Virgin Atlantic fights jet lag...and you win!
We've all been there. Your plane has touched down, and you're ready for your whirlwind international adventure. The Eiffel Tower beckons. The Great Pyramids await. The Coliseum is calling your name. And all you want to do is curl up in a ball and tuck yourself in for a long nap.
Jet lag is no joke. That terrible combination of fatigue, insomnia, and irritability can derail any vacation right from the start.
Well, starting this week, there's an app for that. Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Dr. Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, to release the Jet Lag Fighter ($1.99), an app that promises to get you and your sleep schedule back on track after a grueling long haul.
The concept is simple. Punch in basic info, like flight details, age, sex, and usual sleep patterns. The app then generates a specialized game plan to keep your eyes open without that tenth cup of espresso. Your personalized regiment will tell you precisely when to sleep, when to exercise, and when to seek or avoid light. A nifty graph even illustrates how long it will take to overcome those jet lag blues—with and without the program.
Compatible with iPhones and iPads, sold in the iTunes App Store.
Now we turn to you: got any great jet lag fighting tips that keep you active and ready to go?
[Fun Fact for Travel Geeks: Dr. Idzikowski worked on a jet-lag project for Virgin Atlantic's rival, British Airways, three years ago.]
Your next vacation is on us
As if saving money on checked-bag fees weren't incentive enough, Budget Travel is giving away a 6-night trip to Egypt (courtesy of Foreign Independent Tours) to the winner of our Ultimate Packing Smackdown—the search for the World's Best Packer. You have until June 14 to tell us why you deserve the title—in photo, video, essay, or poem form—and on July 1, the top ten finalists will be named and voting will commence. Your entry could include a packing list for a two-week trip, your most clever space-saving solution, your pick for the best assortment of luggage to pack, the items you'd never leave home without (or have learned never to bring with you again), or a diagram showing your own unique layering strategy. Send all entries to firstname.lastname@example.org, and check back in July to see if you've made the first cut! The best strategies will be featured online and in the November issue of Budget Travel.
Hidden airline fees to become thing of the past?
It turns out, members of Congress are just as fed up with airline fees as the rest of us. The federal watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report calling for airlines to disclose more information up front about hidden costs for checked bags and other services. "The fees are not very transparent," said Gerald Dillingham, the GAO report author, during a congressional hearing. "We do not think it would be a tremendous burden on the airlines" to make that information more clear. More interesting still, the GAO seems to suggest that the government should extend its tax on airfares to the additional fees. By the GAO's estimate, the government could have made some $186 million last year alone—just by taxing fees on checked bags. For the airlines' part, a spokesperson says that "airlines fully support price transparency." That may be true, but at least one of them, Spirit Airlines, doesn't seem all that sympathetic to travelers. Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza told Congress that bringing luggage on vacation was "not essential to travel." He went on to defend their $20 carry-on bag fee by saying that unbundling all "services not essential to the transportation of passengers has enabled more passengers to fly at lower cost. Indeed given our low fares, it has allowed many to travel who otherwise simply could not afford to do so." For our part, I'm not sold on Baldanza's theory—but maybe that's just because I like to have at least a change of clothes and toothbrush on hand for a trip. Those, at least, are certainly "essential" in my book. I'm all for traveling light, but that's not possible on every trip. What do you think?
Barcelona Controversy: Banning bullfights in Catalonia?
For centuries, the battle between man and beast has played out in Spanish arenas, with about 13,500 bulls killed yearly. But like Britain's ban of the traditional fox hunt since 2002, bullfighting may soon become extinct. On July 29 28*, a vote from local parliament has blocked the sport from taking place in Barcelona and the rest of northeast Catalonia. (The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.) Similar bans may be voted into place elsewhere in the country. What animal activists are considering a victory—it was an international petition signed by 140,000 campaigners, including Pamela Anderson and Ricky Gervais, that was the catalyst for championed the ban—two-thirds of Spaniards are calling a blow to their national identity and what they believe to be an art form. But many Catalonians don't agree with the rest of the country, and are trying to shrug off some of Spain's traditions, especially since more than a million locals marched in Barcelona two weeks ago in support of calling their autonomous region a nation, making the timing of the bullfight vote appear more political than humane. Although there are only two arenas located in Barcelona (one holds 15 fights per year, and the other is being converted into a shopping mall), an estimated $390 million in revenue may be lost from the regional ban. There's already a 50,000-signature petition circulating to extend the ban to Madrid, but there's little threat that the sport will ever completely leave the nation. With a regional government that's declared bullfighting to be a part of its "protected cultural patrimony," the battle will continue to go strong in the capital city, as well as abroad in Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela. *Update: We published the wrong date. Sorry! So what's your take: Is bullfighting a cultural treasure, or a cruel bloodsport?
What's new in airport security?
Shoes on? Shoes off? Can I keep my sweatshirt on? What about a sweater? Do I have to remove my baggie of approved liquids? Are empty water bottles okay? I consider myself an airport security line expert, yet I'm still often baffled by the near constant changes in TSA regulations. So let's check in with the TSA and see what they have in store for us the next time we going through security: NO NEED TO REMOVE THAT COMPUTER Apple's ultra-sleek 11-inch MacBook Air is allowed to stay in your backpack or carry-on when going through airport security. This sets the machine apart from other laptops, which—as you're probably aware—must be removed for inspection. It turns out this light-as-air gadget is being classified alongside iPads, e-readers, and netbooks as checkpoint-friendly. And it all comes down to a simple matter of size. (I know I should be singing the praises of this development, because we're all taught to cherish every valuable millisecond saved during the security check process. But I, for one, don't mind the one or two seconds it takes to unzip my bag and remove a laptop.) EXACT NAMES REQUIRED EARLY Under the TSA's new Secure Flight Program, all passengers are required to provide name, date of birth, and gender 72 hours before a flight. Names will then be screened against a terror watch list. It won't feel like much of a change—you'll just provide this information during the ticket-buying process. One thing to watch out for: your name must exactly match the name on your passport or government-issued ID. Make sure to watch out for nicknames and those pesky middle initials. UPDATED PAT-DOWN PROCEDURES Passengers might get a little touchy about this next one. The TSA has updated its pat-down procedures for passengers who set off the metal detector and then refuse to go through the new, full-body scanners. Agents used to use only the backs of their hands, but now fronts of hands are allowed. And they can go farther than ever before. Without getting too graphic, as long as agents are patting you down over your clothes, no part of the body is off limits. Needless to say, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union are up in arms. Somehow it makes the full body scan sound almost pleasant by comparison!