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Clark Howard: Travel e-Scapes Newsletter December 9, 2010

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Travel Tips, Tidbits & Trivia

High-tail it Through Europe!
Upon arrival in Spain, Americans will be able to transfer seamlessly to the Alta Velocidad Espanola, or AVE, a high-speed train from Madrid to Valencia – a charming region on the Mediterranean. Starting on December 19, 20 trains a day will make the 90-minute trip with two classes of service in 12 coaches with 365 seats. Prices for the AVE range from 90 euros or about $125. Currently the train from Madrid to Valencia takes more than three hours and 45 minutes. The train will make two stops enroute: in Requena and Cuenca – both towns are known for their many wineries. Valencia has a charming old quarter full of Gothic and Renaissance monuments. The art nouveau mercado central is one of the best food markets in Europe. The waterfront was redesigned to host the America’s Cup twice and every summer, the city stages a European Grand Prix with cars racing along the harbor and yacht marinas circuit. There are charming villages in the region – notably in the provinces of Alicante and Castellon – and 300 miles of beautiful sandy beaches.

Save on Car Rentals
Save $10 per day and up to $40 on a weekly or weekend rental at airport locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico through January 31 with Hertz. Valid on rentals from economy class and higher, this offer requires advance reservations. Refer to PC#151034 when booking.

Submit a Tip, Get a Package
Embassy Suites Hotels is spreading the holiday warmth and cheer beyond its front doors – and its standard amenities like spacious two-room suites, free cooked-to-order breakfasts and nightly manager’s receptions by offering a chance to win a holiday travel care package in exchange for savvy holiday travel tips among its Facebook community. Through December 11, consumers can visit the brand’s official Facebook page, choose to “like” Embassy Suites and submit their top travel tips for a chance to receive a special holiday travel care package. Each week, the first 250 fans to submit their top travel tips will get a care package delivered to their doorstep that includes handy, on-the-go items that any seasonal traveler will truly appreciate. The packages come with personal concierge cards, handy amenity cases to keep personal items organized, carry-on friendly, travel-sized Bloom bath products, and fold-up and expandable duffel bags to stuff full of presents on flights home for the holidays.


Today’s HOT Domestic & International Bargains

The following rates could vanish at any time. HOT deals have no ticket-by date – meaning the airlines can ‘pull’ the rate when they deem the offer a sell-out or an error. Act fast!

One-way from Atlanta:
$149 Toronto, Ontario
A 7-day advance purchase required
Add $20 per direction for Friday-Sunday travel
No blackouts
Complete travel by November 5, 2011
Valid on American via Chicago
Inclusive rate: $189.64

Round-trip from Atlanta:
$489 Berlin, Frankfurt, Hannover or Munich
$518 Zurich
$528 Amsterdam, Barcelona or Madrid
$554 Paris
$564 Lisbon or Oporto
$573 Dublin or Oslo
$582 Brussels
$595 Athens
$596 Rome or Venice
Add $30 per direction for Friday-Sunday travel
Depart on or after May 1-August 31, 2011
Stay a Saturday night to three months
Airline cannot be named here (Hint: Flight connection required in Charlotte or Philadelphia)
This deal is HOT! Quick: buy tickets at Consolidator Web Fares
Add plus or minus $450 for inclusive pricing


Great Domestic & International Deals

The following rates have a ticket-by date which gives you a bit more breathing room to purchase tickets. However, these rates can also expired should an airline deem the offer sold-out — or a mistake!

One-way from Atlanta:
$39 Memphis
$49 Dayton
$59 Ft. Myers or Sarasota
$74 San Antonio
$79 New York-LaGuardia
$104 Denver
A 10-day advance purchase required
Travel any available day
Valid on departures on or after January 5
Complete travel by February 16
Purchase today, December 9
Valid on AirTran, nonstop
Add up to $12 each way for inclusive pricing

NEW ROUTE! One-way from Atlanta:
$224 Bermuda
Add $10 each way for Friday-Sunday travel days
Depart on or after May 26
Complete travel by September 6
Valid on AirTran, daily nonstop
Inclusive rate: $278.35


Top 10 Tuesday

Lonely Planet has scoured the globe for next year’s hottest cities. The top picks show that a city doesn’t need to be a heaving metropolis to get on the list. Then again, sometimes it helps. One of the favorite picks is the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road. And there are even a couple of European cities that remain criminally underrated.

Here they are, Lonely Planet’s Top 10 cities for 2011, ranked in order:

1. New York City: Since 9/11, the site of the World Trade Center’s twin towers has stood out as a closed-off, out-of-view, painful gaping void. This year that changes, as the former WTC site finally reopens to the public with the National September 11 Memorial, a 6-acre, tree-filled plaza with 30 foot-deep waterfalls at the footprint of the former towers, rimmed by the name of each victim and illuminated at night (its museum will follow in 2012). For the city, this will be more momentous than if the Yankees, Knicks, Rangers and Giants won simultaneous championships while the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. For all of New York, 11 September 2011 will be a defining moment.

2. Tangier: From its extraordinary position perched on the northwestern-most tip of Africa, Tangier looks in two directions: one face towards Spain and Europe, and the other into Africa. The ‘white city’ announces a culture excitingly different from that of its close cousins across the water. With the recent arrival of a new city governor, the town beach now sparkles, the hustlers are off the streets and even the taxi drivers are polite. A stylish new Tangier is being created with a dynamic arts community, renovated buildings, great shopping and chic new restaurants.

3. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv is the total flipside of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill. Hedonism is the one religion that unites its inhabitants. There are more bars than synagogues, God is a DJ and everyone’s body is a temple. Yet, scratch underneath the surface and Tel Aviv, or TLV, reveals itself as a truly diverse 21st-century Mediterranean hub. By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East. Thanks to its university and museums, it is also the greenhouse for Israel’s growing art, film and music scenes.

4. Wellington: Wellington is Cool-with-a-capital-C, crammed with more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York, and a slew of gourmet producers including some 10 independent coffee roasteries. Year-round you’ll find arts and cultural events in abundance. Likewise, its film industry, ‘Wellywood’, centred on the Miramar Peninsula, is booming thanks in large part to the success of Wellingtonian Sir Peter Jackson (executive producer of the 2011 and 2012 Hobbit movies currently being made here). This little capital will be front-and-center on the world stage in 2011 when New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup.

5. Valencia: Valencia sits coquettishly and again confidently along Spain’s Mediterranean coast. For centuries, it was overshadowed by larger Spanish cities – hard-nosed, commercially-minded Barcelona and Madrid, the nation’s capital. Not any more. While retaining its provincial charm, Spain’s third city now mixes with the international crowd. Host of a couple of America’s Cup yachting jamborees and an annual street circuit Formula 1 motor race, it’s also European Capital of Sport for 2011 and a favorite destination for conferences and congresses. Valencia enjoyed its golden age two full centuries before the rest of Spain.

6. Iquitos: After days forging by boat along rainforest-fringed rivers, Iquitos, mighty megalopolis of the Peruvian Amazon, comes as a shock to the system. Pulsating with life, the city’s latest boom is tourism: visitors may flock to reconnoiter the rainforest but taking time to imbibe Iquitos itself is imperative too. This is a sultry slice of Amazon life: Brazilian, Colombian, indigenous and expat. Clubs bounce to salsa and rock until the early hours with the vigor you’d expect of Peru’s jungle capital, but Iquitos is also a cultural hub: expect works by Peru’s top artists, opulent rubber-boom mansions and a museum on Amazon ethnography for starters. As a trading post for rainforest tribes, market mayhem and riverboat bustle are part of the package, all conspiring to fill the city with an addictive, round-the-clock energy.

7. Ghent: Here’s a secret within a secret: Ghent might just be the best European city you’ve never thought of visiting, in a country that continues to be criminally overlooked. Ghent hides away in the middle of Belgium’s big three – Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp. Most Belgium-bound visitors rushing between these see nothing more than the stately fortifications of Ghent’s St Pieter’s Station. Those who do hop off the train and stroll along the Leie River to the historic center will have their eyes out on stalks. Here hides one of Europe’s finest panoramas of water, spires and centuries-old grand houses. But this is no place to simply kick back: Ghent has one of Europe’s most dynamic festival scenes, which vies for visitors’ attention. This year the entire center will emerge from a major program of rebuilding designed to show off the huge pedestrian-only squares.

8. Delhi: The great metropolis of Delhi, encompassing Old and New Delhi and sprawling out for miles, has not looked this smart and sparkling in centuries. Huge preparations for the Commonwealth Games, which took place in October 2010, improved the city’s infrastructure, cleaned up its streets and added to its accommodation options. Aside from, of course, a bounty of new or improved sporting facilities, there’s the marvelous artery of the Metro – an underground transport system that’s a futuristic, egalitarian world away from the sometimes chaotic, class-ridden situation above ground. This year marks 100 years since New Delhi was founded in 1911. At least eight cities are known to have been founded on this spot. The commemoration of this anniversary is sure to be a colorful and lively affair.

9. Newcastle: Is it Australia’s most underrated city? Anyone surprised to see Newcastle on the list of 2011’s hottest cities (and there’s a few of you, right?) probably hasn’t pulled in off the Pacific Highway, or at least not for a while. Newcastle flies under the radar of Aussies and international travelers in part because it’s overshadowed by its bigger, bolder and better-known sibling, Sydney, just over 90 miles south. But, at around one-tenth the size, Australia’s second-oldest city has Sydney-like assets: surf beaches, a sun-drenched subtropical climate, and diverse dining, nightlife and arts. Not only is Newcastle ideally located just two hours by road or rail or 30 minutes by plane or seaplane from Sydney, it’s less than an hour’s drive west to the Hunter Valley wineries, south to sailboat-filled Lake Macquarie, north to whale-watching and sharkfeeding at Port Stephens and to sandboarding at Stockton Beach (the southern end of the 20-mile long beach is a five-minute ferry ride across Newcastle’s harbor).

10. Chiang Mai: If Chiang Mai were a person, it would be Bob Dylan. With a history dating back further than anyone can remember, its influence remains enormous. And despite its great age, there’s still a bohemian chic that makes it as relevant and hip as ever. Culture capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai was once the heart of the Lanna kingdom. Today those wanting to flee the bustle of Bangkok visit to lounge in coffee shops and drink in the city’s artistic atmosphere. With a friendly, cosmopolitan feel, this is one easy, safe and pleasant place to explore. There are dozens of well-preserved temples here, too. Many new ecotours and adventure trips are appearing, and with a choice of river rafting, elephant rides, trekking and off-road cycling, even the biggest adrenaline junkie will be sated.

Source: Lonely Planet


The Best Hotel & Resort Deals

Celebrate in a city like nowhere else
Visit New Orleans this holiday season and stay at the AAA Four-Diamond JW Marriott Hotel New Orleans. The downtown New Orleans hotel is hosting a Crescent City Christmas and offering guests a “Papa Noel” package that includes breakfast for two each morning including mimosas, package assistance when returning to the hotel from a day of shopping and a $70 gift certificate for Serenity Spa. Rates start from $154 per night on stays through December 30. Refer to promo code HOL. Centrally located on historic Canal Street, the JW Marriott Hotel New Orleans offers old world charm, upscale amenities and a location just steps from an an array of entertainment options.

Early season ski discounts
Many of Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts are open and some of the resorts have already received up to ten feet of snow. Grab up some early season discounts such as buy-one-get-one-free rates on Sunday-Thursday stays at the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa. The offer is valid on stays through December 16. Harrah’s Tahoe offers a “Winter Getaway” package with overnight accommodations, a $50 per day dining credit, two-for-one Improv tickets and a 5% lift ticket discount at rates from $118 per night on stays through April 30. Book by December 30 and refer to PKGSKI. Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe offers a seven night Ski & Snowboard Snowfest package at rates from $189 per night, double occupancy. Included are five days of skiing or boarding at your choice of five world class ski resorts.


Travel Quotation

AOL recently asked its Small Business Board of Director members, “What Are Your Best Travel Secrets?” Here’s one…

Obviously, I’ve tried to create the kind of airline I want to fly on, because I used to have a record company, flew on other people’s airlines and didn’t like the experience. So I literally created an airline for myself to fly on and I shared it with other people and they liked it – and Virgin Atlantic became a big success story. When I go down route, I find out where the crew is staying. It’s always much more fun to be in the crew hotel, be in the bar at night, with lots of fun lively people, rather than sitting in a boring business hotel. So check out – particularly the Virgin crew – check out their hotel and pop down to the bar! /

Richard Branson, Founder and President, Virgin Group


Note: Unless otherwise stated above, follow these guidelines when booking special airfares from Clark Howard’s e-Scapes newsletter:

    No expiration of travel means the rate is valid on trips taken over the next 331 days, or the advance booking window allowed on most airlines International rates are based on mid-week travel days, or with most airlines Monday-Thursday. (one exception is Monday-Wednesday to London). Economy class airfares to Europe require a minimum stay requirement of a Saturday night and a maximum stay of a month. Economy class airfare to Asia, Africa, India and the Middle East typically require a 6-day minimum stay; 30-day maximum. Most domestic coach class airfares, including Canada and Hawaii, are based on mid-week travel. Weekend travel days are typically $10-$30 higher, per direction, for both domestic and international destinations. All airfares shown on e-Scapes are exclusive of taxes, fees, unless noted otherwise. Fuel surcharges on international trips can add from $180-$400 to base rates shown above, varying by continent.

Clark Howard’s Travel e-Scapes Team reminds you that the information in this newsletter is researched on the same day that you receive it. It can happen that by the time you read your copy a particular airfare may already have expired, especially the “HOT” deals listed. Airlines can publish and then ‘pull’, or discontinue sales without warning. Timing is everything!

Get more of Clark’s best travel deals Mondays through Fridays on the Travel Tips page.

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