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Mexican resort offer: Catch the flu and your next 3 trips are free

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have downgraded warnings about travel to Mexico but deals still abound to get tourists to come back.

Early on in the swine flu outbreak, the CDC urged people to avoid nonessential travel to that country, but that was changed May 15 to just a precaution for people at high risk of flu complications.

Meanwhile, a group of resorts in Mexico are so sure you won't get swine flu there that they're offering three free trips if you do.

"The 'Flu Free Guarantee' represents our certainty that Mexico is a safe and healthy destination," said spokesman Alex Zozaya.

The participating properties are Zoetry Wellness & Spa Resorts, Secrets and Dreams Resorts & Spas, Azul Hotels by Karisma, El Dorado Spa Resorts & Hotels by Karisma, and Real Resorts.

The resorts are located in Cancun, Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen.

George Hobica, founder of, says flights to Mexico are also on sale because of the swine flu scare.

"What we're finding is not just that fares are low, but that they're low for travel through next winter with no jacking up of prices for peak season, and that many routes now have no advance purchase requirement," he said. "Airlines are bending over backward for those making decisions at the last minute, as well as for those wishing to travel over the winter. They're doing this for obvious reasons — fill up those seats."


Hotel and booking promotions, from pay your age to free BlackBerry

NEW YORK (AP) — With occupancy rates down, hotels and booking sites have come up with new promotions to get visitors in the door. is giving away a free BlackBerry or other smartphone or music phone — valued at up to $349 — with any booking on its Web site, including flight, hotel stay, travel package or car rental. See the site for details.

A new promotion from Radisson Hotels & Resorts offers free Friday night stays from May 15-Sept. 15 when you stay two or more consecutive nights (Thursday or Saturday). Reservations must be made a minimum of seven days in advance at or by calling 800-333-3333.

Chicago's Talbott Hotel is letting past guests pay their age on their birthday this year for a deluxe king bedded room. The offer is good for anyone who was a registered guest at the luxury boutique hotel in 2008. For example, if you stayed at the hotel last year and you're turning 40 this year, you can get a room on your 2009 birthday for $40 plus tax. Additionally, any guest who stays at the hotel in 2009 will have the same offer to "Pay your age" on their birthday in 2010. Of course, it's a better deal if you're 30 than if you're 80.

Earlier this spring, The Alexander Inn in Philadelphia announced it had five rooms available weeknights for $1 a night through mid-June, but the offer was so irresistible that all of those rooms have been booked solid.

Best new hotels around the globe from Travel + Leisure magazine

NEW YORK (AP) — The Fontainebleau in Miami and 12 other U.S. properties were included on a list of the best 45 new hotels around the world, chosen by editors from Travel + Leisure magazine.

The hotels appear on the magazine's "It List" for 2009 in the June issue.

The Fontainebleau, a glam hotel that hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley in its heyday in the 1950s and '60s, reopened in November following a $1 billion renovation. Other Florida hotels on the Travel + Leisure It List were the Mondrian in Miami Beach and Viceroy Miami. From California, the list includes the Montage Beverly Hills, the Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach, and SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills.

Other U.S. hotels on the list were the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, Ariz.; The Mansion on Peachtree, Atlanta; Mandarin Oriental, Boston; Encore Wynn, Las Vegas; Encantado, Santa Fe, N.M.; The Standard in New York City and The Nines, Portland, Ore.

The complete list can be found at

10 free things to do in Europe this summer

NEW YORK (AP) — If you're taking advantage of the relatively strong dollar this year by heading to Europe, you'll be looking for ways to save even more when you get there. Here is a list of 10 free and fun things to do in Europe, compiled by the European Travel Commission:

—In Madrid, the Palace of Liria, the 18th century residence of the Duchess of Alba at Calle Princesa 20, offers a collection of Spanish art, along with Flemish, German, Dutch, Italian, English and French paintings, with guided tours Fridays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon.

—Rome's picturesque Trastevere area on the Tiber's west bank, a charming and colorful neighborhood, hosts a festival the European Travel Commission describes as "Fellini-esque" for eight days in the second half of July, the Festa di Noantri, with a religious procession, food and entertainment.

—In Leipzig, Germany, Porsche gives free factory tours where you can see cars like the Cayenne and the new Panamera assembled on antiseptically clean floors. The tour includes a museum with exhibits covering Porsche history. If you feel like upgrading your free tour, various packages for purchase include lunch and even driving experiences on a track. Details at

—In Paris, the Friday Night Fever — — is a mass group tour by inline skaters of the city at night. Meeting point is Place Raoul Dautry in the 14th Arrondissement, between the Montparnasse office tower and the Paris-Montparnasse train station, at 10 p.m. The route varies every week but always covers roughly 19 miles and returns to the starting point at 1 a.m.

—Visit a sculpture park in Oslo with more than 200 works by Norway's most famous sculptor, Gustav Vigeland. The figures depict people in all stages of life and various emotions; details at

—In Lisbon, the Gulbenkian Museum houses a magnificent collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Asian and European art. Exhibits include Japanese prints, Persian tapestries and European paintings from Rembrandt to Rubens to Renoir.

—Sandeman's New Europe tour company is offering walking tours of nine European cities — including Paris, Madrid, London and Berlin — free of charge except for optional tipping. The latest addition to the list is a three-hour tour of Prague. Details at

—Zurich is known as an expensive city, but a visit to the Church of Our Lady (Fraumunster) is free and the13th century building includes two modern art treasures: a large stained-glass window done by the artist Alberto Giacometti in the 1940s, along with five stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall in 1970.

—A monument to Frank Zappa, creator of the 1960s band the Mothers of Invention, can be found in Vilnius, Lithuania. Zappa is of Lithuanian descent, and the monument is located in an area known as Uzupis, known for its countercultural leanings, cafes, galleries and other artists' hangouts.

—In Amsterdam, at the Wooden Shoe Factory, you can watch typical Dutch wooden shoes being hand carved and painted while learning the lore behind them, which dates to the 14th century. Details at

LOW BAY, Barbuda—(BUSINESS WIRE)—May 04, 2009— Lighthouse Bay Resort, an exclusive private island getaway in Barbuda, Eastern Caribbean, just a 15-minute flight from Antigua, announces the appointment of Barbuda native and internationally-known Chef Philman George, the "Rhyming Chef," as celebrity chef in residence at the resort from Nov. 16, 2009 to March 31, 2010. George recently shot eight episodes of cooking on property at Lighthouse Bay Resort to be aired nationally this year on the Canadian Bite Television channel.

He has produced and hosted several cooking shows combining the culinary arts with hip hop culture, making appearances on morning shows throughout Canada. George is currently Executive Chef at the Island Yacht Club, a private power boating and sailing club, on Toronto's Muggs Island. At age 29, he has established himself not only as a promising culinary star, but on the hip hop scene, as well.

Born in Barbuda, and raised in Toronto, George enrolled in the culinary management program at George Brown College. His techniques were fine-tuned under the direction of Executive Chefs Louis Panotier and Daniel Villet, both hailing from Martinique. He expanded his repertoire to include Italian, French, Californian, Caribbean and Asian Fusion cuisine and worked overseas as the Chef de Partie in Perth Australia's gold plate award-winning restaurant, The Red Herring, and in Barbuda's first solar-powered beach bar and grill, Uncle Roddy's.

Lighthouse Bay Resort features nine luxuriously-appointed ocean-front guest rooms and suites with private balconies, highly personalized service from a staff of 25, resident gourmet chef and masseuse, 24-hour concierge, roof-top restaurant with 360-degree ocean views and 14 miles of pristine white and pink sand beach. All elegant and spacious guest rooms and suites include lavish leather and mahogany furnishings, flat screen TV with satellite reception, iPod compatible surround-sound stereo, wireless internet and in-room laptop, personal safe, bathrobes, illuminated make-up mirror, hair dryer, original watercolor paintings from local artist Stephen Murphy, daily housekeeping and evening turn-down service.

Guests dine on locally prepared dishes using fresh Caribbean produce and catches from the sea. Three meals, plus snacks, and drinks are all included. The resort was recently recognized by Islands Magazine as among The Top Seven Spots That Promise A True Escape From Everything and by The New York Times as Number 3 of 39 Reasons To Go To the Caribbean in 2009.

Lighthouse Bay Resort is base camp to explore Barbuda's tranquility and signature activities of sailing, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, lobster fishing, exploring hidden caves and bays, shell hunting and horseback riding. Tours are available to the world renowned Frigate Bird Sanctuary, Spanish Point, Two Foot Bay and Darby Caves. For more Lighthouse Bay Resort information and reservations, go to or call 1-888-836-5427.

High-res jpeg images available.


ayman Islands: Sand, sun and skateboarding

NEW YORK, New York (AP) — Sand and sun are part of any Caribbean vacation. But how about skateboarding?

The Cayman Islands are home to Black Pearl Skate and Surf, one of the world's largest skateparks, and this summer the park is hosting Skate Cayman, a camp that will showcase professional skateboarders and instructors from around the globe.

Skate Cayman will run June 8-Aug. 21 and will kick off with professional skateboarder and snowboarder Shaun White, who has won gold medals at the Olympics and in the Summer and Winter X Games. Other skateboarding pros hosting camp weeks include Bucky Lasek and Rune Glifberg. The camp costs $62 a day or $280 for five days. Minimum age for campers is 4 (kids 4-6 must be accompanied by parent), maximum age is 17. But the skate park itself is open to all ages.

The Black Pearl offers more than 60,000 square feet of concrete and skateboard terrain, with beginning, intermediate and expert levels including concrete bowls and half and quarter pipes with both a flow and street course for each level. The camp will be broken out by skill level.

Families traveling to the islands should check out the Cayman Summer Splash promotion, where kids 11 and younger fly free on Cayman Airways, June 1- Sept. 7, and stay and eat free at various resorts. The offer also covers children's admission to some attractions, including Sea School, the Cayman Turtle Farm at Boatswain's Beach, Stingray City, and some watersports providers. Cayman Airways flies from New York, Tampa and Miami. For more on Skate Cayman and the Cayman Islands, visit

By Ross Werland

Chicago Tribune


Name: Scandia Down Travel Attache Convertible Pillow/Comforter and Scandia Down Hotel Pillow Down Travel Case

What they are: Let's say it upfront: These are pricey pieces of travel gear and oh so worth it. If someone you love is a frequent traveler or you spend too much time on the road, with none of the comforts of home, these are for you. The down-filled comforter and pillow case are comfortable enough for even the crustiest among us to recall the "blankie" of our youth.

How they work: The comforter folds up into a pouch for use as an exceptionally plush travel pillow.

As a comforter, it unfolds to standard adult size adequate for almost anyone but the upper echelons of the NBA. The pillow travel case performs a dual function, serving as a small travel pillow that unfolds to function as a case for that hotel pillow of dubious heritage.

The good: The comforter is heavenly. For a few chilly nights I slept in its toasty embrace with only it as a cover. You won't want to wait for a trip to use it. As a pillow, it'll be one of the best you've ever felt. The travel pillow case may be a bit more practical, because it fits easily in a carry-on or briefcase, unlike the comforter/ pillow. Like the comforter, it is quite soft. Too, it can be unfolded and reformed for different scenarios, such as being rolled into a neck support.

The bad: You're going to drool on these things — either while sleeping or while simply wishing all your bedding were like this. But the maker promises that that these cotton-sateen-covered items are easily laundered. Also, the comforter is a bit large for the airline traveler, but we can see the allure for a road warrior who wants to carry along a comforting piece of home.

Cost: Suggested retail is $210 for the comforter and $75 for the case.

Available from: and stores that carry Scandia Down products.


Hedy here

Business travelers can find all their up to date travel information in one stop at, a portal for handpicked travel blogs from the media, industry insiders and other business travelers. The site was founded by the same people behind Web sites such as FlyerTalk. The lower half of the home page is divided into three sections: blogs written by the media, those by industry leaders such as the Transportation Security Administration's Evolution of Security blog, and business traveler blogs.

Hedy goes here

NEW YORK (AP) — If your interests run more to science than surfing or sunbathing, you may find yourself shouting "Eureka!" when you discover the list of geeky getaways in Popular Science magazine's May issue.

The list includes cryogenic facilities, earthquake simulators and ape camps. "These are perfect destinations for the truly curious," Mark Jannot, editor-in-chief of Popular Science, said in a press release. "This summer, wow your family with reality by visiting atom smashers, space labs and other wild scientific hotspots. Many of the locations we suggest even give free or low-cost tours."

The eight ideas, all in the U.S., are:

—Iowa's Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, which Popular Science describes as the largest great-ape research facility in North America, with 13 resident animals. Membership to the trust entitles visitors to a tour and special lectures.

—The Wildlife Research Institute in Ely, Minn., where four-day black-bear field-study courses are offered May through August.

—The nation's only frozen cemetery, Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., where Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams is cryogenically preserved. Tours are free.

—Body farms at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; Texas State University-San Marcos; and Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, where you can learn "CSI"-style crime-sleuthing and forensic-anthropology skills.

—NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which offers free tours of its lab, including a Space Simulator and a Marscape where prototype rovers practice maneuvers.

—Soudan Underground Laboratory at Mine State Park in Minnesota, where visitors can travel 2,400 feet underground to see a subterranean atom smasher.

—Oregon State University's Tsunami Research Center in Corvallis.

—Earthquake simulators in Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation facilities at the University of California-San Diego, the University of Buffalo, N.Y., and the University of Nevada at Reno.

For more details, visit or see the May issue of Popular Science.

Side TripLEAD HEDY GOES RIGHT EHRE 05/21/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 21, 2009 11:31am]
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