Free lift ticket with your boarding pass

Courtesy UW Digital Collections

Courtesy UW Digital Collections

Ski season is just about here and a variety of ski resorts will give you a free day of skiing if you show your airline boarding pass.

Fly in to Vail/Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) in Colorado and bring your boarding pass and Vail Valley lodging confirmation to any Vail or Beaver Creek ticket window and get a complimentary same-day lift ticket as part of the Fly in ski free program.

Squaw Valley|Alpine Meadows -about 42 miles from Reno-Tahoe International Airport – is offering a “Fly & Ski Free” deal for skiers and snowboarders. Guests arriving by airplane can ski or ride for free on the arrival afternoon between 12:30 and 4 pm (and evenings during night operations) by presenting a same-day commercial airline boarding pass with a matching photo ID at the Guest Services & Sales Center at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows.

Steamboat Ski Resort, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, offers free night skiing and riding on the day of arrival when you fly into a Colorado Airport. Just show your boarding pass at the ticket window to receive this offer. If you have a boarding pass for Tuesday or Wednesday arrival, you can ski free on Thursday.

In addition, several ski resorts participating in the Alaska Airlines Ski the West promotion are also offering a free day of skiing for those who book packages and show their paper Alaska Airlines boarding pass.


Where to have your same-sex destination wedding

wedding cake

From State Library of New South Wales, via Flickr Commons


Recent decisions in Britain and New Zealand to legalize same-sex marriages have given gay American couples seeking a destination wedding some high-profile options.

Same-sex weddings will be legal in New Zealand starting August 19. Among the first to be married under the amended marriage law will be a gay couple from Australia who won a contest hosted by Tourism New Zealand. Air New Zealand, meanwhile, is looking for a Kiwi couple to wed onboard one of its jets while in flight.

Same-sex weddings in Britain won’t take place until next summer, but Visit Britain is already in the planning mode.

“We’ve always rolled out a warm welcome for LGBT travelers,” said Sandi Dawe, CEO of Visit Britain, “We hope this new law will result in an increase in tourism to Britain for gay and lesbian travelers who want to marry and honeymoon here.”

To help those couples “conceptualize their own dream weddings,” the national tourism agency has issued a list of gay-friendly wedding venues and locations, including castles in Wales, the Brighton Pier in England and the restaurant atop the phallic-shaped building at 30 St Mary Axe in London that’s been dubbed “The Gherkin”.

“I already have gay clients inquiring about planning a destination wedding for them in Britain,” said David Rubin, CEO of DavidTravel, a luxury travel agency in Corona del Mar, Calif.

In the past, Rubin has organized wedding celebrations and honeymoons for American couples in South Africa, Spain and in other countries where same-sex marriages are already legal.

“Sweden – with the Ice Hotel – has been a great destination, and in Iceland we’ve had couples get married on top of a glacier,” said Rubin. “Canada is easy: it is close by and same-sex weddings have been legal there since 2005.” Rubin’s agency is also helping plan same-sex weddings in France, where marriage equality became legal this May.


Benn Storey and Brandon Perlberg; courtesy B. Perlberg


Brandon Perlberg, a 35 year-old lawyer, consultant and “very proud New Yorker,” is currently engaged to marry Benn Storey, a 31 year-old senior newspaper designer from England, his partner of more than eight years.

They’ve set their wedding date for autumn 2014 and are hoping marriage equality reaches Scotland by then, because “my partner and I have completely fallen in love with Edinburgh,” said Perlberg. For now, though, they’re planning to be married in England, in either London or Durham.

“Either way, 40 to 50 friends and family will be flying to the UK from the US to share in the event with us,” said Perlberg.

The Visit Britain team now actively courting the same-sex marriage market will be happy to hear that, and not just because weddings are happy occasions.

While there are no official statistics on how many destination weddings take place or how much money is spent on them, “the potential spending associated with gay marriage is quite simply immense,” said Ian Johnson, founder and CEO of Out Now, a global lesbian and gay marketing and consulting firm.

Competition for the destination gay wedding and honeymoon market is really heating up, said Johnson.

“Places that get this right now can expect a far bigger payoff than just the gay and lesbian people they will attract. It will also affect the attitudes of wedding guests, friends, family and work colleagues of the happy couple, many of whom will choose to spend their travel dollars where all citizens are treated equally,” he said.

That was the scenario two years ago when Ernesto Rocco and his partner had an elaborate marriage celebration in France – even before same-sex marriage was legal there.


Ernesto Rocco and Richard Davies at their public wedding ceremony in France.

The couple first got officially married in Vermont (which legalized same-sex marriage in 2009) and then, with their priest from California presiding, they had a public ceremony at a French chateau with more than 100 friends and family.

“For that couple, the right chateau decided the destination,” said Rubin.

And while Rocco and his partner, Richard Davies, would have rather skipped the stop in Vermont if that was possible in 2011, they also chose France because they felt it important to celebrate and spend their money in a country that supports gay people. “We spent six figures and our friends and family also bought hotel rooms, plane tickets, meals, etc. to be with us. Why should that money go someplace that doesn’t accept us?” he said.

(My story, Where to have your same-sex destination wedding, appeared in a slightly different version on NBC News Travel)

Roadtrip? Beware: GPS devices can get lost too.

Early GPS unit

Early auto dash map reading device. Courtesy Nationaal Archief, via Flickr Commons


GPS (global positioning system) devices now make it easy for travelers to navigate the nation’s highways and city streets.

But on this summer’s road trip remember that while the technology can get you where you’re going, it can also lead you astray.

It’s not uncommon to get sent off course by a GPS device: a Harris Interactive study found that while 30% of adults now use some sort of GPS unit, 63% of GPS users have been misdirected at least once by their device.

Misdirection could be as simple as a route more roundabout than necessary. But bad directions can have serious consequences.

As NBC’s Tom Costello reported on TODAY Thursday, one GPS unit directed a woman with two kids in her car onto railroad tracks near Boston. They scrambled out just before a train rammed the car. In California’s Death Valley, a GPS device sent Donna Cooper, her daughter and a friend in search of roads that no longer existed. They were stranded for three days, in 128-degree weather, before being rescued.

“We just kept getting further and further and further into Death Valley,” Cooper told Costello.

The reasons for this happening are as simple as the consequences are dire. GPS units are fed by map software. Some software is kept fresh by driving teams mapping roads with sophisticated equipment; but others rely on maps that may be old and out of date. And even if software gets updated, some companies and users are lackadaisical, or too cheap, to download the latest updates to their devices.

So on the road this summer, don’t rely solely on your GPS for directions.

Pack a paper map (yes, they still exist) and “don’t turn off your internal navigation system when you turn on your gadget,” said NBC technology reporter Bob Sullivan. If a GPS sends you the wrong way, “your sense of direction could be the difference between driving 5 or 50 miles out of your way.”

(My story: GPS devices can get lost too, first appeared on NBC Travel)


Tiny towns full of entertainment and charm


If you shun big cities but still crave a vacation near museums, historic sites, performance halls and other cultural attractions, consider some of the small places on Smithsonian Magazine’s list of the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013.

Gettysburg, Pa., Cleveland, Miss. and St. Augustine, Fla. nabbed the top three spots on the list, followed by Baraboo, Wisc. and Astoria, Ore.

They got there by being charming destinations, of course, but also because they have good numbers.

“We wanted a statistical foundation to help formulate our list,” said Susan Spano, who visited and wrote about the winners. So rather than just use subjective input from experts and readers, the magazine asked the geographic information company Esri to create a list of 250 towns with populations less than 15,000 that were chock full of cultural and historic amenities.

The 20 small towns chosen for the magazine’s ‘best’ list “is not foolproof,” said Spano, but it also takes into consideration a geographical spread and gives a nod to major events and anniversaries, such as the December Light Festival known as Holly Folly held in Provincetown, MA (#10) and the fact that this year Gettysburg, PA is marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.


“A lot of people will be here in July for the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address,” said town spokesman Carl Whitehall, “but we do the Civil War year-round and we do it very well, so consider visiting in the late fall or the spring as well.”

Here’s what helped the other small towns make it into the top five.

Cleveland, Miss.

Just five miles east of this authentic Mississippi Delta town is Dockery Farms, “a plantation where the blues were born,” said Spano. So in addition to a town with a restored historic business district, galleries and a university with a bustling performing arts center, “you have a huge, indigenous musical richness.”

St. Augustine, Fla.

Located on Florida’s northeast coast, stately St. Augustine was founded in 1565 and made the list in part because the city is having an extended 450th anniversary party to celebrate its role as the country’s oldest continuously occupied European settlement.

The city “stands as the most lovingly cared-for vestige of the Spanish New World in the United States,” writes Spano, and offers visitors everything from the brand new Colonial Quarter living history museum to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, which was founded in 1894.

Baraboo, Wisc.



Baraboo is not far from the Wisconsin Dells, but it is also home to the Circus World Museum and a town square that hosts summertime concerts and movies. The city is also just three miles from Devil’s Lake and is near the International Crane Foundation, where visitors can walk trails on a campus that serves as a refuge for whooping cranes and 14 other crane species.

Astoria, Ore.


After years of hard times, this fishing and logging community at the mouth of the Columbia River is experiencing a renaissance and welcoming visitors with restored historic sites, classic movie theaters and performance halls, boutique hotels and brew pubs.

“For an overview, take a ride on the Astoria Riverfront Trolley,” said Regina Willkie, spokeswoman for the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce. “The volunteer conductors on board chat about the sites seen along the tracks and the ride only costs one dollar.”

My story about Smithsonian Magazine’s list of best small towns to visit in 2013 first appeared on NBC