10 hotel chains on sale: Book 2 nights, get 1 night free

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012
Courtesy Choice Hotels

The amazing hotel deals just keep on coming. But this one is particularly neat. Book two separate room nights—as brief as one night apiece—between now and the end of April, and you'll be rewarded with a free night's stay at any time between now and the end of 2011 at any one of 1,500 properties anywhere in North America (including in Mexico and the Caribbean).

Well, that's exactly what you can do. For the first time ever, all Choice Hotels—including Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, Econo Lodge, and Rodeway Inn—are running a free-stay special discount at the same time: Book two separate stays at or 800/424-6423 for arrival now through April 30 and—if you're a member of the free Choice Privileges rewards program—you'll be able to redeem a free night at any of the other hotels under the Choice Hotels brand for a stay until Dec. 31, 2011.

For a list of participating properties state-by-state, visit this page of the Choice Hotels website.

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Budget Travel Lists

Nominate your coolest small town

Rather than blog about the latest airline news or innovation in rental cars (which is what I normally do), I thought I'd put out a little plug instead. We're currently soliciting nominations from readers for our annual "Coolest Small Towns" package in the magazine, and I want you to contribute! Click on this link, and tell us about a cool small town that you think deserves recognition, whether it's for its thriving art scene, eclectic mix of residents, or fantastic local restaurants. We definitely want places with an edge to them—so don’t go for quaint. And the towns MUST have a population under 10,000. Besides that, anything goes. I recently visited a couple of towns we included in this package over the past couple of years, Catskill and Hudson, both of which are in New York's Hudson valley. While Hudson is thriving—it has restaurants that can rival those in New York City—I was saddened to see that Catskill isn't doing that well. Perhaps it's the economy—it's tough for out-of-the-way towns to prosper when nobody's spending money. Catskill is a dreamy little place—the architecture is fantastic, and the few antique and crafts shops on Main Street are well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. (You can visit Catskill and Hudson the same day; they're across the river from each other.) Maybe getting your small town in our magazine will help boost its economy at a critical time—so fill out this online form! (Please, don't post a comment below on this blog, but instead click on this online form.)

Budget Travel Lists

Our monster list of travel gifts (a work in progress)

The best books, the best albums, the best movies, and even the Top 10 everything. It's the season for lists, and the only thing more entertaining than making up your own list is compiling a list of the lists of others. If it's shopping ideas you want, a good place to start are our lists on good gifts from both international museums and museums in New York. But if that still leaves you with shopping-list holes to fill, there are lots more options for travel presents. Let us know what other good ones are out there in the comments…. Holiday Travel Gadgets for Geeks for Under $100 [Peter Greenberg] Affordable Travel Gift Guide 2008 [Travel and Leisure] 10 travel gifts I’d like to receive (hint, hint) [Tripso] Travel Tip Tuesday - Travel Gifts $25 and Under [My Melange] Travel Books of the Year [Guardian] Gadling's Gift Guide Travel gifts for $25 or less [] Holiday Travel Gift Guide 2008 [Concierge] Holiday Books: Travel [New York Times] Holiday Gifts for Your Favorite Wanderer [Los Angeles Times] Budget Travel Gift Guide [Time] Holiday gifts for your favorite wanderer [Chicago Tribune] Women’s Travel Gifts [Girlfriendology] Holiday gifts for green travelers [LAT] Travel Books Make Great Holiday Gifts [] Good to go: Travel gifts for tight budgets [MSNBC] 20 more travel gifts under $20 [Less Than a Shoestring]

Budget Travel Lists

Le café in Paris: A buyer's guide

Spending time at a café is one of the greatest (and cheapest) pleasures of Paris. There are more than 2,000 of them in the city, ranging from utilitarian countertops to fanny-pack meccas like Les Deux Magots. They all offer a space to rest, read, refresh, mingle, and openly stare at strangers. What they do not offer, outside of Starbucks at least, is the freedom to "have it your way." In contrast to their American counterparts, which offer countless ways to customize a beverage, the French café has a short and unyielding list of options. You can ask for decaf by tacking the word déca onto any order, but other appeals will be met with confusion. Half-caf, skinny, soy, and so on just don't play here in Paris. The same holds true for low-maintenance requests like milk, artificial sweetener, and to-go cups. I wondered for years why Paris hadn't "caught up" with the rest of the world—why its residents were content to sip untailored sludge from tiny demitasse cups. Didn't they know how much better it could be to drink an extra-hot latte while walking down the sidewalk? I finally realized that the drink is not the point. Parisians love their cafés, but don't care at all about coffee. The beverage is simply an admission ticket, something that's secondary to the human drama all around you. The cheap seats for this show include un café or un express (a shot of espresso served in a small cup), un double café (two shots of espresso in a slightly larger cup), un café allongé (one shot of espresso with extra hot water). These drinks run less than 3€ ($3.75) if you're sitting at a table. You'll save fifty centimes if you take your drink while standing at the counter, and you'll add a similar amount if you enjoy it on the terrasse. Milk-based beverages are more expensive, often double the price of non-dairy drinks. Popular orders include un café crème (a shot of espresso with hot milk) and un cappuccino (a shot of espresso with abundant foamed milk). On a touristy terrasse these can top a whopping 7€ ($8.75). My favorite drink—the café noisette—is a cheaper compromise. It's a regular espresso topped with a small spoonful of milk, but it costs only twenty centimes more than a basic café. Don't feel like coffee? French cafés also serve alcohol, and during the apéro hour you'll find plenty of beer mugs and wine glasses among the coffee cups. Fruit juice, tea, hot chocolate, and soda are also available, but these are among the most expensive items on the menu. For the same price as a lukewarm Diet Coke, you could pay for two glasses of wine. One for you and one for your friend—the one you brought or the one that you're likely to make. DOWNLOAD OUR PARIS MENU DECODER Try our 2008 one-page cheat-sheet to key French café and restaurant terms. (It opens as a PDF file.) It's written by Clotilde Dusoulier, author of Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Winter Escapes

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