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The latest travel news, vacation tips & advice, travel apps, and more

sep 17 2014

Frozen Atrraction Coming to Walt Disney World!

(Walt Disney Pictures)

If you've got young daughters, granddaughters, or nieces in your life, it's a safe bet that you can sing at least one verse of "Let It Go," the super-catchy hit song written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Lopez-Anderson for the smash Walt Disney Pictures animated musical Frozen. "Let It Go" is sung by the film's troubled young queen, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), who is wrestling with how to come to terms with her awesome, but frightening magical powers. The song has become something of an anthem for young girls (including my seven-year-old!) wrestling with their own awesome powers.

sep 17 2014

5 Reasons Why the New Apple Watch May Be Your Travel BFF

(Apple)

Shelling out $350-plus for an Apple Watch is a big decision, but it might be easier to make when you factor in all the nifty new functions that are especially useful for frequent travelers. The newfangled ticker, available in 2015, may not be able to magically teleport you to Sydney in the blink of an eye, sci-fi style (don't we wish), but it could streamline several practical facets of your vacation.

1. Keyless hotel room entry (and more): A Starwood Hotels app on the Apple Watch will enable you to simply wave your wrist in front of your door to unlock your room. Yep, no searching for the plastic keycard that's probably resting soundly at the bottom of your beach bag, under your sunscreen, your e-reader, a beach hat, and a few seashells. Starwood owns Sheraton, Westin, and St. Regis, but the feature will be rolled out first in spring 2015 at the company's W Hotels.

And that's not all Starwood wants Apple Watch to do. It hopes to introduce features ranging from instant check-in the second you walk into a hotel's lobby (no front-desk pit stop required), push notifications about transportation options from the airport, and stored preferences that enable your favorite cocktail to be delivered to you when you sit down at the bar, without uttering a word to the barkeep. Will the Starwood app also tuck us in at night? We're sure that's in the planning stages too.

2. Auto time zone adjustment: Chicago to Barcelona? Manitoba to Venezuela? No worries. Apple Watch automatically switches to the time zone you're in, eliminating that awkward moment spent fiddling with your watch's crown after the plane lands—or after you missed your dinner reservation. Ditto with Daylight Savings Time. Even a Rolex doesn't do that.

3. Maps: Instead of winding through Parisian streets at night while staring down at your phone trying to figure out how to get back to your hotel (not that, ahem, we've ever done that), you can rely on the vibrations Apple Watch sends to your wrist to subtly tell you which way to turn to reach your destination. That's especially handy in an unfamiliar city when you want to avoid looking like a tourist, whether for safety or vanity reasons.

4. Apple Pay: Double-click a button on the side of Apple Watch, hold it up next to a merchant's payment reader, and boom—you've just paid for a souvenir mouse mug at Walt Disney World in Florida without even touching your wallet. So far, Apple Pay will only be available at major chains (like Sephora and Walgreens) in the U.S. only, but depending on whether this thing takes off, you could be paying for a pork schnitzel in Germany with your timepiece in the near future. That's good for travelers who are nervous about carrying cash or too many credit cards in foreign cities. Even if a thief lifts your Apple Watch, the device senses that no one is wearing it and goes into lockdown mode until a code is entered to activate Apple Pay again.

5. All-day fitness tracker: When you're eating your way through Rome or ordering your third piña colada of the day at an all-inclusive, your usual gym routine can go by the wayside. Enter the Apple Watch's Activity app, including an accelerometer to track your body's movements, plus a sensor that measures intensity via your heart rate. Combine those functions with the GPS and Wi-Fi in your phone that record the distance you've trekked, and Apple Watch spits all that data out in handy little charts, including how many calories you've burned. If you see that you've barely moved that day, save for a leisurely stroll to your beachside lounger, you'll know to schedule a salsa dancing class that evening or a hike the next day. There's a reminder to stand up for at least a minute every hour too - handy for long flights. Conversely, if you're actively pounding the pavement to see a new city's sights, it'll be fun to gauge how much your activity has increased from the norm. Which means more ricotta cannoli for you, guilt-free.

sep 16 2014

Save Money on Off-Broadway Shows This Fall

Blue Man Group

See the Blue Man Group perform for less during Off Broadway Week in NYC Sept. 29 thru Oct. 12.

(Courtesy pixajen/Flickr)

You can save big on buzz-worthy Off-Broadway shows thanks to two-for-one ticket deals on select shows now thru Oct. 12th. Tickets go on sale today at 11 a.m. for shows during Off-Broadway Week Sept. 29th thru Oct. 12th.

Show options this year include Avenue Q (note: this show may feature puppets, but I assure you, it's NOT for youngsters), National Lampoon Presents Bayside! The Musical!—a musical Saved By The Bell parody—and 50 Shades! The Musical, based on the popular series by E.L. James. Additional offerings include Aire Frío, Barceló con Hielo, Black Angels Over Tuskegee, Bedbugs, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, En el Tiempo de las Mariposas, Found, Fuerza Bruta: Wayra, Gazillion Bubble Show!, Going Once Laughing Twice!, Here Lies Love, Hereafter Musical, iLuminate, Indian Ink, La Nena Se Casa, La Zapatera Prodigiosa, Lennon: Through A Glass Onion, Lips Together Teeth Apart, Money Grubbin' Whores, My Big Gay Italian Wedding, My Big Gay Italian Funeral, Olympics ÜberAlles, Pageant: The Musical, Perfect Crime, Scenes from a Marriage, Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, Shut Up Sit Down & Eat, Sistas: The Musical, Sleepy Hallow The Musical, Stalking the Bogeyman, Tail! Spin!, The Awesome 80s Prom, The Belle of Amherst, The Bullpen, The Fatal Weakness, Harlem Rens, The Jackie Mason Musical, The Killing of Sister George, The Money Shot, They Call Me Q, When January Feels Like Summer, and While I Yet Live.

sep 15 2014

How Much Should You Tip Your Hotel Maid?

(Courtesy Paradise Island Harbour Resort)

Does leaving a tip for the maid sometimes slip your mind as you race to check out of your hotel and catch your flight back home? A new campaign created by Maria Shriver's nonprofit organization A Woman's Nation might soon make tipping your room attendant harder to forget.

Starting this week, Marriott Hotels will give guests a not-so-subtle reminder to leave a voluntary tip for hotel room attendants by placing an envelope for tips in 160,000 rooms across the U.S. and Canada as part of an initiative called "The Envelope Please," created by AWN, which aims to recognize and empower women. The thinking goes that travelers are more likely to tip bellhops and concierges because they interact with them face-to-face. Hotel maids, on the other hand, perform unseen work and are less likely to get a tip.

sep 12 2014

7 Easy Tips For Packing Light

Suitcase ready to go

Follow these tips to pack light and avoid extra baggage fees on your next trip.

(Courtesy Hajime NAKANO/Flickr)

This article was written by Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel.

If you've been paying attention to our latest Friday's Friendly Funny cartoons, then you've picked up on my distaste for airline fees. While some are unavoidable, one of the easiest ways to keep your airline costs down is by packing light to avoid baggage fees. If you're a serial overpacker, here are some of my quick-and-dirty tips to help keep your bags underweight and fee free.

sep 10 2014

Shoulder Season Bargains in Europe!

Venice is one of Europe's "Shoulder Season" bargains, with fewer crowds, great weather, and lower prices in fall!

(Courtesy BethanieKay/myBudgetTravel)

"Shoulder Season" is the time in between high and low seasons. Europe's high season, of course, is summer—the kids are out of school, you want to soak up, say, that Italian sun, but you've got to pay a premium for it. Winter, on the other hand, is Europe's low season—rain, fog, and possibly knee-high water in Venice. But in the fall, the crowds depart Europe for school and work, the weather cools to a comfy mid-50s in Dublin, mid- to upper-60s in Venice, low 70s in Barcelona, and at Budget Travel we love to watch those prices go down!

sep 02 2014

How to Avoid 5 Common Scams in Bali

Bali, Indonesia
(Courtesy Milda Ratkelyte)

This article was written by Sia Ling Xin, who travels and writes about it for Asiarooms.com, a blog and online community focused on travelling in Asia. You can also find her on Twitter.

aug 29 2014

Don't Miss These September Travel Sales!

Redbury Hotel Miami

Save on a stay at the Redbury in Miami thanks to their Stay 2 Get 1 Free promotion now thru Sept. 30th.

(Courtesy Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority)

Welcome to shoulder season! Here are some of our favorite hotel sales happening this month.

CARIBBEAN

FLASH SALE: You can save up to 50 percent on rates at the Grand Lucayan on Grand Bahama Island when you book a stay of three or more nights this Labor Day Weekend for travel Sept. 1 thru Dec. 20th. Not only will rates start at $89 a night, but you'll also score a $250 resort credit per stay to use towards perks like spa treatments, dining, and resort-style golf. Click here for more info and to book your trip by Sept. 1st.

aug 26 2014

New Zealand + Tahiti = A Unique South Pacific Getaway!

Mountains or beach? Adventure or relaxation? How many times have you had that travel-planning conversation? Especially if you're thinking of a far-flung fling to the other side of the planet, you want to be sure you book a vacation that's right for you.

How about New Zealand and Tahiti? That's right. We've noticed lately that it's possible to combine two incredible South Pacific destinations in one trip. You can set up a travel itinerary that includes rugged, scenic, and adventurous New Zealand, plus beautiful, relaxing, tropical Tahiti (with its luxurious overwater bungalows, turquoise lagoons, and superb snorkeling).

aug 26 2014

3 Ways Breaking Bad Fans Can Still Get Their Fix

Fans of the show can purchase "blue meth candy" from The Candy Lady in Albuquerque's Old Town.

Fans can purchase "blue ice candy" and other Breaking Bad merchandise from The Candy Lady in Albuquerque's Old Town.

(Courtesy Kaeli Conforti)

Congratulations to Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, and the entire cast of Breaking Bad for their big Emmy wins last night! As the commercials said, all bad things must come to an end. The AMC hit television show Breaking Bad may have ended last summer, but we've got three ways fans of the show can still get their fix.

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