Americans consider themselves the world’s worst tourists, LivingSocial finds

Tired of the ugly, American traveler stereotype? Sorry, but it’s one being perpetuated by none other than Americans. A new LivingSocial survey finds that Americans themselves believe we are the world’s worst tourists. The survey found that Americans, Canadians and Australians all gave U.S. tourists that dubious distinction. The Irish identified their British neighbors as the worst, and the British called out the Germans for bad travel behavior.

“Our survey puts the old wives’ tale to bed that only 15 percent of Americans own passports,” said Dave Madden, general manager of LivingSocial Escapes, North America. “Americans turn out to be pretty active globetrotters, with the average person having visited at least four countries. Unfortunately, Americans have pretty low opinions of themselves as travelers, so it’s time to turn on that Yankee charm and improve our global image.”

Why are Americans giving themselves such a bad rap? Data shows that it’s sadly deserved. Four in ten U.S. travelers (39%) admit to having stolen something from a hotel during a visit. The most common items pilfered were towels (28%), bathrobes (8%), batteries (5%), pillows (4%), remote controls (3%), sheets (3%), bibles (3%) and umbrellas (3%). Thankfully, only 3% report having gotten arrested while on vacation, so it seems the “law breaking” in hotel rooms is pretty minor.

In addition to taking fewer days off from work to vacation – 16 days off in comparison to Australia (27 days), Canada (21), Ireland (28), and the UK (23) – two-thirds of respondents have trouble disconnecting, with 66% saying they check their e-mail or cell phone while on vacation.

That doesn’t keep them from dreaming, however. When given their choice of dozens of world wonders to visit, Americans named the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Paris‘ Eiffel Tower, and the Pyramids of Giza as top foreign destinations, while Disney World, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon make the list in the U.S.

Their top celebrity travel companions include Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Taylor Swift, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry.

[Flickr via Rui Perpeira]

LivingSocial launches “room service” in the Washington, DC market

This week, deal megalith LivingSocial announced their newest food service offering, dubbed “room service” in its hometown market of Washington, DC.

It marks the first time LivingSocial has offered a non discounted product to users, but also greatly expands their market. How does this fit into travel, you ask? It’s simple – restaurants in LivingSocial areas are now offering delivery, which makes “ordering in” to your hotel room easier than ever – and eliminates those ridiculous room service taxes and charges. The options are limited so far, as the service is very much in beta, but we can see this being an easy option for restaurants that are already offering delivery and a popular service among LivingSocial’s consumer base. Of course, restaurants that want to apply a “deal” to their delivery certainly can, and so we’ll likely see great discounts in the future.

Even more interesting is their new “Room Service” option, which pairs LivingSocial with fine dining restaurants to offer a true gourmet service in the privacy of your apartment, home or living room.

According to Living Social: “Along with an elegantly plated meal on ceramic dishware, we’ll provide you with everything you need, from a cloth napkin to candles. As for those dirty dishes? We’ll take care of those, too. Just place them in a LivingSocial Room Service container, leave them outside your door the next day, and we’ll pick them up.”

Sounds simple enough to us. The restaurants partnering with the site in its beta test will offer pre-set menus and will likely be around the cost of a menu for two plus tip. Delivery, the fine print says, is only available on Thursday or Friday nights and within a two-mile radius of the restaurant.

If the first restaurant to pilot the program in DC, Kushi, is any indication, the restaurants will be of a rather high quality – this is by far one of our favorite sushi spots in the city. The menu offerings look more like a high-end tasting menu than a standard dinner, and the price, $66 per person with tax, tip and delivery, sounds quite reasonable for the amount of food and quality offered. We only wish they delivered wine and cocktails too!

It’s too early to tell what implications, if any, this will have on actual room service at hotels, but we can surely say that we’ll be testing the offering at our home in Arlington, Virginia (just outside the DC line) sometime very, very soon

LivingSocial offers first volunteer vacation to New Orleans

LivingSocial, the site that brings you discount deals on everything from microdermabrasions to movie tickets, has been offering travel deals as part of its LivingSocial Escapes branch since Fall 2010. Today, the company announced its first volunteer vacation opportunity – a curated trip to help Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans.

For $265, travelers who want to do a little good while they visit the Big Easy will get a two-night stay for two in the French Quarter; one full day of volunteering on-site with Habitat for Humanity; transportation to the work site; and some meals. Reservations are available Monday through Friday (sorry, no weekend getaway!) and there are blackout dates every month through the deal’s expiration on December 31, so check the fine print before booking. The Big Easy Volunteer Vacation must be purchased before August 30, 2011.

The timing for the LivingSocial Escapes deal is impeccable: this week marks the sixth anniversary since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, devastating the city of New Orleans as well as wide swathes of coastline from Louisiana to Florida. While New Orleans has seen quite a rebirth since Katrina, as witnessed by Gadling’s Paul Brady this summer on his Traveling the American Road trip, the need for volunteers in the recovery effort remains. This volunteer weekend jaunt may be just the opportunity to give back while experiencing one of America’s great cities.

[Photo credit Madeline Fox on Flickr]

Group buying gone upscale: Half off $20,000 penthouse suite at the Fairmont San Francisco

Group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial may be better known for their affordable food discounts and cheap manicures, but that doesn’t mean they don’t dabble a bit in the more upscale offerings.

One of the deals on LivingSocial right now is a Penthouse Suite package at the Fairmont San Francisco. For the bargain price of just $10,000, you get one night in the Penthouse Suite, free Wi-Fi, permanent platinum status in the Fairmont’s Presidents Club, an in-room four course meal and all day access to your private Maserati. Oh, and free robes! The suite features three bedrooms, a dining room for sixty people and a two story library. There is no pressure to buy right away as the deal is valid for another six days.

Normal price for this package is $20,000, but don’t think of it as spending $10,000, think of it as saving $10,000.

The best part? According to the site, they have already sold 2 of these packages. Need something a little less extravagant? You can also pick a night in the presidential suite for just $2,000. Got the cash lying around doing nothing? Save $10,000 and order your package here.

Group buying site LivingSocial launches curated travel deals section

Today group buying giant LivingSocial has launched LivingSocial Escapes, a new travel site offering sweet savings on one-of-a-kind day trips, packaged “nearcations”, quick escapes that don’t require air-travel and weekend excursions.

“LivingSocial is not just about deals, it’s about creating experiences and memories at a value. People really cherish their vacations – whether it’s an overnight trip to a local Bed & Breakfast or a tropical beach getaway – traveling is special, and LivingSocial Escapes is the best place to find one-of-a-kind travel packages to places you love, have been dying to try, or ones that will surprise you,” said Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO and Co-founder of LivingSocial Escapes.
“We want to make it as easy for people to discover new things, so each travel experience offered through LivingSocial Escapes is authentic, accessible and requires minimal planning.”

LivingSocial Escapes packages are available for one week – not just for 24 hours like the daily deals – and are accessible to anyone who clicks on them. To enhance the social experience, LivingSocial’s referral model allows users to get their experience for free if they refer three friends who also participate in the deal.

We’re super excited to see how this new service works – LivingSocial has long been one of our favorite group buying sites for our hometown marketplace. Now expanded into more than 100 areas, this new vertical for the company should provide even budget-aware travelers the chance to get out on the road and explore.

If you are not already a LivingSocial member and would like to join, sign up here.