As we walk out of the theater, we discuss what we just saw on the big screen: the plot, the acting, the costumes. But on occasion, we also dream of travel.
Many movies, whether through telling a story in a specific destination or by featuring a carefully-selected shooting locale, effectively inspire us to consider packing our bags and hitting the road. Remember how "The Descendants" had you thinking about travel to Hawaii, or how "Rio" got you (and your kids) planning a getaway to Brazil, or how "Eat, Pray, Love" made you want to fly to Italy? And India? And Bali?
Some destinations will even jump on opportunity and leverage the popularity of a film to promote tourism; take New Zealand, which recently turned the release of "The Hobbit" into an international marketing bonanza that resulted in everything from discounted vacation packages to elaborately embellished baggage claim carousels.
With the 85th Academy Awards around the corner, here's a quick look at four Oscar contenders whose merits not only include stellar acting and expert directing, but also the ability to whet our wanderlust.
This Oscar-worthy Steven Spielberg film starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field was shot at several historic locations throughout Virginia, Illinois and Kentucky. This film, though, is inspiring many to consider a trip to America's capital (and presidential hub), Washington D.C. This year's timing, with a recent presidential inauguration, makes a D.C. trip even more inviting. What's more, you're just 90 minutes from filming locations like Richmond, Virginia, which served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and Hopewell, formerly City Point, which served as Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters during the siege of Petersburg.
This is a time of year when hotel prices in Washington are at their best; the Dupont Circle Hotel is a sleek, upscale four-star hotel set among the shops and restaurants of Dupont Circle offering a $129 rate (that's $100 off) for travel through April, including the National Cherry Blossom Festival that runs March 20-April 14.
"Silver Linings Playbook"
This film, which is Oscar-nominated eight times over for performances by the likes of Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, is based in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. It gives Philly landmarks, especially the Eagles, plenty of attention. This year, major openings and exciting events and exhibitions offer plenty of reasons for travelers to add Philadelphia to their must-visit list. For animal lovers, there's the Philadelphia Zoo's new children's zoo and education center and, for history buffs, the opening of the Benjamin Franklin Life & Legacy Museum.
Like D.C., the next few months can offer attractive bargains throughout Philly; the sleek, four-star Sofitel Philadelphia, located in the beautiful Rittenhouse neighborhood and close to historic attractions like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, is seeing overnight rates as low as $159 for travel through April.
This Academy Award contender starring several stars who could take home Oscar this year, like Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, is set in 19th-century France. If you're looking for an international getaway, especially outside peak summer dates in July and August, France can offer budget-friendly value, not to mention wonderful café-lined streets, the world's best wine and experiences galore to spark the artist, and the lover, in all of us. Let's not forget: historic, romantic, centuries-old landmarks are still alive and well in modern-day destinations like Paris.
This is a very exciting year for France: It's the 100th anniversary of the return of the Mona Lisa after the famous painting was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. For real bang for your buck, look for packages from companies like go-today, which is currently offering a six-night stay in Paris, complete with round-trip air from New York, accommodations near the Champs-Élysées, daily breakfast and even a sommelier-led wine and Champagne tasting at a popular Paris bar, for $1,299 per person; that's for travel on select dates in April, May, September and October, with the same trip in March (when it's cooler) discounted an extra $100.
"Life of Pi"
This visually stunning movie directed by Oscar player Ang Lee was filmed in several Indian cities, including the stunning regions of Puducherry and Munnar. On the heels of this film, and to leverage a surging interest in India over the last few years, the government developed a massive tourism campaign to entice tourists. A vast country that's just over one-third of the size of the United States, much of it is rural, and there are some incredible sights to be seen and discovered such as the Himalayas, the beaches of Goa, the desert and tribal territory.
Thanks to increased air lift over the last couple of years, flights and vacations to India, especially out of the East Coast, have become more affordable. Friendly Planet, for example, is offering a nine-day getaway to Delhi, Jaipur and Agra (home to the Taj Mahal) featuring deluxe hotels throughout, daily breakfast, all entrance fees and English-speaking guides for $1,699; this package, with round-trip air from New York, is good for travel April through September.
For deals to destinations featured in your next favorite flick, check out www.travelzoo.com.
-- Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo and is based in Santa Barbara. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.