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Travel News: TSA Warns You May Not Have the Right ID for Your Next Flight, Wakanda Tops the List of Fictional Travel Destinations, and NYC’s Coolest Opera Festival Starts April 29

By The Budget Travel Editors
January 12, 2022
A view of a busy airport terminal with passengers moving quickly.
Olga Bogatyrenko/Dreamstime
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 knowing what kind of ID you need to board your next flight (including domestic flights that used to just require a driver’s license) to the most-searched fictional destination on earth (plus a real-life alternative) to a mind-blowingly original opera festival in New York City this spring, this week’s travel news is all about surprises.

TSA Warns You May Not Have the Right ID for Your Next Flight

It’s one of our biggest travel nightmares, and it has been happening to far too many of us lately: You get to the airport and learn that you don’t have adequate ID to board a flight. In some cases, it’s because your passport is set to expire in less than three months and the country you want to fly to requires a more up-to-date passport. But even domestic flights within the U.S. have become more complicated: Beginning October 1, 2020, every traveler must present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of identification to fly within the U.S. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the impending deadline and empower travelers to get up to speed.

“TSA is doing everything we can to prepare our partners and the traveling public for the REAL ID deadline next year,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “The security requirements of the REAL ID Act will dramatically enhance and improve commercial aviation security.”

For more information, visit tsa.gov/real-id.

Wakanda Tops the List of Fictional Travel Destinations

On April Fools Day, we had some fun publishing New Airline Will Fly You to Hogwarts, Narnia, and Other Out-of-This-World Destinations with tongue firmly in cheek. But thanks to the folks at On The Go Tours, we’ve recently learned that hundreds of thousands of travel enthusiasts actually do spend time online searching for fictional travel destinations from film, TV, and literature. From Oz’s Emerald City to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, from Peter Pan’s Never Never Land to Superman’s Metropolis, people apparently really wish they could visit these (sadly) nonexistent spots.

On The Go Tours analyzed Google search volume and determined that Wakanda, from Black Panther, is the most-searched fictional destination in the world. So, if Wakanda can't actually be found on a map (and, trust us, it can't), where should you go instead? On The Go suggests Cape Town, South Africa, one of Budget Travel’s favorite budget international destinations, with great beaches, mountains, a vibrant cultural and culinary scene, and a short distance from iconic African wildlife including lions, elephants, zebras, and giraffes.

NYC’s Coolest Opera Festival Starts April 29

New York Opera Alliance (NYOA) will present its fourth annual New York Opera Fest starting April 29 and running through June. More than 20 NYC-based opera companies will put on more than 25 events around the city ranging from traditional theaters and concert halls to bars and museum galleries. Expect the unexpected—think beyond spear-carrying Valkyries, doomed sopranos, and mischievous Spanish barbers—from such noteworthy productions as Heartbeat Opera and Opera Lafayette’s adaption of the biblical story of Susanna; Rhymes With Opera’s treatment of the life of Eleanor Roosevelt; The Stonewall Operas, four premiers performed at the Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising; and many more.

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Travel News: WorldPride 2019 in NYC, London Is the Best Destination in the World, and the Plane That Flew in the Wrong Direction

From New York City's biggest LGBTQ celebration ever to London's new position atop TripAdvisor's annual awards, plus the truly bizarre story of a plane that took passengers where they did not expect to go, this week's travel news is all about looking at the world in a new way. WorldPride 2019 in NYC New York City is consistently the leading LGBTQ destination in the U.S. because, well, it’s New York City (as Taylor Swift sings, “It’s been waiting for you”), with a centuries-old tradition of welcoming newcomers of all backgrounds, genders, and ages. In that spirit, NYC & Company, the city’s official destination marketing organization, has declared 2019 the “Year of Pride,” with the epicenter coming up in June when the city celebrates WorldPride (June 25 to 30) and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising (June 28). “We have declared 2019 the Year of Pride, to not only celebrate WorldPride and Stonewall 50 but to acknowledge the perpetual spirit of New York City’s vibrant LGBTQ community,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. “In addition to the iconic events in June, the city is brimming with a yearlong roster of cultural activity.” Events and exhibitions include: “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50” at the New York Public Library in Bryant Park through July 14, commemorating the riots that broke out at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, in response to a police raid; “Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now,” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum through January 5, 2020, a retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe’s breathtaking collages and photographs; pride parades in all five NYC boroughs, with the Manhattan parade set for June 30, including the Stonewall Inn on its route; and dozens of other exceptional offerings all over town. To learn more about NYC’s Year of Pride, visit NYCGo.com. London Is the Best Destination in the World Sure, as noted above, we love New York. But congrats to London for topping TripAdvisor’s 2019 Traveler’s Choice Awards as the top-rated destination in the world, unseating last year’s winner, Paris. Based on millions of user ratings and reviews over the past 12 months, the award reflects worldwide enthusiasm for visiting the U.K. capital, largely fueled by the buzz around Harry and Meghan’s 2018 royal wedding. Of course, we recommend London as a destination anytime, with airfares to Europe from the U.S. at a three-year low and a plethora of amazing museums with free admission. Here, TripAdvisor’s top 10 destinations for 2019: London, U.K.Paris, France Rome, Italy Crete, Greece Bali, Indonesia Phuket, Thailand Barcelona, Spain Istanbul, Turkey Marrakech, Morocco Dubai, United Arab Emirates The Plane That Flew the Wrong Way In yesterday’s lively Budget Travel Twitter Chat about affordable U.S. Road Trips, we asked, "What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you on a road trip?" One participant admitted to accidentally driving 200 miles in the wrong direction while on vacation. Oops. But as funny-not-funny as that incident may have been, we've got a piece of news that is even weirder: A British Airways flight that was supposed to take passengers to Dusseldorf, Germany, instead flew to Edinburgh, Scotland, due to a mistake in the flight plan filed before takeoff. Um…

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Travel News: Happiest Countries on Earth, Cheap Flights for April, and Booking National Parks Campsites Just Got Easier

From vacation options in the countries that boast the highest levels of personal happiness to jaw-droppingly affordable domestic airfares to brag-worthy destinations, plus a brand-new options for researching and booking federal campsites, this week’s travel news is all about making your spring travel dreams a reality. Happiest Countries on Earth Although we can’t guarantee that visiting one of the world’s happiest countries will deliver a perfect vacation, we’re thinking it can’t hurt, right? In that spirit, we’re always interested to see the latest rankings of 156 countries by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which analyzes survey data from Gallup including such factors as GDP, supportive social networks, life expectancy, freedom, and basic emotions such as happy and sad. For the second year in a row, Finland has taken the top spot. It’s also worth noting that four of its neighbors in Scandinavia and Northern Europe are the runners-up on the happiness scale this year, so this may be the year to plan that spectacular Norway road trip, a tour of Iceland, or pop over to Amsterdam to ogle the eye-popping spring tulips. Here, the top five happiest countries on earth (the United States, btw, ranked 19th): Finland Denmark Norway Iceland Netherlands Cheap Flights for April When it comes to round-trip domestic flights under $300, our friends at Skyscanner always come through with some great suggestions. They’ve crunched the numbers on the most affordable April flights, and their top 5 list could serve as your menu of spring break options. Here, the current ranking of the cheapest 5 flights, plus average prices (which are, of course, always subject to change): Long Beach, CA ($217.61) Myrtle Beach, SC ($223.16) Oakland, CA ($230.20) Denver, CO ($235.72) Chicago, IL ($244.09) Booking National Parks Campsites Just Got Easier We’re cheering “hip-hip-hooray” for Hipcamp. As we’ve already reported, Hipcamp makes it easier than ever to book exceptional camping experiences (some industry folks like to call it an “Airbnb for campers”). Now, Hipcamp has announced that, in addition to the thousands of public and private campgrounds it already lists, it will now list all federal campgrounds as well. That means researching and booking your next National Park camping adventure just got a lot more convenient, with not only Hipcamp but also other booking services gaining access to—wait for it—100,000 federal campsites.

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Travel News: California’s Epic Highway 1 Whale Trail, An Easy Way to Book Rail Europe Tickets, and NYC’s Off-Broadway Week

From a new way to enjoy California’s legendary Highway 1 to a convenient tool for booking city-to-city train travel in Europe to NYC’s lesser-known theatrical offerings at a deep discount, this week’s travel news is all about surprising new ways to get out there and see more for less. California’s Epic Highway 1 Whale Trail A drive up or down Highway 1 along California’s Central Coast is a great vacation idea any time of year. With its epic views of the Pacific Ocean, charming communities you haven't visited yet, and gorgeous inland mountains and forests, the stretch of road from Big Sur down to Santa Barbara is pinch-me beautiful. But this time of year, especially now through the end of February, there’s an additional reason to love Highway 1: The self-guided Whale Trail. As you drive by one of America’s most important protected marine environments, keep an eye out for 34 species of marine mammals, including migrating gray whales, orcas, humpacks, and blue whales, not to mention the seals and sea otters often spotted year-round frolicking among the rocks offshore. The official Whale Trail is a series of sites ideal for pulling your car over and looking for marine life from shore—be sure to pack your binoculars, camera or smartphone, and a sense of wonder. Learn more at highway1discoveryroute.com. An Easy Way to Book Rail Europe Tickets Have you tried the tech-forward mobile booking platform Klook yet? The quirky moniker comes from the phrase “keep looking,” and the company has generated some positive buzz among travelers who like to book their trips via mobile devices and who value last-minute options, skip-the-line privileges at popular points of interest, and overall one-stop shopping. Now, Klook is partnering with Rail Europe, the leading distributor of European railroad products encompassing more than 50 train lines across the continent. Planning a European trip in 2019? You can give Klook’s new point-to-point booking site a try to obtain e-tickets or printed tickets delivered free by mail, seat reservations, and rail passes (klook.com). NYC’s Off-Broadway Week Budget Travel’s editors are based in New York City, and we know first-hand that there’s a wide world of exceptional theater happening beyond Broadway. A good way to explore cutting-edge theater at a price that’s right, NYC Off-Broadway Week offers two-for-one tickets for performances from February 11 through 24 (yes, that’s more than one week, speaking of extra value). Visit nycgo.com/offbroadwayweek to nab discounted tickets to one (or more) of more than 30 plays and musicals, including family-friendly plays, revivals of classic musicals, magic shows, and comedy. Productions include Avenue Q, Colin Quinn’s Red State Blue State, Drunk Shakespeare, The Play That Goes Wrong, and many more.

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Travel News: New Budget Flights to Paris, TripAdvisor Announces Readers' Choice Awards for Hotels, and Lounge Around in an Igloo in Maine

From the announcement of winners of TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards for hotels to new flights from more U.S. airports to and from Paris, today's travel news is designed to get you in the mood to book your next getaway. Paris on Your Mind? A French Budget Airline Debuts Flights From Several U.S. Airports We hate to break it to you, but we’re closing in on the moment when it’ll be too late to start thinking about Valentine’s Day gifts, and it’s never too early to start thinking about your summer vacation, either. If you’re looking to knock out that vacation planning and a present for your sweetheart in one fell swoop, XL Airways (xlairways.com) has a pretty enticing proposal. A French airline that’s offered seasonal nonstop flights to Paris from NYC at value prices for a decade, XL is expanding its American footprint to a total of four U.S. gateways. In addition to JFK, passengers can now fly to and from Miami, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. What’s more, the carrier is updating its jets' economy-class cabins, adding ergonomic seats with adjustable head rests, individual entertainment screens, and USB chargers. The flights are seasonal and currently available for booking. The New York to Paris route resumes on April 6 and runs through January 2020; L.A. flights will run from June 8 to September 9; San Francisco from June 23 to September 8; and Miami from June 24 to September 10. TripAdvisor Announces Its Travelers' Choice Awards for Hotels TripAdvisor, billed as the world’s largest travel site, revealed the winners of its 17th Travelers' Choice Awards for hotels last week. Millions of reviews, collected over the course of a year on more than 1.2 million properties on the site, were analyzed using a proprietary algorithm to recognize 7,812 hotels, B&Bs, inns, and resorts in 94 countries. That might sound like an astronomical number of winners, but it actually only accounts for less than one percent of the properties reviewed on the site. Charleston’s French Quarter Inn took top place as the #1 hotel in the U.S., but as far as concentration of top-rated hotels goes, California and Florida won 22 awards apiece, South Carolina clocked in with 14, and Massachusetts won 12. Globally, the United States proved its hospitality supremacy with 165 awards, the greatest number of winners, just ahead of Italy and Spain with 164 and 163 award winners, respectively. Now, about those top prizes. Desert Rivera Hotel in Palm Springs scored highest for Best Small Hotel. Jail Hill Inn in Galena, Illinois, won the prize for Best B&B or Inn, and Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Resort (Convention Center) ranked best for family accommodations. Best Bargain honors went to the Trails Inn in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. For a list of winners, visit tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Hotels. A Maine Hotel Puts Frosty Beverages on the Menu We love a warm-weather winter escape as much as the next sun-starved Northeasterner, but leaning into the cold is often just as fun. Case in point: the igloo-style ice lounges at Maine’s Kennebunkport Inn, where visitors can cozy up for cocktails—think toasty toddies and bourbon-spiked cocoa—beginning January 25th. The lounges are stocked with thick blankets and fur-lined seats to keep the chills at bay, but if the cold gets to be too much, there are also communal firepits just outside the door (plus a cornhole board for those who prefer to embrace the frigid temps). Pop in for a drink or book an igloo-themed package and spend the weekend. (From $395 for two nights; kennebunkportinn.com/igloo-ice-lounge)