Sand, surf, sub-freezing temperatures — what more could you ask for?


Half the East Coast is stuck in a blizzard. We are not.

But don’t feel too envious. It’s 34 degrees in Seaside, Fla., and the powerful wind gusts coming off the Gulf of Mexico make it feel even colder.

The beach looks deceptively warm and inviting, but you have to bundle up to really enjoy it. There is something to enjoy, though: The solitude of being at a summer resort during the off-season, when you can practically have the entire place to yourself.
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Hey, where’d everyone go?

Seaside, Fla., may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a holiday destination. Maybe it should be.

Alright, the weather was cool and rainy when we arrived yesterday. I took this picture almost exactly a year ago, on clear but equally chilly day. But it’s just as empty.

Only a few people have trekked down here from even colder places to spend the holidays. Smart choice.
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Revelex pays $12,500 after Florida accuses it of “aiding and abetting” Prime Travel Protection

Remember Revelex, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based online booking company whose name came up a time or two during the Palm Coast Travel episode earlier this year?

Palm Coast Travel, you’ll recall, was fined $2,500 for selling unlicensed travel insurance through a company called Prime Travel Protection. Some observers alleged a connection between Revelex, Palm Coast Travel and Prime Travel Protection, although a link was never proven.

Well, this afternoon, a source with the state of Florida sent me a settlement agreement (PDF) that suggests there may have been a link between Revelex and Prime Travel Protection.
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A sense of place at Homewood Suites Lake Mary

Chain hotels can be depressing places, because when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.

It didn’t help that we’d just watched Up in the Air, the George Clooney movie about a business traveler whose home is a seemingly endless series of hotel rooms, when we checked into the Homewood Suites in Lake Mary, Fla., yesterday.
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Florida Homewood Suites adventure begins in Lake Buena Vista

It all started a few weeks ago with a call from Hilton. Would I be interested in writing for a Web site run by Homewood Suites, they wondered.

Homewood Suites? Now there’s a name I don’t hear very often — which is actually a good thing.

I looked through my files. No serious complaints about Homewood Suites. It’s squeaky clean, on a par with Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. Not bad for an upscale, all-suite chain with close to 300 properties.
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Palm Coast Travel fined $2,500 and placed on probation for selling unauthorized travel insurance

Looks like Palm Coast Travel, the Boca Raton, Fla., agency accused by the state of Florida of selling unauthorized travel insurance, while at the same time trying to sue one of its own customers and me into silence, has quietly negotiated a settlement with insurance regulators.

Under the agreement (PDF), which was signed today, Palm Coast Travel, which also does business online as Smartcruiser.com, has agreed to cease and desist selling unauthorized insurance and will pay a $2,500 fine as well as restitution to its customers affected by the purchase of an unauthorized insurance policy. It will be placed on 18 months’ probation and has agreed not to sell unauthorized insurance in the future.

The consent order is practically identical to a draft settlement agreement (PDF) that has been circulating between Palm Coast Travel and insurance regulators since last summer, and which I obtained after filing a public records request.
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Internal report shows Palm Coast Travel had $27,787 in outstanding travel insurance claims

A fresh round of public records released by the state of Florida’s Department of Financial Service this morning reveals the number of consumer complaints against travel agencies alleged to have sold illegal travel insurance, as well as the claims paid and their estimated value.

Palm Coast Travel had just three claims worth $27,787 — far below those of other large travel agencies such as Vacation Superstore (33 claims worth $131,061) and Legendary Journeys (174 claims worth $503,957). That figure suggests Palm Coast Travel, which also does business as Smartcruiser.com, aggressively moved to settle claims related to its alleged sale of illegal Prime Travel Protection products even before Florida regulators stepped in.
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