Dublin on the Fly

May 4, 2009
Courtesy Shana McDavis-Conway
A D.C. couple is heading to Dublin on a last-minute two-day trip. At the top of their to-do list: having a Guinness pulled in a real Irish pub.

Interested in getting coached? E-mail us your questions—seriously, the more the better—to Letters@BudgetTravel.com.

My partner, Eva, and I couldn't resist a last-minute flight-and-hotel package to Dublin. Trouble is, we leave in less than two weeks, and we haven't planned a thing. Can you help? Shana McDavis-Conway, Washington, D.C.

We'll only have two full days on this trip. How can we get a real sense of the city without running ourselves ragged?
Dublin is small and the city center is compact, so you can see a lot in two days. The 417-year-old Trinity College, in the heart of the city, is a good place to start. Skip the Book of Kells—the line is always long, the experience hurried, and the admission fee high—and just meander around the grounds instead. Visit the arts and crafts-style Museum Building to see the intricate stonework, and stop for a cup of tea at the Buttery Restaurant, in the dining hall. From the south end of campus, walk along Grafton Street to St. Stephen's Green, a 22-acre park. If the crowds get to be too much—Dubliners love this place when the weather's nice—find the National Concert Hall, on the south end of the park, and go through the back entrance to the Iveagh Gardens. Chances are, you'll have the fountains, rose gardens, wooded areas, and archery grounds all to yourself.

We'd love to see the countryside, toois that overly ambitious?
Not at all. As the locals know, the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), the commuter rail line that hugs the coast all the way around the bay, sells all-day tickets (dublin.ie/transport/dart.htm, all-day ticket $11). Hop off in Howth, a village on the north side of Dublin, to walk along the cliffs overlooking St. George's Channel, and then grab a bite at Ivans Oyster Bar and Grill, a casual spot next to a fish market (17/18 W. Pier, 011-353/1-839-0285, ivans.ie, from $8). The town of Sandycove, on the south side of the city, is home to The James Joyce Tower ($9.50), where Ulysses begins. Dalkey, an old port town east of Sandycove, is the perfect place for a pint at a seaside pub. Keep your eyes peeled for U2's the Edge, who owns a house here. Vico Rock is a popular sunning spot in the summer, but don't be fooled by the sparkling blue water—although it looks inviting, it's bracingly cold. If you're feeling brave (or just want bragging rights), join the locals for a life-changing dip.

Our hotel is near Grafton Street. Any recommendations for cafés in the area?
Writers love Metro Café because it's one of the best people-watching spots in Dublin. Ask for one of the corner tables outside for optimum viewing (43 S. William St., 011-353/1-679-4515). On the same corner, Avoca Café is a good spot for tea and dessert, like a currant bun with icing or a fairy cake, the Irish term for cupcake (11-13 Suffolk St., 011-353/1-672-6019, avoca.ie, from $6.50).

We first bonded over a mutual love of Guinness, so we definitely want to visit the brewery. When is the best time to go?
It depends on what you're looking for. If you want to avoid the crowds, get there right when it opens at 9:30 a.m.; if it's atmosphere you're seeking, go in the late afternoon and settle in at the Gravity Bar in time to catch the sunset. Be sure to walk around the cobbled streets behind the Storehouse. Unlike the rest of the factory—which can feel touristy—these streets evoke the old industrial age of Guinness production (beer has been brewed here since 1759). On most days, you can smell either the chocolaty scent that comes from barley being roasted, or the strong, bitter aroma that comes from boiling hops (St. James's Gate, 011-353/1-408-4800, guinness-storehouse.com, $19.50 gets you admission, a tasting, and a free pint at the end).

Everyone says you've never had a Guinness until you've had one in an Irish pub. Is there really a difference?
Guinness in Ireland is brewed with mineral-rich soft water. Some say that they find the beer to be a bit thicker and that it leaves a more consistent, creamier ring on the glass. The taste is also incredibly complex: smooth and soft at first, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste like expensive dark chocolate. There's no shortage of Dublin pubs that pull a great Guinness, but two of the best are Library Bar, a quiet spot where you can sit by the fireplace (Central Hotel, 1-5 Exchequer St., 011-353/1-679-7302), and Neary's, where upstairs you'll find a swank cocktail lounge and the downstairs is all dark wood and stained glass (1 Chatham St., 011-353/1-677-7371). Don't be shy about striking up conversations with strangers in the pubs. Dubliners love to talk to foreigners, and right now they're obsessed with the economy and President Obama—so you'll be the center of attention!

Eva is a vegetarian, but Ireland seems to be a meat-and-potatoes country. Where should we eat?
Café Fresh is a great option for lunch. The restaurant has cafeteria-style service and a veggie lasagna so popular that it inspired the owner to write a cookbook based on the restaurant's menu (Top Floor, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 011-353/1-671-9669, cafe-fresh.com, from $13). Juice looks like an ordinary café, but all the food is vegetarian—and remarkably innovative, especially for a city where vegetarian used to mean pasta or toast. Start with the Smoked Pimento Pâté, and for the main course, go with the Spicy Corn Fritters with avocado, sour cream, and tomato relish (73-83 S. Great Georges St., 011-353/1-475-7856, juicerestaurant.ie, from $7).

What can we check out that's quintessentially Irish?
Go to a hurling game! The insanely fast-paced sport is like a cross between field hockey and lacrosse, but with sticks flinging wildly and body checks that would make an NHL player cringe. Hurling has been around since the 13th century, and the Irish are obsessed with it. In fact, it's the country's official national pastime. You can get tickets for a club game through the Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA (gaa.ie, regular games are free, championship games $13).


Bottoms up!
"At the Guinness Storehouse, we finished our free pints and caught the sunset from the seventh-floor Gravity Bar," says Shana.

Street music
"While waiting for our room at the Mercer Hotel, we ate toasted cheese sandwiches at Metro Café and stopped to listen to the buskers on Grafton Street," says Eva.

Lucky finds
The pair came home with seven books, including Irish novelist Edna O'Brien's The Country Girls. "We get sucked into bookstores," Shana says.

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20 Tips

What's your best travel tip? Send us your tips, and if we publish one, you'll get a one-year subscription (or a renewal) to Budget Travel. You can e-mail them to us at Tips@BudgetTravel.com. Best Tips Ever The cleverest tips we've ever run are in The Smart Traveler's Passport, a handy book available at Amazon.com and select bookstores. Send us a tip: If yours is one that we illustrate, we'll send you a free book (and a year's subscription to the magazine). 1. Hard rock souvenirs Many people collect mugs from the places they visit, but I've found that it's more fun—and affordable—to collect rocks. If I'm flying, I find stones that are about the size of my palm. If I'm driving, I choose larger ones to carry in the trunk. After labeling each souvenir, I put it in a rock garden with the writing facedown. My grandchildren enjoy picking up each one to see where I've traveled. John Falke, Sebastian, Fla. 2. Block the mail Even when you put a hold on your mail while on vacation, sometimes the postman doesn't get the notice in time. We place a small wooden block inside the mailbox with a note that reads: "Notice on file in the post office." That way, the box doesn't fill up, which would make it obvious that we're away. Judy Fenster, Sandy Springs, Ga. 3. All on the same page Before a trip, I print out an itinerary with all the hotel, airline, and embassy information to give to close family and friends. I also print out a Google map for each hotel, with directions from the train station or airport. Having all this is helpful if you're traveling in a place where you don't know the language—or if you're traveling with lots of people arriving at different times. Kim Mousseau, Plattsburgh, N.Y. 4. Beware of the bulkhead If you're taking longer flights with your children, don't pick seats near the bulkhead, which separates the plane into sections. These seats often have more legroom, but the armrests don't lift up, so your kids won't be able to recline on your lap. Judy A. Williams, Billings, Mont. 5. Cheers for Cheerios When we stayed at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando with our two young sons, we packed single-serving boxes of cereal and bought milk to store in the refrigerator. Every morning, we all ate breakfast in the comfort of our room before hitting the rides in the theme park. Not only did we save money, but we spent less time waiting in long lines for food. Joe Palmarozzo, Melrose, Mass. 6. Security savvy When going through airport security, place your laptop through the machine first and save your shoes for last. When you're in a rush, it's easy to forget some bags, but you'd never leave without your shoes. Adrienne Simmons, Portland, Ore. 7. Outsmart burglars Many people store their own addresses in their GPS units under the title "Home." But if the device is stolen, the thief can quickly use the info to find your house, break in, and loot it before you return. Storing those directions under a decoy, like your pet's name, can help prevent this. Don McGill, Oregon City, Ore. 8. Emergency phone In Germany, you can buy a prepaid cell phone from T-Mobile for about $40 and add extra minutes as needed. What most people don't know is that incoming calls are free; the person dialing the cell phone number is charged for the call, but the person on the receiving end doesn't have to pay anything. My husband always carries one of these phones in Europe, in case anyone needs to reach him in an emergency. Kristi Magee, Landstuhl, Germany 9. Jewel case The clear plastic box an iPod generally comes in is perfect for holding your necklaces and earrings when you travel. Unlike a fabric jewelry roll, it keeps your valuables from getting crushed. Eva Clarke, Richmond, Va. 10. Wine protector I recently picked up a great bottle of wine while visiting Ushuaia, Argentina. In order to prevent it from breaking and spilling in my checked luggage, I slipped the bottle into a tall thick sock for extra padding. Richelle Knoess, New York, N.Y. 11. The download on photos We always pack our laptop, but we accidentally left it at home on our last trip. Since we had nowhere to transfer the pictures from our camera's memory card, we visited the photo counter at a local drugstore. We burned a CD of the photos and then cleared the card to make room for more. Mindy Jensen, Monona, Wis. 12. Poster protector After buying some posters in Russia, I realized I didn't have a protective tube. I made one by cutting the ends off some empty water bottles and taping them together. Tom Ikeman, Middleton, Wis. 13. Safe solution Most hotel safes are tucked away in a closet where there's very little light, so it can be hard to see what's inside. To avoid leaving something behind, tear off a page from the hotel's stationery pad and place your passport, keys, watch, and jewelry on top. The white paper will make it much easier to spot all your valuables. Ray Dunlop, Sunrise, Fla. 14. Snack attack When I park my car at the airport, I leave myself a little snack pack for the drive home. A few bottles of water and some nonperishable food (nuts or granola bars) are handy in case I'm delayed or the airport food courts are closed by the time I make it back. Kristen Jacobson, Whitehouse Station, N.J. 15. A brand-new car! More car-rental companies, such as Dollar, National, and Thrifty, are letting customers in cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas pick from a group of vehicles on the lot. To make sure I get the best value, I've learned to look for an in-state license plate with a combination of the highest letters and numbers. In Vegas, for example, a plate that says 300 UVX is higher than 300 UVT. The Department of Motor Vehicles typically issues license plates sequentially, and the plates with higher letters and numbers tend to be on the newest cars, which usually have the lowest mileage. John Casey, Reno, Nev. 16. Closet expander Closets on river barges and trains can be very narrow. In order to fit more into the small space, I always pack cascading hangers with multiple hooks. Linda Reynolds, Centerville, Ohio 17. Pocket-size passport On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I found a great little shop that can make a mini black-and-white image of your passport and then laminate it so it fits in your wallet. I've since learned that most copy stores can do this, too. It's comforting to know I have my passport info with me at all times and that if I lose my real one, I have a backup. Eva Kriz, Brooklyn, N.Y. 18. Map saver When I get a map of a city, I fold it to show only the areas I'm planning to visit and then slip it inside a clear plastic sheet protector. That way, the map doesn't rip from being handled too much. Jay Edgeworth, Berwyn Heights, Md. 19. Pineapples on board If you want to bring home pineapples or leis from Hawaii, don't feel like you have to buy them from souvenir shops that use special labels and packaging to meet the state's agricultural regulations. Instead, get your own at a local store for a fraction of the price and have them inspected at the airport. Gloria Hasler, Palmdale, Calif. 20. Bonus beach day My husband and I often vacation in St. Maarten, and a fellow traveler gave us this tip: Get your boarding pass and check your luggage as soon as your airline counter opens. Some companies, like JetBlue and United, will help you at 10 a.m., even if you have a later departure. Once you get your seat, it's back to the beach—a five-minute walk away. Kathy Baker, Manakin-Sabot, Va.

Miami at a Price That's Right

Some booking strategies Timing matters. In sun-drenched Miami, lodging prices soar as temperatures plummet across the rest of the U.S. At most hotels, rates return to normal after Easter and rise again around Thanksgiving. The weather in early summer is surprisingly pleasant, so you may want to bypass spring and visit the city in June or July. Farecast Live Search, a website that tracks trends in hotel and airfare prices, predicts that Miami hotels will charge an average nightly room rate of $156 this summer—not bad, and with a little persistence, you should be able to find even cheaper rooms. But be careful of extending your booking into the midsummer and fall hurricane season. If your heart's still set on a winter break, expect to pay upward of $274 per night on average. Mid-January often yields the best winter deals. Be flexible on your travel dates. During the Art Basel fair, the Miami International Boat Show, the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament, and other major events, hotels can charge pretty much whatever they want. Try alternate weekends to find cheaper digs, or call a hotel directly to inquire about package deals. Be aware of hidden costs. Ask about any mandatory resort fees, which can add up to $20 a day to the bill. Expect hotel room taxes of 13 percent. And factor in transportation costs: Mass transit is limited to the downtown business corridor, and some hotels charge between $15 and $40 per day for parking. Taxis in this town are reasonably priced for short runs, but not for long distances. Location matters. It's not worth it to book a hotel that's cheap if it's too far from the action. Key neighborhoods to look for include South Beach (ideal for people-watching by the water and in the clubs), Mid-Beach (close to the nightlife, but quieter), Downtown (flush with new restaurants and upscale hotels, and near the Port of Miami, where cruise ships dock), Coconut Grove (noteworthy for its café scene), and Coral Gables (chock-full of historic mansions and fine dining). CIRCA 39 'Hood In Mid-Beach, just a few blocks south of the chicly renovated Fontainebleau Miami Beach (famously featured in the movie Goldfinger), nestled on a quiet row of art deco and '50s hotels that run parallel to the shoreline. Livelier South Beach is a short taxi ride away. The vibe The lobby's color-changing panels and fireplace flanked by red wingback chairs pull this 1930s-era complex into the 21st century. Rooms White duvets, silvery diaphanous drapes, and pastel throws brighten up the 100 airy, compact rooms (with Aveda toiletries). Note: Some bathrooms have no tubs. Plus In the courtyard between the hotel's two wings, guests can swim in the pool, play board games like Miami Beach Monopoly, and sip mojitos or other cocktails from the stylish bar. Also: The hotel is very close to the beach, separated from it only by Collins Avenue. Minus Popular with TV production crews, the hotel is sometimes surrounded by lights, cameras, and (noisy) action. Free Wi-Fi Hotelwide starting in 2010. Currently available at the pool, in the lobby, and in public areas. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 3900 Collins Ave., 305/538-4900, circa39.com. Doubles from $89, plus a mandatory $10 surcharge, which covers use of its private chairs on the beach. Photos 1 of 3 HOTEL ASTOR 'Hood South Beach, on a stretch of Washington Avenue that's two blocks from South Beach proper—and not far from the underappreciated Wolfsonian-FIU museum, home to retro design exhibitions. The vibe An inviting, art deco hotel tucked discreetly behind a hedge. The small, sparkling lobby is accented with clean, spare notes like low white chairs and floral artworks encased in glass cabinets. Rooms The 40 beige-on-beige rooms are more spacious than those you'll find in a typical South Beach hotel. Tasteful black-and-white photographs and marbled bathrooms with tubs and showers class things up. Plus The staff at Hotel Astor (and its well-regarded restaurant) is truly polished and meets the standard of a multistarred hotel—which the property is. Minus Some of the carpets are ready for replacement. Also: There's no pool. Free Wi-Fi Yes; included in the resort fee. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 956 Washington Avenue, 305/531-8081, hotelastor.com. Doubles from about $139, plus a $12 per room per day resort fee, which covers beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels. Photo 1 of 1 HOTEL ST. MICHEL 'Hood Coral Gables, an upscale district about a 20-minute drive from Miami Beach. Some neighborhood highlights/mainstays: The ArtSpace / Virginia Miller Galleries, independent retailer Books & Books (well regarded for its reading series and live jazz), and JohnMartin's Irish Pub & Restaurant (beloved by locals). The vibe In this 1928 building, leaded-glass front doors open into a bar illuminated by chandeliers and furnished in a way that evokes a postwar Paris bistro. Rooms Unlike many period hotels with stylized, reproduction furniture, this hotel feels like the real thing. Most of the 28 rooms feature actual antique furnishings and armoires. Plus In Coral Gables, it's a rare hotel that feels this intimate and old world—especially in the heart of the business district. Minus The parquet floors in several rooms have scars that need refinishing, and the hallways deserve brighter lighting. Also: The hotel is not on a beach and does not have a pool. Free Wi-Fi Yes. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 162 Alcazar Ave., 305/444-1666, hotelstmichel.com. Doubles from $135. Photos 1 of 3 HYATT REGENCY MIAMI 'Hood Downtown Miami, which recently transitioned from a dead-after-business-hours district to a lively neighborhood with sky lounges atop glassy towers, luxury hotels like the Four Seasons, and posh restaurants such as P.F. Chang's. The vibe Low, Asian-style furnishings and a profusion of orchids are a calming influence in the busy lobby of this 26-year-old hotel, conveniently located near the city's main cruise ship terminal. Rooms The 612 rooms, renovated in 2008, have upgraded amenities that aim to please corporate road warriors, such as granite tabletops and iPod-friendly stereos. Plus Accessible by covered walkway, the free Metromover rail shuttle takes you to the restaurants on Brickell Avenue, the shops at the Bayside Marketplace, and the shows at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami/Dade County. Minus When a convention is being hosted in the on-site facilities, this hotel is loud and a little uptight. Also: The property is not near the beach, and the pool is small. Free Wi-Fi No; a charge of $10 covers 24 hours. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 400 S.E. 2nd Ave., 305/358-1234, miamiregency.hyatt.com. Doubles from $109. Photos 1 of 3 INDIAN CREEK HOTEL 'Hood Central Miami Beach, one residential block from the boardwalk and overlooking the pretty Intracoastal Waterway. Getting to the South Beach scene requires a taxi. The vibe In the cozy lobby, piped-in chamber music and colorful canvases on the corn-silk yellow walls create the impression that you've stepped off Miami's streets into a country B&B. Rooms The 66 studios and one bedrooms are painted in happy shades of pale blue and yellow, and decorated with white bedcoverings and wave-colored runners. Plus The hotel has a swimming pool, a leafy tropical garden, and the popular restaurant Creek 28 (which serves affordable Mediterranean dishes). In addition, 4 one-bedroom units are available. Minus Uses window-based air-conditioning units, which can be noisier than a central system. Also: Located two blocks from the beach, by day this is a high-traffic zone. Free Wi-Fi No; a charge of $6 per day applies for Wi-Fi in rooms and public spaces, but you can print out airline boarding passes from a hotel computer at no cost. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 2727 Indian Creek Dr., 305/531-2727, indiancreekhotel.com. Double rooms from $109. Photos 1 of 2 SONESTA BAYFRONT HOTEL COCONUT GROVE 'Hood Coconut Grove, a harbor-front neighborhood with a hippie past, clings to a no-worries attitude despite a sprinkling of new condo developments. The vibe Decidedly posh. An eighth-floor outdoor pool overlooks a sailboat marina. Meanwhile, cream-colored leather sofas huddle beneath attractive contemporary artwork in the lobby. Rooms Decked out in beige drapes and dark-wood furniture, the 209 rooms available for nightly rental in this condo-hotel are located on floors 9 through 21. Plus Families can book a spacious suite or a pair of adjoining rooms. Upgrades to rooms with kitchenettes and full kitchens are available, too. Minus Rooms facing the CocoWalk shopping complex can be noisy; ask for a room facing the marina. Free Wi-Fi Yes. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 2889 McFarlane Rd., 305/529-2828, sonesta.com. Doubles from $139. Photos 1 of 3 TOWNHOUSE HOTEL 'Hood South Beach, sharing a trendy block with sleek hotels that look like something straight out of CSI. The vibe In this spare 1930s building, white-on-white couches, floral armchairs, and red bicycles stationed in the terrazzo-floored lobby conjure up a beach-house vibe. Rooms The 69 minimalist rooms are whimsically accented with beach balls and baby-blue round rugs. Plus Within a Frisbee's toss of the ocean. Also: home to Bond St., an evenings-only lounge serving inventive sushi dishes created by chef Mike Hiraga. Minus No pool. Also: Bathrooms are tiny and few have tubs. Free Wi-Fi Yes. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 150 20th St., 305/534-3800, townhousehotel.com. Doubles from $99. Photos 1 of 3 VILLA PARADISO 'Hood In the heart of South Beach. Club-hoppers are within stumbling distance of Ocean Drive, and celeb watchers are within strolling distance of the anything-goes café scene on Lincoln Road. The vibe It feels like walking into a secret garden. A narrow, leafy courtyard encloses this small, onetime apartment building. The staff can arrange for your VIP entry to a few semi-exclusive clubs. Rooms All 17 studios and one-bedroom apartments have kitchens, hardwood floors, curved couches, and walls painted in bright, sunny colors. Bathrooms are tiny and spartan, though. Plus A surprisingly quiet atmosphere, given the neighborhood's party-all-night reputation. Also: a block from the beach. Minus This is a guesthouse, so the office is open only from around 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. No pool. Free Wi-Fi Yes. Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa. Details 1415 Collins Ave., 305/532-0616, villaparadisohotel.com. Doubles from $90. Photos 1 of 3

The Most Scenic Ferry Rides in the U.S.

Alaska Marine Highway System Leaves from: Juneau's Auke Bay Terminal Alaska's ferries cover 3,500 miles of coastline, but the 150-mile voyage across the Inside Passage from Juneau to Sitka is extraordinary. The 10-hour trip takes you past humpback whales, sea otters, black bears, pristine spruce and hemlock forests, and the sprawling, blue-tinged Mendenhall Glacier. In clear weather you can see the spectacular peaks of the Coast Mountains. The ship's outdoor heated solarium lets you bask in the views while fending off cold winds; indoors, the ship's cafeteria serves local salmon and beer brewed in Alaska. Can I bring a car? Yes Cost: Adults $45 one way, kids $23, cars $79 More info: dot.state.ak.us Photos: 1 of 3 Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Wash. Leaves from: Seattle Main Terminal, Pier 52 Glide past sailboats and cruise liners on this quick hop across Puget Sound, with views of Seattle's skyline and the snow-covered flanks of the Cascade Range. Weather permitting, you can even make out the 14,410-foot peak of Mount Rainier, about 100 miles away. Disembark on Bainbridge and spend the day exploring the island's hiking trails and downtown cafés (try the caramel pecan French toast at Café Nola), then time your return trip to watch the dusk settle over Puget Sound, and the city itself. Can I bring a car? Yes. And to get to Bainbridge's hiking trails, you'll need one. You can also pick up a cab at the dock, but you might have a hard time getting back. Cost: Adults $6.75 one way, kids $5.50, cars, $11.50, bikes $1 More info: wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/ Photos: 1 of 4 Staten Island Ferry, New York City Leaves from: Whitehall Terminal See classic views of the city's skyline and the Statue of Liberty from the decks of this massive, bright-orange passenger ferry. Depart from Manhattan about an hour before sunset, grab a soft pretzel and a beer from the snack bar, find your sweet spot on the multi-decked vessel, and enjoy the show. Then hitch a ride on the next ferry back as darkness falls and the city's skyscrapers light up, and do it all over again. Can I bring a car? No Cost: Free More info: nyc.gov Photos: 1 of 3 Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor, Maine Leaves from: Bar Harbor Inn Pier On this short excursion to Winter Harbor, a picturesque fishing village on Maine's remote Schoodic Peninsula, a 40-seat powerboat winds through clusters of lighthouse-topped rocky islets in Frenchman Bay. Free up space on your digital camera, because you might also catch glimpses of seals, porpoises, and bald eagles—and fabulous photos of Acadia National Park's spruce forests and granite shores are virtually guaranteed. Can I bring a car? No Cost: Adults $30 round trip, kids $19.50, bikes $6 When: June 23–Aug. 31 More info: downeastwindjammer.com Photos: 1 of 2 San Francisco to Sausalito, Calif. Leaves from: San Francisco Ferry Terminal It's about 30 minutes one-way on this ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. The ferry sells wine and beer, so you can toast good times with friends as you skirt past Alcatraz Island and take in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Get off the ferry at Sausalito and walk among the town's cute art galleries and shops or stop for fresh seafood at the many waterfront restaurants. Cyclists can bring bikes (yes, the ferry has bike racks) and tour Sausalito's colorful hillside homes before pedaling back across the Golden Gate Bridge. Can I bring a car? No Cost: Adult $7.50 one way, kids 6–18 and seniors $3.75, bikes free More info: goldengateferry.org Photos: 1 of 3 Halls Crossing, Lake Powell, Utah Leaves from: Halls Crossing This 25-minute run in a simple, flat-bottom ferry to Bullfrog Marina links the northern and southern sections of Utah's State Highway 276. On this serene stretch of Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, watch the extraordinary glass-like reflections of orange Navajo sandstone formations and Utah's prevailing clear-blue skies. Can I bring a car? Yes Cost: Adults $5, kids under 5 and seniors free, cars $20 one way More Info: udot.utah.gov Photos: 1 of 1 Boston to Harbor Islands, Mass. Leaves from: Boston's Long Wharf The ferry to Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area might just be the best way to see Boston's skyline. The passenger-only catamaran has a snack bar serving beer—act fast if you're thirsty, because it's only 15 minutes to the first stop. Spectacle Island is a former landfill turned ecological park with five miles of walking trails and supervised swimming off a restored beach. The second stop, Georges Island, is home to Civil War-era Fort Warren. The scenic highlight of the route is a view of the last manned lighthouse (and oldest continually used lighthouse site) in the country: Boston Light on Little Brewster Island. Can I bring a car? No Cost: Adults $14 round trip, kids $8 When: May 9–Oct. 12 More info: harborexpress.com Photos: 1 of 3

Chicago Booking Strategies

The newest option for affordable lodging is Roomorama, a Web marketplace for short-term rentals in Chicago and a few other cities. Any resident can list a share, an apartment, or a house for rent, and a rating system reveals what past guests thought of each rental. Guests secure their reservation by sending a credit card or PayPal payment to Roomorama. When a guest arrives on the scheduled date, he or she evaluates the lodging and gives the host a code supplied by Roomorama. The host plugs this code into Roomorama's website, and the company transfers the guest's payment to the host's account. If you would rather book a standard hotel, the blind-booking websites Hotwire and Priceline have proven themselves to be promising sources for discounted rooms in Chicago (and elsewhere). These two sites won't name the hotel (or airline or car-rental company) you're working with until your credit card has been charged. For Priceline, try a lowball bid, using BiddingForTravel.com as a guide. For Hotwire, be aware that the deepest discounts are generally for hotels that it rates "four stars." You'll find the most eye-catching deals by clicking on the "Deals" tab on the site's homepage. Of course, you face some uncertainty about where you're going to stay if you opt for either short-term rentals or blind-booking sites. You may want to instead go for a sure thing. Consider Budget Travel's picks for affordable, independently owned lodging with some personality, with doubles starting at $99 a night.