Discover Something New at Home this Holiday Season

Traveling “home” this holiday season? Don’t fall into your old routine. Your high school hangout may be an easy go-to, but if you don’t live there anymore there’s a good chance you’re missing out on some great new local spots. (Plus, be honest: you already know what all your classmates are up to from Facebook.)

We turned to local writers to help you rediscover your hometown over Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Each city guide features a great new restaurant to try while you’re in town, a cool neighborhood that wasn’t on the radar last year or a store where you can pick up a keepsake to bring your old home back to your new home. We’ll also catch you up to speed on the hot topics of conversation in each city, so you’ll come back savvy enough to join the local sports banter or eat your holiday weight in Cronuts.

Click your city below to learn what’s new since the last time you went home:

Boston fans celebrate world series winChicago skyline

Detroit skylineSanta Monica Pier

NYC skylinePhiladelphia City Hall

Portland Oregon signGolden Gate Bridge

St. Louis ArchUS Capitol

Book Christmas Travel Immediately, Says Travelocity

RF CD:  Christmas
Corel

We may still be in October, but if you are thinking of traveling home for the holidays, get on booking those tickets immediately. According to booking data from Travelocity, Christmastime travelers get the best deals when they book by Nov. 12.

Granted it’s Travelocity’s job to get you to buy tickets, but if you’re looking to snag a good deal, it’s smart to look at its data to get an idea of how much you’ll be paying and how much when you purchase the ticket will affect the final price.For example, according to the data, the average round-trip domestic airfare for travel at Christmastime is $450, up 7.5 percent from last year. Those traveling internationally still will be paying for expensive tickets, but they’re about the same price as last year, with the average ticket at $1,016, up only 2.5 percent from last year.

Here is Travelocity’s booking barometer:

Booking Week Fare
8 weeks before Oct 30 – Nov 5 $ 314.00
7 weeks before Nov 6 – Nov 12 $ 320.00
6 weeks before Nov 13 – Nov 19 $ 352.00
5 weeks before Nov 20 – Nov 26 $ 392.00
4 weeks before Nov 27 – Dec 3 $ 341.00
3 weeks before Dec 4 – Dec 10 $ 313.00
2 weeks before Dec 11 – Dec 17 $ 363.00
1 week before Dec 18 – Dec 24 $ 438.00

As you can see, you can book now and snag a cheap ticket, or keep your fingers crossed and buy a relatively last-minute one a few weeks before. Other Christmas booking tips include avoiding the Sunday and Monday after Christmas, as those are two days with ticket spikes.

Not going home for Christmastime? This is also the time to book for Thanksgiving. Between now and Nov. 9, Travelocity says prices drop, and then go right back up, and steeply, around Nov. 10.

Memorial Day Travel Ideas: Consider The Source, No Cheating

Memorial DayMemorial Day weekend begins Friday, May 24, and marks the start of the summer travel season. One of the most popular times of the year to travel, finding a destination that fulfills our three-day weekend dreams can take some work. Considering a visit to the Upper East Coast? Maybe not such a good idea to visit beaches ravaged by last October’s hurricane. Or is it?

If you are looking for a quiet break from your normal routine, avoid busy places like big cities, theme parks and major tourist attractions. Reverse that decision if daily life rides a cubicle and getting lost in a crowd is required. We could do a lot of research, compile lists of possible destinations and make up budgets to get the plans – or we could cheat.

Earlier this month, Kayak released the results of 100 million monthly searches made so far this year. These are numbers that represent places Kayak users are actually thinking about going as opposed to destinations promoted by airlines, hotels, tour operators or cruise lines.In the results, Kayak saw searches cut in half for Atlantic City, New Jersey, a top Memorial Day destination last year. That makes sense: thank you hurricane Sandy. Digging a bit deeper though we find a different scene.

“Despite the vast destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, all of our State parks and beaches on Long Island are expected to be open for New Yorkers and visitors by Memorial Day weekend,” assured Governor Andrew Cuomo in a LongIslandPress article.

Your mother was right, cheating is wrong.

Instead, consider a variety of sources and read between the lines. Look down deep inside and ask, “Where do I really want to go?” The answer might take you no further than your own back yard.


Photo Of The Day: Take Five In Paris

photo of the day - relaxing in Paris

So it’s 2013. We made it through the holiday travel crush, the potential end of the world, and the quest for the perfect New Year’s Eve celebration. It’s almost the first weekend of the year; can we take a breather now? This gentleman at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris is taking a bit of a time out, looking peaceful and enjoying the art/furniture (as well as perhaps the view of nearby Montmartre), almost looking as he was meant to be a part of the exhibit.

Add your restful photos to the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user kumukulanui]

Dim Sum For Christmas: Creating A Holiday Tradition At Home

dim sumWith very few exceptions, I’ve spent the last 17-plus Christmases going out for dim sum. No matter where I’m living at the time, once December rolls around, I start researching the best places to indulge my har gow habit. Why? Because I’ve worked in the service industry for over two decades.

I’ve either waited tables or worked retail (usually in the food industry) since I was in my 20s. In layman’s terms, it means that the holidays ceased to exist for me starting in 1995, when I started culinary school.

I’d always loved Christmas as a kid and in college. Yet, I willingly sacrificed the holidays, because it meant I’d finally embarked upon the career path I’d long dreamt of: becoming a cooking teacher and food (and eventually, travel) writer. I naively failed to realize that decades of restaurant work, flogging farmers market produce, and slinging cheese and meat would be required to supplement my occupational pursuits.

I’ve been able to travel overseas a couple of times over the holidays, and the Christmases spent in Thailand and New Zealand were memorable from both a cultural and universal perspective. If I had the financial means, I’d always travel during the holidays. In general, however, being in the food industry means you stay at home this time of year, even if home is somewhere most people would kill to visit (I’ve been fortunate to work the holidays in Vail and Telluride).christmasUnable to take Christmases off to see my family (they always get Thanksgiving, which is extremely important to my parents), I started going out for dim sum as a way to pass the time, stave off loneliness and get a good meal.

Dim sum parlors and Cantonese restaurants are always packed Christmas Day, with Chinese-Americans as well as diners of varying ethnic and religious persuasions. I’ve learned over the years that many people have a Christmas dim sum tradition, usually because they don’t celebrate for whatever reason (not having kids is a big one).

In my case, I’m single and childless, but that’s not why I do dim sum. Ethnically, my relatives on both sides of the family were immigrant Russian Jews, but my agnostic parents celebrated Christmas when my brother and I were growing up. To them, it was a way to unite family and allow us kids … to be kids. As a child, I never imagined Christmas and I would part ways.

As an adult, I shun Christmas not because I have to work, but for the same reasons many people do: it’s a stressful, bank account-depleting, heavily commercialized guilt-fest. I don’t miss it, although I do my best for my teenaged niece (who received a rescue kitten from me this year) and nephew.

The truth is, if I’m unable to travel, I relish having one day a year where I can have 24 hours off and not feel bad about it. I eat delicious dumplings, maybe go for a hike or see a movie. Call family and friends. It’s unabashed me-time, and until or unless I meet someone I want to create a more traditional holiday with … please pass the bao.

[Photo credit: dim sum, Flickr user Jason Hutchens; tree, Flickr user Ian.Kobylanski]