Salazar announces land acquisition at Gettysburg (AP)

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Friday announced the addition of a 95-acre parcel at Gettysburg National Military Park, saying it caps nearly two decades of efforts to acquire the property.

What had most recently been a nine-hole golf course at the former Gettysburg County Club will henceforth be known by its historical name — the Emanuel Harman Farm. Major fighting occurred there on July 1, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and a key victory for the Union forces.

“Gettysburg will always have a sacred place in the America’s heritage for the pivotal role it played in our nation’s history and for the enormity of the sacrifice that took place here,” Salazar said in remarks prepared for a news conference at the central Pennsylvania park. With the latest acquisition, “we are able to include another important chapter in the story that helped shape our country.”

The National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department, tried unsuccessfully for nearly 20 years to acquire property, which lies within the boundaries of the 6,000-acre park.

The property was part of a larger tract that was developed as a country club in the 1950s, but went out of business in 2008.

Salazar thanked The Conservation Fund and The Civil War Trust for helping make the acquisition possible.

“Visitors who are now free to explore this hallowed ground can give thanks for the contributions of both of these organizations to preserving our national heritage,” he said.

The Virginia-based Conservation Fund purchased the land in February from a Maryland developer for $1.4 million. The developer retained the remaining 14 acres — including two clubhouses, two swimming pools, tennis courts and parking lots — and donated a height restriction easement for that parcel.

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London officials meet with agency in price dispute (AP)

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

LONDON – London Olympic organizers were meeting Friday with the travel agency accused of selling official packages to the 2012 Games at overpriced rates.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is among those who have criticized pricing of the accommodations, but London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton and the organization representing Britain’s hotel industry said that London’s hotels are offering rooms for Olympic visitors at below market rate.

However, official sponsor Thomas Cook is selling packages costing several times the separate value of tickets and accommodation.

“London hoteliers have no control over the prices that agents are charging,” British Hospitality Association chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said. “There is no question that hotels are profiteering; indeed the opposite.

“London hotels have agreed to let these rooms at below the current market rate in order to support the Games. Accusations that they are profiteering are totally unfounded.”

Ibrahim said hotels are charging roughly the average of their room rates between 2007 and 2010.

Thomas Cook said it would not comment upon ongoing commercial discussions.

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Sandhill cranes roost on Platte River in Nebraska (AP)

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

GIBBON, Neb. – Thousands of sandhill cranes and their fans are flocking to central Nebraska for the birds’ annual mid-migration refueling stop.

About half a million of the light gray, heron-like birds stop along an 80-mile stretch of the Platte River for three to four weeks each spring in March and April before continuing their journey to Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

Bird watchers from all over the country delight in watching cranes dance to impress their fellow birds and take off and land in large groups.

The cranes are attracted to the flat, shallow Platte River and its surrounding corn fields and pastureland because it doesn’t offer many hiding places to predators. The birds dine on corn left in fields, insects and other grain to build reserves before departing.





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Travelzoo Mania! Market Goes Gaga Over Local Deals Play

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

TZOO: Up, up and away!

Wow, have you looked at a chart for Travelzoo (TZOO) recently?

Go ahead, the chart is over there on the right side of the post, take a look. I’ll wait…

The stock, basically is on fire. And for that you can at least in part blame Groupon. Travelzoo is one of a number of companies that have jumped into the local deals market – in Travelzoo’s case, focusing on the travel market, where the company has built a business aggregating travel deal offers from airlines, hotels and the like int he form of e-mail newsletters. The obvious investing thesis here is this: With people throwing around the possibility that Groupon could be worth $25 billion, why not take a flier on TZOO, which now has a market cap of around $1 billion.

This morning, ThinkEquity analyst Atul Bagga repeated his Buy rating on the shares, lifting his price target to $70, from $58. He also upped his 2011 EPS forecast to $1.22 a share from $1.11, while lifting his 2012 target to $1.64 a share, from $1.54.

“Our analysis of the company’s local deals business suggests a better-than-expected ramp-up in the new cities roll-out and number of deals offered,” he writes in a research note. “While we expect the company to invest aggressively to support this high growth business, we believe that a revenue outperformance could drive margin leverage as well.”

Travelzoo sure has come a long, long way; when the company started operations in the bubble years it literally gave away 700,000 shares for nothing as a promotional stunt. Now the stock trades for a lofty 50x Bagga’s new EPS target for 2011.

TZOO is up $4.32, or 7.6%, to $61.09; the stock is up 63% since February 23.

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Twitter Travel Deals: Snooze, You Lose

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals


Last year, Robert Reid wanted to book a flight from his home base in New York to Melbourne, Australia. As the U.S. travel editor for travel-guide publisher Lonely Planet Americas based in Australia, he knew he’d find the best travel deals by scouring his favorite websites. But when he checked Twitter, he couldn’t believe his luck.

He found a flight on Virgin Atlantic Airways on Twitter that was $300 cheaper than he had seen on any other site.

It turns out that Reid isn’t alone. Increasingly, frugal travelers are turning to social networking sites such as Twitter to find the best travel deals on airline tickets, hotel reservations and other travel-related purchases. Twitter members “tweet,” or communicate in messages of 140 characters or less. They can follow the tweets of other users who specialize in a particular topic or who offer travel deals and other consumer bargains.

“Social media sites like Twitter are a much more immediate, effective way of snagging sales,” says Ann Lombardi, a travel consultant in Atlanta who runs The Trip Chicks. Using a Twitter account is free, and you’ll likely find offers that aren’t available elsewhere once you get the lingo down, Lombardi says.

Follow on Twitter

If you have a favorite travel website, chances are it’s also on Twitter, so it’s a good idea to start by following it. Next, you can use Twitter to branch out by following airlines, hotels and even destinations.

Locate deals near you by following your nearest hub, Lombardi says. Simply add the “@” symbol to your hub airport’s three-letter abbreviation. For example, if you live in Los Angeles and fly out of LAX airport, you’ll want to search for “@LAX” on Twitter. Once you find it, simply click “Follow.”

But as you add more travel specialists to your follow list, Lombardi says it’s good to organize your Twitter feed into separate groups, setting up specific lists for airlines, hotels, destinations and any other category you intend to use while traveling. If you don’t organize your Twitter travel feed, you’ll have a hard time sifting through a seemingly endless array of tweets and links, Lombardi says.

Make a Twitter Search

While many people just use Twitter to follow, preferring to have an approved list of providers push information to them, there’s no reason you can’t go out and search for travel deals.

“You can locate coupons or special discount codes by (entering terms) into Twitter’s search box,” says Lombardi, who advises travelers to refine their searches by adding a hashtag (#) before their query. For example, if you’re looking for deals in Atlanta, you might search “#Atlantadiscounts.” Or, if you’re looking for hotels in Berlin, you could enter “#Berlinhoteldiscounts.”

But don’t expect perfect results from these searches, says Pete Meyers, vice president of Over There Interactive Inc., a company in New York that runs the travel website

“We’ve found that using Twitter purely for search purposes, like searching for cheap flights on Twitter’s home page, can be a little daunting,” Meyers says.

The results are often too wide. But if you’re keen to hunt through some irrelevant results — and you understand the unique lingo that allows people to communicate in 140-character bursts — searching Twitter can yield some real bargains.

If you need an incentive to look for that needle in a haystack, Lombardi says some travel vendors issue Twitter-only discount codes that are usually cheaper than other deals they offer.

Ask for Advice on Twitter

While searching and following on Twitter can deliver amazing travel deals, many travelers gush over the site’s ability to connect them with all kinds of local information. That can include advice on local hotels, tour operators and restaurants. The information can save you money, but it also can help you get value for your dollar no matter what your budget is.

Last summer, travel writer and blogger Ben Reed based in Orlando, Fla., says he ditched his guidebooks on a trip to Victoria Falls in Zambia. Instead, he turned to Twitter because the platform offered more up-to-the-minute details on local attractions and accommodations. But, Reed warns, using Twitter isn’t always intuitive.

“You need to know where to look because it’s not as simple as sending a tweet, saying, ‘I need help with Victoria Falls,’” Reed says. “I discovered that people who talk about Victoria Falls on Twitter use the hashtag #VicFalls at the end of their tweets. So that’s what I did.”

See a deal? Act fast

No matter how you use Twitter to find that great deal, you have to act fast once you find it. Twitter-only travel deals from airlines, hotels and other vendors are likely to be strong enough to get people talking, but short-lived enough that they won’t be available for long.

“If you snooze, you truly lose, especially in the world of travel discounts,” Lombardi says. “Discounts can disappear in a flash.”

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Frazier Park: Lots of snow, but road to Mt. Pinos is shut this weekend

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The Mt. Piños snow-play area in Frazier Park, north of Los Angeles, won’t be ready for cross-country skiers, snowshoe trekkers and tobogganers this weekend because of a partial road closure and heavy snow blocking access to the backcountry. Officials are advising visitors to stay away until more work on snow clearing has been completed.

Three-plus feet of snow (and more falling), plus repair crews working on downed power lines from recent storms, have shut Cuddy Valley Road from the 5.3-mile marker to the top of Mt. Piños in Los Padres National Forest.

“I’ve been here since 1988, and this is one of the worst storms to damage trees from the heavy snowfall,” said Ian Lauchlan, winter sports manager for the Mt. Piños Recreation Area. “Anywhere you look, trees are down or leaning on roofs.” A tree was pressing against the roof of the Mt. Piños Ranger District that sits slightly above 5,000 feet as a light snow fell Friday morning, Lachlan said.

Though the forest recreation area isn’t officially closed, spokesman Andrew Madsen said people coming to ski, snowshoe or play in the area might find themselves turned back by the California Highway Patrol.

“A small army of [Southern California] Edison trucks are working to get this fixed but they’re having to park partially alongside the road,” Madsen said. That, plus the high snow banks, have rendered some roads where visitors typically park impassable. For updates, visit the Los Padres National Forest news page.

Meanwhile, those hoping to take advantage of late-season snowfall in the Angeles National Forest will find that direct access to much of the area remains blocked.

The Angeles Crest Highway (California 2) has been closed from La Cañada Flintridge to the Angeles Forest Highway since winter rains in December washed away a slope below the highway at Mile Marker 28.8. Repairs are underway, and Caltrans estimates the roadway will open in spring, according to an update on its website.

The Angeles Forest Highway via Tujunga remains open,  though backcountry access to trails has been closed since the Station fire swept through two years ago. The highway provides access to the Mt. Waterman Ski Area, which is open this weekend.

Check out this earlier Daily Travel Deal blog post that updates what’s happening at California ski areas.

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Here comes the sun: summer travel deals

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2011

See Romania’s beautiful landscapes with Wild Frontiers’ “walking along the enchanted way” trip. Courtesy of Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel Limited


Enjoy a kayaking holiday and Komodo dragon expedition in Indonesia with Pioneer Expeditions’ 10-day trip. Highlights include a visit to the famous Komodo Park and Rinca Island, paddling in the waters off some of Indonesia’s most remote beaches and snorkelling on coral reefs. The trip costs £1,450 (Dh8,688), excluding flights, with accommodation, meals as per the itinerary, transport including domestic flights, kayak and equipment, park fees and excursions. For more information and to book, visit


Explore Romania’s landscapes with Wild Frontiers’s “walking along the enchanted way” tour. The walks start in the foothills of the Gutai Mountains and take in the village of Breb, the hill of Maramures, Iza Valley and the highlands of Rodna Mountains National Park, and landscapes filled with wooden churches, monasteries, forests and remote Saxon villages that still retain a sense of feudal Europe. The nine-day trip leaves on July 16 and costs £1,165 (Dh6,980) per person with full board, and includes government passes and permits, entrance fees, and meals and transport as outlined in the tour itinerary. Visit for more information.


Cox and Kings’s seven-day trip to Jordan is an adventure holiday for the whole family, with an itinerary that includes visits to Jerash, Madaba, Petra and Qala’at ar-Rabad in Ajloun, a city tour of Amman, including the ancient ruins of the Temple of Hercules, the Byzantine church and the archaeological museum. Visitors get to enjoy a Roman army and chariot show, a tour of the famous Kerak Castle, a drive through the desert of Wadi Rum and an afternoon exploring the valley of Wadi Mujib. The trip is priced at US$969 (Dh3,560) and includes hotel accommodation with breakfast, most meals, coach tours, transfers, entrance fees, excursions and sightseeing as mentioned in the itinerary, plus the services of a manager or guide. Airfare is not included. Visit for more details and to book.


Mountain Walks is offering tailor-made, week-long walking holidays in Alicante, Valencia, with self-catering accommodation in beautifully restored cottages (sleeps four to six). Covering more than 1,600km of paths, there is something here for every ability of walker, from gentle strolls through the countryside to strenuous treks to satisfy serious hikers. Visitors can choose self-guided holiday packages or they can hire the services of a guide. The trip costs from €565 (Dh2,953) per person, excluding flights, with accommodation, dinner, breakfast and local transfers. Departures on April 9 and 17, and May 1. Visit for details.

The Maldives

Stay seven nights in a pool villa or a pool residence at Anantara Kihavah Maldives and pay only for five. The offer costs from US$1,633 (Dh5,998) per villa, per night, based on two sharing, including breakfast and taxes. One child under 12 can share their parents’ room gratis, with a 50 per cent discount on all meals. The package is available until October 31. Visit for details and to book.

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Need a vacation? Take advantage of BIG travel deals online

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Spring has sprung, and if you’re itching to get away from home for a bit, you’re not alone.

Some unbeatable travel deals have made their way online this week, and whether you are in the mood for some relaxed fun in the sun or an excitement-packed city getaway, there’s something for you.

Hotwire is featuring a slew of hotel deals for travelers looking to escape to warm spring destinations.

You can score a stay in California , Phoenix or Las Vegas for under $70 per night! Visit calming waters in Newport Beach, picturesque golf courses in Scottsdale, Ariz. or win big in the desert oasis of Sin City.

For those hoping to escape the heat, TravelZoo is also offering major discounts this week on travel to New York City, including unforgettable entertainment .

Catch a Broadway show , get brave and try tandem skydiving , or relax with dinner for two on the Upper East Side .

For even more great spring travel deals this week, visit and .

Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Alaska: Inside Passage cruise discounts offered by Hotwire

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Hotwire, the discount travel website, is offering a special rate on a seven-day cruise of Alaska’s Inside Passage for two September sailings. This classic cruise,  with Norwegian Cruise Line, begins and ends in Seattle.

The deal: The Hotwire rate for an inside cabin starts at $639 per person (plus tax and fees),  based on double occupancy; airfare is extra. The price is good for two sailings aboard the Norwegian Star that stop in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway in Alaska, along with Prince Rupert in Canada.

When: The lowest Hotwire rate is available for sailings only on Sept. 3 and 10.

Tested: I went onto the Hotwire website to check availability for the lowest price advertised. I found an inside cabin on the Sept. 3 sailing at the $639 rate. The total for a cabin for two, with taxes and fees, came to $1,622. By comparison, when I checked on the Norwegian Cruise Line website, I found the same cabin on the same dates going for $729 per person plus taxes and fees.

Contact: Hotwire, (866) 266-9392.

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Cruiseline Drink Package—Deal or Scam?

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

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Royal Caribbean just announced “all you can drink” packages, including beer, wine, and liquor for three of its ships. Although the three test ships sail from the United Kingdom rather than the United States, everyone seems to think this is a trial balloon likely to be extended. And it raises the issue of these and similar packages, generally, in the ongoing evolution of cruise pricing.


Royal Caribbean’s offer includes packages at three levels:

  • The Basic package, at $29 per person per day, includes all beers and house wines.
  • The Classic package, at $39 per person per day, includes all beer, house wines, and regular brand liquors.
  • The Premium package, at $49 per person per day, includes all beer, wines priced at up to $10 per glass, and premium liquor.

All three packages include 25 percent discounts on wine by the bottle and liquors priced beyond the package’s coverage.

Royal Caribbean is the first mass-market line to offer such packages to individual travelers. A few other lines offer comparable drink packages, but only to large groups. As far as I can tell, the only other cruise line selling individual drink packages is upscale Celebrity Cruises. In addition, a few upscale lines include basic beer and wine by the glass within the regular no-extra-charge menu. Also, some cruise lines sell “discount” cards that entitle you to a percent-off deal on wines and beers.

Are Royal Caribbean’s packages good deals? These days, cruisers report that beer and house wine by the glass start at around $6 each and often go higher. And the lowest-priced house wines may be only a small step above what the Brits delightfully call “plonk.” That means you’d break even at, say, four or five beers or wine glasses a day. Depending on how the line defines “glass,” a lot of you might well come out ahead with the package, especially if you have beer or wine at lunch or in the afternoon as well as at dinner.

At least with alcoholic beverages, Royal Caribbean and most other cruise lines try to stop you from doing it yourself. Most confiscate any hard liquor you bring onboard and return it to you at the end of the cruise. Many allow you to bring only one bottle of wine onboard during the entire cruise. Even those that allow you to buy wine in port charge a stiff corkage fee for you to drink it in a dining room.

Although Royal Caribbean is the only mass-market line to offer a beer-wine-liquor package, many of them sell packages for soft drinks and other items: soft drinks, bottled water, juices, premium coffees, and such.

The basic idea of these “all you can” packages is to increase a cruise line’s total profit—specifically, to make more by selling packages than by selling stuff individually. Sure, the lines figure, you’ll probably consume more on a package than if you had to pay separately each time. But the markup on ordinary wine, soda from the machine, and other beverage items is so high that the line really doesn’t care how much more you consume: The extra package revenue far exceeds the modest increase in costs.

It’s no secret that the mass-market cruise lines are increasingly nickel-and-diming cruisers once they’re onboard. Given the increasing influence of online price-comparison systems, each line feels pressured to post the very lowest baseline cabin rates it can, hoping to profit from the extras. Newer ships have one or more “specialty” dining options that set you back $25 a person or more. Many cruise lines charge extra for ice cream except during meals, for “premium” coffees, “premium” desserts, and often “premium” menu items. I sometimes suspect that, in a few more years, the only no-extra-fee dinner entree option in the main dining room will be mac and cheese.

The bottom line remains as it has been for some time: Cruising can be a really good travel deal if you are careful about the extras; expensive if you aren’t. The new packages don’t change that conclusion at all.

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