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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Where To Save Money on Summer Travel

People are always asking me, “Laura, where can I travel in the summer that won’t cost me an arm and a leg?” I reply with a body of answers, none of which involve the oxymoronic word staycation.

My advice:

1. Head to places where summer is the off-season (like Scottsdale or Dallas)
2. Head to places where it’s hurricane season (notably the Caribbean, Florida, or parts of Mexico)
3. Head to places the dollar has some bite (Vietnam, Thailand, Greece)

Let’s investigate further.

As we all know, it’s hot as the dickens in Arizona in July and August, even accounting for the dry air. When the thermometer is north of 100 degrees, it’s sticky, no matter how arid the air. That said, if you are looking for a real steal on a luxury hotel room, the Scottsdale area is the place to go. To wit:

The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North has summer rates starting at $169 versus $459 in the high season.

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale has a new package called Aloha Summer. It features a  “buy one, get one free” surfing ride on the resort's wave simulator and a $50 per night dining credit. The package starts at $149 per room versus the regular room-only rate of $400 nightly.

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon is an all-suite property with two golf courses, 12 lighted tennis courts (because you will want to play at night) and a spa. Book the “Beat the Heat” deal, where every additional night you add to an existing reservation is priced at the temperature of the day. The price includes the $24 daily resort fee and the $20 resort credit.  Pray for a record cold snap.

Southwestern cities in general are good places to find hot deals. Business travel slows, so hotels in sweltering metropolises like Phoenix and Dallas often reduce room rates. For those visiting the Big D, check out the historic Warwick Melrose Hotel. It’s celebrating its 90th birthday this year with $90 room rates on select dates. A classic king room, which normally goes for $499 or so, will only set you back 90 bucks most nights in July and August. Whoa, cowboy!

In addition to the hotel deals, summer flights are usually plentiful and cheap to these types of destinations, which largely rely on business and convention travel during the rest of the year.

Next Up: Braving Hurricanes

Saturday, June 21, 2014

7 Tips for Avoiding Heat Exhaustion on Vacation

It's the first day of summer. And while most of you are preparing for the season's fun and sun, I want to give you a head's up about the very real dangers of heat exhaustion.

In Tiananmen Square before the fall
When it comes to this topic, I am quite the expert. I have ended up in the hospital for heat exhaustion and dehydration four times (after the first time you are felled by heat exhaustion, you are a more likely candidate for encore performances)  Details here. The most recent incident happened in Beijing. It occurred on Day 3 in China. Day 1 included a fourteen-hour flight from the US of A. Day 2 included a climb up the Great Wall. All resulting in Day 3, which included a visit to the pavement-laden Forbidden City in the smog and 90 degree heat, followed by a trip to the ER for an IV.

Even if you are not traveling to exotic climes, the fact is, summer is the time when heat exhaustion is most likely to strike. If you fly to your vacation destination, you are starting off your trip dehydrated. Add in the fact that you are likely out in the sun day after day, for hours at a time. It's the perfect recipe for a heat attack. Heat exhaustion can hit anyone of any age and any level of fitness (see LeBron James). It can hit at the beach, on the pitch, or on city streets. Here is some advice (vetted by doctors) on avoiding heat exhaustion.

1. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE. You can never have too much water before you go out in the heat and while out in the sun.  As you hydrate, it's smart to alternate between water and beverages loaded with electrolytes.

2. Take it easy within 24 hours of landing after a long-distance flight.

3. Carry electrolytes with you if are prone to heat exhaustion.  I recommend REI electrolyte tablets, which are among the few without artificial ingredients.

4. Along with your water bottle, carry energy bars, dried fruit or something similar.

5. Wear a hat and sunscreen.

6. Get out of the heat and rest. Once you start feeling the effects of heat exhaustion, you may be too far gone...and an IV may be your only solution, so to speak. But if you feel on the cusp, immediately stop activity, head toward shade and try to cool your body off with ice or cold water.

7. What do you drink once heat exhaustion kicks in? Interestingly, the Chinese doctor who treated me said drinking water straight is one of the worst things you can do. He suggested that once heat exhaustion sets in, water intake further dilutes salt and potassium levels. This condition is called hypontremia. If this is your issue, there is a need to drink liquids containing electrolytes instead of straight water. At the same time, avoid carbonated beverages or anything with caffeine.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Let's Talk Live: Cool Summer Getaways

The link to the video you have all been waiting for...

Me, with anchors Kellye Lynn and Melanie Hastings

For details on the trips and destinations described in the segment, please see this post for international information and this one for domestic trips.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside: International Ideas

While many people just can't wait to get out of the kitchen and into more heat, some of us prefer to seek frigid climes during the summer months. Thankfully, there are plenty of places you can visit during the summer to escape hot temperatures--and several are in the Northern Hemisphere.

That said, let's start first with the cheat. For cooling off, you can always head to a place where summer is winter. We are talking the Southern hemisphere, y'all. How about a ski trip to Queenstown in New Zealand? Or, if you don't want to deal with jet lag, head due south (more or less) to explore the mountains and glaciers of Patagonia, which spans Argentina and Chile. Ski season in these places starts in June and ends in October.

It's Chilly in Chile...and Argentina

Chile's central and southern regions are home to a wide variety of ski areas. Some suggestions: El Colorado, La Parva and Valle Nevado are all comprehensive ski resorts. The latter is the largest winter sports center in South American. Northeast of Santiago, Portillo is the country's most traditional ski center. It's served as a training site for Olympic skiers for years.

Bariloche, a small city in the Andean lake region, serves as a gateway to Argentina's most renowned skiing region. The town was colonized by Germans in the 1800s. It was then built to resemble an Alpine skiing town during the 1930s (to the point where it is nicknamed "Little Switzerland"). Argentina also sports the southernmost ski area in the world. Caster Mountain is located near Ushuaia. Due to its location at the bottom of the world, the ski season there is exceptionally long.
O, Canada

Don't want to head south? Then head to the Great White North instead. Canadians typically go to Florida during our winter. Let’s return the favor and explore their northernmost regions in the summer. Thanks to global warming, Montreal and Toronto are no longer no brainers for cooling off during the summer. It can be as hot in those cities as it is in most of the USA. To ensure a cooling-off period, head to the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.

How about hanging with an Inuit community on the Arctic Circle? The Best of the Arctic trip designed by the Great Canadian Travel Company offers independent travelers the chance to combine time in Churchill, the iconic destination on the shores of the Hudson Bay, with two night in Repulse Bay, where an Inuit community goes about its daily business within the Arctic Circle. The price is $3800 per person, double occupancy, for seven days of touring (starting July 28 or August 4). You also have to jet yourself to Winnipeg. 
Later in the summer, starting in August, you can head to Yellowknife to see the Aurora Borealis. Because Yellowknife is situated in an advantageous position vis-a-vis magnetic latitude, the night skies here light up during late summer on a regular basis. And because Yellowknife is far from the ocean with a flat geographical landscape, there is a high percentage of clear skies during that time.. The Great Canadian Company hosts Aurora Escape trips beginning in August. Prices start at $2,099 per person for a five-day visit. You don't even have to freeze your buns off--average daytime temperatures in Yellowknife reach the 60s and lows are in the 50s. You can find out about other ways to visit Yellowknife at www.canada.travel.

For ideas on cool domestic getaways, see the next post.