Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Amelia Island Restaurant Savings

What: Amelia Island Restaurant Week, January 22-29, will feature 23 different island restaurants, ranging from fine dining to flip-flop friendly.  Each will offer a special fixed menu - $19 or $29 per person - that includes three courses and a beverage.

Who: Participating Restaurants include
29 South, 90-277-7919, American Cuisine
BarZin Bistro & Wine Bar, 904-310-6620, American Bistro Cuisine
Baxter's, 904-277-4503, Steak & Seafood
Beech Street Grill, 904-277-3662, Fine Dining
Brett’s Waterway Café, 904-261-2660, Casual Seafood & Steak
Café 4750, 904-277-1028, Coastal Cuisine
Café Karibo, 904-277-5269, Eclectic American Cuisine
Crab Trap, 904-261-4749, Seafood
Espana Restaurant & Tapas, 904-261-7700, Spanish & Portuguese
The Golf Club of Amelia Island, 904-277-8015, American Cuisine
Halftime Sports Bar & Grill,
904-321-0303, Sports Bar & Grill
Horizon’s, 904) 321-2430, Continental Cuisine
Joe's 2nd Street Bistro, 904-321-2558, American Cuisine
Kelley's Courtyard Cafe, 904-432-8213, American Cuisine
Le Clos, 904-261-8100, French Cuisine
Lulu’s at the Thompson House, 904-432-8394, Creole-American Cuisine
Marina Restaurant, 904-261-5310, Casual Seafood Dining
Merge, 904-277-8797, Fine Dining
PLAE, 904-277-2132, Fine Dining
Sliders Seaside Grill, 904-277-6652, Seafood & Steak
The Surf Restaurant & Bar, 904-261-5711, Seafood & Steak
Tasty's Fresh Burgers, 9-) 321-0407, American Cuisine
The Verandah, 904-261-6161, Fine Dining

Extras: During Restaurant Week, diners can enter to win a “Year of Dining” that includes one $50 gift certificate for each participating restaurant to be used throughout the next year.
    In conjunction with Restaurant Week, several of Amelia Island hostelries are offering a “Free Night, Any Night” deal, which allows visitors to receive a Free Night with a minimum nights stay. For more details, visit

Details: Restaurant Week,
             Overnight stays:

Monday, December 19, 2011

WellsWorld on the Radio 12/19/2011: Last-minute travel gifts, holiday travel through JAX, Study at Oxford, James Beard dinner

Last Minute Travel Gifts
Off-the-beaten-path adventurer/Senior or Accident Prone:  Emergency medical evacuation.
Standard travel insurance rarely covers the cost of emergency evacuation which, depending on the locale and circumstances, easily can run into six figures. 

 MedJet,; Air-Med,; and many others offer one-trip or annual memberships.

Annual memberships start as low as $200; a one-trip under $100. Peace of mind, priceless.

Gotta Take it All: Luggage scale, $15-$25.
Checking a bag is no longer automatically free and can cost you $50- to over $200, depending on weight and size. On  many international flights  even carry on luggage is weighed; max allowed 12-15 pounds.

Lighter luggage. Roll-ons can be found weighing as little as 4 pounds;  checked sizes, 7 pounds.

My recommendations: a featherlight tote or small roll-on and a 21-incher for  weekend to 10-day trips ; maximum 26-inch expandable for checked bag. Definitely with spinner wheels. Make sure all work stacked or linked together.

Do-it-Yourselfer:  They probably already have a backpack, but apps are taking the place of guidebooks. An I-tunes gift certificate, battery rechargers or small power sources will be greatly appreciated. Some are even solar powered.

Adapter sets come in handy for cameras, smart phones, laptops, kindles or pads.

Your traveler is headed next to...:   A CityPass if there is one,  a novel set there or a good non-fiction book about it; $20-$30 in the appropriate currency.

In general: An alarm clock with night display and that automatically adjusts to time zones is handy.

Compression socks for air travelers.

Every traveler, from back-packer to arm chair wanderer, loves planning routes with a good Atlas.

Coming and Going through JAX
Economy Lot 3 at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) opens the afternoon of December 22, through January 3, or until the lot fills up, for a flat fee of $20. The fee is payable with cash or credit card upon entry.

This special event lot will operate on a first-come first-serve basis and may close without notice. Free shuttle service is available during the time the lot is open. Vehicles that remain in Economy Lot 3 after January 3, 2012, will be towed at the owner's expense.

Travelers should arrive at least two hours before their flight to allow additional time to locate parking if the first parking choice is not available.

Other parking options include
•  Economy Lots 1 and 2 ($4.00 per day)
•  Daily Surface Lot ($8.00 per day)
•  Daily Garage ($14.00 per day)
•  Hourly Garage ($18.00 per day).
All prices include tax.

Meeting and greeting? JAA recommends using the hourly garage ($1.50/20 minutes), if available.

To avoid parking fees, head for the free courtesy waiting lot, located next to the JAA administration building. There's a Jumbotron that lists arriving flights. If your party has a cell phone they can call you as soon as their luggage has arrived  and you can zip up for curbside pickup.

Travelers may also join the JAX Passport program; a new frequent parker program at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) that offers parking rewards and discounts to program participants.

For more information contact the parking office at (904) 741-2277. To sign up for JAX Passport, visit JAX's Parking Information web page.

Learn Something on Your 2012 Summer Vacation
How cool would it be to say, "I'll be studying at Oxford this summer"?"

You don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to attend the Oxford Experience, a residential program for anyone who would enjoy a one-week course at Oxford from July 1 to August 11, 2012.  There  are no requirements, no exams and no papers, but participants get to live and study at Christ Church, one of the most prestigious and beautiful of Oxford colleges, which was founded by Cardinal Wolsey almost five centuries ago. (Note: the dorms are newer.)

Participants—who range from 25 to 85--come from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, and Asia, with a heavy sprinkling of Canadians and Americans. The offered courses cover some 60 subjects: Virginia Woolf and her Circle; Castles in Britain; Anglo-American Relations and the Making of Modern Britain; The Celts in Britain; Tudor London; The Beatles, Popular Music and Sixties Britain; The Georgian Home; Oxfordshire Towns; The Brontës; Wagner’s Ring; A History of the BBC; English Country Houses; From the Blues to a Symphony; Page Fright—And How to Overcome It; and Warfare in the Modern World.

Participants not only have access to the college gardens, chapel, picture gallery and riverside walks in Christ Church Meadow, but they actually stay in student accommodations (some with private bath) and dine in the magnificent Hall made famous by the Harry Potter films.  Three meals daily are included in the cost: a full English breakfast, a buffet lunch and a served three-course dinner.  Each week starts with lunch on Sunday and finishes with breakfast on the following Saturday.

Most courses include excursions to stately homes, cathedrals, museums and such, and on some afternoons there are tours of Christ Church and Oxford University.  In the evening there may be a pub walk, a lecture, a whisky tasting, a quirky performance by traditional Morris dancers, or Evensong in the college chapel, which is also the Oxford Cathedral. On the final night everyone gathers for drinks in the flowering Cathedral Garden and a sumptuous farewell dinner in the Hall.

The price of a one-week course—including tuition, accommodations, all meals (except those on excursions) and evening activities—is approximately $1,775 in U.S. dollars or $1,810 in Canadian.  Excursions and private bathrooms are extra.  The deadline for summer 2012 registration is May 1, 2012.  For more information, visit  or write to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA, U.K.

Left to right: Chefs David, Jean-Stephane, Christophe and Florian
James Beard Dinner in St. Augustine
Wonder what they serve at the James Beard House in New York City?

Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard, owner of Bistro de Leon in St. Augustine, was invited to present "The French Connection" for the Beard House gourmets Nov. 18.

You can have that same dinner at Bistro de Leon, #12 Cathedral Place,  on New Year's Eve for $69 per person, excluding tax and gratuity.

For reservations: 904-810-2100.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tips for accommodations at popular national parks

Planning that summer vacation to a national park? Start now by selecting dates that gives you the best chance of snagging rooms in a popular lodge.

The first lodges to sell out are the historic ones; some are already sold out for the peak season.

At the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Parks, you are more likely to find a vacancy in May and October. At the Canyon, rooms may be available the first two weeks of June and the last 10 days of August. Check with the park you're most interested in and ask when their slack times are.

If you don't get your first choice, go ahead and book rooms elsewhere; sometimes you can take advantage of a last minute cancellation. If that doesn't work, enjoy the lodge by eating, drinking, shopping or just wandering around. 

Don't use third-party web sites that charge a non-refundable fee to make reservations in parks. Book direct.

Book actitivies and meals at historic lodges early. If you'd rather wait, you're more likely to get a table at lunch than at dinner. At some lodges, reservations can be made via email six months in advance for guests, and 30 days in advance for all other visitors.

Check out summer adventure packages being offered at Yellowstone and Grand Canyon Railway specials for the Grand Canyon

Go to for general information or to the websites for each park at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Safari Savings

Jongomera Camp, Tanzania
Going on safari is probably the priciest item on your bucket list so any time you can snag a discount is the time to hit the bush.

The Selous Safari Company, which deals in the less tromped upon southern Tanzania, is offering savings of up to $1,967 per person, double occupancy, for a nine-night experience at three camps. Three nights at the remote Jongomero Camp in the Ruaha National Park, three nights at Selous Safari Camp on the shores of Lake Nzerakera in the Selous Game Reserve and three nights at the relaxing and luxurious Ras Kutani with its dunes and Indian Ocean should give you stories for a lifetime.

The price: $6,432 per person covers international flights from various U. S. gateways, internal transfers, full board and activities. Travel is for July onwards but must be booked by March 15, 2012.

Contact: Africa Odyssey, 866-356-4691,

Great Safaris is also offering a two for one special on the Great Southern Safari 12-day package to Cape Town, a private Kruger lodge and Victoria Falls. Land arrangements for two, $6,265.

Contact: 800-409-7755 or go to