Sunday, July 10, 2011

Revisiting The Scenic Route: A Sampling of Blog Posts

The News & Record’s Travel Blog, The Scenic Route was a place for consumer tips, travel ideas and destinations. It was also an ideal place to talk about odd news items, things we saw around us, and news of the day. Each Sunday, we printed a couple of items in the print edition that had crossover appeal. Here’s a sample of posts that ran throughout the run of the blog's history. My last day at the News & Record was on July 10, 2011, so this is the posting date:

Wedding gifts that give back 

Spring is in the air (or all over your car) - and that means it's also time for lots of weddings. Which means it's time to start thinking about coming up with creative wedding gifts. Sure, you can always rely on the trusty registries. 

But if you're talking to couples who think they have everything, you might suggest to them something that would be good for them, their guests and even a charity they support. 

One place to try is the Traveler's Joy Honeymoon Registry (, a partnership with the Just Give/I Do Foundation, a group that specializes in charity registries. It's a honeymoon registry, but part of it goes to charity, too. Who wouldn't love that? Everyone wins. 

Theme Parkeologist? Wish I'd thought of that 

So for years, people have been telling me that I need to figure out a way to turn my useless knowledge of Disney and travel stuff into a career. 

Turns out that George and Andrew Taylor beat me to it. Luckily, you can take advantage of their wisdom at a program sponsored by the Friends of the Library at the Asheboro Public Library, 201 Worth St., at 7 p.m. Thursday ( 

By day, George manages the Archdale Public Library, and Andrew is an investment banker in Greensboro. But they are Theme Parkeologists and have a blog about Disney ( At the library event, the men will share planning tips and some secrets about the parks . 

Ask them about utilidors, Hidden Mickeys and whether a Dole Whip or a Mickey Bar is better. (Clearly, a Dole Whip is better.) 

A holiday happy hour? 

In the spirit of the holidays, American Airlines has decided to give you a little gift this December. If you happen to be on a flight that departs between 5 and 5:59 p.m., you'll be able to buy booze for $5. 

In-flight happy hour for December saves you a buck on beer and $2 on wine and liquor. Thanks. Nice. But what would be a nicer gift would be to waive the checked baggage fee for the month. Or guarantee on-time departure. 

I guess we have to take what we can get. 

A new spin on fitness 

I saw a great ad this week in The New York Times for New York Sports Clubs. 

The ad copy was something to the effect of "Are security pat downs the most action you've been getting lately? Be proud of your next TSA scan. Start working out today." 

Take out to Thailand

So when you work nights at the News & Record, our "lunch" is actually dinner. I didn't have time to pack lunch today, and I was craving Chicken Pad Thai. 

When I walked into Thai Garden on Tate Street to get the takeout, they had a stack of CD brochures called "The Electronic Journey through Amazing Thailand" that were there for the taking, being distributed for free by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. 

Talk about getting your message into the hands of the right audience? Now, this is direct marketing. 

"Hey, consumer. You like Thai food. Wouldn't you like to have some authentic Thai food and come see our wonderful country?" 

So, I think I'll pop in this CD and go for a little free vacation. Fun, right? You may not have the CD, but don't fret. Here's the website for you to check it out, too: 

(Also, here’s a tip: I ask the folks at Thai Garden to make my Chicken Pad Thai medium spicy. Gives it an extra little kick.) 

Spend your $9 well! 

Good news. According to a report from this week, the average cost of a plane ticket this season cost less than it did last year. 

Nine dollars less to be precise. The average is down to $422 from $431. (Wow. That seems kind of high to me. I guess I'm lucky to fly to pretty common cities with a lot of traffic where fares tend to be a little lower.) 

My favorite part about this is that when The Associated Press reported it, they said "holiday fliers may have more cash left over for putting gifts under the tree this year." 

Yeah. I guess. If you shop at the dollar store, that is nine more gifts. Go crazy! 

Vacation rental advice

If you haven't booked your beach cottage for the summer by now, you're probably out of luck for that perfect oceanfront house at a great price. But that doesn't mean that you can't still get a good deal on a vacation rental.

And while many people think of renting vacation homes for the beach, most of us forget about that option when we go other places. But why wouldn't you want that kind of space and those kinds of amenities at other locations - especially if you're traveling with a family or a large group? has a comprehensive collection of great vacation rental advice on its website ( In addition to talking about rental search websites that you may already be familiar with, such as VRBO and Flipkey, as you go through the Frommers' presentation, it focuses on specific popular destinations, including Hawaii, Orlando, France, Ireland and the UK, and Italy.

The most important part to read is the advice on doing your homework and how to protect yourself - with insurance. You don't want to make the investment and go in blind. And remember, if a deal sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Some of these deals may not be cheaper than a hotel, but they could give you more space.

Your very own 'castle'

Some people really like Disney. For those folks, the good capitalists have offered patrons a chance to "own" a real estate interest in the Disney Vacation Club. Yes, you get a "deed" for your interest, but in 50 years, your timeshare is up and then you are sad.

So for the true fans - let me rephrase that - for the true, rich fans, there is another option: Golden Oak. No, this isn't a retirement home. The key here is "Golden." As in, you must have access to gold if you want to live at Disney.

Live at Disney? Yes. It's true. No, you can't actually live in the Magic Kingdom, but the houses in this community are close enough for you to hear the whistle of the train.

But why do I bring this up now? Well, if you buy soon (as in before the end of the year), there's a bonus. The recently announced "early buyer" bonus gives you five Golden Oak VIP passes per household, valid for five years. This provides you with admission to all four theme parks, both water parks, DisneyQuest, free parking, discounts for shopping and lots of other perks. A Florida resident could get this premium annual pass for about $531. So that's a $13,275 value.

(Let me stop right here. I'm not selling anything, or suggesting that you go buy a $1.5 million to $8 million home to get free passes. But at the rate ticket prices are going up, maybe it could be worth it. Just kidding.)

I am fascinated by this project. Walt Disney wanted people to live at EPCOT, in a sort of Research Triangle Park community, where people would work and play. It never materialized. Golden Oak is the first residential community built within the 44 square miles of Disney World itself. To learn more, go to And by all means, if you actually end up buying a house and need a Disney concierge, do let me know.