Urban Camping: Pitch A Tent In Central Park

urban camping in Manhattan
Flickr, Sarah Ackerman

High Manhattan hotel prices ruining your summer travel plans? If you’d like to try urban camping — sleeping under the skyscrapers of New York City — you can try your luck for a spot at one of the city’s summer Family Camping sessions. The Urban Park Rangers lead programs in more than a dozen city parks in all five boroughs, including Manhattan’s Central Park (August 24) and Prospect Park (September 21) in Brooklyn. The campouts are all free, starting with an early evening hike, cookout with food provided (don’t expect anything fancy, but you might be surprised with s’mores) and even a tent — you need only bring sleeping bags. The catch? There’s a lot of competition to join, with only 30 tents available for each night. Each event is open to online registration for 24 hours, with the “winners” chosen by lottery and notified about two weeks in advance. Find all the details and get lucky here.

Where else can you pitch a tent without leaving the city? Here are a few other urban areas with camping options.Austin: Emma Long Park offers campsites for $10-25 per night, depending on utilities, in addition to the $5-10 park entrance fee charged to all visitors. Set beside Lake Austin, the Texas city park is less than a half-hour from downtown. Check out the our adventure guide to Austin for more ideas.

Berlin: An innovative use of “fallow” urban space, the Tentstation project is unfortunately not open this season, but you’ll find other options in and around Berlin to pitch a tent or park an RV, even with a group. In typical German efficiency, some are within a few minutes’ walk to public transportation.

Honolulu: The Hawaiian capital has over a dozen campsites, many on the beach with fishing and surfing opportunities and views to rival expensive Waikiki resorts. Camping permits are issued for 3 or 5 days, and cost $32 and $52, respectively. Interesting note: several of the campsites warn that “houseless encounters are likely,” so look out for beach bums.

Japan: One of the most notoriously pricey countries also has a strong tradition of urban camping. While not officially sanctioned, it’s tolerated and generally quite safe in public parks. It might be hard to actually pitch a tent in downtown Tokyo, but you’ll find many guides online to finding a place to sleep al fresco.

Would you want to camp in a city? Have you done any urban camping?

Bundling, Unbundling Travel Services For Convenience, Savings

travel services
stevendepolo/Flickr

Bundling travel services can often be the best value when compared to buying individual services in an a la carte sort of way. Buying airfare then adding on a rental car and/or hotel package is a good example of saving travel funds via bundling.

Unbundling, on the other hand, is where fees for everything from checked luggage to exit row seats on airlines came from, generating millions in non-fare income. In a bit of a turn in a different direction, some travel service providers are introducing new bundles that can add up to savings for frequent travelers.

This week United Airlines announced a $499 offer that gives air travelers annual subscriptions that guarantee more legroom and no-charge checked bags. Exclusive to those booking through United.com:

  • The Economy Plus subscription starts at $499 and includes seats typically paid for as an upgrade for flights in the continental United States. Make that $599 to include all North and Central America flights and $699 is the price for Global access.
  • The Baggage subscription starts at $349.00 giving you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation up to two bags checked per flight for free. The program does not waive oversize/overweight bag charges.
  • The United Club subscription gives access to more than 45 United Club locations complete with complimentary snacks, beverages and Wi-Fi. The cost: 65,000 miles or $500 per person.

The world of cruise travel saw an unbundling of sorts with the advent of specialty restaurants, charging passengers an extra fee for a fine dining experience. The nature of a cruise vacation still swings towards more inclusive travel than, say, a land vacation. But optional extra charges can add up fast, even doubling the total price of a cruise vacation

In a similar move to United’s subscription plans, Royal Caribbean International has a variety of dining packages on various cruise ships. On Allure of the Seas, for example, passengers can choose from the following packages:

  • Central Park Dining Package, at $70 per guest (regularly priced at $90), includes Giovanni’s Table Italian Trattoria, 150 Central Park fine-dining restaurant and Chops Grille steakhouse.
  • Chef’s Dining Package, at $130 per guest, includes the five-course, gourmet Chef’s Table and wine pairing, 150 Central Park and Chops Grille
  • Choice Dining Package, at $80 per guest, includes Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi and Samba Grill Brazilian steakhouse

Bundled dining packages are also offered by sister-line Celebrity Cruises in a Specialty Dining package with three, four or five dinners.

How to Travel on a Budget

Outdoor Rise Festival Brings Adventure To New York City

Outdoor Rise comes to New York City
Outdoor Rise

Residents of New York City who are looking to put a little outdoor adventure into their lives will be pleased to learn of an upcoming event that aims to help them do just that. The first ever Outdoor Rise festival is scheduled to take place June 17-23 and will offer a full week of competitions, classes, lectures, films and more. Best off all, the event is scheduled to take place across all five boroughs and will be absolutely free.

Outdoor Rise is sponsored by Discover Outdoors, an organization that is dedicated to improving the “quality of life through meaningful outdoor experiences.” With that in mind, there are some big plans for the upcoming festival with events such as daily yoga classes, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding opportunities on the Hudson River, bouldering in Central Park and organized hikes along a variety of trails. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There will also be photography workshops, guest speakers, adventure films and more. For a full schedule be sure to check out the events calendar on the Outdoor Rise website.

The hope is that that this event will not only provide a rare opportunity for outdoor adventure to the very metropolitan New York crowd, but also give someone the chance to connect with the outdoors in ways that they never have before. Many people who live in NYC might not even know that these opportunities exist right outside their door, and the dedicated team at Discover Outdoors wants to remind them of this fact. Along the way, they might even inspire them to bigger adventures.

Officials Search For ‘Frankenfish’ In Central Park

Environmental officials plan to survey a lake in Central Park for the northern snakehead fish, a curious species often referred to as the “Frankenfish.”

After sightings in Queens in recent years, the toothy, predatory fish is thought to have reared its ugly head in the park, NBC News is reporting. Native to China, Russia and Korea, the invasive species eats frogs and crayfish, and – scarily – has the ability to live out of water in certain conditions.

The fish is such a threat to the ecosystem that signs have been posted around Harlem Meer warning anyone who catches the fish to “keep it in a secure container until it’s picked up by officials.” In 2002, the fish was discovered in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, leading to a slew of major media coverage and spawning three horror movies.

[Photo credit: United States Geological Survey / Wikimedia Commons]

Christmas Travel: Happy, Budget-Minded Places To Go

Christmas

Many travelers have places to spend Christmas nailed down far in advance. Tradition may have us going back home to join with family and friends in an annual celebration. Airline tickets may have been purchased months ago, cashing in on the best rates. A place to stay is not an issue, we’ll take a sofa at one place or another, surrounded by those we care for.

Others don’t have such happy plans in place. Maybe economic concerns made advance planning impossible. Maybe the whole idea of gifting, taking time off work, getting there and other concerns have them stuck at home with no apparent way out. For those people, we have a list of happy places we can go, scattered around the United States, that offer an alternative to a “Bah Humbug” attitude at budget prices.

New York City
New Yorkers have celebrating Christmas down to a science and the city goes all out this time of year. Christmas trees, lights, Broadway shows or simply window-shopping make for a good time. Ride a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park (about $100), ice-skate at Rockefeller center ($20), or just stand in the middle of Times Square for a hefty dose of Christmas magic.

Christmas, Florida
Odds are pretty good that we won’t see a white Christmas at this central Florida location but a stop by Christmas, Florida, can sure get us in the mood. About 20 miles east of Orlando, it’s Christmastime year-round here with Christmas trees and reindeer on display all the time. Not far is the Fort Christmas Historical Park, a replica of the original fort, built in 1837 during the Seminole Indian War and all the central Florida attractions, all dressed for the holidays.

Woodbury, Connecticut
How about zooming over snow covered hills for a new Christmas tradition? Connecticut’s Woodbury Ski Area lets us do just that on a zip line ($89 for four hours) or we can fly down a mountain in our own tube. The mountain has three zip line tracks, close to a mile of tubing trails, and over 20 different snow tubing courses. You can also enjoy the areas 12 courses or skiing, snowboarding and snow bikes that are lighted for night use.

Harbor Christmas Parades, California
Scattered around California, are a number of harbor, boat and yacht parades that may be just what your Christmas Grinch needs to get in the mood. San Diego Harbor’s Parade of Lights, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Oakland’s Lighted Yacht Parade are free and host hundreds of lighted pleasure craft. The Huntington Harbor Cruise of Lights is a seasonal trip through the harbor’s waterways with views of decorated houses.

Christmas boat parades are not limited to California. Check this video for a look at Portland, Oregon’s Christmas Ship Parade:


Want to find some holiday events close to you? A national listing of all local Convention and Visitors Bureau’s might be a good place to start.

[Photo credit- Flickr user Tom Hilton]