London After the Olympics: New Attractions and Affordable Hotels
Hotel prices in London for late August and September—a time of usually gorgeous weather—are as much as 60 percent off the norm. Here are tips on what's worth seeing and how to plan an affordable getaway.
Western Europe’s most populated city, with about 8 million residents, has felt the pinch of welcoming an additional million people for a few weeks. But hotels are reporting that bookings are down for the post-Games period, which is prompting them to offer sale rates. US-based websites tend to miss some of the best London hotel deals, so check for deals at Booking.com and Venere.com instead.
One of the cheapest sources for airfares to London is Vayama, but there's a catch: Tickets are mostly non-refundable, so if you book, you'll have no choice but to go. But by taking that risk, you can save up to 20% off the lowest rates being offered by competitor online travel agencies.
Harrods Toy Kingdom
Harrods has just opened a 26,000-square-foot toy department. Kids can sit inside a giant mouth filled with wonky teeth, ride miniature trains and cars in the Wonderland area, and walk on floors that rumble in the Odyssey zone. The gender-neutral toy shop will give standby favourite Hamleys on Regent Street a run for the money.
World's first for the arts
Until October 28, 2012, Tate Modern will have open The Tanks, the world's first gallery space for live performance art set in a dramatic location, the former oil tanks underneath the former gigantic power station on the Thames River.
New shark exhibit
When visitors want to see sharks, they usually head over to the city to see the banking district. But the aquatic kinds of sharks now have a posh new display at Sea Life London Aquarium. The Shark Reef Encounter exhibit has 16 sharks, such as sand tiger sharks and blacktips in a 65-foot tank.
The 02, a venue that hosted boxing, athletic, and other events during London 2012 under the name of North Greenwich Arena, is the city's most popular stadium year-round. This summer, it opened a new external building climb. Up at the O2 allows people to walk across its roof while wearing a special safety harness. Views take in the city's ever-changing skyline, and the 90-minute excursion can make anyone feel like James Bond walking 175-feet above the ground. From $34 for adults.
The London Design Festival turns 10
Between September 14–23, the city's glorious Victoria & Albert Museum will host the London Design Festival, a series of talks, exhibitions, and installations about design. But there will also be pop-up attractions around town, such as a sound portal in Trafalgar Square, where musicians will perform concerts in a box with "perfect acoustics."
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Will Baggage Claim Soon Be a Thing of the Past?
With American Airlines' newest venture, you can opt out of one airport annoyance: seemingly endless waits at baggage claim. AA's new Baggage Delivery Service, which debuted yesterday at 200 domestic airports (along with a handful of international ones), allows passengers to skip baggage claim altogether and have their bags delivered to their door for an additional fee. Travelers register through the airline's website, anytime from initial booking up to two hour prior to the flight's departure. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('0c8d8e6f-40d2-42a3-b8a0-b9bf4c310284'); Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Such convenience, of course, comes with a price. For destinations within 40 miles of the arrival airport, the delivery of a single bag will cost you $29.95. For two bags, the service runs $39.95, and for a cargo of three to ten bags, a cool $49.95 (which could work out to something of a bargain for, say, a large family with a couple of bags per person in tow). Estimated delivery times range from one to four hours. And if home is further than 40 miles afield? Add a dollar for every mile (with 100 miles as the maximum delivery span offered currently), and budget four to six hours. A liability policy is included with the delivery at no additional charge, insuring travelers for up to $500 per lost or damaged bag, or $1,000 per passenger. With airfares at an all–time high, many travelers will understandably balk at any inessential fees. AA's baggage delivery initiative, however—a potential trendsetter, according to USA Today—could provide welcome relief for business travelers on tight schedules, travelers with complicated commutes or limited trunk space, and even the weary passenger eager to get home sweet home as soon as possible. Would you make use of American Airlines' new Baggage Delivery Service? Sound off below, and vote in our poll! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Study Determines World's Safest Airlines A Surprising Trend In Affordable Luggage 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage
Shanghai May Have World's Scariest Hotel Pool
A new glass-bottomed swimming pool hovers 320-feet above Shanghai's traffic. It's a pool in the year-old, 390-room Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao. The 98-foot-long indoor pool is cantilevered off the edge of the 24th-story of the building. It's only five-feet deep. Guests can stand with their head above the water, looking down to see their toes above traffic on Xiuyan Lu below. The hotel is 13 miles southeast from downtown in a rapidly growing suburb. It typically charges $125 a night for rooms. Swimming in such a radical pool, with just glass between you and a 24-story drop, might not be for every traveler. The previous record-holder was the swimming pool at Melbourne's Adelphi Hotel, which is partly cantilevered nine stories above a street. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Photos: World's Most Amazing Hotel Pools Photos: 10 Gorgeous Pools You Won't Believe Are Public 35 Spectacular Sunrises
Reimagining the Colosseum
Rome’s Colosseum (Piazza del Colosseo, 06-399-67-700, admission $11) has experienced its share of conflict, what with gladiators dueling to the death and prisoners being thrown to the lions for the entertainment of the masses. But it seems the iconic 2,000–year–old arena is still capable of generating white–knuckle entertainment of a different kind, with controversy swirling around its upcoming two–and–a–half–year, $30 million renovation. Last weekend an Italian newspaper reported that the Colosseum was leaning to its south side by as much as 16 inches. Of course, applying the word “leaning” to any structure other than that touristed tower in Tuscany is going to generate headlines, and the press immediately began referring to the phenomenon as, what else, “the leaning tower of Pisa effect.” Not so, declared Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome’s archaeological superintendent. “We are talking about a structure whose foundations are 13 meters deep. Roman constructions do not only stand up to centuries, they stand up to millennia,” she told a press conference, according to Reuters. Whether the best–known site in Rome is in danger of toppling was especially relevant to reporters because Barbera was unveiling the renovation plan, the most ambitious of its kind for the structure in more than 70 years, which will begin in December and be completed in 2015. Bureaucracy delayed an official thumbs–up for the cleaning and restoration of the Colosseum for three years—I know, anyone familiar with governance Italian–style will be shocked—shocked to learn that this project has been less than efficiently executed. The renovation will happen in phases, so that the Colosseum can remain open to visitors throughout the process. Innovations will include an underground visitors center and the opening of more of the amphitheatre’s underground tunnels to the public. In all, the plan should open up 25 percent more of the structure to visitors. Planning to see the Colosseum any time soon? Hotel Paba, less than a quarter–mile from the site, is smoke–free, air–conditioned, and offers free Wi–Fi and continental breakfast (266 Via Cavour, Rome, 877-662-6988, doubles from $92). Luzzi, a reliable pizza and pasta restaurant, is a little more than a half–mile from the Colosseum (88 Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, 06-709-6332, from $20). —Robert Firpo–Cappiello MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 7 Tested Tips for Visiting Rome City Passes in Italy: Worth It or Not? Should Rome Open a Romaland Theme Park?
What's Your Biggest Hotel Pet Peeve?
We asked you earlier this month about your biggest pet peeve when you fly. Next up: hotels. According to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2012 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, travelers aren't that, well, satisfied by their hotels. Guests overall satisfaction came in at 757 out of 1,000 possible points (seven points lower than the 2011 survey). While satisfaction with rooms, rood, services, and facilities were all at new lows, it was fees that drove respondents crazy—especially for web access. The study found that 87 percent of travelers surveyed used WiFi to connect in their room, and when they were charged the overall satisfaction was 76 points lower than average. The study says that these hotels were thought to be "taking advantage" of guests, with resentment at the highest when the internet charge was lumped into a resort fee. This was the 16th year that J.D. Power and Associates conducted the survey. New for 2012 was a staff rating section, with 56 percent of respondents having a high opinion of the staff (and only 10 percent with a low opinion). Those with a high opinion of the staff rated satisfaction a full 84 points higher than the average. Which goes to show that good customer service can heal a lot of wounds. Are fees for WiFi your biggest pet peeve? Sound off below! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 30 Hotel Chains Every Travel Should Know 8 Cool New Tools for Finding the Perfect Hotel 11 Most Spectacular New Hotel Pools