Starling Travel

December 24, 2005

Happy Chrismahanuhkwanzakah!

Filed under: Site News — Laura Moncur @ 9:24 am

We’ll be taking a week off for the holidays this year.

Happy Chrismahanuhkwanzakah!

Whatever you do or don’t celebrate this season, may it be a joyful one!

December 21, 2005

The King Tut Exhibit

Filed under: Museums,Travel — Laura Moncur @ 10:20 am

King Tut in Fort Lauderdale, FloridaWhen I was a kid, a King Tut exhibit came to the United States. I think it was the first time that I had heard about archaeology. I didn’t get to see that exhibit, so when I heard that King Tut was back in the United States, Mike and I planned a trip to go see him in Los Angeles.

Was the trip worth it?

Yes, but not for the reasons you might think.

(Continue Reading…)

December 20, 2005

Volunteer Vacation

Filed under: Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

It sounds like a good idea. Volunteer your time on your vacation. Spend your paid one or two weeks a year to benefit countries that could use the help.

When I looked a little deeper into this program, however, it seemed less enticing to me. It would cost me between $1000 and $1400 to work for this program for a week. I pay one thousand bucks to do volunteer work. The kicker? That cost doesn’t include the price of airfare. I have to arrange for my own travel to Peru or Thailand (or a number of other countries). The $1000 only covers the cost of my meals, accomodations and emergency medical care.

Isn’t there a way for me to volunteer on my vacation where it doesn’t cost me quite so much money? I can go on a real vacation for a week for less than a thousand bucks. I would prefer not to have to pay so much money for the privilege of volunteering my time.

The closest thing I could find is this volunteer search from these organizations:

Most of these volunteer opportunities aren’t for short terms like two weeks, which is a shame. Just in my area alone, there were 114 opportunities to volunteer. Secretarial work and drivers seem to be the most popular in my area. Some of these require a long-term commitment. Somehow, I wish there was a way to donate a couple weeks of my time easily.

I think the best option is to contact a local church or charity organization and find out what they need. Sometimes just showing up and being willing to help is really all they need. Talking to the people in charge usually doesn’t help as much as talking to the people in the trenches. If you really want to volunteer, I suggest just showing up at the place you think is worthy of your time and saying, “You got me for two weeks. What can I do?”

Via: Volunteer for a vacation

December 19, 2005

Rainbow Hotel in Wendover, Nevada

Filed under: Lodging,Nevada,Places To Visit,Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

A couple of weekends ago, we stayed at the Rainbow Hotel in Wendover, Nevada for a family party. A weekend in Wendover is by no means, “travel on the cheap.” Unless you stay there on a weekday, Wendover tends to be pricey. Our total cost for the two night stay was $185 for a normal hotel room with two queen beds.

The room was equipped normally for a Nevada hotel. There was a coffeemaker and hair dryer in the bathroom, but no mini-bar. If you want to drink in a hotel/casino, you’re expected to go downstairs and play on the slots. A lovely lady will come bring you a drink for free if you plant your butt at a slot machine.

There is gambling and eating and little else to do in Wendover during the winter. I don’t care for gambling and I’ve finally got my eating under control, so I was surprised with how much time I had on my hands. I was able to exercise at the Montego Bay hotel gym (Rainbow, Peppermill and Montego Bay are all owned by the same company). I was able to get a little writing done. Mike and I folded oragami Christmas ornaments. We were able to do all that and I was also able to spend a little time with my family and eat at the seafood buffet.

Part of the reason that I love to camp is that it forces me to slow down. There isn’t much to do after we’ve put up the tent and blown up the air mattress. That’s how the weekend at the Rainbow Hotel was for me. We rested. We enjoyed each other. We drank some inexpensive alcohol. It was a great weekend.

December 16, 2005

Hassle-Free Holiday Travel from Fodor’s

Filed under: Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Here are some tips from Fodor’s Travel to make things a little less worrisome during holiday travel. Strangely, all of these tips have to do with airports and making the security checks easier.

Travel on the cheap usually means avoiding air travel altogether. It’s not that I hate to fly. I just find that I can drive to a lot of places for a lot cheaper, especially when you calculate the flight AND rental car. Plus, when I drive, I get to see all of those interesting places in-between my home and the destination. I don’t really get to experience that in a plane.

I was never old enough to see the commercials when they came out, yet I still adhere to the practice:

“See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet!”

Substitute Volkswagen Beetle for Chevrolet and you’ve pretty much got my travel life covered. If you really want to avoid the hassle of holiday travel, give yourself a couple extra days and drive home instead of flying. Then you can see all the sites in-between.

Plus, it’s usually cheaper…

December 15, 2005

Eats, Nevada – September 2005

Filed under: Nevada,Places To Visit,Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

That weekend, we drove down to Las Vegas to unwind and be casual. We didn’t have too many things on our agenda. All I wanted to do was shop at the Fashion Show Mall (I was looking for a watch, didn’t find one) and take some pictures. On the way to Vegas from Jean, we found the coolest spot to take pictures. It’s right off the Sloan Road exit, but I call the little area, Eats. After you see the pictures, you’ll understand why:

This slideshow requires Macromedia Flash Player. You can download it for free here: Macromedia Flash Player 7.

If you are driving north on I-15 from Jean to Las Vegas, you’ll see these little cabins, but you might not be able to see where you should exit to get there. You need to exit on Sloan Road, and take the frontage road south to the cabins. Here’s a link to the aerial map on Google Maps:

These cabins are private property and you MUST stay off the private property. All these photos were taken by sticking my camera lens between the chain link fence. Mike, Stacey and Dan wouldn’t let me trespass and in retrospect, that was probably a good thing. You can’t take a picture of yourself standing in the doorway of these old abandoned cabins, but they do provide a wonderful photo opportunity if you are willing to stay on the legal side of the fence.

I love thinking about the people who used to visit these cabins. Were they unbearably hot or did the thick adobe walls keep out the Nevada sun? Did they used to be the favorite spot of people like me? Were they inexpensive and so close to the lights of Nevada that they were a “good deal”? Were they a tourist trap? Why did they close? Who are those people living in the trailer homes right next to them? Do they own these cabins and if they do, would they let me trespass?

I wonder if there is anyone out there who can answer these questions about these cabins. Until then, we’ll just have to romanticize them.

Update 01-06-06: We visited Vegas again and these cabins are GONE. They were so gone that we thought we might be looking in the wrong place. Then, Mike found the evidence…

December 14, 2005

Jean, Nevada – September 2005

Filed under: Lodging,Nevada,Places To Visit,Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Last time Mike and I stayed in Jean, Nevada, it was in September. We went there with my sister, Stacey and her husband, Dan. They are our best friends. We rode in their Hummer and they drove the whole way. I should feel guilty for that, but it was a new car and I was scared of scratching it. Plus, I’ve never driven anything bigger than a VW Beetle before, so I was doubly scared of driving that big thing. We paid for half the gas, so I guess I shouldn’t feel too guilty.

The trip to Jean was mostly spent in Vegas. We drove up and down the strip in their bright yellow Hummer and I stood up through the sunroof and took pictures. You can see those pictures here:

In Jean, however, Mike and I spent the morning taking a nice walk around the hotel and clicking pictures. In the very last photo, you can see the Nevada Landing hotel in the background. I didn’t really get a good picture of the hotel while we were there, so you’ll have to be happy with this. You can see the pictures here:

This slideshow requires Macromedia Flash Player. You can download it for free here: Macromedia Flash Player 7.

The walk started with a trip to the gas station near the hotel. Mike and I weren’t really in the mood to sit down at the cafe and the snack bar wasn’t open yet, so we took a walk to the convenience store. He had a Krispy Kreme donut and I got a pint of water. We walked back to the hotel via a little dirt road. We saw lizards, blackbirds and lots of dragonflies. I was only able to click a picture of the lizard, though.

The entire walk was less than a mile, but don’t underestimate the Nevada sun. It can get REALLY hot there, so if you’re going to do this walk, do it in the morning or late evening so you don’t get burned to a crisp. You can see the route we took here:

Another note about Nevada Landing. There isn’t a hotel gym where you can exercise. There is a tiny pool where you can swim. I’ve never tried it out, so I can’t tell you if it’s good or not. I have, however, jogged around the parking lot along the edges. It’s a pretty easy run because it’s very flat. There are usually big semi-trucks parked along those edges (you can see them on the map below), so you’ll have to dodge them. Other than that, I’ve enjoyed the runs around the parking lot. One trip around is .65 miles, so you can plan your workout accordingly. Here’s a map of where I run when I stay at Nevada Landing:

That day at Nevada Landing, I ran around the parking lot for free (that was my workout). Mike and I took a walk to the convenience store, which was $5 for donuts and drinks. The walk around the wild, deserty areas was free. The photo ops were free. The stay at the hotel was $50 because it was a weekend. We had a lot of fun for pretty cheap and that only brings us to that morning. That afternoon, we found another great place to take pictures.

Tune in tomorrow to see the photos from the rest of the day.

December 13, 2005

Affordable Holiday Travel?

Filed under: Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

At $199 a night, ABC News has a different definition of the word “affordable” than I do.

All of these suggestions sound like paid advertisements to me. If they are going to recommend a $200 a night hotel, I want to know what’s so cool about it. I want to hear about the stay in the first person and what made the hotel so good.

If you ask me, this is what I consider “affordable.”

At $30 a night, these hotels are great. They are 10-25 minutes outside of Las Vegas (depending on your adherence to the local speed limits), so you need to get into the car to go to the Strip. Mike and I prefer to stay at Nevada Landing, which looks like two huge riverboats. The casino has a riverboat theme. I wouldn’t recommend the buffet dinner, it was hard for me to find anything healthy to eat except salad. The 24-hour cafe is good and the snack bar is great for a quick bite (but the hours are really limited). The rooms are clean and quiet. For $30 a night, Mike and I can make a trip to Vegas incredibly cheap and entertaining. That’s what I call “affordable.” Someone needs to give a dictionary to ABC News.

Log on tomorrow to see photos of our last visit to Jean, Nevada.

December 12, 2005

Welcome To Starling Travel

Filed under: Site News — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

You don’t need another weblog to tell you about $5000 cruises. You need to know something fun and inexpensive to do with the fifty bucks in your pocket. Whether it’s camping, hiking, hotels, restaurants or tourist traps, you want to know where you can get the most bang for your buck.

Mike and I have been traveling on the cheap all throughout the western states. We’ll show you our photos of camping sites. We’ll tell you how much we huffed and puffed on the mountain bike trails. We’ll tell you about the places that are a total rip-off and the ones that are surprising gems.

Log on every Monday through Friday for interesting and inexpensive travel ideas.


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