Escapes: Travel deals? You want them, we’ve got them

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which each year has around 100 lighted and decorated sailboats, yachts, canoes and kayaks, runs Dec. 18-22 this year.
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which each year has around 100 lighted and decorated sailboats, yachts, canoes and kayaks, runs Dec. 18-22 this year.
(Visit Newport Beach)

Cheap airline tickets. Discounted tours. Reduced hotel rates. And don’t forget Vegas, which has fee-free stays, second rooms for free and dollars off regular rates. It’s a bargain hunter’s bonanza, thanks to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and also thanks to our time zone.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. What’s better than a Thanksgiving dinner? Discounts. Freebies. Any chance to stretch your travel dollars — and sometimes earlier than Friday, because many of these start just after midnight in the Eastern time zone, when it will still be a reasonable 9 p.m. Thursday in Southern California.

We also shine a light on places where you can see the holidays take on a certain glow, including an amazing show in Solvang. If you’re a little overwhelmed with turkey day detritus, take some time to dream about a weekend getaway to Todos Santos, Mexico. Or if you’re headed home already, we offer a primer on how to drive with… snow chains? Yep. Plus: why you need to keep your mouth in the closed position on a car trip, and a host of survival tips for those whose plans include an airport.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers. May your blessings be as numerous as the vehicles stuck in L.A. traffic.


Black Friday/Cyber Monday travel savings

Here, from Mary Forgione and Jay Jones, our intrepid bargain hunters, is a compendium of travel tips, trips, ideas and awesome savings:

— In Vegas, bargains include as much as 40% off rooms.

Airfare deals, including a sub-$400 fare to Stockholm and other savings tips for finding fares.

— Want to take a tour? Find some of the best bargains in this roundup — hotels, too.

See the light

There’s just something about a beautiful display of holiday lights that can set the mood, and April Orcutt has gathered some of the best in the West, including some close to home. Consider too, Mary Forgione writes, seeing a different kind of show, this one done by drones in Solvang.

Santa in the sky will be part of the holiday drone show for Julefest in Solvang, Calif.

Holiday travel help

You may be at your destination now but you’ll still have the trip home to contend with. Here is some of what you need to know about:

— Driving. Chains may be required for some destinations, and Chris Erskine tells you how to cope.

— Getting Uber, Lyft or a taxi home. Christopher Reynolds explains how to navigate the new rules for leaving LAX.

Finding parking at LAX. If you don’t have a reservation, Bharbi Hazarika writes, good luck. And you’ll know for next time.

— Keeping your trap shut. In my On the Spot column, we pose this question: Are you the Satan of back-seat drivers? Whether you’re going 50 or 550 miles, you might want to cool it with the unwanted advice — always, but especially around the holidays.

Best advice for back-seat drivers: Put a sock in it.
(Jason Ford / For The Times)

Picture this in Vegas

It used to be verboten to take photos inside a Las Vegas casino, partly for security reasons but also because it can be disruptive. But now, in some places you can photograph to your heart’s content, Michael Hiller writes. In fact, they encourage it. Find out where you can snap your ultimate selfie.

Take a break from the kitchen, and think Baja

Stop for a moment to embark on a quick mental vacay and read Christopher Reynolds’ article about Todos Santos. It’s not quite the oasis of sanity it used to be, but it’s not Los Cabos, either. Some great fare, plus baby turtles. Can you beat that combination? We think not.

Todos Santos, about an hour north of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, features miles of mostly empty beach with rough surf and plenty of seabirds.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

What we’re reading

Want to feel like the great unwashed? Fly economy class, where you parade by those who spend money on your way to join those who save money. But now even economy comes with its own aeronautical hierarchy, Chris McGinnis writes for SFGate, explaining the gradations in seating and why you might want to think again before accepting the lowest of the low fares.

Does anything feel quite as warming on the tongue as a spot of tea? As we endure these rainy days (or revel in them), take a tea trip through Taiwan, courtesy of Laura Kiniry, writing for Smithsonian. She treats tea with the kind of precision and care you’d expect from a wine writer and brings alive the flavors. She also doesn’t neglect the much-consumed boba. It isn’t in the same league as, say, Alishan tea, which she describes as the “Champagne of teas,” but could a tea story ignore this popular drink?

Add sharks to the many charms of Kansas. (Don’t say it; you know I love the place, and you’ll hurt my feelings.) Before it was fields of wheat, corn, soybeans and milo, Kansas was part of a watery pathway from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, Isaac Schultz writes for Atlas Obscura. Some 91-million-year-old teeth were discovered a decade ago in Mitchell County, about 200 miles west of Kansas City, Mo. They’re from a creature that is thought to be a relative of the great white, although ponderous, according to the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The teeth are in the Sternberg Museum of Natural History at Ft. Hays State University in western Kansas.

Our holiday wish for your reading list

The Los Angeles Times. It just makes sense to subscribe. Where else are you going to find out what restaurants and stores are open on Thanksgiving and how to navigate LAX during the holiday madness, plus read the moving story of a Paradise, Calif., football player who gives thanks in the face of loss? Where else can you find something that’s made every day just for you? Check out our subscription deals.

The newsletters of the Los Angeles Times. We’re partial, of course, to this one and our newly reformatted Vegas newsletter, but there are many, many other excellent choices. Best of all, they are free and definitely worth far more than you pay for them. Check them out at our newsletter center.

Your emails. We like hearing from you, happy or sad, mad or glad. Tell us how to improve or just tell us you like us, you really like us. But don’t forget to write:

End paper

April Orcutt’s story on holiday lights brings back happy memories of holiday lights on our house.

At least, the lights on the house were happy for me. Not so much for my father, whose job it was to put them up. It was especially arduous the five years we lived in Syracuse, N.Y., where there were two seasons: winter and July 7.

My mother wouldn’t allow the lights that early (and also insisted they be taken down in January), so he would get out there on a ladder and have my mother standing by with a pan of warm water. He’d nail up a few, then climb down, put his hands in the warm water (because you can’t hang Christmas lights wearing thick gloves), dry his hands, go back up the ladder, nail in a few more, then back down. Up and down, until they were all done and his adoring daughters could run out to see them, then run back inside because, darn it, it was cold.

The child’s world remembers the magic; the grown-up’s imagines the misery. (I also imagine how happy he was when we were transferred to Honolulu and Manila, how sad when we ended up back in Washington, D.C. But he never complained, although he might have looked a bit pained.)

No wonder they retired in Southern California. He still hung the lights but he put up hooks (and painted the hooks to match the house so they weren’t an eyesore the rest of the year).

He died in 1990, but I continued to string those lights every year until my mom moved into a retirement home in 2008. He’d made it easy, and I thanked him silently every year.

I still put up lights — solar now — on my own house. On the shortest days of the year, arriving home and seeing them twinkling reminds me that there can be, should be and will be light even in the gloom of a December evening.

Wherever you are this holiday, travel safely and well, look for the light, and remember that we’ll always be here to welcome you home.