Dubai for Cheapos – Yup! You don’t have to be a millionaire…

When people think of Dubai, they usually imagine Formula 1 Grand Prix races, millionaires, James Bond, fancy hotels on man made islands, indoor skiing, and well – let’s just say – things that most of us can’t afford.  This article isn’t about that – it’s about Dubai for Cheapos.

free dubai

In fact, there are plenty of cheap holidays to Dubai, but you have to know where to look.  First of all, you should know – Dubai is an international hub connecting the East to the West.  Airlines rarely do huge trips all the way around the world and so it is nice to have stopping off points in convenient places like Dubai. This is one of the reasons why the airports in Dubai are so amazing…

Want to do the cheapest holiday to Dubai possible? We did it for free! Of course, it was because we were on a trip from Morocco to the USA and Emirates Airlines had a long stopover – so we were able to explore the huge airport terminals and even have a few meals courtesy of Emirates – we walked in the gardens, ate some food in the restaurants, and relaxed while window shopping and browsing through every luxury shop in the world. That’s the cheapo way to see Dubai, Yup, we did it. We saw Dubai from the airport terminal windows and from the window of the airplane when we arrived and departed.

Of course, most people (including us) want to see a little bit more than that when we go someplace. Here are a few tips to get you around in Dubai without having to rob a bank to do it…

1) Book your trip to Dubai well in advance. Airlines like to give deals on last minute tickets but they also like to know they will have full flights. Make  your arrangements ahead of time – if you can do it – make your trip to Dubai a trip that is between destinations. If we had been able to, we would have set up a week in Dubai between Morocco and the USA – airlines like Emirates offer incredible stopover packages that are generally way cheaper than doing a full spectrum vacation

2) Find out when the low season is – if you go during a huge event or during school holidays or the time of the Hajj, good luck finding a hotel for less than $1000 a night. As hard as it is to belive, there are 2 and 3 star hotels in Dubai  – you might even find a one star if you don’t mind having a valet with wholes in his jacket.

3) Eating cheap. Street food is plentiful in Dubai and you will find cuisine from all over the world. Sure, you pay more for Indonesian food in Dubai than you do in Indonesia, but that’s not a big deal when you save $100 from eating at the hotel.

The best place to grab a cheap bite is Al Dhiyafah road. This  is where the locals go to get a cheap meal. The restaurants and carts spill into the streets and you will find everything from Indian to Iranian food here.  If you like grilled lamb – this is where to go but you will also find plenty of Moroccan or Asian foods here too.

dubai balloon festival

4) As far as cheap entertainment goes – Dubai is like Las Vegas there are always festivals and celebrations and shows being put on by the hotels. You can pay for a desert safari (and you should) but you can also spend weeks wandering the streets of Dubai and enjoying galleries, festivals, and culture from the world over.

Secret Treasures in Clearwater, Florida

Freelancing isn’t easy work, but sometimes the rewards are great. This guest post comes from Denise, a freelancer in Clearwater, Florida

I love finding blogs like this one, where someone has actually made the conscious decision to go against the ‘norm’ in life and make a way for themselves, and their family, that is both educational and adventurous at the same time. After all, how can you learn more about the world than by experiencing it first hand?

I’ve always been a corporate geek, right up until the U.S. economy’s latest downturn. Things to do in Clearwater, Florida
Out of work through no fault of my own (other than my hefty salary) and faced with the prospect of finding a job that pays 25% of my last position, I decided this was the perfect time to start my own business. I figured I could make as much starting out on my freelance business as I would driving for an hour each way on snow-covered freeways to get to a job where my boss will be younger than my grown children!

In the past three years, I’ve learned so much about social media, SEO, and internet marketing, and found out that excellent writing skills are in extreme demand globally. I’ve worked for clients right here in my town, and all over the globe. With the ease of communications nowadays, it truly is a small world. I can write an article and snap some photos of any interesting person, place, or thing I come upon- and quickly upload them to share with the world.

Map of Clearwater FloridaThis winter, my husband and I have the luxury of spending an extended period in Florida. He works for a construction company in Northeast Ohio, and many projects are halted when the snow flies. We have always vacationed in Florida, but this year we’ll have time to explore some of the areas in depth and live among the locals.

First stop, we booked one of those \Clearwater holiday packages we’d heard about. The beach is well known as one of the cleanest, white sugar sand beaches in the world, and the Gulf of Mexico waters stay warm through most of the winter–paradise for sun worshippers.

However, there is so much more to do in this area. Here is just a short sampling:

Pinellas Trail: This 48 mile long, twelve foot wide paved trail is perfect for joggers, rollerbladers, and bikers alike. It winds through some densely populated areas but retains a rural feel and offers awesome views from almost any point.

Clearwater Florida, Honeymoon IslandHoneymoon Island and Caladesi Island: Two beautiful state parks, one only available by ferry or private boat, are located off a spur of the trail.

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary: This sanctuary was set up to rescue primates and other animals from deplorable conditions, and is open to the public and manned mostly by volunteers.

Boating: With all of the beautiful water to explore, renting a boat can be an excellent way to spend some time. From sailboats to power boats and pontoon party boats, there is a wide selection in varying price ranges.

Fishing: Rent a boat of your own or take a charter fishing trip for some great deep sea fishing. Or, grab your fishing pole and head to one of the local piers. My son caught a sting ray at Clearwater Pier 60 when he was just six or seven.

clearwater Florida KayakingKayak trails: There are kayak trails that will take you to remote islands, and through tunnels in thick mangroves so that you can see all sorts of wildlife up close.

Tarpon Springs: This small town is a Greek settlement that was long the sponge capital of the world. Today, it boasts lots of structures on the National Register of Historic Places, the largest Greek-American population of any city in the United States, and some of the best Greek restaurants in the western world.

Clearwater Florida TravelSunsets at Pier 60: For years, Clearwater Beach has hosted an outdoor festival daily at sunset. Nature brings the beautiful sun melting into the Gulf of Mexico, and musicians and crafters, mimes and jugglers set up on and around the pier to entertain. The newest addition is Sunset Cinema-a family-friendly outdoor big screen. Bring your beach chairs and blankets to relax on the sand and take in a movie.

Denise Gabbard, a freelance writer and photographer with a passion for travel who is financed mostly by her work for discount vouchers .

Tell about your hometown or travels by submitting a guest blog to Vagobond. Be a Vagobond writer. Go on!

Traveling with Kids in Cuba – Pure Heaven!

Vagobond exclusive story and photos by Jennifer Merrick

traveling with kids in cubaI knew the moment the customs officer commented on how cute our children were that Cuba would be a kid-friendly destination. I wasn’t mistaken. Almost everywhere we went on our all inclusive holiday to Cuba, my son and daughter were doted on. They were given gifts, sang to, kissed and altogether spoiled.

At first they were a little shy about the unexpected attention but they warmed up quickly. My son, especially, thrived on the attention.

“Do you want to see how much snow we have in Canada?” he would ask and show people a picture of our house with a 6-foot mountain of snow in front of it. After they oooed and aaaahed, he’d then ask,

“Can I take your picture?” And in less than two minutes we had made a new friend.

The Cubans genuine affection and appreciation of children endeared us to the island and ensured that this would be a family holiday we’d cherish for a long time to come.

kids in cubaWe decided on Guardalavaca in the province of Holguin because we wanted a quieter place away from the party crowd in Veradero. It proved to be a good choice with its stunning white beaches, crystal-clear turquoise water and laid-back atmosphere.

A highlight of our trip was a horseback riding excursion in Roca Azul Bio-Park. I was a bit nervous as neither of my children had been on horseback before apart from a pony ride and my previous experience on a horse ended up with me on the ground and a very sore hip for a month. But our guide, Alejandro, quickly put us at ease and proceeded at a slow pace. My daughter proved to be a natural, moving with the horse like she was born on one. Her brother, too, quickly got the hang of it. And I managed to stay on.

With the rhythmic clip-clop of hooves and the sun shining down, my apprehension dissipated and I took in the remarkable scenery surrounding us. Desert and tropics seemed to overlap here with sand and cacti in some places and lush tropical plants and trees in others.
We stopped at a tranquil lake, known for its good fishing. This secluded spot felt a million miles from the resort and we encountered only two other tourists and their guide. Back on the horse, we trotted along until we came to a gate. On the other side was an odd assortment of animals roaming freely – horses, goats, cows, pigs and two zebras.

zebras in Cuba“Where did the zebras come from?” I asked.

“Africa,” our Cuban cowboy replied.

What could I say?

We made our way back and Alejandro worked on turning our kids into cowkids.

“Yip,Yip,Yeeeeeeep!” Cowboys here apparently don’t say ‘hee haw’.

My son repeated the call till he got it to perfection. Then the singing began. Music is everywhere on the island and Cubans often burst into song. The guide sang a melodic Spanish ballad as we rode at a leisurely pace.

Cuban MusicNot to be outdone, our kids then sang their Christmas concert song much to our guide’s delight. The warmth of the sunshine, the music, beautiful views and a real connection made it one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

There were many others and almost every one of them involved an encounter with the people.

When we arrived at Toronto Pearson, my son’s face still had lipstick marks from the kisses the dining room staff had bestowed on him.

“Do you want to see a picture of the horse I rode?” he asked the women behind the counter at the airport.

Getting a blank stare in return, I had to remind him, “Honey, we’re not in Cuba anymore.”

But we’ll be back.

After travelling the world teaching ESL, Jennifer is now ‘settled down’ in Toronto, but continues to indulge her passion for travel as a family travel writer. Her blog helps kids plan and get excited about their travels.

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