Have you ever had so much fun at Whole Foods that you wished you could spend a whole week there? Well, your dream vacation may soon be possible.
The organic grocery store chain evidently wants to be more than just a chain of organic grocery stores, as it will soon open its first "upscale health resort." Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey told USA Today that the first resort would likely open near Austin, Texas, in the next three years.
USA Today compares the planned resorts to the famous Canyon Ranch chain of health resorts and day spas. But Mackey told the paper that the idea actually began internally after a successful program to improve its employees' eating and lifestyle habits.
While Whole Foods clearly has plenty of expertise when it comes to healthy eating, it seems a bit of a stretch for a grocery chain to make the jump into the world of spas and hospitality. But the company has a built-in advantage in the form of its brand recognition and customer base. Mackey says the resorts will bear the Whole Foods name, which should attract the chain's health-conscious customers.
And those customers tend to be more affluent, which doesn't hurt the resort's prospects. Whole Foods' pricey groceries have earned it the nickname "Whole Paycheck," so anyone who shops there on a regular basis probably has more disposable income than the average American. And that means they're a lot more likely to be able to afford spa weekends and resort stays.
Finally, there is a precedent for food chains getting into the hotel business, though it's probably not an example that Whole Foods is likely to talk about in its promotional materials. Back in 2001, McDonald's decided to try opening a luxury hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, calling it the Golden Arch Hotel. Two locations were built in the country, but the venture failed after a couple of years in operation.
We'll see if the Whole Foods resort has any more luck in the hospitality game.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.
The shortest path between two points may be a straight line, but rarely does that seem to apply to airline routes. You might not be surprised by a layover in Chicago if you're flying from Boston to Seattle, but rarely will you find so obvious a route, especially on discounted and last-minute tickets.
Flying from New York to Dallas? JetBlue (JBLU) will make you lay over in Boston. Taking a short hop across the Adriatic Sea from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Venice, Italy on Iberia? Expect to lay over in Barcelona, Spain. That's because most airlines have hubs that they operate many more flights through, which make them cheaper. For example, American Airlines (AAL) has its largest hub in Dallas-Fort Worth, while United Continental (UAL) now has its largest hub in Houston (United's top hub was Chicago O'Hare before the merger).
If the 2005 Wes Craven thriller Red Eye has led you to pass on booking overnight flights, you might be missing out on some bargains.
A round-trip flight on British Airways from New York City to London on an afternoon in early July can cost approximately $1,500. An evening flight (after 6 p.m., although it varies by airline), however, can cost less than $1,000. And it's not just the transatlantic route. Red-eye flights are traditionally less expensive, not as full, and offer shorter lines at check-in and through security. And after all, time is money.
Travel newsletters like Johnny Jet, websites like Airfare Watchdog, or airline-specific social media feeds often provide flash and last-minute deals. Some sites, like Kayak, will automatically prompt you to set up an alert for a particular destination once you've done a couple of searches with the same departure and destination locations.
While many blogs and websites theorize on the best time or day to buy an airfare, there is no magic formula. Only by regularly comparing fares against other dates and airlines will you know when to make your purchase.
A good indicator of how easy an airline is to fly is its policies on changes and cancellations. While the policies are as varied as the quality of the in-flight meals, the information is easier to quantify. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics publishes an annual list of fees generated by each airline. In 2011, Delta (DAL) charged a whopping $766 million in change and cancellation fees. Alaska Airlines (ALK) charged a mere $10 million (And lest you attribute the big difference to the relative sizes of the carriers, Delta only carried nine times as many passengers as Alaska Airlines.)
While the cost of flying may be increasing, airfare deals can always be had with a little patience, persistence, and research. Whether you're traveling alone, with colleagues, or with your family, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your flights this summer. Maybe even enough for another trip.