Deals to Escape Winter!

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
January 27, 2022
Copamarina Beach Resort in Puerto Rico
Courtesy Copamarina Beach Resort

Despite all the fun we had last weekend sledding and sipping cocoa, I'm getting a little weary of winter. So, I was psyched to see some luxe-for-less deals come our way. They can drop you on a warm, sunny beach, pronto:

PUERTO RICO. You don't need a passport to visit this U.S. territory, but in all other respects you’ll be a world away from home. Stroll the old-world streets of Old San Juan, kayak in the eerily beautiful Bioluminescent Bay, and taste local favorites like arepas and spicy Asian-fusion dishes that juxtapose noodles with Latin-flavored meat and vegetables. Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa is located on a secluded beach with 20 acres of tropical gardens and nearby diving opportunities from $145/night.

OAHU. From the iconic beachfront of Waikiki to dramatic Diamond Head and amazing beaches, authentic luaus, hula dances, and traditional art demonstration, the Hawaiian Island of Oahu is one of our very favorite winter escapes. Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the island’s most famous hotels and they’re offering an incredible discount of 20 percent off, with rooms from $177/night.

COSTA RICA. Want your winter escape to include beaches, rain forest, and a volcano? Budget Travel editors, readers, and even many of our friends and family have been raving about how Costa Rica is the ultimate getaway. TripMasters is offering flexible, customizable tours starting at 6 nights from under $1,000, including air and hotel.

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Spring Trips to Book NOW

Sure, the snow is still falling, but that doesn’t mean you can only dream about your spring getaway. We've lined up some great deals that you have to jump on right away: TULUM, MEXICO is the “quiet side” of the popular Riviera Maya, a tranquil Caribbean beach town that’s more affordable and less crowded than its rowdy neighbor Cancun mid-March through April. Hit the warm spring beaches, tropical forests, and the ancient Mayan pyramids. has rentals starting at under $100. PARIS & AMSTERDAM are within reach with a package tour from TripMasters that includes three nights in the City of Light (springtime in Paris is legendary for public gardens, flowering trees, and romantic strolls), three nights in the city of canals and tulips (Amsterdam is a Technicolor wonderland in spring!), and airfare -- all starting around $1,300. BLUE HARBOR RESORT, WISCONSIN on Lake Michigan is an affordable road-trip option for Midwestern families, a drive from Chicago, Milwaukee, or Green Bay. Breaker Bay Waterpark with rides and a wave pool is the attraction for kids, and the resort also offers fine dining, a luxurious spa, and even glow-in-the-dark miniature golf. Save 30 percent on the Blue Harbor Resort "Spring Splashdown” with rooms starting under $150 if you book now.


A Train Lovers' Guide To Thailand

I was one of a dozen westerners waiting for the Chiang Mai midnight sleeper, along with 500 uniformed school kids noisily waiting for their train. Their frantic teachers invented amusements like group charades and spelling contests, but still most of the kids wandered around looking for trouble. A dozen 13-year-olds blocked my path. Their bold leader, a chubby pony-tailed girl, demanded to know where I come from. They all giggled and elbowed each other chattering hysterically in Thai after I told them I was from Canada. A fellow passenger, a British woman said (loudly over the din), "These kids were already here when I arrived at 7:30." She looked peevishly at her wristwatch. It was 10 p.m. I had been told Thai rail is usually reliable, so this was not a good sign. I went in search of the station master who spoke just enough English to tell me the entire system was backed-up due to a landslide in the highlands up north, but, "Not to worry all trains still arriving, just a little slow." Two hours later the kids' train to Pai came and went, leaving the platform strangely silent. The midnight train arrived at 1:45 a.m. with my bunk bed ready for me. The car's air conditioning was working—too well. After an attendant gave me a second blanket, I slept soundly, lulled by the swaying of the car and the clacking rhythm of the tracks. I awoke an hour before we reached Chiang Mai. At the end of the corridor several sinks were ready for the passengers' morning ablutions. When I returned to my bunk the rail company's slogan "Service Mind" was demonstrated as an attendant worked with remarkable speed, efficiently converting my bunk bed into a comfortable seat and table. For about $20 (600 baht), I had a Second Class sleeper ticket, but the service was First Class. My berth was aboard a reasonably modern car, pulled by a clean diesel/electric engine. My rail journey had begun at Ubon in Thailand's northeast. At Ayutthuya near Bangkok I had transferred to the night train to the last stop on the Northern Line. Thailand's rail system was launched in 1890, named the Royal State Railways of Siam. The first line was the 71-kilometer span from Bangkok to Ayutthuya. Today it's called State Railways of Thailand, has over 4,000-kilometers of track, and carries 50 million people annually. Here's what you need to know. TICKETSFirst Class tickets are available on most long distance routes. These compartments are air conditioned and include private two-passenger sleeper rooms complete with wash basins (but shared bathrooms). Second Class sleepers have convertible bunks in a dorm arrangement. Privacy is maintained with curtains for each bed. Third Class tickets sometimes have upholstered seats, though on most lines, only wooden benches. There are no sleeping accommodations in Third Class, and no air conditioning, though many trains have fans. POPULAR LINESThere are four principle lines of track in Thailand. The Eastern Line connects Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, and a second train ends at Nai Mueang near the borders of Laos and Cambodia. The Northern Line starts in Bangkok and terminates in Chiang Mai, near the border of Burma. The North-Eastern Railway ends on the Laotian border at Nong Khai. The Southern Line links Bangkok to Malaysia. This route connects many towns near some of Thailand's most popular beach resorts and terminates at the Sungai Kolok Station on the border. In the past, this train went all to the way into Kuala Lumpur. The line now runs down the Malay Peninsula's eastern shore along the Gulf of Thailand. INTERESTING ROUTESTrue train aficionados shouldn't miss The Death Railway (Thailand-Burma Railway), built by Asian and Allied prisoners of war of the occupying Japanese forces during WWII. Thousands of prisoners died from the brutal forced labor. Along the route is the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, immortalized by the eponymous 1957 film starring Alec Guinness. The Death Railway originates at Thorburi Station in Bangkok and terminates at Lang Suan, no longer reaching Burma. For luxury rail fans, the Eastern and Oriental Express runs through Thailand into Malaysia ending in Singapore. This article was written on behalf of Tucan Travel. Born in The Hague, Andrew Kolasinski arrived in Canada as a small child riding in the luggage rack of a DC-7. Since then he has felt at home anywhere. As the publisher and editor of Island Angler, Andrew spends half the year fishing for salmon and trout, and in the off-season, traveling the world looking for a story.


European Style for $17/Night! Hip Hostels to Open in Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Rome

Dreaming about visiting Europe this year? We have good news that might encourage you to hit that "book" button, especially if you're a solo traveler. Design-focused Generator, a line of chic, affordable European hostels, is opening three new locations in Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Rome, just in time for the peak season. Millennials especially dig this brand—with locations in trendy neighborhoods in Paris, Barcelona, Dublin, and Berlin, to name a few—and the way each property blends local culture, art, events, music, and food with interactive guest experiences, a.k.a. getting to know your fellow travelers instead of just passing them in the hallways. Read on for details about each new location. Which will you visit first? Generator Amsterdam  When it's opening: March 16 What it'll cost: From about $17 for a dorm bed in a shared room, $72 for a private room, $111 for a luxury suite Where it's located: In the uber-hip East Amsterdam 'hood, right next to the newly renovated Oosterpark. Cool perks: It will be the only upscale hostel in the city. Housed in an historical building built in 1908 as the University of Amsterdam’s science department, the hostel is celebrating its DNA by keeping the lecture hall and science lab aesthetics while giving the space a modern twist. The main common space, named Nescio after a famous Dutch writer, has a café with locally-sourced dishes that’s open daily for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner; a day-to-night lounge that was once an auditorium, with the professor’s desk serving as the bar; and a library with shelves filled with bright orange books and wood heritage accents intact to impress Ron Burgundy. Activities like beer tastings, coffee master classes, Vanmoof bikes, and movie screenings keep guests busy, and for those who want to splurge, there’s a luxury Sky Suite Apartment with views of Oosterpark and two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and TV. Later this year they’ll open an underground speakeasy bar in the former boiler room.  Generator Stockholm  When it's opening: June 2016 What it'll cost: From about $24 for a dorm bed in a shared room, $77 for a private room Where it's located: Just a five-minute walk from Drottninggatan, a must-walk street dating back to the 1600s. The pedestrian boulevard is lined with boutiques and restaurants running through downtown Stockholm. It’s also close to Central Station. Cool perks: This is a large property, with 11 floors and 244 rooms and a lobby café that doubles as a work space. The bar and restaurant offer both Swedish and international eats. For those traveling with a group or staying longer, luxury suites are available.  Generator Rome  When it's opening: Summer 2016 What it'll cost: From about $20 for a dorm bed in a shared room, $77 for a private room Where it's located: In the heart of the Eternal City, on Via Principe Amedeo near the Mercato dell’Esquilino, the bustling market famed for its fresh international produce. The 78-room property is also close to many prime attractions, including the Roman Colosseum.  Cool perks: Mangia at the industrial-style Bistro, or take in views of the Apennine Mountains while you're perched up in the rooftop lounge, seven stories above the city. 


Where to Find the Best Pizza in Rome

Elizabeth Minchilli is the host of the blog Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome and author of the book Eating Rome and the apps Eat Rome, Eat Florence, and Eat Venice. You asked for it, you got it. A list of where to eat pizza in Rome. It's a bit of a mixed bag. Some old school places and some quite new. There are a LOT of pizzerias in Rome, and I obviously can't include them all. These are just the short list of places that I know, and love. Rather than write extended descriptions/reviews here, I've kept it short and sweet. You'll find the full story on my app, Eat Rome. And where I've already written a blog post about a particular restaurant, I've included the link to that as well. FYI: In case you don't know, when talking pizza in Rome there are basically three kinds: Pizza a taglio: This is sheet pizza, sold mostly in small store fronts that specialize in this type, but also sold in some bakeries. It is sold by the weight and has various toppings. You can either buy it to take away, or (usually) eat it standing up at a counter. Pizza: When most people say 'pizza' in Rome they mean small, round single serving pizzas. These are made to order at pizzerias, usually in a wood burning oven. Almost always pizzerias are only open at night, so this is a dinner kind of thing (there are some notable and recent exceptions). Pizza Bianca: This is white pizza dough that has been baked in a sheet. It is sold in bakeries and is a true 'street food' in that it is meant to be eaten while hot, right away. (A note about Roman pizza vs. Neopolitan pizza: Roman pizza is made with a very thin crust, and barely any rim around the edge. Neopolitan pizza is thicker, doughier, and has a thick puffy crust along the edge. There are also variations that are some where between the two.) Pizzerie Pizzeria LeoncinoVia del Leoncino 28 (Spanish Steps)06.686.7757Lunch & Dinner. Closed Wednesday. It's hard to find a good pizzeria that is open for lunch. Also, the area in the center of Rome (Spanish Steps) makes this even more of a challenge. This place is both centrally located and open at lunch. Very much an old fashioned neighborhood place. Speciality: Pizza with onions, beans and sausage. See my post. Gatta Mangiona Via Ozanam 30-32 (Monteverde) 06.534.6702 Tues - Sun, Dinner. Considered by many to be the best pizzeria in Rome. A Roman take on Neopolitan. Inventive toppings. See Eat Rome and this post for full description. La Fucina Via Giuseppe Lunati 25/31 (Portuense) 06.559.3368 Sunday - Friday, dinner only. Closed Saturday. Extraordinary dough and toppings. Very expensive (but worth it) See my blog post. Pizzeria alle Carrette Via Madonna dei Monti 95 06.679.2770 Daily for dinner. Just our local pizza place, which is very, very good. Thin Roman crust. Every neighborhood has a good pizza place, this is ours. See my blog post. Sforno Via Statilio Ottato 114 (Tuscolana, Metro: Subagusta) 06.715.46118 Out of the way, fantastic pizzeria, Neopolitan style. See my blog post. Ai Marmi Viale Trastevere 53 (Trastevere) 06.580.0919 Dinner only. Closed Wednesday. If you want to feel like you are in a Fellini movie, head here. Hasn't changed in about 60 years. Rough and ready service. Don't worry if there is a line, tables turn fast. Porto Fluviale Via del Porto Fluviale 22 (Ostiense) 06.574.3199 One of the few places where you can reserve a table for a pizza, and that also is open at lunch. You can choose between either Roman or Neopolitan style. There are certainly better pizza places on this list, but this one is convenient, a nice setting and is good. See my blog post and video. Pizza a Taglio Pizzarium Via della Meloria 43 (near Vatican, metro Cipro) 06.397.45416 Most famous pizza place in Italy? Possibly. See my posts here, and here, and here. And Eat Rome as well. 00100 Via Giovanni Branca 88 (Testaccio) 06.434.19627 Daily 12 - 11pm. Fantastic pizza by the slice from the same owner as Sforno. Also the home of the trapizzini, a triangular pizza pouch filled with things like meatballs and tripe. See this blog post. Panella Via Merulana 54 Open daily Better known as a bakery they have extraordinary pizza by the slice. Forno La Renella Via del Moro 15 (Trastevere) Daily, 9am - 1am. Known for it's large loaves of rustic bread, they are also the makers of some of the best loved pizza by the slice in Trastevere. Almost always open.  Roscioli Bakery Via dei Chiavari 34 06.686.4045 Most famous bakery in Rome? Many say so. Yes, fantastic bread, but also amazing pizza by the slice. Bakeries (pizza bianca, etc) Forno di Campo di Fiori Piazza Campo dei Fiori 22 Open daily, 7:30-2; 4:45 - 8. Closed Sunday. One of the oldest bakeries in town. Fresh, hot pizza bianca all day long. Roscioli See above. Is their pizza bianca better than Forno di Campo dei Fiori? Try both, and you decide. Renella See above. Panella See above. Antico Forno Urbani Piazza Costaguti 30 (Ghetto) Old fashioned bakery that has the best pizza rossa in town. This is thin crusted pizza  that is spread with the thinnest layer of tomato sauce, imaginable. No cheese. Extra: Pizza places that are famous but that I've never been to Da Remo Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice 44 (Testaccio) Dinner only, closed Sunday. Very thin crusted Roman pizza. A real scene, there is always a line. Which is probably why I've never been. Tonda Via Valle Corteno 31 (Montesacro) 06.818.0960 Located in a suburban neighborhood, and owned by the same owner as Sforno and 00100. Gluten Free Mama! Eat Via di San Cosimato 9 06.580.6222 I've actually been here, but have never ordered pizza. The pasta was great. Seriously gluten free, with two separate kitchens.