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August 2009

August 31, 2009

How Safe Are You When You Fly?

By Karen Chen

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FIGHT OR FLIGHT: Overcoming a fear of flying (Photodisc/Getty)

I didn't think it'd ever happen, but it has: I've developed a (slight) fear of flying.  I was once a confident and fearless air traveler who believed wholeheartedly that flying was safer than driving.  I looked forward to flying.  But starting a little while ago, with the airplane crash in Buffalo, and then the crash on the Hudson River, and the FedEx plane in Japan going up in flames, and then the Turkish Airlines flight crashing in Amsterdam, and then the Air France flight disappearing into the Atlantic, and the crashes in Iran (phew!), I suddenly felt as if air travel really wasn't that safe.  Perhaps it also had something to do with my gaining a sense of mortality with age, or that I was now paying more attention to the news (knowledge is such a double-edged sword)—but that's besides the point.  I understand now why people get nervous to fly.

But, let me allay your fears, and tell you that air travel really is safer than ever before.  This article at The Daily Beast gives some assuring statistics about air safety.  Pilot errors have decreased and the accident rate is consistently lower now than in the 1990s.  Your chances of dying on a flight on a typical American airline are indeed incredibly small, only one in 13 million. As you've probably heard before, your chances of dying while driving a car (a one-year chance of one in 6,500) or simply crossing the street (a one-year chance of about one in 48,800) are much higher. 

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Related Topics: Air Travel

August 27, 2009

Swine Flu: Health Update for Travelers

Globe-photodiscCommuting to work on the Metro this week, the headline on the front page of The Washington Post was impossible to ignore: "Swine Flu Could Infect Half of U.S." As schools around the country, indeed the world, get ready to return to classes for the fall, doomsday scenarios surrounding the potential effects of the H1N1 virus appear to be ratcheting up day by day.

As someone who is planning to travel to the U.K. in December with two young children, it also got me thinking about what this all means for travelers. Do we really have to take the Joe Biden approach of swearing off public transport until the scourge passes? Does it make more sense to hunker down and mitigate the risk? Given some of the scarier estimates and scenarios, I decided to do some research on what we already know about H1N1 and what health experts are predicating for the next few months.

Continue reading "Swine Flu: Health Update for Travelers" »

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Related Topics: Air Travel · Family Vacation · Travel News

August 26, 2009

Beach Bytes: Slow Down on Edisto Island

Edisto-Beach-State-Park,-SC Quiet Edisto Island, only an hour from Charleston, is a secret ripe for discovery by beach lovers in any season.  This hidden slice of South Carolina coast is situated among sand, marsh, and forest, with a little bit of old Southern tradition and a growing touch of modern, upscale tastes.

The ACE Basin, created by the confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers, is one of the largest preserved estuarine environments in the United States.  Boat tours from Edisto offer natural displays of sealife, birds, and forests unlike anything else. The Edisto Beach State Park features a stunning palmetto-lined beach, plus miles of hiking and biking trails with camping and cabin options. For park details, check the South Carolina parks website.

Edisto Beach is only two miles long, where the usual crowds of summer vacationers are still a rarity. It’s a popular family destination for South Carolinans who plan reunions, weddings, girlfriend getaways, or fishing trips. Many visitors who discover Edisto decide to stay to escape a busy city or cold climate, and a few native South Carolinans remain to open up family businesses.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Trip Ideas

August 24, 2009

Top Ten Foodie Destinations

By Karen Chen

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Spices in the Fes medina (Martin Child/Photodisc/Getty)

There are those who travel, and those who travel to eat.  Although I wouldn't say I fall exclusively into the latter category, discovering the local food of a place always ends up being some of my favorite memories from any given trip. From appreciating fine wine and organic food on the bluffs of California's Sonoma County, to scarfing down late-night street eats in Bangkok with mingling backpackers and locals, to discovering a love of barbecued red meat and tango in Buenos Aires, there's no doubt travel and food go hand in hand. And even if you don't consider yourself a certified epicurean (or even if you do), you probably know a good meal when you taste one.  So here are our top ten don't-miss foodie destinations, both in places close to home and other more exotic locales abroad.  Happy eats!

10. Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, British West Indies

9. Wellfleet, Massachusetts

8. Southwest London, U.K.

7. Walla Walla, Washington

6. Fes, Morocco

5. Carmel, California

4. Buenos Aires, Argentina

3. Big Island, Hawaii

2. Mumbai, India

1. Bangkok, Thailand

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Related Topics: Food and Drink · Top 10 Lists

August 21, 2009

Interview with Travel Writer David Farley: "An Irreverent Curiosity"

By Karen Chen

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Pondering the mysteries of the Holy Foreskin in Calcata, Italy (David Farley)

David Farley is the type of travel writer who likes to really get to know a place before he writes about it.  Case in point: He moved to Calcata, Italy, for a year to craft his first and latest book, An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town.  What prompted Farley's move to the quirky town?  His mission to unravel the mysteries behind the Holy Foreskin (that would be Jesus's foreskin), which was reportedly stolen from Calcata in 1983.  Farley has brought us tales from his time in Italy and the Czech Republic, and his work has appeared in The Best Travel Writing series, The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, and Condé Nast Traveler.  We were recently able to pick his brain about what it was like writing the book, his tips for travel-writing hopefuls, and his best piece of travel advice.

You’re best known for your short stories and articles about travel. What inspired you to tackle a book?

Originally, I wanted to take all the essays I wrote about living in Prague and try to have a collection published, but when I realized I probably only had about half a book’s worth of material, I decided I’d instead edit an anthology of travel essays (which turned out to be Travelers’ Tales Prague and the Czech Republic: True Stories). But it had been my intention to take on a book project all along—I just was waiting for the right idea to come along. And finally, when I heard about the village of Calcata and the Holy Foreskin, I knew this was the book for me.

Continue reading "Interview with Travel Writer David Farley: "An Irreverent Curiosity"" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · Travel News

August 20, 2009

Guide to the World's Best Resorts & Lodges

Cayo Espanto, a private luxury all-inclusive in Belize (courtesy, Cayo Espanto)

For the past 12 months, I have been neck-deep in one of the toughest assignments a travel editor can expect: Scouring the globe for the world's best destination resorts and lodges. I know, it's a hard job gazing at images of unspoiled, faraway places (like the one above), but I wasn't alone for my journey. We assigned a crack squad of travel writers with clips in publications including National Geographic Adventure, Travel+Leisure, and Lonely Planet to track down the cream of the crop, including their selections for the best family resorts, beach resorts, national park lodges, all-inclusive resorts, and six other distinct travel categories. One year later, with my list of must-visit places in a state of morbid obesity, we're excited to announce the launch of's new Resorts & Lodges Guide, featuring 200 of the world's ultimate destination-resort experiences. If you're looking for inspiration about where to stay next, this is the place to start.

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · All Inclusive Vacation · News · Beach Vacation · Eco-Tourism · Exotic Escapes · Family Vacation · Hawaii Vacation · Mexico Travel · National Parks · Outdoor Adventures · Places to Stay · Skiing & Snowboarding

August 19, 2009

Beach Bytes: Lighthouse Lovers Invited to Maine

Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth, Maine (Tony Sweet/Digital Vision/Getty)

Lighthouse lovers, make your travel plans to head up to the Maine coast now. September 12 will be the first Open Lighthouse Day, giving the public access to more than 50 sites participating in the event. Maine boasts more coastal lighthouses than anywhere in the country, and the New England state is proud of the history and legends surrounding many of these structures and their keepers.

Most were built in the 1800s when safe navigation along the dangerous rocky coastline was dependent on the light and foghorn signals from these lighthouses. Modern sailors can barely imagine trying to get ashore through storms and treacherous waters without GPS or sophisticated technological warning systems.

Today the structures and their grounds vary widely, ranging from beautifully designed and well-maintained masterpieces to unusual, unattractive, or even damaged sites. They are tall, short, octagonal, cylindrical, yet all were important to Maine’s maritime history. Many of the lighthouses and grounds are open regularly, and have visitor centers, gift shops, research facilities, or museums, while others are privately owned or leased to private residents and unavailable to the public.

Continue reading "Beach Bytes: Lighthouse Lovers Invited to Maine" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Trip Ideas

August 18, 2009

Budget Accommodations: The New Way to Travel

By Erin Pak

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SWEET DIGS: A Paris apartment for rent (courtesy, HomeAway)

In today’s dire economy, travelers with all types of budgets are looking for ways to trim back on their travel expenses. Even if you usually prefer to bed down in a Four Seasons or a Fairmont, finding cheaper accommodation is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. But just because you’ll no longer find mint chocolates on your pillow doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on comfort and safety. In fact, now’s a great time to try out some alternative approaches to finding vacation lodging, approaches that will not only save you money but that will also offer interesting cultural interactions that your usual hotel accommodations can't match.

Couch Surfing
Ever since couples have been fighting, and friends have crashed after a long night out, there have been couch surfers. The idea is simple: If you have a couch, you've also got a place to host someone for the night.  However, fairly recently, couch surfing has extended beyond the friend’s couch to strangers’ homes in foreign countries. According to, the purpose of couch surfing is “to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding." It may seem a bit strange—even somewhat scary—at first glance, but travelers have direct access to locals and their knowledge of a destination, and couch surfers and hosts are vetted and vouched for. Even more fabulous, couch surfing is totally free. And in this economy, that’s just too good to pass on.

Continue reading "Budget Accommodations: The New Way to Travel" »

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Related Topics: Budget Travel · Places to Stay · Travel Tips · Travel Trends

August 14, 2009

Dreaming of Gold in Park City's Utah Olympic Park

A young clinic-goer preps to run the freestyle jump (courtesy, Utah Olympic Park)

Next February, the glow of Olympic competition will alight upon Vancouver, British Columbia, for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but you don't have to wait until then to get into the competitive spirit.  The Utah Olympic Park just outside of Park City, Utah, hosted the Winter Games back in 2002, and today serves as both the training facility for the U.S. teams and one of the country's more alluring activity-centric locales, especially for families, during the warmer months of the year.

The facility boasts a spectacular interactive museum, the ski jump ramp—where you can peer over the ledge and get that vertiginous rush that comes from seeing what these astounding athletes willingly ski—and a variety of fun, low-adrenaline rides like the zipline and the Quicksilver alpine slide.  But speed freaks will definitely want to hop on the Comet, the Olympic bobsled. Dubbed the "fastest minute of your life," you'll tear through 15 curves at speeds of 70 miles per hour, pulling close to four G's. But don't worry—Olympic athletes handle the steering and the brakes.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Skiing & Snowboarding · Trip Ideas

August 13, 2009

Last Chance for Fee-Free National Park Weekends

By Karen Chen

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Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park (Adam Jones/Photodisc/Getty)

The Obamas are doing it—why wouldn't you?  This weekend, August 15-16, the First Family will visit two iconic national parks in the Mountain West and Southwest—Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park—just in time for the last fee-free weekend of the summer. The trip is meant to highlight the country's extensive park system, and to encourage Americans and visitors alike to get out and explore the national parks.

As part of a national trend, Yellowstone broke its own visitation record in July—typically its peak month—when 900,000 tourists visited the Wyoming park. Another park heavyweight, Yosemite National Park in California, also reported the highest visitation numbers in June and July for the last decade.  The national park system has seen increased traffic this year across all of its 391 sites, including national parks, historic sites, battlefields, and seashores. National Park Service officials credit the better-than-average year to lower fuel costs and the affordability of park vacations. 

This weekend will be the last of three weekends when entrance fees to most national parks will be waived, so get out and take advantage of the great value!  If you want to avoid crowded trails and campsites and traffic-choked roads, check out our picks for the Top Ten Alternative National and State Parks.  These alternative parks will afford you a little (or a lot) more elbow room to explore.

If you're heading out to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon any time soon, find our recommendations for four quintessential lodges in these two national parks after the jump, plus a link to a photo gallery of the country's most classic national parks lodges.

Continue reading "Last Chance for Fee-Free National Park Weekends" »

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Related Topics: Budget Travel · National Parks · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

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