Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All Inclusive Carribean Vacation Resorts

OK, let's cut to the chase - taking your entire family on a relaxing vacation can be a huge undertaking and incur tremendous expense. You want to know where you can go to enjoy yourself without having to mortgage your home, right? Keeping in mind that all things are at least somewhat relative, here's one strategy for planning and enjoying a family vacation without selling a kidney - it's two words: all inclusive.

Before you laugh and dismiss the idea completely, yes, an all inclusive vacation might cost you a little more at the outset than the standard, pile-everyone-in-minivan-and-live-on-McDonalds type of vacation where you drive to half a dozen travel-worn landmarks that your kids aren't interested in anyway. But more than likely, your kids want to be more active than you do and you want to relax more than they do and it's pretty hard to make that all work out just right when everyone's cramped in a vehicle on the road for 6 hrs a day.

Consider this - For under $3000, a family of four can experience an all inclusive Caribbean vacation that will be memorable for all the right reasons.
(for this, we are using two "test kids" ages 8 and 10 and looking up travel prices for the off-season, which is usually August to October)

How about this one - for about $2500 a family of four can fly Air Jamaica from Atlanta (a fairly centrally located airport) to Jamaica and enjoy 4 days and 3 nights of all inclusive fun at Starfish Trelawny, where kids have their own pools, a massive waterslide, and the chance to do some things you just can't do in a minivan, like learn to fly on a trapeze, or climb a rock wall, or learn to snorkel. Parents can take advantage of the onsite child care with a little notice to the front desk for a very reasonable rate, and embark on their own adventures, even if that's nothing more than a little golf or a nap in a hammock.

There are several restaurants on site, including a buffet, and the cuisine ranges from hotdogs and hamburgers to Jerk Pork to Japanese teppan table entertainment (if you've never had diner tableside at a teppan table, it is a show! Take the kids.) The resort (hear that? this is a resort) also features a disco, and all non-motorized water sports are included with your stay. Instead of just swimming in the hotel pool, like you would do on the road at a motel, kids have four massive pools to choose from, including a special kids' pool, as well as the chance to enjoy the turquoise Caribbean water and white sand beaches. The resort provides options for sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking, all at no extra charge. If you need more speed, you can pay extra for motorized sports including water skiing, and jet skiing.

Imagine the fun when your youngster brags that they went to circus school and learned to juggle or flip on a trampoline? Not only that, if you stick around long enough, you can actually perform in the Friday night circus acts!

Another option is a stay at one of the popular Beaches resorts - for example, a family of four can fly (again, we priced it from Atlanta) to Jamaica and enjoy 4 days and 3 nights at Beaches Boscobel for around $2800. Beaches Boscobel boasts the only all inclusive with golf for kids. They also feature the XBOX Oasis, a mecca for the teenagers, as well as specialty restaurants, water slides, and "Ultra Nanny" services when mom and dad want some time alone. The younger kids can have story time with Elmo or have breakfast with other Sesame street characters. Then there are treasure hunts, face-painting, arts and crafts, banana boat rides, and all the water sports you can shake a palm leaf at.

The adults will enjoy the gourmet restaurants on site, as well as the pools with swim up bar, a professional golf course, beach volleyball, water skiing, scuba instruction as well as all the usual non-motorized water sports activities. And your kids can join you on the links if you so desire. The gorgeous golf course encourages this sort of family sport with green fees included and free clinics for kids. Beautifully situated, the course here is sure to become a family favorite.

This last set of resorts in our little summary might be considered a little over the top for the average family, but if you want enjoy a Caribbean vacation in a place none of your friends have been to, and you want to include the kids in your adventure, consider one of these more exotic destinations: Curacao, or Costa do Sauipe, Brazil.

I can just hear you going "where?"

Curacao is a Dutch Caribbean settlement in the southern Caribbean that's very unlike the usual Caribbean destination. For starters, it's Dutch - there aren't that many Dutch settlements left. Part of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao radiates its heritage throughout the island and this feeling is certainly present at Breezes Curacao. Just off the Venezuelan coast, there's also a fairly hefty Spanish influence which can be heard in the jazz music that seeps through the streets in the evening. The resort itself includes all the features of the Breezes family all inclusive line, like water sports, circus training, rock climbing and even ice skating! There is a nursery or a nanny service available for an extra charge but most all of the kids' activities are included with your stay. The extra bonus for mom and dad is the casino on site. Our family of four can fly from Atlanta and stay 4 days, 3 nights during the off season for about $3000. Not bad for a touch of the exotic.

Costa do Sauipe is a little chunk of pristine beachfront property in Bahia, Brazil where the Breezes chain has it's southernmost location. And you caught me, this is not the Caribbean - it's the Atlantic... but that means the huge Atlantic gliders rolling in provide some of the most awesome surfing you've ever seen. Complete with all the all-inclusive amenities, there's nothing you won't find included in your stay at Breezes Costa do Sauipe except maybe stress... designed to be one of the most relaxing places you've ever been, this exotic tropical location wraps you in comfort. At the same time, they welcome children of all ages to Camp Breezes. Cycling, hiking, surfing, swimming, trampoline clinics, sumo wrestling, body painting, pool tables, fitness center and more ensure that neither adult nor child ever be bored unless they want to be. Our family of four can fly from Atlanta and stay 4 days, 3 nights for around $6400 during the summer. Yes, that's a little pricey, but it's not every day that your kids get to see the rain forest. We're not talking about Go, Diego, Go on TV - this is real Brazilian rain forest country. And Iguassu Falls, one of the most magnificent waterfalls in the western hemisphere, is a short drive away.

Any of these all inclusive vacation resorts could prove to be "way better" than the traditional drive-through-America vacation; no one needs to do that more than once. If you've seen the wild west and the purple mountains' majesty and the fruited plain, expand the horizon a little bit, get some passports and see the World, not just the Country.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Be Part of History

This year we get a chance to become part of the very essence of something historical. There's a global vote going on (the first ever on such a scale) for the New Seven Wonders of the World. Voting ends on July 6, 2007 so time is running short. There's been participation in some from or another from every country in the world - people can vote online or by phone. Even youngsters are getting in on the chance to be part of something that will have a lasting impact on how historical landmarks are considered in the future.

The candidates are: The Acropolis, Stonehenge, The Great Wall of China, The Easter Island Statues, Timbuktu, Petra, Alhambra, The Taj Mahal, The Statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower, The Colosseum, Angkor Wat, The Kremlin/St. Basil Cathedral, Chichen Itza, The Christ Redeemer Statue of Rio de Janiero, Hagia Sophia, Kiyomizu Temple, Machu Piccu, Castle Neuschwanstein, and the Sydney Opera house... the Pyramids at Giza have a special, non-contested position.

Get your vote in while you still can - and encourage your friends to be part of this historical event. Then you can say "I helped pick those!"


Friday, June 15, 2007

Orlando Theme Parks Add Summer Spark

Orlando, Florida has no shortage of entertainment... it's the vacation mecca for thousands of American families annually, and a large international draw. But there's always room for improvement.

This summer SeaWorld Orlando will feature an expanded children's area. Shamu's Happy Harbor gains three new rides: a swinging boat ride called Ocean Commotion; a crab ride called Flying Fiddler; and new carousel called the Sea Carousel that features over 60 sea creatures. SeaWorld has also added a show for youngsters based on well-loved Sesame Street, called "Elmo and the Bookaneers."

Universal Orlando Resort is now home to one of the most entertaining and engaging live shows in music. The Blue Man Group opened their 1,000-seat venue here in early June. Their new performance theater is accessible from Universal Studios park and from Universal CityWalk and promises to deliver loads of fun for adults and older children.

Ever wanted to be an astronaut? The Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex opened their eagerly anticipated Shuttle Launch Experience on Memorial Day weekend. Participants will experience the sights, sounds and even the motions of an actual shuttle launch, to see if they have "the right stuff."

Roller coaster fanatics may want to trip out to Winter Haven and line up for a ride on the reconstructed Starliner - a wooden roller coaster originally built in 1963 that is now proudly standing in Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven, FL. The small tykes will be able to explore Bugville, where they will find rides and shows designed for folks too small for the big coaster.

Have fun this summer - take your family on vacation!

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Home to an estimated 16-million cattle, the vast and varied state of Texas, second largest state in the US, has plenty of people too in its half-dozen huge cities. It has often been said that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and vacationers who have explored the state tend to agree.

Between its Gulf Coast in the southeast and the Red River boundary in the north there are plains, rolling hills, lakes, soaring mountains, bogs, beaches and desert. In Texas' large cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, it is possible to swap the bright lights for a day at the ranch at the drop of a cowboy hat, or soak up culture at a world-class art gallery before taking a stroll through a scenic park. Outside the urban enclaves Texas has 23-million acres of woodlands, including four national forests and 125 state parks, from the great pine forests of the south and east to the rugged mountains of the west.

Most are aware that Texas is home to the largest oil industry in the US, but visitors are generally surprised to discover that the state has one of the country's biggest wine-growing regions too; that Austin is a musical Mecca; that Texas is leading the country in high-tech production; and that it is at the heart of a gourmet movement with some of the nation's finest restaurants within its borders.

Capital of Texas, the city of Austin lies almost in the centre of the state, a big city with a small town feel, young population, casual lifestyle and reputation as a Mecca for live music shows.

Home of the University of Texas campus, Austin life is closely entwined with the energy and enthusiasm of its 60,000 students, but this city that has been a state capital since 1838 does not ignore its history. Young people are drawn here too by the array of live concerts that are held frequently around the shores of Town Lake. Most famous of these events is the annual South by Southwest music festival-conference held each March. Visitors wanting to tune in to Austin's live musical repertoire, which spans everything from blues and country to reggae, simply have to drift down the famous Sixth Street strip of pubs and clubs any night of the week.

Austin's laid-back attitude lends itself to the great outdoors, and the city has miles of hiking and biking trails linking parks, preserves and greenbelts adding to the ambience of its leafy streets.

The massive metropolis of Houston, sprawling across the Gulf Coast plain of East Texas from its busy port, is almost twice the size of the entire state of Rhode Island. Even with this heavy urban concentration, though, Houston is green and lush, sited at the end of a belt of forest coming down from the north, and characterised by marshlands and bayous lined with cypress trees in the southern reaches.

Houston, named after former Republic of Texas president Sam Houston, is hot and humid. To make life more bearable in the close-packed downtown area much activity has gone underground. The city center sports an air-conditioned seven-mile (11km) pedestrian tunnel system full of restaurants and shops. Unlike most cities, downtown in Houston is the hub of residential development, so it remains busy and bustling long after dark.

Texas' largest city is not generally a sought after tourist destination, being concerned more with business than pleasure and leisure. Computer manufacture, gas and oil, and a huge concentration of medical institutions account for most of the economic activity, but all those hard-working citizens have to play sometimes, and there are some good attractions like excellent museums, the amazing Astrodome sports pavilion and its attendant theme park, AstroWorld, some wonderful theatres and, thanks to the cosmopolitan mix of its residents, some ethnically diverse cuisine in its many restaurants and neighborhoods. For visitors the absolute "must-see" in Houston is the famed Johnson Space Center, mission control for the US space program.

The two biggest cities in North Texas, Dallas and Fort Worth, are 30 miles (48km) apart but have been drawn together into one urban concentration known as the "DFW Metroplex" with a combined population of more than four million.

The two cities are, however, very different halves of a whole. Dallas, its soaring glass-sided skyscrapers seemingly growing like mushrooms out of the prairie, is full of glitz and glamour. Its urban landscape is vigorous and classy, its citizens enjoying the good things in life from fashionable clothing to flashy cars. This thriving city is the ninth largest city in the United States, having grown from a frontier outpost with 20 streets in 1841 to a center for big business and big banking, helped along a little by "black gold", the oil that was discovered 100 miles (161km) east of the city in 1930.

Fort Worth, the western half of the Metroplex, is exactly that: the gateway to the Wild West. Having started out as "Cowtown", a base for cattle drives, Fort Worth still reflects a laid-back and slightly "cowpoke" attitude, although surprisingly it has also developed into a cultural center with world-class museums and a thriving performing arts sector.

Dallas is certainly the place for visitors to enjoy a rich shopping experience and upmarket wining and dining, but Fort Worth is the venue for exciting and interesting attractions and a taste of western culture.

The word Texas is a corruption of a Native American term for "friend", and the friendliness of the cosmopolitan Texan people is the cherry on the top for a state that has something to cater for everyone's interests, whether it be space flight or rodeo riding.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

The New Coast of DR - Punta Cana

The east shore of the Dominican Republic is a long stretch of white sand beaches, celebrity villas and exclusive resorts known as Punta Cana. Although Punta Cana is an actual city, the title refers to the entire 63 kilometer beachside region from Bávaro to Cabeza de Toro. With a plethora of all-inclusive resorts and countless ocean activities right out the front door, this tropical paradise is the ideal getaway for honeymooners, anniversaries, families and singles alike.

Travel to Punta Cana and experience the absolute final word in tropical vacation destinations. The Punta Cana International Airport handles over two million travelers per year, more than the airport in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Secure your airfare to Punta Cana this season and lock yourself into some of the most reasonable resort rates in the entire Caribbean!

The Exclusive All-Inclusive Punta Cana Experience
Resorts in Punta Cana are second to none and the all-inclusive experience is certainly the way to go. With airfare to Punta Cana, transportation and numerous activities and amenities included in the nightly/weekly rates, all you need to do is pack your bags. For the adventure seekers, most resorts include water
sports, lessons and equipment as well as guided trips to various historic or commercial destinations in the Dominican Republic. The capital city of Santo Domingo and the smaller city of Higuey are only a short drive away and offer souvenirs as well as necessities at a fraction of the cost of the Punta Cana resort region.

Some resorts even include the opportunity to swim with dolphins or fly high on a circus trapeze. Snorkeling, jet skiing, and wind surfing are all very popular activities as well. Luckily, the entire point is protected by coral reefs that make the ocean calm enough and accessible for all level of swimmer. For those who wish to relax throughout the vacation, full service spas and beauty centers can be found in many of the hotels and resorts. Also, full service is offered by many establishments out on their beaches. Grab a palapa by the waves and place your drink or meal order any time of day without moving a muscle. For families, you will find organized kids clubs that provide all-day activities so you can get your own rest and relaxation!

Punta Cana Style and Sophistication

Travel to Punta Cana for some of the most luxurious beach, spa and dining experiences in the Caribbean. Oscar de la Renta and the Clintons have been known to frequent the white sand and turquoise water. Others come for the best deep sea fishing in the world. Foodies will find some of the most sophisticated and intriguing gastronomical offerings ranging from European fare to Caribbean tradition. Any way you like to travel, Punta Cana is at your service.

Some Punta Cana Hotels

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Family Vacations in the Sunshine State

Florida is one of the most popular southern states for people to visit year 'round. With its gorgeous warm weather, people can enjoy the white sandy beaches, theme parks and so much more.

Orlando is one of the top cities for Florida vacationers because it has something for everyone. It has many large theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. There is a large assortment of hotels here catering to thrifty vacationers as well as to those who want to indulge and get away from it all. You will also find many retail and outlet stores, dinner shows and entertainment as well as the Orlando Magic Basketball team. Another popular attraction is the Cirque de Soleil show. Located at Downtown Disney, this theatrical show will thrill and mesmerize audiences.

Tampa has also become a popular destination due to its city growth and attractions. Busch Gardens and Adventure Island are two large Anheuser Busch theme parks that thrill visitors of all ages. The Lowry Park Zoo and the Florida Aquarium both have a focus on animals, but also offer fun family activities so you can play while you are learning about your natural surroundings. Tampa is also surrounded by clear waters such as the western Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Both are great for watersports, sight seeing adventures and fishing. Charter a boat and collect snook, grouper and many other fish in these waters. Or you can just relax on one of the beautiful beaches. There are many hotels to choose from with two of the most historic being The Vinoy Resort and Don Cesar on St. Petersburg Beach. Both are world renown and have tantalizing restaurants and all inclusive spa services.

Miami Beach has taken an extremely popular turn in the last few years. This city has grown in popularity with updated renovations that make it more attractive. Celebrities vacation here and enjoy sunning on the white sandy beaches and partying
the night away at some of the hottest clubs in South Beach Florida. Salsa music is popular here and you will definitely feel the island vibe while relaxing near this shore. Miami Beach is as close to Cuba as most Americans will ever get.

When some people think of Florida their first thoughts are of the Florida Keys. The water is crystal blue and the fish and lobster are abundant here. Fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving are some of the most popular past times. You can charter a boat or hop on a sight seeing adventure and see some of the most gorgeous fish and coral in all of Florida. For land lovers the shops, restaurants and night life are enough to keep anyone busy. Each has an island feel and offers great seafood choices that are both fresh and tasty.

It's easy to put together your own vacation plan for the Sunshine State - choose a resort, city, or attraction, then build your accommodations and flight plans around that and you'll have an instant vacation in the sun that will be fun for everyone.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

All Inclusive Resorts - Travel Made Easy

When it comes to travel, there is no vacation package that fits everyone. In fact, selecting your airfare, lodging, activities, and dining options can be time consuming because of the multitude of choices that are available. Some folks like it that way though, and they think of all the advance planning as just another fun part of the trip. For others though, it's not that much fun and they prefer to have it all taken care of for them in one neat package. That is where discount all inclusive vacations can not only save them money, but eliminate most of the planning homework needed too.

Essentially, an all inclusive vacation package is a vacation where almost everything is arranged for you before you arrive. These kind of packages usually include the airfare, meals and drinks, accommodations, activities, gratuities, taxes and so forth. Of course, the included items can vary considerably from one package to another, but the whole idea of an all inclusive package deal is to package up as much fun as possible all together. Just make sure that you have a clear idea of what is and is not included in any package deal that you buy.

An all inclusive travel package is kind of like buying your vacation in bulk instead of just assembling it one piece at a time. And as most consumers know, anytime that you can buy in volume, you can usually get a better deal. This is because the resort or company that arranges the all inclusive travel deal can get discounts when they combine all the features of a vacation together and sell it as a package. You just have to make sure that what is included in the package are things that you can really use, especially the listed activities during your stay.

Some of the more popular hotel chains in the all inclusive arena market themselves as Super- or Ultra- inclusive as the list of included amenities expands. For example, most Caribbean all inclusives provide, at no extra charge, at least half a dozen water sports including scuba diving (or lessons), windsurfing, snorkeling, wildlife interaction, sailing, and skiing, just to name a few. Many hotels also offer other activities like horseback riding, walking tours, golf, cooking lessons, spa treatments, and even short excursions to attractions that are off the property, such as archaeological sites and museums.

Most all inclusive resorts boast several gourmet restaurants in addition to their bars and cafes, so you always have somewhere to go for dinner. Many also feature entertainment, sometimes in the form of big name entertainers, sometimes in the form of the quiet jazz bar. Several of these complete vacations are designed especially for families with children, such as the Breezes Resort chain by Sandals. Featuring kid-sized entertainment built around Sesame Street parades and the XBOX Oasis, there's definitely something for everyone to do, in addition to taking in the sun, sand and surf.

With such exhaustive lists of possibilities, all that remains is choosing the location. With an all inclusive vacation, you pay up front, your costs are easier to control, your travel plans are easier to handle and you have more time to enjoy yourself.

GoTravel's Sample All Inclusive Vacation Packages:
Jamaica Options
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Tulum, Mayan Riviera
Sandals Resorts in Jamaica

Be aware, when shopping, of how the term "all inclusive" is being used, as it applies to both a resort and a vacation package. An all inclusive resort includes lots of amenities like free room service, meals and entertainment but unless you're specifically looking at "packages" you may not get a quote with air fare. All inclusive vacation pacakges generally contain everything including flights and airport transfers.