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Posts Tagged ‘vacation’


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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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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Mini vacations withouth leaving town

Posted in Free Stuff, Money Saving Tips  by Traveler on June 18th, 2009

There are some days where your entire body is asking you for a vacation; a break from everything.  This is especially true if you had a hard week at work, filled with last minute or end of the month reports, deadlines, or your boss asking you to do more things that any human can possible do in 40 hours of work.

Unfortunately, what our body wants and what our wallets can afford not always go hand in hand. So what do you do when you need a brake, but can afford a vacation?

Use one day of the weekend and take a mini vacation without having to leave town.

Here are some of things you can do to get away from everything, and they won’t cost you much, plus they can really help you relax and recharge your batteries.

 Grab your camera

Most of us have a digital camera that we use to take pictures of our kids, family reunions, etc. The thing is that most people don’t even think about using their camera to take pictures of their surroundings.  As a matter of fact, because we are so busy going from one place to another, most of us don’t even notice our surroundings. So grab your camera, go to a park, a nature reserve, the beach, a lake, even downtown and start taking pictures of all the interesting things that you find. You will be surprise how many new things you will discover even in places where you have been thousand of times before. For some reason, when you go to a place with the sole purpose of taking pictures, you look at things in a completely different way. For example, you might see a weird looking tree that resembles a statue, or how different a building looks when you look at it from certain angle. Snap away, and don’t worry about the technical stuff, simple try to be creative about your picture, and soon you’ll find yourself immerse in your picture taking quest and you’ll forget about work and everything else that stress you out.

Cook out.

Having a BBQ on the beach or a park can be fun. You can really enjoy a day out in the outdoors if you are surrounded by family and friends. If you have a family, put the kids in the car, grab some charcoal, a bag of hamburger, some hamburger buns and head to the nearest park or beach. You can also invite a couple of friends or other family members. You will be surprise what a great time you can have with a simple barbeque and good company.

Go camping

When was the last time you went camping? Most of us loved to camp out when we were kids. Remember the campfire, the sky full of stars at night, the excitement of sleeping in the middle of nowhere? Almost every town in America has a place where you can go camping for less than $20 a night. Go ahead, relive those memories from long gone days, and if you have children, create new memories for them. They’ll never forget the experience.

 Visit a local attraction.

I bet you that there is at least one attraction in your city that you have never been to. It can be a water park, a museum, a gallery. Any place nearby that you have been thinking about going but put it in the back burner because you knew it was right there and you could go anytime you wanted. Well perhaps spending several hours at a local attraction is what you needed to relax and have a good time.

Spend a night at a local hotel

The idea of renting a room in a hotel located only a couple of miles away from you home sounds silly, but if you have never done try it. I am sure you’ll be able to find a local hotel or motel for a very reasonable price. Mi wife and I do this whenever we can. We send the kids to spend the night with the grandparents and just go and rent a room in a local hotel. Because we can focus our attention in ourselves, we have a very relaxing time, especially if after checking in, we go out to the movies or a restaurant to grab a quick bite.

Those are only some suggestions, but if you are really creative, you can have a mini vacation almost every weekend, and it won’t cost you much. After all, fun doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.


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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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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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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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Viva Las Vegas

Posted in Vacations  by Traveler on August 1st, 2008

Las Vegas at Night

Las Vegas at Night



My sister in law offered to keep the kids for a week so we could take a vacation just my wife and I. Suddenly a list of places I’ve been wanting to go, but didn’t have the time or the opportunity to go started rushing through my mind. I quickly thought of Punta Cana (D.R) where I heard the all inclusive packages are really attractive, Cancun (which I wanted to go back after spending 4 days there), Las Vegas or a Caribbean cruise.

I discarded Cancun because I’ve been there already and I wanted to go to a new place. I always enjoy cruises, but after doing some quick search I couldn’t find any cruise with an interesting itinerary, other than the same old  port of calls (by the way someone who works for the cruise industry told me that almost all the cruise lines decided to leave a lot of their ships in Europe during this summer because it was more profitable for them to charge passengers in Euro than in Dollars) I did check into Punta Cana, but I needed to save some money for our annual family vacation to Orlando in a month and Punta Cana would be too much money. So my last choice was Las Vegas.

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