the sauce on top. Many of the best-known American pizza chains got their start in this part of Michigan, including Little Caesars and Domino’s.
For a taste of real Detroit pizza, go to Buddy’s Pizza (there are locations all around the city) to try their award-winning “square” pizza. The Green Lantern Lounge serves both deep and flat dish pizza with a variety of usual and unusual toppings.
New York City
How could we create a best-pizza-city list without including the most famous location to get pizza outside of Italy—New York City? NYC is home to a reported 3000 pizzerias, most of which serve up the city’s famous thin crust style favorite.
Lombardi’s Pizza is arguably the most famous—it was opened by an Italian immigrant in 1905, thus earning it the title “America’s First Pizzeria.” The fact that this place has been in business for more than 100 years should tell you something about the pizza—delicious. Be prepared to wait to get in, though, this New York favorite is always full.
The debate over whether New York City- or Chicago-style should hold top honors for most delicious pizza is still raging among pizza lovers, so it’s only natural that Chicago should earn a spot on this list. We’re not playing favorites, though. The Windy City’s deep-crust style pizza is seriously good eating.
If you’re traveling to Chicago for the pizza, check out Lou Malnati’s. It has more than 30 locations in and around the city, but for good reason—their Chicago Classic is the quintessential deep dish that everyone should try. The Art of Pizza on Ashland Avenue has a seriously good stuffed pizza and a wide variety of toppings and is worth a visit.
Where would you travel for the best pizza?