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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, November 2004 Issue

Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2004 
All Rights Reserved.

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Give a Jaguar -- An Amber Jaguar
Jaguar Amber Pendent
The remarkable face of a jaguar is hand-carved onto a lovely piece of cherry amber that's 33x20 mm in size. The dramatic pendent hangs on an ultra-chic 18" natural-colored leather necklace cord with a sterling silver clasp. Boy will this turn heads. High-style boutiques and jewelers charge $500 or more for this glam piece. It's yours for only $125. Click here to order.

In This Issue:
Maho Bay, St. John, U.S.V.I.

  • TransGlobal Vacations to Aruba
  • Machu Picchu $875
  • Malta from $739
  • TSA Wants Passenger Records
  • New Year in Dubrovnik, Croatia $1,240
  • $299 Ireland Fly/Drive
  • Rome Winter Special $439
  • Quantas Aussie Air Pass $999
  • Rio de Janeiro/Buzios from $699
  • Funjet Anniversary Win a Dream Vacation
  • How Safe Are Hotels
  • Rocky Mountaineer Celebration Bonus
  • Frée iPod Mini from Air France
  • Ski Season Specials
  • St. John, the Most Virgin of the U.S. Virgins by Kay Douglas
  • London Holiday Shopping For $399
  • Vegas' Newest Indulgence*

  • TransGlobal Vacations to Aruba

    TransGlobal Vacations will offer service from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Aruba on Sundays from Dec. 19, 2004 to Apr. 3, 2005.

    Sample air-only prices from $499.99 include roundtrip charter airfare on Ryan International Airlines for seven night stays and 24-hour traveler assistance. This price is valid for flights departing Jan. 2 to 30, 2005.

    Sample vacation prices start at $1,049.99 and include roundtrip charter airfare via Ryan International Airlines, airport/hotel transfers, 24-hour traveler assistance, and seven nights' hotel accommodations at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Aruba. This price is valid for flights departing Jan. 9 to 23, 2005. This price includes an early booking discount ( promo code EBDHUG) with savings up to $300 per reservation for booking at least 60 days prior to departure.

    Prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to change without notice and may not be applicable on all departures. International fees and taxes are not included in the above prices.

    TransGlobal Vacations

    Machu Picchu $875

    Analie Tours put together a Mystic Machu Picchu package that includes time in Lima and Cuzco, Peru. From $875 per person, based on double occupancy, the package includes roundtrip airfare from Miami; flights from Lima to Cuzco; airport to hotel transfers; tours to Machu Picchu, the Pisac Indian Market, and Ollantaytambo Fortress City; five nights in Cuzco -- two nights at the Terra Andina, one night at the Machu Picchu Inn; two nights in Lima at the Carmel Hotel.

    Tour cost from other cities include: $1,025 from Atlanta, $1,175 from Los Angeles or San Francisco, $1,005 from New York. Airfares available from most U.S. cities.

    Analie Tours or 800/811-6027.

    Tinsel Chains Below Wholesale
    We still have 16-inch long, sterling silver tinsel-style chains. We must liquidate the 1.3mm wide chains that retail around $49. Now you can buy these chains below wholesale: $9.99 per chain -- when you purchase 2 or more chains, plus shipping and handling. Click here to order..

    Malta from $739

    Amelia International offers a fall/winter special to the Mediterranean country of Malta from $739 per person, based on double occupancy. The package includes airfare on Lufthansa from New York and six nights’ accommodations at the Kennedy Nova Hotel, breakfast daily, roundtrip airport transfers, a local host and service charges.

    Add-on airfares from other gateway cities include $156 from Los Angeles or Miami, $98 from Boston, $214 from Chicago, and $40 from Philadelphia

    The $739 price is for mid-week Lufthansa flights through Dec. 13, 2004 and Jan. 3 through Mar. 17, 2005.

    Your can stay extra nights in Malta from $45 per night. This package also allows you to extend your stay and combine Malta with a second destination such as Sicily, Tunisia, Cyprus, or Morocco. Optional excursions and meal plans are offered.

    The rate does not include airline/airport fees and taxes plus a security fee.

    Amelia International or 800/742-4591.

    TSA Wants Passenger Records

    The Transportation Security Administration said it wants domestic airlines to turn over personal information about passengers to test a system that will compare their names to those on terrorist watch lists. The TSA is testing a new system called Secure Flight, in place of an earlier plan where privacy concerns and technological issues were raised. Following 30 days to review and comment on the proposed plan, the Congress-authorized order requires airlines to turn over passenger name records (PNR) gathered in June 2004.

    Though it varies by airline. PNRs generally include a passenger's name, flight origin, flight destination, flight time, duration of flight, form of payment, credit card numbers, address, telephone number and meal requests. Heading the development of Secure Flight is Justin Oberman, who hopes the program can be implemented by mid- to late-spring and expects the airlines to cooperate. "We are going to work very closely with them," Oberman said.

    Also on the TSA's to-do list is a limited test to compare passenger names with information from commercial databases to see if they can be used to detect fraud or identity theft.

    The TSA's original system carried a price tag of $103 million and would have checked passenger names against commercial databases and assigned a risk level accordingly.

    New Year in Dubrovnik, Croatia $1,240

    Spend New Year’s Eve in the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia from $1,240 per person, based on double occupancy. The single supplement is $390.

    Travel Time offers this seven night package Dec. 25, 2004 to Jan. 2, 2005. Included is airfare from Boston or New York to Dubrovnik, seven nights in the hotel Kompasî with breakfast and dinner daily, and local tax. Airfare add-ons from other cities include: Chicago, $148, Miami $78, Denver $142, and Washington, D.C. $ 68.

    Additional nights can be purchased for $80. The charge for New Year’s eve Silvester dinner is additional.

    Travel Time or 800/354-8728.

    Face-It Luggage Tags -- Your Face on Your Luggage
    There's no mistaking your luggage with the NEW Face-It Luggage Tag. The durable, laminated tag displays your face and the phrase "This Face Belongs With This Luggage."

    A Face-It Luggage tag makes it less likely for a stranger or thief to walk off with your luggage and helps you recognize your luggage at a glance in hotels or airports. Face-It tags are also available for briefcases, portfolio books, backpacks, sporting equipment, musical instruments, bicycles and more. Face-It Luggage Tags

    $299 Ireland Fly/Drive

    Whether visiting family and friends or coming to the Emerald Isle for the first time, this fly/drive package gives you freedom to explore. This $299 per person offer is valid through Dec. 16, 2004 and Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, 2005. The price is based on double occupancy. The package includes roundtrip airfare from the New York, Boston or Baltimore to Shannon or Dublin, Ireland, a seven-day standard car rental with unlimited miles and VAT included. Insurance for the rental car is extra. You can upgrade to a larger car and/or an automatic car for a nominal fee.

    The $299 Pricing is based on a New York, Boston or Baltimore departure with two people sharing a standard economy car.

    Ireland.com or 800/896-4600.

    Rome Winter Special $439

    Tour operator TourCrafters brings you a six-day, four-night Rome winter special where you can experience the “Eternal City” from $439 per person, based on double occupancy. This price is only obtainable on the web.

    Valid through Dec. 9, 2004 and Jan. 3 through Mar. 15, 2005, the package includes roundtrip transatlantic airfare from New York and Boston, four night’s lodging in Rome, breakfast daily, plus hotel service charges and taxes.

    When you purchase TourCrafter’s two half-day tours, Ancient Rome and The Monuments, your receive a free transfer from the airport to your hotel, a $43 savings.

    TourCrafters or 800/621-2259.

    Quantas Aussie Air Pass $999

    Qantas Airways and Tourism Australia team up to offer a new Aussie Air Pass, available to anyone in the United States. The air pass will give American travelers a bonus three domestic flights within Australia when they fly to Australia with Qantas.

    The Qantas Aussie Air Pass includes roundtrip economy travel from Los Angeles or Honolulu plus three additional domestic flights in Australia from $999 and New York from $1,299.

    For $999 ($1299 New York), the range of bonus destination includes Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Hobart and Launceston.

    For an additional $200, travel choices include Cairns, Hamilton Island, Townsville, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock and Darwin. For an additional $400, options expand to Perth and Broome.

    Qantas Air Pass travel must be booked a minimum of 30 days before departure and purchased within 72 hours of confirmation. Travel must be taken over a period of seven to 21 days.

    Quantas Aussie Air Pass.

    Rio/Buzios from $699

    Fly South Vacations combines a six-night stay in Rio de Janeiro and Buzios, Brazil. Bridgette Bardot popularized Buzios, which now blends sophistication with some of its roots as a fishing village.

    Through Dec. 9, 2004, the Rio/Buzios tour price is $699 per person, based on double occupancy. From Dec. 10, to Dec. 20, the price climbs to $849 per person. A $25 per person, each way surcharge applies for travel Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

    The package includes roundtrip airfare from New York or Newark to Rio, roundtrip airport to hotel transfers in Rio, three nights’ hotel accommodations in Rio , first-class roundtrip minibus transportation between Rio and Buzios, three nights’ hotel accommodations in Buzios, continental breakfast daily in both cities, hotel taxes and service charges. Add-on airfares are available from many other cities.

    A 14-day advance purchase is required. Purchases within 30 days incurs additional shipping and handling fees. Special events or trade fairs may make this package unavailable or require a surcharge on certain dates. This depends on availability at time of booking.

    Fly South Vacations or 800/234-5245.

    Rub Shoulders with Chess Celebrities
    Rub shoulders and play against international chess celebrities at Quad Cities Chess Fest IV, Nov. 4 to 6, 2004. Activities include lectures, a blindfold simul, triple hammer simul, blitz tournament and autograph sessions. Quad Cities CVB or 800/747-7800.

    Funjet Anniversary Win a Dream Vacation

    Join Funjet Vacations in celebrating 30 years by entering to win a vacation for 10 people and $30,000 in cash, courtesy of MasterCard.

    The winner will receive a seven-night air and hotel vacation for 10 people to Hawaii, Cancun or Jamaica, along with $30,000 in cash. The destination that receives the most votes by Dec. 31, 2004 will be selected as the vacation destination.

    Be automatically entered to win by booking a Funjet Vacations' getaway through Dec. 31, 2004 and pay in full with a MasterCard® card. Or, vote for a dream vacation online and be entered to win. No purchase is necessary.

    Entrants must be 21 years of age or older to enter. The offer is void outside the United States and where prohibited or restricted by law. The winner will be randomly drawn from all eligible entries on Jan. 10, 2005.

    Click here for complete vacation rules. Enter quick-find code MCOFFERS.

    How Safe Are Hotels

    Hidden camera investigations of U.S. hotels by news organizations routinely find security gaps at hotels, including unidentified people wandering hotel halls in the middle of the night. Findings generally indicate that all the technology in the world is not enough to protect you if hotel employees aren't properly trained.

    SafePlace, a company that independently tests and certifies hotels for safety, offers to help consumers stay safe in hotels and other public places with the following tips:
    • Take Control. Don't be afraid to ask questions when booking or staying at a hotel. Questions to ask include: Does the hotel have round-the-clock security personnel?
    • Does the hotel require proof of identification of all guests?
    • Is access to guest room floors limited to guests with valid electronic key cards?
    • Does the hotel perform pre-hire background checks on employees?
    • How many incidents of burglary and other crimes are there each year at the hotel?
    • Has the hotel been reviewed by an independent third party company for security and safety features?
    Pay Attention to What's Missing. Be aware of:
    • Traffic Control: Vehicles should not be allowed to park close to the building's perimeter, even taxis. Recent hotel bombings have been the result of an explosive-packed vehicle parked out front and close to the building perimeter.
    • Attentive doormen and bell staff: Were you greeted promptly and asked if you were checking-in or needed assistance? The front door staff is the first line of a hotel's defense to "sniff-out" the not normal situation or visitor.
    • Security Officers: Are there clearly identified security officers at the building entrance and public spaces?
    • Screening of Visitors: Were you asked to produce a government issued photo ID at check-in? A hotel should know who's staying in their building.
    • Security Cameras: Are there security cameras providing surveillance of common areas such as entry points, the lobby, front desk etc.?
    • Front Desk Procedures: Hotel shouldn't say aloud your name or room number, but instead should write the number down for you.

    For more helpful travel safety and life-safety tips, Click here.

    Rocky Mountaineer Celebration Bonus

    Rocky Mountaineer Railtours celebrates its new name and corporate brand, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations (RMV)

    Beginning with the 2005 season, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations will offer an expanded array of year-round rail and land tours and itineraries throughout Canada.

    Rocky Mountaineer Vacations will offer Spectacular Canada year-round; Eastern and Western Canadian vacations, including lodge and ranch experiences; city and resort discoveries; and self-drive vacations, some exclusive to Rocky Mountaineer Vacations. Tours range four to 15 days and can be taken alone or in combination with other Rocky Mountaineer Vacations tours or rail trips.

    The 2005 Rocky Mountaineer Vacations 70-page brochure is now available. To celebrate the change, guests who book and pay for their Rocky Mountaineer Vacation package before Jan. 15, 2005, will receive a free "Explore Vancouver" tour. Valued at $338 per couple, the "Explore Vancouver" tour includes one night's accommodation and a half-day city sightseeing tour. This offer is available to new bookings of five-nights or more. Some conditions apply.

    Rocky Mountaineer Vacations or 800/665-7245.

    Protect Luggage with Baggage Guard Seals

    The pre- numbered, one-time use plastic padlocks are the perfect way to protect your luggage since they cannot be reinstalled once removed. That feature lets you instantly know if someone tampered with your luggage. Yet when TSAs at airports need to inspect your luggage, Baggage Guard Seals can be easily removed. A package of 10 Baggage Guard Seals is still only $9.95.

    Click Here to Order.

    Freé iPod Mini from Air France

    HURRY! BOOK BY NOV. 15 -- Air France offers l'Espace Affaires business class customers iPod mini personal music players for purchasing a ticket. Until Nov. 15, 2004, any passenger who purchases a published, full-fare adult business class ticket, from any Air France U.S. gateway to any European destination, will receive a freé silver iPod mini. This offer is valid for U.S. residents only. Travel must be completed by Jan. 15, 2005. Additional restrictions apply.

    After travel is completed, passengers must mail their name, address, and copies of tickets and all boarding passes to: Air France, "iPod mini", 125 W. 55th St., New York, NY 10019. Copies of all qualifying boarding passes AND tickets must be received by Feb. 15, 2005. Following verification of eligibility, a silver iPod mini will be mailed approximately six to10 weeks later. The offer is limited to one redemption per person.

    Air France or 800-237-2747.

    Ski Season Specials

    Below are some of the ski specials offered by Colorado destination properties. Check their web site for the complete list of Colorado accommodations.

    The Gant, Aspen: condominium resort stay Dec. 1 – 7, 2004 starts at $95.25 per person and includes lift ticket. Rates are based on a minimum of four people in a two bedroom, two bathroom condominium and do not include taxes. The Gant, Aspen or 800/345-1471.

    Beaver Creek West Condominiums, Avon: The Early Season Stay & Ski Promo, Nov. 1 to Dec. 22, 2004 and January Stay & Ski Promo, Jan. 3 to Feb. 17, 2005, let’s you stay three nights and get the fourth freé. You also receive at least one day of skiing freé with a three day minimum. The Spring Stay & Ski Promo, April 3 to April 17, 2005: stay two nights, get the third freé and receive up to three days of skiing freé. Beaver Creek West Condominiums or 800/222-4840.

    Georgetown Mountain Inn, (Loveland ski area): The Ski & Stay package offers two lift tickets and one night’s stay from $99 to $123 per room (based on double occupancy). The motel offers an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, freé video rentals and is within walking distance to fine restaurants. Georgetown Mountain Inn or 800/884-3201.

    Ridgway-Ouray Lodge & Suites, Ridgway: Between Nov. 15, 2004 and April 15, 2005, receive up to 43 percent off Telluride lift tickets. Rates begin at $35 per person with a freé continental breakfast. Ridgway-Ouray Lodge & Suites or 800/368-5444.

    Hotel Columbia, Telluride: From Nov. 23 to Dec. 23, 2004, receive a room for two, continental breakfast and two lift tickets for $225 plus tax per room (based on double occupancy). The package requires a seven-day advance purchase. Hotel Columbia or 800/201-9505.

    Inn at Lost Creek, Telluride: Between Jan. 3 and Feb. 17, 2005 this boutique all-suite hotel offers three night’s accommodations, two 2-day adult lift tickets and breakfast daily for $1045 per studio (based on double occupancy). From Feb. 18 through March 26, 2005, receive four nights accommodations’, two 3-day lift passes and three days of performance ski or snowboard rentals for $1922. Inn at Lost Creek 888/601-5678.

    ResortQuest Telluride: From Nov. 25 to Dec. 19, 2004, ski freé when you book a stay of two nights or more. ResortQuest Telluride or 800/463-0042.

    Crestview Place Condos, Winter Park: Between Nov. 17, 2004 and April 17, 2005, book three nights’ accommodations and three days of skiing, and get one night’s lodging and one day of skiing freé. Crestview Place Condos or 800/228-1025.

    Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association.

    St. John -- The Most Virgin of the U.S. Virgins -- Article and Photos by Kay Douglas

    Maho BayUndoubtedly the most "virgin" of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John owes its relative lack of development to the fact that fully two-thirds of the island is a National Park. With white sand beaches, a colorful history, secluded lodgings, and a range of outdoor activities, St. John is a natural pick for travelers interested in a getaway that offers just enough things to do at a relaxed pace. Going off-season further enhances that "getting away from the crowds" feeling and offers reduced rates.

    Although St. John seems secluded, getting there is relatively easy. A number of airlines, including Continental, American, Delta, and US Airways, fly into nearby St. Thomas, a popular cruise ship destination. From the St. Thomas airport, there are taxis to two docks that run frequent ferries to Cruz Bay, the main town on St. John. It costs between $15 to $20 in taxi and ferry fees and takes between one and a half to two hours to reach Cruz Bay. Cruz Bay is the hub of transportation -- by bus, taxi, or rental car -- for all of St. John.

    Inside a Maho Bay tentWe choose one of St. John's signature north coast retreats, Maho Bay Camps, a leading 'eco-resort' since 1976. Perched on a hillside overlooking gorgeous Maho Bay, the camp consists of 114 screened tent cottages, basic but adequate shelters connected by an extensive systrem of wooden walkways raised above the forest floor. The cottages are arrayed up and down the densely forested hillside, with each cottage screened by the surrounding greenery. Falling asleep to the sound of tree frogs and crickets and waking to the sound of waves on the beach below was one of the highlights of staying at Maho Bay, not to mention being just steps away from a striking aquamarine bay fringed by white sandy beach. Plus, at $75 per night double occupancy off-season ($115 in high season), Maho Bay's tent cottages are a bargain.

    Walkway to Maho Bay CampMake no mistake, however; staying at Maho Bay Camps is definitely a camping experience. Guests should be prepared to do some serious walking and climbing, as the walkways range up and down all over the hillside. There are 118 steps down to the beach, for example. The tent cottages feature a propane stove, an ice chest, and all basic kitchen needs, but no plumbing, though there are electrical outlets and fans. A late-night trek to the bathhouse is something of an adventure, while the unheated water in the showers can be bracing, to say the least. Luckily, the balmy climate of St. John lends itself to this al fresco lifestyle, and repeat customers contend that a stay at Maho Bay, with its lack of radios, TVs, and outside distractions, is the perfect way to unwind and get back in touch with nature.

    For those wishing a bit more luxury, however, the same eco-savvy approach is offered at Harmony Studios, also at Maho Bay, and Concordia Studios, located on a remoter part of the island. These well designed private studios feature all the creature comforts - microwaves, private baths, full equipped kitchens - and are still affordable, with prices ranging from $95to $150 off-season and $135 to $220 high-season.

    But what struck me as the biggest bargain of all was a program that the majority of guests at Maho Bay were participating in during our October stay. In exchange for four to six hours of assigned tasks a day, "guest workers" participating in the camp's work exchange program stay for freˆe and qualify for 40 percent off meals at the resort's restaurant. I talked to many of guest workers -- some of whom had been coming yearly for over a decade -- and all of them sang the praises of the program, which runs during the summer and fall months. It's an especially attractive proposition for younger people, retirees, and self-employed folks who can take off the month required to participate. In addition to the affordability of this work/stay program, I was impressed by the camaraderie and helpfulness of the volunteers. (For more volunteering opportunities, check out the Volunteer Vacations Guide.)

    Francis BayIt seemed we had the beach at Maho Bay completely to ourselves most mornings, as well as on a couple of afternoons. We are both avid snorkellers and found plenty to keep us occupied in the water, with colorful coral, sea fans, and a good variety of fish almost everywhere we snorkeled. Just next to Maho Bay, Francis Bay is a good spot for snorkeling, while not far from Maho is one of St. John's best snorkeling areas at Waterlemon Cay. It's a short swim out to the small cay, which has impressive coral formations on one side and shallows featuring small fry and sea stars on the other. Over several hours swimming around the cay, we spotted a wonderful variety of corals, sea fans, sea plumes, and sea creatures, including hawksbill turtles, barracuda, and cuttlefish, whose backward swimming motion and constantly changing camouflage colors were fascinating to observe Parrotfish and blue tang grazed on algae on the coral, while bright damselfish darted in and out of the crevices, engaging in defensive moves against any other damselfish who dared trespass.

    Trunk Bay SunsetThe most famous spot on St. John, though, is Trunk Bay. I had read several Caribbean message board accounts that disparaged Trunk Bay as being crowded. However, this was certainly not the case when we visited just before sundown in mid October. There were perhaps six or eight other people quietly enjoying this drop-dead gorgeous crescent of white sandy beach flanked by palm trees on one side and calm blue-green water on the other. We enjoyed swimming along the 'snorkel trail' set up underwater near the nearby cay, and then sat in the quietly lapping warm water of the shallows, watching a spectacular sunset. When we left, I'd decided that even on a crowded day this beach would probably rate as one of my favorites. If many people come here, it's because it deserves to be popular.

    In addition to a wealth of tucked-away beaches and well-known beauties such as Trunk Bay, St. John offers low-cost or freê activities at the Virgin Island National Park. Stop by the Virgin Island National Park headquarters, located near the car ferry dock in Cruz Bay, for up-to-date information on public programs and activities. With two-thirds (7,800 acres) of the island devoted to parkland, and more than 5,000 acres of marine habitat offshore, there are plenty of places to explore. The ranger-led walks are particularly popular, and we were disappointed to find that we'd missed the biweekly Reef Bay Hike, which includes interpretive talks by a ranger and a boat ride back to Cruz Bay at the end of the trail, saving a 923-foot ascent back up to the trail head. This $15 guided downhill hike is a great way to experience the varied landscape of St. John and learn about its history, as the route passes old sugar mill ruins and even ancient petroglyphs near a cascading waterfall.

    There are other National Park activities held each week, such as a Water's Edge Walk along Leinster Bay, an Archaeology Lab held each Saturday morning at Cinnamon Bay, guided snorkeling trips, and cultural demonstrations at Annaberg Cultural Center. We enjoyed walking several of the trails on our own, including the trails at Leinster Bay, Francis Bay (an excellent place for birdwatching), and Annaberg Sugar Mill. None of these short trails poses any serious difficulties, though those who enjoy a challenge will enjoy the trails ranging over the rugged St. John hills, such as the Bordeaux Mountain Trail. Ruins from the days of Danish sugar plantations are dotted throughout the park and can be seen along several of these trails.

    Anaberg RuinsThe historic ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill, which have been partially restored by the Park Service are a worthwhile sidetrip. Dating mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries, the site includes the remains of the slave quarters, a horsemill, and an impressive windmill. The area around Annaberg was once planted in sugar cane, which was tended by slaves in a very labor-intensive process. The days of the island's sugar culture and the process of sugar and rum production are explained on a self-guided walk through the ruins.

    Cruz BayAt the end of a day of snorkeling or hiking, we found low-key entertainment in Cruz Bay and smaller Coral Bay, located on the other side of the island. At Cruz Bay, we enjoyed dining al fresco at a funky barbecue stand, the locally famous Uncle Joe's Barbecue. For a modest $7.95, we feasted on barbecue chicken and a choice of two starchy side dishes such as macaroni or potato salad. Our meal was accompanied by the steady Latin beat of music coming from the lively bar just across the street.

    Another night, we met up with a group of newfound friends from Maho Bay at Island Blues, which features a variety of music - everything from reggae to (of course) blues. The evening's entertainment was by The Iguanas, a local band singing bawdy a capella ballads and old standards, with the occasional twist - gypsy violin, anyone? - thrown in. Hard to say whether it was the nonstop banter onstage or the frëe-flowing liquor, but the crowd was definitely appreciative. I went home determined to find a recipe for a "Painkiller," a local drink made with dark rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, coconut cream, and nutmeg. At the end of the evening, revelers loaded into one of the local taxis, distinctive conveyances made from large trucks with an overhead awning and benches set into the bed. These local taxis, many lovingly decorated with elaborate detail work and kept in a state of gleaming perfection, are one of the trademarks of St. John.

    Although we enjoyed riding in the local taxis, we did rent a car for several days to explore the island. Islanders drive on the left, British style, though rental cars have American steering wheels, which makes for a rather interesting driving experience. We had little difficulty making our way around the island, though the roads can be very steep in places and some of the hairpins turns are truly hairpin. Jeep rentals are competitively priced in Cruz Bay ($50-$70 per day), with at least a dozen places providing rental vehicles.

    On our last day on St. John, I dashed around Cruz Bay looking for gifts to take home to family and friends, finally settling on packets of spices and toiletries from a fairly pricey shop. Had I known better, I would have waited until we reached St. Thomas. Taking the ferry to Charlotte Amalie, the main town on St. Thomas, we were deposited in one of the most tourist-oriented shopping areas we've seen in the Caribbean, with shop after shop catering to cruise ship passengers and offering cut rate prices on jewelry, knick-knacks, and duty-freê goods. Of course, even though we'd bought things on St. John, we found the bargain prices on rum and T-shirts hard to resist.

    And now, back at home on the chilly East Coast, I'm rather glad to have purchased all the ingredients for a Painkiller. Here's looking at you, St. John.

    For more information on St. John, contact the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism bureau.

    Cheap Tix Chart
    Buy Tickets at a Discount -- Special ticket outlets sell discounted day-of-performance tickets to theatrical productions, films, and sporting events. Discounts can be 50 percent or more. On The Go Publishing’s UPDATED Cheap Tix Chart, still only $14, lists outlets in the U.S. and eight foreign cities that sell discounted, day-of-performance tickets. Order here.

    London Holiday Shopping for $399

    British Airways offers a special shopping package that will make memories for any traveler with a gift list.

    For $399 per person from JFK or Newark Airports, the package includes roundtrip airfare to London, three nights’ hotel accommodation at the Corus Hotel Hyde Park, daily Continental breakfast, a 20 (UK) pound Harrods voucher and afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason.

    The $399 package is on sale through Dec. 31, and is valid for travel Nov. 1 through Dec. 16, 2004, and Dec. 24 through Dec. 31, 2004. Fares from other gateways include $419 from Boston, $440 from Philadelphia, $460 from Baltimore and Washington, $560 from Tampa, Orlando and Miami, $514 from Atlanta, $512 from Chicago, $533 from Detroit, $571 from Dallas and Houston, $574 from San Francisco and Los Angeles and $607 from Phoenix, Seattle or Denver.

    The $399 price is based on double occupancy for midweek transatlantic travel in economy class. A weekend travel surcharge of $30 per person applies for travel Thursday through Saturday in either direction. Other significant restrictions may apply.

    Use your Visa card to purchase the holiday package, and you are automatically registered for the 'Ultimate World Shopping and Travel Adventure' sweepstakes worth $150,000. The grand prize includes four roundtrip tickets to a choice of 13 international cities, hotel accommodation for four and spending money. You may enter the sweepstakes by registering on the British Airways website. No purchase is required.

    British Airways or 877/4A-VACATION.

    Vegas' Newest Indulgence Intro Rate

    Near the glitz and glamour of the Strip but away from the noise and distractions, the $100 million Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel opens Dec. 3, 2004, with an introductory rate of $129 per night through Dec. 30, 2004. Constructed by Perini Building Company, builders of some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts throughout the world, including Trump Taj Mahal, The Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel is opening three months ahead of schedule.

    Slated as the largest non-gaming hotel in Nevada, The Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel offers 14 stories of spacious accommodations with 548 rooms and 30 suites, ranging from 859 to 1,681 sq. ft. Amenities include spa treatments, a restaurant and bar, high-speed Internet access, flat screen televisions, and a dedicated concierge.

    The hotel blends the confident, cool style made famous by the Rat Pack with service, in a club-like atmosphere. Appealing to the business traveler, The Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel is adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

    Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel or 866/352-3434.

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    Tanglewood Festival of Lights More than 1,000,000 twinkling lights and 150 animated displays near Winston-Salem, NC. There’s also the Red Barn Holiday Gift Village with custom-made fashions, woodworking and holiday ornaments plus traditional holiday activities such as roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. Winston-Salem Visitors Bureau.

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    Live Among the Locals Forget about staying in a boring hotel. Live among the locals in a house or flat. Coach House London Vacation Rentals offers short term central London rentals with more than 60 properties that sleep from 2 to 12 people. Each rental comes with a neighborhood guide, breakfast provisions for the first day or two of your stay, a telephone help line, and what to do and see. Coach House London Vacation Rentals.

    The Latest “Specials” at Connecticut hotels, charming B&B, historic inns and other attractions. A click of the mouse gets the hottest deals around the Constitution State, plus package dates and some direct links to each property. http://www. 52 Getaways or 800/282-6863.

    Gambler's General Store -- The world's largest gambling superstore with slots, video poker, dice, craps, roulette, books, software and more. Gambler's General Store or 800/322-CHIP.

    Go Boston Card -- free admission to 25 top attractions, 2-day hop-on, hop-off trolley pass, $700 in discounts at shops and restaurants, free gifts, and a 132 page full-color pocket guidebook. www.GoBostonCard.com

    154th Fryeburg Fair Oct 3 - 10 - There's still time to go to Maine's largest fair during foliage time. Craft demonstrations, harness racing, nightly big-name entertainment. Fryeburg Fair.

    FREE PEARL Necklace & Bracelet -- Direct from a famous jewelry workshop. Limit 4 necklaces and 4 bracelets per person. ACT RIGHT NOW. click here to order.

    DINNER AT 35,000 FEET What meals will you get on your flight? See behind the scenes at airline catering. Preview first- and business-class menus and pictures of actual airline meals, photographed and contributed by passengers. More than 330 airlines represented. Learn what your meals will probably be.

    RVShark, the online recreational vehicle publication features raw reviews of RV parks based on real RVers' experiences. RVShark includes RV for sale listings and an RV parks for sale section. RVShark is free.

    LAKE COUNTY LIGHTS OF LAKE FESTIVAL -- The annual Lights of Lake Festival, in Lake County Florida, provide a sparkling setting for holiday celebrations as millions of lights adorn the city beginning Nov. 26. Special events offer seasonal treats such as holiday music concerts, vibrant storefront decorations, parades, petting zoos and even man-made snow to spread holiday cheer. Click here for more information..

    Information & Credits

    The Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, P.O. Box 91033, Columbus OH 43209, edited by Nicki Chodnoff, is published monthly.

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