A Guide to Meal Sharing

An up and coming trend this year is strangers getting together to share a meal in someone’s home or even a restaurant.  It is occurring both here in the United States, as well as internationally.  It provides a way to get to know someone on a level you otherwise couldn’t.  Should you be abroad, it helps a great deal with allowing yourself to be immersed in a new culture and way of life.  We’ve created a guide to help you find out exactly what meal sharing is, as well as some resources to help get you started.


Diners Toasting a Mealphoto credit: Didricks

What is Meal Sharing

Just like it sounds, meal sharing means to sit down with a group of people to share food.  Be it a big or small group, it will undoubtedly be a one of a kind experience.  Many Americans traveling overseas are embracing this trend to better understand the true cultures, languages, and traditions of foreign lands as well as to make new friends.  Even some chefs are jumping on the bandwagon and preparing meals in their homes for an experience unlike any other.

How to Share a Meal

There are many easy to use resources to help you find a group to dine with.  Several of them require that you create an account or profile, but this helps to ensure that everyone is safe and happy with their experience.

  • BlendAbout:  BlendAbout creates a unique restaurant experience for diners.  After signing up on the website, you provide them with information regarding what type of foods you like and what some of your interests are.  From there, they find a group they feel you would fit in well with, and make reservations for all of you.  You can also join a group that already exists or create your own, and BlendAbout will still handle all the restaurant reservations and pairing up of 4 to 6 diners.
  • Meal Sharing:  This is a great resource for those looking to be a guest in someone’s home for a meal, as well as for those interested in hosting.  In order to help with costs of food needed, hosts are able to set a price for their meal, which guests all chip in on.  There are currently more than 450 cities around the world with hosts interested in sharing a home cooked meal.  The site also provides reviews and pictures, as well as phone number verification to ensure safety and honesty.
  • HomeHostedMeals:  This site also features hosts from all around the world looking to open up their home to new guests and their cultures.  There is a charge per person per meal, and hopeful guests get in contact with the site once they’ve found a location they’d like to visit or a host that they’re interested in.  After providing a brief description, hosts can decide whether or not they’d like to reply and allow them into their homes.
  • PlateCulture:  This company was originally based in and around Southeast Asia, which is becoming a much more popular place for travelers to visit.  Guests can search for meals hosted in 18 different countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Spain, and even the United States.  Simply browse through the meals offered by the site’s hosts, reserve your spot, and pay.  Some meals cost as little as $5 per person while others are upwards of $45.
  • EatWith:  EatWith allows for a little more versatility in terms of who you’re dining with.  With events in more than 150 cities internationally, you can either sign up for one that has already been created, or host your own private event and invite friends and family, strangers, or a mixture of both.  Meals are all prepared by trained chefs and you can work with them to create a customized menu.  Meals can be held in hosts’ homes, the chef’s home, or any other suitable location.
  • Feastly:  Similarly to EatWith, all meals hosted by Feastly are created by cooks that have been chosen for the company.  They range from home cooks to professional chefs who all have a passion for sharing their food with others.  You simply browse through scheduled meals and once you find one you like, you reserve a spot and pay upfront so that no cash is involved and all you have to do when you arrive at your meal is sit back, relax, eat, and be social with a new group of people.
  • Hush Supper Club:  Currently located in Washington D.C., host Geeta has decided to provide guests with authentic, vegetarian Indian cuisine with this supper club.  There is a suggested donation of $95 per person, and each meal also comes along with stories that help diners to better understand the background of India’s culture and cuisine.  Every meal includes a cocktail, appetizers, vegetables and bread, rice and dal, and masala chai.  Guests are invited to bring their own wine and beer should they so choose. She also hosts cooking classes from her home as well.
  • Cookening:  This resource is great for those traveling in Europe, mainly Paris and Italy, but is expanding globally.  It provides opportunities for every meal imaginable from brunch, to dinners, to tea.  Guests are able to find meals they’re interested in trying, and hosts can list foods they would like to make.  It serves as a wonderful way to experience European culture for what it truly is.

Have you ever shared a meal with strangers in your own hometown or while abroad?  Let us know how you went about organizing it and what your experience was like in the comments down below!

Inspirational Travel Quotes

Wise words from our favorite authors and philosophers often inspire us to take leaps in our lives, especially when it comes to travel.  Who doesn’t want to have their own quote-worthy experience?  Whether helping you to realize that it’s never too late to start your adventure, or to encourage you to be more accepting of other cultures, ideas, and outlooks, sometimes a sentence or two is all you need to help shed some light.  We’ve taken a few well-known quotes that we’ve found to be especially eye opening and listed them below for those in need of a little travel inspiration!


Open Highway Road

photo credit: Trey Ratcliff

  1. “There are no foreign lands.  It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
  2. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
  3. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  4. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
  5. “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
  6. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
  7. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
  8. “Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers.  The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
  9. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure.  There is no end to the adventures we can have if we only seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru
  10. “Travel teaches toleration.” – Benjamin Disraeli
  11. “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” – Anatole France
  12. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine
  13. “Travel makes one modest.  You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
  14. “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury
  15. “Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” – Peter Hoeg

Did we miss any of your favorite authors or a travel quote that you live by?  Let us know in the comments down below!

Travel Gadgets for Fitness Junkies

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to totally give up on your exercise regime or health goals.  There are plenty of helpful travel gadgets to keep you on track during your trip.  We’ve listed a few of our favorites down below.


Samsung Gear Fit Smartwatch and Phone
photo credit: Karlis Dambrans

Fitness Bands

Many people like to keep track of their exercise even while they’re on vacation, which is where fitness bands come in.  They’re a great way to find out how many miles you’ve walked exploring a new city for the day and keep yourself accountable.

  • Fitbit: With prices ranging from $59.95 to $249.95, there are options available for all types of fitness enthusiasts.  There are also product accessories like different colored bands in different styles.
  • NikeFuel Band:  NikeFuel measures the intensity of all activities, whether you’re engaged in a rigorous workout or a walk.  It can also track sleep cycles to help you optimize your fitness level from all aspects.  The price is $99.00 and there are four different color options.
  • Jawbone UP:  Once connected to the downloadable app, UP, Jawbone Up keeps track of your health and fitness by measuring your intake, exercise, and sleep patterns.  There are several different bands to choose from ranging in price from $49.99 to $179.99
  • Samsung Gear Fit:  This fitness band is waterproof and tracks heart rates, and provides several different colored band options to make it versatile enough to wear in any situation.  You can view emails, texts, and alerts throughout the day so you don’t miss a thing, even during workouts.  $149.99

Headphones

Use them during your flight to cancel out the sounds of crying babies and snoring passengers, and then hit the gym with them to give you a burst of energy while listening to your favorite workout playlists.

  • Monoprice:  While most noise cancelling headphones fit over your ears, Monoprice headphones are designed specifically to fit in them, so they’re much less bulky and easy to pack.  At just under $65, they’re affordable and well-priced for the quality they provide.  They also enhance whatever you’re listening to, so you can tune out the outside world and enjoy music, audiobooks, or just pure silence during noisy flights.
  • NoiseHush i7 Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones:  NoiseHush has created a pair of noise-cancelling and sound enhancing headphones for under $100.  These comfortable headphones feature memory foam, so they fit perfectly to your ears while cancelling out the busy world around you to help you focus on the task at hand or simply sit back and relax.  They also stay securely in place even if you’re knocking out a few miles on the treadmill at your hotel’s gym.
  • Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2:  For those who prefer headphones that fit within their ear, try this B&W model.  Ideal for runners on the go, they provide excellent sound quality without the bulk and fit snugly inside the ear to prevent movement.  They transition perfectly from sitting on a plane enjoying some calming tunes to scaling mountainsides once your vacation begins.  They cost about $180 and are a great investment for those who utilize their headphones often.

Helpful Accessories

Finding the motivation to workout while you’re on vacation can be tough, especially when you’re so tempted to just sleep in or lounge an extra hour or so by the pool.  Having helpful accessories from home just may be the kick you need to hop on the treadmill for some cardio.

  • Umoro Water Bottle:  For just $28.99, you can have a two in one water bottle that is BPA free, leak proof, scratch and odor resistant, and capable of holding 20 ounces of water.  The best part is, it also stores up to 100cc of powder.  Whether it’s your pre-workout or protein powder, simply press a button and it dispense it into the water below.  Give it a shake, and you’re ready to go!  It comes in four different colors so it’s sure to please every fitness fanatic.
  • Gaiam Yoga Socks and Gloves:  With yoga and pilates becoming increasingly more popular in workout regimes, these accessories are a must have during your travels.  They’re extremely lightweight and easy to pack and save you the trouble of toting around or buying a yoga mat for your travels.  They provide slip resistance, making it possible to do your stretches on any surface.  They offer a set for $19.99 but have separate pieces for as low as $9.98.
  • eKo SuperLite Travel Mat: Weighing less than two pounds, this workout mat is perfect for those on the go.  The fact that it is less than two inches thick allows you to fold it and place it in compact spaces, such as a suitcase or carry-on.  For just $40, you can take your pick of eight different colors and have a versatile, light-weight mat that can be used anywhere.
  • FitDeck Exercise Playing Cards:  Are you having trouble coming up with a variety of different exercises on your own?  FitDeck has the perfect solution.  There are 40 different decks to choose from in order to best fit your needs.  Whether you enjoy doing Pilates or need some exercises you can do while working in the office, or even on the golf course, there’s something for everyone.  You simply shuffle all the cards in your deck, and the exercise you pick is the exercise you do.  You could use it for hours or even just a quick fifteen minutes and they average in price from $9.95 to $14.95

Easy to Pack Equipment

With airlines becoming more and more strict regarding weight restrictions and the number of bags you’re allowed to check without additional fees, most of us try to pack as lightly as possible.  However, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to leave your favorite workout equipment at home.  We’ve found compact and lightweight solutions!

  • TRX Suspension Trainer:  While this kit is a little pricier, at just under $200, it will save you the trouble of searching for overpriced and underwhelming gyms during your travels.  The kit includes lightweight straps (under 1.5 pounds), anchors to secure them to doors and walls, and a mesh bag to store everything in.  You’ll be able to get full body workouts no matter where you go or what time of day you want to get some exercise.
  • Black Mountain Stackable Resistance Band Set: Similar to the TRX suspension trainer, this set costs much less at $32.99.  It includes five different bands that each have a different resistance level, detachable foam handles, anchors for door frames, a starter guide, and a case to store everything in.  Whether you’re outside in a park or stuck inside a hotel all day, you’ll be able to get great upper, lower, and full body workouts with just this kit.
  • Aquabells: These weights are designed specifically to provide a convenient way for travelers to get in a workout.  Starting at $29.95, there are a variety of different options to choose from.  You simply fill each aquabell with water to your desired weight, and then empty out the water and fold them up when you’re done.

No matter where you’re vacation destination is or what amenities are provided at your hotel, you can always find ways to stay fit and active while you’re away from home.  What’s your favorite way to workout during a trip?  Let us know in the comments down below!

12 Budget Friendly Airlines

Travel expenses can add up quickly, and what usually takes the biggest chunk out of a budget is the price of airline tickets.  Shopping around for different flights is certainly way to find the best price, but it can be time consuming.  We’ve put together a list of airlines that provide flights within the U.S. that won’t break the bank as well as some of the money-saving features each of them provides.

Airplanes at Airport Hangar
photo credit: Magalie L’Abbé

  1. JetBlue:  JetBlue Airlines provides flights all across the United States, as well as to the Caribbean and South America, at an affordable cost.  Many amenities are also included: your first checked bag is free, which is a great way to save money now that so many airlines are charging more for luggage.  Travelers are also allowed one personal item, like a purse or laptop bag, as well as a carry-on bag at no additional cost.  You’ll also have free access to DirectTV and SiriusXM Radio, as well as complimentary Shut-Eye Service kits should you book a red-eye flight.  You can also access in flight Wi-Fi for an additional fee and purchase snacks.
  2. Southwest:  Southwest Airlines flights travel around the U.S., as well as to some cities in Mexico and the Caribbean.  This airline allows for not one, but two free checked bags, and passengers are also allowed one personal item and a carry-on at no additional fee.  Special deals are often offered, and they can include hotel stays as well.  They also don’t charge fees for changing flight details should you need to.  Southwest also now provides in-flight Internet at an additional daily charge.
  3. WestJet:  For those flying around the U.S., Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, WestJet Airlines strives to provide affordable travel fare.  They even feature a price match guarantee; if you book a flight and then find the same flight at a lower rate, you’ll be refunded the difference in WestJet dollars, which can later be applied toward another flight.
  4. IcelandAir:  This airline provides flights that depart from plenty of cities throughout the United States and will transport you to Iceland, Canada, or Europe.  Specials are provided for groups of 15 or more booking flights to Iceland or Europe, which can be a great way to save on travel fees if you’re with a large number of people.  Depending on whether or not you upgrade your ticket, you’ll be able to bring 1 to 2 carry on items as well as an on personal item such as a purse or laptop bag at no additional fee.  Regardless of the type of ticket you buy, you’re able to check one bag for free.
  5. Aer Lingus:  With flights departing from major airports all around the United States, Aer Lingus transports guests to 14 different countries.  In-flight entertainment is provided for every guest.  You’ll have access to countless movies and music right in your seat back at no additional fee.  In-flight Wi-Fi can be purchased for either an hour, or the duration of the entire flight.  Guests also have access to designated lounges before their flights to unwind and relax.  Aer Lingus provides affordable flights without cutting back on the luxury.
  6. Hawaiian Airlines:  As its name would suggest, this airline is especially useful if you’re traveling to Hawaii.  Flights depart from several cities in the United States and can transport you around the country, as well as to Asia and the South Pacific.  Complimentary drinks, meals, and snacks are served during flights, and passengers have access to in-flight entertainment, which includes movies and music.  You can also stretch out more so than you typically would on most flights; Hawaiian Airlines provides spacious seating to ensure your comfort.
  7. Alaska Airlines:  Alaska Airlines transports guests all around the United States and Canada and provides many vacation deal offers.  There is a fee for checked bags, but you are allowed on carry-on and an additional personal item at no additional fee.  They also provide a $25 certificate that can be used towards flights should your checked luggage take more than twenty minutes to arrive at your destination terminal.  In-flight Wi-Fi is available at an additional seat, but each chair provides a complimentary charging dock for devices.
  8. Frontier Airlines:  Frontier Airlines takes passengers around the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  They provide many online deals to reduce airfare prices and allow you to choose whether or not you want to upgrade your seat, which lets you decide how much you pay.  Baggage fees also depend on the Fare Option you choose, which customizes a price specifically for how many bags you need to take on the plane, as well as for how many you plan to check.
  9. Virgin America: Travelers are able to book flights around the U.S. and to Mexico using Virgin America.  They also feature different “Love Match” specials; different flight options can be matched if you find a cheaper flight on another travel website.  This airline provides different class options, each of which featuring different price ratings for both carry-on and checked bags.
  10. Spirit Airlines:  Spirit provides flights around the U.S., Caribbean, and South America.  They offer an option many airlines don’t called the Bare Fare.  Rather than include the price of a checked bag and in-flight beverage, you can opt out of both, making your ticket cheaper.  Doing so allows you to take one personal item on board with you, like a laptop bag or small backpack, and any additional carry ons or luggage will cost you.  They also openly state that you won’t have tons of legroom, but it helps to cut down on costs because there are more seats on each plane.
  11. Sun Country:  Flights on Sun Country Airline transport guests around the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  One carry-on and an additional personal item per guest are allowed at no additional cost.  Only beverages are complimentary during flights; entertainment devices, snacks, blankets, and pillows can all be purchased at additional costs.
  12. Allegiant Airlines:  With flights all around the U.S., Allegiant utilizes many small airports and provides flights on days the most passengers want to travel, rather than every day.  Fewer flights means lower ticket prices.  Rather than including the price of one checked bag in each ticket, Allegiant allows travelers to choose whether or not thats a fee they need to pay.  Each guest is allowed one personal item at no additional fee.

It’s always important to shop around when booking airline tickets to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.  Different airlines offer different deals depending on the time of year you’re traveling.  Did we leave out any of your favorite budget-friendly airlines?  Let us know in the comments down below!

 

Cruise Guide: How to Book a Cruise

Once you’ve decided what type of cruise you’d like to take, you have to go about booking it.  The most popular way to go about doing so it to utilize a travel agent that specializes in booking cruises, but doing it yourself is always an option as well!  We’ve weighed the pros and cons of each to help you make a decision for the next time you book a cruise vacation.

Travel Agents Waiting to Help Travelers
photo credit: Platform London

Using a Travel Agent

Travel agents are a great tool for those who have never booked a cruise or planned a vacation.  They can also just make all of the planning much more simple.  They do, however, add to the cost of your vacation.  Do your research on various booking agencies and read reviews for individual agents before deciding on one.  Good travel agents should be able to answer all of your questions about your trip and find the best deal possible.  Many are able to throw in added bonuses like complimentary bottles of champagne waiting for you in your room and can offer deals that aren’t advertised on travel booking sites.  Travel agents will also keep in touch with you even after your trip is over.  They tend to offer deals they feel you may want to take advantage of as they arise, which can help to plan future vacations early on.  Make sure you’re looking into each of the options they offer you; the more expensive your trip, the higher their commission.

Solo Booking

The process of booking a cruise can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, but it is possible.  The majority of cruise goers do utilize travel agents simply because it’s more convenient and they are known for finding good deals if they’re from reputable companies.  Do your research on all the different types of cruises and the activities they offer to find one that best suits you and your traveling companions.  Book your cruise as early as possible and put down a deposit to guarantee your spot.  You can always upgrade later if better deals arise, but you’ll at least know the exact dates of your trip.  If you can be a little more flexible in terms of vacation days and rooming options, last minute deals are a great way to save money.  Depending on what you find to be easiest and most convenient, you can either book directly through cruise line websites, or you can use travel sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz.

When to Book Your Cruise and When to Go

Whether you’re using a travel agent or booking on your own, timing is crucial when planning a cruise.  Ideally, you’ll want to get the plans in motion as early as possible.  Booking a cruise during the “off-season” will always be less expensive than during busy vacation times like spring break or summer vacations for kids in school.  It’s also likely that they will be less packed.  Some destinations have limited cruise time as well.  For example, cruises to Alaska only run between May and September.

Have you ever book a cruise through a travel agent or on your own?  Which did you feel was the most convenient?  Let us know in the comments down below!

 

Tour of America: Winter

In the wintertime, you’re likely to see me sporting a blanket instead of clothes. All that appeals to me is the warmth of my bed, so if the bears are hibernating, then why can’t I? With the lack of daylight and increase of wind chill, going outside doesn’t sound fun in the slightest. However, we managed to find 5 places that have activities actually worth leaving your bed for!

Surfer Catching Waves in Hawaii
photo credit: AJ Feducia

Ehukai Beach, Hawaii

Ditch the snow and hit the waves with the world’s best surfers in Hawaii. On the Banzai Pipeline during the wintertime, you’ll find waves roaring onto the shore and soaring higher than 20 feet! These are the waves every surfer wants to conquer and, when the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing competition is held, everyone flocks to the shoreline to watch these surfers shred. “When it comes to surf, it all comes back to the Banzai Pipeline!”

 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Both the name of the town and the ski resort, Jackson Hole is a winter wonderland. With at least 459 inches of snow and 1250 acres of terrain, the Mountain Resort is a haven for advanced and beginner skiers alike. With Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks nearby, the opportunity to view majestic landscapes and roam among protected wildlife is within your reach. From natural spectacles to thrilling activities, Jackson Hole makes the outdoors a place for everyone to enjoy.

 

Fairbanks, Alaska

Alaska is close enough that you feel at home yet far enough away to experience an exotic land. Dogsledding is a common way to get around in this snow-covered paradise, and you can experience it while taking in the mountain scenery and forest frontiers. For a worldwide acknowledged display, the awe-inspiring dance of the Northern Lights in a night sky will draw you in and hypnotize you. Trek on to the northernmost point of America and breathe in the cool crisp northern air.

Lake Placid, New York

Stretching across six million acres and ⅕ of New York, the Adirondacks is the “largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States.” We will focus on the Lake Placid region, which is filled with snow-capped mountains at least 4,000 feet high, miles of frozen lakes, and, of course, the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Fun for the whole family, the Olympic Site hosts a bobsled ride, a 30 foot ski jump onto an airbag, and the chance to Skeleton, a sport that lets you slide down an icy chute on your stomach at 30 mph. Cultivate the relationship with your loved one’s in the middle of nature at Lake Placid Adirondacks.

Providence, Rhode Island

Now that we’ve covered the beach, natural phenomenons, and outdoor fun, we can’t forget the best thing in the world: food. Named as the #1 Food City, Providence has a week designated to celebrating their food scene. The Winter Restaurant Week happens every January with a myriad of different restaurants from oyster bars to mediterranean food, here is a list of participating establishments. For a fixed price, you get to enjoy a 3 course meal, so you’ll get to eat enough to last you all of winter!

 

Don’t let the cold intimidate you into staying inside, watching movies all day, and waiting for summer. This winter season, avoid cabin fever and go out for an adventure! What your favorite thing to do when it’s cold out?

 

Tampa Bay’s Best

The Tampa Bay Area is home to countless theme parks and activities that are loved by not only the locals, but by visitors as well.  We’ve come up with a list of all the must-see places and events you can participate in whether you’ve lived here your whole life or are just stopping by!

 Museums and Cultural Centers:

  • MOSI: The Museum of Science and Industry is open Monday through Sunday and provides a variety of different activities that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.  They host different workshops throughout the year, and shows and movies are always being featured in the IMAX Dome.  General Admission tickets for adults are about $23 while kids are $19, and they allow access to all of the exhibits featured, one show in the Planetarium, one film in the IMAX Dome, and Kids in Charge!, which is the child’s science center designated for kids 12 and under.
  • Straz Center:  The Straz Center for the Performing Arts features a variety of different types of shows ranging from Broadway plays to concerts and Latin nights.  Dedicated to keeping the arts alive, the Straz Center provides a vast variety of entertainment options for anyone in the Tampa area; even children’s shows are held on a regular basis.  Ticket prices are dependent upon the show you’re seeing, but the experience is most certainly worth the expense.
    Tampa Bay's Straz Center of the Performing Arts
    photo credit: Matthew Paulson 
  • Tampa Museum of Art: This art gallery features both modern and contemporary art with the goal of providing exhibits available to the public in order to educate both children and adults.  The museum is open Monday through Sunday and hosts special events throughout the year.  Adult tickets cost only $10, and students get in for $5.  Children under the age of 6 are free.
  • Tampa Theatre: Built in 1926 and designed by John Eberson, the Tampa Theatre is a beautiful, historic landmark that is dedicated to keeping the art of film alive.  Eberson was inspired by the scenery of Tampa to create a vision of a Mediterranean courtyard, complete with flowers, gargoyles, and even a realistic night sky ceiling adorned with lights to look like stars.  Classic films, new movies, concerts, and special events are all featured in the building’s auditorium.   When the theatre first opened, a mere 25 cents would get you into a movie.  Today, tickets cost around $11 per film.
    The Tampa Theatre
    photo credit: Matthew Paulson 
  • Glazer Children’s Museum:  The children’s museum is open seven days a week, and features a variety of different activities that are both fun and educational for kids.  More than 170 activities are featured in the museum and reading nooks are located throughout the building.  Kids get in for just $9.50 and adults are $15, which allows access to all of the exhibits for the day.  Membership options are also available.
  • Salvador Dali Museum: The Dali Museum is located in St. Petersburg and is dedicated to the works of the late Salvador Dali.  Within the museum are galleries, a cafe, a gift shop featuring unique souvenirs like melting clocks and glass jewelry, a theatre, and The Classroom, where children and adults can take art classes. The art doesn’t stop inside the building; the Mathematical Garden pays homage to Dali’s fascination with nature’s relationship to math, featuring a labyrinth and wishing tree.  The museum regularly hosts films, workshops, and lectures that can be enjoyed by the entire family.  Adult tickets will cost you $22, teens and students with college ID’s get in for $17, and tickets for children ages 6 to 12 are $10.The Salvador Dali Museum
    photo credit: Holmes Palacios 
  • Ybor Museum State Park: One of two National Historic District Landmarks in Florida, Ybor City is rich with the culture ingrained throughout all of Tampa.   With daily admission and adult tickets costing just $4, the museum serves as a great activity that will be both educational and exciting.  Your guided tour will take you to a main exhibit area featuring different aspects of Ybor such as its founders as well as information about early immigrants, a recreated cigar maker’s home, and a stroll through a Mediterranean-style garden.  
  • Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple: Often referred to as the Thai Temple, guests are permitted to immerse themselves within the Thai Culture and enhance their knowledge on Buddhist beliefs and practices.  Every Sunday, a market is held with authentic Thai dishes and dessert items prepared by temple volunteers that will only cost you around $3 to $5 each.   You can also purchase fruits, vegetables, and plants.  Meditation workshops are also held within the temple to promote relaxation and detoxification.
    The Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple, or Thai Temple
    photo credit: Varjohaltia 

State Parks and Outdoor Activities

  • Lettuce Lake Park:  Located in Hillsborough County, this park is a great example of the vast ecosystems present in Tampa and is a great way to spend the day outdoors.  There are several scenic trails to explore, as well as spaces available for grilling, picnic tables, fishing spots, and canoe and kayak launches and rentals.  It only costs $2 per car to enter the park, and is well worth the low price.
  • USF Botanical Gardens: Over 3,000 different plant species are featured on 16 acres of land within the gardens.  Different events are featured throughout the year like workshops and Orchid Expositions, and the gardens are open for general admission each day of the week.  Adults are granted access for just $5, and USF students with valid I.D. pay a mere $1.  All ticket and event proceeds go towards maintaining the garden and annual memberships are available for purchase.
    Plant Life Found in the University of South Florida's Botanical Garden
    photo credit: John and Anni Winings 
  • Upper Tampa Bay Trail:  With 7.25 miles of equestrian, biking, walking, and hiking trails, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail serves as a great way to explore areas of Tampa and all that it’s diverse wildlife has to offer.  There are also dedicated areas for bird watching, fishing and nature study.

Theme Parks and Attractions

  • Busch Gardens:  This Tampa theme park is a favorite among residents and tourists alike.  Now home to Falcon’s Fury, the tallest drop tower in the country standing at 335 feet, adrenaline junkies are sure to get their fix.  There is also a designated play area for children, a safari drive that takes you around the park to view all of the wildlife, and fun shows throughout the entire day.  Florida residents have access to unlimited access cards called Fun Passes where you’ll pay the admission price for one full day, and then you can visit the park any time you like!  Fun Passes are $95 for adults and $90 for children and essentially pay for themselves if you visit the park several times throughout the year.  You also receive perks like free parking and 50% off Howl-O-Scream tickets in October as well as 10% off food and tours.
  • Dinosaur World:  Located about 20 minutes from downtown Tampa in Plant City, this theme park will make you feel like you’re living your own version of Jurassic Park as you traverse across more than 20 acres of life-size dinosaurs and lush greenery.  There are scheduled shows throughout the day as well many interactive activities to choose from like fossil digs, dino gem excavations, and geode cracking.  Adult tickets will cost you about $17 while children get in for $12.  This park is also pet friendly, so be sure to bring the family dog along!
    Life Size Dinosaur Sculpture at Dinosaur World
    photo credit: Matthew Paulson 
  • Adventure Island:  While this park does close during the winter season, it’s the perfect way to cool down on hot Florida days during the remainder of the year.  This park is family friendly and provides activities for all ages.  There are designated kiddie pools, tall water slides, water roller coasters, and a lazy river to float down.  Annual passes are available for $120 per person.
  • Lowry Park Zoo: This non-profit zoo sits on 63 acres and is home to over 1,000 different animals.  Not only will you be able to view countless exhibits and habitats housing the animals, there are also several child-friendly rides to go on.  You can also go on guided safari tours of the park or experience hands-on time with the animals during one of two the interactive experiences, discovery center, Lorikeet Landing, and Stingray Bay.  Shows featuring the animals are also performed several times throughout the day.  Adult day-passes are $25 and kids’ tickets will cost you $20, and parking is always free!
    Entrance to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo
    photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife 
  • Big Cat Rescue:  Located near Citrus Park Mall in North Tampa, Big Cat Rescue serves as a sanctuary for more than 100 different big cats across 67 acres of land.  Some of the species living there include lions, cougars, bobcats, ocelots, and jungle cats.  This not-for-profit organization is a wonderful place to visit and volunteer to assist with the rehabilitation of the animals.  They are several different tour options given at different times of the day, so always be sure to check the schedule ahead of time to book one.  There are tours specifically designed for kids and families, daytime and nighttime tours, photo tours, private tours,  as well as feeding and training tours.  Prices vary depending on the kind of tour, and are all provided on their website.
  • Florida Aquarium:  The Florida Aquarium spans across 250,000 square feet in Channelside and is a not-for-profit organization.  Housing over 20,000 different species of aquatic animals and plants, this is a great place to visit for anyone interested in marine life.  There are several exhibits throughout the aquarium, as well as different shows and interactive activities guests can participate in including a 75-minute long wild dolphin cruise.  Tickets for adults will run you about $24 and children’s tickets are $19, but there is a slight discount if you buy them ahead of time online.
    The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida
    photo credit: Matthew Paulson

Whether you’re interested in riding roller coasters or learning more about the vast vegetation that thrives in Florida’s warm climate, Tampa Bay is a great place to explore and enjoy activities for all ages.  If you’re a resident of Tampa, what are some of your favorite places to go?  Let us know in the comments down below!

Traveling Smart: How to Choose the Right Type of Flight

While all of us want to get to our vacation destinations as quickly as possible, there are ways to save big bucks on travel fare if you’re willing to spend a little more time in airports.  Many think that both nonstop flights and direct flights both go directly to their final destination, but it isn’t the case.  Most of us try to avoid connecting flights because of their sheer inconvenience, but more often than not they’ll be your cheapest option.  We’ve created a quick guide to help you understand all the different types of flights so you can make the best decision for your travels!

Departure Times in an Airport Terminal
photo credit: Jonathan Percy

Types of Flights

Nonstop:  A nonstop flight is exactly what it sounds like; the plane takes off from one airport and lands in the destination airport without making any stops.  These flights are typically the most expensive, but also the most convenient.

Direct:  Direct flights are similar to nonstop in that you don’t have to get off your plane when it lands in a random city and then scramble through the airport terminal in an attempt to catch your next flight.  Although the plane does land, you remain on the same one and there is only ever one stop.  It can add at least an hour to your travel time, but is often less pricey than nonstop flights.

Connecting:  Connecting flights tend to be the least desired of the three simply because of the stress that often comes from trying to make a second flight in time, or having to wait hours at an airport during a layover.  Most tend to avoid having to take a connecting flight, but they can be much cheaper than a nonstop flight.

 

Choosing the Best Flight for your Travels

When choosing the type of flight you want to take, keep your budget and your ability to remain flexible in mind.  The best way to figure out what will work best for you and your travel party will simply be to shop around.  Check different airlines for what’s available and at what price.  If you’re traveling with small children, a nonstop flight is probably best for you.  If you’re on your own or traveling with just adults, looking into direct and connecting flights can save your group a significant amount of money.  However, be sure to remember to account for the added travel time, which can sometimes take up an extra day or two of your vacation.


During your travels, do you tend to lean towards a significant type of flight?  Let us know down in the comments below whether you prefer convenience, or saving money!

10 Adventures for Adrenaline Junkies

While some of us may want to spend our entire vacations lounging on the beach with a book in one hand and a cold drink in the other, crave vacation adventures that are as exciting as possible.  Daredevils seek out their adrenaline fix in countless ways, and we’ve come up with a great list of things to try all around the world.

Great White Shark Diving in South Africa
Swim alongside great white sharks of the coast of the Guadalupe Island.  You’ll be inside a metal bar cage but still inches away from the faces of curious powerhouses.  When you utilize the White Shark Diving Co., you’re able to have a party of 20 people on board, but can have smaller groups for a more private shark encounter as well.

A Great White Shark Being Baited During a Tour
photo credit: Stephanie Watson

Volcano Sledding in Nicaragua
Make your way to Bigfoot Hostel and prepare for a 45 minute trek up an active volcano just to slide back down!  Sledding down volcanic rock and ash isn’t quite like sliding across smooth snow, but it’s definitely an adrenaline junkie’s dream.   Once you get to the volcano, you get gum, water, a cookie, and beer.  Once you’re ready to sled you’ll be given a safety suit, gloves, goggles, and a board and the chance to slide down a volcano for just $31.  Once you make it back down to the bottom you can cool off and soothe your nerves with a refreshing mojito that’s also included.

Guest Rides a Custom Board Down a Volcano
photo credit: Pete

Storm Chasing across the United States
Storm chasing is extremely unpredictable and can be very dangerous. State of the art equipment is utilized by the team in order to make your tour as action-packed as possible as you traverse across several states chasing down tornadoes and storms.  At the end of your trip you’ll receive a complimentary DVD of highlights of all the dangers you encountered.

Silver Linings Storm Chasers Crew Film Approaching Storm
photo credit: Dave Malkoff

World’s Fastest Roller Coaster in Abu Dhabi
Formula Rossa is the fastest roller coaster in the world reaching speeds of up to 150mph at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.  The ride is so fast, guests have to wear safety goggles as they twist and turn around a track resembling that of what a profession racecar driver would find themselves on.

The Formula Rossa Roller Coaster takes Guests on the Fastest Ride of Their Lives
photo credit: Rafael Oshiro

Cave Diving in Florida
Inexperienced cave divers beware; The Devil’s Springs has many caves and caverns that are off limits for those who don’t have the proper training.  Ginnie Springs is one of the more popular diving locations in the U.S. for both beginners and veteran divers alike, but many areas don’t allow lights to prevent those who don’t know what they’re doing from getting lost within the complicated maze.  

Looking up from Within the Little Devil Spring at Ginnie Springs
photo credit: Natalie Gielen

World’s Highest Bungee Tower in Macau
Take a 764 foot plunge in Macau, Hawaii off the world’s highest bungee tower.  It’s accessible 7 days a week, every week as long as the weather permits.  Those wanting to make the jump even more thrilling can plunge into darkness during nighttime jumps.  If you manage to successfully complete the jump, you’ll receive a complimentary certificate and t-shirt to showcase your bravery!

A Brave Bungee Jumper Dives off the Macau Tower in Hawaii
photo credit: deming131

Heli-Skiing in Canada
For avid skiers wanting to up the stakes, heli-skiing in Canada is a great option.  You literally jump out of helicopters in order to reach heights and locations that otherwise aren’t accessible and make your way down complicated courses.  Your flight will also provide you with gorgeous views of Canadian landscapes that you couldn’t otherwise see in person.

Heli-Skiers in Canada Huddle to Protect Themselves from the Force of a Helicopter on Canadian Slopes

photo credit: Rita Jung

Zip Lining in New Zealand
Soar through the sky nearly 575 feet over Gravity Canyon in New Zealand at 100mph on the Flying Fox zip line.  Up to three people can ride together, just in case you need take a friend or two along to help with the nerves.  The course is a little less than a mile long and the first one of it’s kind to be designed anywhere around the world.

Daring Zip Liners Await to Drop from the Top of the Flying Fox
photo credit: Sally

Ride in the Olympic Bobsled in Utah Park
Spend the afternoon like an Olympic athlete during a ride in the Comet Bobsled.  A certified pilot takes teams of guests on rides down the 2002 Olympic track.  It features ten curves, and reaches speeds of up to seventy miles per hour.  The course is open from December to March, but can be subject to closing if weather gets too severe.

A Bobsled Team Races Down the 2002 Olympic Course
photo credit: Chris Coleman

Pilot a Jet Fighter in South Africa
Thunder City in Cape Town, South Africa, is home to more than a dozen different fighter jets that civilians can ride in, and even fly!  You can choose from several different types of jets that specialize in different flight types, such as vertical flying, low flying, and aerobatics.  You can steer alongside a pilot with side-by-side controls, or ride along beside a pilot without any controls of your own, but the task of navigator falls on your shoulders.

Fighter Jets Performing Aerobatics over Cape Town
photo credit: Wesley Nitsckie

Have you gone on a wild vacation adventure that we didn’t cover?  Let us know about your death-defying experience down in the comments below!

Traveling Smart: How to Handle Being Late to the Airport

Running Through the Airport
photo credit: Arthur

So, you’re busting out of your routine and venturing forth into the world of travel. The first step toward your destination is booking your flight, followed by weeks of fantasizing about all of the fun you’ll be having, and, before you know it, the impending moment of takeoff is upon you. Whether you’re a first time flyer or a glamorous jetsetter, whether it’s for business or pleasure, the airport is a hustlin’ and bustlin’ hub of movement, but there’s a sense of calmness in the storm if you do it just right.

Common scenarios on the day of your flight: hitting the snooze button 15 times in your sleep, a quick chat on the phone with your mother turned into a long-winded story about her eating habits, your dog looked cute so you had to pet him for 45 minutes, or you just lost track of time. Despite these factors, preparing for the inevitable will alleviate any stress.

Here’s a checklist to make running late to the airport an easygoing experience:

  • Check in early. Walk into that airport holding your boarding pass like a trophy and bypass the initial wait in line.

  • Strategic packing. Pack your carry-on in such a way that will make for a breezy security check, such as bunching together the liquids and placing the electronics in a TSA approved bag.

  • More bunching. Keep your ID, eBoarding pass, and wallet in an easy-to-reach area and whip it out special agent style.

  • Plan your transportation. If you’re driving yourself, then have a place in mind to park (like, you know, your local Discount Park and Ride partner), or let a reliable friend know about your trip in advance.

  • Weigh your bags at home. Weighing and measuring your bags at home will ease the blow on your curbside check-in, and will remind you to pack light.

  • Download helpful travel apps. TripIt, GateGuru, iFly Airport Guide, and FlightBoard are all great! TripIt will allow you to check the status of your flight, while GateGuru and iFly provide maps of the airport with checkpoint wait times. Lastly, FlightBoard lists the times for arrivals and departures for over 4,000 airports. Keep in mind that some big time airports have also launched their own apps.

  • Dress accordingly. We all know it’s coming, so we might as well brace ourselves for it – the security check. If you’ve got your ID handy, along with your liquids and electronics, then all you have to do is be mindful of everything you’ll have to take off when you get to screening. Better yet, if you wear slip-on shoes and keep your accessories in your carry-on, then you’ll be golden.

  • Be charming! A little bit of charm goes a long way, folks. If you need to come up with a story to tug at TSA’s heart strings, sweeten your tone, or flash that crooked smile, then don’t hold back. You might get a representative to pull some strings and lend you a hand.

  • Run. You’re on a mission here, travel warrior! Throw a jive here, a spin move there, and finish off with a slide – the only shame you’re willing to face is missing your flight. (But we know that is not going to happen now, is it?)

If all else fails, here’s some advice from the experts:

  • “Many major hubs like Dallas/Fort Worth have smartphone apps: Download a map of your connecting airport and flight schedules for alternative routes.” —Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare

  • “Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days for domestic and international travel—lines are shorter and fares are lower. Some airports have peculiar peak times: lines at Miami International Airport run out the door on Saturday mornings, when the cruise ships dump their passengers.” —George Hobica, president, Airfarewatchdog

  • “Dress up! People wearing impressive clothes are treated better.” —Simon Doonan, Creative Director, Barneys New York

  • “Use a TSA-approved laptop bag—you just unzip it, lay it flat, and send it through the scanner.” —Bill Miller, Senior VP of Strategic Partnerships, CheapOair