Monday, November 24, 2008

Trip Tip: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Stop the presses! We've got waity issues to deal with. You know how you're always complaining how Christmas decorations and store displays come up way too early before Thanksgiving? Well, you're going to love what you'll find on your favorite travel Web site -- airline Santa has come to town and the up-to-$100 decreases in December flight costs means you'll be home for the holidays, or wherever color you dream your Christmas and Hannukah in.

Apparently, the wait to buy late will get you to the flight gate. found that over the last six weeks, flight prices have plunged 25 percent with seats to fill across all major airlines, which means it's time for us to take off. At Southwest, a three-day sale has been extended to December 8 -- starting at $90 round-trip, you don't need a parachute with this bailout.

Still, keep your seatbelts fastened as long as you're sitting because the fare drops don't necessarily apply to popular destinations such as New York City. But as long as you've got high hopes, you can take flight. Joy to the world!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pack Rat: Flight Plan

Don't leave home without these.
Is the E.T.D. on your rolling suitcase sneaking around the corner? Have you finally arrived at owning gidgety gadgets to occupy those trans-continental journeys? Are you considering checking out retro-cool luggage to check in?

Fly girls and boys, make a landing (emergency or otherwise) right now at Flight 001 for trendy, "design forward" travel gear and accessories that turns any mid-flight turbulence into a jetstream dream. Explore exclusives such as the Spacepak System packing cubes (even for lingerie!) and a First Class Kit that makes flying coach bearable, to trendy masks that elicit second looks even as you're getting some shut-eye and transit maps of the world so you'll never be lost in translation. A fun, multi-color USB chain that links and syncs all your tech nerd gear at once and a Buddha machine to bring om wherever you roam. Or for a different kind of meditation, a travel bar. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking: we hope you sit back and enjoy travel unraveled.

Because you just want to fly, and whipping out your cool vintage design passport keeper and will bring a smile to even the most harried and harassed airline counter personnel. And that cute carry-on with tree motifs by Orla Kiely? A bright sight for red eyes.

Trip Tip: Turkey Trot

Not quitting Thanksgiving travel cold turkey!

Congratulations, America -- you appreciate turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, candied yams and roast pork, perhaps more than you're afraid of the Big Bad Economy. Despite the old stock market avalanche and New Depression, not everyone's staying home for the holidays -- the travel discount site, Hotwire, found that 39 percent of you will pack and schlep for invaluable happy family time. That's the same number of Thanksgiving travelers as last year, when Lehman Brothers was still in business, even though 74 percent will try to stay within a radius of 200 miles. Less planes and trains, more automobiles.

Still, good news or at least digestible statistics don't make Thanksgiving travel any less thankless, so here are some nuggets to make it more gravy:

- If the credit crunch has you feeling claustrophic about jamming in with the p's and everyone else, business travelers are checking out, so you'll get in for cheaper at hotels, even in major cities.

- Pinch yourself -- airfares, even between major cities, are making a landing. For example, Expedia reports that ticket prices between New York and Atlanta are down six percent and three percent from Seattle to Los Angeles, as compared to last year.

- Travel light, because everyone and their brother is charging at least $25 for checked baggage. No, that spare tire you bring home after feasting doesn't count as excess luggage, a holiday miracle in today's cut-throat travelsphere.

- If you've got time, buy it. And by that we mean scheduling travel for dead days which could shave more off ticket prices and hotel rates. Everyone loves a little help clearing up the leftovers!

So if the upcoming holiday is beginning to look a lot more like all the trimmings in the right places, here's the cherry on top: you've still got a week to work some magic with these aces in your sleeve, so take heart and take leave.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hot Digs: Where In The World Is Wow?

Sweet dreams in the Extreme WOW Suite, daringly dreamy at W Atlanta - Buckhead.

Today, it's in Hotlanta, where the newest W has landed and shot for the skies in 12 floors of dazzling glass on which digital images flicker. The third W in the city's hottest and chicest 'hood, W Atlanta - Buckhead is wham bam techno-art glam, thank you ma'am.

From ground up where the signature Living Room salon/bar beckons to the rooftop skybar by Rande Gerber with panoramic views of the city and beyond, contemporary luxury has never looked better -- especially when style guru Thom Filicia has designed all the rooms and suites in-between with his retro funk touch. Brimming with vintage nostalgia, laced with futuristic cool and heartily full of amenities that ooze Southern hospitality updated for modern mavens -- the Whatever/Whenever concierge service, pillow menu, customizable wake-up call, W feathertop bed -- it's like coming home when you visit, if home could ever be this wonderful.

Jean-Georges is also in the house with a Market outpost, and if all these seem to be too much indulgence (you know how they like to go over the top down south), work out at the state-of-the-art SWEAT Fitness Center or take a dip in the WET pool. For other kinds of therapy, high-end shopping, from global labels to bohemian boutiques, are at your doorstep, together with some of Atlanta's most sizzling nightlife. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Travelog: In Bruges

Reflecting on a little night magik. Desiree Koh (c) 2008

GO to Bruges, Belgium where navigating each cobblestone is a trip in itself, so romantic that gliding on a canal and under a bridge is like slipping into the tunnel of love. Everyone comes in the summer, but stroll by and stay a while in autumn to fall under the spell of changing foliage set against Gothic cathedrals and mystical mists swirling over medieval market squares as the aroma of hot waffles and chocolates seduce.

SEE the beautiful Markt and its majestic Belfort, where after summiting 366 steps, on a clear day you can see forever (forever being the North Sea and the surrounding Belgian countryside). The Burg, just a few steps south, is prettier, if you believe that good things come in small packages. Wander and lose yourself in any of the little streets emanating from the Markt and find your stride in lace shops, chocolatiers or cafes. (Cafe -- that's bar to you from the New World.) Explore the 16th century Beguinhof, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to Beguines, single women who live a life of chastity. The Sint Salvador Kathedraal has the second highest tower in Belgium but the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) has the first and only Michelangelo work outside of Italy, the sacred Madonna and Child. Admire, appreciate, awe.

EAT at Den Dijver, where the flamboyant maitre d' fills your beer glass with a flourish -- optimism abounds, because it's never empty... and did we mention the excelleng beer pairing menu that evolves with the seasons? Cambrinus Bier Brasserie has 400 Belgian beers in its cellars and Flemish dishes robustly created with the best of the country's breweries. Noshing at one of the Markt's many brasseries -- try Huyze de Maene for cozy service -- is touristy, but with majestic monuments as setting, you can deal with it. And yes, pop into each chocolatier and sample, sample, sample... until your feathers are truffled.

DRINK ...we hope you do this sitting down, because it's going to take time. 't Brugs Beertje is a tiny tavern tucked among ivy on granite walls where each one of Belgium's 2,5000 brouwerijs are represented with the 450 or so types of Belgian brews in existence. Toast to Trappist monks who set the hops rolling at Cafe Vlissinghe, the town's oldest cafe, opened in 1515. Discover how it's done at De Halve Maan, the only brewery still operating in town then settle down for a free tipple of the house pour. De Garre is hardest to find, despite it's heart-of-town location -- you might just leave your heart (and liver) there after sampling the home-brewed Trippel. They don't allow more than three servings per patron, if you want an idea of how dangerous it is. So savor it while you can.

LIVE at Livia's Luxe Bed & Breakfast, a hop and a step from the Burg and the Markt and home of your most lovely and gracious hostess De Gryse. Breakfast in a warm and inviting nook as Livia serves eggs from her chickens done to your fancy; homemade jam from her garden's apricots, rhubarb and strawberries; homemade bread; fresh apple juice from her orchard -- wait, did we have you at the most important meal of your day? The art nouveau mansion was built in 1902 and has been personally remodeled by Livia, a former bridal dress designer and debonair extraordinaire. Choose from three suites, each styled in its own theme -- the top-floor Room With a View has an amazing morning sight of Bruges's skyline -- towers and turrets and tiled roofs -- through the skylight and its own loft.