Tag Archive | city review

Travel Destination: Clearwater Florida USA

If you are looking for a cheap beach vacation in the US, don’t forget about Clearwater beach in Florida. I read an article in a tourist magazine that said that Clearwater Beach was named one of the best beaches in the US. I have to agree. I have been to a lot of different beaches and everything in the experience receives a rating. I look at the beach access, cleanliness of the beach, beach traffic/parking, beach hotel costs, and the quality of area restaurants. On a trip to visit some friends that live near Tampa, I took my Nana for a short vacation last December to Clearwater.

There are hotels within the $70 – 100 range that are not beachfront hotels but the beach is walking distance. To save some money, we picked an ocean view hotel. The hotel did not have beach access, but we could sit on their patio which overlooked the ocean. We were a less than 5 minute walk from the beach. So I was able to head out to the beach and put my feet in the water. Another plus was that the hotel parking was free. So many times, parking is $20 – 30 range at the nice hotels. And there are plenty of affordable restaurants in the area that are walking distance from the hotels that are along the beach.

The beach itself, the main attraction, was so pretty. I went out several times just to lay on the beach with my eyes closed listening to the waves. I went at dusk to watch the sun set. The sense of tranquility that I felt was from the best type of stress reliever.

Clearwater beach is accessible by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater small regional airport (abbreviation PIE) or Tampa international airport. We used a low cost air carrier Allegiant Air that flew from Greenville, SC into PIE. Using a flight special, the ticket price was $150. I do not know if you have the option of using a carrier like Allegiant Air, but if possible fly into PIE because smaller airports mean less hassle getting in and out. Just to give you an idea of how small the airport was- walking outside to the rental car parking lot was like walking outside of Wal-Mart to your car. There are no parking garages here.

Overall, the beach, surrounding area, hotel accommodations, and total trip cost made this an enjoyable, relaxing beach vacation.

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Travel destinations: New York City

Whenever people tell me that they have not been to New York City, I begin to tell them why they HAVE to visit at least one time in their life. Manhattan is 100 cities vacuum packed into an island. Over the years, I have visited many of the places that I recommend for people.

Here my top ten recommended places to go in New York City

Grand Central Terminal needs no explanation. Just go. Stand in the middle of the floor and absorb the energy. People will walk around you as they rush to their trains or out the door.


Rockefeller center is another gathering place for people. In the wintertime, you can see people ice skating in front of the building.
Times Square – Day or night, Times Square is alive and ready to party. As you can imagine, the craziest time to go is New Year’s Eve since the ball is dropping to bring in the New Year. If you want to people watch, just find a spot and check out the thousands of people going by. Take a picture with one of the many costumed characters (see picture of me with Chewbacca), but do not forget to give them a tip. They are not standing out there for their health.
Central Park is a patch of grass and trees in a concrete jungle. In the summertime, you can check out a play in the park.
Empire State Building – 350th 5th Ave (near 33rd Str) Admission $17.61 (during my last visit). Go on a clear day and you can see for miles. It is breathtakingly, ultra-cool.


Ground Zero – 352 7th Ave. There is a museum located that gives a 2 hour tour. Last time I went, the recommend admission is $25. While most of the NYC trip might be fun and games, visiting Ground Zero allows for somber reflection on the senseless lives lost because of terrorism.
Little Italy – It is fun to walk through and visit one of the many Italian restaurants. The food is delicious.
Chinatown – Go to Canal Str and see how good your bargaining skills really are. Never EVER pay the first quoted price for anything off of the street. Even if you think it is a good deal, you can probably get it cheaper. Once you are finished shopping on the main strip, go down the side streets to check out the Chinese herbal stores. I have found the best prices for jasmine tea in one of these little shops. The only caveat is not to wander too far by yourself or too late at night. You do not want to be a target for backstreet crime.
American Museum of Natural History & Metropolitan Museum of Art – I love museums and these are two of my favorites. I can spend the whole day in each. There are many other museums, but if you only have for two, these are the ones to go to.

Broadway or off Broadway for a show. Ask the concierge at your hotel (or google) about the best way to get affordable priced show tickets.

Optional jaunt: Style is the name of the game in the Fashion District off of 34th Street. For any fashionista, this is the place to go to check out what trendy goodies are available. Clothes, shoes, scarves, jewelry. You name it, they have it. When you get your treasures home, you will get so many compliments.

Travel tip: The subway is the most efficient way to travel. Don’t let it intimidate you. Get a map of the subway lines (now available as an app for the iPhone) and you will be good to go. Taking taxis with NY traffic is like giving away money to me. I will say that the subway is not always the cleanest place, but it is not like I go there to eat.

Keep your wallet safe and have fun!

Travel destinations: Las Vegas

Whether you are a single person who wants to party or a parent who wants to enjoy time with your family, Las Vegas has something for everyone.

If you do not care about staying off the Strip, the Orlean is a location and they have family activities like a cinema on site.

If you want to stay on the strip, here are some suggestions:

Caesar’s Palace, Venetian, Bellagio – All their rooms look like luxury. If you are trying to go to Vegas on the cheap, you probably will not be able to afford to stay here. They have deals sometimes, but these hotels are usually going to be the higher priced options.

MGM (My favorite) – All of their rooms clean, neat, look like new. You can find rooms at affordable rates without worrying that the quality will be similar to a Super 8 or Motel 6. I have stayed here for as low are $59/night (it was a Wednesday night in the middle of winter but I am still talking about it).

At the Stratosphere, Excalibur, Luxor, Paris, Tropicana and Circus Circus, it is best to stay away from the cheapest rooms they have to offer. Most of the time, the cheaper rooms have not been renovated as the premium rooms. Those rooms could be on par to rooms you might find at a Super 8 or Motel 6. I pay the extra few dollars for the upgrade instead of taking a chance on the quality of the room. And
Stratosphere is on the shetchy end of the strip.

When deciding on a hotel, check what coupon books you receive with your room. Most likely you will receive discount coupons for hotel stores and restaurants. For example, Stratosphere offered a coupon for a free pass to the observation deck which was a $13 savings. Once up there, I had to get on the roller coaster and some kind of spinning fair like ride. Might as well since I am not afraid of heights. Nothing to it but to do it !

Wherever you stay, Saturday night is probably going to have the most expensive room rate. I have paid $200/night and $89/night in the same visit! Many shows have “dark” days when they are not performing, so keep that in mind when planning what days you are going to be in the city. There is a lot to do in Vegas. You can go shopping, pamper yourself in the spa, try out different celebrity chefs’ restaurants, visit museums, or see one of the many shows. Any time of day or night, there is fun to be found.

I advise renting a car or else you will stuck on the strip. Being stuck on the strip is fine if all you want to do is throw your money away at the slot machine and blackjack tables. But I don’t have that kind of money. Once you have rented your car, like I did, you have to ride to the Hoover Dam. It is only about an hour away and worth every minute (even if you have to endure all the “dam” jokes). It is also worth the drive to go to the Grand Canyon too. Be prepared to spend close to $50 for entrance to the Hualapai Indian Reservation Grand Canyon West to see the Grand Canyon. The tourist trap of a skywalk is located here and you can walk on it for an additional $29.95. The Grand Canyon may be breathtaking, but I was still grumbling about the entry fee. It seemed to be excessive to me.

Since I love desserts, I have to go by Freed’s Bakery every time I am in Vegas and get some of their wedding cake (white cake with strawberries and Bavarian cream between the layers and buttercream on top). Delicious!! That is the only place I have found from Food Network’s Rachel Ray’s $40 a day (remember that show?) that I actually like.

Overall, Vegas is a fun town and there is something for every budget. It is not all about playing in the casino. There is no doubt that Vegas is an extremely commercialized that is designed to get you to spend your money, but there are ways to spend as much or as little as you want. Whether on or off the Strip, you can have a great time. And remember “What happens in Vegas, STAYS in Vegas”

City in Review: Cozumel MX

Going to Cozumel, MX as part of your cruise vacation? Most people will go to Carlos and Charlie’s or Senor Frogs and play the liquor games, dance, and eat. There is more to Cozumel than that. If you have never been to Carlos and Charlie’s or Senor Frogs, you should go at least once. The drinks are free flowing and the music is pumping so that you want to dance the whole time. Just be mindful of the time because you do not want to be left on the island when your ship sets sail.

In Mexico, the currency is the Peso which can be converted 10 pesos to 1 dollar. Most stores in the tourist section will post prices in USD. If you go into a store to buy some souvenirs and the prices seem outrageous, ask if the currency is Peso or USD. That happened to me and once I converted the prices to USD, I was relieved to know that I would be able to afford to buy for everyone on my list.

As with any foreign country, find out how to contact someone in case of an emergency. If you are taking a cruise to Cozumel, this information is usually available to you before you leave the ship. You never know what might happen so it is good to take precautionary measures. Since this is a tourist town, most people speak some English. If you are downtown in Cozumel, you will be able to find plenty of people who speak English. If you are going to explore the island, having a small Spanish-English dictionary should be able to help resolve any communication problems that may arise.

If you are going to travel around the island, your options should be taxi or jeep. Scooters should not even be an option. There will be many people riding scooters and making it look like fun. But is the most dangerous mode of transportation if you do not know what you are doing. If you are taking a taxi, ask how much it will be for a tour of the island. You can even arrange for the taxi to drop you off at one of the parks and pick you up later. If you rent a jeep, many of them are manual transmission. The car insurance that you have in US does not cover rentals in foreign countries. You want to make sure you get full coverage for your rental. If you do not and you are in an accident, you will be stuck with unimaginable expenses. It is worth the $10-15.

Cozumel has one main road that goes around the whole island. It probably takes 45-60 minutes to circle the island. From the main road, there are signs that tell you the name of the different beaches and guide you to the ruins. On the ride to the beach, I saw where the water crashed against the rocks at times. If you stop along the road to walk along the beach, you need to be careful. There are not a lot of sandy beaches, but slippery limestone rock. If you do not have on the right type of shoe, it can be very dangerous. It is best only to stop where there is beach access. You can tell where there is beach access because there are little bar restaurants that are situated near the beach. These restaurants offer margaritas, tacos, chips, and salsa. People can eat these while they are relaxing on the beach or sitting sit at the bar. There are usually little gift stores adjacent to the restaurant too. If you have children, you want to know that a lot of the souvenirs are not very family friendly at the beachside restaurants. On my last trip, I saw A LOT of male and female anatomy shaped items.

One of the beaches that I have visited was Punta Morena. People were surfing, swimming, and lying out on the beach. The waves were choppy at times because there was storm earlier that day. These little restaurants do have bathrooms, but there are no lockers for your valuables. Since many of the rental vehicles are soft-top Jeeps, you cannot exactly lock your valuables in your car. It is best that you keep these with you in a waterproof pouch around your neck. I do not eat anything in the beachside restaurants, although I saw other people that did. If you want to eat something in the restaurant, you do so at your own risk. I do not advise it. However, I did order a margarita. I think that tequila kills all bacteria.

I was not impressed with the advertised Mayan ruins. If you are the exploratory type, you might like that sort of thing. But if you go in the rainy season, be prepared to be eaten alive by mosquitoes. I had insect repellant on and counted over 50 mosquito bites.

Overall, Cozumel is nice. There is not much to do besides lay out on the beach and drink margaritas. Recipe for a good time.