For the week of Dec. 8, 2008
AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
Last Hurrah. Lost your job lately? Take your severance package and book a trip with Intrepid Travel, purveyors of voluntourism, adventure and cushy travel around the world. If you provide written proof that you were laid off, Intrepid will give you 15% off any trip. You'll get 20% off, if you're willing to drop everything and travel last-minute. Check the website for availability.
Fare Sale. AirTran Airways has fares between Atlanta and Baltimore for as low as $64, and between Chicago and Ft. Myers, Fla., starting at $79. Hurry to book by Dec. 11.
Off the Radar. The Federal Aviation Administration green-lighted a new air-traffic control system that will track planes by satellite, rather than radar. This should help establish the most direct flight paths and re-route airplanes more efficiently around bad weather, reducing accidents and delays. The new system will roll out in 2010, with complete nationwide coverage by 2013.
Green Air. Emirates begins nonstop service this week between Dubai and San Francisco. To make the 16-hour flight on a Boeing 777 as green as possible, the airline will fly a direct route over Russia, minimize idling time on the ground and even wash the planes before take-off to reduce drag. Emirates is also launching Airbus A380 service between Dubai and London.
Holiday Helper. Boston-area Hotel Indigo's special "Escape the In-Laws" package needs no explanation. You get a room, breakfast and a "Family Decompression Kit," complete with aspirin, aromatherapy oil and a bottle of wine, starting at $129 per night. Through Jan. 14, 2009. 399 Grove Street, Newton, MA; 617-969-5300
Super Saver. Hyatt is taking 21% off rack rates at all its properties worldwide. Book by Dec. 12 for travel through Feb. 1, 2009.
Eat, Drink and be Merry. Socialize with fellow visitors to New York City at the Empire Hotel's guests-only "Caipirinha Thursday" in the hotel's lobby bar. You'll get complimentary hors d'oeuvre and Sagatiba caipirinhas, a Brazilian cocktail of rum and limes. The mixers happen on Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (See 10 things to do in New York.) 44 West 63rd Street, New York City; 212-581-5290
Free Shipping. In case you have enough money to travel and shop this holiday season, InterContinental will ship one 30-lb. box free of charge for guests at its hotels in Atlanta, Boston, L.A., Miami, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. Simply take your box, with receipts as proof of local purchase, to the hotel's business center and have it shipped it to your doorstep. Through Jan. 2, 2009.
Party Like It's 1899. Sixteen of New York City's top-rated restaurants, including Per Se, Adour and Chanterelle, will serve multicourse Victorian banquets of each chef's interpretation, from January to March 2009, and donate some of the proceeds to charity. Café des Artistes will recreate the dinner you may have drooled over in the film Babette's Feast, while French seafood restaurant Le Bernadin will do all things de la mer, complete with top hats, candles, and "the rich sauces of the day," says chef Eric Ripert. Check the Zagat Guide's website for dates, menus and locations.
Chichi Chinese Food. Michelin has published its first ever guide to Hong Kong and Macau. It includes two three-star restaurants, if you've got a client to entertain; or if your expense account can't swing that, there are 26 restaurants where you can get three courses for less than $40. (See 10 things to do in Hong Kong.)
New Gateway to the West. St. Louis recently opened a $26 million Gateway Transportation Center, which links Amtrak, commuter train and Greyhound bus service. Cleanliness and safety are the new station's big selling points, especially since the one it replaced was nicknamed "Amshack." 430 South 15th Street, St. Louis, Mo.
iPhone Killer? Nokia plans to unveil its new smartphone, the N97, sometime in early 2009. The latest gadget to take on the iPhone is said to be a serious challenger, with a full keyboard concealed behind its touch screen, 48 GB of memory and GPS. But it will reportedly cost a hefty $700.
Jet Lag Pill. An experimental drug, tasimelteon, has been successful in helping people reset their body clocks and beat jet lag, in clinical trials. The drug hasn't been federally approved yet, but you may find similar benefits in taking melatonin tasimelteon mimics that naturally occurring hormone.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
All Skate! 'Tis the holiday season which means it's time to strap on a pair of blades, fall smack on your bum many times, then reward yourself with hot chocolate. Chicago has free entry at its rinks through Feb. 28, 2009, with skate rentals running about $5. (See 10 things to do in Chicago.) In Santa Monica, Calif., you can go from the beach to the ice rink (5th Street and Arizona Avenue, two blocks from the Third Street Promenade outdoor mall), for a surreal transition. The $10 admission through Jan. 19, 2009 includes skate rental. (See 10 things to do in L.A.)
New York City has several venues for mid-ice collision: Lasker Rink at Central Park, the Rink at Rockefeller Center, the Pond at Bryant Park and Wollman Rink at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Plus, a couple of new entries: The American Museum of Natural History (West 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue) has installed the 150-by-80-foot Polar Rink, filled with synthetic ice; it's harder to skate on, but offers a softer landing when you fall. Through Feb. 28, 2009, adults pay $10 and kids $8, including skate rentals. Another newcomer is the Seaport Ice rink at Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport, where on weekends and evenings, you can skate to live music or performances by the Big Apple Circus.
Beltway News. Over six years and $621 million in tax dollars in the making, the Capitol Visitor Center opened on Dec. 2, featuring exhibits on how Congress works (or doesn't), plus artifacts like Thomas Jefferson's confidential letter to Congress asking it to fund Lewis and Clark's expedition. All tours of the Capitol will now begin and end at the Visitor Center. Admission and tours are free; make reservations online in advance, as tours fill up quickly.
SHOPPING AND SERVICES
Eased Entry. The U.S. Visa Waiver Program has been extended to visitors from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta and South Korea travelers from those countries are no longer required to apply for tourist visas before entering the U.S., and may stay up to 90 days.