Archive for the ‘News’ Category Has a New Biggest Fan!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

“The hotel pool is usually filled with water,” he says, as he dances, clad in a tight red swimwear with a number of lovely ladies in a luxurious hotel pool. He goes on to explain, “The hotel gym is short for gymnasium,” and “The hotel lounge is where you do your lounging.”


Who is this very observant man? Introducing Captain Obvious, the new biggest fan of and main character of the brand’s latest TV commercials. The new creative campaign, the most robust creative launch in the 23-year history of, shows why it is the obvious choice for booking hotels. Upcoming commercials will focus on obvious differentiators, such as the award-winning mobile app, hotel deals, the brand’s more than 10 million genuine guest reviews, and the Welcome Rewards loyalty program.

Take a look at the new ad here and let us know your thoughts! We think you’ll like it, obviously…



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Are You Ready for The Winter Olympics? Tips for a Front Row View (Whether You Are Traveling or Not)

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The upcoming 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will feature some of the greatest demonstrations of athleticism and skill in the Games’ history.

Travel Warning for Those Heading to Sochi

If you are packing your babushka and making the trip to Russia next month for the Winter Olympics, be advised that the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for Americans planning to attend the Games. United States intelligence officials are considering recent threats from terror groups against the Olympics to be very serious.

  • Sign up for the STEP program (allows the US government to better contact you with information during overseas travel) and keep up on important Visitor information for Travel to the Olympic Games.
  • The State Department also said that Americans should consider buying private medical evacuation insurance as medical facilities are “untested” in Sochi.
  • An additional warning was also made for Americans to be wary of common criminal activity, which tends to increase at most large gatherings around the world. Here are a few tips on how to keep money safe when traveling abroad that we posted a few years ago here on Travel Smart Blog.

Safety Precaution: Ban on ALL Liquids
Most people heading to Sochi will travel through one of Moscow’s two main international airports. A flat ban on all carry-on liquids as part of a mass security clampdown has been announced, and the ban covers “all liquids, including personal hygiene items, cosmetics, medicines, liquids, sprays and gels in any amount.”

Watch Every Competition as it Happens

Thanks to amazing sports production, the best seat in the house may literally be in your living room. And this year, that statement couldn’t be more truthful.  You can have a rink-side seat to all the Winter Games thanks to  NBC will broadcast ALL competitions online as they happen. With more than 1,000 hours of live streaming coverage, combined with the 539 hours scheduled to be televised on NBC and its affiliate stations, next month’s coverage of the 2014 Olympics will be more than the coverage of the past two Winter Olympics combined.

The NBC Olympics Twitter handle and Vine app will be great for real-time Olympic news and athlete interviews once the games begin on February 6th.

  • If you do want to stream the Games live, you’ll have to register your satellite or cable TV subscription with NBC’s Live Extra site.
  • The NBC Sports Live Extra App is another option if you have a paid-TV subscription, as the app allows for live streaming and full event replays on your phone. The app, which is free, is available for both iOS and Android operating systems.

Do Not Miss

  • 12 new events have been added to this year’s Games including the women’s Ski Jump, and Ski Half Pipe and Ski Slope Style are two new freestyle skiing events for both men and women.
  • Men’s and Women’s Figure Skating. It’s always popular but the U.S. Team is already packing its own controversies, which will make chasing Gold that much harder.
  • Men’s Hockey. Rumor has it that of all events in the Games, this is the one that host-country Russia really cares about.


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New Year, New Hotels

Friday, January 17th, 2014

2014 may just be the year of the hotel.  There are numerous new hotels scheduled to open this year from Asia to the Caribbean and everywhere in between; new brands, new concepts, and hotels that are “new again” will make their rooms available to you.

Here are a few of the standout hotels launching here in the U.S. in 2014:

Loews Regency Hotel New York reopened this week at its power location on Park Avenue. After closing for nearly two years for a mega $110 Million makeover, the new-again hotel will feature all the luxury you’d expect plus a sophisticated new restaurant and a 17000 square foot Julien Farel Salon, a complete spa and fitness facility.

New York City is also now home to the tallest hotel in North America. The $320 million, 68-story building houses both a Courtyard by Marriott and a Residence Inn. The Courtyard’s 378 rooms are located on floors six through 33, while the 261-suite Residence Inn takes up the upper level floors 37 through 65. The latter is only available for stays of five nights or more. However, it doesn’t come close to being the tallest hotel in the world. Those honors belong to the 1,164-foot JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai.

InterContinental Hotel Groups is set to introduce a new line of hotels that is all about healthy living, fitness and wellness while traveling. EVEN Hotels will debut in cities across the U.S. with the first properties opening this June in Rockville, M.D. and Norwalk, C.T.

Next time you are in Los Angeles, plan to stay at the new Ace Hotel L.A.  The recently opened hotel is as refreshing to the Los Angeles hotel scene as a truly unique actor is to an audition. Don’t miss it.

Chicago will be adding a few new hotels to its roster.  A hotel transformation is underway for the Amalfi Hotel, which will soon become The Kinzie Hotel. After a multi-million dollar renovation, the 215-room hotel makes its debut in February. Guests can expect FREE Wi-Fi, breakfast goodies and coffee.

Sir Richard Branson is bringing his brand into bed with the opening of The Virgin Hotel Chicago expected summer 2014. The 250-room hotel will feature contemporary style, personalized service, innovative technology, and of course, Virgin’s signature Clubhouse.

Let us know if you plan to visit any of these new hotels!



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The College Bowl Game Predicament

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Dedicated college football fans live and die by their team’s success each Saturday during football season. The thrill of watching your favorite team from the bleachers and not from the living room is a privilege that doesn’t come cheap. Travel to a bowl game, and the cost gets even higher. This bowl season, several teams (and their fans) are making cross-country trips, including the National Championship game, featuring Auburn and Florida State University.

College bowls are typically played in cities that make for a good winter weather escape: Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, Orlando, Atlanta, for example. This year, college football fans are finding it difficult to afford the travel cost of the bowl experience. And in turn, their universities are having trouble selling the ticket allotment they were required to purchase.


Finding decent prices on airfare with such a quick turnaround is extremely challenging for fans. Tickets to the bowl games range from $95-$275, legitimately. Factor in other expenses such as organized festivities, celebrating after the game, lodging, food, attire, and it could get pricey quick.

Take UCF in Orlando. The team will square off against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona on January 3rd, but it’s going to be without its fan base. The high cost of plane tickets from Orlando to Phoenix during bowl week has jumped to more than $700; and has left the school with 75% of its ticket allotment.

Here are a few money saving tips if you’re hoping to attend a college bowl game this season:

  • Book now
  • When shopping for flights, consider flying into a larger airport within driving distance and then renting a car or taking a bus to the bowl city
  • Choose a hotel located 10-15 miles away from the bowl venue. Hotel prices and occupancy will be much higher the closer the hotel is located to the stadium.


I want to make a special shout-out to my hometown, Tampa, which will host the College Football Championship in 2017 for the first time.



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Are You Ready? Holiday Travel Do’s and Don’ts

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Halloween may be over but there’s another scary scene upon us, the holiday travel season! Shriek! Yes, traveling over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years to visit with family and friends is often a blessing and a curse. Staying on par with the resurgence of travel confidence demonstrated this year; the 2013 holiday travel season is forecasted to be the busiest and most expensive in five years. So, here are a few things you need to know if you are planning to travel for the holidays.

0_219004The Flying Frenzy: The Truth About Airlines at the Holidays

The best time to buy lower fare tickets has long since passed (for holiday travel specifically). In fact, the leading airfare booking sites are already reporting that prices are up significantly over last year’s holiday fares, as much as 17% into popular destinations such as New York City, San Francisco and Orlando. And, airports are expecting record traffic this Thanksgiving.

So, here are my big holiday flying tips:

  1. If you see a flight that you want, don’t wait for a deal, book it! Last minute deals between now and New Years will be just like your Halloween candy…gone. And soon all the seats will be, too.
  2. Travel on actual holiday days is always more affordable than the one or two days before. The most expensive days to fly: the Sundays before Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
  3. Watch your connections! Weather this time of year can wreak havoc for travelers trying to get to grandmother’s house for some pumpkin pie. The best time to avoid weather delays and missed connections is traveling in the morning before flights get backed up or cancelled. Give yourself enough time between connections to avoid missing your flights, especially if you are flying in and out of airports in Chicago, Atlanta, or New York.

Is Your Family Sitting Together?

Airlines are increasingly charging extra to pick a seat when travelers buy their tickets. But you don’t have to pay extra for that. Just make sure you check in online as soon as you can to try to secure seats together. Airlines do and will separate families, even with small children. During this busy time when planes are full, switching seats will be a challenge. Check now so you know what effort you may need to make. You can even try to call the airline to see if there is any “seat shifting” that they may be able to help you with once you’ve booked your ticket. Otherwise, arrive to the gate early and make your request to the Gate Agent, and don’t be afraid to ask another passenger to trade with you so that you can sit with your children. When I have been in this situation, I have purchased a drink for the passenger who was willing to switch with my family member. Just let the flight attendant know and they can tell the helpful traveler of your thankful gesture.

Reserve Your Parking Spot NOW

Reserve your airport parking spot ahead of time. You can count on airport parking lots to be full this year, too. You’d hate to miss your flight because you couldn’t find a place to park. Many companies such as Parking Spot, Wally Park and Park Ride Fly USA take reservations and even offer premium valet services in cities across the US.

Family Driving to Hockey PracticeFor the Holiday Road Warriors

Next week, AAA should give its forecast for the actual number of travelers taking to the road for Thanksgiving. What we already know is that 90% of travelers will drive to their destination over Thanksgiving with the busiest travel day being the day-before Thanksgiving. Want to avoid long lines at the pump or on the roads? Plan ahead. Fill up the tank a day or two ahead, if possible. If you can make it to Aunt Irma’s house in four hours on most days, plan for six or seven. Tack on some extra time so you aren’t late for the festivities. And know alternate routes along the way in case you run into accidents or heavy back-ups. You can save time and your sanity with a little preparation.

Save Big with Off-Airport Car Rentals

Do you have to rent a car from an airport location? No! If you rent a car from an off-airport location you will save significantly over the holidays; as much as 50% savings even on premium rentals. Some off-airport locations offer shuttle service from the airport. I recently did some checking for car rentals in Denver over Christmas and New Years and was able to save family members over $1,000 simply by finding an off-airport car rental location.

Do You Really Need to Take That?

Whether you are traveling for two days or ten, scrutinize the items going into your suitcase. Those traveling for a quick trip may be able to get away with a carry-on only. Even if you check a suitcase, be sure to pack your essentials in a small carry-on, in case of delays (or dare I say it) or your bag gets lost. A change of clothes, power cords, medicines, important numbers, should all be in your carry-on bag.

Most airlines now charge for checked baggage and some even charge for carry-ons. Southwest and JetBlue are the last two major carriers that still offer free checked bags and carry-ons. Southwest even allows a second checked bag free of charge. United, American and Delta all offer free carry-on, so try to keep clothes to a minimum.

Hotels at the Holidays

Hotels in major holiday cities are equally busy and pricey this time year. But, you can save big if you don’t mind staying just outside these cities. For example, you can save big on a trip to NYC if you are willing to stay just 15 minutes away from Manhattan in Brooklyn. Also, keep checking the Deals page for last minute hotel deals in cities across the US. Thanksgiving Hotel Deals are currently featured on the site.

Happy Holidays! And remember: preparation is key! Check-in for your flight online, allow lots of time to get to the airport, to go through security and to board the plane. Pack your snacks, a few good manners AND YOUR PATIENCE. Lines will be long, traffic will be heavy, but this is what holiday folklore is all about!

Safe travels!





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100 Days Until Sochi!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

0_129222827Yesterday marked 100 days until the city of Sochi, Russia will hold the XXII Olympic Games from February 7-23rd next year.

Team USA Celebrates 100 Days In NYC today!

Team USA’s Road to Sochi 100 Day Countdown event took place yesterday, Oct. 29th in Times Square. Approximately 40 Team USA hopefuls for the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (teams for each sport are named in January) participated in the celebratory countdown that turned Times Square into a mini Olympic village for one remarkable day.

About Host City Sochi

The host city Sochi is part of what is called the Russian Riviera located on the Black Sea coast. It has a population of 400,000 people and is situated in Krasnodar, which is the third largest region in Russia. Unlike most Olympic Games, all the events will take place within 30 minutes of each other. Many people don’t realize that these events are often quite spread out to other surrounding cities making the venues often difficult to travel between.  There will be a coastal cluster for ice events in Sochi, and a mountain cluster for the snow events located in the Krasnaya Polyana Mountains.

0_107478903The Sochi Olympic Park is being built along the Black Sea coast, for the ice venues such as the Bolshoi Ice Palace, the Maly Ice Palace, the Olympic Oval, the Sochi Olympic Skating Centre, the Olympic Curling Centre, the Central Stadium, the Main Olympic Village and the International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre, will be (all new!) for the 2014 Games. The mountain cluster in Krasnaya Polyana will be home to all the skiing and sliding sports. Again, getting between the coastal and the mountain venues is going to be very easy for these Olympic Games.

Where is the Olympic Torch?

I enjoy following the torch relays of the Olympic Games.  The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay began in Moscow on October 7th and will end, of course, at the Opening Ceremonies on February 7th carried around Russia by more than 14,000 Torchbearers.  In fact, just this weekend the torch reached the North Pole!

Learn more on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay here! 





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The Government Shutdown & How It Affects Travel

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Lincoln by Daniel Chester FrenchGood afternoon -

If you went to bed before midnight ET last night, then you’re waking up to potentially disrupted travel plans. The US Government put more than 800,000 workers on furlough this morning, and has closed more than 368 National Park Service Sites.

That’s right. As of right now, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and all the other national monuments and museums in Washington DC, Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee, The Statue of Liberty, and all our countries battle forts are now closed, just to name a small few.

Millions of visitors will be turned away.

In need of a passport? You’re likely going to have to wait.  Yes, passport processing is a non-essential government function, as well.

Is this government shutdown affecting any of your plans? Let us know in the comments below.




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Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 11.57.42 AM

What’s trending in the travel industry?

Here’s a quick round-up of the Hotel-Price-Index (HPI): It dives into domestic and international travel, which cities are most visited, where hotel prices rose and fell, and other helpful travel tips and trends!

Domestic Travel
In 2013, hotel prices in North America were three percent higher on average than during the same period in 2012. Although relatively small, these figures show a trend of slowly increasing rates (since the start of 2010) with average prices now nearing 2006 levels, before the global financial crisis began.

Honolulu became the most expensive U.S. DMA in the first half of 2013 at an average of $230 a night. This average rate surpasses that of New York City for the first time since the inception of the Hotel Price Index. With an average nightly rate of $211, New York City saw 2% year-over-year increase, but it was Honolulu’s 13% rise over the first half of 2012 that pushed it to the top.

When evaluating U.S. destinations by city (not DMA) Newport Coast, CA blew both Honolulu and New York City out of the water with an average daily rate of $501, up 25 percent from 2012! Debuting at number 3 on the World’s Most Expensive Cities List, this resort town is likely attracting posh visitors for its pristine, five-star beaches, recently named cleanest in the country.

Among the nation’s 30 largest cities, it was Nashville that saw the largest price increase (10 percent) over the same time period.

HPIimageInternational Travel
According to the HPI, Americans tend to splurge about 37 percent more when traveling internationally. London, Paris and Rome continue to be the front-running cities with regard to overseas spending for the third year in a row. However, Bangkok (#14) and other far-away cities are moving up in the ranks of American’s most preferred.

Niagara Falls, Ontario debuted at number 10 on the Top 10 Most Popular International Destinations List, rising considerably from number 14 in the first half of 2012. Mexico City rounded out the Top 20, moving up from number 23.

Asia was the only region to see a fall in prices by 2 percent in the first half of 2013. Individual cities in the region performed well but the depreciation in value of the Yen and the Rupee, coupled with a fall in the number of inbound visitors to China contributed to this result. However, outbound travel from China has not yet been impacted by slowdown in the country’s economy and continued to boom.

The HPI tracks real prices paid per room by customers at approximately 155,000 properties within the network in major destinations around the world. To access the full report, including videos, detailed maps, colorful photos and a city-by-city breakdown, check out:!




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Kidcation Sweepstakes Winner!

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

And the winner of the Kidcation Sweepstakes 2013 is:

2012-05-26T22-09-17_4Liz Newsome! 

Congratulations to Liz and her family!
They’ll be enjoying -

1)  A voucher for a two (2) night hotel stay for a family of four in a Luxury Double Suite at the Hotel Contessa – Luxury Riverwalk Suites in San Antonio, Texas!

2)  $500 USD VISA or MasterCard cash gift card for use toward travel expenses!

3)  Four (4) passes to The Witte Museum in San Antonio!

4)  Four (4) passes for the City Tours Inc. “Reflections Tour” in San Antonio!

5)  Four (4) passes to the Buckhorn Saloon & Museum and Texas Ranger Museum in San Antonio!

Liz and her family will be vacationing between August 12-18 for Kidcation Week in San Antonio!

Congratulations again and thanks to everyone who participated!




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Sleep. Dream. Win!

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Sleep Dream Win

Are you ready to win your dreamiest vacation yet? wants you to submit your most thrilling, perplexing and downright absurd dream as part of its Sleep. Dream. Win. sweepstakes, which is now open for entry to all those who want to go on a dream-like vacation of their own!

From now until August 29th, you can share your craziest dream on to be entered to win a stay at a dreamy hotel of your choice, courtesy of the Welcome Rewards® loyalty program, and other great prizes. Ten winners will each receive two free hotel nights, up to $250 each. In addition, will select five submitted dreams to be brought to life by a zany group of improvisation actors for the world to see in videos on If your dream is selected for reenactment on the site, you will also be upgraded to Welcome Rewards Gold status, granting you access to exclusive deals, early access to promotions on, and more.

Here are a few of the most unique, dream-like hotels at which you could choose to stay, whether you win or not:

  • Featherbed Railroad Company – All aboard! Nine decorated antique railroad cabooses comprise this old-fashioned California hotel on wheels. Caution: may induce murder mystery dreams.
  • The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas – Wake up in a world of luxury. With five bars, three pools and a swanky casino, this hotel in the center of Las Vegas is like a dream within a dream.
  • Pod 39 New York – Modular furniture, colorful, stenciled walls and a rooftop bar with a view of the city lights will make you wish you could stay up late every night!
  • Montelucia Resort & Spa – When you gaze out your window and see the other-worldly terrain of Arizona, you’ll have to pinch yourself as a reminder you’re not dreaming, and then again after you experience the utopic spa.

Good luck and sweet dreams!





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