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On November 17, JetBlue threw two parties. The first was at JFK’s Terminal 5, just before 9am, with cupcakes, coffee, smoothies, and a three-man steel band. The second was six hours later in Liberia, Costa Rica, marking the airline’s inaugural flight to the capital of the Guanacaste province, JetBlue’s second Costa Rican destination and 68th overall. That party was co-hosted by the Costa Rican minister of tourism, and started with water cannons over the A320’s fuselage, followed by three men on a marimba, a woman feistily playing a donkey jaw, and six youthful dancers in national dress, featuring lots of flouncy skirts and sashes. To promote the new four-times-weekly flight, the only non-stop to Costa Rica from JFK, one-way fares through February 15 are $119 for tickets bought by November 30, and surfboard surcharges are waived through December 17. (Catching wind of JetBlue’s plans, Continental launched its own daily directs from Newark one week before, but without the donkey-jaw, dancing, or promotions.)
It’s deals season in the Caribbean, and with good reason: Hurricanes and tropical storms swirl through the region this time of year, squashing many bargain-hunting beach-goers’ plans. This week, Hurricane Irene is causing trouble in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and seems to have her sights set on southern Florida. To compensate, some airlines are issuing ticket-change waivers for those areas on select travel dates; here’s what you need to know:
It’s tournament time in Texas! Want to be in Houston for the NCAA finals on April 2 and 4? Or just want a southern spring break, but spent all your money on a losing bracket? Continental has you covered: Travel now through June and get low round-trip fares starting from just $148 on routes from select cities nationwide (including New Orleans, Indianapolis, Newark, Hartford and more) to Houston. Whether you’re coming for basketball or just for great dining in the nation’s fourth-largest city, these cheap fares (not including taxes) are super rates for this time of year.
Sample Fares (R/T)
* New Orleans – Houston: $183+
* Orange County – Houston: $238+
* Indianapolis – Houston: $248+
* Hartford – Houston: $308+
* Newark – $398+
THE VALUE: This sale can save you more than 40% on regularly priced round-trip flights to Houston
THE CATCH: There’s no book-by date, so grab these deals while they last. Also, taxes and fees are not included.
THE DETAILS: Click here to book your flight with Continental.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Visit our Southern Hotel Deals pages to find a hot Houston hotel.
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It’s a big year for Curaçao: The Caribbean island not only became its own autonomous country (within the Kingdom of the Netherlands) in October, it’s also now a breeze to reach from the Tri-State area.
In December, Continental launched a twice-weekly nonstop flight from Newark. Although the carrier already offered seasonal weekly flights to Curaçao, East Coast travelers can now book these nonstop jaunts year round, every Wednesday and Saturday (flights are scheduled to leave EWR at 8:50am and take off from CUR at 3:40pm).
The new flights – just four hours long – make it even easier for travelers to trade the chill of the winter months for Curaçao’s sun-soaked beaches and cultural treasures. Situated between Aruba and Bonaire, just 35 miles north of Venezuela, Curaçao and its capital, Willemstad (a UNESCO World Heritage site), showcase an eclectic mix of history, culture, and tropical appeal.
Although this Dutch Caribbean isle’s newfound autonomy placed it firmly on North Americans’ 2011 travel radars, it also has plenty of traditional charms: pristine dive sites, secluded beaches, championship golf, and rich local cuisine.
It’s easy to gripe about the big, bad legacy carriers implementing fare hikes and unpopular new fees, but in the last two weeks, fan favorite airlines JetBlue and Southwest have ushered in a few penny-pinching policies of their own.
Last week, JetBlue – beloved for its unlimited snacks and seatback TVs – started charging flyers an extra $5 on some routes for its Even More Legroom fares, a class of seating that offers passengers slightly roomier chairs. Over-packers on JetBlue will also feel the pinch: The airline, which lets flyers check one bag for free, hiked fees on the second piece of luggage from $30 to $35; the new price kicked in March 3.
East Coast vacationers will enjoy a few more options for Caribbean jet-setting this February, when both JetBlue and Continental launch new routes to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos (one of our Top 10 Beach Trips) – just in time for a much-needed, mid-winter vitamin D fix.
Budget darling JetBlue (the first low-cost carrier to head to the islands) kicks off flights to its 17th Caribbean destination from Boston’s Logan airport and New York’s JFK airport President’s Day weekend; Bostonians can escape to Turks and Caicos via weekly winter routes (November through April), and New Yorkers will see daily, year-round flights to Providenciales.
Starting February 18, Continental will fly from New York’s Newark airport to Providenciales once on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; by March, flights will head south daily.
For general trip-planning information, see our Turks and Caicos Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on hotels, airfare, packages, and more travel deals.
When airlines announce new fees, we almost immediately start scheming ways to skip the costs. So imagine our cautiously happy surprise this week when Continental announced its new FareLock program, a tool that lets flyers reserve flight prices for up to seven days – and one charge we might willingly pay.
The program is simple: Passengers booking Continental flights may pay a small fee to lock in fares for as long as a week, without any obligation to purchase the ticket. A non-refundable, three-day reservation would cost as little as $5, and week-long holds start at $9 (though we found a January flight from New York to Los Angeles that charges $9 for a 72-hour lock and $19 for the seven-day option).
Good news for travelers to Mexico: American, Continental, Delta, and United are all increasing service and adding new routes south of the border to fill in some of the gaps that Mexicana left when it went bankrupt in August; many of the changes kick in this fall.
American is seriously bulking up its Mexico service, with additional flights to Aguascalientes, Cancun, Guadalajara, Leon/Guanajuato, and Mexico City, as well as brand-new routes to Queretaro and Veracruz launching this fall and winter.
Dallas will see a trio of improvements starting November 18, when the airline increases daily flights to Mexico City by one, bringing the total to four takeoffs each day; a second daily flight to Aguascalientes will also lift off November 18. Four flights, instead of three, will service Leon/Guanajuato from Dallas beginning December 16, and Queretaro and Veracruz itineraries start February 10.
Anyone who harbors a fear of accidentally getting on the wrong flight might cringe at this news. So-called “self-boarding” airport entrances, which let flyers board a plane without an agent checking tickets, have touched down at the Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH), where Continental will test the system.
Unless you’re running across the country à la Forest Gump, traveling can induce a certain amount of green guilt. Cars burn through gas; cruise ships generate up to 11 million gallons of wastewater each day; and air travel spews greenhouse gases into the sky. Happily, many domestic airlines now sponsor carbon offset programs, which let passengers calculate their carbon footprint and tack a small charge onto plane tickets to neutralize the journey’s impact on the earth. The offsets cost as little as $3, depending on the flight’s length, and support valuable emissions reduction projects, such as planting trees in Louisiana or funding projects that reduce methane levels in landfills across the U.S. To shrink your footprint, scan our roundup of stateside offset programs before booking your next flight.
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