Category Archives: Blog

Elliott’s List of Top Travel Twitter Types

Keep up with travel news & trends in 140 or fewer characters

Christopher Elliott is gathering readers’ opinions on his award-winning travel site, Elliott.org, on the best or favorite travel personalities in social media. Back in the early days of travel blogging before there was Twitter, Chris made his own selections without reader input, I was immensly flattered that this blog made his list for two years. He named Travel-Babel one of the “20 most inspiring travel blogs” in 2007 and one of the “50 travel blogs I can’t live without” in 2008. I haven’t been able to keep up with the travel blogging pace that has developed since then, so I’m no longer even a contender   –and my travel Tweets are fairly random and unpredictable.

Now it’s all about Twitter, and Elliott has released a list of the “13 Travel Personalities to Follow on Twitter in 2013.” They are  1. @WheresAndrew 2. @AnnieFitz 3. @petersgreenberg 4. @JourneyWoman 5. @Heather_Poole 6. @barbdelollis 7. @NathanKam 8. @TravelBlggr 9. @crankyflier 10. @LandLopers 11. @EarthXplorer 12. @FrequentlyFlyin 13. @CruiseRadio

This Rump-Up Picture Caught My Eye

Did she lose an earring? Kick a sandal under the bed? Checking whether the housekeeping is up to her standards? When I saw it, I didn't know, but I could tell that she was photographed in a villa in some wonderful tropical place.

It’s the an image on a website that finds luxurious villas for exotic tropical getaways

The catchy slogan for a long-ago Mounds/Almond Joy commercial was “Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.” I’m that way about travel. Sometimes I want to explore exciting European cities, energetic developing countries somewhere on the planet and put a pack on my back and hike the splendid  Rockies of the U.S. and Canada. And sometimes I just want to stop the clock, jump off the merry-go-round and unwind someplace wonderful with my husband, palm trees, the sound of the sea and soft tropical breezes — and maybe some pampering thrown in.

The image above certainly is an attention-grabber, and I think that next time I want, assuming I could afford, a vacation on this order, my go-to source will be The Villa Guide. I have prowled around this Hong Kong-based booking site, and and like what I see. Their slogan, “We’re renowned for sleeping around,” is as catchy as the photo, but the content is hands-on practical. The site owners do explain,

“The reason being we sleep in over 200 villas a year — trying, testing, sampling and inspecting every square inch, literally. We take our role very seriously and work to exacting standards. We don’t just lie on the bed — we look under it, beside it and even climb above it. We’re thorough, and we need to be, because our review criteria is tough, real tough. That’s why we employ villa aficionados — independent, impartial, insatiable reviewers, who are seasoned villa stayers, and hard to impress.”

I’m hard to impress as well, but The Villa Guide did so. Behind the cute slogan is a well-designed site for a particular special-interest traveler — the type who likes tropics, luxury, service, beauty. Drill down into the site, and find that villas are searchable by country, by awide array of vacation interests and by villa size. Anyone need 10 bedrooms?  The nightly rate range (gulp!) is in big type right on top, and there is an easy click-on page for availability. They also provide with infomation on additional facilities.

The site also scores each villa  against 10 specific criteria listed on a scale of 1 to 10, and they invite readers to do the same.  They total the rating given on each page of the guide, noting that “any villa with a rating above eight is outstanding, and a rating of nine or over  is truly exceptional.” The Villa Guide posts their ratings and also their readers’. To underscore their high standards, they put these numbers side by side. As an example, the guest rating for the Villa Nataraja in Bali’s Sanur Beach ($537-$751 nightly) is 9.1; while the Villa Guide gave it a 7.5. Similarly, the guest rating for Ambalama on the south coast of Sri Lanka (beachfront, 4 bedrooms, $650-$1,200 per night) is 10.0, while The Villa Guide gave it a 7.8.

So if you have an itching for an exotic tropical getaway or just wants to daydream online, check the site out.

Bucket List Blog

My friend Karen Berger has launched a new travel blog, cleverly named BucketTripper, essentially an anthology of interesting experiences in interesting places around the globe that might be on your bucket list. I’ve been to a number of these places — and others certainly are list of places to see, to visit, to experience.

The site delivers on the seductive teaser on the home page: “Photographing lions in Ngorongoro Crater? Check.  Diving the Red Sea? Check. Hiking the Appalachian Trail? Check. Wandering the ruins of Petra? Check.  Learning to cook in Italy? Check. Our writers go there, do that, and bring you back the real deal.” She recruited “a team of experienced professional travel writers from all over the world” to provide content (alas no, I’m not one of them), and the adventures they recount are of interest to travelers who want some insight into slightly off-the-beaten-track but still accessible experiences. Check it out.

Labor Day Ski/Snowboard Deals are Huge Draw

SNIAGRAB is a 57-year tradition in sports-crazed Colorado

Colorado’s Front Range chalked up the hottest August on record, making those of us who love snowsports wistful for winter. Even though the lead-up to Labor Day was toasty (but unlike much of the East, South and Midwest, not humid), Colorado’s big three ski/snowboard retailers’ end-of-summer, prelude-to-winter megasales always draw big crowds.

Although I usually hit one or two of the Boulder stores, today, I went to Denver for the annual SNIAGRAB sale at Sports Authority’s Sportscastle, the landmark building (originally a car showroom) where SNIAGRAB (BARGAINS spelled backwards) started 57 years ago when it was Gart Brothers. The sale starts tomorrow for the general public, but yesterday and today, the doors were open for VIP customers. Not that I’m a VIP; I signed up and you can too by clicking here.

The most dedicated bargain hunters set up tents on the sidewalk alongside the Sportscastle. There are perks for earlybirds, including a chance to win $500 in bonus bucks.

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SNIAGRAB is not only a Denver area tradition, but I learned today that that out-of-towners who plan to ski/ride Colorado often travel to Denver from distant places to get deals on gear and buy the cheapest lift passes of the season. Some pile into the car and make a holiday weekend road trip out of it. Some even fly. That seems wildly extravagant to me, but one of the managers (they’re the ones wearing the gray SNIAGRAB shirts on the sales floor) said that some customers fly in and even Europe every year. For all I know, some come in on their own planes. Many of them have a condo or a second home in the Colorado mountains and combine SNIAGRAB with other Denver holiday weekend attractions and activities.

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I’ve heard, read and seen on TV news reports that come Saturday morning, the scattered VIP customers will be replaced by a throng of bargain-seekers, including those skiers and riders from near and far. Some pitch tents early to be the first in line for doorbuster specials that save 64 to 80% off original prices. In any case. I’m glad I went today and can hardly wait to use my new skis. I saw a TV report that despite the heat, Loveland was testing out its snow guns the other day, so it won’t be long.

Apparel for adults and kids (shown here) and for skiers and snowboarders are up to 75% off original retail.
Kids' season rentals -- one of the best ways for families to save money -- are promoted via displays in front of the Sportscastle as well as inside.
Ski areas including from Araphoe Basin and Aspen/Snowmass to Vail Resorts (Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, Beaver Creek) and Winter Park offer the best-priced passes for the coming season at the Labor Day sales.

 

The deals aren't confined "only" to equipment, apparel, accessories and lift tickets. The National Ski Patrol is selling its lightweight first-aid kit for $10 -- regularly $15.

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In addition to SNIAGRAB, Labor Day weekend sales include Colorado Ski & Golf’s and Boulder Ski Deals’ Ski Rex sale, and Christy Sports puts on Powder Daze at Park Meadows. Buying winter stuff at heavily discounted prices is, after all, a Denver are tradition.

 

Chris Elliott’s Poll on Heroes Against TSA Excesses

Five heroes (or villans) in the Resistance against overreaching TSA practices — and my candidate for an honorary mention

If it seems that I ardently dislike the Transportation Security Administration and its policies, it’s because I do. Sheltered by the Patriot Act, this post-9/11 agency is  part of the Department of Homeland Security —  arguably the most overreaching branch of government since J. Edgar Hoover ruled the FBI. In its short life — a little more than nine-and-a-half years, Homeland Security in general had shown that it knows few bounds when it comes to intrusiveness. Denver Post cartoonist Mike Keefe nailed it regarding public indignation of the Murdoch empire’s snooping compared with compliance to whatever Homeland Security does in the name of “protecting” us:

But, as Dave Barry is wont to write, I digress. Christopher Elliott, a steady watchdog on behalf of the traveling public, today wrote: “Every few months, someone seems to capture the traveling public’s attention with an action that exposes the absurdity and indignity of being frisked at the airport. Many of us would call them heroes for their actions. Others would say they’re villains, because they demoralize the TSA and give comfort to the ‘enemy.’”

Chris Elliott has a new post with a poll on his site asking readers to vote for which of five high-profile situations in which travelers resisted the TSA’s excessive and inflexible policies. Although she wasn’t on the post, I respectfully suggest that Chris bestow some kind of honorary mention on Jean Weber. She is the daughter of a 95-year-old wheelchair-bound woman with terminal leukemia who was forced to remove her Depends adult diaper at a TSA checkpoint at Northwest Florida Regional Airport last month and went public — very public — with the indignity her mother endured. The story received wide coverage, but the local newspaper’s report and the TSA’s lame excuse was as detailed a summary as any soon after the unfortunate incident.

I voted in the Chris Elliott’s poll, and you should too.

Travel Babel Wins SATW Blog Award

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I am honored that this travel blog received the gold award in the 2011 Society of American Travel Writers Western Chapter Writing Awards. The certificate is nice, the check is nice too, but nicest of all are thejudges’ words on  an accompanying sheet: “The key to a successful blog is frequent, consistent updating. This blogger [that would be me!] keeps the copy coming day after day. Entries, such as the one updating Egyptian antiquity tourism in the midst of the country’s revolution, offer a personal note on a breaking story. Others offer tidbits, tips and interesting updates.”

Travel Babel Semi-Finalist for Blog Award

Austin-Lehman Adventures’ announces a drawing for a  trip open only to readers of honored blogs

An E-mail that just landed in my inbox brought good news for me — and maybe for you too. I learned that this blog is a semi-finalist for the first Austin-Lehman Adventures travel blog awards. Here’s what the adventure travel company said:
“Each blog provides the most fascinating, up-to-date content on travel tips, adventure, family travel and the everyday life of a traveler. These blogs are imaginative, fun, original and poignant, reaching to the heart of what traveling is all about–discovery, adventure and finding yourself. Congratulations to these excellent bloggers!”

I’m flattered amd honored to be in the company of some of the blogs I most admire. It’s a long list — 125 blogs — but considering how many thousands of  travel sites are floating in the blogosphere, it’s still great recognition. And I thank them.

Enter This Contest
 
Austin-Lehman Adventures has also launched a giveaway for readers of nominated blogs: a $5,000 credit toward a trip for two on the winner’s choice Austin-Lehman Adventure trip to North, Central and South America, Europe, the Pacific Rim or Africa. featuring gourmet dining, multi-sport adventures and nature’s charm at all-inclusive rates. Click here for details and an online entry form.

New Website Features Beachfront Hotels

Beachfront & slopeside: two environments, same convenient idea
Vintage Hotel at the base of Winter Park.

Right now, I am at the hotel  at the base of the tram at Alaska’s Alyeska Resort. Visitors grab skis and snowboard (the rental shop and equipment check) are on on the second floor of the hotel, walk a few hundred feet along a roofed-over walkway, climb a flight of stairs or take the elevator, and board the tram for a quick ride to access the most extensive ski terrain in the largest state. I recently stayed at the Vintage Hotel in Winter Park Village, Colorado. The equipment room is on the main floor with direct access to the outdoors. It’s just a couple of hundred feet to the nearest lift. Before that, I visited Angel Fire, New Mexico, whose main hotel is right at the base of the frontside slopes. There’s a lot to be said fo rthe convenience of ski-in, ski-out lodging.

Beachfront accommodations are the equivalent along the shore.  The Beachfront Club is a new online, world directory of beachfront a road properties — those without a road between their doors and the sand. It is projected as a multi-purpose site: searchable with the click of a mouse on the world map. Properties can register for free, but a more visible “premium” listing that includes click-through a link to the individual hotel website is available to hoteliers for a “small” additional monthly fee. The site is in beta right now, but if you are a beach-lover, you might check it out and shop around. It’s a new site, so do remember that it’s a new site and not nearly fleshed out.

Guest Post: Ode (to) Canada!

“Oh, Canada!” is the national anthem. Guest poster writes an ode to his country

Canada is one of my very favorite countries on this planet. When I lived on the East Coast, Quebec and the Maritimes were the provinces I visited most frequently. Since moving to Colorado in 1988, I’ve spent more time in Alberta and British Columbia. Canada combines some of the most appealing characterstics of Europe (wonderful, livable cities) and the United States (wide-open countryside). Oceans, lakes, rivers, mountains, prairie — Canada has it all, in abundance. Who can forget Vancouver and Whistler‘s gracious hosting of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, in the face of challenging weather? Canada even has the “good” side of Niagara Falls. Dan Munteau shares suggestions for the top places to visit in his country.

 “Come and See: Canada Is Waiting”

Whether you decide to start on the west coast or the eastern side of Canada, this amazing and diverse country offers a lot to see and to experience. From the rural charm of Prince Edward Island to the history of Quebec City, the romance of Niagara Falls, the friendly, international flair of Ottawa, and the recreational beauty of Kelowna, British Columbia, each location offers a unique glimpse into the people and places that make this nation so special.

Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest inhabited island, and some would say it is also her greenest. Sitting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sea views are everywhere. Getting to the island is no problem. Fly, take a ferry, or drive the 13 km causeway. Once there, you’ll be enchanted by the red sandstone cliffs, sandy beaches, and gentle rolling knolls of farm land. Home of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, visitors can visit Anne’s environment and relive her pastoral growing-up years, even sample “raspberry cordial.” PEI is also known for the abundance of fresh sea-food eateries from casual on-the- beach take-outs to elegant restaurants.

Quebec City has a history that precedes the founding of the country, and this amazing city still captures the feel and flavour of those days long ago. One of the last walled-cities in the world, Quebec City offers visitors a glimpse into the rich French culture of yesterday. At the Place Royale, cobbled streets tie together what may be the oldest neighbourhood in America. The Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world, proudly stands guard over the St Lawrence River. Nearby the Ile d’Orleans recaptures the historic French farming way of life. Montmorency Falls Park  has a waterfall that at 83 m. is about 30 m. higher than Niagara Falls—a truly breath-taking sight.

Speaking of Niagara Falls, one of the all-time favourite honeymoon destinations, this place is magical all year long. Free parks offer unlimited opportunity for observing the beauty of the falls day or night, summer or winter. While associated rides and tours usually run from about mid-May to mid-September, there are many other things to do and sights to see. Niagara Aviary and Fallsview Waterpark are sure to entertain all ages. The Seneca Casino and “Oh Canada Eh?” dinner theatre provide even more adult entertainment during your stay. Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” and the “Wax Museum” are also fun and fascinating.

Ottawa, the capital of Canada, has historic Parliament buildings, the Canadian Aviation museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and a host of other sights that attract tourists from around the world. Some would say that Ottawa is at her most beautiful appearance in the lovely days of autumn. However, winter does not slow down the excitement. A winter festival that includes snow sculptures and ice skating on the Rideau Canal can actually make cold weather a good friend. Don’t miss the “Changing of the Guard” ceremonies or the RCMP march when you come to visit.

Kelowna, British Columbia is where Canadians go when they want to play. Nestled in the Okanagan Valley in the very heart of the Rockies, this resort area enjoys a protected existence and lovely summer weather. Famous BC apple crops and wineries abound on the farmland. Hiking and biking in picture-book, pine-scented forests are favourite pastimes. Boating, other water sports on the lakes and beautiful golf courses invite everyone to get involved. This all-season resort area will appeal to every member of your family. Come out west and find this hidden treasure. Canada is waiting.

Dan Munteanu, whoc is passionate about traveling and loves experiencing new cultures, new places and trying out new things, recommends the use of travel insurance, especially for seniors or those with medical concerns.  In his free time, blogs about his travel experiences and plans for his future vacations.

Elliott.org’s Top 10 Travel Blogs for 2010

An elite list of high-traffic, high-visibility travel blogs

Chris Elliott is an oft-honored travel consumer advocate whose projects include elliottt.org, the go-to site for aggrieved  travelers with problems and complaints they can’t get resolved themselves. He annually puts out a list of the best travel blogs around. In his first couple of years, he made the selections himself — including, I’m still proud to say, this blog. He has refined his process, and this year solicited nominations and let his readers decide on the Top 10 Travel Blogs of 2010.

In announcing the 2010 list today, he wrote, “I polled 954 readers, offering a list of 20 nominees, which were chosen based on their visibility and traffic. Although the initial list was subjective, I included a write-in option. Two of the winners — Johnny Vagabond and Legal Nomads — were write-ins.”  

The list follows, along with my congratulations to all.

1. Gadling
2. Johnny Vagabond
3. Brave New Traveler
4. Airfare Watchdog
5. Consumer Traveler
6. BootsnAll
7. Legal Nomads
8. Everything Everywhere
9. The Middle Seat
10. World Hum

He added, “Next year, I will try to expand the list to include more travel blogs.”  I take that as good news for those of us who are smaller blogfish in an increasingly large blogpond.