Friday, May 30, 2008

Travel Companies Help Chinese Earthquake Victims

This isn't a regular subject for Green Travels, but it is an important enough subject to switch gears --

Millions of people are homeless in Sichuan Province, China because of the devastating earthquake earlier in May. Here are some ways that travel companies are helping -- and how you can help, too.

Let's start with panda bears, the iconic and popular -- and endangered -- animal.

The Wolong Nature Preserve is the world's most important panda conservation and breeding center. It was destroyed by the earthquake, and pandas and the people who care for them have been left homeless. GLOBIO and DVD International are teaming up to benefit the Wolong Nature Reserve. GLOBIO is an organization that promotes cross-cultural contacts of children -- and we all know how much children love panda bears.

Buy an Ultimate Panda DVD. It's all about these unique and captivating creatures. Half of the money from sales will be donated to rebuild the Woolong Nature Preserve -- where the DVD was filmed.

Airlines have been getting a bad rap lately -- which they deserve -- for adding all kinds of baggage fees and taking away our free peanuts, plus raising ticket prices. So let's give credit to an airline that's doing something good -- Northwest Airlines.

Transfer any amount of your NWA WorldPerks miles to The Salvation Army and Northwest Airlines will match those gift miles up to a total of one million WorldPerks miles. Transfer miles online or if you prefer, call 1-800-327-2881. Make sure to have your WorldPerks number and PIN ready. Or, at donate least $50 to The Salvation Army and NWA will give you 500 WorldPerks Bonus Miles.

So where are American Airlines and United Airlines? Don't they fly to China, too? Don't they like pandas?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Green Hotel in Chicago

When you travel to the Windy City, stay and sleep in a green hotel.

The InterContinental Chicago, on fabled Michigan Avenue, has received all kinds of awards for its eco-friendly initiatives and efficient use of energy.

It is the first Chicago hotel to receive an Energy Star award, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy.

You usually see the Energy Star icon on household appliances that meet EPA requirements for energy efficiency. But not an entire hotel. This one does.

The award means the InterContinental Chicago is one of 25% of all the hotels in the USA that are certified environmentally-friendly. And, it is in the final stages of receiving LEED and Green Seal certification, two other hard-to-get ratings.

Part of the news here is that this isn't a brand new hotel, designed and built from the ground up to be eco-friendly. This is one of the most historic hotels of America, retro-fitted to be a modern energy star.

Originally built in 1929 as the Medinah Athletic Club, an exclusive luxury men's club, the InterContinental Chicago is one of Chicago's most elegant landmarks. It includes a historic, junior Olympic size pool, is recognized as one of the best indoor pools in the U.S. and is included in Chicago's major architectural tours.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Travel Deals, Discounts and Bargains

Gas prices rising. Airlines charging you to take a suitcase. Simply, travel is more expensive than last year. But some family attractions are reducing their prices.

Here's where to save green travel dollars this summer. Okay, okay -- these might not be the kind of environmental, eco-friendly, tree-hugger destinations you usually find here. Today, I'm writing about the broader category of saving the green in your wallet.

Six Flags Over Georgia is reducing its main gate regular admission price by $10 for the remainder of the 2008 season. That means ten roller coasters, including Goliath and the Mind Bender, water rides including thunder River and Splashwater Falls, a children's area with Thomas the Tank Engine, and a full schedule of free concerts. Even with the $10 discount, you're still paying $39.99 per adult, $29.99 per kid.

  • super discount deal -- buy tickets online for $29.99 per person, adult or kid, print them out, and go straight to the gate, no waiting on the ticket line.

Madam Tussauds Washington D.C. is dropping prices for seniors, children ages 12 and under, and for residents of Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia (you'll have to show proof of residency, like a driver's license, to get the discount for locals). Okay -- each ticket discount is it's just $3 or $4, but that's the price of one gallon of gas.

  • Be sure to bring your camera. It's hokey, but everybody does it -- have your picture taken next to lifesize and lifelike images of famous names including President John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, George Clooney, Beyonce, Senators Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, even Pope Benedict XVI, who visited D.C. in April.

Green travels sometimes just means saving gas and saving money.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Deals for Free Gas for Summer Travel

It must be a good idea, because the two top online hotel reservations companies -- and Expedia -- are offering deals that give you back green dollars to lower the price of filling your gas tank. will give you a $50 gas card rebate for every three night reservation. Stay six nights, and you get $100 green back for gas travel. But there are restrictions. Surprise. There are always restrictions.
  • The gas rebate deal is only good for stays between July 6 and September 1. That means no two-night getaway weekends are eligible, and the free gas deal does not apply over the popular July Fourth and Labor Day holiday weekends.

  • You have to apply for the gas rebate card, and it will be mailed to you after your eligible three-night stay. But doesn't say how long after. By Thanksgiving, hopefully.

The gas rebate program from Expedia is a bit different. It still gives you $50 back for a three-night stay, but this program gives you a prepaid Mastercard you can use at any gas station. And, of course, there are restrictions.

  • The Expedia program is for weekday stays only, no weekends.

  • The gas rebate program is over August 31, just before the Labor Day holiday.

Are these gas rebate deals hype or help? Will giving you back $50 green dollars for your summer travel mean the difference between going to grandma's house and not?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Free Gas From Hotels

Hotels are trying to boost travel this summer by giving guests free gas -- giving back some green.

The promotions are designed to lessen the crunch of rising gas prices. But it's really a ploy to generate some positive public relations and marketing buzz.

What is the difference is between advertising "free gas" and advertising "$50 reduction in your hotel bill"? A lot more of us writers and bloggers will write about FREE GAS than will write and blog about Hotel X is discounting its two night stay by $50.

And the free gas promotion has restrictions. Duh! Surprise.

Take Choice Hotels International. Never heard of them? They're the parent group of Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion and Cambria Suites brands.

You can get a $50 gas rebate -- if you book three different, separate visits between June 1 and August 14, and if you register for the program before your first stay, and send in the paperwork after your third stay. Wow! I'm so impressed.

Wouldn't it just be easier for Choice Hotels International to say "join our frequent guest program, stay with us three times this summer, and we'll reduce your total bill by $50". Of course it would. But who would write about that?

There's lots of ways to travel green, to save the environment, and also save the green in your wallet. Travel smarter, travel green.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Take Home a Piece of Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is very likely the most environmentally faithful, green place for travel. And the historic Old Faithful Inn, overlooking the iconic Old Faithful geyser, is the best place to stay inside the park.

The inn is famous -- along with its view -- for its hand-crafted old-fashioned furniture.

Beginning this summer, visitors can buy copies of headboards, chairs, mirrors, and other items from the new "Yellowstone Collection” available in the gift shop, and also online.

The furniture is made by the Old Hickory Furniture Company, which has been making furniture for the Old Faithful Inn since it opened in 1904.

Even better -- Old Hickory is donating 10% to the Yellowstone Park Foundation, to help operate park programs that the National Park Service does not fund.

To kick off the line of furniture, Old Hickory and Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates Old Faithful Inn, are sponsoring a contest called the ‘National Treasure Grand Giveaway.” Prizes include a complete bedroom set of the handcrafted furniture and one five-day Yellowstone vacation including five nights at the Old Faithful Inn, airfare for up to four people, meals and activities.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Where Americans are Traveling This Summer

More than 25 million Americans will be travelling internationally this summer, a larger number than of green travel adventurers than went on the road last year.

Travel to Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia is up for summer 2008, despite the weak dollar overseas, despite international airline fares and hotels that are more expensive than last year.

The travel forecast is from AAA, via report produced by a company called Global Insight.

According to them, Americans will be spending an astounding $30.7 billion overseas during the months of June, July and August.

Even though the increase in the number of travellers is up only two percent, the increase in the amount we'll be spending is up twice that much -- because of the double-whammy of general worldwide inflation, in part due to the astronomical rise in gas prices and the week U.S. dollar.

The largest travel increases are for China and India. China, of course, is the site of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. According to the AAA-Global insight report, travel by Americans to visits to China and India are expected to be up more than 13% -- each -- this summer.

Travel to Europe also is predicted to be up this year --
  • France -- up 6.7%, with more than one American million visitors,

  • Ireland -- up 6.6%, with more than 337,000 American visitors

  • Italy -- up 4.7% with 1.6 million green travels visitors

  • Germany -- up 4.4% with 725,000 American travelers.
So, this is a busy year for green travels overseas. Make sure you get to the airport early.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Portland Brewpub Goes Solar to Brew Beers

Portland’s Lucky Labrador Brew Pub is the first brewpub in Oregon to use solar power to brew beer. Definitely a green travels destination. But no green beer.

Solar panels on the roof generate energy to heat the water used in making beer. The renewable energy is also used to heat water for dishwashers and bathrooms.

Even on cloudy days, of which Portland is known to have a few, the panels can generate enough energy to warm water to 145 degrees.

Lucky Lab, one of several Portland-area brewpubs that welcome dogs in their outdoor seating areas, plans to brew a special “Sun Beer” to celebrate its solar-heating system.

This Lucky Lab pub, in Southeast Portland, is in a former warehouse. There are also two other Lucky Lab brewpubs around Portland -- but so far, they haven't gone solar. Maybe soon.

A green travels destination that is pet-friendly, too.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Help Save the Endangered Loggerhead Turtle

This green travels expedition can help save the Loggerhead Turtle, the largest hard-shelled turtle. It lives along a long stretch of southeast Florida coast, and it is endangered.

The eggs of these beautiful -- and endangered -- creatures will be hatching soon, and there's the chance to both see them in their natural habitat and help them survive.

A volunteer from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society of Brevard County, Florida educates guests on the plight of the sea turtles during beach walks while on the lookout in hopes of spotting a Loggerhead.

The walks are a great educational experience as well as an opportunity to get your family talking about ways to go green at home.

The Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront Resort has a vacation package that includes turtle walk tickets. The hotel also returns $10 to the Sea Turtle Preservation Society for every package booked. The turtle walks are from June 1 to July 31.

There's more information about the endangered loggerhead turtle on the National Geographic website.

Green turtles and green travels.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Airlines Now Charge You to Check Bags

Starting next week, airline passengers will pay extra to check their bags. This is a kind of green travel -- it is the airlines taking more green out of our travel pockets.

Instead of raising ticket prices, airlines are raising the cost of taking a second suitcase. Starting Monday, May 5, it will cost you $25 to check a second bag on these airlines:
  • United, Delta, Continental, US Airways, Northwest
  • American (starts Monday May 12)

If you are traveling next week, expect extra congestion and extra tension at the check-in counters as unsuspecting travelers get hit with excess baggage charges.

Why are the airlines doing this? To help cover their increased fuel costs, which are enormous. And, by discouraging us from traveling with two bags, the airlines also are cutting the weight of their planes, which will help squeeze a few more miles out of each gallon of jet fuel.

The $25 charge for a second bag does not apply to everybody -- only to the passengers in the cheap seats -- kiss your discounted economy fare goodbye. Full-fare economy, business and first class passengers are not being hit with the $25 excess baggage charge. Ditto, members of an airline's frequent flyer club.

The rules are pretty complicated. Check your airline's website for updated information. But don't expect much information.

American Airlines has a teeny tiny box tab on its baggage allowance website page that says 'important updates" that's easy to miss. And I couldn't find anything at all about the new baggage charges on the United or Continental websites.

That's just plain dumb and asking for trouble. I pity the poor airline check-in personnel next week. They are in for a lot of abuse that's not their fault.

Bad enough the airlines are dumping $25 baggage charges on us. It is shameful they are not informing us better. So much for friendly skies!

Learn to travel light. Check one large bag instead of two smaller ones. But remember to keep that one large bag to 50 lbs. or less, since you also will be charged for excess baggage for any bag that weighs more than 50 lbs.

Or, just stick to carry-on. Then you won't have to worry about being the owner of one of the one-billion (yes, billion with a 'b') bags that are delayed worldwide each year.