Check out the most interesting travel stories you may have missed this week.
American Airlines Just Made a Big Change Most Passengers Will Hate
American Airlines has fallen in line with the other major carriers in the U.S. with the latest update to its frequent flier program, reports Yahoo! Finance. Travelers will now accumulate miles based not on the distance flown but on how much they paid for their ticket.
Why I Quit My Job to Travel the World
Have a laugh at this satirical essay from the New Yorker, which pokes fun at trust fund kids who drop everything to travel around the world. “Of course, this ‘no reservations’ life style isn’t for everyone,” writes the fictional narrator. “Sometimes it’s difficult to get even one bar of cell service, which makes Instagramming more gelato a real struggle.”
The Latest Travel Luxury: Not Going
Quartz reports that there’s been an increase in the purchase of “cancel anytime” travel insurance this year, probably in response to concerns about terrorism and the Zika virus. This type of coverage costs a little more but gives travelers peace of mind by allowing them to back out of their trip for any reason without losing money.
The Moroccan Scam That Wasn’t
BBC Travel details an encounter with Moroccan locals that could have turned dangerous — would you hop in a car with two strangers to drive into the desert after dark? — but instead turned into a memorable evening at an Arab-Berber wedding.
Check out the travel news and features you might have missed this week.
Park Service Considers Visitor Caps, Expects Record Crowds
The U.S. National Park Service is examining ways to better control crowds in the most popular parks, the Associated Press reports. “We realize that currently we’re on an unsustainable course in terms of demands for visitation,” one Yellowstone National Park official said.
America Issues a Travel Alert Covering Europe
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert for anyone planning to visit Europe. The Economist questions the sensibility of issuing an alert for an entire continent.
Strikes in France Causing Major Rail Travel Disruptions
Nearly half of all high-speed and regional trains in France didn’t run June 1 because of a strike that could last well into next week. Rail worker unions are protesting working conditions and changes to labor rules, Travel Pulse reports. The strike is also affecting trains to Spain and Italy.
World’s Longest and Deepest Rail Tunnel, Through Swiss Alps, Opens
On the same day France suffered from train troubles, Switzerland celebrated the opening of the world’s largest and deepest rail tunnel. Seventy years in the making, the Gotthard Base Tunnel stretches 35 miles through the Swiss Alps and is expected to speed up travel times through Europe, the New York Times says.
7 Travel Apps for Making Your Summer Vacation Plans
A handful of smartphone apps will make summer travel a lot easier, Mashable suggests. They include an app that maps out a route based on your interests, an electronic travel journal and an app that keeps you updated on airport security wait times.
Rule No. 1 of traveling with a baby: Don’t lose the baby. So says a New Zealander dad in his amusing video “10 Ways to Travel with a Baby.” The video was filmed in Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand, with the Museum of Art and History, geothermal pools, redwood forests and Mt. Ngongotaha as backdrops.
Catch up on the travel stories you may have missed over the past week.
Iceland vs. Tourists
Thanks to the popularity of “Game of Thrones,” Iceland is now seeing more tourists than it can handle, The Atlantic reports. Last year, 1.26 million visitors went to the European island where only 330,000 people live. Some hotels are completely booked for the rest of the year.
Mexico Meets the Med: Tijuana’s Blossoming Gourmet Scene
Would you ever have guessed that Tijuana would become one of the hottest foodie destinations in North America? The Independent features the Mexican city, just 15 minutes south of San Diego, as a burgeoning hotspot for Baja-Med fusion cuisine, craft breweries and more.
For Some Flight Attendants, Shtick Comes with the Safety Spiel
Some flight attendants have gone viral with recordings of their Elvis impersonations, song-and-dance routines, stand-up comedy talks during the safety demo and other high-flying hijinks. Travelers either love it or hate it—the airlines too, according to The New York Times.
Secret Hotels You Probably Don’t Know Exist
Some hotels have exclusive, hidden hotels embedded within them. Who knew? CNN lets the cat out of the bag by revealing eight upscale hotels within hotels. They’re like concierge floors, but better, says a rep from The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.
‘Digital detox’ Vacations Unplug the Mobile-Fixated
People are starting to admit they’re missing out on real-life experiences because of an obsession with mobile devices, says Travel Weekly. Several companies are creating travel experiences in response, including device-free vacations by Intrepid Travel and Digital Detox’s “Camp Grounded” woodland camping experience.
26 Affordable Alternatives to Pricey Vacation Hot Spots
Before you book a trip to a pricey destination, consider the comparable, inexpensive alternatives offered by Budget Travel magazine. Among them: Croatia instead of Italy; Krabi, Thailand instead of nearby Phuket; and Warsaw instead of London.
HomeAway Invites You to Spend a Night in the Eiffel Tower
What would you do if the Eiffel Tower was all yours for a night? Submit your answer to that question, and you could win a night in a special suite inside the famed Parisian landmark, Creativity Online reports. The competition is open until May 31 for U.S. residents and June 5 for Europeans.
The unofficial start of the summer is upon us, and this ad will get you in the right mood. Sure it’s a beer commercial, but the ad is a gorgeous and sensory delight.
Catch up on the travel stories you may have missed over the past week.
The TSA Is a Waste of Money That Doesn’t Save Lives and Might Actually Cost Them
Vox makes a provocative case against the beleaguered TSA, which has been under fire in recent weeks for extra-long lines. Not only does the TSA not ensure our safety, the author argues, but it actually causes more deaths (because travelers elect to drive instead of fly to avoid the hassle of security, leading to more road accidents).
The World’s Most Polite Country?
BBC Travel investigates the Japanese concept of omotenashi, a combination of “exquisite politeness” and “a desire to maintain harmony and avoid conflict.” From toilet seats that spring up when you enter a bathroom to people wearing masks to protect others from catching their colds, politeness is a Japanese way of life.
EasyJet Develops a Vibrating Smart Shoe to Help You Navigate a New City
This European discount airline won’t just fly you from one city to another, reports Travel + Leisure — it’s also trying to get you from one neighborhood to another using vibrating sneakers that tell you when to turn. The shoes, called “Sneakairs,” sync up to your smartphone to help direct you with GPS.
Malaria Vaccine Protects Half Who Try It
NBC News reports that an experimental new malaria vaccine protected 55 percent of the volunteers who tested it — which beats out the performance of the current vaccine on the market, which protects just 30 percent. This could benefit future travelers to malaria-stricken regions, but the new vaccine is still years away.
Life on the Other End of an Airline Reservations Line
An AFAR writer got a chance to work as a customer service agent for Delta Air Lines, and discovered the most efficient way to raise a complaint, what the agent can see about you when your call pops up on his or her screen, and how much power a phone agent actually has.
This Is 2016. Why Can’t We Still Book Specific Rooms in a Hotel?
Skift raises a good question: We can book a certain seat on a plane, so why can’t we choose our own hotel room? The answer is that we can … sometimes … and that there are a couple of sites out there that are working to make this capability more widely available.
How Travel Insurance Saved My Life
If you skip buying travel insurance on some trips, you may change your mind after reading this piece from Conde Nast Traveler. After coming down with dengue fever on a trip to Vietnam, the author didn’t get adequate medical treatment until her travel insurance company stepped in to advocate on her behalf.
In the face of government warnings against travel to Iran, these travelers show another side of the country in this thought-provoking video.
Catch up on the travel news and features you may have missed this week.
Attention Passengers … Can You Hear Me?
Think things are bad in the sky for passengers? Flight attendant and author Heather Poole offers her own perspective from the other side of the drink cart — and we fliers don’t exactly come out smelling like roses. “Twenty years ago, when I first started flying, almost every passenger said hello during boarding. Oh, how times have changed,” she writes.
Signature Scents at Hotels: Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em?
USA Today reports on the surge of customized fragrances being pumped into hotel lobbies. While they’re designed to create a delicious-smelling first impression, guests with allergies and asthma aren’t so jazzed about the trend.
Revealed: The Secret Lives of Your Fellow Plane Passengers
We love this story from CNN about a traveler who decided to pass a notebook around a flight to learn the stories behind each passenger’s trip. She discovered multiple honeymooners, a woman visiting her elderly parents and a man traveling to San Francisco to propose to his girlfriend.
Does Travel Actually Make You Well Traveled?
This essay from Headspace investigates the transformative benefits of travel, from reducing the risk of heart disease to stimulating creativity. Of course, there are a few drawbacks too — can we say “jet lag”?
The Stories Behind Some of Last Year’s Most Iconic Travel Photos
Travel + Leisure investigates the process that went into three striking photos from the recent Photography Show in New York City. One shot of the Grand Canyon is actually an incredible amalgamation of 50 different photos taken at different times throughout the day.
VisitScotland recently put out a call for canine applicants to be Scotland’s official “Ambassadog.” The winner, announced this week, is a golden retriever from Glasgow; you can watch his adorable application video below.
My friend Diane Quigley spent the past week in Paris. She enjoyed an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower from her mom’s Airbnb rental. On Tuesday she took a chilly boat tour on the Seine. On Wednesday her mom took a tumble and spent the morning in an emergency room. On Thursday Quigley ordered French onion soup for lunch and then visited Montmarte.
How do I know all this? Quigley posted on Facebook — and she’s not the only one. According to a new study, the majority of travelers share photos and vignettes about their adventures on social media.
Two-thirds of travelers say they post on social media while they’re away, according to a survey by TravelOnline.com, an Australia-based travel agency. (Survey results were sent in an email press release.) And 25 percent post daily.
“Whether it’s to share their special memories with family or to make their friends a little envious, it seems that social media does in fact play a large part in enhancing the holiday experience for most people,” Glenn Checkley, TravelOnline.com’s managing director, said.
Quigley said she enjoys posting during her travels so that she can share the experiences with her friends and family. “My husband’s grandmother, who will not likely make it to Paris given her age, thoroughly enjoyed all the posts, living vicariously through our trip,” she said.
For a variety of reasons, 44 percent of respondents said that how their vacation appears on social media is important to them, and 15 percent admitted that how their destination would appear to their friends and family on social media influenced their decision to go there.
Social media also serves to inspire others when considering where to travel. One-third of people say that the posts they see on social media influence their destination choices. Like her aging relative, I also lived vicariously through my friend’s photos of Paris, and I’m now more interested in visiting France after seeing her posts.
Catch up on our favorite travel articles and videos of the week.
How GPS Is Messing with Our Minds
It’s hard to imagine navigating the world without a GPS these days, but this article from Time notes that relying so heavily on such devices harms our ability to make our own “cognitive map” — i.e., to get a clear sense of where we are in the context of our surroundings. This sometimes has tragic results (such as people following their GPS unit’s instructions into dangerous mountain terrain). Is it time for good old-fashioned maps to make a comeback?
Forget Your Passport; You’ll Need a DNA Sample to Enter Kuwait
Well, here’s an alarming idea. The New York Daily News reports that anyone who wants to travel to Kuwait will soon have to provide either “a swab of saliva or a few drops of blood” as a DNA sample. Though the Kuwaiti government promises that the samples won’t be tested for disease or otherwise infringe on property, it’s easy to see how this could go wrong (and make passport control lines even longer…).
Tipping Is Really Out of Control Now
Christopher Elliott of Elliott.org reports that more and more employees are asking for gratuities these days, including people we wouldn’t normally think to tip (such as tow truck drivers, airline ticket agents and even opticians). In a poll at the end of the article, about 70 percent of respondents say they’d like to have tipping restricted or banned by law. Do you agree?
Cruising Through the End of the World
Pacific Standard offers a fascinating look at the Northwest Passage, the famed pathway through the Canadian Arctic that intrepid explorers once suffered and died trying to find. These days you can explore it yourself aboard a cruise ship, seeing remote villages and looking out for polar bears.
‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and Travel
The New York Times interviews Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestseller “Eat, Pray, Love” — inspiration for a collection of essays called “Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It.” Gilbert reveals her favorite moment in the new book, shares her future travel plans and explains why her mother started traveling late in life.
Delta Is First Airline to Use New Baggage Tracking Technology
Could this be the beginning of the end of lost luggage? Conde Nast Traveler reports that Delta will start using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track checked bags by the end of this year. Delta claims that this system is 99.9 percent effective, more so than the current system of barcoded tags and scanners. We’re crossing our fingers.
Why I Travel the World Alone
Travel + Leisure features an essay by a hardcore adventure traveler (“During a recent trip to Chad … I spent 19 days sleeping in the great outdoors — and going to the loo there, too — while crossing the Sahara Desert. I showered twice in 21 days”) who finds incredible rewards in the challenges and freedoms of traveling alone. We bet you’ll be inspired by her story too.
This week’s featured video comes from JetBlue, which turned frowns upside down on a recent flight by giving away discounts off a future trip every time a baby cried on the plane. Happy Mother’s Day!
Catch up on some of the more interesting travel news and features of the past week.
Cheese, Miso and Tea Bags: The ‘Must-Pack’ Items Travelers Around the World Always Pack
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently revealed she never leaves home without hot sauce in her purse. She’s not the only one who refuses to travel without a favorite edible. A survey of 7,500 travelers from 29 countries showed that 56 percent of Japanese travelers bring miso soup with them, 38 percent of New Zealanders pack ketchup and nearly have of all Brits stash their favorite tea bags. The Daily Mail runs down the list of what other travelers won’t leave home without—food or otherwise.
Nepal Begins Reconstruction on Quake-Damaged Heritage Sites
A year after a massive earthquake in Nepal killed almost 9,000 people and destroyed a half-million homes, Nepal’s prime minister announced that key heritage sites around the capital will be reconstructed. More than 600 historic structures, including Buddhist temples, stupas and monasteries, were damaged or destroyed in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake last April 25, ABC News reports.
You Could Snag this Luxury Travel Internship
A Sydney-based luxe travel company is offering a dream internship, but there’s an important catch: You must be at least 60 years old to apply. The 10-day internship would require you to inspect five-star luxury hotels in Bali, go for spa treatments, sample exotic cocktails and take day trips, according to the Travel + Leisure article. Singles or couples may apply.
Travel Tips from Sportswriters: How to Play the Game
Who provides the best advice on traveling efficiently and inexpensively? Sportswriters, says The Wall Street Journal. You can glean great tips on using hotel loyalty programs, eating well in airports and packing light from the journalists who travel the most for their jobs. One of the best pieces of advice? Invest in a laptop with a longer battery life, because only half of all planes have power outlets, one sportswriter advises.
Check Out the 2016 Business Travel Award Winners
The May issue of Entrepreneur magazine runs down the winners of its annual Business Travel Awards, including best airlines, hotels, airports and luggage. Quantas, Hawaiian and Virgin Airlines take top nods for best airline food. JetBlue’s new Mint business-class service provides the top in-flight amenities, including posh toiletries and expanded television channels.
The Cheapest Days to Fly for Summer Travel
If you are planning a summer vacation and want to save the most amount of money, avoid flying in July, according to research by airfare search engine CheapAir. Airfares are the priciest then. This article from Lifehacker says that the least expensive days to fly this summer are June 1, July 26, August 31 and September 10. Check out the research for more tidbits on how to save money on summer flights.
Spain’s Cursed Village of Witches
Apparently, there’s a hilltop village of 62 souls in Spain that’s so cursed, only the Pope himself can lift it, the BBC reports. Trasmoz, in the province of Aragon, has a history of witchcraft dating back to the 13th century.
Video of the Week
What a scary, exhilarating, take-your-breath-away moment: Watch what happens to this paddle boarder in Southern California.
Check out the travel stories you may have missed this week.
National Parks: Ken Burns on Why They Were America’s Best Idea
With the 100th birthday of the U.S. National Parks coming up in August, USA Today sits down with filmmaker Ken Burns and his partner Dayton Duncan to discuss the importance of the parks — which Duncan calls “the Declaration of Independence expressed on the landscape.” They also reveal their favorite parks.
Visiting Museums Like the Louvre Is Terrible, and There’s No Fair Solution
A Washington Post columnist bemoans the crowds that mob the world’s great art museums, making it difficult to experience works such as the “Mona Lisa” and Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” without having to see past waving cell phones and cameras. (Our best solution: Travel during the off season and come early or late in the day.)
The Multi-City Flight Trick May Soon Be Ending
Conde Nast Traveler reports that American, Delta and United have closed a fare loophole that once saved crafty fliers some money. Before you could connect multiple nonstop tickets to create your own cheap connecting itinerary, but now you won’t be able to do that unless you purchase each ticket separately.
Update From Ecuador: What Travelers Should Know About Visiting Right Now
Following a strong earthquake in Ecuador last Saturday, Travel + Leisure reached out to the country’s Minister of Tourism to learn how its main tourist areas were faring. The Amazon and the Galapagos Islands were unscathed, while the port city of Guayaquil and other areas along the coast faced varying levels of damage.
10,000 People on the Waiting List to Try London’s New Naked Restaurant
Hmm, how appetizing does this sound? Lonely Planet profiles a London restaurant called Bunyadi, where you can dine naked in a “secret Pangea-like world” while perched on wooden stools. (Gowns are provided to put between your bare skin and any possible splinters. Whew!) The restaurant will only be open for three months this summer.
31 Secrets About Travel Insurance Only Insiders Know
Even we learned a few things from this GOBankingRates.com slideshow on travel insurance — like the fact that many plans come with concierge services, and that they also offer at least 10 days to cancel for free.
Where Marrying a Local Is Forbidden
BBC Travel profiles the remote Palmerston Atoll, a South Pacific island home to just 62 residents (all of whom are related). Foreign visitors are immediately adopted into a local family and can join the island’s daily volleyball game.
Speaking of the South Pacific, this video captures mesmerizing footage from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and more.
You’ve arrived at your destination, but your luggage hasn’t. It’s annoying enough to have to buy new clothes and toiletries to get by before your bag is delivered by the airline (if it comes at all). It’s even more annoying if you paid a nonrefundable fee of $25 or $30 for the privilege of checking that bag.
The newest bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration includes language that would require airlines to refund baggage fees in cases when your checked suitcase is delayed, reports the New York Times.
You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but as the author of the Times piece notes, there are numerous barriers that currently keep you from getting your money back. First, many airlines, including United, Spirit and American, declare that their baggage fees are nonrefundable. (United’s Contract of Carriage does note that baggage fees will be refunded if your suitcase is lost — but makes no such comment in the case of delays.)
If you do get a refund from the airline, it may be in the form of a voucher to be used on a future flight, often with a one-year expiration date. For people who don’t fly often, such a voucher may be pretty much worthless.
No luck with the airline? You can try contacting your credit card company to dispute the charge — a strategy that is sometimes successful, but can take some persistence.
Travelers should cross their fingers for the Senate version of the reauthorization bill to pass; it would require airlines to give an automatic refund of baggage fees to anyone who hasn’t received their luggage within six hours of arrival on a domestic flight or within 12 hours of an international arrival. The House has a more lenient 24-hour deadline and would not mandate automatic refunds.