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Hanukkah celebrations around the world

NEW YORK – The Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish organization is planning to host Hanukkah celebrations around the world, including lightings of the world's largest menorahs -- both 32 feet tall -- in Manhattan near Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, and in Lafayette Park in Washington D.C., on Dec. 21 at 5 p.m.

The organization has 3,300 outposts in 73 countries, including more than 600 places in North America. Many of them hold public Hanukkah events with candle-lighting, treats for the kids and music, searchable by location at http://www.chabad.org/ChanukahEvents.

The recent terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, included an assault on the Chabad House there in which six people were murdered. In past years, the organization had lit a giant menorah at the ceremonial Gateway of India on Mumbai's waterfront. Plans to mark publicly mark the holiday there were uncertain in light of the recent tragedy.

Trends: Less flying, driving; more buses, trainsMon Dec 15, 2:36 pm ET

NEW YORK – Here are some of the latest travel trends.

TRAINS, PLANES, AUTOMOBILES AND BUSES: Amtrak and bus ridership surged in 2008, but the number of miles driven by Americans and the number of air passengers declined.

INTERNATIONAL DESTINATONS: According to the Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, 10 most-visited destinations by U.S. residents flying abroad in 2007 (latest year for which complete statistics were available): Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Jamaica, People's Republic of China, and Spain.

For the first eight months of 2008 compared to same period in 2007, travel by Americans abroad was down 4.8 percent to Europe; up 4.4 percent to the Caribbean; up 3.7 percent to South America, up 5 percent to Mexico and down 5 percent to Canada.

TOP 10 DESTINATIONS FOR SPRING BREAK: Based on advance Travelocity.com bookings for Feb. 9-April 20, 2009: Orlando; South Florida (West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami); Las Vegas; Fort Meyers, Fla.; Denver; Phoenix; Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.; Cancun; Los Angeles and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

TOP 10 DESTINATIONS FOR 2009: As chosen by the publisher Lonely Planet's U.S. staff: U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Spain, Italy, Costa Rica, Iceland, Colombia, and the United Kingdom.

TOP TRAVEL TRENDS FOR 2009: Predictions from ad agency JWT (formerly J. Walter Thompson): Presidential sightseeing (Obama's Chicago, Washington for the inauguration, Lincoln bicentennial); inconspicuous travel, where tourists try to blend in; unconventional lodging, like home swaps or staying in a monastery; pod hotels, which offer tiny and cheap but high-tech, stylish rooms; personalized travel guides, like the customized books offered by OffbeatGuides.com; irresistible deals, like Disney's free admission on your birthday offer; and "glamping," or glamorous camping, where a tour company provides comfy bedding and nice meals so you don't have to rough it while experiencing remote or wild places.

TOP TOUR DESTINATIONS: According to an annual survey of 50 member tour companies by the U.S. Tour Operators Association, Italy ranked as the top international destination for packaged travel. Egypt was second, the first time the country has shown up in that category for the survey, and Latin America, for the first time, was named most popular international region. The most popular U.S. region for packaged travel was the West and the national parks, followed by Alaska and Vegas. China was named as offering the best value, and the Middle East was chosen as the hottest up-and-coming area.

MONEY-SAVING TRAVEL TIPS: Holiday air travelers who have some flexibility can save time and money. Travelzoo, which offers advice on travel deals, has these suggestions:

•Flying on Monday, Dec. 22, and even the weekend before can save up to 35 percent on airfare, depending on destination.

•Avoid the Tuesday and Wednesday before Christmas because they are the busiest and most expensive days to fly.

•Traveling on Dec. 25 or Dec. 26 will mean fewer crowds and less stress.

•The best day to get a flight deal after New Year's is Tuesday, Jan. 6.

Travelzoo also says you can save time by checking in for your flight online, where you can also change and confirm your seats, request upgrades and check the status of your flight.

HOLIDAY AIR TRAVEL: If you're flying to a holiday get-together, here are some tips from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to help speed your way through airport security.

•Do not gift-wrap carry-on items. Security officers are required to remove the wrapping. Wrapped gifts should be packed in your checked bags, according to TSA spokesman Christopher White.

•Do not bring remote-controlled toys as carry-on luggage. "Unfortunately in this world we live in, terrorists have an interest in using remote-controlled detonators," White said. You can put them in checked bags.

•Pies and other food, such as gingerbread cookies and the like, are permitted as carry-on items. "It doesn't matter the consistency, though we may perform some additional scrutiny on the passenger or the plate," White said.

•Jams and jellies are considered gels and are therefore subject to carry-on rules requiring that they be in containers no bigger than 3 ounces and that they all fit in a clear quart-size zip-top plastic bag. Otherwise, wrap them carefully to prevent breakage and put them with your checked bags.

•Every airport in the country with more than one security lane now has a designated "family lane," but you don't need to be traveling with children to use it, according to White. These lanes are open to any travelers who don't want to be rushed, whether due to special needs or just wanting a few more minutes to remove shoes and coats, open laptops and deal with other items. Travelers carrying medically necessary liquids over 3 ounces should also use the family lanes, White said.

NEW CHICAGO-MEXICO ROUTE: AeroMexico has started non-stop service between O'Hare International Airport and Morelia, Mexico. Four flights will operate each week, but daily service will be available during the holidays between Dec. 15 and Jan. 11.

Flights will depart Chicago at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Flights leave Morelia at 2:20 a.m. on the same days.

NEW TRAIN HUB IN ST. LOUIS: St. Louis residents for years have boarded trains from a no-frills building known locally as the "Am-shack."

Not anymore. After about two decades of planning and work, state and city officials opened a new $28 million transportation hub downtown where commuters can catch the bus, light rail and Amtrak trains.

The new Gateway Transportation Center is a building where Amtrak, Greyhound, MetroLink and MetroBus converge.

The new facility features a 24-hour operations staff, security and food service.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay called the opening both "a joy and a relief."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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