This month: Daily travel deals
The U.S. Travel Association and American Express have teamed up with almost 50 travel destinations and brands to offer a month of daily travel deals, called Discover America Daily Getaways.
Every weekday at 10 a.m. until June 4, a set of discounts—on everything from hotel stays and car rentals to attractions and travel packages—will go live at dailygetaways.com, offering up to 50 percent off the price of selected getaways from that day's travel partner. Among the companies represented are Marriott, Hertz, and Universal Studios.
One great thing about the site is that it shows how many of each getaway is for sale and highlights exactly how much you're saving. For example, Friday's partner, Carlson, is offering one night at any Country Inns & Suites hotel in the U.S. for $50, a savings of $35 (517 are available), and one night at any U.S. Radisson hotel or resort for $80, cutting a third off the normal price of $120 (50 are available).
Another perk: If you find a deal you like, just click "View Details" and it tells you exactly what you're getting and how long you have to use it (most deals are valid at least through the end of the year). You can set up an e-mail alert to remind you when a certain offer goes live, or sign up for daily e-mails to keep track of all the getaways.
The Daily Getaways promotion also features an auction component that allows American Express cardholders to bid on once-in-a-lifetime packages to cities across the country (similar to what you'd get if you took one of Budget Travel's Dream Trips for 2010 domestically). Starting bids range from $300 for the two-night Grand Canyon Experience package to $5,500 for the four-night Celebrity Las Vegas, which includes tickets to four shows, a $2,500 shopping spree, and a celebrity makeover, among other perks. A new auction goes live each weekday at 10 a.m., with bids accepted until 10 p.m.
San Francisco: 5 best May values
Bay to Breakers Marathon The annual Bay to Breakers 12K race* is a quintessential "only in San Francisco" experience. More mobile party than sporting event, the marathon draws more than 50,000 participants (some runners, mostly walkers) who start at the Embarcadero and head through Golden Gate Park out to the beach. Costumes are a must and range from Elvis impersonators to superheroes to Star Wars storm troopers—and some people wear nothing at all (don't say we didn't warn you!) Last year more than 100,000 people showed up to watch the show. While corporate sponsor ING has more recently tried to put an end to the public drinking—no more kegs on wheels—revelry is guaranteed. Top places to watch include Alamo Square, the front of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, and the Finish Line on the Great Highway on the beach. May 16, 8 a.m.-11 a.m, *Whoops, we originally said "marathon." Yerba Buena Outdoor Concert Series The free weekend outdoor concerts at Yerba Buena Garden's grassy lawn in downtown kick off this month. The series showcases an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and world music, plus traditional and modern dance performances from cultures around the world. This month includes shows by renowned Arabic musician Bassam Saba (May 22, 1-2:30 pm) and a Taiwanese dance performance (May 9, 1-2:30 pm.) Come June, Yerba Buena offers lunchtime (12:30-1:30 p.m.) concerts as well, drawing gaggles of office workers looking for an outdoor mid-day break. Mission, Folsom, 3rd and 4th streets. Capsule SF Design Festival This street fair of independent designers in Hayes Valley features clothing, house wares, jewelry, kids clothes, and more by 130 local designers, many of which you might know from etsy.com. Check out these gold arrow necklaces by Oakland artist Nous Savon, vintage-inspired house wares by India Rose, and 1.by.liz clocks made from recycled bicycle parts. This is definitely not your mother's arts and crafts fair. Hayes Street and Octavia, Sunday May 23rd, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., free. A New Taco Truck Wake up your taste buds with Curry Up Now's new food truck featuring a rotating menu of Indian street food with a California-Mexican twist (up for a chicken tikka masala burrito, anyone?). You can find the truck during lunchtime rounds in the Financial District. For current locations, follow Curry Up Now on Twitter. From $4.25. Half-priced Tickets to Wicked During the month of May, you can get half-priced tickets to Wicked, the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway musical. The show ends September 5, 2010, so act fast. Purchase through shnsf.com, ticketmaster.com, and Ticketmaster Charge-By-Phone and use the promo code 4WEST. You can also get tickets in person at the Orpheum Theater Box Office 1192 Market Street, 415/ 551-2000, tickets start at $44.
Travelers paid $7.8 billion in airline fees in 2009
You knew the figure was going to be big. But $7.8 billion!?! The Associated Press reports that overall, the $7.8 billion charged in "ancillary fees," which includes charges for checked baggage, seat assignments, food, pillows, reservation changes, and anything else travelers pay over and above the standard flight price, represents a whopping 42 percent increase from the previous year. The fairly obvious takeaway is that the act of nickel-and-diming travelers is increasingly a core part of the airline business model. Some airlines use fees more than others, as shown in a Bureau of Transportation Statistics report, which forms the basis of the AP story. Delta reaped in the most ancillary fees last year, to the tune of $1.6 billion, including $481 million from baggage fees. But for insight as to which airlines utilize fees the most in proportion to their overall revenues, check out BTS's Table 1B. There, you'll see that ancillary fees account for about 21 percent of Spirit Airlines' total operation revenues. That's 10 percentage points higher than the number two carrier on this list, AirTran. And this was well before Spirit announced it would begin charging for carry-on bags. Delta's fees, by contrast, represent 9.1 percent of total operating revenues. And Southwest and JetBlue -- both once routinely described as "no-frills" carriers because they offered few amenities, but which both allow passengers to check at least one bag free of charge -- collect roughly 6 percent of their operating revenues from fees.
London: It's Robin Hood month
This month's debut of the Hollywood epic "Robin Hood"—starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett—has spawned a bunch of Robin Hood-themed events in England. While we don't know if Robin Hood truly existed or was merely a creation of medieval poets, we're certain that Sherwood Forest (where he supposedly lived) is one of the oldest and most majestic forests in Britain. It covers 450 acres of protected beech and birch woodland dotted with more than 1,000 magnificent oaks, most of which are over 500 years old. There are exhibitions devoted to the history of Robin Hood at the Sherwood Forest visitors' center, which is just outside of the village of Edwinstowe. Also worth a visit is Nottingham Castle in the city of Nottingham itself. A one-off exhibition by Sonja Klaus, the set designer for the movie, showcases the film's props, weaponry and costumes worn by Crowe (Robin) and Blanchett (Marian). And medieval jousts and archery competitions will be taking place in the castle grounds throughout May. Other Nottingham attractions include the Galleries of Justice history museum, Byron's former home of Newstead Abbey and the Caves of Nottingham Museum—showcasing caverns under the city which have been used as dwelling places since Saxon times. The highlight of the area remains the forest, though, which is magical to walk through. The largest tree is the Major Oak, which was a big even in the Middle Ages when Robin Hood was supposedly firing his arrows. Today it is more than 800 years old and weighs more than 23 tons. You can easily imagine Robin Hood hanging out behind the trees, after having poached the king's deer and robbed from the rich to give to the poor. National Rail from London to Nottingham with East Midlands trains take 1 hour 45 minutes. The Sherwood Arrow bus service 33 between Nottingham and Worksop calls at Edwinstowe. MORE Surfacing: Nottingham's Soulful Side? Ask for trip planning help on Budget Travel's London City Page
London: 4 Top Jogging Paths
The recent London Marathon has inspired Londoners with an urge to shed their winter beer bellies and work on their six-pack abs. You see lycra-clad joggers everywhere. New arrivals looking to keep up the fitness regime during their stay will find that London's a great place for urban running. Here's the best of three routes. The Thames Path, location: central London to the eastern and western suburbs This pedestrian path fringes both banks of the river Thames for 180 miles, cutting through the heart of London and offering the chance to enjoy one of Europe's most scenic jogs. Runs vary from stretches along one bank to loops taking in both banks and two bridges. To take in the most famous sights as you run begin at Tower Bridge (subway: Tower Hill) and jog to Westminster Bridge finishing up at the Houses of Parliament (subway: Westminster), a run of five-and-a-half miles. The Hampstead Loop, location: north London You never leave the city on this hilly run, yet with the muddy footpaths, extensive stretches woodland and welly boots and Labradors you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the heart of rural England. The run begins at urban Kentish town subway or prettier Hampstead. From either location it climbs up onto Hampstead Heath, a huge hilly park covered in woodland and offering sweeping views out over London. Either option gives a run of four to five miles. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, location: Central London Central London's biggest green space is criss-crossed with running tracks. The longest is the outer circuit, a long oblong loop taking in the entire park and adjacent Kensington Gardens and passing Kensington Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial. The total distance is four-and-a-quarter miles and the park can be reached via the following subway stations: Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Notting Hill or Bayswater. Richmond Park location: south London In the far south of the city is one of the largest urban green spaces in Europe, so much so that it is home to herds of wild deer. Hampstead Heath in the north has wonderful views out across the city, whilst Battersea Park a mile south of Victoria rail station across the Thames is the only large park in Central London which abuts onto the river. MORE There are many more jogging route options in London, with maps on run.com. Budget Travel's picks for hotels in London