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National Parks To Waive Fees in Mid-August

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Good news for nature lovers (and those looking for some free summer fun): the National Park Service will waive entrance fees at a whopping 146 parks and historic sites across the country (some of which charge as much as $25 admission) on Aug. 14-15. Look for additional freebies (boating, horseback riding) at some parks.

In other park news, Yellowstone, the country's very first national park, saw a record number of visitors this July—957,000 in total, some 60,000 more than last July (its previous record-setting month).

Chicago is Worst Tax City for Travelers

USA Today |  Travelers pay up to $101 in sales, hotel, rental car and other extra taxes aimed at them on an average three-day domestic trip, a study out today from a business travel group says.

The study, commissioned by the National Business Travel Association, says travelers pay not only local sales taxes on goods and services when they go to a U.S. city, but up to 144% more each day they rent a car, stay at a hotel and dine.

The association, which represents 5,000 corporate travel departments and suppliers, estimates that each of its members pays $3.51 million a year in state and local taxes that target travelers—excluding what they pay in taxes on airfares.

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Vacationist: Sicily and More Amalfi Coast!

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This week, the values offered by Vacationist.com transport you to Southern Italy. (What better destination to top off the lovely summer season?)

With 22 cliffside rooms overlooking the Bay of Salerno on the Amalfi Coast, book at the Relais Paradiso—for up to 35 percent less than other booking sites—and you'll also have access to gardens, a solarium, and an outdoor pool/patio with spectacular bay views.

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Virgin & Twitter Partner for 24-Hour Sale

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Twitter & Virgin America have teamed up for what they're calling the #FlyForwardGiveBack 24 Hour Sale, with one-way ticket prices starting at just $39. To take advantage of this sale, which started just this morning, be sure to book by 7 a.m. PDT on August 4. Virgin will donate $5 from each flight booked (up to $50,000 to KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Classroom Projects on DonorsChoose.org.

See more details here.

Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy Virgin America.

Vacationist: B.C., San Francisco, and Tuscany

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Already took your summer vacation, but can't wait to get away again? Now's the time to book your next escape for a late-summer sojourn or an early fall weekend getaway. Go to Vacationist.com, and check out the newest batch of values offered by the some of the world's greatest luxury hotels and resorts with rates as low as $129 a night!

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How to See D.C. in Summer Without Killing Your Kids

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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.

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Vacationist: Greece, Palm Beach, Amalfi Coast, Hot Springs

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July may be on its way out the door, but there’s still plenty of time to book a dream getaway before the summer is up! Just hop on over to Vacationist.com, sign up for a membership, and take advantage of the fantastic values offered for luxury hotels around the world!

The Elounda Mare Hotel in Greece, overlooking Crete's turquoise Mirabello Bay, offers spectacular views of the sea and distant mountains. (If you’d like to avoid the energetic beach scene, we suggest opting for one of the roomier Deluxe Bungalows situated farther from the sand—with their own private patios and saltwater pools, it’ll be your own private paradise.)

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Europe Without Hotels

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New York Times
|  In the middle of a cool, cloudless Parisian afternoon, light was pouring into my guest room from a turn-of-the-century courtyard in the 10th Arrondissement. I clambered up to the loft bed, suspended above dark oak floors, and stared at the textiles shop sign swinging in the courtyard through the large, almost floor-to-ceiling windows.

A bottle of Bordeaux was breathing; other amenities included a pantry stocked with cereal, milk and yogurt. I also had a phone number to call if I needed dinner recommendations or, perhaps, extra shower gel. But I was happy sitting at the window, nodding at my new neighbors as they wheeled their bikes onto the street and headed into the cafe-lined Marais.

Hotel guests pay handsomely for such perks, but I wasn’t in a hotel. Nor was I in some vacation rental. I was in the home of Julien Szeps, a 26-year-old chef whom I met through a new kind of short-term rental service called AirBnB.com. And the studio apartment was only 65 euros a night, about $80 at $1.23 to the euro. Not bad for an entire apartment with a full kitchen and bathroom, less than 10 minutes by foot from the Louvre. (Image credit: AirBnB.com)

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Vacationist: Bangkok, Dominican Republic, Zihuatanejo

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Poo poo all those grumpy naysayers who tell you that summer’s almost over and you’ll never find a deal on a hotel room.  The poor things don’t know about the great deals being offered on Vacationist.com.  Here’s a look at the current slate:

Got “one night in Bangkok?"  You will want to stretch your stay to a few more days when you see the Vacationist offer for Lebua at State Tower. The Lebua, 67 stories tall, offers spectacular views of the busy streets of Bangkok from the serene sanctuary of its spacious guestrooms.   Vacationist is offering nightly rates for up to 30% lower than other sites for suites or tower rooms, with daily breakfast.

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Vacationist: Dominican Republic, NYC, Vermont, Mexico

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Fourth of July weekend is just about here! If you waited too long to make plans—or just didn't want to deal with the high volume of travelers trekking to and fro—then head on over to Vacationist.com and book a relaxing post-holiday vaca. The four newest properties on sale are:

Zoetry Agua Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
All your needs will be tended to at this all-inclusive Oceanfront beach resort, where check-in and -out times are non-existent. Spend your time taking up one of the many hotel activities—snorkeling, anyone?—or grab a beach towel and cocktail and lounge by the pool.

Topnotch Resort and Spa, Stowe, VT
Vermont is not just a winter destination, and Topnotch will help you take advantage of all the area has to offer. Get a tour of the lush maple and pine trees on horseback or head into town to sample tasty Vermont cheeses.

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