Trip Coach India: a couple more questions
A few weeks ago, I took part in a Trip Coach chat about India. There were lots more questions than there was time to answer, so I thought I'd take a stab at a couple more. Alexandria, Va.: My husband and I are planning a trip to India and would like to plan our itinerary around the the cultural activities and events that interest us most. We love traditional Indian dance for its expression and beautiful costumes. We are interested in attending public performances while on our trip. Are you aware of any that we might attend? One biggie that comes to mind is the Madras (modern-day Chennai) Music Season, held for five weeks in December and incorporating many dance and theater performances as well as music concerts. If you hit the city during that time, you'll be spoilt for choice, especially if you're aren't set on seeing any performances in particular. In addition, most big cities are likely to have traditional dance performances at many times of the year—check the listings in the local editions of the English-language Hindu and the Times of India. (Although both papers have websites, the newspaper editions are easier to navigate for this info.) If you happen to be passing through Mumbai, then be sure to get a copy of the local Time Out for thorough listings in that city. Ft. Myers, Fla.: Please list the top ten destinations off the beaten path. Everyone's list is going to be different. None of the following places are obscure (they're certainly in most travel guides), but they definitely aren't on every tourist's radar. So here goes: the ruins of Hampi, visited by lots of backpackers but not a lot of others, given the fact that it's as astonishing and beautiful as the Taj Mahal (but quite different); the twin temple towns of Halebid and Belur, in Karnataka; the northeastern state of Assam, which I never made it to but wish I had; the Ajanta caves, south of Mumbai (ditto); the coffee plantations of Coorg (a.k.a. Kodagu); inland portions of Goa; the Leh Palace, in the far north state of Jammu and Kashmir; Hyderabad, known for its I.T. businesses but with an amazing Muslim fort outside of town and lots of interesting Raj-era buildings in the city; the Buddhist stoneworks at Sarnath; the coastal town of Mangalore; Bhubaneshwar and other temple towns of Orissa, and Sikkim in the Himalayas, once its own kingdom. Full Q&A; on India
Wacky hotels: Sleeping in a grain silo may become a thing of the past
After nearly 30 years in Akron, Ohio, The Quaker Square Inn's days as a hotel may be numbered. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the inn is made out of 36 Quaker Oats silos from the 1800s. Each silo is 120-feet tall and contains dozens of perfectly-round guest rooms, each with a 24-foot diameter and its own private balcony. As if that weren't enough Americana, the Trackside Grille off of the lobby is located in a 1930s Pullman train car and carries more than 30 milkshake flavors. The complex has been owned by Hilton and Crowne Plaza at various times. Recently the inn was bought by the University of Akron, which will likely convert it into a dormitory. Four floors already house students, but a spokesman says the remaining 91 rooms will stay open to non-student guests until November 2009, from $99. While reviews on TripAdvisor were mixed and visitors say the hotel is showing signs of wear and tear, its design is pretty neat. And as a dorm, it sure beats the Howard Johnson that I lived in when I was a first-year student at Boston University. (My school had run out dorm space, you see, and had rented rooms for us at the local HoJo. The karaoke machine in the common area was a fun perk.) Have you stayed here? Do you know of any other re-purposed hotels?
Travel news roundup
A few travel stories that caught my eye this past week: Legitimate cheap Broadway tickets from $20 for fall NewYorkology looks at cheap tickets (we gave some of our own buying strategies last year). 36 hours in Milwaukee After the obligatory Laverne & Shirley mention, things pick up. [NYT] The Big 10 for tourists What to see in these college towns besides football games. [Chicago Tribune] A requiem: Tourism swamps Asia's unique, remote places "For many tourists, coming to Luang Prabang [in Laos] is like going on safari. But our monks are not monkeys or buffaloes." [AP] Virgin Galactic says thanks, but no thanks, to space porn movie offer The producers supposedly offered a million dollars to film a 62-mile-high movie (normal fare for the partially weightless flight will be $200,000). [Gadling] America's Most Reliable Airlines Crunching the numbers for on-time arrivals and other key metrics for the past five years. [Forbes]
Kudos to... Air Canada
In what seems like a very surprising move these days, Air Canada recently announced that it was dropping the $25 fee it had enacted to check a second bag on flights. The airline said it had decided to drop the fee in response to falling oil prices—a move that we here at Budget Travel thoroughly applaud. The fee change took effect on Sept. 23. Air Canada implemented the baggage fee in the spring after several of the major U.S. airlines starting charging $15 to $50 to check a second bag—and in a few cases, a first bag. But Air Canada decided to put customer first when oil prices retreated this fall and drop the extremely unpopular fee. We're waiting for a U.S. airline to make the same move. "Although the cost of fuel remains highly volatile and far above historic norms, the recent retreat in oil prices is enabling us to reinstate our previous baggage policy," Ben Smith, Air Canada’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement. In a small sign of the willingness of the major U.S. airlines to be more reasonable on baggage fees, Delta, United, and American say they will not charge oversized-baggage fees to people checking ski and boot bags on flights to ski resort towns this winter, according to the Jackson Hole Daily. But there is one caveat for Delta and United—the ski and boot bags must weigh less than 50 pounds, combined. The airlines normally charge as much as $150 per oversized item on flights. RELATED Budget Travel's 2008 Extra Mile Awards