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May 07, 2010

The Reemergence of Volcano Tourism

By Lacy Morris

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Iceland is starting to wake up and throw their legs out from under the blanket of volcanic ash that covered the picturesque country following the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. Roadways, flights, and airports are back to normal, though Icelanders are still giggling over the media attention they received from the unparalleled eruption of a volcano that no one can seem to pronounce. (Check out this entertaining video montage—below—of the many attempts, though I would like to state up front that I can't do much better.)

Thankfully, the damage in Iceland caused by the untimely eruption was minimal and local tour operators have been amending cancellation policies and reopening their doors. As a result, "volcano tourism" has become the new hot ticket with many Icelandic companies moving quickly to add Eyjafjallajokull Volcano tours to their schedules. Here is a list of Iceland tours that will take you to the brim of the volcano that discharged chaos worldwide.

Iceland on Track
The South-Shore, Waterfalls, and Glacier Tour wheels you around the area of the eruption. If conditions are right, the lucky tourist will see ash clouds rising from the volcano, hear small explosions, and witness the effects of the lava flow. This tour also takes you through waterfalls, black beaches, and the cliffs of Dyrholaey, formerly a volcanic island. The tour will run you around $26* and lasts around anywhere from eight to ten hours.

Continue reading "The Reemergence of Volcano Tourism" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · Exotic Escapes · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Trends

April 08, 2010

Redefining Voluntourism in New Orleans

Photo courtesy of

Last spring, I had the chance to stop in New Orleans during the first weekend of Jazz Fest as my brother and I drove cross country. Being pressed for time and budget, we didn’t have much of a chance to see the city outside of the festival grounds, but I was struck by two things. First, the degree to which the city had rebounded in the four years since Hurricane Katrina. Second, the degree to which it hadn’t.

Sure, Bourbon Street is up and running and most of the French Quarter looks to be in pretty good shape. But other areas of the city are still fighting, with stately, newly refurbished Victorian homes sitting next to condemned piles of debris covered in police tape. In outlying, less visible areas such as the now-infamous Ninth Ward, there are still major challenges.

Thankfully, Americans from all over the country have helped over the years, visiting the city and chipping in time, money, and resources as they come. New Orleans has become the epicenter of a growing trend toward voluntourism in this country. But as more gets done, and as more vacationers look to add community service projects to their itineraries, the need for volunteers to help rebuild is changing.

Continue reading "Redefining Voluntourism in New Orleans" »

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Related Topics: Travel Trends · Travel Websites · Trip Ideas

March 18, 2010

See Cities With Local Guides, and Intrepid Travel

Thai local and Intrepid Travel guide Ae Thagoon biking in Bangkok (Nathan Borchelt)

With the near-constant scramble to achieve zero emissions and carbon neutrality, with off-set credits, slow skiing, geotourism, certifications, and the looooong list other eco-trends embraced by so many companies in the travel industry, it sometimes feels the allure of travel itself is getting scrubbed off by all the green washing. This ain’t no anti-environmental screed. I do “believe in” global warming, and applaud any and all pursuits to circumvent the damaging impact of long-haul flights, 4x4 safari excursions, and all the rest.  But to me the umbrella concept of eco-travel should speak to the larger concept of sustainable tourism as much as it does to the environment. It should incorporate both earth-friendly practices as well as a localist centralism that both stimulates the local economy where you’re visiting (good for your conscious), and provides interaction with the people who live there (good for your travel experience).

Continue reading "See Cities With Local Guides, and Intrepid Travel" »

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Related Topics: All Inclusive Vacation · Dispatches from the Road · Eco-Tourism · Travel Tips · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

November 23, 2009

The Dirty on In-Flight WiFi

By Lacy Morris

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THE SKY'S NO LIMIT: Businessman and child on plane (Photodisc/Getty)

Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry, iPhone, WiFi… we’re a society obsessed with staying connected. Keeping in touch online is everywhere, and the sky is no longer the limit. Airlines are quickly putting WiFi on their in-flight menus, making “I was 30,000 feet in the air” an outdated excuse to your boss. Most major airlines will be offering WiFi on a selection of their fleet by 2010.  Although it is new technology and still in the testing mode, there is already the ubiquitous bad apple. Flight attendants and fellow passengers are voicing outrage and the need for Internet filters to block questionable material from being viewed in such close proximity to others. Some need to be reminded that they are going to Dallas, not watching Debbie do it. As quickly as airlines raced to be the first to unearth mile-high WiFi, they are installing filters to stop the viewing of any material that could be deemed non-cabin friendly; both Delta and American, along with numerous others, have already done so. However, not all airlines plan on filtering what can be viewed on their aircraft, maintaining that what your seatmate chooses to do with their time is strictly their choice. Virgin America, which has decided not to filter what can be viewed, is the poster child for this argument. Instead, the WiFi customers aboard these flights are asked to adhere to the terms of service that are listed upon purchase, which prohibit certain online activities. If ignored, it is left to the flight attendant or the rule-breaker's fellow travelers to cry foul.

What do you think, personal choice or inappropriate? Should in-flight WiFi be filtered? Tell us your thoughts.

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Related Topics: Air Travel · Travel Trends

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 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

April 13, 2009 Is Now on Facebook and Twitter!

By Karen Chen

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If you like's travel ideas and inspiration, you can now get updates from us even more frequently, through Facebook and Twitter!  Become a fan of on Facebook and get updates about our latest travel stories and photo galleries right to your Facebook News Feed.  Plus, as a fan you can:
- Share your travel photos, stories, and tips.  We want to see where you've been!
- Get the latest on seasonal and regional travel ideas.
- Give us feedback on our site and tell us what you'd like to see—we want your input!

And in case you've been living in a cave, and haven't heard about the Twitter revolution (and literally, a Twitter revolution by the youth in Moldova), Twitter is a microblogging website that is growing faster than you can say "tweet."  The website allows you to share information and stay in touch with your network of followers on a real-time basis.  It's proved a useful tool for travelers looking for recommendations and advice—even food and lodging. Follow us at awayblog on Twitter, and we'll:
- Keep you updated on all the latest travel news.
- Give you updates on new blog posts and articles.
- Post links to cool and interesting happenings around the world (and the Web).
- Ask you for your two cents about travel-related issues.
- And answer any travel questions you've got! 
We've already got over 970 people following our up-to-the-minute travel tweets, so what are you waiting for?  Become our 1000th follower and we'll send you an luggage tag, T-shirt, and mug! 

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Related Topics: News · From Around the Web · Travel Trends · Travel Websites

March 10, 2009

Why You Should Travel Now

By Karen Chen

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VACATION IN SIGHT: Go on vacation—now. (Digital Vision)

If you think hope is dwindling for being able to take that vacation this year, don't give up just yet. In fact, you may have already seen the headlines, and it's true: Although the economy continues to struggle, you can find a bright spot in the form of cheap travel. Everywhere industry players are trying to lure recession-era consumers to snatch up good deals—even giving away free nights at hotels and free credit vouchers to use while traveling. Airlines are slashing airfares, booking websites are proffering great package deals, and hotels are cheaper than ever. Even traditionally wallet-friendly all-inclusives and cruise lines are offering irresistible deals. So if you still need some encouragement to take a last-minute trip to get some sun in Florida or culture in Europe, here are a few of the Web's best reads about why now's a great time to travel:
- Fire sales! How cheap can travel go? [BT]
- Top 10 reasons to travel—now [MSNBC]
- Nine tactics for travel in 2009 [MSNBC]
- Airlines hope cheap fares can save them [USA Today]
- Last chance for wave season deals? Maybe not. [PG]

So what does all this mean for you? Start setting a travel budget, and search out deals! You may find that your next getaway isn't so far out of reach.

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Related Topics: Travel Deals · Travel News · Travel Trends

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