10 Reasons You Must Revisit – what to see when revisiting a destination

Revisiting a DestinationRevisiting a destination is essential to understanding it. Traveling the world is a marvelous thing, but if you’ve only been everywhere once, how can you have a true sense of the nature of any of those places?

Change is one of the few things you can count on in this world. When it comes to destinations, revisiting after a year, or five, ten, even twenty, can be an incredible lesson in what is permanent and what isn’t. What a culture chooses to preserve speaks volumes about that culture, as does what it chooses to demolish. Furthermore, the rate at which technology and commercialism progress is different in different regions; a phenomenon which is fascinating at the very least.

We’ve all had the experience of saying “Oh, I’ve been there,” only to hear that major attractions sprang up in our wake. That’s #1. Here are 10 Reasons You Must Revisit:

1. To see a new attraction.

This was one of the major reasons I chose to revisit Liverpool last year. After attending school there for three years, I revisited to take a look at Liverpool One, the mega-shopping center, as well as the Echo Arena and the burgeoning gastronomic scene. As I wrote in my article Visiting the new Liverpool, it was like a “spaceship [had] landed in the town center.” I could hardly speak about Liverpool with anyone who had lived or traveled there in the past few years if I hadn’t revisited. Its entire town center is completely different, attracting a completely different crowd.2. To check out the new within the old.

Again with example of Liverpool, Albert Dock is a historical site which is constantly in flux. The iconic exterior stays the same, but inside, different shops and restaurants and clubs are always popping up. This is true in most cities with major historical attractions; new things constantly pop up in and around those attractions.

3. To see if your favorite place is still open.

Depending upon how long you’ve waited to revisit a destination, this can be less and less likely to end favorably. Still, it can be heartwarming and oddly rewarding to find your favorite hole-in-the-wall still bumping along successfully; somehow surviving the cold years without you. It makes you feel like you were right.

4. To see what tourism has done.

Even if you went there before it was cool, the tourism industry has a way of spreading itself to even the most remote locations at an exponential rate. For example, heard about all the cruises to Antarctica lately? Unless the place you visited was already a tourist trap, you’re likely to find new shops and establishments catering to tourists when you revisit a place. It’s not always the development you had hoped for, but it is worth seeing what kind of tourism a place you knew now gets.

5. To see what commercialism has done.

Much like with #4, commercialism has an uncanny way of spreading itself. You may find your favorite authentic establishment now serves Coca-Cola — and the locals couldn’t be more proud of it! Seeing a city before the outside world gets in is an amazing thing, but seeing it just after it gets in can be contextually profound. If you wait long enough, commercialism can be a shocking change, even to the way people treat you. It may be sad in some ways, but I prefer to look at it as educational.

6. Because you didn’t like it.

It’s happened to many of us; you have what you consider to be a dreadful time at a destination, only to hear friends come back from the same place with wonderful stories to share. It doesn’t necessarily mean you did it wrong, but you may have had bad luck. If you hate a place, and you’re interested in why it was bad for you and good for others, and you have the time and means, go back. You may be amazed at what you learn about yourself and the destination.

7. Because you loved it.

There are plenty of people out there who go to the same place for a vacation every single year. Many of us consider ourselfes too adventurous to be satisfied with that; unless we are also traveling to new places throughout the year, but there are definitely destinations we’ve all loved and long to return to. Revisiting a place you love can become a very spiritual thing. It becomes a place for you to reset and unwind, but with the comfortability of familiarity.

8. Because you want to show somebody.

Many of us do the bulk of our world-trapsing as singles. It’s just the easiest time in life to get away. Without the ties of love and kids, and that pesky mortgage, you can take off for months at a time if you set your life up for it. But then, when you do find love, and even when you have kids, you may have a love or a kid you think would truly enjoy a place you’ve been. For example, say you’ve been to Vienna, but then you have a child who turns out to be a classical music prodigy — that’s a terrific reason to go back.

9. To visit “in style.”

As time goes on, if we play our cards right (and fate doesn’t have it in for us), we tend to grow more affluent. Thusly, if we visit a place and return there years later, chances are, we can afford to do things we couldn’t before — stay in a fancier hotel, dine at the finest restaurants, indulge in tickets to major cultural events and more.

10. To check in on friends.

It is a special, yet somewhat common experience to meet a local on your travels with whom you stay in touch. Or, even if you don’t stay in touch with them, you can be treated so well by a local shopkeeper or restaurant owner that you swear you’ll return. These promises often fall by the wayside, so this is #10: to check in on friends — or at least people you haven’t forgotten — if only to let them know you haven’t forgotten them. This is an excellent reason to revisit a destination. It may mean even more to them than it means to you.

Have more reasons for revisiting a destination? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Photo by Annie Scott on the (temporary) Liverpool Wheel.

10 reasons to choose the cheaper hotel


Top 10 reasons to choose the cheaper hotel

So. You’ve got your upcoming trip narrowed down to a handful of hotels. Do you reward yourself with the loveliest luxury hotel you can afford, or do you quietly, triumphantly select the cheaper hotel?

The quandary itself can feel like a moral dilemma. Websites are designed, whether intentionally or not, to encourage you to buy spendier things. You, the frugal shopper, click “List by Price – Ascending” and immediately assume that the first couple of options listed are below any discerning human being’s taste level. For heaven’s sake, some of them don’t even include photos. Sound familiar? Well, stop right there and check in with what you already know: more expensive does not always mean better quality, and it certainly doesn’t always mean better value for your dollar.

Before you go shelling out for your top or mid-range options, consider why you were shopping online in the first place: to get a good deal. As for that lack of photos, there can be any number of reasons a hotel booking company doesn’t host the cheapest hotels’ photographs (“the hotel didn’t pay to have them hosted” is one of the most common), and you can certainly find photos of it on Flickr or TripAdvisor.

Even if you are looking for luxury, it’s a mistake to assume that the most expensive hotel is going to be the best experience. Here are the 10 reasons to choose the cheaper hotel:

1. You can get a better room.

Do you want the tiniest room in the fanciest hotel, or a fabulous suite in a less expensive hotel? Think about it.2. You’re not going to spend that much time there.

Depending on what kind of trip you’re taking, the hotel may just be a place to sleep. Of course you want it to be clean, but do you need twice daily turndowns and personal butler service just to store your clothes, crash there at night and shower in the morning? Consider.

3. It might be a discounted rate.

As mentioned above, you’re looking for a deal. The less expensive hotels on your list may simply be offering a discount — and normally, they’d be the very most expensive.

4. Location, location, location.

Before assuming that the most expensive hotel is the best hotel for you, look at the location. It may turn out that you wanted a beach vacation, and the more expensive hotels you were considering are located downtown in the business district. Furthermore, cool, up-and-coming neighborhoods often have up-and-coming hotels which haven’t earned the right to overcharge you yet (but one day, they will, fear not).

5. You will never use that gym and you know it.

The pricier options may also feature amenities you just don’t need, like a gym or a 24-hour concierge. If you weren’t going to use those things and they make one hotel more expensive than the other … you get the idea.

6. Airfare.

Airfare is more expensive than ever, and if you can lower the cost of your hotel, you may have a little more room in your budget to keep you off that rock-bottom, all-infant-red-eye flight.

7. Breakfast.

It’s a well-known fact that the more expensive your hotel is, the more ridiculously they will charge you for coffee and a couple of eggs. Unless breakfast is included, you can pretty much assume it will cost you as much as a reasonable dinner at home at an ultra-luxe hotel. Cheaper hotels tend to have cheaper breakfasts.

8. Some places are just plain overpriced.

The most expensive hotels on your list may simply not be worth it. Big-name hotels, for example, can often charge more than a boutique hotel can, even though the boutique hotel offers more personalized service and authentic amenities and experiences. It takes a little time to investigate, but the cheapest hotel on your list may actually be the nicest.

9. Because you don’t have to spend your whole vacation budget.

And, the least expensive hotel on your short list may be the most expensive hotel on someone else’s.

10. Beer money.

Or wine money, cigar money, whatever your pleasure.

Photo by Annie Scott.

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State Department issues Libya travel warning – read more about this forbidden destination

Libya travel warning
As the unrest in the Middle East continues, the US Department of State has issued a Libya travel warning, advising Americans to steer clear of the country, and especially of “gatherings” there. The Wall Street Journal reports:

“‘U.S. citizens in Libya should minimize overall travel in-country, exercise extreme caution when traveling, and limit all travel after dark,’ the US said in a travel advisory. It said demonstrations, violence and looting were all possible over the next several days, and urged US citizens to stay away from any gatherings.

‘Even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly and a foreigner could become a target of harassment, or worse,’ according to the State Department advisory.”

I know I’m not the only one who will have no trouble staying out of Libya in the near future. Confession time: I had never considered going there. So, why do people travel to Libya? Gadling’s Tom Johansmeyer posted about a package deal there back in August 2010 (An easy way to get to Libya), with quotes about its “archaeological riches” and “a sense of discovery in a land virtually unknown to the modern world.” Libya also reportedly has 1250 miles of coastline “teeming with underwater wrecks, ruins and Nazi gold,” making it a highly-prized scuba diving destination (see: Diving in Libya). Furthermore, it’s a popular cruise ship port for the British and Italians (see: Will Libya Again Open to US Cruise Passengers?).

In case you or any of your friends were already in-the-know about the secret wonders of Libya, Americans in Libya are being urged to contact the embassy in Tripoli with the following contact details:

  • +218 (0)21-337-3250
  • After business hours: 091-220-5207
  • LibyaEmergencyUSC@state.gov

[Source: WSJ]

[Photo by anniemullinsuk via Flickr.]

De Odor Works product review – can a slab of stainless steel eliminate body odor?

De Odor WorksDe Odor Works is a stainless steel … object, for lack of a better word, which claims to be able to eliminate all bodily odors with nothing more than running water. I have trouble believing this could be true, but hey — I’m still totally interested. If it works, it could be really helpful on trips to regions where toiletries are hard to come by, and possibly replace some of the everyday de-odorizing potions like foot odor spray or even anti-perspirant. Right? Well, let’s give it a whirl!

From the manual:

“Body odor comes from bacteria growing on the body. These bacteria multiply rapidly in the presence of sweat (which is odorless). Body odor may be present in your under arm, feet, groin, anus, genitals and public area. What one smells is the bacteria multiplying on the skin in the presence of sweat. Washing with soap and water does not eliminate these odor-causing bacteria but using De Odor Works with tap water will remove the odor.”

Really?

Scientific test time. As directed, I took a shower and rubbed this stainless steel thingamajig under my underarms for thirty seconds at a time, as well as on the soles of my feet. Now, all I have to do is wait.

…Two Hours Later…

After some regular activity (washing the dishes, running across the street for beer, playing with the cat), I checked the status of my underarms and feet. Normally, I use Tom’s antiperspirant/deodorant, and after using De Odor Works, I went au naturel. Did this work? Unfortunately … not really. Also, I took off my socks and shoes and gave my feet a good sniff. The verdict: a little stinky. Not overwhelming, but it was only two hours. I’d achieved enough activity to make my socks a little damp and the smell was definitely in the “no rewearing these” family.

One could argue that it’s the bacteria in my sweater and my socks that caused the stench. To this, I say “fine,” but then what’s the point of the De Odor Works? Bacteria is everywhere. And, bacteria is normal and sometimes even healthy.

My husband brought a phenomenon I didn’t know about to my attention: stainless steel “soap”. Basically, certain companies claim that stainless steel neutralizes the odor of fish, garlic and onions from your hands while you’re cooking. De Odor Works seems to be based on the same principle; that somehow the chemical makeup of stainless steel neutralizes the chemical makeup of the odor. Here’s what they told me:

“Its secret is the unique reaction that occurs when ordinary running tap water and stainless steel combine to neutralize odor. Using stainless steel with running water is a recognized method of eliminating the volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) that cause odor. Stainless steel is biocompatible to human tissue, so you can use De Odor Works anywhere on your body without any adverse effects.”

All in all, I have to cry “bunk” on this. It seems like it didn’t work, and it doesn’t seem all that plausible to me in the first place. I’m sitting here wondering if I did it wrong when the truth of the matter is that this is probably ridiculous. Sorry, De Odor Works. I just don’t buy it.

Photo by Annie Scott.

Daily Pampering: Betrothal Butlers at Woodlands Inn help you pop the question

Betrothal ButlersPlanning to pop the question? Woodlands Inn, a five-star, five-diamond Salamander Hospitality property in Summerville, South Carolina (just a short drive from Charleston) has enlisted a team of Betrothal Butlers to be at your beck and call as you plan your perfect proposal.

This special service is launching for Valentine’s Day, but will be available throughout 2011, so if you’re considering an “engagement-cation” this year, but overwhelmed by the planning it requires, this may be exactly what you need! Here’s just some of what the Betrothal Butlers can do to help in this gorgeously traditional setting:

  • Provide expert advice with all aspects of proposal planning. People propose at hotels all the time. These guys know what’s up and what works best.
  • Special delivery of the ring. Hiding the ring can be hugely stressful when all you’ve got is a suitcase. Let the Betrothal Butlers help you out — they can even deliver the ring in a glass of champagne, movie-style.
  • Creative dinner menu choices. Obviously, you want your beloved to have pretty much the best dinner ever. Inject extra romance with personalized selections.
  • Capture the moment on camera. So many of us wish the moment of our engagement could have been captured on camera! The Betrothal Butlers are totally on this. And they’re discreet.

The Betrothal Butler service is complimentary for dining and overnight guests of Woodlands Inn — and we love its formalization as a “service;” sometimes you feel like you’re driving a hotel crazy or like you’re the first person who’s ever requested help with a proposal when asking for help. This is one of those few situations where you do deserve special treatment, and so does your intended!

If you are intending to head to Woodlands Inn for Valentine’s Day, they have a Romance Package for Febraury 11-14, which includes overnight accommodations, champagne and chocolate upon arrival, a three-course dinner for two with wine, and breakfast for two the next morning (in the room or the resturant) starting at $599. Not too shabby. Call (800) 774-9999 to book the package.