National Parks – Free Entrance Days

Yosemite Falls

National Park Services has announced “Free Entrance Fees” for National Parks. There are over 100 national parks offering free days – click here to see the list.

The complimentary admission only covers entry fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees to the parks. While other items such as beverages and lodging are not free, many national parks plan to offer visitors discounts on fee-free days.

 

Here are the select dates for fee-free days in 2011: 

  • January 15-17
    (Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday weekend)
  • April 16-24
    (National Park Week)
  • June 21
    (First day of summer)
  • September 24
    (Public Lands Day)
  • November 11-13
    (Veterans Day weekend)
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Beautiful Sea Life – Harlequin Shrimp from Bali

Harlequin Shrimp from Bali

Isla Cedros, Mexico

Isla Cedros

Cedros Island is a Mexican island located off the west coast of Baja. It’s called Isla Cedros in Spanish. I started researching this island because its where my mom’s parents were born and raised. I thought it would be fun to plan a trip there and discover some of my family’s origins.

Isla de Cedros was named by Spanish explorers who thought that the large amounts of redwood and cedar-driftwood arriving with the California current were local pines visible on the crest of the island.  I found that Cedros Island has a very small population, 1 hotel and is mostly known for its fishing port. The whole island can probably be explored within one day.

People visiting Cedros Island can eat, hike, snorkel and fish – this island is definitely not a tourist attraction.  You can get to the island by boat or by plane but the seas can get choppy if you are headed there on a boat.

I would like to plan a trip to Baja, Mexcio and to visit Isla Cedros for a day.

Would you do this for honey? Must see video!

No Money for a Hotel? No Problem!

Is money for a hotel holding you back from travelling? A website called Couch Surfing may help you accomplish your travel dreams.

The concept of couch surfing is simple: identify someone who is willing to let you sleep on their couch in a city that you want to visit and avoid the cost of staying at a hotel. People who are interested in couch surfing need to do the following:

  1. Create a profile on Couch Surfing
  2. Search for people offering up their couches in areas you want to visit.
  3. View profiles of various people to see if you have common interests and/or would feel comfortable
  4. If you find a match or two, then send a request
  5. If someone accepts your request, then start planning your trip!

Couch Surfing is something that could work well for individuals or couples. If you are someone who has stayed at a hostel or would consider doing something similar, you may want to give this a shot. Couch Surfing offers a couple safety features in order to help make sure people are having good experiences. Of course, anything can happen and you’ll always want to have a back-up plan. The person that you plan on staying with could have an emergency and unintentionally leave you without a place to stay.

You know what they say — Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

     

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico

I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico in hopes of finding ancient ruins, good Mexican food and beautiful scenery. The flight was cheap – $203 roundtrip including taxes from LAX. I have to say that when I left the airport and started to discover the city, I was more than a little disappointed. The photo to the left is typical scenery for Albuquerque — miles and miles of endless desert. I was expecting red sandstone rocks and cool rock formations but there were none in sight.

If you are planning on visiting New Mexico, you will definitely need a car to get from place to place. Not too many things are within walking distance of each other and there isn’t a whole lot of public transportation. There are two main areas to check out in Albuquerque: Old Town and the area around University of New Mexico.

Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town is a 1/2 day trip. I traveled in January and learned that most places in Old Town close around 6PM. There are touristy and miscellaneous shops and a few great restaurants. If you ever make it to Old Town Albuquerque, I highly recommend eating at a Mexican restaurant called Church Street Cafe. The food, salsa, chili and sopapillas were all amazing.

On the other side of town, you can visit Albuquerque’s university area where there are lots of shops and restaurant choices. You can also cover this area in about 1/2 a day. The restaurants and bar stay open late but the shops close around 7PM.

Hot Air Balloon

I talked to a few locals who revealed that the winter is really slow in New Mexico and that most activity happens in the summer and fall, especially during the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. I was able to visit the Balloon Museum while I was there and if you have an interest in learning about the history of hot air balloons and their prominence in New Mexico, you might want to check it out.

We discovered that the Bandelier National Monument was about 2 hours north and decide to take the trip to see ancient cliff dwellings. We stopped in Santa Fe, a bigger and more lively city than Albuquerque and found that the restaurants close between 2PM to 5PM. We continued on up into the mountains to finally reach the Bandelier National Monument.

Ancient Anasazi Cliff Dwellings

Once we were in the mountains, the scenery changed. Red sandstone rocks and formations started to appear and become more and more present. We checked into the information center and learned that the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings were only a short .6 mile hike. We also learned that there was a trail 1.2 miles in the opposite direction of the cliff dwellings that lead to a waterfall – we decided to do both. The trail to the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings was easy to follow and we were there in no time. We were able to climb up a ladder into a few of the dwellings. The trail to the waterfall was easy to follow but parts were covered in snow so it was a little bit slippery in some parts. Overall, the trail to the waterfall was beautiful (lots of trees and red sandstone) and the waterfall was amazing and half frozen. Check out the gallery of pictures below!

Trail to Bandelier Waterfall

Scenery while hiking to Bandelier Waterfall

Badelier Waterfall

Badelier Waterfall

All in all, Albuquerque, New Mexico is my least favorite of the cities I have traveled to. I am still interested in going back but only to discover more of the mountain areas and the four corners area where New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona meet. I think this area would provide more adventure and scenery for the explorer in me.

What Hotel Agents are NOT Allowed to Tell You

Get the Best Rate on your Hotel Room

When planning a getaway or vacation, do you call hotels and ask for their best rate? If so, you’ve probably been offered a good rate but not the lowest rate.  We’ve received insight from hotel reservation representatives that may help you save a little extra cash on your next getaway or vacation.

When you call a hotel to request the “best rate,” the hotel representative  is most likely trained to offer you what’s called a “bar rate,” but it’s not the lowest rate. Hotel reservation calls are often monitored by revenue managers to ensure that representatives are not offering lower rates if you are willing to pay for higher “best rates.”  If a reservation representative offers you a rate lower than the “bar rate,” they can be reprimanded and could risk losing their job. These reservation representatives recommend asking for the “very lowest rate.”

Another recommendation is to check the hotel’s website for special offers. Many times, reservation representatives are not allowed to tell you about those on the phone.

Tips to make sure you’re making the most out of your getaway/vacation budget:

  1. When calling hotels, ask for the “very lowest rate.”
  2. Use websites like Priceline where you can submit an offer for a nightly rate – I’ve gotten more than 50% off nightly hotel rates for great hotels in the past. The downside is that you have to pay immediately if a hotel accepts your offer and the hotel is non-refundable.
  3. Compare prices quoted on the Internet to prices quoted on the telephone.