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Just Back: Ambergris Caye, Belize

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On such a wintery day, I can’t help but daydream about my recent whirlwind trip to Ambergris Caye, a small island off the northeastern coast of Belize—a place so consistently warm that residents easily (and even somewhat wistfully) recall in detail the one day of the year they wore a sweater. I was there to check out a hotel for T+L’s “40 Secret Beach Hideaways” (March 2010), and expected to spend most of my time stretched out on a white sand beach, piña colada in hand. The island, after all, is only 25 miles long and one mile wide. And while I did my fair share of reclining, I was surprised—and thrilled—to discover how many activities are available to the traveler. Here’s my short list for how to best explore the island and its surroundings.

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Affordable Miami: Get the Incard

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With most of the country experiencing near Arctic temps right now, Miami—a lone warm-weather destination on the eastern seaboard—is looking pretty good. And there's another reason to go: travel discounts!

Miami Beach tourism is offering a slim and subtle bar-coded card for discounts as big as 20% at the area's top shops, restaurants, museums, hotels, and more. The card comes in two colors: platinum for tourists, and black for residents.

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Denmark Full of Shiny, Happy People

200910-b-christian-alsing3jpg The Danes have come up with an unusual way to lure travelers to their country. They’re very happy, and if you visit, it might rub off on you! (And save you some money.)

The claim of joyfulness is based on scientific surveys, not merely on, say, an interview with a Copenhagen resident after a few glasses of schnapps on a Friday evening. In one recent research endeavor—the World Values Survey, the work of a global network of social scientists—Denmark came out on top when it comes to the happiness of its residents.

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Read My Lips...This Affordable NYC Hotel is Awesome!

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When it won the bid to re-conceive the Best Western President Hotel at Times Square, the award-winning architectural firm Stonehill & Taylor (who have redesigned NYC's iconic Plaza Hotel in the past) again pledged allegiance to good design—this time embracing its patriotic side.

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Last night, New York City’s first politically-themed hotel celebrated its grand re-opening after receiving a $15 million overhaul. Centrally located at 48th Street just off Broadway, the hotel has 334 rooms and suites starting at the recession friendly rate of $139 a night (talk about a new deal!), where the term “presidential suite” takes on a whole new meaning—guests can book the Obama, Reagan, Kennedy or even the Nixon suite (don’t worry, it’s not bugged).

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Time Travel: Elderhostel Changes Name, Gets Younger

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Hoping to get rid of dated impressions and open up its programs to adults of all ages, the 34-year-old educational travel organization Elderhostel recently changed its name to Exploritas, a combination of the words ‘explore’ and ‘veritas,’ to promote their mission of pursuing “adventures in lifelong learning,” particularly among baby-boomers.

"Elder was kind of a turnoff for me, and I'm beyond living in dorms with a backpack on my back. . .That was kind of the vision I had of it. But when I started seeing the opportunities and talking to somebody who had done it, obviously it's not the case," Jack Pickard, a 62-year-old from Ohio told the Wall Street Journal.

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Editor Picks: Affordable Meals in Brooklyn

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Since I've dined (and dined, and dined) at all of the restaurants in my own lovely neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I've set a new task for myself: To explore the rest of New York City's blossoming borough, one fabulous meal at a time, forking over no more than $10 a plate.

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Off the Grid in Zion National Park

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Zion National Park in Southern Utah, is a spectacular place to hike. If you are considering a vacation there, and being completely immersed in the quiet, scrubby, gold and green desert with otherworldly red rock domes towering above sounds appealing, I recommend renting Los Gatos Cabin (below).

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Tweet Yourself to Hawaii

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It seems like everyone—and every company—is feeling the power of social media these days. In celebration of Hawaii’s 50 years of statehood, Marriott Resorts Hawaii is hopping on the e-bandwagon with a two-part sweepstakes geared toward Twitter and Facebook users, offering 25 all-expense paid trips for two to Kauai, Oahu, Maui or the Big Island and a trip for one lucky tweeter and 11 guests.

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Westin’s Heavenly Bed on Sale!

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I don’t know about you, but I need my eight hours of beauty sleep every night, and for this reason I’m pretty persnickety when it comes to mattresses—whether at home or at a hotel.

Hands-down some of my best hotel sleeps have been at Westin/Starwood properties, which was why I was excited to hear the hotel group’s 10th anniversary sale offering 25 percent off its famous beds. The Heavenly Bed made by Simmons is a genius layering of patented pocket coils covered with 13 fluffy inches of pillow-top (yes, 13!). The result is a delicious medium-firm cradle that's guaranteed to send you off to Dreamland in no time.

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Go Green and Save by "Jetpooling"

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Has the recession forced you to sell your Gulfstream? If you love to fly private, but the current economic crisis is cramping your jet-set lifestyle, there’s a unique new option in the skies. The Greenjets shared-ride service lets you buy a seat on a private jet at a fraction of the cost normally associated with such a luxury. Flights from New York to Florida are as low as $1,100 each way, a bargain compared to owning or renting your own plane—and you avoid the lines and regular security headaches at the airport. Not to mention the added good karma you get from reducing the number of jets in the air when you “jetpool,” if you will.

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