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Travel News: CityPASS Goes Mobile, Hawaii Is Safe Despite Volcanic Eruptions, and ‘The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle’ Returns to Universal

By The Budget Travel Editors
May 24, 2018
New York City Statue of Liberty
Pongpon Rinthaisong/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 NYC to Kilauea, from Chicago to Hogwarts (really!), we’re getting travel news and deals that will rock your summer. Where will you go next?

CITYPASS GOES MOBILE

CityPASS is already one of the most convenient and affordable ways to explore big cities, including the newest destinations to join the CityPASS family, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Denver. Now the discount-coupon powerhouse is moving into another kind of new territory: mobile devices, which are expected to account for more than half of all digital ticket sales for events and transportation in 2018. The new CityPASS mobile ticket option lets you access discounts directly from your smartphone and simply scan the mobile CityPass from your phone at the point of entry. We want to know: Have you tried CityPASS? How did it help you save on vacation?

HAWAII IS SAFE DESPITE VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS

Hawaii Governor David Ige has a simple message for globetrotters: “Travel is safe to the Hawaiian islands.” Sure, we’ve been watching the incredible footage of the Kilauea volcano’s lava flows, fissures, and ash plumes, and we’ve wondered, “Hmmm. Is now the right time for a visit?” Governor Ige says, “We have a skilled contingent of scientists, geologists, metorologists, and health experts whose work is being support around the clock by emergency officials and law enforcement… with the purpose of keeping the public safe and informed.” Hawaii tourism officials also assure travelers that the volcanic activity is having no impact on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kauai, and that travel to and within the islands is unimpeded by Kilauea. However, most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is currently closed.

‘THE NIGHTTIME LIGHTS AT HOGWARTS CASTLE’ RETURNS TO UNIVERSAL

In addition to the usual fun (interactive wands, thrilling rides, sweet frosty Butterbeer), the Wizarding World of Harry Potter immersive land at Universal Studios Hollywood is bringing back “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” on June 24. As the sun goes down at Hogsmeade Village, the land’s central square, the four houses of Hogwarts (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin), will be showcased in a state-of-the-art light display and extravaganza of special effects accompanied by new musical arrangements by Academy award-winning composer John Williams presented in a surround-sound environment.

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Travel News: Last-Minute Memorial Day Deals Under $400, European Summer Savings, and SF’s North Beach Festival

From the dizzying heights of San Francisco’s hills to the streets of London, Paris, and other European cities, from this year’s Memorial Day festivities to the Swiss countryside, this week’s travel news delivers a bunch of deals you’ll want to pounce on. LAST-MINUTE MEMORIAL DAY DEALS UNDER $400 Got no plans for Memorial Day Weekend? No problem. Our friends at Skyscanner are delivering a range of fun, easy, and affordable last-minute U.S. flight deals under $400 for the weekend of Friday May 25 through Monday May 28. Here are some of our favorites: Boston to Orlando, where you’ll beat the summer crowds at popular theme parks like Disney and Universal.Chicago to San Antonio, in time to raise a glass to the Texas city’s 300th birthday and the range of celebratory events happening there all spring and summer.Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., where you can participate in annual Memorial Day commemorative events, soak up art, culture, and history at the free museums, and party like a boss in cool neighborhoods like Adams-Morgan and Dupont Circle.EUROPEAN SUMMER SAVINGS We’re all about helping travelers “see more for less,” and Rail Europe’s summer savings may inspire you to start packing your bag. The company, the largest distributor of European train tickets, passes, and tours in North America, has a range of offers for Europe’s classic destinations and journeys. Save up to 65 percent on rail travel from France to Switzerland, whether you’re traveling from Paris to one of Switzerland’s beautiful cities (including Zurich, Geneva, and Basel) or between the south of France (Marseille, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence) to Switzerland; bargain fares are available for travel from July 2 through August 29. Save up to 30 percent on the extraordinary 2-hour-and-15-minute Chunnel ride between London and Paris, Brussels, Lille, Calais, and, now, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, including comfy seats and complimentary light meals; bargain fares must be booked by June 18 for travel between July 16 and November 11. SAN FRANCISCO’S NORTH BEACH FESTIVAL It’s hard not to have a good time in San Francisco. It’s even harder not to have a good time in San Francisco’s “Little Italy” neighborhood of North Beach, where you can take your pick of bustling eateries serving up authentic Italian cuisine, desserts, and coffee; echoes of SF’s bohemian heritage like City Lights bookstore; and pinch-me views of the San Francisco Bay, Coit Tower, and the skyline of nearby downtown. The 65th annual free North Beach Festival celebrates all of this and more on the weekend of June 16 and 17, with 125 arts and crafts booths, food, two stages offering live entertainment (including circus arts), poetry readings, chalk art for kids, and the neighborhood’s legendary “blessing of the animals” ceremony at the Vallejo Street shrine of the city’s namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. Insider tips from a former local, Budget Travel editor in chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello: “Take public transportation (a MUNI streetcar or bus into North Beach; or BART light rail to the Powell Street station, then a cable car up the hill), and stop and say hello to our friends at the decidedly European San Remo Hotel, on Mason Street.”

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Travel News: Southwest Will Fly to Hawaii, the Port of L.A. Commemorates Memorial Day, and Free Train Rides for Teens

From the capitals of Europe to the sands of Maui, and a stop at America’s biggest port for Memorial Day, we’re keeping an eye on some of the most trip-inspiring travel news yet. SOUTHWEST WILL START FLYING TO HAWAII Hawaii is near the top of most travelers’ to-do list. But long flights and high airfares can get in the way. That’s why we’re psyched to learn that Southwest, with its reputation for low fares and exceptional customer service, is going to start flying to Hawaii. The airline announced that it will initiate flights to Hawaii from four cities in California: San Jose, Oakland, San Diego, and Sacramento. Details remain to be determined, including certification for Southwest’s planes to make the trans-Pacific flights and, most importantly for Budget Travelers, when flights to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island will begin and what the fares will look like. Given recent trends in Hawaii flights from other carriers and Southwest’s reasonable and transparent pricing to other U.S. destinations, we expect to see round-trip flights from California to Hawaii from around $400, but at this point that’s just our best educated guess. THE PORT OF LOS ANGELES COMMEMORATES MEMORIAL DAY The Port of Los Angeles and the city of San Pedro, CA, America’s largest port, are getting Memorial Day right, with events that appropriately honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country while at the same time acknowledging all there is to celebrate about this exceptional coastal community. On Monday May 28, the USS Iowa, a former WWII battleship that is now a vibrant naval museum anchored at the Port of Los Angeles (pacificbattleship.com), will hold ceremonies featuring Los Angeles dignitaries, veterans, and other VIPs to commemorate the day of remembrance as well as a host of family-friendly activities. Festivities will include the first-ever San Pedro Fish Market shrimp-eating championship, a performance by the San Pedro ballet, face-painting, and BBQ and beverages provided by San Pedro Brewing, including a special IPA named “Battleship. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the San Pedro waterfront, one of California’s most promising travel destinations. FREE EUROPEAN TRAIN RIDES FOR TEENS The DiscoverEU project, launched by the European Union, wants to give up to 30,000 18-year-old Europeans free train rides across the Continent this year via Interrail. With an ultimate goal of expanding the program over the next seven years to facilitate travel for 200,000 teens, the European Union sees this initiative as an opportunity for cultural interchange as a popular coming-of-age ritual among its young citizens. While U.S. teens will not be included in DiscoverEU, we can’t help wondering if something similar could work right here at home?

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Travel News: World’s Most Annoying Travelers, Top Summer Destinations and Deals, and America’s Most Legendary Theme Park Is Reopening

What are you biggest travel peeves? A new survey may very well echo your worst complaints. Ready to hit the road for the summer? We’ll share the hottest destinations and deals to get you there. And did you know that a theme park with a reputation (fair or not) for making your skin crawl is opening its doors again? WORLD’S MOST ANNOYING TRAVELERS We all have our nominees for the most irritating behaviors that we are exposed to when we travel. Some of us disike chatty seatmates, while others resent seatmates who are unfriendly. Some of us avoid partiers at all costs, while others are always looking for a chance to raise a glass. But Expdia has released the results of its 2018 Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Study (expedia.com) with some findings that almost all of us can agree to. According to Expedia’s new survey, the most annoying fliers are: The Seat Kicker/Bumper/Grabber (with 51 percent of survey respondents in agreement on this)The Aromatic Passenger (43 percent)The Inattentive Parent (39 percent)Personal Space Violators (34 percent)Audio Insensitive (29 percent)Expedia also notes that more than 90 percent of respondents object to passengers going barefoot on a plane. We couldn’t agree more, for reasons of safety, hygiene, and just all-around good vibes. And the most annoying hotel guests are… The Inattentive Parents (with 45 percent of survey respondents in agreement, including, we presume, a lot of attentive parents!)The In-Room Revelers and The Hallway Hellraisers (41 percent)The Complainers (29 percent)The Party-goers and The Bar Boozer (27 percent)TOP SUMMER DESTINATIONS Our friends at AAA (aaa.com) always have interesting seasonal data on the travel habits of American motorists, and we’re admittedly fascinated by the most popular summer travel destinations. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of American who are planning a family vacation are expected to do so via road trip this year. Based on current AAA bookings for trips June 1 through August 1, the current top domestic summer destinations are: Orlando, FloridaHonolulu, HawaiiAnchorage, AlaskaSeattle, WashingtonLos Angeles/Anaheim, CaliforniaMaui, HawaiiFairbanks, AlaskaLas Vegas, NevadaBoston, MassachusettsSalt Lake City, UtahPRICELINE’S 20 DAYS OF DEALS Speaking of summer travel, Priceline (priceline.com) is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a gift to travelers: Check out the 20 Days of Deals running through May 19, which will help travelers save more than $50 million on flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, travel packages, and credit card rewards across much of the world, with a new deal going live each day at 6am Eastern. AMERICA’S MOST LEGENDARY THEME PARK IS REOPENING We don’t make a habit of poking fun at travel destinations. So, when we heard that Beech Mountain, North Carolina’s cyber-bullied Land of Oz theme park is reopening for six days in June, with one-hour guided tours that include live-action role-playing with guest participation, we wanted to do our part to talk it up. The park’s unfortunately creepy reputation has been largely due to years of social media photos of the empty park, which opened in 1970 and has been closed since the mid-’80s. If those old photos of ruined buildings and remnants of the Yellow Brick Road are to be believed, the tours may very well be on the creepy side. But maybe in a good way? Let’s remember that the classic 1939 movie adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s popular children’s book, with its green-faced, fire-wielding witch, talking trees, and flying monkeys, doesn’t exactly win any awards for sensitivity, does it? Tickets to the Land of Oz theme park ($25) are on sale now at landofoznc.com/journeywithdorothy.

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Travel News: Sign Up for TSA PreCheck at Staples, Book a “Walking Vacation,” and the Norwegian Bliss Takes to the Seas

From the quickest and easiest way to speed through airport security to a vacation that boosts not only physical fitness but also creative energy to the debut of one of the most anticipated cruise ships of the year, this week’s travel news is going to get you revved up for spring and summer getaways. SIGN UP FOR TSA PRECHECK AT STAPLES When it comes to TSA PreCheck, there’s not much to complain about. For $85, a five-year PreCheck status can speed you through airline check-in and security even on peak days at busy airports (there are more than 450 PreCheck lanes at more than 200 U.S. airports). Maybe the one beef travelers have come up with is that applying for PreCheck is not as easy as, say, buying office supplies. Well, now it is. Staples will offer 50 IdentoGo enrollment centers, which offer TSA PreCheck enrollment, starting this summer, with plans to open more soon. And while you’re at it, you’ll be able to get your passport photo and even a certified birth certificate. And, of course, office supplies. BOOK A “WALKING VACATION” If you think of travel as a way to recharge your physical and spiritual batteries, you’ll appreciate a Stanford University study that suggests that walking - even a short walk - is associated with heightened creativity. To tell the truth, Budget Travel has been sold on the benefits of hitting the trail on vacation for years, and we were psyched to see that some great destinations integrate the walking or hiking experience into a stay. Some of our favorites include: The incredible network of trails in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where lodging ranges from modest motels and cabins to all-suite resort experiences such as Whiteface Lodge; Martha’s Vineyard island, off Cape Cod, is uncrowded and affordable in spring and offers miles of beach strolls, iconic lighthouses, wildlife sanctuaries and nature preserves, and the historic Harbor View Hotel; and CIE Tours International’s Irish Myths and Legends tour, which packs in guided walks in Galway, Limerick, and self-guided trips to the Aran Islands, Blarney, and more. THE NORWEGIAN BLISS TAKES TO THE SEAS Cruise fans will be thrilled to hear that last week, Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the new Norwegian Bliss in Bremerhaven, Germany, and the ship headed to Southampton, U.K. on Saturday. The ship, which the third in Norwegian’s “Breakaway Plus” class, is the first ship of its kind to be designed specifically with features and amenities for an Alaska cruise experience (including two expansive observation lounges), will arrive in the U.S. on May 3 for preview events in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, before heading to its first homepart, at Pier 66 in Seattle, in advance of its first seven-day cruise to Alaska in early June. Onboard excitement will include a two-level electric-car race track, a waterpark featuring two multistory waterslides, the debut of Texas smokehouse - Q, a full-service Starbucks, and a bar serving local Seattle beers from Red Hook Brewery.

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