Spring Break deals: Fares up overall, best deals can be found to Florida, Europe

The folks over at Bing Travel have been studying up on 2011 Spring Break airfare, and we hate to break it to you, but they’ve found that the average airfare cost is up more than 10 percent over last year, to $489. But the airfare increase doesn’t have to stop the beach party. If you choose wisely, there are still plenty of Spring Break deals to be had.

Bing’s Spring Break Travel Forecast says that lower fares on flights to Florida (particularly Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa) can still be found. The average fare for Boston to Jacksonville is $233, and you can fly from San Francisco to Tampa for $300.

And while many overseas airfares have risen since last year, average airfares from several U.S. cities to Paris, Amsterdam and Rome have dropped as much as 13 percent over Spring Break season fares in 2010.

If you are just settling into spring break planning mode, here are some tips from Bing on finding the best spring break deals:

  • Be Flexible. Now we would never suggest skipping a day of classes, but, ahem, you will do better on airfare if you’re not trying to travel on weekend days like your Spring Break brethren. Monday to Monday or Tuesday to Tuesday fares will almost always be better. And if a school schedule isn’t determining when you vacation this spring, you will likely save money by going at the beginning of March or April rather than the middle of either month.
  • Use Online Tools. You can monitor your airfares and get notices when they drop on a certain route from a number of different online services. Bing’s Price Predictor shows you whether airfares on your chosen route and dates are rising or falling, to help you decide when to buy.
  • Be Aware of Hidden Fees. Be sure you know what you will be charged for checked baggage, overweight luggage, aisle or exit row seats before you hit the airport.

Bing is giving away five $100 travel stipends for 2011 spring break travel on Twitter. To enter, tweet @fareologist with where you’d like to go for spring break. Check out the contest’s official rules before entering.

[Image credit: Flickr user Dawn Huczek]

Getting drunk: Twenty cities that don’t know how to handle their liquor

California loves to get wasted! San Diego and San Jose are the top two cities that drink stupidly, according to a survey by Insurance.com. They lead the country in alcohol-related driving violations, a dubious distinction to say the least. So, if you step into the crosswalk in these two spots, take an extra second to look both ways.

The reasons for hitting this list vary and include proximity to colleges and nightlife, and the presence of stringent enforcement may play a key role, the survey finds. If you think a lack of enforcement puts a city at the top of the list, remember that slapping the cuffs on a lot of people increases the instances of drunk driving, which actually pushes it up. Insurance.com explains:

San Diego most likely tops the list because its police departments are aggressive in making DUI arrests, and officers there arrest lots of drunk drivers, says Mark McCullough, a San Diego police department spokesperson specializing in DUI issues.

To pull the list of 20 drunk driving metropolitan areas together, according to Insurance Networking News, Insurance.com analyzed “percentage of its car insurance online quote requests for which users reported alcohol-related driving violations.”

So, who made the top 20? Take a look below:

  1. San Diego, CA
  2. San Jose, CA
  3. Charlotte, NC
  4. Phoenix, AZ
  5. Columbus, OH
  6. Indianapolis, IN
  7. Los Angeles, CA
  8. San Francisco, CA
  9. Austin, TX
  10. Jacksonville, FL
  11. San Antonio, TX
  12. Dallas, TX
  13. Houston, TX
  14. Fort Worth, TX
  15. Memphis, TN
  16. Philadelphia, PA
  17. New York, NY
  18. Baltimore, MD
  19. Chicago, IL
  20. Detroit, MI

Boston got lucky on this one. It was excluded because of a lack of data – not because the drivers there are absolutely nuts.

Disclosure: I learned how to drive in Boston.

[Via Insurance Networking News, photo by davidsonscott15 via Flickr]

Luxe savings in Florida: New summer discount packages at One Ocean Resort

One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa near Jacksonville, Florida, is offering two summer packages that could save you up to 39 percent at the luxury property this summer.

The Summer T-Time package is $271 and includes one night in an ocean view, non-balcony room, two rounds of golf at nearby Queen’s Harbor Golf and Country Club and valet parking.

The Summer Fun in the Sun package is $277 and includes one night in an ocean view, non-balcony room, a $100 spa credit and valet parking.

The resort is also waving its resort fee for both packages.

I recently toured One Ocean in Atlantic Beach. The whole property is decorated in the colors of the ocean and the sand, and the place is filled with water-themed art. It all reflects the white-sand beach right outside.

There is a particularly gorgeous walkway into One Ocean’s restaurant, Azurea, that does the under-the-sea thing in the most sophisticated way I’ve ever seen.

One Ocean has an interesting take on personal concierge service, which the company calls its docent program. Guests are contacted before their stay to provide feedback on their tastes.

Guest rooms are stocked with your favorite snacks and drinks, and the hotel will deliver your favorite newspaper to your room each morning.

Docents are available on each floor of the hotel to cater to the guests, doing everything from unpacking and steaming clothing to offering excursion advice and booking dinner reservations.

The One Ocean Spa is completely luxurious with the same “elegant ocean” feel. It’s the only resort in the area with oceanfront treatment rooms.

The summer packages are available from June through September.

Kingsley Plantation home re-opens to tours in Jacksonville, Florida

Weekend visitors can once again tour the owner’s house at the Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, Florida.

The home, which is part of the Timucuan Preserve on Fort George Island, was closed to tours in 2005 because of structural concerns. This winter, it has reopened to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays only, while restoration work continues during the week.

The Kingsley Plantation is named for Zephaniah Kingsley, who was quite the interesting character in early Florida history. He grew cotton on Fort George Island in the early 1800s while Florida was under Spanish rule.

Kingsley was known as a lenient slave owner, and he gave some of his slaves the opportunity to earn their freedom. He even married one of them, freed her and put her in charge of a plantation.

When I toured the site recently, I was surprised to see that nearly two dozen of the original slave cabins are still standing. Many U.S. slave cabins did not survive the Civil War, and those that did have fallen to ruin in the decades since. But these cabins were built from tabby, a pseudo-cement made from oyster shells that has stood for centuries, even in a land frequently hit by hurricanes.The owner’s home is stripped down to the structure at the moment, with no period furnishings or artwork on display. The design of the home was ingenious for the humid Florida climate: a large center room, with four corner rooms accessible only from the outside to allow for better air circulation. Unfortunately, later owners altered the house and took away this natural climate control.

If you’re looking for the opulence of the grand, restored plantation mansions in other parts of the South, you won’t find it at Kingsley Plantation. This was a more practical owner’s home.

But I was completely taken aback by the feeling of Kingsley Plantation. Those slave cabins — all in a half-circle at the edge of cotton fields-turned-forest — require a visitor to focus on what was happening in those fields more than what was happening inside the owner’s ballroom.

“I’m always struck by the difference in feeling I get when I walk the grounds, from the owner’s home on the river back here to the slave cabins,” National Park Service Ranger Roger Clark said. “Life was hard back here.”

Kingsley Plantation is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with the house open for tours at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only. If you want to tour the house, reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (904) 251-3537.

Park Service rangers like Clark who are experts in the history of Kingsley Plantation conduct programs at 2 p.m. each day. It’s worth it to plan your visit at a time when you can catch the program.

Bring your car: America’s 10 least walkable cities

It may come as no surprise that San Francisco ranks as America’s #1 walkable city, but what about the rest of the country? After compiling a list of the “walkability” of 40 American cities, Walk Score gives us a good idea of what cities are pedestrian friendly and which ones require cars. The bottom ten cities on the list give us a few places where pedestrians are far and few between and driving is the name of the game (read: expect to spend a lot of money on gas). So where can you plan on packing away your walking shoes and donning your driving cap?

  1. Jacksonville
  2. Nashville
  3. Charlotte
  4. Indianapolis
  5. Oklahoma City
  6. Memphis
  7. Kansas City
  8. Fort Worth
  9. El Paso
  10. Mesa

The listing of cities does however lay out their most walkable neighborhoods, so if you’re planning a trip to one of these places, give it a look.

[Via Huffington Post Green]