UNESCO Adds 8 New Spots to the World Heritage List
It's a feather in any location's cap to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so congratulations are in order to the eight new sites added for 2012. "New" might not be the best adjective, actually. The sites include Chengjiang Fossil Site in the Yunnan Province of China, where 196 species that help determine how today's animal groups have developed over the last 530 million years, and Catalhoyuk, a 34–acre Neolithic site in Turkey that was occupied as far back as 7,400 B.C.
The other natural and man–made wonders include seven painted timber farmhouses in Halsingland, Sweden that date back to the 19th century, Rio de Janeiro's Carioca landscapes (including Corcovado Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer), and the Western Ghats mountain chain in India. The preserved Belgian mining community of Walonia was also designated, including a mine dating back to the end of the 17th century. The final two are natural wonders in Africa: the 18 Lakes of Ounianga in Chad and the Sangha Trinational, three contiguous national parks in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and the Congo that total more than 1.8 million acres.
The members of the United Nations organization use some pretty lofty criteria for the designations: the sites must meet at least one of the 10 criteria, which include being "a masterpiece of human creative genius" and representing "major stages of earth's history." There are now 962 properties in 157 countries on the World Heritage List. In the U.S., the 20 UNESCO sites include Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and Yellowstone National Park.
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Court Ruling Gives Europeans Option to Re-Take Vacations If They Get Sick
It happens to everyone at least once—you plan the perfect, relaxing vacation, but when the time finally comes you spend the week with a terrible cold or a nasty stomach flu. And you finally feel better just in time to go back to work. Well, if you lived in Europe, you would now be entitled to a vacation do–over. This new ruling, which stems from a suit brought by a group of department store employees in Spain, applies to workers in all 27 European Union countries. It allows workers who happen to get sick while taking vacation time to basically change that time off to sick leave and recoup the vacation days. Remember, the typical European gets four to six weeks of vacation, a perk that has long been the envy of Americans (who get an average of 14 days of paid vacation, and are less likely to actually use it). As reported in the New York Times, the Court Justice of the European Union said, “The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.” Exactly. What do you think of this new ruling? Have you ever wished you could get your vacation back? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 6 Foolproof Tricks for NOT Embarrassing Yourself in a Foreign Language New Wales Hiking Trail Lets You Walk The Entire Coast Find Your Roots in Ireland
Orbitz Shows Higher Hotel Prices to Mac Computer Users
Yesterday morning the Wall Street Journal announced that Orbitz shows higher hotel prices to Mac users than to PC users. Orbitz acknowledged this in a statement as well. Before you start drafting an angry letter to their CEO here's an important disclaimer: they're not showing the same hotel at different prices—they're showing different hotels at different prices. It's not a scam. They're doing it because they believe that Mac users want to see higher hotel prices. And they didn't come up with this idea after a three-martini brainstorming lunch either—they arrived at the concept after months of tracking user preferences. They found that Mac users are 40% more likely to book a 4 or 5 star hotel than a PC user. This is one of the drawbacks (or benefits, as you see it) of tracking behavior online. If you're looking for upscale hotels, you might be grateful not to have to sort through all of the bargain properties to find what you're looking for. On the other hand, if you're looking for a bargain, you're going to have take an extra step to find it on Orbitz (fortunately it's easy—just select the "sort by price" option on the screen and they'll list the properties by price). Nonetheless, all of this reminded me of how important it is to be smart about finding good deals—no matter what platform you're on. Here are some tips: 1. Shop around and keep your cache clean. Don't just visit one site and call it day. Compare prices in different places (Expedia, Travelocity, Cheapoair, Kayak). In between searches, clear your cache to keep sites from tracking your behavior. 2. Watch prices. Keep abreast of airfare prices via a site like FareCompare so you know how prices are trending and can recognize a deal when you see one. 3. Use new tools. Widen your net by searching with HotelSweep.com, a site that searches smaller, independent properties that aren't listed on major online travel agencies like Orbitz or Expedia. After you book, share your reservation with Backbid.com, a site that reaches out to nearby hotel competitors to see if any of them will extend you a better offer (or a nicer room for the same price). 4. Consider a vacation rental. Vacation rentals can be a great way to experience the local culture and save money at the same time. Two of my favorite rental sites are AirBnB and Roomorama. 5. Look for packages. Some resorts are still hurting and by bundling in airfare or car rentals, they can lower their prices while still preserving their brand integrity. If you do your research you can find some good deals. 6. Check out independent deal sites. Find great deals by using a site that will vouch for the savings for you. We do this in our Real Deals section where we find and vet deals for you. DealBase is another site that does this. 7. Be smart about when you book. Studies have found that airfares tend to drop midweek, so plan your booking between Tuesday and Thursday. If you can swing it, try to lock in airfare prices at least 8 weeks in advance. Hotels should be booked as soon as possible (tip: If you book on the site Tingo.com they will monitor the rate for you and automatically give you a refund if the rate drops). SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Watching Movies at the Airport Just Got Easier Tips on When to Book Summer Flights Amid Rising Fares 7 Questions to Ask Before You Book an All-Inclusive Vacation
Priceline Puts A Fresh Spin on Booking Hotels Blindly
Priceline became famous for its booking service that won't reveal your hotel until after you pay. Today the company has rolled out Express Deals, a service that allows you to specify the amenities you want in a hotel, such as a swimming pool, separate double beds, or an on-site restaurant, before you book it blindly at a deep discount. First, the backstory: Priceline assumes every traveler has his or her price when it comes to brand loyalty. If you're absolutely devoted to, say, Marriott, you can pay the Marriott price, knowing exactly which hotel you're booking upfront. But Priceline's blind-booking alternative may offer significant savings off the Marriott price if you're willing to make a trade-off and accept a hotel generically similar to a Marriott but not necessarily that brand. The trouble with Name Your Own Price is that it's a roll of the dice. Priceline never guarantees that a hotel room you are bidding on will come with separate double beds, which would be a matter of importance for business travelers splitting a room. Priceline's bidding service also won't guarantee that a hotel will have a swimming pool to entertain your kids, a business center to help you stay in touch while on the road, or other specific amenities. Now, Priceline has addressed these shortcoming with Express Deals, an alternative to bidding. The new service allows travelers to specify the amenities they're looking for in a hotel—and even in a specific room. Customers still don't know the exact hotel they're staying at until after they pay, but, similarly to Hotwire, no bidding is involved. Here's how it works: Travelers view a webpage that lists amenities, such as a pool, gym or business center, star level of hotel, neighborhood, guest satisfaction scores on a 1-10 scale, and a rate—without knowing the name or precise location of the property. Often, travelers may choose their bedding type, such as one king or two doubles. If a customer books an Express Deals room and finds a cheaper rate any time until the day before check-in, Priceline will match that price and give the customer $25, with some conditions, of course. Priceline's Express Deals service has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, it's great for families and business travelers, two types of travelers who may have specific needs in a hotel that caused them to previously hesitate from booking blindly and enjoying deep discounts off rack rates. Plus, there's no bidding involved. Similar to Hotwire's service, you click and book without any wait. That speeds things up, making the "Express" name true to its word. On the minus side: the range of properties is more limited. While thousands of hotels worldwide can be found through Express Deals, the inventory is less for the new service than for either Name Your Own Price or traditional booking. The depth of discounts is also not quite as high, on average, as booking blindly through the standard Name Your Own Price service. While Priceline advertises discounts of up to 45 percent, that 45 percent is not the average discount. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Would You Put Your Vacation on Layaway? Malaysia Airlines Tests Child-Free Areas on Flights Wander Is a New Website for Travelers to Share Inspiration Tastefully
Super-Mosquitoes Threaten Travelers
Wetter weather in tropical places means that travelers are being bitten by mosquitoes at the highest rates recorded in a decade. Increased rainfall in many parts of the world due to a warmer Pacific Ocean has boosted mosquito breeding. Failed control efforts are also leading to more insecticide-resistant mozzies, says the World Health Organization. We don't mean to be alarmist, though. The danger of mosquitoes should never scare you off from traveling. You merely need to be prepared. The main advice for travelers is simple: Whether you're visiting a mosquito-prone area of Florida or a cloud forest in Thailand: If you must be outdoors during dusk or nighttime in an area known to have mosquitoes, cover exposed skin and use a mosquito repellant. Only go to hotels and inns that supply Insecticide-covered nets, which studies show are effective. If you're traveling to a tropical destination, be sure to check new health information for people traveling overseas from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Find out if you should receive malaria prevention medicine before you depart. Different countries, and even various regions within countries, require different medicines. The country-by-country advice at the State Department's website is a good place to start. Travelers confused about antimalarial medicines should also check out the Malaria Hotspots website for an overview of what to expect. Don't be afraid, though. Western medicine will be able to help you if you accidentally contract a mosquito-borne illness. But the symptoms could be quite unpleasant—far more than the side effects of nausea and dizziness that can sometimes come with the preventative medicine. One tip from experts: Don't wait until you reach your destination to get medicines. Better to carry anti-malarial pills from the US, in case you do become sick. While drugs may be cheaper overseas, there's a risk they may be useless. A study in the scientific journal The Lancet published last month estimates that one out of three antimalarial drugs, particularly in the developing world, may be fake. In the future, mosquitoes may not be such a "disease vector." Scientists are hoping to genetically modify the DNA of mosquitoes so that they become, in the words of one expert, "malarial hotels: the parasites check in, but can't get back out." Dengue fever is the other main illness carried by mosquitoes. In good news, the CDC has just announced the first FDA-approved molecular test for dengue may debut this fall. It detects evidence of the virus itself, allowing travelers returning from trips abroad to be properly diagnosed when they have symptoms. In more good news, a French drug company hopes to find out this autumn if its vaccine against dengue fever is effective. A vaccine would be the first against the mosquito-borne disease, which plagues more than 100 million people each year. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Health Precautions to Consider When Traveling Are Fever Scanners at Airports Worthwhile? (8 comments) How Do You Avoid Stomach Upset on the Road?