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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Travel Deals for Procrastinators

For all of you who saw me on NewsChannel 8 today (and even those who didn't), here is more information about snagging those last-minute travel deals. But before we get to that, if you have a chance, please go to http://www.hostourcoast.com/ today and tomorrow and vote for my video. (You have to scroll way down the page to find it). The winner gets to blog along the Delmarva coast all summer long.

General Information for Last-Minute Travel Planning

Spring is a good time to find last-minute travel deals…particularly once spring break is over. It’s also a good time to bargain shop for cheap summer travel deals.

Look for your best deals at standard vacation destinations (theme parks, beaches) during the week.

Look for special offers, like stay two nights/get a third free. Also, ask about packages.

April and May are still shoulder season at the beach, so bargains can be found oceanside.

Some current last-minute deals in Virginia:

Refuge Inn on Chincoteague Island
Book within 48 hours --20% off the entire stay. Or stay Sunday through Thursday--book two nights, get the third for $25. Call 800-664-6089 and ask for the Gotta Get Away Web Offer.

The Waterside Inn in Chincoteague has a stay two nights, get one free promotion through May.

The Homestead celebrates April Fools Day with a 48-hour sale. The "We Aren't Fooling" deal offers three nights for the price of two. The sale begins April 1. Book at http://www.thehomestead.com.

Lansdowne Resort, located near Virginia's Wine Country, is offering a spring break deal at $79/night (a 50% savings) through April 5. Call (800) 729-8400 and mention Easter 79 to receive the rate.

Get a Jump on Summer

Now is also the time to find bargains for the summer. If you don't wait until the last minute to book your summer vacation, you may get off cheap. To wit:

If you book an Ocean City June vacation by April 1, you'll get discounted rates or free nights. Check the June lodging promotions page on http://www.ocvisitors.com/ for deals like five nights for $500 at the Fenwick Inn and Princess Bayside, and 10%-25% room rates at half a dozen hotels.

Also in the book now category--airfares for summer travel, particularly for international flights.

All-business-class airline OpenSkies (a subsidiary of BA) starts service from Washington Dulles to Paris Orly on May 3. Seats on introductory flights cost as little as $815 one way.

Websites for Last-Minute Booking

I have found http://www.sidestep.com/ helpful for packages and http://www.priceline.com/ useful for those with flexibility and patience.

One of the newest trends in online travel is “Invitation Only”. Sites are offering private sales for luxury deals. Among them are http://www.tablet.com/ (for hotels), http://www.jetsetter.com/, http://www.ruelala.com/, and the private sale section of http://www.kayak.com/ (which offers a wider array of price points). Some of these invitation sites require an invitation from an existing member; others merely require an e-mail address.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Of DC Cherry Blossoms, Maryland Crabs and Delaware Blue Hens

I think those little DC cherry blossoms are as tired of winter as the rest of us. As a result, they are coming out of hibernation early. Originally projected to bloom between April 3 and 8, they are now expected to come out as early as April 1. No April Fools. Either way, peak will hit during Washington's annual Cherry Blossom Festival, taking place between the end of March and April 11.

Speaking of the end of March, please vote for me every day through the 31st on every computing device you have at http://www.hostourcoast.com. The winner gets to spend the summer blogging about the pleasures to be found along the Delmarva Peninsula. If you enjoy this blog, you'll love Laura living large along the beach.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plane Sense

The news has leaked--Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) is outfitting its planes with women-only lavatories. According to the airline, it's what women want. A recent airline survey showed that a female-only W.C. was the second-most requested onboard amenity, after dessert. Dessert?

Why do women want their own place to, ahem, wash? An ANA spokesperson says the reason is, "Many women said that they feel uncomfortable taking their time in the lavatory knowing that a male is waiting just behind them in line." While I am not privy to Japanese culture, methinkst that answer is plumb crazy. Anyone who has taken a long-distance flight is well aware of the cumulative mess men tend to make in the commode. However, the ANA spokesperson took pains to point out that female-only lavs are not being introduced due to complaints about men soiling the bathroom, although she did admit that Japanese women do not like it when men leave the seat up.

The fine print: Most international flights will sport just one female-only lavatory and men will be allowed to use it in case of emergency. As for what qualifies as an emergency...let's not flush that one out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Get A Whiff of This

First, Kevin Smith bellyaches about getting booted off Southwest for being too fat (see previous post). Now, another deplaning, courtesy of Canada's Jazz Air, is crinkling some noses. What happened? Well, on a February 6 flight heading out of Prince Edward Island, a passenger with "brutal" body odor was asked to leave the plane after his fellow travelers raised a stink.

I say bravo to Jazz Air for giving the guy the old heave-ho. While the airline doesn't have a policy on pungent passengers per se, Jazz Air, while vague about this specific incident, did state that "as an airline, the safety and comfort of our passengers and crew are our top priorities. Therefore, any situation that compromises either their safety or comfort is taken seriously…the crew will act in the best interest of the majority of our passengers. It's important to understand that our crew members make every effort to resolve a situation before it becomes an issue. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, it may become necessary for our crew to remove passengers."

What do you think, dear readers? Let's dial up the conversation. Do your thoughts dovetail with mine? To what degree does the odoriferous passenger (who, incidentally, happened to be an American) have a right to be incensed? Was he appropriately banned? Did he deserve the axe? Did the airline make a suave move? What's the secret to dealing with these delicate issues? Are all of these anti-perspirant puns making you sweat? If so, please don't board an arrid (sic) airplane anytime soon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Here's the Skinny

Don’t hate on me because I’m skinny. Don’t sit on me, either.

Now, I realize the following may be politically incorrect, but hear me out. Because for every overweight Kevin Smith who takes up a seat and a half on an airplane, there’s a .5 of us with an equal right to a full seat, even if we don’t fill up the space.

In case you missed it, the kerfuffle about overweight fliers has been re-inflated, thanks to the unceremonious de-boarding of one Kevin Smith, a semi-famous Hollywood director. While hardly a heavyweight like Orson Welles (in all manners of speaking), the increasingly-zaftig Smith normally buys two seats when flying. He says he does so because he can afford it (after all, he's a big Hollywood director) and he doesn‘t want to have someone sitting next to him. He neglects to mention that he is concerned about sitting on someone next to him.

Earlier this week, Smith chose to trade in his two tickets on a Southwest flight for a sole standby seat on an earlier flight. Said flight was fully booked. A flight attendant witnessed Smith overlapping into the next seat and ejected him, per Southwest Airlines policy (see footnote at end of post). Smith tweeted about the incident to his 1.6 million Twitter followers. Southwest apologized and refunded his fare.

Of course, in our 24-7 media age, that wasn’t the end of the story. Rage ensued and large people everywhere protested. Unheard during the coverage, however, was the view of the little guy. So, I'm here to represent.

You see, while I am no Victoria Beckham, I am a size 2. Thus, I am much smaller than the average American. And, I do not fill a seat. Therefore, I am seldom left to sit alone on a two-seat subway car. But that's public transportation, so what can you do?

On an airplane, however, it's a different bottom line. After all, consider what happens when someone with a fanny pack larger than the 17-to-18-inch-wide coach seat sits next to me. If Milton Burly gets to the row first, the armrest gets lifted and suddenly, my seat is reduced by one-third or one-half. Where, I ask you, is Lady Justice? That would be Justitia, that blindfolded babe who sometimes flashes a boob and always travels with a scale. (Incidentally, Justitia’s Greek equivalent is named Dike. If Dike were hanging out between seats, I suppose she could prevent seepage).

Apologies for the parenthetical odyssey. My point is, if my plump seatmate doesn’t have to pony up for taking up space and a half, then perhaps I should get a discount proportional to my width. To wit, in the interest of serious journalism, I just measured my butt. It’s approximately 11 inches across. Accounting for spreadage while seated, let‘s make it 12 inches. If a seat is 18 inches, and I take up 2/3s, I should get a 33% discount on my seat.

Or perhaps airlines could start charging fees for, ahem, extra baggage. While that specific strategy is unlikely, it may be that one day airlines do start taking total weight (you and your bags) into account.

Alas, I don’t have an answer. If you do, please weigh in. In the meantime, speaking from the skinny side of the seat, please stay out of my lap.

A footnote: While many carriers that don’t have official policies about this matter, Southwest does, and it’s been in place for 29 years. You can find details at http://www.southwest.com.
The policy states that large passengers must buy two seats. If there are fewer passengers than seats on a flight, Southwest will refund the second seat and give the customer side-by-side seats. If the flight is sold out, the passenger can opt to buy an extra seat on a less full flight. The reason behind the policy is that Southwest “could no longer ignore complaints from customers who traveled without full access to the seat purchased due to encroachment by a large seat mate." Bravo, Southwest.

Incidentally, the airline says its oversized passenger policy impacts fewer than half of one percent of its customers. That translates to about 127,000 people a year.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Soaking Up Beantown

Are you a member of that darned Red Sox Nation? Has the cold weather got you clamoring for chowder? If so, take a listen to my recent report on Boston for Around the World Radio.

or visit the archives of AroundtheWorldRadio.com. The date of the program is February 11.