December 22, 2009

New Orleans: Carnival Season Kicks Off in January

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:01 am

new orleans french quarterWhat do us all thing of when we mention New Orleans? Comfort southern food, jazz, Mardi Gras, above-ground cemeteries and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Most tourists come to visit the French Quarter and can easily forget about the hurricane since this historic part of the city was relatively unscathed.

There are numerous things to do and see in New Orleans, although the majority of travelers stay within the French Quarter. You can stroll the historic neighborhoods and aside from exploring the French Quarter, go to Uptown and Carrollton as well. You can also take some interesting streetcar rides (St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street). If you would like a cruise but the budget doesn’t allow for it, the river ferry from the foot of Canal Street to Algiers Point. It offers an incredible view of downtown, the river and the French Quarter.

Planning the budget

A family cruise on Mississippi river can be an excellent choice for you. Aside from the fantastic views, you’ll also get to visit several landmarks along the way and enjoy the Creole cuisine.

But if your travel style is different and you prefer to explore the city at your pace, then you should definitely book the flight and accommodation separately. New Orleans is served by an international airport and although it’s not a hub for any major airline, Southwest Airlines offers a lot of flights into it. Cheap flights to New Orleans are not hard to find but if you want to come here during the Carnival Season (which starts in early January), make sure to book the flight in advance.

The majority of travelers would want to book a cheap hotel in New Orleans right in the heart of the French Quarter. However, that might be quite impossible if your budget is low. But there are beautiful areas near-by where you’ll find excellent accommodation for great prices. If you want to come to New Orleans during the Carnival Season, make sure to book the accommodation in advance.

Carnival Season Starts on January 6

New Orleans Mardi GrasMardi Gras has always been considered the world’s biggest party. It always falls on a Tuesday, 46 days before Easter, which means in 2010, Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”) takes place on February 16, 2010.

But that’s the last day of serious partying and the beginning of Lent. The Carnival Season begins on January 6, 2010. It is the known as Twelfth Night or King’s Day, as it falls 12 days after Christmas, on the day when the Wise Men are said to have reached Bethlehem.

The events are both private and public. The private events take the form of balls organized by clubs (or Krewes). The same Krewes sponsor the public events, which take the form of parades.

A special “cake” is eaten during the Carnival Season and on Mardi Gras: the king cake. The sweet dough is shaped into a big circle, cooked and brushed with purple, green and gold sugar and a plastic baby (representing Christ child) is hidden inside. The lucky finder of the figurine has to provide the cake for next year.

Where to stay

Make sure to book your hotel or hostel in advance if you plan to be in New Orleans for the parades during the Carnival Season. There are numerous affordable places to stay located close to the French Quarter.

India House Backpackers Hostel is located on the Canal Streetcar line, just minutes from the French Quarter. The hostel is also on the Endymion parade route, the best parade at Mardi Gras. There are both dorms and private rooms available. Hostel organizes band nights, movies nights, swimming pool parties, cookouts and BBQs. In late January, bed prices start at $22.50 per person per night in a double room and $20 per night in a 12-bed mixed dorm.

St. Vincent’s Guesthouse is located on Magazine Street, just 25 minutes walk (or 5 minutes bus ride) from the French Quarter. It offers 25 rooms, all with bathroom, AC, phone and TV. Free wi-fi is available and there’s a kitchen the guests can use. In late January, bed prices start at $25 per person per night in a double room.

Creole Inn is located right next to the French Quarter. They offer free wi-fi and free parking. Room rates start at $33 per night in a single room and $8.25 per person per night in a 4-bed private room.

Drury Inn & Suites New Orleans is located in the Central Business District and offers free Evening Beverages every day (5:30-7:00 p.m). There’s free wi-fi throughout the hotel and in the rooms. In late January room rates start at $102.99 per night (2 double bed deluxe non smoking).

International House Boutique Hotel is located just two blocks from the French Quarter, in the Historic Central Business District. There’s free wi-fi within the hotel. Guests can use the fitness center and enjoy a meal at the restaurant or relax with a drink at the bar. In late January room rates start at $129 per night (deluxe queen room).

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December 21, 2009

Enjoy the Relaxing Life in Naperville

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

NapervilleNaperville is considered one of the best places to live in the United States. If you don’t plan to move here just yet, spending a vacation in the city will definitely be a good idea to get to know the place and maybe even consider retiring here.

The city is small but picturesque. The downtown area is filled with high-end chain stores, specialty shops and restaurants, all houses in charming old buildings. Through downtown runs Riverwalk (along the shore of the DuPage river). You should also consider visiting the Naper Settlement, which is a reconstruction of how the town looked in the 1800s.

Planning the budget

Quite, charming, and filled with history, Naperville is a great place for a family vacation . Plus, since Chicago is just 28 miles away, you can always rent a car and check out the sights in the city.

The largest airport near Naperville is Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Finding flights to Chicago is not hard at all but you’d probably want to avoid the peak travel season (July, August, Christmas, New Year’s). Once in Chicago, rent a car and drive to Naperville (just 28 miles away).

Although a small town Naperville offers a lot of affordable places to stay. Cheap hotels in Naperville are easy to find at the outskirts of the town. There are plenty of inns and motels to choose from. Should you want to stay closer to downtown the prices will be slightly more expensive.

What to do in Naperville in January

Remember I mentioned earlier that Naperville is a great place for a family vacation? If you plan to take the kids here, they will be delighted by the many events organized by the DuPage Children’s Museum during January.

Family Fun Friday Night: Beach Party takes place on January 8, 2010. Beach-themed activities, snacks and music are the main ingredients. And yeah, try to forget it’s winter and pretend the temperature is in the 80s.

In the same spirit of forgetting about winter, kids can attend the Tiny Great Performances: Tropical Sound Steel Drum – Caribbean Music on January 9, 2010. Listen to songs from the Caribbean. It’s free for Museum members (guests need to pay admission).

Love movies? Than the Family Fun Friday Night: Movie Night on January 15, 2010 will please you. Short films will be showed for the enjoyment of the entire family.

There are also other interesting things to do and events to attend, which will keep the adults happy as well. The 7th annual NCO Youth & Family Services Chocolate Festival takes place in mid-January. The Sweet Treats Baking Competition and the Chocolate Competition takes place on January 16, 2010 as part of the festival. Participants will be judged based on taste, appearance and creativity. Guests can drool and then buy the goodies.

Where to stay

Finding a cheap place to stay in Naperville is not hard at all. You should consider though that staying close to downtown offers quick access to the sights. But if you stay at the outskirts of the city you can rent a car and everything will be within close reach.

Holiday Inn Select Chicago Naperville is located just minutes from downtown. It’s a 100% non-smoking hotel which offers 426 rooms. The inn offers a swimming pool, a fitness center, a terrace bar and a terrace café. There’s free wi-fi both in the lobby and in the rooms. Room rates start at $88 per night (standard room, 1 king bed room).

Country Inn & Suites Naperville is located close to O’Hare International Airport, just three miles from downtown Naperville. The inn offers free daily breakfast. The services include an indoor pool, fitness center and free wi-fi within the property. Room rates start at $79 per night (guest room with high speed internet).

Fairfield Inn & Suites Naperville is located near I-88 and just minutes away from Chicago Premium Outlet Mall and Naperville Riverwalk. The inn offers complimentary daily breakfast and wi-fi. There’s also a heated indoor pool available. Parking is free for the guests. Room rates start at $109.99 per night (guest room, 2 Queen).

Red Roof Inn offers new rooms, all with T-Mobile high speed internet access. Some rooms have microwave and fridge. Kids under 17 stay for free. There’s free coffee available throughout the day. The inn offers free parking for its guests. Room rates start at $54.99 per night (standard, 2 beds, no smoking, TV).

Baymont Naperville offers a fitness center, free wi-fi in all rooms, free daily breakfast and free cable. All rooms are equipped with coffee maker, iron board and hair dryer. Some rooms also have microwave and fridge. Room rates start at $56.52 (taxes included) per night for 1 double bed room.

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December 18, 2009

Hotel Rates Continue to Fall

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

Vienna X-mas MarketA while ago, we wrote about the occupancy rates starting to improve in September in the Middle East and the United States. But Europe is still dragging its feet in the crisis and the recent data is not encouraging.

According to this article the room rates in Europe are 8% less than they were in December 2008. In comparison to November 2009, room rates fell by 4%.

Unfortunately, that’s the situation in almost all European major cities. The only exception is Copenhagen where the room rates increased by 21% in December 2009 compared to November 2009 (due to a Conference).

United Kingdom – 9th most expensive destination in Europe

Overall, in the United Kingdom, the room rates fell by 5% in December 2009 compared to November 2009. When it comes to the large British cities, room rates fell by 21% in Manchester and 15% in Edinburgh compared to December 2008. The average price for a double room is £90 per night. The cheapest hotel rooms can be found in Wales, followed by Northern Ireland and Scotland. England still has the most expensive room rates in December 2009, averaging £90 per night. But in London the average room rates are still above £100 per night.

In Dublin (Irish capital) the average room rate fell by 19% compared to December 2008 and the average room price is £86 per night.

Cheap European cities and Christmas markets

If you still haven’t done your Christmas shopping or just want to spend the holidays in a different setting, there are several large European cities which are still very affordable. Room rates in December 2009 dropped by 14% in Milan, compared to November 2009, averaging £99 per night. Barcelona is also pleased to welcome travelers with room rates averaging £87 per night, 9% less than last month. And Istanbul remains the center of bargain shopping and hotels are welcoming travelers with room rates averaging £73 per night, a 10% decrease compared to last month.

Christmas markets , on the other hand, have a different effect on the room rates. Since travelers flock to the cities which run famous Christmas markets, the room rates have seen an increase compared to last month. In Nuremberg (Germany) the room rate increased by 12% compared to November 2009, averaging £97 per night for a standard double room, while in Vienna tourists pay, on average, £99 per night for a double room, 5% more than in November 2009. The trend is the same, whether you plan to go to Germany, Austria or Switzerland.

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December 17, 2009

Myrtle Beach is a Relaxing Place to Visit during Winter

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

myrtle beachMost tourists believe that Myrtle Beach is the kind of destination spot for the rich and famous, for those who prefer country clubs, play golf and enjoy expensive cocktails all day long. You are not too far from the truth, but Myrtle Beach can also be a nice family vacation destination.

Located along the South Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is known for its sandy beaches, good sea restaurants, golf courses and shopping. Should you prefer to explore the nature, Myrtle Beach State Park is an excellent choice boasts a mile of beachfront and includes a large campground, a fishing pier and nature trails.

Planning the budget

During the high season – May to August – it’s often a good idea to look up Myrtle Beach vacation packages . Since you’ll be traveling at the same time as the rest of the tourists, expect the prices to be quite expensive.

If you want to visit the area during winter, you will definitely not see tourists. But it’s also tricky to find accommodation, as many resorts close down during the low season. Cheap hotels in Myrtle Beach do exist and are easier to find during winter.

While the city is served by Myrtle Beach International Airport and is served by companies such as Delta, Continental, Northwest, Spirit, U.S. Airways and Myrtle Beach Direct Air, it is a better idea to fly into a major airport, especially if you come from overseas. Cheap flights to South Carolina are not hard to find and if you fly into Charleston – about 2 ½ hours by car from Myrtle Beach – or Atlanta, you are guaranteed to find some good deals.

What to do in winter

Myrtle Beach is a summer destination so you should not be surprised that there aren’t many things to do during winter, nor is the destination very enjoyable at this time of the year.

Grand Strand Boat Show takes place at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center between January 5 and January 11, 2010. It features an incredible selection of state-of-the-art boats that include speed boats, fishing boats, yachts, and plenty more. Also, visitors can enjoy two fashion shows featuring the newest swim and casual wear for the beach and a Bathing Suit Contest.

Myrtle Beach Marathon takes place at Coastal Federal Field from February 11 to February 14, 2010. If you want to run but cannot handle the marathon, the Le Bleu One Mile Family Fun Run is an excellent choice. The marathon takes runners along the ocean, picturesque golf courses, the Myrtle Beach Strip, and plenty more beautiful places.

SOS Spring Safari takes place at North Myrtle Beach from February 26 to February 28, 2010. It brings shag-dancers from all over the country to Myrtle Beach. During the event, several clubs and venues will sponsor special events to welcome seasoned shaggers, such as dance workshops, exhibitions, contests, live entertainment, and a shag parade.

Where to stay

Of course, such a popular beach destination is filled with expensive places to stay. And even the cheaper places aren’t exactly cheap either. But if you come here during the low season (winter) you won’t pay an arm and a leg for a room.

Island Vista is an excellent resort for families, honeymooners, and golfers. It features wi-fi on the property, children activities, water activities, pool, bar, spa and fitness center. Golf packages are available. In mid-January room rates start at $71 per room per night for an oceanfront (or ocean view) room.

Caribbean Resort And Villas has a history of over 40 years and has been recently renovated. It offers 2, 3 and 4 bedroom luxury units, as well as 2 & 3 bedroom condos. During mid-January, the cheapest room starts at $36.75 per night (ocean view room).

Long Bay Resort was voted Best Myrtle Beach Hotel For Golf Packages by Sun News in 2004 and Best Overall Hotel in Myrtle Beach by Sun News in 2006. It features 286 oceanfront condos, suites, efficiencies and rooms and is located in the north end of town. There is a restaurant on site, an exercise room and there are golf packages available. During mid-January, the cheapest room starts at $39 per night (resort view) and $49 per night (oceanfront).

Marina Inn at Grande Dunes is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway and is an excellent location for those looking for a relaxed, romantic vacation. It is a luxury resort and even during the low season, the prices are quite high. The New Years Eve Package starts at $325 per couple. In mid-January expect to pay $109 per night for the Grande Guest Room.

Sea Watch Resort offers luxury studios in two towers overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is an excellent choice for families with children and for those who want to play golf. It is located only minutes from the Tanger Outlets so those wanting to shop will be pleased as well. Hot deals are available and include the New Year’s Eve Celebration (from $79.53 per night and includes breakfast), $mart Rate$ Winter Escape (from $65 per night) and golf packages. In mid-January, the room rates start at $79.53 per night (oceanfront studio).

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December 16, 2009

Australia Family Vacation

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

Australia SydneyMost travelers already know that if they book a vacation in advance, they will get some discounts. But how about getting another cruise for free when you book a vacation in Australia? Australia Family Vacation. Book Now and Save!

Let’s talk more about the deal. If you book the vacation by Jan 15, 2010, you will get a free 3-night Bahamas cruise. Plus, children under 12 get reduced rates for the Australia Family Vacation cruise. The adult land price is $4,329 and the cruise lasts for 10 days. It departs on June 12, 2010. The tour highlights include: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling, Ayers Rock, Sydney Harbor Jet Boat Tour, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and Taronga Zoo.

You should also know that the tour includes the following: services of adventure guides, all accommodations, meals, taxes and transfers. The tour members meet in Queensland and ends in Sydney.

Should you not want to book the flight to and from Australia from the tour operator, you can always look for flights to Australia on your own. You can even book a round trip flight into Sydney and then travel to Queensland to meet with the tour group.

Are vacation packages a good idea?

As you have just noticed Australia vacation packages come in many forms and you can even add services to them if you want to. So, they do offer a lot of flexibility.

However, many independent travelers are not willing to put up with the times set by the tour guides and rush from one place to another or while visiting a particular landmark. And for them, booking their vacation independently is the best way to go.

Other options

June is a great month to visit any European country. The weather is nice (sometimes even hot already) and the crowds haven’t yet “conquered” the continent. The good (and still affordable) choices include Italy vacations, Greece vacations and Ireland vacations. As usual, the vacation packages come in many forms and you can easily choose only the accommodation and book the flight on your preferred airline or choose the cheapest option.

In some parts of Europe – Italy, Greece, Croatia – it is already possible to get a nice tan, but the water is still quite cold to consider swimming (at least in the first part of the month).

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December 15, 2009

Colorful Festivals in Mumbai in January

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

MumbaiMumbai, once known as Bombay, is not only the largest city in India but also one of the biggest cities in the entire world. It is the most cosmopolitan Indian city. The city has three main seasons: summer, monsoon and winter. The best time to visit Mumbai is between November and February.

There are a lot of things to do and see but the main tourist attractions are concentrated in South Mumbai. The colonial buildings, the museums, the galleries, the parks, the zoo, the markets, the malls, the religious places and the beaches offer just as many opportunities to spend your time while visiting this young Indian city.

Planning the budget

While it’s not uncommon to find all inclusive vacation packages focusing on the beach resorts located within the city, this might not be the best approach.

Overall, Mumbai is more expensive than other Asian cities, but it doesn’t mean you cannot put together an affordable package on your own. The airport serving Mumbai is the busiest in India and is served by a lot of airlines. Finding flights to India is not hard but if you travel during the high season (November to February) it’s best to book your flight slightly in advance.

The majority of cheap hotels in Mumbai can be found in South Mumbai, where most of the tourist attractions are. However, although the accommodation is cheaper by Mumbai standards, it’s more expensive than in the rest of Asia, so be prepared for some higher rates. Do consider that getting from one place to another in Mumbai is quite hectic so the hotel should be located close to the places you plan to visit.

What to do

While in December the only major even going on in the city is Christmas, January comes with an array of colorful festivals.

Banganga Festival takes place in early January and features a lot of concerts in the Banganga area of Mumbai. Musicians from all over India perform within the Walkeshwar Temple Complex.

Makar Sankranti is celebrated on January 14 and is a Hindi harvest festival. According to the lunar calendar, on this date the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac. This date is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.

Muharram is celebrated in late January and is a Muslim event marking the death of Imam Hussain.

Mumbai Marathon takes place in late January. It is a relatively new addition to the sports scene of the city and attracts lead athletes from all over India and the world. It features a variety of races through the streets of the city, all for charitable purposes.

January 26 marks Republic Day, a national holiday and represents the anniversary of India becoming a republic in 1950 (the biggest celebrations take place in New Delhi).

Where to stay

Choosing a nice place to stay in a good location might be a bit tricky but with some research done in advance, you’ll be happy to find what you want. If you want to come to Mumbai during the marathon, make sure to book the room in advance.

Hotel Samrat is located in the heart of Mumbai and opposite Khar Road (West) Railway Station. It is only 3 minutes away from the shopping area of Linking road, Bandra. Each room has a bathroom, WC, fan, TV and phone. There’s a restaurant within the hotel and wi-fi can be used for a fee. Bed rates start at US$44.92 per night in a single room, US$28.09 per night per person in a double room and US$20.20 per night per person in a 10 beds dorm.

Hotel Pearl Mumbai is located in Chembur, in the north end of Mumbai, in the heart of the business center. They offer 39 double rooms. The bed price starts at US$16.85 per person per night.

Hotel Galaxy Residency is located in the Mumbai’s suburban district. They offer 16 rooms, all with TV, wi-fi, phone and coffee maker. There’s a restaurant on site and there are also parking facilities. Bed prices start at US$33.70 per night in a single room and US$20.22 per person per night in a double room.

Hotel Singhs International is located in North Central Mumbai, offering 30 rooms (private and dorms), all with AC. The linen is included in the room price. Each room has TV and fridge. There’s wi-fi in the lobby. Bed prices start at US$40.42 per night in a single room, US$22.47 per person per night in a double room and US$17.98 per person per night in a 10 beds dorm.

Hotel Metro Palace is located close to the local airport, in Bandra west. The rooms are equipped with modern facilities. The hotel also offers a restaurant and a disco. Bed rates start at US$33.70 per person per night in a twin room.

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December 14, 2009

Montreal: ski, events and rich culture

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

MontrealMontreal is an excellent destination for those who want to get a taste of France without paying an arm and a leg to get on the other side of the ocean. Montreal is the third-largest French-speaking city in the world and a city with a strong culture. It is rich in history, culture, cosmopolite, and considered one of the liveliest cities in North America.

Old Montreal is home to the vast majority of historical buildings, most dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. The Downtown area is filled with museums, churches and skyscrapers. There are the places you’ll most likely spend your time checking out. And if you happen to come here during winter, you must try cross-country skiing and ice skating. There are several good path to check out and there are also some ice rinks (two of them are free: Beaver Lake, in the Parc Mont-Royal and the Connected ponds of Lafontaine Park, in Plateau Mont-Royal.

Planning the budget

When planning to visit a city, it’s often a hassle to find vacation packages , especially if the city is cosmopolite and offers a lot of things to do.

So the best bet is to book the flight and accommodation separately. Montreal is served by Trudeau Airport, which is Canada’s third biggest airport. Finding cheap flights to Montreal is easy especially if you plan to travel during the low season. It serves as headquarter for Air Canada so you should start your search with that airline.

When it comes to the accommodation, if you want to stay in cheap Montreal hotels you should look outside the downtown are. The Old City and Downtown are easily tackled on foot but the accommodation is not cheap. So venture outside these areas and use the city’s public transport to get from one place to another.

Things to do

No matter when you visit Montreal, there will always be a lot of things to do and events to attend.

Under the Cuban Sun is an exhibition open until December 31, 2009. It features photographs, texts and a video taken during the seven trips Brother Marie-Victorin and his colleague Brother Léon made in Cuba. It takes place at the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

On Ouvre Les Boites is an exhibition open until April 11, 2010 at the Canadian Railway Museum and features an overview on the museum recent acquisitions.

Being Irish O’Quebec is an exhibition on the integration of Irish immigrants and their contribution to the social, cultural, political and economic landscape of Quebec. It is open until April 4, 2010. The exhibition takes place at the McCord Museum of Canadian History and the admission fee is $13.

Where to stay

When planning a vacation in a large, popular city it takes a bit of planning to find an affordable place located close to the attraction. There are not only budget hotels to choose from but also apartments for rent and hostels to consider.

Appartement Qualitas is located between the Olympic stadium and old Montreal. The minimum stay is 3 nights. Free linen, free internet, free cable TV and free towels are provided by the hostel. There’s also a shared kitchen within the hostel. Bed rates start at US$22.77 per person per night in a double room and US$12.87 per night in a 24 beds dorm.

Explorers House Holiday Makers/ PVT Centre is located across the Metro Jean-Talon station and just 7 minutes from the Latin Quarter. The hostel offers a game room, a dishwasher and a laundry room. There’s free wi-fi within the property, free breakfast, free coffee and tea all day. The linen and towels are included in the bed price. Bed prices start at US$21.29 per person per night in a twin room and US$12.38 per night in a 10 beds dorm.

La Maison du Patriote is located in Old Montreal. The hostel offers free wi-fi within the property. Bed rates start at US$21.78 per person per night in a double room and US$15.84 per night in a 20 beds dorm.

Le Sous-bois is located near the Old Port, in Old Montreal (5 minutes from the skating rink). Free wi-fi is available within the property. The linen and towels are also offered for free. Bring slippers as this is a shoeless hostel. Bed prices start at US$59.40 per person in a double room and US$49.50 per person in a 18 beds dorm.

Hotel Ste-Catherine is located in Gay Village and features spacious rooms with great views of the city. Continental breakfast is included in the room price. Room rates start at US$29.21 per person in a double room and US$18.32 per person in a 4 beds private room.

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December 11, 2009

Dubai Tourism Already Having Problems

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

DubaiOver the past years, Dubai has been steadily modeling itself as an upscale tourist destination. But it is already pressured by the global economic downturn and the major tourism projects are already defaulting.

According to this article from the Wall Street Journal , Dubai World, the emirate’s investment and holding arm, is on the edge of defaulting.

In addition to the major projects they hold in Dubai, they also own about 6% of the outstanding shares of casino giant MGM Mirage and 50% from the CityCenter project .

More about Dubai

The laid-back emirate has had some success in attracting visitors who seem drawn by what this exotic location has to offer: indoor ski slopes, horse races, famous property on the man-made islands and many more. As opposed to its neighbors, Dubai has a relaxed approach towards what tourists like: freely available alcohol and common beach attire.

Of course, such an approach towards tourism and attracting visitors has led many chains to open hotels here. Hilton Hotels, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, Hyatt Hotels Corp., Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC and Marriott International Inc all have properties here.

So far things held quite well during the recession so far in Dubai. The arrivals went up by 5% in 2009 but at the expense of slashing hotel rates and aggressive marketing campaigns. According to Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, 3.85 million visitors came to visit Dubai in the first 6 months of 2009. Ten years ago the emirate received 3 million visitors annually while 20 years ago only 600,000 visited the place during an entire year.

However, with more and more hotel rooms available in Dubai, the occupancy rate went down to 70% during the last part of the year. From January to June it stayed at a comfortable 87%. The reason? Dubai ended June 2009 with about 58,000 more hotel rooms than last year (a 17% increase) and the plans are for even more rooms to open within the next years.

Even worse, the revenue per available room (RevPAR) fell by 36% in October alone as the rates were slashed even more. Right now even 5-star accommodations offer rooms for about $100 a night.

Dubai gets only 6% of its revenue from oil and gas. In the early 1990s when it started marketing itself as a commercial center, there was a lot of development and high end hotels started to be build.

Right now it’s hard to predict what would happen. The added hotel rooms will definitely put pressure on all operators. It’s expected, all over the world, for the occupancy to stabilize but the room rates are likely to stay low.

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December 10, 2009

Montauk – a relaxed destination during winter

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

MontaukMontauk is part of the Town of East Hampton, in Long Island, New York. It is known as a popular beach destination. As soon as the weather turns warm in April, tourists flock here for finishing, surfing and the beaches.

The attractions include the Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum – an excellent place to take the kids; don’t forget to climb to the top of the lighthouse for some incredible views of the ocean – , the Montauk Observatory – if you happen to show up on a clear evening you’ll be able to see the night sky – , Rita’s Stable Petting Farm – where kids enjoy petting baby animals -, the Second House Museum – don’t miss the rose and herbs garden – and the national parks.

Planning the budget

During summer it is a good idea to look for New York vacation packages and hope to find something affordable in Montauk. However, there aren’t any chains here – hotels or restaurants – so it might be tricky to find a good bargain unless you like to explore the posh resorts on the beach.

If you plan to enjoy a relaxed winter vacation here, you need to book the flight and accommodation separately. The closest airport is Macarthur Airport, located about 70 miles from East Hampton, but there are more chances to find a good deal on flights to New York. Once here, rent a car and get on the Long Island Express way. It is definitely the easiest way to reach East Hampton, although you can even take a train or a bus from Manhattan.

Finding cheap hotels in Montauk requires a bit of creatively. Firstly, you should know that some hotels only open in April so the options are quite limited during the low season. Secondly, look for inns and stay away from the resorts.

Things to do

Unfortunately during winter Montauk is a place where nothing seems to happen. You are left with exploring the sites and taking pleasure in the lack of tourists. Or wait and come to visit the place on March 21, 2010 to watch the St Patrick’s Day Parade.

Where to stay

Since winter is low-season in Montauk, chances are you’ll find plenty of places to stay and the prices are affordable. Just be careful that some hotels close during winter.

Gurney’s Inn Resort, Spa and Conference Center offers spectacular ocean views and it’s a year round destination for all types of travelers. Special spa packages are available. Accommodation includes cottages, rooms and suites. The off season rates (until April 2010) start at $255.00 per night for a Ocean View Studio (double occupancy). The weekend rates are higher.

Hartman’s Briney Breezes Motel offers rooms with ocean views, each with terrace or balcony. The rooms have AC, fully equipped kitchen and cable TV. The motel is open from March to November. The daily rates are $150-195 (for 2 persons) for a deluxe studio apartment.

Ocean Resort Inn offers free wi-fi, beach chairs, umbrellas and towels. The inn is open between March and October. The cheapest rates are $105-130 for the lower bedroom units. During the spring and fall weekends there’s a 2 nights minimum stay (3 nights during summer).

East Deck Motel Family Resort is located in Ditch Plains and is a beach resort. The motel is open from May until October. There’s a 2 nights minimum stay during the off season (4 nights during summer). Room rates start at $90 per night for a motel room during the low-season (May and October).

Lido Resort Motel is located in the heart of Montauk Village. The newly renovated rooms are located close to the beach and restaurants. The motel is open from May to October. Weekday room rates start at $110.00 per night for accommodation with 1 queen bed, full kitchen, AC and cable TV. There’s free wi-fi within the property.

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December 9, 2009

Pay 4 nights and get the fifth free at selected properties in Puerto Rico

Filed under: Uncategorized — cristina @ 1:00 am

puerto ricoThe high season has pretty much started in the entire Caribbean area and, luckily, the great offers are still available. But if you are not after spending the vacation here right smack during the high season, you can now plan your vacation during the low-season, next year. And, as you know, early booking always gets you some kind of a deal. This time you pay 4 nights and get the 5th free at selected properties in Puerto Rico.

There are two properties you can choose from, a 4-star and a 5-star resort. The offer is valid between May 2010 and December 2010 so there is time to plan your next vacation. The 4-star property is located 8 miles from the airport and 3 miles from town. The 5-star property is located 1 hour from the airport and offers 6 swimming pools. The rates start at $659.00 per person, for 7 nights in May 2010.

Once you’ve got the resort booked, don’t forget to look for flights to Puerto Rico , although right now it would be way too far in advance to consider them. But it’s always a good idea to check out the special rates and offers available.

Other options

May is the last month of spring in Europe, which means the weather starts to be excellent and the crowds haven’t started to arrive yet (at least not at the beginning the month). If you are after a Europe vacation package , it’s a good idea to plan such a vacation for either spring or fall. Places such as Greece, Italy and Bulgaria already have great weather which allows for sunbathing. In fact, the sea side tourist season starts on May 1 in many European countries.

You can look for deals from big European tour operators which offer both resorts and flight as part of the package. However, the flights usually are from UK or Irish airports. Which is not an issue because if you come from the States, you can book a flight to Europe and then hop on the flight offered by the tour operator to get to your destination. Brits are booked on places such as Greece, Italy and Cyprus and typically the prices are very cheap, especially if you book in advance.

Summer 2010 vacations from this tour operator start at £394 per adult, for 7 nights with self catering in Italy and includes the RT flight from London Gatwick to Verona. The apartment is located just 3 km southern-most shores of Lake Garda and offers 2 bars, lounges, cafes, pizzeria and a mini-market.

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