Clark Howard: Travel e-Scapes Newsletter December 28, 2010

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Travel Tips, Tidbits & Trivia

Delta to resume China flights
Starting on June 5, 2011, Delta will resume its Atlanta-Shanghai nonstop service and begin new Detroit-Beijing and Tokyo Narita-Guangzhou flights. The Shanghai service will operate twice per week with Boeing 777-200ER/LR jets. Delta launched daily Atlanta-Shanghai flights in 2008 but suspended them in 2009 because of depressed demand. The Detroit to Beijing service will operate five times a week on Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, starting July 1. Daily nonstop service from Detroit to Tokyo Narita and Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city, would begin April 6 with Boeing 767-300ER planes. Delta also operates year-round service to Shanghai and Hong Kong from Detroit.

Delta reigns in seat inventory
Delta Air Lines is pulling flights from several small online travel agency sites, as it tries to increase bookings coming directly through Delta.com. Customers are no longer able to buy Delta flights at CheapOAir.com, OneTravel.com or BookIt.com.  According to Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter, travelers will still be able to book Delta space on the largest travel sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline. Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s executive vice president of network planning, revenue management and marketing, discussed online travel agencies at the company’s investor day last week, saying some distribution channels have “enormous value,” while others “are of less value.” He said Delta’s preference is to have a channel to its best customers that is as direct as possible, and the airline would like to grow the percentage of business coming directly through Delta.com for certain travel segments. Selling more tickets directly through Delta’s Web site can decreases fees the airline pays and thus reduce the cost of distribution. For customers buying Delta tickets, “The most robust experience you should have in that transaction should theoretically be our Web site,” Hauenstein said.


Clark said….

Unofficial bed and breakfast booking site may appeal to adventurous travelers.

Do you like to travel but hate to spend money? Well, I have a suggestion for you that’s a little bit out there.

I have talked in the past about the strategies I regularly use to save. For hotels, I use Priceline.com, Hotwire.com and VRBO.com. If I’m staying somewhere five nights or more, particularly in a resort area, I’ll use VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to book a private condo or a villa.

With Priceline, I save a zillion dollars on every traditional hotel I book. Priceline is growing in popularity, but only a sliver of people will ever use this service because you have no idea where you’re going to stay until after you’ve paid non-refundable money. Same idea with Hotwire. Fortunately, there are cheat sheet sites like BiddingforTravel.com for Priceline and BetterBidding.com for Hotwire that can help you manage the uncertainty to some degree.

Now there is a new, rapidly growing player in the game that’s way out there and is not for everybody. It’s called AirBNB.com, and it’s kind of like an unofficial bed and breakfast booking site. You can stay at private residences of varying quality all over the world, with a particular emphasis on overseas accommodations.

One word of warning upfront: You’ve got to be an adventurous traveler to use this site. From what I’ve seen so far, the prices for residential accommodations can undercut VRBO, but there is more potential hazard.

What happens if something goes wrong with your trip that’s booked through AirBNB.com? As far as I can tell, you’re pretty much on your own. AirBNB.com just plays the match game, much like eBay does in hooking up a buyer and a seller. So AirBNB.com is truly buyer (and seller) beware. (Editor’s note: Paying with a credit card might be a good start to protect yourself. You have the right to do a chargeback within 60 days if your reservation falls through for some reason.)

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Today’s HOT Domestic 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:
$142 each way, Palm Springs, California
A 7-day advance purchase required
Travel any available day
No blackouts
Complete travel by November 24, 2011
Valid on Delta via Salt Lake City
Inclusive rate: $163.40

One-way from Atlanta:
$152 each way, San Jose, California
A 7-day advance purchase required
Travel any available day
No blackouts
Complete travel by November 24, 2011
Valid on Continental via Houston
Inclusive rate: $171.90


Great Caribbean 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:
$79 Nassau, Bahamas
$89 Cancun, Mexico
$109 Montego Bay, Jamaica
Valid Monday-Wednesday or Sunday southbound; Tuesday-Friday northbound
Add $10 per direction for other travel days A 14-day advance purchase required
Complete travel by May 24, 2011
Blackouts: February 19, 20; March 12, 13, 18-20, 26; April 2, 23
Purchase by January 13, 2011
Valid on AirTran, nonstop
Inclusive rates: $102.10 NAS; $132.10 MBJ

One-way from Atlanta:
$109 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Valid Monday-Wednesday or Sunday southbound; Tuesday-Friday northbound
Add $20 each way for travel on other days
Start travel on or after February 16, 2011
Complete travel by May 24, 2011
Blackouts: February 19, 20; March 12, 13, 18-20, 26; April 2, 23
Purchase by January 13, 2011
Valid on AirTran, nonstop
Inclusive rate: $143.40

One-way from Atlanta:
$129 Bermuda
Valid Monday-Wednesday or Sunday southbound; Tuesday-Friday northbound
Add $20 each way for travel on other days
Start travel on or after April 7, 2011
Complete travel by May 24, 2011
Blackouts: April 23, 2011
Purchase by January 13, 2011
Valid on AirTran, via Baltimore
Inclusive rate: $143.40

One-way from Atlanta:
$199 Barbados
A 3-day advance purchase required
Valid any available Saturday southbound; Sunday northbound
Start travel on or after January 15, 2011
Complete travel by March 27, 2011
No blackouts
Purchase today, December 28
Valid on Delta, nonstop
Inclusive rate: $223.60


Top 10 Tuesday

This summer, The Observer newspaper, compiled New York City’s Top 10 Boutique Hotels & Bed & Breakfasts to be found Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn and Staten Island (based on advice from New York City travel experts). Not surprisingly, if visitors venture out of the city center they will discover little-known and up-and-coming neighborhoods filled with character, and home to some of the city’s most charming boutique hotels and guesthouses. Here are some of the best bolt holes (a place of refuge or retreat) in the city’s most colorful hoods.

1. Park Slope, Brooklyn: Recently named the best neighborhood in New York City (out of 60) by New York magazine, Park Slope boasts streets of handsome brownstones, trendy shops and great restaurants. Occupying a landmark row house, the inn has four bedrooms, an extensive library and a living room filled with DVDs, board games and puzzles. Host Don Matteson serves a bountiful breakfast, and the rooftop deck offers sweeping views of the neighborhood, Grand Army Plaza and its 500-acre park. From $155, including breakfast. Recommended by Rena Grossfield, Big Apple Greeter.

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2. Akwaaba Mansion, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn: Once an abandoned ruin, this 1860s Italianate villa has been converted into a B & B with four guest rooms and elegant decor featuring ornate fireplaces, Victorian furnishings, antiques and African-American artifacts. Kick back in the guest library or shaded courtyard. The hotel is located in the historic part of Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of New York’s most iconic black neighborhoods. It was, until recently, considered a no-go zone for visitors, but has undergone a renaissance with the opening of hotels and restaurants. Doubles from $175, including breakfast. Recommended by David Landel, travel editor, New York Post.

3. Fort Place B & B, St. George, Staten Island: Historic St. George at the tip of Staten Island provides a rare mix of small-town charm and big-city accessibility. On the low-key side, settle into Fort Place, a gracious Victorian home with water views. Owned by an industrial designer, it has four bedrooms, each decorated in vintage furnishings. The free Staten Island Ferry to the tip of Manhattan is just a five-minute walk away. Doubles from $120, including breakfast. Recommended by Ethan Wolff, author of Frommer’s NYC Free & Dirt Cheap.

4. The Ravel Hotel, Long Island City, Queens: Long Island City is fast becoming a hip neighborhood. And this hotel makes for a great base: lavishly decorated rooms with knock-out bathrooms, stylish public spaces and a rooftop restaurant with some of the best cityscape views in town. Doubles from $129, room only. Recommended by Chris Heywood, NYC & Company, official tourist board guide. Chris also says not to miss PS1 (ps1.org), the sister to the Museum of Modern Art, and to attend a Saturday Warm Up – a critically acclaimed music series that has become one of NYC’s most popular events. For dining try Water’s Edge. Request a table outdoors and you’ll be sitting inches from the East River with a dramatic Manhattan skyline view.

5. Jumel Terrace Books B & B, Hamilton Heights, Manhattan: Literature lovers will adore this quirky B & B linked to Uptown New York’s only antiquarian bookshop. There’s a garden apartment which sleeps three and has a full-size kitchen, plus a separate double ensuite bedroom upstairs. Run by academic and font of all local knowledge Kurt Thometz, it’s the launch pad to the area’s cobbled streets and majestic brownstones. Double room from $200; apartment from $250, both including breakfast. Recommended by Ondine Cohane, New York expert for Simonseeks.com (simonseeks.com/newyork). Other tips: Don’t miss The Morris-Jumel Mansion (morrisjumel.org), Manhattan’s oldest surviving house, which was George Washington’s headquarters during 1776’s Battle of Harlem Heights. Take a stroll through Riverbank State Park and head to St. Nick’s Pub for some of the best live jazz in the city.

6. Victorian B & B, New Brighton, Staten Island: This Italianate guesthouse is a good reason to step off the free Staten Island ferry and explore the city’s “forgotten borough”. It is a tranquil sanctuary of spacious rooms, decked out with 1860s decor (the house dates from 1846). The breakfasts are stupendous, as are Danuta’s homemade cakes. Doubles from $115, including breakfast. Recommended by Stephen Keeling, co-author of The Rough Guide to New York City. Other tips include a don’t-miss visit to Snug Harbor Cultural Center, one of New York’s lesser-visited gems, with museums, gardens, artists’ studios and galleries spread over 83 acres.

7. Mi Casa Tu Casa Guesthouse, South Bronx: Housed in a weathered 19th-century clapboard house, it has four comfy rooms; one room is dedicated to the Yankees baseball team, while the other three have Latino themes. There are three shared bathrooms, a shared kitchen and a tranquil backyard garden. Twins from $85, including breakfast. Recommended by Stephen Keeling, co-author of The Rough Guide to New York City. Don’t miss The 149th Street-Grand Concourse subway station. The South Bronx gave birth to hip-hop in the 1970s and much of the graffiti art that went with it. This spot was one of the favorite meeting places of aerosol artists.

8. Nu Hotel, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn: This boutique hotel manages to be minimalist (cork floors, sleek wood furnishings, white walls), quirky (bike rack in the lobby, hemp hammocks to laze in on hot afternoons) and welcoming (free breakfast) all at once. The best rooms overlook busy Smith Street, full of chic coffee shops and mom-and-pop restaurants and have views of nearby Brooklyn Bridge. Doubles from $199, including breakfast. Recommended by Ginger Otis, author of Lonely Planet‘s New York City Guide.

9. The Blue Moon Hotel, Lower East Side, Manhattan: This 22-room hotel is housed in a restored 19th-century tenement, but you’d never know it – the rooms are huge for New York City and some have balconies with city views. A sense of the neighborhood’s history is everywhere – a lot of salvaged material has been used in the hotel. Doubles from $199, including breakfast. Recommended by Kate Stober, Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Walk down East Broadway to experience the culture of the Lower East Side’s newest immigrants, the Fujianese Chinese, and stroll through the Essex Street Market.

10. Bubba & Bean, East Harlem, Manhattan: Two townhouses have been combined into one friendly B & B in up-and-coming East Harlem. Each suite is a mini-apartment with French doors between sleeping and living spaces. There’s a small garden out back – usually the territory of their two terrier pups, Bubba and Bean. From $250 per night, sleeping two. Recommended by Ginger Otis, author of Lonely Planet‘s New York City Guide. In season, check out the vibrant community garden, open from noon-4 p.m. at 103rd and Lexington.


The Best Hotel & Resort Deals

Huge £9 U.K. room sale – including London!
Make sure you set your alarm to wake in the early hours of Wednesday, December 29. That’s because U.K. budget hotel chain, Travelodge, is holding one of its famous £9 room sales — that’s about $14 per night! The sale kicks off at 6 a.m. Greenwich/U.K. time (1 a.m. EST) with thousands of rooms available at Travelodges all across the U.K., including Scotland and Northern Ireland. The £9 room rate is available on select dates through December 28, 2011. So, get ready to visit Travelodge online. Choose to stay at over 300 Travelodges in the U.K., 10 of which are located in London.

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Romance at the beach
The Jane Hotel in New York, originally built as a hotel for sailors with cabin-like rooms in 1908, has discounted its rates for stays in January and February. Rooms are designed like luxury train cabins and feature a bed with built-in drawers, a luggage rack, complimentary WiFi, LCD TV with DVD player and an iPod docking station. Nightly rates start from $79 per room, double, with bunk bed room rates at $99 and stays in the Captain’s Cabin at $225 per night. Guests staying in standard and bunk rooms share a bathroom.


Travel Quotation

My best trips happen when I eat well and exercise regularly on the road. Multi-day domestic trips are easier than multi-week international versions. My secrets are to pack protein bars and turkey jerky for all those missed meals, and running gear (lightweight and small). Because most hotels have terrible weight rooms but decent treadmills and ellipticals and you can always go out and run.

Rob Adams, Director of the Texas Venture Labs, University of Texas


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 Atlanta Travel Deals page.




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