Hotel parking rates can sting

Take a look at hotel parking rates before you book. Some locations offer free parking, some have reasonable charges, but others have highway robbery rates, especially in big cities. If you can't find the rates online, call the hotel and ask. If you plan on staying in a city such as San Francisco with plenty of transportation options, those are often cheaper than parking plus car rental.


Why travel agents

The ranks of travel agents continue to grow in the U.S. despite an array of travel websites. The reason may have something to do with the difficult requests travel agencies tackle on a daily basis. Among the top 10 odd questions compiled by American Society of Travel Agents: Can you book two rooms in different parts of the resort — one for me and my wife and the other for my girlfriend? Washington Post

Now open

Public is welcome at International Owl Center

Tiny Houston, Minn., is now home to the International Owl Center, which officially opened in March and is holding an open house May 17. Stop in to the center's arresting storefront (you can't miss the giant owls staring at you) in Houston during regular hours, 10-4 Friday-Monday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for ages 4-17 and free for members and kids under 3. The center is dedicated to owl education and research, aided by residents Alice, Ruby and Rupert, all great horned owls, and shy Timber, a barred owl that survived a chain saw going through his nest cavity in a dead tree. Karla Bloem, the center's director, leads research on great horned owls that draws participants from all over the world, who observe the raptors via online owl-cams and record their data. "When people start learning about owls, they want to help them," she said. She says the center is the only such place in the country devoted to owl education and open to the public. More information:; 1-507-896-6957. Catherine Preus

Deal of the week

A week at the cabin, with a discount

Maybe you haven't planned a week Up at the Lake yet, but you should. Book a week in 2015 at a cabin at Sunset Shores Resort in New London, Minn., and get a 10 percent discount. The resort is two hours from the Twin Cities and offers activities from walleye fishing to a water trampoline, game room, boat rental, water skiing and taking in the resort's famed sunsets. Sibley State Park is 3 miles away, with trails for summer or winter use. Guests can choose a cabin that sleeps two or a 10-bedroom with room for 21, with prices ranging accordingly from $95 a day to $495 a day. More information: sunsetshores; 1-320-354-4220.

Catherine Preus

Travel trend

Spain is tops for tourists

For the first time, Spain ranks as the world's most tourism-friendly country in the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index. Spain's leading status is "thanks to its cultural resources, infrastructure and adaptation to digital consumption habits," a news release accompanying the report said. Traditionally strong contenders including France, Germany, the United States (at No. 4), the United Kingdom, Australia, and Italy were also ranked in the index's top 10. The report ranks 141 countries across 14 dimensions "revealing how well countries could deliver sustainable economic and societal benefits through their travel and tourism sector."

Washington post