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San Diego

National Park Service

When you think of whale watching, you might imagine sitting on a boat with a pair of binoculars, waiting for the world’s biggest creatures to appear before your eyes amidst the waves. But this isn’t the only way to see whales up close and in their natural habitat — without having to see them in a tank.

Typically known as a winter pastime, you can go whale watching almost any time of the year in places like California and Oregon’s Depoe Bay. Specific regions of the Golden State, including San Diego, Monterey Bay, and San Francisco experience larger numbers of whales mid-December and January to mid-March and April.

If you can’t wait that long, you can spot whales in Maui and Vancouver in the fall. Sightings in Maui start as early as October, running to March or April. There’s still time left to find them in Vancouver, where the season starts in March and ends in late October.

Here’s where and how you can see whales, on boats and from shore, both with and without a tour package.

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Sandito Mojito, Cuba Libre OrlandoWe’re game to celebrate nearly every food- or drink-focused holiday (National Margarita Day, anyone?), so we’re excited that August is Rum Month. Rum is the elixir of both swash-buckling pirates and bleary-eyed Caribbean travelers alike. But some folks have rum misconceptions: They think only of umbrella-topped super-sweet frozen drinks or unimaginative soda mixes from their young-adult years. We’re here to open your eyes to a brave new world of this sugar cane-based liquid miracle. Beyond plain Bacardi, there are hundreds of varieties of rum — some as premium as any top-shelf cognac.

These 21 bars from coast-to-coast (and points in between) are serving up choice cocktails this month using rums you may not have heard of before. And don’t forget that Saturday, August 16 is officially National Rum Day. So raise a glass and say, “Aaar!”

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la jolla - san diego - flickr-thenorse

The reasons for hitting up San Diego for a relaxing summer weekend are countless. For starters, from June through August, the weather peaks in the 70s with lows in the 50s on average. And whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, shopping, or great dining, it’s all readily accessible and set against a beautiful Southern California backdrop to boot. What’s more, if you don’t feel like flying or driving, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner can you get there from anywhere between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

Here, we’ve rounded up three of our favorite neighborhoods in the city with affordable options for what to do and where to eat. Depending on how much time you have and how ambitious you are, feel free to pick and choose — or add them all to your itinerary this season.

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orcaBy now you’ve likely heard about the controversy surrounding SeaWorld. As a result of the documentary film Blackfish, and its exposure of what animal rights advocates claim is mistreatment of the orcas used in SeaWorld shows, calls for a boycott of the marine mammal theme park chain have grown. The debate goes on: SeaWorld released an open letter stating that, among other things, their research on captive whales benefits those in the wild, but the Oceanic Preservation Society then rebutted the claims.

And there are signs that public opinion is turning against the theme parks. The company recently posted a 13 percent drop in attendance. If you the claims have gotten the better of your conscience and you’re looking for an alternative, here are seven places in North America where you see the same animals that you’ll find at SeaWorld, but in their natural habitats. Read more

Norfolk VirginiaDon’t get us wrong. We love a 7-night sail through the Caribbean as much as the next cruiser. But sometimes, we seafarers like our sightseeing to feel a little less… epic. No problem here: from Norfolk, VA to San Diego Bay, the U.S. is full of sparkling inlets, coves, and harbors just begging to be experienced aboard a full- or half-day cruise. Plus, these short itineraries tend to be an affordable way to see a lot with a little time. Here are some of our favorites: Read more

TijuanaLast month, a new project was announced that will build a covered walkway connecting Tijuana Airport to the U.S. border. According to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and other sources, the walkway will result in major savings for travelers headed to Mexico, where it’s often cheaper to catch domestic flights within Mexico than to fly from the U.S..

Of course, the thought of cheaper flights to Mexico made our ears perk up. But we had to wonder: who will benefit from this? And how much can the walkway actually help you save? Sure, certain flights out of Tijuana may be cheaper than flying out of San Diego or Los Angeles, for example. But once you’ve factored in the extra time it takes to cross the border, and the possible differences in route options, will the savings outweigh the extra leg work? Though we can’t predict how things will change after the walkway opens in 2015, here’s an assessment of pricing right now… Read more

Moonrise

Like it or not, a big part of being a tourist involves waiting in line: at the hotel check-in desk, at the museum entrance, waiting for their tour guide to show up. But when it comes to seeing jaw-dropping views, here’s a more efficient use of your time: instead of one-stop observation decks, why not head to a high-up restaurant for lunch or dinner? You might not consider these traditional tourist attractions, but for the quality of the views (not to mention the meal itself!), these places will have you whipping out your camera in no time: Read more

Last-MinuteThe twelve days of Christmas have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean there’s no more excitement to be had in December. In fact, for travelers, end-of-year sales and promotions can yield some of the best finds of the whole season. The tricky part? Finding them. But luckily for you, we’ve gone and done all the hard work to bring you the best last-minute travel deals available this week. Consider it our Christmas present to you… Read more

Day of the Dead Celebrations 2013
Every year, the hype surrounding Halloween seems to get bigger and bigger, but in many Mexican cultures, one of the season’s liveliest celebrations falls on November 1 and 2. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, blends indigenous and Catholic influences, with the most traditional celebrations taking place in cemeteries in central Mexico. There, families gather at gravestones to honor deceased loved ones, but the tradition has become more popular in the U.S. as well, especially in places with thriving Latin American populations.

At the heart of the celebrations are ofrendas – altars or offerings of food, drink, and alcohol – which are believed to guide the spirits of the deceased back to Earth to spend time with their family and loved ones. Día de Los Muertos celebrations also include processions, musical performances, and tons of great, skeleton- and skull-inspired art – and, a refreshing break from the over-the-top commercialism of Halloween. What’s more, they’re almost always free, too. Here, five great places to get into the spirit of the Day of the Dead.

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Large International Airport ExpansionsThe airline industry as a whole takes its fair share of flack. It seems that every other month, some new fee is being added, services are being cut, price increases are being slid into fares, and flexibility is nothing more than a cute notion. But for all the negatives, billions are being spent on airport expansions to make flying a little bit more pleasant. Here’s a look at three of the year’s biggest airport upgrades, though if immediate results are your thing, don’t get too excited. Some of the work isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2030. Read more

JetBlue Flight SaleGet a jump on your fall travel plans with JetBlue’s Jet-This-Party-Started Sale. With one-way flights to Boston, Bermuda, St. Croix, San Diego, New York City, and beyond, you’re bound to find your ideal autumn getaway. Keep in mind, you’ve got to think fast: These fares only last until July 31, 11:59pm EST; travel is valid from September 3 through December 18, 2013. There are also day-of-week restrictions and blackout dates from November 22–December 2. Check out some of our favorite fares below! Read more

Free Fitness Options at HotelsWhether you borrow a free bike for a cycle through a new neighborhood or kick off your shoes for yoga on the beach, fitness can become an enjoyable part of your vacation. And hotels are getting creative to help guests stay healthy on the road. On your next trip, skip the treadmill in exchange for one of the following fun fitness options; here are five of our free favorites!

1. Free Salsa Classes: Mezzanine, Tulum, Mexico

While clocking in 45 minutes of cardio might not sound too appealing on a beach vacation to Mexico’s Riviera Maya, how about a salsa lesson on a beachfront patio? At Mezzanine boutique hotel a local salsa school offers free classes on Sundays at 6pm, followed by a live salsa band that will provide the soundtrack to work on your new skills. Read more

San DiegoWith spring in full swing and summer fast-approaching, travel season in the U.S. is at its prime. Even places like Chicago and the Finger Lakes – known as cold locales for most of the year – are coming out of the woodwork as desirable summer destinations, and have the prices to match. Take a look at some of our favorite sun-soaked travel deals below. Read more

Travel Deals Across the CountryFrom the east coast to the west coast and the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. boasts miles of diverse shorelines that provide picturesque backdrops to many of our favorite destinations. Head to one of our great coastal cities and spend less of your tax return on hotel stays. This week, we’ve rounded up a batch of hotel deals, all with nightly rates under $180 for stays April through June. Read more

San Diego? For a convention? Must be Comic-Con International, right? Unfortunately, not all of us are able to head to Southern California to goof off with costumed characters, but there are certainly worse places for business travels to take you during this part of the year. In an effort to get you outside of the boardroom and into the wilds of “America’s Finest City,” we’re offering up two restaurants, two attractions, and one bar that you can hit with just a few extra hours between meetings.

If you’re up for branching out a bit, and you need an upscale place that’s far from stuffy, Rama has you covered. Just a few short blocks away from the sprawling San Diego Convention Center, this place serves up “exotic” Asian fare, but there’s plenty of curries to choose from if you don’t want to risk it. The atmosphere is really unique, and while you’re certainly pay for it when the check arrives, it’s a fantastic place to lighten spirits and generally blow off steam after a long day amongst concourses. Read more

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