Vacation, Unplugged
By Carmen Shirkey (Collins)
Originally posted April 23, 2010

I am addicted to the Internet. I work on the Internet. I play on the Internet. If it weren’t for Twitter and Facebook I would probably have to *gasp* pick up the phone to talk to someone. I’m always on, I’m jacked in, and usually it’s good.

However, I have absolutely no problem – well, almost no problem – giving it all up for the sake of a vacation. No one needs to reach me that bad that I should have to pay for international cell phone minutes. There is no rational need that I can think of that would require anyone to have a laptop on the beach. And enough with the Facebook “place dropping.” We know you’re on vacation, stop spending time rubbing it in our faces on Facebook and get out there and enjoy yourself.

Have we become so reliant on constant connection that we can’t disconnect? Isn’t that what a vacation is supposed to be about?

Now, there’s a place for technology on a vacation. Downloading a map, for example, or checking to see if your flight is on time, read an e-book or maybe even get a guidebook application.

However, I get annoyed quickly when someone in my tour absolutely must take a call. Or check an email over dinner. Not only are they interrupting their own vacation, but mine as well.

I’ve got some sobering news for us, people. We are not as important as our technology makes it seem that we are.

There are numerous studies and statistics that espouse the benefits of letting the mind and body recharge, so I won’t bore you with them here. But what I am saying here is that we all need to let our technology recharge while we let our bodies recharge. Or our battery life is going to catch up to us before we’ve had a chance to do all that we wanted to do.

Life is short. Travel hard.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Best of Vegas

Best of Vegas
By Carmen Shirkey (Collins)
Verizon Central Newsroom Travel Editor
Originally published April 29, 2008

I just returned from my fifth cross-country pilgrimage to Las Vegas, so I’m here to offer you my own personal Best of Las Vegas list.

1. Best Vegas Hotel: I’m partial to Mandalay Bay, and I’ll tell you why. I really enjoy the “beach” complex, with the wave pool and the lazy river. It makes the hot Vegas days a bit more fun. The rooms are big and well-kept. The casino is ventilated and not as smoky as some others. The end-of-the-Strip location means that I’m close to the action, but not in the middle of it and hearing pirate ships fire and volcanoes erupt and drunk people party.

Runner-Up: The Venetian – though its suites are pricey, it’s the best luxury hotel, beating the Bellagio hands-down. *Hint: Ask for a personal refrigerator. They’re free if they’re available, and you can use it to store water, drinks, cheesecake, etc.

2. Best Breakfast: If you’re staying at the Paris Hotel, you’ll have less distance to walk to the best breakfast buffet on the Strip, because that’s where Le Buffet is located. The $14.95 per person breakfast buffet is trés magnifique, serving standard fare (eggs, bacon, etc.) along with fill-your-own crepes. I like mine with raspberry filling topped with chocolate sauce, powdered sugar and almond slices.

3. Best Gambling: Everything on the Strip is about the casino, but the lowest minimum bets and the more generous slot odds can be found downtown on Freemont Street. Admittedly, the hotels here are a bit older and less well-ventilated (smoking is banned everywhere but the casinos) but your chances of winning, or just having a better time losing, are here.

4. Best Free Attraction: The Bellagio fountains cost you nothing, and are the most fabulous freebie on the Strip. Starting at around 3 p.m. and getting more frequent (every 15 minutes) as night falls, the dancing fountains are a delight. Afterwards, make sure to go inside the Bellagio to see the décor and the also-free Bellagio gardens, which change themes with the seasons. *Hint: For a not-so-free, but a birds-eye view of the fountains, head up into the faux Eiffel Tower across the street.

Runner-Up: The Freemont Street Experience. Not only can you gamble for less, but the free light-show above the street runs every half hour at dusk (so times change from season to season, with start times later in summer.)

5. Best Steak: While you can still find prime rib dinners for $7, I can’t vouch for their quality. Be prepared to pay quite a bit more for a good piece of red meat at my favorite – Prime, located in the Bellagio – but every trip to Vegas demands a little splurge. The décor here is masculine brown and blue, but the steak is melt-in-your-mouth, and served with your choice of four tongue-tingling sauces. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a table with a view of the Bellagio fountains.

Runner-Up: Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico, located in the Venetian. Emeril knows how to put the BAM! in his food, and this celebrity-chef eatery is no exception. Make reservations before your trip, otherwise, you’ll risk getting turned away.