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Saturday, September 4, 2010

We Don’t Do Labor on Labor Day 9.4.10

That’s right! Labor Day and its weekend is all about kicking back and relaxing. The most work we do is BBQing steaks and then eating them! Some of us are lucky enough to get out of town this time of year, since a three-day weekend is a great excuse to pack a bag and either enjoy what’s left of the sun somewhere or get in some sightseeing and shopping before having to suffer through work and school until Thanksgiving. While Labor Day is upon us, you are either on one of these well-deserved trips or you aren’t, so let’s talk about the upcoming vacation season instead, so you have something to look forward to, besides getting up at the crack of dawn to stuff a bird and make a hundred side dishes and then try not to be cranky when the TV is too loud and you have to entertain a house full of friends and relatives.

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To commemorate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese we all come together in celebration for two weeks of every year and eat, drink and be merry! It’s Oktoberfest time! Yeah, I know, I talked about Oktoberfest last time, but there’s still time to get your airline tickets to great cities like Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam and Barcelona to join in the festivities. Of course there are many more cities across the world that celebrate this 16 day festival, so pick your favorite and you’re sure to get a great deal on your airfare. You better get on it, though, especially if you aren’t set on going to Munich or Berlin, where flights are bound to fill up fast. 
  • Click HERE for some sample rates for flights from major U.S. cities to Munich, starting at just under $400 round trip.  

Even if you just sleep for less-expensive, you’re saving money over your last vacation, but with the Internet, it’s SOOO easy to find deals. You don’t have to call all over the place and talk to a million different people and you can shop at 2am in your pajamas if you want. Love it! You know where else you can stay up until 2am and not be considered a weirdo? Las Vegas! With school back in session, the tourism in Las Vegas drops dramatically, especially with the crummy economy still affecting things like peoples’ wallets. This works in your favor, if you can go, because the hotels there have hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of rooms they need to fill every night. Prices drop drastically and hotels offer more incentives than ever to entice you to stay at one place or another. This is your chance to stay at a higher-end hotel for the same price as some of the other mid-priced options. Exciting!
  • Wynn Las Vegas and Encore want to extend a deal to you to stay in one of their Resort Rooms for two or more nights at just $159/night. They will give you 2 free buffet tickets for your midweek stay between now and January 20, 2011. You just need to book by the end of September. With 21 restaurants, 2 spas, pools, nightly shows, an 18-hole golf course and nightclubs and lounges, you may never feel the need to even leave the hotel to see anything else in Vegas.

In just three short weeks I’ll be off on my very first cruise. I’ve never wanted to go on a cruise, because I like to be able to spend as much time as possible anywhere I go. Lucky us, we were given a “free” cruise (as in we only had to pay taxes and fees, which were as much as the cruise would have been, but half the total price of what everyone else has to pay for the cruise AND taxes and fees), so off we go on one. Considering I could have chosen an itinerary to many different places, we had also planned another trip to Florida this year to be able to finally experience the Harry Potter themed area of Universal Orlando, so we figured we’d combine these trips into one. It was easy to find an interesting cruise that sailed out of anywhere in Florida and we chose to visit Central America. With stops in Honduras, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Belize, there appears to be plenty of new things for us to see in a week. When else would we plan an entire vacation to go to any of these places? Probably never. So this is a great way to experience a little of each location and then get back on the boat and eat more buffet food and dance off some calories. If all goes well, we might even plan another cruise.
  • I have had my eye on the beauty of Panama and all it has to offer, including awesome cruises and rates. The prices are comparable to other cruises, except they tend to be twice as long, so it’s like getting a 2-week vacation for the price of only 7 days! Another benefit is that the ports are super convenient, leaving from easily accessible locations like Los Angeles, San Diego and Ft. Lauderdale. In other words, you won’t have to spend a million dollars just to fly there. The weather in and around Panama is always gorgeous, so you don’t have to worry about only getting to go in specific months. Cruises are available all year long. Handy! Check out some of the available Panama Canal cruises available right now. 

Look into alternative transportation to get you and your traveling companions out in the fresh air and off to where you want to go.  Just because you COULD take a taxi, doesn’t mean you should. Many cities, like Paris and Amsterdam, have bicycle rentals for a reasonable price…and much less than car hire or a taxi. Get some sun and exercise on your way to lunch or the museum. You can find prices online for anywhere you want to go. Here’s a sample link to London bike rentals.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get cash back on food, too? You’d think someone would have thought of that already…oh wait, they have! It’s true. Sign up for iDine and you can get 20% cash back at purchases at selected restaurants, clubs and bars in the U.S. and Canada. All you do is sign up, register up to 3 credit cards and anytime you use them at those locations, you get an email several days later with your rebate amount and it is automatically credited to your card. That’s pretty easy, right? You don’t even need to do anything after you sign up for it to work! I love it.

With fall coming so quickly, it's inevitable that you will need some boots to keep your feet warm and dry. They can be hard to pack, especially when you are trying to pack light and wearing them on the plane is a pain, both while you're sitting in you seat and going through security. Get some stylish and comfortable packable boots. They roll right up to fit in your carry-on and also keep their shape! If you’re lucky, you can find some great ones that will go with both dressy and casual outfits. I have some lovely Hushpuppies in the Amarone style that I LOVE. They are WAY comfortable, so I can wear them all day long and never have a problem. Every time I wear them, I get compliments. Functional styles are available for both men and women. Some of the best resources for these kinds of footwear are Travelsmith, Columbia, ExOfficio and Magellans.

Let’s talk about that dreaded 3-1-1 bag you get to carry now. It’s all segregated from the rest of your toiletries, because bar soap is so much BETTER than shower gel, I guess, that it gets to ride, undisturbed, in your suitcase while the other gets scrutinized for its contents and size. Well, here’s something surely to help you fit a little more (or a little less) space in that fancy see-thru bag: Shaving oil. Unless you regularly wax your legs or face or whatever else, you take shaving cream/gel or buy it when you get wherever you’re going. Now, you can buy shaving oil for around the same price. You’re probably going to buy something from Amazon anyway, so toss a bottle of this in your basket next time you make a purchase. It’s about the size of a bottle of eye drops and 3 drops is the same as using a whole handful of foam. One little container is good for 100 shaves! That’s especially great if your traveling companion(s) has a need to shave, too. It’s made with all-natural ingredients, so it’s good for you and the environment, and there’s less packaging to throw away or recycle, too!

Guess what’s coming up quickly? Halloween! Even if you won’t be on vacation over Halloween, you can still enjoy holiday festivities many places. I, myself, will be shaking my costumed booty, trick or treating and riding Space Mountain at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando in early October. That’s right! Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party kicks off at the end of this month and goes through the beginning of November on select nights. You dress up and buy a special ticket that gets you access to exclusive Halloween activities like the following: Meet and greet with Disney villains, Halloween parade kicked off with the Headless Horseman and then followed up by ghouls from the graveyard and other Disney movies, Disney Villain musical number, trick or treating, awesome Halloween decorations, special fireworks spectacular and more.

Aside from the many theme parks and individual companies in America that have Halloween-specific events (Halloween Horror Nights – Universal Studios Parks, Howl-O-Scream – Busch Gardens, Spooktacular – Sea World) here are some other great ideas for vacationing:
  • Chessington World of Adventures in Chessington, England (just 12 miles outside of London) – From Oct 22-31 you can experience Halloween Hocus Pocus which includes the zoo and the aquarium/theme park. It’s like Sea World, but with lions and tigers and bears!  For a family of 4, you can purchase a 2 night 4-star hotel package with 2 days of admission. Stay at the Heathrow Park Inn with packages that start at a low, low price of approximately $330. 
  • Alton Towers Scarefest in Staffordshire, England – From Oct 16-31 you can enjoy late-night thrill rides, including the “ultimate thrill-ride” TH13TEEN. The package includes 1 night at the 3-star Travelodge and entry to Alton Towers for a family of 4 from around $270. You can add a 2nd night and day if you’d like.
  • Europa Park in Southwest Germany – From Oct 1-Nov 7 you can be terrorized in one of the world’s best theme parks and Terenzi Horror Nights. Much like the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, it contains themed fright zones. You can stay 2 nights for the price of 1 at Europa Park Camp Resort.

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