Good news: The eagles are back

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

After years of endangerment, our national bird is now easily spotted along the upper Mississippi River (from Minnesota to Illinois); in the Minnesota Valley refuge; Oregon's Bear Valley and Cape Meares refuges; Virginia's Mason Neck, James River, and Blackwater refuges; and the Chesapeake Bay's Rappahannock River refuges, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

[Photo by Frank Wouters via Flickr and Creative Commons]

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Avoid Heathrow!

Beware of London's Heathrow airport. If you can't avoid using this airport this summer, be sure to allow two hours if you have to change planes in its overcrowded terminals. Passengers at the airport tend to jam together, elbows out, instead of lining up in an orderly manner. The airport's luggage check-in process is also hopelessly outdated--making it slow and unsafe. Lock up your luggage. The locals have nicknamed the airport "Thief row" given the absurdly high number of thefts there. "It's like a fourth-world country," according to this article and this article in USA Today and in this commentary by Tyler Brule in the FT. [Photo: Kaptain Kobold via Commons] i flew into and out of heathrow this past may. many travellers weren't prepared for the limit of one carry-on. you are forced to check your extra carry-on that must be checked at the carriers terminal on the otherside of customs. i stood in the customs line listening to many people saying they will or already missed there connections.--Nancy Shuster We flew in and out of Heathrow coming and going to Athens. We were on BA and changing planes in London. Herded into small spaces for long waits after 11 hour flight. Then had to wait in general area until they posted the gate for our next flight. They only require 30 minutes before flight time for posting, but also advise to allow 45 minutes to get to some gates. I will avoid Heathrow in the future.--Ruthe Small


Travel news roundup

Disney Shift: Smoking is no longer allowed in any Disney hotel rooms or timeshares in Orlando. It'll only be OK at certain outdoor spaces. [Related: European governments are cracking down on smoking, as this map shows.] Movin' movies: Austin's Rolling Roadshow is screening movies all over this summer, including "North by Northwest" at Mount Rushmore. Details here. Billy Graham Library Opens: Charlotte, N.C., is home to a library dedicated to the evangelist. The building resembles a barn; the entrance is a 40-foot-tall glass cross. Correction: On Monday, this blog linked to a chart in a magazine article that contained a mistake: We erroneously said that a participant in American Airlines' reward program could keep their account active by buying a gift card from partner Starbucks. Instead, you need to buy two bags of coffee via Starbuck's retail website, ($9.50 each) via Starbuck's retail website Americans are workaholics: One in five toted laptop computers on their most recent vacations, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released last week. [] For info on how to put your "crackberry" to better use, click here. Williamsburg Spa Opens: The 20,000-square-foot Spa of Colonial Williamsburg is open. No-Frills Jamaica: SuperClubs' basic brand, Rooms, gets a second property, in Negril, in December. National Park Fees Going Up: Over the next three years, higher rates will be introduced at a third of U.S. national parks, including Big Bend, Zion, and Mesa Verde. The old $10-per-vehicle rate may become $20. [Readers of react to the fee hikes here.]


Pandas, visiting with locals, and more things we love

The spa and adventure packages profiled as today's Real Deal got us thinking about all the neat perks and packages in our Girlfriend Getaways issue. There's one in particular we wouldn't want you to miss--a women-oriented tour of China created specially for Budget Travel by Champion Holidays for the second year in a row. (Here's a photo of reader Linda Henriques, in the back far left, who went on last year's trip with four girlfriends.) Participants get to befriend pandas at the Beijing Zoo, learn about the Chinese art of paper cutting, visit with a family, and tour a silk factory, where you can choose a fabric for your own custom-made, traditional qipao dress. Champion Holidays also covers the blockbusters you'd expect: guided tours of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, a Grand Canal cruise, and so on. You can find more details about the 12-night trip priced at $1,799 here. And to spot some pandas closer to home, check out our adorable Zoo Babies feature, with fun facts and photos from five top U.S. zoos.


Today's travel intel

Is the Grand Canyon Skywalk a tourist trap? For those who haven't heard about it, the Skywalk is "a glass-bottomed, horseshoe-shaped walkway over the Grand Canyon--protruding 70 harrowing feet," as Budget Travel described it this past winter. Unfortunately, since we reported on it, the owners of the Skywalk have hiked the price of admission. The total bill is now $75 a person--53% more than what we had told readers to expect. I'm personally skeptical that the Skywalk is worth $75. But you be the judge: The pop-culture travel blog Jaunted has a video of what the tour is like. (See here.) And if you've toured the Skywalk in person, please share your opinion of it with our readers by posting a comment below. Borat is writing a travel guidebook. According to this AP story, "Borat, the fictional ambassador from Kazakhstan has a book, with two titles, coming out this fall: Borat: Touristic Guidings To Minor Nation of U.S. and A. and Borat: Touristic Guidings To Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." I wonder which travel magazine will bid to publish an excerpt? Scuba diving in Paris? "Between now and June 10, professional scuba instructors are offering one-on-one lessons in the heated, above-ground pool at the foot of the tower," according to this AP story. Bizarre.