Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.

Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.

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Posts about International travel

Accomodations on the cheap for your next trip

Posted by: Sarah Johnson Updated: February 13, 2015 - 4:01 PM

Oh, that pesky budget – when I’m planning a trip, it has a discouraging way of reminding me that it’s all about the benjamins. I like to be out and about sightseeing all day and use my accommodations only as glorified sleeping quarters. If you value experiencing new places more than having luxurious thread counts while on the road, here are a couple of alternatives to spending hundreds of dollars on a hotel room.

In 2011, I made my first trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York for former Twin Bert Blyleven’s induction. Although I started researching lodging options six months ahead of time, I quickly realized I was too late: the two main choices for visiting this small town of 2,000 were to drive more than an hour each day to stay somewhere less expensive or pay more than $200 per night for a nearby motel.

Since I like to have a roof over my head (for me, “roughing it” doesn’t extend to sleeping in a tent, although that’s another viable option if you are so inclined), I initially dismissed the KOA located a mere ten miles from Cooperstown. When I double checked their website, I discovered they had “kabins,” very reasonably priced bare bones cottages (mine was about $75 per night). Just bring your own sheets, a towel (which can double as a pillow), some trail mix for breakfast and you’re good to go. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with baseball fans from around the country.

When I met a mother and daughter staying with me at the Apple Hostel in Philadelphia, I remember thinking how ingenious it was that they had discovered a way to travel together and make inexpensive but lasting memories. Who needs those fancy lotions and shampoos anyway? Long seen as the domain of the thrifty youngster, hostels should appeal to anyone looking for a convenient jumping off point for a day’s sightseeing as they are frequently located in or near a town’s center. (The Apple Hostel, for example, is in downtown Philadelphia, a mere four blocks from Independence Hall and easily reached from the airport by public transportation. My selection was a female only dorm for about $35 per night.)

While it may not be the most restful place in the world (can’t I catch up on sleep when I return to Minneapolis?) or have the most stunning décor (at the Flying Pig Hostel in Amsterdam, you’re greeted by a brightly colored mural of a monkey holding a joint), it does often provide some of the same amenities as a hotel including laundry, wifi and access to a refrigerator. And techies that need to be plugged in at all times can be comforted in knowing that every hostel I’ve stayed at has its own electrical outlet for charging all of your digital necessities by each bunk.

Eclectic ideas can lead to memorable travel experiences – I won’t soon forget the foosball table at the Flying Pig Hostel with a bumper sticker reading “I closed Wolski’s! Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” Some of the most fun I’ve had exploring the world involves breaking from the norm…with the added bonus of returning home a few bucks richer. A perfect amount to start planning my next adventure.

Gluten Free Traveling

Posted by: Sarah Johnson Updated: January 9, 2015 - 4:44 PM

You know the Boy Scout motto “be prepared”? I feel like adopting that when I travel since I follow a gluten free diet. Venturing away from home when you have special food requirements may seem overwhelming, but I haven’t let it stop me from seeing the world and have adopted some tricks to make it manageable.

Research your destination ahead of time - most restaurants now have menus posted online. I’ve found that if you call when they are not busy they are happy to suggest some options. You can also print gluten free dining cards that are available in more than 50 languages online for free.

Even if you don’t check your bag, there are some things you can bring through security - apples, bananas and oranges hold up well, don’t need to be refrigerated and are easy to eat on the go. Individual packets of nut butter are smaller than three ounces and provide some protein. Live by a grocery store that has a bulk section with the ingredients listed on the bin? It’s fun to make your own trail mix.

If you’re traveling internationally and will be served meals and/or snacks on your flight, call the airline ahead of time and request a special meal. When I went to Germany, the gluten free meal was chicken with broccoli, carrots and rice with a fruit cup and salad. (The snack before we landed was a banana with an Udi’s gluten free chocolate chip muffin, which was much more appealing than the processed egg sandwich everyone else was eating.) I try not to worry about leaving my comfort zone - sometimes it’s easier to find gluten free food in foreign countries. In Peru, the standard side dishes are potatoes and rice and one of their specialties is pollo a la brasa (similar to rotisserie chicken).

Not only can visiting a farmer’s market or going to the grocery store in a new place be a good way to find real food, it can also be a great free sightseeing option. (At a grocery store in Amsterdam, I saw drinks with Hello Kitty and Spongebob Squarepants on them.) If your hotel offers rooms with a refrigerator, Greek yogurt with fruit or string cheese with gluten free crackers are good snacks with some protein that don’t need to be cooked.

An added bonus to bringing my own snacks means less time spent sitting in restaurants waiting for food and more time (and money) I can devote to maximizing my sightseeing time. I can’t wait to discover more tricks.

Delta brings on the warm-weather destinations

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: September 18, 2014 - 11:05 AM
News from the Travel Desk:
Delta Air Lines announced that it is bringing back its nonstop seasonal service between Liberia, Costa Rica, with Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Seasonal service between San Jose and Minneapolis/St. Paul will be reinstated. Delta will also offer flights to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic from MSP during the cold months, when demand for such warm-weather destinations peaks.

Flights will be operated using Airbus A320 and Airbus A319 aircraft.

To chaperone or not

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: March 20, 2014 - 3:03 PM

No rest for the weary: I chaperoned once when my daughter’s class spent a few days and nights on a Wisconsin farm. Turns out I was no match for the five first- through third-graders in my room. They finally got to sleep around midnight. Like the children, I returned home exhausted. So when a reader called to ask if she should head to Italy as a chaperone for her daughter and some classmates, my muscles tensed. (Chalk it up to flashbacks.) She had only five days to decide, and the trip would cost her $4,100.
I knew what I would do. But I tried to be judicious, realizing that such a decision depends upon the individual. Would she take delight in seeing the world through the wide, excited eyes of youth, or feel ripped off when the schedule deprived her of a leisurely morning cappuccino?
As the reader said, “I don’t know which should play a bigger role, the destination or the situation.” It’s an interesting conundrum. If you’ve been a chaperone on an international trip, we'd love to hear about your experience.

Couch safari

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: December 18, 2012 - 3:10 PM

Can't travel to Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, the focus of last week's top Travel story? Now you can take a virtual trip there to see the wildlife. In fact, researchers at the University of MInnesota would like you to do that, and play scientists at the same time. As part of a project called Snapshot Serengeti, researchers have set up 225 cameras in the park to capture wild creatures, from lions strolling through the grasses to hyenas that sometimes chomp on the cameras. Log onto the site, and you'll be given a picture-driven tutorial on how to identify the various animals, from aardvarks to warthogs, a treat in itself for animal lovers. After the tutorial, you can begin looking through the captures (what the site calls a collection of three images captured when an animals movement triggers the cameras to shot) and identifying the animals and their behavior (based on simle descriptors such as "moving" and "interacting"). Speaking of capture -- the whole exercise caught my attention. When you get an image of African grasses through the tell legs of a giraffe, how can you stop?

 

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