The Tactical Traveler



This week: Winter “Clearance” sales; ice skating between flights at Malpensa; airlines add snow- and sun-country flights; American Airlines installs baggage “sizers”; Omni Hotels to drop adult pay-per-view movies; and more.

COST CUTTERS: The Travel Industry's Winter 'Clearance Sales'
Unless you're traveling to a ski resort or a sun-drenched beach, January and February are the slowest months of the year for most of the world's airlines, hotels and resorts. And just like department stores, which hold their big "white sales" and "clearance sales" in January and February, the travel industry engages in an orgy of price cutting.

Starting with trips that begin after the New Year's weekend, airlines, tour packages, theme parks and hoteliers offering anywhere from 20 to 50 percent off their regular prices. They'll also be larding the promotions with extras: room upgrades, free meals, companion deals, discount coupons and all sorts of perks and special privileges. The values are global in scope, too. Not only are U.S. destinations desperate for business, so are hotels in Europe and Asia. The only exception: the busy travel period around President's Day Weekend.

Where do you find the best deals? Watch for advertisements in the travel section of your local newspaper and surf the Internet. And if you don't see what you like, don't hesitate to call your favorite hotel or tour operator and ask about special winter promotions. Many have last-minute deals they won't advertise. And check next week's edition of Practical Traveler. It'll feature the best of the Winter deals.

AIRPORT REPORT: Working--or Skating--Between Flights
Laptop Lane [] has opened outlets at Philadelphia International and Detroit Metro airports. Travelers can rent cubicles outfitted with computers, fax machines and other office equipment. After a $2 fee for the first five minutes, cubicles rent for 38 cents a minute. … Malpensa Airport in Milan, which is notorious for long flight delays, has developed a novel way to entertain inconvenienced flyers. On Saturday, it opened an ice-rink outside Terminal One. Travelers can use it free until January 9. The rink will help travelers "pass the time while waiting for flights," said a spokesperson for SEA, the company that manages the airport.

ROUTE MAP: Follow the Sun, Hit the Slopes or Leave the Country
"Snowbirds" looking to escape cold northern winters have more flight options this year. American Eagle, the commuter carrier for American Airlines [], last week launched twice-daily weekend service between Chicago/O'Hare and Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida. And Atlantic Coast, the commuter airline that flies as United Express[], has begun flights to the Gulf Coast community of Mobile, Alabama. Twice-daily flights are available from both O'Hare and Washington/Dulles. … If you'd prefer to hit the slopes, United is expanding its service to snow destinations beginning December 15. The additions include nonstop weekend service to Vail from O'Hare, New York/LaGuardia, and Los Angeles. It will also add Saturday flights between Los Angeles and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Hayden, Colorado, near Steamboat Springs. … And if you'd just like to get out of the country, Continental [] now flies four times weekly between its hub at Houston/Intercontinental and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

ON THE FLY: News Your Need to Know
Omni Hotels [] says it will remove adult pay-per-view movies from most guest-room televisions by June. … American Airlines last week began installing baggage "sizers" on X-ray machines at many of its domestic security checkpoints. Bags that do not meet American's 24x5-inch or 15x9-inch requirements will not pass through the sizers and must be checked. … Subscriptions and ticket packages for the annual Spoleto Festival [] in Charleston, South Carolina are now on sale. For more information on the famous arts and culture festival, scheduled for May 26 to June 11, call 843-722-2764. … Virgin Atlantic Airways [] says its "Upper Class" business-class passengers to London now have access to free limousine rides to their departure airport from 19 states. Upon arrival in London, passengers also receive a free limo ride to almost anywhere in Britain.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright © 1999-2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.