Category Archives: Travel

Great Budget Midwest Accommodation In Branson, Fort Wayne, Cleveland And More

The post below was originally published by Michael Hodson on goseewrite on June 28, 2016.

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The Midwest is a beautiful area of the country that has a wealth of different options for those who are looking for a destination for their next vacation. From the Ozark Mountains to the cosmopolitan cities, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, from outdoor pursuits to glamorous stage shows. If you are looking to travel on a budget, there are plenty of places that balance great attractions with affordable accommodation options, and here are a few suggestions for your next Midwest trip.

Branson

This lovely town in Missouri has a wealth of things to offer the visitor, with the riverboat cruises on the ‘Branson Belle’ having an old-time charm, while there are also great theaters for those who want to enjoy a show, and a series of excellent golf courses here too. In terms of good places to stay for those on a budget, check out these Branson hotels, with the Gazebo Inn being one affordable option that boasts an outdoor swimming pool.

Rosemont

Rosemont is a town found on the fringes of Chicago, that is often useful for those looking for accommodation near O’Hare Airport, but it is also the host to Chicago Comic Con and other popular conferences at its event center, while also having a museum with a huge collection of M I Hummel figurines. When it comes to finding budget accommodation in Rosemont, there are some options available, with the Best Western at O’Hare regularly having rooms available for under $100 per night.

Fort Wayne

Built at the junction of three rivers, this Indiana city has always been a meeting point both in terms of the early traders who brought their wares here, and, culturally, where the French, English and American cultures met. This is certainly reflected in the attractive local architecture. There are many budget options if you are staying in the Fort Wayne, with the Rodeway Inn and the Wayne Motel offering rooms from $50.

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Photo via FLIKR by Tu

Grand Forks

This lovely little city that lies in the north east of North Dakota is best known for its sporting teams, with the Ralph Englestad Arena being home to the Fighting Sioux hockey team of the University of North Dakota, which has been said is among the best sporting venues in the country. There are plenty of budget hotels in Grand Forks, with several offering rooms under $50 per night, including Grand Forks Inn & Suites and Americas Best Value Inn – Grand Forks.

Cleveland

Lying on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is a vibrant and modern city that is famous for being passionate about sports and boasting several great sports teams, while also having some lovely museums and plenty of green parks too. As a larger city, the hotels can be a little more expensive, but Cleveland’s budget accommodation options can also include the Airbnb listings which can be searched at the same time through the Hipmunk Hotels website.

You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy an excellent vacation in the United States. Look up some of these destinations to find budget-friendly accommodations for the whole family.

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Hipmunk Hotels: Affordable luxury hotels in West Hollywood, Pismo Beach and Dana Point

The post below was originally published by Laura Lynch on Savoredjourneys.

This article is part of a series of posts I am writing for Hipmunk, called Destination Unknown — an exploration of lesser-known cities and towns around the world. Check out my other articles in this series.

If you’re seen popular towns like West Hollywood and Pismo Beach on television shows, you already know how swanky and luxurious these areas are. As a traveler, you have many options for affordable luxury hotels in the midst of some of the best shopping, dining, nightlife and beaches the west has to offer. You can’t go wrong with a stay at any of these affordable luxury hotels right in the heart of the action.

West Hollywood, California

Hollywood, California

Hollywood, California (Photo: CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay)

Consider staying in West Hollywood for affordable luxury. It’s right in the heart of Los Angeles, with swanky bars, restaurants, and nightlife, right outside your door. This area is home to high-end shopping outlets and celebrity restaurants. You might even spot a celebrity, if you’re lucky. The Andaz West Hollywood Hotel is in the center of the action on Sunset Strip. It has a rooftop pool and is within walking distance of some of the hottest nightclubs on the strip.

Pismo Beach, California

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach (Photo: Laura Lynch/SavoredJourneys)

As far as beach locations go, you can’t do any better than the small, quaint town of Pismo Beach, located just a few minutes from the college town of San Luis Obispo. The pristine beach stretches for miles, which is perfect for a long stroll in the sand or a day of relaxing in the sun. You’ll also find incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, dramatic sunsets, and dozens of wine tasting rooms nearby. There are many beachfront hotels to choose from, and most come with incredible views.

Dana Point, California

Dana Point, California

Dana Point, California (Photo: CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay)

Another great beachfront town is Dana Point, in southern California. Dana Point is a surfer and paddleboarder’s paradise, with over seven miles of coastline to enjoy and great weather year round. If you’re not out participating in water sports, hiking, or admiring the views, you can relax at one of Dana Point’s extraordinary hotels, like the St. Regis Monarch Beach or the Laguna Cliffs Marriott, both of which have a high standard of luxury.

Fullerton, California

Disneyland, California

Disneyland, California (Photo: CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay)

When visiting Disneyland or one of Northern Orange County’s other amusement parks, Fullerton offers affordable luxury accommodations in a quiet and charming historic town. Three of the Disney hotels are in Fullerton – Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier, and Disney’s Grand California Hotel and Spa. All of these luxury options have a pool and give early access to the park.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico (Photo: CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay)

While California is a great location for affordable luxury stays, don’t underestimate other trendy places in the West, like Santa Fe. With a rich Native American history and evidence of early Spanish settlers still visible in the architecture, Santa Fe has a distinct appeal. There is a vibrant art and music scene, as well. Stay at the Hacienda & Spa at Hotel Santa Fe or La Fonda on the Plaza for an affordable luxury stay with many great amenities and a truly local feel.

 

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Hipmunk Hotels: Cheap Hotels in Ithaca, Gaithersburg, Dover and more

The post below was originally published by Lori on Travel.prwave on June 13, 2016.

The U.S. has many wonderful cities in the Northeast that should be visited at least once in a lifetime. They offer several entertainment options, as well as educational attractions. Here are five great places to discover, whether you travel for business purposes or you take a leisure trip: Ithaca, New Haven, Dover, Braintree, and Gaithersburg.

Ithaca, New York

Ithaca is one of those lesser-known destinations that are definitely worth (at least) one visit. You’ll find here a vibrant tourist trade, but make sure you don’t miss the Ithaca Waterfalls: 150 waterfalls within 10 square miles, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (a leader in the study and conservation of birds), and the wineries and breweries. For cheap accommodation in Ithaca, take into consideration The Ramada Ithaca Hotel and the Best Western University Inn. Meadow Court Inn and Rodeway Inn & Suites are also worth a look as the most affordable hotels in the area.

Ithaca, New York

Ithaca, New York

Photo by Sam Pelts via Trover.com

New Haven, Connecticut

Famous for being the hometown of the Yale University, New Haven is a lovely city in Connecticut that offers relaxation and educational attractions. You won’t want to miss the Knights of Columbus Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, walks in the Green, the East Rock Park, and the Lighthouse Point Park. As you can see, there are plenty of things to see and do here. Choose La Quinta Inn & Suites New Haven, Days Inn-New Haven, or Super 8 West Haven if you’re looking for cheap hotels in New Haven.

New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven, Connecticut

Photo by Courtney via Trover.com

Dover, Delaware

If you want to experience the best of Kent County, Delaware, add Dover to your travel list. The city features a multitude of attractions – museums, parks, beautiful mansions, festivals, etc. – and lures many tourists each year. The Red Roof Inn & Suites Dover, the Days Inn Dover Downtown, and Dover Downs Hotel & Casino are three cheap hotels in Dover.

Braintree, Massachusetts

As the birthplace of John Quincy Adams (the sixth President of the United States), William Rosenberg (founder of Dunkin’ Donuts), and of many other people – sport players, artists, and more – Braintree, Massachusetts has several attractions that will make your stay here pleasant. You can visit the Blue Hills Reservation, go to the South Shore Plaza, see General Sylvanus Thayer’s birthplace, admire the Monatiquot River, and more. For a stay that won’t break your bank, choose some affordable hotels in Braintree such as the Comfort Inn Boston-Rockland or theBest Western Rockland.

Gaithersburg, Maryland

Easily accessible by train, car, or plane, Gaithersburg, Maryland, is a place that offers various activities that are ideal for all types of travelers. The museum lovers will like the RIO Washingtonian Center and the Gaithersburg Community Museum, while those who want entertainment and fun activities can try the Gaithersburg Miniature Golf or the Bowl America Gaithersburg. Hilton Washington, DC North/Gaithersburg and the Hampton Inn & Suites Washington, DC North/Gaithersburg are all great options for affordable lodging in the area.

This article is part of the Hipmunk campaign

 

How to Visit Cuba on a Budget

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on April 12, 2016 by The Hipmunk.

Now that Cuba’s tourism industry is up and running, we’re doing everything we can to educate our readers about how to make the most of their Cuban vacations. From knowing which cities to visit to learning how the country has changed and prepping for your trip, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re ready to visit but worried about finances, we’ve still got your back. Simply implement the following strategies in order to enjoy a budget-friendly trip to Cuba.

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It helps to know Spanish.

Overwhelmingly, travelers to Cuba report that you’ll be more accepted if you speak Spanish—and that means you’re more likely to be offered lower prices and to haggle successfully. Even if you don’t have time to become fluent before your visit, learning a few key Spanish phrases will surely make the trip a little easier.

Don’t withdraw or exchange cash in Cuba.

Cuba currently uses two types of currency: the CUC, which is designated primarily for tourists, and the CUP (the peso national), which is civilians’ primary currency. (The government has announced plans to eliminate the dual currency system, but has yet to do so.) For the most part, tourists will be dealing in CUCs, but budget-friendly travelers may want to keep a few CUPs on hand (more on that later). In either case, it’s smart to exchange your money before arriving in Cuba—otherwise you’ll incur a 10% penalty to exchange dollars to CUCs. Similarly, avoid using credit cards whenever possible, as fees are quite steep.

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Plan for exit and entry.

You’ll be charged $25 CUC to enter Cuba, and another $25 CUC when you fly out of the airport. Go ahead and set aside $50 CUC before your trip so you aren’t caught by surprise on the way in or out of the country. While you’re at it, set aside another $20-$25 CUC for the taxi ride from the airport.

Take advantage of cheap eats.

Want to save money on food? Then seek out local establishments that operate on pesos (namely, street food vendors and peso restaurants). This can be a serious money saver—think the difference between paying $0.80 or $8.00 for a sandwich. If you’re staying in a casa particular (aka a private homestay), this is also a good place to eat cheaply—meals tend to be huge (meaning you can split one dish between two people) and less expensive than meals at touristy restaurants. Or hit up hotel buffets for a meal that will fill you up for around $8 CUC.

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Pack your own snacks and toiletries.

Basic toiletries and medical supplies—think sunscreen, Aspirin, and contact lens solution—are either very expensive or totally unavailable in Cuba, so don’t assume that you can pick up supplies once you’ve arrived. Instead, bring along any toiletries that you can’t go without. Same goes for your favorite snack foods.

Get mobile like a local.

Cuba has designated tourist buses, and (not surprisingly) they can  be a bit of a money trap. You’ll save on transportation by taking public buses, camiones (i.e open-backed trucks), or shared taxis. As an added bonus, local transportation tends to operate on a more flexible timetable than the tourist buses.

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Entertain thyself.

Cuba has a vibrant nightlife scene, and you can drink for change if you stick to local establishments. (A good rule of thumb: Avoid any club that charges an entrance fee.) If you’re not sure where to go, ask your casa hosts or local street vendors for suggestions. If the club scene isn’t your thing, you can still find cheap entertainment in the form of museums, which typically charge only $1-2 CUC for entry. Just be aware that many museums charge an additional fee for anyone who wants to take photos.

While Cuba may not be the cheapest destination around, there are plenty of deals to be had for the frugal traveler. Just remember: When in doubt, act like a local.

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Hipmunk Hotels: Offbeat Attractions in Flagstaff, Page, Yuma, and more

The post below was originally published by Sandra on Tripper on June 29, 2016.

Cover Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr.

By means of a strange acculturation process while growing up, I’m more connected to the American culture than I am to the Portuguese. As a result, the United States is high on my list of countries to visit (and the list of offbeat attractions grows with it). I’m still in the romancing phase, but I’m already liking my odds in Arizona and in Pasadena. I have my eye on several attractions in these areas and more, and I’m interested in the best hotels in each area.

1. Experience Space, the Final Frontier in Flagstaff (Arizona)

I love a good alien story, especially if it mixes an “X-Files” vibe with some futuristic storytelling like H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. However, you can visit some “other-worldly” attractions without leaving this planet. The Lowell Observatory and the Cinder Lake Crater Field are two offbeat must-sees in Flagstaff. I wonder if I can find an alien-themed hotel in Flagstaff? Or at least one with a mysterious alien story behind it.

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Photo by James Jones via Flickr.

2. The Most Famous Canyon in Page (Arizona)

The Antelope Canyon is hardly a secret and it’s very high on my list of beautiful sights. The most photographed rock formation in the American Southwest is one guided tour away when you visit Page. To continue exploring the scenery beyond the Canyon, check with your hotel in Page for tour recommendations.

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Photo by Todd Petrie via Flickr.

3. A Bridge (Not) Over Troubled Waters in Yuma (Arizona)

Do you know the Talking Heads’ song “Road to Nowhere”? Well, in Yuma, things go a little further with a “bridge to nowhere”. No, it’s not a metaphor. The Gila River was diverted in 1968, and today the McPhaul bridge crosses (oddly) over sand and rocks. I have a series of postapocalyptic-themed photos for that bridge in mind, meaning the visit could be emotionally draining. Finding a hotel in Yuma for some well-deserved R&R would do the trick.

4. London Bridge in Lake Havasu City (Arizona)

Did London Bridge really fall down like in the nursery rhyme? Technically, it was sinking due to structural problems, and in the late 1960’s, the City sold the bridge to the highest bidder — a local entrepreneur in Lake Havasu City. Booking a romantic stay at a Lake Havasu City hotel and a stroll on the bridge shipped overseas, block by block, sounds like a great story to tell.

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Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr.

5. Doc’s House and Strange Sodas in Pasadena (California)

Hoverboards are not a real thing (yet) but Dr. Emmet Brown’s house is. Fans of “Back to the Future” wouldn’t the Gamble House be an offbeat must-see? This could (probably) only be topped by a Buffalo Wing soda. I’m not entirely sure I would handle the sugar rush at the Rocket Fizz, the place where these strange soda flavors come from. Tasting wouldn’t be a problem; narrowing down the weirdest ones to taste would. How do you top this off? Perhaps with a stay at a Hollywoodesque hotel in Pasadena, where you can pretend to be a star with a quirky taste for strange sodas.

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Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr.

This is a post written in collaboration with the Hipmunk Hotels campaign.

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Airbnbs: Breakout Star of Spring Break 2016

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on February 25, 2016 by The Hipmunk.

spring_break_nutshell_ABy: Hipmunk Staff

Ah, Spring Break. That annual week of respite from school, from work, from responsibilities. (Hey, we can dream, right?) The point is, Spring Break is for everyone– not just coeds.

But since the holiday is so widely marketed to college students, we wondered whether traditional party locations really dominated the Spring Break vacation market and how the rise in popularity of vacation rentals such as Airbnb affected hotel bookings.

To find out, Hipmunk analyzed the most-booked Spring Break destinations for airfare and hotels, which we defined for our purposes as beginning Friday, March 18, 2016, the week preceding Easter (although the dates can vary widely). To break it down further, we also looked the most popular destinations for Airbnb vacation rentals and compared that to the same week the year before to see how those numbers had changed.

Here’s what we found:

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, major US destinations, popular year-round, dominated the list, with Orlando, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles claiming the top spots for most-booked flights.  Yet simply looking at destinations where one must take a plane doesn’t fully reveal the most popular Spring Break destinations, as many travelers choose to vacation in locations that are a drivable distance from where they reside.

To broaden our scope, we also looked at which destinations were garnering the most accommodation bookings for Spring Break 2016.

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Again, major US cities topped the rankings. But by only looking at flights and accommodations, we are still neglecting to highlight locations where vacationers are more inclined to look for rentals than hotels. To discover these destinations we looked first at the locations with the highest net number of Airbnb vacation rental bookings and then compared that number to the total number of overall accommodation bookings in that city for Spring Break to reveal what percentage of those bookings were Airbnbs.

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Again, cities such as Miami and Las Vegas return a large total number of Airbnb bookings for Spring Break, but smaller resort towns like Sarasota, FL and Palm Springs, CA, boast a much larger percentage of Airbnbs for their total bookings. Perhaps the one anomaly is Cancun, Mexico, where Airbnbs have claimed 40 percent of Hipmunk bookings for Spring Break 2016.

It seems that when it comes to Spring Break, Florida is the vacation rental king, claiming five of the 10 top spots!

Digging deeper, Airbnbs are continuing to increase in terms of their share of the accommodation market, as more and more travelers see vacation rentals as a viable alternative to hotels.

In 2015, Airbnbs made up 4.4 percent of all Hipmunk’s Spring Break bookings; as of publication date, that number has risen to 9.5 percent.

Indeed, several of the cities that cracked the top 10 Airbnb destinations weren’t on the list last year at all:

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Looking year-over-year, every city that made both this and last year’s lists increased their proportion of Airbnb bookings, excepting for New York, which saw a decrease of three percent.

Of the cities that made this year’s list (but not 2015’s), Cancun saw its proportion of Airbnb rentals increase explosively, from just 9 percent in 2015; Sarasota’s proportion was only 19 percent in 2015; Honolulu came in at 2 percent last year; Destin was 30 percent in 2015; and Palm Springs came in at 28 percent in 2015.

In the end, it seems that the Sunshine State is also the 2016 Spring Break Capital, claiming multiple spots in every Top 10 category: flights, hotels, and vacation rentals.

And if these destinations seem just a bit too tame or you want to escape the states, be sure to check out our Spring Break College Cheat Sheet or just shoot an email to Hello@Hipmunk.com with all your burning Spring Break travel questions.

Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed its 2016 data for bookings that occurred starting the week of March 18, 2016 (Spring Break) for flight, hotel, and Airbnb bookings, in addition to data for the same week in 2015.

 

Hipmunk Hotels: Top Hotels for Your Fall Midwest Road Trip in Champaign, Grand Rapids, and More

The post below was originally published on Live Learn Venture’s blog on June 16, 2016 by Natasha.

If you’re planning a fall road trip throughout the Midwest part of the United States, you’ll have a lot of things to consider during the planning process! One big choice is deciding what hotels you’ll choose to stay well-rested during your adventures. Luckily, there are many great Midwest hotel options to choose from. Keep reading to learn more about some of the top hotels in places like Champaign IL, Grand Rapids MI, Davenport IA, and more.

Champaign, Illinois

When spending time in Champaign, IL, you may be looking for a comfortable hotel with a bit more space, and the Homewood Suites by Hilton Champaign-Urbana is a great choice. This is a preferable option for those who are taking a road trip with their families. Suites are available in both studio and one-bedroom varieties, making it possible to have as much room as you need. Rates start at just $117, making it an affordable option for the entire family.

Natural Border

Champaign, IL: Image courtesy of Kevin Chang via Flickr.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

If you’re looking for an option that feels more like home while in Grand Rapids, the Staybridge Suites Grand Rapids-Kentwood is a good choice. Each room includes a full-functioning kitchenette with a microwave and refrigerator. Studios and suites are available in multiple bed options, which makes for a great option for families. Guests have free access to an airport shuttle and free daily breakfast. This hotel gives the comfort you need to feel at home after a long day on the road. Prices begin at $135 per night.

Davenport, Iowa

If you’re looking for a more affordable option and don’t want to sacrifice style or comfort, the Holiday Inn Rock Island may be a great fit for you as you make your way through Davenport, IA. Rates start at only $86, making it a cheaper option if you’re on a tight budget. There are 172 rooms, which are comfortable and have a modern style. Each room is spacious and includes a microwave and mini-fridge. Self-service laundry is available, and there’s an on-site restaurant, making this hotel even more convenient.

Branson, Missouri

If you’re looking for something truly unique in Branson, MO, The Branson House is a cozy bed and breakfast with unique rooms and a delicious breakfast. There are different sized rooms to choose from, each with its own charm. All guests can enjoy a daily breakfast. This bed and breakfast is nearby many shops, restaurants, and local attractions. Rates begin at $129 per night.

Vacation in Branson (67)

Branson, MO: Image courtesy of Louis via Flickr.

Schaumburg, Illinois

Are you headed to Schaumburg, IL? If your road trip includes business meetings, you may be looking for a more business and conference-friendly hotel. Wingate by Wyndham Schaumburg is a great option! This hotel includes a free printing and copying services in the 24-hour business center, conference rooms, and an on-site gym facility. This makes for a great place to stay if you need to rest between business meetings. Nightly rates start at $135, which includes a hot buffet breakfast.

As you can see, there are many great hotels in the Midwest. No matter where you choose to stay, you’re sure to have a fun time exploring these great cities. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Hipmunk hotels are a great resource to rely on.

Disclaimer: This is part of the Hipmunk Hotels campaign.

 

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Hipmunk Hotels: Find convenient accommodation in Rosemont, Troy, Kansas City, and More

Visit the City of Chicago and Stay in Rosemont, IL

Rosemont, Illinois has all the characteristics of a small community, but due to its excellent location, which means only five minutes from O’Hare Airport and twenty minutes from Chicago’s downtown, the place earned the reputation of  a flourishing touristic and commercial place. Attractions in Rosemont such as the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, the Allstate Arena, Rosemont Theatre, the amusing district MB Financial Park, the new Fashion Outlets of Chicago, as well as extensive array of hotels and excellent restaurants accommodates 75,000 visitors on a daily basis. Hotels, like Chicago Marriott Suites O’Hare and Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare, offer special deals on rooms starting from $79 per night. Why waste your time in traffic when you can be accommodated right next to major attractions like The Rosemont Theater, and for a competitive price?

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5580/14834729256_a134df7031.jpgImage via Flickr by Michel Curi

The Adventurous City of Troy, MI

Troy is known for a considerable number of summer camps and outdoor activities for all ages. Also, it is an attractive business district since many large companies like Bank of America, The Woodbridge Company, and SAE International have their central office here. Weekdays are the most requested period, and for obtaining a good price for hotel accommodation it is recommended to plan your trip ahead. The Courtyard by Marriott Detroit Troy and The Met Troy are always a good choice.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/42/89983542_d9ddc08bd9.jpgImage via Flickr by Dave Hogg

Outstanding Kansas City, MO

As the largest city in Missouri, Kansas City has plenty of available accommodations for every budget. The rich history of this town makes you want to explore all of the areas, from farmers’ markets to the Vine District, as well as the Spanish-styled architecture and upscale shops of the Country Club Plaza in the south. Best months for visiting Kansas City, due to outstanding deals, are from January to May or in October. We recommend places like the Capri Motel Kansas City northeast of downtown or America’s Best Value Inn and Suites Kansas City Downtown.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2214/2130562655_b9cce2b95f.jpgImage via Flickr by Brian Hillegas

Check Arrangements in Grand Forks, ND

Planning a trip to Grand Forks can be effortless if you know which hotel offers fantastic prices. Occasions for traveling in Grand Forks are various because this town is known for sports events, business, recreational activities, and concerts. In Econo Lodge Grand Forks and Red Roof Inn TownHouse – expect to find enjoyable rooms from only $43 per night. For a more upscale experience, check accomadtions at the Staybridge Suites. Hotels like Marriott Grand Forks and Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Gran give breezy arrangements from a starting price of only $79.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2529/3956605378_b47f49b93d.jpgImage via Flickr by Victory & Reseda

The Fascinating Town of Columbus, OH

To experience the fascinating town of Columbus, in the best way possible and on a budget, choosing hotels in the center or close to fun attractions is a must. This city offers an abundance of suitable and modern accommodations at convenient locations. There are a variety of interesting things to apprise and explore here, starting from the famous Scioto Mile Fountain that was pronounced one of the world’s 15 most astonishing fountains. Also, another impressive thing to see is the Arch at McFerson Commons, which is a 100-foot red metal art sculpture. We also recommend visiting the historic German Village, or if you are a foodie, savor Katalina’s famous pancake balls or Harvest Pizzaria’s wood-fired pizzas. Hotels like The Courtyard by Marriott Easton-Columbus and The Blackwell offer proper balance of quality and price.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2147/2081153623_d37fdad539.jpgImage via Flickr by jpmueller99

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The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Comic Con

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on April 13, 2016 by The Hipmunk.

Another year, another multitude of Comic Cons to attend. Whether you’re hitting up the mother of all Cons in San Diego, cosplaying in NYC, or attending a smaller Comic Con in Grand Rapids or Amarillo, the following strategies will help ensure that you have a truly delightful time.

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Buy tickets early.

Whenever possible, buy tickets online before the event. You’ll save money and avoid the heartbreak of arriving at Comic Con only to find out that the special event you needed to see has already sold out.

Make a plan in advance.

There is so much to see at Comic Con, and it’s physically impossible to see it all. For this reason, it’s important to study the schedule and venue maps in advance so that you can plan out each day around your must-see events. If you want to see one of the major presentations (say, Game of Thrones in San Diego’s Hall H), keep in mind that you’ll need to budget in hours (and hours) of time for waiting in line. And because there are no guarantees that you’ll actually make it into the room you’re waiting in line to enter (especially because many venues don’t empty rooms after panels), it’s a good idea to have a backup plan (or several). One last tip: If you’re traveling with friends, remember to designate a meeting place before you split up for the day.

Bring cash.

Some vendors don’t accept credit cards, and ATM machines are few and far between. (And the ones that do exist are guaranteed to have insanely long lines). Spare yourself headaches and lost time by bringing plenty of cash with you to the venue.

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Avoid parking (if possible).

It will come as no surprise that parking at Comic Con can be a major headache. In the rare cases that you do manage to find a spot near the venue, it’s likely it will cost you—some lots have been known to charge upwards of $50 per day. If at all possible, ditch the car and arrive at the venue via public transportation or on foot. If you must drive, be sure to arrive early in the day for the best chance at finding a spot.

Be social.

It’s a smart idea to download the venue’s app, which is an indispensable resource for navigating any Con. It can also be helpful to create a list on Twitter that includes the official Comic Con Twitter handle, any vendors that you want to see, and people whom you know will be present. Don’t underestimate how valuable real-time updates can be when you’ve been standing in line for three hours.

This tip also extends beyond the digital space. There are tons of great connections to be had at Comic Con, so don’t be shy about approaching people. Bonus: Chatting up fellow comics fans is a great way to pass the time while waiting in line. Which brings us to…

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Prepare to wait.

We’ve mentioned that you’ll spend a lot of time waiting in line at Comic Con, right? We’re not kidding. Instead of hoping that it won’t happen to you, accept that it will—and then plan accordingly. Download podcasts to listen to, bring a book or journal, play games on your phone (just make sure it’s fully charged before Con), or simply settle in and enjoy the time to let your mind wander. Just remember to make sure you’re actually in the right line—sometimes lines bend and merge together, so check to be sure you aren’t wasting your time in the wrong place.

Practice self-care.

As always, you’ll be much more likely to enjoy yourself if you do what you can to avoid getting sick or burnt out. Stay hydrated, get enough sleep, wash your hands often, and pack healthy snacks—healthy food can be hard to come by at Cons, especially when you’re stuck waiting in line. Having snacks on hand can provide the blood sugar boost you need to continue having a great time.

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Ask permission.

A common phrase heard round Con is that “Cosplay is Not Consent.” What this means is that just because someone is cosplaying (or simply present at Comic Con), that does not give you the right to touch them, harass them, or photograph them without their permission. If you want a picture, just ask—most people are more than happy to indulge. Be polite, keep your hands to yourself, and remember that everyone there is a human just like you.

Consider cybersecurity.

Wi-Fi is often available in most convention centers, but you’re likely to find that it’s painfully slow (or completely jammed) because of the sheer number of people trying to log on. You may see free networks available, but be cautious—some of these may be malicious. It’s a good idea to always practice good cyber-security strategies (even if this means you have to hold off on uploading photos to social media until you get home).

Above all else, remember to enjoy yourself. Though the lines may be long and your plans may change, the sheer number of interesting people and panels to see means that you’ll have a great time at Comic Con simply by going with the flow.

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Hipmunk Hotels: Family Fun in Santa Cruz, Carlsbad, Fresno, Costa Mesa and Obispo

The post below was originally published on SydneyAaliyah on June 14, 2016 by Sydney Aaliyah Michelle.

My family recently had a travel planning session over Sunday dinner. We threw around ideas for the family vacation we take every five years. Our trips are unique because they have to appease everyone from age six to seventy years old. I did my research and suggested the California coast. These are some of the cool destinations I found that would make great family vacation spots.

Santa Cruz, California

Image provided by Ron V. via Trover.com

The boardwalk is an underrated attraction in a beach town. It’s so much fun for people who love the beach but hate the sand. Take a stroll on the Santa Cruz boardwalk and you’ll find that it offers attractions such as local dining and amusement park rides. If you stay on the boardwalk, you have quick access to the beautiful Pacific Ocean beach. I can already taste the salt water taffy.

Carlsbad, California

An upscale ocean town, Carlsbad’s beach side resorts offer family-friendly times for everyone. It’s a vacation where you can all stay in one spot and it has tons to offer, including beautiful beaches with water sports like paddle boarding, jet skiing, and surfing. The golf courses are some of the most pristine and challenge in the world. Some of the resorts also offer children’s programs where adults go one way and the kids go another — great for a mixed aged group like mine. If you have to leave the resort, spend a day at Legoland. The Star Wars models alone are worth the trip.

Fresno, California

Image provided by Stephanie via Trover.com

Fresno, California is a little known gem, and I think you’ll find it a great destination for its festivals alone. If you go in August, check out the Greekfest, the premier Greek food festival. For three days, the family can sample Greek food from famous and local chefs, hear music from Greek musicians and learn more about Greek culture and heritage. The kids will love spending time in the Olympic Village and learning about the origin of the games.

Costa Mesa, California

Image provided by Jon Worrel via Trover.com

While not on the coast, Costa Mesa is close enough to be a great city to centrally locate yourself for a great time in Orange County. The town prides itself on having beautiful parks and golf courses. One of its main attractions every year is the Orange County Fair, which draws millions of people each year. It has everything you want in a County Fair: greasy, fattening food, rides, attractions and cool shows.

San Luis Obispo, California

Further north of the cities I’ve mentioned, in a valley on highway 101, is the little town of San Luis Obispo. I put it on the list because my nieces and nephews, forever glued to their phones and devices, need to set them down and get in touch with nature. I don’t think they’ve ever walked further than a quarter of a mile outdoors. In San Luis Obispo, enjoying the outdoors is the city’s favorite pastime. Beautiful walking and hiking trails cross through this town. The scenery is beautiful and it still close enough to the coast for you to enjoy the beach as well.

Where would you go for a perfect family vacation? 

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