Here are the Best Places to Vacation This Year on a Budget

Even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth it to try to take some kind of vacation each year. The following destinations won’t leave a gaping hole in your wallet, and will satisfy that need to get away from your daily routine.

Cruise to the Bahamas

You probably never thought you would be able to afford a trip to the Bahamas, but there are ways to get there that are super inexpensive. All you have to do is get to Florida, and then you’re just a boat ride away from the most luxurious trip imaginable under $500. In May, cruise on Carnival Cruise Line from Jacksonville, Florida to Nassua for a five-day excursion for just $369 per person. You’ll also visit Half Moon Cay, where you can snorkel, ride horses or sun bathe. On a cruise, the journey really IS half the fun! Can’t go in May? There are deals every month, all in the same affordable price range.

Hike the Appalachian Trail

One of the best things about nature is, it’s free. And one of the best things about the Appalachian Trail is that it’s accessible throughout its 2,200 miles between Georgia and Maine. So if you live anywhere along that path, you can probably get to the trail. Though it’s free to hike, you’ll definitely want to bring along some mobile shelter and provisions. If you enjoy camping out, seeing nature up close and sitting around the fire at night, this trip’s going to be a winner. If you bring along your kids, it will definitely be a vacation they will always remember.

Play Cowgirl

Do you remember that old movie called City Slickers with Billie Crystal where he and his friends rode horses and rounded up cattle for a vacation? Well, those places really exist and they are super fun. They are called dude ranches, and they are places where regular folks like us can pretend to be cowgirls for a weekend or so. They are surprisingly affordable, and it’s a great way to get away with you and your boyfriend, spouse, or the whole family. Check out, where you can browse through listings of dude ranches in every state categorized by location, activity and price range.

Rent a HouseBoat on a Lake

Lake Cumberland in Kentucky is 1,255 miles long. That’s plenty of space for you and your boo to laze around on a full-equipped houseboat for a week. For just under $2,000 for the whole week, you can sleep, fish, swim, dive, dine and frolic on this happening tourist destination lake. Most houseboats sleep up to 12, so you can invite the family and share the rental cost. You’ll also have to share the lake with over 4 million other annual visitors, but hey, with over 65,000 water-filled acres to explore, you won’t be bumping elbows with anyone.

Once you start getting creative about how you want to spend your vacation days, you can find options that will fit any budget. It’s worth it to make the effort to get away for a week or ten days. One of these choices is sure to appeal to you and your vacation pals.


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Giuliano Hazan and His Extraordinary Food and Wine Tours in Italy

It is evening in Valpolicella, Italy, but a light warm breeze is blowing. A dozen or more people are seated around antique dining tables in the middle of an early 16th century Italian villa near Verona. The people are laughing and talkative, their wineglasses sparkling and their plates full. The tables are laden with Italian dishes that they have prepared themselves. Tomorrow they will journey together to explore this region of Italy, but tonight is consumed with delicious homemade food, excellent wine and new friends. This night has been made possible by Italian Chef Giuliano Hazan.


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3 Best Crazy Good Sandwiches in Columbus, Ohio

What’s Columbus got that other hometowns lack? Well, a lot of things, but one that comes to mind is the selection of mind-blowing sandwiches throughout the city. What’s a girl to do with so many delicious sandwiches to choose from? Why, try them all, of course!

Mama Rueben

So there you are, minding your own business walking down Kossuth Street in German Village, when a delicious smell greets your senses, emanating from Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant. Follow your nose and order yourself a Mama Rueben sandwich. Once it arrives, go ahead and marvel at the masterpiece before you. You’ll find Schmidt’s signature Bahama Mama sausage in a unique patty style (no links for you!), served on special toasty Rye bread, and smothered with melted Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and…wait for it…sweet slaw instead of sauerkraut! Oh, the glory of it all!

What’s a Bahama Mama and why is it on a German restaurant menu, you ask? Good question. I wondered myself. As the story goes, Grover Schmidt, third generation of the Schmidt family, traveled to the Bahamas one year. He tasted and brought back a spicy sausage that his brother George and the rest of the Schmidt family loved so much that they decided to make their own version. Thus, the Bahama Mama was born, and the legacy lives on through what is now the fifth generation of the Schmidt family. A unique blending of Bahamian and German cultures has become Columbus’ top sandwich ingredient. All I can say is, thank you, Grover!

The Thurminator

The Thurman Café in German Village has dibs on THE biggest burger in all of Columbus. Aptly monikered “The Thurminator,” this baby could feed a hungry family of eight for a month. (Well, almost.) I know I’m not foraging for food anytime soon after chowing down on this double burger doozie. Comes with not one, but two 12-ounce patties, and the works. Mushrooms, bacon, onions – you name it, it’s on there. This monster is so huge it barely fits inside your mouth. Got a hungry man in your life? Bring him to the Thurman Café and he’ll love you forever.

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Offbeat Travel Destinations That Will Make You Appreciate Home

Sometimes home really is the best place to be. Especially when you consider these unsavory travel destinations that will make you appreciate the good life we have here in the States.


Pitcairn is a tiny volcanic island in the beautiful South Pacific Ocean that is primarily populated with the descendants of the Bounty ship mutiny. The total population of the island is only about 50, with a land area of two miles long and one mile wide. To get to Pitcairn, you must travel by longboat from Bounty Bay.

The inhabitants of Pitcairn don’t have to work for a living. Instead, the island residents subsist on selling Pitcairn postage stamps online. The rest of the time they’re free to lie on the sand all day listening to the lapping of the waves on the shoreline.

Sound idyllic? Almost, except that in 2004, a third of the males on the island were charged with child sexual assault, and most were convicted and imprisoned. The dark secret remains an anchor around this seeming island of paradise. In 2010, 25 Pitcairn males were charged with having underage pornography on their computers, and to this day, children cannot visit the island without special permission from authorities.

Alnwick Poison Garden

Adjacent to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland England is a charming little place called the Poison Garden. Originally intended to educate medical practitioners and the public about drugs and other poisons, the garden features plants like hemlock, ricin and foxglove, as well as ones that produce strychnine and more. There’s a quaint welcome sign with skulls and crossbones that declares: “These plants can kill.” Visitors are further warned not to touch or smell any of the plants. Gives you a different perspective on those harmless dandelion weeds in your front yard, right?

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Top Five Adventures to Try in Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio, has a lot to offer the more adventurous crowd. Check out these five fun and exciting activities that help you remember what living is really all about.

1. Vertical Adventures

Vertical Adventures has indoor rock climbing options for people of all fitness levels, from beginner to advanced level. Now there’s no excuse for your sedentary friend to sit this one out. Climbers can go solo or partner up with friends. For your first visit, there’s an introductory class that takes about 90 minutes to complete. You’ll learn how to hold the rope for others, and all about the safety aspects of climbing. But when you’re ready for the vertical part of Vertical Adventures, there will be plenty of chances to show off your new climbing skills.

Staff recommends that all climbers wear long, tight-fitting pants so you don’t scrape your knees or legs against the wall. Climbing shoes are best, but sneakers are fine, too. You’ll need to sign a waiver for insurance purposes, but in general, this facility is considered super safe, even for intrepid youngsters. The staff is really friendly and helpful, and no matter how scared you might feel when you first arrive, you’ll soon realize you’re in very good hands.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

2. Columbus Food Adventures

Those who prefer to partake of adventure on a plate should try the Columbus Food Adventure. This adventure involves a van ride to a walking tour of areas of Columbus such as Short North Arts DistrictGerman VillageOld Worthington and many more. Stops are made so participants can appreciate artisan food producers and the best that local cuisine has to offer, including some from food trucks. Along the way, tourists learn about the history of the area and a culinary behind the scenes look.

Join the tour as part of the general group or schedule a private tour for you and some close friends. Though children aren’t strictly prohibited, parents should know that most tours are approximately three hours long, and certain restrictions apply. Prices and tour times vary. Comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended.

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Haunted Locations in Cleveland, Ohio

If commercial haunted houses aren’t your cup of tea, consider visiting one of these three haunted locations in Cleveland, Ohio. Choose wisely and beware; these are places where actual ghost sightings and events have been reported.

1. Franklin Castle

Built in 1881, Franklin Castle was the sight of gruesome deaths under mysterious circumstances. It is said to be the most haunted house in all of Ohio. The house was built for Hannes Tiedemann and his family, but 17 years after the last brick was laid, the entire family was already dead. Rife with tales of hidden passageways and rooms, the house is now a privately-owned dwelling. Passersby report the sounds of babies crying and the shrill of a woman’s scream.

2. Drury Mansion

Drury Mansion was erected by a local millionaire back in 1912. With hallways laid out in maze patterns and an underground tunnel, the house was finally used as a halfway house for convicted criminals. Rumors of hauntings and creepy doings have swirled around the Drury Mansion since it was first constructed. Today it stands empty, but those in the know typically cross to the other side of the street to pass by.

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Best Venues to Watch Local Bands in South Florida

Whether you visit or live in sunny South Florida, you’ll soon realize that there are lots of cool opportunities to enjoy live music around the area. Here are three of my favorites. The first is a hip indoor bar and restaurant, and the other two are outdoor venues where you can enjoy the beautiful South Florida weather along with excellent music and good people.

Funky Biscuit – Boca Raton, FL

The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton is a dedicated live-music bar and restaurant that hosts local and regional bands in an intimate stage environment. Though the name says, “funky,” the music genre can be just about anything from classic rock, to reggae to funk.

Open every day from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Typically, there’s an admission fee ranging from $5 to $15, depending on the band that’s playing. Free parking is available on the side of the venue in a large, open and lighted parking lot. Dress is casual, and the room is dark, with tables lit by personal candles. The waitstaff and bartender are always friendly, down to earth and inviting. The only downside is that the Funky Biscuit is small, and the live music will probably drown out any conversation you might try to have. For a good time out with local friends or visiting out-of-towners, the Funky Biscuit will be a guaranteed hit.

Plaza at City Place – West Palm Beach, FL

City Place is an open-air and upscale walking area in West Palm Beach lined with retail boutiques, ice cream shops, a movie theatre and restaurants around a paved plaza reminiscent of something you might find in a European city. A giant water fountain in the middle is surrounded by a stone seating area. A double-decker walking platform gives access to yet more stores and restaurants ranging from take-away fare to formal dining. Outdoor seating is available on the lower level.

Taking center stage is a live music area where local bands play on weekend nights. Bring your dancing shoes and a chair if you want. There’s plenty of room for everyone, and you never feel crowded in this open air venue. Beer, wine and cocktails are available for sale from a vendor just to the right of the stage. You are also permitted to bring your own alcoholic beverages and food in a personal cooler if you want to listen to the live music with a snack and glass of your favorite wine. Admission is free. Numerous parking garages are in the area, as well as metered street parking. Bands usually come on around 8:00 p.m., but that can change according to who is playing that night. Music genres can be anything, including local high school bands. The crowd is a mix of children, families, older folks and young and old from all walks of life. Friendly faces abound, and whether you come alone or with a friend, you’ll be able to enjoy warm conversation along with live music.

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Best Places to Meet Locals For Business Travelers in West Palm Beach, FL

Traveling for business can be a lonely experience. Too often, business travel consists of ferrying back and forth between client offices and your hotel room. There, you hole up with mediocre delivery food and eat on your bed while you flip through premium channels with a surprising array of nothing good to watch. To make business travel more rewarding, wouldn’t it be nice to actually get to know some of the local people who live there? The next time you’re traveling on business in West Palm Beach, check out these best-rated places to meet locals.

City Place

City Place in West Palm Beach is the place to see and be seen. Escape the doldrums of your hotel room with a visit to this walking area convenient to your downtown digs. City Place is a gorgeous destination, with Mediterranean-style architecture, a large central fountain and free live music every weekend night. Over 80 shops are dotted around City Place, and restaurants and bars abound. This is ground central for West Palm Beach locals, so you’ll certainly have your best odds for meeting someone interesting to share the rest of your stay in South Florida.

Benny’s on the Beach

West Palm Beach locals head to Benny’s on the Beach for casual, American-style dining and drinking in a fantastic, beach setting. Located on the pier at Lake Worth beach, this small, but hopping restaurant/bar is jumping with live music most days and nights. For the best experience, play on the Lake Worth beach in the afternoon and when you get thirsty, prop yourself on a barstool at Benny’s for sustenance. You’ll be sure to find friendly conversation and camaraderie that will top any hotel amenities you might have.

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Castle in the Clouds: An Offbeat Destination in New Hampshire

Castle in the Clouds is a unique mansion in Moultonborough, New Hampshire that is open to the public. The mansion was originally built in 1913 by shoe magnate Thomas Plant. Plant and his wife lived in the expansive mansion for many years, continually buying the land surrounding the hilltop estate until eventually owning over 6300 acres of land.

What to Expect

Castle in the Clouds is located at the top of a very long and winding road. From Route 171, you’ll enter the grounds and pay the admission fee. After, that, it’s another 2 miles along a road where you’ll pass waterfalls and scenic vistas. There’s a scenic overlook where you can pull off the road and see for miles over untouched land.

There is a fascinating guided tour where you’ll learn all about the unusual proclivities of Thomas Plant. The rooms are still furnished and set up as though they just stepped out for a few hours.
I promise you, you’ll be surprised and amazed at how he and his wife lived. You can also wander around on your own. You’ll want to walk around the outside stone balconies, where you can enjoy the scent of pink and purple phlox as you gaze over the same views of Lake Winnipesaukee and surrounding White Mountains that Thomas Plant saw every day of his life.

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Things to Do in West Palm Beach When Your Flight is Delayed

Palm Beach International Airport has flights to destinations around the world. It has an excellent track record of flights being on time. After all, with balmy weather all year long, West Palm Beach, Florida residents are unlikely to be negatively impacted by bad weather. However, bad weather conditions in other parts of the country and the world can impact flight departure times. If your flight is delayed in West Palm Beach, here are some enjoyable ways to pass the time.

Comfort Zone Spa

As part of their passenger services, Palm Beach International Airport has a full-blown day spa and salon right inside the terminal. Walk-ins are welcome, so don’t worry if you don’t have an appointment. The spa is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Choose from a variety of services including massage, hair, nails and waxing. Telephone: 561.697.4462

Raindancer Steak House

You know you’re not going to love the airline food you’re going to be offered onboard. Why not fill up on a succulent steak dinner instead? Raindancer Steak House is a traditional style steakhouse with a full salad bar option. It’s Zagat-rated as “Excellent,” and offers fine dining in a casual atmosphere that’s perfect for your travel-weary self. Open 7 days a week. Telephone: 561.684.2810

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