Thursday, March 5, 2009

Michael Jackson Announces First Tour in 8 Years!

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After nearly an eight-year absence from the stage, Michael Jackson on Thursday announced a series of London concerts.

"These are my final show performances in London," Jackson said at a news conference. "This will be it -- when I say, 'This is it,' it really means 'This is it.'"

Jackson will start an open-ended tour of the United Kingdom with a show at London's O2 Arena on July 9. The show is expected to be the first of 10 concert dates, and the tour will be extended as demand dictates. He spoke briefly after showing up almost an hour and a half late. A video montage of Jackson's career highlights played prior to the singer's appearance. Jackson was greeted by thousands of fans where the concerts will be staged. Jackson didn't specify how many shows he'll play. "I will be performing the songs my fans will want to see," Jackson said. The pop singer also referred to the tour as "my final curtain call" and told fans, "I love you from the bottom of my heart."

Tickets are expected to sell quickly for the shows, despite concerns the 50-year-old star may not be up for a return to the spotlight. Jackson's last public performance was in Britain in 2006 at the World Music Awards. However, Jackson's performance of "We Are the World" was short, as he managed only a few lines before leaving the stage. The pop singer hasn't released a studio album since 2001, and his turns in the spotlight have mostly focused on his personal troubles.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Top 10 Ways to Avoid New Airline Fees

1. Carry On to Put Fees in Check
The most common-sense solution for avoiding checked baggage fees is to simply not check your bags. Invest in a strong, yet lightweight bag that’s in accordance with the bulk of airlines' carry-on allowances and reusable toiletries containers (sized under the TSA’s mandated maximum of three ounces) and leave worries of lost luggage, hefty additional fees, and long waits at ticket counters for checked bags – behind.

2. If You Must Check Bags, Check Wisely
The steepest checked baggage fees are tacked onto bags that are overweight (usually above 50 pounds) or oversized (from 62 inches). So while it may at first seem logical to try to cram everything into one bag instead of using two, know that while a first checked bag won’t set you back more than $15 on any airline, if it ends up being oversized or overweight it can cost anywhere from $29 (AirTran) to $175 (Delta, for over 70 pounds). Considering second checked bag fees hover around $25 on most airlines (bringing the average total for two checked bags to about $40), it's near-always the more economical option to check two bags than to go overboard on one.

3. Pack Sweet Dreams With You
If you’re looking to catch some onboard shut-eye, pack an inflatable pillow to carry on. Available at many travel and luggage stores, they can be quite comfortable, are more sanitary than airlines’ recycled arsenal, and takes up very little room.

4. Bring Your Own Headset
A handful of airlines are now charging anywhere from $1 to $5 for headsets that allow travelers to tune into the in-flight video entertainment. Simply bring your own iPod earbuds or headphones aboard for superior quality, and save on dishing out for their cheapie versions which you'll most likely end up trashing.

5. Fight In-Flight Food Fees
Fight back against those pricey in-flight food fees by packing a brown bag meal ahead of time to carry on. Some airlines are extending this fee frenzy to non-alcoholic beverages, as well. Since TSA regulations bar travelers from bringing their own water through security checkpoints, try bringing an empty bottle and filling it up at the airport water fountain and adding an iced tea or sport drink mix, many of which are now served in single sizes.

6. Let Your Hotel Foot the Bill
Some very smart hotel chains have figured out a way to attract guests by offering to alleviate their newfound checked baggage expenses. Show your first checked bag receipt when checking in at a Loews Hotels for up to $30 in dining credit at the property under their Baggage Buy Back campaign. Kor Hotel’s Los Angeles-area hotels will reimburse guests with up to $75 in hotel credit through their Money Bags promotion.

7. Fly Southwest for Freedom From Fees
Southwest has been reveling of late in its fee-free structure, which it owes largely to the fuel "hedges" that the company put into place back in 1998 – basically a type of insurance policy against rising fuel prices that locks in their fuel rates at well below what other airlines have had to dish out since barrel prices spiked. It was a smart business move that has paid off tremendously for the airline – and their customers.

8. Join the Club
Several airlines will waive baggage fees if you are an elite member of their frequent flyer program. Remember to sign up for your carrier’s frequent flyer program before booking your flight to start accruing points, and if you are already a member of a program, keep in mind that loyalty to them might very well pay off in the long run.

9. Don’t Get Beat on Your Seat
About half of domestic airlines are now charging for "preferred" seat selection. To avoid doling out the extra cash, check in online just prior to your flight (most airlines open up online check-in 24 hours before scheduled departures), when non-assigned seating inventory usually opens up to all passengers. If you are able to pick your seats in advance, however (the bulk of airlines are still not charging for non-preferred seating assignments), consider booking seats at the back of the plane where you’ll have first dibs on luggage space, meaning you won’t have to store your bag under the seat in front of you, taking up precious leg room.

10. Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease
If an airline attendant tells you that a can of soda costs $2, as US Airways is now charging, a little whining goes a long way. As an “unwritten rule,” US Airways flight attendants decided they would not charge customers who complain over the new cost for soft drinks.

5 things you must consider before cruising

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Cruising can be an exciting and affordable vacation option. Of course, it’s important to find the right cruise at the right price for your getaway. After all, there are more than 160 ships in the fleets of the 24 major cruise lines and thousands of itineraries worldwide.
Here’s what to consider when selecting your cruise.

Style of ship and cruise line
Cruise lines have their own distinct personalities and ships that reflect them. The size of a ship really does matter. Large ship cruise lines Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International provide a party atmosphere with glitz and high energy. Small ship operators like Silversea Cruises and Seabourn focus on quiet luxury and a more refined experience.

Where to go
Cruise ships can take you almost anywhere on the planet, from the Caribbean or Europe to Asia or Antarctica, so explore a range of possibilities before settling on a preferred route. When you’ve found a trip you love, go over the schedule carefully. If traveling internationally make sure you have valid passports, visas, and any required immunizations.

When to go
The holidays, spring break and summer are high season and that usually means higher prices. The shoulder seasons of mid-fall and early spring offer great cruise deals, and may be even more appealing than high season. An Alaska, European or Caribbean cruise in May or September, when the kids are in school, translates into fewer people in port.

Pick a stateroom
Consider your itinerary when reserving a stateroom. If you can afford to splurge, a balcony stateroom provides you a private space to relax and get away from the crowded decks. Still, not all cruises are ideal for balconies. A trans-Atlantic crossing doesn’t make a lot of sense for a balcony since the ship is at sea for days and the weather is often cold or too windy to enjoy the space. On the other hand, the appeal of a balcony on an Alaska, Caribbean, European or South American cruise offers amazing scenery that should not be missed. Smaller inside staterooms are adequate for budget-minded cruisers who seem more likely to spend most of their time utilizing the ship’s public spaces.

Getting the best price
Cruise lines offer travelers a host of discounts, so consider every source when looking for a deal. Check out your credit card as many offer discounts or points towards cruises. Look at all the clubs you belong to, from AAA, airline frequent flier programs and college alumni associations, to union memberships — see if they offer any deals or special rates for members. Also, if you’ve previously cruised with a cruise line you may be in for a repeat cruiser discount.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Top 10 Cities for Beer Lovers

Munich’s famed frothy festival, Oktoberfest, may get all of the glory, but the world is full of destinations where the natives know – and love – their beer, and where you can sample some local brew all year long.

1. Amsterdam
Heineken, Grolsch, and Amstel are three of the best-known native brews, but a sampling of artisanal blends and witte (wheat) beers from neighboring Belgium are also on the menu at Amsterdam’s cozy “brown” bars, so called for their antiquated, nicotine-stained walls.

2. Berlin
Berlin boasts more then 20 beer gardens where you can enjoy this local favorite – along with hundreds of other frothy ales. Though the city is a haven for beer lovers all year round, August in particular stands out, when the first week of the month is devoted to Bierfestival, and the city center turns into a 1.2 mile-long beer garden.

3. Brugge
This tiny city is, amazingly enough, a prime place to sample over 450 unique varieties of Belgian brew, each served in its own specialized glass. You’ll find a preserved pub, Café Vlissinghe, that dates back to 1515, breweries that still use antiquated brewing techniques, and even museums.

4. Burlington
Home to the quirky micro-brewery Magic Hat, visitors can do as the locals do and sample homegrown brews such as #9, Fat Angel, and Blind Faith IPA to name a few. Church Street, a four-block pedestrian-only zone buzzes with vibrant bars with top-notch beer on tap.

5. Dublin
Dubliners and visitors alike can’t resist the smooth creamy flavor and dark body of Guinness, the city’s finest, home-brewed stout. The Guinness Storehouse, where visitors can watch the brewing process and learn to pour themselves the perfect pint.

6. Mexico City
Corona, the signature Mexican brew, is produced in Mexico City, at Grupo Modelo, the country’s largest brewing company. While brewpubs are rare in the capital, fun taverns, mariachi clubs, and bars abound where you can taste your share of local beers.

7. Montreal
Montreal, in particular, boasts several brewpubs, like Le Cheval Blanc, Dieu du Ciel, and Sergent Recruteur that serve up first-rate micro-brewed beer in flavors that typically change with the season. Rather than be classified as lager, ale, and the like, beer here is commonly differentiated by color – blonde, rousse (red), ambrée (amber), and noir (dark) – and are ordered as such at the bar.

8. Portland
With 28 breweries based here – more per capital than any other city in the country – this Pacific Northwest city clearly boasts the motherload of American microbrews. One of the city’s oldest and largest breweries, Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, produces over 200,000 barrels a year, including a top-selling German-style Hefeweizen.

9. Prague
The city is home to U Fleku, the world's oldest brewpub, and one of Europe's most famous beer halls. It’s also home to the original (and many would say better) Budweiser, known locally as Budvar. Traditionally, beer halls only poured one brand, but have recently begun pouring two or three, so you won’t have to pub crawl to sample Prague’s best suds.

10. Sapporo
The town of Sapporo, in northern Japan, is a name beer lovers are familiar with, thanks to the golden beverage that shares the town’s namesake and which usually appears in a silver tall-boy. Since Sapporo beer is the city’s most popular export, it makes sense that it has its own museum – the only one of its kind in Japan.

Las Vegas Dos and Don’ts

Let your fellow travelers and Vegas locals give you the inside scoop before you go to Las Vegas. MSN Travel Las Vegas message board users sound off about what to do, where to stay, what’s worth the money and, more importantly, what to avoid. Here are the recommendations.

Add these items to your 'to-do' list

Do Bellagio waterfront—it’s free! It’s breath-taking! Gondola at the Venetian—so romantic!Treasure Island show—risqué! Nice fireworks! Drive a convertible at night—amazing sights!

Do go to dueling pianos at New York, New York. Best thing I did there, fun, energetic, singing, dancing, drinking, good times.

Do tip the cocktail waitress if you want your drinks to keep coming.
Do use the personal safes in your hotel room.

Do spend $ on your hotel room and make sure you book a room on south Las Vegas Blvd. Trust me when I say that staying on south Las Vegas Blvd as opposed to north Las Vegas Blvd makes all the difference!

Avoid Sin City nightmares

Don’t wear high heels if you’re walking on the Strip—it’s bad for your feet and posture. It just does not look good unless you're 'working' off the strip.

Don’t sleep too much—you’ll miss out on a lot!!!

Don’t rent a car—traffic on the strip is awful. There is plenty of public transportation—tram from Bellagio to Monte Carlo and another from MGM all the way to the Las Vegas Hilton.

Don’t go to Vegas in July unless you plan to stay inside the whole time.

Don’t bring the kids!!!! Vegas is a place for adults, plain and simple

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How to Plan For a Ski Vacation

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When it comes to vacations, the big thing now is ski trips. Everyone seems to want to head off to the slopes for a day of flying down a mountain, the wind in your hair, and the powder swishing beneath your skis. If you only have a few days of vacation time, a day trip to a ski resort is a great way to use them. However, to really get the most out of a ski resort, you should really look into a ski vacation package. Because when it comes to a ski resort, skiing is just the tip of the iceberg.

If your planning a ski vacation package, keep in mind that you want something that your whole family can enjoy, no matter what skill level they are at. Many ski resorts require you to have different passes for beginning, intermediate, and advanced slopes. Be sure that your family will have access to the slopes they want to be on. And ask about classes if you're not already skilled.

It can be great to learn from a professional, and you'll get the satisfaction of improving your skill.
And don't forget there's lots to do besides just skiing. There's tubing, where you ride giant inner tubes down the ski hill. There is usually also an ice skating rink, which should offer figure skating, and hockey. And don't forget about sledding for the little members of your family. There's lots to do with the snow other than just to slide down it.

If it's getting too cold outside in the snow and ice, there's bound to be plenty of things to do inside. Most ski resorts will have game rooms with ping pong, pool, or darts. These games may seem a little old fashioned, but on a family vacation, sometimes it's nice to get away from the video games. Of course, there might also be an arcade.

Don't forget that many ski vacation packages will also include swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna access. These can be great choices for evening, after you've combed the slopes all day. Few things are nicer than a good soak in a hot tub after working your body out in the cold all day.

Along with many fun activities, most ski resorts offer a variety of foods, sometimes having multiple restaurants right on site. You may be able to have steak one night, and seafood the next. With most ski vacation packages, you should be able to find something to please everyone.

5 tips to save on car rentals

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Reserve the least expensive model
Once you select a model, no rental-car company will ever let you leave with a cheaper one. When the car you reserved isn't available, they'd rather give you a better car for the same price than a lesser car for a lower price. If you're inclined, you can negotiate an upgrade at the car-rental counter.

Do ask, do tell
Laws vary by state and rules vary by company, but unmarried couples can often skip the extra-driver fee (and the paperwork) simply by telling the clerk that they're domestic partners. Don't wait for the clerk to ask what your relationship is. Other ways to try to get around the extra-driver fee: joining the loyalty club (what on earth are you waiting for?), saying that you're coworkers or that you're members of AAA, AARP, or Costco. The point is to ask.

Grab the keys and go
Join the free loyalty club and you won't have to wait in what can be a cruelly long line, or tell the agent your address, or listen to the upsell on a bigger model or on insurance. You can get off the lot and into your vacation in a matter of minutes.

Think globally, browse locally
It's a little-known fact that some car-rental companies have different websites for different countries, and the rates for the same rental can vary. The prices quoted at, for instance, won't necessarily be equal to the rates at the sites for the United Kingdom (, Germany (, Ireland (, and South Africa ( It's worth poking around.

Don't pay double for insurance
Insurance is a big profit generator for car-rental agencies, and they don't mind that it's confusing. If you own a car, however, your owner's policy will cover you no matter what car you're driving, including a rental. Also, most credit cards cover the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) automatically, so there's no need to give the rental agency that extra $10 to $20 per day.

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