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Travel Carnival 7: Surprising Joy When Traveling

If happiness is where you find it, and traveling inevitably brings surprises, then you can likely expect surprising joy while you travel. The 7th carnival of travel brings many perspectives on travel and the element of surprise.

  • Running in Edinburgh, Joe D. writes about whim and the provocative nature of mountains. Without a map and water, he is drawn toward Edinburgh's highest peak. 
  • Why travel to France? PT Ford offers an illuminating historical, artistic, and anthropological reason to see the "Sistine Chapel of Pre-History," a discovery he (and others before him) made of The Lascaux Cave in Southwest France.
  • Vineeta gives great reason to pilgrimage to the great Machu Picchu in his article Take a Deep Breath, You're in Peru. She says, "Nothing you know about Machu Picchu prepares you for the actual experience of being there."
  • Joe K. presents the surprising joy found on Saturna Island, saying, "The least populous of British Columbia's southern Gulf Islands, Saturna is a quiet and scenic getaway. What it lacks in people and businesses, it makes up for in character." I'm so there... next year maybe? Seriously, on my two-week boat trip to the San Juans, we talked of heading to the Gulf Islands next year.
  • Kelly at Öğretmen says, "I was in India with a friend this summer. The Indian railroad turned out to be wonderful experience...." Her journey shows how a railway ticket on the Nethravathi Express was her best (albeit silent) tour guide.
  • Surfer Sam goes on a group trip with friends Hiking the Grand Canyon in Flagstaff, Arizona and discovers a "taste of Eden."
  • Melissa tunes us in to the surprising pros of business travel as a Road Gladiator. 
  • Although Renata dislikes the Parisian treatment of tourists (I wonder if she speaks any French?), she does fall for the quintessential attractions that make Paris famous. On her family trip to the "end of the world," Renata travels to Ushuaia, at South America's tip, and sees snow for the first time in her life. The photos are impressive.
  • A Parenthesis: Vacation In Hawaii is Ming's version of finding her inner spirit and being one with her true self. An interesting perspective on reflections of how we perceive the world and how we experience it.

These don't fall into the surprising joy theme, but have value nonetheless:

Thanks for participating and reading this edition of the carnival of travel.


10 Best Holiday Shopping Spree Trips

For the ultimate girls getaway with a mission, I say take your gal pals to a town full of entertainment and plenty of good shopping to give a little something unique for Christmas this year. Find the perfect gift for your sister, mom, friend, cousin, boyfriend, husband, and so forth. Getting away before the holidays (when sales are on, travel deals abound, winter temperatures are at bay) can be worth the trip.

1. New York City

  • For him: The basic I Love New York t-shirt or luxury items such as shoes that turn into roller skates or a watch that doubles as a remote control (for the James Bond in your man).
  • For her: A handbag from a discount shop or designer shirt from quaint boutiques. Heck, if you can swing it, drop the credit card at a 5th Avenue store.

2. Los Angeles

  • For him: Universal Studios paraphernalia for the kid in him or hat that makes him feel like the fly boy he wants to be. If he likes fine arts, grab him something from a museum or gallery. Or get your picture taken by his favorite Hollywood star handprint and frame it.
  • For her: Anything from a store on the fancy, famous Rodeo Drive such as designer jeans or sunglasses the size of her head would be good. You'll feel like a star shopping and she'll feel like a million bucks receiving.

3. San Francisco

  • For him: Go glam with original art from Sausalito, or buy Ghirardelli chocolates. If your man is an earthy dude, find a trippy tie dye Grateful Dead t-shirt, a drum, or incense. Wine from Napa Valley (to grab on a leisurely day trip) is always a good gift as well.
  • For her: Again, go glam with original art from Sausalito, or buy Ghirardelli chocolates. If your female friend is earthy, find Haight-Ashbury District candles, incense, a woven purse, patchouli oil, the works. There are also outlet stores downtown for more "typical" shops. Wine works wonders for women as well.

4. London

  • For him: Find the rare book or gift he loves at flea markets in areas such as Notting Hill. Bring back some of the best tea from Fortnum & Mason (arguably the world's most expensive and best grocery store for specialty foods).
  • For her: What's not for her in London? Flea markets with jewelry, books, household items, scarves, etc. And shopping boutiques and high fashion stores. Then there's always Fortnum & Mason for cookies, pates, teas (expensive but worth it!).

5. Chicago

  • For him: Cubs, White Sox or Bears paraphernalia (jersey, balls, bat, mug, etc.) if he's a sporto; if he prefers fine arts, the Chicago Art Museum is world-renowned and the gift shop has a bevy of nice gifts (I can attest).
  • For her: Home to the Magnificent Mile, Chicago, does indeed have magnificent shopping such as numerous department stores (Lord and Taylor, for instance) and shops for everything from leather gloves to perfume to cashmere wraps.

6. Washington, DC

  • For him: Smithsonian books or paraphernalia from the museums, books for the history buff, or a framed photo from your trip to the U.S. capital. Sunset from the Lincoln Memorial looking toward the U.S. Capitol includes the reflecting pool and Washington Monument - a classic shot with your signature all over it.
  • For her: Antiques and collectibles at the weekend Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, non-fiction books for the history buffs, arts and crafts at either the flea market or any of the numerous art galleries or museums.

7. Whistler, BC

  • For him: Any ski gear possible (guys dig this), including poly shirts for insulation. Find stores with sales if need be as there are plenty of shops at this big ski resort with Blackcomb village and Whistler village.
  • For her: Ski-themed t-shirts, ski gear or just about anything goes. Whistler has a slew of different shops such as soap shops, coffee houses, and more.

8. Las Vegas

  • For him: Win big and bring him back some dough.
  • For her: Outlet malls galore are here to offer discounts on major clothing, shoe, home and gear labels. Two major outlets: Premium Outlets and Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas.

9. San Diego

  • For him: Get him a couple 22-ounce bottles of micro-beer from local Coronado Brewing Company, and top the gift off with a logo'd pint and sweatshirt.
  • For her: A cuddly stuffed animal from the San Diego Zoo or arts and crafts from boutiques around town. If a Tijuana day trip is on your agenda, there are plenty of arts and crafts to buy in Mexico from wool blankets to woven baskets to sculptures.

10. Denver

  • For him: A classic belt buckle (if he's into that sort of thing) or leather belt for the hidden cowboy within.
  • For her: A nice leather belt is a wonderful gift for women also, but Denver also boasts several boutiques in addition to major shopping stores. And there's always the Southwest art scene if you want to splurge and purchase some hand-crafted jewelry or art.


10 Haunted Hotels released its hit list for top 10 haunted hotels. For groups on last-minute trips who are looking for a little bit of freakiness in their escape, try one of these for an extended weekend.

  1. Farnsworth House Inn, Gettysburg, Pa.
  2. St. James Hotel, Cimarron, N.M.
  3. Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, Fall River, Mass.
  4. The Menger Hotel, San Antonio, Texas
  5. Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo.
  6. Lemp Mansion Restaurant & Inn, St. Louis, Mo.
  7. Rosario Resort and Spa, Orcas Island, Wash.
  8. Buxton Inn, Granville, Ohio
  9. Wyndham Bourbon Orleans Hotel
  10. Crescent Hotel & Spa, Eureka Springs, Ark.


Gift Vacations: A Luxury Travel Treat

The New York Times ran a story on a new trend for millionaire vacations: why travel alone when you can afford to take your friends and family and pay for them? Group travel doesn't discriminate against cash in pocket, banks, investments, etc. Everyone travels for the same reason when planning a group trip: to stay connected to close friends and family.

This new luxury travel trend - dubbed as a result of the rich in America getting richer and not being shy to foot the bill to spend quality time with people - presents interesting opportunities for group travel, along with dilemmas.

  • Opportunities: Free time at no to little cost to enjoy a vacation, opportunity to see a new place or try out a new style of living potentially out of bounds otherwise, take the attitude of "carpe diem" and just go for it.
  • Dilemmas: The guilt of feeling obligated to somehow return the enormous favor, the feelings of inequity among friends, not feeling "right" about accepting such a gift. And the giftor must decide who's in and who's not invited, which can get uncomfortable with those uninvited. Ugh.

On my boating trip this summer (split the costs evenly), one of our stops was Roche Harbor, San Juan Island. We happened to arrive during a mega yacht meet-up and our 33-foot wooden boat was dwarfed by many pristine, fiberglass ships. For the size of little quaint Roche Harbor (at least that's how I remember it from my childhood) it seemed ridiculous. But after reading this NYT article (which is intriguing, and a must read) now I wonder how many people on yachts were on gift vacations.

If you have the means to plan a luxury trip with friends and family (whether you gift it or not), you can use TripHub to coordinate and share trip details.

How Do Guys Bond?

OK, let's keep this civilized. No snickering. It's a serious question. With all the whoopla about "mancations" and guys traveling together for fun (groups of buddies/pals/friends/comrades have traveled together for getaway/bachelor/etc. trips for a while, but the travel industry just clued in) I decided to investigate.

When childhood pals, college friends, frat boys, ski club members, or just friends from life decide to get together to reconnect or bond, how do they pass the time? Whether road tripping or flying somewhere, bachelor parties, casual reunions, and sporting (golf, ski) get togethers are all part of the rituals of reconnecting.

Guy getaways can include anything from golfing, skiing, boating, fishing, hunting, club-hopping, lady-gawking, cigar-smoking, beer-chugging, gambling, or even metro activities such as meeting up in a city of choice and relaxing together at clubs.

Outside magazine recently emphasized how important the buddy system is (traveling with at least one other for safety) and listed great articles on various ways men bond, using famous figures such as Eddie Vedder, Jack Handey, and others for how to play on vacation. Plus, a few lessons for athletes who get too competitive.

Source: Gadling

TripHub Invites Clubs, Teams, Organizations to Plan Trips

Since TripHub launched, the group trip planning tools have been ideal for family and friend trips such as weddings, reunions, birthday vacations, girls getaways, and mancations/guy trips. But today there are advanced settings that allow more types of groups - clubs, teams, parent groups, religious organizations, spring breakers - to plan trips. That's right. More group fun. And more functionality.

In general, all group trip organizers now have more control over the way to structure a trip, the settings, who to invite, and how guests can access the "trip home page." New tools for planning trips that are ideal for clubs, teams, organizations, and larger groups include:

  1. A URL for every trip to promote and publicize via MySpace pages, church newsletters, school Web sites, ski team flyers, even word of mouth. This greatly expands the possibilities for trip organizers.
  2. Advanced settings allow trip organizers to control who has access to the trip details and who is invited to participate. Trip organizers no longer need to know the email addresses of every single guest, or even all who may join the trip. This opens the doors for clubs, organizations, and membership groups to create a trip, retreat, away game home page, promote the URL of the event, and allow people to invite themselves or request an invitation.
  3. Email notification capabilities so trip organizers and members of the group can opt to ping people when they've started a Trip Blog discussion, or added something to the Event Schedule. This is a convenient way to keep the group informed when key changes (i.e., accommodations discussions have begun or a hotel has been booked) or announcements are made (deadlines to sign up for the trip are posted).

How can clubs, teams, organizations use the new features? Great question. Here's how:

  1. Ski clubs can set up a trip and post the URL to the club Web site or in a monthly newsletter. Existing or potential club members can see the details and request an invitation to join the trip.
  2. Parents can now coordinate travel to tournaments, performances, and other events with other families. Families can view trip details, join the trip, and discuss transportation options, and other travel logistics.
  3. Religious organizations can plan events using TripHub to communicate details of a retreat or pilgrimage. Trip URLs can be publicized via a newsletter or in the weekend program. Members can request invitations. Retreat details can be hidden so only approved members can view them.
  4. Spring breakers include college students planning to head to Florida, Mexico, Hawaii, California, Europe, or the nearest beach. Students can recruit attendees by linking to their TripHub trip from their MySpace, or via a flyer in their living space, common area, etc. Participation can be capped, but anyone who finds the URL can join the trip.
  5. Sports fan groups can plan trips to college or pro games (or tailgate parties).
  6. Adventure / activity clubs can organize trips around their favorite sport or activity such as kayaking, hiking, camping, scuba diving, biking and discuss details with fellow fanatics about their passionate pastime.
  7. Alumni associations can plan reunions or tailgate parties for home games for alumni.
  8. Tour groups can even set up trips using TripHub and plan trips using these new tools. For instance, if you are a trip leader with a women's travel group, an educational tour leader, etc. you can set up a trip and share the URL with either known participants or publicize the trip URL to recruit more participants.
  9. Any other membership or affinity group can plan a group trip using the free group planning tools.


Event Venues

Planning a wedding, a milestone birthday, anniversary party, or any other organized group event? Scope out potential locations on a site specializing in helping you find event venues. Eventective is a searchable with Google maps per U.S. city flagged with event locations. Full addresses and basic overview information about each venue is also available.

Do your own digging around the site and find the ideal location for your next group event.

Musical Trips

Gadling's Neil Woodburn blogged about his 24-hour experience in Las Vegas to see The Pogues which got me thinking. Not only was I jealous of his having gone to see one of Ireland's best, modern, and eclectic bands (in my humble opinion), but there are so many other bands worthy of traveling (road trips included) to a destination to see them with a good group of friends.

This is my quick hit list:

  1. Grateful Dead (oh wait, not an option anymore)
  2. Bob Dylan
  3. Pearl Jam
  4. Rusted Root
  5. Sheryl Crow
  6. Simon & Garfunkel revival concert
  7. The Shins
  8. Belle & Sebastian
  9. Pink Martini
  10. Kelly Joe Phelps

What bands or musicians would inspire you to travel with friends for a concert?

Avoid Common Holiday Headaches

Holidays are just around the corner. Families and friends will gather to spend quality time reconnecting. While the holidays are some of the busiest travel times of the year, there are several prep steps to take to avoid the typical holiday stress.

Here's how to avoid common holiday stressors by planning ahead:

Long lines
Avoid long lines at airports by taking an extra day off of work (on less busy travel days), or traveling when flights are less likely to be full. Be flexible.

Travel expenses
Book early to save on flights and hotels. If you see a sale price for a package deal (hotel + airfare) or hotel, or flight, you should grab it as prices are only likely to increase as the date approaches. Also, consider airports nearby but not exactly where you wanted to go and consider renting a car, taking a train, or a puddle jumper plane to your destination. Sometimes, creative planning can get you there for cheaper. Shop around on discount sites or even use sky miles to help out.

Rides to and from airport
Nothing is worse than standing in the cold outside an airport hoping your ride shows up soon, at that terminal, at that airport, on that day. Coordinate early and use TripHub's Event Schedule to list rides available for people in your group. If Uncle Bob is planning on picking up Aunt Sue at 8:40 PM the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, note this on the Event Schedule of your trip home page so others can hitch a ride if convenient.

Where to stay
If gathering at a relative's house, discuss or share accommodation options together. TripHub has tools to do just that. 1) You can discuss accommodation options within the Trip Blog when you set up a trip home page with your group, or 2) discuss hotels using the custom feature built for making comments within a hotel search results page, or 3) if you have set plans or can open your house up for guests, share your accommodation information with other members of your group.

No peace and quiet
Want to ensure you have a little solo time on your trip, so you aren't inundated with family 24/7? Here are a few tips for getting time to yourself through the joys of iPods, books, exercise, and dogs.

Missed opportunities
To plan ahead on attractions, shows, museums, theater events, golf tee times, and other activities that could be sold out, you can use TripHub's Trip Blog and/or Event Schedule to share ideas and information with people and avoid any confusion.

To plan your holiday group getaway, you can use TripHub to plan where to stay, how to get there, and what to do when you're together. It's an easy, free way to plan ahead and avoid the stress of the happy holiday season.


Wine-Tasting Vacations

TripAdvisor issued a list of its favorite "vineyard vacations" - which are, of course, ideal for groups such as extended families (sans kids), girls getaways, bachelor parties, birthday parties, wedding events, or just getaways with friends.

This top 10 list includes all the usual suspects, and a few notable newbies. So raise a glass of chardonney or merlot and bring back new bottles of wine to dazzle your friends (or yourself) when you return from vacation. 

  1. Napa Valley, Calif.
  2. Tuscany, Italy
  3. Bordeaux, France
  4. Santiago, Chile
  5. Sonoma, Calif.
  6. Burgundy, France
  7. La Rioja, Spain
  8. Hunter Valley, Australia
  9. Champagne-Ardenne, France
  10. Constantia, South Africa