Travel News: Stranded at the Airport Edition

Must-visits in 2011, Valentine’s Day deals, and China on the cheap

By: Sophie Gilbert

In Washington this week, we can be grateful fact that the snow that’s crippling large parts of the country has passed us by. Sure, we had an inch or so Tuesday, but compared to the whopping 54.9 inches we got last winter, that seems like a (non-snowy) walk in the park. Of course, this still means that traveling to other parts of the country has been problematic these last few days: Huffington Post has a slideshow of sad pictures of passengers stranded at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.

It wouldn’t be January without a few “things you absolutely have to do in 2011” lists, and sure enough there are a few knocking around. The New York Times has a list of 41 places to go in 2011 (presumably you can pick a few, because accomplishing the whole list might be expensive, not to mention time-consuming). And BudgetTravel.com has a list of ten inexpensive travel destinations this year, including Banff, Dublin, Houston, and Shanghai.

Valentine’s Day must be on the horizon, because luxury hotels in Washington are suddenly offering sweeteners. The Four Seasons in Georgetown is giving $100 in hotel credit to anyone who books a two-night stay through February 28, redeemable at both the Michael Mina-helmed restaurant, Bourbon Steak, and the exceedingly luxurious spa (the only time we ever managed to go there, we literally ran into CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, post-workout). The Willard InterContinental is offering a special Valentine’s Day package for $379, which includes one night in a guest room, American breakfast in bed, parking, Champagne, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. And if you really want to impress someone, for $2,400 you can enjoy all of the above amenities in the Jenny Lind Suite, complete with canopy bed, jacuzzi, and its own pantry. But we’re sure a nice dinner would do the trick just as well.

Two tempting international deals this week courtesy of Travelzoo, particularly if you’ve ever wanted to stay in a castle. Sceptre Tours is offering a six-night trip to Tuscany, including roundtrip flights from New York, a two-bedroom guest house on the grounds of a 12th century castle, and car rental for $699 (plus taxes and fees of around $140). You need to find three other people to go with you, but you’ll get to stay in the Montegufoni Castle estate, which is 13 miles from Florence and right in the heart of the Chianti region. Travel is available February 1 through April 12.

Affordable Asia currently has a seven-night tour of China across three cities, with four-star accommodation, flights, breakfast, and English-speaking tour guides for $1,299 (taxes are around an extra $100 per person). The trip covers Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai, and accommodation includes the Doubletree Hilton, the Crowne Plaza Shanghai, and the Grand Noble Xian. Again, flights are out of New York, but considering the prices, it shouldn’t be so hard to get there.

And finally, a bittersweet story from elliott.org about the amazing steps Southwest Airlines took to help a passenger who’d suffered an unspeakable tragedy. Nowadays, when airline passengers are frequently treated more like cattle than customers, it’s reassuring to know that one pilot was able to show a huge amount of compassion.

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