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Apps

Best Apps for Travelers

As seasoned of a traveler as you may be, it’s hard to get through a trip without needing a little help. Sometimes plans go awry and you suddenly need to communicate in a foreign language, or book a hotel last minute. Download these free apps before your next trip to make sure you’re prepared!

Google Translate

One of the hardest parts of traveling abroad can be the language barrier. If you’ll be traveling through multiple countries on one trip, it can be hard to memorize all the different languages. Google Translate is a cure-all for this. You can translate text in up to 90 different languages, and can even take a picture from your phone to translate words in up to 26 languages.

OANDA Currency Convertor

Trying to figure out if that beautiful dress in Morocco is a bargain or will break the  bank can be a headache. OANDA solves this problem by giving you daily rates for over 190 currencies and even four different metals. You also have the option to add a percentage based on your bank’s fees to figure out what your total cost will be.

Hotel Tonight

Have you ever made a reservation, only to get to your destination to find out it didn’t go through? Maybe you like to pick up and head to a new place spontaneously, and figure out where you’ll stay once you get there. With Hotel Tonight, you’ll never be without a place to stay again. Just pull the app up to find the closest hotels near you with the best prices.

Gas Buddy

Maybe you prefer to travel slowly and see each country at your own pace in a car. Whether you’re abroad or doing a road trip in your home country, Gas Buddy shows you the best place to stop for cheap gas. You can also put in your route and calculate how much your trip will cost you.

Free WiFi Finder

One of the worst parts about traveling to a new area is not knowing when and where you’ll have wi-fi to upload those amazing pictures you just took to Instagram. With Free Wi-Fi  Finder, you can find where the nearest wi-fi locations are in over 50 countries.

Marissa Pedersen

Marissa is a freelance writer, travel blogger, and social media marketing manager from Seattle. She runs the travel blog Postcards to Seattle, which captures all her journeys from around the world. She likes to stay active wherever she goes, from kayaking in Italy to snowboarding in the Alps.

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Many Cancun hotels offer excursions to Chichen Itza

Amazing Places to Witness the Equinox

Twice each year, the earth experiences a perfect balance between daylight and darkness. The vernal and autumnal equinoxes were considered sacred, mystical days by many ancient cultures, and some even built elaborate monuments to mark the passage of time and capture the sun’s rays during this phenomenon. You can visit these fascinating archaeological sites anytime of the year, but for a real adventure, try going during the equinox.

Stonehenge

The small town of Salisbury makes a great day trip from any hotels in London. Whether you arrive by car or by train, the moment you first see the massive columns of Stonehenge rise up from the Salisbury Plain is one you won’t soon forget. Archaeologists and astronomers have long noted that the massive stones frame the summer solstice sunrise perfectly, and modern-day pagans have embraced the monument as a spiritual center. There are guided sunrise tours that bring groups to witness these celebrations. Spring and fall equinox, however, get far fewer crowds than the summer solstice, so it’s a great time to reflect on your own spiritual rejuvenation in a quieter setting.

Chichen Itza

Spring and fall are a great time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula, and resorts such as the Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas offer excursions from the coast to Chichen Itza, the once-great Mayan metropolis. The Mayans were talented astronomers, and the ruins at Chichen Itza include a domed observatory. During the equinox, the main attraction is the great Pyramid of Kukulcán, the serpent god. When the sun begins to set on the day of the equinox, the shadows created form the shape of a great serpent slithering down the central staircase. The Mayans believed that the serpent brought the rains with its spring appearance and the dry season with its fall appearance.

America’s Stonehenge

Nestled in the green woodlands of southern New Hampshire lies America’s Stonehenge. This little-known but fascinating archaeological site contains a Native American stone circle and altar that serve as a more accurate astronomical calendar than its namesake. From the alignment stone, several large stones in the ring mark the location of the equinox sunrises. The area offers special equinox events and has great hiking year-round. America’s Stonehenge makes a great day trip from hotels in Boston or Cambridge, especially in the temperate autumn.

Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient cultures, learning more about astronomy, or just enjoying an offbeat adventure, traveling to these amazing areas that showcase the equinox is sure to be a memorable trip.

11 Travel Accessories Every Adventurer Needs

The number of travel accessories designed to make life easier on the road just keeps growing. From electronic luggage scales to portable Bluetooth speakers, there are so many things that can come in handy while traveling. Take a look at these 11 travel accessories that help you no matter where you go.

1. Neck Pillow

You can’t rest at five-star hotels in Miami every time you’re tired. A neck pillow can make sleeping in random places, like a train stop, much more comfortable.

2. Travel Packing Aid

A travel packing aid can help you neatly organize toiletries, travel documents and currency, ensuring important items are easily accessible and secure.

3. USB Utility Charge Tool

Even if you’re looking to be unplugged for your next trip, you’re still going to need to charge your smartphone, laptop, camera and so on. A USB utility charge tool means you only have to bring one product to charge all your devices.

4. Smart Luggage

Smart Luggage has arrived, and the features are amazing. Fingerprint locking mechanisms, built-in GPS systems, digital scale sensors, anti-theft systems, shape-changing abilities and more are available right now to make traveling safer and more convenient.

5. Shoe Bag

Why stink up the rest of your bag? Shoe bags are a great way to keep your luggage clean, and are a necessity for most vacations as you may need sandals for some activities and gym shoes or boots for others.

6. Self-Sealing Dry Bags

Clothing or other belongings occasionally get wet. That’s just part of traveling. A dry bag ensures that those wet items don’t soak the rest of your stuff.

7. Wine Bag

This can serve two purposes: one is to actually store wine and bottles of liquor; the other is to store glass items and other fragile things.

8. Waterproof Travel Backpack

Rolling around luggage can get annoying, especially if you’re on the move a lot and not just chilling in hotels in Paris or wherever else. Go with a sturdy, waterproof backpack that protects your belongings and is easy to carry.

9. Waterproof Phone Case

A phone is a necessity for most travelers, so using a waterproof phone case to protect it from water damage and accidental drops just makes sense.

10. Umbrella

It rains almost everywhere in the world at some time or another. Bring an umbrella.

11. First Aid Kit

Whether you’re backpacking your way through southeast Asia or sleeping in one of those luxurious hotels in Dubai, you never know when an accident could happen. So be prepared.

More travel accessories are being created all the time. Use the ones on this list, but also keep an eye out for new travel items to make your trip perfect.

Whichever you choose, hotels in London and Paris have a lot to offer worldly travelers.

Showdown: London vs. Paris

From the face of Big Ben to the peak of the Eiffel Tower, some of Europe’s capital cities certainly hold a lot of attraction for tourists. Both London and Paris offer travelers not just some great hotels, they also provide top-notch cuisine, museums filled with artifacts, beautiful parks, and landmarks that hold significant and rich histories. Let’s take a look at how these two cities stack up against each other by exploring a few of these key topics of tourist appeal.

Museums

We can’t talk about museums in London and Paris without admitting that The Louvre is the most famous attraction in this particular arena. Just across the river from the Verneuil Patio Saint Germain de Pres, the Louvre displays some of the world’s most popular works, from DaVinci’s Mona Lisa to the statue of Winged Victory. No trip to Paris would be complete without a stop at this most iconic museum. However, it is important to note that London has a variety of immense collections as well to rival that of the famed Louvre. Take a look at the classic works and the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum (one of the world’s oldest), or go modern and check out the Tate Museum. The National Gallery, near The Grand at Trafalgar Square, holds over 2,000 paintings to explore. This one has to be a tie, with the majesty and appeal of the Louvre being met by the variety of the London museums.

Parks

An afternoon relaxing in a sprawling city park is one of the true joys of urban traveling. Both London and Paris offer great green spaces, some mere minutes from popular London and Paris hotels. Spending a day in London? The central Hyde Parks is of particular appeal, with a lake, gorgeous trees, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Regent’s Park is a massive 410 acres, and Victoria Park offers the athletic types a multitude of sporting fields. Paris also has some lovely green space, most notably the Tuileries Garden on the way down to the Arc de Triomphe (visible from Hotel Champs Elysees Mac Mahon). In the end, this one has to go to London. You just can’t complete with the variety and beauty of its many green spaces.

Restaurants

Another joy of traveling to a new city is enjoying the cuisine the place has to offer. Both London and Paris have some great eats. Staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Chelsea? Don’t miss lunch at The Dairy, a restaurant nearby with an ever-changing seasonal menu and craft beers. Paris travelers can delight in Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athénée, with simple seasonal ingredients and a modern environment. In the end, this one has to go to Paris. French cuisine just offers diners a wider variety of unique culinary experiences.

Landmarks

There are a plethora of landmarks and historical sites to visit in both London and Paris. London, of course, has Big Ben: the home of parliament and the most featured landmark in the city. It also boasts the London Eye (an iconic Ferris wheel), Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London (London Bridge, while famous in song, is overshadowed by the famous Tower Bridge). While London certainly has a lot to offer, head west to Paris and you find the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Moulin Rouge and the Notre-Dame de Paris with all its pensive and unique gargoyles. There’s no way to pick a winner in this fight.

In the end, the showdown between London and Paris has to be a tie. Both cities offer everything from cheap hotels to fancy, five-star restaurants. With a variety of parks, landmarks, and more, a traveler could find the perfect vacation at either one of these internationally famous cities.

Primrose Hill is a classic run near many London hotels

Top Things to do at Sunrise in London

There’s no better way to enjoy the best sights in London than at sunrise. It is amazing how much is within easy reach of most hotels in the city. If you are an early bird or just want to pack as much as possible into your stay in the British capital, here are some ideas of what you can do at dawn.

Go for a Run

There’s nothing quite like a run to energize your day. One of the best places to run in London is Regent’s Park. Listen to the call of the animals in nearby London Zoo while running past immaculate gardens on the Inner Circle. Head up to Primrose Hill for a mesmerizing view of the city skyline at sunrise.

Head to the Pub for Breakfast

In the heart of the City of London, Smithfield Meat Market ceases trading at 6 a.m. The porters and butchers traditionally head to the pubs for breakfast. For a traditional cooked English breakfast alongside night workers and those heading to business meetings in the city, spend the early hours at a pub in Smithfield. Fox and Anchor and Smiths of Smithfield are among several good places to try.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride

For a panoramic view of London, a hot air balloon ride sounds exactly what you need. There are launch pads near the Tower of London and many of the balloon flights take in some of the most famous sights in the city. Set up camp at Fraser Residence City Hotel and head out for an early morning adventure . Glide over commuters, the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament as the city wakes up to a new day. This is one of the best times to view London from the air, especially as the sun rises.

Go for a Walk

Sunrise is a beautiful time to walk through London. Take the path up through Greenwich Park to the Royal Observatory and the meridian time line. You can even stand on Greenwich Mean Time as the sun comes up. Want a shorter walk? Watch the sun come up from Waterloo Bridge, and then head down the trail along the River Thames towards St Paul’s Cathedral as the early sunlight glimmers on the water.

London is full of things to do. Which activity will you wake up to from your hotel in London?

Visitors have myriad options with hotels in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Top 7 Best Hotels in the Dallas – Ft. Worth Area

Dallas/Fort Worth is the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area and boasts an exciting mixture of cowboy and cosmopolitan lifestyles. Home to a wide array of cultural attractions and entertainment, it is also one of America’s most visited regions. You have plenty of choices with hotels in Dallas and Fort Worth. Consider one of these top hotels if you want something special for your trip to the city where big things happen.

Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek

Situated just two miles from the center of Dallas, the Rosewood Mansion is ideal whether you want to enjoy the marble bath or go out to experience a show at the Dallas Performing Arts Center. This five-star accommodation is near a host of eateries, shops and other attractions, including the Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the American Airlines Center (go Mavericks and Stars!).

Omni Fort Worth Hotel

You are centrally located at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel. However, you may delay visiting nearby attractions like the Fort Worth Water Gardens and Saint Patrick Cathedral when your room has high-end furnishings and a 42-inch LCD television. On-site amenities, such as the poolside bar, full-service spa and five restaurants, also make it hard to leave. You have endless entertainment within a short distance, from drinks at the T&P Tavern to events at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Omni Dallas Hotel

Located in the Dallas Arts District, the Omni Dallas Hotel lets you walk to sights like Pioneer Plaza, the JFK Memorial, and Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture. Take a tour of the arts, as long as you’re not too busy enjoying pillow top mattresses, city vistas, terrace pools and other amenities.

The Joule Hotel in Dallas

This four-star hotel has enough to make you yell “Yeehaw!” From the custom Italian woodwork to the rain forest showers, everything is designed for comfort and unique experiences. Merbau floors, majestic artwork and boutique shops give The Joule Hotel unmatched originality. Proximity to attractions like the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the Dallas World Aquarium, and tons of popular local dining makes it one of the more practical hotels in Dallas.

Fort Worth Stockyards Hotel

When considering hotels in Dallas and Fort Worth, few boast Texan authenticity like the Fort Worth Stockyards Hotel. Situated in the Stockyards National Historic District, this hotel showcases a distinct Western vibe and architecture. The West-style suites will bring you back in time, and attractions like Billy Bob’s Texas and the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame will offer you plenty of fun. It should be noted that Bonnie and Clyde once stayed here, too.

Hotel ZaZa

With artfully decorated rooms and on-site amenities like a Roman-style spa tub, massages and fine dining, Hotel ZaZa lives up to its unforgettable name. This boutique hotel is also near sights such as Meyerson Symphony Center and the Crow Collection of Asian Art, among many others.

The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel

Walk to the Sundance Square entertainment district, or simply enjoy city views from your room’s terrace at The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel. The on-site tennis court, bar and indoor pool gives you plenty to do after a day exploring Fort Worth.

Regardless of whether you’re searching for accommodation that is top-notch luxury or something uniquely Texan, you can find it in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Many of the best hotels in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex are within a short distance of city attractions.

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Things You Should Do Before Landing at the Airport in a New Country

Crowds at baggage claim, long lines through customs, signs in foreign languages and different cultural norms–arriving at the airport in a new country can be stressful, even for the most seasoned jetsetters.

Even after making it through customs, tackling unfamiliar currency exchanges and arranging ground transportation can put a jet-lagged traveler over the edge. Give yourself a break by prepping ahead of time for the smoothest landing possible with these travel tips.

Write Down Your Address on Paper

This may sound like a no-brainer, but these days, it’s easy to forget to write things down when you can just save info in your email or on the notes app in your phone.

Depending on which country you are visiting, you may be asked to provide the address of your accommodations when you fill out a customs form before landing. Don’t get caught with your address in your email inbox while you’re without service, or when you’re on the plane or standing in line at customs with only three percent battery life left.

Practice Phrases That Are Useful

We’ve all heard it before: “Just make sure you know the words for bathroom and beer, and you’ll be fine.” While a cold beer upon arrival does sound pretty nice, learning key phrases about transportation, accommodations and other navigation-related topics can be much more helpful when you’re trying to navigate from the airport to your hotel.

Know the Value of a Dollar

Yes, we live in a world where credit cards are a widely accepted form of payment. That being said, there is nothing worse than having absolutely zero cash and realizing a business doesn’t take plastic.

The ATM or currency exchange should be your first stop after making it through customs. But standing in front of an ATM before heading to your hotel in Istanbul and suddenly realizing you have no idea how much a Turkish Lira is worth can be daunting.

Skip the frantic Google search while standing next to an ATM by scoping out the currency situation before you arrive at the airport. Research exchange rates, the average price for a meal and typical cab fares to get an idea of how far the currency can take you. Then you’ll have a plan when it comes time to withdraw cash.

Check out transportation options

Speaking of typical cab fare, you should also research transportation options before you land. If you decide to take public transportation, most tourism boards offer information about public transportation so you can determine the nearest bus or metro stop to your hotel, and the lines you’ll need to take to get there. You’ll thank us when you’re navigating your way through the Tube to your London hotel like a pro, instead of standing in front of a transit system map for way longer than you might care to admit.

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Book a hotel in Portland, Oregon to see these awesome sites.

7 Must-See Locales in Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon has a reputation for being unique, hip and a little bit weird. There’s enough to see for an exciting day trip or week-long vacation, but no trip is complete without experiencing at least one of these seven must-see places in the City of Roses.

1. Tom McCall Waterfront Park

In the heart of the city’s downtown district is the 35-acre Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which stretches along the Willamette River. It’s the perfect place to people watch and soak up the city’s unique vibe. The park is also home to annual events such as the Portland Rose Festival and the Waterfront Blues Festival. The iconic 4-star Hotel Vintage Portland is located within walking distance to the park.

2. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Known as OMSI to the locals, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has five exhibit halls that are ever-changing. At OMSI, visitors are welcome to touch everything and even experiment in one of the museum’s eight science labs. After a day at the museum, you can head back to the nearby boutique Hotel Modera for a night of restful slumber in one of their upscale rooms.

3. International Rose Test Garden

During the summer months, no visit to the City of Roses is complete without an evening stroll through the International Rose Test Garden. After exploring, you can retreat to one of the 127 air-conditioned rooms at the nearby Hotel Lucia, or dine at one of the hotel’s two on-site restaurants.

4. Tour a Brewery

Portland has become known as home to some of the most outstanding micro-breweries in the world. Tour one of the local pubs such as the BridgePort Brew Pub or the Portland Brewing Company to sample some of the finest brews in the city. The concierge at most hotels in Portland have pamphlets that detail the numerous breweries and their hours of operation.

5. Powell Books

Lose yourself in a book at one of the biggest bookstores in the world, Powell Books. You might find yourself lugging an armload of books back to your hotel room, so pick lodging close to the famous store. The historic, pet-friendly Benson Hotel, is also nearby.

6. Food Carts

Explore the city’s food cart district. A bevy of food carts line up daily to sell their tasty fare along SW 10th Ave and Alder Street, or SW 5th Ave. Why not grab some mouth-watering grub and walk back to your luxurious room at The Nines?

7. Lan Su Chinese Garden

The Lan Su Chinese Garden offers a bit of tranquility amid the hustle and bustle of the city. Located in the midst of downtown, the gardens are a great place to walk to from your room at the Westin Portland Hotel.

The New York Times dubbed Portland the “West Coast Capital of Urban Cool,” because of its many eclectic, progressive charms. Whether you visit one–or all seven–of these must-see locales, there’s little doubt that your stay in Portlandia will be memorable.

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Book hotels in these regions to try these unique desserts.

Desserts Around the World Worth Traveling For

Traveling around the world is an adventure in and of itself. But what makes the adventure even more delicious? Planning your trip based on the best desserts worth traveling for! And why take one trip when you can take several? Whether you are a full-blown foodie that savors the unique combination of exotic ingredients or your average sweet tooth who enjoys a simple yet delectable treat at the end of a meal, there are many unique desserts available to sample as you travel the world on your next adventure. From Tire sur la Neige to Martabak, here are just a few of the amazing desserts to build a trip around.

Haupia: A popular treat in Hawaii, Haupia is a thick, coconut pudding made from coconut milk, a thickener, sugar and salt. It’s like the islands’ version of gelatin with a tropical twist. Can’t you picture yourself sitting on a beach, enjoying Haupia along with a fancy drink and umbrella?

Crème de Abacate: Avocados are good for you, right? Why not enjoy a dessert that might actually offer some health benefits! Crème de Abacate is a specialty in Brazil where there is an abundance of avocados. This yummy dessert is composed of mashed up avocados, milk and sugar. It is garnished with lime wedges and served both hot and cold. Talk about a versatile dessert!

Tire sur la Neige: This simple dessert is a classic when traveling to French Canada during the winter months. Buckets or troughs are filled with snow. Then, maple syrup is poured over the frozen flakes. The liquid syrup quickly becomes taffy-like and is rolled onto sticks. What a fun treat before or after hitting the slopes! If you happen to be staying in a Quebec hotel like the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, this treat is also called tire d’erable.

Martabak: Head to Yemen, Indonesia and you will delight in these delectable desserts. Originally a street food found in Saudi Arabia, there is now a sweet and a savory version available. Choose between a chocolate and cheese stuffed fluffy pancake sprinkled with chocolate rice, jam and crushed peanuts and the savory, not as fluffy version filled with meats (traditionally mutton), onions, eggs and other herbs. This decision will likely be the toughest thing you encounter on your world-traveling dessert trip!

Now, where did you put your passport and your elastic-waist travel pants?

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Learn these tips for a smooth stay in any Tokyo hotel.

Tokyo Travel Hacks Everyone Should Know

So your bags are packed, there’s a city guide in your pocket and you’re ready to tackle Tokyo? Not so fast! There are a few travel hacks that will make your trip to Japan’s capital as easy, mistake-free and amazing as it should be.

1. Pre-arrange your Wi-Fi service

If you’re traveling with your regular cell phone and plan to visit Tokyo for under 14 days, you’re eligible to receive a free Wi-Fi account that works in many locations throughout the city. Hook up via FLETS before you arrive, or get your access card at Travelex once you’ve landed. You can also try to arrange accommodation in a hotel that offers free wifi, such as the Hotel Ueno East.

2. No pointing

Pointing, unless it’s at yourself, is considered rude in Tokyo and the rest of Japan. This is a pretty crucial piece of information for travelers who aren’t well-versed in the Japanese language. Instead, use an open-palmed gesture in the direction of whatever you want to eat, buy, or talk about.

3. Scope out bathroom stalls before making your choice

When most people picture Japanese bathrooms, they imagine cutting-edge toilets with rainbow bidets and a warm seat. These definitely exist, but so do porcelain sinks inset into the floor of a bathroom stall. Confused? Not as much as you would have been after standing in line for 20 minutes, only to come face-to-face with something that looks more like a shower drain than a 21st-century toilet. If you can hold your bladder a minute or two, take a look in all the stalls before committing.

4. GPS will get you where you’re going

It’s no surprise the majority of street and business signs are written in Kanji. Of course, when you’re in the middle of these foreign characters, finding your way around Tokyo can be overwhelming. To avoid missing out on great Tokyo attractions like the Tokyo Tower, equip your mobile device with GPS that works with Google Maps. For the most part, you will need to enter the address in Kanji, so expect to do a few minutes of online research before setting out from your hotel. Once the address is plugged into your GPS map, you’re good to go! You can also choose a hotel close to landmark districts like Chiyoda City to make navigation even simpler.

5. Learn a few useful phrases

Learning a new language — or at least a few useful pieces of it — is fun and culturally rewarding. Check out some basic phrases before you hit Tokyo, like “dozo” (please), “arigato” (thank you), and “Eigo wa dekimasu ka?” (Do you speak English?). These will help smooth the awkward missteps that come from immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture.

No matter what you’re looking for in Tokyo — be it the sushi and sashimi, the luscious silks, the beautiful mountains and cherry trees, or the history of this isolated cultural center — you won’t be disappointed.

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