For the most part, the exclusive Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, 50 miles south of Miami, is off-limits to you and me--unless we've been invited or we're prospective members. But things open up to non-members during the annual Vintage Weekend, December 2-5, when hundreds of antique cars, planes, and yachts go on display. The Vintage Weekend package costs $1,440 double and includes three nights lodging at the Inn, road rally and lunch at the infamous Alabama Jack's roadhouse, a Concours d'Elegance (that's an automobile beauty pageant) and luncheon on Saturday, inspection of antique planes at the club's private airport, cocktail party, dinner reception, and more. In years past the event has sold out as early as October.
Phil Anderson, general manager of the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York, is swimming against the travel-industry current, but he thinks it's the right direction to go. While many airlines, hotels, and cruise lines are increasingly "unbundling" their prices by adding numerous surcharges and fees so they can advertise an artificially low base price, Anderson has recently implemented a new pricing policy that is nearly unheard-of: the price you're quoted is the price you pay.
"It's counter-intuitive compared to what everyone else seems to be doing," Anderson told me, "but if a guest thinks he's getting a rate of four hundred and fifty dollars, why should his total be five hundred and thirty-one? Why nickel-and-dime people?"
So in an experiment this past summer, Anderson began quoting all-in-one rates that include the room, the resort fee, state tax, and occupancy tax....
Don't get too excited (or angry, exasperated, what have you) about all the blog posts today about stand-up seats in airplanes. Everyone is riffing on today's USA Today article about the proposed Skyrider seats from an Italian design company called Aviointeriors. The goal of these seats? To cram as many passengers into planes as possible. But there's no news here. The company actually announced their intention to create such seats back in July, right around the time I wrote about plans by low-budget Ryanair to install similar seats in their planes if they could get government approval.
Yeah, probably not gonna happen for a number of reasons, not least of all seething, frothing-at-the-mouth passenger outrage.
FAA rules on pilot fatigue have changed little since the heyday of the DC-3, despite the increased strains on pilots due to terrorism, advanced technology, and the greater potential for jet lag when crossing multiple time zones in a relatively short period. In his Fast Lane blog this morning, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said his department would propose new rules today requiring that pilots have an opportunity for at least nine hours of rest before a flight (an hour longer than current rules), at least 30 consecutive hours off duty every week (a 25 percent increase), and new weekly and monthly duty limits.
The U.S. State Department has just issued a worldwide travel alert based on the planned burning of Qurans by a Florida-based fringe religious group on Saturday, September 11, the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. The Qu'ran is the holy book of Islam. The planned anti-Islam event by Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, has already resulted in violent demonstrations in Afghanistan and Indonesia. "We urge you to pay attention to local reaction to the situation, and to avoid areas where demonstrations may take place," said the State Department.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor of Travel + Leisure.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government's right to search the contents of laptop computers at border crossings when the owner is not suspected of criminal activity. According to the ACLU, more than 6,500 electronic devices were seized and their contents examined at U.S. border crossings between October 8, 2008, and June 2, 2010. Nearly half of those seizures were made against American citizens.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old graduate student who holds dual U.S. and French citizenship. Returning to his New York home by train from Montreal, Abidor was interrogated and detained by U.S. border guards. His laptop computer was taken from him; when it was finally returned 11 days later, according to the lawsuit, there was evidence that authorities had searched his personal files, including online chats with his girlfriend. No charges were ever leveled.
You may have seen some of my rants here or in the print edition of T+L about the outrageous fees and surcharges the airlines tack onto their base airfares. The airline industry says the surcharges allow consumers to pick and choose the additional services they want rather than forcing them to pay for perks they don't need. I say baloney. They're doing it out of greed. The base airfares they advertise are deceptively low, and can increase by 30 percent or more when you tack on all the extras, like fees for carry-on baggage, checked baggage, telephone reservations, select seat assignments, meals, et al ad nauseam. What's worse, it's often difficult to find out about these charges until a consumer pays for the tickets or, in some cases, until he arrives at the airport.
Now some big guns are marshaling their cumulative power to challenge the airlines on these hidden fees by creating a new website called madashellabouthiddenfees.com.
Honestly, when you check out this video you will think it is a fake commercial from Saturday Night Live circa 1983. But no, the Snazzy Napper is a real product, an odd cross between a Snuggie and a burkha—and the video is so hilariously bad that it is going viral.
Apparently China's 10-day, 62-mile-long traffic jam between Beijing and Inner Mongolia is over. The heavily trafficked highway grew even more crowded than normal starting on August 14 because of several major road construction projects. Then, at a certain point, everything came to a complete halt. Drivers?including hundreds of coal-carrying commercial truckers—lounged around the side of the road, killing time and looking for bathrooms. Locals seized upon the opportunity to sell food and water to the stranded travelers at 10 times the normal price. (Who says capitalism can't succeed in China!) Raw video from the Associated Press (above) shows the scene just before the jam freed up today.
Take note, travelers: Sometimes it just doesn't pay to cheap out and take the free road. By all accounts the toll road that parallels the stalled highway was moving along rather nicely all week. This can be helpful advice to remember whether you're driving near Beijing during the Mongolian coal harvest or tooling through France at the end of August when everyone returns to work from vacation.