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oct 02 2015

Ready for a Room With a View?

The windows in an Avalon Waterways Panorama Suite are 11 feet wide and 7 feet high, affording unparalleled views on a river cruise.

(Courtesy Avalon Waterways)

We’ve always loved E.M. Forster’s great “travel romance” A Room With a View (not to mention the beautiful film adaptation), in which a young Englishwoman’s life is forever changed when she agrees to swap hotel rooms with a fascinating young Englishman in Florence in order to have, yes, a room with a view. We love the way that expression can mean, quite literally, a window that affords gorgeous scenery, but also the way those words can sum up a transformative travel experience.

oct 02 2015

How U.S. Theme Parks Are Gearing Up For Halloween

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando

Are you brave enough to visit Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando?

(Courtesy 3viajeros/Flickr)

It's never too early to start planning for Halloween. We've got the inside scoop on Halloween events happening this year at Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and Six Flags theme parks.


In addition to annually updated shows like Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure, this year the parks are home to The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead, a terrifying attraction inspired by season four of the hit zombie t.v. show, The Walking Dead. Additional creepy maze attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood include Insidious, Michael Myers' Halloween, This Is the End, Crimson Peak, and Alien v. Predator. Still not scared? Try the Survive the Purge Terror Tram, a terrifying tram ride through Universal's Backlot. Universal Orlando will feature many of the same attractions (in haunted house form rather than being giant mazes) as well as haunted houses like Freddy vs. Jason, Insidious, The Purge, An American Werewolf in London, 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem, Run: Blood Sweat and Fears, Body Collectors: Recollections, and Asylum in Wonderland: 3D.

Universal Studios Hollywood

oct 01 2015

8 Reasons To Try Traveling Solo

A solo traveler takes a photo of herself on the beach in Playa Grande, Costa Rica
(Courtesy Sam Hauser)

According to an article by The New York Times, 24 percent of people traveled solo on their last vacation, up from last year's 15 percent. More and more people, of all different ages and backgrounds, whether single or in relationships, are saying yes to adventure and letting nothing stand in their way. 

sep 30 2015

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season in the Caribbean

(Courtesy spurdog/myBudgetTravel)

So far, the 2015 hurricane season (which runs through November) has been pretty mild, but with warnings about Hurricane Joaquin heading toward the Bahamas, we’re turning our attention to what steps travelers can take to prepare for the worst. If you’re headed for a hurricane-prone island this fall, Budget Travel suggests the following precautions:

sep 30 2015

Fall Weekend Getaways Your Kids Will Love, Too


Take the kids to Colonial Williamsburg this fall. They'll love it!

(Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

This article was written by Hallie Lavine and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

Now that school’s back in session you can breathe a sigh of relief—and contemplate how to keep the rug rats entertained over long weekends and mini breaks. We’re here to help. These are 10 awesome autumn excursions guaranteed to be educational and fun (for the whole family!).

Historical Boston

Even if your kid detests history class, he or she will be enthralled by the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, red brick road that takes you past historic churches, burial grounds, and even Paul Revere’s house so you can learn the story of the American Revolution and beyond. You can explore on your own, or you can take a 90 minute tour led by 18th century costumed guides. (For the easily bored, there’s a Pirates and Patriots version and also a Pub Crawl version.) Tickets are just $12 for adults, $6.50 for children. Once that’s over, it’s a quick walk to the Boston Tea Party Museum, a floating museum that has live actors and interactive exhibits (including allowing your little ones to toss tea into the harbor). Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children. If your kids are yearning for more historical re-enactments, drive an hour out of the city for an overnight getaway at Sturbridge Village, an 1830s New England living history museum. Tickets are $24 for adults, $10 for kids. Otherwise, consider the whale watch at the New England Aquarium. You’ll have to shell out a tad more dough at $49 for adults, $33 for children ages 3-11. Or check out the many interactive exhibits at the Boston Children’s Museum. It’s $16 for all ages. 

Related: Get Your Kids Ready for School: Amazing Educational Trips

Family space camp

Does your little guy pretend to be Buzz Lightyear? Consider booking the whole family at U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. You’ll go on simulated mission training and operations, learn how rockets are constructed, and get a crash course in on-site space history. One highlight: the 1/6th gravity chair, which simulates walking on the Moon, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit, which simulates astronaut spacewalks outside the shuttle. The jaunt will cost you $449 per person for three days, $499 per person for four days, with meals and lodging included.

Colonial Williamsburg

There’s no shortage of educational opportunities at this living history museum and historic district, which includes Revolutionary War reenactments, hands on opportunities at brick-making and digging for artifacts, and even dressing up as soldiers or undercover Colonial spies. You can easily spend two days here, then head over to historic Jamestown, which recreates life in the 1607 settlement, or visit one of the three plantations. Seven-day ticket pass for all is $89 for adults and $41 for kids. Balance it out with a day at nearby theme park Busch Gardens, where your littles can participate in the Animal Ambassador program and learn about the lives of critters ranging from eagles to wolves and foxes.  

Sleepover at the Smithsonian

Bring your sleeping bag and flashlight and head over to one of three Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian museums—American History Museum, National History Museum, or the National Portrait Gallery—for an evening of entertainment that includes a nocturnal tour, craft activities, and various educational games. At night’s end, you “camp out” in the museum. The cost? $135 per person for kids ages 8-12. The next day, check out the National Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo, where you can say hi to three world famous pandas and stop by the Kid’s Farm, where children can groom donkeys, goats, alpacas, and hogs.

Related: Tuck in Your Favorite Animals at These Zoo Sleepovers

Digging for dinosaur bones

The casino capital of the world also gives a great glimpse of what life was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The Las Vegas Natural History Museum boasts a prehistoric life gallery of critters who once roamed the Nevada deserts, including a 35-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex that lowers its head and roars, a Triceratops, Ankylosaur, and the giant marine reptile, ichthyosaur. The Nevada state museum offers a Dino summer special through September 20, which features an animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, a Jurassic Park-style jeep journey through a virtual dinosaur world, and the opportunity to dig up life-sized dinosaur bones. Then hop in a car and drive either to Red Rock Canyon for a hike to check out fossilized Dinosaur tracks, or to Tule Springs to see Ice Age fossil beds—both are less than 20 miles away. Finish up with a visit to the Historical Techatticup Mine, the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada and a 45 minute drive from Vegas. ($12.50 for adults, $7.50 for kids.)

Related: Dino Digs, Museums, and More: 10 Places to Get Your Paleo On

Maritime adventures

Head straight to sea with tickets to San Diego’s USS Midway Museum ($20 adults, $10 kids), a floating city that allows you to walk in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors who served our country. Highlights include over 60 interactive exhibits, like playing on flight simulators and climbing aboard aircraft. Then head on over to the Maritime Museum ($16 adults, $8 children) which includes kid-friendly, seafaring-inspired exhibits. It has one of the world’s biggest collection of historic ships, including the world’s oldest active ship the Star of India, as well as educational excursions such as whale watching. Other non-nautical city highlights: animatronic dinosaurs at TheNAT San Diego Natural History Museum, hands-on science exhibits at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum, where kids can dress up as astronauts.

Connor Prairie

This interactive history park in Indiana ($16 adults, $11 kids) is a recreated 19th-century village on 200 acres. Among its highlights: an autumn headless Horseman ride, Civil War re-enactments, classes in blacksmithing, hearth cooking, and an “Indian camp” where you can recreate living like as Native Americas did 200 years ago. Once you’ve had your fill, drive to the Indiana Transportation Museum and take a spin on one of the vintage railroad trains, or the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis.

Corning Museum of Glass

A perfect East Coast weekend getaway, this museum, located in Corning, New York, in the Finger Lake region upstate, allows your kids to explore 3,500 years of glassmaking history while watching glass come to life during hot-glass demos. They’ll then make their own glass creations from ornaments to night lights. Cost: $18 for kids and adults. Afterwards, since you’re right in the neighborhood, you can pop into the Norman Rockwell Museum, or, if your kids are tuckered out, wake them back up with an invigorating hike on the Haunted History Trail or an apple-tasting tour.

Fun with sea turtles

Nesting season for sea turtles in Florida is May through October, so if you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State this fall, your kids will love some close-up encounters with these critters. The Little Loggerhead Package at Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa includes a visit to see the sea turtles at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, while adventurous kids over age 10 can search for turtles and other marine life with the Beginners Dive Package. Acqualina Resort and Spa in Miami offers Acquamarine, a complimentary, marine biology-inspired program for kids which also includes a sea-turtle-based outreach program during the summer and early fall. But if you’re planning a Florida trip after sea turtle season, don’t fret: Acqualina offers its sea learning program all year round, while other hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Naples has a Nature’s Wonders camp, led by a professional conservationist and featuring 11 aquariums with sharks, crabs, turtles, and eels, as well as a kid-sized lab with microscopes for budding marine biologists. All these programs are stimulating enough that you won’t feel guilty about taking some alone time to lounge poolside.

Safari at Grand Teton National Park

You don’t have to schlep your entire crew to Africa to give your kids the educational experience of a safari. Instead, book a morning or all-day trip through the nonprofit Wildlife Expeditions in Jackson, Wyoming, which offers an introduction to the wildlife of Grand Teton National Park, part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Trained biologists will point out the best viewing spots for Park critters such as elk, moose, big horn sheep, bison, mule deer, foxes, and eagles (You may even be able to see wolves hunting during the winter months!) and give your kids a crash course in ecology and animal behavior. Then, explore on your own with your kids through the park’s Junior Ranger program, where you learn about the natural world of the park on an easy 2-mile hike with a ranger. Resorts like Hotel Terra also offer in-house naturalists who can also organize smaller wildlife safaris or take your family on a nighttime stargazing tour.

sep 29 2015

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 28 2015

6 Tips For Sticking to your Budget in Switzerland

(Courtesy Megan Eileen McDonough)

Switzerland is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list-worthy types of trips so of course you want to make the most of it. That said, it’s not the most affordable destination out there. While the country may have a reputation for breaking the bank [Editor's Note: Switzerland uses Swiss Francs for their main currency, not euros], you'd be surprised by how many budget alternatives are available. Here are six of my best tips for sticking to your budget and still having the best trip ever.

Visit during the off-season

sep 25 2015

Awesome Winter Deals to Book NOW

(Courtesy Royal Caribbean International)

As the shadows grow longer, the leaves fall and our thoughts turn to... winter vacation! Before the snow piles up and the Polar Vortex returns, there are some amazing deals to get you on the best ski slopes, the world's most beautiful islands, and a Caribbean cruise. But you've got to press the button on these deals soon.

sep 24 2015

Here’s How to Get on Your Flight Attendant’s Good Side

(Tyler Olson/Dreamstime)

This article was written by Sid Lipsey and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

There are two things you need to remember about flight attendants. The first is that they’re human beings who have feelings. The second is that they’re watching you: how you’re treating other passengers, how you’re treating the other flight attendants, and how you’re treating them. The dirty secret is both of those things will affect how flight attendants treat you.

If you think flight attendants treat all passengers equally, you’re kidding yourself. The passengers who get on a flight attendant’s good side might get a little extra-friendly attention, perhaps more immediate service or maybe even a free drink. As for passengers who get on a flight attendant’s bad side? Well, we’re being positive here so we’ll get into that at another time. But, trust us: it’s better to get on their good side. 

Related: The Craziest (and Rudest) Things Ever Said to Flight Attendants

“If you are pleasant in return, you will always receive the best hospitality,” says flight attendant Emily Witkop. “[Unfriendly passengers] will receive good service too, but we are less likely to go out of our way for people who are rude to us.”

Adds flight attendant Morgan Reed: “You know the saying, ‘Happy wife, happy life?’ Happy flight attendant, happy flight.’”

And that’s yet another secret about flight attendants: you don’t need grand gestures to win them over. Keep in mind, they have to deal with drunks, obnoxious flyers, people with impossible requests, squabbling seatmates, creepy dudes hitting on them, and passengers who complain to them about the weather (yes, that actually happens). So simply treating them with the basic manners you learned in kindergarten is enough to make the average flight attendant think you’re the best thing to happen to airplanes since the jet engine.

“Manners and etiquette go a long way towards gaining the respect and in turn reciprocal courtesies from your flight attendant,” says ex-stew Tami Gayikian. “It’s simple but lost in today’s world.”

After chatting with some of our favorite flight attendants, past and present, we've come up with this handy guide on how to win friends and influence flight attendants on your next flight. 

Here are the 10 Ways You Can Get On Your Flight Attendants’ Good Side:

Return their greeting

This is your first, best chance to make a good impression on your flight attendants: saying “Hi” to them as you board the plane. You’d be surprised how few passengers pass this very important courtesy checkpoint.

“When people board the airplane, two-thirds of the passengers don’t even acknowledge you,” says flight attendant and blogger JetSet Betty. “They just walk right past without so much as a glance, forget to something nice to say or even a smile.”

Related: Rules of Flying: Ex-Flight Attendant’s Top 10 Airline Etiquette Tips 

“We literally can see thousands of people a day and a good percentage have their 'airport faces’ on [when they get on the plane]—the bored, impatient glazed-over stare,” says flight attendant Betty Thesky (no relation to JetSet Betty), host of the podcast “Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase” and author of the book of the same name. “They board the airplane with barely a grunt when we give them a chipper hello.”

Well, the flight attendants aren’t just “Hello” robots; they enjoy being greeted, too. “I appreciate the people who come in and say hello and make eye contact,” says JetSet Betty. “Simple.”

“Someone who actually acknowledges us when we greet them and speak to them,” is one of flight attendant Hugh Bonafield’s favorite types of passengers. “Just coming on with a positive attitude generally is all it takes to win me and most flight attendants over.”

Help your fellow passengers

What impresses flight attendant Sarah Steegar? “If I see a passenger being helpful without even being asked, like moving seats for another passenger or helping someone with their bag, they’re golden,” she says. 

Even if you’re not usually a nice person, try faking it during the flight. Because if a flight attendant sees you being a mensch, they’re going to think you’re a mensch—and you’ll automatically be in their good graces.

Bring treats

Flight attendants aren’t immune to the instant gratification offered by treats—especially those of the sweet kind.

“I’m not saying you should bribe your crew, but who doesn’t like treats?,” asks Witkop. She and some of the other flight attendants we talked to tell Yahoo Travel that when they fly as passengers, flight attendants traditionally bring chocolate and treats for members of the crew. And they don’t object when a non-flight attendant does the same.

“A rare person will give us a bag of M&M’s and say, 'This is for the crew,’” says Betty Thesky, who says you might get a little something in return for your generosity. “If there is something we can do for that passenger we will, such a free drink or free headset or at very least a bunch of thank yous,” she says.

“What really tempts me into giving free snacks and drinks is when passengers bring us desserts,” says Sydney Pearl, author of “Diary of a Pissed-Off Flight Attendant.” “It’s always unexpected and really makes our day. I have had passengers bring homemade brownies, bakery style cupcakes, candy bars, bags of candy, you name it.”

Related: Be an Airport Ninja—10 Insider Secrets for Airport Survival

Look good

This is part of the whole “flight-attendants-are-human-too” theme. Our flight attendants consistently tell us that they notice attractive or well-dressed passengers. “A cute passenger always drank for free,” admits ex-flight attendant Keith W. McAndrew. 

McAndrew also says people who were especially nice or were celebrating an anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion also received that courtesy.

Make `em laugh

“I love seeing a passenger flash me a smile, ask me how I am, and then make a joke,” says flight attendant Kara Mulder creator of the blog, “The Flight Attendant Life.” “I’ll remember them and look out for them if I can." 

"Personally, I love a sense of humor.” says JetSet Betty. “If someone can make me laugh, they are instantly my new favorite person. Say something witty and fabulous or just make fun of yourself; it all works and we will be best friends before the flight is over.”

Give them a card

Sometimes all it takes is a gesture as simple as a card to make a flight attendant’s day. On a flight during last week’s 9/11 anniversary, one of Morgan Reed’s fellow crewmembers received a special card from a passenger. "It’s probably the sweetest thing I’ve seen thus far,” says Reed.

Says Hugh Bonafield: “I once had a little girl give me a hand-written card thanking us for keeping them safe. That was over a year ago, and I still carry it in my bag!”

Serve in the military

“The other way to get great service is to wear your military uniform,” says Betty Thesky. "Gate agents will let service members board first. We will try to give them something for free or move them to a better seat if we can. Flight crews have a special affinity to the armed services and we will sometimes make an announcement expressing our thanks or ask all the others passengers to stay seated to let them deplane first.“

Passengers who give props to men and women in uniform also get props from flight attendants. "When I see a passenger give up their expensive first-class seat to a service person, it tugs at my heartstrings,” says Thesky, “and reminds me that there are all sorts of everyday heroes out there." 

Make their job easier

Being a flight attendant is a tough job, so anything you can do to lighten their load is much appreciated. 

"It always helps if passengers go to the aft galley if they want a glass of water or need to throw something away, instead of ringing the call bell,” says Kara Mulder.

Ex-flight attendant Tami Gayikian advises you to “keep your common area clean free of trash and try not to leave your seat when the cart is in the aisle, unless you absolutely have to.”

Watch: Inside the Four Seasons Private Jet

Ask nicely

JetSet Betty is a stickler for manners. At work, she actually wears a button on her apron that says, "Manners are Sexy.” One way to be a well-mannered passenger is simply by asking for things nicely. “If you missed the food and/or beverage service, preface your request with 'When you get a chance/If you have time/I’m an idiot, I know,’ and then add the 'may I please have a _______?’” she says. “Works every time.”

Follow instructions

Flight attendants are not air waiters and waitresses; their primary job is your safety. It’s a part of the job flight attendants take very seriously, and they very much appreciate it when passengers do, too. That means following their instructions.

“We don’t walk around barking orders for no reason,” says flight attendant Michelle Lazzaro. “When we ask you do do something there is a reason behind it.”

Adds JetSet Betty: “If we ask you to do something—i.e. put your seat belt on, turn off your computer and put it away blah blah blah—it is because we are required to do so. We don’t make this stuff up; the FAA does. The rules are there for safety reasons. So don’t roll your eyes, sigh heavily and put your 'just a second’ finger up. Just do it—unless you want to get an even bigger eye roll, heavier sigh and a much different finger!

Related: Secrets of the Skies: Flight Attendants and Pilots Tell All

Just be nice

You know that saying, you catch more flies with honey? That works with flight attendants. If you forget everything else, the best way to get on the flight attendant’s good side is just to be nice. "Genuine compliments are always welcome,” says Sydney Pearl. Adds Michelle Lazzaro: “When a passenger says 'please’ and 'thank you,’ that alone sets the tone which in return makes us want to go out of our way for someone just for the simple reason of being polite.”

“I know it sounds simple, but you wouldn’t believe how many people are just downright rude to flight attendants, for no reason at all,” says flight attendant Tyler Herrick. Regardless of how rough your trip is, how much grief you got at the ticket counter, how much you were groped in the security line, he asks that you not take it out on your friendly neighborhood flight attendant. “A respectful passenger is going to get a lot more out of us as a group than someone who is rude or demanding things,” he says. “It sounds so simple right? That’s because it is!”

WATCH: Hospitality or Hazing? Surviving a Vodka Fueled Night in Mongolia

sep 23 2015

9 Reasons Why You Should Visit Little Rock, Arkansas

Biking in Little Rock, Arkansas

Next time you're in Little Rock, try taking a scenic bike tour around town.

(Courtesy Darley Newman)

With cool attractions waiting to be discovered, tons of cultural activities, and family-friendly fun, Little Rock definitely deserves a spot on your travel radar. Here's my list of things you shouldn't miss.

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