We usually love Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema, but sometimes we get a little jealous, such as when he flies out to Las Vegas to review José Andrés’s two new restaurants. Last week, dropping by the new Cosmopolitan Las Vegas hotel, Sietsema raved about the “great bed, a bath with a view, and in-room technology that lets me lower the curtains, the temperature, and the lights all at once.” We’re officially green with envy, and that’s before he even mentioned the barbecue pork buns at China Poblano and the paella station at Jaleo.
Now that we’re comfortably ensconced in March, this wintry weather is getting a little old. We might be a good few months away from Memorial Day, but it’s never too early to start planning for the summer, and luckily Budget Travel has a handy slide show of the world’s best affordable beach resorts, including destinations in Mexico, France, Israel, and Maine. Here’s hoping it’ll take the edge off the chill outside.
One of the other (hundred or so) miserable things about winter? Chances are that any time you get on a plane you’ll immediately turn into a human petri dish. The top New York Times travel story this week is a piece by Michelle Higgins detailing “How Not to Get Sick From a Flight.” Be warned: There are a few grisly details, such as the fact that in one study, four out of six tray tables tested positive for the superbug MRSA and one for the norovirus. Coffee, tea, or an incredibly infectious vomiting bug? Flying just seems to get better and better.
Two awesome deals from Travelzoo this week, the first of which we’d recommend jumping on soon because it’s selling out fast. Icelandair is celebrating its inaugural nonstop service from Reykjavik to DC with a $469 weekend deal, including round-trip flights, two nights at the Hotel Loftleidir, and breakfast (taxes are an additional $84, and extra nights can be added for $75 per person per night). The trip is valid for some dates in August and September.
In life, there are many subjects that are culturally divisive (we’re thinking KFC Double Downs, PBS, and Sarah Palin). But in the travel world, one issue occasions more debate than any other: the cruise. It’s peak cruise season right now, so everyone who’s anyone is weighing in on the pleasures and perils of cruising, from Arthur Frommer on why tour operators are barging (pun intended) up against cruises to CNN’s lengthy treatise on “the great cruise divide.”
Of all the things we’ve never understood about vineyard tours, the most perplexing seems to be how you’re supposed to get from vineyard to vineyard cheaply and efficiently while simultaneously “tasting” as many wines as is possible before falling into a Merlot-induced snooze. Luckily, some brilliant people in Sonoma County have come up with the ultimate solution: a wine trail you can walk, as Budget Travel puts it, “one mellow step at a time.”
Here at Travel News, we like to highlight as many local attractions as possible because we appreciate that not everyone can hop on a jet to the Bahamas every weekend. This weekend, Old Town is celebrating George Washington’s birthday with a parade, a Revolutionary War reenactment at Fort Ward Park, a banquet and ball at Gadsby’s Tavern, open houses, and a 10K race. Admission to Mount Vernon is free Monday to mark the occasion. For more information, go to visitalexandriava.com.
Happy Valentine’s Day weekend to our intrepid traveling readers! It’s that time of year, so here’s a rather adorable list from CNN Travel of the world’s ten most romantic places to get engaged, from Petra in Jordan to the Great Wall of China. Of course, the problem with an adventurous engagement plan is that it makes things slightly more awkward if the answer is no—but presumably if she has agreed to travel to China with you, chances are she’s a keeper.
Without getting all revoltingly Hallmark-y, there are two local Valentine’s attractions worth noting this weekend (in addition to our great online roundup): The Museum of Crime & Punishment has a special tour this weekend dedicated to “Crimes of Passion.” Charmingly, the $30 admission fee includes a pair of souvenir handcuffs. Because nothing says “I love you” quite like police-issued restraints. For more conventionally romantic types, the Willard InterContinental is hosting a special Valentine’s-themed afternoon tea Friday through Monday, including Champagne, lemon Madeleines, a selection of assorted sandwiches, scones, and pastries, and a rose for every lady who attends (as far as we’re concerned, it’s worth the $49 price tag just to get a flower from somebody). And there’ll be a harpist as well, which frankly we don’t get enough of these days. Call 202-637-7350 or visit the Willard’s Web site to make reservations.
Happy Friday, travel junkies! We’re going to break with tradition this week by not mentioning the weather at all, in hopes that by ignoring winter it’ll give up and go away. Instead we’re going to focus on happier things, like Valentine’s Day and the advent of spring and . . . Elmo. Yes, Elmo, the fuzzy, squeaky, vermilion inhabitant of the world’s most famous imaginary street is coming to Washington in 2013, when the National Children’s Museum will team up with Sesame Workshop at the museum’s new location in National Harbor. This is the first time the late Jim Henson’s animation nonprofit has ever ventured into museum territory, so it promises to bring a fleet of tourists to Washington (and there will almost certainly be cookies in the cafeteria).
Prior to yesterday, we had never heard the word “thundersnow.” And unfortunately, because we were holed up in the office, we’ll have to wait another ten years or so to experience it in person. Yesterday’s snowstorm did its best to mess up travel in the Washington area, leading to epic commutes, canceled Metrobus routes, and hundreds of thousands of homes losing power. Luckily, the airports seem to be recovering pretty well: Dulles has two runways operating, and Reagan National has most of its flights running on a normal schedule. For up-to-date information, follow @DCairports on Twitter.
We’re big fans of Seth Kugel, the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler blogger. So we were sorry to read this post, detailing a scam he fell prey to. While a gorgeous, modern studio in London’s Notting Hill for 45 pounds a night does seem too good to be true, short-term apartment rentals on Craigslist are all too easy to fall for. Remember the golden rules: Never send money via wire transfer, be wary of badly misspelled Web sites, and always do as much research as you can on an independent ratings site.
Here at Travel News HQ, we try our best to be regular Pollyannas, even in the face of never-ending travel adversity (snow delays, volcano eruptions, dealing with British Airways). So here’s some good news this week for travelers: The current economic mess in Europe means there are some absolute steals to be had on all-inclusive holidays, particularly in bailed-out countries such as Ireland and Greece. If this story in the New York Times doesn’t persuade you, check out the astonishing Ireland vacation deal after the jump.
Actual travel “news” is a bit thin on the ground this week, although this is an entertaining enough story from USA Today: The Washington-based Marriott hotel chain is cleaning up its act and pulling the porn from its new hotel rooms. A statement said, “It is our practice to keep adult content out of the reach of children and unavailable to any adult who chooses not to view it . . . Changing technology and how guests access entertainment has reduced the revenue hotels and their owners derive from in-room movies, including adult content.” In other words, now that it’s no longer such a moneymaker, they can afford to be high-minded.
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.
Welcome to the very first Travel News post of 2011! If, like us, you spent the holidays either in an airport, frantically trying to re-book canceled flights, or cursing British Airways for refusing to let you switch out your overbooked flight for an empty one, then the last few weeks’ travel madness will have come as no surprise. Apparently Mercury, the planet of communication and travel, was in retrograde for most of December, which may have accounted for the general absurdity of holiday travel but doesn’t explain this week’s weird happenings. Coming up: thwarted imaginary terrorists, flights diverted by a cup of coffee, and an iPhone fail (as well as deals to Ireland, Vegas, and more).