With nearly 24 million travelers on the road and in the skies this Thanksgiving weekend, Travel + Leisure gives you the lowdown on the busiest travel days, how much that flight will cost you, and where you can find hotel values this holiday season.
What to Expect:
A TripAdvisor® Thanksgiving travel survey projects that 35 percent of travelers are planning to travel this Thanksgiving, up from 34 percent who did so last year. Thirty eight percent of those traveling for Thanksgiving are planning to fly, while 58 percent will drive.
U.S. airlines expect the number of passengers traveling from Friday, November 16 through Tuesday, November 27 to increase by 150,000 people, slightly higher than last year (but below peak years of 2006-2007), according to Airlines for America. The busiest travel days are expected to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving (2.4 million), the Wednesday before (2.3 million), and Monday November 26 (2.3 million), according to Airlines for America, with planes close to 90 percent full on those dates.
This classic 9-room inn a block from the Kennebunk River is hosting a pumpkin carving contest this Halloween. Pick up a pumpkin at nearby Patten’s Berry Farm and take it to the pumpkin carving station. The pumpkins will be displayed on Halloween night, when a panel of judges will select the winner. The prize is a free night’s stay to be used anytime between October 2012 and the end of April 2013. Doubles from $159/night. www.captainfairfield.com
The inspiration for Steven King’s The Shining, this hotel has an on-staff paranormal investigator who will take you on a five-hour ghost hunt—if you’re brave enough. There is a range of other ghost and history tours available, and the hotel puts on a Murder Mystery Dinner on Friday, October 26, and a Shining Ball on Saturday, October 27 ($89 per person). Doubles from $169/night. www.stanleyhotel.com
Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando, FL
Book this package for a 3-night stay at Loews Royal Pacific Resort (on-site at Universal Studios Orlando), a 2-day ticket to both Universal Orlando theme parks, early park admission to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and one night admission to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, where you can experience mazes and haunted houses featuring “The Walking Dead: Dead Inside” based on AMC’s series and “Welcome to Silent Hill” based on the video games and film franchise. From $609/adult ($203/night per adult). www.loewshotels.com and www.halloweenhorrornights.com
Virginia Hotel, Cape May, NJ
A restored 1879 landmark building just a half a block from the beach, the Virginia Hotel has cottages as well as rooms in the main house. Its Creepy Cape May package includes continental breakfast, two drinks at the on-site Ebbit Room, special Fat Witch treats, and a Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour through the town’s Victorian streets with a guide who will relate the paranormal findings of ghost writer Craig McManus along the way. Doubles from $140/night. www.virginiahotel.com
Still looking to get away this weekend? You don’t have to spend a fortune to book a last-minute getaway. These five deals, from a luxury resort in the Pacific Northwest to a dude ranch in the Southwest, will let you enjoy your last bit of summer.
Set in the high plains of central Oregon, Pronghorn is the latest addition to Auberge Resort’s luxurious properties. Its two award-winning golf courses and access to some of the country’s best hiking, biking, fishing, and rafting makes it an incredible all-season destination and a top choice for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Deal: Pronghorn Adventures Package The package includes three nights in a Junior Suite, complimentary transportation to/from the airport, and a choice of any two outdoor adventures (for two people), including golf on the award-winning Nicklaus Course, rafting on the Deschutes River, a microbrew and craft beer tour, a guided half-day mountain biking tour, a spelunking lava cave tour, a Brews & Views canoe tour, or standup paddleboarding on the Deschutes River. Doubles from $199 per night.
This newly re-imagined 444-room resort’s new offerings include stylish new guest rooms, the signature bluEmber restaurant, the R Bar lounge, and Splashtopia, an exciting water playground complete with water slides, lazy river, and a sandy beach. The resort also features a 20,000-square-foot spa, a 27-hole Ted Robinson–designed golf course, a 25-court Peter Burwash International tennis center, and four pools.
The Deal: The Family Summer Getaway Good through September 3, the package includes accommodations, a Summer Passport with more than $500 in extra value, two Splashtopia inner tubes (which you can keep), a $50 breakfast credit to bluEmber or Palms Café, and a $28 daily resort charge. An added Labor Day perk includes the all-new “Picnic & Movie on the Fairway” program, with dinners for four from the Palms Café and a golf cart rental to catch a movie on the green, drive-in style. Rates from $179 per night.
Designed as an ode to Palm Springs in its Golden Age, when celebrities like Humphrey Bogart visited, this Hollywood Regency-style hotel underwent a full renovation in 2003. The 67 guest rooms are decorated in black, white, and yellow, and include Italian designer linens and bath products by Aromatherapy Associates. There are varied services available at Estrella Spa and three outdoor heated pools. As a fun perk, the hotel provides bicycles with attached mobile phones that connect directly to the concierge.
The Deal: The Twilight Romance Package In addition to accommodations, this romantic package includes a 30-minute spa service for couples under the stars in a private al fresco spa cabana between 9 p.m. and midnight and a complimentary bottle of Moet Ice, followed by breakfast for two. Doubles from $200 per night.
This is a great family getaway before the kids go back to school. The surrounding Sonoran Desert landscape, strewn with saguaro and prickly pear cacti, is a world away from your typical Rocky Mountain ranch, but horseback riding reigns equally supreme. Other activities include guided mountain bike and hiking tours, nature walks, fishing lessons, and cookouts under the stars. Children ages 4–12 can enjoy horse grooming, riding lessons, and arts and crafts.
The Deal: All-Inclusive Stays Over Labor Day weekend, get 30 percent off regular all-inclusive rates, which include accommodations, three daily meals, and free access to the entire list of ranch activities listed above, including the kids program. Resort rates from $175 per person, per night.
Located on a beautiful barrier island just a few miles from historic Charleston, these 500 vacation villas share the same amenities as the Sanctuary Hotel. During the day, take part in a variety of activities including kayaking, nature tours, and bicycling. At night, enjoy the outstanding dining options.
The Deal: Labor Day Weekend Beach and Breakfast Package From August 28 to September 3, book this deal and get daily breakfast for two and a one-bedroom deluxe villa, just a short walk from the beach with full kitchen and screened-in porch. Doubles from $175 per night (two-night minimum), plus tax and resort fee.
Stumped about what to get dad for Father’s Day? Why not treat him to one of these sports- or food-themed getaways.
Hyatt Regency New Orleans If your dad is the family chef, opt for the John Besh Package at this recently reopened hotel within walking distance of the French Quarter. The deal includes nightly accommodations, an autographed copy of Besh’s new cookbook My Family Table, a $50 gift card for Borgne, Besh’s coastal Louisiana seafood restaurant at the hotel, and breakfast buffet for two at 8 Block Kitchen & Bar. Doubles from $189.
TODAY Show | Feeling exhausted at just the thought of flying with children? Canadian airline WestJet proposed a humorous alternative in this April Fool's commercial. Instead of worrying about tantrums that might get you thrown off the plane, WestJet jokingly offered child-free cabins.
“It’s like our version of fruitcake,” said my Roman friend Enrico during my first Christmas in the Eternal City in 2002 as he sliced a piece of panettone onto a plate. As soon as he uttered the words “fruit” and “cake” in dangerous succession of each other, I lost my appetite, thinking of the “delicacy” Americans have relegated to a holiday culinary punch line.
I like to think of myself as open minded, especially when on the road. I’ve lived in Prague, Paris, and Rome, and have gluttonously celebrated holidays in each place. And while I didn’t end up eating the spongy, candied-fruit-studded dessert that night, I eventually learned that one person’s panettone is not just another person’s fruitcake. Enrico’s sweet of choice is what Pistachio baklava is to a Greek or amaranth-laced dulce de alegria (which means “sweets of joy”) is to a Mexican or a cardamom-scented cannoli-like krumkake is to a Norwegian. Holiday desserts—whether at home or abroad—are more than just the last course of a big meal.
We admit it—we’re free Wi-Fi junkies. And there’s nothing more galling than having to pony up additional scratch for Internet access at airports and hotels—especially after paying so much just to get into those places. So we’re always happy to see announcements like the one that came to us this morning—that Skype will be offering a free hour of Wi-Fi at participating airports from December 21–27.
Media mogul, philanthropist and former Miss South Africa shares her holiday season must-dos in Cape Town.
Climb Aboard a Sunset Cruise Bassie loves the sea, so when she’s in Cape Town, a boat ride at dusk is her idea of a great way to celebrate. “A sunset cruise around the V&A Harbour through MK Exotic Tours is a must if you are here with a group of friends,” she says. $428 for up to 12 guests (includes drinks and snacks); 27-21-552-0247
Attend a Tree Lighting “For a truly special treat, where you get to make a difference and have some fun, go to the Tree of Lights Ceremony at St. Luke’s Hospice in Kenilworth,” Kumalo says. On Dec. 4, a local dignitary will switch on the LED decorations adorning a massive Norfolk Pine. You can sponsor a light with an $8 donation, which goes towards the care of terminally ill patients. The evening is also filled with pipe bands, carols and food stalls selling. Tip: Take cues from Capetonians and arrive early (starting at 4pm) with your own snacks to enjoy on the lawn. 27-21-797-5335
You've heard the air-travel advice before: Don't wrap your holiday gifts before you leave for the airport because the TSA may very well require you to unwrap them during a security check. But there may be a way to arrive at your destination with wrapped presents anyway. This holiday season Virgin Atlantic is adding a few Christmas elves to the employee roster who will wrap presents for departing passengers on the air side of the Terminal 4 security checkpoint at New York's JFK International. The service costs $2 per package (100 percent of which goes to the Virgin Unite charity) and is available December 21-23, 2011.
Know any other airlines or airports that are offering a similar service? Tell us!
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.
Sleigh bells ring and snow glistens this Christmas in the red-brick New England seaport of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The 7th Annual Vintage Christmas celebration decks the halls with garlands of fresh greens and balsam wreaths, as the town aspires to be the Christmas Capital of America. If only we could tell Faith Hill as she croons "Where Are You Christmas" that it is here, wrapped up in a bow with fiddles, harpsichords, Victorian Christmas trees, and a free trolley through the downtown area.
Vintage Christmas events continue on December weekends this year, with historic homes dressed in their finest throughout the month. The cherished Candlelight Stroll at the Strawbery Banke Museum winds through homes twinkling in white lights, with costumed performers and hundreds of luminarias. New this year, the Market Square Carolers, a chorus of middle school students, belt out tunes as they walk around town. You just may glimpse a jolly, happy soul with a corncob pipe, a button nose, and two eyes made out of coal.