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Deborah Murphy answered the question <p>What is the most affordable hotel closest to Walt Disney World in Orlando?</p>

Disney has four Value Resorts which, considering the extra perks you get by staying on Disney property, can be genuinely good value. Those resorts are: Pop Century, All Star Movies, All Star Music and All Star Sports. These hotels sleep 4 people plus a child under 3 in the standard rooms. The rooms are not very big but if you're just using the room to sleep and get ready for your theme park trips, they're fine! All Star Music offers something extra - for the last few years they've offered family suites which are essentially the size of two standard rooms and they sleep 6 plus a child under 3. They are approximately double the price of the standard rooms per night. They have kitchenettes and a living area too. The newest of the four is Pop Century, and it also tends to get the best reviews of the four.

The theming is really fun at the value resorts with fantastic over-sized Buzz and Woody structures in All Star Movies and similarly huge iconic effects at the other Value resorts.

There are plenty more hotels that are not owned by Disney. In fact, there are 7 hotels in the Lake Buena Vista area near Downtown Disney which are still officially on Disney's property but are owned and operated by private hotel chains. Of those hotels, I would recommend the Royal Plaza which is a high-rise hotel that's really popular. It's very close to Downtown Disney and the standard rooms sleep 5. Kids eat free at breakfast. If you'd like kitchen and living-room facilities the Hilton Doubletree Guest Suites are also in the Downtown Disney area and their suites sleep up to 6 people. Although they're on Disney's property, you are not entitled to Disney perks if you stay at them but they're fantastic and very popular.

April 23, 2011
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Lamalb L. answered the question <p>In London, where do locals go for fish and chips?</p>


Here are two of my favorite places for fish and chips in London:

The Golden Fish Bar (102 Farringdon Road, Tube Station: Farringdon or Angel). This restaurant and takeaway fish and chips shop has been in business for 150 years and is still popular, and can be very crowded during lunch time.

Fish Bone (82 Cleveland Street, Tube Station: Great Portland Street) is another popular place where you can have traditional fish and chips. The fish served here is cooked to order and fried in groundnut oil. The chips are hand-cut. You can get your
meal wrapped and take it to nearby Regent's Park to enjoy.

 

 

April 11, 2011
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Lamalb L. answered the question What are some annual festivals/events that can't be missed in or around London?

There are a number of events that take place in London all throughout the year, but some of the most unique and exciting ones are:

State Opening of Parliament: This annual ceremony is performed at the start of the new parliamentary year which usually falls between October and December, soon after a general election. Several horse-drawn carriages are used to take the symbols of sovereignty from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster (commonly called the Houses of Parliament). The Queen rides her state coach down The Mall to Parliament Square. She then enters the House of Lords to read the government’s speech.

Notting Hill Carnival: This two day carnival, Europe’s largest street festival, was initiated by London's immigration population from the Caribbean and is based on the Trinidad Carnival. This yearly celebration takes place on the last weekend of August on the Sunday and Monday. The first day of the carnival is traditionally Children's Day, with the parade and events aimed at the whole family. The second day is for all ages to dance in the streets and enjoy live bands. The parade floats keep moving through the streets till 9pm.


Remembrance Sunday: This event is held in the memory of the heroes and victims of the First and Second World Wars. The event takes place on the nearest Sunday to 11th November at Cenotaph Whitehall. Remembrance Day features a full formal parade of Royal Family members joined by former and current service men and women.

Chelsea Flower Show: If you are a nature lover, you wouldn't want to miss the annual Chelsea Flower Show held in the month of May. The event is Organized by the Royal Horticultural Society and held at Chelsea Royal Hospital's Ranelagh Gardens. In addition to simply stunning gardens, many designed by star garden designers, there are also many live music performances, a picnic area, and of course plenty of people watching as the show is an important social occasion that over 150,000 visitors attend annually. You must book tickets well in advance, and tickets are for a specific day and time. Do note that babies and children under 5 are not admitted.

 

 

April 11, 2011
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Deborah Murphy answered the question <p>When should I go to Dublin if I want good weather but also want to avoid crowds of tourists?</p>

The best times to avoid the larger crowds and (hopefully!) get good weather would be around late April or throughout May. But it's important to keep in mind that we get a lot of rain here in Ireland and the weather is so unpredictable, it's crazy!

October to March inclusive are usually very cold with lots of dull weather and snow and ice (and treacherous road conditions) in much of December and January. Summer time (June to August) can be muggy with grey/white skies. Then again, we sometimes have glorious summers. But, in general, April and May have a lot of fine days with blue skies and crisp mild breezes.

Daylight savings begins in Ireland on the last Saturday of March so it's bright until 8pm at the earliest. Therefore in April or May you have a high chance of good weather, low crowds and nice evenings.

April 06, 2011
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Hilary Stockton answered the question What are the best, kid-friendly restaurants in Orlando (not inside parks)?

Our recently posted Orlando family travel guide offers a couple kid-friendly recommendations: "Two great restaurants for buffet-style dining are Sweet Tomatoes on Colonial Drive and The Golden Corral on International Drive. Sweet Tomatoes offers plenty of healthy options like soup, vegetables and a fantastic range of salads, while Golden Corral has everything from seafood to burgers, all at reasonable prices."

April 05, 2011
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Deborah Murphy answered the question <p>What is the best time of year to go to London in terms of good weather and fewer crowds?</p>

I've been to London a lot and I've been surprisingly lucky with the weather. But, in general, England sees a lot of rain and very cold winters with snow and ice. I would say you're very likely to get bad weather (ice, snow, cold, rain) from late October right through to late March.

Often the months of April and May can be beautiful with crisp light breezes and blue skies. Of course there's no guarantee but in my own experience there's a high likelihood of pleasant weather at that time. Also April and May are 'off peak' so you should have no problem getting into museums are joining lines in the big attractions. London is never quiet but you're right to plan it in such a way that you maximize good weather with lower crowds.

Summer time can be quite humid with grey skies and clammy heat and, of course, the dreaded crowds! There is really no telling what kind of weather you can get in summer - everything from glorious sunshine to pouring rain.

So, yes, I would aim for April or May. Good luck :)

April 05, 2011
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Deborah Murphy answered the question <p>Is a budget of about $40/day enough for lunch and dinner in Venice?</p>

It's doable! $40 is approximately 28 euro so it's not a huge budget but the important thing is to plan ahead. If you just go somewhere that you're passing by, most likely you'll blow your budget in one meal, never mind two. But, if you like pizza there are quite a few pizza places to choose from in Venice. You would think that pizza in Venice would be beautiful but, sadly, that's not what we experienced. Other parts of Italy (Tuscany, Florence and Pisa) we found the pizza to be mouth-wateringly beautiful (!) in all places  but not in Venice. But all is not lost! There's a fabulous little place called Arte della Pizza and it's located in Calle dell'Aseo, 1896 Cannaregio. It's closed all day Monday. From memory, you can get a really big slice of pizza for under 2 euro and a whole pizza for around 6/7 euro. It's gorgeous!! Keep in mind it closes at 9pm. There are other similar places dotted around too so lunch will not be an issue at all I think.

For dinner there's a gorgeous little family restaurant called Trattoria Alle Due Gondolette. It's a bit off the beaten track. They serve pasta, risotto, pizza, etc. They serve hearty food that will fill you up. As far as I remember they do specials. It was around 13 euro for a main course and coffee (or a glass of wine). Be careful with the drinks menu - they have some expensive drinks. The address is Fondamenta delle Cappuccine, 3016 Cannaregio - it's located right next to the canal. They close in the evenings so it's only suitable for lunch.

There's a nice place too with lots of cheap (and good) food called Al Vecio Pozzo and it's in Santa Croce, 656. The locals like to eat there and in my opinion, anywhere locals go is a very safe bet!

Another good option actually is to have your main big meal at lunch time and your lunch at dinner time! You'll find a lot of specials on the menu at around 12.30.

If you're not too fussy and provided you don't wander into the first place off the street (or anywhere too near St. Mark's Square) you can definitely do it on $40 a day.

April 05, 2011
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Petra H. answered the question <p>What's a great and cheap place to stay in Venice, not too far from everything?</p>

 It is difficult to find very cheap accommodation in the centre of Venice, which is a very expensive city to stay in. You should definitely book well in advance to secure a good rate.

One of the cheapest options is Residenza Santa Croce, located across from the railway station, about a 30-40 minute walk to St. Mark’s Square or about 20 minutes by water taxi. Rates range from $40-47/night for a bed in a 4-bed or 6-bed coed dorm, to $60-80 for a private room.

A better option if you can afford 60 Euros is the Ai Tagliapietra B&B, just a 5 minute walk from St. Mark’s Square and 10 minutes from the Rialto Bridge. A single room is 60 Euros, or, if there are two of you, you can book a double room for 75-95 Euros depending on whether you are traveling in the low or high season. Rate includes complimentary continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi.

Another option is the Hotel Villa Dori (Via Colombara 213, 30030 Marghera). It is in Marghera, not the city center, but the historical heart of Venice is only 15 minutes using the hotel’s shuttle service, or by bus number 53. The bus stop is only 200 metres far from the hotel. The bus 53 can also get you to the Riviera del Brenta (only 1 minute far) or to the famous St. Mark's square and the Rialto bridge.
The interior of the hotel is in quite elegant Venetian style, although do note this is a 3-star hotel so manage your expectations accordingly. The price is about 50 Euros for 1 room with 2 beds. Each room has a private bathroom. Breakfast is not included in the price.

There is the International Youth Hostel Venice (Ostello Venezia) located on the island of Giudecca, 10-15 minutes by watertaxi to Saint Mark´s square. The price is around $30 Euros per person, in single sex large 16-bed dorms. Given how large the dorms are and that many school and other groups stay here, it could be quite noisy and not a good option if you’re not a sound sleeper.

April 04, 2011
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Greg James answered the question <p>What are some great places to stay in San Francisco for less than $30 a night?</p>

$30/night is a *very* tight budget for San Francisco, but it happens to be just enough to stay at a couple of great hostels:

 Pacific Tradewinds is a backpacker hostel with a super friendly staff, very clean guest kitchen, common areas and 8-bed dorms with linen included, and free Wi-Fi. Best of all it's conveniently located in downtown San Francisco at 680 Sacramento Street, near Chinatown and North Beach.

USA Hostels San Francisco, a hostel at 411 Post Street, offers comfortable 4-bed dorms ($28/person with shared bath, $30/person for ensuite bathroom, includes linen), free Wi-Fi, free all you can make pancakes/oatmeal, and even a 45-seat theater that screens movies.

April 03, 2011
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Deborah Murphy answered the question <p>Are there any lodging options for less than $30 in London and are they kid-friendly (as most hostels don't accept children)?</p>

I really don't think you'll find anything for $30 a night, unless you mean per person. London is an expensive city though naturally there are places where you can find good value. For a family of 4 in a 3 star hotel expect to pay at least $110/$120 dollars per night (around 75 British pounds). There are hotel chains that have some good offers these days, for example Jurys Inn, Premier Inn, Travel Lodge and Days Inn - they usually charge for the room and not for each person. Often breakfast is not included. But they would all be around the $110 mark at least. All those chains have numerous branches around London and often in great locations, close to The Underground (subway) and bus stops.

There are some hostels that do accept children but as they charge per person it's unlikely that you would save money by choosing one of them. Their rates range from around £15-£30 ($25-$50) per person per night. Alternatively, book a private room in a hostel, for example Clink Hostel.

Another good option is to rent an apartment or house which would save you money on food if you were willing to cook some days!! Check out HomeAway Expect to pay at least £300 ($480) per week for the cheapest one.

April 01, 2011
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Petra H. answered the question <p>In Athens, how much should I budget daily for food, including breakfast, light lunch and dinner (with wine and dessert)?</p>

Plan on ~18-25 Euros per day. It of course depends on the kind of food you prefer, but I would advise you to try Greek cuisine it is delicious! For sure visit any Greek bakery in the morning. There are many, on every corner. You can buy tyropita (cheese pie- inside is feta cheese), spanakopita, or bougatsa (if you like a sweet pie). Each pie costs around 1-2 Euros. Also you can drink a frappe (typical greek ice coffee) which also costs around 1-2 Euros. 


For lunch I would suggest salad. In Goodys restaurants you can have a very tasty Caesar salad for 4-5 Euros, or you can order a Greek salad in any Greek restaurant also for about 5 Euros. If you prefer a fresh sandwich, cafes such as Everest offer them for about 4 Euros. 


For the evening, try souvlaki (pita bread, fried potatoes, vegetable, chicken) with gyro meat or skewer. Souvlaki costs normally 2 Euros. Or, you can order fish or any other Greek food (moussaka for example) for 10 Euros. 


Dessert might be around 4 Euros, wine might be 3 Euros, but it depends on the restaurant. There are restaurants where you buy beer for 2 Euros and restaurants where beer costs 5 Euros.

April 01, 2011
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Deborah Murphy answered the question <p>How easy is it to get a shuttle or other transport to the amusement parks in Orlando if you don't have a car, and how much do they cost?</p>

It depends on where you stay. Many hotels within a few miles of the Disney and Universal theme parks provide a free bus shuttle to and from the parks. Usually if you look up the hotel's website it will tell you if that service is on offer. Some of the hotels in the Downtown Disney / Lake Beuna Vista area actually share a shuttle service. This is great except it could mean you'll have a long wait while the bus picks people from from various hotels.

Taxis are plentiful in Orlando but can be very expensive.

The public transport system in Orlando is operated by Lynx (www.golynx.com) and they do have some routes that go into Disney's vast property. Have a look at the schedules and maps section of their website and some of them might be going near the hotel you're interested in staying in. But keep in mind that Disney World is huge (46 square miles) so getting onto Disney property is not enough. You need to plan your journey well and ensure that you get to (or at least near) your exact destination. Also keep in mind that the exhaustion you will feel after a day at a theme park is like no other tiredness you'll experience - it's common to see people falling asleep on the Disney buses! So you won't want to wait around for ages to get on a public bus and even transfer to different routes!

All Disney theme park guests are entitled to use Disney's transportation system which runs continuously from all its resorts to all the theme parks and from the resorts to Downtown Disney. So that's another option perhaps for covering one leg of your journey.

I would say though, the bottom line is, if you're not hiring a car in Orlando then it is absolutely vital that you carefully select your hotel based on its proximity to WDW / Universal and also based on whether it provides free shuttles or not.

Hope that helped. :)

March 30, 2011