It's the final round of our Blog-Off Contest!
More than 80 people have entered our Blog-Off Contest, competing for a chance to win $500 and become a guest-blogger. We've picked our four favorite entries, based on writing quality and "informativeness." (See full contest rules here.) The person whose entry receives the most comments during the next week will win. So you can help pick the winner by posting comments now!
Here are our four finalists in no particular order:
A young man goes to Belgium on a quest for the world's most elusive beer.--Nick Wusz
An exhausted mother learns how to find spa bargains.--Kyla Kelim
The author offers advice to a first-time Vietnam visitor.--"Ourman"
A food-lover's list of the best places for budget travelers to eat in eight cool places.--Roselyn Sugay-Helbling
Bottled water: why it bugs me
There are a million little things we could all be doing to make the world greener, but if there's one that I'm particularly onboard with it's getting people to drink less bottled water. I don't mean people traveling to (or living in) places where the water isn't potable; I mean people who go to Costco or wherever and buy bottled water in cases, then drink it instead of buying a Brita filter for their tap water. I'm not alone: Nalgene, the folks who make those ubiquitous wide-mouth water bottles that hikers and bikers love, is trying to get people to sign a pledge that they'll give up bottled water for a week, month, or year (information here). Obviously the company has a vested interest--they'd like you to buy a Nalgene bottle and refill it--but so what: Making people aware of all the landfill they're creating is the first step in getting them to do something about it.
Little-known ways to fly to Italy and Germany
Discount airline Eurofly is worth considering for your next trip to Italy. Eurofly is a low-cost carrier based in Milan that provides nonstop service between New York City and Bologna, Bari, Catania, Lamezia Terme, Naples, Palermo, Pescara, and Rome. These cities make convenient jumping-off points, whether for exploring less-touristed regions like Apulia (fly into Bari) and Calabria (choose Lamezia Terme) or Italy's best-loved destinations. Bologna, for instance, grants easy access to Tuscany to the south and Venice to the north while Rome and Naples put the Amalfi Coast within a short drive. All flights are nonstop on Airbus 330-200 planes. Even if you plan to visit Italy this summer and don't live in the Big Apple, you may save by flying a U.S. discount carrier to New York City and then catching a non-stop flight on Eurofly. You can only find its fares at Eurofly.com--not through Web travel agencies, such as Orbitz, or meta-search websites, such as Kayak. As a fun side note, Eurofly is the official airline of the FC Inter and AC Milan soccer teams and the Ferrari racing team.--Kate Appleton Discount airline Condor is worth considering for your next trip to Germany. For several years now and with almost no marketing, Condor Airlines has been flying from Anchorage, Las Vegas, Fort Myers, and Orlando to Frankfurt, Germany, with connecting flights to other cities. The airline is owned by Thomas Cook and uses Boeing 767-300, Boeing 757-300 and Airbus A320 aircraft. You won't find its fares at Web travel agencies, such as Orbitz, or meta-search websites, such as Kayak. Instead, you'll find Condor's fares at its website. If you're flying to Germany this summer, consider hopping a U.S. discount airline to Las Vegas (assuming you don't already live in Sin City), and then jumping on Condor, which flies to Frankfurt from Las Vegas four times a week.
Today's travel intel
It's Budget Travel's credo that you don't need most travel products. Our official reason is that we think they're almost always a waste of money. Our unofficial reason is that you'll look like a total geek if you carry around some of this stuff. In fact, nothing says "geek" like a pair of bottle-opener sandals. Well, on second thought, maybe an 84-tool Swiss Army knife screams "geek.' Here's a full round-up of travel gear for geeks. (I would like to add another product to this round-up: Vibram's new aquasocks with toes. As a very wise man -- who happens to be my boss -- once said, just because you can make toes out of neoprene doesn't mean you should.) America has been rated the world's most unfriendly destination for foreign travelers in a new global poll. Only Canadians still like us, or at least, they are the only nationality that continues to visit our country in the same numbers as in 2000. The drop-off in European and Japanese visitors is all the more astonishing because today's exchange rates with the euro, the pound, and the yen make the U.S. relatively cheap. Details on the global poll can be found in this article in the New Zealand Herald (via BoingBoing) What's the world's most treacherous road? This blogger and the Washington Post both say they have found the answer: Bolivia's Road of Death. This road has a 40-mile, unpaved section that is a lane "hacked out of the mountainside, bordered by 3,000-foot cliffs." (See images at the Dark Roasted Blend blog.) I recently told you about the slide show "How to Take Better Pictures of Your Friends," put together by Budget Travel's photo department. You may also be interested in some expert scrapbooking tips and some time-saving tricks for making photo books.
Ireland on sale in peak season
Low-cost airline Aer Lingus is holding a sale that ends tomorrow. It's offering some amazing fares for summer travel. Round-trip tickets for flights departing from New York or Boston and arriving in Dublin or Shannon cost $498, plus taxes, which can add up to $220. Fares are good from July 1 through the end of August, when fares ordinarily hover around $900, plus taxes. Fares departing from Chicago and arriving in Shannon are also $498 round-trip. Fares out of L.A. are $399 round-trip, flying into Shannon or Dublin. Note: Aer Lingus is starting service from San Francisco to Dublin, for $400 round-trip. (Taxes add about $200 a ticket for each of the above offers.) For details, click here.