Monday, October 29, 2012

Food Shortage on Flight

I recently flew on US Airways ( the first time in quite a while, and while the flights and service were generally fine, there was an odd thing with the on-board food service. The flight was just over two hours, and some food was available but only from one part of the on-board menu.
In other words, you could order chips and other snacks, but no sandwiches, cheese plates or other more filling items. That explained why I had seen so many people boarding the airplace eating hamburgers and big sandwiches. I wished I had done the same.
We're all getting used to paying for food and drinks and many other items on flights, I guess, but this is the first time I have encountered this type of restriction on the food offered.
As a non-elite flyer I boarded the flight late, and my carry-on bag was placed in checked baggage for free because all the space aboard was full. If you don't like paying fees for checked baggage, this might be one way to avoid them, provided your bag is small enough and the flight is sufficiently full.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Big Savings on Short Cruises

If you need to get away for three or four days, or if cruises intrigue but you do't want to commit to a long one, short Caribbean cruises to the Bahamas are now on sale on several lines. Three or four night voyages to the former British colony start at just $149 per person if you book through Orbitz ( for many winter sailings. This is a savings of up to 75 per cent off the published fare in some cases.
Lines offering these deals include Norwegian , Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Be warned, at rates like these you may get an interior cabin, but you aren't likely to spend much time in it anyway. Shorter cruises also tend to attract a younger, partying crowd so may not be ideal if you want some quiet relaxation.
Most of these cruises depart from Miami, but some sail from farther north at Port Canaveral, Florida.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

November Discounts on Viking

If you are looking for a cure for the November blahs, consider a cruise on the beautiful blue Danube with Viking River Cruises ( On certain dates in November, the line is offering big reductions--an eight-day cruise from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hingary with per person rates starting at $1,799 for the best available stateroom. The 11-day cruise from Bucharest to Budapest is an even better deal, with per person rates as low as $1,999.
The latter cruise intrigues me, until I remember that the cost does not include air fare to Europe or single supplement. The route covers parts of Romania and Bulgaria, both countries I have yet to visit that sound very intriguing. This could be a good opportunity to catch a glimpse of these European countries that are somewhat off the beaten track and not the easiest for visitors (how many of us speak Romanian or Bulgarian?)
I travelled with Viking on the Dnieper from Kiev to Odessa and really enjoyed the trip. That particular ship had single cabins, which do not exist on most of Viking's ships. If you have yet to take a river cruise, be aware that it is quite different from most ocean cruises--more sedate, generally an older crowd, very pleasant if you don't require constant entertainment..

Friday, October 19, 2012

Research Free Museum Hours

Visiting art and other types of museums is one of the pleasures of travel. Viewing great masterpieces in the flesh, so to speak, really is different form seeing a picture in a book or online. However, admission prices for museums can put a significant dent in a travel budget, with many prices at or above $20/ The trick is to find museums that offer free or reduced price admission at certain times.
I was hoping to find a Website listing free admission times for a number of museums in different cities, but so far no luck. Such a site would be a big help to the travelling public, but putting the information together would be very time consuming..
So, as it stands, you generally have to look up the museums you want to visit and check to see when they offer free or cheaper admission, if ever. Here in Montreal, for example, the Museum of Fine Arts has a permanent collection where admission is always free, and offers cut prices for admission to special exhibits on Wednesday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. The current exhibit of Impressionist paintings is likely to draw big crowds, especially on Wednesday evenings.
Most museums in New York City have a day a week when admission is free, and even at large museums like the Metropolitan, the posted admission price is really only a suggestion. You can get in for less, if you have the nerve.
In St. Petersburg, Russia the renowned Hermitage Museum is free on the first Thursday of every month. In Greece, most museums are free on Sundays, according to the Website There are few free attractions in pricey Moscow, unless you count the view of the Kremlin from outside, which is pretty spectacular.
In London the wonderful British Museum is free all the time, though donations are encouraged. And probably the best selection anywhere of free museums is in Washington D.C. where the many museums run by the Smithsonian Institution are always free. Both the British Museum and the Smithsonian ones have interesting free programs of lectures and tours, in addition.
In Europe, don't count on visiting museums on Monday, when many of them are closed. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Air Canada Sale to London and Paris

You still have two days and about nine hours to take advantage of Air Canada's fare sale between London, Paris and major Canadian destinations. Travel dates are 26 October to 10 December, as well as 24 December to 24 March. Travel must be booked at least seven days ahead and flights must be on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
Even on sale, you will pay nearly $1,000 for return flights to either of these cities from Montreal or Toronto, more from other destinations. Still, the price is not bad considering that taxes and various fees account for more than $600 of the fare, and the airline gets only the remainder. No wonder people fly out of the U.S. when possible, where fees are generally lower.
However, if you want to rack up some Aeroplan miles while you fly, this sounds like a pretty good deal. Bookonline at

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More Deals from

My friend Marian sent me several other interesting articles from this Website, which I inadvertantly spelled wrong in the previous post and will correct as soon as I get back to my own computer. One lists non-chain hotels in a number of expensive European cities where a room costs less than $100a night--places like Geneva, Amsterdan and Barcelona, and from the pictures they all look good. This particular story is from another site that is very useful for those travelling to Europe,
Now $100 a night may seem pricey to you (it certainly does to me) but inflation in Europe has meant that in many places in Europe now it is relatively inexpensive for a decent, non-hostel room. Strange that a continent suffering an economic crisis also seems to have a high rate of price increases. Just a few summers ago I found quite nice room at a Holiday Inn Express in Berlin for well under $100, but apparently Berlin is now among the cheaper European cities. The previous summer, a pleasant room in downtown Helsinki was similarly inexpensive (but the price included a free wake-up call from patrons leaving the bar downstairs at 5 a.m.) also has suggestions on how to avoid certain budget-busters while travelling, how to navigate on public transit in Europe, and how to avoid looking like an Ugly North American, should you care. This is definitely a site worth checking frequently.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Air Fare Sale on American and Air Tran Ends Tonight

American Airlines and Air Tran have a big sale going on for flights between November 28 and March 1. Destinations are in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America and some flights are as low as $42 one way.
The catch is that the sale ends tonight, so you have to move fast. For more information, check out the article on Some sample fares round trip include Houston to Branson, MO for $82, and Ft. Lauderdale FL to San Juan P.R. for $178. Unfortunately, Canadian destinations are not included.
It could be worthwhile to sign up with to be sure to get in on future deals if this one isn't for you.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Travel Apps that Help

If like me you are the opposite of a techie and can't really see the point of smartphones,(actually, I rarely remember even to carry a standard cell phone,) you may want to rethink that before taking your next trip. A story in Conde Nast Traveler on travel apps to save time and money is certainly making me think twice.
You can read the whole article at Among the apps that I found especially appealing were one that offer last minute discounts on luxury hotel rooms, another that helps you locate the nearest gas station, restaurant, or hotel and gives you a map to get there, and one that tells you where to find non-chain restaurants in your vicinity.
Other intriguing apps provide free or cheap WiFi worldwide, information on the best subway routes in a number of cities, and instantaneous conversion of foreign currencies into U.S. dollars. Of course, there is always a downside to many of these apps that are connected to a GPS system--they may make it possible for hackers to know exactly where you are in order to perpetrate fraud of some kind. Similarly, public WiFi is not secure and I would be very reluctant to use it for online banking or that type of thing.
I find the app that tells you about local non-chain restaurants especially interesting, since I enjoy exploring places where the native eat when I travel. Sometimes I resort to chains, but not if there is a good alternative. The difficulty is finding these local restaurants without lugging a guidebook around with you, or walking long distances in search of sustenance. You can always ask your hotel doorman or random strangers, but this app may provide wider choices than they are likely to offer.
Speaking of local restaurants, this is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and I will be trying out a neighbourhood restaurant that is new to me for traditional turkey dinner. The restaruant is called B & M on Somerled, in western Notre Dame de Grace near Cote St. Luc, a mainly anglo section of Montreal. Hope it's good--but then, how bad can turkey dinner be?