Agatha Christie's Private Escape, and Other Travel Goodies

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Mark Passmore / National Trust / AP

The English holiday home where mystery writer Agatha Christie spent her summers and entertained guests with readings from her thrillers is seen in Galmpton, Devon, southwest England.

Travel news, deals and updates for the week of March 2, 2009


Hero's Counsel. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who managed a safe emergency water landing of his aircraft in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, testified before Congress last week, suggesting more federal regulation of the airline industry and expressing concerns that deep cuts in pilot pay — his own check has been cut 40% in recent years and he's had to take a second job to make ends meet — are turning experienced pilots away from the field. "I do not know a single professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps," Sullenberger testified.

Potty Talk. RyanAir, the low-cost European carrier, floated the idea of charging customers 1 pound (about $1.45) to use in-flight toilets. It wasn't clear whether CEO Michael O'Leary was serious about implementing the fee, which he said would help lower ticket costs, or just courting media attention. Europeans may be accustomed to paying for using the facilities on trains and in public places, but let's hope domestic carriers don't latch on to the idea.

Fare Sale. American Airlines is putting international destinations on sale. Fly Los Angeles–London for $203 each way, New York–Tokyo for $425 each way or Miami–Aruba for $135 each way. The fares are good for travel Monday through Thursday, or Monday thru Wednesday for the U.K. routes. Buy by March 10; all travel must be completed by May 20. Check the website for other details.

In-Flight Movie Reviews. Flying anywhere these days will put you in a fault-finding state of mind, so now Delta is giving you a chance to channel that critical energy: starting March 2, you can go to Delta's website, view five short films and pick your favorite to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring (April 22 to May 3). The shorts, which include one about a woman plagued by an obsessive telemarketer, and another about a filmmaker's effort to create the greenest film ever, will also be shown on board Delta flights through Delta-on-Demand.

Lounge Act. Heineken has opened its first branded airport bar in Newark International Airport's Terminal C. Designed to mimic the first class airline lounges you've always longed to enter, the Heineken bar comes complete with free Wi-Fi, comfy chairs and private cabana areas. Oh, and there's Heineken for sale as well. Open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.


One-for-Two Deal. Stay two separate times through April 30 at any of Choice Hotels' 10 brands, which include Comfort Inn, Cambria Suites and Econo Lodge, and earn enough points through its Choice Privileges program for a free night at any of its 1,500 hotels. You'll also get free Wi-Fi and breakfast. 800-4CHOICE

L.A. Oasis. In L.A., the Luxe Hotel's "Stay & Save" promotion offers 15% off rates if you stay three nights, or 20% off if you stay four or more nights, through July 31. In addition to the discount, you'll also get a complimentary glass of wine or cappuccino in the Luxe Lounge, plus cooling cucumber eye pads in your room, which are intended to "soothe eyes tired from reading the day's financial headlines." If you want more pampering, get massages, facials and pedicures at the hotel's spa. The hotel also has a pool and tennis court and allows pets. Rates start at $199. 11461 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles; 800-HOTEL-411

Pay to Stay. Turning the tables on the usual promotions, Las Vegas's T.I. hotel is offering guests a free night in a deluxe room if they spend $169 or more on massages or other services at Wet, the hotel's spa and salon. Spend $299 and get two nights. The offer applies for stays Sunday through Thursday; rooms must be booked by March 23 for travel through March 31 3300 Las Vegas Blvd South; 800-944-7444.

Country Weekend. Nashville's newly opened Hutton Hotel claims to be the city's first green hotel. To entice you to stay at the eco-friendly digs, located near the Vanderbilt University campus, the Hutton is offering a grand-opening two-night weekend package, "With Love from Nashville," which includes champagne upon arrival, a candlelit dinner for two at the hotel's restaurant, plus a complimentary martini, breakfast and a $5 gift card from — use it to download any country western song you hear around town, the home of the Grand Ol' Opry. Rates start at $479 and are valid Friday through Sunday, through April 30. 1808 West End Avenue; 866-894-4609.

Surf and Turf. Zephyr Cove Resort in Lake Tahoe has a "Stay, Cruise and Snowmobile" package with two nights in a lakeside cabin, a snowmobile tour, a sunset steamboat cruise, along with breakfast and lunch for two. Rates start at $319 per night, through March 20. 760 U.S. Hwy 50, Zephyr Cove, NV; 866-761-6240.

Walk with Me. If you let your gym membership run out, but still want to break a sweat, Country Walkers offers hiking tours of destinations worldwide, including an eight-day romp through tropical rainforests and alongside volcanoes in Costa Rica (starting at $3,398); a week's trip to Mexico, including a horseback ride along a Baja beach and a stay in a 19th-century hacienda (starting at $3,198); a nine-day tour of the coast of Greece, exploring Roman mosaics and Byzantine churches (starting at $3,898).

Art and Commerce. Twelve New York City hotels — including Le Parker Méridien, SoHo Grand, and W — are offering Armory Arts Week packages March 4 to 9. The promotion includes tickets to the Armory Show, March 5 to 8 at Pier 94, the yearly art fair during which hundreds of galleries gather from around the world to show their 20th and 21st century works. The hotel packages also include discounts at museums and a 15% all-day savings pass at Bloomingdale's, with private make-up consultations, a customized SK-II facial and a deluxe travel-size item from Dior.


Online Upgrade. Answering customers' complaints about online rental-car services, Avis has unveiled its revamped website. The new design makes it easier to compare discounts and modify reservations, giving you a side-by-side comparison of your original and new reservation. You can also compare deals from Avis and other rental agencies without leaving the site, preview a picture of the car, and get stats on luggage space, passenger capacity and fuel efficiency. Extra fees, for GPS, local taxes and insurance, are broken out line by line, so there are no surprises when you get your bill at the rental desk. Another new feature for customers: you can register an email that will automatically bring up your reservation, rental history and a receipt when you log on.


Hear the Music. Create a downloadable playlist for your next road trip., a site created by stereo company Harmon/Kardon, assembles playlists that are customized to your route. If you're embarking from New York City, for instance, the site would suggest "Money" by Human League and, if you're leaving the city via the Saw Mill Parkway, the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There." Simply plug in the start and end points of your trip, and the site will generate a list of tunes you can purchase from iTunes, along with MapQuest-style driving instructions.

Me Talk Pretty. MeGlobe is a free instant-message based language translation service. Simply sign up and type in the phrase you'd like translated — like "large latte, and make it snappy" — and see the delight on locals' faces as you order coffee in perfect Spanish, French or 15 other languages.

Say What? Need instant Japanese translating? My Gengo offers translators' services via instant messaging. For five cents per word (pay via PayPal), you get a native speaker's translation, good for conversational Japanese. For 10 cents a word you get a professional translation of any text, useful for publishing. And for 15 cents per word, you receive "ultimate quality," meaning someone will proofread and double-check the translation before sending it.

Photo Finish. Canon's new $99 SELPHY Compact Printer, the CP780, promises to be faster and have better image quality than its predecessors. It has a 2.5-inch LCD screen to preview pictures, and you can outfit it with a Bluetooth adapter, which lets you send pictures from your cell phone to the printer.

Roadside Repairs. For easy fixes while traveling — like tears in suitcases — duct tape can be a lifesaver. 3M now has Performance Plus Duct Tape ($14 per roll), which was designed for use in nuclear power plants; it withstands temperatures of up to 200 degrees F and peels off without leaving any residue.


Art Smart. It's contemporary art week in New York City, which means you just might get a chance to discover the next Picasso. (These days, art is probably a better investment than stocks, and at least it looks good on your wall.) Armory Show is the main event, featuring 243 galleries at Piers 92 and 94. If that seems too overwhelming, there are smaller venues, like Volta, an invitation-only showcase for galleries like Swiss dealer Haas & Fischer, with sculpture including Joshua Callaghan's "The 100 Year Anniversary Commemorative Model-T Ford," and London's Rokeby Gallery, with video artist Erica Eyres' short film about a female-only future. If you want to see actual Picassos, the city's museums are offering discounted admission. Armory Show: Piers 92 and 94 (12th Avenue at 55th Street); Volta: 7 West 34th Street at 5th Avenue

Dame Agatha's Digs. Agatha Christie fans can visit Greenway, the mystery writer's beloved summer home in Devon, England, which is now open to the public. The bedrooms, drawing room and dining rooms of the house that inspired Dead Man's Folly have been carefully restored to their 1950s state by the National Trust. If you'd like to stay overnight, you can even rent one of two cottages on the grounds. Greenway Road, Galmpton, near Brixham; +44(0)1803-842382