Budget Travel Editors answered your questions
Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for joining us this week. Let's get to your questions!
Vandergrift, PA: Planning on visiting D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival around the end of March, and would like some recommendations on an economical place to stay with good access to events, museums and dining. Hopefully without having to drive once I am there. That being said, what would be the best way to get around the city? Thanks for the help. Jerry
Budget Travel Editors: This year D.C.'s popular National Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 15 through April 9, and the city's convention and tourism board has put together a series of hotel specials from $99 per night. The catch is that many of the centrally located properties are already selling out for weekends during the festival--and the cheapest rates tend to be for hotels in outlying areas of Virginia and Maryland. A quick search for March 31 - April 2 reveals a $169 nightly rate at the Beacon Hotel at 1615 Rhode Island Ave., NW, including suite accommodations, breakfast for two, and a 10 percent discount for lunch or dinner at the Beacon Bar & Grill. The same rate applies to Holiday Inn on the Hill at 415 New Jersey Ave., NW, including breakfast for two. (The Radisson Hotel in charming Old Town Alexandria is slightly cheaper at $149, but it's an inconvenient location if you won't have a car handy.) One of our favorite places to stay in D.C. is the Hotel Harrington, which sits just a few blocks from the White House and Mall and starts at $115 per night for a double room. The easiest way to get around the city is by metro. You can find a map of the color-coded lines at wmata.com.
Atlanta, GA: I am surprising my mother, who lives in Bermuda, with a 4 day trip to NYC on June 6-9th to see The Color Purple on Broadway. We would like to visit the Schomberg Research Library in Harlem, but I am at a loss about what else to do/see. We will arrive on Tuesday about 1pm and depart Friday at 3pm. What suggestions do you have for 4 star hotels near the theatres, 5th Avenue shopping, and easy access to the subway? Also, her birthday is Friday June 9th and I would like to do something special for her before we depart. Any suggestions for a holistic day spa? Also, she is an excellent amateur interior decorator. Any tours/shopping districts we should plan to see? Thank you, Catherine
Budget Travel Editors: Sofitel New York, and Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel are both central Times Square properties. The Metamorphosis Day Spa comes recommended, but the city is full of spas and body treatment centers. You should chance upon many just strolling around. If your mother loves interior design, she must go visit the boutiques in the Soho shopping district of New York City. Each store is uniquely decorated, and though the merchandise is sometimes too pricey too afford, experiencing the decor is definitely worth the trip. If your mom enjoys museums, check out the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum on Fifth Avenue, and the Municipal Arts Society, which offers in-depth walking tours focusing on city architecture. We have a bunch of articles on New York City that may be helpful such as our downloadable New York City Snap Guide packed with insider tips on the best places to eat, drink, shop and play, How to Buy Broadway Tickets, and a look at the MoMA's renovation, The Re-Imaging of a Museum.
Branford, CT: I will be travelling to Mazatlan, Mexico from 4/14/06-4/22/06. Are there any special events happening at that time? Also, I need to know if their electrical current is the same as the US. I cannot survive without my hairdryer. Thanks for the information.
Budget Travel Editors: The week of "Semana Santa" (Holy Week) will be coming to an end the first weekend you will be in Mazatlan. This week runs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. During this time you may witness the tradition of the country, which is the breaking of "cascarones", colored egg shells filled with confetti, over friends and family. People also decorate their houses with flowers and palms during this time. Definitely a sight to see. Bullfighting is also popular in Mazatlan. Bullfights are held at the Plaza de Toros Monumentual at Calzada Rafael Buelna (699/993-3598). The bullfighting season runs from December until April, so you might have a last chance to catch one!
Baseball season in Mazatlan also ends around March/April time. Los Venados (the Deer) is Mazatlan's major league and can be seen at the stadium at Calle T. Mariscal (699/981-1710).
Electricity in Mexico is supplied at 110 volts, 60 cycles, the same as the US. Be aware that some hotels may have older, non-polarized sockets (which fit two prongs that are the same size), and your traditional US appliances may have prongs that are "polarized" (i.e. one of the prongs is slightly larger than the other), and the polarized prongs may not fit in non-polarized sockets! Ask your hotel which they have, and if they have adaptors available for you. They might also have a hairdryer in the room already, saving you the work!
Vancouver, WA: My sister and I enjoyed our "sister's getaway" to Italy last year so much that we've decided to make it a regular occurrence (well, once every 3 years due to budget constraints and to not make the kids too jealous). Last time we visited Rome, Anacapri, Pompeii, and Tuscany and fell in love with the whole area. This time we've decided to opt for something a bit different and want to spend our spring holiday in the "heal of the boot", or the Puglia region. The trouble we are running into though is a lack of information. We are struggling to find inexpensive local lodging or sites to see. Can you help us? Thank you, Wendy
Budget Travel Editors: Of course! While Puglia remains off-the-beaten path for most travelers, it has been generating increasing attention lately and for good reason. You'll find the world's only trulli--wonderfully odd conical houses, some of which have been converted to inexpensive lodgings--sun-soaked olive groves, picturesque hilltowns, bustling port cities, and classic cucina povera dishes. Our recent article, Once Upon a Time in Italy, tracks a journey from Alberobello, trulli central, to Matera, a frozen-in-time town known for its sassi cave dwellings (Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of the Christ here!), to the baroque city of Lecce. It's packed with tips on what to see, where to eat, and places to stay. The region is serviced by trains, but you'll want to rent a car if you plan to explore beaches along the coastline or more remote towns. Once in places such as Bari, Lecce or Matera, walking is the way to go. Bari and Brindisi are the closest airports. If possible, avoid traveling in July or August when temperatures are blistering and Italians head to the beach for vacation. One last note: you and your sister should keep an eye out for a special BT issue later this spring devoted to your new tradition--girlfriend getaways!
New York, New York: My girlfriend and I have a trip planned to Turkey. We have all the reservations and details (kinda) worked out to see Istanbul but after that we have around 4 more days to see the rest of Turkey. While I understand that is not enough time to see "ALL" of Turkey, we have decided that we would either like to spend our extra time on the Agiean Coast or Cappadoccia (Central Turkey). I was curious what you felt was a better destination for first timers to Turkey? Best, Matthew
Budget Travel Editors: While a visually stunning must-see for any serious visitor to Turkey, the Cappadocia area and its famous fairy chimneys, Byzantine churches, and Hittite ruins are better left for a longer itinerary. It takes about 10 hours by bus to get from Istanbul to Central Anatolia so you'll lose two days in transit. Even with an overnight bus ride, you'll likely be too tired to truly enjoy climbing through the caves and exploring the underground cities. The Aegean Coast and its many seaside villages would be a better option. Izmir (formerly Smyrna), one of the Mediterranean's oldest cities and the area's largest and most known destination, is about five hours south of Istanbul by bus. Home to one of the seven churches of Revelation, beach areas, and plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants, the city is also a good home base for daytrips to the mythical Troy and ancient Roman town of Ephesus (both about 30 to 45 minutes away).
Consider traveling a few hours further south to Bodrum, a smaller coastal village filled with lots of quaint, budget-friendly inns and scores of restaurants serving fresh seafood; you might even spot some Turkish pop stars in the local bars. Rent a private boat for about 100 euros and do some deep-sea swimming (some will serve a fresh meal on board), relax on the beach, or wander through St. Peter's castle, now an archaeology museum. Also, a simple 30-minute ferry ride will take you to the Greek Islands of Rhodes (filled with ancient ruins) or Kos (the Brits' Cancún). If seeing the Greek Islands aren't your thing, fill your open afternoons scoping out other small towns and ancient ruin sites scattered around the Bodrum area.
Clarksville, Indiana: My wife and I are planning a trip to Florence and I am looking for a nice hotel to stay in. Can anyone please help. We would like to stay in the middle of town if possible.
Budget Travel Editors: Our advice would be to consult the article Secret Hotels of Florence & Venice. It includes some real regional gems, and prices rarely exceed $100/night!
Washington DC: What's the best to look for an inexpensive trip to Costa Rica or Brazil? When is the best time to go if you want to go before May?
Budget Travel Editors: In general, I'd recommend traveling BEFORE May (when rainy season begins) and checking in with companies that specialize in travel to those parts of the world. Tico Travel would be my top pick for Costa Rica and Marnella Tours and Traveland.com for Brazil. You'll get the best value by booking your airfare and hotel together. Should you choose to book those components separately, then check out our two recent articles. The first: Secret Hotels of Costa Rica. And the second, The Deeper You Go, the Sweeter It Gets.
Los Lunas, NM: Planning Trip to Copper Canyon. Want to go down into the canyon besides just seeing it from above in the lodge.
Budget Travel Editors: A company called Caravan Tours offers an amazing 8-day trip through the Copper Canyon by train for $995. It includes meals, river floats, stops at Indian villages and more. If you decide to drive down the canyon, make sure to have a safe car, and only drive during daylight hours. Copper Canyon is a must-see, and you're right to want to venture below.
Mastic Beach, New York : My husband and I are very interested in trying one of those Spanish language immersion vacations. I'm a school librarian (who would REALLY benefit from learning more Spanish- there are a lot of families in my school district whose primary language is Spanish), so we have to travel during the summer or school breaks when everything seems to be expensive. We are in our mid-20s, we don't know much Spanish, and we are on a budget. We would appreciate any suggestions or recommendations you may have.
Budget Travel Editors: More and more language schools are popping up in Spanish-speaking countries, so finding one that works for you shouldn't be too much of a challenge. The very least expensive way to go is to do a homestay in conjunction with the actual classes, but most schools also offer a price for people who would rather find their own accommodations. Academia de Español Quito combines intensive Spanish language classes in the morning with sightseeing and city exploring in the afternoon. Courses range from one to eight weeks and prices start as low as $370 per week, not including airfare ( academiaquito.com.ec). Innovis International Training Center in Costa Rica also offers intensive Spanish language immersion. Courses range from five days to four weeks in length, and include at least one excursion (museum visit, city tour, volcano hike, etc.) per week, from $175. Another great option is to choose a vacation destination in a Spanish-speaking country and look for a language school there. Oaxaca, Mexico, for example has a language school that offers a full week's worth of language instruction for only $150, and they also include workshops and a field trip in the cost! Visit iccoax.com. (Check out our upcoming May issue for lots of great things to do in Oaxaca.)
Frisco, Texas: We are planning a family gathering in Jackson Hole in September around Labor Day. There will be up to 12 people, all adults, all outdoor enthusiasts (with varying degrees of adventure enthusiasm). Getting there isn't the problem, but we could use help in planning lodging and activities (beyond Yellowstone)! Thanks!
Budget Travel Editors: Jackson Hole's ski resort offers up some decent lodging packages in the summer--stay in Teton Village and you could get a horseback ride and passes to the local rodeo thrown in for free, or check out the Village Center Inn, which offers more condo-like properties with their own kitchenettes (jacksonhole.com). For outdoor enthusiasts (regardless of enthusiasm level) there is plenty to do in the area. Raft the Snake River with Jackson Hole Whitewater, no rafting experience necessary (jhww.com), take advantage of the miles of hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park, and though a little hokey it's still fun--watch the shoot out reenactment from the roof of the Rancher Bar on Sundays at 6:15PM.
Cleveland, OH: What is the best time of year to visit Anguilla, and what do you recommend for accomodations and restaurants? Bridget
Budget Travel Editors: Like most Caribbean islands, Anguilla is blessed with blissful year-round temperatures that almost never get below 70 and max out at about 90 degrees during mid-summer. The rainy season, from August to November, brings the occasional downpour, tropical storm, or hurricane, and some hotels on the island close during the most active hurricane months (September and October) for maintenance work. The island tends to be one of the priciest in the region, but amidst the luxury resorts and private condos and villas, there are some options that won't require a Gold Card. Your best bet would be visiting in mid-to-late November or early December, just as hurricane time comes to a close and before high season rates kick in. Check out the Ku otel overlooking Shoal Bay East (ku-anguilla.com, 800/869-5827) or Carimar Beach Club (carimar.com, 800/235-8667), both have rooms or suites starting from $160.
As for restaurants, the beach-front Ferryboat Inn (ferryboatinn.ai, 264/497-6613) near the Blowing Point ferry terminal dishes out cheaper Caribbean-French fusion (escargot bourgignon, grilled swordfish). Conveniently enough, the Inn also rents two-bedroom beachhouses and one- and two-bedroom apartments starting from $90. Or nose out Ripples (264/497-3380) in the bar- and restaurant-filled Sandy Ground; the eatery has a cozy vibe that's well paired with local fish dishes and manageable menu prices.