Travel News: An Inauguration Day How-To

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Jamie Squire / Getty

People line the streets of Washington, D.C., as the Inauguration parade goes by in January 2005

For the week of Jan. 5, 2009


Fare Sale. Southwest has fares as low as $49 one way between Denver and Salt Lake City, and $69 between Nashville and Philadelphia. Buy tickets 14 days in advance for travel Thursday through Monday, through April 30. The sale ends Jan. 19.

Rough Ride. just released its travel report card for the holidays, showing that nearly 8,800 flights were canceled from Dec. 18-28, 2008. With bad weather and capacity cuts, some passengers had to wait two to three days to get on the next available flight. For those who did manage to take off, less than half their flights arrived on time. Good thing Santa wasn't relying on frequent-flyer miles to deliver his goodies.


Obamania. If you can't get to D.C. this month to celebrate the incoming Administration, immerse yourself in all things Obama in his hometown. The Hard Rock Hotel Chicago is offering a "Barack and Roll" package, which includes a suite outfitted with red, white and blue bed linens, upon which you'll be served breakfast in bed; then you'll be ferried away in a complimentary limo to an appointment at Hyde Park Hair Salon, where President-elect Obama gets his hair cut. Next up, an appointment for a suit-fitting and personal-shopping experience at Hart Schaffner Marx, the clothier that made Obama's Inauguration suit. Ladies get "First Lady" treatment in the Hard Rock Hotel's salon.

In the evening, dress up for cocktails, provided by the hotel's Base Bar, then have a tasting dinner for two at Topolobampo, one of Obama's favorite Chicago eateries. If you stay the night of the Inauguration, Jan. 20, you'll get tickets to a Bulls home game. If that's not enough Obama, you can end your evening by watching some of the future President's favorite films (like Lawrence of Arabia and Casablanca) in your suite, and take home a gift box of some of his favorite books, including Moby Dick, and music, with CDs of Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and the Fugees. You'll also get a copy of Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father. The packages costs $2,009 for two nights. Book any time until March 31 for stays through Dec. 31. 230 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago; 312-345-1000 (See 10 things to do in Chicago.)

Out with the Old. If you prefer to flee the impending Beltway brouhaha, Florida's Amelia Island hotels are offering special discounts to residents of D.C., Virginia and Maryland with their "Vacation from Inauguration" packages. The Amelia Island Plantation (866-481-5057) is offering 20% off rooms; the Hoyt House Bed & Breakfast Inn (800-432-2085) is offering half off the second night of a two-night stay, and the third night of a three-night stay free; and the Addison Inn (800-943-1604) is offering 35% off stays of two or more nights.

Night Flight. Sweden's new Jumbo Hostel, a hotel located in a converted Boeing 747 at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport, gives you a chance to do what you've always dreamed: getting a good night's sleep aboard a plane. If you'll be flying out of Arlanda in the morning, the hostel is just a 10-minute walk from the airport's check-in desks. There's also a café on board, flat-screen TVs, free wi-fi and a viewing platform on the left wing. Jumbo Hostel's 25 rooms are shared, as are the bathrooms in the corridors, but there is one private room with an en suite bathroom available in the cockpit. Beds start at $45 per night. Arlanda Airport, Stockholm; +46-8-593-604-00

Dreamy Vacation. If luxury is more your speed, the recently opened Mondrian South Beach Hotel Residences in Miami's Biscayne Bay has 342 studios, one- and two-bedrooms and penthouses designed by award-winning Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. He's kitted out the entire hotel with curving staircases, dramatic columns, oversize furniture and even a giant lamp in the middle of the pool to create the feeling of walking through a fairy tale. Check out the hotel's spa, rooftop bar, five-star restaurant, two swimming pools and hammocks strung throughout the garden. The special starting rate is $195 per night. After March, rates start at $375 per night. 1100 West Avenue, Miami Beach; 305-514-1500

Let It Snow! Unable to travel to sunnier climes? Boston's stylish boutique Colonnade Hotel gives you a reason to embrace winter's deep freeze with the "Frosty Fridays" package. For a two-night weekend stay, you'll pay the standard rate of $295 for Saturday, but your Friday room rate will be whatever the temperature was that night at 5 p.m. The package also includes two tickets and skate rentals to Frog Pond on Boston Common, or a tour on the Old Town Trolley. Warm up with complimentary hot chocolate for two at the hotel's brasserie. Through March; includes parking. 120 Huntington Avenue, Boston; 617-424-7000


Last-Minute Meals. If you haven't been invited to one of the inaugural balls, check, the online reservation site, for dining specials at Washington D.C. restaurants. Alain Ducasse's Adour at the St. Regis and the classic Washington power-lunching spot, Old Ebbitt Grill, are still taking reservations. The local eatery Oakville Grille & Wine Bar in Bethesda is offering a special prix-fixe menu — the three-course "Red, White & Blue" meal for $30, which includes a "Blueberry Bama" or a "Very Berry Biden" martini on Inauguration Day.

Oenology 101. Try an educational vacation with some kick. San Francisco's Bruce Cass Wine Lab is offering a three-session weekend wine class starting Jan. 16, at the Kimpton Harbor Court hotel, meeting two hours each day, Friday through Sunday. Couples can get two nights at the hotel, plus the class, for $695; if you're traveling solo, the rate is $545. Normally, the courses cost $229 without accommodations. If you can't make this weekend, the Wine Lab is working on five to eight more dates in 2009. E-mail the school at for information. If you'd rather get straight to the drinking, check out the Wine Lab's recommended San Francisco wine-bar walking tours. (See 10 things to do in San Francisco.)


All Aboard. To accommodate the hordes headed to D.C. for Inauguration Day, Amtrak will add extra trains and cars on its Northeast Corridor route. Maryland and Virginia commuter-train routes are also being called into service: MARC, a Baltimore-to-D.C. commuter line, will provide reservations-only service on Jan. 20, with schedules coordinated with Inaugural activities. VRE, with trains that connect Fredricksburg, Va., and D.C., will maintain its regular schedule but require reservations. (See 10 things to do in Washington, D.C.)

N.Y.C. to D.C. for a Buck. If the price of an Amtrak ticket is too steep, try taking the Bolt Bus, a subsidiary of Greyhound and Peter Pan, which promises free wi-fi and clean toilets on board. Bolt Bus will sell one $1 ticket on each bus to an online buyer; otherwise, book fares online for as little as $7, depending on departure date and demand, or buy a walk-up ticket for $25. You can catch the bus at two stops in New York City: the northeast corner of West 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue, by the Sbarro's, or on Sixth Avenue between Grand and Watts streets. The ride takes 4 hr. 15 min. and drops you in D.C. at 901 G Street N.W., between 9th and 10th streets. Check the website for schedules.

Andiamo! High-speed train service has just launched in Italy, with trains, known as the Frecciarossa, traveling as fast as 217 m.p.h. The journey between Milan and Bologna takes just over an hour; from Milan to Rome, it's three and a half hours; and from Milan to Venice, 2 hr. 45 min. If you book your ticket before Jan. 13, you get a 10% discount.


Inauguration 2.0. A new iPhone app called PointAbout is a mobile Inauguration guide, complete with Metro and bus schedules, local weather, directions to the Inaugural ceremony, Zagat restaurant listings for the hungry and Starbucks locations for the weary.


Bird's-Eye View. Joining the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer before it, the Southern Star observation wheel is Melbourne's newest tourist attraction. A ride in one of the 21 cabins of the 394-ft. wheel (about 40 stories high) offers views of Victoria Harbour and takes about half an hour. The fare is $20 for adults and $12 for kids. Sudholz Street, Melbourne; +61-3-8688-9688