parking

How to Save on Big City Hotel Parking

Big city hotel parking comes with a hefty price tag. In San Francisco or New York City, you can expect to pay between $55-$85 a night for popular three to five-star hotels. Street parking comes with risks of car break-ins or parking tickets. Here are some ideas to help you save money next time you drive to an urban adventure.

Find a Nearby Garage by Asking the Hotel Staff

Hotels that don’t have their own parking facilities simply take your car to a nearby garage. You are charged a combined fee of the public garage, the hotel charges, and the valet tip. Eliminate the hotel middleman and self-park at the same garage.

To find which garage the hotel uses, you can ask the hotel staff. Additionally, you can ask the concierge for help finding cheaper, secure off-site parking. Check-in and drop off your bags at the hotel lobby, then proceed to self-park at the same garage. You will save about $20 a night.

Use a Parking App

Your smartphone is the best tool for finding affordable parking while staying in the city. Parking apps let you reserve and pre-pay for spots, as well as get deep discounts and earn free parking through referrals. Some popular parking apps are:

These apps come with many features. They can show you what garages are sold out, book in advance, and alert you to in and out privileges. You can compare the rates of your hotel parking to the public garages nearby to find the best deal.

Self Park at the Hotel Rather Than Use the Valet

Some hotels allow you to self-park in their garages or lots. Other big city hotels offer only valet services. When there is an option, self-parking is always cheaper. The savings may not be huge, but you won’t need to tip the valet. Tips add up if you take your car in and out several times. Self-parking spots usually require a bit longer of a walk to your room. One convenience of self-parking is you do not have to wait for the valet to fetch your car.

Drive a Smaller Car

Hotel parking garages charge more for SUVs and oversize trucks because they don’t have many spots for them. Charges range from $10-20 more in addition for larger vehicles. If you have the option to choose what to drive from your family or friends’ vehicles, choose the smaller car. You will get better gas mileage too!

Do You Need In and Out Privileges?

City parking, whether at a public garage or hotel, will come with or without in and out privileges. If you plan to use public transporation or taxi services during your stay, you can save money by parking without in and privileges. In and out privileges mean you can use your car as much as you want and not be charged each time it leaves the garage.

Without in and out privileges, you pay every time you leave a garage. Your rate starts over when you return. For example, rates are cheaper to park for six hours than to pay for two parking periods of three hours. Short parking periods add up. Book a hotel or public garage with in and out privileges, unless you plan to leave your car the entire stay.

Choose a Distant Hotel and Use Public Transportation

Metropolitan areas have great public transportation systems. Figuring them out and riding with residents is an excellent way to experience a city. The farther you get from the heart of the city, the cheaper the hotels. Often these hotels come with free or greatly reduced parking. Not only will you save on your room and parking, you will get to experience the city first hand.

Check Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor is a great resource for travelers. The Trip Advisor Forum is full of great ideas from experienced locals and visitors.  You can search for specific parking suggestions for the city you plan to visit or the hotel you have booked. From Chicago to Los Angeles, you can search for hotels with free parking or read advice from other people.

Follow these tips on your next vacation or business trip to a city. Remember to remove your personal possessions from your no matter where you park. Keep your car safe, avoid parking violations, and make the most of your urban adventure.

 

catacomb

10 Cities with Creepiest Catacombs

What is a catacomb? The simple definition is an underground cemetery connected by tunnels. The term is derived from “ad catacumbas,” meaning “near the hollows.” From the Holy Grail to a gilded Titanic, catacombs around the world hold an aura of mystery and legend. Here are some of the cities with the creepiest catacombs.

Rome, Italy

There are more than 40 catacombs beneath the city of Rome. In addition to the early Christian catacombs, the city contains Jewish and pagan ones as well. Originally thought to be the burial sites of martyrs, historians now agree the more than 6.5 million burials must have been for laypeople too. Roman law required cemeteries to be outside city limits. As space ran out, corpses were moved underneath the city. Many of the catacombs contain rooms with benches where families would have meals with the dead. Here are some of the most famous ones in the Eternal City:

  • Catacombs of St.Callixtus: 16 popes were buried in St. Callixtus. It was the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. These catacombs take up an area of 90 acres, with 12 miles of tunnels on four levels that are more than 20 meters deep.
  • Catacombs of Priscilla: Called the “Queen of Catacombs,” a great number of martyrs were buried here. It is the oldest catacomb mentioned in ancient Roman and Christian print.
  • Catacombs of St. Domitilla: Rediscovered in 1593, the Catacombs of Domitilla extend about 17 kilometers on four levels.
  • Catacombs of St. Sebastian: The burial of the martyr, San Sebastian, gives these catacombs their name. Both Christians and pagans were buried in the loculi wall tombs. The basilica above the burial site houses marble footsteps attributed to Jesus. In addition, the arrow that killed San Sebastian can be seen.

Paris, France

The Catacombs of Paris are famous for walls lined with skulls and bones. Similar to the Roman catacombs, these underground burials solved the problem of overflowing graveyards. Built much later, the Parisian catacombs burials began in the 18th-century. The tunnels were already in place below the city from 13th-century mining.

Prior to the catacombs, Parisian cemeteries stunk of rotting corpses. During a heavy spring rain in 1780, the walls of the Les Innocents cemetery broke flooding the streets with dead body parts. Thus, the city began moving the deceased to already existing mining tunnels. It took 12 years to move the six million bodies. Throughout the Parisian catacombs, the bones are arranged in macabre displays. Here you’ll find the largest population of skeletons on display.

Sousse, Tunisia

Romans occupied Tunisia from 146 BC to 439 AD. Christianity was considered a threat to the empire. Early persecuted Christians used Tunisian catacombs to bury their dead and for hidden worship. The Sousse Catacombs contain approximately 15,000 bodies and extend five kilometers. They were discovered in 1888 on the site of the ancient, coastal city of Hadrumetum.

The Catacombs of Sousse are located west of the Medina. They are better preserved than the Catacombs of Rome. Also known as the Catacombs of the Good Shepherd, the walls of the tunnels and galleries include niches for oil lamps. Some of the graves are bricked over; others have been excavated where you can view human remains.

Odessa, Ukraine

With a total length of approximately 2,500 kilometers, the Catacombs of Odessa are the longest in the world. The oldest tunnels date from the 17th-century. Like other catacombs, the tunnels were originally constructed beneath the city for mining. Later, they were used by smugglers. During WWII, the Ukrainians used the catacombs to launch surprise attacks on Nazi invaders.

Unlike other catacombs, the Odessa tunnels were not used for massive burial, although corpses of smugglers can be found. The tunnels are rumored to contain murdered Jews, a solid gold replica of the Titanic, and executed Nazis. In 2005, a teenage girl got lost in the tunnels during a New Year’s Eve Party. While her body was allegedly found two years later, there is some doubt of the veracity of this story.

Rabat, Malta

Roman laws prohibited burial within the ancient city of Melite, as was common throughout the empire, so burials went underground. The St. Paul Catacombs offer the earliest evidence of Christianity on the island. They were actively used into the 4th-century and consist of more 30 hypogea, or underground chambers. The catacombs of St. Paul are the largest catacombs on Malta with an area of 2000 square meters. They offer a wider variety of tomb architecture. For example, unique baldacchino, or canopied tombs, are prevalent in the main chamber. Pagans, Christians, and Jews were buried side by side here.

Brno, Czech Republic

The Brno Ossuary is the most recent underground burial discovery. In 2001, 50,000 skeletons were discovered beneath the Church of St. James. Piled in neat rows, the bones were thought to have been moved from above ground cemeteries to make room for new burials in the 1600-1700s. The deaths were caused by the medieval plague, cholera epidemics, and the Swedish Siege of Brno during the Thirty Years’ War. The Brno Ossuary has the second largest quantity of skeletal remains in Europe behind the Parisian catacombs. Lacking tunnels, this burial site is considered an ossuary, a room that houses the dead. The Brno Ossuary consists of three rooms completely filled to the ceiling with skeletons. For preservation purposes, the bones were removed, cleaned and rearranged before opening to the public in 2012.

Lima, Peru

An estimated 25,000 to 70,000 skeletal remains line the walls of the catacombs below the San Francisco Monastery in Lima, Peru. These catacombs were in use until 1808 when a cemetery for commoners was built outside city limits. Famous for the intricate layout of bones in circular patterns, the San Francisco Catacombs were rediscovered in 1943. They connect to Lima’s cathedral and other churches via tunnels under the city. The placement of the bones in mandalas and geometric designs are evidence of a mysterious, metaphysical ritual unknown to modern scholars.

Palermo, Italy

Catacombs can be found throughout Italy. Besides Rome, some of the most spectacular examples of these underground burials are found in Sicily. The Capuchin Monastery in Palermo houses the corpses of dead monks that underwent natural mummification. In 1597, new catacombs were built in ancient caves. Upon moving bodies to this new location, the monks discovered the natural mummies. The mummified friars’ faces were still recognizable. Their natural preservation was considered an act of God, and they were honored as relics. Wealthy Sicilians paid for mummification by the friars until 1783. It was considered a status symbol sought by the privileged class.

Dublin, Ireland

Beneath the Church Christ Cathedral in Dublin lies the largest crypt in Ireland. Famous for a mummified cat and rat playfully named “Tom and Jerry,” this medieval catacomb is the earliest surviving structure in Dublin. It houses Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta. You can rent the crypt for your own private event or take a ghost tour at night.

Another infamous catacomb of Dublin is found at St. Michan’s Church. Mummies of famous and historic figures, such as a 400-year-old nun, fill the chambers. Other mummified inhabitants include an 800-year-0ld, six and a half foot tall crusader who had to have his feet cut off to fit in a coffin, as well as a thief whose hands were chopped off. Limestone walls and methane gas from rotting vegetation maintain the perfect climate for mummy preservation. Dracula author, Bram Stoker, visited these catacombs potentially inspiring his thrilling book.

Alexandria, Egypt

In 1900, a donkey fell down a hole and discovered the Catacombs of Kom Ash Shuqqafa. This is the largest Roman burial site in Egypt. Started in the 2nd-century and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, the name of these catacombs translates to “Mounds of Shards.” There are piles of broken pottery in the area left behind by tomb visitors. It was bad luck to bring home a clay vessel that had been used while visiting the tombs, so family members would break them upon leaving. Art found in the burial site blends ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman styles. This is the only catacomb in the world where a mix of these three cultures’ art can be found.

skulls and mist

Great New Orleans Ghost Tours For All Scare Levels

New Orleans is a city filled with history, and some say many historical events left behind evidence of the paranormal kind. In the French Quarter, the cemeteries, and just about every corner you turn in The Big Easy, ghosts abound. So do ghost tours, but not all tours are for all people. To find the tour that’s right for you, check out these options.

Good for Families with Younger Children

The Cemetery and Voodoo Walking Tour from Gray Line goes easy on the scares. A climate-controlled bus transports guests to St. Louis Cemetery #1 for this two-hour, daylight-only tour. During the drive, a guide tells tales about people from the French Quarter’s long ago past who may still be hanging around today as ghosts (but there are no ghosts in the bus, of course). At the cemetery, a professional, licensed guide continues the stories with tales of the famous and infamous people who are buried there, as well as the evolution of Voodoo.

When guests get to the tomb of New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, they’ll learn how she was able to be in two places at once. They’ll also be able to make a wish or cast a spell at her tomb. A little history lesson happens, too, when the guide explains the above ground burial customs of the region and the origins of some of the tombs.

Guests walk away with a souvenir “Gris Gris” bag containing a Voodoo amulet.

  • Tour departs from the Gray Line “Lighthouse” Ticket Office at Toulouse St. & the Mississippi River at the Steamboat Natchez Dock
  • Price: Adults $27.00; Children ages 6-12 $15
  • Dates and times vary depending on time of year – confirm with website
  • Reservations are recommended 24 hours in advance

Good for Families with Older Children

The Ghosts of New Orleans Tour from Ghost City takes guests on a tour in hopes they will encounter a ghost along the way. Guests visit the most notorious haunted locations in the famous New Orleans’ French Quarter on this 90 minute tour. The tour visits haunted restaurants, hotels, and more. Along the way, guests will hear the true story behind the haunted LaLaurie Mansion, home to many tortured ghosts, and also visit sites of grisly murders and crimes where the victims are said to still haunt the living.

  • Tour departs from 798 Chartes Street
  • Price: Ages 12 and up $19.95; Children ages 6-11 $9.95; 5 and under are free
  • Tours begin nightly at 6pm and 8pm
  • Advance ticket purchase is required

Good for Giving You Nightmares

The 4-in-1 Ghosts,Voodoo,Vampires and Witchcraft Walking Tour from Witches Brew Tours encourages guests to take multiple pictures with flash photography because more often than not, something inexplicable finds its way into a photo during this dark-of-night ghost tour. The tour leads guests through the historic French Quarter and stops at buildings well known for paranormal activity and tragedies.

What makes this tour especially scary is that many of the stories told on this tour are true, so it may not be suitable for kids under 10. Tour guides take guests to the location where one of the world’s oldest vampires spent time in New Orleans in the 1920s. They also visit New Orleans’ most haunted house, the residence of Madame Delphine LaLaurie – the inspiration for Kathy Bates’ character in American Horror Story. In between there are stories of hauntings, spirits, and paranormal activity that have happened over the centuries in New Orleans.

  • Tour departs from the corner of Royal and Conti Streets, directly across from Latrobe’s restaurant
  • Price: Adults $25; Students, military with I.D, and seniors $20; Children ages 6-12 $12
  • Tours begin at 5pm and 8pm
  • Advance ticket purchase is recommended; walk ups are welcome to stand by

Good for a History Lesson

Saints and Sinners Walking Tour from French Quarter Phantoms doesn’t water anything down when it comes to the colorful history of New Orleans. This tour takes guests through the best and worst of the strange city with a dark, dark past. Not so much a ghost tour as it is a tour through the city highlighting the unique and interesting rumors of conspiracy, witchcraft, and vampires. It also highlights the truths of a Voodoo priestess and other historical figures through the centuries in this city that has had more than its fair share of saints and sinners.

  • Tour departs from 718 N Rampart St. at the corner of Orleans Street and Rampart Street
  • Price: $20 ages 17 and up. No one under 17 is permitted on this adult-themed tour
  • Tours begin at 1pm daily
  • Advance ticket purchase is recommended

Remember, no matter which tour you take, tour guides work hard to learn the history of New Orleans so they can pass on the information to you in a fun, educational, and a little bit spooky way. They always appreciate a tip at the end of the evening if you appreciated their expertise.