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Archive for the ‘Vacations’ Category

9
Sep

Frequent flyer

Posted in Airline Industry, Vacations  by Traveler on September 9th, 2009

Brendan Ross - Credit Wired.com

Brendan Ross - Credit Wired.com

Would you spend an entire month flying to over 40 cities? Brendan Ross would. As a matter of fact that is exactly what he plans to do in the next 30 days.

Brendan is taking advantage of the Jet Blue unlimited pass, a promotion the airline company did a couple of weeks ago, where you could purchase a month worth of unlimited flying for a flat rate.

Brendan has plugged all his flights on an Excel spread sheet to make sure he can cover as many cities as he can possible visit on the month. Wired.com purchased the ticket for Brendan with two conditions: he must not leave the airport at any time during the following month (unless he is in the air flying) and he will blog the entire experience on Autopia, a Wired magazine blog.

I am looking forward reading Brendan’s experience with the long lines, flight delays and all the other nightmares associated with flying.

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19
Aug

Another week in Orlando

Posted in Money Saving Tips, Vacations  by Traveler on August 19th, 2009

Last week we returned from our one week annual pilgrimage to Orlando. As usual we stayed at Orange Lake Resort, which to my surprise began offering free wireless access all the villages.

 Wet and Wild

This year we decided to purchase the annual tickets to Wet and Wild. After doing some serious search on the internet, I was able to find this coupon, which lower the weekday annual pass at Wet and Wild from $49.00 to $40.00 per person. The coupon also have discount for daily passes, and it is good until December 31st. 2009. You can download it here.

Wet and Wild is much smaller than any of the Disney water parks, and in my opinion, everything inside the park is much more expensive. Lockers cost you $8.00 to rent, and if you want to do water ski in the lake, you must pay extra for that too. The food it is expensive as well, although this is something I had expected.

Some of the most popular rides have long lines, while in the smaller rides the lines were short and they moved fast. The good thing about the park is that they allow food and drinks inside the park, as long as there are not in glass containers, so if you pack some sandwiches and some drinks you will save a lot of money.

In general my kids enjoyed the water park. We visited twice during the week.

Bongos Restaurant

One of the biggest disappointed this summer vacation was the dinner we had at Bongos Restaurant in Downtown Disney. Bongos is owned by the singer Gloria Stephan and her husband. They serve Cuban food and on the weekend they have live music at the restaurant. This was our second time having dinner there and I must say that it was a completely different experience compared to our previous visit to the restaurant.

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30
Jun

Back from Orlando. Review of West Gate Resort and Buena Vista Palace

Posted in Vacations, hotel review  by Traveler on June 30th, 2009

My wife and I just came back from the Orlando, Fl. area. I had a 3 days work related conference in Buena Vista, and since my wife was also on vacation, and the kids were spending some days with the grandparents, we decided to take a break and combine work and vacation for a total of 5 days.

It worked out great. I took two days off from work (Monday and Tuesday) and the conference was held from Wednesday through Friday. While I was on the conference, my wife was relaxing by the pool or shopping at the outlet stores nearby.

West Gate Resort

First I want to write a little bit about West Gate Resort, where we spent our first two nights thanks to the free accommodations I got.

There is nothing spectacular about the resort. I mean, it definitely beats any hotel, but there are plenty of other resorts in the Orlando area that have much more amenities, bigger swimming pools and more stuff to keep the kids occupied. I browsed through their daily activities program and nothing caught my attention (nor it would have probably caught my kid’s attention either).

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20
Apr

The most remote place on Earth

Posted in International Travel, Vacations  by Traveler on April 20th, 2009

Want to get away from every thing? If you do, we have the perfect place for you: The Tibetan plateau (34.7°N, 85.7°E). From here, it is a three-week trip to the cities of Lhasa or Korla - one day by car and the remaining 20 on foot.

How do we know this? Aa new map of connectedness created by researchers at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, and the World Bank shows the most remote places on Earth.The maps are based on a model which calculated how long it would take to travel to the nearest city of 50,000 or more people by land or water.

The model combines information on terrain and access to road, rail and river networks. It also considers how factors like altitude, steepness of terrain and hold-ups like border crossings slow travel.

So, the next time that you wish to take a vacation on a place where you would not be disturbed at all, you know where to go. By the way, be prepared because the most remote place on Earth is 5200 meters above the sea and there is no hot shower available.

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8
Apr

Back from Costa Rica

Posted in International Travel, Vacations, hotel review  by Traveler on April 8th, 2009

We just came back from Costa Rica and I took lot of pictures which I will be uploading to my Flickr account.

On the following posts I will be writing about some of the places we went, but for now I want to write a review of Hotel Vista Linda del Norte, near the Arenal Volcano.

The hotel is just beautiful, with a breathtaking view of the Arenal Volcano and the Arenal Lagoon. The hotel is small, yet all the rooms are very well distributed among the mountain side. There are three types of rooms, standard, junior suite and honeymoon suite. We stayed at the junior suite and I really recommend this one, as it has direct view of the volcano and the lagoon. It is also big enough to fit 4 people comfortably.

The hotel has a pool bar that overlooks the volcano and the lagoon. This is a beautiful setting to have some drinks and relax at the pool or the Jacuzzi. There is also a patio on the second floor where you can take your drinks and just enjoy the view.

Linda Vista offers free breakfast buffet, with fruits, cereals, bread, coffee, natural juices and a la carte omelets cooked while you wait.

People in Costa Rica are very friendly and helpful, yet some people are willing to go the extra mile to help you out, and some of the staffs working at Linda Vista were the perfect example of this. The night we arrived, the restaurant was about to close, so instead of hurrying up we decided to order some food from the pool bar. The girl working the bar told us that because of the time, we could only eat at the restaurant; however she suggested we drive a short distance to a small place that sold hamburgers, sandwiches and other types of fast food. Without having to ask her, she picked up her own cell phone and made a call to the owner of the place to get the menu.  She then waited for us to write our order and called him again to place the order for us. In the process she asked them if they would deliver the food to the pool, which the owner agreed.

When the food arrived she set up a table for us and gave us glasses with ice to pour the soda bottles we have ordered. She did all these things without even expecting a tip, which we gladly gave her anyway.

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24
Mar

Going to Costa Rica

Posted in Vacations  by Traveler on March 24th, 2009

After more than 5 years, we are going back to Costa Rica to see old friends and spend Spring Break with the kids in that wonderful country.

This time one of my wife’s cousin, his wife and 11 years old son are coming with us and they are really excited about the trip as this will be their first time in Costa Rica.

We’ll have a very busy schedule. We arrive at Costa Rica this Saturday March 28th, the next day we are visiting Volcán Poas, a dormant volcano near the province of Cartago. The last time we were at the Poas, the sky cleared up enough for us the see the crater. I am hopping for the same kind of luck this time, as I am taking a good camera with me and I am looking forward to taking some decent shots of the crater.

On Monday we will visit Ojo de Agua, a public balneario that doesn’t offer much, except that the water comes from an underground spring and it is really cold, but my kids love it because they have several diving platforms and very few rules to jump from them. Ojo de Agua was my favorite spot when I was a teenager because they used to have free music concerts during the summer, so my friends and I used to go there almost every day during our time off from school.

On Tuesday we will visit friends and walk around San Jose. Things has changed a lot since I lived in Costa Rica and several of my friends are already warning me no walk around San Jose with jewelry or video cameras, as I’ll be a target for robbers.

On Wednesday we’ll leave for Volcan Arenal. We found this great hotel (at least the pictures look good) a couple of miles from the volcano. The night is around $130.00 for a room with volcano view. Arenal is an active volcano and I heard that at night you can see the lava spilling from the volcano. I can’t believe that in the 8 years I lived in Costa Rica I never went to Arenal.

We’ll spend the night at Arenal and then on Thursday  we are leaving for Guanacaste. This time we are going to Playa Hermoza where we’ll stay until Sunday.

We are coming back on Tusday, April 6th.

I am really looking forward this trip. Not only we are going to reunite with a bunch of old friends, but I’ve taken a new hobby (photography) and Costa Rica is the perfect place to take good pictures.

I’ll try to post some details on the trip while I am in Costa Rica, and perhaps some pictures. Once I come back, I’ll write a full review of the hotels we stayed at in case you decide to travel there and visit these places.

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14
Jan

Most boring cities in the US

Posted in Travel Tips, Vacations  by Traveler on January 14th, 2009

Vacations are supposed to be fun, but if by any chance you pick one of these 10 cities to visit, you’ll find yourself with very little to do and a lot of time to kill.

Using media reports from several sources, Forbes Magazine picked the top 10 more boring cities in the US. The cities were picked because of lack of news from those cities. In other words, nothing happen that was newsworthy in any of these towns.

I am not sure if this type of evaluation is valid, but at least it is fun to read.

Here there are

#1 Chula Vista, Calif.
Population: 217,478
The midway point between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, rarely makes national news, but when it does, it’s often in stories about the region’s border tensions. How many people even knew Chula Vista was one of the country’s 100 largest cities?

#2 Hialeah, Fla.
Population: 212,217
Hialeah, in the Miami metropolitan area, barely exists as an independent city in the eyes of the national media. Many stories featuring an appearance of Hialeah discussed the impact of the city’s Cuban-American population on the presidential election in Florida

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1
Dec

Gran Melia Puerto Rico Review

Posted in Travel Tips, Vacations  by Traveler on December 1st, 2008

We had a wonderful time in Puerto Rico. With the exception of missing our flight and having to wait over 8 hours at the airport, the trip was perfect.

Gran Melia Puerto Rico - Hotel Review

We arrived at the hotel almost at 1:30 AM. I’ve called reservation to let them know I was doing a late check in, so there was not issue at all when we arrived.

 The hotel is just beautiful. The lobby area is huge, with plenty of places to sit and relax. It has several water fountains and ponds that give you the sensation of being in a truly tropical place.

The room was very clean and spacious. It includes a balcony and sitting area. Although our room was not ocean front, you could see the beach from the balcony. The beach is less than 50 meters away.

The staff was very courteous and helpful. They can provide you with maps and driving directions to all the mayor attractions in the area and even to farther places like San Juan (the hotel is about 45 minute drives from the Airport and about 1 hour from San Juan)

Grand Melia Puerto Rico is not a traditional hotel .The rooms are villages grouped in units of 4 to 6 each (three on the bottom and three on the second floor) There are not elevators and you cannot park in front of your village, instead you must park near the lobby or the casino and they will take you to your room in a golf card. If you don’t want to walk you must wait for the golf car to pick you up and take you back to the car. They pass by frequently or you can call the front desk and ask them to send someone to pick you up.

The hotel also have separate villages, most of them ocean front, that are reserved for the Royal Service category. Meaning you pay more, but they also assign you a butler to take care of your every need. These Royal Service villages come with a private outdoor Jacuzzi and you have access to a pool that is also reserved for guests using the Royal Service.  

The casino is small, but clean. You can drink all you want for free as long as you are playing.

Parking is expensive. I can’t believe they charge $16.00 a day for self parking or $25.00 for valet parking. I can understand when hotels located in the middle of a mayor city where parking space is scarce charge for parking, but in this case there was plenty of parking space within the hotel property to justify the charges. On top of that, you must validate your parking ticket every time you leave the hotel.

The hotel has three restaurants. One with Italian food, the other with mix American and Caribbean food and the third one is an outdoor restaurant by the pool which opens only during the day (it serves mostly hamburgers, sandwitchis and salads). Food in Puerto Rico is expensive compare to other places like Miami. On average, be prepared to pay around $30 per person every time you eat out. The restaurants at the hotels are of course even more expensive. Forget about ordering room services, unless you are willing to pay $15.00 for a hamburger (no fries included).

We ate twice at the hotel and the food was decent, but not outstanding.

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26
Nov

Finally at the hotel

Posted in Vacations  by Traveler on November 26th, 2008

We finally arrived at our hotel @1:30 am.

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25
Nov

Lesson learned

Posted in Airline Industry, Vacations  by Traveler on November 25th, 2008

Well, at this time we were suppouse to be enjoying the beaches in Puerto Rico, but instead we are stuck for 8 hours at the airport. We missed our fligth!!! First time ever!
They gave us seats for the next flight, but I had to make severals changes in my hotel and car reservation.
I am looking toward to finally arriving in Puerto Rico.
Here is a pict of my wife checking her email at the airport. Good thing they have free wifi here, so we can kill some time.

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