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

Paying for Travel

Paying for Travel
By Carmen Shirkey (Collins)
Verizon Central Newsroom Travel Editor
Originally published June 26, 2008

I often get asked how it is that I can afford to travel so frequently. In this day of a rough economy and gas prices through the roof, it’s not easy.

If travel is a priority for you, then you need to make an effort to save. Pass up that “designer” coffee and put that $3 in a coffee can instead. Get a change sorter and put all your lose change aside – quarters add up quickly! There are lots of little saving tips, and the money doesn’t sound like a lot at first, but in a year, you’ll have enough to really start planning a trip.

However, no matter how much money you save, you’ll want to make each dollar go further. I’m constantly on the search for a great deal, and I usually find them. Here’s how I do it.

I sign up for an email account that I designate as my “spam” account, because it’s the address I’m going to use for giving out to Web sites. Then, I go out and sign up for email newsletters and alerts.

Which airline do you fly most often, or which ones fly out of your local airport? Go to the Web sites for each one and sign up for their fare alerts. This will only get you so far, because often the fares are last-minute, but if you can literally fly by the seat of your pants, you’ll benefit here.

Then decide where you want to go.

The big travel consolidator Web sites, Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity all have some kind of fare-watcher functionality. You enter your home airport, and the sites will send you alerts on fares from that airport to the destinations you designate. There are also options to get notified when fares reach a certain point (that you’ve indicated.) This is a great way to find out when that Vegas airfare goes on sale.

If you have a specific destination in mind, like the Caribbean or Europe, find Websites that specialize in that area. I think is fantastic for package deals – often you can find a package with hotel and airfare that’s less than airfare on its own. For Europe, I’ve signed up for’s newsletter, and I also like

Here’s where the smart travel brain cell kicks in. If you see a deal on one site, chances are, another site will have the same offer. One site may offer a shopping pass for local retailers, or a 2-for-1 dinner offer that another site might not have. Who is offering travel insurance for the least amount? Are the taxes and fees included in one and not another?

Part of the fun of planning a trip is just that, the planning. With a little know-how, you could be on your way to the trip of your dreams for less than you thought.

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