Arthur Frommer Online Mon, 24 Jul 2017 19:02:00 GMT Low-Cost Airlines Crossing the Atlantic Are Now Major Players in Travel Mon, 24 Jul 2017 19:02:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> As we remain in the high season for transatlantic travel, the big news continues to be the growth of low-cost airlines to perform that trip. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:e65834c4-fc36-46bb-a799-b5f18bcf38e9 Eight Observations About Travel That May Be of Use for Your Next Vacation Fri, 21 Jul 2017 19:35:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Here are eight random thoughts about travel that may have a bearing on your next trip. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:8057b3ac-2c92-439b-9f37-29fd4bca3314 For Seniors, August 28 Is the Deadline for Enjoying One of the Great Travel Bargains Thu, 20 Jul 2017 18:59:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> The price of a lifetime national parks pass for seniors is about to go WAY up. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:61bf8403-5d35-417f-b1fb-3dd21206252d An Ignorant Proposed Cut in Amtrak's Budget Would Devastate That Much-Needed Service Thu, 20 Jul 2017 15:20:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> President Trump wants to reduce Amtrak's budget. Once and for all: What has the right wing got against long-distance rail service? . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:36df52cf-f24b-49d7-9e0a-93f73ff6950a In Spite of the President's Confusing Cuba Policy, Three Major Cruise Lines Persevere Fri, 14 Jul 2017 22:05:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Despite the President’s murky efforts to limit the right of Americans to travel to Cuba, the cruise industry's brightest leaders lay future plans to bring even more vacationers there...</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:02c44033-ac1c-4025-8b2a-4f130d9b72c5 Is This the End of Air Passenger Bumping? Fri, 14 Jul 2017 19:04:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> This week, United Airlines rolled out a new experiement that could simultaneously result in increased profits for the airlines and decreased stress for passengers....</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:f5c0bab9-a45f-4c7e-bac5-f257b6ff572a Do Travelers Lose Something by Using Airbnb's "Premium" Services? Mon, 10 Jul 2017 13:16:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> Is something lost when a budgeteers’ staple goes upscale? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself ever since it was announced that Airbnb was testing a premium product. Why did that news cause me to feel....</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:402c1afd-b640-46e5-855d-16da8c69c718 Marijuana is Legalized in Las Vegas (and Nevada). What You Need to Know Mon, 03 Jul 2017 21:14:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> “High rollers” takes on a new meaning with the introduction of legal cannabis in Las Vegas (and the rest of Nevada). On July 1, at 12:01 am, marijuana was sold legally for....</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b4dc19e9-edb2-4d63-a2e7-3fac88296af0 Optimism and Drive Will Help Tardy Travelers Find Late-Summer Vacation Vacancies Tue, 27 Jun 2017 20:44:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Think it's too late to book a summer trip to one of the top destinations in the U.S. Think again. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:cf2f98cc-bfbc-482a-b0aa-391e7781d82e Our National Parks Are in Peril of Having Their Funding Cut Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:33:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> They were supposed to be sacrosanct. Our national parks—glory of our nation—were supposedly unlike the other institutions threatened by President Donald Trump's appointees to his cabinet. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:dcd4bb6b-b738-4b38-a1b2-f81a2a5b3fbf Pres. Trump Has Reinstated a Cuba Policy That Has Been an Abject Failure for 50 Years Tue, 20 Jun 2017 21:16:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> President Trump's Cuba decision senselessly turns back the clock, reversing gains for both countries—and for U.S. travelers. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:7fc51059-692d-4237-b307-10f808ddaea7 Proposals to Privatize Air Traffic Control Are Based on Ideology, Not Practicality Mon, 12 Jun 2017 14:21:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> The Trump Administration wants to put air traffic control in the hands of a private corporation. Should that worry you? . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:dfe96fa8-8241-463c-aefa-d3a33ea4a2c0 Vacation in One of the Less Popular Destinations This Summer for a Fine Travel Experience Mon, 22 May 2017 15:06:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Where shall we go for our summer vacation? . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a5a92e24-b3ea-41c6-83e4-cc0ceb3f4c05 Travel Without Hesitation to Foreign Democracies, but Steer Clear of Authoritarian Nations Mon, 22 May 2017 13:46:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> The risks outweigh the benefits of visiting countries with oppressive governments. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b4aaeab9-994e-4d4f-b411-3d2b3fa5f401 The Discovery of an Octopus in a Miami Beach Car Park Poses a Threat to the City's Tourism Thu, 11 May 2017 19:09:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> Sea levels are rising in Miami Beach—and that could permanently change life and tourism there. . . . </p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:368ff1bb-8971-48ee-a030-ceedad2be8de A New Texas Law Will Turn Traffic Stops Into Interrogations of Drivers' Immigration Status Thu, 11 May 2017 18:51:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> Under a new law, Texas state troopers will be required to investigate the immigration status of drivers during routine traffic stops. The ACLU has issued a Texas travel alert in response. . . . </p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b8ca9702-00dc-4195-a799-5b9e440f13df The How Tos of Backpacking From a True Pro Thu, 04 May 2017 16:06:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> We can blame Cheryl Strayed—or perhaps her cinematic alter-ego Reese Witherspoon, who portrayed the author in the movie version of her memoir “Wild”—for the increasing popularity of backpacking. Permit requests....</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:bd94279e-cb31-4ff0-a000-60b41fedd941 Fox News and Rupert Murdoch Are Now Owners of the National Geographic Magazines and TV Show, As Disquieting As That May Seem Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:46:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> What once reliably delivered scientific reportage will now be controlled by a man famous for putting politics first, says Arthur Frommer.</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:ff8c3990-86dc-4444-af7c-1428b84545ae Emirates Airline's Decision to Cancel Flights to the United States Because of Administration Policies Will Reduce Income and Jobs Here Fri, 21 Apr 2017 16:40:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> A sharp reduction in foreign tourism will do far more economic harm than can be offset by corporations adding American jobs here and there. . . .</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:3e531936-b97e-46e3-bb27-5a112887e6b2 Media Stories About the Violent Removal of a Passenger from His Flight Have Overlooked Important Considerations Fri, 14 Apr 2017 22:04:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Unless you've been living in a cave, you have heard, seen, or red the vast output of media coverage about the doctor who was forcibly ejected from the seat he had purchased on a United Airlines flight going from Chicago's O'Hare Airport to Louisville, Kentucky. But I think two important points have been overlooked. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:ddce9d3d-09e0-44ce-8f02-94b22ce07428 After a Quiet Winter, the World of Travel Has Suddenly Erupted with Distinctive Developments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 14:44:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Americans are often left unaffected by various changes in the rules and policies of travel—but that hasn't been the case in recent weeks. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:73268eb8-945a-4d61-90d4-a4d5f86fa4aa Foreign Students Are Now Among the Groups Reducing Plans to Visit the U.S. in Reaction to Trump's Hostility Thu, 30 Mar 2017 15:36:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> The world of travel is troubled by travel-related policies of the Trump administration. . . . </p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:cfc6ca0f-0183-4943-8d35-def20d501698 The Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Opening in April, Will Surely Merit a Visit Wed, 22 Mar 2017 21:56:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> Beginning in the fall of 2016, and now continuing into the spring of 2017, this has been a year of museums—a time when America has obtained historical exhibits so compelling that they alone justify a trip to the city of their location. . . . </p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:6023b99c-5afd-4f0c-aec4-f1b305e4c9c0 A Virtual Avalanche of Websites Renting Short-Term Apartments Has Followed the Much-Publicized Success of Airbnb Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:28:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> When an internet company earns billions of dollars of profit each year, you can get that numerous other companies will immediately proceed to imitate or supplement its product. That is exactly what is now happening to Airbnb. . . . </p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:cbd8a5d4-8885-4bd0-ab35-b4f849fc83c9 An Undoubted Reduction in the Level of Transatlantic Airfares is Currently Underway Fri, 10 Mar 2017 18:31:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> Getting to Europe from America is now cheaper than it has been in years, says Arthur Frommer—but the reasons behind the new reality are not all positive.<span style="color:rgb(0, 0, 0);font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;"> ...</span></p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d6918c3b-a183-4725-8059-970e6007c9dc Three Important Recommendations for Smart Travel That Are Served By Three Smart Websites Fri, 10 Mar 2017 12:46:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> <span style="color:rgb(0, 0, 0);font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;">Choosing an ethical destination, preparing your cellphone for cost-conscious travel, and improving your trips through yoga—Arthur Frommer shows you where to start your research. ...</span></p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:0e1601e4-c61a-40a7-987c-e01f94d2db0d Will American Travelers Soon Need Visas to Visit Europe? Fri, 03 Mar 2017 16:46:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> The European Parliament has just taken a step that could throw travelers' plans into turmoil. Responding to the Trump....</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:3012caf9-c878-4611-a1e0-e13aa447d151 The Return of AutoSlash Means Deep Savings on Rental Cars Once Again Tue, 28 Feb 2017 17:46:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> In this age of oligopolies, it can be difficult for the average traveler to catch a break. That's especially true of car rentals, with....</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a3844189-71de-4d1d-9958-d4bd27ffc9de A New York City Vacation Is Suddenly More Affordable Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:26:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> In the course of researching my new book, I found a puzzling trend. Instead of going up, as hotel prices have done year after year for the last decade...</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:2f4818a3-a75c-4021-aa3f-8ebd1ce910f9 A Visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles Fri, 24 Feb 2017 20:57:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> Every night, he would squeeze out two lines of toothpaste onto their respective toothbrushes. Until the relationship....</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:8d8b01d9-2fd2-4e51-bcfa-4417b5ee39bf Surprise! These Alaska Ships Are Infinitely Superior, and Certainly Cheaper, Than a Standard Cruise Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:21:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> The 11 passenger ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System, each pursuing a different itinerary among up to 35 communities starting in Bellingham, Washington, are an authentic alternative to noisy and overpriced mainstream cruises....</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b2c811c6-5329-4051-8580-2dfc45c45c17 The Travel Press is Reporting the 'Trump Slump', a Devastating Drop in Tourism to the United States Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:01:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Experts across the travel industry are warning that masses of tourists are being scared away from visiting the United States, and the loss of tourism jobs could be devastating....</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:eb1970e2-4030-4fd0-87d4-1592ac73a164 Oprah Leads the Charge of New Lifestyle Brands at Sea Wed, 15 Feb 2017 15:24:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Hairy chest contests are giving way to enlightenment…or at least an understanding of what the term “sous vide” means.<strong>...</strong></p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b91ab548-519d-47a2-95e9-8dcedc293cb2 Plan Ahead! The New Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. Is Overwhelmed with Interest Thu, 26 Jan 2017 16:39:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <div> It's such a remarkable attraction that it has been packed with more visitors than it expected, so if you want to go, you'll need to...</div> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:09e44c36-ff9c-40ec-af8b-3deb57809233 Greeters Programs—Free Tours Led by Locals—Are Expanding to More and More World Cities Tue, 24 Jan 2017 16:45:00 GMT <p> <a href="">Full Article Here</a></p> <p> Pauline Frommer discusses free tours called Greeters programs</p> <p> <a href="">Full Article Here</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:62e12382-cad5-49ba-9249-6c92cc30eb2d Looking for a Caribbean Vacation? Here’s a Tweetlike Appraisal of 11 Islands, Less Than 140 Characters Apiece Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:13:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <div> Which Caribbean island is the best? Arthur Frommer boils the major ones down to what to see and do on each one...</div> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:6fe0140e-84b8-4b40-9fec-80046cee5ee8 Forthcoming Decisions by Trump May Have a Major, and Not Always Favorable, Impact on the U.S. Travel Industry Mon, 09 Jan 2017 17:41:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> The nation is nervously awaiting a series of decisions by the Trump administration, on matters of broad, national importance, like eliminating...</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:da80c9f6-cea5-45ae-b9df-bd6b079be85f Carnival's New "Ocean Medallions" Track Every Move—And Make Spending Thoughtless Fri, 06 Jan 2017 02:51:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> Inspired by Disney's controversial MagicBand system, the largest cruise line company in the world launches new disks that will track guests' every whim and move.</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:3331b34a-bd7a-4e51-9be5-477ca241156b The U.S. Dollar Continues to Soar Against Virtually Every Foreign Currency Thu, 29 Dec 2016 19:17:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> The continued strengthening of the U.S. dollar is so evident, having such a major impact on vacation plans, that it...</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:61c1ac1c-5203-4d0e-b112-aa32f738df95 Will He or Won't He? Trump Has Not Withdrawn His Threat to Forbid Travel to Cuba Thu, 22 Dec 2016 22:33:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> American cruise lines are preparing to enter the Cuban market with force, but will politics quash the budding potential for new jobs, new revenue, and new explorations?...</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:83570a8e-d990-42a8-b13e-02fd8562f5a4 Despite Fierce Opposition from U.S. Air Carriers, Norwegian Air Has Received Permission to Radically Slash Airfares Across the Atlantic Thu, 22 Dec 2016 22:17:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <div> Norwegian Air is about to introduce some healthy competition on transatlantic flights, making travel a lot easier and cheaper for many more Americans...</div> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d420ef60-3234-47ab-9ba2-878c39a3edfd A Corps of English-Speaking Volunteers Called "Wardens" Comes to the Aid of Beleaguered Tourists in Emergency Situations Overseas Wed, 14 Dec 2016 07:34:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Ever heard of a travel "warden"?  Probably not—though hundreds of them are employed by our own U.S. State Department...</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b6bf7a39-2202-4123-bfba-05d8b65c681a In Its Ability to Start and Stop its Flow of Outbound Tourism, China Possesses a Mighty Weapon to Use Against the West Tue, 13 Dec 2016 19:59:00 GMT <div> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></div> <div>  </div> <div> In the recently-concluded election campaign, President-Elect Trump suggested several steps that might be taken...</div> <div>  </div> <div> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></div> <div>  </div> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:264f7de3-b380-4d12-935d-f930b421c22b Three Major Issues in Travel—Airbnb’s Right to Operate, the Continuation of “Marijuana Tourism,” and Travel to Cuba—Remain Unresolved as We Enter the New Year Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:43:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> The exact future of remains in a small degree of doubt, following its recent "defeat" by New York City. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:cda8392d-2b00-4aab-86d8-2bb4b49ef2dd Though the Unusual Current Strength of the U.S. Dollar Is Harmful to the U.S. Economy, It Greatly Benefits the U.S. Traveler: A Moral Issue Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:18:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> It is a major paradox that economic developments harmful to the interests of the United States are often beneficial to American travelers. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:824194e8-942a-425e-93f9-7b979ec3e507 In a Dramatic and Somewhat Unexpected Change, Lines at Airport Security Gates Have Greatly Shortened, Easing the Process of Checking in for a Flight Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:49:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Remember those summer headlines about the virtual collapse of TSA security at the airports? . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b10ad977-67b3-47ce-846b-680727e3e8e2 In the Most Recent of Nominations, a Distinguished Magazine Has Named Its Choices of "Best Cruise Line" for Various Needs Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:56:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> If you have ever been on a cruise, you have, by that act, greated affected the contents of your mailbox. . . .  </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:3cff5653-5c72-449c-bc50-4f05228ba9f8 For Americans, the Conditions for International Travel Are Better Now Than They Have Been for Years Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:25:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> The year 2016 will go down in the record books as a poor year for international travel. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:616c9117-cc76-4357-af03-aec15696ea3f Bite Sized Volunteer Vacations Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:56:00 GMT <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> <p> These are some ideas for volunteer activities that can be mixed with regular vacations.</p> <p> <a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d5ad887d-7d48-4f86-8ca7-d2f20837a9ee Our Picks for the Best Black Friday & Cyber Monday Travel Deals Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:46:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>READ MORE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> The deals are almost here! Here's our curated list of the best of them.</p> <p> <a href=""><strong>READ MORE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:41d0a655-b37e-4cc8-9353-1fad4fa3bf35 An Angry Airbnb, Cattle-Car Airfares, Trump's Impact on Travel, and Colombia's Truce: Four Major New Developments in Travel Tue, 22 Nov 2016 20:01:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> As we approach a new year, a battle rages between Airbnb and the cities of New York, San Francisco, Barcelona, and Berlin, all of which have passed legislation designed to reduce the short-term apartment-renting services of Airbnb. </p> <p> <strong><a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></strong></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b2c7de30-4f39-4655-b105-41d50d228717 Devaluation of the British Pound Has Made Attendance at the Oxford and Cambridge Summer Schools Much Cheaper Than Before Tue, 22 Nov 2016 19:42:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> When the British pound recenty sank to a value of $1.24 (because of Britain's vote to leave the European Union), Americans planning to spend a one-week summer vacation in Oxford or Cambridge were greatly advantaged. . . .  </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:aada9b35-e1dd-4e5f-a32e-cddfc9133402 The Latest Travel Scam: Conference Attendees Beware! Mon, 14 Nov 2016 20:41:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> My good friend K is a brain tumor specialist. She’s invited to speak at conferences across the globe, and has done so without incident…until this past spring. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a><br /> <br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:eaec61fc-9a20-4641-8eb2-7c5c6e761e7c Our Continuing Ability to Visit Cuba will Depend on Heavy Public Pressure Imposed on the New Administration Fri, 11 Nov 2016 17:14:00 GMT <div> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></div> <div>  </div> <div> Should Americans be permitted to visit Cuba? Should freeborn U.S. citizens....</div> <div>  </div> <div> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:c6c03a7d-d4b4-4545-883b-c36bef43ae09 Psssst! Because of Exaggerated Fears, Paris Is More Accessible Than Ever Before Fri, 04 Nov 2016 14:46:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> No city (except Istanbul and Brussels) has suffered a great recent touristic decline than Paris. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:e968b59e-ffc5-4814-8ee2-5d6eda8e0c79 A French River Cruise Line Is Making a Concerted Effort to Fill Their Budget-Priced (But Good Quality) Ships with English-Speaking, U.S. Passengers Mon, 31 Oct 2016 19:47:00 GMT <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p> Owned by a French family and carefully supervised by them, a large (50 ships) French river cruise company called CroisiEurope is starting to make significant inroads into the U.S. market for European river cruises. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:9ef65dc3-18fd-48ea-a655-d43ea7402d07 Among Americans Fearful of Violence in Europe, There Appears to Be a Movement to Book Cruise Vacations in Areas Closer to Home Fri, 21 Oct 2016 20:23:00 GMT <p> <strong><a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></strong></p> <p> Among travel professionals, a consensus is fast emerging that ocean cruising will be among the most popular of travel activities in 2017. And that is because a great many such cruises take place in waters close ot the United States, and therefore supposedly safer from acts of terrorism occurring abroad. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></a></p> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:655fae7f-e6c4-4ace-8cba-c7b0218bc5cc Three Budget-Priced Airlines Are Currently Offering Cheap Flights Across the Atlantic to Europe Fri, 21 Oct 2016 19:58:00 GMT <p> <strong><span style="font-size:16px;"><a href="">FULL ARTICLE HERE</a></span></strong></p> <p> In a recent phone call to financial analysts explaining why its recent profit results for transatlantic flights were down by as much as 9%, an official of the mighty Delta Air Lines listed all the reasons you'd normally cite: the current presidential election season (which traditionally reduces international travel), a slowdown in the European economy, the fear felt by numerous Americans of terrorist attacks overseas—and so on. . . . </p> <p> <a href=""><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>FULL ARTICLE HERE</strong></span></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d58f155d-6b91-48d1-8a64-300421f965d4 A Major Attempt to Put Airbnb Out of Business Has Just been Launched by the City and State of New York Thu, 20 Oct 2016 19:25:00 GMT <p style="font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;"> The big news in travel has been the signing, by the Governor of New York State, of a law passed by the state legislature that is deliberately designed to put Airbnb out of business—at least in the city and state of New York.  Although, according to Airbnb, New York accounts for only 2% of its worldwide business, the effect of this dramatic development should be devastating to that apartment-rental firm, since it may influence others to adopt the same measure.</p> <p style="font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;"> The new statute imposes a fine of $7,500 against any apartment occupant who violates the law of New York State by renting an apartment for less than 30 days. New York law makes illegal the act of renting such an apartment if—and this is an important "if"—the owner of the apartment does not remain in residence throughout the rental.<br /> <br /> Let me repeat that:  As the owner of an apartment, you can rent a room or a spare bed in that apartment to a transient visitor so long as you yourself remain in residence.  But you can't rent the entire apartment to such a tourist if you yourself are not remaining in that apartment throughout the rental. </p> <p style="font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;"> Based on that distinction, the authorities in New York claim that 75% of all Airbnb rentals in New York are currently illegal. Apparently, a full 75% of all Airbnb users will not use Airbnb unless the rental is for the entire apartment. They simply don't want to stay in an apartment whose owner can walk down the corridors of it in his/her shorts/panty and t-shirt.</p> <p style="font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;"> And why is New York's recent action so important?  It is because numerous other cities in America and around the world are waging similar battles against Airbnb, and may well be encouraged by New York's specific response or by New York's determination to drastically reduce the use of Airbnb. </p> <p style="font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;"> San Francisco, for instance, has passed a law requiring that apartment owners signing up with Airnnn must be registered—at the risk of being fined $1,000 a day if they proceed with rentals without first registering (the effort is to prevent one owner from renting several apartments at a time or renting one apartment on too many days of the year). They, and such cities as Barcelona, Amsterdam, Vancouver, Copenhagen, and Berlin are currently claiming, some strongly, some occasionally, that the operation of Airbnb removes apartments from their normal housing stock, making it more difficult for residents to find affordable permanent housing for themselves.</p> <p style="font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:10px;"> Naturally, Airbnb is fighting back by claiming these arguments to be smoke screens generated by the hotel industry. And despite the negative claims, Airbnb is renting millions of apartments all over the world. (It has become one of the four largest of internet websites). Within minutes after Governor Cuomo of New York signed the anti-Airbnb legislation, Airbnb brought a lawsuit in the courts claiming that the new statute violates all sorts of rights possessed by Airbnb. Regardless of those legal outcomes (and most observers regard Airbnb's legal position to be weak), the practical impact of the new law seems clear. For a long time to come, you will not be able to rent an entire Airbnb apartment in New York. You will only be able to rent a spare room or spare bed or cot (which most tourists don't want to do). And you risk a fine of $7500 if you disregard the new law. <br /> <br /> The interests of tourism have lost a key battle.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:e6e2d003-143f-4dda-b933-168a734088b3 Ocean Cruises Have Developed a Set of Uniform Characteristics That Will Attract or Repel You Wed, 19 Oct 2016 23:38:00 GMT <p> After three years of failing to go on an ocean cruise, I recently returned to one aboard a popularly priced ship (but not one of the monstrous, 5,000-passenger variety). Here are some characteristics that I truly believe are found on all similar ships, and some tactics for enjoying the experience:<br /> <br /> <strong>EVERYTHING IS EXTRA</strong>.<strong> </strong>The cruise lines seem to have developed a policy of relying heavily on extra purchases made by passengers. Ask for anything-—even a glass of mineral water while dining—and you are charged extra for it. Smart passengers avoid the lures of these optional purchases: casinos, fitness classes, specialty restaurants, a dozen others, that can skyrocket your cost.<br /> <br /> <strong>SHORE EXCURSIONS ARE PRICED IN THE STRATOSPHERE</strong>.<strong> </strong>The cost of a simple bus tour is beyond belief. Learn to sightsee on your own two feet, and you will save astronomic sums.<br />  </p> <p> <strong>SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS ARE RARELY WORTH THE EXTRA FEES THEY CARRY</strong>. The quality of their meals is only slightly better than what you receive for no extra charge in the ship’s main dining room.<br /> <br /> <strong>LEAVE YOUR LAPTOP AT HOME</strong>. What the cruise ships charge for WiFi and internet access will quickly run up a bill of a hundred dollars.  You can do without the internet for your short week aboard.<br /> <br /> <strong>LEAVE YOUR TUX AT HOME</strong>. Though all cruises designate a night or two as “formal,” no male wears anything other than a good suit with shirt and tie. On a recent cruise, not a single human wore a tux on those occasions, and I unnecessarily burdened my luggage by bringing mine aboard.<br />  <br /> <strong>CHECK YOUR PASSPORT FOR ITS CONTINUING VALIDITY.</strong>  Though most passengers know of the need for a passport to undertake almost any cruise, too many of them fail to check the validity date of theirs, and are turned away from the cruise if that date has expired.<br /> <br /> <strong>NOTE THAT HARDLY ANY CREW ARE AMERICANS</strong>.  You’ll never be prouder of our economy when you realize that except for occasional entertainers, hardly any Americans occupy cruise positions because of the grueling and underpaid nature of such employment.  Almost everyone serving you is from Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. You should tip generously, and you should also keep in mind the advantages of the citizenship you enjoy.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:52f5c03e-d681-40d4-80b2-a49bb0ab2649 British Vacations Are Increasingly Affordable for the American Traveler Wed, 19 Oct 2016 23:31:00 GMT <p> The big travel news of the current fall/winter season is the drop in the value of the British pound. As we go to press, the pound is selling for only $1.21.  It used to sell at $1.60, and the new value is claimed by some analysts to be the lowest in 30 years. For most American tourists, the cost of hotels, meals, theater tickets, and the like has been decreased by close to 30%.<br /> <br /> The result, as you may have guessed, is a land-office rush of tourism to Great Britain, currently enjoying record amounts of incoming visitors. But unlike other countries with a devalued currency, it isn't possible for British hotels and restaurants to increase their prices to tourists in order to offset the currency drop. That's because Great Britain is a relatively prosperous nation whose own citizens frequently travel, and who would be discouraged from doing so if overall prices were to be raised.<br /> <br /> For some idea of the values now available to U.S. visitors to Great Britain, go to any search engine and enter the words "Cheap London Hotels." You'll be rewarded with radically discounted hotel rates on such websites as Trivago,, and the like. Currently, there are four-star London hotels offered to you for as little as $138 (that's 138 U.S. dollars!), surely a record among hotels of such quality.<br /> <br /> For even cheaper costs of accommodations, bear in mind that Britain has no regulations reducing the use of Airbnb—unlike the anti-Airbnb laws in force in many other countries. You can easily and lawfully discover all sorts of overnight bargains for rental of entire apartments throughout the British isles, and even cheaper rates for rental of spare rooms in British apartments occupied by their owners.<br /> <br /> Other favorable developments? One is the first-time-ever operation of the London subways throughout the night, a precedent-making convenience that was recently put in place. Currently, you can attend the theater in London, then proceed to a leisurely after-theater dinner in restaurants all throughout the theater area, without missing the last train home. And London, of course, operates a theater-ticket discount service in Leicester Square (similar to the TKTS operation in New York''s Times Square), enabling you to enjoy more than affordable rates for attenting the superb plays and musicals of the London stage.<br /> <br /> So now's an excellent time to visiti Britain—and British exchange rates may become even more favorable for Americans as the consequences of Britain's exit from the European Union become even more evident, and the British pound sinks further in value (as a great many financial experts are predicting).</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a7911946-e707-461d-bf90-f45944edd1bd Families With Children Are Now Being Welcomed Aboard (Some) River Cruise Ships Wed, 19 Oct 2016 23:26:00 GMT <p> The evidence is fast accumulating that the number of river cruiseships is now more than equal to the demand for river cruises. Accordingly, several of the river cruiselines are devising new lures to fill their ships, and one such tactic is to throw overboard the once-widely-held belief that families with children would not be permitted on river cruiseships.<br /> <br /> Certainly, families traveling with a single child would not find the atmosphere on board appealing.  But those with two or more children apparently discover that their offspring are more than content to play together on board the ship, especially if there are other such families on the same vessel.<br /> <br /> The long-established and big French riverboat company, CroisiEurope, is apparently a leader in family-friendly river cruises, directed not simply at European families but American ones, as well. They are now marketing their cruises actively within the United States, offering some of the least expensive river cruises of Europe.<br /> <br /> All loudspeaker announcements within their cruises are now scrupulously made in both French and English.  And family cabins—consisting of two bunk beds for the children in addition to a larger standard bed for the parents—are now being offered on many of their European river cruises.<br /> <br /> Apparently, this new approach is finding favor with an increasing number of American families:  the internet is full of happy endorsements of the CroisiEurope company from U.S. families who have joined their cruises. Several recent letters have been especially enthusiastic about the superb European cuisine served in the course of CroisiEurope's cruises, noting that American children who have tasted and raved about famous European dishes have thereby become instant young gourmets.   <br /> <br /> As reported by us in an earlier column, the Disney organization has also joined the operators of family friendly river cruises, by chartering a ship for that purpose from Ama Waterways. More recently, in a major development, Disney has scheduled an expanded 15 departures in 2017 on the Danube and RhineRivers, of family-friendly, child-accepting river cruises.  And to underscore how serious is their intention, they will be operating those cruises on a brand-new riverboat presently under construction in a European shipyard (to be called the Ama Kristina), to be delivered by spring of 2017.<br /> <br /> After many years of being dismissed as inappropriate, the family river cruise is apparently here to stay.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b5b2d63a-4f93-41f6-8719-f52d4c5cf1a2 The Strange Case of the Expired Passport.... Wed, 19 Oct 2016 23:21:00 GMT <p> There was once a time when Americans traveling to and from Canada could do so with little advance preparation other than a hotel reservation. Almost any form of identification would be sufficient to cross the border into Canada and then later to return to the United States.<br /> <br /> So it was with upset and anxiety that my wife and I recently learned we might not be able to board a cruise ship leaving Boston for the Canadian Maritimes, because a Boston port official had seen that her passport had expired. In her rush to leave our apartment in New York, my wife had grabbed the wrong passport from a pile of such booklets—some old, one new—in her desk drawer.<br /> <br /> But not to worry, said the port official. The ship would permit her to board, and then to cruise the Canadian ports, with a driver’s license and birth certificate (which could be faxed to us by our daughter from New York). The only problem was that we would not later be permitted to board a flight in Montreal (the final cruise stop) for the return trip to New York. We would have to travel by train for 11 hours from Montreal to New York, because the trains-—unlike the airlines-—woud probably permit such improvised identification (he stressed the word “probably”), whereas the airlines definitely wouldn’t.<br /> <br /> So we could proceed on our cruise, after phoning our daughter to find the said driver’s license and birth certificate in a desk drawer and fax them to us at the port in Boston. With only minutes to spare before the giant ship departed, we boarded the vessel. Once on the ship, we also learned that the said daughter would not be able to Fed Ex the proper passport to us at one of our later stops in Canada, because Canadian customs would not permit passports to be mailed in that manner. So we possibly would be able to return home by train, forfeiting the two air tickets that we had already bought for our homeward flight.<br /> <br /> And then, by sheer accident, we learned there was a U.S. consulate in Halifax, Canada, one of our stops (who knew?). Alighting from the ship in that city, we rushed to that American haven, and had another adventure.<br /> <br /> If you have ever had to visit a U.S. consulate recently, you will remember the experience as fraught with tension. The front door is locked. You communicate via voice microphone. Out comes a security guard packing a pistol. You are made to leave all belongings outside. Once inside, you are ushered into a small plain room and are dealt with by a single employee of the consulate.<br /> <br /> There we learned that by paying an additional $135, we could obtain a temporary passport of two months’ validity for my wife (this, after mysterious phone calls were made to Washington, D.C.). Thus equipped, our saga ended. After many days of tension and anxiety, we were safely approaching our final stop abroad.<br /> <br /> Next time you go to Canada, make sure you are carrying a valid passport.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:87d4d819-3144-4378-ba6c-e38947d1d5ec Gigantic Cruise Ships Need a Different Approach Wed, 19 Oct 2016 23:10:00 GMT <p> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> <em>(photo: Royal Caribbean)</em></p> <p> The constant growth in the size of cruise ships—of which some now carry 6,000 passengers—has forced the cruise lines (and not simply the cruise passengers) to adopt a wholly different set of tactics and policies.  And sometimes, these new experiments in cruising have failed miserably—as Royal Caribbean Cruisline recently discovered.  <br /> <br /> When Royal Caribbean discovered that its giant new ships could not contain a single main dining room for the greater number of its passengers—that room would have to be far too large—they adopted a policy known as “dynamic dining." Instead of building one large dining room, they cut that space into four smaller dining rooms, each with a different menu.  And passengers were asked to make different reservations for the mini rooms for every night of their cruise.<br /> <br /> The result was sheer bedlam. Passengers complained about the complex planning required of them. And this month, Royal Caribbean canceled “dynamic dining” (which they had hoped to install on every one of their humongous ships). Henceforth, passengers will be asked to make one reservation for one small dining room, and to present themselves at that same dining room on every day of the cruise (that they didn't choose to eat in a speciatly restaurant, that is).  Passengers and cruise line all breathed a sigh of relief.<br /> <br /> The tactic for boarding these giant new ships also requires some planning. When you are required to deliver your suitcases to the cruise line when you first check into a cruise on such a giant ship, the time required to deliver that suitcase to your stateroom is sometimes awesome (10,000 such suitcases may be ahead of yours).  Often, therefore, you do not see your suitcase again until it is delivered in early evening to your cabin. In the meantime, if you have left your swimming suit(s) in that suitcase, you are unable to make use of the various pools on the ship all throughout your initial day aboard.<br /> <br /> The resulting lesson for smart passengers: Pack your swimming suit into your smaller carry-on luggage that stays with you on the day you board the ship. That way, if you feel like a swim at, say, 4 p.m., you have a swimming suit for that purpose.<br /> <br /> Now let’s assume that you plan to leave the ship and sightsee on shore on one of the days of your cruise. To your surprise, you will find that most of these new, gigantic, 6,000-passenger ships are unable to disembark their passengers at certain port locations  (like Santorini) visited on your itinerary. Instead, passengers wishing to go on shore are “tendered” to shore—that is, they are moved from ship to shore on successive small “tenders” (boats holding 50 or so passengers), a slow process that sometimes takes hours to move all passengers wishing to go ashore.  <br />  <br /> And guess what? The passengers given priority on such “tenders,” and thus able to go ashore within the first hours when the tenders are operated, are often those cruise ship passengers who have paid money to the cruise ship for an organized tour of the port.  They go ashore right away, while you independent sightseers await a later turn several hours on.  <br /> <br /> Phone the cruiseline in advance of boarding the ship. Ask to be advised of those port stops where passengers will be “tendered” ashore.  And thus give thought to buying a ship-sold excursion in order to receive priority in the tender.<br /> <br /> To successfully cruise aboard these monstrous new ships requires that you scheme and plan. Better, in my innocent view, is to book aboard one of the smaller, traditional ships.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:7181c6a3-7e9c-4f39-8326-97c0663823a5 Pauline Frommer Will Be Speaking at the Oregonian's Travel Fest in Portland, This Saturday Mon, 10 Oct 2016 15:00:00 GMT <p> This is less of a blog than an invitation. I do hope that readers will come out and say "howdy" at what looks to be a very exciting Here & There Travel Fest this Saturday (October 15, 2016)  in Portland, OR. It's being sponsored by the distinguished <strong>Oregonian</strong> newspaper and should bring in travel experts from across that region, and from afar, well me.</p> <p> I'll be speaking at 2pm ET, discussing such topics as great unsung destinations you should try on your next vacation; how to save money on vacations whether you're a luxury traveler or a backpacker; and how the current trends in travel could impact your next vacation.</p> <p> For complete information about the Fest, <a href="" rel="nofollow">click here</a>.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d61b78b0-821c-4f1a-9a17-8e22b2f50cba How You Book Rail Is About to Change Tue, 04 Oct 2016 16:16:00 GMT <p> Train travel is a $300 billion market. Globally, more than twice as much was invested in high speed rail as it was in air transportation last year.<br /> <br /> And that’s how it should be. The world’s roads can’t keep up with population swells that are swamping them with cars. Our climate, too, needs some TLC, and rail is an infinitely greener mode of transportation than any other (with the exception of cycling and walking, of course).<br /> <br /> But booking rail has been never been as easy as buying airfares or renting cars, thanks to a fractured non-system of state-owned railroads that have been either unwilling or unable to work with the booking engines (such as Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz and the rest). While to online travel agents (OTA’s) have been streamlining the process for purchasing flights, renting cars and booking cruises and hotels, rail has never chugged along this digital highway.<br /> <br /> That is changing, partially thanks to a company called SilverRail, which has been working with railroads across the world to help them get up to speed with their booking technology. SilverRail has partnered with Expedia to roll out rail, this fall, as an option for destinations across the planet.<br /> <br /> But that seems to be going more slowly than anticipated. Though Expedia announced two weeks ago that it would be adding rail options for travel within the United Kingdom, to its UK website (<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>), I could not find any mention of rail on the site when I last checked. Hopefully it will be up soon. The United States is supposed to be hooked up next though Expedia has not yet announced a timeline for that rollout (it seems clear they have some irons to wrinkle out). Once this does happen, travelers will be able to package together rail with hotels and/or rental cars, an innovation for the industry.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> (Photo by hans-johnson/Flickr)</p> <p> <br /> In the meantime, those looking to book rail, or compare the cost of train travel to other forms of transport, can use the following websites:<br /> <br /> <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>: This sleek site allows users to pair destinations (say Juneau and Seattle or Palermo and Rome) and then returns all of their options for transportation, from rail to ferries to busses and air. Along with listing the options, it includes a range of prices, though to book the trip, users have to go off the site (links are provided though). A handy map shows the routing.<br /> <br /> <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>: For ferry and train transportation only, includes guidance for real train fans, with listing of the most scenic routes and information on the pros and cons of rail passes. It also moves passengers off its site for actual bookings.<br /> <br /> <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>: European train travel only, but the hook here is that users who book rail in advance can often snag significant savings through this site (such as London to Birmingham in the UK, for only £5.50, a savings of 23 pounds off the regular rate).</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:f5de94a2-bd95-45f6-877f-7b83a09c7656 Its Currency Selling at Unprecedented Low Levels, Its Drug-Related Violence Subdued, Mexico is Positioned to Enjoy Heavy American Tourism this Coming Winter Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:14:00 GMT <p class="p1"> There no longer seems any doubt that the Zika scare has wrought havoc with tourism to Florida. In a study conducted by Allianz Travel Insurance, advance air bookings for the coming winter to the entire state of Florida are down by 15 percent.  And bookings for specific resort cities in Florida are down by a devastating 29 percent to Miami, 32 percent to Tampa, and 15 percent to Palm Beach. </p> <p class="p1"> So the American public is voting with its feet not to favor Florida as a vacation destination this coming winter. And there is increasing talk among travel professionals that the vacation trend is towards "safe haven" travel: destinations where there exists little threat to the safety of the tourists choosing them.  An extreme example of safe haven travel is dog sledding in Alaska and adventure cruises to the Arctic. </p> <p class="p1"> On a more realistic basis, travel professionals are predicting that Mexico will enjoy a major comeback this coming winter among sun-worshiping Americans. The Mexican peso is now exchanged at a remarkable near-20 to the dollar, and everything in Mexico is now unusually cheap for the American traveler. The unsettled nature of the upcoming American presidential election, with the possibility of protectionist attitudes directed against Mexico, is one of the reasons for the weakness of the Mexican currency. And an apparent decline in drug-related violence in Mexico is another reason why American vacationers are being told that Mexico is now approaching safe haven status.</p> <p class="p1"> At a currency exchange rate of 20 Mexican pesos to the U.S. dollar, Mexico is nigh-irresistible to American visitors this winter. By going to such packagers as <a href="" rel="nofollow"><span class="s2"></span></a>, Americans will find air-and-land vacations to Mexico (that include not only round-trip airfare but also accommodations and three meals a day for one week) in such desirable locations as Cancun and the Maya Riviera selling for unprecedented low prices. </p> <p class="p1"> And those resort properties, as well as the entire area, are regarded as acceptably safe and free from violence.  Cancun and its Caribbean coast are near the heaviest population areas of the United States, and low resort costs are therefore combined with low airfares for reaching the desired destinations.</p> <p class="p1"> From the West Coast of the United States, the price equivalent of Cancun and the Maya Riviera is the resort district located at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula around such towns as Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The winter weather there is glorious and the price bargains are the equivalent of those offered to East Coasters off the Yucatan Peninsula (Cancun and the Maya Riviera). </p> <p class="p1"> It's time to start thinking about Mexico for the cold weather season ahead.</p> <p class="p1">  </p> <p> <img src="" /></p> <p> <em>Credit: David Stanley</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a7d852da-81fa-4d44-ad4f-725aa95a67a3 Though the Timid Tourist is Frightened by a Number of Adverse Travel Conditions, the Value of the U.S. Dollar is Not One of Them. The Dollar is Today Unusually Strong Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:07:00 GMT <div> Perhaps the biggest travel news of the current season is that the U.S. currency remains unusually strong against virtually every other currency. When you travel abroad in the coming months, you will enjoy lower costs at your destination for everything you buy, thanks to a mighty dollar. While the dollar's strength may have adverse consequences for American companies that manufacture goods for export, its impact on the traveler is uniformly good.</div> <div>  </div> <div> What are the destinations where the U.S. dollar creates advantages for American travelers? Canada comes first. For reasons that few are able to explain, the Canadian "loonie" (shorthand for its dollar) has plummeted in value against our U.S.currency. When you nowadays are in Toronto or Montréal or Vancouver or wherever in our neighbor to the north, and you exchange your U.S. dollars for Canadian bills, you now receive $1.32 Canadian dollars for every U.S. dollar you exchange. You receive, in effect, a 32% advantage in every such transaction, and that Canadian meal that costs, say, 10 Canadian dollars, is actually costing you only 7 or so American dollars.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Why is this happening? I've read a dozen explanations by noted economists, and none of them makes any sense. Let us simply rejoice in this mysterious phenomenon, and give serious thought to choosing a Canadian destination for our next vacation trip.</div> <div>  </div> <div> A runner-up to Canada in terms of its currently-favorable exchange rate for Americans is the British pound, which has declined in value not as much as 30 percent (as is the case with Canada) but by as much as 20 percent. Just three years ago, a pound cost $1.60 and virtually everything in Great Britain was costly to Americans. Today, following Britain's disastrous vote to depart from the European Union, a pound costs as little as $1.30 (it has occasionally dropped to as little as $1.20 before rebounding), and products in Britain are 20 percent cheaper than before to American visitors.</div> <div>  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> The Mexican peso has undergone a similar devaluation. Three years ago, the U.S. dollar bought only 13 Mexican pesos. Today it buys nearly 20 Mexican pesos, and life in those delightful Mexican seaside resorts is considerably cheaper for the American visitor.</div> <div>  </div> <div> And so it goes. The euro costs only $1.12; and one U.S. dollar buys an amazing 66 Russian rubles. In the latter case, U.S. tourists are therefore flocking to Moscow and St. Petersburg after avoiding those two cities in previous years.</div> <div>  </div> <div> There are, of course, reasons for not traveling to various destinations: the outbreak of the Zika virus, the fear of terrorism. But the strength of the U.S. dollar is a powerful antidote to those threats, and from the standpoint of sheer purchasing power, the U.S. dollar is today stronger than in many years.</div> <div>  </div> <div> To many of the world's destinations, it's a good time to travel.</div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:1d33b6b0-3da2-463d-852c-47121ecb8cb2 A New Hotel Booking Engine Emerges for the "Text Only" Crowd Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:00:00 GMT <p> Today, more than ever, the medium is the message….as much as the message itself. If you have a friend (or child) who refuses to talk on the phone, but wants to have every interaction by text, you’ll know what I mean. We are a people who are being conditioned to strongly prefer some styles of communication over others.<br /> <br /> So it should come as no surprise that the booking process for hotels has now come to messaging. A savvy start up called SnapTravel is allowing users to research and book a vacation on SMS, Facebook Messenger, and Slack. Their pricing is highly competitive as the service draws not only from such online travel agencies as,,, and, but also has a direct pipeline to Amadeus, which is the global distribution system that travel agents use.  <br /> <br /> And the service is, yes, a “snap” to use. The would-be traveler enters in her destination and dates of travel and then is instantly messaged what the ballpark prices will be on that date for 3- and 4-star hotels. SnapTravel then follows up with quick queries on preferences for types of hotels and whether quality, price, or location is most important. After the app performs a search, options are shown to the user and she either buys or bails.<br /> <br /> But if she buys, things get distinctly old school. In an unusual move for the bot-driven world of travel booking, SnapTravel assigns an actual human travel agent to assist the traveler with her stay. According to founder Fazal Hussein “For every booking we make, we call the hotel on the morning of check-in to try and negotiate a free upgrade for the user.”</p> <p> In addition, SnapTravel offers the services a bricks-and-mortar travel agent might for a top executive client. If the user arrives earlier than expected, for example, she can contact SnapTravel to see if it can help her get an early check-in time (the same with check-out if she decides to sleep in on the final day of the stay). The service will also check on items such as if there’s a pull-out couch that can be added to the room, or if room service can be pre-ordered.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br />  </p> <p> The only downside that I’ve seen, so far, is that SnapTravel doesn’t factor in taxes until the end of the transaction. So, for example, if you request a $250 a night hotel room in New York City, the service will show you an array of hotels for around that price with the note that the rate will be plus taxes, meaning the Millennium Broadway at $259 a night actually costs $297 a night when all is said and done.</p> <p> That's not different than what the regular online travel agencies do, but with the curated search (you only see a few of their picks, at the initial price level you chose) it means that you have to go back two steps to actually get to a price you can afford.<br /> <br /> SnapTravel is relatively new, so we’ll see whether or not it makes it makes it in the down-and-dirty arena of travel bookings. But if you have any of the “messaging-only” folks in your life, let them know about the service. They’ll thank you. By text.</p> <p> (To try the service on Facebook Messenger: To try it out on SMS, just visit on your phone.)<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:34fc2c87-1b01-437c-97e4-b3a6d3417831 Depending on Whether Authorities Have Reduced the Threat of Zika, Florida Might Otherwise be an Unusually Favorable Destination for Your Winter Vacation Thu, 22 Sep 2016 16:19:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Florida is feeling wild this year.</em></p> <p> No state has had worse recent luck than Florida in attracting tourism, and that might create better conditions for your own trip there.</p> <p> First you had the terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Then you had Hurricane Hermine.</p> <p> In between was the devastating announcement that Zika infections had been discovered in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami just north of downtown (which soon spread to an area of Miami Beach). Add them all, and the result has been a decline in tourism to one of America's favorite sun destinations, which is particularly pronounced (for the time being) in a sharp downturn in air bookings there for the Thanksgiving weekend.</p> <p> All of this has been further worsened by currency developments occurring independent of the Zika problem. Florida is today heavily affected by international tourism, and international tourism there has been reduced by the strong U.S. dollar, which makes Florida more expensive for foreigners. The chief source of winter tourism to Florida—namely, Canada—has been especially hurt by the remarkably steep drop in the value of the Canadian dollar, which has cut the number of Canadian visitors by several percentage points. British travel to Florida (its second major source) is down with the drop in value of the British Pound following that nation's disastrous decision to leave the European Union. And Brazilian tourism to Florida—another important source—is down because of a severe economic recession in Brazil.</p> <p> So do all these dark events mean happy days for us potential American visitors to Florida? Will there now be more empty hotel beds and airline seats for us Yanks? Should we—selfishly but joyfully—plan a trip there?</p> <p> Everything depends on Zika, as to which there are a few hopeful trends. To begin with, the upcoming winter is a season when far fewer mosquitoes are found in Florida, and therefore a lessened chance of Zika. Second, there are indications that heavy aerial spraying has reduced the mosquito infestation in Florida, and local authorities have withdrawn their warnings about the Wynwood district, based on successful spraying there. While precautions still apply to Miami Beach, it may be that similar spraying may ease the problem there in the next several weeks.</p> <p> It pays to watch the newspapers for word as to whether Zika is no longer a problem. If, in the weeks ahead, that threat is removed, then Florida—and especially the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas—may be a better holiday destination for Americans, because of the fewer international tourists competing for beds and airplane seats.</p> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:93bc585f-ef38-4e6d-ad45-c161551e0ea6 Here are Four Important Travel Questions and the Answers to Them Supplied by Noted Travel Writers Tue, 20 Sep 2016 17:54:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>In Iceland, the rush is on</em></p> <div>      Why is Iceland booming? (Booming, that is, in incoming tourism.) Though the figures aren't official, estimates of the growth in its visitors this year are well over 100%. Why?  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      According to a commentator in an important travel trade magazine, it's partly because new Icelandair flights there have been added from Chicago, and Chicagoans are filling the streets of Reykjavik and the highways criss-crossing its moon-like nearby terrain. But mainly, according to him, it's because of the <a href="">recently enacted  "Stopover Buddy."</a> Visitors can advise the nation's airline that they'd like to be escorted in their wanderings by a local resident, for free. And scores of Icelanders have signed up as Stopover Buddies to meet tourists on their arrival, and conduct them on a very personal tour of the nation. Other countries might do well to study Iceland's success in personalizing a foreigners' contact with their country.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      • Why are so many cruise lines slashing their prices to fill their cruises of the Mediterranean? Why are Mediterranean cruises selling at such a sluggish pace, creating opportunities for the sharp-eyed American traveler? According to many trade commentators, It's because port stops in Turkey—mainly in Istanbul and Kusadasi—have been eliminated from most Mediterranean itineraries out of fear of terrorism. Without Turkey, most Mediterranean cruises are now limited to the Greek islands and Italy, and the exotic experience of staying at least overnight in Istanbul, and of traveling from the port of Kusadasi to the awesome Roman ruins in nearby Ephesus, has robbed that particular cruise pattern of its key elements. If you yourself would be content with a Mediterranean cruise limited to Naples, Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini, you might take advantage of the currently low rates for such a sailing.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      • Which of the world's river cruises are now enjoying an upsurge in popularity? It's those sailings of our own Mississippi starting from New Orleans. So many departures on Mark Twain's favorite river are now sold out aboard that colorful paddle wheeler, the <em>American Queen</em>, that the <a href="" rel="nofollow">American Queen line</a> is rushing to complete a second big Mississippi-confined river cruise ship by summer of 2017. If you will rush to book it, you may get a cabin.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      • What destination for beach vacations is, thus far, blessedly free of the Zika virus? Though the situation might change overnight, so far the island of Bermuda hasn't reported a single instance of the dreaded infection, and local officials claim that its environment isn't suitable for the breeding of that unfortunate illness. Tourism to Bermuda has therefore enjoyed a major increase, but still has adequate space for more bookings. The same could be said, thus far, for the islands of Hawaii.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      • But now, a disclaimer. In earlier columns, I wrote about the fact that four states—California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts—were voting on November 8 whether to authorize the sale and use of marijuana. I explored that topic because the tourist patterns have been so affected by the earlier legalization of the popular drug in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia—all of which have developed a major new industry of travel agents and tour operators to promote and deliver marijuana tourism. But I simply analyzed that travel phenomenon; I did not advocate one side or the other of that decision. Unfortunately, several newspapers and websites that wrote about my column have mistakenly stated I took sides; I did not. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      But the marijuana issue is too important not to be discussed.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:0e66e1f0-f8ef-49da-945a-f9143f591f70 The Current Autumn Season is the Best Possible Time to Enjoy Bargains on Cruises and Tropical Packages Tue, 20 Sep 2016 17:44:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div style="text-align:center;"> <em>Holland America Line's </em>Veendam</div> <div>  </div> <div>      We are now in a time for travel when everything costs less than it usually does. That's because from now until Christmas, travel slumps. The autumn is when cruises, flights, and hotel rooms are so lightly booked that their owners get frantic and slash the price to fill those cruises, flights, and rooms.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Nothing better illustrates this pattern than an e-mail widely circulated in recent days by <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, which vies with <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> as the nation's largest cruise discounter. In it, the aggressive cruise wholesaler lists a five-night cruise sailing round-trip from Miami in October and November on which autumn cabins are priced at $198 per person ($39 per day).  </div> <div>  </div> <div>    While that's for an inside cabin on a cruise going briefly to Key West, Cozumel, and other days simply at sea, who could deny that the value is superb?  Imagine spending only $39 a day for accommodations, transportation, several excellent meals each day, access to a swimming pool, lounge, fitness room and library, and some evening entertainment.</div> <div>    </div> <div>      For perhaps an even better value, consider spending a heftier $71 per person per day in autumn, for a seven-night cruise on Holland America Line's <em>Veendam</em> or <em>Rotterdam</em> for a really interesting cruise from Boston to Quebec City, Halifax, Sydney, and Prince Edward Island. $499 per person will bring you an inside cabin on several such autumn cruises to the Canadian Maritime provinces.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And bear in mind that such stunning prices in autumn are offered not simply by the two large companies I've named, but by all the several cruise discounters, including <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> and <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Even the supposedly-more-glamorous cruises, like those of the Mediterranean, sell for stunningly low rates in the autumn months prior to Christmas. It's then that you can pay as little as $599 (for a one-weeker costing only $85 a day per person) on a ship of the Norwegian Cruise Line, for seven days leaving from and returning to Venice, and going to most of the famous European ports, including Athens, Naples, Rome, and the Greek Islands. Take a look at the offerings of the near-dozen major cruise discounters I've named.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And finally, bear in mind that land vacations in the Caribbean, this time including airfare. are also priced at amazingly low levels in the autumn months, which is a definite low season in the tropics. Nearly all the tour packagers price their air-and-land at prices that begin under $1,000 per person for round-trip airfare to an island resort, accommodations for seven nights, three meals daily, unlimited drinks, and non-motorized sports. Such packages for all-inclusive vacations in the Dominican Republic are particularly cheap, and if you'll insert the names of popular D.R. resorts into a search engine (try "Punta Cana" and "Puerto Plata" in particular), and you'll soon be dreaming of a week-long appointment with a white sand beach and bathtub-warm waters.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Incidentally, the Canadian tour packagers—such companies as <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, <a href="," rel="nofollow">,</a> <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, others—operate one-week all-inclusive beach vacations from Toronto to Cuba in the fall months (airfare, seven nights' hotel, all meals and drinks) for as little as $600 per person, but it's an open question as to whether they'll accept Americans on their flights. You might consider using them when and if our own regulations governing the right to vacation in Cuba are further liberalized, as they undoubtedly will be. </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:af1c97b1-fec1-430a-88bd-776e23dc3fc5 Canada, Iceland, and Japan are Standouts in a Mostly Sluggish Year for Travel Fri, 09 Sep 2016 16:41:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>      They call it the "election year curse." For reasons no one can really explain, travel declines slightly during years when the presidency is at stake. Statisticians cite the figures from the last 50 years, and whenever the nationwide election comes about, travel slows down.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Why? Are Americans so obsessed with the polls that they put off vacation travel? Depending on their political party and its prospects, do they feel a sense of anxiety that keeps them from committing for a trip? Whatever the reason, the figures so far for 2016—especially for international travel—portray a travel slowdown.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Until most recent weeks, domestic travel remained vigorous, while the slowdown was mainly experienced in the international field. Acts of terror in France, Belgium, and Turkey had a particular impact on Americans' willingness to go abroad. But more recently, domestic travel also seemed to slow, according to articles in the travel trade press, and this occurred despite the generally low prices for self-drive vacations and trips by air resulting from the low price of gasoline. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      To that factor, you need to add the hesitancy to travel to areas affected by the Zika virus. Florida and the Caribbean seem mainly to suffer from fears of illness. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In this somewhat-sad picture, three destinations stand out:</div> <div>  </div> <div>      First, travel to Canada has zoomed upward, mainly because of the weak Canadian dollar reducing costs (to U.S. citizens) in that nation. Recently it was announced that more than 40,000 Americans will pass through Montréal this year for a cruise vacation sailing through the St. Lawrence Seaway into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and ending, finally, in Boston. Such locations as Prince Edward Island and Halifax are awash with American passengers. This must be explained by the weak Canadian currency for shore excursions, but also from the absence so far of any Zika-related illnesses in Canada.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       Iceland, for reasons no one can explain, has zoomed upward this year in its incoming tourism. And some Icelanders are complaining that their cities, hot thermal baths, and highways are today overcrowded with tourists. While one can explain the phenomenon as resulting from the sheer attraction of Iceland's people and sights, such attractions were always present there. Why the upswing this year?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Japan is more easily explained. The Japanese currency (the Yen) is now exchanged at a favorable rate of 100 to the U.S. dollar, and Japan has become a moderately priced destination for the first time in many decades. American tourists have responded by flying there in large numbers. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      But with the exception of Canada (many Canadian cruises are now sold out, even for autumn departures), Iceland, and Japan, the other domestic and international itineraries are only lightly booked. If you have not yet made your travel plans, you can now enjoy uncrowded conditions, vacancies at hotels, and empty seats on airlines to almost everywhere else. So what are you waiting for?</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d95cf76a-c287-4c8f-a3e3-075efda5c330 Five More States Are About to Consider the Legalization of Marijuana, Creating the Basis for a Large New Industry of Marijuana Tourism Fri, 09 Sep 2016 16:31:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div style="text-align:center;"> <em>(Credit:Vitezslav Valka/FreeImages)</em></div> <div>  </div> <div>      The statistics seem irrefutable that tourism to Colorado has benefited greatly from that state's legalization of the sale and use of marijuana.  In recent surveys, large numbers of visitors have stated that it was pot that most influenced their decision to go there. And those touristic benefits are undoubtedly why Oregon, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia have already followed Colorado in permitting use of the once-banned drug.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      On November 8, the citizens of five other states—California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine—will vote not simply for a president but also on the legalization of marijuana use in their states. Polls indicate that California is most likely to vote Yes, as are Nevada and Arizona. And thus, the entire west coast of the United States may soon become a marijuana-lawful zone.</div> <div>  </div> <div>     Why haven't you heard from the tourist boards of Colorado, Oregon and Washington about the lure of marijuana? It's because they're concerned about the propriety of attracting out-of-state visitors in that manner; on a federal basis, marijuana use is still illegal elsewhere in America. And thus, the states thus far permitting the drug are acting as if they are limiting its use to persons within their borders. Presumably, that hesitation will come to an end if several more states use the November 8 referendums to greatly expand marijuana's use.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Meanwhile, a substantial travel industry has emerged within the marijuana-states, devoted to facilitating the use of the drug. As one example, a large retail travel agency in Denver called Kush Travel is operating daily, half-day marijuana tours on which participants are first brought to several retail outlets for the drug, and then to an area where they are each given an ounce of the leaf, and invited to light up. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Unless the unexpected happens, and several states use the November 8 vote to forbid marijuana's use in their states, we are on the brink of a major new travel movement. With as many as nine or 10 U.S. states or areas—the original several and the new five—permitting the once-forbidden use, we will undoubtedly witness a large, nationwide-marketing campaign, urging Americans to visit those states for the purpose of "relaxing." Arguments will be made that marijuana is no more addictive than beer or liquor; that it is as harmless as a standard cocktail; that it serves various other beneficial purposes as well. And tourism will undoubtedly be aided by the attraction of that new reason for traveling.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      One caution: A longtime student of marijuana use has stated that the legalization of marijuana will add tourism only to those states which already have potent reasons to be visited. The success of Colorado, he states, is because Colorado already has important tourist attractions—Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, and the like—to which marijuana lends additional attractions and activities. By contrast, if Alabama were to legalize marijuana, he believes, it would enjoy very little additional tourism by taking the steps that Colorado pioneered. So citizens of the Deep South (other than New Orleans) might give up dreams of attracting additional visitors.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In the rest of the country, the prospects seem strong that marijuana is now about to be added to beer and wine as a permissible product to order. This seems about to happen. Get ready for the era of marijuana—and marijuana tourism.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:3692c872-d512-43b1-be2b-efe16ed088e3 Priceline Ditches Its "Name Your Own Price" Program for Airfares. What's the Real Meaning of This Move for Consumers? Thu, 08 Sep 2016 13:34:00 GMT <p> When Priceline launched its “Name Your Own Price” feature for airfare some 15 years ago, the effect was electric. A major company had pulled back the curtain, letting the public in on a dirty little secret no one in the travel industry wanted them to know: that prices were <em>always</em> negotiable.<br /> <br /> But this week Priceline announced that it would no longer be offering bidding for airfares. Which raises the question: is William Shatner—the "Negotiator" in the company's tongue-in-cheek commercials—out of a job?<br /> <br /> By which I mean: when it comes to airfare, has it gotten more difficult than in the past to game/negotiate the system? <br /> <br /> True, airline tickets were always the ugly stepchild at Priceline. Bidding on hotels and rental cars yielded a pretty reliable product; since Priceline only dealt with major brands, users always knew they'd be staying in something like a Marriott, Hilton, or Days Inn, and driving, say, a Hertz or Avis car. You knew your ride would be well-maintained, and you could set the quality level and location of a hotel pretty reliably before booking. In fact, Priceline has said that bidding for hotel rooms and rental cars will continue. <br /> <br /> Airfares, on the other hand, were always more of a crapshoot. A bid on a trip between Denver and Atlanta could yield a 10-hour ordeal, with an itinerary that routed you through Toronto. But though the itineraries could be hideous, the fares themselves often shone. So you'd think a reasonable number of travelers would put price over convenience.<br /> <br /> Could it be, then, that the real reason for the shutdown of this service is that airfares are far less volatile than they were when Priceline launched?</p> <p> I decided to research that round-trip jaunt from Atlanta to Denver for October, and found that only $5 separated the cheapest fares from most of the other rates (a few were $10 higher), with the price winner being upstart airline Frontier. But major players such as Delta and United only came in a little higher. </p> <p> On other domestic round trips the result was nearly the same, though international fares were a bit more varied, thanks to such disruptors as Norwegian Airlines and Emirates Air, both of which are now under-pricing the competition deeply on the routes they cover.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> Priceline's Name Your Own Airfares Fade Into the Sunset (photo by Jody Claborn/Flickr)</p> <p> Could price fixing be the cause of these doppelganger fares? Some have accused the airlines of colluding, but the real explanation could be simpler: computers.</p> <p> With the help of new technology, airlines have become far more expert at managing their inventory than in the past. That’s why flying next to an empty middle seat is about as common nowadays as flying next to a unicorn. The airlines now have the ability to accurately predict the number of passengers each flight will attract, taking into account seasonal dips, holidays and special events. With that knowledge they're putting more small planes in the skies than they used to (for less popular routes), reserving the big jets for flights they know will sell out. And with fewer empty seats in the air, the airlines don’t have to play chicken with the competition or throw big sales to fill them.<br /> <br /> Perhaps most important is the fact that the airlines have drastically changed their business model in the last decade—they're now making nearly as much money on fees as they are on fares. With passengers ponying up extra to pick a seat, check a bag, jump the line, snag a pillow and blanket, change a flight….and the list goes on….airline execs can simply sit back and watch the money roll in. Desperate last-minute sales or undercutting the competition on base fares? Not as crucial to the bottom line anymore.<br /> <br /> And so as we bid adieu to Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” widget, let’s say hello to reading the fine print. Because today all of those nagging extras may factor in more to the ultimate cost of a trip than the actual airfare will.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:8ff7570c-36f8-4211-83e4-891044e27cde The Fees Travelers Love....At Least for Now Thu, 01 Sep 2016 19:15:00 GMT <p> Discuss the mechanics of travel with most folks and the talk inevitably turns to fees. Sometimes you can actually feel the room heating up as travelers rail against having to pay extra to choose a seat, change a flight, carry on a bag (or check one) or pony up the dreaded “resort fee" at a hotel. And the higher those fees are, the more the temperature rises.<br /> <br /> But there are a different class of fees that some travelers pay willingly, even with delight: those that get travelers to the front of the line. “I always pay extra to board the plane as early as I can to make sure that I get settled for my flight and to make sure that my roller board has a place in the overhead bin,” says stage manager Bryan Landrine. “It takes me a couple minutes to ‘set up’ for my flight and have everything I'll need at my finger tips in the seat pocket.”<br /> <br /> He’s not alone. Many find the perk worth the money. “I find the minimalish price is worth feeling a little bit ‘pampered’ and takes the edge off traveling,” says television producer Joan Rater. “Lines and waiting can make it feel like you need a vacation after your vacation.”<br /> <br /> Others choose the option only for carriers they feel to be especially problematic. New York City actress Kate Konigiser pays extra to jump the line at BoltBus. “It’s totally worth it to board first and to know I will have a window seat on the top deck,” she says. Says Elizabeth Heath, a book editor based in Italy “I have paid for early boarding on Ryanair, because otherwise it's open boarding: a bunch of people crushed into the gate area, and then a stampede to get up the stairs to the plane to get a good seat.”<br /> <br /> What’s intriguing, to me at least, is that none of the people I spoke with blamed the travel providers for creating a situation that was so uncomfortable that they had to pay more just to avoid it. Are we simply numb to the indignities of travel nowadays that we're actually grateful for the "privilege" of paying more and thus having a civilized experience.<br /> <br /> That, I think, will change if fees rise. And they already are for some segments of the industry. Just this week, Carnival Cruise Lines announced this week that it would near double their fees for boarding early, their “Faster to the Fun” program, from a maximum of $49-95 to $59.95 to a maximum of $79.95 (the price varies by length of cruise).  A few months ago Southwest Airlines raised its early boarding fee 20% (from $12.50 to $15). It seems likely other airlines will follow suit (usually when one ups a fee the others follow). Meanwhile, according to a new study by the New York University School of Professional Studies, the international hotel industry collected a record amount in fees for 2015: $2.55 billion, up 4.1% from the year before. The vast majority of income was from resort fees, but some was from a growing number of early check-in fees.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> A Carnival Ship in Venice (photo by Carnival Cruise Lines)</p> <p> And I think passengers will become less eager to pay extra when the airline doesn't really deliver on what it promised. That's what happened to Mikkel Aaland, a professional photographer. "I paid Ryan Air extra for early boarding and got early boarding... early boarding, that is, on to a terminal bus that quickly loaded up with everyone behind me. After the bus was full we drove to tarmac where we all tumbled out and clawed our way on to the plane, first come first served, " he said ruefully.<br /> <br /> Frankly, I’m too much of a curmudgeon to pay for the privilege of going early. I just don’t want to hand over a cent more than I have to when traveling for such basics as transportation and a place to lay my head. I’m frugal on those items so I can splurge on the activities that really matter to me, like going to the theater, museum entry fees, great meals, walking tours, zip lining and more.<br /> <br /> But if they introduced a fee to be first OFF the plane….well, I might bite on that one.</p> <p> What about you? Do you think early bird fees are worth it? Or a bunch of hooey?</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:39ad3d49-d161-4ded-b272-d9adcd6b0473 Amtrak Passengers Often Forfeit a Great Deal of Money by Failing to Inquire About the Price of Earlier or Later Trains Sun, 14 Aug 2016 20:06:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>      A rule of train travel, too often overlooked, is that successive Amtrak departures to the same destination are often priced differently. By failing to inquire about the price of earlier or later trains, one often gives up a great deal of money.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I learned that lesson on a recent trip from New York City to Philadelphia. Learning that a particular train left at 10:52 am, I failed to ask about the trains leaving slightly earlier or later. As a result, I paid $75 for the one-way ticket when I could have paid only $40 for a train leaving 20 minutes later. The train I took was an express making only two stops on the way to Philadelphia, whereas the cheaper train was a local making four stops en route. For the insignificant advantage of arriving a few minutes earlier, my wife and I paid $70 more than we could have. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Tickets on Amtrak trains leaving at different times of the day are often priced differently. Apart from the time difference, some Amtrak trains are express in nature (I am talking about normal, regional trains, not the ultra-fast Acela), while others are locals making several stops. A simple inquiry to an Amtrak ticket seller (or a search on Amtrak's website) will often reveal the opportunity for major savings.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       On the return trip from Philadelphia to New York, a helpful Amtrak employee pointed out that if we only left 18 minutes later than we had planned, my wife and I could save $70. We followed his advice and enjoyed a trip that differed in only a minor way from the express train we had planned to use.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      So ask when you purchase a ticket in person or on the phone. Are there alternatives? Earlier or later trains? Locals or expresses? Departures at less popular times? The inquisitive traveler saves a great deal by making a few inquiries of the agent at the Amtrak ticket window.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:56b0c6d2-4925-470e-88f7-8ad47c3dc1d0 The International Summer Program at Cambridge University is Apparently the Largest of the Learning Vacations, But Requires Early Applications Sun, 14 Aug 2016 18:30:00 GMT <div> It's obviously too late to sign up for a summer vacation stay at one of the great English-language universities that open their classrooms and residence halls each July and August to adults of all ages.  But because these stays are so popular, and are often sold out by early spring, it's important to examine them now and to submit your application long in advance for the courses that most intrigue you.</div> <div>  </div> <div> I have earlier written about the summer programs offered by Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, by Oxford University in Oxford, England, and by St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  But I have failed to give equal attention to the so-called "International Summer Program" at famous Cambridge University, in Cambridge, England.  Several returning "students" (one 70 years old, others younger) who attended that program in July have now briefed me about their experiences.  And they were all so enthusiastic about this unique vacation, that their story needs to be told.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Cambridge calls this an "international" program, and this year's courses were attended by adults from 58 countries, including Great Britain, the United States, Europe, China, Korea and South America, the only common feature being that they were all fluent in English.  Students reside for one to four weeks, as they choose, in the vacated summer residence of a Cambridge student.  All were satisfied with their accommodations in comfortable student rooms. </div> <div>  </div> <div> The curriculum ranges from science to literature to history to politics and sociology, and the courses are scores in number. Most students select two of them, the first attended for ninety minutes every morning for a week, the second attended for that same period in the afternoon. In between these two main subjects, students are urged to attend "plenary one hour lectures" at noontime, just before lunch. The "plenaries" are on a favorite topic of a famous local professor, and range from discussions of Greek and Roman literature to the British Enigma machine that broke the Nazi code in World War II.</div> <div>  </div> <div> At night, even more lectures or musical or dramatic performances are offered, all to be freely chosen by participants in the school. Courses themselves are lively sessions, with much student participation as they question or comment upon the delivery of the faculty members. Three of my informants chose an afternoon one-week course in the novels and novellas of Henry James (for which they were advised to read them in advance) and a morning one week course in the surprisingly-profound treatment of children'ts literature, ranging from Peter Pan to Harry Potter (a subject of increasing, serious attention in colleges around the world, which regard such books as offering important insights into culture and society). Another informant was enthusiastic about her course in Shakespeare.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Squeezed in at other times was a walking tour of the Cambridge campus, viewing the rooms where Sir Isaac Newton studied, the campus digs of Charles Darwin, and another building housing and ministering to the needs of the university's most famous current figure, Stephen Hawking.</div> <div>  </div> <div> The cost?  An all-inclusive charge of 1,100 British pounds ($1,430) for one week, including a single room for a single person traveling alone, two meals a day, all tuition, all lectures both specialized and plenary, and all other activities.  (Airfare to Britain is of course extra).  The program requires no tests or examinations (students participate simply for the sake of learning), although some wanting recognition of their attendance can prepare papers which are graded for submission to the student's home university, if they are still attending one.</div> <div>  </div> <div> I wish I could properly convey the enthusiasm of my informants following their unforgettable stay in one of the most famous places of education, studded with structures built in the long-ago time of Henry the Sixth.  I was so impressed that I will definitely consider a stay for myself, in the summer of 2017.  All that is required is a computer's search engine to access details of next year's program.</div> <div>  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo credit: Alex Brown</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:4e0f5c9c-036d-4fff-9988-c6de5ca496e0 Significant New Travel Developments in London and Orlando Will Have an Impact on Your Own Forthcoming Vacation There Sun, 14 Aug 2016 18:29:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      What's new in London?  Probably the most important development is the completion of a ten-story tower atop the Tate Modern museum. Not only has the exhibition space there been greatly increased, but the <a href="">top-floor observation space allows a thrilling</a> high-altitude view of London, which is absolutely free of charge to all.  Until now, the only way to obtain a similar view of the city was by paying an outrageous £30 fee to enter the observation area at the top of The Shard, London's 72-story highest office building.  From now on, smart, altitude-craving tourists will pass up The Shard in favor of the 10-story-high Tate Modern.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      What's new in Orlando?  It's the heavily diminished exhibits of Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. In favor of the eventual, vastly-increased attractions now in construction, sections of Disney's Hollywood Studios are temporarily closed, and cost-conscious tourists will avoid paying a stiff entrance fee to view this unsatisfying park of the larger Disney complex.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Back to London. Though the new Harry Potter play has received ecstatic reviews from the city's theatre critics, all of its performances have been totally sold for the entire coming year. Instead of paying a large sum to a ticket scalper, Potter fans would be better advised to purchase the book containing the play's entire text. It's on sale at every London bookstore, and in the United States, too.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In response to a great many inquiries from readers about the possibility of viewing sessions of Parliament once they have arrived in London, it's now clear that viewing areas are currently limited to citizens of Great Britain, who receive tickets from their representatives in the British legislature. What once was a must-see tourist attraction is no longer available to foreign visitors. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      What else is brand new in London?  Well, apart from that panoramic roof terrace at the Tate Modern, what's really new in London is a near-universal anxiety among the people who will be serving you. Some 70% of the workers in London's hotels, and probably as many in its restaurants, are from the European continent, and their ability to remain in London is currently shaky because of England's forthcoming departure from the European Union, voted at "Brexit".  This is a new and somewhat disturbing aspect to the life in Britain's capital, and because it has also led to a sharp decline in the value of the British pound, more Brits than ever are taking their own vacations within the British Isles.  Make you own reservations long in advance, because you'll be competing with a great many English and Scottish citizens who are no longer traveling in the same numbers to the newly expensive (for them) countries of Western Europe.</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> If you go to Disney's Hollywood Studios now, you'll see a lot of this. <em>(credit: Jason Cochran)</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:1b8817b3-b633-42d4-9914-7726341fb2cd Of the Many Popular Tourist Destinations, Only a Tiny Handful Deserve to be Regarded as So Possibly Unsafe as to Warrant Your Avoiding Them Sun, 14 Aug 2016 18:15:00 GMT <div> One of the oddities in financial matters is that a large number of successful Wall Street types make their money by betting on those stocks whose prospects are bad.  After all, the stock market can go down as well as up, and by successfully "shorting" the disappointing stocks, you can frequently do as well as those people who always look for the stocks that go up in value.</div> <div>  </div> <div> A similar phenomenon is at work in travel.  A great many smart vacationers do well by choosing the destinations whose tourism has plummeted downwards. If the reasons for such declines are incorrect and indeed foolish, then the tourists who persist in choosing such unpopular places will often enjoy better hotel rates and far less crowding.</div> <div>  </div> <div> I think of that contrary formula with respect to the city of Paris. Every one of the many recent returning visitors to the City of Light with whom I have spoken--and they are many—have told me of their delight in going there.  The city's hotels are lightly occupied and ready to bargain; the many famous museums are pleasantly uncrowded; the restaurants are eager for your business.</div> <div>  </div> <div> The current decline in visitors to France's capital (15% downward by most accounts) has come about because of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice.  Yet the streets in both cities are guarded as they have never been before—with armed soldiers very much in evidence—and a case could be made that Paris is today safer from terrorism than almost any other similar city.</div> <div>  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div>                                                                      A gargoyle's eye view of Paris from Notre Dame (photo by JAc 82/Flickr)</div> <div>  </div> <div> The same with the many touristic locations in Tunisia.  Here is a country with some of the world's finest beaches and cultural attractions.  Yet its tourism is a fraction of what used to be, and the occasional visitor is having one of the best vacations.  Though Tunisia was recently attacked, its response has been to ramp up security measures as never before, and again a case can be made—from many reports—that the touristic locations of Tunisia are today more well-guarded and safe than many other resorts whose tourism numbers remain high.</div> <div>  </div> <div> This is not to say that several prominent touristic locations have not reached a level of safety that would justify your continuing to favor them.  Egypt comes to mind as a place whose security is extremely iffy.  The same with Turkey, home to an several active insurgencies.  Elsewhere, I have not heard enough about measures to reduce the Zika infestation that has caused tourists to avoid Puerto Rico and Miami, both of which are experiencing a sharp decline in their tourism. </div> <div>  </div> <div> But I would continue visiting a great many other locations whose tourism is down.  In many cases, their response to the events that have frightened some visitors has led to safety counter-measures that make them safer than most.  Except in such unsettled nations as Turkey and Egypt, the chance of injury from terrorism is so mathematically slight as to persuade you to continue to enjoy the pleasures of travel.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:7ee5edd8-c968-4772-a541-3f76857dd84c A Group of British Travel Agents Is Leading a Worldwide Effort to Prevent the Heedless Disposal of Sharp Pieces of Plastic Upon the Ocean Floor Sat, 30 Jul 2016 14:45:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>(Photo credit: kevinkrejci/Flickr)</em></p> <p> It doesn't often happen that members of the travel industry associate themselves, massively, with an idealistic cause having little to do with travel.  But that's exactly what the Association of British Travel Agents is presently doing, by publicizing and promoting its "Big Holiday Beach Clean" in advertisements and commercials.</p> <div> The subject of the campaign is the increasing tendency of vacationers to discard their plastic bottles on the beaches where they have just spent the day. Instead of placing those empty bottles in bags that are then jettisoned into a receptacle for recycling, they simply discard them upon the beach.</div> <div>  </div> <div> And the results are devastating.  Plastic never evaporates, it never disappears. It is not biodegradable. Usually, bottles made of plastic simply break into many smaller pieces that then find their way from the shoreline into the sea. They are swept by the tides into the open water, and out into the vast oceans of the world. And then they break into millions of small pieces that eventually sink to land upon the ocean floor, where they are mistaken for food by sea life.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Among the most respected scientists and science publications, these pieces of plastic are said to be now scattered in the tens of thousands upon every square kilometer of the ocean. When ingested by countless fish and birds, they kill millions and millions of such fish and birds each year. They also kill hundreds of thousands of larger sea mammals each year.</div> <div>  </div> <div> To repeat, these small fragments of sharp plastic are in giant murderous numbers in every measurable area of the sea floor.</div> <div>  </div> <div> So the actions of heedless vacationers are doing grave harm to our environment. If, instead, beachgoers were to exercise care in preserving such plastic bottles for recycling, making sure that they are kept separate from bio-degradable garbage and paper, they could arrest this frightening development.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Hopefully, travel agents within the United States, and other concerned citizens, will take up the cause thus far initiated by the British travel agents. Every reader of this blog can do their best to prevent these injuries to our sea life.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:40fe4cae-263b-45f5-878a-d14890b3334e Hoteliers and Tour Operators Now Candidly Admit to a Drop-Off in Travel to Europe, Which—Paradoxically—Creates Opportunities for Americans Determined to Vacation There Fri, 29 Jul 2016 17:00:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> Nice, France <em>(photo credit: Mbighin/</em></p> <div>  </div> <div>      They have finally admitted it.  After weeks of denying that recent terrorist attacks have reduced tourism both to, and within, Europe, a number of prominent figures in travel have candidly described the undeniable declines in bookings for accommodations and flights all throughout the continent.  In some countries, like Turkey, the declines have been massive.  In Belgium they have been substantial.  In other countries, the reduction is palpable.  Although it is far too late to do anything about the decline this year, plans are already being made to reduce the number of European cruises and tours planned for next year.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Thus, several cruise lines have already reduced the number of Mediterranean cruises they will be offering next spring and summer.  Their decision is based on the numerous cancellations they have received for current Mediterranean cruises.  Other cruise lines will be moving additional ships from Europe to the Caribbean at an earlier time.</div> <div>      </div> <div>      Paradoxically, these decisions have reduced the prices and travel opportunities being offered to Americans who are determined to continue vacationing in Europe, and who believe that the chances of experiencing terrorism are so minimal as to make such travel completely safe for the overwhelming percentage of people.  If you're among those who are determined not to permit the terrorists to interfere with your lives, you can now travel better to Europe than at any other recent time.  Hotels have vacancies, airlines empty seats, and Americans are enjoying well-priced, enjoyable European travels free from danger.</div> <div>      </div> <div>      Closer to home, the prospect of enjoyable Caribbean vacations has been especially improved by the greater capacity resulting from the transfer of ships.  So much Caribbean travel is being offered that prices are more moderate than recently, especially to three relatively recent newcomers to popular travel:  Panama, Costa Rica, and Cuba.</div> <div>      </div> <div>      Panama has been made especially intriguing by the recent completion on the Panama Canal of new locks widened to permit passage by the largest of ships.  From the center of Panama City, an inexpensive taxi will take you to one of those locks, and later a trip of less than an hour's duration brings you to excellent beach resorts and exotic indigenous communities.</div> <div>      </div> <div>      In Costa Rica, easily visited by air from the U.S., facilities have been improved and enlarged, and vacationers are discovering the unique beach pleasures and ecological adventures of that nation.</div> <div>      </div> <div>      And finally, as we've mentioned before in this blog, it is now only a matter of short weeks before scheduled air service begins from several U.S. cities to Havana.  Travelers are also learning that rooms in the apartments of Cuban families are increasingly available to Americans making use of such room-finding services as</div> <div>      </div> <div>      Americans who are determined to continue traveling to international destinations will find that European and Caribbean vacations are now available to them at excellent low rates.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b879a461-2b34-4570-9fdc-15fde5b3c9e8 Haul My Stuff, Underwrite Your Vacation: A New App May Save Brawny Travelers Money Tue, 26 Jul 2016 22:25:00 GMT <p> There are many ways would-be vacationers try to make their trips more affordable. Some start special bank accounts for holiday savings, others scour the internet for hotel discounts, still others rent spare rooms in local homes and plan picnics instead of restaurant meals.<br /> <br /> And then there’s the gang that will haul stuff from your home to their vacation spot (or somewhere right near it) to defray their own vacation costs.</p> <p> Yes, this is a thing now.<br /> <br /> The relatively new app <a href="" rel="nofollow"><strong>Roadie</strong></a> (it was launched in January of 2015) aims to take travelers where only FedEx (and UPS and the Post Office) have gone before. It does so by creating a virtual marketplace of people willing to haul and folks who need stuff taken. </p> <p> “There’s likely someone in your general direction heading in the direction you need something taken. That’s efficiency!” says Marc Gorlin, founder and CEO of Roadie. “It’s almost like a natural resource, combining all those natural patterns. You have a more on-time, on demand system than UPS and FedEx combined. People can help each other, help themselves, and help the environment at the same time.”<br /> <br /> Those who register as “drivers” (as opposed to “senders”) are shown available “gigs,” each with a fee attached. Driving a baby crib in a hatchback two states might net $185 for the driver, while transporting a rocking chair from the Northeastern U.S. all the way to the heartland could bring in as much as $650. Those who transport pets get even more. The app sets the rate, but senders can modify it if they need something moved quickly, or know that there will be tolls, parking fees, or other expenses along the way. Roadie keeps 20% of the fee, the driver gets the rest.<br /> <br /> So far, 350,000 people have downloaded the app, with users in all of the 50 United States (Gorlin hopes to add Canada soon).</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> A "sender" loads her bike into the car of a "driver" summoned by the Roadie app (photo by Jason Seagle)</p> <p> And according to Gorlin, many travelers are using the site as a way to partially underwrite their vacation expenses. There’s little risk involved for either driver or sender: UPS is a major investor in the company and it supplies automatic insurance of up to $500 on each delivery.<br /> <br /> For the senders, the value of the new service can be even greater: Prices for hauling tend to be reasonable, there are no extra costs for packing materials (helpful with very fragile or awkwardly shaped items), and some find greater peace of mind with this arrangement.</p> <p> “What you find when you look people in the eye is that they tend to take care of your stuff. That’s the sense of community that faceless corporations can’t match,” says Gorlin. But perhaps more importantly, there’s GPS. Users can take a picture of the item before loading it into the car or van, watch the driver’s movements through the entirety of the trip on the app, and then see a photo of the item when it arrives.<br /> <br /> And not to be overlooked: There’s a sense of adventure to this that comes with the best vacations. Drivers are often amused by the people they meet, and by what they’re asked to carry—big buckets of mannequin legs was one recent load, as was an ex’s belongings unceremoniously dumped in trash bags. Pets are quite common as passengers/cargo—and who but the allergic among us wouldn’t welcome the company of a friendly dog on a road trip?<br /> <br /> Will the app catch on? That’s an open question, but when I last opened Roadie I found some excellent money making opportunities….if I were going to vacation in Kansas. Which I’m not. This year, at least.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:6957123b-851e-482d-b60f-5b3e4af48c00 In Ways Large and Small, International Travel Has Become Easier/Harder in Recent Weeks Wed, 20 Jul 2016 23:19:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>     Here are several of the often-contradictory developments in recent travel news:</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>In Paris</strong></div> <div>  </div> <div>     A dramatic decline in tourism to Paris, currently down by more than 11%, means that the City of Light has become even more appealing than ever to the American traveler; hotels in Paris are reported as willing, on many dates, to bargain for a reduction in room rates. What's more, the decline is apparently and primarily because of the decline in value of the British pound and the consequent reluctance of British tourists to go there; that unwillingness or inability by Brits to travel affordably is expected to last for some time. While tourism to Paris was, in general, badly hurt by the terrorist attack in November of 2015, it is far more affected by the slowdown in British tourism, which is normally the largest source of Parisian visitors.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>To Cuba</strong></div> <div>  </div> <div>      The day is fast approaching when Americans will enjoy scheduled air service from U.S. cities to Havana:  just recently, the Department of Transportation has tentatively approved eight U.S. airlines—including American, United, Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue—to operate such scheduled flights.  If this provisional approval is not overturned by disappointed applicants, it's probable that such services will commence this autumn.  And thus thousands of weekly seats will be available to people wanting to experience the Cuban capital.</div> <div>      But where will they stay once there? Since the hotels of Havana are said to be fully booked on nearly every day of the year, it's probable that a room in a private home or apartment--the Cubans call these a "casa particular"--will be necessary (and these aren't always the most comfortable abodes). is among the several companies (look them up in any search engine) that makes such low-cost digs available.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>On Cruises</strong></div> <div>  </div> <div>        Americans who have tried to sneak a bottle of Scotch onto a cruise ship have frequently found that their drinks were confiscated by the crew assigned to clean their cabins. The cruise lines are insistent on preventing passengers from avoiding the high cost of cocktails purchased directly from the cruise ship.  And room stewards are told not only to examine the chest of drawers but also the luggage brought aboard. And now, Norwegian Cruise Line has gone one step further by impounding bottles of drinking water--like a Pellegrino or a Perrier. People whose mineral water has been taken from them are then confronted with a high $6.50 for the bottles of water purchased from the ship's bartenders. Drinkers, beware!</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>On the Streets of America</strong></div> <div>  </div> <div>      In other recent news of travel, it may  come as a sobering shock that three different countries—the Bahamas, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates—have all warned their citizens about the danger of traveling to the United States. These three nations apparently believe that travel within the United States is potentially unsafe because of the many outbreaks of gun-related violence here. They have especially warned their citizens to avoid crowds in the U.S., and to be constantly on the alert. Though they haven't issued a total ban, they urge their citizens to be cautious.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       The Bahamas have also issued a warning to its young men of color, saying that they are especially at risk of being shot within the United States, and therefore should exercise extreme caution about such a trip. Their warnings should give all of us pause. </div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:57fa0157-172c-4afc-b133-ef2dc1a8640e A Distinguished Magazine for Travel Agents Has Again Raised the Possibility of Renting a Cruise Ship Cabin on a Year-Round Basis Wed, 20 Jul 2016 23:02:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In recent weeks, a seven-day cruise of the Caribbean, leaving from Miami (and returning to Miami), has been selling for about $600 per person. That's for an inside cabin on a big ship, including all meals and snacks, soft drinks, and considerable entertainment facilities (like a gym, swimming pool, evening shows, daytime lectures, and the like). </div> <div>  </div> <div>      The resulting cost comes to about $30,0000 a year. And theoretically, if you were to book all 52 weeks a year on that ship, staying on board when the vessel returned to Miami, and embarking on the very next and all succeeding cruises, you could reduce your total living expenses for that year to about $30,000.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Several years ago, the travel industry was titillated with news of an elderly woman who allegedly did just that. She booked all 52 weeks aboard one such ship, and publicly announced that she was having a fine time. She became well known to all the crew, who showered her with extra goodies, and her lifestyle was publicized by the president of the cruise line in question, who boasted about his low prices and what they meant for people willing to live almost permanently aboard one of his vessels. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Last month, the influential <em>Travel Weekly</em> magazine brought up, once more, the possibility of saving money by simply living aboard a cruise ship. It listed those cities in the United States whose cost of living was higher than the national average and theorized that there were a number of expensive municipalities where you could actually save money by giving up your normal residence and going to live on a cruise ship. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      That estimate takes on added meaning when you consider the sky-high cost, for elderly Americans, of living in a senior residence or home for assisted living.  Many of those facilities charge as much as $60,000 a year. And thus the question arises:  Why don't more elderly people simply make the decision to live permanently on board today's mass-volume, inexpensive cruise ships?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Would the experience be a pleasant one? Seniors making that decision would enjoy as many as five excellent meals a day of a quality far exceeding what's served in homes for assisted living. They would also enjoy almost endless snacks and soft drinks, evening entertainment, daytime lectures, gyms and swimming pools, a library. They would meet a different group of people each week. Every such week, when the ship returned to Miami, they would simply stay in their cabin and await the next departure.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Now the people making that claim are obviously forgetting a few conditions. For one thing, the $600 per week price is obviously for each of two persons traveling together, and goes higher for single persons staying alone in a cabin. But an astute travel agent well connected to a particular cruise line may possibly be able to persuade the ship to waive the single supplement. And then, too, there is the need to add a tip to the basic cost of the trip. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      But generally speaking, it can be argued that the experience of living continuously on a cruise ship is not only cheaper but compares quite well with the atmosphere in a home for assisted living,</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Have you a relative or elderly friend who is considering life in a senior residence or home for assisted living? Should you perhaps alert them to a glamorous alternative?</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:f6079120-17c5-47f1-8e7e-34b9b893c632 From Apartment Rentals to Viewing the Olympics, the World of Travel is Full of Difficult Choices Sun, 10 Jul 2016 19:15:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>        Travel decisions: whether to seek an apartment in place of a hotel, or to visit the Rio Olympics instead of elsewhere, require serious study by an avid traveler.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <u>The disputed legality of short-term apartment rentals</u></div> <div>  </div> <div>      By the time you read this blog, it is probable that the Governor of New York State will have signed legislation sounding the death knell of in New York City and other nearby New York locations. That new law creates a $7,500 penalty for every short-term rental of an apartment whose owner is not in residence at the time of tourist occupancy. Such a heavy fine should make such services as Airbnb (and its many imitators) reluctant to post daily advertisements for hundreds of such apartments, as they now do. After years of successfully defying such regulations, Airbnb and others will now confront prosecutions that are easily brought against them.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It is also probable that other jurisdictions may rush to copy New York's draconian measure. Though Airbnb has thus far been successful in establishing itself in some states, many determined activists are still anxious to persuade other jurisdictions that the work of Airbnb reduces the amount of housing available to permanent residents.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Where the job of prosecuting Airbnb consists of simply levying a $7,500 fine for every advertisement of a short-term rental, many prosecutors will decide to increase their efforts. And thus short-term rentals of entire apartments may be severely limited. Those many tourists who have relied on such rentals may be forced to consider other, more standard accommodations.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <u>The press is full of anxious concern about the Summer Olympics</u></div> <div>  </div> <div>      The Summer Games are scheduled to start on August 5 and the media is full of predictions that numerous sporting venues will not be available to house spectators. Though every recent Olympics has been preceded by such anxiety, the Games scheduled for Rio are the subject of infinitely greater worry. The photographs appearing of current construction are an undoubted cause for concern.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Brazil, of which Rio is the touristic capital, is a country in economic and political turmoil. Its president has been impeached, numerous political figures indicted, its currency devalued almost daily (the dollar now buys twice what it secured just three years ago), and reports are rife of civil disorder, muggings, and the like. Though Rio plans to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers on its streets throughout the weeks of the Olympics, a great many would-be visitors are doubtful as to whether that measure will insure their safety. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      More important, there are real doubts as to whether the many stadiums housing particular competitions will be ready in time. Though the city's giant (110,000 spectators) and long-standing chief arena, Maracana, will obviously be ready for the opening and closing ceremonies, numerous other sporting venues are still steel skeletons unequipped for spectators.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Still planning to visit Rio? Good luck.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:e8d98e89-366b-4445-aeb4-be3f10195b06 Britain's Decision to Leave the European Union May Mean Short-Term Advantages for the American Tourist, But Long-Term Disadvantages Fri, 08 Jul 2016 17:53:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      It is far too early to assess the impact that Brexit (the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union) will have on the economy of the world.  Various commentators have expressed differing views, though the general estimate seems gloomy.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But from the selfish perspective of an American tourist planning a visit to Britain, the results of that fateful development are definitely advantageous. The British Pound has plunged in value from $1.45 to a current $1.31, greatly lowering the cost (for Americans) of a stay in the British Isles. And a similar decline in the price of oil, now selling for around $46 a barrel (down from $50), will lower the cost of a motoring trip (and will also exercise some downward pressure on trans-Atlantic airfares).</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Finally, there is already some anecdotal evidence that British travelers, subdued and concerned about the effects of Brexit, have cancelled their proposed vacations in the United States, and that flights from London to the U.S. are therefore starting to show a disturbing number of empty seats. This has led some transatlantic airlines to lower their prices for such flights in the coming months. Again, therefore, the British decision to leave the European Union seems to have improved matters for the American tourist.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But all this, if it continues, has possibly been won at the cost of a worsened economic situation for the U.S. as a whole. If the British economy slips into recession, this will have some doleful impacts on the U.S. And if the European economy (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, et al) should slow because of Britain's departure from the E.U., this, too, could adversely affect business conditions in the U.S.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The situation will bear close watching. But in the very, very short term, the surprising effects of Brexit will mean happier days for the American tourist traveling to Great Britain and Europe. Such a trip has become markedly cheaper, and some lucky tourists are encountering sharply reduced costs.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:20f50c3d-a136-436f-a2cd-3cef2eee2f0a An Excess of Tourism Has Now Eliminated Much of the Appeal that the Medieval Cinque Terre Once Possessed Fri, 24 Jun 2016 19:57:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" />      </p> <p> If you're like me, you have spoken to a great many friends on their eve of a trip to Italy, who have made a point of saying that they would include the "Cinque Terre" in their itinerary. And when you have asked them why they were planning a detour to these out-of-the-way, cliffside towns on the northwest coast of Italy, they have responded somewhat sheepishly that the Cinque Terre were recommended by a television personality. To which you have then attempted to discourage them from this choice, but to no avail. </p> <div id=":12v"> <div id=":12u"> <div dir="ltr"> <p>      And almost always, the same friends have returned from that trip, totally deflated and sorrowful that they devoted time to these oddly-named, unimportant towns of Italy. And with effort, you have stopped yourself from saying, "I told you so".</p> <p>      The Cinque Terre are five well-preserved, ancient towns of Italy, of no real historical or cultural significance (other than as refuges from military marauders).  They have neither important museums, nor great works of art, nor monuments of major events, nor hardly anything of the significance that normally dictates your choice of visits in that colorful nation. Compared with Florence or Siena or Pisa or Florence, or a half-dozen other nearby cities, they are disappointingly unimportant. They have simply been hyped to death by a TV personality. </p> <p>      And even to the extent that they are picturesque and with striking seaside views, those attributes have been demolished by the hordes of tourists that now cover the streets and alleys of the five towns. So many tourists now descend from trains and boats throughout the year on the Cinque Terre that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the visitors from the residents, the streets from the crowds. Times Square on New Year's Eve is a likely analogy. With effort, you now sometimes walk down a street; with effort, you push into a cafe for a cup of coffee. </p> <p>      The crowds of tourists enveloping these towns are so immense that the city fathers have recently announced they will be issuing tickets to persons wanting to visit; without a ticket, you will not be allowed to enter. The effort is to reduce by one or two million visitors the numbers of onlookers who now descend the narrow streets.  Whether the reduction in tourism brought about by the limited issuance of tickets, will reduce the onslaught, is not yet definite. Certainly, it will be difficult for the tourist authorities to prevent commercial tour companies from pouring additional groups, additional trainloads, onto the five towns. </p> <p>      What is certain is that far too many people are now descending onto the Cinque Terre.  Their arrival has erased whatever quaintness these towns once possessed.  You would be better off eliminating the over-hyped "attraction" from your plans. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>  </p> <p> <em>(Photo credit: Riccardo de Luca)</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:0b8b1802-66a0-470d-86f4-12fe9bfedfb0 What Will Brexit Mean for Travelers? Some Counterpoints from Pauline Frommer Fri, 24 Jun 2016 19:09:00 GMT <p> A dream died on June 23, the dream of a unified, peaceful Europe. After centuries of wars, it seemed like the European Union was going to finally forge a partnership between peoples who had far more in common than they had differences. Unfortunately, slightly more than half the populace of the United Kingdom decided they’d rather go it alone.<br /> <br /> That choice has economic and political implications that are far reaching; and will not only affect Europeans, but those who choose to visit both the continent of Europe and the British Isles. Though the future still is murky, here are some predictions.<br /> <br /> <strong>Lower costs for American travelers (at least in the short term)</strong>: With the announcement of the so-called Brexit (or exit of the United Kingdom from the EU), the Great British Pound’s value plummeted by 10% and, as of this writing, is continuing to tank.<br /> <br /> For North Americans that will mean that our dollars will go further for meals and  attractions when visiting Britain. But there could be savings on hotels, too. So here’s a word of advice: If you booked a hotel on a site that charged in dollars, cancel that reservation if you can, and make another. With the new exchange rate, you could save a bundle by doing so.<br /> <br /> I’m also predicting that airfares will drop, because of less traffic coming from Britain and Europe to the United States and Canada. The sudden devaluation of their currency will likely dissuade many European travelers from crossing the pond in the coming months. Airlines will have little choice but to cut prices to fill those empty seats.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br />  </p> <p> <strong>Border issues (in the long run)</strong>: Under the constitution of the European Union, states that decide to withdraw are given two years to do so. Since the process of untangling will be complex, I don’t think we’ll start to see any changes at borders until 2017. But once the UK is no longer part of the EU, lines at the borders could get uglier for us North Americans. That’s because there likely will no longer will be separate lines for EU residents trying to enter the UK. Instead, we’ll all be lumped together, a huge mass of people trying to get past customs. Those North Americans visiting EU states will likely have to contend with lines swollen by British citizens.<br /> <br /> Most alarmingly, both Northern Ireland and Scotland—which voted overwhelmingly to stay IN the European Union—are angrily declaring their intentions to leave the UK for the EU. Which could mean complicated border issues within the British Isles, as well.<br /> <br /> <strong>Street Protests</strong>: Here’s another guess, but I would be shocked if we don’t see protest erupting around Europe in the coming weeks and months. The Brexit has been so divisive, and was so closely won, it seems inevitable that those distressed by the outcome will take to public spaces to voice their displeasure.<br /> <br /> Public protests have long been more common in Europe than in North America, and are not a reason for anyone to cancel a trip. But travelers need to be prepared for some travel disruptions, due to closed streets and squares, and possible actions on modes of public transportation.<br /> <br /> Will there be more defections from the European Union, and even more uncertainty for the traveler? I’m sure we’ll all be watching closely—and hoping that the Europeans don’t give up their hard-won peace and economic stability.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:32c0839a-e116-40d4-81a1-5fe2513ad732 Britain's Exit from the European Union May Have Adverse Consequences for the American Tourist Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:47:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p> It may be too early to determine exactly what impact Britain's exit from the European Union may have on us American tourists.  Certainly, it will take several months, according to many experts, before the exit may have a discernible impact on border crossings and the like.  And on a longer timeline, it's possible that this breakup of a once-idealistic union may heighten the chances of sporadic armed incidents between the nations of Europe.  We should all remember that the constant enmity between European nations brought about the horrors of World War II, and that the European Union was once an effort to create a peaceful union of nation states. </p> <p> It's also sad to realize that Britain's exit was brought about by many of the same narrowly-nationalistic fanatics who have fought for anti-humane responses to the desperate refugees who have fled for their lives from warfare in the Middle East.  Certainly, all of us should decry any increase in the strength of those types, who resemble the fanatics who have brought such despair to suffering migrants.  The victory of those loud-mouths is something we should all fight to prevent in Europe and in our own nation.</p> <p> Britain's exit from the E.U. may also create problems to those of us who enjoy traveling easily within the United Kingdom and nearby.  Already, nationalists in Scotland are calling for a new vote on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.  Similar calls are being heard from Northern Ireland.  And certainly, travel from Britain to the Republic of Ireland may now become more difficult.</p> <p> Moreover, the burdens of long waits to enter the United Kingdom will now become worse, because members of the European Union will now have to wait in line with us Americans, instead of passing easily into Great Britain in the lines for British citizens.  Up until now, members of the European Union have been treated equally with Brits, and the ease of such entry will now come to an end.  Lines will also become longer for Americans arriving in European countries, now that British citizens will also be forced to join our lines instead of proceeding effortlessly in the lines for members of the European Union.</p> <p> Finally, the impact of "Brexit" on the British Pound, which has now reduced in value by 10%, should be considered.  It will now be harder for Britain to buy American exports, and harder for British citizens to travel within the United States. </p> <p> All in all, it's difficult to discover any positive results from what has happened.  And we will surely find further disadvantages in the days to come.</p> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:df517c81-8cac-4a8c-a6f9-3dada1b5934e Today's Eurail Pass: A Conversation on What Travelers Need to Know Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:25:00 GMT <p> The Eurail Pass is not new, but it’s still not as well known among first-time travelers to Europe as it should be. The pass, which has a number of different iterations, allows vacationers to hop on and hop off European trains within a set number of days each month, for one reasonable rate. It allows those who wish to see a number of different destinations on the continent to do so in a convenient, and relatively hassle-free, fashion.<br /> <br /> I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Nadine Koszler, a spokesperson for the Eurail Group, about new developments with the Pass.<br /> <br /> <strong>Pauline Frommer</strong>: When I was younger, I popped all over Europe on a Eurail Pass. Is it mostly still students primarily, using the passes? I know we did it so that we could save money by skipping hotels some nights and simply sleeping on the trains.<br /> <br /> <strong>Nadine Koszler</strong>: I would say that it’s a bit of a misconception that it’s primarily youth that use the Eurail Pass nowadays. About 60% of our North American customers are from an older adult demographic, above 26 years of age. It’s still very popular with youth passengers, particularly since they get 35% off the standard adult pass price, but one of the key things for us is we’re seeing an increasing number of families traveling with the Eurail Pass.<br /> <br /> <strong>Frommer</strong>: Why is that?<br /> <br /> <strong>Koszler</strong>: It has partially to do with the fact that in 2015, we introduced the “Children Travel for Free” program which allows two children up to the age of 11 to travel with two adults absolutely free. So it allows families to have an affordable and very memorable experience.<br /> <br /> <strong>Frommer</strong>: We hear from a lot of readers who want to go to Europe, don’t want to take guided tours but are nervous about navigating the train system. Should they be?<br /> <br /> <strong>Koszler</strong>: Absolutely not. One of the key things is that the rail environment in Europe is very different to North America. The infrastructure is really strong. Europe is very well-connected and accessible by rail, both the major hot spots as well as some really great hidden gems, smaller villages and more hidden destinations. With the Eurail Pass visitors have access to over 10,000 railway stations in 28 different countries, so the itinerary options are really endless.<br /> <br /> <strong>Frommer</strong>: But some travelers are nervous about simply finding the right track in a place where the first language isn’t English or reading time tables.<br /> <br /> <strong>Koszler</strong>: Getting on the trains is a simple process. There are helpful staff around who speak many languages should you have any questions. And when you’re on the trains there are many great amenities: you have clean toilets, its disabled friendly in many cases, there’s often Wi-Fi, dining cars.<br /> <br /> <strong>Frommer</strong>: And I’d say one of the biggest perks is that you go from the center of one city to the center of another, so the train can end up being faster than flying within Europe, especially when you factor in the time spent getting to airports and going through security. That’s especially true for those destinations linked by the wonderful high speed trains of Europe.<br /> <br /> <strong>Koszler</strong>: Very true.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> <br /> A high speed train speeds through Germany <em>(photo by Roderick Eime/Flickr)</em></p> <p> <strong>Frommer</strong>: Are any types of Eurail passes that are particularly popular?<br /> <br /> <strong>Koszler</strong>: Yes, the Global Pass which provides access to 28 different countries in Europe is our most popular, but one thing that we are seeing is that people are often opting for the select pass, which is for two-to-four bordering countries or just one country, which allows for people to explore one country or region far more in depth. I think part of the reason for that is that vacation days within North America are quite limited. So choosing a smaller area allows them to have a quality experience and allow them to dive more deeply.<br /> <br /> <strong>Frommer</strong>: Interesting. And for people who’ve never used the Pass, one of the fun things about it is it’s flexibility, the ability to hop on and off at will.<br /> <br /> <strong>Koszler</strong>: Yes, one of the fantastic things about the Pass is that it allows for unlimited rail travel. So a passenger can take as many train trips as they like on one of their travel days. So you can be in Florence in the morning, have breakfast on a lovely terrace there, jump on the train, hop off in a charming Tuscan village for lunch and a stroll and then travel down to Rome or off to the Greek isles. It’s all very accessible. </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a9e63d6a-999e-4b36-b0c9-de80d997f2d6 The Airlines Have Been Working Hard to Overcome the Much-Publicized Problems at Airports Both Here and Abroad Thu, 23 Jun 2016 17:51:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>      If you've been disappointed by the failure of U.S. airlines to announce scheduled services to Cuba (now that Americans can freely go there), it hasn't been because of inaction on their part. To properly operate from a new destination, airlines need to have well-functioning internet programs designed to check on reservations and luggage. Yet the Wi-Fi available at airports in both Havana and other Cuban cities leaves a lot to be desired, and the airlines gearing up for service in those locations have faced big problems. New servers need to be installed, new computer programs tested, and weeks more will be required before daily flights can be scheduled. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Apparently, American Airlines and JetBlue are the furthest advanced in overcoming these problems, and it is hoped that at some point in the autumn, both will announce the start of regularly-scheduled flights from major U.S. cities to Havana, Trinidad, Manzanillo, and more.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Here at  home, there appears some improvement in the crowded conditions of airports and planes. According to a survey by the chief aviation reporter of the Associated Press, Scott Mayerowitz, the airlines have added so many seats to planes, and brought into service so many larger planes, that flights will not be as full in future months as they have been in 2015 and early 2016. This has led to such airfare deals as an occasional $121 round-trip between New York City and Miami (although bargains of that depth are still found only occasionally). </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In terms of security lines, the T.S.A. has apparently lessened the waits at many airports, and they have been aided by a "massive spike", according to Mayerowitz, in the number of Americans applying for pre-check (and therefore no longer found in standard lines). Nevertheless, the worst times to pass through T.S.A. gates are Sunday evening, Monday morning, and Thursday/Friday. Schedule your flights for Tuesday/Wednesday and for Saturday, and you should pass through security fairly quickly. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      So aviation matters seem a bit improved, despite the fact that massive numbers of Americans will be flying in the year ahead, especially after the Presidential election has taken place.  According to several statisticians, travel slows when electioneering is at its height, for reasons that no one seems able to explain.</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>(Photo credit: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:794aca94-c4a9-42d4-9aa2-c78d113a8c77 In Declaring War Against the "Online Travel Agents," The Major Hotel Chains Have Created a Mighty Reason for Always Going Direct to Those Hotels Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:19:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /> <span style="font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">     </span></p> <p style="text-align:center;">  </p> <p> <span style="font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">     The battle between America's large hotel chains and the so-called "Online Travel Agents," who attempt to place reservations at such chains, has now come into the open. Hilton Hotels, among others, has begun placing large advertisements urging the public to place their reservations directly with the various Hilton hotels, and not to use the "O.T.A.'s" (Expedia, Priceline,, etc.) to do so. If they—the public—make those bookings directly with the hotel, it is claimed, they will enjoy major discounts off the normal room rates.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">      Unsaid in the ads (unless it's expressed in the tiny type at the bottom of the page) is that the people entitled to such discounts must already be members of the hotel's "loyalty program" to claim the discount. So if you haven't taken the steps to become a loyalty member for Hilton, or Marriott, or Starwood, or others, you apparently won't receive the percentage reduction. But it's a minor effort that's needed; you simply call the hotel, ask for an application form, fill it out, and you're a loyal supporter of that hotel. The only price you incur is a constant deluge of literature into your mailbox, advising you of periodic marketing efforts on their part.</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">  </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">      Despite the requirement that you join their loyalty program, the hotel chains have obviously offered a compelling reason for using them to make direct bookings. So how have the OTAs responded? What reasons for their use do they continue to suggest?</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">  </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">      Among other things, the OTAs (namely, Expedia, Priceline, Booking, etc.) include apartment rentals in the options they offer when a member of the public clicks upon their internet address. But more important, they show the prices offered by several hotel chains for the room you're seeking on a particular date. You are advised of a better rate offered by a hotel chain other than the one you were initially considering. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">  </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">      But the hotel chains respond with a mighty reason for using them. Go ahead and initially consult an OTA, they advise. But once you have seen the best price offered for your stay by a particular hotel, then go directly to that hotel and use them. By doing so (provided you have also joined their loyalty program), you will always get a better room rate than one offered by an OTA. We, the hotel industry (they infer), have declared war against the OTAs", and we always offer you advantages. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">  </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">      I, for one, find that a persuasive reason. And I wonder how long the OTAs will be able to remain in business given the hotels' intention to always undercut their prices for direct bookings.</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin:0px;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:12.8px;">  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:608c601b-380f-40a2-a838-55bfe01dc018 The Legality of Short-Term Apartment Rentals Remains Hotly Contested, But Numerous Additional Companies Have Now Begun Acting as Agents for Such Rentals Mon, 20 Jun 2016 15:06:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Source:</em></p> <div>      In all of travel, there is no topic more puzzling and contradictory, more challenging and debatable, than the short-term rental of apartment accommodations. In cities scattered across the nation, and overseas, various laws prohibit some such rentals or burden them with odd requirements, and innocent people have been prosecuted for running afoul of the regulations. Yet hundreds of thousands of tourists continue to rent such apartments for a week or so, despite the proclamation of some attorneys general that they shouldn't. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Paris, France, the mere short-term rental of an apartment is apparently illegal, yet no one seems to pay attention to the prohibitiion. And several websites publish attractive websites of Parisian apartments available for short-term rentals. In New York City, it is illegal to rent an entire apartment for a short stay, but perfectly legal to rent a spare room in an apartment whose owner remains in residence, yet no one seems to pay much attention to the distinction. And New York State's attorney-general has actually prosecuted a young man who rented his apartment to tourists who believed they would be the sole occupants of it.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Though short-term apartment rentals in the United States have been frequent for many decades, the practice took off when several entrepeneurs created a service called Airbnb. In cities where a major football event or convention booked up all hotel space for a period of time, they offered tourists the chance to continue visiting those cities by staying in the apartment of a resident. The apartment owner made extra money, the tourist enjoyed a place to sleep, and no one was hurt.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But what began as an innocent rental of spare rooms, was soon expanded into the short-term rental of entire apartments, diverting business from hotels. And some "bad apples" soon began renting all the apartments in a single building, thus operating illegal hotels. It was to prevent the latter practice that several city councils and state legislatures enacted laws prohibitng much of the business of Airbnb. These legislators were opposed to practices that reduced the number of apartments available to permanent residents.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But it's a tragedy that such laws failed to exempt wholly innocent rentals of apartments that had no impact whatever on the overall space available to permanent residents. When some Americans go on vacation, they rent their apartment that would otherwise remain empty for two weeks or more to a tourist, and the total space available to permanent residents is unaffected. When some young people decide to earn extra revenues by occasionally moving out to stay with a friend, their rental of the vacated apartment has no impact on the total space available to permanent residents. Yet both such practices are theoretically illegal in New York. And the injustice of their being illegal has caused a great many people to pay no attention to the prohibition.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The existence of valid reasons for short term rentals to tourists has caused numerous travel companies to enter that business. Today, the short term rental of apartments by Airbnb is perhaps surpassed in number by the same activity practiced by, by, by Flipkey, Roomorama,, by, and many others. And last month, actually publicized its short-term rentals of apartments by erecting an apartment on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and making it available to the winners of a contest that had been entered by over 150,000 people worldwide. <em>(Editor's note: Frommers' President Pauline Frommer was a judge of that contest.)</em></div> <div>  </div> <div>      It is to be hoped that the emergence of such additional short-term-rental companies will cause law-makers to restudy the issue, and to enact carefully limited rules for such rentals. People will want to continue renting their apartments for short terms, without operating "illegal hotels."</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a3bfee33-0fef-4070-a342-9c0724e9f4de A "Refurbishing" by Carnival Cruises of the Classic 'Queen Mary 2', Has Raised Danger Flags About a Possible Alteration of the Latter's Character Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:58:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Sculpture aboard the </em>Queen Mary 2<em>, 2013</em></p> <div>      When I first learned that the <em>Queen Mary 2</em> was going into drydock for several weeks, for a "complete overhaul," a "retro-fitting of the entire ship," I felt sick at heart. It was as if every fear that cruise critics like me had felt when the <em>Queen Mary</em>'s Cunard LIne was acquired by the slick and modern Carnival Cruises. If you had asked me at that time, I would have said it was only a short while before the grand, traditional, and somewhat stodgy Cunard LIne was dumbed down by Carnival into a group of theme parks at sea, with water tubes, bumper cars, and basketball courts.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      By contrast with Carnival's "Fun Ships," the historic vessels of Cunard feature serious lectures, quiet lounges for conversations among serious people, libraries, and a mood of relaxation. One could hardly imagine a different attitude towards cruising.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The <em>Queen Mary 2</em> is the flagship of the Cunard fleet (which also consists of the <em>Queen Elizabeth</em> and <em>Queen Victoria</em>). When it was completed in 2004, it was the largest cruise ship ever built (150,000 tons, normally carrying 2,600 passengers but capable of accommodating 400 more), but it has now been eclipsed in size by numerous others, including the recently-launched <a href=""><em>Harmony of the Seas</em></a> capable of carrying 6,000 passengers. As a "smaller" ship, it is still akin in atmosphere to traditional cruise vessels, and has—among other things—the largest library at sea, a planetarium, and kennels for pets of passengers. Its officers are all British, and the atmosphere aboard is decidedly Old World.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      That atmosphere is best glimpsed at the afternoon tea served to passengers, on every day of their cruise or transatlantic crossing. Its lectures are heavily attended, and in contrast to the standard Carnival cruise, there are no wet-bikini contests and no rock-and-roll music transmitted aboard giant loudspeakers. In fact, loudspeakers are rarely heard. On one of my own "memorable" voyages on board one of the standard giant cruise ships, the <em>Norwegian Epic</em>, it was virtually impossible to leave the constant drum-beat of contemporary music, and in an effort to escape the cacophony, I retreated to a nigh-inaccessible "lounge." only to find an active bowling alley alongside the supposed retreat. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      But let me now proceed to the good news. According to most reports (which we pray are accurate), the re-furbishing of the <em>Queen Mary 2</em> is largely devoted to simply squeezing in fifty more passenger cabins into a large open deck, thus fulfilling Carnival's desire to enjoy additional income on every cruise. Apart from that modification (which itself is to be regretted), other embellishments to the classic ship are apparently limited to upgrading the appearance of passenger cabins, making them more colorful than before.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      There are, hopefully, no bumper-car rinks about to be added to the <em>Queen Mary 2</em>, no basketball courts, no water slides, no wave-surfing simulations, no rock-climbing walls, and no other devices meant to replace simple conversations and relaxation. So unless we are being misled by the Carnival public relations office, the <em>Queen Mary 2</em> will retain the traditional aspects of a Cunard-style ocean cruise or crossing.</div> <div>  </div> <div>        The <em>Queen Mary 2</em> thus remains a unique travel experience. Based on many ecstatic comments from friends who have crossed the Atlantic aboard it, it continues to provide a unique thrill. If your own savings are sufficient to pay its fairly-moderate charges, you might want to consider booking aboard—and you should do so before the culture-deprived officials of the Carnival line decide on a more comprehensive "re-furbishing" of this beautiful ship.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:26d320d9-5edf-4121-91da-05f76ab02f34 There are Tentative Indications That a Slight Decrease in Tourism May be Currently in Progress, Opening Opportunities to Travelers Who Have Not Yet Made Their Plans Sat, 11 Jun 2016 18:13:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" />    </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo credit: Carnival Cruise Lines</em></p> <p>  Is the current travel season an especially slow one? Are there plenty of empty seats on both domestic and international flights? A number of old-timers in travel will claim that travel is always slow in a presidential election year, when national politics captures the attention of millions, a phenomenon known in the trade as the "election year curse." And they cite travel statistics from the last fifty years that seem to validate that slogan. Travel, especially international travel by Americans, has historically fallen off in nearly all presidential election years.</p> <div>      Obviously, there aren't yet any firm statistics to support or refute the claim of a travel decline; and the interim figures announced by local tourist authorities aren't always to be believed. Thus, a recent claim by the Caribbean Tourist Organization that travel to those islands in the first three months of this year was the highest in history, should be cautiously approached. When you consider the mild winter weather in the U.S. during that recent season (which certainly didn't promote tourism to the Caribbean), and the negative publicity attending the Zika virus in the Tropics, it's no wonder that a great many U.S. commentators are taking the boastful claim of soaring tourism with a grain of salt.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      By contrast, there is anecdotal information that supports the conclusion that international tourism by Americans is currently off. I have heard from several people that they recently flew either to or from Europe on planes that were half empty. I have read definitive statements from hoteliers in Paris that their occupancy was recently 25% less than usual. And like you, like all of us, I have read countless news reports that tourism has virtually ended to Turkey, Tunisia, Belgium, and Egypt, and been severely damaged by more recent terrorist attacks in Israel. The drop-off in tourism to these once-popular destinations must reflect a general decline in worldwide tourism, especially from the United States. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      So what's the conclusion to be drawn from all of this? It is that tourism has become more favorable to Americans than previously because of an excess of airline and hotel capacity, that airfares have been pressured downward and that hotels are undoubtedly more lightly occupied than before. When the nation is focused on political conventions in late July and on the Summer Olympics in Rio in early August, may be the best of all times to enjoy the rewards of tourism.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:5a35b28c-a6cb-4607-98af-f008a106f0ad A Survey Performed by a Noted Analyst Shows a Sudden Increase in the Sales of Printed Travel Guides Sat, 11 Jun 2016 15:38:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo credit: Manfred Heyde via <a href="" rel="nofollow">Wikimedia Commons</a>      </em></p> <p> As the co-publisher (with my daughter) of a series of printed guidebooks, it would not be appropriate for me to use this blog to publicize our own particular books.  But when it comes to the entire guidebook industry, some comments might be in order.</p> <div>      In the six years prior to 2014, the travel guidebook industry was in serious trouble.  For each of the six years starting 2008, the public  purchased a smaller number of print-on-paper guidebooks.  Various experts pointed, for an explanation, to the increased popularity of electronic websites dealing with travel, and especially to those internet services that collected the reviews and hotel comments by members of the traveling public.  Rather than rely on the guidebook recommendations of skilled local journalists as to where they should stay, eat and play, large numbers of Americans turned instead to the collected raves and critiques of travelers like themselves.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      All told, the purchase of printed guidebooks to some destinations fell by as much as 40% in that period.  Some companies left the guidebook industry altogether.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But to the relief of most publishers, the ecstatic joy of a few, the decline has apparently been halted, and the sale of printed guidebooks is again on the rise.  In 2014, the sale of printed travel guidebooks was up by a small degree from the preceding year.  In 2015 it rose again, by a slightly larger percentage.  A study by the acknowledged expert in travel guide sales, Stephen Mesquita, apparently indicated that a large number of Americans were dissatisfied with the electronic sources of travel information, and had returned to the professional guidebook.  Americans were showing an increasing comfort in bringing a printed guidebook by an experienced journalist, along with them on both their domestic and international trips. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      For one thing, the sources of electronic travel information had grown so massive that they caused confusion and puzzlement among travelers.  For another thing, the amateur and often biased nature of the non-journalists writing electronic recommendations was becoming so evident as to cause the traveler to doubt the usefulness of them.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Only in one smaller segment of printed travel information--maps--did a decline in sales continue through 2014 (though it has levelled off in 2015 and may again be on the rise).  This was caused, of course, by the increasing public reliance on GPS systems for determining their whereabouts and directions.  But the printed guidebook continued--and still continues, apparently--to grow more prominently in sales.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In terms of the most popular guidebook destinations purchased by the American pubic, Italy (according to Mr. Mesquita) is the leader, followed by Paris and New York City.  After those, come Ireland, London, Spain and Rome (in that order).  But once the guidebooks dealing with European destinations (and New York City) are accounted for, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and the U.S. National Parks come next, and their number includes Germany.  As you will see, most Americans purchase guidebooks dealing with European nations, though Japan and Iceland come next.  But if I were asked to guess about 2016 sales (not yet tabulated by Mr. Mesquita), I'd assume that Paris would drop way down (tourism to Paris has been badly affected by the terrorism there several months ago), while Japan and Iceland would move way up.  The strengthening of the dollar against the Japanese yen has greatly increased travel to Japan, and Iceland--as noted in earlier columns of mine--has spurted upwards in popularity for reasons harder to discern. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      So there you have a brief insight into the way that most Americans now plan their trips at home and abroad.  Though electronic apps and the like remain well-used, they still compete with those increasingly-popular guidebooks that you read on printed pages.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:158f840d-b72e-402f-8f69-7e856e0b962c Disney Is Opening a New "Magic Kingdom" in Shanghai, China, And from All Reports it's a Stunning Advance in Theme Park Design Fri, 03 Jun 2016 18:07:00 GMT <p> <img src="" />    </p> <p> <em>Disney Parks</em></p> <p>  China itself is such a fascinating touristic destination that it really doesn't need another attraction. And yet that's exactly what it got this month, in the opening of the Shanghai Disneyland.  Larger by far than any previous Disneyland in the U.S., Paris or elsewhere, this one incorporates such new advances in electronic wizardry, spread over awesomely-large grounds, that it has already attracted two million Chinese visitors in its several opening days, and will henceforth be one of the key sightseeing attractions in Shanghai.</p> <p>      Shanghai Disneyland is the sixth "Magic Kingdom" theme park constructed by the Disney organization, and its key structure is a fairy castle looking, to my eye, at least three times larger than the one in Orlando, Florida. Whereas the original fairy castle (in earlier Disney theme parks) might have contained only a single restaurant and no major facilities within its interior, the Shanghai version has several exhibits, rides, and displays for visitors to the castle.  Every other well-known feature of the "Magic Kingdom" has also been expanded and re-designed. A "Pirates of the Caribbean" has electronic images that envelop the visitor in a realistic piratical takeover.  The various roller coasters aren't content to subject their riders to vertigo-inducing sensations, but also confronts them with visual enhancements. "Imagineers" of the Disney organization have apparently used almost unlimited funds to expand, alter and improve nearly every well-known feature of the Disney world.</p> <p>      Apart from bilingual signs in both English and Chinese, Shanghai Disneyland has many other familiar features of its Orlando counterpart—except one.  There is no small-town America street of the kind so nostalgic and comforting as in Orlando and Anaheim, and an exhibit called Gardens of Imagination has been substituted for them.  Nevertheless, it is apparently surprising to note how readily and favorably a Chinese audience reacts to exhibits and rides that were once created for a solely-American audience.</p> <p>      But one famous exhibit has been changed. The popular Soarin' in the Disney parks of both Orlando and Anaheim, which carry American visitors on a high-altitude flight above the state of California, has been given larger scope in Shanghai. In the latter's Soarin', people are flown all over the planet, from one continent to another! (This new version is slated to begin showing in the American parks in mid-June.)</p> <p>      For further details about Shanghai Disneyland, your best source is a website called, which reviews developments in all the theme parks of Disney, Universal and others. Click on Disney reports that ran in April and May, and you'll encounter the breathless reporting of a theme park expert who is unable to contain his excitement over this creation of a major new touristic attraction.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:efef11fa-8f29-4a6c-adff-6aa6bf1928d3 The Galapagos Islands, Which for Years Have Been Stigmatized as an Expensive Cruise Destination, Are Actually Visited Cheaply by Tourists Living in Budget-Priced Hotels and Visiting the Unique Wildlife by Short Ferry Rides Fri, 03 Jun 2016 17:53:00 GMT <p> <img src="" />    </p> <p> <em>Photo credit: C. Dorobek/Flickr</em></p> <p>  Ever since the widespread popularity of cruising, the Galapagos Islands have been regarded as primarily a cruise destination to be visited on small and very expensive ships. The Ecuadorean government has been strongly opposed to the use of large cruise ships to visit these environmentally sensitive islands, where wildlife has remained untouched and undisturbed for many millennia. So travel companies taking visitors to the Galapagos have used tiny boats, not ships, to deliver groups as small as 25 people to these fabled homes of sea life, exotic land animals, turtles, and birds. </p> <p>      Problem is that passengers aboard these small boats have had to pay a pretty penny for the experience, and also had to hazard being seasick in vessels that plunge up and down, and sidewise, as they navigate a sometimes-turbulent sea. Many Americans have been discouraged by these factors from visiting this location made famous by the wildlife discoveries of Charles Darwin. Almost as many Americans have assumed (falsely, as it turns out) that there was no alternative to the small boat as a means of visiting the area.</p> <p>      Although a few lightly-distributed guidebooks have explored the alternative, non-cruise method of visiting the Galapagos, and an occasional—in fact, very rare—article has dealt with alternatives to Galapagos cruising, a great many travel experts have remained ignorant of those other methods—until now.  In a lengthy article appearing in the travel section of the <em>Washington Post</em>, one of its writers has composed a lengthy description of what she terms the "land method" of visiting the Galapagos. Her name is Andrea Sachs, and budget-minded tourists, as well as tourists sensitive to seasickness, owe her a debt of gratitude.</p> <p>      Ms. Sachs points out that four of the 19 Galapagos Islands—Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana—are inhabited by over 25,000 people who maintain multiple hotels and restaurants on their islands, much to the surprise of many visitors. Those facilities make it unnecessary to take a live-aboard cruise on a small ship, resulting in a much cheaper, much-less regimented method of visiting the Galapagos.</p> <p>      You begin the adventure by flying to either Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador (Guayaquil is better for reaching the Galapagos), and in Guayaquil you change to a smaller plane for flying to Baltra, the main airport of the Galapagos. From Baltra, you board a ferry for the trip to one of the inhabited islands, and there you obtain a room in hotels ranging from dirt-cheap hostels to low-cost budget properties charging between $50 and $100 a night for a double room. </p> <p>      Surprisingly, even in the inhabited islands, you see a great many species of wildlife: sea lions and fur seals, iguanas, gulls, marine turtles and whales offshore.  To see even more, you book aboard a scheduled ferry to one of the lesser islands crawling with undisturbed marine life of every species. If you're easily sea-sick, you simply make sure that the ferry you choose does not require more than two hours to reach the island you've chosen.</p> <p>      And on each small stretch of earth, you simply wander at will, exploring these phenomena "by land", and not in the regimented confines of an expensive small cruise boat. And at night, you return to your budget hotel for a good night's sleep. </p> <p>      In a fascinating description of her own trip there, Andrea Sachs has opened up an alternative, cheaper, and less regimented method of visiting the Galapagos. You might access the online article, and then enter into the accessible world she has outlined for you.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:aa2586d8-b284-491d-81b7-b0d5a03cad11 Las Vegas Just Got Pricier. MGM Resorts Eliminates Free Parking At Its Sin City Properties Thu, 02 Jun 2016 17:37:00 GMT <p> Gamblers know: in Las Vegas, the house always wins.<br /> <br /> Drivers now need to adopt the same mindset, because on June 1, one of Sin City’s most beloved traditions was trashed. Don’t worry, the dancing fountains are still sloshing away. But on June 1, nearly half of the hotels on the Strip instituted parking fees—a new normal after decades of free parking inside those cavernous resort garages.<br /> <br /> MGM Resorts is behind the move, and by the time you read this, Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Aria, New York-New York, Bellagio, Vdara, The Mirage and Monte Carlo will all have instituted parking fees, for both valet and self-parking. You’ll get one hour free at all of the above, time enough to lose a few hundred at the craps table, but not to take in a show, dance at a club or dine at a restaurant. For Excalibur, Luxor and Monte Carlo, self parking is now $5-$8 and valet is $8-$13. At Aria/Vdara, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay/Delano, MGM Grand, Mirage and New York-New York, fees are even higher, with self-parking going for $7-$10 and valet for $13-$18.<br /> <br /> But don’t get too comfortable with those numbers. During events at T-Mobile Arena, all that might go out the window, with surge pricing going into effect, as well as possible refusal of entry…even if you’re trying to park at your home hotel. (Note: we’re not making this up, this is what MGM has announced).<br /> <br /> To be fair, MGM wasn’t the first to try to lift the bottom line with parking fees: Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons have been charging $30 and $22, respectively for valet parking for some time now. (And no, you can’t self-park in resorts as sniffy as these two).</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> (Photo by David Stanley/Flickr)</p> <p> All this only adds to the litany of Las Vegas fees that have become commonplace in the last two years, of which the “resort fee” (averaging $25 a night) is the most insidious.<br /> <br /> It all speaks to a fundamental shift in the economy of the city, and the fact that gambling has been outstripped by clubs and concerts, in terms of dollars earned.<br /> <br /> So what’s the penny-pinching traveler to do? Going without a car isn’t the solution, to my mind, as many of the best of the more affordable restaurants are well off the Strip, as are such superb attractions as The Atomic Testing Museum, Hoover Dam, the Mob Museum, Springs Preserve and Red Rock Canyon. Instead, consider staying Downtown or at one of the Strip resorts (like Encore, Wynn, Harrah’s and the Venetian) that do not have parking fees…yet. I give ‘em 6 months tops until they add on the fee. In fact, I’d gamble on it.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:1e4044bb-6235-4871-a836-c049a6044e5f A Free Trip to Paris? Fantastique! Including a Stay in a Purpose-Built Apartment in the Actual Eiffel Tower? Mind-Blowing Fri, 27 May 2016 19:30:00 GMT <p> They said it wouldn't last.</p> <p> The Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World's Fair and was only supposed to stand for 20 years after that event. Truth is, many in Paris wanted it torn down sooner, including a group of famed artists and authors (including Guy du Maupassant and Alexander Dumas <em>fils) </em>who demanded its leveling. Novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans went even further, calling it a "hole-riddled suppository".</p> <p> But the miraculous happened: the tower not only remained in place well beyond the 20-year deadline, it became one of the most iconic structures on the planet, and a beloved marker on the Parisian cityscape.</p> <p> I don't think any of us could imagine the city without it.</p> <p> And another thing I couldn't have imagined, until this week, is the idea of being able to stay overnight in the tower. But that's exactly what four lucky groups of travelers are going to get to do, thanks to a contest just announced by The massive lodging company will be creating a chic apartment right inside the Eiffel Tower, with room (and beds) for up to 6 people. Each group will be given a one-night stay (with on-site breakfast and dinner), plus three nights in another HomeAway apartment rental, and airfare to Paris from travel partner Expedia.</p> <p> To enter the contest, just go to: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>. There you'll have to say, in 140 characters or less, what you would do if the Eiffel Tower Apartment was all yours for the night. The deadline for entry is May 31 at 11:50pm ET. (<strong>NOTE: </strong>Please see update below).</p> <p> So why am I telling you about all this? Well, I was so enthralled with this idea that I've volunteered to be one of the judges. So I'll be reading your entry (though mentioning Frommer's won't help—in fact, it could get you disqualified!). I'm also thrilled to be able to announce that I'll be flying to Paris to help announce the winners on June 10 and give out <em>Frommer's Day by Day Paris</em>, so that when the travelers are able to tear themselves away from the spectacular view, they'll have some idea of what else to see in the City of Light.</p> <p> Vive La France!</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo: GCKWolfe/Flickr</em></p> <p> <em><strong>IMPORTANT NOTE: </strong></em><strong>The contest was so popular that a "Second Chance" has been added for those who didn't win in the first round. Go here for more info: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a></strong></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:98c6cfae-e8c7-40f0-bfdb-99af0c319667 The Immense Increase in Chinese Tourism Creates Career Opportunities for Young Americans Willing to Learn Chinese Thu, 26 May 2016 23:28:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo credit: joebrandt/    </em></p> <div>  </div> <div>  At a time when tourism is dramatically down to places like Turkey, Egypt, Belgium, Tunisia, and North Carolina, a favorable picture is supplied by the number of Chinese tourists now traveling to all over the world.  Recent announcements by national tourist officials confirm that outgoing Chinese tourism is now measured in the tens of millions of travelers per year spending billions and billions of dollars.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      When, in our political election year, proposals are made to impose tariffs of 45% on Chinese imports, it might be kept in mind that the Chinese could instantly retaliate by simply prohibiting their tourists from going to the United States, where they now spend billions of dollars in Hawaii, California and New York. A trade war could have devastating consequences to our economy. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      The precise numbers of Chinese tourists traveling internationally from their country are quite stunning. According to the Chinese Tourism Research Institute, 120 million Chinese traveled out of their country in 2015, spending $104.6 billion in the nations they visited. Though most of this spending took place in Asia (South Korea and Thailand are favorite destinations), substantial sums were spent in Europe and America; Italy alone counted more than two million Chinese tourists in 2015. Some researchers claim that more Chinese are now visiting Europe than Americans. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Not all of this tourism is proceeding without incident; the Chinese tourists are often accused of rudeness or ignorance of local customs and laws. In one celebrated incident, Chinese air passengers attempted to open the doors on their plane while it was taxiing down a runway; another took as a personal gift the life preserver under his seat. Some Chinese in restaurants yell to get the attention of a waiter. But these dramatic examples have resemblance to the unsettling way that some U.S. tourists acted in the early years of tourism to Europe. With the U.S. dollar selling then at absurd levels of strength against European currencies, a great many American visitors were heard to ask of European shopkeepers:  "How much is the price in real money?"  Other Americans would contemptuously hold out a fistful of European coins and bills and ask the shopkeeper to take the amount that was owed.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      These growing pains are strong evidence of the career advantages that some U.S. youngsters can enjoy by studying and learning Chinese languages (usually, Mandarin). Increasingly, U.S. hotels will need Chinese-fluent staff; efforts to market American goods and facilities will require Chinese-fluent personnel occupying top positions.  Some American high schools are now teaching Mandarin; almost all prominent colleges are doing the same.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Finally, Chinese tourists apparently react quite well to relaxed visa requirements. They head to those countries that welcome their arrival. Pending those developments, incoming Chinese tourism remains one of the great commercial opportunities for American entrepreneurs; the immense size of the Chinese population creates those rewards.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:9beb1b5f-05cc-492f-825b-ec7701bbce0a The Hardships Encountered by Passengers at the Nation's Overcrowded Airports Are Because of Congress' Refusal to Properly Fund Amtrak Thu, 26 May 2016 20:31:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo credit: Jake McGuire</em></p> <div>      We are now in the full throes of the summer travel season, and the airports are jammed. I use the word "throes" advisedly. The dictionary defines "throes" as "intense or violent pain or struggle," and that's exactly the phrase to describe our current airport conditions.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The check-in counters are jammed, the corridors a mass of crowds, the security lines are long and seemingly endless, and the wait to pass through T.S.A. inspections is often two or three hours. Thousands of would-be passengers are currently missing their departures because they hadn't decided to be at the airport at least three or four hours in advance.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      How did this situation come about? Why is our air traffic overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of fliers? It came about because Congress has resolved, over the past 50 years, to appropriate nothing of real consequence to our railroad system. On a simple, seventy-minute flight between New York City and Buffalo, we have no alternative but to travel by air. On scores of other short distance flights, we are--realistically--the captives of the airlines.  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Our Amtrak is so starved for funds, so slow and episodic, that no intelligent person would ever normally consider taking a train between destinations three hundred miles-or-so apart. Unlike the nations of Europe, where people take a train rather than crowd into an airport, we have become a country of unavoidable air transportation.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      If we were to add a couple of billion dollars to the annual appropriation for Amtrak, then that train system could upgrade the rails on which it runs to make feasible a trip by train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, between Chicago and St. Louis, between Miami and Jacksonville, between Dallas and Houston. And millions of travelers could avoid the airports and travel by train.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I have a businessman friend who lives in Barcelona. When he needs to travel to Madrid (380 miles away), he goes by high-speed train in two and a half hours. He would not think of traveling by air. And he makes the trip comfortably--and fast. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      The main reason why we, as travelers, are suffering in overcrowded airports is because of ideological, anti-mass-transit beliefs on the part of one major party in Congress--ideology divorced from experience and reason.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      To avoid over-crowded airports and three-hour lines, a decent funding of Amtrak would go a long way. On a more immediate basis, a law prohibiting the airlines from charging for checked luggage during the summer high season, would create a faster solution. By permitting passengers to check their luggage without charge, we would immediately see an end to those spectacles of people lugging large suitcases and duffel bags onto planes, delaying the inspection process and the later fight for space in the overhead racks.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In 2015, the airlines enjoyed 26 billion dollars of profit after tax. Surely, it is asking very little for them to immediately give up, for just three short summer months, those luggage charges that do so much to delay the TSA's important work.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Now is the time to write your representatives in Congress, asking for a sensible solution to the hardships currently experienced by so many air passengers at our airports--airports bursting at the seams.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:69150162-6d21-4440-9eed-9bcf6ea1d776 Reports: The TSA Speeds Up Lines By Allowing Shoes, Fully Packed Bags Wed, 25 May 2016 22:42:00 GMT <p> For weeks, the news has been clogged with reports that airports were often seeing lines of as long as two hours for security clearance.</p> <p> According to independent reports on Twitter today, the Transportation Security Administration has resorted to speeding up lines by instructing passengers not to remove their shoes, the way they have been forced to do for 15 years. This comes the day after the TSA's head was forced out for failing to have adequate staff on hand to deal with the volume of passengers.</p> <p> Just a few of the tweets coming from across the United States today:</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> Shoes may be remaining on today, but the TSA apparently isn't cutting every corner. Liquids are still a concern:</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> If you have traveled today, have you encountered a loosening of the rules by the TSA, and did that seem to be speeding up the checkpoint?  </p> <p> <strong>Update:</strong> The TSA told Frommer's that when is uses canines to detect for explosives, passengers may be excluded from more invasive screening. It would not directly confirm that it was doing so in response to long wait times.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:ea20863d-6572-4417-9702-9f3ec0d751d7 And Still They Come: Ever-Larger Cruise Ships to Displace the Smaller Vessels, Causing Grave Harm to the Once-Delightful Activity of Cruising Sun, 22 May 2016 21:06:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean</em></p> <div>      Recently, the travel trade press has been filled with headlines about the largest cruise ship ever built. It is the 5,500-passenger <a href=""><em>Harmony of the Seas</em></a> that has just been delivered by its shipyard manufacturer to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The <a href="">monster vessel</a> will sail the Mediterranean this summer, and will then move to the Caribbean for the winter.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In photographs of the delivery ceremony, the open interior of the ship looks like the section of a giant football stadium, filled with thousands of spectators.  The ship's pride and joy are three humongous waterslides, including one that hurtles its daredevil riders from the 16th deck (yes, there are 16 decks) down to the 6th deck. There are simulated surfing rides, an entire waterpark, and two-story restaurants featuring "molecular" cuisine.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      All in all, the new <em>Harmony of the Seas</em> eclipses the size of Royal Caribbean's earlier ship-monsters, the <em>Oasis of the Seas</em> and the <em>Allure of the Seas</em>, which now take second place to the <em>Harmony</em>. Imagine! The new <em>Harmony of the Seas</em> will shortly be disgorging 5,500 passengers at a time onto tiny Mykonos, and 5,500 passengers at a time onto tiny Santorini, in the Aegean Sea. If—heaven forbid—two of the ships were to arrive at the same port on the same day, they would themselves disgorge nearly 11,000 passengers onto what once were small fishing villages converted into private and totally artificial, commercial towns.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It's obviously too late for journalists to bemoan this development. Not only Royal Caribbean but also other cruiselines are building 5,000-passenger monsters. Star Cruises, a company catering to Chinese vacationers in Asia, has just announced it is commissioning the construction of two 5,000-passenger ships. From now on, the low-cost variety of cruise will feature crowds, crowds, crowds.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I have sailed on one of these monsters, a two-day orientation cruise aboard the gigantic <em>Norwegian Epic</em> several years ago, and I greatly disliked the experience. Despite all sorts of efforts at crowd control, and reassurance to us passengers that there would be fewer lines, the atmosphere aboard was always urban and crowded. Although one of my grand-daughters, eight years old, loved the rock-climbing wall on one of the many decks, there was little of pleasure for us adults—not even a library. Looking for a quiet lounge in which to read, I ventured to one such room at the end of the ship, only to find a bowling alley with crashing pins inside. Having a meal was like entering a restaurant on Times Square, the opposite of relaxation.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      So like a broken record, I'm left to repeat a recommendation made often before. If you want the traditional experience of an ocean cruise in the vast seas of the world, you will henceforth need to opt for one of the smaller but more expensive ships. It is those so-called "premium" lines that have no water slides, no endless shopping areas, no giant crowds. But unfortunately, you'll have to pay several hundreds of dollars more to enjoy such ships. </div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:2b7d7bfb-16bf-4e26-8d8e-c031dc954ff7 A Decision by the President's Daughteer to Experience a "Gap Year" Before Entering Harvard Has Brought Immense Publicity to this Travel Option Sun, 22 May 2016 17:50:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      When the President's older daughter, Malia, announced that she would experience a "gap year" before entering the freshman class of Harvard University, her decision brought considerable publicity to what, for many American young people, is an increasingly popular travel activity.  Though not every "gap year" involves travel, enough of them do to justify this discussion in a blog devoted to travel.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Although "gap years" are today chosen by young people in numerous major countries, they primarily began in Great Britain.  There, because advanced universities (like Oxford and Cambridge) issued their acceptance of applicants too late to enable them to begin their studies in September, the successful applicants had no choice but to remain out-of-school for a year before continuing on to those universities.  Organizations developed to enable them to engage in horizon-widening travel during those intermediate months,</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The practice has now spread to the United States, and usually involves international travel.  A graduating high school senior completes his or her senior year in early June, but decides not to enter college for a full year to come.  They skip an immediate start in September of 2016, let's say, and only enter college in September of 2017.  Though some youngsters explain that they simply want a year of rest from their studies, others find more serious reasons for devoting their "gap year" to real-life experience, often involving travel.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      By gaining a further year of maturity, they enhance the educational benefit of college.  By first experiencing a job or project for a year, they gain a better idea of what they want in life.  More and more youngsters--and their parents--believe in the remarkable lessons that a a year off--a "gap year"--brings.  A student who has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia or South America before beginning college, is a more serious person able to bring useful perspectives to their studies.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But how can a graduating high school senior, and their parents, afford the luxury of a year "off"--especially one that involves international travel? The best suggestions that I have found are in a website called, the "mouthpiece" of the non-profit American Gap Association.  Among other things, it lists and describes several organizations that assume the expense of a student's year abroad (provided, of course, that the student performs productive labor during that time).  It details, as one example, the programs offered by Americorps, that permits young persons to earn their way in both the United States and abroad.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And simply going to Wikipedia and entering the words "gap year" will bring you to an exhaustive summary of numerous groups that assist a young person to enjoy a productive "gap year".</div> <div>  </div> <div>      There seems little doubt that the "gap year" practice brings concrete benefits to its participants.  Studies conducted by show that the "gap year" led to a major improvement in student scores on aptitude tests; and 82% of the group's alumni felt that the gap year had greatly aided them to choose an eventual career.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      So Malia Obama seems to be making a wise choice.  And your own youngsters, or youngsters you know, might want to consider the very same course.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:e8cf25c1-872a-4363-88e9-83620cc5e27c The Possibility of Public Disorder is Perhaps Another Problem of the Upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio Thu, 19 May 2016 16:48:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Zona Sul, Rio de Janeiro. Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">ru_boff/Instagram</a></em></p> <div>  </div> <div>      On my own several trips to Rio de Janeiro (as a one-time tour operator, I offered charter flights there), I confined my visits to the areas around Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach. I had been warned by numerous acquaintances not to venture into downtown Rio, the Tijuca Forest, or any other area outside those two famous beaches. The reason: widespread crime, often directed against tourists, in all parts of the city other than those two heavily-policed tourist districts. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Amazingly enough, those restricted visits were not lacking in excitement or interest.  The huge beaches and beach-side boulevards of Rio were places of fascinating shops, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels, and there was no real reason to venture outside them. In a country of horrendous inequality, the people who occupied the further-removed slums and urban districts suffered from immense poverty, heightened by widespread racism. Though Brazil's population of 200 million people was made up of at least 100 million of black, African origin, the tourist had very little contact with the poorer population of dark-skinned residents. They—the latter group of disadvantaged Brazilians—were rarely in evidence in the glamorous confines of Copacabana and Ipanema with their bikini-clad bathing beauties. limousines and splashy nightclubs. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      I thought of my own earlier lack of perspective when I read of the current political situation in Brazil. With the country's female president ousted from office, a new and surprisingly-dense and thoughtless extremist has replaced her, at least temporarily, and done everything wrong in his first days in power.  He has appointed a cabinet of 25 ministers containing not a single person of color and not a single woman. He has announced an "austerity" program of social cut-backs that will undoubtedly worsen the current poor economy of Brazil, and is apparently hell-bent on turning back recent measures to reduce poverty.  Brazil is currently in a severe economic recession.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The prospects for intense social conflict, major public protests, disorder and violence are therefore very possible, and I myself would not want to visit Brazil at this time. That decision is not supplemented by fear of illness, which has been widely announced as reducing attendance at Rio's Olympic games starting on August 5. I would not be concerned about the Zika virus prevalent in Brazil, primarily because our summer is Brazil's "winter" and cool temperatures seem to diminish the prevalence of mosquitos in the coming months. But social problems in Brazil cannot be dismissed.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      One can only hope that Brazil will overcome its current political problems.  But there is no real assurance of that outcome.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:bb4e70ab-3eaa-4143-b64c-4f4ca02c47b8 Why Are So Many People Acting Like Jerks in National Parks? A Radical Proposal to End the Selfishness Thu, 19 May 2016 00:56:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> Did you hear about the "Tourist Bros" who reportedly <a href="" rel="nofollow">have a warrant out for their arrest</a> for trampling on fragile areas of Yellowstone? </p> <p> A vanity project called "High on Life SundayFundayz" is in serious hot water. Somehow, these arrogant Canadians convinced people to send them money to take a cross-country American trip in a customized RV and shoot social media video as they went along. It deliberately ignored the National Park-established walkways and splashed around in the Grand Prismatic Spring because, you know, YOLO.</p> <p> Oh, and in other videos they produced, <a href="" rel="nofollow">they appear to be waterskiing off</a> the back of that RV at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats and flying drones around Utah's Arches and Zion national parks. "Stop limiting yourself," they lecture in one video.</p> <p> These dudes think they're a lifestyle brand just because they don't have regular jobs. Look at a few of <a href="" rel="nofollow">their YouTube videos</a>, and you'll see that's disingenuous. Although they claim to want everyone to travel the world, pretty much every frame puts themselves at the center, and the only culture they truly explore is their own craving for indulgence. It's a brand built for bragging.</p> <p> According to their website, they live by hawking clothing, throwing parties, breaking leases, and adopting the slogan "If You Can You Should" to sell their manufactured personalities to a public weaned on shallow, image-obsessed celebrity.</p> <p> Well, maybe they could, but they shouldn't have. Going off the trail at Yellowstone is illegal for good reasons. Hundreds of people stared stunned from the established path while these guys with GoPros for brains went to the edge of a steaming thermal pool and dipped their hands in it. Forget the fact they left footprints all over land that hasn't been scuffled by humans for years. They could have easily cracked through the crust of the earth and been boiled alive. </p> <p> They have <a href="" rel="nofollow">apologized using Facebook</a>—of course—and donated $5,000 to Yellowstone, but that won't get them off the hook for potential federal charges ranging from trespassing to filming without a permit.</p> <p> These self-indulgent spotlight hogs aren't the only people who have been entering U.S. national parks and pretending like they're the only people who count.</p> <p> In February, actress Vanessa Hudgens and her boyfriend defaced a rock in Sedona National Forest by scratching their own names into it. <a href="" rel="nofollow">The AP reports</a> she agreed to pay $1,000 which will probably have to be used to wash or sandblast the rock she vandalized. Count her lucky: She could have spent six months in jail and paid $5,000 in fines.</p> <p> And then there are the dim bulbs from an unnamed foreign country who, upon encountering a bison calf in Yellowstone National Park, thought that it looked cold. While other parkgoers stared in disbelief, they loaded it into the hatchback of their rental car and drove the animal to a ranger's office. A moment of ignorance had a deadly price: When the calf was returned to its mother, she rejected it, and when it started approaching humans for food, it had to be euthanized.</p> <p> The three incidents have one thing in common: They were all photographed for social media.</p> <p> Graffiti and vandalism have long been an issue at our national treasures. Mammoth Caves, Carlsbad Caverns, El Morro in New Mexico are just three places where you can find it. But there's an important difference: That graffiti was made at a time when they weren't national parks, when America's resources were mistakenly thought to be endless and self-replenishing. </p> <p> You'd think that anyone would have the sense to not touch, and to stay on the trail. But this is 2016, and the need for social media approval has finally overpowered common sense.</p> <p> I don't want to make a sweeping generalization and blame the youth of today, to bemoan the Selfie Generation, because it's not that simple.</p> <p> No, the problem is with people who have been trained to think that everything they see and do exists to be consumed or captured. That self-centered attitude can be bred by youth or it can simply come from inexperience with the precious qualities of the natural world, such as the tourists who anthropomorphized a wild animal with the willful ignorance of a DreamWorks animator. (In that case, the social media memorialization was made by a bystander who couldn't believe the idiocy of what she was witnessing—but it was immediately shared on social media, too.)</p> <p> Given a commercial culture that puts everything in context of seizing your own narrative, and given a social media culture that is built upon boasting, tourists are more enamored with the idea of themselves "doing" places than with the idea of the places themselves. </p> <p> Without the ability to broadcast a boast, and without a Snapchat-fueled urge to make the whole world feel jealous that you've gone somewhere wonderful or eaten something good, we might be able to reverse this trend of strip-mining sights to feed our own vanity or bolster our own images. If there were no one to impress, we just might tend to stop making destinations all about ourselves.</p> <p> Put away the phones. Then, don't touch anything.</p> <p> That's it. That's all you need to do to be a true traveler. Feel the breeze, see the perfect shape of the mountains, and hear the animals—and hopefully realize it wasn't all put there just for you to duckface in front of.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d308756b-8225-4c3b-bb50-4515b738c5b8 Travel to Cuba is Now in Full Swing, Available on Group Tours or Cruises at Outrageous Prices, But Affordably to Totally Independent Tourists Thu, 12 May 2016 16:53:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo credit: Ana/Wikimedia</em></p> <div>  </div> <div>      Several months ago, when Carnival Cruises announced it would soon begin offering cruises to Cuba, it did so in the strangest way.  Instead of promising a standard cruise program, one that would visit several Cuban ports and allow passengers to tour the highlights of those locations, it characterized its program (perhaps inadvertently) as consisting of one long "volunteer vacation".  On arriving in Cuba, passengers would presumably engage in work activities of benefit to indigent Cubans. performing unskilled labor in several Cuban industries or activities.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It was obvious that Carnival executives had assumed that the program could only be operated legally if passengers engaged in worthwhile work of a charitable nature.  Why else would a cruise program--entitled "Fathom" by Carnival--subject its passengers to continuous labors in that Caribbean nation?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Well, the first Carnival cruise has now been completed, and apparently there were no labors of any sort associated with it.  Travel Weekly Magazine placed a reporter aboard that cruise, who sent back standard reports of typical sightseeing offered to cruise passengers in every Cuban port they visited. I read every one of those dispatches printed in Travel Weekly and could not discover the merest glimpse of volunteer labors performed by cruise passengers.  They were taken to cathedrals, to dance performances, to meetings with Cuban artisans, and to every other sample of Cuban culture and life. They did not seem to wash a single dish or bring a single meal to tables in Cuban soup kitchens.  They did not tutor a single child, or dig a single well.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The Carnival "Fathom" program operates most Sundays from Miami throughout the year, and most cabins start at $3,380 per person based on two persons traveling together (a few interior cabins go down in price to as little as $2,710 per person for off-season dates).  That's considerably less than the cost of most land tours of Cuba, which generally cost a forbidding $5,000 and $6,000 per person (RoadScholar, the former Elderhostel, has them for less), including air from Miami.  While a normal week-long land tour should cost much less, it appears that features added by the Cuban government bring the price to the above outrageous levels, and it will be a long time before group land arrangements in Cuba cost less for American travelers. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      If you can make your way to Montreal or Toronto as the departure point, you could of course book a far less expensive Canadian tour to Cuba ( and have them at remarkably low costs of less than a thousand dollars, including air), but the Canadian packages are all for beach vacations that do not comply with U.S. legal requirements for a trip to Cuba.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Therefore, the sure, cost-conscious route to Cuba, for smart Americans, continues to be a totally-independent tour, reached via a flight on Air Jamaica to Havana via a stop in Kingston, Jamaica, or a flight on Aeromexico to Havana via a stop in Cancun, or a flight on numerous carriers to Havana via a stop in Nassau, The Bahamas.  And once in Havana (via taxi from the airport into town), you use our buddies at to book a "casa particular" (a room in the apartment of a Havana resident) for your stay in that city.  And then you simply wander about, interacting with Cubans, and enjoying an up-close look at the authentic Cuba--not a gussied-up contact with pre-arranged Cuban actors. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Cuba, via a totally independent tour, pursuing one of the twelve easily-complied-with activities named in recent U.S. regulations, is a real experience at a fraction of the cost of group arrangements via land or cruise.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d0ebdc25-fd19-4f21-aca5-f76f9979dc88 Two New Websites Are Poised to Become the Airbnbs of RV Rentals Tue, 10 May 2016 01:29:00 GMT <p> It was only a matter of time.<br /> <br /> Just as and dramatically changed the home rental industry, now two relatively new sites are transforming the ways people rent motorhomes. As with the vacation home sites mentioned above, they’re created for peer-to-peer interactions. And the increased competition between average Joes and traditional rental agencies (also found on these sites) has led to significantly lower costs in most areas. But the win is for owners, too, since most allow their RV’s to sit unused about 90% of the time; renting allows them to make back some of their initial investment.<br /> <br /> The major players in the market are and and both have listings across the United States (though neither yet goes into the Canadian market). They also have a near identical initial interface: users key in their destination, plus drop off and pick up dates. The site then takes them to a page with units and pricing, for vehicles ranging from Class A to Class C motorhomes, to travel trailers, pop ups and fifth wheels. Neither site offers the option of booking one-way rentals, which shouldn’t be surprising as that level of service would be difficult, to near impossible, for a person who owned just one RV.<br /> <br /> As for which is better: I have to give the edge to RVShare, though it is not as handsome-looking a site. But key in Billings, Montana, say or Cleveland, Ohio and Outdoorsy comes up short, with no listings (or just one, in the case of Cleveland). With RVShare even the smallest cities are represented. I also found a larger range of options on RVShare with pop-up trailers for $75 a night to massive motorhomes with multiple “slide outs”. Outdoorsy tended to have fewer affordable options in most regions, and hasn’t yet tried to go the “loyalty” route, as RVShare has (it offers 5% cash back rewards for use on your next rental through the site).</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> Photo by Alisha Vargas/Flickr</p> <p> So is renting this way safe? Well, both sites offer encryption for credit cards and $10,000 “peace of mind” guarantees. In addition, each checks the DMV records of any would-be renter, important for the owners. But once again RVShare goes a step further: if something goes wrong on the road, only it provides free, 24/7 roadside assistance to its users.   <br /> <br /> However, you decide to book, I can tell you from personal experience that renting an RV makes for a hoot of a vacation. Not only does it allow you to camp in nature with far more comfort than a tent can afford, but it makes you part of one of the friendliest communities on the road: RV enthusiasts. Try it, you’ll like it.<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b7f5068e-da12-46c0-8687-7e5cecca41b5 With Americans Caught Up in the Presidential Race, Travel May be Somewhat Reduced, Creating Unexpected Opportunities for Persons Determined to Travel Thu, 28 Apr 2016 20:29:00 GMT <p> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>      To the U.S. travel industry, now is the “election year curse”—a time when both domestic and international travel slow perceptibly. And this year, that sluggish trend has apparently been made worse by the terror attacks in Paris in November of 2015, and by the terror attacks in Brussels in early March, 2016. ­­­­Though it’s too early to make a firm prediction, it’s possible that transatlantic travel may end the year off by 5%, and domestic travel by almost as much.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Which creates a very special opportunity for Americans in love with travel. With planes and hotels at less than capacity, with famous cities uncrowded, with museums and other attractions eager for additional visitors, the quality of travel will be better than in recent times.  Important to keep in mind is that the Euro is selling at a rate ($1=1.12 Euros) of almost par to the dollar, and that the impressive is now so international in scope that it permits the traveler to stay in authentic neighborhoods, enjoying the uniqueness of foreign destinations, at some of the lowest costs for accommodations in recent years.  Though may be under attack in the United States, it operates almost without problems throughout the rest of the world.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Here at home, this is the centennial year of the U.S. National Parks, a time when all these precious natural treasures will be hosting special events of great interest to the visitor. It behooves every American to consider a trip to one of these 400 parks, and if they have not been to the greatest among them—Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon—they really should take the time to plan such a trip.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But the greatest obligation of most Americans is simply to travel. To give up the precious rewards of travel, is to do an injury to your own understanding of the world, and to deprive your children of some of the greatest educational experiences they can enjoy.</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>(Photo credit: Edward Stojakovic/Flickr)</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:9b8bcae9-4673-4b46-855f-656cf679f37b Not as a Hypothetical Prediction, But in Disturbing Reality, the Surviving Big Airlines of America are now Acting like Classic Monopolies Mon, 25 Apr 2016 16:52:00 GMT <p> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>      When, through mergers and acquisitions, the big airlines of America were reduced to four (Delta, United, American, and Southwest), such critics like me complained that they would soon begin acting like monopolies, taking joint actions, immediately copying each others' worst anti-consumer rules, ceasing to compete.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Nothing could better support such a prediction than a totally uniform, copycat action taken last month by three of the four so-called "legacy" carriers—Delta, United, and American. Almost as if there were no prohibition against joint action, all three changed their rules to provide that a person buying a multi-stop airfare—that is, one going to several destinations in the course of a single itinerary—would be required to buy refundable tickets for the entire trip. Refundable tickets are of course much more expensive than non-refundable ones, and the total cost of a trip going, let's say, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, has just skyrocketed in price.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      To repeat: Each one of the three legacy carriers has adopted the same rule, greatly increasing the cost of flying for a person going to several destinations in one trip. The possibility that one airline might compete with two others by selling cheap non-refundable tickets to cost-conscious travelers has been cast out the window,.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Already, one U.S. senator has asked for an investigation into this collusive behavior, but if past situations are predictive, nothing will happen. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      The current Congress simply doesn't yet favor regulating any businesses at all, even businesses of considerable importance to us consumers. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      If you have been on a domestic trip by air recently, you have undoubtedly noticed that virtually every plane you take is 100% full, every seat is occupied, causing tension and anxiety on every flight. This comes about because the legacy carriers are, in my view, deliberately operating fewer flights than are warranted, and filling every one of them—to their great profit. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In a competitive industry this would not happen. Airlines would seek a business advantage by operating more flights than are strictly necessary, and pricing those flights at budget levels to gain an advantage over their competitors. This apparently no longer happens, and the airlines as a consequence are rolling in profits amounting to many billions of dollars per airlines per year.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And the consolidation of airlines continues without led-up. Only short weeks ago, the staid carrier known as Alaska Airlines announced it will acquire the exciting Virgin America Airlines, thus threatening an end to the truly innovative touches that Virgin America has introduced into the industry of travel. In this fashion, the smaller airlines—Jet Blue, Frontier, Spirit—are also about to dwindle in number. Does anyone doubt that they will eventually be acquired by either a legacy carrier or something more their size?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The time has come for a renewed investigation of airlines and airfares within the United States. When, some 37 years ago, the airlines were de-regulated, did anyone suspect we would reach the situation of stagnation and monopoly that now characterizes that industry?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Our fondest hopes for de-regulation have been badly dashed, and the time has come to consider a new structure of regulation for these public utilities that airlines have become. </div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <a href="http://<a href="">jikatu/Flickr</a>" rel="nofollow"><em>Photo credit: Jikatu/Flickr</em></a></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:055863f9-eb81-47e2-9b65-d2cbd9e22e8d There Are, Sad to Say, a Number of Caribbean Locations Where Gay Couples Seeking a Pleasant Vacation Will Occasionally be Unsafe Mon, 25 Apr 2016 01:42:00 GMT <p> <img src="" /></p> <div>      Our nation has been increasingly tolerant of gay rights. Stirred by the words of Pope Francis, or by Supreme Court decisions, one state after another has accepted the previously unthinkable phenomenon of same sex marriage, of the right of gays to adopt children, of their legally-protected claim to be free of bias in employment. And when other states have passed legislation to discriminate against gays (as Mississippi and North Carolina have recently done), they have been met with fierce boycotts and other forms of opposition.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       Unfortunately, a quite different situation prevails in numerous Caribbean nations, of which Jamaica is a primary offender. That colorful place of superb beaches, reggae music and jerk chicken, is one of nine Caribbean islands to retain laws that make homosexual conduct illegal and a crime. And though few such laws are any more enforced (especially in modern times), they create an atmosphere that has led to numerous bodily attacks against gays by local gangs and hyper-violent individuals.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It is true that when confronted with these undoubted acts of violence, some gays attempt to explain away the problem by claiming that such acts are directed only at Jamaican citizens and not visiting tourists. They patiently argue that gay couples locating themselves in touristic Ocho Rios, Jamaica, are acceptably safe, as contrasted with those venturing into non-touristic Kingston, Jamaica. The only caution for the latter, according to optimistic gays, is the need to refrain from open acts of affection.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I’m not sure I agree. And when asked to offer advice, I suggest that gay travelers will be far more free of discourtesy and worse in such gay-friendly places as the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic. Numerous experienced counselors will also claim that gay tourists will, generally speaking, be better off in Spanish-speaking as opposed to English-speaking islands.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       The same counselors, generally speaking, are critical of such allegedly homophobic island nations as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, the Cayman Islands, and more. They approve of Curacao, but not of Aruba and Bonaire.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The power of the market—the many dollars possessed by gay travelers—may eventually bring about a change in attitudes in such places as Jamaica and elsewhere. When tourist-seeking industries like that of Barbados learn of the business they are losing to St. Thomas and St. Croix, they may begin to act courteously and properly to homosexual couples.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: Wellych/</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d47974ab-cede-4fe3-aca3-c995879e144a Cheaper Trans-Atlantic Flights, Cheaper Hotel Rooms, Fewer Mexican Destinations Sun, 24 Apr 2016 19:27:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /> />  </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Acapulco, Mexico</em></p> <div>  </div> <div>      Though little-noticed, three recent news events have brought about important developments in travel.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Cheaper Transatlantic flights</strong></div> <div>  </div> <div>       In the coming months, a growing number of Americans will fly the Atlantic to Europe for three to four hundred dollars per person less than is normally charged, round-trip. That's the result of an announcement just made by the Department of Transportation, granting widespread transatlantic rights to a low-cost trans-Atlantic carrier called Norwegian Air International.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The major U.S. carriers had waged a massive campaign against that decision, claiming that Norwegian was planning to use sub-talented personnel, that it was "cutting corners" in terms of safety, that it lacked the resources to operate properly. All of this was to no avail. Norwegian, it turned out, was already an experienced carrier flying for several years within Europe, and heavily financed (in the richest country of Europe) with ultra-modern aircraft. Although it had already possessed tentative rights to operate a small number of planes across the Atlantic, it was now to have the right to fly from several U.S. cities to a great many European capitals.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      So cost-conscious Americans now have a means of cutting the cost of a European trip. Though Norwegian's flights will be only a small percentage of those available to Europe, its presence will have an important impact and may even convince other transatlantic carriers to reduce their ticket costs. As for your own immediate plans for a European vacation, you'll want to study the possibilities at <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Cheaper hotels when you book direct</strong></div> <div>  </div> <div>      In other recent news of travel, the giant Hyatt Hotels chain has joined Marriott Hotels in announcing a 10% discount to persons who reserve their rooms directly with the hotel or through a standard travel agent. In effect, these large hotel chains with hundreds of properties have declared war on the so-called "online travel agencies"—most prominently,,,,—and declared they would penalize guests who make use of computers to place their requests for rooms.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      This was bound to happen.  The OTAs are rumored to impose commissions of as much as 30% on the hotels to which they bring guests. To put an end to this expense, Hyatt and Marriott have decided to charge higher room rates (increased by denying a standard 10% discount) to persons who make use of Expedia, et al. A price war has thus been declared, and persons favoring Hyatt and Marriott have been told they will do better if they make their bookings directly with the hotel, without using an electronic intermediary.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Fewer Mexican destinations</strong></div> <div>  </div> <div>      And finally in the news, the U.S. State Department has administered a major blow to the popular resort city of Acapulco, in Mexico, declaring that government personnel will no longer be permitted to visit that city, even in its touristic center. Up until now, the State Department had declared that center to be acceptably safe, but not the more remote neighborhoods or suburbs; the banned area has been greatly expanded. In effect, not only the entirety of Acapulco but the entire Mexican state in which it is found, called Guerrero, have been stigmatized by State. And although the ban applies only to government personnel, it will obviously be observed by tourists.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The Governor of Guerrero and the Mayor of Acapulco have both responded with apoplectic anger, claiming that Acapulco has remained popular and safe, enjoying hotel occupancy rates at times of 85%. Nevertheless, this announcement by our State Department is a major development in Mexican tourism, and it is expected that prudent Americans will now pass up the vaunted beaches, hotels, and nightspots of the famous Acapulco.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:658ff2c8-a2d2-419b-b1cd-19d59bfc3254 The Recent Anti-Gay Action of the Legislatures of Mississippi and North Carolina Has Become a Travel Issue Sun, 24 Apr 2016 18:31:00 GMT <p> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p>  Once, several years ago, I had occasion to meet the troubled daughter of a friend of my wife. I use the word "troubled" advisedly. She appeared anxious and often distraught, she affected a gruff manner, and had difficulty conversing with others. She seemed eager to leave our company and seemed dreadfully uncomfortable as a woman.</p> <div>      Years later, I learned that she had subsequently undergone a sex change operation, and was now a young man. We again met her, and the transformation was remarkable. He was now a confident, assured, young person who interacted easily with others. We learned that he was now studying for an advanced post-graduate degree, and had then embarked on a promising commercial career. Born into the wrong gender, he had righted himself and was pursuing a happy and productive life.</div> <div> <p>      "She," who was now a "he," was the last person I felt should be regarded as an enemy of our community. The thought that he was now to be discriminated against in public life struck me, as it did my wife, as totally outrageous. We rejoiced in his courageous action to correct an accident of birth, and were thrilled to meet this "new" individual who was now the person she was always meant to be. He was now a fully-functioning participant in our local and national life.</p> <p>      He has also become a travel issue. When the legislatures of Mississippi and North Carolina recently voted to stigmatize such beneficiaries of sex change operations, others immediately moved to condemn such action. The governors of numerous states, and the mayors of cities ranging from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, have all taken steps to prevent their public employees from traveling to Mississippi and North Carolina. They have initiated, in effect, a travel boycott of the prejudiced states.</p> <p>      Now, it is not the function of this column on travel to advocate boycotts or to promote the avoidance of boycotts. Such is the free decision of the readers of this column. But I hope that in making that decision, our readers will think about the almost miraculous and thoroughly positive transformation of a human being that I witnessed in the daughter of a friend of ours. Does "she," now a "he," deserve to be treated as less than an American?</p> </div> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">AndrewBain/Flickr </a></em></p> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b64bcc90-8eb6-49ca-9c76-82a481efb489 Beware! A New Airfare Gotcha Penalizes Travelers on Multi-Stop Itineraries Tue, 12 Apr 2016 23:35:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em><a href="" rel="nofollow">TimDorr/Flickr</a></em></p> <p> The majority of travelers buy non-<span class="pluck-fckEditor-spellCheck-wordField">refundable</span> airfares for a simple reason: They're vastly less expensive than refundable fares. But those who try to book itineraries with several stops have been finding, in the past month, that they no longer are given the option of purchasing that cheaper form of fare—at least on Delta, United, and American Airlines.</p> <p> Our thanks to Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press for <a href="" rel="nofollow">breaking the story </a>that the airlines have changed their rules for the booking of itineraries that involve stops in several cities. The reason? Let's just say these carriers have decided to swat a mosquito with a sledgehammer.</p> <p> Because many of the airlines have been matching the lower fares of Spirit Airlines (on the routes they share) some travelers have been finding that booking a multi-stop itinerary to their final destination may be lower than a simple round-trip. To stop this practice, the airlines quietly stopped offering non-<span class="pluck-fckEditor-spellCheck-wordField">refundable</span> fares to anyone trying to book a multi-stop itinerary. This has led, according to Mayerowitz, to price tags six times the previous amount for separate bookings. In one case, an itinerary of Orland-Detroit-New York-Orlando went from $282.30 (when booked as one way tickets) to $2,174.70 when booked as one ticket.</p> <p> So until this rule is changed, know that if you're heading to several cities in the course of a trip, it's imperative that you rely on one-way fares rather than trying to craft one-ticket for all the stops. This holds whether you book on the airlines' website, through a travel agent, or through an online travel agency.</p> <p> Will the rule be around forever? Hard to know, but the Business Travel Coalition has cried foul and is asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether the three airlines illegally colluded on this rule change (and possible money-making scheme). Might I suggest we all add our voices to their complaint? Just follow <a href="" rel="nofollow">this link </a>to do so.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:2ec5b9c1-7f64-4bf3-bd15-cf32d104580e U.S. Airports Suffer Security Delays—Are You to Blame for Rejecting TSA PreCheck? Mon, 04 Apr 2016 14:23:00 GMT <p> The TSA PreCheck program was supposed to make airport security inspections faster for many people. By paying $85 for five years and going through a background screening process (fingerprints, interview, and so on), passengers could earn the right to speed through a speedier TSA checkpoint lane, without having to remove coats, shoes, liquids, and laptops from bags.</p> <p> One problem: Not enough people are doing it, but foolishly, the TSA had already reduced staffing—to please Congress-mandated budget cuts—in anticipation of more signups.</p> <p> Nationwide, TSA staffing was decreased by 10 percent in the expectation that more passengers would sign up for the TSA PreCheck program. But although some 25 million were expected, only a little over 9 million actually entered the program. Too late—TSA staff had already been downsized. </p> <p> Compounding that, some airports have see a rise in usage. Detroit, for example, saw its ridership <a href="" rel="nofollow">increase by 8 percent</a> even as TSA agents decreased. Now, the airport is warning customers to show up 90 minutes before domestic flights and two hours before international ones.</p> <p> For a while, the TSA tried giving the hoi polloi a taste of what the faster line was like—it would randomly summon people out of the slower main line and into the quick TSA Pre line. But that had some negative side effects. First, getting it for free didn't induce passengers to sign up for TSA Pre because it gave them hope that they might be able to use the lanes anyway. But worse, sometimes the process allowed someone on a watch list to pass through the line with less scrutiny.</p> <p> Who's to blame here? First, blame Congress for claiming that anti-terrorism measures are a priority yet not funding the TSA with the full measure of funds it requires to back up all that partisan campaign-trail talk.</p> <p> Second, blame the TSA—but gently, since its biggest sins were in its opening strategy. It shouldn't have cut staff before the PreCheck signups were established—but we understand that when your bosses on Capitol Hill are looking over your budget, they put a lot of pressure on you.</p> <p> The TSA also screwed up the launch of PreCheck by giving it at first to passengers in first class and business class. They probably figured that they were most likely to be frequent fliers who would most enjoy the new system. That strategy is over, but too late. It ruined the image of PreCheck from the get-go, making the program seem like a classist perk—pay more, get faster security. Now millions of Americans perceive PreCheck as something for the rich, which is not what it was intended to be and, in fact, isn't. The $85 you pay (for five years' validity) goes to your background check—to enable the government to do its research on you now instead of later—and your membership card.</p> <p> The TSA also messed up PreCheck by making the application process so laborious. Some cities have offices that conduct interviews, but they're usually booked far in advance, forcing passengers to schlep to an airport just to introduce themselves to government agents. The obstacles end there—once you're in, it's smooth sailing for five years—but the bureaucratic entry system has been a deterrent to signing up. If the city offices were more common and better staffed and people didn't have to make trips to airports just to sign up, they would be more likely to give PreCheck application a try.</p> <p> But passengers are also to blame. We just haven't taken the time to understand PreCheck or put up with its early obstacles. It's true that a certain number of people were never going to sign up, put off by both the fee and privacy concerns, and that each month, as many as 300,000 people do sign up. Nonetheless,  membership should be higher. TSA PreCheck should have far more passengers than it does.</p> <p> Even the staff here at Frommer's is split on membership. I am a member (I paid another $15 to get Global Entry, which also speeds my border re-entry through U.S. Customs), and I'm usually finished with domestic U.S, security checkpoints in fewer than five minutes. Pauline Frommer, on the other hand, is not a member, and she reports she doesn't usually have a hard time with long lines. She's not in a big hurry to sign up.</p> <p> The first solution is to convince Congress to fund the TSA properly so it can adequately staff the main queue. Congress, back in session this week, has Brussels on its mind and may now be inclined to doing just that. Meanwhile, a bill, <a href="" rel="nofollow">H.R. 2843</a>, aims to give more power to the private sector to facilitate easier membership into PreCheck; that has been kicking around Capitol Hill since last year.</p> <p> The second solution, in the meantime, is to put up with a little pain and apply for PreCheck (<a href="">here's how to do that</a>). The government responded to complaints by giving Americans a faster option for easing the misery of airport security inspections—one that costs the equivalent of a few checked bags—but for reasons of our own, some of us refuse to even consider it.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:7967ed49-9423-47c0-ae22-cdbad9c496a0 Now More Than Ever, The American Traveler Will Find Additional Reasons for Scheduling a Stay in Belgium on their Next European Trip Fri, 01 Apr 2016 00:42:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Bruges, Belgium (Photo credit: <span style="color:rgb(50, 53, 55);font-family:Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;white-space:pre-wrap;background-color:rgb(244, 245, 245);">Neilhooting/Flickr)</span></em></p> <div> <div>      The tragedy of terrorism in Brussels is what comes to mind, unfortunately, when we now think of the Belgian capital.  Some 35 persons were killed, and more than 311 injured, by bombs set off in recent days at the Brussels airport and one of its subway stations. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      I have a different recollection of that city and its surrounding area.  And it's a fondness for the character of Brussels and an urge to continue supporting it in tourism, fighting hard against the the kind of fear that ISIS and its dreadful minions hope to instill within us.  Some thirty years ago, I spent a continuous six months in Brussels and other Belgian cities, researching a book that I was later to title "A Masterpiece Called Belgium".  And ever since, I have been an unpaid and unofficial ambassador for all things Belgian. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Belgium then, and probably Belgium now, is not high up on the list of destinations favored by the American public.  Its incoming tourism does not reach giant levels, and the touristic attractions of Belgium are not inundated with visiting crowds, in the way that London, Paris and Rome often are.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And yet, to me, the attractions of Belgium are often second to none. The reason they are often disregarded is because they mainly relate to an era of history--the Middle Ages--that most Americans fail to appreciate. The cities of Belgium--Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Liege, and Brussels--contain large areas where scarcely a brick has been moved for five hundred and more years. The stunning Grand' Place of Brussels--a giant square surrounded entirely by the well-preserved Guild Halls of Medieval times--is a prime example.  It is one of the great sights of the world.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And Bruges is even more of an overwhelming masterpiece. Here, a city that literally "died" five hundred years ago when its river silted up and became impassable for arriving ships, has been left virtually unchanged ever since and is an astonishing reflection of how medieval people once lived. And seeing it, you often become aware that these ancient folk might have had a greater aesthetic sense than we now possess, and certainly a stronger sense of community.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But apart from an insight into an important era of history, what else does Belgium offer to the visitor? Art, first and foremost.  Its museums may be smaller than the Louvre or the Uffizzi, but they are replete with astonishing masterworks by Breugel and Rubens, by the Brothers van Eyck and the modern Magritte, by the many so-called "Flemish primitives" of the 1400s. On one visit alone, to nearby Ghent, your viewing of that city's 24-panel altarpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, in the fifteenth century Cathedral of St. Bavo, will introduce you to a painting that is ranked with Rembrandt's <em>The Night Watch</em> and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa as among the greatest paintings of all time.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And on a more prosaic level, there's Belgian food, which a great many connoisseurs of cooking rank above that of the French. And unlike the great restaurants of Paris and Lyon, whose waiters often treat a foreign visitor with only slightly-disguised contempt, the restaurants of Belgium welcome the tourist, treat you with respect, and show none of the haughty attitudes so often found in its larger neighbor. Belgians do not regard themselves or their society to be superior to others; generally speaking, they have a sense of proportion and a modesty that often greatly contrasts with the people of other nations. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Finally, the nation of Belgium is so compact in size that a visitor to Brussels is easily able to sample several other Belgian cities from a single hotel stay in the capital city. From Brussels to Ghent is only a half hour by train; from Brussels to Bruges is an hour at most. You can leave Brussels in the morning, take in the remarkable sights of another Belgian city, and still return to Brussels in time for evening dinner.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I hope you'll join me in visiting Belgium on your next trip to Europe. By doing so, you'll have a memorable European stay. And you'll show those monsters of ISIS that we won't knuckle under to their grotesque actions.</div> </div> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:95644d3c-1122-43ce-8b3b-70716a66c8be Cynical Eastern City Gal Goes To Nashville…and Converts to Country Thu, 31 Mar 2016 13:29:00 GMT <p> Go to Nashville, and you’re going to come home a fan of country music.<br /> <br /> I know—it happened to me. And I’m from New York City, for Pete’s sake.<br /> <br /> That’s not to say that all Nashville has are shrines to crooners in cowboy boots. Its robust music scene embraces many genres, from classical to blues (the latter scene, in particular, is hot, hot, hot). Multiple universities keep the population young, so nightlife of all sorts abounds. But so do compelling museums and monuments to the past—stately plantations, the only full-size replica of the Parthenon on the planet, a Civil War battlefield and more. The food is fabulous though often deep-fried (dieters beware) and if you’re a shopper you’ll be well pleased, and possibly distressed, by all the temptations here.<br /> <br /> But the experiences that make Nashville a destination, rather than just a city, come with a twang. Like the <a href=""><strong>Country Music Hall of Fame</strong></a>, a complex three times the size of most municipal art museums that takes an alternately scholarly and kitschy approach to its subject that works surprisingly well. On the side of erudition are videos, wall panels and displayed artifacts tracing the genre’s roots back to both the folk traditions of England and Scotland; and the music brought over by slaves from Africa. And for pop-culture thrills, it’s hard to beat taking selfies in front of Elvis Presley’s “solid gold Cadillac” (its 27 layers of paint were mixed with crushed diamonds) or watching a 1970’s Loretta Lynn pitching Crisco on television ads and the Dukes of Hazzard crashing their cars to a country soundtrack.<br /> <br /> The museum’s highlight, however, isn’t actually in the building. Those in the know, pony up a bit extra to visit what may well be the most famous recording studio on the planet, <strong>Studio B</strong>. Visitors are taken in a small bus to the studio, where they see the outside wall that Dolly Parton actually rammed her car into (she was so excited to record there, she hit the gas rather than the brakes when driving up); and the studio where some 1,000 hits were recorded (by everyone who was everyone in country, plus a huge number of rock and gospel stars). Interestingly, this was the first place an “isolation booth” was used to better define the sound of one track (the engineer deployed a coat rack to isolate Roy Orbison's distinctive voice) and where studio musicians first created charts to replace more traditional sheet music. And what could be better than learning that Elvis recorded “Love Me Tender” at 4:30 in the morning, and insisted that all the lights be killed while he crooned (and yes, the tour guide will turn off all the lights while you listen to the song).<br /> <br /> Nearby the Hall of Fame is a shrine to the “Man in Black”, the J<a href=""><strong>ohnny Cash Museum</strong></a> which mixes the tale of this genre-spanning, incredibly successful musician with a history of Sun Records (his first label), stations where fans can “remix” the tracks of his hits, and listening stations where you can hear everyone from Miley Cyrus and Pearl Jam to Leonard Nimoy covering the great man’s tunes. (Dr. Spock had no business cutting a record, in case you were wondering.)</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> A wall display at the Johnny Cash Museum</p> <p> <br /> Nashville’s pinnacle experience is attending a performance of the <a href=""><strong>Grand Ole Opry</strong></a>, either at the smaller Ryman Auditorium or at the massive Opryland. As it has been for decades, the performance is broadcast over radio, so it includes hosts cracking corny jokes, an announcer reading hokey commercials and a dazzling array of talented musicians. When we last went, the headliners were the Gatlin Brothers and Loretta Lynn herself (sounding terrific by the way), but the most exciting performances were those by the young folks who you just knew will be huge names in coming years, like 23-year-old Parker Millsap, who blew the top of the joint with his rootsy howl and harmonica playing. And heck, who doesn’t love seeing rhinestone adorned square dancers perform?<br /> <br /> In conclusion: Yee Haw!</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:5692c7fc-277d-40db-b76f-90c7610df25a You Don’t Have to Leave North America To Have An Exotic Vacation: Meet Eeyou Istchee Baie James Thu, 24 Mar 2016 12:22:00 GMT <p> Eeyou Istchee Baie James—that’s not the name of the latest hip-hop star or a phrase in Norwegian. It’s an area right in North America that few have discovered…but those who have, can’t stop raving about.<br /> <br /> You see, Eeyou Istchee Baie James is a Canadian territory that’s the size of Germany, but with 0.04% the population. Boreal forest covers most of it, with its northern edges fading into the tundra of Nunavik, its eastern border the waters of Eastern James Bay (it stretches about 380 miles inland). Most time of the year, you’re more likely to see herds of caribou, flocks of wildfowl and bears (both black bears and polar bears) than you are humans—though two-legged animals do like to zip around here on snowmobiles in winter. At the region’s heart lies the largest lake in all of Quebec and a slew of rivers, all Meccas for anglers, thanks to the pristine waters and abundance of fish.<br /> <br /> But the charms of the area aren’t just its flora and fauna. Folks interested in Native American culture come here, too, to stay among the Ndooheenou, the Cree tribes of Eastern St. James Bay. Here they can experience a way of life that still has its roots in the ways of the ancestors: For two months out of the year, the Crees close the area to tourists so that they can engage in the traditional goose hunt in May and the moose hunt (in September). At those times of year, enough animals are killed, and then preserved, to serve as staple food for the people for the rest of the year.<br /> <br /> But beyond those times, the Cree are very welcoming of outsiders, and have even put together classes to share their artistic traditions and ways of life. Visitors participate in storytelling circles, and learn snowshoe making, canoeing, and all about the plants of the area and how they’re used in traditional medicines. Much of this happens at Ouje-Bougoumou, a planned First Nations community on the shores of Lake Opemiska created in 1992 by famed architect Douglas Cardinal, the man behind the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (The community won a “Best Designation” citation from Habitat II, a U.N. conference on sustainable urban living.) Outside of this community are dozens of homey lodges that service the needs of fishermen and hikers.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> The Cultural Center at Ouje-Bougoumou</p> <p> Visiting Eeyou Istchee is now far more easy than it once was, as the Cree elders have decided to create packages to encourage tourism. The first, a weekend getaway, includes a night in the community of Ouje-Bougoumou, then a night spent in a traditional Cree lakeside dwelling, set in a black spruce forest. Along with accommodations and all meals (including a traditional food tasting), guests are treated to many of the activities listed above, and all transfers. The cost is CAD$589 (approximately $405 USD), plus airfare from Montreal (it’s about a 90-minute flight; driving in is also possible from New England or the Toronto area). The offer is valid for travel Friday to Sunday from June 1 through August 31. Information on the package can be had by going to <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> or calling 888/268-2682.<br /> <br /> It’s an unusual and fascinating opportunity, I think, to visit one of North America’s most remote regions.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:203272ec-a3a9-427e-bcc9-37e40dd55f19 Last Call for Shamu: SeaWorld to Phase out Orca Whale Performances—Meet the Man Who Made that Call Thu, 17 Mar 2016 18:31:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Soon to be history: The Shamu show at SeaWorld Orlando. (Photo: Jason Cochran)</em></p> <p> SeaWorld has announced that it will no longer breed orcas in captivity at its theme parks. At a future date that has not been announced, it will end the classic performance shows featuring killer whales—an essential SeaWorld attraction for half a century—and replace them with attractions that only display the creatures. The generation of killer whales currently on display in its theme parks, many of which have never lived in the wild, will be its last.</p> <p> "SeaWorld has been listening and we’re changing. Society is changing and we’re changing with it," the company said in <a href="" rel="nofollow">a statement posted online</a>. "They will continue to receive the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices."</p> <p> The company has been under relentless public fire since the 2013 CNN airing of the bootstrap documentary <em>Blackfish</em>, a film that leaned heavily in support of the opposing side of the issue of killer whale captivity and performance, but which nonetheless had a devastating effect on the company's fortunes, resulting in a decline in attendance and canceled appearances by major musical acts. </p> <p> What will the future <a href="">SeaWorld</a> be like? The <em>Los Angeles Times</em>' editorial board <a href="" rel="nofollow">suggested a "new, more natural setting"</a> for its animal interactions, and that seems to be what the company is now building. It's also sinking major funds into new animal-free attractions, such as <a href="" rel="nofollow">the hypercoaster Mako</a>, which opens in Orlando this summer and will attract crowds on its own merits.</p> <p> In California, local authorities had already banned orca shows at <a href="">SeaWorld's original San Diego park</a>, and legislators were drafting legislation banning the collection of orcas from the wild—although, contrary to the way <em>Blackfish</em> made it look, SeaWorld hadn't done that for decades. Even before that happened, though, SeaWorld began planning major expansions of its killer whale habitats to give the creatures more room, although none of the new tanks has yet been completed.</p> <p> Who's the man taking SeaWorld in its new direction?</p> <p> Meet Joel Manby, formerly of Saab and previously at the head of Herschend Family Entertainment (operator of Dollywood and Missouri's Silver Dollar City). He's a Christian businessman who was appointed at SeaWorld's CEO last year—and the minute he arrived, he instantly began remaking the troubled company into something new, green-lighting major projects that would provide an alternative to performances by captive animals without betraying the company's long tradition of aiding conservation.</p> <p> "I've struggled with this decision more than any other decision I've made in business," Manby told analysts after the orca announcement. <a href="" rel="nofollow">He also wrote an op-ed in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>, outlining his thinking and his plans for future changes.</p> <p> I interviewed Manby at Silver Dollar City a few years ago on AOL after a risky appearance on CBS's popular <em>Undercover Boss</em>. He talked about his values as a businessman, which may be a window into how he intends to continue reshaping SeaWorld's future:</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:68b46a61-8de4-4a0a-a3c2-0662c05516bd Starting Now, Solo Travel to Cuba Will Be Explicitly Legal for Americans Tue, 15 Mar 2016 16:00:00 GMT <p> The news out of Cuba is coming fast and furious. Not only are a number of airlines close to being able to offer direct service from various U.S. gateways to the Caribbean island, but Marriot and Starwood hotels will soon be housing guests there. In addition, AT&T will join Sprint and Verizon in offerring roaming service in Cuba. (For more on all these developments, take a look at this <a href="" rel="nofollow">article</a> from the Wall Street Journal.)</p> <p> But the most exciting development has nothing to do with corporate entities, it has to do with a further easing of the Treasury Department's regulations surrounding visits by American tourists. With far less hype than the cast of <em>Hamilton </em>got for performing at the White House, the Treasury Department quietly announced that it would now allow "individual people-to-people educational trips". In a coconut shell that means that as long as visitors say they're going to Cuba for educational reasons, they no longer will have to pay the outrageous prices (of $350 per day and more) charged by the tour companies that have been running these sorts of excursions for decades. In fact, the State Department explicitly wrote that making travel more accessible was a big reason for the new regulations: "<span>This change is intended to make authorized educational travel to Cuba more accessible and less expensive for U.S. citizens, and will increase opportunities for direct engagement between Cubans and Americans."</span></p> <p> To quote directly from the State Department's release: "Individuals will be authorized to travel to Cuba for individual people-to-people educational travel, provided that the traveler engages in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities and that will result in a meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba."</p> <p> So the question now becomes: how will the treasury department <em>know </em>if an individual is in Cuba for educational exchanges....or to lie on a gorgeous beach while nursing a rum and coke? The Treasury Department states that its <span>"statutory prohibition on travel for tourist activities remains in place." But short of sending Federal Agents to do passport checks on anyone getting a tan, there doesn't seem to be anything in today's document about how the law will be <em>enforced. </em>Instead the State Department is asking travelers to </span><span><span>"retain records related to the authorized travel transactions, including records demonstrating a full-time schedule of authorized activities." </span></span></p> <p> <span><span>I think the key word there is "retain"---It's a covering their butts phrase. Because no where does it say that an individual will have to produce this documentation. And if you look at the history of travel to Cuba in the last decade, you'll be hard-pressed to find <em>any </em>individual who has been prosecuted for going to Cuba illegally. It's not a fight that the government has wanted to pick in the past and I very much doubt they want to pick it now.</span></span></p> <p> <span><span>And nor should they, in my humble opinion. Americans should have the right to travel freely wherever in the world they please. These new regulations take us a step forward towards that goal. </span></span></p> <p> Here's a link to the State Department's<a href="" rel="nofollow"> press release</a>.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> Photo of Old Havana by Nick Kenrich/Flickr</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:c4b94208-e4b6-410f-8de5-866378117b29 Is It Possible that a Remedy Has Been Discovered for Travelers' Diarrhea? Mon, 14 Mar 2016 01:57:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr</em></p> <div> Most of the physical ailments associated with travel (travelers' diarrhea, jet lag, and the like) have no known cure. Over the years, I've tried every conceivable remedy for jet lag, and none of them work. In under-developed nations I have also been cautious at meals and snacks, passing up street food, eating no uncooked salad ingredients, peeling the fruit served to me, and still I have encountered occasional stomach problems.</div> <div>  </div> <div> So can you imagine the excitement I've felt over a recent suggestion for warding off travelers' diarrhea, from a noted expert in all things medical?  She is Jane Brody, a long-time weekly columnist in personal health for the <em>New York Times</em>, who appeared as a guest on the weekly radio program presented by myself and my daughter (see <a href=""></a> for the podcast if your local station doesn't carry it).</div> <div>  </div> <div> In an act of sheer courage, grandmother Jane Brody recently took her four grandsons (the oldest being 15 years of age) on an African safari in Tanzania, a country that you would certainly regard as undeveloped. Tanzania is not known for the antiseptic quality of its meals, or the drinkability of its water, especially for people spending a week or so in the bush, far away from cities and in areas where refrigeration is virtually absent, on a safari. </div> <div>  </div> <div> And yet, apart from warning the boys about drinking the local water (more about that later), she and they ate the food that was served them, without fear, without taking any special precautions (like making sure each plate was of hot food that had been boiled or roasted). And yet all five of them--grandmother Jane Brody and her four charges—passed the entire week without incident, without the slightest bit of discomfort, without a twinge of travelers' diarrhea. How?</div> <div>  </div> <div> Well, it's true that they avoided drinking untreated water. She required that they restrict their intake of fluids to water that came out of a capped bottle that had never been opened. She cautioned them about never opening their mouths while taking a shower, and was especially concerned with one young fellow who liked to sing in the shower. He was warned over and over never to open his mouth during that daily routine.</div> <div>  </div> <div> So how did they avoid travelers' diarrhea? Prior to every meal, they chewed tablets of Pepto Bismol (which is often sold in drugstores under other names).  Jane Brody had brought along 15 tablets per person of the familiar pills, for the five-day duration of the safari. And would you believe? Eating everything placed before them by the waiters at their lodge, taking no precautions whatever (except for water) as far as eating was concerned, they all enjoyed five days of safari in the wilderness and jungles of Tanzania without encountering the slightest stomach-associated discomfort.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Now I have no idea who manufactures Pepto Bismol or its many other brands.  I haven't the slightest interest in those companies. But I will certainly remind myself to bring along that medication the next time I go on a trip that ventures away from cities into the bush—in the Caribbean, in Africa, in India, wherever. And you will find me chewing those distinctive pink-colored tablets in the minutes just before taking my first forkful of food. That's how highly I regard the advice of the distinguished Jane Brody (but do consult your doctor about your own possible difficulty in taking Pepto Bismol; there are some conditions with which it cannot be combined). </div> <div>  </div> <div> But now, I hope she'll discover a remedy for jet lag.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:70689d50-c3a8-453d-9675-9ecd61b8a9c2 Still Hoping to Get Away for Spring Break? There Are Some Deals Out There Fri, 11 Mar 2016 19:59:00 GMT <p> Good things probably those who booked early this year for spring break. Alas, airfares are only down 4% from last, despite much lower fuel costs for the airlines. And those trying to score a last minute deal may come away empty handed, if it involves domestic airfare, as planes are already pretty full for March and April. It your plans <em>don't </em>include a flight within the U.S., however, there are still discounts to be found. Here are some of the best:</p> <p> <strong>Cruises</strong></p> <p> Think would-be cruisers may have gotten spooked by the Anthem of the Sea's two aborted, bad-weather cruises? We certainly do, which may be why a number of March and April cruises are going for $100/day or well-under from Bayonne, NJ to the Caribbean. But that's not the only ship that's going for cut rates: at the end of this month, the Norwegian Jade's round-trips from Houston to the Caribbean are being priced from just $399 for 7 nights, and the Carnival Sensation's 7-nighter from Miami to the Caribbean isn't much more at $439. To see these deals, and others, try such sites as <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> and <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.</p> <p> <strong>Cancun and the Mayan Riviera</strong></p> <p> Because of the weakness of the Mexican Peso (it is now at 17 pesos to the dollar, two years ago at this time is was at 12 to the dollar) Mexico is far less expensive to visit than it has been in recent years. According to a study done by <a href="" rel="nofollow"> </a>prices at Cancun hotels are down 45% from last year for spring break. Try that site, or such packagers as Vacation Travel Mart <a href="" rel="nofollow">(</a>), <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, or <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> to score deals.</p> <p> <strong>Ski Vacations</strong></p> <p> Wacky weather around the US has meant feast or famine scenarios at ski resorts around the country. Some have been inundated with snow, others not so much, and still others have had excellent weeks and pretty lousy ones. For those willing to take the risk—and those who don't mind schussing on the man-made stuff—there are boatloads of late-season lift ticket discounts such sellers as<a href="" rel="nofollow"> </a>and <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>. This is in addition to ski lodge deals on <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> and <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> (among other sources). In the case of lift tickets, some resorts are dropping the rate by as much as 80% to get skiers onto the slopes.</p> <p> <strong>Europe</strong></p> <p> Hopping cross the pond will certainly be most cost-effective in spring than in summer, particularly if you can pick up one of the scattered airfare deals from such relative newbies as <a href="" rel="nofollow">WOW Airlines</a>, <a href="" rel="nofollow">Norwegian Airlines </a>and <a href="" rel="nofollow">Emirates </a>(new only to US-Europe routes). With these carriers and their competitors, I've seen rates for the upcoming weeks of as little as $400 between say, Washington, DC and Paris or New York and Reykjavik (including taxes). Considering that the euro is still trading at far less than it used to against the dollar, April in Paris should be more than doable this year.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:0412546a-f3fe-400a-82c0-5474b39fe5d7 Rising Fees Ahoy! New Gotchas From the Cruise Industry Wed, 09 Mar 2016 20:57:00 GMT <p> It’s been a rough winter for the cruise industry. One of its most celebrated newer vessels was tossed around like a cork in a Jacuzzi by a major storm, and then had to return early on a cruise a month later due to threats of another serious gale. And in early March, a Texas man either fell or jumped from the deck of a Royal Caribbean vessel.<br /> <br /> With all of this happening, not many people noticed that it’s been a rough winter for would-be cruise passengers, too. But over the last few months, a number of the cruise lines have implemented new fees and policies that will likely hit passengers where it hurts most---in the wallet.<br /> <br /> This is especially true of those who might have been spooked by the recent bad luck at sea. If those passengers want to cancel upcoming cruises, they’ll have less time to do so, at least on Royal Caribbean. RCCL just announced that it would be cutting down on the amount of time passengers ahead of a cruise that passengers can cancel before a cruise without being hit with monetary penalties from 90 to 75 days, for cruises of five days or less; and 75 to 60 days for longer cruises.<br /> <br /> And cruisers won’t be able to game the system by choosing at the last minute anymore, at least on Royal Caribbean. It has pledged to stop offering last minute deals, which it’s defining as discounts in the last 30 days before a sailing. Whether or not they’ll be able to stick with this goal is up in the air. Some in the industry think it may be a bluff.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> <em>A woman photographs Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas (photo by Jose Luis Cernados Iglesias/Flickr)</em></p> <p> The changes aren’t just on RCCL; rival NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) is upping prices on food and drink. And for its potent potable packages, prices are jumping a good 15% in some cases. For its “Ultimate Beverage Package”—which covers cocktails, wine and beer—the rate will increase from $69 to $75 (plus an 18% gratuity). The cocktail-free version, “Corks and Caps” is also going up in price. And specialty dining packages will now be $10 more, per person, per day.<br /> <br /> Finally, Carnival Cruise Line which instituted strict policies against carrying any bottled beverages aboard in 2015 (even non-alcoholic ones) has upped its prices 20% for bottled water. Thirsty? You’ll now pay $3.99 rather than $2.99 for a twelve pack of water.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:4ec3755f-29d1-41bb-a0ef-0da2a6a6a953 Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next" is Very Much a Travel Film, Introducing Americans of All Political Persuasions to Provocative European Practices and Beliefs Thu, 03 Mar 2016 17:38:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      On the eve of massive publicity for his new documentary movie, "Where to Invade Next", film-maker Michael Moore was struck down with a severe case of pneumonia.  Hospitalized for several days and then required to stay in bed at home for additional time, he was unable to appear on several of the most heavily-viewed, national television shows, ranging from The Today Show, to Late Night to more.  Because the film had a definite launch date, and the television shows had to be cancelled, he was unable to secure the publicity that would ordinarily have brought large audiences to what he regards as his finest film. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      And thus, a travel film taking the viewer to several European countries, opened quietly to smaller-than-usual audiences.  That, to me, is a pity, because the theme of "Where to Invade Next" revolved about the unique solutions to urban, economic and social problems that Europe has adopted, which the strongly-partisan Moore argues should also be emulated in the United States.  Whether you agree or disagree with that position, the film provides a basis for considering Moore's positions.  To remedy that lack, I thought I'd briefly outline the major social policies that he depicts as prevailing in most European countries, which can also be studied on a trip to Europe--a good reason for going there.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Italy, which starts the film, Moore examines the considerable vacation time that almost all European nations require for their populations:  from four to even eight weeks a year.  Moore believes that such policies greatly increase the productivity of workers and are beneficial to the companies for which they work. He also discusses the several months of paid maternity leave given to Italian women who have just given birth. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In France, he takes the viewer into the dining halls of elementary schools, where young children receive three course luncheons with cheese.  His camera then goes into a classroom, again in an elementary school, where children are given calm instruction in sex education, including the use of contraceptives.  He draws a contrast to the outspoken assertion of former Governor Perry of Texas (shown on the film), who claims that abstinence is the answer to teenage pregnancy in America (in a state having the highest degree of teenage pregnancy in the nation). </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Finland, he discusses with school officials their limitation of the school day to three or three and a half hours, and to the firm Finnish policy against giving homework to students.  Reacting comfortably and positively to their school experience, Finnish students have some of the highest educational scores in all the world.  He also interviews Finnish school officials who point out that charging tuition for education is illegal in Finland, which means that even rich parents must send their children to public schools.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Slovenia, he discusses the almost universal policy of European countries to make university education free of charge.  In the capital city of Ljubljana, he interviews several American young people who are obtaining a university education free of charge in that city.  They graduate without debt.  And to accommodate students from the United States, Slovenian universities now teach more than a hundred courses in English.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Portugal, he speaks with police officials who point out that drug possession is entirely legal in that country, thus removing criminal activity from the drug trade.  Portugal, according to them, has much less of a drug problem than almost anywhere else.  They also emphasize that capital punishment is illegal in Portugal. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Norway, he visits comfortable prisons, where the emphasis is on rehabilitation rather than punishment.  Prisoners are treated humanely, are encouraged to study and acquire vocational skills, and the amount of recidivism is much lower than in the U.S.  A large number of Norwegian law-breakers return to society as worthy citizens.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Germany, workers occupy seats on the Board of Directors of the companies for which they work.  Labor strife is thus kept to a minimum.  Workers' privacy is respected, and managers are prohibited from making phone calls or issuing e-mails to their employees outside of normal business hours.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And there is much more to "Where to Invade Next" (which I have summarized based on seeing the film twice).  Although Michael Moore's policies are strongly partisan, the widespread showing of the film is useful to Americans of all political persuasions, both in favor of and opposed to the European practices shown in the film.  Every American should see it.</div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:44a288c1-8f8f-40da-b35d-c12c486df3b5 Since Disney's Latest Decision to Raise Ticket Prices Will Obviously Bar Entrance to Children of the Poor, Shouldn't We Use Public Pressure to Create an Exception for Low-Income Families? Tue, 01 Mar 2016 22:59:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div style="text-align:center;"> <em>Photo credit: Disneyland Resort</em></div> <div>  </div> <div>       Why am I so upset about <a href="">the recent increase in admission prices </a>at the Disney theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim? As you read on this blog, that organization has adopted a form of "surge pricing", increasing its already-high one-day ticket prices by about 20% on weekends and during periods of high demand.  The result is that some parents bringing their children to the Magic Kingdom are faced with prices as high as $124 per person per day for youngsters 10 and more, and $118 for children below 10.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And why am I upset? I am disturbed by the obvious fact that, more than ever before, poor families will be unable to bring their children to Disney World and Disneyland. Poor children, increasingly, will hear their classmates rave about the wonders of never-never land while knowing that they themselves will not be able to experience the same thing. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      In many other areas of American life, we attempt to prevent such disparities. All over the nation, school children including the poor are brought to visit museums of art and nature free-of-charge, without discrimination based on income. In numerous theaters and playhouses, school children of all backgrounds are brought, free of charge, to attend presentations. In New York's Broadway theatres, the producers of the hit play-and-musical <em>Hamilton</em> have set aside cheap lottery seats and seats for school children of all income backgrounds.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Europe, museums of art and history display price charts enabling free or drastically-reduced admission to pensioners and people of low income. They seek to make the wonders of history and art available to all their citizens, regardless of their ability to pay.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Now I am aware that the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chicago Art Institute are not to be compared with the Disney theme parks. The exhibits and paintings of the important museums are vital contributors to education and the proper development of young people. The Disney exhibits, by contrast, are too often frivolous and/or commercial. And yet their fairytales and flights of imagination are marvelous creators of character, and most families believe they are helpful to their children's development and enjoyment. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      I am also aware that under our economic system, no one can force the honchos of Disney to reduce their profits somewhat. They have an absolute, legal right to increase every possible buck of income. They can charge what the traffic will bear.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But shouldn't they also have a conscience? Aware that their children enjoy the riches of these remarkable theme parks while others, less fortunate, are barred from having the same experience? Would it be so earth-shattering if they were to reduce or eliminate admission charges for persons on food stamps or otherwise income-impaired?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And shouldn't we, the more fortunate, use public pressures to sway Disney's policies? Shouldn't we write them, and contact other policy makers, to urge Disney to give thought to the poor? And shouldn't poor children, and not simply well-off children, enjoy the wonders that Walt Disney brought about? For that matter, shouldn't we all remind the current executives of the Disney organization of their creator's love for children of all income ranges?</div> <div>  </div> <div>    Would Walt have stood silent while poor children were barred from his theme parks because their parents couldn't afford the tab?</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:9ff187ac-bd30-4d74-b247-b9ce75c10515 Disney Parks Now Charge Up to 20% More If It's Busy—Tickets Cost Up to $124 a Day! Sun, 28 Feb 2016 19:19:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p> Early this month, I reported that Universal Studios Hollywood <a href="">would charge less for quiet days</a> for guests who booked ahead online, and I predicted that it was only a matter of time before Disney followed suit and simply charged you more to go during popular times.</p> <p> Today, Disney followed Universal's lead.</p> <p> Except where Universal's plan shows customers when they can save money, Disney's announcement mostly raises prices. It announced a tiered demand-pricing system. Think it's bad that tickets already cost more than $100 a day? It's going to get much, much worse. That extremely high price is now going to be the lowest you can find during what the company now terms a "Value" day. On other days, it'll be even higher.</p> <p> Both Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland Resort in California now label each day on the calendar as "Value," "Regular," or "Peak," according to how many customers they expect will come. Usually, the times families most want to go—meaning the days kids tend to be out of school—will be Peak. </p> <p> As you can imagine, Disney is not sparing about what it calls the most expensive Peak days. For example, March 11 to April 2 is a solid block of Peak days. In summer, Peak days start May 27 and don't ease until July 23—nearly two whole months of $124-a-day prices that used to be $105—that's a nearly 20% price hike! </p> <p> At Walt Disney World, The least the Magic Kingdom will ever cost is now $105 (before tax) adult and $99 for a kid aged 3 to 9. That's on a Value day. Regular days are $110/$104, and Peak days are $124/$118. </p> <p> The other three parks at Disney World (Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom) now cost $97/adults and $91 for kids (Value) $106/$102 (Regular), and Peak are $114/108. If you want the right to hop between theme parks on that day, you pony up another $50. (<a href="" rel="nofollow">Walt Disney World pricing calendar</a>.)</p> <p> Disneyland in California suffers similarly: $95/$105/$119. The difference there is Value will often fall on most weekedays, and the Value price is a $4 drop from the previous ticket price of $99—so you can skip work and save $4. But the $119 Peak price is another 20% price hike for the days when families most need to go. (<a href="" rel="nofollow">Disneyland pricing calendar</a>.)</p> <p> A few immediate repercussions and predictions resulting from this new dynamic pricing system:</p> <p> 1) <strong>You'll spend more money.</strong> Extravagant expense is always true of a trip to Disney, a publicly traded company, and it probably surprises no one.</p> <p> 2) <strong>Locals will be turned off.</strong>  Disney representatives already admitted that these drastic price hikes, which began with annual pass prices last fall, are in part an attempt to deal with overcrowding. A percentage of people who used to attend the park on weekends and free days have decided to drop visits from their budgets. </p> <p> 3) <strong>More crowded days across the calendar.</strong> Now that guests are being steered to previously quiet days, those quiet days will now be busier. It will be harder to find a day that isn't unpleasantly heaving with people. This is what happened with the lower-tier rides when Disney started forcing visitors to accept Fastpasses for them. Currently, September has the longest stretch of Value days; January is likely to as well, but Disney hasn't released the schedule for 2017.</p> <p> 4)<strong> More hooky.</strong> More families will be induced to taking their kids out of school to take advantage of Value rates. Disney may soon become a catchword for truancy among the nation's school administrators.</p> <p> 5) <strong>Fewer low-income people enjoying a Disney trip.</strong> I wrote about this in our popular article "<a href="">The One-Percenting of Disney</a>." Those experiences we had in our childhoods of riding Dumbo and visiting the Castle are becoming out of reach for many families, and as more are excluded, Disney's magic for the younger generation will diminish. Where will that put the company in a when those kids grow up and don't care about bringing their own kids? Disney is a victim of its own success, and it's laying a trap for its own future.</p> <p> 6) <strong>Other attractions in Orlando will benefit as more people are priced out of the parks.</strong> Although part of Disney's strategy is to encourage people to extend their stays because per-day prices go down the longer you stick around, we're getting to the pricing point where high rates for short stays will backfire. This week, we published a feature about <a href="">15 Fun Things in Orlando that Disney Vacationers Usually Miss</a>.</p> <p> Every year, planning a Disney vacation becomes a worse chore. The imposition of these pricing calendars is just another layer of bureaucratic misery the Disney company has inflicted on visitors. We can help you navigate planning and know what's truly worth seeing in the parks. Our guidebook to Disney World, Universal, and Orlando has won awards for its plain-speaking talk about how to cut through Disney's pricing burdens and how to plan a Orlando vacation that cuts through the clutter. <a href="" rel="nofollow">Click here for that.</a></p> <p> We also recently published a story on <a href="">how to save money on Disney tickets</a>—meager as the discounts are, they do exist if you know what to do.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:7e7aeaa6-7a2a-4893-a407-e0056d241950 "Wild By Nature"—A Compelling New Travel Memoir—Upends Expectations Tue, 23 Feb 2016 20:36:00 GMT <p> As a professional travel writer, I periodically have to deal with one of the hazards of my profession. It has nothing to do with airport security, or brain eating larvae. No, because of my work, I’m often required to read the latest travel memoirs.<br /> <br /> That may not sound like a hazard, or even a chore, but so many fall into the same pattern that it certainly can be a big bore.<br /> <br /> You open up the book to find that the writer is suffering some form of life-altering calamity. It turns out—surprise, surprise—that a loooong trip is the cure, usually with some sort of goal along the way (to understand what love means, perhaps, or to find the world’s most perfect cheese). After guffaw-worthy misadventures, bouts of loneliness and unexpected camaraderie, the author has a revelation, which usually boils down to “we are all brothers”. And then he returns home, a better (and more fit and tanned) person.<br /> <br /> So it was with a weary sigh that I approached Sarah Marquis’ recently translated, international best seller <a href="" rel="nofollow"><em>Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot</em></a>.</p> <p> And a gasp as I dug into the first chapter, in which Ms. Marquis sets off with no demons at her heels, and finds no comfort or wisdom (or very little) in the people she encounters in Mongolia, the starting point for her attempt to walk the planet from to top Asia to the bottom of Australia (with a freighter trip over the water in between). And why she’s so bereft of human camaraderie comes like a thunderclap: because she’s a woman traveling alone, and the vast majority of travel memoirs (with the big exception of books by Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert) have been written by men.<br /> <br /> That gender gap plays out in a number of distressing ways, from her having to sleep in drainage pipes to hide from would-be rapists on the steppes of Mongolia; to villagers setting fires around her tent in the mountains of China to force her to move on (possibly because they thought she was a ghost). She meets some kindred souls, people who help her along her journey (particularly in Thailand and Australia), but Marquis finds, mostly, that she needs to avoid human contact to survive.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br />  </p> <p> Much of the book becomes about her basic survival (I don’t want to give away any plot points, but she has many hair-raising misadventures); and her finding joy and comfort in the nature she encounters. Her writings on snakes that cross her path, the vast and unbroken landscapes of Mongolia and the Australian Outback, passing birds and other critters, are both lyrical and transporting.<br /> <br /> Ms. Marquis was named “Explorer of the Year” by National Geographic in 2014. After reading her compelling memoir you may want to write a letter of complaint to that venerable institution. Ms. Marquis is really “Explorer of the Decade” and I can’t wait to read about her next adventures.<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:0a4198d1-2bc5-4a6f-b5fb-45bcf006ff32 The Possibility That Those Extra Tall Cruise Ships May Be Top-Heavy Is Given Credence by the Reported 40%-to-45% Listing of the Anthem of the Seas Tue, 23 Feb 2016 04:45:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>      Several years ago, a modern cruise ship—one of those vessels with ten or more decks soaring high into the sky above sea level—was being steered by a junior officer who proceeded to make too sharp a turn. The ship keeled over to such an extent that passengers in a dining room were almost thrown off their chairs. The ship came close to capsizing (but didn't).</div> <div>  </div> <div>      At the time, I ventured a thought that these new cruise ships were possibly top heavy, that they contained so many decks as to make their equilibrium a bit shaky. But my amateur concerns obviously didn't reach the offices of the various ship designers. Responding to the commercially minded CEOs who wanted larger, ever-higher, 6.000-person ships, such new vessels as the <em>Anthem of the Seas</em> and the <em>Allure of the Seas</em> were designed to have no fewer than sixteen decks—that's 16, if you can believe it—soaring up into the air. The new ships look like a giant, narrow, slab of metal, overwhelming the area that lies under the water.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I thought of my earlier wild-stab of opinion—my theory that modern cruise ships might be top heavy—when I read an article in this past Sunday's <em>New York Times</em> by a journalist who had been sent on the cruise to the Bahamas of the ill-fated journey of <em>Anthem of the Seas</em>. You may recall that this new ship, carrying a total of six thousand passengers and crew and sporting no fewer than sixteen decks, sailed right into a hurricane. And for what seemed to that journalist like an hour (other passengers claimed it was closer to four hours, and in 150 miles-per-hour winds), the <em>Anthem of the Seas</em> listed so badly (passengers estimated it was a 40% tilt to the side; some passengers claimed it was 45%) from the effect of the winds that the <em>New York Times</em> writer feared it would capsize and all aboard would drown.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      As it was, the 40-or-45-degree list of the ship caused this person to fall out of his bed, and for various cabin items—including two glasses in the bathroom—to be hurtled from their shelf and smashed into smithereens.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Is the <em>Anthem of the Seas</em> top heavy?  Are these giant new ships with no fewer than sixteen decks, unsafe in a bad storm? Are the tragic fates of the <em>Titanic</em> and, more recently, the <em>Costa Concordia</em>, about to be re-experienced (although the latter two scraped upon either an iceberg or portion of the sea bed, rather than being blown over by hurricane-force winds).</div> <div>  </div> <div>      If you will turn to various Internet search engines dealing with cruise ship safety, you will read statements by one maritime expert after another that such concerns are unwarranted; such accidents don't happen. Cruise ships are supposedly built to avoid capsizing, according to them. These maritime experts, whose livelihoods depend on successfully persuading the public that all new giant cruise ships are safe, never once refer to any actual experiments conducted by sea designers to reach such reassuring conclusions. Have small model cruise ships been sailed into a wind tunnel to determine their ability to withstand extraordinary winds? If they have, the maritime experts never cite a single such experiment. Instead, they seem to rely simply on their own gut instincts based on years in the industry.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But we now have the actual experience of the <em>Anthem of the Seas</em> to contemplate. It reportedly keeled over to a 40% or 45% extent, based on the hurricane-force winds it encountered. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Suppose those winds, as bad as they were (150 mph), had been even stronger, as they have been on occasion (during Hurricane Wilma in 2005, they reached 175 mph; during Hurricane Nancy in 1961 they reached 215 mph). Suppose climate change has increased the number and strength of hurricanes threatening ships at sea?   </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Prior to the recent incident with the <em>Anthem of the Seas</em>, these speculations could have been dismissed as the fears of a crank. But now we have the actual 40-to-45% tilt of that remarkably tall ship in winds of only 150 miles per hour. Is it now time to ask the ship-designers what would have happened to the <em>Anthem of the Seas</em> in a stronger wind?</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:cc5d3bd8-20c8-43df-ad25-f1dc6938b973 Unless a Strong Public Protest Stops Him, A First-Term Congressman is About to Abolish a Requirement for Honest Travel Advertising Thu, 18 Feb 2016 17:50:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>      A very junior, Tea Party congressman, Carlos Curbelo, representing a district in Miami/Dade County, has used his position on a transportation committee to insert an amendment into the annual authorization of funds for the Federal Aviation Authority. The amendment would eliminate the requirement that airlines and tour operators include government taxes and fees in the airfares they advertise to the public.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      A strong public protest could possibly thwart his misguided efforts.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It is exactly three years since the Department of Transportation adopted a regulation requiring airlines and any tour operator advertising airfares to include government taxes and fees in the airfares they list. Prior to this action, airlines were notorious for headlining a low-ball airfare—like "$99 each way between New York and Bermuda"—when they knew full well that passengers actually had to pay a tax-included $299 for the round-trip between those locations. This cynical attempt to play "bait-and-switch" used to mislead would-be passengers about the projected cost of their trip.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      That regulation has now been in existence for three years, and as best I know, it has occasioned no outrage on the part of anyone. As consumers, we are better off knowing the bad news right off, instead of belatedly learning about extra costs after we had committed to make the trip. Are you aware of any public demand that the airlines be spared that requirement? Could anyone other than an airline. tour operator or rich travel CEO be anxious to pull the wool over consumers' eyes?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      So what explains Congressman Carlos Curbelo's action in trying to eliminate the requirement of advertising tax-included airfares? I may be overly suspicious (I really don't know for certain), but I recently paid a visit to the list of contributors to the congressman's election campaign (a Republican, he defeated a Democratic incumbent by a narrow four percentage points in 2014).</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And sure enough, there was an impressive list of aviation-associated donors, including various other fat-cat supporters of his election (Mickey Arison, the major owner of Carnival Cruises, was one such contributor; Richard Fain, president of Royal Caribbean Cruises, was another). Is it possible that Congressman Curbelo is here conferring a benefit on major players in the travel industry, whose interests are often opposed to those of the traveling consumer?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      A strong public protest may yet result in cancelling out that outrageous amendment that would do away with an important protection of the average traveler. Write to your representative in Congress, and ask them to block Curbelo's ploy.</div> <div>  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div style="text-align:center;"> Rep. Carlos Curbelo</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b3a1cfa6-b9e1-42c5-a819-93301c3d45ad Tickets to Be Required To Enter Cinque Terre, Italy's Most Overloved Region Thu, 18 Feb 2016 00:30:00 GMT <p> From a distance the sight is idyllic: five cliff-hanging fishing villages, their buildings painted colors usually reserved for blush and lemonade, the dazzling blue Mediterranean sparkling in the background, view-rich hiking trails leading visitors from one  burg to the next. But step on the cobblestoned streets of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, or Riomaggiore, and you'll encounter a less picturesque scene: Adele concert-sized crowds, pushing their way through tiny, winding streets, packing piazzas, and drowning out the sound of anyone speaking Italian.</p> <p> Last year, some 2.5 million tourists—many on day trips from cruise ships—inundated the little towns and hiking trails of the Cinque Terre. So the officials in charge of the region—considered a historic park and named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO—have said enough is enough. Though the exact mechanics are not yet in place, officials have announced that, very soon, an online ticketing process will go up, in an attempt to dissuade 1 million visitors a year from heading here. Not only that, roads are being fitted with special sensors to gauge just how many are visiting daily. When the limit is reached, roads will be closed and holidayers turned away. People who STILL want to visit (would you?) will have access to an app, also being created by the government, that will tell, in real time, just how bad the congestion is in each city. Officials hope these drastic measures will help protect the landscape of the region for future generations.</p> <p> Our advice for the Italy-bound?</p> <p> Sardinia.</p> <p> Or the exquisite and under-visited city of Bologna.</p> <p> Or the region of Basilicata.</p> <p> Or four-dozen other less well-known places on The Boot where <em>la dolce vita </em>can still be experienced—without the masses and among actual Italians.</p> <p> (Note: The English language version of this story was first broken by <a href="" rel="nofollow">The Guardian</a>.)</p> <p>  </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> A deceptively serene photo of the town of Vernazza (photo by Pank Seelen/Flickr)</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a4fff3d8-bca7-4b50-aebb-dc4708bd3312 The Startling Plunge in the Value of the Mexican Peso Has Created a Vacation Destination Too Favorable to Ignore Tue, 16 Feb 2016 17:20:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>San Miguel de Allende</em></p> <div>      Too little attention has been paid to the enormous recent drop in the value of the Mexican peso--and to the favorable impact this has for American vacationers. While most travel commentators have focused on shifts in the value of European and Asian currencies, hardly anyone has written about the near-40% decline in the Mexican peso that has occurred within the past year. The bearer of U.S. dollars now receives nearly 19 pesos for each one of those greenbacks, as compared with only 13 pesos twelve months ago.Enjoying a splendid meal in a top Mexico City restaurant now costs nearly 50% less.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       But is travel to Mexico safe? According to the U.S. State Department, it is quite safe in broad swaths of the country, but is unsafe elsewhere. In its recent travel advisories, our diplomats point out that none of Mexico's drug gangs have deliberately directed their violence against tourists, and that, therefore, the leading Mexican resort areas and tourist destinations are acceptably safe for our vacationers, who continue to visit Mexico in record numbers.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Specifically, says the State Department, the American tourist is quite safe in Cancun, the Maya Riviera, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. The visitor is safe in the popular Yucatan Peninsula and in Tlaxcala and Veracruz. Tourists need not concern themselves unduly with danger in San Miguel de Allende (the residential choice of large numbers of American retirees), or in Guanajuato or Leon, Campeche, Chiapas or San Cristobal de las Casas. They can travel safely, according to State, throughout the entire Baja California peninsula, and of course to Cabo San Lucas and San Juan del Cabo at the bottom tip of that peninsula. They can go to Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo (provided they visit the last two by airplane or cruise ship). They can stay safely within the tourist heart of Acapulco, but not in its outlying neighborhoods, rural outskirts or suburbs.  The same with Mexico City itself, without venturing just outside the urban area. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Tourists should very definitely stay away, on the other hand, from Mexican areas bordering Texas and Arizona. They should not go to Aguascalientes, Colima or Manzanillo, Tamaulipas or Durango, and numerous other named states or cities of Mexico. When in doubt, it's wise to consult the more detailed listings and comments within the fairly lengthy State Department review of the subject.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Generally, if your Mexican destination is a famous resort or touristic destination, it is safe to visit. And the rewards of visiting the most popular of tourist areas are considerable indeed.  I think in particular of the outstanding resort hotels in the hotel zone of Cancun or along the beach-lined Maya Riviera, cautioning only that the most deluxe of those hotels may seek to charge you in dollars rather than pesos; by staying in moderately-priced hotels of the sort patronized also by peso-paying Mexicans, you will end up enjoying some of the most gentle hotel rates in travel today.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The bulk of Mexico is populated by gracious, outgoing people showing warmth to the foreign tourist. It is too rewarding a tourist destination to be avoided simply because some of its areas--like the border areas--have become embroiled in drug-related violence.  Choosing wisely, you will enjoy a low-priced and entirely safe vacation.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: Enrique Lopez-Tomayo Biosca/Flickr</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:f414c1cb-5296-4c1d-a64c-489c8a4859b1 The Budget-Priced Norwegian Airlines Continues to Disturb the Placid World of Long-Range Airfares with New Discounts, New Bargains Fri, 12 Feb 2016 04:45:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>      Though most avid travelers have already heard of Norwegian Airlines, that new. budget-priced, trans-Atlantic carrier, they haven't heard the most of it.  Seemingly every week, Norwegian is announcing new initiatives that make it an ever-larger player in the world of aviation.  The latest announcement:  a new "base" in Rome, Italy, that will give Norwegian numerous new low-priced itineraries to offer to international tourists.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It's important to realize that Norwegian is no new start-up.  It has been flying within Europe for 22 years, and is currently the third largest cut-rate carrier of that continent.  Financed and supported by the wealth of Norway (the richest European country), Norwegian is constantly upgrading its fleet, and has recently placed an order for an unprecedented number of new, modern, inter-continental planes.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      What's new about Norwegian is its recent decision to fly from the United States to Europe, and its subsequent expansion of the low-cost trans-Atlantic services it offers.  Currently, Norwegian flies from New York, Boston, Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco/Oakland to at least a dozen European gateways, of which London and the Scandinavian capitals are its primary destinations  To London, it currently charges as little as $600, round-trip between New York and the British capital, including all taxes and fees, but not including luggage charges and snacks or meals served en route.  That price, nevertheless, is several hundreds of dollars less than the standard carriers charge, and Norwegian is therefore a lifesaver for American wanting to enjoy a European vacation for the lowest possible price.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Norwegian has also recently begun flying, several times a week, from New York, Boston and Baltimore to the island of Guadeloupe in the French West Indies, this time for as little as $79 each way.  That Caribbean service has become so popular that Norwegian has announced it will continue flying there until the end of April--an extension of more than a month from previous plans.  Indeed, bookings for its Caribbean flights have been so strong that it would have operated the service year around, except for the fact that it doesn't have enough airplanes to operate such a schedule.  Next year, it states, following the delivery of additional planes, it will be operating from the U.S. to the Caribbean on a year-around basis.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      So cost-conscious American travelers should pay heed to this new rogue airline.  It is out to disturb the placid world of trans-Atlantic airfares.  Go to, and pull up its chart of airfares.  You will find that the largest savings aren't available on every date of the year, and that the top bargains often require that you go and return on odd dates, and not simply according to a seven-day or fourteen-day pattern.  By doing your homework, by carefully considering the offers of the cut-rate Norwegian Airlines, you should be able to pay the sort of airfares that were available several years ago.</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: Norwegian</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:9b2c39e3-819e-4d5f-8c38-baced111bb1b Their Sailings Sold at Major Discounts, the River Cruise Industry is Apparently Overbuilt With Too Many Ships Fri, 12 Feb 2016 04:34:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>      River cruises are perhaps the hottest current topic in travel, and you will find countless articles about them in newspaper travel sections, travel magazines and travel websites.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       But what you won't find, in my view, is a subtext:  that river cruise boats are currently overbuilt, leading to an unprecedented number of discounts offered to the public by the river cruise industry.  It may be my imagination (I doubt it), but I find an abundance of such offers in river cruise marketing:  two-for-one offers, free airfare, short-term sales, free cruises for the third person in your party, and many others.  The cost-conscious traveler should look for such offers when they consider a river cruise.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The over-building of travel facilities is a frequent phenomenon in travel.  Someone has a hot new idea, an ultra-popular product, and a dozen other companies rush to produce the very same thing.  One rivercruise company announced last year that it was building 40 new riverboats in one year.  New river itineraries were announced on almost a weekly basis:  not simply new trips along the Rhine, the Danube or the Seine, but in southeast Asia, in South America, on secondary rivers in multiple locations.  The result is too much product.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      If you will go to what is apparently the most popular of the rivercruise websites, which is, you will find dozens of cruises offered to you at discounts starting at 20% and soaring upwards from there.  On that and other websites you'll find not only the elegant and pricey rivercruises (ScenicCruises, Tauck, several others) but also the budget-priced ones.  An example of the latter is, that originally catered only to Europeans but has now set its sights on an American clientele.  You'll often find prices there for considerably less than others charge. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      And you shouldn't steer clear of the Russian-operated river cruises on Russian rivers.  An acquaintance recently sailed on one that was heavily booked by Australian passengers (a rollicking, boisterous lot) and had the time of her life.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Drawbacks to rivercruises?  One of the more expensive companies recently announced that the average age of its passengers was 68.  It is probably even higher on some of the less-costly ones.  Passengers on river cruises are heavily found among people of age, who value the absence of sea-sickness on the placid rivers (an occasional problem of ocean cruises) and the emphasis on quality cuisine.  Those passengers also easily give up the pleasures of casinos (there are none on river cruises) and enjoy the early-to-bed evening entertainment, which sometimes consists of a single pianist.  And although an occasional river cruise company is now listing prices for passengers aged two to nine, children are rarely found on river cruises, and most children would find the atmosphere on board to be quite boring.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Off-setting some of the drawbacks is the fact that some river-cruises are heavily all-inclusive--not all but some:  you occasionally receive unlimited drinks and beverages for the price of the cruise, including free-of-charge mini-bars in your cabin.  And some of the rivercruises--some--include free shore excursions by escorted bus.  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      A good summary of the pros and cons of river cruising is found in </div> <div>, whose editor-in-chief has penned several enlightening essays on the subject.  Keep in mind that a rivercruise is far less dramatic and physically active than an ocean cruise (although some of the newer boats possess exercise rooms and multiple swimming pools); and also consider that the per-day cost of a river cruise is usually higher than on an ocean cruise.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Chacun a son gout ("each to his own taste"), as the French would say.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rolf Heinrich/Flickr</a></em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:fc8ca2f7-95fc-4552-bd3e-0e6041a21e90 Which City Has the Most Expensive Hotel Rates (and the Cheapest)? A New Study Tells Tue, 09 Feb 2016 22:03:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> HRS, a Germany-based digital company that works in hotel reservations systems, has <a href="" rel="nofollow">released the results</a> of a new study that calls out the cities with the most expensive hotels.</p> <p> The exact methodology of the study was not revealed, but <a href="" rel="nofollow">HRS represents a quarter million hotels</a> around the world, so its results could be taken as a fair snapshot of the current international pricing situation.</p> <p> Based on the average city-wide nightly rate, in U.S. dollars, here are the most expensive cities <strong>worldwide</strong> as named by the study,<strong> </strong>converted from British pounds at today's rate.</p> <p> 1. New York: $285</p> <p> 2. Washington: $223</p> <p> 3. London: $204</p> <p> 4. Tokyo: $187</p> <p> 5. Sydney: $184</p> <p> 6. Miami: $166</p> <p> 7. Rio de Janeiro: $163</p> <p> 8. Dubai: $159</p> <p> 9. Seoul: $136</p> <p> 10. Toronto: $135</p> <p> 11. Mexico City: $132</p> <p> 12. Mumbai: $117</p> <p> 12 (tie). Cape Town: 117</p> <p> 14. Buenos Aires: $113</p> <p> 15. Shanghai: $97</p> <p> Now let's look at the results among the most popular destinations in <strong>Europe</strong>. A year ago, London <a href="" rel="nofollow">stole the top spot</a> from Zurich, a dubious position it maintains. Worse, the average nightly rate in London shot up 31% in a single year. Blame an influx of investment from wealthy people from Asia and the Gulf oil states, which is also inflating London's residential rents to nearly untenable levels.</p> <p> 1. London: $204</p> <p> 2. Zurich: $184</p> <p> 3. Copenhagen: $156</p> <p> 4. Paris: $149</p> <p> 5. Amsterdam: $145</p> <p> 5 (tie). Stockholm: $145</p> <p> 7. Milan: $140</p> <p> 8. Helsinki: $130</p> <p> 9. Oslo: $127</p> <p> 10. Barcelona: $123</p> <p> 11. Rome: $113</p> <p> 12. Athens: $106</p> <p> 13. Madrid: $103</p> <p> 14. Lisbon: $101</p> <p> 14 (tie). Moscow: $101</p> <p> 14. (tie) Vienna: $101</p> <p> What can these lists tell us? Well, for one, there's an uncharacteristic uptick in cities that trade heavily in banking (Zurich, New York, London) and fashion (Milan—which rose 14% in a year—plus Paris, Miami). Seats of government score high (Washington, DC, being the worst among them), but it's hard to avoid that since so many capitals are important tourism destinations, too.</p> <p> It also stings to rent a room in Scandinavia, but that news should surprise no one. What is surprising is the relative expense of staying in Spain, Greece, and South Africa despite the weaknesses in their respective economies. At least at the major hotels there, prices are keeping up with a high tariff, probably because they rely on business travelers who can afford to pay them, so in those locations, it will pay to seek out mom-and-pop accommodation rather than a multinational hotel company—which is good advice in any city where you need to save money on hotel rooms.</p> <p> Also note what popular cities did <em>not</em> make these lists: Berlin, whose average of $98 was too low to make the Top 15 in Europe. Same for Prague ($77). </p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo: The Dorchester, London. Credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a></em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:0c2dc6b8-7b6b-4611-8522-7e05a93249eb A Dramatic Rise in Travel Scams Must Teach Us to be Vigilant and Aware on Our Vacations in Unfamiliar Settings Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:52:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>      We live in a nation besieged by imposters. In our homes, the phone rings several times a day with various robot-callers threatening us with debts that don't exist, offering to fix computer problems that they themselves have caused, demanding that we pay taxes to an address they have concocted. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      And travel is not immune from such tricksters. In airports and hotels, in particular, scoundrels seek to make money from our own innocent negligence. In a recent <em>Washington Post</em> article written by Kate Silver, the author of a best-selling guidebook published by (<a href="">Frommer's EasyGuide to Chicago</a>), she outlines some of the more frequent scams that are currently directed against travelers.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The most frightening of these was recently identified by our State Department as particularly prevalent in Russia, though it has been know to occur in other countries as well. In an airport waiting for a flight, a passer-by asks us to look after their luggage while they go to a restroom—and the imposter places a suitcase at our feet. Within seconds, a person purporting to be a policemen shows up and claims we are the owners of stolen luggage. He opens the suitcase to show drugs or other contraband items inside, and threatens to arrest us unless we make a payment to him. The frightened airline passenger pays up, in a transaction known as the Airport Scam.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And then there's the Handoff Scam. You're in a friendly crowd in a foreign city, and someone--a complete stranger—hands you a CD or a bouquet of flowers to hold. Puzzled, you hold them. And suddenly a confederate of the donor demands that you pay a sum of money for the CD or bouquet you are holding.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Or you're in your hotel room, and someone slips a take-out menu under your door. The phone later rings and you're asked for your order. You place it, and recite your credit card number. The food never arrives, because the architects of this plan are busily placing purchases on your credit card. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Or—and this is one of the most innocent and frequent scams—you tell a taxi driver that you are unfamiliar with the city in which you are riding. He/she then proceeds to drive you for an hour to a reach a location only a block away from where you picked up the cab. Or, from a jewelry store in Istanbul or Bangkok, you buy a stone priced at two hundred dollars, only to learn upon arriving home that it is a piece of colored glass.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I'm grateful to Kate Silver for reminding us of these frequent assaults on our pocket books and self-esteem. You avoid them by constantly reminding yourself that you are in unfamiliar surroundings and must necessarily be more vigilant, more sensitive, less unaware, than you would be in a neighborhood where you live.</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> Photo credit:<a href="" rel="nofollow"> Monkeymanforever/Flickr</a></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:30bab501-a349-427d-8f9b-510ec186ac4d A Number of Recent Travel Developments Have a Direct Bearing on Your Own Next Vacation Trip Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:23:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>      A vitally important travel event was the recent decision of the World Health Organization to elevate the <strong>Zika virus</strong> to the status of a global health emergency. Most outbreaks of the virus have occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, and travel to those nations may be significantly reduced.</div> <div>  </div> <div>     Zika is widely feared even though its impact on most people is either minor or non-existent. But it is also believed to be the cause of tragic brain defects in newborn babies, and pregnant women are therefore urged not to travel to areas where the risk is great. Nevertheless, the consequences should be kept in a far calmer perspective by most adults.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In Brazil, where the virus has been detected, officials of the forthcoming Olympic games have been nearly frantic in pointing out that the Olympics this year will take place in August, the “winter” of Brazil, when mosquito infestations are at their lowest ebb. August in Rio is a coolish time, when Zika’s impact should be slight.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Turning to better travel news, a documentary film and a new book-length memoir are travel-related in an important sense. I've written earlier about Michael Moore’s rollicking <strong><em>Where to Invade Next</em></strong> movie, which takes the viewer through several European countries (and Iceland) for the purpose of examining various social and political policies which he believes should be adopted in the United States. Whether you agree with that advice or not, you will be greatly entertained and edified by Moore’s presentation, which has finally been released (after a long waiting period; February 12 is the exact date of its appearance) in movie houses across the country. I earlier believed that it would be available to the public at a far earlier time; and am happy to correct that impression, now that the film can actually be seen.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The other cultural event bearing on travel, a colorful, book-length memoir by feminist icon <strong>Gloria Steinem</strong>, is called <a href="" rel="nofollow"><em>My Life on the Road</em></a>, and is a fascinating tale of the almost-constant travels in which she has been involved, advocating the triumph of the feminist movement, following her first appearance on the national stage. Gloria Steinem believes that widespread, frequent travel is essential to a civilized life, and her colorful telling of episodes from her travels is not only entertaining but highly instructive (she has no car and does not drive and believes that the use of public transportation--buses, planes, even taxis--leads to life-altering contacts with other people). It is an entertaining but instructive best-seller that every American traveler should read.  (I emphasize its travel lessons, although the achievements  of feminism are obviously the goal for which she made these trips, in a lifetime of constant travel).</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Speaking of books: While I hesitate to fill this column with news of the travel guides that my daughter and I publish, I can’t resist advising that three of our most unlikely guidebooks have recently surged to the top of the bestseller lists (as other travel publishers have also experienced). Our <em><a href="" rel="nofollow"><strong>Frommer’s EasyGuide to Iceland</strong></a></em>, of all places, was recently our best-selling book, and it was soon followed by our guidebooks to <a href="" rel="nofollow">Cuba</a> and <a href="" rel="nofollow">Japan</a>. Apparently, travel to Iceland is booming, and recent visitors to that lightly-inhabited country have returned with ecstatic stories of its fascinating attractions. Cuba is next on the list, even though the slow process of negotiating flights and cruises there has thus far limited the number of people actually going. And the plunge in the value of the Japanese Yen has resulted in a near-avalanche of American travel to the “land of the rising sun.” Hence, a book that we once hesitated to publish is enjoying record sales.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Is it safe to travel to <strong>North Korea</strong>? All of us would normally have shouted a resounding "No," except for tours operated by two foreign companies headquartered in Beijing: Koryo Tours and Young Pioneers, which both have an impressive record of conducting rigidly organized group trips to Pyongyang and nearby, from which all participants have returned safely. Their tours were so closely supervised by local officials that no participant could be claimed to be a “spy” or “oppositionist” by the North Koreans.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But recently, the luck of Young Pioneers’ tour program ran out, and one of their tour members—apparently a young American—went missing, probably detained and imprisoned. So how should one answer a renewed question—is it safe to tour North Korea?  With a resounding "No."</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:ed882361-a6c9-42f2-82a5-8cf109a6c119 Theme Parks Now Charge More for Busy Days in a "Demand Pricing" Game Changer Wed, 03 Feb 2016 01:44:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Universal Studios Hollywood's "EZ Rez" advance purchase calendar for February, 2016</em></p> <p> On April 7, the original <a href="">Universal Studios in Hollywood</a> finally gets its own <a href="" rel="nofollow">Wizarding World of Harry Potter</a>. After two phases of the attraction have already opened in Orlando and transformed the fortunes of the Universal resort in Florida, the Los Angeles property is finally getting a taste of Pottermania. Let the Butterbeer flow!</p> <p> <a href="" rel="nofollow">Universal Studios Hollywood</a> was built in a tight hillside location, and experts predict the influx of visitors will stretch the area's limits to tolerate crowds. The preparations for the expected masses of visitors have been extreme: freeway exit ramps are being closed, entire new parking structures erected, pedestrian overpasses built, and season passes voided for the first weeks of its opening.</p> <p> This week, Universal announced one more major change that we ought to have seen coming: <a href="" rel="nofollow">It will charge you more to come when it's busy</a>.</p> <p> Like airlines and hotels, amusement parks are taking up "demand pricing"—that is, charging people more at times when they most want to go, and charging them less when things are quiet.</p> <p> Calling it "surge pricing" isn't a fair assessment of how it will work—it won't work the way Uber's does, which doubles or triples prices when cars are in demand. Instead, in Universal's case, the upcharge is regressive: One-day adult tickets will always cost $95 when purchased at the front gates in Universal City. But buy them ahead of time online and you'll get a discount, and that's where the demand pricing comes in.</p> <p> Discounts for periods of historically weak attendance, such as a winter weekdays, will be $20 off the standard price when booked online. But the advance discount is only $5 when it's peak season or a weekend. Ergo, if you go when everyone else wants to go, you'll pay more to get in than if you go during a day that's marked as low season. No matter what, though, walk-up tickets will go no higher than $95 (for now).</p> <p> This is no one-off discount promotion. It's a portent.</p> <p> Universal is couching dynamic pricing as a form of advance-purchase discount, but it won't be long before theme parks are openly charging more for walk-up tickets depending on the day you go. It's almost certain that variable pricing is the wave of the the theme park future.</p> <p> We know that Disney is mulling something similar. Last year, Walt Disney World circulated a questionnaire among its most devoted guests that asked them what they'd think of a new ticket pricing structure that charged different admission rates depending on how busy things were in the parks. And Legoland Florida did it, mostly unnoticed, when it opened a few years ago.</p> <p> At Disney's hotels, the pricing calendar is already carefully parsed into pricing tiers. Go when the kids are out of school, and you pay the most. Carrying that scheme over to admission prices is just a matter of time, especially considering the fact that Disney is already battling overcrowding. The company's recent announcement that its annual pass prices would be hiked as much as 31% in an effort to trim crowds. Higher prices crowd out some guests, which leads to a phenomenon we have covered as <a href="">The One Percenting of Disney</a>.</p> <p> Higher prices on peak days also encourage guests to plan ahead, which helps Universal and Disney plan better for efficient operations—and ideally, keep long lines in check. Will theme parks now post a SOLD OUT sign on busy days? It's unlikely. Right now, capacity-crowd closures only tend to happen in the thick of the December holidays, and that's without the pressure-release valve that demand pricing could provide.</p> <p> To encourage even more people to plan ahead, if you book early, Universal will allow guests enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an extra hour earlier than the posted opening time, giving them a jump on the crowds.</p> <p> There is a consumer upside to demand pricing—at least the way Universal Studios Hollywood has structured it for now: It will enable more people to save money off the high admission price, which is not always easy to do under the current system. It will also help people visit on days that are predicted to be less crowded, which ideally would cut down on wait time and maximize the value of their tickets. </p> <p> The bigger concern now is whether, as crowds shift their plans to previously quiet days in search of cheaper prices, is whether theme park low season is about to become a pleasure of the past.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Los Angeles' Hogwarts and its "show building" under construction, September 2015</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:aaa7587f-772e-4c4a-9858-57ae27f8fe0f River Cruises, An Improved Chicago, Memorials to Terrorism, Airbnb Besieged, and Passport Renewals: The Stuff and Substance of Travel Fri, 29 Jan 2016 19:37:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>     The commercials for <strong>Viking River Cruises</strong>, which appear on<em> Downton Abbey</em> and <em>Homeland</em>, are certainly the most beautiful and successful of all such advertising. But their scenes of tourists hobnobbing backstage with cooks and enjoying other singular opportunities are certainly non-representative of the kind of sightseeing experience that passengers will enjoy. I'm willing to bet that people on the (admittedly lovely) Viking "longboats" will sightsee on the same crowded motorcoaches made available to all passengers on European river cruises....</div> <div>  </div> <div> Tourists to Chicago are currently enjoying one of the great bonuses of travel at the <strong>Chicago Art Institute</strong>, which last year received a bequest of 45 masterworks of contemporary art which have now catapulted that museum into the top ranks of all the world's finest art exhibitions. This happened within the past year, and if your own last visit to "the city of broad shoulders" occurred later than that, you have a major reason to return. (You will also enjoy more Michelin-starred restaurants than in any other U.S. city; Chicago is jumpin').... </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Americans frightened of the possibilities for terrorism in Europe might want to remember that one of the most celebrated instances of such events took place in <strong>our own Oklahoma City</strong> in 1995, when the infamous Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal office building killing 168 persons, including 19 children.  Currently, one of the most important sad "attractions" of American travel is the Oklahoma City memorial to that tragedy, consisting of 168 chairs bearing the individual names of victims. The designers of the September 11 Memorial in New York City apparently traveled to Oklahoma City to receive advice on the design of such sights.....</div> <div>  </div> <div>      A violent battle is currently being waged between the room-sharing <strong></strong> and the hotel industry, over whether scores of major cities should prohibit the short-term rental of apartments or rooms in apartments. Representatives of the two major contenders have recently appeared in speeches before gatherings of mayors, with claiming it is now collecting taxes on its room rentals, thus improving municipal revenues, and hotels claiming that rentals avoid the safety regulations applicable to hotels (and also removing apartments from their availability to permanent residents). For the time being, users of should be careful to avoid being involved in that battle, and should be reminded that the one perfectly-legal use of is a rental of a room in an apartment whose owner remains in residence.... </div> <div>  </div> <div>      The expiration dates of their U.S. <strong>passports</strong> is something of which most Americans are unaware. But they should be. The U.S. State Department has announced that in just a few months, the number of applications for passport renewals will be so great as to create long waiting periods for them. Everyone, according to our State Department, should urgently check their passports and immediately apply for extensions if those are necessary. To wait is to hazard a long wait.  Why is this necessary? Almost exactly ten years ago, the sudden need for passports to travel to Canada resulted in massive applications for passports that will now expire in just a few months.</div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:dad18766-64cd-4f1d-b03f-38a79e9aba29 A Continuing Drop in the Value of Most Foreign Currencies, Creating a Stronger-than-Ever U.S. Dollar, Has Created New Cheap Destinations for the American Tourist Fri, 29 Jan 2016 18:19:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>      Among the major recent events in travel, illustrating a larger trend, has been the continued sharp decline in the value of the Russian Ruble.  That currency enjoyed, two years ago, an exchange rate of 33 to the U.S. dollar, and then plunged last year to a level of 65 to the dollar, which most observers felt to be its bottom value.  Lo and behold, the Ruble has now plunged again to about 80 to the Dollar, and the cost of a stay in Russia, for the American tourist, has become quite low.  All this has occurred, of course, because the Russian economy--almost totally dependent on the sale of oil--has been battered by the current price of oil averaging $30 a barrel.  If you have ever felt curious about life in Moscow and St. Petersburg, you now have the best-ever conditions for a stay there.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      That Russian development has caused me to realize that I have negligently limited my own discussion of the currently-mighty value of the U.S. Dollar (and its impact on tourism) to the European Euro, the Canadian Dollar, the Japanese Yen, the Indian Rupee, and the Australian Dollar.  I should have pointed out that the currencies of our neighbors to the south have also plummeted.  The Mexican Peso, which recently sold at 13 to the Dollar, is now exchanged at 18 to the Dollar.  The currencies of both Brazil and Argentina have also fallen by half against the Dollar.  To a large part of the world, there has rarely been a more advantageous time to travel for Americans possessing Dollars.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      To see the latest exchange rates, go to the oddly-named website  And to actually obtain your foreign currency, always wait until you have actually arrived at your destination; exchange rates in the local area are nearly always more favorable to American tourists than the rates you will receive from U.S. banks.  And generally speaking, ATM machines at the destination will usually provide you with your foreign currency at excellent rates of exchange.  ATM machines are just as easily found overseas as they are at home, but it is important to remember that they will usually require use of a four-digit pin number.  If your own pin number is lengthier than that, have it changed to the shorter version before you set out on your trip.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      One final caution:  in some countries whose currency has drastically fallen in value--Argentina is the best example--expensive luxury hotels will often raise their room rates to well-heeled American tourists, thus erasing the advantage of a strong U.S. dollar.  To be certain that you are obtaining the advantage of good exchange rates, it's important to stay at modest hotels of the sort that will have a strong local clientele (and not simply overseas tourists).  By avoiding the deluxe properties in Argentina, for example, and staying only at modest hotels, you will now receive the advantage of the strong drop that has taken place in the Argentinian Peso.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:07b72b98-439a-4ccc-b614-64730ffd6510 Here's How to Use Air Canada to Stop in Toronto for Free on Your Way to Europe or Asia Wed, 27 Jan 2016 18:30:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p>  </p> <p> The Canadian dollar has been dramatically sagging against the U.S. dollar—if you're carrying greenbacks, it can feel like the entire country is having a liquidation sale since everything is 40% off what it would cost you back home. So it's a perfect moment to fly to a major Canadian city for free.</p> <p> Wisely seizing the moment, Air Canada just extended its promotion that allows anyone flying on the airline from America to stop over for free in Toronto, which allows you to stop there for a few days without increasing the cost of a normal round-trip ticket to your final destination or paying extra for the right to leave the airport for a few days mid-journey.</p> <p> The free-stopover deal was put in place last fall, but popular demand has extended its life until this spring, and I'm hearing rumblings that it <em>might</em> soon become a standard offering.</p> <p> Here's how to use it: When you book a ticket on, use the <a href="|multicity_link|usbtmicro|usen||txt" rel="nofollow">multi-city option</a>. Fly anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Europe or Asia with a lingering stop in Toronto using one of these three airlines: Air Canada, Air Canada Express, or Air Canada Rouge. Make sure your class of carriage is Flexible Economy (Flex, Latitude, or Premium Economy) or Business Class—in other words, nearly every seat on the plane.</p> <p> (As always, also test the cost of the same trip with a rival carrier or website to make sure you're getting the best deal.)</p> <p> Right now, the <a href="" rel="nofollow">Toronto Stopover Program</a> is supposedly only valid if you book your ticket (to fly anytime) by March 31, 2016.</p> <p> We hear that since the promotion has already been extended once, there's a good chance it may become a lot more regular, but for now, it's only guaranteed on purchases made through March. We'll see. If Air Canada does decide to make this permanent, it would join a roster of airlines that are helping to boost tourism at home by offering free stopover deals—<a href="">click here for a current list of all the airlines that offer them</a>.</p> <p> Stop in Toronto and stay there for nearly half the price a Canadian would pay? Yes, please. </p> <p> <a href="">Click here for Frommer's' coverage of what to do in Toronto</a>, and don't forget that Toronto is just a day trip away from <a href="">Niagara Falls</a>.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo credit: Jamie in Bytown/Flickr</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:38f2bac7-f766-4a03-b735-b3baeb2edc23 A Major Study Is Out And What It Says About Trends In Airfares Could Save You Big Bucks Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:24:00 GMT <p> For aviation geeks (like me), the day that the Airline Reporting Corporation releases its annual survey of airfares feels like a birthday—one on which you don’t get any older. And this year, I felt like I was getting miraculously <em>younger</em> because the ARC joined forces with the Expedia family of brands to put out one lollapalooza of a survey.<br /> <br /> Together, the computers of these two travel giants sifted through some 18 billion fare transactions (10 billion from the ARC, which is the middleman between bricks-and-mortar travel agencies and the airlines; and 8 billion from the Expedia group) to see what the trends were, in both pricing and the timing of tickets. What they discovered could make the difference between paying too much for a ticket and getting a deal.</p> <p> Here’s how it breaks down:</p> <p> <strong>What day to book:</strong> Two years ago, Tuesdays were the magical days on which travelers got the best airfare deals. That has now shifted, and statistically those who book their fares over the weekend (either Saturday or Sunday) tend to pay the lowest rates. And let me clarify: I’m not talking about the day you fly, but the day on which you pay for the ticket. In some cases, that amounts to a savings of nearly 20% over those tickets bought on a weekday. The researchers noted that most business travel is purchased during the week, which may be why prices tend to tick up then.<br /> <br /> <strong>How Far in Advance to Book:</strong>  Last-minute travelers get bonked, as do those who purchase travel ten or eleven months in advance. In general, those travelers who book in the sweet spot tend to pay the least. But that sweet spot shifts depending on where you’re flying. In a nutshell:</p> <p> •    Those traveling <strong>domestically</strong> in <strong>North America </strong>do the best (statistically) when booking 57 days in advance of travel<br /> •    Flights from <strong>North America to Europe</strong> should be purchased 176 days in advance to get the best rates<br /> •    Flights from <strong>North America to the Caribbean</strong> are cheapest 77 days out<br /> •    Airfares to either <strong>Asia or the Pacific from North America </strong>are least expensive when purchased 160 days ahead<br /> •    Those flying from <strong>North America to Africa or the Middle East </strong>want to buy 144 days before travel<br /> •    <strong>North America to South America</strong>? The best rates are had 90 days in advance</p> <p> For most of these routes, the savings are significant, at 11% to 13%, but those who hit the sweet spot for Africa and the Middle East tend to save a giant 24% off the cost of a ticket.<br /> <br /> <strong>What’s the Overall Outlook for Airfares? </strong>Again, this shifts depending on where you’re flying, but globally airfares declined 8% from 2014 to 2015, with the biggest drops coming for intra-European airfares. So, if you’ve ever wanted to jet around Europe, the decrease in pricing (fares are down an average of 18%) mixed with the decline in the value of the euro against the U.S. dollar, make this an ideal year to do so.</p> <p> Airfares within North America are down only 5%, likely due to the lack of competition on these shores, but here’s hoping that the drop in the cost of oil pushes them down further.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Photo by Colleen Lane/Flickr</a><br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:97c72cda-f484-46d0-85d0-f27b9233f055 What Travelers Need to Know About the Zika Virus Tue, 19 Jan 2016 22:20:00 GMT <p> As frigid blasts of winter descend on much of North America, visions of blue sky, sandy beaches and swaying palm trees are being rudely interrupted by a buzzing sound. And it’s a very scary buzz, at that—the buzz of a mosquito that carries the Zika virus.</p> <p> Though the virus is not new, in the last year pregnant women who have been infected have given birth to children with microcephaly, a condition that causes the development of abnormally small heads and, in tandem, brain damage. In response, the Center for Disease Control in the United States, and other medical travel organizations, have issued warnings urging pregnant women, and those of childbearing age, to stay out of the infected areas. So what do travelers need to know?</p> <p> <strong>Where the virus is:</strong><br /> Right now, the CDC is warning against travel to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. But it is believed that the virus could easily make the jump to places like Florida, Texas and Hawaii because both are infested with the types of mosquitoes that carry the virus. The virus also exists in parts of Southeast Asia and Africa, though infections there have yet to result in birth defects. (Note: Since this article was published, its been released that travelers have now brought the virus back to Hawaii, Florida, Texas and Illinois. Happily for those in the last state, officials feel there's little chance of it spreading there because the state does not have the right types of mosquitos to spread it. The same cannot be said for the other states).<br /> <br /> <strong>Who is at risk:</strong><br /> Anyone can get the virus, and its symptoms are generally mild: rash, fever, joint pain and reddening of the eyes. But when a pregnant woman gets it, particularly in the first trimester, irreversible damage can be done to her baby.<br /> <br /> Women who are not pregnant but plan to become mothers in the future are not endangered by getting the virus.</p> <p> “Zika virus infection does not pose a risk of birth defects for future pregnancies,” Candice Hoffman, a spokesperson for the CDC told me. “Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for only a few days to a week. The virus will not cause infections in a baby that is conceived after the virus is cleared from the blood.  Out of an abundance of precaution, a woman could consider waiting 2 weeks after she returns from a place with ongoing to transmission to become pregnant.  This will allow enough time for her body to clear the virus in the event that she was infected.”</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> <em>                                             The Caribbean island of Martinique is one of the infected areas (photo by Sebastian Avenet/Flickr)</em><br /> <br /> <strong>How the virus is spread:</strong><br /> Mosquitoes of the Aedes species are the primary transmitters, and since they tend to bite during the daytime, no scientists are yet suggesting sleeping under mosquito nets. However travelers who are going into the infected areas are strongly urged to use bug spray containing DEET; wear long-sleeved shirts; pants, shoes, and hats; and keep screens on windows and doors.<br /> <br /> In addition, humans infected with the virus can pass it on to a mosquito which can then pass it along to another human being, which is why scientists are worrying that the disease may spread to the United States soon. That's also why they’re urging all travelers, and not just pregnant women, to ward against mosquito bites.<br /> <br /> In addition, there have been suspected cases of transmissions through blood transfusion and sexual contact.<br /> <br /> <strong>What are the treatments?</strong><br /> Currently there is no treatment for the virus, though the <em>New York Times</em> reported scientists are working on a vaccine. That won’t likely be available for many months—or even years.</p> <p> (<strong>Update January 21</strong>: Researchers now suspect that an uptick in the rare disease Guillain-Barré, which causes temporary paralysis and can lead to death, could be linked to the Zika virus, at least in Brazil. To read the New York Times report, <a href="" rel="nofollow">click here</a>.)<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:046edb27-f41f-4203-8195-4adaf413ee56 Arthur Frommer's Ten Commandments for Making a Trip by Air in Today's America Tue, 19 Jan 2016 17:57:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p> The airports are jammed and so are the planes. People are crammed into every seat. They’re irritable and anxious, and so are airline staff. You need to take precautions and follow safe procedures of a sort that you would never have considered in earlier days. </p> <div> Here are my ten commandments for air travel in today’s America:</div> <div>  </div> <div> (1) Leave early for the airport, earlier than you have ever left before. Lines for the T.S.A. are occasionally so long that you will miss your flight unless you allot considerable time for clearing security.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (2) Don’t dawdle on your dash to the gate. Planes have been known to close their doors as early as 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time, and passengers who have stopped to shop along the way have been blocked from boarding their flight.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (3) Bring sandwiches (made at home) for sustenance. Don’t find yourself dependant on the puny, tasteless snacks offered by the airlines for outrageous rates.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (4) Leave more than an hour for changing planes en route. If you are on a one-stop flight that requires you dash from one area or terminal to another, you will almost certainly miss the onward flight on occasion, if you rely on the airlines’ skimpy suggested connection times.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (5) Anticipate the possibility that your luggage won’t make a connecting international flight—and equip yourself with emergency products in your carry-on bag. The occasional failure of a suitcase to make a connecting international flight (it’s retrieved a day later) is such a possible occurrence that you should take it into account in amassing emergency items in your carry-on bag.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (6) When making a trip by air in the immediate days after suffering a cold (or during a cold), bring Afrin for clearing your nostrils and EarPlanes for adjusting the pressure in your ears on landing (you’ll be glad you did). These items are available in any drugstore.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (7) With change or cancellation fees running as high as $300 on the airlines, take out cheap insurance to cover the chance that you may have to change or cancel an air reservation.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (8) For trips of less than a week’s duration, consider limiting yourself to one small carry-on bag (containing just one change of clothing) or a light knapsack.  He or she who travels light is a happy human being.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (9) Remember you can pack liquids in checked luggage only, and barely in your carry-ons; any liquids of quantity will be confiscated by the T.S.A. otherwise.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (10) Patronize the cheap airlines: JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier, Virgin America (for domestic flights) and Norwegian Air, WOW Airlines, VivaColombia, and Volaris (internationally); they will occasionally force the “biggies” to lower their rates.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Happy traveling!</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:841bd308-b233-4545-bb09-ccc925744a38 Why Not Europe in the Winter? (It's Not as Cold as You'd Think) Mon, 18 Jan 2016 23:04:00 GMT <div style="text-align:center;">  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <em>Leiden Square, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (photo: Rex Roof/Flickr)</em></div> <div style="text-align:center;">  </div> <div>      I have just completed a two-week vacation in southwestern Florida, where the temperature was in the mid-60s on all but three or four days.(Even then, the thermometer only rarely hit the mid-70s).  There were intermittent storms and tornado alerts on three days.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Now I’m not saying there is nothing to do in Florida when it’s chilly. There are movies aplenty, a few museums, and bicycle paths everywhere. I took long walks, and rushed to a heated swimming pool on those few warm interludes.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But Florida when it’s chilly leaves something to be desired. And if the weather had been known in advance, I would have chosen other climes for my recreational vacation.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      For example, Europe. Why don’t more Americans travel to Europe in winter? The reason, in my experience, is a mistaken understanding of weather conditions at that time. If you simply exclude Scandinavia and north-eastern Europe (like Russia, parts of Poland, eastern Germany, Berlin), the rest—by which I mean western Europe—hardly ever gets as frigidly cold as, let’s say, Chicago, or upper Wisconsin, or Minnesota. In the course of my own many winter excursions in Europe, I can scarcely remember a time when the temperature was below freezing. Though it can be cold in England and France, the weather almost never gets so frigidly cold as to make going outside unpleasant.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And as for southern Europe--the south of France, the Mediterranean coast of Spain, southern Italy and Sicily--those are, in my mind, the “sleepers” among vacation destinations. Not only is southern Europe a usually pleasant place in which to wander with simply a coat on, it is also an area where low-season prices are available. The south of France, in particular, and Mediterranean cruises, are among some of the best budget-priced options for vacationers. Though the winter isn’t swimming season there, the hotel-resorts are exciting places to stay at totally reasonable rates.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Go to any guidebook or internet report, and you’ll find that hotels along the French Riviera and in the south of Spain are exciting bargains in winter.  The cuisine is of course spectacular at reasonable rates, the casinos are active, the many museums and historical attractions are lightly visited by tourists, and--all in all--the few tourists patronizing these places are quite savvy indeed.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      As for getting to Europe in the winter, that’s the best time to fly. Challenged by the cheap trans-Atlantic flights on Norwegian Airlines, often as little as $600 round-trip from the U.S. east coast to London, Paris or Amsterdam, the other big carriers are often required to lower their own rates. Take a look at the prices charged by Emirates Airline to Milan, and you’ll have evidence of winter travel bargains. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      So how about it? Am I wrong that Europe in the winter is a place to be considered?</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:967a61c1-8139-4239-85f0-c956cf4110f1 Yosemite's Iconic Ahwahnee Hotel is Soon to Be No More—A Sad Case of Privatization Gone Haywire Fri, 15 Jan 2016 22:03:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Pillaged on our watch: The iconic Ahwahnee Hotel</em></p> <p> This has got to be among the more asinine results of government privatization in the travel universe.</p> <p> After nearly 90 years, Yosemite's iconic—and we don't use that word lightly—Ahwahnee Hotel must change its name because of a legal dispute between the government, which owns the land, and its fired concessionaire, Delaware North, which ran it from 1993 until this year.</p> <p> Delaware North, a tourism giant that operates as a vendor at tourist traps ranging from casinos to race tracks to legitimate treasures such as Grand Canyon National Park and Kennedy Space Center, won't voluntarily give up the rights to the name "Ahwahnee," which it acquired largely for the purpose of tee-shirt and coffee mug peddling when it took over the operations contract. Despite the fact the hotel was <a href="" rel="nofollow">opened in 1927 as the Ahwahnee</a> and became a National Historic Place with no help from Delaware North, it owns the trademark; indeed, the NPS sold it to them, as it has done similarly at other iconic places. </p> <p> Since Delaware North was fired from running things at Yosemite, it announced that the National Park Service <a href="" rel="nofollow">can have the names back for free</a> as long as Delaware North can still sell them to the next vendor for the highest price possible. (Of course, the high price it demands may scupper the deal with any incoming competitor, which would probably suit Delaware North fine since it was let go).</p> <p> And so, with the stamp of a high-priced lawyer's foot, a century's worth of tradition and meaning is slated to be painted over out of spite—and to add to the insult, it will happen at a crown jewel of the National Park Service during the very year that it celebrates its centenary.</p> <p> As of March 1, 2016, you'll have to call the famous Ahwahnee Hotel the "Majestic Yosemite Hotel". The new name holds neither magic nor meaning, as storied as the Airport Marriott, as if a cabal of accountants renamed the Waldorf-Astoria as the Fancy New York Hotel or London's Savoy as the Expensive Riverside. Delaware North has posted a blood-boiling, <a href="" rel="nofollow">not-at-all-convincing explanation</a> of why it must plunder the monetary value of names of some of America's most long-lived vacation institutions, but it probably also has a lot to do with the fact it recently lost a $2 billion bid to keep running the hotels and restaurants at Yosemite, the largest contract in the U.S. park system.</p> <p> The National Park Service, which chose those uninspiring names because it doesn't like Delaware North's plans for the trademark rights, has registered its sadness in the press. But what we should all be asking is just how, in its heedless zeal to hand over the reins of our national icons to the private sector, it allowed emblems of American heritage to be signed away to a highest bidder—and then changed the names of its own precious American landmarks simply because of a legal fight. It's just as guilty in this greedy mess as its vendor.</p> <p> The storied name of the grand Ahwahnee is not the only thing Delaware North wrecked on its way out the door. As of March 1, the National Park Service will change the names of other historic Yosemite tourist attractions and hotels. Goodbye, legendary budget camp Curry Village—now you're "Half Dome Village," just because the NPS got caught in its own profit trap. </p> <p> Never mind that these places were inscribed in the history books years long the suits at Delaware North were even born. Their names are essentially being packed up and looted by a private vendor, or at least devalued by the NPS out of anger.</p> <p> Meet your other new Yosemite attractions, which are now named as if they were the least offensive suggestions for a junior high prom theme. The Wawona Hotel will put you to sleep in more ways than one as the "Big Trees Lodge." The adorably named Badger Pass Ski Area becomes Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, which sounds like an anonymous skate park in the sketchy part of your town. The Yosemite Lodge at the Falls comes out the least mangled: It will now be the Yosemite Valley Lodge.</p> <div> Names mean something. Delaware North certainly thinks so: The <em>Fresno Bee</em> reports that it has been <a href="" rel="nofollow">snapping up trademarks</a> to many things that Americans probably thought were a part of their shared national heritage, such as NASA's "Space Shuttle Atlantis," on display in Florida. That's right—it has applied to own that name, too.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Don't like it? I encourage you to contact Delaware North (<a href="" rel="nofollow">here's the page that tells you how</a>) and tell them to return the names to the next concessionaire without charge. And notify the <a href="" rel="nofollow">National Park Service</a> that selling American heritage to the private sector should never have a place in its stewardship plans.</div> <div>  </div> <div> No matter what a judge says, you can't own American heritage. The NPS created this mess by selling them, and Congress forced its hand by starving it of funding. Bleeding America's shared culture for profit, and callously disregarding the value of the history each player has been sanctioned to celebrate, is no business model.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Is there anything a lawyer can't ruin?</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Jason Cochran (<a href="" rel="nofollow">@JasCochran</a>) is Editor-in-Chief of</em></div> <div> <em>(Photo: Kenny Karst/DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.)</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:40e6570a-ee85-4717-9112-6b602af74971 Record Low Exchange Rates Suddenly Make These Five Places Record Super-Bargains Wed, 13 Jan 2016 22:34:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Clifton, Cape Town, South Africa</em></p> <p> Going where the bargains are can feel a bit like surfing, metaphorically speaking. You hang out nowhere in particular for a while, keeping an eye out for ripples, and when you spot an ideal change in the swell, you ride it for as far as you can. </p> <p> Kowabunga: Surf's up! In the past few months, these currencies have taken a dive, so if you ever wanted to dip your toes in the waters here, the time is right to hop on it.</p> <p> <strong>South Africa:</strong> In June, one U.S. dollar bought a little over 12 rands. Now a buck gets you more like 17—or nearly a 50% increase in value. South Africa, a land where a beer can cost you only R4, was already cheap, but this is getting ridiculous. The ultra-luxury private safari preserves and exclusive hotels like Cape Town's famous Mount Nelson Hotel tend to hike their rates accordingly, but at mom-and-pop hotels (which need your money even more), deals abound. Now, once you overcome the high price of flying to Africa, the prices on the ground are much lower than they used to be, which goes a long way toward offsetting transportations costs: A boutique property such as Cape Town's <a href="">An African Villa</a>, which was going for $108 a night in early 2015, has dropped to $78 a night. </p> <p> <strong>Canada:</strong> A few years ago, the American greenback was worth less than the Canadian dollar. Then by 2014, they were pretty much at parity. Now the bottom has fallen out, and for Americans, everything is Canada feels like it's 40% off. That's because the Canadian loonie is now trading at 1.41 to the American dollar. We love our northern neighbors, we admire their political system and their natural beauty, and we only wish them well. So we hope they won't think we're taking advantage of them when we encourage Americans to shift a visit to Canada to the top of their priority lists. This exchange-rate boon can't last.</p> <p> <strong>Argentina:</strong> Two years ago today, the Argentine peso came at 6.7 to the U.S. dollar. Today, it's 13.6. Is the country in crisis again? Not exactly: Its new president has removed some draconian economic controls in an effort to get the peso back to where it more accurately reflects its true value. Economists knew the peso would descend in value, but by most reports, the removals of controls have not resulted in chaos but a steady and encouraging resettling of its value at a position that's easier to maintain and <a href="" rel="nofollow">will bode well for the future</a> of Argentina's stability. All that's a complicated way of saying that there's nothing to be afraid of: Argentineans are not rioting in the streets over the decline because this currency devaluation was, in effect, planned. It's a sensational bargain, and so far it's a safe one.</p> <p> <strong>Mexico:</strong> The peso was worth around 13 two years ago. Today, it's at 17, which, just like South Africa's rand, is a historic low compared to the U.S. dollar.</p> <p> <strong>Brazil:</strong> The same here. Two years ago, it traded between 2 and 2.5.  Now, it's at 4 real to the U.S. dollar—a precipitious plunge.</p> <p> There are other places where the bargains are totally tubular today. Arthur Frommer has <a href="">used these pages</a> to <a href="">routinely point out</a> (it bears repeating) that <strong>Japan</strong> has also been <a href="">a sensational bargain</a> for these <a href="">past few years</a>. <strong>India</strong>, too, has seen a drop that has made an affordable country even cheaper. Have you gone yet?</p> <p> With so many currencies going into steep decline at the same time, some <a href="" rel="nofollow">economists have the jitters</a>. They point out that the world economy is interconnected, and the U.S. dollar is strengthening at the expense of smaller economies could have ramifications later. If too many economies sink, they could pull the world economy, and the dollar, down with them in a recession. As of this moment, though, we're in a sweet spot where people who carry U.S. dollars are seeing benefits even if the final cost has yet to be counted. These are the moments when opportunities can be made.</p> <p> Some grumps grouse at the thought of taking advantage of currencies when they weaken. We don't. From a travel standpoint, a depressed value could be the very thing that finally convinces a tourist to visit a place they have long procrastinated about seeing. Favorable exchange rates not only benefit the locals who see an influx of foreign funds in their cash registers and local economies, but they also benefit the visitor, who finally sees the gates open on experiences and understandings they might not otherwise have had. </p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>(Photo credit: Cape Town Tourism)</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:1320d725-229f-4d2e-b346-00dbc8f0b44a Yet Another Reason to Go to Canada: Free National Park Entries for All of 2017 Wed, 13 Jan 2016 12:51:00 GMT <p> That Justin Trudeau!</p> <p> Not only did he have the good sense to give women half of all the job in his cabinet (filling all the positions with genuine experts in the subjects they'll be handling), but yesterday he had the wisdom to throw open wide the gates to Canada's national treasures. In honor of Canada's 150th birthday, entry to all of Canada's extraordinary National Parks will be free. And for those Canadians who are too busy in 2017, free entry will be extended to new Canadians and youths in 2018.</p> <p> This is no small gesture. The Parks, which do generate money with other fees (like camping permits and the like), will likely lose some $60 million in revenue in 2017. But their loss is all our gain, because these are some of the most pulchritudinous places on earth, from the exquisite alpine scenery of Banff National Park to the wacky tides of Fundy Bay to the Grasslands of Saskatchewan and more.</p> <p> Don't believe me? Take a gander at this:</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Bow Lake, Banff National Park (Chris Parker/Flickr)</em></p> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:43117b9d-d99a-4355-8bb8-09f7409daaac Pauline Frommer Is Hitting the Road With Travel Show Appearances Across the United States Mon, 11 Jan 2016 18:27:00 GMT <p> Hello Fellow Wanderers! I just wanted to invite you all to come out and talk travel. I'll be appearing under the auspices of the Travel and Adventure Show in the following cities, on the following dates:</p> <ul> <li> San Diego: January 16</li> <li> Chicago: January 24</li> <li> Dallas: January 30</li> <li> Long Beach: February 27 & 28</li> <li> Santa Clara: March 6</li> </ul> <p> I'll be discussing the top travel trends that will shape how you vacation in the coming year; and tips on how to get the most for your dollar, whether you're a backpacker or a luxury traveler. In addition to my speech, Samantha Brown (of the Travel Channel) is speaking many days as is Patricia Schultz, of 1<em>000 Places to Go Before You Die</em>. In addition, there will be fun and games for the family (ziplines, scuba diving tanks, cooking lessons and more); and representatives from hundreds of top destinations and travel companies, who often give out "show only" discounts.</p> <p> You can read more about the Travel and Adventure Show by <a href="" rel="nofollow">clicking here</a>.</p> <p> Please watch this space, because if there are discounts on entry to the shows, I'll definitely post them here!</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:08126a64-0d10-4efd-8299-ce61387c99a6 An Airport Security Reprieve for Travelers with Drivers Licenses from States That Are Not In Compliance with the Federal Government's Real ID Act Mon, 11 Jan 2016 18:14:00 GMT <p> And in the end, it all was about politics.</p> <p> As those of you who read this blog regularly know, a few months ago it looked like those citizens of those states that hadn't complied with the federal government's "Real ID" act would no longer be able to use their drivers licenses as ID at security line checkpoints. Those states (and territories) are: Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and American Samoa.</p> <p> But this weekend, at the NY Times Travel Show, I had the honor of interviewing Brenda Sprague, an officer of the State Department who told me that the deadline has been extended. Despite all of the huffing and puffing on Capitol Hill in the last two weeks about tightening airport security, common sense has prevailed. The new deadline for compliance with the federal law is January 22, 2018. Let's hope the errant states get their acts together by then!</p> <p> For background on issues surrounding the act and its implementation, <a href="" rel="nofollow">click here</a>.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:eca020d4-c3ec-4d47-bd1b-a85ec00ebad6 Asked to Recommend a Batch of "New Destinations" for 2016, I Like to List Locations that Aren't Really "New" but Simply Under-Visited Thu, 07 Jan 2016 23:26:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>      Travel writers are often asked to name a few "new destinations" for vacationers who like to travel differently.  And dutifully, they respond by naming places of which you've never heard.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I don't like that approach.  In my experience, "new destinations" are often that for a reason--they deserve their lack of notoriety.  North Korea is a "new destination", but you wouldn't want to go there.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      To me, the best of "new destinations" are well-known locations that simply don't receive the amount of visits to which their remarkable attractions would normally bring.  And first among them, this year, is Japan.  All of us know about "the land of the rising sun", but the cost of staying there has been so prohibitive in the past, when the Japanese yen was exchanged at about 70 to the dollar, that most Americans stayed away. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      That has now all changed.  A U.S. dollar now buys 120 Japanese yen, and the cost of hotels, restaurants and sightseeing in Japan has literally been cut almost in half.  Japan today is a moderately-priced nation for Americans, and if you haven't been there, you surely will want to go.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Canada is certainly not a "new destination"; we all know about it.  But fewer Americans went to cities like Vancouver or Banff or Quebec or Toronto, than should have gone to these remarkable locations when the Canadian dollar sold at par to the U.S. dollar.  Ask your neighbors whether they have ever traveled to the Canadian Rockies or Vancouver or Quebec City, or to "The Maritimes" (Prince Edward Island, Halifax, Newfoundland) and you'll usually get a negative shrug in response.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Today, as amazing as it may seem, the strong U.S. dollar now buys $1.40 in Canadian dollars, and suddenly, everything in Canada costs 40% less.  If you have never gone to the places I've listed--to the enchanting Lake Louise in Alberta, to the theatre scene in Toronto, to the French culture of Montreal, you surely owe a visit.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Russia is surely a "new destination", though not always a desirable one (more later).  Moscow and St. Petersburg used to be among the most expensive places on earth to us Yanks.  But now, with the Russian ruble having plummeted to a level of 70 to the U.S. dollar (a drop of two thirds from what used to be), Russia is enjoyably cheap (but the sometimes-discoureous attitude of Russia toward us U.S. adversaries of theirs, might still keep you away).  The choice is yours.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Colombia, in South America, is surely a "new destination", this time in every sense of the term.  An attractive country, with an unusually pleasant climate and gracious people, it was "off-limits" in recent years because of a high level of concern about the safety of visits to such cities as Bogota or Medellin (where a guerrilla insurgency and a high degree of drug-related violence) made visits iffy.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      All that has now changed.  The insurgents have been quieted through a general amnesty and a peace treaty, and the "narcos" have been driven from Medellin.  And justifiably, a surge of tourism to that nation has occurred, and you too might consider a trip.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Not all the destinations I've listed are truly "new".  But they have all been sufficiently under-visited in the past to make them interesting and "different" to the U.S.tourist who picks them now for a vacation.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a284cbca-7739-4d1d-ac1d-794f84b53fdb A Possible Surge of American Tourism to Iran Should Not be Prevented or Opposed, But the Realities of Iran Should Not be Overlooked Either Thu, 07 Jan 2016 22:53:00 GMT <p>      I can never quite enjoy myself in a totalitarian country.  Whether it be China or Myanmar, Franco's Spain or Castro's Cuba, I could never, in the past, quite rid myself of the realization that the local people around me were not able to speak their minds without risking arrest and imprisonment.  And no matter how much I savored their cuisine or marveled at their views, there was at least a tiny part of myself that remained guarded and ill at ease.</p> <p>     I mention this because of the apparent surge, especially among young Americans, in plans to make touristic visits to Iran.  From various people who have been there, I have recently heard rhapsodic comments about how gracious are the Iranians, how warm their welcome, how important their sights and history. </p> <div>      The people making those comments were of course unable to speak Farsi, the language of Iran.  So they were limited to the explanations of tour guides or the translators who sometimes passed on their questions to ordinary Iranians.  And these Iranians with whom they spoke were of course careful to make only positive comments about their nation and government. </div> <div>  </div> <div>     I have heard other frequent comments by tourists or would-be tourists to Iran about how easy it is for female American visitors to don the headscarves that all women, including female non-muslim tourists in Iran, must wear when outside their homes.  It's no big problem, said one to me.  You can allow a large portion of your hair to show.  You can take lessons from Iranian women about the artful manner in which they are able to arrange the head scarves, and thus make something of a fashion statement.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Now I am not against travel to Iran, in the same way that i am not against travel to China or other dictatorial states.  We all have a great deal to learn from such travels.  And I am not an hysteric on the subject of Iran.  For one thing, I support the recent nuclear deal that holds out some hope that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      But travel to a dictatorial country must occur against the knowledge of what the true political essence of that nation is.  It should be undertaken by people who are not dupes, who understand the negatives, and who do not convey to the local residents that they are wholeheartedly in favor of the governing regime.  In the same way that I did not rhapsodize about the Franco regime in the course of visiting Spain in the 1960s, in the same way that I was well aware of the fact (and sickened by it) that Vaclav Havel and his associates were all in prison during the course of my visit to Prague in the 1980s, in that same manner the many young people now yearning for a trip to Iran should have some knowledge of the nature of the hard-liners who govern Iran.</div> <div>  </div> <div>        A recent report by Amnesty International finds that the human rights record of Iran is among the worst in the world.  It opens with the statement that Iranian authorities "have continued to restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly, arresting, detaining and prosecuting in unfair trials minority and women's rights activists, journalists and human rights defenders and others who voiced dissent.  Torture and other ill treatment have remained prevalent and were committed with impunity.  Women and ethnic and religious minorities have faced pervasive discrimination in law and practice."</div> <div>  </div> <div>      As for those head scarves, the report names three prominent women's rights activists who have been under house arrest for two years, in conditions of deteriorating health, for having protested clothing rules imposed on women. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      When a young Iran-bound tourist recently told me that the mandatory head scarves (for non-muslims) and other clothing requirements aren't really so bad, I felt like citing the Iranians who have gone to prison for simply advocating a lessening of such rules, I felt like rebuking this innocent American traveler, but mistakenly refrained from doing so out of courtesy.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      By all means, visit Iran.  But do so as an intelligent observer and not as an innocent dupe.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:9192c33c-5b9a-4d8e-8cff-fb4a1f640f67 Breaking News! The Frommer Travel Show is Now Live on Saturdays at 3 p.m. ET on WABC in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey & in the Rest of the Country at Noon ET Sundays! Thu, 31 Dec 2015 17:53:00 GMT <div> We have an important announcement:  Starting immediately (namely, this coming Saturday), the Frommer Travel Show will now be carried live every Saturday at 3 p.m. on Radio Station WABC (770 on the AM dial) in the tri-state listening area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  And it will continue to be carried throughout the rest of the nation (a great many stations) on Sundays at noon, Eastern Standard Time.  And for those of you who can't listen at those times, it is always available as a recorded podcast at <a href=""></a>.</div> <div>  </div> <div> WABC is a powerful station, with a large listening audience, and the broadcast time of 3 p.m. on Saturdays is felt to be an excellent time to reach a great many listeners with our hot news and sharp comments about travel.  Hope to hear from you (and we hope you'll also phone in questions and comments to the program). You can call in any questions or comments on travel, on Saturdays at 3pm, to 800/848-WABC [9222].</div> <div>  </div> <div> Happy New Years to all!</div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:944a6a56-fc22-4594-8549-8ff6ea0e8ba5 Are Cruise Ships Easy Targets for Terrorists? Tue, 29 Dec 2015 16:00:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> There's no need to be complicated about this answer.</p> <p> Yes.</p> <p> This week, Disney Cruise Line announced that <a href="" rel="nofollow">it will no longer stop</a> in Greece, Turkey, or Malta on its upcoming 12-night Mediterranean voyage of the <em>Disney Magic</em>. When asked why, a spokesperson told Frommer's, "We regularly review our itineraries and occasionally make the changes needed to provide the best possible experiences on shore."</p> <p> "Safety, of course, is very important to us, so we're of course looking at [the region] like the rest of the world is," the spokesperson said, adding that the company is "continually monitoring" the activities in the area.</p> <p> Disney did not explicitly say why the ports were dropped. But earlier this year, Celebrity <a href="" rel="nofollow">ended overnight stays</a> in Istanbul, citing safety concerns.</p> <p> Then again, neither one needed to. Anyone with a TV knows what's going on in the area, starting with the flood of migrants that visitors now find begging in the streets as they make their way to better lives. The migrant situation on land and in the water is a deeply distressing situation, but those people are not a tourist safety threat. </p> <p> Ship security in a troubled region is a graver concern. Cruise ships are indeed soft targets, and there's not much that can be done to secure them. I myself was on a cruise ship in Turkey and Greece in late November—at ports that Disney has now removed—and to be sure, guards poured scrutiny on passengers as they boarded our ship, with each of us going through the ship's detectors. In Turkey, we passed through land-based checkpoints and metal detectors, too, for an extra layer of inspection. </p> <p> Those checkpoints might do the trick if attackers always arrived through passenger doors. They may not. Attacks can easily come from the water instead.</p> <p> You might remember an incident in 2000 when a speedboat laden with explosives rammed into the <em>USS Cole</em>, an American ship, killing 17 and injuring 39. And that was a Navy destroyer, presumably constructed to absorb such blows, and with the weapons to potentially prevent it. The human cost of an explosive rammed against a pleasure vessel that isn't fortified against explosives, such as giant cruise ship, has thankfully not yet been made manifest by reality. Short of sailing under the protection of an armed flotilla, there's not much that can be done to thwart an improvised attack of this kind. And that just one scenario that makes cruise ships so vulnerable.</p> <p> Fact: The Gatestone Institute, a non-partisan international policy organization, has determined that ISIS intends to make <a href="" rel="nofollow">the Mediterranean a battleground</a>, <a href="" rel="nofollow">using Libya</a>, which is just a few hundred miles from Europe, as a base.</p> <p> Fact: The RAND Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy explicitly outlined not only several methods by which a cruise ship could easily be attacked, but also the high likelihood that such a thing is bound to happen sooner or later. A cruise ship attack, it reasons, would have a far larger international impact than many any other types of attacks. (<a href="" rel="nofollow">Click here for a PDF of its report</a>; the cruise section starts on page 73).</p> <p> Of course, an attack by ISIS is extremely unlikely to happen in the Caribbean or Alaskan cruise markets—they're just not based around there—and they're most likely to happen in the eastern Mediterranean, which is nearest its strongholds. The heat is definitely turning up in the waters around Turkey and Syria: Not many tourists realize that since 1971, Russia has maintained a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus, a few hours' sail from the island of Cypress, and this year, it began the process of expanding. This means Russian warships will soon have a heavier presence in the region, and given that Russia is involved in the Syrian struggles, it means more wartime activity will be happening on the waters of the eastern Mediterranean.</p> <p> None of this is meant to discourage people from traveling. As I said, I was there myself just a few weeks ago and found the locals were in good spirits and happy to welcome me. There was no detectable tension in the air. But we must also be realistic about the ebb and flow of geopolitics—and we must recognize vulnerability where it exists. </p> <p> Although Disney has not publically admitted to pulling out of the region because of the fear of terrorism, it's a safe assumption. The Disney brand is a plump, consumerist target for terrorists eager to make a splash on the world stage—the company's land-based theme parks have also recently tightened security. I applaud Disney Cruise Line's early wisdom. When it pulled out of Tunisia a few years ago, it was a crushing blow for the honest and welcoming Tunisians that were excited to be a part of a prime tourist destination, and it was a blow for the thousands of Americans who would have experienced firsthand that mainstream Muslim culture is warm and decent.</p> <p> But pulling out was a good early call by Disney. In March of this year, cruise tourists were slaughted on a shore excursion to Tunis' Bardo Museum. Only then did most of the other cruise lines follow suit and pull out of Tunisia. Then, last summer, it happened again: Thirty-eight tourists were killed at a beach resort there.</p> <p> I deeply regret the cost of pulling out of any destination. In this case, it means that thousands of Americans will not be transformed by being exposed to the wonderful Turkish, Greek, and Maltese people who are already suffering from economic and tourism downturns. This isn't their fault, their countries are truly worthy of experiencing and exploring, and for their sake I hope this anxious period will soon pass.</p> <p> Until then, we must send our cruise ships to parts of the world where we can feel more assured of their safety—and this is entirely down to the fact that we cannot reasonably protect them. Until we know how to protect cruise ships from catastrophic incidents (and to be blunt, I'm not sure we ever can), then we must to do all we can to ensure they sail in safer waters.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo credit: Celebrity Cruises</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:21e78c09-7c18-4847-a288-1ea37fac440e A Travel Memoir for Today: Gloria Steinem’s "My Life On the Road" Tue, 29 Dec 2015 14:25:00 GMT <p> I never thought I’d use the words "Gloria Steinem" and "travel memoir" in the same sentence. Somehow the idea of one of the most important leaders of the 20th century couching her life story in a genre that too often has to do with, well “quests” to find the perfect quesadilla, or fix up a house in Tuscany, seemed ludicrous. But as she’s been doing her entire career, Ms. Steinem turns expectations on their head—and finds a deeper meaning in an activity that is all to often dismissed as trivial.<br /> <br /> In fact, she starts her book with a resounding endorsement for the act of wandering. "When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years I always say: Because I travel." And from there she goes on to show that she has, in fact, been a nomad from her earliest years, when her peripatetic father dragged the family across the country hither and thither in a car or in a house trailer, as he bought and resold antiques (sometimes using the young Steinem to gain sympathy—and a higher price—from a buyer); to years as an organizer, when more than 50% of her time was spent suitcase in hand.  Along the way, she meets extraordinary women and men, embeds herself deeply within the struggle for civil rights and the rights of Native Americans, and is a key participant in an event that many have now forgotten—the National Women’s Political Caucus—that solidified many of the issues the American Women’s Rights movement went on to achieve….or are still fighting for today.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> (Photo by Marnie Joyce/Flickr)</p> <p> <br /> Surprisingly, Steinem spends little ink on the founding and running of Ms. Magazine. But then, the book doesn’t follow the tired “then I did this, and then I did that” formula of too many memoirs. Instead Steinem groups categories, like campus visits or public transportation, together to make a point about how ideas are passed and shaped in group meetings (or as she calls them "talking circles") and person to person.<br /> <br /> She also spends considerable time on the issues of travel itself, delving deeply, for example, into the battle that flight attendants waged to professionalize their industry and rid it of the indignities—like less-than-safe working conditions and ad campaigns with the words "Fly Me" and the picture of a "stewardess"—that trivialized an entire class of working women.<br /> <br /> Ultimately, Steinem’s book is about reclaiming the road for women. In the introduction she writes "My last hope is to open up the road—literally. So far it’s been overwhelmingly masculine turf. Men embody adventure, women embody hearth and home, and that has been pretty much it…..When women did travel, they seemed to come to a bad end, from the real Amelia Earhart to the fictional Thelma and Louise."<br /> <br /> Steinem’s book shows the opposite: that travel is the road to self-actualization and to personal freedom, for women in particular. And frankly, after reading about Steinem’s adventures and encounters away from home, a life of travel has never sounded as good. I guarantee your wanderlust—and understanding of many of the seminal events of the last century—will be expanded by this wonderfully enjoyable and instructive book. I can think of no better way of starting the new year than giving it a read.<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:4d5410cd-d4c2-4962-8b78-b5d7d6f420db Though He May Not Have Planned It to Be a Travelogue, Michael Moore's New Documentary Film Contains Powerful Advice On How to Conduct a Tour of Europe Fri, 25 Dec 2015 19:53:00 GMT <p>      The new documentary film by the irrepressible Michael Moore, "Where to Invade Next", now playing at movie houses all over the nation, was obviously meant to convey a political message, and is therefore not a simple travelogue.  But it makes a perhaps-unintended point that travel is a device that can expand our political consciousnss.</p> <p>      Let me explain:</p> <p>      When most of us travel to Europe, we go there to encounter that continent's cultural treasures:  museums, art galleries, theaters, historic monuments, the homes of great scientists, writers, musicians and artists, even cuisine.  We immerse ourselves in those cultural attractions. </p> <p>      But some of us now believe--as I do--that a trip to Europe can also be valuable in showing us how other people have attempted to solve their social and economic problems:  We learn of their political policies and programs, their legislation and rules, the organization of their governments.  We do this not necessarily because we think their solutions are better than ours, but for the purpose of comparing those programs to ours and learning from their achievements or mistakes.  In my new book, "Arthur Frommer's Europe", I make a big point out of the use of travel to learn from the institutions that prevail in various European nations.</p> <p>      Michael Moore, in his latest documentary film, does the same, but in a far more partisan sense than I earlier did in my new book.  In several countries, he interviews the executives of large factories and firms who believe that more generous policies of vacations and time off are actually beneficial to their companies:  long vacation periods, long lunch times, shorter work hours, creating better and more skillful production.  He tells of both female and male employees who receive long leaves of absence to take care of newborn children.</p> <p>      He takes us to several European nations where college is free of charge and students graduate without heavy debt obligations.  He takes us to Finland, where charging for tuition is illegal, thus requiring that all children, including rich children, attend public schools.  In that same nation, students do not receive homework, and are not made to take standardized tests, thus resulting--they claim--in better educated children.  He emphasizes the single-payer European health programs that entitle all citizens to receive free medical attention, and have thus resulted in a citizenry with far higher longevity than us..</p> <p>      He goes to Norway and studies its penal systems which stress correction rather than punishment, and discharge inmates who have a far lesser history of committing further crimes.  He travels to Germany where employees and workers occupy seats on the boards of major corporations, resulting--they claim--in better-motivated employees and workers, and less labor strife. </p> <p>      How does the American tourist gain access to these practices and institutions, for the purpose of making up their own minds, pro or con, about whether these programs and policies should be installed within the United States?  There are several European nations where the headquarters of political parties, both liberal and conservative, are open to outside visits, as I believe is the case with the British labor and conservative party headquarters in London.</p> <p>      A great many European countries also maintain "institutes", supplying information to visiting outsiders about political and other practices of their nation.  At the Swedish Institute in downtown Stockholm, English-language brochures are distributed free to tourists, explaining the unique social and economic policies of that rich country.</p> <p>      But much more important, tourists have the opportunity to engage their European hosts in conversation--to inquire of them about their agreement or disagreement with innovative   </p> <p> policies of their nation.  The willingness of Europeans to talk--to express themselves at length--is a characteristic that any curious tourist will soon discover if they take the time to pose questions to the Europeans they meet...</p> <p>      Meanwhile, to watch a documentary film that is, for better or worse, a travelogue for Europe-bound Americans, you need only go to see Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next". </p> <p>  </p> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:433aaa57-bfa1-44cb-851c-5a900c07409a The TSA May Now Deny You the Right to a Pat-Down Wed, 23 Dec 2015 23:05:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p> Until this month, anyone undergoing a TSA search at airports has had the right to bypass the "Advanced Imaging Technology" screening booths—the ones in which passengers hold their hands over their heads for a full-body image. Any passenger unwilling to use the machines could request a thorough hand pat-down from an available agent, requesting a private location if desired.</p> <div> You no longer have that right. Amidst the holiday travel rush, the United States' Transportation Security Administration has quietly and effectively <a href="" rel="nofollow">eliminated that right</a>.</div> <div>  </div> <div> As the Department of Homeland Security phased it in its statement <a href="" rel="nofollow">(PDF here)</a>, "While passengers may generally decline AIT screening in favor of physical screening, TSA may direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers as warranted by security considerations in order to safeguard transportation security."</div> <div>  </div> <div> The statement goes on to assure the public that the AIT machines are indeed private and store no images even though the machines are capable of imaging passengers' private areas. </div> <div>  </div> <div> However, many people who opt out of AIT imaging don't do so out of privacy concerns. They do so because some imaging machines expose the human body to an ionizing radiation: Backscatter-type machines emit X-rays. The government's reports claim the radiation exposure is "minimal" and a person would have to pass through a machine thousands of times to accumulate damage, but the first generation of those machines was removed from airports, which aroused suspicion in some passengers. The other type of AIT machine in wide distribution uses millimeter waves, and no comprehensive independent study has determined the long-term effects of those.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Many passengers have read <a href="" rel="nofollow">news reports reassuring them</a> but are nonetheless made uncomfortable that studies are needed at all, or by potentially <a href="" rel="nofollow">fallible government exposure standards</a>. Many passengers felt it should be their own right to decide whether to put their bodies into these machines, so they requested hand searches instead. </div> <div>  </div> <div> The DHS statement announcing the rule change did not mention making accommodations for passengers' health concerns. And those passengers may indeed still be given a hand search if they want one—but the TSA has essentially announced that it doesn't <em>have</em> to furnish one if it doesn't want to.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Who will be forced to undergo AIT screening? Who is allowed to have hand searches? How does the government decide who gets the right to a hand search? The TSA isn't saying. </div> <div>  </div> <div> It's clear as milk.</div> <div>  </div> <div> But one thing is clear: The TSA has put on the books its right to deny you a hand search if you want one.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">David Prasad/Flickr</a></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:c3511476-f511-43bd-9a8d-5225cd512cd7 Medellin, Colombia, A City Once Infamous for its Frequently-Violent Drug Battles, Has Become a Touristic Magnet Now that the "Narcos" Have Been Ousted From It Wed, 23 Dec 2015 02:05:00 GMT <p> In a recent column, I wrote about the surprising emergence of the South American nation of Colombia as a hot new tourist destination  (and one that also has the fastest-growing economy in all of South America).  Reached from Miami for as little as $171 plus luggage fees, round-trip, on a new budget-priced, no-frills airline called VivaColombia, Colombia is currently visited by more than two million international tourists a year, who are flocking to its main cities of Cartagena, Bogota and Medellin.<br /> <br /> Of those three cities, the most surprising new tourist favorite is Medellin (population of 2.4 million), infamous for years as the site of drug-related violence ("the Medellin drug cartel").  Now, with an activist national government overcoming the local narcos, in addition to also dis-arming an insurgent guerilla movement, Medellin has apparently become quite safe for visitors, indeed placid.<br /> <br /> And it is quite a city.  In addition to being one of Latin America's foremost centers for medical tourism, especially plastic surgery and other elective procedures, it is also a huge source of cut flowers (65% of all cut flowers in the U.S. come from Colombia), whose colorful flower farms just outside the city are open to visitors.<br /> <br /> The city's dramatic scenic highlight is the Plaza Fernando Botero, a dramatic downtown space filled with 23 of the trademark rotund bronze figures of sculptor/painter and native son Fernando Botero, set against the distinctive, 19th-century Palace of Culture and the Antioquia Museum of Art.  Nearby is the Parque Explora, a natural sciences complex whose star is a remarkable aquarium that focuses particularly on Colombia's two main marine ecosystems, coral reefs, and the Amazon.  There are cable cars within the city that provide a great way for visitors to have striking views over the city and to get a glimpse of local life in the communities high above the main town. The same "Metrocable" will take you to Avi Park, a 62-square-mile park with hiking trails, outdoor activities, and even some pre-Columbian archaeological ruins.<br /> <br /> Medellin is Colombia's second largest city (after Bogota), and has the headquarters airport for VivaColombia Airline, which flies non-stop from Miami to Medellin.  But it should be kept in mind that you can also reach Colombia from the United States for a somewhat higher charge on Avianca, the nation's main airline, and on several U.S. carriers.  They all arrive in a city (Medellin) also famed for its climate and known as "the city of eternal spring" (according to hype from the local tourist board).<br /> <br /> Though a visit to Medellin might have been unthinkable as recently as several years ago, it has now joined Cartagena and Bogota as potent new reasons for peaceful, rewarding tourism to surging Colombia.<br /> <br /> <br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:43dc663f-c351-45e8-b05a-bf29eea4a8e3 Peaceful at Last, The Important (and Easily Reached) South American Nation of Colombia is Finally Attracting the Tourism It Deserves Wed, 23 Dec 2015 00:15:00 GMT <div> The recent making of a peace treaty (with amnesty provisions) between the government of Colombia and its longtime insurgent guerillas (a movement known as "FARC") has brought about an amazing change in the status of that country.  With peace descending on such main cities as Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena--and the virtual disappearance of the drug trade (the "narcos") from its once-turbulent locations--Colombia has suddenly become a hot tourist destination for Americans.  More and more of us are returning from visits with ecstatic stories of colorful and well-preserved colonial quarters, fine restaurants, ample nature within easy reach, and unusually cordial residents anxious to end their former isolation.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Equally important, the start-up of a major, new, budget-priced, no-frills airline called VivaColombia (, now flying there from the U.S., has helped to unleash a torrent of tourism. As amazing as it may seem, VivaColombia is charging as little as $171 (plus luggage fees) round-trip from Miami to Bogota and Medellin. And it is flying from Bogota to Cartagena for an even more astounding Colombia-peso-equivalent of $42 each way.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Colombia is an immense country, larger than Alaska, and with a population of over 40 million.  Its first city to emerge into the world of large-scale tourism was the Caribbean-coastal Cartagena, famed for its large and extraordinarily-well-preserved Spanish colonial quarter (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is incredibly atmospheric and beautifully restored, a walled old city dotted with restaurants, nightspots, shops, ancient churches, and a variety of accommodations ranging from deluxe hotels to simple b-and-bs.</div> <div>  </div> <div> When it was first attempting to persuade the public that Colombia was safe to visit, its tourist board adopted as its slogan, "The only risk is wanting to stay" (which I felt to be overly defensive). That admonition has now been replaced with the two words, "Magic Realism", reminding the tourist of Colombia's renowned, Nobel-prize-winning novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez ("100  Years of Solitude"). </div> <div>  </div> <div> In a later column, I'll be writing about other compelling Colombian cities and their many attractions, and with other reasons for vacationing here, among which are, appealing beaches, opportunities for Eco-and-Adventure Tourism, Archaeological Tourism, and Coffee Tourism (for this is the land of Juan Valdez). Until then, let me finally mention that almost everything here is moderately-priced, in the tradition of its new budget airline, the so-aptly-named Viva Colombia.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b4259410-5989-4651-8fcf-703b084bfc65 From A.F.: I, Too, Have Drawn Up a List of a Dozen New Year's Resolutions for Travel in 2016, Hopefully Meant to Maintain and Improve My Vacation Trips Mon, 21 Dec 2015 21:15:00 GMT <div> Most of us make New Year's Resolutions to correct human failings in our daily activities.  I do something of the same, but limited to the times when I leave my home for a trip.  Here are my this year's  resolutions, meant to maintain and improve my travel life:</div> <div>  </div> <div> (1)  I will continue traveling.  I will not permit fear of terrorism to reduce or limit my vacation trips, as they have for some of my fellow citizens.  And by so doing, I will help to defeat the nefarious schemes of ISIS and Al Qaeda.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (2)  I will remain patient, silent, calm and cooperative while in security lines at airports; I will work to assist those T.S.A. personnel charged with keeping us safe.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (3)  I will remember to bring charging cords on my trips, to keep my  cellphone, laptop, and kindle alive and well.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (4)  In advance of traveling to a new destination, I will read about the history, culture, lifestyle and politics of the places I am about to visit.  I will not rely on a bored tour guide to tell me what I am looking at.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (5)  I will limit myself to one of those smaller suitcases, to keep myself lightly packed and without excess and unnecessary clothing.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (6)  I will remember to tip the underpaid chambermaids at the hotels I use.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (7)  I will favor and patronize those few remaining budget airlines, like Spirit, Frontier, JetBlue, and VirginAmerica, in order to keep the overpriced "legacy" airlines honest and competitive.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (8)  On all my trips by air, I will bring along sandwiches made at home, avoiding those tasteless and overpriced airline snacks.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (9)  I will pay no heed to those easily-manipulated "user-generated" websites in which amateur members of the public set forth their appraisals of hotels and restaurants.  I will rely instead on experienced journalists.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (10)  Instead of simply focusing on the cultural attractions of foreign countries (museums, art galleries, theaters, monuments and the like), I will also pay attention to the political policies they follow in dealing with social, urban and economic problems.  I will do that by posing questions to the locals I meet, hoping to form opinions, both pro and con, that will help me be a better informed citizen at home.</div> <div>  </div> <div> (11)  I will take one meal a day picnic style, from fresh ingredients purchased in a local grocery or food shop, thus avoiding overeating (the bane of restaurant meals) and eating better for health .</div> <div>  </div> <div> (12)  And, to repeat an earlier point, I will never give up the joys of travel.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Happy New Year!  And Bon Voyage!</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:4ed5f85c-9ec9-410b-ad2f-1693b7f1bf0a Pauline Frommer's Top (Travel) Resolutions for the Coming Year Thu, 17 Dec 2015 16:52:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> It’s that time of year and let’s be real, those three inches padding my waistline aren’t coming off anytime soon. Instead of doing the usual “lose 10 pounds” resolution, my top 7 promises to myself are going to revolve around travel.<br /> <br /> <strong>1. To travel somewhere at the last minute</strong>. As a working parent, too much of my life is scheduled long in advance. This year, I hope to scoop up the kids, book a last-minute deal (Twitter take me away!) and just head out. There’s nothing like serendipitous travel to shake the dust out from between your eyes.<br /> <br /> <strong>2. To read more books on history, art history and current political science</strong>. That way, when I head to the destinations discussed in those tomes, I won’t be an ignoramus. I’ll have my own thoughts on what I’m seeing and will find the experience of visiting far richer.<br /> <br /> <strong>3. To travel somewhere new.</strong> Too often, my trips take me where my business is or family resides—yes, that’s the case even for a professional travel writer. So I’m going to make sure to schedule some journeys that are totally off my beaten path in the coming year.<br /> <br /> <strong>4. To travel to new places near the old places</strong>. And when I do have to go to the destinations I know well, I’ll take the time to go to nearby places that will be new to me. There are few more mind-expanding adventures than putting oneself in an utterly unfamiliar context.<br /> <br /> <strong>5. To remember my darn toothbrush</strong>. Though I’m on the road for a good quarter of the year, I always seem to forget to pack something, and it’s usually my toothbrush. It’s likely because I use it on the morning of travel. Time to get a dedicated toothbrush just for travel. Hey, now that’s a resolution I’ll definitely have no trouble keeping!<br /> <br /> <strong>6. To stop playing footsie with the travel industry.</strong> I’ve given up on “loyalty”. The minimum number of “points” and “miles” needed for redemption has gotten too high, in many cases, and the way one gets these “chits” has also gotten more difficult. From now on, I’ll be purchasing the best value flights and rooms and won’t be adding more gray hairs by worrying about the “loyalty” ramifications. Life is too short.  <br /> <br /> <strong>7. To travel without fear.</strong> Hotel bookings are down 40% in Paris this December compared with last. And analysts told Reuters that France could lose €1billion in tourism revenue in the coming year. As a lifelong New Yorker, I know what it likes to live in a city that people are scared to visit. We were deserted by the world for a good two years following the 9/11 attacks and it hurt my hometown’s economy considerably. I won’t do the same thing to destinations that suffer an attack. Instead, I’ll support them by heading to them and urging others to do so. I know, from my own experience as a New Yorker, that those cities will be safer after an attack; and the people will be grateful to and even more welcoming of visitors. I also know that an attack can happen anywhere at any time and I refuse to live my life in fear. The terrorists will not clip my wings.<br /> <br /> (…. And I’ll shed the weight in February….probably.)</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> (Photo by David McSpadden/Flickr)<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:4fa2690b-29bf-41a4-8a1c-73ffe4abe0b5 Counting Down the Top 6 Travel Stories of 2015—And Looking Ahead to 2016 Tue, 15 Dec 2015 13:27:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> (Photo by Zach Dischner/Flickr)</p> <p> Unusually dramatic events and trends shaped the way we traveled in 2015 and should continue to impact our wanderings in 2016. Counting them down, these stories included:<br /> <br /> <strong>A dramatic drop in the cost of oil</strong>: Just this week the Automobile Club of America announced that North America was seeing the lowest cost in gasoline since 2009. A year ago, a gallon of gas was averaging $2.54, today it’s at $2.01. And most experts expect low prices to continue well into 2016, which should mean even more road tripping and stability in airfares.<br /> <br /> <strong>Consolidation of the major travel players:</strong> Expedia ate up its major rivals Travelocity and Orbitz; Marriott acquired Starwood right before Accor Hotels became one with Fairmont, Raffles and Swisotel; and a wave of airline monopolies that started in 2005 came to an end with 9 major North American airlines reduced to 4. Pundits are predicting that the ensuring loss of competition will lead to price creep and more fees—some of which we’re seeing already and which will, undoubtedly, become more pronounced in the coming year.<br /> <br /> <strong>Shifting currency valuations:</strong> With the value of the American dollar ascending, and a descending worth for the currencies of the Eurozone, Canada, Australia, Japan and several others, we’ll likely see different nationalities in far-flung places come 2016, simply because the citizens of certain countries will have more buying power abroad.<br /> <br /> <strong>Terrorist attacks and unstable weather spooking travelers:</strong> After two horrific massacres in Paris, visitation numbers are significantly down to that fabled city, as are advance bookings. Some experts are predicting more instability, not just from attacks but from threats of attacks and unusual weather patterns.<br /> <br /> <strong>The devaluation of loyalty points:</strong> The largest of the North American air carriers all moved from a system of points for miles flown to points for dollars spent, making it more difficult than ever to snag a “free” flight or upgrade. At the same time, the major hotel chains upped the numbers of points needed to redeem for a nights’ stay. Bottom line: it’s going to be far more difficult for non-business travelers to make loyalty programs work for them in the future.<br /> <br /> <strong>More floating vacationers:</strong> It was another watershed year for the cruise industry, particularly for river cruises. Some 47 ships debuted—7 oceangoing vessels, the rest river cruisers—and with them an increasing emphasis on new ports, particularly those in Asia. While we worry that the industry has now overbuilt (leading—fingers crossed!—to a drop in prices), it’s clear there’s a real appetite for this type of “pre-planning free” travel.<br /> <br /> I hope to see you all on the road in 2016!</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:2536c443-48f3-499d-80e6-60e66e3d1e95 Numerous Parts of the Travel Industry are Rapidly Being Dominated by Monopolies—and Relief Does Not Seem at Hand Thu, 10 Dec 2015 03:15:00 GMT <div> It is slightly more than a year since final Justice Department approval of the merger between American Airlines and U.S. Airways, but most of the travel industry is still dazed and dizzy from the shock.  In a country that always prided itself on its dislike of monopolies, we have permitted the aviation industry to reduce itself, in effect, to exactly four carriers accounting for more than 80% of all domestic aviation.  In numerous major cities of the U.S., there is no longer any real competition between airlines. The public pays what a single financial officer decrees.</div> <div>  </div> <div> How did we allow that situation to come to pass? What happened to our anti-trust laws? And now that aviation has become the plaything of a number of monopolies, will the same situation emerge in the hotel industry, in the online travel agency industry, and in numerous other segments of our travel industry?</div> <div>  </div> <div> It appears that the answer to that question is Yes. Just within the past several days, the giant Marriott Hotel Chain merged with the giant Starwood Chain (owning Sheraton Hotels, among others), and the result—if anti-trust officials remain asleep—is one immense hotel behemoth accounting for a fearful percentage of all U.S. hotel rooms.  Already, the people who place the hotel bookings of large conventions and other groups have pointed out that in the past, they were able to set Marriott against Starwood in requesting rates, and the resulting competition between the two resulted in drastically reduced prices.  This will no longer happen, and Marriott/Starwood will simply negotiate with hotel seekers on a "take it or leave it" basis.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Moreover, every major commentator has already predicted that other hotel mergers will soon follow. The tendency towards monopoly, once permitted, appears to accelerate. </div> <div>  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div style="text-align:center;"> (Photo by John Morgan/Flickr)</div> <div>  </div> <div> What has happened to airlines and hotels has also already occurred with respect to the companies offering digital assistance to persons planning trips. The giant Expedia corporation has acquired its two former rivals, the giant Orbitz and the giant Travelocity.  Expedia has also acquired many of its former smaller competitors, and Expedia—as only one example—now also owns Homeaway, the largest source of vacation apartments and homes. In the meantime, Expedia's one remaining rival, Priceline, has acquired the giant hotel reservations service, Only the lack of space keeps me from listing the countless other formerly-independent companies performing travel functions, which are now subordinates of Expedia and Priceline.</div> <div>  </div> <div> The growing size of a small number of travel corporations is a frightful phenomenon to contemplate. In his recently-published book "Saving Capitalism, For the Many Not the Few", economist Robert Reich has pointed out that the growing tendency to monopolies in America is one of the many factors that has caused 90% of our population to suffer stagnating and insufficient wages and economic inequality, as compared with the staggering increase in wealth and power enjoyed by the top 1%. </div> <div>  </div> <div> Monopolies in the travel industry are different from those in other industries only because their growth is so much more rapid.  It would take many pages of newspaper analysis simply to list the dynamic, thriving, but smaller travel companies that have recently been scooped up by the two major digital firms.  We, as American citizens, must oppose this trend by electing representatives, and urging other representatives, to slow or halt this dangerous trend.  Anti-trust in travel should be our slogan, and also our firm policy.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:5867d99f-5d2d-43c1-bb16-4dafe942e2b6 Some Pre-Christmas Musings About the Current State of Travel Tue, 08 Dec 2015 21:45:00 GMT <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div>  </div> <div> The major news in travel continues to be the amazing strength of the U.S. dollar, which makes travel cheaper for the American tourist.  And that strength continues despite unusual volatility in the currency markets.  Last week, the European Euro sold for as little as $1.05, and then it rallied to a level of $1.09, but as of this past weekend, it had fallen again to a rate of only $1.06.</div> <div>  </div> <div> What all this means is that the European currency is really selling at a level of almost par to the U.S. Dollar.  Increasingly, one Euro equals one Dollar.  And at that rate of exchange, prices in Europe have become far more moderate for the American traveler, so that this is an excellent time for travel to almost any country in western Europe.</div> <div>  </div> <div> The cost of oil continues to decline, and is presently selling for only $38 a barrel—it has broken through the $40 level.  And this means that aviation fuel is costing less to the airlines, and thus air tickets are under some pressure downwards.  There are occasional bargains available for trans-Atlantic flights, and there are some airlines—I'm thinking of Norwegian Air and of the Icelandic airline called WOW airline—that are consistently offering low-priced air tickets from the U.S. to Europe.</div> <div>  </div> <div> The only thing that could be holding back increased travel to Europe is the fear that many travelers have about the possibility of terrorism in Europe.  I might point out that safety conditions in the U.S. are currently far worse than in Europe. There isn't a day that goes by that some mass shooting of at least four persons at a time takes place in the United States, and the number of fatalities from gun violence is, of course, far higher than in Europe.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Just this past weekend, the <em>New York Times</em> took notice of that situation and placed on its front page an unprecedented editorial—the first such front-page editorial the Times has run in 100 years—-an editorial demanding that the ownership of assault weapons, guns that spew dozens of bullets in a single minute—that ownership of such weapons should be made totally illegal for anyone other than the police and the military.</div> <div>  </div> <div> According to people who live in Australia and other parts of the world, the thought of traveling within the United States is regarded by them as so dangerous that they are warning against such travel.  What a horrifying state we've been brought to in the world of travel, resulting from the widespread sale of assault weapons our own country.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Let's move to happier thoughts. At ski resorts in both the western states and in New England, the snow conditions this year have been so good that the season for widespread skiing has been advanced by several weeks, and all the famous ski resorts have more than enough snow coverage as to make skiing an exciting sport.  So if you are a skier, you might want to consider an immediate trip.</div> <div>  </div> <div> As we approach Christmas, and the week in which Christmas occurs, it's helpful to keep in mind that this is the best time of the year for a visit to Las Vegas. For psychological reasons that we all will understand, most people feel uneasy, they feel guilty about being in Las Vegas on Christmas Day or on the several days just before or just after Christmas.</div> <div>  </div> <div> The result of that is that all the hotels of Vegas are only lightly booked on Christmas or on dates leading up to and just after Christmas. In fact, some of them are nearly empty.  So if you want to experience the attractions of Las Vegas when they are not surrounded by crowds, and when they are low-priced, now is the time to go. You can bargain with hotels and  bring down the rates considerably by insisting that you won't book unless they give you a low room rate. </div> <div>  </div> <div> Now mind you, I'm not advocating travel to Las Vegas.  In fact, I recently learned of additional reasons NOT to go there: <em>Travel Weekly</em> magazine reported that Las Vegas has recently sprouted more gun ranges—attractions in which people pay money to fire assault weapons at various targets. One such gun range is apparently for recently divorced people; You get to fire bullets at images of your former married life.  Those exhibits create a new low in the culture of Vegas, but there are Americans who nevertheless regard Vegas as the country's top attraction.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Instead of traveling to Vegas, you might consider a visit to Canada—to those great cities of Montreal or Quebec, to Toronto and Vancouver.  Residents of the U.S. should bear in mind that the U.S. Dollar now buys $1.35 Canadian, and therefore everything in Canada is now 35 percent less in cost than it was just a short time ago.  If you've never experienced Canada, you really should consider going. </div> <div>  </div> <div> But the main question in travel remains whether to continue to travel internationally, to places where terrorism has occurred.  I dealt with that question some fourteen years ago, just after the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, when many Americans were too frightened to continue traveling.  And I wrote the following at that time:</div> <div>  </div> <div> "Travel has become a part of our lives—and equally important it is now recognized as an essential part of a civilized life.  It is vital to our intellectual growth, our understanding of the world, our inner life.  We simply will not permit crazed fanatics to stifle that part of our existence, and therefore we've gotten on with our lives and exercised our right to travel."</div> <div>  </div> <div> We must continue to travel to Paris and elsewhere, and by doing so we help to diminish the terrorists and their hopes.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:76a6451c-fd88-4c54-89e0-68a821afa5ad The Department of Transportation Is Getting Serious About Airlines Compensating Passengers for Damaged Luggage Wed, 02 Dec 2015 21:16:00 GMT <p> If you think passengers are being treated disrespectfully by the airlines—what with ever shrinking seats and ever growing fees—consider what their luggage is going through. Recently, a series of video have gone viral, showing baggage handlers hurling luggage onto conveyor belts in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and playing a rough game of "who can toss the bag the farthest" on the tarmac in San Jose, California, to name just two such videos.<br /> <br /> It hasn’t just been passengers appalled by these videos. The United States Department of Transportation has been, too. So in September, it did an undercover investigation at 16 U.S. Airports and determined that carriers weren’t doing enough to compensate passengers for damage to their luggage. It announced that, though airlines aren’t liable for fair wear and tear, if “protruding” parts of the bags are destroyed or injured while checked, the carrier is expected to pay, by law.</p> <p> “Damage to handles, straps, wheels and zippers often extends beyond what is appropriately categorized as fair wear and tear resulting from ordinary handling of baggage,” Blane A. Workie, an assistant general counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, wrote in the notice to airlines on November 30. “In such cases, carriers should be prepared to reimburse the passenger appropriately."<br /> <br /> The DOT went on to sternly admonish the airlines to accept ALL complaints, whether or not airline workers think they warranted—an issue at many airports. In the course of their investigations, the DOT found posted signs stating that the airlines wouldn’t compensate for damage done to the external parts of luggage—a clear violation of the DOT’s consumer protection regulations. They also found that many frontline airline employees actively discouraged the reporting of luggage problems by passengers.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> Photo by Jeremy Woo/Flickr</p> <p> The agency has hinted that it will continue to investigate this issue, meaning that big fines for the airlines could be on the way. Let’s hope this leads to a kinder, gentler ride for our bags.</p> <p> But if it doesn't—and it's no secret that airlines have been mauling bags for decades—it might be the better part of wisdom to buy a bag with a lifetime guarantee. We recently looked at all the major brands on the market, along with their warrantees, and created <a href="">this guide </a>to the most protected—and the least.<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:f9a22b06-9bcc-48fd-a16b-e1dac3968fb9 There is Increasing Evidence that the River Cruise Industry has been Over-Built, and that Discounts are Now Widely Available from all the Usual Sources Sun, 29 Nov 2015 22:30:00 GMT <div aria-hidden="true" class="cvox_indicator_container cvox_indicator_window_not_focused cvox_indicator_animate_normal cvox_indicator_pulsing" cvoxignore=""> <div aria-hidden="true" class="cvox_indicator_region cvox_indicator_visible" cvoxignore=""> <div aria-hidden="true" class="cvox_indicator_bottom" cvoxignore="" style="width:839.1px;height:24.1px;"> Two years ago, the sudden popularity of European river cruises seemed to catch the entire travel industry by surprise.  River boats, and their itineraries, became totally sold out.  A travel activity booked almost wholly by elderly people, suddenly became a trip-of-choice for middle-aged people, and even for a few younger than that.  Families remained  unwanted by the operators of river cruises, but a concerted effort began to to widen the age range of people booking them. </div> </div> </div> <p>     </p> <p>  </p> <p> All of a sudden, all of the river cruise companies began announcing plans not only for the expansion of their fleets, but for a considerable re-design of the facilities on board the ships.  Balconies were added to cabins; swimming pools added to decks; cabins were expanded in size or made into suites.  Areas of operation were extended into Asia and Southeast Asia.  Not just the Rhine and the Danube, but the Mekong in Vietnam and the Yangtze in China became rivers that heavily accommodated cruise activities, more than ever before.  Prices soared, and it was rare to find discounts offered to cost-conscious Americans. </p> <p> The trend was given added impetus by a brilliant tv advertising campaign launched by newcomer Viking Cruises and shown on tv episodes of the popular Downton Abbey and Homeland series.  There, in awesomely beautiful shots, one saw cruiseship passengers enjoying intimate contact with smiling Europeans, visits to colorful balls and performances of the Spanish Riding School, smiling European chefs who offered tastes of their just-cooked specialties to cruise passengers admitted into the kitchens of famous restaurants.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> Photo by Rolf Heinrich, Köln/Flickr</p> <p> And the result was an unprecedented increase in the construction of more and more river cruiseships.  So many were built, in fact, that now, it may be that the rivercruise industry is overbuilt.</p> <p> Evidence is accumulating that river cruises are now akin to ocean cruises in the size and frequency of the discounts offered to would-be passengers.  Go to a popular website like, and you will find substantial discounts offered on nearly every itinerary of every rivercruise company, including the elegant Viking River Cruise line.  In a pattern than has been witnessed over and over in the travel industry, a popular activity has been over-expanded and forced to fill ships with discounted rates.</p> <p> It is also becoming apparent that river cruises are being sold to persons who have no desire to experience the wonders of Europe, but are more interested in enjoying the leisure-time pleasures of the boat itself.  Recent announcements of the construction of new rivercruise boats have stressed that they will be equipped with putting greens, with fitness rooms, with heated swimming pools and swim-up bars, libraries and the like--and, of course, with large balconies affixed to cabins.</p> <p> As for sightseeing opportunities in the cities where rivercruise boats stop, it has been revealed that these largely consist of escorted motorcoach tours with 40 passengers aboard each vehicle, the kind of tour calculated to prevent the participant from really experiencing the authentic life of foreign cities.  Those tv images of famous chefs offering a taste of their wares to a tourist permitted inside a restaurant's kitchen, are simply unrealistic.</p> <p> So let me be the nay-sayer.  The river cruise, in Asia as well as Europe, is not for the person genuinely interested in the life of a foreign country.  The sightseeing opportunities are limited ones, and the emphasis more and more is on the pleasures of the rivercruise boat.  Moreover, the glimpse of riverbanks that you enjoy while the ship is moving is hardly different from what you would see in any number of other  countries. </p> <p> For a relaxing vacation interlude, the rivercruise is potent producer of pleasure.  But as an eye-opening, consciousness-expanding trip to a foreign land, the correct method is to experience it on land, staying either in a hotel or--better yet--in an apartment you rent in a neighborhood of the area you are visiting.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:048272ff-b67d-46ea-bce7-4079c27ac077 The Current Prices Charged for a Trip to Cuba Show that Neither the U.S. Tour Industry Nor the Cuban Government Has Yet Gotten Serious About American Travel to That Island Sun, 29 Nov 2015 21:45:00 GMT <div> Tours to Cuba, offered by the nation's best-known tour operators, continue to be priced at outrageous levels, confirming that both the Cuban authorities and the U.S. tour operators, have yet to negotiate realistic terms for expanding the number of Americans going there.  The latest outrage is offered by the well-known "", whose very name used to  describe a policy of inexpensive tour opportunities.  Starting in February of 2016, CheapCaribbean will be offering an eight-day tour of Cuba from Miami, costing a starting price of $5,500 per person, based on two persons traveling together.  Should Cheap Caribbean change its name?</div> <div>  </div> <div> Such absurdities as a starting price of $5,500 for what it is a one-week tour, confirm the advice we've often given here.  If you wish to enjoy a look at the authentic life of Cuba, at decent prices, you will simply book a normal airfare to Havana from where you live, via one of the airlines going there via Kingston, Jamaica, the Bahamas, or Cancun.  And then you will go for your accommodations to either, or to any number of Cuban real estate sources, renting a room (a "casa particular") in the apartment of a Havana resident.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Will the room you receive often lack normal creature comforts?  Of course it will.  It will not compare to the usual amenities you expect.  But it will place unpretentious visitors in an apartment of the sort occupied by average Cubans, and it will not require any unusual hardships on your part.  It will simply be slightly less comfortable than usual, but supplying a normal night's sleep.</div> <div>  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div style="text-align:center;">                                        Photo by Bryan Ledgard/Flickr</div> <div>  </div> <div> As for your meals, and payment for your room, you will simply change your money at a "Cadeca" (a Cuban change bureau), exchanging either dollars or, better yet, Euros into "convertible pesos".  Cadecas are found at the Havana airport or at any number of locations in town.  Or you will change your money at the BFI Bank in Havana, using the proceeds to buy your restaurant meals.  (As a side note, Mastercard is currently claiming that its U.S. credit cards are now regularly accepted throughout Cuba; check before going). </div> <div>  </div> <div> That course of conduct is currently the best procedure available to intelligent Americans wanting to experience Cuba.  When a company called Cheap Caribbean (for heaven's sake)  asks $5,500 per person, based on two persons booking (a total of $11,000), a do-it-yourself trip is the only realistic alternative.  Fly, let's say, to Jamaica, and change planes for the short hop to Havana.  And stay, during your time in Havana, in the apartment of a normal Cuban.</div> <div>  </div> <div> If, contrary to my advice, you insist on joining an organized tour to Cuba, your best bet will be the one-week variety offered by Road Scholar (, the former Elderhostel, for $3,895 per person based on two persons traveling together, still an outsized amount for arrangements of that sort.  It is the lowest such price known to me--but still an overpriced figure for an experience that is best had on your own.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Again, go independently--and make use of one of those "casas particulares".</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b865d421-fd99-4a48-8714-08a559db9340 Why I, Personally, Will Continue to Travel Abroad, Despite the Latest Global Travel Alert Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:45:00 GMT <p> This morning I told my daughter I was going to write about the worldwide travel alert and she gave me a worried glance. "Mom if you tell people to travel and then something happens, they'll blame you," she said.</p> <p> But it's not quite that simple because, realistically, something will ALWAYS happen, whether you're traveling or not. And as an American, I know it will more likely happen to me here than in other western nations. So far this year, there have been <a href="" rel="nofollow">46,987 incidents of gun violence</a> that led to the deaths of 11,383 people. Of those incidents, 300 were mass shootings.</p> <p> If you compare that with the numbers in France, even including the horrific massacre in Paris, you'll find that more than three times the percentage of the <a href="" rel="nofollow">population is likely to be murdered here in the United States than in France. </a></p> <p> So let's look at transporation fears. There will likely be 130,000-plus car accidents this year on American roads. So far—and I hate to tempt fate by saying this—the TSA/Homeland Security has foiled every would-be terrorist attack on an airline flying into, out of or in American airspace since 2001. Yes, there have been incidents in other parts of the world, but if you're flying into or out of the USA you should be OK. And even if we factor in the Russian plane that was downed recently in Egypt, it's clear that the numbers of deaths due to car accidents are exponentially greater than those from air accidents or attacks.</p> <p> But it's a conversation I had with an official of the State Deparment, about two years ago, that seals the deal on interational travel for me. I asked her, straight out, what the public was supposed to make of blanket travel warnings of this sort. They weren't being told what to look out for, nor were they being advised to avoid certain parts of the world. So what were members of the public, especially those who already had travel plans, supposed to do in response to these warnings, I asked?</p> <p> She told me that, several years back, the State Department had gotten a vague threat and so had warned their staff, but not the traveling public. When an incident actually occurred, there was political hell to pay, because it appeared as if the U.S. State Department valued the lives of its employees more than those of the American people. So the system changed, and now general warnings are released even when the threat is hard to pin down. Though this is a bit crude, there's a tinge of "ass covering" here.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p>                                                                                                (Photo by Dennis Jarvis/Flickr)</p> <p> Obviously, with Belgium on high alert and the horrific attacks in Paris, we must acknowledge that the threat is greater than it was, say, two years ago. But I'd argue that statistics are on the side of wanderers. That traveling today is not a foolhardy thing to do. That it will, in fact, be even more rewarding than usual, as you'll encounter far fewer crowds, and locals who are grateful for your visit.</p> <p> So, I'll see you in Europe! The current situation, and the warnings, will not clip my wings.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:7eb4b25f-58c2-4091-a4c9-fb9b52e3fa33 American Airlines Changes Its Frequent Flyer Program, Making It Near Impossible for Average Joes to Earn Miles Just from Flying Any Longer Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:51:00 GMT <p> And then there were none.</p> <p> Did you hear a loud groan last week? That was the members of American Airlines' frequent flyer program—well, all but the business travelers—reacting to the announcement that the last major carrier to be giving awards points for miles flown was moving to a points for cash system. It joins Delta, United and pretty much every carrier but Alaska, Spirit and Frontier in moving to what's called a revenue based system and it means that all but intensely frequent flyers and folks brave enough to carry an airline-branded credit card (more on that below) will find it near impossible to earn enough miles for free flights or even upgrades.</p> <p> The airline is being vague about when the new plan will debut—"sometime in the second-half of 2016" is all they're saying now—but specific about its ugly details. Regular Joes and Josephines will earn 5 miles for every dollar spent on base fares and carrier imposed fees (but not government taxes). Elite members will have a huge advantage with Gold Members getting 7 miles for every dollar spent, Platinum members $8 and Executive Platinum members a whopping $11. In addition, upgrades will be based on a complex calculation marrying miles flown and points earned.  Translation: travelers who pay a normal amount for their flight will be getting far fewer miles back than they used to. (Part of the idea is to incentivize those who pay top dollar by flying at the last minute or in first or business class).</p> <p> In addition, a number of routes—thought not all—will have higher minimums for "free" seats. Try and fly first class from the US to Europe and that will now be 50,000 miles each way rather than 32,500. But Caribbean flights from the US will get "cheaper" with those going for 30,000 roundtrip as opposed to 35,000.</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p>                                                                                                                          (Photo by M01229/Flickr)</p> <p> Here's more on the <a href="" rel="nofollow">planned changes</a>.</p> <p> And now a word on airline branded credit cards: they have very draconian policies if you pay your balance late. If you're the type who never messes up, get one with our blessings. But if you sometimes miss a payment know that most of these cards will get you into hot water quickly. Just a word to the wise.</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:9aff918f-906b-4b78-a9ac-d4679e9fa94d A Controversial New Documentary Film Will Supplement American Travelers' Impressions of European Life and Politics, Both Pro and Con Fri, 13 Nov 2015 18:15:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Market, Helsinki, Finland</em></p> <div>  </div> <div> We Americans travel to Europe primarily for cultural reasons—to view great art at famed museums, to encounter history in the form of monuments, cathedrals, structures and relics, to attend opera and ballet performances, to witness different  lifestyles, and even to sample unusual cuisine. But a growing number of tourists are interested in the different solutions that Europeans have adopted for their social, economic or political problems and challenges.</div> <div>  </div> <div> The language difficulty, or the unwillingness of Europeans to answer political questions posed to them, often prevents the visitor from pursuing those social, economic or political topics. Apart from the occasional attempt to explain their society to the tourist—I think of the Swedish Institute in Stockholm that makes a point of distributing English-language pamphlets explaining their country's innovative legislation to the tourist—and apart from the willingness of some European political parties to permit the tourist to look around party headquarters (the Conservative and Labor parties in London permit that), it is often hard for the most inquisitive tourist to learn about European health plans, the handling of college tuition, the retirement income guaranteed by governments to seniors, the unemployment compensation, and all the many other areas of life in which European nations deal with these matters in a fashion often different from what we do in America.</div> <div>  </div> <div> So how can you overcome these barriers to understanding? A documentary film called <a href="" rel="nofollow"><em>Where to Invade Next</em></a>, by the often outrageous Michael Moore, will appear in American movie theaters in mid-December. And the point of <em>Where to Invade Next</em> is to promote Mr. Moore's belief that the Europeans have adopted a better method and policies of solving social questions than we have chosen in the United States.           </div> <div>  </div> <div> People will attend the Michael Moore film not because they necessarily agree with him—many will regard his views as incorrect and believe that Europe's society is not nearly as satisfied with their security or living conditions as ours—but few will deny his ability to stir controversy in a fascinating film.</div> <div>  </div> <div> From advance publicity for <em>Where to Invade Nex</em>t, it appears that Moore will deal with some of the following European approaches to life:</div> <div>  </div> <div> He will examine drug addiction in Portugal, that has largely decriminalized the use of such substances. He will discuss the unusual system of senior pensions in Norway. He will examine the free tuition that most European nations make available for qualified college students. He will show, in segments of the film, the extremely liberal vacation policies of many European nations, mandating a four- or five-week yearly vacation for most employees. In addition, he will treat:  the policies of elementary schools in Finland, the lack of "homework" for students in Finland; the French attitude to food and meals, the concerted effort of German schools to make students aware of past genocide; the unusual labor laws of Italy and France; and more.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Love him or dislike him, Michael Moore will be setting off a discussion of European life this December, enabling Americans to supplement the sometimes limited impressions they enjoy on their actual trips to the Old World.</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: Roger Norum</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:de0cf8db-c566-48ad-af2c-28ac4dd5e61e The Churchill Museum Has Now Joined the List of London Must-Sees Wed, 11 Nov 2015 19:06:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div> <p>      In a city whose major museums are among the largest and most impressive of all such places, the Churchill War Rooms were always a compelling exhibit but a secondary one. Why go to a narrow, twenty-yard-long attraction (the War Rooms) when the British Museum had the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles, the Victoria & Albert Museum had the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks and the first folio of Shakespeare's plays, and the National Gallery had more acknowledged masterworks of art than any other collection on earth?</p> <p>      And so, most visitors to London visited the War Rooms virtually as an afterthought, for an interesting, quick contact with one limited  aspect of World War II. Those War Rooms in a fairly small underground space where Churchill and his cabinet directed the British war effort, were not a real museum but simply the offices where the British military and its civilian chief used telephone communications to issue their directives, all the while protected by cave-like concrete walls from German bombers flying overhead. Because it was a real-life attraction, it provided an undeniable experience, but it provided no real competition to the top highlights of a London visit.</p> <p>      Few people, I dare say, were aware that the War Rooms occupied only a small portion of their underground area, or that the remaining space could be turned into a more spacious museum devoted to the life of an outstanding figure of the twentieth century: Winston Churchill. And now, with the recent completion of a Churchill Museum in that underground space, the resulting exhibition is one that deserves to be listed among the really outstanding attractions of London. Friends urged me in the strongest terms, prior to a recent trip to London, not to miss the Churchill Museum, which is visited on a single ticket for admission to both the War Rooms and the Museum. </p> <p>      The museum begins its story with a young man born into an aristocratic English family, urged by his parents to excel in all areas.  It tells of his early school failures, of his repeated (and ultimately successful) efforts to enter Sandhurst, the British military academy. And it follows his exploits, his capture in the Boer War as a prisoner of war, his escape, his authorship of best-selling books about these adventures, of his entering Parliament and subsequent dramatic political exploits, of the World War I defeats that temporarily stunted his career, and of his decade-long attempt from 1929 to 1939 to persuade the British to rearm against the threat posed by Adolf Hitler.</p> <p>       And it tells this story not in dry written placards, but via the most exciting new interactive electronic devices, that shepherd your understanding of his development year-by-year and sometimes even month-by-month through his dramatic early life. The tale is told in film and spoken recordings, with slide shows and commentary about one of the most exciting lives ever lived.</p> <p>      And then you reach World War II and Churchill's ascension to being Prime Minister of Great Britain and forming a coalition government to guide Britain's heroic, lonely battle again the Nazi hordes. Here, the electronics are even more advanced: one sees films of key moments in his and Britain's wartime history; one hears recordings of many of his famous speeches relating to battles won and lost; one follows him—and his opponents—through victories and defeats captured in the most compelling newsreels made during the pressures of those events. You witness details of the alliance he forged with Franklin Roosevelt, and their ultimate joint invasion of the continent of Europe  One experiences victory followed by the defeat of Churchill's political party, his eventual regaining of the Prime Minister's role, and the last years of his life, all told in interactive visual and auditory devices that are the best and most modern of contemporary presentations.</p> <p>      Before you know it, several hours have passed, and you have become familiar with one of the most remarkable personages of recent times. You react emotionally to his courage, and to his powers of persuasion as he encouraged the British people to reject the offers of surrender from Hitler's Germany and to fight on alone against the awesome military might of Germany. You are literally awe-struck by the immense odds against which he successfully fought.</p> <p>      Throughout the visit, and whether you share Churchill's political policies or not, you have learned a great deal, and have felt the tension of those times, and the memory of your visit remains strong and vivid.</p> <p>      On your next trip to London, by all means take in the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert, the National Gallery, the Tower of London, and all the other familiar attractions.  But give equal time to the Churchill Museum, which was a highlight of my own recent visit.</p> </div> <p>      You can read Frommer's' full coverage of the Churchill War Rooms <a href="">by clicking here</a>.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <span style="color:rgb(50, 53, 55);font-family:Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;white-space:pre-wrap;">Photo credit: </span></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:14fc256d-8bb4-47f7-8bae-c0508ca93fca 25.3 Million People Will Fly Over Thanksgiving: 10 Airport Strategies If You're Going to Be One of Them Mon, 09 Nov 2015 22:22:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p> The industry group Airlines for America is predicting that 65,000 more people PER DAY will fly this year than last, between November 20 and December 1. That's an uptick of 3%, and the greatest number of air passengers since the recession of 2008.</p> <p> Be afraid. Be very afraid.</p> <p> And be smart about how you're going to handle your own travel plans. Here are our tips:</p> <p> <strong>1) Avoid flying November 25, 29 and 30. </strong>Those are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday and Monday after it. Those dates are expected to be the busiest flying days this year.</p> <p> <strong>2) Try to fly as early in the day as possible. </strong>Holiday travel season is also storm season. And when storms hit, delays ripple through the system, because airplanes often make several stops in the course of a day. If you're in say, Miami you're much more likely to get where you're going if your plane has overnighted in balmy Florida than you are if it has to fly from snowy Denver to you and then on again. This is especially true if you're on an afternoon or evening flight. So get up early and get going if you want to get where you're going.</p> <p> <strong>3) Be strategic about connecting airports. </strong>At holiday time it's best to avoid them all together, because the more times you have to take off, the more chances you have for your flight to be delayed or cancelled. If you must change planes, do so in an airport that's less prone to weather delays.</p> <p> <strong>4) Give yourself extra time at the airport. </strong>Security lines will be nightmarish this holiday season. You can check to see, in real time, what the lines will be like at your security gate.</p> <p> <strong>5) Strategize parking: </strong>Many airports simply don't have enough of it. So consider getting someone else to take you to the airport (whether it be a friend, a cabbie or an Uber driver); or look into one of the off-site lots that have shuttles to the airport. Some of the latter may require advance reservations at holiday time.</p> <p> <strong>6)</strong> <strong>Dress appropriately: </strong>Wear shoes that slip on and off easily, and avoid belts and jewelry that can set off alarms. You don't want to be the person who's making that security line even slower than usual</p> <p> <strong>7) Think like a TSA staffer: </strong>By which I mean, don't bring anything that could be used as a weapon in your carry on, even if it isn't a weapon. I once had to sacrifice a lovely cutting board that I was bringing as a gift simply because its weight made it potentially lethal.</p> <p> <strong>8) Get apped up: </strong>Certain apps can be invaluable when things go wrong at the airport. These include <strong>FlightBoard </strong>which will show you all of the gate numbers for 4000 airports worldwide (it updates the info every 5 minutes); <strong>Flight View </strong>or <strong>Flightaware </strong>which will track, in real time, where your airplane actually is (often the users of this app know how long a delay will be before the gate agents); <strong>Twitter </strong>which is the most public way to get your airline to fix a problem (and therefor one of the most effective); and <strong>GateGuru </strong>which has detailed airport maps, telling you where services and food are, as well as real-time security checkpoint waiting times.</p> <p> <strong>9) Pack food. </strong>Delays are endemic at holiday time and you don't want to get stuck eating overpriced, often mediocre airport food, if you can help it. This is especially important if you're traveling with picky children.</p> <p> <strong>10) </strong><strong>Travel light: </strong>More fliers will mean more lost luggage. So travel carry-on only if you can. If you must pack, put half your gear in your travel companion's luggage and have half their stuff in your bag, so that neither of you is underwearless should one of the bags go astray. In addition, carry any valuables or prescription drugs on your person, never in your checked bag.</p> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:5dd4f88c-f84f-4731-8cd6-be58e2cdd16a French Polynesia's Fun New "Passenger Freighter" Tours the Spectacular South Pacific Islands Thu, 05 Nov 2015 20:46:00 GMT <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div>  </div> <div> There was a time when it was relatively easy to take an around-the-world trip using nothing but freighter ships. Accommodations were never plush, but at least they took people to off-the-path ports. In recent decades, shifting economies and security concerns have put a damper on that delightful shoestring-travel underworld.</div> <div>  </div> <div> One place where freighters are still a regular form of passenger transportation is <a href="">French Polynesia</a>, in the South Pacific. Some outsiders call the country (actually an overseas collectivity of France) "<a href="">Tahiti</a>," after the name of its capital island, but in fact it comprises 118 islands over some 2 million square miles. Its islanders need a convenient way to span the distances between their five major archipelagos—and to transfer their daily goods, many of them France-made, between their various shores.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Flying from island to island can get expensive. So French Polynesia employs what is termed a "passenger freighter"—part cargo ship and part passenger ship, each function with its own sector of the vessel. Unlike traditional freighters, French Polynesia's passenger freighters are equipped with luxury-level cabins, so if you catch a ride on one, you won't be eating slop in the galley with the crew, but having an experience that approximates a small cruise line. </div> <div>  </div> <div> Given the remoteness of the islands, its unique design and regular schedule makes the passenger freighter a smart way to get around as a tourist and to see as many of the islands as possible. More than many other islands of the region, French Polynesia's emerald crags, teeming tropical fish, and crashing reefs are often most spectacular when viewed from the bright blue water.</div> <div>  </div> <div> A brand new passenger freighter is going into service in French Polynesia and the old one is being phased out. It's called the 254-passenger <em>Aranui 5</em>, and it begins making its two-week circuit of the major wonders of the area. It starts in Papeete on the island of Tahiti, which is the same place where international flights land. That's in the island group known as the Society Islands, and that's the region the majority of tourists go. There, the ship calls at world-famous Bora Bora, which is near Papeete.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Beyond Bora Bora, though, the <em>Aranui 5 </em>sees way more cool stuff than most Tahiti visitors ever dream of seeing. It calls on more far-flung islands that few outsiders see other than on seasons of <em>Survivor</em>: Takapoto and Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago as well as Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa (site of Paul Gauguin's grave—which you'll see), Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, and Ua Huka in the Marquesas Islands.</div> <div>  </div> <div> We guarantee you: There is no easy way to see these magnificent islands so easily if you try to do it on your own and by plane. Naturally, prices are not as low as they would be for a mass-market Caribbean cruise, but for the rarity of what you'll see and the fact it includes all three daily meals and wine, the expense may be worth it: Fares start at $2,781 per person not including port charges of up to $243. That's around $200 a day, which in the scope of the cruise industry isn't as brutally priced as some other ships that ply far less interesting waters.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Aurani, which goes 17 times a year, year-round, for two weeks at a time, is at 800/972-7268 and <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.</div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:e24e67fb-db1e-49e5-af22-8c8b2065c647 Airfares to Hawaii are Dropping Fast Thanks to New Competition in the Skies Wed, 04 Nov 2015 16:22:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Black Rock, Ka'anapali Beach, Maui</em></p> <p> It used to be that getting to Hawaii from the United States' West Coat required a major cash outlay. Even earlier this year, round-trip fares could consistently be well above $500 or $600. </p> <p> No wonder most people perceive the 50th State mostly as a luxury or honeymoon destination: It takes the price of a dowry to go.</p> <p> But this week, that's changed. Drastically.</p> <p> As the blog of travel reporter <a href="" rel="nofollow">Chris McGinnis</a> blog <a href="" rel="nofollow">points out</a>, rates to Honolulu are currently as low as $398 round-trip from San Francisco for the six-hour flight. </p> <p> What changed? This week, Virgin America began flying its new Hawaii flights, "The Pineapple Express," and in response, the consolidated monster airlines United and American had to contend something they thought they had merged their way out of: competition.</p> <p> Rates are low at the moment because of a variety of sales—Virgin America's, designed to let people know the flights exist, and United's and American's, which unintentionally to show people how scared they are to find they're no longer the only big dogs in this game. But it's a sign that cheaper fares are coming on a regular basis.</p> <p> Virgin America (and not Virgin <em>Atlantic</em>—that's a sister company that flies to Europe) now goes from SFO to Honolulu and starting Dec. 3, to Kahului, the biggest airport in Maui.</p> <p> If it came to deciding which airline to pick for a flight to Hawaii, I just might choose Virgin America. Its rewards aren't as golden for frequent flyers, but the seat-back entertainment provides two dozen channels for free (American charges you to watch anything but a package of antique NBC shows from last season), Virgin has power outlets at seats—even in coach—and Wi-Fi.</p> <p> Virgin is also awarding <a href="" rel="nofollow">loyalty points to passengers who book an Airbnb</a> in Hawaii instead of a regular hotel—a fact that has some in the Hawaiian hospitality industry on edge. Not that tourist business is scarce these days: Up until the end of summer, 4.3 million people flew there from the mainland this year compared with 4.1 million during the same period last year.</p> <p> Fun side fact: Mashable recently reported on the special, <a href="" rel="nofollow">eight-foot wing "sharklet" extensions</a> that Virgin America is using on the A320s is uses on its Hawaii flights to improve its range and fuel efficiency. That may not be a reason to book Virgin over any other airline, but planespotters will find it fascinating.</p> <p> All this means that when you plan your next Hawaii trip (or your first one), also have a look at flights going from San Francisco's SFO airport. Because Richard Branson's airline has decided to joust with the legacy carriers at that airport, prices may be substantially lower than what they are from Los Angeles' LAX, and they may mean a brief stop in San Francisco to catch the Virgin flight could save you money on a trip to the Aloha State.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo by Frommer's Editor <a href="" rel="nofollow">Jason Cochran</a> on <a href="" rel="nofollow">Instagram</a></em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:4abec090-210d-45c4-b23c-f0574b0c1fe5 There's No Better Time for a Quick Trip to Paris than the Autumn Fri, 30 Oct 2015 20:13:00 GMT <div> To those Americans lucky enough to enjoy an autumn vacation (or the ability to take off a week at that time), a trip to Paris is a perfect choice.  When Parisians return from their summer time off, they plunge into an impressive round of worthwhile cultural activities, that make for a scintillating stay in the City of Light.  Although the traditional sights. attractions and events of Paris are always predominant, here's what else is happening in the next several weeks in Paris:<br /> <br /> *An important exhibition of Andy Warhol's ("Warhol Unlimited") at the Musee d'Art Modern (until January), including the first-time-ever presentation of Warhol's "Shadows" (102 paintings in 17 different colors).<br /> <br /> *An unusual exhibition of Video Game Art at the Art Ludique (until March of 2016), showing how the genre is a complete world of design.  Even if you don't play, it's an intriguing show.<br /> <br /> *The recently-opened Philharmonic de Paris (Jean Nouvel, architect) in the Parc de la Villette, with excellent acoustics and programs.<br /> <br /> *Your chance to view a space-age building by Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne ("the Fondation Louis Vuitton").</div> <div>  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> The Fondation Louis Vuitton (photo by Forgemind Archimedia/Flickr)</div> <div>  </div> <div> *A rare performance of a Broadway-worthy musical, "Singing in the Rain", at the Theatre du Chatelet.<br /> <br /> *Virtually unlimited shopping.  Unlike in the month of August and at Christmas, all the shops of Paris are open at this time.<br /> <br /> *The city-wide Festival d'Automne, celebrating dance and theatre at venues all throughout Paris, between now and mid-December.<br /> <br /> *Paris' own version of "fall foliage", when all the trees in all the parks turn a pretty orange.  And there are far fewer tourists in sight.<br /> <br /> *And if you're visiting near the end of the year, a magical event to attend is ballet at the Opera Garnier.  Some nights, students of ballet perform in an unusually entertaining evening.<br />  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:404d90ad-cfb8-4541-b991-9c58ca2f3658 In Recommending 10 Lightly Visited Destinations for Your Next Vacation, I Avoid the Unknown Places That May Deserve Their Lack of Notoriety Fri, 30 Oct 2015 19:39:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>     This is the season for the publication of travel lists: the "10 Best of This", the "10 Best of That". Travel journalists disclose their 10 Best travel destinations for the year ahead, or their 10 Best unknown travel gems, usually places of which few Americans have ever heard, or places so expensive that few Americans would choose them. One well-known travel firm has named Botswana in Africa as its favorite for the year ahead, without disclosing that Botswana is probably the single most expensive safari destination in all of Africa.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I like choosing places that aren't totally unknown, but simply don't receive as many visitors as they should. And I usually point out that some totally unknown destinations are lightly visited because they simply don't deserve a greater number of visitors.  In a recent column, I singled out Portugal and Colombia as destinations that receive a fair number of tourists, but deserve a great many more.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Let me add to those selections the following:</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>The Peloponnese</strong>: Most visitors to Greece confine their itineraries to Athens and The Islands. They're missing the awesome sights and important history of the massive, peninsula-like land mass called the Peloponnese to the west of the Greek mainland. Next time in Athens, rent a car and drive into the mountainous Peloponnese, devoting most of your attention to Olympia (you'll see the actual stadium of the ancient games) and Delphi (religious capital of ancient Greece), an exciting and memorable trip in itself.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Sicily and Sardinia</strong>: Having made the classic trip from Rome to Florence to Venice in your previous stays, consider Sicily next: though it receives plentiful tourism, you're never overwhelmed with those visitors and you enjoy a largely-crowd-free visit to Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa and Taormina, by simply following the coastal road completely around the island. Or take a Rome-originating ferry or flight to Sardinia, which receives a fair number of European tourists but hardly any Americans, to its excellent beaches and museums.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Panama</strong>: Low air fares bring you to a pleasant country, home to an increasing number of American retirees living in high-rise, seaside condos, but never inundated with tourism. Viewing the canal is an obvious thrill, then the well-preserved colonial center of Panama City ("Casco Viejo"), then the villages of indigenous people outside the capital city. Prices are reasonable, and the U.S. Dollar is the currency.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Concordia Eco Resort</strong> on the island of St. John: An ecological community (canvas-sided bungalows) on the coast of this quiet member of the U.S. Virgin Islands, your fellow vacationers are passionate worshipers of the natural life, and their company lends a unique atmosphere to a tropical vacation.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Oxford and Ithaca</strong>: Everyone knows of stately Oxford, and of Cornell "high above Cayuga's waters"), but few Americans take advantage of their summer courses offered to people of all ages and backgrounds (the "Oxford Experience", "Cornell's Adult University"). Studying subjects taught by eminent faculty in the liberal arts is a unique vacation opportunity here, and the opportunity to live for a time in a student residence vacated for summer (which include the famous, 16th century quads of Christ Church college in Oxford), is a priceless dividend you'll remember for a lifetime.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>The Coast of Maine</strong>: Except in the single town of Bar Harbor, everything else on this "rock-bound" coast is lightly visited, and vacationers renting homes, bungalows or rooms enjoy a quiet and fulfilling contact with the sea and the small-town life of a lightly-populated state. And though I can't guarantee the price, I recently paid $10.95 for superb lobster dinners in a number of coastal restaurants. A visit to Acadia National Park, most of which is not far from the sea, is an added plus.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Cuba</strong>: Before the crowds descend on this tropical island, you can fly there immediately via Jamaica, Cancun or the Bahamas on a number of airlines, quickly board a connecting flight to Havana, and stay in the home of a Cuban family (a "casa particular") whose low-cost rentals are available from Airbnb or any number of other apartment-listing websites. At least for the next several months, before scheduled air transportation brings the crowds, this is a unique experience.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Sanibel Island, Florida</strong>: A winter destination, reached by plane to the excellent airport of Ft. Myers, Florida, this is a winter destination whose many seafront condos are rented by their owners to outside visitors in slow months like December and January. With excellent restaurants and shopping, bicycling and hiking, a decent cultural scene, an expansive beach, and especially a remarkable wildlife preserve with the quaint name of "Ding Darling" (the latter a must-see among visitors to Florida), Sanibel provides a quiet vacation setting for thoughtful tourists. </div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>The South of India</strong>: And especially the cities of Chennai (the "Detroit of Asia"), Bangalore (the "Silicon Valley of India), and Madurai (in the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu), offer a sometimes-refreshing contrast to the greater poverty of the northern cities. There is higher literacy here, greater industrial development, somewhat progressive political policies, an improved status for women, and remarkable religious and cultural attractions in both areas, but especially in Madurai, site of the Gandhi Memorial Museum. Recent visitors have been entranced by the experience, and greatly value the chance to have seen this fast emerging, vibrant area of India.</div> <div>  </div> <div> And finally:</div> <div>  </div> <div> <strong>Portugal and Colombia</strong>: As described in an earlier column, Portugal vies with Greece as the lowest-cost country in western Europe, endowed as well with a gracious population friendly to tourists, with an excellent cuisine as well as fine weather, and sufficient cultural and historic attractions to keep you well satisfied. As for Colombia, the recent truce between its government and a once-powerful insurgency, has removed the fear of military conflict.  Its large cities once again calm, it is an excellent location for a South American vacation. </div> <div>  </div> <div> And there you have it:  ten lightly-visited destinations (or groups of destinations) that could easily accommodate additional tourism, without spoiling the elements that make them attractive to visitors.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Bon Voyage!</div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:98e8c2c8-d7a7-4cfa-a82f-075e73af566a American Airlines to Sell An Even More Basic Ticket Than it Does Now Fri, 23 Oct 2015 17:55:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p>  </p> <p> Call it the Spirit Effect: American Airlines will be the latest major carrier to offer a no-frills, stripped-down, bare-bones version of its ticket. </p> <p> Starting next year, <a href="" rel="nofollow">according to <em>USA Today</em></a>, American Airlines will begin offering tickets that cannot be changed or refunded or offer advance seat assignment. This new category, which will all but guarantee a middle seat on most flights, are designed to have a price that appears at the top of the airfare booking engines' search results. </p> <p> The airline was essentially forced into it in order to look competitive to leisure travelers. Right now, when you do a search for a flight on a third-party booking website, Spirit Airlines always seems to float to the top on routes where it flies.</p> <p> This is because Spirit's fares are drastically "unbundled"—as many passengers have learned too late, Spirit's prices are so low because it includes almost nothing, from baggage allowances to seating assignments. Passengers add more money to obtain those once-basic services once they have purchased the base fare. </p> <p> American is tired of appearing as if it's not the best value, and to make sure it appears evenly with its competition, Spirit, it will offer an even worse value to catch up.</p> <p> Delta did something similar with its <a href="" rel="nofollow">Basic Economy</a> fare. They don't appear on every flight—just ones that compete with Spirit, Frontier, and the other airlines with <em>a la carte</em> pricing.</p> <p> Having flown American Airlines only yesterday, we can confirm that American doesn't have far to go in offering a bare-bones ticket. Most of the niceties of its product for non-business travelers were monetized long ago. Even on Economy flights now, passengers pay extra for everything, from movies (from $5) to headphones ($5) to food. A plastic-wrapped blanket and a soft drink are pretty much the only things you get for free, and those will still be available to the new bare-bones ticket holders, provided the airline can't figure out a way to remove the blanket from seats where customers haven't ponied up first.</p> <p> The new ticket type will offer the same level of <em>a la carte</em> in-flight service paired with a much angrier set of booking restrictrions.</p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">Jason Cochran</a></em></p> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:0c566728-29d8-4767-bd26-7a4951cc9c5c And Now: Here are Three New Possibilities for Your Next Vacation Fri, 23 Oct 2015 16:06:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Convento do Carmo, Lisbon</em></p> <div>      Tired of the same old trip? The travel industry is constantly creating the means for an entirely new vacation experience, as witness the following newly-popular destinations and a newly-revived form of European lodgings:</div> <div>  </div> <div>      <strong>Portugal</strong> and <strong>Colombia</strong> are the hot new destinations, attracting a great many smart travelers. Both are cheap: <a href="">Portugal</a> is, along with Greece, the lowest-cost destination in Western Europe, full of excellent hotels charging under $100 a night for a double room and making two-course meals available at a number of fine restaurants for $15 per person. The airfare to Lisbon is generally the cheapest of all transatlantic flights, enabling you to enjoy a fine vacation stay in a country that values its tourists and treats them with courtesy (and where the weather is generally more than agreeable). With specific respect to Lisbon, it has a phenomenal subway system charging the equivalent of $1.50, plus extensive trams and public buses; it offers haunting <em>Fado</em> (unique vocals) cafes for reasonable costs; it charges nothing at all to enter a couple of important museums, and only $6 or so for others; and shopping costs are reasonable, especially for the colorful tiles that so many visitors buy.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      As for <a href="">Colombia</a>, this low-cost South American country with weather that remains glorious almost throughout the year, was once out-of-bounds for tourists because of the active insurgency that made several major cities unsafe (only the port of Cartagena was regarded as without danger). Today, because of a peace treaty recently signed between the government and its rebel opponents, the threat of armed political violence has almost entirely receded, and the only threat to public order is said to be a certain amount of street crime in the city of Medellin. Apart from that once-capital of drug dealing, all the other major cities are apparently quite pleasant for vacation activities, and the warnings previously issued by our State Department are today generally directed only to very small cities and rural areas, where tourists are still advised not to go. Otherwise, benefiting from low airfares from the United States, Colombia is now enjoying a well-deserved resurgence of its incoming tourism. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      A third possibility for your next vacation--<strong>Untours</strong>, stronger than ever: Overcoming fears that it might lose its clientele to Airbnb, the 40-year-old organization known as Untours, headquartered in Media, Pennsylvania, is enjoying increased prosperity and popularity, and provides a pleasant, comfortable and well-furnished European apartment for your next vacation. Prior to 2007, when Airbnb was formed, was virtually the sole reliable source for apartment lodgings in Europe.  When Airbnb began offering a vaster number of apartments in far more cities around the world, many feared for the future of Untours.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       Instead, Untours has continued to prosper and attract growing numbers of clients. Why? First, Untours vets the apartments it makes available to you; it inspects each such apartment--some 300 of them in more than 20 European locations--and guarantees their quality and excellent location. But beyond that, Untours does more than simply assign you to an apartment for a week or two weeks; it meets its clients at the airport, escorts them to the apartment, provides them with an initial orientation, and is available throughout the week or two weeks for either questions or escorted touring. Based on that combination of features, booking an apartment-based Untour in Europe is now more popular than ever before.</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: Bert Kaufmann/Flickr</em></div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:10d48fdf-ff80-4c5f-8eaa-85184e0429bc Airfares Are Dipping Once Again (and Two Other Pieces of Good News for Flyers) Tue, 20 Oct 2015 15:30:00 GMT <p> Overly chatty seatmates, cramped seating and long security lines: these unhappy byproducts of airline travel aren’t going away anytime soon. But this week, several news events suggested that, in other ways, flying will be getting better for travelers in the coming months.<br /> <br /> Most importantly, prices are dipping. Hopper, an app that tracks airfares and advises users when to book, came out with a study showing that airfares in the United States were down a whopping 18% this September compared with last, and that they should continue along that trend for the rest of the year. In Canada, Hopper is showing pricing down 13% from last year. That means an average domestic round-trip flight of $208 round-trip in the US and an average price $374 round-trip in Canada.<br /> <br /> “The key elements that are driving down prices are oil prices and competition,” says Patrick Surry, Chief Data Scientist for Hopper. “Oil prices are down a good 50%.  And in the United States, the low cost carriers are continuing to expand and open up new markets. They’re picking off routes where there are profitable carriers, and that’s driving prices down.<br /> <br /> “In Canada, there isn’t as much competition and the population is more spread out,” he adds.</p> <p>  </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> (Photo by Skyseeker/Flickr)</p> <p> In addition, one of the most onerous in flight charges is disappearing, at least for one airline: JetBlue announced that its inflight Wi-Fi charges would be eliminated. Not only that, the airline will have a system powerful enough to allow customers to get online with several devices at once and even stream videos.<br /> <br /> Virgin Atlantic has been giving away free Wi-Fi for several months now, as part of a program that’s scheduled to end in March. Here’s hoping Virgin decide to follow JetBlue’s lead.<br /> <br /> And finally: larger overhead bins are in the works from Boeing, and already here, in the case of one carrier. The airplane manufacturer is inputting what it’s (appropriately) calling “space bins” into its new Boeing 737’s. These overhead containers increase storage room by nearly 50%. Alaska Airlines was the first to accept delivery of the newly outfitted planes, with Delta and United also in the pipeline for the new planes (and bins). The bins hang two inches lower, but according to the manufacturer, this hasn’t affected passenger comfort in tests.  <br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:d2042113-bcac-41f2-9a6f-bb4b7c337b42 JetBlue Announces It Will Offer Free Wi-Fi Thu, 15 Oct 2015 12:09:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> It's no secret that the major airlines act like lemmings. One adds a baggage fee and the next follows. One throws a sale, and soon the whole pack is in.</p> <p> But for once that may be a good thing, because yesterday <a href="" rel="nofollow">JetBlue announced </a>that it would be eliminating one of the most loathed flying fees: Wi-Fi connectivity. It will be offering its "Fly-Fi" for free aboard its entire fleet.</p> <p> And this ain't "GoGo-gone" quality Wi-Fi, where every passing cloud or bit of turbulence seems to disrupt the signal (a problem with many of the paid service on other carriers). JetBlue is promising broadband connectivity, similar to what most of us enjoy at home, which will allow passengers to plug in several devices at once and, hallelujah!, even stream videos.</p> <p> To offer the service, JetBlue has teamed up with Amazon Prime. The latter is promising that its members will be able to stream thousands of videos for free during flights, a potent marketing move for this expanding service.</p> <p> Right now, JetBlue has Fly-Fi on its more-than-150 Airbus fleet. It says it will have the rest of its fleet equipped by the end of the fall.</p> <p> (It also should be noted that currently, rival carrier Virgin America is offering free Wi-Fi in a program that's set to end in March of 2016. Let's home Virgin decides to make like a lemming and follow JetBlue's lead on this one.)</p> <p> Blue potato chips <em>and </em>free Wi-Fi? You're winning our hearts, JetBlue!</p> <p>  </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> (Photo by Anthony Quintano/Flickr).</p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:1b3d3b61-bd64-4083-bfa6-186cbe07cea5 Will Foreign Travel to the U.S., or Even American Travel Within the U.S, Be Lessened by the Apparent Increase in Gun Violence? Wed, 14 Oct 2015 22:45:00 GMT <div aria-hidden="true" class="cvox_indicator_container cvox_indicator_window_not_focused cvox_indicator_animate_normal cvox_indicator_pulsing" cvoxignore=""> <div aria-hidden="true" class="cvox_indicator_region cvox_indicator_visible" cvoxignore=""> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> <div style="text-align:center;">  </div> <div> Are parts of the United States unsafe for vacation tourism?  A <a href="" rel="nofollow">number of Australian activists </a>have answered Yes to that question, advising their fellow citizens—in a widely publicized statement—to avoid traveling to the United States because of the prevalence of gun violence here.</div> </div> </div> <div>  </div> <div> And thus, the concern of many Americans about traveling to unsafe areas in Europe and the Middle East, is now being felt by a substantial number of foreign residents considering a trip to the United States. They cite, as supporting their fears, the almost daily news about gunfire injuring or even killing individuals unlucky enough to be in conflict situations or—more horrifying—the murder of multiple students in college or school settings or the killing of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.</div> <div>  </div> <div> It would be ironic if the arguments for gun control were to be bolstered by the dollar-and-cents impact that gun violence has on discouraging foreign, touristic visits to the United States (<a href="" rel="nofollow">which bring us billions of dollars of income each year</a>). And yet, that additional connection should be part of the dialogue, pro and con, with respect to gun control.  Consider, for instance, that some states permit concealed weapons to be brought into bars—bars serving alcoholic beverages.  Other states permit people to openly display weapons they carry with them in holsters on open view.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Will the lack of gun control have an adverse impact on tourism to the United States? Will we acquire a reputation as being unsafe for foreign visitors? When, as will inevitably happen, a tourist is killed or injured by a stray bullet or because an instance of "road rage" has led to a shooting, or for any other of the reasons why weapons are fired, will the publication of such incidents persuade a large number of would-be visitors from coming here—and thus affecting the income of all those small businesses that depend on tourism?  Will Americans, for that matter, also travel less to those states where gun controls are absent?</div> <div>  </div> <div> I'd like to hear the viewpoints on this, both pro and con, from visitors to this website.</div> <div>  </div> <div> Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">z0/Flickr</a></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:88d37005-d1fb-4ac7-b908-f05742dcb51a An Order of Nuns in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, is Using Travel to Further the Aims of Pope Francis Wed, 14 Oct 2015 22:10:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div>      The recent, repeated emphasis by Pope Francis on concern for the poor has brought renewed attention to the outstanding travel program operated for that purpose.  It is called "Global Awareness Through Experience" (shortened to read "GATE") and it has been offered for more than 25 years by an order of nuns, the "Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration", from their convent in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      The GATE program takes people of all faiths to communities of the poor in Mexico, Central and South America.  They meet as equals with the persons they visit, in an effort to understand their plight and their needs, and not to preach to them.  Not always in favor with others of their faith, because of their previous support of "liberation theology",  the GATE sisters have imbued thousands of Americans over the years with a passionate sympathy for and understanding of the poor, which is also evidenced by contributions that GATE solicits for programs aiding these impoverished communities.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      In 2016, GATE will operate frequent departures of each of several  major programs going to the following locations, among others;</div> <div>  </div> <div>      El Salvador:  January 3-13, 2016 and July 13-24, 2016, on which participants will view Salvadoran history through the eyes of the poor, including the political murder of Archbishop Romero and others.  They will visit a hospital maintained for the poor, visit a rural bakery providing employment for poor women, meet with "Mothers of the Disappeared" formed during the civil war in that country, and pursue important discussions with member of the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Mexico and its Countryside, February 15-24, 2016:  Participants, through translated discussions, will learn the reasons for emigration by large numbers of Mexicans, in addition to visiting sites displaying the economic realities of Mexico. They will discuss, in particular, the situation of women in many parts of Mexico, in addition to conducting translated discussions with residents.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Guatemala, March 1-10 and August 11-20:  Participants will explore human rights issues, and study the effects of trade agreements on life in  the countryside.  Other topics:  Mayan roots and spirituality, historical and political realities of Guatemala.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Peru:  April 25,-May 5, 2016, May 24-June 3, 2016: The main purpose:  to meet modern people of Incan ancestry, and to discuss their lives.  The group will also visit Machu Picchu.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Mexico City and Chiapas:  June 20-30:  Participants, after a stay in the capital city, will see the importance of water projects and schools in isolated areas, the rural realities of Chiapas.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Programs range in cost from $1,200 to $1,400, not including international air fare, but covering all transportation within the particular country as well as accommodations and all but one meal.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      For further details, which are far more extensive than the above short summaries, contact GATE at, or at 912 Market Street, LaCrosse, WI 54601-4782, phone 608/791-5283.</div> <div style="text-align:center;">  </div> <div style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:5b9a166c-5206-4c59-972b-2def6524560e In an Unusual Move, Princess Cruises Develops New Musicals with the Writer of "Wicked" and "Godspell" Mon, 12 Oct 2015 19:47:00 GMT <p> There's a Broadway arms race raging in cruise ship entertainment. It started nearly a decade ago when Norwegian mounted a chopped-down version of the lesser-known musical <em>Smokey Joe's Café</em> (1994) on one of its ships. That show, a simple revue of Leiber and Stoller early rock songs, fit the mold for the jukebox style of live entertainment passengers expected: familiar, plotless, tuneful, and over within 90 minutes.</p> <p> But the Broadway/cruise line divide had been broken. Soon, Royal Caribbean licensed a <em>bona fide</em> musical theater smash for one of its ships. A pared-down version of <em>Hairspray</em>, a 2002 blockbuster, was installed as the signature evening show on its new <em>Oasis of the Seas</em>, then the largest cruise ship in the world. It was, if you'll pardon the phrase, a sea change for cruise ship shows: Not only was it a property that was normally only available on Broadway or on national tour, but it was also a show with a plot and spoken acted scenes. Even the cast got an upgrade from the usual: The role of Edna was played by Jim J. Bullock from the '80s sitcom <em>Too Close for Comfort</em>.</p> <p> Other Broadway brands followed on many other ships, as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian added popular shows such as <em>Rock of Ages</em>, <em>Legally Blonde</em>, <em>Chicago</em>, <em>Cats</em>, and <em>Priscilla, Queen of the Desert</em>. Usually, they were condensed versions, but last year, Royal Caribbean busted that convention, too, by mounting a full version of <em>Mamma Mia!</em>, complete with an intermission, lifted word-for-word from the Broadway version—no cuts, no concessions. No one was sure whether audience members would wander away during the break—and most didn't.</p> <p> This year, it's Princess Cruises' turn to evolve the conventions of the once-stale cruise ship show. It <a href="" rel="nofollow">partnered with Stephen Schwartz</a>, the composer-lyricist of <em>Wicked</em>, <em>Godspell</em>, <em>Pippin</em>, and other iconic shows, to create <em>Magic to Do</em> for the <em>Crown Princess</em>. On the surface, it's a simple, one-act revue—the kind of entertainment cruise ships have mounted for years, albeit with a very high technical budget and contributions from major Broadway creatives such as director Gabriel Barre and lighting designer Ken Billington.</p> <p> <em>Magic to Do</em> is billed as "a new musical," but it's actually a revue of songs, some of which are well-known ("Day By Day," "Defying Gravity") and some of which come from lesser-known Schwartz projects (the unfinished <em>Houdini</em>).</p> <p> But this show is more significant than the typical cruise ship revue because it marks the start of a four-show collaboration with Schwartz—the first time a cruise line has signed a formidable Broadway talent to create a series of new shows expressly for ships.</p> <p> "They came to me with the idea to do this revue, <em>Magic to Do</em>, which is a basically a revue of my songs incorporating magic illusions," says Schwartz.</p> <p> Once they were in the middle of the show, though, the two parties agreed to expand their collaboration to a series of four shows. </p> <p> "I thought, this is a great opportunity for me and also for the musical theater creators that I know to create something especially for here," says Schwartz, who will be tapping talent both write and mount all-new material. "I'm finding the people. It's my debut as an impresario," he joked.</p> <p> Now Princess will be diving into musicals that are not only cabaret-style revues but ones that may have a plot and spoken scenes, which on Broadway are called "book musicals."</p> <p> "We have one book show that we're going to try," says Schwartz. "No one's done this. All of this is an experiment, so some things may work better than others. Even the revues—we want to have not just a succession of numbers but some kind of overall theme and some kind of emotional impact to elevate the concept of a revue a little bit."</p> <p> Whereas licensing a Broadway show is often a simple matter of staging a script that is already proven to work, inventing new shows from scratch requires investment and patience.</p> <p> "This had a whole developmental process, and while we were doing the work last week on the ship, we were making changes," says Schwartz. "We may actually make a few small adjustments in this as we put it on other ships, but the show is basically done."</p> <p> <em>Magic to Do</em> had a three-week rehearsal period in July, and the show's debut last weekend was preceded by a month of technical rehearsals—the onstage illusions stretch the limited space and capabilities of a cruise ship's theatre. The creatives don't come cheap either—to attract talent worthy of the investment, the principal singers receive the equivalent of a Broadway-level salary.</p> <p> In 2008, Disney Cruise Line debuted a 7-song musical version of <em>Toy Story</em>, but Disney's audience generally prefers revues culled from material that is familiar to them—this fall, the cruise line will debut a musical version of the Rapunzel animated film <em>Tangled</em>. </p> <p> But Princess appears to be creating something that borders on a conservatory program for new show—albeit ones that will probably not be as complex as the ones that Broadway audiences demand.</p> <p> "Princess is doing a thing that really, no other cruise line has done," says Schwartz. "We'll see what happens, but it's been fun to do something in a new venue and in a new medium. I really felt a responsibility to Princess to really deliver something for them. They gave a lot of support, they spent <em>a lot</em> of money to really do a great show and I felt it was up to me to deliver. And now we've got three more shows to play around with."</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:001f6030-d051-4790-805c-24ab7d9cee40 Several Well-Financed Firms Have Now Gone into Competition with Airbnb, Supplying You with Alternatives for Renting Low-Cost Apartments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 21:28:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>      By now, has become a "household word" in travel. Most Americans are aware that the bearer of that name is today valued at billions of dollars, and that its inventory of low-cost apartments for short-term rental is perhaps larger than the world's total number of hotel rooms.  Multitudes use Airbnb for their accommodations when they travel, and large numbers of persons owning apartments now earn a sizable yearly income renting them out to transient visitors.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But the very success of Airbnb has brought it into conflict with law enforcement authorities.  Some state attorneys general claim that most Airbnb rentals violate the law of their jurisdiction. (The rules of several large cities and a number of states prohibit the short-term rental of apartments unless the owner of the apartment remains in residence throughout the period of the rental—which few of them do). Others claim that Airbnb is removing large numbers of apartments from the stock of housing available to permanent residents; the dramatic argument is that Airbnb has worsened the housing shortage in many large cities.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      And thus, the problems encountered by Airbnb—the lawsuits or other actions brought against them—have, until now, persuaded other large companies to stay away from the short-term rental of vacation apartments. One of the largest hotel-rental firms—the popular—has openly stated that it was once hesitant to begin renting apartments because of the fear of legal difficulties. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Those fears have apparently now been overcome. So great is the amount of business transacted by Airbnb that has concluded it can no longer stay out of that business—regardless of the regulatory problems. Without issuing so much as a short press release announcing the change, has added a new department to those listed on its main menu page, a department offering "homes & apartments." And therefore, is now available to those many travelers who are anxious to rent a low-cost apartment on their next trip, but are hesitant to use It is possible—I have no way of knowing whether this will be the case—that will be careful to limit its apartment services to the entirely-lawful rental of a spare room in an apartment whose owner remains in residence throughout the stay.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It is also clear that—another giant in the rental of vacation accommodations—has also begun adding apartment rentals to the large stock of vacation homes that it has been making available to travelers for many years.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      I am noting these developments—these alternatives to—despite my own personal belief that regulatory agencies should sharply limit the pressures they have brought against Airbnb. I fully agree that they should move against persons who are, in effect, operating illegal hotels by making multiple apartments available on a continuous basis throughout the year. That activity does reduce the housing stock available to permanent residents. But there are a large number of people who supplement their incomes by only occasionally moving out of their apartments and making them available to transient visitors. The latter persons are simply making what should be a wholly legal use of an asset they own. They are not operating "illegal hotels." </div> <div>  </div> <div>      I also know, in particular, of several young persons who occasionally move out of their apartments and go to live with a friend, in order to earn additional income. These occasional rentals should be entirely legal, as they pose no threat whatever to a community's need for peranent housing. I know of other persons who rent out their apartment when they themselves go on vacation, and thus make a wholly-innocent use of housing that would otherwise lie empty.  They are not operating "illegal hotels."</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Whatever your own views, you might keep in mind that you can now seek out such low-cost apartments for your own next vacation, by contacting such wholly reputable organizations as and, that have now decided to compete against</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">kinetoskop/Flickr</a></em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:6f5d5b9d-25a8-4826-a81d-77d1ab97db6c Norwegian Airlines is Fast Emerging as an Acceptable Option for Flying at Low Cost to Europe Fri, 09 Oct 2015 20:19:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>      If you have recently sought to buy tickets for a transatlantic flight—let's say, to London or Paris or Rome—you are probably still reeling from the impact of the news you received. The cost of flying to Europe has zoomed upward. Even in an off-season period like late October, ticket prices are hundreds of dollars more than they used to be. The various leading airlines—Delta, United, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, American Airlines, AirFrance, Alitalia, Lufthansa—are apparently filling their flights with passengers willing to pay $1,200 per round-trip flight (including taxes and fees), even for a lowly economy seat with scant legroom. To gain an additional three inches of legroom (for "premium economy"), you pay at least $200 more.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      How about paying for your tickets with frequent flier points? Lots of luck. Unless you have made these arrangements several months in advance (or conversely, in the final week before departure), you are usually told that such "awards" are no longer available for the dates you request. Note that last-minute awards are often available, but who wishes to play Russian roulette with your vacation, by waiting that long to make arrangements?</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Another more effective method for saving money on such trips is to add several hours and inconvenience to your Atlantic crossing by agreeing to go to your destination via a one-stop flight, and a change of planes, in another city. Lufthansa, Iberia and AerLingus are notorious for cutting the cost if you will agree to stop in Frankfurt, Madrid or Dublin on your way to London or Paris. That, admittedly, is almost a surefire way to reduce the otherwise-hefty expense of flying to Europe. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      And then there's Icelandair and WOW Airlines (another Iceland-based carrier), who both offer savings on the Atlantic crossing, provided you're willing to change planes in Reykjavik on the way.  And there are various internet sites that will occasionally uncover a particular date when the standard airlines have empty seats and are willing to reduce the price in to fill them. Spend a couple of hours at your computer, navigating the sometimes complex procedures of the"aggregators or airfare search engines, and you will occasionally strike gold.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       But perhaps the best method of crossing the Atlantic on a budget is to use the services of the cut-rate carrier called Norwegian Air (or Norwegian Air Shuttle, <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, 800/357-4159).  It will take you to Europe for as little, round-trip, as $700, but usually for a bit more. And it will do so, apparently, in a standard airplane with an efficient and talented staff. Though Norwegian is fairly new to an American audience, it has flown successfully within Europe for several years, and fills its planes to such an extent that it is one of the most heavily used budget airlines on the continent. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Bear in mind that there are several extra charges that must be added to the low Norwegian fare. On, let's say, a $700 round-trip between New York and London, each passenger will pay an additional $42 to $50 for a suitcase checked aboard the flight, each way (bringing the round-trip cost to $800 for most passengers who will obviously bring at least one suitcase apiece to Europe). And there is no free food service in the course of the flight; you pay extra to be served a meal, even a sandwich. Other minor fees (such as for use of a credit card to make payment) will also be encountered.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Still, there are savings to be had by flying Norwegian, especially if you book them for a flight to a Scandinavian capital. And there are also considerable savings to flying Norwegian from the initial stop in Europe (such as London Gatwick) to a further European destination. Let's all give thanks for Norwegian; may they create such competitive challenges to the other airlines that the latter will also reduce their fares.</div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo credit: Norwegian</em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:beb4e926-90fe-44f0-9cfa-f22a7374f53c The One-Percenting of Disney: Who Loses, Who Wins Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:39:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> Every few months, American news outlets erupt with a new round of rueful Disney coverage. Every spring, admission ticket prices shoot skyward, and this week, it <a href="" rel="nofollow">hiked its annual pass rates as much as 31%</a>—an insane inflation by any standard. Disney parks are as crowded as ever, but the company seems to be entirely tone deaf to the real takeaway behind the constant drumbeat of bad press: Disney is in trouble.</p> <p> This week's price hike announcement was sold to the press with a new, telling excuse. The hikes "will help us manage strong demand and continue to deliver a world-class experience," offered a Disneyland spokesman.</p> <p> That rationale says a lot: Disney has now officially confirmed that prices keep ascending as a crowd management tactic. And from that reality tumbles a host of troublesome truths for Disney, that once-proletariat American institution.</p> <p> First, <strong>Disney has turned its back on the poor.</strong> Frommer's was among the first to write about how a Disney vacation is only for the wealthy (see "<a href="">As Disney World Tickets Break $100, There Are Signs Disney Vacation Are Only for the Rich</a>," Feb. 2015). But raising rates to keep out the riff-raff and thin crowds is directly contrary to Walt Disney's intentions for his original park. He charged people a nominal fee to enter so that families of all income levels could enjoy it. Parking was also dirt cheap. Instead, people paid per ride. That way, no child would be denied the thrill of walking through Sleeping Beauty Castle. </p> <p> Also buried in the announcement of the hiked pass rates: It now costs $20 to park a car at a Florida park, up $3 overnight. You can add that to the more than $100 Disney already collects to let you in the front gate.</p> <p> A friend of mine, someone who is passionate about Disney history and deeply respectful of the company's culture, sadly reported on Facebook that it would cost $750 to take his family to a Disney park <em>for a single day</em>. So he just won't go anymore.</p> <p> Why should his feelings (mirrored by millions of other families) matter? After all, the parks are crowded. Because from a brand management perspective, it's disastrous in the long term. Here's why: A grown-up with money to spend takes their kids to Disney because of their own fond memories of being taken there as a kid. But as more parents refuse to pay Disney's usurious crowd-control prices, fewer kids will visit and build that brand loyalty. Just as bad, the families that do go today will complain bitterly about what it cost them to participate in this great American tradition. The more young people don't care or bring home negative family memories, the bigger the risk that the <strong>current generation will burn out on Disney</strong>.</p> <p> Disney is also entertaining the idea of "surge" pricing that will hike rates even higher during busy periods. If that goes through, prices will be highest during school vacation periods, meaning families of average means <strong>will have to take their kids out of school to go to Disney</strong> affordably. The company subtly already cultivates itself as the Hooky Vacation through years of TV ads in which parents surprise their kids with Disney vacations, but when hooky is the <em>only</em> way Mom and Dad can afford to go, it becomes a lot less sweet (and a lot less beloved by educators).</p> <p> Because Disney admits prices are shooting up to control crowds and not to cover expenses, then that cash bonanza is mostly profit and it begs another question: Are its cast members getting raises? <a href="" rel="nofollow">According to</a>, the average cast member earns less than $10 an hour. Now that all this extra money is flowing in simply to deter poor people from coming, will the company distribute that to the people with some of the most perpetually depressed wages in Central Florida?</p> <p> Disney isn't doing much to sweeten the pot and justify crazy prices. In a limp attempt to cheerlead the pass price increase, it added a few pathetic inducements to a few of the even-more-expensive passes, such as the right to download photos taken of you by park staff for free, but this perk costs Disney nothing, since photography staff is already in place. </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <em>Private plunge pool in ultra-luxury over-water bungalow facing the Magic Kingdom, constructed 2015</em></p> <p> This all leads to the obvious puzzle: If the parks are so crowded that Disney is willing to commit PR hara-kiri to curb them, then who is going? Someone must be, because the six Disney parks in the U.S. are packed.</p> <p> The people who are going are the ones who can afford to. Obviously, the first group is the rich—people who can afford crystal castle replicas on sale in the shops and $40 entrees served in the sit-down restaurants. The other major audience, though, is foreign visitors, who tend to be able (often, due to circumstance or exchange rates) and willing to spend as much as it takes. At Walt Disney World in Florida, overseas visitors are one of the most important visitor sectors, and they more they come, the fewer Americans can come. This is why, in effect, <strong>middle-income Americans are being squeezed out of the Walt Disney World parks</strong> even though they remains as crowded as ever. People are going: They're just from somewhere else. </p> <p> Disneyland in California, neighbors of the park are the biggest audience, and many of them have annual passes. One of those passes went from $750 to over $1000 overnight this week.</p> <p> There will be winners in the one-percenting of Disney. Disney shareholders will win, to start with—but only for now, before its reputation sours for good. Universal in both Orlando and Hollywood, which has plenty of room in its attendance figures to absorb those turned-off Disney fans, and in whom corporate owner Comcast is, even now, pouring billions of dollars for more hotels and attractions to catch all the coming defectors. Knott's Berry Farm will absorb many family visitors in California. Even SeaWorld stands to gain in both locations as long is it can mitigate shabby public relations of its own.</p> <p> But I also hope Florida in general is a winner. Disney has never been a good neighbor, partly in lame wages, and also by stealing visitors from other worthy attractions. The first that comes to mind is Kennedy Space Center, the place where American launched the Moon Shots and the Space Shuttles. Attention spans for the miracles of American exploration have withered compared to attention spans for princess dresses and mouse ears—and I hope that Americans  who feel Disney is telling them they're no longer welcome can remember their country's real-world achievements once again.</p> <p> I could write a book just on the spiritual value of Disney within American culture, and it's with that level of affectionate truth-telling for the brand that I write <a href="" rel="nofollow">Frommer's EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal, and Orlando</a>. Every time the U.S. media publishes another story about Disney's wayward pricing methods, there's a flood of comments from everyday people about how much they hate Disney and have no desire to return. That's not only risky to the future of a company. It's also risky to an American institution as influential and epoch-making as Disney's.</p> <p> If McDonald's started charging $20 for a hamburger or Oreos cost $15 a pack, even though I rarely eat both, I'd feel the same sense of regretful nostalgia and wish I could do something to stop my cultural touchstones from succumbing to the temptations of their own success.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo credit: Instagram: <a href="" rel="nofollow">@JasCochran</a></em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:218defb5-df8c-49fd-b22c-d6a4af49203e Gifts You Should Give Yourself This Holiday Travel Season Mon, 05 Oct 2015 23:30:00 GMT <p> In the next couple of months, most of us will be spending a lot of time in stores, and online, shopping for gifts for our loved ones. If you’re going to be traveling to give those presents in person, why not make what can be a stressful travel season a little easier by gifting yourself with the following?<br /> <br /> <strong>An early morning flight</strong>: Holiday travel season is also storm season. And when storms hit, the delays they cause ripple through the system, creating more delays and cancellations later in the day. So if you book an earlier flight, yes, you’ll have to leave your home before dawn, but you’ll stand a much better chance, statistically, of getting where you’re going on time, and with less hassle.<br /> <br /> <strong>Airport Apps</strong>: With such handy and free apps as Gate Guru and Lounge Buddy, you can make the time waiting for your flight a bit more pleasant. The first gives full info and unvarnished reviews of the shops, restaurants and other services you’ll find near your departure gate. The latter is a guide to airport lounges, many of which are available, for a fee (which will vary widely from affordable to “you gotta be kidding”) to anyone who wants a more civilized nook in which to wait. Lounge Buddy, I should add, is not only informational, it serves as a booking engine for these lounges.<br /> <br /> <strong>Waze</strong>: Another smartphone app, Waze not only gives driving directions but it uses its popularity to crowd source info on traffic patterns. If there’s a jam up ahead on the road—and when isn’t there when everyone’s driving to Grandma’s house for the holidays?—it steers you around the mess. The app is free.<br /> <br /> <strong>Skipping Your Sister’s Couch</strong>: Over the holidays, many usually pricey business hotels, in business-centric destinations, have to cut rates to attract customers. If you’re going to one of those types of cities, try and snag a deal and bed down in comfort. Or see if you can rent a home or apartment through such services as,, or No, a home won’t be cheaper than bunking with a relative, but it could be less pricey than a hotel, and you’ll have some welcome privacy.<br /> <br /> <strong>Real Time Away:</strong> Put an "out of office" notice on your email and voicemail, and let your boss know that you’ll be back in touch after the holidays. Though it’s harder and harder to do so in this wired world of ours, there truly is no better gift you can give yourself than time with those you love…rather than with a screen or your work colleagues. Maybe if you insist on a real holiday, your co-workers will take one, too. If so, you’ll be giving more as much as you receive—which just about defines holiday spirit, doesn’t it?</p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><br /> <br /> Decorations don't make holiday time at the airport more tolerable (photo by CursedThing/Flickr)<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />  <br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:b6bacdf7-0739-4065-b60a-4817a707e332 Have Airlines Deliberately Made Flying Uncomfortable in Order to Collect Extra Fees? Tue, 29 Sep 2015 22:15:00 GMT <p> Fees for "priority boarding" of the planes. Fees for extra legroom. Fees for wider seats. Fees for choosing seats. Fees for snacks served aboard. Fees for checking luggage.  Fees for contacting an airline reservationist. Those and countless other extra fees confront today's airline passenger. Are they all part of a deliberate conspiracy of the airlines to collect fees from passengers seeking to avoid unbearable discomfort?<br /> <br /> Recently, a Professor Wu of the Columbia University Law School pointed out that in order for these airline fees to create large profits for the airlines, "there needs to be something worth paying for to avoid, [something] that necessitates at some level a strategy that can be described as calculated misery. Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that's where the suffering begins".<br /> <br /> Based on this professor's assumption, an internet website called Alternet recently listed the ways in which airlines have made flying uncomfortable, in order to induce passengers to pay fees to avoid discomfort.<br /> <br /> Method one: The airlines have created the least efficient ways to board their flights, causing the boarding process to resemble a cattle call. To avoid the discomfort of boarding, passengers pay up to $40 for "priority boarding".<br /> <br /> Method two: More and more airlines are limiting the methods for buying air tickets, preventing some websites from issuing tickets and, in the case of Lufthansa, charging $18 for the right to buy tickets from anyone other than the airline itself, which then adds other required purchases.<br /> <br /> Method three: Airlines have clearly reduced legroom in their economy seats, and have also installed narrower seats, forcing some passengers to purchase better seats ("premium economy") to avoid discomfort.<br /> <br /> Method four: The airlines have introduced ridiculously overpriced penalties for changing tickets ($200 for domestic flights, $300 for some international flights), causing passengers to accept anxiety-producing fears when reserving flights.  None of these change fees reflect the actual expense to the airline of changing flights.<br /> <br /> Method five: The universal introduction of luggage fees (something of which we're all now aware) forces passengers to bring lighter--and sometimes insufficient--luggage onto a flight.  We pay extra for sufficient luggage.<br /> <br /> Method six: The actual cost of tickets no longer reflects the airlines' costs. Despite the fact that the price of aviation fuel has fallen by half in recent months, most airlines have not passed on a penny of their savings in the form of lower airfares.<br /> <br /> Why are these extra fees and costs so universal?  It's because airlines no longer need to compete with one another. Four airlines—Delta, United, American and Southwest—now account for more than 80% of all domestic flights, and each such airline dominates the business of its own particular routes. They can all introduce means of making flying uncomfortable, without suffering a competitive response.<br /> <br /> And that situation has resulted in massive profits.  According to Alternet, the four airlines enjoyed profits of $5.5 billion in just the three months of the last quarter. Clearly, the public and the Congress needs to become aware of what harmful monopolies the remaining few airlines have become.<br /> <br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:15ca9760-e304-4449-9022-da05f246ef4a Though Not the Equivalent of Maho Bay Camps, Concordia Eco Resort is an Adequate Substitute for Ecologically Minded Vacationers Sat, 26 Sep 2015 19:00:00 GMT <div> <div> <div style=""> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p>  </p> <p> For some 30 years, the world's most ecologically sensitive vacation resort has been Maho Bay Camps on the exquisite but lightly developed island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.</p> <p> A complex of canvas-sided huts ranged along a hill sloping down to a remarkable beach and view, Maho Bay was booked by Americans of all income levels who wanted to live close to nature. But Maho Bay lost its lease last year, is currently being cleared, and has been replaced by a slightly lesser resort on another side of St. John, possessing not quite as good a view but also access to a fine beach, and featuring canvas-sided huts making use primarily of solar and wind power for its energy. </p> <p> Called the Concordia Eco Resort, it's operated by the same visionary, Stanley Selengut, but isn't quite as enchanting as the resort it replaces. Nevertheless, it's an obvious choice for thoughtful tourists, and you might want to view its further details at <a href="http://For some thirty years, the world's most ecologically-sensitive vacation resort has been Maho Bay Camps on the exquisite but lightly-developed island of St.John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A complex of canvas-sided huts ranged along a hill sloping down to a remarkable beach and view, Maho Bay was booked by Americans of all income levels who wanted to live close to nature. But Maho Bay lost its lease last year, is currently being cleared, and has been replaced by a slightly lesser resort on another side of St. John, possessing not quite as good a view but also access to a fine beach, and featuring canvas-sided huts making use primarily of solar and wind power for its energy. Called the Concordia Eco Resort, it's operated by the same visionary, Stanley Selengut, but isn't quite as enchanting as the resort it replaces. Nevertheless, it's an obvious choice for thoughtful tourists, and you might want to view its further details at" rel="nofollow"></a>.<br />  </p> <div style="">  </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:a1e30813-febf-41aa-bccb-badbb28ec664 A Sharp Reduction in the Number of Important, Independently Owned Travel Websites is Threatening to Harm the Quality of Their Advice Sat, 26 Sep 2015 18:46:00 GMT <div> Based on the ground-breaking research and analysis of travel expert Reid Bramblett, I recently wrote in these blogs about the shocking consolidation of what used to be three large online travel agencies—Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz—into what is now only one immensely giant online travel agency, namely Expedia. In just as shocking a development, Expedia has now caused the airfares and hotel rates in Travelocity to be exactly the same as in Expedia. And we can now expect them to do the same with the airfares and hotel rates in Orbitz. A classic instance of monopoly pricing has incurred.<br /> <br /> I also pointed out that as a result of this consolidation, there were now only two, major, online travel agencies available to Americans: Expedia and Priceline.<br /> <br /> But I neglected to point out that one other of the giant computer travel websites, namely TripAdvisor, has been on an identical quest to absorb and consolidate even more travel websites. TripAdvisor, that collection of amateur hotel and restaurant reviews submitted by the public, has now bought up no fewer than fifteen popular websites performing travel-related functions:,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and<br /> <br /> So now, when an American consults the internet for best airfares or hotel rates, or for answers to a travel problem or travel issue, they are usually dealing with just three giant companies: Expedia, Priceline, and TripAdvisor. What do you think will be the result of that astonishing degree of consolidation? Will the three giants graciously consent to make no use of their immense power, or will they strike deals with airlines, cruiselines and hotels to advance their own interests and not the interest of the consumer?<br /> <br /> It should be acknowledged that thus far, TripAdvisor has not used its ownership of fifteen other companies to control and direct their efforts. Unlike Expedia, which proceeded to wipe out the independent actions of their properties, TripAdvisor seems to have left its "employees" alone. But how long do you think they will exercise such admirable forebearance?<br /> <br /> There are a few independents left. But how long do you think they will remain independent? Having acquired virtually the entire digital travel world of size, how long do you think that Expedia, Priceline and TripAdvisor will put off acquiring the few remaining independents?<br /> <br /> It is a tragedy that our regulatory agencies approved the acquisition of Orbitz by Expedia. But enough is enough. I suggest that attention should now be paid to the remarkable consolidation of the entire digital travel industry, which threatens the well-being of the travel consumer. Will some member of Congress look into this matter, and begin suggesting remedies?</div> <div>  </div> <div>  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:7ef1948f-675b-4fbf-91f2-85e4dc2b7309 Death By Selfie: The Dangers of Taking Too Many Selfies While Traveling Thu, 24 Sep 2015 15:43:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> With every technological advance, there’s also a step backward…and sometimes that step can be a fatal one, in the case of selfies. The modern smartphone, with its ability to not only act as a communication device but also as a camera (and one with a lens on both sides) is changing the way we experience travel, and it's leaving some travelers hurt, and even dead.<br /> <br /> That isn’t hyperbole. In just this past year, a number of tourists have been killed trying to take selfies in front of just the right object or from just the right angle. The <a href="" rel="nofollow">BBC news reported</a> that the latest fatality was a 66-year-old Japanese tourist who accidentally fell down a stairway at the Taj Mahal while trying to take one on September 18th. This summer one of the runners at the Fiesta de San Fermin was gored to death by a bull when he stopped to take his snapshot. A handful more died on train tracks trying to get the train in the frame behind them, or climbing on dangerous equipment. A number of news outlets are now reporting that there have been more deaths from selfie taking this year so far (12) than there have been from shark attacks (8).<br /> <br /> The dangers of selfies are playing out in other ways as well. This summer, Waterton State Park in the Denver, Colorado, area decided to close its gates to the public because too many visitors were trying to take selfies…with bears. Similar incidents occurred around Lake Tahoe, California, in 2014 with visitors were charging at bears with their phones. In Costa Rica, the <em>Tico Times</em> reported that earlier this month, selfie takers disrupted the annual nesting of endangered Ridley sea turtles, with some thoughtless tourists going so far as to put their children on turtles’ back for photos. Most of the turtles responded to the chaos of amateur paparazzi by retreating back into the sea without burying their eggs.<br /> <br /> Serious and disturbing incidents all. But I’d argue that this selfie mania has a more insidious effect on how we experience travel, building a wall, in effect, between the traveler and the destination they’ve come to see.<br /> <br /> Sure, travelers have always taken snapshots.  But historically, the number of photos featuring the taker were usually limited (sometimes by who was nearby to help take the photo) and instead were a way for the taker to solidify memories of the destination; or to practice the art of photography.<br /> <br /> Today, there’s a complex social interaction going on when it comes to photography. Selfie takers are using their photos as part of an ongoing conversation with friends and family back home. They’re out in the world, but instead of putting their efforts toward understanding the culture they’re visiting or meeting locals, they’re angling for likes on Facebook and retweets on Twitter. They are, in effect, prioritizing the virtual world over the physical one—the destination they’ve often paid thousands of dollars to visit.<br /> <br /> Not to preach, but I know from personal experience that one of the greatest delights of travel is being cut off from daily life and forced to recreate myself in a place where I’m a stranger among people whose customs I don’t always fully understand. It’s an exercise that builds courage and self-reliance and one that expands one’s understanding of the human condition. It is, ultimately, a more joyous experience.<br /> <br /> So a plea: Think twice before taking that selfie and posting it. Your time might be better spent getting into a conversation with the person right next to you. Try it on your next vacation and you’ll see what I mean.  </p> <p> (Photo by Jean-Francois Gornet/Flickr)<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:ae5f4808-5d62-4d33-9b83-0fe260d311a9 Two Little-Known Upstarts—WOW Airlines of Iceland and Norwegian Air of Scandinavia—Are Currently Offering Bargain Rates for Off-Season Crossings of the Atlantic Fri, 18 Sep 2015 20:30:00 GMT <div>  </div> <div>      We are about to reach the slowest days of the European off-season, which starts as we approach the month of November and continues until mid-March.  It is then that European hotels search for guests, the cost of vacationing in Europe declines, and the smartest of all American travelers choose to cross the Atlantic.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But though the land costs of Europe are less at that time, especially in this time of a strong U.S. dollar, the cost of flying across the Atlantic is, discouragingly, high.  Most airlines--with two exceptions--charge close to a thousand dollars for round-trip air to most European cities from the U.S.</div> <div> The two exceptions--and they are the carriers that I'd like to examine in this blog--are WOW Airlines of Iceland, and Norwegian Airlines of Norway.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      WOW Airlines charges rates on some days during the period from October 1 to December 15, and from January 10 to March 10, that are as low as $150 each way (and thus $300 round-trip, including tax) for a trip from the U.S. to many different European capitals.  But just as some helpful medications have disappointing side effects, WOW's breathtaking low rates carry several important conditions.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       WOW Airlines is an Icelandic carrier, and flies from both Boston and Baltimore/Washington, D.C. via Reykjavik, Iceland, to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Berlin.  But though Iceland is currently a popular destination in its own right for sightseeing the countryside outside of Reykjavik, WOW's $150-each-way fare does not permit the buyer to stop over in Iceland on their way to Europe.  Enjoying that low rate, you must immediately change planes on arriving in Reykjavik and continue on to Europe.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Aboard a WOW flight, there is no canned entertainment (no tv-like monitors on the back of the seat in front of you), and no free food; you'll need to bring your own sandwiches.  Moreover, baggage rules are fairly strict; checked luggage can not be more than 44 pounds in weight, and carry-on luggage can not be heavier than 11 pounds (a fairly severe restriction).  And finally, $150 fares are not available on all flights; you may have to search several dates.  But eventually, you should be able to arrange a flight to as faraway a destination as Copenhagen for a breathtaking $150 each way.  For more details, go to</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Norwegian Airlines (sometimes known as the "Norwegian Air Shuttle") is a more standard carrier with normal amenities and rules, but also with slightly higher--though still advantageous--prices.  On numerouus dates in the late-fall, winter, and early-spring, it offers one way rates as low as $299 round-trip between New York and London, including taxes.  And it charges even less ($219 to $269) one-way between New York and the Scandinavian capitals, as little as $319 one-way between New York and Barcelona. Its $299 one-way to London, creates a $600 round-trip, and that $600 compares with rates of $900 and even more on other carriers flying to London at that time.  Again, you'll have to search several dates to find these low prices, but the job is manageable--and worth the effort. Go to for further details.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      All this is not meant to say that you won't occasionally find a bargain fare on winter flights of other airlines, including the well-known ones.  In a recent article by travel expert Reid Bramblett, running a a "slide show" on, he surveys the airfare search engines that can sometimes turn up a lower-than-usual trans-Atlantic airfare on well-known airlines.  And he finds that a Danish airfare search engine called leads the field in finding such bargains, although he also has good things to say about the new airfare search services offered by Google.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      But generally speaking, if you want to fly to Europe cheaply during the coming off-season months, you'll first scan the offerings of Norwegian Air and WOW Airlines.  </div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:5199fabe-6bc9-4a30-bccb-8adcc3434d36 Meteorologists Predict Changing Weather Will Make This Year's Fall Foliage Different Wed, 16 Sep 2015 17:00:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> First the bad news: leaf-peeping along North America’s eastern seaboard, and in the inland areas of New England, may not be quite as vivid an event as it usually is in 2015. <em>Yankee</em> magazine, which keeps a meteorologist on staff to make such predictions, is just one of the many voices predicting less color.<br /> <br /> “It’s going to be a little bit of a mix this year because we had one of the fiercest winters in history. So that really cold weather kept the moisture content down. Then we had a really dry spring through May, just at the time when the trees were sending their first leaves out, followed by a lot of rain in June, which added further stress on the trees,” explains Mel Allen, the Editor of Yankee. “Some areas are reporting leaf fungus because of the extreme wet.”<br /> <br /> But that doesn’t mean you should cancel your fall foliage vacation. Allen recommends creating itineraries that can be changed as you go along, and that start a bit earlier. “Our meteorologist Jim Salge is saying that the coastal areas will be especially bright and rewarding, but in the uplands, the visitor should be ready to be more flexible,” advises Allen. “If they’re not seeing what they want they should be willing to travel 20 miles or so until they do.”<br /> <br /> All is not lost, of course. “Mother Nature always produces a spectacular show. It’s just a matter of degree,” notes Allen.<br /> <br /> And beyond the leaves there are numerous reasons to head to New England and the rest of rural Northern America this fall. Here are just a few:<br /> <br /> <strong>The Fastest Zipline on the Planet</strong>: That would be the claim the Stowe Resort in Vermont is making, which debuted this thrill ride in the summer of 2015. It starts at the top of Mount Mansfield (the tallest mountain in Vermont) and zips passengers down to the bottom, via three different, consecutive lines. For more information, go to <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>. The line will operate through October 18.<br /> <br /> <strong>An Apple Festival and a Taste of History</strong>: Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts offers up a masterful take on what rural life would have been like between approximately 1790 and 1830, with perfectly restored barns and homes, expert “re-enactors” and informative tours. For the first two weeks of October—the likely peak season for the leaves in this part of the world—it will be having its yearly apple festival, featuring music, food and more. To learn about Sturbridge, go to <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a><br /> <br /> <strong>Discounted Cunard cruises</strong>: Procrastinators are being rewarded with excellent discounts on fall sailings between Quebec City and Brooklyn, NY (or vice versa) which are dropping the rate for a one-week cruise to just $499 through early October. The ship is the Queen Mary 2 and we found these rates at <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, though they should also be up on other discounter’s websites.  <br /> <br /> To see Yankee Magazine's moving map on where the foliage is best, <a href="" rel="nofollow">click here</a>.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo of Stowe, Vermont by Anthony Quintano/Flickr</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:82fc73cd-12a5-430f-aa2b-8b120db79b61 Driver Licences From Four U.S. States May No Longer Be Accepted As I.D. at Airports in 2016 Mon, 14 Sep 2015 23:51:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> And those states are: New York, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Minnesota.</p> <p> In December of 2014, the first phase of the <a href="" rel="nofollow">Real ID Act</a> from Congress and the Department of Homeland Security went into effect. It's mandate was to standardize government-issued IDs across the United States, specifically for the purpose of allowing people entry to Federal facilities. The states would have until 2016 to comply, when it came to airports (they had to comply earlier for other sorts of facilities) and all but four states—New York, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Minnesota—now meet federal standards.</p> <p> So what will happen when flyers from those states try to use driver licenses to get through security for domestic flights? That's not clear at this point. <em>USA Today</em> reached out to the <a href="" rel="nofollow">DHS </a>and were told that "no announcements" were ready on this matter.</p> <p> I have to believe that the Department will give would-be flyers a reasonable amount of time to acquire other forms of identification. But to be forewarned is to be forearmed! If you ate a bagel for breakfast, or a Po Boy for lunch; if you're likely to meet a Presidential candidate in the next few months or head out ice fishing (or to the Mall of America), you may want to look at getting a passport or passport card if you don't have one already.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo by Dan Paluska/Flickr</em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:010d67be-7b32-44ba-92bc-1b05485a500f As Travel Destinations Jockey for Position, It Becomes Necessary Periodically to Revise Our List of 10 Favorites Fri, 11 Sep 2015 01:52:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>     Which, currently, are the ten-or-so most-promising  destinations for your own next vacation?  Though any such list is unusually subjective (to put it mildly), I'm willing to give the selection a try.  Here they are, in no particular order:</div> <div>  </div> <div>      (1)  Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia:  This re-created state capital of the 1700s is like an historical Disney World, placing you plunk in the midst of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.  Children as well as adults have a fine time in imagining themselves in that period, but also gain an important educational lesson in the founding of our country.  Go to for more details.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      (2)  Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon:  The three great national parks of the United States are on the must-see list of every American, and are best viewed in the course of a self-drive auto-trip to Montana (for Yellowstone), California (for Yosemite), and Arizona (for the Grand Canyon).  No one has fully experienced our national wonders who has not stayed within the scenic beauty of Yosemite, the awesome science and nature (geysers, buffalo, wolves) of Yellowstone, and the breathtaking sight of the Grand Canyon.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      (3)  Concordia Eco Resort, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands:  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rapidly-developing new tented-bungalows of Concordia will prove an attractive substitute for the just-closed and justifiably-famous Maho Bay Camps, which lost its lease after 30 years of operation. Possessing excellent views, and access to a glorious beach, Concordia is now the world's most ecologically-sensitive tropical resort, making little use of fossil fuels for its electric energy, but relying instead, in the main, on solar and wind power.  It is operated by Stanley Selengut, whose Maho Bay Camps established new standards for the operation of beach resorts.  See for details. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      (4)  Sicily:  Driving by car along the seaside highway that encircles all of Sicily, starting in Palermo and proceeding to Agrigento (5th century B.C. Greek temples), Siracusa (more important than Athens in ancient times) Taormina (a splashy resort city of Italian excess), and back to Palermo, is one of the great European experiences--friendly, safe, and generally inexpensive. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      (5)  Paris:  I can never get enough of this remarkable city, which--to me--leads the world of tourism in art, architecture, cuisine, history, and political discourse.  Go there on a walking tour, staying in the most basic of one-star and two-star hotels, and patronizing the "delis", bakeries and groceries for your picnic-style meals. </div> <div>  </div> <div>       (6)  The Island of Bali, in Indonesia:  A Hindu outpost in a Muslim nation, it is populated by some of the most gracious people on earth, who invite you to witness their religious processions, wedding ceremonies, and joyful funerals.  Making a base in the village of Ubud in the central highlands (which I greatly prefer to the beach areas of Bali, heavily visited by Australian surfers), I enjoy one of the cheapest vacations on earth (and cheaper still in recent months because of the declining value of the Indonesian currency), and yet one that is a profound cultural experience, supplemented by shopping expeditions to the arts and crafts shops of skilled artisans in the other central villages that surround Ubud.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      (7)  Bonaire, one of the "ABC" islands of the southern Caribbean:  A scuba-diving capital.  After taking a short "resort course", you will find yourself hanging weightless some 60 feet below the surface of the sea, viewing an enchanting sight of sea life and vegetation.  And all this is enjoyed on a small, laid-back and lightly-populated island, without the pressures and commerce of the better-known tropics. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      (8)  Yachats, the Oregon coast:  A tiny, seaside town and yet with several gourmet restaurants (featuring Dungeness Crab at some), a number of small, motel-like lodgings, and a good beach--in sum, an ideal stop in the course of a motoring trip along the breathtaking (and largely undeveloped) Oregon coast.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      (9)  New York City's Greenwich Village (and the Off-Broadway theaters):  Many of the most important new trends and causes in America--the Civil Rights struggle, feminism, equal rights for gays, environmentalism, economic equality--all got their first hearing in these small theaters, which continue to perform a similar function today, exposing all of us to novel political and social views.  Here's a remarkable chance to expand your consciousness. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      (10)  Kenya:  On an overland safari expedition from Nairobi into the Masai Mara and the Serengeti (without roads or power lines), you will know the world as it looked before human beings inhabited it.  In Kenya, you are guaranteed of seeing tens of thousands of animals--wildebeest, giraffes, lions, elephants, rhinoceros, and more--in a single day, an exceptional experience. </div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo: Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire, <a href="" rel="nofollow">Dan Hershman/Flickr</a></em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:e448a938-8f86-46f6-8491-3271d94537f0 Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia, Comes Close to Being an Indispensable Place to Visit for Americans of All Ages Thu, 10 Sep 2015 23:44:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div>  </div> <div>    Travel is a constant process of self-education.  As we visit more and more destinations, we adopt new favorites, replace former cities and resorts with new and more pleasant ones.  I've been surprised to enjoy recent vacations at places I had never before considered, beginning with America's most historic experience, in the State of Virginia: </div> <div>  </div> <div>      Colonial Williamsburg:  When my wife recently suggested that we have a family reunion, a gathering of our grown-up children accompanied by our grandchildren ages 9 to 15, at an area devoted to re-creating the years just before the American Revolution, I was convinced the youngsters would be bored beyond endurance. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      The exact opposite occurred.  They were fascinated to hear the speeches and dialogues of actors dressed and coiffed to look like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry.  They wanted to stay longer in the re-created premises of a colonial wig-maker who displayed his craft.  They were particularly delighted to dress up like colonial children, and to be treated as such by other guests at the sprawling resort.  They loved eating meals in restaurant-taverns designed to appear out of the 1760s.  We all had the time of our lives.</div> <div>  </div> <div>       Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a gift to the nation from the Rockefeller family.  Their attention drawn in the late 1920s to the derelict condition of the historic portion of a larger town, they embarked on a project of reconstruction.  Some major buildings, like the "Palace" of the Royal British Governor of that time, were refurbished into their original state.  Other structures were demolished, but then rebuilt to their original specifications; more modern buildings of a later age were permanently removed.  Whole avenues were reconstructed and the entire area took on the elegant look of a colonial capital, brought back to life by residents of Williamsburg who signed on, as their full-time employment, to wear colonial dress and act the part of colonial people.  Some of them play the fife and drum, and escort birthday groups into reconstructed colonial restaurants and pubs.  Others perform a highly emotional parade at night, leading guests on a stirring march to the historic former capitol of Virginia. </div> <div>  </div> <div>      For accommodations, visitors can either stay in two giant, period hotels of very high quality, or in a greater number of cheaper hotels and motels located outside the actual colonial grounds.  In every month of the year, Colonial Williamsburg is open to enthrall visitors from every part of the United States.  A visit stirs the senses, the emotions.  The transformation of your own life into the 18th century is so affecting, that when George Washington enters a particular auditorium to address the visitors, everyone instinctively stands up as if the costumed actor is the real first president of the United States.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      It is a hazardous act to claim any particular destination as "indispensable" to visit--but, so help me, that's precisely what Colonial Williamsburg is for all Americans.  It is particularly a necessary visit for your young children, who thereby gain an indelible picture of the reasons for which their country was founded.</div> <div>  </div> <div>      Admission is as little as $25 a day for adults, $12 for children, with multi-day tickets costing as little as $50 and $25.  Colonial Williamsburg is open every day of the year (even when it's snowing!), and can be visited even during inclement weather, which was the case during my own family's recent. highly successful stay.  For more details, go to</div> <div>  </div> <div> <em>Photo: <span style="color:rgb(50, 53, 55);font-family:Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;line-height:17.281728744506836px;white-space:pre-wrap;">Harvey Berison/flickr</span></em></div> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:4a235fbb-099f-42a3-af67-89ddc48cb59a A New App Promises to Make Travel More Safe for Solo Vacationers Wed, 09 Sep 2015 18:15:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p>  </p> <p> Men and women travel differently.<br /> <br /> And that’s not a comment on shopping habits or boozy pub crawls.<br /> <br /> For women, especially solo travelers, safety is always front of mind, a concern that can influence the destinations we pick, the routes we take and the activities we participate in. Because of that, I’ve always been a bit jealous of the carefree male travelers I see, men who seem to just stride out into the world with few second thoughts, and fewer second guesses when they engage with strangers.<br /> <br /> But today I downloaded a new app onto my phone, one that just might allow me—and other solo female travelers—a smidgen more peace of mind on the road.  It’s called <strong>Companion</strong>, it’s available on both IPhones and Android, it’s free and it’s a darn smart tool.<br /> <br /> Here’s how it works: when you’re leaving a place alone, you simply key in the address you’re heading to and pick a contact from your list of friends and family. That person then acts as your “virtual companion” along your journey; they’ll be able to see on a map where you are, and will be alerted when you arrive safely. Your chosen companion doesn’t have to have the app on their phone for this to work, but they will have to consent to being “on watch”. If they don’t hit “yes”, you’re alerted, so that you can pick someone else from your contacts list.<br /> <br /> Then, you simply put the phone in your pocket or bag and head out. You don’t have to check in with the app in any way—that would be counterproductive. Instead, you keep an eye on your surroundings.  <br /> <br /> But while you’re walking, the phone is checking in with you. If you suddenly veer off the route, start to run, get shoved, have your earphones pulled out or start going more slowly than you likely would, Companion alerts you that it has noticed something going wrong. You then have 15 seconds to tell the app all is OK before it alerts your contacts, and the local police, of a potential problem.<br /> <br /> (Because the makers of the app hope to help police forces identify problem areas for solo walkers, they encourage users to register areas where they feel unsafe; those are then collected by the app and shared with the authorities.)<br /> <br /> Right now, the app works anywhere in the world for friends to trace other friends’ routes, though the button that alerts local police is only available in the United States. But that will change imminently. According to co-founder Lexie Ernst the company is working hard to add that feature, which he says it will be available “in a few weeks”.<br /> <br /> “We have seen many travelers use this app!” says Ernst enthusiastically. Noting that the app was first developed for students he continues. “Many people studying abroad have used it with their family and friends in the U.S. and in other countries.”<br /> <br /> My guess is that thousands more female travelers will be using the app soon, as well. I know I will be.<br />  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:dbe0c52a-ae8b-417c-a384-3ffbf0526303 International Airfare Wars Make It Much Cheaper to Vacation Abroad This Fall and Winter Mon, 31 Aug 2015 20:10:00 GMT <p> I reported roughly a week ago that airfares for the summer took a sharp dip; and that experts were predicting that fall fares would also be low.</p> <p> Sometimes it's sweet to be right.</p> <p> My Facebook page has been lighting up with posts from friends who have just gotten steals (one recently got a round-trip Chicago-Miami itinerary for $106 TOTAL) and we're now seeing a lot of fare sales to all parts of the globe. Here are a few of the best international offers:</p> <p> <a href="" rel="nofollow"><strong>LOT Polish Airlines  </strong></a></p> <p> Poland's national carrier has slashed 500,000 fares, some by as much as 50%. Best rates, as you might guess, tend to be to Poland and Eastern, and though it will be chilly the sale means you could fly from New York or Chicago to <a href="">Krakow </a>or <a href="">Gdansk</a> this winter for just $664 round-trip; from $414 for a New York to <a href="">Moscow</a> jaunt; and $664 Chicago to <a href="">Bucharest</a>. LOT is also slashing prices on flights to<a href=""> Milan</a>, <a href="">Prague</a>, <a href="">Vilnius</a> and several other gateways. Tickets must be purchased by September 13 for travel between January 12 and June 30, with holiday blackouts. Click on the link above for more info.</p> <p> <strong><a href="" rel="nofollow">China Eastern Airlines</a></strong></p> <p> If you've ever wanted to visit <a href="">Hong Kong</a>, this coming March might be the month, thanks to a sale that slashing round-trip fares there to just $592 from Los Angeles or San Francisco. Oddly, the flight goes via <a href="">Shanghai</a>, but direct links to Shanghai from this airline are much pricier. There are also sale rates from New York City and Honolulu. No deadline is listing on the site for booking.</p> <p> <strong><a href="" rel="nofollow">Air France</a></strong> and <strong><a href="" rel="nofollow">KLM Royal Dutch Airlines</a></strong></p> <p> Dueling it out in Business Class are Air France and KLM, both of which have reduced those lie flat seats to under $3000 from NYC to <a href="">Paris</a> (currently its $2289 round-trip from Air France and $2846 on KLM). Both carriers are also discounting flights to <a href="">Amsterdam</a>, <a href="">London</a> and <a href="">Rome</a>. On both carriers, you need to book before end of day on September 3 to get these rates (for travel November 1–January 4 with blackout dates).</p> <p> <strong><a href="" rel="nofollow">Aer Lingus</a></strong></p> <p> $549 is the nifty price for round-trips to Ireland this fall, at least from New York City. But the rates aren't all that much higher on Aer Lingus from Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC and San Francisco to <a href="">Dublin </a>or <a href="">Shannon</a>. The deal is for flights between October 25 and December 10, with blackout dates from some gateways.  Other parts of Europe are also being discounted, but remember: you'll be flying through Ireland to go elsewhere. I see no booking deadline on the Aer Lingus site.</p> <p>  </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align:center;">     Autumn in Paris can be lovely (photo by author)</p> <p>  </p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:47e61061-e88e-4de8-a7ab-6e30c47773d5 Advance Reading is the Key to a Successful International Trip; Failure to Prepare via Reading is to Virtually Guarantee Disappointment Fri, 28 Aug 2015 18:05:00 GMT <p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="" /></p> <div id=":ll"> <div dir="ltr"> <p>      If you arrive overseas without any foreknowledge of the history, culture or politics of the country you are visiting, you are bound to have the most superficial experience. You are relegated to the dull explanations of commercial tour operators whose spiels, aboard forty-person motorcoaches, can't possibly capture the colorful story and current posture of every foreign country. You rely on poorly educated, one-dimensional young tour guides to tell you what you are looking at.</p> <p>      Let me cite, as one example, the dilemma of an American tourist who arrives in Spain without any real understanding of the history or culture of Spain. While Spain isn't unique in this regard--every European nation requires advance study to be properly enjoyed—Spain is typical in being utterly incomprehensible to tourists who arrive without having spent even a single evening in a library reading of its unusual history that so shapes the appearance of what you see today. </p> <p>        Too many tourists arrive in Spain without the slightest awareness that for 500 years, Spain was a Muslim nation occupied by Moorish armies who left distinctive structures in their wake. A similar number of visitors are utterly unaware that Spain's once-awesome power permitted it, in the 1500s, to subjugate such faraway nations as Belgium, The Netherlands, and the Philippines. Nor do they fully understand that Spain so colonized vast areas of the world that today some 500 million people on earth speak Spanish. Scarcely any young tourists realize that Spain was a violent testing ground for the later military conquests of Adolf Hitler, leaving such relics as a cathedral for Fascist soldiers and Picasso's searing mural of <em>Guernica </em>(pictured), on display at locations outside of and within Madrid.</p> <p>      All of this—and more—is available to be seen in places ranging from the Islamic palaces and gardens of Andalusia to awesome monuments elsewhere to Christopher Columbus. But they require, for full understanding, that you first read of the historic and cultural background that resulted in such sights. </p> <p>      What sort of reading is best done for a trip overseas? A general history is of course indispensable, but if you haven't the energy for a serious tome, you should at least pick up a readable historical novel like one by <a href="" rel="nofollow">James Michener</a>, or (for Italy) <a href="" rel="nofollow"><em>The Agony and the Ecstasy</em> by Irving Stone</a>. You will find works dealing with the history of art--the various stages, the different approaches to art over the centuries. You should very definitely read the delightful book called <a href="" rel="nofollow"><em>Cathedral </em>by David Macaulay</a>, which explains for children why cathedrals were designed in the manner chosen for them (you will be visiting a great many cathedrals overseas, and they should not be approached as an untutored ignoramus).</p> <p>      Travel brings to you only what you bring to it. Your next trip, first spend time reading about the destination to which you are traveling. </p> </div> </div> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Photo credit: <a href="" rel="nofollow">PedroBelleza/Flickr</a></em></p> Blog:697c8767-df38-4150-a3f3-487b66dac850Post:c56d7d5a-5bb8-4c12-af8d-55bfd519356d