Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Cherry Blossom fests will focus on helping Japanese earthquake victims

By Keith Still

The tragedy of the massive earthquake, ensuing tsunami and volatile nuclear situation that continues to unfold across the Pacific in Japan has wrenched the hearts of sympathetic Americans. It is difficult to imagine the devastation and loss already, let alone begin to conceive a return to normal – especially as a nuclear threat still looms.

With that said, Delta Air Lines resumed its normal flight schedule to Tokyo on Monday after canceling flights over the weekend. Even as threats of radiation leaks grew higher yesterday, Delta and American Airlines said normal operations would continue.

Other than those involved with relief efforts, I wonder how many will be traveling as normal to Tokyo or the rest of Japan. The U.S. government has issued a travel alert, urging Americans to avoid travel to Japan over the next month. On Monday, however, Delta said it continues to see strong bookings.

For those who heed the government’s travel warnings, but who want to show …

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Will spike in oil prices change your travel plans?

By Keith Still

Every time the price of oil spikes, it seems, stories start popping up about how gas prices may scare travelers into staying home. Or how this travel season’s hottest trend will be the “staycation.” There’s good reason for the predictability of those news reports, though, because high fuel prices do affect travelers’ plans in a pretty predictable way.

The most dramatic way, perhaps, is that skyrocketing costs at the pumps can be the deciding factor for some travelers, actually keeping them home altogether. Those who do venture out of town may change their plans – opt for a shorter trip; stay in a cheaper hotel; eat out less/choose less pricey restaurants while on vacation; or spend fewer dollars on souvenirs and entertainment. People talk about oil being a limited natural resource, but for many of us, cold, hard cash is our most scarce commodity.

The bad thing about high fuel costs is that they’re difficult to escape. Don’t want to spend hundreds …

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Does the low number of American passports shock you?

By Keith Still

In the coming weeks and months, two members of my family will be taking major “first” trips. As we have been preparing our daughter for her first trip to Europe and my husband for his first trip to Asia, I ran across this CNN story that surprised me. At least, it surprised me at first. The report states that only 30 percent of American citizens hold passports.

If that seems to you like a pretty low number, you’re not alone. In the story, the U.S. Travel Association’s Bruce Bommarito said 30 percent is too low for such an affluent country as the United States. As I read, I nodded along. Why don’t more Americans have passports? I mean, really, my young daughter has one.

Then, I remembered. My own passport has expired, and while I have said several times over the past year that I need to renew it…I haven’t yet.

The reason? I haven’t needed it. I haven’t planned a trip abroad since my passport expired – mainly because every time I think about …

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Are all-inclusive vacations the way to go?

By Keith Still

All-inclusive resorts and vacation packages have been around for a while, but they seem to have become really popular during the economic downturn for obvious reasons. Your room, food, often your entertainment and just about everything else to do with your vacation is included in the cost upfront.

On top of that, already-stressed Atlantans find much of the stress related to planning activities, setting up transportation and other normal holiday hassles melts away at all-inclusive resorts set up to make your one-stop shop vacation run as smoothly as possible. That is the point of a vacation, right – to take a break and get away from the everyday things that can wear you down?

Years ago, we took a romantic, anniversary vacation to a small, all-inclusive destination, and I remember thinking several times how nice it was that we didn’t have to worry about grabbing our wallets before we walked out the door. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were fabulous. We dressed up …

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Spring Break three different ways

By Keith Still

Spring Break. From the earliest days of kindergarten, we are conditioned to anticipate the annual spring holiday. We look forward to it. We count down the bleak mid-winter days until that breath of fresh Spring Break air arrives. It’s our reward for all of those mornings standing out at the bus stop in the cold and the dark.

Then we go off to college, and Spring Break takes on a whole new meaning. It’s no longer a few days off with the chance for a small vacation. It’s a weeklong party designed to blow off the collective steam of thousands of collegians at once. It’s an American bacchanalia, held wherever they will let us get away with this kind of behavior – but preferably with a warm beach nearby.

Obviously, not every college student rushes off to MTV-style Spring Break locations, but you would be hard-pressed to find a single student who isn’t looking forward to a few days away from the books – especially right now, in mid-February.

Given those …

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Will massive winter storm send you south or keep you home?

By Keith Still

Well it’s Groundhog Day, again. And for Americans this year, that must mean there’s another winter storm throwing a monkey wrench in their travel plans from Dallas to Dover. At this rate, we might feel lucky if there are only six more weeks of winter weather to endure.

Yesterday, a “life-threatening” storm grounded one-fifth of all scheduled U.S. flights as blizzard conditions, snow and ice storms began covering much of the country, affecting 30 states and ultimately as many as 100 million people. Tornadoes, freezing rain, snowfall measured in feet, not inches…these are all problems gumming up the works for weather-weary travelers at a time when we just want to see some sun, swoosh down the slopes or head out of town for the Super Bowl.

But with more than 7,000 flights cancelled since yesterday, Mother Nature, it seems, would have us suffer more of the same travel hassles we have endured throughout this unusually stormy winter. In Dallas, where …

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Has traveling together ever ruined your relationship?

By Keith Still

Last week, we looked into great places around the southeast to spend Valentine’s Day with your special someone. Traveling together can really help couples re-connect and fall in love all over again. OR, it can tear some couples apart.

As I was scanning the news yesterday, this article, entitled “5 travel relationship killers: have any ruined your vacation?” flashed up. I have had vacations ruined by various factors over the years, but my relationship with my travel companion was never one of them. It helps, I’m sure, that my travel companion has been the same person for the past 16 years. If you can live with someone for that long, surely you can survive any kind of situation a vacation throws at you.

If I reach back into fog that is my distant memory – the one before my husband came into the picture – however, I can see how traveling with the wrong person could make a dream vacation a nightmare.

The article lists five major problems couples can face …

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Red-hot southern destinations for a Valentine’s vacation

Most people hope the smooch they get on Valentine’s Day isn’t like kissing a cold fish, but Discovery Cove in Orlando is courting guests to come on down for just that very thing. That is, the resort is hoping to entice couples with its Valentine’s Day packages that include, among the beloved chocolates, champagne and other special touches, a kiss from one of the park’s dolphins. (I know, dolphins are really mammals.)

Everywhere you turn right now, southeastern hotels, resorts and tourist attractions are looking to seduce travelers with come hither holiday deals. For Atlantans, the only problem might be narrowing down the list of places for that perfect Valentine’s cuddle.

  • Discovery Cove’s V-Day packages begin at $129 and run as high as $449 — not including the theme park admission. The February Dolphin Swim Day admission price begins at $199, but it does offer access to the luxury, limited-access park, a reserved 30-minute session with the dolphins, snorkeling …

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Snowed in? Tell us your dream travel destination

Nothing gets my wanderlust going like being iced in for a few days. If you’re like me, the most traveling you have done since Sunday is from the front porch to the end of the drive – maybe down the street to retrieve your children or your pets who have been out playing in the snow and ice.

The great thing about being trapped indoors is that I have had plenty of time to dream of getting the heck out of my house. Fortunately, I didn’t lose electricity or Internet during Snow/Sleet/Freezing Rain-Jam 2011, so a world of travel opportunities has been at my idle fingertips.

In my virtual travels this week, I came across a Forbes magazine article that highlights the world’s most unique travel destinations. Those that offer landscapes, attractions or other experiences you can truly find nowhere else in the world.

Since all I could do was dream anyway, I clicked away on “dream” location after “dream” location and trekked via computer to unique places like Bhutan, the …

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Disney’s newest dream come true cruise

When you wish upon a star…your dream come true might just be Disney’s newest and largest cruise ship, aptly named the Disney Dream. Parents that like to cruise with the kiddies can set sail to Caribbean hot spots and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, when the Dream departs central Florida on its maiden voyage Jan. 26.

Disney is not new to the cruise industry, having embarked on the high seas in the 1990s with the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder ships. Chances are, if you’re a cruiser with children, you may have already done the Disney thing – complete with signature characters on board and an agenda packed with family-friendly activities– at least once.

So, other than being new, what’s worth checking out on the Dream? To start, the Dream is 50 percent larger than its predecessors and can carry 4,000 passengers – not the largest ship out on the seas, but a sizable ship nonetheless.

The coolest feature to me, however, is the AquaDuck, a unique shipboard water …

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