Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seasons Travels

My gift to you

You'll drool at divine hotels, you'll get itchy feet and you'll jump to get away when Tablet runs special rates.

It's one of my favorite travel sites, www.tablethotels.com.

Historic holidays

Take a special guided Christmas Tour of the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, or one of the historic Adams house in Deadwood, South Dakota.

If only you knew about it. Now you can.

What: The History List, www.thehistorylist.com was launched last year as a way to help historic sites, historical societies, preservation organizations, history museums, house museums, living history sites, reenacting groups, and other history organizations get the word out about their history-related exhibits, reenactments, walks and talks, author appearances, celebrations, and more.  

Introduced first in the Boston area, The History List has grown to be the largest list of history-related events taking place across the country. 

Check it out next time you're heading out of town.

James Turrell's Skyspace "Joseph's Coat, Ringling Museum of Art.

Ringling in the solstice

 Looking for something different? Dance into the Winter Solstice and celebrate the second year of Joseph's Coat, the James Turrell Skyspace at "Greet the Light," a special event Saturday night, Dec. 21, at the Ringling Museum of Art courtyard in Sarasota, FL

Activities start at 7 p.m. and include
Music by DJ Imminent
LED Illuminated Furniture
Fire Dancers
Food and Drink Specials
The Joseph's Coat program in the Turrell Skyspace.
Tickets are $15 so go for the weekend and splurge on a nice place to stay.

Last minute gifts for travelers

• Exchange $20-$30 into the currency of their next destination.
• A pack of compression bags. They don't last long with travelers' frequent opening and closing and this time of year are invaluable for packing bulky sweaters and jackets. Make sure they compress manually; no one packs vacuum cleaners.
• A book, fiction or nonfiction, e or printed, set at a future destination.
• Travel-sized toothpaste, contact lens solution, deodorant, hairspray, especially for those prone to last-minute departures.

Remodeling specials

The historic King & Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island, GA, is refurbishing its lobby area which is a good time to find special room rates, as in under $100. For example...

Georgia Golf Resort, King & Prince, St. Simons Island, GA.
What: Winter Golf Package starts at $129 per night and includes room and tax plus one round of golf for two players per night.

Fine Print: Subject to availability on bookings until Feb. 13, 2014 (excluding holidays).
www.kingandprince.com 1-800-342-0212.

Skiing at Beech Mountain, N. C.

Resolve to ski

What: Celebrate Learn to Ski and Snowboard month with a package deal at North Carolina's Beech Mountain.

The Deal: A ski or snowboard lesson, ski or snowboard equipment rental including a helmet for safety, a full-day lift ticket, one-night's lodging based on double occupancy.

How much? $101 per person.

Who? Offer open to anyone age 8 or older.

When: January 1-31, 2014.

Fine Print: Lesson package available Monday through Friday with lodging available Sunday through Thursday nights.


Participating lodging:
4 Seasons at Beech, www.beechgetaway.com
Beech Mountain Chalet Rentals, www.gobeech.com
Charlie's Beech Mountain Rentals, www.mrbeech.com
Guest Quearters, http://www.fredsgeneral.com/Guest%20Quarters.html
Pinnacle Inn Resort, http://pinnacleinn.com

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bidding for bargains

Maine Windjammer Vacation.

Give yourself or a loved one a travel treat.

What: The annual Society of American Travel Writers' travel-oriented, online auction.

Where:  http://auctions.readysetauction.com/societyofamericantra/

How: Sign up, pick your faves and start bidding.

Deadline: Auction closes at 11:45 p.m. EST, Nov. 15, 2013.

4- Day Maine Windjammer Sailing Vacation
Starting Bid:    $250.00 — Be First to Bid!
Win It Now Price:    $1,700.00
Bidding Ends:    Fri Nov 15, 2013 - 11:45 PM US/Eastern
Time Left:    17 days 14 hours 55 minutes

Oyster Bay Beach, St. Maartens.

Also ...
• Online Travel Journalism Courses
• City Passes
• Condo in Destin, FL, and a cotttage in Palmetto Bluff, SC.
• Stays in Aspen, Palm Springs, Prague, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Indianapolis, Boston, St. Maarten, Punta Cana, Disney World, Tacoma, Natchez, Miami and Los Cabos, Mexico to name drop a few.
• A stay and a round of golf at St. Andrews.
• River rafting
• Trip, including air, to Branson
... And many more, including a round-trip, transcontinental excursion Toronto to Vancouver in Sleeper Plus Class on VIA Rail Canada.
Cross Canada VIA Rail
Tip: Don't forget to keep track of your picks; bidding picks up as the auction ends.


Best of China bargain

Summer Palace, Beijing. Photo © by Judy Wells.

What: 15-day "Mighty Yangtze" tour

Where: Beijing (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace), Xian (Terracotta Warriors), Chengdu (Giant Panda Breeding Center), a 3-day Yangtze cruise on five-star Victoria Katarina, and Shanghai, China. Hotels are in four- and five-star.

How much: $2,339, based on double occupancy, includes round-trip airfare from San Francisco or Los Angeles. Add $60 for a New York departure.

Fine print: Cash-only, subject to availability.

Log onto www.chinaspree.com and click "China tours" then "specials".

Art in the Park special

Alfond Inn, Winter Park, FL.

What: Art in the Park package includes two nights (double occupancy), $100 credit at Hamilton's Kitchen, admission to the Cornell Fine Art Museum, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art with its superb Tiffany collection and a guided tour of the Alfond Collection.

Where: The Alfond Inn, Winter Park, Florida's newest and poshest hotel, where its net operating income goes to the Alfond Scholars program fund for scholarships at Rollins College.

When: Now through December 31, 2013.

How much: $395.

www.alfondinn.com, 407-998-8090.

Hate orange and blue and red and black?

Dillsboro Pottery Festial.
And for Jacksonville, FL, area residents who want to escape the World's Largest Cocktail Party hullabaloo (otherwise known and the annual Georgia-Florida game), you just have time to get to...

What: Western North Carolina Pottery Fest with more than 40 professional ceramic artists from 15 states throwing, demonstrating, exhibiting and selling their creations.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, rain or shine.

Where: Front Street in the friendly mountain village of Dillsboro, NC.

How much: $3 per person, children under 12 free.

www.wncpotteryfestival.com. Call the Jackson County Visitors Center, 800-962-1911, for lodging info.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Choosing your Gateway Airport

Nothing is worse than arriving loggy after a cross-ocean flight only to find half the world in the passport control lines ahead of you.

May stats are in and according to Business Insider, the longest waits in May were at
JFK Terminal 4 - 93 minutes average daily peak wait time, up 34.6% from 2012

Miami North Concourse - 75.1minutes average daily peak wait time, up 23% from 2012

Miami South Concourse - 72.7 minutes average daily peak wait time, up 18.8% from 2012


Atlanta New Terminal (F) - 38.9, down 25.3%

Seattle - 34.4, up 26%

Atlanta Old Terminal (E) - 22.9, down 48%

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Off and traveling

Amicalola Falls. Photo © by Judy Wells.

Georgia on My Mind

What: Pick a Georgia mountain lodge, stay two nights Sunday through Thursday and get the third night free. www.BrasstownValley.com  or call 800.201.3205.

Where: Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa near the foot of Brasstown Bald, Georgia's tallest mountain, starting at $169 per night. and get the third night free. www.BrasstownValley.com  or call 800-201-3205.
            The Lodge at Unicoi State Park in the Chattahoochee Forest and near Helen, starting at $89 a night. Call: 800-573-9659, or online at www.gastateparks.org.
             The Lodge at Amicalola Falls at the Southeast's highest waterfall, beginning at $109 per night. 800-573-9656 or online at www.gastateparks.org.

When: Now through May 23, 2013.

 Delaware Savings Passport 

 What: The Brandywine Treasure Trail Passport provides discounted one-time admission to 11 members of the Brandywine Museum and Gardens Alliance:
. Brandywine River Museum, www.brandywinemuseum.org

. Delaware Art Museum, www.delart.org

. Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, www.thedcca.org

. Delaware Historical Society (includes Delaware History Museum and George Read II
  House and Gardens in Historic New Castle), www.dehistory.org       

. Delaware Museum of Natural History, www.delmnh.org

. Hagley Museum and Library, www.hagley.org

. Longwood Gardens, www.longwoodgardens.org

. Mt. Cuba Center, Inc., www.mtcubacenter.org

. Nemours Mansion & Garden, www.nemoursmansion.org

. Rockwood Park and Mansion, www.rockwood.org

. Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, www.winterthur.org

When: May 25 through September 2, 2013.

How Much: Passports are $35 per adult or $75 for a family of two adults and three children, a savings of $100 per adult, $300 per family. Passports can be bought at any of the 11 attractions or ordered online at  www.VisitWilmingtonDE.com/passport.

Golfer, Get Better

 What: GolfTEC, a leader in golf improvement, offers a deal on their 60-minute swing evaluation.

Where: At more than 170 improvement centers throughout the U.S., plus sites in Canada, Japan and South Korea. Go to  http://www.golftec.com to find the center nearest you.

How much: $99.

When: Now through May 29.               

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Round trip airfare to Africa for $999

Safari time?

What: South African Airways round-trip flights from New York to Nairobi, Kenya, for $999 including taxes and fees; $1,019 from Washington, DC.

Limitations: Book by April 11 for travel May 1 through 31, 2013.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

WellsWorld on the radio: Spring flings in Europe and the U.S.A.

Timing tip

Planning a quick, impromptu getaway? If it's to the south of Europe better do enough planning to have confirmed reservations for transportation and lodging.

After Easter northern Europe residents surge to the south and sunshine like swallows to Capistrano. Planes and trains that may have been mostly empty before Easter, are crammed and overbooked. Same with hotels, ferries and cruise ships to sunny islands.

Viva! Tallahassee

Timucuan Chief Saturiba. Photo © by Judy Wells.

As Florida celebrates Viva Florida, the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon landing on its shores, the Museum of Florida History has added an exhibit to show what followed that momentous event.

Herman the giant mastadon, an earlier resident of the state, has been joined by  Timucuan Chief Saturiba, a Spanish galleon and dozens more characters and interesting objects.

It's an easy way to learn and appreciate the state's fascinating history that ensued from the arrival of Europeans.


Museum of Florida History
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
(850) 245-6400

Austrian Beauty Week

GrandHotel Lienz
What: Special Beauty Week package for men and women includes seven nights in a Superior Suite with scenic views from your balcony, breakfast buffet, 5-course gourmet dinner, fitness program of  full body toning and aerobics, a series of special massages and scalp treatments, steam bath, use of all facilities and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Where: GrandHotel Lienz, named World's Leading Medical/Wellness Spa by World Travel Awards, amid the mountain scenery of Lienze, Austria. 

When: May 8 to Oct. 31, 2013 and Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2013.

How Much: $1,690 per person per week May to October; $1,300 from November to December 15, based on exchange rates as of March 8, 2013..


Luxury Tour of China

Great Wall

What: Stay in 5-star hotels - Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La and boutique ship Victoria Anna - during a 16-day Dragon Heart of China Tour from China Spree. Includes 15 American buffet breakfasts, 26 other meals, guides, special shows, InSites Cultural Program, entrance fees, baggage handling and airfare. 

Where: Fly from San Francisco to to Beijing, Xian, Guilikn, Chongqin, Yangtze River cruise, Suzhou, Tongli and Shanghai.

Cost: $4,799 per person, double occupancy ($5,099 from New York) if booked by March 31. Prices are cash only (add $200 for payment by credit card), subject to availability.

(Click on "China Tours" then "Luxury Tours".

VIP Packages for South Walton Beaches Food and Wine Festival

What: "Grand Tasting Getaway" includes upgraded beach-view accommodations at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa and two tickets to to the Grand Tasting April 27 starting at $409 per night.
"VIP Wine Lover's Weekend" includes beach-view accommodations; two tickets to the the Exclusive Vibrant Rioja Reserve and Grand Reserve Tasting and Food Pairing event Friday, April 26; two Upgraded VIP tickets to the Grand Tasting Saturday, April 27; and two tickets to the "After-Party Party" Saturday, April 27; for $769 per night.

When: April 25-28, 2013

Details: Use code WP for Grand Tasting Getaway; code VP for the VIP Wine Lover's package.

 Book early to save at Disney Resort Hotels

For: Florida residents

What: Book by March 31, 2013, for lower rates at Disney Resort Hotels, slightly more for bookings April 1 to May 30, 2013.

How Much: 
• All-Star Music Resort, $82/$88 per night
• Coronado Springs Resort, $136/$145
• Animal Kingdom Lodge, $221/$238
• Old Key West Resort, $240/$258

Add Discover Disney tickets and save on those too.


Free Guide to N.C. Mountains

What: A 48-page, full-color guide to leisure pursuits in Jackson County's popular mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Cullowhee, Dillsboro and Sylva. Information on unique destinations like the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, the nation's only fly fishing trail, and the Richland Balsam Overlook, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,053 feet in elevation. Also on where to stay, dine and shop including a pull-out map of hiking trails and waterfalls.

How: Call 800-962-1911, request online at www.mountainlovers.com or download.

Segway through historic St. Augustine

What: St. Francis Inn, the oldest inn in St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, offers special deal on newest form of transport.

Details: Stay two nights at the Inn Sunday through Thursday and receive a complimentary two-hour ride through town on a Segway ($59 value) per person. Advance reservations at regular rates required.

Where: St. Francis Inn, 279 St. George S', St. Augustine, FL.


Moms rule at Mainsail Beach Inn

Anna Maria Island

What: "Month of Mom" package. Reserve a three-night or more stay Sunday through Thursday and receive a $250 American Express Gift Card  for Mom.

When: Month of May, 2013.

Where: Mainsail Beach Inn, Anna Maria Island, Florida, 40 miles south of Tampa.

How Much: Rates begin at $234 for a two-bedroom suite.




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

WellsWorld on the radio: Sleeping on ice

Popsicle for a night

Hotel de Glace. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Imagine a queen-size bed of ice in a room of compressed snow. Now imagine sleeping on it after wrapping yourself in a shroud-like lining and encased mummy-like into an aptly named mummy sleeping bag.

Kind of like being a tightly-wrapped Popsicle in a deep freeze.

Me with Tom Griffith of Deadwood, S. D. Photo © by Judy Wells.
That was me at Hotel de Glace, North America's only ice hotel, outside of Quebec City, Quebec.

What they don't tell you on the website or during the tours fills the 25-minute session on how to sleep in below freezing temperatures and wake up breathing.

Next. enjoy the hotel's amenities:  

• Drink up at the ice bar. Photo © by Judy Wells.

      • Dance in the adjacent disco. Photo © by Judy Wells.

• Slip down the ice slide. Photo © by Judy Wells.

Chapel. Photo © by Judy Wells.

 • Tour the hotel.

• strap on a pair of snowshoes or skis and hit the trails.

When ready for bed, 

1. Get your body temperature up by hitting the hot tub followed by a session in the dry sauna. Oh, and you'll have to put on a bathing suit and hustle through the snow to get there. Don't get your hair wet or it will freeze. It did.

2. Come back into "camp," the heated Celsius building, dry off thoroughly - wet is what makes you cold - and get dressed for bed in anything except cotton which holds wetness. Better yet, wear nothing. No one was that brave or foolhardy.

Sleeping chamber in Hotel de Glace. 

3. Go into your sleeping chamber and get the big black bag. Pull out the lining and sleeping bag, replacing them with anything you don't want frozen such as your shoes and coat. Store an extra pair of socks and valuables such as cell phones and cameras at the bottom of the sleeping bag. Don't put your glasses on the bedside table; it's ice and they'll freeze to it.

Photo © by Judy Wells.
4. The best way to line and bag yourself is to stand atop your bed.
Photo © by Judy Wells.

Oh, the bathrooms are a snowy trek away in another building.

It's an experience like no other, one best suited for young, agile bodies able to stand on the "bed" to step into said shroud and bag. The less agile will be constantly reminded that the bed is ice and the floor is snow and their bodies are not going to keep those drinks inside all night.

Sweet dreams.

Ski back to the '80s

Flipped collars, headbands and all things '80s at Beech Mountain. Photo by Amy Morrison.

What: Bring your leg warmers, parachute pants and bandanas to the "big air, big hair" celebration at Beech Mountain, N. C. Retro bands and DJs, costume contests, freestyle jump competition and lots of remembering when during this lighthearted weekend of skiing.

When: Feb. 22-24, 2013

Where: Beech Mountain Resort, Beech Mountain, N. C.

Costs: Eighties-style, dudes.  Lodging from $80.80 a night, $119.80 dinner specials, three bandanas for $8.80.


Inn of the Five Graces

Santa Fe luxury and culture

What: Southwest Splendor package features suite and breakfasts; Tibetan-inspired fireside massage for two plus Desert blend gift set of massage and body products; two four-day passes to five museums including The Place of the Governors, that houses the New Mexico History Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and the Museum of International Folk Art; and a one-hour cultural walking tour of Santa Fe.

Where: Inn of the Five Graces, a Relais & Chateaux facility on Conde Nast's 2013 Gold List "Best Hotels in the World."

When: Now through April, 2013.

Cost: $1,065 for two nights totally inclusive.

 Do good in Key West

Want a warm, laid-back voluntourism vacation? Consider Key West, Florida, which has a website for that.

Where: www.keysvoluntourism.com

What: That link connects you to Key West charities and nonprofits that can use your help building an underwater coral nursery, collecting data on reef fish, feeding injured birds, maintaining trails and an island's worth of other good deeds. 

Organizations include Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Coral Restoration Foundation, Pigeon Key, Marathon Wild Bird Center, Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, Habitat For Humanity of Key West & Lower Florida Keys, Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden and Key West Wildlife Center.

Florida Keys visitor information: www.fla-keys.com

Winter golf deal$

Winters in the South can be colder than a toilet seat of ice or as balmy as a warm spring day and you never know what you're going to get. Golfers are eternal optimists, though, and the prices are the best you'll get all year. So pack the sticks, toss the tee and drive on.

Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront course, Palmetto Dunes.

What: Stay & Play package includes 4 days, three nights in a resort view villa, two rounds of golf, free tennis, resort dining and merchandise discounts.

Where: Hilton Head Island’s Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.

How much: $129 per person per night.

When: Through March 5, 2013. A group golf getaway with three rounds and range balls is available for groups of 12 or more through March 13, 2013 for $399 per person per night.

www.palmettodunes.com,  866-306-4330.

Santee National Golf Course.
What: Spring Special including three nights lodging at Chapel Creek Villas for a foursome and three rounds with cart at Santee National Golf Course.

Where: Santee, S. C.

When: March 4 through April 28, 2013.

How much: $274 per person.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WellsWorld on the Radio: New for 2013

Crusader's castle at Acre. Photo © by Judy Wells.

Cruise from Haifa to Acre

What: A new 30-minute boat ride will connect Haifa, Israel's third largest city and port, with the fortress city of Acre. The line will offer twice daily runs between Haifa, which backs up onto Mount Carmel and is home to the Baha'i Shrine and its famous Hanging Gardens, and Acre, once Akko, the Crusader capital of the Holy Land.

 When: The boat service is due to launch in March 2013.

AirTran Flights continue to Key West

What: Southwest Airlines will assume the routes - one daily nonstop between Orlando International Airport and a daily nonstop between Tampa Bay International Airport and Key West International Airport.

A new daily nonstop flight between Key West and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will be added.

Boeing 737-700, 143-passenger aircraft will be used on the Key West routes.

When: March 9, 2013.

www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY

Romantic deals

Hilton Sandestin.
Romantic Rendezvous
What: Celebrate the month of love with a Romantic Rendezvous Package at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. It includes upgraded beach-view accommodations and breakfast for two at Sandcastles Restaurant, plus a complimentary box of Godiva chocolates, bottle of champagne and one dozen red roses.

How Much: Starts at $217 per night .

When: Available February 1 - 28, 2013.

Fine print: Reservations must be made at least seven (7)-days in advance; limited availability; not applicable to existing reservations or contracted groups; the Hilton Sandestin Beach reserves the right to modify or discontinue this package at any time at its sole discretion. 

www.HiltonSandestinBeach.com or (800) 559-1805 and use booking code “RT.”

Serene Little St. Simons Island. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Couple's escape
What: Couples escaping to a private island stay three nights and get the fourth night free at exclusive and inclusive (even the sun block!) Little St. Simons Island

When: Feb. 15, 16, 17 and 18, 2013.

How Much: $549 per couple per night for three nights.

Fine print: Includes boat trip to and from the island, accommodations, three full meals and a cocktail reception each day, all activities and equipment. Does not include taxes and service charges.

www.littlessi.com or 866-855-0718.

Unicoi Lodge.

Winter Woodlands Getaways

What: The Lodge at Unicoi State Park, Georgia, with 30 cabins, 100 Lodge guestrooms and the Unicoi Dining Room, is open all winter with special rates.

How Much: From $89 a night Sunday through Thursday.

When: Now through Feb. 28, 2013.

Where: The Lodge at Unicoi sits on 1,063 acres between the Chatahoochee River and the town of Helen.

What: Cabbage Patch Kids Package at Unicoi Lodge includes  a one-night stay in a Lodge guestroom, breakfast for two, a park pass, a certificate for a free gift at Babyland General, and a crib in the guestroom for the for newly adopted Cabbage Patch Kid.

How Much: From $95.

When: through March 15, 2013.

 www.gastateparks.org or 800-573-9659

Special Restaurant Week prices

 What: Nineteen different island restaurants, each offering a special fixed menu, three courses and a non-alcoholic beverage priced at either $20.13 or $30.13.

Where: Amelia Island, FL.

When: Jan. 18 through 27.

Participating Restaurants include:
29 South, eclectic, 904-277-7919 
BarZin Bistro & Wine Bar, American bistro, 904-310-6620 
Baxter's, steak and seafood, 904-277-4503
Brett’s Waterway Café, casual seafood and steak, 904-261-2660
Bonito Grill and Sushi, Asian fusion, 904-261-0508          
Café Karibo, eclectic American, 904-277-5269   
Crab Trap, seafood, 904-261-4749      
David’s Restaurant & Lounge, fine dining, 904-310-6049       
Espana Restaurant & Tapas, Spanish and Portuguese, 904-261-7700          
Falcon’s Nest, casual dining, 904-491-4242         
Horizon’s, eclectic cuisine, 904-321-2430      
Le Clos, French cuisine, 904-261-8100       
Lu Lu’s at the Thompson House, American cuisine, 904-432-8394          
Marina Seafood Restaurant, casual seafood dining, 9-) 261-5310          
Merge, eclectic cuisine, 9-277-8797   
PLAE, fine dining, 904-277-2132   
Salty Pelican Bar & Grill, seafood and burgers, 904-277-3811          
Sandy Bottoms, American, 904-310-6904         
Sliders Seaside Grill, seafood and steak, 904-277-6652


Stay Over: In conjunction with Restaurant Week, several of Amelia Island accommodations are available with a “Free Night, Any Night” deal, allowing visitors a Free Night with a minimum three- or four-night stay.


Wild Webcam

 Take a peek at the watering hole and salt lick at The Ark in Kenya's Aberdare National Park. Last time I checked http://www.thearkkenya.com/live-webcam-feed, six Cape Buffalo were congregating within sight of the live video cams.

Fair waring: It's addictive.