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Articles for January, 2008

Book a Europe cruise, get bonus spending money

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Norwegian_gemEven on super cheap cruises, savvy travelers know it’s a good idea to set aside a little extra spending money to take advantage of all those enticing on-board amenities — from fine dining to relaxing spa treatments.

Norwegian Cruise Line is helping out in a big way by offering spending bonuses of up to $250 on its European cruises.

You can use the spending credit whenever and however you want — on extra dining amenities at up to 10 different restaurants — including Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro French Restaurant and a sushi bar —  drinks at as many as 13 bars or lounges, facials and hot stone spa treatments, shore excursions, souvenirs and more.

The amount you get back depends on your stateroom category:

  • $25 for Interior
  • $50 for Oceanview
  • $75 for Balcony
  • $100 for Mini-Suite
  • $200 for Suite
  • $250 for Garden Villas

This deal is good for summer and fall sailings throughout Europe on some of NCL’s top ships, including the modern, luxurious Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Jade. Just make sure you book your trip by February 10 to qualify. Here’s more info.

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Timing a budget-friendly vacation in 2008

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

We crunched the numbers and pinpointed the least expensive months to visit the most traveled-to CheapTickets destinations in 2008.

To calculate the savings for each location, we compared the lowest and highest monthly 3-star hotel rates between December 2006 and November 2007. Here’s the month-by-month breakdown:

Athensgreece_3 JANUARY: 68% savings in Athens, Greece
Athens is best known for such historic sites as the Acropolis and Poseidon’s Temple, but January travelers will be pleasantly surprised by the downhill and cross-country skiing accessible during an adventures day-trip outside the city. Athens hotels

FEBRUARY: 47% savings in Napa-Sonoma, CA
Nothing says romance like a trip to the scenic Northern California wine country. The regions rolling hills are lush and green and the dormant vineyards offer a striking vista. Unlike the busy summer and fall, February travelers will find wine tasting a breeze with fewer crowds and more personal attention from the vintners. For those less wine-enthused, Sonoma’s Olive Festival is a perfect alternative, as locals and visitors celebrate the fruit in first-class style. Napa Valley hotels

MARCH: 40% savings in Montreal, Canada
In this French-speaking city, travelers can indulge their cultural side during Montreal’s world-famous celebration of film and art held in March. And with hotels offering significant savings of up to 40% during March compared to peak rates, visitors can feel equally inspired by the money still in their pocket. Montreal hotels

APRIL: 32% savings in Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, NC
Discover the world of science in North Carolina this April.  The area’s renowned centers of science offer kids and kids at heart unique hands-on experiences that will please all generations. If a trip through history sounds more intriguing, check out the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest University for a time-traveling retreat. Greensboro hotels

HawaiicvbMAY: 22% savings in Hawaii
April showers bring May flowers. Travel to Hawaii this May and help KAHEA, the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, protect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands … and their flowers. Travelers can lend a hand in protecting the sacred summit of Mauna Kea and preventing ocean pollution. These and other volunteer opportunities are available through The United Way of America at While on break, travelers can enjoy the ocean they are working to keep clean with a surfing lesson. Hawaii vacations

JUNE: 26% savings in Las Vegas, NV
The Strip has never been so cool. Escape the heat this June with a night helicopter ride over the Las Vegas Strip for $82 per person. Sip champagne and then sit back and enjoy the elevated vantage point as the air-conditioned helicopter soars above the lights and the crowds on the street below. Las Vegas hotels

JULY: 57% savings in Phoenix, AZ
With an average temperature of 105 degrees in the summertime, Phoenix can feel more like sauna than a sanctuary – but it doesn’t have to. Spa your way to bliss on a budget by booking in July, when this off-season locale boasts 57% savings compared to peak rates and travelers can take refuge in the serenity of Phoenix’s many world-class spas. Phoenix hotels

AUGUST: 45% savings in Florida Keys, FL
Key Marathon, Key Largo, Key West: CheapTickets has found the key to Florida – August! Take advantage of the numerous outdoor activities available in the Florida Keys during the summertime, when savings of 45% compared to peak rates are available. To beat the heat, hit the water for a romantic Champagne Sunset Sail on the Atlantic. Key West hotels

SEPTEMBER: 45% savings in Cancun, Mexico
Forgo spring break madness and fly south of the border in September. Beyond the white sand beaches and twenty-something’s dance clubs, visitors can day-trip to nearby Chichen Itza, one of the world’s seven wonders, for a guided excursion that takes travel to new heights. Cancun hotels

Puntacanadr OCTOBER: 56% savings in Punta Cana, DR
As the air turns a bit cooler, Punta Cana becomes a most desirable Autumn retreat, offering 56% savings in October compared to peak rates.  With over 25 all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean hot spot, visitors are guaranteed the best bag for their buck.  From snorkeling to wave ridding to drinks on the beach, travelers will be glad to finally vacation without feeling like an open register. Punta Cana hotels

NOVEMBER: 53% savings in Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
Winter activities can get pricey and when you add the skis, boots and thermal gear, the bill adds up.  But in 2008, travelers can kick the ski season off right without spending a fortune.  With 53% savings in November, compared to peak rates, Lake Tahoe’s 12 alpine ski areas have never looked better for budget-minded ski aficionados! South Lake Tahoe hotels

DECEMBER: 48% savings in Rome, Italy
All roads lead to Rome this December with 48% savings compared to peak rates. As vacationers become ever more conscious of the value of the Euro to the US Dollar, Rome-bound travelers will appreciate the hefty holiday savings in 2008.   Whether tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain or exploring the architecturally spellbinding Vatican City, Rome is for amore. Rome hotels

Chicago museums are free in February

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

SheddTravelers can explore Chicago’s great museums for free throughout February. All are easily accessible from Chicago hotels in the Loop and along Michigan Avenue.

Here’s a look at the deals:

  • Admission to the Field Museum, home of the world-famous Sue dinosaur, is free all month.
  • The Field’s neighbors, the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, will have free admission on February 4, 5, 11 and 12, February 18-22, and February 25 & 26. There’s an additional fee for aquarium and planetarium shows.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago — famed for its vast collection of impressionist paintings — also will have free admission all month, along with special prices for its new Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer exhibitions.
  • And next to the Art Institute, Millennium Park will be transformed into the Museum of Modern Ice throughout February. The centerpiece is "Paintings Below Zero," a giant, site-specific installation by artist Gordon Halloran. Many other free programs and activities will be offered all month at the American Express Heated Tent and across

    Michigan Avenue at the Chicago Cultural Center.

  • The Museum of Contemporary Art, meanwhile, offers free admission all day on Tuesdays.

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Free shows on the Las Vegas Strip

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Lasvegasstriplvcva_6Animatronic dragons, volcanoes that erupt on a dime, fountains that dance to music, satin-clad female pirates doing battle and trapeze artists under the big top are some of the fascinating free sights in and among all the Las Vegas hotels on the Strip.

The Fall of Atlantis is an animatronic wonder in Caesars Palace‘s Forum Shops, the most successful shopping mall per square foot in the world. The Fall starts at 10 a.m. and goes throughout the day, portraying the quandary of King Atlantis as he tries to decide which child will take his throne. At the other end of the mall, the Festival Fountain show features the animatronic portrayals of Bacchus, Venus, Apollo and Pluto in learned and humorous discussion.

The dancing waters in the man-made lake in front of the Bellagio are one of the most relaxing and pleasant sights of the Strip. With the precision of ballerinas and the jolting creativity of a Van Gogh, the fountains have been used as the backdrop for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of newlywed couples. They are also featured at the end of the movie remake, "Ocean’s Eleven."

What gets you about the volcano that erupts in front of the Mirage is that you know it’s just light-colored water that’s spewing out of the conical shape, but the heat from the fire can really be intense. There’s no narration to go along with the faux blast, it’s just something you have to stop and look at, knowing you’ll never see anything quite like it anywhere else in the world.

Then there are the pirates of Treasure Island, er … make that TI. Treasure Island was the name of the resort when Las Vegas was trying to be more Disney-fied. After a huge drop in tourism after 9/11, the city went back to its more adult roots and Treasure Island changed its name to the more urbane TI. Its pirate show also changed. Where before it had swashbucklers of the kind you might find in "Pirates of the Caribbean," now the white-washed ship is adorned with white-silk-clad maidens who do battle for the throngs of onlookers.

Perhaps the best thing about the freebies of Las Vegas is that, well, they are free. And in a town where you can lose your shirt in the time it takes to say "Las Vegas," that’s nothing to sniff about.

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