Sunday, February 15, 2009
You're right. Several times over the past two years, the U.S. State Department has changed the deadline for its stricter Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) entry rules. And for all we know, the deadline could very well be extended at the last minute right before June 1st rolls around. To be ahead of the game though, if a trip to the Caribbean, Mexico, Bermuda, or Canada is even a slight possibility in your foreseeable future, apply now for your U.S. passport.
Unless you plan to venture only within the borders of North America, Canada, or the Caribbean, you may want to skip the U.S. passport card (an ID resembling a driver's license; $45 per adult and $35 for kids under 16). We recommend instead that you splurge for a full-fledged U.S. passport, currently $100 a pop for adults or $75 for renewals, and $85 for children younger than 16 years old, with a $20 fee for renewals.
Besides, you'll be ready to go when that too-good-to-resist airfare sale to Europe or South America comes along, and you'll probably beat the passport rush in the weeks leading up to June's deadline. We bet it's just a matter of time before passports are required for re-entry into the U.S.A. by land or sea from any country. Still confused? Take a look at these two sites:
Ann Lombardi & Wendy Swartzell
The Trip Chicks
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Seductive Savannah: Quintessential Southern Belle
For a free-spirited all-American getaway, head to seductive Savannah, mystical epitome of the Old South. Serving up heaps of charm & history, this laid-back Georgia “must-see” town quickly casts its magic spell. Start your visit with a stay at one of the Riverfront hotels. The Doubletree, steps away from the City Market & River Street, tempts with its cozy lobby, huge beds (each crowned with five fluffy pillows) & trademark walnut chocolate chip cookies. Be extra nice to cheery Cynthia at the front desk. She just might slip you an extra cookie or two!
TOP TRAVEL TIPS
Call 1-877-SAVANNAH, or check out these websites:
Along Savannah's Riverfront at 1 River Street, pop into the busy Hospitality Center. Marion, the lively “grande dame” of Savannah hospitality, loads up visitors with helpful brochures & regales with insider tales only a local could know.
The Telfair Museum of Art (one the South’s oldest) and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum are Savannah’s gifts to art and history buffs. Tour the beautifully-restored antebellum mansions. The Juliette Gordon Low & Andrew Lowe homes, Owen-Thomas House, & Davenport House are best bets.
Fans of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil have their pick of tours highlighting sites from the famous John Berendt best-selling book. It single-handedly boosted Savannah’s tourism by at least 50%. Visit Bonaventure Cemetery & the Mercer house, where the sister of infamous Jim Williams still resides.
Snap pictures of the live oaks draped with Spanish moss, bustling harbor, horse-drawn carriages, & friendly locals with endearing Savannah drawls. Really MAH-vuh-lus! The town boasts native children Johnny Mercer, Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low, writers Conrad Aiken & Flannery O’Connor, Southern cooking diva Paula Deen, & “Life is like a box of chocolates” Forrest Gump! Strike up conversations with Savannah’s gracious residents.
Hop aboard one of Savannah’s free CAT trolleys for an overview of the town. Then buy a trolley ticket on a tourist line (i.e. Gray Line or Old Town Trolley Tours) with live commentary. A one day pass actually covers two full days of trolley rides. Take the 90-minute ride all the way to the end of the route & then backtrack to explore favorite stops. The home-grown tourist bus drivers are very entertaining & well-versed in juicy local lore.
Don’t miss a “Ghost Walk.” Savannah is said to have more haunted houses than any other U.S. city! A handful of companies offer ghostly options each evening. Mr. Shannon Scott, the hunky owner of Sixth Sense (1-866-666-DEAD, or on the web at http://www.sixthsensesavannah.com/), gives spooky adult nightly tours guaranteed to induce a serious case of goosebumps. Catch him now, because he’s rumored to be moving away soon to write his first book.
Dine at famous Savannah restaurants off-peak before crowds hit. Sample delicious home-style fare at Paula Deen’s The Lady & Sons, Mrs.Wilkes’ Dining Room, & Clary’s Cafe. The City Market Cafe, on West Julian Street, makes yummy thin-crust pizza starting at $2 per monster slice. Dive into tasty, affordable seafood at the Shrimp Factory. For a sinful treat, top off dinner with a scrumptious chocolate basket at Garibaldi’s, local Italian eatery. Filled with caramelised berries & ice cream, the divine dessert is a chocolate-lover’s dream come true.
Take the free ferry from the Riverfront. Just show a Savannah hotel room key before boarding the boat for the 15-minute scenic ride to the other side of the river. Wave to huge freighters plying the waters & later book a relaxing Riverboat dinner cruise.
Tour historic First African Baptist Church, the very first black church in America. Peek inside the Catholic Cathedral, St. John the Baptist, & marvel at the wooden Stations of the Cross carved in Bavaria. The stunning stained glass windows were made in Austria. Visit Mickve Israel, the old synagogue founded in 1733 by Portuguese Jewish immigrants to the new colony.
Make fast plans to return to this beguiling Southern belle...Savannah!
The Trip Chicks