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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, June 2006 Issue

Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2006 
All Rights Reserved.

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Chile Pepper Red Sterling EarringsHOT SUMMER SCENE STEALERS!

Get a whole new summer look with our hot chile pepper red coral earrings. Handcrafted in Thailand, these beauties have small cubes and beads of coral dangling from the finest sterling silver wires and accented with 2mm sterling silver beads.

Perfect for all those summer activities. Value priced at $19.95.

Click here to order.

In This Issue:

Central Market, Budapest, Hungary

  • Ohio State Park 45% Savings
  • Arizona Biltmore Savings to 36%
  • El Al Value Vacations
  • New Business Class Airline
  • Fontainebleau Suites Miami Beach Summer Rates
  • New Mexico Pass for Museums, Monuments
  • Eat Cheap in NYC
  • Roma Pass
  • Up to 55% off at the Palms Turks & Caicos
  • Up To 40% Off Fairmont Summer Rates
  • Tips for Swimmers’ Ear
  • Tambor Beach Hotel Summer Savings
  • Fr.ee Shuttle to Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Greyhound “Road Rewards” Program
  • Fr.ee Roundtrip Air with Apple Honeymoon
  • Gas Relief
  • Budapest: Simple Pleasures, Diversions by Kay Douglas
  • Wonders of America Sweepstakes

  • Ohio State Park 45% Savings

    Maumee Bay State Park Resort in northwestern Ohio offers summer packages, including a new package called "Relaxation Destination," with a 45 percent savings.

    Introduced this year, "Relaxation Destination" includes two nights’ lodging, $25 meal coupon, two half-hour massages, $20 gift certificate for spa products, chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of wine. Package components represent a 45 percent savings off regular prices. Available through Oct. 31, 2006, “Relaxation Destination” is priced at $319 per couple Sunday through Thursday and $339 per couple Friday and Saturday.

    The golf package gives players a chance to play at a bargain price. Priced at $245 per person for Sunday through Thursday stays and $255 per person on Friday and Saturday, the package is based on double occupancy and includes two nights’ lodging in a double room, two breakfasts per person, two dinners per person, 36 holes and use of a golf cart for each person. The package is available through Oct. 31, 2006.

    The “Family Adventure” packages offer two nights in a double room and a $25 meal coupon for stays Sundays through Thursdays through Sep. 5, 2006. The first package is $279 and features a ½-hour jet ski rental for two and unlimited paddle boat or canoe rental for four. A $319 package includes 18 holes of golf and cart rental for two and unlimited paddle boat or canoe rental for four.

    On the shore of Lake Erie, Maumee Bay State Park Resort is an easy drive from Cedar Point Amusement Park and South Bass Island's Put-In-Bay.

    Package rates do not include taxes. The resort also offers last-minute online bargains called "Hot Dates."

    Maumee Bay State Park Resort or 800/282-7275.

    Arizona Biltmore Savings to 36%

    Special room rates, enhanced poolside amenities and on-property activities for adults and kids are a part of a summer 2006 getaway at the 738-room Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, AZ.

    Through Sep. 10, 2006, the resort offers room rates from $129 weekdays (Sunday to Thursday) and $159 weekends (Friday and Saturday). The published rate during this period is $195 so savings are up to 36 percent. Rates are subject to availability and do not include tax and $20 resort fee.

    Summer activities include wine tastings, cigar rolling, regional artisan displays, family pottery painting, and “Bilts’mores” marshmallow roasts with a cowboy balladeer sing-along. At the “Dive-In Movies,” children and adults enjoy feature films projected onto a large screen while floating in the Paradise Pool. The Kids Korral program offers supervised sports, games, arts and crafts for children five to 12 years old.

    The Paradise Pool consists of three different pools of varying size and depth; a 92-foot waterslide; in-water bar and dining; poolside dining; beverage service anywhere in the pool area; a variety of pool-side games and activities; and a pool-side spa offering massages, manicures and hair braids. The resort also offers seven other pools; two 18-hole golf courses; 18-hole putting course that meanders through the resort gardens; seven tennis courts; full-service spa, salon, and fitness center; life-size lawn chess; and croquet.

    Arizona Biltmore or 800/950-0086.

    Give a Jaguar -- An Amber Jaguar -- The remarkable face of a jaguar is hand-carved onto a lovely piece of cherry amber that's 33x20 mm in size. The dramatic pendent hangs on an ultra-chic 18" natural-colored leather necklace cord with a sterling silver clasp. Boy will this turn heads.

    High-style boutiques and jewelers charge $500 or more for this glam piece. It's yours for only $125 plus shipping & insurance. Click here to order.
    At the home page, click on the amber category.

    El Al Value Vacations

    EL AL, Israel’s national airline, offers savings on vacation packages for passengers flying from the United States to Israel through October 2006.

    EL AL has partnered with first-class hotels in Israel to offer air/land specials from New York (JFK/Newark) and Miami (twice-weekly flights) and direct service from Los Angeles and Chicago to Israel. Packages include five nights’ accommodation with Israeli buffet breakfast daily at some top hotels in Israel (prices are per person, based on double occupancy). Reduced rates for children and extra nights are also available.

    Package prices are: New York nonstop to Israel staying at the Dan Panorama Hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa $1,419; Regency Jerusalem Hotel (with two 45 min. spa treatments) $1,459; Holiday Inn Hotels (Crowne Plaza) in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat, the Dead Sea and the Holiday Inn in Haifa $1,499; Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv $1,549; Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem and Sheraton Moriah Tel Aviv and Tiberias $1,579; and the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem $1,599.

    Package prices from Los Angeles staying at the Dan Panorama Hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv & Haifa for $1,729; Regency Jerusalem Hotel (with two 45 min. spa treatments) for $1,769; Holiday Inn Hotels (Crowne Plaza) in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat, the Dead Sea and the Holiday Inn in Haifa for $1,809; Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv for $1,859; Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem and Sheraton Moriah Tel Aviv and Tiberias for $1,889; and the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem for $1,939.

    Package prices from Miami staying at the Dan Panorama Hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa for $1,589; Regency Jerusalem Hotel (with two 45 min. spa treatments) for $1,629; Holiday Inn Hotels (Crowne Plaza) in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat, the Dead Sea and the Holiday Inn in Haifa for $1,669; Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv for $1,719; Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem and Sheraton Moriah Tel Aviv and Tiberias for $1,749; and the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem for $1,809.

    Packages from Chicago staying at the Dan Panorama Hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa for $1,529; Regency Jerusalem Hotel (with two 45 min. spa treatments)

    for $1,569; Holiday Inn Hotels (Crowne Plaza) in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat, the Dead Sea and the Holiday Inn in Haifa for $1,599; Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv for $1,659; Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem and Sheraton Moriah Tel Aviv and Tiberias for $1,679; and the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem for $1,739.

    Packages are subject to availability and must be ticketed at least three weeks prior to departure. Tickets are valid six to 30 days, are non-refundable once issued and must be ticketed in “H” class. Up to $82 in taxes not included. Cancellation/change and other restrictions may apply.

    El Al Airline or 800/EL AL-747.

    New Business Class Airline

    Silverjet is the new business-class only, low-cost airline for London to New York service. The first all-business class airlines with low-cost fares, MAXjet and eos, began operating between London and the U.S. in November 2005.

    According to Silverjet CEO Lawrence Hunt, the airline is expected to start Luton to Newark business-class service six to nine months after it lists on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in May.

    The company eventually wants to run a 10-aircraft fleet to other destinations. All 100 seats onboard will have flatbeds and full business class service. There will also be significantly reduced check-in times, as little as 30 minutes. The airline will be based on a model similar to short-haul budget counterparts easyJet and Ryanair.

    Hunt told the UK press that airlines gain the most profits from premium customers and lose money in economy class. Business class passengers subsidize economy class. Without economy seats, prices can come down without any compromise in service.

    Fontainebleau Suites Miami Beach Summer Rates

    Fontainebleau Suites in Miami Beach, FL offers a summer rate on all studio and one-bedroom suites. The studio suites, 500 square feet with a spacious sitting area and kitchenette, start at $169 per night. The 1,000 square-foot, one-bedroom suite features a full living room with dining area and breakfast bar, full kitchen, two full bathrooms, walk-in closet and washer/dryer. It starts at $269 per night.

    These rates are in effect through Sept. 30, 2006, excluding holidays, and subject to availability.

    Fontainebleau Suites features a coffee bar, express business center, breakfast buffet, fitness center, fr.ee wireless Internet, grocery shopping service, plus a f,ree shuttle to Bal Harbour Shops, Aventura Mall and Lincoln Road.

    In addition to the new amenities, Fontainebleau Suites also features more than 1,000 feet of ocean beach, lagoon swimming pool, 7th floor outdoor pool, poolside restaurant and bar, in-room dining, valet parking, and full concierge and housekeeping services.

    All Fontainebleau suites feature a king bed and queen sofa bed, 32-inch LG flat-screen television, entertainment system, separate bath tub and stall shower, marble bathroom floors, work desk, large closets and balcony. All are equipped with flatware, dishware and glassware.

    Two-bedroom suites are also available, connecting a studio and one-bedroom suite via a private marble foyer. Extended-stay plans are offered for anyone looking for a "home away from home."

    Fontainebleau Suites Miami Beach or 800/548-8886.

    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.

    New Mexico Pass for Museums, Monuments

    With the nation's largest and most diverse family of state-run museums, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs offers a one-ticket pass for entry into all of the state's 14 museums and historic monuments.

    The New Mexico CulturePass allows you one-time visits to each of the eight museums and six monuments that are funded and operated by the State of New Mexico. The $20 pass is valid for one year from date of first use and is available to New Mexico residents and tourists. The passes are good for general admission only. Films shown in museum theaters, certain special events and programming are not included.

    Museums in the New Mexico CulturePass include: Palace of the Governors, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe; Museum of Natural History and Science, National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque; New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo; Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.

    At $20, the New Mexico CulturePass represents more than a 50 percent savings if all 14 museums and monuments are visited. The average admission price to a state museum is $5, $3 to a State Monument.

    The CulturePass is sold at all state museums and monuments, on the department's website and at the Tourism Department's visitor centers statewide.

    New Mexico CulturePass.

    Eat Cheap in NYC

    It’s possible to find dining deals at New York's top restaurants. The DiningFever web site is fr.ee and easy-to-use website and is dedicated to displaying restaurant special-offers and discounts. On the website, you can find deals offered by high-end restaurants, casual cafes, and even fast food establishments in the New York City area.

    You can search restaurant deals by cuisine, neighborhood, restaurant name, day of the week and other categories. Offers also includes discounts and savings for dine-in at home meals through delivery or takeout. In addition, you can sign up for the "Top Deals Newsletter", which will send you new and exclusive deals.

    Finding a deal is easy. Search through the categories or click on the special deals listed on the home page. Once you find a preferred deal, either print out the certificate or mention DiningFever at the restaurant.

    Many deals are displayed for a limited time and the list of special-offers changes daily. No membership or fees are required and the website does not require you to provide personal information.

    Dining Fever

    Roma Pass

    This is the Italian capital’s first cultural tourist card offering discounts and services to encourage visits to the city’s museums.

    For 18 euros, the pass allows you fr.ee admission to two museums or archaeological sites and discounts to other museums.

    The Roma Pass comes with a Roma Pass Transport, your public transport ticket; a Roma map illustrating the location of Tourist Information Points; underground stations; museums and sites of interest listing addresses, phone numbers, and transportation timetables; the Roma Pass guide listing museums and sites of interest that joined the initiative; and Roma News, a program of events and services eligible for discounts divided by art, music, theater, dance, entertainment and sightseeing tours.

    Roma Pass and Roma Pass Transport are valid for three days from their validation date. The pass can be purchased from all museums and sites that joined the initiative and Tourist Information Points within Rome.

    Roma Pass.

    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.

    Up to 55% off at the Palms in Turks & Caicos

    During the off-season, romance packages at the Palms, in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, offer significant savings.

    Through Dec. 19, 2006, the romance packages at the 72- suite resort feature eight-day or five-day stays with discounts from 45 to 55 percent, compared to high season rates. Packages start at $1,600 for five days and $2,650 for eight days and include room tax, service charge and spa gratuities. Savings depend on room categories. Additional nights are available.

    Packages include stays in an oceanfront room, one-bedroom oceanview room or oceanfront suite; a couple’s massage; daily breakfast; one or two dinners for two at the resort's signature restaurant; bottle of champagne on arrival; roundtrip airport transfers; non-motorized watersports and entrance to the fitness center and tennis court.

    The Palms lies on 12 acres of gardens at the center of 12-mile Grace Bay Beach. Rooms and suites feature balconies or terraces, marble floors, vaulted ceilings, custom made mahogany furnishings, 488 thread-count bed linens and high-speed internet. There are flat panel LCD televisions in each room and DVD/CD players in suites. Kitchens feature classic cabinetry and are equipped with Viking appliances.

    The Palms or 866/877-7256, 800/567-5327 in Canada.

    Up To 40% Off Fairmont Summer Rates

    Enjoy summer savings with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ Only One Way summer rates.

    Rates in Canada start from approx. $140 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. Rates in the United States start from $129 at the Fairmont Dallas. International rates start from approx. $149 at the Fairmont Pierre Marques, Acapulco or the Fairmont Acapulco Princess.

    This special is more attractive if you use your American Express Card. Fairmont extends a $50 food and beverage credit per room, per night, for stays of two consecutive nights for any Only One Way booking made before June 30, 2006. Bookings must be made on an American Express Card with travel taking place through Sep. 5, 2006. Only One Way rates are subject to availability and priced per room, per night, and do not include taxes.

    Additionally, teeing off has never been easier with Golf for Fr.ee at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club. Book a night at the Fairmont Whistler through June 29, 2006, and you will receive two individual rounds of golf, on the house. Rates start at $259 CDN (approx. $234 US) per room, based on double occupancy. Golf For Fr.ee returns in the fall Sep. 25 to Oct. 9, 2006. All Fairmont Chateau Whistler guests also receive unlimited, f.ree access to the Practice Facility at Canada’s first David Leadbetter Golf Academy

    Fairmont Hotels & Resorts or 800/830-1411.

    Tips for Swimmers’ Ear

    For some, it happens like clock-work. The kids swim in the pool at your resort and your vacation comes to a screeching halt because they are wracked with ear pain.

    A panel of scientists issued guidelines providing evidence-based recommendations for the treatment of acute otitis externa, or "swimmer's ear." The panel represented the fields of otolaryngology -- head and neck surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, infectious disease, internal medicine and emergency medicine.

    Acute otitis externa, or AOE, affects one in every 100 to 250 Americans each year. Characterized by inflammation of the external ear canal, AOE is caused by water trapped in the ear canal following swimming. The trapped water leads bacteria that normally inhabit the skin and ear canal to multiply, causing infection and irritation of the ear canal.

    Among the recommendations:

    Antiseptic and antibiotic eardrops are the preferred therapy for most AOE, because they are safe, give prompt relief and do not promote resistant bacteria.

    Oral antibiotics are not recommended for uncomplicated cases because they have more adverse effects than eardrops and may be less effective.

    The use of ear candles is not recommended since they have never been shown to be effective and have dangerous side effects.

    The guidelines are from the Dayton, Ohio-based, American Osteopathic College of Otolaryngology.

    Protect Luggage with Baggage Guard Seals

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

    Click Here to Order from On The Go Publishing.

    Tambor Beach Hotel Summer Savings

    Barcelo Hotels & Resorts offers summer savings at the Barcelo Tambor Beach Hotel on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. The all-inclusive summer packages start at $199 per person, based on double occupancy, for a three-night stay including taxes. Reservations can be booked through June 30 for travel through 2006.

    Located on the Nocoya Peninsula along Bahia Ballena, the Barcelo Tambor Beach Hotel was awarded the "Blue Flag," which certifies that its beaches are environmentally safe and clean.

    In addition to 402 guest rooms and suites, the hotel offers a casino, a discotheque and a nightclub-style theater for entertainment. As an all-inclusive resort, there are a selection of restaurants and lounges that include buffet and a la carte European-style dining.

    Recreational activities include a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, tennis courts, a fitness center, a children's play park and zoo, boutique shopping and nearby golf. Charter deep sea fishing or eco-tours can be added to a vacation. Packages including airfare and ground transfers are available.

    Barcelo Tambor Beach or 800/BARCELO.

    Fr.ee Shuttle to Universal Studios Hollywood

    Universal Studios Hollywood will offer a fr.ee shuttle service from Anaheim to Universal Studios Hollywood in time for peak travel season.

    Beginning Saturday, July 1, 2006, Universal Studios Hollywood has joined with Southern California Gray Line to offer the fr.ee roundtrip shuttle service. The buses will feature a live narrated scenic tour provided by a “driver guide” who will offer highlights of Southern California locations and attractions including behind-the-scene movie and television information.

    The fr.ee shuttle will be for people who purchase a full-price admission ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood through Southern California Gray Line directly, through hotel concierges, via wholesalers and online.

    The buses will depart from various Anaheim-area hotels twice daily at approximately 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Return trips from Universal Studios are tentatively scheduled between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

    Admission to Universal Studios, including roundtrip transportation, is $59 for ages eight and older; $49 for ages three to seven; children under three are fr.ee.

    Universal Studios Hollywood or 800/Universal.

    Greyhound “Road Rewards” Program

    Greyhound Lines launched their Road Rewards, a new web-based program to reward passengers who purchase tickets on Greyhound.com. Customers with a membership in the program can earn rewards from discounted food and beverages to fr.ee tickets.

    Customers receive points every time they purchase a Greyhound ticket online and take a trip. Destination Points are calculated by the number of one-way trips you travel. A one-way trip is equal to one Destination Point. Every 16 Points (or 8 roundtrips) you collect, you get a fr.ee roundtrip ticket. Points accumulate and are good for a year. Points can also be used for discounts on companion fares, fre.ee tickets and food at any Greyhound food service location.

    As with airline frequent flyers programs, Road Rewards members can view their points and rewards online.

    Greyhound or 800/231-2222.

    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.

    Fr.ee Roundtrip Air with Apple Honeymoon/i>

    Book a honeymoon now for travel Aug. 15 through Oct. 31, 2006 or May 1 through June 30, 2007, and Apple Vacations will give you two fr.ee charter air tickets to travel during the same time frame again in 2007/2008. Return air seats are valid for anywhere USA3000 Airlines flies from Aug. 15 to Oct. 31, 2007 or May 1 ro June 30, 2008. Tickets are non-transferable.

    To qualify you need proof of travel with Apple Vacations and a copy of your marriage certificate which must be dated Aug. 15 to Oct. 31, 2006 or May 1to June 30, 2007.

    Apple Vacations offers honeymoon packages in Cancun and the Riviera Maya; Mexico's Pacific Coast; Punta Cana and La Romana in the Dominican Republic; Aruba; Jamaica; or Bermuda.

    Apple Vacations offers fr.ee honeymoon amenities such as room upgrades, basket of fruit or flowers, or a bottle of wine or champagne. A uniformed in-resort customer service representative is on-site for assistance

    Apple Vacations provides charter flights from major cities including: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis.

    Apple Vacations Honeymoons.

    Gas Relief

    With gasoline prices rising almost daily, it’s no surprise that travelers are facing sticker shock at the pumps.

    To help defray gas costs, some properties and destinations are coming to the rescue by offering gas gift cards or gas discounts. Be sure to mention packages or offers when booking.

    Through July 1, 2006, Emerson Inn by the Sea, in Rockport, MA, 800/964-5550, will give out a Mobil gas card for a midweek stay with their One for the Road package. For a two-night stay, you receive a $20 Mobil gas card and an additional $10 gas card for each additional midweek night stay. The limit is five night and $50.

    The following Best Western hotels offer gas gift cards or gas discounts.
    xxxxxxxxBest Western Tuscan Inn at San Francisco's Fisherman’s Wharf, 800/648-4626, offers the “Vroom rate for a one-night stay, fr.ee wine reception and a $20 Shell gas card. June 1 through Oct. 31, 2006, the rate is $189, $209 on weekends. Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2006, the rate is $159, $179 on weekends.
    xxxxxxxxBest Western Executive Inn, in Salt Lake City, UT, 800/327-2803, has a “Gas and Go” package that includes a $15 gas card for each night’s stay plus fr.ee breakfast and Wi-FI. The package price is $79.95 per night.
    xxxxxxxxBest Western Music Capital Inn, 877/334-8378, and est Western Center Pointe Inn,B 888/334-1894, in Branson, MO, are part of the “Gas Buster” program through Sep. 29, 2006. You receive a $50 Gas Buster discount card for every $40 worth of gas receipts you provide, dated within the previous two days of arrival to one of Branson’s many Welcome Centers. The card entitles you to discounts at either hotel for up to five nights. Click here for Gas Buster information.

    Millennium Maxwell House, in Nashville, TN, 866/866-8086, offers a "Family Fuel" package from $129 that’s valid through Dec. 30, 2006. The package includes overnight accommodations, up to $20 gas credit deducted from hotel bill (dated within 24 hours of check-in), fr.ee breakfast buffet for two adults and up to two children and an $89 rate for a second room for families with more than two children. Fr.ee breakfast not included with second room.
    xxxxxxxxMillennium Hotel in Minneapolis, MN, 800/522-8856, offers a "Hot Summer Special" at $119 per room, per night, good Thursdays through Sundays, through July 4, 2006. It includes overnight accommodations and a fr.ee $10 SuperAmerica gas gift card. Mention promotional code HOTSUM when booking.

    The Traverse City, MI, “Pump Up Your Summer,” promotion gives a $25 Speedway gas card to every visitor who calls the Convention & Visitors Bureau and reserves a stay of four nights or longer in any of its 43 participating hotels, motels or resorts between now and Labor Day.
    xxxxxxxxThe cards are redeemable for gas or merchandise at Speedway service stations anywhere in the country. To qualify, you must book your room through the Bureau’s “Pump Up Your Summer” reservation line, 800/714-0051.

    Budapest: Simple Pleasures and Cosmopolitan Diversions - - Article and Photos by Kay Douglas

    Tempting as it may be to cram as many sights and cities into a European vacation, there’s much to be said for taking a more leisurely approach. For starters, there’s no feeling of needing a vacation from the vacation after returning from ten or twelve day’s nonstop sightseeing. Consider instead taking in the here-and-now of the local scene rather than solely concentrating on splendid monuments from the past. After all, much of the charm of a European city lies in the urbane hum of everyday life.

    Skiing in the Buda HillsTaking such a laid-back approach in Budapest, I spend my first few days in the city, well, not in the city at all, but in the tranquil hills above it. The Buda hills have long been favored for the villas of the wealthy, but they are popular with ordinary folk, too, who come by bus or on the small cog railway to enjoy family outings. On a chilly day in mid-March, although there’s not a trace of snow on the streets in the city below, a light snow is falling in the hills. Cross-country skiers, fitness walkers, mountain bikers, and joggers flock to the nature preserve just across from the hotel where I’m staying. Drawn to this bucolic scene, I pass my first afternoon doing just what everyone else seemed to be doing - - taking a long, leisurely stroll in the woods.

    Hotel NormafaThat evening, I put myself (literally) in the hands of one of the Hotel Normafa’s skilled massage therapists. For a surprisingly modest fee, he patiently kneads out the kinks and tightness I’ve built up in my shoulders and back during the long flight to Hungary. Afterwards, I take an evening dip in the outdoor pool, which is surprisingly warm given the late-winter chill in the air. A gentle steam rises from the surface of the water, which is lit from below, and stillness reigns. The only movement comes from the ripples I make while quietly treading water and from the gently falling snowflakes as they drop onto the water’s surface. It seems exotic to be luxuriating in the warmth of the pool as the bracing outdoor air tingles on my face, but it’s a fitting introduction to Budapest’s bathing culture.

    Refreshed after this short idyll up in the hills, I move on to a slightly more ambitious - - but still casual - - exploration of the city. A Hungarian friend recommended the Central Market as one of the best places to get a sense of Budapest’s daily life. There I find a bustling scene, as tourists standing indecisively before vendors are outmaneuvered by housewives intent on their daily shopping. The vast market, which from the outside resembles nothing so much as an enormous train station, is packed with stalls selling fruits, vegetables, spices, meats, cheeses, wines, and a multitude of other foods from around the country. I pay particular attention to the displays of peppers, which are available in an impressive array of types. I’ve soon learned the essential terms for paprika -- edes for “mild” and csipos for “spicy.”

    Central MarketAbove the main floor of the market, a second level is mostly handicrafts and souvenirs but also features a popular lunch counter. After obtaining a savory bowl of gulyas leves (goulash soup) and a salami szendvics, I wedge myself onto a stool between two groups of shoppers, hemmed in on either side by their purchases. We exchange nods before settling into the serious business of eating.

    Once I’ve made my way over to the Pest side of the Danube (for Budapest is bisected into two distinct sides, Buda and Pest, on either side of the great river), I find simply strolling the wide avenues and smaller side streets to be an absorbing activity. The great building boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Budapest was unmatched by any other city in Europe. The best way to get an overall sense of this ambitious development is to walk the mile-and-a-half length of Andrassy Avenue, a broad tree-lined promenade flanked by intriguing side streets. There you’ll find grand buildings such as the imposing Opera House, the most prominent landmark in a hub of cultural gems that includes the Operetta Theatre and the famed Liszt Academy of Music in Liszt Ferenc Square, a sophisticated pedestrian zone flanked by inviting restaurants and cafes.

    Speaking of cafes, many of the city’s venerable coffee houses have undergone a renaissance in recent years, and something of the vibrancy of the pre-World War II coffee house culture has re-emerged. Of course, the most prestigious kavehaz is the famed New York Cafe, but this unfortunately has been closed for renovation for some time. Instead,, so I make a pilgrimage to the equally venerable Gerbeaud, which anchors busy Vorosmarty Square. It’s more expensive than the average coffee house, however, so on other occasions I dawdle with coffee and newspaper in lesser-known spots, where the range of cakes and decor may not be as impressive, but where the clientele is decidedly more local.

    After a particularly long ramble one day, taking in the various squares and parks near Parliament followed by a long stroll down the Pest Embankment and then across Elizabeth Bridge, I decide it’s time to take another dip (metaphorically speaking) into the deep pool of Hungarian bathing culture. While most visitors are drawn to the admittedly grand facilities at the Gellert Hotel, I found the bathing experience there to be a tad on the impersonal side, not to mention that with a basic fee of 3,000 HUF for entry and use of a kabin (a small changing room supervised by an attendant), it’s the most expensive of Budapest’s bathing establishments and thus less frequented by city residents.

    Kiraly bathsHowever, the next morning I visit the Kiraly baths, and I find this a far more soothing experience, even though initially it seems dauntingly foreign. None of the attendants speak English, but after paying the modest entry fee of 1,100 HUF (approximately $5 US), I manage to navigate my way through the warren of changing rooms, finally emerging into the large domed chamber of the traditional Turkish-style hammam. These baths are the oldest in the city, dating from 1546. What I notice immediately is that I’m the only one wearing a bathing suit, but the dozen or so nude elderly women - - who are all obviously regulars - - take little notice of me. Soon, like the women around me, I’ve retreated into my own private world, lulled by the soothing warmth of the medicinal waters. A hazy veil of steam hangs in the air, pierced by beams of light coming through apertures in the domed ceiling, and a companionable silence prevails. I never want to leave.

    Of course, I do leave, and soon resume my peregrinations through the city. One day I make my way out to Varosliget, or the City Park, where I find the immense Szchenyi Baths, the largest bathing complex in Europe. Here I opt for the mixed-bathing outdoor swimming pools, entry fee with use of cabin, 2,300 HUF), and paddle back and forth in the long lap pool, employing the slow breast stroke favored by my fellow swimmers.

    The diversions of the City Park are not confined to bathing, however. Just across the street from the Szechenyi complex are the grounds of the city circus, and then not far from that is an unexpectedly nice place to stroll, the City Zoo. On a quiet and rather ordinary weekday afternoon, only a handful of visitors, mostly mothers with prams and retirees, are on hand to watch an attendant give an extraordinarily docile rhinoceros a dust bath. At any other zoo in the world such goings on would generate a hundred-and-one camera flashes, but here it is simply part of the daily routine.

    elephant houseAround the corner from the dusty rhinoceros, I come across one of the zoo’s most remarkable features, an elaborate Secession-era elephant house. It resembles a cross between a Turkish mosque and Mughal palace, with rounded blue cupolas and a single white minaret soaring high into the air. Lively ceramic tiles adorn the entrance, while inside a riot of intertwining art nouveau-style vines embellish the vaulted ceilings and archways. As I stand lost in admiration at this decorative feast, a pigmy hippo swims hopefully up to a nearby glass partition but soon sinks back into the water with a sigh. He’s obviously used to being eclipsed by his surroundings.

    On another afternoon, I enjoy yet another bathing establishment popular with locals, Rudas Baths, which are housed in a somewhat disreputable-looking building not far from the imposing Gellért Hotel. However, looks can be deceiving. Inside, the Rudas proves to be the most pleasant and convivial of the baths I’ve visited, having been recently, yet the entrance fee is still a relatively modest 2,000 HUF. Until recently, the steam baths here were for men only, but starting in January 2006 a “test period” of women’s hours was initiated on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. The large central octagonal thermal pool echoed with the animated conversation and laughter of women relaxing after a long day’s work. It’s clear that they are making the most of their “test period” at Rudas. (By the way, it’s always advisable to check the web site maintained by the company that administers Budapest’s public baths and spas for current hours, prices, and policies. See below.)

    On my last full day in Budapest, I briefly consider all the museums and monuments that I’ve not yet seen, then with scarcely a twinge I join what seems to be a city-wide Sunday pilgrimage to Margitsziget (Margaret Island), a lovely oasis of greenery set in the middle of the Danube River. This is where many of the city’s residents flock on weekends. When I alight from the #4 tram from Pest, I find a lively scene in progress. Scores of people are out walking their dogs, hundreds lounge on benches scattered around the park, and still more gather for al fresco meals at picnic tables. All up and down the pathways that run the length of the island, people are taking walks, riding bicycles, jogging, and roller-blading. Surrey-type bicycles rented out to groups of four or more are extremely popular, too.

    View from the CitadelThroughout the day, I reflect on the things I’ve done and seen during eight days in Budapest. Of course, they include visiting many of the city’s major sights and historic attractions. Still, as I sit soaking up the sun on a park bench, I can’t help but reflect that when it comes right down to it, simple pleasures are the cosmopolitan traveler’s ultimate indulgence.

    For detailed information on Budapest’s public baths and spas, click here. There you will find specific information for each bath or spa, including opening hours, entry fees, seasonal changes, and prices for therapeutic treatments. Note that several baths issue a partial refund of the entry fee for stays lasting less than two or three hours.

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    Wonders of America Sweepstakes

    The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) launched its “Wonders of America Sweepstakes,” inspired by the U.S. Postal Service’s “Wonders of America” stamp series.

    On May 27, 2066 the USPS released the Wonders of America stamps. These stamps highlight American superlatives such as the largest canyon and the tallest geyser.|

    To promote the release of the stamps, TIA developed the “Wonders of America Sweepstakes.” Through July 15, 2006, visitors to SeeAmerica.org have the chance to enter and win one of seven grand prizes that include a $500 American Express Gift Card; two roundtrip economy-class airline tickets from CheapTickets; a six-day car rental voucher from Hertz; and a five-night, six-day hotel voucher from Marriott.

    Following a one-time registration process, a map of the United States and three randomly-generated Wonders of America stamps will appear. You must use your cursor to drag each of the stamps to the home state of the wonder. Once all game stamps match their corresponding states, you are entered in the sweepstakes. Stamp placement need not be correct to earn sweepstakes entry, but all stamps need to be placed within a state to be eligible. Winners will receive prize vouchers and will be responsible for planning their own travel arrangements to the destination of their choice.

    No purchase is necessary to enter the Wonders of America Sweepstakes. It is open to legal residents of the U.S., 25 years of age or older as of May 1, 2006.

    After playing the game, you have an opportunity to learn more about the Wonders of America through a series of stamp fact pages. Each page will include facts on locations of each stamp’s state and links to state and local tourism web sites where the wonder can be found.

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    Had a good experience on a plane recently? Stumbled across the perfect place to stay, eat or drink? Tell us about it, email us here.

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    Information & Credits

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

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