Budget Locations For Spring Break Travel

spring breakSpring break is just around the corner, and if you haven’t already planned a trip, our friends at Expedia have mined their price stats to come up with some of the most budget-friendly locations around. From family-friendly to party-hearty, these trips won’t break the bank.

Tampa, Florida
Home of the New York Yankees’ spring training camp, this sunny destination has much to offer both families and singles. A four-day, round-trip flight from New York into Tampa starts at $180.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
If you’re looking to brush up on your Spanish, check out Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan. A five-day, round-trip flight starts at $279 and with average lows hovering around 73° in April, San Juan is sure to please. This popular destination has made one of the most coveted travel spots this year, and new hotels make this an exciting spot for luxury and budget seekers alike.

San Diego, California
This sunny city is an increasingly popular Spring Break destination. For stays between March 8-16, there are a number of package deals available (flight + hotel) for less than $800/person on Expedia. For $772/person, you can stay at the beautiful Dana on Mission Bay between March 9-16 with travel from New York.

Orlando, Florida
Whether you’re headed to Disney World or just seeking fun in the sun, it’s possible to find flights AND hotels for under $300 total when traveling from New York City.

[Image Credit: Flickr via yazmapaz & ace heart]

Cuba: Nine US cities cleared for charter flights

charter flights cuba

Nine US airports have been approved for charter flights to Cuba, Reuters reported this morning. The Cuban travel agency Havanatur Celimar made the announcement on Friday.

The US government forbids commercial flights between the United States and Cuba, so all air travel between the two countries has to proceed on charter planes. The Obama Administration has already removed all restrictions on travel to Cuba by Cuban-Americans and eased the guidelines for travel to Cuba by US citizens more generally.

The general changes already enacted by the administration include an easing of restrictions on religious, academic, and professional travel and the return of people-to-people educational exchanges, which were outlawed by the Bush Administration.

The lucky nine cities approved by Havanatur Celimar: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, New Orleans, San Juan, and Tampa. Charter flights to and from Cuba already take off and land from Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.

[Image: Alex Robertson Textor]

Visit Vinales Valley in Cuba

Spring Break deals: Fares up overall, best deals can be found to Florida, Europe

The folks over at Bing Travel have been studying up on 2011 Spring Break airfare, and we hate to break it to you, but they’ve found that the average airfare cost is up more than 10 percent over last year, to $489. But the airfare increase doesn’t have to stop the beach party. If you choose wisely, there are still plenty of Spring Break deals to be had.

Bing’s Spring Break Travel Forecast says that lower fares on flights to Florida (particularly Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa) can still be found. The average fare for Boston to Jacksonville is $233, and you can fly from San Francisco to Tampa for $300.

And while many overseas airfares have risen since last year, average airfares from several U.S. cities to Paris, Amsterdam and Rome have dropped as much as 13 percent over Spring Break season fares in 2010.

If you are just settling into spring break planning mode, here are some tips from Bing on finding the best spring break deals:

  • Be Flexible. Now we would never suggest skipping a day of classes, but, ahem, you will do better on airfare if you’re not trying to travel on weekend days like your Spring Break brethren. Monday to Monday or Tuesday to Tuesday fares will almost always be better. And if a school schedule isn’t determining when you vacation this spring, you will likely save money by going at the beginning of March or April rather than the middle of either month.
  • Use Online Tools. You can monitor your airfares and get notices when they drop on a certain route from a number of different online services. Bing’s Price Predictor shows you whether airfares on your chosen route and dates are rising or falling, to help you decide when to buy.
  • Be Aware of Hidden Fees. Be sure you know what you will be charged for checked baggage, overweight luggage, aisle or exit row seats before you hit the airport.

Bing is giving away five $100 travel stipends for 2011 spring break travel on Twitter. To enter, tweet @fareologist with where you’d like to go for spring break. Check out the contest’s official rules before entering.

[Image credit: Flickr user Dawn Huczek]

Top five new roller coasters opening in 2011

With theme parks around the country set to open soon, here’s my take on the most anticipated new roller coasters opening in the United States this year. I’ll start with my top pick.

Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, Florida)
Busch Gardens Tampa’s Cheetah Hunt is by far my most anticipated new roller coaster. The multi-launch coaster looks to be an adventure that will rocket riders from 0 to 60 mph. Launch coasters are nothing new, but one with such a diverse layout is. At times the coaster will climb up 100 feet into a unique figure eight element, then dive down below the ground as it charges through a trench. Add to that a corkscrew and an airtime hill and you’ve got an action-packed journey with Busch Gardens Tampa’s Serengeti-themed area as the backdrop. The park has a history of well-themed, well-executed thrilling roller coasters and Cheetah Hunt looks to be no different.


Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas (Dallas, Texas)Texas Giant - Top New Roller Coasters for 2011
Six Flags Over Texas
is completing a potentially ground-breaking $10 million upgrade of the Texas Giant. The twenty year old wooden coaster has been re-tracked with steel rails in order to provide a smoother and more exciting ride. Thanks to the new rails, constructed by Rocky Mountain Construction, Six Flags claims the Texas Giant will achieve two World records for a wooden coaster. It will have the steepest drop at 79 degrees and the steepest banking at 95 degrees. I argue that the ‘Giant is now technically a steel coaster, but either way the redesigned Texas Giant could be an amazing ride that encourages similar transformations in the future.

Dare Devil Dive at Six Flags Over Georgia (Atlanta, Georgia)
Six Flags Over Georgia will be opening their 11th roller coaster in the ultra-steep Dare Devil Dive. The ride will boast a vertical lift hill followed by a beyond vertical 95 degree drop. Then, the rocket-themed cars will traverse a thrilling course with three loops, a zero gravity hill, and a tunnel. Dare Devil Dive follows the removal of the park’s Deja Vu roller coaster in 2007. This should be an excellent replacement as a similar roller coaster, Dollywood’s Mystery Mine, was well-received.

Green Lantern at Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, New Jersey)
Six Flags has a history of reusing themes and ride names at a number of their parks. So, it’s no surprise that there will be two Green Lantern roller coasters to tie in with the forthcoming film. Six Flags Great Adventures’ Green Lantern coaster is a stand-up coaster that was previously at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. One of the largest of its kind, it features five loops and a 144 foot first drop. The 14-year old coaster is getting a paint job and may also receive new trains and special effects. While it’s not a completely new roller coaster, it should still be one of the best to open this year. It’s easily one of my favorite stand-up coasters and I really enjoyed it when it was Chang at Kentucky Kingdom.

Green Lantern: First Flight at Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, California)
Six Flags Magic Mountain is set for a big year. Not only will Magic Mountain reclaim the title of the theme park with the most roller coasters (surpassing Cedar Point) with 18, the park will be adding two new roller coasters. The most noteworthy of which is Green Lantern: First Flight. Similar to the park’s extremely intense X2, this new ride will be a 4th dimension roller coaster where riders are positioned in spinning seats on either side of the track rather than on top or below it. While First Flight will be a much smaller coaster than X2, it should still deliver an exciting and disorienting ride.

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Busch Gardens Tampa’s Gwazi to reopen with new trains

Gwazi's new trainsAccording to the official SeaWorld Parks blog, Busch Gardens Tampa’s Gwazi will reopen soon with new trains aimed at providing a smoother ride. The dueling wooden roller coaster is named after a mythological African creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a lion. During the ride, the lion and tiger trains perform six fly-bys or near misses where they pass each other at high speeds. Gwazi opened in 1999 and, like many wooden coasters, has become rough over the years. The park has chosen to add new millennium flyer trains to reduce the roughness. More from SeaWorld Parks:

The new trains provide the smoothest way to ride a wooden coaster and are highly regarded for their spacious, cushioned seats and individual row design that resembles wooden roller coaster trains from the early 1900s.

The last few times that I rode Gwazi, it was pretty rough and only one side was running. It’s been a weak spot in an otherwise beautifully-themed and well-run theme park. I’m curious to see how much of a difference the new trains make as theme parks typically re-track wooden coasters to smooth out a rough ride. Hopefully, the millennium flyers will provide a much more enjoyable experience. Gwazi will reopen on January 22nd.