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January 2012

January 31, 2012

Deal Alert: Northeast Sales on Amtrak

By Kate Chandler

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Trains are surely the most civil, relaxing way to travel these days. But, let's be honest, sometimes airfare to a destination is cheaper than a train ticket (especially in the Northeast corridor). Amtrak does occasionally post some good deals, though, and now is one of those times for people in the DC and NYC areas.

The Deal: Travel Between DC and NYC for $40 One-Way.
The Rules: Book online now through February 2, 2012, for travel March 13 through April 4, 2012.
The fine print (on Amtrak's website)

The Deal: Travel between NYC and Montreal for $89 Round-Trip (yep, that's right, round-trip).
The Rules: Book online now through April 23, 2012, for travel now through April 26, 2012.
The fine print (on Amtrak's website)

So go ahead and plan your next escape. Here are a few travel guides to get you started:'s NYC Travel Guide's DC Travel Guide's Montreal Travel Guide

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Related Topics: Travel Deals

January 27, 2012

The World's Best Airports for Family Travelers

Butterfly garden at Singapore's Changi Airport (Andy_Mitchell_UK/Flickr)

There are certain world airports that stick out as perennial party poopers when it comes to traveling with kids (London Heathrow being my personal horror show, with its interminably long, draughty, and crowded corridors, which are a nightmare to navigate with jetlagged youngsters). But where are the airports that put some of the play back into travel? Here are our picks (caveat emptor: we can't vouch for freak weather events, transit delays, or unplanned kiddie meltdowns at any of these selections).

Europe Winner: Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)
Forego the strike-fuelled chaos of Paris Charles de Gaulle each summer, and use Amsterdam Schiphol as your European transit hub. This bright, smooth-running airport features a free "Kids' Forest" playzone with treehouses, slides, and climbing equipment, plus an outdoor observation deck for teens to get their first lungful of (admittedly, aviation-fuel-soaked) European air.

Regional Runner-up: Copenhagen Airport (CPH), for its home-turf Lego store and family-friendly quiet areas.

Continue reading "The World's Best Airports for Family Travelers" »

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Related Topics: Air Travel · Family Vacation

January 26, 2012

Winter Has (Finally) Arrived! And So Have the Ski Deals.

A much-needed powder day at Snowbird (Matt Crawley/Snowbird Resort)

After returning last week from a trip to most of the ski resorts of Park City and Salt Lake, I was ready to write about how Utah’s snow-making skills have managed to turn a year of dismal snowfall into a surprisingly robust ski experience of groomed runs and bluebird skies. But then, three days after I got home, the snow came. Four feet of Utah’s famed powdery, light snow fell across the state’s resorts between January 18 and 22. Terrain that had been closed all season (both on- and off-piste) was suddenly ready to accept the first tracks of 2012. Snowbasin now reports a robust 73-inch base, while Alta and Snowbird rank highest for the SLC-area resorts, boasting 71- and 67-inch bases (respectively). Park City has also seen its fair share of much-needed snow (just in time to clog the streets during Sundance), with a base depth that starts at 43 inches.

Continue reading "Winter Has (Finally) Arrived! And So Have the Ski Deals." »

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Related Topics: Last Minute Trips · Skiing & Snowboarding · Travel Deals

January 25, 2012

Look Closer: Four Worthy Locales with a Bad Reputation

By BootsnAll

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Wax palm trees of Cocora Valley, colombia(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Wax palm trees of Cocora Valley, Colombia (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Many places around the world are sure bets to elicit sighs of admiration from friends and family who hear about your travel plans. Others engender quizzical looks and questions about your sanity. Of course, you may be totally into being slightly off-kilter from what everyone expects, but it's still handy to have snappy comebacks for when you hear the inevitable statements about why such-and-such country isn't a good vacation destination.

Here are four countries with a bit of a bad reputation for one reason or another, but they're still awesome places to visit if you go in with the proper attitude and information.

Tell the average person you're going to Colombia and you'll be met with warnings about drug deals, kidnapping, and murder. Talk to people who have been to Colombia, on the other hand, and you'll hear tales of welcoming people (eager to dispel the misconceptions that their country is overly dangerous and that everyone is on drugs) and fabulous scenery.

The reality of Colombia is that while there are certainly parts of the country that you probably want to steer clear of, you can have a good time there without constantly being on guard. Even in big cities like Bogota and Medellin there are plenty of reasons to visit, as well as areas that are perfectly safe for tourists—and if you get outside the main cities you're rewarded with spectacular beaches and lush national parks.'s Cartagena Travel Guide

Continue reading "Look Closer: Four Worthy Locales with a Bad Reputation" »

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January 23, 2012

North America's Top Five Ski Resorts

By Guest Blogger

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Canada, British Columbia, Whistler Village at dusk(Digital Vision,Thinkstock)
Whistler Village, British Columbia (Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

Whether you're a family of beginners learning the ropes of the mountain or an experienced group of friends ready to tackle the next big challenge, these five North American ski resorts offer great skiing and snowboarding, plus a few extra details that ensure a perfect winter vacation.

Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort
Just 90 minutes outside of Vancouver is the behemoth known as Whistler Blackcomb. Eight thousand acres of skiing area, 27 lifts, and hundreds of runs and trails make for a skier’s dream. The pedestrian-only village is enticing for those in your group who don't ski; they can shop and dine to their heart's content within the area.'s Whistler Ski Guide

Alta Ski Area
Alta is designated for skiers only, which means snowboarders will have to find another choice. This is great for those who prefer to enjoy the scenery at a slower pace, and Alta certainly provides an incredible amount of scenery. Unlike some of the mega-resorts in the west, Alta has a decidely laid-back, mom-and-pop vibe that lets you truly focus on the snow-covered outdoors.'s Alta Ski Guide

Continue reading "North America's Top Five Ski Resorts" »

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January 20, 2012

Dream Destination Photo Contest: And the Winner Is…

By awayblog

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McWay Falls, located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur (Heidi Haas)

From sunrises to sunsets, mountains to marketplaces, we've winnowed down the hundreds of entries in our Dream Destination Photo Contest to the winning shot: this photograph of California's McWay Falls, taken by reader Heidi Haas. In our quest to find the most inspirational travel photograph, the judges felt this image, featuring an 80-foot cascade dropping into restless Pacific Ocean swell, captured travel's sense of wonder as you round that bend to discover something new and unexpected. It also shows a moment where childhood memories of past vacations converge with the present—in her caption entry, Heidi details how she visited Big Sur as a child on a family vacation and was inspired to return 13 years later to check off the one place they'd bypassed on that trip.

For those of you wishing to trace Heidi's footsteps, McWay Falls is just one scenic highlight along a road, California Highway One, packed with a lifetime of iconic twists and turns. The waterfall is located at the end of an easy half-mile trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Other trails in the park include a 4.5-mile hike through stands of towering redwood trees and a short mile-long path that cuts through rock onto a quiet cove frequented by sea otters.

Read's Pacific Coast Highway Vacations Guide

Congratulations to Heidi, who wins a pair of round-trip airline tickets, plus a big thanks to everyone who took part. Stay tuned for our next great photo contest at the beginning of February—keep those cameras at the ready!

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Related Topics: News · Travel Photography

January 19, 2012

2012's Best Family Vacation Destinations

By awayblog

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Mackinac Island, Michigan (

2012 may be the year you promised to take the kids to Disney Word. And if so, then we wish you the best. But if you’re looking for a family-friendly destination that goes beyond kiddie rides and water slides, we’ve got you covered with these hot-spots:

1. Mackinac Island, Michigan
A family vacation destination since the mid-1800s, Mackinac Island banned motorized vehicles more than 100 years ago. The result is a quiet yet bustling atmosphere that includes shopping, food, history, nature, and plenty of opportunities for relaxation. Check out:

Fort Mackinac: High on a bluff overlooking the rest of the island, this military fort-turned-museum offers information about 1800s military life, glimpses of authentic buildings, and an interactive children’s exhibit.

Mackinac Trails: Eighty percent of the island is a Michigan State Park, which is evident in the abundant trails for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling, plus rock formations and other natural attractions.

The Original Butterfly House and Insect World: Stroll through 1,800 square feet of tropical paradise surrounded by hundreds of live butterflies from four continents and check out impressive preserved insects, including a 14-inch walking stick.

For a full-service resort experience including dining, activities, and historic accommodations, stay at Mission Point Resort. This casual, kid-friendly resort offers two-bedroom family suites, a variety of restaurants, on-site movies, kid’s club, and a laid-back atmosphere. Mackinac Island Travel Guide

Continue reading "2012's Best Family Vacation Destinations" »

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January 16, 2012

The Freshly Minted Feel of Paradisus in Playa del Carmen

La Esmerelda, Paradisus, in Playa Del Carmen

New resorts, somewhat like new cars, have a different feel than those that have a few tourist seasons under their belts. Everything is neat, clean, and pristine, yet lacking that certain lived-in feeling. The staff is on their toes and fresh out of training but miss the little things, like pointing a sleepy-eyed wanderer in the direction of the nearest coffee bar at 7 a.m. For the past three days, I was at a conference in the freshly minted Paradisus Resort in the Grand Coral resort enclave just north of Playa Del Carmen. It had a soft opening November 15, and the road into the lush, humongous compound is still under construction, passing through a neighborhood of concrete block housing before arriving at the marble gates of the resort. Paradisus is split into two sides: kid-friendly La Esmerelda and adults-only La Perla. No small amount of confusion comes from the fact that the layout, even some of the restaurant names, are nearly identical on both sides. Thankfully, La Esmerelda and La Perla’s 906 suites, 16 restaurants, 12 bars, and numerous wrap-around pools and cabanas come with plenty of "You Are Here" maps. You can hardly walk through this all-inclusive resort without tripping over a swanky padded lounge chair. If you do, chances are you’ll have a waiter standing over you offering margaritas or cervezas before you can get up. At times during my stay, it seemed like the hotel had more staff than guests. When not stuck in conference rooms, my days at Paradisus consisted of reading by the pool in one of the palapa-style cabanas or walking along the turquoise-blue oceanfront just steps from the Gabi nightclub. For all the Mexican hospitality (and it comes in thick here), the place was still too new to really have a soul, and the food left this chili aficionado wanting—with hot dogs, burgers, and other gringo food more common than traditional Mexican fare. Still, though, I couldn’t help applauding the architects and interior decorators for creating such a nouveau riche feel, and luxury travelers looking for a spot to relax for a few days in Caribbean Mexico will be well-served by Paradisus long after that new resort feel melts away.'s Playa del Carmen Travel Guide

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Related Topics: Mexico Travel · Travel Raves · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

January 13, 2012

Honeymoon Destinations for Celebrities... and the Rest of Us

By Kate Chandler

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Cap Juluca, Anguilla

Check Facebook, Twitter, or whatever your social media poison is anytime between Christmas and Valentine's Day, and the news feed is likely to be smattered with engagement announcements. Maybe you just had a relationship status change of your own? If so, then know this: having a wedding is fun, but the honeymoon is by far the best part of getting married. Planning on blowing some serious cash? Check out these favorite honeymoon escapes of the stars (and though most of these marriages are now defunct, the resorts are still fabulous).

The Caribbean, and really the beach in general, is a perennial favorite of honeymooners. Cap Juluca, on the island of Anguilla, gets most of the A-list love, and rightly so. Every room (and villa) on the property is beachfront, so you're guaranteed to enjoy your complimentary continental breakfast, delivered daily to your room, with an ocean view. Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards honeymooned here, as did Courteney Cox and David Arquette (who also spent time at La Samanna on St. Martin, just an island-hop away).

More recently, however, Viceroy Anguilla lured honeymooners Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr. Their $4,500-per-night villa was complete with a private pool, cabana, and butler. Also in the Caribbean, Parrot Cay on the Turks and Caicos islands was the site of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's wedding, plus the honeymoon spot for Eva Longoria and Tony Parker. Rooms start at $544 a night.'s Anguilla Travel Guide's Turks and Caicos Travel Guide

Continue reading "Honeymoon Destinations for Celebrities... and the Rest of Us" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation

January 10, 2012

Cheat Sheet of the Best Beaches for 2012

By awayblog

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Dead Sea,Jordan(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Dead Sea, Jordan (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Sure, time may seem to stand still when you're relaxing on the pearl-white powder of an exotic beach, a cold drink in hand and the sound of the waves lulling you into a blissful afternoon nap. But time does indeed march on, which leaves only so many hours for the sand-and-surf exploration you crave. That's why we've put together a cheat sheet of the best beaches for 2012. So pack your swimsuit and sunscreen, and then head to one of these sand-strewn hot spots:

For the searching-for-a-salve spiritual traveler: Dead Sea, Jordan
Jordan's made a huge push recently to attract tourists, making this relatively small desert country the hottest ticket in the Middle East. Hope floats—and so will you—on the famed Dead Sea, so salty that you'll find yourself effortlessly bobbing along when lying on your back. In addition to super-buoyancy powers, the magnesium, sodium, potassium, bromine, and other minerals in the water, along with the black mud on the shoreline, are reputed to ease a host of ailments, from dry skin and arthritis to allergies and stress. The best beaches in the area belong to hotels; you can buy a day pass to enjoy the resort amenities and gain access to an experience of biblical proportion.

Let the Dead Sea Lift Your Spirits: A Travel How-To

For the end-of-the-world enthusiast: Placencia, Belize
With the Maya calendar turning a new leaf in December 2012—and plenty of conjecture that it's the end of the world as we know it—people around the globe are watching for interpretation from indigenous Maya communities, many of which are scattered in the southern part of Belize. Get a dose of beach time with your Mayan culture just north of these villages in Placencia, a laid-back town with some 16 miles of white sands and turquoise waters. Snorkelers and divers will be particularly pleased with the offerings here, with easy access to the world's second-largest barrier reef. If it is the end of our days, at least you'll go out on a vacation high note.'s Placencia Travel Guide

Continue reading "Cheat Sheet of the Best Beaches for 2012" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Trip Ideas

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