Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Free Tours Around the World

I'm not enthusiastic about organized trips that require early morning wake-up times, dictate your every move, and keep you captive on a bus for hours every day, but I do love tours that give an overview of the city.  And the very best tours for a Tightwad Traveler, of course, are the free variety.

You can find a free tour for almost any city you visit, and the good people at the Price of Travel have published a handy list: list of free tours

David and I have taken several of these tours; here is a description of the first one we took in Paris in 2009.
Fountain in the Place St. Michel, the gathering spot for the tour.
If you wear your sturdiest walking shoes and prepare yourself for a pace more suitable for twenty-year-olds than fifty-somethings, you'll love the New Paris free walking tour.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Points Guy's Pointers

Check out The Points Guy's blog today as he gives an overview and valuable details about his recent Chicago Seminars.  If you weren't able to attend the seminars in person, this is the next best thing!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shangri-La? It's Just North of Philly!

Scenes like this border many roads in Bucks County.
It's not named after a famous writer, although Pearl S. Buck did live here, or after the deer you'll see in the protected green spaces lining the road, or even after the bushels of "bucks" it takes to be able to afford a house here.  This idyllic spot in Pennsylvania is called Bucks County after William Penn's home county in England--Buckinghamshire.

But a more accurate name for this place might be Eden.  Forget Mexican beach hotels or Costa Rican mountain resorts; if you want to get away, a much more accessible Shangri-La can be found right here in the United States.

Although just an hour's or so drive from Philadelphia and New York, it might as well be on another continent--it's that far removed from those bustling cities.  Here, nature reigns with Monet-like backdrops of lush greenery with deer loping across the fields, and quaint towns with gingerbread houses hugging the sides of the twisting roads. 
Even the bridges are so narrow that Tom tucked the side view mirror against the car before we started across.  I don't think signs posted a speed limit, but no one was foolish to drive faster than five miles an hour on this bridge crossing the Delaware River.
It is here, where the Delaware River divides Pennsylvania from New Jersey that you finally understand why New Jersey has the moniker, The Garden State.  As difficult as it is to believe gardens exist anywhere in the state when you are on the turnpike approaching Newark, this area adjoining Bucks County makes you a believer in miracles.  It is as lush as Newark is industrial.

This two-county area straddling the river (Bucks County in Pennsylvania and Hunterdon County in New Jersey) is ripe with possibilities for exploration--to name only a few, there are the Doylestown Mercer Museum, a six-story castle housing American artifacts; the eclectic shops and restaurants in the charming little towns of New Hope, PA, and Lambertville, NJ, (Actually, most any town in this area is worthy of your time.); Washington Crossing Historic Park; and tubing trips down the Delaware River.

Two Buttons
For those with a literary bent, the Pearl S. Buck house is a must-see.  And, if you're a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Last American Man and Eat, Pray, Love, to name only two of her books, you will want to visit the store she and her husband opened in Frenchtown, New Jersey.   

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

European Discounts for Seniors

Friends in Benalmadena Pueblo, Spain
Are you a senior who wants to save money on your next trip to Europe?  Seth Kugel, frugal travel writer for The New York Times, will give you a few tips in this article published yesterday, "With Age Comes (Some) Discounts."

Kugel says, "Most of the countries that responded to my survey claimed that discounts are frequently given at theaters, cinemas and tourist attractions to those aged 60 or 65 and over."  He goes on to list countries that recognize age with reduced public transportation fares or reduced admissions, and he gives two websites with information geared to the older traveler.  

Getting a discounted price in countries that have never heard of AARP is helpful, but I think it's also valuable to plan a trip that will save you money every step of the way.  My book, Europe on a Dime:  Five-Star Travel on a One-Star Budget, is geared to the baby boomer, and it shows how to travel in style for less than $98 per person per day! 

Use Kugel's article and my book to plan your next frugal visit to Europe.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cheap Sleeps

Fort Payne, Alabama
Want a room for less than $55 a night?  Then look for those old motels with names like Dew Drop Inn or Three Roses Bed and Breakfast.

I wrote about these colorful accommodations a few weeks ago, and now Seth Kugel, frugal travel writer for The New York Times, has discovered them, too. On a recent trip through the heartland of America, he enjoyed staying at these roadside motels, the mom and pop places that have sometimes been in the same family for fifty years.

He found that, "... the old roadside motel has gotten an upgrade. Though they are still decidedly one-star, my experience indicated travelers can expect flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi and beds that are perfectly comfortable."

I'm sure he'd agree with me that most of these places also have character, a trait missing in most of today's motel chains.

If you'd like more details about Kugel's experiences and information about how to find these places, read Kugel's article, "Finding the Right Roadside Rooms," here.   Check my blog post for additional resources.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mexico Is Land of Opportunity

English Library Courtyard in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
An article by Damien Cave in The New York Times yesterday detailed the changes in Mexico that are making it more attractive to big business and expatriates from the United States, Canada, and Europe.

In "For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico," Cave says that not only is Mexico appealing because it offers cheaper industrial costs and lower wages, it is also attractive because of its creative opportunities.

My three-story house in Ajijic with pool and two-story casita (not visible) for $550 a month.
As Cave states, "Europe, dying; Mexico, coming to life. The United States, closed and materialistic; Mexico, open and creative. Perceptions are what drive migration worldwide, and in interviews with dozens of new arrivals to Mexico City — including architects, artists and entrepreneurs — it became clear that the country’s attractiveness extended beyond economics."

My living room which is the first floor of the three-story house pictured above.
Of course, Mexico has long been a destination for retirees looking for a cheaper, simpler, and culturally diverse retirement destination.

For more information on how to make a move to Mexico, see my book, Retire in Mexico--Live Better for Less Money. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Credit Card Bonuses - Two Questions

Two posts ago, I wrote about earning free flights by using your money, and your credit cards, wisely.

A couple questions that arise are, How do I meet the minimum spending requirements so I earn all those credit card sign-up bonus points?  And, after I've met the spending requirement, should the credit card be cancelled so I don't have to pay the yearly fee?

The Points Guy blog has answers to both questions.  To find ways to meet those spending requirements click here.  To determine whether it's in your best interest to cancel the credit card or pay the yearly fee, click here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Food for Thought

Would you rather explore this Ajijic, Mexico, market or consult your smart phone?

Jonathan Look says, "Comfort is sacrifice – Ultimately, everything comes down to balance. It is impossible to enjoy the full beauty of a hike from your easy chair. You can try but you can’t get the true street food experience from your dining room table. Cruise ships require shorelines. All-inclusive resorts isolate you from the locals. A homogenized 5 Star hotel in one place is at least 80% the same as a homogenized 5 Star hotel in any other place. If you really want to see and learn about a place you probably need to give up some comfort instead of sacrificing your experience."

Look, a man trying to experience the world by living in ten different places for a year at a time, lists his thoughts about seeing the world involving sacrifice in his post entitled, "Top Five Observations from My Two Years of Minimalist Travel."  To read the rest of his observations, click here.

Frank Bruni also talked this week, in The New York Times, about how frequently travelers cocoon themselves in the comfortable familiarity of "home," even when they're thousands of miles away in an exotic locale.  With our technology, he suggests, we can insulate ourselves from everything around us.  He says:

     "I’m talking about our hard drives, our wired ways, 'the cloud' and all of that. I’m talking about our unprecedented ability to tote around and dwell in a snugly tailored reality of our own creation, a monochromatic gallery of our own curation.
     "This coddling involves more than earphones, touch pads, palm-sized screens and gigabytes of memory. It’s a function of how so many of us use this technology and how we let it use us. We tune out by tucking ourselves into virtual enclaves in which our ingrained tastes are mirrored and our established opinions reflected back at us."

To read Bruni's complete article, "Traveling Without Seeing," click here

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Free Flights!

The Louvre
How would you like to fly to Paris to take in the sights, and then go on to Florence, Italy, for several days before exploring Spain's sunny Costa del Sol coast?  How about taking that trip in business class with room to stretch your legs and all the warm almonds and cookies you can eat?  And what if you could do all that flying for free?

You can!

And Rick Ingersoll, the Frugal Travel Guy blogger, wants to show you how.
Street in Malaga, Spain.
A couple weeks ago, the Nightline segment about Rick was re-broadcast on the Wednesday night show, The Lookout, (Click here to see the short film.) and I was reminded again how easy it is to get free flights.

I've written about this before in "Fly to Europe for Free (Almost)," but now, two and a half years later, Rick Ingersoll and I are not the only ones helping people reach their fly-for-free goals.

This post will give you the basics of the flying-free philosophy and supply many resources to help you.   Bear in mind this is simply an overview (Though a darned good one!) to help you get started and give you ideas.   Some people devote their entire lives to this endeavor, so you will want to consult their websites which are noted throughout this post.  Truly, although you may never be a multi-millionaire, you can travel as though you are!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happiness Is Hotwire

Renting cars in France allows us to stop at lovely picnic spots like this one.
I love Hotwire!  For my trip to North Carolina in September (Click here to read about the flights that cost $458 instead of $844.), I'll be renting a car from Alamo for $12.95 a day and staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, a three-star property, for $50.00 a night.

While this is an opaque site (You do not know the company providing your service until you've paid, but you are told the star number or rating before you buy.), I've been using it for years and never been disappointed with the service.  I always check to make sure Hotwire is giving me the cheapest price possible, and I always find it to be half to one-third the price I find on any other site.

Hotwire was started in 2000 by six airline companies anxious to sell their extra seats.  It's expanded to offering hotel and vacation package reservations and car rentals. If you've never heard of them before, give them a try when you're doing your comparison shopping.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Free City Guides

View of Montmarte from a window in the Musée D'Orsay.
Want a lightweight, three-page city guide to help you find the cheapest eats, the best attractions, climate information, embassy locations, and transportation suggestions? 

Hostelworld has just the thing.  They list more than ninety free pocket guides for cities around the world. 

Download and print the guides (They're all PDF files.) from your computer before leaving home.  Tucking these into your pack, pocket or purse won't weigh you down.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

One-Ways Cheaper than Multi-City Flights

In September, I'll be visiting family in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, spending three nights in each state.  When I priced the tickets in June, I used two different approaches.

The multi-city flight, using ITA Software, with one round-trip ticket (Tucson to Raleigh to Philadelphia and back to Tucson) would have cost $821.50.  Since ITA Software gives the prices for many airlines, I also checked the same round-trip ticket with the same multi-city routing and dates on an individual airline site--American Airlines.  American Airlines gave me a figure of $844.40.

Next, I priced each segment as a one-way and found an amazing price difference.  Three separate tickets cost the following: $159.80 on American Airlines for the Tucson to Raleigh flight and another $159.80 for the  Philadelphia to Tucson flight.  I also paid $138.90 for the Raleigh to Philadelphia flight using Delta Airlines.  (The price for the RDU to PHL route was prohibitively expensive on American Airlines, but fairly reasonable on Delta.  Since I was buying one-way tickets, it was easy to shop around for the best price for that segment.)

The total for my three one-way flights is $458.50 which is an astonishing $363.00 cheaper than the cheapest multi-city round-trip flight ITA was able to find.

I don't know if it is consistently cheaper to book one-way flights instead of a multi-city round-trip ticket, but I will always spend a few extra minutes to find out.  

Practicalities -

If you haven't used ITA Software yet, be sure to give it a try the next time you book a flight.  While you can't actually purchase tickets on the site, it gives more information about options than any other site I know.  You almost feel like a travel agent with all this information at your fingertips!

Note, too, that you can use ITA to find the best price on upcoming flights.  For example, I just priced a flight from Raleigh to New York (JFK) in November and found prices ranging from $183 (mid-month) to $277 (beginning of the month and around Thanksgiving).  When your dates are flexible, using this software is an easy way to find the cheapest time to fly.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Alcatraz and Other Goodies

Approaching Alcatraz
Click here for lots of free stuff on the Open Culture website.  You can get e-books, movies, textbooks, college courses, foreign language tutoring for that next European vacation, as well as historical tidbits. 
"...break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz."
Right now, on the first page of the site, there's a 1946 Alcatraz Prison menu for a week's meals.  Experts said this was an impossible prison from which to escape because the frigid waters surrounding the island would kill any escapee within an hour.  
When the prison was occupied, a mattress would have been squeezed into the wooden planks on the right of the cell.
Still, if you had to be stuck there in one of the tiny cells, you would eat well. Meat croquettes with bechamel sauce for dinner, anyone?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Unique Budget Lodging

No, this is not what I have in mind!
I wrote this article in 2009, but David's and my trip through northern Arizona made me realize it's still just as relevant today.  Especially along the Mother Road, Route 66, unique and inexpensive motels abound, but these lodgings are also waiting to welcome you along America's other byways.
The Desert Sun looks inviting.
If you're looking for something special at a price that's usually half that of chain motels, be sure to look for these mom and pop places.  Here's the 2009 article.              
About five years ago, I traveled across country staying at some of the cheapest and most interesting motels in the United States. These are the small-town, forgotten motels with names like the Dew Drop Inn or the Wigwam; the ones that were on a major highway before the Interstate system bypassed them. Here you will find unique floor plans and, sometimes, astonishing color schemes. I'll never forget the place in Kansas with a grass-green bedroom and a Pepto Bismol-pink tiled bathroom! But, regardless of the décor, one consistent feature of all these motels is price. They are 50 to 75% cheaper than their counterparts on the Interstate.
Or how about spending a night at Earl's?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Travel Bottles for Tightwads

Brincatti travel bottles were recently advertised on Johnny Jet's newsletter.  And Johnny says that 2,300 kits sold in five minutes on QVC.

The Brincatti site emphasizes the ease of filling the wide-mouth containers but doesn't say anything about whether they are leak-proof.

I suppose if you have a burning desire to spend $9.99 plus shipping, you, too, could have a trio of those three-ounce bottles that may or may not be leakproof, or you could get your bottles the Tightwad Way.  The bottles I use are absolutely leak-proof (I've road-tested them all over the world.) and, best of all, they are free!

Next time you visit the drugstore where you have your prescriptions filled, ask the clerk for some of their smallest (three ounce) liquid medicine bottles.  I always offer to pay but have always been given the bottles free of charge.  These are evidently TSA approved because I have consistently carried them in my 3-1-1 quart-size carry-on and never been questioned.

I also pack the much larger liquid medicine bottles in my checked luggage for longer trips.  These have also been graciously given to me by the pharmacy.  I label the bottles with a black magic marker.

For spray bottles, I buy the little trial size/travel size hairspray bottles available in any big box store for 99 cents, dump out the contents, and fill with my own chosen hairspray.

Awesome Arizona - Honest!

I finished high school and graduated from college in Indiana, and that experience convinced me that some states have less to offer than others.  While there are wonderful people living in Indiana and other salt of the earth folks who would not live anywhere else, Indiana doesn't have much to offer topographically speaking.

It's mostly as flat as the computer screen in front of you with a few rolling hills in the southern part of the state and a few rolling sand dunes bordering Lake Michigan to the north.  That's it.  The vast middle of the state is a flat computer screen of farmland with a tree every twenty miles or so to break the monotony.  (It doesn't.)

Arizona, on the other hand, has something to intrigue everywhere you look.  In the northern part of the state are a natural wonder of the world, ancient Native American civilizations, canyons, mountains, lakes, slot canyons, and London Bridge (Really.  London Bridge was moved to Lake Havasu City.)
This is a charming mountain town with bouquets of flowers decorating the town's lampposts.
The middle of the state has the most biodiverse desert in the world with whole forests of the rare saguaro cactus while just a couple hours away are pine forests and soaring mountains.

In southern Arizona you'll find a ski lift (Mt Lemmon boasts the southernmost skiing in the USA.); Wyatt Earp's Tombstone, the town too tough to die; the old mining town of Bisbee which recently became the only city in Arizona to sanction gay marriage, and Kartchner Caverns, one of the few "living" caves in the world.

 And that's just a partial list.

So, come on over.  Do yourself a favor and visit Arizona.  How can you resist a state with towns named Show Low, Snowflake, and Strawberry?  And that's just the S's!

Awesome Arizona - Hopi Reservation

Hopi are surrounded by Navajo.
On National Public Radio (NPR) the other day, the announcer said that the Hopi Reservation was suing the Navajo Nation because the Hopi were being prevented from crossing Navajo property to reach their sacred lands.  It's no wonder the Hopi are frustrated.  Their entire reservation in Arizona is completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation.

Relations between these two tribes have never been particularly friendly, but you won't see signs of that discord when visiting the Reservation.  The proud Hopi have maintained their traditions and culture for hundreds of years, and they happily share it with visitors.

Their one request is that no one take photographs.  They want people to appreciate their culture first-hand, not through a camera lens.  David and I chafed at that restriction at first, but we discovered that not having to worry about taking the perfect shot allowed us to experience fully the places we were seeing without any distractions.  

The road leading from Winslow to the Reservation is, once again in this northeastern corner of Arizona, just a sliver of tarmac crossing a barren land.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Winslow's Saving Grace

I've been in a Motel 6 so bare-bones that I wish they hadn't left the light on for me, endured fifteen hours in a Calais, France, room so miniscule that David and I had to take turns walking, and suffered through a rainy night in a London basement accommodation where the dozen pigeons cooing outside the window obviously had a much more restful night than David and I.*

But sometimes a hostelry is so special it makes me forget any unpleasant hotel experience I've ever had and makes me wish I could stay there for years instead of a day or two.  Such a place is La Posada--Winslow, Arizona's saving grace.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Awesome Arizona - How to Kill a Town

For sixty years, anyone driving from the middle of the United States to the Southwest or West Coast took this Main Street of America.  Oklahomans fleeing the Dustbowl, Jack Kerouc and the Beat Generation, vacationers intent on seeing the Grand Canyon all traveled on this most famous road in America, one of the original highways the government established in 1927.

When travelers got hungry they stopped for a bite in one of the town diners sprinkled along the route; when they couldn't drive another mile, they stopped for the night at Earl's Motor Court or the Hill Top Motel.  Route 66, the highway John Steinbeck called the Mother Road in The Grapes of Wrath, passed right through the middle of towns across America and helped them prosper.

Winslow, Arizona, was one of them.

The famous corner in Winslow.
The Mother Road, so famous it spawned a TV series called, appropriately enough, Route 66, went right through the heart of Winslow.  Then Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey wrote a song called "Take It Easy," popularized by the Eagles in 1972, and Winslow became not just a place to pass through but a destination.

Well, I'm a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin' down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don't say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me
We may lose and we may win though
we will never be here again
so open up, I'm climbin' in
so take it easy

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Awesome Arizona - How Did I Land on the Moon?

Can you imagine trying to cross this terrain?  No wonder so much of this area is called the Badlands.
In yesterday's post I said that Arizona's topography startles the senses and befuddles the brain, and nowhere is that more apparent than the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert area.  Forget about paying Golden Spike, a space tourism company, $750 million for a round-trip flight to the moon.  In northeastern Arizona, you can feel as though you've made a lunar landing for a measly $10*!  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Awesome Arizona - The Most Wonderful Person You've Never Heard Of

Arizona's topography startles the senses and befuddles the brain.  Are we in North Africa's windswept plains, a village in the Swiss Alps, or on a crater of the moon?  When you drive through this state, the changes and surprises occur every few miles.

Not only is the geography interesting, but the people who were shaped by these lands are fascinating too.  The Navajo (Diné meaning The People) roamed northeastern Arizona for centuries never minding the fierce winds or inhospitable land.  They traded with other Native Americans and relied on nature to provide for all their needs.  This sacred land, given to them by their forefathers, was all they required to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives.

Despite Spain's invasion in the 16th century that brought many challenges, it wasn't until the United States took possession of this area in 1846 that the trouble for the Navajo truly began. 

Pioneers, lured by the vague promise of gold in the mountains, were assured by US generals that they would be safe from the Navajo.  That promise led to heartache.  Under the leadership of Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson, the Navajo's crops were burned, their livestock killed, and their women and children massacred.  While many Diné were able to evade capture, the prospect of starvation during a particularly cold winter led them eventually to surrender.

They thought the worst was behind them, but it had only just begun when more than 8,000 Navajos were forced to march over 300 miles.  The torture didn't end when they reached their destination because "The Long Walk" took them to a virtual prison in central New Mexico called Fort Sumner where inadequate food, disease, and intemperate weather further reduced their numbers over the years.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Canyon De Chelly

The circles you see in the foreground are caused by ant colonies.

This valley, considered sacred by the Navajo, has been occupied for 5,000 years; settlers have left their mark in various ways.

The first residents left no permanent homes, but their "stories" are etched on the canyon walls in petroglyphs.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Four Corners Monument

Forget any ideas you had about spending eternity at the Four Corners Monument. 
You can't miss this sign at the welcome building where you pay your entrance fee.
Actually, you probably won't want to spend more than an hour here. 

Although it's certainly unique to have the corners of four states, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, converge in one place, there's little to do at the site after you finish watching people manipulate their bodies trying to simultaneously place a limb in each state for a photograph. 

The site itself is barren with only a portajohn type bathroom to break the monotony.  

There are, of course, the ubiquitous stands selling Navajo arts and crafts in each state ringing the monument, and I suppose you could tell people you were exhausted from shopping in four states in thirty minutes, but that's about as much excitement as you'll find. 

Practicalities -

It costs $3 per person to enter the monument. 

Many of the arts and crafts were some of the best we saw during the trip.  This is a good place to buy because only Native Americans can exhibit their wares, and all of it must be made by the artisans themselves.  Nothing here was made in China.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Just Meandering

What looks like a giant sand painting is just a few miles from Mexican Hat. 
As awe-inspiring as the land is in Arizona, I think Utah's scenery may be just as jaw-dropping.  Although David and I didn't have time to explore the many places on our must-see list, the Valley of the Gods, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Zion, we were impressed just driving along Utah's roads.

We kept expecting to be charged admission because we could not believe such startling beauty could exist for free without someone putting a fence around it and trying to make a profit.  But, so far, this topography can be yours for the looking. 
This is the view 1000 feet down at Gooseneck State Park.  Admission is free but the view is worth a million!  In one and a half miles of space, over six miles (If you could straighten the river out) of San Juan River flow in what geologists call entrenched meanders.  It took nature millions of years to create this wonder, but it will only take you a half hour to drive there from Monument Valley

Monday, July 1, 2013

Awesome Arizona - The Day Jesus Disappeared at Monument Valley

the left "mitten"
Our guide, Gary, pointed to the rock wall and asked if we could see Jesus' face.  We had been studying the formations in Monument Valley for the last two hours--imagining the nun teaching two pupils, seeing the elephant kneeling in a butte, finding the rock shaped exactly like a thumb, and being impressed by the giant's mittens, one for the left hand and one for the right--so it wasn't difficult to envision Jesus among the rock layers.  Sure, there He was.  Right in front of us.

But, no sooner did we spot Him than He disappeared.  With a rumble and a cloud of dust, Jesus was gone.  In the space of twenty seconds.  Just like....that.

There's no need to worry though.

In this valley considered sacred by the Navajo, even though His likeness may have disappeared, Jesus lives just as surely as God, Buddha, Allah, and Yahweh.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Awesome Arizona - What Will You Do for Me, Xanterra?

A cute Southwestern lamp decorates the Maswik Lodge room nightstand.
Dear Xanterra,

You do a fine job running all the lodges, concessions, and restaurants at the Grand Canyon.  Your employees answer every question with a smile, service is excellent, the food is reasonably priced and reasonably good, and the beds are comfy.  David and I are impressed that you do all this so well while making every effort to have your guests conserve natural resources.

We know you're big on saving natural resources because there were signs everywhere telling us how to do that.  At every turn and in every corner was a reminder that the world's resources were in our hands.

And, believe me, we took that responsibility seriously.

You asked us to save energy and water by re-using our towels.  We hung them up every day.  But we just couldn't bring ourselves to follow your other request.  You wanted us to tell the housekeeping staff not to make our beds.  But, gosh, Xanterra, we were on vacation, after all.  We wanted one tiny luxury.  We thought maybe you were going a little too far on that one.

No lotion or shampoo found their way into our suitcases when we left.  And don't think that was because the shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap were mounted on the wall in dispensers.  We could've emptied some of that stuff into plastic bags if we'd wanted to.  If we'd been energy fools. Which we're not.

And when I needed a shower cap, you kindly gave me one at the front desk.  So what if I had to walk several hundred yards from our room in the Aspen building to the Maswik Lodge lobby to get it.  It was my energy I was expending, not the world's.  (You even let me keep the plastic shower cap.)

When we needed to make some notes, we didn't even look for the pen and note pad that weren't in our room.  We dug deep in the briefcase instead to fish out an old napkin to write on.  It worked just fine.
our table/desk

But our contributions didn't end there.  When we ate in the cafeteria, you asked us not to use a straw.  Wow, that was a tough one, and I've got to confess that David did better at that than I did.  But when I read the sign you posted on the table about the schoolbus being full of straws from one day's use, I tried to tough it out.

We're hoping the utility fee for the lights and air conditioning which we gave you every time we ate at Maswik Cafeteria helped compensate for my profligate straw use.  We didn't even know it was legal to charge an additional fee for lights we needed so we could see what we were eating, but, there you are.  The charge was on every receipt, so I guess you know what you're doing.  Sure surprised us though.  We just hope it helped make up for the two straws I used.

But, all in all, we felt pretty good about the energy we didn't use while we visited the Grand Canyon.  The only thing that bothered us was that you kept asking us to make sacrifices, but  y o u  never asked what you could do for us to help us conserve the world's resources, too, in our daily lives.

So, David and I tackled that issue and think we have an idea for you.  We'd like to see you lower the rate of the $176 plus tax room at the Maswik Lodge North, the rooms you say are refurbished. (Did you do more than add air conditioning 'cause the rooms are really pretty small and not luxurious at all and really look just like the rooms at the $97-a-night Maswik South?) We think you might want to consider lowering the price.

What would happen if you reduced the price to a far more reasonable and realistic $80 per night?  Think of the energy people could conserve by not having to work so hard to pay for their hotel room.  They could drive fewer miles, use far less gas, and spend lots less money on lattes and lunches to earn the dollars needed for a night at Maswik.

Truly, this idea could revolutionize the world, to say nothing of the hotel industry.  And just think about all those schoolbuses filled with extra cash!  Extra cash that represents untold quantities of saved natural resources.  Yep, we think it's an idea whose time has come.


Dru & David