Wanderlust Journey

Wanderlust Journey

Wandering the world isn't a bad way to live…



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California: Wine Country or Weed Country?

August 2nd, 2011 · Comments Off on California: Wine Country or Weed Country?

Prop 19 would’ve made the consumption and controlled distribution of marijuana legal in California according to state law. The proposition failed when it was put on the November 2010 ballot, however, with roughly 54% of voters against it and 46% for it. But the move to make marijuana more than just medicinal in California isn’t going away. It’s certain those who battled to get Prop 19 passed will try again. The effort will inevitably succeed: polls conducted in the Golden State have indicated a steady increase in those accepting of making weed legal or at least decriminalizing it for more than a decade. When it does pass, what will be the effects in the state’s rate of tourism?

There’s no doubt that if all Americans were capable of legally consuming cannabis in one state and one state only, it would ignite an onslaught of outside visitors. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 25.8 million Americans consume cannabis at least annually and more than 16 million Americans smoke marijuana monthly. There’s really no way these individuals would deny themselves the luxury of taking the drug legally, as well as explore all of the marijuana “enhancements” a state where the drug has been legalized can offer: paraphernalia, culinary infusion, et cetera.

This is especially the case when you consider California’s preexisting lures of tourism. Napa wine country? Try taking tours of marijuana fields, sampling different “buds” at the end of the day. Maybe it’s not your thing, but for millions of Americans it’s the very definition of a good time. But it’s the addition of California’s beauty, the perfect temperatures, world renowned cities, and historical stature that makes the potential for a marijuana tourism boom to really bolster the weakening west coast economy. People won’t just journey into California to experiment with the novelty of legalized cannabis; they’ll want to see one of the most famous geographical locations on the planet.

Californians who sill view the legalization of cannabis in their state – the nine percent that chose to bury Prop 19 – should seriously consider the ramifications for the introduction of a new industry in their state. It’ll bring people, who bring money. California has endless beauty and represents the ideal notion of American possibility, yet the state’s economy is more than at a standstill; it teeters on the edge of a cliff. Millions of visitors could mean billions of dollars.

The money to be made will eventually make the interest to keep California cannabis legal only for those who receive medical permission to consume it an impossible case to make. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that marijuana is virtually harmless to the human body. Economic evidence indicates marijuana is virtually a saving grace for the California tourism industry. When the day comes when California makes cannabis legal for all, the biggest problem might be making sure there’s enough for everybody.

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Choosing a Specialty Vacation

July 25th, 2011 · Comments Off on Choosing a Specialty Vacation

As Jet Set Citizens, we tend to avoid super touristy locations or expensive resorts; however, there is a time and a place for the occasional luxury vacation. While I certainly prefer a more off-the-beaten-path vacation nestled in the heart of a country’s culture, I do also enjoy a good few days lounging on the beach and being served fruity drinks every once in awhile. If you have the funds and feel like pampering yourself, a few great places to consider for vacation include:

Athletic Resorts
In keeping with the Jet Set Citizen mindset of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, travelers can certainly embark on a vacation that is geared towards athletics. A tennis resort, a scuba diving school, or even an equestrian center can all provide excellent vacations, and they also offer something new to be learned. Although travelers won’t have much interaction with the outside world at resorts such as these, they will be able to stay active and will have the time needed to hone skills and be around peers with similar interests.

Cruises
Backpacking is a great way to see multiple countries in one trip, but then again, so is cruising. Cruises can range in duration from 3 days to months on end, and travelers don’t have to worry about a thing. Unlike backpacking, you won’t have to worry about the safety of where you are eating or sleeping and all activities will be planned for you. Although the guess work and random destinations are often a highlight of traveling on the fly, not having to worry about when and where can also be nice from time-to-time too.

All-Inclusive
If you truly don’t want to do anything for a few days, but don’t want to sit at home in front of your TV, choosing to stay at an all-inclusive resort can be a nice option. Generally flight and accommodation packages start low online, and everything from drinks to activities to your hotel room is including in an affordable price. Don’t expect to find much culture when staying on resorts like these though. Even though many great all-inclusive resorts are located in countries like Mexico or Barbados, they are highly Americanized, and are generally just for those who need a little rest and relaxation for awhile.

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TSA Body Scanners Will Statistically Give Someone Skin Cancer

July 5th, 2011 · Comments Off on TSA Body Scanners Will Statistically Give Someone Skin Cancer

Just when we were finally accepting the new world order of having to subject our most intimate of intimates to airport security scanners, sources are now saying that the machines may be responsible for rapid increases in cancer for TSA employees. Union representatives for employees at Boston Logan International Airport have uncovered a “cancer cluster” among those who work side-by-side with body scanners at the airport, the same airport where several of the 9-11 hijackers boarded their flights on September 11th. Pressures at Boston Logan to make sure passengers are safe is the highest priority, but it might be the resulting harm to employees that does the most damage.

The issue has quickly spiraled into a controversy after the TSA failed to take any necessary steps to investigate the matter. In fact their response was borderline condescending: telling employees that their risk for late-life cancer is at the same level as everyone else’s. This caused the story to snowball into a soap opera TSA officials may have an extraordinarily hard time getting themselves taken out of. At the center of the scandal: whether or not the TSA intentionally withheld vital information or knowingly used questionable evidence to push for the implantation of full body scanners in American airports.

According to sources recently released documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act have proven that the TSA and Department of Homeland Security both mischaracterized data provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Apparently the NIST had not definitively proven that body scanners are safe to stand near for long periods of time. On the contrary, the NIST had said that body scanners do in fact emit enough radiation that workers should avoid standing near them as much as possible.

TSA employees are on the record now saying that they were consistently kept in the dark when they asked questions about the safety of body scanners when they were first being installed in December of 2010. An official from the union that represents TSA workers said that she doesn’t believe the agency is sharing enough information with its workforce.

Scientists and medical professionals are not mincing words when they speak about the dangers of working around body scanners. Dr. Michael Love, operator of the biophysics department x-ray at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has openly declared that statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from the radiation that body scanners emit. Studies once considered biased and untrustworthy are now being considered as evidence in what could end up becoming criminal negligence. For instance Columbia University did a study a year ago that determined that body scanners cause an increase chance of developing skin cancer. The Inter-Agency on Radiation Safety has stated that body scanners should not be used on children and pregnant women.

So…what does all this leave for you, the traveler? Consider that unless you are a pregnant woman, a child, or a frequent (and I mean frequent) flyer, you should be okay. The kind of dangers that have been discussed are only likely to occur for individuals who are exposed to body scanners for months on end or have bodies weakened enough or young enough that the emitted radiation can do some damage. You can walk through body scanners in peace for now. But take this issue as an opportunity to re-examine your own thoughts on airport security measures. How many people might die from body scanners? How many people might live because they’re used? Something has to give, because the strip search isn’t much of an alternative as far as I’m concerned.

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Know Your Rights in the Event of a Bumped Flight

June 27th, 2011 · Comments Off on Know Your Rights in the Event of a Bumped Flight

It’s important to know your rights in the event you are bumped from a flight. You not only need to be aware of what the U.S. Department of Transportation has deemed as your rights and the airlines’ responsibilities, you need to also ensure that the compensation is adequate and that your rescheduled flight is not going to initiate a costly series of personal dilemmas. Bumping is not illegal, and the reparations provided by the airlines are only loosely regulated by the DOT. But the guidelines in place are there to protect you and being armed with the knowledge of what is entitled to you in the event of a bumped flight before it occurs is a sure way to make certain you are properly compensated and experience minimal disturbance in your travel schedule.

Overbook happens because airlines anticipate that on every flight there will be a few “no-shows” in addition to unoccupied seats. They sell more seats than the plane has in order to maximize their profit per flight and avoid the inevitable likelihood that one or two reserved seats on a high demand flight will go unused. The proactivity of this measure is often undercut, however, by the event of a flight’s anticipated no-shows showing up – and the oversold flight has too many passengers allotted that can be fitted onboard.

The DOT mandates that airline policy in this situation be to first see if there are any passengers who can afford to wait for the next available flight. This is called voluntary bumping. While there are likely several passengers who simply cannot afford to wait on any given flight, typically one or two are in no immediate hurry to get to their destination and can stay behind. In the event that an airline selects you as a candidate for a volunteer bump and you oblige, the following information should be considered:

The DOT has no specific rules regarding exact amounts of compensation for voluntary bumpers other than a guaranteed future flight arrangement. They do advise you to inquire about the compensation offered to those involuntarily bumped and negotiate an agreeable deal based off of that. You’ll have to be wary of when the next available flight will be, because you want to ensure that a hotel stay if necessary as well as ground transportation costs are covered by the airline. These factors are familiar bargaining chips to airlines and shouldn’t be a problem getting if you make the case for them.

Those involuntarily bumped are entitled to more rights per DOT. If the rescheduled flight is more than a certain amount of time after the original flight, you are entitled by law to receive a refund on your one-way ticket cost. If the time is doubled, so is your compensation. The time varies from flight to flight so check with the DOT. The aforementioned guidelines regarding voluntary bumps receiving hotel and alternative transportation compensation also apply.

If you find yourself being asked to be bumped from a flight or forced to be, know you’re well protected. Airlines are required to hand out pamphlets informing bumped passengers of their rights and entitlements, but don’t take their word for it. Know the laws before you’re bumped to better ensure you bounce back up without losing sleep or your shirt.

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Budget Friendly Road Trips

June 23rd, 2011 · Comments Off on Budget Friendly Road Trips

With summer upon us, families are trying to plan a budget friendly vacation. In spite of the slow economy, many are still trying to afford vacation. Although it may seem frivolous, financial planners recommend going on vacation even if your budget is tight simply to keep yourself in positive spirits. Many may not be able to afford the extravagant vacations they once took, but there are still a few affordable road trips which will be sure to create memories and provide relaxation including:

Orlando, Florida
Home to SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and the famous Walt Disney World, Orlando is sure to provide fun for the whole family. Entrance fees to parks can become a little pricy especially for families, however you can save money by booking in advance or ordering packages online. Also, because you have your own car, you don’t have to worry about renting one or staying at the parks resort which can be costly.

Washington, D.C.
Because summer is the time for government workers to take a break, many hotels are able to be more easily booked and tend to offer great deals allowing you and your family access to the Smithsonian Institution, the White House, the National Zoo, and several other historical landmarks. Washington D.C. has a little bit of something for everyone, and you can purchase tickets to the museums in advance to help minimize costs. The city also provides numerous walking tours for free too.

Las Vegas
You may think that Las Vegas is where you would go to throw money away, but it offers some surprisingly cheap entertainment and accommodations for families. Families can stay at certain hotels, such as Circus Circus, for under $70 a night and have access to the numerous family activities and shows within the hotel. There are also several places around town where families can experience great dining for under $10 a person, and enjoy free entertainment such as the Bellagio fountain show.

New York
New York City has a reputation of being a costly city, but during the summer it provides families with great sightseeing and dining for a relatively low cost. RivertoRiver, the city’s largest summer arts festival, occurs during the summer and is located near the Financial District which often boasts cheaper weekend fairs because business travelers aren’t flocking to the area. There are also several other inexpensive activities around the city including Staten Island Ferry rides to see the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Prospect Park.

San Francisco
Although San Francisco is known as one of the costliest cities in the nation, you can easily visit the city on a budget and the best way to do so is by staying just outside the city. By booking a hotel on the outskirts of the city, you are able to have easy access to local wineries, and San Francisco favorites including Fisherman’s Wharf, Jack London Square, and the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. If you are feeling truly adventurous, you can even park the car and walk the Golden Gate Bridge.

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How to Avoid Illness on a Cruise

June 20th, 2011 · Comments Off on How to Avoid Illness on a Cruise

Noroviruses are nasty buggers that account for 90% of non-bacterial stomach flu cases worldwide. They’re notoriously rampant in close quarters with relative high populations, such as hospitals and schools, where they pose a serious threat. While cruise ships don’t particularly house noroviruses any better than any other limitedly spaced environment, the ongoing Princess Cruises Sea Princess pseudo-outbreak makes this a good time to talk about how to avoid the stomach flu while aboard. Nothing says “vacation ruined” quite like direct orders from the captain to be quarantined for the remainder of your stay.

An Ounce of Prevention…

In the days leading up to a vacation departure for a cruise, it’s almost a sure thing that working professionals are busy arranging their lives to continue operating while they duck out for a week. This usually means a lack of sleep and poor eating habits as folks get job-related work wiped out in time. Not getting enough sleep and a bad diet are the ideal cocktail for your immune system as far as infections are concerned. Before you leave for your trip aspire to stay in as best shape as you can. Nothing can prepare you for being exposed to germs on the high seas better than making sure your immune system is charged up and ready to do your body’s bidding against foreign threats.

Re-Wash Raw Foods

If an onboard case of norovirus is detected and becomes widespread enough the crew will oftentimes shut the self-serving buffet down. While I can’t suggest you avoid the buffet completely when that’s a big part of what makes a cruise awesome, I do suggest avoiding raw fruits and vegetables unless you’re able to take them back to your cabin and perform a secondary wash. Otherwise you could be eating uncooked food that had countless numbers of hands on it before your own, which is the easiest way noroviruses get around, which leads me to….

Wash Your Hands

This is vital not only to protect yourself but to potentially protect loved ones and other passengers if you’re the one who is sick. The CDC recommends that passengers onboard cruise ships where norovirus is present wash their hands with warm soapy water for 15-20 seconds. Washing before meals is the best way to avoid getting sick yourself. Anytime you touch a door knob or a hand rail or any other surface on a cruise vessel you’re exposing yourself directly to the most popular way these bugs get from one person to another. Pay attention to what you’ve touched before putting your hands anywhere near your mouth or the mouths of others.

Sometimes you can do all of the above and still get sick, or do none of it and make it off the ship scott-free from the stomach flu. But overall you’re much more likely to escape the unforgiving vacation-ruining misfortune of becoming sick with the stomach flu if your body is prepared and you behave responsibly when it comes to matters of personal hygiene. The next time you board a cruise ship make sure you know how to keep your body’s defenses in shipshape and you’re sure to have a good time.

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How to Find Great Staycation Ideas

May 23rd, 2011 · Comments Off on How to Find Great Staycation Ideas

If gas goes up to five dollars per gallon as projected, don’t count on airline ticket prices going anywhere but sky high too. After all it’s not like planes run on marshmallows, they use fuel and lots of it. Add the exhausting exercises of long drives and surviving the intimidatingly intimate gauntlet of airport security measures, few vacation options seem viable if you’re looking for some actual relaxation without wasting time or money. Were you thinking about taking the train? They don’t run on marshmallows either, and recently uncovered terror threats to America’s railways means there’ll be beefed up security at the nearest train station too. Traveling in the year 2011 will take its toll on your wallet and your temperament no matter how you do it.

So why do it? “Staycations”, as they’re called, have become increasingly popular in the recent economically challenged times and are likely to stay that way if fuel prices continue to rise. The concept is self-explanatory: you stick around your hometown on vacation. But it can easily sound boring. Haven’t you already done everything you can at home? You’ve been to the best malls, eaten at the best restaurants, are over the landmarks, so where’s the excitement?

Maybe finding the unvisited hot spots in your area is the excitement? We tend to overlook a lot of the fringe fun in our respective regions. An hour or so driving outside the city limits wouldn’t hurt your gas tank as much as a trip across the country, yet you might find terrific campsites or beautiful trails you’d never even heard of otherwise because you’ve only been interested in the campsites and trails in other parts of the country. Staying overnight in a sleepy town you’ve researched beforehand that has a surprising amount to offer could be a great cheap way to experience a little shift in culture without shifting money around your bank accounts. You might find a town that has horse riding, wine country, a festival, trails, and more traditional entertainment for the family like bowling alleys and a movie theater.

But don’t count out the offerings of your very own hometown that you’ve maybe neglected to check up on in recent years. The local museums, especially if they have rotating gallery space, are always worth the revisit, especially if you and your family haven’t been in a while and updated installations are a certainty. You could plan your vacation around a local event like a Fourth of July fair or a popular match-up series between a local sports team and a rival. The options are endless if you get creative enough or plan early enough.

Ideally we always want to explore new worlds and take in new culture. Traveling is the best way to do this, but sometimes new worlds and new culture are right around the corner. You just got to walk around the block and see for yourself. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed in what your city has to offer if you’re open to a little legwork and a little adventure.

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Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Review

May 17th, 2011 · Comments Off on Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Review

Starwood Hotels and Resorts is the hotel network of Sheraton, The Westin, St. Regis, and other well known hotels. The Starwood Preferred Guest (spg) program is the name of their frequent stay and reward program and it’s one of the better hotel loyalty programs. It’s one of the better ones because you can quickly accrue points, use them very sensibly, and there are always promotions for more points or cheaper redemptions.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is the reward credit card of the Starwood Preferred Guest and this is what you get when you sign up:

  • Earn up to 25,000 Starpoints® – enough for two free nights at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, the W Boston or any other category 5 hotel.
  • Redeem Starpoints(R) for free nights at over 1,000 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries for free flight on over 350 airlines – all with no blackout dates.
  • No annual fee for the first year and $65 thereafter.
  • Stay 2 nights and get the 3rd night free at particiipating Sheraton(R) Hotels and Resorts worldwide.
  • Earn 4 to 5 Starpoints for every dollar you spend at Starwood Preferred Guest Hotels and Resorts.
  • Smarter Travel Editor’s Choice Award for Best Travel Awards Card for Domestic Use.

The 25,000 Starpoints bonus is a great way to start off because it immediately gets you two free nights at a category 5 hotel. Not bad!

Flexibility of Points

Starwood points are extremely flexible because their Starwood Preferred Guest Points work at a variety of places, including United, US Airways, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Hawaiian, Alaska and American Airlines. In addition to converting easily, you can also convert at very small amounts (as little as 1500) so you can reach those free flights even if you’re just a few points away. Finally, being able to convert small amounts has another benefit. Since many airline programs expire your miles if you don’t fly often enough, you can add miles to your account and reset that clock.

Why get the credit card of a specific airline when you can get one that gives you access to them all?

25,000 Starwood Starpoints Promotion

When you apply for the card, you can get 10,000 Starpoints after your very first purchase. Then, you can earn an extra 15,000 Starpoints if you spend $15,000 in six months – that’s a total of 25,000 points which can get you up to six free nights at a hotel. Best part? Annual fee is waived the first year.

There isn’t a better loyalty rewards credit card out there – take a look for yourself!

Click to Apply Today

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Five Favorites Rides at Walt Disney World

May 16th, 2011 · Comments Off on Five Favorites Rides at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World, located in Orlando, Florida, is one of our favorite places to visit. Living on the east cost, there are few places you can get to in a one hour flight that packs as much fun as Disney World. We love staying at a park resort (Extra Magic Hours are crucial!) and how easy they make everything. It’s not something that’s easy to do if you’re on a very tight budget but if you’re smart, you can definitely have a great time without busting the bank.

On our most recent trip, just a few weeks ago, we were able to stay at the Contemporary Resort. It’s an absolutely lovely resort with all the amenities you could imagine. One of the best parts was staying on the Monorail line, which makes access to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and some of the other resorts a little easier. We had dinner one night at Ohana at Polynesian, which was on the same monorail line. We were able to stay there at a relatively cheap rate because my wife was attending a conference being held at the Contemporary. I joined her a few days in and we took advantage of the rate throughout that weekend.

That meant we had access to the Extra Magic Hours and, as a result, some more favorite lines on the rides! Here are our five favorite rides at Walt Disney World: [Read more →]

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Free 100 Miles: Continental Airlines OnePass

April 28th, 2011 · Comments Off on Free 100 Miles: Continental Airlines OnePass

Simplest way to get 100 Continental Airlines OnePass miles just for registering for an offer by May 31st, 2011. Find out more here.

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