Shermanstravel Blog

Rome

Switzerland, ZurichSwiss Air Lines is offering some good fares to a number of European cities for the fall and winter, but you will have to make your mind up quickly as the sale ends at midnight tonight. If you’re wondering whether you’re ready to make a spontaneous booking, take a look at our handy checklist. Otherwise, you can book through our Travel Search tool, or visit the airline’s web site directly.

PIazza_Mattei

If you’ve been to Rome, you probably visited Piazza di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, or some of the other, more popular public squares. But Rome’s other piazzas offer just as much culture and history as their touristy counterparts. Here are five lesser-known piazzas worth seeking out:

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Absolutely Chicago SegwayA Segway tour is a great way to get an overview of a new city or region. You’ll cover more ground than you would on foot, and your guide can teach you about the local history, suggest restaurants, and refer you to other great tours in the area. Plus, Segways are just fun to ride. Here are 10 awesome Segway tours to add to your bucket list.

Chicago: Several companies operate in Chicago, but Absolutely Chicago Segway offers a few unique options in addition to the standard tour past Grant Park, the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Soldier Field. We like the Chicago Gangster tour ($65) featuring the hangouts of Al Capone and other wise guys and the Chicago Haunted Tour ($65) that glides you past haunted hotels, murder sites, and even a morgue. If you are in town during Halloween, the guides dress up as ghouls for the haunted tour.

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hilton garden inn 1

While overnight layovers can be a great excuse to explore (albeit briefly) an unknown city, the reality is you often end up too far from the airport. On the other hand, airport-adjacent lodging is rarely anything to write home about. Thank goodness, then, for these ten European airport hotels offering comfort, a glimpse of local culture, and reasonable prices – all while remaining conveniently close to (or, in some cases, inside) the airport.

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Intercontinental ThalassoMake no mistake, collecting points to use for travel is a hassle. With black out dates and restrictions, actually using them for travel can be an even bigger hassle. That’s why loyalty programs are often overlooked as too conflated or difficult to actually enjoy, but those who put in the effort can be rewarded handsomely. Case in point: I recently used a combination of points to fund a visit to a remote island paradise in the southern Maldives. It wasn’t easy, nor was it straightforward, but it enabled me to travel to a place I could never afford otherwise. Here are five astonishing properties around the globe that may not be so far out of reach after all… Read more

santignacioBritish Airways has just launched its discounted “daytripper fares” for travelers flying from London to a handful of European cities. The catch? (Or, perhaps the benefit?) You have to return to London in the same day. Round-trip tickets, including all taxes and fees, will cost £79 (about $130) to Dublin and Geneva, £89 (about $149) for Edinburgh and Rome and £99 (about $165) for Vienna and Munich. You can only travel with carry-on luggage from London’s Heathrow airport, and only on Saturdays or Sundays.

These fares are tailor-made for travelers who want to cram in a second destination with their London trip — a fairly common strategy, especially considering how easy it is to get to Paris, Scotland, or other parts of England by rail. Flying expands your options even more.

Of course, taking into account check-in, transfers, and flight time, this doesn’t leave you much time to enjoy that second destination. But if you really have the urge to pop across the Channel (or Irish Sea) for a few hours, here are some suggestions for quick, interesting itineraries you can accomplish in a day.

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pizzarium-620Here’s the thing about food in Rome: when it’s good, it’ll drive you to tears of joy over a bowl of bucatini. But like any tourist-ridden city, when it’s bad, it’s really bad – in the form of sticky laminated menus, limp pizza crust and hot pink gelato. The trick is finding the gems that locals swear by. From intimate, family-run joints to Michelin-star meals, here are five of Rome’s best restaurants. Read more

VeniceWhen it comes to traveling on a budget, you can’t really get more affordable – or more basic – than sleeping dorm-style in a bunk bed with a free breakfast. We’re talking, of course, about hostels – the cheap, stripped-down alternatives to hotels that are popular with backpackers and college students. But it’s not just young people who are welcome, says Generator Hostels chariman Carl Michel. Below, we’ve listed some reasons why travelers in their thirties, forties, and beyond might consider this ultra-budget-friendly way to stay: Read more

620x400_Scuola-del-Cuoio_FlorenceItaly wasn’t created for one-stop shopping – in fact, it’s not even that well suited to single-destination trips. Rome? Venice? Florence? How to choose? Well, you might not have to. The Italy deal in this week’s Top 25 newsletter offers a six-night train ride including a two-night stop in at each of those iconic cities. Since you won’t be spending the entire trip watching the scenery go by (at least, we hope not), here’s a look at the best shops to visit to take home a one-of-a-kind, easy-to-pack souvenir. Read more

We’ve already dished up the best hotel restaurants to have a Thanksgiving feast at on the home front, but what if you’re traveling over the holidays? Luckily for homesick Americans, international hotels understand the significance of the day, meaning that even in such far flung places as Europe and the Caribbean, you can celebrate with a semi-traditional feast and all the trimmings.

London

The DorchesterLondon’s iconic Mayfair hotel, The Dorchester will be offering American guests traditional favorites with an English twist at its restaurant The Grill. Thanksgiving dinner will include such dishes as New England clam chowder; roast turkey, quince and orange stuffing, baked squash, sweet potatoes, chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon with cranberry sauce, and, for dessert, pumpkin and pecan pie, and eggnog ice cream with roasted marshmallow sauce. With the hotel’s prime location overlooking Hyde Park, you can easily burn off (some of) the calories with a brisk stroll. While in the park, you can check out Hyde Park Winter Wonderland with its shops, ice skating, and carnival rides (opens Nov. 22). Thanksgiving lunch and dinner rates start from £60 per adult excluding wines (approximately $90) and £90 with wines (approximately $138 USD) and €30 per child aged 5-11 ($48 USD).

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Shoulder Season Spots in EuropeHere we are in September, and though certain parts of Europe tend to cool down faster than others (Vienna is already in the low 60s, while Sicily is keeping things at a balmy 75 degrees) summer season has for the most part come and gone. But don’t let that end your fun – or derail a possible vacation. Between now and Thanksgiving, there’s a special window of opportunity for savvy travelers known as shoulder season.

Flights aren’t necessarily cheaper compared to the rest of the year, and yes, temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit (you may luck out weather-wise, but it’s never guaranteed), there is one sure benefit to traveling at this time of year: fewer tourists.

This in-between season offers a calmer, less hectic way to enjoy Europe’s traditionally touristy destinations like Rome and the Greek islands. With the dip in foot traffic comes shorter lines, greater flexibility in organizing tours, and easier access to in-demand restaurants and hotels – in short, a better vacation. Here, we offer suggestions for the activities you’ll want to add to your itineraries for a visit to Europe in the next month or two. Read more

Rather than trying to escape the chilly weather this season, why not embrace it? Even in high season, many ski resorts offer lodging deals now, especially for travel on weekdays or toward the end of the season (late March and early April). Winter is also the cheapest time to travel to many cooler-weather metropolitan cities, both in the U.S. and abroad, so, if you can brave the lower temperatures, you’ll also enjoy reduced airfare and hotel rates.

Ski on fresh powder out West at major Colorado ski resorts like Breckenridge and Keystone, where individual condos through ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals start from just $119 per night. Most of Fairmont Hotels‘ 4-star properties throughout Canada offer rooms for 20 percent off this season, including the Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, which sits at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Not only can you ski at the nearby Marmot Basin, you can also enjoy ice skating, tobogganing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. Read more

Immerse yourself in Roman luxury this fall for $155 to $210 per night. This offer from the Artemide Hotel ranked by TripAdvsiror.com readers as one of  the top 10 best hotels (out of 1,279) in Rome – reduces current rates by 40%, a savings of $190 per night.

Stay at this rate on select dates in November and December in a Double Room with a double bed, a flat-screen satellite TV, a mini-bar stocked with complimentary beverages and refreshments, and soundproofed walls.

The hotel’s central location in the lively Via Nazionale neighborhood makes it an ideal launching pad for visiting the many famous sites that Rome has to offer. The iconic Colosseum, the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum, the Termini Train Station, and many other popular attractions are within a ten minute walk from the hotel lobby.

While the hotel’s facade blends right in to the nearby historic architecture, inside you’ll find a slew of modern amenities that many hotels in Italy lack. Enjoy complimentary access to a fitness center and sauna, an onsite coffee bar and restaurant, and a spacious roof terrace bar with sweeping views of the nearby Vatican. The hotel staff will also provide you with welcome beverages upon arrival.

To book this offer, visit the Artemide Hotel’s website for online reservations and inquiries.

See our Rome destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights.

Wind Star in GreeceIf a Mediterranean, Adriatic, or Baltic cruise is on your 2012 travel wish list, check out the $1,776 July 4th sale fares now being offered by Windstar Cruises (must be booked by July 6). Windstar, which operates three tall-masted luxury ships – 312-passenger Wind Surf and 148-passenger Wind Star (shown at left in Greece) and Wind Spirit – has lowered fares on 20 European voyages sailing from mid-July to mid-November (with some fall voyages priced as low as $1,476 and December Caribbean voyages priced from $976).

I have cruised around Europe extensively and have sailed on both Wind Star and Wind Surf. If, like me, you prefer smaller ships to the behemoths, you’ll enjoy the intimate ambiance, wonderful service, superb cuisine, and easy camaraderie that these ships offer. Here are few of my recommendations for itineraries among those on sale until July 6:

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Hotel Metropole bunkerSome hotels are merely a place to rest your head at night, but others hold fascinating tales of wartime refuges, remarkable wildlife, valuable art, and ghostly spirits that refuse to let go. Sign up to be amazed and maybe learn a thing or two on these exceptional hotel tours.

Until recently, most people had forgotten there was an air raid shelter underneath the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam. When staff discovered it during some routine work on the pool area, however, the hotel decided to excavate the bunker and restore it to its original state. Now, hotel guests can participate in nightly tours that highlight the shelter’s famous past residents – including Joan Baez, who recorded “Where Are You Now My Son” there in 1972 – and Hotel Metropole’s role during the Vietnam War.

An in-house historian leads groups through the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, each Wednesday through Saturday to reveal such nuggets as the unlikely origins of the hotel and President Calvin Coolidge’s preference to dine with the hotel staff during his visits. The tour costs $5 for guests, $10 for non-guests; alternatively, book the tour and a three-course lunch at Marchand’s Bar & Grill for $25.

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