|Writer Paul Theroux
"Travel is a leap in the dark that will
leave you a different person in the end."
Many book critics consider Paul Theroux the best travel
His latest is "The Last Train to Zona Verde." As a farewell voyage to Africa he traveled 25-hundred miles
up the continent, from Cape Town to Angola.
"I'm at a place where I enjoy being home with the family. Why would I want to be away? One reason is curiosity about
places I haven't been. The other is to see how places have changed, because when you see how a place has changed, you understand
how the world is changing.
You need to get to a place to discover that thing you're looking for.
There's a reason to travel-- to verify which way
the world's going.
At least I can say I put in an effort and tried to see it. To see things as they are makes you free- to see things
as they are, not nostalgically, not as you wish they were. Jut to see them."
Theroux has strong opinions about
'vacation travel' and 'packaged trips:
"Travel magazines are just one cupcake after another. They're not about travel.
The travel magazine is in fact about the opposite
of travel. It's about having a nice time or whatever. But that's the opposite of what I'm doing, and it always has been.
I hate vacations-- I have no fun on them. I get
nothing done. People sit and relax. But I don't want to relax. I want to see something. Sit down and have a massage, have
a spa, have a cupcake-- I go nuts. If I want to relax, I go home."
(above are snippets from an interview between Theroux and Andrew McCarthy, published in the September, 2013 issue
of The Atlantic.)
go to Paul Theroux's travel wish list
go to Theroux in New York Times archives
|Walkway in Zhangjiajie China
Dazzling thrills in nature's landscapes are magnets
for daredevil travelers.
One of the newest is the acrylic walkway that clings to the Tianmen
Mountain in China. It's about 4,700 feet above sea level, making it one of the world's highest observation platforms.
Anti-slip shoe covers are required for the walk, which winds its way
around the cliff like a snake, offering panoramic views of the surrounding forest. It's located in the Tianmen
Mountain National Park, and is only seven miles from downtown Zhangzjiajie.
Argentina and Brazil got together to build the hanging platform above
the Iguazu Waterfalls. Norway has built the astonishing Aurland Overlook.
And Austria has finished its Top of Tyrol Project and the spectacular Dachstein
Sky Walk. And there are more on the way.
But the Grand Canyon Skywalk is still tops
on the thrill list. More below.
Outer Space at the Grand Canyon
|Inaugural walkers on Skywalk. Click to enlarge.
|Skywalk at Grand Canyon West
SKYWALK is the highest man-made structure.
Intrepid, vertigo-free spectators are lining up to circle the glass
cantilevered overlook that juts from the west rim of the Grand Canyon,4,000 feet above the Colorado River.
Skywalk was built with a million pounds of steel, has dampeners to
minimize vibration, and the ability to sustain magnitute 8 earthquakes and extreme gravity and wind loads.
It's a phenomenal money maker for the Hualapai tribe, and 'handles'
nearly 600 thousand visitors a year. Canyon-side commercialism abounds.
Reservations are hot tickets in Vegas-- a 3 hour drive away.
Plane and helicopter tours, buses, gift shops, horseback rides, a faux Indian village and performances by tribe elders entertain
the 'Skywalkers.' There are plans in the works for a major resort with a clubhouse, and a canyon-side golf course. Yuck!
This place of great spiritual significance for millennia is not just
photo-op central for tourists. It's the focus of fierce legal battles over revenue splits between the tribe and David Jin,
who created the Skywalk in 2003.
go to the Skywalk Visitors Center
|Skywalk height dwarfs other tall icons.
Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin took
a "space walk" to join Hualapai leaders for the Skywalk's opening day ceremony. It was recorded by the BBC.
For travelers who like off-beat settings to relax, there are hundreds
of choices. Here, in Champagnac-de-Belar, France, in the heart of Perigord, is "a room with a view."
The Le Moulin Du Roc Hotel was built in 1670 and the River Dronne runs through it.
Get your 'Travel Smarts'
Demand for travel is higher in 2012. Hotels are hiking up rates. Airlines
are cutting capacity and dealing with volatile oil prices. Bookings are higher and budget travel is tougher.
You need to be savvy to find deals when predictions are dicier than
roulette. So tweak the system to your advantage. Sophisticated web sites can help.
If you know your destination and are flexible on dates, go to Itasoftware
to find current calendars of lowest fares. Bing’s price predictor can determine the likelihood
of fares rising or falling within the week – with 75% accuracy. So it’s worth a look. Airfare
Watchdog finds airline sales and deals that most other sites miss.
If your use Priceline you may be ‘missing
in action’ if you’re not a well-prepped bidder. Go behind the scenes. Bidding for Travel
and Better Bidding offer advice on how to game the system.
Bidding Traveler goes a step further. Just
enter the city, dates, and star rating you want. After reviewing the sites recommendations, enter a ‘lowball’
bid and a ‘final offer.’ Then you’ll see the calculations that will help you execute your optimal bidding
strategy on Priceline.
Hotels offers thousands of properties in sixty
countries from national chain hotels, resorts, and bed-and breakfasts. It shows last-minute deals on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Autoslash searches the web for discount coupons
on car rentals and applies them after you book. It continually checks for lower rates and applies all the discounts it finds.
For cruisers, cruise Cayole to get price predictions that will let you time your trip for lowest
And don't forget the amazing Kayak Explore.
It shows where you can go for a certain price and depicts destinations on a map. You can narrow your search my month, region,
flight length or weather. Here are the links:
go to Itasoftware
go to Bing Travel
go to Airfare Watchdog
go to Bidding for Travel
go to Better Bidding
go to Bidding Traveler
go to Hotels
go to Autoslash
go to Cayole
go to Kayak Explore
Here are a couple more to track air fares:
go to Fare Compare to track price patterns
go to Yapta to track price fluctuations
|Photo: H. Koppdelaney.
Where are you going?
|The newest transit in Rio de Janeiro is a gondola system over the favelas.
Overhead Transit in Rio
Planning for the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016
Summer Olympics, Rio needed more mass transit. A major problem was traversing the infamous favelas of Complexo do Alemao on
steep hillsides-- an impossibility on ground. The favelas offer no direct routes-- but rather a lot of zigzaging up a maze
of stairways, switchbacks, and yard-wide alleyways.
So 152 new gondolas will carry 30 thousand people a day along a straight
two miles in a 16-minute sky ride. The alternative would be a difficult hour-and-a-half trudge to a neary commuter rail station.
Now the tourists can get an overview of one of the world's largest
slums without getting their shoes dusty.
The French root of the word means 'remember the
Can a T-shirt, shot glass, or other kitschy junk do this? Better to
save your money and return home empty-handed but full of memories." - Matt Gross
Better yet-- return with something wonderful... that connects you with
with a place, a moment-- and has a lasting personal resonance.
|Comfort and scenery on the California Zephr.
America the Beautiful.
Relax and ride the rails.
The California Zephyr route is one of the most scenic trips
in North America. Running from Chicago to San Francisco it goes through the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas, and courses through
go to California Zephr Route
Take your pick of routes:
Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Capitol
Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Hiawatha, Lake Shore Limited, Cascades, Missouri River Runner, Texas Eagle, Southwest
Chief, Acela Express, Adirondack, Carolinian, Crescent, Downeaster, Ethan Allen Express, Keystone, Pennsylvanian, Maple Leaf,
Sunset Limited, or the Heartland Flyer. There's lots to see.
Choose the best seat!
Before you choose your airline seat consult the ultimate
Seat Guru gives
you detailed airline seat maps, showing seats with limited recline, meager leg room, and misaligned windows. Superior and
substandard seats are color coded to help you make a good choice. Enjoy your trip.
|Graphic courtesy of UrbisMedia 2010
Driven to Distraction?
Nuroscientists are finding that the human brain
isn't designed for multi-tasking and does much better when concentrating on one thing at a time.
Driving requires concentration. Using our
tech-age gadgets while behing the wheel often leads to deathly results from taking "eyes off the road."
Yikes. People are getting killed-- a lot-- by distracted drivers. What
does one feel after taking a life because of a cell phone call? It must be awful.
Because of increased injuries and deaths, the U.S.
Department of Transportation is putting top priority on campaigns against distracted driving. (So is Oprah). Take a
look at the official U.S. government website for more info.
go to Distraction
The Big Island.
|Fiery lava flow on the Big Island.
Deep immersion with land, sea, and lava
stirs the soul. It happens on Hawai'i.
The Big Island has five volcanoes, including the world's most active. Mauna Kea's summit, at 13,000 feet,
is home to the world's finest telescopes. Between the stargazing and the molten lava spilling into the sea you'll discover
the secrets of the earth.
else will you find the diversity of Hawai'i. Rain forests, lava deserts, snow-covered mountains, and a spunky volcano.
And under all is fire and the origins of creation.
more photos: Hawai'i
|Lava in the sea. Click to enlarge.
|Looking for volcanic activity off Chain of Craters Road on the Big Island of Hawai'i
|Entry, Imiloa Astronomy Center, Hilo campus, University of Hawai'i. Photo: Lorbit. Click to enlarge.
The Imiloa Astronomy Center
at the University of Hawai'i - Hilo is a must-see. The entry mosaic depicts the fury of Pele, the volcano goddess
go to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
go to National Geographic video - Getting photos of the Volcano
Writers put a travelogue in a line and find truth.
"Not all who wander are lost."
go Google Earth
New York Times
correspondents will give you the low-down about travel in major European cities. These writers
know the best places-- and the over-rated. They report from Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona,
and Rome. If you're traveling to these cities, take advantage of their savvy.
It's a great site-- but
before it comes up you'll be asked to do a (free) log-on to the New York Times.
go to correspondent's guide to Europe
TAP INTO COLLECTED WISDOM
The web has lots of "travel
community sites" filled with trip reviews, photos, advice blogs, tips and links. The most popular are BOO
and TravellersPoint. They hold the collected wisdom of more than a million travelers and thousands
of destinations. If you're planning a trip check these out.
Trip tip: take just a minute (really!) for
a visual round-the-world trip, courtesy of the BBC.
go to the BBC Motion Gallery
|Luggage at O'Hare International Airport.
Get rid of your baggage.
Ever consider shipping your luggage
straight to your destination? No schlepping, lugging, or tugging along the way. You’ll sashay
past the check-in lines, skip those carrousel maneuvers, and, possibly ditch the hassle of filing missing suitcase reports.
Think FedEx or UPS. Other options are specialty services
that pick up your bags at your home and have them waiting for you on arrival at your hotel. For starters, google Virtual Bellhop
or Sports Express, and check it out.
|Tom Dempsey photo. Greece.
yourself a treat. See enchanting visuals of Meteora, Greece--
and much more by photographer Tom Dempsey.
"The world is a book and those who don't
travel read only a page."
- St. Augustine
Add your content here
|Rugged coastline of a faraway and mysterious landscape. Click to enlarge.
How many dreams does it take to get to Easter
The first mystery of Easter Island
is trying to find it, for it requires an extra fine nib to place a dot out in the middle
of the South Pacific. Such a teeny triangular piece of volcanic rock, less than 50 square miles, and 2,000
miles from Chile, the country that annexed it in 1888.
The easiest mystery to dispel is its
name. Admiral Roggeveen arrived at the remote island on Easter Sunday in 1722. In truth, it was discovered by Polynesians
about 400 AD. They possessed the Rongorongo script, the only written language in Oceania. The
island’s native population of about 2,000 call the island Rapa Nui. Around the world it
is known as Isla de Pascua. So forget the Easter thing.
There’s no denying the mystery
of the island. And when you're there, the enigma remains. Some have suggested that Rapa Nui is a remnant of a lost continent–
but scientists say that is rot. The thing to know is that it is one of the most isolated places on earth.
If you really want to get away from it all, it's for you.
For travelers, the initial attraction
are the Moai, those massive monoliths with human features that dot the coastline– and the
petroglyphs: the rock carvings. In total, it is an open-air museum in a volcanic landscape in
the blue sea. A curious visitor can only speculate. Who? Why? How?
If you want to visit Rapa Nui, it’s
fairly simple. But you must forget ships, the twice-yearly supply boats, and yachts. For a sane person there is only one way
to get there– by air. And the one way to fly is on LAN Chile Airlines. Leave from Santiago, Chile. The round-trip to the island costs about $800.
You can find a place to stay when you
land. Tourism on the island is run entirely by the Rapa Nui locals. There are always island natives waiting to greet you when
you land at Mataveri Airport. Many locals operate hotels and guest houses. They are remarkably
friendly and hospitable and eager to take you in. Tourists who book a complete package miss this adventure.
There are now about 120 taxis to take
you about. Cars rent for about $60 for eight hours– more if you keep the car overnight. There is one gas station on
the island. You can rent a bicycle or a horse (though the saddles could kill you)– but you won’t see as much.
Taxis are the way to go. (Now remember not to take that supply boat!)
some links to bring you up to speed on Rapa Nui:
authors who don't complain about book tours:
Swich, in "A Way to See the World," tells of travel writers happily
flying coach on their first PB tour.
see what novelists find so objectionable about a diet of fine hotels, especially when the rooms come reserved and generously
paid for. Haven’t they discovered the mini-bar? We’re puzzled by memorists complaining about living out of a suitcase,
because it’s infinitely preferable to living in the past.
in Dubuque is not a journey into the heart of darkness. The only possible trauma of a book tour is the potential encounter
with apathy– the empty chairs of a ghostly chain at the short end of a mall in a town without pity. But this too travel
writers are much better prepared for. We tend no to enter MFA programs, teach at universities, or live in New York City, so
we are in constant touch with the great unread.
spent in airports we know that most Americans, when presented with large chunks of free time and removed from demanding home
entertainment systems– will still find almost any excuse– a cell phone, a laptop, another bag of chips–
not to pick up a book.
is to be continually reminded of the growing homelessness of the written word. So, unburdened by illusions and out of the
house, travel writers are the happiest authors on tour.
tour provides us with a focus, not always a given in our all-over-the-map trade. And the focus, in another pleasing twist,
is on us."
Delayed Dismissed and Discarded
Last year nearly 1 out of every 3 flights in the
U.S. was delayed, often due to unexpected weather. Considering midnight landings and closed airports, that's a lot
of stranded travelers.
So American Express is pushing "travel
delay protection," to cover expenses for hotels, ground tranportation, and food. When your flight is on hold, cancelled,
or overbooked, they have the nerve to say "Enjoy your next airline delay."
|Mt. Kailash, elev. 22,000 feet
Mt. Kailash, in the Indian
Himalayas, means "jewel of the snows," and is revered as one of the most sacred destinations for Buddhists, Hindus, and
"There is no place more wonderful than this.
There is no place more marvelous than here." (Mt. Kailash)
- Milarepa, Tibetan Saint, 1078
go to Milarepa: Yogi of Tibet
|Sunrise at Kanchendzonga in the Himalayas
go to Access Tibet
Rudy Maxa is America's
premier consumer travel expert . His feature "The Savvy Traveler" was a "must hear" on NPR Marketplace for
15 years but was recently cut for lack of funding. Such a loss! But Rudy is still savvy and just a click away.
For the latest scoops, deals, and travel opportunities, go
to Rudy Maxa online:
Rudy's "Sav-Trav" Online
"It's not an obligation of the tourist to observe experience so much as to have
it. For me, a greater accuracy of perception comes out of that."
- Sean Penn
"Sean is an investigative reporter of his emotional life and our world. He goes to the
middle of the hurricane. He's not taking a secondhand opinion. He really wants to know what's going down."
- Dennis Hopper
Popular destinations are getting trampled
by busload after busload of tourists. Too often the places we long to see have lost their glow by the time we get there.
The National Geographic Traveler has completed
a survey of great places that have retained their cultural integrity and environmental and ecological quality. It's worth
looking at the scorecard:
go to Traveler scorecard
Have you ever booked a hotel room in your home town, slept
late, stayed in bed with a novel, ordered room service, and visited the local attractions?
|Roof of Wat That Luang in Luang Prabang, Laos
Historical architecture of Asia.
It's just a click away.
And there are other travelers who search for the thrill of testing
their physical abilities with long hikes, high dives, mountain climbs, and sometimes to the most extreme athletic
go to National Geographic Extreme Adventure
|Dining car on California Zephyr
Ever think of having a coast-to-coast
train adventure? See the wonders of our land. Enjoy the company of fellow travelers. Relax into the ultimate
go to a passenger's tale of crossing America by train
OOPS, Our airports are a mess.
In the 2013 SkyTrax Survey of the world's airports,
no U.S. airport made the cut for the top 25! Our only near winner was the Cincinnati Airport that came in at 30th.
U.S. airports are a disaster because they need a whole lot more space that's not available. They can't expand. Without
adequate acreage they are crowded and grossly inefficient.
transit access is terrible compared to top-ranking facilities. Our mass transit to and from our airports is almost non-existent.
Our buildings have been reconstructed over and over to their
max. Because we sited our airports almost a century ago, when no one envisioned the scope of today's mssive air travel, we're
in a fix that can't be fixed.
While most space explorers have their eyes on the sky, film-maker James Cameron heads into deep waters. After surveying the wreckage of the Titanic many times, his interests
turned to the ocean's floor. He has designed his own craft, "Challlenger Deep," to travel almost
7 miles below sea level in the Mariana Trench.
go deep with James Cameron
What's the future of space exploration?
The American Museum of Natural History's exhibit "Beyond Planet Earth" offers many possibilities.
go to Beyond Planet Earth
Seen the Milky Way lately?
|Click to enlarge.
Less than ten percent of US residents are able to see the sky in its natural, unpolluted state. Do yourself
a favor. Get out there and tour the Milky Way. It's there for your wonder and pleasure.
Bring your binoculars and a sky-map and explore. Better yet get the schedules from state and national parks
for their star gazing programs.
There are still places to see the sky as our ancestors saw it.
How's the weather over there? Find out.
go to Weather Underground
go to Passport Office at the Department of State
The slums of Mumbai are a popular draw in the 'poverty
tourism' industry. Some call it 'Poorism.'
|Mumbai. Click to enlarge.
Visitors take slum tours for a variety of reasons.
Some have a ‘thank god I don’t have to live like this’ or "I can’t believe what I’m seeing"
response. There are all manners of voyeurism. Some go out of compassion or empathy to discover and find ways to help. Some
go for drama or novelty.
Some see art in colors, flavors, aromas, people,
and scenery. Some look for specifics like road circulation, housing or public facilities. You can’t label slum tourists.
They may be sociologists, urbanists, charity workers, or looky-loos.
In the past tourists avoided ‘dicey’ parts of towns,
in the U.S. And foreign lands. Now they seek them out for a dose of reality. With more coverage in the press and television–
they want to see for themselves. There is even a tour of Chicago ghettos.
Since the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire"
brought the Dharavi section of Mumbai into international view, tour reservations must now be made
well in advance. (In Mumbai's squatter settlement, a million people live in an area half the size of New York's Central
|Mumbai vendor, posters for Oscar winning "Slumdog Millionaire," Photo: Rajesh Kurnersingh.
|Favelas in Rio. Photo: Arthus Bertrand.
Slums typically ring wealthy cities with 5-star hotels,
like Rio de Janeiro (Favelas), Sao Paulo (Paraisopolis), or Cape Town
(Nairaland). Most tourists find the slum experience personally and culturally enriching. Many get
the feeling of being in the "real" city, rather than the "destination’ city of advertised attractions and bling shopping.
Of course there’s a down-side. A women in
a hovel in Kenya’s Mukuru district of Nairobi’s Soweto slum was upset when a coach bus crammed with photo-snapping
tourists stopped near her home. "They treat me like an animal, as if they were on a Safari," she said.
|Favela slums in Sao Paulo megalopolis. Photo: Stuart Frankin.
But there’s a huge difference between voyeurism and ‘seeing."
When guide companies attempt to be transparent, human connections develop. Tourists may travel
on foot, visit restaurants and buy crafts, and exchange expressions at eye level.
They realize that the economically poor are not necessarily culturally
poor. Some may be moved to sponsor a child’s education. Slums are a learning experience. It’s
a natural for travelers to seek a better understanding of the world. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be travelers.
You won’t find tours of Beijing’s Dasihilan slums. The Chinese
government isn’t in denial, but wants to keep them off-limits.
Before the 2008 Olympic Games, nearby "eyesores" were removed with an
unrelenting demolition of 171 villages. The city’s slums have been pushed out beyond the 5th ring-road.
Marcelo Armstrong conducted the first slum tour in
1992. He now has seven guides and about a thousand customers a month. With slums in every major city in the world,
tours are becoming an industry unto itself.
|Divide between wealth and poverty.
Find your Hotspots!
When you travel with your laptop and need internet access you have
to be choosy about your hotel accommodations. A hotel may say they have wireless fidelity, (Wi-Fi),
but when you check in you find out that their only hotspots are in the lobby or by the pool.
Before you make reservations be sure to ask if they provide Wi-Fi in your room.
Guests want Wi-Fi and hotels are still
struggling to get it right. Major chains now "claim" to have it-- but it is often limited to public areas. For true connectivity,
check the hotel website to see their terms for wireless access service. Double-check. Trust, but verify.
What time is it? Where are you?
Here's a good site for checking time zones:
go to time zone check
That depends on your allegiance to Anders Celsius, the astronomer,
or Gabriel Fahrenheit, the physicist.
go to convert temperature
Before you fly, check in with the Transportation
Choosing carry-ons is
'iffy' unless you know the do’s and don’ts on the ever-revisable list from the TSA.
go to TSA screening rules
Google for maps.
Need a road map? Just click on the area, zoom in, print
it out or e-mail yourself.
go Google the USA for maps
Monitor your flights.
You can track the location of every plane in flight. You can see the air traffic around the world. If you want to
check a specific flight, just enter the flight number and the airline and you'll get exact visual information.
go to global flight search
More and more our culture is global. Get
dispatches from a shrinking planet.
go to World Hum
How to get the lay of the land:
On-screen or on foot?
You may want a getaway. But escape entails
doing something different.
New lands of nature rejuvenate. Hills and valleys are
up the road. Walking in the woods we remember who we used to be and rediscover our need to wander and explore.
Moving ahead we see more, feel more. Much better than
being ferried a thousand miles only to vegetate poolside on a lounger.
Consider the opening lines of "Sea and Sardinia," by D. H. Lawrence:
"Comes over one an absolute necessity to move.
And what is more, to move in some particular direction. A double necessity then: to get on the move, and to know whither."
"Not all who wander are lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien
more writers on traveling
|Second Life avatar in soaring transport.
Have you teleported lately?
Explore your virtual world without jet lag, hassles, or crowds. It's
free*, eco-friendly, and available any time you feel like flying around. Just go to Second Life
and create your avatar. You may want to try Sunthravels, a virtual-reality travel agency with snappy
(and pricey) guides for almost 30 online worlds, including the VIP Catcher, an Art Lover's Tour,
and Matrix. Tourguides also offer jaunts through the virtual headquarters of real life businesses like IBM and Guinness.
If you prefer to ditch the guides, the online gurus at Wired
magazine let you teleport your avatar to choice destinations like the Wengen ski resort. Or you can check out Extasia, the clothing-optional Club Med experience.
Step and Kayak, both top travel sites, have merged.
Know when to buy.
Air fares fluctuate hour to hour. "Farecast"
forecasts the fares. Get their predictions and save a bundle.
Looking for low airfares?
Dig for deep-discount prices. The "Travel Hacker" has 30 ways to do it. Shop the web-links and check out the consolidation and discount
go to Insanely Cheap Flights
Expand your global reach and save money.
Foreign websites offer cheaper deals. It’s a bit like buying
prescription medicine in the U.S. knowing that you can get it for way less in Canada or Mexico. U.S.
residents really face cost abuse by American corporations.
Booking a car rental overseas? Don’t do it here—do it there! Chances are you’ll
get lower rates if you check out sites at your foreign destination. Going to Spain
and getting prices at www.hertz.com? Try www.hertz.es and you may find the same vehicle for half the money.
Some of the best travel sites don’t even end in “dot com.”
US.-based agencies like Expedia and Travelocity have created new sites in foreign countries that offer lower rates. So if
you’re headed for Berlin try www.travelocity.de and if you’re headed for Copenhagen
go to www.expedia.dk For Milan it’s www.expedia.it or in Paris
it’s www.expedia.fr. You get the idea.
It’s worth climbing the language barrier to get considerable
savings on your trip. On www.expedia.com the lowest price for a round-trip to Australia on Qantas was $350; the
same flight on www.expedia.au was $187.
Checking www.budget.com for a car rental in Dublin,
the price was 109 Euros a day. The same car on www.budget.ie was 82 Euros. Looks like we’re being ripped off. So don’t limit
your search—go foreign, where sites also offer terrific deals on hotels and side trip packages.
The hitch is that many airlines have different prices depending on the
point-of-sale (POS) and will prevent you from booking on their foreign site with a U.S.-based credit card. Try to figure
a way around that. If you have friends or business connections at your destination, they might book your travel—or you
could book with an agent based at your destination. In any case it pays to 'go foreign.'
Space tourism isn't a sure thing but
galactic gamblers are putting big bucks into spaceports.
Above: drawing of proposed "Spaceport Singapore," a $115 million facility funded by Space Adventures and
its partner, Sheik Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emigrants.
One-stop Space Destination
Rocket-bound tourists may
soon get the white-knuckle rides of their lives into the stratosphere. Eureka! Is there no end to our pioneering spirit?
The Singapore Spaceport is slated to open
in 2009. Officials hope it will make their nation-state a leading force in global tourism."Space Adventure," a major 'tourism
design' firm in Virginia, has the contract to insure visitors’ opportunities to ‘experience’ space.
Suborbital space flights, launched over water, will lure adventure-seeking
tourists who can ride on Russian MIG jets and feel simulated weightlessness on parabolic flights.
For big spenders, tickets prices are $20 million for trips to the International Space Station (ISS) and $100 million to go the moon.
The visitor center will offer virtual observations
from remote telescopes for live views of the night sky. The iconic attraction (with nearby casinos) will offer space-related
entertainment and sightseeing cruises.
More to come: New Mexico will have its
spaceport up and running in the desert by 2009; Oklahoma will launch flights at its spaceport
by 2008. Perhaps the most ambitious port will be funded by the Crown Prince of Ras-al-Khaimah near Dubai
in the United Arab Emigrants.
|Richard Branson and aircraft designer Burt Rutan, 2008.
Richard Branson, of Virgin Galctic, unveiled "Eve," named for his mother, and said flights for the ultimate
sightseeing trip for non-astronauts will begin in late 2012, after test flights and construction of a launch pad in New
Mexico. The company offers three hour sub-orbital flights-- with five minutes of weightlessness.
Sub-orbital flight is the easiest form of space travel. The spacecraft
technically reaches space-- about 62 mles above sea level-- but then falls back to Earth without orbiting the planet.
Branson has lots of competition. Jeff Bezos has "Blue
Origin," and Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, has "SpaceX--" and there are many more in
the "space pack," including EADS Astrium in Europe. So far the leader is Space
Adventures, which has already sent several paying customers into the wild blue yonder. Ready to book a flight?
go to Virgin Galactic
Five best roads in the U.S.
I-35 through Kansas
Montana Interstate Highway
I-75 in northern Florida
I-80 in Utah
I-95 between Elkton, Maryland and Baltimore
Have anything else to add?
This road is not for fire trucks or ambulances-- but you
might want to give this one a try-- and then get your suspension replaced.
Our 'unbuilt environment' is the counterpoint
of our 'built environment.'
The full urban experience is an interplay
of its varied and disparate spatial music. One keeps us more fully appreciative of the other, and the 'entire.'
The spirit of acceptance and 'letting go' bonds us
to a place and remains in our memory. Walk on the beach. Drive, ride, or fly to your desire. Take a break. It's summer.
In the meantime, take a virtual trip
to Utah right here. Click on 360 panoramas that you can move in any direction. Terrific.
Island hopping by plane? Flying to airports less traveled,
No matter the size or location of a passenger airport-- you need the
CODE to plan your trip. From AAL at Aalburg, Denmark, to ZUH in
Zhuhai, China-- and every place in between-- you need a CODE directory. And it's right
here-- with just a 'click.'
more Worldwide Airport Codes
|Madrid's Barajas Airport. Architect: Richard Rogers.
Lost in an airport?
With remodeling and poor signage it's a wonder we
ever get in or out without an unintended detour.
It helps to download terminal maps for the
airports on your itererary. For a one-stop guide to international airport info, World Airport Guides
has the skinny on where to go for what-- car rentals, surface transport, airline and terminal info, weather, ATMs... most
everything you need to stay on target.
go to World Airport Guides
|Death Valley National Park. Quang-Tuan Luong photo.
Through the eyes of Quang-Tuan Luong
Besides Hawai'i Volcanoes there are 57 other National Parks.
Don't overlook them in your travel planning. Q T Luong's photo, above, is one of 4,000 images captured in his
travels to all the National Parks.
Luong is the only person to have photographed all 58 national parks
with a large format camera. Click below to enjoy 800 of these photos:
"We travelers are privileged beings."
A true sophisticate enjoys the ride. Spanish journalist José María Calleja is still giddy about travel.
|"God, I hate to fly," Kim Warp in The New Yorker
If you love trains and like to move fast, check out the best routes
with High Speed Rail:
go to High Speed Rail routes:
Travel is an investment in memory. The experience is
enjoyable, but it's the memories that we keep.
Check the plastic in your wallet.
There are now pitifully few places on the earth where Americans can
stretch their dollars- much less get their dollar's worth. Not only do we lose big in currency imbalances, but we're losing more
to banks and credit card issuers when we buy overseas.
Added currency-exchange "transaction fees"
are up to 3% of your total purchase (hotels, restaurants, stores, et.al.) when you use Bank of America, Chase, CitiBank,
Wells Fargo, or GE Money credit cards. This is on top of the current average credit card interest of more than 13 percent.
It's easy to see why banks love to see us travel-- the more we go the
more they get (for doing nothing!). So before you pack check your stack of credit and ATM cards. Don't throw your money away.
The website "indexcreditcards" has good info for comparing the extra card fees on travelers.
go to compare transaction fees
On non-stop shopping:
"Travel is so much more than souvenirs and a smoking
- Rudy Maxa
"There is no major case
against life's enjoyments." - John
"I travel not to go anywnere, but to go. The great affair is to move."
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Try the National Geographic Map Machine.
go to Map Machine
"Exploring the Globe" is a travel
blog written by and for people with a passion for travel. It's worth exploring.
Islands, mainlands, cities--
What mountain to climb?
Planes, trains or feet?
Luxury or roughing it?
Group tour or incognito?
go to "Exploring the Globe"
Oh no! Not a pop quiz!
has the least vegetation? What's an archipelago? And do you know your Chilean exports? Answers and more--
go to National Geographic "Bee"
Traveling with digital cameras:
Most camera purchases are digital. Even National Geographic
photographers have gone digital. Few publications still use film.
Digital can enhance travel, and you'll get great
results if you have the technique, patience, and time. Going digital requires a crash course in new tech-- yet most amateurs
just unpack their camera, point, and click. You should know that there is real craft in creating digital photos.
If you think that the more you spend on the camera the
better the pictures, forget it. Not true. Going to extraordinary places with an ordinary, affordable camera is a winning
Capture the place you love with care. Think through the
situation. See the whole image. Look at the light and shadow, foreground, middleground, and background, shapes, lines, objects,
and positions before you shoot.
Being able to quidkly erase inferior shots can make us
sloppy. Always try for a good shot.
Jim Richardson, who conducts photo seminars for
pros, says "You don't need fancy tech, űber-pixel cameras, and stupefyingly extravagent features. All you want is a terrific
travel shot-- and you can do it."
Check your settings before you're in a shooting situation.
Then, when opportunity strikes, go for it. If you start fiddling with your settings you're going to miss the picture.
Digital helps with lighting since you can see it on the
LCD. But don't use flash as default mode for everything. Flash can destroy the mood of what your eye sees. Pros often use
an external flash and move it around until they get the soft glow they want.
Photographer Daniel R. Westergren suggests
"To counteract the reduced angle of coverage in most affordable cameras, you can take three vertical photos of a scene
and then digitally stitch them together."
David McLain first checks the possibilities:
"Photography is not just about taking great pictures.
It's also about using the camera to help you explore wherever you happen to be in greater depth.
"I'd much rather visit a place with my camera than without
it. I get up early and walk around. It's wonderful to see how the morning light changes everything. You see familiar sights
in new ways."
But he adds "When something
catches your eye, catch it with your camera."
to sea? Learn the lingo.
Know a pitch from a knot?
How about a ski trip in the desert?
Dubai, that feisty United Arab emirate on
the sultry Persian Gulf is the place to throw a snowball. Snowdome is its latest project aimed
at remaking itself into a major tourist hub.
"Ski Dubai" has five ski slopes, the world's
largest enclosed snow park, tobagganing runs, snow caverns, and plenty of room for snowboard stunts.
Just rent your clothes and equipment and head up on the quad-chairlift;
the tow lift and flying carpets will quickly bring you back for another run. If you want ski lessons, head to the pro
shop at the snow school.
|Fun in the snow at "Ski Dubai"
Let the kids build a snowman, eat at the St. Moritz
or Avalanche apres ski cafes-- or reserve one of the private party rooms. The whole thing
is about 25-stories tall and is 'forested' with snow-covered pine trees. Yes, it's cold
in that three-foot deep snow-pack-- brrr--, but remember that in just minutes you could be sunbathing
poolside-- at the humongous adjacent luxury hotel. If you really want to ski year-round, check out Dubai.
go to "Ski Dubai"
But now it's all downhill...
The 2008 implosion of "casino capitalism" has made Dubai a high-visibility
never-never land that crashed in the credit crunch.
"Du-bashing" is a rather mild term for
the rath greedy investors feel for greedy builders who never built and never refunded. Some property values have evaporated.
There are a lot of holes in the ground, a whole lot of grief all around, and a stunning downward spiral in tourism.
If you love the comforts of cruise ships and the adventure of disembarking at ports-of-call, you're not alone. It's a
good way to avoid the stress of airiport hopping. The major cruise companies are building ships at a rapid pace to keep up
with demand, but it's still best to book far in advance (or, if you're really flexible, you may be able to get a cabin at
the very last minute!). Here are some websites of interest.
Queen Mary 2 is Cunard's masterpiece. No Carnival Cruising here. With 1,253 officers and
crew, she's the only ship with her own planetatium. She's gorgeous thanks to 250 tons of paint.
The only way she's is limited is in height (so as to pass under New York's Verazzano Narrows Bridge). She shuttles
across the Atlantic and does Three Continent Cruises: Norway, the Mediterranean, New
England, and Canada.
She made her first eastbound transatlantic crossing in tandem with her
royal sister QE2. It was the first time that two "Queens" greeted each
other in the North Atlantic since 1967 (a highly debatable declaration!).
QM2 is unprecedented in luxury and roominess: 14 decks of sports,
gyms, shops, bars, lounges, five pools, ten restaurants (including Todd English), and the Canyon
Ranch Spa Club. You can enroll at the College at Sea, watch a "drive-in" movie, or play the classic British deck game of quiots (pass on that one). A lot of two-story staterooms, but if you shop you can find bargain rates
on this fabulous liner.
go to the Queen Mary
You can cruise and snooze...
A good thing is that
your room and your stuff go with you. No
need to pack and unpack again and again. You can join in activities or enjoy the peace of being
alone and doing as you please.
Food and drink are available all the time
and in great quantity. You can do all-day grazing, long lunches, sit-down dinners, midnight buffets, or stay on your micro-biotic
diet-- whatever you feel like doing.
Performances, gyms, spas, movies, games,
lectures, and contests are your option. There are plenty of quiet places to sit and read, do a crossword puzzle, sip
coffee, check your email, and daydream.
No concerns about where to gas up, catch a train,
get a map, or find a hotel. You can walk and roam around without worrying about getting lost or 'being late.'
Depending on geography a cruise allows
you to see more. Trips to Turkey, the Bahamas, Alaska, and the Greek Isles, for instances, are best on a cruise ship. With
bargains aplenty, the price is invariably less than going by land or air.
more on Atlantic Crossing
When you're flying away:
With higher fuel costs boosting ticket prices, it's getting complicated
to find 'bargain' fares.
Here are 5 Tricks of the Trade from Smart Traveler:
1. Check a lot of airline websites. Depending on their routes prices
can vary tremendously. Also use sites like Side-Step and Kayak for price comparisons (you'll find these in superb links).
2. It's often cheaper to buy hotel-package deals, especially for last
3. Combine week-end fares with a connection through the airlines' hub.
4. Ever bought a "throwaway ticket"? One-way fares sometimes cost way
more than a round-trip on the same route. Caveat: American Continental, Delta, Northwest, and US Airways (among others) "prohibit"
throwaway ticketing. What are they going to do-- throw you in jail? Will you be fined? (find out) If you do this too often
they get cranky. Another solution: Try airlines that sell only one-way fares (Air Tran, Air Canada, JetBlue, Independence
Air, and Southwest.)
5. Check the Saturday fares. Some of the lowest unadvertised fare sales
pop up on Saturday mornings. They want to fill seats-- and their competitors can't react til after the weekend.
Points of view:
voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
- Marcel Proust
"Everytime I get off a plane I view it as
a failed suicide attempt."
- Barry Sonnenfeld, movie director.
Celebrate astronomy: Take a space trip with your telescope. Get the lawn chairs and snacks, head toward
a starry sky, and take a sneak peek at the universe.
Make the Most of It
"The best way to stretch your time is not by rushing from
one place to the next trying to fit everything in, but by slowing down. Let the days pass a little more slowly than you
might have. Allow yourself the time to be somewhere. There's a tremendous amount to see. Pick an area, then narrow it
down, making it more defined. Days taken at a slower pace can be the most memorable of your trip."
Sarah Schockley, "Traveling Incognito."
|Eiffel's Tower. Photo: Lorbiter. Click to enlarge.
Why limit yourself?
Swivel your tripod.
Skew your view. Twist your kaleidoscope a notch. Revisit multi-layered
cities for another slant. Get another angle. Paris isn't just for foodies and shoppers. Stroll gardens.
Hang out. Find your fun. Turn the corner for a surprise that takes
your breath away. Jump on a train to Avers-sur-oise or Chantilly. Walk the mideaval labyrinth at the cathedral in Chartres.
Why are our airlines 'also-rans'?
In popularity polls U.S. airlines routinely languish
shabbily behind stars like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and other "high rollers"
with lie-flat sleeper seats and great food. This year American, United, and Delta are finally racing
to catch up by pumping money into ground terminal facilities and in-cabin comforts. But will economy ticketholders
ever get a break? To get a first class view of airline and airport rankings, check with SKYTRAX-
the prestigious air travel advisory group.