Flying into SeaTac for the Winter Olympics? Here’s what you need to know

Whether it’s to avoid stringent passport regulations, fly into a cheaper airport or just enjoy the beautiful drive up the coast, there are plenty of reasons that Winter Olympics travelers have to fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA or SeaTac) next week. The Pacific Northwest, a beautiful corner of North America has plenty of natural and cultural offerings to woo the passing traveler, so why not take the long road up to the 2010 games?

Should you be working your way north from SeaTac, here are a few logistics to keep in mind:

Route
I-5 will take you almost all of the way there, from the periphery of SeaTac to across the border at Blaine, WA. Once in Canada, travelers can continue straight onto 99 northwest around the bay and then west into Richmond, just below Vancouver. Several of the XXI Olympics venues are in Richmond and there’s a chance that your hotel will be here too, so this is where your GPS or your map printout will come in handy.

Car Rentals
If you’re renting a vehicle, make certain that the provider knows that you’ll be taking it out of the country. While most won’t have a problem with this, additional insurance and fees may apply, and if you neglect these options you could be in serious trouble if something goes wrong north of the border.

Customs
Travelers crossing the border by automobile are only required to show a valid, state issued ID and proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate. If you’re an American citizen, more data can be found at travel.state.gov, while citizens of other countries can check with Canada Border Services Agency.Food, beverages, tobacco and duty free
While it’s always a good idea to pack a lunch ahead to save a few dollars, be aware that Canada has rules on what and how much can be imported. It’s safe to say that your sack lunch will be allowed, but if you’re bringing enough beer to stock your hotel for the week you might run into trouble. Be sure to check out the CBSA site on entry allowances for more details.

Don’t forget that the duty free will often offer booze and tobacco at reduced prices, so plan accordingly and stop when you’re at the border.

Getting around

Once docked into your temporary residence, check out travelsmart2010.ca for information on how to get to the games without your vehicle — there is no parking provided at any of the venues.

US Consulate
The US consulate in Vancouver is located at:
1095 West Pender Street
Telephone: (604) 685-4311
Facsimile: (604) 685-7175

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Four Seasons auctioning off front-row rooms for Olympics

Luxury Mountain ResortThe Four Seasons Whistler has 6 exclusive rooms and suites at their lovely, Vancouver-adjacent mountain resort up for auction on charitybuzz.com to raise funds for The Birds Nest Foundation.

The Birds Nest Foundation is “a charitable corporation and visual media production company dedicated to supporting philanthropic efforts. Birds Nest provides multimedia services for fund raising and to increase awareness and understanding of non-profit organizations.”

If supporting philanthropic efforts isn’t enough of a reason for you to bid, how about a complimentary Sea-to-Sky highway permit for getting to the games? The Four Seasons Whistler also happens to be the Official Host Mountain Resort for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, so you’re certain to be surrounded by excitement and celebration — as well as athletes and officials. All alpine, Nordic and sliding events will be held at the resort. It’s going to be that awesome.

Nice view.Need we mention FS Whistler’s gas-burning fireplaces, private bars, guest powder rooms, and deep-soaking tubs? There’s also a first-rate spa and the Fifty-Two 80 Bistro, which will be hosting Olympic Buffet Dinners from February 12 through 28 for guests to dine together and watch the day’s events on large flat-screen televisions.

Bidding for these once-in-a-lifetime mutli-day to week-long experiences starts at $1,000, and the packages are valued at up to $21,600. Some don’t even have an opening bid placed, so hurry to charitybuzz and bid!

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Have a winter adventure of your own in Vancouver

Planning on heading to the Winter Olympics in a few weeks? Looking for something to do while you’re not busy with the curling match between Switzerland and Denmark? Perhaps you’d enjoy a little outdoor activity of your own while visiting beautiful British Columbia? Then you’re definitely headed to the right place, as Vancouver Island is one of the best adventure travel destinations in the world, no matter what season you go.

For winter adventures, the options are nearly endless. The snow begins falling on Vancouver Island in November and tends to stick around until late March, with the surrounding mountains remaining covered in the white stuff until well into the spring. Once the snow does start flying however, the local ski resorts, Mount Washington and Mount Cain, open for business offering great skiing and snowboarding for the beginner and the experienced snow bum alike. Mount Washington is the larger of the two, and more centrally located, and although Mount Cain is smaller, it is also a bit more remote and often less crowded. Both offer plenty of great runs, but if you’re more in the mood for cross country skiing, then go with Mount Washington, which has more than 34 miles of groomed trails and gets as much as 30 feet of snow annually.

If sliding down (or around) a mountain with skis strapped to your feet isn’t your cup of tea, then head to Vancouver’s West Coast to take in one of the other popular winter activities – storm watching. The raw power of the Pacific Ocean is regularly unleashed on the shoreline, with eight to ten foot waves smashing against the rocks, high winds pounding the cliffs, and copious amounts of snow and and rain blowing in off the water. Fortunately, there are a number of great viewing spots out of the gale force winds. Check out the Snug Harbour Inn or the Pacific Sands Resort for great views of nature’s raw power on full display.Vancouver Island is an incredibly beautiful place with mountain vistas and thick forests that are fun to explore year round. But the best way to visit the backcountry in the winter is on snowshoes, which are not only incredibly fun, but a great workout too. It’s the perfect way to spend the day away from the crowds and noise of the Olympic Village. But for a really amazing snowshoeing adventure, check out the Lantern Light Cross-Country and Snowshoeing tour around Mount Washington. This excursion hits the trail after dark, with a blanket of twinkling stars overhead and nothing but lanterns to light the trail ahead. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

There are plenty of other options for outdoor winter adventures on the island as well. For instance, snowmobiling is a popular pass time, with hundreds of miles of logging roads and backcountry trails open for exploration. Alternatively, consider packing a four-season tent and warm sleeping bag to go camping while you’re there, as there are camp sites open even in the winter months.

These activities are just a taste of what Vancouver Island has to offer, and once you get a chance to experience it all for yourself, you’ll want to book a return trip in the summer. When the snow melts, there is an entirely new set of outdoor activities to entice you to come back. From hiking to sea kayaking to mountain biking, Vancouver is equally intriguing in the summer as it is in the winter.

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Heading to the Winter Olympics? Talking and driving could cost you $160!

If you are heading to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, be sure to bring a hands-free headset.

Starting today, British Columbia police will be on the lookout for anyone using their phone without a headset of hands-free car kit. Their new hands-free law went into effect on January 1st, and the grace period for offenders ends today, just in time for thousands of visitors to visit their area.

Penalties are pricey – $167 CAD (about $160 USD). In addition to phone calls, British Columbia also bans text messaging, sending email or anything else that involves looking at the screen of your device.

Bottom line is put your phone down and pay attention to the road (good advice anywhere in the world).

Similar laws are already in place in the United States and a good overview of current states with hands-free laws can be found here.

Mobile headset maker Plantronics has put together some tips on safe driving with your phone, and later this week they’ll join Gadling in giving away some of the hottest Bluetooth headsets on the market.
Safety Tips for Hands-free Devices

Plantronics offers the following tips for keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road when using your cell phone and hands-free device while driving:

  • Trial Run: Practice using your phone and headset together before you drive. Familiarize yourself with the headset controls. Adjust the fit and the microphone on your headset, check the headset settings on your cell phone and stow the phone so it’s out of your way but still accessible.
  • Be Prepared: Program all your frequently called numbers into your phone. This includes your boss, your kids’ babysitter and your favorite neighborhood pizza place. And don’t forget about speed and voice dialing; most phones have those options, so use them as much as possible.
  • Set Up for Success: Just as you check your rearview mirror and secure your seatbelt before driving, be sure to put your headset on and ensure its connected properly to your phone.
  • Driving Comes First: Remember: your first priority is driving. You should only place and receive calls when it’s absolutely necessary.


Vancouver hotels prepare for the Olympics

Thousands of people from around the world are starting their migration to Vancouver in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics, which starts in two weeks. While tents are being erected, mountains are being prepped and rinks are icing up, hotels in Vancouver have one of the most important jobs: providing a good night’s sleep for sports fans.

If you’ve been planning ahead and have your hotel reservations, rest assured hotels are stepping up their efforts to ensure your stay is memorable. Here’s what you can expect:

Increased security. Hotels
are stepping up their security to ensure the safety and comfort of their guests. You’ll notice more on-site security and 24-hour security staff.

Increased staff. Hotels will have more staff on duty during longer periods of time to ensure the needs of guests are met. Expect everyone from additional kitchen staff to attend to late-night room service to on-site translators.

Increased prices. As you would expect, hotels have increased the prices of staying during the Winter Olympic Games. Despite the fact that most hotels are already sold out, those with rooms still available are taking advantage of the events and marking up room prices 30-40% of the regular room rates. A quick search for available hotels in Vancouver found prices starting at $300 a night to $600 a night from Feb. 13-March 1. Hint: If you have loyalty points with a particular hotel, call that hotel first and see if any rooms are available. If not, ask the hotel to check with their sister properties in Vancouver.

If you’re planning on traveling to Vancouver for the Olympics but haven’t booked your hotel room yet, start thinking outside the box for a place to stay. Consider renting apartments, or stay outside of the city and take advantage of shuttle services to the Olympic games. The official Winter Olympics site suggests the following:

  • Consider hotels in the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley areas
  • Remember that every event ticket comes with free public transit for the day
  • Check into private home rentals, hostels and rooms on cruise ships.

Read more Olympics coverage on Gadling here!
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