Trip Coach: June 13, 2006
Pam Grout: Hi everybody--Thanks for joining me to talk about girlfriend getaways, one of my favorite topics of conversation.
Miami, FL: Can you give your suggestions for cooking school vacations in Italy?
Pam Grout: There's a great website with all sorts of Italian cooking schools. It's cookitaly.com. What a great way to spend a vacation.
Sacramento, CA: Hi Pam, I am a single woman whose girlfriends are all married or otherwise coupled, and cannot go on getaways due to time or money issues. I have gone on vacation solo before, but I'd really like to travel with some other friends and be with a small group of people with similar interests. How can I find other singles who'd want to travel together to Hawaii who live in my area? Thanks for your assistance. Vanessa
Pam Grout: There are a bunch of websites and outfits that hook singles up to travel together. I'm partial to the ones that team you with girlfriends with similar interests. I have a whole section in the back of my book about these, but here are a couple off the top of my head: womentraveltips.com, journeywoman.com
Orchard Park, NY: My three college friends and I get together every fall ... this year's trip is scheduled for the weekend of November 3-5. We had settled on NYC, but then they went and changed their minds on me, and now are making me go to Skaneateles, NY to the Mirbeau spa, which is luxurious and decadent, and very expensive. Please, find something positive about this for me ... what is there to do in Skaneateles, NY besides get a facial ... which I can do here in Orchard Park just fine. Help me. I can't back out, it's criminal. Signed, 36 and still meeting annually...
Pam Grout: Well, I really don't care where I travel with my girlfriends just as long as they're with me. I realize money can be an issue (and that's probably not quite fair if one of you doesn't have access to the same resources), but overall, the value of a girlfriends getaway is not the destination, but the journey--the chance to talk and just commune.
Osan, South Korea: I'm getting ready to move back to the US, specifically Montana. A few of my friends have talked about traveling up there so we can go to a dude ranch. Any suggestions for a group of females on where to get that experience? Marla
Pam Grout: There's a dude ranch association that will put you in touch with dude ranches in all 50 states--yes, believe it or not, every state has at least one dude ranch. I had a great experience in Montana at the Sweet Grass Rancher's association. They invite folks to live at their ranches--some of the ranches have a whole home, some it's a trailer by the river. But it's a great chance to really meet some Montana folks whose families have been there for generations. Talk about a reality vacation.
Palmer, AK: A girlfriend & I are thinking of going to NYC while the Christmas decorations are up. We have never been there before--how many days do you think we should go for & what should we use for transportation? Thanks
Pam Grout: The thing I love about New York is you can get pretty much anywhere by subway. Every now and again, it's handy to take a taxi, but I love getting around in New York. As for number of days, you will never get bored. Go for as many days as you can afford. The shopping, the shows--I'm telling you, you could live the rest of your life there and never run out of things to do.
Kirkland, WA: Six girlfriends will be renting a house in San Miguel Allende the first week in July. It will be hard to do a lot of things as a group but I was thinking maybe we could all visit a spa together. Any recommendations? Thanks
Pam Grout: Spafinder.com has suggestions for spas in any destination. It's pretty easy to find a spa nearly anywhere you go. I even wrote about a spa once in a town in Kansas that had a population of 600 folks. Gotta love those ubiquitous spas.
Auburn Hills, MI: Tell us about one of your favorite girlfriend getaways and what made it so special. What is the max you like to include in your girlfriend getaways?
Pam Grout: I have loved every girlfriend getaway I've ever been on. I tend to travel with some of the same girlfriends so I know what to expect. Usually it's just three or four of us. If you take too many girlfriends, it can be a bit problematic. As for what made it special, it's just that chance to be together--away from all the pressure of family and housework and jobs and all those things that keep us from communing with special friends. As I say in the book, I think a yearly girlfriend getaway should be mandatory for every girlfriend over 18.
Chillicothe, OH: A group of friends from work would like to take a trip during our holiday shut down in December. We get the week off between Christmas and New Years when most destinations seem to have no discounts. Any ideas where we can go that won't cause us to strain our bank accounts?
Pam Grout: Hi Ohio--If you look hard enough there are discounts every week of the year. My current favorite is southwest airline's beep. You sign up to be on their beep list and they beep you every so often (at least once a day) when they are offering discounts--usually less than $50 one way to all sorts of destinations.
Lansing, MI: During July, my roommate and I will be driving across the country and have already made our hotel reservations. We will be staying in St Louis, Missouri; Hayes, Kansas; Grand Junction, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; and finally, Camarillo, California. We were wondering what to do in these places to have fun like the locals do. Specifically in Kansas. Could you help us? Thanks.
Pam Grout: Kansas. Well, I happen to think Kansas is one of the most interesting states and because most people don't know that, you kinda get the place to yourself. I'm an expert on oddities (I've written 3 books on curiosities), so I like some of the offbeat things. You can dig for dinosaurs (lots and lots to be found) near Scott City, you can visit a bunch of presidential libraries--Eisenhower's of course, but there's an also-rans museum in a bank. Also ran's are the presidential nominees who didn't make it, there's a presidential museum for a guy who was president for one day and, of course, the Bob Dole Institute (another wannabe president) in my hometown. Well, i could go on and on about Kansas, but I suggest either of my two books--Kansas Curiosities and You Know You're in Kansas When.
Grundy Center, IA: My family and I will be visiting Vienna, Austria from 12/29 to 1/2. My daughter, who will be 13, and I are interested in a "girl's day" at one of the spas in the Baden region south of Vienna. Have you any suggestions for a place to go that the both of us would enjoy? Thanks in advance for your help! -Marcia
Pam Grout: I love the spas in Baden. You might forewarn your 13-year-old daughter (mine is 12, so I know the age group) that people are a bit more open with nudity in Europe. My daughter's used to it, but it can tend to shock and embarrass that age group. I already mentioned spafinder.com. but there's also experienceispa.com that might have specific suggestions. Just google spas and Vienna and you'll get lots of suggestions.
San Diego, CA: Hi Pam, My girlfriend and I are trying to plan a trip out of United States, but we just cannot figure where to go. Since both of us are female, so we would like someplace fun and safe. We are very adventurous girls. We are willing to spend only US$1500. Any Suggestions? Thanks!
Pam Grout: I'm a big fan of Rio Caliente near Guadalajara, Mexico. It's relatively expensive, located on a natural hot spring and far enough off the beaten path that you will not feel threatened one bit.
Minneapolis, MN: My sister and I are going on a tour of Italy with a group of seniors. We would like a side trip to Fatima, Portugal and would appreciate any advice. We will be doing that portion on our own, unless we hook up with a tour but timing could cause problems with that. There is a 3-4 day period at the end of our tour Nov 29-Dec 2 that we could fly to Lisbon, take a bus to Fatima and back to Lisbon and then to Venice to go home with our group. We speak no Portuguese or anything but English. Any ideas would be appreciated.
Pam Grout: I love the Algarve region of Portugal. I haven't been there in a while, but it was super inexpensive and I didn't have a lick of problem with my lack of Portuguese. I went on my own (I did have a car), but it was very easy to find places to stay and things to do. I'm a "follow your nose" kind of person and if you are, too, you will do fine without a tour group.
Minneapolis, MN: Every May our husbands spend a weekend fishing "the opener", and the women take a weekend away. Where would you recommend a group of about 8 women, ages 40-70, to go together for a quick weekend away?
Pam Grout: From Minneapolis, you could do a fun shopping excursion in Chicago. Or head on over to Door County, Wisconsin that has spas and just about everything else you could want to do.
Santa Clarita, CA: Our daughter will be 21 on Aug 3. She and a group of young ladies will be in Las Vegas Aug 4 and Aug 5 for some wild and crazy times. They have reserved rooms at the Hard Rock through a discount connection. Do you have any suggestions for hot spots for their night time entertainment (keeping in mind they are college girls on a college budget)? -A concerned mom of four
Pam Grout: The nice thing about Las Vegas is that things are cheaper. Because they make all their money on gambling, you can score all sorts of deals on meals. Wild and crazy, of course, will be easy to find in Las Vegas. You can just walk around with your mouth agape at all the big hotels--they're a tourist attraction in themselves.
Petal, MS: Where can 50 year old divorcees go to have fun with men their own age or older? Dating in my hometown is been nonexistent.
Pam Grout: From where I'm standing (I'm 50, too) there are men everywhere. I know Alaska has an abundance of single men, plus what a great place for a girlfriend getaway.
Whittier, CA: Hi Pam, Here's my question: Next year, I'll be turning the big 4-0 and would like to take a trip w/my sisters (50 & 45). I've told them I'd like to be in Italy on my birthday, but am unsure whether to take a tour (which I've done before) or if we should go it on our own. Can you recommend a tour outfit who give you more free time than, say, Trafalgar or Globus (both good companies, but rather rush rush)? Or what is the best and safest way for 3 women to get around. Our main focus would be Venice, Florence and Rome w/maybe some stops in between. We'd like to take 8-12 days. Thanks in advance for your help. Rita
Pam Grout: Again, I'm a big one for letting fate lead the way. I like venturing out on my own, although it's not for everyone. You could buy a eurail pass and get around easily. I always do that and get suggestions on where to go, what to do from my fellow travelers. It's a good way to practice language skills and meet people and get recommendations on the VERY best places--straight from the horse's mouth. It sorta depends on the personality of your fellow travelers.
Austin, TX: First of all, LOVE the mag!!!! My girlfriends and have been doing girlfriend getaways for about 20 years. We are all turning 50 next year and are in the planning stages of a med cruise. Question: What do you recommend as the best excursion trips? Any "unknown" places?? Beaches?? etc. Look forward to hearing from you!! Linda
Pam Grout: Hey Austin--Happy 50th! Me and my crew of girlfriends are also turning 50 this year. We're looking at all sorts of options. But a mediterranean cruise sounds fabulous. Not having done one, I'm hoping you'll report back to me.
Glassboro, NJ: I'd like to go to Salem, MA the first week of October with my sisters for some Halloween fun. How can we do this for three days relatively cheap? We'll be driving and we range in age from thirty five to forty five years old.
Pam Grout: Salem is great during October--they celebrate Halloween the whole month. There are costume balls and psychic fairs and all sorts of bewitching to be had. Lot of the events are free and if you really want to do cheap, you can stay in college residence halls at Salem State College
Helena, AL Seven of us middle-aged girl friends will be sharing a villa in Tuscany the second week in October. Three or four of us are staying another week and have yet to decide where we might go, except for CincaTerra (sic). What are your suggestions for places of interest, good food, wine, shopping and scenery? We arrive and depart from Florence.
Pam Grout: Here's an idea. I'm big on doing girlfriend getaways with a theme--read Under the Tuscan Sun (maybe you already have) and try to recreate. A friend of mine did a recreation of Field of Dreams (complete with video camera) and had the time of her life. And as for good food and wine, shopping and scenery, is there a place in Tuscany without good food and wine, shopping and scenery????
Pittsburgh, PA: Can you tell me the best time of the year for specials, deals, promo's to visit Las Vegas? Also if I wanted to go to Sams Town or Laughlin, what should I expect compared to the Las Vegas Strip? Thanks
Pam Grout: If you can swing going to Vegas during the week, you can get all sorts of deals. The big hotels are more expensive on weekends. You can save up to $150 if you can go on say a Tuesday.
Jersey City, NJ: My friend Brandy and I (both in our early 30's) are starting to plan this year's girl-trip. We don't have a lot of money to spend or a lot of time (probably a long weekend from Thursday night until Monday night). We'll probably be traveling in the middle of August. We've been considering Montreal for a while and traditionally prefer to bypass the usual touristy things and go straight for local favorite haunts, restaurants, shops and scenery. What would you recommend we do and see while we're there? Thanks for your help! Michele
Pam Grout: Good for you for recognizing that the local's haunts are the best place to really get to know a place. Montreal has all sorts of interesting neighborhoods--Greek, Jamaican, Haitian, etc. And, as for those 100 bells, you can probably hear them wherever you go in the city. There's a book called Quebec: Off the Beaten Path that might come in hand. If you have time, head out to the Laurentians, one of my favorite places. It's only 45 minutes away and the guys, who would be Jack and Paul, are Jacques and Pierre in the Laurentians.
La Grange, TX: Four girlfriends are planning a trip to Italy in the fall of 2007. We plan to stay around 14 to 16 days. Of course, we would like to see as much of Italy as we could. We all in our 50. We will be flying out of George Bush in Houston, Texas. Mary
Pam Grout: That sounds like a fabulous trip--14 to 16 days. Get some shopping done in Milan. What you see in Milan will be in style in America (and everywhere else) in a year. This is the city that international garmentos go to find goods they will tote back to Hong Kong to reproduce as expensive copies. Elegant boutiques and posh cafes are found in charming Victorian-era buildings. Be sure to check out La Rinascente, Milan's own department store and Provers, a must for vintage wine selection.
Seattle, WA: As a high school graduation present, I am taking my eighteen year old granddaughter to Italy next Spring. She wants to go tourless, on our own. I am somewhat intimidated, and I am clueless how to start, although I did take beginner's Italian this Spring. Although I will be 75 years old, I am in very good shape. Can you help me with a plan for a ten day trip? Where do I start? My granddaughter is majoring in art. I don't want to rob a bank to make this possible!
Pam Grout: What a nice grandma you are. That is one of nicest graduation gifts I can think of. If your daughter wants to go tourless, she must have some ideas of what she wants to see. And if she's majoring in art, she probably already knows the best places--Rome, Florence, well, the whole of Italy is one big art gallery. Instead of going completely tourless, how about going with one of those companies that will put together a special itinerary just for you--tell them what you want and at least get a hotel booked in two or three cities you want to visit. You can get the museum tickets while you're there and you'll both get what you're looking for. You'll have a tad bit of security and she'll get her sense of tourless.
Washington, DC: Going to Vegas on Wednesday 6/14/06. Where is the best place to get spa services and purchase show tickets? Thanks
Pam Grout: If all else fails, you can contact the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Their phone number is 702/892-0711 and their website is lvcva.com. Good luck and win some big money for me.
Pam Grout: Thanks for all your fantastic questions. Here's to lots of great girlfriends getaways with all your favorite people.
How Was the Trip to L.A.?
In our special Girlfriend Getaways issue, we coached four friends from Idaho going to Los Angeles to celebrate turning 40. The women tell us they had a fantastic time. "We gawked, gabbed, and giggled our way through L.A.," says Tracie Finney. "We noted many times how our husbands would never go for the things we were doing." Trip highlights included taking a Starline bus tour through ritzy neighborhoods where the stars live, a face-to-face run-in with Tim Allen while he was promoting The Shaggy Dog, shopping in Beverly Hills, "lots of laughs" at Menopause: The Musical, and a taping of Ellen DeGeneres's talk show. "We stayed at the Chamberlain West Hollywood," says Tracie. "Loved that hotel. The room was lovely, comfortable, and quiet. The staff was beyond friendly. If we had a question, they had an answer." On their final day, the women headed to Venice Beach, where this picture was taken (from left: Tracie, Allison, Dalene, and Debbie). "It was a very successful trip," says Tracie. "We have tons of great new memories. Thank you again!" Related Articles: Planning a Girlfriend Getaway to L.A.
Table of Contents: July/August 2006
Highlights from the July/August 2006 issue: My Shanghai Is Better Than Yours As the editor of Shanghaiist.com, Dan Washburn has learned far more about Shanghai that we ever could hope to, so we've invited him to tell us the best places to eat, shop, and play Plus: Download the Shanghai listings (PDF) Secret Hotels of the Amalfi Coast Reid Bramblett scoured Italy's cliffside villages--and the island of Capri, while he was at it--for million-dollar views at hundred-dollar prices Rome Snap Guide Slide show: The Amalfi Coast Why Drive Yourself Crazy? Excruciating commutes . . . Three-dollar gallons of gas . . . The never-ending quest for a parking space . . . You need a vacation--from your car. In these four friendly cities, you can walk everywhere you want to go Maps of walkable cities 20 Tips Find out why you might want to a pack a shoe organizer, contact lens case, or light stick on your next trip Trip Coach: Europe A couple from Madison, Wis., asks for our help planning the pit stops on their motorcycle tour around Europe New Hotels in New York City Midmarket brands are opening sleek hotels all across Manhattan, delivering a quality of life most new arrivals take years to achieve Map of new hotels in NYC Why Haven't You Heard of the Lavezzi Islands? There are no hotels on the Lavezzi Islands. No cafes, either. Not even a single toilet. And that's precisely why people come. Made in Uruguay A growing community of designers is bringing new life--and style--to Montevideo's Ciudad Vieja This Just In! Sleep with the fishes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, play free golf when staying at a Hilton Garden Inn, and cruise for $24 per night on EasyCruise in Holland and Belgium Climbing Cape Town Hikers on a new cushy three-day trail can expect to encounter at least one tablecloth along the way Plus: Download the Cape Town Snap Guide Urban Treasure Hunts Looking to explore a favorite city and meet interesting people? Go on a newfangled treasure hunt Discount Airlines in Mexico Low-fare carriers are transforming the way travelers zip around Europe, Asia, the U.S.--and now, Mexico Outdoor Gear: On Sale By midsummer, companies are already looking to the next season, unloading warm-weather inventory at steep discounts Keep Your Dog's Tail Wagging American Kennel Club staffers offer tips for traveling with your pet Finally, a Tent With No Assembly Required See how the Quechua 2-Seconds Tent works Photo Solutions While some digital cameras are loaded with gimmicks you'll never use, a few new ones have genuinely practical tools. Get the Most Out of Your African Safari It's a big trip in terms of time, planning, and money--so before heading into the lion's den, conduct a bit of research Trip Coach: Planning an African Safari To Boycott or Not to Boycott The truth is, there are pros and cons to visiting countries with sketchy human rights records Maximize Your iPod The ultimate on-the-go gadget can do a lot more than just play tunes Road Trip: The Catskills In the Borscht Belt, organic greens are beginning to trump Shecky Greenes. But if you skip the summer classics--like hiking and tubing--the joke's on you 40 Best Vacations The real deals right now True Stories Travel is stranger, funnier, and more heartwarming than fiction. Plus, a chance to win round-trip Business Premier Class tickets to New Zealand from Air New Zealand or four nights at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, a RockResort in Colorado. What $100 Buys in...Nevis The Caribbean island is almost always mentioned in the same breath as its sister, St. Kitts--and yet Nevis has a spirit entirely its own.
Hotel Info a Text Message Away
Stuck spending the night at LAX? Send a text message that says "Los Angeles hotels" or the local zip code and "hotels" to 4-INFO (4-4636), a free text messaging information service. It quickly returns a list of nearby lodgings plucked from Hotels.com's database. Don't see what you want? Just reply "m" for more options. To check rates, send another message with "reserve" and the city name or zip code. The hotel look-up is the latest addition to 4INFO's convenient--and also free--text searches for restaurants, weather reports, and flight schedules and delays as well as sports scores, stock quotes, and more 4info.net. Maximize Your Phone: Text Messaging Tricks
A Stylish Travel Companion
Finally, a guidebook you can carry without being embarrassed! (Well, maybe.) We got an advance copy of one of the new Wallpaper City Guides, put out by London-based Wallpaper magazine--and it's foxy. In fact, it's probably the best-designed guidebook we've seen in a while. It's small and thin, fitting nicely in a back pocket; it has handy chapter tabs; and instead of the usual lame cover photo, each city guide will have a simple color field--the effect is reminiscent of Pantone chips or paint samples. Twenty guides will be launched in October, with 40 more coming in 2007 (all published by Phaidon). There's not a lot of info inside, but the info may not be the point. Splurges: Glossy Coffee-Table Books