It’s the last dam summer at Olympic National Park

There are big changes in store for Olympic National Park, which is located in the Olympic Peninnorthwest corner of Washington state on the Olympic Peninsula. The park is an interesting combination of Pacific Coast beaches, lush rain forests, and snow capped mountains, with some of the best scenery in the Pacific Northwest. But part of the landscape there is changing dramatically, and by next year it will be altered forever.

In 2011, as part of a plan to remove the Elhwa River Dam, Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell will both be drained, allowing the river to flow freely once again. This is a wonderful ecological move, as it will open up more than 70 miles worth of waterways to let the native salmon swim free, but it will also have an impact on the paddlers who have enjoy kayaking and canoeing through the Elhwa Valley. By next summer, that will no longer be an option.

To celebrate this historic event, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Lake Crescent Lodge are offering the Last Dam Summer Package, which ranges in price from $206-$229, and includes lodging, a box lunch for each person for each day of your stay, water bottles, a waterfall trail map, and informational material about the impact of the dam removal. To book the package, simply use the promo code: OLYLDS10 when booking your stay.

As if getting the opportunity to paddle two lakes that won’t exist next year wasn’t enough of an incentive to visit Olympic, there is also a new trail to explore as well. The recently established Olympic Waterfalls Trail is sure to be a hit with visitors who want to explore all the stunning waterfalls that the park is famous for. The new trail offers a variety of ways to access these natural wonders, including paved, wheelchair accessible trails, scenic forest roads, and traditional hiking trails. Several of the falls can only be reached by kayak or boat as well, which adds even more of an adventurous element to the trip.

To take advantage of the new trail, four of the park’s lodges, which include Lake Quinault Lodge and Kalaloch Lodge, in addition to the two mentioned above, are offering the Olympic Waterfall Trail Package. This option includes all of the same amenities, at the same rates, as the Last Dam Summer Package, but allows visitors to coordinate a multi-night stay across multiple lodges that fall along their route. To take advantage of this deal, use promo code: OLYWFT10.

Both of these deals are good through October 30th. For more information check out

[Photo credit: National Park Service]

Airlines roll out last-minute sales for Labor Day

There are just two weeks left until Labor Day, but it’s not too late to plan a getaway for the holiday weekend. In fact, waiting until now to book your trip might even save you money with some of the great last-minute deals that are available.

American Airlines Flights
American Airlines has several destinations on sale for Labor Day. Buy your tickets to Belize by August 28th and travel Monday through Thursday, starting September 1st, for as low as $217 each way. Book a trip to Jamaica by August 24th for travel any day of the week after September 1st, and prices will start at $84 each way. Tickets to Cancun, booked by August 25th for Saturday and Tuesday travel after September 1st, start at $88 each way.

United Airlines Flights
If you can stretch your weekend until Tuesday (departing on Saturday), book tickets to destinations within the United States on United Airlines by August 25th to save. Prices vary by departure and destination cities, but sample fares include Chicago to New Orleans for $89 each way, Atlanta to Denver for $109 each way, and Miami to Washington Dulles for $69 each way.

Spirit Airlines Flights
Spirit is well known for its near-constant sales to destinations within the United States, Central America and the Caribbean. It’s like the Gap of airlines – never pay retail because, just as the Gap will knock 50% off those jeans in two weeks, chances are that Spirit will soon offer a better deal for the flight you want. Their current sale ends tomorrow, August 25th, and discounts some of their more popular routes to as low as $33.90 each way. As with all of their sales, $9 Fare Club members and those in hub cities like Fort Lauderdale and Detroit save the most and have the most options. But even the rest of us can still get some good deals for Labor Day. For example, New York to Medellin, Colombia is $138.90 each way, Boston to Myrtle Beach is $68.90 each way, and Atlanta to San Jose, Costa Rica is $128.90 each way. Deals
Beyond flights, Expedia has deals on just about everything else – hotels, cars, cruises, package deals – for your Labor Day travels. Deals vary widely by location, but some of the highlights include discounts of up to 50% off hotels in Las Vegas, Orlando and Chicago (among other cities) and 3-night Royal Caribbean Bahamas cruises for as low as $262 per person for an inside cabin.

If these deals don’t work for you, there’s still plenty of time to plan your perfect Labor Day vacation at a great price. Check out Hotwire’s Travel Ticker, peruse the sale list on Travelzoo and follow your favorite airlines on Twitter. JetBlue and Southwest regularly post their top deals on twitter, so you’ll be the first to know about great fares.

How tos for understanding travel promotions and other deals

When finding the best travel deals the options can seem overwhelming. Sometimes the math may not add up. A supposed deal isn’t a deal at all.

Linda Zavoral’s article, originally published in San Jose’s Mercury News, outlines the vocabulary of various travel savings to help travelers make better decisions before opening their wallets.

For example, a package does not have to offer savings. All it means is that you’re purchasing more than one service bundled together.

If a hotel is offering a package deal where tickets to an attraction are connected to a room, shop around for cheaper options. Sometimes the package deal is for more expensive rooms in the hotel, and you can find inexpensive tickets to the attractions elsewhere.

When booking a tour package, Zavoral also suggests that you check the deals a travel company may offer against what you might be able to book yourself. In many cases the travel agency’s price may be cheaper because the agency is buying up blocks of airplane seats and accommodations, but check anyway.

Another saving might come from checking out various places for the cheapest hotel room rates. Find out what the cheapest available rates are by looking at the hotel’s website and other travel sites.

If a hotel says its offering a freebie like free breakfast– or some other amenity as part of a package, check to see if this is a regular offering at other times, or truly a for now only deal.

When booking a room, make sure you’re clear if the rate is per person or per room.

Also, check to see if phone booking or online booking is cheaper. Sometimes the person on the phone may not be aware of a deal. In that case, check the website. This holds true whether its a hotel, a cruise line or a tour group.