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Your travel guide to staycations, vacations and weekend getaways.



Where are you destined to travel this year? Are you ready for a break? Need to get away from the 9-to-5 grind? If so, we’ve put together a collection of destinations and travel advice to get you started on planning your next getaway. From staycations to weekend getaways to week-long (or longer) retreats, we’ve rounded up some great locations to satisfy your need for travel. So, get ready to choose your destination and then pack your bags. It’s time to travel!


The convenience of cruising.................................. 3 Get outdoors and back to nature......................... 4 Hit the ‘holiday road’ for family fun...................... 8 The benefits of using a travel agent..................10 Choose an all-inclusive travel package..............11



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Experience the convenience of cruising When it comes to convenience, it’s hard to find a better option than a cruise. According to the experts at Nashville’s Just Cruisin’ Plus, cruises have a higher percentage of satisfied customers than any other vacation experience. (So says the Cruise Lines International Association.) What’s so convenient about cruising? We asked Sherrie Funk at Just Cruisin’ Plus to share some reasons. • You pack and unpack only once. Imagine other vacations that take you to several locations. You’re checking in at a new hotel every few days. That means everything comes out of the suitcase and then goes back — multiple times. This can be very frustrating and time consuming. • You don’t have to worry about where to eat or how much it will cost (in most cases). Most meals and onboard snacks are included in your ticket price, though Funk notes that some ships now offer specialty restaurants that charge a service fee. • Activities, accommodations and entertainment are all included. • You’ll find plenty of activities right at your fingertips. From mini golf, ice skating and zip lines to casinos, pools and Vegas-style entertainment, you’re sure to find something fun to do onboard your floating resort. And to Funk’s list, we would add:

Someone else is doing the “driving.” If you’ve never been on a cruise and don’t think you’d like it, you might want to reconsider. If you imagine chronic boredom from being on a boat for days, Funk says it’s not what you think. “Think Opryland Hotel on steroids,” says Funk. “There is so much to do during each day that you could stay busy constantly. Or you can do nothing at all.” Still worried about finding something to do? Funk suggests that you choose an itinerary with multiple ports where you’ll be docking almost every day. “You can do as much or as little as you want on a cruise,” adds Funk. Funk also recommends working with a travel agent who specializes in cruises. “These agents are trained extensively and have been onboard the ships. They know the differences, and can determine the best cruise line, ship and itinerary for you,” says Funk. First, decide when and where you’d like to travel, then determine a budget. This process will require a bit of balance and compromise. As Funk points out, if you decide to take an Alaskan cruise over the summer, you’ll pay top dollar. “Alaska fares are lower in May and September than during the peak summer months,” says Funk. “Remember

that whenever kids are out of school, rates will be higher, so if you are planning a family cruise, you may not get rates as low as you could if you traveled during the shoulder season.” If money is a concern, prioritize what’s most important to you (location, type of room, length of cruise) and make choices that will save you money. Instead of 12 days, go for seven. Opt for the ocean-view cabin instead of the mini suite. When it comes to total cost, Funk advises that you should look beyond the base fare for the cruise, which will include your stateroom, on-board activities and entertainment, and most meals. “Factor in airfare, incidentals — such as alcohol, sodas and specialty coffees — shore excursions, casino, gratuities, specialty restaurants and trip insurance,” says Funk. For those with a very limited budget, Funk cautions against going online and booking the cheapest cruise you can find. “That $399 seven-night cruise looks good on the surface, but the cruise line offering that price might not be one conducive to your lifestyle,” Funk warns. According to Funk, there’s a cruise to fit every budget, and working with an experienced travel professional is

the best way to ensure that you get the most for the money you have to spend. “Don’t be afraid to tell your travel agent what your budget is,” says Funk. “We can help you find a cruise within your budget that will meet or exceed your expectations.” Once you’ve teamed with an agent to book your ideal cruise, all you have to do is show up and enjoy yourself. “You don’t have to decide where to have dinner each night. You don’t have to decide where your entertainment will be,” Funk says. “The biggest decision of the day is whether you will have the steak or the lobster tail for dinner.” — Diane Hughes, Tennessean Custom Publications

tips Travel tip While failing to tip in some countries is considered rude and a snub, in other countries (like Japan, Costa Rica and New Zealand) tipping is considered offensive. Even in countries where tipping is expected, amounts and services for which one should tip vary. At, you’ll find a helpful chart of countries, services and the appropriate amount to tip. And the GlobeTipping app (99¢, iOS) gives tipping info for more than 200 countries.

DESTINATIONS | March 2, 2014 | 3

ave, Ky.

Charit Creek Lodge, Tenn.

Rafting the Ocoee River

t Old Faithful a


Get outdoors and back to nature Whether you enjoy a leisurely stroll on a wooded trail or prefer the heart-pounding excitement of a zip line tour or whitewater rafting, you’ll find plenty of outdoor fun at these near and far destinations. CLOSE TO HOME

Park it Spend a day or weekend at one of our local or state parks. One of Nashville’s hidden gems, Radnor Lake State Park allows you to escape the noise and chaos of the city without even leaving town. Miles of hiking trails, a nature center and plenty of wildlife viewing (mink, otters, beavers, deer and more) are spread across 904 acres. One of the city’s newer parks, Beaman Park, located north of town near Joelton, offers hiking on rugged terrain that passes by streams and waterfalls. Brothers Percy and Edwin Warner left our city a great legacy: 2,684 acres of protected land collectively known as The Warner Parks. The parks attract hikers,

cyclers, picnickers and more. There’s also a golf course and model airplane field. Take the family for a day outing or camping trip at one of our great state parks. From nearby Montgomery Bell State Park in Dickson County to Fall Creek Falls near Crossville, you can find a place to camp, hike, bike, ride horseback, fish, go boating or even play golf (available at nine of our state parks). Plus, if you want to get back to nature without roughing it at a campground, several Tennessee state parks offer lodging at inns or cabins along with restaurant dining. And don’t forget Land Between the Lakes, a national recreation area that straddles Tennessee and Kentucky between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. Activities here include biking, hiking, camping and fishing, along with attractions like the Elk and Bison Prairie as well as the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory.,, Hit the water During the dog days of a Tennessee summer, nothing feels better than splashing around in the water, and the

Harpeth River is a great place to get wet and cool off. A number of canoe and kayak rental outfitters are located in Kingston Springs and Pegram. If you want to really get out of town, take a short drive south of Nashville to either Lewisburg or the Normandy/ Wartrace area and check out the outfitters there offering floats on the Duck River. Southeast of Nashville, the Caney Fork River — which is filled with cool, refreshing water coming from the Center Hill Dam — offers a welcome respite from the summer heat. (Great fishing waters, too!) foggybottomcanoe. com,, tip-a-canoe. com,,, duckcanoe. com,, Rock climbing Go climb a rock … or cliff … or wall. If you just want to learn or need to practice, a number of climbing gyms in the area (Nashville/Climb Nashville, Franklin/The Crag and Murfreesboro/The Ascent) offer walls and equipment. If you’re an accomplished


Hidden Rive rC

climber, head out for some real-world climbing fun in the Chattanooga area, where popular sites include Tennessee Wall (also known as T Wall) and Suck Creek Canyon. Or head east and north of Nashville to Big South Fork. Other popular climbing destinations include Foster Falls and Sunset Park., climbyourrock. com,, Caving If you want to experience Mother Nature without having to be subject to the elements, at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the weather is predictable and the temperature is generally around 54 degrees. Choose from several guided tours or spend the entire day on a Wild Cave Tour. You’ll also find opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, fishing and camping. In nearby Horse Cave, Ky., you can tour Hidden River Cave, where activities (in addition to guided and Wild Cave tours) include ziplining and rappelling. Wild Cave tours require advance reservations.,

PHOTOS (L TO R): Hidden River Cave COURTESY OF HIDDEN RIVER CAVE / GARY RUSSELL, Charit Creek Lodge SUBMITTED, Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TOURIST DEVELOPMENT, Yellowstone National Park DIANE HUGHES / TN MEDIA 4 | March 2, 2014 | DESTINATIONS


Pack it Pack life’s necessities on your back and get away from it all at the rustic Charit Creek Lodge near Jamestown, Tenn. Located a few hours from Nashville in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, you’ll find this backwoods getaway along the Twin Arches Loop Trail (4.6 miles total). The lodge serves a hearty dinner and breakfast and provides beds and linens. There’s no electricity, but you’ll find a wood stove to keep you warm in cooler months. Restroom facilities are located on site and showers are available seasonally. Reservations required. charitcreeklodge. com, Raft the Ocoee If you’re looking for the ultimate experience in whitewater rafting, it doesn’t get better than Tennessee’s Ocoee River. After all, the Ocoee was the venue for the whitewater competition during the 1996 summer Olympic games. Located east of Chattanooga in the beautiful Cherokee National Forest, the Ocoee offers exhilarating whitewater fun plus opportunities in the area for hiking, biking, birding and more.,, Tour Illinois wine country That’s right. Wine country in southern Illinois. Combine your affinity for nature and love of vino with an excursion to the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. The Shawnee National Forest serves as a backdrop for the wine trail, which includes 12 vineyards. In addition to touring the vineyards (and sampling the product), you’ll also find opportunities to hike, camp, swim and go horseback riding at a pair of nearby recreation areas (Dixon Springs State Park and Trail of Tears State Forest).,, Asheville, N.C. Set in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers a wealth of outdoor fun just a few hours drive from Nashville. Cruise along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and explore miles of hiking trails. Take a zip line tour or go mountain biking on the many trails around Asheville or in the nearby Nantahala and Pisgah national forests. A tour of the Biltmore mansion may not be an outdoor experi-

ence, but horseback riding on the Biltmore Estate definitely is. Other activities include canoeing, whitewater rafting, skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing (ski lodges are just 30 to 45 minutes from Asheville).


Yellowstone & Grand Teton These two stunning national parks — which sprawl across parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana — are nextdoor neighbors, so it seems a shame to come this far and only experience one of them. Kayak on Yellowstone Lake and hike around Jenny Lake. See wildlife, including bison, bald eagles, deer, bighorn sheep and elk. Walk past geothermal pools formed by hot springs in the area, and view the brilliant shades of red, blue, green, yellow and orange they create. Take a long (and leisurely) drive through Hayden Valley, and be sure to stop and see Old Faithful put on its spectacular show., Antelope Canyon & Rainbow Bridge Antelope Canyon, a stunning petrified sand dune formed by the effects of wind and water against the sand, is reportedly the most-photographed slot canyon in the world. A number of companies offer guided tours of the canyon, which rests on Navajo land near Page, Ariz. Just across the state line in Utah you’ll find the Rainbow Bridge. You can backpack (a strenuous trail) or take a boat to view the world’s largest known natural bridge. Both the canyon and bridge are considered sacred by the Navajo, and it’s easy to imagine how the sight of them could deliver a spiritual experience for visitors.,,,

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— Diane Hughes, Tennessean Custom Publications

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Time to hit the ‘holiday road’


LEFT: Dine, shop or take a cruise on the indoor waterway. These are all options in the Delta section at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort. COURTESY OF GAYLORD OPRYLAND RESORT BELOW: Celebrate Christmas year round in Santa Claus, Ind.

Hit the holiday road (or the friendly skies) with the family. It’s time to explore those classic destinations — or even the off-beat ones — that you’ve always planned to visit but just never got around to. From classic theme parks (a la the Griswolds and Walley World) to distinctive attractions, here are our picks.


CLOSE TO HOME Gaylord Opryland Resort We know. You still long for the days of the Wabash Cannonball and Grizzly River Rampage, but we do have Opryland’s Delta Riverboat Tour. This resort is a destination unto itself. You can shop, walk through the gardens and observatory, dine at fine restaurants, visit the spa and take in a show (when available). Spend a day or the weekend. While you’re at it, book a brunch, lunch or dinner cruise on the General Jackson Showboat. gaylordopryland. com, Santa Claus, Ind. It’s hard to have a bad vacation in a town that celebrates Christmas 365 days a year. In Santa Claus, Ind., you’ll find Christmas-themed lodging, shops and attractions — including a water 8 | March 2, 2014 | DESTINATIONS

park that boasts the world’s longest water coaster. Visit Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari and Santa’s Splash Down Water Park in Santa Claus or Big Splash Adventure in nearby French Lick, Ind. Sleep at Santa’s Lodge, Santa’s Cottages or Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort. Explore the Candy Castle and play mini golf at Frosty’s Fun Center (or grown-up golf at the Christmas Lake Golf Course). Some attractions do not open until early May, so plan your trip accordingly. santaclausin. com,

VENTURE OUT Jungle room Update your Elvis playlist and pack some peanut butter and banana sandwiches, ’cause you’re going to Grace-

land. The spirit of Elvis lives on here at his former Memphis home. And whether or not you’re a fan of his music, you have to appreciate how this house is frozen in time. From the green shag carpet of the jungle room to the fabric

LEFT: The infamous Jungle Room at Graceland in Memphis. ELVIS PRESLEY ENTER-



BELOW: Visit The Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. ©2013 UNIVERSAL ORLANDO.

Did you know? There’s a Graceland Too? Dedicated to all things Elvis, this house in Holly Springs, Miss., is home to the “biggest Elvis fan in the universe,” also known as Paul MacLeod. It’s packed to the gills with Elvis memorabilia: newspaper clippings, records, figurines, original carpet from Graceland and more. Graceland Too regularly shows up on lists of must-see sites in Mississippi. And it’s open 24 hours a day.

covered walls and ceiling of the media room, a tour of Graceland is a step back in time — and a must for any Elvis fan. Kings Island Billed as the “largest amusement and water park in the midwest,” Kings Island (located just outside Cincinnati, Ohio) combines family rides and thrill rides with water slides, wave pools and a 7-acre animatronic dinosaur park (Dinosaurs Alive) that includes 60 fullsize dino replicas. It’s like your very own Jurassic Park! Kids will also love Planet Snoopy, the park’s collection of Peanuts-themed amusements.

GO FARTHER Branson, Mo. Branson is known for its live music shows, but there’s so much more to do here. Explore caves, take a zip line tour, ride in a hot air balloon, splash around at a water park, tour a butterfly garden, attend a dinner show ... the list goes on. Live music shows cover every genre — from rock to country to gospel, Patsy Cline to Elvis. See the Acrobats of China featuring the New Shanghai Circus. Flashback to the ’70s and ’80s at an Eagles Tribute. Or imagine you’re on the Emerald Isle as you enjoy Dublin’s Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies. Other attractions include the Talking Rocks Cavern and Fantastic Cavern (the only ride-through cave in


the U.S.). Orlando theme parks Not only does Florida offer tropical weather and palm trees swaying in the breeze, you’ll also find a theme park haven here: the city of Orlando. Seaworld Orlando also operates Aquatica and Discovery Cove, while Walt Disney World Resort includes Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Go behind the scenes of your favorite movies at Universal Studios or explore their Wet ’n’ Wild water park. Universal’s Islands of Adventure park includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (where the new Diagon Alley section opens this summer). Be one of the first to board the Hogwarts Express or visit Mr. Ollivander’s wand shop in Diagon Alley. In the Hogsmeade section, you can explore Hogwarts castle and enjoy British fare at The Three Broomsticks. That’s plenty of fun for kids of all ages. disneyworld.disney.,, — Diane Hughes, Tennessean Custom Publications


Roadtrip America Driving across the country? The Roadtrippers app allows you to search for attractions, food and more along your route. Free. Available for Android and iOS. For U.S. only.

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In addition to being your advocate in time of need, consider the other benefits of using a travel agent: You’ll save time. Your time is valuable, and you may find the payoff of using a travel agent is worth sparing yourself hours of work and stress. Then you can focus on the fun part: planning what to do when you reach your destination. You’ll gain a trusted partner. Your travel agent will learn your style and taste, your likes and dislikes, so they’ll be able to choose hotels, destinations and amenities to make your trip a pleasant experience. You can actually save money. Remember that fee you pay a travel agent to book a plane ticket? Well, it could pay for itself. “Travel agents can purchase international tickets from ticket consolidators, which are wholesale companies that sell to agencies below the published ticket price,” Wright says. You’ll benefit from their knowledge. Travel agents are familiar with locations, attractions, the best places to eat and the best places to stay. “Travel agents can provide knowledge about destinations, accommodations, what a package includes, and they can dissect the vast amount of information so the consumer can make their best choices,” says Wright. So, why not book your next vacation with a travel agent? And when you’re sitting in the airport watching a harried traveler try to rebook their cancelled flight or resolve an issue with the car rental agent, you can sit back and relax — because you know your travel agent has your back. LIBRA

If you’re planning a vacation, why spend time online and on the phone when you can let a travel agent do the work for you? A travel agent, you say? Are they still around? Why, yes, they are! According to Pam Wright, president of Wright Travel in Nashville, the forecast for travel agents is quite good. “Statistics show that travel agents are booking more packages and that the trend of using agents is growing,” says Wright. To support that, the American Society of Travel Agents points to a 2013 study conducted by MMGY Global, a marketing agency focused on the travel industry. MMGY’s 2013 Portrait of American Travelers found that 13 percent of U.S. travelers used a travel agent in 2013. That’s up 11 percent from just a few years ago. While some travel consumers would rather beat the bushes on the Internet to find a deal, others prefer to pay a small fee to a professional. Back in the day, travel agents made their living through commissions from vendors. Most vendors still pay a commission to travel agents, but airlines do not, so travel agents do charge a fee for booking airfare. “The fee is in payment for the travel agent researching rates of all airlines, offering the best options, and being available to the traveler if there are any issues,” says Wright. So, you’re probably thinking why pay extra when you can do it yourself? “Often the value comes when the travel agent can resolve an issue, assist with cancelled flights or intervene in other travel supplier issues that may occur,” says Wright. “This intervention can save travelers significant dollars that far exceed a small fee.


It’s Your Time to Celebrate

Save time, money with a travel agent

— Diane Hughes, Tennessean Custom Publications


Relax — go for the package deal


Lost in translation? If you’re wondering about ordering breakfast in Paris or finding the drugstore in Costa Rica, the SayHi Translate app (iOS) can help you break the language barrier. Priced at just $1.99, it provides common phrases in 41 languages, with more languages and dialects available for a fee.

sive vacation package usually includes all meals and snacks, all beverages (including domestic alcoholic drinks), daytime activities and nighttime entertainment, plus hotel taxes and gratuities. And since companies like Vacation Express deal in high volume and have developed relationships with hotels and other vendors, they have access to some amazing discounts. Vacation Express packages feature travel to all-inclusive resorts that range from options for the budget-minded casual traveler to someone seeking a stay at a five-star luxury hotel. As Doggett notes, there are options in between; you can always choose from add-ons to upgrade your package. “These include airport-hotel transfer, off-site excursions and trip insurance. For just a small increase in package price, you might get even more dining options or a broader range of entertainment,” says Doggett. Another way to get great deals is by carefully choosing when you travel and when you actually book your vacation. “Steering clear of any major holiday is a good idea if you are looking for a discounted rate,” says Doggett. “Booking in advance will ensure that you get the hotel and room category that you want. Although you may save a small amount by waiting for last-minute deals, you will have a more limited selection. And if you’re traveling with the kids,

take advantage of discount programs like the Smile program offered by Vacation Express. Smile allows for up to two children (ages 2 to 12) to stay, eat and play for free (no blackout periods). And there’s special pricing for older siblings, cousins or friends (ages 13 to 17). At Smile kid-friendly resorts, single parents who share a room with their kids also avoid the cost of a single supplement. Regarding your choice of room and hotel, Doggett says it’s important to note your room category and whether the plan is European or all-inclusive. “A few hoteliers offer swim-up rooms and different suites based on the type of trip you’re booking — family, adult, etc.,” says Doggett. “An all-inclusive includes all of your meals whereas the European plan only includes breakfast.” You may be wondering where one of these travel packages might lead. Vacation Express books packages to locations like Cancun, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Riviera Maya (Mexico). You can take a non-stop flight from Nashville to Cancun, Punta Cana or Jamaica. Choose from packages that fit your style and taste, from rolling the dice at a casino in St. Maarten to golfing in the Caribbean. You can opt for kid-friendly or TN-0000969270

What if choosing a vacation were as simple as pointing at a box, all wrapped up in a neat little package and saying, “I’ll take that one!” Well, it can be. It’s called a vacation package. Whether you’re interested in a quick getaway to Mexico or a long retreat to the Bahamas, companies like Vacation Express may have just the ticket. With an all-inclusive vacation package, you have your hotel, airfare, meals and entertainment all rolled into one package. And traveling this way, you take the guesswork out of your vacation planning, says Jaclyne Doggett, marketing manager with Atlanta-based Vacation Express. “The top benefit is the comfort in knowing that everything is included in one price: your flight, hotel stay, meals, drinks, daily activities and nightly entertainment,” says Doggett. According to Doggett, your all-inclu-

adults-only travel, a romantic getaway or a pampering spa vacation. Paradise awaits — just a click or phone call away. Which destination will you choose? — Diane Hughes, Tennessean Custom Publications


Hear me now? Travelling out of the U.S.? Be sure to call your cellphone carrier to enable international calling, get dialing instructions and check rates for the country where you’ll be travelling. Instead of using your own phone, consider purchasing a low-cost unlocked phone and prepaid SIM card. Some companies also rent cellphones. If you do plan to use your own phone, check out the free Onavo app (iOS and Android); it can help you monitor and reduce your data usage.

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12 | March 2, 2014 | DESTINATIONS


Destinations Spring 2014  
Destinations Spring 2014  

Travel Destinations, Spring 2014