CalTravel Connections Newsletter
CalTravel Ticker
Volume 8 | #5 | October, 2011
In This Issue
Please enjoy this edition of the Ticker newsletter brought to you as a service of the California Travel Association (CalTravel), under the direction of CalTravel's Communications Committee, and Ted Molter, CalTravel Immediate Past Chairman of the Board, Director of Marketing World-Famous San Diego Zoo & San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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By signing AB 42 on Tuesday afternoon Gov. Jerry Brown created an official pathway for "qualified nonprofits" to take over managing the 70 state parks slated to close by July 1, 2012.

That list includes Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen. Even before the bill became a law, the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association was already developing a proposal to run the park and museum dedicated to the Valley’s most famous writer.

"We are extremely relieved that AB42 was signed," said Elisa Stancil, vice president of the association, who with her board has spent countless hours developing a workable business plan for the park.

AB42 was introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, last December in an effort to find a way to keep as many of California’s 278 state parks open as possible. In the midst of the state’s ongoing fiscal woes, the State Department of Parks and Recreation, which oversee the state parks, experienced numerous budget cuts, including $22 million over the current and next fiscal years, sparking the park closures.

"The Governor has recognized the important role that state parks play for Californians, and my bill represents a creative solution that will allow the state to secure partnerships to enable a number of the state parks on the closure list to stay open," said Huffman in a press release. "Particularly in these tough economic times, creative public/private partnerships are an essential tool in providing ongoing protection of, and continued access to, these treasured public assets. As we struggle to address California’s state budget deficit, I will continue to work to protect funding for state parks." Read more...
Travel Convention: Holidaymakers 'sticking to fixed budget'
Holidaymakers booking domestic trips are not only waiting until the last minute, but sticking to a fixed budget, according to Hoseasons.

The group has 27,000 self catering properties in the UK and Europe and managing director Geoff Cowley said that booking patterns had changed this year.

"It's getting later, shorter and nearer as far as bookings are concerned," he said.

"Some people know what they want and book early, but a lot of people ring up and say 'what have you got for tomorrow?'

"They also have a fixed budget. They'll say 'I've got £500, what can you do for me?'"

At the ABTA Convention, Hoseasons launched a product called Evermore Holidays, comprising six upmarket lodges across England, offering consistent standards.

Cowley said it had enjoyed considerable success with other products targeted at various groups, such as Autograph lodges for couples and 'Go Active' accommodation for people who want to stay in an area offering various activities.

Program could shorten wait at airport security checkpoints
(CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday unveiled a "trusted traveler" program -- one meant to expedite screening at U.S. airport checkpoints, agency chief John Pistole said.

"As with any initiative, we are testing this prescreening concept with a small passenger population at limited airports," he said at an aviation security conference in the Netherlands. "If proven successful, we will explore expanding the program to additional travelers, airports and airlines."

All participants must be U.S. citizens who voluntarily release certain information about themselves.

During its evaluation phase, TSA PreCheck will be available only to certain frequent fliers on American and Delta airlines flying out of certain airports. Delta passengers must be flying out of Atlanta and Detroit airports, and American Airlines passengers must be flying out of Miami and Dallas airports.

It was opened to participants in Custom and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS.

"As TSA moves further away from a one-size-fits-all approach, our ultimate goal is provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible," said Christopher McLaughlin, TSA assistant administrator of security operations.

The program won't guarantee expedited security screening, according to Pistole, who said participants would still be subject to "random and unpredictable security measures."

U.S. business travel, trips to increase through 2012
U.S.-originated business travel spending is expected to grow 3.8 percent this year compared to 2009 despite expectations that economic and business travel growth will slow through the second half of 2010, according to the newly developed and first-ever quarterly business travel forecast.

Business Travel Quarterly Outlook - United States, from the NBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the National Business Travel Association, found that business travel will continue to advance by 6.7 percent and 6.9 percent for 2011 and 2012, respectively.

The new report contains the first Business Travel Index, a headline measure of the current and projected level of business travel in the United States. At the last industry peak in late 2007, the NBTA BTI reached 120. Two years of the Great Recession left the BTI at 96, a decline of nearly 20 percent. The BTI has recovered to 106 currently and is projected to reach the level of the previous peak in late 2012.

Michael W. McCormick, NBTA Executive Director and COO, said, "Business travel within and from the United States has seen solid recovery after two long years of diminution. However, it is clear that companies are taking their time in shifting from the current cost-containment culture, and recovery will continue to ramp up slowly. We're looking forward to the end of 2012 - when the industry should see a return to peak levels."

The total number of U.S. business trips saw a sharp decline of 15.6 percent during the Great Recession from 511 million trips in 2007 to 431 million in 2010. The decline was driven in large part by the drop in transient business travel, comprising 60 percent of the total, as a result of tighter travel management, shortening trips, and some use of technological travel alternatives. However, through 2012, transient travel is expected to advance 31 percent as the economy continues to recover and travel restrictions are lifted.

International outbound corporate travel is and will continue to be a significant contributor to the overall increase in U.S. business travel spending. Through the second half of 2009 and into 2010, better corporate earnings and booming export markets saw the return of premium business travel in international outbound, and increases in trip volumes and higher costs drove international outbound business travel spending up 21.7 percent between 2009 Q4 and 2010 Q1. Read more...

The Top 5 Travel Scams
For a long time you've been longing to get away and you've been doing a lot of research online, visiting scores of different sites. Then comes that moment when you find a good deal; you purchase it and start looking forward to that long-awaited vacation.

Sounds great doesn't it? Perhaps not, suggests Fox News- you may have just been scammed. Fox recently interviewed officials from the Better Business Bureau and the National Consumers League and came up with some startling news: US travelers lose over $10 billion each year to scammers.

Obviously, a lot of us are ripe for the picking, and some companies don't need to go far to find the low-hanging fruit. Think about it - we all want to get away, we're looking for a good deal, many of us have personal information online and these days it's pretty easy even for an eight-year old to put up a website.

So the next time you're online searching for a good travel deal, before you hit the purchase button think of these potential scams:

  1. Discount Travel Clubs: this is one of the biggest, and most lucrative, travel scams because everybody is looking for a deal, especially when it involves travel. In the last two years there have been over 4,000 complaints made to the BBB about travel clubs. Many of them involve being required to pay an upfront fee to gain access to specially discounted deals. Of course, once you make the payment those promised deals never materializes. Protect yourself by staying away from these clubs or only dealing with the most reputable. Check each out with the BBB.
  2. Deceptive Pricing: this is basically the old bait and switch scam where you are offered one thing which then turns out not being what you had expected. You can protect yourself here by always reading the fine print on anything you sign. Then go a step further and call the airline and/or the hotel to assure that a reservation was actually made for you. And finally, carefully review all of your credit card statements for unauthorized charges.
  3. Timeshare Scams: it probably comes as no surprise the many scams involve timeshares. In fact, in the last two years the BBB has received more than 16,000 complaints against timeshare companies. A lot of timeshare scams involve cold calling so when someone calls you out of the blue and offers you a great deal on a time share, or a vacation package, protect yourself - just hang up. Quickly.
  4. Going Out of Business Deals: it's not just smalltime operators who can scam you, it's also larger companies including cruise lines, small airlines and travel agencies. If you're ever offered a great deal because a company is having financial difficulties never take the deal. More likely than not the company will go out of business before you take your trip or, even worse, while you're on it and you'll be stuck overseas. Despite any and all promises that were made me to you, you'll be totally out of luck. Research the company that is offering any inexpensive vacation and, says the National Consumers League, watch out for anything that is priced way below actual value.
  5. Spring Break Packages: it's likely that you won't get caught up in this scam since it targets your children and grandchildren. College students are always looking for a great deal to get away on spring break and sometimes other students approach them about an "all inclusive" deal. Scammers find students to be easy pickings because they do little research and get excited about the idea of dashing off somewhere with their friends.
If you want to protect yourself from scammers there are two important, common sense things you can do. First, if you purchase anything online or over the phone always get everything in writing and meticulously compare it to what was offered plus what was promised to you. Second, and this is the most important and the best way to protect yourself, only pay for travel products by credit card, never by cash or check.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Loses Oldest Dolphin in Vallejo, California
The bottlenose dolphin named Terry died at 51 years old-comparable to 95 in human terms. The average dolphin lifespan is 25 years. A necropsy will be performed, but the cause of death is expected to be advanced age. The animal lived at Discovery Kingdom since it was originally located in Redwood City, California. She moved to Vallejo with hundreds of other animals in 1985. Read more...

Capitol Christmas tree chosen from Calif. forest
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Somewhere in the middle of a California forest stands a perfectly formed 65-foot white fir about to meet a glorious end as the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.

Where, exactly, is top secret, though it is somewhere in the Stanislaus National Forest in the central Sierra Nevada mountains.

"It's a matter of national security," said Maria C. Benech, in all seriousness.

She is the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator, for now at least. After the tree is safely delivered to the front of the U.S. Capitol, she'll go back to overseeing resources in the forest.

The tree is, indeed, a spectacular specimen, standing out like a verdant beauty queen amid scraggly competitors, at least in the photo the forest service provided. The shot shows only the top half of the tree and those around it to avoid identifying landmarks and keep its location guarded.

It was chosen based on shape and fullness, color and the condition of its foliage. No Charlie Brown tree would do. The Capitol needs a tree that looks cylindrical from all sides.

The tradition of "The People's Tree" began in 1964, and the job of providing it rotates among national forests. This year, the Stanislaus National Forest was chosen to provide the tree, marking the fourth time the Capitol tree will come from California.

It will be decorated by 5,000 ornaments handmade by Californians. House Speaker John Boehner will light it along with a child from California on Dec. 6.

Come January, when the tree has served its purpose, it will be ground into mulch and spread across the Capitol gardens. It's not lost on Benech that a living entity will die to provide joy to so many.

"That's a pretty good way to go," Benech says. "The good news is we've got a million more of them out there. I think we'll be OK." Read more...

California legislature approves shark fin ban
(Reuters) - Shark fin soup would be off the menu in California, under a bill headed for the governor's desk following its approval by the state Senate on Tuesday.

The measure, which gained final passage on a bipartisan 25-9 vote, would ban the sale, purchase or possession in California of the ocean-going predator's fins, which are the chief ingredient in a soup dish that has long been part of Chinese culture.

The bill, approved by the state Assembly earlier this year, would take effect on January 1, 2013.

Bill supporters, including environmental groups, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and several celebrity Asian chefs, say the ban is needed to protect endangered shark populations from over-fishing. California, with its population of 1.1 million Chinese-Americans, is one of the biggest markets for shark fins outside Asia.

"(This bill) addresses an important environmental threat to our oceans' health," said state Senator Chris Kehoe, a San Diego Democrat who was one of the bill's chief proponents. "It's our market here that drives the slaughter."

But opponents noted that no species of shark is listed as endangered in the United States. They said the measure also unfairly singles out a favorite dish of many Chinese-Americans, for whom the pricey delicacy is a customary culinary accompaniment to weddings and other special occasions. Read more...

California's Los Angeles Zoo to Increase Admission
The Los Angeles City Council approved a $2 admission increase as it weighs options to privatize the zoo. Adult admission rises to $16 and child rates increase to $11. The change must be approved by the city's mayor and takes effect 30 days later. Read more...

New Operator Announced for Queen Mary in Long Beach, California
Evolution Hospitality LLC will take over operation of the docked ship from Delaware North Company. Evolution also manages other Southern California hotel properties including some adjacent to Disneyland. The luxury ocean liner has been berthed in Long Beach since 1967 and features 314 original staterooms. Read more...
Newest Legoland Park Offers Features Unique to Florida
The Winter Haven theme park opens Oct. 15 with signature attractions found at all Legoland parks, including a Miniland featuring landmarks made from Lego bricks. Designers also took advantage of the unique site of the former Cypress Gardens, retaining trees and renovating gardens. In addition, they kept two Cypress Gardens roller coasters, making the Florida park the only Legoland with a wooden roller coaster. Read more...

Walt Disney World Executives Recall Opening Day 40 Years Ago
Walt Disney World Vice Presidents Phil Holmes and Kevin Myers discuss the Orlando resort's opening in 1971. At the time, Holmes worked at the "Haunted Mansion" and Myers was a busboy in Adventureland. Read more...

New York's newest tourist attraction? Wall Street protests
"How many times in life do you get a chance to watch history unfold?" asks a story in The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a free newspaper that debuted this weekend as part of a vague but growing movement against financial and political avarice.

For London visitor Sarah Lewis, that chance is now. Like dozens of other curious bystanders snapping cellphone pictures at the "Occupy Wall Street" encampment in Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, she'd heard about Saturday's arrests of more than 700 marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge - and has made an impromptu detour to the Big Apple's newest tourist attraction.

The draws: Face painting, drum circles and a chance to meet activists like Bill Steyert, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran from Queens. Sporting a tie-dyed T-shirt and peace symbol pendant, he tells Lewis he is "just as angry now as I was back in 1968."

"The country is in economic crisis," says an increasingly hoarse Steyert, waving a white Veterans for Peace banner. "And the corporations are strangling us to death."

Now entering its third week, what started out as an ad hoc, social media-fueled handful of college student protesters has evolved into a nationwide phenomenon, with solidarity demonstrations in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities. Read more...

Noah's Ark replica being built in Kentucky
Tucked away in a nondescript office park in northern Kentucky, Noah's followers are rebuilding his ark.

The biblical wooden ship built to weather a worldwide flood was 500 feet long and about 80 feet high, according to Answers in Genesis, a Christian ministry devoted to a literal telling of the Old Testament.

This modern ark, to be nestled on a plot of 800 acres of rolling Kentucky farmland, isn't designed to rescue the world's creatures from a coming deluge. It's to tell the world that the Bible's legendary flood story was not a fable, but a part of human history.

"The message here is, God's word is true," said Mike Zovath, project manager of the ark. "There's a lot of doubt: 'Could Noah have built a boat this big, could he have put all the animals on the boat?' Those are questions people all over the country ask."

The ark will be the centerpiece of a proposed $155 million religious theme park, called the Ark Encounter, and will include other biblical icons like the Tower of Babel and an old world-style village.

It's an expansion of the ministry's first major public attraction, the controversial Creation Museum. It opened in 2007 and attracted worldwide attention for presenting stories from the Bible as historical fact, challenging evolution and asserting that the earth was created about 6,000 years ago. Read more...

Engineers finish inspection of Washington Monument
WASHINGTON (AP) - Engineers have completed their inspection of the Washington Monument's exterior following damage from an earthquake.

The National Park Service says the team that has been rappelling from the top of the monument finished its survey Wednesday morning. The engineers have been removing stone and mortar shaken loose by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23.

Park service officials have said the engineers will provide a report that will help determine how the monument should be repaired. The earthquake caused numerous cracks to form in the 127-year-old obelisk. But the engineers have said it remains structurally sound.

The inspection began a week ago, but weather caused some delays and complications. On Friday, one engineer was blown about 30 feet off the monument's face by a gust of wind. He was not injured Read more...
Tourists kidnappings ravage Kenyan tourist area
LAMU, Kenya (AP) - During high season in this Kenyan luxury resort area, foreign tourists snorkel by day and sleep in rustic dwellings with woven coconut leaves for doors. Now they're leaving town early and canceling reservations after gunmen kidnapped two Europeans and killed another in only a month.

Already, droves of workers who depend on tourism in this gorgeous but poor corner of East Africa are losing their jobs.

Hours after a French woman was abducted last weekend, eight guests checked out of Stefano Moccia's nearby hotel and hurriedly boarded a plane. Usually busy taxi boats now lay idle along the coasts. Some tourists have come despite the violence and travel warnings, but the outlook is grim.

"This season is over. That is for sure," said Stefano Moccia, who already has fired nearly half his 100 staff members in just two days. Unless business at The Majlis rebounds quickly, he says he'll have to let go most of the rest.

Nervous hotel owners like Moccia are urging Kenya's government to step up security in this area long popular with tourists and rich Kenyans. High tourist season traditionally begins here in November, but the $1,800-a-night rooms could sit empty, the white sand beaches bare of sunbathers.

"Tens of thousands of people depend on the tourism - their livelihoods are at stake," said Dario Urbani, the marketing director of the Romantic Hotels Ltd, which owns Lamu Palace Hotel, where an American tourist also checked out right after the Saturday attack.

"Without thinking too much, tourists will say 'I don't want to risk my life by going there. The Kenyan government has to flex its muscle and chase away criminals," he added.

Tourism is a $1 billion industry and employs tens of thousands of Kenyans in a country where many people live on less than a $1 a day. Read more...

Foundation says 67 world heritage sites threatened
Growing tourism, lack of resources, neglect and natural disasters pose a threat to the world's cultural heritage, a private foundation said Wednesday identifying 67 sites in need of preservation.

The sites and monuments are found in 41 countries from Peru to Vietnam and England to China, the World Monuments Fund said, unveiling a 2012 watch list that "reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the earth and of its human heritage."

Places in need of care include the palace and garden of China's Nanyue Kingdom, ancient Nasca lines and geoglyphs in Peru, England's Coventry Cathedral and the floating fishing villages along Vietnam's Halong Bay.

"The 67 sites vividly illustrate the ever-more pressing need to create a balance between heritage concerns and the social, economic, and environmental interests of communities around the world," the fund said in a statement.

"In addition to promoting community cohesion and pride, heritage preservation can have an especially positive impact on local populations in times of economic distress, for example through employment and the development of well-managed tourism."

WMF president Bonnie Burnham said the 2012 watch list "is a call to action on behalf of endangered cultural heritage sites across the globe."

"And while these sites are historic, they are also very much of the present -- integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day." Read more...

Theme park 'super sizes' its coaster seats for overweight riders
Responding to an increase in its customers' girth, a popular British theme park is accommodating overweight riders with two larger seats on its Nemesis Inferno rollercoaster.

"The reality is we are super sizing - that's a fact we're embracing," Thorpe Park's Mike Vallis told the Daily Mail. "Why shouldn't people be comfortable when they are enjoying a day out with their friends or family?"

The Surrey park - in the news earlier for white-knuckle experiences of the paranormal variety - plans to roll out the bigger seats on other rides as well.

Of course, the U.K. isn't the only place where theme park guests "of size" have had a tough time squeezing into too-tight quarters.

Here in the Home of the Big Mac, "I don't think it's as much an issue of changing seats on old rides as it is designing new rides to accommodate people of larger size," says Robert Niles of "Every new coaster I've seen in the past several years either has special seats or rows for larger riders, or extension options so that the restraints can hold larger riders. "

"Lack of accommodation for larger riders is another factor that parks consider when deciding which rides to close," adds Niles. "A ride that can't handle (them) comfortably would have to be very popular to be worth renovating. Otherwise, that lack of accommodation becomes another excuse for the park to junk that ride and invest instead in building something new."

That said, some "pudgy muggles" trying to board the signature attraction at Universal Studios' Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando have been turned away because of their size. "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" uses restraints to keep riders in their seats, and they aren't large enough to accommodate heavier guests.

"The very blunt truth is that for overweight patrons, it makes sense to review the park's guidelines and ride restrictions before buying tickets," notes The Fat Girl's Guide to Amusement Parks. Read more...
10 Things Hotels Don't Want You to Know
Staying in a hotel can be fun, right? You can swim in the pool, try out all the free toiletries, order room service -- and someone else will even make your bed in the morning. A weekend getaway can be very relaxing.

But there are things about hotel life that can sometimes make your stay less enjoyable, like high prices or rooms that aren't exactly spic and span.

Never fear, we've got some tricks for you to try. Being aware of these 10 things -- which hotels would almost certainly prefer to keep under their hats -- can save you money, help you avoid unpleasant surprises and give you have the best hotel stay possible. Read more...

Cape Cod hotel ties room rate to temperature
A freshly renovated Cape Cod hotel with a creative bent is giving thrifty new meaning to the term "room temperature."

Through Nov. 6, the Harbor Hotel Provincetown in Massachusetts will use meteorological means to determine the price of 119 standard rooms, usually $89.99 per night.

"The rate will be based on the 2 p.m. temperature on the day of arrival," says hotel general manager Nicholas Mitchell.

With the Saturday high in the region expected to be 67 degrees, that means guests can already expect a daily savings of about $23.

But as those who thrill at games of chance understand, Mitchell's seemingly straightforward declaration is fraught with apparent loopholes.

Is that Fahrenheit or Celsius? Is that 2 p.m. there on Cape Cod or on the slopes in the Himalayas?

Nice try, Mitchell says. Like the casinos, the house sets the rules: The temperature will be determined by the local branch of the venerable National Weather Service.

The hotel gets kudos for creativity, but it doesn't place in the wacky deal Hall of Fame for most outlandish promotions ever. For instance:

  • A London Holiday Inn last winter offered guests a free human bedwarmer to take the chill off the sheets. An employee in a long-sleeved onesie was sent to each room to roll around under the sheets - solo! - so guests wouldn't freak at the chill.
  • In 2009, the Hotel Erwin in Venice, Calif., offered a $100 voucher for guests interested in getting a tattoo at the nearby Sea of Ink tattoo parlor. The package included a tube of Lubriderm lotion, an ice pack and a bottle of tequila. Guests earned a $500 bonus if the tattoo read, "I heart Erwin."
TSA tests 'pre-screening' of select passengers at 4 airports
The Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday began testing a program at Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami airports that will allow expedited screening of some frequent fliers on Delta and American flights.

The program - called "PreCheck - was promised by TSA chief John Pistole this summer after passengers, airlines and some travel groups complained of the stringent, one-size-fits-all body scans and patdown procedures currently in place.

It's designed to test a possible shift to a method of screening of passengers that relies more on intelligence and a risk-assessment of travelers.

Under the pilot program, travelers who provide the government personal information will be issued a bar code on their boarding passes that will be scanned by agents who check identification.

Passengers will be routed to a security checkpoint lane, where they may be allowed to keep their shoes, belt and jacket on and leave their toiletry and laptop bags in the luggage, TSA says. Eligible passengers will continue to be pulled for random screening, however. Read more...

Food Network star Guy Fieri launching eateries on Carnival ships
NEW YORK -- A chain of Guy Fieri-branded hamburger joints on Carnival cruise ships? Even the Food Network star seems a little surprised by the idea, announced today at a press conference near the Manhattan Cruise Terminal.

"If in a million years you would have told me that I was going to be involved with a cruise line and doing burgers, I would have told you I would have gone to the moon first," Fieri told reporters at the Carnival-organized event.

Fieri joined Carnival senior vice president Mark Tamis on a stage to announce the new chain of eateries, to be called Guy's Burger Joint. Modeled after roadside burger restaurants along California's coast, the outlets will debut on multiple Carnival ships over the next few years starting later this month on the 2,974-passenger Carnival Liberty. They'll be open to passengers at no extra charge.

The new Fieri eateries aren't the only new branded venues Carnival is rolling out across its fleet over the next several years. The line today also revealed plans to rebrand its comedy clubs around entertainer George Lopez, who also was at the press conference, and add sports bars branded around video game manufacturer EA Sports. In addition, the line is adding new game shows themed around game and toy maker Hasbro. Read more...

8 tips for buying holiday airfares
  1. It will be cheaper to fly, as usual, on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day than on other holiday days.
  2. In the past two years, we noticed that on many routes air fares were quite high for peak holiday travel, but a couple of weeks before the holidays airlines reduced fares on less popular flight times, such as early morning (7 a.m.) departures and red eye flights. As such, people who bought far ahead ended up overpaying. But it's impossible to generalize if and when airlines will decide to adjust holiday fares if seats are going begging on certain routes.
  3. We suspect that peak holiday fares will be higher this year than last year, due to airline consolidation and capacity cuts.
  4. Although you might pay a bit less by grabbing the last seat on an inconvenient flight time closer to the holidays, if you want to choose your favorite seat or preferred flight times, you're probably better off booking now. Equally true if there are several of you flying together and you don't want to all end up sitting far apart from each other.

Disney adding second L.A. to Hawaii cruise
Disney is sailing a second cruise to Hawaii next year.

The first cruise is due to leave Los Angeles on April 29 and last 15 days. The ship will visit Maui, Kauai, Oahu and Hilo on the Big Island. The trip also includes a stop in Ensenada, Mexico.

The second cruise stops in the same places but lasts 14 nights. It leaves Los Angeles on Oct. 14.

Disney Cruise Line said Thursday it added the second cruise after receiving an "overwhelming response" to the first. President Karl Holz says it's clear guests want more options to visit Hawaii.

The company says rates start at $1,800 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy. Read more...
Travel apps that really help
(CNN) -- There are seemingly millions of smartphone apps out there designed to make traveling easier, but not all of them are very good. Every company seems to think that it needs an app to be cool, but not every app is worth the effort.

Here are some of the apps that I find to be most helpful while on the road:

I'm one of those guys who always thinks that more information is better, and that's why I like FlightAware. You can see exactly where your flight (or any other flight) is at the moment. I've used the FlightAware website for years to see near real-time flight tracking, and now there's an app as well.

Were you told your airplane is coming from Wichita, but it's still not there and you should be boarding? Go to FlightAware to see where the airplane is right now. FlightAware is hardly the only one in this space. Other frequent fliers swear by FlightTrack Pro, for example.

When I was in Atlanta recently, my wife was looking for something before our next flight. Trying to find the right store in an airport the size of Hartsfield-Jackson is a mind-numbing experience. GateGuru, however, gives the rundown on which stores and restaurants are in each terminal and it pulls in reviews as well. If you're in an airport looking for a particular product or service, this will make your task much easier.

Hotel Tonight
Have you ever been somewhere and realized you needed a room for the night? Maybe your flight was canceled or perhaps your meetings ran long. This company negotiates deals with hotels for last-minute rooms in many big cities. Within seconds, you can have the room reserved for a low rate.

Taxi Magic
If you don't know a city well, the taxi scene can be confusing. Where is the best place to hail a cab? How much should you pay? Taxi Magic makes it a lot easier. If there's a participating cab company in your city, Taxi Magic will have a cab sent right to you.

You can pay directly through the app so you don't have to worry about whether credit is accepted or not. The app and booking services are free, and there's a $1.50 documentation fee for using a credit card through the app.

If there isn't a participating cab company in the area, Taxi Magic will give you phone numbers for local companies so you can call and arrange for a cab yourself.

If you've ever used TripIt online to manage your travel, you know it's a great tool for keeping all your travel plans in one place. Of course, there's also an app for that. See and manage all your travel plans in the TripIt app so you never lose your details. Beyond the basics of flights, hotels and cars, you can also put in things like appointments and meals.

Your airline app
This isn't one app; it's dependent upon which airline you fly. If you fly a different airline every time, then it's probably not worth downloading every single airline app. But if you're a loyalist, you should absolutely have it.

There are some excellent apps out there that allow you to check flight status, see the standby list, book flights and even check in. Apps will store a mobile boarding pass so you can just flash your phone to get on the airplane (not in all airports, but it's getting there). Some airlines have better apps than others. I've heard rave reviews about the new United Airlines app, but get the apps for the airlines you fly frequently.

What would you add to the list?

Travel Convention: Google promises it won't sell travel
Google has tried to reassure the travel industry that it was not encroaching on its business.

Head of travel UK and Ireland Nigel Huddleston told delegates: "We have no plans to enter the booking stage, but we do increasingly play a role in the sharing and experiencing stages.

"Many people in this room are already our clients and we have mutually beneficial interests. Our priority is to answer traveler queries quickly and efficiently with the most relevant response we can and ultimately lead them to transact with you. We want to create a circle of Googly happiness."

But Huddleston then went on to unveil new hotel and flight search technology which prompted some concerns from the industry audience.

Google Hotel Finder and Flight Search have already been launched in the US and Google plans to roll them out internationally. Read more...

Travel Convention: Operators warned of competition from non-travel brands
Leisure travel companies are failing to catch on to mobile technology, according to a communications expert.

PWC partner Kenny Fraser told delegates at the ABTA Travel Convention that while business travelers are well served by mobile apps, the leisure traveler is not.

"We're not seeing the big holiday operators or small operators really using this technology," he said.

"The business traveler is very well catered for and there is a tremendous amount of functionality already there, but the holiday traveler is not so well served."

He warned leisure travel companies that if they do not act fast, they risk being overtaken by competitors within and outside the industry.

"You're going to see the big dominant brands, like Amazon and Tesco, expanding their presence and becoming new, non-traditional competitors."

He said leisure consumers are using mobile apps in their day-to-day lives to buy train tickets or check bus timetables.

"They will expect to see this happening in their holiday world as well," said Fraser. Read more...

Expedia Reports International Visitors Spending More in the U.S.
With travel spend to the U.S. from international visitors on the rise, Expedia, Inc. has released data showing that international inbound bookings from specific super regions to key U.S. destination cities are up significantly over last year. International visitors spent nearly $12.5 billion traveling to the U.S. and buying tourism-related activities while here during June.

This is a $1 billion increase over June 2010 and marks the 18th straight month of growth in U.S. travel and tourism exports, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Expedia took a closer look at the trend and its impact on hotels in key markets. It founds that bookings on Expedia and sites in Latin America are up 75 percent to Miami, 81 percent to New York and 56 percent to Orlando. Bookings from the company's websites in Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) region to Los Angeles and Miami are growing faster than the market overall. Bookings from Asia-Pacific to Honolulu are up 32 percent. For more information, visit


Travelocity Reports Thanksgiving Hotel Rates Down, Air Fares Up
Travelocity is reporting that hotels are offering deals over Thanksgiving weekend, but cheap air fares are hard to find. Average domestic airfare over Thanksgiving is $376 (inclusive of tax), about 4 percent higher compared to Thanksgiving 2010. Domestic hotel rates average $114 per night (inclusive of tax), a 4 percent decrease compared with the same period last year.

Domestic fares out of the top 10 origination cities are mixed, ranging from a decline of 8 percent in Dallas/Fort Worth to an 8 percent increase in Seattle. For more information, visit Read more...
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