Home Archives 2013 February

Monthly Archives: February 2013

by Meg Hawes

Puerto Rico is becoming increasingly known as a gastronomic destination. Puerto Rican cuisine incorporates the flavors and ingredients of its Taino Indian ancestors, along with Spanish and colonial influences and American flavors to create a cuisine and flavor profile all its own.  From the casual roadside food stand to fine dining restaurants headed by world-renowned chefs, there are limitless possibilities to eat your way through Puerto Rico.  The question is, where to begin?  Here is an outline of some of the places that you should check out on your culinary tour of Puerto Rico…

Breakfast

Puerto Rico takes breakfast very seriously.  Beginning with coffee. Puerto Rico offers up one of only three Super Premium coffees in the world and it is served similar to an espresso.  Then move on to some of Puerto Rico’s quintessential pastries: the Mallorca is eggy and sweet, similar to a brioche.  It can be eaten alone or as a sinfully good sandwich.  The Quesito is a cheese-filled pastry twist that can be found in every bakery.  Also  try the Brazo Gitano, Puerto Rico’s version of the jelly roll.  The city of Mayaguez is known particularly for this sweet treat.

Casual Roadside Food

Wherever you travel throughout the island, you will encounter the roadside food stand or kiosko. These are the places that serve the typical Fritura – fried snacks – that Puerto Rico is well known for. These fritters are pasties filled with meat, fish or cheese and are either dough-based or plantain or cassava based. Try an Alcapurria for something a little unusual. It is filled with meat or fish and has a cassava/plantain outside. The most famous kioskos can be found in Pinones, Loiza (just east of the airport) or in Luquillo (on the eastern coast).

A visit to Guavate in Cayey is also a must to experience the legendary Lechon. Lechon is a full pig roasted on a spit; a time-consuming process that takes most of a day. They can be found on the weekends throughout the island, but in Guavate you are able to experience this specialty any day of the week among the over twenty restaurants that serve it there. It is paired with other Puerto Rican specialties such as Rice and Beans; Batata (sweet potato); Yucca (cassava); and various Bananas (Tostones, Guineos Escabeche, Amarillos).

Fine Dining

There are excellent restaurants throughout the island, but to experience cutting edge and visionary gastronomy by renowned chefs, you need look no farther than San Juan. Visit one of Wilo Benet’s restaurants: Pikayo or Varita. He was on season one of Top Chef Masters and he is known for taking authentic Puerto Rican foods and reinventing and twisting them into something familiar yet extremely creative. Visit Roberto Trevino’s Budatai or Mario Pagan’s Laurel, located at the Museum of Art. There is some amazing culinary talent on the island!

Food Festivals and Tours

There are several excellent food festivals throughout the year. The premiere event is Saborea! in April that brings some of the top names from around the world and Puerto Rico together. The SoFo Culinary Fest is named after the area South Fortaleza St in Old San Juan and is a festival where all of the leading restaurants open their doors for tastings. Bi-annual event, dates vary.

Many tour operators are now offering culinary tours of Puerto Rico, where one is able to tour local ingredients and flavors. From visiting the local fruit markets to cooking classes or lunch and dinner tours, there are many ways to get close and personal with Puerto Rico’s top culinary talent.

Written by Meg Hawes, Caribbean Trading Company, www.caribbeantrading.com. Caribbean Trading Company are Purveyors of Unique Gifts & Caribbean Treasures in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Join the Crew and Start the Journey – Your Caribbean Connection™  for news, events, lifestyle, and all things Caribbean.

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The past few days have been a blur of snow, slush, and rain for us here in the Northeast. Thanks to the lovingly named “Nemo,” some of our latest activities have included digging out the car, walking (or rather slipping) through iced sidewalks, jumping over murky puddles, and, of course, complaining about it all to our friends, relatives, and really, anyone we come into contact with.

With that being said, planning a sunny spring break is a welcome distraction. Instead of shoveling snow, swimming in the surf is what we really want to tell our friends about. For those who are ready to take a break from winter as well, we present our spring break travel preview: check out the hottest destinations, accommodations, and budget-friendly resources.

On a Budget?

Before planning anything, here are some great resources to help save a buck:

Destinations

1. Cancun
This infamous spot still reigns king among spring break destinations. Take that senior trip you’ve always wanted and make sure not to forget some sunscreen, sandals, and a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude.

2. South Padre Island
During March, South Padre Island is home only to hardcore spring breakers. Celebrity appearances are the norm and like Cancun, expect the parties to be wild both during the day and at night. Especially good for music-lovers!

3. Jamaica
If you’re looking for a mix of relaxation and partying, Jamaica is the place to visit. Relax at some of the world’s most beautiful beaches or visit the famous open-air bars.

4. Bahamas
With 18+ gambling and a generous supply of rum, it’s no wonder why the Bahamas continue to be a spring break hot spot.

5. Daytona
Daytona is a favorite among college students for being budget-friendly — most of the hotels in the area are already set up with student activities during the day and at night. A perfect destination that requires minimal organization.

If you’re looking for something more family-oriented, check out these spring break destinations from the Travel Channel!

Accommodations

While all-inclusive resorts and budget hotels remain the most popular accommodation types, we’ve included a few rentals in the destinations listed above that may peak your interest if you’re looking for a lodging alternative:

Cancun from $300/night

Casa Maya Playa:

Condo directly on the beach with granite stone bathrooms and king-size bedrooms

Cancun, 288424

South Padre Island from $300/night

Spacious Condo:

A beautiful condo minutes from the beach at a small price.

South Padre, 387070

Jamaica from $250/night

Shakti Home: 

A 2 bedroom cottage perfect for couples, families or those looking for absolute tranquility.

Jamaica, 229149

Bahamas from $300/night

Ocean Villa:

Includes a private pool. bar, and BBQ — all overlooking the beautiful ocean.

Bahamas, 382267

Daytona from $200/night

Oceanfront Luxury:

1,400 square feet with all the amenities you could imagine.

Daytona, 352991

 

 

Visiting San Francisco this Valentine’s Day and looking for just the right spot for romance? Here are 5 top spots to share a romantic moment in San Francisco with your special someone.

1. Crissy Field
You and your sweetheart can take a leisurely stroll, hand-in-hand along the promenade at Crissy Field. The iconic views of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge are the perfect backdrop for romance. Watch the sunset illuminate the bridge as you walk toward it and the lights of the city twinkle as you walk back.

2. Twin Peaks
Few things are more romantic than a beautiful view. And few views in the city are as beautiful as the one from Twin Peaks. If you have a rental car and it’s a clear day, drive up to the top and enjoy the sweeping views of the city. It’s the perfect spot to snap some photos and sneak a heartfelt kiss.

Battery East Trail

3. San Francisco Botanical Garden
It’s no wonder flowers are a traditional Valentine’s Day gift. There’s something about the fragile beauty of flowers, plants and even trees that stirs the heart. And with 55 acres of landscaped gardens and open spaces, the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is the ideal spot for a romantic walk.

4. The San Francisco Bay
Board a boat and admire the beauty of the city and its skyline from the bay. Take a sunset cruise and stand close to your sweetheart on deck as you sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz, back toward the twinkling lights of the city.

5. Ocean Beach
Catch the sunset as you watch the waves crash along the expansive stretch of sandy shore at Ocean Beach. The wind can be chilly, so it’s the perfect place to snuggle as you sit and enjoy the setting of the sun. If you prefer to watch the sunset from cozier surroundings, you can head to the Cliff House. The landmark restaurant sits right on the edge of the water and provides a lovely view, ideal for a romantic dinner.

Anis Salvesen is an avid traveler, polyglot and editor of the Tripping blog. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys outdoor activities, trying new restaurants and exploring the city. If you’re headed to San Francisco, you can connect with her and other locals via Tripping’s worldwide community of travelers and locals.

As a vacation rental owner you may not be capitalizing on the potential value you could be offering your guests. While not all rentals can be classified as being a “luxury” destination, there are a few simple adjustments you can make that will elevate your home in the eyes of travelers and may even justify charging a little extra per night.

If you are just starting out, decorating your vacation home is just one task, albeit a very important one, on a laundry list of things to get done before your first renter arrives. Instead of breaking the bank by furnishing your home completely with top of the line brands, consider investing in just a few quality pieces. This will help to set the tone and atmosphere of your rental, and allows for you to mix in other, less expensive pieces of furniture. While creating a unique environment for your guests, you’ll also be saving money without compromising style.

Additionally, instead of filling each room with your favorite trinkets, try a simpler approach by placing a few, choice art pieces on your walls or a couple of decorative touches (think vases, candles, or plants) for your coffee and end tables, mantels, or bureaus. The key is to be selective in what you decide to furnish your home with and to avoid clutter with too many knick-knacks.

Even if you are not at the beginning of the journey of listing your property, there are a few things you can do to upgrade your home and create a more lavish atmosphere for your guests. One way to achieve this is by investing in the latest technology from well-known and respected brands. Right off the bat this sends the message that your guests will be vacationing in a home that is stocked with all of the modern conveniences that will help to keep them entertained throughout their stay. This includes: televisions that offer cable or satellite channels, a DVD player with an assortment of movies to choose from, a video game system with games if your home tends to host families, surround sound stereo system, and, of course, a computer equipped with internet access.

Another way to make your guests’ stay feel a little more luxurious is by outfitting each bedroom with quality bed linens that boast a high thread count. Offering plush bath towels along with luxury linens will make your guests feel as though they are sleeping in a home fit for a king!

One of the many benefits that travelers consider when renting a vacation home is being able to save a little extra dough by cooking their own meals on occasion. Creating a gourmet kitchen equipped with top-of-the-line tools and appliances will delight guests that have a passion for cooking. Nothing would excite a home cook more than entering your kitchen and feasting their eyes upon sparkly stainless steel appliances, impeccable granite countertops, and cooking gadgets that will help make their culinary creations a reality. Incorporating a counter island into your kitchen layout will also help to facilitate your guests’ appointed chef de cuisine in completing their culinary masterpieces with ease. With all of the downtime that comes along with vacationing, what better way to spend it than by giving your guests the opportunity to experiment with recipes they’ve had to put on the back burner?

Now, if you’re really looking to get fancy there are a few things you can do to set you apart from the competition. Hiring on-site staff or offering special services are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Wow travelers with their own personal concierge or private chef to whip up gourmet meals for those looking for a break from kitchen duty. By offering these special services you, your housekeeper, or a hired concierge could delight future visitors in allowing them the luxury to relax and let the professionals handle the small, but still important, details like making dinner reservations or planning touring excursions. Other ways to impress guests include providing them with resources (brochures of the area, menus from local restaurants, etc) to help acclimate them to the area, or if you are a gadget guy or gal you could invest in remote-operated fixtures to give your guests the ultimate in relaxation—allowing them to access what they need without having to leave the comfort of your couch! And, if you feel as though your home is due for a decorative touch-up, you can always splurge on a personal decorator to give your home a makeover.

Once you have your vacation home in tip-top shape, the final, important step in its transformation into Luxuryland is telling travelers about it. We cannot stress enough how important it is to include every single update and amenity in your property’s description. So don’t be shy, and be sure to brag to travelers about how your home is just the luxury getaway they’ve been searching for!

 

 

by Marybeth Bond, National Geographic Author, Editor www.GutsyTraveler.com.

My kids know that I plan, pack and take responsibility for the success of our vacations. That puts a lot of stress on Mom. But even the most organized mom or seasoned traveler, like me, still makes stupid mistakes. Learn from my “almost disasters” and help mom out.

From personal experience, I can guarantee that you’ll be in the doghouse if you don’t notice your pet is not in the car when you pull away.

Look Backwards

1. Glance in the rear view mirror as you pull away from your driveway, rental property or rest stop. I’ve left a suitcase at the door of the garage, a pet at a rest stop, and a bicycle in the driveway. Retrieving the pet, the bike and the luggage was easy when I noticed it quickly.

Good Neighbors Save the Day

2. Notify a neighbor that you’re going on vacation and carry their phone number with you. I’ve driven 200 miles from home when I questioned whether I left the garage door open or turned off the coffee pot. A quick phone call proved I wasn’t so scatter-brained and put my mind at ease.

The Devil is in the Details

3. Double check your documents and reservations the moment you receive them. Confirm the correct time, departure and arrival cities and especially the spelling of your name. One time my last name was misspelled on a plane ticket and didn’t match the correct spelling on my photo ID. I almost missed my flight home due to all the red tape.

Slow Down When Buying

4. Re-read all the details on your reservations before you push the BUY button. I’ve purchased two tickets because I grew impatient with the computer and clicked twice.

Think Ahead for Luggage

5. Anticipate being forced to check your roll-aboard suitcase when you get to the plane. Pack the essentials into a small bag that you can pull out of the carry-on and take on board with you.

Rental Car Rip-Offs

6. Inspect your rental car when you pick it up and take photos of dents. A letter in the mail a month later with charges for car damage you didn’t cause is a very bad surprise.

Avoid Ouch

7. Ouch! Avoid sunburn. Don’t suffer through a miserable sleepless night or long flight rubbing your blistered back on a scratchy airplane seat. Wear protective clothing and eyewear and use sunscreen.

You Only Have Two Eyes

8. Avoid eye strain that causes squinting and will interfere with your sightseeing. I have actually burned my eyes by being on the water without sun protection. Changing from inside light to bright outside light, you want to make sure your eyes are comfortable, so make sure you wear proper eyewear.

Big Bills, Little Bills

9. Cash is “King.” If there’s an emergency, and power is out, (tornado, etc.), you won’t be able to charge with your credit cards. Taxi drivers sometimes demand cash too. I survived a tornado on Cape Cod, but ran out of cash quickly and couldn’t buy gas, batteries for flashlights, or fresh food.

Credit and ATM Planning

10. Notify your credit card companies and bank for your ATM card of your travel plans. They will cancel your debit or credit card due to “unusual activity.” In Budapest my credit cards were frozen and I had to survive a three day holiday weekend with little cash before I could resolve the issue.

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Last year, the average American man spent $169 dollars on Valentine’s Day, while women spent an average of about $86. For couples who buy one another gifts, that could be a total of $255. That’s a ton of champagne and chocolate.

Here at FlipKey, we believe that a romantic getaway trumps a fancy box of candy any day. On Valentine’s Day in particular, spending quality time with the one you love is a meaningful way to celebrate the weekend without breaking the bank. In fact, we found that the average cost of one night in a vacation rental for two this Valentine’s Day is just $143, which leaves $112 for more traditional gifts…

…Or airfare. The most popular Valentine’s Day spots do require some travel to reach. This year, we found that the top destinations on February 14 are in Florida and Hawaii, with Miami Beach taking the #1 spot. For most people, these destinations are a flight away.

With airfare, a romantic getaway might get you to the high end of your V-Day budget, but have no fear: Here are our suggestions for ways to save while keeping the romance alive:

Champagne
Instead of a bottle of Dom Perignon Rose ($360) or the classic Veuve Clicquout Champagne ($49.99), try a bottle of Prosecco instead. This tasty bubbly runs a mere $11.99, but uncork that bottle and you’ll be ready for festivities.

Flowers
You could order your special someone three-dozen roses ($219 from Teleflora), or you could say a simple, “I love you” with an even dozen ($44.99 from 1800flowers). Pro tip: have them delivered directly to your vacation rental for a Valentine’s surprise.

Chocolate
Chocolates run the gamut, from Hershey’s Kisses ($14.59 for 56 oz.) to Petits Richart ($850 for a “vault”). While we all love kisses, we recommend sweetening up your sweetheart with Godiva’s signature gift box ($70). That is, unless you’re celebrating in Hawaii, in which case you can get away with a box of chocolate covered Macadamia nuts ($10.49 for 14 oz.).

Dinner
Skip the unavoidable long waits, limited menus, and crowded restaurants on the most popular “date night” of the year and stay in for a romantic meal. You can prepare your favorite dishes in your vacation rental’s kitchen, and you’ll get to enjoy your bottle of bubbly in peace—without paying a premium.

When it comes down to it, we’ll admit it: traveling may be more expensive than making a reservation at a nice restaurant and ordering a few gifts. But at the end of the day, a trip makes it a Valentine’s Day to remember, and those memories are priceless.

Although the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s came and went with 2012, January 2013 was still a busy time for travelers. From Valentine’s Day getaways to Spring Break trips, everyone is looking forward to warm and tropical escapes, and perhaps a little romance. Bookings are on the rise and travel seems to be on everyone’s mind – especially for those of us trekking through the bitter cold every day (except for last Wednesday, when it was 70 degrees in Boston!). The New Year is already inspiring travel plans, and we can’t help but ask: Where are you all going and what will you be doing? What trends will 2013 bring?

To help answer that question, we’ve gathered a few of our favorite news highlights. Trips to Antarctica, wellness spas, sparkly new travel gadgets and much more seem to await us this summer. Here are our top picks in this year’s first edition of our travel news roundup:

Travel Trends

For Travel Savings in 2013, Go Retro
We loved this article by Frugal Traveler blogger, Seth Kugel. He gives some great tips on how to save even more this upcoming year by using a few old-school tricks.  As ultimate bargain-hunters ourselves, we think we’ll see these trends rise in popularity among the travelers here at FlipKey.

Global Travel Indicators for 2013
William Chalmers really gets the data down in this post about the next year in travel, and we like his comical, positive attitude. According to him, travelers are happier, safer, and savvier than ever. A great sign for all of us.

Travel Gadgets

5 Best Travel Gadgets from CES 2013
Phones, cameras, and watches for the avid traveler – all James Bond style.

Travel Apps that Really Help
Sorting through apps and trying to find what works while on a trip is more of a curse than a blessing. We suggest you take CNN’s word for it and give these apps a go.

Travel Stories

Lost Cat

Cat Lost on Vacation, Travels 190 Miles Home
A heart-warming cat story. Who doesn’t want to read this?

The Orbital Balloon: NASA Tests Blow-Up Space-Craft
Is space travel really within our grasp? Check out NASA’s new space hotel.

British Explorer Embarks on Antarctica Adventure
Known as one of the world’s greatest explorers, Sir Ranulph Fiennes embarked on an expedition dubbed “The Coldest Journey” on Monday January 7th, 2013. Fiennes will cross Antarctica during the winter, battling freezing weather, total darkness, and almost no chance of a rescue operation if things go wrong. According the article, the expedition is similar to a flight into space. The team hopes to better understand the effects of climate change by taking this dangerous voyage. We wish Fiennes and his team the best of luck and are in awe of his adventurous tenacity at the age of 68.

Travel Destinations

After 50 Years, Cuba Drops Unpopular Travel Restriction
“Exit permits” will no longer be needed for travel outside of Cuba. However, travel continues to be treated as a privilege and not a right.

The Most Underrated State for Adventure Travel
2,616 miles of trails, 3,100 miles of rivers, and a 7,900 ft. deep canyon – can you take a guess as to where this could be?