Sport stadiums and arenas often serve at least fair to middling cuisine at stadium restaurants and/or concession stands. The trouble is, vending contracts with the owners of the stadium or arena often allow them to charge confiscatory prices. For example, at Richmond's Diamond (where the minor league Richmond Braves play), a simple soft drink costs $3.50. Folks, that dog won't hunt. The drink had better be gold-plated for me to spend that much. If that isn't enough to curdle your nacho cheese, part of the agreement between the stadiums and the concessionaires prohibits folks from bringing large containers into the stadium so you can't smuggle in your own food. This captive audience phenomenon enables them to gouge the public. The last time I went to the Diamond, the drinking fountains were also disabled to hoodswankle folks to the concession stands.
Unique Suggestions: A little strategic preplanning (see below) should keep you from having to pay the confiscatory prices.
Fun Alternatives: There are a couple of ways you can get around this. First, eat a big meal at home before you go or at a restaurant near your local stadium or arena. Second, have a tailgate party in the parking lot a couple of hours before the sport event begins.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Food and Dining
South of the Border
South of the Border is the quintessential American tourist trap. Located just south of the North Carolina-South Carolina line, this collection of gaudy restaurants, shops, and even 300 motel rooms, takes the "South of the Border" theme to the hilt. It is garish by my standards (my easy chair is orange) during the day, you should see it lit up at night. Furthermore, it is advertised by billboard as far away as Florida! The one thing I like about it is that its Mexican caricatures are unapologetically politically incorrect in an age where some folks mistakenly believe in a right never to be offended.
3346 US Highway 301 & I-95
Dillon, South Carolina 29536
More Signs Sometimes Means Beware
It seems that here in the United States, at least along the highways, the more signs you see advertising souvenirs the more likely you are to get ripped off. Along I-10 in New Mexico you will find a couple of shops run by the Bowlin's people. If you want to get authentic Native American crafts try the reservations. Not Bowlin's.
Unique Suggestions: Feel free to stop and look; but you may want to buy elsewhere. The Bowlin's on the continental divide offers a free liter of water so try that one. At least you get some water.
Fun Alternatives: Buy your Native American crafts and souvenirs from a reputable place on or near a reservation.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
The Red Dog Saloon in Juneau
The Red Dog Saloon is the first place that you see once you disembark from your cruiseboat(providing that is how you got to Juneau). It is set up to look like a historic bar with all kinds of old photos, posters and stuffed animal littered about the bar but alas do not be deceived. There is nothing historic about it. It is overcrowded with tourists who are simply here for half a day and will see no more of Juneau than its main street.
Unique Suggestions: If you are going to come here for a drink make sure that the tourist cruiseboats are out. Then it is quite.
Fun Alternatives: Unfortunately there are few respectable places where you like to go for a beer in Juneau. It's one flaw!
The meteor crater off of I-40 is just a big hole in the ground. Nothing spectacular and not worth your money or the time you'll spend trekking up endless stairs to look down and determine that you're seeing a giant hole in the ground. Spend some extra time at the Grand Canyon instead.Related to:
- Road Trip
Self flushing toilets.
I'm not used to self flushing toilets and when I first encountered one, rising up from the seated position, I swung around to see who had flushed it for me!! I was scared out of my skin for a split second.
Unique Suggestions: Well I guess Americans get used to them and then have to be reminded that they are not always available, therefore need to flush their own toilet.
I risked being thought very wierd when I began taking flash photos in the ladies loo at a public place!! I checked to see if you could read the words, on my digital, and had to have three goes before getting a successful pic. You can imagine the strange looks as I emerged from the cubicle to face the queue of onlookers in the Ladies!!Related to:
- Family Travel
- Work Abroad
- Road Trip
one man's trap is another man's destination
Everyone has their own style of traveling and certainly everyone has different expectations about what they want to see and do in a particular place. One person just has to do that carriage ride around Central Park in NYC and another snickers at the absurdity of paying so much when a walk would accomplish "the same thing." I've certainly spent my life in the latter category but if everyone did the same thing, we'd all be traveling in a very crowded place with the result that we would all be subjected to a huge tourist trap.
Unique Suggestions: As with most things in life, the earlier you get somewhere, the less crowded it is. Plain and simple: most people want to sleep in when on vacation so if you get up early, you'll have even the most crowded places sometimes all to yourself.
Fun Alternatives: Look for a spot perhaps a little bit away from the "main" viewing area. Even in the Grand Canyon, just a few hundred yards can mean the difference between a scrum and a relatively peaceful sunset.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Land of the unimaginable! Tourist trap #1
Tourist Traps USA. Well, they abound! But now they wouldn't be here if there weren't so many of us gullible folks who let the better of their curiosity get them! This is the six-legged steer we followed signs to in Kansas.
Unique Suggestions: The fun behind falling for a tourist trap is being able to laugh and admit that you "fell for it!" Don't be bitter, but rather enjoy it as a unique experience.Related to:
- Road Trip
Its not real or i dont think so that gas in US are cheaper than in Europe or other places.. the point is that a gallon is 3.8 litres and the normal cost in northern states or California are 3 bucks as average.. ok sounds good just reading that !! But the reality is that a normal car (not a 4wd) like i had (Hyundai sonata) with 16 valves and 2 exhausting pipes consumed so so much.. i couldnt drive fast for this reason.. so u can figure out that is not so cheap as we think abroad.. a 4WD or a RAM with more than 300 horse powers (usual) can consume so much even.. among 6-8KM/litre !! insane !!!
Campgrounds in National Parks
I thought would be easy..get there and take a place for my tent and lets go ..but buffff such a deal !! I mean so so hard to get a place in a campground (Yellowstone, Yosemitee) almost unaffordable, acutally i couldnt and i slept inside my car (into the camping as illegal)... i guess the best option is make the reservation beforehand.. not many space, so many people and there arnt the usual staff as many other campgrounds (a reception stall) .. u have to pay in a wood box and take ur paper with the reservation.. so weird !! but u must do this at 7am or so early in the morning to avoid lanes ..and i was there 2nd and 4th week in september..!! i dont want to figure out how could be in July or August.. so take a look on the webpage and reserve there!!
Unique Suggestions: other weird thing that Rangers dont allow is overnight in the national park except in a lodges or campgrounds.. and i say what a load of bollocks.. its impossible to get a place in a camping and u neither can sleep in the national park.. so under their stupid point of view you have to go out and go in every day!!! so i didnt.. i didnt mind their rules.. and i slept in a car parks located in visitors centers like in Yellowstone or a small resort at the end of the valley in Yosemitee. Grand canyon was a liitle bit tricky to get a place because i watched so many rangers patrolling.. so i quit for a night but i didnt have any problems in Wyoming or California
Tourist Shops in Sedona, Arizona
Okay, I'm not sure if this should be in Tourist Trap or not; but there are numerous tourist shops along the main road in Sedona. There does not seem to be much difference in a lot of them except the people inside. I have no doubt the prices are higher in Sedona than you would pay for the same thing elsewhere. I don't know if the guy inside was named Joe but he did not seem that grumpy.
Unique Suggestions: Buy your Sedona specific souvenirs here and your general Arizona and Native American souvenirs elsewhere.
Fun Alternatives: It's fun to at least walk through the shops and look. The shop in the picture caught my eye.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
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These are my favorites:)
There is this book called "Roadside America" and it celebrates our tourist traps. I find myself looking them up whenever we are on our way somewhere. Earlier this year, we went to see "The Thing" in Arizona as we were making our way across the country. This summer, we stumbled upon "Foamhenge" in Virginia, saw the worlds largest fire hydrant which is in Columbia, SC. Up the road a bit is the Worlds Smallest Police Station. As I mentioned in a previous tip, I love when something can claim to be the best, largest, smallest, only whatever in the world--especially since there are quite a few of its kind that claim the same title. These things are laughable and picture worthy. Later, you can brag that you did indeed see the largest frying pan ever made. Who wouldn't be jealous? ;-)
Unique Suggestions: What? If you HAVE TO? Who has to? It's more "if you're fortunate enough to get this great opportunity...", isn't it? hehe:)
Fun Alternatives: Oh, there's no alternative. If there was, then how could these places claim to be the best of its kind? All are must sees. Well, with the exception of the worlds largest strawberry near Rockingham, NC. I've seen larger.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
- Arts and Culture
As a tourist in the USA, I always knew about tipping, but thought it was at my discretion and should be about the same as the state tax added on again eg appr 10% of the bill. Not so in New York City - at some restaurants tipping is NOT at your discretion it is almost compulsory and at a set rate. I always tip and dont mind tipping what I consider a reasonable amount , but in some restaurants it is actually factored into the bill receipt and added on automatically at 15% via the cash register - I didnt even get a choice in it. I will keep my personal opinions about that to myself but its a good idea to be aware you will be up for a 15% whether you think its worth it or not - in once case I left %10 and the owner actually came up to the table to question the tip and why it wasnt the full 15%. He pointed out it was written on the cash register printout - which it was...Being out of town didnt carry any weight. VERY embarassing and not really what i thoght tipping was supposed to be about. So beware...check the local rate in each state in the USA
Unique Suggestions: Not a lot you can do here if their cash register print out has added it on at a pre-determined for you already without your say-so, unless you want to cause a real scene. If paying by a card, check the printout you get back on what the tip rate is. Will be under the total and the tax usually - Fill it in if you are happy with it. You leave it blank and put cash on the table might be the best bet to avoid this 'compulsory' tipping etc.
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Amtrak USA Railpass for tourists: a major ripp-off
One of the world's "finest" ripp-offs is the USA Railpass for overseas tourists. In 90-s it was a decent value and I used it several times. Later it became more expensive. But what does qualify it for a major ripp-off is that it essentially cannot be used for travel at all. While Eurail passes are a very poor value, they still allow the passholder to travel by train. On the other side, a USA Railpass is useless for most travels and for all travel in the high season. As Amtrak web site states:
"Reservations for train travel should be made as far in advance as possible; seats available for USA Rail Pass passengers are limited on each train. We do not recommend waiting until the day of departure to make your reservations since there is a greater chance that seats for USA Rail Pass passengers may not be available on your desired train. Non-USA Rail Pass seats may be available at an additional cost."
What Amtrak web site does not tell: only seats in the lowest bucket are available for the passholders. These seats sell very quickly and in general are unavailable during the Summer.
Hence: buying the 30-day railpass for $599 (that is, $600) means: overseas traveler made a gift to Amtrak valued at $600, ooops, sorry, $599. Do I hate these 99999-s!
2011 UPDATE: Amtrak changed the rules of the USA Railpass. Now it became cheaper and there is no quota system.
Thank you, Amtrak!
Unique Suggestions: Do not use the railpass at all. I am not sure, is it possible to invalidate it - but please do try at a major station before it is being used.
2011 Update: relax, the new USA Raipass is much better!!!
Fun Alternatives: Buy regular Amtrak tickets with good discount (search secret coupon codes, AAA/Automobile club discount, student discount on ISIC, etc.) Also look at alternative ways of transport: Jetblue, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines are "no-frills" airlines with reasonable prices even on short notice.
2011 Update: relax, the new USA Raipass is much better!!!Related to:
Dont take $500 denomination travellers cheques
These proved extremely hard to cash and most shops didnt want to know about it (very politely however) Even major hotels baulked at cashing them, and even the local banks
You need to buy something around $400 for them to accept these and give you the change. The most common reason is they dont have enough $$ in their cash registers or on hand
Unique Suggestions: If you get stuck, go to a money exchange to cash but this will cost you a fee. Its about the only thing you can do.
For small change and day to day living take $100 cheques. Sure you may have to sign a lot of them but it beats being stuck with no cash for those little things like taxis and restaurants - all that tipping....and charging everything to Visa and the conversion of currency rates will add a nasty bite to your holiday bill.
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