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The best hotel deals are on the West Coast

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

With the economy strengthening in some parts of the country, where are the best deals for hotels right now? We chatted with Clem Bason, President of the Hotwire Group, asking for the lowdown. He says Las Vegas, San Diego, Hawaii, Seattle, and Vancouver are showing the best offers.

Here's more info on these four best bargain destinations, along with average daily rates and price drops, based on deals booked through Hotwire.

LAS VEGAS

We picked this town as one of our Top 10 Budget Travel Destinations for 2010, and it turns out we were on the money. Room rates have averaged only $68 a night this year, about the same as last year, a third cheaper than in 2008. Splurge on an upscale "five-star" hotel on the southern part of the Las Vegas Strip for $146 a night on Memorial Day holiday weekend.

SAN DIEGO

Room rates are averaging $82 a night so far this year, 19 percent less than last year, and 44 percent less than in 2008. You can find upscale business hotels in the desirable Gaslamp Quarter for sale from $155 during the Memorial Day weekend.

HAWAII

We picked this state for Top Budget Travel Destination of 2009, and it keeps on delivering incredible value. Flights have gotten much cheaper, too. The average nightly rate in Hawaii is now $82 a night, down 7 percent from last year and 28 percent cheaper than in 2008.

SEATTLE

Room rates have averaged $63 a night this year, down 8 percent from last year, and down 17 percent from a couple of years ago.

VANCOUVER

Olympic fever is over, and you can now enjoy the amazing new infrastructure of this Pacific Northwest Canadian city for only $104 a night on average, down 20 percent from 2008.

MORE

5 steps for finding cheap fares for Memorial Day weekend

Top 10 Budget Travel Destinations for 2010

Is Hotwire a safe bet for European hotel bargains?

Pleasant Holidays is running some incredible air-plus hotel Hawaii packages.

Budget Travel recently published a guide "Which Hawaii Is Right for You?"

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Inspiration

London: 5 best May values

In May the flowers are in bloom and the English are busy pottering about the garden, planting and pruning. And London itself celebrates with bursts of color from window boxes, flower shows and…pachyderms. Elephants in London Brilliantly colored elephants have been appearing all over the city since the beginning of the month…in Hyde Park, on the streets of Mayfair near Harrods, outside the Royal Academy of Art, and inside railroad stations. And these are no ordinary elephants. They've been especially designed by the city's top fashionistas, such as Alice Temperley and Lulu Guiness, in sky blue, with fluffy clouds, paisley, or even chintz. There are some 250 fiberglass tuskers placed around the city to raise awareness of the plight of the endangered Asian elephant. They'll be here until July, when they are to be auctioned off at Sotheby's. free, elephantparadelondon.org. The Chelsea Flower Show 25–29 MayThe British are passionate about gardening. This is a country whose citizens sit glued to the TV on weekend nights watching reality TV shows about gardening; where the locals discuss roses, peonies, and magnolias with the gusto which Americans reserve for the Super Bowl. May sees the biggest annual celebration of the English garden with the Chelsea Flower Show. This takes place in a huge open space next to the Thames. It's one of the largest flower shows in the world, covering 11 acres and attended by some 160,000 people, including the Royal Family. Tickets ($28) are selling like hotcakes. rhs.org.uk Regent's Park Open Air Theater From May and through the summer summer, the Open Air Theatre company performs drama under the stars in one of the city's prettiest green spaces, Regent's Park. This year's season kicks off with Arthur Miller's The Crucible and continues through the summer with a healthy brace of Shakespeare plays which include the Comedy of Errors and Macbeth. visitlondon.com tickets from about $7. openairtheatre.org The Soccer FA Cup May 15 sees the biggest event in the annual domestic Soccer season, the FA Cup played in the sport's premier venue, Wembley Stadium in northwest London. Tickets for the 2010 game, which is a match between London club Chelsea and south coast underdogs Portsmouth, have long sold out. But beer-bellied British the capital over will be congregating in sports bars and pubs to cheer and jeer from kickoff at 3 p.m. Loyal Chelsea fans unable to make the game will descend in a riotous sea of blue at the former Shed Bar (now called Blues Sports Bar) in Chelsea Village at the clubs grounds in Chelsea itself. free. Painting for kids and teenagers at London's top galleries Two of London's top art galleries are running free activity days for kids this month. Somerset House's Wet Wash on May 29 invites 6–12 year olds to play around with pots of watercolor paint under the supervision of an artist. Meanwhile, on May 31, the National Portrait Gallery begins a week of workshops for 14-to-21 year-olds inspired by their current Indian Portrait exhibition. free, somersethouse.org.uk. Plan your trip on our London City Page!

Movie Quest: Chasing an endless summer, finding a lifetime passion

A quirky movie by surfer Chris Molloy, 180 Degrees South, kicked off its world tour this spring. The film is a recreation of the now famous journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, the self-proclaimed 'Conquerors of the Useless,' who drove from California to Chilean Patagonia on an extended climbing and surfing tour back in 1968. If it sounds like any old hippie trip, it was. But, Chouinard and Tompkins were no ordinary hippies. Upon returning to the States, Chouinard began the outdoor brand Patagonia and Tompkins began The North Face. Then, inspired by the places they saw on their trip, the two put the proceeds toward conservation. In some senses, that's the message of 180 Degrees South: Travel changes you, often in ways you'd never expect. The ostensible plotline follows professional surfer Jeff Johnson (and friends) as he drives, sails, hikes, and surfs down the Pacific Coast of the Western Hemisphere. There is, of course, the requisite surf porn, with Johnson slashing up and down wavefaces in Mexico. And the requisite adversity: The 180 Degree South team shipwrecks on Easter Island after suffering a fearsome Pacific storm. But somewhere in between the breathtaking landscapes and wisecracking surf humor, the film makes its point—that places usually don't seem worth saving until you see them for yourself. What places have you recently visited that you'd love to see protected? MORE Unlike Hollywood movies, 180 Degrees South is a scrappy independent film playing only on select dates and in special locations. Check out the online schedule. If it becomes popular, the film will be featured in large moviehouses and via Netflix. — Cliff Ransom

News

Mayor Bloomberg, Tear down this airport

Trash LaGuardia and rebuild it. That's what Chris Ward, the Port Authority chief, said recently. Ward's agency oversees the airport, and he thinks it can't cope with modern demands. Ward said, "LaGuardia should not be the gateway for domestic fliers into New York City. He added that the airport "should fundamentally be torn down and rebuilt." Good news: Three months ago, the Port Authority approved a $40 million contract to plan a re-design for the airport's largest terminal. LaGuardia's delays make everyone in the country late. About 30 out of every 100 flights out of this airport were delayed last year, with effects rippling across the nation. LaGuardia's terminals are chaotic, dirty, and over-burdened, especially when compared to Terminal 5* at JFK, JetBlue's recently renovated space. Pilots hate LaGuardia, too: Says one, after a typical take-off: The taxiways are asphalt so the plane sinks every time we stop. 40% power on one engine won't move the plane, so we have to gun it. Every plane is shaking every other plane trying to get going. They land on a crossing runway and with the IFR spacing restrictions, takeoffs happen half as often as normal. Why would rebuilding LaGuardia be good for the city? New York City could become a global showcase for transport. Redesigned runways would be safer and more efficient. Easy-to-understand, speedy rail links into Manhattan, would allow visitors to hop trains and shuttles that run into the wee hours. The city could exploit its position between China and Europe and create an infrastructure to support a truly 24-hour airport for a truly 24-hour city. It would make a positive first impression on visitors. Yet a wholesale rebuild isn't likely given our financial crisis. The Port Authority is low on cash, partly because the federal government puts limits on the so-called passenger facility charges that are added to plane tickets and are currently $4.50 per passenger, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's site. One solution: Privatize the airport. A private firm might much more quickly hand out the contracts to cutting edge design and architecture and engineering firms, reinventing LaGuardia more cheaply. What do you think? Should LaGuardia—invented as part of F.D.R.'s New Deal for about $600 million in today's dollars—be re-built from scratch, in phases? Or should we make do with what we have, which has been working well enough? Post updated on May 12 to add the quote from the pilot. CORRECTION: Post updated on May 14 to correct the name of JetBlue's JFK Terminal. Sorry.

Theme park news: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Legoland and beyond

Here's a round-up of rides and entire theme parks that have just opened, will open soon, or are expected in the years to come. Presented in roughly chronological order: World's first special-needs theme park just opened. Morgan's Wonderland, a 25-acre "ultra-accessible" theme park designed for disabled and special needs children and adults, opened last month in San Antonio, Texas, and starting on May 26, the admission gates are open seven days a week. Universal Studios' Harry Potter attractions opening June 18. Park-goers will finally be able to enjoy the highly anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter starting early this summer. There are already Harry Potter-themed vacation packages being sold too. August is the last chance to ride Disney's Star Tours. A party is being thrown on August 14 at Disney's Hollywood Studios to honor the Last Tour to Endor, and Star Wars geeks know what that means: The old Star Tours ride is closing. Fear not, however, for the ride will be born again sometime in 2011 as a 3-D adventure based on the pod race scenes from "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Legoland is coming to central Florida. Plans are well under way for the world's fifth Legoland park to open in the Orlando area with 40 to 50 attractions by the end of 2011. Bonus: $5 kids' tickets at Sea World. From now through the end of 2010, with each full-price adult admission, you can get a child's ticket (for ages 3 to 12) for just $5. The money collected for kids' admission will be donated to a wildlife conservation project of your choice. For more details, check out SeaWorldCares.com.

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