Europe's Smart cars are coming to the U.S.
When I first saw a Smart car in Europe years ago, I was instantly reminded of the toy cars my Weebles rode in, a fact that sold me on it instantly. Until now, I've sufficed with the dream of, what I thought, was the next best thing (a Mini Cooper), but now my original dream can finally be realized when Smart's fortwo makes its U.S. debut in early 2008. The Smart fortwo gets about 40 miles to the gallon and starts at around $12,000. You can already reserve the model you want to buy, be it the Pure, the Passion, or the Passion Cabrio, for $99.
Currently, the Smart fortwo is on a 50-city tour, giving all Americans the chance to fall in love. Reservations and a list of the Smart fortwo tour stops can be found at smartusa.com.--Lindsey Ramsey
Today's travel intel
American adds daily flights between London's Stansted airport and New York's JFK starting on October 29. Later, on March 30, 2008, American will begin daily flights between Heathrow airport and Dallas/Fort Worth and Raleigh/Durham. The airline will run one daily departure from Gatwick airport and one from Heathrow non-stop to Dallas-Fort Worth instead of twice daily from Gatwick. Tomorrow is the Calgary Stampede. More than one million visitors will see barrel races and bronco-riding contests. Details--including last-minute vacation packages--can be found at the Calgary Stampede's website. Tour operator Globus is offering a discount. Between now and Sept. 30, you can receive $500 off per couple on next year's river cruises. See details at Globus's website. Minimalist beach vehicles: Not far from downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, you'll find a beach that has many unique concept cars, whose bodies have been taken off to prevent rust from the sea air. These all-frame cars are cool beach vehicles. [via Buenos Aires Spotting blog] [Photo: Buenos Aires Spotting blog]
Good news: The eagles are back
After years of endangerment, our national bird is now easily spotted along the upper Mississippi River (from Minnesota to Illinois); in the Minnesota Valley refuge; Oregon's Bear Valley and Cape Meares refuges; Virginia's Mason Neck, James River, and Blackwater refuges; and the Chesapeake Bay's Rappahannock River refuges, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [Photo by Frank Wouters via Flickr and Creative Commons]
Beware of London's Heathrow airport. If you can't avoid using this airport this summer, be sure to allow two hours if you have to change planes in its overcrowded terminals. Passengers at the airport tend to jam together, elbows out, instead of lining up in an orderly manner. The airport's luggage check-in process is also hopelessly outdated--making it slow and unsafe. Lock up your luggage. The locals have nicknamed the airport "Thief row" given the absurdly high number of thefts there. "It's like a fourth-world country," according to this article and this article in USA Today and in this commentary by Tyler Brule in the FT. [Photo: Kaptain Kobold via Flickr.com/Creative Commons] i flew into and out of heathrow this past may. many travellers weren't prepared for the limit of one carry-on. you are forced to check your extra carry-on that must be checked at the carriers terminal on the otherside of customs. i stood in the customs line listening to many people saying they will or already missed there connections.--Nancy Shuster We flew in and out of Heathrow coming and going to Athens. We were on BA and changing planes in London. Herded into small spaces for long waits after 11 hour flight. Then had to wait in general area until they posted the gate for our next flight. They only require 30 minutes before flight time for posting, but also advise to allow 45 minutes to get to some gates. I will avoid Heathrow in the future.--Ruthe Small
Travel news roundup
Disney Shift: Smoking is no longer allowed in any Disney hotel rooms or timeshares in Orlando. It'll only be OK at certain outdoor spaces. [Related: European governments are cracking down on smoking, as this map shows.] Movin' movies: Austin's Rolling Roadshow is screening movies all over this summer, including "North by Northwest" at Mount Rushmore. Details here. Billy Graham Library Opens: Charlotte, N.C., is home to a library dedicated to the evangelist. The building resembles a barn; the entrance is a 40-foot-tall glass cross. billygraham.org. Correction: On Monday, this blog linked to a chart in a BudgetTravel.com magazine article that contained a mistake: We erroneously said that a participant in American Airlines' reward program could keep their account active by buying a gift card from partner Starbucks. Instead, you need to buy two bags of coffee via Starbuck's retail website, StarbucksStore.com. ($9.50 each) via Starbuck's retail website StarbucksStore.com. Americans are workaholics: One in five toted laptop computers on their most recent vacations, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released last week. [CNN.com] For info on how to put your "crackberry" to better use, click here. Williamsburg Spa Opens: The 20,000-square-foot Spa of Colonial Williamsburg is open. thespaofcolonialwilliamsburg.com. No-Frills Jamaica: SuperClubs' basic brand, Rooms, gets a second property, in Negril, in December. roomsresorts.com. National Park Fees Going Up: Over the next three years, higher rates will be introduced at a third of U.S. national parks, including Big Bend, Zion, and Mesa Verde. The old $10-per-vehicle rate may become $20. [Readers of BudgetTravel.com react to the fee hikes here.]