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Travel News: World’s 100 Best Bars, Kayak’s Holiday Travel Hacker Guide, and the New Longest Flight on Earth

By The Budget Travel Editors
January 12, 2022
Two glasses filled with ice and bourbon
Bhofack2/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 raising a glass in the very finest establishments in London, New York, and beyond to nabbing holiday travel bargains (yes, now!) thanks to Kayak, this week’s travel news is all about inspiring and empowering you to plan your next great getaway.

WORLD’S 100 BEST BARS

Chefs and restaurateurs have the James Beard Awards and Michelin Stars to acknowledge their superiority, and bartenders and bar operators have World’s 50 Best Bars, which, curiously, is really 100 best bars. Sort of. The 51 to 100 list is looked at as something of a runners-up category—honorable mentions. They were announced in mid-September and the 50 best were announced in London on October 3. The top prize went to Dandelyan, a London bar with inventive, whimsical drinks, but in a sad twist, just days before the awards, the bar announced it will be closing in the coming months. In the 51-100 list, 28 cities in 19 countries were represented, with the U.S. leading the pack with 12 bars, seven of which are located in New York City, and 13 in Asia. The New York spots include the compact amaro-focused Amor y Amargo, Brooklyn’s French-accented Maison Premiere, where absinthe drinks abound, and the Latin-tinged Leyenda, also in Brooklyn. The Aviary outpost in Chicago and NYC, both part of uber-chef Grant Achatz’s empire, each got a nod, as did the vibrant Anvil in Houston and the laidback, hip, classics-focused ABV in San Francisco.

For the World’s 50 Best Bars, the U.S. and U.K. had the biggest showing, with 10 bars each. The handsome, sophisticated yet funky NoMad, in the NoMad Hotel in New York’s SoHo, was the highest ranking American bar. It’s the third year it received a spot on the top ten. It’s followed by Dante, a relatively new bar situated in a landmark restaurant space and focused on creative aperitif drinks, clocked in at number 9, and Attaboy, a speakeasy-style bar, followed at number 15. The list is determined by votes from 510 drinks experts, including bartenders, writers, and other aficionados. 

KAYAK’S HOLIDAY TRAVEL HACKER GUIDE

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who’ll be hitting the road, rails, or skies during the winter holidays, it’s time to start planning. In need of a little inspiration? Booking platform Kayak recently released its 2018 Holiday Travel Hacker Guide, naming the lowest airfares to popular North American destinations from mid-November to early January, and travelers have plenty of affordable options, from familiar heavy hitters like New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas to surprisingly budget-friendly cities like Orlando. (Yes, Disney World is a madhouse between Christmas and New Year’s, but there’s more to this Florida theme-park mecca than mouse ears and Magic Kingdoms.) For something more low-key, head south to Atlanta, Charleston, or Nashville for a slower-paced, warm-weather holiday, or look to our neighbors to the north—Toronto and Vancouver, specifically—for a more traditional, snow-filled experience. Looking to ring in the New Year with sand and sun? You’re in luck: The Caribbean is calling, with cheap flights to the Bahamas, Jamaica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Aruba.

Overall, you’ll find the best deals if you’re willing to fly on the holiday itself, but if you prefer to wake up in your destination on Christmas morning or New Year’s Eve, traveling the day before may be your best option. For domestic New Year’s travel, booking six weeks out should get you the best fares, and for December travel, booking about four weeks out seems to be the sweet spot. You’ll want to keep an eye on those prices, though: We recommend setting up alerts with fare-watch services like Skyscanner, Google Flights, Hopper, and, of course, Kayak, to cover your bases.

THE NEW LONGEST FLIGHT ON EARTH

For those of us who consider a five- or six-hour transatlantic or transcontinental flight a little tedious, consider this: 19 hours from Singapore to Newark, NJ. That will be the new world record for the longest flight when Singapore Airlines launches the new flights on October 11. (The previous record holder was from Perth, Australia, to London, at around 17.5 hours.) If Singapore is on your bucket list, the flights will depart three times per week and you’ll fly in the new Airbus A350-900 ULR.

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Travel News: Safest Neighborhoods for LGBTQ Travelers, TSA PreCheck May Get Faster, Yellowstone-Area Grizzlies Are Protected From Hunters

From some of the coolest urban neighborhoods in the world to the wildest regions of the American west - not to mention the ever-exciting world of airport security - this week’s travel news is all about ensuring a rewarding experience for everyone. SAFEST NEIGHBORHOODS FOR LGBTQ TRAVELERS Although we’re not hand-wringing worrywarts when it comes to safety, we are strong advocates for travelers who may be at increased risk for discrimination or harm on the road. We welcome GeoSure’s new LGBTQ Safety ratings category on its award-winning travel-safety smartphone app (geosureglobal.com). The app now rates the “likelihood of harm or discrimination against LGBTQ persons or groups and level of caution required at location.” Among the safest neighborhoods for LGBTQ travelers: Amsterdam’s Centrum neighborhoodThe Castro District in San FranciscoBerlin’s SchönebergneighborhoodBarcelona’s Eixample neighborhoodTel Aviv’s City Center / Florentin neighborhoodMichael Becker, CEO of GeoSure, says “Whether traveling for business, leisure or study abroad, our singular focus is providing the most rapid safety awareness, granular to the neighborhood level, to help people have the smoothest trip experience possible.” TSA PRECHECK MAY GET FASTER If you’re the type of traveler who simply can’t get through airport security fast enough, Congress recently put aside its trademark partisan bickering to approve a bill that may help. The “PreCheck Is PreCheck Act of 2018” (yes, that’s the bill’s actual name, because apparently someone believes our attention spans can no longer accommodate further nuance or detail) aims to ensure that only TSA PreCheck members and their traveling companions younger than 12 and older than 75 are allowed to use the PreCheck line. If the Senate passes the bill and it is signed into law, will it make airport security more efficient? We’re guessing it may, but only for PreCheck members, who, after all, have ponied up the $85 fee and undergone a background check for the privilege of breezing through security). But by curtailing the common practice of allowing TSA agents to direct non-PreCheck members to PreCheck lines during periods of high congestion (and we know how some of you don’t care for that practice), the law could very well create more overall problems than it solves. YELLOWSTONE-AREA GRIZZLIES ARE PROTECTED FROM HUNTERS For those of us who love Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow the hunting of grizzly bears in Idaho and Wyoming was concerning. We applaud the ruling by a U.S. District Judge to restore protection under the Endangered Soecies Act, noting that opening up the region to grizzly hunting (known as de-listing) fails to take into account the impact on the species throughout the lower 48 states.

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Travel News: Airline Passenger Rights Get a Boost, Unclaimed Baggage Goes to Charity, and a Spooky New Halloween Tradition Is Born

If you care about getting more legroom in coach, traveling with furry friends or kids, and your overall rights as an airline passenger, this week’s big travel news will be sure to lift your mood. AIRLINE PASSENGER RIGHTS GET A BOOST Remember all those hassle-free on-time flights you've taken recently? Um... neither do we. But help may be on the way. The Senate just passed a measure that, if signed into law, would give airline passengers’ rights a much-needed boost. Highlights include: Passengers who have boarded a plane cannot be “bumped.” (You may recall that incidents of seated passengers being asked to leave the plane can turn ugly.)Cell phone calls are prohibited between takeoff and landing. (Just because you have access to in-flight Wi-Fi doesn't mean you have the right to jibber-jabber on your phone.)Pregnant passengers and families with babies and small children will have the right to early boarding and increased access to airport breastfeeding and diaper-changing areas.Passengers can check a stroller at the gate.It will be illegal to stow an animal in an overhead bin. (Duh, we thought that should have been obvious, but now it's the law.)The FAA will establish a minimum seat size (to address the “shrinking seat” trend).UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE GOES TO CHARITY Did you know that lost airline luggage is helping hundreds of thousands of people? It's all thanks to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, in Scottsboro, Ala., and its Reclaimed for Good program. More than 1 million lost items arrive at the Unclaimed Baggage Center annually. If the airlines cannot reunite the baggage with its owner after 90 days, the Unclaimed Baggage Center purchases it (and the airline reimburses passengers for lost baggage) and partners with multiple charities, including donating nearly one-third of these unclaimed items to Reclaimed for Good, which in turn donates an array of useful items to organizations that assist families, seniors, people with disabilities, and children in need. Learn more about the Unclaimed Baggage Center store, opportunities to “shop for a cause” during the holidays (or any time), and the Reclaimed for Good program at unclaimedbaggage.com. A SPOOKY NEW HALLOWEEN TRADITION IN SLEEPY HOLLOW, NY As if the name “Sleepy Hollow” wasn’t already spine-tingling enough, a brand-new haunting creative collaboration in the New York village’s historic Philipsburg Manor debuts this Halloween season. “The Unsilent Picture” is an original silent film starring Tony-Award-winning actor/dancer/clown Bill Irwin (perhaps best known as Mister Noodle on Sesame Street) accompanied by live musicians and special effects. Running October 5 through Halloween and inspired by Washington Irving’s spooky tale “The Adventure of the Mysterious Picture,” the film can easily be combined with a visit to the annual Horseman's Hollow fright fest on the grounds of Philipsburg Manor. Learn more at hudsonvalley.org.

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Travel News: Fake Hotel Reviews Can Land You in Jail, Christmas Flight Booking Tips, and the World's Best Wine List Is in Tennessee

From the shadier-than-you-thought world of online hotel reviews to expert data-driven strategies for nabbing holiday flight bargains to an award-winning restaurant wine list in an unexpected place, this week’s travel news is all about surprises that may change your travel assumptions. FAKE HOTEL REVIEWS CAN LAND YOU IN JAIL We’ve always known that writing fake hotel reviews is wrong. But now somebody is actually going to do time for it. The owner of an Italian company, PromoSalento, that accepted money from hotels to post fake reviews on TripAdvisor has been sentenced to nine months in prison and fined more than $9,000. TripAdvisor has been investigating and removing fake reviews by PromoSalento since 2015. If TripAdvisor notifies a hotel that it is engaging in fake reviews and the hotel fails to act, users are warned that the hotel may be manipulating its reviews. The jail sentence for writing fake reviews is the first of its kind. CHRISTMAS FLIGHT BOOKING TIPS With fewer than 100 days until Christmas, we reached out to our data-crunching friends at Skyscanner.com, the global travel search engine, who have collated and analyzed data from its more than 60 million monthly users to deliver the 411 on holiday air travel: Best week to buy domestic Christmas flights: This week (September 17 - 23), with potential savings of 15 percent.Best month to book domestic Christmas flights: SeptemberWorst weeks to book domestic Christmas flights: December 17 - 23.THE BEST WINE LIST IN THE WORLD IS IN TENNESSEE The World of Fine Wine, in association with Gaggenau, has announced the 2018 World’s Best Wine Lists Awards winners, and we were psyched to see that the winner of the Wine List of the Year 2018 is The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee. The awards are based on a wine list’s “breadth, depth, interest, quality, value, clarity and accuracy.” And while you might assume that the world’s finest wine list might be developed in, say, Tuscany, the Loire, or Napa, Blackberry Farm’s list of more than 9,000 selections was developed in the Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee.

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Travel News: Airport Security Bins Are Dirtier Than Toilet Seats, Celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month, Save During NYC’s Off-Broadway Week

From a hair-raising study of those filthy airport security bins (and how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe) to a great reason to raise a glass of the all-American libation, bourbon, this month to a two-for-one ticket deal that NYC culture vultures will snap up, this week’s travel news is all about escaping the everyday. AIRPORT SECURITY BINS ARE DIRTIER THAN TOILET SEATS We have some not-so-great news for germaphobes –and, sorry to say, everyone else, too. A recent study conducted by Finnish and British researchers reveals that the plastic bins used to inspect personal items at airport security have as much of a 50 percent chance of carrying the viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. Based on swabs taken at Helsinki Airport at three points during the 2015-2016 flu season, the surface of as many as one of every two bins, which are typically handled with a strong, open-palm grip, contain rhinovirus or adenovirus, the culprits that cause cold- and flu symptoms. This is a much higher rate of contamination than toilet seats in airports because bathrooms are cleaned much more frequently. But there is a glint of good news to come out of all this. The scientists write in the paper, which was published in the BioMed Central Infectious Diseases journal, says, "This knowledge helps in the recognition of hot spots for contact transmission risk, which could be important during an emerging pandemic threat or severe epidemic." Meantime, be sure to wash your hands after you get through security and, out of respect to your fellow passengers, maybe wash them before the TSA check, too. Now, we’d like to know who’s studying the carpet square in the body scan machine that many passengers stand on barefoot? CELEBRATE NATIONAL BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH Believe it or not, there have been times in U.S. history when lawmakers reached across the aisle to get things done. This month, we celebrate one of those moments: In 2007, senators voted nearly unanimously to pass a bill that declared September National Bourbon Heritage Month. Resolution 294, as the bill is known, is a reinforcement of the 1964 Bourbon Act, a Congressional decree that recognized bourbon as America’s only “native spirit” and established a legal definition and guidelines for production. Among those guidelines: bourbon whiskey can be made anywhere in America—not only Kentucky—and must be distilled from at least 51 percent corn and aged in brand-new charred American oak barrels. The 2007 bill is a salute to the spirit’s deeply entrenched role in American history as well as its past and present impact on commerce. While there are small independent distilleries in every state today producing bourbon, the most important, historic distilleries are in Kentucky, where there are 1.5 barrels aging per each of the 4.5 million people living there. That accounts for 95 percent of the world’s supply, making it an $8.5 billion industry. The drink has become such a source of intrigue that an entire tourism industry has evolved around it. In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers' Association established the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a road-trip-style experience. New smaller distilleries that have opened throughout the state over the subsequent years led to the creation of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour in 2012. A few years later, the outstanding whiskey bars in Louisville came together to establish the Urban Bourbon Trail, arguably the best bar crawl in the USA. So head to Kentucky and hop on one of those trails or head to your local watering hole and order a glass of bourbon on the rocks. If anyone questions your motives, tell them it’s your civic duty. SAVE DURING NYC’S OFF-BROADWAY WEEK Theater buffs headed to New York can save big thanks to NYC Off-Broadway Week, with two-for-one tickets on sale now for 38 Off-Broadway productions between September 24 and October 7, 2018. A few examples of the theatrical gems available at half price include Avenue Q, Drunk Shakespeare, and Stomp. Learn more, and purchase tickets, at nycgo.com/off-broadway-week.