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Travel News: A Vital New Program at Colonial Williamsburg, Celebrate World Book Day, and Good News About Marriott Rewards

By The Budget Travel Editors
April 19, 2018
Colonial Williamsburg Virginia
Wangkun Jia/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 an innovative new program in Virginia to literary destination all over the world and a big step forward for a major hotel brand's loyalty programs, this week's travel news combines inspiration with know-how.

A VITAL NEW PROGRAM AT COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG

Colonial Williamsburg proves once again that it is home to vital, living history, with its new program, “Resolved: An American Experiment,” in which actor-interpreters and audience members help to re-create important events in Virginia history with an imaginative twist: Historical figures are “cast” non-traditionally. Translation: white male figures may be portrayed by actors, or even audience members, of other ethnicities and genders. An African-American female actor, for instance, portraying a wealthy white male from Virginia’s House of Burgesses, has a transformative effect on visitors, opening up new avenues of understanding, emotion, and education. We congratulate Katrinah Lewis, Colonial Williamsburg’s artistic director of actor-interpreters, who wrote and directed “Resolved,” in which more than two centuries melt away, bringing American history, living and breathing into the 21st century (colonialwilliamsburg.com).  

CELEBRATE WORLD BOOK DAY

If you love books and you love UNESCO (we sure do), you’ll be psyched to celebrate UNESCO’s World Book Day, April 23. Travelers often find that preparing for a trip by reading destination-relevant fiction - say, Willa Cather before visiting Virginia, or John Steinbeck before a trip to California - can enrich the travel experience by not only teaching important cultural and historical background about the destination but also creating an emotional attachment through characters you care about. We’ve even rounded up some beautiful U.S. travel destinations devoted to great authors. And we love that Holidu (holidu.com) has even rounded up some vacation rentals around the world where super-devoted literary fans can rest their heads in properties where F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary and Percy Shelley, Ernest Hemingway, and others once lived or visited.

GOOD NEWS ABOUT MARRIOTT REWARDS

Some of you have been anxious about Marriott’s aquisition of Starwood and how it might affect your loyalty-program points. The long story is: Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest have all been, sort of, combined under the Marriott brand. The short story is: If you already belong to any of those three loyalty programs, any points you’ve earned in the past remain intact. In addition, you’ll soon (in August) be able to book rooms and earn and redeem points across more than 6,000 hotels all over the globe. And in 2019, Marriott plans to roll out a brand-new loyalty program that combines all three current programs.

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Travel News: Jurassic Park Turns 25, Royal Wedding Hoopla, and Summer Camping Inspo

From a massive party at one of America’s favorite theme parks to a decidedly posh celebration of a prince’s wedding, to sleeping outdoors and loving it, this week’s noteworthy travel news covers a lot of bases and we hope it’ll inspire you to book a trip to Los Angeles, London, or someplace in between. JURASSIC PARK TURNS 25 From the moment author Michael Crichton came up with the idea (humans vs. dinosaurs) to the premiere of Steven Spielberg’s terrifying film adaptation, to the subsequent opening of arguably the most thrilling of thrill rides at Universal Studios, Jurassic Park has had a firm grip on our imaginations. To celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary, Universal Studios Hollywood is throwing a party on May 11 and 12. For $69, guests can attend an evening immersive celebration that includes a private screening of the film at Universal CityWalk’s all-new state-of-the-art Universal Cinema (a short walk from Universal Studios’ entrance), commemorative merchandise, after-hours access to Jurassic Park-The Ride, props and costumes from the film on display, plus live entertainment and food; for $129, you can nab daily admission to Universal Studios plus the evening event, a nice bargain (universalstudioshollywood.com). ROYAL WEDDING HOOPLA Did you get your invitation to the royal wedding? Neither did we! But if you’re headed to London (londonandpartners.com) anytime soon, the May 19 nuptials of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are inspiring some cool commemorations you should consider. The British Film Institute’s YouTube channel is offering a peek at their British wedding film collection, a must for Anglophiles; Traditional Tour UK’s Prince Harry Tour of London is a two-hour walk of hotspots from the prince’s rebellious younger days through his military career and beyond; Thames Rockets speedboats will be offering their Ultimate London Adventure May 17 through 20; and history buffs will love the Royal Ballet’s production of Elizabeth, inspired by the letters, dairies, poetry, and plays penned by Queen Elizabeth I. SUMMER CAMPING INSPO Camping can be the ultimate “budget” choice for seeing the U.S., and we’re big fans of the campgrounds in our national parks, state parks, and beyond. Our love of camping is echoed by the 2018 North American Camping Report, an independent study supported by Kampgrounds of America (koa.com). The report found that more than 6 million North American households have adopted what the survey calls the “camping lifestyle” since 2014. Why the massive growth in camping? Surprisingly, technology has raised awareness of the joys of camping, and made it more accessible than ever. From social media to cellphone access and Wi-Fi, Americans and Canadians feel more comfortable with the idea of sleeping outdoors and are less worried about bugs, safety/security, and other perceived barriers. “Camping is a highly social activity, and with that, we are seeing campers turning to their social circles or other camping influencers for information and resources, including borrowing or renting RVs and gear. It’s this social nature – both on and off the campground – that continues to reduce barriers and fuel the growth of annual camping in North America,” said Toby O’Rourke, president of KOA. “With reduced barriers and the desire of campers to connect with nature and each other, it is no surprise that camping is fast becoming a fundamental component of an outdoor lifestyle.”

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Travel News: 5 Airfare Bargains, Lonely Planet Is Now on Alexa and Google Assistant, and How to Get Paid to Eat (Really!)

Whether you’re looking for an unexpectedly affordable airfare to a popular destination, or want to talk to some of the world’s most renowned travel experts via Alexa, or just have a hankering for living the life of a professional food critic, this week’s travel news may launch you in an altogether new direction. 5 AIRFARE BARGAINS It may be time to book your summer trip. Our number-crunching friends at Skyscanner (skyscanner.com) have delivered some great news in advance of 2018’s high season. Airfares to some of the world’s most popular destinations have plummeted over the past year, including: Reykjavik, Iceland (down 27 percent, with average airfare dropping to $631); Denver (down 19 percent, to $385); Tampa (down 16 percent drop, to $363); Las Vegas (down 14 percent, to $391), and Hong Kong, China (down 11 percent, to $1,362). LONELY PLANET IS NOW ON ALEXA AND GOOGLE ASSISTANT Budget Travel’s parent company, Lonely Planet (lonelyplanet.com), has a long history of embracing tech innovations, and, as a result, you can now find unparalleled trip ideas and know-how by simply asking Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, “Let me talk to Lonely Planet.” You can learn more about a specific destination, including insider tips from Lonely Planet’s worldwide network of researchers and writers, or get some “tripspiration” from LP’s travel news and “best place to be in the world today.” HOW TO GET PAID TO EAT (REALLY!) We’ve all dreamed of what it must be like to be a food critic like Pete Wells, who literally gets paid to eat and share his opinions in the New York Times. Well, Colorado-based Noosa Yoghurt will give five foodies the chance to explore American food trends, becoming the company’s “Flavor Finders,” and get paid $2,000 in the process (noosayoghurt.com/flavorfinder).

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Travel News: Philly Is Still Making History, How to Get a Free Passport, and the Ultimate Destination Wedding Resource

American history and culture will be on display in Philadelphia's Historic District this summer, while a cool package tour company makes it easier than ever for young travelers to get their first passport, and a new online platform aims to take the pain out of booking a destination wedding. PHILADELPHIA: AMERICA’S FIRST WORLD HERITAGE CITY Sure, Philadelphia (visitphilly.com) is where our country was born, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the U.S. Constitution at what is now Independence National Historical Park. But the City of Brotherly Love continues to make history, as America’s first-ever UNESCO World Heritage City. Philadelphia is home to the stunningly designed and impeccably curated new Museum of the American Revolution and the renovated Independence Visitor Center, and it's hosting an array of don’t-miss happenings in 2018. This summer, Philly’s fabled Historic District will welcome Cherry Street Pier (where you can shop, eat, or just relax) and the Philadelphia Bourse food hall, plus cool new exhibits at the National Museum of American Jewish History and the National Constitution Center. HOW TO GET A FREE PASSPORT Travelers ages 18 to 35 can get a free first-time passport (a savings of $145) when they book with Contiki, the social tour company for 18-to-35-year-olds (contiki.com). Contiki is a convenient way for first-time international travelers to venture overseas to Europe (its 12-day European Discovery tour is one of the most popular) and beyond, led by an expert tour manager with all the details taken care of by the innovative and reliable tour company. Contiki conceived the free-passport deal in response to the recent finding that half of all Millennials do not own a passport. We hope some of you are inspired to jump on this opportunity. THE ULTIMATE DESTINATION WEDDING RESOURCE Planning a destination wedding can be one of the most thrilling experiences of your life. And by “thrilling,” we mean it’s a little bit like riding the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island every day for months. Kiss & Tell, a new online booking platform (kissandtell.com) wants to disrupt all that disruption by offering all-inclusive destination wedding accommodations for services including booking venues, vendors, blocks of rooms, and more. 

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Travel News: Spring Travel Predictions, Pot Festivals, and San Diego Celebrates a Birthday

From coast-to-coast cannabis celebrations to an all-access pass to San Diego's many exciting sites and museums to American Express Travel's predictions for the spring's hottest destinations, here's the latest trip-inspiring travel news: NUMBERS DON'T LIE: HOT SPOTS FOR SPRING TRAVEL, REVEALED American Express Travel has culled its piles of booking data and cross-examined its experts in the trenches to determine the must-go destinations for spring. The city seeing the biggest spike in bookings—238%, to be precise--is a destination that, let’s just say, has been in the news quite a bit: Russia’s capital, Moscow. It’s easy to suppose—errr…to joke that there’s a lot of spies buying plane tickets, but really it’s the city’s pleasant spring temps and jaw-dropping historical and cultural sites that are a common bucket-list item. Botswana, South Africa is another distant locale where travel is up by 200%. April through October, the dry season, is the most ideal time to take advantage of the region’s unparalleled safaris. Santiago, Chile, where autumn is just beginning, Santorini, Greece, which offers storybook seaside landscapes that are still mellow before summertime high-season, and Doha, Qatar, a luxe destination set against an ancient backdrop, are other cities increasingly piquing travelers’ interest. When it comes to Americans staying closer to home, St. Louis is turning heads. Go for the blossoming botanical gardens, stay for the festivals, baseballs, breweries and hip restaurants.  POT PARTIES ACROSS THE USA It's 420 somewhere. Well, on the clock, that is. On the calendar, however, 4/20 only comes once a year and with that April day fast approaching. As more and more American states legalize recreational marijuana, festivals and events that pay homage to that symbolic date are showing up coast to coast, and not all of them happen on 4/20, so there's still lots of time to plan. (Alert to those not in the know: 420 is code for smoking weed. Legend has it that the slang derived from the California criminal code for distribution/possession of weed.) Among the many varied events around the country are the blowout 420 Rally in Denver, ground zero for pot tourism. (April 20, denver420rally.com.) Hip-hop luminaries, vendors sell a range of paraphernalia, and up to 10,000 people attend. The National Cannabis Festival in Washington DC (April 21, nationalcannabisfetival.com) includes all sorts of activism-minded activity and a Cypress Hill concert. The Hash Bash on the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus, an annual event for decades, offers activist speakers, street parties, live music and plenty more. (April 14, hashbash.com)   SAN DIEGO CELEBRATES A LEGENDARY PARK'S 150TH California became a state in 1850. Then only 18 years later, Balboa Park was established on 1,400 acres in San Diego and has since become home to everything from the San Diego Zoo to the San Diego Natural History Museum to the Model Railroad Museum, a science center with IMAX, art museums and plenty more. With the 150th anniversary of the park, the city is throwing a party and we travelers are the ones getting the present: the Go San Diego Card. The pass gives access to more than 40 attractions and it’s available for one day ($94; $89 children 12 and under), two days ($129; $115) and up to five days ($279; $245). Prices go up on March 29, so start planning your trip to SoCal. Stat! (gosandiegocard.com)

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