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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

By The Budget Travel Editors
January 12, 2022
A street view of NYC's Stonewall Inn with rainbow flags.
Victor Moussa/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 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:

  1. London, U.K.
  2. Paris, France
  3. Rome, Italy
  4. Crete, Greece
  5. Bali, Indonesia
  6. Phuket, Thailand
  7. Barcelona, Spain
  8. Istanbul, Turkey
  9. Marrakech, Morocco
  10. 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)

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Travel News: TSA Staffing Woes, Kayak Gives Diners a New Reason to Hit the Road, and Eurail Reaches a Milestone

From the latest on how the government shutdown is affecting the airport experience to Eurail’s 60th anniversary celebration, plus a new way to use your OpenTable rewards points, this week’s travel news has you covered. TSA Worker Absences On the Rise As the government shutdown rolls on, airports continue to struggle with staffing and security concerns. The Transportation Security Administration announced today that “many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations”—not surprising, given that they’re going on 27 days without pay. The TSA released data for Wednesday travel showing that unscheduled worker absences were up 22% from the same date last year, and the agency tells The Washington Post that the trend will only continue. “The number of people calling out because of financial concerns is increasing,” Michael Bilello, TSA’s assistant administrator for public affairs, told the paper. “As we go further and further away from having a missed paycheck and going into unknowns...people will have to make a decision: ‘Can I afford to go to work today?’” Air traffic controllers are facing the same financial strain, and with a federal judge denying a request by the air controllers’ union, among others, that aimed to force the government to pay them during the shutdown, the situation doesn’t look likely to improve. Though there were reports earlier in the week of wait times stretching to two and three hours in some locations, the TSA says that national averages are on par with the usual standards. Wednesday’s max was only 39 minutes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—the country’s busiest. But with major events like the Women’s March and Super Bowl on the horizon, it remains to be seen just how our nation’s transportation organizations will respond to the heavy crowds that are expected with limited personnel. Kayak's New Dining Deal As of today, OpenTable devotees have a fresh way to earn rewards. The dining-reservations platform is teaming with booking site Kayak to allow its users to put their hard-earned loyalty points toward hotel stays, both at home and abroad. U.S. diners with 2,000 points or more can now receive discounts of up to $200 at some 400,000 participating hotels, the first in a series of new redemption options the two platforms’ parent company plans to roll out in the coming days. “OpenTable diners are avid travelers, so we are excited to offer a Dining Reward that will help them save on their next trip,” said Kayak CEO Steve Hafner. “Creating shared value for our respective users—diners that love to travel and travelers that need to eat—is a priority.” (opentable.com) Eurail's 60th Anniversary Love ‘em or hate ‘em, airplanes are a modern miracle. (If only Christopher Columbus knew how long it takes us to travel the distance he covered in a lifetime!) But for travelers with more wanderlust and the luxury of time, railroads are the way to go, and with Eurail, a network of dozens of train systems—including high-speed, international, and smaller regional lines—in 31 different countries throughout the continent, you can design a European vacation for the ages. Eurail offers unparalleled flexibility and an extensive menu of travel packages that lets you make your decision based on factors like the length of time of your trip, seating preferences, and more. And on the occasion of its 60th anniversary, the company is proving that it's only getting better with age. Its roster includes three new destinations—Macedonia, Lithuania, and Great Britain—and five new carriers that will give travelers even more route options. As an added bonus, they've introduced new lower prices on Global and One Country passes as well as passes for seniors (60 years and older) and youth (under 27 years), and they're now offering a 2nd Class option too, making it possible to see more of Europe for less in 2019. (eurail.com)