CHEAP RETREATS $499
When it comes to travel, good things come in small figures. Like a rental car for $14.29 a day. Better yet, four beers for free.
I discovered the charm of wee numbers when American Way asked my husband and me to cut loose for a weekend on only $499. Dave and I have been together more than 10 years, through a couple of mortgages, numerous countries, a child, several careers, and two cats, so given the offer, it's hard to say who was quicker with the scissors. Meet me in St. Louis, baby!
Of course, you're scratching your head now. St. Louis? But consider this: A.) All roads meet there - think middle of the country, Lewis and Clark, staging ground for wagon trains west. And B.) Strong in blues, bowling, baseball, and beer, St. Louis knows a good time. Then there's that fabulous Arch.
If you've never stayed in St. Louis, particularly downtown St. Louis, you have yet to experience the magnetic pull of the Gateway Arch, the brilliant 1965 sculpture by Eero Saarinen. It's a chameleon throughout the day, bright and shiny at high noon, a gunmetal ghost fading into the evening sky, textured by nighttime reflections. Perhaps because it's managed by the National Park Service, better at interpreting nature than art, the Arch rarely gets its due. But it's why we chose the Millennium St. Louis Hotel - clean, with Arch-framing room views for a wallet-wise AAA rate of $59 a night, leaving us plenty of mad money.
Truthfully, the first thing we do Friday, which says a lot about our priorities, is speed past the Arch en route to the Budweiser factory. A couple we met on the shuttle to pick up our Dollar rental car - which, by the way, we got on the Internet for an astonishing $14.29 a day - endorsed it heartily.