Between travelers paying to sleep in prisons and concentration camps, bringing ducks on planes, falling off cliffs while chasing Pokemon, and treating a floating log as a tourist attraction, 2016 was filled with its share of weird news. Below is a sampling of the many ways we found 2016 an odd year in travel.
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Robotics are rapidly infiltrating the hotel industry, with a robot butler already bringing towels to guests in hotels in California. But the Henn Na hotel in Nagasaki, Japan, takes it to the extreme with a staff composed almost entirely of robots -- and creepy robots at that. Appropriately, the property's name transates to "Weird Hotel."
You Mean I Can't Bring a Spear Gun on a Plane?!
The TSA's Instagram account is a mind-bending tally of the stuff folks try to bring on planes, which range from life-size stuffed animals to shockingly realistic horror movie props, as well as piles and piles of weapons. This story highlights a few of the choicest attempts.
Making Etch Happen
Who needs stinkin' Instagram when you can make your own versions of the world's most stunning destinations using an Etch A Sketch? Your gelato photos will never seem quite the same.
Because Every Traveler Needs a Luggage Tail
In Is This the Future of Hands-Free Luggage?, CNN profiles a bizarre new travel accessory: My Hitch, a gadget that allows you to hook your suitcase to your waistband so it will follow you wherever you go.
It's All Fun and Games Until...
The massive popularity of Pokemon GO inspired many people to get out and about more; I even recommended it as a way to liven up a boring trip.
Unfortunately, some people livened up their trips so much that they fell off a cliff.
To be honest, it doesn't take a distracted Pokemon player for tech to lead us astray; check out this story about the tourists whose GPS led them to drive into Venice's pedestrian-only area.
Other lodging options in 2016 were equally chilling, but in a, well, cool way -- like the igloo listed on Airbnb by an enterprising New Yorker who built it in a blizzard.
If you reacted too slowly to book a stay in the igloo before it melted, you could have stayed in a real-life re-creation of Vincent Van Gogh's painting of his bedroom; no longer available, it was offered for some true 19th-century prices: $10 per night.
Air Travel Oddities
Traveling in airplanes is as stressful as ever -- unless you have an entire plane to yourself!
Failing your choice of 160 seats, perhaps an emotional support duck will help you get through your next flight.
Meanwhile, the continued "unbundling" of basic air travel amenities has created a new class of service, dismally dubbed "Misery Class." (United's version of basic economy does not provide access to overhead bin space or a promise that you'll be able to sit beside your traveling companions.)
Given the overall state of the industry, when a Ryanair passenger was seen running after a plane on the tarmac, no one could have faulted you for thinking it was the zero-frills airline's new boarding procedure. (Ryanair has contemplated having travelers stand up on flights, so running after a plane like you would after a bus might not be far behind.)
Are Apples and a Rib on the Menu?
10,000 people can't be wrong, I suppose, but suddenly I'm not hungry: 10,000 people on the waiting list to try London’s new naked restaurant.
It's Getting Crowded Out There
Things are getting out of control on European beaches. In Italy, authorities seized dozens of deck chairs and towels that were being used to reserve spots on busy beaches. In Spain, reserving a place on the beach could cost you hundreds in the so-called "umbrella wars."
But You Can Still Get Away from It All
There are still places that are accessible and, well, interesting, if you want to get away from the masses. Maybe a former Soviet power plant, for example.
Even then, 80,000 people per year visit the hydro plant, and some of us want something a little more down to earth -- and what could be more down to earth than a 120-year-old floating log? For me, there's something about people's embrace of a centenarian tree stump that makes it easier to look beyond robots and umbrella wars; if that log can keep its head above water, maybe we can too.
As for 2017, what could and will happen remains anyone's guess -- so as always...