By Jane Wooldridge
Flying across the pond? Start checking airfares
Seasonal tip: If you're thinking of going to Europe this spring or summer, this is the time to start watching airfares. Typically, fares go on sale in January, but they don't usually cover travel later than mid-April. If bookings and the economy stay soft, you'll likely see deals that run through May and possibly into June. If you see a fare you like, snag it; airlines have cut capacity this year and they may be fewer good prices around.
Cruise fares also remain at all-time values, with even upscale lines offering bargains. Two-for-one fares that were supposed to have ended late last summer have been extended in many cases. If you're looking to cruise in Europe this summer, you'll find plenty of deals thanks to a glut of deployments. Expect the best values to turn up during "wave season" in January and February.
To find good deals, sign up for fare alerts from sites like Travelocity and SmarterTravel and from individual airlines and cruise lines.
Choose the right cruise, ship for your family
Q: To celebrate his bar mitzvah, my son wants to go on a family cruise instead of having a party. I'm all for it . . . but we've never been on a cruise. What ships do we consider?
A: These days there is a cruise for just about every occasion and every kind of traveler. If your trip involved a younger child, or a romantic occasion, I'd offer up a range of suggestions. But when it comes to teens, the answer is pretty straightforward: Book on Royal Caribbean.
The Oasis-class ships - Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas - are the largest at sea and sail out of Fort Lauderdale. They're highly popular, thanks to features including a zip line, surf-rider and putting course. If you're looking for a cruise that's a bit less expensive but still has many of the same features, RCCL's Freedom-class ships also have rock-climbing walls, surf-riders, mini-golf and ice-skating rinks; Voyager-class ships have climbing walls and ice-skating rinks.
Looking for small-town Fourth of July celebrations?
Here are a few to get you started.
-Cody, Wyo., has a multiday rodeo celebration, including the annual Cody Stampede, a multiday event that includes rodeos, street dancing, parades and fireworks. (Past grand marshals have included John Wayne, Steven Seagal and Chuck Yeager.)
-Coronado, Calif.'s beachfront parade (featuring military bands and Navy aircraft from nearby bases), concerts and fireworks.
-Fredericksburg, Va.'s small-town nonmotorized parade, with color guard, juggling acts, Southern music and fireworks. (At nearby Ferry Farm, George Washington's childhood home, the celebration hits a time warp as re-enactors in period dress stage a 13-gun salute and sword fights.)
-Bar Harbor, Maine's daylong celebration starting with blueberry pancakes at the Rotary Club, ending with fireworks, with lobster races, a parade and a seafood festival in between.
-Juneau, Alaska's 12:01 a.m. fireworks (held at the darkest hour during the endless summer) and a daytime parade featuring kids on bikes, Dalmatians in formation, decorated cars and trucks and marching bands.