Archive for Travel Resources

Top Tips for a Lisbon Vacation on a Budget

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Tips for your budget vacation to beautiful Lisbon

If you’re trying to plan your next vacation, you may find yourself settling on Lisbon as the destination. With beautiful architecture, fascinating culture and plenty of historical sites, this city is a great choice for a trip. Deciding how to fill your days in a foreign city is an exciting process, but it can be daunting to try to plan your holiday on a restricted budget. Finding excursions that will allow you to experience your travel destination requires a bit of research, especially when travelling cheap is a primary goal. The most basic way to do this is a search for travel discounts and deals as you plan your trip. Finding discounted airfare or hotel rates are some obvious places to start when planning a budgeted trip – but don’t stop there.

Below are some more creative ideas that will help you save money on your Lisbon trip — you’ll be able to inexpensively explore the city and partake in activities that are affordable and enjoyable.

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The Spirit of Peoria – A Paddlewheel Adventure

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Guest Post By Deanna Lawrence

The Spirit of Peoria

Want a fun and unique way to travel through Illinois? Then give river cruising on the Spirit of Peoria a try. Operating out of Peoria, IL, the 160’ long paddle wheeler is branching out this summer and fall with monthly trips down the Illinois River to Florence, Grafton and Alton, IL and St. Louis, MO.

Whether it’s a one and a half hour sight-seeing trip or an extended two, three or five day excursion, river cruising is a relaxing way to take in the sites. Along the way, you’ll be entertained with local history, storytelling, folk music and even Mark Twain himself.

The Spirit of Peoria offers many different trips, some of which include one or more all-you-can-eat buffet meals. You can also choose from the several themed cruises like the Tropical Rock & Roll Jimmy Buffet cruise or the Fall Foliage cruise. The boat makes regular overnight trips to  Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL, too.

Traveling at a leisurely 7 mph, the Spirit of Peoria is one of the few boats of its kind that uses no propellers or thrusters. Driven solely by the 21’ diameter paddle wheel, your trip will be a truly authentic experience.

Prices for sightseeing only cruises are $16 for adults and $10 for kids 4-12. Themed cruises range from $36-47 for adults and $18-24 for kids. Day long excursions are $140/$85 kids 5-15 and multiple day trips start at $350/175. Group rates are available. Get more information and tickets at the  Spirit of Peoria’s website or by calling (800) 676-8988. Tickets can also be purchased through the  Alton Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Spring Update from Squaw Valley

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

May 1st, 2012

Lots of fun in the “off season” at Lake Tahoe…

Squaw Valley in Spring is a Great Catch!

Personally, I love “off season” for traveling.  Spring at lake Tahoe means fresh green grass, wildflowers swaying in a soft breeze and less crowds.  You can hear the wind whistling in the pines and the lake lapping on the shore in the quiet.

And my favorite place to stay, the Resort at Squaw Creek at Squaw Valley has some wondrous and fun May activities scheduled.


There’s still time for a few last runs of the year—at Alpine Meadows, which will be open for skiing Fridays – Sundays through May 13.

Biking and hiking:

May can be a terrific time for biking (Resort at Squaw Creek rents bikes).  A twenty-mile long paved bike path meanders through the pines and along the shore of the sparkling blue lake.

Also, hiking to nearby waterfalls in Shirley Canyon at the far western edge of Squaw Valley or Eagle Falls near Emerald Bay should be possible due to the lower than average snowfall this year.

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The Winter Wonderland at Squaw Valley, California

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

March 3, 2012
Squaw Valley, California

Diane Covington here, one of’s roving reporters, today writing to you from beautiful Squaw Valley, California.

Winter made her fashionably late entrance with a blast of over four feet of fresh snow in the past few days and more is on its way.

I’m staying with my fiancé at the beautiful Resort at Squaw Creek, which Conde Nast Traveler magazine ranked among the top 50 ski resorts in North America.  The resort is known for both family and romantic vacations and when you stay here you can see why.  (AAA also gave it a Four-Diamond rating.)

Skiing fresh powder at Squaw ValleyWe love that we can hop on a lift right outside our suite when we’re ready to ski. We skied the fresh powder at Squaw Valley, stopping for lunch at Rocker’s Restaurant at the base—don’t miss the hot spinach artichoke flatbread, topped with jack and Parmesan cheese, real après ski comfort food.

We skied back to the Resort at Squaw Creek in time for a soak in the outdoor hot pools before our massages at the spa.  The heated blankets on the massage table welcome me from the cold and the massage relaxed all the muscles we’d used all day.  I lounged in both the sauna and steam room before heading back to our room.

Our cozy suite looks out over the valley that has transformed into a Winter Wonderland in the last few days.  We can choose between skiing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice-skating, not to mention the heated pools and spa or staying by the fireplace in our room, curled up with a book.

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Kayaking the Florida Keys from Cow Key to Key Largo

Monday, October 10th, 2011

The Florida Keys are made up of some 1,700 islands.  From Miami to Key West, this archipelago stretches over 150 miles alone.  It’s here where I found some unique saltwater kayaking opportunities stretching from the Cow Key to Key Largo.

Kayaking through the Cow Key Channel

Cow Key  - Lazy Dog KayakThe two hour, 1.5 mile roundtrip through the Cow Key Channel beginning at US Highway MM (mile marker) 4.1(just outside of Key West) with Lazy Dog Kayak Guides involved a steady current that’s heavily influenced by the two high and low tides coming from both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean each day.  The firm breeze helped to counter the muggy conditions.  Bethany and her four-legged companion Tucker (a.k.a. “Mr. T”) served as our guides.

Through her guidance as we kayaked through open waters 2-10 foot deep, a natural mangrove creek and one “hurricane hole” (a pond surrounded by mangroves that offer more protection from hurricanes), I got an up close and personal view of primary Red Mangrove trees, whose prop roots filter out about 95 per cent of the saltwater while the trees leaves sacrifice themselves to filter out the rest of the salt so the trees can have “potable” water.   Their death means decomposition in the channel, which creates the soil ingredients to build up the small islands.

In my 12 foot Perception model, I heard the soundtrack of osprey, Great Blue and White Heron as I paddled through the waters, ranging in depth of two to ten feet.  Bethany often stopped alongside the mangrove growth to educate our group about the plant and animal life thriving here, letting us hold them.  Creatures like the prickly-feeling Florida Spiny Sea Star, and the Sea Cucumber, which has the feel of its vegetable counterpart.   She was excited when she came across a government-protected Queen Conch, a large creepy-looking snail that would make the subject of a good horror film.

Venturing to the Key with “No Name”

The Author paddling at "No Name"Just four miles off of US 1 at MM 30, I found a more isolated, off the beaten path world, where I kayaked roundtrip over a couple of hours in waters 1-18 feet in depth from Big Pine Key to the No Name Key (where the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion was staged).   The winds whistled through the palms on a mostly cloudy morning and afternoon, helping to keep the heat and mugginess in check.   Our guide from Big Pine Kayak Adventures, was Bill Keogh.  He’s kayaked some 800 Florida Keys.

Like Bethany at Cow Key, Keogh’s four-footed friend joined, a friendly mixed breed named Scupper, who quickly won my fondness.  As we set off from Big Pine Key, the scent of sulfur permeated my nostrils because of the decomposing seagrass which this Key catches from Florida Bay.  Getting to the Key with “No Name” meant crossing the Bogie Channel’s choppy waters (about a 1/3 mile long) in a 12 foot Vapor that weighed 50 pounds.

When I looked down into the more shallow waters, I caught the sight of flat Turtle Grass, round Manatee Grass, and soft-looking Shoal Grass waving back and forth.   Being out in this wide channel heightened my sense of isolation from the hustle and bustle only a few miles away.  My eyes took in the sight of a kettle of Turkey Vultures heading south for winter.   Arriving at the No Name Key, we paddled into a deep mangrove forest via a very narrow creek, so narrow that I dismantled my paddle into halves, using one along with low-hanging branches to navigate hundreds of feet.  But awaiting my camera was a camouflaged Yellow-Crowned Night Heron bouncing around from tree to tree as well as a variety of crabs climbing the densely-packed branches. Read More→