Category Archives: Point A to Point B

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Protect Your Data During the Year’s Busiest Travel Weekend

If you ever travel with a smartphone, laptop, or tablet, your data is at risk of being lost or stolen. Whether it’s the result of a bag disappearing, a drink being spilled, or a cybercriminal hacking your online accounts, data loss can have both minor and major consequences, from losing travel photos to outright identity theft. And with the busiest travel weekend of the year right around the corner, it’s important to keep your data as secure as your belongings — even on the way to grandma’s house.

Unless you’re ready to leave the electronics at home and stick to chronicling your journey with pen and paper alone, it’s time to take data protection seriously. Here’s how to maximize the chances that data stays safe wherever you are.

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Before Traveling

  • Back up digital files. Anything that’s already stored on your electronic devices (especially important files and photos) should be backed up to an external hard drive prior to your departure. That way you have everything you need even if the worst happens and the data gets lost while traveling. While you’re at it, take an inventory of your data so you’ll have a sense of whether anything looks off (or is missing) upon returning home.
  • Run updates. Make sure you’re running the latest version of devices’ operating systems and antivirus software. Also run antivirus scans prior to departure.
  • Initiate password protection. Combine this with an inactivity timeout on any electronics that you’ll be bringing along (so people can’t easily log onto your device if they find it unattended). On all devices, be sure to create strong passwords.

While Traveling

  • Only use secure internet connections. Free or public wireless services are all but guaranteed to be insecure; assume data isn’t safe over these connections, and refrain from entering any sensitive data (also remember that paying for Wi-Fi doesn’t guarantee the connection is secure).
    The safest networks are those that are password-protected, and the safest websites are those that start with https://. Using the web browser’s “incognito” or “private browsing” mode can help ensure that personal data doesn’t get saved, but it’s no guarantee of security (likewise for deleting cookies and browsing history after logging off).
    Also be sure to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on all devices whenever they aren’t in use. Want to learn more? Check out the Federal Trade Commission’s guide to Using Public Wi-Fi Networks.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)Installing a VPN can help protect your data as it’s transferred between different devices. VPNs are especially handy for business travelers who may need to send and receive sensitive documents while on the road.
  • Disable cookies and auto-fill. These are the features that automatically enter login info and passwords on websites. Be sure to disable this function before traveling—it would only make it easier for electronics thieves to access your personal data.
  • Don’t upgrade software on public Wi-Fi. Cybercriminals have started to create fake “update” notices that allows them to install malware on travelers’ devices. If the Wi-Fi network isn’t secure, don’t accept any operating system, app, or software upgrades.
  • Don’t perform online transactions involving money. Whenever possible, avoid accessing online banking, Paypal, or anything that requires you to provide credit card information. And be sure to only use bank ATMs, which are less likely to be hit by identity thieves using card readers.
  • Create a travel-specific email address. Whenever possible, use a dedicated email address just for the trip; this will help you avoid logging into personal or work accounts while traveling. Be sure not to share or store personal information on the new account.
  • Keep your devices on you at all times. And when they’re not in use, turn them off. If you must leave a device in a hotel room or hostel, make sure to lock it up.

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When You Get Back

  • Change passwordsUpdate passwords on all devices as well as frequently visited websites.
  • Take stock. Review bank activity, credit card activity, and health insurance claim activity to confirm that everything looks accurate, and continue keeping tabs on these accounts for at least the next few months.
  • Run security scans. Run antivirus and anti-spyware scans on all devices. If malware is detected, follow the antivirus tool’s direction for addressing the issue.

It doesn’t matter if you’re exploring Santa Fe’s culture, adventuring in Paris, road-tripping around Ireland, or piling in the car for turkey and family reunions — a little prep, a lot of proactivity, and follow-through upon returning home will all help ensure that your data remains your own no matter where in the world you are.

 

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Flying to Europe Might Get a Whole Lot Cheaper… in 2017

The airline Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA just announced its plan to sell $69 one-way tickets to Europe from select U.S. airports. The initiative is slated to roll out by as soon as 2017 (although for would-be international travelers, “soon” might be a relative term).

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Flying to Europe On a Budget: Here’s the Scoop

While the lure of cheap international tickets may have travel-lovers drooling, travelers looking to take advantage of the deals will be limited to only a few destinations—namely, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Bergen, Norway.

The airline believes it can reduce fares by flying out of U.S. airports that currently offer limited international service (or none at all), reports NBC News. That’s because those airports will charge airlines lower operating fees, meaning both airlines and travelers won’t incur the same costs that they would at more heavily trafficked international airports. Currently, Norwegian Air has its eye on New York’s Westchester County Airport and Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.

Thanks to this low-cost strategy, Europe’s third-largest budget airline anticipates charging an average of $300 round trip for the nonstop routes named above—that’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the average cost of flights leaving from the United States’ busier international airports.

Still, travelers looking to take advantage of these deals will want to remember that the flights will come with added fees for everything from checking luggage to booking a seat assignment or ordering an in-flight meal (even for overnight trips), reports Condé Nast Traveler. Savvy travelers can subvert some of these budget-friendly airline tactics by packing everything in their carry-on and bringing along their own snacks for the flight.

In charging lower fares, Norwegian Air hopes to draw customers away from more well-known international carriers. The airline has already ordered 100 new Boeing jets and plans to receive the first five in 2017, at which point it expects to begin rolling out the cheaper flights. Of course, the airline’s ability to do so will hinge on the smaller U.S. airports’ willingness to set up customs stations that are equipped to process international travelers.

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The Beginning of a Trend?

Norwegian Air isn’t the only airline to start toying with lower cross-Atlantic fares. Iceland’s Wow Air reportedly has started offering $99 one-way fares from Boston to Paris, while Eurowings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) has also begun offering some cheaper international flights. And while Norwegian Air awaits its arsenal of low-cost jets, the airline is offering $300 nonstop, round-trip tickets from New York to Oslo, Norway from December 2015 through February 2016.  

In the meantime, travelers looking for other ways to save money on holiday travel should consider purchasing flights in October and booking hotels in December, according to our evaluation of historical travel data. Those looking to book cheap flights to places other than Edinburgh or Bergen can save money every day by utilizing Hipmunk’s mobile app and online travel booking options. And remember that the best time to book a flight varies by destination, so your best bet is to consult destination guides that provide insight into the most strategic times to buy flights to specific locales.

As for whether recent initiatives in low-cost cross-Atlantic travel will inspire other airlines to follow suit? We’re keeping our fingers (and toes) crossed.

 

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The Best Airports for Coffee Lovers (and Must-Try Cafes!)

Traveling is exhausting, and there’s nothing more frustrating than paying too much for a mediocre cup of coffee at the airport. Here’s some insurance against that scenario: a guide to the best airport coffee in the world.

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Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

O’Hare is the busiest airport in the world by the number of takeoffs and landings, and there are a correspondingly large number of fantastic coffee shops at the disposal of travelers. The best of the best are Metropolis Coffee and Kofe by Intelligentsia, both located in Terminal 5. Metropolis does their own roasting with a focus on their espresso, which is complex and beguiling. Kofe features brews by Intelligentsia, a local favorite, and also offers a selection of snacks and baked goods.

As a bonus, Argo Tea has three locations in the airport in Terminals 2 and 3, and features a calm atmosphere as well as a wide selection of black, green, white, and herbals teas.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Philadelphia PHL’s Guava & Java, located in Concourse B, features coffee roasted by the local experts La Colombe, and is known for their single-origin blends. They also serve innovative smoothies and juices such as the Mixed Berry Tea Infusion.

Le Bus Cafe is another local option at the airport, also serving La Colombe coffee as well as excellent breads, pastries, and sandwiches. It’s the perfect place to stop for a great cuppa as well as a great meal: offerings such as the Thai turkey salad or the Chili Roasted Chicken sandwich are far better than average airport fare.

Portland International Airport (PDX)

There are two places in Portland that offer coffee by the excellent Stumptown Coffee Roasters, based in Portland but now nationally famous. Travellers in a rush should stop by Flying Elephants, which offers a variety of to-go meals, but those with a little extra time should be sure to visit Country Cat, where they specialize in Southern-style cooking with local ingredients. Try the eggs benedict on a biscuit and a glorious Bloody Mary for the best pre-flight meal in Portland.

A word of warning: beware of Coffee People, a former airport favorite. It was sold to Starbucks in 2006 and the coffee hasn’t been the same since.

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Copenhagen Airport (CPH) and Keflavik Airport (KEF)

Copenhagen’s and Keflavik’s spots on this list is secured by the presence of a single exceptional coffee shop in each airport, Joe and the Juice, an outpost of the local cafe. It was named the best airport coffee shop in the world in 2014 by the Airport Food and Beverage Awards, and makes an excellent cup of coffee as well as intriguing coffee drinks like the ginger latte. The hip and buzzing atmosphere of the cafe is supplemented by daily live music. They’re committed to healthy eating, and the juices, smoothies, and sandwiches are optimized for taste and nutritional content. Joe and the Juice rocks, end of story.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

San Francisco’s airport has coffee shops for every traveller’s needs. Those looking for an exceptional fair trade brew should head to the locally-based Equator Coffees and Teas in Terminal 2. Frequent flyers who need something a little stronger than a standard coffee will appreciate the famous Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe. For a bite to eat as well as a great cup, check out Klein’s Deli and Coffee Bar in Terminals 1 and 3. Their sandwiches are delicious and generously sized and the cookies make a great in-flight snack.

Bonus: Cafe Versailles at Miami International Airport (MIA)

Anyone flying to or from Miami should make time for a stop at Cafe Versailles, especially those in need of a caffeine boost. Cuban coffee is the specialty here, a dark roast espresso sweetened with demerara sugar as it brews. It packs a serious punch. The Cuban sandwiches and pastelitos are also fantastic.

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How to Get on Your Flight Attendant’s Good Side

Flight attendant Taylor Tippett recently made headlines for making her passengers’ travels a little brighter. Her method of cheering people up? She leaves uplifting notes on airplane windows and in safety cards, and encourages others to do the same. To date, the practice has earned her more than 120,000 followers on Instagram and cheered up countless passengers.

These small acts of kindness are particularly remarkable when you consider everything that flight attendants juggle on a daily basis — from helping people board, to working tough hours, dealing with jet lag, practicing for emergency scenarios, and handling the needs of hundreds of passengers.

So it should come as no surprise that when it comes to ensuring a smoother, kinder flight, one of the best things you can do is get on your flight attendant’s good side. Regardless of whether you have the friendliest flight attendant in the world (or not), here’s how to ensure peaceful coexistence.

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Say hello

How would you like it if you said “hello” to 40 people in a row and not one of them responded back? Simply acknowledging the presence of flight attendants in a friendly and respectful way can help set the tone for a pleasant interaction and maybe even brighten their day.

Be mindful of luggage

If you can’t lift your carry-on bag over your head in order to stow it, then it’s best to check it. Don’t expect a flight attendant to hoist the bag for you, thereby putting their own body at risk of injury. In fact, many airlines train their flight attendants not to lift bags in order to prevent injuries on the job. So either learn how to pack light enough that you can go it alone, or pay the checked baggage fee. And if you do stow luggage in the overhead bin, be sure to pack it wheels-in.

Board prepared

It’s unreasonable to expect a flight attendant to anticipate and accommodate every single one of your individual needs, so come prepared. If you know that you’ll need to take a pill immediately after boarding, for example, then it’s probably a good idea to bring your own bottle of water, since flight attendants are especially busy prior to take-off. If you’ll need a meal that accommodates your fish allergy, be sure to order it ahead of time and notify the flight attendant as you board. And if you know you’ll want your book during the flight, don’t pack it in your main carry-on; instead, keep it on your person so you don’t have to fumble through the overhead luggage bin during the flight.

Listen to announcements

Yes, this even includes the safety demo. If you fly often, it can be especially tempting to tune out. But announcements happen for a reason — they’re designed to keep everyone informed and safe, and telling the whole cabin all at once spares the flight attendant from having to repeat themselves over and over. So even if you think you’ve heard it all before, it’s helpful to sit up and take notice. 

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Make specific requests

When asking for a beverage, clarify your order from the get-go, e.g. “Club soda without ice and with a slice of lime, please.” Being as clear-cut as possible will spare the flight attendant from needing to re-make your order. And for goodness’ sake, take out your headphones while conversing with the attendant.

Don’t expect a babysitter

If you’re traveling with children, it’s critical to come prepared. Don’t expect flight attendants to supply toys, diapers, or changing wipes, and never ask a flight attendant to collect a dirty diaper without bagging it first. You’re just as responsible for your children on the plane as you are off of it.

Sing their praises

If a flight attendant wows you with their service and professionalism, demonstrate appreciation by 
telling their employers what a great job they did. Most airlines have a protocol for acknowledging flight attendants; simply ask the attendant for their employee number and the flight number and call the airline after touching down.

What’s it all boil down to? Simply remember that flight attendants are human, too, and treat them as you’d like to be treated.

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How to Stay Comfortable on the World’s Longest Flights

Emirates Airline recently announced the creation of the world’s longest direct flight, a daunting 17.5 hour trip that will fly from Dubai to Panama City starting February 1st. That long flight time might sound daunting, especially when seated in economy. But a little effort and attention can go a long way in taking a flight from unbearable to relaxing, whether travelers are braving the new route from Dubai to Panama City, or just looking to make a transatlantic or transpacific flight more comfortable. Here’s a step by step guide for making the most of a long plane trip.

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Step 1: Choosing a Seat

First of all, try to avoid economy if at all possible. The seats, the food, and the amenities will all improve, as will the enjoyment factor of the trip. If booking a ticket in first class or business class just isn’t budget-friendly, consider using miles to upgrade. To make the next trip easier and start earning miles for the future, enroll in the airline’s frequent flier program or search out credit cards with airline-redeemable points.

If economy is unavoidable, however, the seat can make all the difference. There are a wide variety of websites where travelers can view seating plans based on flights and carriers, such as SeatGuru, SeatExpert, SeatMaestro, and SeatPlans. Think carefully about what type of seat you want. No one likes the middle seat of course, but also there are other things to keep in mind as well.. Certain travelers may prefer the aisle seat if they like to get up and stretch or use the bathroom frequently, whereas the window seat may be preferable for those trying to sleep on night time flights. To avoid engine noise, try to stay close to the front of the plane.

There may even be some possible seating improvements at the airport itself. Check with the desk attendant at the gate to see if there’s an empty row or set of seats on the plane that could provide more stretching room. Be sure to scope out the seats on the plane itself as well in case someone has missed their flight and there’s a better seat open.

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Step 2: Packing the Carry-on

Think of a carry-on bag as the toolbox for hacking a long flight. Packing smart can elevate a trip from boring and uncomfortable to productive and relaxing. Here’s a checklist for the essentials.

  • Before leaving, make sure all devices are charged and loaded with movies, books, and music. It’s best not to rely on a functioning entertainment system on board the plane.
  • Pack things that will help with sleep, such as an eye mask, ear plugs, or sleeping pills. Think twice about cumbersome items like neck pillows unless they’re inflatable.
  • For snacks, bring foods that are high in protein and fiber, since those are often lacking in airline meals. It’s also helpful to treat yourself to something nice on a long flight, so
  • A blanket and a good pair of socks to wear instead of shoes on the plane will make the trip much more comfortable.
  • For the all-important TSA liquid allowance, bring the essentials to stay moisturized and hydrated, such as a facial spritz, moisturizer, lip balm, and nasal spray.
  • Hand sanitizer is also a must on flights to kill bacteria and prevent colds that might be picked up from seatmates.
  • Deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush can also refresh and revitalize travelers on a long journey.

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Step 3: Settling In

First things first: do some seat-side carry-on rearranging. Take out the essentials (headphones, liquids, reading material or devices, socks) and put them in a smaller tote bag or nylon bag to put under the seat. Leave the rest in the carry-on and stow it away. This will allow for much more legroom and better sleep, and the rest of the supplies will still be accessible once the flight begins.

Airplanes can be very cold, so take off your shoes and replace them with a comfy pair of socks. This will also help simulate bed conditions for a restful sleep. Remember to put shoes back on for trips to the bathroom though!

If the flight will cross time zones, the wait for take-off is a great time to set all watches and devices to the destination’s time to help combat jet lag on arrival.

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Step 4: Passing the Time

Now for the flight itself. If it’s an overnight trip, try to get to sleep at what would be a normal hour in the arrival timezone to avoid being groggy on landing. For a daytime flight, many travelers find it helpful to break up a long trip into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Set a phone or watch alarm to go off at hour or two hour intervals and use those benchmarks to divide the trip. This can make a trip both more productive and keep travelers healthy. When the alarm goes off, take the opportunity to get up and do some stretching, which can prevent stiffness and more serious conditions brought on by long flights. Try twisting, folding over, and rolling the head and neck to stay limber. If there’s work to be done, schedule it for the beginning of the flight, and make time for movies, naps, games, or reading later on.

Not to spoil the party, but it’s best to lay off the alcohol and caffeine on long flights. They’re both dehydrating, and the plane is doing enough of that on its own. Stick to water or drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade or coconut water. Remember that hand sanitizer as well — those tray tables probably aren’t cleaned with regularity. Armed with the right resources and tools, even 17.5 hours can become bearable. Sit back, relax, and find a little enjoyment between takeoff and landing.

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Class Isn’t Everything. Today, Enjoy Amazing Flights in First, Business, and Coach

Last week, AirlineRatings.com released its third annual “Best of the Best” ratings—a ranking of airlines by their first class, business class, premium economy class, and long haul economy class offerings.  

The editors at AirlineRatings.com examined (and, in many cases, personally experienced) the in-flight service and amenities of over 450 airlines in order to determine the top airlines in each category, reports Travel Pulse.

The rankings speak not only to the relative quality of the different airlines but also to the ways in which airlines have expanded their offerings over the decades in order to accommodate the shifting needs of travelers. Where once there were only two options for passengers—first class or coach—airlines today offer as many as four classes of travel on the same plane. Read on to learn more about these classes and the airlines that are taking each type of cabin to a whole new level.

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First Class

Where first class used to mean something akin to “free alcohol and bigger seats,” the category of flight has since launched into a whole new world of luxury. First class amenities now range from lie-flat massage chairs with sheepskin mattresses to $40,000 on-flight suites (yes, you read that right) complete with a private bedroom, living room, and en suite shower.

It’s a brave new luxurious world up there in the sky, and according to AirlineRatings.com these 10 airlines (in alphabetical order) have the best first-class cabins on offer:

  • All Nippon Airways
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss International Airlines
  • Thai Airways

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Business Class

As with first class travel, “business class” can refer to a whole gamut of amenities. In general, business-class travelers can expect ample legroom, fully reclinable seats, airport lounge access, priority boarding, and in-flight services such as multi-course meals, hot towels, and champagne. Here are AirlineRatings.com’s top 10 business class cabins (in alphabetical order):

  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Australia / Atlantic

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Premium Economy Class

Situated between the economy and business class cabins, premium economy seating is most commonly found on international flights. The range of amenities included in the premium economy class includes extra legroom, wider seats, extra-reclinable seats, adjustable headrests and leg rests, and premium food service. Below are the top 10 airlines (in alphabetical order) that are doing premium economy class right.

  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EVA Air
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic / Virgin Australia

Long Haul Economy Class

While “flying coach” may be jokingly equated to “abject misery for the duration of the flight”—just look at headlines denouncing shrinking seat sizes and scaled-back amenities—many airlines have made great strides to comfortably accommodate economy passengers. In fact, some airlines have started to build in more legroom, more reclinable seating, and improvements to in-flight entertainment and even cabin air quality for their economy customers.

At a minimum, economy class flyers can expect a small seat recline, complimentary beverages (and meals on longer flights), in-flight entertainment options, and blankets and pillows. AirlineRatings.com ranks the best long haul economy class cabins as follows:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways

So there you have it: Whether you’re flying to Vienna or braving the long flight to Tokyo, the class and airline you choose can make a very big difference in the overall quality of the flight. But at the end of the day? Sometimes it’s best to just grin, bear it, and remember that flights are temporary, but travel memories last forever.

 

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What Reviving the Concorde Could Mean for Travelers

Although the Concorde flew for over 25 years, today the idea of a commercial supersonic jet seems like the stuff of legend. One group says they can revive the jet, however, and bring back a faster and more luxurious era of travel. Jointly developed by French and British and released commercially in 1976, the Concorde traveled at twice the speed of sound. Today, a normal passenger route from New York to Paris takes eight hours, but the Concorde could do it in three and a half. It once even managed London to Sydney in 17 hours, including stops for refueling.

Only 20 planes were ever produced, but the Concorde looms large in the public imagination due to a tragic circumstance. On July 25, 2000, Air France Flight 4590 Concorde from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to New York crashed into a hotel in Gonesse, France, killing 113 people, including all passengers and crew and four people on the ground. The plane itself wasn’t found to be at fault: A piece of debris on the take-off runway set off a chain reaction that led to the crash. Public confidence in the plane was never quite restored. In 2003, Air France and British Airways jointly announced they would be retiring the Concorde from service, citing a now out of date analogue operating system and a drop in air travel following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

That may not be the end of the story for the Concorde, though. A group called Club Concorde is trying to get at least one plane back into service, and has recently announced that it has the funds to do so. The group, made up of former Concorde captains and frequent passengers, proposes putting one decommissioned Concorde on the Thames in London to allow residents and visitors to walk around the plane and even eat a meal on board.

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The more ambitious element of the plan involves getting another Concorde sky-ready for charter flights. Securing approval would require coordinating the interests of the manufacturers, the airlines, international governments, and the airports themselves, and many are doubtful that it can be done. The Concorde’s technology is also outdated, and it has very poor gas mileage: The plane gets only 17 miles to the gallon per passenger.

Even if Club Concorde’s efforts don’t succeed in resurrecting the new plane, there’s hope for supersonic travel on the horizon. Airbus recently applied for a patent for a jet called Concorde Mark 2, which would fly at four times the speed of sound, twice as fast as the old Concorde. The proposed design would incorporate three different types of engines, including one powered by hydrogen and oxygen. The current model would only allow for 20 passengers, who would have to sit through an almost vertical takeoff. At least the potential discomfort wouldn’t last for long — the jet could make the trip from New York to London in just one hour.

It may not be long before jets like the Concorde Mark 2 become commercially feasible, and the consequences will be huge. Today, it would take a trip of at least a week or two to justify the flight time of a trip to Asia, for example. But if travellers aren’t forced to hoard vacation days, trips will become shorter and more spontaneous. Imagine being able to fly to Paris for a night, or head to Bangkok for a long weekend. Especially if flights are made available at a reasonable price point, the future of travel could be more fluid, more accessible, and more liberating.

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Press SPACEBAR to Continue on the Modern-Day Oregon Trail

Are you a proud 90s child? Do you occasionally sport a t-shirt that reads “You have died of dysentery”? Kindred spirits, it’s time to head West to check out what’s going on in some of the territories that defined the iconic Oregon Trail computer game! Press DOWN ARROW to continue.

Meet Us in Saint Louis (Before You Get Cholera)

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In keeping with the game’s storyline, we begin our westward journey in Saint Louis, Missouri. Be sure to enjoy some premier bubbly beverages at at Saint Louis’ famous Crown Candy Kitchen, which boasts the city’s oldest soda fountain. Delight in the flavors of a Johnny Rabbit Special Malt, a drink comprised of fresh bananas with whipped cream, nuts, and nutmeg. Next, catch a classic feature at the Hi-Pointe Theatre (est. 1922). This theater serves beer and wine to its adult costumers and screens old-timey features on a nightly basis. Do refrain from informing your server that you’re travelling West by way of the Oregon Trail, and make sure not to drink and horse-and-buggy about town. Be responsible and book a night at the luxurious Chase Park Plaza, located in the heart of town on a road lined by mansions and old, beautiful trees. Wake up, admire the streets in the morning light, and hit the trail!

Rest Up at Independence Rock, Wyoming

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Though its summit is only 136 feet above the terrain that surrounds it, wind-faceted Independence Rock, located 50 miles southwest of Casper, Wyoming on Highway 220, sits 6,028 feet above sea level and is one of the most notable sites on the Oregon Trail. Pioneers used to carve their names into the rock, which fittingly earned the nickname “The Register of the Desert.” There’s no camping allowed at Independence Rock, but it’s only a five hour drive to Salt Lake City, Utah, so cross-country travelers can stop and rest to increase health and morale of the “wagon” crew.

Feel Young and Alive in Utah Territory (Where the Hunt is Good and the Beer is Plentiful)

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After fording a few rivers, hunting buffalo like a regular William Frederick Cody, and perhaps even losing a few close friends to exhaustion along the way, you’re almost there! You’ve made it to Salt Lake City! Visit the awe-inspiring Natural History Museum of Utah (admission, $13; hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and check out the Native Voices Exhibit, which explores the traditions and important histories of Utah’s five native nations: Shoshone, Goshute, Paiute, Ute, and Navajo. From the museum, move to The Garage, where trailblazing enthusiasts delight in the mouth-watering taste of juicy burgers and animated beers, and where they dance all night to Salt Lake City’s best bands. Let your wagon air out for the night and sleep in the fine cotton sheets of The Grand America Hotel.

Congratulations! You have made it to [Portland], Oregon! Let’s see how many points you have received

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Let’s be honest: Hipmunk travellers are the winningest travellers, especially on the Oregon Trail. What better place to spontaneously break into a shameless victory dance than in Portland? Take a celebratory walk on the lush green trails of The Forest Park Conservancy, and marvel at the surreal beauty of the eastern slopes of the Tualatin Mountains. Alternatively, cool off with a cold brew at the Portland Brewing Company Taproom, which offers customers twelve different varieties of beers on draft. It’s perhaps worth noting that, on September 19th, the brewery will be hosting a Scottish Festival from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., featuring live Scottish music (bagpipes!) and dancing to ‘celebrate the return of Noble Scot Scottish ale’! More adventurous trekkers should pay a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland’s Old Town. Local favorites include the Memphis Mafia doughnut, the Captain My Captain doughnut, and the legendary Bacon Maple Bar doughnut. Those who frequent this shop occasionally bear witness to legal wedding events; where better to ring in an eternity of love, devotion, and mutual, charmed manipulation than at a voodoo-inspired doughnut shop?

 

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Could the Side-Slip Airplane Seat Change the Boarding Process Game Forever?

One of the most frustrating parts of a flight comes at the very beginning: The slow-moving and cramped boarding process is a constant hassle. Dozens of people, loaded down with heavy bags (and kids and strollers), attempt to navigate their way to their seats by squeezing past one another in an impossibly thin aisle. Even when boarding is staggered by section, the process can still be uncomfortable and irritating.

Perhaps not for long, thanks to the work being done at the Denver-based Molon Labe Designs LLC. The minds behind Molon Labe Designs are busy at work crafting a slideable aisle seat that retracts inward during boarding. The design makes for a 41” aisle, which is practically palatial when compared to the traditional 19” one. As this video demonstrates, once the seat is retracted passengers can move about freely, gliding past one another in a breezy travel-induced haze.

As travelers, we love the potential in these seats, but it does have us wondering about the wacky and uncomfortable scenarios that are bound to occur with full on Slip-n-Slide styled airplane seating:

  • A sudden sharp dive to the left could potentially send aisle-seaters sliding into their seat mates, which could make for some great flirting if the person in 5B turns out to be a cutie…
  • …or a complete disaster if 5B turns out to be sick and the unfortunate aisle-seater slides right into a sneeze….
  • …or an even bigger disaster if 5B was just served a piping hot coffee.
  • Getting in and out to use the restroom would be much easier with a retractable seat…
  • …unless of course 5A turns out to be a clutz and they plop right onto 5C’s lap mid seat-slide when returning from the bathroom.
  • (Though traditionally not a problem if 5A’s a cutie, see #1.)
  • But as long as all the aisle-seaters stay in control of their seat, none of these disasters are going to occur, right?
  • That is of course until a young child ends up in an aisle seat and all chaos breaks loose. What’s more fun, a coloring book or a slide-able seat?

Jokey scenarios aside, we’re excited by the prospect of some new seat technology and will be the first ones to sign up for a demo flight. Someone has to test out these slidey gizmos before they hit the public!

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How To Beat Boredom And Anxiety During Solo Traveling

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Traveling solo can elicit a mixed bag of emotions: Excitement, happiness, fear, boredom, stress… the whole gamut. Still, traveling alone is well worth it. Don’t let the fear of boredom or anxiety prevent you from reaping these benefits. Instead, follow our tips for coping with stress and getting the most out of your solo adventure.

Nix Anxiety

  • Create an itinerary. Detailed trip planning can create a sense of security. If nothing else, consider booking accommodations in advance—it’s a huge stress reliever to know there will be a roof over your head come nightfall. Also read up on how to pass through customs and the rules for duty-free shopping. Knowing the regulations for your destination(s) will help you arrive prepared.
  • Make new friends. Nothing beats loneliness like not being alone. It’s easy to meet new people on organized tours, in internet cafes, or through volunteer activities. Get a head start by connecting with fellow travelers on travel forums prior to the trip.
  • Designate an emergency contact. Keep their contact info handy at all times. Also be sure to let someone know your general whereabouts each day. The knowledge that someone is looking out for you can do a lot to ease anxiety.
  • Reach out to loved ones. Skype, write an email or postcard, or make a quick international call to a friend or family member. Hearing a familiar voice can be grounding and will help settle any nerves that arise during travel.
  • Bring a memento. Create a tangible connection to home by bringing along something comforting, whether that’s a playlist of favorite songs, photos of friends and family, a favorite item of clothing, or a lucky pebble.
  • Practice self-care. Travel can disrupt normal routines (and that’s often a good thing). But don’t let self-care slip through the cracks. Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise, and seek out comfort if anxiety flares up. Taking good care of yourself will make it that much easier to cope with any stressors that arise during travel.

Beat Boredom

  • Make a list. Research the destination in advance to learn what kinds of exciting opportunities are available to tourists, from amazing hotel breakfasts to city-wide scavenger hunts. Outline everything you want to see and accomplish during a trip, and focus on crossing off each of the items on the list. Staying busy is a sure-fire way to fend off boredom.
  • Ask questions. Take an interest in other people’s stories, whether you’re talking to an airplane seatmate, fellow travelers in a café, or locals at market. Conversation is a great way to gain exposure to new people and ideas, learn about a destination, and pass the time.
  • Invest in gadgets. It’s okay to take the easy way out sometimes. A book, a deck of cards, a Gameboy, or an iPad queued up with a favorite TV show are all simple ways to kick boredom to the curb. And of course, take advantage of in-flight entertainment whenever it’s available.
  • Plan for evenings. Nighttime can be hard on solo travelers because many sites are closed, other travelers have gone to bed, and there are fewer distractions. Expect that evenings may bring on boredom and plan accordingly. Consider going to theater or film events, get absorbed in a book, or take care of housekeeping like doing laundry or repacking a messy suitcase.
  • Assign a project. This great idea comes from The One Percent Club: Assign yourself a project for the trip, whether it’s keeping a travel journal, taking five high-quality photographs every day, reading a certain number of books, blogging, etc. Having a sense of purpose will keep you focused and keep boredom at bay.

The Silver Lining

Believe it or not, anxiety and boredom come with some real benefits. While traveling alone might be a bit stressful, focus on the fact that it allows an almost unheard-of amount of freedom. It affords the opportunity to rediscover what makes you tick—you get to decide what to do, where to go, and when to do any and everything. Similarly, research shows that a little boredom is actually a good thing: It can boost creativity, encourage daydreaming, and foster the growth of new goals.

Instead of viewing anxiety and boredom as negative states to be avoided at all costs, look for the positives. Keeping an open mind and practicing the strategies outlined above will ensure that any solo traveler can cope with boredom and anxiety in constructive ways. And just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell upon your return!