The jazziest of the Neville Brothers, and the family member who’s ventured farthest afield from New Orleans, saxophonist Charles Neville has got credits a mile long and all over the musical map. He started out touring with a Who’s Who of blues and RB greats as a youngster in the 1950s — Bobby Bland, James Brown, B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles. Later came gigs with jazz heavyweights (George Coleman, Barry Harris), Mardi Gras Indians (The Wild Tchoupitoulas), genuine Native Americans (The Songcatchers), avant beat poets (a half-dozen CDs with Kip Hanrahan), and dates with his daughter (Charmaine Neville). Neville’s latest album is, “Tree Of Life,” a world music collaboration with Senegalese kora player, Youssapha Sidibe. Still, when leading his own band, Neville is likely to offer a funky post-bop mix — some hard jazz, some groove music. Tom Surowicz
Dakota Jazz Club Restaurant
1010 Nicollet Mall
I like reading year-end lists, especially inspired ones. SmarterTravel’s “The Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Ridiculous Moments in Travel 2010 Edition” is a must-read that nails the year perfectly — but I won’t ruin it for you. (Enhanced pat-downs and Steve Slater make the list.) Wait, did I say that out loud?
Some travel moments of 2010 that stand out: the fire-damaged Carnival Splendor stranded off the coast of San Diego, the volcano in Iceland whose ash cloud paralyzed air travel in Europe, the annoying blasts of the vuvuzela at the World Cup in South Africa. But I somehow glossed over some other travel news; maybe you did too. Here’s my list of overlooked travel moments of 2010 — and feel free to add your own in the comments section below.
1. Oprah visits Yosemite: Oprah Winfrey and best friend Gayle King camped out in Yosemite National Park at the invitation of Ranger Shelton Johnson. The point was to inspire more African Americans to visit the park. (A 2009 survey showed just 1% of Yosemite’s 280 million visitors were black.) And, as if to drive home the point, it was Oprah’s first time in the park — ever. Episodes were broadcast on Winfrey’s TV show in October and November. Hands down my favorite: watching the two assemble a pop-up trailer in the rain at Lower Pines Campground. Really. And how on Earth did they get cellphone service to call Steadman for help?
2. Obama in India:In October, Michelle and Barack Obama were the first guests in the newly renovated 13-room presidential suite of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. The suite and the hotel were damaged two years ago in a deadly terrorist attack. During Obama’s visit to India, the White House booked the entire hotel — all 560 rooms and 44 suites. And no, the trip didn’t cost $200 million a day, as one Indian news agency reported, says FactCheck.org.
3. Allure cruise ship naming ceremony: Queen Elizabeth in October elegantly presided over the naming ceremony for the second ship in the Cunard Line to bear her name. (Check out the L.A. Times story “Queen Elizabeth cruise ship: An insider’s take on Cunard’s latest launch.”) A month later, a different kind of royalty led the naming ceremony for Allure, largest cruise ship in the world: Princess Fiona of “Shrek.” The video of cruise line muckety-mucks praising Fiona is seriously silly. And isn’t green a rather unbecoming color for a cruise?
4. Yellowstone packs them in: The summer brought record crowds– 2.5 million visitors from June through August — to Yellowstone National Park. Some media accounts reported the state tourism bureau attributed the surge to its marketing campaigns. But I think folks just finally tumbled to the astonishing beauty in the land of glorious geysers and fumaroles.
5. Air New Zealand Skycouch: Unlike annoying airline fees, here’s a perk I hope catches on with other airlines. A Los Angeles Times Travel blog explains how Skycouches work: “These new economy-class seats are equipped with footrests that can be raised to create a sofa-type sleeping surface across three seats. So on a long flight, two people can cuddle while catching 40 winks. Of course, they have to book a third seat to do so, at varying cost.” Hmm, not sure about buying three seats, but I love the idea of stretching out.
COLUMBUS, OH, January 01, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ — The AAA Great Vacations EXPO, held January 21-23 at Veterans Memorial, will offer unheard-of discounts for travelers seeking the best deals on vacations and getaways. AAA Travel and the dozens of other EXPO exhibitors will offer a host of specials throughout the three-day event, but those deals are available exclusively to EXPO guests. Whether travelers are seeking a Caribbean cruise, a family road trip or a quick romantic getaway, they’ll find incredible discounts and giveaways on many types of travel and travel-related products.
Just a few of the deals include:
- AAA Member Choice Vacations: AAA members save up to $500 per couple on South Pacific trips!
- Carnival Cruise Lines: Receive a 2-category upgrade up to four free water park day-passes to the Fort Rapids Indoor Water Park Resort in Columbus for every cruise booked in 2011
- Celebrity Cruises: $50 in onboard credit for all individual, seven-night or longer Caribbean and Alaska bookings; $100 in onboard credit for Europe bookings of nine nights or longer; plus, onboard value coupon book for up to $300 in savings with all bookings
- CIE Tours: Save $150/couple on 9 days or longer escorted coach tours to Ireland, Scotland, England Wales. Purchase two coach tours and save 10%
- Coulter Lake Guest Ranch, Rifle, Colorado: One free youth summer vacation package with the purchase of at least one six-night adult summer vacation package (savings of $695-1,350 depending on the child’s age)
- Cunard Cruise Lines: Second passenger deposit waived, plus shipboard credit (up to $300) based on the category of cabin booked
- The Farm at Walnut Creek: Half-price admission coupons to the farm
- General Tours World Traveler: AAA members save $300/person ($600/couple) on all Small Group Journeys and Privately Guided Touring worldwide if paid in full by January 28, 2011
- Gray Line of Alaska: Save $550 per couple on any tour of 6 days or longer
- Historic Roscoe Village: Buy one adult Civil War On the Home Front tour ticket, get one FREE
- Hocking Hills Cabins: Romantic Hot Tub Getaway for just $195, includes: one-night cabin rental, 30-min. couples massage, bed of roses, continental breakfast, fireside bundle, candles, robes for use during stay and romantic CD to take home (regularly $300)
- Holland America: All cruise bookings receive onboard value booklet; cruise deposits of only $100 per person on cruises up to seven days, $200 for up to 14 days and $300 for more than over 15 days
- Inn Spa at Cedar Falls: Save $78 on the Winter Sparkles Package; includes: weekday night in cozy cottage with whirlpool tub and gas stove, delectable dinner and hearty breakfast for only $175
- Insight Vacations: Save $200/person on tours over $2,000 and $100/person on tours under $2,000
- Morgan County, Ohio: Music Lover’s Weekend Escape for only $115 (a $195 value), including overnight in a romantic cabin, two tickets to Ohio Valley Opry (country, bluegrass and gospel music show) and dinner for two at the Bluebell ’50s Diner
- Ohio State Park Lodges: Save up to $40 off the Bed and Breakfast Package, including overnight in a standard or view double room and breakfast (available at select properties)
- Orlando World Center Marriott Resort: Stay three nights or longer and receive up to 25% off/night
- Pleasant Holidays: Receive $50 off select bookings
- Princess Cruise Lines: Complimentary coupon booklet worth up to $325 and deposit of only $100 (regularly 20% of total cruise cost)
- Railey Mountain Lake Vacations: Reserve a two night stay and receive a third night free
- Royal Caribbean: Get exclusive savings, onboard credit, and reduced deposit on select sailings
- Sports Travel and Tours: Save $50/person on a customized spring training trip; Book a Baseball Roadtrip by Feb. 14th, reference the AAA Great Vacations EXPO, and receive $100 Air Rebate Per Person
- Spruce Hill Inn Cottages: Buy a gift certificate for someone at the regular rate ($135 plus tax) and pay just $75 plus tax for a Jacuzzi cottage for yourself
- Trafalgar Tours: Up to $200 off per person
- Travel Impressions: Receive $25 off a 6-night stay and $50 off an all-inclusive 6-night stay
- Universal Orlando Resort: Save $50 off four-night or more Universal Parks Resorts Vacation for travel by 8/31/11 (restrictions apply)
- Uniworld Boutique River Cruises: AAA members save up to $250/person
- Viking River Cruises: Two-for-one pricing; complimentary wine with dinner; AAA member benefit for those who book directly with AAA Ohio agent (Save up to $250/person)
- Plus, get these additional deals directly from AAA: $25 AAA gift certificate per person for bookings of $1,000 – $1,999 per person; $50 AAA gift certificate per person for bookings of $2,000 per person and above; Use your gift certificate toward your trip!
- Book at the EXPO to receive a free spiral bound 2011 Deluxe Edition Road Atlas. *Valid only on bookings made at the EXPO on travel booked with preferred vendors. AAA gift certificate is valid only toward merchandise or cruise and tour travel with a preferred vendor. Receive one atlas per booking with a AAA travel professional or preferred vendor. Offer valid while supplies last.
And great giveaways, too!
- Currituck County Travel and Tourism: Register to win an incredible giveaway valued at $1,517 including: Weeklong Kitty Dunes beach house rental, $25 toward dinner at The Flying Dutchman, green fees and cart for two at Kilmarlic Golf Course, four Currituck Lighthouse tour passes and passes to tour the historic Whalehead Club home
- Enter to win a romantic Hocking Hills hot tub getaway worth $1,000, featuring: three nights in a cabin complete with extras, couples side-by-side hot stone therapy from Blue Valley Massage, dinner in your cabin by Grouse Nest Traveling Chef, bed of roses, romantic gift basket, fireside bundle and romantic music CD to take home
- Niagara USA/Niagara Tourism Convention Cooperation: Enter to win a “Family Getaway to Niagara USA.” Vacation good for four and includes lodging and admission to area attractions
- Perrysburg, Ohio: Enter to win an overnight getaway with breakfast for four at the Perrysburg Hilton Garden Inn, four passes to Fort Meigs, and a $10 gift shop gift card
- Blue Ridge Highlands: Enter to win a mid-week escape, including two weekday nights at the Huffman House Bed and Breakfast in Craig County, a day of rafting with New River’s Edge of Giles County, and a bottle of locally made wine (a$780 value)
- Adventures in Northeast Ohio: Spin the prize wheel for a chance to win lots of prizes from 25 Northeast Ohio destinations and enter to win the Grand Prize Basket with gifts from all participating locations
- Ohio Oriental Culture Association: Enter to win a FREE ticket to Shen Yun at the Ohio Theater
- Brown County, Indiana: Enter to win a Brown County Getaway for 2! Includes an overnight stay, dinner, and store certificates.
- Walnut Creek Group: Enter to win a family getaway to Walnut Creek, Ohio including one night at the Walnut Creek Carlisle Inn, dinner at Der Dutchman, $100 gift cards to each of the following: The Farm at Walnut Creek, P. Graham Dunn Walnut Creek, Walnut Creek Cheese, Walnut Creek Furniture, and Coblentz Chocolates
- Travelhost of Amish Country: Enter to win an overnight stay, including personal tour of Ohio’s Amish Country, featuring shopping hot spots and complimentary lunch or dinner
Most offers are valid on select new bookings only. Booking windows and travel dates vary. Offers are subject to change, cancellation, and restrictions.
The AAA Great Vacations EXPO opens Friday, January 21 and runs through Sunday, January 23, at Franklin County Veterans Memorial in downtown Columbus. Show hours are Friday Noon – 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or at any AAA Ohio Auto Club store for $9 or $6 for any AAA member. Children ages 16 and under are admitted at no charge. For additional event details or to purchase tickets in advance, visit AAAGreatVacations.com.
Outstanding color art, video and interviews available.
Media contact Amy Weirick, (614) 848-8380 or Amy@WeirickCommunications.com
Weirick Communications, Inc. is a Midwest-based PR firm focused on telling the world about great travel, culinary and event experiences. Contact Weirick Communications at 614.848.8380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read more Press Releases from Amy Weirick:
- Popular Amateur Cake Decorating Competition Returns to Central Ohio Home Garden Show
- Urban guesthouse stays offer affordable, yet luxe “live like a local” travel
- Hocking Hills Launches HOT Winter and Holiday Vacation Travel Deals
- Fifth Harrison County Indiana Winery Opens; Region Fast Becoming Winery Wonderland; Winter Wine Walk Showcases Best of Sipping and Shopping
- Nickelodeon’s Kai-Lan to Appear at AAA Great Vacations EXPO Kids Day to Feature Nick Jr. Favorite, Baby Giraffe, Stick Horse Rodeo and Much More
- Renowned Garden Editor to Appear at Central Ohio Home Garden Show
- Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown to Appear at AAA Great Vacations EXPO
- Travelers to Enjoy Holidays “Inn” Ohio’s Hocking Hills; Progressive Dine-Around, Take-Home Surprises Introduce Travelers to Intriguing Trio of Inns
- Gingerbread CoCo Holiday Package Announced
- Hocking Hills’ Unforgettable Arts and Agriculture Sites Mapped Out; New, Free Arts Ag Map Offered for Travelers
Other Press Release Headlines:
- MyrtleBeachGolfVacations.com Readies For 2011 Golf Season With Special Golf Vacation Packages
- New Year’s Rock Album Review: “Keys To The Journey” By Mark Hoevet – CD Release Date January 11, 2011
- Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel is Voted One of the World’s Best Hotels
- Littlewoods Europe Launches January Sale Early
- Proposed Federal Act Rewards States for Distracted Driving Laws
- Dentist In Stone Ridge Voted Top Dentist In Hudson Valley
- Timelines for Evolution and Creationism are Both True
- Penny Auction Review Site Launched With Key Consumer Strategies
- Top San Jose Dentists at Zeidler Dental Group Offer Array of Cosmetic Dentistry Services
- 888poker Launches Online Qualifiers for the Irish Poker Open
-Seven Hilton Worldwide properties in Puerto Rico are offering a fourth night free and other extras for stays through April 30. For example, a four-night stay in an ocean-view room at Condado Lagoon Villas at Caribe Hilton starts at $910 after the fourth night is rebated at checkout. (It usually starts at $1,213.) Other extras at Condado Lagoon Villas include free meals for children younger than 5, a 50 percent discount on lunches and dinners for children ages 5 through 12, and a 20 percent discount on spa treatments and select restaurants. Other properties participating in the Puerto Rico Sparkles promo include the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza, the Hilton Ponce Golf Casino Resort and three Waldorf Astoria resorts. Book by Jan. 31. Info: 888-564-1307, www.puertoricogetaways.com .
-The Marrakech Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is offering discounts of up to 20 percent. Stay two or three nights and get a 10 percent discount; stay four nights and receive 15 percent off; stay five nights for 20 percent off. For example, a five-night stay for two in early February is now $490, including $78 taxes and fees, a savings of $103. Rates usually start at $99 a night. Book by March 15, and stay Jan. 4-March 31. Info: 212-222-2954, www.marrakechhotelnyc.com . Request code WINTER10.
-Save 10 percent on the March 12, April 23 and June 4 departures of a 14 -day cruise to the French Polynesian Marquesas Islands aboard the Aranui 3, a passenger/cargo vessel. The 200-passenger ship travels round-trip from Papeete, Tahiti, stopping at eight islands. Rates, and associated savings, vary by cabin type. After the discount, a standard cabin, for example, costs $3,593 per person double, including port charges and taxes, a savings of $367. Info: 800-972-7268, www.aranui.com .
-Book a select 2011 Variety Cruises sailing out of Athens and receive free transfers and two hotel nights with breakfasts. Prices vary by cabin, itinerary and dates. For example, an April 8 departure of the Jewels of the Cyclades itinerary, which visits several Greek islands, starts at $1,700 per person double, plus $210 port charges. The value of hotel stay with breakfast is about $698, and transfers typically cost $253 per couple. Book by Feb. 1. Info: 866-944-8498, www.varietycruises.com .
-Aer Lingus is offering sale fares to Ireland and other destinations throughout Europe. For example, the round-trip fare from Washington Dulles to Dublin, connecting in New York, starts at $592, including $118 taxes. (Codeshare flights to/from New York are operated by JetBlue.) Other airlines are matching; fare typically is about $725. Sale fares from New York apply to many European cities including Paris, Amsterdam and Madrid. Fly to Ireland Jan. 13-March 31 and to Europe Jan. 5-March 31. Cheapest fares apply to Monday-through-Thursday flights. Book by Jan. 6 at www.aerlingus.com .
-Southwest is holding a systemwide sale. Fares from BWI Marshall range from $59 to $159 each way, plus taxes; from Washington Dulles, fares are $98 to $159 each way, plus taxes. For example, round-trip fare from BWI to Cleveland is $150, including $40 taxes; fare on other airlines starts at $180. Fly by April 20. Sale applies to all days except Sunday; 14-day advance purchase required. Book by Jan. 3 at www.southwest.com .
-Book a Taste of China tour with Friendly Planet Travel by Jan. 12 and receive a $300-per-person discount. Price, after discount, starts at $1,199 per person double (plus $120 taxes) for the Feb. 8 departure. Priced separately, airfares alone would cost $1,373. Fares for other departure dates range from $1,299 to $1,899, plus taxes. Trip includes round-trip air from Los Angeles to Shanghai, with return from Beijing; domestic flights from Shanghai to Xi’an, and from Xi’an to Beijing; three nights’ accommodations in Shanghai; two nights’ lodging in Xi’an; three nights’ hotel in Beijing; 12 meals; three sightseeing tours; tour guide; ground transportation; and taxes. Info: 800-555-5765, www.friendlyplanet.com .
- Carol Sottili
Submit travel deals to email@example.com. Please include your phone number and e-mail address. Prices were verified Thursday afternoon when the Travel section went to press, but deals sell out and availability is not guaranteed. Restrictions such as blackout dates and advance purchase may apply.
For the AJC
Super savings with BookIt.com’s End of Year Sale.
BookIt.com, a leading online travel provider, is offering travelers “End of Year Sale” deals for last minute and future getaways.
Travelers who book by the stroke of midnight Jan. 1 can save up to 60% and will be able to take advantage of exclusive BookIt.com bonuses such as free upgrades, spa credits, and more.
BookIt.com’s End of Year Sale includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Riviera Maya all-inclusive resort deals include the Jade Riviera Cancun, regularly priced at $249 per person, per night is sale priced from $99, including a $200 resort credit. This represents a 60% savings. This resort boasts 2,640 feet of crystal white sand.
The luxurious adults-only Secret Silversands Riviera Cancun, regularly $300 per person, per night is on sale for $125 — a 60% savings. Also included is a complimentary upgrade to a Junior Suite.
The Best Western in the Walt Disney World Resort at Downtown Disney, is sale priced at $79 per night (regularly $169) on stays through March 31. For $20 more per night, stay Jan. 8-9, 14-15; Feb. 11-13 and March 10-13. Included is daily breakfast, WiFi, a $25 food and beverage credit and continuous shuttle service to Disney theme parks.
In Las Vegas, save up to 70% and receive 2-for-1 rides at the Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower from $30 per midweek night through June 30. The all-suite Planet Hollywood Towers is on sale from $82 per midweek night, a 65% savings, on stays through Feb. 28.
The all-inclusive Grand Palladium Resort and Spa of Montego Bay, Jamaica is sale priced as low as $112 per person, per night on stays through Oct. 31. This all-suite beachfront resort features nine restaurants and 13 bars.
Book these and many other exceptional offers through 11:59 p.m., New Year’s Day at http://deals.bookit.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.
The premise is simple: Buy a $500 plane ticket to zip around much of the New World for a month. The big question: Isn’t it just some gimmick tangled up with hidden fees and crazy rules?
Sorry, but no. If you are among those who hesitated Aug. 17 when JetBlue’s All You Can Jet passes went on sale and then sold out a little more than two days later, you missed out. Although not without its drawbacks for fliers, this deal was a steal.
I bought JetBlue’s $499 edition, which excluded travel on Fridays and Sundays. (Also available was a seven-day pass for $699.) I spent about $200 more on taxes, all for nondomestic flights. So for about $700 I flew a whopping 19,000 miles between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6. During that time, I climbed Mayan ruins and swam through underground caverns in the Yucatán, dove under warm Caribbean waves in Puerto Rico, took in the Art Deco glory of Miami, dined on fresh lobster in Maine, spent “tummy time” with a friend’s new baby in New York, survived a wacky and wonderful bike tour of Bogota, Colombia, and happily teetered through the colonial-era, cobble-stoned streets of the lush, highland village of Villa de Leiva.
But please, dear travel enthusiasts, don’t rend your garments in despair just yet. There is a chance JetBlue may repeat the offer, though the airline says it won’t decide until sometime in the spring. And although the JetBlue offer is — for now — unmatched in its convenience, price and variety of destinations, around-the-world fares are nothing new and can be found if you know where to look.
Among the most regularly offered are the global and regional passes offered year-round by airline groups such as Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam. These tend to be good for up to a year of travel and cover more of the globe than JetBlue’s pass. But you may need to identify your destinations upfront before you leave, and although cheaper perhaps than booking individual flights, they’re not cheap. Pricing is generally based on where you bought the pass, seat class, number of continents visited and miles flown. The one-world fares, for example, start at $3,499 for three continents (before taxes, fees and surcharges) for a pass bought in the United States (for the same pass, prices start at $3,000 if bought in Venezuela).
Airlines also occasionally offer regional deal passes. Minneapolis-based Sun Country says it hopes to again sell its 37-day, unlimited Fall Free for All pass (similar to JetBlue’s but with only one international stop, at Cancún, Mexico), which was priced at $499. Air New Zealand recently offered a Kiwi Explorer pass from L.A. to multiple stops in New Zealand for $998. Emirates and Virgin Blue currently allow customers to link together cheaper one-way flights in the Middle East, Asia and South Pacific.
For a DIY version, you can put together a trip using the multiple-city function of Travelocity.com and other online travel sites. The tactic is yielding surprising bargains right now, mostly on American Airlines and U.S. Airways, and for destinations in and around North America.
With any of these options, though, there are several things you should keep in mind:
First, stay calm. The rules for some of these passes can often induce tears. With the plan-as-you-go deals, desperate thoughts about flight availability will creep in. And then there are the pangs of regret about all the places you missed in the rush to squeeze the most value out of the pass by squeezing in the most miles.
Study the route maps and rules of your pass. Julie Jones, a photographer I met in Maine who had made use of her pass to attend a wedding and build her portfolio, was disappointed to discover that, because of JetBlue’s routing though New York, she couldn’t fly from her home in Denver to the West Coast without first flying to the East Coast. And I didn’t realize until halfway through my trip that I could rebook tickets three days in advance for free. I found a better ticket home from New York and avoided a four-hour layover in Boston.
If there are places you simply must visit, consider booking those tickets as soon as you can. And if you can’t, don’t worry. I had planned on flying direct from Cancún to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Three days after tickets for my pass went on sale, the closest I could get to San Juan was Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Though I am accustomed to impromptu bus excursions around faraway places, this problem was new. With a little research, I found two bus lines that took me down the coast to Miami, where I checked out the pastel-hued architecture of South Beach.
When flying to an international stop, always book your flight in and your flight out at the same time; otherwise, you could get walloped with double the local fees and taxes. To avoid airline terminal burnout, pick a destination or two that you’ll visit longer. If possible, take a small, lightweight notebook computer to make managing your flights easier. And don’t check your luggage unless you like watching the baggage carousel go round and round.
“Every single hour counts,” said Emil Skandul, a New Yorker and JetBlue pass-holder I met in Bogotá.
Use social media. After JetBlue announced its 2010 pass, it set up a Facebook page to create a community and get a line on which routes garnered the most buzz. Independent Meetup.com groups quickly followed suit. These websites can be a great source of important information, such as new vaccination requirements. For the solo traveler, they can also be a means to find companions to share travel expenses, experiences or even a ritzy room at a Caribbean resort.
Some of these passes are for sale, in part, because they’re for travel in the off-season. This means you’ll probably encounter unpleasant weather and closed tourist facilities. On the upside, you might be able to negotiate reduced prices on accommodations, as well as get a glimpse of what certain destinations were like before the tourism industry discovered them.
Glimpses and independent discoveries are really what a journey with one of these passes is about. Think of them as travel’s version of an intense college survey course. You’ll learn the basics of how to get around the world and what’s there. Much of what you’ll see is beautiful, fascinating and worthy of more time. You’ll wish you could stay longer as you head out to catch another plane. But staying longer would be missing the point.
“Enjoy the moment, and then treat it as if you’re going to come back sometime soon,” said New Yorker Sarah Yi, a seasoned traveler and 2010 pass-holder.
The two of us shared an early-morning taxi to the Bogotá airport that sped through La Macarena, a neighborhood we hadn’t visited and which, at that moment from our respective window, seemed to be the local equivalent of Silver Lake, filled with cafes and enticingly walkable, hilly little streets neither of us had set foot in — yet.
Perhaps the most unexpected benefit of these passes is the way they transform usually cautious people into adventure-seekers. Jones said she never thought she would enjoy traveling alone. Phil Snyder, of El Cajon, Calif., said he could never have imagined that he would snorkel and zip-line around the world at age 58. And New Yorker Travis Walker-Hodkin, traveling solo for the first time and with no knowledge of Spanish, was surprised to find he could successfully negotiate a late-night taxi ride from the airport to his hostel in Bogota.
Snyder does have a bit of a cautionary tale, though. Toward the end of his trip, he injured his foot in Mexico and opted to limp rather than end the fun. But once home, an MRI revealed two tears and a possible yearlong recovery. Snyder seemed to have few regrets about not bailing out on a trip he hasn’t been able to stop talking about.
“I didn’t want to wreck it because it was just so special,” he said.
Checked in lately? On your smart phone, that is.
If you had, you might have scored discounts on drinks, meals, shopping and other travel goodies just for letting friends and businesses know your whereabouts. Or even racked up points in a hotel’s frequent-guest program without spending a dime.
The key to unlocking these rewards is the GPS function on your iPhone, Android or other smart phone, which pinpoints your location by satellite. With the GPS enabled, you can use location-based, social-network applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla to “check in” and tap into location-based information.
Details vary, but such apps generally let you see whether friends might be near, find local restaurants and other businesses, share travel tips — and sometimes get special offers from retailers, hotels and eateries just around the corner.
Among recent deals advertised on Foursquare: a free pitcher of margaritas at the Spanish Kitchen in Los Angeles, half-off happy-hour food and drinks at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, and $5 off admission to the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco. Users who check in more often than anyone else at a business place and claim the virtual title of “mayor” often get stepped-up rewards.
Because the user and business base is still small, such offers can be hit or miss, said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research for PhoCusWright Inc., a company based in Sherman, Conn., that studies the travel industry. Deals skew toward young adults who patronize bars and clubs.
Quinby said a drink discount at a tapas bar once popped up on his smart phone while he was dropping off his son at a morning karate class — not the most sophisticated timing or targeting, from his perspective.
Still, he said, “There’s a fun element to it. You could find something interesting, especially if you want a mojito in the morning.”
You can also expect to see more varied geolocation deals soon, Quinby and other experts say.
“We’re just at the dawn of all this,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, travel industry analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, where studies indicate that only about 4% of American consumers with smart phones participate in location-based social networks.
“As travel markets become more mobile-focused, I think you’ll see, especially in 2011, a lot of attention being given to these services,” Harteveldt said. “Even though it’s a small percentage, it’s going to grow.”
Big names in the travel industry are already jumping in.
Topguest.com, whose mobile application was launched in mid-2010, rewards check-ins with hotel points, air miles and other perks. It counts InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton Hotels, Virgin America and Avis UK among its 20-odd business partners, said Geoff Lewis, co-founder and chief executive.
Virgin America, for instance, has been awarding 25 points to frequent fliers who check in at restaurants at airports it serves, Lewis said. InterContinental awards up to 50 points a day for check-ins at more than 4,000 hotels worldwide, spokeswoman Monica Smith said.
In November, Walt Disney Co. began partnering with mobile app Gowalla to award virtual “collectible stamps” to smart-phone users who check in at Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney World in Florida, said Tom Aronson, digital marketing director for Disney Parks.
So far, Disney is giving only virtual glory. But, Aronson said, “We are definitely exploring ways to provide rewards. We’re thinking more along the lines of experiences more so than coupons and ticket discounts.”
What do businesses get out of smart-phone check-ins?
“Travel companies see this as an opportunity for customers to go out and push their brand,” Harteveldt said. “It’s free marketing.”
In other words, the more you tweet, the more you spread the word.
One caution about that: For privacy and security reasons, you may not want a lot of people to know your whereabouts.
“Check your privacy and publishing settings,” Quinby said. “Don’t automatically publish your check-ins to Facebook and Twitter unless you’re sure you are comfortable with everyone in your networks knowing where you are.”
Snooki’s in, Snooki’s out, Snooki’s in again … but in New Jersey. Maybe.
That’s pretty much how the news went this month for the diminutive Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” who supposedly was going to be inside the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. Except organizers said that was never going to happen. So Snooki will be in a ball drop of her own in Seaside Heights, N.J., according to People magazine. Whatev.
There are plenty of quirkier things than Snooki to drop from on high on New Year’s Eve. Here are my favorites, in no particular order, that might make a great travel destination for next year.
MoonPie over Mobile, Ala.: A 12-foot-tall, 350-pound MoonPie that will drop 34 stories to welcome 2011. A Mardi Gras-style parade at 6:30 p.m., the O’Jays at 11 p.m. and the MoonPie drop at 11:59 p.m. round out the Friday events. And lots of fireworks. Mobile denizens each year eat 4 million MoonPies, the round graham crackers with marshmallow filling covered in chocolate, a news release says. Hey, I believe it. Contact: Mobile’s New Year Celebration
Sardine and maple leaf over Eastport, Maine: You get two countdowns for the price of one (just kidding–both are free) in the easternmost city in the continental United States. The maple leaf drops at 11 p.m. (which is midnight Atlantic time in nearby Canadian islands) and then an 8-foot copper sardine falls at midnight EST. The fun starts 5ish at restaurants in town, according to the event’s website. Contact: Tides Institute Museum of Art
Pineapple over Honolulu: This will be the first year a 200-pound pineapple drops 10 stories from a hotel for New Year’s Eve. It’s made of “chicken wire, newspaper, and wallpaper paste, the papier-mâché replica of Hawaii’s most popular pineapple variety, the Smooth Cayenne.” Who knew papier-mâché could weigh so much? Contact: Kahala Hotel Resort
Watermelon over Vincennes, Ind.: The city that’s oldest in state is known for growing … yes, of course. The Riverfront Pavilion is where an 18-foot, 500-pound watermelon rises, then drops 11 real watermelons that splatter below, the city’s website says. Contact: Vincennes/Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Counting birds isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Just ask Steve Alter, who offers this scenario by way of explanation: “If you’re walking through a park and you see woodpeckers, you’re likely to see them one at a time,” he said. “But as you’re doing that walk, you may also see 20 or so other species — two titmice here, a nuthatch over there, more woodpeckers.”
OK, that does sound tricky. Counting is vital to the 111th Christmas Bird Count, organized by the Audubon Society, which relies on volunteers to carry out a winter bird census. This year the nationwide count (which, despite its name, lasts longer than Christmas Day) started Dec. 14 and ends Jan. 5.
Field trips like these teach birding skills but also provide a cool getaway to explore wild areas and urban parklands with locals who know the turf. Here are some upcoming events — by skill level — that can help you get started.
Skilled birders and counters
Sunday, Christmas Bird Count, coastal Orange County. Bird-rich areas such as Upper Newport Bay and Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve are part of the 15-mile circle that will be canvassed by Alter and more than 100 other volunteers. $5 per person defrays the cost of compiling the data. Contact: Sea Sage Audubon CBC page
Sunday, Christmas Bird Count, north end of the Salton Sea. Volunteers are needed, especially to help count common birds such as ruddy ducks, American coots and gulls among the 140 species likely to be sighted. $5 per person. Contact: San Bernardino Valley Audubon CBC page
Amateurs and newcomers
Jan. 8, 7 a.m., Salton Sea Goose and Crane Trip, Salton Sea. Roseate spoonbills, thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes are some of the stars of this field trip on the east side of the Salton Sea. Free. Contact: San Bernardino Valley Audubon field trips
Jan. 9, 8 a.m., San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary Bird Walk, Irvine. See pelicans, shorebirds as well as swallows and flycatchers while learning about this little known marsh area. Free. Contact: Sea Sage Audubon field trips