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January 15, 2013

2013 President Barack Obama Inauguration: Events in Washington, D.C.



By Lacy Morris
01/15/2013

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Capitol building, Washington D.C.(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Capitol Building, Washington D.C.(iStockphoto)

As America gears up to inaugurate President Obama into a second term as President of the United States, Washington, D.C., gears up to accommodate the thousands who will flock to our nation's capital to welcome the president and his family to another four years in the White House. Plans have been made to ensure that this year's inauguration, dubbed "Faith in America's Future," is a safe one. Here are some helpful hints and a preview of some of the activities scheduled around the city to help you execute your inaugural weekend without a hitch.  

Away.com's Washington, D.C. Travel Guide

Saturday, January 19
National Day of Service
To commemorate those who have served, a public event will be held on the National Mall from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Many special guests will be speaking, including Honorary Chair Chelsea Clinton, Iraq war veteran and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, PIC Co-Chair Eva Longoria, and the Washington Children's Choir. The weatherman is calling for no rain and sunny skies, but with temps in the lower 50s, a coat will still be needed for this outdoor event.

Continue reading "2013 President Barack Obama Inauguration: Events in Washington, D.C." »

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Related Topics: Travel Tips · Trip Ideas · US Travel

September 21, 2012

Vieques By Day and Night: A Guide to Puerto Rico's 'Little Girl Island'



By Lacy Morris
09/21/2012

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Red Beach, Vieques Island, Puerto Rico(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)138011976
Red Beach on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

The island of Vieques belongs to the territory of Puerto Rico, and sits as a buoyant landmass just eight miles off the coast of the PR mainland. In fact, the name Vieques is a translation of a translation (Spanish spelling of a Native American word) that is thought to mean "small island." And it's nickname "Isla Nina," meaning "Little Girl Island" in Spanish, refers to its relationship to Puerto Rico. But if you've spent any time there, you know that the island's rightful owners are the wild horses that fill in for the lack of traffic lights on the 21-mile-wide by four-mile-long island. These Paso Fino horses were brought over by the Spanish, and though many of them are owned by locals, they're free to roam about the tree-shaded streets that cover less than half of the island--the rest is virtually untouched by modern construction.

Vieques, once used as a Navy testing site, started to boom for other reasons in 2003, when all military operations ceased and left the island to the locals. It's then that the full potential of the white-sand beaches and near-constant sunny days was realized. Now the island resembles more a barefoot beach resort than a nuclear waste ground, being triumphantly led by the addition of the W Hotel on the island's east side.

Continue reading "Vieques By Day and Night: A Guide to Puerto Rico's 'Little Girl Island'" »

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Related Topics: Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

August 13, 2012

The Idiot's Guide to Taking Your Kids to an Outdoor Music Festival


Floydfest-roger-gupta
Main stage at FloydFest 2012 (Roger Gupta)

I recently took my kids camping to FloydFest, a four-day music festival located off Milepost 170.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in southwestern Virginia. This was my first outdoor music festival, so I went with some trepidation given it was just me, my budding young rockers, and a stack of gear to supply our camping foray amid a crowd of dyed-to-the-core hippies, teenage flower-power wannabes, yoga-loving urbanites, and plenty of other families. The good news is we had a great time, enjoying an eclectic lineup of artists ranging from alt-rock to bluegrass to American folk. And between the acts, we literally never had to make a plan, drifting from jugglers to trapeze school to climbing wall and back to magicians. So don't be shy about taking your kids to a music festival in your neck of the woods. But if (or when) you do, here are some tips to help you make the most of the mayhem.

Love Thy Neighbors
Forget the primordial instinct to be the sole provider of food and shelter to your offspring. If you, like me, have only one pair of hands to erect a tent while your kids roam the campground, then just strike up a conversation with your fellow campers. There's something to be said for the communal aspect of driving into the woods to listen to music and howl at the moon for a few days. We didn't meet an unfriendly soul, and all were happy to lend a hand stretching out a rainfly or chat with the kids while I fussed around. (OK, I confess, maybe the friendly vibe occasionally had something to do with the exotic scents filling the air.)

Read Away.com's guide to the best summer music festivals

Continue reading "The Idiot's Guide to Taking Your Kids to an Outdoor Music Festival" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Tips

June 12, 2012

Traveling Internationally? Consider a Business-Class Seat.


First class-dv2073080(Digital Vision,Thinkstock)
(Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

International travel comes with all the excitement and grandeur that makes you proud to be a traveler—the anticipation of new cultures, new food, and new sights. But being stuffed into a coach seat for 17 hours on a long-haul flight can make even the most passionate travelers long for their own beds, not to mention put a crimp in your back, neck, and sleep cycle during the first days of your trip.

For long-haul flights in the summer, travelers with a little extra cash in the budget should consider upgrading to a business-class seat. Though the internet is littered with fly-first-class-for-cheaper-than-coach-type articles, most of the advice found there is bunk. Plain and simple, business class seats cost more, sometimes three- to ten-times more than their economy-class counterparts. But in summer, business travel lags while coach cabins overflow with tourists. "Our research shows that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and summer are the best times to fly business class," says Matthew Bennett of FirstClassFlyer.com, a newsletter aimed at those seeking upgrades. "Why is that? Business travelers are at home." In better economic times, business seats saw nary a discount,but now even the major airlines are offering discounts to fill the airplane's front section.

Continue reading "Traveling Internationally? Consider a Business-Class Seat." »

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May 30, 2012

Round-the-World vs. Point-to-Point Tickets



By BootsnAll
05/30/2012

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Airplane travel-86482754(Thinkstock Images)
(Thinkstock Images)

Anyone who's in the early stages of around-the-world travel planning will testify that it can feel a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose. You can go from barely knowing the popular acronym "RTW" to learning the pros and cons of traveling East-West vs. West-East in no time at all—which means you'll hit information overload quickly. But one critical topic worth some extra attention is whether it's better to book round-the-world tickets or book point-to-point tickets as you travel.

For most simple round-trip flights, booking point-to-point is more expensive, so it's not an option most travelers are familiar with until they start learning about RTW travel. When it comes to multi-stop international trips, however, it can be cheaper—often by quite a bit—if you don't book official-sounding "round-the-world tickets" and just book one-way flights from city to city.

Continue reading "Round-the-World vs. Point-to-Point Tickets" »

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Related Topics: Air Travel · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

May 21, 2012

Reverse Culture Shock: What It Is and How to Beat It



By BootsnAll
05/21/2012

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(cameronparkins,Flickr)
(cameronparkins/Flickr)

Most people are familiar with the concept of culture shock: You go somewhere that's foreign to you and feel confused, out of place, and even angry. But what if you come back home to surroundings and people that are supposed to be familiar and comforting, and you still feel confused, out of place, and angry? That's even worse.

When you experience the symptoms of culture shock upon returning from a trip it's called "reverse culture shock," and it's not hard to understand how this can happen. Once you get used to the formerly mystifying aspects of a place, a different set of social norms is going to feel strange, even if they once felt completely normal.

Continue reading "Reverse Culture Shock: What It Is and How to Beat It" »

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Related Topics: Travel News · Travel Tips

April 30, 2012

Purchase Your Round-the-World Ticket: Travel Tips for a Year-Long Honeymoon



By BootsnAll
04/30/2012

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Tourists in France-92364612(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
A couple sits in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (iStockphoto,Thinkstock)

When we think of round-the-world travelers, most of us probably envision young backpackers, just out of college, heading out to see the world before settling into "real life"--and certainly before getting married. But more couples are taking off on long-term trips these days, some who take a year-long round-the-world honeymoon.

Traveling with another person, even if it's someone you love more than anyone else in the world, has its challenges. It can also be an incredibly rich experience. Luckily, you can do quite a bit before you leave home to make sure it's more about riches and less about difficulties. Here's our guide on how to travel the world with your sweetheart.

Make Sure You're Both Involved in Planning
If one person plans everything, you run the risk of arriving at the start of the trail to Machu Picchu and having the other person say, "So, where's the bus that'll take us up the mountain?" Even if one of you is less interested in the planning process, make sure no one is left in the dark. Make wish-lists together of things you want to do and see. Figure out which of you is best at various travel tasks (navigating, translating, budgeting) and delegate. Ask questions to make sure you're on the same page--even if you think you know someone really well after living with them for years, traveling brings up a host of new potential road blocks you won't have experienced. Having both people involved at all stages of the trip-planning process means you're not forced to guess what your partner may or may not be comfortable with.

Continue reading "Purchase Your Round-the-World Ticket: Travel Tips for a Year-Long Honeymoon" »

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March 30, 2012

Timing is Everything: Getting Flight Deals



By BootsnAll
03/30/2012

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Online flight booking(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
It might seem to the outsider that the prices on airline tickets are as capricious as teenagers in love. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to how much tickets cost, and you may have read about the enormous difference between the ticket prices paid by passengers seated next to one another on the same flight. It's particularly notable with international airfare, where the disparities in ticket prices can be several hundred dollars.

What appears to be entirely random, however, actually has some method to the madness. You may not be able to pinpoint the exact nanosecond when a given flight will be at its lowest fare, but there are enough patterns to the pricing of airline tickets that you can get much closer to the lowest prices just by knowing a few simple rules about timing.

Continue reading "Timing is Everything: Getting Flight Deals" »

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Related Topics: Travel Deals · Travel Tips

February 16, 2012

A Guide to Tipping Etiquette Around the World



By Lacy Morris
02/16/2012

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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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Related Topics: Travel Tips · Travel Trends

January 16, 2012

The Freshly Minted Feel of Paradisus in Playa del Carmen


Photo
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. 

Away.com's Playa del Carmen Travel Guide

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