Marriott adds home rentals
Marriott International, the biggest hotel operator in the world, is launching a home rental program as it struggles to stay ahead of the shifts in the hospitality industry, largely brought on by Airbnb. Through the program, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, guests will be able to book homes in 100 markets throughout the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. The wide-ranging offerings include an 18th-century Irish castle and a six-bedroom London townhouse with an indoor climbing wall. The 2,000-some rentals available through Homes & Villas won't be managed by homeowners, but by third-party property companies. Rentals will be eligible for points through Marriott's loyalty programs.
Amtrak group discount
Amtrak is encouraging travelers to "Get Carried Away" by its new group travel discounts for families and friends traveling across the country. The Share Fares discount enables passengers to save up to 35% on tickets for the group as a whole when traveling with up to four companions. Discounts for Share Fares increase the more passengers there are in a group. For example, the first traveler pays full price, the second traveler receives a 15% discount, the third traveler a 60% discount and the fourth traveler 70% off. Travelers need to book at least three days in advance and use promo code V291. The Share Fare is available on several Amtrak lines including the Empire Builder from Seattle or Portland to Chicago with a stop in St. Paul (amtrak.com/sharefares).
Drive the Beartooth
Planning your next family vacation? Don't fly over. Make it a road trip. Drive through some beautiful country and stop often. Visitors who travel the extraordinary Beartooth Highway experience the visual trifecta of Montana, Wyoming and Yellowstone Park, home to the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains. The windy, cliff-hugging 68-mile stretch introduces road explorers to one of the most diverse ecosystems accessible by auto. It's also the highest-elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. Stunningly beautiful, the All-American Road showcases wide, high alpine plateaus, painted with patches of ice blue glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife. Plan for many stops and perhaps a picnic, so the driver can take in the long views, too (beartoothhighway.com).
How to avoid basic economy
The three major airlines — Delta, American and United — have slowly increased the number of "basic" economy-class fares available. Although these tickets can save you some money, they basically relegate you to steerage status on the plane. Southwest Airlines is the best bet for avoiding basic fares. "You're not going to see basic economy from Southwest," CEO Gary Kelly has said. Otherwise, online travel agencies often flag basic fares for users. In 2017, Kayak underwent an overhaul that made basic fares more visible. Special icons warn you of fares that don't allow carry-on bags. Similarly, CheapAir.com identifies basic economy fares on its results page. Google Flights, another helpful tool, allows you to search by criteria such as the ability to take a carry-on bag. That eliminates some of the most restrictive basic tickets and entirely excludes discount carriers such as Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines.