Traveling Mamas

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  • Just in time for Veteran’s Day this month, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort have introduced new discount offers on theme park tickets and hotel rooms for active and retired U.S. military personnel.

    These offers are good through Oct. 1, 2011, and can be purchased by either the military personnel or their spouses. Active and retired members of the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists are eligible.

    And the tickets aren’t just for the military personnel. Each eligible person can buy up to six tickets to be used by the military personnel and family and/or friends.

    Here are the Disney Parks ticket offers:

    Walt Disney World

    • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper Option for $138 each, plus tax
    • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Water Parks Fun and More Option for $138 each, plus tax
    • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More Options for $165 each, plus tax

    Disneyland Resort

    • Disney Military Promotional 3-Day Park Hopper Tickets for $99 each

    It’s important to note that these tickets do have a few black-out dates where they will not work at the parks, namely right around Christmas and Spring Break season, and on July 4. Those are the most crowded times at the parks, so it’s best to try to avoid those times anyway.

    As for hotel rooms, Disney is offering 40% off on rooms at certain hotels at both Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California.

    For information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets for admission to the Walt Disney World Resort, or to make room reservations at the Walt Disney World Resort, military personnel may call (407) 939-7830 or participating U.S. military base ticket offices. For information regarding Disney 3-Day Military Promotional Tickets for admission to the Disneyland Resort, or to make room reservations at the Disneyland Resort, military personnel may call (714) 956-6424 or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.

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  • The holiday season is the busiest travel time of the year, with many people going home for the holidays. This is also the best time of year to get deals at destinations in some of the most popular destinations.

    Link to Video of Money Monday: Travel Deals on WAFB TV.

    Airfare Deals

    Bing’s Travel Farecaster is a fabulous tool for figuring out if you should purchase that plane ticket right now or if you should wait a few days to see if the price drops.

    SideStep.com offers a chance to check the airfare on multiple airlines across multiple booking engines. It doesn’t list every airline, but will help you guage how much you should budget for airfare for upcoming trips.

    Destinations

    New York City is THE most popular destination for Thanksgiving, and it’s no wonder with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. There will be more than 3 million people lining the city streets, but we’ve got tips for best viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Also, Cirque du Soleil is offering limited performances of Wintuk, a family winter show. Tickets for kids are 30% off with performances beginning November 17 and until January 2.

    The holiday season is one of the best times of the year to get a deal in Las Vegas. Be sure to check out all of the fine dining options, the shows, and of course, the spas. CityCenter is the newest addition to Las Vegas shopping and is the perfect place to get a gift for that special someone. If you manage to be awake for breakfast in Vegas, check out Silk Road at Vdara.

    Branson, Missouri isn’t just fabulous for leaf viewing, but for the holiday season the entire city is all decked out for this festive time of year. Silver Dollar City is open at special times and even the rides are lit up for the holidays at this Ozark themed amusement park. Luxury lodging with spectacular views can be found at Chateau on the Lake Branson. For families searching for entertainment, Grand Country will keep everyone in the family occupied with their package deals that include 2 nights lodging, show tickets, meals, and indoor waterpark entrance for less than $250 for a family of four.

    Sevierville, Tennessee also has an indoor waterpark special at Wilderness in the Smokies. Rates start at $139 per night and includes waterpark entrance for the family.

    Orlando, Florida is always a favorite destination, but with football season here, many teams are hoping to attend a bowl game in this city of theme parks. TripAlertz.com has Orlando slated as an upcoming travel deal.

    If you don’t have a particular destination in mind, consider checking out VRBO.com for last minute cabin or condo deals. Many owner are looking to fill their unbooked rentals, which can be a winning deal for your family if you’re spontaneous.

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  • Country Inns and Suites LogoValue and affordability are always winners when it comes to choosing a hotel for family travel. While we frequent all brands at TravelingMamas.com, we do like to highlight new additions to properties that offer added value for travelers. MommyMusings and her daughter checked out Country Inn & Suites during their ‘1, 2, Free Promotion’ to get a little traveler’s take on this hotel brand. It was a positive experience for the MommyMusings family, but the only thing lacking was a hot breakfast included in the rate.

    Fortunately, Country Inns & Suites answered the call. This morning, Country Inns & Suites launched its ‘Be Our Guest’ breakfast expansion program in over 500+ locations across the U.S. This hot breakfast enhancement is rarely found in the mid-scale hotel segment. Country Inns & Suites’ new offering is going above-and-beyond to meet the changing needs of business and leisure travelers, including the introduction of:

    • Eight new “Hot” rotating entrées such as eggs benedict, chicken biscuit breakfast sandwich and rosemary potatoes.
    • Build-your-own omelet, breakfast burrito and yogurt parfait bars.
    • ‘To Go’ stations for guests on the run.

    For business travelers, this means the comforts of home and the convenience of a hot meal available on-site. For families, this means the kids eat what they want, how they want and you’ll save your money for fun and adventure.

    Also this fall, Country Inns & Suites is introducing the Home Office Away From Home promotion. Now through Nov. 21, 2010, goldpoints plusSM members booking this rate and staying one or more nights on any Sunday through Thursday will automatically receive a bonus of 15,000 Gold Points® that can be saved or redeemed for a free night stay at most Country Inns & Suites properties. As part of this offer, guests will also receive a T.G.I. Friday’s® voucher.

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  • TripAlertz, a new site that has been described as “Groupon for travel,” launches today.

    As I told Traveling Mamas readers a couple of weeks ago, I love the TripAlertz concept of harnessing the power of social media to sell vacation packages. As more people buy a particular package, it gets cheaper for everyone. And the TripAlertz folks are offering some clever extras, too. If you refer other people to the site, you earn “TripCash” to be spent on your own vacation. And, TripAlertz members can design their own dream vacation packages for a chance to win the package for free.

    But no matter how fun it is to use the TripAlertz Web site, what really matters is whether or not they are selling a quality product, right? Earlier this month, TripAlertz sent me to the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles, Florida, to check out one of the vacation packages that goes on sale today.

    The package sells for $526. If 65 packages sell, that price drops to $442. The package includes:

    • 2-night stay in a Bay View Deluxe Room
    • Welcome cocktail for 2
    • Daily breakfast buffet for 2 at Neomi’s Grill
    • Two 50-minute massages per stay

    The hotel rooms

    The Trump International Beach Resort is a Mobil 4-star hotel in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, a small beach community in North Miami.

    The Bay View Deluxe rooms have two queen beds. They are extremely spacious, with a large wet bar area that includes a refrigerator (partially stocked as a mini bar) and a microwave. There’s a table and chairs, a spacious desk and a flat-screen TV. The bathroom has a garden tub and a separate walk-in shower.

    The decor is minimal, and, frankly, feels a bit sterile. It’s a room that feels easy to clean. But the resort is on the beach, so we can forgive the sand-colored carpet and spare detail. The room was immaculately clean, after all.

    A sliding door leads to a patio with views of the Intracoastal Waterway and Sunny Isles Beach. The patio is roomy and there are chairs to sit and watch the world go by. We were facing West, and we had a great view of the October sunsets from our patio both evenings.

    The beds were extremely comfortable, with crisp, white linens that felt luxurious and mattresses that offered a good balance between pillowy soft and supportive. The room was quiet, with no detectable noise from neighboring rooms or the hallway. In-room amenities included toiletries by Ecru, as well as a coffee maker stocked with regular and decaf coffee.

    Public spaces

    The Trump International’s public spaces are beautifully designed. I loved the mix of contemporary with a Miami twist – a neutral, glass-tiled wall in the lobby adorned with eye-poppingly bright Brito art, for example.

    The pool and beach areas outside may be the most gorgeous beach resort area I’ve seen in Florida. The resort-style pool with waterfalls offers larger water-play areas, as well as more secluded sections for lounging. There are several hot tubs spread around the pool area, and the options for poolside seating extend beyond chaise lounges to love seats and chairs with ottomans.

    Downstairs at the beach, there are loungers and umbrellas for resort guests, as well as plenty of room to spread out and play in the sand or walk along the water’s edge.

    Welcome cocktails

    After a smooth check-in, we were sent to the pool bar for our welcome cocktails. The bar is fully stocked, and it offers a variety of tropical, frozen concoctions, as all great pool bars should.

    Most of the cocktails are $10, but keep an eye out for the board listing the drinks of the day, which are on sale for $7.

    At check-in, I tried a traditional mojito, which was traditionally made with fresh mint. I am always a sucker for something frozen and frothy poolside, so the next day, I tried a “Drink of the Day” concoction: the pomegranate pina colada. I absolutely loved this twist on the traditional.

    Daily breakfast buffet

    I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the free breakfast offered with the TripAlertz package. I didn’t know whether it was going to be a selection of pastries and fruit, or maybe have a few hot selections thrown in for good measure. Either way, I was going to be pleased with it, because getting breakfast in the hotel included is a great value for this resort.

    But what we got, was well beyond what I had imagined. Neomi’s Grill offers a full breakfast buffet. It included cold cereals, pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, hot breakfast meats, and a chef’s station offering made-to-order eggs, omelets, waffles and pancakes.

    Everything was fresh and beautiful. We went down to breakfast fairly late both mornings, and found ourselves skipping lunch after such a great morning meal – another money-saver on the discounted trip that I was not expecting.

    Massages

    It was easy to book the massages that came with our TripAlertz package the morning after our arrival at the Trump International Beach Resort.

    We were given a choice of Swedish or aromatherapy massages. I chose aromatherapy, and my husband chose Swedish.

    The Aquanox Spa was well-equipped. The men’s and women’s areas offer steam rooms and saunas, as well as shower facilities and tranquil areas for relaxation.

    Our service providers were extremely professional. My husband pronounced his massage excellent and said that he did not have any pain at all during his service – a rarity for him.

    I also enjoyed my aromatherapy massage. My massage therapist was very good at maintaining my modesty during my service, which is something that can make or break my relaxation level during a massage.

    Final thoughts

    I honestly cannot believe the value of this TripAlertz package. When I was first approached about sharing TripAlertz with Traveling Mamas readers, I was skeptical until I saw the price on this package. That’s what sold me.

    And once I arrived at the resort, I knew that the package was for real. At a beach resort on par with the Trump International, you would expect to pay nearly the price of the TripAlertz package for the two massages alone.

    I wondered whether or not we would be treated differently because we were there on a discount, but it was never mentioned, and we certainly were not relegated to a tiny room in a corner (an experience I have had with other hotel discount Web sites).

    The level of service in all areas around this resort was excellent. There are tiny touches that made me feel like this is a staff that is well managed and understands customer service. For example, when I inquired at the bell stand about a lobby bathroom, I was not simply pointed down the hall, I was walked there to ensure I found it. Service at our breakfast both mornings was seamless.

    As far as other meals, the pool bar serves sandwiches, salads and snacks, and there is a sushi restaurant at the resort. Directly across the street is a shopping center with several restaurant choices, everything from fast food to upscale. (A couple of the nearby restaurants – including La Terraza, which we tried and would recommend – offer deeply discounted gift certificates on Restaurant.com that you could pick up before your trip to save even more.) There is also a Publix supermarket across the street.

    If you’re flying in, it’s easy to walk and explore the area without a car. Cabs run about $50 from Miami International Airport, $40 from the airport in Fort Lauderdale. Trump International also offers free shuttle service to two nearby, popular shopping areas, and to South Beach.

    If you are driving, parking is valet only, $22 per day. The fee isn’t out of line with other Miami resorts, but it is something to be aware of when you’re planning your vacation budget.

    This Trump International Beach Resort package will be on sale at TripAlertz for the next two weeks, with travel dates available in November and December. You can book more than one package to extend your stay (another TripAlertz feature I love).

    Two more hotel deals are also for sale today, at the Hotel Marina El Cid in Cancun and the Parc 55 Wyndham in San Francisco.

    You can also get a look at upcoming hotel deals, which include some great prices on Walt Disney World stays, as well as a Costa Rican getaway.

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  • On our recent visit to Las Vegas for a girlfriend getaway, we opted to try out a free tour of Zappos Headquarters, because we love free things to do in Vegas. Since we had arranged a special visit, our new friends with the Zappos Blog Team picked us up in the Blog Bus, which is amazingly similar to the Traveling Mamas logo. It was a match made in heaven!

    Zappos Blog Bus and TravelingMamas.com

    ThemeParkMom, MommyMusings, and I met Graham, Darren, and Pat who showed us around Zappos Headquarters. Zappos.com doesn’t just offer fabulous deals and products, but the work environment looks like absolute fun. Here’s a clip of our adventure with the Zappos Blog Team:

    Zappos Insights offers free tours and even can arrange for shuttle pickup if needed. It’s not only free, but you’ll leave this place grinning. For an entertaining look behind the scenes of Zappos.com, check out the Blog Team at blog.zappos.com. If their hilarious escapades don’t entice you buys something, then at least you’ll get a chuckle or two. Plus, they give you snacks!

    Don’t just take our word for it that this tour rocks. Even CC Chapman took a tour. You can read all about his experience at Content Rules.

    Zappos Office

    The core values of this company set a foundation for a happy workplace, which in turn makes happy customers. Have you shopped at Zappos.com or 6pm.com?

    Special thanks and big virtual hugs to everyone at Zappos.com for making us feel like part of the Zappos Family.

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