Fly to Ireland for $69 (no, we're not kidding)
Budget Travelers are popping corks all over the Northeast.
Norwegian Air, a European super-bargain carrier that recently received permission from the U.S. to schedule more transatlantic routes, has announced that it will start offering $69 one-way fares from New York and Boston to Ireland.
I know, right?
The $69 price tag is not a typo, but it does come with some potential drawbacks. Norwegian Air’s business model is based, in part, on offering incredibly low rates because the airline flies in and out of smaller airports than the major U.S. and European carriers do. In the case of the new Ireland routes, which are scheduled to begin in June, NYC-area travelers may be flying out of Newburgh, NY, 60 miles up the right from Manhattan; Boston-area travelers may be flying out of New Hampshire or Rhode Island airports. And travelers won’t be landing in Dublin, but in smaller airports in Shannon and Cork.
But, let me just reiterate: $69 to Ireland.
As you probably know, the hottest commodity in air travel over the years has been rock-bottom prices. In exchange for lower airfares, travelers have been willing to pay extra for meals, checked bags, and other perks that were once included in the price. United has even announced that it will begin charging for the use of overhead bins for certain fares. Critics of Norwegian's new routes (including the major U.S. carriers) note that the approval of Norwegian’s Ireland-based subsidiary for flights out of the U.S. could mean lower wages for flight crews and possibly an erosion of labor and safety standards.
To learn more, visit Norwegian.com/us/.
Great travel bargains for 2017
As 2016 winds down, it’s time for travelers to think about... next year’s vacation, of course. This morning, I spoke with Jim Cantore live via Skype on the Weather Channel's AMHQ to share incredible international destinations that won’t break the bank, courtesy of our colleagues at the amazing Lonely Planet magazine and LonelyPlanet.com and their Best in Travel 2017 package. (Click here to watch my appearance on this morning's AMHQ.) OTTAWA, CANADA: Canada is Lonely Planet's no. 1 Best in Travel 2017 pick, and for good reason: Canada boasts vibrant cities, Rocky Mountain national parks, and the friendliest citizens in the world. It’s also celebrating its 150th anniversary next year. The capital, Ottawa, will be the epicenter of the biggest anniversary party on July 1, but if you want to get a headstart, the city in winter is incredible, with ice skating on Rideau Canal, and delicious fried-dough concoctions called “beaver tails.” BELIZE: Whether you just want to relax on the beach, snorkel or dive colorful reefs, or indulge in some of Central America’s best street food, Belize is surprisingly affordable considering its perfect location near the Caribbean and Mexico. While it enjoys some pricey resorts, it is also home to up-and-coming beach towns with a laid-back vibe and reasonable price tag. MOROCCO: Sure, the name sounds exotic, but this is one dream trip that you can actually afford. From the incredible shopping in Marrakesh’s souks to indulgent lodgings with spa treatments, to exploring the Sahara and the striking Atlas Mountains, Morocco is an easy, affordable, and drama-free escape to North Africa. For more travel inspiration from our colleagues at Lonely Planet, and to see the complete Best in Travel 2017 package, please visit LonelyPlanet.com.
Wildfires devastate Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Wildfires have devastated some of Tennessee’s most popular travel destinations. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed due to the intense and unpredictable fires, which are the result of what firefighters are characterizing as a “perfect storm” of drought and high winds gusting up to 70 mph. The town of Gatlinburg has been evacuated, with approximately 14,000 people hitting the road ahead of flames and dangerously thick smoke; residents and visitors in Pigeon Forge, home to the Dollywood theme park, are also leaving the area. At Dollywood, staff evacuated park cabins and the DreamMore Resort, with local county school buses providing emergency transportation. My colleague Laura Brown, Senior Product Manager, Advertising, at Lonely Planet USA and Budget Travel, went to college in east Tennessee and provided some firsthand insight into what this fire feels like: “To watch the news about the fire is heartbreaking - not just the devastation to Gatlinburg, which is a gem on its own, but the fire tore through some of my favorite trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Those trails feel like friends.” The situation is evolving, and the only certainty at press time is that the damage to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and to downtown Gatlinburg, two places that are dear to Budget Travelers across the U.S., is severe. The most recent reports are that Gatlinburg has lost around 150 buildings to fire, with some additional structures still burning. We’ll learn more about the state of Great Smoky Mountains National Park from park rangers in the near future, and we urge fans of the park to bear in mind that fire is a natural part of the resilient forest ecosystem. If you’d like to help evacuees, Tennessean.com, the website of The Tennessean newspaper, has published the following ways to donate: * Yassin's Falafel House is collecting cases of water and Gatorade in the public parking lot adjacent to 706 Walnut Street in downtown Knoxville from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. [Tuesday November 29] or until the truck is full. * Barker Lounge at 1301 Main Street in Sevierville and Blount County Animal Control at 233 Currie Avenue in Maryville are taking displaced animals and need animal related supplies including food and crates. * The Knoxville Expo Center is accepting donations at 5441 Clinton Hwy, Knoxville, TN 37912 * TheYMCA in East Tennessee is accepting donations at all locations. * Remote Area Medical is accepting donations at is headquarters at 2220 Stock Creek Boulevard in Rockford. * Lafollette Church of God at 1906 Jacksboro Pike, LaFollette, is accepting food and water donations. * Blount Partnership, at 201 S. Washington Street in Maryville and Townsend Visitors Center at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway are accepting donations for water and food for animals and more. * Christ the Rock Church of God is collecting food and water donations at 4306 Washington Pike in Knoxville.
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Locals Know Best: Sacramento, California
There once was a time when Sacramento was, to put it kindly, in a rut. Locals cast their gazes longingly towards San Francisco and Oakland, epicenters of creativity and culture. Then Sacramento State graduates Maritza and Roshaun Davis had an idea: give Sacramento’s creative class an outlet for showcasing their talents and watch them—and the city—thrive. Enter: Unseen Heros, the lifestyles event production company they founded. “In 2008, Sacramento was still trying to find its identity,” says Maritza. “It’s like when you were a teenager and you were awkwardly trying to grow, Sacramento was like a teenager—with braces and awkward with its body.” Today Sacramento has grown into its own, with no small thanks to Unseen Heroes, which oversees year-round events like the Saturday midtown farmers market and Gather Oak Park. Both, as they put it, are “events that make people proud of what’s here.” The couple (in life and business) also own shops specializing in California-made goods and curate a rotating pop-up market where they house their offices. Since founding Unseen Heroes in 2008, they’ve made a career out of knowing every nook and cranny of Sacramento. We recently reached them to get their inside tips on where to eat, drink, stay, and hang in the city. *Spoiler alert*: “obnoxiously delicious” ice cream, a poke bar, and unbelievable happy hour deals all factor in. TABLE FOR TWO: Oak Park is Sacrament's oldest neighborhood, but there are plenty of spots that are under the radar, like the retro-minded Arthur Henry’s, which bills itself as a Supper Club and Ruby Room. Without windows or signs, the only indication that it’s there is its red door. “If you’re in the mafia, this is where you wanna make your deals. There are a lot of dark, fun, strange elements to it,” says Maritza. “I don’t want to give too much away, but if you order dinner there, it’s going to come raw, so be prepared to cook.” They offer a beer and steak special for a remarkable $16 and a bourbon list that’s sure to impress. For every steak in Sacramento there’s a slab of grilled soy meat. Andy Nguyen has an ample variety of wholesome vegetarian and vegan meals—countless permutations of noodles, rice, tofu and vegetables. Meals are generous in size and clock in under $10. If your preferences lean south of the border, La Benbita has what Maritza deems the best margaritas, made with fresh juices. The cantina is known for its festive patio and unbeatable happy hour special: two tacos and a margarita for $13. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll have a great story to bring home after a visit to Gunther’s. The time-worn ice cream shop is an institution among locals, as evidenced by the fact that despite it being tucked away in a relatively residential area, people flock there in droves. “When you see the line out the door and down the block, you know you’re there,” said Maritza, describing the handmade ice cream and shakes as “obnoxiously delicious.” DINE OUT: Unseen Heroes curates and manages Gather, a culinary event that takes place on the second hursdays of each month from May through October. There are lots of food onsite--tacos, pizza, veggie fare from Mother (also a restaurant), and much touted donuts from Sweet Dozen Donuts (Get a lemon poppy seed donut then try everything else, advises Maritza). There are long communal tables where everyone kicks back and chows down. The rest of the year they curate Midtown Farmers’ Market, a culinary extravaganza in Midtown. Over 90 vendors hawk their wares, from beef jerky and sausages to balsamic vinegar, honey and wine. It's a go-to for a taste of the vibrant local culinary scene. THE AFTERNOON AGENDA: Not far off the freeway sits JayJay, a gallery founded in 2000 that spotlights a roster of international artists whose work spans all media. “They have a lot of fun pieces and the owners are really hands-on and engaged,” says Maritza. “they’ve been around the area for 40-plus years and they’ve helped curate different large projects. They get their hands on cool artists and they have their finger on the pulse of young up and coming artists.” After you’ve looked at art, taste some. Head down the street to Tupelo. The couple asserts it makes the city’s finest mocha, made with Mexican chocolate. Cap off the afternoon down the street with dinner at Selland’s Market-Cafe, which is known for its elevated comfort food—salads, sandwiches, pizzas—prepared with local seasonal ingredients. At select times, two dinners and a bottle of wine clocks in at $25. Another Martiza-and-Rashaun-approved outing that’s a feast for the eyes and palate is centered in the Curtis Park, quaint with great brownstown galleries. Sol Collective is more of a community center than a gallery, but nevertheless, it’s a destination for unique shows of all media and installations by a lineup of international artists as well as pop-up shops. Additionally, Maritza and Roshaun rave about the classes offered throughout the month that anyone can drop in on: beat-making, art, and, most regularly, yoga. Fortify yourself afterwards with noodles galore at Shoki Ramen, where about $15 will get you a bowl of excellent ramen, a drink and curry on rice. As an added bonus (or, some might say, courtesy), you can order wines here by the half-glass. Wrap up the day at Gunther’s. The old fashioned ice cream shop (See above for Maritza's rave review) is a mere five blocks away. Some people go to nature to experience a sense of place, others go shopping. Display, owned and run by Maritza and Roshaun, showcases Sacramento’s creative class with its ever-changing inventory of products made by local designers and brands, from gift items, household goods, and lots of fun stuff for kids. More recently, they opened the neighboring Damas, featuring goods and clothing for women, by women. Men have plenty of spots to shop, too, like Get a Clue, a longtime midtown retailer. They specialize in sneakers, denim, shirts, and the like, mostly by local designers. Hungry? Preservation and Co. has plenty of boutique edibles, like a house bloody mary mix, plus tons of sauces, jams and such. STAY: Modern, funky and rich in local lore, Maritza and Roshaun recommend Citizen’s Hotel, not least because its restaurant and bar, The Grange, has a fantastic happy hour. Steps away are two super-hip spots to eat: Empress Tavern and the very lively Mother Sacramento, a vegetarian haven. Despite its brand name, the Westin Sacramento Hotel, which sits on the Sacramento River, has a lot of character. It’s a short drive away from the hubbub of downtown, and in addition to its affordability, they note that it’s nicely landscaped, so much so that locals hang out there just for the scenery.
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