Follow the Ghost of Christmas Past to Park Avenue this month

Let the Ghost of Christmas Past guide you to a great hotel room for the holidays this year. Kimpton’s 70 Park Avenue Hotel in Manhattan is willing to live in the past to get you into the city that does Christmas right. Starting now and running through December 28, 2009, you can get a room for as low as $199 a night! Be sure to use the rate code XMAS when you book either online or by phone.

The deal comes with a few interesting perks. In addition to a great location on Park Avenue in Murray Hill, you’ll be able to sip mulled apple cider cocktails at the Silverleaf Tavern next door, and you’ll be given a DVD of “A Christmas Carol” to help keep you in the spirit of the season. At the end of the day, plop your head on a complimentary aromatherapy pillow to help melt the holiday stress away.

When you decide to wander out of your room, you’ll be close to some of the best holiday window displays in the city — be sure to check them out!

Five new travel ideas from Intrepid: get off the beaten path!

After a year of “travel slumps,” “staycations” and other cringeworthy words and conditions, let’s plan to get out on the road next year. Hey, economists are saying that the recession’s already over, and the job market’s recovery can’t be too far behind. So, there’s your motive. Opportunity? That’s your vacation time; you probably have enough. All that’s left to pull the perfect trip together are the means … which Intrepid Travel is happy to provide.

Intrepid Travel has big news for next year, from green travel to exciting excursions in Iceland and North Africa. So, if you’re looking for some ideas for 2010, check out the five below. Intrepid’s definitely making it interesting.

1. Travel green: carbon offset
Intrepid Travel is moving more than 500 of its trips to “Carbon Offset” next year. In 2009, the company played around with the idea on 38 excursions, after having announced in December 2006 that it wanted to be carbon neutral by the end of 2010. With next year’s offering, Intrepid is certainly making progress.

2. Timor-Leste: tops for adventure
Spend 15 days in Dili and its markets, trekking out to Mt. Ramelau and wandering the Suai-area rainforest. Timor-Leste hasn’t been swamped with tourists yet, redefining “off the beaten path.” If you’re looking for the sort of experience where Intrepid excels, this is it.


3. Cairo to Casablanca: epic journey
Travel through Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as you see North Africa virtually from end to end. Along the way, you’ll trace the routes of legendary rulers and see how civilizations unfolded and fell. For 39 days, you will gain an incredible understanding of this part of the world.

4. Johannesburg: the urban experience
Intrepid’s Urban Adventures package provides short bursts of insight — from half an afternoon to a full day. Use this time to explore the South African capital on foot or by bicycle. This is a great way to get a quick taste before planning your longer excursion later.

5. Iceland: value for money
Despite the cold fall and winter seasons, Iceland‘s economy still melted down, actually making it an affordable destination. So, get the most of your experience on the ground, starting with the 22 percent discount on Intrepid’s trip up north next year. The 10-day run is available in June, July and August.

[Photo via Migrant Blogger]

Eat, drink and ski happy in Salt Lake this winter

What’s the happiest place on Earth? Well, Disney claims that title, but here’s the problem: Utah does, too. If they were in different countries, no conflict would exist, but since they do, we have to sort this out.

A Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index recently released ranks Utah highest among all states in happiness. And, if that’s not enough, Men’s Fitness magazine ranked Salt Lake City fittest in America. So, the endorphins are firing, and Utah is thrilled. Want to get a little taste of this happiness?

The Gold Medial Podium Package celebrates Salt Lake’s Olympic legacy. Skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes while taking advantage of some great deals. Book a four-night vacation by December 15, 2009 — including a Ski Salt Lake Super Pass — at any of the 22 participating hotels, and your fourth day on the slopes and your fourth night in the hotel are free.

Five tips for booking holiday travel

If you’re planning to fly home for the holidays this year, it’s time to start booking your flight. Even though fares are cheaper than they were last year, prices have been going up over the fast few weeks, according to a report in USA Today. Thanksgiving prices are down around 7%, with the Christmas/New Year’s season down 12% from last year. Since the travel market is still limping along, you may be able to pick up some deals. To get the most for your money, though, you’ll need to put in a little bit of effort.

1. Turkey over ham: puts the average price for a Thanksgiving ticket booked from July 1 to October 1, 2009 at $361. For the December holidays, the average was $440. Opting for the closer holiday thus can save you a few bucks.

2. Don’t be demanding: if you have the elbow room to choose different dates around the holiday (maybe visit mom and dad a little longer), you can trim a few dollars from your fare – in particular the new $10 (each way) surcharge that some major airlines are applying to flights from November 29 to 30 and December 19, 26-27 and January 2 and 3. Being flexible on airports might nab you a better deal, as well.

3. Visit, don’t move in: we’re all familiar with the extra baggage fees that airlines have come to enjoy rely on. Cut your load down to the essentials. Doing your laundry on your parents’ dime may be easier and cheaper than the local laundry dive, but your savings may disappear if you try to drag it all on the plane.

4. Use your computer: check in at home or work. The lines will be crazy at the airport anyway, so you’re actually paying yourself to have an easier trip. If this isn’t win-win defined, I don’t know what is.

5. Save a little, not a lot: pounce on reasonable fares. If you try to wait for the deal of the year, you could be stuck paying much more than you wanted. Pay a little more than you may want to pick up some predictability.

While you’re at it, start thinking about how to survive the annual airport gauntlet. For Christmas last year, I put together a list of ways to make your travel experience a bit easier. It may be worth another look.

Start the new year in China for $888

In the year that I’ve been writing for Gadling I’ve not once promoted a package tour — until now. China Spree, an agency that offers affordable trips to China, has a new 10-day Golden Triangle Tour starting at just $888, a lucky number in China, that’s a bit too hard to pass up. China Spree has been known as a first-class travel agency that offers trips at bargain prices. While the Golden Triangle may be the lowest-priced tour on the market, it’s also the best-quality, with more included features than any other.

The lucky $888 price includes round-trip non-stop Air China flights from San Francisco to Beijing, all intra-China transfers and transportation, eight nights accommodation with private bath in 4-star hotels, eight American buffet breakfasts, five Chinese lunches, comprehensive private sightseeing tours, entrance fees and professional guides in each city.
While you may be sacrificing all-important independent travel, you’ll have the advantage of having a native guide to show you around for 10 days. The trip begins in Beijing, where participants will discover China’s timeless imperial treasures: the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Great Wall. Then take an overnight train ride with comfortable soft-sleeper accommodations to Xian to see the fabled First Emperor’s life-sized Army of Terracotta Warriors. Finally, a the group will fly to Shanghai for great shopping and memorable dining in China’s most modern metropolis.

The $888 price is for departures in January and February; thereafter the cost is somewhat higher. For additional information and reservations, visit China Spree’s website and click “China Tours,” then “Super Value” or call the company’s toll-free telephone number #866-652-5656.