Shermanstravel Blog

Archive for 2011

Rome Walks Gay Tour Hadrian AntinousIn Rome, a city not historically known for its gay friendliness (thanks, Vatican!), walls are nonetheless breaking down. This past June, EuroPride marched from Piazza dei Cinquecento through the center of the city to the Circus Maximus, with about a million participants overall. And now, the highly rated, English-language tour company Rome Walks is offering a queer eye into the Eternal City with their new gay-themed tour “Antinous’ Rome: For the Love of Hadrian.”

Classical history refresher: Back in those halcyon pre-gay days, Hadrian, arguably Rome’s most beloved emperor, was openly involved with a Greek boy named Antinous. While traveling through Egypt, Antinous drowned in the Nile River. Hadrian wept, and like all great men of worth and power (cough, Taj Mahal, cough), in his sorrow went on to deify his lover. Coins were minted with his image. Cities were named after him. And in his capital city, some of the grandest remaining monuments – Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo – and fantastic pieces of art were commissioned to the memory of his lover with “the perfect male form.” The End? Not quite. Read more

The Fairbanks HouseRomantic vacations don’t have to break the bank – no really, they don’t have to. It’s still possible to find great deals on warm getaways during the winter, when snowbirds flock to the Sunshine State to escape the cold. If a romantic escape is what you seek, packages can offer more for your money. Of course, everyone’s idea of a romantic getaway is different – mine was a scuba certification mission with my husband to West Palm Beach in January (I scored two round-trip flights from Baltimore for $300!). But there are a few elements that make any winter escape romantic in everyone’s eyes. Privacy is key; a hot tub is a plus. There’s a better chance you’ll get both by booking at a venue that caters to couples. Here’s a look at three wintertime Florida romance packages worth looking into once dreary January comes:

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Recently rated the most tech-friendly airline, Delta Airlines continued its tech trend by installing six cameras in a suitcase to show us exactly what journey our luggage goes on when we check it. Although the video leaves some to be desired (no TSA screening area photography allowed, for example, and the outdoor shots are at night), it’s no doubt interesting to see the journey that the bag makes, especially as it rides through a maze of conveyer belts reminiscent of the airport scenes in Toy Story 2 (which turn out to be pretty accurately portrayed, animated dolls aside).

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Restaurant WeekRestaurant Week is one of the best ways to dine in style, noshing at incredible, well-known restaurants that are otherwise out of the normal price range. Not only does it provide a great excuse for a date night, Restaurant Week is an exhibition of local culture and cuisine. Check out a few of the upcoming winter Restaurant Weeks below, and be sure to check back at OpenTable to make a reservation – and fast, some restaurants book up quicker than a Justin Beiber concert (cough, Le Cirque).

Providence, R.I.
January 15 – 28, 2012; three-course, prix-fixe lunches and dinners ($15 and $30, respectively)

New York City
January 16 – February 10, 2012; three-course, prix-fixe lunches and dinners during the week ($24 and $35, respectively)

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2011 12 28 MontecarloStay at the upscale Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, located directly on the legendary Las Vegas Strip, for as little as $46 per night in 2012. This saves you 25% on current hotel pricing!

The 4-star Monte Carlo features a lagoon pool, a wave pool, a sand volleyball pit, and a 400-foot lazy river.  Enjoy nightly entertainment, including top-name musical acts, poolside DJs, and the world-famous dance crew, The Jabbawockeez. Diverse dining options range from an upscale steakhouse to a Mexican cantina to an all-you-can-eat buffet.  All guest rooms are appointed with LCD HDTVs, iHome docking stations, high-speed Internet access, and Italian marble bathrooms.

Travel is valid through August 12, 2012, but you must book this deal by midnight tomorrow, December 30. A minimum two-night stay is required.

THE VALUE: Stay in a 4-star Vegas hotel on the Strip and save 25% on current rates.

THE CATCH: This deal is valid for stays into August, but you must book it by midnight tomorrow night!

THE DETAILS: Visit the Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino to book your stay.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights to Las Vegas. For general trip-planning information, see our Las Vegas Travel Guide.

Villa at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran BayIf one of your New Year’s resolutions is to spend more quality time with the person you love, then I suggest you enjoy that togetherness someplace amazing! And what’s better or more romantic than a stunning, sun-kissed island? There’s something innately sexy and bond-inspiring about the sea – floating together in gentle turquoise surf, walking hand-in-hand at sunset, enjoying the day’s fresh catch paired with a rum cocktail or a fine wine. So as the new year begins, here are my top 10 picks for the most amazing islands to escape to together in 2012. Read more

Elite Island ResortsNot sure what to do with that $100 Sears gift card you got for the holidays? Now through February 29, you can pay for a Caribbean vacation at Elite Island Resorts with your unused gift cards. Walmart, Home Depot, Amex – whatever you’ve got, Elite will take it, up to 25 percent of the cost of your stay.

On top of that, Elite will donate the gift cards to children’s charities including Ronald McDonald House, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the Make a Wish Foundation, among others.

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Carnival Freedom ResizedSail away on a 6-night getaway to top destinations in Southern Florida and the Western Caribbean, including quirky Key West, gorgeous Grand Cayman, and fun-in-the-sun Jamaica. The spacious, 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom embarks on February 19 from Fort Lauderdale, with discounted rates – reflecting savings of up to 73 percent – starting at just $409 for inside cabins, and $519 for ocean-view upgrades, when booking through Expect onboard diversions like a kids’ club, spa, fitness center, casino, mini-golf, and much more to easily fill up the two days spent at sea.

THE VALUE: This high-season sailing during a peak holiday break represents a rare 73 percent  savings off of the brochure rates of $1,519/person, working out to as little as $409 per passenger, or $68/night. What’s more, book through and get a complimentary upgrade, too.

THE CATCH: We’ve seen airfare to Florida during this peak holiday break spike considerably, so be sure to factor in the cost of your flight before booking the sailing to ensure overall value.


WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more travel deals. For general trip-planning information, see our Caribbean Cruises 101.

Los Cabos Tourism BoardSpend a weekend playing jet-setter at these quick winter getaways

It doesn’t matter if the pages of your passport are filled with stamps or if you’ve got a shiny new one just waiting to take a trip, because a quick winter getaway is the perfect excuse to break it out. Sure you could head to the local ski resort or down to Florida with everyone else in your neighborhood, but why not spend the weekend abroad? Whether soaking up the sun or schussing down the slopes makes for your ideal vacation, we’ve rounded up 10 international destinations that are just a quick flight from many U.S. cities – and even included information on how to get there to make these winter weekends abroad as easy for you as possible. Preview these fabulous jet-set destinations with our Quick Winter Getaways slideshow.

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Nancy Robbins/Yosemite Sierra Visitors BureauYosemite National Park might be lacking in snow so far this year, but the lack of picturesque snowy landscapes means that areas of the park that are ordinarily closed for the winter still remain open. Visitors to the park can expect the rare opportunities that the usual winter temperatures but unusual dry weather provide: As of now, your winter getaway to Yosemite can still include a drive along Tioga Road (which usually closes in November) with a stop at Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake, a visit to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia, and a view of the iconic Glacier Point.

The park also boasts its usual winter activities, which include ice skating at Tenaya Lodge and Curry Village, skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area, and even hiking and backpacking. Note: The National Parks Service keeps up to date information on what activities are available and what the current conditions are, and you should make sure to check before your visit if the roads are likely to remain open.

Be sure to check out our California travel guide, and then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to plan your trip.

Flickr/Alan StantonAspiring art thieves, I’ve got good news for you – you can legally hone your thievery skills in Melbourne, Australia, at least until January 15. Melbourne’s Art Series Hotels (the Cullen, the Olsen, and the Blackman, each of which are designed around the work of iconic Australian artists) are about midway through a contest that encourages you to steal the art right off the walls. Well, some of the art, anyway. The hotels are (rather fittingly) currently offering up “Pulp Fiction” by renowned England-based graffiti artist Banksy, if you can steal it.

The artwork can only be stolen by a pre-paid guest of one of the hotels staying any time through January 15th, and only the Banksy piece is up for theft. The full terms and conditions can be found here, but notable rules include: “Be cool. Art thieves are always cool,” “Look the part- we prefer it if you are wearing black tie or a really stunning frock,” and “Banksy we really don’t want you to steal it. It would just be too twisted so please don’t.”

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top-5-family-vacations-2012We travel bloggers adore making lists of where our readers should go in the new year. But let’s face it, every list, whether it has destinations or groceries on it, is subjective. Which is why, to lend a veneer of objectivity to this list of top family vacation picks for 2012, I consulted the three best-traveled people I know. Read more

Gansevoort Park Avenue NYCMake a New Year’s resolution to visit New York City this January to take advantage of post-holiday sales, un-crowded attractions, and great savings on accommodations. Playing off the city’s popular “Restaurant Week” promotions in January and February, eight hotels are offering steeply discounted rates for their own version of “Hotel Week.” Pay just $100/night at The Pod Hotel (queen room), Z NYC Hotel, The Hotel @ Times Square, and nyma, the new york manhattan hotel. Andaz Wall Street and the new Hyatt 48 Lex will run you $200/night, while Gansevoort Park Avenue and Gansevoort Meatpacking are charging $250/night. These rates are bookable January 6-15.

THE VALUE: You’ll save 35-50 percent by booking a January trip with this offer. Rates at The Pod Hotel, for example, would be $159/night during these dates, while Gansevoort Meatpacking could run as high as $475/night in summer. The “Hotel Week” rates are even good on weekends!

THE CATCH: January is typically a slow period for New York, so many of these hotels would otherwise have discounted rates. The city’s “Restaurant Week” doesn’t start until January 16.

THE DETAILS: The following hotels can be booked by phone by mentioning “Hotel Week”: The Pod Hotel (212-355-0300), Z NYC Hotel (212-319-7000), The Hotel @ Times Square (800-567-7720 or 212-790-2710), and nyma, the new york manhattan hotel (800-567-7720 or 212-790-2710). These hotels are bookable online: Andaz Wall Street, Hyatt 48 Lex, Gansevoort Meatpacking and Gansevoort Park Avenue.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more travel deals. For general trip-planning information, see our New York City Travel Guide.

Hotel Bel Air ResizeLos Angeles offers more than glitz, glamour, and celebrity spotting. With its 75-mile-long coastline, temperate climes, and scenic canyons, spa-goers can also experience top-notch spa pampering with a view, with price tags ranging from the affordable to the astronomical.

Read on for our three top picks:

Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach Resize

Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach and Marina Hotel
Body ETC European Day Spa within the Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach and Marina Hotel is an intimate eight-treatment room facility featuring a couples’ suite, locker room, and dry sauna. Its location on the hotel’s second floor is adjacent to the pool deck and Jacuzzi where the splendid views span the marina and the Pacific Ocean. Redondo Beach is only 8 miles from LAX and is known for its popular pier and numerous activities, which include kayaking, scuba diving, surfing, biking, fishing, and whale watching. Their spa package starts at $238/night and includes ocean-view accommodations, two desserts, 2-for-1 breakfast, and a European facial along with a body massage (or, a couples’ massage for two). Read more

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2011 12 22 MissionbayStay at an upscale hotel on the shores of one of San Diego’s biggest attractions, Mission Bay. Book three nights or more at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina and pay only $104 per nighta savings of 30% on current rates.

The Regency Mission Bay boasts its own full-service marina with jet skis, sailboats, kayaks, sport fishing, and whale excursions. It’s also only a quarter-mile from two of San Diego’s most popular spots, SeaWorld and Mission Beach, and three miles from the charming Old Town San Diego. The hotel features three pools and a poolside bar, a fine-dining restaurant, an eco-friendly spa, and a waterfront fitness center. Rooms include patios or balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, LCD TVs, and iPod docks.

THE VALUE: Save 30% on current pricing at this upscale San Diego hotel on Mission Bay.

THE CATCH: Temperatures are a bit too cool for swimming this time of year. Luckily, these rates are valid through the end of 2012, so you can take advantage in the warmer spring and summer months, too.

THE DETAILS: Visit the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina and enter the Corporate/Group Number 89936.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights to San Diego. Then plan your trip using our San Diego Travel Guide.

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