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apr 17 2015

Contiki Wants Millennials To See The World!

Contiki in Paris

This epic jumping photo in front of the Eiffel Tower was taken during my first Contiki trip to London and Paris. I'm second from the right.

(Courtesy Kaeli Conforti)

Attention Millennials: Get ready to have the time of your life! BT readers between the ages of 18 and 35 can save 15 percent on four fabulous Contiki tours when they book by Apr. 30th for travel thru 2015.

apr 17 2015

Win an Amazing RV Trip!

Summer's coming and it's time to hit the open road on an RV adventure!

(Go RVing)

Can you feel it? Summer is coming and we're ready to hit the open road!

Budget Travelers know that weekend road trips, scenic drives, one-tank escapes, and fun getaways to America's Coolest Small Towns are some of the best ways to travel. And this year we're going big. As in... RV big! One family will earn the chance to "Get Away to Get Closer" including a weeklong RV trip thanks to our friends at Go RVing.

apr 16 2015

This Weekend: Don't Miss The New York Travel Festival!

New York Travel Festival

Join us for this year's New York Travel Festival April 18th and 19th in NYC's beautiful Upper West Side.

(Courtesy New York Travel Festival)

If you're in the NYC area this weekend and love to travel, come check out the New York Travel Festival, an event geared towards travel enthusiasts of all kinds, whether you're in the industry (or looking to become part of it), a lifelong or long-term traveler, or you just love new experiences and want to see the world. I'm also going to be participating in a panel discusson Sunday at noon—Affordable Luxury: Yes, You CAN Afford It!with Christine Wei from ShermansTravel and Tom Meyers from EuroCheapo, and hosted by Ko Im—so come by and say hello!

apr 15 2015

Is America Ready for Another 'Vacation'?

(Courtesy Hopper Stone/Warner Bros.)

You've missed the Griswolds, haven't you? They almost feel like family, right? Maybe you've even wondered where life took the bumbling brood after the credits rolled on their last misadventure?

America loves the Griswolds (the hapless clan from the National Lampoon's Vacation film series) because they are a fun-house mirror reflection of our own travel aspirations. We appreciate their bottomless optimism in the face of fail after fail. We laugh at the Griswolds because, in our quiet moments of self awareness, we're afraid that we are the Griswolds. Led by patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase), the family somehow finds its way into every deliciously inevitable (and utterly preventable) travel mishap. In fact, the Vacation series was such a great example of how not to plan and execute a family trip that Budget Travel devoted an entire feature to them: "Vacation Lessons From the Griswolds."

apr 15 2015

BT Staff Picks: 8 National Parks We Love!

Half Dome in Yosemite

Half Dome, as seen from Glacier Point in Yosemite, one of our favorite national parks.

(Courtesy coreybyrnes/myBudgetTravel)

Visiting a U.S. national park is a bargain no matter what day it is, but this weekend, on April 18 and 19, admission to every park is free in celebration of National Park Week. Can't decide which one to visit? Take the National Park Service's quiz on FindYourPark.com to find out which of the U.S.'s 407 parks you should explore first. (The Statue of Liberty is one of them!) The site and social-media hashtag #FindYourPark is part of a public awareness campaign for the service's centennial anniversary in 2016.

apr 14 2015

Carnival Cruise Lines to Start Charging for Room Service

carnival cruise ship
(Courtesy traveluver/myBudgetTravel)

This article originally appeared on Fox News Travel.

Carnival has announced it will start testing a 24-hour room service menu on board several ships—but premium service comes with a fee.

apr 13 2015

For Daring Drivers Only: The World's Scariest Roads

Maui black sand beach along the road to Hana

Paradise is worth the risk, which is why the 42 miles of Highway 360 to Hana in eastern Maui are such a tourist favorite.

(Courtesy jenn76/myBudgetTravel)

This article was written by Greg Keraghosian and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

Maybe someday, Doc Brown will be right. Maybe we won’t need roads. But until we all get a flying DeLorean, we’re going to be using them in our travels, and often they’re a big part of the fun.

For some, that fun requires trying not to die when you’re driving said roads. If you just can’t feel satisfied without navigating hairpin turns, dizzying elevations, and gravel surfaces with no guardrails to protect you, we’ve got you covered with this bucket list of freaky routes.

Some of these are highly traveled destination roads, some get very little traffic, and others are obscure to most drivers. But if you can patiently and carefully handle them in the proper vehicle, you’ll be rewarded with some tasty visual treats, plus access to unique mountain-climbing and cycling adventures.

We’d tell you to buckle up, but we’re not sure how much that will help you here:

Lippincott Mine Road, Death Valley National Park, Calif.

This little-used 7-mile route in and out of the park near the famous Racetrack Playa really puts the “Death” in Death Valley. It’s a faster route to the park than others, but you might be clenching your jaw the whole way trying not to fall hundreds of feet to oblivion, and it’s not for the casual driver or the casual car. This is four-wheel drive territory only.

My friend Doug did the honor of driving us out of Death Valley via Lippincott at the end of our camping trip last fall, and by the time we had slowly descended the almost-2,000-foot drop, I felt like the park had chewed us up and spat us out into Saline Valley.

What could kill you here? Let us count the ways. There are no guardrails, and there is the constant threat of a steep fall if you’re not careful—at times, there’s just a foot or two of gravelly space to navigate. You’ll be driving around or over some large rocks that could break down your vehicle, and if that doesn’t do it, the park’s intense heat could if you’re making the uphill climb into Death Valley during the hotter months. There’s no towing service, no water source, no road signs, and no cell reception. Other than that, this drive is like Christmas.

Still, competent drivers in the right vehicle can make this trip safely. Make sure you stop along the way to capture some gorgeous views of the valley below. Also, if you enter the park this way, you’re just three miles from the Racetrack and its otherworldly beauty. Just play some Metallica at full blast as we did in this video clip to give you the adrenaline rush you need to survive.

Road of Death (North Yungas), Bolivia

There’s nothing ironic about the name of this 38-mile journey that goes from over 15,000 feet in La Paz to 3,900 feet in Coroico—it is the black widow of roads. Its claim to fame is being named the world’s most dangerous road by the Inter-American Development Bank, and it’s estimated that 200 to 300 people traveling on it die each year.

It’s not hard to see why the road is so dangerous: It’s barely the width of one vehicle, with no guardrail to protect you from falls of up to 2,000 feet. Rain can make the road muddy and slippery, and rain or fog can reduce a driver to feeling blindfolded.

Still, there’s a siren song here that attracts thousands of people, from danger-loving tourists to hardcore cyclists. The view of the Amazonian rain forest is astounding, and standing right over the sheer drops here will bring out the lemming in many of us. Tour groups that serve the road include Barracuda Biking and Gravity Bolivia.

Trollstigen Mountain Road, Norway

As dangerous roads go, this is among the most visited in the world, and for good reason: It overlooks a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Geirangerfjord on the west coast of Norway. I’d like to say that I gave death a noogie as I raced this road’s 11 hairpin turns and 9 percent incline in an Alfa Romeo, but in fact, I slowly weaved through it on a large tour bus. Next time, I swear.

Dangerous conditions here include the incline, narrow driving space, and the poor traction and visibility that come with rain and fog. But oh man, those views: There are ideal photography opportunities where you can pull over and capture the fjords and lush valleys below, and waterfalls so close you can touch them. Note: The road closes in October and opens in May.

Related: A-ha! The Ultimate All-Norwegian Playlist for Exploring Norway

Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii

Paradise is worth the risk, which is why the 42 miles of Highway 360 to Hana in eastern Maui are such a tourist favorite. You’ll have to navigate through and around 600 hairpin turns, 54 one-lane bridges, steep cliff drops, falling rocks, and even some confusing mile markers that reset. Plus it rains often, so there’s that.

But the rewards for your risk are considerable: You probably won’t have time for them all, in fact. The road itself is full of pull-over-right-now photography opportunities, but venture deeper and you’ll find such rare beauties as Wai’anapanapa State Park’s black sand beach, Twin Falls, Wailua Falls, and the laid-back charm of Paia Town. Drive slow and you’ll be fine here—you’d better, in fact, because police strictly enforce the 25 mph speed limit.

Related: Life Lessons from Maui: What I Learned Driving the Crazy Road to Hana

Dalton Highway, Alaska

While the Road to Hana is seductively warm and dangerous, this frosty, gravelly, pothole-laden route is as seductive as a White Walker in Game of Thrones. The Dalton Highway was opened for one thing: transporting oil. And it covers 414 miles of desolate, icy terrain.

This is the route of Ice Road Truckers fame, and you’ll have to excuse the truckers for thinking you’re crazy if you want to drive this highway for fun. Let’s put aside the freezing cold and often-miserable road conditions, with 18-wheelers pounding your vehicle with ice. On a single 240-mile stretch, there are no gas stations, restaurants, or basic services—the longest such stretch in North America. There are three—count em, three—gas stations the entire way. And don’t count on cell service at all.

Still, there are enticements to taking your chances here. You can say you’ve crossed into the Arctic Circle, which the highway does. And if you visit at the right time, you can slowly pull over and watch the northern lights.

A guide is highly recommended here unless you know your survival skills, as you’ll need to pack provisions, including gas. And be on the lookout for freeway closures, such as the one that happened just after flooding from the Sagavanirktok River.

Related: An Alaskan Adventure—Ice Road Trucking Under the Northern Lights

Karakorum “Friendship” Highway, China and Pakistan

For some real altitude, take your chances with this 800-mile drive. At 15,397 feet, it’s the highest paved international road in the world. And you can get a sense of how dangerous it is just by knowing that about 1,000 workers died building this freeway before it opened in 1979.

The road’s nickname stems from the collaboration between China and Pakistan in building it, but it can be unfriendly in practice, with little driving room, sheer drops, no pavement on the Pakistani side, and flash floods.

However, Karakorum is an adventure lover’s delight. Comprising part of the old Silk Road trade route, it offers views of soaring mountain peaks such as the K2 (second-highest mountain in the world), massive glaciers such as the Baltoro, and sprawling rivers such as the Indus.

Skippers Canyon Road, Queenstown, New Zealand

Welcome to a road so dangerous, your rental car insurance won’t be honored if you drive on it—only one other road in New Zealand has that honor.

Yet you will be tempted to drive this one-lane, twisting terror with steep drops because it abounds with natural beauty and photo ops, including the Shotover River directly below you. Skippers Canyon Road is cut into the side of a mountain and extends 16.5 miles in New Zealand’s South Island, 25 miles from Queenstown. It’s considered one of the country’s most scenic routes. The miners who built the road in the late 1800s didn’t think much about luxury, though—it’s unpaved and very narrow. Should you encounter a car driving the other way, one of you will have to back up gingerly until you can find enough room to pass. Good luck figuring out which of you that will be.

For an adventure trip, you can hire a tour bus to do the driving for you, such as a jet boating tour with Skippers Canyon Jet.

Fairy Meadows Road, Pakistan

Is climbing the world’s ninth-highest mountain not challenging enough for you? Fine. Just try driving to the base of it. If you want to climb Nanga Parbat, you’ll have to ascend six death-defying miles to Fairy Meadows. The gravel road is completely unmaintained, there are no guardrails to protect you, and it gets so narrow that near the end you’ll have to cover the last section by walking or biking. The road is prone to avalanches and heavy snowfall, and it closes in the winter.

Los Caracoles Pass, Chile

If you impressed yourself by driving down the curves of Lombard Street in San Francisco, this is just like that, only 1,000 times more challenging. Called the “Snails Pass” by locals, this serpentine mountain pass in the Andes connects Santiago, Chile, to Mendoza, Argentina. It reaches 10,499 feet in elevation, and this being in the Andes, it’s known for getting heavy snowfall: About 15,000 travelers were stranded for 10 hours on the Argentine side in 2013, when the road had to be closed because of snow and cold.

When you reach the summit of this road, you’ll pass through the Cristo Redentor tunnel, and the heaviest, steepest switchbacks are on the Chilean side. You may need tire chains and plenty of patience to make it through here, but if you take your time, you should be able to avoid an accident.

Bayburt Of Yolu-D915, Turkey

We’re saving our most obscure road for last, though it’s arguably more dangerous than any other on this list. The D915 connects the Turkish cities of Bayburt and Of, near the Black Sea, and it spans 66 miles. It has many of the same hazards of the Death Road in Bolivia: It’s only a lane wide in some sections and unpaved, with elevation exceeding 6,500 feet and no guardrails protecting you from certain death. The often-poor weather adds to the danger.

Says the website Dangerousroads.org, “Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice… the steep part is simply terrible. Curvy roads descending down the cliffs, often so narrow that you cannot turn the first time.”

There are 29 hairpins turns, and things get gnarly in Çaykara, where the road climbs from 5,616 feet to 6,676 feet in just 3.1 miles, with 13 hairpin turns.

apr 12 2015

How to do London on a Budget

(Mailis Laos/Dreamstime.com)

This article originally appeared on BedandBreakfast.com.

London repeatedly makes top 20 lists for travelers. The city often ranks high on diverse culture, amazing food, millennia of history, and an overwhelming number of great attractions. But it also ranks as one of the world’s most expensive cities. In fact, Skift ranked London second for most expensive hotel rooms in 2014, and US News placed it in their top 15 priciest cities for travelers.

apr 09 2015

Make Thai Coconut Ice Cream at Home!

Thai coconut ice cream
(Courtesy AsiaRooms.com)

Suffering from coconut ice-cream withdrawal symptoms post-Thailand trip? Here at AsiaRooms.com, we understand that feeling completely. Desperate for a fix? Try this super-simple homemade coconut ice cream recipe and enjoy the tastes of Bangkok right in the comfort of your home.

apr 07 2015

How to Take the Ultimate Game of Thrones Vacation

The alcazar courtyard, seville

Reports indicate the Alcázar courtyards in Seville, Spain, will serve as the Water Gardens Palace in Dorne, home of Prince Doran Martell on the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones.

(Courtesy nancyb926/myBudgetTravel)

This article was written by Sid Lipsey and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

When we last saw Game of Thrones two of its most interesting characters were traveling, and not for pleasure: The too-smart-for-his-own-good Tyrion had to go on the run after murdering his vengeful ex and complete jerk of a father, and teenage badass Arya hit the road because... well, because she really had nothing else to do.

Fortunately, we Game of Thrones fans can travel just like our favorite characters from the show—and, unlike them, have fun doing it. Fans have begun taking pilgrimages to the international locations where the show is shot. And places where the Game of Thrones cast and crew spent last year filming Season 5 (which debuts on HBO on April 12) are expected to see massive increases in tourism.

Related: You Can Take a Cruise Based on 'Game of Thrones'?

Various touring companies are offering special Game of Thrones-themed vacations to Season 5 filming locations (luxury travel referral service Zicasso is offering GoT tours of Season 5 filming locations in Spain and Croatia).

Here are the spots you'll want to see after you've watched the new season. Just don't be too disappointed if you don't see any dragons.

The Alcázar of Seville: Seville, Spain

What it is in real life: A former Moorish fort that's now the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.

What it is on Game of Thrones: Reports indicate the Alcázar courtyards will serve as the Water Gardens Palace in Dorne, home of Prince Doran Martell. He's the older brother of the late Prince Oberyn, whom we last saw getting his eyeballs squished out during an especially gory trial by combat. You'll be happy you still have your eyeballs when you gaze upon this beautiful place.

Osuna, Spain

What it is in real life: Home of the nearly 500-year-old Osuna University building.

What it is on Game of ThronesVarious reports suggest a pivotal Season 5 battle scene was filmed at Osuna's century-old bullfighting ring. GoT fan site Watchers on the Wall snapped a photo of an actor who appeared to be a stand-in for Peter Dinklage (aka Tyrion Lannister) on the set.

The Alhambra Palace: Granada, Spain

What it is in real life: A stunning fortress complex that dates to 889. It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What it is on Game of Thrones: Crews reportedly visited this complex while scouting for shooting locations. Did they actually shoot anything here? We'll have to watch to find out.

Related: 12 Things We Learned About Travel From Watching 'Game of Thrones'

Klis Fortress: Klis, Croatia

What it is in real life: A nearly 2,000-year-old fortress that overlooks the city of Split. It is famous for its legendary defense against the 16th-century Ottoman invasion.

What it is on Game of ThronesWhere Daenerys Targaryen begins her drive to free the slaves of Meereen, culminating in her brutal crucifixion of the slave owners.

Diocletian's Palace: Split, Croatia

What it is in real life: One of the most popular attractions in Croatia's second-largest city, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What it is on Game of ThronesThe city of Meereen, where Daenerys Targaryen ruled over her newly freed slave population last season. Watchers on the Wall reported that the Game of Thrones crew returned here to shoot scenes for Season 5.  

Dubrovnik, Croatia

What it is in real life: A former war-torn city that has become the jewel of the Adriatic.

What it is on Game of Thrones: Kings Landing! This is the site of countless backstabbings, one gut-wrenching beheading, an icky incestuous affair, Tyrion's sweet victory in the Battle of Blackwater, and karma's even sweeter victory at King Joffrey's wedding.

Related: The Ultimate 'Game of Thrones' Escape in an Iron Age Hut

Krka National Park, Croatia

What it is in real life: The seventh-largest national park in Croatia.

What it is on Game of ThronesA frequent go-to location for outdoor scenes.

The Cathedral of St. James: Sibenik, Croatia

What it is in real life: Consecrated in 1555, this cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What it is on Game of ThronesAll signs point to this city standing in as Braavos, where young Arya Stark was traveling to at the end of Season 4.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

What it is in real life: The capital of Northern Ireland.

What it is on Game of Thrones: One of the main filming locations and a mecca for fans. Queen Elizabeth II even dropped by to visit the cast as they were filming Season 5. Many interiors were shot at Titanic studios, while outdoor settings like Winterfell and Robb Stark's camp were shot nearby.

A number of operators offer tours of the various locations. The cable company Xfinity is even offering its customers a Game of Thrones Belfast vacation.

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