3 Earth Day travel discounts

With all the pressure to be green these days, travelers can benefit from Earth Day-themed discounts. Here’s a trio of deals that will help you save a little dough — and perhaps help save the planet as well.

Ride the Rails with Kimpton Hotels
Save 15 percent off the best available rate at more than 30 participating Kimpton properties if you show your Amtrak ticket stub at check-in.
Details: To qualify for the Ride the Rails discount, enter the promo code RAILS when booking. You then must ride Amtrak to your destination and show your ticket as proof that you ditched your car for the trip. Participating hotels are in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Dallas, Alexandria, Arlington, and Cambridge. Starting prices vary by property.

Car-free discounts in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Save 20 percent off an adult Amtrak ticket to or from Santa Barbara County on Amtrak Pacific Surfliner or San Joaquin trains. With both the beach and a burgeoning wine country nearby, Santa Barbara is often overlooked as a travel destination. For example, the Pacific Surfliner train can take you from Los Angeles (Union Station) to Santa Barbara in about 2.5 hours; a regularly-priced coach ticket starts at $24 each way. And for anyone who has seen the movie Sideways, yes, you can sample all the pinot noir you can handle — you may end up being grateful that you didn’t drive.
Details: After registering at www.santabarbaracarfree.org, you will receive a link to the Amtrak site, where you can then redeem the 20 percent discount. A three-day advance purchase is required; this deal isn’t valid for tickets purchased by phone or at any Amtrak stations. The discount is good for travel to and from the nine participating Amtrak stations in Santa Barbara County: Santa Barbara proper, Goleta, Carpinteria, Solvang (the charming Danish village), Buellton, Lompoc (not far from wineries on the edge of Santa Ynez Valley), Surf, Guadalupe, and Santa Maria.
Other Perks: If you show your Amtrak ticket stub with the current date stamp, many businesses in Santa Barbara will give you additional discounts. Examples include 20 percent off the regular rates at many hotels and inns, as well as 10 percent off several walking, kayaking, whale-watching, and wine tours. Downtown itself is very walkable, so you won’t need to rent a car.
When: Travel by Dec. 16, 2010. Some blackout dates apply.

D.I.Y. housekeeping in New York City

At the Marmara Manhattan hotel on the Upper East Side, the Green Rate discount knocks $20 off your nightly bill if you request housekeeping every three days instead of every night. A minimum stay of three nights is required to qualify for this discount.
Details: You must book directly through the hotel reservations desk. Studio suites typically start at $169 per night, or $507 for three nights. With the discount, starting rates drop to $149 per night, or a total of $447 for the required three-night stay. Every suite at the Marmara Manhattan hotel comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, which can help you save even more if you prepare simple meals.
When: Valid until the end of the year.


Horny Toad’s “Post Cards from the Edge” contest

I just returned from my first visit to Santa Barbara and I must say I was completely taken by the classy coastal town. From the college town of Isla Vista to the upscale pedestrian shopping along Main Street, there’s something quintessentially Californian about this city, and Horny Toad (the travel outfitter whose corporate office is based there) wants to send you there.

The company’s latest “Post Cards from the Edge” contest simply asks you to submit a photo on its site (or snail mail a postcard) with a caption about that roadside attraction, strangely worded sign, or something that just made you do a double take — something weird but hilarious.

Solicit ratings from friends and you could be one of three winners:

  • First Prize: A trip to Santa Barbara – airfare and hotel for two – and a $250 Toad gift certificate.
  • Second Prize: A great travel bag and $250 Toad gift certificate.
  • Third Prize: A new point and shoot camera and a $100 Toad gift certificate.

Enter as many times as you like. Voting starts as soon as you enter the contest and ends on July 31st. One rating per entry per person. The photo with the highest rating as determined by legitimate ratings wins. Winners will be notified by email and posted on the site.

Even if you don’t enter the contest, you should stop by and take a look at the wacky photos that are already posted, which are sure to inspire at least one or two giggles.

Sustainable Farming Wine Tours (In California, of course!)

Here’s a nice little responsible twist to the wine tasting industry.

Oenophiles interested in protecting the environment while polluting their own can now tour wineries that practice sustainable agriculture.

Sustainable Vine Wine Tours, based in Santa Barbara, California whisks guests throughout the Santa Ynez Valley visiting responsible wineries and socially conscious viticulturalists. There’s plenty of product sampling, of course, and opportunity to try out some very fine wines that aren’t produced at the expense of the planet.

This, of course, now makes getting drunk a socially responsible activity. Cheers!

Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Celebration

This Thursday, June 21, is the Summer Solstice (or June Solstice, or Northern Solstice, or whatever you want to call it). The fact is, Thursday is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Since most of us will be toiling at work on that long day, the organizers of the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration wisely decided to schedule their solstice celebration for Saturday, June 23. Sure, the day is a tad bit shorter — but Saturdays just feel more like party-days, don’t they?

Begun in 1974, today the Parade is the largest, single-day arts event in Santa Barbara County, drawing crowds of over 100,000 spectators from around the world. The theme of the Celebration for 2007 is “Stars.”

In addition to a parade — which features 1000+ starry-eyed participants, extravagant star-shaped floats, and whimsical star-inspired costumes — the event sports a festival with lots of star-themed crafts and food (star fruit, anyone?). Want an idea of what the event is like? Check the gallery of images from the past few years.

Sounds like fun: I’ll give it a gold star.

[Thanks, Michelle!]