Archive for the ‘MBSC Blog Posts’ Category

Wild and Amazing

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alligatorLooking for wild places to visit while in Myrtle Beach? Try these three enthralling places that are sure to amaze. From lions, tigers and bears to snakes, alligators and bats, the Alligator Adventure, Brookgreen Garden Zoo and the Waccatee Zoo are wild and wonderful place to get up-close and personal with the wonders of Mother Nature.

With the Atlantic Ocean as its backdrop, the Grand Strand has other bodies of water that intertwine throughout. The Waccamaw River, the Intracoastal Waterway, Pee Dee River, Yauhanna River and Busbee Lake all provide plenty of opportunity to see river critters, water fowl and fish of every kind on any given day. But, what if I told you to add a peacock, a tiger or a bat to your list of things to see?

Filled with reptiles of all species, the Alligator Adventure, located in Barefoot Landing, calls itself the “Reptile Capitol of the World.” Besides having the largest crocodiles in the world, it also features the rare albino alligator. Though reptiles are its claim to fame, Alligator Adventure has more to it than what its name implies such as tigers, bob cats, bats and exotic birds. This extraordinary zoological park offers admission to adults for $21.99 and children, ages 4 to 12, pay $16.99. You have to contact the park at (843) 361-0789 for current park hours.

On the South end of the Grand Strand sits another one of nature’s phenoms: the Brookgreen Gardens Zoo. A part of Brookgreen Gardens, the zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Because the native animals that live in the woods, swamps and waters of the Lowcountry are becoming more and more displaced, the zoo serves as a natural haven to alligators, bald eagles, foxes, owls and otters. There’s also the Cypress Aviary, the only known aviary built over an existing cypress swamp. Visitors are encourages to stroll through on an elevated boardwalk to observe the birds such as egrets, herons, and ducks feeding and flying in a natural setting. Brookgreen Gardens is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The price of admission into the park includes entry into the zoo: adults, ages 13 – 64, pay $14; seniors, over age 64, pay $12; and kids, ages 4 to 7, pay $7. More information about the zoo and exhibits can be obtained through the Brookgreen Gardens web site, www.brookgreen.org.

A little off the beaten path but well worth the drive is the Waccatee Zoological Farm. This privately owned zoo is home to more than 100 species of animals including buffalo, zebras, lions, tigers and bears. It also has Chico, the chimp, who watches his own television. The zoo provides hours of natural fun for all ages, but children seem the most impressed by the large assortment of unusual wildlife. Perfectly situated where the Waccamaw River, Intracoastal Waterway and the Socastee Creek join, the Waccatee Zoo is a natural sanctuary and breeding ground for migratory birds. The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is moderately priced at $ 10 for adults; $4 for kids, ages 12 months to 12 years old; and free for those 11 months old and under. Special rates are given to groups of 15 or more. For more information on the Waccatee Zoo, call (843) 650-8500.

Myrtle Beach … Come See It for Yourself

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familySometimes I feel like I’m preaching to the choir when it comes to talking about how special Myrtle Beach is for vacationers. I mean it’s not that often that I run into someone who has not visited the sandy shores of the east coast’s Grand Strand. Millions of vacationers have found that Myrtle Beach has become a formidable oceanfront vacation spot.

From entertaining theater shows to famous restaurants to abundant shopping, Myrtle Beach has something to offer everyone. And, of course, clean beautiful beaches have long been its drawing card. A long list of attractions and popular events keeps Myrtle Beach current and trendy. To Gen-Xers Myrtle Beach is NOT your grandmother’s beach but to us who are over the ripe old age of 50, it is and will always be the calm, soothing vacation spot our grandmother’s loved.  But, how can Myrtle Beach be so different for some, and yet, the same for others?

It’s easy. Myrtle Beach has stayed true to being a family vacation beach. And, we all know that family is the most important aspect in everyone’s life. Doesn’t matter the composition of the family … Myrtle Beach is for those who want good times for in the family. Moms, dad, kids, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, and cousins … there is something for everyone.

So, on the rare occasion that I meet someone who has not visited Myrtle Beach, I will invite them to come see for themselves.

The Best Advice for Booking Hotel Rooms

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checkinThe cost of hotel accommodations typically consumes a large portion of any travel budget. Understanding hotel booking strategies can help save a good bit of money. Of course, hotel rates fluctuate depending on a wide variety of factors, so landing the cheapest deals is not always an exact science. Regardless, travelers will generally do well to use a few reliable approaches when making their lodging arrangements.

Booking in Advance
No traveler wants to undergo the hassle of searching for an affordable hotel room after arriving at their final destination for the night. As such, The Travel Insider recommends that individuals handle their lodging arrangements before leaving home and as far in advance as possible. Travelers should make reservations at least a month ahead of time in most cases to ensure room availability and avoid last-minute price increases at popular destinations.

Booking at the Last Minute
Alternatively, flexible travelers can sometimes score surprisingly low rates by waiting until the last minute to book their hotel rooms. Hotels lose money on vacant rooms, so it usually behooves hotel managers to offer last-minute discounts to fill their empty rooms each evening and turn at least a small profit above marginal operating costs. However, some hotels won’t dip below a certain price or offer discounts no matter how many rooms they have empty. This is because hotels want to protect their published room rates. If word got out that travelers could consistently take advantage of last-minute deals rather than making reservations in advance, then hotels would stand to lose a lot of money. On top of this wrinkle, travelers should also be wary of waiting until the last minute because hotels in a popular locale may fill up completely or have only a few rooms left. These in-demand rooms would end up costing significantly more than the standard rate.

Time Frame Considerations
In addition to the aforementioned considerations, travelers must also take into account other factors like holidays, peak and off-season windows, conventions and major events. Such factors can dramatically affect the rates for hotel rooms. Book far in advance for holidays and peak travel periods, and research the destination to see if any big events will be occurring near the hotel during the trip to anticipate price increases and room availability.

Shopping Around
Shop around before booking. Compare rates at various hotels, and compare dates if there is any flexibility in the itinerary. Independent Traveler recommends using online search engines like those found on Expedia and Travelocity. Similarly, Mahalo suggests using price comparison websites such as SideStep, Kayak and Yahoo! Farechase to review multiple options from hotel consolidators and booking services.

Booking Over the Phone
Travelers can also land deals by booking directly with hotels via the phone, according to Mahalo. Unlike online booking, making reservations over the phone allows travelers to speak with hotel managers and feel out the best rates based on what each particular hotel has to offer. Special rates may exist that aren’t advertised online, and hotel staff can also provide more information about the expected guest volume and local events affecting rates. However, travelers must make sure to call a specific hotel branch rather than a national 800 number. After booking a room, Independent Traveler recommends calling back periodically to check if the rates for rooms have gone down at all. In some cases, travelers may find that prices have dropped since they booked their rooms. If so, travelers can either cancel their reservation and make a new one at the lower rate, or they may be able to negotiate a refund for the difference.

(Travel tips from Demand Media, USAToday.com)

9 Easy Ways to Save on Your Next Hotel Stay

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poolsidePlanning your next beach vacation? Chances are rates for 2015 will go up at bit when the New Year arrives. According to Sherman Travel Blog’s website, the good news is that there are still a few tried-and-true ways to lower the costs.

  1. Stay longer.
    Particularly during slower seasons, hotels will offer specials with free nights or a percentage discount if you book a certain number of nights (often at least three or four). Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, for example, is offering 30 percent off the best available rate for three-night stays at participating hotels through the end of the year. And these promotions can be found at properties of all spectrums, too; even the Four Seasons Hotel New York is currently running a third night free promotion.
  2. Purchase your stay in advance.
    As they say, the early bird catches the worm. Many hotels try to entice guests to make reservations (and pre-pay) weeks ahead of their check-in date with a discounted “advanced purchase rate.” These are typically offered for bookings at least two weeks in advance. They may be highlighted on a hotel’s Deals or Specials sections — or simply show up as an option when you plug in your dates in online booking systems. An example is Courtyard calls its offer Book Early, Save Big deal, giving a 20 percent discount on weekend rates when you book and pay at least 14 days in advance.
  3. Volunteer to switch rooms.
    Many of us book our hotels online these days because it’s convenient. The one drawback is that if a cheaper room isn’t available for your entire lengthy stay, you’ll likely be presented with a more expensive option that is. Say, for example, that you’re looking to book a hotel for a five-night stay one Tuesday through Sunday. The hotel you’re booking has a standard room for $200 a night for all days except Friday and Saturday, when those standard rooms are sold out. For those two nights, only $300 executive rooms are still available. Your search results might only offer you the executive room, which means your stay would cost $1,500. But if you’re willing to move and book the cheapest room for each night, you’d only pay $1,200. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see this online — you’ll likely have to call the hotel and speak with a reservation agent to find out if booking different rooms for one stay would help you save.
  4. On the weekends, stay at a business hotel.
    In a classic supply and demand model, hotels take advantage of travelers who are in town for business during the week and charge higher rates. When the suits are gone over the weekend, the hotels who largely get their revenue from business travelers are likely to lower rates on weekends to tempt leisure travelers.
  5. On the weeknights, stay at leisure hotels.
    On the flip side, leisure hotels — resorts, inns, and the like — get most of their business from the weekend, when most people travel for leisure. If your schedule is flexible, try booking your stay during the week for lower rates.
  6. Stay during the low season.
    Again, hotels advertise lower rates during shoulder season, when there isn’t a huge demand for hotel rooms. Warm weather destinations, for example, tend to be more expensive in the winter, particularly from northern regions; when it’s cold there, everyone’s looking for more sun. During the summer, rates do fall — but summer is busy generally, so it’s still good to plan ahead. Late spring and fall would be good bets. On the other hand, ski resorts are cheaper during the summer, when snow bunnies aren’t flocking there for the slopes. In some tropical regions, low season are dictated by heavy rains. It all depends on the location.
  7. In the Caribbean, stay during hurricane season.
    This region is such a popular spot that it deserves its own call-out here. In the Caribbean, hurricane season typically starts with lighter rain in June and picks up in August or September through November. Many prefer not to travel during this time for fear of less outdoor time and flight delays — but some areas are more vulnerable than others, and low demand means incredible rewards. Some hotels even offer “hurricane guarantees” offering refunds or rebookings should a storm interrupt your vacation. The Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa, St. Maarten, for example, will rebook you within one calendar year if a hurricane lands on the island during your stay.
  8. Visit when the kids go back to school.
    For some resort-heavy destinations, high season and high rates coincide with summer vacation and other school breaks. Walt Disney World is a good example: rates for a standard room at Disney’s Coronado Springs this year are $258 a night from Christmas Eve to December 31. In the new year, they drop down to just $167 on January 4 — just in time for when kiddos resume classes. If you love a good amusement park or popular family-friendly spot, best to check the holiday calendar.
  9. Join a hotel loyalty program
    It’s free to join hotel loyalty programs, which all reward guests with free rooms or nights once they reach a certain number of points. Some general booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz also have their own programs for “brand-agnostic” guests who don’t always stick the the same hotel chain or group. Of course, you’ll have to stay a few times before you reap the benefits, so this strategy will take a little patience.