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March 2011

March 31, 2011

Altitude Sickness 101: Signs, Prevention, and Urban Legends

By Guest Blogger

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Altitude sickness(diloz,flickr)
A photographer climbs the 12,389-foot Mt. Fuji near Tokyo, Japan (diloz\Flickr)

Soroche, acute mountain sickness, altitude sickness—whatever you call it, it does not discriminate. The fact is, the higher you go above sea level, the thinner the oxygen in your blood becomes. By 10,000 feet, oxygen levels have gone from roughly 98 percent saturation to 89 percent. This catches many travelers off-guard; young, old, man, woman, fit, or not—anyone is potentially at risk. The good news is that the majority of those who experience altitude sickness find it relatively mild and limiting—NOT debilitating. And symptoms usually decline as altitude acclimatization occurs. All in all, don’t be afraid, be smart. Coming prepared and recognizing the signs are the best ways to combat altitude sickness.

Signs of altitude sickness include dizziness, headache, nausea/vomiting, trembling, clumsiness, poor sleep, lack of appetite, or overall feeling of exhaustion or lethargy. Imagine a bad hangover—not so fun. Many travelers coming off of a long flight tend to waive these symptoms off as jet lag, maybe one too many bags of airplane peanuts, or too much caffeine. It’s hard to predict who will fall victim to altitude sickness and who will not. A general rule of thumb: If you’ve experienced it before, you’re likely to experience it again. It is much easier to prevent than to treat altitude sickness. Here are a few helpful tips to do just that.

Allow yourself time to acclimatize
Spend some time adjusting to your new environment, and take it easy the first few days at a higher altitude. This is the perfect excuse to take in some sites, take a leisurely stroll, or check out a few local markets and cuisine. Eating a lot of carbohydrates, such as breads, cereals, and pasta, can also help prevent altitude sickness.

Stay hydrated
Drink lots of water, even if you’re not thirsty. Because there is less oxygen in the atmosphere, you and your lungs will naturally work harder to get what you need. Combine that with exertion and sweating from trekking and you’ve potentially created the perfect recipe for dehydration. Start drinking water before you get on the plane and keep plenty on hand throughout your travels. It’s a good idea to limit alcohol intake the first day or so at a higher elevation as well.

Continue reading "Altitude Sickness 101: Signs, Prevention, and Urban Legends" »

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Related Topics: Travel Tips

March 24, 2011

Spring Fling: A Round-Up of the Ski Season's Last Hoorah

Under the spring sun in Vail, Colorado (Colorado Ski Country)

Let’s call them "spring flings." Few ski resorts let the end of the season just dwindle away, flickering out like a candle. Most of them like to say good riddance with some kind of party. And the lodging packages get no better than in April. Here’s a random sampling of a dozen spring flings from North America’s ski country. Most of the festivities involve some form of pond-skimming, which are to spring flings what the accordion is to polka.

Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge
Killington, Vermont

Come spring, I know Utah-based skiers who long for the kernels of corn-like snow at Killington. Well, the resort is calling all amateurs to their mogul challenge, April 2–3, 2011. Here is your chance to utter those famous last words: Hold my beer and watch this!

Killington Ski Resort Travel Guide

Cody’s Challenge
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

The Third Annual Cody’s Challenge shakes up Steamboat Springs, April 2, 2011. This randonee endurance ski race tackles the full Monty of Herculean climbing, traversing and descending Steamboat’s in-your-face terrain. The race is in memory of Cody St. John, a Steamboat ski patroller, providing scholarships to increase the medical knowledge of the ski patrol.

Steamboat Ski Resort Travel Guide

Spring Music Sessions
Lake Louise, Alberta

It’s tough to beat the Canadian Rockies for spring skiing. Think March snow in April. But beginning April 2–3, 2011, Lake Louise also celebrates a series of weekend music concerts featuring the likes of Black Out City Kids, locally-raised "organic DJs."

Lake Louise Ski Resort Travel Guide


Continue reading "Spring Fling: A Round-Up of the Ski Season's Last Hoorah" »

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Related Topics: Skiing & Snowboarding

March 23, 2011

Egypt: Still a Safe Tourist Destination

Egypt, Cairo, Minarets of Hassan mosque at sunset(Sylvester Adams,Photodisc,Getty)
The sun sets over Hassan mosque in Cairo (Sylvester Adams)

A couple of weeks ago I wouldn't blame you if you bumped Egypt down on your travel to-do list. The North African country was in the news a lot, and not for good reasons. The first bad report came over the holidays when a series of shark attacks near the resort town of Sharm-el-Sheikh resulted in four injuries and the death of a German tourist.

Less than two months later protestors took over the streets of the capital city of Cairo in a successful attempt to oust longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from a 30-year rule. The uprising featured a series of demonstrations, marches, looting, labor strikes, and violent clashes between the protestors and government supporters. Though the shutdown has subsided with the transition of power, many Egyptians fear that the negative thoughts outsiders may now have about their country are longer lasting.

My husband and I visited both cities back in November, only a few weeks before the craziness began. We started in the capital city for seven days filled with friendly people and the most amazing food, despite what we might have heard. The next time you are in Cairo you have to eat at the restaurant Tabouleh, home to the best Lebanese food I have ever eaten.

Continue reading "Egypt: Still a Safe Tourist Destination" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel

March 21, 2011

Blog4NZ, Japan Earthquake Relief, and How Travelers Can Help

WALK THIS WAY: Milford Track, New Zealand (Heidi Coppock-Beard/New Zealand Tourism)

In the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake in Japan, it has been almost tragically easy to overlook the impact of another recent natural disaster, the February 22 earthquake that flattened much of Christchurch, New Zealand. Communities in both countries are now digging out and rebuilding shattered lives. And while it will take a very long time for these stricken regions to recover, it's a moment when the travel community should remember that we can still play a very active, healing role.

Blog4NZ logo Tourism to New Zealand makes up 10 percent of that country's annual GDP, while tourism-related GDP to Japan accounts for over 2 percent of economic activity. Christchurch and large swathes of the Canterbury region will be out of action for quite some time, but the rest of New Zealand—the adventure-centric, naturally-endowed "Land of the Long White Cloud"—is still very much open for business. For example, go and enjoy the spectacle of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup, due to be played in 11 other venues around NZ. Tournament officials reluctantly decided on March 16 that the seven games scheduled to be played in Christchurch would have to be moved, adding another emotional layer to what is sure to be an incredible festival of sporting as well as international fellowship.

Read our New Zealand Travel Guide to plan your trip

The section of northeastern Japan affected by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami was even harder hit (including the ongoing nuclear crisis), but you should still consider many other parts of the country a safe and unforgettable vacation destination. For example, the southern island of Kyushu harbors some great places to visit, including atmospheric Nagasaki, the volcanic hot sands of Kagoshima, and some world-class surf over in Miyazaki. There's no doubt the Japanese people will appreciate all the support and good wishes of the international community to help them get through the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but don't forget that when the crisis passes, they will also relish the chance to say "yokoso" and show you all this great country has to offer.

Read our Japan Travel Guide to plan your trip

This post is in support of Blog4NZ, an independent travel bloggers' initiative to offer continuing support to the victims of the Christchurch earthquake. To support ongoing earthquake-relief efforts in Japan, please consider making a donation to the Japan Society.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · New Zealand Travel · Outdoor Adventures · Travel News

March 18, 2011

Final Four Travel Plans

TX, Houston_TX skyline with Memorial Park in foreground_73068373 (VisionsofAmerica-Joe Sohm_Digital Vision_Getty)
Houston plays host to this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament (Joe Sohm)

Chances are, you're too busy hiding the NCAA Tournament video stream behind an Excel spreadsheet right now to read this, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little sleepy from staying out to watch the UConn-Bucknell game last night at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. But if your team is making a run deep into the tournament, here are a few places you might hope they wind up:

5. Tuscon, Arizona
Site of the first and second rounds (or, sorry NCAA, second and third rounds thanks to the miserably confusing "First Four" play-in games), Tucson is a great destination for early spring. Dry desert air and Spanish colonial architecture make you almost forget this is one of the West's greatest college towns and home to the Arizona Wildcats, a five-seed in the West bracket.

Tuscon Travel Guide

4. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Really? This host of early-round games gets its reputation from oil-derrick roots (and indeed, you'll find the 76-foot-tall "Golden Driller" statue in the town's fairgrounds), but spring brings rose blooms and cool temperatures to Tornado Alley. And the burgeoning area along East 15th Street is awash in new restaurants and boutique shops, including the trendy Rope Tulsa.

Tulsa Travel Guide

3. Anaheim, California
Home of the West bracket finals, families will find plenty to do in Orange County, from Disneyland to Lego Land to a land filled with great beaches and nearby mountains close enough to squeeze in a hike before the games start.

Anaheim Travel Guide

2. Newark, New Jersey
Ok, laugh. Make your Jersey Shore jokes or snide comments about crime rates. They're all somewhat valid in New York's largest suburb. But what's lost is that Newark has some legitimate attractions and fine hotels, including a superb art museum and a history rooted deeply in sports. It's the perfect place to catch the East bracket semi-final game and see if your team can make the Final Four. (And an easy train ride from New York if that's more your style.)

Newark Travel Guide

1. Houston, Texas
Of course, everyone wants to be in the final. And Houston, with its fascinating shipping port, resurgent arts scene, and excellent shopping and dining, is a mighty good host for the championship games. Of course, I think I might hold out until next year, when the finals will come to New Orleans and may even overlap with Jazz Fest. I'll just have to hope my Huskies can make the trip.

Houston Travel Guide

See's Top Ten College Towns.

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Related Topics: California Travel · New Jersey Travel · Travel News · Travel Rants · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas · US Travel

March 17, 2011

Honoring St. Patrick's Day


You can have your green beer and your Irish pubs today, America.  Gulping cheap brew polluted with food coloring while accessorized with plastic four-leaf clovers has always felt like the perfect example of the way us U.S. citizens “celebrate another’s culture”: by getting shamelessly wasted before noon at a much-hyped Irish brunch in the nearest mall-theme restaurant to the tune of the latest U2 song (which, for the record, sounds about as Irish as Justin Bieber). Go head…swaddle yourself in various shades of green, head to toe, underwear to overcoat, and let the Irish car bombs splash all over you.  But know that this does not make you Irish. Really—it doesn’t even make you seem as if you even like the Irish.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m the worst kind of Irish-American. I have just enough of Irish blood to have some red hair in my beard.  My deep affection for all kinds of Irish whiskey qualifies me as a functioning alcoholic. And I’m one of those guys who screams along in an off-tune warble whenever The Pogues grace a jukebox (and yes, I also close my eyes and mouth the words during some of their slower numbers—but only to Macgowan-era tunes, thank you very much).  I love a well-poured pint, and I love my Irish pubs (D.C.’s Irish Times and Nanny O’Briens, in particular), and I’m the bastard that reminds you that Guinness tastes better in Ireland than anywhere else—because it does.

Continue reading "Honoring St. Patrick's Day" »

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Related Topics: Culinary Travel · European Travel · Food and Drink · Travel Rants

March 15, 2011

The Rambling Man's Guide to Zurich

Zurich, Rainbow over Limmat River(Darryl Leniuk,Photodisc,Getty)
A rainbow sets over the Limmat River in Zurich, Switzerland (Darryl Leniuk)

There's no season like Spring Break. Heading to the slopes? The madness this March might be the depths of snow-covered ski resorts across the Rockies, most of them already exceeding the yearly average snowfall. And March is typically a big snow month.

I'm a big fan of the Alps, particularly Switzerland, where English-only is no handicap and everything runs like a Rolex. Where the snow-softened valleys climb into white jagged peaks and ski like the legends they are. But who wants to spend all their time in Switzerland skiing? Life is much larger than days on the slopes.'s Guide to Swiss Ski Resorts

For most American and European airlines, the gateway to the Alps is Zurich. There isn’t a ski resort in the country (as well as most slopes in France, Austria, and Italy) that you can’t get to within an easy day’s journey from Zurich’s Old World train station. For example, Zurich to Zermatt or St. Moritz is only three and a half hours by train. But Zurich also makes for an extraordinary diversion from skiing the Alps.

Continue reading "The Rambling Man's Guide to Zurich" »

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Related Topics: Skiing & Snowboarding

March 08, 2011

Moons Over Mexico: Five Reasons the Yucatan Breaks Stereotypes

Mayan Ruins,Yucatan(Shannon Donnelly)-can use as much as we like
The remnants of one of the greatest indigenous cultures of the ancient Americas, Mayan ruins are scattered throughout Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (Shannon Donnelly)

It's a common (and unfortunate) misconception among many wary travelers that all of Mexico is either violently unsafe or unauthentically commercialized. And while this may be true of many areas, we determined discoverers don't give up so easily at the mention of such mass generalizations. And that's how we've come to love the Yucatan. Here are five reasons to look past the beachfront mega-resorts and racks of sombreros of Quintanna Roo hot spots like Cancun and the Riviera Maya and travel deeper into the Mexican countryside.

The cosmopolitan and culturally vibrant city of Mérida is located about four hours west of Cancun on the Yucatan's lesser-trammeled Gulf Coast. A home to many expats, the city is not without its modern-day deprivations (there's a Wal-Mart and Home Depot lurking on the outskirts of town), but it's in the heart of the city where you'll find architecture, culture, and history beyond compare. Be sure to visit the breathtaking campus of the Yucatan University, check out the 100-year-old churches hidden in every square, and visit the Anthropology Museum. Perhaps most importantly, however, be downtown on a Friday or Saturday night when the streets are closed down and Mariachi bands, food and handmade souvenir stalls, as well as hundreds of festival-goers speckle the streets.

Merida Travel Guide

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Related Topics: Central America Travel · Mexico Travel

March 07, 2011

Your Travel Primer for the 2012 London Olympic Games

February was a busy month for the planners of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, with the release of the final competition schedule and a flurry of press images showing construction progress on the Olympic Stadium, athletes' village, and other venues around the 500-acre Olympic Park in east London. March promises to be no less action-packed, with tickets to the 300-plus Summer Olympics' events (across 26 sports) being released worldwide on March 15 (distribution will be made via lottery). Residents of the United Kingdom and designated European countries can apply for tickets at the official London 2012 website. Residents from all other countries should apply for tickets through their local National Olympic Committee, National Paralympic Committee, or an authorized ticket reseller. U.S. and Canadian residents can apply for tickets from CoSport, the group appointed by the London Organising Committee to distribute tickets in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and the United States.'s London Travel Guide

Continue reading "Your Travel Primer for the 2012 London Olympic Games" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · Places to Stay · Travel News · Travel Tips

March 04, 2011

Behind the Faces: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2011 Travel Locations

By Lacy Morris

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It's OK to Judge this Book by Its Cover: Hamosa Beach, Maui (Chris Cheadle)

Each year, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition hits newsstands with a thud, its photogenic content radiating beauty and emptying our checkbooks. And I'm not talking about the women (though they are beautiful). From the low-lying Maldives and the eco-chic digs in Nicaragua to the down-home charm of our own BBQ-centric Memphis, SI's gang has traveled to some of the most picturesque locales in the world to capture that perfect shot. This year was no different, with even a cold-weather backdrop making the cut for a second year in a row. Take a closer look at the 2011 destinations and get inspired for your next cashing in of saved vacation days. Now if only we were all six-foot models or world-renowned photographers and could get paid to travel...

Peter Island, British Virgin Islands
Like most private islands, Peters offers a limited amount of accommodation. Only 55 rooms occupy this 1,800-acre dreamland, where pampering is the name of the game. It's as if the pearly gates swing open and God himself reaches down from heaven to massage your beach-weary muscles... and that will be $200, please. If you have the cash (and you most likely do if you are considering staying here), book the Falcon's Nest, the bee's-knees of this exquisitely lavish island. Perched at the utmost point (so that you can look down upon the cheapskate minions below), this rentable estate has more rooms than most of our houses do. Amenities set amongst the three separate residences: six suites, seven bathrooms, three half-baths, two kitchens, a master suite with its own foyer, infinity-edge pool, and media room. And with all of this to keep up with, no one would expect you to do it alone. After handing over the plastic, your own personal staff comes to greet you, including a chef, housekeeper, and a chauffeur-driven vehicle.

Photo Gallery: British Virgin Islands

Laguna Beach, California
Made (even more) famous with those über-popular high schoolers on the hit MTV show Laguna Beach (if you don't know what I'm talking about just ask the next person you see wearing a Bieber shirt, and if you don't know who Bieber is, just give up), this sunny, laidback town has green hillsides charging up behind an idyllic coast where sand and surf are king. With a hip, downtown scene and sunsets just as majestic as they are frequent, it's no wonder artsy types flock here. An hour's drive from L.A., Laguna Beach was the only continental U.S.-based destination on the SI list this year.

Laguna Beach Travel Guide

Continue reading "Behind the Faces: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2011 Travel Locations" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Exotic Escapes · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

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