Send food! – What American snacks cost in the UK

Expensive Peanut Butter at Selfridges
Anyone who’s ever lived abroad for a long period of time knows that one of the “comforts of home” you miss the most is food. When I went to university in Liverpool, I stuffed my suitcase annually with macaroni and cheese, microwaveable popcorn and Twinkies (not because I liked Twinkies, but because they were mentioned on “The Simpsons” and my roommates wanted to know what they were).

In international cities like London, things are a little easier. Specialty stores carry all manner of American goods — in fact, you can even find some at Selfridges. But, in case you thought that meant students and expats don’t need care packages stuffed with their favorite snacks, get a load of the prices. For example: The jars of Jif you see above are £4.75. That’s $7.58 in US dollars (as converted by Google, disclaimer here), which I think we can all agree is some mighty fancy peanut butter! Wait till you see the Lucky Charms.

I snapped all these at Selfridges on January 28, 2010. Send your loved ones a cheap box of their favorite American goodies today.
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This trip was paid for by VisitBritain, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.

ABC News and Hotels.com list best US cities for hotel deals

On most trips, your two biggest expenses will be your transportation and your accommodation. You don’t have much control over the price of your flight, but you can balance out that cost by picking a destination where you are more likely to score a deal on your hotel. ABC News has put together a list of popular tourist destinations in the US where hotel rates are falling, including Las Vegas, Tuscon, Anchorage and Chicago.

In some cites, the savings can be as much as 30%. In New York, the average has dropped from $281 to $196 – nearly $100 per night. Stay 2-3 nights and that could cover your airfare. Miami’s average is down from $176 to $140 and the cost of a typical hotel room in San Francisco has decreased from $155 to $124. Even rates in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, are down 18% from $191 to $157.

The stats came from Hotels.com’s list of average hotel room rates around the world. Chicago, with a drop of 22% came in third place (tied with Anchorage) among major cities for the most significant drop in rates. Juneau, Alaska, was in second place. New York and Las Vegas tied for the top spot with a drop of 30%. Every state in the US experienced a drop in the average nightly rate, except for North Dakota. Rates there remained stable.

The lowest prices in the country were found in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; and Las Vegas.

The global average for hotel price drops was 17% with Moscow experiencing the most significant decrease of 52%.

At Least One Country is Getting Tough on Hidden Airline Fees

Hidden fees are ta reality of air travel. Fuel surcharges have finally dropped, but not gone away. then there are airport taxes, insurance charges and administrative costs. The small nation of Singapore is trying to crack down on undisclosed costs by forcing advertising to include a full disclosure of costs and fees. Eleanor Wong, chairwoman of the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), said that a “media advisory” announced last year did not lead to the kind of full price disclosure that she had hoped. So more stringent measures had to be taken.

“The idea is that these are non-negotiable add-ons and should be treated as an integral part of the fare. With the practice of adding fuel and other surcharges becoming prevalent, we thought it would be useful to issue a specific clarification that would apply to the general principles of fair advertising specifically to the travel industry.”

To enforce this new law, ads that do not fully disclose prices will be suspended. For once, Singapore’s authoritarian bureaucracy might have actually done something useful.

[Via TTG Asia]

Galley Gossip: What is RIGHT with the airlines? (There’s got to be something!)

When I was growing up, my parents taught me that traveling by airplane was a luxury, not a right, and it was a luxury I would not experience until I was 16 years old when I flew to Los Angeles, California with a high school friend (and her mother) on American Airlines for an exciting weekend getaway. I’ll never forget that flight. Then, at 17, I flew to Santa Clara, California, to visit a boyfriend in college on Southwest Airlines. I’ll never forget that flight, either. I couldn’t even believe I was on it. Back then just being on the flight itself was an exciting experience, never mind the drinks and the food and the service, which I don’t even remember. But I’m sure a can of coke and a bag of peanuts were involved.

What I remember most about those two flights was the awe of flying, of looking out the window at the tiny houses below as we climbed up, up, up, until the incredible view became obstructed by something even more magnificent, billowing clouds.

A few years ago I actually met a flight attendant whose very first trip by airplane was to airline headquarters for an interview for the airline he works for now. That flight took place at age of 21. Today, things have changed drastically in the aviation business, and not for the better, if you ask a passenger. Yet the flights are all full, and with more and more children traveling these days. That, alone, makes me wonder, has travel really gotten so bad? Or are our expectations skewed?

“I never got to travel,” said my mother, a flight attendant, who started working for a major US carrier in 1997, three afters I had my wings pinned to my blue lapel. “My first flight was with your father to Hawaii, when I was 21, because your father got stationed there in the navy. I got to go home to Texas once – in three years. And because your father spent most of his time at sea, I spent many holidays alone. That’s just the way it was. We couldn’t afford to travel.”

Now that I’m a flight attendant and have the opportunity to fly for free (in coach), I usually take along my two-year son, who has traveled once a month, at least, since he was born. I always get a kick out of watching him leaning against the window, tapping on the glass, as we fly in and out of the clouds, causing him to exclaim at the top of his lungs, “WOW!” I wonder if he’ll grow up to appreciate the privilege of travel? I do hope that one day he realizes just how lucky he is. How lucky we all are to be able to get from point A to point B for just a few hundred dollars.

As someone who works for a major US carrier, someone who has to deal with the me me me first attitude of the flying public, passengers who expect something for nothing when fuel prices keep rising and ticket prices remain fairly low, I have to say, there’s something wrong with THAT. There’s something wrong when you can purchase a one way ticket from New York to Las Vegas for lower than a cab ride from New York’s JFK international airport to Manhattan. NOT WHEN everyone and their mother (as well as the kids) are traveling on my flight.

Not that I mind that everyone and their mother (along with the kids) are aboard my flight, just the opposite, in fact. Especially when airlines are struggling to stay afloat, when airlines like Alitalia are on the verge of going out of business. However, it’s not easy for me to listen to all the complaining about air travel, particularly about customer service. Seriously, I have hard time believing that flying is all that bad, no matter how much the airline charges per bag, how long the security lines, how small the seats, or how much it costs to purchase a sandwich, or how old the flight attendant. And why does the age of a flight attendant even matter? (This is the 2000’s, is it not?)

After reading letters from readers who responded to the question, What’s wrong with American Airlines? on the Dallas Morning News website, I am forced to pose the question, what is RIGHT with the airlines? I mean whatever happened to the glass is half full mentality? It seems like these days all people want to do is complain, complain about everything, particularly when it comes to bashing airlines and flight attendants. Come on now, there has to be SOMETHING good about air travel, right?

Travel luxuries for the rich and not-so-rich

Few of us have access to the private jets and the penthouse suites at the best hotels, but that doesn’t mean the un-wealthy shouldn’t have access to travel luxuries too. Men.Style put together a list of travel upgrades that can make the coach traveller feel like a poshest of jetsetters. And the price tag might reflect that, but hey, you gotta splurge sometimes.

What made the list? Here are a few items to invest in on your nest trip:

  • A Wi-Fi Skype phone will allow you low-cost calling and Internet access anywhere
  • A visit to the Qua Baths and Spa at Cesar’s Palace in Vegas will make you feel like you’re living a life of luxury, if only for a few hours.
  • But if visiting the spa isn’t your thing, Kama Ayurveda bath products, available in Asia, bring the spa to your bathroom.
  • Rozerem is a pill that will help you sleep on a flight and wake-up hangover-free. So might be wedged into an uncomfortable coach seat next to a sumo wrestler, but you’ll feel as rested as if you had your own bed.
  • The Loro Piana travel pillow is made of cashmere and guaranteed to give you a good sleep. Well, all I can say is that at $800, it better!

Want to know more? Read the full article.