Making Use of On Line Travel Information

As I geared up for my two latest jaunts to New York and Las Vegas, I made note of all of the “must sees” friends, acquaintance, and on-site reviewers shared. A major problem was deciding where to eat-so much food, so little time.

Therefore, I went online to tourist recommendations to check out menus and prices. Traveling with both a picky eater and one who says “Yuck” at meat and most vegetables, I need to know ahead of time what I’ll be facing. In Vegas, I ruled out eating at Guy Savoy’s establishment after I found out that dinner for 2 adults and one teenager would be around $570 before tax, tip and wine. His menu sounded intriguing, just like Emeril’s, but we weren’t looking for a romantic, unforgettable, culinary experience. Yet, I must mention that I owe thanks and respect to both chefs for allowing their prices to be printed online. They think enough of their diners to be upfront, with apparently no need to trick them in by hiding anything.

However, in the majority of the cases, fine-and not so fine-dining establishments do not post menus with prices online. They don’t share anything other than beautifully worded descriptions of their offerings. Why not? The answer is probably in line with the saying, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” But isn’t that assumption, a bit well, presumptuous? It implies that the owners assume that if you want to eat there, you’ll pay anything, and if you want to know the price ahead of time, you aren’t welcome because you shouldn’t care about price in the first place. It used to be that women were handed menus without prices so that they would order what they really wanted instead of what was either inexpensive or indulgent. That’s not as insulting as on-line menus with no prices. (I have to laugh at places like the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan, whose menus don’t even try to hide the big white-out marks over the costs.) To me, that’s announcing that they want tourists to plan a visit, make reservations, and travel there, after which they’ll be less likely to go elsewhere.

Sometime, as travelers, we want to splurge, but other times, we wish to be prudent. We’re lucky in this day and age to have so much information, regarding reservations, maps, directions, and reviews, all a click away. It can’t be emphasized enough to use these resources while planning your trip. You will not only discover restaurant selections and pricing, you will also find out hours of operation (some closures days may surprise you) and payment policies. (I was glad to have found out ahead of time that New York’s famed Jekyll and Hyde did not take Visa, and how much cash to carry for our meal.)

In New York, almost every restaurant (as well as theatres, museums and business establishments) also includes subway directions on their sites. But, no matter where you’re going, it’s an excellent idea to take things into your own hands when planning your itinerary. Don’t wait until you get to a strange place to pick up a map or get information from the hotel concierge. Online subway and bus maps can be found within seconds, and your investigation may very well change the course of your trip. This is because, often, visitors have no clue just how far apart places are or what it takes to get from point A to point B. Several times, I found out that my plans wouldn’t be feasible ahead of time, which forced me to re-think my agenda. It was disappointing, but much better than the hassle and stress of dealing with it once I had arrived at my destination.

Such research has always served me well. My family has usually found good meals and entertainment at fair prices, and gotten the most out of our vacations by saving time and energy. There will always be a few glitches in even the best plans, but a few hours on the computer can increase your travel pleasure significantly.

Here’s wishing you success in your online travel research, and to no more unhappy surprises.

Niagara Falls Tourism

Most tourist spots seem to have a fair balance between natural and man-made attractions. While planning a personal trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, I’ve discovered a slight imbalance.

Now, there really isn’t a whole lot to do while watching 1/5 of the world’s water crashing down in front of one, other than marvel at it. But after that hour or so passes, what’s next? It’s taken urban planners and the tourist authority several decades, but it looks like they’ve succeeding in making Niagara Falls into a man-made paradise. The natural wonder of falls has become a backdrop for what could be considered the cleverest kinds of family entertainment.

I have vague recollections of visiting there a couple of times as a young child, when the focus was on the colors used to light up the falls at night. There were no Clifton Hill “attractions”, no amusement rides or fun houses, and no wax or oddity museums…I guess those developments constitute progress in their own way, and no one can deny they’re fun. Plus, there are sporting, gaming and cultural venues as well, a little away from the Falls area.

The idea of riding the “Maid of the Mist” brings back good memories, as does the Journey Behind the Falls and a helicopter ride over the falls beckons me to the sky. But experiencing 4-D movies and haunted houses just down the street is somehow incongruent with the natural phenomenon of the falls. In trying to create a simple agenda for a 2 day visit, I found myself overwhelmed with a huge amount of glitzy options from which to choose. How can one visit the Falls without experiencing some of the hype, even if it’s just riding to the top of the Skylon Tower? How can one fail to rise to the challenge of escaping the “chicken list” at the Screamers’ Haunted House as one of the 60,000 unable to make it through without the help of staff?

A family traveling with children under the age of 10 will probably be deluged with pleas to spend money; however, one good thing is that part of the money spent at “Niagara Parks” natural beauty attractions (such as the Maid, Journey, Butterfly Walk, etc.) goes toward maintaining the resources.

American citizens should ignore the Internet information claiming that children merely require a copy of the birth certificate, and parents need photo ID such as a driver’s license. As of September 30, 2007, passports are required. So, if your family does not have theirs, you better start the paperwork now. Does it seem strange to you that we’ll need passports to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls? Intellectually and logistically, it makes sense-after all, it is technically another country. Yet, something about half of it being in New York reduces the “foreign country” status of it. After all, when one-day trips offered by bus tour companies get travelers back home by nightfall, it’s hard to feel like we’ve gone to another country!

To give credit where credit is due, the various visitor associations have managed to provide an overwhelming amount of activities (that could appeal to a range of age groups) within a fairly small area. As such, cars aren’t necessarily needed, and the freedom that comes with walking to sights and restaurants adds to the overall relaxation of a trip. As silly as some of the tourist spots may appear, the younger crowd will probably find them great fun, which is sometimes a challenge while on vacation. With fast food chains, families are assured of familiar and inexpensive meals-again, which cater to the tastes of the younger visitors-but there are still many high quality dining establishments for more discerning adult tastes.

The areas around Niagara Falls on both the American and Canadian sides offer countless levels of lodging, depending the desired proximity and budget. The multi-star resorts nearest the falls usually boast falls’ views, casinos, and free shuttle service to other tourist sites. There are also many recreational offerings once a family leaves the immediate urban center, and with the attractions found in nearby towns, there’s a good chance that a Niagara Falls vacation can include everyone’s favorite activity.