ADVERTISEMENT

Join Our #BTChat: U.S. Road Trips

By The Budget Travel Editors
January 12, 2022
Twitter Chat Roadtrip
On Thursday, March 28, at 2pm Eastern, we'll host a Twitter chat devoted to affordable road trips across America.

We're hosting a #BTChat on Twitter this Thursday, March 28, at 2 p.m. Eastern all about U.S. Road Trips. We'll be joined by a multitude of participants who have an insider's perspective on affordable, scenic drives from coast to coast, plus Alaska, Hawaii, and even the Caribbean.

Here are three easy steps to follow along and chime in with our #BTChat.

1. GET ON TWITTER

Log in to your Twitter account (or create one at Twitter.com) on Thursday, March 28, shortly before the #BTChat starts at 2 p.m. Eastern

2. JOIN THE #BTCHAT

First, follow @BudgetTravel on Twitter. Then, in a separate tab or window, search for the hashtag #BTChat and click on "Latest" at the top of the page so you can see the questions (which will be numbered Q1, Q2, etc.) and other people's answers (numbered A1, A2, etc.) 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. READ, RE-TWEET, AND POST YOUR OWN RESPONSES

Feel free to re-tweet our questions out to your own followers so they can participate, too! The most important thing is to add #BTChat 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!

CLUB DISCOUNTS

Save up to 50% on Hotels

1 rooms, 1 guests
ADVERTISEMENT
Keep reading
Inspiration

Hotel We Love: Blockade Runner Beach Resort, Wrightsville Beach, NC

Not 20 minutes from downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, on the barrier island of Wrightsville Beach sits the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, a family-owned property centrally located on a pristine oceanfront plot. The boutique hotel has been around since the mid-60s, but it’s received a contemporary facelift over the years, now boasting stylish accommodations, beautifully manicured gardens, and an unsullied stretch of white sand, where beach meets gentle ocean waves. THE STORY The Blockade Runner’s history begins some 120 years ago, when the Colonial-style Seashore Hotel, located at the same site, opened to the public in 1897. As with many buildings in the Wilmington area during this time period, it didn’t last long, falling victim to a fire in 1918. In 1922, the Ocean Terrace Hotel took its place, but it wasn’t long for this world either, hit hard by a hurricane in 1954 and burning down entirely the following year. In 1964, the current iteration opened, and you can see still elements of the original midcentury style in the blonde-wood ballroom, once the main dining room. Today, the resort is collectively owned by four siblings, two of whom have managed the property since 1984. THE QUARTERS Each floor of the Blockade Runner has a unique style—my third-floor oceanfront room featured two queen-size sleigh beds with pink accents, a set of white chairs cozily arranged in front of sliding-glass doors for optimal sunrise-watching or coffee-drinking, and a gold wall treatment reminiscent of glam fish scales—but its 147 rooms and three suites all come equipped with a king or two queen beds, flat-screen TVs, Keurig coffee makers, mini fridges, free WiFi, and plush terry robes. Harborfront rooms are the least expensive; they overlook the Intracoastal Waterway’s boat slips and offer great sunset views, but in the process, they also face the parking lot. Oceanfront rooms come with or without a balcony and cost a little more, and suites are at the top end, thanks to roomy digs, soaking tubs with ocean views, and loungy balconies with gas fireplaces. Also available: A two-story cottage (formerly a boarding house), adjacent to the hotel, that sleeps up to 26 people, with 13 bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and a dining room that seats 20. THE NEIGHBORHOOD The beach is the neighborhood. Blockade Runner is a classic resort and it lives up to its billing, with enough attractions to keep guests on the property and happy about it, but it’s also centrally located on the island, just a brief walk from beach-town style bars, restaurants, and shops and a short drive over the causeway from Wilmington proper. No visit to the shore is complete without a stop at beachwear chain Wings, where you’ll find every conceivable accessory you’d want (and quite a few that you wouldn’t), and you’ll pass one on your way to the hotel, just as you exit the bridge. After you’ve had your fill of cheap t-shirts and toys, head around the corner to Hallelu, a cute boutique peddling bohemian, beachy clothes and inexpensive jewelry, or stroll a little further down Lumina Avenue to Sweetwater Surf Shop, where you’ll find a collection of cheeky Ts, bikinis, and boards, and Wrightsville Beach Art Company, the only gallery on the island, for nautical pieces made from recycled materials. THE FOOD On the property, East Oceanfront Dining serves coastal cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, either in the sleek dining room or outside on the canopied garden patio, and there’s a poolside bar that opens in late March for cocktails and seafood-forward fare. (Breakfast is only included with certain packages, and if yours isn’t one of them, the a la carte menu is a more appealing option than the buffet.) Within walking distance, try the Trolly Stop for hot dogs (varieties include all-beef, smoked pork, and vegetarian) or the deli counter at Roberts Market for juicy, piping-hot fried chicken—but only before 3 p.m., when both local faves stop serving (on offseason weekdays, at least). The Workshop, tucked into a small space behind Wings, offers espresso drinks and premade sandwiches with a side of shark-teeth jewelry; further down Lumina, 22 North has a killer fried-alligator special that’s lovely with a glass of white wine. On Harbor Island, between Wrightsville and the mainland, try Poe’s Tavern for burgers; across the Intracoastal, grab a seat on the deck at the Fish House Grill for iced tea and fish tacos (expect a wait on sunny afternoons), or make a reservation at the Bridge Tender for a more upscale waterfront experience. And over the causeway, just a few minutes from Blockade Runner by car (my Lyft ride cost all of $4), is Ceviche’s, a Panamanian restaurant with strong tropical beverages and a menu that ranges from traditional plates like ropa vieja and arroz con pollo to the namesake selection of ceviches. Scoop up the corvina, sea bass classically prepared with lime, cilantro, and red onion, and the langoustine, marinated in citrus and coconut milk, with plantain chips and tostones, and wash it all down with a fresh-lime margarita (only $6 on Mondays!). ALL THE REST Blockade Runner’s ocean-facing gardens are beautifully manicured, with a pool and hot tub that open in the spring. Guests can take classes at an ASA-certified sailing school (good for beginners or intermediates) or charter a boat for an evening sail; rent a kayak and explore the sound, either on your own or with a guided tour of the salt marsh; or lounge by the pool or the ocean and let an attendant keep you in fruity umbrella drinks. In low season, you can get a great deal on accommodations, and though you might not spend much time lying on the beach, the area makes a good mid-winter escape, with average temperatures hovering around the 60s from December to February. The rates more than double during the summer, though, so if you’re looking for a peak-summer bargain, this probably isn’t it. Also, as is common with some beach locations, the tap water is sulfuric, so if you’re sensitive to that smell or taste, be sure to bring filtered water with you. RATES & DEETS Starting at $125. Blockade Runner Beach Resort275 Waynick BoulevardWrightsville Beach, NC910.256.2251blockade-runner.com

Inspiration

Hotel We Love: Front Street Inn, Wilmington, NC

A family-friendly coastal community that's home to both a healthy university crowd and a thriving population of retirees, Wilmington, North Carolina, is a year-round destination, thanks to its temperate climate, proximity to the beach, and wide array of food, drink, and artsy activities on offer. In the heart of downtown, Front Street Inn is a quirky independent property with individually themed rooms, reasonable rates, friendly staff, and a decidedly welcoming approach. THE STORY Originally built as a Salvation Army headquarters in 1924, the red-brick building was home to an orphanage, office space, and apartments before it was gutted and converted to an inn in the early ‘90s. The current owners—a couple, married for nearly six decades—felt restless in retirement, first opening a restaurant in Lilliington, a few miles inland, before relocating to the coast and purchasing this property in 2005; their son, a former schoolteacher, manages the day-to-day operations. THE QUARTERS The Inn has two floors, and it retains the feel of a bed and breakfast, with first-floor rooms mainly accessed through the Inn itself and rooms on the second accessed via a balcony. (The Taverna suite on the first floor has a private entrance.) Each of its 12 rooms and suites has a different theme, from the nautical touches of the Jacques Cousteau suite to the southwestern-accented Georgia O’Keeffe; amenities vary by room size and location, but all accommodations have free WiFi access, and most have mini-fridges. I stayed in the first-floor Pearl Buck, a sunny, quiet, queen room with 14-foot-high ceilings, tall arched windows, maple flooring, and a selection of the famed writer’s books on the built-in shelf by the headboard, conveniently situated for bedtime reading. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Located smack-dab in the middle of downtown Wilmington, just a 20-minute drive to Wrightsville Beach, Front Street Inn is spitting distance from the area’s restaurants, bars, breweries, galleries, and museums, close to draws like the Riverwalk, a collection of shops and restaurants set on nearly two miles of boardwalk overlooking the Cape Fear River, and historic homes like the Bellamy Mansion (bellamymansion.org), the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens (bwhg.memberclicks.net), and the Latimer House (latimerhouse.org), which are open for tours and offer an idea of what life was like for rich folks in the days before modern conveniences. (Set on the site of the former city jail, the Burgwin-Wright also incorporates an overview of how things were for the less fortunate, in the days before habeas corpus—i.e., not great.) It’s around the corner from the Children’s Museum (playwilmington.org) and a quick drive from the USS North Carolina (battleshipnc.com), a World War II battleship that saw action in the Pacific and now welcomes visitors for self-guided tours. If you’re looking for a peek at the local arts scene, Wilmington’s Arts Council (artscouncilofwilmington.org) hosts a monthly gallery walk; pop into one of the 20 or so participating venues for wine, snacks, live music, and small talk with the artists themselves. Art is subjective, obviously, but I loved the black-and-white photography, cool collages, and amazing blown glass at Art in Bloom (aibgallery.com). THE FOOD Front Street has a beautiful kitchen, with a thick-wood-beamed ceiling, blue-and-white tiles, and a vintage, workhorse oven that turns out a daily complimentary breakfast (during my stay, ham-and-cheese quiche, blueberry muffins, and two kinds of pound cake, plus fresh fruit, boiled eggs, and cold cereal) for the inn’s guests. For the rest of your meals, nearby dining options are bountiful and varied, with joints serving everything from sushi to Southern in divey digs and highbrow environs alike. We splurged on dinner at PinPoint (pinpointrestaurant.com), named to Southern Living’s list of best new restaurants in 2016 and serving coastal cuisine that’s been living up to the billing ever since, with a menu starring meat, produce, and seafood sourced from local farmers and fishermen. For a light lunch or a more substantial meal, Savorez (savorez.com) is a small, colorful corner room with reasonably priced Latin American fare. Snack-wise, Front Street Brewery (frontstreetbrewery.com), offers half-priced appetizers from 4-6pm daily; pair a pile of light, crispy onion rings with a five-beer tasting, and you'll be more than sated. ALL THE REST There’s a small lot adjacent to the inn, and parking is free for one car per room. One room can accommodate a dog, but just one dog at a time, and it must weigh less than 40 pounds. Rates include breakfast and WiFi access. RATES & DEETS Starting at $129 per night. Front Street Inn215 South Front StreetWilmington, NC800.336.8184frontstreetinn.com

Inspiration

Hotel We Love: The Godfrey Hotel, Boston

The Freedom Trail runs around and adjacent to hotel's Downtown Crossing, a centrally located maze of mostly retail-lined streets, but the district, just up the street from Chinatown and Emerson College, is anything but fusty. The old-world architectural details of many of the buildings are preserved, but otherwise it's a thoroughly modern shopping area with "ambassadors" lingering on the partly cobblestone streets to guide visitors and outdoor tables for loitering in warmer months. In other words, it's a welcoming area for tourists visiting the city who want to stay in luxury just steps from American history. THE STORY The Godfrey, a small national boutique hotel chain, has its flagship property in Chicago. Boston, which has 242 rooms and opened in 2016, is the second property. Others include Tampa and LA.) It's located in two thoughtfully combined and renovated 110-year-old buildings that are listed on the National Historic Registry. Having once housed corporate textile and fabric trade offices on the upper floors and retail outfits on street level, they're credited with having had a historical impact on the city's once lively commerce. THE QUARTERS Despite being located in a densely-packed urban center, the rooms, which are appointed in neutral shades of grey, beige, charcoal and green, with tartan headboards tossed in for good measure, get plenty of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Rooms range in size from a standard size to a slightly larger double queen (two beds) to a larger studio king, which features a pullout couch, to sprawling corner suites on the top floor. Mini-fridges are not set up in the standard rooms, but they're available upon request, a thoughtful way to cut down on energy, an underlying mission at the property. The hotel pulled out all the stops where technology is concerned. Each room has a 55-inch LCD televisions with smartphone-to-TV streaming capability for your own Netflix and Hulu accounts, Bluetooth-compatible Bose wireless speakers, and Keurig coffee makers. Spacious bathrooms have a luxurious feel, plenty of counter space, and neat design touches like deep basin sinks. High speed WiFi and bottled water are free. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Suffice it to say you can’t be more centrally located in Boston than Downtown Crossing, a mix of gorgeous historic buildings and lots of familiar stores. There’s a number of restaurants and pubs nearby, and Chinatown is a few blocks away, but it’s primarily a retail district, so it’s very quiet late at night. The hotel is walking distance from the sprawling Boston Common and a stone’s throw from all four subway lines. (They’re designated by color here: the Red Line, Green Line, Blue Line, and Orange Line.) THE FOOD The Godfrey is certainly not a big property by hotel standards, but when you hear about its varied eating and drinking options, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise. First things first: coffee. A George Howell Cafe is connected to the lobby. Howell's name may not be as familiar as Howard Schultz's but it should be. In the 1970s, long before Starbucks, Howell founded the Coffee Connection and pioneered the specialty coffee movement, even coming up with the Frappuccino, which he based on the frappe, a classic New England milkshake. The drink became part of Starbucks' repertoire when the company bought Coffee Connection in 1994. Today the cafe features a range of specialty drinks and locally made pastries and sandwiches. Baristas explain the nuanced flavors of different single estate beans. The dinner option is Ruka, a creative Japanese-Peruvian fusion spot that features creative dishes and drinks in a lively, colorfully appointed space. And for a nightcap--or afternoon tipple--the lobby bar, helmed by forward-thinking barmen, offers seasonal cocktails amid the marble columns of the high-ceilinged space, which has tall windows facing the buzzy street. Belly up to the marble bar or hunker down on one of the stylish chairs or couches. ALL THE REST There's a 24/7 fitness center, but the hotel offers other outdoor options for getting active, too. You can borrow a bicycle for free or tag along with the "running concierge," who'll lead you on a fast-paced tour through the Boston Common or along the harbor. RATES & DEETS Starting at $199 The Godfrey Hotel 505 Washington StreetBoston, MA 02111 (617) 6494500 / thegodfreyboston.com

Inspiration

BT on the Weather Channel: Awesome & Affordable Spring Trips

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of winter 2018 melting (finally!) into spring, and with that warm weather comes spring road trips, big-city getaways, and hiking in the national parks. Budget Travel editor in chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello shares three great spring destinations on The Weather Channel’s morning show, AMHQ, on Friday morning, March 30, around 8:40am Eastern. If you miss one of our regular live broadcasts on The Weather Channel, you can often catch them on Budget Travel’s Facebook page, and, of course, you can learn more about each of these affordable spring trips right here at BudgetTravel.com. 1. SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO First of all: How does 300 days of sunshine per year sound? That’s what Santa Fe, New Mexico, enjoys, and you will too. The second-oldest city in America is also the highest state capital, at 7,000 feet above sea level. Santa Fe offers incredible history going back to the days when it was a hub for traders and pioneers in the Southwest. You’ll love the museums, galleries, and interactive art spaces, decadent spas, great food, and free-flowing margaritas. It’s a city that embraces its own quirkiness, earning its nickname, The City Different. 2. NEW ORLEANS New Orleans has a reputation for partying, and this year may be its biggest party yet. The Big Easy celebrates its 300th anniversary all year long, and spring - the sweet spot between Mardi Gras and summer vacation - may be the best time to find bargains and fewer crowds. You can hear authentic American jazz, blues, and other music all over town, try a classic Sazerac cocktail, explore the city’s voodoo culture, and kayak the bayou. 3. GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK With more than 11 million visitors each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the Tennessee and North Carolina border, is America’s most popular - it’s centrally located for a relatively easy road trip from much of the East, South, and Midwest. And admission is free, thanks to an agreement with the state of Tennessee when the park was founded (though we do recommend you make a donation to the nonprofit Friends of the Smokies. The park is bouncing back from the fires of late 2016, and it’s the ultimate budget escape with campsites for $20, amazing hiking, old-growth forest, and the kind of scenic overlooks that Instagram was invented for.