Do you use Pinterest for Vacation Ideas?
Believe it or not, Pinterest just got more addicting. Not only can you find photos, boards, and graphics for everything from knitting projects and classic recipes to travel quotes and holiday decorations, but now you can actually map out your dream trips and travel bucket list adventures. Social media sites like Pinterest are making it easier to plan your dream vacation, providing a wealth of ideas and images to help you get the ball rolling. According to this recent article by Skift, Pinterest is also planning to bridge the gap between fantasizing about and planning your vacations to being able to book them, but that's still to come.
Budget Travel first came onto the Pinterest scene a little over a year ago with three modest boards highlighting our feature articles (see our Budget Travel Collections board, now serving as our Pinterest story archive), Readers' Best Photos, and Travel Deals to Get Now, and have since grown to more than 30 boards.
We couldn't resist testing out Pinterest's Place Pins, a new feature that lets you tag the name of the place in your photo so it appears on a fancy map powered by Foursquare, showing the exact location. Check out our Best Budget Hotels, Wonders of the World, Brag-Worthy Passport Stamps, and A World of Christmas Trees boards to see the new trend for yourself.
Santa Teresa: Machu Picchu's Jungle Gateway
This article was written by Maureen Santucci. Originally from the U.S., Maureen now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for almost five years, working as a travel consultant and writing for Fodors Travel Guide. She wrote this article on behalf of Peru for Less, a travel company specializing in tours all over Peru. If you don't have time to get to the beaches of Northern Peru or to the jungle, you might want to take a short side trip to Santa Teresa while you are visiting Machu Picchu. Located a short train ride from Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo), this town give you the opportunity to get away from it all without having to go too far off your designated path. Not many options exist yet in terms of lodging, but that is sure to change in the future. For now, your best bet is the EcoQuechua Lodge. It feels like a true jungle lodge, with rooms that open out onto the surrounding high jungle. There isn't a lot of wildlife here, as you would find in the Amazon, but there are plenty of birds and it is a real treat to wake up to the sounds of them singing all around you. Just staying at the lodge can be enough of a break, but there are other activities nearby that you can take advantage of. The nearby Colcamayo hot springs are one of the best around—a much better option than the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, the name of the town (Hot Waters) notwithstanding—with pools of varying temperature so you can enjoy searing hot Jacuzzi-like waters or just swim in those that are warm rather than hot. Bear in mind that they are closed a couple of times a week (currently two mornings) for cleaning so be sure to find out the current schedule ahead of time before taking a taxi to the springs. Adrenaline junkies should try the nearby a zipline, while coffee lovers can take a tour of the coffee plantation. The organic beans from this high jungle region are considered to be among the best in the entire world. It's not just interesting to learn about the process, bags of the ground coffee or beans make great presents to take home. If hiking is your thing, a visit to a coffee plantation can be followed by continuing up an old Inca trail to the archaeological site of Llactapata. This site has a direct line of sight to Machu Picchu, and was important in Inca times during solstice celebrations honoring the sun. If your time or physical fitness isn't up to a multi-day trek, this is a great way to get that same vibe and still have a hot shower and a comfortable bed at the end of your day. Please note that there are only a few trains that go between Aguas Calientes and the hydroelectric station each day, and you can only purchase the tickets at the respective stations. Because of the limited train schedules, you should booking your travel with an agency as they will be able to coordinate your Machu Picchu visit along with Santa Teresa so that you make the most of your available vacation time.
Best Places to Hike in Patagonia
This article was written by Myer Henderson of Say Hueque, a travel company that specializes in tours of Argentina, Chile, and Patagonia. Mountains and glaciers define the gloriously vast region of Chile and Argentina known as Patagonia, a dream for any nature or adventure enthusiast. Whether you are interested in an easy afternoon walk, a challenging multi-day hike, or something in between, this region has options for everyone. Here's a look at our favorite hikes. Bariloche, ArgentinaThe city of San Carlos de Bariloche, commonly nicknamed Bariloche, is a haven for hikers, kayakers, and skiers alike. As far as hiking trails go, the Refugio Frey/Nuñez Trail is one of the best in the area. Stretching high above the lake and town of Bariloche, this trail features a number of charming surprises. Hikers will be delighted to find crystal-clear streams trickling through the forest portion of the trail, as well as a lovely view of Lago Gutierrez. Try the scenic bike ride and easy hike locally known as the "Circuito Chico" for beautiful views of the mountain lakes and Llao Llao Forest. Chaltén, Argentina"El chaltén," or "the smoking mountain," is an extinct volcano that is almost constantly surrounded by clouds at its peak, most likely due to its former fiery status. But don't let that scare you. An adventure up Mt. Fitz Roy, along the trail to the spectacular Laguna de los Tres, provides some of the most breathtaking views in all of Patagonia. It's a four-hour hike each way, but gorgeous views of a dreamlike lagoon and the looming glacial structure known as Laguna de los Tres make this trek well worth the effort. Torres del Paine National Park, ChileThe mountains, rivers, and lake in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, are stellar backdrops to some of the most incredible hiking experiences available in all of Patagonia. The natural glacial sculptures known as the Torres del Paine are best accessible via the "W" trail, which takes 3-5 days to complete. It will lead you through the immense French Valley, an enormous natural amphitheatre crafted by glaciers. The "W" trail that leads to Torres del Paine possesses a rich natural beauty all its own, emphasized by flowing rivers and thick beech forests. At the end of the journey (which becomes significantly more challenging towards the end), the view of the strong, somber Torres del Paine rising above a glacial lake is your reward. This is a truly incredible naturally-crafted masterpiece that must be seen to be believed. For more information about hiking in Patagonia, Argentina vacations, or tours in Patagonia, visit sayhueque.com.
Save Big by Traveling During "Shoulder Season"!
If you're planning a winter vacation, you've probably noticed that some of the most beautiful, luxurious spots are also the most crowded and expensive. It's just the laws of supply and demand. But what if I told you there was a "sweet spot" that travel experts call Shoulder Season between the pricy high season and the less-desirable (often rainy and cold) low season? Over the next few months there are a few great opportunities to beat the crowds, enjoy nice weather, and even save some money. DECEMBER Some warm-weather destinations become super-popular over the holidays and into January and February. But escaping to the desert or a beach in between the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel rushes can yield nice bargains: Arizona. The desert sun, spas, and golf courses are warm and inviting in mid-December, but the crowds stay away. Book a room at the lovely Wingate by Wyndham, Scottsdale, for around $111 on Kayak, half of what it will cost in January. The Bahamas. Just one example of a mid-December Caribbean bargain, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort and Casino runs about $139, compared with $175 in January. JANUARY Some Southern U.S. destinations see a serious drop in travel traffic right after the holidays. Early January is the time to see: New Orleans. Before the Mardi Gras hoopla (plus crowds and rising hotel rates), you can enjoy warm weather and NOLA hospitality for a song. Westin New Orleans Canal Place is a stylish steal at $169 in mid-January, but soars to $229 in February as Mardi Gras approaches (March 4). Orlando. Sure, central Florida can be a tad chilly in early January, but tie a sweater around your waist before setting off to Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, or SeaWorld Orlando and reap the benefits of the post-Christmas, pre-winter-vacation lull: The Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway is $70/night compared with $105 during Christmas week. FEBRUARY Okay, February is actually one month out of the year when there's technically no true "Shoulder Season"—warm weather destinations are packed and everywhere else is a bit cold and rainy. BUT we have two exciting suggestions nonetheless: Venice. Yes, it may be rainy, and you may even experience the "high water" that can turn sidewalks into mini-lakes. But as the water rises, rates tumble. Pack some rainboots and prepare to score bargains and have this truly magical one-of-a-kind city all to yourself. The Bonvecchiati Hotel runs only $158/night in February, compared with $359 in May! Hawaii. Good news: Hawaii's weather is always good! February is a little on the rainy side, but that just means misty mornings and rainbow-producing showers at unexpected moments during the day. We love Honolulu's Hotel Renew, on Waikiki Beach, which is yours for $152 in early February, compared with $205 during popular July. MARCH Dublin, Ireland. Really, any European capital is going to be a crowd-free bargain in March—just bear in mind that a seat at a café will be a little chilly! We love Dublin right now because of the year-round good deals, like the historic Gresham Hotel Dublin (a gorgeous classic that makes an appearance in James Joyce's "Dubliners"), which is $122/night, a 10 percent savings over July. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. March is also a good time to consider a far-flung destination, like this perfect Southeast Asia beach, which has made a striking comeback from the tsunami of 2004 and has added so many hotel rooms lately that prices have fallen, especially compared with its more-famous neighbor, Phuket. Mama Beach Residence starts at $98/night. TALK TO US! We want to know: Do you have any favorite Shoulder Season steals to share?
Great Getaways: Chicago
If you're looking for a fun, affordable Chicago city getaway, the options are endless: you can spend the day shopping your heart out along the Magnificent Mile, cruising the Chicago River, and even go to the beach on beautiful Lake Michigan. It's a great walking city—you'll even see tourism officials around to steer you in the right direction, and if all else fails, the L metro system isn''t hard to navigate. In short, there are enough parks, museums, and family-friendly attractions to keep everyone entertained. Plus, there's great food everywhere—deep dish pizza or Chicago-style hot dogs, anyone? We've got eight ways to soak up the city whether you're in town for the week or the weekend. Take your picture with Cloud Gate (aka. The Bean)A great only-in-Chicago photo-op is having your picture taken while your image is reflected in Cloud Gate, or The Bean, an impressive work of public art by British artist Anish Kapoor. It's located in Millennium Park, a popular spot for concerts and festivals in the summer, so keep an eye out and visit this website to learn more about upcoming events. Free. Face your fear of heightsIf you're going to do it, do it in style. Chicago is home to two of the tallest buildings in the country, Willis Tower (aka. The Sears Tower until 2009) at 110-stories (1,729-feet tall) and The John Hancock Observatory, located on the 94th floor of the 1,506-ft tall John Hancock Center. Both are covered by the Chicago CityPASS, giving you beautiful panoramic views of the city around you—the John Hancock Observatory offers great views of Lake Michigan, while Willis Tower is home to the ultimate daredevil photo-op: Skydeck Chicago on the 103rd floor gives you the chance to stand on the Ledge, a series of four glass boxes 1,353-feet up that extend out from the building by 4.3 feet, letting you look out and straight down, if you're brave enough. This is one of those only-in-Chicago experiences you'll want to have, if only for the bragging rights. Both attractions are covered by the Chicago CityPASS. Skydeck Chicago costs $18 for adults ages 12 and up, $12 for children ages 3-11, or save time in line with the express pass for $40 per person. The John Hancock Observatory costs $18 for adults ages 12 and up, and $12 for children ages 3-11. See the city by boatFor a totally different take on the city, try a 90-minute boat ride along the Chicago River and on Lake Michigan with Wendella Boat Tours, a family owned and operated Chicago business that's been showing visitors around town since 1935. Enjoy smooth sailing and hear all about the amazing architecture and buildings around you—you might even recognize parts of the city that were featured in The Dark Knight Rises and other Hollywood hits. During the last half of the tour, you'll go through the lock and sail into Lake Michigan, giving you spectacular views of the Chicago city skyline and Navy Pier along with views of Museum Campus from the water. The Combined Lake and River Tour is not covered by the Chicago CityPASS; tickets are $28 for adults, $26 for seniors 65 and up, and $14 for children ages 11 and under. Children under the age of three ride for free. Save five percent by booking your tickets online. Visit Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago CubsBaseball season may be over right now, but check back in March of 2014 for tours of this 100-year-old classic American ballpark. You'll get the inside scoop on the history of the ballpark and learn little background stories about things that influence the game we know today. (Did you know this was where the tradition of singing the National Anthem originated? During the 1918, it was sung to honor the Veterans of World War I. Wrigley Field is also home to America's first concession stand and the first place that allowed fans to keep homerun baseballs as a souvenir.) You'll hear all about the infamous Goat Curse, a strange phenomenon that started in 1945 when someone was refused entry because they wished to be accompanied by their billy goat mascot and placed a curse on the field so the Cubs would never win a World Series (it's been 68 years and they still haven't won!) and get a chance to get your picture taken in the Cubs dugout. Tours last about an hour and cost about $25 per person; check the website for more details. Ride the Ferris wheel at Navy PierThe Windy City is home to one of Budget Travel's favorite boardwalks and one of the most incredible Ferris wheels in the country: The Navy Pier Ferris Wheel at Pier Park. Embrace your inner child and treat yourself to a seven-minute ride that gives you a whole different view of the city and Lake Michigan—take in the festive amusement park atmosphere at night to see the city really sparkle. If you're really feeling the vibe, take a spin on The Wave Swing and enjoy all the inevitable childhood amusement park flashbacks as you swing to the music with all the other big kids. Visit this website for pricing options at Pier Park. Rides on the Ferris wheel or Wave Swing cost $6 each. Save time and money by investing in a Chicago CityPASSThere are so many things to see and do in the Windy City, and a big chunk of them happen to be covered by the Chicago CityPASS, a package that effectively saves you 49 percent and gives you VIP admission to five major attractions. You'll score VIP entry to Shedd Aquarium, fast pass entry to Skydeck Chicago, an all-access pass to The Field Museum—the last two options are your choice of entry to either the John Hancock Observatory or the Museum of Science and Industry, and entry to either the Adler Planetarium or the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago CityPASSes for adults over the age of 12 cost $89, while passes for children ages 3-11 cost $79. Indulge in a little museum hoppingChicago's is home to world-class museums like the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and The Field Museum, all located in the city's Museum Campus area along Lake Michigan—The Art Institute of Chicago (one of BT's picks for world's most beautiful museums) is located nearby between Millennium Park and Grant Park, so make a day of it! Youngsters will love the Chicago Children's Museum, where they can splash, build, climb, and explore to their heart's content. Admission to the Chicago Children's Museum is not covered by the Chicago CityPASS and costs $14 for children and adults, $13 for seniors. If you're not using the Chicago CityPASS options: admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is $23 for adults and $17 for students and seniors over age 65; basic admission to the Field Museum starts at $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 3-11, and $12 for students and seniors; general admission to the Shedd Aquarium starts at $8 for adults, and $6 for children ages 3-11; admission to Adler Planetarium costs $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11. Stay in the heart of the city for lessI stayed at Embassy Suites Chicago-Downtown, an affordable family-friendly hotel in the middle of all the action on North State St. between E. Ontario St. and E. Ohio St. Besides being within walking distance of most major Downtown attractions—there's even a free trolley you can take from Navy Pier back to State Street within a block of the hotel—Embassy Suites treats every guest to a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast every morning and free drinks and refreshments every evening at the Manager's Reception, the perfect pick-me-up after a long day of visiting the sights. Prices vary, but a quick search shows rooms starting from $139 a night in December.