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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Road Tripping

Steeped in history and filled with impressive attractions that have inspired awe in millions of visitors, Washington, DC is one of America’s most visited major cities. Yet, as someone from the MD/DC area, I had visited every historic site and every museum that you could think of by age 12. Road tripping became my solution to escaping the “same-olds” of the tri-state area. Here is a list of the top 10 road trip destinations that I have taken in the area. Some of these destinations make excellent day trips for visitors to the Capital, while others make great weekend destinations for locals looking to escape the city.

1. Annapolis, MD (40 mi, <1 hr)

Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, is only a short drive away and has a beautiful old town aesthetic. You can enjoy historic sites such as the Maryland State House or get into the thriving community theatre scene by catching a show performed by the Colonial Players. At night, check out the Annapolis Harbor and have dinner on the waterfront by candlelight!

2. Baltimore, MD (47 mi, 1hr)

An architectural masterpiece, Baltimore is filled with everything from 18th century structures to I.M. Pei’s modern masterpieces. My favorite area is the Harbor: home to the incredible Baltimore Aquarium and tons of fun places to grab a meal or a drink by the water. When it’s warm out, you should definitely go for a paddleboat ride for a sea-level experience!

3. Richmond, VA (100 mi, 2 hrs)

Discover history and adventure in nearby Richmond, VA. Here, more than 400 years of American history live on through magnificent architecture, monument-lined cobblestone streets, and world-class museums. Brave the gorgeous yet intense James River: the only urban setting with Class IV rapids. Rafting is just one of many outdoor activities close by. For more urban adventurers, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is constantly expanding its world-class offerings, and more than 900 restaurants make Richmond a foodie paradise.

4. Shenandoah Valley, VA (112 mi, 2.5 hrs)

Blanketed in shades of amber, gold, and green in the fall, Shenandoah is a mandatory road-trip destination for anyone looking for a slice of nature in the tri-state area. The Valley has many areas that are open for camping, as well as plenty of cabins for rent. Plan a visit to one of the pristine limestone caverns for sights that will truly take your breath away. The most famous underground adventures are the Luray Caverns, which also boast a mind-boggling hedge maze right outside the caves!

5. Bethany Beach & Rehoboth Beach, DE (134 mi, 3hrs)

South Bethany Beach is one of the best-kept secrets along the east coast. The friendly inhabitants of this tucked-away city will be happy to show you its picturesque boardwalk, miles of crystal clear waters along the beaches, great shopping and more. Most of the trendy boutiques and restaurants serving up fresh local seafood can be found along South Garfield Parkway, but there’s plenty to do across town as well.

A word to the wise: If you want to enjoy a relaxing beach vacation free of hordes of local teenagers, then steer clear of these destinations, as well as Ocean City, during the first half of June. When school lets out for the summer, High school students from the surrounding areas overrun the typically peaceful spot during “beach week.”

6. Ocean City, MD (153 mi, 3hrs)

Ocean City is a fun, family-oriented beach destination with an incredible boardwalk, fun nightlife, delicious seafood and more mini-golf courses than you can shake a putter at! My family frequented this beach for years, and I still have not managed to try every mini-golf course (not from lack of trying!). Ocean City can be a good choice for frugal travelers who don’t need to spend extra to stay in more posh communities like Bethany.

7. Philadelphia, PA (142 mi, 3 hrs)

Famous as the birthplace of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Philadelphia offers much more than just cobblestone streets and historical landmarks. Cultural, culinary, artistic and ethnic treasures abound in this city and its surrounding countryside. What makes Philadelphia so memorable are the unique blend of experiences that you have to discover in person. By day, explore four centuries of history and architecture, beautiful neighborhoods, and remarkable museum collections. After the sun sets, the city heats up with acclaimed performing arts, amazing dining and vibrant nightlife. And don’t forget: it’s worth the trip just for the city’s signature cheese steak!

8. Atlantic City, NJ (197 mi, 3.5hrs)

From New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse to deep-sea fishing, and everything in between, you can always find excitement in Atlantic City. Relax at one of the Atlantic City casino spas, go all in on the excitement of 24/7 gaming, experience the thrill of a full house, feel the sand between your toes or visit one of the many attractions in this historic resort town. Atlantic City also offers an extensive boardwalk, pristine golf courses, and a variety of water sports to enjoy on your road tripping adventure.

9. Pittsburgh, PA (255 mi, 5hrs)

Previously known as a blue-collar city responsible for half of the steel production in the states, Pittsburgh has truly transformed itself into a unique and exciting travel destination.  Whether its catching a game of one of the city’s three professional teams or checking out the top notch museums and fine arts centers funded by the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, the city truly exhibits a unique flavor. Pittsburgh has many public green spaces, parks and riverside trails maintained throughout the city’s hilly landscape. From many of these areas, walkers, joggers and bikers are treated to spectacular views of a skyline that’s scene sleek, towering glass and steel architecture is a dramatic departure from the days when the grey cloud of industry loomed over the ‘Burgh.

10. Raleigh, NC (256 mi, 4.5 hrs)

When you’re looking for the excitement and attractions of a great city, combined with the affordability, approachability and appeal of a classic town with authentic southern hospitality, look no further than Raleigh. Best known for its world-class museums, best-of-Broadway shows, Capital area historic sites, professional sporting events and shopping mecca status (nine major retail areas!), Raleigh truly offers a variety of entertainment all in one park-like, scenic setting.

A View from the "Front" of the House which faces the Dock

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending spring break at my girlfriend’s family vacation rental in Darien, GA. I landed in Hilton Head International Airport late Tuesday night and we headed straight to Darien, a small coastal town with a booming commercial fishing industry. This was my first stay in a vacation rental, and after having such an amazing time, I may never look at commercial accommodations the same way again. Here are a few reasons why I fell in love with not only this home, but with vacation rentals in general.

A View from the "Back" of the House
1. The Beautiful Vintage Aesthetic of the Property

The vacation rental was perfectly tucked away at the bottom of a gravel road that is covered by a canopy of orange trees. The front porch faces the ocean and has four old white rocking chairs, making it an ideal place to relax and watch the sun set. The house is surrounded by pink azalea bushes and the back of the property has a dock leading down to Brighton Creek. At night, you can see the lighthouse glimmering in the distance on Sapelo Island.

View from the Porch of the House
2. A TON of Room and Privacy

The house sleeps upwards of 10 people and you are in the creek bed of coastal Georgia. How much more privacy can you get? Not to mention there was plenty of space around the house for my girlfriend’s dog Annie to chase after the nearest squirrel.

Moe's BBQ, Alabma

If setting the clocks forward for Spring doesn’t get you looking forward to long summer days and warm summer evenings, then you probably already live in a tropical climate. For the rest of us, warmer weather and more sunlight spells the beginning of grilling and chilling season. This week, we started to get the first whiffs of what’s cooking for 2011.

Hilton Head visitors will be excited to hear about the annual Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival, which was held from March 8-12. The festival kicked off the season, showcasing great chefs of the South and fine wines from around the world.

Don’t worry about going hungry if you missed the Hilton Head Festival. . . Just head south. Alabama has a whole series of BBQ cook-offs, tastings, and festivals that’s just getting underway. This weekend is the BBQ and Blues festival in Foley, and you can find a culinary and cultural gathering almost every weekend through the summer. To plan your feast, check out the schedule here.

Travelers and homeowners with an interest in London vacation rentals will want to check out the London Vacation Rental Market Report, released last week by New York Habitat. The report shows that “renewed growth in the worldwide travel market brought more customers to London in 2010.”

An article in Colorado’s Summit Daily reported that Western ski towns are “moving forward with plans to hunt down illegal vacation rental owners.” Wherever your vacation rental is located, all rental owners should pay attention to local regulations and be sure to pay any taxes on your properties.

Happy Travel Tuesday! Have a great week and enjoy the daylight!

If your winter involved early mornings brushing snow off the car, running on a treadmill in the gym, finding the quickest route from the subway to the office, and lots of time in the house, then you know that a staycation is not an option this spring. You want to get out and go someplace different and you’re not alone: this week a TripAdvisor survey revealed that 83% of American respondents plan to travel with family this year. Good thing spring break is right around the corner!

people on a beach

The TripAdvisor survey also revealed this list of the Traveler’s Choice Family Award-winning U.S. destinations to discover:

  1. Williamsburg, Virginia
  2. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  3. Lake George, New York
  4. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
  5. Branson, Missouri
  6. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
  7. Corpus Christi, Texas
  8. Port Aransas, Texas
  9. Daytona Beach, Florida
  10. Destin, Florida

To view more complete results of the survey, click here.

Frequent Flyers may not have spent the winter cooped up at home, but the world of waiting in airport terminals, packing in carry-ons, and earning miles/awards/perks has its own challenges. For those jet-setters looking to register their opinions, voting is now open for the Frequent Traveler Education Foundation’s Frequent Traveler Awards. You can vote online here through March 31.

Carolina Beach in Wilmington, North Carolina is announcing a spring lineup of April events for spring break vacationers. Carolina beach is the perfect spot for a getaway from Raleigh, Charlotte, and Fayetteville.

Finally, if you’ve been looking for your spring break accommodations or adding reviews on FlipKey, then you may have noticed the addition of Facebook ‘like’ buttons on property pages. Click on these buttons to show that you are a fan of a great rental. Also, don’t forget to ‘like’ FlipKey’s Facebook page to get news and updates on great vacation rentals and travel ideas.

Since we started, FlipKey has received over 2 million reservation requests for vacation rental properties around the world. When I looked at that number, I started wondering where everyone is going, so I put together this look at the top vacation destinations based on the total number of traveler inquiries (click to enlarge):

Where Are You Going?

It has been a particularly sunny week here, so I started wondering if the weather influences vacation choices. I added in the average annual temperature in each destination to look at travelers’ climatic preference. I was surprised to discover that the most sought-after destinations are not the warmest. In fact, 3 of the top 5 vacation spots have average annual highs below 70°F.

What do these numbers mean for your next vacation? Basically, that there are great travel spots around the world. Spring break is just around the corner… where do you want to go?