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July 13, 2012

More Travelers Have Guilt about Leaving Their Pet than Their Kid

By Kate Chandler

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According to a summer travel survey conducted by Orbitz (our parent company), 33 percent of travelers feel guilty about leaving behind their pet, compared with 30 percent who feel guilty about leaving their children behind. With kids out of school for the summer, it's probably no surprise that parents responded this way! And for those who feel guilty about leaving their pets behind.. come on, have you seen the doggie day-spa options out there? They are arguably much nicer than any daycare for a child.

Other insights from the summer travel survey include:
*77 percent of Americans have some kind of summer travel planned.
*And they plan to spend more this year than they did last year. More than half of respondents said they will spend at least $1,500 on their vacation this year (compared to 39 percent who spent that much last year).
*More people plan to travel by car than by air. This isn't too surprising, given that gas prices are down from where they were this time last year (though we've seen the national average price creep up in the last week or so).
*81 percent of those surveyed plan to travel domestically. Looks like even though the economy is stabalizing a bit, no one's ready to break out the big travel guns just yet.

It's a good thing people are planning to spend more money this year, because it's going to be more expensive to travel. Hotel rates in Orbitz's top ten markets are up 12 percent, and airfare is up slightly (from 1 to 3 percent, depending on which source you use). But there are still some affordable spots out there: Las Vegas and Denver hotel rooms go for less that $100 per night, and there are rooms to be had in Orlando, Los Angeles, and Seattle for less than $150 per night.    

As for me, I'm staying put this summer, with my pets and my kid. We'll hit the road in the fall, when high temperatures relent, airport lines shorten, and kitty day-spas slash their rates.

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February 16, 2012

A Guide to Tipping Etiquette Around the World

By Lacy Morris

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Ireland pub(Ingram Publishing,Thinkstock)
Though there is plenty of drinking in Ireland, tipping your bartender isn't customary (Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

Travel can be messy—from airport security and congealed airline food to lost reservations and mis-rated hotel rooms. But once you're swimming with the fish or nibbling cheese in an Italian café, it makes the logistic struggles well worth it. And then comes your bill. When traveling abroad, it's hard to know tipping etiquette. How much is too little/too much? In some countries, it's even considered offensive to open your wallet after a service. In an effort not to offend your host country, take with you our country-by-country tipping guide. Here are the 20 countries most-visited by Americans in 2010, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, and a general look at their tipping policies. All are listed in U.S. dollars.

Mexico & Canada
It's no surprise that the countries right across the border hold most of the same tipping policies that the U.S. does. People in the service industry are compensated with rather low wages, thus making the majority of their cash from customer tips.

Restaurants 15% to 20% depending upon your service
Bartenders $1 per drink or 15% to 20% of your final bill
Taxi Drivers Taxi drivers are not normally tipped in Mexico; however, if they give superb service, it's OK to reward them with a few extra dollars. In Canada, you should always leave 10% to 20% of your fare.
Bell Hops $1 per bag
Tour Guides 10% to 15% of the total cost of the tour

Travel Guides to Mexico's Top Vacation Spots
Travel Guides to Canada's Top Vacation Spots

United Kingdom & Ireland
Tipping is not generally expected in the U.K., though it is greatly appreciated when the service is done well.

Restaurants 10% to 12% of your total bill
Bartenders Not customary, but OK to throw down a dollar per drink if your service is exceptional. If you are making a large order, it isn't uncommon to pay the cost of an extra drink and motion for the bartender to "have one for yourself."
Taxi Drivers 5% to 10% of total fare
Bell Hops $3 to $5 per bag
Tour Guides $3 to $7 per person

Travel Guides to United Kingdom's Top Vacation Spots
Travel Guides to Ireland's Top Vacation Spots

Continue reading "A Guide to Tipping Etiquette Around the World" »

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December 14, 2011

2012 International Hotspots: Life List Locales for the New Year

By awayblog

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Ice berg of arch and row of houses,Greenland(Top Photo Group,Thinkstock)
Greenland coastal homes as an iceberg floats by (Top Photo Group/Thinkstock)

They're melting and sinking. They're booming—or busting. They're jaw-droppingly scenic and cosmopolitan. One thing that's clear about our nods for the best travel destinations of 2012 is that they're changing, and fast, which means the coming year is perfect for a trip of a lifetime. Now that we've spun the globe and picked our top spots, it's your turn to make it happen—and, of course, to let us know which ones we missed.

Thanks to climate change, this enormous country (which has a human population of 57,000 and a sled-dog population of 30,000) might soon become too hot for its own good—in more ways than one. Rumor has it that Greenland could be sitting on some 47 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Temps are trending five degrees above normal. And the number of people visiting on cruise ships has doubled since 2004. Yes, it might be year-round Northern Lights. It might be restaurants reachable only by helicopter. Or the world's biggest and least-visited protected park. Our bet? Greenland is starting to live up to its unlikely name, and people want to catch it while it's still under ice.

Weekend Guide: Defying Expectations in Greenland

This tiny archipelago of 1,200 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean is the epitome of paradise: coral reefs, constant sunshine, bathwater lagoons, and opulent resorts going up as fast as couples can say "I do." It's also the lowest country on the planet, with an average elevation of five feet above sea level and a high point of seven feet, seven inches. Think about the threat of sea level rise, then do the math: You can tell your grandchildren that you saw a disappearing nation way back in 2012.'s Maldives Travel Guide

Once virtually ostracized and still a land of red flags (in the form of tyrannical rule), this magical country is open for business. In fact, our own State Department says, "After a long period of isolation, Burma has started to encourage tourism." There is much to take in, and it all has the feel of olden-day adventure travel: thousands of stupas, golden pagodas, floating gardens, creaky river steamers, and fortune tellers. Whether travel will help locals or pad the pockets of corrupt generals remains to be seen. The wonder of Burma, however, is ever clear.

A Country in Photos: Burma

Continue reading "2012 International Hotspots: Life List Locales for the New Year" »

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Top 10 Lists · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

November 22, 2011

Win Two Free Nights at a Courtyard Marriott!

Airline travelers get a first look at Courtyard Marriott's new lobby concept.

Heading through Houston, Phoenix, or Baltimore/Washington airports this holiday travel season? You might find an out-of-place hotel lobby smack dab in the middle of the concourse. Courtyard by Marriott is debuting a new lobby concept in the airport terminals of these three major hubs, hoping to introduce business travelers to what it sees as the future of the hotel lobby.

As we've reported recently, there are big changes underway in the public spaces at Courtyard by Marriott hotels nationwide. First, it has overhauled its food and beverage offerings. Now, Courtyard by Marriott is hoping to create a communal and helpful atmosphere for travelers by way of its lobbies. The idea is to allow guests to stay "connected, productive, and balanced." But the concept goes beyond WiFi hotspots. "Media pods" allow guests to hold mini meetings with up to three other people. Communal tables are designed to entice business travelers to enjoy a glass of wine while checking their email at happy hour, and to meet other guests also in town on business. Interactive television screens called GoBoards, developed by Courtyard and FourWinds Interactive, let users send directions to their smartphones or check flight information before heading to the airport.

“We are thrilled to present this new technology to our guests,” said Janis Milham, vice president and global brand manager for Courtyard by Marriott. In fact, the company is so excited to show off the new spaces, it's giving away two free nights in a Courtyard by Marriott to one lucky reader. All you have to do is answer one simple question:

What is your least favorite part about business travel?

Simply post a comment in the Comments section of this blog post answering that question. We'll pick the most useful comment, and that reader will get a free two-night stay at a Courtyard by Marriott anywhere in the continental U.S. Restrictions apply. Click here for terms and conditions.

For a list of properties with the new lobby, check here. Courtyard Marriott is also providing a free stay to to check out the new lobbies.

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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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September 16, 2010

A New Kind of Massage

(Glow Images,Getty)
(Glow Images)

How good do you feel after getting a massage? Well, what if I told you there is a growing trend in the massage industry that is leaving customers feeling twice as good?

I recently spent some time in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. It was there that I first learned about blind massages. In Asia there is a large population of people with seeing disabilities, including more than eight million in China alone. Because of their disability, finding work is challenging. Many find themselves living on the streets and earning a living through panhandling. But thanks to an initiative started by the Association for the Blind, specialty schools now train the seeing-impaired in massage therapy. The perfect occupation for someone not used to relying on vision. In fact, only blind and visually impaired people can become licensed masseurs in South Korea (because they feel it is the only occupation for people with this handicap, and who otherwise would have little alternative to guarantee earnings). The training is intense, and students must successfully graduate before getting hired. Understandably, the sensation of touch for a blind person is extremely acute and gives blind masseurs an added dimension to their massage skills. The blind massage trend is catching on, and various spas across the United States are now offering similar services. Talk about a happy ending.

Lisa Costantini is a writer/editor currently traveling the world with her husband working on a project about sport and culture. More information can be found on their website at Lisa will be blogging from the road for us as she and her husband travel through Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe over the next several months.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Travel Trends

September 09, 2010

Five Things Airlines Never Tell You

Air Stewardess Adjusting a Businessman's Blanket During a Flight(Digital Vision,Getty) 
(Digital Vision)

During a recent visit to Hong Kong, I met an Asian pilot who has flown for some of the world's largest airlines. We got to talking about plane food and seat sizes, and then he shared with me a few things airlines never tell you.

1. Free doesn't always mean free
When you meet someone who works for an airline there is always that initial feeling of jealousy. They get to fly anywhere in the world for free, when us regular folk can't get a deal half as good as that no matter how long we scour the internet. But apparently the green tint to our skin is unwarranted. "We are limited to flying only when there are open seats. Sometimes I've flown somewhere for free, but coming back nothing is available. When that happens I have to pay for a last minute flight. In the end I could've gotten a cheaper rate if I booked the whole thing online months in advance like everyone else."

2. Planes aren't like cars
I'm not sure why airlines don't toss this little tidbit around, as it would make those of us flying feel a lot safer. "As a pilot you can only fly one type of plane. Unlike cars where if you can drive a Mercedes Benz G-Class you could also drive the E-Class, when you get a pilot's license it only entitles you to fly one airplane model."

Continue reading "Five Things Airlines Never Tell You" »

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August 24, 2010

Au Pair Adventures: The Greek Fountain of Youth

By Guest Blogger

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Kos Beach
Healing waters of Kios beach (

As tourists head for sunsets in the Cyclades, the native Greek go to Kios (also known as Kos). The pebbly beach in the finger of the Peloponnese isn't much to see. The semi-smooth rocks are separated from the sea in a thick line of seaweed, dead bugs, and the occasional floating plastic bottle. The boulder-sized submerged rocks come next, followed by the demi-jungle of long, stringy seaweed covered in unidentifiable brown goo. At waist deep you can almost see your toes—it certainly doesn't compare to the crystal clear waters of nearby Nafplion.

But on any day of the week this beach is filled with elderly locals seeking the healing power of this Greek fountain of youth. It is the murkiness of the extra-salty water that gives this part of the ocean power—the plants and mud give the water life. In what I have come to call the Peloponnese retirement center, it is here in the grime and grit that people wade out to 100 meters where the water is waist deep. There they dig up earth from the bottom and slather their bodies with the ashy mud.

Continue reading "Au Pair Adventures: The Greek Fountain of Youth" »

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August 10, 2010

Top Ten Tribute to Tourist Tack

By Lacy Morris

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Wall of Sombreros (Wikipedia)

1. The Sombrero
In Spanish it means "hat with a brim," which is exactly what it is. If Mexico had a theme song, and a music video was created, the background dancers would most likely be wearing sombreros. Initially devised to protect horse riders from the sweltering rays of the sun, it is now a staple wardrobe piece for embarrassing dads, drunken college students, and the men hired by mega-resorts to play "authentic" mariachi-band music for the hotel guests. Sombrero land, commonly called the Mexico border, is a beehive of brims—go all out and get a pom-pom edged beauty, or stay classy with a felt, intricately decorated one, typically worn by the more wealthy sombrero-lovers of yore.

Modern Day Gem: The Seattle Sombrero at Cabela's

I_heart_NY 2. I Heart New York T-shirt
Duplicated by many, worn seemingly only by tourists, and hated by most every legit New Yorker: the I Heart New York T-shirt. It can be seen everywhere throughout the city from billboards to bumper stickers, socks to earrings. The logo is the brainchild of a man named Milton Glaser, a graphic designer born and raised in, you guessed it, New York City. He has helped redesign the covers of  Fortune, Time Magazine, and the Washington Post. Milton created the logo in the mid 70s for the New York State Tourism Department and it has since become a pop-culture phenom with kudos given by Apple, Madonna, and the Red Cross.

Can't make it to the Big Apple? Buy online. Pink hoodies, umbrellas, baby rompers—you name it!

Continue reading "Top Ten Tribute to Tourist Tack" »

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June 03, 2010 Hosts Twitter's Traveler's Night In (#TNI) on Family Travel

By awayblog

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TravelersNightIn Today will have the pleasure of hosting a Family Travel-themed "Travelers Night In," a.k.a. #TNI, on Twitter. #TNI, is a weekly gathering of travel professionals, connoisseurs, institutions, and wayfarers, every Thursday from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM EST using Twitter. #TNI was started by the travel team at, an online community-based travel website focused on destinations. The format is simple: A host is chosen to ask ten questions every ten minutes on a specific travel-related topic. Participants are encouraged to tweet their answers to the questions followed with the hashtag #TNI, fueling 90 minutes of lively discussion.

How it works
When we participated in our first #TNI on the Worst of Travel a few weeks ago, questions ranged from the resourceful (ex., your best travel tips) to the colorful (ex., your worst luggage disaster). Over the past few weeks of participating, one common theme has emerged, #TNI is less about broadcasting your "travel know-how" and more about sharing stories, tips, to-do's, must-see's and questions with a collective group of individuals who are keen on travel.

How to participate
To join in on this social-media goodness, follow the hashtag #TNI either on Twitter, TweetGrid, or using a third-party app (HootSuite or Tweetdeck, search for #TNI).

This week's topic: Family Travel
While the topic of "family travel" may not seem as spicy as some of the past topics (Worst of Travel, Adventure Travel, Sun and Fun), we've got some fun questions lined up to help de-mystify the good, bad, and occasionally ugly (screaming children, anyone?) of traveling with kids, as well as some helpful tips and lessons learned along the way.

Join us today (Thursday, June 3rd) at 3:30 PM EST on Twitter. Follow us @awayblog for more details!

... if we're not enough to get you jazzed, you can also win a trip to Cancun just by participating!

Yucatán Holidays is sponsoring this week's #TNI. Ten participants will win five days/four nights of hotel accommodation in Cancun for two adults and up to two kids. Winners have the choice of two beautiful hotels: Ocean Spa Hotel or Laguna Suites Golf + Spa!

More details on #TNI, its founders, and future events can be found on the website, here.

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