Tag Archives: travel

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.

5 Fictional Destinations You Can Actually Visit

There’s something magical about seeing the real life setting of a beloved fictional world. These destinations draw travelers to places they might not otherwise go for the pleasantly jarring sensation of finding Tatooine in Tunisia or Narnia in Norway. Here are five of our favorite places that serve as intersections of invention and reality, mixing the familiar with the surprising.

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Mdina, Malta: King’s Landing (Game of Thrones)

Westeros may be fictional, but Game of Thrones fans know the series films everywhere from Iceland to Croatia to recreate locations from the books. The medieval walled city of Mdina in Malta acts as King’s Landing in the show, and travelers may recognize the Mdina Gate as the entrance to the fictional capital. Mdina’s dusky stone buildings and mix of Norman and Baroque architecture lend it a mysterious and mythic quality that translates perfectly into the show. It’s known as the “Silent City:” No cars are allowed within the city walls, and only about 300 people live inside.

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Prince Edward Island: Anne of Green Gables

Since Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908, children and adults have made the pilgrimage to Canada’s lovely Prince Edward Island, where the book is set. The Green Gables farmhouse that inspired L.M. Montgomery’s classic books still stands in Cavendish (named Avonlea in the books) and can be visited year round. Even Mindy Kaling is desperate to see where Anne grew up. In a recent interview with the LA Times, she said, “The other book world I would like to live in is Anne of Green Gables. Living on Prince Edward Island would be so badass.”

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Petra, Jordan: Canyon of the Crescent Moon (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

It’s hard to imagine a more imposingly beautiful filming location for a grail quest than the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Although Petra was carved into sandstone 2,000 years ago, it only came to the attention of the Western world in 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt disguised himself in Bedouin costume to sneak into the site. The Treasury, Al-Khazneh, was most famously used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and is still open for visitors.

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Angel Falls in Venezuela: Paradise Falls (Up)

Paradise Falls is the central destination Pixar’s Up. Carl’s beloved Ellie never gets to see it herself, but with the help of about 10,000 balloons, Carl and Russell manage to make the trip. Its real life counterpart is Angel Falls in Venezuela, part of the Auyantepui mountain in Canaima National Park. At a height of over 3,000 feet, it’s the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. The hike to see the falls from the top can be a multi-day journey, but the stunning view is worth the trek.

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Matamata, New Zealand: Hobbiton (The Lord of the Rings)

Perhaps the most famous fictional travel destination is the Hobbiton set of Peter Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. Nestled in the countryside surrounding Matamata in New Zealand, the set features over 30 hobbit dwellings as well as a mill and a double-arched stone bridge. After The Hobbit movies finished filming, the houses were left fully furnished for visitors. Truly devoted fans can even enjoy Second Breakfast at the nearby Shire’s Rest Cafe.

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.

Great Food to Eat When Visiting Chicago (That Aren’t Pizza)

Chicago may be synonymous with “deep dish,” but there’s more to this city than thick crusts and mounds of cheese. In addition to striking architecture and gorgeous sunsets, the Windy City boasts a smorgasbord of good eats.

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1. Chicago-style Hot Dog

What cheesesteaks are to Philly, the Chicago-style hot dog is to the Windy City. The best versions start with a Vienna Beef Natural Casing dog, lay it down in a steamed poppy-seed bun, and top it with yellow mustard, diced white onion, relish, thin tomato wedges, a layer of crunchy dill pickles, and a couple of sport peppers. You’ll be able to find them all over the city, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, head to Jimmy’s Red Hots near Humboldt Park. Or go to Allium (located in Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel) for an upscale take on the classic dog.

2. Vegetarian Diner Food

The Chicago Diner has earned a national reputation for its classic diner fare with a twist: All of the dishes are vegan or vegetarian. Even the most dedicated carnivores will find something to like here, where the menu sports a Radical Reuben (in which seitan replaces corned beef), vegan milkshakes, and truffle mushroom lentil loaf. The restaurant offers locations in both Halstead and Logan Square.

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3. Paczkis

Chicagoans line up for hours on Paczki Day each year, when dozens of vendors around the city sell the hole-less Polish donuts to signal the arrival of Lent. Order them filled with jams, creams, or chocolate, or keep it simple and stick with an iced or powdered sugar variety. Consult this map to find where to score yours.  

4. The Jibarito

Reportedly invented in Chicago, this Puerto Rican dish consists of a sandwich made with fried green plantains instead of bread. The plantains cradle meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a garlic-flavored mayonnaise. Enjoy one at Borinquen in Humboldt Park—the home of the original jibarito.

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5. Saganaki

Another dish that has its origin story in Chicago, saganaki consists of breaded or floured cheese that’s fried and served piping hot. Find it all over GreekTown.

6. Charcuterie

Chicago is well known for its butcher shops and high-quality meat (Perhaps that’s why the Italian beef sandwich is another Chicagoan favorite). Carl Sandburg even declared Chicago the “hog butcher for the world” in a poem about the city. Whether you’re looking for fresh-cut ribs, cured sausages, or heritage breeds, Chicago’s butchers have you covered. Popular shops include The Butcher and Larder (in West Town), Publican Quality Meats (in West Loop), and Paulina Meat Market (in Lakeview).

From carnivorous meals to fried cheese, donuts, and vegan fare, don’t miss a delicious bite on your next trip to Chicago. If by some unlikely chance you’re not satisfied, you can always order a pizza upon arriving back home.

Why You Absolutely Need to Take a Meditation Vacation

It’s a common and admirable goal to travel as a means of “finding yourself,” but sometimes the stresses of being in a new place or cramming in sightseeing opportunities can prevent travelers from actually calming down, getting centered, and coming home rejuvenated.

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Enter the meditation retreat—the ultimate antidote to burnout. Practicing mindfulness during vacation has loads of benefits:

1. It lets you slow down. By prioritizing quiet reflection, you’ll have a chance to reconnect with yourself and your own internal rhythms. Drop the distractions, affectations, and stressors, and remember what it means to just be you.

2. It teaches focus. Setting a goal to be mindful and present—in some ways, doing “nothing”—is actually really tough. Meditation forces you to learn how to stay present and committed to a goal.

3. It provides clarity. Practicing mindfulness requires you to confront personal demons and connect to inner feelings and desires, all of which increases self-awareness and empowers you to pursue goals.

4. It cultivates peace of mind. Removing external pressures and settling into a relaxing space can reduce stress, broaden your perspective, and cultivate equanimity, or the ability to calmly accept circumstances as they arise.

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How to Plan A Meditation Retreat

Intrigued? Then it’s time to get planning.

All-inclusive meditation retreats can be found around the globe, as in Nosara, Costa Rica, a favorite destination of international yogis. The Harmony Hotel, Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, and Costa Rica Yoga Spa all offer remarkable mindfulness retreats.

Some people also choose to go the DIY route and plan their own retreat. Customizing a retreat lets you choose exactly where to be and what to do in addition to meditation. Retreats can include passive activities such as massages, meditation, acupuncture, and spa treatments or more active options like yoga, hiking, dancing, arts and crafts, or gardening—it’s all up to you!

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To plan a retreat, start by selecting a serene location full of natural beauty, whether it’s mountains, rivers, forests, or the ocean. Not sure where to go? Here are a few places that are home to some of the most popular retreat destinations:

After settling on a destination, take the time to figure out where to eat, what activities to participate in, and what you want each day to look like while on retreat—the structure is up to you, but make sure not to cram the schedule too full and to allow room for meditation each day. Do the planning in advance, and you’ll have nothing to do but relax and re-center upon arrival.

Whether you decide to attend an organized retreat or create your own at one of many remarkable destinations, the intention you bring to the experience will determine how you feel at the end of it. May the ommms be ever in your favor.

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.


CityLove: Granada, Spain

Granada has established itself as one of Spain’s youngest, hippest, and most energetic cities while simultaneously boasting some of the country’s most historic architecture. Plan to explore this city in true Spanish style, by setting out after a relaxing siesta and staying up late into the night.

Start the afternoon with tapas at the renowned Bar Los Diamantes, which has been serving up remarkable food since 1942. If you’re still hungry, try the seafood or aubergine slices. Snap a pic of the meal and earn bragging rights by tweeting it our way.  

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Take an after-lunch stroll to the historic Corral del Carbon, the city’s oldest Arab monument. Built in the 14th century as a coal yard and converted into a space for stage performances in the 16th century, the site now consists of a pavilion, center square, and courtyard encircled by galleries and craft rooms. It’s also home to a bookstore and tourist information office, so remember this spot if you have questions later in the trip.

Climb (or take a cab or bus) toward the famous Alhambra, but don’t get caught up in the tourist crowds. Instead, head to the southern portion of the hill (below the Alhambra) and the beautiful Carmen de los Mártires, a secluded park and historic house featuring Islamic architecture, ornate gardens, an ornamental duck pond, and free-roaming peacocks. 

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Head back downtown for an evening you won’t forget. Le Chien Andalou (aka The Andalusian Dog) is center city’s only Flamenco Cave. Take in the art of Andalusian dance and music in an intimate setting that also features a tasting menu, wines, and beers. 

Tuck in for the night at El Ladrón de Agua, a 16th century noble house that’s since been restored into a modern and beautiful hotel in the heart of Granada. The hotel’s amenities include a café, Wi-fi, library, air conditioning, and monthly art exhibitions featuring regional painters and sculptors. Tweet us your favorite part of the day from the comfort of your hotel room!

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Companies Trying to Make Currency Exchange a Little Easier

Figuring out how to exchange foreign currencies is always a hassle for international travelers, but several companies have made it their mission to make this process less daunting. Whether you’re fretting about tipping internationally or you’re just sick of returning from vacation with wads of foreign currency, here are four companies working to make your life easier.

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1. CurrencyFair

This one’s for the traveler willing to wait around for the best deals. The service consists of a peer-to-peer marketplace in which users declare their own exchange rates and then wait for someone else to accept the transfer. The company hosts the marketplace and skims off 0.15% when users exchange currency with each other. If no one accepts your offered exchange, then CurrencyFair will—for a 4-5% fee. While the service won’t do you much good if you need to exchange currency very quickly, it can be a great way to get cash for foreign currencies after returning home from a trip.

2. Fourex

The premise of Fourex is easy to grasp: Simply insert coins and notes from any of more than 150 currencies into a kiosk, and get cash back in the form of U.S. dollars, British pounds, or Euros. The kiosks even process old European currencies like Schillings and Deutschmarks. There’s no minimum deposit required; travelers can exchange any amount between £1 and £1,000 at any Fourex kiosk.

Remarkably, travelers can expect to pay the same exchange rate at any kiosk; the company doesn’t even hike prices at its airport locations. And there are no hidden fees; Fourex makes money by buying and selling currency on the market.

The biggest downside to the service is that it’s currently only available in and around London. But if you’re passing through on a layover or traveling around England on holiday, their find-a-kiosk feature will allow you to seek out a kiosk and convert currencies into whatever form is most convenient for you.

3. TravelersBox

TravelersBox functions similarly to Fourex, only it has kiosks in airports around the world, and it applies deposits toward gift cards or donations instead of doling out cash. The idea is that travelers can invest unused currency at the end of a trip by purchasing gift cards (think Starbucks or iTunes) or donating to select causes.

After depositing money into the kiosk, travelers will receive an email confirmation with instructions for redeeming their gift card or donation. The company applies a fee of 3-10% depending on the amount that gets deposited. Currently, TravelersBox kiosks are available in Turkey, Georgia, Italy, Israel, and the Philippines. Depending on the country, kiosks will only accept certain kinds of currencies.

4. WeSwap

Similar to CurrencyFair, WeSwap allows users to exchange currencies directly with each other via a peer-to-peer marketplace. The service promises fast, secure exchanges that’s up to 10 times cheaper than the rates travelers will encounter at banks or bureaus.

Here’s how it works: Users load their account (via debit card or bank transfer) with the amount they want to exchange, input their desired currency and the date by which they need it, and then get matched with other travelers looking to swap. Users can expect to pay a mid-market exchange rate in addition to a sliding fee charged by WeSwap. (The fee varies depending on how quickly you need cash.)

As soon as a swap occurs, the money is instantly available to spend or withdraw on the WeSwap Prepaid MasterCard, which all users receive (for free) after signing up. The card can carry up to 16 different currencies at once and will recognize what country you’re in in order to access the appropriate currency. (The card is accepted everywhere that Mastercard is accepted, without additional foreign-exchange fees.)

The service works best—and costs less—with plenty of advance planning, so sign up as soon as you’ve purchased tickets for an international flight.

From London to Turkey and everywhere in between, high-tech companies like the ones featured here are helping to make currency exchange a more democratic process by lowering fees, improving competition, and enabling peer-to-peer transactions. Here’s hoping that when it comes to providing travelers with low-cost exchanges, this is only the beginning.

6 Intensely Thrilling Haunted Houses

Aside from candy corn, Jack-o’-lanterns, black cats, and ghosts, there’s nothing that screams Halloween more than a haunted house. During the month of October, thousands of small-scale haunted houses crop up around the States, many at local festivals, churches, or schools. However, for those brave souls, there are some truly terrifying worlds out there to explore. Check out our list below for some of the most impressive (and horrifying) haunted houses to see this Halloween!

That is, of course, if you dare.

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1. Escape the Great Room at Headless Horseman

Spanning 65 acres of farmland in Ulster Park, NY, the Headless Horseman complex of terrors is a favorite amongst haunted-house-enthusiasts looking for an all outdoor experience. With naturally landscaped forbidden forests, eerie ponds, and darkly expansive cornfields, visitors are never quite sure what’s lurking in the shadows. Plus, they’ve got ten separate attractions, including a dizzying corn maze, a spooky hayride, 7 haunted houses, and the newly curated experience “The Great Room Escape,” in which visitors have to figure out how to escape a room of bolted doors and locked windows.

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2. Check Into the Pennhurst Asylum

Housed in an abandoned asylum in Spring City, PA, the Pennhurst Asylum is a wildly popular Halloween attraction. Fitted with high-tech animatronics, digital sound, artifacts recovered from the original asylum, and a bevy of realistic actors, a walk-through this dilapidated hospital is no joke. For those bold (or crazy) enough to make it through the narrow hallways of the hospital, the asylum offers two more haunted experiences in the Dungeon of Lost Souls or the Tunnel of Terror.

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3. Explore the Dent Schoolhouse

Touted as Cincinnati’s scariest schoolhouse, the Dent Schoolhouse is the perfect haunted pick for those interested not only in shocks and thrills, but also in a compelling story. As legend goes, the very real schoolhouse opened in 1894 and was celebrated for decades as a top-notch school. That is, at least until 1942, when several students mysteriously disappeared. To find out what happened to those kiddoes, grab a group of friends and spend an evening exploring the spooky nooks and crannies of Dent. 

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4. Get Lost on the 13th Floor

Based around the mythology of the oft-missing thirteenth floor, Denver’s largest haunted house, 13th Floor, brings together spooks and thrills for an experience visitors aren’t soon to forget. New attractions for this year include Hallow House, a skin-tingling walk-through featuring manic clowns, Undead: What Lies Beneath, an exploration through an abandoned research facility complete with empty labs and shattered test tubes, and Feral Moon, which winds participants through a large and creepy cemetery.

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5. Join the Cult of The Summoning

Based out of the Scarehouse in Pittsburgh, The Summoning is about as thrilling as any haunted house walkthrough could be. The experience takes you all the way back to 1932, to a time where secrets, mysteries, and betrayal were rife in the 100-year-old house where The Summoning is set. Visitors will find themselves twisting through darkened hallways, all while the chants of ancient ritual pulse in the background. The question is, are those who visit this house the initiates of some new order or are they instead, the sacrifices?   

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6. Commune with Freaks at the House of Shock

With live music and a full service bar, this New Orleans horror staple is the perfect pick for the those looking for something rollicking. Occupying over 25,000 square feet, the House of Shock boasts an impressive array of skin-tingling attractions for its 2015 line-up: Bordello of Freaks, Laff in the Dark, and the traditional House of Shock haunted house. No matter the attraction, the special effects at House of Shock are infamously realistic and will leave the fearless quaking in their boots and reaching for a strong cocktail.


Texas Just Declared Its First World Heritage Site

This past weekend, the five historic missions in San Antonio received official designation as a World Heritage Site. Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the culmination of a nine-year effort to secure the missions with this elite status, reported San Antonio news station KENS5. The missions join an impressive list of other U.S. World Heritage Sites, including Yosemite National Park, Monticello, Independence Hall, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Officials estimate that the new designation will invigorate tourism to the missions—to the tune of a hundred million dollars and tons of new jobs in the local tourism industry. Want to beat the rush? Here’s what you need to know about America’s newest World Heritage Site.  

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The San Antonio Missions

The World Heritage designation recognizes the historical nature of the missions, which were communities developed by the Spanish in the 1700s to defend against French expansion into Texas and convert indigenous people so that they might become Spanish citizens and help maintain control of Texas.

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park consists of four visitor areas spaced about two miles apart from each other. The whole region is brimming with chances to learn about Spanish and Native American heritage. Each of the four churches (the first four entries in the following list) are also active parishes.

The missions are:

  • Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña, or Mission Concepción. Dedicated in 1755, the church is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. Several of the rooms still boast original frescos.
  • Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, or Mission San José. The largest of the missions (its nickname is the “Queen of the Missions”), the building was restored to its original design in the 1930s.
  • Mission San Juan Capistrano, or Mission San Juan. Founded in 1716 in eastern Texas, the mission was transferred to San Antonio in 1731. The stone church, friary, and granary were completed in 1756. A self-sustaining community, residents San Juan produced iron tools, cloth, and prepared hides in addition to growing fruits and vegetables and raising livestock. Surpluses were used to establish a trade network that extended to Louisiana in the east and Mexico in the south.
  • Mission San Francisco de la Espada, or Mission Espada. This was the first mission in Texas and was founded in 1690. Originally founded near present-day Weches, Texas, the mission relocated to San Antonio in the early 1700s and added a friary in 1745. The mission’s residents specialized in blacksmithing, weaving, masonry, and carpentry, trades which influenced San Antonio’s post-colonial transition.
  • Mission San Antonio de Valero, or The Alamo. Founded in 1718, the mission’s era lasted until 1793, when the Spanish converted it into a military barracks and outpost. In the 1800s, the Alamo became a hotly contested military base and served as the site of the battle for which it is still well known today.  

Each of the missions are connected to each other and the San Antonio River by the Mission Hike and Bike Trail, which weaves through old neighborhoods and farmland along eight miles of paved pathways (16 miles out and back). Water is available at each of the missions, but travelers should only expect to find food near Missions Concepción and San José.

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Where to Stay

The city of San Antonio is almost as exciting to visit as the missions themselves. With 20 million visitors arriving each year, the city has developed plenty of exciting places to visit, such as museums, theme parks, nature hikes, and fine dining. Flights into the city are fairly inexpensive, and the city is also home to a wide variety of budget-friendly hotels. The Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk, Omni La Mansion del Rio, and Hyatt Regency Riverwalk are all great options.

Come for the history; stay for the vibrant contemporary city. The San Antonio Missions have been around for hundreds of years, and with their new designation as a World Heritage Site, it’s clear they’ll continue to make an impact for years to come.