If your email reader cannot read HTML, please go to http://www.geocities.com/tips2travel or http://archives.zinester.com/83455 to view this newsletter. Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter
Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, December 2008 Issue



Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
http://www.geocities.com/tips2travel
travelnewsletter@aim.com
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright  2008 
All Rights Reserved.


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These lovely and feminine sterling silver earrings have a rich patina that enhance the design and openness of the filigree. Perfect for your next special occasion or just to wear to work, from near or far it's clear that these filigree earrings on French wires are no ordinary accessory. Filigreed on front and back, the diamond-shaped body measures approx. ½ inch.

For this fine craftsmanship, expect to pay at least $75 for these earrings at upscale stores and jewelry boutiques. Our price for these designer earrings is only $19.

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In This Issue:
Dinner at private L.L. Bean campsite, Gosling Islands, Maine

Lobsters for the pot

  • Robson Communities Fall Getaway Packages
  • Stein Eriksen Lodge December Deal
  • Real Deal from Real Hotel Company
  • Affordable Caribbean w/Rentalo.com
  • Fr.ee Air on Crystal's Panama Canal Sailings
  • Up to 30% Off Universal Orlando Packages
  • Shoes Stay On with Step-On Scanner
  • Honest Abe Package at Fairmont in D.C.
  • Bargain Guide to Vegas
  • Low Fares to Less-Known Ski Destinations
  • China Exploration From $1,799
  • Idaho Deals
  • Seabourn Inaugural Season Savings
  • CMH Heli-Skiing Offer
  • Walt Disney World Savings in 2009
  • $99 Rooms in NYC’s West Village
  • New Hampshire Holiday Week Ski Package
  • Valentine's Day in Paris
  • Casco by Kayak by Kay Douglas
  • USVI Extends its Winter Escape


    • Robson Communities Fall Getaway Packages

      Robson Communities makes getting away tempting with its preferred guest getaway package to its Arizona and Texas active adult resort communities.

      Through Dec. 30, 2008, the getaway package rate is $89 and Jan. 2 through Mar. 31, 2009, the rate is $199 (except for Texas which is $69). This special rate is good for one or two people. Taxes are not included. Reservations are for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday arrivals.

      Staying as a preferred guest is a way to discover the lifestyle at a Robson community for anyone considering a new home at an Arizona or Texas retirement community.

      As a preferred guest, you can sample the active adult community lifestyle, meet other homeowners, tour the model homes and relax in a house with a golf cart and bicycles in the garage. Preferred guests get a f,ree round of golf for two and a fr,ee dinner for two at the on-site restaurant hosted by homeowners.

      Robson Communities or 800/732-9949.



      Stein Eriksen Lodge December Deal

      Enjoy an alpine winter getaway for less at Stein Eriksen Lodge, in Park City, UT. With their December Room Rate, valid Dec. 9 through Dec. 25, 2008, you can stay at the five-star, five diamond mountain resort for $350 per room, per night.

      This rate includes deluxe bedroom accommodations and buffet breakfast. A minimum two night stay is required and when you book four nights, you receive the fifth night fr.ee. This rate is subject to availability and based on double occupancy. A non-refundable payment for one night's stay is required at the time of reservation.

      Stein Eriksen Lodge or 800/453-1302.


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      Real Deal from Real Hotel Company

      The Real Hotel Company offers an all inclusive "Credit Crunch Real Deal” in locations across the UK. The package includes accommodation, dinner, half a bottle of wine, coffee, a full breakfast the following morning and VAT. In countryside locations the rate is 59.95 pounds per night and a double/twin room is 79.95 pounds. City center location rates are 74.95 pounds single and 94.95 pounds double/twin.

      These rates are available seven days a week in 29 city and country locations through 2008.

      The Real Hotel Company .



      Affordable Caribbean w/Rentalo.com

      Penny-pinching families can still head south this winter by renting a Caribbean villa through Rentalo.com. The on-line vacation rental directory offers Caribbean rentals from $31.25 per person, per night and their new website makes it easy to find such a bargain.

      The new website features a photo slide show of each rental property, a property map, complete property description, contact information and availability. You can choose the date, location, number of bedrooms, amenities and activities and query property owners, who then "bid" for your business. Villas and houses provide more space, more privacy and fully-equipped kitchens for less than the cost of a hotel room.

      Here are some current Rentalo Caribbean offerings:

      Bryan's Beach House, on the secluded south side of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands is a two bedroom beach house that sleeps four. The Brac is a celebrated dive destination. Snorkeling and diving are available right in front of the house. Until Mar. 1, 2008, the nightly rate is $125, with a four-night minimum.

      A car, which allows you to sample Aruba's many beaches, is included in the rental of Canuku House. The three-bedroom bungalow, at the northern end of the island, is in a private community with a clubhouse and pool. Tropical landscaping, a tiled veranda, private patio and wireless high-speed internet are some of its attractions. Beach chairs, patio furniture and snorkel equipment are all supplied. The nightly rate is $198 with a seven-night minimum.

      The historic St. Lucia Great House overlooks Marigot Bay and has its own swimming pool. Lawns, royal palms and flowering shrubs frame this three-bedroom plantation house that's five minutes from Marigot Beach. Staffing includes a housekeeper and gardener. Until Dec. 19, 2008, the nightly rate is $392, with a three-night minimum.

      Rentalo



      Fr.ee Air on Crystal's Panama Canal Sailings

      In conjunction with its three winter/spring 2009 Panama Canal cruises between Los Angeles and Miami, Crystal Cruises offers fr.ee airfare to passengers originating in those cities, plus fr.ee airfare from Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. Value Collection and Special Savings Fares offer cruise fares up to 50 percent off.

      The offer is available with Crystal Serenity's 15-day cruise from Miami to Los Angeles, departing on Jan. 6, 2009; Crystal Symphony's 14-day cruise from Miami to Los Angeles, departing on Feb. 16, 2009; and Crystal Serenity's 16-day cruise from Los Angeles to Miami, departing on May 7, 2009. In addition to the daylight transit of the Panama Canal, the cruises call at ports in Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and/or South America.

      The Feb. 16 and May 6, 2009, cruises also offer culinary and wellness experiences. Depending on the cruise, guest chefs, wine experts, and expert instructors in yoga, Pilates and fitness will share their insights.

      Crystal Cruises or 800/446-6620.


      Advertisement
      Fr-ee Fun San Diego
      This savings-packed FR.EE brochure features almost 40 Fun, Fr-ee Things to do in San Diego. When heading to Southern California, attend concerts or visit a State Historic Park and keep that cash in your pocket.

      To get your Fr-ee Fun San Diego brochure, for a $1 handling fee, click here to send us an email.


      Up to 30% Off Universal Orlando Packages

      Travel Impressions offers savings of up to 30 percent on Universal Orlando Resort packages if booked by Dec. 22, 2008, for travel through Dec. 25, 2008.

      When you book at a participating Universal Orlando Resort property, you save 25 percent on all three-nights stays. Book four or more nights and receive a 30 percent discount off regular rates.

      Through this offer, Universal Orlando Resort packages include: roundtrip airport/hotel transfers; hotel accommodations; Universal Orlando Two-Park Unlimited Admission Ticket for up to one week to Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Island of Adventure; fr.ee Universal Expresssm ride access; fr.ee admission to select live entertainment venues at Universal CityWalk; two-for-one Wet 'N Wild admission; a fr.ee Margarita at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville (with entrée or appetizer purchase); and hotel tax and service charges.

      Sample four-night package rates, reflecting the 30 percent savings are as follows:  Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando$475 per person; Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando $519 per person; and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando $559 per person. Rates are based on double occupancy. Certain restrictions and blackout dates apply.

      Travel Impressions or 800/284-0044.



      Shoes Stay On with Step-On Scanner

      Israel introduced a step-on scanner that spares airline travelers the nuisance of having to remove their shoes so they can be X-rayed for hidden weapons. Right now, the new device cannot sniff out explosives.

      Only the shoes of passengers deemed suspicious by Ben-Gurion Airport staff are removed, X-rayed and swabbed for bomb residues. Most people can now keep their shoes on.

      Installed next to the walk-through scanners at Ben-Gurion, "MagShoe" announces within two seconds whether the footwear of the passenger standing on it contains unusual metal that might be a knife for a hijacking or a bomb detonator part.

      "This innovation brings enormous logistical value as it significantly cuts down the discomfort and delays associated with standard shoe searches," said Nissim Ben-Ezra, security technologies manager for Israel's Airports Authority.

      But he said MagShoe must be used in conjunction with other precautions, especially as it would not spot hidden explosives -- a major concern after the botched 2001 "shoe bombing" by al Qaeda sympathizer Richard Reid aboard a Paris-Miami flight.

      A bomb-sniffing version of the suitcase-sized MagShoe is in the works, an Israeli security source said. The current version, produced by Israeli firm Ido Security Ltd., costs about $5,000.

      The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is assessing MagShoe's feasibility for American airports and several other countries have expressed an interest.



      Honest Abe Package at Fairmont in D.C.

      In honor of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, the Fairmont Washington, D.C. offers the “Honest Abe” package Jan. 1, 2009 through Apr. 30, 2009.

      The package includes overnight accommodations, a map of the city with directions to the Lincoln Memorial, a package of Lincoln Logs for children and breakfast for $5 in the hotel's restaurant.

      Cultural organizations, attractions, restaurants and hotels throughout the region will join a nationwide celebration of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday through exhibitions, lectures and special events. Highlight of the promotion includes the grand re-opening of Ford's Theatre on Feb. 12, 2009, the re-enactment of Marian Anderson's historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial and the re-dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.

      The “Honest Abe” package starts from $299 per night and accommodates up to a family of four. The package is based on availability and rates do not include taxes or gratuities.

      Located at 2401 M Street, NW, the 415 room Fairmont Washington, D.C. is convenient to museums, theaters (including the Kennedy Center), shopping and dining. Close to two metro stations, it is five miles from Reagan National Airport and 33 miles from Dulles International Airport.

      Fairmont Washington, D.C. or 800/441-1414.


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      There's no mistaking your luggage with the 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.



      Bargain Guide to Vegas

      The people at VEGAS.com. know where to get inexpensive eats. Here are the deals they suggest that will keep your stomach full and your wallet fat:

        Breakfast Steals
      • $1.95: Two buttermilk pancakes and two eggs, bacon or sausage at the Suncoast Casino’s Café Siena. Available Mon. to Fri., midnight to 9 a.m.
      • $2.21: Biscuits and gravy special at the Promenade Café JW Marriott Las Vegas - 221 N. Rampart Blvd.
      • $2.99: Three eggs, hash browns and toast at the Texas Café, Texas Station - 2101 Texas Star Lane North Las Vegas, daily from midnight to11 a.m.
        Cheap Snacks
      • 75 cent hot dogs served from a vendor’s cart at the sports book at the Gold Coast, 4000 W. Flamingo Rd., from 10 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. daily
      • $2.99 “Big Shrimp” cocktail at the Golden Gate, One Fremont Street
        Drink Specials
      • $1 Bud and Bud Lights at Fiesta Henderson, 777 West Lake Mead Dr., Henderson
      • $1 Tequila shots or Miller Chill bottles at Mi Casa Grill Cantina at the Silverton, 3333 Blue Diamond Rd., Mon. to Fri. from 4 to 7 p.m.
        Dinner on a Dime
      • $3.25: Hamburger with macaroni salad at Aloha Specialties at California Casino, 12 Ogden Ave., available 24 hours.
      • $5.99: Half-chicken dinner at Terrible's Casino Bougainvillea Café, 4100 Paradise Rd. It's not on the menu, so ask your server about this special.
      • $7.99: Prime rib and shrimp dinner at Arizona Charlie's Boulder's Sourdough Cafe. 4575 Boulder Highway.

      For a full list of all dining/drink specials, check out VEGAS.com’s Dining page.

      Vegas.com.



      Low Fares to Less-Known Ski Destinations

      BOOK BY DEC. 11 - -Vayama.com offers low fares to some of Europe's lesser known ski resorts. Andorra, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Romania might not be the first places that come to mind when considering a ski trip abroad. However, with beautiful scenery, quality slopes for all experience levels, and a ski experience for a fraction of the price, these four destinations are good holiday spots for families, beginner and intermediary skiers.

      Here are some ski options and samples fares, which are lower this year compared to last.

      Bulgaria is a smart choice for first-time skiers because of its wide range of "beginners" hills and ski schools. The most popular resorts are Borovets and Pamporovo. Borovets offers a lively atmosphere and apres-ski scene. More traditional Bulgarian entertainment is found at the Pamporovo resort. You can fly into Bulgaria’s capital Sophia, and take a two hour car ride to Borovets or a four hour car ride toPamporovo. The roundtrip fares must be booked by Dec. 11, 2008 and do not include and taxes and fees. Sophia f rom New York: $387; Boston: $399; Washington D.C.: $417; San Francisco: $420 and Los Angeles: $390.

      Romania offers the forested Carpathian Mountains and its main ski resort, Poiana Brasov, is one of the best values for skiing in Europe. You can hit the slopes, check out the bars and discos, and visit Bran Castle, the home of Count Dracula. Fly into Bucharest, which is a three and a half hour car ride to Poiana Brosov. Roundtrip fares must be booked by Dec. 11, 2008 and do not include and taxes and fees. Bucharest from New York: $289; Boston: $260; Washington D.C.: $304; San Francisco: $477; and Los Angeles: $480.

      Slovenia is a good choice if you want resorts with modern accommodations in charming villages. The two main resorts are in the Julian Alps. Bled and Bohinj are suitable for beginners. Kranjska Gora is a quaint village near the Italian and Austrian borders. You can fly into Klagenfurt, Austria and take a one and a half hour car ride to Bled and Bohinj. Roundtrip fares must be booked by Mar. 25, 2009 and do not include and taxes and fees. Klagenfurt from New York: $379; Boston: $388; Washington D.C.: $506; San Francisco: $502; and Los Angeles: $496.

      Vayama.


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      China Exploration From $1,799

      Pacific Delight Tours makes it affordable to visit China by offering a 12-day air-inclusive “China Exploration” package.

      Priced from $1,799 from Los Angeles and $1,899 from New York, the package combines a four-night Yangtze River cruise with sightseeing in Beijing and Shanghai. The three Wednesday departures are Mar. 4, 11 and 18, 2009. Fuel surcharges are included in the price; government taxes and fees, of up to $100, are additional. Prices are subject to change.

      The center point of this package is a four-night Yangtze River on Victoria Cruises with an outside stateroom, private balcony, full bath and other amenities. In Beijing and Shanghai, you stay in five-star and deluxe hotels and sightsee with English-speaking local guides.

      In addition to the cruise and hotel accommodations, the tour includes transpacific airfare, all intra-China air/land transportation, breakfast daily, seven lunches and all meals aboard the cruise ship, sightseeing, local tour escort, transfers, fuel surcharges, hotel taxes, service charges and baggage handling. Add-on fares are available from other major gateways. Additional airline baggage charges may apply.

      Pacific Delight Tours or 800/221-7179.



      Idaho Deals

      Idaho.com offers a Kids Ski Fre.e package in Sun Valley that’s good at many participating companies. The promotion is valid Dec. 14, 2008 through Jan. 30, 2009 and Mar. 1 through the end of the 2009 ski season. Kids can ski fr-ee with a paid adult. Kids are classified as 15 years and younger. Call 800/844-3246 and ask for promotion 180.

      Premier Resorts, 800/635-4444, offers a March deal in Sun Valley, when snow is abundant, slopes are uncrowded slopes and sunshine is plentiful. The March Value package offers four nights’ lodging in an Elkhorn two bedroom condo and three days of skiing for $387 per person. The rate is based on quad occupancy and does not include tax or resort fee. Mention code Ipri when booking.

      Last Tracks Ski Specials - Your last chance to ski during the 2009 season as the offer, at eight resorts in Sun Valley, is valid Mar. 30 to Apr. 30, 2009. This promotion includes one night's lodging and one lift ticket per person in your party. Prices are per person, per night, based on two people per room. Prices start at $85 for a queen/king room at the Best Western Tyrolean Lodge, Deal ID 1278-4197. 800/234-0599.



      Seabourn Inaugural Season Savings

      The Yachts of Seabourn launches its first ultra luxury cruising vessel to debut in more than six years. As a way of to join the festivities, Seabourn offers $1,000 per suite extra savings plus early booking savings of up to 45 percent on seven-day Mediterranean voyages in 2009. That includes 50 departures on three yachts: Seabourn Spirit, Seabourn Legend and the brand new Seabourn Odyssey.

      The Odyssey will sail with 450 passengers in ocean-view suites of 290 to1,100 square feet, 90 percent with private verandas.

      Itineraries span the Mediterranean from Spain and the French and Italian Rivieras to the Greek Isles and Turkey in the east. New for 2009 are a set of three week-long voyages in the central Adriatic: the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia with the rustic, friendly Puglia region on Italy's "boot-heel." These itineraries sail roundtrip from Venice or between Venice and Rome.

      Prices start from $3,405 per person, based on double occupancy for an ocean-view suite.

      Seabourn or 800/929-9595.



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

      CMH Heli-Skiing Offer

      BOOK BY DEC. 31 - - CMH (Canadian Mountain Holidays), a leading Heli-Skiing operator, offers a value price of $975 per day at Kootenay, in British Columbia's village of Nakusp on the shores of Upper Arrow Lake.

      Heli-Skiing out of Kootenay takes place in the Monashee and Selkirk mountain ranges, which provide valleys of tree skiing, wide-open bowls and fresh powder. The $975 price (a savings of almost $300 per day) includes guided Heli-Skiing, use of powder skis, avalanche transceivers, ground transportation from Calgary or Spokane, Washington, accommodation, all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, flexible dates and trip lengths with a three-day minimum. Trips must be booked by Dec. 31, 2008.

      Prices are in Canadian dollars, based on double occupancy, and do not include GST or applicable taxes.

      Canadian Mountain Holidays or 800/661-0252.



      Walt Disney World Savings in 2009

      BOOK BY DEC. 20, 2008 - - The new year brings new ways to celebrate special occasions with family and friends at Walt Disney World Resort. Special savings make a Disney vacation even more affordable.

      Buy a four-night non-discounted Walt Disney Travel “Magic Your Way” hotel and ticket package for stays most nights Jan. 4 to Apr. 14, 2009 and Apr. 19 to June 27, 2009, and receive three extra nights of hotel accommodations and three more days added to theme park tickets for fr,ee.

      As a bonus, if you travel on this package Jan. 4 to Mar. 29, 2009, you will also receive a $200 Disney Gift Card to use to buy merchandise, dining or other Disney fun. One gift card per reservation will be provided at check-in.

      With this special offer, a family of four can get a seven-night stay at a Disney Value resort and a seven-day Magic Your Way base ticket for each family member from $1271 to $2,363, depending on the resort and dates. Savings range from $316 for a Jan. 4 through Feb. 12, 2009 stay at a Disney Value resort to $1,135 for a May 22 to June 27, 2009 stay at a Disney Deluxe Villa. The package must be booked by Dec. 20, 2008.

      Prices are valid for stays most nights during the dates listed and are based on two adults, one junior (ages 10 to 17) and one child (ages 3 to 9) in a standard room at a Value Resort, Moderate Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge (Deluxe Resort) or a studio at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (Deluxe Villa Resort).

      Savings are based on the non-discounted price of a seven-night/seven-day Magic Your Way package. Availability allocated for this offer is limited. Tickets are valid for one theme park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use.

      When you stay at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels, you get perks and services including: fr,ee on- property transportation; Disney's Magical Express for fr,ee airport shuttle and luggage delivery; and Extra Magic Hours, where one Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or stays open up to three hours later, providing extra time in the parks to experience select attractions.

      Reservations for WDWorld 2009 savings or 407/934-7639. ask for package code RWZ.



      $99 Rooms in NYC’s West Village

      In 1912, it sheltered survivors of the Titanic, became a sailors’ haven in the 1920s and then a quirky “residential hotel.”

      Now, following a restoration, 113 Jane St. in Manhattan’s Far West Village gets a new life as the Jane, a 200-room micro hotel for travelers with more dash than cash.

      The Jane unveiled a block of preview rooms and will open in stages throughout the fall. For 150 rooms measuring about 50 sq. ft., rates start at $99 with communal bathrooms down the hall. For slightly higher rates (price not offered at publishing time), 50 rooms measuring at 250 sq. ft. will feature private bathrooms, many with unobstructed river views.

      Balancing the efficiency of a pod hotel with the character of a hostel, the interior is inspired by luxury train cabins, rooms that pack maximum conveniences into minimal space. Each “cabin” will come with air conditioning, fan, rails with coat-hooks and a compact twin bed with built-in drawers and upper/lower storage space. All rooms will feature f.ree high-speed internet access, 23” flat-screen LCD televisions with cable and DVD player, telephone with voicemail and radio alarm clocks with iPod docks.

      Since rooms are too small for gatherings, guests will get to know each other in the lobby, which will be restored to its former grandeur. The lobby will host a fr.ee continental breakfast every morning.

      The basement’s original hand-tiled swimming pool and bathing area will be restored and equipped with a sauna and bathrooms, giving you another area to mingle and relax.

      Landmarked by New York City in 2001, the six-story structure, with its waterfront location, places it within walking distance to the shopping, dining, and nightlife of the Meatpacking District, West Village and Chelsea neighborhoods.

      The Jane or 212/924-6700.



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      Silky Travel Jewelry Roll
      A must have for travelers. Our silky travel jewelry roll comes in a random assortment of single-color jacquards, solid colors and two-color brocades. This handy travel jewelry roll measures 8 1/2 x 11 inches when open and closes to a compact 8 1/2 x 4 inches. Our exclusive design offers a place for everything with one deep pocket, a ring bar and three zippered compartments. Price $40. Click here to order from On The Go Publishing.


      New Hampshire Holiday Week Ski Package

      The four country inns of Granite State Vacations look ahead to ski season. The inns put together a Holiday Week Ski package for those who want to celebrate Christmas week on the slopes.

      The five-night Holiday Week Ski package, for stays Dec. 23, 2008 to Jan. 1, 2009, allows you to enjoy New England hospitality, meals and skiing on nearby slopes at Pat’s Peak, Mount Sunapee, and Ragged Mountain, all in New Hampshire. Priced from $536 per person, based on double occupancy, for a stay at the Blue Acorn Inn (prices at the other inns vary), the package includes:

      Five nights’ lodging at one of the Granite State Vacations inns, breakfast and dinner daily and lift tickets for four days of skiing at the slope of your choice.

      There’s a three night package available where you can ski two days and ring in the New Year from $220 per person, based on double occupancy, at The Henniker House B&B.

        Granite StateVacations inns include:
      • The Blue Acorn Inn with six rooms and suites in an 1847 farmhouse on 22 acres with views of Mt. Sunapee. 603/863-1144.
      • Henniker House with five rooms in the foothills of the White Mountain overlooking the Contoocook River. 866/428-3198.
      • Highland Lake Inn, a restored gentleman's farmhouse with 10 rooms, originally built in 1767. 603/735-6426.
      • Rosewood Country Inn, with 11 suites with period furnishings, many with four-poster canopy beds, Jacuzzi tubs for two and fireplaces. 800/938-5273.

      GraniteStateVacations.com.



      Valentine's Day in Paris

      Make this Valentine's Day a celebration to remember. Back by popular demand, Air France Holidays offers a three-night Valentine's Day package to Paris, priced from $999 per person, based on double occupancy.

      The package includes roundtrip airfare on Air France from New York or Newark, three nights’ hotel accommodations, Paris tour and city map, continental breakfast daily, hotel taxes and surcharges and airline fuel surcharges. Prices do not include airport taxes and fees of about $130.

      There’s a $35 each way weekend surcharge for travel on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

      Air France Holidays or 800/237-2623.



      Casco by Kayak - - photos and article by Kay Douglas

      Kayak camping on one of the Gosling IslandsThinking of Maine conjures up images of rugged coastal scenery and deep mossy woods. It summons the haunting cry of a loon and the plop of a fat lake trout surfacing on a quiet lake. Put the words “Maine” and “outdoors” together, and you have the stuff of sultry late-summer fantasies. It takes very little to get me up to Maine, usually just the prospect of some blueberry pie or a lobster roll will do, so when the opportunity came to spend a long weekend kayaking on Casco Bay, I was packed before you could say “L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools.”

      As an occasional recreational kayaker, I had no illusions of setting off on such a jaunt solo. Not only was there the matter of equipment, but my navigational skills are rudimentary at best. How convenient, then, that I could sign up for a three-day trip organized by the L.L. Bean Discovery Schools. For the very reasonable price of $750, all kayaking and camping equipment as well as food and accommodation at an inn for one of the two nights were provided. More importantly, seasoned professional guides were on hand to give basic instruction and keep everyone safe and comfortable on what turned out to be a somewhat challenging weekend of changeable weather.

      Arriving at the L.L. Bean Paddling School early on a Friday morning, my fellow paddlers and I were briefed by our guides, Peter and Bob, then fitted with PFDs (personal flotation devices), paddles and splash jackets. We’d been told exactly what we needed to bring with us for the three-day trip, mostly comfortable, quick-drying synthetic clothing and some warmer clothes for camping. All our gear fit easily into large dry bags that we crammed into the front and rear hatches of tandem kayaks. After a session covering basic strokes and kayaking basics, we headed to the pier to begin our adventure.

      setting out from Gosling IslandsSometimes, I find, a traveler can encounter a little more adventure than bargained for. At first I was a little disappointed to be placed in a big (and to my mind clunky) tandem kayak, along with an amiable fellow from Illinois. Once out on the water, however, I quickly realized I wouldn’t have been up to the challenges of that day’s conditions in a single kayak. We headed straight into 25 mph winds in seas with swells of up to three feet. Luckily, the tandem kayak was extremely stable, not to mention comfortable, and was obviously the perfect boat for novice kayakers, especially under those conditions. Just as importantly, guides Peter and Bob kept a close eye on everyone, making sure we stayed together and offering tips on the best way to angle the kayaks into approaching swells.

      Once we were away from the shore and out in open water, the wind seemed relentless, and it was something of a battle to paddle several miles to our first spot for a break, sheltered from the wind in a cove near Williams Island. We were warmly congratulated by Bob and Peter, who told us that we’d just faced about the roughest conditions they’d taken anyone out in that summer.

      Feeling a bit proud of ourselves, our small group set out again to cross a second stretch of water before coming to Lower Goose Island, where we went ashore for lunch. We munched apples, sandwiches and granola bars as we perched on a rocky ledge providing views of several nearby islands. The islands of Casco Bay are sometimes called the “Calendar Islands” for it’s said that there are 365 of them – one for each day of the year. Whether there are precisely 365 or not is debatable, but there are certainly plenty of them. Navigating among them is not the sort of thing a greenhorn could safely undertake, especially adding the tides, winds, and boat traffic into the equation.

      Lobsters for the potTo everyone’s relief, our last leg of that day’s paddle was in relatively sheltered waters behind Lower Goose Island. Soon we reached the private L.L. Bean campsite on one of the nearby Gosling Islands. Here we set to work putting up our tents as Peter began prepping dinner. Meanwhile Bob paddled off on a vital mission – to retrieve the main component of our dinner from a lobster boat he’d arranged to meet offshore. By the time he returned with a large bucket of lobsters, we’d all changed into dry clothing and were sipping tea and coffee under the main open-air kitchen tent. Dinner that evening was a memorable one, with incredibly tender, succulent steamer clams as appetizers and a main course of boiled lobster, fresh corn on the cob, T-bone steak, and salad. Peter, an accomplished “Dutch oven” cook, served up moist gingerbread for dessert at just about the time the heavens opened and rain came pouring down.

      Happily, we all remained warm and dry under the kitchen tarp and in our tents that night, though I must confess that if Bob had not given me some coaching on placing the front of my tent away from the prevailing winds and angling the tent pegs more securely, that might not have been the case. Interestingly, L.L. Bean field tests its new equipment on these excursions, and on more than one occasion I benefitted from the guides’ expertise with the gear.

      I fell asleep to the patter of raindrops on my tent tarp and woke to the call of loons out on the water. It was a gorgeous, calm morning, the reverse of the previous day’s tempestuous conditions. After a breakfast of flapjacks, maple syrup, Canadian bacon, bagels, and coffee, we packed up and set out for the second day’s paddle. Paddling seemed effortless on the almost flat surface of the unruffled water, and it was easy to spot sea birds such as ospreys in the clear morning light. We also occasionally noticed harbor seals curiously but cautiously surfacing and surveying us from a distance. The buoys of lobster pots dotted the surface of the water, each with its distinctive colors and pattern indicative of its owner.

      Chebeague Island InnWe made good time, heading for our first stop on Little Whaleboat Island. While we averaged about seven miles of kayaking per day, we rarely went more than a couple miles before taking a break, which not only gave us a chance to stretch our legs but also provided glimpses of interesting island habitats. Often the vegetation was sparse, with hardy rugosa roses and sea grasses clinging to rocky outcroppings. Stands of spruce jutted up from the center of the islets, the occasional lone tree angling out precariously over the water. We marveled at the tides, which are quite dramatic in this part of the world. When we broke for lunch at Stockton Island, we pulled our kayaks far up onto the shore at Bob’s behest. Coming back to them less than an hour later, the tide had risen so much that we scarcely needed to pull them back out to the water.

      Unfortunately, the sparkling morning gave way to increasingly dense fog in the afternoon. With little warning, we found ourselves enveloped in white mist, the visibility steadily dwindling. Keeping close together for safety’s sake, we followed Bob, who had charted a course for Chebeague Island. It was with some relief that we eventually spotted the point we were headed for, near the car ferry dock. Not long after landing, we were greeted by an employee of the Chebeague Island Inn, who ferried us up to the inn in a large electric cart.

      The historic Chebeague Island Inn offers quintessential Maine hospitality, in surroundings that are both rustic and luxurious. The inn was recently renovated, and the airy whitewashed guest rooms have views out over a rolling green lawn and the harbor beyond. A large porch wraps around the entire front of the inn, providing the perfect spot to sit in deep wicker chairs and sip cocktails or read the paper. But I confess that of all the inn’s many charms, nothing made me happier than the big porcelain tub in the bathroom across the hall, with its shelves stocked with lavender-scented bath products. After two days of paddling and a night of camping, I was ready for a bit of pampering.

      Paddling - Day 2Having soaked to my heart’s content, I found I had time before dinner to use one of the mountain bikes provided gratis by the inn to explore the island. The friendly hostess at the front desk provided a map of the island and advised me of the best route to take. I was a little amused, however, to find that although my map faithfully marked each street name that not a single street sign was to be found, so I ended up navigating by landmarks, from the tennis courts to the boat repair yard to the clam shack and so on.

      The next morning, the fog seemed to have only intensified, and brought rain and wind for good measure. The group conferred over breakfast, reluctantly deciding that it would be best to head more or less straight back to the Paddling School rather than make some previously planned side excursions. Another challenging day faced us, but my paddling partner and I had gained enough skill and confidence to handle the conditions with assurance. The group made one brief stop at a tiny windswept island, but the rain and wind we experienced there made us unanimously agree to forgo making a stop later on for lunch. Weaving our way among groups of islands with colorful names such as “Sow and Pigs” and “Little French Island,” at one point we rested in our boats in calm waters sheltered by the “sow.” Sea birds had the same idea, and provided one of the more memorable sights of the trip -- dozens of cormorants perched on the backs of the rocks comprising the nearby “piglets”

      It seemed that all too soon we were back at the dock of the Paddling School. We lingered over lunch in the conference room of the main building there, but I-95 beckoned for two of us heading home that evening while Freeport B&Bs awaited others. The next day, with time to kill before my late afternoon flight out of Portland, I decided to revisit Casco Bay by excursion boat from Portland Harbor. The wind was still whipping up whitecaps, but the sun was out again, making the famous white Portland Head Lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth gleam. The tour boat skirted Chebeague Island, and for a moment I fantasized that we’d chug on past and retrace the route I’d taken just the day before.

      Cormorants on Sow and Pigs islandsBut the experience on the tidy tour boat, while pleasant, didn’t compare to the days of paddling I’d just experienced. It had been a challenge, to be sure, but one I’d wholeheartedly enjoyed. I was glad I’d seen the islands first by kayak, for even when wind-swept and mist-shrouded, there’s a mystery and elemental charm to approaching them this way, working with the tides, waves, and currents to find a safe haven.

      Click here for more information on the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, which offers this and other one- to three-day kayaking trips.



      USVI Extends its Winter Escape

      HURRY! BOOK BY DEC. 10 - - The U.S. Virgin Island’s Department of Tourism extends its booking window for its Winter Escape promotion through Dec. 10, 2008 for travel Dec. 15, 2008 through Mar. 31, 2009.

      The extended Winter Escape promotion offers more value during the peak travel season, with a $50 credit on attractions and a $50 credit on meals in addition to the original offer of $300 in travelers checks, a coupon book with savings on activities and attractions and a fr.ee fifth night, based on a four-night minimum stay at participating hotels.

      Hotels participating in the Winter Escape promotion are on three islands and even include the Estate Concordia Campground on St. John.

      The Winter Escape promotion applies to new bookings only. Reservations can be made through tour operators, including American Airlines Vacations, Apple Vacations, Book It.com, Certified Vacations, Cheap Caribbean, Classic Vacations, Expedia.com, GoGo Worldwide Vacations, Island Resort Tours, Orbitz, Pleasant Holidays, The Mark Travel, TNT Vacations, Travel Impressions, Travelocity, US Airways Vacations and Vacation Express.

      U.S. citizens traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands enjoy the conveniences of domestic travel including on-line check-in. As a United States Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passport from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland.

      United States Virgin Islands.



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