Category: Budget Travel

If you’re tired of the March mud or a winter that just won’t quit, maybe a trip to Tahiti is the fix you need. Moon Handbooks has just released the 7th edition of David Stanley’s guidebook to Tahiti, and you can just about feel the sea breezes wafting out of the book.

Triporati’s South Pacific expert, Stanley has spent much of the last 30 years traveling, crossing six continents overland and visiting 212 of the world’s 245 countries and territories. That puts him right up there as one of the world’s most traveled people.

As much as he’s traveled, he returns to the South Pacific again and again and considers it his favorite area, which says a lot about the appeal of the place. His book is full of the practical advice you’d expect from any good guidebook, but Stanley’s decades of experience in the region give this volume a special appeal. He knows the people, he knows the territory, and he knows how to share it with his readers. This make him the ideal guide to get you started on your journey.

Me? I can’t make it to Tahiti this year, but next month I’m going to Fiji. And I’ll be carrying Stanley’s new Moon Fiji Handbook with me when I go. This one is in its ninth edition, and I’m getting started in my pre-trip preparation.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Books, Budget Travel, South Pacific, Spa/ Resort, Student Travel, Tahiti

With arctic temperatures in London, and Paris brought to its knees by snow, New York City is looking like a good bet for Christmas this year. Ice skating in Rockefeller Center, the Fifth Avenue store windows, the Radio City Christmas Show or a ride around Central Park in a horse and carriage all rank high on the New York holiday must do list. If you add in a few snowflakes, the dream comes to life.

But for locals and people in the know, the way hipper attraction is far out in the bowels of Brooklyn. Dyker Heights draws more than 100,000 visitors each holiday season to ogle the over-the-top home decorations. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Brooklyn, Budget Travel, Driving Trips, Family Travel, New York, Nightlife, Winter Fun

My cousin left for Cancun last weekend. She works at many UN conferences and was happy to be headed to a warm destination  for the climate talks that followed last year’s ineffectual Copenhagen summit.

I recommended places on the Yucatan Peninsula for her to visit in her off time, such as the Colonial city of Merida, Tulum, Lake Bacalar, Uxmal or Valladolid near the Chichen Itza ruins.

A recent article in The Economist, entitled Tourism in Mexico, Can’t keep them away, began with “Sun, seas and severed heads.” Mexico, a country that counts on tourism dollars, has had a miserable couple of years, first with the swine flu, then the ongoing drug wars. More than 30,000 people have died in the last four years. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Mexico, Nightlife, Travel Safety

“This has got to be the craziest sport I’ve ever done,” my friend George said to me as we rested on our mountain bikes gazing down a precipitous slope toward pine forest and spiky mountains in the distance. “Here we are in one of the most beautiful places on earth and when we’re on our bikes we can’t even look at the scenery!”

The mountain bike trails from the top of Sun Valley’s fabled Bald Mountain (9150 feet elevation) wind through meadows, switchback down sheer slopes, weave through pine forests, and really get the adrenaline flowing. We were cruising (or rather, braking) down eight-mile-long Warm Springs Trail because the friendly fellow who sold us tickets for the gondola to take us to the top sized us up and said, “Take Warm Springs Trail. You’ll see when you get up there that you have two choices, Cold Springs and Warm Springs. You folks want Warm Springs. It’ll be a lot better for you.” Then he grinned and said, as if questioning our resolve, “Cold Springs is not for the faint of heart.” Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, Cruises, Idaho, Mountain Biking, Sun Valley, Travel, United States

Cue the Deliverance Music.

There are many popular canoeing rivers in Northern California. The Sacramento River, from Red Bluff, 30 miles downriver in the shadows of Mount Shasta, to Woodson Bridge, is not one of them.

It was July 4th weekend so we were expecting crowds, and save for a few kayakers and boat enthusiasts, we pretty much had the river to ourselves.  We had planned a moderate backpacking trip but when one in our party had abrupt knee surgery in April, we opted to paddle to our campsite instead of forcing the kids to hike with packs a la the Bataan Death March.  The preparations were similar to a backpacking trip, but we could bring comfy pads and a cooler. I was concerned about tipping the canoe, but my friend hails from Minnesota and has done this sort of thing before.

Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Birdwatching, Budget Travel, Camping, Canoe/Kayak, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Fishing, Northern California, Soccer, Sports

Williamsburg, Brooklyn never had pretensions to compare itself with its famous namesake city in Virginia, but local residents are putting a quirky twist on the idea.  Perhaps it’s the recession, maybe just a  pendulum swing away from commercialism, whatever it is you can count on this neighborhood to be ahead of the curve when it comes to trends.

My sister moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn from Manhattan more than 15 years ago. She shared a cute 1BR apartment and paid a fraction of Manhattan rental rates. Ownership of a yoga studio, a marriage, and two kids later, she still lives in Williamsburg, but now in a loft overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge. The area has changed, from a bustling Eastern European immigrant crowd, to hipsters and artists… to hipsters and artists with kids.

I left New York before Williamsburg became one of the cool hotspots, and every time I return I marvel at the reinvention of the neighborhood. Continue reading »

3 Comments | Filed Under Budget Travel, Culture, Eco Friendly Travel, Fashion, Feature, Food, Music, Nightlife, Pubs, Restaurants, Student Travel, United States, shopping

A recent October trip to Yosemite and Mariposa County, CA followed a huge rain storm. The robust waterfalls thundered all around and the scenery was more striking than I had remembered from my last trip at the end of July. Autumn colors enhanced the spectacular vistas and there was a crisp feel in the air. Not more than 50 yards from the trail two rutting male deer banged their antlers together putting on a great show. I had packed for winter; fleece, down jacket, hat and gloves. It was in the 70’s and I was in a sweat during the day; the weather can be so changeable. I was stressing before I left, worrying about whether I needed chains or not for the drive up; instead I swam in the hotel pools and applied sunscreen liberally.

My first night I spent at the Tenaya Lodge, right outside the park. The Tenaya had the feel of a Park Lodge, animal heads on the common room walls, giant beams and an outdoorsy style, but was considerably fancier than a rustic lodge. The bed was big and comfortable but unfortunately I slept poorly due to the altitude and a late night specialty coffee (decaf) that I suspect had more alcohol in it than I could tolerate. Elk was on the menu (which my kids were excited about) and I would love to take my family back to explore all the Lodge’s offerings.

Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Camping, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Food, Hike/Backpack, Hostels, Luxury Travel, Spa/ Resort, Student Travel, wildlife

Summer vacation for my kids this year was a whopping 14 weeks; something about an early end to school in June and a late Labor Day. Whatever the reason it meant a ton of scrambling for summer activities for my kids. A group of parents decided to do a sort of ‘Family Camp’, where the week is split up so that one set of parents watches the group each day. The kids have fun and parents don’t have to pay for so many day camps and can at least get some work done. I have to say the kids made out like bandits; they went to a water park, swimming pools, museums, parks and one day a trip to Stinson Beach. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Day Trips, Family Travel, Marin County, Northern California, San Francisco, Surfing

It was a hot summer day and I had promised my youngest son I would take him and his best friend, one of my best friend’s daughters, canoeing on the Russian River. We left early and drove up to Guerneville, a small town along the river in Sonoma County. I wasn’t sure what two almost six year olds would make of the adventure, but I was excited. I have fond memories of canoeing on the East Coast from my childhood and did it a few times on the Russian River in the early nineties. Visions of swimming and frolicking in the river, picnicking on a sandbar and most of all enjoying the day with my husband and the two kidlets got me revved for the escapade. We did some research and found a company named Burke’s Canoe Trips that does half day adventures. This sounded great, but not with the wee ones; maybe with my ten year old and a buddy though.  We found Johnson’s Beach, a really quaint spot, where you could rent canoes by the hour; perfect for our questionable passengers. When we arrived we found a sweet little beach spot which reminded me of spots in NY I visited as a kid in the 70’s; really low tech, really friendly and family run. It wasn’t fancy but I liked it like that. You could rent an umbrella and a buff dude would come over and pound it into the sand for you. The snack bar served soft serve for a dollar and you could rent inner tubes to float along if you didn’t want to paddle. The changing room was a wooden structure with hand-made curtains; loved it! Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Day Trips, Family Travel, Feature, Northern California

When I first heard about Camp Mather, a city run family camp near Yosemite, for San Francisco residents, I thought it sounded like a bad cross between the Catskills and a low-rent Club Med.  In theory, I hate organized activities and en masse vacationing. It didn’t help that our close friends who I adore, who are British (cue Monty Python accent) raved about it saying how one can bring rugs, flags and ‘fairy lights’ and decorate your cabin; it sounded dismal to me. Yet, many of our close friends, people we love and admire, cool families with kids our age, said it was fantastic. So we took the plunge last year, did the lottery in January and got a spot.  We had a lot of fun and although we felt we hadn’t drunk the Kool-Aid we decided to re-apply this year.  I decided if it weren’t my ‘only’ vacation it was a great thing to do as a family and the kids loved the autonomy.  Continue reading »

8 Comments | Filed Under Budget Travel, Camping, Family Travel, Feature, Hike/Backpack, Yoga