Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The weird turned pro

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Thus wrote "gonzo journalist" Hunter S. Thompson, whose life and work have long served as inspiration to my equally gonzo friend Rick McKinney. I've long since accepted (and look forward to) the fact that the going will get weird anytime I hang out with Rick.

Last weekend in Maine was no exception. Before we even left New York, Rick informed me that we would be spending part of our time filming a wacky, Monty Python-esque video. Sure enough, in between zooming around Moose Pond and relaxing with a batch of Painkillers, Rick and his cousin Justin planned scenes and created new characters (with occasional brainstorming from me).

Before the weekend was over, Justin's camera had shot footage of Rick as a little girl in a dress, me as an apocalyptic preacher, Justin as an expert on bathroom literature, and much more weirdness. I'm simultaneously excited and worried about the video ("Bloganetics") eventually finding its way to YouTube.

Cassie was quite the good sport to put up with this surfeit of strangeness, especially considering the zeal with which I embraced it (though Rick had to play the role of the woman rummaging through the ferns for mud, originally written for Cassie). I'm sure the gorgeous scenery and aquatic playground at our disposal helped keep her in good spirits.

Though the camera captured silliness here and there, we did spend most of our time enjoying that scenic beauty. Moose Pond lies close to the New Hampshire border, near the White Mountains and Kancamagus Highway. Shawnee Peak rises above the lake, providing a beautiful backdrop (and a bounty of blueberry bushes to those willing to hike to its crown). And while we weren't the only ones on the water, the somewhat remote location kept the lake from being overrun with weekenders.

Maine's Lakes Region
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The weekend ended all too soon, and we had to face the seven-hour drive back to New York City—and the work week ahead of us. But the waters of Moose Pond and the professional weirdness of Rick McKinney recharged our batteries and left us with some fun memories (some of which you can see by clicking through the photo album to the left).

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Delta takes first place in Year of the Fees

Excuse me while I pick up my jaw—it just hit the floor.

I was all set to write a whimsical posting about my weekend trip to Maine (check back tomorrow), when I happened to log onto and learned of the latest indignity in the airlines' Year of the Fees.

It's bad enough that airlines are charging passengers $25 to check a second piece of luggage. To date, US Airways has been the most aggressive with new fees, now even charging $2 for a bottle of water. Now Delta has jumped to the front of the pack, doubling the fee for the second checked bag to $50!

Keep in mind that this charge is for each way. So if you're flying Delta round-trip and checking two bags, you can add $100 to your fare.

I'll reserve the commentary, because the numbers speak for themselves, and are surely enough by themselves to outrage you.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Painkiller: A Caribbean traveler's cocktail

My first taste of the cocktail called the "Painkiller" crossed my taste buds in 2006, during a visit to the Virgin Islands. That was the Beginning and the End. I've never gone ga-ga for sweet tropical drinks, the kind that have hunks of fresh fruit and an umbrella dangling from them. But when it came to Painkillers, it was love at first taste.

Maybe it's because the concoction, when made right, is not overly sweet or acidic. Besides rum, it's made with a mix of pineapple and orange juices and cream of coconut. But the fruity acidity of the juices and the creaminess of the cream of coconut offset each other, so it's neither too acidic or too creamy. And something about the mix disguises the rum, so you don't know just how much pain you're actually killing.

Painkillers are the signature drink of the Virgin Islands (both U.S. and British ones), and rumor has it the cocktail got its start at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs—so named because you have to swim to shore to get to the bar, thereby getting your dollars all soggy. Perhaps that's why I like them so much; the drink is so tied to the identity of these islands that I feel like I'm in the Caribbean every time I sip one.

If you want to take a "spiritual" trip to the Virgin Islands yourself, here's the Painkiller recipe (which, as you'll see below, I put to use last weekend in Maine).

4 parts pineapple juice
1 part orange juice
1 part cream of coconut
2, 3 or 4 parts golden rum, depending on desired strength (don't use light or dark rum)

Mix well, then serve over ice cubes. Don't forget the final step: grate fresh nutmeg on top!


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Monday, July 28, 2008

Renovated: Wyndham Nassau Resort

The first group scuba diving trip that I made with my dive club, Oceanblue Divers, was to Nassau in the Bahamas, where we stayed at the Wyndham Nassau on Cable Beach and dived with Stuart Cove's. [See photos and shark diving videos.]

The dive operation at Stuart Cove's has a bit of a reputation for driving "cattle boats," but my overall impression was quite favorable. I found the operation to be well organized, the boats and facilities to be in great shape, and the staff to be helpful. Then again, our large group (31 people) was a herd of cattle in itself, so maybe it didn't seem like a cattle boat because we all knew each other.

My impression of the Wyndham, however, was altogether different. This place looked like it had been a fantastic resort—30 years ago. Paint was peeling off everywhere, the hot tub was hot on only one of the four days we were there, the decor was all 1970s pastels, many fixtures didn't work, and more. My favorite example was the window shade in our room: a piece of plywood.

However, I just read that the Wyndham finished a top-to-bottom refurbishment in January. They completely renovated 304 of their rooms (including flat screen TVs and refrigerators), they refinished the exterior, they overhauled the whole pool area... in short, they seem to have fixed most of the major issues.

Add together these renovations, my favorable opinion of Stuart Cove's and an outstanding special as low as $415 per person for a 3-night/2-diving-day package, and you've got a recipe for an excellent long weekend of scuba diving.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday travel photo

Rick McKinney ripping it up on Moose Pond, Maine.
Cassie and I are there this weekend, reprising my 2006 visit.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

World's first sandcastle hotel

Would you like to book a stay at a seaside hotel? Want to hear the sound of waves washing up on the beach as you sleep? Want to pay only 20 bucks for an ocean-view room?

Then head to southwest Britain, where you can book a night in the world's first-ever sandcastle hotel. The room lacks a bathroom, a door, even a roof (though the latter means you've got a fantastic view of the stars from your bed). But it's probably one of the only hotels where the housekeeping staff cleans up with a shovel.

We've been contemplating a wintertime visit to Quebec to stay in the famous Ice Hotel, but I'm thinking the Sandcastle Hotel might be a bit more comfortable—and equally novel!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Delta adds nonstop service to Bonaire

This news might be of limited general interest, as it applies mainly to Northeast-based scuba divers. But since many of my readers are Northeast-based scuba divers, I thought it worth reporting.

Starting December 20, Delta will add nonstop service every Saturday between New York's JFK airport and Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles—one of the best diving destinations in the Caribbean.

Better still, the flight schedule seems to have been set with scuba divers in mind:

Departs JFK at 10:35 a.m., arrives Bonaire at 4:25 p.m.
Departs Bonaire at 5:15 p.m., arrives JFK 9:05 p.m.
(Flight time 4:50 each way)

This schedule provides for arrival at a decent hour when traveling to Bonaire, and a reasonably late departure when leaving Bonaire (which allows for extra diving on the second-to-last day).

With all of the flight cutbacks in recent news, I'm pleasantly surprised to be able to report this new service. It probably goes without saying, however, that it's subject to change.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Passport Card goes into production

Do you visit Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean regularly? Don't want to carry your passport with you every time you leave the country? The State Department today announced that they've begun production on the Passport Card, an RFID-enabled card that can be used by frequent visitors to the aforementioned countries/regions in place of a passport for land and sea entry (not for air travel).

The chip embedded in the card contains no personal information, but does have a unique ID number that can be read as you approach the border. This number can pull up your information on a secure government database, so that when you reach the border agent, you can presumably breeze through quickly.

Some people may cry "Big Brother," but for those who commute across the border every day, the Passport Card can probably make life a bit easier.


Monday, July 21, 2008

When not to hit the beach in Mumbai

By one of those completely random happenstances so common while searching Google, I came across the image seen below while seeking out completely unrelated information. Though it didn't help me find what I was looking for, I now know not to visit Mumbai (or at least hit the beach) during Ganesh Festival.



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Perfect for airline travel

Ziploc Easy Zipper: Where government bureaucracy meets mass consumerism. I should have bought stock in SC Johnson when the TSA debuted the 3-1-1 program. Now we all need a Ziploc bag whenever we fly.

I can think of a few more companies that should be promoting their products as "perfect for airline travel":

Capital One No Hassle Credit Cards: Perfect for paying all of those new fees!

Coleman Sleeping Bags: Perfect for those nights spent in the airport terminal after your flight gets canceled.

Balance Meal Replacement Bar: For those cross-country flights, when a bag of peanuts just won't keep you going.

What else can you think of that's "perfect for airline travel"?


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

They call it "Factory" for a reason

Today we traveled to the exotic land of Nuj Ersy on a quest for portage paraphernalia (Cassie needed a new backpack). Before we could make it back to the Motherland, we found ourselves famished, so we decided to sample the indigenous fare.

Big mistake.

In New York City, we live at the center of the dining universe. On seemingly every other corner, you can eat in an excellent, locally owned and operated restaurant. But Nuj Ersy natives are forced to congregate at large shopping centers bordered by carbon-copy feeding troughs with names like P.F. Chang, Maggiano's and Cheesecake Factory. We zeroed in on the latter, much like a moth that can't help flying into a campfire.

Sure enough, like that moth, we got burned. Joining the thronging Nuj Ersy masses, we found a hostess, who told us the wait would be 15-30 minutes. Almost an hour later, nearly fainting from hunger, we asked about our table. Apparently they'd called our name a long time ago—though I'm not sure how we missed that, since we had a pager and stood at the hostess station for nearly the entire hour.

Upon sitting down, we immediately placed an order for Vietnamese summer spring rolls, which were the highlight of our dining experience. They were light and scrumptious, came with two delicious dipping sauces, and literally arrived only a minute or two after we ordered them (they were served chilled, so clearly were already prepared).

The rest of the meal pretty much went downhill from there. Had we not had that appetizer, they would have had to wheel me out on a stretcher with a feeding tube down my throat. It took what felt like another hour for our dinners to come out. The couple next to us had their plates brought out well before ours, even though they'd been seated after we placed our order. And when my plate came, our server had to explain that my asparagus would be coming out separately.

The quality of the food was mediocre at best. I ordered Hibatchi Steak, and Cassie chose the Chinese Chicken Salad. Mine was adequate, but nothing outstanding; Cassie's bowl of salad could have fed my entire family--but half of it was rice noodles. The bowl was covered with a layer of rice noodles so thick that you could not see a single wisp of green leaf.

All in all, the experience was wholly unsatisfying. The word "Factory" in the name is apt, because we felt like we were on an assembly line from the moment we entered the place. We knew better; we made fun of ourselves for even deciding to try a chain restaurant. But we were starving, so we rolled the dice. Too bad we crapped out.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday travel photo

Hawksbill turble, Cozumel, Mexico

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Starfish Halls: Great travel literature

The subject matter of this blog is travel, but I'm not sure that makes it "travel writing." Or, perhaps it is: you could say that writing about travel news, issues and experiences is just that, "travel writing." So maybe the distinction I'm looking for is "travel writing" vs. "travel literature."

Good travel writing can help you decide where to go and how to make the most of your trip. Good travel literature can take you on a trip without ever leaving your armchair. For that, one of my favorite travel authors has always been my friend Rick McKinney.

A few years back, Rick thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. During the hike, he blogged live from the trail with the aid of a wireless Palm and folding keyboard. The end product became the book Dead Men Hike No Trails (available from

My favorite tale of his, however, is the unfinished Starfish Halls, a gripping account of a hike along northern California's so-called "Lost Coast." Despite my less-than-favorable portrayal as "Fred," the friend who aborted the hike after the first wet night, the story shows off the talent that still makes me wonder why Rick hasn't been discovered by a mass-market audience.

Following is a brief taste; if you like what you read, follow the links below to read the entirety of what currently exists of this tale. I hope Rick will one day find the long-lost notebooks that contain the rest of the story.

I cut the engine when he doesn't show immediately. I listen to the rain dripping off leaves in the woods all about me. The drops alight on me without sound. Their silence is the silence afforded a stranger in a small town cafe, speaking as they do to the leaves and never to me. I am not offended. Nature has earned her fraternal snobbishness.

> Prologue
> Chapter One
> Chapter Two
> A final excerpt

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Review of camp sites at Woodland Valley Campground

UPDATE: Please review the comments on this posting before booking a campsite based on these recommendations. Hurricane Irene apparently caused major damage, and many of the sites have changed.

Previously, I wrote about how choosing a campsite online is a bit like taking a shot in the dark. A good campsite is scenic and private—but how can you tell online whether a site is either of these? How useful it would be, I thought, if a website offered reviews on each site in a campground?

So when we stayed at Woodland Valley Campground in Phoenicia, located in the Catskills, we jotted down some impressions for each site. Such a reference is too late to be of use to me—and, with 300+ campgrounds in New York state alone, it's a drop in the bucket—but if at least one person finds it useful, then this blog posting was worth the time. (Please post a comment if you find this site and use this info to select a site.)

Download the Woodland Valley Campground map, and then compare the notes below with the sites listed on the map. Happy camping!

1, 2, 3 - Tiny, near road
4 - Next to road, but decent size
5, 6 - Small, close to each other, no privacy, but grassy
7 - Somewhat secluded
8 - Big and shady, nice view of stream, possibly nicest site in campground
9, 10 - Shady, nice, on stream, but right next to each other
11, 12 - Small, no privacy
13, 14, 15 - Lacking privacy
16, 17, 18, 19 - All good sized, but lacking privacy from each other
20 - Private, shaded, near stream
21 - Grassy, some shade, on the small side
22 - Small, across from bathroom
23 - Small, no shade, across from bathroom
24 - Pretty good
25 - Secluded, shady
26 - Nice site
27 - Shady
28 - Shady but close to road
29 - Big, partly shaded
30 - Big but no privacy
31 - Good size, shady
32 - Big but no privacy
33 - Big and shady but right next to road
34 - Pretty good
35 - Small
36 - No privacy
37 - Pretty big but next to road
38 - Nice, shady
39 - Partly shady but small, next to bathroom and road
40 - Next to road but nice
41 - Partly shady, nice, private
42 - Small
43 - Small but next to stream, pretty shady
44, 45 - Lacks shade but private and next to creek
46 - A bit small, lacks shade
47 - Small but shady, next to trailhead
48 - Very small and mere feet from road
49 - Tiny!
50, 51 - Small, lacks shade, on road
52 - Very small
53 - No grass, small
54 - Shady, woodsy, flat
55 - Small but shady
56 - Very small, right at entrance
57 - Grassy, nice trees
58 - Small, next to road
59 - No privacy, lacks shade
60, 61 - Next to road but very shady and good size
62 - Next to road but shady, good size, woodsy
63 - Small, next to road and recycling station
64 - Very small but woodsy
65 - Secluded, woodsy, very nice
66, 67 - Secluded, woodsy, very nice but not private from each other
68 - Good size, shady
69 - Good shade but next to road and ranger residence, lacks privacy

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Camping in the Catskills

Last weekend, we took a much-needed break from the big city and our busy lives to chill out in the Catskills. Pitching our tent at Woodland Valley Campground above Phoenicia, we went tubing down Esopus Creek, hiked a mountain and still managed to enjoy plenty of downtime at the campsite.

Friday night, Cassie cooked up what has become a camping tradition for us: mac 'n' cheese with chicken and Frank's hot sauce. The next morning, I cooked up my own camping tradition: breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and avocado. The food highlight came Saturday night, when we grilled up some Beddar Cheddar sausages on the Smokey Joe. Yum!

The sites in the campground did not offer a great deal of privacy—many were right next to each other—but the place was unquestionably beautiful, a true "woodland valley." With a gang of college-aged boys drinking in the site next to us, we didn't get quite the peace and quiet we were looking for, but to their credit, they asked us to let them know if they got too rowdy—and they kept their word, quieting down when asked.

Camping in the Catskills
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On Sunday morning, we packed up our campsite and hit the trailhead at the end of the campground, intending to summit Mt. Wittenberg. Not long into it, however, we began to wonder if we'd bitten off more than we could chew. In a short 3.9 miles, we gained 2,500 feet of elevation in a steep ascent that included climbing as well as hiking. We finally made it, but two days later, I'm still feeling it.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Tree house at Lodge Kura Hulanda in Curacao

Cassie and I have made plans to spend a week scuba diving in Curacao this September. We're both very excited, and while we've booked our plane tickets, we have yet to decide where to stay.

The west side of the island seems most compatible with our personalities and the style with which we want to spend the week: off the beaten path, quiet, laid back. We narrowed down our options to two choices: All West Apartments, which offers a low budget, no frills vacation; and Lodge Kura Hulanda, a more luxurious resort.

Save money or live it up? A tough decision... but then we learned that Kura Hulanda also has a budget-conscious "Tree House," a rustic, $100/night accommodation that appealed to our sense of adventure and our wallets. How cool would it be to live like the Swiss Family Robinson for a week?

The answer: we didn't know. We combed the entire World Wide Web, but could not find a single photograph of the Tree House. So when it came to putting down our money, we were reluctant to book the Tree House for a week sight-unseen.

Enter Scubaboard, an online message board for scuba divers. We hooked up with "ffixer," a diver who happened to be spending a week at Kura Hulanda. He was gracious enough to shoot some photos of the arboreal accommodation and email them to us. Because these might be the only photographs of the Tree House known to exist online, I felt a duty (with ffixer's permission) to post them here.

Having now seen the rustic Robinsonian retreat, we are now leaning toward the hard-to-turn-down offer that All West made to us. Nevertheless, we will probably spend at least one night in the Tree House. A day in the depths and a night in the branches? Sounds like an adventure to me.

The Tree House

Trapdoor to Tree House platform

Private terrace outside the safari tent

Safari tent on the Tree House platform

Elegant furnishings inside the safari tent

Outdoor shower and privy

The "yard" outside and around the Tree House

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tubing on the Esopus

This weekend, we escaped to the Catskills for a weekend of camping. One attraction that beckoned us to the cute little town of Phoenicia was tubing on the Esopus Creek with Town Tinker Tube. A water release from an upstream reservoir had been scheduled for this weekend, so we were hoping for a wild ride. Unfortunately, the water release was canceled, but we still had fun riding the rapids—especially since my only previous experience tubing was on the lazy Shenandoah River.

Today, we hiked a steep 8-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Mount Wittenberg, and typing this posting is about the only thing I can do right now without pain. So it's time to sleep off the weekend!


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Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday travel photo

Vanderbilt Mansion
Hyde Park, New York

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No movie for you!

In a bid to save fuel costs, US Air will eliminate in-flight movies from many of its domestic flights later this year. A US Air spokesperson declined to comment on rumors that the airline also plans to eliminate passengers from its flights in a bid to further increase fuel economy (and customer satisfaction).

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The new era of air travel

I just purchased plane tickets to California for Thanksgiving. Considering the new era of air travel that we're in now, I made a few observations....

Bargains. I paid just shy of $500 for a round-trip ticket from New York to San Diego on Continental. This was apparently an excellent deal when compared to other airlines, which came to $650, $700, $800 and up for comparable flights. And that was even after exploring a number of flexible options (alternate dates, airports, etc.). I wondered whether I was paying a premium for traveling in the general vicinity of the holiday, but when I checked the same flight several weeks earlier for comparison purposes, the fare was the same. So that's just where we are now: $500 is a bargain for cross-country air travel.

Flight time. Continental quoted a flight time of 6 hours and 22 minutes for the nonstop flight. I've always known cross-country flights to take 5, maybe 5 and a half hours. Sounds like they're padding the flight time, so they can still call it "on time" when we encounter the inevitable delays. Do I sound like a conspiracy theorist? They've already been caught doing it.

"Choice" seats? Continental is not yet charging for those "choice" seats in Economy: the aisle and window seats in the front of the cabin that US Air charges extra for. I was surprised, therefore, when I went to select seats and saw all of those seats marked as "premium." Turns out they hold those seats for their OnePass Elite members... so I guess you have to pay for them after all, in a manner of speaking.

On a more positive note, my father called me from the airport this afternoon, and reported that he got a free bag of pretzels on his flight. Airline miracles can still happen!


Monday, July 7, 2008

For sale: your eyeballs

We used to put up with commercial advertising in exchange for free television programming. Then commercials started appearing in movie theaters, where we paid for the privilege to sit through obvious ads before the less-obvious ads (previews) started. Now, your eyeballs are for sale aboard airplanes too.

Marketing messages used to be confined to the in-flight magazine. Then, when airlines like JetBlue debuted TV programming, commercials wormed their way aboard your flight. The analogous platform made it palatable: travelers watch TV commercials at home, so they shouldn't mind seeing them in flight. And besides, the OFF switch was always available.

But now, as airlines struggle to remain solvent, they're becoming bolder when it comes to selling your eyeballs. On many flights, you'll now find that your tray table is skinned with advertising. As the New York Times editorial that inspired this blog posting notes, flight attendants frequently hawk credit card applications. Perhaps someday soon, lavatories will be wallpapered with advertising from Charmin or Pepto-Bismol.

All this comes as no surprise. Airlines are trying to find any way possible to offset rising fuel prices. But look at the bright side: if the airline can find companies to sponsor lavatories and overhead compartments, maybe the dark future depicted in this brilliant TV commercial from Southwest Airlines won't actually come to pass.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

You can still check luggage for free

If you follow this blog, you know I've said plenty about the new airline fees that are cropping up like weeds this year, even calling 2008 the "Year of the Fees." So when I booked plane tickets to Curacao late last week on Air Jamaica, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the airline still allows two pieces of checked luggage per person (I'm hoping they still serve complimentary champagne too).

That got me wondering what other airlines commonly serving U.S. travelers are still fee-free when it comes to checked baggage. Here's what I found:

No charge for first TWO checked bags under weight limits:
Aer Lingus
Air France
Air Jamaica
British Airways

No charge for first checked bag under weight limits (fee for second bag):
Air Canada
Virgin America

If you don't see your preferred carrier here, they have probably partnered with Nickel-n-Dime Airlines.

Note: The new baggage fee policies have many exemptions, not all of which apply only to elite mileage club members (for example, you get a greater baggage allowance for international flights on some airlines). Be sure to check the policy of your specific carrier.

And, if there's one thing the Year of the Fees has taught us, all of the foregoing is subject to change.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday travel photo

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Happy Birthday, U.S.A.!

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Staycation: it's not a "vacation" if you "stay"

A story yesterday discussed the (over)use of the buzzword "staycation" (a "vacation" that you take by visiting places close to home), arguing that it's an annoying philosophy and a marketing term empty of any real meaning. I have to agree. As the article duly notes, if you don't stay overnight, it's a "day trip," not a "vacation."

While I have recommended traveling vicariously in your own town by hosting a visitor, that's not the same as taking a "staycation." And while I heartily agree with the idea of seeing the sights in your own backyard, I don't advocate doing that in place of real travel. Like the Frommers article says, that's recreation—and something we should all be doing regularly anyway.

There's no question that air fares have gotten out of control, and that gasoline prices are making automobile travel expensive as well. But there are still ways to take an affordable vacation. While it's hard to save on the transportation expenses, you can still cut costs at your destination.

As I've recommended before, you can stay for free by visiting family or friends. Or you can go somewhere and camp out instead of staying in a hotel (don't think this limits you to wilderness areas; you can camp out in Avalon on Catalina Island in southern California, and on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands). Or you can save on meal expenses by renting a hotel room or apartment that has a kitchenette.

Times may be tough, and leisure budgets might get tighter, but that doesn't mean you have to stay home. Just Say No to Staycations!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tree houses in Curacao

While doing research for a possible trip to Curacao, I found out that Kura Hulanda, an eco-friendly lodge on the quieter, more remote west side of the island, just opened a new "Tree House Mansion."

For about $1,000 per night, you and yours can live like the Swiss Family Robinson. A wooden spiral staircase leads up to the 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom suite, which features an open-air living room, Balinese bridal bed and flat screen TV. The decor is furnished with a wide variety of tribal artifacts collected by the resort's owner.

Okay, so maybe it's not quite like living like the Swiss Family Robinson.

The resort also features a more rustic, $100/night Tree House, a little-known accommodation that is apparently available "on request only." The Tree House (note the absence of the word "Mansion") consists of a wooden platform reachable by a ladder and trap door with a full-size safari tent equipped with a king-size bed and electricity (for lights, a fridge and TV). I've already called ahead, and this budget Tree House is available during the dates we're considering. Hmmmm......


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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Seen on House Hunters International: Mérida, Mexico

Tonight's (repeat) episode of House Hunters International, one of our favorite shows on HGTV (which is our new favorite network), featured an American looking for a new home in Mérida, capital of Mexico's Yucatan. Apparently, Mérida is growing in popularity with expats, many of whom are artists attracted by the city's thriving art and culture. With a location just next door to the state of Quintana Roo (home to resorts and the diving mecca of Cozumel), I can imagine the place attracting more than just artists. Might be worth a closer look....