Category Archives: Travel/Outdoors

Discover the Best Bang for Your Buck: Top and Bottom Budget-Friendly Vacation Spots in the U.S. 2024

Budget-Friendly Outer Banks, NC

If you want to hit the slopes or the beach without breaking the bank, you’re in luck. The folks at OptimosTravels crunched the numbers and came up with the 10 Most (and Least) Budget-Friendly Vacation Spots in the U.S. for 2024.

🌊 Chillin’ on a Budget? Head to the Outer Banks, North Carolina

Topping the list of budget-friendly bliss is the Outer Banks. It’s not just the spot for the hit Netflix teen show but a place where the Atlantic’s charm meets affordability. The chain of barrier islands offers one of the largest tracts of undeveloped beaches on the East Coast. The OBX brims with charming seaside villages, history (the legendary Blackbeard hid out in the southern part of the Outer Banks), local cuisine and coastal activities.

💼 Charleston, West Virginia

This antebellum town in the American south is a modern playground for foodies, festival goers, art lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

🍻 Bavarian Vibes in Helen, Georgia

In third place, we’ve got Helen, Georgia, channeling those Bavarian vibes. Situated along the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chattahoochee River this European-style village is tiny and picturesque and filled with biergartens.

🏖️ Kick Back on Tybee Island, Georgia

Fourth on the list is Tybee Island, Georgia, with its serene beaches, seaside charm, and laid-back vibe. Tybee Island offers something for everyone; whether water sports, historical tours, vibrant local culture, and delectable seafood cuisine.

🌲 Get Lost in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee offers access to the Great Smoky Mountains, cabins and family adventures. The historic city is for outdoor adventure, quaint shopping and loads of family-friendly attractions.

🏜️ Marvel at Sedona, Arizona

Ranked sixth is Sedona, Arizona, and its striking red rock formations, is the backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking trails, art galleries, and healing vortexes and spiritual awakenings abound.

🏖️ Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod beckons with its idyllic coastal charm, picturesque beaches, charming seaside villages, and fresh seafood delights. It’s the quintessential New England experience. It can be expensive in the summer so if you are on a budget, try for the fall or winter.

🌆 Embrace Urban Energy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

You learned to spell Oklahoma while watching the musical (if your parents made you) but we bet you haven’t been there. Oklahoma is a hidden gem filled with the breathtaking natural beauty of the Great Plains, six stunning national parks, warm hospitality, delicious cuisine, and lively festivals.

🌲 Bend, Oregon: Where Adventure Awaits

Bend is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Nowhere else in Oregon can you hike to alpine lakes, ride bikes through the sprawling high desert, paddle or tube down the middle of the town’s state park, rock climb in world-class Smith Rock State Park, ski year-round, and, at the end of it all, there’s delicious craft beer waiting for you.

🏜️ Experience Monument Valley, Utah

Completing the list, Monument Valley lets families soak in stunning landscapes of the American west. It’s a tribal park owned by the Navajo Nation that straddles the Utah and Arizona border.

Top Ten Least Budget-Friendly Vacation Spots

While spots like Aspen, Park City, and Maui top the charts for luxury, it’s clear that more travelers don’t want to go and do what everyone else is experiencing. They want unique and exclusive experiences over traditional tourist destinations.

Ok, so what are those hot spots to steer clear of if you don’t want to follow the pack?

1. Aspen, Colorado

2. Park City, Utah

3. Maui, Hawaii

4. Montauk, New York

5. Santa Monica, California

6. Key West, Florida 

7. Charleston, South Carolina

8. New York City, New York 

9. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

10. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Celebrate Disney100 at Disneyland Resort

Disney100 California Adventure at Night

Just in case you didn’t know, I’m a total Disney geek. Not much can stop me from my annual visit. When I was in grade school, my parents would take me out of school for a “doctors appointment”; after all, a day at Disneyland is just what the doctor ordered.

When I had my daughter, it gave me an excuse to finally head to Disney World, take a Disney cruise, and spend a week with my parents at Disneyland Paris. When I skied in Japan, I checked out Tokyo DisneySea.

While I nursed a cracked metatarsal, I scooted my knee scooter to Disneyland. When I broke my leg, I got the electric kind and cruised between Disneyland and California Adventure like it was a ride in itself.

I went to Disney World during the pandemic, right after it reopened, just to see what that was like.

Time To Celebrate Disney100

Disney has been there for me. So I’m excited to be there for them as they celebrate 100 years of storytelling. This year, Disneyland kicks off “Disney100.”

Disney100 Special Look

The official Disney100 celebration kicked off this past January 27, 2023, at Disneyland but the party will eventually spread to Walt Disney World Resort April 3 and other international Disney Parks. With the fanfare comes new nighttime entertainment, “The Magic Happens” parade and a new fireworks show, along with special character costumes, décor, food, drink and merch. The newly reimagined Mickey’s Toontown is now open and there’s also the new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride that just opened. (I did that one at Disney World. It’s fun but would be better if there were hidden stories within the story so that each time you ride, it’s different.)

Disney100 Difference

Because there is no standard color for a 100-year anniversary, Disneyland Resort will be decked in platinum from the banners and bunting on Sleeping Beauty Castle to platinum statues and medallions throughout the resort. Even Mickey and Minnie mouse will host shimmering new looks for Disney100.

The coolest thing of all -at least for me- will be the Disney 100 Years of Wonder at the Disney Gallery on Main Street. The new installation will be filled with Disney images, original artwork, and animated exhibits that helped bring Walt Disney’s vision to life. These features will show us how Disney animated films transitioned from screen to Disneyland Resort attractions, park experiences, and beyond. There’s a museum like this at Disney World and there’s never enough time to explore these treasures of Disney magic.

Also, during the celebration EVERY TICKETED guest will get to download their ride photos for free!

What to Eat at Disney100 graciously provided a (nearly) complete list of all of the Disney100 specialty treats:

Lemon Tea Cake at Alien Pizza Planet Disneyland Park
Disneyland Park
Alien Pizza Planet 
  • Lemon Tea Cake: Lemon curd, lemon zest glaze, and a fresh slice of lemon (New) 
Blue Bayou Restaurant 
  • Celebration Cake: Pecan brownie, chocolate truffle mousse, red berries, and milk chocolate mousse glazed with chocolate ganache and topped with a star (New) (Available beginning Jan. 27)
Minnie Mouse Apple and Minnie Cake Pop at Candy Palace, Candy Kitchen and Pooh Corner in Disneyland
Candy Palace and Candy Kitchen and Pooh Corner (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Minnie Apple (New)
  • Minnie Cake Pop (New)
Galactic Grill (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Platinum Trifle: Layers of chocolate cookie crumbles, cheesecake, cherry compote, chocolate cookie mousse, and crème fraîche chantilly with crunch pearls and a chocolate piece (New) 
  • Old-Fashioned Cream Soda: Sprite, cherry, and blue cotton candy gourmet syrup served frozen and topped with whipped cream and purple pixie dust (Glow cube available) (New) 
Potato and Cheddar Cheeseburger along with Lemon Chiffon Pie at Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland Pakr
Hungry Bear Restaurant 
  • Potato & Cheddar Cheeseburger: 1/3 lb angus chuck patty, green chile, and bacon cheddar sauce with spicy crispy potato planks on a brioche bun (New) (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Lemon Chiffon Pie: Classic lemon chiffon pie with graham cracker crust topped with vanilla chantilly cream (New) 
Platinum Trifle at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe at Disneyland Park
Jolly Holiday Bakery Café 
  • Platinum Trifle: Layers of chocolate cookie crumbles, cheesecake, cherry compote, chocolate cookie mousse, and crème fraîche chantilly with crunch pearls and a chocolate piece (New) (Available beginning Jan. 27) 
  • Lemon Tea Cake: Lemon curd, lemon zest glaze, and a fresh slice of lemon (New) 
  • Mr. Banks Shortbread Tart: Caramel and chocolate ganache in a shortbread tart, purple-colored white chocolate mousse, sea salt, edible silver stars, and silver crunch pearls (New) (Available beginning Jan. 27) 
New Violet Pretzel and Sparkling Grape at Refreshment Corner at Disneyland Park
Refreshment Corner (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Violet Pretzel: Cream cheese-filled pretzel drizzled with salted vanilla cream and lavender sugar (New) 
  • Sparkling Grape: Sprite with grape syrup topped with a candy strip (New) 
Disney 100 Churro at Town Square Churro and Tomorrowland Churro at Disneyland Park
Town Square Churro and Tomorrowland Churro (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Disney100 Churro rolled in cherry sugar drizzled with white icing and topped with purple and silver pearls (New)
French Onion Dip Pizza at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta at Disney California Adventure Park
Disney California Adventure Park
Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta
  • French Onion Dip Pizza: Mozzarella, Gruyère, caramelized onion, and sliced roast beef served with a side of beef au jus (New) (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Lemon Chiffon Pie: Classic lemon chiffon pie with graham cracker crust topped with vanilla chantilly cream (New) 
Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff and Trolley Treats (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Minnie Apple (New)
  • Minnie Cake Pop (New)
SNICKERS Sundae at Clarabelle's Hand Scooped Ice Cream
Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • SNICKERS Sundae: Butter-pecan ice cream topped with chocolate shell, caramel sauce, whipped cream, chopped peanuts, and SNICKERS bar pieces served in a waffle cup (New) 
Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Platinum Trifle: Layers of chocolate cookie crumbles, cheesecake, cherry compote, chocolate cookie mousse, and crème fraîche chantilly with crunch pearls and a chocolate piece (New)
Flo’s V-8 Café
  • Lemon Chiffon Pie: Classic lemon chiffon pie with graham cracker crust topped with vanilla chantilly cream (New) 
Platinum Blue and Old-Fashioned Cream Soda at Hollywood Lounge in Disney California Adventure
Hollywood Lounge 
  • Platinum Blue: Rum, blue curaçao, DOLE pineapple and sour mix (New) (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Old-Fashioned Cream Soda: Sprite, cherry, and blue cotton candy gourmet syrup served frozen and topped with whipped cream and purple pixie dust (Glow cube available) (New) 
Disney 100 Cocktail at Lamplight Lounge in Disney California Adventure
Lamplight Lounge – Boardwalk Dining and Lamplight Lounge (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Disney100 Cocktail: Empress Gin, pea flower, honey, lavender, and lemon juice garnished with an edible flower (New) 
Magic Key Terrace (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Celebration Cake: Pecan brownie, chocolate truffle mousse, red berries, and milk chocolate mousse glazed with chocolate ganache and topped with a star (New) 
Pacific Wharf Cappuccino Cart 
  • Lemon Tea Cake: Lemon curd, lemon zest glaze, and a fresh slice of lemon (New)
Platinum Trifle at Pacific Wharf Cafe at Disney California Adventure
Pacific Wharf Café (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Platinum Trifle: Layers of chocolate cookie crumbles, cheesecake, cherry compote, chocolate cookie mousse, and crème fraîche chantilly with crunch pearls and a chocolate piece (New)
Steamboat Willie Shake at Schmoozies in Disney California Adventure
Schmoozies (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Steamboat Willie Shake: Cookies & cream shake with whipped topping and chocolate creme-filled cookie ears (New) 
Prickly Paloma cocktail at Sonoma Terrace at Disney California Adventure
Sonoma Terrace (Available beginning Jan. 27)
  • Prickly Paloma: Tequila, prickly pear and grapefruit ginger beer (New) 
Disney 100 Magic Key Refillable Popcorn Bucket featuring Walt and a variety of Disney characters at Disneyland
  • Disney100 Magic Key Refillable Popcorn Bucket (New) Available at the following: 
    • Popcorn Carts on Buena Vista Street, Grizzly Peak, and Pixar Pier 

When To Go To Disney100

Disneyland hasn’t announced an end date yet but those in the know are predicting that it could last through the first half of 2024, giving you enough time to plan your vacation. If you can avoid summer break and school holidays, you might avoid the crushing crowds of late but sometimes you don’t have a choice. If you want more info on best times to travel, best deals to be had, and where to stay, head over to Get Away Today. The girls there have all the answers that are out there right now. Plus, they can hook you up with that “buy 4 days, get an extra day free ticket deal” or a free hotel night.

Protect Your Flight Rights

Delta Airplane in the air

Most of us who travel bunches know that if an airline messes with your flight, you don’t have to bend over and take it. At its most basic, federal law makes an airline that cancels or significantly changes your flight give you a full cash refund. It’s your basic flight rights as a passenger who trusts these airlines with your money, time and safety. But so many of you don’t have the patience and will to fight these big guns….until now. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is “proposing to codify its longstanding interpretation that it is an unfair business practice for a U.S. air carrier, a foreign air carrier, or a ticket agent to refuse to provide requested refunds to consumers when a carrier has cancelled or made a significant change to a scheduled flight to, from, or within the United States, and consumers found the alternative transportation offered by the carrier or the ticket agent to be unacceptable.”

Ticket Type Is Irrelevant

Whether it’s basic economy or first class, refundable or non; if you’re flying from the US to Europe or an American carrier or foreign jet; it’s the airline’s fault or an act of god; you personally bought your ticket or used Expedia; if the airline sends you fine print that you are only entitled to a voucher on their airline, the Department of Transportation will put its boot right up their arse. If your airline cancels or significantly alters your flight and you want to walk away, you’re entitled to your cash back.

It’s in the language

So how does an airline get away with keeping your money? Well, basically they get to decide what’s “significant”. According to Scott’s Cheap Flights, United Airlines quietly changed their policy to claim that any delay less than 25 hours was not significant. I don’t know about you but forcing me to sit tight for over a day when I have plans on the side other, might miss a connection to Bangkok or my bus group to Jordan, or a myriad of other complications, is definitely significant.

Or what if you booked a flight and a last-minute pandemic made you feel less than secure to travel. Cough cough. Usually, you’d only get a voucher for a future flight that expired before you had a chance to use it or before the air was clear.
Flight Times Are Changing
What airlines have been up to lately- cancelling, rerouting, no notice, saying whoops sorry, you’re SOL, is unacceptable. Time to speak up.
You have 90 days to let the DOT know you’re not cool with what’s been going on lately and that you want change. Here is the proposal –
A public comment period has just opened up to get feedback on these latest airline regulations and when the 90-day public comment period ends, what the DOT decides won’t just be a rule; it’ll most likely be law.
Wondering What Your Flight Rights Should Be?
Here are some the things to note:
1) Cash refunds when your flight is delayed by 3 hours (domestic) or 6 hours (international) no matter what your ticket type.
2) Meal vouchers for delays over 3 hours. Hotel vouchers when delays cause overnight stays.
3) Define “significant”. Three or more hours on a domestic flight or 6+ hours on an international flight.
4) Non-expiring vouchers. Whether it’s a pandemic, bump, cancellation or the pilots are drunk. You get a voucher that doesn’t expire. And if an airline goes belly up making the vouchers obsolete, you get a cash refund.
5) If you’re on a plane and it’s delayed takeoff for more than an hour, you get to get off and have them book you on the next available flight to your destination. No more holding passengers hostage. If it’s not until the next day that you can travel, they pay for food and hotel. If it’s on another airline, they use your money to pay for that new ticket and they cover any difference.
6) Fill in the blank. It’s your turn to speak up. Don’t waste it. Let’s make the skies friendly again.

Adventure Like a Celeb in South Lake Tahoe

south lake tahoe mansion

Seen “Top Gun 2: Maverick” yet? South Lake Tahoe has been the backdrop for an array of blockbuster movies, sitcoms, and reality TV series that showcase Tahoe’s famous turquoise water, snowcapped mountains and towering pines. So when the production for Maverick wanted to build a military base that had a runway between mountains, the Lake Tahoe Airport came into play. Production built platforms on the side of a mountain for helicopters to bring in the equipment needed to shoot that epic military base/fighter scene three years ago.

Did you know that classics like “The Godfather Part II,” “City of Angels” and “The Bodyguard” were also filmed in the region? “We live in a magnificent place that translates well to the big screen and we look forward to sharing it with the world,” said Carol Chaplin, president and CEO of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. “News of the celebrity stays has inspired visitors to spend time here living vicariously like a star.”

Book a trip to south lake tahoe



Living like a star begins with palatial accommodations. The Sherman Estate is a sprawling 15-acre property providing stunning lake views, hot tub, indoor pool, movie theatre, game room, fireplace, expansive kitchen, multiple outdoor lounge spaces, and wet bar with 17 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms that can host up to 40 guests. It’s no wonder that casts of Real Housewives and Kardashians stayed there as well as filming locations for the rose ceremony of the ABC’s The Bachelor. The property is in high demand and now requires a minimum stay of 30 nights with rates starting at $9,000 per night. In addition, Bliss Experiences/Lake Tahoe Yoga/ offered private yoga sessions for casts staying there.

ABC’s The Bachelor season 22 with Arie Luyendyk Jr. featured his accommodations at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe, and the women were nearby in Stateline, Nev. at a Buckingham Luxury Vacation Rental. Preview of the episode: In season 10, Dr. Andy Baldwin, a navy lieutenant, used the Black Bear Lodge (at the time Black Bear Inn) on Ski Run Boulevard for a romantic date.

Bally’s Lake Tahoe (formerly MontBleu) Edgewood Tahoe, Hard Rock Hotel, Harrah’s Lake TahoeHarveys Lake TahoeLake Tahoe Resort Hotel, and The Landing Resort & Spa have housed numerous cast/crews during shoots. As the official host hotels for the American Century Championship during the annual celebrity golf tournament, Harrah’s and Harveys have welcomed hundreds of sports and entertainment stars.


The possibilities are endless to create a memorable, romantic getaway like casts/crews did in Lake Tahoe. Here’s a snapshot of activities they experienced while filming during the fall, early-winter and late-spring seasons when more privacy calls:

Aerial Adrenaline: Catch a glimpse of the snowcapped peaks with scenes from “Top Gun 2: Maverick” via helicopter tours, which take flight year-round from South Lake Tahoe Airport. Feeling daring, try Sky Combat Ace and experience pilot-for-a-day with the Top Gun package, aerobatic maneuvers over the Lake Tahoe landmarks shown in the movie, including Emerald Bay and Maggie’s Peak.

Get over the water with parasailing at Zephyr Cove Resort like “The Bachelor” did on their date followed by a picnic at Baldwin Beach. Another iconic date included Arie and his suitor with a horseback ride through Camp Richardson Corral to Fallen Leaf Lake. Spoiler alert there’s not a hot tub along the trail but many accommodations do offer hot tubs for guests.Dinner at Hard Rock’s Park Prime followed by a concert inside the hotel was another special evening. Casey Webb, Travel Channel series, “Man v. Food,” recently visited Cold Water Brewery, Artemis and Fox & Hound. Other dining establishments for cast/crew included Edgewood’s Bistro, Brooks’ Bar & Deck, and Riva Grill.

south lake tahoe lake
Courtesy Tahoe Blue Wave

Tahoe Blue Wave mesmerized casts of both RHOBH and Kardashians. Camera crews utilized outfitters Tahoe Sports and Lake Tahoe Boat Rides to make scouting and filming possible. Camp Richardson Resort’s marina was the headquarters for “Modern Family” boats, jet skiing, canoeing, while the Marian Duplex and cabin were transformed for parts of the episode. During winter months stars were skiing/snowboarding at Heavenly Mountain Resort snow tubing and ice skating at Edgewood Tahoe.

“You can’t buy the kind of exposure these various films and shows earn,” added Chaplin. “Through the El Dorado County Film Commission and our local partners, we continue to generate buzz and garner millions of impressions of our incredible destination.”

For a guide to South Lake Tahoe film locations check out the El Dorado County Film Commission’s movie map.


The Sierra Rose was used in the filming of “Modern Family” with Camp Richardson Resort & Marina as the headquarters; the houseboat is actually up for action: here. Credit: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Allegiant Air Lands In Utah

Allegiant Air Plane on Ground

Allegiant Travel Company (NASDAQ: ALGT) today announced plans to establish a four-aircraft base at Provo Airport (PVU). The Las Vegas-based company will invest approximately $95 million to establish their new base of operations, creating at least 157 new, high-wage jobs.

The company has already been flying out of Provo since 2013 with eight non-stop routes – Austin and Houston, Texas; St. Pete-Clearwater, Florida; Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona; and Palm Springs, Los Angeles. The airline focuses on linking travelers in small-to-medium cities to world-class leisure destinations. Allegiant began operating at PVU in 2013 and currently offers eight non-stop routes – Austin and Houston, Texas; St. Pete-Clearwater, Florida; Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona; and Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Orange County, California. To date, Allegiant has flown more than 700,000 passengers through Provo.

“We’re delighted to grow alongside Provo, a market with phenomenal growth and convenient access to some of Utah’s most treasured destinations,” said Keith Hansen, Allegiant’s vice president of government affairs. “Allegiant understands the value of Provo Airport. Building on the success of eight existing routes at PVU, our investment means having locally-based aircraft and crews, opening the door for future new destination opportunities for residents.”

Allegiant Aircraft Base in Provo, Utah

“Allegiant Air has found a following with their unique brand of travel focused on low-cost, nonstop flights to popular destinations without the hassle of layovers and connections,” said Brian Torgersen, interim Provo Airport manager. “We are pleased to launch a new era of travel at the Provo Airport, with Allegiant’s base operations expansion being key to our future success.”

“By investing in vital infrastructure, we created economic opportunity for Provo rather than waiting for it,” said Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi. “While many will appreciate the personal conveniences of flying out of a regional airport, including shorter lines and personalized service, the economic benefits are substantial with each new roundtrip destination bringing an estimated $15 million into our local, regional, and state economy.” The expanded base should open Nov.16, 2022.

Allegiant, which employs more than 4,300 team members across the U.S., plans to immediately begin hiring pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and ground personnel to support the operations. Most of the new positions are expected to offer salaries that are more than double the state’s average wage. Interested applicants may apply online.

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