Travel News & Deals
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Hawaii: Aston puts its hotel rooms on sale with rates as low as $81

Aston, one of Hawaii’s largest hotel chains, hopes to lure mainlanders to the islands with a room sale. The 15% discount is good through Dec. 19. At some properties, the lowest rate will be good for the Thanksgiving weekend.

The “Aston Fall Special” is valid at all 20 Aston hotels and resorts dotted across the Big Island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.

Here’s an island-by-island look at the lowest rates. They are bookable using the FALL14 promotion code:

On the Big Island, rooms start at $153 a night at Aston Kona by the Sea.

On Kauai, the nightly rate at Aston Aloha Beach Hotel begins at $81. The property, on the Garden Isle’s east coast, hugs the banks of the Wailua River. The Islander on the Beach, pictured above, is as low as $116 a night.

On Maui, rooms at the Aston at the Maui Banyan in Kihei start at $124 a night.

On Oahu, you’ll find a range of options and prices. The least expensive is Aston Waikiki Beachside Resort at $102 a night.

I checked various dates throughout the promotional...

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Canada: Biennale to transform Vancouver into an outdoor art gallery

Giant jellybeans, circles of bright red squatting men and a tree sprouting psychedelic Day-Glo flowers are taking up residence in Vancouver’s public spaces. The city is ramping up for its third International Sculpture Biennale, transforming itself into an open-air contemporary art museum for the next two years.

Art biennales -- meaning “lasting two years” -- are held around the world, the best known being the 120-year-old Venice Biennale in Italy, but Vancouver’s is unique. Instead of works tucked inside galleries that charge admission fees, the art is outside, free and open to everyone 24 hours a day until July 31, 2016.

The 2014-2016 theme is Open Borders/Crossroads and features 92 visiting artists and 16 curators from around the world.

There will also be new media, cinema, performances, exhibitions and workshops.

But the soul of the celebration is the outdoor gallery of 20 large-scale museum-quality sculptures and art displays popping up in parks and open spaces throughout downtown...

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What travelers should consider when Alzheimer's is in the picture

We're not yet past Labor Day, but it's already time to start thinking about traveling for the year-end holidays. If you've done it before, you can envision the hassle of getting there when it may seem as though half the world is going too, never mind the expense. If you're traveling with someone who suffers from memory loss, there's an even greater price to pay. Can such a trip be undertaken? And if it can, should it?

About 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer's, half a million of them in California, two-thirds of them women, according to the Alzheimer's Assn.

The obstacles to travel for people with dementia and thinking problems (which is a larger group than just people with Alzheimer's) are considerable. A trip may be doable but requires the caregiver to do lots of planning, said Jan Dougherty, family and community services director for Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix.

People with memory issues "can't manage time and time relationships," which is key to much of...

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More for your money: Some tips on tipping in Europe

Here's a tip. Don't stress over tipping.

Restaurant tips are more modest in Europe than in America. In most places, 10% is a big tip. Please believe me — tipping 15% or 20% in Europe is unnecessary, if not culturally ignorant.

Virtually anywhere in Europe, you can do as the Europeans do and (if you're pleased with the service) add a euro or two for each person in your party. In very touristy areas, some servers have noticed the American obsession with overtipping — and might hope for a Yankee-size tip.

But the good news is that European servers and diners are far more laid-back about all this than we are. The stakes are low, and it's no big deal if you choose the "wrong" amount. And note that tipping is an issue only at restaurants that have waiters and waitresses. If you order your food at a counter, don't tip.

At table-service restaurants, the tipping etiquette and procedure vary slightly from country to country. But in general, European servers are well paid, and tips are considered...

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Metrolink adds late-night weekend trains for L.A. County Fair fans

If you're planning to take Metrolink to visit the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona this weekend or any weekend in September, feel free to stay until closing time. The commuter rail service will run late trains on weekends between Pomona and downtown L.A. during the fair's run.

The L.A. County Fair is open Wednesdays through Sundays until Sept. 28, but the extra Metrolink service applies to Saturdays and Sundays only when the fair ends at midnight and 10 p.m. respectively.

To accommodate fair-goers, the commuter rail service adds a Los Angeles train for Saturday visitors that leaves the Fairplex Station in Pomona at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, and a 10 p.m. train from Pomona on Sundays. Metrolink also is adding stops in Pomona on some weekend trains on the San Bernardino Line.

For day-trippers, the fair has added new shaded areas to shield visitors from the blazing summer sun. For those who stay later, there's a new feature called Luminasia where visitors can stroll beneath 50 giant lighted...

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American Airlines flight listings back on Orbitz after 2-day absence

American Airlines and Orbitz appear to have made up. The U.S. carrier's flights returned to the online travel booking site after the two signed a letter of intent to resume business, according to company statements.

American very publicly pulled its flight listings from Orbitz on Wednesday and had planned to pull the flights of affiliate US Airways on Monday. Details of the dispute weren't disclosed, but by Friday things were back to normal and consumers could buy tickets on both airlines through Orbitz.

"The companies are working toward final agreements based on the letter of intent," American's statement says. 

Orbitz chief executive officer Sam Fulton made this statement on the renewed relationship between the two:

"We are pleased that our long-standing relationship with American Airlines allowed us to quickly resolve business matters and that we continue to offer a broad range of options, including American Airlines and US Airways flights, to the millions of shoppers who book...

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Golfscape.com might fit sportsmen to a tee

Here's a smoother, more modern way to book your tee time at golf courses around the world.

Name: Golfscape.com

What it does: This website lets you plan and book golf games in the United States and 47 countries from your desktop, tablet or mobile device. Create a profile and make a wish list of courses you hope to play.

What's hot: It's a tempting site for the destination golfer. Scroll down the home page beneath the search bar to see featured golfing destinations in Da Nang, Vietnam; Cape Town, South Africa; and Hua Hin, Thailand, to name a few. There are plenty of course photos, a map and lists of amenities and weather reports, plus the opportunity for golfers to rate and review the courses à la Yelp or TripAdvisor. Users can make instant bookings in California, Arizona and Nevada.

What's not: You're getting just a sneak peek at features. For example, by year's end you should be able to search by city or individual course rather than by just a list of destinations. Also, there were...

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Travel letters: Couchsurfing.com another entry to sharing economy

I read Catharine Hamm's article "Learning to Share" (Aug. 24) with great interest. I have been thinking a lot about our sharing economy and whether it is really just that.

I was surprised that there was so little mention of Couchsurfing.com. I have just recently dipped my foot in these waters, hosting travelers from around the country and world. Unlike Airbnb, with Couchsurfing, no money is exchanged.

I open my home to travelers and offer a place to sleep. Beyond that, I offer what I wish or am able — food, day trips, etc.

The site also offers opportunities to ride-share and meet up. It is an exercise in trust for both parties. It may not be perfect, but it opens up a new world for everyone and the potential for friendships to grow across cultures.

It has expanded my horizons and is an example of the limitless possibilities of the Internet.

Jeff Bernhardt

Valley Glen

 

Sock it to 'em

Here's a solution for the smelly-feet issue on flights ("Raising a Stink When Shoes Come Off," On the...

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Films and events

EUROPE

Workshop

Hostelling International will conduct a workshop for those interested in exploring Europe by rail. Topics include types of Eurail passes and classes of service.

When, where: 7 p.m. Thursday at the REI store in Santa Monica, 402 Santa Monica Blvd.

Admission, info: Free. RSVP to (310) 393-9913, Ext. 3104.

 

CANYONEERING

Movie

Meet director Brian Olliver and view his documentary "Gorging," about the sport of canyoneering.

When: 7 p.m. Friday at the Adventure 16 store, 11161 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

Admission, info: Free. (310) 473-4574.

 

ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS

Presentation

Writer and photographer Wendy Windebank will discuss her travels to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When, where: Noon Sept. 7 at Delphi Greek Restaurant, 1383 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles

Admission, info: $19.50 for lunch and program. Hosted by the Network for Travel Club. RSVP to (323) 578-3601.

 

...

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In Denver, SAME Cafe may be ultimate example of sharing economy

Libby and Brad Birky are taking Labor Day weekend off.

I can't think of people who deserve it more.

In researching the sharing economy of Denver for stories on how that peer-to-peer experience is changing travel, I heard about the Birkys and their restaurant, SAME (So All May Eat) Café from Becky Creighton, who runs Culinary Connectors. She told me not to miss it.

She briefly explained what SAME does: serves lunch daily except Sundays to anyone. You pay what you can and if you can't pay, you can do a little work.

This may be the ultimate example of the sharing economy, the movement that emphasizes letting others use what you have, whether it's a car, an extra room or expertise. Some critics say it's about putting dollars in your pocket by sharing what you have; proponents say it's a way of making connections.

The cute café on Colfax away from the exposed-brick-gentrifying downtown of Denver is clearly the latter. SAME has some outdoor seating, some inside, where the décor is plain but...

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Plan now for a Christmas journey to the faux North Pole or Paris

New York City's famed Rockettes turned up on the city's streets in mid-August dressed as toy soldiers and rag dolls. There was even a little bit of snow falling.

The dancers and performers were out to remind folks that summer isn't too early to buy tickets to the Christmas show held each year at Rockefeller Center.

It's a good reminder. Here are some tours and trips ready to book if you plan to have yourself a merry little Christmas.

-- The Polar Express journey aboard the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Ariz., takes kids and parents to the North Pole. OK, it's not really the top of the world, but a stand-in west of Flagstaff that twinkles with lights and includes Santa Claus, hot chocolate, cookies and a reading of "The Polar Express."

Hourlong rides in afternoons and evenings run from Nov. 7 through Jan. 3, with a Christmas Eve Limited run on Dec. 24. Tickets cost $20 to $49 for children 2 to 15, and $39 to $69 for adults.

Info: Grand Canyon Railway/Polar Express, (800) 843-8724

--...

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Tours and cruises: Explore Cuba this winter

Warm up your winter with a trip that explores Cuba, from fast-paced Havana to colonial cities and sleepy fishing villages.

Sponsored by the Palos Verdes Art Center, two Cuba cultural exchange tours will focus on the people, art, music, architecture and history of the Caribbean island. Cuba, a land in many ways frozen in time in the 1950s, offers an artistic and cultural experience different from that of any other place in the world, says Cuba expert Mary Drobny, art historian and leader of the tours. One trip will spend New Year’s Eve in Havana, another will explore both Havana and regions outside the city that have changed little since the Spanish colonial era.

Date: Eight-night tours depart Dec. 30 (celebrating New Year’s Eve) and Jan. 15.

Price: $3,725 per person, double occupancy (New Year’s Eve trip); Jan. 15 trip, $3,650 a person double occupancy, plus $250 art center donation. Includes local and U.S. guide, accommodations, most meals, ground transportation, entrance fees to...

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