Christmas Travel: Happy, Budget-Minded Places To Go

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]

When hotel high-tech goes bad

Hotels are slowly entering the new millennium, and are investing in new amenities. In addition to better toiletries, most new and renovated hotels are adding (HD) flat panel TV’s, smart thermostats and better water management.

There is however one major flaw with some of these technologies – hotels are installing technology they don’t have any experience with, and some of the technology appearing in the room becomes more of a burden than a blessing. Here are three examples of technology being added to hotel rooms, that simply does not work.
The double flat panel TV curse
Lets assume you find yourself checking into a decent hotel – one that recently replaced all their old CRT TV’s with some nice flat panel models. The hotel even went so far as to install not one, but two TV’s in the suite – which is perfect if you are planning to let someone sleep in the sofa bed, or if you want some TV when you are working at the desk.

There is however one major flaw with this – in 4 different hotels I recently spent the night, each flat panel TV used the same remote control code. The result of this is that anything you do on one TV, also happens on the other.

Ready to go to bed at night? You’ll turn off the TV in one room, and the TV in the other room will turn on. Change the channel on one TV? It’ll change on the other TV as well. Some hotels make this curse even worse by installing a mirror next to the TV’s, making it much easier for the remote control to reach the other TV.

Of course, this does not happen when you have completely separated rooms, but since most suites are only divided by a small wall, you’ll understand how annoying this can be.

The solution for hotels is to find a way to set different codes on each TV, but you’d expect them to have figured this out before they invested in all these nice new TV’s.

Going green means getting warm

I’m not the most “green” person in the world – and one of the first things I’ll do when I enter my hotel room is dial the thermostat down to a comfortable 70 degrees.

In more and more hotels, I’m being forced to become green thanks to motion detection thermostats. These “smart” devices think they know when a guest is no longer in the room, and will disable the AC when it decides the room is empty.

Of course, this also means these stupid boxes think I am gone, when I am fast asleep.

I’ve regularly woken up in the middle of the night several times finding the room at an uncomfortable 78 degrees, all because a piece of equipment thought I was gone.

Thankfully a quick wave in front of the sensor reminds it that I’m still there, and that I’d like a bit of cool air.

The scrubbing shower jet

Thermostatic shower controls are great. These controls keep your shower water at a constant temperature, which prevents being showered with freezing cold water when your hotel room neighbor takes a shower at the same time.

They also have the unfortunate side effect of not controlling the water pressure.

On old double tap controls, you could dial the pressure up or down a little, but had little control over the final temperature.

With these new controls, you run the risk of getting the perfect temperature, but having so much water pressure, that you could use the jet to pressure wash your car.

Things are not too bad in the morning, when everyone else in the hotel is taking a shower, but if you arrive in the afternoon in need of a shower, then you could be the only one using all that water. It’s time like that when a bath is the best option.