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Our Little DealAngel is One Year Old!

It was exactly one year ago today (give or take a couple weeks) that DealAngel was born at the DEMO Conference in Santa Clara, CA. It was a ‘cesarean’. At our natural perfectionist pace DealAngel would still be in the test server ‘womb’ today, so an induced ‘birth’ at a major event was required.

 After some tense moments backstage (“remember to breathe!”), it was time for the delivery. Roman did his victory salute already before the ‘labor’ even started. Luckily, it did turn out to be a success; A site was born!

Lots has happened since then. Some very good press, some very welcome funding, and a place in Techstars, a tech accelerator for baby start-ups based in bucolic (but never colicky) Boulder, CO. Not everything has gone as planned, mind you. For example, our mobile app is still ‘embryonic’. The lack of a mobile app has elicited some comments along the lines of: “Geez, already X months old and you still don’t have an app? Doessomethingsuperrad.com already had a mobile app from birth.” We have asked ourselves many times: “Are we doing something wrong? Maybe we should see a child site-chiatrist”.

But overall, things have gone great. DealAngel already shows the ability to share, with the launch of our API a few months ago. And we also see some early signs of fortune telling skills, with the addition of Trending and Alerts. Not bad for a 1-yr-old. The allergy to hotel rip-offs is still there, in fact, it has gotten worse. But we’re not concerned at all. We’ve heard of many worse illnesses for young hotel sites, like display-ad-ophilia, or a severe case of grossly inflated savings claims. Awful.

OK, enough talk about our child. And we’ll spare you the endless baby pictures. But please visit our little angel soon and see how its grown. It’ll make the parents proud.

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DealAngel Gets All Trendy

Propeller Island Hotel, Berlin. Très trendy.

In our last episode, we told you about our API (eh-pee-eye), and how it helps other sites benefit from the DealAngel ratings. Pretty cool stuff. But kinda geeky. Today I’m going to tell you about something much cooler, trendy, even.

You know how when you go on a hotel booking site and you check some rates, then ask yourself “Hmm, I wonder if I should wait a few days for the rate to drop… “. After a few days you check back. Maybe you guessed right and the rates are now lower. Or maybe they’re not and your stay just got pricier. And you feel a bit like you just ripped yourself off… Not fun.

This sort of room rate roulette may be exciting for some, but it’s not really necessary. Room prices for future arrival days generally follow a trend, as the hotels collectively inch their way toward the sweet pricing spot. And DealAngel is collecting all these prices on a daily basis, so we can see where the market is going. And now, so can you.

Introducing… DealAngel Trends & Alerts. There’s an article on this on TheNextWeb, but let me give you a de-geekified version of how it works: When you search for an arrival date up to 120 days into the future, you will see a widget (geek-speak for a cool little mini-application embedded in a website). This widget has 3 basic states: prices going up, prices going down, and prices stable. There are further gradients to this, ie prices climbing steeply, or dropping steeply, but you get the idea. Anyway, you will see right away where the market’s headed. Want more info to back it up? Just mouse over the widget and it grows to show you the historical price trend line.

Of course, if you picked a date where rates are going up steadily, it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Book now, or suffer the wrath of the hotel pricing gods. But if the prices are dropping… DealAngel gets all angelic on your search and allows you to put in your email so we can alert you when the rates flatten out. Set and forget.

Who else does this? No one else does this. Why? We think its because sometimes we actually tell you you’re best off NOT to book, and most websites think that’s unconstitutional. Or not greedy enough. Anyway, we hope you like it. Let us know if you do. Like us on Facebook, Twit a Tweeter, or perhaps even book a room. But only when the time is right.

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DealAngel launches an API: Travel websites will never be the same again.

Today we announced some pretty exciting news on Techcrunch, THE publication for techies: The DealAngel goodness that powers our own site and helps hotel bookers separate the deals from the ‘anti-deals’ is now being made available to other sites via an API aka Application Programming Interface.

Whats an API? Pronounced eh-pee-eye, its basically geek-speak for a ‘door’ into the DealAngel data. Why should you care? Well, it now means that your other favorite travel sites can also check how any of their hotel offers compare to the DealAngel ‘fair market rate’. They also benefit from DealAngel’s color-coded ‘heat map’ calendar, which helps you see which dates have the best offers for a particular destination, and which dates you are better off avoiding. Its similar to the way you can find TripAdvisor hotel ratings on websites other than just TripAdvisor. We’re spreading the love, in other words.

Here’s a basic lowdown on how it works: Lets say I go to my (second) favorite hotel site, hootel.com (no, there really is nothing more than a logo there). I search for hotels in New Orleans for next weekend, because there have GOT to be some bargains there now that the Mardibowl excitement is over. Hootel sends DealAngel all the rates it’s found for its hotels on the day I have chosen via the DealAngel API, and DealAngel gives its verdict for each in the form of DealAngel ratings. So, even when you aren’t on DealAngel, you have a guardian (deal) angel watching over you making sure you get the best value offers out there, and don’t book a hotel for more than its worth. Cool, eh?

Want to see it in action? Our first implementation is already live with Gogobot (also a cool site). Go to say http://www.gogobot.com/san-francisco–hotels and click on the calendar box. Its ours! And the DealAngel rating is also available when you go into the hotel details view.

And this is just the start. We plan to be showing up on a lot more sites soon. Know a hotel site that would benefit from DealAngel? Let us know. And let them know they need us. In the meanwhile, stay tuned, as we will have some more exciting news to share again soon. And remember, LOOK before you BOOK!

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Get Ready for the LA Travel and Adventure Show

By Michael Cervin

People love to travel and many of us crave adventure. Therefore, the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show (held in Long Beach, just outside of L.A.) is the perfect confluence of, well, travel and adventure.

15,000 people file into the massive center (that’s an adventure right there) to not only see what’s happening in the world of travel, but to hear well-known travel gurus like Rick Steves, Peter Greenberg, and Jean-Michel Cousteau.

There are also seminars (full disclosure, I’ll be speaking at one of these seminars again this year, so come by and say hi!) with regional travel experts discussing undiscovered places to visit, and travel tips to make any trip way easier. This is a great way to start planning your vacation, unless you’re already on one and then it’s even better.

For the adventurous, there’s a zip line, a rock wall to climb, a mini-scuba demo in a heated pool (which is awesome ‘cause the ocean can be chilly), a bungee trampoline, and a water bubble – which is where you get inside a huge clear bubble and roll around on the water – not as easy as you might think but it’s a blast.

And there is the Culinary Stage where local chefs cook up local foods (these are always popular because the food vendors are upstairs and frankly who wants to leave the party?)

Plus there are cultural happenings like dances (the Balinese last year were a show stopper), including Bollywood dances, Flamenco, belly dancing and such huge cultural diversity it’s like the whole world is packed into Long Beach.

There are trip giveaways, drawings and contests, and free pens! And you’ll meet travel experts, most of whom have authored books on specific areas (kinda like me) and who are great resources to pick their brains (not literally – that’s another convention). So come to plan a trip, vacation, getaway or maybe even an escape route!

Hotels near LA Travel and Adventure Show

With 15,000 people descending on Los Angeles, chances are hotel inventory is going to shrink, which usually means that good deals will be few and far between. But not impossible, thanks to Deal Angel. Check our hotel deals for Los Angeles here.

Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show

January 12-13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Long Beach Convention Center

300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

www.adventureexpo.com

Cost: $12

Since you’re in Long Beach, the Queen Mary is a stones throw from where you are. And you’re close to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park. Since Hollywood is so close, head to the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd. just to see the craziness. From there, go directly to Musso & Frank Grill, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood (opened in 1919 and the interior is classic Hollywood) with killer martinis.

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Finding Great Hotels in Nolita, New York City

By Jan Ross

Step out of a hotel in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan in New York and you are immediately faced with a quandary – which way to turn? Nolita is short for North of Little Italy and the urban, friendly neighborhood full of trees, little parks, interesting shops and wonderful, tiny restaurants is close to both Little Italy and Chinatown. Both are wonderful areas for a stroll and both have completely fabulous food.

Nolita hotels new york city - hotel deals new york city - deal angel

Go on, admit it. You know you want to be here.

The neighborhood used to be considered part of Little Italy and many descendants of Italian immigrants still live in the neighborhood so this is the perfect place to try some Italian food. Walk to Café Roma one morning and purchase some cannoli, which they will put in a little white bakery box tied with string. Eat your cannoli on one of the many street benches as you people watch the incredible diversity of individuals who live in this neighborhood.

For a completely different experience, head just a couple blocks in another direction and you will be in Chinatown. Home to over 100,000 people, Chinatown in Manhattan is one of the oldest Chinese enclaves outside of Asia and is a fascinating area to visit. Fresh fish swim in large tanks on the sidewalk, just waiting for patrons to choose them for a truly fresh seafood dinner and bubble tea, a local delicacy, is advertised everywhere.

Little Italy and Chinatown are both shopping Meccas with hundreds of small, interesting, street front shops selling clothing, jewelry, antiques, furniture, souvenirs, and pretty much anything else for which you might be looking.

If you are in the neighborhood after Labor Day, you can enjoy the Feast of San Gennaro, dedicated to Saint Januarius, held on Mulberry Street between Houston and Grand Streets. A huge street party, there are parades, musical entertainment and plenty of great food.

Completed in 1815, the lovely St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was the first Catholic Church in New York and is well worth a visit. The seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in New York until the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built; it is located on Mulberry Street and is now a parish church. The beautiful, gothic architecture and stained glass windows are truly remarkable. Worship services are still held but visitors are welcome when mass is not in session.

When you are ready to see the rest of the city, it’s very easy to catch a city bus, take the subway or grab a city cab. For the perfect evening out, I personally recommend going to The Ember Room on 9th street for dinner. Order the “Korean Barbecue Beef Fried Rice” which comes in a small, cast iron frying pan with a raw egg on top! Mix the egg in the hot rice and prepare to enjoy a sumptuous repast unlike any other. After dinner, walk to the August Wilson Theater on 52nd street (just a few blocks) and see “Jersey Boys” – I guarantee you will love it!

Hotels in Nolita, New York City

So you’ve decided to follow my advice, huh? Good move. Next up: finding a great hotel deal. Well, that’s what we’re here for. Click here to see our hotel deals for New York City, choose your dates and zoom in to the neighborhood you’re looking for. It couldn’t be easier!

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Quick Guide to Mardi Gras

By Carrie Dow

Looking to cross off some bucket list events for the New Year? Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a great place to start, but is not necessarily the bacchanal most people outside Louisiana think it is. Here’s a quick guide to the “real” Mardi Gras that may help dispel some of the biggest myths.

Falling on February 12, 2013, Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French and its origins are traced to medieval Europe. The event’s origins are with European Catholics who prepared to fast for Lent by binging on their remaining stored winter foods in the days before Ash Wednesday.

A quick guide to Mardi Gras

Over the centuries, these binges turned into parties and were spread to the colonies around the world. Mardi Gras took hold in New Orleans because of its roots as a French Colony. Today New Orleans is epicenter of Mardi Gras celebrations in the States.

However, having the biggest party in North America comes with a few bad apples. The event is best known for “bead flashing” and drunkenness. MardiGrasNewOrleans.com, the official website of Mardi Gras, wants to dispel those myths for those looking for fun without the crass.

“We try to remember what Mardi Gras has always been in this predominantly Catholic/Christian city – the last day before Ash Wednesday, when we receive ashes and begin 40 days of sacrifice in the imitation of our Lord.”

Myth #1 – “Flashing” for Beads – Floats along the parade route throw trinkets to the crowd, the most prized possessions being golden coconuts and shiny doubloons. Since people will do anything for swag, women have resorted to flashing, or baring their breasts, to get them. However, MardiGrasNewOrleans.com says this is not necessary.

“No woman should do something they don’t want to do and they might even get arrested for doing so.” If a crew member wants to toss some shiny stuff your way, they will. Simply holler and wave and for goodness sake keep your shirt on.

Myth #2 – Drunken Fools – Many a You Tube video or Facebook photo shows an inebriated reveler during Mardi Gras; Spring Break students and the like imbibing just a little too much.

The website says these things are not part of the parades, which take place outside the French Quarter in various regions of the city such as Metairie, Slidell, Uptown and Westbank. Most parades are family events featuring picnics, marching bands and colorful floats, some with celebrities.

The drunks featured on the evening news can be found mostly on Bourbon Street, where open-containers of alcohol on the sidewalk are legal, long after the kids have gone to bed.

Mardi Gras parades start three weeks prior to Ash Wednesday, on Saturday, January 29.

These events will take a break when New Orleans hosts the Superbowl from January 28 to February 3. The final week of Mardi Gras features five parades on Saturday, February 9, six parades on Sunday, February 10, four parades on Monday, February 11 and a whopping eight parades on Fat Tuesday starting bright and early at 8 a.m. For a full schedule of events, visit MardiGrasNewOrleans.com.

Mardi Gras Hotel Deals

As the country’s biggest and most famous party, it comes as little surprise that hotels sell out and deals can be hard to find. Never fear, DealAngel is here to help. Check our hotel deals for New Orleans here.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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The Need for Speed: Daytona 500 2013

By Michael Cervin

I must confess that I drive fast and I have several speeding tickets and inflated insurance premiums to prove it. But there are people who actually get paid to speed, you know, I mean for a living. This just seems inherently wrong to me…I guess because I’m not one of them.

The Daytona 500 is just such a place whereby scofflaws drive at excessive speeds in front of law enforcement and make more money in a day than I do in a decade. WTF? Oh well. At least the Daytona 500 is cool to visit and frankly if you’ve never been to an auto race, they are pretty intense with some very nice and, uh, interesting people.

43 of the top NASCAR racers duke it out and this race has been going on for over half a century. It all began on February 22, 1959 when a field of 59 cars took the green flag for the start of the, then, 200-lap race.

Nowadays the “The Great American Race,” hosts a sell out crowd and has the biggest total payout in prize money for any motorsports event in the United States, surpassing the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 – we’re talking about $18 million in total. But in addition to attending race day, you can also get way up close with two different tours.

The All-Access Tour lasts 90 minutes and takes you through areas including the Sprint Cup garages, the Daytona 500 Club, the Driver/Owner meeting room (where they divide up all that money), the Daytona Flat Track, and the Houston Lawing Press Box. There are photo opps on the tour including Gatorade Victory Lane (and no you don’t get free Gatorade), the start/finish line, and Turns 3 and 4. It’s a mere $22.

There’s also the half-hour Speedway Tour which takes you on an open-air tram through Daytona International Speedway’s garage area (oh the excitement of someone’s garage!), pit road, and the “world-famous” 31-degree high banks. The tour also makes stops at Pit Road and Gatorade Victory Lane (assuming no one is driving on them at the time). The cost is just $15. So we can immerse yourself in speed.

Daytona 500 Hotels

As you’ve probably guessed, this is a pretty major event and you’re gonna need to book ahead to get the best rates (or even a reservation). Check the DealAngel hotel results for Daytona Beach here.

The Daytona 500

Feb. 24th

www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

1801 West International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL

(800) 748-7467

Cost for the race: $32 – $195

After the race stick around to check out other Daytona activities. So you’re a fancy driver? Then check out the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Speedway, Lighthouse Point Park (for those not in a rush), any number of local golf courses, or the Museum of Arts & Sciences which also houses the largest collection of Cuban art outside of Cuba.

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Best Mardi Gras Parties: Pardi Gras!

By Carrie Dow

Going to Mardi Gras? Check the Deal Angel hotel results for New Orleans here.

Want to start Mardi Gras a little early? The 16th annual Pardi-Gras is bigger and better than ever as music lovers the world over ‘phlock’ to New Orleans for this tropical music party held January 17-20, 2013.

Pardi-Gras started in 1997 by a group of Parrot Heads, fans of singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet, as they are otherwise known. The event began as a way for these human parrots to ‘phlock’ together to enjoy their two favorite activities, drinking and music.

Best Mardi Gras Parties- Pardi Gras - Mardi Gras hotel deals - Deal AngelWhat began as a weekend event for a small group of people is now a five-day extravaganza open to anyone who likes good music with a tropical flair. Pardi-Gras features awesome live bands as well as other activities all in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans.

Musical acts schedule for 2013’s Pardi-Gras include Trop Rock favorites such as Brent Burns, John Friday, The Boat Drunks, Don Middlebrook, Rob Mehl, Paul Roush, and Jerry Diaz & Hanna’s Reef. Both Radio Margaritaville and Beachfront Radio will have special broadcasts from the French Quarter during the week.

Other Pardi-Gras events include a Bourbon Street pub crawl, a pirate toast at Laffite’s Blacksmith Shoppe, and the crowning event, the coronation of the Pardi-Gras King and Queen on Friday, January 18, followed by a Bourbon Street parade.

The event ends with a Bourbon Street block party on Saturday, January 19, starting at noon. If you survive the block party, a brunch will be held on Sunday, January 20.

Tickets for Pardi-Gras are available by registration on the official Pardi-Gras website. Cost is $77 per person and registration is open until December 31, 2012. But you don’t have to be a Parrot Head to join in “The Ultimate French Quarter Party.”  The entire French Quarter will be filled with live music and drink and dining specials. Get updates on bands and happenings from the Pardi-Gras Facebook page.

So put on your brightest Hawaiian shirts to drink some hurricanes and sing songs about palm trees while eating jambalaya. With this year’s theme “Hand Grenades and Grand Parades,” (bad pun alert ahead!) this French Quarter party tradition is sure to be the bomb!

www.pardi-gras.com

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Visiting Washington DC For The 2013 Presidential Inauguration

By Michael Cervin

Visiting DC for the Inauguration? Check the DealAngel hotel results for Washington DC here!

America was founded on the idea that we elect a president and when elected, they take office, but not before there’s a big party (sans cheap beer and wings) with about 250,000 people. Welcome to the Presidential Inaugural, even if you didn’t vote. Every January (well, every four or eight years depending) Washington D.C breaks out all the stops and way too many people flood this non-state to watch the president be sworn in on the steps of the Capitol.

Presidential Inauguration Washington DC hotel deals Deal Angel

This is followed by the Inaugural Parade, generally held on the afternoon of the swearing-in ceremony. After the president and vice-president have been sworn in (and after the inaugural luncheon which you’re not invited to), they typically travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, where they remain while they review the rest of the parade as it passes by. The parade is full of marching bands, military units, citizens groups and lots of hoopla. The tradition of the inaugural parade goes back to the first inauguration of George Washington who, as history tells us, ended the parade with a football and pizza.

When and Where is the 2013 Presidential Inauguration?

The 2013 Inaugural Parade will take place in the afternoon of January 21 and will proceed down 15 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue between the U.S. Capitol and the White House and it typically takes about two hours (as you know nothing moves quickly here). Once underway, the ceremony itself will last about an hour. January is historically cold and wet with temperatures near freezing – and nothing says “four more years” like damp fun.

But it’s not merely the Swearing-In that people come to see. The weekend is filled with inaugural balls with names like the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball, Kentucky Bluegrass Ball, Inaugural Fashion Show and Luncheon, New Mexico Inaugural Ball (and are they still a state?) and about 15 others. So be part of history and check out the Inaugural.

The 2013 Presidential Inauguration

1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Washington D.C.

www.presidential-inauguration.com

Jan 21st, 2:30 p.m. (approximate)

Cost: Theoretically it’s free, both the Swearing-In Ceremony and the Inaugural Parade…but then again, this is Washington so who really knows.

So you’re in Washington, then check out the Newseum (a very cool perspective on news), Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria (where George Washington and Thomas Jefferson used to eat and where I ate though I have no commemorative plaque), and for weirdness visit the National Postal Museum before they too run out of money.

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Orange Bowl 2013: Finding Orange Bowl Hotels

By Carrie Dow

Looking for hotels near the Orange Bowl? Check the DealAngel hotel results for Miami here.

Orange bowl hotels - Miami hotel deals - Deal Angel

This year the city of Miami gets college football’s BCS double header:  the Discover Orange Bowl on January 1 and the Discover BCS Championship game on January 7. If you like college football, this is the week to be in Miami.

This year’s Orange Bowl teams are the Florida State Seminoles from the SEC vs. the Northern Illinois Huskies from the MAC. Fan events surrounding the game are expected to run all day until the game starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

The first Orange Bowl was held January 1, 1935, and featured Bucknell vs. Miami with Bucknell the winner. Throughout its history, the Orange Bowl has been the sight of many national championships. It is also well-known for its spectacular halftime shows. This year’s half time entertainment is country music star Jake Owen. Xenia Martinez, finalist on NBC’s “The Voice,” will perform the National Anthem.

One week later, on January 7 at 8 p.m., is the BCS Championship Game to decide the best US college football team of 2012 and will feature the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame vs. the Crimson Tide of Alabama. This is the second time Miami has hosted both the Orange Bowl and the Championship Game.

In 1997, the Orange Bowl along with the Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl became part of the BCS Bowl Alliance to create a unified nation championship game. Now, the BCS Championship Game rotates to each of the Bowl Alliance cities and this year the game is back in Miami. While Notre Dame earned the first bid to the national championship game by ending their season undefeated, their opponent wasn’t decided until December 1 when Alabama beat the Georgia Bulldogs for the SEC Championship.

The games will be held at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, home to the Miami Dolphins NFL team. Tickets to both games are available and can be purchased online. Visit Orange Bowl.org for Orange Bowl tickets. BCS Championship tickets as well as all Bowl Alliance game tickets can be purchased through PrimeSport.com.

No matter which team you root for, enjoy the tailgating in Miami this year. Even though I’m supposed to be impartial, I just have to say, Go Huskies!

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