Friday, December 22, 2006

A break for the holidays

I'm taking a break for the holidays, but I'll be back on the track soon.

In answer to the question, Where does a Travel editor go on vacation? You guess. I'll tell you if you're right when I return.

Have a great season.

Last-minute gifts

You've failed to find that perfect gift, and now it's ... really, really late.

Solution: Give your loved one the promise of a great trip. (You can make up a nifty gift certificate on your computer, cut pictures out of a magazine, even download low-res images from online.)

A few suggestions:

Dreams on a dime: Europe, China, Africa … you can see them all on budget trips from Adventurecenter, Gap Adventures, or Intrepid Travel. If you've got as much as a quarter, try or SmarTours. One SmarTours option: 18 days in China including a Yangtze River cruise and air from New York for $2,399 per person.

Splurge: Check out offerings from Luxury Link, where you can bid or buy set packages. One choice: A three-night package for two in a junior suite at the Chàteau Andrew Ziltener in the Burgundy region of France for $790, includes breakfast daily.

Just for women: The Women's Travel Club offers well-priced trips that span the globe. The trips are designed by former Miamian Phyllis Stoller just for women, and are a great travel option for women alone, traveling with girlfriends or whose husbands are sofa-bound. One appealing choice: A Provence river cruise April 13-21. The price of $2,694 per person, double, includes air from New York and transfers from Paris.

Local retreats: Recently opened is the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure in Weston. Looking for five stars? How about this year's winners of the Mobil ratings: The Ritz-Carlton Palm
Beach,Four Seasons Palm Beach and Ritz-Carlton Naples.

Beach hangouts: Some faves: The laid-back Dolphin Beach Resort in the Abacos) and Tranquility Bay, delightful beachfront apartment resort in the Florida Keys.

Weekends at sea: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Imperial Majesty offer weekend cruises from South Florida. Or catch a one-day Discovery Cruise to Grand Bahama and overnight on the island.

Hang 10: Florida, Costa Rica and Hawaii are prime territories for surfing camps. See a list of camps.

On the range: Play cowboy at a Dude Ranchers Association spread. Many offer family programs, rafting and even cattle drives.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

One-day sales, Dec. 20 only

Both United Airlines and Carnival Cruises have launched one-day sales for future travel. The catch: You must book today.

EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST: United is offering sale prices to Europe and the Middle East for travel between Jan. 9 and March 31. Today's sale offers a 10 percent discount over regular fares. You must book by midnight, Dec. 20. Book online at and get 1,000 bonus miles.

CARIBBEAN ON CARNIVAL: Book today for special cruise fares on three, four and five-day cruises aboard Carnival, with prices starting at $179 per person, double occupancy, on specific sailings.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shopping season - for travel sales

Still looking for that gift? Or just trying to snag a travel bargain?

Act quickly. Several airlines -- including United and American -- have put global fares on sale. That especially good news, because when one airline drops fares, others typically follow.

The fine print: You need to book by Dec. 19 for travel next year, and in most cases, the cheaper fares are good for travel through the end of February or March, depending on the route.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Art fairs

This week is one of the best in South Florida for a getaway at home -- to Art Basel Miami Beach.

A little background: Art Basel Miami Beach is in its fifth year. Though it started primarily as one art fair -- the American cousin of the world's most important fair, Art Basel, held each June in Basel, Switzerland -- nearly 100 alternative art fairs have sprung up. Add the private and public museums that go all out during this period, and there's a ton of art to see. (Tons of people, too.) Find out more at The Miami Herald's Art Basel website.

If this all sounds stuffy or even intimidating, don't worry. Gallery owners are generally quite happy to explain the more obscure artworks. Even if you're from the school that argues "If I need it explained, is it art?'' there's value here, because the very idea of many contemporary works is to get people to think, question and stretch their minds.

OK, I agree, sometimes the emporer really isn't wearing any clothes. But sometimes the ideas are captivating. One example: Artist Mark Koven's Going to Jerusalem installation at TheYard@CasaLin.

His work is a riff on musical chairs as a metaphor for the displacement caused by real estate developement. The point: Someone is always left out. (If you live in Miami and you've seen the nonstop construction and spiraling home prices, this is an idea that resonates.)

Too far out for you? Head for Design Miami, a free event combining furniture, design and music in the Design District.

Don't miss the main Art Basel Miami Beach fair, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Along with experimental works, the fair boasts plenty of blue chips from 20th Century masters including Picasso, Dubuffet, Magritte, Bonnard, Klee and dozens of other top artists. You may even spot artists ... attending this year are James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, John Baldissari and others.

All the Art Basel Miami Beach artworks are for sale -- some at truly astronomical prices. But the price of an entry ticket to see them is $24, half that if you're a student or senior. The show runs through 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.

If that isn't enough, in June you can head off to Basel, Switzerland, for the parent fair. Dates are June 13-17, 2007.

Whatever fair you choose, I've got one crucial bit of advice: Wear comfy shoes. Nobody cares if they're ugly.