REAL DEALStimulating the economy
If you're lucky enough to be able to use your tax rebate for a vacation, Expedia is offering "Explore America" packages to dozens of U.S. cities, starting at under $600 at www.expedia.com/exploreamerica. The packages can be booked through Monday for travel completed by May 31. Some additional options will be made available April 22-May 13, for travel by Sept. 5.
THIS JUST INShaolin Temple rests easier
The simple life of monks at China's famed Shaolin Temple got an upgrade with the installation of luxury restrooms worth $430,000, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The most lavish of the restrooms measures more than 1,614 square feet and is equipped with a diaper changing station, uniformed cleaners and a foyer with an LCD television. The restrooms are free of charge for both monks and tourists.
ON DISPLAYMore Tut's treasures on tour
An exhibition featuring more than 130 treasures from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun and other ancient sites will begin a U.S. tour later this year. The Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University announced it will open the exhibit at the Atlanta Civic Center from Nov. 15 through May 22, 2009. "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" is the second National Geographic exhibition dedicated to the treasures of King Tutankhamun and ancient Egyptian royalty.
OPENINGSE. Asia to China land route
The landlocked country of Laos has inaugurated a highway that will allow a north-south land route connecting Southeast Asia and China to operate year-round, the Asian Development Bank said. The opening of Route 3 fills in the last stretch of road for what is supposed to be an all-weather route that at its full length connects Singapore to Beijing. The project to modernize the road network from the Thai capital Bangkok to Kunming, in China's Yunnan province, was under development for more than a decade, the bank said.
ON DECKOcean view of Central Park
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said last week that an area resembling New York's Central Park will be featured in the center of its Project Genesis ship when it is delivered in late 2009 as the world's largest cruise vessel. Spanning the length of a football field, Central Park will include lush foliage, quiet walkways, restaurants, boutiques, an art gallery and a moving bar, the cruise operator said. The area also will feature concerts and street performances, providing the feeling of an outdoor space on a 225,000-gross-ton cruise ship that will carry 5,400 passengers and sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
TRAVEL TIPSExtra help at an all-inclusive
• Get at least $20 in dollar bills before you leave -- you'll need them to tip the folks who clean your room. A couple of dollars a day on your pillow can lead to better service and extra towels. And even though your bill may say "gratuities included," consider tipping your bartender and any waiters who serve you with some regularity -- you'll get more generous drinks and more attentive table service.
• It's a good idea to wait to book an excursion until you arrive at your resort; that way you can gauge the weather, and the activities desk can explain better what you're in for.
• Check the dress code of your resort before you leave. A surprising number of restaurants at all-inclusives require long pants for dinner.
• During a stay in Cancun, Mexico, a wise woman nursing a hangover under a palapa told us, "Never get really drunk your first night at an all-inclusive, because it could ruin your next few days." Makes sense to us.
WEB WATCHSites look in on the high-end
Even if we can't all afford luxurious trips, it doesn't hurt to window shop. A few of the newest developments in high-end travel:
• Online: CruiseCritic.com has a new minisite that focuses on luxury vacations. It's kind of fun: Go to www.cruisecritic.com/luxurycruises, and try the celebrity matchup, which suggests which movie star a luxury cruise might be most like.
• On the road: Planning a trip to New Zealand, but worried your rental car will be a downer? Just grab a Porsche, through www.porstige.co.nz. An '07 Boxster runs around $615 a day, but hourly rentals are also available.
• On your face: The Eldorado Hotel and Spa in Santa Fe, N.M., claiming gold is an anti-aging serum, is offering a $475, 80-minute 24-Carat Gold Facial. Rooms start at $139 a night, www.eldoradohotel.com.