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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, July 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:
Chesapeake, Virginia

Fun Forest

  • Pointe Hilton Resorts Summer Packages
  • Fall Vacation Values from Air Jamaica
  • Up to 60% off at Seven Stars Resort
  • Air Tahiti Nui Around the World Fare
  • Harbor Beach Marriott Stay-Cation Savings
  • Silverado Resort Family Extended Stay Package
  • Summer Savings at Horseshoe Bay Resort
  • Radisson St Martin Resort Inaugural Savings
  • Earn the "Ultimate" Photo Opportunity
  • Couples Fly Fr.ee to the Caribbean
  • 10 Tips for Senior Safe and Healthy Travel
  • Holiday Inn San Juan Summer Deal
  • Stay Longer and Save at the Breakers
  • Rosen Hotels & Resorts "Summer Sizzle"
  • Pleasant Holidays 50% off Companion Air
  • KeysCaribbean Resorts Offer Discount
  • Gas Giveaways
  • Buenaventura Summer Package
  • Surprise! It's Chesapeake VA
  • TSA Scanners See Through Clothing

  • Pointe Hilton Resorts Summer Packages

    Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak and Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resorts, all-suite mountainside resorts in Phoenix, take the edge off of high fuel prices with value room packages, dinning discounts and poolside events this summer.

    Both Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak and Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs provide packages for summer getaways with rates from $99 per suite, per night and a fr.ee kids meal program. Upon check-in, you receive the Summer Splash Savings Pass with discounts on dinning, gift shop items, spa treatments, golf green fees, and return visit rates. For golfers, Pointe Hilton Resorts' "Stay and Play" package includes one round of golf and one night's stay throughout the summer.

    Hole-in-the-Wall River Ranch, located at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort offers dive-in movies, "Family Fiesta Nights," poolside waterslide races and watermelon eating contests. For a fee, Coyote Camp, Squaw Peak's children's program, has daily games, arts and crafts, and afternoon cool downs featuring movies for children ages four to 12.

    The four-acre Hole-in-the-Wall River Ranch is distinguished by cascading waterfalls, a lazy river for tubing, a130-foot waterslide, a sport pool with water volleyball and basketball, a children's pool, a retail center with an ice cream store and Tombstone, a Western town for themed events.

    Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort features poolside activities on its on-property water park, the Falls Water Village. Tapatio Cliffs features "Summer Splash" beach parties with dive-in movie nights and live steel drum bands. For children, there’s the World Wild Life Petting Zoo, games, and arts and crafts at the Daily Family Fun Center and Kids Korral.

    The Falls Water Village, a three-and-a-half acre water park, is characterized by a 40-foot waterfall, two large f-ree-form pools, sun-deck terraces and a 138-foot enclosed water slide.

    Guests have full access to both resorts including the Tocasierra Spa, Salon and Fitness Centre, Tocaloma Spa and Salon, golf at the Lookout Mountain Golf Club, the Different Pointe of View restaurant, and other themed dining experiences.

    Point Hilton Resorts or 800/947-9784.


    Fall Vacation Values from Air Jamaica

    HURRY! BOOK BY JULY 2 - -Air Jamaica Vacations makes it easier to getaway with discounts, fr,ee nights, room upgrades, kids stay fr=ee offers, and other value-added inclusions this fall. Air and hotel packages start at $299 per person for a three-night stay at Samsara Cliffs Resort in Jamaica.

    Prices are per person, based on double occupancy and flying economy "S" class of service on Air Jamaica from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Packages are valid Sep. 2 to Dec. 12, 2008, but must be booked by July 2, 2008. Additional charges apply for holiday/peak season travel and government taxes and fees of up to $130 per person are additional. Fall discount prices are subject to availability, changes, cancellations and restrictions.

      Here are a few of the all-inclusive packages available:
    • Holiday Inn Montego Bay - $425 per person for a three-night, all-inclusive stay. Kids stay fr-ee.
    • Grand Palladium Jamaica - new resort - $575 per person for a four-night, all-inclusive stay. Fourth night fr^ee. With the Stay at 1, Play at 2 promotion, when staying at Grand Palladium you can use the facilities of the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort and Spa.
    • Starfish Trewlany Beach Resort - $559 per person for a five-night, all-inclusive stay. Kids stay f*ree. Fr.ee upgrade to oceanview room.
    • Sandals Montego Bay - $669 per person for a three-night stay. Fr,ee dining and transfers to and from neighboring Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Inn for a total of 11 dining choices.

    All-inclusive vacations include roundtrip airfare, on-island airport transfers, 24-hour customer support, hotel accommodations, hotel taxes and service charges, all meals and snacks, unlimited cocktails, land and non-motorized water sports at most properties, entertainment and all gratuities.

    Air Jamaica Vacations.


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    Up to 60% off at Seven Stars Resort

    The new Seven Stars Resort on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, gives you up to 60 percent off their daily rates. The offer is valid to Nov. 15, 2008.

    The 60 percent discount is available on four- and some three-bedroom suites with grand salons. Daily rates, now $960 to $1,560, normally range from $2,400 to $3,900 depending on the type of suite and date of stay.

    When you book the other three-bedroom suites, all two-bedroom suites and beachfront one-bedroom accommodations, you receive 50 percent off the rates which range from $365 to $1,300 daily, and usually range from $730 to $2,600. Garden or Ocean View one-bedroom studios and suites are 25 percent off with daily rates ranging from $273.75 to $832.50, ordinarily $365 to $1110.

    The daily rate includes use of tennis courts and the fitness center. The offer is subject to availability. A 10 percent service charge and 10 percent government tax are additional, as are meals and transfers to and from the Providenciales airport.

    Accommodations feature a terrace or balcony, marble floors, cable TV and a CD/DVD player with iPod connectivity, kitchens with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and an espresso machine with fr=ee coffee set-up. Bathrooms have natural stone counters, hairdryers, terry bathrobes, slippers and luxury bath amenities.

    Located on 22 beachfront acres on 12-mile Grace Bay Beach, the 115 residential units break out to 165 accommodations housed in three buildings with courtyards, fountains and tropical gardens. Two restaurants, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a spa/fitness facility are among the resort’s features.

    Seven Stars Resort or 866/570-7777.



    Air Tahiti Nui Around the World Fare

    You can explore the world at your own pace with Air Tahiti Nui’s new Around the World fare. Travel from Los Angeles or New York to destinations including Paris, Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland, and of course, Tahiti.

    The fare allows up to six fr-ee stopovers over the course of one year. Air Tahiti Nui’s Around the World fare starts at $3,600 for economy class including fuel surcharges. Business class fares start at $6,450, and first class fares start at $10,050. Government taxes and fees are additional and itineraries must be booked in a continuous eastbound or westbound global direction.

    The itinerary possibilities are limitless. One popular route is to fly east from Los Angeles to Paris, Dubai, or Bangkok, Melbourne and Auckland. Then retreat to Tahiti before returning to Los Angeles.

    For the Around the World fare, Air Tahiti Nui has partnered with Emirates Airlines to complete the remainder of the world city connections.

    Air Tahiti Nui Around the World fare or 877/824-4846.



    Harbor Beach Marriott Stay-Cation Savings

    According to the AOL 2008 summer travel survey, 66 percent of American travelers plan to keep vacations close to home due rising gas prices. In response to this “stay-cation” trend, Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa offers savings for those looking to experience Fort Lauderdale. Through Sep. 30, 2008, the Summer Family Escape package starts at $263 per room, per night, based on availability. Use promotional code ZJ1. The rate does not include tax or surcharges.

      It includes:
    • Overnight accommodations in a deluxe room
    • Fr^ee cabinette or beach umbrella on Fort Lauderdale’s largest private beach
    • Harbor Beach Pass with daily access to the Spa at Harbor Beach fitness center ($30 value)
    • One in-room family-friendly movie ($16 value)
    • 20 percent off all treatments at the spa
    • 20 percent off all purchases at the spa shop
    • F*ree self-parking in resort garage ($21 value)

    Fr.ee daily activities include beach volleyball, basketball, ping pong, and dive-in movies. Located just offshore, you can get a fr,ee introduction to scuba diving (ages eight and up) at the hotel’s pool. For adults, there are weekly evening lobby receptions with fr.ee Starbucks coffee or wine tastings and live music.

    Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa or 800/222-6543.


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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.


    Silverado Resort Family Extended Stay Package

    The Silverado Resort in Napa Valley creates a “Family Extended Stay Package” for family groups seeking spacious living areas and a variety of recreational offerings.

    The five- or seven-night package includes accommodations in a two- or three-bedroom condominium; a welcome basket; fr=ee breakfast for children 12 and under; access to the fitness center and fitness classes for guests 16 or older; unlimited tennis; daily Lodgenet movie; wireless Internet access; unlimited local and 800 telephone service; golf bag storage; daily maid service; VIP status; bell staff gratuities; on-property transportation and all taxes and resort fees. The Silverado Concierge Department will provide pre-trip planning and assistance during the extended stay to facilitate on-property and valley-wide arrangements.

    Offered year-round, the five-night package is priced at $2,250 for a two-bedroom condominium and $2,650 for a three-bedroom unit. The seven-night package is $3,050 for two bedrooms and $3,650 for three bedrooms. All condominium units are on the resort’s South golf course and include fully equipped kitchens, private balconies or patios, wood-burning fireplaces, cable television with premium movie channels, and in-room dining service.

    The 280-condominium resort also offers a lounge, poolside café, two 18-hole golf courses, a 16,000-square-foot spa with a fitness center and cafe, 10 swimming pools, 17 tennis courts, bicycle rentals, walking and jogging trails, on-site rental car services, fr-ee parking, concierge services, child care-provider referrals, business center, retail shops, dry cleaning and laundry service and on-site self-serve laundry.

    Silverado Family Extended Stay Package or 800/532-0500.



    Summer Savings at Horseshoe Bay Resort

    The 7,000-acre Horseshoe Bay Resort, in the Texas Hill Country, offers summer savings with discounts on accommodations, golf, spa, and kids’ club.

    Valid through Sep. 4, 2008, the Summer Family package includes a choice of accommodations from hotel rooms to one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas or lakefront condominiums at The Waters. Prices start at $329 per night at the Horseshoe Bay Resort Marriott, $345 per night at the villas and $353 per night at The Waters.

      The Summer Family Package includes:
    • $200 resort credit for sports, spa, dining, retail or Kids’ Club
    • 20 percent golf discount on midweek fees
    • 10 percent golf discount Friday to Sunday
    • 20 percent spa discount on midweek services
    • 10 percent spa discount Friday to Sunday
    • One "Fun Pack" per child ages three to 12, with disposable camera, Frisbee, yo-yo, water bottle, beach ball and a deck of cards
    • Fr^ee soda wristbands for children for pop at all food and beverage outlets
    • 50 percent Kids’ Club discount for children ages four to 12
    • Daily breakfast buffet

    In addition, Horseshoe Bay Resort provides daily summer discounts and special activities including banana boat rides on Lake LBJ, junior tennis clinics, spa treatments, poolside treasure hunts, sunset cruises and hula- hoop contests.

    Horseshoe Bay Resort or 877/611-0112.



    Radisson St Martin Resort Inaugural Savings

    The Radisson St Martin Resort, Marina & Spa, scheduled to open August 2008, launches an Introductory Special to celebrate its grand opening. When you reserve a stay, you will receive the fourth night fr*ee in addition to f,ree breakfast daily. With this discount applied to a four night stay, average rates begin at €142 (about $225) per night. The special offer applies to bookings made and stays completed by Dec. 18, 2008.

    Undergoing an $80 million transformation, Radisson St Martin is located at Anse Marcel, a secluded cove on the French side of St Martin. The oceanfront property will feature 63 suites and 189 guestrooms; a beachside restaurant; casual, lobby tapas bar; infinity pool; full-service spa and fitness center; 7,500 square feet of meeting space and 150-slip marina.

    Just two-and-a-half hours from Miami, the resort is the only one on the island offering water transfers from Princess Juliana International Airport to the property’s private marina.

    A comprehensive guest enrichment program will offer activities that make vacations rewarding and relaxing. Cooking classes, French lessons, massage instruction, Champagne and local rum tastings are among the experiences offered. A Kid’s Club, for guests four to 10 years old, is open daily except Sundays and features activities in morning, afternoon and evening sessions.

    Radisson St Martin Resort, Marina & Spa or 800/333-3333.


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    Earn the "Ultimate" Photo Opportunity

    For decades, shutterbugs dreamed of having a photo appear in National Geographic magazine. Now, that dream is within reach for one photographer whose photograph will be featured in an Energizer Ultimate Lithium ad that will run in the December 2008 issue of the magazine.

    Not only will the winning photo be a part of a new ad in National Geographic, the winner will also receive a National Geographic Expeditions trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar accompanied by a National Geographic expert. Both represent one-of-a-kind opportunities for one gifted amateur photographer.

    You can enter the "Energizer Ultimate Photography Contest" online and submit your best work. Submit photos in one of these thematic categories: adventure and exploration, travel, weather, science, people and cultures, festivals and celebrations, wildlife and nature, and space.

    A winner in each category will be selected in July, at which time Americans will be asked to vote online for the photo they think should be included in the Energizer ad that will be published in National Geographic.

    Deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. EDT July 25, 2008, for online submissions. Those sent by mail must be postmarked by July 25, 2008, and received by August 1, 2008.

    Entries submitted by mail must include photos no larger than 8 x 10 inches and accompanied by an entry form (available online) or a 3 x 5 inch card with the photographer's name, address, e-mail address and telephone number. The materials may be mailed to:

    Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest
    c/o National Geographic Society
    1145 17th Street, NW, Room 7623
    Washington, D.C. 20036-4688

    National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson will judge the entries and determine the category winners based on the following criteria: extent to which photo captures the essence of the theme selected (25 percent), composition (25 percent), clarity and technical quality (25 percent), and creativity (25 percent).

    Each of the eight category winners will receive a photography-themed package that includes Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries; a "Gear on Assignment Earth Explorer" shoulder bag; a VuPoint Film Scanner; and the National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide to Photography.

    Each of the category-winning photos will be posted online in mid-August, and visitors will be asked to cast their vote to determine the grand prize winner. The voting will last from Aug. 15 to Aug. 28, 2008, with the grand prize winner announced on or about Sep. 22, 2008.

    Energizer Ultimate Photography Contest.



    Couples Fly Fr.ee to the Caribbean

    Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua's adults-only Caribbean resort, offers an airfare promotion with fr,ee tickets from majorEast Coast gateways that serve Antigua via American Airlinesand Delta Air Lines. Couples who book a seven-night all-inclusive stay in the resort's premium beachfront suites through November 2008 qualify. The all-inclusive nightly rate is $520per person, based on double occupancy, and includes all meals, top-shelf liquor, non-motorized water sports, entertainment, tax and service charges.

    Premium beachfront suites feature a sunken living room with wet bar, floor-to-ceiling windows, a private terrace or balcony, a bathroom with his-and-hers showers and deep-soaking tubs plus high-tech amenities such as 32-inch flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, DVD players and wireless Internet access. The resort’s spa, designed as a tree house, overlooks a tropical bird sanctuary.

    Galley Bay Resort or 800/345-0356.


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    10 Tips for Senior Safe and Healthy Travel

    Whether your summer travel plans include a long vacation or a short getaway, if you are an older adult there are things you should do before leaving home to ensure a healthy trip. According to Timothy Schwab, M.D., chief medical officer of SCAN Health Plan, these 10 tips apply whether you're planning to go out of the country or a few counties away.

    1. Discuss travel plans with your doctor. If you are (or recently were) under a doctor's care, talk to your doctor to be sure it is safe for you to travel. Discuss whether changes in food, humidity or altitude will affect your health or abilities.
    2. Plan travel activities with your fitness level and mobility in mind. Travel can be demanding on the body. Changes in food or activity can worsen existing health problems. Be careful lifting or carrying heavy or bulky bags.
    3. Take a list of your medi-cines and allergies with you. This list is important in case you get sick or injured. A healthcare provider may need it to check and treat any problem.
    4. Refill prescription medicine. Bring enough medication to last the whole trip, but in the event of unexpected delays, be sure you bring extra medicine with you.
    5. Pack medicines in carry-on bags. If your checked bags get lost or delayed, you will be prepared.
    6. Leave all medication in original, labeled containers to avoid problems at security checkpoints.
    7. Take your health insurance card. It has information you need anytime you get medical care.
    8. Consider travel health insurance. If you think you may need health coverage beyond your current benefits, check if short-term travel insurance with health coverage meets your needs.
    9. Make appointments for routine care before you leave or after you return. Most health plans do not cover routine care outside of your normal service area. Emergency or urgently needed care is usually covered.
    10. Find out about emergency care and customs in the places you will visit. The 9-1-1 system is not everywhere. Before you leave, find out what to do in case of an emergency. Also take contact details for U.S. Embassies and Consulates. They can assist in locating medical services abroad.



    Holiday Inn San Juan Summer Deal

    Enjoy a summer escape with the value-added family package from the Holiday Inn San Juan. The hotel is in the Isla Verde area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, steps from Alambique Beach.

    This summer deal includes accommodation for two adults; up to two children 12 years old or younger stay fr-ee when sharing a room with parents; welcome cocktail for adults; daily $10 food and beverage credit per adult; and $10 match-and-play coupon at a nearby casino. The package costs $87.50 per adult, per night, based on double occupancy with a minimum stay of two nights.

    During the day, kids and parents can use the Water Spray Park at the hotel’s pool area, relax in the Jacuzzi or head for the beach.

    The 222-room hotel features air conditioning, king or queen sized beds, cable television, in-room iron and ironing board, fr=ee internet access, in-room safe, dorm-size refrigerator and hair dryer.

    Holiday Inn San Juan or 787/253-9000.



    Stay Longer and Save at the Breakers

    The historic Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, FL offers summer savings. Through Sep. 30, 2008, the resort offers activities and entertainment, along with discounted rates.

    Stay longer and get increased savings based on length of stay; rates vary based on stays of one to two nights, three or four nights, or five nights or longer.

    Through July 31, 2008, rates are from $309 per night for stays of five nights or longer, $279 per night for three or four night stays and $299 per night for one or two night stays.

    Aug 1 through Sep 30, 2008, rates are from $249 per night for stays of five nights or longer, $339 per night for three or four night stays and $369 per night for one or two night stays.

    This summer offer applies to all room categories and suites. With special rates for every room type, you can reserve oceanfront rooms and suites at savings off the regular high season rates.

    Stay Longer and Save is valid through Sep. 30, 2008. Rates vary by travel dates and are not valid with other offers. Up to two people can stay in a Standard Superior room with existing bedding. Deluxe and higher accommodations are required for families. Rates are subject to change without notice and do not apply to groups.

    The Breakers or 888/273-2537.



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    Rosen Hotels & Resorts "Summer Sizzle"

    Rosen Hotels & Resorts makes it tempting to take advantage of an Orlando summer vacation with their "Summer Sizzle" package with discounts up to 20 percent.

    The "Summer Sizzle" package is available through Aug. 15, 2008, at Rosen Hotels & Resorts' Orlando properties - Quality Inn International, Rodeway Inn International, Quality Inn Plaza (all three located along International Drive) and Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista near Walt Disney World.

    The package also includes a "Summer Sizzle" survival kit (while supplies last) with a thermal lunch bag, bottled water, snack pack and other amenities. Each hotel offers amenities and services including fr^ee transportation to area theme parks, onsite dining and/or lounges and convenience markets, high-speed Internet access, swimming pools and video arcades. Guest rooms at each hotel feature a mini-refrigerator, microwave, hair dryer and coffee maker. Kids eat fr*ee with a paying adult at each hotel.

    The "Summer Sizzle" package must be booked online. The package is based on availability and is subject to black-out dates. Rates are subject to change.

    The 728-room Quality Inn International offers two swimming pools and a children's wading pool. The hotel features an all-you-can-eat breakfast and dinner buffet and deli. A fr,ee shuttle takes you to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and Wet 'n' Wild Orlando.

    Rodeway Inn International offers 315 guest rooms and a swimming pool. Pets are welcome.

    The Quality Inn Plaza offers 1,020 guest rooms in six high-rise buildings. Children younger than 18 stay fr.ee with parents in the same room and pets are welcome. The hotel features three swimming pools, a sports bar, a breakfast and dinner buffet restaurant and a business center.

    Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista features 640 rooms in four high-rise buildings. Amenities include a children's playground, two swimming pools and fr.ee continental breakfast. The fr-ee shuttle provides service to Walt Disney World and Downtown Disney, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and area shopping.

    Through Sep. 28, 2008, there is a separate “Summer Sizzle” package for the Rosen Shingle Creek for $230 per night, based on double occupancy. This package includes unlimited rounds of golf at the Shingle Creek Golf Course, a breakfast buffet, fr=ee transportation to SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando, fr^ee self-parking, fr*ee use of the fitness center, 20 percent off any service at the spa and high-speed Internet access.

    Rosen Shingle Creek or 866/996-6338. Rosen Hotels "Summer Sizzle" package or 877/224-5377.


    Pleasant Holidays 50% off Companion Air

    HURRY! BOOK BY JULY 13 - - Pleasant Holidays offers a "Companion 50% Off" sale on select nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii.

    The half-off fares are valid when combined with a five-night hotel stay on any of the Hawaiian Islands. The promotion is valid for travel through Sep. 30, 2008 from San Francisco; or Aug. 18 to Sep. 30, 2008 from Los Angeles. Reservations must be booked by July 13, 2008. Rates include a fuel surcharge but do not include some facility and government taxes.

    The companion promotion makes a vacation or honeymoon more affordable, saving up to $439 per couple at a time when airfares to Hawaii from the west coast have increased due to soaring oil prices.

    Vacation packages begin at $676 per person from Los Angeles; and $707 from San Francisco. Rates are based on double occupancy and include nonstop roundtrip airfare, accommodations, and hotel taxes.

    For greater savings, you can select accommodations featuring reduced room rates, fr.ee upgrades, dining credits, daily breakfasts and fr,ee stays for kids. Pleasant Holidays offers 140 hotels and resorts in Hawaii, including condominiums with separate bedrooms and full kitchens.

    Pleasant Holidays or 800/542-9244.


    KeysCaribbean Resorts Offer Discount

    KeysCaribbean resort villas and marinas, in Key Largo, FL offers summer savings: 25 percent off at select KeysCaribbean resorts until Aug. 31, 2008.

    The 25 percent off discount applies to Mariner's Resort Villas & Marina in Key Largo, Village at Hawk's Cay Villas & Marina in Duck Key near Marathon, and Coral Hammock Resort and King's Pointe Oceanside Condominiums in Key West. Regular rates start from $195 per day.

    Rental savings are up to $130 per stay. The 25 percent discount offer is subject to availability.

    KeysCaribbean or Key Largo 305/853-1111; Duck Key/Marathon 305/289-5397; Key West 305/295-1271.



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    Gas Giveaways

    With gas prices increasing almost daily, destinations and resorts want to make sure that outrageous gas prices won’t keep people home. To offset high gas prices, many are offering fr.ee gas cards or rebates as incentives to travel. Here are a few offers:

    Hotel Griffon “Gas & Go Getaway” package - book online and stay Friday, Saturday or Sunday through Sep. 1, 2008 at the San Francisco hotel, and receive a fr.ee $20 gas card on check-in. Packages start from $179 per night. Hybrid cars receive fr,ee valet parking every day, a $40 value.

    Big Bear Lake Resort Association “Tank Away” Special, 800/424-4232 - When booking at participating lodges, get a $100 gas card when you book five or more nights, a $50 gas card for booking three or four nights, or a $25 gas card for staying one or two nights. The offer ends Nov. 23, 2008. Minimum night stays vary per lodge and other restrictions apply. The fr=ee gas card promotion must be mentioned when booking.

    "Gas 'N Go" Dauphine Orleans Hotel, 800/521-7111 - The New Orleans hotel offers a gas card package with a one night stay which includes Continental breakfast, taxes and $25 gas card when you check out (one card per stay). Valid through Sep. 30, 2008, rates are $119 per night. Use promotional code GG when booking.

    Tanks for Staying - Downtown Atlanta’s Glenn Hotel, 866/404-5366 - offers a $25 gas card as a way to say, “tanks for staying.” You will receive the fr-ee gas card when you show your gas receipt on arrival. Throughout the summer the hotel offers packages for girl getaways, an aquarium package and a baseball package.



    Buenaventura Summer Packages

    Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Spa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico recently renovated their 236 beachfront rooms and introduces their summer packages. The discount is 55 percent off regular rates.

    The summer all-inclusive package is $116 per person, per night (based on double occupancy) and includes three nights in a deluxe room; one wrap spa treatment per person; daily breakfast, lunch and dinner; unlimited cocktails, beer and wine by the glass; mini bar with soft drinks, bottled water and beer (replenished daily).

    The summer European plan package is $156 per room, per night (based on double occupancy) and includes: three nights in a deluxe room and one wrap spa treatment per person.

    The packages are valid through Aug. 11, 2008 and rates include special in room amenities, fr-ee access to Spa Shakti facilities, daily scheduled activities, fr^ee wireless Internet access, access to business center and hospitality lounge, children’s activities program for kids ages four to12 years and 24-hour room service

    Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Spa or 888/859-9439.



    Surprise! It’s Chesapeake, VA by Nicki Chodnoff, photos courtesy of the Chesapeake Conventions & Tourism Bureau

    Paddle for the BorderWe were nearly the last kayak to put in at the launch point at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center in South Mills, North Carolina. Kevin Kaul started paddling the tandem kayak at a fast clip since we were at the back of the pack in the 2008 Paddle for the Border event. Kaul, outdoor programmer for the Chesapeake VA Parks and Recreation Department, said it was the fifth year of the annual spring event that brings out paddlers from Maryland to Georgia, be they eight or 80.

    We and the other 200-plus participants, be they kayakers, fitness buffs or nature enthusiasts, paddled a 7.5 mile portion of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal, a 22 mile artery that connects Chesapeake Bay with Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. The hand-dug canal, the oldest operating artificial waterway in America, forms a link in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which serves ports from Boston to Key West, Fla.

    Dressed in trees and thick vegetation along both banks, the glass-smooth, tea-colored water in the almost-straight-canal hardly looked like the busy Intracoastal, but more like a secluded tributary in a ecological reserve. Nearly two centuries ago, this tangle of trees and shrubs provided the needed camouflage for runaway slaves since the canal served as a north-south route on the Underground Railroad. Along the wooded east bank of the canal, Kevin pointed out a large granite monolith with a “15" chiseled into it. This was an original mile marker on the canal, one of a few that survives. Still visible since vegetation was at its springtime low, the mile marker will all but disappear by late summer.

    Dismal Swamp Canal Mile MarkerAnd so the 7.5 mile paddle continued, as I learned about the canal’s history while taking in the natural beauty.

    History and nature combine easily in the Hampton Roads region in southeast Virginia, which stretches from Williamsburg in the north to Virginia Beach and Chesapeake 60 miles to the south.

    Dominated by seven cities, the area labeled Hampton Roads in the 17th century takes its name from its huge natural harbor.

    Today the area is a fusion of wildlife refuges and beaches, rivers and inlets, opportunities for day cruises, recreation and oceanfront dining, and impressive attractions attesting to a legacy of seafaring and early American history. Few places offer the vast variety of things to see and do.

    And Chesapeake, Virginia, sits in the center, an easy launch-point for attractions, golf, history, waterways and parks. Chesapeake is centrally located within 20 minutes of the Virginia Beach oceanfront, 20 minutes from downtown Norfolk, and less than an hour from Colonial Williamsburg and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

    Though Chesapeake may seem like an unlikely place to go for a vacation, the city holds a few surprises up it sleeves. My first surprise was what I’d call the most impressive natural area in the Chesapeake region - the 111,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Surely, this is a reason to vacation in Chesapeake as there are not many places where the great outdoors are greater and offer so many opportunities to hike, bike, boat and birdwatch.

    Dr. Dean BohanIntrigued by the idea of a swamp in this historic corridor, I did some research and found that human occupation of the area dates back nearly 13,000 years. Before European settlement, the Great Dismal Swamp covered up to 2,000 square miles. Now reduced to about 166 square miles, it is still one of the largest protected swamp wildernesses in the eastern United States. The bulk of the swamp is in Virginia, with about 38,000 acres in North Carolina.

    George Washington visited the swamp in 1763 and organized the Dismal Swamp Land Company that drained and logged portions of the swamp. A five-mile ditch on the west side of the refuge still bears his name. Logging the swamp was a successful commercial activity and continued as late as 1976. The entire swamp has been logged at least once and many areas have been burned by periodic wildfires.

    Once forested in Atlantic white cedar, cypress, and gum trees, the area is now covered by second-growth trees. Because it was ditched, drained, and logged early in the country’s history, the cypress, gum and Atlantic white cedar are found only in isolated stands. In spite of being drastically altered by people, the Great Dismal is still a wild area where nature has made a comeback.

    The swamp is home to reptiles, amphibians and a diversity of mammals, including black bear, bobcat, river otter and several bat species. The refuge’s impressive bird list stands at more than 200 species, with 34 warblers and 93 nesting species. April, May and June are a good time to see nesting songbirds, whereas summer can be hot and insect-ridden.

    Next to the Dismal Swamp Canal you’ll find the Canal Trail, a former section of Virginia State Rt. 17, open to bicycling, walking, running and horseback riding. The paved 8.5 mile nature trail is closed to traffic and cuts through dense, dark woods and brush to historic and ecologically-significant habitats. Markers note every quarter mile.

    Virginia Symphony on Buddy Bagley stageMy next surprise is Northwest River Park. Not as massive as the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the 763-acre city-owned park is surrounded on three sides by water. Pick your passion as the park offers a natural recreation area, a camping area, an extensive trail system from one-quarter mile to 2.5 miles, picnic shelters, play areas, an equestrian area for horse owners, fishing, miniature golf and a fragrance garden. Rental boats, canoes and fishing poles are available on site.

    To enhance Northwest River Park’s wilderness, the Nature Conservancy purchased a large tract of land along the swamp-park corridor, which is home to rare species including the Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew, rare plants, a fresh water wind tide marsh, forested wetlands and upland hardwood forest. The Northwest River starts at the Great Dismal Swamp, 12 miles from the park. One tract of land leads to the other creating a seamless patchwork of parks and reserves that look like one huge wilderness area.

    To get a sense of the park, Dr. Dean Bohon leads us to the quarter-mile Marjorie Rein Memorial Walkway which bridges a freshwater marsh and bald cypress swamp on its way to the observation platform above the Northwest River. On the way, we pass by a fragrance garden, in a quiet shady spot located next to the ranger station, that’s dedicated to Dr. Dean. This volunteer extraordinaire tirelessly teaches some of the nature classes and leads many of the birding watches and walks.

    Birds, many native and some passing through, are a big reason why people come to the park. As the park lies on the north-south flyway, the path birds fly to reach their winter and summer homes, spring and fall are especially popular times for bird watchers to visit the park. But you can never tell what kind of birds you will spot. Kaul tells of an extraordinary sighting during a recent canoe trip in the park where he spotted 20 bald eagles flying in a formation. “The eagles were flying high above everything heading towards the swamp.”

    Fun ForestIn addition to Kaul relating some of his more unusual experiences in the park, Dr. Dean tells us about some of the birds you can spot in the park: pileated woodpeckers, grackles, and prothonatary warblers with their loud, tell-tale “sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet" sound, all on one pitch. I concentrated on the warbler and found the yellow bird on a tree branch. As quickly as I spotted it, it flitted away. It was a small triumph for a city girl.

    “There are even ospreys in the area which have their nests in the park. We don’t have any numbers since their nests aren’t tracked,” informed Dr. Dean. As we walked along, Dr. Dean kept telling us about the plethora of nature in the park, excited as he pointed out a eastern tiger butterfly as it twittered around plants and our heads, and the holes around the circumference of a tree drilled by the yellow belly sap sucker.

    Portions of the trail are bright with sunshine while other parts are dim, shielded by protective tree limbs. At many points along the trail, the strong, clean scent of pine trees wafted through. Walk on the Marjorie Rein Memorial Walkway, the long Indian Creek Trail or the Otter Point Trail and it seems like you are deep in some remote woods, not surrounded by a million plus people who live in the region.

    If you still want to get outside, your options include the Chesapeake City Park. The 75-acre park, created on land that housed the largest tree nursery in Virginia, offers more than you’d expect from a city park and it’s mostly free. The children’s Fun Forest playground, built by more than 1,800 volunteers, is three acres of activities, from playing on a dragon to jumping on a shaky bridge. There’s even a skate park with a spine ramp, hip ramp and various obstacles. A visitor’s pass is needed to use the skate park, available for purchase at the ranger station. Furry, four-legged friends aren’t forgotten. The fenced-in dog park lets Fido run off-leash while owners can relax on benches. There are water fountain for dogs and owners, poop-scoop bags if you didn’t bring your own and covered trash cans.

    If that’s not enough for one park, Chesapeake City Park has 12 regulation-competition-class horseshoe courts which host the city's annual horseshoe tournament and the Buddy Bagley stage with festivals and live events including the free “Under the Stars” performance series which includes appearances by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

    Generally, you find planetariums at a science center or museum. But not in Chesapeake, VA. Surprise! You’ll find the Chesapeake Planetarium in the city municipal center. It’s the first planetarium built by a public school system in the state of Virginia. As the lights dim, the planetarium transports you away from Chesapeake and through the universe. These galactic wonders are seen by some 50,000 people, both students and the general public, each year. The weekly, hour-long program, given every Thursday night at 8 p.m., aims for an overview of astronomy. Dr. Robert Hitt, the planetarium’s director, is a one-man show who writes, scores, creates the graphics and presents the program. Reservations are needed for the free programs that change monthly.

    Chesapeake ArboretumAgain I’m surprised as I never expected to find an arboretum in a suburban neighborhood. Yet that’s exactly where you’ll find the 47-acre Chesapeake Arboretum. Consisting of a wood farmhouse, circa 1760, and a 43-acre mature hardwood forest , the land once belonged to the Williamson family. Built around the time Williamsburg was Virginia’s state capital and during the British Redcoat occupation, the house is joined entirely by wooden pegs. No metal was allowed in the building so Colonials couldn’t make bullets.

    The theme gardens around the farm house include incredibly fragrant antique roses, no longer available commercially. Across the street from the farm house is the urban forest, with many 100-year old trees and mulched trails. If you ever want to “stop and smell the roses,” this is the place. As I started a 10-minute walk on the mulched trail, the houses disappeared almost instantly. Instead I heard a symphony of birds and the bubble of a little creek and noticed about 100 shades of green - - from tree leaves to mosses.

    I wasn’t alone but it felt that way. People did come into the picture, some to look at the plants or birds, some relaxed on the benches while others used the trails as their jogging track. The trails, the grounds, and the flower beds are all in pristine condition, maintained by the all-volunteer staff and local community groups.

    In the few days I stayed in Chesapeake, I concentrated on activities that featured nature and the great outdoors. In the future, I’ll be back to explore the area’s rich history. How can you resist checking out that reportedly Edgar Allen Poe wrote parts of his famous poem “The Raven” while traveling on the Dismal Swamp Canal? If history or the great outdoors aren’t your cup of tea, you can concentrate on shopping and sports. No doubt, you’ll find something interesting to do and see.

    Chesapeake Conventions & Tourism Bureau or 888/889-5551.



    TSA Scanners See Through Clothing

    The Transportation Security Administration said it installed security scanners in 10 U.S. airports which can see through passengers' clothing and reveal details of their body underneath. TSA began introducing the body scanners in airports in April 2008, first in the Phoenix, AZ terminal.

    The TSA indicated that passengers will be randomly selected and shut in a glass booth while a three-dimensional image is made of their body beneath their clothes. The booths emit "millimeter waves" that go through cloth to identify metal, plastics, ceramics, chemical materials and explosives. Security screeners, who will check images from a different room, will clearly see the sexual organs and other body details while the passenger's face is blurred. Besides masking their faces, the TSA says on its website that the images made "will be erased from the screen permanently and not printed, stored or transmitted once the transportation security officer has viewed the image and resolved anomalies.”

    The scan takes seconds and replaces the physical pat-downs of people that is currently widespread in airports. A TSA spokeswoman noted that passengers are not obliged to accept the new machines and can, instead, choose the pat-down.

    The new machines have provoked worries among passengers and rights activists. The ACLU said in a statement that passengers expecting privacy underneath their clothing "should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies such as evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances, penile implants, catheter tubes and the size of their breasts or genitals as a pre-requisite to boarding a plane."

    Machines are in place or planned for airports in New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National, Baltimore-Washington International, Dallas, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Miami and Detroit.

    TSA foresees 30 of the machines installed across the country by the end of 2008. The ACLU said the TSA effort may encourage scanners' use in rail stations, arenas and office buildings. Scanners currently are used in a few courthouses, jails and U.S. embassies, overseas border crossings, military checkpoints and some foreign airports such as Amsterdam's Schiphol.



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