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Travel News: Renting a Car Just Got a Lot Easier, Nab a Deal at Orlando’s New Margaritaville Resort, and Voyager 2 May Be the Ultimate Traveler

By The Budget Travel Editors
December 12, 2018
California coast of Big Sur along Highway 1
Robert Cooley/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 streamlined new rental car program from Hertz to a brand-new Orlando resort tailor-made for Jimmy Buffett fans to the outer reaches of our solar system, this week’s travel news is about boldly going where no one has gone before.

RENTING A CAR JUST GOT A LOT EASIER

We don’t need to enumerate the various hassles associated with renting a car, right? But a new program from Hertz may help to sweep away some of the impediments to getting behind the wheel and leaving the lot as efficiently as possible. Hertz Fast Lane powered by CLEAR aims to speed up the rental process. In fact, the new service aims to move travelers through that exit gate in 30 seconds or less. How? Enrolling in CLEAR allows users to link their accounts to Hertz so that, thanks to biometrics, they can verify their identity and reservation information with (we’re not kidding) a look or a tap of the finger. It’s all very Blade Runner to some of us, but apparently the future is here.

NAB A DEAL AT ORLANDO’S NEW MARGARITAVILLE RESORT

If you’re still puzzling over our use of the word biometrics in the last item, that may be a sign that it’s time to chill. And the new Margaritaville Resort in Orlando is a good place to do just that. Mind you, we’re not opposed to resorts that aren’t inspired by Jimmy Buffett songs, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Guests booking a 2019 stay at the Orlando resort can nab one free night when they book three or more consecutive nights between January 15 and March 31 (and, yeah, that’s pretty much the time of year you need a warm island-inspired trip). Guests can expect island-themed decor, a lagoon pool, four restaurants, gorgeous sunset views, and, of course, plenty of those eponymous frozen concoctions.

VOYAGER 2 MAY BE THE ULTIMATE TRAVELER

The spacecraft Voyager 2 was launched in 1977, when Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours was a brand-new album and Jimmy Carter was a brand-new president, with the mission of exploring our solar system and sending back all sorts of new data about the nature of the asteroid belt, planets, and beyond. Now, with much of its gear still functioning -- including tools measuring cosmic rays, charged particles, and magnetism -- Voyager 2 has reached that “beyond” and left the solar system, entering what James Joyce called “the cold of interstellar space.” We want to salute this ultimate traveler, which has ventured 11 billion miles and followed its fellow spacecraft, Voyager 1, into truly uncharted territory.

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Travel News: 500 Million Hotel Guests Hacked, Sleepbox Comes to Dulles, and Europe's Most Instagrammed Christmas Markets

From one of the biggest hacks of customer data in U.S. history at Marriott to a convenient (if somewhat bare-bones) way of catching some sleep at the airport to the delights of Europe’s holiday markets, this week’s travel news is all about surprises (the bad and the good, that is). 500 MILLION HOTEL GUESTS HACKED “Were you hacked?” may become one of the most commonly asked questions amont travel enthusiasts over the next few weeks. Marriott announced last week that around 500 million guests of Starwood hotels (owned by Marriott) had their personal data - including credit card, passport, dates of birth, and other information that could put them at risk of identity theft - potentially exposed due to a massive breach dating back to 2014. That’s right: If you stayed at one of Starwood’s properties, which include Sheraton, St. Regis and Westin, over the past four years, your data may very well have been compromised. Your first step? Visit the special website Marriott has set up for customers at answers.kroll.com, or call 877-273-9481. In addition, we always recommend common-sense steps such as changing passwords on your accounts, limiting the online availability of account numbers and personal information, being vigilant when logging into WiFi anywhere other than home or work, and using a dedicated credit card for online transactions. SLEEPBOX COMES TO WASHINGTON DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT If your travel plans will bring you to Washington, D.C., you may want to catch some shuteye at the Sleepbox Lounge on Concourse A, which USA Today reports is scheduled to open in time for Christmas and New Year’s fliers. If the word Sleepbox sounds a little too tight for comfort, you’ll be relieved to learn that the micro hotel rooms are eight feet tall, 30 square feet total, soundproof, and boasting memory foam beds. Rooms can be rented by the hour or overnight, with the timing of the stay up to the guest. Sleepbox may take the sting out of long layovers for sleepy travelers. EUROPE’S MOST INSTAGRAMMED CHRISTMAS MARKETS Our friends at On the Go Tours (onthegotours.com) have done it again, crunching the numbers on the most popular Christmas markets in Europe via Instagram. Sure, you know that some of the most charming, scenic, and historic holiday shopping takes place at Europe’s legendary markets. But were guessing you didn’t know that Manchester Christmas Market, in the U.K., clocks in at number one, with 31,059 #manchesterchristmasmarkets hashtags. Manchester has a solid lead, with its nearest competitor, Edinburgh Christmas Market coming in with 18,888 hashtags, Bath in third place with 16,985, and Striezelmarket, in Dresden, in fourth place with 13,868.

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Travel News: Chef Dominique Crenn Earns 3 Michelin Stars, the Tale of the Drunk Pilot, and Why You Should Spend Christmas to London

From a mind-blowingly delicious restaurant in San Francisco to the capital of Merry Olde England decked out for the holidays, plus the disturbing story of a Japanese pilot who showed up for work under the influence, this week’s travel news is all about making you the best informed traveler at the holiday party. CHEF DOMINIQUE CRENN EARNS THREE MICHELIN STARS Every time the glass ceiling gets another crack in it, we here at BT give three cheers, and today we are cheering for Chef Dominique Crenn, who last week became the first American woman to be awarded three Michelin stars for her work at her extraordinary restaurant Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco. Atelier Crenn, on Fillmore Street, is a super-spurge, with tasting menus for $335 and wine pairings for $220, but for a less expensive taste of Crenn’s imaginative, modernist French approach to food (Crenn hails from Brittany), try some small plates at the nearby Bar Crenn or the $95 tasting menu at Petit Crenn, on Hayes Street (ateliercrenn.com). THE TALE OF THE DRUNK PILOT When you make a mistake at work, does your boss take a massive pay cut? That’s what happened recently when a pilot for Japan Airlines showed up intoxicated for a flight from Tokyo to London. The pilot was given a 10-month sentence, and the airline announced a step-up in awareness and training for its staff. Most notably, though, and in stark contrast to some U.S. business leaders who will remain nameless, the president of Japan Airlines took responsibility for the pilot’s error in judgment and has reduced his own pay by 20 percent through February; another senior officer at the airline will have his salary reduced by 10 percent. In Japan, it is relatively common for top executives to take pay cuts as penance for such issues. (And, yes, we know what you’re thinking.) WHY YOU SHOULD SPEND CHRISTMAS IN LONDON If you’re pining for the sort of Christmas celebration that Charles Dickens heartily endorsed in his most famous work, London is rolling out the red carpet this holiday season. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, decked out with more than 1 million twinkling lights and appearances by Father Christmas and his elves. Take a nighttime sightseeing bus through central London to see iconic sights like the Tower, Harrods, and Piccadilly in their holiday finery. And while Budget Travelers may not book a room at Claridge’s, the gorgeous Mayfair hotel, they can drop by the lobby to ogle The Tree of Love, designed by Diane von Furstenberg and boasting 8,000 iridescent hand-painted leaves.

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Travel News: Why You Need to Fly With Global Entry, Save on NYC Hotels in January, and the World’s Top 50 Beaches

From the best way to breeze through customs to the most perfect beaches on earth, plus unbeatable Big Apple hotel deals that kick off after the holidays, this week’s travel news is all about making 2019 your year to see more of the world. WHY YOU NEED TO FLY WITH GLOBAL ENTRY As much as we love international travel, one of the drawbacks has always been the return flight home and the subsequent lines at customs before we’re reunited with our luggage and friends and family. Global Entry, a program of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is perhaps the best solution, a bit like TSA PreCheck for those returning to the U.S. from overseas. If your application for Global Entry is approved, your time spent in line is cut to practically zero, and your reentry is expedited by a self-serve kiosk where you can easily scan necessary documents and head to the baggage carousel. To learn more and start the process of obtaining Global Entry status, which includes a background check and in-person interview, visit cbp.gov. And, as an added bonus, if you don’t already have TSA PreCheck, your approved Global Entry application will include that status as well. SAVE ON NYC HOTELS IN JANUARY Start booking your post-holiday getaways by jumping on New York City’s biggest hotel promotion, the eighth annual Hotel Week NYC, with savings of up to 30 percent for January 4 through 14, 2019 (hotelweeknyc.com). Search hotel options in all of the city’s five boroughs (The Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island), get details about design, food options, and room amenities, and filter properties by factors such neighborhood and price (rates for standard rooms are fixed at rates of $100, $200, $300, or $400, which is a big savings in a city where $500/night rates are normal at many properties). “Hotel Week is one of the best times of the year to explore New York. The crowds have dispersed, but the city is still a winter wonderland, and travelers have wonderful options to take advantage of low prices and luxurious hotel amenities,” says Hotel Week NYC founder Nancy J. Friedman. “It’s also a wonderful opportunity for locals to enjoy a staycation and relax after the stressful holiday season without causing a financial hangover.” WORLD’S TOP 50 BEACHES If you’re like us, this time of year always stokes a yearning for a warm beach, and our friends at Canada-based FlightNetwork (flightnetwork.com) have swooped in with their World’s Top 50 Beaches 2018, the result of a comprehensive polling of more than 1,200 travel writers, editors, and travel agents from around the world. The top beaches on this year’s list are a big far-flung for Budget Travelers: Shipwreck Beach, Greece, is no. 1 on the list, followed by Whitehaven Beach in the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef region at no. 2. While we are personally big fans of both Shipwreck and Whitehaven, we were also glad to notice that a few Caribbean (read: closer-to-home) beaches ranked quite highly, including Tulum Beach, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, at no. 5, and Grace Bay, in Turks and Caicos, at no. 6.

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Travel News: Black Friday & Cyber Monday Travel Deals Now Through 11/28, Holiday Hotel Packages, and Ski Bargains

From incredible deals on exciting international destinations you thought you couldn’t afford to drop-everything holiday hotel packages and yes-you-can ski deals, this week’s travel news is all about giving you the inside scoop on seeing more for less. BLACK FRIDAY & CYBER MONDAY TRAVEL DEALS NOW THROUGH 11/28 Savvy travelers (that’s you) know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, often including the weeks preceding and following Thanksgiving, can be the most wonderful time of the year to nab bargains. In that spirit. our partners at Intrepid Travel are offering 20 percent off all their 2019 package tours from today through November 28. Follow @BudgetTravel on Instagram for a taste of Intrepid’s offerings, including trips of a lifetime such as Morocco, Egypt, the Northern Lights, and much more. Intrepid also offers family-friendly trips, trips under $1,000, and something to suit just about every traveler’s taste. HOLIDAY HOTEL PACKAGES Hilton Hotels are rolling out a red carpet to travelers this holiday season with some fun holiday-themed hotel packages. Here are just two examples: Book a special package at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel (part of the Curio Collection by Hilton) and you can take the kids on a ride on the Polar Express, a 45-minute train ride to see Santa at his workshop. Or explore the holidays in New York City through January 10 by booking a special NYC hotel package that includes a $25 gift card for Macy’s Herald Square, 20 percent off tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, and the chance to skip the lines and save 15 percent on ice skate rentals at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, among other perks. SKI BARGAINS Speaking of winter, this is the right time to remind you that Liftopia is the world's biggest consumer marketplace for ski tickets and other mountain activities. The company recently announced plans to offer dynamic pricing, which holds the potential to deliver further savings based on a variety of supply-and-demand factors for ski resorts and comes alike. In the near term, whether you’re eager to give the sport a first try or are already an avid skier, Liftopia.com offers one-stop shopping that allows you to browse regions from New England to the Rockies to Europe and beyond and zero in on the right ski experience for you, be it luxury, family-friendly, close to home, or simply drop-dead gorgeous. It’s smooth gliding from there. See you at the apres-ski bar!

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