This time of year many people are looking for an extra bit of excitement (read terror) to go along with their Halloween festivities. This probably explains the continued rise of local haunted house attractions and the fact Saw V has arrived in theaters. I can appreciate that, though I am more into the cutesy, kid friendly side of Halloween. It is more my speed. But for those that like the real thing when it comes to Halloween, there seems to be a fair amount of haunted locations from San Francisco to West Virginia. Here are a few popular haunts (if you believe in that sort of thing) across the US:
West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia
Prisons are popular places for ghosts. It is somewhat ironic that even death won't let these people out. The West Virginia Penitentiary was a functioning prison from 1876 - 1995, so it has a long, and violent, history to draw from for various ghost stories. One such story involves a maintenance man that still roams the prison halls.
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When American Express talks, the business travel industry listens. Last week the travel behemoth released its outlook for 2009 and the news was not all bad. The average cost of a domestic business trip is expected to rise just 2.8 percent in 2009. After several years of trip cost increases two or three times that large, a bump of 2.8 percent seems mild, and even welcome given the state of the economy and dwindling travel budgets.
That's the good news.
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Every October, I plan an excursion that will allow me to enjoy the glory of the changing of the leaves. It's also the one time of year when, in honor of Halloween, I actually watch scary movies. This week, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow arrived in my mailbox, inspiring the perfect idea for a last-minute October excursion: a weekend getaway to the Hudson River Valley.
I was excited about this destination for three reasons:
a. It's within driving distance of my home
b. There are interesting historical sites and amazing views
c. In the fall, much of what there is to do and see is outdoors, which will keep my 8 month old happy
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It's fall - that can only mean one thing to a midwestern girl like me....
I was born and raised in Iowa before I left for the ski slopes of Colorado, but having spent all of my youth and college years in Iowa, I feel I'm a pretty good expert at judging corn mazes either because I've eaten my fair share of corn on the cob or because I spent a lot of time playing hide and seek in the cornfields.
Before you head out with the family to your nearest farmer's maze, you can either brush up on your map reading skills, study a few of the ancient labyrinth's, or do as I do - just go and enjoy getting lost and finding your way out again. For those of you not familiar with corn mazes, they are carefully planned out in a pattern and the idea is to navigate your way through a series of paths which go around the entire pattern to either end in the middle or find your way back out again. I found that finding my way in and out of a maze much easier and less hyperventilating during daylight hours but if you're an adrenaline junkie, you might try a maze during Halloween - at night. I did, twice; first time I jumped so high I lost my cell phone and they had to temporarily shut it down, turn on the lights and search for my phone. The second time, I was running away from the zombie carrying the chainsaw so fast, I fell and seriously hurt my ego.
So, in the "spirit" of Halloween and fall, here are some great corn mazes to check out with the family or friends in the next month or so:
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In last week's blog I wrote about how the nature of each business trip depends on a wide variety of factors and influences. But you know, business trips and business travelers are similar in a lot of ways, too.
Business travelers are by nature a generally optimistic, well-rounded bunch. Our employers would not send us out on the road if we weren't good at adapting to rapidly changing conditions, making great first impressions and keeping our minds open to new ideas and places. Another skill worth honing in a sputtering economy is the ability to find value on the road. Some business travelers are good at this while others might need a bit of practice and coaching. (Stay tuned to future blogs along these lines!)
So even though the economy is slowing, it's never going to stop. Business trips will still take place, but cost control will be a common mantra in coming months. Business travelers are going to have to cut back, cut down and cut out many of the perks we've grown accustomed to, no matter if we work for ourselves, at a small business or a large corporation.
QUESTION: If you are asked to cut back on your business travel spending, what's going to be the first thing to go? How can you shave costs and still be happy and productive on the road?
As far as I can there are like three REALLY portable endurance sports: swimming, running, and weight lifting. "Portable" means you can work-out almost anywhere without much gear. There are some great online tools to make your workout less logistically taxing while you're adventuring far from afield:
Some people can just go out and run, and some people need to plan a route and have tangible goal associated with their daily fitness adventure. For those who like to plan their route there is Google Pedometer where you can route plan your next road or trail run. If you are interested in a topographical profile view of your run check out this handy plugin to google maps, Path Profiler.
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October 18 2008 by Amy Graff
Rule #3: Always travel with a superhero.
Before we ran out the door to catch our flight to Philadelphia, Dante said, "I want my cape."
"Your what?" I asked.
"What are you talking about?" My brain doesn't function well at 4:30 a.m.
Dante walked me to his bedroom and pointed to the silky, red superhero cape hanging on a hook. "Sure. Whatever," I thought, snapping the cape around his neck.
At the airport, my superhero and I received friendly service and lots of attention. When we went to check in, the ticket agent directed us to the shorter business class line. "He's just so cute! We can't let Superman wait in line." At security, people helped us feed all of our stuff through the X-ray machine. "Oh, Superman let me help you. You need to save your strength." And as we walked to our gate, nearly every other person stopped to say something: "Can I borrow that?"; "I feel so much safer now that I know Superman is at the airport"; "It's a bird! It's a plane..." Dante confidently marched through the airport as if he were a celebrity.
On the plane, the special treatment continued: "Superman, you need to meet the captain of the plane after we land"; "Superman, you need an extra package of pretzels so you have energy to save people"; "Superman, would you like another glass of apple juice?"
When we arrived in Atlanta (a stopover en route to Philly), the landing was bumpy and the plane dipped and dived. I nervously gripped my armrests. "It's OK Mommy. I can save us," Dante reassured me. That's when I realized that I'm always traveling with a superhero.
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On a recent business trip to Chicago, I found myself with a free afternoon. Faced with the many offerings that Chicago has for visitors, I decided that with it being such a perfect autumn afternoon, a stroll down Michigan Avenue would be an ideal way to get my mind off of work.
Michigan Avenue, for those who haven't spent time in Chicago, is the city's epicenter for fashion and shopping. Dubbed the "Magnificent Mile", Michigan Avenue boasts everything from department stores to high-fashion boutiques and fine dining to a popcorn shop. It is truly one of the gems of Chicago for window shopping and people watching alike.
Back with another installment of Travel by Numbers, we take a walk down Michigan Avenue...
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Having covered the business travel beat as a writer and consultant (and business traveler) for nearly twenty years, I'm constantly trying to predict the needs and desires of our tribe. Editors and clients are always asking me, "What do business travelers want?"
The answer never changes. And the answer is: It depends.
It depends on your employment. Are you self-employed and paying your travel expenses out of your own wallet? Or are you an employee or contractor to a corporation that allows you to toss everything on to an expense report for reimbursement? The former wants the best value possible and will take the time to find the smartest bargains; the latter will seek out comfort, convenience and of course, loyalty points.
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October 14 2008 by BW Innsider
Do Not Disturb - Tips for Sleep on the Road
- Your Own Alarm Clock: Pack a portable alarm clock or use the one on your mobile phone or PDA.
- Do Not Disturb: Always hang the "Do Not Disturb" notice on your door.
Taking your pets on vacation is becoming more common with more pet friendly hotels and travel policies. Here are some tips and ideas to consider for pet travel.
On the Road - Pet Travel Tips
- Carefully plan your route. Schedule regular stops to give your pet water, food, a bathroom break and general exercise.
- Keep your pet secure in a safety harness or carrier while driving. Don't allow your pet in the front due to the risk of front passenger air-bags.
- Travel on the road with your pet's bed so they will feel more comfortable and at home.
- Don't leave your pet alone in the car especially during summer months. Any extreme weather, hot or cold can be dangerous to their health.
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In 2002 I set out to climb the tallest mountains on every continent. During my adventures around the world I found myself needing the same things over and over and over again.
10 items to bring on your next adventure:
- Baseball hat - sometimes it's easier to grab a lid than a shower.
- Audio book - allow you read a book without missing the view. Audible.com and Itunes.com have the best selection.
- Unassuming watch - you want the date and time but you don't want to attract unneeded attention. Tangential tip: if you visit the Masai in Tanzania they will happily buy your watch for gorgeous handmade objects.
- Headlamp - useful in dim trains and dank tents. The ZIPKA Plus by Petzl is portable and cheap. This tiny headlamp was bright enough to guide me up the tallest mountain in South America, and reliable enough to help me change a flat on my Jeep.
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For those who embrace the "life's too short, eat dessert first" mantra, traveling just provides another reason to please the pallet. I scoured the 50 states for the best pastry shops and came up with a handful that you won't want to miss. Who knows, you may even need to plan a vacation around them.
Chocolate Pink Pastry Cafe on 905 Juniper Street NE in Atlanta, Georgia
While brides may flock here for architectural wedding cakes, the rest of us come to savor Pastry Chef Christian Balbierer's signature chocolate mousse. Seconds? I do!
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While I've established my credentials as a road warrior (see previous post), you should know that I fly as much as I drive. And like every business traveler out there who has heard that U.S. airlines are cutting schedules, parking planes and raising fares, I'm concerned about the impact on my travel budget.
But beyond the screechy headlines predicting unbearably high fares and the end of air travel as we know it, I've determined not all that much is going to change for most business travelers.
Like most Americans, I'm lucky because nearly all my air travel is on high volume routes between major cities with plenty of low-fare competition. In markets like these, average fares have increased only about 10 percent over the last year. I'm even luckier that I live in a city that's a hub for a low-fare carrier (Virgin America) and has two airports served by low-fare leader Southwest Airlines (San Francisco and Oakland). Fares to and from the cities I fly to most (Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver and Las Vegas) have actually decreased year-over-year.
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Rule #1: Never let a child pack his own carry-on.
I don't know what I was thinking when I allowed my 4-year-old son, Dante, to help me pack for our trip to Philadelphia. I divvied up the work, giving myself the job to pack the clothes and him the task to fill his carry-on bag.
While I was carefully putting together outfits for cold and hot weather and counting pairs of socks, he dumped his toy chest into his Scooby Doo rolling suitcase. Smurfs, Matchbox cars, random puzzle pieces--Dante mixed everything together.
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October 2 2008 by BW Innsider
Enter for a Chance to Win a $100 Best Western Gift Card, Just for Telling Us What Travel Related Topics Interest You Most.
We have a new blog here and we want to know what types of travel info would be most interesting, helpful and useful to you. In short, what types of things can we put up here that would have you coming back for more?
To submit your ideas (and at the same time enter for a chance to win a $100 Best Western Gift Card), select the Comment button and enter in your response to the question, "What travel related topic(s) interests you most?" Once you enter a comment you are entered into a random drawing for one commmenter to win a $100 Best Western Gift Card!
Your responses can include anything from specific destinations (i.e. Hawaii) or travel tips (i.e. traveling with kids).
The contest promotion ends on October 17, so get your comments in now.
"Ladies and gentleman, today's flight, flight 29 with service to Los Angeles International Airport will be departing on time."
What? How can this possibly be? Why on earth would a flight take off on-time. I almost broke into a cold sweat when I heard the announcement come across the P.A. I pinched myself when they came on again as we began our descent and announced that we would be landing 15 minutes early.
I had decided earlier in the week that my most recent business trip to Los Angeles would be the perfect opportunity to break out the stopwatch and track the most important and potentially time consuming parts of the trip. I mean we all know travel is a hassle, time-consuming endeavor. But what would the numbers say? Admittedly, all week I had been preparing a scathing manifesto in my mind to the airlines, airport security, the airport shuttles, and the hotel front desk about delays and poor customer service. Years of business travel have left me numb to 45 minute delays, cancelled flights, and hotel rooms that "weren't quite ready". Much to my astonishment, in my much anticipated quest to document the pains and hassles of travel, I was proven wrong in all facets.
Travel by the numbers...
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