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Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified place here, on our blog. Think you know where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Monday to see if you were right! Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right).

Hint: This centuries-old town played an important role in the courtship of Britain’s new royal couple.

Leave a comment below to guess the destination!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

JetBlue AirplaneEditor’s Note: Since we made this post, the deal has sold out on JetBlue’s site.

You can book a flight for only $9 today — and you don’t have to sell your soul to some fare club overloaded with annual fees and red tape. But there is one catch.

These dirt-cheap flights won’t last. JetBlue is offering $9 flights between Boston and Newark in celebration of its new nonstop service connecting the cities, which starts May 4. But travelers have until just 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time today to get their hands on these incredibly cut-rate fares.

There’s some more fine print of which fliers should take note. Travel is only valid on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from May 4 through June 15. These fares are likely to go fast, so book as soon as possible for best availability.

Find more discounted flights in our Airfare Deals.

— written by Caroline Costello

cemetery church gravestone tombstone ireland celtic crossEvery Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our newsletter.

Museums and monuments? Check. Beaches and boutique shops? Wouldn’t miss ’em. But there’s one unique type of sight you might be skipping in your travels.

In 35 Travel Tips Revealed: Top Secrets of Travel Writers, Stephanie Yoder writes, “It sounds morbid, but one of the most interesting (and usually free) ways to learn about a city is to explore its cemeteries. These spaces are often beautiful and can offer insights into the history, architecture, art and religious beliefs of a city. Major cemeteries are usually full of elaborate monuments, interesting folklore and even celebrities (their headstones at least). Despite being such treasure troves, cemeteries are rarely crowded and make a nice escape from the urban jungle.”

There are certain cities where cemeteries and gravesites are practically a must-visit, such as Recoleta in Buenos Aires (where Eva Peron is buried) and Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington D.C. And in Boston, the Freedom Trail winds past several cemeteries, including the Granary Burying Ground — the final resting place of Paul Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.

But the world’s lesser-known cemeteries are worth a wander as well. I still remember the wistful atmosphere of one quiet churchyard in rural Ireland, surrounded by nothing but rolling green hills. As I traced the names and dates on its crumbling tombstones, it was nearly impossible not to feel the weight of history.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Just like Kate, you can walk down the aisle of an iconic historic treasure to marry a prince. Okay, we can’t guarantee the prince part (a partner with princely qualities is a good substitute), but we do know of a few historic attractions that are the perfect places for a fairy tale wedding in the style of European royalty — and a ticket across the pond won’t be required for the event.

Castles built by America’s royalty, from Gilded Age robber barons to, well, authentic royals (think Hawaii), make for spectacularly impressive weddings. Your event may not be viewed on YouTube by half the world, but it will be an occasion to remember, with a grandiose 250-room chateau, splendid gardens or a six-story medieval-style castle setting the scene for your nuptials.

Don’t feel left out if you aren’t walking down the aisle anytime soon. These attractions are open for tours as well as weddings.

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California
When a newspaper tycoon of the Gilded Age builds his dream home, moderation is negligible. Fifty-six bedrooms and 61 bathrooms are a must. A world-class collection of priceless art, a private zoo and two lavish swimming pools are obligatory. And perfectly manicured gardens bursting with color? William Randolph Hearst had to have them, so he surrounded his American castle with acres of exotic plants, from elegant cypress trees to vibrant pomegranate hedges, inspired by gardens in Italy and Spain. All in all, the place makes a sensational backdrop for a royal-esque wedding. Couples can tie the knot on one of the castle’s many terraces, with the surrounding emerald San Simeon hills and the castle’s white Mediterranean Revival-style towers stretching to the sky behind them.

 Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in the United States, seems straight out of a fairy tale. The Vanderbilt mansion was built in the 1800’s in the romantic architectural style of French chateaus, with tall spires and steeply pitched roofs. The gardens of Biltmore, where weddings are held amidst cool lily ponds, stone walls, ancient cypress trees and blooming beds of delicate flowers, extend for nearly 8,000 acres. Read more about Asheville.

Biltmore Estate

Boldt Castle, Heart Island, New York
Nestled in New York’s Thousand Islands region, Boldt Castle is a living tribute to love. The six-story castle was commissioned by American hotelier George Boldt to honor his wife, Louise. Construction began in 1900, and the Boldt family visited the castle regularly as it was built, staying in nearby Alster Tower. But work on the structure ceased suddenly in 1904 when Louise died and a heartbroken George Boldt abandoned the project that he had shared with his beloved partner. The incredible 120-room castle was left unfinished for 73 years until it was restored in the 1970’s. Today, couples can arrange a wedding on the appropriately named Heart Island, where the Boldts’ massive medieval-style castle stands as a magnificent monument to marriage.

Boldt Castle

Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii
The United States is home to a single royal palace, about which American travelers can proudly brag to British locals on trips to the U.K. It’s Honolulu‘s Iolani Palace, the former home of King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani. The palace, built in 1879, sits on land that is believed to be the site of an ancient Hawaiian place of worship, a sacred area known as a “wahi pana.” Weddings can be held on the royal palace’s lawns beneath swaying palm trees and Indian banyan trees.

Iolani Palace

Rosecliff, Newport, Rhode Island
Dance and dine under painted ceilings in the ballroom at Rosecliff, the only Newport mansion that is available for weddings. Newport is the storied site of some of the United States’ most lavish mansions. The area was the summer vacation spot of choice for Gilded Age American elites like the Vanderbilts and the Astors; their opulent homes sit on acres of beautifully landscaped gardens near dramatic coastal cliffs. (There’s even a 19th-century topiary garden with bushes cut into the shapes of animals nearby.) Rosecliff, built for the Oelrich family in the style of Versailles, was featured in the film “The Great Gatsby.”


— written by Caroline Costello

Miami BeachEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: Save 25 percent on your summer stay at dozens of hotels across the Sunshine State. Travel between May 15 and September 30, and receive up to a quarter off the cost of your booking at participating JW Marriott, Renaissance, and Marriott hotels and resorts in Florida.

You’ll find a full list of participating properties on the Marriott Web site, which includes a bevy of beachfront resorts in locations like Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Orlando, Key Largo and Tampa that are eligible for the 25 percent discount. This is a fantastic offer for anyone seeking a pre-cruise stay for a sailing out of Florida, as a number of eligible hotels are located near cruise ports.

The Catch: Each hotel only has a limited number of rooms available for this promotion, which makes sense considering Marriott is advertising this deal under the title, “Get It While It’s Hot.” You’ll want to book early for best availability.

The Competition: Hotels.com is currently running a promotion on beach hotels, with discounts of up to 30 percent at select properties. The beach-themed bargain features a bunch of discounted properties in Florida (as well as other surf-and-sand destinations like the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico), but travel dates are limited. You must book a stay for travel through the end of May to take advantage of the 30 percent discount.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Hotel Deals.

— written by Caroline Costello

paperwork In February, the State Department recommended the implementation of a new passport application form, DS-5513, that makes our current form look like a field trip permission slip — and today is the last day to cast your vote against it. Here’s a sample of what Uncle Sam might ask future passport applicants to reveal:

– Did your mother receive pre-natal or post-natal medical care? If so, list the name of her doctor and the dates of her appointments.

– Please describe the circumstances of your birth including the names (as well as address and phone number, if available) of persons present or in attendance at your birth.

– Please list all of your residences inside and outside of the United States starting with your birth until the present.

– Was there any religious or institutional recording of your birth or event occurring around the time of birth? (Example: baptism, circumcision, confirmation or other religious ceremony. Please provide details including the name, location of the institution, and date.)

But wait, there’s more! The form requires applicants to list residences of all nuclear family members living and deceased, plus fun facts like the name of your supervisor at every place at which you’ve ever been employed, and the address of every school that’s had the pleasure of calling you a pupil.

We get it. Someone in the State Department thinks our current passport application, good ol’ DS-11, isn’t quite as thorough as it should be. But this proposed form belies any sense of moderation. Asking applicants to list the name of their kindergarten alma mater and provide the details of their own circumcision is disturbingly Orwellian. And, on a more practical note, filling out this form would take forever.

Writes PapersPlease.org, “The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.” Did someone at the State Department actually fill out this form in 45 minutes? I’m impressed. Those bureaucrats must be an efficient bunch. I honestly would need to hire a private investigator to ascertain the phone number of the nurse who helped my mom give birth or dig up the full name of the manager at the supermarket where I bagged groceries for a summer when I was 14 years old. (His name tag read “Bob,” and that’s all I can remember.)

U.S. citizens have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time today, April 25, to submit feedback on form DS-5513. To speak your mind, e-mail GarciaAA@state.gov or submit a comment online at regulations.gov. You can read already submitted comments on regulations.gov as well. I’ve checked, and the majority of comments appear to be fully against the implementation of such a complicated passport application form. Words like “anti-American,” “invasive” and “ridiculous” are copious in the comments. What’s your take?

— written by Caroline Costello

Every Monday, we’ll post the answer to the previous week’s Photo Friday quiz. Play along with future photo guessing games by subscribing to our blog (top right).

The correct answer to last Friday’s photo guessing game is Cuzco, Peru! Also spelled Cusco, this former Incan capital in the Andes Mountains is the most common starting point for travelers hiking the Inca Trail — or taking the train — to Machu Picchu. The city is worth visiting in its own right for its elegant colonial buildings and historic churches. It’s also a good idea to spend a few days here acclimating yourself to the high altitude before embarking on a strenuous mountain trek. Learn more by reading Three Weeks in Peru, a trip report by member Mike6725.

Check back this Friday for another photo guessing game!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified place here, on our blog. Think you know where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Monday to see if you were right! Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right).

Hint: Both native and colonial influences can still be felt in this historic city, the gateway to its country’s most popular tourist attraction.

Leave a comment below to guess the destination!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

dog cat suitcase pet travelThe screaming baby, the armrest hog, the big sweaty guy who forgot to put on deodorant — these top many travelers’ lists of undesired airplane seatmates. But one reader recently wrote in to complain about a fellow passenger of the furry, four-legged variety:

“On an Alaska flight, a cat was placed behind me. I was not asked if it was all right with me. I have medical problems with cats and do not want to travel with cats or dogs. … I should have been told at the time of reservation that animals were going to be onboard, so I could have made a decision not to travel on that flight. … Let animals stay in the cargo area where they belong. They leave behind scents and hair.”

It’s true that the rights of traveling pet owners currently trump the rights of passengers who start sneezing as soon as they even look at a cat or dog. Part of that, of course, has to do with money; airlines rake in anywhere from $75 (Southwest) to $125 (Delta and American Airlines) every time someone brings his or her pet into the cabin. But it can also be a matter of safety. While thousands of people ship their pets in the cargo hold every year, there are plenty of horror stories about animals dying during the process — often due to extreme hot or cold temperatures while the plane is sitting on the ground. (Cargo hold climate controls kick in only when the plane is actually in flight.)

So what’s an allergic traveler to do? First off, when you check in for your flight, ask an airline staffer whether there will be any animals onboard. If so, the agent may be able to help you find an alternate flight. Of course, change fees or other penalties may apply.

If you’re on the plane before you realize you’ve been seated next to someone’s furry friend, speak with the flight attendant — he or she may be able to find someone else willing to switch seats with you, especially if you have a pressing health concern.

Do you think it’s fair for pets to be allowed on planes? Vote in our poll or leave a comment below!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Hampton Inn CommercialSometimes you don’t want to know if something is clean or not (in my case, it’s just about anything I order in a restaurant). Other times, it’s all you can think about.

That’s the contention of a new Hampton Inn ad questioning the cleanliness of sheets in other hotel chains. Let’s take a look.

Effective, right? Perhaps, but according to an interesting piece by consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, it’s a little over the top. Writes Elliott, “Sheets are usually changed between guests, and sometimes state law requires it, but there’s no guarantee that they will be.” He does contend, however, that “it’s probably safe to say that all major hotel chains, including Hampton, instruct their housekeepers to change sheets between guests.”

Elliott indicates a few gray areas to keep us on our toes — for instance, what happens if a housekeeper sees a made-up bed but assumes incorrectly that no one slept in it the night before, then doesn’t swap out the linens? What-if’s aside, his overall conclusion is reassuring: “It’s possible for you to end up sleeping on someone else’s sheets. But if you’re staying at a major hotel chain, it’s highly unlikely.”

That’s the sort of thing I like to hear, though truth be told, I wonder about a lot of other things when it comes to hotel cleanliness. For instance, when’s the last time the bathroom was really scrubbed — and why is there hair in the drain? What’s that weird stain on the duvet? Actually, inasmuch as most hotels don’t wash bedspreads between guests, I try not to think about who — or what — was on top of that duvet before me.

Were those drinking glasses sanitized before they were placed in the room? Or were they left over from the last guest, simply rinsed out and deemed “ready to use”? Depends on where you’re staying. According to our guide on finding a clean hotel room, “It’s the law in both Missouri and Kansas that hotel room glasses and cups must be sanitized. Kansas’ law goes even further to state that washing of glassware must take place outside of the room.”

I have a friend who won’t go barefoot in a hotel room, for fear of what may be lurking in the carpet. I’m not that bad, but … well, now I’m thinking about that duvet.

— written by John Deiner