Coupon codes for quick, easy travel savings
Coupons aren't only for the supermarket. They're handy for snagging discounts on hotels, flights, car rentals, travel packages, and more.
How can you find out about these coupons? From coupon sites, naturally. RetailMeNot.com, for example, has a section dedicated just to special coupon codes that provide discounts on travel. At last check, there were codes that would get you 50 percent off certain Enterprise car rentals, 20 percent off on some Amtrak routes, and $50 off Orbitz travel packages.
Another coupon site, Coupon Sherpa, has assembled a list of seven coupon tips for frugal travel, with advice not only on coupon codes for flights and hotels, but also for things like entertainment while you're on location:
Search for coupons before you leave home to such major attractions as museums, national parks and amusement parks. You'll find coupons for most major attractions online or you can call ahead and ask how to find coupons for a particular place. Entertainment book coupons also provide savings on car rentals, hotels and restaurants. You can buy a book for a specific city or subscribe to an online service that allows you to print just the coupons you need. Entertainment.com and Valpak.com are two reputable companies that offer these services. Make sure, however, the coupons can be used for the days you plan on visiting.
You can also find coupon codes directly from the source: on the travel company's websites themselves. Just click on the site's heading saying "Deals" or "Specials" or some such equivalent to browse available. Doing so at Thrifty.com reveals that the code 2FLDR nets you 10 percent off car rentals in Florida during the month of April.
Another example: Starting today on Hyatt's site, there's a 30 percent off promotion when you make a reservation with the code LTO111 (that's the letter O, not a zero btw). To get the deal, you must reserve by April 1 for a stay that occurs by June 30. Note, however, that this is a pre-paid, no-changes-allowed deal, so only book if you're certain about your plans.
Rome: Where to eat when you need a pasta break
I had lunch last week with a new press attaché for the American Embassy in Rome, and he asked a question that boggles the mind of most new residents. "Why aren't there any ethnic restaurants in Rome?" In fact, for a city synonymous with good eating, there is an often shocking lack of choice. The reason is a combination of bureaucracy and lack of interest. It's extremely difficult to open a restaurant in Italy, and foreigners have it much harder than Italians. But few Italians have the culinary background to open an authentic ethnic restaurant, and there's no real drive to offer choice. Tourists mostly want to eat Roman cuisine, and the local population isn't what I'd call gastronomically adventurous. It's even difficult to cook ethnic food in Rome. The vegetable market on Piazza Vittorio near Termini station has the largest selection of dried spices and vegetables, but it's almost impossible to get fresh items like snow peas, Thai basil, lemon grass or fresh cilantro with any regularity (or at reasonable prices). Luckily, over years living in Rome, I've uncovered some satisfying ethnic restaurants for times when you just can't eat another noodle. My go-to Indian restaurant is Surya Mahal. The owners are wonderfully friendly (though they have a tendency to lower the heat on the vindaloo), and there's outdoor seating in a garden overlooking Piazza Trilussa. Via di Ponte Sisto, 67, 50; 011-39/06-589-4554. I recently discovered Green Tea near the Pantheon, which has a great ambiance and authentic Chinese dishes. Via del Pie' di Marmo, 28; 011-39/06-679-8628. Zen Sushi is a sceney place for Japanese; the decor may be obnoxious, but the sushi is great. Via degli Scipioni, 243; 011-39/06-321-3420. The best Mediterranean fusion option is the super-swanky Ketumbar, just beyond Trastevere in the nightlife-centric district of Testaccio. Via Galvani 24, 011-39/06-5730-5338. While calling it authentic "tex-mex" would be an exaggeration, The Perfect Bun does serve up a great plate of nachos and spicy wings—right by the Pantheon. Largo del Teatro Valle, 4, 011-39/06-4547-6337. A long-time favorite for Vietnamese food is Thien Kim, which is on a quiet street near Campo dei Fiori. Via Giulia, 201; 011-39/06-6830-7832.
Discount carrier will be crossing the Atlantic soon
Flights on Sun Country Airlines from Minneapolis to London's Stansted airport start at $415 each way in the middle of summer. Sun Country kicks off service on June 11, and it'll continue flying once a week through the summer, departing to London on Fridays, returning on Sundays. The carrier announced the new route with a price of $399, but when you actually try to book a flight, the rate is $415 for some odd reason. When you add all the taxes and fees in, a round trip in mid-summer comes to $936. Sounds like a lot, until you compare that with the $1,200 that major airlines are now charging for the same route this summer, on flights that almost always involve a layover. While we love to see discount carriers expanding, especially when it comes to international routes, it's important to note that Sun Country is currently operating under bankruptcy-court protection. (The carrier is expected to be out of bankruptcy within a few months, according to the Wall Street Journal.) And unfortunately, discount airlines have a history of finding it particularly difficult to break into the trans-Atlantic market. See the demise of Zoom Airlines, for example. Proceed with caution.
Hemingway House named literary landmark
Ernest Hemingway's home in Key West, where he lived in the 1930s, was designated a Literary Landmark over the weekend. The house, now a museum, is a tourist attraction in Key West, not only for the original Parisian furniture and other items owned by Hemingway on display, but also for the six-toed cats that hang around the property (descendants of the author's own beloved litter). Hemingway lived here from 1931 to 1939 and worked on For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and the Key West-set To Have and Have Not. The ALTAFF, a division of the American Library Association, rewarded the house with the distinction; it has been a museum since 1964. The ALTAFF has bestowed similar honors on the homes of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. Admission to the museum is $12 per adult and includes a 30-minute tour. Just a 10-minute walk away is the Casa Marina resort, which we recently featured in our Resorts Within Reach story. The house is located at 907 Whitehead St.
San Francisco: Gourmet to-go windows
Award-winning chefs at establishments like Fish and Farm and Chez Spencer are now serving lunch out of to-go windows, all for about half the price of what you'd spend in the restaurant. Now that the weather is getting warmer—and the sun is actually coming out—a picnic seems like an idyllic way to spend an afternoon. It's easier than you think with these delicious options at to-go prices. One caveat: These windows draw crowds, so expect lines—but it's well worth the wait. American Box Lunch 'Hood Union Square Grub Sandwiches, salads, and burgers. During lunch hour on weekdays, Fish and Farm, a much-buzzed-about new restaurant serving local seafood and meats, sells boxed lunches just across the street from the restaurant's main entrance. Called the American Box Lunch, the to-go meals are becoming even more popular than the restaurant itself, mostly due to the line-caught, house-made tuna sandwich with heirloom tomatoes and tartar sauce ($9) and a cheeseburger with Niman Ranch beef, house-made pickles, and grilled onions, which local magazine 7X7 named one of the best in the city ($8). Where to sit Take your boxed lunch three blocks over to the park in Union Square, which has benches and tables. Details Cash only, Mon.-Fri. 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 339 Taylor Street. Spencer On the Go 'Hood SOMA Grub French. Instead of the fine-dining experience at Chez Spencer, enjoy French food by the same award-winning chef Laurent Katgely at the restaurant's taco truck, parked in the evenings at the corner of Folsom and 7th Street. The menu features items like caper-braised skate cheeks ($8), Sweetbread with Sherry ($9), and escargot puffs ($2.) Where to sit Pop a squat right there on the sidewalk, or take your food across the street for a glass of wine at Terroir, an organic wine bar that also provides wine for Chez Spencer and welcomes Spencer on the Go patrons. Details Cash only, Wed.-Sat. starting at 6 p.m. Greens to Go 'Hood Fort Mason/Marina Grub Vegetarian Green's is one of the first and most famous vegetarian fine-dining restaurants in the country. Entrees are made with all-organic, local ingredients, some grown at the restaurant's own garden at Marin's Zen Center. While Green's has a $15 minimum during sit-down lunch, the to-go counter features a seasonal menu, along with mainstay items like vegetarian curry ($6.50) and a peanut noodle salad ($ 6.50) at a more reasonable price. Where to sit The Marina Green park, two blocks south of Fort Mason, which overlooks the Bay and has excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Details Mon-Thurs. 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Fort Mason, Building A. The Sentinel 'Hood Financial District Grub Sandwiches and salads. Converted diner Canteen serves a prix-fix menu of organic-fusion food (aka California Cuisine) and is a favorite among locals in the Tenderloin. But, their prices can break the bank. Luckily, chef Dennis Leary has started the Sentinel, a to-go window about eight blocks from the restaurant that serves salads and sandwiches through lunchtime, like the much-coveted corned-beef sandwich with Swiss ($8.75), polenta soup ($5.65), and seasonal specialties like roasted salmon, avocado, and fennel salad, with a rhubarb crisp on the side ($11.65). Where to sit Enjoy your food at the steps on Market and Post Streets with the bike-messenger crowd for prime people watching, or head to Yerba Buena Center for the Art's lawn at Mission between 3rd and 4th Streets, two blocks away. Details Mon-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 37 New Montgomery Little Skillet 'Hood SOMA Grub Soul food. Farmer Brown's serves its signature gourmet take on southern comfort food at Little Skillet, a take-out window in a side alley in SOMA. The restaurant, on Mason Street, supports local and African-American farmers and uses sustainably raised foods and even beverages whenever possible. Get two pieces of fried chicken with a waffle ($8) or with a buttermilk biscuit and a side of potato salad or grits ($8.50) and top it off with a red velvet cupcake ($3). Where to sit Most people eat right on the spot at the loading docks (the food is that good), but grassy South Park is two blocks away, and it's got benches and manicured lawns. Details Cash only, Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 360 Ritch Street at Townsend.