Budget-style family trips to Washington, D.C.—everyone sleeping in one hotel room with tiny bath towels doing double duty at a tiny hotel pool—can still be fun, don’t get me wrong. But just don’t try one in summer.
Summers in D.C. are brutally hot and relentlessly crowded. The museums along the Mall, because they are free and air-conditioned, invite larger than usual huddled masses yearning to breathe free air-conditioning. The crowds dully shuffle past Lincoln's top hat and Apollo space capsules and Plains Indian weavings, and what seemed exciting and inspiring begins to seem stultifying and meaningless. Your kids start to talk about the hotel pool. Frequently, and in increasingly thin voices. Your feet hurt and there’s too much more to see before you head back to the featureless hotel room. Budget no longer seems worth the savings.
This thoughtful package from the Mandarin Oriental (parents note: sun-lit 50-foot indoor pool, guestroom views of the Jefferson Memorial or the Tidal Basin) makes some sense if you can splurge and would like to avoid all that huddling and loud yearning.
Back in 1978, Congress enacted legislation that removed government regulation of airfares (and routes and timetables) while maintaining its control over airline safety. While this change stunk for labor unions and certain airlines that wobbled and collapsed in the competitive market (Alas, poor Braniff!), it’s generally paid off well for the rest of us.
The Air Transport Association, a trade association, has released a table that compares real prices of common consumer goods and services in 1978 and 2009 (not adjusted for inflation*), and reports that domestic airfare has only increased 42% and international airfare 52%.
Last year, my kids invited one friend each over for a slumber party. I walked them to Economy Candy with exactly $7.50 to spend on “refreshments” for the evening, ordered a pizza, and let them stay up late for the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. By all accounts, the party was a wild success. One kid got sick from washing down Sour Patch candies with milk (Who would have guessed there was anything as natural as citrus powder in candy?) and one kid fell off the sofa laughing, both of which events have provided fodder for a million jokes. I share this party-planning success story not because I see myself as the next Colin Cowie, but to illustrate that it doesn’t take a lot to excite most kids.
That said, the Plaza Hotel has a Live Like Eloise slumber party package for up to six children that costs upwards of $3,700.
The annual Tour de France bolts out of the starting gate on Saturday for three grueling and beautiful weeks of bike racing. The TV and online coverage, on a sports channel called Versus, amounts to a vivid travelogue with sweeping helicopter shots of aqueducts built by the Romans, crumbling medieval ramparts in the Pyrenees, and green, undulating countryside.
Remember that Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck ‘90s film Armageddon? About heroic and crusty oil rig workers charged with blowing up an asteroid before it crashed to earth? Cruelly, it was shown on a particularly turbulent flight I took across the Atlantic. As my stomach lurched with every sudden drop in altitude and I watched actors struggle to land on a Texas-sized asteroid hurtling through space, I wondered just who had thought that film was a good fit with air travel.
Such thoughts occurred again today as I read that the Denver Airport (DIA) has erected a 26-foot statue of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of death and the afterlife, outside the terminal. The sculpture was erected last Wednesday to promote an exhibit on Egypt’s King Tut, Tutankhamun: The Golden King & the Great Pharaohs, which opens June 29 at the Denver Art Museum.
Thos. Moser, the furniture-making firm, many of whose handmade pieces have achieved American icon status, runs a Customer-in-Residence program that could make the perfect Father’s Day gift for the would-be woodworker in your family. Never mind bringing home an ashtray or lanyard from camp—graduates of this weeklong program come home with a piece of furniture that they’ve built under the tutelage of a master woodworker.
The lucky five carpenters accepted into each session (applications are considered and previous Moser customers are given preference on the waiting list) are put up at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, Maine, land of the outdoorsy outlet shop.
I love baseball. Alas, as a Yankee fan without a major league income, I can rarely afford to see them, or even the Mets, play live. However, we’ve found a way to attend games: we see baseball when we travel to cities where ticket prices are cheaper. We favor urban ballparks because we try to roll other activities into these trips and stadiums tucked into busy downtowns afford fans a crack at museums and restaurants, too. Here are a few of my draft picks:
Missed Mother’s Day? Fly home to Mom’s and kiss her in person for less than cost of a bouquet of peonies.
In another giddy gesture to celebrate their 10th anniversary, JetBlue is having a 2-day sale. If you can find a remaining seat on any JetBlue flight on Tuesday or Wednesday, you can book it for $10. Just buy your tickets at www.jetblue.com/deals/ten-years/ by 11:59pm on Monday night and take a flyer!
Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of JetBlue Airways.
As a young child, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Rereading them as a parent, I’m charmed anew (but kind of stunned by what a single-minded nut job Pa seems to be). However homespun my reading material, though, I’m closer in temperament to Woody Allen than to Ma Ingalls. My family’s method of getting down to earth will have to come with an escape hatch. Like a farm vacation.
Feather Down Farms, a farm stay company from Europe that has set up housekeeping on three American farms in the past two years, offers curious city-dwellers a chance to experience a rarified and charming rural experience without any of the hardships that plagued pioneer families like the Ingalls and the Wilders (No locusts! No prairie fires! No wolves!), or even those that faced by modern small farmers today.
On its daily four-hour trip across a swath of southwest oil country Tuesday, Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer was blazing a new trail of sorts: one fueled by biodiesel. The run marks the Earth Week inauguration of a 12-month test of alternative fuels along the 206-mile route.
The fuel, a blend of 80% diesel and 20% beef by–product (if the train industry is shunning Texas oilmen, at least they’re tossing a shank bone to region’s cattle industry), performed well in lab test. Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions were reduced by 10%, particulates by 15%, and sulfates by 20%, so hopes are high for the track test.
And, no, the fuel does not smell like burgers.