One Day Not Enough To Celebrate Independence Day? Take A Week

tsuacctnt/Flickr

Coming up in less than a month, America celebrates its Independence Day as fireworks light up the sky at events around the country. This year, the Fourth of July falls on a Thursday. That might mean an extra day off work for some, returning on Friday to end the week. Others might be in for an extra long, four-day weekend with plenty of time for travel.

Regardless of how your holiday schedule works out, one day might not be enough celebration. Plan a visit to Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort to the east or Disneyland Resort to the west. Both will be celebrating the Fourth of July for an entire week, starting July 1, 2013, during what Disney calls Limited Time Magic.

Said to “surprise and delight Guests in fanciful and unexpected ways,” Limited Time Magic events happen “only at certain times of the year,” says the Disney Parks blog. Between now and June 23, Disney wishes “ears to you” as graduates are invited to buy a mortar board Ear Hat at the Magic Kingdom park, then choose from five different tassels representing their school colors.During the Independence Week Celebration from July 1 to July 7, 2013, a fireworks spectacular will happen at 9 p.m. on July 3 and 4, and 10 p.m. on July 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 at Walt Disney World and 9:30 p.m. each night at Disneyland. At either park, Disney chefs will have Independence Day-themed cuisine including red, white and blue strawberry shortcake or desserts in Mason Jars, apple pie-filled cupcakes and patriotic cotton candy.

Other Limited Time Magic events include a sneak peek at “The Lone Ranger,” a “Monsters University” homecoming celebration and other Monstrous Summer events.

Can’t make it but want to see those Disney fireworks? They might look something like these:



A stay at home 4th in order this year? Check Gadling’s Best Independence Day Travel Movies Of All Time.

Summer Travel Bargains, Available Now During Brief Buying ‘Sweet Spot’

Moyan_Brenn/ Flickr

Summer travel season is right around the corner but exciting travel opportunities are often limited by price. There are plenty of places to go, but they are often priced out of reach. Still, with some research and timing, summer travel bargains are out there right now. Why? Sellers of travel want occupancy and booking levels to be at a certain target number right about now. If the numbers are not where they want them to be, they bring on the discounts to shore up summer season bookings. Here are some we found as standout bargains.

Disney World, Discounted
Summer is usually a popular time to visit Florida’s Walt Disney World and this year is no exception. Many families have to do vacations during the summer, when kids are out of school, most often driving prices up. Still, with hotel capacity running a bit ahead of reservations, deals are out there. Savings of 30 percent on select Disney hotels on Disney property, free dining with a hotel and ticket package, and more can be found at Disney’s Special Offers webpage.

Hike the Blue Mountains in Jamaica
Strawberry Hill is offering guests 25 percent off rates for stays through October 31 with its “Discover the Blue Mountains” package. The three-night stay includes two hikes on Gordon Town Trail and Settlement Trail, daily breakfast, a fruit and cheese welcome amenity, dinner with a bottle of wine, daily Blackwell Rum cocktail and a spa treatment. Don’t come home without a pound or two of that Blue Mountain coffee.Summer for Less at Nantucket Island Resorts- Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket Island Resorts is offering 30 percent off room rates at White Elephant Village, The Wauwinet and the White Elephant Hotel to guests who book five consecutive nights July 7-19. Rates start at $2,500 for five nights. Visit nantucketislandresorts.com/hotel-deals for more.

Pick A Cruise, Any Cruise
Practically every cruise line sailing has felt the sting of recent widely publicized events so prices have gone down. Some lines are advertising like never before, others have quietly just not raised pricing as they might have normally done at this time of the year, choosing instead to go for maximized occupancy. Best deals can be found in the Mediterranean where prices can be as low as $75 per person, per day. Short Caribbean and Bahamas sailings are also showing fall-like pricing for summer sailings. That never happens.

Cheap Not Good Enough? How About Free?
Ultra-luxe cruise line Crystal Cruises is allowing kids ages 17 and under to sail free when sharing a third berth stateroom with two adults. Families can choose from seven- to 15-day voyages in the Mediterranean, Western Europe, North Cape, Baltic, British Isles, Canary Islands and across the Atlantic from May-December aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Book by June 28, 2013.

Take A Road Trip, You Will Not Be Alone
Compared to many summer travel options, a road trip is still a standout winner for budget-minded vacationers. A timely YP survey published in TravelPulse compared driving versus flying and found that Americans believe they have a greater flexibility in schedule (35 percent) and sight-seeing (33 percent) when driving vs. flying. They also liked having the ability to easily take more stuff with them (11 percent), avoiding crowds and security lines (9 percent), and the ability to more easily take pets (7 percent).

Perhaps something a bit more exotic? How about one of these James Bond-inspired destinations?

5 James Bond Inspired Summer Travel Destinations

Recovery Vacations A Hit With Soldiers Returning From War

a soldier's homecomingTroop Rewards provides recovery vacations to returning U.S. soldiers and their families who served overseas. To do that, Troop Rewards relies on hotels and private vacation property owners to donate unused inventory, sort of like a hotel might release a number of rooms to Priceline for bidding.

This year, Florida’s Sandpearl resort is teaming up with Troop Rewards to provide recovery vacations for five military service members who were deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“This is such a great way to honor, remember and reward the servicemen and women who have served and defended our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last ten years,” said Tom Burkett, Troop Reward’s Executive Director. “To be able to team up with such a beautiful and inspiring resort is icing on the cake.”The idea of recovery vacations started with a phone call Burkett received in 2009 from a soldier then serving in Iraq. The soldier’s tour was about to end but before re-joining society with his future wife, he wondered what the cost would be to book Burkett’s timeshare suite at a Florida resort.

Burkett told him the going rate was over $800 per night, but for him the rate would be $0. “How can I charge you anything when you have spent the last year risking your life for my freedom,” Burkett says on the TroopRewards website. “Little did he know at the time, that this would the first of many free stays at his resort for soldiers coming back from Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.”

Since then, Burkett has offered his suite every year to help support the troops and enlisted other private vacation property owners, hotels and resorts to provide rooms, raise money to help pay for travel costs and spending money, making the experience mostly free for soldiers and their families.

The resort will provide five military service members complimentary four-night luxury vacations at the Sandpearl Resort starting on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day Travel Events Bring Discounts

Memorial DayAs Memorial Day approaches, travelers are taking advantage of some special offers and events exclusive to the three-day weekend that officially begins on Friday, May 24. Discounts, special offers and events this year are available at a number of locations around the United States as America remembers the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Additionally, those in uniform have a variety of special discounts and offers.

Carnival Cruise Lines is offering a promotion that provides active and former military personnel with discounts of up to $600 per stateroom and shipboard credits of up to $100 per stateroom on a range of three- to 12-day sailings. Sister-line Princess cruises continues their Special Military Program, giving those who served up to $250 onboard credit on any sailing.

May is also National Military Appreciation Month and Florida’s Fantasy of Flight museum is offering complimentary admission to all active-duty, retired and reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces when accompanied by a full-priced paid adult, senior or child general admission throughout the month of May.

Not a military member? There are still some Memorial Day promotions for you too.Disney is pulling an all-nighter with the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida and at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. The parks open from 6 a.m. May 24 to 6 a.m. May 25, to kick off the summer season. The parks will also have extra entertainment, live bands and characters in their pajamas.

On the West Coast, California’s Mammoth Mountain ski area has a Memorial Day $99 package to ski or ride, mountain bike and golf all in one day. The Ski-Bike-Golf Challenge allows unlimited skiing, snowboarding, and access to the bike park along with nine holes of golf at the resort’s Sierra Star course.

Also in California, the West Coast Thunder Bike Run in Riverside, the largest single-day motorcycle event west of the Mississippi, hosts nearly 7,000 motorcycle enthusiasts. Proceeds from the ride registration and concert tickets benefit the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee and the event also includes a Military Appreciation Fair on Sunday, May 26.

Nothing at all planned yet for Memorial Day weekend? Now might be the time to do that.

According to Travelocity’s Memorial Day booking data, domestic airfare is down 2 percent year-over-year with the average cost at $341, six dollars less than it was in 2012. That might not sound like much but recent years have all seen increases in the price of airfare.

Even Amtrak is getting in the Memorial Day spirit, saving northeast regional rail travelers 25 percent when they book by May 10, 2013, for Memorial Day travel.

[Photo credit – Flickr member Fritz Liess]

Impact Of Sequester Cuts On Travel: Festivals Not So Festive

sequester cuts

Recent sequester cuts have had a big impact on travel in a number of ways. Cutbacks have resulted in everything from grounding the Navy’s Blue Angels at dozens of air shows around the country to turning Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental into a third world-like airport. Cuts to the budgets of national parks have popular attractions opening on a delayed schedule, closing visitor centers and operating without campgrounds.

But those who (still) work and operate facilities, festivals and events that would normally draw travelers from around the world are pressing on, promising to make the best of a bad situation.

A highlight, if not the main attraction, to Fleet Week at a number of major U.S. cities is a showcase of active duty military ships, recently deployed in overseas operations and brought to town for the event.sequester cutsA tradition of the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard since 1935, Fleet Week began in San Diego with 114 warships and 400 military planes. Since then, annual Fleet Week events began in San Francisco, New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Seattle, Washington, includes fleet week during the annual Seafair. In Portland, Oregon, fleet week is part of the annual Portland Rose Festival.

The shows brought ships full of military personnel to town, as well as travelers who looked forward to tours of ships, military demonstrations and air shows, adding to local tourism revenue. But on the heels of the secretary of defense announcing that ships will not be visiting, show organizers are turning to a different focus.

“We’re all about bringing a little more recognition to our local units,” said Jean-Sebastien Gros of Broward Navy Days Inc., the non-profit organization that spearheads Florida’s Fleet Week Port Everglades, in this NBC Miami report.

The Fort Lauderdale Fleet Week event, still scheduled for April 29 through May 6, normally has hotels booked full and Florida highways clogged for a week. Organizers hope to keep the lion’s share of that activity by hosting a variety of other events.

Golf tournaments, a 5K race, major league baseball games, culinary competitions and deep-sea fishing will attempt to replace active-duty warships and the Blue Angels. Canceled ship tours will give way to honoring the active duty military of the United States Southern Command and Coast Guard District 7, both based in South Florida.

It’s a sign of the times to be sure and event organizers are to be commended for pressing on. Still, this travel-affecting result of sequester budget cuts can’t help but make one wonder if there was not some other way to address this problem with the nation’s economy.

“No one can deny that we have passed through troubled years. No one can fail to feel the inspiration of your high purpose. I wish you great success,” said President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 at the beginning of the first fleet week.

[Photo credit – Flickr user St0rmz]