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Archive for October, 2007

The NY Times filled this week’s travel section with advice for an “Affordable Caribbean” vacation, highlighting inexpensive options on each of islands. While their accommodation options are never within this no-budget traveler’s budget, they do make a number of useful recommendations on cheap activities and eats off the beaten path.

Perhaps more useful is the article on new direct flights from the U.S. mainland to various Caribbean destinations. Get a better picture of which islands are even in question, then consider the offerings of the former series.

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I was reading through the posts at the Festival of Frugality, a blog carnival hosted this week at Being Frugal, and I clicked on a post from I’ve Paid for This Twice Already, entitled “Do Vacations Spoil You for ‘Normal’?” Paid Twice is one of many personal finance bloggers that gives advice for getting out of debt while sharing her own struggle with paying off credit cards and student loans.

The author was concerned that the exceptions we make about spending and behavior when we go on vacation might make it difficult to continue with strict budget-saving measures at home. And the answer is: no, of course it doesn’t. In large part, I believe, because of the following fact: our values travel with us when we travel.

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We over on the right side of the Atlantic ended daylight savings time (DST) on Sunday, meaning that the time difference between London and New York is currently only 4 hours, between London and Los Angeles 7 hours. The party ends Sunday, when American clocks fall back and the differences increase an hour to standard difference.

Who cares, you ask? My mother and I spent spring break 2000 in bonny Ireland. We went down one Sunday morning to breakfast and were greeted by surly staff. Minutes into our meal, we were told our taxi was already waiting. But it was only 9:15 a.m., we’d ordered it for 10. Aha, DST strikes again. We were an hour late to breakfast AND were making the driver wait. There were no signs in the hotel, no mention of it on the news or radio. I don’t know how we were supposed to know Europe moved to DST a week earlier than America did. That was a lapse with minor consequences, but since then I pay attention to such things.

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I read a little blurb about Meeting the French over at the International Herald Tribune’s travel blog Globespotters.

While the organization offers a couple paid services which mimic a free organization like Hospitality Club, they do offer something you can’t get anywhere else: behind-the-scenes tours of traditional French businesses, from truffle makers to porcelain painters to snail specialists. Tours are held in French and English, cost either 6 or 10 euros and can be booked online. You can find the full schedule here.

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Since 1991, the In Your Pocket team has been working to create useful guides for (what were then) out-of-the-way places; now that Tallinn and Riga are popular destinations, they’ve nonetheless continued to cover ignored places like Zakopane, Gelsenkirchen, Sopot and Siauliai. You’ll find their guides focus largely on Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. They’ve expanded quite a bit since releasing their first guide for Vilnius — now as far as Germany and Northern Ireland.

What’s great is you can download their PDF guides for free before arriving at your intended destination. While my guidebook usually covers a lot of the same touristy information, I find them a great source for up-to-date restaurant information. As locals, they generally have a little more time to outline the pluses and minuses of accommodations as well. And sometimes they cover information on transportation or what have you that guidebooks seem to simply ignore.

All in all, a good read and worthy of a Friday salute!

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In August I posted a request for reader tips to the high-budget destinations of London and Stockholm. To the worthy advice of my readers on the former, I add my own observations following my recent travels to both.

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Traditional German DressOktoberfest is one of Germany’s most famous and popular festivals; the largest Oktoberfest celebration takes place in Munich every year. Most people associate it with beer — and rightly so! This year’s festival in Munich saw 6.2 million visitors drink 6.7 million “Maß” (pronounced mass, usually a liter of beer). The tents are divided by brewer, and everyone has their favorite tent. But it’s not just about drinking; there are actually lots of family activities like carnival rides and everywhere German treats and foods are on sale. Walking around the Wiesn and just soaking up the atmosphere is free.

While the big festival may be over for this year (don’t be fooled by the name; it brings in the month of October, meaning it generally takes place in September), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be preparing for next year already. In fact, now is exactly the time to be thinking of what to wear. You think I’m kidding? Müncheners go nuts over Tracht (traditional wear), and during the ‘fest season, the town fills with serious people in traditional German costume. The Bavarians are the most likely to wear Tracht elements in their wardrobe all year, so when September rolls around, they hold no stops: dresses bare/ly hide cleavage under frilly white blouses and fat German bellies and legs squeeze into Lederhosen and knee socks. Weekend nights on public transport, one has the feeling of stepping back in time. It is festive and funny and fun, and reminds one how different and colorful the world was before all the world’s clothes were made in China.

So how do you get in on the Tracht action without breaking the bank? More after the jump.

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