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November 2008

November 26, 2008

Five Ways to Save While Flying with Kids

With the amount of time it takes to make the trip to the airport, wait in line at the ticket counter, wait again at the security checkpoint, then sit through the length of your flight, and finally, to wait for those bags you've checked because you're hardly allowed to bring toiletries with you in your carry-on anymore, even adults can get cranky. For kids, it's that much harder. And for parents of kids, it can be a disaster. With so much time to kill, kids will want food and entertainment. Airfare is expensive enough without having to hand over tons of cash just to stay hydrated and pass the time. Here's five ways to save:

1. Rather than paying for water in the airport, bring empty water bottles through security and fill them at a water fountain near your gate.

2. Some airlines are now charging $3 for soft drinks and juices; U.S. Airways charges up to $5 for each non-alcoholic drink. You can’t bring bottles of juice or pop with you from home because of the 3-ounce limit on liquids, but you can bring pouches of powdered drink mixes in your carry-on luggage, which you can add to your water bottles for far less than $3 per drink. You can still get hot water for tea on most airlines at no charge, so consider hot cider or cocoa pouches for cold days.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Tips

November 25, 2008

Cozumel: East vs. West

By Gary Chandler

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CRUISE CONTROL: Cruise ships docked in the city of San Miguel de Cozumel (Wikimedia Commons)

Six days a week, Cozumel's west side—where the cruise ship and ferry ports are located, as well as most of the island's tourist and residential development—teems with people: cruise ship passengers, daytrippers from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, taxi drivers and luggage handlers, freelance guides, and the employees of the innumerable shops crammed along the main drag. Meanwhile, just a few miles away, Cozumel's east side—which has virtually no development, not even telephone or power lines—is practically empty. On Sundays, however, it's reversed. That's the day no cruise ships arrive in Cozumel, leaving the west side all but deserted, while the east side beaches are packed—not with tourists, but with local families enjoying their day off.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Dispatches from the Road · Mexico Travel

November 24, 2008

Head to the Heel of the Boot: Puglia, Italy

BRICK BY BRICK: Trulli houses in Alberobello, Puglia (Peter Adams/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty)

Tuscany has been hyped ad nauseum, leaving the rest of Italy open to folks who prefer not to follow the masses.  This is especially true in fall, when most of the backpackers have left the country with guidebooks in tow and the Italians return from their summer vacation.  One of my favorite parts of the country is in the southeast, Puglia, known as Giardano d’Italia, the Garden of Italy.  With its rich soil, the region is known for its bounty of fruits, vegetables, and wines.  Families can bike through olive groves, picnic on the Adriatic shores, visit the Roman ruins of Egnazia, and spend an afternoon hiking through the beehive-like buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello.  Spend your nights at Masseria Torre Coccaro in Savelletri, where acres of olive groves and gardens surround a 14th-century watchtower.

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Related Topics: European Travel · Travel Raves · Trip Ideas

November 21, 2008

Rustic (and Recession-Proof) Holiday Rentals

By Brian Kevin

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RUSTIC RETREAT: Ski into the Indian Flats Cabin in Montana's Big Belt Mountains (courtesy, U.S. Forest Service)

I don't know what it is—the awkward, Ricky Gervais-style office partiesBing Crosby muzak?  The orgiastic spend-a-thon of Black Friday? But come the crux of the holiday season, I'm usually anxious to unleash my inner Ingalls. 

A remote and rustic setting is my ideal backdrop for a holiday, and if I can ski or snowshoe into it, then so much the better.  For the active-outdoors crowd, the National Forest Service's network of secluded rental cabins is a killer alternative to paying "holiday rates" for a vacation cabin or ski lodge, and it's particularly clutch in a year when many folks are looking to keep holiday spending at a minimum.

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Related Topics: Outdoor Adventures · Places to Stay · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

November 20, 2008

How to Avoid Baggage Fees

Don't let airline fees take off with your good mood this holiday season (Photodisc/Getty)

We're just a week away from Thanksgiving, and only days away from the start of the holiday travel season, which always bring lots of consumer frustration with airlines. This past May, when airlines started charging baggage fees, everyone was up in arms about the injustice of it all. Unfortunately, if you're a heavy packer, and you've got to fly, you have little choice but to fork over the money.

But if you don’t want to pay $15 to $25 (or more) per checked bag, you still have some options. Currently, eight domestic airlines allow passengers to check one bag free on flights within the U.S., though only one allows two free bags. AirTran, Alaska, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest, and Virgin America all let passengers check one bag at no charge. Beginning December 5, however, Delta will follow suit along with American, United, and US Airways by charging for your first checked bag. Good ol' Southwest—and you've probably seen commercials touting this—is the only major airline left that still allows two free checked bags per ticketed passenger.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Tips

November 19, 2008

The Way We Travel: Top Ten Traveler's Experiences

Local women in Patacancha, Peru (Karen Kefauver)

Traveling solo for two months this fall in Brazil and Peru, I talked to dozens of international travelers in town plazas, youth hostels, jungle lodges, and farmers' markets. Some visitors were South Americans on weekend getaways, others were Europeans or Australians traveling for a year. Many of the Americans I encountered were participating in adventure travel activities like hiking to Machu Picchu, river rafting, mountain biking, or trekking in the Andes or Amazon.

What I learned from my fellow travelers is that no matter our budget or length of trip, our best (and worst) stories centered around the same handful of themes time and time again. So to help you get in the mindset for your next trip, here's my list of the top-ten recurring preoccupations of travelers everywhere. Have I missed something? Have your own travel anecdotes to tell? Add your thoughts to the comments section below.

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Top 10 Lists · Travel Tips

November 18, 2008

Pack a Lunch

With the current economic slump, we’re all trying to save a buck or two, even on vacation. One of the best ways to do that on road trips is to eat lunch at a picnic table. (And it's a great time to get out of the car and stretch those legs!)  Let’s face it: Lunch, especially for kids, is the least favorite meal of the day. Simply grab a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, chips, baby carrots, water, and fruit—and you have lunch for the week. Sure, the kids get a little grumpy about having PB&Js every day (you can switch things up and put potato chips in a peanut butter sandwich—trust me, it's delicious), but remind them that they’re lucky to be on an amazing trip and they’ll most likely get a big meal out at a restaurant for dinner. We did this along the Californian coast, through Bryce and Zion national parks, and just recently on a drive to Montréal and Québec City. It’s an easy way to save some cash.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Tips

November 17, 2008

Putting OtterBox's iPod Armor to the Test

OtterboxipodcaseStowing my iPod classic inside OtterBox's Armor Case felt a little like slipping a svelte MINI Cooper inside a Hummer for added protection. Overkill? Sure, but for hard-charging backpackers, skiers, kayakers, or cyclists, this ding-proof polycarbonate case is definitely worth a look ($50;

First things first: Gearheads obsessed with trimming every last ounce from their load will choke on their oatmeal over the OtterBox's bulk. The four-ounce, six-by-three-inch shell is built to withstand the harshest outdoor knocks and elements—a weight- and space-saver it is not. Then again, that's not the point: Tested to be waterproof, dustproof, dirtproof, sandproof, and drop-proof, this thing means your favorite tunes and playlists can go with you to the far corners of the Earth—and back again. (Full disclosure: Over the course of my testing, my iPod and its new muscled minder got lifted off my desk after work one evening, so I didn't get the chance to put the waterproofing specs—submersible for half an hour up to three feet—to the test.)

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Related Topics: Outdoor Adventures · Travel Gear

November 14, 2008

Wilderness Within Reach: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

By Jeremy Pataky

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WILD AND WONDERFUL: Russell Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias (Jeremy Pataky)

When Alaska comes up in conversation, many Lower 48ers picture cruise ships, polar bears, or Denali National Park—and now Sarah Palin, of course. Denali claims the lion’s share of national park visitors in southcentral Alaska. Many venture beyond the megahotel-and-motorcoach-bedecked “Glitter Gulch” park entrance on tour buses to view wildlife and stunning scenery. Some hikers opt to explore under their own power, and some score backcountry permits and really go for it. Denali’s stunning landscape and abundant wildlife rightfully draw the crowds, but Alaska is, after all, huge, and many visitors are venturing further afield.

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November 13, 2008

San Cristóbal de las Casas: Where are all the Americans?

By Liza Prado

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San Cristóbal de las Casas is one of Mexico's most beautiful colonial towns. It's located way up in the mountains (close to 7,000 feet) in the southernmost state of Chiapas; it boasts the red tile roofs, cobblestone roads, brightly painted one-story homes, and ornate churches that are common to towns like these.

What distinguishes it from other colonial beauties, though, is the meeting of cultures here. San Cristóbal is one of the only cities in Mexico where the indigenous population has visibly maintained its independence. They still dress in the centuries-old style garb, primarily speak Maya dialects, and beyond selling their handicrafts or produce, remain quite autonomous. On the other side of the spectrum, San Cristóbal is a place filled with artists and political activists. It's got a great live music scene, art galleries, tons of cafés and independent movie houses—not to mention the language schools and NGOs. And the two sides co-exist seamlessly, if mostly separately.

San Cristóbal is a special place. And as such, attracts a visible foreign presence: French B&B owners, Swiss artists, Italian restaurateurs, German tour groups, Israeli backpackers—everybody, it seems, but Americans. And that's what I don't get. Where are they? San Cristóbal is an easy one-hour-flight from Mexico City—a city whose airport receives dozens of direct flights from the US every day.

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Related Topics: Mexico Travel

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