Sunday, July 31, 2005

Can I Have Your Autograph?

Being a celebrity means dealing with fan demands for autographs, ranging from polite and appropriate to rude and overbearing. One time Katherine Hepburn was performing on Broadway and tried to exit backstage through a crowd of jostling autograph hounds. Bodyguards helped her to her limo and once safely inside the very private star rolled down the window and shouted," Run em down! We'll clean up the blood later!" The crowd scattered and the limousine sped away, pausing long enough for Hepburn to roll down the window and wave goodbye to her fans, accompanied by an evil laugh. Strangely enough, when she lived in Beverly Hills the seclusion loving Hepburn developed the habit of sneaking into her neighbor's houses as a hobby. She became expert at climbing trees, avoiding alarms and dogs, and revealing herself just before her nervous neighbors called the police.

Walt Disney had the strange experience in the 1930s of having his name famous around the world when his face was not. Often he would forget his identification and that combined with his casual attire sometimes kept him out of fancy restaurants. Later in the 50's he became a recognized figure because of his television hosting duties. The lack of anonymity made it increasingly difficult for him to walk through Disneyland without being badgered for autographs. Disney struggled not to be brusque while explaining he didn't have time, he was trying to make the park a better place. In the 60's when the company was trying to purchase Florida marshland for a second amusement park, he was warned by his advisors to stay away from the state, the real estate prices would go up once the identity of the buyer was known. But Disney couldn't resist. Eating in a Orlando diner Walt was approached by a curious waitress,"Pardon me. Aren't you Walt Disney?" Walt who was known for being brutally honest, replied," Hell no! And if I see that sob, I'll give him a piece of my mind."

Stars making movies at Universal Studios often try to avoid tour guides leading autograph hounds. One particular fellow became ingenious at tracking down Michael Caine, who toyed with the idea of having the young man fired, then decided, "What the hell, I'll just sign" and was gracious. It turned out to be a good move, the tour guide was Mike Ovitz who later became the most powerful talent agent in Hollywood.

When stardom is new, autograph signing can be a thrill. One night in Paris the 60 year old Cary Grant and 25 year old Sophia Loren wished to go out to dinner. "But the people will come up to us. I can't stand it!" said the jaded Briton. "I love it," said Sophia. When they left their hotel Grant complete with his hat pulled down,dark glasses, his scarf wrapped around his face, and his huge overcoat looked like the Invisible Man. Sophia looked like Sophia. As they walked the streets of Paris people began to come up to her for autographs which she joyfully signed. After a few fan encounters Grant began to get jealous. Down came the hat, off came the glasses, the coat and the scarf and soon he was standing under neon lights to get noticed.

Another English actor named Grant was thrilled by his breakout stardom due to the movie Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994). Hugh Grant would drive around New York looking for theaters where the film was playing then get out and wait in line, happy for the attention and to sign autographs. Later when he was arrested in Los Angeles for hiring prostitute Divine Brown, he turned down requests to put his signature on tabloids containing his mug shot.

Some actors just sign despite their annoyance. One time Arnold Schwarzenegger was being interviewed at a press junket when a reporter asked him for an autograph for his mother, a big no-no. The star grimaced and said,"Of course. I wouldn't want to disappoint your mother." He paused then added," I'm sure you have disappointed her enough already."

Autographs can cause internal conflicts for stars who take themselves too seriously. During the making of Klute (1971) Donald Sutherland received a written request from a fan who wished for an autograph for his daughter. Sutherland showed the letter to his humorless girlfriend Jane Fonda who expressed a strong opinion that he should not sign it, autographs imply that movie actors are somehow superior to others. Sutherland bowed to her philosophy and wrote a letter stating his reasons for refusing the request. The man wrote him back,"Dear Mr. Sutherland, thank you for your letter. We think you are full of it but we ripped off the signature and gave it to our daughter."

About The Author
Stephen Schochet is the author and narrator of the audiobooks Fascinating Walt Disney and Tales Of Hollywood. The Saint Louis Post Dispatch says," these two elaborate productions are exceptionally entertaining." Hear realaudio samples of these great, unique gifts at

Tales Of The Warner Brothers

The four Warner Brothers, which included the womanizing Jack, the conservative Harry, the quiet Albert and the visionary Sam, had risen from obscurity with The Jazz Singer (1927) the first famous and financially successful talking movie ever made. Tragically, Sam Warner, the real brains behind the whole project, died of a brain tumor two days before The Jazz Singer's debut. Jack was thrilled by the film's success, but crushed by his brother's death. He became difficult to deal with for the rest of his life. His older and more conservative brother Harry and he fought constantly over money and Jack's womanizing ways. One time Harry chased Jack through the studio with a two by four threatening to kill him. The feud became so bitter that Jack opted to play tennis rather than attend Harry's funeral in 1958. One time Jack met Albert Einstein," Mr. Einstein, I have my own theory of relativity. Don't hire them."

Warner was fascinated by Einstein especially the physicists detailed descriptions of stars. After he left Jack told a staff member," Sign this Betelgeuse guy to a contract. Einstein think he has potential."

Despite or maybe because of his aborted singing career, Jack Warner seemed to resent similar ambitions in others. One day her was strolling through the studio lot when he heard a young man singing with a beautiful voice. It was coming from the security guard shack. Curious, the mogul walked up to question his startled employee.

"Young man, was that you singing?" "W-why yes Mr. Warner." "Young man you have a beautiful voice." "Oh thank you Mr. Warner." "MM. Tell me, young man, what would you rather be? A security guard or a singer?" "Oh Mr. Warner, I dreamed of being a singer." "Ok young man. You're fired!"

Jack Warner treated all of his employees with derision, but none worse than the writers. Many of them although better paid at the studio than they ever were writing novels, resented the nine to five routine they were forced to adhere to at the Warner's factory. Where the actors were free to leave the studio at lunch the writers had to be "chained" to their typewriter. One time Warner called a writer into the studio screening room for his suggestions on how to fix a weak script." I'm sorry Mr. Warner. I have no ideas after five."

Another time Jack called in a writer to his office. "Look pally, I got to fire you because I heard you were a communist. " "Mr. Warner, please! I'm not a communist, I'm an anti-communist!" "I don't care what kind of commie you are! You are out of here!"

Well after The Jazz Singer's success, Jack remained sensitive to religious matters. When he hired a stage actor named Jules Garfield, he told him, "Ok, we have to change your name. How about James Garfield?" "Mr. Warner I don't want to change my name. Anyhow James Garfield was a President. Why don't you change my name to Abraham Lincoln?" "Forget it Garfield. Abraham's too Jewish. We're not going to give the wrong impression." After much arguing they compromised with John Garfield.

Warner's actors gave as well as they got. Humphrey Bogart called him a creep. Errol Flynn actually threatened to kill him. James Cagney, after driving down the road and seeing Pat O'Brian's name billed above his on a movie marquee sued him for breach of contract and won. Betty Davis, constantly complaining about the films she was cast in, fled to England to perform on the stage only to have Warner track her down and legally compel her to return. But perhaps the toughest of all his battles was with actor George Raft. Raft, who hung out with gangsters like Bugsy Siegel in real life, was loath to be cast as a thug on the screen. He turned virtually every role he was offered. Finally, Jack decided to buy George out of his contract. "Will $10,000 do it?" He asked George wearily. To Jack's astonishment, George pulled out his own checkbook, promptly paid his boss $10,000 and stormed out of the office!

About The Author
Stephen Schochet is the author and narrator of the audiobooks Fascinating Walt Disney and Tales Of Hollywood. The Saint Louis Post Dispatch says," these two elaborate productions are exceptionally entertaining." Hear realaudio samples of these great, unique gifts at

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Cruising: Fun & Affordable

Many people pass up going on a cruise for their vacation because of the myth that it is expensive. However, cruising has become a fun and economical way to vacation for young and old alike. It could be considered a downright bargain compared to staying at a resort, hotel, or private villa.

Cruising is not bound to any particular age group either. There are fun activities for all ages aboard a ship, catering to small children, their parents, singles, middle-aged groups to elderly grandparents. However, a cruise that is longer than a week or that has destination ports further north will typically have an older crowd.

The first thing people think of when cruising is mentioned is of course food. A person on a cruise is typically assigned a dining room, dinner time and specific table companions to sit with for the duration of the cruise. There they are treated to extraordinary culinary delights and fine wines. If it is a week long cruise there will be probably be one or two formal nights where people dress in suits and cocktail dresses.

There are more choices on where to dine than the dining room. Many ships have smaller bistro-like restaurants, buffets many times during the day, snack bars, in-cabin service and many now have 24- hour pizzerias on board. Included in the price of the cruise are usually fruit juices, coffee, hot chocolate, water and teas. A slight downfall for cruising is soft-drinks and alcoholic beverages are at extra cost.

After eating all of the food that a cruise has to offer there are numerous activities, physical and social to do. Most cruises have fully equipped gyms and exercise classes. Many even have rock walls, rollerblade tracks, and jogging runs. There are always people playing games of volleyball, basketball and on a warmer cruise they can work off the calories by taking a swim.

There is more fun to be had aboard a cruise than just eating and exercising. As previously mentioned there are usually many pools. Some pools even have water slides. Days and nights can be spent gambling in casinos, drinking at the numerous bars and lounges, attending one of the Las Vegas-like shows, shopping, or sitting in the video and book libraries or reading rooms.

Pampering oneself can also be a part of the cruising experience. Most shipboard spas rival spas on land. There are many options for obtaining facials, manicure, pedicures, hair salon treatments and massages. Appointments go fast so they must be booked early. Usually free are the steam rooms, saunas and hot tubs.

Unless it is a cruise to nowhere, the ship will be stopping at exciting ports of call. If the ship is docked cruisers can just walk off the gangway. ff the ship is too large, motorized launches, called tenders, are used as ferries to get cruisers ashore. Each ship has organized excursions at each port of call that are available for sign up for before landing at the destination. They range in price from cheap to expensive depending on the type of activity desired. They can be a day at the beach to horseback riding, jeep excursions, shopping trips to nighttime clubbing. If a cruiser is not interested in hanging out with a group from the ship they can always opt to explore the port of call on their own.

As shown in this article, cruising is a great way to enjoy a vacation. Along with its affordability, it is extremely exciting with many fun activities available to enjoy.

About The Author
Thomas Schoonover is a leading travel industry analyst and trip planner. He is well known in the industry for his worldwide hotel reviews. You may go to to see his hotel reviews as well as additional travel articles. Also, call 1-888-TripFox for guaranteed lowest hotel rates!

A Visit To Labadee In Haiti

The first port for our Royal Caribbean cruise of the western Caribbean was Labadee, Hispaniola which is actually a part of Haiti. This specific port is leased out to Royal Caribbean so only their cruiseships come here. Labadee is actually a peninsula with a few beaches. Getting to land from the cruiseship is by tender.

There is a small section for kids with floating fake icebergs to climb and water slides but they charge an admission fee. Flotation mattresses are also available for rent for those who just want to float in the ocean. There are also locals who help with getting beach chairs for you but they expect tips. So things here are a money grabber. The cruiseship did have optional tours for snorkelling, parasailing, waverunner and kayaking tours but we thought that they were overpriced. Most passengers just spent the day relaxing around the beaches. The area around Labadee was pleasant enough but the beaches and shores themselves were fairly rocky so wearing sandals in the water would be advised. Royal Caribbean had organized a beach BBQ at an outdoor picnic facility which was okay but nothing special. There is a market there consisting of two buildings. One is a store where the souveniers and items have marked prices and the other building is like your typical market where locals try to hustle you for business. The locals inside the market were aggressive but polite. If you don't mind haggling, you could get some pretty good deals but if you dislike this type of pushy atmosphere, then you best avoid the market except for the fixed price store.

One big difference between this port compared to others is that since it is pretty well being used as a private beach, you will not be hassled by locals. The vendors coming around with drinks at the beach locations are actually Royal Caribbean staff so if one wishes to buy a drink, the cruiseship passcard is all that is required. As for concerns about being in Haiti given the poverty and political situation, Labadee was not a problem because the entire site is enclosed by a high steel fence. Other passengers later told us that they wandered off near the perimeter of the site and saw many Haitians along the fence begging for handouts and food. The fencing was mostly concealed in the distance from the main tourist areas.

We found Labadee in general to be a bit of a waste of time for us. The beaches were too rocky and we didn't have access to inexpensive activities since everything was run by Royal Caribbean. If one wanted to just go lie on the beach all day and not much else, then Labadee would be a suitable place. For those who want to experience some culture, do water sports without going through the cruiseship, or shop duty free, Labadee would not be the place to go. We decided to stay on board the ship after the BBQ lunch for the rest of the afternoon. I like Royal Caribbean and would definitely cruise with them again but would not want to go on an itinerary that included Labadee in the future.

About The Author
Clint Leung is owner of Free Spirit Gallery, an online gallery specializing in Inuit Eskimo and Northwest Native American art including carvings, sculpture and prints. Free Spirit Gallery has numerous information resource articles with photos of authentic Inuit and Native Indian art as well as free eCards

Molokai: The Best Hawaiian Island You've Never Visited

About 1.5 million years ago two large volcanoes, Kamakou in the east and Maunaloa in the west, pushed through the ocean's surface and formed the island of Molokai. It first became inhabited around 650 A.D. by daring settlers traveling

in double hulled canoes from Tahiti and other areas in the South Pacific. Of the roughly 7,000 residents about 40% are of Hawaiian descent, hence the moniker "The Most Hawaiian Island".

Here's a quick list of places I visited in Molokai...

Kalaupapa National Historical Park: The settings of two tragic chapters starting in the mid 19th century with the removal of indigenous people from this spot followed by the forced quarantining of leprosy patients here.

RW Meyer Sugar Mill Museum: Also known as the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center, this retired sugar mill was built in the late 1870's to crush and process sugar cane. The family home, which overlooks the mill, is still owned by RW Meyer family members.

Kawela Battlefield: Long before hostilities with European settlers existed, inter-island rivalries and battles took place between native Hawaiians. This is the site of a 5-day battle which took place in 1736 where the joint forces of Molokai and Hawaii defeated invading forces from Oahu. Thousands of warriors perished, including the Oahu chief, Kapiiohookai.

Ancient Hawaiian Fishponds: Encompasses dozens of centuries old fish enclosures used to house fish before they were eaten by royal Hawaiian chieftains.

About The Author
Isaac Rau owns and operates

How to Get Your New Passport

A valid passport is necessary for U.S. citizens to enter nearly 80% of the world´s countries and highly recommended in most of the others as definitive proof of one´s identity and citizenship.

If you answer yes to any one of the following, you should apply for a new passport.

  • Are you applying for a U.S. passport for the first time?
  • Was your previous U.S. passport lost, stolen, or damaged?
  • Has your previous U.S. passport expired and was it issued more than 15 years ago?
  • Has your previous passport expired and was it issued when you were under 16?
  • Has your name changed since your passport was issued and you don´t have a legal document formally changing your name?

To apply for a new passport, you need to provide the six items below.

1. Completed Form-DS11, Application for Passport.

The form can be downloaded at the U.S. Department of State web site or the sites of many travel agencies and travel document expediters.

When filling out the form, check everything twice. Don´t sign the application until you do so in the presence of an acceptance agent.

2. Proof of U.S. Citizenship.

The two most frequently used documents to prove citizenship are a previous U.S. passport or a certified birth certificate. There are three things to look for on a certified birth certificate: a registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal; the registrar’s signature; and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office, which must be within 1 year of your birth.

If you don´t have either of the documents above, you can provide a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, Naturalization Certificate or a Certificate of Citizenship.

Voter registration cards and army discharge papers are not acceptable proof of citizenship.

3. Proof of identity.

A previous U.S. passport can also serve to prove your identity. If you don´t have one, you can provide a Naturalization Certificate, Certificate of Citizenship, a current, valid Driver´s license, government ID or military ID.

4. Two passport photos.

The two photos must be 2 x 2 inches, identical, taken within the last 6 months, show a full face, front view and have a plain white or off-white background. You should dress in normal street attire. Hats, headgear, dark glasses and uniforms, except for religious retire that is worn daily, are not acceptable. Prescription glasses with clear lenses are.

5. Applicable fees.

Age 16 and older: The passport fee is $55. The security surcharge is $12. The execution fee is $30. The total is $97.

Under Age 16: The passport fee is $40. The security surcharge is $12. The execution fee is $30. The total is $82.

When you apply at one of the thousands of designated application acceptance facilities in the U.S., you pay the passport fee and the security surcharge to the U.S. Department of State and the execution fee to the facility where you are applying. Acceptable forms of payment vary.

The fees are non-refundable.

6. Social security number.

Failure to provide your Social Security Number could result in a $500 penalty imposed by the Internal Revenue Service.

If your passport was lost or stolen, you must also provide a completed Form DS-64: Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport.

Gather the documents. Appear at the acceptance facility. Pay the fees. If everything goes well, your new passport should be processed and returned to you in about 6 weeks.

About The Author
William Manor of U.S. Passport Service Guide ( reviews private travel document expediters and provides comprehensive passport, visa and destination information for international travelers

A Guide to the Best Vancouver Vacation Attractions

Vancouver is a great place for vacations, romantic getaways, or as a base for exploring southwestern B.C. Let me tell you some more about our hometown!

One of the most unique aspects about Vancouver is its location. The wilderness is only a ½ hour drive away from downtown!

Getting close to nature is very easy here. The hiking, sailing, skiing and golfing opportunities are just awesome and available most of the year. You can travel to Whistler quite easily (1.5 hr drive from the city), and the ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island is a short 30 km trip to the south.

When is the best time to plan your Vancouver vacation? Anytime between April to the end of September will give you a decent chance for some nice weather. We get the most rain and low clouds between November and February.

Here's a brief look at some of the top Vancouver attractions:

Stanley Park: One of the jewels of Vancouver. An incredible 405 hectare park right beside the city center! Trails through the forest, excellent views of the city and north shore mountains, historic totem poles, and the Vancouver Aquarium are just a few reasons why this should be one of the first stops on your Vancouver vacation.

Robson Street: The main shopping artery in the city. Shops, restaurants, and hotels line each side of the street, which gets pretty busy from June to October. If you like Starbucks and love to people watch, there are 2 of them across from each other on the corner of Robson and Thurlow streets!

Canada Place: Originally built for Expo 86, Canada Place, which includes the convention center and Pan Pacific Hotel, is a signature building on the Vancouver waterfront, vaguely familiar to the Opera House in Sydney. A walk around the perimeter shows off the North Shore Mountains, harbor and any cruise ships that are docked during the summer season. If you’re in the mood for a film of some type, the IMAX Theater at the north end has interesting films on a giant five story high screen with surround sound!

Granville Island: Just a great place to spend an afternoon or early evening wandering through the shops, checking out the Public Market, sipping an espresso and watching the buskers, or stopping by the Granville Island Brewery and sampling the latest pale ale! You can also catch the “sea taxi”, a small little craft that shuttles you around False Creek to different places like Science World and across the water to the downtown side.

Capilano Suspension Bridge: It’s a long way down! (Over 200 ft). A rope-and-plank swinging bridge over the rushing waters of the Capilano River – scary, but totally safe! Numbers of visitors wise, this is the biggest draw in the city, and the admission price has gotten a little steeper too. Try mornings or early evening for the fewest crowds.

About The Author
Greg Mattson is the editor of Excellent Romantic Vacations – A guide to great romantic vacations & getaways in Canada, the USA and around the world.
Find out more about Vancouver and Vancouver hotels in our Pacific Northwest Vacation section.

Treasure Hunting in England

I have been interested in Metal Detecting since around 1983 when my Mum and Dad introduced me to the hobby. They had been detecting for a couple of years on beaches around the Uk only at holiday time, and it often helped get a few pounds together to help pay for the holiday spends.

On the holiday in 1983 my Mum and Dad had taken Myself and Brother on a holiday to France. Each night we'd go down the beach with 2 detectors between 4 of us and gladly pick up the days droppings. This usually went to pay for our meals and drinks later the same night. On one particular night I was getting rather bored and actually took a rest on the sand whilst the others continued detecting. Whilst sitting in the sand I started sifting with my hands and out popped a 24 carat gold necklace. I was hooked. As soon as we got back to the UK we enquired about our local club and joined straight away.

It is now over 21 years since I joined my local club and I have also been Vice Chairman and Chairman. I have made some lovely finds. These range from Celtic and Roman Coins and Brooches, Old English Silver and Gold Coind going back hundreds of years and lots of Jewellry. I will update you on some of the finds in future articles.I am also a member of the National Council of Metal Detecting and have had articles printed in the press and been on Radio.

In October 2004 I created This website has grown from strength to strength in the six months it has been on the net. It now averages in excess of 100,000 unique hits a month. It has probably the most concise directory of over 400 Metal Detecting Websites. It also has live News Feeds in relation to Treasure Hunting. Add to this the Forum and the dozens of Metal Detecting stories the site is something I am proud of. I am also in the midst of creating a Hoard Database which will have articles and pictures of Hoards found whilst Treasure Hunting.

So next time your walking in the hills of England and you see a guy walking along with a Metal Detector pop over and have achat. It might just be me. And if you'd like to have alook at some of the finds why not visit me on my website.

About The Author
Steve Rice is well known in Metal Detecting circles throughout England and the UK. He is the founder of and has written articles for magazines, online and helped with treasure hunting features on radio

California Vacations - What You Haven’t Seen

It is understandable why California attracts a lot of people. There it is warm and sunny most part of the year, Los Angeles is full of movie stars, rollerblading babes can be found all over the place in Venice Beach. Even if it is exaggerated, this part of the California mystique is real and not very hard to find.

But California has other things too, that are not scripted, sanitized, and broadcast to the mesmerized masses of the world. The glitter and glamour are only the surface of an incredibly diverse state that would be a productive and powerful nation in the event of ever getting separated from the Union. California has it all: redwood forests, an incredibly verdant Central Valley, the Sierra Nevada, deserts, a lot of well-known cities, and hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline.

Despite the crime, pollution, traffic, and earthquakes, which have made California famous as well, people here are still the golden children of the United States, America's spoiled rich kid that is either loved or loathed by everyone. (In Oregon, for example, they sell lots of license-plate rims stating "I hate California.") To be perfectly sincere, people here don’t really care. Californians are aware of the fact that they live in one of the most interesting places in the world, and they're proud of their state. Nobody can guarantee you that you'll meet Arnold Schwarzenegger or learn how to surf here, but with a little time, a little money, and an adventurous spirit, you will be guided by us and offered one of the most fulfilling vacations of your life. The four of us do nothing but travel, but we chose to live in California because this place has so much to offer.

About The Author
Dominic is the author of this article. This article may be reproduced on websites subject to credit being given to the author, and a link to his website. If you would like more information go to

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Secrets Of Cheap Travel

There are two ways to save money traveling. The first way is to get the best deals on the specific things you want. There is a limitation to this type of approach though. If , for example, you find the lowest price on the best hotel in Honolulu at the height of the season, you WILL save money, but still have a very expensive vacation. Trying to get exactly what you want, or what you think you want, will generally be an expensive proposition, in travel and in life.

Be A Travel Opportunist

The other approach is to be a true opportunist. This will be difficult for some of you, and entirely unacceptable to others. Nonetheless, the travelers who get to travel the most, go to the widest variety of places, learn the most and do the most, are the opportunists. This will be true until you are so wealthy that you have no monetary limits.

The first time I went to Ecuador, I went there because it was cheap. If it wasn't, I would have had a great time - somewhere else. The trip lasted a month, and cost $1045, which included airfare and even the $130 fee for a guide to take me to the top of glacier-covered Mount Chimborazo.

I cut the cost by taking a bus from my home in Michigan to Miami, and back again when I returned from Ecuador. The round-trip ticket cost $158. The round-trip flight to Quito from Miami was only $256, because it was a courier flight, which meant I signed for some luggage (car parts), and could only take carry-on luggage.

Never did I feel deprived, or bored. I had a great time, eating wherever it was cheap and clean, doing all sorts of inexpensive, but interesting things, and traveling across the country to climb Chimborazo. I also met and fell in love with my wife Ana.

How To Become An Opportunist Traveler

Can you drink rum at a dollar per bottle, instead of your favorite beer? Can you eat chicken instead of steak? How about visiting the free sights first, and dancing in the street festival instead of the disco?

Being an opportunist means you'll have just as much variety, and probably almost everything you want - eventually. You just have to stop trying to get exactly what you want exactly when you want it. If the guide that took me up Chimborazo hadn't dropped his price from $200 to $130, I would have spent $2 for a bus and gone hiking on El Altar, another great Andean mountain. That would have left me with enough money for several other minor adventures.

More Secrets Of Cheap Travel

Plane Tickets: My wife and I were planning a trip to visit family in Ecuador. The cheapest airfare from Traverse City, Michigan to Quito, was $1720. Out of curiosity, I checked Miami to Quito, and it was only $404. Airfare from Traverse City to Miami was $300. Book two separate flights and save more than $2000! The discount sites aren't set up to search in this way (yet), so you have to do this on your own. By the way, the whole six-week trip, which we took in 2004, cost $2400, including losing $100, and being robbed of $174.

Food: Whether traveling here or in other countries, it is usually cheaper to buy some healthy snacks in a grocery store, rather than eat every meal in a restaurant. When you do eat in restaurants, it can be cheaper to to order individual items on the menu from the list of appetizers or side dishes. You also may get more variety in that way.
Accomodations: For a long trip, you may want to rent an apartment in an interesting city. We did this for two months in Tucson, for about $600 less per month, compared to even the cheaper motels. Watch for hotel coupon-books in gas stations. The coupons will often save you $10 on a room you would have stayed in anyhow. If you have a conversion van or RV, you can camp a couple nights a week, like we do, to save on motels. We love the hotsprings we've stayed at, for a $3 fee to the BLM, instead of $40 for the cheapest motel in the area.

Travel Expenses: Do more and travel less. It is often the traveling part that costs the most, due to the cost of gas, convenient fast food, and expensive hotels you are forced to pay for when you just can't drive any further. So if you find a place with a reasonable motel, and a lot to do in the area - stay for a while!

About The Author
Steve Gillman first hit the road on his own when at sixteen, and traveled alone across the United States and Mexico at 17. Now 40, he continues to travel and backpack with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. Many of his stories, plus tips and information on travel and lightweight backpacking, can be found on his websites,, and

Places to Visit in Southeast Spain

Southeast Spain along the Costa de Almeria is an unspoilt paradise. A world away from the high-rise hotel blocks and apartments that are associated with some other coastal areas of Spain, this Costa is subdued and altogether much more inviting. Mile upon mile of sandy beach stretches out along the coastline, truncated ever so often by headlands that crash out into the sea. For discerning families looking for a quiet Spanish holiday getaway, the Costa Almeria is the place to go.

Beyond the beaches

There are a wide variety of places to visit that are within a short drive of the Costa de Almeria coastline. Here are some of the best…

Tabernas - Home to the 'Westerns' of the 1960s and 1970s, Tabernas is formed of desert-like rocky outcrops and canyons that have played host to some of the most memorable movies of this era. Clint Eastwood's A Fist Full of Dollars, A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly were filmed here, as was The Magnificent Seven. The movie sets (there are three 'wild west' towns to visit) are now tourist attractions, with live wild west shows, stagecoach rides and working saloon bars to enjoy.

Calar Alto Observatory - The province of Almeria lays claim to one of the sunniest spots in Europe. On average there are over 3100 hours of sunshine to be had in the area each year. Taking advantage of the exceptionally clear skies in this part of Spain is the Calar Alto Observatory - a collection of five giant telescopes, three of which are operated by the Max-Plank Institute in Germany. Although chiefly a scientific research establishment the white telescope domes are a spectacular sight at any time of the day or on a moonlit night. It is also possible to arrange visits to one or more of the domes by appointment in the Sierra de los Filabres.

Sierra Nevada Mountains - When on the Costa de Almeria you cannot fail to notice the magnificent peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west of the province. Snow capped for some six months of the year, the Sierra Nevada Mountain range is an all-year-round paradise. During the summer and autumn, hiking is the #1 activity, the mountainside yielding a fine network of paths to explore. During the winter and spring the Sierra Nevada becomes Europe's most southerly ski resort.

Granada - A short distance downslope from the Sierra Nevada mountains is the beautiful town of Granada and its most famous of attractions - the Alhambra. A palace residence of Moslem kings that dates back to the 9th century, the Alhambra is a fortress (alcazaba), palace (alcazar) and a city (medina) all rolled into one.

Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park - On the south-easternmost tip of Almeria is the 29,000-hectare Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park. Pristine beaches, jagged cliffs, salt flats and lagoons await all who explore this natural paradise. With eagles, peregrines, cormorants and razorbills on show, this is the place to come if you enjoy wildlife.

Getting to Southeast Spain

Travelers should opt to fly into Almeria City airport on the Costa de Almeria coast. Car hire can be booked in advance for pick up from the airport upon your arrival. Visit

About The Author
Seb Jay is a professional writer specializing in the creation of original web content for

A Stay At Old San Juan In Puerto Rico

One of the most used departure ports for cruise ships in the Caribbean is San Juan in Puerto Rico. We decided to arrive a day early to San Juan in order to see some sights before our cruise ship departure. San Juan, known as 'La Ciudad Amurallada' (the walled city), was founded in 1521 and is the oldest city under the US flag. During the 16th century, the Spanish used it as a point of departure for expeditions to the New World. Fortifications in the Old San Juan section of the city repulsed numerous attacks from the English and the Dutch during those years. Today, Old San Juan is a charming seven square block commercial and residential area with cobblestone streets.

The cruise ship terminal is actually located near the south side of Old San Juan so instead of booking a hotel in the beach resort area of San Juan, we decided to book one right in the old section for close proximity to the terminal as well as the local sights. The $17 US taxi ride from San Juan's airport to Old San Juan was about half an hour. During the ride, I was impressed by how developed the city was compared to many other cities I've visited in the Caribbean. The beach high-rise hotels along the north side of San Juan were visible from the highway. Our stay for the night was at the Hotel Milano which is right on Calle Fortaleza, which is one of the major commercial streets in Old San Juan. The hotel was clean and comfortable but not luxurious which was okay with us as the price was very affordable. Its quality was probably comparable to a Travelodge or Days Inn. A very pleasant surprise was the free continental breakfast at the hotel's rooftop restaurant. It gave a nice view of the neighborhood from the top.

We spent the day and evening walking the many cobblestone streets and alleys in the area. There are over 400 restored colonial buildings from the 16th and 17th century here. There were also several plaza squares and parks. One of the nicest services offered in Old San Juan is a free shuttle bus which covers two different routes through the district. There was a bus stop about 1/2 block away from our hotel which was very convenient. Riding on the shuttle buses through both routes gave us a good overview of Old San Juan. We were able to stop off at several points of interest including the huge El Morro fort. After our visits to each attraction, we just had to wait for the next bus to come by to continue our tour. In the evening, we did get lost while walking since many of the streets look very similar. But with our map, we eventually found our way back to the street where the Hotel Milano was. We decided to dine at one of the nearby restaurants for authentic Puerto Rican cuisine and were not disappointed. My lady especially adored the two different plantains we ordered.

When it was time to go to the cruise ship terminal, we just took a short five minute ride from our hotel. Our short stay in Old San Juan was definitely worthwhile and hassle free. A stay in Old San Juan is highly recommended for those who will be taking a Caribbean cruise with San Juan as the departure point. The only disappointment I had with San Juan was that I was hoping to do some scuba diving in the area but from the reports I read, the waters off the city are quite murky with limited marine life to see. This is likely the result of San Juan being such a busy port. The decent scuba diving sites are about 2 hours east of San Juan. So perhaps in a return trip to Puerto Rico, I will plan to make a trip to the east part of the island.

About The Author
Clint Leung is owner of Free Spirit Gallery, an online gallery specializing in Inuit Eskimo and Northwest Native American art including carvings, sculpture and prints. Free Spirit Gallery has numerous information resource articles with photos of authentic Inuit and Native Indian art as well as free eCards

Traveling to Europe with your Digital Camera?

The Vacation Season is fast approaching and naturally you will be taking your digital camera along for the journey. After all your vacations are far and few between and it is nice to look back on those memories as you slave away at your job. However, when you travel with a digital camera, it is a completely different experience from that of traveling with a film camera. This is a lesson that far too many travelers seem to be learning the hard way, especially if you’re traveling to Europe. After a couples years of relying solely on digital for taking photos when I travel, there are things you should consider before you head off on your next trip.

Charging Batteries is one of the biggest stumbling blocks you'll face when you travel. Outlets can be scarce in hotels. On a recent trip to Europe, only one of the five modern hotels I stayed in had more than one outlet available for use when charging up electronics. Charging your battery can be more of a hassle if you're traveling by train: If you take an overnight train in Europe, they don't have power adapters at the seats (certain trains do, but it's not something you can count on). I suggest bringing at least two rechargeable batteries, three if you plan to travel with overnight trains, or don't think you'll be able to charge every night. If your camera uses regular AA batteries, consider yourself lucky-you'll find those everywhere. Scope out the situation in your room when you check in: You should get at least one usable outlet, but don't count on more than that.

Bring your plugs. Some digital cameras typically come with a power brick that can handle international voltages, so you won't need a voltage adapter. However, you will need a power plug adapter to convert a US outlet plug to the local plug. Most of Europe is on the same outlet now-but not all countries accept the general "Europe" plug. Be sure to research what you'll need to jack in, and try to buy it before you leave (try CompUSA, Radio Shack, Rand McNally, or your local luggage store). If you don't have a chance to get what you need Stateside, don't fret: You should have no trouble finding an outlet converter overseas.

How do I offload my images? For fellow travelers using digicams, this was the number one problem I have heard repeatedly. Many comments from folks traveling for a week or more are: "I'm taking more pictures than I expected to." "I'm not shooting at the best resolution, because I need the room on my memory card." "I'm only halfway through my trip, and I have only 50 shots left." When you travel, odds are you'll take more pictures than you expect to also. A 1 GB card is very useful, and should suffice for low-usage shooters. But for those of us, who can go through a gigabyte or more in a day, not a week? Whether it's because your a high-volume shooter, shooting in RAW format, or a combination of the two. What I discovered is many who had digital SLRs, that had 5 megapixel or more reported they were traveling with a laptop to off load their images. None of these folks were traveling on business, so they didn't need to bring a laptop along. The sad fact is, for now, a laptop remains the most efficient and usable means of off loading images. Epson and Nikon have dedicated handheld units with a hard drive, card reader, and LCD display for copying over and viewing your images. But neither has a full-blown keyboard. If you're first buying a laptop, and intend to travel with it, I suggest going for the smallest one you can. Fujitsu, Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony all have models under four pounds. A laptop provides several additional advantages. For one thing, you can see your pictures on a big screen-to view how you're doing, and if you see any problems you want to correct with your exposure, for example, or if your pictures are being affected by dirt. For another thing, you can properly label your folders, so you know which pictures were taken where. Most newer laptops have integrated memory card readers, but otherwise, you can buy a small external card reader. For the wire-free approach, use a PC Card slot adapter for your memory card; and invest in a 32-bit Cardbus adapter (Delkin and Lexar Media offer these), for speedier transfers. Nothing's worse than coming back to the hotel after a long day of sightseeing, and needing to stay awake another 40 minutes just to off -load two 1 GB cards, at about 20 minutes a pop. If you bring a laptop, I also suggest investing in a portable hard drive. A portable hard drive can serve multiple purposes: It can be a means of backing up your photos on the go; a means of giving you a way to take your photos with you if you have to leave your laptop unattended; and a means of expansion, if you somehow manage to fill up your laptop's built-in hard disk. If you don't want to bring a laptop, and already have an Apple iPod, Belkin sells an attachment for using your iPod with memory cards; or, consider the pricey units from Nikon and Epson. And if you're in a bind, remember you can always buy memory overseas. I was surprised that when I went to Europe, the prices were high, but not so outrageously so that I wouldn't buy another card if I were in a bind. Cards were more readily available, too, than they were when I last traveled through Europe three years ago. Look at it this way: Even if you overpay on the card, you can still reuse it-which beats overpaying for a single use 35mm film cartridge when you were in a bind in years' past.

Be prepared for problems. Things happen when you travel and I've had more things go awry carrying my digital SLR than I have had with my 35mm over the years. Lens paper is always useful to have on hand, but if you have a digital SLR, another supply is absolutely critical: An air blower bulb, to blast out the dust and dirt that will inevitably get trapped inside your camera. I never had problems with my 35mm SLR, but with my digital SLR, I constantly find dirt gets trapped inside, when I change lenses. And there's nothing worse than having a splotch marring your otherwise awesome shots. Finally, remember the philosophy of redundancy. Whether your battery dies and you have no way to charge it, or you run out of space on your memory card(s), and don't want to buy another at a higher-than-usual price, I suggest packing a second camera if you can. A digital point and shoot is a good option but I usually carry a point and shoot 35mm to use if I run into any problems just so I won’t lose any precious pictures.

About The Author
Doug Rogers has worked as a freelance photographer for the past 25 years in various fields of photography. In the past two years he has become an avid and devoted fan of digital and video photography and a life long lover of new technology. For tips on better digital photography and the latest reviews on the newest digital equipment that hits the market, Subscribe to his monthly Newsletter “The ViewFinder” at

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Samoa, Heart of Polynesia

The islands of Samoa are emerging as an exciting new South Pacific travel destination between Hawaii and New Zealand. This "Heart of Polynesia" is politically split into two distinct entities 80 miles apart. The country Samoa is a former German colony, captured by New Zealand in 1914 and granted independence in 1962. In 1997 the name was changed from Western Samoa to Samoa.

American Samoa is the only U.S. territory south of the equator. Annexed by the United States for use as a naval base in 1900, the territory no longer has any military significance. Instead, Pago Pago currently hosts the StarKist and "Chicken of the Sea" tuna canneries, making it the most important commercial fishing port under the American flag.

The Samoan environment is tropically lush, with green volcanic peaks plunging to brilliant coral reefs, an ecotourism paradise still unspoiled by mass tourism. Visitors often stay in open Samoan beach houses called fale (pronounced FAH-lay) and adopt the laidback local lifestyle. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, surfing, deep sea fishing, and hiking opportunities are all close at hand.

Samoan culture is alive and strong, and local traditions can add another fascinating layer to your travel experience. Most Samoans are subsistence farmers who reside in small villages governed by chiefs (matai). The egalitarian ideals of this communal society place loyalty to family and religion above all. Visitors can sample this culture at the weekly "fiafia" island night dance shows staged at most of the larger hotels and beach resorts. Buffets of authentic Samoan dishes are an essential part of these events.

Samoa's climate is sultry, alternately sunny and rainy, but always hot and humid. Cooling sea breezes make the shoreline the best place to be yearround. The nicest months weatherwise are May to September, "winter" south of the equator. The rainy season runs from November to April, with increasingly intense hurricanes sweeping in due to global warming. Yet you can get long spells of bright sunny weather even during the "rainy" season, and Samoa's excellent Vailima beer (created by German brewmasters) tastes best at this time of year.

Most visitors spend their time in independent Samoa, which is considerably bigger and less expensive than American Samoa. However the rugged scenic beauty of Tutuila, the main island of American Samoa, should not be missed. In recent years some of the most strikingly beautiful parts of the territory have been incorporated into American Samoa National Park. There's great hiking on Tutuila and wonderful snorkeling on Ofu in the seldom visited Manua Group.

Traditional Samoan culture is largely based on oratory, and it's no accident that several literary legends originated here. Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last five years of his life in Samoa and is buried on a hilltop above Apia, the capital. His mansion is now a museum dedicated to the author. Somerset Maugham's short story "Rain" about Sadie Thompson and the repressed missionary thrown together in a guesthouse at Pago Pago, American Samoa, has been adapted by Hollywood several times. The original guesthouse still exists, now an upscale restaurant and inn. In "Tales of the South Pacific," James A. Michener based the prototype of his character Bloody Mary on an Apia hotelkeeper named Aggie Grey, whose family still operates Samoa's largest resorts. Michener's book was later made into the musical "South Pacific."

Getting to Samoa is easy with direct flights from Hawaii and Los Angeles on Hawaiian Airlines, Polynesian Airlines, and Air New Zealand. Local ferries and small commuter planes ply frequently between the islands, and getting around by public bus or rental car is no challenge. Visas are not required by most visitors for entry to either Samoa, although a passport and onward plane ticket are mandatory.

About The Author
David Stanley is the author of Moon Handbooks South Pacific which has a chapter on Samoa. His online guide to Samoa may be perused at

Exploring The Exotic - Antarctica Cruise

Antarctica is one of the great unexplored areas of the world. It wasn’t until the last fifty years that there has been any appreciable exploration or study of the vast frozen continent. Now the tourist with sufficient money can actually view and set foot on this unique part of the earth.

The tourist season for Antarctica is restricted only to the months of December through February when it is the peak of summer in the southernmost part of the world. Only vessels equipped for the icy waters cruise to one of the coldest areas of the earth. Three major cruise lines offer Antarctic cruises: Celebrity Cruises, Orient Lines, and Radisson Seven Seas. Smaller specialty expedition companies also offer other trips to this destination.

Celebrity Cruises travels to Antarctica with the polar icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, a refitted 1980’s Russian polar research vessel. This ship takes a fortunate 106 passengers to the polar region with the amenities expected from Celebrity Cruises such as pool, sauna, and gym. Accommodations are small by comparison to a cruise ship

About The Author
More Cruise - Cruise Information And More! Go to: 'More Cruise' is published by Colin Hartness - Check out more cruise articles at:

Tips On Renting A Limousine For Your Special Occasion

First Step: Decide the type of limousine (Standard Stretch, Super Stretch, SUV Hummer, Escalade, Rolls Royce) desired color, the number of passenger. How many hours you would like to rent the limousine.

Questions to ask when calling to inquire about renting a limousine

While most people assume that all companies are equal, well they are not. Most consumers concern themselves with the hourly rate first and this is a typical mistake, since most of the times you get what you pay for!

When you hear a price that is much lower than other companies be for warned it will probably mean the year, make and features of the limousine offered are older and over used. So the word to the wise: Pay the extra $5-15 dollars more per hour. For a first class vehicle and the professional service you can expect to get from a well trained driver. Besides when you consider that a typical 3 hour minimum you are only talking $75.00 dollars on the high end for a new six passenger limousine versus one that has gone beyond the 100,000 mile mark and the car looks like it too.

Multiple Vehicle Discounts

If renting more than one vehicle. Example: a limousine, a bus, be sure to ask about discounts that may apply to the second vehicle. Many companies offer special discounted rates when multiple vehicles are used.

Murphy’s Laws Back Up

Will the limousine company provide you with a live person to contact during your scheduled event should you require any assistance. If not, be certain to obtain a contact phone number of an operating manager in charge.

Additional Questions To Consider

How long has the limousine company been in business? Do they have testimonials from past clients? How big is their limousine fleet? What types and colors of limousine are available on your specified date? Do the vehicle have air conditioning and heat controlled from the passenger area? What are the cost? Are there minimum hour requirements? Is the gratuity/tip included in the final price? How much are tolls if applicable? Are the vehicles fully stocked and are the drinks complimentary? Does your company charge for driving time to and form the limousine rental company or does the time start when the driver arrives at your pick up location? How are the drivers dressed?

Some limousine companies have a uniform standard while others do not. The appearance of the driver is as important as the appearance of the vehicle and you will want to have your driver appearance professional and clean.

If renting for a wedding and want to display a “Just Married” sign can it be attached to the vehicle? If so, does the company provide a standard sign or allow you to attach your own. If so is their and extra cleaning or service charge.

Tishawn Merritt
212 427-7827

About The Author
Tishawn Merritt has been the CEO Of since the year 2000., a premier luxury limousine service here to exceed your expectations. Whether you're planning a trip to the airport or a very special occasion, we are devoted to providing you with first class personal service

Seychelles- Sitting Pretty Among Top Beach Destinations

Almost every description of the Seychelles appears to be a bit over the top. Is it only the easily impressed who get to visit and write about the Seychelles? The magic of these islands is however real. Impressions gained of this dream island paradise will be your refuge when you return to those long working hours. Just like everybody imagines paradise, the Seychelles islands are far away, peaceful and stunningly beautiful.

It is the peace and quiet that attracted the writer Somerset Maugham when he sought to work on a novel without interruption. Most visitors do not however come here to work. The main draw of the islands has always been the beaches, snorkeling and diving. The attractions of the natural world particularly the birdlife, tropical fish and the unique physical environment are a bonus.

After your Seychelles holiday you may want to impress your friends by these two facts. The islands are the only mid ocean island group in the world with a granite rock formation. And that Aldabra, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site is the largest coral atoll in the world. Some will of course not understand what you are talking about but the point will be clear that you have traveled to a place of distinction.

Jacques Costeau whose part of the documentary, The Silent World was shot in the Seychelles said that he had never been anywhere else with such clarity of water or diversity of reef life.

The islands are also a good place to get married and to enjoy the tropical honeymoon of your life. Few other destinations can beat the combination of beauty and romance. For this and other reasons I cannot go through here, It is my firmly held position that visitors who get married here go on to a happy married life and are sooner joined by cute little ones!

The Seychelles is a year round destination. But if you must undertake a specific activity, then you need to pick the most suitable season. Windsurfing and sailing are best at the start and end of the trade winds - May and October. Diving enthusiasts should go for dates between March and May or September to November, although conditions are excellent year round.

Those keen on the birdlife should note that April marks the beginning of the breeding season. Bird Island, in particular is overrun by sea birds between May and September. Due to drier conditions, the period May to September has best conditions for hiking and walking.

The other factor you may want to consider is cost. The Seychelles is considered to be a top-drawer destination. In general, the peak falls between mid December-early January and mid July-end August when most Seychelles hotels and resorts trade in the currency known as top-dollar. The off-season periods vary with each establishment much more widely than most other destinations.

The discount in designated off-season periods relative to the peak season falls between 20-60%. Some of the smaller premises however charge a uniform rate year round. If you have a flexible schedule, good planning can result in considerable savings.

Copyright © Africa Point
About The Author
Andrew Muigai is the editor of AfricaPoint Insider online newsletter. It is part of the Africa travel website that has helped thousands of travelers discover Africa.

Great Adventures in Colorado

If you go to Colorado, you'll find a lot of different ways to play in the snow: you can ski, do some snowboarding or simply walk in snow. Colorado is a wonderful place to unplug, relax and do nothing al all. It is as well one of the hottest destinations for camping, rafting, hiking, fishing, and paying golf. Colorado is the place where, in the morning, you can play golf, in the afternoon, you can ski and, at night, you can relax in the hot springs. Being the eighth largest state in the United States, Colorado offers a diversity of landscapes, from wide, flat eastern plains, to sparkling cities of the Front Range, snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the red rock plateaus of the Western Slope and many other.

You'll have 300 days of sunshine a year, during summer, the temperatures reaching between 75 and 85 degrees, and during winter, between 30 and 70 degrees. This is why Colorado is ideal for outdoor exploration and activities. Colorado has 18 million acres of public land - three national parks, six national monuments, 40 state parks, 15 national forests and grasslands, seven national monuments, and national recreation areas. The state has also 24 scenic byways that present every corner, culture and ecosystem in Colorado. Here there are as well 54 of the 61 "fourteeners" (14,000-foot peaks) in the continental United States.

No matter where you go, in Colorado, you'll get a bit of adventure, a lot of family fun, breathtaking vistas, sparkling waters, cultural crossroads, historic side trips, plenty of relaxation and, of course, you’ll have memories for a lifetime. During summer, visitors can practice river rafting and hot air ballooning, horseback riding and 4x4 tours, camping, water skiing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, golfing, paragliding, fishing, sailing, caving, and a lot of other wonderful sports. During winter, you can enjoy world-class skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice-fishing, ice-climbing, tubing, sleigh rides, ice-skating and other.

About The Author
Dominic is the author of this article. This article may be reproduced on websites subject to credit being given to the author, and a link to this website. If you would like more information go to

Best Florida Beaches

Why choose a beach vacation in Florida? One good reason is because wherever you go in Florida, you're never more than 60 miles from the beach!

Florida is also easy to get to, the temperature is pleasurable year round, it offers good value for your money and that’s just for starters. So whether you are looking for a family vacation, a romantic vacation, a relaxing vacation or getting in some golf time, there is a Florida beach vacation area for you.

Best Florida Beach Areas for Families

Siesta Public Beach

Siesta Public Beach in Sarasota makes a great family beach because of its gradual slopes, shallow waters, lifeguards on duty, fine white sand and tranquil waters. It has won awards for best beach based on sand, water quality and facilities. The beach facilities include picnic areas, rest rooms, concession stands, playground, trails, and tennis and volleyball courts. If you enjoy collecting shells, try Turtle Beach, at the south end of the island.

Tampa Bay Area - St. Petes/Clearwater

Located on the West Coast of Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico, the Tampa Bay area is a waterfront heaven! Miles and miles of white sandy beaches along the Gulf Coast offer unlimited options for a fun and relaxing vacation. When you need a break from the surf and sand, there are plenty of nearby activities to keep the kids amused including the Florida Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Lowry Park Zoo.


With twenty-three miles of sparkling white sandy beaches and beautiful blue-green waters there is no shortage of beach fun for whole family. The beach is up to 500 feet wide at low tide and is perfect for castle building, cycling, jogging, fishing or just relaxing in the sun. The Atlantic Ocean is great for swimming, especially during the spring and summer when water temperatures range from 74 to 80 degrees. And you are only an hour’s drive from Orlando if you are so inclined.

Best Florida Beach Areas for Romance

Miami Beach

A Miami romantic vacation has everything from relaxing on the beach by day and dancing by night. There are lots of art deco and interesting hotels on South Beach. A short drive west will bring you to the Everglades, where you can take a Scenic Boat Tour and see plenty of wildlife, including alligators. You can shop at the ritzy Bal Harbor shops, and at night choose from plenty of dance clubs or mellow jazz bars and restaurants.

Marco Island

Marco Island is located at the southern tip of Southwest Florida's Gulf Coast at the western entrance to Everglades National Park. The island is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and natural wilderness on the other. There are miles of white-sand beaches, lavish real estate, shopping, dining, nightlife, attractions and lots of outdoor activities. Your recreation choices include swimming, sunbathing fishing, golf, tennis, and more. Enjoy the subtropical ambience that exists in Southwest Florida's Gulf Coast.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach has beautiful sandy beaches and a great pier that is available for fishing, dining & dancing. There is a large promenade leading to the beach with an observation deck overlooking the ocean, perfect for romantic walks. While you're on the Space Coast you can visit the Kennedy Space Center, go deep-sea fishing, surf, windsurf, rent a jet ski, golf our take a take a river tour. At night there is lots of nightlife and great dining for you to enjoy.

Best Florida Beach Areas for Relaxing

New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach is a laid-back beach town without the crowds, noise or pollution, which gives visitors a relaxing beach experience. Although the northern beach is accessible to cars, the majority is traffic free, allowing for peaceful sunbathing and strolls along the beach. New Smyrna has a small town feel in its architecture and atmosphere. There are no high-rises along the beach, only low-rise buildings and these accommodations range from bed and breakfast inns, family-size condominiums or oceanfront motels.

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is one of the unique barrier islands of the world, having an east-west orientation when most islands are north south. This gives the island great sandy beaches with plenty of shells. Check out Bowman's Beach for peach and quiet, you won't find any hotels here. You can park and walk over a bridge to secluded white beach. There are barbecue grills in the area so it is a great spot to have a picnic and enjoy the beach.

Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda is located about 30 miles north of Fort Myers. There is plenty of waterfront in this town, and a very nice riverfront beach area. Here you can enjoy swimming, fishing, canoeing, hiking and walking in the woods, it is a great place to get away from the crowds. The town of Punta Gorda has street art, water views and interesting murals that enrich the historic downtown district that also has cobblestone streets and gaslights, and many fine shops and restaurants.

Best Florida Beach Areas for Golf


Sarasota is a sophisticated resort town near the Gulf of Mexico. For beach lovers there is Sarasota’s 35 miles of fine, pure, sparkling white sand beach to enjoy. As far as golf is concerned there are 32 golf courses in the Sarasota area and almost 20 more if you include the surrounding cities of Bradenton and Venice. You will find one for every level of ability available for your golfing pleasure.


Jacksonville has twenty miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches and lots of nearby state parks to explore. You will find lots of things to do and lots of beaches to explore in Jacksonville. For golfers there are over 25 golf courses in the area. Several championship golf courses are located nearby; many of which are ranked among the top in the country offering challenges for players of every skill level, ranging from top ocean side resorts to popular public courses.


Naples, located on a stretch of southwest Florida that is not bordered by barrier islands, has seven miles of silky, white sand beach that overlooks the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There is plenty of shopping and dining in the area once the sun goes down beachfront. There are also dozens of excellent golf courses in the area. From May through October, the golf courses are not as crowded and you can pick your tee time and be assured of a leisurely round. Also, many private courses are open to the public during these months.

This is only a sampling of some of the great beaches located along the shores of Florida. There are many more that can fill your Florida beach vacation needs year round.

About The Author
Jolana Klobouk is a former travel agent who has traveled extensively for work and vacations with her family. For more travel information, visit her travel websites: and

Why Take A Mediterranean Cruise?

A Mediterranean cruise is without doubt the most varied type of cruise available. There are more than 120 seaports around the Mediterranean coastline, offering numerous combinations of cruise vacations over one-week, two-week or longer trips.

A huge clash of cultures await all who opt for a Mediterranean cruise. You can visit no less than 17 different countries, including such nations as Spain, Italy, Greece and Egypt. Each nation has its own unique attractions, all of which you can sample as your cruise ship gracefully sails around the calm blue Mediterranean Sea.

More than 50 companies offer cruises along varied routes in the Mediterranean. Some companies specialize in providing Western Mediterranean cruises, concentrating on ports of call around Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Morocco. Other companies offer Eastern Mediterranean cruises which take in Croatia, Greece, Turkey and countries in the Middle East. Popular specialist Mediterranean cruises include a tour of the North African nations, a Mediterranean islands cruise that visits the island nations of Cyprus and Malta, as well as cruises around the Greek Islands. If you're after a longer vacation, it is possible to arrange a cruise itinerary that takes you around most if not all of the Mediterranean nations.

History, culture, grand cities, ancient monuments, romantic islands and breathtaking views are all within easy reach on a Mediterranean cruise. In the Western Mediterranean you can discover the traditional white Andalucian villages of Southern Spain, sample the world-famous Manzanilla sherry in Cadiz and visit the cultural hub of Europe in the shape of Barcelona, before travelling onwards to the French Riviera.

A cruise that takes in the wonderful coastline of Italy yields such treasures as the dormant volcano of Mt Vesuvius, ancient Pompeii and the stunning city of Rome. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia hold many delights too on a Western Mediterranean cruise.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, cruise passengers can discover the spectacular Croatian coastline and its beautiful city - Dubrovnik, before diving southeastwards to sample classical Greece and its sultry islands. The island of Crete is always worth a visit, if only for the historic Palace of Knossos.

A visit to the holy city of Jerusalem is a worthwhile excursion from both Israeli ports - Haifa and Ashdod - on a Mediterranean cruise of the Middle East. Egypt's Port Said is well worth a visit too. Port Said provides access to the world famous Suez Canal, which takes vessels into the Red Sea and onwards in to the Arabian Sea.
The Mediterranean region has seen many a civilization rise and fall. It is a crucible of human evolution and is rich in relics left over by more than 6,000 years of occupation. If you've ever wanted to discover what it felt like to be an Egyptian pharaoh, Roman warrior or a Greek philosopher, a Mediterranean cruise can give you just that opportunity..

John Metcalfe

About The Author
John Metcalfe is the webmaster for which is the No1 resource for Cruise related Information on the Internet. Be sure to visit his complete archive of articles here:

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Cheap International Plane Tickets

The best place to buy cheap international plane tickets is online. We've tried travel agencies and they can't compete with the discount ticket websites. You can search google ("cheap airfare South America", for example), or go straight to one of the well-known sites, like Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets, Hotwire or Priceline.

I just did a quick search for the cheapest airfare from Tucson, Arizona, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, using the five sites mentioned. They ranged from $1221 down to $873, and there were fares as high as $3728. Hotwire happened to have the cheapest, but they were the worst of the five when I searched for a domestic flight earlier. You cannot say which service will find the cheapest international plane tickets from week to week. My number one money-saving tip is to always check several websites when shopping for inexpensive flights.

My Accidental $1000 Discovery

Before going to Ecuador, I searched several websites that deal in cheap international plane tickets. The cheapest airfare from Traverse City, Michigan to Quito, was $1720. Out of curiosity, I checked Miami to Quito, and it was only $400. Airfare from Traverse City to Miami was $300. Book two separate flights and save more than $1000! The discount sites aren't set up to check in this way (yet), so you have to do this on your own.

If your first flight is late and you miss the second, you may not get a refund, but it is still cheaper (every time I checked) to just book a flight to Miami and catch a flight to Quito without a reservation, thus avoiding this problem. This strategy is best for those in towns without international airports. If you live in Miami, you already have cheap international airfare.

Courier Flights

As an air courier, you can get really cheap international plane tickets. Courier companies ship material in the luggage space of an aircraft passenger because it can be quicker, cheaper, and more reliable than sending the shipment unaccompanied, since checked luggage bypasses many of the typical customs delays. The courier company begins by purchasing airfare, and then they resell the plane tickets to you. In exchange for your luggage space, they give you a discount on the airfare.

An Example Of A Courier Flight

I saved over $150 on my plane tickets this way when I went to Ecuador the first time. I had to walk several suitcases of car parts through customs, but there was a representative of the courier company on either end, and I did get to look inside the luggage, so I knew what I was carrying. I had to carry a plane propeller on the return trip, but it wasn't too much trouble, and made a good story.

Limitations To Courier Travel

You generally can only be an air courier if you travel alone. Once in a while, a courier company will have opportunities for flights on or near the same date. Otherwise, your travel partner can pay full fare on the same flight. You also can usually only bring carry-on luggage, since the point is for the shipping company to use your checked luggage allowance.

Really Cheap Courier Flights

Sometimes air couriers fly internationally for free, and almost always very cheap. It is a matter of how badly the company needs you and how flexible you can be (can you fly to Paris on Friday?). In general air courier opportunities are becoming rarer, due to the recent heavier regulation of international flights. There still are opportunities for cheap tickets, though. You can find out more at The Air Courier Association Website ( The ACA can also help you get really cheap plane tickets by way of airline ticket wholesalers, discounters, last minute specials, and stand-by travel.

More Tips On Cheap International Plane Tickets

When searching for fares using the discount websites, try several different departure and return dates if you can. The difference of a day or two can save you a lot. There is little logic to airfare pricing, so don't try too hard to figure it out. Just be aware that if you leave on Friday instead of Wednesday (or vice-versa), you may save $100.

Check the boxes that say "any time" for departure and "2 or more connecting flights". Even if you aren't sure that you want to leave at midnight, see what your options are-the savings might change your mind. Whenever the search criteria allow you choices, take the ones that are the least restrictive for the airlines. Again, if the savings aren't enough, you can always book first class, direct flights, or whatever you prefer.

Buying your plane tickets at least a week in advance is usually cheaper. Also, there can be a dramatic difference (but not always) if your trip is over thirty days. You may want to cut it from 32 days to 30 to save hundreds of dollars on your fare. Play with the dates on one of the websites mentioned. You never know what you might discover.

Want To Go Really Cheap?

You can take a bus to a major city, if you don't live in one, and then take an international flight from there to save quite a bit of money. My wife and I recently went to Ecuador for six weeks. The cheapest discount website plane tickets we could find were $3400 for the two of us. By taking a bus to Miami ($352 round-trip for 2), then flying from there to Quito ($622 round-trip for 2), we saved over $2400 - even after the taxi fare from the bus station to the airport. That's a lot of money to us, certainly worth an extra day-and-a-half on a bus. (The whole six weeks cost less than $2500.)

The bottom line is that if you spend a few minutes or an hour to do some research, you might save hundreds of dollars. Good luck and happy travels.

About The Author
Steve Gillman first hit the road on his own when at sixteen, and traveled alone across the United States and Mexico at 17. Now 40, he continues to travel and backpack with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. Many of his stories, plus tips and information on travel and lightweight backpacking, can be found on his websites,, and