Monthly Archives: November 2014

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Travel Sales


Creative Commons photo by jenlight via

Travel companies have gotten into Black Friday and Cyber Monday by offering special deals and discounts online and/or by phone. The best part: You don’t have to get up at a ridiculous hour!

Here is a roundup of ones I have found and/or received pitches on:

Gate 1 Travel will feature discounts on all Gate 1 Travel and Discovery Tours packages. The sale on new bookings only will begin online only on November 27 and then available by phone from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. beginning November 28. Black Friday deals include:

  • Spend $500 or more and receive $50 off with the promo code BLKFDY50
  • Spend $1,000 or more and receive $100 off with the promo code BLKFDY100
  • Spend $2,000 or more and receive $250 off with the promo code BLKFDY250
  • Spend $4,000 or more and receive $500 off with the promo code BLKFDY500
  • Spend $10,000 or more and receive $1,000 off with the promo code BLKFDY1000

– On Cyber Monday, Intrepid is offering travelers 20 percent off all their trips departing December through March 30, 2015 and 10 percent off trips departing April 1 through June 30, 2015. The sale will then go through Friday, December 5. The tour company is giving travelers an early start with another cooler promotion. Starting at noon EST, from today, November 24 through Monday, December 1 at 8 p.m. EST,  travelers can get 50 percent off or a buy 1 get 1 free sale on their polar expeditions.

– For Cyber Sunday and Cyber Monday, Access Trips is offering 25 percent off of new bookings for its culinary and biking tours departing between February 1 and August 31, 2015. It’s valid on culinary explorations of Morocco, Vietnam, Thailand and Sonoma; and mountain biking trips for active travelers of all levels in Costa Rica, Turkey and Nepal.  Promo Code: ADVENTURE25.

Friendly Planet is hosting a 24-hour Cyber Monday sale with $100–$500 off every package. It starts at 12 a.m. ET on Monday, December 1.

Hilton is offering exclusive rates during Cyber Week for an escape to New York with the Hilton New York Midtown starting at $179/night and Waldorf Astoria New York starting at $229/night. Book these rates starting at 12:01 a.m. CST on December 1 until 11:59 p.m. CST on December 7, 2014, staying between December 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

Sonesta Hotels and Resorts are offering a Cyber Monday promotion of up to 25 percent off two night stays at their US properties. Use the code Cyber2014 on For their full-service hotels, location stays include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. With their Sonesta ES Suites, locations include Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Princeton, and St. Louis. On Cyber Monday, join the Sonesta Travel Pass guest loyalty program and take advantage of 3x the points for their next trip. Valid for new reservations traveling by March 31, 2015 and subject to availability at participating hotels. Offers may vary slightly by hotel.

Atlantis Resort is having a Black Friday-Cyber Monday four-day sale offering up to 50 percent in savings on rates from November 28 through December 1. It’s valid for travel between December 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015. Blackout dates: December 18, 2014 – January 2, 2015  Book on or at 1-800-Atlantis.

– Expedia is also having a Black Friday Sale with deals available on Friday, November 28, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST. Check this link to see what they are.

Club Med is offering travelers up to 50 percent off when booking from November 28 through December 3, 2014 for select travel through spring 2015.

Hotels Tonight is starting off their Black Friday sale at 7 a.m., featuring $7 rooms in destinations across the US and UK for stays that night. The site will also have deals starting at just $70 all weekend long, including Cyber Monday.


Japan National Tourism Talks about Hokuriku

photo 1-3On Wednesday night, the Consulate General of Japan in New York and Japan National Tourism Organization hosted a reception at the private residence of His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, Ambassador of Japan to the United States.

This event commemorated the upcoming debut of a new direct Bullet Train service from Tokyo to Kanazawa. It is scheduled to start in March 2015.

photo 3-4photo 2-3The time-length new train service is anticipated to take within two and a half hours. In addition to a program on the new rail service, two multimedia presentations were given on first-hand experiences in exploring the region of Hokuriku. Hokuriku is well-known for being the home to fine craftsmanship and traditional Japanese arts.

Following the presentations, guests got to sample delicacies from Hokuriku include fresh seafood and regional sake.

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A Mini-Escape with Aruba Tourism Authority

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Aruba’s Minister of Tourism Otmar Oduber gave a welcoming address at a reception last Thursday night.

On a cold and rainy New York City night, Aruba Tourism Authority provided a mini-getaway to a warm and friendly climate with their evening reception at the Carriage House last Thursday.

Having an #ArubaCultura theme, the evening featured a very special guest, Aruba’s Minister of Tourism Otmar Oduber, and introduced attendees to the culinary and cultural aspects of this Caribbean island. Currently, the tourism board is using the tagline “One Happy Island” (also as a hashtag, #onehappyisland) to promote Aruba as a still largely popular destination.

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I enjoyed an Eagle Beach Bellini.


It was good fit with our festive night. As a different take on being a barista, a special mixologist from Aruba concocted specialty drinks highlighting the island’s tropical flavors and ingredients. These cocktails were named for beaches and other key attractions.

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The evening also got a little artistic. Guests were asked to sit for a painting session led by an artist, also from Aruba. Literally starting from a blank canvas, painters like myself were encouraged to recreate the island’s landscape by using an assortment of yellow, blue, beige, and green hues. We even were able to top off our masterpieces with sand by gently sprinkling a few grains on our finished work. Although I went with what I would call an abstract approach toward my painting, it was still a fun thing to do.

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My sort of island painting.

Our evening ended with a sit-down dinner and entertainment that got us all up and dancing!

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Air Berlin Ushers In Düsseldorf Carnival

photo 1Did you know that Düsseldorf’s Carnival Season lasts four months long? Last Tuesday night, Air Berlin and Düsseldorf Marketing and Tourism put on a shorter version of this German city’s colorful celebration with a reception at Blaue Gans in the TriBeCa district.

The reception featured German beers and local delicacies, and invites asked people to come in costumes. One travel writer did. Others like me put on whimsical hats or were draped with streamers by our hosts.

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We also learned a thing or two about Düsseldorf and its history with carnival. Having started this week, this street festival in Düsseldorf’s city center is made up of different segments such as the city’s ladies and youth having their turns at taking over the parade route for a while.

Even elected officials have their moment. By tradition, carnival time lets Düsseldorf’s citizens get away with poking fun at leaders through silly puppets and the like. The carnival season will be over February 18.

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And of course, in completing the night, a trio of performers had their act going.

photo 5With Düsseldorf, I actually spent maybe 40 minutes there via my connection from their airport to JFK. I was flying on Air Berlin, coming first from Geneva, and had to make it through the gate in a short amount of time to my next departure. Speaking just as a customer, their gate crew offered to switch me to a front row seat so I could get off the plane quicker to help make my connection. They suggested it. That was awesome.


Tips for Your First Stay at a Hostel

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The site of my first hostel stay: Hostelling Interational-New York City

Up until last month, I had never stayed in a hostel. There’s no real reason why I didn’t; perhaps I just didn’t considered using them. Yet as I start to do more solo travel, and realize that my budget needs to better adjust to this fact, I figured it would be interesting to see what a hostel stay is like.

In brushing stereotypes and horror stories aside, hostels primarily have a good reputation as being a safe and affordable option for accommodations. They also attract more travelers from different age groups and backgrounds. Recently, for a work assignment, I spent a weekend at Hostelling International-New York City, the Manhattan location for Hostelling International, a worldwide organization.

Overall, my first experience went well, and I wanted to use it to share some first-time tips for staying in a hostel with other newbies.

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The room I stayed in at Hostelling International-New York City.


Here they are:

  • Of course, do your research. Just like with looking up hotels online, there are a number of websites on hostels complete with pictures, personal reviews and rankings (definitely pay attention to comments on amenities and cleanliness). Search engines such as, or provide lists on hostels in your destination. Hostelling International also is a good source, as their brand has hostels in just about every country and throughout the U.S. Another plus with all of these sites is that you can obtain the address of your potential hostel and be able to Google Map it to get specific directions.
  • Weigh what you’re comfortable with. Especially as a woman, I think it’s important to really make sure you’re comfortable with your choice of setup in the hostel you’re heading too — way before you go. Hostels have a number of room options, varying in cost, occupancy and availability (plus an upfront deposit can be required). There can be a private room/with bath but it will cost more than let’s say a shared room with other women. “Shared” can number out to four to a room, perhaps even more than at. In some cases, you could choose to stay in a co-ed shared room. It’s up to you. At Hostelling International-New York City, I was assigned to a room set up for four people. My bed was one of the top bunks.
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The showers at Hostelling International-New York City

  • Bring comforts and essentials. Most hostels will provide lockers or offer additional space for rent. Locks can cost extra. I brought a travel combination lock with me and my suitcase was small enough to be squeezed into my given locker. Bedding is supplied, and often towels are as well (I brought one along just in case). I would recommend bringing along flip flops, just in case, as you can wear them in the shower as well as go back and forth from your room. Earplugs are helpful to block out noises and late-night arrivals. Bring small bills, too, to cover any popup or not-covered expenses from laundry machines to a mid-afternoon coffee.
  • Get secure. As with using lockers, don’t get too casual with your stuff. Travelers often go in and out of hostels as they please, and particularly the rooms they sleep in, so it’s best not to leave your phone or other electronics and valuables lying around in the open. (I had a bottle of water I bought and put on the side of my room taken, but still, it was MINE). With building security, a hostel should have knowledgeable staff that can give you directions and might also be able to book transportation to and from the airport. When I stayed at HI-NY, my keycard doubled for both getting into my room and past the check-in area.
  • Be sociable. Hostels often have communal hangout areas like lounges and café seating areas to relax in or make small talk with other guests. At HI-NY, breakfast was included in the cost of my stay, so during my morning meal I got to chat more with one of my roommates, a Canadian, as well as two girls from England and Fiji, respectively. Check to see if the hostel organizes group outings too. HI-NY has guided excursions such as bar crawls or borough tours. I was there on Halloween night, so I signed up for a group outing to go watch the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.
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A lounge at a hostel is a good place to relax or chat with fellow guests.

Staying in a hostel could feel like reliving your college dorm days. Yet, it’s a place to meet new people or even get some different tips on what’s in your destination. If you’re still going solo, your hostel is a good base to head back to, especially if you need help.

Editor’s Note: As part of my assignment, I was comped for my stay at Hostelling International-New York City.

Book Review: National Geographic’s ‘World’s Best Cities’

World's Best Cities CoverLast week, National Geographic released its latest travel book “World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations” (Hardcover, $40 US). I got a review copy in the mail, and immediately its picturesque photos and informational tidbits make it an eye-catching read from start to finish.

Even if you can’t get to these cities just yet, this guidebook gives you the feeling of picturing yourself already there, with tips to give you a good head start.

“World’s Best Cities” is inspired by a publication released by the Rockefeller Foundation citing how for the first time ever most people now live in cities – which is impressive.

Photo by Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock New York, New York Central Park, an oasis in the middle of Manhattan. Source: WORLD’S BEST CITIES: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

Photo by Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock – New York, New York
Central Park, an oasis in the middle of Manhattan Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

This coffee table book starts off list of more than 200 cities based on population, starting with Tokyo and ending with Vatican City. Then there are further breakdown lists of cities by specific traveler’s interests – food, spa, eco-smart, festivals and nightlife – and offbeat or plain cute ones ranging from haunted or walled to happiest or high-altitude. These list-centered pages are mixed in through out the book – smart move! – so you keep going through every page entirely.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Photo by MasterLu/iStockphoto Barcelona, Spain – The Gaudí-designed Parc Güell. Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

Overall, its layout is good. Fun or odd facts are on the far right of one page, vital stats or in the lower left corner of the other. Full-color and historic photos really shine here in showcasing various city landscapes and landmarks and the occasional food dish or local person. Some city pages also include point of view essays by residents who have built a reputable street cred (forgive the pun) while other pages go straight to their facts.


Photo by Ocean/Corbis Mexico City, Mexico Today’s Mexico City is a cultural hub and kaleidoscope of humanity. Its rich, 1,000-year history intermingles distinctly modern atmospherics created by contemporary art with irresistible crafts and street vendors hocking classic Mexican eats. Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

As food and local culture are now key points for many travelers, each city’s respective page gives a lot of explanations on what is the native cuisine and where to find locally-made goods. Best local places to go to tips are a good touch as well.

Nat Geo’s “Urban Insider” columnist Annie Fitzsimmons wrote the book’s preface. I’ve “virtually” met Annie (I follow her on Twitter and we have mutual friends in the travel sector) but she knows her stuff.

For those who enjoy exploring big cities by foot or book, this coffee table is nice for both active and armchair travelers.