Join Our European Travel Twitter Chat on Monday, April 11 at 1pm ET!
Mark your calendars: We're hosting our next #BT_Chat Monday, April 11, at 1 p.m. EDT all about European travel, and we want you to join us!
The chat is sponsored by Contiki (@ContikiUSA), and we'll be joined by a multitude of participants who have an insider's perspective on travel to Europe.
Here are three easy steps for following along and chiming in with our #BT_Chat.
1. Get Your Tweet On
Log in to your Twitter account (or create one here) shortly before the chat starts at 1 p.m.
2. Join the #BT_Chat
First, follow @BudgetTravel on Twitter. Then, in a separate tab or window, search for the hashtag #BT_Chat and click on "All" at the top of the page so you can see the questions and other people's answers as they come in. Depending on how chatty you are and how many people are responding to your answers, you may want to open a third tab or window to help keep track of notifications.
3. Chime In!
Feel free to re-tweet our questions out to your own followers so they can participate, too! The most important thing is to add #BT_Chat to your answers so the rest of us can see them. Take this as a fun, informal opportunity to chat with other people who care about travel as much as you do. Use the questions we ask as a jumping off point for conversation and to make new friends over the Twittersphere, and above all, have fun!
Win a FREE European Vacation from Contiki
Ready to explore Italy? Or Spain? Or maybe take a grand tour that takes you through several European capitals? Of course you are! So we’re psyched to share a contest that could make it happen: Contiki, the travel company for 18-to-35-year-olds, is offering a chance for travelers in that age range to win a FREE European vacation via its #BagTagContest. Visit Contiki.com/bagtag by April 27 to enter: You’ll watch up to six fun videos that each show the contents of a travel bag packed for a Contiki European vacation. Correctly guess which vacation a particular bag is packed for (that’s where the “bag tag” name comes from), and you’ll be entered for a chance to win that trip. Contiki will be announcing hints and clues on their site. One lucky winner will receive a free trip and more, and win or lose you'll likely be inspired to explore each and every trip on the list. To learn more about affordable vacations for travelers ages 18 to 35 in Europe and beyond (Contiki offers more than 270 of them), follow @BudgetTravel and @Contiki on Twitter and join our #BT_Chat next Monday, April 11, at 1pm EDT, co-sponsored by Contiki.
15 Last-Minute Spring Break Deals You Can Book on Your Phone
Everyone knows that procrastination typically doesn’t pay off. But it does if you’re still looking to book a spring break vacation this year. Down to the wire and still hunting for a bargain? Check out these destinations first! For spring break, they have some of the lowest average hotel rates, according to new data from Priceline.com, whether you want to hit the beach, ski some fresh powder, or take advantage of sunny outdoor activities. SUN • Phoenix, AZ ($127.14) • Charleston, SC ($131.89) • Austin, TX ($135.70) • Nashville, TN ($138.68) • Palm Springs, CA ($143.08) SAND • Myrtle Beach, SC ($69.48) • Jacksonville, FL ($105.87) • Costa Rica ($106.61) • Daytona Beach, FL ($137.09) • Long Beach, CA ($146.01) SNOW • Salt Lake City, UT ($96.68) • Toronto, ON ($98.49) • St. Paul, MN ($111.01) • Chicago, IL ($113.33) • Denver, CO ($136.46) And we have even more intel on how to save big: The new way to find deals is bypassing your computer and relying solely on your mobile device. Priceline.com travel analyst Brian Ek says some of the site’s best deals on hotels, flights, and car rentals are available exclusively through its app, particularly for last-minute bookers. (If you don't have the app, download it here for iPhone/iPad and here for Android.) “For example, exclusive to the Priceline.com app are Tonight-Only deals,” Ek says. “Priceline.com adds hotel deals at up to 40 percent off daily at 11 a.m. that are available for same-day check in. When in the app, simply tap on the filter button and sort by ‘deals’ to bring all Tonight-Only deals up to the top of your search. You can book your stay up to four nights at the discounted rate.” To maximize savings, Ek recommends bundling your hotel and flight together. However, the strategy to saving on hotels is the opposite of nabbing cheap airfare. While flights are cheaper more than 21 days in advance and rates typically increase as the travel day gets closer, hotels are the opposite, with rates dropping as check-in day approaches. Ek explains: “Booking more last-minute can score you extra savings since at the end of the day, many hotels have unsold rooms, and to offer those rooms up at a discount benefits both the hotel and the consumer.” Procrastination has never felt so good!
29 Reasons We Love Belgium
Belgium pops off the map, alive with modern, artistic lodgings, unconventional museums, and beloved regional food and beer. During a 10-day trip through Brussels and Wallonia, I made sure to hit the most popular travel sites, including Waterloo, Bastogne, and Brussels, but I also made a point to stray from the traditional spots…and I was glad I did. Ready for a grand tour? Here are 29-plus reasons you’ll love Belgium as much as I did. Brussels: Chocolate, waffles, and…beer! Brussels is the home of the European Union and a truly international city. The beautiful Grand-Place and infamous Manneken Pis are must-sees, but for a different perspective, take a bike tour with Pro Velo; it’s a unique way to admire the city’s diverse architecture and chat up a local (provelo.org). My guide, Riet Naessens, gave me a tour focused on the city’s art deco and art nouveau architecture through burgeoning and luxurious neighborhoods I might not have reached on my own. We passed by designs by some of art nouveau’s most famous architects, Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. Stunning glasswork by artist Ernest Delune at Rue du Lac 6, often seen in art history textbooks, was a highlight, as was the Horta Museum, a World Heritage Site. Pro Velo also offers a popular Beer and Breweries tour, which I’d warn beginning bikers against for obvious reasons. Ingesting and investing in some chocolate while touring Brussels is crucial for any visit. Laurent Gerbaud has some outstanding chocolates, many mixed with tart and sweet dried and candied fruits (chocolatsgerbaud.be). Gerbaud’s interactive workshops offer students the opportunity to make and taste their own concoctions. His shop also has a café, so take a seat and enjoy the full chocolate experience. It’s close enough to do some oh-so-convenient chocolate shop–hopping at Place du Grand Sablon, where many of Belgium’s top chocolatiers have stores. For another sweet Brussels fix, walk a few feet from the popular naked Manneken Pis statue to feast on a Brussels-style waffle with chocolate, whipped cream, and strawberries at the Waffle Factory (wafflefactory.com). When in Brussels… Next up: a trip to the Atomium, a bizarre remnant of the 1958 World’s Fair, which might be the very definition of interesting and offbeat. This structure symbolizes an iron crystal expanded 165 billion times and houses an exhibition space. Nearby is another weird find, Mini-Europe, where you can walk among famous European monuments in miniature, including Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower (minieurope.com). Kids are the perfect audience for Mini-Europe—as are adults on the hunt for funny Instagram photos. Dinant: Paddle through town and discover a new way to make music. The fairytale-like setting that makes up Dinant is marked by a grand 13th-century church on the banks of the Meuse River, backed by an imposing high cliff where the Citadel rests. To take in nature, go kayaking on the nearby Lesse River with Olivier Pitance of Dinant Adventures (dinant-evasion.be). Small rapids turn to quiet currents and revert back again as you paddle and float by rock outcroppings, lush forests, and medieval castles. In town, don’t miss the House of Pataphony, where you can expand your mind making music with everyday objects you wouldn’t normally think to “play,” from a chandelier made of cutlery to antique keys (pataphonie.be). The wildly inventive museum was dreamed up by instrument maker Max Vandervorst. It makes sense that it’s located in Dinant, the home of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. You can visit his home, now a small interactive museum (sax.dinant.be). Stay nearby in a castle at La Saisonneraie (from about $168 per night, lasaisonneraie.be), a former château in Falaën that tempts guests with exceptional croissants for breakfast. Liège: Forward-thinking art and cuisine, plus Belgium’s biggest market. If you’re looking to do all of this and still take a breath, you’ll want to stay in Brussels for few days. The chic Hilton Brussels Grand Place is well situated for guests to comfortably take on the city by foot (from about $245 per night, hilton.com). Start your morning trying Liège waffles at the best place in town, Maison Massin (Rue Puits-en-sock, 6-8- 4020 Liège). It’s where the locals get their waffles. Choose from traditional Liège waffles, sugary, chewy waffles that are ovular and unevenly shaped, or more embellished versions such as grilled strawberry or rhubarb. Sunday is market day in Liège, and whatever you’re craving or coveting, you’ll find it at La Batte, the oldest and largest market in Belgium. Local produce, cheese, fish, clothing, and books are all ripe for the picking at this riverside shopping mecca (liege.be). From the market, walk to Curtius Brasserie to sample Belgian craft beers (lacurtius.com). En route, you’ll want to snap a photo of the Mount Bueren stairs, an epic 374-step staircase located just beside “Brasserie C.” Once inside the beer hall, there’s an exciting energy. Started by young entrepreneurs, this Belgian brewery is housed in a former monastery. You can take a tour of the production area and pair cheese or meatballs with beer on the lovely outdoor terrace. Avant-garde art lovers, your new haunt is the Cité Miroir, an unusual cultural venue (citemiroir.be). Exhibitions are held in a 1930s building once home to public baths and a swimming pool: The remnants of still remain—works of art in themselves. Locals may tell you they learned to swim there. For dinner in Liège, you have to try boulet, a traditional beef-and-pork meatball that’s highly popular in the region. One of the best places to feast on boulet is Amon Nanesse, where large meatballs are served up in sweet sauce consisting of a mixture of pears and apple syrup, wine, onions, and peket, a local spirit (maisondupeket.be). Naturally, boulet is best complemented with a heaping helping of crispy fries. I had a boulet connoisseur introduce me to this filling dish: Sebastien Laviolette, from la Confrérie du Gay Boulet, is part of a guild of folks who make it their mission to secretly taste test meatballs at restaurants throughout the region and rate the best. Many of these Liège attractions are reachable on foot from both the historical center and boutique Hotel Neuvice, where 10 contemporary rooms surround an open-air patio (from about $109 per night, hotelneuvice.be). Mons: This culture capital invites. Mons is a university town with cool street art, museums, restaurants, and European charm—so much of it, in fact, that it was named the 2015 European Culture Capital. In the lively Grand-Place, pet the somewhat-freaky brass monkey statue for good luck before entering the Town Hall, Hôtel de Ville. Ascend the stairs of the 15th-century structure to take in the views of the striking square with its myriad architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to neoclassical. Inside Town Hall, admire gilded carvings and ornate tapestries, a gift to the town from France’s Louis XIV. Climb up higher, past the city’s historic brick homes, to Parc du Château, Mons’s highest point, where the magnificent belfry is located. The only baroque-style belfry in Belgium, the belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an exceptional place for photos. Next, walk down to the Saint Waudru Collegiate Church to see its exquisite stained glass windows and 18th-century golden carriage used in the annual celebration of the saint (waudru.be). Mons has several museums worth seeing, including BAM, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the fascinatingly bizarre, recently renovated Mundaneum, which contains a massive collection of photos, newspapers, posters, and books from Belgian philanthropist Paul Otlet, who spent nearly 50 years compiling every noteworthy piece of human thought ever published or recorded (mundaneum.org). Talk about a huge undertaking. Called a printed precursor to the internet and social networking, the museum has a partnership with Google. After all that cerebral reflection, grab a drink at La Cervoise, where there’s a dizzying array of more than 150 beers to choose from (32/65-35-15-25). Carnivores may stay to cook a steak on a stone, the most notable entrée at this Belgian beer hall. Others may wish to snag a table outside at Ces Belges et Vous, in Grand-Place, to take in the ambience of this historic square while feasting on traditional Belgian cuisine (cesbelges.be). One of my favorite hotels from my Belgium travels is Hotel Dream, in Mons. Nestled in the historic center, the hotel is in easy walking distance of Grand-Place—key since parking can be a hot commodity. The building is a former convent and chapel, so stained-glass windows and high ceilings are sprinkled in amid modern design and graffiti art (from about $103 per night, dream-mons.be). Durbuy: Europe’s coolest small city? You decide. One of Durbuy’s claims to fame is its title of “smallest city in the world”—or at least it used to be. The exact wording might be lost in translation, because they also had “smallest town” emblazoned in several spots. How it’s defined, I’m not so sure, but I’m chalking it up to another of the city’s endearing idiosyncrasies. Durbuy is a charming combination of cobblestoned medieval streets, historic sights, and lovely shops. There’s a local count here who still lives in a castle overlooking the town and the Durbuy Topiary Park (topiaires.durbuy.be). Billing itself as the “largest park in the world devoted to topiary that is accessible for the public” (that’s quite the moniker), there are more than 250 plants, some more than a century old. Stroll through these green sculptures, and you may recognize some of the shapelier box trees, including a larger-than-life topiary of Pamela Anderson on the beach, Manneken Pis from Brussels, jumping jockeys, ducklings, elephants, and several other creatures great and small. Shop in La Vraie Confiture du Durbuy for local artisanal jams and sweets for your friends (and yourself), then grab a traditional unfiltered amber brew at Marckloff Brewery, where beer is produced in small batches on site (confitureriesaintamour.be). Stay one or more nights right in town at Le Sanglier des Ardennes, a modern hotel overlooking the Ourthe River that serves a fabulous breakfast (from about $90 per night, sanglier-des-ardennes.be).
Join Our 3-Day Weekend Twitter Chat Monday, March 28, at 1pm EDT!
Mark your calendars: We're hosting our next #BT_Chat Monday, March 28, at 1 p.m. EDT all about 3-day weekends, and we want you to join us! The chat is sponsored by Visit Ventura County Coast (@VisitVCCoast), and we'll be joined by co-hosts including @Contiki, @ViatorTravel, @TheOpenSuitcase, @LittleRoadsEuro, and other participants. Here are three easy steps for following along and chiming in with our #BT_Chat. 1. Get Your Tweet On Log in to your Twitter account (or create one here) shortly before the chat starts at 1 p.m. 2. Join the #BT_Chat First, follow @BudgetTravel on Twitter. Then, in a separate tab or window, search for the hashtag #BT_Chat and click on "All" at the top of the page so you can see the questions and other people's answers as they come in. Depending on how chatty you are and how many people are responding to your answers, you may want to open a third tab or window to help keep track of notifications. 3. Chime In! Feel free to re-tweet our questions out to your own followers so they can participate, too! The most important thing is to add #BT_Chat to your answers so the rest of us can see them. Take this as a fun, informal opportunity to chat with other people who care about travel as much as you do. Use the questions we ask as a jumping off point for conversation and to make new friends over the Twittersphere, and above all, have fun!