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Top 5 travel destinations with cheap and enjoyable off seasons

Friday, August 15th, 2014

The same way Canadian geese fly south in late fall, we travel-lusting people of the world all seem to flock to the same locations at the same time—Mexico and the Caribbean in March, Europe in June, Hawaii pretty much anytime of the year.

Fighting the instinctual urge to travel during peak season means cheaper rates and smaller crowds. Avoid paying an arm and a leg; here’s a list of travel-friendly shoulder seasons to take advantage of year-round.

Utah in summer

The Rocky Mountains in general are breath-taking during the summer. Salt Lake City and Park City draw in large numbers of skiers and snowboarders in the winter, so that’s when they make their bread and butter. The summer months see smaller crowds. Ski-centric towns usually drop their hotels rates by $100-$200 during summer and fall. To the southeast and less elevated part of the state, Moab is home to nature-carved red rocks not to be missed. Strike out on a more frugal outdoorsy vacation from June-September to experience some of the best mountain biking, hiking, white water rafting and outdoor concerts in the nation.

moahb

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah; Credit: Gautam Dogra ©

New Orleans in late summer and fall

Mardi Gras may only come once a year, but New Orleans is full of life year-round. The absolute cheapest time to go is in the peak of summer, but it’s hit or miss on if you’ll enjoy yourself. It depends on how you feel about extremely damp heat. So let it cool down a tad; plan your jazzy trip for the tail end of summer or early fall. The 4-star JW Marriott New Orleans has rates as low as $149 in August, while they reach a high not at $289 during February festivities. The party on Bourbon Street never actually stops, so be sure to pack your party pants.

New Orleans; Credit: Jeff Turner©

New Orleans; Credit: Jeff Turner ©

Ireland in March

You’d think with St. Patrick’s Day in March, Ireland would be a giant island of festivities and high hotel prices. Actually, the holiday in its homeland isn’t the drinking day it’s become in the U.S. It can cost $200-$300 less to travel during early spring, namely March, than in the summer. Don’t worry about the weather; it’s rare to have anything more than an occasional flurry in Ireland’s winter due to The Gulf Stream, and by March, some of that famous green is starting to regain it’s hue. Book now so you can start planning your itinerary.

Muckross Head, County Donegal, Ireland; Oisin Mulvihill ©

Muckross Head, County Donegal, Ireland; Oisin Mulvihill ©

Mexico in summer

Northern Americans and anyone who shares their latitude, know that the only thing getting them through winter is the dream of a beach vacation in the spring. To Mexico they go! Spring breakers, families, couples, girls weekends, everyone. Except you, you savvy little cheapo, you. All-in-one packages for July travel will only set you back about $800-$900, while the same package in February and March clocks in at $1,000-$1,100. Hold off on the all-inclusive Cozumel package until June or July. It’ll be hot, but you’ll have constant access to a pool and/or beach, and your tan will be legend. Be careful of hurricane season, which is known to pick up in August toward the end of the summer.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico; ramonbaile ©

Playa del Carmen, Mexico; ramonbaile ©

Costa Rica in July and August

Central America is a beautiful destination where most nations are affected by a wet and dry season. Costa Rica’s wet season runs June to November, which leaves it pretty empty of tourists. No one wants to go and get rained on, true, but this wet season acts a lot like an isolated daily shower. July and August typically see the least amount of rain within this time period. The short-lived rains sometimes happen over night and if they strike during the day, it’s usually not enough to ruin your plans.

La Fortuna Falls, Costa Rica; Credit: Kyle May ©

La Fortuna Falls, Costa Rica; Credit: Kyle May ©

 

Infuse a little Om into your city getaway – for free

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Money doesn’t grow on your tree pose. Fortunately, major cities across the country host free yoga classes through summer—perfect for traveling warriors who want to avoid the $10 to $25 per-class fee that’s standard at most yoga studios.

Plus, most of these yoga sessions are held outdoors in iconic cosmopolitan settings, which is ideal for travelers who want to combine a little mind-body-spirit TLC with sightseeing.

New York City

What: Bryant Park Yoga

Where: Bryant Park

When: Tuesdays 10-11 a.m. and Thursday 6-7 p.m., through Sept. 18, 2014

Work your downward dog under shady trees, surrounded by towering Manhattan skyscrapers in this summer series presented by Athleta. Mats are provided. Walk-ins are welcome, but visitors are encouraged to pre-register online.

Bryant Park Yoga - Photo by Bryant Park Corporation (1)

Bryant Park

What: Summer in the Square

Where: Union Square

When: Thursdays 7-8a.m. (South Plaza) and 7-8 p.m. (North Plaza)

Find solace in one of New York’s great public spaces in the morning or evening. A limited number of mats are provided, so participants are encouraged to bring their own. Families can enjoy Yoga StoryTime with Karma Kids from 10-11 a.m.

Credit: Union Square Partnership

Union Square. Credit: Union Square Partnership

What: Wanderlust 108

Where: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

When: Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014

The meditation and yoga portion of this bigger “mindful triathlon” event is free for those who register online by Aug. 15, 2014. With celebrated yoga teachers Seane Corn and Elena Brower leading the group, complemented with music by MC Yogi, it’s sure to be an energetic gathering in Brooklyn.

Credit: Jake Laub

Wanderlust 108 in Brooklyn. Credit: Jake Laub

Boston

What: Summer Yoga at Frog Pond

Where: The Boston Common Frog Pond

When: Thursdays, 6-7:15 p.m., through Aug. 28, 2014

Enjoy an all-levels vinyasa yoga flow in Boston’s most historic park. The class meets behind the Frog Pond Carousel. Bring your own mat, and check for weather-related cancelations on the Facebook page.

Chicago

What: Everybody Free Yoga

Where: Venues all over Chicago

When: Varying times through Sept. 6, 2014

This summer initiative spearheaded by Moksha Yoga Center, Chicago’s largest yoga studio, offers free yoga at parks, beaches and festivals throughout the city. Among the offerings: Saturday morning yoga at Millennium Park and Candlelight Yoga at Foster Beach during full moons. Check the website for a complete schedule.

Millennium Park Credit: Jen Pagonis

Millennium Park. Credit: Jen Pagonis

What: Yoga Rocks the Park

Where: Northside Preparatory High School

When: Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Part of a bigger grassroots initiative to bring yoga into parks across the country, the Chicago event is free to those who register online. Sponsored by YOGA SIX, the class will include live music.

Washington, D.C.

What: Yoga in the Park

Where: Dupont Circle

When: Wednesdays, 6-7 p.m., Through Oct. 1, 2014

Hosted by lululemon Logan Circle, this is an all-level class in the heart of one of DC’s trendiest ‘hoods. Check the Facebook page for weather updates.

Meridian Hill Park

Meridian Hill Park

What: Yoga in the Park 2014

Where: Meridian Hill Park

When: Sundays, 5-6:30 p.m., Through August

Get your OM on in this gorgeous 12-acre park in the Columbia Heights-Adams Morgan neighborhoods of northwest DC. Hosted by Bikram Yoga Dupont, this all-level class celebrates its 10th summer season.

Miami

What: Yoga in the Park

Where: Bayfront Park (Tina Hills Pavilion)

When: Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-7:15 p.m.; Saturdays, 9-10:15 a.m.

Free yoga is offered year-round at this park overlooking Biscayne Bay and hugged by Miami’s luxurious high-rises and palm trees. Participants should bring their own mats.

Bayfront Park in Miami

Bayfront Park in Miami

Las Vegas

What: Blissfully Free Sundays

Where: Barefoot Sanctuary
(located inside Whole Foods Market at Town Square)

When: Sundays at 4:30 p.m., through 2014

After a weekend of partying hard on The Strip, detox with a mellow yoga class suitable for beginners at Barefoot Sanctuary — the only yoga studio on the Las Vegas Strip, inside the Whole Foods Town Square.

Barefoot Sanctuary located along the Las Vegas Strip

Barefoot Sanctuary located along the Las Vegas Strip

What: Sunday Morning Yoga

Where: lululemon, Las Vegas Fashion Show Mall

When: Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

lululemon is always a great go-to for free yoga since most stores offer no-cost classes on weekends. The Las Vegas location extends classes to the public on Sunday mornings. Mats are provided, but arrive early to snag a spot.

Dallas-Fort Worth

What: DFW Free Day of Yoga

Where: Throughout Dallas-Fort Worth

When: Aug. 31 & Sept. 1, 2014

If you’re in Dallas-Fort Worth for the Labor Day Weekend, take advantage of free yoga across the city at more than 170 participating studios on Sept, 1. A free group class will also take place at the Fort Worth Water Gardens on Sunday, Aug. 31, at 5 p.m.

Los Angeles

What: Runyon Canyon Free Daily Yoga

Where: Runyon Canyon Park (Fuller Avenue entrance)

When: Everyday, see schedule

It’s tough to find free yoga in Los Angeles. But no-cost classes are offered at Runyon Canyon not just once a week – but several times daily! The classes, which get stellar Yelp reviews, are appropriate for all levels. Donations are accepted and appreciated.

Runyon Canyon Park. Credit: Ryan Vaarsi

Runyon Canyon Park. Credit: Ryan Vaarsi

San Francisco

What: Yoga in Golden Gate Park

Where: Golden Gate Park (Big Rec Baseball Field)

When: Sundays at 11 a.m.

Hold your tree pose amidst the trees in one of San Francisco’s most beautiful parks. While the class is technically free, teachers accept donations to benefit the Purusha Seva Project. Sparing a few bucks is good for karma, after all.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

What: Rooftop Yoga by Kari Gregg

Where: Lombardi Sports’ Rooftop

When: Sundays at 11 a.m.

Enjoy yoga under the skies atop a rooftop in San Francisco’s hip Nob Hill neighborhood. Bring your own mat for this 60-minute all-levels class and leave with a smile – plus, a 20-percent-off coupon for in-store merchandise.

Lombardi Sports Rooftop in Nob Hill

Lombardi Sports Rooftop in Nob Hill

Seattle

What: Gentle Yoga

Where: Seattle Center Exhibition Hall Lawn

When: Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m., Through Aug. 20, 2014

Breathe and gently stretch your body in this Hatha yoga class suitable for beginners. Drop-ins are welcome, but bring your own yoga mat.

Olympic Sculpture Park. Credit: Robert Wade

Olympic Sculpture Park. Credit: Robert Wade

What: Summer at SAM Olympic Sculpture Park

Where: Olympic Sculpture Park

When: Saturdays, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Through Aug. 25, 2014

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) combines the outdoors with art and yoga for a weekly summer yoga practice in its Olympic Sculpture Park. Bring your own mat and check the Facebook page for more information and weather-related cancelations.

Fun and almost free: top 5 bike-friendly towns

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Ah, what a feeling to have the world at your fingertips when beginning to make your travel plans, mapping out the places you want to see, the food you want to eat, and the things you absolutely must do. But, wait, how are you going to get around without breaking the bank on transportation costs, once you get to your desired vacation spot? Consider two wheels to cheapen the deal. When travel prices hike, the answer is to bike!

Major cities—the ones you totally want to take an extended weekend trip to—are earning top makes on Walkscore’s list of bike friendly cities. Tight wallets, rejoice! When it comes to your travel expense list, you can cross off cab rides and car rentals.

Join the fleet of penny-wise pedal pushers. Plan your next trek to these bike-lovin’ cities utilizing bike share programs and traveler-friendly bike rental shops:

1.  Portland, OR
Bikescore: 70.3

portland sto size

It makes sense that Portland is number one. Every good hipster has a bike and Portland is to hipsters as a hive is to bees. Surprisingly, Portland has yet to launch a bike share program. Not to worry; you can rent a bike for the whole week for $100 at Pedal Bike Tours. They have five stars on Yelp and are located only two blocks from the Waterfront Park Trail—no brainer.

2.  San Francisco, CA
Bikescore: 70.0

San Francisco

An image of San Franciscans with totally ripped thigh muscles comes to mind when one thinks of all those hills, but alas, it must not be that hard to get around on two wheels if SF is ranking in at number two. These West Coasters have the bike share thing down. A cheap $22 rental for three days of access to Bay Area Bike Share is perfect for you weekend travelers.

3.  Denver, CO
Bikescore: 69.5

denver to size

The mile high city is home to a monstrous 96 miles of bike lanes, which provides a safe place to ride for those new to city cycling. Denver B-cycle is the bike share program in town. At $20 for a week of unlimited rides, this might be the best deal on the list!

4.  Philadelphia, PA
Bikescore: 68.4

philly to size

Liberate your inner child on a ride to the Liberty Bell and right hook those wheels over to the Rocky Steps in the same day. While Philly has yet to adopt a bike share program, there are tentative plans in the works to bring one by spring 2015. Fairmont Bicycles is in your corner for rentals and only a six-minute ride to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The best deal there is a two-day rental for $60.

5.  Boston, MA
Bikescore: 67.8

bigboston to size

Cobblestone streets are no match for the savvy cyclers of Boston. Ride like Paul Revere in and around the circular hub of Bean Town’s central neighborhoods. Although it’s closed during winter, for obvious reasons, bike share is the way to go with The Hubway system. Best deal on the menu is $12 for a 72-hour access pass, leaving plenty of budget left for some chowdah.

Click here for a list of other major US cities with high bikescores.

Cheap Family Labor Day Getaway: St. Louis

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

We know that when you’re trying to travel with family, there’s only one thing better than cheap—free. For a cheap getaway filled with free things to do this Labor Day, look no further than St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis is, after all, the patron saint of savings (probably). Considering the free zoo and the free museums, this is our kind of town, and we put together a list of stuff to do in the Lou.

Saint Louis skyline

City Views and Muddy Blues

The Gateway Arch defines the St. Louis skyline and if you haven’t had a chance to see this architectural masterpiece, we recommend you head straight there. After you take the ride to the top ($10 adults, $5 kids), take some time to walk along the riverfront.

If you have a taste for those St. Louie blues, or some fun festival food, stroll on down the cobblestone streets of Laclede’s Landing to the Big Muddy Blues Festival. Two of the three stages are free, and kids are welcome.

After you walk around, let your kids climb around at the City Museum. Don’t let the name fool you—this place is less like a museum and more like a four story jungle gym made out of recycled materials (including an airplane, a school bus, and—you guessed it—a giant whale). It’s something your kids will never forget. The playtime experience is 12 bucks a pop, but this uncommon place, and the uncommon chance for you to take a breather, is worth every penny.

End the night with some of the best ice cream in the country. Ted Drewes on Chippewa is one of the oldest and best known ice cream (sorry, frozen custard) shops in America. Located on the old Route 66, this place serves concretes so thick you can hold them upside down, and has done since 1929.

 

Z is for Free Zoo

Start off day two with a little adventure by checking out the Saint Louis Zoo. This is our absolute favorite type of zoo—the free type. With over 90 acres, the zoo is one of the largest and best in the country. And if you get there before 9am, the children’s zoo is free too.

Afterward, save a few bucks on lunch by packing a picnic in the park. Then browse around the free art museum, free history museum and free science center, all of which have free parking.

When dinner time rolls around, it’s a short drive to St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood, the Hill. These authentic, family owned Italian restaurants serve up the best food in the city. Taste the classics as they were meant to be tasted, or try the city’s signature toasted ravioli.

Before you go to the airport Monday, try out Ari’s Restaurant and Bar for breakfast. St. Louis Magazine calls this the Cheapest Breakfast in Town, and it’s hard to argue with their math. Ari’s buffet style breakfast is $6.95 for adults, and $3.95 for kids. And that includes the coffee.

5 tips for cheap vacations with kids

Monday, April 16th, 2012

 

Not-so-cramped-quarters: Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim at Disneyland Resort offers family suites on the cheap.

By Valerie Moloney

As the self-designated CEO of the household, I embrace any opportunity to shave money off the family budget. I’ll buy Irish Spring even if passion fruit pomegranate body mousse smells much prettier. I frequent flash sales, and scour the boards for promo codes (because who wants to pay for shipping?). (more…)

All about adrenaline: Spring ramps up with new rollercoasters

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

 

Six Flags Great America's X-Flight is scheduled to open this May. Credit: Six Flags Great America

By Angie Jaime

Spring is here early (thanks global warming) and that means only one thing — time to take a family vacation to scope the season’s latest theme park expansions.

Heartland thrill junkies can soar at 3,000 feet on Six Flags Great Americas latest, X-Flight. Five inversions, a 12 story drop and a zero-gravity roll are more than enough to get the adrenaline pumping. Designed by the Swiss engineers behind the Raging Bull, SUPERMAN and BATMAN rides, the X-Flight is the first of its kind in the US. The unique “wing” design pairs riders on either side of the track, creating the illusion of free flight. This ride will make its home in the County Fair section of the park, replacing the old school Iron Wolf in May.

(more…)

Locking Irish eyes: My run-ins with 2 Irish celebrities

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Blogger Val Moloney met U2 hotness Larry Mullen Jr. in Chicago's Gold Coast 10 years ago. Credit: Clancy3434.

By Valerie Moloney

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s talk random run-ins. (more…)

Desert chic: 3 hip & cheap Palm Springs hotels

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Move over Miami: The candyland of the desert is The Saguaro, an option for a cheap spring break vacay.

By Valerie Moloney

Cancun, Galveston, Miami Beach – they’re the spring break capitals made famous by MTV and its abtastic extras, places that continue – even without the cameras – to pump up the party with DJs, boat bashes and celeb appearances. But here’s one resort community that practically invented the tradition: Palm Springs. And it’s affordable, too. Just follow the cacti to these cheap Palm Springs hotels for a taste of what Sinatra knew so well: Sometimes the sweetest dessert is in the desert. (more…)

Beach bars & bike paths: What to do this fall in the O.C.

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

A shore thing: The laidback charm of artist enclave Laguna Beach. Credit: Lavender Dreamer.

By Stephanie Toller Negrete

Seaside mansions. Tan, buff bodies. Convertibles and high-end boutiques. Sure, they’re all part of the California dream, but only part of the reality. In the O.C., embrace a more laidback lifestyle, especially in the fall when the summer crowds are gone and the weather is just gorgeous. Enticing lodging rates help, too, so that we can all coast to a cheap Orange County hotel during one of the best seasons of the year. (more…)

Mountains & mining towns: Things to do in Phoenix this fall

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Ain't no mountain high enough: Hike Pinnacle Peak Park for views of the valley and desert. Credit: Friends of Pinnacle Peak Park.

By Janet Bazan

Contrary to popular belief, strolling pumpkin patches and apple orchards aren’t the only things to do this fall. Head 2,700 miles west of New England to find one of the most brilliant color parades around: the trails in Phoenix. (more…)