Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Amazing Journeys’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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New TSA security regulations

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

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Is your cell phone charged?

It will need to be going forward. In order to continually protect US borders, TSA has added an additional security regulation at certain overseas airports on inbound flights to the US. TSA agents might ask you to power on any electronic or battery-powered devices in front of them that you bring through airport security, including cell phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, etc. This is to demonstrate the item’s functionality. This new security regulation is focused on intercepting explosives that could be disguised as electronic devices. If you are asked to do this and your device does not have power, you will not be allowed to bring it through security.

Moral of the story – make sure all of the electronic devices are fully charged before you head to the airport.

Tips for sleeping at 35,000 feet

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

airplane

With all the distractions and hassles of air travel, everything makes it tough to sleep on a plane – not enough legroom, people climbing over you, noise from movies and video games and screaming children., sunlight pouring in your neighbor’s window at 35,000 feet.

If you struggle to get some shuteye each time you take to the air, you’re not alone – but choosing the right seat, bringing the right gear and making a few small changes in your flying habits could help you sleep better on your next flight.

Choose your seat wisely

Your seat location could be one of the most important factors in how well, or how poorly, you sleep on your next trip. Try to get a window seat if possible; it will give you something to lean against and get you out of the way of other folks in your row, who won’t have to scramble over you each time they need to use the bathroom. You’ll also have some control over the window shade.

Think twice about bulkhead or exit row seats. Sure, the extra legroom is great, but some exit row seats do not recline (so that they won’t be an obstruction in case of emergency), and some bulkhead seats have armrests that can’t be raised. Sleeping in one of these is like sleeping in a straitjacket.

Another area to avoid is the last row of the plane. Again, the seats may not recline, and they’re often located right near the bathrooms where both noise (and odor) could be an issue.

Aside from the very last row, there are pros and cons to sitting near the front of the plane and sitting near the back. Seats near the rear of the plane may be noisier due to the planes’ engines and clink-clanking from the galley, but it’s also more likely that you’ll have a couple of seats (or even a whole row) to yourself back there – and the extra space could make up for the extra noise.

Cut down on your carry-ons

If you have two full carry-ons, one might end up under your feet, limiting your legroom and making it harder to sleep. Instead, pack lighter so you can fit everything into a single bag. Keep a few small necessities near the top of the bag – a book or magazine, a snack, a bottle of water. Before you stow your bag in the overhead compartment, pull out the important items that you’ll need during the flight and put them in the back of the seat in front of you. Keep the items you stow in the seat back pocket to a minimum, and be aware that flight attendants may ask you to put the items back into your carry-on bag.

Skip the caffeine

Especially on a daytime flight, where even the view out the window can be a distraction, you’ll find it much harder to sleep if you have caffeine coursing through your veins. Skip the temptation to have a cup of coffee or a soda before boarding, and stick to water or juice when the drink cart comes around.

Blankets and pillows – stake your claim

There are never enough blankets and pillows to go around. Board early and stake your claim. If there isn’t a set in your seat, immediately ask the flight attendant for one.

Bring a neck pillow

Many travelers swear by their supportive neck pillows. Experiment a bit and see which ones will work best for you.

Free your feet

This is a controversial subject. Some people slip their shoes off as soon as they get on a plane; others wouldn’t dream of it. Further, there’s the issue of keeping your circulation flowing; going barefoot permits your feet to swell.

Take care of your feet and wear clean socks. Bare feet don’t offend; stinky feet do. Wear shoes you can slip on and off easily. This way you’re not pulling at shoelaces mid-flight. On overseas flights, some airlines give you socks that will keep you warm and encourage circulation in your feet.

Try a sleep aid

I am not a doctor and will not attempt to advise you on what drugs you should take as sleep aids. That said, here are a few products that have been used with some success:

Melatonin: This is a naturally occurring substance – it’s the compound that triggers our sleep patterns, and it’s as natural as eating. The level of melatonin in our bodies declines as we age; this is why older folks often sleep less as they advance in years. As it is a gentle approach, melatonin doesn’t seem to work for everyone.

Dramamine: This motion sickness remedy is a pretty common over-the-counter drug, but beware; it will knock you out, and the advice not to operate heavy machinery (like, say, a car) is to be heeded. If you are on a shorter flight or need to be alert when you wake up, you may want to avoid this one.

Use headphones with discretion

Save yourself the $4 – $5 and catch some more winks by passing on the airline’s headphones. TV and movies can keep you up the entire flight. On the other hand, listening to soothing music can help tune out distractions and lull you into a peaceful sleep. For best results, try Bose’s popular noise-canceling headphones; they’re pricey, but they’re the best product on the market for frequent fliers looking to escape engine noise and other in-flight distractions. (Ear plugs are a less effective but much cheaper alternative.)

Recline your seat – but be courteous

On a night flight, expecting someone not to sleep is like asking them to put down their window shade during a flight over the Grand Canyon or Haleakala. Ideally, everyone has the same idea and seat backs will tip backward soon into your flight.

However, you should always look behind you to make sure the coast is clear before pushing the button to put your seat back. It gives the person behind you a heads up if they have coffee in front of them or have their head down on the tray table. Simple common courtesy applies here.

Make sure you won’t be disturbed

Notify your flight attendant that you want to sleep – that way he or she will know not to disturb you when the drink or snack cart comes around. If you’re under a blanket, be sure your seat belt is buckled over top of it so the belt is visible at all times.

Stay away from the light

The animated flash of movie screens, reading lights, cabin lights, sunlight bursting in on an eastbound flight – all can disturb your slumber. Get yourself an eye mask. Some airlines provide them, but it’s best to keep one in your traveling kit just to be safe.

When it’s time to wake up…

The worst part of sleeping is waking up. It’s even worse on a plane, when you’re waking up to bright lights, luggage carousels and sunshine so bright you can hear it.

If it’s a long flight, consider setting a watch or cell phone alarm for 45 minutes before you have to land. That gives you time to go to the restroom, gather your gear, tie your shoes, watch the approach to your destination and walk off the plane fully awake.

Reaching your destination fully rested, whether you indulge in a short and sweet nap or a full rack en route, always beats lurching around an airport tired and crabby. Grab your winks in flight and you’ll be a happier traveler.

 

Originally posted on Independent Traveler

Apps that make your trip more fun and less frustrating

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

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You’ve booked your vacation and are counting down the days before you leave.  Take a few minutes to check out some of these awesome apps that can save you time, frustration and even embarrassment when traveling.

Postale
This app combines the fun of old-school postcards with the modern convenience of social media. You can use your own just-shot vacation snaps to create your card and the whole process takes mere minutes: Choose a layout and background, add photo, title and message, then finish it off with an artsy postmark. Send it straight from the app using e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. A unique stamp is automatically added that shows from where and when your card was transmitted. It’s a personal way of updating family and friends on your how your vacation is going. Click here for app

TripLingo
You’ll never be lost for words with TripLingo, a free app that’s part phrasebook, part phonetics coach. Search the word bank in 13 languages – including German, Italian, Hindi and Japanese – for everything from body parts and emotions to weather conditions and restaurant-relevant vocabulary. A handy slang-slider translates must-know questions and pleasantries in four different ways, from a formal approach to the most colloquial. An automated voice coach can even fine-tune your accent. Click here for app

JetPac City Guides
This free iPhone app analyzes details of more than 100 million Instagram images to point travellers to the world’s hippest hangouts, happiest places and best views. It ranks publicly shared digital photos by such details as the amount of blue sky, the number of smiles, evidence of coffee cups or wine glasses, and so on, to come up with Top 10 lists. The results are hit and miss. If you’re heading to Paris, and want to know where the city’s best museums are, you’ll be offered the usual (Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay). Searching for the happiest places, however, leads to a list of nightclubs, restaurants, bars and an office tower. Stay away from gimmicky recommendations and instead look for coffee shops, dog-friendly places and where parents go with kids. Click here for app

Rove
Having trouble retracing the steps of your recent Roman holiday? This free iPhone app uses GPS data to track all the places you’ve been. It works in the background to create a travel log of sights, restaurants, hotels and shops that you’ve visited. The part calendar/part map layout is easy to read and tracks whether you got somewhere on foot, bike, bus or taxi. You can tailor things further by adding notes. Click here for app

Symbolic App
Looking for a pair of chopsticks in Tokyo or a cut of sirloin in Argentina? Symbolic App can help you find the right words. The iOS app is loaded with more than 3,000 symbols in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese, depicting everything from basic food and drink and health-related matters to hard-to-decipher settings on foreign washing machines. Use the search function to find the right word or phrase. While the pictorial dictionary includes a wide range of categories, it takes a while to navigate the pages. Under “Security,” for instance, you have to scroll randomly through symbols like bomb and battery explosion before finding a way to say “immigration.” Click here for app

Travel List
Get your suitcase in order! This app takes the guesswork out of packing. Start by setting up a series of lists based on the type of vacation you’re taking (beach, safari, city weekend, and so on) and populate them from the preset menus. Within minutes, you scroll through categories that include personal care, clothing, gadgets and documents, and pick must-have items from GPS and mosquito repellent to bikinis, belts and sunscreen. Specify quantities of each item and tick them off once they’re packed. While there are other packing-list apps out there, this one has a simple layout, is easy to navigate and it allows users to copy pre-existing lists, so you don’t have to start from scratch every time. Click here for app

Originally posted on The Globe and Mail

Why Traveling Makes You a Better Person

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

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If you have the opportunity to pack your bags and go, do it. Go alone if you have to. Make plans to meet new friends along the way.
Don’t do it for vacation. Don’t do it for luxury. Don’t do it to take pictures for your Instagram account. Do it because it will make you a better person.

And here’s why:

Learning to be alone.
Have lunch with yourself. Sit with your thoughts and be okay with them, whatever they are. Love yourself whole-heartedly, especially in times of solitude. And when you think you can’t sit alone any longer, order coffee and a dessert.

Relying on the kindness of strangers.
Foreignness does not prevent random acts of kindness. Accept them. Give them. Appreciate them.

Learning that plans change and you will have to adapt.
Itineraries are guidelines, not rigid measurements of experience. The best experiences are often not scheduled or anticipated. Expect the unexpected and learn to love it.

Enjoying the moment.
Forget the missed bus and enjoy the culture that can be experienced in one hour waiting at a bus stop. Stay in the present.

Forces you out of your comfort zone.
Practice speaking that language you learned. Try the cow tongue. Make new friends.

Learning to be patient.
Don’t rush through the museum. Don’t rush through your meal. Don’t bounce your leg up and down or roll your eyes. Don’t yell at anyone for reading the map wrong and getting lost. Don’t worry, you’ll get there.

Learning you can’t assume.
Try looking at things a different way. Ask questions. Let this open up a new realm of thought and possibility.

Missing home.
Appreciate family, friends, and loved ones. Appreciate the comfort of mundane routines. Find a new found respect for the life you often wish to escape.

Goodbye is not forever, life has endless possibilities.
Family becomes more than just blood. Never say goodbye to the people you meet and the places you see. Cherish the new families and homes you’ve gained. Keep in touch and look back with fond memories from time to time.

 

Originally posted on Thought Catalog

The perfect day in Hawaii

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

-by Erin

Hawaii-10
Imagine this…

You wake up to the sounds of waves crashing outside your window and you walk bleary eyed down to the lobby where you grab a fresh cup of local Hawaiian coffee which instantly wakes you up and energizes you for the incredible day ahead.  With your sunglasses on your head and your camera on your shoulder, you walk down to the beach where the warm sand tickles your toes and you lay out your blanket and watch one of the most impressive sunrises that you will ever see in your life.  You see locals showing off their surfing skills and smell authentic Hawaiian cuisine as you walk down the long stretches of sandy beaches.

Hawaii-40

After a delicious breakfast of fresh local fruit and homemade pastries, you pack your day bag and make your way down the beach to Diamond Head.  As you hike to the top of the dormant volcono, the warm sun makes you smile while the cool sea breeze reminds you where you are.  At the overlook, you gather with your friends and take pictures of the island with breathtaking 360-degree views.

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After an active morning, it’s time to relax so with a strawberry daiquiri in one hand and a good magazine in the other, you head down to the pool.  With the sounds of the ukulele strumming and waves lulling you to sleep, you take a nap soaking in the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle and dreaming of tomorrow’s adventure.  After a relaxing hour or two poolside, you head back to your room and don your most festive and colorful outfit because tonight, you are going to a luau!  You are taught to dance the hula, learn about the Hawaiian culture and watch an impressive show of dancers and fire breathers.

hawaii main 2

As the sun sets and the sky becomes a wash of indigo’s and violet’s, you think of all the fabulous experiences that you will get to share with your family, the friends that you have made and the warm Hawaiian rays of sun that will keep you warm when you are back home and digging your car out of a pile of snow.

Sound like something you’d want to experience?  Join us in Hawaii this November and learn the true meaning of Aloha!  Click here for a preview video of Aloha Hawaii.

Getting Excited to Hike the Inca Trail

Monday, March 31st, 2014

-by Stacey

peru inca trail tents

Okay, I’m going to be totally honest here. I’ve never been camping. Well that’s not entirely true – one time I camped out in a tent in our living room, and one time I camped in the woods behind my friend’s house in Maine. Do those count? Maybe. Okay, probably not.

So why not make my first time really camping absolutely stellar? That’s right, I will be camping for 3 nights on the Inca Trail in Peru during our 4-day trek to the top of Machu Picchu. This is a Bucket List trip. It’s one that not many people get to do in their lifetime, and I have the opportunity to escort our group of Young Adventurers on what’s sure to be a trip of a lifetime for them as well as for myself.

inca trail peru group

What am I most looking forward to for this group? This is a tricky trip to plan – obtaining Inca Trail permits, getting intra-Peruvian flights, coordinating porters and cooks to climb with us, making sure we have all of the right equipment – I love the fact that when we’ve coordinated all of the details, those on our trip can just sit back, relax, hike a lot, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Since this is a small group with a maximum group size of 15, everyone is going to have this amazingly unique shared experience. From a bike tour around Lima to enjoying Pisco sours in Cuzco and camping on the Inca Trail, this is going to be an experience to remember forever.

peru main 5As if that wasn’t enough. I’m doing it again! But this time we’re going to take it a little easier. The day after I finish with the active group, I begin again! This time, we will be staying in hotels every night (phew!). This trip is going to have the same highlights but with a totally different feel. We will be staying at local hotel properties throughout Peru, filled with activities each day and enjoying the nightlife, and the highlight of the journey, seeing that amazing view when we hike to the top of the Inca Trail and set our eyes on Maccu Picchu for the first time.

I can’t wait to meet the local people, see their amazing textiles, taste the food (and drinks), get our hike on, and breath the fresh – albeit much thinner – air.

Peru, here we come!

You can find some great articles, pictures, and information on the following sites:
Click around here, there are a number of short personal insights and beautiful pictures.
An avid hiker takes on the 4-day hike. Here she gives her advice for what to bring with you
Click here for tips from an experienced Inca Trail hiker

1300 Jews in NOLA

Monday, March 24th, 2014

-by Erin

What happens when 1300 Jewish young adults converge on New Orleans?  #TribeFest!

cafe du monde tribefest

Last week, Stacey and I hopped on a plane headed south to participate in TribeFest – a social, educational and interactive conference of Jewish young adults from all across the country.  I was really excited to meet new people and introduce them to Amazing Journeys and vacations that will change their life.  We spotted some familiar faces amid the black and white themed Purim Party, made new acquaintances in line for the bar and ran into them again in the bar line the next night, and even convinced some AJ alumni to join us for midnight beignets at the famed Cafe du Monde!

parade tribefest
Between the pop-up parades down the French Quarter and the interesting information sessions on a wide range of topics from Shabbat to Jewish genetics to entrepreneurship, there was something for everyone in this 4 day adventure.  We sipped on hurricanes, tasted (vegetarian) muffulettas, danced to the music of New Orleans jazz bands and soaked in the TribeFest experience.  We were motivated by Jewish speakers like Joshua Malina (actor on Scandal), Ethan Zohn (Survivor winner and Co-Founder of Grassroot Soccer) and Doug Ulman (President & CEO of LiveStrong Foundation) and were encouraged to lead a Jewish life that makes a difference.  There were so many amazing people with interesting stories to tell and we were thrilled to be surrounded by such a fun, energetic, inspirational and like-minded group.

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We had a lot of mingling and learning time but we had the most fun at our very own Amazing Journeys booth where we got to tell people all about the trips that we have coming up and what makes Amazing Journeys just so darn amazing!  With each new person that walked over to our table, our enthusiasm grew more and more as we shared our travel stories, heard where others have on their travel bucket list and shared fun AJ swag.  It was such a unique experience and were so happy to experience for ourselves why TribeFest is so popular!

A Guide to Tipping

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

-by Erin

You’ve enjoyed a lovely meal: The ambiance is perfect from beside the Vltava River, the River Thames or the Bosporus Strait, the food seemed to transport you further into the exciting city, and you feel a delicious sense of wonder about the world. Then the bill comes – how does one tip for such an experience? How do you keep yourself from being marked a tourist or worse – a cheap tourist? Never fear: We’ve researched the rules of conduct in 10 popular cities around the world, and here they are in plain English.

London

london changing of the guards

Across the pond in foggy Londontown, tipping etiquette is only slightly different than it is in the States. When you’ve enjoyed a nice meal out at a restaurant, it’s customary to leave anywhere from a 10 to 15 percent tip. But before you leave your extra coins on the table, take a good look at your check: Some restaurants automatically add 12.5 percent, especially on bills for larger parties. It’s not routine to tip at fast food joints or if you’re picking up take-out. When you’re at the bar or pub, tips aren’t customary either — though feel free to leave one if your American reflexes get the best of you. It’s also good manners to leave your taxi driver a 10 to 15 percent tip, though many locals will round to the nearest £1 GBP (about $1.65 USD). Still, if you’ve traveled a longer distance, say from London Heathrow Airport all the way to Buckingham Palace, you might want to leave a bit of a larger gratuity (up to 5 quid or about $8 USD).

Barcelona

After stuffing yourself full of the divine tapas that were delivered by a super attentive waiter or waitress in a Barcelona restaurant, you should consider tipping anywhere from 7 to 13 percent of the total bill. But if the food was subpar and service just so-so, feel free to make your displeasure known by tipping nothing. Tipping in Spain is supposed to be a prize for superior food and service; it’s not an assumption like it is in the U.S. Meanwhile, when it comes to local taxi rides, it’s customary to leave €0.50 EUR (about $0.70 USD), though if you’re traveling farther afield, you may want to tip your cabbie a couple euros.

Paris

paris eiffel tower

You’ve had a marvelous time pretending you are Parisian as you sip your vin and watch the River Seine at a cafe, but you turn into the befuddled American when you receive the bill. It’s a common plight, so here are the rules: A service compris (service charge included) of 15 percent is usually already included in your cafe or restaurant bill. The service charge is probably even included in the price you saw listed on the menu. But rest assured that you wouldn’t be committing a faux pas by adding a few more euros for extraordinary service. When it comes to tipping a taxi driver, it’s customary to tip 5 to 10 percent of the total charge.

Sydney

Down under, the tipping customs aren’t too different from the United States. But one reason for that might be because Americans have influenced the tipping practices in Aussie Land. All you need to remember is the number 10: Whether you’re in a taxi or dining at a restaurant, it’s now customary to tip 10 percent. However, if you only incur a small bill, leaving your extra change should be sufficient.

Prague

prague

When you’re dining on Czech dumplings or beef goulas at a Prague restaurant, you’ll see that a service charge is sometimes included. However, just to be on the safe side, you might want to tip 10 percent of the total bill. When you’re departing a taxi, you should round up the fare to the nearest 20 Czech koruna (the equivalent of $1 USD), or 50 CZK (the equivalent of $2.50 USD) if you’re feeling generous.

Rome

Even though Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg supposedly didn’t tip a couple of Roman waiters while on his honeymoon in 2012, we suggest that you do. In Zuckerberg’s defense, the tipping tradition here is a bit murky. Make it easy on yourself and live by this general rule: Tip up to 10 percent (but no more) of the total bill. However, if you see the words “servizio incluso,” you don’t have to leave your server an additional gratuity, as the service is already included. For taxi drivers, you may want to round up the bill, saying, “tenga pure il resto” or “keep the change.”

Rio de Janeiro

rio

Although Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival celebration is anything but discreet, its tipping practices are. So when you’re handing out a tip, try to be inconspicuous about it — Brazilians are a modest people when it comes to receiving gratuities. At restaurants, however, you don’t need to tip, as a servico (or service) charge of 10 percent is usually included. For taxi drivers, rounding up to the nearest Brazilian real (about $0.40 USD) is usually sufficient.

Istanbul

When you’re dining in Istanbul, you should always try to tip in lira (for reference, 1 Turkish lira is approximately $0.45 USD). For mid-price restaurants, anywhere between a 5 to 10 percent tip would be adequate. However, if you’re enjoying a fine dining experience, you should bump that ratio up to 10 to 15 percent. As for taxi drivers, simply rounding up the taxi fare to the nearest 50 kuru (one hundredth of a lira) is adequate. And if you enjoy one of those quintessential Turkish experiences — like bathing in a hamam — anywhere between a 10 and 20 percent tip is appreciated.

Bangkok

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Even though you may have some trouble adjusting to Bangkok’s language and landscape, you can rest assured that at least the tipping customs are rather easy to remember. When you’re dining on some delicious Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup) or Som Tum (spicy green papaya salad) or any other menu specialty at a Bangkok restaurant, you won’t be expected to tip, however you can leave small gratuities for decent service or up to 10 percent of the bill for exceptional service. With taxi drivers, it’s customary to round up the fare. (The currency used is the Thai baht and 1 baht equals about $0.03 USD.)

Cape Town

If we were to generalize about Africa as a whole, we’d say that western generosity is very much appreciated. In Cape Town, in particular, you’d probably want to tip restaurant servers 10 to 15 percent of the total bill (sometimes it is already included in your total). Cab drivers are accustomed to receiving about 10 percent of the total taxi fare. And if you’re traveling from Cape Town International Airport (CPT), you might notice porters mingling about. For their help with your luggage, you might want to hand over 20 to 30 South African rand (ZAR), the equivalent of about $1.80 to $2.70 USD. If you’re traveling by rental car, you may run into “car guards” or valets. When you’re coming back to retrieve your car, an appropriate tip is anywhere from 15 to 20 rand, the equivalent of about $1.35 to $1.80 USD.

Original source: Huffington Post

How to Make the Most of Your Airport Layover

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

-by Erin

Flights with layovers are often cheaper than direct flights, but despite the savings, many travelers will pay more to avoid the extra time in the airport. Can we blame them? The thought of sitting around in an airport for six hours is only vaguely more enticing than a dental appointment. And who would want to prolong their travel time more than necessary, especially when beach side hotel in Hawaii or a South American New Years cruise awaits at the end of the journey?

But despite their reputation as a necessary evil, layovers don’t have to mean endless hours of watching the clock and waiting for your Amazing Journey to start. In fact, a layover can be a memorable part of your trip and, dare we say it, fun. Instead of killing time filling out crossword puzzles and browsing the bookstore (there are only so many hours you can spend flipping through magazines you haven’t purchased before you’re asked to leave), why not dine on dishes created by celebrity chefs, take a mini-excursion to a local city or burn some calories in a fitness center?

Leave the Airport, See the SightsphpThumb-6

Airports that offer fast and affordable transportation to the cities they serve are the best places for an airport layover adventure. In cities like Amsterdam, Sydney, Washington D.C., Chicago and London, travelers can easily take public transportation from the airport to the city center and spend a half-day exploring.

For best results, sketch out a rough itinerary ahead of time. Find out what kind of transportation you’ll need to take to and from the airport (most airport Web sites list this information) and research the locations of attractions you want to visit. You may want to focus on a single attraction or neighborhood to save travel time. Allow plenty of wiggle room for traffic, long airport security lines and other variables.

Work Out

If you’re not shy about folding into downward dog in public, pack a yoga mat and work on your positions at the airport. A few minutes of deep breathing and stretching is a fantastic way to get your blood flowing after a flight. Check your airport’s Web site to see if it offers a yoga or fitness area. Singapore’s Changi Airport has a gymnasium where you can do a few stretches (for a fee), while Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has a meditation center that’s available to travelers at no cost. The quiet corner of an airport lounge also works as a suitable place to do some yoga if your airport doesn’t offer an appropriate facility.

Want to get some cardio in during your layover? AirportGyms.com is a useful Web site where you can search for fitness centers in or around airports in the U.S. and Canada. If there’s no gym in your airport, stuff some sweats into your carry-on bag and go for a jog around the terminals. This is best to do at an airport that offers shower facilities — be considerate of the person who will have to sit inches away from your sweaty armpits on the next flight.

Sleepsleeping

Some travelers think sleeping in the airport is disturbingly analogous to sleeping on the street (especially during an overnight layover), while others have no qualms about catching some Z’s on a terminal bench. One’s comfort level depends on a number of factors, from personal experience to conditions in the airport in which you’re staying. Many airports have designated sleeping sections or special sleep chairs that make for painless napping. Hong Kong International Airport, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport and Vancouver International Airport are a few major hubs that offer comfy lounge chairs and padded benches on which travelers can fully stretch out.

If you’re planning to spend the entire night on an airport bench, you may be awakened by airport security guards who aren’t fond of travelers setting up camp in public, depending on what airport you’re snoozing in. Stay overnight in the airport at your own risk.

Get a Room

Your eyes are heavy after a seven-hour red eye, but you don’t like the idea of dozing off in public. There’s a solution. Consider paying for short-term lodging, even if it’s for a layover that’s only a half-day or so long — it may be cheaper than you think and well worth the cost.

London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Amsterdam Schipol airports all have YOTEL facilities, which are accommodations within the airport terminals inspired by Japanese capsule hotels. A standard cabin can be rented for a minimum of four hours, and comes with a bathroom with shower, a bed, a fold-out desk and a flat-screen TV (all amazingly squeezed into seven square meters).

To get the cheapest rate at an airport hotel, plan ahead as opposed to showing up and requesting a room on the spot. Check rates online for airport hotels before you leave for your trip, and keep an eye out for special rates and other offers. On Hotels.com, we found rates at the Days Inn Airport Best Road, located just 1,600 yards from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, for $47 per night plus taxes, including free shuttle service to and from the airport — which is arguably a reasonable price to pay for a few hours of peace and quiet during a layover.

Play a Gamepoker

Pack one or two board games in your carry-on and get your travel companion or a friendly stranger waiting in your terminal to join in on the fun. Computer solitaire doesn’t count; get your face away from that computer screen for half an hour and engage with a real human being — it’s a great way to pass the time. Some good, packable games include Bananagrams, Travel Scrabble and Yahtzee To Go.

Chat with a Stranger

Chatting it up with an approachable stranger at the airport bar, in the lounge or in a restaurant could lead to a short, dull conversation at worst and a fascinating glimpse into a fellow traveler’s experiences at best. Talk to someone waiting near your gate; odds are you’ll both be heading to the same place. If the person is a local or a repeat visitor to your destination, your chat could yield a wealth of valuable vacation tips.

Eat Like a King

Airport food is notoriously bad, but there are definitely some exceptions to this rule. Select airport eateries offer genuine gourmet cuisine, from locally inspired classics to luxurious dishes. Stranded in JFK? Skip the KFC Express and head to La Vie, a French cafe that serves sophisticated fare like sauteed prawns Provencal and sole meuniere. There’s a popular Legal Sea Foods restaurant at Boston Logan Airport where travelers can get the same fresh fruits de la mer as those served downtown.

On the international front, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay recently set up shop in at London’s Heathrow Airport with a Michelin-starred restaurant cleverly called Plane Food. Travelers in a hurry can pick up a Plane Food “picnic” in a portable shoulder bag and bring their gourmet meal on the plane (warning: may cause jealous seatmates).

Play an Instrumentguitar

The guy who led stranded travelers in a sing-along at Newark Airport became a hero for the moment (and a YouTube sensation) when he saved dozens of passengers from their momentary boredom with his trusty guitar. Entertain yourself and others around you by packing your instrument and playing some tunes. If you’re especially talented, perform next to an upturned hat and use the proceeds to cover your baggage fees.

People Watch

Lots of big cities are famed for their people watching opportunities. In particular, New York comes to mind, and there’s even an amusing Web site, OverheardinNewYork.com, that features snippets of conversation from around the Big Apple. I haven’t found an airport version of this site, but I bet it would be a fabulous read.

With their hodgepodge of interesting characters from every corner of the globe rushing about, airports are the perfect places to conduct casual anthropological research. You’re in a public place, so there’s nothing wrong with eavesdropping on a loud conversation or taking a second look at the 20-something anarchist with tear-drop tattoos on his face. Share the interesting things you see and hear on Facebook (we’d love to read about them).

Original source: Independent Traveler

Will your flight be grounded? Ask ‘The Cancellator’

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

-by Erin

Between the polar vortex and record snowfalls, most of us have had quite a winter. And if you add travel and flying into the wintry mix, you should consider yourself lucky if you made it to your final destination on time. But the weather is not the only reason why tens of thousands of passengers might find themselves stranded and struggling to make their way home.  Watch the video below and read the article to learn about ‘The Cancellator’, a computer system that helps to determine which flights will actually take off, and what preparations you can take to try and make it to your destination on time.

cancellator
click here to watch the CBS News video


A computer system named ‘The Cancellator’ decides if your flight is grounded, report says

by Claudine Zap

Meet the Cancellator: the “Terminator” of airline travel. The computer system decides which flights will go, and which will be cancelled, according to Time magazine’s latest cover story.

“The Cancellator,” the nickname American Airlines employees apparently gave their system, “attempts to keep the chaos in the system to a minimum even as it maximizes the headaches for the unlucky. The idea is to use predictive models to cancel flights early, before people even leave for the airport,” according to Time. Other airlines use similar programs.

More than 75,000 flights have been canceled since Dec. 1, according to CBS “This Morning.” In fact, Time magazine asserts — and passenger experience may confirm — that more flights have been grounded this winter than at any other time since 1987

The paralyzing polar vortex combined with government regulations that slap airlines with steep fines for keeping passengers stuck on the tarmac has led airlines to “prespond”— cancel flights before travelers even arrive at the airport.

Which flights are nixed is decided by these Cancellator systems. “Turns out, the cancellations most travelers experience as random and cruel are anything but,” the Time story notes

“The Cancellator is the series of programs that decides who flies,” Time magazine assistant managing editor of Bill Saporito told ” CBS This Morning.” He traveled to the American Airlines operations center during a recent winter storm to see how the fate of travelers was handled.

“There’s a weighting system that takes a look at who’s flying, where are they going, where are the jets, where are the pilots, everything has to be measured.”

How do you beat the system? International flights are less likely to be canceled, Saporito says. “If you’re on a domestic flight that has a crew that’s ferrying to an international flight, that’s not going to be canceled, because if they cancel that flight they’d have to cancel the international flight.”

If your flight is full of travelers who won’t be connecting to another flight, you might be out of luck. Ditto for flying from one busy hub to another, such as Dallas to New York, because it will be easier to rebook the flight, writes Saporito. Airlines also factor in the price you paid for your ticket. Discount leisure fare customers will take a back seat to full-fare business fliers.

Original source: Yahoo Travel