London 2012 Olympics schedule and ticket prices released

Olympics, olympicsIf you’re thinking of going to the London 2012 Olympics, now is the time to start planning.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games has just released the competition schedule and ticket prices. The race is on for tickets, hotel reservations, and flights. Personally I’m avoiding the whole thing. London’s transport system is chaotic at the best of times, and an influx of hordes of sports fans isn’t going to do it any good. My family and I spend every summer in Oxford but we’re headed elsewhere in 2012. Being only an hour from London, rental prices in Oxford are sure to hit the stratosphere.

While the Olympics will be a royal pain in the ass for the English, it promises to be a memorable event for everyone else. The organizers boast there will be “19 days of sporting competition. . .over 640 sessions, across more than 300 events, 39 disciplines, and 26 sports.” If you love seeing the best athletes in the world competing live, this is the place to be.

For those of you planning to brave London in 2012, tickets go on sale March 15 and are sure to be snapped up quickly. You can register on the site to make purchasing quicker once tickets do go on sale. This is especially important if you’re outside the UK and Europe because you’ll have to apply for tickets via your local National Olympic Committee (NOC) starting March 15. For the Paralympics you need to get tickets from your National Paralympic Committee (NPC) starting September 9. Some NOCs and NPCs may appoint an Authorised Ticket Reseller (ATR) to sell tickets. If you register with the site via the above link, they’ll send you information about how to get tickets from an acronym near you.

And don’t forget to reserve a hotel or flat early, early, early. You might want to consider staying outside of London to avoid the crowds. Oxford, St. Albans, and Hertford are three pleasant towns all about an hour away by rail or bus and all have local attractions worth seeing.

Eat, drink and ski happy in Salt Lake this winter

What’s the happiest place on Earth? Well, Disney claims that title, but here’s the problem: Utah does, too. If they were in different countries, no conflict would exist, but since they do, we have to sort this out.

A Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index recently released ranks Utah highest among all states in happiness. And, if that’s not enough, Men’s Fitness magazine ranked Salt Lake City fittest in America. So, the endorphins are firing, and Utah is thrilled. Want to get a little taste of this happiness?

The Gold Medial Podium Package celebrates Salt Lake’s Olympic legacy. Skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes while taking advantage of some great deals. Book a four-night vacation by December 15, 2009 — including a Ski Salt Lake Super Pass — at any of the 22 participating hotels, and your fourth day on the slopes and your fourth night in the hotel are free.

Abercrombie & Kent vacation clubs: try before you buy

Let the tough timeshare and vacation club market work to your advantage this year. Upscale travel firm Abercrombie & Kent’s Residence Club is offering two-year trial memberships starting at $18,700 a year for 15 nights – that’s a tad under $1,250 a night. The residences tend to be around 4,000 square feet and have four bedrooms. A&K suggests that you can “even travel with the extended family,” but I’m sure I could find other uses for the extra space (I’m not a fan of traveling with a lot of people, regardless of connection).

Okay, so it’s basically a decent amount of cash for access to some great properties in places like the Turks & Caicos and Deer Valley, Utah. The details, however, make the difference. A&K takes care of airport pickup, grocery shopping before you hit the ground and the other prep activities that could slip your mind when you’re worried about catching planes and disappearing from the “real” world for a few days or weeks. The Global Experience Manager will take care of all this for you, including any unique needs or interests you may have – from a behind-the-scenes private tour of the South Carolina Aquarium’s Turtle Hospital to skiing withOlympic athletes in Sun Valley, Idaho.

“This two-year trial offer is designed for those considering a second home or who simply want an extended opportunity to experience club life before making a long-term commitment,” says Abercrombie & Kent Residence Club President Scott Wiseman. “Families can enjoy the privacy of a spacious home in their choice of popular resort destinations for much less than the cost of comparable hotel suites. Club membership is an affordable, maintenance-free alternative for those thinking about buying a second home.”

Under this trail program, you can play without having to drop any cash up front. Instead, you pay the normal dues with a 10 percent premium. If you join later, A&K will credit it to your capital contribution. Fifteen-, 30- and 45-night programs are available, so you can choose your level of decadence. If you choose, you can exchange your nights for credit toward other A&K travel, like a cruise in the Galapagos or an African safari.

This is a pretty wild deal – a chance to date a vacation club before marrying it.

Vancouver hookers get media training for Olympics

A magnifying class will be held over Vancouver from February 12 to February 28 for the Winter Olympics, and Vancouver’s prostitutes want to put their best feet forward. To prepare for the influx of business and – media onslaught – Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education Society (PACE) is helping the city’s sex worker population understand what to expect.

The Canadian agency is putting together a brochure that will help the local working girls understand how to handle requests for photos and interviews – and a general sense of what their rights are when dealing with society’s true vermin (the press). In addition to the pamphlet, PACE will hold a discussion session to bolster the printed lessons.

Congratulations, reporters: even hookers aren’t comfortable around you.

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Looking back at ’08 – 5 things no longer with us

We lost quite a bit in 2008. Several old banks are gone, the value of your house is probably gone, and in the world of travel several things disappeared for good as well.

I’ve listed 5 things no longer with us as we head into the new year. Come back in a few days to read my list of 5 things we gained in 2008, and keep your fingers crossed that things pick up a bit in 2009!

Aloha Airlines

In 2008, almost 80 airlines went bankrupt. I’m sure most of you were not too upset when Swazi Express Airways stopped flying, but one of the more popular airlines we lost was Aloha Airlines.

Aloha had been flying between the islands and the mainland since 1946, but 2008 would become their final year. As usual, rising fuel costs were cited as one of the main reasons they could not survive.

Another, probably more important reason for their demise, was an intense price war that broke out between Aloha and GO!. GO! started offering inter island flights to local residents for as little as $15.

In an ironic twist of events, the very airline that contributed to the collapse of Aloha has managed to purchase their name and will be renaming themselves “Aloha” next year.

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Skybus Airlines

Airlines come, and airlines go. But seldom does this happen as fast as with Skybus. Skybus started operating out of Columbus, Ohio in May of 2007, and by April of 2008 it was grounded. The airline had set itself up like many European carriers, with flights to smaller secondary airports, a flexible pricing system and even forced people to dispose of all food and beverages before boarding the plane.

Once on board, food, beverages, snacks and pillows were sold, and 10% of the revenue became salary for the flight attendants.

The concept obviously looked good on paper, but their timing was horrible, and passengers did not care for the total lack of service. Skybus never published a phone number, and all communications with the airline had to be made through email.

In the end, their business model clashed with rising fuel prices, and the airline went under, stranding 1000’s of people at various airports around the country.

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Free baggage allowance

Of all the perks the airlines took away from us in recent years, this is the one that is bound to hurt the most. I survived the removal of pretzels, I managed to deal with a 4 hour flight without a pillow, but forcing people to pay for their checked luggage is just cruel.

Of course, the natural effect this is having on passengers and their bags, is that people are now carrying more than ever on board the plane. The airlines still have a tad of compassion left, as their elite travelers are currently exempt from these new money making measures.

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Berlin Tempelhof Airport

I’m sure more airports closed in 2008, but none of them were as important to aviation history as Berlin Tempelhof. The airport closed on October 30th, and will make way for a single Berlin Airport which is scheduled to open in 2011.

Tempelhof played a very important role in German aviation history, and was the home of Lufthansa for many years. Of course, the war transformed the airport, and the massive terminal building at Tempelhof was one of many buildings Hitler commissioned for the city. After the war, Tempelhof played a pivotal role in supplying food and other supplies during the Berlin Airlift.

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The 2008 Chinese Olympics

The buildup to the Chinese Olympics was filled with scandals, anticipation and a lot of worrying.

In the end, the games went pretty much like clockwork. It’s always a little sad when such a long wait for something is over in just 2 weeks. The Chinese put on one heck of a show, in some of the most impressive sporting venues the world has ever seen.

Like with most Olympic events, before the games start, there is always a ton of bad news, rumors about incomplete facilities and some corruption scandals, but he Chinese managed to prove everyone wrong, and gave the world a great show as well as a nice view into their culture.