Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently rolled out a Boeing 787 airplane painted from tip to tail with the likeness of Star Wars’ R2-D2. The airplane will carry its first lucky passengers beginning Oct. 18 with a flight between Tokyo and Vancouver, Canada. The project is part of a five-year promotional deal between ANA and the Walt Disney Company.

This is hardly the first time an airline has made headlines for dolling up its planes. These designs are typically part of publicity partnerships or are created to promote special events or anniversaries. Check out some of the wackiest paint jobs in airline history, below.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.58.54 PM
Photo: Flickr user Mark Harkin

Hobbit Plane, Air New Zealand

First on the list is the world’s largest plane decal, which reportedly took more than 400 hours to complete before it was released into the air in 2012. The Lord of the Rings-themed plane didn’t stop at the paint job. Inside, a hobbit-themed safety video featured characters from Middle Earth, while the cabin crew adorned themselves with pointy ears for the plane’s first flight.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.00 PM
Photo: Flickr user Aero Icarus

San Francisco Plane, Swiss International Airlines

In 2010, Swiss International instated daily flights between Zurich and San Francisco. To celebrate the new route, the airline decorated a plane with just about every San Francisco stereotype around, from peace signs to flower power.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.25 PM
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Flickr user Cubbie_n_vegas

Salmon, Alaska Airlines

Get it? A Boeing 737 becomes a Boeing salmon-thirty-salmon in this 2005 fish-themed paint job. The inspiration for the artwork is a bit unclear: Some sources claim it was designed to celebrate Alaska’s seafood industry, while others believe it stemmed from a 1987 incident in which an Alaska Airlines plane was hit by a fish while taking off in Juneau (The fish was purportedly dropped by an eagle).

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.31 PM

Aboriginal Design, Qantas

A collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, the design for this Boeing 737-800 was inspired by Uluru, aka Ayers Rock. The Australian World Heritage site is famous for its rich colors, which appear to change as the sun’s angle shifts throughout the day.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.37 PM
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Wizarding World Plane, Virgin Atlantic Airways

What a magical idea. In partnership with Virgin Holidays, Virgin Atlantic branded one of its 747 jets with the logo for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The paint job functioned as publicity for the Universal Orlando resort.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.58.39 PM
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Panda Jet, All Nippon Airways

To celebrate 20 years of flying between Japan and China, ANA unveiled its panda-themed jet in 2007. It reportedly took 350 people a total of 80 hours to plaster the image of the world’s cutest bear onto the jet.

Whether you’re flying to Tokyo, Vancouver, or anywhere in between, may the force (and sweet paint jobs) always be with you.

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 18th.

Published in Travel Inspiration

It's hard to miss the bright lights and ample displays at the duty-free stores in most international airports, cruise ship ports, and border stations. Designer clothes and jewelry, bottles of high-end liquor, and tobacco products are all screaming to be picked up and taken home. After all, it's a great deal and tax-free, right?

Getting a bargain at a duty-free shop requires some research in advance. Items found in these shops are free of the local import tax (also known as "duty") that would normally be placed on the item in a regular retail store. However, you may potentially owe a customs duty in the country you're heading back to. We're looking at you, America (sigh).

It's not all bad news. According to guidelines from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, if you are a U.S. resident returning from a foreign country other than one in the Caribbean (and you were there for more than 48 hours), you are allowed a duty-free exemption of up to $800. Your next $1,000 worth of goods is subject to a flat tax rate of 3 percent, which is still cheaper than many local taxes on similar items.

Don't go on a spending spree just yet: There are limitations with alcohol and tobacco products. Travelers returning from a European country like France or Germany are allowed to bring in up to 1 liter of alcohol duty-free, but the total amount is up to the laws in the state you head back to, so make sure to know what's permitted in your home state before you stock up. You are also allowed up to 100 cigars or 200 cigarettes within the $800 exemption. If you purchase duty-free items from a Caribbean country, like the U.S. Virgin Islands or Guam, there is a $1,600 duty-free exemption, and the next $1,000 worth of goods is taxed at 1.5 percent. (Spring Break trip, anyone?) Plus you can pick up to 5 liters of alcohol as long as one if a product of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, or American Samoa. Residents are allowed 1,000 cigarettes as well.

Duty free Johnnie Walker Blue

When it comes to scoring a deal on duty-free items, the best bargains are the ones most heavily taxed in your home country (and state). In the U.S. this puts alcohol and tobacco-products at the top of the list. While U.S. federal tax is adjusted for the percentage of alcohol in a bottle of liquor, a 750ml bottle is taxed at $2.14 and just over $1 for a pack of 20 cigarettes. States also have their own tax on alcohol and tobacco. States like Washington, Oregon, and Virginia have some of the highest rates.

In general, beauty-related items, like perfumes and cosmetics, tend to be 15 to 20 percent cheaper than domestic U.S. prices. Pro tip: Fragrance multipacks are often created just for duty-free shops and could save you some cash compared to individual bottles. Consider free cosmetic samples and in-store sales at your local beauty store, which may tip the scale in favor of buying beauty items at an affordable price domestically.

Other goods like electronics, cameras, confections such as chocolate, and high-end jewelry and clothing are probably worth passing on. While discounts can range from 10 to 25 percent, an online or in-store sale in the U.S. might yield the same results. That being said, if the duty-free store is offering a one-of-a-kind product, or if you're interested in an item that never goes on sale, just saving the tax might be worth the purchase.

For the best deal, know what the customs regulations and exemptions applicable to you and your home turf. Make sure to check prices at your local retail stores so you can compare them when you get to a duty-free shop. And keep those receipts for when you enter customs at home – it will make declaring your new goodies that much easier!

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 21st.

Published in Travel Tips

If you’ve ever felt the jolt of panic that comes with realizing that your plane is boarding in a few minutes and you’re still utterly lost in the airport, you’re not alone. But that panic may soon be alleviated at Amsterdam’s Schiphol International Airport, where lost travelers may be greeted by a helpful robot who can accompany them to their gates.

The robot in the “Spencer” project completed his trial run at Schiphol during the week of November 30, reports Phys.org. A lot of people are banking on his success: The impetus for the project came from Dutch airline KLM, which found that it was losing money because its passengers were routinely getting lost in Schiphol and missing their flights as a result. The project is funded by the European Commission and has included input from researchers and business leaders across five countries.

Much of the team’s time has been devoted to programming the robot so that it’s able to navigate the busy airport environment without bumping into people, luggage carts, walls, suitcases, and the like. Researchers at Örebro University in Sweden believe they’ve met this challenge by programming the robot to map its surroundings and make real-time adjustments to its own trajectory.

With the trial run complete, the team will continue to make adjustments over the next several months in anticipation of the robot’s official premier in March 2016.

Airport assistant robot

Encounters of the Robotic Kind

Spencer will travel throughout the airport on his own, so that travelers who spot him can approach him directly for help. The robot has been given a human-like shape, complete with “eyes” and a “face,” in order to make it more approachable. In order to accommodate international travelers, it’s capable of communicating in several languages.

The robot also boasts an information screen on its “chest,” and travelers may pose their questions and get directions through the screen. But Spencer’s willingness to help doesn’t stop there. He’ll also accompany hopelessly lost travelers through the airport to their gate. The robot has even been given the ability to look around and confirm that the passengers it’s leading are keeping up.

In the future, the robot’s creators anticipate that it will be able to check in with passengers who have missed their flights in order to provide them with up-to-date information regarding when they’ll finally be able to get off the ground. It’s also quite likely that, should this project prove successful, it may inspire the utilization of robots at airports throughout the world.

airport runways

A Robot Revolution?

Spencer isn’t the first robot to break onto the travel scene.

Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas cruise line includes robot bartenders who mix and serve cocktails ordered via tablet (with the occasional dance routine thrown in).

Aloft Hotels (a Starwood brand) has employed robot butlers interact with hotel guests via touchscreen and are capable of connecting with the concierge, calling elevators, and delivering room service and toiletries. See them for yourself at the Aloft Cupertino in Cupertino, CA.

Robot butlers are also being utilized at the Crowne Plaza San Jose-Silicon Valley. Dubbed “Dash,” each robot is equipped to deliver amenities to guests’ rooms without any human supervision. The goal is to free up human employees’ time so they can spend more energy on face-to-face interactions with guests. Similar robots are expected to arrive in other hotels over the course of the next few years.

In what is perhaps the most robot-happy move to date, the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan is staffed almost exclusively by robots. The robots take the form of everything from dinosaurs, to fantastical creatures, to geometric shapes, to human mannequins. They help guests check in, lead them to their rooms, and should theoretically be equipped to take care of your every need (unless you need to speak to a real person).

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 22nd.

Published in Travel Technology

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.

Airplane window seats

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.

Comfortable sleeping on an airplane with a window seat

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.

Fully booked airplane

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.

Playing with the in flight entertainment center on the airplane

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.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 10th.

Published in Travel Tips

Countries where antiques, honey, and goatskin are just as illegal as firearms and explosives.

As anyone who has done any foreign traveling will tell you, it is a learning experience like no other -- the world's greatest classroom. After all, how could it not be when this great planet supports an endless amount of cultures, each with their own unique food, languages, customs and beliefs. But occasionally it is not the local sights that make you stop and wonder, but their customs and immigration policies.

Below are some of the most intriguing ones that I've found, but I'm also eager to hear of any that you have noticed in your travels. Be sure to share your comments at the bottom

Water bottles are forbidden

Nigeria   Prohibited items include mineral water, soft drinks, "textile fabrics and mosquito netting."

Barbados & Seychelles   "All bags, clothing, and articles made from camouflage material are expressly forbidden."

Bhutan   "Antiques" are expressly prohibited along with explosives and narcotics.

Oman   Visitors are allowed to bring with them "8 tapes for personal use. However, Customs may confiscate tapes. Tapes will be sent to the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture for verification (takes about 1 week)."

Zimbabwe   Honey is prohibited along with other dangerous items like drugs, firearms, and "flick and lockable blade knives."

New Zealand   Visitors are allowed to bring with them musical instruments "provided that the goods are taken from New Zealand upon their departure."

Malaysia   Importation regulations include "max. 3 pieces of new wearing apparel" and "max. 100 matches." Official policy states that "customs duties of 30% of the value are due in case of exceeding the allowed quantities," although I'm uncertain exactly how they would properly enforce this.

Iceland   "Fishing equipment, including waders and rubber boots must be accompanied by a certificate of disinfection issued by an authorized veterinary officer."

South Korea   The final item on South Korea's list of prohibited items is: "products originating from communist countries."

Cuba   Expressly prohibits "Household appliances (freezers with a capacity exceeding seven cubic feet, air conditioners, any type or model of electric accumulators and heating/cooking plates, electric and microwave ovens, any type or size of electric frying pans, electric water heaters and showers, electric irons and toasters)."

Singapore   Since 1992 chewing gum has been banned in Singapore, although in recent years an addendum has been made to allow for an exception on dental hygiene gum.

Saudi Arabia   "Nothing can be imported free of duty as passenger's baggage, except clothes and strictly personal effects. Customs charges a fee on photographic cameras, typewriters, etc. Customs charges may be refunded if these articles are re-exported within 90 days."

Borat

Jamaica   Expressly prohibits "all articles made of goatskin (still bearing fur), e.g. drums, handbags and rugs."

Kazakhstan   Better leave your copy of Borat at home -- "printed matter directed against Kazakhstan" are completely prohibited.

Israel   The following items are permitted by visitors only if they're "for their personal use and provided re-exported: one video camera, one photo camera, one movie camera, one tape recorder and, up to a value of USD 250. These articles are subject to high deposits which can be paid in cash or by VISA credit card only." However some item categories are completely forbidden, such as all "fruits and vegetables from the African continent."

Hungary   Visitors are forbidden from exporting any "children and baby articles, underware, kitchen articles," among other less-humorous items.

Kenya   High on the banned list here is "imitation firearms, childrens' toy pistols, etc," but this is actually not that surprising if you think about it.

Fiji   "Pilgrims returning to Fiji with holy water should comply with the following requirements. The water must be: limited to one pint; and - carried in hermetically sealed containers from the country of origin; and - certified by a competent authority to be sterile and free from cholera, typhoid, and paratyphoid germs. The water is impounded for 21 days at Nadi airport if this certificate is not available." This actually raises more questions than it answers -- at least for me.

Indonesia   Visitors may only bring (video) cameras, portable radio cassette recorder, binoculars and sport equipment into the country as long as they are also exported upon their departure. However both "cordless telephones" and "Chinese medicines and printings" are expressly forbidden alonside such obvious items as narcotics and firearms.

Iran   "Holding alcoholic beverages and old books or magazines is prohibited."

Cote d'Ivoire   "For personal use only passengers are allowed to import a video camera. The camera must be declared on arrival and a deposit must be paid, which will be returned to the passenger upon departure. Video cassettes are subject to customs duties."

China   Visitors may freely import all vegetables except for egg plants, red peppers, and tomatoes.

Lativia   All "pieces of art older than 50 years must hold permission from Latvian authorities." I can understand limiting the exportation of art, but the importation...huh?

Mmmmm...pork and beer ;)

Lithuania   "Electric fishing equipment" is prohibited unless permits have been obtained from the government.

Maldives   "Alcoholic beverages, pork and pork products are restricted items and are only permitted to be imported with a prior obtained permit. Any such items imported without a permit will be confiscated and destroyed."

Afghanistan   "The import of film cameras is only possible with a licence."

Kuwait   Visitors are not allowed to bring with them any "mineral water."

Mauritius   Prohibited items include "chewing tobacco."

Angola   Visitors are not allowed to bring with them any postal stamps.

Pakistan   "Warning: import of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited for both residents and non-residents regardless of their nationality." Emphasis included on official site so this must be of great national concern.

  Quotations from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Have you encountered any strange customs or airport regulations? Maybe you've even gotten lucky sneaking something past? ;)

  Share you comments below, I'm eager to hear your thoughts and experiences with customs.

Published in Miscellany Articles

If you're flying from Glasgow Airport, there's no time like the present to start looking for the most competitive deals and the best value for money on Glasgow Airport parking.

A good way to kick off the process is to search online, and use airport parking websites to find quotes on parking solutions that best suit your needs. However, make sure you only use reputable airport parking suppliers and be sure to satisfy yourself with the quality of your chosen parking provider. After all, you're leaving your car with them while you jet off to sunnier climes, so it makes sense to find a trusted supplier that offers a good service and a high level of security.

One such trusted name is Thomas Cook, and as well as offering a support network and secure parking premises, they also promise great value for money. Check out their Glasgow Airport parking page.

As you'll see, you can choose from numerous parking solutions including low-cost off-site parking, and on-site parking with valet services. Naturally, the off-site version is usually the cheapest, and offers a shuttle bus to take you to and from the terminal. These often run regularly and are surprisingly efficient, with the minimum of fuss. Or, if you prefer to park within the airport grounds, you could go for the valet parking option which includes a parking and retrieval service - perfect to help you save time at the airport. Simply hand over your keys and head straight for check-in!

For complete peace of mind, Thomas Cook also promise excellent security features at Glasgow such as automated entry and exit barriers, 24-hour CCTV and camera surveillance, patrols, floodlighting and high perimeter fencing. So, rest assured your ride home (or your pride and joy!) will be kept in a safe environment, while you get on with enjoying your holiday to the full.

Published in Scotland

Paying extra baggage fees at the airport is pretty common these days. In fact, airlines continue to rely on baggage fees and similar other charges to improve their profitability. In 2012 airlines in the USA collected about $3.5 billion as baggage fees. Most passengers end up shelling extra bucks either due to improper packing or sheer bad luck. However, with thoughtful consideration you can avoid paying those hefty fees. Here are some tips to help save a ton of money.

1. Choose your airline carefully. Different airlines impose different restrictions. For instance, SouthWest allows you to carry two bags free of cost whereas JetBlue allows only one. Be careful when choosing budget airlines. You might end up saving few bucks but what if the extra baggage fee exceeds the amount saved. There’s no point in flying with such airlines.

2. Buy an electronic hanging scale to double-check the weight of your baggage. If it exceeds the airlines’ restrictions, make other arrangements. It’s advisable for you to avoid carrying unnecessary items onboard. For instance, instead of carrying a couple of heavy books go for an e-book reader. Pack your baggage wisely. Distribute the weight properly in different bags so that these do not exceed the limit.

3. Don't fly Air Asia. They charge for everything from pillows and blankets to not printing out your ticket before you arrive.

Knowing how to beat extra baggage fees at the airport will make your travels easier -- this Delsey is a big bag

4. When you check-in, have an extra bag. If the suitcase weight exceeds the limit, use the extra bag to dump some of your heavy stuff. Once you have done this, get the suitcase re-checked. This way, you will be able to avoid the extra fees.

5. Be tactful when your baggage exceeds the imposed restriction slightly. Talk to the particular airline employee checking the bags and request gently to do away with the minor difference.

6. Airlines are smart. These days, they closely watch out for heavy carry-on bags when you check-in. Be careful with this. Choose a light weight carry-on bag and make it appear as if there’s nothing heavy in it. Try boarding in during the rush hour to avoid unwanted attention.

My luggage and I made it safely to Koh Samet in Thailand

7. Besides this, use the right bags for packing your stuff. Lightweight luggage is increasingly becoming popular these days. Carefully pack your electronic items such as laptops, DVD player and tablets. You can go for mini travel bottles to pack your toiletries. Next, before packing any stuff such as towel, napkins or hair dryer, see if the hotel in your destination supplies this. It helps save space in your baggage.

8. You can even ship your baggage to the hotel in advance to avoid extra fees. It helps keep your luggage protected and prevents any chances of loss, theft or misplace. Furthermore, there are certain items that airlines allow for free such as car seats and children’s strollers. Try and conceal some of your stuff in here. You can save plenty of space for your carry-on

9. Take few clothes in your luggage. You can always wash your clothes during the journey to save money. Similarly, avoid carrying unwanted jewelry. In case you want to take some, wear them.

10. If you are an elite flyer, use frequent flyer programs to avoid extra baggage fees. Your loyalty is sure to be rewarded.

Pack your items carefully and be a smart traveler. Just follow the above mentioned tips and you are sure to get away with baggage fees at the airport.

Knowing how to beat extra baggage fees at the airport will make your travels easier

Published in Travel Tips

I love Málaga, but it is sadly under-rated. Its name is synonymous with the airport destination for drunken Brits who scatter themselves - generally westwards - along the Costa del Sol. But it shouldn't be. Málaga is one of the oldest cities in the world; its culture and history date back to the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC. It is an elegant, vibrant and interesting city.

Málaga has been the home and birthplace of many famous people including Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas. It is home to art galleries - Picasso Museum, Carmen Thyssen Museum, CAC - museums and excellent shopping. There is far less of the tacky sombrero souvenir shopping than many expect. From the bus and train stations it is an easy meander to the tree-lined Avenida de Andalucïa and down to the port and the main attractions.

Málaga Port

Malaga port

The port has just been refurbished, finishing touches are still being added to the 'Palmeral de las Sorpresas', a palm filled garden that runs along Wharf 2, with children's playground and quiet seating areas. The wharf takes you to the bars and restaurants, the lighthouse and, further round, the chiringuito-lined beaches. It is a pleasant place to sit - the sea on the one hand, skyline of the city on the other.

Málaga Architecture

Malaga skyline as seen from the port

The skyline reflects Málaga's long and diverse history. Renaissance and Art-Deco buildings sit opposite the Paseo del Parque - a palm-shaded avenue that runs parallel to the port with botanical garden and quiet fountains. The walls of the Moorish palace Alcazaba, wind up towards the Castel Gibralfaro on top of the hill. The walk to the castle offers views across the city, and the port towards Africa. You can peek into the bullring from on high, as you rest against the bouganvillia lined walls. At the base of the Alcazaba is the Roman Theatre from where buildings of the sixteenth to twentieth centuries subtly blend as you wend through cool narrow streets to the Cathedral. The Cathedral's soaring, dark interior with fine sculptures and intricately carved choir stall is inspiring.

Food market in Malaga, Spain

I could go on listing the marvels of Málaga, but the best thing to do is to experience it for yourself. I want people to recognise the city of Málaga for what it is - beautiful, interesting, lively - one of the best places to visit in Andalucía.

Published in Spain

Regardless of your thoughts on the TSA, they are here to stay. So we have to deal with long check in lines, bags being scanned and searched and ever changing rules on what you can and cannot take on board flights. There are some things you want to make sure to include for your carry on bag in case things go wrong or so you can have them when needed.

1. Any electronics you don't want to wind up missing or stolen. Thieves still target checked in bags so put cameras, laptops and cell phones in your carry on.

2. Take your medications in your carry on. I am not talking about aspirin or other over the counter drugs but any prescription medication. You don't want to arrive at your destination to find out your luggage is lost and your stuck trying to find a way to get your meds. As a side note be careful with medications, some countries look at certain medications differently so make sure your name is on the bottle. You don't want to be sitting in an interrogation room trying to explain to some customs official why you are smuggling unmarked medicine into the country.

3. Take a small battery operated flashlight. They cost a few dollars at any mega retailer and don't take up any room. Trying to rummage through your stuff late at night in a new place can be a pain, especially if you stay in Hostels or you are just trying to find something in the dark.

4. Pack a change of clothes. This could be a t-shirt, extra shorts or whatever. If you have ever traveled and had lost luggage you know what I mean. A change of clothes in your carry on can be a life saver. At least you won't have to wear the same clothes for 3 days while your luggage catches up to you.

5. Things that should be common sense, but if your like me you always forget one of them. Or instead of your carry on you bury it in your checked bags. Passport for International travel, extra passport photos for getting visas and extensions, Drivers License for extra ID, ATM cards and copies of itineraries and flight confirmations. I usually go to my local bank and get $100 changed into the destination currency before I leave so I can have a little spending money when I get there for taxis, buses or whatever. And my pet peeve, bring a damn pen. Every international flight I am on no one has a pen and you know you are going to have to fill out immigration and custom forms.

Those are my 5 carry on essentials, what do you have to add?

Published in Travel Tips

I had to renew my Passport recently and I started thinking about all the countries I have visited over the years. I realized I had been to quite a lot of places and started feeling very worldly, a seasoned traveler, yes a man of the world. But then I did a little checking and found out I am but a mere speck on the backside of some of the most traveled people in the world.

Travelers sleeping in the Zagreb train station
flickr // Kate B Dixon

There are several travel clubs that track peoples globetrotting but the most revered, yes I am bowing down as I write this, is the Most Traveled Peoples Club. According to their website they have 10,511 active members, of which 248 are under the age of 20 and 65 are over the age of 79. The club was started in 2005 as a community for extreme travelers and the club has since voted on and designated 872 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups and major states and provinces. They even have a theme song which is fittingly "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash.

The Founder of this club is rightfully so, the most traveled member of the group. Charles Veley, an American, is a recruiter for a software company. He has visited 822 of the recognized destinations and is one of only 90 members to have visited over 400 countries putting him in the clubs Hall of Fame. I felt better when I saw that 1285 of the members were in the Couch Potato classification meaning they have traveled to anywhere from 1 to 24 countries. I have that beat so in the words of Carl Spackler, Bill Murray's character in the movie Caddy Shack, "I've got that going for me."

So if you have the travel bug in you then get after it and get your name in the Hall of Fame and maybe be the "Most Traveled Person in the World.

Published in Miscellany Articles
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