I am not really an Elvis fan. In fact if you split the world in two halves you basically end up with Elvis lovers and non-Elvis lovers. I also understand that for Elvis lovers a trip to Graceland can be an unforgettable, life-bending experience. And if Elvis isn't your thing, well, a trip to Graceland, though a fascinating experience in pop culture and America, can seem, well, a bit weird frankly. In fact, the most interesting part of Graceland for me was that Elvis is clearly the genesis for pop culture indulgence and excess as we know it today. Just think without Elvis, no MTV Cribs. I know, weird.
I have a brother that lives in Memphis and though he is also on the non-Elvis lover side, living in the region you pick up on lots of stuff. He gave me some of the inside scoop on Elvis's famous abode.
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It's the dead of winter with most of the U.S. under a deep freeze that seems to have no end (meteorologically and economically). So, let's talk about Hawaii.
Have you been earnestly earning your Best Western Rewards points in colder climes and dreaming about redeeming them somewhere warm and tropical? It so, set your sites on the Best Western Coconut Hotel in Waikiki where I cooled my heels last weekend. (Rooms here go for 36,000 Rewards points per night.)
There are, of course, hundreds of hotel choices in Honolulu and as a travel writer for the last 20 years, I've slept and schlepped my way through many of them. But when air fares from California to Hawaii plunged to less than $300 round trip this month, I decided to jump on the plane and try the Coconut. Wow, was I impressed. (I know, I know...I'm jaded due to my affiliation with Best Western, but if you check out user-generated reviews at sites such as tripadvisor.com, you'll see that I'm not alone in my praise for the place.)
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Adventure comes in all colors; my favorite is white! Snowflakes, crisp air, the silence of a snowfall. Here's the list of adventures I'm considering this winter season. I split them into three categories. Extreme, not-extreme, and in between.
Dog sledding. What could be more exhilarating than mushing forward, geeing right, and hawing left behind your very own team of 7 panting huskies as they run down a snow-covered forest trail?
Ice climbing. What could be more death-defying than climbing a frozen waterfall?
Mountain climbing. What could be more self-validating than to climb a mountain in winter and sit atop the ice-laden summit as if it were God's icy front porch?
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Everybody's got one. A quirky friend I mean. But nobody has one with as many strange habits and behaviors as my friend. Let's just call him Mr. X. This guy has more quirks than the whole cast of Seinfeld put together and recently we took a trip together. I have been on many trips in the past with him, but this time we shared a hotel room.
I like to relax as soon as I enter a hotel room. I put my bags down, test each of the beds to see if one is more comfy, then I grab the remote and surf the TV for a bit. I don't really plan on watching anything, it's more about taking a second to unwind from traveling and also to make sure that the hotel has all the great channels that I don't get at home.
This is not the way that Mr. X entered our hotel room. He walked in, placed each of his bags neatly in a line on the bed closest to the bathroom and begun unpacking. I mean methodic, rehearsed unpacking. First Mr. X produced 8-10 (no joke) different bottles of vitamins and placed them in a specific order, labels faced out, on the bathroom sink counter. Next, he produced a set of his very own neatly folded sheets and replaced the hotel sheets with his. After this, Mr. X produced a pair of slippers arranged them at the foot of his bed. Last he produced a pair of earplugs and a bottle of water from his bag and placed them on the side table.
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Let's face it - this can be a tough time of the year. The holidays are over and as I write this, a good part of the country is in a very big deep-freeze. The winter doldrums set in and you wonder if you'll ever see spring again. Reading about all the sub-zero temperatures prompted me to think about what you could do when it's cold outside and cabin fever sets in. Well, there are places around the country that embrace the outdoors in all its icy beauty. Here are a few cities that do just that:
Saint Paul Winter Carnival, St. Paul, Minnesota - Begun in 1886, this carnival is a popular annual event from January 22 through February 1, 2009 that draws in people from the surrounding region. There are numerous activities and events to keep you busy starting with the Minnesota State Snow Sculpting Championship, a Sleigh Rally, Blues Festival and Queen of the Snows Fashion Show - just to name a few of the events taking place. The Carnival wraps up with a torchlight procession of floats through downtown St. Paul.
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January 21 2009 by BW Innsider
For every $100 Best Western Travel Card® you purchase between now and February 1, you receive a free $10 retail gift card to go along with it. Select your free $10 gift card from your choice of major retailers.
Now is the perfect time to give the gift of travel and reward yourself at the same time.
Get this offer >
As a travel writer, I've seen my share of presidential suites. I recently got a look at the $34,000/night, I.M. Pei-designed presidential suite atop the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City. Wow.
Presidential suites are almost always big, dramatic--and dramatically expensive. So expensive, in fact, that most road warriors would never even consider them an option. But since we're all thinking "presidential" this week with the inauguration in Washington, D.C., it's worth re-examining the belief that presidential suites are in fact out of touch.
Actually, there are some situations where one of the largest and most prestigious rooms in a hotel makes perfect sense: a special occasion, a board meeting or when two or more employees are traveling together and entertaining clients. (For instance, I've seen presidential suites in Hong Kong used as mini-showrooms by apparel manufacturers meeting with buyers.) But the best way to see a presidential suite is on that very rare occasion when there are no more rooms left at the property and you get upgraded!
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Well, they're not flying in a V formation - but this is the time of year that snowbirds flock to sunny locales; searching for endless sunshine, balmy beaches or a place that offers a little fun in the sun mixed in with a few wintertime activities.
When sitting down to write this blog, I contemplated what criteria are needed to make the perfect winter escape from shoveling driveways and navigating treacherous icy highways. Having lived through a few frigid winters in the Midwest to living where the sun almost always shines, I feel I can offer a fairly good prospective on what would make a good winter escape when that day comes for my husband and me to kick back and relax.
I tried blindfolding myself and throwing a dart at a map of the United States in order to give equal opportunity to every state, but I found out that I'm a lousy dart thrower and my family got tired of dodging the darts. So, I had to resort to good old fashioned research and what follows are my three top choices based on my in-laws advice that sunshine, shopping, restaurants and good medical facilities are the basics to finding the perfect winter escape.
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This market down-turn is affecting us all. I'm afraid to open my 401k statements these days. Even with the economy in the dumpster, there are adventure travel opportunities that won't break the (piggy) bank. Here are three. The first is wild and the second one is tame.
1) Climb in Pakistan for 50% off - now is the best time to go on a climbing vacation to Pakistan! According to this report at Everest News, the Ministry of Tourism has announced that climbing fees have been reduced by 50% for 2009. Clearly Pakistan is planning ahead to climbers' dreams alive and keep the mountains accessible to everyone. Thank you Pakistan. Speaking about good deals, most western hotel brands have super opulent hotels in the capital city of Pakistan at cut-rate prices. The Best Western Islamabad sports a marbled-floored lobby and a snappily dressed staff. Tell the manager, Pariq Mumtaz, that we sent you.
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As much as I love road trips, at some point during the trip I end up in a gas station in the middle of Anywhere, USA asking for directions. I've tried hand plotting my routes on a map, but that inevitably creates more confusion and extra hours of travel time. I've used MapQuest® and Google Maps, but let's be honest, once you miss an exit you're already past the point of no return. My newest travel gadget has changed the way I travel--the portable GPS.
I recently acquired a Garmin nuvi® 260 Portable GPS Navigator this holiday season from my wonderful fiance. We figured there was no better way to test it out than on a road trip to the heart of the American Southwest: Las Vegas. The setup process couldn't have been easier. Stick the GPS against the windshield with a nifty suction cup, plug it into the 12-volt cigarette lighter (or use its 5 hour lithium battery), power up, and go.
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Cut back. Trade down. Freeze. Scrutinize. Reduce.
As the economy continues to slide, those words are increasingly used as part of the corporate clarion call to trim travel spending. No company or industry is exempt.
You'd think it was the end of business travel as we know it. But it doesn't have to be.
If you want to maintain the level of travel to which you have grown accustomed, it's time to burn off some of those miles and points to offset the cost of business travel.
With nearly every major hotel loyalty program offering gigantic bonuses this winter, you don't have to worry much about depleting your accounts.
For example, members of Best Western Rewards earn double points when they stay two nights, triple points when they stay three nights and quadruple points when they stay four nights now through February 14. (Details)
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January 12 2009 by BW Innsider
Share your MUST TRAVEL destinations for 2009 with us and enter for a chance to win a $100 Best Western Gift Card.
It's a new year with the promise of new possibilities, places to see and things to do. As you look forward to 2009 what are the travel destinations that are definitely on your list (or wish list)? Is it a warm weather retreat, cultural experience, family gathering or something else all together? Let us know!
To submit your MUST TRAVEL destinations for 2009 (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 is your MUST TRAVEL destination for 2009?" Once you enter a comment you are entered into a random drawing for one commenter to win a $100 Best Western Gift Card!
The contest promotion ends on January 25, so submit your travel destinations today.
"Take a Trip" is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. I think it should be the most popular resolution. Here's the list published by the U.S. Government. "Take a Trip" is such an awesome goal, and way more fun than so many others.
Some other top items on the list are "lose weight," "eat right," and "get fit." Those sound so vague, non-time bounded, and not so much fun. My advice in 2009 is to put away the Slim Fast and the Ab Roller, and take a trip.
My preferred type of trip is an outdoorsy trip.
For a simple trip, try this:
Step 1: Turn off TV or Computer.
Step 2: Drive/walk/run to the nearest forest, beach or lake.
Step 3: Discover the beautiful flora and fauna that lives through quiet observation.
Step 4: Breathe a sigh of relief as you realize how much nicer that was then the Ab Roller.
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Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
The holidays are over and I'm not going to hear that song playing anymore...but listening to it really got me thinking about how much fun it can be to get out of the house and into the snow!
The winter can lose some of its charm when the holidays fade and you are facing just the snowy months ahead, so to get us all excited for January, February and more snow, I'm going to suggest a few places in the U.S. that offer amazing terrain for winter walks - on snowshoes or skis! Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are, perhaps, less popular activities than snowboarding or downhill skiing, but they can be a great escape. You can enjoy nature, see the real beauty of winter and get an unforgettable workout. If you have ever tried either snowshoeing or cross-country skiing you quickly learn that you are using every muscle in your body. Enjoy these winter wonderlands:
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Hitting the road this month? I can't think of a better time to be traveling on business. Prices for anything travel-related are at historic lows. Families with kids are back in school and travel industry front-liners thankful to be employed during tough times are more accommodating than ever.
Here's what I mean:
We are paying about half as much for a gallon of gas as we were this time last year. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average price per gallon is now $1.68, down from about $3 in January 2008. The total cost to fill up my 15-gallon tank is now about $25; last summer I paid $60.
Airfares have sunk as fast as gasoline prices, especially into leisure-oriented markets like Florida, Colorado, California and Hawaii. However, new fees for things like checked bags or advance reservations for certain coach seats which were imposed last summer are here to stay, I'm afraid.
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January 6 2009 by BW Innsider
Best Western's winter promotion is on now through February 14. Best Western Rewards (formerly Gold Crown Club International) is offering up to 4x the rewards. Stay 2, 3 or 4 qualified nights and you can earn double, triple, and yes, even quadruple points when you pay with your MasterCard®. Better yet, book online at bestwestern.com and earn an additional 250 points. That is a lot of points. You can use your reward points for free nights, car rentals, gift cards and more.
If you are traveling this winter, it is a great way to rack up the rewards.
For more details, check here.
I hate to think I am the only person on this rush and go planet that has made some dumb mistakes while traveling. And not just the kind where you forget to take the toothpaste out of your carry-on bag and then have to go through the extra security checks, but things that don't have much excuse. I once forgot my identification (a driver's license in this case) not once, but twice. After arriving at the airport and realizing I was in trouble, I had to do some fancy talking to try and get myself on the plane. These instances were both pre 9-11 and when I was younger, but still (btw, I got on the plane both times, but I doubt that would happen today).
And I have been able to witness other people's travel missteps along the way. I learned firsthand that you should not stow a heavy metal tube in the overhead bin. Some poor lady two rows in front of me was forced to deplane (not at her final destination mind you) to be examined by medical professionals after someone's metal tube landed on her head after the overhead bin was opened during flight. Yes, items really do shift during take-off--metal tubes do anyway.
So in the spirit of the new travel year, here are a few travel resolutions:
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Ever wanted to travel somewhere and accomplish something that had never been done before? Well, wait till you read about this. These are stories about real life adventurers traveling across the globe and making history. Sam ran across the US in 50 days. That's 60 miles a day! Dee Caffari traveled around the world in a sailboat, against the wind.
National Geographic Adventure Magazine has a new award that they award annually. It is called "Audacious Acts". It's an outrageously awesome way to summarize the most audacious adventure feats each year. These guys and gals have traveled across the world and pushed themselves to the limit to accomplish their goals. It's totally inspiring and great food for thought if want to plan an audacious adventure of your own. Check it out:
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