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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, May 2008 Issue



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


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In This Issue:
Osprey Nest, Atchafalaya Swamp, Louisiana

Osprey Nest

  • Rosen Plaza Special for Military Personnel
  • NY Explorer Pass Adds Attractions
  • Think Jolly Family Special
  • Perillo Tours Free Airfare to Italy
  • Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Dive In Days
  • Kids Stay, Play & Eat Fre.e This Summer
  • Health Tips to Ease Family Travel
  • More Bang with St. Maarten Bucks Promotion
  • Virgin Islands Sizzling Summer Sampler
  • First Friday Sedona
  • Carnival Europe Cruise/Air from $2,399
  • Bald Head Island Discount Packages
  • HolyPass Jerusalem
  • AirTran "Fly Fr.ee Till You're 23" Sweepstakes
  • Disney Spring Booking Offer
  • New Hampshire Gas & Money-Saving Deals
  • United Vacations Endless Exploration Sweepstakes
  • Warm Welcome in Cajun Country by Kay Douglas
  • Summer Rates at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

  • Rosen Plaza Special for Military Personnel

    In a show of continued support for America's military, the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando offers a reduced room rate from $89 per night for active duty and retired military personnel through Dec. 26, 2008. When booking, request the MIL rate.

    To take advantage of this offer, you must present a valid military ID upon check-in. The rate is subject to availability, does not include tax and gratuities and cannot be used by groups or meeting attendees.

    The 800-room Rosen Plaza is located on International Drive across the street from Pointe Orlando's dining and entertainment complex. Four on-site restaurants include a café that's open 24 hours and serves sandwiches and snacks.

    Resort amenities include an outdoor heated pool and whirlpool, spa and fitness center. A live band plays nightly at the nightclub. The Shingle Creek Golf Club is minutes away and offers fr.ee transportation and preferred tee times for hotel guests.

    Rosen Plaza or 800/627-8258.


    NY Explorer Pass Adds Attractions

    The New York City Explorer Pass adds 12 new attractions. With the addition, you now have a choice of 29 attractions, allowing you to mix and match attractions and customize your vacation.

    The Explorer Pass is an easy-to-carry smart card, used as a ticket for your choice of admission to three, five, or seven attractions. The pass eliminates the need for paperwork and coupons.

    Adult Explorer passes start at $69.99 and child Explorer Passes at $42.99. Passes are valid for 30 days, so you have plenty of time to see the attractions while in New York City. The Explorer Pass also allows you to skip the ticket line at several attractions, so you can spend more time exploring and less time waiting in line.

    Explorer Pass attractions includes the NBC Studio Tour, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim Museum, Madame Tussauds, Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour, Madison Square Garden, Bike and Roll Bike Tours, Lincoln Center Tour, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Sports Museum of America.

    New York City Explorer Pass or 800/887-9103.


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    Think Jolly Family Special

    Jolly Beach Resort & Spa, an all-inclusive resort in Antigua, wants you to Think Jolly.

    For the summer season, to celebrate the new Jolly Teen Club program, the child rate extends up to the age of 16, and one child stays fre.e per family as part of the Think Jolly Family Special.

    The special offers a 15 percent discount off regular adult rates for queen superior rooms, one child stays f,ree and a second child, age three to 16 years old, pays the child rate of $54 per night when sharing the room with two adults. Kids under three stay fr,ee at Jolly Beach Resort & Spa all the time.

    Book the Think Jolly Family Special and pay $175 per adult, per night, all-inclusive based on double occupancy. Bookings must be made by June 15, 2008 for travel through Dec. 20, 2008. Specify booking code JOLLYFAM.

    The Think Jolly Family Special discount may not be combined with any other promotional offers, it is not valid on the child rate or third and fourth person rates and applies to new bookings only. The sale is subject to change without notice.

    All-inclusive rates include accommodations; all taxes; all meals, snacks and afternoon tea; house brand beverages; non-motorized watersports; activities; use of the gym and entertainment. All rooms are air-conditioned and face the ocean; each has a patio or balcony, direct- dial phone, cable TV, hair-dryer and rentable safe.

    The resort added games to its Jolly Kidz Club and created a new Jolly Teen Club for the 13 to 16 year-old set. The new Jolly Kidz Club boasts a playground with slides, swings and sand pit. Activities include hula hoop contests, dodge ball, aqua aerobics, Caribbean story time, table tennis, bingo, board games, nature walks and seashell hunts. The new Jolly Kidz Club features a mini arcade, a "dream room" for disco and movie nights.

    For parents wanting “alone time,” daytime and evening baby-sitting is available at an additional cost.

    The 464-room Jolly Beach Resort & Spa sits on 40 acres of gardens overlooking a white sand beach. The resort sports five bars, dining options from super casual to tropical chic, a cyber cafe, four tennis courts lit for night play, two swimming pools, Jacuzzi, swim-up bar and water sports.

    Jolly Beach Resort & Spa or 866/905-6559.



    Perillo Tours Free Airfare to Italy

    Perillo Tours, a tour operator that specializes in travel to Italy, offers free roundtrip airfare from New York's JFK to Rome, Bologna and Palermo aboard EuroFly airlines. The flights must be booked by June 1, 2008, in conjunction with select Perillo tours and specific departure dates.

    The free air must be used in conjunction with the following Perillo Italy tours and their specified departure dates:

    • Vesuvius Tour: departs July 27, 2008,10 days to Rome, Florence and Naples.
    • South & Sicily Tour: departs July 30, 2008, 14 days to Palermo, Taormina, Naples and Rome.
    • Aristocrat Tour: departs Aug. 19, 2008, 11 days to Venice, Florence and Rome.

    A nominal fuel surcharge and departure taxes are not included.

    Perillo Tours or 800/431-1515.



    Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Dive In Days

    This summer relax at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess as the resort presents its Dive-In Days package.

    Designed for families, the resort’s Dive In Days package features accommodations, a $100 daily food and beverage credit, fr.ee access to the Kid’s Club for children ages five to 12 and f.ree access to the teen Hang Out.

    Offered May 16 through Sep. 7, 2008, the package starts at $249 per room, per night, based on availability.

    The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, in Scottsdale, AZ, offers amenities designed for families. The resort’s 6,000 square-foot children’s pool and recreation area called Sonoran Splash features two nearly 200-foot water slides, a sandbox play area, wade-in swimming pool for small children and its own snack bar. The Hang Out, a teen-only zone, has a Sony listening station, popular films on DVD, lounge with sleek leather couches, XBOX stations and Cyber Café.

    The fr-ee, daily Kid’s Club features a mix of structured activities such as catch-and-release fishing in the resort’s lagoon to play time and arts-and-crafts at the Kid’s Club Headquarters - all under the supervision of certified counselors.

    In addition, the resort offers Dive In Movies at its main pool each Friday and Saturday evening during the summer months and a host of lawn games ranging from badminton to croquet.

    Fairmont Scottsdale Princess or 800/257-7544.


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    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.


    Kids Stay, Play & Eat Fre.e This Summer

    Elite Island Resorts rolls out the red carpet for families this summer in the Caribbean Island of Antigua at two family-friendly, all-inclusive, oceanfront Caribbean resorts.

    At the St. James's Club & Villas and the Verandah Resort & Spa, kids under 12 stay, play and eat fre,e while their parents enjoy the Instant Savings promotion of 15 percent on stays between May and June, 2008, and 20 percent savings July through Aug. 15, 2008.

    Both resorts cater to families with spacious accommodations and dedicated f*ree kids’ club programs and multi-generational activities so parents and kids can have fun together.

    The Stay and Dine Fr-ee summer special allows one child to stay and dine fre*e per adult when sharing the same accommodations, with a maximum of two adults and two children per room. The 15 or 20 percent savings are deducted from the resorts' summer 2008 all-inclusive published rates, based on double occupancy, which start at $495 per night for the Verandah and $520 per night for St. James's Club. Rates include all food, beverages, room accommodations, activities, non motorized water sports, taxes and gratuities.

    The Verandah Resort & Spa is an eco-friendly resort with two beaches and a cove protected bay. Its 700-square foot suites comfortably sleep four; larger families can book a second adjacent suite at a 50 percent savings.

    The St. James's Club & Villas is on a secluded 100-acre peninsula with two white-sand beaches.

    Elite Island Resorts or 800/345-0356.


    Health Tips to Ease Family Travel

    As the warm-weather approaches, many families make vacation plans. And while these trips can be fun, they can also be stressful, especially when it comes to dealing with unexpected health issues.

    Stephen Park, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, says that parents can alleviate this stress by preparing for health situations before they take off on their next family getaway.

    “We as parents pay a lot of attention to things like packing toys and packing clothes, but sometimes we don’t pay as much attention to preparing for potential or anticipated health issues,” explains Park.

    He offers these health tips for families planning their next trip:

    Create a travel kit. “One of the first things I think we can do as parents is to take along the essentials. You can develop a travel health kit that you can use not only to travel, but to have around the house and use for local travel,” says Park.

    The kit should include medicines that a child takes regularly and preparatory medicines for sudden ailments, such as congestion or a rash. Park recommends packing a fever reducer, an antihistamine, bandages and a topical antibiotic ointment. He does not generally recommend packing an anti-diarrhea medicine for “travelers’ diarrhea,” which is often associated with traveling overseas. Instead, he suggests consulting your regular physician to learn about antibiotics that treat bacterial infections that can cause diarrhea.

    Park also encourages parents to consider various factors of the vacation, such as the destination’s climate, as they pack their health kit. Going somewhere sunny? Bring plenty of sunscreen and aloe vera to relieve the pain of sunburns. Don’t forget the insect repellent, netting and poison ivy treatments if you anticipate spending much time outdoors.

    Prepare for your mode of transportation. Sometimes the traveling itself can cause the most headaches for parents. One main problem with air travel is that children’s ears are particularly sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. Park recommends feeding a small child during take-off and landing to generate a suck and swallow motion that will help alleviate ear pain. Older children can chew gum or blow bubbles for relief. He also advises sitting in the middle of the plane over the wings if a child is prone to motion sickness.

    When traveling by car Park says that the best way to avoid motion sickness is through prevention. Discourage children from reading in the car or looking down. Tell them to focus their eyes on a point in front of them if they begin to feel ill.

    Research. As you make travel plans, find out the location of the closest urgent care center, night-time care center and emergency room. Park notes that many hotels coordinate with local health care providers, and some resorts offer health care services on site or within a complex nearby. Be sure to bring the phone number of your regular physician with you in case you need any medical questions answered by phone, he advises.

    Be patient. Traveling throws off normal routines, which can often leave a child and parent a bit grumpy. Park says parents should mentally prepare themselves for the fact that children may act out as they transition to traveling.

    “One of the biggest concerns of parents when they are traveling with children is not so much about health, but about behavior,” he explains. “Parents need to relax as much as possible and plan ahead. Anticipate that children may be a little off while traveling, so be patient with routines.”

    With your plans made and your health travel kit in tow, you are on your way to a trip that will be a bit less stressful, Park says.

    “Traveling with children can be some of the most fun a family can have in growing as a family and spending that time together to see the world around us,” says Park. “By preparing a first aid kit, addressing health needs in advance and having a plan in case you need to seek health care services while you’re away, some pressure is taken off and a family can just have a great time.”



    More Bang with St. Maarten Bucks Promotion

    At Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino and Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino, in St. Maarten, Netherlands, Antilles, you can hit the jackpot with St. Maarten Bucks. As part of the island-wide promotion, you can get up to $100 in St. Maarten Bucks and two fr=ee nights at either resort through Dec. 15, 2008.

    Book a five-night stay at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino or Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino and receive the fifth night f.ree, plus $50 in St. Maarten Bucks to spend on purchases at participating restaurants, activities and car rentals. You can also earn two nights fr,ee with every seven-night booking and receive $100 in St. Maarten Bucks.

    Rates at both resorts, through Dec. 19, 2008, begin at $150 per night. Rates are room only and are subject to 21 percent tax and surcharge. All-inclusive rates are also available.

    The St. Maarten Bucks program was developed by the St. Maarten Tourist Office. St. Maarten Bucks must be redeemed prior to their expiration date and cannot be used for accommodations, room charges or incidentals. They cannot be exchanged for cash and no change is given for purchases of less than the face value. You cannot combine this offer with other promotions and black out dates apply.

    St. Maarten Bucks or 800/223-0757.


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    Face-It Luggage Tags -- Your Face on Your Luggage
    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.



    Virgin Islands Sizzling Summer Sampler

    The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism wants you to experience St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas while taking advantage of the savings offered with the Sizzling Summer Sampler.

    Encouraging longer visits with a fre-e fifth night and a $50 to $100 resort credit, the package is designed to entice you to explore the sites, flavors and culture of America’s Caribbean with a $50 gift card, plus up to $200 in savings on included activities, tours and extras.

    The Sizzling Summer Sampler is valid for bookings made through Oct. 15, 2008, for travel through Oct. 15, 2008, based on a five-night minimum stay. More than 20 hotels and resorts are participating in the program.

    The Sizzling Summer Sampler applies to new bookings only. Reservations can be made through a number of tour operators, including BookIt.com, Vacation Outlet, Vacation Express, Funjet Vacations, Spirit Vacations, United Vacations, Delta Vacations, Future Vacations, Continental Airlines Vacations, CheapCaribbean.com, Travelocity, TNT Vacations, LIBGO Travel, US Airways Vacations, Travel Impressions, Classic Vacations and Total Vacations.

    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. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.

    U.S. Virgin Islands.



    First Friday Sedona

    In Sedona, AZ, on the first Friday of each month, members of the Sedona Gallery Association offer a fr.ee showcase highlighting artists, special exhibits and art events. First Friday takes place from 5 to 8 p.m.

    These receptions give locals and visitors the opportunity to begin their weekend with an exploration of Sedona's art scene. For your convenience, the Sedona Trolley provides fr,ee transportation from art gallery to art gallery.

    Sedona Gallery Association.


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    Protect Your 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 from On The Go Publishing.


    Carnival Europe Cruise/Air from $2,399

    For people wanting a more affordable way to see Europe this summer, Carnival Cruise Lines offers special cruise/air packages for its 12-day "Grand Mediterranean" and "Mediterranean, Greece & Turkey" cruises aboard the 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom. Rates start at $2,399 per person. Rates are based on interior accommodations for select departure dates. Special rates for third and fourth guests sailing in the same stateroom and pre- and post-cruise land stays in Rome are also available.

    The special rates are available from nearly 40 North American gateway cities for eight "Grand Mediterranean" and "Mediterranean, Greece & Turkey" voyages departing June through August. Both itineraries operate roundtrip from Rome.

    Cruises depart June 3, 15 and 27, July 9 and 21 and Aug. 2, 14 and 26, 2008.

    The Carnival Freedom features 22 lounges and bars, four swimming pools, a 13,300-square-foot spa, 100 percent "bow-to-stern" wireless Internet access, cell phone service and "Carnival's Seaside Theatre," a 270-square-foot LED screen displaying movies, concerts and other programs.

    A variety of formal and casual dining options - including twin two-level main dining rooms, a reservations-only supper club and a 1,400-seat casual eatery with 24-hour pizza and ice cream are available. Organized activities for kids are available in three age groups, including "Camp Carnival" for kids two to 11, "Circle C" for 12- to 14-year olds and "Club O2" for older teens.

    Carnival Cruise Lines or 800/CARNIVAL.



    Bald Head Island Discount Packages

    Bald Head Island LTD offers discounted vacation packages for spring and summer stays in one of their island homes on Bald Head Island, N.C. Accommodations range from beachfront cottages to grand homes in the maritime forest. Book a vacation by May 31, 2008, and get seven nights for the price of five, or four nights for the price of three on vacations taken through June 12, 2008, or from Sep. 1 to Oct. 31, 2008.

    For shorter getaways, reserve a Sunday to Wednesday night stay in "The Elements," four studio-style cottages located in Harbour Village, and receive a 20 percent discount on the regular rates.

    Located two miles off the southeastern coast of North Carolina and accessible only by boat, Bald Head Island has no cars, 14 miles of beaches, 10,000 acres of maritime forest, winding tidal creeks and a vast salt marsh. Open to the public, the island includes a 10-acre marina and a championship golf course.

    The Bald Head Island web site is regularly updated with additional discounts on select accommodations.

    Bald Head Island or 800/973-8309.



    HolyPass Jerusalem

    Seeing more museums and attractions for less money is the goal of HolyPass Jerusalem. The pass provides admission to five sites in the Old City. You can choose two main attractions out of six possibilities, and three additional sites from 11 other options. In addition, the HolyPass comes with a pocket-size travel guide and entitles you to discounts at area shops and restaurants that display the HolyPass symbol.

    HolyPass is an electronic smart card, valid for one week, that’s activated once you use it at the first tourist site. It costs $25 for adults and $13 for children. You may purchase it at select tourist sites, Jerusalem hotels, the tourism office inside Jaffa Gate and through travel agents. HolyPass group cards are also available for purchase online.

    HolyPass Jerusalem.



    Advertisement
    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 Publishing’s 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.

    AirTran "Fly F-ree Till You're 23" Sweepstakes

    AirTran Airways’ AirTran U, a standby program for travelers between the ages of 18 and 22, offers two f,ree roundtrip flights per quarter until your 23rd birthday with the Fly F.ree Till You're 23 sweepstakes. You can enter online until June 9, 2008. The winner will be chosen through a random drawing on or about June 12, 2008. No purchase is necessary to enter or win

    To be eligible for the Fly F-ree Till You're 23 sweepstakes, you must provide your AirTran Airways A+ Rewards number, from the airline's frequent flier program. Registration for A+ Rewards is f=ree. Each quarter, AirTran Airways will deposit 32 A+ Rewards credits (equaling two roundtrip flights) into the winner's A+ Rewards account. If the winner is 18 years old at time of entry, he or she will receive the final quarterly prize in January 2013.

    AirTran U's regular curriculum is simple: Travelers aged 18 to 22 can arrive at any AirTran Airways ticket counter and purchase a coach standby seat for $69 to $89 per flight. By enrolling in A+ Rewards, you can earn a half A+ Rewards credit for each segment -- defined as one takeoff and one landing -- when you fly through the AirTran U standby program. Eight A+ Rewards credits can be redeemed for a one-way AirTran Airways flight.

    AirTran U.


    Disney Spring Booking Offer

    Adventures by Disney has a spring booking deal which offers savings of up to $650 per adult and $600 per child when you book select adventures through May 31, 2008.

    Destinations included in the offer (subject to availability):

    Grande Espana - Madrid, Seville, Barcelona - eight nights. From the capital to the countryside, experience the cultural traditions of Spain.

    Taste of Tuscany - Rome, Tuscany - six nights. Privately guided visits in Rome and experience the Tuscan countryside in a villa with a family cooking lesson taught by an authentic Italian chef.

    Path to Pura Vida - Costa Rica; San Jose, Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Quepos - six nights. Experience the Costa Rican rainforest by walking, rafting and zip-lining plus quality time at a beautiful beach.

    Spirit of America - Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Washington D.C. - seven nights. Celebrate America’s heritage and explore iconic and educational landmarks.

    Imperial Cities - Vienna, Prague, Salzburg - seven nights. Private tours of Eastern Europe's rich baroque cities.

    Backstage Magic - Hollywood, Disneyland Resort -- five nights. Private access to some of Hollywood’s most famous destinations and behind the scenes VIP tours of the Disneyland Resort.

    Adventures by Disney or 877/728-7282.



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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 Gas & Money-Saving Deals

    New Hampshire lodgings, restaurants and attractions have come up with frugal Yankee deals to save money and gas.

    Here are a few current deals. Check New Hampshire Travel & Tourism web site as it continuously updates its money-saving deals.

    In Bradford, the Candlelite Inn’s , 888/812-5571, midweek package pays for the gas. On two-night stays, Sunday through Thursday, the discount is $25; for more than two nights’ stay, the discount is $10 per night.

    Book five nights or more and save 20 percent at any combination of Appalachian Mountain Club, 603/466-2727, huts or lodges, Sunday through Friday. Kid’s First Adventure at Lonesome Lake is 12 percent off Sunday to Friday nights. Pick 3 and Save gives a 10 percent discount at the Highland Center or Joe Dodge Lodge, and 12 percent off at the Huts. The 50+ Midweek Spring special, available Sunday through Thursday for anyone 50 years and older, starts at $87 per member, per night, for private rooms at Highland Lodge and includes lodging; dinner, lunch, breakfast, daily programs, and fr=ee use of gear from the LL Bean Gear Room.

    Attitash Grand Summit Hotel, 800/223-7669, has a Tax ReFUNd deal of 50 percent off every third night when booking three nights or more in May, June and July.

    Waterville Valley Resort’s, 800/GO-VALLEY, “Summer Unlimited” package, ranging from $130 to $145 per night, represents a 50 percent saving for families who take full advantage of the fun: boating, mountain biking, tennis, golf, a scenic chair lift ride up Snow’s Mountain, and access to the Waterville Valley Recreation’s open gym program. One fr.ee day of Kids Camp for children ages six to12 when families stay three nights or more.

    Seven Maples Campground, 603/525-3321, in Hancock offers a third night fr,ee when you book two consecutive nights.

    Colonel Spencer Inn, 603/536-1755, in Campton offers a mid-week bonus: 10 percent off any two consecutive nights, Sunday through Thursday; 15 percent off four consecutive nights.

    The 2008 White Mountains Attractions Value Pass, 800/FIND-MTS, allows two adult admissions to all 16 major attractions in the White Mountains. At $295, the pass has a value of more than $650. The card is transferable, but not for resale.

    New Hampshire Travel & Tourism Development.



    United Vacations Endless Exploration Sweepstakes

    United Vacations launched its biggest sweepstakes to date; Pacific Paradise meets Endless Exploration Sweepstakes.

    Hawaii and Canada bring the best of both worlds, giving you the opportunity to win one of nine vacation packages valued at more than $40,000. Anyone over the age of 21 may enter to win by June 30, 2008.

    Each vacation package in the giveaway has a theme tied to a destination. Grand prize themes in Hawaii include:

    Romance - roundtrip airfare for two to Maui, five nights at Sheraton Maui Hotel & Resort, one "Dinner Under the Stars" package and a Royal Lahaina Lu'au for two.

    Family - roundtrip airfare for four to O'ahu, five nights at Outrigger Reef, one dinner for four, one breakfast for four and a Honolulu Power Pass for four.

    Adventure - roundtrip airfare for two to the Big Island, five nights at Hilton Waikoloa Village, submarine dive for two

    Rejuvenation - roundtrip airfare for two to Kaua'i, five nights at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, spa treatments and a snorkeling trip for two

    Culture - roundtrip airfare for two to O'ahu, five nights at Waikiki Marriott Resort & Spa, admission and transportation to the Polynesian Cultural Center, passes to Iolani Palace and Bishops Museum.

    Canada - Culinary - roundtrip airfare for two to Montréal, three nights at Fairmont Queen Elizabeth.

    Canada - Relaxation - roundtrip airfare for two to Banff , two night stay The Fairmont Banff Springs, one night at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, $100 spa credit at Banff Springs.

    Canada - Adventure - roundtrip airfare for two to Jasper, three night stay at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, breakfast during stay.

    Canada - Culture - roundtrip airfare for two to Québec City, three night stay at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, dinner for two

    United Vacations or 888/854-3899.


    Warm Welcome in Cajun Country - - photos and article by Kay Douglas

    Acadian VillageIn a world of increasingly homogenized travel experiences, it’s reassuring to find an area where the traditional culture is as authentic as it is warmhearted. Welcome to Lafayette, the heart of Cajun Country. A cultural resurgence that began back in the 1960s in this once isolated area of southern Louisiana continues strong today. In fact, the local people exhibit an almost evangelical urge to share their unique francophone culture with visitors.

    My first inkling of this came when we stopped at the Tourist Information Center on the Evangeline Throughway on our way into Lafayette. This is an excellent place to get a quick orientation. When I mentioned my interest in Cajun and Zydeco music to the lanky retiree manning the desk, he whipped out a map and marked it as he gave me a quick run-down of the best places to hear live music. As the map filled with penned notations, I realized I’d have no shortage of places to two-step that weekend – or to eat, for that matter, as eating and dancing seem to go hand-in-hand in Cajun country. More often than not, you’ll find the best étouffée or jambalaya served to the driving rhythm of Zydeco or the plaintive refrain of a Cajun waltz.

    Armed with this cornucopia of information, our next stop was the Acadian Village, a reconstructed nineteenth-century Cajun community featuring twelve historic buildings, each of which displays some important facet of Acadian life, such as music or traditional agriculture. On this rainy day in early March there were few visitors, so the friendly docent in le Magasin (the General Store) who collected our $8 entry fee had time to chat. When I expressed an interest in learning how to make gumbo, she recommend a spice blend from an impressive selection on a rack, though she confessed that she almost always made her own seasonings from scratch. Here, as elsewhere, I found that no question, regardless of how often it must have been heard before, was answered with anything but good-natured enthusiasm. “Ask and ye shall receive” seems to be a guiding local principal.

    In addition to the Acadian Village, another good introduction to local history and culture is the Acadian Culture Center, one of three centers that comprise the Jean Lafite National Historic Park and Preserve. Here visitors can get a historical perspective by viewing a forty-minute film chronicling the Acadians’ exodus from Nova Scotia in the 18th century. Next to this free National Park-run center is Vermilionville ($8 entry fee), a slightly larger version of a traditional Cajun community featuring demonstrations by costumed interpreters and weekend Cajun and Zydeco music concerts, generally held from 1-4 pm.

    Cajun Music Hall of Fame & MuseumHaving gotten a good historical introduction, it was now time to kick back a bit and indulge. Happily, there are plenty of places to do this in and around Lafayette. We began at Poupart’s Bakery, locally known for its authentic French pastries as well as its light, crisp-crust bread. As we sat enjoying our coffee and sandwiches, several customers came in asking for baguettes, but they left empty-handed as we’d managed to snag the last loaf of the day.

    Cajun cooking is famed for spicy dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and andouille, yet even so the range of the cuisine exceeded my expectations. I undertook the pleasant task of sampling as many dishes as possible. My husband, in contrast, adhered to fixed principle: he ate crawfish at every meal save breakfast. He’d certainly come to the right place at the right time to do it. Throughout the area, as springtime approaches, fallow rice fields become crawfish (“mudbug” in local parlance) habitats, the flip side of an interesting two-crop rotation. This yearly cycle is celebrated with near-religious intensity, culminating in the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival in early May. The succulent mudbugs can be found on the menu from December through July, and are served in a mind-boggling variety of ways – in stews, gumbos, pies, and patés, not to mention étouffées, remoulades, bisques, and casseroles. But perhaps the simplest method of preparation is the best: the crawfish boil.

    At Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf in Henderson, about fifteen miles east of Lafayette, we sat on a sun-drenched patio overlooking the bayou. As we waited for our order, a trio of local boys in a skiff deftly hauled in fish with a net, egged on by a boisterous group of patrons at a nearby table. “Throw that one back, it’s too little!” “Pull your pants up, boy, you’re showing all your bidness!” When our order arrived, I watched slack-jawed as my husband devoured what seemed like a bottomless bowl of boiled crawfish, not to mention sides of corn on the cob, bread, and salad. My selection, a shrimp po’ boy, was not as messy but only marginally, the shrimp cascading from the edges of the sandwich.

    Felton LeJeune & Cajun CowboysWe enjoyed other notable crawfish-centered meals at Prejean’s and at Mulate’s, both well established family-style restaurants featuring live music and dancing most nights. We caught the tail-end of a set by Gervais Matte and the Branch Playboys one night at Prejean’s as we sat beneath a monstrous 14-foot stuffed alligator that our waiter testified was, yes, the real thing.

    While Prejean’s arguably had the better crawfish bisque, the music scene was livelier the night we went to Mulate’s, which has a relaxed multi-generational feel to it. Kids and grandparents share the dance floor with long-married couples and flirting teens and twenty-somethings. It’s worth stopping by just to have a beer and to check out the scene even if you’re not hungry.

    On a day trip from Lafayette we visited Opelousas, home town of famed Zydeco musicians such as Clifton Chenier as well as chef Paul Prodhomme. At the Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center I struck up a conversation with another font of local expertise, a docent named Belle, who gave me the run-down on the local music scene as well as on the best spots to buy cracklings (fried pork skins) and boudin (pork and rice sausage). Later that day, at the Jean Lafite Prairie Cajun Cultural Center in, I sampled savory, fresh boudin just prepared by Bubba Frey, a local restaurant owner and raconteur who hails from a tiny place called Mowata Store, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hamlet on Hwy. 13 outside Eunice.

    Yellow-Crowned Night HeronIt’s worth making the agreeable trek to Eunice for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the Saturday night radio program, the “Rendez-Vos des Cajuns,” broadcast live from the historic Liberty Theater right next to the Prairie Cajun Cultural Center. The $5 tickets for the 6 pm show go on sale at 4 pm, which surely comprises one of Louisiana’s great “bang for your buck” experiences. The Saturday night show might be best described as a Louisiana version of the “Prairie Home Companion,” albeit hosted mostly in French by a local professor, Barry Jean Ancelet. His quick-fire repartee might sometimes leave you wondering what everyone else in the mostly Cajun audience is laughing about, but no matter. The music is universal, and the dance floor in front of the stage soon fills with folk of all descriptions.

    Our last day in Lafayette was given over to one of the most remarkable nature tours I’ve ever taken, “The “Atchafalaya Experience,” run by a father-and-son team, Coerte and Kim Voorhies. The vast Atchafalaya Basin, which encompasses some 595,000 acres, is one of the nation’s largest and most pristine swamp areas, home to an astonishing array of wildlife. We spotted bald eagles, osprey, owls, red-shouldered hawks, turtles, water moccasins, nutria, beaver, alligators, herons, egrets, wood ducks, and more as we glided quietly through the bayou in a small bass boat. Kim Voorhies was our guide for the day, and his extensive knowledge of the local area and above all his commitment to ecologically sound practices impressed us greatly. A natural-born talker, Kim interlarded stories of a lifetime spent hunting and fishing on the bayou with observations about each species we spotted (or, to be accurate, that he spotted – it usually took my husband and I a moment or two to catch up). Happily, since Kim had perfected the art of the noiseless approach, we were often able to get well within camera range of a number of fairly shy species, including yellow-crowned night herons, remarkable-looking birds with piercing red eyes and a jaunty crest of lemon-hued feathers.

    It seemed Kim knew every nook and cranny on the bayou – where to spot a family of nutria or where a bald eagle and his mate were roosting. If we’d come a few weeks later in the year, Kim advised, we’d witness the annual influx of roseate spoonbills coming up from the South America. It was hard to feel deprived, however, given the bounty of wildlife on hand.

    Osprey NestThe Voorhies family also runs the Bois des Chenês Bed and Breakfast, which is one of many affordable lodging options in the Lafayette area. In general, hotel and B&B prices in Lafayette run significantly less than in New Orleans. There’s a range of accommodations for every pocketbook, ranging from luxury hotels to simple bunk-bed rooms in hostels. We made our base at the moderately-priced ($90) but nicely appointed Drury Inn, which offered not only an ample free breakfast but free light snacks and cocktails each evening.

    We spent three days based in Lafayette followed by a week in New Orleans, where my husband attended a conference. However, the next time we’re in Louisiana, we hope to spend most of our time in Cajun Country, for our initial visit only whetted our interest. Perhaps we’ll come for one of the area’s many festivals, such as the Festivals Acadiens held in mid-October or the International Festival in late April. Whenever we return, though, we can be sure of one thing: the people will be just as warmhearted and welcoming as ever.

    For more information contact the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.



    Summer Rates at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

    Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, in Nevis, West Indies, offers summer rates to travelers. The longer you stay at the beachfront resort, the more you will save with Nisbet’s Sultry Summer Savings.

    Sultry Summer Savings provide savings of up to 20 percent off the lowest rates of the year, depending on your length of stay. Stay three to five nights and save 10 percent, stay six to 10 nights and save 15 percent, stay 11 or more nights and save 20 percent.

    Sultry Summer Savings are available on all room categories, including Upper Premier Junior Suites overlooking the beach. To help you explore the island of Nevis, Nisbet negotiated a 20 percent discount on car rentals June 1 to Aug. 10, 2008. If you stay six nights or more, you receive two tickets to the Museum of Nevis History or the Lord Nelson Museum.

    Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is the Caribbean’s only plantation inn located directly on the beach and one of the Caribbean’s historic sugar plantations. The ancestral home of Fanny Nisbet, the wife of Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, the plantation’s restored Great House dates from 1778. Thirty six cottages, all with modern conveniences, are set in 30 acres of tropical foliage.

    Nisbet Plantation Beach Club or 800/742-6008.



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