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Travel News: Airport Security Bins Are Dirtier Than Toilet Seats, Celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month, Save During NYC’s Off-Broadway Week

By The Budget Travel Editors
September 11, 2018
An airport security bin holds a passenger's bag awaiting x-ray
Jaromir Chalabala/Dreamstime
There’s a great big world out there, and our latest “news you can use” may inspire a trip you never knew you needed.

From a hair-raising study of those filthy airport security bins (and how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe) to a great reason to raise a glass of the all-American libation, bourbon, this month to a two-for-one ticket deal that NYC culture vultures will snap up, this week’s travel news is all about escaping the everyday.

AIRPORT SECURITY BINS ARE DIRTIER THAN TOILET SEATS

We have some not-so-great news for germaphobes –and, sorry to say, everyone else, too. A recent study conducted by Finnish and British researchers reveals that the plastic bins used to inspect personal items at airport security have as much of a 50 percent chance of carrying the viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. Based on swabs taken at Helsinki Airport at three points during the 2015-2016 flu season, the surface of as many as one of every two bins, which are typically handled with a strong, open-palm grip, contain rhinovirus or adenovirus, the culprits that cause cold- and flu symptoms. This is a much higher rate of contamination than toilet seats in airports because bathrooms are cleaned much more frequently. But there is a glint of good news to come out of all this. The scientists write in the paper, which was published in the BioMed Central Infectious Diseases journal, says, "This knowledge helps in the recognition of hot spots for contact transmission risk, which could be important during an emerging pandemic threat or severe epidemic." Meantime, be sure to wash your hands after you get through security and, out of respect to your fellow passengers, maybe wash them before the TSA check, too. Now, we’d like to know who’s studying the carpet square in the body scan machine that many passengers stand on barefoot?

CELEBRATE NATIONAL BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH

Believe it or not, there have been times in U.S. history when lawmakers reached across the aisle to get things done. This month, we celebrate one of those moments: In 2007, senators voted nearly unanimously to pass a bill that declared September National Bourbon Heritage Month. Resolution 294, as the bill is known, is a reinforcement of the 1964 Bourbon Act, a Congressional decree that recognized bourbon as America’s only “native spirit” and established a legal definition and guidelines for production. Among those guidelines: bourbon whiskey can be made anywhere in America—not only Kentucky—and must be distilled from at least 51 percent corn and aged in brand-new charred American oak barrels. The 2007 bill is a salute to the spirit’s deeply entrenched role in American history as well as its past and present impact on commerce. While there are small independent distilleries in every state today producing bourbon, the most important, historic distilleries are in Kentucky, where there are 1.5 barrels aging per each of the 4.5 million people living there. That accounts for 95 percent of the world’s supply, making it an $8.5 billion industry. The drink has become such a source of intrigue that an entire tourism industry has evolved around it. In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers' Association established the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a road-trip-style experience. New smaller distilleries that have opened throughout the state over the subsequent years led to the creation of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour in 2012. A few years later, the outstanding whiskey bars in Louisville came together to establish the Urban Bourbon Trail, arguably the best bar crawl in the USA. So head to Kentucky and hop on one of those trails or head to your local watering hole and order a glass of bourbon on the rocks. If anyone questions your motives, tell them it’s your civic duty.

SAVE DURING NYC’S OFF-BROADWAY WEEK

Theater buffs headed to New York can save big thanks to NYC Off-Broadway Week, with two-for-one tickets on sale now for 38 Off-Broadway productions between September 24 and October 7, 2018. A few examples of the theatrical gems available at half price include Avenue Q, Drunk Shakespeare, and Stomp. Learn more, and purchase tickets, at nycgo.com/off-broadway-week.

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Travel News: Airline Baggage Fees Just Went Up, D.C.’s Black Restaurant Week, CityPASS Helps With Foliage Getaways

From the newly imposed checked-baggage fees at some (but not all) major carriers to an unexpected autumn benefit of CityPASS, plus a cool new restaurant week coming to the nation’s capital, this week’s travel news is all about giving you options that’ll save you money and open up new experiences. AIRLINE BAGGAGE FEES JUST WENT UP Let’s start with the good news: As we go to press, Southwest still allows you to check two bags for free. And Delta and American still charge $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for your second. The bad news for Budget Travelers is that United, JetBlue, WestJet, and Air Canada all raised their baggage fees over the past week or so, charging $30 for that first bag and $40 for the second. JetBlue is also raising its fee for a third checked bag from $100 to $150. You don’t need an 800 on the math SAT to see how this could affect, say, a family of four departing for a big trip, right? We suggest pricing postal and overnight delivery rates and researching door-to-door luggage shipping services to see how they compare with the new checked-bag fees. We’ll be doing the same, and sharing more baggage advice to fliers ASAP. D.C.’S BLACK RESTAURANT WEEK Washington. D.C., joins Houston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and other U.S. foodie hotspots in hosting a restaurant week that celebrates African American culinary talent. The city's DMV Black Restaurant Week will run from November 4 to 11, showcasing some of D.C.'s top chefs and mixologists. In addition to the discounts you’d expect from a restaurant week, the event will also include panel discussions and awards. (An array of “restaurant week” organizations exist across the U.S. You can learn more about DMV Black Restaurant Week at dmvbrw.com.) CITYPASS HELPS WITH FOLIAGE GETAWAYS Sure, we appreciate CityPASS for its obvious benefits: Discounts and perks like line skipping at popular attractions in major cities. But this time of year, when the countryside turns from green to red, orange, and gold, you can take a CityPASS-fueled fall foliage road trip linking major cities via gorgeous drives decked out in autumnal finery. Just a few ideas include NYC toward Boston on the historic and often beautiful Merritt Parkway; NYC toward Philly in the Millstone Valley Scenic Byway; San Francisco to Seattle on the 101 Up the coast; or Houston to Dallas for the Pineywoods Autumn Trail (citypass.com).

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Travel News: 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America

We’ve been devouring OpenTable’s list if the 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America, which is based on more than 12 million reviews of restaurants across the U.S. by “verified diners” (meaning the reviews were not written by the restaurants themselves or by public relations reps). The varying vistas these eateries offer range from seascapes, nature to city skylines to iconic landmarks. But even a quick glance at the list makes it clear that some of the most beautiful restaurant views come with a hefty price tag. With that in mind, we did a deeper dive into the scenic restaurants whose menu items are aimed a bit more at bargain seekers like us - those where dinner with a drink and tip will come in roughly under $30/person. The good news is there are plenty of affordable options in all regions of the U.S. Here, a few of the standouts (to learn more or book a reservation, look them up on OpenTable). THE WEST It’s no secret that Budget Travelers love California’s Central Coast, and Ventana Grill, right on the water in Pismo Beach, will knock you out with seascapes (ventana, after all, means “window” in Spanish), good prices, and great Latin American fare and, of course, seafood.. Beachcomber Cafe - Crystal Cove, in Newport Beach, CA, is right on the water and gets high marks for breakfast and beignets. Duke’s, in La Jolla and in Malibu, CA, wows visitors with its ambience and Hula Pie. El Five serves up a popular paella - not to mention breathtaking views of downtown Denver, CO. THE NORTHEAST Boat House Waterfront Dining, in Tiverton, RI, offers lobster fritters along with waterside views. Legal Harborside, in Boston, MA, is the place for fish and chips (and, do we have to say it… chowder), served, yes, harborside. Parc, on beautiful Rittenhouse Square, in Philadelphia, PA, gets raves for its French cuisine, including the cheesy, bubbly onion soup. THE MIDWEST The Bistro at Gervasi Vineyard, in Canton, OH, offers beautiful vineyard views plus a posh interior and, of course, great wine. Primavista serves affordable Italian food with sweeping views of Cincinnati, plus a bread pudding you should save some room for. THE SOUTH The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing, on the water in Richmond, VA, generates plenty of buzz for its shrimp and grits. Columbia Restaurant - SandKey, in Clearwater, FL, pours a popular sangria in an open, airy space with windows looking out on the water. Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar, in Charleston, SC, focuses on seafood, including its ever-popular shrimp and grits.

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Travel News: Coast-to-Coast Bargain Trips for Fall 2018

We’re just getting started covering some of the hottest fall bargains, deals, and steals. As summer temperatures drop, so do the vacation prices, from Pacific coast hideaways like Morro Bay, CA, to posh Atlantic resorts like The Sea Pines, in Hilton Head, SC. Here, five of the latest bargains you should pounce on now. A STYLISH STEAL ON HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC A two-bedroom villa on Hilton Head, SC, from $136/night. Any questions? We didn’t think so. But you should know that The Sea Pines Resort is one of the top-rated properties on Hilton Head, and fall (and winter) stays are an absolute steal. The resort’s Getaway Package includes lodging and activities available Sept. 8, 2018 through March 1, 2019, including tennis, cycling, golf for all ages, dinners and food discounts, spa discounts, and even a complimentary family portrait photo session on the beach. Rates start at $136/night for a minimum of four nights in a two-bedroom deluxe villa in the resort’s Plantation Club. A NEW MARITIME MUSEUM IN MORRO BAY, CA We named Morro Bay one of the Best Budget Destinations in America 2018, and we are so pleased to announce that, after 25 years of fundraising and hard work, the charming fishing village that makes visitors feel like family is opening the Morro Bay Maritime Museum on September 29. Located right on the town’s bustling waterfront (home to some of the finest fresh seafood anywhere), the museum will offer free admission each Saturday through the end of the year. Exhibits will include an authentic crafted Salinan Tribe Tule Boat, U.S. Navy history and memorabilia, and much more. And Morro Bay packs a bunch of festivals into its fall calendar, celebrating the region’s seafood, avocados, wine, and more. LEAF PEEPING IN THE ADIRONDACKS, NY A fall visit to Adirondack State Park, in upstate New York, offers, in addition to hotel rates well under $200/night, the opportunity to savor eye-popping fall foliage from a variety of unusual angles. These include: an aerial tour of the region’s legendary reds, yellows, and golds, with takeoff and land in Long Lake and Inlet; an Amtrak dome car, with windows on all sides, from Albany, NY, to Montreal, Canada; a luxurious dinner cruise on Raquette Lake; a quiet river rafting excursion in the Hudson River Gorge; a cycling tour to historic Great Camp Santanoni with its lake views and apple orchards; kayak one of the region’s seemingly endless waterways amid fall finery. Get Adirondacks foliage updates starting September 12 at adirondacksusa.com. CANOE WESTERN MONTANA Western Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley, roughly south of Glacier National Park and north of Missoula, offers an unparalleled chain of lakes and quiet waterways closed to motorized boats, the Clearwater River Canoe Trail. It’s about a  two-hour paddle that takes you past incredible mountain vistas, marshes, and Montana’s bursts of autumn yellows and golds. Lodging in Seeley Lake and other communities along the waterway is always reasonable, and vacation rentals on Seeley Lake offer pinch-me views (visitmt.com). FALL FOLIAGE IN THE BRONX New Yorkers and those visiting the Big Apple should seriously consider a autumn stay-cation or day trip to the New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx (yup, the Bronx, one of our Best Budget Destinations in America 2017). The Botanical Garden highlights foliage season with two Fall Forest Weekends that include guided walks through the largest remaining tract of old-growth forest in NYC, the 50-acre Thain Family Forest, as the leaves put on an annual show that rivals that of any region in America. Visitors can canoe down the Bronx River, experience birds-of-prey demonstrations, and even take in live Shakespeare performances. Now that’s a fall weekend (nybg.org).

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Travel News: 100 Travel Discounts You’ll Love, Streaming Audio From the National Parks, You Can Afford Nantucket

From a discounted African safari to a plate of Massachusetts scallops, from a tour of the art of Florence to the sound of a mountain stream delivered right to your earbuds, this week’s travel news is all about pushing boundaries and seeing more. 100 TRAVEL DISCOUNTS YOU’LL LOVE This news takes the concept of Shoulder Season to the next level. The United States Tour Operators Association’s (USTOA) Travel Together Month (September 1 - 30) will offer exclusive savings, perks and airfare deals on dozens and dozens of amazing trips around the world. “Cruises, safaris, walking tours, independent trips, and more… Travel Together Month includes a wide variety of live-like-a-local experiences in countries around the world” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA. From art and culture in European cities to wildlife in Africa and the South Pacific, these trips are high-end experiences with seriously discounted price tags, often saving travelers $1,000 per person. STREAMING AUDIO FROM THE NATIONAL PARKS Love America’s national parks? Well, listen up, people. Seriously.  Listen. The National Park Foundation, the official charity partner of the National Park Service, has just launched PARKTRACKS, an audio streaming experience that can (virtually) transport you to your favorite national parks any time. The National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division captured unique audio experiences such as waterways, wildlife, and more at national parks across the country, available to download or stream online at Find Your Park. YES, YOU CAN AFFORD NANTUCKET You already know that the island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod, is gorgeous, popular, and pricey in summer. But did you know that the island’s population drops from 80,000 to 10,000 when vacationers head home for the fall? That leaves miles of beach and fun events like the Cranberry Festival, Half Marathon, and the opening of Nantucket Bay Scallop Season, plus plummeting hotel prices and shorter lines for Juice Bar’s ice cream (try the Crantucket, with cranberry ice cream and chocolate chunks) and seafood at Toppers and Brant Point Grill.

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