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Miscellany

ChappyWrap Blanket Review: The Best Blanket You'll Ever Buy

ChappyWrap blankets are plush, reversible, machine-washable and the only blanket you’ll ever want to snuggle under again.

ChappyWrap Blanket Review

Price and Where to Buy: The original size blankets are available on ChappyWrap’s website for $135. Smaller sizes are available starting at $55.

ChappyWrap

How the ChappyWrap Blanket Rates

  • Comfort: 10/10. The original size blankets are generously oversized, measuring 60″ x 80″. No more cold feet from a short blanket. Made from a cotton/acrylic/polyester blend, the ChappyWrap blankets are incredibly soft, cozy, and warm.
  • Durability: 10/10. The ChappyWrap blankets feel as soft and warm as fleece or cashmere, but don’t suffer from the same shrinking, pilling, or fuzz issues. You can wash and dry these in the machine without worries, so feel free to bring these on vacation with you or let the dog lay on it.
  • Style: 10/10. ChappyWrap blankets are gorgeous. They’re available in a wide variety of stylish patterns and colors to match your decor. Don’t miss the new places collection with designs that pay homage to destinations like Maine, Cape Cod, or San Francisco.

Final Verdict: Replace all your old, pilled blanket with a stylish ChappyWrap that will last for decades and look just like new.

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Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Categories
Miscellany Road Trip

Driving Between States During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most states have issued shelter-in-place orders and instructed residents to stay put in their homes to help flatten the curve. However, some people are still required to drive to reach jobs that have been deemed essential (or who work in states that have relaxed shelter-at-home ordinances). Others have driven to be with family or to hunker down at second homes. But is driving between states safe—or even allowed? There is some uncertainty as to whether Americans can drive domestically. Here’s what you need to know.

Can I legally drive between states during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Technically, yes. The U.S. Constitution protects the right to travel and move freely within the country, so it would be unconstitutional to prevent Americans from crossing state borders. However, the federal government does have the authority to impose quarantine orders on travelers to combat the spread of contagious diseases. State governments and local authorities also have the power to enforce such measures within their borders, and are doing so.

If you plan on driving within the United States, the only restriction you may face is a mandatory self-quarantine upon arriving in another state. This is particularly true for those driving out of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. At the time of publication, these states have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

For instance, governors in Rhode Island and Texas have implemented interstate travel restrictions. These measures stop drivers at the border to remind them of quarantine requirements. In other states, municipalities have added their own restrictions within their borders. Newark, New Jersey (and the nearby towns of Irvington, Orange, and East Orange) is turning around drivers when they suspect nonessential travel. In March, the Outer Banks in North Carolina closed its bridges and opened roadblocks and police checkpoints to prevent secondary home owners and renters from entering the isolated islands. The closures are an attempt to keep the virus out, but have also been enacted because the remote islands have limited hospital beds and grocery supplies.

Note that no states have blocked drivers from passing through on their way to their final destination.

Will I have to quarantine if I drive between states?

States are discouraging interstate travel by imposing quarantine requirements or recommendations for travelers or people returning home from other states. Many states, like Wisconsin, recommend residents cancel or postpone all nonessential travel, and if it can’t be avoided, to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning to the state. In Arizona, new arrivals from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are required to self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their visit—whichever is shorter. Arrivals are not allowed to self-quarantine with anyone they did not travel with, including family and friends.

Florida has enforced a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine period for anyone arriving from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as Louisiana. Meanwhile, states like Hawaii and Alaska are requiring all arrivals to self-isolate regardless of which state they are arriving from (though it goes without saying that you can’t drive to Hawaii).

What should I consider before I drive between states?

First, is your drive essential? COVID-19 has been reported in all states, and some areas are experiencing rapid community spread of the disease. Staying home is the best way to flatten the curve and save lives. If you still must get behind the wheel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks you to keep some things in mind. First, is COVID-19 spreading where you live? You may not realize that you are infectious, especially if your symptoms are mild or you don’t have a fever. Before you drive to another state, consider the risk of passing COVID-19 to others during travel, particularly if you will be in close contact with older adults or those who have a serious underlying medical condition.

Second, if COVID-19 is spreading at your destination, but not where you live, you may be more likely to get infected if you travel there than if you stay home.

Which states have enforced border screenings?

Florida, Rhode Island, and Texas have set up checkpoints along interstates and border crossings. Keep in mind that these stops don’t restrict entry to out-of-state travelers. Drivers are required by State Troopers and the National Guard to fill out a form and declare where they plan to shelter in place for the duration of their 14-day quarantine (if required). That information is then relayed to the state’s health department and allows public health officials to follow up via a call or an unannounced visit at a later time to make sure that you followed self-quarantine orders.

In Texas, travelers who exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, coughing, etc.) will be escorted by an officer from the Department of Public Safety to their place of quarantine. There are exceptions, though: commercial vehicles, law enforcement, emergency personnel, and essential workers who work in the state or are passing through to get to their place of employment are allowed to bypass checkpoints.

What is the punishment for driving between states?

There’s no punishment for driving between states, but the added roadblocks are in place to discourage non-essential travel. Anyone found guilty of providing false information may face fines or serve jail time as punishment. Citizens who disobey local government’s social distancing and self-quarantine orders could face either jail time, a fine—or possibly even both. Some states have announced even higher fines, such as $5,000 in Maryland and $25,000 in Alaska. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that anyone who was caught ignoring stay-at-home orders in New York would face a maximum fine of $1,000.

How can I safely drive between states?

If travel is essential, driving is safer than taking commercial flights or public transportation. Renting a vehicle is still an option, though safety concerns need to be addressed. Renters should disinfect high-contact surfaces such as the steering wheel, dashboard control, and seatbelts, and should avoid touching their faces while driving.

Driving your own vehicle poses the least risk. However, you should remember that risk increases as you make stops to eat, fill your car with gas, or sleep in rented accommodations. Limit your interactions with other people as much as you can, and pack enough food and water for the trip to avoid having to make multiple stops.

If you have to leave your vehicle during the drive, maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people. To further protect yourself and others from infection, it’s best to wear a face mask—this is especially important if you are traveling to a state where wearing face masks in public is mandatory. States such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and certain counties within California all legally require face masks in public.

Before you decide to drive out of state, visit the destination state’s government website to find updated information on whether you are allowed to cross the state’s borders. Remember, staying home is still the safest option.

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Miscellany

How to Make a Home Gym (No Matter How Little Space You Have)

Want to work out at home but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to build a home gym, no matter how much space and money (or how many downstairs neighbors) you have.

A Padded Workout Mat

A workout should hurt in a good way, not because you’re lying or kneeling on a hard floor at home. A good padded workout mat will protect both you and your floors, and provide some soundproofing if you’re doing any kind of jumps that your downstairs neighbors wouldn’t appreciate.

This non-slip yoga mat is decently padded and rolls up for easy carrying. For even more cushioning, this tri-folding mat is great for any kind of kneeling work or weightlifting.

TRX Suspension Training System

TRX Home2 System.

You can’t beat TRX Suspension Trainers for the highest impact in a small space—all you need is a door and enough floor space to do a lunge or plank. The TRX Suspension Trainer is a “home gym in a box” and includes a free subscription to the TRX app (which has guided TRX fitness classes, running workouts, and stretching guides), a door anchor, a suspension anchor, and all the TRX bands and straps that you need.

Water-Filled Kettlebell

Adjust this kettlebell to a weight of two to 45 pounds (depending on which size you choose) just by filling it up with water. It’s made from a durable material, so you don’t have to worry about leaks. Unlike a regular kettlebell, if you drop this on your floors at home, it won’t do damage or make a loud noise, plus you can drain it and fold it flat for storage—or for packing for a portable hotel room workout.

Resistance Bands

Letsfit Resistance Loop Bands.

There are endless exercises you can do with resistance bands. This pack from Letsfit comes in five different levels, offering resistance of five to 40 pounds—without bulky weights. A portable carry bag is included, so you can pack these easily, or just keep your home gym organized.

Flippy Lap Stand

Flippy Lap Stand.

There are so many great online streaming classes you can take at home—but it’s hard to keep good form and an eye on the instructor if your phone or tablet’s on the floor. The Flippy Lap Stand will hold up any size phone or tablet so you can take a class hands-free. Plus, when you’re done working out, you can use it to treat yourself to a Netflix show in bed or on the couch.

Portable Ballet Barre

portable ballet barre.

Addicted to online barre classes? This portable ballet barre turns your home into a studio. It’s lightweight and easy to assemble, so you can move it around your home as needed. Available in single bar, double bar, and different heights, you’ll find a barre that will work for you.

An Adjustable Dumbbell Set

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells.

You can have a full set of weights that rivals the gym, without needing space for a giant rack. Bowflex’s SelectTech 552 Dumbbells replace 15 sets of weights by combining them into an adjustable weight dumbbell. Simply twist the dumbbell’s dial and lift it out of the (included) holder to change the weight in 2.5-pound increments from five to 52.5 pounds per dumbbell.

Don’t need that much weight? For a cheaper alternative, check out the smaller hand weights available at Target.

Pilates Reformer

Pilates classes aren’t cheap, so this all-in-one pilates reformer (which comes with DVDs, online workouts and a pushup bar) will pay for itself after just a few uses. Best of all, it comes fully assembled, so you can take it out of the box and get straight to working out in your home gym. When you’re done, it folds down and can be stored under a bed or in a closet.

Mirror

Mirror Fitness Device.

Want to build a home gym that doesn’t look like one? Keep your home looking like a home with Mirror, one of the coolest new fitness devices. When you’re not using it, it looks like a simple and elegant regular mirror. Turn it on and it becomes your portal to a fitness studio, with 70 plus new live classes streaming through the mirror each week—or thousands of on-demand classes you can take any time.

All different types of workouts are available through Mirror, like cardio, strength, yoga, and boxing. You can even sign up for personal training sessions, in which a trainer will be able to see you via a built-in camera (only activated during personal training) and critique your form or offer encouragement.

SereneLife Folding Compact Treadmill

A treadmill doesn’t have to become a clothes hanger in your bedroom when you’re not using it. This compact one from Sunny Health and Fitness folds up for easy storage when not in use. The treadmill has Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to link it to your workout apps or fitness monitors. It’s surprisingly inexpensive for a treadmill, and it’s available on Amazon Prime so you can get it quickly.

Lanos Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Rowing is one of the best low-impact, full-body workouts. Take your rowing indoors with the Circuit Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine, which has adjustable resistance, ergonomic design, and an easy-to-read monitor. This rowing machine folds up so it won’t take up much room when you’re not using it.  

Working out at home? Do it in style:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Principal Editor for SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline for travel photos and advice.

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At Home Family Travel Miscellany

7 Soothing Train-Ride Videos to Ease Your Mind

For globetrotters, there’s nothing better than hitting the road as you watch the scenery change around you. If you’re missing that open, expansive feeling, it’s time to climb aboard the YouTube Express! The videos we’ve rounded up below show real-time train trips as they pass through some of the prettiest terrain in the world. We’re talking Norwegian countryside, Swiss mountains, and English fields. The best part about these videos is how soothing they are—the landscape rolls by slowly, letting your mind ease into the gentle click-clack rhythm of a train trip. Our suggestion: Leave these videos running in the background to give a place to rest your gaze while working from home. They’re also a hit with train-obsessed kids (and train-obsessed kids at heart). Click on the links below and get ready to leave the station.

Golden Pass Route (Switzerland)

A plucky guitar provides the soundtrack to this stunning train ride through Switzerland. The Golden Pass route takes travelers on a weaving journey through the Alps right when the trees are bursting into their fall colors. A gushing river, A-line houses, and an atmospheric fog all add to the rich ambiance. As mountains open up to reveal sweeping valley scenes, the train window passes by the stuff of pastoral dreams.

Bernina Pass (Switzerland and Italy)

This video of the Bernina Pass between Switzerland and Italy shows more sweeping Alpine countryside, but this time we’re treated to the conductor’s view at the front of the engine. Snow-topped mountains and shimmering crystal-blue lakes dip in and out of the train’s view. Occasional tunnels drive everything into darkness, only to burst into full Technicolor on the other side, with blue skies and blankets of evergreens.

Gloucestershire (United Kingdom)

Relax and gaze dreamily out the window of this Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway train. The patchwork landscape beyond looks just like the picture on the top of a shortbread tin, and uplifting cotton-ball clouds unspool above. Fields, little houses, and church spires all make an appearance, and the soundtrack is just those train wheels turning over and over with their swaying rhythm.

Oslo to Bergen (Norway)

For pure winter wonderland magic, the Bergen Railway line can’t be beat. It moves from lakeside greenery into snow-blanketed stillness and back again. The view here is front-of-train (aka “cab view”), and the soundtrack is simply the wheels clacking along, with the occasional murmur of fellow passengers and train announcements, adding to the realness. Best of all, the train ride is over seven hours long, so you can click it on and let it run all day.

Toyosu to Shimbashi (Tokyo)

If you’re a fan of the towering skylines and streamlined architecture of Asia, this trip riding from Toyosu to Shimbashi will catch your imagination. Blocky skyscrapers by the waterfront dash out of view as this Yurikamome train pulls into futuristic white train stations. Adding to the commuter realism are the passengers ducking on and off the train, providing some fun people-watching. Gentle dinging, binging, and whooshing train sounds give the audio backdrop.

Port of Bar to Bijelo Polje (Montenegro)

Travelers that want to get off the beaten path will appreciate this video that pinwheels through the countryside of Montenegro. Train tracks loop around the craggy landscape ringed by deeply edged mountain ranges. Multiple tunnels thread through the mountains themselves, and all the while, the sky grows darker as streetlamps wink on.

Royal Gorge Route (Colorado)

America the beautiful, indeed: This trip through the Royal Gorge Route shows off Colorado’s geography at its most majestic. Pulling alongside the churning Arkansas River, these tracks skirt the rocky Grand Canyon. The train slips through some narrow keyholes of land on its way. And up above, celestial clouds in a perfect blue sky add to the postcard look. Halfway through the video, the train turns to double back for the trip home.

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Family Travel In-Flight Experience Miscellany Oddities

The Turbulent Rise and Fall of the Kiddie Wing Pin

How one mini freebie illustrates the story of the airline industry at large.

As a kid, I loved to rummage around the bottom of my father’s sock drawer, where, among the loose change and rolls of breath mints, he stashed his collection of little airplane wing pins. For decades, these were handed out as mementos to child passengers, but my business-traveler dad (ever a 10-year-old at heart) was never above grabbing one for himself. I found his collection of pins compelling then, and today they still fascinate me. In many ways, wing pins have been a weathervane of the airline industry, showing what direction the winds of change are blowing.

Aficionados can often recall their first pin. Tracy Stewart, Managing Editor of Airfarewatchdog (SmarterTravel’s sister site), remembers the exact brand. “It was given to me by my dad. He gave me a Delta pin, and I thought that was the coolest thing.”

Likewise, Cameron Fleming, advertising copywriter and creator of the site Fly the Branded Skies, recalls his modest collection as a kid. “I would keep them in a jam jar. I had maybe 12.” As an adult, he now owns 636 pins, which are stored in an industrial filing cabinet and documented methodically on his site. Fleming is in good company. More than 1,300 eBay listings are currently selling junior wings, ranging from a plastic Western Airlines pin going for $2 to a 1940s United Airlines one for $125.

Three airline wing pins on a map.

Wing pins and commercial flight took off in tandem. As early as the 1930s, airlines gave out tiny metal airplane-wing pins to their youngest travelers—usually kids flying for the first time. In those days, these tiddlywink-type handouts were a huge badge of honor; only about one percent of Americans in the 1930s had boarded a commercial flight, and very few were children. “The Civil Aeronautics Board always had the final say in how much airlines could set seat prices,” Stewart says, “and you didn’t see a lot of discounted fares or even youth fares.”

In that era, air travel and the accompanying souvenir would have been quite exotic. “Having that Pan American ‘junior pilots’ pin on the playground would be quite something,” Fleming says. In terms of bragging rights, “it would be like you went to the moon.”

These wings became treasured keepsakes for kids, like baseball cards or marbles, and they fostered similar attachments. Some pins were marked “pilot,” “crew,” or “stewardess,” allowing children to role-play and recreate their flights during play-time. In those days many airlines doled out pilot pins to boys and stewardess ones to girls, proving that even 30,000 feet in the air, there’s still a glass ceiling.

Production of these “junior wings” or “kiddie wings” continued through the decades and peaked in the 1980s. Those years were also a boom time for air travel; propelled by the industry’s deregulation in 1978, the number of passengers doubled to 1 billion in the decade from 1975 to 1985. “Finally, airlines were able to set their own fares and they could be more competitive,” Stewart says. And with rising competition came the drive for airlines to set themselves apart. It’s in this moment “you start seeing airlines giving out lots of freebies like wing pins.”

Fleming also notes that wing pins were a way for new-to-market brands to legitimize themselves, essentially acting like wearable business cards. “It was a marketing symbol that the airline was open for business. Once it had the wings that it could give out to kids, it had arrived.” It also helped that new, cheapie plastic versions of these pins made significantly less of an impact on the bottom line than the costlier metal ones. At the high point, 73 airlines were doling out wings to their youngest clientele.

TWA Junior Hostess Wing Pin.

Of course, these were just part of a fleet of airline-branded items that included playing cards, matchbooks, and keychains. But kiddie pins were singular in that they targeted the next generation of travelers, which put them in an ethical gray zone. A 1978 report by the Federal Trade Commission, the same year as airline deregulation, confirmed that children under age 8 couldn’t differentiate between an advertisement and a personal message. This meant that children saw the pins as toys gifted to them, no different from a faux sheriff badge or secret decoder ring. As such, the pins fostered nostalgia as powerful as any other childhood plaything, but specific to an airline. This was not unlike the branded toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals, which kicked off in 1979. That pairing has met it share of criticism for using Disney characters, Beanie Babies, and the like to entice kids into a lifelong relationship with unhealthy food.

Fleming, however, doesn’t see pins as a “nefarious” act on the airlines part to hook the next generation. “I guess depending where you were in your development, it could mean a lot to you as a kid, and some of those residual feelings would carry on into adulthood.” But ultimately, he sees the pins as an excuse for playtime in a less-than-playful space. Stewart also thinks “it’s just a way of putting kids at ease,” and compares wing pins to a free lollipop at the bank. “For kids, it’s an act that helps soften up an otherwise boring, adult necessity,” he says.

Wherever they fall on a moral spectrum, wing pins have taken a nosedive since their heyday in the 1980s. The early 2000s was a low-point for pins; only around four airlines continued to dole them out. Once again, the pins reflected the larger turbulence in the marketplace. “In 2000, the industry was dealing with a bad economy—nine airlines went bankrupt—and then 9/11 happened and everything went down the tubes,” Stewart says. “After that, you start seeing successful budget carriers springing up. Legacy carriers were forced to mimic the model used by the low-cost carriers to survive.”

The rise of online flight shopping and easy price comparison tools drove a race to rock-bottom prices. With more and more price transparency, airlines couldn’t rely on emotional connections forged by kiddie wings and other paraphernalia to help sell tickets. Nor could they justify raising the price to absorb the cost of those branded items, when even a $10 difference could send travelers to the next airline on search results.

The heyday of wing pins was officially over.

Or was it? In the 2010s, airlines have again risen in profitability, and the wing pin has started to make a few glimmering reappearances. “Delta has them. United has them. American has them,” Fleming says, listing the wing pins that could be currently circulating somewhere above our heads. Delta, Fleming recalls, brought its pins back with a lot of fanfare. “They are so strongly associated with the golden era of air travel that bringing them back really does send a strong signal of company health,” he explains.

Virgin Atlantic Airline Wing pin.

Tellingly in these last few years, pins have popped up outside fuselage walls. On a flight back from London, I ran into a familiar sight: the wing pin. This time, it was being handed out in the airport terminal by a Virgin Atlantic rep next to a “selfie wall.” The pin, on a millennial-pink card, declared, “You’re a future flyer” and came with a postcard instructing travelers to snap a picture and post it with the hashtag #VirginFutureFlyers.

In a way, that’s a return to form for the wing pin. “What’s interesting about them is that they’re an invitation to participate in the brand,” Fleming says. “The idea that you can, on some basic level, be part of the crew is exciting.” Just like in yesteryear, these new wing pins are encouraging interaction, playtime, and “joining a crew,” though now all of that takes place in a virtual world.

It’s not surprising that, in our last decade, wing pins have left the current dreariness of the plane cabin and slipped down the escape ramp of social media. In the past, Stewart jokes, “You’d have a huge hulking seat, like a La-Z-Boy, and the flight attendant would be, say, carving a ham next to you.” Now he says, “the reality is that you’re trapped in a plane with very little legroom.” In other words, in the middle seat of economy, everyone’s wings are clipped. But online, the fantasy of jetting off into the sunset still lives on. And it’s on that runway that airline pins could take off again.

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Miscellany

Thailand’s Best-Kept Secrets

Thailand sees millions of visitors every year, so it’s no surprise that almost anywhere you go, you’ll encounter a crowd, from the beach bunnies of Phuket to the bustling masses in Bangkok. But the crowds don’t preclude a truly authentic Thai vacation. Some of the nation’s best sights are far afield from cities, tucked into rural inland provinces or Treasure Island-like atolls afloat in the Andaman Sea. All it takes to experience them? A sense of adventure and a few baht for transportation.

Here are some of the country’s best-kept secrets, whether you are backpacking on a buck a day or embarking on a luxurious journey.

Nakhon Si Thammarat

Nakhon Si Thammarat, or simply Nakhon to locals, may not look like a destination in and of itself. It’s a small, unprepossessing city without world-class restaurants or postcard-perfect beaches—at least at first. But look again. One of Thailand’s oldest and most important temples (or wats) makes its home here. UNESCO designates Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan a World Heritage site for its early 13th-century architecture and massive scarlet pagoda. A quick tour costs just a handful of baht.

Elsewhere in Nakhon, a shadow-puppet theater provides family-friendly diversion, and in the waters off the small district of Khanom, pink dolphins can be spotted on a boat tour (yes, they really are bubblegum-pink!). Of course, this being Thailand, there are gastronomic gems to be uncovered. Kopi, a local Nakhon chain, dishes out the best Thai iced coffee and steamed buns in southern Thailand; I am only half kidding when I suggest the iced coffee is worth the drive alone.

Bangkok’s Best Markets

When visitors want Bangkok’s best street food, they flock to the wobbly metal tables and busy food stands of Soi 38. But the heavily trafficked district is not the only game in town. The Pak Klong Talad flower market is a favorite not just for its colorful mounds of flowers, fruits, and vegetables but for its food sellers as well. Amid tables piled high with orchids and marigolds, food vendors serve spicy papaya salad, pad thai, sweet confections, and other dishes.

Another oft-missed must-do is the Bang Nam Pheung floating market on the eastern outskirts of the city. It’s smaller and more low-key than other floating markets frequented by travelers, with just a few traditional boats bobbing along the Chao Phraya under a velvety green canopy of trees. Here, among locals, sample smelly jackfruit or a strange, spiky gac fruit. You will feel like you’re in a traditional Thai village, despite the noise and crowds just a few miles west.

Andaman Coast Kohs

Once a backpacker’s backwater of deserted beaches and cheap huts for rent, the Andaman Islands are now both posh and very popular. But they’re well worth your time, especially on a day trip, and they’re far less frequented than Phuket and Koh Phi Phi to the north. Some of these tiny islands are inhabited, but most are not.

From Pak Meng Pier, set off on a tour of the small karsts, or limestone formations that rise steeply out of the sea. Snorkel around the outer fringes of Koh Kradan or Koh Mook, where schools of tropical fish trawl the vibrant fan corals. Watch out for spiny sea urchins that tuck themselves into the shallows. At Koh Ngai, find a small resort and a stretch of white sand facing out to the sea. Colorful longtail boats floating on the glassy sea are one of many Instagram-worthy moments just waiting to be captured.

Finally, ask your captain to stop at Morakot Cave, or the Emerald Cave. Don a swimsuit and life jacket (if you’re not a strong swimmer). Dive into the warm turquoise water and swim through a pitch-black cave opening. The sea is calm but the cave ceilings are low, so guide yourself along the rock wall or follow a rope line in. After a short, dark swim, you’ll emerge in a perfectly clear and shallow pool. Look up! You’re in a protected cove inside a koh. A steep rock wall, hundreds of feet high and topped by rainforest, protects a small beach. If you time your visit to avoid the large boats of tourists that stop by on the hour, you’ll have this spot of paradise to yourself.

Trang

I’ve already written about the near-endless buffet of dim sum you can find in this southern province, and the islands mentioned above provide the most seaworthy adventures in the Trang and Krabi provinces. But what of mainland Trang itself? Aside from its kohs, Trang has national parks and wildlife preserves to explore, from Khlong Lamchan’s waterfalls to Mu Ko Phetra, where tropical birds build their nests in protected cliffsides. (These spots are best accessed via tour guide; signage can be hard to find and is usually in Thai.)

Trang city itself is a commercial hub whose Chinese and Malaysian traditions are reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and old-school markets. In many ways, this is the “real” Thailand: small and busy, a little rough around the edges, the air redolent of cooking oil, spices, and motorcycle exhaust. Traditional religious and cultural festivals dot the calendar, but perhaps the city’s strangest is the Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony, in which brides and grooms are married under the waves each February—scuba gear and all.

Chiang Rai

In Thailand, if you sit still long enough, you will get no fewer than 10 recommendations for where to go and, more importantly, what to eat. This usually leads to a friendly debate among expats, the exchange of contact information, an offer to call one’s friend to meet you, and a long list of no-name food stalls to visit via confusing directions like “past the skinny tree, next to the blue or green boat.”

On my second-to-last night in Thailand, an expat, skin browned long past the shade of shoe leather, tells me that Chiang Rai is the new Chiang Mai (the latter being the popular stop for elephants and raucous night bazaars that Anthony Bourdain made famous). This recommendation happens several times throughout my visit, and indeed, it’s true: About five hours from its more famous neighbor, Chiang Rai is a compact culinary haven with its very own night market. Brimming with eats for the adventurous, such as deep-fried insects and Laotian curries, as well as souvenirs from local artisans and cheap trinkets from abroad, the night market is widely considered Thailand’s best. Tribal villagers sell intricately woven textiles and antique bits and bobs. Bars pour plenty of cold beer. And, under strings of fading twinkly lights, everyone eats cheaply but well.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Airport Miscellany

Jamaica Passport Requirements: Do I Need a Passport to Go to Jamaica?

Jamaica passport requirements state that you must have a valid U.S. passport in order to travel to Jamaica as an American citizen. The requirements do not end there, either: Your passport will need to be valid for at least the length of your intended stay and will need to have at least one blank page for an entry stamp. You will also need a return or onward ticket and will have to possess the means to cover costs during your stay.

Jamaica Passport Requirements

To ensure a relaxing tropical getaway to this Caribbean island nation, there are four things you must show when you arrive in Jamaica in addition to a valid U.S. passport book or passport card: that your passport will be valid for the length of your intended stay in Jamaica; that your passport has at least one blank page for an entry stamp; that you have a departure date on a return ticket home or to another destination; and that you have sufficient funds for your time in the country. Note that a passport card cannot be used for international air travel.

According to the official Jamaica passport requirements, minors may also be required to provide documentation of relation to the adult with whom they are traveling, such as birth or adoption certificates. In keeping with Jamaica travel requirements, these must be the original documents, not copies or reproductions.

How to Get a Passport Book for Travel to Jamaica

In order to visit Jamaica with a passport, apply as soon as your travel is confirmed. The cost will be greater if you apply for a passport within two weeks of travel time and need an expedited application. You can learn more about the requirements and documents needed to obtain a U.S. passport by visiting USA.gov.

Other Jamaica Travel Requirements

Visa: U.S. citizens do not need a visa to travel to Jamaica for trips lasting 90 days or less.

Vaccinations: No special vaccinations are required to visit Jamaica.

What to Do if You Lose Your Passport in Jamaica

Take every precaution to keep your passport secure, such as carrying it in a hidden passport holder, keeping it locked in a safe, and emailing copies to yourself or a loved one before traveling.

If you do lose your passport, report the loss immediately to the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica.

So, Do I Need a Passport to Visit Jamaica?

In summary: Jamaica passport requirements state that you must have a U.S. passport that will remain valid for at least the length of your stay. You must also show proof of return or onward travel, along with sufficient funds for your trip. Additionally, minors may be required to show proof of relation to the adult with whom they are traveling, such as birth or adoption certificates.

More Information When Visiting Jamaica

The U.S. Department of State provides detailed information, including travel advisories and passport validity requirements, to your destination.

For information on how to apply or renew a passport, visit here.

Visit Jamaica is a great resource for things to do and places to stay, as well as everything you need to know before you go when planning a trip to Jamaica.

Protect Your Passport

We recommend investing in a passport cover or wallet to protect your pages from bends, tears and spills. It’s important to keep your passport in good condition for easy inspection. 

On travel days, only take your passport out during inspection. Otherwise, keep it stowed away in a dedicated section of your bag (if you keep it in the same place every time, you won’t ever scramble to locate it). Once you arrive at your destination, find a way to stow it securely. In-room safes or safe deposit boxes at the hotel front desk are generally good options, but if neither is available, you’ll need to decide how to keep your passport secure. You might consider keeping it in an under-clothing money belt that you wear, or leaving it in the hotel or vacation rental but locking it in your suitcase with a TSA-approved lock.

Dress Up Your Passport

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Experiential Travel Family Travel Holiday Travel Miscellany Theme Park

North America’s Top Christmas Markets


The cozy smell of chestnuts roasting on open fire pits. A warm cup of mulled cider cradled in your mittened hands. Soft flecks of snow falling as you walk among shop stalls filled with glittering merchandise that just begs to be gifted.

Europe, and Germany especially, are famous for their traditional holiday markets, but the scene above can be relived right in your own backyard. Take a seasonal spin through this showcase of 10 amazing Christmas markets around North America to find one near you.

[st_related]Europe’s Best Christmas Markets[/st_related]

 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Cities Experiential Travel Miscellany

9 Haunted Hotels in New Orleans


With 300 years of colorful history, it’s no wonder New Orleans is a nexus of paranormal legend and lore.

Haunted Hotels in New Orleans

Whether or not you believe, these spirited tales offer an arresting, often spine-chilling, peek into the city’s rich heritage. Stay in one of these haunted hotels in New Orleans, if you dare.

Hotel Monteleone

haunted hotels in new orleans

Legend says one of New Orleans’ best hotels is also tops in ghostly activity. In life, luminaries like Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams roamed these halls, but it’s the afterlife raconteurs that bring haunt-hunters to this historic spot.

Some guests at this haunted hotel in New Orleans have claimed to see apparitions of former hotel employees still busy at work—a testament to their dedication. Others have reported seeing kids running the long corridors one second … only to vanish the next. Perhaps most chilling of all tales is of a young family staying on the 14th floor. After a night at Bourbon Street’s famous French Opera House, the party ended suddenly when the parents’ carriage overturned en route back to the Monteleone. Many believe faint cries heard in the halls are from the son still waiting for his beloved mom and pop to return.

 

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Dauphine Orleans Hotel

haunted hotels in new orleans

It’s no wonder this quintessential New Orleans hotel is so rich in charm and legend, with some areas of the structure dating to 1775. But age isn’t the only factor contributing to the hotel’s unique allure. During the city’s Red Light District heyday, a popular watering hole and brothel was housed on the spot that today still serves as a colorful bar (minus the red-light element), May Bailey’s Place.

A popular legend places a prostitute named Millie in the spotlight. It seems Millie and a solider of the Confederacy fell in love and planned to marry, but happily ever after wasn’t in her cards. On the wedding day, as Millie’s dreams were about to come true, the groom was shot over gambling debts. So when you stay at Dauphine Orleans, don’t be alarmed to catch a glimpse of white flowing fabric floating through the bar—that’s just Millie in her wedding gown, still searching for her groom.

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Lafitte Guest House

haunted hotels in new orleans

Like other French Quarter haunts, this space has a colorful and often tragic history. Before welcoming hotel guests to the French Quarter, part of the structure housed a hospital, where many bodies came and souls went. The 14-room haunted hotel in New Orleans is full of tragic stories of yore. The original owners’ daughter is believed to have fallen down the staircase and died—it’s said her ghost can be seen roaming the second floor in a nightgown. And two sisters are believed to have died in Room 21, one of yellow fever, the other of suicide—spectral crying has been heard in the room.

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Bourbon Orleans Hotel

haunted hotels in new orleans

This New Orleans luxury hotel has a long history of hosting prestigious guests and glittering social events. That spirit of playfulness and fun lives on, even among the non-living. Not merely your roaming-the-halls types of spirits, the ghosts at Bourbon Orleans are more interactive in nature.

One guest at this hotel claimed to have been slapped by a spirit after uttering a profanity, while another claimed to have received a soft kiss from an unseen figure. More than a few employees and guests have reported smelling cigar smoke in the lobby before spotting the apparition of an elderly man seated in the corner reading a newspaper and smoking. If you seek ghosts with gusto, this is your haunted hotel in New Orleans.

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Le Pavillon Hotel

haunted hotels in new orleans

Professional paranormal investigators are attracted to Le Pavillion Hotel for more than its beautifully appointed guest rooms. During a particularly active session, a team of ghost-seekers recorded up to 100 distinctive spirits in this haunted hotel in New Orleans.

Fortunately, the hotel’s elegant, spacious lobby ensures it never feels crowded, no matter the number of guests, past or present. Still, be prepared for a bit of give and take. A spirit may give your feet a tickle while you sleep, but you surely will take home an unforgettable memory from haunted New Orleans.

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Le Richelieu Hotel

haunted hotels in new orleans

This French Quarter charmer, composed of two buildings in a quiet, residential area, is known for casting spells. Many guests are bewitched by the classic charm and friendly service, choosing to return year after year. Sir Paul McCartney even called the hotel home for a few heady months.

But another type of lingering guest creates the most fanfare. It’s believed a band of Spanish soldiers was executed on the very spot. Dressed in full uniform and adorned with a defiant spirit, their presence can often be felt and seen marching through the historic courtyard of this haunted hotel in New Orleans.

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Omni Royal Orleans

haunted hotels in new orleans

The Omni is renowned for world-class service, making sure guests to the Four Diamond luxury property receive attention and care. And, apparently, the not-so-living believe in the brand’s philosophy, too.

Stories abound of spirits who delight in delivering personalized attention to guests. Maybe a jacket you threw on the chair somehow suddenly appears in the closet, or you wake in the morning to find your sheets firmly tucked around your feet. Don’t worry, simply let a “thank you” float into the air for the dedicated service at this haunted hotel in New Orleans.

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Hotel Provincial

haunted hotels in new orleans

If these walls could talk, the story likely would tell of suffering and tragedy. Once a military hospital, the space that is now the Hotel Provincial has played witness to the lives and misery of countless wounded soldiers. Reported paranormal activity in the hotel includes ghosts that change the radio station and flashes of the Civil War-era hospital scene as the elevator opens.

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Audubon Cottages

haunted hotels in new orleans

This small boutique property exudes charm, grace, and mysterious allure. If you hear country music drifting through the courtyard, don’t assume it’s coming from a bar in the surrounding French Quarter. A sweet-voiced soldier is said to have once occupied Cottage 4, where his song still lives on, night after night.

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– Original reporting by Jess Simpson

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Miscellany Photography Travel Technology

Every Day is a Vacation with These Free Phone Wallpapers


Spark your vacation dreams with these gorgeous custom wallpapers of your favorite destinations. Download your favorites for inspiration every time you reach for your phone. After all, every day can’t be a vacation day, but you can bring a little vacation into your everyday.

Beach Dreams

Download: Palm Trees | Beach Day | Bungalow Sunset

European Adventures

Download: Madrid | Amalfi Coast | Santorini

City Lights

Download: Shanghai | San Francisco | New York City

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Miscellany

9 New Fall Books to Read Immediately


Nights are getting longer and the air is getting crisper, making it the perfect time to stay inside with a book—or, even better, to bundle up under a blanket and sit by a firepit or on a porch with one of these nine new fall books.[st_content_ad]

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood

The testamants book cover by margaret atwood.

Praise be, Handmaid’s Tale fans. A sequel to this smash-hit apocalyptic story is finally on the horizon (pre-order now to get it on September 10). The plot picks up 15 years after the first installment left off, with three female narrators from Gilead telling all.

What People Are Saying: “Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” —Margaret Atwood

The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

The nickel boys book cover by colson whitehead

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead returns to the literary scene with The Nickel Boys, set in a juvenile reformatory in Tallahassee during the Civil Rights Movement. Devastatingly, this story is based on a real reform school in Florida.

What People Are Saying: “While Whitehead doesn’t reprise the wholesale magic realism of his previous novel—in which the figurative underground railroad of history is made literal—he does pull off a brilliant sleight of hand that elevates the mere act of resurrecting Elwood’s buried story into at once a miracle and a tragedy.”—The New York Times

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Stars of Alabama, Sean Dietrich

Stars of alabama book cover by sean dietrich.

The stories of a pregnant 15-year old, a widow with two children, and two migrant workers intertwine in this beautifully written novel set in America’s heartland.

What People Are Saying: “Sean Dietrich has given us an absolute treasure of a novel … Dietrich is an author who understands the hidden landscape of a soul; his voice both clear and authentic. The separate storylines are vivid and distinct yet they also move inexorably closer to each other in a world both cruel and beautiful. Healing and hope come alive in these characters, allowing it to come alive in us.”—New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry

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State of Lies, Siri Mitchell

State of lies book cover by siri mitchell.

You won’t know whom to trust in this thrilling suspense novel by Siri Mitchell, in which the protagonist attempts to find out the real truth behind her husband’s hit-and-run death.

What People Are Saying: “Fans of Terri Blackstock will love this fast-paced tale with a surprising, disconcerting finale.”— Publishers Weekly

The Bright Unknown, Elizabeth Byler Younts

The bright unknown book cover by elizabeth byler younts.

Brighton Turner, raised since birth in an asylum in rural Pennsylvania, and her friend Angel attempt to hitchhike to Michigan to find out the truth about their history in The Bright Unknown.

What People Are Saying: “Elizabeth Byler Younts writes with heart, a poet’s pen, and courage. Younts has given us a story which is at once powerful and compassionate, revealing and dignified, heartrending and lyric. Compelling and infused with hope of redemption, The Bright Unknown ushers readers on a journey of empathy. I, for one, am grateful to have read it.”—Susie Finkbeiner, author of All Manner of Things

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Polite Society, Mahesh Rao

Polite society book cover by mahesh rao.

Living amid the glitzy high-society scene of Delhi, bored socialite Ania Khurana tries her hand at matchmaking—until a handsome interloper from America comes and changes everything.

What People Are Saying: “Using Jane Austen’s Emma as a springboard, Polite Society takes us into the lives of a group of characters we never want to part with. Pairing stiletto-sharp observation and social comedy with moments of true tenderness, this delicious romp through the mansions of India’s elite celebrates that there’s no one route to perfect happiness.”—Goodreads

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Grand Union, Zadie Smith

Grand union book cover by zadie smith.

Award-winning author Zadie Smith is back with an enthralling collection of short stories. Grand Union is composed of 11 new and unpublished stories plus popular reruns from New Yorker articles and others. Pre-order now for an October 8 release.

What People Are Saying: “Smart and bewitching … The modern world is refracted in ways that are both playful and rigorous, formally experimental and socially aware … Smith exercises her range without losing her wry, slightly cynical humor. Readers of all tastes will find something memorable in this collection.”—Publishers Weekly

Ten Years a Nomad: A Traveler’s Journey Home, Matthew Kepnes

Ten years a nomad: traveler’s journey home book cover by matthew kepnes.

Matthew Kepnes is one of the world’s most popular travel bloggers. His new book chronicles his nonstop travels since he set off on a year-long round-the-world-trip that turned into 10 years, 500,000 miles and 90 different countries.

What People Are Saying: “Throughout his ruminations on how travel affected him, Kepnes interweaves his tales of friends, girlfriends, and great loves discovered among exotic backdrops and how starting a blog (nomadicmatt.com) about his adventures altered the way he traveled. His story is one of heartbreak, self-discovery, and the constant travel itch he had to scratch in order to become the man he was supposed to be. An entertaining, quick read by a man who did what many of us only dream about.”—Kirkus Book Reviews

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The Wolf Wants In, Laura McHugh

The wolf wants in book cover by laura mchugh

In small-town Blackwater, Kansas, Sadie Keller investigates the untimely death of her brother. This twisting thriller will keep you guessing until the end.

What People Are Saying: “The Wolf Wants In perfectly balances gripping suspense with stunning, lyrical prose—a rare combination, but one that seems to be McHugh’s signature gift. Atmospheric and chilling, this novel takes place in the twisted, destructive wake of the opioid crisis as one woman struggles for justice and another for redemption. A truly thrilling read.”—Jill Orr, author of the Riley Ellison mysteries

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world

Categories
Miscellany

SmarterTravel and Glamping Hub Weekend Road-trip Giveaway Official Rules

SmarterTravel and Glamping Hub Weekend Roadtrip Giveaway Official Rules

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.

  1. Eligibility: Eligibility to participate in the Sweepstakes or to win prizes is limited to individual persons at least eighteen (18) years of age at the beginning of the Entry Period. Limit one (1) entry per individual. Multiple participants are not permitted to share the same email address. Any attempt by any participant to obtain more than the stated number of entries by using multiple/different email or addresses, accounts, identities, registrations and logins, or any other methods will void that participant’s entries and that participant may be disqualified. Registrations or submissions generated by a script, macro or other automated means are void. In the event of a dispute as to any entrant, the authorized account holder of the email address associated with the entry will be deemed to be the entrant.  The “authorized account holder” is the natural person assigned an email address by an Internet access provider, online service provider or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted address.  Each potential winner may be required to show proof of being the authorized account holder.  Entrants who disregard these Official Rules are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Directors, officers, employees, contractors and agents (and their immediate families and household members) of the Sponsor, its parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, or any other company involved with the design, production, execution or distribution of the promotion are also not eligible. The Sponsor’s determination of eligibility, in its sole discretion, shall be final. The Sweepstakes is void where prohibited and shall be restricted by all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations that may apply. The Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
  2. Sponsor: The Sweepstakes is sponsored by SmarterTravel Media LLC, located at 226 Causeway St, Boston, MA 02114  (“Sponsor”).
  3. Agreement to Official Rules: By entering, you indicate your full and unconditional agreement to (a) these Official Rules and (b) Sponsor’s decisions, which are final and binding. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.
  4. Entry Period: The Sweepstakes beings at 9:00:00 AM Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 and ends at 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 (the “Entry Period”). Entries submitted before or after the Entry Period will not be eligible. Sponsor ’s computer is the official time-keeping device for the Sweepstakes.
  5. How to Enter: To enter via Instagram, an entrant must complete the following steps during the Entry Period: (1) Follow @glampinghub and @SmarterTravel (2) Like either brand’s post and (3) tag 3 other Instagram accounts in the comments section on @glampinghub’s and @SmarterTravel’s posts related to the Sweepstakes (collectively, “Entry Requirements”). Upon completion of these Entry Requirements, such individual will automatically be entered into the Sweepstakes as an Entrant. Only entries that comply with all Entry Requirements will be counted. You may not use an agency or any automated system to enter, and Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any entries received through such methods. Limit one (1) entry per person. Your entrance into the Sweepstakes constitutes your (a) agreement to these Official Rules and (b) consent to receiving email correspondence from Sponsor, Glamping Hub, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, and affiliates.
  6. Drawing: On or about Thursday, August 15, 2019. Winner(s) will be selected at random from all eligible entries received. The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
  7. Notification and Requirements of the Potential Winner: Sponsor will attempt to notify the potential winner via the email address or contact information provided upon entering the sweepstakes within five (5) business days of the drawing. For U.S. residents a potential winner will be required to complete and return an Affidavit of Eligibility, liability/publicity release, and a W-9 form. Prize recipients of more than $600 must provide Sponsor with their social security number or applicable tax identification number in accordance with IRS regulations to enable the Sponsor to issue a Form 1099-Misc. For foreign individuals, a potential winner will be required to return an Affidavit of Eligibility, liability/publicity release, and W-8BEN form. If a potential winner fails to complete, sign and return these documents within five (5) business days, an alternate entrant may be selected in his/her place in a random drawing of all remaining entries received. Only three (3) alternate entrants may be contacted. It is the potential winner’s responsibility to determine his/her proper residency status and any failure to provide actuate information may be grounds for disqualification. Sponsor takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided above or by a potential winner and all potential winners are encouraged to speak with their own finical advisor about the potential costs and liabilities associated with accepting the Grand Prize.
  8. Grand Prize: One (1) winner will receive: $250 gift card to Glamping Hub (valid for one year from the day such card is provided to the winner and for one-time use only) and $200 gift card provided by SmarterTravel.

Prize Conditions:

  • Prize subject to availability

The approximate retail value of the Grand Prize is $450.00. Additional expenses, including any travel expenses, beyond those listed above in this Section 8 are not included as part of the Grand Prize package. The winner is solely responsible for paying all federal, state, local, and income taxes and any other costs and expenses not expressly covered by Sponsor in these rules. Any prize details not specified above will be determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Any other incidental expenses on prize not specified herein are the winner’s sole responsibility.

A prize may not be assigned or transferred and must be accepted as awarded. You may not request cash or a substitute prize; however, Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize with another prize of equal or greater value if the prize is not available for any reason, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion.

Any travel related expenses included but not limited to transportation to and from home and any hotel, taxes, gratuities, incidentals, upgrades, insurance, service charges, airport surcharges, departure taxes, hotel, resort or property fees, food & beverage not mentioned and personal expenses such as telephone/Internet charges, gift shop purchases, video or camera fee at monuments and all other services not specifically mentioned as included in the prize are the sole responsibility of prize winner. Winner and any potential travel companion(s) must travel on same itinerary. Winner and any potential guest(s) are responsible for obtaining the proper travel documentation (e.g., valid photo ID/passport) prior to travel. Winner’s guest(s) must be legal U.S. resident, 18 years or older and must complete and return a Liability/Publicity/Travel Release prior to travel as noted above.

Any hotel reservations and accommodations are subject to availability at time of reservation. Blackout dates, advance booking requirements and travel restrictions may apply. Availability is subject to factors such as weather, seasonality and space availability. If weather affects the ability for winner and his/her guest(s) to redeem any portion of prize during the scheduled date and time, then the Sponsor shall have no further obligation to the winner and/or guest(s) other than to supply the remaining elements of the prize package minus the unused portion of prize. If for any reason whatsoever, winner and/or guest(s) are unable to travel after all travel arrangements to be provided by Sponsor have been made and paid, Sponsor shall have no further obligation to the winner. If the prize is forfeited prior to Sponsor finalizing and paying for travel, and there is sufficient time to notify an alternate winner, the prize will be awarded to an alternate winner in a separate random drawing from among all non-winning eligible entries.

Except where prohibited by law, entry and acceptance of prize constitute permission to use winner’s name, prize won, hometown, likeness, video tape, photographs, and statements for purposes of advertising, promotion and publicity (including online posting) in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation, notification or permission.

Prize is awarded “as is” with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied by Sponsor or prize providers. Winner acknowledges that the Sponsor, prize providers, and all other businesses affiliated with this Sweepstakes and their agents do not make, nor are in any manner responsible for any warranty, representations, expressed or implied, in fact or in law, relative the quality, conditions, fitness or merchantability of any aspect of the prize being offered, except that each merchandise prize shall be subject to its manufacturer’s standard warranty (if any).

  1. General Conditions: In the event that the operation, security, or administration of the Sweepstakes is impaired in any way, Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, either: (a) suspend the Sweepstakes to address the impairment and then resume the Sweepstakes in a manner that best conforms to these Official Rules; or (b) award the prize at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers with the operation of the Sweepstakes, violates these Official Rules, or acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any person who seeks to undermine the legitimate operation of the Sweepstakes. Failure by Sponsor to enforce any term of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision. Proof of sending any communication to Sponsor by mail shall not be deemed proof of receipt of that communication by Sponsor. In the event of a dispute as to any online entry, the authorized account holder of the e-mail address used to enter will be deemed to be the participant. The “authorized account holder” is the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address. The Sweepstakes is subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations and is void where prohibited.
  2. Release and Limitations of Liability: By participating in the Sweepstakes, you agree to release and hold harmless Sponsor, Glamping Hub, Instagram, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates; and each of their respective officers, directors, employees, and agents (the “Released Parties”) from and against any claim or cause of action arising out of participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use of any prize, including, but not limited to: (a) unauthorized human intervention in the Sweepstakes; (b) technical errors related to computers, servers, providers, or telephone, or network lines; (c) printing errors; (d) lost, late, postage-due, misdirected, or undeliverable mail; (e) errors in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; or (f) injury or damage to persons or property. You further agree that in any cause of action, the Released Parties’ liability will be limited to the cost of entering and participating in the Sweepstakes, and in no event shall the Released Parties be liable for attorney’s fees. You waive the right to claim any damages whatsoever, including, but not limited to, punitive, consequential, direct, or indirect damages.
  3. Privacy and Publicity: Any information you submit as part of the Sweepstakes will be used for purposes of this Sweepstakes and treated in accordance with Sponsor’s and Glamping Hub’s privacy policies which can be found here: https://production.js.10upmanaged.com/privacy-policy/ and https://glampinghub.com/privacy-policy/. The Sweepstakes may be held, hosted, or promoted on Instagram and its affiliated sites. By participating in the Sweepstakes, you hereby agree to adhere to Instagram’s Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and any other terms governing access to Instagram, its servers, or content. Sweepstakes is not sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Instagram. Except where prohibited, participation in the Sweepstakes constitutes your consent to Sponsor’s use of your name, likeness, voice, opinions, biographical information, and state of residence for purposes of advertising, promotion and publicity (including online posting) in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation, notification or permission.
  4. Disputes: You agree that any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of, or connected with, the Sweepstakes or any prize awarded shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and exclusively by the appropriate court located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, your rights and obligations, or the rights and obligations of the Sponsor in connection with the Sweepstakes, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules (whether of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or any other jurisdiction), which would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  5. Additional Information: To request more information send self-addressed stamped envelope to Ashley Rossi c/o SmarterTravel Media LLC, located at 226 Causeway St, Boston, MA 02114. Request must be made by August 10.
Categories
Beach Miscellany

8 Surprisingly Uncrowded Beach Vacation Spots in North America


At their worst, popular beaches are synonymous with expensive parking lots and crowded shorelines. But there are still stellar beach vacation spots that aren’t as crowded as you might think. So, if you have your heart set on the ocean but want to avoid the crowds, head to one of these eight surprisingly uncrowded beach vacation spots.

Ponce, Puerto Rico

ponce puerto rico beach.

Ponce is the second-largest city in Puerto Rico but often gets overlooked by tourists. The city has three beaches, including one, Caja de Muertos, that is located on an uninhabited island just off the coast and is known for wildlife sightings, including turtles.

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Leeward Coast Beaches (Westside), Oahu

leeward coast beach oahu hawaii.

Most tourists stay in Waikiki when they visit Oahu, but the rest of the island has plenty of uncrowded beaches just waiting to be discovered. On the island’s west coast, check out Depot Beach Bank, Makaha Beach Park, or Keawaula Beach, as well as man-made lagoons in the resort area (Ko Olina Resort and Marina).

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Carlsbad, California 

carlsbad california beach

The beach city of Carlsbad sits about an hour and a half south of Los Angeles and 30 minutes north of San Diego. Carlsbad’s stretch of sandy Pacific shoreline is divided into five beach areas: North Carlsbad Beaches, Carlsbad State Beach, South State Beach, South Ponto Beach, and Terramar Beach. Insider Tip: Terramar and South Ponto are locals’ favorites.

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San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

viceroy los cabos mexico.

Located closer to the Los Cabos airport than its sibling city Cabo San Lucas, the small city of San Jose del Cabo is sometimes known as “the other Cabo.” While it is a resort destination, San Jose del Cabo is much less crowded than Cabo San Lucas and has more secluded beachside resorts like the Viceroy Los Cabos. The small downtown is home to galleries, shops, and local restaurants, giving this beach vacation spot a laid-back feel.

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Bermuda

bermuda beach at sunset.

This island and popular beach vacation spot actually sees less than one million visitors per year, with around 700,000 annual visitors enjoying Bermuda’s beaches. Even its most popular beach, Horseshoe Bay Beach, has uncrowded areas nearby, like Port Royal Cove. Other less crowded beach options in Bermuda include Stonehole Bay Beach and Daniels Head Beach Park.

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Corolla, North Carolina 

corolla north carolina beach

North Carolina’s Outer Banks are notoriously busy over the summer, but instead of hitting the ultra-crowded central-area beaches, head a little bit north to Corolla. Here, you’ll still will find plenty of shops and dining options, just without the crowds.

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South Walton, Florida 

south walton florida beach

South Walton County caps the end of Florida’s Panhandle. The area has 16 different communities and 50 beach access locations, so if you find one area too crowded, you can easily go discover a different one. Check out Dune Allen for its miles of beaches plus three rare coastal dune lakes.

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Greater Fort Lauderdale 

fort lauderdale florida beach

Fort Lauderdale is a famously popular beach vacation spot, but did you know that there are some less-crowded beaches just outside downtown? Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, Hillsboro Beach, Lauderdale By the Sea Beach, and Deerfield Beach are all uncrowded but ideal beach vacation spots in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area.

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What to Wear at the Beach

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Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Categories
Miscellany

SmarterTravel and City Wonders European Sweepstakes Official Rules


  1. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.
  2. Eligibility: Eligibility to participate in the Sweepstakes or to win prizes is limited to individual persons at least eighteen (18) years of age at the beginning of the Entry Period. Limit one (1) entry per individual. Multiple participants are not permitted to share the same email address. Any attempt by any participant to obtain more than the stated number of entries by using multiple/different email or addresses, accounts, identities, registrations and logins, or any other methods will void that participant’s entries and that participant may be disqualified. Registrations or submissions generated by a script, macro or other automated means are void. In the event of a dispute as to any entrant, the authorized account holder of the email address associated with the entry will be deemed to be the entrant.  The “authorized account holder” is the natural person assigned an email address by an Internet access provider, online service provider or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted address.  Each potential winner may be required to show proof of being the authorized account holder.  Entrants who disregard these Official Rules are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Directors, officers, employees, contractors and agents (and their immediate families and household members) of the Sponsor, its parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, or any other company involved with the design, production, execution or distribution of the promotion are also not eligible. The Sponsor’s determination of eligibility, in its sole discretion, shall be final. The Sweepstakes is void where prohibited and shall be restricted by all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations that may apply. The Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
  3. Sponsor: The Sweepstakes is sponsored by SmarterTravel Media LLC, located at 226 Causeway St, Boston, MA 02114 (“Sponsor”).
  4. Agreement to Official Rules: By entering, you indicate your full and unconditional agreement to (a) these Official Rules and (b) Sponsor’s decisions, which are final and binding. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.
  5. Entry Period: The Sweepstakes beings at 9:00:00 AM Eastern Time on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 and ends at 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 (the “Entry Period”). Entries submitted before or after the Entry Period will not be eligible. Sponsor’s computer is the official time-keeping device for the Sweepstakes.
  6. How to Enter: To enter via Instagram, an entrant must complete the following steps during the Entry Period: (1) Log on to his/her Instagram account (or create an account at www.Instagram.com if he or she does not already have one), (2) Follow Smarter Travel’s Instagram account @smartertravel, (3) Follow City Wonder Tours’s Instagram account @citywonderstours, and (4) Tag another Instagram account in the comments section in either @smartertravel’s or @citywonderstours’ post related to the Sweepstakes (collectively, “Entry Requirements”). Upon completion of these Entry Requirements, such individual will automatically be entered into the Sweepstakes as an entrant. Tagging a friend in the comments section on both @smartertravel and @citywonderstours’ posts related to the Sweepstakes will not garner a second entry. Only entries that comply with all Entry Requirements will be counted. You may not use an agency or any automated system to enter, and Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any entries received through such methods. Limit one (1) entry per person. Your entrance into the Sweepstakes constitutes your (a) agreement to these Official Rules and (b) consent to receiving email correspondence from Sponsor, City Wonders Tours, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, and affiliates.
  7. Drawing: On or about Friday, August 2, 2019. Winner(s) will be selected at random from all eligible entries received. The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
  8. Notification and Requirements of the Potential Winner: Sponsor will attempt to notify the potential winner via the email address or contact information provided upon entering the sweepstakes within five (5) business days of the drawing. For U.S. residents a potential winner will be required to complete and return an Affidavit of Eligibility, liability/publicity release, and a W-9 form. Prize recipients of more than $600 must provide Sponsor with their social security number or applicable tax identification number in accordance with IRS regulations to enable the Sponsor to issue a Form 1099-Misc. For foreign individuals, a potential winner will be required to return an Affidavit of Eligibility, liability/publicity release, and W-8BEN form. If a potential winner fails to complete, sign and return these documents within five (5) business days, an alternate entrant may be selected in his/her place in a random drawing of all remaining entries received. Only three (3) alternate entrants may be contacted. It is the potential winner’s responsibility to determine his/her proper residency status and any failure to provide actuate information may be grounds for disqualification. Sponsor takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided above or by a potential winner and all potential winners are encouraged to speak with their own finical advisor about the potential costs and liabilities associated with accepting the Grand Prize.
  9. Grand Prize: One (1) winner will receive: One (1) electronic $200 Visa gift card and two (2) tickets to a City Wonders tour of the winner’s choice (provided that such tickets may not be used on The Making of Harry Potter experience).

Prize Conditions:

  1. Prize subject to availability
  2. The approximate retail value of the Grand Prize is $450.00. Additional expenses, including any travel expenses, beyond those listed above in this Section 8 are not included as part of the Grand Prize package. The winner is solely responsible for paying all federal, state, local, and income taxes and any other costs and expenses not expressly covered by Sponsor in these rules. Any prize details not specified above will be determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Any other incidental expenses on prize not specified herein are the winner’s sole responsibility.
  3. A prize may not be assigned or transferred and must be accepted as awarded. You may not request cash or a substitute prize; however, Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize with another prize of equal or greater value if the prize is not available for any reason, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion.
  4. Any travel related expenses included but not limited to transportation to and from home and any hotel, taxes, gratuities, incidentals, upgrades, insurance, service charges, airport surcharges, departure taxes, hotel, resort or property fees, food & beverage not mentioned and personal expenses such as telephone/Internet charges, gift shop purchases, video or camera fee at monuments and all other services not specifically mentioned as included in the prize are the sole responsibility of prize winner. Winner and any potential travel companion(s) must travel on same itinerary. Winner and any potential guest(s) are responsible for obtaining the proper travel documentation (e.g., valid photo ID/passport) prior to travel. Winner’s guest(s) must be legal U.S. resident, 18 years or older and must complete and return a Liability/Publicity/Travel Release prior to travel as noted above.
  5. Any hotel reservations and accommodations are subject to availability at time of reservation. Blackout dates, advance booking requirements and travel restrictions may apply. Availability is subject to factors such as weather, seasonality and space availability. If weather affects the ability for winner and his/her guest(s) to redeem any portion of prize during the scheduled date and time, then the Sponsor shall have no further obligation to the winner and/or guest(s) other than to supply the remaining elements of the prize package minus the unused portion of prize. If for any reason whatsoever, winner and/or guest(s) are unable to travel after all travel arrangements to be provided by Sponsor have been made and paid, Sponsor shall have no further obligation to the winner. If the prize is forfeited prior to Sponsor finalizing and paying for travel, and there is sufficient time to notify an alternate winner, the prize will be awarded to an alternate winner in a separate random drawing from among all non-winning eligible entries.
  6. Except where prohibited by law, entry and acceptance of prize constitute permission to use winner’s name, prize won, hometown, likeness, video tape, photographs, and statements for purposes of advertising, promotion and publicity (including online posting) in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation, notification or permission.
  7. Prize is awarded “as is” with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied by Sponsor or prize providers. Winner acknowledges that the Sponsor, prize providers, and all other businesses affiliated with this Sweepstakes and their agents do not make, nor are in any manner responsible for any warranty, representations, expressed or implied, in fact or in law, relative the quality, conditions, fitness or merchantability of any aspect of the prize being offered, except that each merchandise prize shall be subject to its manufacturer’s standard warranty (if any).
  8. General Conditions: In the event that the operation, security, or administration of the Sweepstakes is impaired in any way, Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, either: (a) suspend the Sweepstakes to address the impairment and then resume the Sweepstakes in a manner that best conforms to these Official Rules; or (b) award the prize at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers with the operation of the Sweepstakes, violates these Official Rules, or acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any person who seeks to undermine the legitimate operation of the Sweepstakes. Failure by Sponsor to enforce any term of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision. Proof of sending any communication to Sponsor by mail shall not be deemed proof of receipt of that communication by Sponsor. In the event of a dispute as to any online entry, the authorized account holder of the e-mail address used to enter will be deemed to be the participant. The “authorized account holder” is the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address. The Sweepstakes is subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations and is void where prohibited.
  9. Release and Limitations of Liability: By participating in the Sweepstakes, you agree to release and hold harmless Sponsor, City Wonders Tours, Instagram, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates; and each of their respective officers, directors, employees, and agents (the “Released Parties”) from and against any claim or cause of action arising out of participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use of any prize, including, but not limited to: (a) unauthorized human intervention in the Sweepstakes; (b) technical errors related to computers, servers, providers, or telephone, or network lines; (c) printing errors; (d) lost, late, postage-due, misdirected, or undeliverable mail; (e) errors in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; or (f) injury or damage to persons or property. You further agree that in any cause of action, the Released Parties’ liability will be limited to the cost of entering and participating in the Sweepstakes, and in no event shall the Released Parties be liable for attorney’s fees. You waive the right to claim any damages whatsoever, including, but not limited to, punitive, consequential, direct, or indirect damages.
  10. Privacy and Publicity: Any information you submit as part of the Sweepstakes will be used for purposes of this Sweepstakes and treated in accordance with Sponsor’s privacy policy which can be found here: https://production.js.10upmanaged.com/privacy-policy. The Sweepstakes may be held, hosted, or promoted on Instagram and its affiliated sites. By participating in the Sweepstakes you hereby agree to adhere to Instagram’s Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and any other terms governing access to Instagram, its servers, or content. This Sweepstakes is not sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Instagram. Except where prohibited, participation in the Sweepstakes constitutes your consent to Sponsor’s use of your name, likeness, voice, opinions, biographical information, and state of residence for purposes of advertising, promotion and publicity (including online posting) in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation, notification or permission.
  11. Disputes: You agree that any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of, or connected with, the Sweepstakes or any prize awarded shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and exclusively by the appropriate court located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, your rights and obligations, or the rights and obligations of the Sponsor in connection with the Sweepstakes, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules (whether of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or any other jurisdiction), which would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  12. Additional Information: To request more information send self-addressed stamped envelope to Ashley Rossi c/o SmarterTravel. Request must be made by July 20, 2019.

Categories
Active Travel Miscellany

How to Book a Ski Vacation: A Definitive Guide to Ski Packages


If you’re thinking of planning a ski vacation, you’ve got options. You can, of course, purchase your airfare directly from an airline, rent a car from an agency, book a hotel near a ski resort, and then buy lift tickets on the mountain. But before you do, know your options: Bundling several travel components into a ski package can potentially save you time and money.

If you decide to research a ski package vacation, there are a number of ways to start planning, depending on the type of vacation you want:

In addition, online resources such as user reviews can help you refine your search and choose the offer that works best for you.

Air-Inclusive Ski Packages

Airlines often have a good selection of bundled ski packages. United Vacations consistently offers a variety of deals. And since United typically includes lift tickets in its packages, it’s a good place to start. United’s major rival, American Airlines Vacations, is also worth looking at. Its wide network of flights means it can provide access to ski towns across the country and around the world.

Of course, all of the major airline vacation providers offer ski packages, so it’s a good idea to search the carriers that have service from your airport. Nearly all of the packages are for resorts in the Western states, with a few Canadian options as well. Each provider will bundle airfare, accommodations, car rental, and lift tickets into any of their packages.

Don’t confine your search for an air-inclusive ski vacation to the airline vacation providers, though. Expedia can combine specially-negotiated airfares and hotel rates into low package rates. And Expedia features vacations not only to the West, but also to New England, Quebec, and even Europe. Orbitz also has many ski vacations for sale, including to destinations like Aspen, Banff, Tahoe, and Whistler.

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Ski Packages Without Airfare

If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of the mountains, but you want to stay for longer than just a day trip, you can save money by picking up a package that comes with both accommodations and lift tickets. And there’s no better place to start your search than the mother of all ski websites, Ski Central, which features links to resorts, hotels, and an avalanche of travel agencies specializing in ski vacations.

You’ll also want to visit SkiNet.com, which allows you to choose between pre-set packages and vacations that you build step by step.

Ski.com has a similar setup, and also includes what it calls “last-minute bargains,” though we didn’t see a significant difference between the restrictions for those and the other offers that rotate through its home page.

Ski Resort User Reviews

Once you’ve found a deal that looks promising, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the resort in question, so that your ultimate choice is an informed one. Start with OntheSnow.com, which offers user reviews of ski resorts around the U.S.

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Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in 2008. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.