Friday, August 31, 2012

BackBid and LuxuryLink Can Save You Money on Hotel Rooms

 From AARP magazine:

How about letting hotel chains compete for your business? At, once you make a reservation, other hotels offer competing bids, often throwing in extras like free breakfast. Just pick the deal you like best. At, you place bids on discounted rooms. Minimum bids are up to 65 percent off normal rates. A recent stay for 5 nights at an all-inclusive beach front stay on the island of St. Lucia, sold for half off the retail price.

Monday, August 20, 2012

They are charging for WHAT???

Did you know ...

that if you buy your airline ticket with a phone call to a real human being you'll be charged for it? American charges $25 per ticket and get this ... if you buy it at the counter you'll pay $35 per ticket! You can avoid all charges by buying online.

Spirit Airlines charges for carry on luggage. If you pay the fee at time you book, the charge is $30. If you wait until you do your online check in, the fee goes up to $35 and, at the airport, you could pay $40-$45 per bag. Carefully compare Spirit's supposedly very low prices with baggage fee added to the fare on another airline before booking your ticket on Spirit.

most airlines are charging for the first checked bag on a domestic flight. Fees vary. For now, the first checked bag on an international flight is still checked free. Avoid most baggage fees by 1) using only carry on luggage or 2) getting an airline affinity card. One of the newest perks on cards from American and United is no baggage fee for the first bag on a domestic flight and two checked bags for free on an international flight.

airlines are charging for the best economy seats such as bulkhead seats. Many airlines even configure their planes with economy seats that have a few extra inches of leg room ... which they charge a fee for, of course. While I suspect most passengers would just hope the plane is full and they get one of these seats by default, there are times paying extra might be worth it .... such as that international long haul. If you have a 10 hour flight, and the extra fee is $100, that's $10 per hour for a more comfortable seat. If the math makes sense to you, don't hesitate to pay the fee.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Casa Loma, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We were in Toronto over the weekend. We've been there several times before but this is the first time we visited Casa Loma and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

We spent over three hours there, wandering around the rooms and the gardens. There is parking on site at $3 per hour with a maximum of $9. When paying the entrance fee I asked about a AAA discount and got an additional 10% off. Nice.

We have visited historical estates in the past but this one was really nice. What I know enhanced our visit were the free audio guides you can pick up in the gift shop. Areas of the estate are numbered and you key the number into the guide to hear about the area you are in. The guide can be paused and it shows images. In many cases there is the option of keying in another number to hear more details about the room or history of the area, or culture of the time.

We ate lunch in the cafe which had very nice offerings plus specials of the day. We thought the prices were very reasonable. However we were very disappointed in the gift shop -- everything was Casa Loma themed except for the food (maple-flavored items). We had, for instance, hoped to have found some neat jewelry.

That said, if you are interested in restored estates, Casa Loma comes highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cruise Port Capacity

If you are doing a land tour and will be visiting a popular cruise stop, you may adjust your itinerary so that you are not visiting that city/town when there are several cruise ships in port.

The site Cruise TT can provide some information. Scroll down to the country, click on the city, and then click on the month and year to find out what ships are scheduled to dock.

Dubrovnik's Port Authority now lists the schedule on its web site. The link is here. Next choose the month (1 through 12) and then click on "Prikaz Izvjesca." Because of its small size and stone walls, Dubrovnik can easily be overwhelmed when several ships are in port.

Several other ports that are easily overwhelmed by cruise passengers are Venice, Italy, Rhodes, Greece and Barcelona, Spain.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Be Careful About Incurring Mini Bar Fees

Paying for snacks from the mini bar is never in my travel budget. It's kind of like the bedspread in the room ... it might be there but there is absolutely no way I'm going to make any use of it. However, it you are tempted to peek around in the little fridge, be careful. Some mini bars have sensors and by just moving things around or lifting something and putting it back could trigger a charge to your bill.

Want to avoid any problems by having your mini fridge emptied before you arrived? Ask, first, if you'll be charged a restocking fee to have them put the stuff back.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Did you know ....

that Costa Rica has no standing army? Because of that, it has been able to avoid military interference in its political affairs, unlike some of its neighboring countries.

that income from tourism is almost 70% of Costa Rica's gross domestic product. It's therefore no surprise it is a great country to visit -- they work very hard keeping tourists happy.

that many tourists come to see the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal which is actually the national bird of Guatamala ... while the national bird of Costa Rica is the dreary looking clay-colored thrush.

Join us as we head to Costa Rica in April 2013 and learn more interesting facts about this wonderful country.

Early booking deadline is August 24th with special gifts going out to whoever deposits $250 by that date.

Email me at for a copy of the trip flyer.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jewish Guide to London

There is a new guidebook from Interlink Books called "Jewish London: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Visitors and Londoners." It provides information on Jewish-heritage sites and has directions and maps for several walking tours.

" The book is a must for anyone interested in exploring Jewish life in London past and present." --June Sawyers Chicago Tribune

The book can be purchased through Amazon.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

So Excited About Costa Rica

So excited to get the previous post out I obviously didn't take the time to proofread it. Fixed the post now.

And unlike my quick post, LOTS of time was spent on planning this Costa Rica trip.

Why a custom trip? Easy. The trips I found either moved at WAY to fast a pace or were ridiculously expensive for such an affordable country. I have been to Costa Rica before on one of those fast paced trips. My traveling companion handled it just well but I huffed and puffed behind the group.

I don't want to do that type of traveling anymore, yet want Jerry (with his love of photographing wildlife - he would LOVE to get his own shots of a Resplendent Quetzal) to enjoy this wonderful country. That means a slower pace. Yet, for those that like things more active, there will be lots of opportunities to purchase additional activities.

Come join us ... email me at for details.

Costa Rica Flyer Ready

The flyer for our custom Costa Rica group trip is ready. It is geared to seeing lots of wildlife while traveling at a slower pace.

Email me at for the details.

Early booking gift if you deposit $250 by August 24!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vacation Rentals

If you are considering a vacation rental overseas, check out airbnb. Mentioned in several well known publications such as Newsweek, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, airbnb is a great resource for finding that perfect vacation rental location.

Based upon what I've read, the website is easy to use and is loaded with useful information.All of the properties are vetted so the descriptions are trustworthy. In fact, you will find that some apartments have unflattering comments.

What adds to the comfort level of using airbnb is that while airbnb is paid when you book, the owner doesn't get their money until after you arrive.