Your next vacation is on us
As if saving money on checked-bag fees weren't incentive enough, Budget Travel is giving away a 6-night trip to Egypt (courtesy of Foreign Independent Tours) to the winner of our Ultimate Packing Smackdown—the search for the World's Best Packer. You have until June 14 to tell us why you deserve the title—in photo, video, essay, or poem form—and on July 1, the top ten finalists will be named and voting will commence.
Your entry could include a packing list for a two-week trip, your most clever space-saving solution, your pick for the best assortment of luggage to pack, the items you'd never leave home without (or have learned never to bring with you again), or a diagram showing your own unique layering strategy.
Virgin Atlantic fights jet lag...and you win!
We've all been there. Your plane has touched down, and you're ready for your whirlwind international adventure. The Eiffel Tower beckons. The Great Pyramids await. The Coliseum is calling your name. And all you want to do is curl up in a ball and tuck yourself in for a long nap. Jet lag is no joke. That terrible combination of fatigue, insomnia, and irritability can derail any vacation right from the start. Well, starting this week, there's an app for that. Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Dr. Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, to release the Jet Lag Fighter ($1.99), an app that promises to get you and your sleep schedule back on track after a grueling long haul. The concept is simple. Punch in basic info, like flight details, age, sex, and usual sleep patterns. The app then generates a specialized game plan to keep your eyes open without that tenth cup of espresso. Your personalized regiment will tell you precisely when to sleep, when to exercise, and when to seek or avoid light. A nifty graph even illustrates how long it will take to overcome those jet lag blues—with and without the program. Compatible with iPhones and iPads, sold in the iTunes App Store. Now we turn to you: got any great jet lag fighting tips that keep you active and ready to go? [Fun Fact for Travel Geeks: Dr. Idzikowski worked on a jet-lag project for Virgin Atlantic's rival, British Airways, three years ago.]
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.
Paris's first Restaurant Week may be a bust for tourists
Following behind New York, London, and other hotbeds of gastronomy, the city of Paris has launched its very own Restaurant Week. More than 120 restaurants will be participating in Tous au Restaurant ("everybody in the restaurant") from June 7–13. The celebration promises specially priced menus—€20.10 ($25.56) at lunch and no more than €35 ($44.50) at dinner—and the ability to make reservations online. Sounds tempting, but is this really a good bet for travelers? Not really. Reason number one: these special prices aren't actually very special. Most of the participating restaurants, including several that I really recommend (le Bistrot Paul Bert, Aux Lyonnais, Au Petit Marguery, l'Assiette) have everyday prices that are lower than the restaurant week offer. Reason number two: the online reservation system doesn't work. When I tried (several times) to book a table, I was asked to provide personal information and enrolled in a newsletter before receiving an email that contained—get this—the restaurant's phone number. It doesn't help that the website is only in French. For those who are able to reserve a table by phone, there are really only two good value options to consider booking: Gaya and La Table de Joël Robuchon. Among the 120-plus participating restaurants, these are the only places where you'll snag significant savings during restaurant week. A single dish at world-renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire's Gaya restaurant can run as much as €47, so the multi-course restaurant week menu represents a real steal. Ditto for Robuchon's formal restaurant in the 16th arrondissement, where diners usually spend well over €100. So what do BT readers think? Does Paris Restaurant Week sound like a steal or a waste of time?
Loyalty News: JetBlue and Hilton team up
Are you a card-carrying member of Hilton's or JetBlue's loyalty programs? Both just got sweeter. Last week, the two companies announced a partnership: Members of Hilton HHonors program can earn points toward JetBlue flights. Here's how it works: For every $2 spent at a Hilton property, members will earn regular HHonors points and one point toward a JetBlue flight. HHonors members can also convert hotel-only points into points for JetBlue flights. JetBlue's program is called TrueBlue. Hilton's properties include brands such as Hilton Garden Inn, Conrad, Waldorf Astoria, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Homewood Suites, Home2Suites, and Hilton Grand Vacations. And until July 15, 2010, HHonors members can earn double the the TrueBlue points—one point per every $1 spent at a Hilton property. Book a stay at more than 860 hotels that qualify at hiltonhonors.com/trueblue. And here's another perk: HotelChatter reports that HHonors points have no blackout dates—meaning there aren't a ton of restrictions on when you can use your points, unlike some other hotel loyalty programs. In our recent Readers' Choice poll, both Hilton's and JetBlue's loyalty programs ranked in the top three as "favorite hotel loyalty program" and "favorite airline loyalty program." JetBlue relaunched TrueBlue back in November.