Monday, March 30, 2009

10 Reasons To Plan A Cross Country Trip

1) To Say You Did It. So many people who have heard we are going cross country this summer have confessed that they, too, have always wanted to do this.

2) To Bond. If we don't kill each other after 3 weeks in the car, 9 states and about 3,500 miles, we WILL be much closer as a family.

3) To Record It. Journaling, blogging, FBing, twittering and of course, many many photos will be involved.

4) To Eat. We have already started watching episodes of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives to find great little eateries. We love to eat local foods.

5) To Stimulate the Economy. If we are going to spend money on a vacation this year, it will be in the U.S. It's our contribution to the nation's recovery.

6) To Meet Family. Two of the stops will be in those uncommon places that relatives live. Ya know, the ones you wouldn't really ever get to if they weren't "on the way." My daughter will meet an uncle, cousins and a great uncle she has never seen.

7) To See Friends. There are at least 4 states on our trip where about a half dozen old friends live that we will get to lunch or dinner with on our trip.

8) To Learn. What better way to know our country, its history, its varied cultures and the unique characters that make it up than to experience these places first hand.

9) To Be Adventurous. This is the trip of a lifetime, the one in which we will do the things we don't normally do - white water raft, ride a donkey down a canyon, and maybe take a helicopter ride. Who knows!

1) To Unplug from Infomania. Sure, we will make sure we have our blackberrys and laptops for necessity, but its the one time of year we look forward to information underload.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Vegas on July 4th

If I time this just right, my family could end up in Las Vegas for 4th of July this year. Yeaaaahhh baby! But where to stay?

I know they are tons of places, and I know there are even more deals out there... but I'm going to be a bit particular here. I want personal recommendations by you... and they must have been within the past decade! My first (and only) trip to Vegas, we stayed at the Stratosphere at the recommendation of a friend's mother... a travel agent, mind you. And, believe me, I dug the under $50 a night pricing, but the smoke in the lobby casino (and the likes of the people still gambling, smoking and drinking at 9am when we came down for coffee) are not what I'm looking for this time. Plus it was so far down the end of the strip!

Nor am I going to take any suggestions for the great places, like the Wynn, Bellagio, Venetian, Ceasar's, etc. I've been in them and know they are awesome but too far above the budget for this trip. We are staying one night and will have our 17-year-old daughter with us and plan to go to a show. So not much time will be spent in the room. So, bring it on folks - what do you know about the mid-range places... New York New York, Mirage, MGM Grand, Bally's, Flamingo, Tropicana, Monte Carlo, Sahara??? Looking to keep it around $100. How are they... for real?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Toast to Mr. Cheers

My daughter told me tonight that the real-life bartender from the tv series Cheers was laid off due to the economy. I'm in shock. Who hasn't visited the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston that inspired the show? She doesn't remember it because she was young, but we spent a good part of a day in the Public Garden across the street from the Cheers bar, watching the swan boats and sitting on the duck statues. It's one of our favorite towns, especially the brick architecture and brownstones, the college and youth culture, the Italian immigrant and Revolutionary history, and the urban and cultural attitude (we're going to keep baseball out of this... Yankee fans).

The bar where everybody knows your name had a real bartender,
Eddie Doyle. As the news reported upon his layoff, he wasn't a womanizer like Sam Malone. In fact, he's been married to the same woman he met at the bar in the early 1970's. I don't know why this bothers me so much, after all, he is 66 and has had a good 35 year run at the bar. I guess it's because my high school years were peppered with memories of people shouting "Norm" and that song... The one that rings in my ears as I type. Unforgettable.

I hope Eddie Doyle can rise above this economic crisis and keep his heart smiling. As I hope for all of us.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hotel Foreclosures Up

My city of Fort Myers is enduring a heavy hit from the economic recession, having the number one foreclosure rate in the nation. Hundreds of homes are foreclosing weekly, which has resulted in a crazy number of families forced out of their rental homes because their landlords defaulted. It never occurred to me until this morning what impact the declining real estate market may have on hotels.

USA Today reports that 36% of hotels will face foreclosure danger this year, compared to 21% last year. This difference between this and the residential market is that no one will knock on your hotel room door and deliver you an eviction notice instead of the morning paper. Since banks want operations at defaulting hotels to continue, you most likely won't lose your money, BUT, you most certainly will see a decrease in service and available amenities as they cut staff.

Experts recommend booking at hotels that have been around for a while to protect yourself. My theory, look for hotels that just swipe your credit card, but don't charge you a room night deposit. And for that matter, consider outside insurance for cruise lines and tour vacations. Why? Those home renters are finding themselves not only out of a home, but out of their security deposit too.