Travel News: Airlines Try New Boarding Rules, a Thanksgiving Feast Made Entirely of Ice Cream (Really!), and Eurail's Family-Friendly Holiday Experiences

boarding planePlane on tarmac ready to board
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There's a great big world out there, and our latest "news you can use" may inspire a trip you never knew you needed.

From the new rules of boarding at some major airlines to an incredible Thanksgiving feast (spoiler alert: it involves ice cream) to fabulous holiday experiences across Europe, this week's travel news is all about trying something new.

TWO AIRLINES TRY NEW BOARDING RULES

Airlines’ baggage fees aren’t the only thing getting a makeover. In an effort to improve the often-stressful boarding process, Alaska Airlines announced changes to its procedure in June and implemented new rules in mid-July; two months later, United followed suit, becoming the latest major carrier to revamp its approach. (Delta and American tweaked their boarding processes in early 2017.)

So what’s really different now? For starters, both Alaska and United have streamlined their boarding groups. After preboarding for those who require more time or special services, active members of the military, and first-class passengers, Alaska’s customers are called in four groups: million-milers and gold-status MVPs, regular MVPs and premium class, guests seated in the back half of the plane, and guests seated in the front half. United has downsized to two color-coded lanes: Group 1 (premiere platinum and gold members, Star Alliance gold, and those seated in premium cabins) queues up in the blue lane; group 2 (premier and Star Alliance silver, anyone who’s purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding, and United cardholders) in the green lane; and after that, groups 3 through 5 (the rest of the plane, basically) line up in the green lane. In addition to the group changes, Alaska has redesigned its boarding passes to highlight each passenger’s boarding group and gate, and made its boarding timeline clear in hopes of eliminating confusion and gate-side congestion. For economy and basic-economy travelers, though, overhead bin space isat a premium, and there’s always a sense of urgency to be the first in line to claim it, so whether or not these modifications are effective remains to be seen.

A 5-COURSE ICE CREAM DINNER FOR THANKSGIVING

One of our favorite ice cream shops, Salt & Straw (saltandstraw.com), in Portland, OR, is offering a uniquely sweet idea for Thanksgiving: A five-course "dinner" that consists entirely of ice cream. The family-run shop renowned for its delightfully experimental flavors (as well as traditional favorites) will ship you ice creams in flavors that include salted caramel turkey, sweet potato casserole with maple pecans, and roasted peach and sage cornbread stuffing. (Their Thanksgiving-themed ice cream is also available up and down the West Coast in shops in Portland, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, San Diego, and Disneyland's Downtown Disney.) And Salt & Straw is spreading the love - for each pint purchased in November, they will donate a pint to a local organization working to feed the hungry.

EURAIL'S FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOLIDAY EXPERIENCES

Europe knows how to celebrate the holiday season, and Eurail (eurail.com) is offering deals and experiences that Budget Travelers will love - prices start around $50. The Santa Claus Express is a double-decker train that travels by night from Helsinki to Lapland, with a stop in Rovamiemi, the official residence of Santa Claus. The Chocolate Train takes travelers from Montreux to Luzern with a visit to a chocolate-making destination in Broc and a cheese factory in Gruyere. The Scandinavia Pass allows visitors to explore Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland for an array of holiday- and winter-themed activities including skiing, sledding, and skating.

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