10 Things To Add To Your Italy Travel Bucket List
Let us start by saying that we are giving away the chance to go to Italy—all expenses paid—with your best friend. Right now. Plus the chance to win a trip to other amazing bucket list destinations. Check out EpicBucketList2014.com or watch this video we made to learn more. As a special treat, Budget Travel readers can earn 10 extra points by entering promo code "travelbum." The Epic Bucket List 2014 contest ends Nov. 10th, so don't wait!
[Please note: The Epic Bucket List 2014 contest has ended. This contest was only available for those between the ages of 18-35 as the grand prize is offered by Contiki, a tour company specializing in trips for 18-35-year-olds.]
7 Reasons To Visit Connecticut NOW
An easy day-trip or weekend getaway from most major cities of the northeast, Connecticut offers the perfect mix of New England charm and scenery, Ivy League college town flavor, and enough action to satisfy every food lover and history buff. Here's why New Haven, Mystic, and Essex need to be on your fall getaway bucket list. See the fall colors Largely due to the state's temperate seaside weather, the colors of Connecticut's leaves tend to be colorful longer than most in other New England states, typically from early October through early November, so now is the time to go! Catch a glimpse of the fall foliage by taking a ride on the Essex Steam Train, where you can take an hour-long tour through the Connecticut wilderness from the comfort of your comfy swivel chair (first class section only). Part of the Valley Railroad Company's fleet since the late 1800s, the Essex Steam Train offers several touring options Thursday thru Monday: a regular coach seat ($19 for adults, $10 for children), a first class ticket ($31 for adults, $22 for children), and the option to make your trip a steam train and riverboat adventure (from $29 for adults, from $19 for children). Whichever way you choose to ride, you'll learn a little about the history of the area and have access to some of the best views of nature in the state—and a peek at nearby Gillette Castle in East Haddam. Adrenaline junkies can drive about an hour north and experience the fall colors by zip line Sunday thru Tuesday at The Adventure Park at Storrs (from $38 for adults ages 12 and up, $33 for children ages 10 and 11, $28 for children ages 7-9). Visit the Yale campus and world-class museums—for free! One of New Haven's biggest draws is that it's home to Yale, a beautiful Ivy League University that offers free guided campus tours Monday thru Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and on weekends at 1:30 p.m. Tours are about an hour and 20 minutes and depart from the Yale Visitor Center located at 149 Elm Street. If you'd rather stroll the grounds at your own pace, you can purchase a copy of the Blue Trail map at the Visitor Center for less than $5 and have access to a brief history of the campus and suggested routes for exploring the historic campus. Also on campus are top notch museums like the Yale University Art Gallery, home to Van Gogh's Le Café de Nuit among other treasures, the Yale Center for British Art—where you can see pieces by Sir Peter Paul Rubens and William Blake among others (Note: Currently closed for Conservation and reopening in Spring of 2016)—and the Knights of Columbus Museum—all of which are free and open to the public. Unleash your inner foodie In New Haven, stop by a student favorite, Claire's Corner Copia, and try the Lithuanian cake. Warm up with a hot Russian fruit tea, kind of like a delicious cross between mulled wine and sangria but with no alcohol and twice as much fruit. Stop by Louis' Lunch to taste America's First Hamburger—a steal at $6; grab a $4 slice of homemade pie and a $2 Foxon Park Soda to wash it all down with. For the best pizza and happy hour in town, head to Kitchen Zinc for signature artisinal pies like Lobster Mac & Cheese or my favorite, Fig & Speck, and a chance to mingle with the Yale after-class crowd for al fresco cocktails, $5 draft beer and wine specials, and half-price pizzas Tuesday thru Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and from 9 p.m. til 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Movie buffs should visit Mystic Pizza, located about an hour away in Mystic, Conn., owned and operated by the Zelepos family since 1973, and the setting for the film starring Julia Roberts. In Essex, about a half hour away, stop by the Essex Coffee and Tea Company on Main Street for a swig of steamed apple cider and according to them, "the best macaroons in the known universe." (I concur). Experience living history at Mystic Seaport One of the biggest attractions in Connecticut is Mystic Seaport, a living history village by the sea where you can experience how things were in this late-18th-century maritime settlement. Don't miss the chance to tour the Charles W. Morgan, a historic whaleship, and the Joseph Conrad, a full-rigged ship, both of which are currently docked at Mystic Seaport. You'll also have the chance to walk around town, tour models of what homes were like during the time, visit the chemist, chapel, school house, and print shop among other town staples, and see the L.A. Dunton, a National Historic Landmark 19th-century fishing boat. Mystic Seaport is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tickets start at $25 for adults ages 18-64, $23 for seniors over age 65, $23 for college students with a valid I.D., and $16 for children ages 6-17. Children ages five and under get in free. The best part? Your ticket automatically includes a second day's admission as long as you re-visit within the week and get it validated on the way out. Treat yourself to dinner and a show Connecticut is home to many theatres, but there's nothing quite like seeing a show at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. Walking from the parking lot over the bridge and hearing 20s music play as you enter harkens back to the golden age of theater and really makes it feel like you're entering another time. For a great night out, try the Friday Dinner Theatre Package, from $82 per person, for a three-course dinner at the Gelston House and a ticket to the 8 p.m. performance—just make sure you make reservations before 2 p.m. on the day you plan to visit. Stay in a historic B&B—or in the center of New Haven in style Use the Westbrook Inn as your base for exploring the Essex, East Haddam, and Mystic areas, all of which are within a 30-minute drive. Not only is this adorable B&B is super elegant—featuring nine Victorian style antique rooms and a two-bedroom cottage—but the owners are really friendly, and best of all, you're just a five-minute walk from the beach. You'll also have private bathrooms, complimentary access to WiFi, and hotel-like amenities like hair dryers, irons, and TV, as well as complimentary use of the B&B's extensive library and game collection. Family game night, anyone? Rooms from $139 a night including free parking and a delicious breakfast in the morning. Stay in the middle of all the action at the luxurious Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, located on Temple Street, an easy 5 minute walk from campus. New Haven is such an easy city to walk around, with most attractions being within walking distance of the hotel, so I parked my car there and went for a stroll around town. For great views of the Yale campus from above, treat yourself to breakfast (or brunch, lunch, or dinner) at John Davenport's at the Top of the Park, located on the Omni's top floor. Rooms at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale start at $185 a night this time of year. Check their website for more info about seasonal sales and packages. It's easy to get around New Haven is about a 90-minute drive (or train ride!) from New York City but having a car is highly recommended for exploring the parts of Mystic, Essex, and East Haddam mentioned in this story—I was able to rent a car on Hotwire.com from $27 a day from where I live in Queens, NYC. These places also make a great getaway or day-trip from Boston, Providence, and other cities and areas of the northeast, so make a road trip out of it. Check out CTvisit.com for more vacation ideas.
Visit the Top 10 Haunted Houses in the U.S… If You Dare
Need Halloween weekend plans? Make a trip one of these top 10 haunted houses in the U.S., as selected by the Haunted Attraction Association. (Yes, that's a real organization! Their awards banquet is called the "Oscares.") To reach the top 10, houses are judged on multiple criteria, from meeting safety standards to introducing new features. Expect everything from state-of-the-art special effects to truly disturbing scares—some operators even consult psychologists on how to craft the best experience. Budget tip: Go with friends for discounted group ticket rates or on a weekday for a lower entrance fee. Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary Location: Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaCost: From $19, easternstate.org Why it'll freak you out: One haunted house in an actual abandoned prison is scary enough, but Eastern State Penitentiary offers six. The Machine Shop attraction, where "evil pervades," is the penitentiary's most interactive attraction yet. Willing guests are grabbed, separated from their group, dragged into secret passageways, and sometimes end up as part of the show. The ScareHouse Location: Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCost: From $19.99 Thursdays and Sundays, from $24.99 Fridays and Saturdays, scarehouse.com Why it'll freak you out: This is truly diabolical: The ScareHouse has a sociologist on staff who has studied the science of fear. Bear that in mind as you enter The Summoning attraction, new this year. You think you're being inducted into a secret society in October 1932 (with period costumes and props), but then things take a nasty turn. Nightmare New England Location: Litchfield, New HampshireCost: From $39.99, nightmarenewengland.com Why it'll freak you out: If campfire ghost stories leave you shivering, the legend of Litchfield's reclusive Bishop family, a mysterious clan suspected of foul play when locals went missing decades ago, will get your attention. Nightmare New England's Bishop Legacy attraction is devoted to the myth...or is it reality? Don't miss the Haunted Hayride, a new attraction for 2015. Erebus Location: Pontiac, MichiganCost: From $23, hauntedpontiac.com Why it'll freak you out: Four stories of unique time-travel dimensions make up this huge attraction, based on the legend of a mad scientist who invented a time machine gone horribly wrong...and disguised it as a haunted house. Now you're Dr. Colbert's guinea pig. The Slice of Time feature trains 45 cameras on you and snaps a 180-degree image of you screaming. Talk about a souvenir. Wisconsin Feargrounds Location: Waukesha, WisconsinCost: From $13, wisconsinfeargrounds.com Why it'll freak you out: New this year is Morgana's Escape, a terrifying haunted house experience that you alone have the power to escape. The doors are locked, leaving you trapped in the dark—the only way out is to find the three keys that unlock the tomb. The Dent Schoolhouse Location: Cincinnati, OhioCost: From $20, frightsite.com Why it'll freak you out: Is there anything creepier than child ghosts? Legend has it that crazed Dent Schoolhouse janitor Charlie McFee went on a long, drawn-out killing spree, stuffing bodies of students into the walls and hanging them in the basement, before angry families infiltrated the school and found the carnage—which you'll tour. Vintage '50s decor makes the building extra-chilling—as does the fact that Dent Schoolhouse was once a real school. Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Location: Tampa, FloridaCost: From $60 to $70 depending on which night you go, seaworldparks.com Why it'll freak you out: If animatronics don't faze you, physical terror might. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay morphs into a Halloween fright fest now through Oct. 31st. Falcon's Fury, a new ride that opened last year, is the continent's tallest freestanding drop tower: Reach the top, and the ride pivots 90 degrees so that riders make the 60-mph drop facedown. Or rattle some corpses by shooting zombies in the Zombie Containment Unit. The House of Shock Location: Jefferson, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.Cost: From $25, houseofshock.com Why it'll freak you out: Satanic imagery and large-scale pyrotechnics define this 23-year-old NOLA institution, located under the Huey P. Long bridge in Metairie. This year's main attraction is called "The Resurrection," a fitting name considering the New Orleans community came together to save the site after the 25,000-square-foot haunted house was slated to be shuttered after last year's season. Houston Terror Dome Location: Houston, Texas Cost: From $20, houstonterrordome.com Why it'll freak you out: Two words: evil clowns. More interested in the party than the freak show? Groove with full-body-airbrushed zombie dancers and a live (or would it be "undead"?) DJ on Saturdays. Hobb's Grove Location: Sanger, CaliforniaCost: From $15, hobbsgrove.com Why it'll freak you out: The dead rise from the grave in The Hollows haunted forest, and bloody limbs dangle from ceilings in the Hobb's Grove Haunted House. For milder scares, the haunted hayride is open to families with kids under 8.
11 Ways Social Media Can ROCK Your Travel World!
1. Trip planning is now much more personal Firsthand recommendations from your peers for where to fly, eat, or stay next sure beat sifting through pages of strangers' reviews. Start simple: Use Facebook's Graph Search to find which of your friends has been to a destination you're considering visiting. In the search bar at the top of the page, type something like "My friends who have been to London" or "My friends who have been to Kensington Palace." Up pops a list of friends who have journeyed to the Big Smoke, so you can ask them for their recommendations. If nobody you know has toured the royals' abode, you can instead see a list of friends of your friends who have—and then message them to see what they thought of it before you shell out $27 for a ticket. If you're tossing out a travel question as your Facebook status, be as specific as possible. Instead of, "Does anyone know any family activities to do in Chicago?" say, "Does anyone know of a zoo in Chicago that I can take my five-year-old to in September?" Facebook reps say the more specific and engaging you are in your post, the more recommendations you'll get. Pinterest's Place Pins feature—pins that have a location attached to them—was built specifically for travel planning, says site community manager Enid Hwang. Create a new board and enable the "Add a map" option, then start adding Place Pins to create nice-looking itineraries for weekend trips, road trips, and dream trips. Share the board with your travel companions who can pin ideas too or send the whole board to others who are thinking of taking a similar vacation. 2. Hungry? No more wandering aimlessly for mediocre food Ugh—what's more of a travel bummer than wandering into a restaurant that looks authentic, then later realizing it's a tourist trap slinging slop? Tap on "breakfast," "brunch," "lunch," "dinner," or "dessert" on the Foursquare app to see highly rated restaurants that match your tastes nearby, including those recommended by people you know. Food truck hounds, rejoice: Roaming Hunger's app tracks street food via tweets and a finely honed calendar, so you can check out the most popular carts in major cities, add your favorite cart to the list, and see which vendor are nearby. The new GPS-enabled mobile site from Eat Your World, a guide to traditional, native foods and drinks around the globe, points you in the direction of inexpensive local foods and encourages member participation: If you see it and eat it, snap a pic and add it to the site. If an authentic food "experience" is what you're after, request a home-cooked dinner via Meal Sharing—in return, you can help prepare the meal, bring a gift or entertain with a story, or pay a "chip-in" price for ingredients. 3. It's a great way to scoop up deals To save major bucks on travel, be liberal with the "like" button. Following airlines, hotel chains, booking sites, and rental-car companies on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and liking them on Facebook plugs you in directly to special rates and discounts—you'll see them in your feed before you even seek them out. On Pinterest, bloggers like Great Walt Disney World Tips pin discounts and time- and cash-saving ideas. While you're strolling in a new neighborhood, open Foursquare's app and scroll down to "offering a special." Check in to one of those establishments, and you could nab anything from a major discount to a free item—we once scored a free glass of champagne at a Las Vegas nightclub and complimentary strawberry fondue at a martini bar in the Midwest. Wherever you go, look for promotions featuring special Instagram hashtags: Share your snapshots to enter contests that shops and travel brands hold to win free swag—or free trips. 4. Inspiration has never been so beautiful Have you ever fought the urge to buy a plane ticket on a whim solely based on seeing a gorgeous photo of a place you'd never been to? Us too. Following Instagram and Pinterest accounts that post lush, eye-popping pictures, like Tourism Australia—and BT, of course!—can increase your wanderlust and help you pick where to go next. Instagram's official blog's Local Lens series spotlights talented snappers' favorite places to shoot in their city—if you like what you see, hit up that neighborhood. While you're traveling, search for the hashtag of the place you're in on Instagram or Twitter—#berlin, #montmartre, #strawberryfields, you name it—to track down cool sights and perspectives you might have missed. Racy as it sounds, #travelporn is one of our favorite 'gram hashtags to peep for pretty pics. 5. Making brand-new friends while traveling is less intimidating Solo travelers don't have to feel alone while they're globetrotting. Obsessed with Instagram? You'll love Instameet, photo-snapping events organized by Meetup that are offered everywhere from Melbourne, Australia, to Shreveport, Louisiana—often during "magic hour," the time of day when the sunlight is just right to grab that perfect photo. Backpackers unite on Backpackr, a social network for nomads that shows you who's nearby and doles out virtual passport "stamps" in for every country you visit. If hotels are more your speed, the brand-new HelloTel app's network enables you to meet new friends and/or business contacts who are staying at the same hotel you are—choose "business" or "socializing" and connect on either a public forum or via private message. (Yes, you can block people from seeing any of your information.) We've also heard of "Tinder tourism," in which singles use the popular Tinder dating app to find very, ahem, personal tour guides abroad. What happens in Bulgaria stays in Bulgaria, we suppose. 6. The postcard and scrapbook aren't obsolete—they're just different Why bother sending a physical letter when you can just take a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your phone and post it on your mom's Facebook wall? Well, because Mom, Grandpa, and pretty much everyone else still likes postcards. The Postagram app melds the social and the physical worlds by sending custom paper postcards using photos from your Instagram, Facebook, and Dropbox accounts for a dollar or two a pop. You can even schedule the delivery. And although most of us wish we had enough time to keep a physical scrapbook of all of our travels, let's face it: Posting them online is easier. Facebook says it's constantly tweaking its photo album feature's organization so your most-liked photos float to the top. After a family vacation ends, Dropbox is particularly handy for compiling everyone's photos in one place for the rest of the group to see and upload to social media. While you're still luxuriating on the beach with the fam, consider creating your own personal vacation hashtag, like #TheSmithsInMexico, to use on Instagram and Twitter to see everyone's thoughts and photos at once. 7. There's an extra incentive to behave Cause a scene on a plane, train, or automobile, and you could find your antics uploaded to YouTube or Vine, live-tweeted, or—worse—posted on the popular Passenger Shaming Facebook page, run by a former flight attendant. Bad behavior that the site has documented includes bare feet propped up on an airplane headrest (ew!), two travelers pounding on the inside of an airport's plate-glass window to try and stop their plane from leaving, and a woman changing a diaper directly on the tarmac (yes, the actual road that airplanes taxi on). Regular citizens are getting in on the act, too, using the hashtag #passengershaming on Twitter and Instagram. Might want to re-think that third whiskey soda, lest your aggressive snoring end up on SoundCloud. 8. Fellow travelers can be your new virtual, in-the-know BFFs Travel-specific social networks just "get" passionate travelers, which is especially nice if your IRL friends aren't adventurous. The soon-to-be-launched planning and booking app UnPaved's interface will show which of your connections has been to a destination before, who's there now, and what tips they've shared. If you're a sucker for a nice narrative while you're exploring, read others' lovely short travel stories and savvy tips on Findery. Or trust in the hive mind at Trippy and ask vetted travel experts questions like "What are the best hikes in Slovenia?"—readers upvote the best answers, so you see the best recs first. Road warriors, you'll want to download Waze, a navigation app that helps you beat traffic and find the cheapest gas prices with the help of real-time info from other drivers and community-updated maps. 9. You can chatter with airlines and travel fans without picking up the phone Lost bag? Delayed flight? Lack of snacks on the plane? Whatever's bugging you in the air, you can tweet directly at airlines to get answers or, at the very least, information on what to do next. Delta's @DeltaAssist account answers questions 24/7, and @JetBlue and @AmericanAir have also been noted for their responsiveness. Have your confirmation number handy and be prepared to direct-message them your specifics. If you're feeling proactive and do the research yourself, you can even ask them to rebook you on specific flights if yours is delayed. Looking for good, old-fashioned travel conversation and useful money-saving tips? Twitter's head of travel, Jeff Flores, recommends searching for Twitter hashtags like #ttot (travel talk on Twitter), #SMTravel (social media travel), #TravelTuesday, #CruiseChat, #RTW (round the world), and #TNI (traveler's night in). 10. Options for local, personal tour guides are limitless Travelers looking for a targeted, authentic experience no longer have to rely on big, expensive tour companies to show them around a new town. Sites like Vayable and Localyoo connect you with activities proffered by real, live locals for a nominal fee, from a $25 bike tour of sights and eats in Barcelona to a historical, communism-focused tour of Berlin, given by a woman who grew up under communist rule, for $10. On freelance task site Fiverr, five bucks buys you local travel and language expertise—it takes a little searching, but you can find gems, like a culinary tour of Mumbai given by a tech geek. Sure, they're more of a gamble than going on a traditional tour, but other users' comments and ratings can help you decide which ones to pursue, and some sites have a money-back guarantee. Or, combine the tour experience with a place to crash. For years, Couchsurfing has touted the "good vibes" that come from staying with its members in their homes, and newcomer Voyaj helps you "pitch" yourself via YouTube video to find a host family abroad. In return, you're encouraged to exchange something from your culture—like dance or language lessons. Money saved, immersive experience earned. 11. Your favorite works of art are now interactive Stuffy museums get a whole lot more exciting when you make a game of taking in the exhibit. Considered controversial in some circles but invigorating in others, the first-ever Museum Selfie Day was held this past January 22: Museum professionals encouraged visitors to turn the cameras on themselves and pose with the art, then post it to social media with the hashtag #museumselfie. People in hallowed halls around the world—from the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatarto the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh—participated. The institutions themselves are getting in on the act too: Follow your favorite old-school museums and contemporary galleries for promotions, exhibit previews, art humor, and peeks behind the scenes. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's YouTube channel, for example, features videos of artists discussing their work; New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art posts Instagram photos of the museum after all the visitors have left with the hashtag #emptymet. #eerie
Do YOU Live in America's Coolest Small Town 2015?
What does it feel like to live in America's Coolest Small Town? Ask the folks in Berlin, Maryland. In February, they topped our list, edging out Cazenovia, New York, and 13 other finalists to win the 2014 title. And they threw one heck of a victory party. (We know because we were there!) How can YOUR town get to be America's Coolest Small Town 2015? Well, it's really up to you. If you think your town has got what it takes, we want to hear about it. Nominate Your Town Now and share what you love about living in—or visiting—your fave town. And don't forget to talk it up and share photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (tag them #ACST2015) to help your town's chances of being named a finalist. (When you share photos of your town on Instagram and tag them #ACST2015, you may even see them featured on our "Trending Cool Towns" page—how cool is that?) Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns 2015 contest is looking for American towns with a population under 10,000 and a certain something that no place else has: great shops, food, a unique history, a breathtaking location, peerless music scene, art galleries, or maybe something cool we haven't even thought of yet! We invite you to tell us a little about your town today (click on Nominate Your Town Now). And don't forget to share your town's coolest restaurants, attractions, and lodgings on social media—tag your posts with #ACST2015 to help generate buzz! We'll gather nominations until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2, then we'll review them to narrow the list to 15 finalists. We'll use your votes (from BudgetTravel.com and from social media posts tagged #ACST2015) as a guide, and also look for diversity in geography, attractions, architecture, and other factors we consider cool. In January, we'll post the 15 finalists and ask our audience to cast their votes. In February, we'll announce the 10 winners. Wanna know what it really feels like to live in America's Coolest Small Town? It all starts today. Nominate Your Town Now!