Arizona: Camelback Inn turns 75 with anniversary specials

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The JW Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Ariz., turned 75 earlier this month. According to Marriott, which has owned the property since 1967, it cost $75,000 to build the resort that held just 75 guests when it opened. All those  75s figure prominently in a variety of deals at the Sonoran Desert resort. Some examples: a $75 credit each day with a special room package, a $75 Swedish massage, a $75 prix-fixe dinner and more. 

The deal: Here are some of the specials:

–The 75th Anniversary Package, which requires a two-night stay and starts at $214 for a casita-style guestroom, a $75 daily resort credit, two anniversary cocktails and daily breakfast (through the end of 2012).

–A 60-minute Swedish massage for $75 (usually $130) offered through March 15.

Tested: I checked availability for the 75th Anniversary Package and found prices high in winter ($384 a night from Jan. 27-29) and a bargain during the hot summer months ($184 a night June 8-10); prices don’t include taxes and fees. The resort credit can be used for spa services, golf, food and more.

Contact: JW Marriott Camelback Inn, (800) 582-2169

Article source:,1,2642086.story

The Sweetest Travel Deal of 2011 Is…

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The Jauntys / Jaunted Awards 2011 / Travel Awards 2011 / Travel Deals / → All Tags

The Sweetest Travel Deal of 2011 Is…

It’s that time of the year again, the time when the year just plain ends. Alas, we can’t just let 2011 go that easily, especially since travelers spent it both up in the air and up in arms over a crazy range of topics, encompassing everything from nudie scans to tarmac delays. Needless to say, we’re ready for 2012, but first we’re taking a brief look back at the best of 2011 with the Jaunted Travel Awards,—or as we fondly refer to them—The Jauntys.

With no JetBlue AYCJ Pass this year, the “sweetest travel deal” category was blown wide open. Many excellent offers intrigued in 2011, but there was one that repeatedly popped up and instantly inspired long-distance travel. That is ridiculously cheap airfare to Tokyo, Japan.

The thing is, Tokyo shouldn’t have been so cheap in 2011! If it weren’t for the Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami early in the year (our 2011 Travel Villain of the Year), these deals would never have happened. The country was (and still is) seriously hurting for tourism. So let’s take a look at some of the actual low prices…

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Last-minute ideas for New Year’s Eve. Yes, even in Vegas.

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

New Year’s Eve plans made the day before might sound slapdash, but travelers can find some inspiring options as the pressure mounts to find something worthy to do as Saturday approaches. (One tip: Don’t rally the troops to camp out along the Rose Parade route Saturday night; the parade and the Rose Bowl football game are Monday, not Sunday.)

Let’s start with a quick trip to Las Vegas. The Minus 5 Ice Bars, one at Mandalay Bay and one at Monte Carlo, will count down to the new year in 14 time zones. Toasting inside the ice-sculpted bar begins at 11 a.m. for Auckland, New Zealand, and continues on the hour until it reaches Denver at 11 p.m. and finally midnight in Las Vegas.

No reservations required; entry fees start at $15 to $25 a person, which come with the loan of a parka, gloves and boots, or you can get the VIP NYE package for $250 that includes cocktails, photos and a souvenir hat and coat. Don’t worry, it’s not as cold as you think; the temperature inside is minus 5 degrees Celsius, which is a balmy 23 degrees Farenheit.

For something a bit more elegant and less boozy, scoot over to Le Provencal restaurant at Paris Las Vegas for a five-course French-Italian meal that ends with what it calls the 2012 Decadent New Year’s Eve Trio: pineapple tart tatin, chocolate espresso Napoleon and caramel pear, and spiced chocolate cream parfait. All this amid the French countryside … OK, murals of the French countryside. Cost is $70 per person. Reservations are required and can be made on the half-hour from 5 to 10:30 p.m. by calling (702) 862-5138. Then stick around for the fireworks show over the Strip being shot from eight hotel-casinos.

Closer to home, the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica is hosting two magic shows to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Guests are served a flight of four wines from Rosenthal’s Malibu Estate before the 7 p.m. show or Champagne at the 9:30 p.m. show. David Minkin brings the magic. Tickets cost $85 per person and can be bought online at the magician’s website.

Article source:,1,6330615.story

Medical travel gets new apps and an insurance deal

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Taiwan is gearing up for more Chinese and American medical tourists. It has launched a new app service for medical travel that provides handy information on tourist attractions and healthcare facilities around the country. The app, designed by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) under commission from the Department of Health (DOH), has versions for English, as well as for traditional and simplified Chinese. The service, which is free, covers information ranging from health checkups to cosmetic medicine, with a map service for each listed facility. Users can access information on the 31 medical and healthcare facilities under the DOH’s international medical programme. Now available for iPhone and iPad users, the App will expand to Android users in the first quarter of 2012.

Four major hospitals in Taiwan have signed a cooperation agreement with New Era Life Insurance Co. of the USA to provide unique medical services to American policyholders of the insurer when they choose to get medical treatment in Taiwan. New Era Life Insurance of Houston, Texas, will pay for American customers to get medical services at the Taipei Medical University Hospital, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital System (made up of hospitals in different areas in Taiwan), Changhua Christian Hospital in central Taiwan, and E-Da Hospital in southern part of the island.

New Era Life Insurance has designed a US medical insurance policy for customers who can speak Chinese. The new service will help American customers, including Taiwanese who hold U.S. passports, to get medical treatment in Taiwan – including health examinations and cosmetics surgery, which are uncommon in insurance policy contracts. The customers can also get treatment in the USA. The details are still vague but founder Bill Shun-zer Chen, a Taiwanese immigrant, suggests customers have to pay a bigger share of medical costs if treated in the USA and funding for air flights to the island for themselves and families.

The insurance group is controlled by shareholders who are primarily Asian and has 150,000 policyholders. The company makes the bold claim that they plan to sell it to 1% of the total 20 million Asian Americans. We will get 1% of the total market – is a marketing claim that turns off experienced investors as it never happens.  

Keeping this deal in perspective, by the standards of US health insurers the company is tiny, the equivalent of a family retailer when compared to insurance supermarket Cigna. In any one year, if more than 5% of the 150,000 policyholders have a medical claim in any one year then the insurer would lose money. The big question is how many of these US based Asians will rather be treated in Taiwan than in the USA. Similar deals for other countries have yet to find more than a handful, if any, US policyholders prepared to go overseas even when they have overseas links. What may determine the answer is how good the incentive is for the policyholders to go to Taiwan. This is an interesting pilot, but neither the insurer nor the hospitals should expect a rush of medical tourists.

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Flexibility on dates, destination key to travel deals

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Once the glow of the holidays has worn off, many people will be interested in seeking some sunshine with a winter’s holiday.

Travel expert Claire Newell says the best deals can be found at resort destinations through charter airlines and vacation companies.

“It’s always cheaper if you can do it as a package – air, hotel and transfers – or air and seven nights in an all-inclusive resort,” Newell said in an inter-view. “If you can stick to those windows, you’ll often find the best deals.”

Charter airlines and vacation companies include Sunwing, Transat, WestJet Vacations and Air Canada Vacations. Charter companies fly to popular resort islands such as Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba, and the Mexican resort destinations.

If you’re flexible on dates and location, you can save a lot of money.

“If you’re one of those people who want to go to a beach … but you want the best value, you can wait for a last-minute deal up to even two or three weeks prior and get a really great deal,” Newell said. “You may not get the resort or the flight times that you want, but you’ll get a great bargain of a deal.”

For those of us who are not that flexible, Newell recommends booking as early as possible to get the best deals.

“If you’re pigeonholed, like teachers or families with Christmas or Spring Break off, I would recommend booking as soon as you know, because it will sell out for those really popular dates,” Newell said.

Other popular dates are university reading break in mid-February and the end of April when university exams finish.

“If you can, avoid those times, as you will have a lot more flexibility,” Newell said. “If you have a destination that you really want to go to, find out what days of the week [the charter airlines] are flying, then take that time off, then wait until maybe a month or three weeks prior.”

Newell, of the website Travel Best Bets (www.travelbestbets. com), said the best times of the year to get a deal on travelling are mid-November to mid-December or the last three weeks of January.

“There’s already some sweet deals for January,” Newell said when we spoke in December, citing a Mexican Riviera seven-night cruise for $548 plus tax, all-inclusive seven-night deals to Puerto Vallarta for $599, and a 14-night Hawaiian Island cruise for $1,299 plus tax.

Waiting until the last minute can save you big money if you’re planning a flexible trip to a sunny destination where the charter companies go, because they often buy blocks of rooms ahead of time, and pay for the rooms whether or not they are used.

“That’s why you sometimes see these crazy last-minute deals because anything is better than nothing because they’re paying for them anyway,” New-ell said. “The tour operators with these packages have massive buying power.”

There are also package deals available for Las Vegas or California from either Vancouver or Bellingham. Prices for these deals do not usually get cheaper closer to the date, Newell said.

“These are airfare and hotel packaged together, but they are not charters. A rule of thumb is that charter carriers get cheaper if they have seats available closer to the date, but scheduled carriers will never get cheaper as you get closer to the date,” Newell said.

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Penn State fans aren’t scrambling for TicketCity Bowl tickets – Patriot

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The Penn State bowl season is typically a hyped-up affair, with scrambling to snatch up tickets and travel deals, no matter the venue.

Not so much this year.

Penn State at the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas, Tx


Blue-and-white fans say Monday’s TicketCity Bowl against the Houston Cougars fails to entice them to pony up the money to travel to Dallas and pay for hotel rooms.

“It’s partially because of the distance and partially because it’s not as lucrative a bowl as I think we should’ve gotten,” said senior Mike McGivern, who two years ago followed Penn State to the Orange Bowl in Orlando, Fla. “Usually we get to play a little more exciting rivalry. It seems the teams Penn State beat this year got better bowl opportunities than we did.”

Daniele Ashkenazy has followed her alma mater to the Capital One and the Outback bowls. This year she’s gathering with friends at a bar to watch the game. (Incidentally, it’s not just any bar. It’s the Parrot Lounge, a hangout for Penn State and Eagles fans in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Ashkenazy’s home.)

“I don’t really know about the Houston football team,” she said. “For me, it’s not that big of a matchup.”

Ashkenazy and McGivern say the scandal swirling around allegations that former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted 10 boys and the fallout has little to do with their decision to skip the game.

But the scandal, they said, and the ouster of former head coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier, have cast a pall over an otherwise festive time.

“It just seems there are a couple of things that have put a damper on the whole football season. Joe Paterno not coaching, the fighting between the players and the Sandusky thing,” said McGivern, a senior from Bethlehem. “There’s definitely a negative mood to the football season.”

Ashkenazy said she usually knows a handful of students going to the bowl, but the idea of flying to Texas weighs heavily on decisions to stay home.

“I don’t think the Sandusky thing had anything to do with people not going,” she said. “I know, for me, the scandal has made me a prouder Penn State fan. I’m not proud of the actions our administration took, but I’m just as proud to be from Penn State. The scandal aside, we are an incredible university that does incredible things every day. This one scandal should not reflect on my education or my degree.”

For weeks, bowl organizers have said they do not expect a sell-out crowd at the 92,000-seat Cotton Bowl Stadium. TicketCity Bowl President Tom Starr this week said the target attendance for the game is in the 50,000 range.

Lukewarm ticket sales throughout December made a small dent in the 6,500 tickets allotted to Penn State.

Some travel agencies opted out this year, including Bailey Travel Service in York. In a typical year, immediately after the bowl announcements, Bailey and other travel agencies organize packages for Penn State fans.

“We hardly had any interest,” said Sherri Snyder, vice president of operations for Bailey. “We had maybe two or three calls. I think if they were going to a bigger bowl and Joe Paterno was going to be there — chances are this would have been his final year — there would’ve been a lot more demand for it. Sales would’ve been very good had all of this not happened.”

Snyder said the company was poised to organize deals, but Paterno’s ouster put things on hold.

“I’m sure Sandusky is a big ugly part of it, but the fact that Joe Paterno was not going to be there I’m sure played a big factor.”

On most years, the price for tickets to Penn State bowl matchups is prohibitive, Snyder said. This year, fans can find tickets for under $100, she said.

“Tickets are unbelievably cheap,” Snyder said. “Normally you wouldn’t be able to get a ticket without paying $1,000.”

True to the adage that Penn State fans can be found anywhere, the Nittany Lions can count on local support on game day.

More than 500 members of the North Texas Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association plan to be in full white-out gear Monday.

“It’s extremely hyped for us,” said Craig Micklow, a 1969 Penn State graduate and president of the chapter. “We are glad to have them here. This is the first time we’ve had them in our backyard since I’ve been president. I think we’re going to have an extremely strong showing from the local chapters.”

Those other local chapters include alumni associations from Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Woodlands.

The North Texas Chapter has an endowment that has awarded $120,000 in scholarships, and has recruited thousands of students from the Dallas area, solely on academics.

“This is my payback to the university,” said Micklow, a former chief financial officer in mergers and acquisitions. “They’ve been able to help me achieve my milestones. It was my roots. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for Penn State.”

Micklow said he is disappointed that Paterno, who helped kick off the chapter in 1992, will not be part of the bowl.

“It’s hard. Let’s put it that way,” he said. “It’s a family. That’s how I run this chapter.”

A few weeks ago, Micklow changed the sign-off on the chapter’s voice mail, which had said, “We are Penn State.”

Now it ends this way: “Through thick and thin, we are and always will be Penn State.”

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Samoa skips Friday in leap across International Date Line

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

If you’re visiting Samoa, be prepared to skip Friday and get an early start on New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The country that sits in the South Pacific near the International Date Line will change its time zone midnight Thursday to be in sync with Australia and New Zealand. The nation of two main islands, Upolu and Savai’i, and several smaller ones will move west of the imaginary date line time-wise.

Before the change, Tonga and Fiji, its nearest neighbors, were a day ahead of Samoa.

“In effect we will be waking up on Saturday 31st December 2011, and lose one day in our lives as there will be no Friday 30th December 2011 in the history of Samoa,” a statement on the Samoa Tourism Authority website says.

Maps, charts and atlases too will be changed to reflect Samoa’s new position on the date line, the statement said.

Article source:,0,1009547.story

Savvy travelers can still find deals in the new year

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Discounts will be harder, but not impossible, to find in the new year.

(CNN) — With all the signs pointing to travel costs rising in the New Year, what’s the money-conscious traveler to do? You can still cut expenses if you strategize ahead of time, whether your travel dates and destinations are fixed or not.

If you must travel to a certain place at a certain time, it’s wise to plan ahead. “Book very early,” says Cynthia Brough, a spokeswoman with AAA. “With airlines cutting capacity worldwide, less capacity typically leads to increased prices. If consumers are planning vacations in 2012, they should be looking to plan those vacations now.”

If you’re willing to be flexible about where and when you take your vacations, there are still discounts to be had. “Some destinations and times of year will be much more expensive than others, and there might be little obvious reason for it,” said George Hobica, founder and president of “Don’t set your sights myopically on one destination. Airfares and other trip components are not static in price. They change seasonally and geographically.”

Continue to cut costs, even after you’ve booked your travel. “What we can do is use some ingenuity about how we delegate our dollars at travel destinations,” said Evelyn Hannon, founder of Journeywoman, an online travel resource for women.

Fewer flights, fuller flights

The challenge: Fewer flights means fewer flight discounts.

As airlines have merged, cut routes and grounded planes to cut costs, more planes are flying full. That leaves fewer seats to discount for the leisure traveler or penny-pinching business traveler. “If you wait until the last minute, don’t think you’ll have a deal with an airline,” said Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman and U.S. Leader of Deloitte Touche’s Tourism, Hospitality Leisure sector.

The solution: Be flexible with your travel dates. If an airline flies to your favorite cities, sign up for the airline’s frequent flier program, weekly discount e-mail alerts and Twitter feeds. The airlines usually offer discount alerts for the following weekend’s travel. Airlines have been known to use their Twitter feeds to post exclusive sales that only last for a short period — say 24 to 48 hours — but the tickets passengers buy might be for travel far in the future. Sign up for e-mail newsletters such as, which sends out airline discounts and sales.

Another solution: Note where the discounter airlines are adding flights and bankrupt American Airlines defends its turf. JetBlue and Spirit have added Dallas to their routes, competing with an increasingly weak American. While American is expected to drop 10-15% of its routes, it will fight to protect its lucrative Miami hub, according to Vaughn Cordle, founder and owner of Airline Forecasts, an investment research firm. That could translate into price wars for flights originating or landing in Miami. And as Southwest Airlines moves into Atlanta with its takeover of AirTran, Delta Airlines might lower fares on competing routes. Look for price wars there.

Not much room at the inn

The challenge: Higher demand for hotel rooms means U.S. hotel rates are expected to increase an average of 3.7%, according to Smith Travel Research’s latest analysis.

“We’ve seen an increase in hotel room rates but hotels are still pretty full,” said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Smith Travel Research. That’s in contrast to the past couple years, where hoteliers reduced room rates rather than let rooms sit vacant. They certainly didn’t start any new construction projects. Now that business and leisure travelers are returning to the air, room rates are going back up. New construction to relieve the price increases won’t be ready for guests until the end of next year.

The solution: If you want to stay in a luxury hotel, book now or wait for a flash sale on the hotel’s website. Sign up for your favorite hotel’s frequent points program to get early notices of sales and discounts. and other online discounters often offer reduced rates if you’re traveling sooner rather than later.

Fill your tank now

The challenge: Gas prices are still high, and they’re probably going to increase because they’re often at their highest during July and August. That’s because demand for gas is usually at its highest during those summer months when kids are out of school and families tend to take more driving vacations.

The solution: Travel in the winter months or off-season or explore the areas around your home. The national average price of a regular unleaded gallon of gas is usually at its lowest in the winter months of November, December and January. The current national average price was about $3.26 per gallon, according to AAA’s recent year-end holiday travel report. Although that’s about 29 cents more this year than one year ago, it’s still 72 cents less than this year’s peak price of $3.98, which occurred on May 5.

All aboard!

The challenge: Cruise lines are reversing their policy of saving discounts for people who book their rooms at the last minute, said AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Brough. “Cruise lines are offering early booking discounts, waivers of single supplements for cruise and discounts for paying in full at time of booking,” said Brough. “A trend for next year is to buy now for next year. Discounts that exist now will not exist next year.”

The solution: Book early and buy travel insurance, said Brough, especially if you’re taking a multi-generational trip with relatives in ill-health. “Consumers who purchase insurance and needed it said it was best purchase they ever made.”

Innovative ways to cut costs

The challenge: The sheer number of expert and amateur travelers sharing their cost-cutting tips can be overwhelming. Who has time to sort through the thousands of online news sources, newspaper columns, bloggers and others sources written by people who so dearly want to help you? What if you’re traveling solo, looking for special discounts, traveling with kids or moving to Europe to live for a year?

The solution: Find the advice you need from travel bloggers. Check out the suggestions at Travel Blog or other sites that review blogs. Even with dated posts, readers often add recommendations in the comments section. Do make sure to read your chosen blogs over time to ensure you’re in sync with the writer.

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Chicago travel deals under $100

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

If you’re not interested in traveling near the West Coast for the $86 to $99 deal, how about traveling east for $48?

Travelzoo has flight deals going midwest, south and east for under $100 between January 4 and May 16, each way. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturdays have the lowest deals, according to the site.

From Boston to Chicago, ticket prices are $48.

  • Related
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    Story: West Coast flights on sale for $99 from Chicago

From Buffalo to Chicago, ticket prices are $59.

From Chicago to Dallas, ticket prices are $48.

From Nashville to Chicago, ticket prices are $59.

From Minneapolis to Chicago, ticket prices are $59.

If you don’t mind traveling to Indiana, there’s a $59 deal from Indianapolis to Atlanta, too.

Some flights are available in each direction, whether you’re coming to or coming from Chicago, but reserve promptly because in the time it took to test these deals, the prices changed. Click here for more details.

Article source:,0,4552249.story

New Year’s Eve: NYC, San Francisco still have (pricey) rooms

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Those who hesitated might have lost out on bargain New Year’s Eve hotel rooms in New York City and San Francisco, but how much you pay also might depend on where you want to stay. reports prices in Big Apple hotels are way up for Dec. 31 compared with regular rates. The survey shows rooms at Hotel 91 on the Lower East Side jump from $125 to $933, and the Cosmopolitan in the Wall Street area increases from $129 to $549. Even the midtown Holiday Inn NYC’s rates jump from $179 to $649.’s survey found more than 50 hotels have rooms available on New Year’s Eve but partiers should expect to pay about 140 more than regular rates. In Union Square, for example, rooms at the Union Square Plaza Hotel jump from $120 to $400 and Nob Hill Hotel rooms that usually cost $109 are $599.

Surveys conducted Dec. 27 by the two online hotel booking sites are based on prices for the cheapest doubles available on Dec. 31 on Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz and comparing those with regular room rates on Jan. 7.

I decided to check out what rooms for Dec. 31 would cost for last-minute reservations made today (Thursday). My advice: Stay close to airports for the best prices.

In San Francisco, I found availability for a room with two queen-sized beds at the Radisson Hotel San Francisco Airport for $169 plus tax on Expedia and a room with one queen bed at the Crowne Plaza San Francisco International Airport for $139 plus tax on Orbitz.

In New York, it was more difficult to find anything affordable in the city; most rooms cost $400 and up. I found a room with one queen bed for $399 plus tax at the Hilton Manhattan East near Grand Central Station on Expedia. Going farther afield, I found a $259 room at the Marriott LaGuardia Airport and a $269 room at the International JFK Hotel at that airport (prices don’t include tax), both on

Article source:,1,98939.story