The Tactical Traveler

FOR APRIL 26, 2000


This week: The big loophole in a National Parks Pass; is a must bookmark Web site for news, stats and political and economic information on 191 countries; the airport report; Cuba cruises offer legal entry to the forbidden island; and more.

COST-CUTTERS: The National Parks Pass--and the Big Loophole
The National Park Service ( has finally launched a "National Park Pass" (, a supposedly all-in-one program that permits access to the nation's 379 national parks, national monuments and historic sites. The pass costs $50 and is valid for one year from the month of purchase. It is sold at national parks sites or directly on the web from the Parks Service site ( AAA members can buy the pass for $48 from AAA offices or at the AAA site (

But the pass has a big loophole which the Park Service conveniently ignores and most media reports have failed to mention. The Pass only covers what the NPS classifies as "entry" costs, not all admissions and fees. One example: the three Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic sites located in New York's Hudson Valley. Entrance to these sites--the Roosevelt estate, the Vanderbilt Mansion and Val-Kill--is not covered by the pass. The reason? "The fees we charge are not entrance fees, they're really viewed by the Park Service as program fees," explains Sarah Olson, director of the sites. "While we sell the National Park Pass, we don't accept them."

How do you figure out which costs are covered by the pass? Lots of luck. The NPS site lists park fees (, but does not specify which ones are covered by the pass. You'll have to check with each park individually for more information.

BEST OF THE WEB: Global Intelligence, Intelligently Presented
Business travelers who need details about political and economic conditions on countries around the world generally rely on the CIA World Fact Book. But a new site, CountryWatch (, offers a stunning alternative. There is an impressive array of political and economic information on 191 countries, all of it easily accessible and extremely well organized. The site's best feature: a steady stream of breaking news about the selected country from a variety of sources. This integration of the news, dovetailed with the statistical basics and the easy-to-use format, makes CountryWatch a "must-bookmark" site.

ON THE FLY: The Worldwide Airport Report
Wind toppled the radar tower at Boston/Logan Airport last weekend and there continues to be long flight delays and frequent cancellations at New England's major airport. Worse, travelers seeking information from the Logan website have found the site down or overloaded. American Airlines ( launches service from Dallas/Love Field on May 1 with flights to Los Angeles and Chicago. American's service--using Fokker 100 jets configured with just 56 first-class seats--duplicates the operations of Legend Airlines ( It is also the latest twist in the decades-long saga of the federally restricted airport. Another never-ending saga, this one involving Milan/Malpensa Airport, began a new chapter last week after the Italian government finally completed the transfer of most--but not all--flights from Milan/Linate Airport ( If you're flying into or out of Milan, check with your airline to see which airport is served. African travelers take note: Except for flights operated by Qantas ( and Lufthansa (, overseas international carriers have abandoned the airport in Harare, Zimbabwe. A combination of high airport costs and the recent racial unrest in the country have led airlines to divert their flights to other southern African destinations.

VACATION STATION: Traveling to the Forbidden Island
If the Elian Gonzalez case somehow whetted your appetite for a visit to Cuba, remember that travel to the Caribbean island is essentially off-limits for most U.S. citizens. But a Canadian travel firm called Blyth & Company says it will launch Cuba cruises in November that will legally carry U.S. travelers. The 4-day programs will depart from Nassau, Bahamas; prices begin at $1,190 a couple. For complete details on the cruises to the forbidden island, surf to the Cuba Cruising website ( For an overview of U.S. government rules and restrictions on Cuba travel, consult the Treasury Department website (

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1999-2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.