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August 17, 2009

Where's Wendy? Vacationing Around

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska Last week the kids and I hit Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska.

by Wendy Perrin

In honor of the end of summer, and the preservation of my sanity, I'm taking a break from this blog for the next two weeks so I can have a true vacation. The "Deal of the Day" team and I will be back on Monday, August 31. Meanwhile, if you'd like to hear about my vacation adventures, you can follow me on Twitter, where I post quick updates and photos from the road.

Indeed, the past week has seen me Twittering from Alaska, British Columbia, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area. We even played a "Where's Wendy?" game on Twitter: I dropped photographic clues as to my whereabouts, and people tried to guess where I was. Click on each link in this sentence and you can see some of the clues I posted in Juneau, at Hubbard Glacier, in Sitka, in Ketchikan, and in Victoria, B.C. The whole time I was actually on board Holland America Line's Amsterdam, cruising Alaska's Inside Passage.

Upon disembarking on Saturday in Seattle, I popped down to Corte Madera, CA, to speak at the Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference. (First I was on a panel entitled "The Web: Blogging, Tweeting & Social Networking" with Jen Leo of the L.A. Times and Jim Benning of World Hum. Then veteran travel writer and conference chair Don George interviewed me for a session entitled "A Day in the Life of a Multimedia Travel Journalist."  Which only underscored my need for a true vacation.)

Now I've rejoined my husband and kids in Seattle. We're spending the next couple of days here before flying back East and driving down to St. Michaels, Maryland. As you may recall, we had an awesome time there last summer, so we're heading back for a repeat of the fun.

See you back here at The Perrin Post on Monday, August 31... or on Twitter later today.

August 10, 2009

Save $1,000 in Hawaii at the Four Seasons Hualalai

FS Hualalai
One of the pools at the Four Seasons Hualalai, on Hawaii's Big Island.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Daily deals That Four Seasons Punta Mita deal we told you about in June was popular: 18 Perrin Post readers called Terry McCabe--the travel agent we recommended--to book it, and altogether those travelers will stay a total of 41 nights there.

So we thought we should apprise you of a similar deal on offer from the Four Seasons Hualalai, which is giving away $1,000 in resort credits if you stay a minimum of four nights. As with the Four Seasons Punta Mita deal, this one represents big savings because, unlike most other resort-credit offers, you can apply the $1,000 toward the cost of your room as well as toward any incidentals.

The savings: If you book a "golf ocean-view room" for four nights and apply the $1,000 credit, the price of $815 per night drops to $565 per night including taxes and resort charges--or 30% off.

Condé Nast Traveler approved: This hotel has appeared on our Gold List every year since 1998.

Book by: There is no book-by deadline.

For travel from: August 15 through September 30.

Book through: We recommend booking through Terry McCabe, one of the experts on Wendy's list of top travel specialists, because she can score perks that you can't get if you book directly through the hotel--free daily breakfast, one free lunch per stay, and a room upgrade on a space-available basis.

January 27, 2009

Experience Obama's Oahu on the Cheap


by Wendy Perrin

If your appetite's been whetted by Conde Nast Traveler's February feature on Obama's Oahu about where the President eats, stays, surfs, and plays, and you're looking to get away before the end of next month, you should know about the latest big Oahu sale from Pleasant Holidays: 3-night airfare-plus-hotel packages from Los Angeles to Oahu starting at $299 per person. For $456 you can upgrade to the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa and for $493 to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa. These offers are combinable with the extraordinary added values available at many Hawaiian hotels right now, including third night free, guaranteed upgrades, daily breakfasts, resort credits, etc. (Reservations must be booked by January 31, for travel now through February 28.)

Of course, if you're flying from a city other than L.A. or you'd prefer a different Hawaiian island, Pleasant Holidays has plenty of other deals too. Why? My January Perrin Report on how to save money and travel smarter in 2009 explains why some of the best travel offers these days come in the form of airfare-plus-hotel packages put together by consolidators. After the jump, find out why:

Continue reading "Experience Obama's Oahu on the Cheap" »

November 04, 2008

Think Hawaii This Winter

Hyatt_regency_waikiki_2 The last time Obama was in Hawaii--a couple of weeks ago, to visit his grandmother for the last time--he stayed at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, which is offering third nights free, plus a comp upgrade and daily breakfast for two, through December 19.

by Wendy Perrin

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: This is the winter to go to Hawaii. I'd be headed there myself for post-Election Day de-stressing if work assignments didn't have me bound for other parts of the globe.

Last week I told you about fares to Honolulu for $244 from L.A. and $452 from New York. Then yesterday Beat of Hawaii reported fares of $421 from Washington, D.C., and $426 from Boston, including over Thanksgiving!

We also learned yesterday that Hawaii hotel occupancy fell to only 63 percent in September. That's the worst it's been since the months right after 9/11. All those empty rooms will force resorts to offer big discounts and incentives this winter. How to nab the best deals?

Continue reading "Think Hawaii This Winter" »

October 30, 2008

Rates Slashed for Hawaii Vacation Rentals

Pacific_charm The nightly rate for this Oahu vacation rental home that sleeps 10 has dropped to $120 per person. That's a remarkable price for a top-notch beachfront house in a central location.

by Wendy Perrin

Tempted by those dirt-cheap air fares to Hawaii and the tremendous hotel deals there? Keep in mind that you can often stretch your dollar even farther by renting a vacation home.  Rental owners in Hawaii are offering excellent deals right now, even for those Christmas/New Year's weeks that are normally sold-out at peak prices this late in the year.

Absolutely_kapalua_2 This over-the-top-luxurious villa on Maui sleeps 8. The nightly rate over the holidays is $238 per person, marked down from $350.

Anne Pawsat-Dressler of Hawaii Hideaways, who is on my rigorously vetted list of the country's best villa rental agents, updated annually in Conde Nast Traveler, says that renters have enormous bargaining power right now. Here, courtesy of Anne, are key bargaining tips for negotiating the best rate:

Continue reading "Rates Slashed for Hawaii Vacation Rentals" »

June 11, 2007

Anchorage, Alaska: Best Dinner

View of Cook Inlet, Alaska
The view from my table at the Crow's Nest restaurant at 9:00 p.m., June 7, 2007.

By Tara Kyle

The finale of my week in Anchorage was dinner at the Crow's Nest, which sits atop one of the towers of the Hotel Captain Cook.  This is the place for the city's best meal with a view.  We asked for a table overlooking Cook Inlet (see photo), but the view of the Chugach Mountains behind the city is lovely too.  There truly is no bad table.  Entrees are pricey — in the $30 to $40 range — so if you're traveling on a budget, consider swinging by the bar either pre- or post-dinner for a cocktail with a panorama.

crab soup at the Crow's Nest
The coconut curry and crab soup is, according to our server, the most popular thing on the menu "by far."

Continue reading "Anchorage, Alaska: Best Dinner" »

June 07, 2007

Anchorage, Alaska: Bike Rentals

Pablo and his bike rental hut in downtown Anchorage.

By Tara Kyle

Day 6 in Anchorage: One of the best reasons to visit Southcentral Alaska rather than the Inside Passage (home to the towns where cruise ships dock) is the drier weather: In August, for instance, Anchorage gets fewer than three inches of rain, whereas Sitka gets double that amount. And one of the best ways to see the Anchorage area is to take advantage of the sun and pick up a bike from Pablo's Bike Rentals, conveniently located next to downtown's Copper Whale Inn. You'll get exceptionally friendly service and a choice between $15 for a three-hour rental and $30 for a full day plus overnight. 

Tip: Skip the city's interior trails like Chester and Campbell Creeks.  They are poorly marked in sections and pass through some of the city's shadier neighborhoods.  Instead, go back to the Coastal Trail.

Continue reading "Anchorage, Alaska: Bike Rentals" »

June 06, 2007

Anchorage, Alaska: History and Art

A simulation of the semi-subterranean homes once used by the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands.
Photo: Anchorage Museum

By Tara Kyle

Day 5 in Anchorage, and I spent it at the Anchorage Museum at the Rasmuson Center. If you've got time for only one museum visit during a trip to Alaska, this isn't it:  I'm partial to the Alaska State Museum in my hometown of Juneau, since its permanent exhibitions include a cool simulation of the climb from a Southeast Alaskan fjord up into the mountain ranges.  But if you've got time for two museum visits, include the Anchorage Museum's upstairs Alaska Gallery on your itinerary. 

Kids in particular will get a kick out of the life-size simulations of late 18th- and early 19th-century dwellings used by Alaska's indigenous Aleut, Athabaskan, Eskimo, and Northwest Coast Indian communities.  Among the art downstairs, I recommend this summer's "Changing Hands: Art without Reservation 2" exhibit.  It highlights traditional and non-traditional works (some with a political dimension) from Native American and Canadian artists.  I particularly liked one piece, "Ethnopoly," that put a twist on the classic board game by exploring the racial dimension of pursuing the American dream (e.g. instead of chance cards, players would draw cards labeled "hope" and "fate").

June 05, 2007

Anchorage, Alaska: Hiking Trails

Flattop Peak was enveloped in mist yesterday when I took this snapshot in the pouring rain. The local kids climbing down from the summit were a lot tougher than I.

By Tara Kyle

Day 4 of my trip to Anchorage.  Alaska's most climbed mountain, atop the 1.5-mile Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park, is just a 20- to 30-minute drive from downtown. You need to be moderately physically fit for this work-out; the trail is steep in sections, and dislodged rocks can be hazardous.

Need something lighter?  We stuck to the Anchorage Overlook Trail, a much easier .5-mile path with plenty of nice picnic spots (and, in late summer, lots of nearby blueberries for picking).

The good thing about rainy days in Anchorage:  The city gets close to 20 hours of daylight in summer (tomorrow the sun will rise at 4:30 and set at 11:30). So, if it's raining in the afternoon, you can do your trail hiking in the evenings; it's not unusual for the sun to finally come out at 7 or 8 p.m.

For the fainter of heart: In bad weather, choose the Overlook Trail.

June 04, 2007

Anchorage, Alaska: Best Brunch Spot

Snow city cafe anchorage
Snow City Cafe is the Anchorage Press's pick for Best Breakfast 2003 and 2004 and Best Brunch 2005 and 2006.

By Tara Kyle

It's Day 3 of my trip to Anchorage, where locals know that the best spot for breakfast or brunch is Snow City Cafe.  They also know not to show up at noon on a Sunday and expect to be seated quickly. (We made this mistake yesterday and faced an hour-long wait.) Tip: Although Snow City Cafe doesn't take reservations, it turns out that if you call in advance they will put your name down and tell you an approximate time to show up.

Continue reading "Anchorage, Alaska: Best Brunch Spot" »

June 03, 2007

Anchorage, Alaska: Souvenir Shopping

Traditional Alaskan birch bark baskets from J. Choate Basketry at Anchorage's downtown summer market.

By Tara Kyle

Just spent the afternoon at the Anchorage Market and Festival -- a highlight of summer weekends here. Located downtown, just a short hop from the start of the Coastal Trail, the outdoor market has grown from a couple of dozen vendors 15 years ago to more than 300 today.  There are loads of local crafts, culinary treats, and free entertainment.

The best shopping is at the stands featuring native Alaskan crafts such as birch bark baskets (I remember birch bark basketry lessons from my elementary school days in Alaskan Studies class) and jewelry made from the ivory of woolly mammoths (I bought an ivory beaded bracelet for $20).

11,000-year-old mammoth ivory combined with stones like jade and amethyst.

Continue reading "Anchorage, Alaska: Souvenir Shopping" »

June 02, 2007

Anchorage, Alaska: Coastal Walk

Tony knowles coastal trail
Me (left) and my sister Megan (right) at an entrance to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage, Alaska.
Photo: Lisa Kyle

By Tara Kyle

Greetings from Anchorage, Alaska, where I'm taking a week to visit my dad and step-mom . . . and provide you with insider tips for things to see and do in Alaska.   Almost 600 miles northwest of my hometown of Juneau, Anchorage is a great base for a road or train trip to Denali National Park (home of Mt. McKinley, North America's highest peak) and a worthy alternative to the cruise ship destinations of southeast Alaska.

One attraction you won't want to miss is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an 11-mile path that snakes its way from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park. This is where locals come to jog, bike or walk their dogs. Because the trail is flat, it's a good option regardless of your fitness level. Not many of us, however, have the energy or time to invest in a full 11-mile journey! For a one-hour total walk, enter at the trail's northeast end, near West 2nd Avenue and the railroad depot (this is conveniently close to popular downtown hotels like the Captain Cook). Keep walking for about 30 minutes until you hit Westchester Lagoon.

Westchester Lagoon, a popular picnic spot along the Coastal Trail. In the winter, the frozen lagoon is groomed for ice skating.

Continue reading "Anchorage, Alaska: Coastal Walk" »

April 20, 2007

Alaska By Cruise Ship Or Ferry?

Accommodations are sparser than on cruise ships, but Alaska's ferries will let you see the state at your own pace.
Photo: Alaska Marine Highway

By Tara Kyle

In my cruise-ship port of a hometown, I always felt sorry for our 8-hour tourists.  When cruise ships stop in Juneau, passengers typically bus to the Mendenhall Glacier, ride past the crowded harborside strip of T-shirt shops and kitschy art galleries, snap a photo atop the Mount Roberts Tramway, and then rush back to their ship by late afternoon.  If they have the bad luck of a rainy day -- and most Juneau days are very, very wet -- they'll see even less.

So I was disheartened when Wendy showed me a Cruise Week report that the close to 1 million cruisers predicted to visit Alaska in 2008 will likely account for a whopping 80% of the state's total visitors.

Continue reading "Alaska By Cruise Ship Or Ferry?" »

April 02, 2007

Trust and Travel Advertising

Mendenhall Glacier and Falls
Still not in Tennessee: The Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska.
Photo: University of California, Berkeley

by Tara Kyle

As someone who spent her formative years living through all the good (hiking, skiing, glaciers) and bad (rain, cold, isolation) that Alaska has to offer, my blood boiled a bit when I read that Tennessee's tourism experts got caught using a photo of the Alaska Range in a Tennessee ad campaign.

The print ad, which appears in Outside and Travel + Leisure, shows a cyclist in the mountains and states, "You don't just visit Tennessee. You experience it.  Engage it.  Challenge it.  And, at any point on our more than 1,800 miles of bike trails, love it."  An Anchorage biker caught the gaffe: The photo originally appeared in a National Geographic article about --  you guessed it -- Alaska!

This is the third in a string of travel-advertising gaffes that Jaunted has noted this year:

Continue reading "Trust and Travel Advertising" »

March 07, 2007

Hawaii's Best Shave Ice

Matsumoto shave ice in Haleiwa, Hawaii By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader AGupta:

"We are going to Hawaii (Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island) in August. Where can we find the best of those shaved-ice snow-cone things for which the islands are famous?"

Boy are you in luck: I've gotten your question answered by none other than the Materialist herself. A fellow editor and blogger at Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, the Materialist is also a Honolulu native with impeccable culinary tastes who has brought her exacting standards to bear on your search for the perfect Hawaiian snow cone.

Photo courtesy of Matsumoto Shave Ice.

Continue reading "Hawaii's Best Shave Ice" »