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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, July 2011 Issue

Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright  2011 
All Rights Reserved.
Editor: Nicki Chodnoff

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Circle necklace Sterling Silver Circle Pendent

The 30 mm sterling circle pendent is nearly 1 1/4 inch wide with a pave finish to make it look like small diamonds line the circle. The back of the pendent is clad in yellow 18K yellow gold overlay while the front remains silver. The necklace is finished off with an 18-inch sterling silver box-like chain clad in the same 18K yellow gold overlay. Comes in a black faux-leather gift box.

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In This Issue:
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

  • Vacation Like a VIP in Greater Fort Lauderdale
  • Free Chicago Insider Tours
  • CBP Tips for Travel
  • Summer Savings in the Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Play Together, Stay Together at Marriott
  • Free WiFi on Amtrak Cascades
  • California's Free Road Trips Guide
  • 7 Burglary Prevention Tips for Your Vacation
  • Fedha Serviced Apartments in London
  • Alexander Hotel Deal
  • Free Birthday Zips, Rappels & Tours
  • Grand Canyon Railway Specials and Promotions
  • iVenture Hong Kong Sightseeing Smart Card
  • American Safari Cruises Inaugural Hawaii Season
  • Free Instagreeter Service in Pilsen
  • Where Bedbugs Bite the Most
  • Quadruple Miles from Marriott Rewards
  • Air-Inclusive Packages from African Travel
  • Death Valley Days by Nicki Chodnoff
  • Win Culinary Vacation to Albuquerque

    Vacation Like a VIP in Greater Fort Lauderdale

    Enjoy the perks of celebrity with Greater Fort Lauderdale's Lauderdale Luxe Collection, featuring a “Vacation Like A VIP” package providing a high roller experience.

    Spearheaded by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, the “Vacation Like a VIP” package offers stays at one of the Lauderdale Luxe Collection properties, a room upgrade, free valet parking, $25 gift card and $100 resort credit to be applied to spa, golf, food & beverage, pool/beach cabana, water activities or kids programs. In addition, you receive a Super Summer Savings two-for-one card valued at $200 with more than 30 options including watersports, nature activities, boating, local museums, golf and spa treatments. The package is valid through Oct. 15, 2011 with a two-night minimum stay.

    The Lauderdale Luxe Collection includes 13 properties that offer amenities such as a full-service restaurant, on-premises spa or dedicated/contracted services.

    Lauderdale Luxe Collection includes the Atlantic Resort & Spa, Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, Lago Mar Resort and Club, Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, W Fort Lauderdale, Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center & Spa, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, Westin Beach Resort & Spa, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Pillars Hotel and the Royal Palms Resort and Spa.

    Vacation Like a VIP package.

    Free Chicago Insider Tours

    Modeled after programs in New York, London and Toronto, the Chicago Architecture Foundation offers more than 150 free of charge tours for the first openhousechicago weekend, Oct. 14 to 16, 2011.

    Locations not usually open to the public provide a “backstage pass” to Chicago’s most interesting spaces and places. The weekend will offer opportunities to explore buildings and neighborhoods, from Chicago’s Loop to lesser known communities such as Bronzeville and Little Village. In all, 150 different sites are expected to draw at least 50,000 people during the weekend.

    Many sites demonstrate how buildings and neighborhoods have been repurposed. Buildings that were once derelict have been adapted for entirely different uses. The Power House High School is a perfect example. The 1905 building once provided power, heating and cooling to the Sears Headquarters in the North Lawndale neighborhood. Sears moved out more than three decades ago and the building sat vacant until 2009. Now it is a state of the art high school.

    All tours are self-guided. Maps and event directories will be distributed in advance. Mobile-enabled technology will navigate the locations on your smart phone.

    Hotels and tour operators are planning special promotions to encourage out-of-town visitors.

    Openhousechicago Information.

    VitaminMenu Free Ship One Stop Bannerbanner

    CBP Tips for Travel

    The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provides tips to assist with cross border travel. CBP implemented initiatives designed to facilitate travel while improving U.S. border security.

    U.S. citizens traveling abroad must have approved travel documents when returning home. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older, to present a valid, acceptable travel document, such as a passport, a U.S. passport card, a Trusted Traveler card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST) or an Enhanced Driver’s License that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. U.S. and Canadian citizens under age 16 may present a birth certificate or alternative proof of citizenship when entering by land or sea.

    A radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled travel document such as a U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card or Trusted Traveler Program card expedites entry and makes crossing the border more efficient.

    WHTI document requirements for air travel have been in effect since January 2007. Almost all travelers flying back to the United States need to present a passport or NEXUS card.

    All nationals or citizens of VWP countries must have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, generally will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the U.S. CBP recommends ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans.

    CBP offers a new small vessel reporting system which allows boat operators and passengers an alternative to the current reporting system. By applying online and visiting a customs office in advance, owners and passengers can obtain entry clearance by phone. The system is available in Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and along the northern U.S. border. The program will be expanded to cover small vessel entries country-wide.

      CBP offers the following travel tips:

    1. To avoid fines and penalties for importing prohibited items, familiarize yourself with the “Know Before You Go” section of the CBP website.
    2. Be prepared to declare all items acquired abroad. Prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth and have your approved travel documents ready.
    3. Monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. You can find wait time information at the CBP website. For shorter wait times, use ports of entry during periods of lighter traffic or less traveled ports of entry during periods of heavy travel.
    4. Build in extra travel time for crossing during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic.
    5. Know the difference between goods for personal use versus commercial use.
    6. Do not bring in fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and/or firewood into the U.S. without first checking whether they are permitted.
    7. International border crossers should expect a thorough inspection process, even during busy holiday periods, when entering the U.S. CBP officers are authorized to conduct enforcement examinations, ranging from checking luggage to a personal search, without a warrant.
    8. If you are a frequent cross-border traveler and haven’t become a member of a trusted traveler program, sign up now.

    Summer Savings in the Blue Ridge Mountains

    Destinations and attractions are offering gas cards, travel packages and deals to attract the 80 percent of consumers who plan to take a summer vacation despite gas prices.

    One tank away from many destinations along the East Coast, Asheville, NC offers budget-friendly options and cool mountain breezes. Below are some summer travel deals you’ll find in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    Free Gas: Get your tank filled for free, up to $25 of free gas per night, on your summer getaway with one of the new gas card travel packages.

    Biltmore Free for Kids: America's Largest Home, Biltmore, is free for kids ages nine and younger with paying adult. Through Sep. 5, youth ages 10 to 16 are admitted for $5.

    Free Events : The 2011 summer calendar is full of free entertainment, from the largest free outdoor music festival in the Southeast (Bele Chere, July 29-31) to free bluegrass and dancing under the stars (Shindig On the Green, July – Sep.) to days devoted to mountain honey (Sourwood Honey Festival in Black Mountain, Aug. 13-14).

    Combo Tours: Asheville attractions team up to offer savings on tours and adventures. Try a comedy tour, a zipline canopy adventure or a mountain train ride that ends in whitewater fun.

    Free Splash: Water adventures include swimming holes, an interactive water fountain and a 60-foot natural water slide ($1/person).

    Go Blue Ridge Card: This multi-day, multi-attraction pass provides unlimited access to more than 30 area attractions including Chimney Rock Park, white water rafting and Biltmore.

    Park & Play Attractions: Sightseeing is easy in a walkable city with more than 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails nearby. The tourism office offers a handpicked list of fun, gas-saving Park the Car Adventures.

    Free Money: The historic Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa offers free breakfast and a $25 hotel gift card with their "Bed, Breakfast & Bucks" package.

    Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

    Play Together, Stay Together at Marriott Hotels & Resorts

    Marriott Hotels & Resorts offer resort experiences for families that like to play together, be it golf, tennis, water sports or nature exploration.

    At Marriott resorts offering golf, junior golfers (15 and under) play free after 3 p.m., 365 days per year, when accompanied by a full-paying adult. One free round per junior golfer is valid for each paying adult. Kids also receive a free golf lesson when accompanied by an adult who is paying for a lesson. Marriott offers Kids Rent-4-Free, providing junior golfers with a free rental set of Accu-Length clubs when they participate in Kids Golf-4-Free by playing golf or taking lessons alongside a paying adult.

    The Escape Family package at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, 800/223-6388, includes daily breakfast, free tickets to the Butterfly Farm and a free on site kids activity. To book, use promotional code MAJ.

    The CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, Mexico offers its Escape! Family package, from $179 per night, including garden or ocean view room with balcony, rum or fruit punch on arrival, breakfast buffet, free entrance to the Kid's Club for children four to 12 years old, free in room-movie, room service order of pizza and non-alcoholic beverage, limited non-motorized recreation equipment rentals, unlimited tennis court usage, disposable camera per family per stay, and milk and cookies turndown service nightly. Three-night minimum stay is required; offer valid through December 2011. To book, use promotional code MAJ.

    Available at 15 Marriott Hotels & Resorts in the U.S. and Canada, the "Summertime is Your Time" offer is valid if booked by Aug. 22, for stays through Sep. 5, 2011. Package includes free breakfast, a $50 resort credit and 20 percent off spa and golf services. A seven-day advance reservation and a three-night minimum stay is required. To book, use promotional code R6M.

    Get a second, connecting room at CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, plus daily breakfast buffet and kids 12 years or younger eat free at any restaurant. Rates start from $149 per night based on availability and are valid through Oct. 31, 2011. Kids must be 12 years or younger and the promotion applies to two children per room. The connecting room package includes: guaranteed connecting room with private balcony, second room, breakfast buffet daily, daily kids meals from kids menu when dining with parents and 20 percent discount on any spa treatment. To book, use promotional code VFE.

    The Escape! Destination "Coral World" package available at Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 340/715-6103, is for two adults and two children under age 12. It includes breakfast buffet daily, tickets and transportation to Coral World Marine Park, Sea Lion Swim at Coral World Marine Park, island tour, one-time box lunch, disposable camera, and room, tax and gratuities for bellman and housekeeper. Offer is valid through December 2011 and starts at $415. To book, use promotional code: ARN.

    Book the value added "Free for All" package, through Oct. 6, 2011, at the oceanfront Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach. A $50 million makeover updated the 356 guestrooms and suites and the addition of a new children's pool with water features and a slide. The package starts at $259 per room night, includes an upgraded room, free Internet access, and a free round of golf for children at the Kauai Lagoons Golf Club. Additional discounts include 10 percent off food at the property and 10 percent off at the spa. Book through Oct. 6, 2011, for stays through Nov. 18, 2011. Based on availability, restrictions may apply. To book, use promotional code FLP.


    Free WiFi on Amtrak Cascades

    Amtrak passengers traveling between Vancouver, BC, and Eugene, OR, on the Amtrak Cascades service will be able to connect to the Internet for Web surfing and access to e-mail using a laptop computer or Wi-Fi enabled device. The free Wi-Fi service, known as Amtrak Connect, will also allow access to corporate networks through most standard Virtual Private Networks (VPN).

    The Wi-Fi service, provided by Amtrak and the Washington State Department of Transportation, is part of a long-term project to refurbish trains to like-new condition and extend their service life.

    The Vancouver to Eugene Amtrak Cascades route is the second train in the Amtrak fleet to install a full-train Wi-Fi network. The Amtrak high-speed Acela Express service in the Northeast launched Wi-Fi on all 20 trains in March 2010.

    Amtrak Cascades operates three daily roundtrips between Portland and Seattle; one daily roundtrip between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and between Portland and Vancouver, B.C.; and daily service between Eugene and Seattle, via Portland.

    Amtrak Cascades.

    California's Free Road Trips Guide

    The 2011 California Road Trips guide encourages you to travel around the Golden State, especially by car, with two- to three-day driving getaways along with more detailed routes for longer vacations.

    This year’s guide theme is “Wine and Food Getaways,” with California’s wine regions, innovative cuisine, world-class chefs and emphasis on locally grown foods. In addition to culinary stops, the itineraries present a range of activities so you can stop, explore, learn and have fun.

    Road Trips 2011 is free in digital format or call 877/TOP-DRIVES for a copy .

    7 Burglary Prevention Tips for Your Vacation

    When planning your vacation, here are a few tips to make sure your possessions are still there when you get back:

    1. Do not post about your vacation on Facebook until after you get back. If that takes more discipline than you can muster, at the very least keep your location status off any public social networking pages. Many burglars use these sites to identify "safe" targets.
    2. Make your home look lived in. A light on a timer is a great first step. You can buy a small device called "FakeTV" that simulates the light output of a television ($35), making it look like you are home watching TV each evening.
    3. Don't leave obvious signs that the house is unoccupied. Stop the mail and paper, or have a neighbor take it in. Arrange for lawn care as needed. And don't leave notes on the door.
    4. Make your home hard to get into. You need good locks. Your hidden outdoor key is not as cleverly hidden as you think. Get to know your neighbors, and leave the key with them. Let them know you will be gone, and have them keep an eye out during your absence. If you have an alarm system, use it. Amazingly, many people forget to set the alarm. Conversely, do not think that an alarm system makes you invulnerable. Burglars can still cause a smash-and-grab robbery, leaving before the police can respond. Park a car in the driveway and take the garage door opener out of the car.
    5. Remove obvious temptations. Walk around your property and make sure you cannot see any easily pawned valuables through uncovered windows. Don’t leave out ladders and eliminate particularly easy or well-concealed access points.
    6. Prepare for the worst. Prepare for your computer being stolen and back up your files and password protect your computer to deny access. Make a quick run-through around the house with a video recorder, list valuables. This could save a lot of hassle with the insurance company if you need to file a claim.
    7. Strike the right balance. There’s a trade-off between security measures and the burdens they impose. You may wish to place irreplaceable items in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe. This can include expensive jewelry, family photos, and financial records. Make sure your insurance policy is up to date. Label your possessions with your name. An engraver is best, but a Sharpie is a lot better than nothing.

    Only two out of a hundred homes are burglarized in any given year. The bad news is that for those two homes that are burglarized, the effects of the intrusion are often devastating. The average burglary costs $1750, and a whole lot of peace of mind.

    Security is a mindset and need not be a great burden. Fortunately, your security measures do not need to be perfect. Most crime is opportunistic, and if the guy down the street failed to take a few simple precautions, his house is more likely to draw the attention of the thief than yours. And frankly, there are no measures that can stop the most determined criminals. So, take a few simple steps to improve your odds and peace of mind. It will make your getaway more relaxing.


    Philadelphia Eagles boys growth chart thumb NFL Team Branded Growth Chart

    A great keepsake to capture a child's growth through the years and show your team spirit. Available for all 32 NFL teams plus the Ohio State University, the large growth chart (54" long by 15" wide) easily hangs on any surface with removable adhesive tabs. A pink version for all 32 NFL teams is available for girls. The growth chart comes with 14 removable footballs that adhere directly onto the chart. Footballs, placed at the child's measurement each year, include a place to write the date and child's age, when measured, and a place for a photo!

    NFL team growth charts are available at NFL.com Search for team name growth chart. Ohio State University growth charts are available on amazon.com. Search for Ohio State University growth chart.

    Fedha Serviced Apartments in London

    Fedha Apartments, a provider of serviced apartments for extended stays, has a new website designed to provide a one-stop source for renting serviced apartments.

    The new website gives access to more than 600 apartments in London UK, using an interface that lets you view, compare and make a reservation in just a few clicks. Serviced apartments have a minimum stay requirement, which can be as little as three days.

    Hotel rooms, especially in the UK, can be cramped and room service and laundry services cost prohibitive. Serviced apartments combine the perks of a hotel with the comforts of home without breaking the bank.

    All the serviced apartments offer conveniences such as Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, DVD players and phones. Kitchens are fully equipped, and maid service and linen changes are provided on a weekly basis. Most serviced apartments are located in upscale buildings staffed with 24-hour service.

    Fedha Apartments.com partnerss with taxi and shuttle service providers to offer airport transfers to and from its serviced apartments.

    Fedha Apartments.com.

    Alexander Hotel Deal

    The Alexander Hotel, on Cayman Brac, offers a deal for travelers looking for an authentic Cayman Islands getaway.

    Nightly rates start at $156.25 for a deluxe queen room, which offers an ocean view. Each room features a queen size bed with modern decoration and furnishings and a full kitchen stocked with all the essentials. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, flat screen plasma TVs with cable, free WiFi, and imported bathroom amenities. All rates are subject to a 10 percent local tax.

    This offer is valid on reservations for stays through Sep. 30, 2011, made directly with the hotel and is not combinable with any other special or package.

    The Alexander Hotel has 31 rooms and is located behind the Gerrard Smith Airport, which receives several daily Cayman Airways flights from Grand Cayman and direct flights from Miami once a week.

    Cayman Brac is an island 89 miles east of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean that stretches only 12 miles. Cayman Brac offers dive spots, nature walks and cave exploration for the adventurous traveler.

    The Alexander Hotel or 800/381-5094.

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    Free Birthday Zips, Rappels, Cave & Gold Mine Tours

    Cave and Mine Adventures in California’s gold country continues their free birthday activities at Black Chasm Cavern, California Cavern, Moaning Cavern Adventure Park and Sutter Gold Mine.

    This offer is valid throughout 2011 to anyone who provides proof of their birth date on their actual birthday at any of the Cave and Mine Adventures locations.

    You can choose from a zip line ride across the gold country foothills, a 165-foot rope rappel to the bottom of Moaning Cavern’s massive main chamber, a climb on the 32-foot custom climbing tower, or a walk tour at Moaning Cavern Adventure Park. At Black Chasm Cavern, California Cavern and Sutter Gold Mine, you can take a walk tour free of charge.

    Most of the Cave and Mine Adventures locations are open year round, and Moaning Cavern and Black Chasm Cavern are open every day of the year. There are no restrictions on dates.

    Cave and Mine Adventures .

    Grand Canyon Railway Specials and Promotions

    Grand Canyon Railway has a number of specials and promotions.

    Grand Canyon Railway recently joined social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Many discounts can be discovered by following the Grand Canyon Railway on these communication channels.

    Express Packages - In addition to meal inclusive packages, Grand Canyon Railway offers a train/hotel package for more flexibility with meal options. This gives you the ability to try other dining options in the town of Williams.

    Military Discounts - The Grand Canyon Railway offers discounts on train rides to active duty and retired military personnel and their families.

    Grand Canyon Railway or 800/843-8724.

    iVenture Hong Kong Sightseeing Smart Card

    iVenture Card, a provider of tourism experiences, introduces the See Hong Kong Pass. This sightseeing smart card allows cash-free entry to more than 15 attractions in Hong Kong and a free trip to Macau.

    Following iVenture Card attractions passes in Australia, Canada and Singapore, the Pass is available online, through its distribution network and attraction partners from HK$399 for a one-day adult pass, about $52.

    You can choose from a one- to three-day pass. Adult one-day pass is HK$399, two-day pass is HK$649 and three-day pass is HK$899. Child one-day HK$299, two-day HK$499 or three-day HK$649.

    In addition to unlimited entry to top attractions, the See Hong Kong Pass provides experiences such as Dim Sum Cooking Class, Feng Shui Tour, Hong Kong Traditional Life Style Tour, Wine Tasting at the 8th Estate Winery and Aberdeen Harbor "Sampan" boat ride. The Pass comes with one free trip to or from Macau by TurboJET and free entry to the Macau Tower Observation Deck. This represents more than HK$2,000 (nearly $260) of value on one card.

    The See Hong Kong Pass is valid for six months once purchased and comes with an easy-reference pocket guide to help you plan an experience in Hong Kong and Macau.

    iVenture Card .


    Dallas Cowboys kleen kit thumb NFL Team Branded kleen kits

    Fight against bacteria and flu germs with National Football League team branded hand sanitizer kleen kits. Produced by ke specialties llc, a kleen kit consists of a 2 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer, an 8 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer and a 40 count canister of wipes, available for all 32 NFL teams plus The Ohio State University.

    The 2 ounce bottle (TSA approved for 3-1-1 carry-ons) or 8 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer easily fit into a pocket, purse or back pack and the 40 count canister of wipes can be used at home, while tailgating or at work.

    NFL team and Ohio State branded kleen kits are available at ke specialties llc.

    American Safari Cruises Inaugural Season in Hawaii

    Hawaii bound vacationers have an incentive to book an inter-island yacht cruise aboard American Safari Cruises’ 36-guest Safari Explorer. To celebrate its inaugural season in Hawaii, the line offers a $150 per person or $300 per couple travel credit for reservations made through July 29, 2011. The credit can help defray air costs to the Hawaiian Islands.

    Sailing weeklong or 10-night itineraries between Maui and the Big Island from November 2011 through April 2012, the all-inclusive, Safari Explorer visits Moloka’i, Lana’i and Molokini. The Safari Explorer is the only small-group expedition yacht offering overnight cruises in the Hawaiian Islands.

    Itineraries focus on the leeward side of the eastern-most Hawaiian Islands. The unstructured itinerary allows time for seeking wildlife. The yacht’s water sports equipment includes kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling gear, wet suits, sailboats and inflatable skiffs for up-close excursions. Guided snorkeling tours are a highlight throughout the trip. Two expedition leaders guide hiking and kayaking tours. Bicycles are available for use on Moloka’i and Lana’i.

    Cultural tours are arranged in Moloka’i including guided hikes, visiting and restoring a family’s ancient taro terraces, “talking story” with native Hawaiians and a private, authentic Hawaiian pa’ina (feast).

    The Safari Explorer has an on-deck hot tub, sauna, exercise equipment, a wine library and two large-screen TVs in the main salon. Meals are prepared with fresh, local ingredients and the free bar offers premium spirits, fine wines and microbrews. The active spa includes a free massage and yoga classes. All staterooms offer Tempur-pedic mattresses, flat screen TV/DVD players and iPod docks. Upper category staterooms feature Jacuzzi tubs and suites have private step-out balconies.

    Per person fares, based on double occupancy, start at $4,995 for the seven-night cruise and $6,495 for the 10-night cruise and include transfers, meals, wine, premium spirits and microbrews, and all port charges, taxes and fees. An all-American crew has a guest-crew ratio of 2 to 1 and includes Hawaii residents who have personal knowledge of the islands.

    American Safari Cruises or 888/862-8881.

    Free Instagreeter Service in Pilsen

    This summer, Chicago visitors can explore the Pilsen neighborhood through the new Pilsen InstaGreeter Outpost, a free visitor service offered by the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. Located at the National Museum of Mexican Art (1852 W. 19th Street), the Pilsen InstaGreeter Outpost is the third neighborhood offshoot of the Chicago Greeter program. The Hyde Park InstaGreeter Outpost and the Old Town InstaGreeter Outpost also reopen for summer 2011.

    Outposts offer free, one-hour guided neighborhood visits by knowledgeable volunteer Chicagoans on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Oct. 8, 2011. The Hyde Park Outpost is open every Saturday and the Old Town and Pilsen Outposts are open on alternating Saturdays. Visits are given on a first-come, first-served basis with no pre-registration required.

    The neighborhood outposts are Chicago Greeter’s offshoots of the InstaGreeter service, which offers visitors the opportunity to see downtown Chicago in an hour with a Greeter leading free walking visits. InstaGreeter is located in the Visitor Information Center at the Chicago Cultural Center (77 E. Randolph Street). InstaGreeters are available year-round on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    InstaGreeter walks are first-come, first-served and are limited to six people or less per walk, no pre-registration required.

    Also returning is the Millennium Park Greeter Service. Departing from the Millennium Park Welcome Center (201 E. Randolph Street), the free 45-minute tours are about the art and architecture of the Park. Tours are daily at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. through Oct. 10, 2011, for up to 10 people, first-come, first-served, no pre-registration required.

    Chicago Greeter program.

    Where Bedbugs Bite the Most

    New York maintained its top spot on the Terminix Most Bedbug Infested Cities ranking. The 2011 most bedbug-infested cities include:

    1. New York
    2. Cincinnati
    3. Detroit
    4. Chicago
    5. Philadelphia
    6. Denver
    7. Washington, D.C.
    8. Los Angeles
    9. Boston
    10. San Francisco
    11. Columbus, Ohio
    12. Dayton, Ohio
    13. Baltimore
    14. Louisville, Ky.
    15. Dallas

    Terminix, a provider of pest control services, has seen an increase in bedbugs in most states during the past year. The company expects bedbugs to continue to plague the nation as travelers and homeowners encounter the tiny pests.

    The list was compiled with data from 350 Terminix branches across the country. The company evaluated complaint calls from customers and confirmed cases by service professionals when creating the ranking.

    Cities not appearing on the list may still encounter bedbug infestations as most cities and states have reported bedbug activity during the last year.

    A national bedbug epidemic is plaguing the country and the bedbug problem is growing in scope and severity according to Terminix. Bedbug bites may cause itchy welts and rashes. Bedbugs can go undetected for weeks or months in a home or hotel as they quickly reproduce.

      As you prepare to travel here are some tips from Terminix to protect you from bedbugs:
    1. Check hotel headboards, mattresses and box springs for bedbugs and dark blood spots.
    2. Hang all clothing. Leave nothing lying on the bed or furniture.
    3. Avoid unpacking clothing and storing your clothing in the hotel's furniture drawers.
    4. Store baggage on a luggage rack as far from the bed as possible.
    5. Vacuum suitcases when returning home and immediately wash clothing in hot water.
    6. If you suspect your hotel has bedbugs, ask for a change of rooms. Bedbugs should only be treated by a trained pest control professional.


    $20 Off Promotion

    Quadruple Miles from Marriott Rewards

    Marriott Rewards members can earn their next flight faster with the Quadruple Miles promotion. Members, who choose to earn airline miles in participating frequent flyer programs, will receive quadruple the miles for stays at more than 3,400 Marriott International hotels in 70 countries, beginning with the second stay. In many cases, members will earn up to eight miles per dollar spent.

    The Quadruple Miles promotion runs through Aug. 31, 2011. Members must register online or 800/952-8876.

    Participating airlines include: Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest, United and US Airways.

    Marriott Rewards has no blackout dates and membership is free. In addition to hotels and frequent flier miles, members can redeem points for merchandise, cruises and car rentals.

    Marriott Rewards or 800/450-4442.

    Air-Inclusive Packages from African Travel

    African Travel Inc. launches three air-inclusive Fall packages. With more than 35 years of experience in Africa, the company matches travelers with a safari.

    The Cape & Wildlife Quest, a 12 day air-inclusive package from $5,895 per person, mixes the sophistication of Cape Town with a safari to Mashutu Game Reserve and Kruger National Park.

    The Selous, Sand and Sea 11 day air-inclusive package from $5,995 per person takes you to one of Africa’s largest and least visited reserves, Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, ending with a relaxing Zanzibar beach experience.

    The Kenya Explorer s an 11 day air-inclusive package from $5,995 per person that combines the best of Kenya, including Nairobi, Aberdares forest, Mount Kenya Safari Club, and the Masai Mara Reserve.

    All packages include roundtrip international economy flights from Washington DC and are available for travel Sep. 12 through Nov. 21, 2011, and must be ticketed by July 31, 2011.

    African Travel or 800/421-8907.

    Death Valley Days - articles and photos by Nicki Chodnoff

    Photobucket“You’re going to Death Valley?” questioned my husband Harold. “Why would anyone want to go to a place with death in its name?”

    Maybe there should be a name change as Death Valley doesn’t warrant its doom-and-gloom appellation. It is not a vast stretch of hazards, bleakness or empty boringness. This more than 3.3 million acre wilderness that’s a National Park since 1994 is full of superlatives: the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (282 ft. below sea level), one of the hottest places on earth (record high: 134°F) and one of the driest places on earth (average annual rainfall: 1.8 in.). Although much of the landscape looks as lunar as you’ll find anywhere outside of the moon, it is home some to some of the toughest plant life, amazingly camouflaged wildlife and a stunning array of rocks.

    Blame the forty-niners looking for a way to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains to get to the California gold fields for the ominous name. They stumbled into Death Valley in the winter of 1849. The warm springs at Furnace Creek supported them as they looked for a way through the towering mountains. Hungry and exhausted, it took them more than a month to escape the valley. When leaving the vast, barren landscape, one of them reportedly turned around and said, "Goodbye, death valley.”

    PhotobucketAbout 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park is one of the most beautiful and varied terrains on the planet. You can see many of its famous sites from the highway, but some of the park's attractions are hidden at the end of miles of bumpy dirt road. In many of the park's canyons, you can drive right to the entrance and within minutes find near-pristine isolation. Even during the sunny temperate days of spring, (the real heat comes in the summer), you don’t come across many tourists.

    Death Valley’s beauty is evident because it bares its geologic soul, exposing it for all to see. We may not give it much thought, but the surface of the Earth moves constantly with colliding tectonic plates, volcanism, advancing and retreating bodies of water and glaciers scouring and scraping. In other places, evidence of this activity is mostly covered in grass, dirt, snow or ice. In Death Valley, the effects of the forces of nature are obvious. The tortured landscape, where lifted and eroded rocks were twisted and metamorphosed, is left naked.

    A prime example is Ubehebe Crater. Easily accessible by car, the rim of the half-mile-wide, 500-feet deep crater formed from underground steam and gas explosions. Rising molten basalt met cold, shallow groundwater. About 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, the mixture exploded violently, blowing off a massive lid of sedimentary rock and blasting cinders over six square miles. From the viewing area at the crater’s rim, you can see how the volcanic ash spread over most of the area. With cinders as deep as 150 feet, you can trek down to the crater's floor or walk around the rim on a level path. Either way, you will be treated to fantastic views. So other-worldly looking, the multihued rocks that ring the interior of the crater were used for location shots in the original 1977 Star Wars.

    Mesquite FLats sand dunes, Death ValleyThere's no place better to observe the tectonic forces that shaped Death Valley than at Badwater Basin, the lowest place in the valley (and on the continent). The mountain ranges in Death Valley are fault block mountain ranges, where blocks of rock are squeezed above Earth's crust along parallel faults or are loosened and sink when crust separates at a fault. Both forces act here simultaneously, causing mountains to be uplifted while the valley floor drops. A testimony to the regions' violent tectonic past, Badwater Basin is 15 miles east of 11,049-ft. Telescope Peak (the park’s highest peak and within clear view of Badwater Basin) and less than 100 miles from the highest point in the continental United States, Mount Whitney, at 14,494 feet.

    Named Badwater, because a prospector came with his mule to the small pond and his mule refused to drink the salty water. Walk onto the salt flats. You’ll be surprised to see how hot white reflective salt can get and see up close what looks like a valley of snow. Walk to an area that tourist feet have flattened and you can see the interesting and delicate salt crystal shapes. Look up and you get an impressive view of the cliffs. Don't miss the small white sign high on the cliff showing where sea level is.

    For a change of scenery, visit the lengthy Mesquite Flat sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley’s most accessible sand dunes. From a distance, the dunes, an amalgam of amazing texture, color and beauty, appear dwarfed by the surrounding high peaks. The highlight of many people’s trip, the dunes are most dramatic (and at their coolest) when the shadows are still long. These graceful, wind-sculpted forms say "desert" more than any other feature in Death Valley. Trapped by mountains on all sides, the winds deposited grains of mountain quartz in a beach-like expanse that covers 15 square miles though less than one percent of the park is covered in dunes. Even though the sand dunes are close to the highway, few people explore them as evidenced by the few footprints in the sand. The original Stovepipe Well, named for the length of stovepipe driven into the well to mark the site from shifting sands, is near the dunes, off of Scotty’s Castle Road. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the well was an important watering hole for miners and prospectors. As you leave the dunes and get back on Highway 190, you will pass Devil's Cornfield, an expanse of arrowweed whose dried stems at first glance resemble bundled cornstalks.

    Scenic drives from Furnace Creek show how water and wind carved away at the colored rock. If you start at Zabriskie Point overlook (a setting for Michelangelo Antonioni's film and an incredible place to watch the sun rise), you can trek down 2.8 miles past pale blue-green desert holly shrubs, sun-drenched yellow badlands, the fluted walls of Red Cathedral, the pinnacle of stately Manley Beacon. You’ll end up at the base of Golden Canyon, with its multicolored layers of sedimentary deposits, that’s named for its radiance in the morning light.

    What many consider Death Valley’s pièce de résistance shows off nature's more subtle shades. Artists Drive is a detour off the main road. The nine-mile, one-way loop road winds over hills and through the Black Mountains where there is a pull off point at Artist’s Palette. Depending where you stand, this series of sharp cliffs does look like a palette. This showcase of volcanic rocks looks like it is painted in pastels by various minerals and oxidizing metals: iron-producing reds, pinks, yellows; decomposing mica coloring rocks mint green; manganese supplying the purple. As many times as you see these gorgeous formations, a passing cloud and the movement of the sun make the shades of bubblegum pink, hunter green, lava black and vanilla shake white cliffs ever changing. The best panoramic vista on this route is at mile-high Dantes View, where the deepest salt basin (Badwater), tallest mountain (Mount Whitney), multicolored rocks and swirling sand can be savored from 5,475 ft. high in the Black Mountains.

    Even the most insane golfers won’t want to play on the Devil's Golf Course. The ground is compacted into a mass of salt and mud. Wind and rain shaped the silt of the ancient saltwater lakes into surreal crystallized salt pinnacles. This large crystal salt pan has a pocked, gouged surface that only the devil could play on, or so the story goes. You can walk onto this field. Be careful because the footing is uneven and treacherous in places. The crystals are sharp enough to cut you if you fall.

    PhotobucketSo much in Death Valley is about nature. Scotty’s Castle is a monument to one man’s guile and charm. Built in the late 1920s, the "castle" for which the place is named resembles a Spanish villa. It stands as a monument to Walter Scott, a flamboyant prospector, veteran of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and one of the region's most famously eccentric residents. Also known as Death Valley Scotty, this desert denizen charmed the national media in his day with stories of a secret gold mine and displays of wealth - including construction of the ornate dwelling.

    In truth, the castle, a $2 million Spanish Colonial "vacation" hacienda was built and owned by Chicago insurance magnate Albert Johnson, who took a liking to Scott and the dry Death Valley air (which helped his rheumatism). Scott initially conned Johnson into grubstaking a worthless mine. Johnson, who eventually passed himself off as Scotty's banker, was won over by Scotty and the beauty and restorative qualities of the valley. He let his raconteur friend live in the castle and tease reporters and visitors with tales of having financed it with gold from his mine.

    Nature’s imprint on Death Valley is everywhere but man too has had an influence. The Death Valley region was developed by miners. You can still find remains of a few short-lived gold, silver and copper mines in the mountains and Ghost Towns, but the real fortunes in Death Valley were made with "white gold": borax. The first big operation, the Harmony Borax Works (1883-88), led to the settlement of Furnace Creek. Borates were scraped off yellow badlands in nearby Mustard Canyon, refined by Chinese laborers and pulled 165 miles to market in Mojave on the famous 20-mule-team wagons. When in full operation, the Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily. Remnants of the original wagons, with their giant, 7-ft.-high wheels, are on display at Furnace Creek.

    Devil's Golf Course, Death ValleyYou can experience Death Valley history by staying at Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort. In 1927, the Furnace Creek Inn was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, of Twenty Mule Team fame, as a way to save their railroad after the borax mines closed. They thought wealthy travelers could use the train to stay at luxury hotel at the hottest, driest, and lowest place in America. Spread across a hill at the mouth of Furnace Creek wash, many of the luminaries of old and new Hollywood stayed at the Inn at Furnace Creek. Open from mid-October through mid-May, the stucco buildings with orange tiled roofs convey an aura of casual luxury as they are set around a lush garden of date and fan palms near a warm-spring-fed pool. This is where you come for fine dining, tennis and an alluring backdrop of the Panamint and Cemetery Mountains.

    Where to Stay: Death Valley National Park offers accommodations ranging from campgrounds for the RV crowd to the historic Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort for first-class comfort and old Hollywood charm. This is one in-park resort with two hotels - the historic, 66 room Inn at Furnace Creek and the more family oriented 224 room Ranch at Furnace Creek. Open year-round, the Ranch at Furnace Creek is adjacent to the golf course and features 224 rooms in a casual setting, general store, spring-fed swimming pool, tennis courts, horseback riding and the Borax Museum.

    When to Go: February and March are pleasant with sunny days than can reach the mid-80s and cool nights in the low 50s. If there is sufficient rain during the winter, the best time to see desert wildflowers are late March and April. Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world in the summer. The average high in July, the hottest month, is 115 degrees and the low is 88. It can get as hot as 134 degrees in summer. In winter the highs average in the mid-60s or low 70s and as cold as 15 degrees, and the higher elevations can be snowy and icy. Always carry plenty of water, even in your car, in case of a breakdown.

    There’s a $20 per vehicle entrance fee good for seven days. If you are traveling on foot, motorcycle, or bicycle there’s an individual entrance fee of $10 for seven days. A Death Valley National Park Annual Pass is $40 per year which allows all people traveling with the pass holder to re-enter the park as many times as you like during the 12 month period from the date of purchase. For U.S. citizens age 62 and older, the lifetime America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass costs $10.

    The National Park Service has information on campgrounds, ranger guided tours, hiking tours and driving tours.

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

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