Travel News & Deals
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On the Spot: Stranded in Florence between Lufthansa and Vayama

Question: I recently returned from a trip booked through Kayak/Vayama and had a disturbing experience. Last month, we were to travel home from Florence, Italy, by way of Munich, Germany, where we would embark for Los Angeles. Because of problems at the rental car return, we were too late to board the flight. I was sent to Lufthansa customer service, which could not help me rebook because the flight was booked through a third party. I then called Vayama, which told me that they would put in a request for the rebooking but that because it was Sunday, the New York offices were closed and I would have to wait until they opened on Monday morning. This is a company that deals with international travel and closes on the weekends? My daughter and I were now stranded in Florence until Vayama could call me back Monday after 8 a.m. Eastern time, which would have been 2 p.m. Florence time. This would have eliminated Monday as a travel day. So I ended up buying return tickets ($3,200 for the two of...

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Hawaii: Free breakfast, discounts with Kaanapali Beach Hotel deal

The Kaanapali Beach Hotel on the western shore of Maui is one of those places with lots of free cultural activities. You can take in a sunset hula show and a ukulele lesson at the beachside hotel in Lahaina. Now there's something else too: For those who book by the end of the month, garden view rooms start at $198 a night and come with nice add-ons. The deal: If Maui is in the cards for a getaway this year, you might want to consider what's called the Catch of the Day package. It includes: --daily buffet breakfast for two; --lunch for two at the hotel's Tiki Bar & Grill;--$10 discount on adult tickets for the hotel's Kupanaha Magic Dinner Theater; --20% off a dinner entree at the Tiki Terrace Restaurant; and a $50 dinner credit at Gerard's Restaurant at sister property the Plantation Inn. The deal requires a two-night minimum stay and starts at $198 a night plus tax. Have an extra adult? Add $55 (he or she gets daily breakfast and lunch too); children younger than 17 stay free. When: The...

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What to do when your flight is delayed or canceled

You've probably been there: You are in a rush to get home, and your flight is delayed or canceled. What to do? Buy a new ticket? Before you spend the money, here are some things to know. Before 1978, U.S. airlines that faced a delay or flight cancellation were required to offer transportation on a competitor's next flight if that flight would get the passenger to their destination sooner. Airlines were even required to put economy-class passengers in first class if only first class was available. This rule, called Rule 240, was mandated by the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board and was incorporated in all airlines' contracts of carriage. The only exception was for force majeure — an "act of God" — which each airline could define. Most airlines have eliminated Rule 240 from their contracts. But here's what you'll learn from this Guide to Air-Passenger Rights at bit.ly/1sOrf1t by Airfarewatchdog.com (which I founded): At least three carriers still have Rule 240: Alaska, Frontier and...

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Web Buzz: Trip 180 makes volunteering around the world accessible

Here's a website that can help you travel with a passion and a purpose. Name: www.Trip180.com What it does: Makes the path to global volunteering accessible and affordable. What's hot: The website's easy-to-search format puts volunteer opportunities right in front of you. It's also incredibly detailed. I feel as though all the I's have been dotted and the Ts crossed, including pickup at the airport, orientation, Wi-Fi availability, meal plans, 24/7 emergency service and additional costs. That gives me a lot of assurance, particularly if I'm unfamiliar with the destination (as I was when I looked at volunteering at a football school in the slums of Kampala, Uganda). There are a number of causes to choose from, including children and youth, community development, education and literacy, wildlife, hunger, advocacy and human rights. Prices were surprisingly reasonable. What's not: Sometimes, I would click on a featured box only to discover that no current opportunities were available. It'd...

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More bank tips for when traveling abroad, and beware IRS scammers

Bank tips for travel abroad Good information on "The Long and Short of PINs at ATMs Abroad" in the July 13 On the Spot column by Catharine Hamm. I would also add: Make sure you tell your bank and credit card companies that you're traveling abroad, otherwise you may find a fraud alert on your account and frozen funds. Carry more than one card, preferably a bank debit and a charge card. Keep one in a separate place, such as your passport holder, for emergencies. Do your transactions during banking hours, so that if your card gets stuck in the machine, someone can get it out. Get enough cash to last you a few days so you don't rack up unnecessary bank charges. Mark Anderson Adventure Vacations La Jolla   Ruthless scammers The mention in the June 29 On the Spot column ["Be on Guard for Scammers," by Catharine Hamm] about a phone scam in which callers pose as the Internal Revenue Service registered briefly in my mind, never thinking that anyone I knew would not know that the IRS should put...

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Hotel du Vin a convenient, cozy stop in Edinburgh, Scotland

We recently spent four nights at the boutique Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh, Scotland. The building has character, with exposed stone walls, a cozy dining room with the bar area suspended above and an outdoor patio. The staff provided excellent customer service, and the breakfast buffet has a wide selection of delicious pastries, fruit, yogurt and other treats. The location is in Old Town, convenient for tourists and close to the University of Edinburgh. Doubles from $200. Hotel du Vin, 11 Bristo Place; 011-44-844-736-4255, www.hotelduvin.com/locations/edinburgh/ Cheryl Kohr Palos Verdes Estates

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Badwater 135-mile race debuts new route, bypassing Death Valley

Death Valley National Park blocked the famed Badwater 135 Ultramarathon from the park, but that won't stop the event from taking place Monday. Race director Chris Kostman debuts a new and equally punishing course that avoids the park and its namesake low point.  Runners -- 19 women and 79 men from 24 to 69 years old -- will take off on a quest to cover 135 miles in staggering triple-digit heat over the next few days. The race organized by AdventureCORPS starts in Lone Pine, Calif., crosses the Owens Valley and returns to its traditional finish at the base of Mt. Whitney. It begins with a tough, steep climb to the top of Horseshoe Meadow (about 10,000 feet above sea level) in the Inyo National Forest, returns to Lone Pine and continues on to Keeler along Highway 136. Then it's off on a dirt track to the ghost town Cerro Gordo and loops out to Darwin before returning to Lone Pine and the 13-mile uphill finish to the Whitney Portal. In all, runners will have covered more than 17,000...

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Belgium: When 750,000 begonia flowers come to Brussels' main square

Every August a huge flower carpet as intricate as a stitched tapestry takes over the Grand Place in Brussels. This year hundreds of thousands of begonia flowers -- it's never any other kind -- in deep pinks and reds will be used to create the geometric patterns found in a Turkish kilim. The theme is a nod to the culture of the 220,000 Turks who began coming to Brussels 50 years ago under an immigration pact. The 2014 Brussels Flowercarpet, as the event now in its 19th year is called, will re-create an Anatolian carpet with 750,000 flowers that cover almost 20,000 square feet in front of City Hall. How do they do it? About 120 volunteers spend seven hours placing live cut flowers along a sketch of the design laid out on a plastic sheet over the square's stones. The spectacular display lasts just four days. And it's always made of begonias. Though the plant is native to the West Indies, Belgium has been in the begonia business since around 1860, according to the event's website. It grows...

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Crystal Cruises plans 'unprecedented' Northwest Passage cruise

Crystal Cruises on Thursday announced its first cruise along the icy Northwest Passage from Alaska to New York on an itinerary that took two years to plan. The 900-mile journey sails through more than 20 waterways and stops in places such as Canada's Arctic region and Greenland on its west-to-east voyage scheduled for 2016. Crystal, which will sail the Serenity from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in 32 days, says it's the first luxury line to follow the route Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen discovered more than 100 years ago. "Crystal’s inaugural Northwest Passage offers guests the opportunity to begin a new story of thrilling adventure, all the while indulging in the world’s very best luxury vacation experience," company President Edie Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday. Hiking, climbing, fishing and even teeing off at the most northernmost golf course in the world are on the itinerary. The cruise line's announcement also talks about "surprise days" where passengers may go...

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Airfare: Fall/winter round-trip fare to Madrid $685 on Aeroflot

With autumn fares to some places in Europe running as much as $1,000, here’s a good fare to Madrid (but with a catch): $685 round trip, including all taxes and fees, from LAX on Aeroflot. The fare is subject to availability and is valid for travel from Nov. 17-March 13, excluding peak holiday periods. You must stay over a Saturday night. Here’s the catch: Flights connect by way of Moscow, so your journey will take longer. Info: Aeroflot, (888) 340-6400. Source: Airfarewatchdog Follow us on Twitter at @latimestravel

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Fairmont Singapore gets an update

Even a hotel designed by I.M. Pei needs an occasional update – especially with the tourism boom in Singapore. Fairmont Singapore recently completed a multimillion-dollar makeover that added a new lobby and a new ultimate standard room category called Fairmont Premier. The lobby boasts art installations and an adjacent hip bar called Anti:Dote.  In North Tower, 365 guest rooms were refreshed, and most became Fairmont Premier rooms.  When I checked room rates online, Premier rooms cost $20 to $40 more.  The redesign blends modern and Peranakan traditions. Pernakan is a blend of colonial Chinese and Malaysian customs and crafts. “In line with our vision to create stay experiences that embrace the unique cultures, traditions and heritage of the extraordinary locale in Singapore, we have incorporated modern interpretations of design elements that are distinctly local,” hotel manager Carlos Monterde said in an email. He said the lobby’s signature chandelier took one month to install.  Each...

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California: More tufa towers exposed as Mono Lake water level drops

The water level at Mono Lake on the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park has dropped 3 vertical feet since 2011 as a result of the drought. It has left a noticeable "white bathtub ring" that's clearly visible to passers-by, the Mono Lake Committee reports. But it also created an opportunity for visitors to see more of the funky tufa towers that define the body of water near Lee Vining, Calif. "... The landscape definitely has a more otherworldly look, with larger swaths of exposed mud, and tufa towers seeming taller relative to the lake level," Arya Degenhardt, Mono Lake Committee spokeswoman, writes in an email. "It's still a great spot to explore, and the photography opportunities are spectacular." The drought has taken a big toll on lakes in California and the Southwest. Lake Mead reservoir on the Nevada-Arizona border has hit a record low, and recreational Cachuma Lake in Santa Barbara is drying up too. Castaic Lake north of Santa Clarita has closed its swim beaches because of...

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