Category Archives: Travel

How to Reduce the Stress of Vacation Planning

Everyone loves going on vacation, but finding the perfect destination can take some time and require ample research. But the search can be greatly simplified by joining an organization like the Bluegreen Vacation Club. Members of vacation clubs are provided with all the information they need about vacation destinations around the world. Members also qualify for valuable discounts to make a family vacation more affordable and enjoyable.

Members of vacation clubs are offered much more flexibility than if they were partial owners of a timeshare property. The Bluegreen Resorts destinations are available at more than 60 resorts in popular locations around the United States and the Caribbean Islands. Club members are not limited to vacationing in the same location year after year, so they and their families can choose to vacation when and where they wish. Third party exchange programs can expand the network to include thousands more participating resorts.

Some vacation clubs like Bluegreen are based on a point system wherein a person is allotted a certain number of points when they purchase a membership. The number of points vary in accordance to the type of membership they purchase, and points can be borrowed from following years or purchased at any time. A single person or a couple are not likely to purchase the same level of membership as a couple with children.

There is a lot of variation possible within a vacation club membership since one vacation destination may be considerably less expensive than others. Members are able to accumulate points to be used on a more expensive vacation by skipping a year or limiting the number of points used in preceding years.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of a vacation club membership is the ability to enjoy a great variety of destinations at a considerably reduced cost. Sometimes people dream of traveling to a certain destination, but unexpected costs and events in their life prevent them from saving enough money to ever vacation there. Membership in a vacation club ensures the necessary funds will be available because the payments have been spread out over the year. This makes planning a trip simple, and the vacation can be rescheduled if unforeseen circumstances prevent travel during the intended time slot.

Various studies have shown that people who vacation are happier than those who rarely travel. Enjoying down time is a great stress reliever, so marriages are happier and individuals are more productive when they return home relaxed and refreshed. It is very enriching and educational for children to experience the world from multiple vantage points and within different cultures. Travel can be very costly these days, so vacation club members appreciate the reduced expense owning a vacation membership offers.

Some people have found owning a timeshare works for them until they want to sell it. The process can take a long time, all the while they are still obligated financially. A vacation club membership can be sold or passed on to a family member, and the sale is likely to be faster since it has so much more to offer than a traditional timeshare, all while taking a big chunk of stress out of vacation planning every year.

Essential Oral Care Items for Traveling

Traveling is exciting, but it can also throw off our proper dental hygiene practices. That’s why it’s important to pack some essential items with you on your journey to make certain your oral health doesn’t fall by the wayside. These travel sized oral care items will make it easy for business travelers and vacationers alike to keep up with their dental needs.

Travel Toothbrush (and Accessories)

Many opt for travel toothbrushes, which often come with convenient carrying cases to ensure that they remain intact during transit. Cases can also prevent toothbrushes from coming into contact with any foreign substances in suitcases and bags, along with providing a place to dry after use.

Travelers should also be sure to pack floss and toothpaste. This is especially important if you require a special type of toothpaste, which may not be accessible once you reach your destination. During flights, it’s recommended that these items are kept in carry-on bags to increase ease-of-access.

Water Bottle for Rinsing

Dry mouth can lead to a number of ill effects, from unpleasant breath to general discomfort. Fortunately, taking a water bottle during your trip will allow you to rinse from time to time, which can have a significant effect on overall oral comfort and health.

A water bottle is particularly helpful during long flights when frequent brushing may prove inconvenient. A quick rinse is also beneficial after eating or drinking, especially when imbibing sugary drinks like soda or juice.

Healthy Snacks

While it may seem counterproductive, certain snacks can greatly improve one’s breath, while also doing away with dry mouth. Some snacks can actually serve to gently scrub and strengthen teeth while eating, including the following:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Cauliflower

Snacking is highly important during lengthy gaps between meals, as this can help combat stale breath and dry mouth. Accordingly, you can rest assured your breath will remain fresh and pleasant when on your way to your destination.

Chewing Gum (Minus the Sugar)

Sugar-free gum affords an even more convenient option than healthy snacks. A piece of chewing gum can provide the same benefits as the above items, while also taking up a lot less room in a bag or purse. However, it’s extremely important that the gum you choose is sugar-free to receive optimum health benefits. Gum containing sugar will only serve to damage teeth, thereby adding to decay when unable to brush and floss for an extended period.

A Bright and Healthy Smile Will Take You Far

No matter where in the world you may end up, a healthy smile is the perfect accessory. With the above items in tow, you can rest assured that your dental hygiene won’t be neglected during even the lengthiest of trips.

Top photo: nickharris1/Flickr

Top Cultural Events to See in Paradise Island

The Bahamas are full of unique people who embrace their diverse cultural heritage. Residents who have migrated from various lands over hundreds of years are proud to call the Bahamas their home. If you’re planning a visit to Paradise Island in the Bahamas, you’ll find friendly people and strong cultural influences that have contributed to some of the world’s best cultural events with exciting festivals, art, food, and music.

Junkanoo

One of the most unique Bahamian festivals is the Junkanoo, held around the Christmas holidays every year. It began as a way to celebrate several days of freedom given to African slaves during Christmas time. Slaves joined together with colorful costumes made from crepe paper, lively music and native dances to celebrate their African roots. Although the Junkanoo festival almost died out with the abolishment of slavery, islanders kept it going, and it became one of the best festivals on the island. Each year, the Junkanoo begins on December 26 in the early morning hours. It starts with a parade through the streets and continues with beautiful costumes, delicious food, and lively music.

Bahamas International Film Festival

Every year in December, the Bahamas host the Bahamas International Film Festival to honor local filmmakers and showcase their work. As a major annual attraction, the event draws famous filmmakers, actors, actresses and directors from all over the world. The opening night gala includes an elaborate party with great food, film screenings, panel discussions and dancing. Although the festival celebrates local filmmakers and their films, the Bahamas International Film Festival is attended by interested film buffs from various regions around the world.

Bahamas Heritage Festival

Each year, at the end of April or beginning of March, The Bahamas Heritage Festival takes place on Paradise Island. It focuses primarily on the culture of the islands and features traditional island dances, music, food, and creative story-telling from the islanders, especially the older islanders who have wonderful stories to tell about their heritage. The Bahamas Heritage Festival also includes the Great Bahamas Seafood Festival which showcases island seafood dishes with Bahamian flavor.

Island Roots Heritage Festival

The Island Roots Heritage Festival is held every May in New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. This lively festival celebrates the island’s loyalist heritage and African roots and promotes peaceful cohabitation of the two cultures that has existed for hundred of years. The Island Roots Heritage Festival is a family-friendly cultural event that includes a colorful parade, great island foods, and live music from local musicians. The kids can enjoy a tug-of-war contest, a conch cracking contest, and an exciting pirate demonstration.

Pineapple Festival

In June, you can enjoy The Pineapple Festival which takes place in Gregory Town on Eleuthera Island. The festival honors the pineapple industry and its workers that have been part of Bahamian history since the island was settled. Festival activities are fun for the entire family with activities that include a pineapple eating contest, a pineapple cooking contest, a 40-mile bicycle race around the island, and the Little Miss Pineapple Pageant.

Paradise Island is a wonderful adventure with exciting cultural events year-round. If you’re planning a visit, you’ll find wonderful hotels in Paradise Island with beautiful accommodations. Sunrise Beach Club and Villas offers relaxing island atmosphere that reflects authentic Bahamian culture and heritage.

Top photo: DeusXFlorida/Flickr

9 Choice Restaurants to Frequent in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, the fifth largest city in Texas and the 17th largest in the US, is situated in North Central Texas. The city covers 350 square miles and serves as the seat of Tarrant County. Fort Worth is made up of about 800,000 people, and here are nine choice restaurants made popular by its inhabitants and a must visit for any tourist.

1. Taco Heads

It is no secret that the taco market is pretty competitive, but Taco Heads is a step above the rest. With fresh salsa, delicious tortillas, and tastiest toppings to go with, you will for sure become a regular after your first trip to this restaurant.

2. Pizza Snob

When what you want is pizza, few places can satisfy your craving like Pizza Snob. They use the freshest ingredients and top their pizzas with creative combinations that include caramelized pineapple, rosemary, goat cheese, and candied jalapenos. Just one slice from this place and you won’t regret why you came.

3. Vivo 53

Vivo 53 specializes in Italian cuisine. They have it all — pasta, homemade meatballs, and pizza. The local favorites include spicy sausage pizza and truffle fettuccine. For a full experience, pair your meal with a glass of sparkling wine.

4. Shinjuku Station

There is no doubt that Shinjuku Station is the best joint in town for Japanese cuisine. They of course have great sushi, but other must-try options include ceviche, ramen bowls, and sake steamed mussels. One visit to this restaurant and you will be recommending it to your friends.

5. Lee’s Grilled Cheese

Lee’s Grilled Cheese brings the most delicious food directly into your mouth! They have a grilled cheese sandwich menu that you wouldn’t have been able to come up in your wildest dreams. How does a cheddar mac n’ cheese sandwich loaded with mustard pork and black forest ham sound? You also must try their peanut butter and jelly grillers. If you are interested in something tasty and cheesy, this is the right place for you.

6. Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak has locations in several cities across the country, but in Fort Worth they cater to the local tastes of their patrons, and they have awesome steaks. What puts them in their own league from other steakhouses is how complete their menu is. They have options like jalapeno mac n’ cheese, a wide selection of seafood, and even chili-glazed calamari. Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak satisfies a wide variety of tastes.

7. Rodeo Goat

Bringing bar food to a new level, Rodeo Goat has exactly what you need during a night out with your friends and family. Some of the recommendations include Tabasco mayo, chorizo, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and fried eggs. They also have locally renowned “cheese fries surprise” topped with chili, jalapenos, bacon, ranch, and cheese, which makes for an excellent appetizer that everyone can enjoy.

8. Smokey’s BBQ

When it comes to smoking meat, the competition is stiff — especially in Texas — but Smokey’s BBQ serves up some of the very best. They have all the classics available, as well as other popular items like brisket, sausage links, and ribs with a dash of jalapeno. If you’re a fan of meat, then head to Smokey’s and settle into a massive rack of ribs. You’ll be glad you did.

9. Grace

Grace is more upscale than the rest of this list, but if you are looking for an experience and not just a meal, this is the place to go. They have a focus on revamping American favorites, and their chefs won’t let you down. Among the recommended delicacies are the Lobster Agnolotti and Duroc Pork.

Traveling to Texas? Fort Worth hotels will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression. Remember, when scouring for accommodations it is always best to go with a place that is reputable. In Fort Worth, that’s the Ashton Hotel, where you know you will be safe and secure throughout your stay and only have to worry about getting into Smokey’s before they run out of brisket.

The Spanish You Need for the Vacation You Want

When you want to go beyond the all-inclusive resort and explore the real culture of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or any other Spanish-speaking country, you need to know at least a few key phrases in Spanish. Sure, almost everyone who works at Cancun hotels speaks enough English to answer your questions, but once you set out for more remote locations, all bets are off. Adventurous travelers should master the basics to communicate with the locals for a truly amazing vacation.

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Most locals are friendly towards a tourist who is obviously trying to reach out in Spanish, even if pronunciation and vocabulary are limited. Use these phrases to be polite and you’ll find that more people will be willing to help you:

  • Hola: Hello
  • Por favor: Please
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • ¿Podría ayudarme?: Could you help me?

Getting Directions

Asking for directions is easy; it’s understanding them that’s a challenge. Knowing the basics helps, but it’s best to get someone to draw you a map while they explain so that you have a visual you can take with you. Keep a notebook and pen on-hand at all times; you’ll be glad you did!

  • ¿Dónde está ___?: Where is ___?
  • Norte: North
  • Este: East
  • Sur: South
  • Oeste: West
  • A la izquierda de ___: To the left of ___.
  • A la derecha de ___: To the right of ___.
  • Calle: Street
  • Sigue: Keep going
  • ¿Podría darme direcciones?: Could you give me directions?
  • ¿Podría dibujar un mapa?: Could you draw a map?

Paying for Things

It’s helpful to know at least numbers one through 10 and a few things about the local currency to get you through a transaction in a small town. Writing numerals helps smooth over misunderstandings with higher numbers and exchange rates.

  • ¿Cuánto cuesta ___?: How much does ___ cost?
  • ¿Acepta tarjeta de crédito?: Do you accept credit cards?
  • Intercambio: Exchange; exchange rate
  • Precio: Price
  • Cero: Zero
  • Uno: One
  • Dos: Two
  • Tres: Three
  • Cuatro: Four
  • Cinco: Five
  • Seis: Six
  • Siete: Seven
  • Ocho: Eight
  • Nueve: Nine
  • Diez: Ten
  • Punto: Point (as in decimal point, for making change)

Sampling Local Cuisine

Perhaps the best reason to explore small towns and hidden gems is to sample truly authentic local cuisine. It’s a good idea to research popular dishes before you leave, but here are the most useful terms:

  • ¿Qué ingredientes hay en ___?: What ingredients are in ___?
  • Leche: Milk
  • Agua: Water
  • Vino: Wine
  • Cerveza: Beer
  • Pollo: Chicken
  • Bistec: Steak
  • Puerco: Pork
  • Ensalada: Salad
  • Maiz: Corn
  • Arroz: Rice
  • Frijoles: Beans
  • Verduras: Vegetables
  • Fruta: Fruit
  • Postre: Dessert

Start Practicing

Once you book your hotel in Buenos Aires or San Juan, it’s time to work on your pronunciation. Google Translate offers pronunciation examples for every phrase imaginable and can help you find country-specific words. An app like Duolingo is a fun way to start memorizing useful Spanish terms, and Word Lens can help you with advanced street sign and menu reading once you get to your destination.

Let Hipmunk help you get there so you can enjoy your Spanish adventure!

This post was published by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on July 17, 2015 and has been republished with permission.

Top photo: stefano60/Flickr

Weinenfrei: Pay What You Want in Berlin

Jurgen Strumpf never used to think of himself as an entrepreneur. He didn’t even regard himself as a businessman. He was a wine seller who liked to invite his friends over to his shop for wine tastings and some food. He couldn’t bear to charge them full price, so instead he asked them to pay what they could afford. Very quickly, this concept of Pay What You Want became a Berlin institution.

The Wine Bars

Jurgen Strumpf owns two Pay What You Want wine bars in the city: The Forum and Perlin. With paintings by the owner on the walls and the kind of furniture you would find in a 1950’s German living room scattered throughout, both create a homey feeling unlike any other bar in the city. The main difference between them is their clientele. Perlin is popular with the locals and has only 40 seats, so you have to book in advance. The Forum is far bigger, catering to the tourists that flood in from the nearby hotels in Berlin, especially the Mitte district. The Forum is a lot rowdier than Perlin.

The Concept

When you walk through the door from 8PM onward, you pay only two euros for a wine glass, which you can refill with as much red and white wine as your stomach and head can handle. The catch? At the end of your night you throw what you think you owe into a huge tip jar at the entrance.

The Menu

In keeping with their laid back attitudes, neither bar has a set menu. The menu is usually decided on that day and one thing that’s for certain is that any food served will be fresh and organic. The wines, all brought in from a nearby weinerei, or wine shop, include Spanish Tempranillo and Bavarian prosecco. There’s also a popular house wine from Strumpf’s hometown of Franken.

Weinenfrei, like so much of Berlin, does not discriminate. Whether you are staying in an expensive Berlin hotel such as Das Stue or a budget Berlin hotel like Mark Apart, at Strumpf’s bars anyone can afford a quality night out and a true cultural experience.

Top photo: uchansichan.com

4 Awesome Spots to Eat Sushi in Honolulu

sushi
whiterose_kana/Flickr

There is so much to do in Honolulu — the capital city of Hawaii, located on the island of Oahu. People come from all over to swim, sunbathe, surf, stay in Honolulu’s famous beach hotels — like the legendary Moana Surfrider — and learn more about Hawaiian history. There are countless places to eat great sushi in Honolulu, and we’ve rounded up some of the best.

1. Doraku

Located just around the corner from the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk on Kalakaua Ave., locals and visitors alike agree that Doraku may have the island’s best sushi. An outpost of a restaurant originally started in Southern Florida, Doraku serves upscale sushi in a Japanese gastropub environment. The restaurant has a selection of sushi rolls, but regulars of the restaurant say you must try the Nigiri and Sashimi — the fish here is just too fresh to pass up.

2. Tokoname Sushi Bar and Restaurant

Tokoname, located near the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is an excellent choice of sushi restaurant in Honolulu. Tokoname offers quality sushi in a quiet and cozy atmosphere — all at an affordable price. If you want to learn more about different neighborhoods in Honolulu and escape to a place that feels truly local, there’s no better sushi spot than Tokoname. The restaurant offers a full bar that stays open late for students in the area, so make sure you try one of their signature cocktails.

3. Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar

Sansei is a restaurant dedicated completely to seafood. The sushi they serve is touted to be some of the best in all of Hawaii, and there are additional locations on Maui and the Big Island. They tout their special rolls like the Kapalua Butterfly Roll, made up of salmon, crab, fresh shiromi, and veggies in a crisp deep-fried panko crust, and the crab salad handroll. Come to Sansei, right around the corner from Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach, for a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere.

4. Hakone

Located at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki is Hakone, a sushi restaurant that is known for its food and its views. The restaurant serves up an extensive menu of high-quality sushi in an elegant atmosphere. What makes the dining experience at Hakone so unique, however, is the idyllic view of the Ala Wai Harbor that patrons can enjoy as they dine.

Given its proximity to the ocean, it’s no surprise that Honolulu’s sushi is a culinary draw for visitors to the town. The fish served at the best sushi restaurants in town is so fresh, it is often pulled out of the water the same day it is served!

4 Reasons You Should Experience the Arts Scene in Singapore

Singapore
leonid_yaitsky/Flickr

In January of 2015, Singapore celebrated 50 years of its independence. This time frame renders the country ripe for momentum in its arts scene — still young enough in its independence to exude that fresh, liberated energy through arts and culture, yet mature and modern enough to have something to say. From galleries and museums to festivals and art hotels, here are some of the key reasons you should take the time to experience Singapore’s evolving arts scene.

1. Incredible National Museums

Singapore has five national museums for the art lover to tour and appreciate. They include the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), the 8Q SAM extension for multi-disciplinary, community-oriented art, the Peranakan Museum, the National Museum of Singapore, and the Asian Civilizations Museum. Each of these five major museums brings a different flavor to Singapore’s arts scene, showcasing unique facets of the country from both historical and cultural perspectives.

2. Minor Museums and Galleries

In addition to these five main national museums, there are at least 15 other smaller museums, plus dozens of compelling public and private art galleries located in Singapore. Exhibitions range from visual art and sculpture to performance art that will rock your senses.

3. The Singapore Arts Festival

This annual festival lasts for a month in late summer each year and showcases just about every type of art form you can imagine. Visual art, music, dance, theater, and more are available to see and enjoy at the festival. While many local Singaporean artists participate, a large percentage of the artists are from other countries, making the festival and truly eclectic, international experience.

4. Artistic Hotels

Of course, you’ll need a place to stay as you drink in the Singaporean arts scene. Fortunately, there are some very creative and inspiring Singapore hotels to choose from. The Patina Capitol Singapore in the Colonial District just opened in 2015, and it is one of the best hotels in Singapore. For Singapore glitz and opulence, stay at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa. If you’re looking for cheap hotels in Singapore that still have plenty of flair, the Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium might just be the perfect choice.

The Singaporean arts scene is a truly enriching cultural experience that you should definitely experience. Consider these four reasons to immerse yourself!

Spend Less Time Standing in Line with These 4 Airport Security Tips

airport
kalleboo/Flickr

It’s a familiar scene: Two lovers cling to each other in a tearful embrace, exchange one last hand-squeeze before one of them picks up a bag and walks… two feet to the airport security line. They then proceed to stand idly for the next 20 minutes while their partner awkwardly looks on and frets about getting home before rush hour.

It’s time to rewrite the script. Skip the drawn-out goodbyes and breeze through security with these four time-saving strategies:

1. Become a Trusted Traveler

Programs like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, Nexus, and Sentri allow so-called “low-risk” travelers to move through participating airports more efficiently. As part of the pre-screening process, you’ll cough up personal information (and a fee) in advance of flying. Fees range from $55-$122.25 for a five-year membership; if you book flights often, the time savings may be well worth it. Learn more here.

2. Get the App

The TSA has created a helpful (and free!) app that features security wait times, a guide to TSA rules, airport status updates, and instant answers to the question: “Can I bring _____?” It’s available on iPhone and Android. Download it here.

3. Pack and Prep Correctly

Practice the 3-1-1 rule for carry-on liquids. Gels, creams, liquids, etc. must be in 3.4-ounce or less containers; stored in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic bag; and limited to 1 bag per passenger. Keep the bag near the top of your carry-on so you can easily place it in a screening bin.

  • Leave prohibited items and foods at home (or in your checked luggage) to avoid being detained by security.
  • Pack large electronics (e.g. laptops and video game consoles) near the top of your bag; you’ll need to remove these for separate X-ray screening (unless you have a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag).
  • Dress right. Wear easy-to-remove shoes (when it comes to airport security, velcro is so in). Avoid wearing a belt, heavy coat, or lots of jewelry, since you’ll need to remove these items for screening.
  • When approaching security, have proper identification and your boarding pass in-hand.

4. Pick the Right Line

Before entering security, take a moment to observe which line is moving fastest, then join in. It’s smart to avoid queuing up behind large families, as it’ll take them a while to move the whole clan through security. Instead, get in line behind people who aren’t carrying much luggage and/or have already removed their shoes and coats; this signals they’re ready to cruise on through.

This post was published by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on June 5, 2015 and has been republished with permission.

Summer Travel Planning: Go to Slovenia. Done.

When flight searches to Slovenia increased by 306% in 2015, we decided to investigate. Nestled between Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, Slovenia is a crossroads of European cultures and offers the opportunity to explore all four of them from the comforts of a single hotel. You can experience the tastes and traditions of four countries at once with a little bit of travel planning. We took the liberty of getting you started.

Go to a Vineyard

Slovenia
emwilska/Flickr

Spanning Northeastern Italy and Western Slovenia, vineyards in the Gorizia Hills are producing world class wines. Those vineyards on the Slovene Brda side are harvesting distinctive reds and whites without the Italian prices or crowds. Now, all you have to do is learn the word for wine in Slovenian (easy, it’s “vino”).

Spelunk through a UNESCO Cave

Postojna Cave Park
michaelrperry/Flickr

Postojna is the most famous and second longest cave in Slovenia, attracting thousands of visitors a year with its underground train system. But ŠKOCJAN boasts the title of a UNESCO world heritage site. It has the highest cave hall in all of Europe, gorges, waterfalls, and footbridges. The next question is, do you know the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite?

Be Royal at a Slovene Castle

Predjama Castle
klmircea/Flickr

Most castles in Slovenia are built on a hilltop, making them worth a visit for the views alone. However, built into the side of a cliff in a cave’s opening, Predjama Castle in Postojna is by far the most novel. Legend has it that the knight and renown robber baron, Erazem Lueger, fended off Habsburg soldiers by pelting them with cherries for a year, gaining supplies from a secret chamber that lead in and out of the castle.

So there you have it, a Slovenian getaway in the making. If you are feeling inspired by Slovenia, we already started the planning process for you (you’re welcome).

This post was published by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on April 22, 2015 and has been republished with permission.