Winter Vacation Ideas

When it comes time for the Holiday season, we tend to have a lot on our minds. There’s gifts, for one thing. After all, there’s not one, but two, major religious festivals involving the giving of gifts during the Winter season. And, then, there’s the season, itself. Winter is, for all its beauty, a somewhat treacherous time. Snow and ice are nice to look at, but they can present driving challenges, and then some. However, there’s one other positive element of the holiday season we often think of, and that’s taking a much needed break. We can’t always get away from work during the holidays, but when we can, it’s nice to join the birds and fly south for the Winter, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s just nice to get away for awhile. Here are some ideas for your Winter vacation.

First and foremost, why not try that flying south thing I mentioned earlier? A tropical destination might be just what the doctor ordered in the dead of Winter. Imagine, the days leading up to Christmas, and you’re on the beach, about to take a dip to beat the heat. What a life that would be! Beach vacations are the cream of the crop, no matter the time of year, but that goes double for your Winter escape. Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to a beach setting, however. You could simply head to a warmer country and take in some of the local flavor, literally in the form of cuisine, and figuratively in the form of culture.

Another great idea for a Christmas Vacation is to simply go to a resort, such as Extended Stay. The Holidays can be a stressful time, as mentioned above, and what better way to get away from it all than to be pampered at a high class, five star resort? Let your cares melt away just like the snow on your boots and just relax right in time for Christmas Eve.

Travel Deals: Northern Lights hotel special in Iceland and $138 fare to Dallas

Land

Book by Nov. 1 and save $100 on any International Culinary Tours trip. The deal applies to food-centric tours in Bali, Italy, Portugal, Burma (also known as Myanmar), Spain and France. For example, with the discount, the 10-day Bali trip costs $1,895 per person double and includes three-star hotel accommodations in Ubud and Seminyak; daily breakfast, seven lunches and six dinners; three cooking classes with market visits; yoga class; several excursions, such as a visit to a coffee and tea plantation, an artisan chocolate factory and the Ubud Monkey Forest; transportation; and taxes. Depart March 31 or April 14. Info: 800-341-8687, internationalculinarytours.com.

The four-star Hotel Husafell, near the Langjokull Glacier, has a Northern Lights special in Iceland. The Northern Lights & Krauma Baths deal costs $225 per person double and includes two nights’ lodging, with a free Northern Lights wake-up call; daily breakfast; access to the Husafell thermal swimming pool and the new Krauma geothermal nature baths; WiFi; parking; and taxes. Valid through March 1. By comparison, a two-night stay alone starts at nearly $600. Info: hotelhusafell.com/tilbod/northern-lights-krauma-nature-spa.

Receive a free fourth night at the Red Frog Beach Island Resort & Spa in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Rates vary by season and accommodations. For example, through Dec. 18, four nights in a one-bedroom villa with a private pool starts at $897, plus $90 in taxes — a savings of $329. The Island Nights package also includes airport transfers, one
60-minute massage, two canopy zip line passes, access to the new beach club, two cocktails and WiFi, an added value of about $235. Book at 970-367-4811. Info: www.redfrogbeach.com/island-nights.

Sea

With John Hall’s Alaska, save $500 on Denali Explorer land-and-cruise trips in 2018. The 13-day Alaskan adventure starts at $4,999 per person double (was $5,499) and includes six nights on Alaskan Dream Cruises’s Baranof Dream, Celebrity’s Millennium or Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas; accommodations in Anchorage, Denali National Park, Talkeetna and Seward; 35 meals; Alaskan land guides; land transportation, including the Alaska Railroad; airport transfers; most gratuities; daily excursions, such as a visit to Wolf’s Den Kennel and a Kenai Fjords National Park cruise; and taxes. Book by Jan. 1. Select departures June through September. Info: 800-325-2270, www.kissalaska.com/denali-explorer.html.

Book by Oct. 8 and receive cabin upgrades and a $50 shipboard credit per cabin on select Carnival cruises departing through December 2018. For example, an oceanview cabin on the six-night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Dec. 3 starts at $632 per person double, including tax; upgrade is valued at about $40. Request the Plan a Cruise Month sale. Info: 800-764-7419, www.carnival.com.

Air

Alaska Airlines is offering sale fares of $138 round trip from Reagan National to Dallas Love Field for travel through Nov. 15. Other airlines are matching, but fare typically starts at $175. Virgin America, which Alaska Airlines acquired last year, operates the flights. Restrictions include a 21-day advance purchase. Book by Monday at www.alaskaair.com.

Package

Troy Tours is offering a six-night tour of Israel starting at $1,299 per person double. The trip includes round-trip air from Washington Dulles to Tel Aviv; three nights’ hotel in Jerusalem, two nights in Acre and one night in Netanya; 12 meals; land transport; guided tours; airport transfers; and taxes. For lowest price, depart Jan. 20 or 27. Priced separately, hotel and airfare alone start at about $1,100. Info: 310-417-3460, www.troytours.com.

 

Seven Flights for $800,000: Mnuchin’s Travel on Military Jets

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has flown on military aircraft seven times since March at a cost of more than $800,000, including a $15,000 round-trip flight to New York to meet with President Trump at Trump Tower, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General.

The inquiry into Mr. Mnuchin’s air travel, prompted by an Instagram posting by his wife, found he broke no laws in his use of military aircraft but lamented the loose justification provided for such costly flights.

“What is of concern is a disconnect between the standard of proof called for” by the Office of Management and Budget “and the actual amount of proof provided by Treasury and accepted by the White House in justifying these trip requests,” the inspector general wrote.

Mr. Mnuchin has made nine requests for military aircraft since assuming his position earlier this year and has taken seven flights. A request to use a military plane for his European honeymoon with his wife, Louise Linton, in August was withdrawn. A ninth flight is scheduled for later this month, when Mr. Mnuchin is expected to travel to the Middle East.

The investigation follows a series of controversies over the lavish travel of several members of President Trump’s cabinet, including Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, who resigned last week after racking up at least $400,000 in travel bills for chartered flights.

Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, used a chartered airplane for several flights, including a $12,000 trip to deliver a speech celebrating a new professional hockey team in Las Vegas. Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has spent more than $58,000 on chartered and military flights, and David Shulkin, the veterans affairs secretary, took his wife on a 10-day trip to Europe that mixed business meetings and sightseeing, according to The Washington Post.

The Treasury report found no instances in which Mr. Mnuchin used military aircraft for private travel.

Mr. Mnuchin’s air accommodations attracted attention in August after Ms. Linton accompanied him on a trip to Kentucky to visit the gold reserves at Fort Knox and posted on social media a photo of herself disembarking a military jet emblazoned with official government markings.

“Great #day trip to #Kentucky!” Ms. Linton wrote under the photograph. She then added hashtags for various pieces of her expensive wardrobe, listing #rolandmouret, #hermesscarf, #tomford and #valentino. The photo prompted outrage on social media and led to speculation that Mr. Mnuchin had timed the trip and requested the plane so that he could have an optimal view of the solar eclipse, which was occurring that day.

The report found that “there is no indication that the date was chosen to coincide with the solar eclipse.” It said that Mr. Mnuchin had asked for a Gulfstream 550 military jet in case the runway at Fort Knox was wet and because a plane with “communications capabilities is requested in the event that the secretary’s participation on a call during travel arises.” The flight cost $26,900.25.

Treasury secretaries generally take commercial flights except in extenuating circumstances because of the exorbitant costs of using military planes.

For instance, Mr. Mnuchin’s June flight to Miami for a meeting with the Mexican finance minister cost $43,725.50. While the flight was approved, the Treasury Department’s travel office sent a note to Mr. Mnuchin’s assistant that a round-trip commercial flight would cost just $688.

An Aug. 15 trip on a Gulfstream V that Mr. Mnuchin took to see Mr. Trump at Trump Tower in New York to discuss tax reform and tariffs cost $15,112.50. According to an internal email cited by the inspector general, Mr. Mnuchin needed to use the plane so that he could conduct a classified telephone conversation with Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state.

Amtrak tickets between New York and Washington can often be had for under $100 each way, though private conversations can and are often overheard.

The inspector general noted that a memo from the Office of Management and Budget issued last week called for more “rigor” in justifying government aircraft requests and expressed concern about the “boilerplate” justifications that the Treasury Department offered.

Democrats assailed Mr. Mnuchin and the Trump administration for wasting taxpayer dollars.

“It’s clear now that this scandal didn’t start or end with former H.H.S. Secretary Tom Price,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “It’s time for the Trump administration to come clean with the American people and show us what other top officials in this administration have been using the White House as a luxury travel agency.”

For its part, the Treasury Department took solace in the fact that no violations were found and emphasized Mr. Mnuchin’s need for secure communications.

“We appreciate the inspector general’s thorough review of Treasury’s travel requests, which identified no violation of law, regulation or ethics requirements in connection with the department’s requests,” a Treasury Department spokeswoman said.