Get more bang for your Euro

Not often touted as a budget destination, there are a surprising number of cities in Europe that cost far less than you think to visit. To stretch your travel euros further, skip the traditional jaunts to Paris, Rome and London and visit one of these just as charming, slightly unchartered and equally breathtaking cities instead.

6851856425_27e93634b4_bLeón, Spain – A far cry from the prices of more popular Madrid or Barcelona, León has some of the least expensive food in the entire country. After visiting the city’s famed cathedral, stop for a drink and enjoy tapas and a glass of Rijoa wine for as little as one euro. Experience the culture of the city with a self-guided tour to the picturesque old quarter, known as the Barrio Humedo, or through the Palace of the Guzmanes, a 16th-century palace now home to the City Council.

Krakow, Poland – If you’re into drinking and nightlife, Krakow is your place – featuring more pubs per square kilometer than any other city in the world. For perspective, you can sip on Belvedere vodka in one of the city’s trendiest nightclubs for less than four euros. Beyond drinks, there’s plenty of free sights and architecture to see in the Medieval Old Town, like the Royal Castle of Wawel, and in the Jewish quarter of Kazimerz, home to some 150 synagogues and churches and over two million works of art.

Budapest, Hungary parliament at night

Budapest, Hungary parliament at night

Budapest, Hungary – Built on a natural thermal spring, Budapest has long been a place people flocked to for spa treatments and soothing mud baths. Despite many luxury spas, there are quite a few that have bath tickets with cabins or lockers for as little as 17 euros, like the famous Szechenyi Baths or 16th-century Csazar Baths. Beyond mud spas, you can take an affordable bus tour through the hilly, historic Buda side of town and a self-guided walking tour through the modern Pest side to see the fascinating contrasts between old and new.

Prague, Czech Republic – Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the prices in Prague have remained reasonable, with four-star hotels costing around $100 USD per night. Plus, the city boasts a vast array of free activities, including a visit to the gothic St. Vitus Cathedral built in 1344, a Jewish Quarter with a fascinating history, the Vysehrad 10th-century castle, Moser Glass Factory and more. For locals, their favorite low-cost activity is packing a picnic and gazing over the city from Perin Hill.

 

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Most Luxurious Airport Lounges in the USA

virgin-atlantic-jfk-new-york-clubhouse-05-905x500

After a long day of traveling, there’s nothing more relaxing than checking into a peaceful airport lounge where the internet is high-speed, the food is delicious (and plenty) and showers and other amenities are free. These sacred spots were once only accessible for the elite traveler with first class or business class tickets, however, the times are a-changing. Now, many American airlines offer day passes for any traveler looking to escape the crowded concourse.

Virgin America Loft (LAX)
Virgin is known for their excellent customer service. It’s no surprise then that their lounge is also top notch. Here you’ll enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages from their contemporary bar. The modern, trendy feel will make you forget you’re in an airport at all. No children under 12 are permitted. If you’re in the mood to get some work done, there are plenty of outlets and free internet access. A day pass to this hideaway costs $40.

AA Admirals Club (LAX)
This spacious lounge, operated by American Airlines, is touted for its good food and great customer service. Enjoy gazing at the planes or get some work done while you’re waiting in between flights, you can even take a refreshing shower. Children are permitted in here, but have their own separate play area. Day passes to this lounge cost $50.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (JFK)
This 10,000 square foot space is modern and comfortable. It offers spa services to guests including massages, facials, or even haircuts. Instead of the typical complimentary buffet, this lounge offers table service and a fantastic selection of cocktails. When you’ve had your fill, enjoy a quick game of pool before catching your flight. Day passes to this oasis cost $75.

Centurion Lounge (DFW)
Get complimentary 15-minute spa treatments at this spacious southwestern themed lounge. Enjoy a buffet of southwestern food options for breakfast or lunch/dinner. There also have comfortable seating, workstations, and chaise lounges perfect for napping, working, or reading for any traveler. Day passes to this lounge run $50.

While all airports have lounges, many still cater to the first class fliers, or club members. Annual memberships can be purchased, but first check to see if any of your credit cards carry travel perks for members. Some will get you access to these clubs and others without having to pay a fee at all. Keep airport lounges in mind for your next long layover or cancelled flight.

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5 Tropical Escapes That Don’t Require a U.S Passport

Manua islands, American Samoa photo: Michael Anderson Gallery

Manua islands, American Samoa                                        photo: Michael Anderson Gallery

Need an exotic getaway but don’t have a passport? No worries! According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, these five destinations allow U.S citizens to travel without a passport.

Puerto Rico
The island of Puerto Rico (officially an unincorporated territory of the United States) has been a long time favorite for U.S travelers. Relatively inexpensive airfare makes Puerto Rico a great economical option, particularly for East Coasters. It was awarded TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2013 winner for best island in the Caribbean. With miles of unspoiled beaches, perfect kayaking and endless sunshine, what’s not to love?

United States Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands are only a quick plan ride away from Puerto Rico. Made up of three main islands—St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John—plus a scattering of smaller isles, this popular destination welcomes more than 2.6 million visitors each year. Each island has its own unique appeal. St. John, with its national parks and incredible scuba diving, will charm even the most adventurous of travelers. St. Thomas is a shopper’s paradise, with charming boutiques, jewelry stores and bustling cruise terminals that offer all sorts of diverse souvenirs. And St. Croix is a favorite of luxury-seeking honeymooners and spa seekers. There really is something for everyone here!

Note: Travelers will need to have a passport to visit the neighboring British Virgin Islands.

Northern Mariana Islands
These Micronesian islands have been governed by the United States since the Battle of Saipan in 1944. They rely heavily on tourism from their northern neighbors Japan and Korea, as well as the United States. History buffs will find much to see in Saipan, the largest island of the Marianas, which is home to several war memorials and museums. Nature enthusiasts can dive with sea turtles and reef sharks in the Grotto, a limestone cave with 70-foot-deep waters. Although the Mariana Islands are relatively undeveloped, several major hotels, including Hyatt, run four and five-star properties on Saipan. This one is a real off-the-beaten-path adventure!

Guam
If you haven’t been to Guam it’s time! Tumon’s beaches are known for its legendary snorkeling, and the crystal-clear seas are famous among divers for visibilities up to 150 feet. Two Lovers Point, a cliff-side lookout offers some pristine panoramas from 400 feet above the Philippine Sea . And while flights to Guam don’t come cheap, accommodations can; resorts in Tumon and Tamuning average around $200 per night.

American Samoa
A collection of five volcanic islands and two atolls between Fiji and the Cook Islands. With only a handful of hotels on Tutuila and the neighboring islands, there are very few commercial distractions to remind you of home. In American Samoa you’ll find coral-filled waters, lava sculpted  coastlines and untouched beaches whose only other sunbathers are the sea crabs and ocean birds.

Plan ahead and escape the winter blues with a trip to one of these tropical havens! Call us for more information! Our travel specialists are here to answer all of your questions, create an unforgettable itinerary and find you the best deal for your dollar!

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Maryland’s Pet-Friendly Atmosphere Entices Travelers

Are you dreaming of taking that special vacation but don’t want to leave your special 4-legged friends behind? The Maryland Office of Tourism asks: Why not bring your pet along and experience everything the state has to offer travelers with furry friends?

Seventy-eight percent of pet owners say they plan to take their pet with them on vacation and the state of Maryland and many of its parks, hotels, restaurants, and beaches have taken notice.

Just as the national trend in pet travel grows, Maryland’s list of pet friendly destinations is increasing, too, with several more attractions, dog parks, and hotels/B&Bs opening their doors to pets in 2013. For travelers hoping to spend their vacation with their pets and for residents who want to bring their pets along on their travels, Maryland offers more than two hundred forty hotels, one hundred restaurants, and forty dog parks that are all pet-friendly.

“As more and more Maryland visitors and residents seek out pet-friendly events and locales, we’re proud to see so many local businesses and towns that have truly embraced the animal-centric trend and now offer a variety of travel options, making us a year-round destination for pet owners,” says Margot Amelia, executive director, Maryland Office of Tourism. “With National Dog Day celebrated on August 26, there’s no better time to take advantage of Maryland state parks, hiking trails, and attractions for pets and their people.”

Here is a sampling of other pet-friendly locales and activities where you can sleep, eat, and play with your pets while traveling in Maryland’s five regions.

Western Maryland

Play: The Hagerstown Dog Park just opened at Fairgrounds Park, at the corner of Jefferson Street and Cleveland Ave in Hagerstown.

Stay: The Antietam Guest House offers nonsmoking, quiet, comfortable, and private lodging, with off-street parking, for up to eight guests. The house is within a few miles of the Potomac River and the Antietam Creek for boating and fishing, and allows dogs for $10 per dog, per day.

Capital Maryland

Play: Don’t miss the Downtown Frederick Dog Park at Bentz and Carroll Parkway or the Baker Park Dog Park at 121 N. Bentz Street. The Ballenger Creek Dog Park features four acres, small and all dog areas, trails, benches, and water. TheBowie Dog Park in Bowie offers one acre and two fenced areas, one for small dogs and another for large dogs.

Stay: The waterfront views of the nation’s capital are even better when enjoyed with a tail-wagging friend. The Aloft Washington National Harbor offers a dog bed and bowl, and “woof-alicious” treats!

Eat: Looking to dine out with your pet? There are a number of pet-friendly eateries, including Frederick Coffee Company and CaféBen & Jerry’sClassic Cigars & British GoodiesBrewer’s Alley RestaurantCafé NolaGriff’s Landing, and La Paz Mexican Restaurant.

Central Maryland

Stay: The Loews Annapolis Hotel offers a pet placemat and water bowl filled with Fiji water, along with a full room service pet menu.

Play: Bring your pup to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis for a day of walking, jogging, or biking along six miles of paved trails and two fenced areas for off-leash play. The dog beach at Downs Park lets pets play in the water and swim, perfect for the hot days of summer.

Eat: Some Annapolis restaurants allow your pet to hang out right next to their owners, offering water bowls and treats too. These include the Federal  House Bar and GrilleHarry Browne’sMcGarvey’s Saloon and Oyster BarRams Head Tavernand Stan & Joe’s Saloon.

Southern Maryland

Stay: With water views and acres of lawns and gardens to explore, Woodlawn Bed and Breakfast makes for a pleasant excursion. The owners of the B&B provide tasty treats for people and pet, with wine tastings for the human and dog treats for the pet.

Play: Rumored to be one of the most haunted places in America, you might feel better bringing the family pet along toPoint Lookout State Park. Pets are allowed along the beach on the Bay.

Eastern Maryland

Stay: The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina on Maryland’s scenic Eastern Shore allows dogs up to seventy pounds to join guests during their stay. The luxury four-diamond resort offers nine pet-friendly rooms, as well as kennels available for canines. The property even offers a special “Doggie Delight” menu for these special guests. With veterinarian, grooming, and training services available nearby, Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay encourages travelers to bring furry pals along for the getaway.

Play: Dogs who love to swim will find plenty to do at the Dog Beach at Matapeake Park and the Island Dog Park, both in Stevensville. The park features two fenced areas, agility equipment, benches, and water fountains for pets and humans. The Terrapin Beach Park offers paved, level, and shaded paths to the beach and swimming for pets.

Assateague Island State Park allows pets on leashes year-round with registered campers and in day-use areas from October 1 to April 30. Pets on leashes are allowed on the Ocean City Beaches October 1 – April 30 and at the Ocean City Dog Playground with a dog pass access card.

For more information on traveling to pet-friendly Maryland, please contact our travel specialists!

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Opening Day Sydney: MLB Goes to Australia

sydney mlb try too

Tour the Sydney Opera House, Surf Bondi Beach and maybe take in some Australian Rugby League. Mix in the best of of Sydney with the best of sports and attend the 2014 Major League Baseball Opening Day Game in the harbor city!

If anyone is hitting a ball with a bat in Australia it is usually for a game of cricket! But come next March, the most American of all sports will head Down Under. The Sydney Cricket Ground will host the Opening Series of the Major League Baseball between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

sydney beach sydney koala

Sydney is a bit of an exhibitionist, offering sun-blazed beaches, beautiful weather, incredible shopping, exciting entertainment and a range of restaurants and dining experiences from around the world.

Highlights Include:

  • Discover Sydney – constantly voted one of the Top 10 Cities in the World
  • Take a tour of the iconic Sydney Opera House
  • Try surfing on the world famous Bondi Beach with Let’s Go Surfing
  • Choose between an Australian Rugby League game or enjoying an Aussie inspired dinner
  • Wear your commemorative sweatshirt as you cheer on your team at the two MLB games

Common, get your game face on! We’re going to Sydney, Australia for the 2014 MLB opening day…are you?! For more information call out travel specialists and mention Down Under Answer’s Opening Day Sydney.

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Top 3 Picks for Off-Peak Summer Destinations

Summer is one of the busiest travel times of the year and with that can come big price tags. But there is good news! The North American summer is low-season in many tropical locations, winter-sports meccas, and destinations on the other side of the hemisphere. And low-season, of course, typically equates to money-saving travel deals! Here are Cruise & Travel Master’s top 3 picks for off-peak summer destinations:

St. Lucia snorkeling

St. Lucia snorkeling

#1 -St. Lucia

Has lush, tropical St. Lucia always been on your bucket list? Go this summer. This lovely island has low-season prices, from cheap flights to discounted packages! One reason you can get to St. Lucia for less this season are all the new airline routes. Increased service includes JetBlue flights out of New York’s JFK, new summer service on Delta out of Atlanta, and new Saturday nonstop service from Newark on United starting this July.

According to Nerdin St. Rose, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for the St. Lucia Tourist Board, “St. Lucia’s summertime savings will attract vacationers of all ages. From family vacations to couples on their honeymoon, our romance and family-friendly offerings make St. Lucia the perfect getaway.”  And St. Lucia’s visitors’ bureau is raving about the huge savings on summer stays!

South African Safari

South African Safari

#2-South Africa

Find the “big five”—elephant, rhinoceros, lion, buffalo, and leopard—on safari in South Africa. And find the lowest prices when you go during the winter low-season. “Winter” in this case corresponds with the North American summer. During this time South Africa experiences cooler, less humid weather from June through September. South Africa’s winter is a fantastic time to go on safari, as many animals are especially easy to spot during this season.

One of the best ways to put together a wildlife-watching trip is to purchase a package. And those seeking safari packages in South Africa will find the prices during low-season months to be much more affordable!

Costa Rica waterfalls

Costa Rica waterfalls

#3 Costa Rica

Costa Rica in the summer can be rainy at times but that also means no fighting for a chair at the beach! May through June is considered the “green season,” which means that you might experience some drizzles and humidity. But with cheaper accommodations, activities, and flights to the country, coupled with less crowds, it’s a smart time to visit.

You can find very affordable flights from the U.S. to Costa Rica on Frontier Airlines, but only during summer. The airline operates seasonal service to San Jose through mid-August. The fares for nonstop flights from Denver to San Jose in July were seen to be as little as $470 round-trip. This is a lot cheaper than the fares from Denver in November, which usually require some sort of connection flight.

With more flights being added, you’ll find even more affordable options to Costa Rica—more routes, of course, means more competitive prices. JetBlue’s new service from Ft. Lauderdale to San Jose begins this June. Delta just added year-round flights from Los Angeles to San Jose and United started service from Chicago to San Jose. There are so many options!

For more information on scoring the best travel deals for your next trip, please contact our travel specialists at Cruise & Travel Masters!
*** REMEMBER, book with us to get the ultimate lowest price, travel tips from the pros and someone to help you through the sticky situations that can sometimes come up when on the road!

Sonja @ Cruise & Travel Masters
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Visit Europe’s Magnificent Northern Capitals!

Breathtaking Norway

Breathtaking Norway

Come with us to explore all of Europe’s magnificent northern capitals on Globus’ Northern Capitals tour: Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki. Guided sightseeing is included in all four cities, plus, a three-night stay in St. Petersburg. For the overnight Baltic Sea crossing from Stockholm to Helsinki, accommodation will be in first-class, two-berth cabins. Special features are charming Tivoli Gardens (open mid-April to mid-September), magnificent Frogner Park, Catherine Palace (if closed, Pavlovsk Palace instead) and, above all, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Northern Capitals Tour

Northern Capitals Tour

Included are magnificent dinners to give the travelers a chance to taste the local specialties in Copenhagen, with a dessert choice of Danish cheeses, as is traditional in Denmark; the traditional Smörgãsbord dinner on the Baltic Sea cruise; and a special dinner of Russian delicatessen, like caviar, blinis, and vodka in St. Petersburg. A welcome dinner in Copenhagen and a farewell dinner in St. Petersburg are included, and a full day at leisure in Helsinki allows the possibility to join an optional excursion to Tallinn, capital of Estonia, known as one of the pearls of the Baltic countries.

For more information on the Northern Capitals Tour please contact our travel specialists!

Sonja Arrasi, Cruise & Travel Masters
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