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February 2012

February 27, 2012

Six of the Best Budget-Friendly Locales Around the World

By BootsnAll

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Bolivian street vendor (PJFurlong06)
Bolivian street food vendor (PJFurlong06)

Let's face it, you can add destinations to your "I want to go to there" list until the cows come home, but if your budget doesn't allow for multiple trips per year or even short stays in expensive countries, you'd better re-focus your list-making or you'll never get out of the house. There are plenty of places in the world that are super cheap to visit, and they're not all in Central America or Southeast Asia.

Here are six places that are excellent destinations for budget travelers, in no particular order:

Much of South America is very budget-friendly, but Argentina isn't the super-cheap country it used to be, so head for nearby Bolivia instead. You'll need to put in some effort to spend more than $40 a day here, with accommodation, transportation, and food all being serious bargains. Even an organized tour of the country's famous salt flats is a steal at less than $200 per person for an all-inclusive 4-day trip. Note that hostels in La Paz aren't as cheap as elsewhere in Bolivia, but as soon as you get outside the city, you'll spend far less money.'s La Paz Travel Guide

India has long been a popular destination for budget travelers, and it hasn't lost that distinction even as more and more travelers "discover" it for themselves. The country is large and diverse enough that you can still find bargains if you skip the places that are more overrun by tourists—and even in some of those places the prices remain pretty low. Train travel is extremely cheap, nice accommodations can be had for $30 or less, and you'll eat well for around $10 a day (less if you go with street food).'s Top India Vacation Spots

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Related Topics: Budget Travel

February 24, 2012

Hotel Spotlight: The Olive Exclusive

By awayblog

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In the middle of Namibia is the centrally-located capital of Windhoek, a big-city respite for the safari-country on the rise. The Olive Exclusive is the newest boutique hotel, having just opened in March 2011. But the thruth is that a hotel with this level of elegence and high design is new on the scene anywhere in Namibia. Seven luxury suites (four superior, three junior) lay spread out on a hill amid local Windhoek residents. Each room is decorated differently, playing off a section of Namibian landscape with a nod to traditional African décor. Though clean and glossy, there is an eco-approach to the furnishings, from pure-cotton linens to rough-hewn wooden benches and woven baskets. If you book a premier suite, take a dip in your private infinity plunge-pool, then spend the afternoon lounging on the daybed. Scattered throughout the suites and main lobby are wall-sized photographs from popular South African photographer Micky Hoyle that represent the cultures, tribes, sports, and lifestyles of the country. Check-in at a desk made of Namibian granite, polished to a glassy shine. For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, dine at The Olive Restaurant, housed on-property and serving fresh, seasonal fare like oysters straight from the Namibia coast. Not one luxury or design touch has been overlooked. It's a diamond in a country that is famed for being rough.

Go on a photo tour of Namibia here, or virtually walk the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei here (they're the ones that inspired the Olive Exclusive suite below).


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February 23, 2012

Best Places to Get Your Green On: St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

Scottish Marching band(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Scottish marching band (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

St. Patrick's Day is much celebrated, but few know what exactly they're stomping up and down the streets celebrating. Here's a history lesson: Back in the 4th Century in Roman Britain, there was a saint born on March 17 named Patrick. At age 16, Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to be a slave. After escaping his captors, he made his way back home. Years later, after becoming a bishop, he traveled back to Ireland to teach the Irish people about the Christian doctrine. Saint Patrick was held in high regard in the Irish Church, and his birthdate became an internationally celebrated holiday in his honor.

So now that you know what you're toasting to, let the green beer, four leaf clovers, and kegs and eggs begin. Here are our top seven places to celebrate St. Paddy's Day.

Scranton, Pennsylvania
Home to the infamous Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Scranton surprisingly draws in close to 150,000 attendees for its St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The day starts with mass at St. Peter's Cathedral and is followed by one of the country's largest St. Patrick's Day parades, complete with bagpipes, floats, dancers, and musicians.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia's first St. Patrick's Day parade was back in 1771, and is said to be one of the oldest on record. Today, more than 500,000 watch the parade and then continue the celebrations in the pubs of South Philly and Old Town.

Continue reading "Best Places to Get Your Green On: St. Patrick's Day Celebrations" »

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

February 17, 2012

Announcing Monthly Photo Contest: Win a $100 VISA Gift Card

By awayblog

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New Zealand Snowboarder(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Our Winter Inspiration: Snowboarding in New Zealand (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Someone wise once said that a picture is worth a thousand words and here at, we wholeheartedly agree.  A photo can capture our imagination and inspire us to pack our bags and hit the road. And because we're all about inspiration around here, we've debuted a monthly photo contest that gives you, our loyal readers and trusty travelers, a chance to stir that worldly desire in someone sitting at their desk thousands of miles away. 

This month we want to see some of your best winter destinations. The most inspirational photo will win a $100 VISA gift card!

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Related Topics: News · Free Stuff · Travel Photography · Trip Ideas

February 16, 2012

A Guide to Tipping Etiquette Around the World

By Lacy Morris

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Ireland pub(Ingram Publishing,Thinkstock)
Though there is plenty of drinking in Ireland, tipping your bartender isn't customary (Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

Travel can be messy—from airport security and congealed airline food to lost reservations and mis-rated hotel rooms. But once you're swimming with the fish or nibbling cheese in an Italian café, it makes the logistic struggles well worth it. And then comes your bill. When traveling abroad, it's hard to know tipping etiquette. How much is too little/too much? In some countries, it's even considered offensive to open your wallet after a service. In an effort not to offend your host country, take with you our country-by-country tipping guide. Here are the 20 countries most-visited by Americans in 2010, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, and a general look at their tipping policies. All are listed in U.S. dollars.

Mexico & Canada
It's no surprise that the countries right across the border hold most of the same tipping policies that the U.S. does. People in the service industry are compensated with rather low wages, thus making the majority of their cash from customer tips.

Restaurants 15% to 20% depending upon your service
Bartenders $1 per drink or 15% to 20% of your final bill
Taxi Drivers Taxi drivers are not normally tipped in Mexico; however, if they give superb service, it's OK to reward them with a few extra dollars. In Canada, you should always leave 10% to 20% of your fare.
Bell Hops $1 per bag
Tour Guides 10% to 15% of the total cost of the tour

Travel Guides to Mexico's Top Vacation Spots
Travel Guides to Canada's Top Vacation Spots

United Kingdom & Ireland
Tipping is not generally expected in the U.K., though it is greatly appreciated when the service is done well.

Restaurants 10% to 12% of your total bill
Bartenders Not customary, but OK to throw down a dollar per drink if your service is exceptional. If you are making a large order, it isn't uncommon to pay the cost of an extra drink and motion for the bartender to "have one for yourself."
Taxi Drivers 5% to 10% of total fare
Bell Hops $3 to $5 per bag
Tour Guides $3 to $7 per person

Travel Guides to United Kingdom's Top Vacation Spots
Travel Guides to Ireland's Top Vacation Spots

Continue reading "A Guide to Tipping Etiquette Around the World" »

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February 13, 2012

Cold Beer, Fake Celebrities, and Stinky Sneakers: Spring's Best Festivals

By Kate Chandler

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Washington DC cherry blossom festival(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival(iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

As far as festivals go, Mardi Gras (or Carnival, depending on where you are) gets all the love this time of year. But with Fat Tuesday quickly approaching on February 21, if you haven’t already made plans to get down to NOLA (or, we suggest, Mobile), then you’re probably out of luck. Here, instead, are some other interesting festivals and events happening in February and March. Enjoy!

Animal sexpert Jane Tollini headlines Woo at the Zoo, a Valentine’s Day dinner event at the San Francisco Zoo. For you East Coasters, the National Zoo in D.C. has a similar event on February 11. Maybe you’ll finally learn the origin of the phrase “spank the money.”

If animal love doesn’t ignite any romance, it might be time for more drastic measures. Book a flight to Japan for one of many festivals in February and March that celebrate the male form. Whether you go to the Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Festival) in Okayama, the Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) in Kawasaki, or the Chiwawa Matsuri (Penis Festival) in Komaki, you’ll probably never be able to go into a sushi bar with a straight face again. Real mature, I know.

Continue reading "Cold Beer, Fake Celebrities, and Stinky Sneakers: Spring's Best Festivals" »

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February 09, 2012

Taiwan Lantern Festival Celebrates the Year of the Dragon

(Pieter van Noordennen)

The crowd of 200,000 people explodes as the 30-foot-tall dragon bursts to life. We’re gathered in the Lukang Sports Park in a small port town in central Taiwan for the Grand Opening ceremony of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years but that has gotten increasingly more popular with tourists since its reinvigoration over the past decade. Many Westerners have seen photos of the Sky Lantern Festival—which takes place on the same day as the opening in the rural village of Shifen outside of Taipei—where event organizers release some 2,000 traditional lanterns into the night sky. But that’s just one event of the entire Lantern Festival, which runs from February 6 through February 19 this year. There’s also the Beehive Rocket Festival in southern Taiwan, where participants shoot rockets loaded with firecrackers into the air to scare off evil spirits, and, my favorite, the Bombing of Master Han Dan, where young men show off their bravery by being carried around in a sedan chair while people in the crowd hurl lit strands of firecrackers at them. (It’s unclear if anyone gets hurt in this process.)'s Taipei Travel Guide

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Holidays, Events, & Festivals

February 06, 2012

Six Weird & Unusual U.S. Hotels

By BootsnAll

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Liberty Hotel - CLINK
Prison decor (The Liberty Hotel)

When you're tired of the cookie-cutter sameness of hotel rooms, you can escape the I-could-be-anywhere boredom by staying in a hotel that offers a serious change of scenery indoors as well as out. There are weird hotels all over the world, but you don't even have to leave the United States to experience this kind of flair for the unusual. Here are six unusual hotels right here in the land of the free.

Jules Undersea Lodge
Key Largo, Florida

Going diving or snorkeling while on vacation isn't unusual, but having to go diving in order to reach your hotel room? That certainly qualifies as strange. Primarily a research facility, Jules' Undersea Lodge does have two underwater rooms guests can book. There are, as you might expect, big windows in the rooms, allowing you to watch the sea life go by, but despite its underwater location you're not completely cut off from the outside world. Visit the common room with an entertainment system and a mini-kitchen, and dinner is brought to you for a communal dining experience. This mermaid-esque classic has been in operation for more than 25 years.'s Key Largo Travel Guide

Aurora Express
Fairbanks, Alaska

They do things a little differently in Alaska, and the Aurora Express B&B is no different. As the name "express" implies, this B&B is housed entirely in old railroad cars. There are four train cars in all, each of which has been beautifully restored, plus a diner car that serves as the hotel restaurant. The railroad cars that make up this B&B have been in service as hotel rooms since the early 1970s, when they were part of the old Denali Park Hotel. The Aurora Express owners bought the cars from the hotel when it burned down, and carefully renovated them to today’s splendor.

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Related Topics: Trip Ideas · US Travel

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