Cordoba, Buenos Aires and Rio! Birds to Bikinis.

This Spring I took a great trip through several cities in South America. Here are some details to help you plan your trip.

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

The planning process started for me when a friend of mine purchased a Dove Hunting Excursion at the local Ducks Unlimited fundraiser. I received a call from him letting me know I was needed on the team for this trip to Cordoba Argentina!

The Outfitter is David Denies. You can check them out at www.daviddenies.com

La Dormida Lodge, Cordoba Argentina

La Dormida Lodge, Cordoba Argentina

I began researching dove hunting in Cordoba and soon discovered that this was a premier location for the sport! There are millions and millions of doves in the area attracting people from all over the World.

Now I am not a huge hunting fan. I may go pheasant hunting a few times a year in Nebraska or South Dakota. That being said I would recommend this trip to anyone.

We hunted two half days and two full days. Each day the crew prepared a field lunch with fresh filet mignon, pork and ribs cooked over an open fire. This was served on white linen table cloths with more food than you could ever eat.

 

dove1

Field Lunch Set Up

Every evening we went back to our compound where a chef prepared a wonderful dinner. We sat around the campfire at night listening to music and telling stories from the day.

Dove hunting is definitely a challenging sport. Doves fly very fast and even though there was NO shortage of targets you needed to lead those birds and pick out a single dove to hit one. After the four days I had used over 2,600 shells and shot 1,400 doves! Not a bad percentage for an occasional hunter. Check out this video to get a feel for how the hunting goes. It’s pretty wild! Cordoba Argentina Dove Hunting Video.

The crew would gather up the doves, have them cleaned and send them to an orphanage to help feed the children. The dove hunting alone made this a great trip.

Since I had traveled thousands of miles for the dove hunt I couldn’t bring myself to return home after four short days. My friend and I decided to hop on a plane to Buenos Aires and see what that city had to offer! Buenos Aires is only a short one hour flight to the East of Cordoba.

Buenos Aires is the largest city in Argentina and has a rich and dynamic history.

Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

We stayed at the Park Hyatt Hotel on Alvear. Wow, what a killer hotel and location. Everything you need is a short cab ride away and there are many shops and restaurants within walking distance.

I would highly recommend setting up a driver to show you around the city. You can get a lot done in a very short amount of time. We paid $50 per hour for a 3 hour tour. The hotel set it all up.

Try the Palmero area for lunch. This is a nice area loaded with shops and restaurants. Take a few loops around the area and pick something out that looks good. We ate outside at a pizza joint that was great.

Another area you must visit is Caminito. This area is also loaded with bars, restaurants and shops. You will find Salsa dancers everywhere and getting your picture taken with one will give you a fun souvenir to take home.

For dinner we went to Cabana las Lilas at Puerto Madero. This is a great restaurant on the

View from outdoor seating area at Cabana Las Lilas Restaurant

View from boardwalk area outside Cabana Las Lilas Restaurant

water. Sit outside and enjoy your dinner as the people walk by on the boardwalk. This is a must if you only spend one night in BA!

An interesting fact about BA is that there are actually two different exchange rates. The official rate for us was 6 Pesos per dollar. Our driver took us to a place that gave us 9. That’s a big difference if you are planning on making any kind of substantial purchase.

After a few days in Buenos Aires I went onto Rio de Janeiro for a little beach time.

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach

Stay on Copacabana Beach. This is a beautiful beach and has easy access to many of Rio’s attractions. Walk up the beach and around the corner to explore Ipanema Beach, the rock formations and relaxed atmosphere is worth soaking in.

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach

Two places you must make time to visit are the Christ the Redeemer Statue and Sugar loaf Mountain. The views of the city are incredible from both of these attractions. After your visit to Sugarloaf Mountain ask an attendant for directions to the pathway down and hike down instead of riding the tram. You’ll see monkeys, lizards and tons of natural flowers and vegetation.

Christ the Redeemer Statue with Sugarloaf Mountain lit up in the distance.

Christ the Redeemer Statue with Sugarloaf Mountain lit up in the distance.

If you need a little taste of the States try The Clover Irish Pub on Copa Cabana Beach. You’ll think you are in Chicago! This place has a great staff and good food.

From the dove hunting to the cool beaches of Rio this trip was amazing! You have to go…

College World Series in Omaha – You have to go!

LSU Baseball

LSU Baseball

I’m am not a HUGE baseball fan and I still consider the College World Series in Omaha a must see event.

This year Mississippi St., Oregon State, Indiana and Louisville are in the Top Bracket and North Carolina, North Carolina State, UCLA and LSU complete the Lower Bracket.

TD Ameritrade Park Omaha

TD Ameritrade Park Omaha

 

The New TD Ameritrade Park is beautiful and a great place to watch a game. You can watch from standing room only seats all the way up to great Club Seats and Luxury Suites. If you need Club Seats or are looking for a Luxury Suite let me know and I will work to help you.

There is no shortage of bars and restaurants around the park. In fact thousands of people come to the park each day without tickets and party all day and all night. Try the Blat or the Old Mattress Factory for starters. Both of these are within a block of the park.

The Blat

The Blatt

Opening Weekend is my favorite but you have constant action here for a week and a half. Come down and join us June 15-26 2013!

You will be glad you did and will certainly want to make a return trip!

Top 10 South Beach Restaurants

As many of you already know, I am a big fan of South Beach in Florida.images (83)

 

 

Below is a list of My Top 10 Restaurants. If you can get down there try out a few.

 

10. Monty’s on Miami Beach Marina

Casual Marina Tiki Hut Restaurant. Friday nights draw a great crowd. Lunch is also a nice way to do this restaurant.

Monty's on the Marina

Monty’s on the Marina

9. Phillipe

Great Asian food at 1st and Ocean Drive.

8. Mr. Chow 

More Asian at the number 8 spot!! At the W hotel. Beautiful restaurant and a fun bar.

7. Red

A South of Fifth Steakhouse with a very good Wine List.

6. Gotham Steak

One of the best at the Fontainebleau Hotel on 44th Street.

Glow Bar outside Gotham Steak

Bleau Bar outside Gotham Steak

Get there early so you can have a few cocktails at the Bleau Bar in the Lobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Forge

Newly remodeled and a hang out for a number of Celebs. Machine operated wines by the glass at the bar are a great way to do happy hour.

4. Prime 112

Prime 112

Prime 112

One of the best, but a little crazy at night. If you are in South Beach you must eat here!

Try lunch if you don’t want to wait at night.

3. Hakkasan

The best restaurant at the Fontainebleau serving great Asian! They also just opened in Las Vegas.

2. Smith and Wollensky

Smith and Wollensky's

Smith and Wollensky’s

Dine by the water for lunch or dinner. I would recommend Sunday afternoons to sip champagne and watch the cruise ships depart!

1. Prime Italian

Just across the street from sister restaurant Prime 112. Great Italian and Steak!

What more do you need? Try the deep fried Oreos for dessert.

You can’t go wrong with any of these great restaurants. Miami Beach has so many more to offer too!

Travel to Cuba….. Legally!

Eased travel to Cuba not without hurdles

By Patrick Oppmann
December 6, 2012
Watch this video

U.S. citizens allowed to visit Cuba

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Legal travel to Cuba has been off limits to Americans for decades
  • “Person-to-person” trips have been greenlighted by the Obama administration
  • Visitors are required to engage in continuous educational exchange with Cubans
  • Some operators have had difficulty renewing licenses to offer tours

Havana, Cuba (CNN) – Louis and Bonnie Waterer are spending their retirement filling up their passports, one stamp at a time.

“There are a bunch of people who are trying to visit 100 countries before they die,” Louis explained. “This is number 92 for us.”

Country No. 92 for the Waterers is Cuba.

But up until a few years ago, even for intrepid travelers like the Waterers, visiting Cuba would have been close to impossible.

After Fidel Castro took power in 1959, Cuba went from being a favorite getaway for Americans to a forbidden destination. Diplomatic relations and direct travel between the United States and Cuba were cut off. U.S. citizens spending money on the island faced hefty fines for “trading with the enemy.”

But after decades of false starts, the Obama administration has reinstituted legal travel to Cuba as a way to reach out to the Cuban people.

Classic American cars still in use in Cuba are a curiosity to many foreign visitors.
Classic American cars still in use in Cuba are a curiosity to many foreign visitors.

It’s called “people-to-people” travel, and like nearly everything involving Cuba, controversy and politics are involved.

“Each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba,” U.S. Treasury Department guidelines for people-to-people travel read.

And while the policy has kicked off a debate over what is a “meaningful” exchange, a flood of tour operators has entered the still uncertain world of travel to Cuba.

Americans interested in visiting Cuba are offered free CDs of Cuban music and itineraries that include welcome parties thrown by Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, neighborhood watch groups that were created with the original intention of thwarting a U.S. invasion.

U.S. visitors coming via people-to-people trips shouldn’t plan on too much beach time.

Under the Treasury guidelines, tour operators have to plan nearly every moment of the trip, and “people-to-people” travel, at least in theory, excludes relaxing by the pool with umbrella-topped beverages.

Most Americans heading to Cuba go there with the desire to make a connection with a people they have been prevented from having any contact with for generations, according to Tom Popper, president of tour operator Insight Cuba.

“The fact that we are bringing Americans and Cubans together is an incredible thing,” Popper said. “It’s a travel experience for the Americans, it’s an incredible thing for Cubans. Some people in parts of Cuba that we go to, they have never met an American before.”

People-to-people travel isn’t cheap or easy, though.

A four-night “Weekend in Havana” trip from Insight Cuba, without airfare, sells for about $2,000 per person.

Popper said the high cost of the trips is due to the fact that operators need to send guides with their groups to make sure they comply with the travel regulations, and that renewing the yearly U.S. licenses can take months of navigating a complicated bureaucracy.

This summer, many tour operators wondered if people-to-people travel was ending altogether, after the Treasury Department started denying licenses to operators or simply not responding to renewal requests.

Several tour operators contacted by CNN said that the process may have gotten bogged down by the fact that the renewal application is now close to 200 pages and requires that the operators explain how each stop on the itinerary fosters greater friendship between Americans and Cubans.

“You are doing what you are supposed to be doing and they are changing the rules as we go. The guidelines are so vague,” said Michael Sykes, who ran the now-defunct Cuba Cultural Tours.

Sykes laid off four employees after his license expired in July and he was denied a renewal.

“The language is so cryptic and so bureaucratic,” he said. “Your average Joe isn’t able to do this — you have to understand the secret language.”

Sykes has now hired what he calls a “bloody expensive” lawyer to guide him through the process, and he is hopeful that he will be back to planning trips to Cuba by the end of the year.

Some of the tour operators said they thought the logjam of licenses was caused by political pressure, particularly from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who is Cuban-American and a fierce critic of the trips

“What these trips are all about is tourism — it’s tourism,” Rubio said on the Senate floor last year. “The reason why this is problematic is it gives money to the Castro government.”

Jeff Braunger, a Treasury Department official in charge of the Cuba licensing program, said in an e-mail that the department has approved licenses for 180 tour operators while making sure they are complying with the law.

“We revised the license application criteria to stress to applicants the seriousness of the requirements of the people-to-people licensing program, in part because of reports we received concerning travel under the licenses,” Braunger wrote.

But some tour operators said travel to Cuba has become more cumbersome and expensive but is not policed any better. One tour organizer mentioned a recent licensed trip offered by a competitor that included a day of scuba diving.

“It’s supposed to be people-to-people, not people-to-fish,” the operator said.

And there are also complications on the Cuban side, tour operators said. Last month, the Cuban government abruptly canceled the landing rights for two of the U.S. charter companies operating flights to the island, reportedly over a payment dispute.

But most of the tour operators said the headaches are worth the opportunity to get in early on American tourism to Cuba, which is sure to explode when the embargo is eventually lifted.

“We are back in operations and hope to stay that way,” Insight Cuba president Tom Popper said. Popper had to lay off 22 people as he waited several months for the company’s license renewal, but he has since added 17 back to his staff.

On a trip organized by Insight Cuba last month, 12 Americans spent their morning speaking with Cubans at a neighborhood art project.

Michael Pettit, a lawyer from Charleston, South Carolina, said he was struck by Cuba’s many contrasts during his first people-to-people trip in May.

“I love Cuba,” he said. “The history, music, people, photography — it’s all beautiful.”

The politics and uncertainty over continued travel between Cuba and the United States persuaded Pettit to book another trip right away, he said.

“One of the reasons I came again is because you never know when you might be able to come legally.”

Awesome Las Vegas Weekend… See How!

cindy

Cindy, Our Las Vegas expert delivers her Can’t Miss Venues for a Killer trip.

What could be more fun than a Spring trip to Las Vegas.

A Thursday through Sunday filled with lounging in the sun, dining out, gaming in the Casino, shopping and relaxing in the clubs and bars.

Here are a few places you should try while you are there.

How many can you fit in?

 

Hyde at the Bellagio

Hyde at the Bellagio

Hyde at the Bellagio

 

The Hyde Bellagio is a restaurant and night club that opened in December 2011 and it’s my favorite place in Vegas.  It opens at 5:00pm every day and on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 10:00pm it turns into a night club.  Be there for when they turn it into a nightclub.  Watching the changeover from the restaurant to a club is a cool experience.

Hyde does take reservations for dining so call ahead @ 702-693-8700. This space was formerly the Fontana Bar. It’s been completely overhauled and is amazing inside!

 

The Cosmopolitan Casino

The Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino

The Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino

This is in City Center.  The Cosmopolitan Casino is the hip new place to be in Vegas.  It’s filled with lobby bars that are fun to hang out in and there is a cool night club called the Marquee. I have a blast just hanging out in the Lobby bars at the Cosmopolitan.  The Chandelier Bar and the Bond Bar are great. The Bond Bar is my favorite.  There’s also a cool space right off the main casino floor that serves beer and is filled with televisions and game consoles, it’s a great place to go during the day if you need to kill some time and you like to play video games!   Also at the Cosmopolitan Casino is a great breakfast place called “The Henry.”  It’s across from the Bond Bar.  It’s open 24 hours and has a good breakfast and awesome Bloody Mary’s.

 

Lavo

The Bar at Lavo

The Bar at Lavo

 

 

I really like eating at Lavo in the Palazzo casino.  Whenever I eat there I eat at the bar on the couches or outside on the patio.  It’s not on the menu, but if you ask your server; they can take their signature Kobe meatballs and make a meatball pizza.

 

 

LaGasse’s Stadium

LaGasse's Stadium

LaGasse’s Stadium

Also in the Palazzo is LaGasse’s Stadium. It’s the best sports bar/sports book on the Strip.  It’s a must see if you like to watch sports.  Make a reservation if there are big games going on so you can have a table or seating area.  Or, get a seat in the “stadium” which is in front of a 9’x16’ TV screen.  There’s over 100 HD TVs and you can see a screen from wherever you are.  There are also sky boxes if you have a bigger group and want to entertain and watch sports.  The food is good and from Emeril LaGasse.  To make a reservation call 702-607-2665.

 

Mon Ami Gabi

Outdoor Seating at Mon Ami Gabi

Outdoor Seating at Mon Ami Gabi

This is a great place to eat brunch or lunch on the patio at the Paris Hotel. As you can see the outdoor seating is magnificent.

 

Hard Rock Casino

Hard Rock Casino

Hard Rock Casino

The Hard Rock Casino is not on the Strip but is easy to get to.  The Hard Rock now has 2 main casinos jojned together.  I really like the Hard Rock as a place to go and relax.  I like the atmosphere of all the restaurants and lobby bars, especially the Center Bar. Also at the Hard Rock casino is a cafe called “Lucky s 24/7″ they have a special meal called the 777 meal.  It’s $7.77 for a steak, salad, shrimp and mashed potatoes.  It’s not on the menu and you have to ask for it by name, it’s a “locals” special.

 

Culinary Dropout and Pink Taco at the Hard Rock Casino

Culinary Dropout

Culinary Dropout

A fabulous new restaurant opened up very recently at the Hard Rock called Culinary Dropout that has an outdoor patio and it overlooks the Hard Rock pool area.  It’s got some unique food and drink choices and I really like the restaurant.  Also at the Hard Rock is the Pink Taco restaurant.  They have great Mexican food and it’s a Vegas staple that’s been there a long time and is still a favorite.

 

Baacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace

Bacchanal Buffet At Caesars Palace

Bacchanal Buffet At Caesars Palace

 

This is the premier new buffet restaurant on the Strip.  It’s an experience to have at least just once.  The buffet has so much high quality food to choose from including unlimited crab legs and even though I’m not a buffet person, I really enjoy this one..

 

 

Caesars Forum Shops, Shops at Crystals and Fashion Show Mall

Fashion Show Mall

Fashion Show Mall

 

I like all the shopping in Vegas.  You really can’t go wrong anywhere you go. I hit the Fashion Show Mall each time I go to Vegas.

 

 

 

Wynn and Encore

Wynn Golf

These are great casinos and still places I like to go each time I visit Vegas.  There is a great restaurant at the Wynn that overlooks the golf course. When you sit out on the patio on a nice day you don’t feel like you’re in Vegas at all.  It’s a beautiful view and a great place for lunch.

More affordable places to go, fun places to hang out:

Blondie's Sports Bar

Blondies Sports Bar

Near the Flamingo is the Planet Hollywood Casino and Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile shops.  It’s fun to walk through the Miracle Mile shops. Inside is a sports bar called Blondies   I’ve never personally been to Blondies but my friends in Vegas say it’s a great place to go.

 

Waitress at Gilley's Bar

Waitress at Gilley’s Bar

Gilley’s Country Bar at Treasure Island

We stopped at Gilley’s last Summer.  They had $3 draft beer the night we were there and they are constantly having some sort of drink specials. The drinks are always affordable.  They also have Bud Light Lime on draft. The waitresses wear chaps and bikinis.  They have a mechanical bull which gets a lot of attention at the bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking for few more ideas try Mastro’s Ocean Club at City Center for dinner followed by a little dancing and rooftop viewing at The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay!

Enjoy your trip!

Colorado Summer Day Trip – Crested Butte to Aspen

Ready for another Great Road Trip!

Ready for another Great Road Trip!

This is a great Summer Road trip and Crested Butte and Aspen are two fun Colorado cities that couldn’t be more unlike each other!

People from Crested Butte revel in their free spirit and easy going attitude. The town is thick with saloons, shops and restaurants. This is a very casual and rustic town and a fun place to spend a few days. Of course, there is no shortage of things to do like hiking, mountain biking, shopping, fishing and balloon rides to name a few.

Try The Eldo Pub on Elk Street to meet some locals and enjoy main street from the elevated deck. There are a couple of good restaurants just across the street.

Main Street in Crested Butte, Colorado

Main Street in Crested Butte, Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a day or two in Crested Butte head toward Gunnison and then West. You will drive along the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. This is a beautiful drive and there are plenty of places to stop along the way for photos. As you get past the Canyon take HWY 92 North towards Hotchkiss.

Standing alongside the Black Canyon.

Standing alongside the Black Canyon. Notice the boat dock below.

 

I like to stop at the Home Town Cafe in Hotchkiss for lunch. After lunch take 133 North and then 82 into Aspen.

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen Area in Colorado

Unlike Crested Butte, Aspen is Quite Posh! There are fantastic Shops and restaurants and beautiful people everywhere. You also stand a good chance of running into a celeb or two. Try Casa Tua for lunch.

Like Crested Butte, I would recommend spending a night or two in Aspen. There are many great hotels there.

The shopping in Aspen is great! there are many of the high end retailers you would see in Chicago and New York. There are two places in particular that I stop at every time I go.

Pismo Glass of Aspen

Pismo Glass of Aspen

Pismo Glass is an art store that has a wide variety of art from many artists. Pick up some Chihuly Glass while you are there.

Testosterone Company logo

Testosterone’s Company logo..

 

Another shop I hit every time I go is called Testosterone. You guessed it, this is a Men’s Store. They have shoes, shirts, chess sets and cigar humidors to name a few. You will find very cool stuff here that you typically don’t see. They are in the process of opening one in Vail too.

 

 

The entire trip from Crested Butte to Aspen is about 200 miles and will take about 5 hours plus your stops. Schedule this one now for Memorial Day or Later in the Summer.

If you are ready for more after this trip take HWY 82 South out of Aspen and hit Independence Pass and circle around to Vail or Beaver Creek!

Independence Pass, Colorado

Independence Pass, only open in the Summer.

Enjoy!

Click here for another great road trip.

Colorado to Las Vegas Trip!

 

10 places you never thought you could afford: 2013 edition

For some destinations, a reputation precedes them. They are thought to be expensive, inaccessible, and out of reach for many travelers. But don’t judge them on their pasts. Far-flung places like Hawaii, New Zealand, Russia, and even China are becoming easier to get to, and some recent deals are too good to refuse. So in the interest of challenging stereotypes, consider these 10 destinations that just might be more affordable than you think.

Note: Deals listed are meant to illustrate a trend and many will expire soon; however, similar offers are likely to follow so check back with the providers mentioned for the very latest.

Moscow

Moscow is an imposing and expensive city for many U.S. travelers. But it doesn’t have to be. While hotel rooms in the Russian capital are often considered the most expensive in the world (at about $400 per night on average), flights seem to be getting more affordable.

At the time of publication, Kayak lists February flights from New York for just $469 round-trip on Aeroflot, and several other airlines are also posting fares for under $500. Additionally, Lufthansa’s most recent special features flights from $529 round-trip for travel through mid-May; book by March 12. Swiss International Air Lines’ published sale includes options from $746. And Singapore Airlines offers flights from Houston to Moscow starting at $819 for travel through April 30. Note that fares to Moscow are cheaper than to any other city mentioned in these sales.

Apart from airfare, Moscow is working hard to upgrade its image to that of a more tourist-friendly city. Through a Leisure and Tourism Development program that aims to be fully realized by 2016, it hopes to attract 70 percent more foreign tourists. The results are emerging. Just launched in December, the Moscow Pass claims to save up to 30% on main attractions. Other new additions include double-decker tour buses and tourist information centers. Although hotel prices remain on the high end, the city appears to be having a hostel boom, which includes new budget-friendly properties such as the Safari Hostel, with shared rooms from around $22 per night, and Moscow’s first Sleepbox hotel for under $100 per night.

Hawaii

Over the past several years, faraway Hawaii has increasingly landed on SmarterTravel’s affordable destinations lists (most recently, our Top Five Bargain Destinations for Winter 2012/2013). But thanks to an early 2013 sale from Hawaiian Airlines, the Aloha State just went from affordable to bargain-basement cheap, with fares from San Jose to Kahului starting at just $250 round-trip and from Oakland to Honolulu for as low as $335.

MORE: Hawaiian Airlines expands its fleet of Airbus aircraft
HAWAIIAN ICONS: Nine amazing natural wonders

Other airlines have been making waves as well. For example, American has launched a sale matching some of Hawaiian’s routes but also adding a few of its own, such as $479 from Las Vegas to Kona and $536 from New York to Lihue. Allegiant Air has been expanding into the Hawaii market, most recently with service from Phoenix to Honolulu beginning on February 8. Sample fares start at $343 round-trip for March departures.

MORE: Hawaii’s Big Island brews a cup of paradise
GREAT AMERICAN BITES: Fresh fish by the sea at Hawaii’s Bite Me

Another option is to look for airfare-and-hotel packages. Pleasant Holidays, for example, lists a three-night Oahu deal from $479, which also includes a free mid-size car rental. As for hotels, Aston Hotels & Resorts has a slew of spring deals starting at $99 per night on Kauai, Oahu, and Maui; book by March 15 for travel through June. Air Canada is offering free nights on the islands when you book airfare. Deals like these have been the norm lately, so keep an eye out for new ones. The Hawaii Tourism Authority keeps a list of current promotions.

Peru

Land of adventure and now a burgeoning culinary destination, Peru has been catching the eye of many travelers lately. In fact, OneTravel.com just dubbed capital city Lima as one of its top five international travel destinations for 2013. Recent deals have made it more affordable to reach than ever.

LAN Airlines kicked off the New Year with a big sale featuring flights to Lima starting at $499 from Miami, $599 from New York, and $699 from Los Angeles or San Francisco. While that sale has ended, others will likely crop up. For instance, a flex search on Kayak yields fares from between $444 and $679 for New York departures in March. Also be sure to check with airlines like Taca and Copa, which both have extensive route networks for South and Central America.

Airfare-and-hotel packages make planning especially easy since you can book two components with one transaction. Go-Today is offering a four-night Lima escape from $899. Tack on Cusco and Machu Picchu and pay $1,599 for six nights total. Hotels offer affordability as well. At Terra Andina Hotel in Cusco, winner of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice 2013 Award, rates for 2013 start at $149 per night. And Sonesta’s Posadas del Inca Puno, set on Lake Titicaca, has two-night packages with breakfast for two from $204; add $25 for a Peruvian dinner. Posadas del Inca Yucay in the Sacred Valley of the Incas offers a similar package; however, you pay only $160 for February stays.

China

With stringent visa requirements and hard-to-find online planning resources, China is often considered “complicated” by many Western travelers. However, all that is starting to change. In January, the China National Tourist Offices launched a new website for North American travelers to highlight travel information, from suggestions on activities to planning assistance. And the country is finding other ways to encourage tourism. For instance, effective January 1, 2013, transit passengers from the U.S. and Canada are now allowed to stay in Beijing and Shanghai for 72 hours without a visa. And as China soars as a leading air-travel market with more airlines adding new service, it’s becoming easier to get to.

The country is surprisingly affordable, too. At the time of publication, fares on Air China include $808 from New York to Shanghai and Guangzhou and $951 from Los Angeles to Beijing. Starting July 11, the airline will add new service between Houston and Beijing, so look for more introductory fares to appear. Tour operator China Spree has launched a 10-day Tibet and Beijing trip starting at $1,899, which includes round-trip airfare from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Beijing, round-trip airfare from Beijing to Tibet, four-star hotels, meals, and day tours. The company also lists an eight-day Beijing-only tour with round-trip airfare from just $899. For those yearning to sail the Yangtze, Viking River Cruises is offering up to two-for-one pricing on itsChina’s Cultural Delights and Imperial Jewels of China departures (mention offer 03).

Want to take advantage of the 72-hour visa exception? Exotissimo Travel has conveniently launched a Beijing/Hong Kong Visa Free City Escape.

New York City

With average hotel prices close to $300 per night, you might quickly deem New York City way out of your budget. Don’t cross it off your vacation list just yet, though. Change is in the air—or, should I say, in your hotel room. According to USA TODAY,Manhattan is experiencing a hotel boom with more affordable options. These new hotels, including Best Western Premier and Hyatt Place properties, will offer rooms for under $200 per night. Also, several other area hotels have announced 2013 discounts. While many sales apply to the winter off-season, others run throughout the year.

FRUGAL FASHIONISTA: New York’s second-hand treasures
MORE: Travelers buy or share to beat pricey hotel costs

For example, The Out NYC, an urban resort, is offering savings of 15 to 25 percent through February; pre-discounted rates start at $179 per night (call the hotel to receive this discount). Also, NYCGo.com has posted a winter sale with rates discounted up to 20 percent in several boroughs for stays during the January-February slow period; The organization also announced its first-ever The Design Collection promotion at 19 boutique hotels, with discounted admission to venues including the Museum of Arts and Design and The Skyscraper Museum.

NYC SPEAKEASIES: Drinking spots to escape city’s bustle
MORE: 10 artisinal treats to try in New York City

Additionally, you’ll find the luxurious Lofty Pleasures Romance Package, starting at $239 per night through December 30 at The Tuscany; or browse Travelzoo’s list of New York City discounts, including savings on hotels, airfare, Broadway-show tickets, and other attractions.

Istanbul

Recently highlighted in SmarterTravel’s Top Five Off-Peak Destinations for Spring 2013, Istanbul is one to watch for rock-bottom deals, especially when it comes to flights. Over the past several years, Turkish Airlines—voted the Best Airline in Europe by Skytrax—has been adding new service to/from U.S. gateways, and it continues to expand (most recently adding Houston service for April 2013). The deals are following.

For example, flights from Houston to Istanbul are on sale for $799 round-trip though May 15. Even better, pay only $399 from Washington, D.C.; offer expires February 17. Other airlines are trying to compete. Expedia, for instance, shows flights from New York from $493 round-trip for February and March departures. With most fares to Europe and Asia costing over $1,000 round-trip, these flights are a steal.

New Zealand

Middle-earth (I mean, New Zealand) has been on many travelers’ maps the past few years, with a renewed surge in interest since the release of The Hobbit in late 2012. Thankfully, several airlines are willing to get you to this distant locale for less. Starting March 13, Hawaiian Airlines will begin service to Auckland from 10 West Coast cities. When I checked, sample rates for airfare from Los Angeles came to $1,170 round-trip, which is on par with average flights to Europe. Making things more affordable, Orbitz is pairing airfare with hotel discounts (rates start at $51 per night for three-star properties and $134 per night for five-star properties).

MORE: Australia and New Zealand cruises make a splash
MORE: New Zealand draws new interest with ‘Hobbit’

Air New Zealand is offering comparable fares from Los Angeles and San Francisco from $1,218 ($885 from Honolulu); book by February 19. Or, The Lord of the Ringsfans can choose the Fellowship of the Ring package with airfare, eight nights’ accommodations, and a car rental from $2,649. Travelscene has a New Zealand Airpass from $1,399 that includes flights from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, or Queenstown; book by February 20.

AWW ALERT: Is this the world’s cutest travel campaign?
MORE: Top shore tours for cruisers in New Zealand, Australia

While many of these offers are limited and will expire, fares and package deals like these have been the trend (Groupon, for example, recently offered $900 off a nine-night self-guided tour of New Zealand and Hawaii), so be sure to check back regularly with the providers mentioned.

Germany

Germany might be a land of fairytales, but visiting doesn’t have to remain a fantasy. In 2013, the country celebrates the 200th Anniversary of the Brothers Grimm stories (along with other notable events such as Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday), and transportation deals make getting there easier.

MORE: 10 best beer cities in the world

Lufthansa regularly runs sales to Germany, most recently with fares starting at $629 round-trip from New York to Dusseldorf and $719 to Berlin, and from $789 from Miami to Dusseldorf. Competitor AirBerlin posted a Valentine’s Day sale with fares starting at $599 from New York to Dusseldorf and $698 from Miami. Check back with both airlines for the latest deals.

RICK STEVES: The best and worst of Europe
RICK STEVES: 8 magical experiences in Europe

Also, traveling within Germany just got a little cheaper. You can get 20% off five- and six-day Bahn rail passes for travel between Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and Hamburg, plus complimentary city cards with free public transportation and attractions discounts; travel through May 31 and book by March 31. For Grimm fans, Europa-Park, Germany’s biggest theme park, will reopen for the 2013 season on March 23 with an expanded Enchanted Forest. Early birds save 20% at the park’s themed hotels.

Egypt

Unrest in Egypt continues to deter travelers, but if you’ve ever dreamed of visiting tombs in the Valley of the Kings or sailing down the Nile in luxury, now might be the best time to go. For one thing, getting there might be surprisingly affordable. Emirates recently posted fares to Cairo for under $1,000, and a flex search on Kayak yields fares from New York to Cairo for $788 round-trip on EgyptAir.

JANUARY: Egypt tourism under attack as hotel tweets SOS

In country, upscale excursions and hotels can be had for less. Sonesta has slashed prices on summer Nile River sailings by 50 percent; book by February 28. High-end tour operator Abercrombie & Kent has several Egypt deals, including 25 percent off select February and March journeys and reduced single supplements. And discounts on luxury hotels are easy to find, including 20 to 30 percent off at the Le Meridien Heliopolis in Cairo (rates start at $80 per night) and up to 30 percent off winter breaks at the city’s Kempinski Nile Hotel (nightly rates start at $147).

The U.S. State Department recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas where large gatherings and demonstrations may occur, but check back for the most up-to-date warnings.

St. Croix, USVI

Considered more expensive and harder to get to than its USVI neighbor St. Thomas, St. Croix is now a stronger possibility for more budget-conscious travelers. The U.S Virgin Islands Department of Tourism has extended its Fantastic Flight Promotion, which includes a $300 airfare credit on six-night packages, the sixth night for free, and a $20 casino certificate, for travel through May 31; purchase by March 31. The offer is good at more than a dozen participating hotels, and you can book through 11 different partners, including CheapCaribbean, Expedia, and JetBlue. Also, USVI’s Intimate Treasures promotion, available at a slew of hotels, includes dining and attractions certificates valued up to $100.

MORE: 10 Caribbean destinations you can afford

Several island hotels have their own deals, too. For example, Hibiscus Beach Resort offers a free fifth night and 25 percent off for those who book at least a year in advance, and Tamarind Reef Resort will discount stays by 15 percent (use promo code: SUN15).

Also remember that U.S. travelers don’t need a passport to go to St. Croix, which makes a getaway even easier.

SmarterTravel.com features expert travel advice and unbiased coverage of travel deals.

South Beach in February

 

Fun in the sun never looked as good as it does in February!

There is a lot going on in South Beach this month!

This week is the Miami Boat Show. People from around the World attend this great event. You can see everything from jet skis to multi-million dollar yachts. February 14-18th

images (88)

 

 

 

 

 

While you are in town to check out the yachts and party with the rich and famous check out the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. This Festival is Huge and has lots of great art to look at and purchase. Lots of fun family stuff too.

Sidewalk Art at the Festival

Sidewalk Art at the Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week is another South Beach favorite. It’s the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

Food Channel Celebs are everywhere.

Food Channel Celebs are everywhere.

There are wine tastings, cooking demos from the celebs of the Food Network and lots and lots of partying!

Take a look at this post if you are looking for more to do while you are there.

Rest and Relaxation in South Beach!

Enjoy the Beach!

images (85)

 

 

 

 

Killer Summer Road trip!

I love to hop on the Harley and take a big road trip at least once a year. Last year my friends and I started in Vail Colorado and Cruised through the National Parks of Utah on our way to Las Vegas. This part of the country is so stunning you all need to find a way to take this trip! The views from a motorcycle are spectacular but you can certainly do it with a Jeep or any other convertible. Below is the path we took and the places we stopped. Don’t forget your camera, you are going to need it!

Take time to visit the many diners and saloons along the way.

Take time to visit the many diners and saloons along the way.

We started in Vail but Aspen and Telluride are also great places to hang out a few days before you get going.

I like to schedule around 350 miles per day. This will give you plenty of time to stop and look around along the way.

Arches National Park, Moab

Arches National Park, Moab

Day 1: Vail Colorado to Moab Utah.

Let’s get on the road by 8am or so and take I-70 through Glenwood Canyon and then head South on Hwy 133 to Hotchkiss Colorado. You will find Canyons, Mountain Passes and Wineries along the way. At the end of town in Hotchkiss you’ll find The Home Town Café on the right hand side. They have good food in a friendly environment.

140 miles, about 3 hours.

After lunch head out of town on Hwy 92 and then South on 50/550 through Montrose. Head West on 62 through Ridgeway and then onto 145 to Norwood Colorado. There is a Cool Little Saloon on the left hand side of the road. Great place to take a break.

110 miles, about 2 ½ Hours

After a break at the Saloon head out of town on 145 to 90, 46 and then North on 191 into Moab. Look into staying at the Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River 866-812-2002. You will love the setting.

Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River in Moab

Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River in Moab

100 miles, about 2 hours.

Day 2: Moab National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Get up early and take a cruise through the park. You can spend a few hours to all day exploring this incredible area. The bright red cliffs show the marks from the raging water years ago! If you have the time, stay a second night in Moab. You can hike, mountain bike and Jeep in this great Park.

images (63)

When you are ready to head to Bryce take 191 to I-70 through Green River. Go South on Hwy 24 to Hanksville, UT. Stop at Blondies for giant burgers and shakes.

110 miles, 2 hours

After lunch continue West on Hwy 24 and then South on Hwy 12 to Escalante, UT. Try the North Creek Grill for a rest and beverage. This is a winding and beautiful drive.

110 miles, about 3 hours.

Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase

Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase

After a break, continue on 12 to Bryce Canyon National Park. Another incredible Drive!

We stayed at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. 800-568-8520.

50 miles, 2 hours

 

 

Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park through Zion and onto Las Vegas.

Head out of town on 12 and then onto 89 then 9 into Zion National Park. This might be the most spectacular Park yet. Take your time and enjoy it. While cruising through the Park you get the feeling that a Tyrannosaurus Rex could be around the next corner.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

When you exit the Park you will be in a small town called Springdale. Stop at Wildcat Willies for lunch. This place has good food and a great atmosphere. Get a table by the window and watch the people go by.

110 Miles, 3 ½ hours.

After lunch it is time to cruise into Las Vegas. You will have the opportunity to stop at a casino or two along the way. Take I-15.

160 miles about 3 hours.

There are countless diversions, stops and side trips that you can take from Colorado to Las Vegas. The trip outlined here is a very quick way to get a lot of views into a short period of time. If you have the time, I would encourage extending your stays at each stop and really exploring the surrounding areas. You could easily spend another night or two in Moab, Bryce Canyon and Zion. Plan this trip for the summer now. Anytime from Memorial Day through September will work the best. Have a great trip and then schedule that massage in Vegas!

sex_appeal