New Year's Eve abroad

Head down under or across the pond for a global celebration

The Smart Traveler

December 17, 2006

ARE YOU AN URBAN REVELER WHO loves the fireworks on New Year's Eve but hates battling the crowds and the cold? If so, a warm hotel room with a stocked minibar and a clear view might be worth the price no matter how high. It may be too late to reserve most well-placed hotels for the coming New Year, but here are some prices that may help you plan for the next year's celebration.

In Sydney, where hundreds of thousands gather each year to see the midnight fireworks explode above the harbor, the Novotel on Darling Harbour (novoteldarlingharbour.com.au, 61-02-9934-0000) is among the best vantage points. Harbor-view standard rooms start at about $600. More stunning, perhaps, is the Sebel Pier One (www.mirvac hotels.com, 61-02-8298-9999) right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge overlooking Walsh Bay and complete with a glass-floored lobby with water below. A standard harbor-view room starts at $425 with a minimum seven-night stay.

THE $100 HAMBURGER

McGraw Hill / $24.95

There are some people in this world you have no choice but to trust, like the people who fly airplanes. So when a bunch of general aviation types give you their advice, as they do in this book subtitled A Guide to Pilots' Favorite Fly-in Restaurants, you feel you ought to at least hear them out. A lot of people must have felt that way because this book is in its third edition, with more than a thousand recommendations in all 50 states. You know it's a really great place to eat when the pilots give it their highest rating: five buns.

TONI SALAMA

LODGING

Find your castle or tepee

If you could, would you stay in a caboose or a windmill on your next vacation? How about a tepee? A new global Web site, HomeAway.com, lists more than 60,000 vacation home properties across 90 countries. In addition to the above mentioned, you'll find a barn, bungalow, cabin, castle, chalet, condo, cottage, house, houseboat, mansion, villa, yacht and yurt. Homeaway.com provides photos, property descriptions, pricing and booking information. Weekly rates range from $200 for a rustic cabin in North Carolina to $45,000 for a lavish estate in Jamaica.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

GEAR & GADGETS

Fido may not mind being relegated to the back of the car once he settles into the swank Hammock Seat Cover from Bowsers pet products. Covered in a soft nylon velvet in four color patterns, the thick, polyester-filled bottom cushion has large flaps that attach via nylon straps and clip to the front and back seat headrests, providing a hammock effect. Your animal companion can laze against his seat back and sprawl out over what would have been the gap between the front and back seats. One size fits all, and smaller breeds can double up. If your pooch's comfort is priceless, this seat cover fits the bill. Dog Hammock Seat Cover is about $200. Bowsers: 877-269-7377; bowsers.com.

JUDI DASH

AFRICA

Run with the champions

Since the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when Kipchoge Keino won the 1,500-meter race, Kenyans have practically ruled long-distance running. So normally, the average runner could only hope for a distant glimpse of a Kenyan great. But on the Running Safari in Kenya, which Micato Safaris began last year and is offering again March 14-25, a closer view is guaranteed. The trip will include morning and evening runs most days with some of the country's stars -- including Lornah Kiplagat, who has won the Los Angeles Marathon twice -- joining the group. The trip costs $3,900 per person, including lodging and meals, but not air fare. Call 800-642-2861.

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ONLINE

Hotwire.com is tops with travelers

Hotwire.com ranked highest of independent travel Web sites among customers who book their reservations online, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates. Expedia.com and travelo city.com received the next highest scores. Hotwire.com received top marks for the two things that matter most to customers -- competitiveness of price and ease of booking. The survey also found that 50 percent of travelers book online, up from 46 percent a year ago. The study is based on responses from 6,800 consumers who booked their travel reservations on the Internet.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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