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Las Vegas reporting uptick in Reservations (and rates)

September 14th, 2010

Las Vegas Strip

It is unlikely that any city in the US was hit as hard by the recession as Las Vegas. They experienced twin crashes in housing and tourism while still not being completely recovered from the downturn of the early 2000s. While housing may yet take a while to recover, signs of a recovery in the tourism industry are growing.

Numbers just released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority say the city attracted 3,330,658 visitors in July, an increase of 4.7 percent from the same month a year ago.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, that is the largest single-month percentage growth in visitors to Las Vegas in almost five years.

Much of the growth can be attributed to great deals, an increase in convention business, and visits from those within driving distance to Levas. Airline passenger counts have yet to see much improvement.

“We’re encouraged and happy to see the continued increases in visitation,” says Kevin Bagger, senior director of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “But we still know that people are cautious in their spending habits.”

Room rates for July were up 4.8 percent to an average of $91. Additionally, even though there are some 7,000 more hotel rooms than a year ago, citywide occupancy remained at 84 percent, essentially unchanged from a year ago.

Alas, not all the news is good. The Plaza Hotel downtown recently closed. However, they say they’re doing renovations and plan to re-open the property in the future.

Find Las Vegas deals so amazing, we can’t tell you the hotel name until after you book!

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Cedar Point named Best Amusement Park

September 13th, 2010

As Academy Award winners often say, it’s an honor to be nominated by one’s peers and to win is just the icing on the cake. The same goes for the Amusement Park industry awards known as the Golden Ticket Awards. These are the destinations that industry insiders consider to be the top of the top.

Calculated from an international poll conducted by Amusement Today, the Golden Ticket Awards are the results of a detailed survey that is sent to a database of experienced and well-traveled amusement park fans around the world – in balanced geographical regions – asking them to rate the “bests” in 25 categories such as “amusement parks,” “roller coasters,” “shows,” “landscaping” and “water rides.”

The 2010 winners are …

Best Amusement Park
Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Best Waterpark

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, New Braunfels, Texas

Best Children’s Park
Idlewild and SoakZone, Ligonier, Pa.

Best Marine Life Park
SeaWorld Orlando, Orlando, Fla.

Best Seaside Park
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Best Wooden Coaster
The Voyage at Holiday World, Santa Claus, Ind.

Best Steel Coaster
Millennium Force at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Best Kids’ Area
Kings Island, Kings Mills, Ohio

Friendliest Staff
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.

Cleanest Park
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.

Best Halloween Event
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando, Orlando, Fla..

Best Landscaping
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Va.

Best Christmas Event
Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Best Food
Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa.

Best Shows
Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Best Outdoor Night Show Production
IllumiNations: Reflections of the Earth at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center, Orlando, Fla.

Best Water Ride
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Fla.

Best Waterpark Ride
Wildebeest at Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.

Best Dark Ride
Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Fla.

Best Indoor Waterpark
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island, Galveston, Texas

Best Funhouse/Walk-Through Attraction
Noah’s Ark at Kennywood, West Mifflin, Pa.

Best Carousel
Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa.

Best Indoor Roller Coaster
Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Orlando, Orlando, Fla.

Best New Ride of 2010 - Amusement Park
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Fla.

Best New Ride of 2010 - Waterpark
Wildebeest at Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.

This is the 13th annual year for Amusement Today’s coveted Golden Ticket Awards, which are the most sought-after awards in the business of amusements and attractions. This year’s host park, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, has won the Best Landscaping title every year since the poll has been in place.

“We are very proud of the men and women who maintain Busch Gardens’ landscaping. The park’s landscaping complements the park experience for our guests. It’s something we take great pride in, so this award is especially meaningful,” says John Reilly, president of Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. “We are thrilled to host this year’s Golden Ticket Awards and welcome the industry to our park.”

Personally chosen by Gary Slade, publisher and editor-in-chief of Amusement Today, the Publisher’s Pick Awards are presented in three categories: Park, Individual and Supplier. Respectively, the 2010 recipients are Beech Bend in Bowling Green, Ky., for its perseverance in overcoming unexpected health and flooding challenges; Jeff Novotny of Larson International in Plainview, Texas, for his donation of land and labor to make the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives a reality; and Environs in Jacksonville, Fla., for its generous $650,000 gift of a scenic ship to Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee, Fla.

Read more…

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September 10th, 2010

Last Minute Travel is proud to support independent music. If you’re in Southern California, we hope you’ll check out The Wellspring, who are playing a concert tomorrow night in Los Angeles. They’ve also made a download available on their Facebook page. We know you’ll become a fan of their music, we certainly are.

Fall Fantasies - Afordable Luxury Escapes

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LastMinuteTravel.com Travel Temptations Sweepstakes Kickoff

September 7th, 2010

SeaWorld Orlando's Manta Roller Coaster

Last Minute Travel is giving away free hotel nights at popular locations across the country. To qualify, just follow @LMTTweets on Twitter and RT (re-tweet) the contest Tweets as instructed. Then, those who follow and RT will be entered into a random drawing for those free hotel nights. We’ll have a new RT promo about every two weeks, so be sure to check back for new hotel packages and additional chances to win.

Our first week will give away a 2 night stay at the Hilton Orlando located in Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort. We choose Orlando because it has so much to offer both families and business travelers. Beyond the must-see theme parks, there are dozens of roadside attractions, air tours, and dining opportunities. At Last Minute Travel we have the deals on Orlando transportation and activities that you won’t find anywhere else like our Orlando Superpass.

Learn more about Orlando at our destination guide for the city.

For complete “Travel Temptations” official sweepstakes rules click here.

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New York City - A quick visit

August 24th, 2010

Whether you know it as The Big Apple, Gotham, The World’s Capital, The City That New Sleeps, or just New York, New York - the city so nice they’re named it twice, there is no place else on Earth like it and everybody needs to visit at least once in their life.

Last week I was in New York City for a conference at a posh Manhattan hotel. While there I took advantage of my free afternoon for a little self-guided tour. It’s amazing what you can find just by following a few apps on your mobile phone these days.

Times Square New York

Any trip to New York City is incomplete without a stop in Times Square. The city’s plan to ban cars and turn it into a pedestrian friendly space has been a huge success. In fact, it reminds me of a twenty first century version of Main Street USA at Disneyland.

The Hudson Hotel New York

It’s hard to tell, but that’s a hotel. In fact, it’s one of the hottest destinations in town. So, I was very pleased when I heard I’d be staying at The Hudson Hotel. Located on 58th Ave between 8th and 9th, you are smack dab in the middle of Midtown, while also being just steps away from Central Park. (Search for 4 Star Hotels in Midtown - New York, NY)

Hudson Hotel Lobby

Guests arrive into the illusion of an open air lobby via an escalator that rises up through a green hued tunnel. The effect is transporting and you are instantly in a happier place. Located just off the lobby are three great spots for relaxing during the day and partying at night.

The one comment I hear most about The Hudson is that the rooms are extra-tiny. Which, when compared to the rest of the country is true. But for New York, they’re okay. I think the idea is to get you out in the great open space of the hotel lobby or 15th floor garden terrace.

Time Warner Center & Columbus Circle New York City

If you stay at the Hudson, there are both a Pinkberry and a Starbucks just steps away. Across the street is the Time Warner Center (pictured above) that looks out over Columbus Circle and Central Park. I found that the Whole Foods market in the Time Warner Center was the perfect place to pick up some delicious prepared food. Then you can just walk across the street for a picnic or bring it back to your room for a delicious meal. No one cooks in New York anyway.

New York Sidewalk Farmers Market

The other wonderful thing I found in New York this trip was all the glorious little farmers markets (some not so little). This one was set up on the sidewalk just around the corner from The Hudson on 9th. I was able to get some farm fresh cheese, organic fruits (the apples from New Jersey were dee-lish!) and a breakfast roll that rivaled my great grandmother’s best efforts.

Also on 9th street, about two blocks down, was Thai Basil. If you’re a fan of Thai cuisine I recommend a visit the next time you’re in town. While the Pad Thai was not as sweet as I like it, it was very tasty. But the real star were the curries. The Massaman and the Jungle Curry both had so many flavors I found myself constantly pausing to enjoy them. I also really enjoyed the Mee Grob appetizer.

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This Week In Travel

August 10th, 2010

NomadicMatt has penned a great column on Huffington Post about Why We Travel.

MSNBC has a list of America’s strangest Roadside Attractions. How many have you visited?

The NY Times visits the revived Brixton Market in London.

The LA Times suggests some alternate beach destinations for those tired of the sands of Southern California.

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Last Minute Travel profiles summer deals on Good Day LA

August 4th, 2010

A quick trip to Good Day LA from Lauren Volcheff, Last Minute Travel’s Vice President of Marketing, and we were able to share some great tips for securing deals on last minute summer vacations. Here’s the clip:

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Survivor, Amazing Race and Big Brother Past Winners at Discovery Cove in Orlando

July 26th, 2010

Past Survivor winners and players gather at SeaWorld Discovery Cove
Past Survivor winners and players gather at SeaWorld Discovery Cove

Dozens of winners, heroes and villains of Survivor got together at Discovery Cove in Orlando for a day of outwitting, outplaying, outlasting and out-and-out relaxing. Discovery Cove offers visitors the sort of personal one on one experience with wildlife that you can’t get anywhere else in Orlando.

Past Survivor winner Natalie White at SeaWorld Discovery Cove
Survivor Winner Natalie White at SeaWorld Discovery Cove

Swimming with dolphins and rays and hand feeding exotic birds were Survivor’s first winner, Richard Hatch; the game’s only two-time winner, Sandra Diaz-Twine; villains Russell Hantz and Courtney Yates; and players Yau-Man Chan and Terry Deitz.

Also at the park were players and winners from The Amazing Race and Big Brother, including Amazing Race winner, Jordan Pious.

The winners and players were in Orlando to benefit Give Kids the World, a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.

More photos below the jump:

Read more…

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This week in Travel

July 26th, 2010

The LA Times covers the “Swimming of the Ponies“, which is not a Virginia take on the running of the bulls; the best ice cream treats in Las Vegas; and New York’s club and bar scene is going up, way up, to the roof.

The NY Times visits the picturesque Paris waterside from hotel barges to floating bars; staying with the water theme, they travel on a houseboat near Sacremento, CA; and why Spongebob Squarepants may be greeting you at your next destination.

The Traveling Mom has a hard hat tour of the next major themed hotel from Disney… it’s in Hawaii.

Finally, WalletPop has six mistakes to avoid when on travel booking websites. This story includes quotes from Last Minute Travel’s own Lauren Volcheff. Go Lauren!

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Four Quick Tips for Traveling light

July 14th, 2010

If you like to be able to walk out the door in five minutes and be on vacation or minimalism is your style here are four quick tips for vacationing with the absolute minimum of stuff.

1. Leave the toiletries at home. Stay at a nicer hotel and then rely on the hotel’s comfort pack and amenities to fill the gap. Only care items you specifically need.

2. Limit yourself to two changes of clothes. Wear one set of clothes on the plane and pack the other. Make sure you can mix and match, so something that is casual can be dressed up with a jacket or accessories. A nice wrap or sarong works wonders for women and men can now purchase slacks that discreetly transform into shorts.

3. Buy what you need when you get there. If the bag is full ask yourself, do you really need to travel with this item or can you purchase it when you get there. This saves on weight too. All those gels and liquids carry a lot of water weight.

4. Plan ahead. Luggage tends to inflate with extras when you don’t know what to expect. So plan ahead, do some research on your destination, and eliminate the clothes and accessories you won’t need when you get there.

Now, all you really need is a shopping bag or briefcase and you’re ready to go.

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