May 25, 2010 at 12:20 pm , by Amanda Wolfe
If you’ve ever tried to travel with your cat or dog, you know that it can be tricky to find hotels along your route (or at your destination) that accept your furry travel buddies. Whether it’s a vacation or a road trip to visit family, it’s important to do a little research before you leave to make sure your pet is welcome. First step: watch our adorable pet-friendly hotel review video with Sophie, assistant food editor Khalil Hymore’s super-cute pup. Ok it’s not really a necessary step, but it is a cute video so you should watch! Then use these tips to plan your trip.
* Most national chains have pet-friendly programs. We visited the Muse (part of the Kimpton group of hotels) and the Hilton New York. Both of these companies have pet-friendly hotels across the country. The key is to call the hotel at your specific destination to make sure they’ve opted in to the pet-friendly program (some don’t).
* Ask if there’s a fee for Fido to stay. Some hotels charge a flat rate and some fees are nightly. Prices vary, so definitely check before you book because you could save a bundle (or get stuck with some hefty “hidden costs”).
* Ask about what kind of amenities are provided for your pet. Some hotels hand out pet beds, bowls, treats and even super-cute toys. Some just accept pets but don’t provide any extras. The extras can, of course, be fun and convenient—but if you’re charged more for them they’re not always worth it.
* Find out what the policies and rules are. Lots of hotels with restaurants or bars attached don’t allow pets in those areas, and some hotels prefer that you keep pets in their carriers or on their leashes when you’re in public areas.
* Search online. There are several sites that help you pinpoint the right hotel for you and your pet. Petswelcome.com has a great database with amenity and fee info, plus websites and phone numbers. Pet-Friendly-Hotels.net also has a good search.
* Last but not least, if you can’t find a traditional hotel at your destination, check out B&Bs and vacation home rentals. Policies are set by the individual owners but we’ve found that “mom and pop” places often welcome pets.
May 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm , by Amanda Wolfe
Editor’s Note: Our tech guru Sara Haines of NBC’s Today show is back to share her favorite sites for researching and booking travel. Whether you’re going on a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, these sites make it easier (and cheaper) to plan a great trip.
Too busy to scour the internet for deals? Kayak.com and Sidestep.com are great one-stop shops. These sites search hundreds of airlines and travel sites (such as Orbitz, Travelocity, and many others) to ensure you get the best prices. You can also check for hotels, car rentals and more. No need to book your trip from lots of different sites, because you can find it all here.
If you’re going on a longer trip or really want to do your homework while you’re planning, Lonelyplanet.com and Frommers.com are good options. Although these sites may not always offer the best deals, these are great places to go when you want to read up on a destination and learn how to get around, where to stay, what to eat, and what attractions you can’t miss. They also offer user reviews, so you can get the inside scoop from people who have been there and done that.
Want to go a little farther off the beaten path? Iexplore.com is geared toward adventure travel. Just plug in a region, country, activities you’re looking to do, the length of your trip, and a budget and then it generates trip ideas. It may not be the answer for someone who just wants the beach and a book, but if you are up for an adventure, hit the “find trips” button and let the fun begin.
February 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm , by Sue Erneta
My husband calls me a master packer. I think he means that I have a knack for stuffing more into a suitcase than is humanly possible. But I like to think that after many years of traveling for business and pleasure, I’ve gotten it down to a science. I just got back from a beach vacation and I was very pleased with my packing results. Here are my tips:
1. Wear chunky stuff on the plane. Those sneakers for the gym or the cardigan that you might need in an air conditioned restaurant should not be taking up space in your suitcase.
2. Carry on the essentials. I like to check luggage but I always make sure that I have a pair of sandals, a bathing suit, and a dress that can double as a cover-up and out-to-dinner-wear in my carry-on. And that brings us to…
3. Dresses. Period. Other than gym clothes and some pjs, I packed all dresses. They work day and night. Who needs dorky shorts when you can throw a cute jersey dress over your bathing suit?
4. Don’t forget about accessories. I always throw in a few fun belts and some jewelry so I can feel pretty out at night. That jersey dress you wore to the beach looks great for dinner with earrings, a metallic belt, and heels. Which brings us to…
5. Don’t pack too many shoes. They’re heavy and they take up a lot of space. I opted for Havaianas for day and one pair of taupe high heel sandals for evening. Keep with one basic color so they’ll go with everything.
December 10, 2009 at 11:44 am , by Sue Erneta
I love vacationing with my parents. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. And here’s why:
1. My kids get to spend a big chunk of time with their grandparents. Rather than a quick overnight or a weekend visit, it gives them a week to really get to know each other and have some great bonding experiences. My mom just took Sophia to see the Nutcracker—and I got the day off! Which brings me to my next point…
2. You actually get a break to spend time with your spouse. My husband and I always have one date night when we’re on vacation with my folks: Last year it was a beachside dinner on the 10-year anniversary of the day we met (everybody now…AWWWW!). It’s so nice knowing that the kids are well cared for and bonus—we don’t have to pay the babysitter. Which brings me to my next point…
3. It saves money. This one’s a biggie. I’m lucky enough to have parents with a house in Florida so we can take a day trip to Disney World without getting a hotel. And since they own the house, you don’t get a big hotel bill at the end of your stay. We also get free hotel transfers, free room and board, and free babysitting services. What could be wrong with that?
So, tell me…do you vacation with all three generations? Where have you been? Where are you going to next?
October 23, 2009 at 11:59 am , by Jennifer Castoro
I am from New Jersey. (No, I do not have teased hair, a mob connection or a cousin named Vinny.) As a native Jerseyan, I’m much more city chick than country girl. And the only contact I’ve ever had with a horse was during birthday parties circa grammar school, when all the girly girls would have pony rides in their backyards. So I was super excited to be able to visit Tanque Verde Ranch, in Tucson, Arizona, this past weekend to experience a taste of life as a cowgirl.
As I hopped up on my horse, Katmandu (that’s him in the picture), my first thought was, good Lord, I’m high off the ground! That quickly gave way to oh crap, he’s moving, followed by please don’t turn your giant head and bite me. But I was pleasantly surprised; not only was he (and the other two horses I rode during the weekend) calm and docile, but I quickly got used to the feeling of maneuvering him along the trails at the ranch and getting him to slow down with a little woah and a gentle tug on the reins. He did stop about every 10 feet to scoop some unsuspecting foliage off the ground and chomp on it, but otherwise he was perfectly agreeable.
I also got the chance to do some hiking in the Saguaro National Park (a snapshot is to the left), a breathtaking expanse of giant saguaro cacti, little prickly pear bushes, sweeping mountain views and lots of plants with needles on them. And at night, my fellow travelers and I sat around a roaring campfire, listening to classic western tunes and chomping juicy mesquite barbecue. Delish!
I’m normally a beach-vacation kind of girl, with a little European traveling thrown in for good measure, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the wild west experience. Perhaps I’m a little bit county…
What’s your favorite place to vacation? Have you ever traveled anywhere totally out of your comfort zone?