Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Make Your Holiday Gifts Count

Sure, you could give everybody on your gift list a pair of gloves, a scarf or a box of chocolates they don't need and might not even like. Or, you could make your gift really count and give a donation to an international charity in the name of your friend, relative or boss.

Here are some suggestions for giving green to legitimate charities which help the poor and the sick around the world --

Doctors Without Borders -- There's an urgent need for funds to help in Zimbabwe, which is suffering a killing outbreak of cholera. This group's doctors and nurses have treated more than 11,000 victims since August. Thousands have died, including entire families.

Heifer International -- As little as $20 will buy a flock of baby chicks, ducklings or geese that can lay eggs to feed a family, grow up and breed more chickens, ducks or geese that can be sold to support the family -- and the eggs those animals produce start expand the cycle to the next family. Heifer International has programs in South America and Asia.

Red Cross -- No explanation needed.

Taj Hotel, Mumbai, India -- The terrorist attack in November killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds more, at the historic Taj Hotel and other locations in the city that used to be called Bombay. The owners of the Taj -- which suffered millions of dollars in damage -- have started a Trust Fund for victims. There is no website for donations -- email tpswtrust@tajhotels.com for instructions on how to donate.

Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation -- You can search the database for free, and find the name of your grandparent or great-grandparent, and the name of the boat he or she arrived on to the United States. Or, donate something to help keep those records free, by adding a name to the Wall of Honor -- buy your relative's name to be inscribed on that wall.
Any of these gifts are more valuable than another pair of gloves, don't you think?

And if you wonder about how good a charity is, check Charity Navigator, which rates charities based on how much of your donation goes to the people or service -- and how much the fund-raiser keeps. You will be surprised. Even shocked.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Top Travel Deals for Holidays and New Year

As bad as the economic headlines are, just one-quarter of us are dropping holiday travel plans -- according more than 1,400 people surveyed by the the travel planning website Kayak. And those people might be tempted by all the deals and bargains to help you save green -- as in green dollars.

Hotels, resorts and destination cities are getting pretty creative, too, with their travel deals. And some of them extend into the new year:

Virginia -- Ooh, baby, it's cold outside, and the colder it is, the less you'll pay for a room. Participaing hotels in Fairfax County -- just outside Washington, D. C. -- are freezing their room rates on weekends through December 27, 2008, to match the temperature outside. A room rate of $27 will certainly warm my heart, even if 27 degrees is freezing my body parts. Or whatever the temperature is at noon on Saturday at Dulles International Airport. Make your reservation at least 72 hours in advance, and no, the deal does not extend to January and the inauguration celebration events for Barack Obama.

Las Vegas -- Through January 30, 2009, you can get 30 percent off your bill at the MGM Grand or the Signature at MGM Grand just by paying with your MasterCard®. The discount applies to dining, entertainment and spa purchases at both resorts when they are charged to your hotel bill. Room rates start at $89 at MGM Grand and $149 for suites at The Signature. Just don't gamble away your savings in the casinos!

Delta and Hilton -- Are you a member of either -- or both -- of their frequent flyer, frequent guest programs? Delta SkyMiles and Hilton HHonors? If not, hurry up and join so you can get six times the miles with the airline program with each stay of two nights or more at a participating Hilton hotel worldwide, through February 28, 2009. Act fast, because this 6x bonus won't last long.

Intercontinental Hotels -- Sometimes, souvenir shopping is the difference between carry-on that' s still free and checking a bag for the flight home for whatever your airline is charging this week, anywhere from $20 to $50. If you are staying at a participating InterContinental Hotel through January 2, 2009, they'll ship home -- free -- one box per room, up to 30 pounds, via standard shipping service, to anywhere within the continental U.S. Just show up with your loot at the hotel's business center with the goodies and proof of purchase and leave the rest to them. Of course, if you want to ship home holiday gifts from that family visit, you'll have to ask Aunt Sylvia for the receipt, which could be dicey, if your Aunt Sylvia is like mine.

Ah, yes, many ways to save green when you travel this holiday season.