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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, March 2006 Issue


Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
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ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2006 
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In This Issue:
Red Rock Balloon Festival, Red Rock, N.M.

  • Las Vegas Resort Golf Paradise Discounts
  • AirTran Standby Travel
  • American Extends Special Military Fares
  • Fre.e Museums in Denmark
  • The Lighter Side of Flying
  • Visit the U.K. for Less
  • Universal Gold Pass for N.C. High Country
  • Yellowstone Early Bird Specials
  • El Al Spring Fares to Israel
  • Pay to Avoid Airport Security
  • 40 Million Kids Eligible for Fre.e Admission
  • Manitowoc Winter Getaways from $79
  • Stay 2 Times, Earn a Fr.ee Night
  • $49 Roundtrip Bermuda Airfare
  • New D.C. Transportation
  • Hotel Jerome Spring Special
  • NM Balloon Festivals by Kay Douglas
  • USVI Girlfriends Sweepstakes

  • Las Vegas Resort Golf Paradise Discounts

    In time for spring golf in Las Vegas, Desert Rose Resort offers special room rates and discounts on area golf course fees.

    The resort offers $99 one-bedroom-suite room rates ($149 for a two-bedroom suite) and discounts of 15 to 35 percent off green fees for most public courses in Las Vegas, based on two-night minimum stays. "Golf Paradise" room rates and greens fees are available through Apr. 15, 2006.

    One- and two-bedroom suites offer living-dining rooms, upgraded baths and kitchens. Each suite has a private balcony overlooking courtyards and pool areas. Fr.ee breakfasts and afternoon cocktails are offered in the resort's atrium. The resort is owned and managed by Shell Hospitality, Inc.

    Located a block east of the Las Vegas Strip, across the street from the MGM Grand Hotel-Casino, and next door to the new Hooter's Casino Hotel, Desert Rose Resort is centrally located to 20 public golf courses in the immediate area.

    The Bali Hai Golf Course is a mile away while Bear's Best, a Jack Nicklaus course, is an easy drive.

    Golf services are provided through a partnership with Link Style International. Desert Rose guests receive unique numbered codes that allow them to reserve optimum tee times at deep discounts directly through Link Style International.

    Discounts on greens fees are offered at more than 20 area courses including: Rio Secco, a Rees Jones-designed course above the Las Vegas Valley; TPC at The Canyons, a winding course of arroyos and desert ravines; and Desert Pines, an affordable "Carolinas-style" course with mature pine trees.

    Shell Hospitality or 800/811-2450.


    AirTran Standby Travel

    AirTran Airways relaunched its "X-Fares" standby program for 18 to 22-year-old travelers. Once you reach your 23rd birthday, you are no longer eligible.

    Through the X-Fares program, young adults can travel in coach class on a standby-only basis to any of the 48 destinations AirTran Airways serves, excluding Grand Bahama Island, for $69 per segment of travel. A segment is defined as one takeoff and landing.

    Long-haul segments are $89. Flights to and from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Denver are considered long-haul segments. Fees and taxes are not included in the listed segment price.

    To participate, simply select the destination, dates and times you want to travel and arrive at the AirTran Airways ticket counter at least two hours before the scheduled time of departure. No reservations can be made. All available flights are listed on AirTran Airways' X-Fares web site.

    Travelers must present valid, government-issued photo identification and are only allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item. Holiday blackout dates apply and all travel must be completed by Dec. 15, 2006.

    AirTran


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    American Extends Special Military Fares

    American Airlines extends through June 1, 2006, several offers that are exclusive for active-duty members of the U.S. military. These offers include discounted airfares, relaxed advance purchase requirements and preferred boarding privileges.

    Active-duty members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Guard and Reserves who are on leave or furlough (including those traveling within seven days of discharge from active service), and their spouse and dependent children, are eligible for the special military fares. The fares are available to domestic and international destinations. Military ID must be presented at the time of airport check-in.

    In addition, the discounted military fares may be purchased up to a week after reservations are made -- versus 24 hours for non-military discount fares -- making it easier for military personnel and their families to make travel arrangements.

    Sample one-way domestic fares for the U.S. military, based on a roundtrip purchase: Chicago to Denver or Dallas to Kansas City $79; Atlanta to Chicago, Raleigh to St. Louis, Dallas to Washington, D.C., Nashville to New York and Colorado Springs to Dallas $129; and Dallas to Norfolk or San Diego $169.

    Sample one-way international fares for the U.S. military, based on a roundtrip purchase: St. Louis to Cancun, Mexico $175; Miami to Tegucigalpa, Honduras $190; Fort Lauderdale to San Juan or Boston to London $249; Miami to Madrid $255; New York to St. Maarten, Neth. Ant. $285; Chicago to Frankfurt $305; Los Angeles to Montego Bay, Jamaica $305; San Jose, CA to Tokyo $310; and Dallas to Santiago, Chile $420.

    Military fares are not available via the Internet. Fares do not include government-imposed taxes and fees.

    As a thank you to U.S. troops, uniformed military personnel can pre-board with first-class passengers, or at any time during the boarding process. U.S. military men and women in Operation Iraqi Free.dom or Operation Enduring Fre.edom are welcome as American's guests at Admirals Club facilities between flights when they are on emergency or Rest and Relaxation (R&R) leave from their overseas duties. This invitation for fr.ee access is extended through June 1, 2006, at all airports that do not have USO facilities. Eligible military personnel in appropriate uniform need only present their emergency or R&R leave forms from Operation Iraqi Free.dom or Operation Enduring Fre.edom to access an Admirals Club location. In addition, the Admirals Club welcomes family members and relatives accompanying military personnel who are part of Operation Iraqi Fr.eedom or Operation Enduring Fre.edom.

    American Airlines 800/433-7300.


    Fr.ee Museums in Denmark

    At the beginning of 2006, Denmark's state-run museums began a new policy, offering fr.ee admission to children and young people under 18-years-old. Additionally, there are museums that offer fr.ee admission to visitors. Some are fr.ee to all every day, some are fr.ee only on select days.

    Here is a partial list:

    Statens Museum for Kunst Fr.ee admission Wednesdays for the regular permanent collection. The Danish National gallery with the largest Danish collection of art. Highlights include Italian collection with works by Titian and Tintoretto; early Flemish art; 17th century Dutch paintings including Rubens and Rembrandt; and the French collection.

    Randers Kunstmuseum Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. The collection features mainly Danish visual arts from the1800s to the present time and some international contemporary art.

    The National Museum in Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. Denmark's National Museum has exhibitions from the Stone Age, Viking Period, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Modern Danish History.

    The Hirschsprung Collection in Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. The collection includes Danish 19th century art.

    Geological Museum Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. Features minerals from around the world, with an excellent meteorite collection, a piece of the moon brought home by Apollo 17, fossilized animals and plants. Display on the geology of Denmark, the Faroes and Greenland.

    Post & Tele Museum Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. In the heart of Copenhagen, the museum tells the story of Danish communications from the mail services of King Christian IV to computer telecommunications. The museum's roof-top cafe offers a splendid view of the towers of Copenhagen. Special exhibitions may require an admission fee.

    Thorvaldsen's Museum Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) donated his large art collection to Copenhagen in 1838. The museum primarily contains Thorvaldsen's sculptures and his large collection of paintings by contemporary European and Danish artists, and his collection of antiques. In July and August there are tours in English Sunday at 3 p.m.

    Frihedsmuseet Resistance Movement Museum Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. The museum illustrates the Danish resistance movement 1940 to 1945, and the rescue of Danish Jews. Outdoor cafe during the summer. May to mid-September fr.ee guided tours in English on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

    Royal Danish Arsenal Museum Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission Wednesdays. The museum's story begins with the construction of its central building by King Christian IV in 1598-1604, with the longest vaulted Renaissance hall in Northern Europe. The hand weapons collection dates from the Middle Ages to the present. There are armor, uniforms, banners, saddles, models and military equipment from the 19th century to today.

    City Museum of Copenhagen Kobenhavn Fr.ee admission. Depicts the history of Copenhagen from the Middle Ages to modern times. The museum also includes a small Soeren Kierkegaard collection and old street equipment.

    Fr.ee admission for children and young people.

    Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Humlebek -- on the North Zealand coast in a large old park with a view across the Oresund, the museum's collection of modern art includes Arp, Bacon, Calder, Max Ernst, Francis, Giacometti, Jorn, Kiefer, Moore, Picasso, Rauschenberg and Warhol.

    Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum Aalborg -- The museum of modern art houses a permanent collection of Danish and international art from 1900 to the present.

    Hans Christian Andersen Museum Odense -- The exhibitions provide an in depth look into Hans Christian Andersen and the world he lived in from 1805 to 1875.

    H.C. Andersen's Childhood Museum Odense -- The house where H.C. Andersen lived with his parents from 2 to 14, was opened as a museum in 1930.

    Silkeborg Art Museum Silkeborg -- The museum holds Asger Jorn`s collections of European art from the 20th century to 1970.

    The Viking Ship Museum Roskilde -- The permanent exhibition shows five Viking ships from the 11th century and tells about the Viking period, shipbuilding, and underwater archaeology.

    The Women's Museum Kvindemuseet i Danmark Arhus -- One of the few museums in the world devoted to the life, culture and history of women. The permanent exhibition examines key transition points: Motherhood and working life, servitude and learning, submissiveness and revolt, isolation and sisterhood.


    The Lighter Side of Flying

    For a little chuckle, we present the lighter side of flying. The following are accounts of actual exchanges between airline pilots and control towers from around the world.

    While taxiing, the crew of a US Airways flight departing for Ft. Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727. The irate female ground controller lashed out at the US Airways crew, screaming: "US Airways 2771, where are you going? I told you to turn right onto Charlie taxiway! You turned right on Delta! Stop right there. I know it's difficult for you to tell the difference between C's and D's, but get it right!"

    Continuing her tirade to the embarrassed crew, she was now shouting hysterically:

    "God, you've screwed everything up! It'll take forever to sort this out! You stay right there and don't move till I tell you to! You can expect progressive taxi instructions in about half an hour and I want you to go exactly where I tell you, when I tell you, and how I tell you! You got that, US Airways 2771?"

    "Yes ma'am," the humbled crew responded.

    Naturally the ground control frequency went terribly silent after the verbal bashing. Nobody wanted to engage the irate ground controller in her current state. Tension in every cockpit at the airport was running high. Then an unknown pilot broke the silence and asked, "Wasn't I married to you once?"

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The controller working a busy pattern told the 727 on downwind to make a 360, do a complete circle, a move normally used to provide spacing between aircraft. The pilot of the 727 complained, "Don't you know it costs us $2,000 to make even a 180 in this airplane?"

    Without missing a beat the controller replied, "Roger, give me $4,000 worth."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    A DC-10 had an exceedingly long rollout after landing with his approach speed a little high.

    San Jose Tower: "American 751 heavy, turn right at the end of the runway, if able. If not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101 and make a right at the light to return to the airport."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    It was a really nice day, right about dusk, and a Piper Malibu was being vectored into a long line of airliners in order to land at Kansas City.

    KC Approach: "Malibu three-two Charlie, you're following a 727, one o'clock and three miles."

    Three-two Charlie: "We've got him. We'll follow him."

    KC Approach: "Delta 105, your traffic to follow is a Malibu, eleven o'clock and three miles. Do you have that traffic?"

    Delta 105 (in a thick southern drawl, after a long pause): "Well -- I've got something down there. Can't quite tell if it's a Malibu or a Chevelle."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Tower: "Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7."

    Eastern 702: "Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway."

    Tower: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7. Did you copy that report from Eastern?"

    Continental 635: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern and we've already notified our caterers."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are a short-tempered lot. They expect one to know one's gate parking location and how to get there without assistance from them. So it was with amusement that we (American 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign "Speedbird 206":

    Speedbird 206: "Top of the morning, Frankfurt, Speedbird 206 clear of the active runway."

    Ground: "Guten Morgen. You vill taxi to your gate."

    The big British Airways 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.

    Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"

    Speedbird 206: "Stand by a moment, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."

    Ground (with arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, haff you never flown to Frankfurt before?"

    Speedbird 206 (coolly): Yes, I have, in 1944. In another type of Boeing, but just to drop something off. I didn't stop."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    O'Hare Approach Control: "United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o'clock, three miles, eastbound."

    United 239: "Approach, I've always wanted to say this: I've got that Fokker in sight."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    A727 flight engineer waiting for start clearance in Munich overheard the following:

    Lufthansa (in German): Ground, what is our start clearance time?"

    Ground (in English): "If you want an answer you must speak English."

    Lufthansa (in English): "I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak English?"

    Unknown voice (in a beautiful British accent): "Because you lost the bloody war".

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    Visit the U.K. for Less

    Here are several ways to get more value for your money when visiting Great Britain and the U.K.

    VisitBritain offers the Great British Heritage Pass providing American visitors with unlimited entry to more than 600 stately homes, castles and properties in England, Scotland and Wales. A four-day pass costs $50; seven-day $75; 15-day $95; and one month $130. They can be purchased in the U.S. at Brendan Worldwide Vacations or 800/421-8446.

    Icelandair Holidays offers "Fly and Hotel" packages to several locations. Their "London Fly and Hotel" package for travel through Mar. 31, 2006, starts at $439 per person. The package includes roundtrip airfare (excluding taxes) from New York, Baltimore and Boston (Orlando, Minneapolis and San Francisco $50 more), two nights' hotel accommodations (including taxes) and continental breakfast.

    "Manchester Fly & Hotel" package starts at $792 per person for travel in May, September and October 2006. The package includes roundtrip airfare (excluding taxes), three nights' hotel accommodations in Manchester, one night hotel accommodation in Reykjavic (capital of Iceland) and continental breakfast daily. Flights are from New York, Boston, Baltimore, Orlando, Minneapolis and San Francisco.

    The Glasgow "Fly and Hotel," valid through Mar. 28, 2006, starts at $525 per person and includes roundtrip airfare (excluding taxes) from New York, Baltimore and Boston (Orlando, Minneapolis and San Francisco at $50 more), two nights' hotel accommodations (including taxes) and Scottish breakfast.


    Universal Gold Pass for N.C. High Country

    Travelers to the N.C. High Country area of Boone, Blowing Rock, Banner Elk and Linville areas can get payback for visiting the scenic mountains. The new discount Universal Gold Pass card offers discounts for lodging, dining, shopping and recreational activities.

    Purchase the card online for $35 for an individual, $50 for a couple and $75 for a family. The card is good through Dec. 31, 2006. Cardholders will be reminded before the expiration date and given the opportunity to renew for 2007. According to founder Mike Kebelbeck, the card can pay for itself with the first night's lodging and dining.

    Discounts are available from more than 30 lodging choices and 20 restaurants that are listed online. The listing includes favorites such as Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock Stage Company, Lees-McCrae Summer Theatre, Westglow Spa, and Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway.

    For last minute trips, you can purchase the card online and have it waiting for you at your hotel

    Universal Gold Pass or 877/297-9995


    Yellowstone Early Bird Specials

    Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of lodges, restaurants, gift shops and activities in Yellowstone National Park, again offers its "Early Bird Specials" at four lodging facilities within the park when it opens for the 2006 summer season.

    The special rates represent a savings of up to 35 percent. Early Bird Specials are offered at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Grant Village and Lake Yellowstone Hotel. You must book your room by Apr. 1, 2006 to get the special rates.

    Early Bird Specials allow you to stay for as little as $49 per night for a room for single or double occupancy plus tax. Reduced rates and available dates are:

    Old Faithful Snow Lodge, May 5 to 11, $119 (lodge room)

    Grant Village, May 26 to June 1, $89 (motel room)

    Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, May 12 to18, $49 (room without private bathroom); $79 (hotel room); $199 (suite).

    Lake Yellowstone Hotel, May 19 to 25, $119 (backside hotel room)

    If you're looking for reduced rates, visit Yellowstone's web site for occasional unadvertised specials.

    Yellowstone reservations or 307/344-7311.


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    El Al Spring Fares to Israel

    HURRY, BUY BY MAR. 9, 2006 -- EL AL, Israel's national airline, offers savings on roundtrip airfares from the U.S. to Israel between Apr. 1, 2006 and June 15, 2006.

    To take advantage of spring fares, you need to purchase a roundtrip coach ticket by Mar. 9, 2006. Roundtrip fares from New York or Newark (including all fuel surcharges) start from $755; Chicago and Atlanta from $835; Miami from $875; and $935 from Los Angeles.

    EL AL U.S. Matmid Frequent Flyer members traveling to Tel Aviv can purchase roundtrip coach tickets (including fuel surcharges) for 500 Matmid points plus $499 from New York (JFK/Newark); $579 from Chicago; $619 from Miami (new nonstop service starts Mar. 28, 2006) and $679 from Los Angeles.

    As a bonus, if you want to travel on El Al's new nonstop service from Miami to Tel Aviv, a special roundtrip fare of $699 is available on Mar. 28 and Apr. 1, 2006, the first two flights of this new nonstop service.

    Spring fare tickets are valid six to21 days. Matmid tickets are valid six to 30 days and cannot be reserved or purchased on the Internet. There is a $50 surcharge for tickets issued within three days of a confirmed reservation. Both tickets incur up to $82 in government fees and taxes that are not included in the price.

    EL AL or 800/223-6700.



    Pay to Avoid Airport Security

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced parameters for a nationwide Registered Traveler (RT) program which will allow travelers who submit personal information, get fingerprinted and are given a security clearance, to bypass regular security lines and move through their own expedited checkpoints at participating airports. Participation is optional for airports and it is unclear how many will actually sign up. TSA approval of qualified RT programs is expected by June 2006.

    TSA will work with private sector companies to implement the RT programs. Registered Traveler program providers will collect 10 fingerprint images and personal data from each applicant which will be used to verify travelers at RT checkpoints. The company will submit the information to the government for security clearance where the TSA will conduct background checks, verify identity, check terrorism watch lists and criminal records. TSA hasn't specified how much personal data it will require. If cleared, travelers will receive a "smart card" verifying their identity. At the airport, participants will scan their card at a kiosk and then be admitted to a dedicated RT security lane. But participants may not be exempt from removing shoes and coats and separately sending laptops through X-ray machines. Participating in a RT program will be entirely voluntary and all RT data will be handled in compliance with the Federal Privacy Act.

    Prices will be determined by private sector providers and are estimated to be about $80 to $100 a year. A test program is running in Orlando, where 13,000 travelers are paying $79.95 a year for a separate security line.

    Registered Traveler applicants who believe they've been wrongly turned down or have had their eligibility revoked, will have the opportunity to seek redress. To facilitate the redress process, travelers may be asked to furnish additional information and/or documents.

    Since terrorists may wish to exploit the RT program, it may change from time to time to make it more difficult to anticipate security activities. The TSA will not exempt RT participants from random additional screening.

    TSA.



    40 Million Kids Eligible for Fr.ee Admission

    Universal Orlando Resort launched a new ticket offer. Now one child, up to and including nine-year-olds, will get fr.ee admission to Universal Orlando's theme parks with each two-day, multi-park pass, adult ticket their parents purchase online.

    The new Kids Fr.ee ticket is Universal Orlando's latest effort to create value, flexibility and convenience for families during their theme park vacation. The two-day, multi-park pass that adults must purchase to obtain a Kids Fr.ee ticket for their child is sold online for $99.95 (before tax). As with all its ticket and travel products, Universal Orlando may change details and availability at any time.

    As an extra bonus, you will receive an extra three days fr.ee for buying tickets online, making your ticket good for a total of five consecutive days. Kids Fr.ee is also available as part of Universal Orlando Resort vacation packages of three or more nights. The vacation package allows kids to stay fr.ee at Universal Orlando on- site or select an off-site hotel -- and to eat fr.ee within Universal's theme parks. Off-site packages begin at $239 per-adult; on-site packages begin at $449 per-adult. All tickets expire on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2006.

    Universal Orlando 800/682-3333.


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    Manitowoc Winter Getaways from $79

    Wisconsin's winter brings snow, cross country skiing and brisk winter walks to Manitowoc, about 90 minutes north of Milwaukee. But it also brings discounted vacation packages. Manitowoc inns, hotels and bed and breakfast lodges put together getaway packages that include pampering, shopping, and admissions to museums, art centers or special events that start from $79.95 for two.

    The "Magic Moments" package at the WestPort Bed & Breakfast includes one night in a whirlpool suite, gourmet breakfast, champagne and snacks in your room, and fresh roses from $195 for two.

    The "Enjoy Winter" package at the Manitowoc Comfort Inn includes a one night stay for two, two tickets to a show at the Capitol Civic Center, dinner for two and fr.ee continental breakfast for $99.95 plus tax.

    Winter Getaway for Two at the AmericInn Lodge & Suites includes one night in a whirlpool suite, pizza delivery, champagne and chocolates for $145.

    Escape the Cold at the Village Inn on the Lake with one night in a theme suite, in-room dinner for two, two fr.ee drinks and champagne at $150 per couple, $100 for each additional night.

    Winter Rejuvenation at the Holiday Inn includes one night stay for two, fresh flowers in guest rooms; fresh-squeezed juices, teas, assorted cheese, fresh fruit, and a nut tray; discounts at the salon and cook's shop; and a 30 minute massage at $159.95 per couple.

    Manitowoc Information or 800/627-4896.



    Stay 2 Times, Earn a Fr.ee Night

    This spring Choice Hotels Canada offers the "Stay 2 times, earn a fr.ee night" promotion to members of its Choice Privileges rewards program.

    With this promotion, you can qualify for a fr.ee night's lodging at more than 1,000 hotels after two separate stays at any Comfort, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion or MainStay Suites brand hotels in North America or any Econo Lodge or Rodeway Inn in Canada.

    To participate in the promotion, which runs through Apr. 15, 2006, you must be a member of the Choice Privileges rewards program. You can join at check-in or checkout, or online. Your stay will count toward the promotional fr.ee night.

    Stay on two separate occasions in Canada, the U.S., Caribbean or Mexico and receive bonus points. Along with points earned from the original two qualifying stays, the bonus will give you enough points to redeem a fr.ee night on a future stay at more than 1,000 Choice brand hotels throughout Canada, the U.S., Caribbean and Mexico.

    You can also use the points you earn during the promotion for room nights, airline miles, or gift certificates from nationally recognized retailers. Members can also can take advantage of special benefits such as express reservations, express check-in, fr.ee local phone calls and incoming faxes, fr.ee newspaper and extended checkout.

    Choice Privileges or 866/283-3510.



    $49 Roundtrip Bermuda Airfare

    The $49 roundtrip airfare to Bermuda from TNT Vacations makes the short (less than two hours from the East Coast) flight a most affordable ticket.

    Through Apr. 30, 2006, TNT's 189-passenger charter flight will fly from Boston and New York on Sundays and Thursdays, giving you a three-, four-, or seven-night stay in Bermuda.

    The low $49 roundtrip fare is available when booking a complete Bermuda travel package, which includes hotel accommodations, roundtrip airport and hotel transfers, hotel tax and service charges. Complete package rates begin at $399 for three nights, departing Thursdays. Departure taxes are additional.

    Prices are per person based on double occupancy for new bookings only and there is a late booking fee of $20 for all reservations made 14 days before departure.

    TNT's Bermuda travel packages are available at more than a dozen Bermuda resorts, including: Ariel Sands; Aunt Nea's Inn; Cambridge Beaches; CoCo Reef; Elbow Beach; Fairmont Hamilton Princess; Fairmont Southampton; Grape Bay Beach Hotel; Grotto Bay Beach Resort & Tennis Club; Harmony Club; Pompano Beach Club; Surf Side Beach Club; and Wyndham Bermuda Resort & Spa.

    TNT Vacations or 888/GOTNTGO.



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    New D.C. Transportation

    The new D.C. Circulator transit system links cultural, entertainment and business destinations within the city's central core.

    The Circulator's buses have low floors, big windows and multiple doors for easy on-and-off service. Buses run daily every five to 10 minutes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

    The Circulator takes you where you want to go. The following cultural and entertainment venues are within a couple blocks of the route: Union Station, downtown, the National Mall, the SW Waterfront, K Street/Golden Triangle and Georgetown.

    The regular fare is a modest $1, senior and disabled riders go fr.ee with a Metrorail transfer, students ride fr.ee with a DC Student Travel Card and a Metrobus or Circulator transfer is 50 cents.

    There are five ways to pay. If you have exact change, pay cash at the front door. Tap your SmarTrip card on the fare machine. Transfer from Metrobus or between Circulator buses for f.ree. Purchase tickets at the fare meter or multi-space parking meter on the sidewalk. Machines accept change or credit cards (no dollar bills) and make change. Pay before you ride with change or a credit card to buy a Circulator ticket fro multi-space meters at 13 Circulator stops. Or use all-day passes.

    To make boarding and exiting fast and hassle-fr.ee, the Circulator operates on the honor system. You may board through any of the three doors, but be sure to pay the fare. When entering though the middle doors, walk to the front and pay the driver, or simply hold up your ticket or transfer for the driver to view in his rear view mirror.

    Be sure to hold onto your proof of payment (ticket, transfer, pass, or deducted SmarTrip card) while riding the Circulator. Fare checkers board at random stops and times throughout the day to verify that you have paid for your Circulator ride. There's a hefty fine for scofflaws who don't pay.

    D.C. Circulator.


    Hotel Jerome Spring Special

    Aspen's Hotel Jerome celebrates spring with a reduced room rate of $125 per night from Apr. 17 through May 23, 2006. This represents a savings of up to $140 per night, based on dates booked. Rates include deluxe room accommodations and a free shuttle to and from the Aspen Airport.

    Additionally, the Hotel Jerome partnered with the Aspen Club & Spa to offer a "Mountain Therapy" package available Apr. 17 to May 31, 2006, Priced at $215, the one-night package provides king accommodations and one 50-minute massage. Package participants also receive free access to Aspen Club & Spa's 77,000-square-foot facility including the health & fitness center, classes and locker room area.

    The Hotel Jerome is in the heart of downtown Aspen, steps away from boutiques, galleries, restaurants and nightlife.

    Hotel Jerome or 800/331-7213.



    Up, Up, and Away: Balloon Festivals in New Mexico -- story and photos by Kay Douglas

    Ever dream of gently floating above the earth in a colorful hot air balloon? Your chances of this dream becoming a reality are probably better in New Mexico than any other place in the world. With plenty of wide-open spaces, dazzling blue skies, and an excellent climate, New Mexico is an aeronaut's delight. Home to the world's largest and most prestigious balloon festival, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico also hosts numerous other ballooning events throughout the year. You can find a balloon rally going on just about every month of the year, and, since cold temperatures mean easier lifts in a hot air balloon, what might be considered "off season" travel months are "in season" months for ballooning.

    With more than 200 balloons participating, Gallup's Red Rock Balloon Rally is the second largest balloon festival in the world. This all-volunteer rally held the first week of December is a spectator friendly event, offering splendid canyon-top views of balloons in flight and open access to the staging field for observing the preparations for mass ascent. I recently attended this rally and came away impressed by the friendliness of the local people, the camaraderie among the balloonists, and the scenic red rock canyon setting.

    Of course, the goal of many balloon festival attendees is to take a ride in a balloon, and there are a number of ways to arrange this. Commercial balloon rides can be scheduled at costs ranging from $120 to $200 at most events, but another way to hitch a ride is by volunteering as a balloon chase team crew member. Each pilot needs several able-bodied helpers to assemble the equipment, prepare for launch, retrieve the balloon after landing, and perform other essential tasks. In exchange for this "sweat equity," there's a good chance of getting a balloon ride in return.

    Arriving at Red Rock State Park not long after dawn on the last day of the Gallup rally, I felt at loose ends watching balloon crews arriving on the staging field. Morning is prime ballooning time, as winds are generally calm and conditions are most stable. Many rallies begin with a "Dawn Patrol" -- a few balloons, which are specially lit to be visible in the dark, go aloft to check wind conditions. While it might not seem windy on the ground, there might well be fast moving air currents at higher elevations. Sometimes these dawn patrol "test pilots" find unwelcome surprises as they ascend.

    As I stood watching the dawn patrol, I fell into conversation with Bucky Stansberry, parts manager for Gallup's local Ford dealership, Gurley Motor Company. His company was sponsoring an Albuquerque-based pilot, Jeff Dodd, during the rally. When I mentioned that I'd hoped to get a chance to take a balloon ride, Bucky offered to introduce me to Jeff, who was just starting to assemble his balloon "Shazzam!" a few yards away. All it took was a word from Bucky and I was "in."

    Trying to be helpful but not get in the way was the name of the game for the next hectic hour as I watched Jeff's crew ready the balloon. The balloon envelope, laid out on a tarp, was attached to the wicker basket, and then, once all the ropes were in proper order, cold air was blown with a large, powerful fan into the open "throat" of the balloon. Once Jeff was sure that the folds of the heat-resistant rip-stock nylon envelope were properly positioned, a propane burner was used to heat the fanned air, and the envelope gradually began to lift. When the balloon was upright, Jeff signaled for me and two other crew members to climb in the gondola. Then, before I knew it, we were aloft.

    Those first few minutes were both marvelous and terrifying. Keeping a tight grip on one of the large ropes attached to the gondola, I was almost afraid to move. A distant childhood memory of an unhappy ride in a Ferris wheel surfaced, and I relived the moment when my older brother gleefully rocked the car as I wailed helplessly in protest. But "Shizzam!" felt reassuringly steady as we smoothly ascended, and, gradually I loosened my death grip on the gondola and began to breathe.

    Balloon RallyThere is nothing quite like the sensation of flying in a hot air balloon. For one thing, the pilot does not so much control the direction of the flight as adjust its altitude. The wind currents vary depending on altitude, but since the balloon and its passengers are moving with the air current at all times rather than against it, there's no sensation of turbulence. I felt in good hands, too, with 30-year-veteran pilot Jeff in control. What amazed me, though, was that even with his extensive flight experience, Jeff seemed as enthusiastic and appreciative of the spectacular views as this first timer.

    Ahead of us the prominent spire of Church Rock glowed vibrant orange-red in the morning sun, while the depths of the canyons still lay deep in shadow. Above, below, and all around us were dozens of colorful balloons, some within hailing distance. We passed one brave (or foolish) fellow suspended in a harness from a balloon. Other balloonists were making landings on the tops of mesas or descending into canyons. Since the sandstone walls of Red Rock Park's canyons are smooth, a balloon can usually brush right up against them without harm. In fact, Gallup balloonists often enjoy "turtling," or bumping and rolling the balloon gently along the sides of a canyon.

    I had beginner's luck, it seemed. "That was THE best flight I've ever had here," Jeff later proclaimed. I had no basis for comparison, but I knew one thing: I was hooked.

    Balloons taking off near spire of Church RockWhether you're flying at a balloon rally or keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground, don't forget to bring your camera along. There are few events as photogenic as a balloon rally, and each of New Mexico's festivals offers a distinct setting. While Gallup's is set among red rock canyons, other festivals in the state, such as the White Sands Balloon Invitational, feature equally dramatic backdrops. In the case of the White Sands rally, the contrast between the dazzlingly white dunes of Alamogordo and the brightly colored balloons is striking. Another not-to-be-missed photo op occurs at balloon glows, nighttime events featuring tethered balloons picturesquely lit by the warm yellow glow of their propane burners.

    While hot air ballooning can be an expensive hobby, it needn't be a costly proposition for onlookers and crew members. Some festivals charge small entrance fees -- $6 in the case of Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta or $5 for parking at Gallup's Red Rock Park, but many balloon festival activities such as special evening musical events and dances, parades, and fireworks displays are fr.ee. Gallup's rally, for example, featured a rare public performance of the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers as well as a parade, a footrace, a youth day, and balloon glows. Since Gallup is located on historic Rt. 66, there were plenty of reasonably priced motels in the area, not to mention space at RV parks and campgrounds. This is the general case in New Mexico, I have found. While there are upscale resorts scattered throughout the state, particularly around Santa Fe and Taos, budget to mid-priced rooms at national chains such as Comfort Inn and Super 8, and smaller family-run establishments, are more the norm. In the case of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, there's an online booking system linked to the festival's website to assist with hotels and other travel arrangements (http://www.nmtravel.com/bfres/).

    Part of free parade during Red Rock RallyWhen it comes to New Mexico, it's important not to confuse "inexpensive" with "cheap." For example, a "Navajo taco," layers of beans, ground beef, cheese, sauce, and onions piled onto freshly prepared traditional fry bread, may only cost a few dollars, but it's as satisfying and tasty as more expensive fare. Then there are New Mexico's trading posts, which are a bargain-hunter's paradise. Navajo rugs, Zuni jewelry, and many other finely crafted objects are found at far more reasonable prices than elsewhere. There's even the opportunity to buy directly from the artisans at places such as Earl's Restaurant in Gallup, where Native Americans set tables up alongside the building to sell their wares.

    If you travel to New Mexico by plane, you'll probably arrive at Albuquerque's Sunport Airport. While you're in the area, consider visiting the new Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, housing one of the largest collections of ballooning equipment and memorabilia in the world. The 59,000-square-foot museum, which just opened last October, provides a fine introduction to the fascinating world of ballooning.

    BALLOON FESTIVALS IN NEW MEXICO
  • Mesilla Valley Balloon Rally, Las Cruces, 3rd weekend in January
  • Friends and Lovers Rally, Albuquerque, 2nd weekend in February
  • St. Patrick's Day Rallye, Los Lunas, 3rd weekend in March
  • NM State & NABA SW Regional Hot Air Balloon Championships, Albuquerque, Memorial Day weekend
  • Farmington Balloon Festival, Farmington Memorial Day weekend
  • Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally, Raton, 1st weekend in July
  • Angel Fire Balloon Rally, Angel Fire, 3rd weekend in July
  • Deming Duck Races Balloon Rally, Deming, 4th weekend in August
  • Santa Ana Blue Corn Harvest Festival, Santa Ana Pueblo, Labor Day weekend
  • White Sands Balloon Invitational, Alamogordo, 2nd weekend in September
  • Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, 1st week in October
  • Taos Mountain Balloon Rally, 4th weekend in October
  • Socorro Balloon Rally, 4th weekend in November
  • Red Rock Balloon Rally, Gallup, 1st weekend in December
  • Jingle Bells Rally, Rio Rancho, 2nd weekend in December
  • The Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum
  • New Mexico Visitor's Center.



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