Current Event - Wealthy Americans Should Take Vacations

March 6, 2009 by Gwen  
Filed under Current Events

I just read an article today about the decline in the travel industry. The downturn is not surprising in this economic climate, but what is a little surprising is that the wealthy are cutting back on their vacations too.

beach-homepage Current Event - Wealthy Americans Should Take Vacations

In a recent survey of travelers’ intentions, Forrester Research found the solidly middle class intended to cut back on travel, but so did 28% of those with household incomes of $100,000 and above. “It shows that the well-to-do are not being spared by this recession,” says travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.

“Luxury shame is very real,” says Harteveldt of Forrester Research. “When your neighbors are losing their jobs and you’re doing well, you don’t flaunt your success.”

What this means is that guilt is causing the rich to down-size their vacations or to cancel them outright. Now on the surface, this makes sense. Everyone is tightening their belts.

However, my concern stems from the fact that we need the wealthy to stimulate the economy in these harsh times.  Middle Americans are losing jobs and homes while the wealthy seem to be hoarding money for a rainy day.

To all the rich Americans out there, in case you didn’t notice, it’s pouring outside. Yes, some of us may be jealous of your cash flow and your ability to go out to fancy restaurants and take expensive cruises, but we also need you to keep spending your money.

Feel free to cut back on mink coats, as long as you are taking that money and spending it elsewhere. If luxury cruises make you feel guilty, then take your money and donate it to the local foodbank so they can restock the shelves for those who need it. If you don’t feel comfortable investing in the volatile stock markets, take your money and invest it in our children. Give schools money for new books and playground equipment.

Just whatever you do, don’t keep your money in your pockets, the rest of the country is counting on you to spend your money and help dig us out of this economic vortex.

Source:
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2009-03-05-luxury-shame_N.htm

The 7 Most ‘American’ Places Outside US

February 19, 2009 by Natalie  
Filed under Fun Stuff

Americans are known to work hard and play even harder. That’s why when they’re exhausted from their 9-5’s, they like to relax, kick up their feet and take a vacation to get away from the daily stresses.

What if Americans could jet off to some place that offers an exotic twist but still maintains the familiar comforts of the American lifestyle? What if they could spend the day hiking through the rainforest but still grab a Big Mac for supper, all while feeling safe, comfortable, and welcome? Here are the 7 most ‘American’ places outside the US, places where Americans will feel right at home.

Toronto, Canada

Population: 2.5 million
Language: English
Approximate Distance: 60 miles

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Peter Ustinov famously described Toronto as “New York run by the Swiss”, and it is one of the top vacationing spots for Americans looking for fast and easy international travel. Toronto comes without the dreaded culture shock or 10 flights.

Only a 90 minute drive from the US border, Toronto’s climate is similar to any of the northern states complete with hot, humid summers.

Since the US is Canada’s leading trading partner, it’s pretty easy to understand why Toronto would share many of the same restaurants, shopping centers, products, customs and amenities that are present in the US.

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Toronto may make Americans feel like they’ve never left home but the city definitely has great tourist attractions to keep tourists busy.

The CN Tower which held the world record of tallest free-standing structure for 30 years, one of the largest zoos in the world, the Toronto Zoo, as well as several famous art galleries, museums and sporting events – just to name a few.

Overall, Canada isn’t that different from the US. While staying there, Americans can still watch their favorite television shows, rent the same movies, eat many of the same foods, read about the same celebrities and communicate fluently. And despite some sibling rivalry between the two countries, Americans are overwhelmingly welcome to cross the border.

Sydney, Australia

Population: 4.28 million
Language: English
Approximate Distance: 9400 miles

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Considering Australia is predominantly of British origin, it makes sense that this is another country that will provide a safe and homey tourist destination for Americans. The two countries share a very long and deep relationship spanning back many years and have subsequently developed a tight bond. america-sydneyopera The 7 Most American Places Outside US

Both countries share similar outlooks, cultures and values and both have a strong commitment to democracy and human rights.

From evolution to linguist similarities, Americans share much common ground with the Aussies down under.

The climate is temperate with warm summers making for easy adjustment for southern or northern Americans. Australia is also one of the top ten most tourist friendly countries in the world so Americans don’t have to worry about feeling unwelcomed.Giraffes at Taronga Zoo

Sydney provides an ‘American’ feel while still offering incredibly unique experiences. From the wild outback to fascinating wildlife, Sydney is known for its spectacular beauty and famous landscapes. Check out Sydney’s most famous beach, Bondi Beach, take a tour of Taronga Zoo, visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship or taste a bit of culture at the famous Sydney Opera House.

Sydney will gladly open her arms and take tourists on a journey of a lifetime, all while still providing the basic comforts and luxuries Americans are used too.

London, England

Population: 7.55 million
Language: English
Approximate Distance: 3000 miles

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London Tower Bridge

London, England may be on the other side of the world, but it is another great place for a comfortable American vacation. The US was founded by 13 British colonies but the two share much more than just history and lineage.

The predominant language used in London is English (though the British certainly have their own unique slang) so the learning curve is small. London is also influenced by the familiar Anglo-Saxon culture Americans are accustomed too.

From music and art to fashion, sports and media, the similarities between the US and London are great. London is also a European hub for business, finance, politics and more so Americans will recognize many of the brands and companies while travelling through the city.

Cabot Square viewed from Canary WharfHowever, London is still rich with historic treasures, containing four of the World Heritage Sites and for those looking for a bit of fun and adventure, there are many worthwhile tourist attractions including beautiful parks and gardens, theaters, galleries, museums, and many famous landmarks such as the Buckingham Palace.

Tourists can enjoy London all while still feeling the ease of being at home in “the States” England is also one of the top ten countries that love America, so Americans can expect a warm and friendly welcome - just remember to drive on the other side of the road!

Monterrey, Mexico

Population: 1.3 million
Language: Spanish
Approximate Distance: 280 miles

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Cola de Caballo

143 miles south of the US border lies another top destination spot for Americans looking to balance familiarity with the exotic. As one of Mexico’s largest cities, Monterrey looks and feels much like Phoenix but with a more pronounced Spanish flavor.

Sharing a border and being large trading partners has had a huge impact on Monterrey life, blending mariachis and tacos with Wal-Marts and Applebee’s.

Monterrey is a fast growing metropolis full of ‘americanizados’ (Americanization) as well as rich culture. Although some of the more southern areas of Mexico have shown concern regarding the growing American influence, in Monterrey, residents welcome it with open arms.

The great thing about travelling to Monterrey is while you can still experience things like American-style football, fast-food restaurants, American television and the latest US fashions, there is still a very strong commitment to keeping Mexican tradition and culture alive.

There are hundreds of landmarks and cultural sites such as the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey or Museo de Historia Mexicana and breath taking scenery full of waterfalls, mountains, caves and wildlife.

Cerro de la Silla (left), Santa Lucia Riverwalk (right)

Monterrey has also been ranked as one of the most secure cities in Latin America and Mexico, so Americans thinking of making Monterrey their getaway of choice, will find themselves in a safe home away from home.

Stockholm, Sweden

Population: 807,301
Language: Swedish
Approximate Distance: 5400 miles

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Globe Arena

With the unique location of being built on 14 different islands, Stockholm, Sweden is certainly a rare sight to behold for any tourist. It is considered one of the most beautiful capital cities on the planet, but it’s also one of the most Americanized cities in Europe.

The Swedes have always been early adopters of American products and trends, and this has created a melting pot of western and European culture that is prevalent in Stockholm.

american-stocksodertornet-195x300 The 7 Most American Places Outside USStockholm is also a very ‘English-friendly’ European city. Since the late 1940’s, English has been a compulsory subject in school for Swedes and despite its northerly location; Stockholm’s weather is much like Seattle but with a slightly colder winter.

The beauty of Stockholm for American tourists is not just its minimal learning curve, but also the extraordinary location, preserved mediaeval city Gamla Stan with fairy tale towers, renowned museums, distinguished theaters, World Heritage Sites and how easy it is to see it all – most attractions are found in the inner city.  There is even an amusement park complete with a tunnel of love, roller coaster, and funhouse.

Stockholm is known for its superb and diverse food thanks to immigration, but Americans can still enjoy an all-American chain like TGI Friday’s.

Frankfurt, Germany

Population: 670,000
Language: German
Approximate Distance: 4000 miles

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St. Katherine's Church and Hauptwache (Top), St. Bartholomeus' Cathedral (Bottom)Frankfurt, Germany seems an unlikely place for those looking to vacation in an ‘American’ city, but it’s the most US-influenced city in Germany. After World War II, Frankfurt was left in ruins and the city turned to innovation rather than restoration and constructed a city skyline that would give New York a run for its money.

This stunning landscape of skyscrapers has dubbed Frankfurt as a German “Mainhattan” (Frankfurt is located on the Main River).

Another surprising fact about Frankfurt is that one in three people living there do not hold a German passport. That means it’s easy to find someone who speaks your language and serves your favorite food. Frankfurt has long developed a reputation as being a liberal and hospitable haven stemming from centuries of being a trading center.

Frankfurt has already secured itself as a major economic and business hub for Germany and Europe, but it is working to distinguish itself as an attraction for literature and art connoisseurs.

The city has an energetic nightlife, an array of museums and festivals and one of the most important zoos in Europe, the Frankfurt Zoological Garden – almost all of which lie inside the old city walls.

Frankfurt offers the frills of home surrounded by historic wonders spanning back 1200 years.

Panama City, Panama

Population: 813,097
Language: Spanish
Approximate Distance: 2600 miles

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Panama and the US have had close historical ties dating back decades. The US has assisted Panamanians in promoting economic, political, security and social development through out the country and many Americans are now making Panama their retirement destination of choice because Panama is such a welcoming and friendly place for Americans to travel to, Casco Veijoparticularly Panama City.

Panama City is the capital and largest city of Panama and has previously been chosen to be the American Capital of Culture. Panama uses the American dollar and most Panamanians are bilingual in English as well.

However, even with such a strong American presence, Panama City still offers many stunning attractions and historical sights to see that are exclusive to Panama culture.

Stroll along beautiful beaches, hike through tropical rain forests, relax in world-class hotels (Panama City has the 2nd highest hotel occupancy rate in the world behind Perth, Australia), and get a taste of Panamanian culture by visiting the Old Quarter.Panama City offers a safe and beautiful vacationing spot where Americans can easily fit in.

Bridge of the Americas

Whether Americans want to travel to the other side of the world or take a 90 minute road trip to the neighboring country, they can easily find a warm, welcoming tourist destination where they can relax and explore something new, all while feeling like they’ve never left home.

Too Broke For a Vacation? Take a Stay-cation

January 27, 2009 by Gwen  
Filed under Fun Stuff, Save It

Your budget is stretched, you’re feeling stressed, your to-do list is longer than your arm, AND your boss is driving you crazy. You really NEED a vacation.

staycation2 Too Broke For a Vacation? Take a Stay-cation

Funny thing is, vacations can add to your stress.

There’s planning, packing, getting to the airport and dealing with security, or endless driving and potential road-rage; and you haven’t even arrived at your destination yet. Add that to the fact that this misery is going to cost you… BIG! The most expensive parts of your vacation are travel expenses and accommodations.

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Since you’ve already paid money to live in your house or apartment then the smartest thing you can do is to stay put, avoid the stress and take a Stay-cation!

Of course you are likely to ask yourself, “if I just stay put then how is it really a vacation?” Well, why don’t you think about what a real vacation is. A vacation is about having fun, eating too much, drinking too much, and not dealing with your actual everyday life.

How can you do this while staying at home? Easy! We’ve broken it down into 3 budget categories. You can choose the one you like or mix and match. It’s all up to you since it is your stay-cation.

Don’t forget the ground rules.

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1.    No chores.
2.    Do not check your work email.
3.    Do not open your mail.
4.    Screen all of your calls so that you only answer the important ones, like party invitations.

These 4 things will take a bit of willpower but are vital to the success of your stay-cation. Once you get past the first day they will get easier to do.

 Too Broke For a Vacation? Take a Stay-cation

Mid-Range cost:

Now some of these things may seem a little decadent but you are on vacation and are planning on spending a little bit of money so think of all of the money you saved on hotels and flights to exotic locales and indulge a little in other areas.

  • Hire a maid for the week. There can be great joy in coming back to a clean home after a long day of rabble-rousing. No toys to pick up, no dishes to wash, no beds to make… It sounds like bliss to me.

  • Eat out every meal. If you were staying at a hotel you would need to eat out at every meal so treat yourself to the same self-indulgence and try out some of the local restaurants that you’ve never been to before.

  • Get a babysitter and go out like adults do. At least if you are staying at home you have a baby sitter you can trust close by so you don’t have to worry about a stranger looking after your little ones.

  • Take a cab. If you are going out to have a few drinks with your partner, you don’t want to worry about a designated driver. Enjoy yourself without worrying about how you are going to get home.

  • Explore some of your local attractions. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or use the Internet to find some of the local treasures you may not have discovered yet. Try typing “Things to do” plus the city or town in your browser and you should find lots of great ideas to get you started.

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Low-Cost:

We haven’t cut the expenses down to zero on this one but sometimes it is worth spending a few bucks to have a good time.

  • Hire a maid on the first day of your vacation. She/he may not be able to look after the day-to-day untidiness but it will be nice to start your vacation with a clean bathroom and kitchen.

  • Eat out one meal a day and make it lunch. Most places have great lunch specials that cost about half of what you would pay for the same meal in the evening. And eating out makes less housework and is fun for a change.

  • Get a babysitter for at least one night or afternoon. It is a good idea to have adult fun once in awhile. Check out the local café that hosts poetry readings or open-mic night.

  • Take a bus. You can still go out and enjoy a few drinks with your partner but go early so you can catch happy-hour and then take the bus home.

  • Check out the local attractions. Most museums and art galleries are pretty low cost and full of things to pique your interest.

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No-Cost:

It’s important to get out and enjoy life even if your entertainment budget is zero.

  • Pack a picnic. If you can’t afford to go out to a restaurant you can still go out. Get your picnic lunch organized and head to the nearest park or beach. Both locations are either free or low-cost and you can make the day of it.

  • Trade baby-sitting services with one of your neighbors. Offer your friends free baby-sitting in the future in exchange for them baby-sitting your little ones now.

  • Take a romantic walk in the park/ beach, go hiking on a trail, stargazing, ice skating, sledding, make a snowman… you get the idea. Just go somewhere and leave the kids at home.

  • Explore the no-cost local attractions and monuments. Most museums and art galleries have some days marked for free admission and your library is chalk full of free books, magazines and movies for you to borrow.  Libraries also often have story time, special activities, crafts for kids, and even concerts by local musicians.

staycation Too Broke For a Vacation? Take a Stay-cation

Finally, if you want to do something completely different (and the weather is nice), take your vacation budget and blow it on a backyard stay-cation:

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Even if you are stuck at home, it doesn’t mean you can’t plan a fun and exciting stay-cation. All you need to do is set your budget, think creatively, do some homework and plan your Best. Stay-cation. Ever. Oh, and don’t forget to take some great stay-cation photos!

More ideas to make your stay-cation interesting and enjoyable:

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  • Fly a kite
  • Play croquet
  • Go fishing, swimming, biking
  • Bird watching
  • Geo-caching
  • Bake cookies together
  • Do crafts – paint, sculpt, knit, wood-work
  • Spend a day taking photos
  • Window Shop
  • Camp out in your backyard
  • Go to an open-air concert, parade, farmer’s market
  • Visit a cemetery – cemeteries are full of history
  • Take a farm tour, winery tour, chocolate factory tour
  • Organize a scavenger hunt
  • Have a potluck
  • Invite friends over for coffee
  • Have a Family Game Night or Marathon
  • Volunteer – it sets a good example for your kids and helping others makes you feel good.

8 Most Famous Nude Resorts

January 6, 2009 by Natalie  
Filed under Fun Stuff

Although most popular in Europe, nudism (or naturism) has become widely accepted around the globe with nudie havens popping up everywhere. In the US, going in the buff is a booming tourist industry that accounts for $400 million a year and with options to bare your buns at resorts, beaches, cruises, with the family or adults only, nudism isn’t just for hippies anymore.

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If you’re the adventurous type and want to be harmoniously one with your body (and everyone else’s), then throw on your birthday suit and bare it all at these famous Nude resorts.

8. Vritomartis Hotel & Bungalow, Greece

Overlooking the South Cretan Sea is a traditional Greek-style nudist resort, Vritomartis Hotel & Bungalow. Taking its name from an ancient Minoan goddess, this hotel offers a spectacular heaven-like view of the White Mountain range and unspoiled coastal area of Crete.

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Vritomartis is a licensed nudist resort that mixes modern conveniences with comfort and traditional Grecian style and activities. Rules on nudity are a little stricter here as the resort follows the International Nudist Federation’s guidelines such as indoor areas require clothing and nudism is only permitted outside from sunrise to sunset.

Vritomartis provides a conventional nudist experience surrounded by exotic landscape and warm waters.

7. Domaine de Belezy, France

If you’re looking to share the nudist experience with the whole family, try one of France’s most popular kid-friendly nude resorts, Belezy. Fun for all ages including seniors too, Belezy embraces the true concept of nudism and is devoted to respectful, family-oriented nudism.

Sitting in the foothills of Mont Ventoux in the heart of Provence, guests at Belezy will experience a fun, bonding experience with no less than 40 activities each week for all ages including theatre, music workshops, sports, disco, nude drawing, pottery and plenty more.

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Whether you camp out or stay in one of their earthy, wooden bungalows, Belezy is a beautiful and exciting place to discover a nudist lifestyle with your loved ones.

6. Hidden Beach Resort, Mexico

Over looking the beautiful Mayan Riviera, Hidden Beach Resort is the only all-inclusive luxury retreat in the Mexican Caribbean. With a focus on personalized luxury service and catering to adults only, you’ll be greeted with such perks as a glass of champagne upon arrival. Enjoy their many resort activities such as tennis, karaoke, dancing, nude bingo or lounge in the pool, lazy river or beachfront hot tub and soak up the sun.

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Unlike most resorts that require you to cover up for meals, Hidden Beach serves naked lunch, dinner, and supper at the La Vista restaurant. Nuzzled amidst exotic gardens, facing the Caribbean Sea, and only 25 minutes from the Mayan ruins of Tulum, Hidden Beach Resort is a secluded hideaway for those who aren’t afraid to show it all.

5. Sea Mountain Ranch Resort And Spa, California

Just a quick drive from Los Angeles and 10 minutes from the Palm Springs International Airport, Sea Mountain Ranch Resort and Spa is one of the most popular nude resorts in the United States.

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Year-round sunshine, pool gardens, mineral water whirlpools and a first class day spa will make your stay at this 5-star resort a truly stress-free and clothes-free experience.

Sea Mountain offers an intimate experience with only 15 suites for guests to stay in and although it focuses on relaxation and pampering, the resort offers 24-hour dancing, fantasy parties, live theatre and plenty of other options to keep you entertained while you let your hair down.You may even get to see a celebrity or two, but no pictures!

4. Vera Playa, Spain

For something a little less close to home but equally naked, jet across the ocean to Spain’s most famous nudist resort, Vera Playa. Located on the Costa de Almeria, Vera Playa has a warm, dry climate and is Europe’s only all-year-round nude resort.

Vera Playa is like a village within a village with three accommodation options: the four-star Vera Playa Club Hotel on the beachfront, 2000 rentable self-catering apartments and their camping site, Camping Almanzora. The resort is not far from the village of Vera, which offers many wonderful shops, restaurants, and site seeing opportunities.

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With 320+ days of sunshine a year and no barriers between it and the outside world, Vera Playa is a liberating escape for nudists.

3. Desire Resort and Spa, Mexico

An adults only (21+) resort with a suggestive name, Desire Resort and Spa situated on the Riviera Maya’s Bay in Cancun, Mexico is the perfect erotic destination for couples interested in exploring alternative lifestyles.
With a day spa to pamper your entire body and a nightlife that will keep you partying ‘til dawn, Desire provides a sensual clothing-optional experience.

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The resort is packed with rooftop Jacuzzis, pools, a disco lounge, five star restaurants, beaches, and a sensuous playroom for couples.

This is the perfect place to enjoy a luxurious and unforgettable experience that caters to your deepest desires.

2. Hedonism II and III, Jamaica

The Hedonism II and III resorts in Jamaica are the most famous nude resorts in the Caribbean and have one of the highest repeat guest records in the world. But don’t start packing the kids just yet because this resort is for adults only (18+) who are looking to have a little unadulterated fun.

Located on 22 acres of sandy Negril beach, Hedonism II has 280 luxury rooms available to book, while Hedonism III has 225 rooms (including unique ‘swim up’ rooms) on 10 acres of Jamaica’s beautiful North Coast.

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Known for their liberal views on sex and alcohol, both resorts make sure you and your partner have an exciting time au naturel with fun activities, sexy events, all-inclusive entertainment and themed parties.

If you’re looking for fun in the sun where you can let loose and indulge, these resorts are for you.

1. Cap d’Agde’s “Village Naturiste”, France

Cap d’Agde’s Village Naturiste in France offers a truly unique experience and is considered one of the best nudism destinations in the world, which is why it’s #1.

Often referred to as ‘Naked City’, Village Naturiste is a completely enclosed, self-contained village where nudists can truly be nudists. The village offers all the amenities one could need such as banks, shops, restaurants, post offices, and more and the only clothing required is a smile.

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The village is located on 2km of beach and also offers a port and marina, hotel, bars, apartments, campsite, and hair salons. Add on top of that France’s laidback and embracing attitude towards nudism, and you have the ultimate place to strip down and be one with nature.

If you’re really looking to have fun, relax and explore this alternative lifestyle, these resorts are the best in the world to get down and nudie. Although the principles of nudism - harmony, respect, and acceptance - are the foundations of all nudist resorts, each offers its own individual twist and follows their own set of rules and code of conduct.

Be sure to read up about each resort so you don’t end up tossed out on your bare behind. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen for those tender areas!