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Why I Took a Road Trip for My Honeymoon

Novelist Nora Zelevansky’s honeymoon was so swoon-worthy and budget-minded that you'll want to steal the idea. Here’s the storybook tale, in her own words.

Despite what Pinterest would have us believe, weddings are stressful. Even “carefree” moments are scheduled with military precision. In travel and in life, I don’t love that kind of structure. So when it came to my honeymoon, I wasn’t inspired to race around airports, making connections. All I wanted was to unwind, wear hoodies, and eat carbs.

My husband, Andrew, and I have always shared a love of road trips: the flexibility, the spontaneity—the simple pleasure of serendipity. California makes an especially good backdrop for such an easygoing journey, with its dramatic shifts in landscape; drive a few hours and you’ve crossed from desert into lush greenery, from the shore into mountains.

Andrew and I took our time getting hitched, exclusively dating in L.A. for years beforehand. By our wedding, we had driven as far south as Rosarito, Mexico, and as far north as Portland, Oregon. So, for us, there was an implicit romance to this honeymoon concept: As anyone who has ever driven cross-country knows, road trips represent a kind of shared freedom.

We decided to do this one like the “adults” we suddenly felt we must be. This wouldn’t be some haphazard slog to worn-down shacks labeled “cottages.” We’d still hold fast to our money by eating inexpensive snacks on the road—albeit high-end Kettle Chips and coconut water this time around—but since we were saving on airfare, we would splurge on the high-end hotels I’d always fantasized about visiting.

On a crisp fall day in early November, with The Clash blaring, we rode that tailwind of change up the 5 freeway, away from the past year’s stresses. 

As is often the case with memories, when I look back on the trip, I am rewarded with ephemeral impressions: crisp breezes carrying scents of salty sea and rosemary, bucolic walks through what felt like enchanted forests, strolls in impossibly quaint towns sampling olive oil and coconut sorbet, a perfect song erupting from the radio, laughter as we relived our wedding or happened upon a pen of adorable baby fainting goats. Still, one experience from each leg of the journey stands out—four in total. They are the chapters of my storybook dream trip, hard-won with budgeting, and savored to this day, the edges gilded in my mind.

I. Sausalito

We landed first on the other side of the bridge from San Francisco in lesser-known Sausalito at Cavallo Point Lodge, a hotel converted from a onetime U.S. Army post, Fort Baker (cavallopoint.com). To me, it was the embodiment of the Golden State’s signature relaxed luxury: at once historic and contemporary, organic and geometric, pampering and utilitarian. I have gauzy memories of enjoying our spa treatments and nature hikes. But the moment that crystallized for me was just after we arrived: Alone in our impeccable, earth-toned room, we peeled off our jackets and looked, spellbound, out the large windows. The Golden Gate bridge loomed orange above us; its lights twinkled as the sun went down.

II. Point Reyes

Our next stop was Point Reyes, where oyster farms line the foggy, protected shoreline. At Manka’s Inverness Lodge, high-end log cabins sit nestled among redwoods and firs (mankas.com). Open since 1917, the hotel had recently lost their lauded restaurant to a fire. As a result, simple yet transcendent meals were brought to our room. The kitchen culled all their ingredients from within a couple of miles, and you could taste it. One morning, we opened our front door to find a tray waiting. We carried it to our dining nook, where we unwrapped impossibly fresh yogurt, homemade granola, local apples, and hot cinnamon buns made from scratch, served straight from the oven. It was the best breakfast of my life.

III. Napa Valley

At Calistoga Ranch, the Napa Valley wine country stop on our journey, our room felt like the world’s most lavish treehouse (calistogaranch.aubergeresorts.com). Tucked amidst greenery, an actual oak grew through the sun deck beside an indoor/outdoor fireplace. We adored the bathroom: Beyond two distinct sleek sink areas opposite each other (what Andrew and I consider “living the dream”), an outdoor shower and garden awaited. We hardly wanted to leave the room, but eventually, we made it outside, accidentally happening upon quirky Prager Winery and Port Works (pragerport.com). My only previous experience with the sweet drink involved stealing it from a friend’s parents’ liquor cabinet when I was a teenager. But here we swirled it, inhaled it, really tasted it. Andrew ended up falling hard for a tawny port, tucking it into our trunk before continuing to our final destination.

IV. Big Sur

We had spent enough time in Big Sur in years past to hear buzz about Post Ranch Inn (postranchinn.com). We couldn’t wait to try it for ourselves. The rumors were true: Our room was extraordinary, massively windowed and overlooking rolling hillsides where wild turkeys roamed. In the brisk fall evening, Andrew suggested that we throw on plush robes, grab wine, and hustle to one of the hot plunges embedded in the cliffside. I was initially resistant because of the chill, but as soon as we climbed into the warm water, I knew he’d been right. The moon was full and bright. Gazing out over the dramatic cliffs, we passed the ambrosial wine back and forth, swigging from the bottle. Just when it seemed like the moment couldn’t get more idyllic, we turned to find a deer regarding us calmly from just feet away. It was as though a fairy godmother herself were designing our own personal fable.

When the sun rose on the final morning of our honeymoon, we were melancholy, of course. The afterglow of a hotly anticipated journey is bittersweet. But as we wound through peaks and valleys on our way home, luckily we weren’t on anyone else’s schedule…and we took our sweet time.

Nora Zelevansky is the author of Will You Won’t You Want Me? (out April 19) and Semi-Charmed Life.

See More From Budget Travel:America's Most Spectacular Drives48 Perfectly Romantic Hours in ParisHoneymoon Paradise for Less (You MUST See the Perks!)Surprise! These Are the World's Top Honeymoon DestinationsHave You Taken Our Top 25 Road Trips?

Three-Day Weekend: Nassau & Paradise Island

Beaches! Sky juice! Water slides! Conch fritters! Nassau and Paradise Island, Bahamas, are a short hop from anywhere on the East Coast, making the perfect island getaway closer—and more affordable—than ever. All you'll need is a valid passport and your bathing suit!

My hands are shaking and my knees are weak; I'm not in love, I'm climbing the steps of the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort's Mayan Temple, ever so slowly approaching the entrance to Leap of Faith, the largest, steepest water slide I've ever been on. Not only that, this seven-story slide will take me through the Mayan Temple Shark Lagoon—a large aquarium full of Caribbean reef sharks. Gulp.

I've spent most of the morning chatting with people who have just been on the impressive-looking slide, trying really hard to talk myself into it. By the afternoon, I've rationalized everything—the drop, the angle, the speed—and am finally ready to take the plunge. And then I find out there's another, easier way to see the sharks up close: another Mayan Temple attraction called the Serpent Slide that doesn't involve a terrifying drop down a 60-foot tall almost-vertical body slide, but rather a fun ride on an inner tube that ends in a large, clear tunnel, slowly taking you through the shark-filled aquarium.

So, yes, I may have totally chickened out on the big slide, but at least this way I was able to glide past the giant sharks, and believe me, that was terrifying enough!

Don't have enough time to visit all 700+ islands of the Bahamas? Start with New Providence Island, home to Nassau, Paradise Island, and enough beaches and Bahamian culture to satisfy every foodie and history buff in your arsenal. Plus, the U.S. Dollar is on par with the Bahamian Dollar, so you don't have to worry about the exchange rate, and the locals are super-friendly. What's not to love?

Experience all the perks of the Atlantis Resort—for less!

We've all seen photos of the iconic pink towers of the Atlantis Resort's Royal Towers, but did you know there's a way to experience all the perks of the resort without actually ponying up the big bucks to stay there? The secret: stay next door at Comfort Suites Paradise Island (from $130 in early December). Not only will your nightly rate give you complimentary Wi-Fi and daily breakfast, it also includes day passes to Atlantis, which normally run $150 per person, for free. Spend the day taking on the water slides in more than 20 swimming areas and 11 themed pools, lounging on white-sand beaches, or feasting at the one of the resort's fine dining restaurants, then unwind by the pool and bar at Comfort Suites Paradise Island if you need a break from all the excitement. Don't miss the Lazy River Rapids (which feel like they're part lazy river, part wave pool!) and of course, the legendary water slides of the Mayan Temple that let you float or slide through an aquarium tank full of Caribbean reef sharks! Note: It's also worth checking for flash sales on the Atlantis Resort website for extra savings if you really want to stay on the property; rates at the resort's Coral Towers start at $170 per night in early December.

Enjoy tasty Bahamian fare—conch fritters, anyone?

Don't miss the Bites of Nassau Food Tour a three-hour food tasting and cultural walking tour through the colorful streets of Downtown Nassau, with stops at six local restaurants and specialty shops—like an artisanal chocolate tasting at the Graycliff Beer Garden & Chocolatier or a lesson in local Bahamian herbs and spices that will change the way you look at medicine the next time you have a cold (curry spices are used in cooking to treat inflammation and coughs, who knew?). You'll also stop at Van Breugel's Bistro & Bar for Caribbean fusion dishes; Bahamian Cookin' Restaurant & Bar, where the locals go for traditional eats; Athena's Cafe, the island's oldest Greek restaurant; and the Tortuga Rum Cake Company to taste flavored rum cakes that are baked daily with five-year aged rum (from $69 per adult, $49 for children ages 12 and under, children under 3 are free). For a fun, super-authentic dining experience, check out the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay, a collection of small, local restaurants just outside Downtown Nassau where you can sample Bahamian favorites like cracked conch (pronounced "conk" by the way) and Sky Juice, a milky-white concoction made with gin, coconut water, sweet milk, cinnamon, sugar, and fresh nutmeg. A number of locals I spoke to recommended Oh Andros as their favorite spot for food in Arawak Cay and Twin Brothers for the best daiquiri cocktails. I concur.

Visit Fort Charlotte, The Queen's Staircase, and a Pirate Museum!

History buffs will love exploring Nassau's old forts, originally built to protect the island from invaders, but luckily, none has ever had to be used in battle. Fort Charlotte is about a five-minute walk from Downtown Nassau and features displays of how the complex was built and what it was like to be stationed there in the 17th century (spoiler alert: it wasn't easy!) Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children ages 6-12, ages five and under get in free. Closer to Downtown, Fort Fincastle sits at the top of Bennet's Hill overlooking the city. To reach it, climb the Queen's Staircase, a 102-foot tall staircase built by slaves in the late-1700s and later named in honor of Queen Victoria, who is credited with abolishing slavery in 1837—or do what I did and take a taxi to Fort Fincastle and make your way down the Queen's Staircase instead (admission is free for both sites). Pirate lovers will want to visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum, home to an interactive pirate attraction that feels like you've become part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride—keep an eye out for the pirate ship Revenge and get your close up of Blackbeard himself ($13 for adults, $6.50 for children ages 4-17).

See the Straw Markets

Brush up on your negotiating skills and pick up some locally-made handicrafts from the Straw Market on Bay Street in Downtown Nassau, a great place to find hand-woven straw bags, hats, and other Bahamian crafts and souvenirs for your friends back home. Smaller straw markets are also located on Paradise Island and in the Cable Beach resort area about a 20-minute drive from Nassau.

Go beyond Downtown Nassau

If you plan on renting a car to discover the rest of New Providence Island, keep in mind that everyone drives on the left in the Bahamas, so proceed with caution, especially if you're not used to it. I opted for taxis, a great option if you're traveling with a group, or an easy 10-minute water taxi ride to get between Paradise Island and Downtown Nassau ($4 one way, $8 round-trip, every half hour). Another option, especially if you're staying along Cable Beach or areas west, is to hop a ride on the jitneys into and out of Downtown Nassau, a great way to chat with locals who are doing the same thing (each ride is about $1.50). For a nice, quiet stay in Paradise Island, head east and try the Best Western Plus Bay View Suites for a relaxing romantic getaway. It's a five-minute walk to the nearest beach, and also a great option for large or multi-generational families traveling together who might need more space (from $160 per night).

Explore the hidden gems of Paradise Island

Tucked away on the eastern end of Paradise Island about a 15-minute walk from the Atlantis Resort area, you'll find Versailles Gardens, a lovely, terraced, European-style garden modeled after its namesake in France. The Versailles Gardens are located on part of the One & Only Ocean Club's property along Paradise Island Drive, but are free and open to the public 24/7, and as you can imagine, a popular spot for photos and weddings. You'll also find the remains of an original 14th-century French Cloister across the street that's part of the complex, purchased by William Randolph Hearst and later by Huntington Hartford, who brought it with him to the Bahamas.

The best part: it's closer than you think

I was surprised how fast the flight was from JFK, a mere 2.5 hours! Catch a nonstop flight on JetBlue from JFK, Boston, Orlando, Washington National, or Fort Lauderdale; fly on United for nonstop flights from Chicago, Houston, and Newark; SouthWest Airlines for nonstop flights from Baltimore; American Airlines for nonstop flights from Miami, Philadelphia, and Charlotte; Delta for nonstop flights from JFK and Atlanta; or Bahamasair for nonstop flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Keep an eye out for flash sales by following your favorite airline on social media or signing up for their email newsletters so the deals come straight to your inbox.

See More From Budget Travel:Great Getaways: Puerto RicoGreat Getaways: FijiThree-Day Weekend: CuracaoThe 101 Most Beautiful Places on Earth35 EASY Solo Trips to Try!

The city of Denver doesn't know who runs the 'City of Denver' Instagram account

The @cityofdenver Instagram account boasts hundreds of photos of Denver's skyline, popular landmarks and Colorado's natural landscape.

>> Read more trending stories 

The account has 150,000 followers, and posted photos generally receive thousands of likes.

But the official city of Denver doesn't know who's running the account.

A photo posted by Denver Colorado (@cityofdenver) on Sep 10, 2016 at 1:39pm PDT

According to KUSA, an unknown person or group has been "squatting" on the account name for years.

Jenny Schiavone, who works for Denver's marketing department, said city officials have tried unsuccessfully for "a while" to find out who's operating the account.

A photo posted by Denver Colorado (@cityofdenver) on Oct 2, 2016 at 11:53pm PDT

The account, which can easily be mistaken as an official one, also links to a cityofdenver.us website, where the official city of Denver logo is posted. 

But Schiavone said no one from the city has made a complaint to Instagram.

"We haven't asked them to give it up, since they had it first, and they really do have fabulous content, but we've asked them not to use our website and logo," Schiavone said.

Schiavone said the city, which has discussed creating an official Instagram, would have to find another name for the official account. So far, @therealcityofdenver has been suggested.

Alaska Airlines to make history with flight powered by wood

Alaska Airlines will make history Monday flying the first commercial flight using the world's first renewable, alternative jet fuel made from forest residuals --the limbs and branches that remain after managed forests are harvested.

The forest residuals used to power Alaska Airlines Flight 4 was sourced from tribal lands and private forestry operations in the Pacific Northwest and was produced through the efforts of the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, the airline said.

>> Read more trending stories  

The NARA initiative is funded by a five-year, $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Believed to be the world's first alternative jet fuel produced from wood, the blended fuel meets international standards, allowing it to be used safely for Monday's commercial flight.

The flight will depart from Sea-Tac Airport at 8:20 a.m. and will land at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. and will be met by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at 4:10 p.m.

In June, the airline operated the first commercial flights using a 20 percent blend of renewable alcohol-to-jet biofuel produced by a renewable chemical and biofuel company. 

Airline captain speaks over intercom to diffuse election-fueled conflict between passengers

Tensions are running high across the country in the wake of the shocking presidential election that rocked the nation last Tuesday.

There have been numerous accounts of racially charged attacks, protests, fights and arguments being documented by individuals on both sides of the political aisle.

Now another incident has come to light that happened on a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in which the flight's captain and the flight crew were forced to intervene.

>> Read more trending stories  

According to the description with a video posted Friday on YouTube, a man in a "plaid shirt and camo cap" said something about being glad to have "kept his guns" to a black woman sitting next to him.

The woman started "crying and freaking out," and the United Airlines crew members were forced to separate the two individuals.

After the incident, the flight's captain got on the intercom system and made it clear that he would not tolerate any other such incidents.

"I understand everybody has their opinion; that's fine," the captain said. "If you support (Donald Trump), great. If you don't, I understand. However, we're out here to go to Puerto Vallarta, supposed to be having a good time, and what I do ask is that as people we have the common decency to respect each other's decisions and to get along on this three-hour and 13-minute flight so that we can have a good time when we get down there."

He continued: "Nobody is going to change their minds by arguing. And let's keep our opinions to ourselves on this particular matter at this particular time."

The captain also said that if anyone wanted to argue, they were not welcome on his flight.

"If there's anyone that has a problem with this, that needs to vent or rant or rave, there's another flight tomorrow," he said. "You're not going to be on this one. I hope that's clear."

After his message had concluded, passengers cheered in appreciation.

A United Airlines spokesperson, Maggie King, released a statement after the incident, saying that the captain "used the intercom to diffuse the situation and ensure the safety of everyone on board. The flight continued without any further reports of disturbance."

Plane makes emergency landing after snake found slithering overhead

Like a scene out of a movie, a pair of passengers caught a snake during a 2-hour Aeromexico flight on Sunday after passengers spotted it, according to a social media report.

>> Read more trending stories

Indalecio Medina, rector of Universidad Politecnica de la Region Laguna in Luchana, Coahuila, took to Twitter and Facebook on Sunday afternoon with a 27-second clip of the bright green snake moving near a plane's overhead bin.

"The flying snake," he wrote on Twitter. "A unique experience on the flight from Torreon-Mexico (City)."

The snake was found on flight 231, which makes the 500-mile trip once a day from Torreon, Coahuila, to Mexico City.

The airline confirmed that a snake was found on board a flight Sunday afternoon in a statement released to Publimetro.

The company is working to determine how the snake got on the plane.

"To Aeromexico, the safety of its passengers and crew is the highest priority," the company said in a statement.

Medina wrote on Facebook that he and another passenger caught the snake using a blanket and magazines to keep the snake still.

"I had to play snake catcher with a blanket, and we obviously gave it some magazines to read," he wrote. "But don't worry … The snake was alive and kicking, frightened but without having paid for its ticket. Best of all… (we got) priority landing at (Mexico City International Airport) and animal control was waiting for the unexpected traveler."

Animal control officers took custody of the snake without incident, Medina said.

U.S. passport changes coming: What you need to know

For those Americans who travel abroad, now would be a good time to plan ahead and renew your passport.

>> Read more trending stories

On its website, the State Department said it is expecting an increase in passport applications through 2018. Officials said people can renew a passport by mail if certain criteria are met. Individuals applying for the first time or under the age of 16 must appear in person at a passport acceptance facility. That includes designated U.S. post offices, libraries and clerks of court.

Typically, passport acceptance facilities offer routine service, which takes six weeks; and expedited service, which takes three weeks and costs an additional $60.

The State Department said it experienced an “unprecedented surge” in passport applications during 2007 due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. That law was enacted by the 9/11 Commission, making passports mandatory for all travel to and from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

As the passports issued in 2007 are beginning to expire, renewals are expected to surge. State Department said it issued more than 15.5 million passports in fiscal year 2015.

The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005, established a set of federal security standards for state driver’s licenses that require specific information and machine-readable technology in form of a chip, according to SmarterTravel.

Travelers using IDs issued by certain states could be turned away at the gate beginning Jan. 30, 2017, if their state doesn't adjust to the new standards in time, WTSP reported. Some states are under review and have been given a deadline extension, but all licenses must comply with the standards by 2020, WTSP reported.

So far, 23 states and the District of Columbia are under compliance. Fourteen states have had their deadlines extended to Oct. 10, 2017, and four states were granted a limited extension through June 6, 2017. Five states are not in compliance, and one state — Montana — is under review. Three states did not receive an extension.

To find out if your state has complied or been given an extension, click here.

Michael J. Fox goes 'Back to the Future,' again

Michael J. Fox looks like he went back in time again. 

During a recent trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, the actor who went "Back to the Future" as Marty McFly in the '80s film series found his DeLorean time machine and even a Doc Brown stand-in. 

The car is said to be one used as a stunt vehicle from "Back to the Future III."

>> Read more trending stories  

Universal posted the photo to its Twitter account.

Behind the time traveling pair was the locomotive Doc Brown outfitted as a new time machine for his family in the third installment of the "Back to the Future" trilogy.

The two vehicles are parked near where Universal's "Back to the Future" ride once operated. It closed in 2007.

Recently, Fox teamed up with Nike to raise money for his foundation to find a cure for Parkinson's disease.

The shoe company gave away 89 pairs of its limited-edition, self-lacing sneakers inspired by "Back to the Future."

"Though it initially shared only a few seconds of screen time with Michael, the idea behind the Nike Mag unlocked something much bigger at Nike," Nike chairman and CEO Mark Parker said in a statement. "It sent us down an uncharted path of innovation, but it also opened our eyes to our ability to fight some of the world’s biggest challenges. We feel privileged for the opportunity to raise even more awareness for the fight against Parkinson's."

The Nike Mag sneakers feature Nike's new HyperAdapt system, which uses a sensor that responds to the weight of a wearer's foot to automatically lace the shoes. The heels of the shoes light up to signal when the shoe is tightening and when the batteries need to be charged.

The raffle closed on Oct. 11, and winners were notified in mid-October.

The shoes will hit the market at select Nike retail locations at the end of the month.

Fit for the King: Elvis' Guest House at Graceland hotel opens in Memphis

The Guest House at Graceland is now officially open.

It has been years in the making, and now this world-class resort in Memphis, Tennessee, next to Elvis Presley's mansion is taking the region by storm.

WHBQ's Scott Madaus was invited to Thursday’s ceremony hosted by Priscilla Presley. 

>> PHOTOS: Elvis' Guest House at Graceland hotel opens in Memphis

From EP's Bar and Grill, up to one of the King’s private rooms, back down to a massively detailed lobby, over to Delta's Kitchen, then back up to a seventh-floor suite themed after Elvis' Palm Springs mansion, you will have no doubt that you are in Memphis with the King.

Leading the way and cutting the ribbon for the ceremonial grand opening was Priscilla Presley.

This $90 million project has 450 rooms, a business center, a 464-seat theater, five restaurants and lounges.

It is now officially open for business.

“If this hotel was here during the time he was alive, he would have probably spend most of his time over here," Priscilla Presley said.

The lobby's ceiling is themed after one of Elvis Presley's jumpsuits.

An exact replica of the stairwell inside Graceland including the famous chandelier is there.

>> Read more trending stories

“It has just been a dream come true," Priscilla Presley said.

No detail was spared, and much of the work force inside the guesthouse is local.

The rooms, of course, are fit for a king, and the suites are fit for the King himself.

​We're getting ready to celebrate the Grand Opening of the The Guest House at Graceland! Tune in to the Today Show on...Posted by The Guest House at Graceland on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“Someone asked me last night if Elvis would ever stay in this hotel, and I said, 'Would he ever stay in this hotel? I mean, this would be a dream hotel for him!'" Priscilla Presley said.

In the end, this project that is now the basis for revitalization in the Whitehaven area is complete. But the best is possibly yet to come.

“It positions us for better things to come in the 21st century," said Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau.

>> Watch a video of the ribbon cutting here

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";</span><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> The new Guesthouse at Graceland is holding a ribbon cutting today. Scott Madaus FOX13 Memphis is live from the $90 million hotel: http://bit.ly/2dPbtxvPosted by FOX13 Memphis on Thursday, October 27, 2016

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