Best Deals and Destinations

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Jeff Hunter / Getty

Great Barrier Reef

For the week of Jan. 19, 2009


Fare Fall. Courtesy of your friends up north, a "winter clearance sale" from Alaska Airlines. Hop from Seattle to San Francisco for $59 one-way or from Boston to Portland for $159 one-way. Through Jan. 24, for travel from Jan. 23 to June 10.

Application for Admission. Visitors from any country that is a member of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program — such as the U.K., Australia, France or Italy — must now fill out an online application at least 72 hours before departure as part of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Visitors don't necessarily need to have exact travel plans when they fill out the form, so U.S. Customs recommends they apply as soon as they begin considering a visit to the U.S. The travel authorizations are good for two years. But if visitors get a new passport or change their name within that time, they must re-apply for another ESTA.

Winter, Island-Style. It's been colder lately in the Midwest and Northeast U.S. than any time in the past 10 years, so how much worse could it be in Iceland? Plus, they've got something we don't: geothermal pools! IcelandAir is offering a special five-day "Winter Wellness" trip with round-trip airfare from Boston, a room at the four-star Hotel Loftleidir, and entry to Reykjavik's Laugar Spa and Blue Lagoon for $669 for double occupancy. Want to save more? Try the airline's "Winter Budget" getaway, with round-trip airfare from New York City or Boston, and two nights at the Fosshotel starting at $479 double occupancy. Book by Feb. 13, for travel through March 31.

Military Salute. United has extended through Jan. 31 special fares for active duty members of the Armed Forces. Fly from New York City to Denver for $184 each way, or Chicago to Boston for $150 each way. Call 800-241-6522 and identify yourself as a member of the military.


Morning Warm Up. Your mother always said breakfast was the most important meal of the day. From now through March 26, you'll get a free hot breakfast when you stay at a Marriott on any Friday or Saturday night. Book by Jan. 26, and mention promotional code V12. 877-627-7468

Tax Return. The countdown to tax day has begun. To ease your inevitable pain, the San Francisco-based hotel chain Joie de Vivre will pay guests' occupancy taxes at any of its 30 hotels in California through April 15.

Drake's Discount. Retail numbers are dismal and getting worse, so if you want to help give the economy a boost, check out the "Shop Til You Drop" promotion at Chicago's Drake Hotel: Get a $75 Bloomingdale's gift card, as well as 15% off purchases all day. Rates start at $215 per night; through March 31. 140 East Walton Place; 312-787-2200

Road Rewards. Best Western Rewards members can use their points to buy an AAA membership. Use 12,500 points to join the auto club, which offers free towing and rescues from other travel disasters.

Weekends Half-Off. Save up to 50% on weekend travel at select Hilton properties around the world: Stay in London for just $81 per night, or Paris for $120 per night. Enjoy a few extra perks like 6 p.m. checkout and no charge for kids' stays or meals. Book between now and Jan. 31 for travel through August.


Recession Special. Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio's New York City restaurant Craft is offering to ease the strain on your expense account. Colicchio and executive chef Damon Wise have opened "Damon: Frugal Friday" in Craft's special-events space next door, with a $10-or-less menu featuring dishes like salt cod fritters; pizza with fresh ricotta, black cabbage and truffle vinaigrette; crispy pig ear, deviled egg salad and celery; and smoked beef tartar and spiced flatbread. Even the cocktails and wine are priced under $10. Seating is first come, first served; open every Friday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.47 East 19th Street; 212-780-0800

Wheat Whacker. Uno Chicago Grill may not be as glamorous as Craft, but at least it's made it easier to dine out with a gluten allergy, with gluten-free pizza at all 200 of its nationwide outlets.

Get It While It's Hot. New York Restaurant Week continues. Catch a $24.07 lunch at Danny Meyer's Eleven Madison Park (11 Madison Avenue; 212-889-0905) or a $35 dinner at the 170-year-old financial district institution Delmonico's Steak House (56 Beaver Street; 212-509-1144) while you can. It's back to business as usual on Jan. 31.


Wanted: Beach Bum. How does lounging on a beach sound to you — as a job? What if it came with a $100,000-plus salary? Well, lucky you. The tourism bureau of Queensland, Australia, is advertising the position of Island Caretaker, or, as the bureau calls it, "The Best Job in the World." The six-month gig, which begins on July 1 and is based on Hamilton Island, above the Great Barrier Reef, involves exploring and promoting the other islands of the reef. Other perks include free airfare and accommodation in a three-bedroom house. If you think you can manage this grueling task, work up a 60-second video and fill out an application at


Down to Earth. If you want to visit Madrid's Prado Museum, but can't afford the airfare, try typing Prado Museum into Google Earth and examine, down to the tiniest brushstroke, 14 of the museum's artworks, including Velázquez's Las Meninas, Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights and Rubens's The Three Graces.


Icy Embrace. Cold winter blasts may be sweeping across the plains, but instead of fighting the weather, own it. From Jan. 22 through Feb. 1, check out the St. Paul Winter Carnival in Minnesota, where there will be ice sculptures, snow sculptures, a half marathon, ice races and a torchlight parade, among other activities around the city.

Tea for Two. January is national tea month. To celebrate, peruse Tea Culture of Japan: Chanoyu Past and Present at the Yale University Art Gallery. Brought to Japan from China in the 9th century, it took a few hundred years for tea to catch on, but by the 1500s it was all the rage in Japan to have tea masters prepare powdered tea in elaborately choreographed ceremonies. About 100 objects, including kettles, bamboo tea scoops and ceramic tea bowls are on display through April 26. 1111 Chapel Street, at York Street, New Haven, CT; 203-432-0600.

Ah, to Be Young. State-run museums in France will be free to anyone 25 or younger starting April 4. There are worse ways to use a fake ID..

Bugging Out. If you think those skittering roaches in your apartment are speedy, corral 'em and take them Down Under for the Story Bridge Hotel's annual Cockroach Racing World Championships in Brisbane. The race, in honor of Australia Day, which is like Americans' Fourth of July, takes place on Jan. 26. Bring your own cockroaches or purchase one from the hotel. (Hmm, I wonder how they have so many to sell?)

Hot to Trot. Clear out! The Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon are being run through the city on Sunday, Jan. 25, starting at the American Airlines Arena and finishing in Bayfront Park. The gun goes off at 6:15am.