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An 8-Day Tour of Israel From $1,299

By The Budget Travel Editors
June 22, 2016
Troy Tours - Multi-Deal - Israel

We are loving this 8-day escorted tour of Israel from Troy Tours.

Starting at $1,299, the tour offers exceptional value for travelers who've always planned to see the Holy Land but felt it might be out of reach. You'll depart for Tel Aviv on Turkish Airlines and tour bucket-list destinations that include Caesarea (built by Herod the Great), the beautiful port of Haifa, historic Nazareth, the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and fabulous Jerusalem.

To learn more or book this deal, click here.

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Family

Deal of the Day: Your Mt. Rushmore Summer Vacation Starts NOW

Is this the summer you finally see Mt. Rushmore up close? We've got a deal from Travelzoo that nabs you two nights in midsummer at The Lodge at Mt. Rushomore from $169. The lodge is minutes from the monument, one of America's must-see sites, and this deal saves you up to 50 percent off typical midsummer rates. You'll enjoy two nights at a TripAdvisor four-star hotel plus complimentary hot breakfast, parking, and Wi-Fi. Families will especially love the heated indoor pool and quick drive (and complimentary parking pass!) to Mt. Rushmore National Monument. And exploring other local attractions such as the Wild West town of Deadwood, Badlands National Park, and the iconic Wall Drug ("America's Favorite Rest Stop") makes this an unforgettable summer vacation. To learn more or book your stay, click here.

Inspiration

Three-Day Weekend: Norway

 This is, undeniably, the most beautiful place I’ve ever used a toilet. I should probably explain: In Norway, I often find myself uttering variations of “this is the most beautiful _______ I’ve ever seen.” But after years of exploring my ancestral homeland, I never thought I’d say it in a bathroom. It’s a nice side effect of the country’s oil-funded Tourist Route system, an ambitious program pairing Norway’s top architects with the country’s most scenic drives to design overlooks and bridges (nasjonaleturistveger.no). Their genius is also applied to roadside rest stops. Widely hailed as one of earth’s most stunning places—especially if you gawk at natural beauty—Norway’s fjord country has also been one of the most expensive to visit. But thanks to a surging U.S. dollar, plunging oil prices, and direct cheap flights on Norwegian Air, this year is the perfect time to see Norway at a discount (fares from $249, norwegian.com).  With so much to explore, the best plan is to see Bergen…and then get the heck out of town, driving through fjord country and hitting every scenic view you can. Soaking in Norway’s Seattle  Small enough to see in a day, yet chock full of great neo-Nordic cuisine, culture, and postcard-everywhere-you-look scenery, rain-drenched Bergen always reminds me of the Pacific Northwest, starting with its music. Norwegian acts aren’t quite household names, but the local scene has an impressive range, from Röyksopp (electronic pop) and Enslaved (black metal) to Sondre Lerche (singer/songwriter) and Ylvis (“What Does the Fox Say?”), all the descendants of classical icon Edvard Grieg, who play in small venues like Bergen Kjött (a meat market turned art gallery/concert venue, bergenkjott.no) and the adjacent large stage and intimate club setting at Lille Ole Bull (olebullhuset.no). I know this sounds touristy, but I can’t visit Bergen without walking through the colorful wharf buildings of the Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage site and 14th-century trading center. Dodging the relentless drizzle, I ducked into the expansive Bergen Art Museum ($12, kodebergen.no), then hit the vintage shops and cafés along pedestrianized Skostredet. They aren’t cheap, but Nordic standouts Restaurant 1877, renowned for its seasonal, local organic produce (from about $64 for a three-course meal, restaurant1877.no), and weather-inspired seafood perfectionist Cornelius (from about $48 for a two-course meal, corneliusrestaurant.no), complete with boat trip to its own island, compare to the best dining experiences I’ve had in any city, from New York to Copenhagen. To give your credit card a break, Marg og Bein’s award-winning local seafood (entrées from about $20, marg-bein.no) and Bare Vestland’s delicious Norwegian “tapas,” craft beers, and the best bread and butter you’ll have in your life (dishes from about $5, barevestland.no) offer quality far beyond their price. Once the weather cleared, I dropped everything to hop on the Flöibanen funicular up Mount Flöyen for a panoramic view of the city, fjord, and surrounding mountains (round-trip ticket about $11, floyen.no).  Driving a Fjord It contradicts everything said about traveling in Norway, but I rented a car. Yes, gas is expensive, but with a scenic view better than the last around every bend, I needed to explore on my own. My first stop was Naeröyfjord, the narrowest fjord in the world, with 5,000-foot-high snow-capped peaks plunging almost vertically into blue-green water just 750 feet across at its tightest point. This UNESCO World Heritage site is best seen from the water (I opted for a kayak, but there’s also a ferry) or hiking along the 600-year-old Postal Path. Tunneling under the mountain took me to Flam, a town best known for a railway repeatedly voted most scenic in the world (tickets from about $42, visitflam.com). This hour-long train ride, switchbacking 3,000 feet up the mountainside past a dozen waterfalls, is a must-see. But so, on the way out of town, is the toilet at Stegastein—even if I didn’t need to go. A Tourist Route overlook, this doozy of a loo peeks over the cliff’s edge, thousands of feet above Aurlandsfjord, offering a private, scenic view. There’s precious little to do in Fjaerland, and that’s why this 300-resident hamlet is one of my favorite spots on Earth. The sleepy streets in town are dotted with tiny bookshops (some just shelves with an honor-system cashbox); above town in summer they’re lined with the sweetest raspberries I’ve ever tasted. Adding to its air of fairytale perfection, the only real lodging option, Hotel Mundal, celebrating its 125th birthday this year, is almost ridiculously quaint and furnished with family antiques (from about $163 per night, hotelmundal.no). The toughest part was finding any motivation to go anywhere else. Journeying through the Land of Glass and Ice Just outside town, I stopped by the Norwegian Glacier Museum (admission about $15, english.bre.museum.no) to join a trek on—and in—nearby Jostedalsbreen, Europe’s largest glacier, its arms still grinding inexorably down at a rate of six feet a day (hikes from about $33, jostedal.com). For more midsummer snow, Stryn Summer Ski Centre offers the rare chance to rocket down a 900-foot ski slope in nothing but skis and shorts (about $15 for one trip down, about $45 for one-day access, strynsommerski.com).  The nearby town of Geiranger, another UNESCO site often called the “most beautiful place on earth,” offers hiking, kayaking, and ferry rides past waterfalls plunging thousands of feet from impossibly perched cliff-top summer farms straight into Geirangerfjord. Driving up the Valldalen valley, I passed through the spectrum of Norwegian ecosystems (fjord, forests, farmland, alpine meadows, arctic mountain peaks) and history (centuries-old farms and grass-roofed cabins to the new modern visitor center at Trollstigen Pass), seeing the country’s highlights in just 20 miles. My vote for most scenic of all Tourist Route overlooks, Trollstigen, or “Troll’s Ladder,” is a favorite spot for BASE jumpers. I watched jumpers in wingsuits plunge past the buses that climb the hairpin turns, as they tried to get close enough to almost touch one without dying.  Doubling back down Valldalen, I found an understated architectural marvel: Juvet Landscape Hotel, a scattering of glass-walled cabins and spa unobtrusively perched among birch trees over a rushing mountain river (from about $190 per night, juvet.com). (If it looks familiar, you’ve seen the movie Ex Machina.) Built by the architectural firm Jensen og Skodvin without blasting rock or cutting trees, the cabins have dark walls, sparse furniture, no TVs, and no curtains—ensuring there was nothing to distract from the most impossibly perfect view I’ve ever had from a hotel room. Do I really have to leave? 

Road Trips

Northwest Nirvana in Oregon

DAY 1: Portland to Mt. Hood Maple-bacon-wrapped dates, a fried-egg sandwich, a side of biscuits with huckleberry jam—from the spread in front of us, you’d think my family and I are fueling up for a triathlon. In truth, the only physical activity we have planned between now and lunch is a quick waterfall hike, but we’re at Tasty n Sons, a Portland brunch institution, and when you’re here, you eat (tastynsons.com). Tasty n Sons is our launch point for our road trip from Portland to central Oregon. Our mission: to convince our almost-5-year-old son, Theo, that road trips are the best trips so that he and his younger brother, Baxter—who, for now, follows Theo’s lead in every way—will happily pile into the car anytime we want to explore our country. If we fail? We set ourselves up for years of are we there yet?” pleas from the backseat. As we head east on Highway 84, Darrell talks up our first stop, telling the kids all about Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot-tall waterfall a quick 40 minutes outside of Portland. A secret spot this is not—2.5 million people visit the falls each year—but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular. Theo is appropriately awed when we step out of the car and get our first glimpse. His only disappointment is that we can’t get right up next to the actual water—a sentiment I anticipated, which is why I choose Horsetail Falls as our next stop. There’s not an official count of waterfalls in Oregon, but there are at least 238, and likely more. Horsetail Falls is one of my favorites for a few reasons. For starters, getting there requires a drive along Historic Columbia River Highway, a narrow two-laner covered by a canopy of evergreens. And then there’s the hike in—an easy 15-minute climb of switchbacks that stops you in your tracks with surprise views of the Columbia River Gorge. But the waterfall itself is the real draw. The falls shoot out in the shape of a horsetail, and hikers can walk not just right up to the water but also behind it, thanks to a cave-like overhang in the rocky bluff. On warm summer days, the pool formed by the falls is a playground for swimmers and their dogs, but temps today are in the mid-60s, so we settle for dipping our toes in the chilly waters. By the time we get to Hood River, a small town whose placement on a bend in the Columbia River draws windsurfers from around the world, we’re ready for lunch. Pfriem Family Brewers feels tailor-made for us, with seasonally inspired pub fare—including a children’s menu with more than just mac and cheese—and a corner toy area where kids can play while their parents finish their IPAs and fresh-hop brews (pfriembeer.com). The brewpub is also in the ideal location: right across the street from Hood River Waterfront Park, where the kids’ climbing wall, seesaws, and swimming beach make for the perfect place to work off road-trip energy (hoodriverwaterfront.org). Fed and happy, we wind up Highway 35, a quiet road that leads away from the river to The Gorge White House (thegorgewhitehouse.com). The historic house and farm is on the Fruit Loop, a 35-mile drive in the Hood River Valley dotted with U-pick farms, wineries, and farm stands with views of Mt. Hood in all its glory, all 11,250 feet of it (hoodriverfruitloop.com). Again we’ve anticipated Theo’s reaction: “But can’t we play in the snow?” And so we’re off to Timberline Lodge, the only ski area in North America with year-round skiing (from $260 per night, timberlinelodge.com). As we check in, Theo and Bax are out the back door and falling backward blissfully into the powder. We’ve barely traveled more than 100 miles, but we’re more than happy to have Timberline as our home for the night. It feels exactly how a mountain lodge should: rustic, sturdy, and with three gargantuan fireplaces at the base of the 90-foot stone chimney, cozy. DAY 2: Mt. Hood to Bend We let ourselves linger at Timberline for the morning. The lodge’s Cascade Dining Room can feel a little formal during dinner if you have young kids in tow, but the breakfast buffet is easy and casual. We pile our plates with farm eggs and freshly baked muffins, and then head outside to the Pacific Crest Trail. Depending on which direction you go, the path will take you as far north as Canada or as far south as Mexico, stopping at each border. Today we settle for an easy walk, pausing every two minutes for the kids to “discover” another rock or hunk of moss. The transition from the west side of the Cascades to the east side is always a surprise, even for those of us who’ve made the trip before. In a matter of just a few miles, the lush vegetation and skyscraping evergreens are replaced with a high-desert landscape of sagebrush, juniper, and crackled dry dirt. Tumbleweed bounces across the road as we make our way east on Highway 26. This is the longest stretch of our trip—90 miles from Timberline to Smith Rock State Park—and the kids are itching to run by the time we pull into the park entrance. We’re immediately endeared by the welcome center, an unassuming hunter-green yurt, and we duck in for advice on kid-friendly hikes. The ranger suggests walking along an easy trail that will give us up-close views of Smith Rock, a towering monolith formed from a volcano’s ash explosions a half million years ago. Sure, Smith Rock is especially popular among rock climbers, but this place is for everyone—photographers mesmerized by the golden light on the rock face, families hoping to spot a river otter or golden eagle, mountain bikers looking for an adrenaline rush. We’ve brought a picnic to maximize our outdoor time and avoid wrangling the kids in yet another restaurant. We coax the boys back in the car with the promise of huckleberry ice cream from Juniper Junction, which Darrell and I spotted just outside the park’s entrance on our way in. Ice cream in hand, we set off for Bend, just 25 miles south on Highway 97. I’m not usually one to waste valuable vacation time inside a hotel, but I make an exception at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (from $170 per night, mcmenamins.com/oldstfrancis). The McMenamin brothers are famous in Oregon for two things: being instrumental in pushing through a 1980s Oregon law that allowed breweries to sell their beer on the premises (hence kicking off the region’s craft-brewery craze), and restoring abandoned buildings like schools and churches and turning them into hotels and brewpubs. Old St. Francis School was, just as its name implies, a Catholic school. The McMenamin brothers bought the building in 2000 and turned it into a hotel, keeping so much of the original character you’d swear you need a hall pass when you walk down the long corridor. The big draw, for me at least, is the mosaic-tiled soaking pool. My family and I suit up and climb in. The warm saltwater recharges us, and by the time we get dressed, we’re ready to hit the town. With Mt. Bachelor in the distance and the Deschutes River running through it, Bend feels like the quintessential outdoorsy town. Polar fleece is acceptable attire anywhere you go, gear shops abound, and the town boasts tons of breweries. We’ve heard rave reviews of the beer at Crux Fermentation Project, and when we learn it has an outdoor area with a fire pit and cornhole setup, we’re sold. The kids improvise their own cornhole rules, and Darrell and I actually get a (very) rare20 minutes to talk only to each other. Small victories, but we’ve learned to take them whenever we can. DAY 3: Bend to the Lodge at Suttle Lake The next morning I practically bound out of bed in anticipation of breakfast. We’re going to the original Sparrow Bakery, a tiny spot in the Old Ironworks District that churns out the most incredible pastries (thesparrowbakery.net). The morning is sunny and almost warm, giving us the perfect excuse to sit in the outdoor courtyard and enjoy the bakery’s famous Ocean Rolls, croissant dough rolled in cardamom, vanilla, and sugar and baked to flaky perfection. We’re eager to get to The Lodge at Suttle Lake, almost an hour northwest of Bend along Highway 20. I’ve saved it as our last stop for a couple of reasons. The first is to soak up the property as it is now, a lakefront lodge and series of cabins that feel sweetly unsophisticated. The second is what the place is about to become. The team behind the Ace Hotel Portland recently bought it and are about to relaunch the property as The Suttle Lodge & Boathouse (thesuttlelodge.com). The character I love will remain, but the team will put their fun, design-savvy stamp on it, making it, as they put it, “a relaxed Cascadian forest lodge as imagined by a gently debauched scout.” There will be a beer garden with lawn games, a huge roaring fireplace to gather around for card games and spirit sipping, arts and crafts workshops, and canoe, kayak, and SUP rentals. In other words, summer camp for the whole family. We’ve rented one of the stand-alone cabins for the night, and as we sit on the porch soaking up the fresh air and bright sun, I tell Theo about how we’ll be able to rent boats here on our next trip and ask if he’d want to come back. “Can we make it a road trip?” he asks, and Darrell and I actually high five each other. Mission accomplished.

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