The most famous attraction in the pretty town of Asheville at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains is Biltmore Estate (pictured), a chateau built in the late 1880s by George Vanderbilt. It’s the largest privately owned home in the US, and it’s well worth a visit.
Through May 25th, visitors can browse 45 costumes from the PBS series “Downton Abbey.”
There’s a resemblance between Biltmore Estate and Highclere Castle in England that is the set for “Downton Abbey.” If you must have the real thing, 19 rooms at Highclere are open to visitors, but 2015 dates are sold out. Book now for next year. (Details here.) Or take a Viking River Cruise that has a three-day cruise extension to Highclere during August, October, and November.
London hotels offer Paddington packages, but they’re expensive, and you can buy a bear or take tea anywhere. Which is what those packages usually include. In fact, for a great tea, try the Milestone Hotel. And if your kids are well behaved, they’ll love it.
The Milestone Hotel doesn’t mind if they bring Paddington.
There are cities, such as Havana, where dining in someone’s home is almost required because there are so few restaurants in town. But in almost any major city these days, amiable locals are opening their homes to out-of-town visitors who would like to have dinner with people who know the place. What better way to get inside information? And anecdotal reports suggest many folks have made lifelong friends.
Consider the app Feastly. You can sign up to learn about pop ups and in-home meals at particular cities. You may browse the web site to find folks who will, from Brooklyn to Oakland, invite you in their homes for dinner. Some folks charge a fee of between $25 and $65, which is no more expensive than a decent restaurant that doesn’t offer such an authentic, local experience.
If partying is on your mind, try PartyWithALocal.com. The site claims it has 20,000 users in 160 countries so you never need be alone at night again.
Might yawning at an airport make you a suspicious person in the eyes of undercover TSA agents looking for behavior that could unmask a terrorist? How about whistling? Those are just two behaviors the TSA things could indicate you’re up to no good.
A website called “The Intercept” recently got a hold of a confidential TSA document that lists some behaviors the TSA looks for when it scans people at airports in search of possible terrorists. It’s a fascinating look at the program called Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or “SPOT.”
According to the document, points are assessed. Someone looks like they’re dressed in a disguise? Three points. Someone seems fidgety and whistles? One point each. Penetrating stare and rigid posture? Two points.
This program has cost the government about $900 million since it was unleashed eight years ago. There is no evidence the SPOT program has helped agents identify any bad guys. In fact, former employees have termed it a waste of time.
Look, I want trained professionals mingling in crowds at airports. But I’m not convinced, nor are some in Congress, that watching for fairly common tics indicates trouble. But I’d wait until I’m outside the terminal to whistle.
More info here.
The producer of my radio show, Janet de Acevedo Macdonald, and her husband are touring the country and doing their jobs from an RV. It’s become clear there are some places more interesting than others to spend overnights.
I know they’ve spent some nights in lovely places, but they’ve also decamped in WalMart lots. Janet says that works just fine, and WalMart welcomes RVers, but it doesn’t sound that appetizing to me. I’d check out a website called Harvest Hosts. This is a site that gives details on farms, wineries, and agri-tourism sites that not only welcome RVers, but they don’t charge any fees.
You join the site for a year for $40 per person, and that entitles you to find hosts, maps, and photos of hosts’ locations. And you can exchange tips with fellow RVers. I do wish visitors could stay somewhere for longer than 24 hours, but it’s got to be better than a shopping center parking lot.
The curators of the Harvest Host site suggest purchasing something from your host—some fresh veggies, for example, or a couple bottles of wine, which sounds like an easy bar to meet. Or if you want to help out around the farm for a few hours, that, too, might be appropriate.
Your mood today might depend partly on whether you got your personal taxes done on time and whether you owe Uncle Sam or he owes you. I’m here to remind you that some of your travel might be tax deductible.
Travel for business is tax deductible, and the definition of “business” can be broad. Maybe you need to go somewhere to meet someone to discuss a work project. Deduct expenses. Perhaps you spend a couple days of a one-week vacation doing business. Deduct a proportionate amount. Even dining with a friend during which work matters are discussed can be deducted.
You can deduct travel expenses such as food, rental car, lodging-even dry cleaning, and computer rental–if you leave your hometown in search of new employment. But make sure you document your meetings in that regard. However, if there’s a substantial length of time between your last job and your search for a new job, that travel is not deductible.
Don’t ask me why—ask your uncle.
Part-time travel writers who legitimately earn money—or have proof they’re trying to earn money–from writing travel articles can also deduct expenses within reason. Here’s a link from the IRS’ website on the subject of deducting travel expenses.