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Want to Visit Cuba NOW? Here's How...

By Kaeli Conforti
May 21, 2015
Capitolio havana city cuba
Courtesy avam/myBudgetTravel

Being the first of your friends to visit Cuba is like having the best lawn in the neighborhood: Bragging rights alone are a souvenir.

Going to Cuba isn't as simple as clicking "book" yet, but thanks to new regulations, U.S. travelers won't face as much red tape. Trips still need to fit into one of 12 acceptable categories, such as family visits, participation in religious or educational activities, performances, sporting events, or people-to-people tours, but you'll be spared the hassle of waiting for license approval on a case-by-case basis and allowed to bring home $100 worth of Cuban cigars in your $400 souvenir limit.

People-to-people tours (the easiest way to visit Cuba) can skew pricey, but trips from Friendly Planet and SmarTours hover around $3,000, including airfare from Miami, cultural activities, and visas (friendlyplanet.com, smartours.com).

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10 of the Coolest (and Weirdest!) New Travel Apps for the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is nothing if not global. The $349-plus gadget is officially available today, but only in high-end boutiques in Paris, London, Tokyo, L.A., and Berlin. (Unless you're Beyoncé.) If you haven't pre-ordered one and won't find yourself shopping abroad anytime soon, you can order the Apple Watch online. Buying one is a financial commitment, not to mention a leap of faith in the watch's usefulness—you still need an iPhone to work the thing—but travel is one of the arenas that critics say holds the greatest potential for a wearable. A New York Times tech columnist used it to pay for taxis in New York City and show his boarding pass before getting on a flight, and reported back: "When these encounters worked, they were magical, like having a secret key to unlock the world right on my arm." While you wait for your gilded precious to arrive, here are 10 of the buzziest (and strangest) travel apps available for download at the Apple Watch's App Store, beyond the ones we mentioned last month: 1. BOOKING.COM  One touch is all it takes to book a stay directly on Booking.com's Booking Now app, available in 15 languages: "Through the use of Apple’s new pressure-sensitive ‘force touch’ technology, spontaneous travelers are now able to choose and book the nearest relevant hotel in one simple gesture" (free). 2. TRAILS  Using the Trails app, outdoor enthusiasts can access topographical maps offline and record their activity stats, such as "altitude, ascent/descent, speed, pace, and duration." The watch lets you "start and stop recordings straight from your wrist" (free app, Trails Pro subscription starts at $1.99 for three months).  3. HOTELTONIGHT  If you're already a HotelTonight convert, you're going to love the watch version: Users can book a hotel room "in seconds" with the expected sleek HT interface, which shows hotels nearby in categories like "luxe," "hip," and "standard," plus Bonus Rates, for discounts on rooms after 3 p.m. (free). 4. SICKWEATHER  Hypochondriacs, this one's for you. Replete with a 20-second hand-washing timer, Sickweather's app "provides the user a relative threat index of contagious illness in their immediate area" and alerts you when you've entered a Sick Zone: "areas where illnesses have been recently reported" (free). 5. VIATOR  The Viator Tours & Activities app beams from your iPhone to your watch, with your voucher's bar code, so "at the flick of your wrist and a tap of your watch, you can access your bookings and vouchers, getting you through the turnstile, the kiosk or lines in no time" (free). 6. AIRWAY APPS  In addition to the watch's launch partner American Airlines, other airlines have retooled their apps for the watch too (Delta, JetBlue, and Air France among them). British Airways recently announced you can use the app as a boarding pass. Plus, "a quick swipe of the 'glance' screen...will display a detailed summary of the customer’s next flight including the flight number, the flight status, a countdown to departure time and the weather at the destination" (free). 7. ZOLA  Can't wait to see which honeymoon wish-list items or couple-rrific "experiences" your wedding guests bought you? (Think: round-trip honeymoon airfare or an "intimate wine-tasting tour.") Zola's watch app sends notifications that "alert you when you receive a new gift off your Zola wedding registry as it happens." Surprises are so overrated (free). 8. HOTWIRE  Along with rental car–pickup notifications, hotel check-in alerts, and itinerary info from the Hotwire Hotels & Car Rentals app, "gas-up alerts" pop up on the watch "one hour before car drop-off time" (free). 9. IHG TRANSLATOR  As though you were a globe-trotting Dick Tracy, the IHG Translator app will decipher languages from Castilian Spanish to Thai: "By speaking directly into the watch, or selecting from a range of pre-loaded common phrases, travelers will be able to translate from English into 13 different languages, in real-time, meaning the app will cover the nine initial launch countries for Apple Watch" (free). 10. BOAT BEACON  "See and be seen on your boat"! With this ship-plotting app, Boat Beacon app wearers can "get CPA alarms, monitor MOB position and check your navigation and compass live directly on your Apple Watch from anywhere on your boat. Navigation, Compass, AIS, Race Timer, and Night Mode/Light watch screens provided." Catch you on the water ($9.99).

Travel Tips

12 Hawaiian Words Every Visitor Should Know

This article was written by Kyle Ellison on behalf of Viator.com. There was once a time when it was heavily frowned upon to speak Hawaiian in public. Suppressed by missionaries and western businessmen who were working to supplant the culture, the Hawaiian language was only spoken in the privacy of family and friends. In fact, in the 1970s, it was estimated that fewer than 50 children could fluently speak Hawaiian. In 1978, however, as part of a widespread cultural awakening known as the “Hawaiian Renaissance,” an increased importance was placed on the language and it was surely, but slowly, revived. Along with English, it was once again made an official language for the entire state of Hawaii, and immersion preschools such as Punana Leo began opening in 1984. Today, Hawaiian language courses are offered at universities from the Hawaiian Islands to the mainland, and you can even format a computer and Google to organically search in Hawaiian. And while the overall number of speakers remains small—estimated at approximately 10,000 and growing—it’s a welcome change from the linguistic extinction the Hawaiian language once faced. Though English is still the de facto language of business, commerce, and tourism, Hawaiian words are often interspersed in everyday conversation—so much so that you’re sure to hear a few while enjoying your Hawaiian vacation. Aloha Pronounced (Ah-LOW-hah) Most visitors know that aloha translates as “hello” and “goodbye” in Hawaiian, but there is a deeper meaning to this common phrase that is synonymous with the Hawaiian Islands. The sense of aloha, or spirit of aloha, is prevalent throughout the islands, and a loose translation of this deeper meaning is “to consciously manifest life joyously in the present.” It is the divine power living within all of us, and some even say the “breath of life” at the core of the human spirit. Mahalo Pronounced: (Ma-HAH-low) Mahalo is a word that is written on many of the trash cans throughout the islands. Consequently, there is a bit of confusion that the word mahalo is literally the word for trash. Mahalo is a word that actually means “thank you,” and the signs on trash cans are a way of thanking you for throwing away your trash. More than simply on the front of trash cans, you’ll encounter the word at the exit to buildings or on the lips of many activity agents. It isn’t uncommon to hear locals concluding a purchase with a casual, yet courteous “mahalo,” and it’s an easy yet important Hawaiian word to learn when traveling in the islands. ‘Opala Pronounced: (Oh-PAH-La) This, on other hand, is the real word for trash that you won’t find written on trash cans. Instead you’ll find it on placards and signs saying “mahalo for cleaning your ‘opala,” and it’s highly likely you’ll catch some “stink eye” if you leave your ‘opala on the beach. Mauka/Makai Pronounced: (MOW-ka/Ma-KAI) Even though they’re two separate words, mauka and makai are intrinsically linked since they’re important directional opposites. In the traditional days of ancient Hawaii, the islands were divided into pie shaped slices known as ahupua‘a. These wedges of land ran from the mountainous summits all the way down to the seashore, where to move “ma uka” meant going towards the mountain, and “ma kai” was moving towards the sea. Today, mauka and makai are still heavily used when trying to give directions, as a restaurant that lies on the inland side of the highway is said to be mauka of the highway. Similarly, if you’re walking down a road with buildings on each side, and the water is to your left and the mountains are to your right, a storefront that sits on the ocean side of the road is said to be makai of the road. Forget everything you know about road numbers and highways—it’s all about mauka. Pau Pronounced: (POW) Perhaps more so than any other word, pau is a phrase that regularly infiltrates an English statement or question. Pau is a word that signifies “finished,” and it’s most commonly used when island waiters will ask “are you all pau with that plate?” A variation of the word is the phrase “pau hana,” which signifies the end of as person’s workday. Many island bars will have “pau hana” specials in the hours just before sunset, and it’s an island variation on the traditional “happy hour” that’s found at most mainland bars. Kapu Pronounced: (KAH-Poo) If you plan on doing some hiking in Hawaii, or will be venturing to out of the way places, the word kapu might be the most important word to learn when visiting Hawaii. Before Christianity was accepted in Hawaii in the early 1820s, religious laws that were known as kapu regulated everyday life. Loosely translated as “forbidden” or “illegal,” breaking a kapu—such as allowing your shadow to fall on an ali‘i or harvesting fish out of season—in many cases was punishable by death and was often strictly enforced. Although the kapu system of religious rule was abolished in 1819, signs with the word “kapu” can still be found in rural sections of the islands. The signs today essentially mean “keep out,” or letting hikers or trespassers know that continuing further is forbidden. Unscrupulous travel publications downplay the signs as unauthorized or baseless for visitors, but that’s not the view that’s generally accepted by the majority of the Hawaiian community. If you’re hiking in Hawaii and see a “kapu” sign, it’s best to simply stay out. Keiki Pronounced: (KAY-kee) Families who are traveling to Hawaii with children will do well to learn this word. Keiki is the general term for “children,” and restaurants will feature keiki menus and activities have prices for the keiki. Kokua Pronounced: (Koh-KOO-ah) Kokua is a word that means “to help,” and it’s frequently coupled with the word “mahalo” to form “mahalo for your kokua.” In English, the phrase would translate as “thank you for your compliance,” and it often references not littering or helping to keep an area clean. Wikiwiki Pronounced: (WICK-ee WICK-ee) Wikiwiki means to hurry up! If you’re boarding for a Maui snorkeling tour, and realize you’ve left the sunscreen in the car, the boat staff might tell you “wikiwiki” when you tell them you’re going back to get it. Hana Hou Pronounced: (Hah-na HO) This is a cry most referenced at concerts when the crowd is calling for an encore. Hana hou can translate as “again,” and if a crowd is hungry for another song, boisterous chants of “Hana hou!” will be rained upon the stage. Akamai Pronounced: (Ah-ka-MY) When traveling in Hawaii, if someone calls you “akamai” you should definitely take it as a compliment. Akamai is a word that simply means “smart,” so if you tell a local that you packed lots of jackets for watching sunrise at Haleakala, they might come back with a “ho, akamai ah you?” Ono Pronounced: (OH-no) Ono deserves a special mention since it appears in two different forms. It mostly is found on restaurant menus describing the types of fish, as ono is the word that Hawaiians use for the fish more commonly known as wahoo. It’s the succulent block of grilled white meat at the bottom of your beachside fish taco, and the pointy-face fish you hope springs from the water as soon as you hear “Fish on!” More importantly, however, ono is the word that Hawaiians use to describe a flavorful dish. It can be used in place of “good” or “tasty” and as a positive affirmation, and you know the ono will always be ono whenever it’s ordered in Hawaii. With all these words in your linguistic repertoire, not only will things make a little more sense on your next visit out to the islands, but you can graduate on to more advanced words and phrases, such as humuhumunukunukuapua‘a—the Hawaiian state fish that literally translates as “big lips with nose like a pig.”

Travel Tips

4 Reasons to Book Your Summer Travel NOW

This article was written by Rick Seaney, an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, and originally appeared on Fox News Travel. If you're planning on taking a vacation this summer, here or abroad, I have some advice for you: Do not procrastinate.  Here's why. 1. More are flying Not so long ago a lot of folks put vacation plans on hold, thanks to 2008's recession. Here are some passenger traffic snapshots of those days (domestic and international) for the month of August, courtesy of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. —2008: 67.7 million passengers —2009: 65.0 million passengers Now look at last year's numbers.   —2014: 69.3 million passengers Even more people will fly in 2015.  Thanks to a perfect storm of strong dollar and continuing cheap fuel prices and an economy on the upswing, airline seats will be at a premium. 2. Flights will be packed In the past few years, airlines have turned capacity-cutting into an art form; they know how many want to fly and how many seats they need to hold us all. Since more passengers are expected to fly this summer, the airlines have pricing power on their side. When demand is up, prices are too. 3. Watch for limited summer deals You may not be aware of this but since late December, Southwest Airlines sales have mostly been limited to flights on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Saturdays (prior to this, sales were good on flights any day except Friday or Sunday). Southwest isn't alone, either. JetBlue deals have long been limited to Tuesday and Wednesdays only and others have similar sale restrictions. Bottom line: Fewer days for sale flights means fewer seats at the cheapest possible prices which is another sign that the time to start planning a summer vacation is now. 4. Shop for summer now Most of the current crop of airfare sales are valid only for flights through June 3 or so. After that, watch prices jump (and jump again in late June) as more and more people vie for an increasingly small number of deals and seats. The airlines know that most of us wait to make plans within 30 days of departure, and price their fares accordingly meaning tickets will be more expensive. The sooner you move - particularly if you're going to Europe - the better your chance of getting the flight you want at the price you want, or at least coming close to a good deal. If you procrastinate, you may not get a seat on the flight you want at all. More from Fox News Travel: Secrets of a cruise ship captain Ryanair could offer $15 flights from the US to Europe As the euro tanks, European summer travel deals get sweeter Photos in flight: What you can and cannot shoot on planes Qatar Airways leader accuses Delta of flying 'crap' airplanes

Travel Tips

10 Things Every Foodie MUST Know About Food Festivals

You can always spot the ringers at a destination food event like the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (known as SBWFF) in Miami. While noshing newbies in fancy footwear are literally sinking in the sand as they queue up to crowded booths, pro festival-goers are lapping the floor in flip-flops and sinking their teeth into the tastiest morsels before sidling up to celeb chefs for requisite selfies.   While there's no "right" way to experience your first food festival (or your 50th) there are specific strategies you can use to get the biggest bang for your buck (tickets at SBWFF and similar festivals run from $20 for a kids event to $500 for an exclusive dinner). Put these expert tips into action, and you may get even more than you bargained for: a coveted invitation to one of the legendary SBWFF after-parties. 1. HAVE A MISSION Most food festivals span several days and feature several dozen events, from intimate dinners to walk-around tastings to late night parties. "You can't hit every event—you'd be tired, woozy, and overstuffed," says Robert Irvine, author of Cook like a Chef and host of Restaurant: Impossible. Decide which experiences are most important to you, and then purchase tickets to those specific events. 2. DRESS CASUALLY  You've paid handsomely for tickets and you're in a glamorous location, so it's tempting to wear your finest duds to the festival. Resist the urge. "Remember that most SoBe events are on the beach, on sand, and exposed to the elements," says Franklin Becker, executive chef of The Little Beet in New York City. "Check the weather report, and dress for comfort." If you absolutely can't bear the idea of skipping out on your high heels, get creative and wear them as an accessory, as this festival-goer did (pictured above). 3. ARRIVE EARLY Show up at least 15 minutes before your scheduled event begins, recommends Irvine. "Otherwise you could be standing outside in a big crowd, waiting to get inside when the food is already being served." 4. FLOW AGAINST TRAFFIC            "When walking into an event, it's human nature to gravitate to our right and move around the room counterclockwise," says Mark Gregory, former Food Network executive. "That's everyone else's instinct too—which is why there's often a logjam by the front door." He recommends escaping the early crowds at any event by walking directly to the far back corner of the space, then moving clockwise to hit as many booths as possible before the crowd catches up. 5. CHECK THE MENU No matter how early you arrive, or how strategic you are about your sampling, you're eventually going to wait—and wait—to grab some grub. "Before you step into an epic line, read the menu to see what's being served," says Ani Meinhold, Partner at The Federal in Miami. "So often people get to the front and realize that they can't or won't eat what's being served." On the flip side—if you're really a fan of a particular chef, don't be deterred by a mob of people queued up to see them. "In that case, be patient and wait," recommends Meinhold. "It'll be worth it for the opportunity to be served by someone whose food you're really excited about." 6. SAMPLE BEYOND YOUR COMFORT ZONE While events like Best of the Munchies and Burger Bash are loaded with comfort food nibbles you know and love, don't be afraid to try something that feels a little "out there" for you—like tripe or barbequed pigs ear. "If a top chef offers you a bite of food he or she has just cooked up, don't turn it down. Try a small bite!" says Guy Fieri, host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy's Grocery Games. "You might just discover something new that you love—and you'll show your respect for the chef." 7. GO LIGHT ON THE LIBATIONS Tickets to many food festival events also come with special extras like unlimited refills of wine, beer, or mixed drinks. "Whatever you do, don't drink too much on the first night," says Iron Chef Marc Forgione, chef proprietor of American Cut steakhouse in New York City. "Otherwise, you'll be limping around for the next two days. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint." 8. BUDDY UP Unless you're the next Kobayashi [a world-famous competitive eating champion], you can't eat a full plate of everything served at the larger festival events, like Best of the Best and Meatopia: The Q Revolution. That's why Becker recommends grabbing a friend or two and sampling your way around the room or tents together. "Not only can you divide and conquer, waiting on different lines and picking up bites that appeal to everyone," he says, "but you'll reduce how much food you end up throwing out." 9. WORK UP AN APPETITE  With so many tasty morsels to choose from at each food festival event, it's pretty easy to overdo it. Work up an appetite for the next eating orgy by going for a walk, jog, or bike ride along the boardwalk between events, suggests Paul Wilson, General Manager at the Biscayne Tavern in Miami Beach. This part-wood, part-paved stretch of sidewalk runs 40 blocks along the coast between Indian Beach Park at 46th Street and 5th Street in South Beach, a span of about 4 miles. 10. MAKE A MEMORABLE APPROACH  Not only is it okay to chat up the headliners at the festival—it's actually encouraged. "Stand out from the crowd of fans and admirers by having a smart question or two to ask your favorite chef or food personality," suggests Irvine. "We want to help answer those questions and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it is that we do in real life." Want to take a photo with your favorite food crush? That's fine, too. All you have to do is ask—respectfully. "Fans have helped put us where we are, so we're almost always happy to snap a picture," says Anne Burrell, host of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and co-host of Worst Cooks in America. "Just wait until there's a break in the action or conversation, and make the request."

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