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Eight affordable fall foliage getaways

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From the West Coast to the Northeast and, beyond, in Europe, fall is a season to savour the transformation of leaves from shades of green to hues of red, gold, amber and yellow.

While leaf peeping is undoubtedly a tried and true tourist activity, it doesn’t have to be an expensive one: plenty of hotels around the United States and abroad have attractively-priced packages for travellers who want to experience the spectacular fall foliage.

Vancouver, Shenandoah Valley, New Hampshire, Colorado and Maine feature autumn destinations for travellers.
Vancouver, Shenandoah Valley, New Hampshire, Colorado and Maine feature autumn destinations for travellers.  (Dreamstime / TNS)

Package deals in the Shenandoah Valley

Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, home to the Shenandoah National Park and about a 2-hour drive from Washington, is a prime mid-Atlantic destination for fall foliage. Two hotels in the town of Staunton, situated in the heart of the valley, are offering packages for visitors to the area.

The recently renovated Stonewall Jackson Hotel, originally built in 1924, has a “Sweater Weather” promotion for October where guests receive a 30 per cent discount off usual nightly rates. Bookings start at $149 (U.S.) a night.

Blackburn Inn, which opened in May, is offering a “Our First Fall” promotion, which includes 15 per cent off starting rates when booked 14 days in advance and a $15 daily food and beverage credit. Available from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. Bookings start at $169 a night.

Mountain views in New Hampshire

Up north, in North Conway, New Hampshire, The White Mountain Hotel & Resort, in the heart of Mount Washington Valley and with views of mountain scenery that shows of the stunning New England foliage, has a “Fall Foliage Escape.” The offer includes two nights of accommodations, breakfast and one dinner at the property’s elegant Ledges Restaurant. Bookings from $148 a person.

Coastal beauty in Maine

Even further up the seaboard, Cliff House Maine, a coastal resort in Southern Maine, has a “Fall in Love with Fall in Maine” package. It includes accommodations, a map of the area’s best fall foliage spots, a $200 credit to the on-site spa, two tickets for a local food tour, a bag of locally made maple candy and a blanket. Bookings start at $519 a night, and the promotion is valid from Sept. 22 to Nov. 30.

Zip line through the leaves in Georgia

A zip line ride through autumnal leaves? It’s possible in the North Georgia mountains. Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge has an “Elevate Your View” package that gives guests the chance to get an up close sight of the changing of the leaves by ziplining past them in Aerial Adventure Park. The package includes accommodations and a zip line tour in the park. Bookings start from $99 a person.

Food, wine and foliage in Michigan

The prime season for Mackinac Island, in Michigan, may be summer, but visitors who come in the fall will get a feast of foliage as they hike on miles of trails as well as go on horseback and bike rides. Mission Point, an 18-acre lakefront property, has a two-night “Fall Foliage, Food & Wine” package that includes accommodations, a welcome amenity of a glass of wine per adult, breakfast, one dinner with a bottle of wine, a half- day rental of two bikes with a boxed lunch and a private horse and carriage ride. Bookings from $380 a night.

Embracing “Gold Season” in Colorado

Telluride, Colorado, might be known as a skiers getaway, but its so-called gold season in the fall is an ideal time to see the mountains transform into shades of deep gold and red. Travellers can experience the colours by riding the free gondola, going on a hike or booking a four-wheel drive tour. There are several options for accommodations in the area. Bookings at the Mountainside Inn, in the town of Telluride, for one, start at $119 a night. VisitTelluride.com has a range of additional options in the area.

Cruise through the colours in Vancouver

In the Pacific Northwest, American Queen Steamboat Co. has several five-day round-trip “Autumn in the Pacific Northwest” cruises from Vancouver, Wash., on the Columbia River. Onboard the American Empress, shore excursions include Astoria, Ore., where travellers can go on a scenic six-mile walk along the river and Dalles, Oregon, where the explorers Lewis and Clark camped at Rock Fort during their famous expedition. Tickets start from $599 a person, inclusive of shore tours in all ports, meals and wine and beer with dinner.

Enjoy the fall foliage on the Emerald Isle

Leaf peeping is an Irish tradition, too: Lough Eske Castle, in County Donegal in northwest Ireland, has a “Autumn Eskape Offer,” which gives guests the opportunity to take in the abundance of fall hues in the surrounding countryside. The deal includes accommodations, an Irish breakfast, a 20-euro ($23) food credit per person, one alcoholic drink per adult and 30 per cent off spa treatments. Bookings start from 179 euros a night.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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