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Topher Payne: Wherever you go, there you are

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

The last time I took an extended holiday was my marriage to Preppy three years ago, so it’s established that I‘m only capable of setting work aside for my own wedding, which is unlikely to be a recurring event.

I’ve dodged several proposed vacations over the years, because I’ve always got a project which requires my attention. Plus, I think money is better spent on improving our home life. Granted, most of the money I’m talking about is my husband’s, but I still have opinions on the subject. Because I have opinions on all subjects. I am an opinionated person.

Preppy asked what was so important at the house that it should trump a getaway. I pointed out we really needed a new sofa. As nice as the trip would be, coming home to our beat-up couch would prove the money could have been used on a long-term investment.

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Travel: LGBT summer getaways

Ready to get out of town?

Whether you prefer beach or mountains, cruising or camping, check out these big LGBT events to get you on the road this summer.

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Plan your gay Memorial Day

Memorial Day flag raising ceremony at Piedmont Park

Pensacola Beach remains a top gay destination for Memorial Day weekend, including a full slate of women’s events put on by the Atlanta lesbian bar My Sister’s Room.
For those not headed out of town for the holiday weekend, the ATL has plenty of LGBT-friendly options to welcome in the summer. MondoHomo is a biggie, but other events promise to keep the city active as well.

The idea that Atlanta is a ghost town over Memorial Day Weekend is false, according to local promoter Chris Coleman.

“I think Atlanta is a great place to be during the weekend,” Coleman says.  “It’s a huge weekend, one of the biggest of the year. There is a ton of stuff going on – dance events, lounge events, outdoor events. I think Atlanta is underrated as a destination that weekend.”

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Travel: 10 tips for better trips

Get your passport in order before your trip

COMPARE FARES
Buy your air tickets on Tuesday afternoons. Fly during the middle of the week. Sign up for airfare alerts at FareCompare.com.  In the current world travel climate ticket prices are going up daily. Do not wait for a sale. There will be none.

BE PRO-CHOICE
Pick what view you want from your seat on the plane; it could be left side land or right side water. And choose port or starboard for your ship cabin.  A cabin facing west in the afternoon will be warmer due to all day sun, but it might be the land view.

HOTEL HAPPINESS
When you enter your hotel room, walk around each room and look at the view. If everything is not just as you want it, go back to the front desk and politely request a different room to make your stay more enjoyable. It is your right, your money, and even your obligation to get exactly what you expected when you made your reservation. Hotels are eager to make you happy; upgrades are often given as an apology for your initial dissatisfaction.

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Travel: Hit the road for big LGBT events this summer

Ready to get out of town?

Whether you prefer beach or mountains, cruising or camping, check out these big LGBT events to get you on the road this summer.

FLORIDA OR BUST

Head south for hot LGBT fun this summer. More Florida events listed under other specific categories.

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Travel: Retro road trips

Roadside Lobster Shack

Classic Americana is my pick for the New Year’s trend in travel. A themed trip through the past is the perfect way to take your mind off whatever is presently bothering you. Retro retreats, classic road trips, and theme hotels create the stage for fantasy vacations that will satisfy any figment of your imagination.

Americana road trips are easy to plan, go light on your wallet and create vivid memories. Decide on your trip’s theme and lay out the route with a Google map. The Trails of Bonnie and Clyde is my latest client request. I put them in a vintage Ford Deluxe Sedan and sent them out to stops including the Ambush Museum in Gibsland, La., and Bonnie & Clyde’s Diner in Shelbyville, Ind. Hotels range from roadside kitsch to the luxurious Eldorado Shreveport.

Route 66 remains the Mother Road of car trips. “Get your kicks on Route 66” with 2,000 miles of fabled Americana from Chicago to Los Angeles. Even with the Grand Canyon as a centerpiece, Route 66 is not found on modern maps. The two lane byway was out paced by the eight lane highway. But the classic motels and Chicago back streets still make it the best of the best road trips. Rent a VW camper for this one.

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Pearl’s Rainbow Resort, Key West goes coed on Thanksgiving weekend

On Sunday Nov 14th,  Heather Carruthers, owner of Pearl’s Rainbow resort in Key West announced in an email -"The times, they are a-changin'."

Citing LGBT community progress, changing times and more men and women traveling together, Key West’s Lesbian resort icon Pearl's Rainbow changed its mission and now embraces ALL travelers.  Their web site shows photos of each possible couple configuration.  The economics of today are causing shifts in our LGBT community. It is happening locally and nationally. No longer is it financially wise, and to some extent, politically correct, to cater to only one segment of our family.

Like many places in Key West, there’s a legend that “Hemingway slept here” when Pearl’s was a boarding house. It was a guesthouse for women beginning in 1989, and became Pearl’s Rainbow in 2000.  For 25 years Pearl’s solidified its reputation as one of the mere handful of US resorts catering to lesbian travelers. It was where you went if you wanted to be around all lesbians.

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Travel: How to avoid being fooled by online reviews

You and your partner want to take a spur of the moment trip to the beach for a little relaxation before the holiday madness. You love to plan trips so you google “beach resorts” and are overwhelmed with 2,400,340 results. So you will concentrate on the first 30. But beware: Nothing is what it seems because you are about to enter the world of reputation management.

In the business of rating hotels, travel companies, destinations and services, the opinion of people with first hand knowledge is extremely valuable. It can also be deadly if their experience was negative. The manufacturing, placement and evaluation of customer reviews is the objective of internet marketing.  And we, the consumers, have to make sense of the information.

Trip Advisor is the granddaddy of opinion sites.  We have been told about manipulation that allegedly goes on with bogus reviews. There are travel watchdogs constantly nipping at Trip Advisor’s heels to keep them honest. Reputation management companies are known for being able to bury negative reviews by adding neutral or glowing reviews to the top. We usually just read the first 20 or so comments. The result is that we are less likely to see all the bad comments and more likely to see only the good ones. So go to the last comment and read backwards. Don’t go back further than one year.

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Travel: Multi-generational holiday trips

As the holidays near, it is time to plan the family gatherings. If you are the host, a lot of thought, money and stress goes into feeding and entertaining your multi-generational family.  How do you keep the kids and the grandparents occupied, day after day? The kids usually win out and everyone ends up at the zoo and latest G rated movie.

There are travel options you ought to consider.

Don’t count out holiday travel as being too costly, complicated or difficult for the grandparents. Hotels, resorts, national parks, cruise lines and trains are all rolling out the red carpet for financially challenged vacationers in this tough holiday season.  If you have already made vacation plans and paid full price, consider asking your travel agent to negotiate some amenities.

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Traveling with the whole family

Bella the dog wears shades

When Eileen of Decatur travels with her terrier-beagle-spaniel-birddog Doc, they use state-maintained rest stops for their breaks. They offer dedicated pet green spaces. And she never leaves Doc in the car while she stretches and uses the facilities. Eileen confidently walks the leashed Doc in with her, disregarding the “No Dogs Allowed” signs, and they are out before security can do anything about it. South Carolina and Virginia are Eileen’s favorite state-run rest stops.

For air travel, the airline-approved Sherpa Pet Carrier is home away from home for Bella, Denise of Toronto’s  Coton de Tulear. Once in the soft sided bag, Bella is not allowed to stick even her head out, according to airline rules. Make your flight reservations over the phone when taking your pet onboard. And ask first if they have available space. Only so many animals are allowed to fly on each plane. Bella travels under the seat in front of Denise, her shot record in one Sherpa pocket and Kong toy in the other. Denise will slip her an ice cube now and then. Bella loves the vibration of the plane and sleeps.