With the recent debut of the latest installment in the James Bond movie franchise, Spectre, we’ve been reminded of one of 007’s greatest qualities—namely, that he’s better traveled than most people on the planet (okay, he’s a fictional character, but the point still stands).

In fact, in his 50 years of service, Bond has visited nearly 50 countries, while most of the films feature upwards of six distinct locales. Want to globe-trot like James Bond? Simply jet-set to any of these stellar destinations.

Hong Kong aerial view

1. Hong Kong

  China

The bustling city has been featured in several Bond films, including You Only Live Once, Die Another Day, and The Man with the Golden Gun, which includes scenes shot in the famous Peninsula Hotel. Considered one of the world’s best hotels, the Peninsula boasts a Rolls Royce fleet, a rooftop helipad, marble baths, exceptional service, and (fittingly, for Bond fans) traditional British tea.

2. Istanbu

  Turkey

In the opening of Skyfall, Bond finds himself in search of a stolen hard drive in the city of Istanbul. He then chases an assailant through Eminonu Square, one of the oldest in the city (Bond also visits Istanbul in From Russia with Love and The World is Not Enough). To make your visit as luxurious as Bond’s would have been (had he not been dodging would-be assassins and chasing down bad guys), book a stay at the lavish Shangri-La Bosphorous, which promises an in-room espresso machine, 300-count linens, heated bathroom floors, a separate shower and soaking tub, and complimentary high-speed WiFi.

3. Jamaica

The whole country makes the list on account of its significance to the Bond franchise. Not only was nearly all of the original James Bond movie, Dr. No, filmed on the island, but it’s also the site of the emergence of Honey Ryder (the first Bond girl, played by Ursula Andress). The country is also heavily featured in Live and Let Die. To top it all off, Goldeneye, Jamaica is the former home of the late Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond franchise. His house has now been incorporated into a luxury boutique hotel, which keeps Fleming’s writing desk and typewriter on display.

James Bond Island -- aka Khao Phing Kan, Thailand

4. Khao Phing Kan

  Thailand

Dubbed “James Bond Island” by 007 fans, this island in Thailand had its moment in the spotlight in The Man with the Golden Gun. Located within the Ao Phang Nga national park, it makes for a stunning destination for nature lovers and film buffs alike. Head to any of the cheap hotels in nearby Phuket after your day of adventure.

5. London, England

No list of this kind would be complete without mention of 007’s headquarters. Home to M16 and featured in nearly every film in the Bond franchise, London is hands down Bond’s most frequented destination. While M16 has moved from London office buildings to Whitehall’s Old War Office, the Barbican, and its eventual headquarters on the Thames, London will forever remain Bond’s home.

6. Mexico City

  Mexico

Spectre marks the second time Bond has found himself in Mexico. The first time around, in License to Kill, Bond checked in at the Grand Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. This time, 007 is amongst the crowds during the Day of the Dead parade celebration in Mexico City’s Zocalo square. Mexico City is one of the most populated cities in the world, so you’ll have no shortage of sightseeing opportunities at any time of year.

Black and white gondolas in Venice, Italy

7. Venice

  Italy

The canals and gondolas of Venice make for frequented terrain for the Bond franchise, with spots in From Russia with Love, Moonraker, and Casino Royale. Stroll the Piazza San Marco and ogle the Cipriani Hotel, where James Bond is seen mooring his yacht in Casino Royale (It’s also reportedly where Daniel Craig himself stayed during filming).

While you may not be landing on a helipad or saving the world from nuclear meltdown, you can still travel the world in style at any of these 007 locations.

  Cover Photo: Nationaal Archief, the Dutch National Archives, and Spaarnestad Photo
  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on December 3rd.

On the Austrian border of Italy, high in the mountains, sit six distinct museums. Together, the museums comprise the Messner Mountain Museum (MMM) experience—an homage to mountains and mountain culture situated at six remarkable sites located throughout South Tyrol and Belluno. For those daring enough to make the trek, each museum can be accessed by (appropriately) climbing the mountain on which it resides. We think you’ll agree that seeing these museums in person is worth the effort it takes to get to them.

The Messner Mountain Museum Experience

The Messner Mountain Museum Experience

The MMM is the brainchild of world renowned mountain climber Reinhold Messner. Now in his 70s, the climber has spent more than a decade developing the six museums, each of which embraces a different theme pertaining to mountains and/or mountain climbing.

The first museum opened in 1995, while the most recent museum opened to tourists in July 2015. Each of the museums features interdisciplinary exhibits that blend art and natural science while celebrating the surrounding scenery. Oh, and in case you were worried? They’re all accessible by car as well as by foot.

Here’s what you can expect from each locale:

  • Corones. Located on the summit plateau of Kronplatz mountain between the Puster and Gader Valleys, MMM Corones is all about the discipline of mountaineering. Through presentations of relics, written musings, and visual art, the museum explores 250 years of mountaineering history, highlights the perspectives of philosophers and pioneers of the sport, and explores alpinism’s modern equipment and traditions. The building itself offers striking views of the Dolomites and the Alps. The most recently constructed of all six of the museums, Messner swears it will be the last.
  • Dolomites. Dubbed “The Museum in the Clouds,” the MMM Dolomites is all about celebrating rock and the vertical worlds it creates. Located on a mountaintop plateau on Monte Rite, the museum boasts 360-degree panorama views of some of the Dolomites’ most stunning mountains, including Monte Schiara, Monte Civetta, and Monte Pelmo. The museum’s displays illustrate humans’ first attempts to ascend the Dolomites and feature historical and contemporary paintings of the mountains.
  • Firmian. The centerpiece of the MMM experience, MMM Firmian explores humanity’s relationship with the mountains through art, installations, and relics. Set between the peaks of the Schlern and Texel mountain ranges, the museum is located in the historic (and refurbished) Sigmundskron Castle, which overlooks the Etsch and Eisack rivers.
  • Juval. The first of the MMM museums, MMM Juval is devoted to the “magic of the mountain.” To that end, the museum features fine art collections devoted to showcasing mountains in all their splendor, including a gallery of paintings of the world’s holiest mountains and a collection of masks from five continents. The museum—which is located in the historic Juval Castle in Vinschgau—also includes a mountain zoo, home-grown produce, and a selection of fine wines.
  • Ortles. At MMM Ortles, it’s all about the ice. Located in an underground structure in Sulden am Ortler, the museum’s exhibits are devoted to exploring “the end of the world” through themes of skiing, ice climbing, and expedition to the poles. The museum explores the evolution of ice climbing gear over the last two centuries, educates visitors about the power of avalanches, and features artwork depicting ice in all its terror and beauty.
  • Ripa. The heritage of people who live in the mountains is on display at MMM Ripa, which is located in historic Bruneck Castle on a hillside in South Tyrol’s Puster Valley. The museum celebrates the cultures, religions, dwellings, and daily lives of mountain cultures from Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. Ripa is surrounded by mountain farms and boasts views of the Ahrn Valley and the Zillertal Alps.

Ahrn Valley and Zillertal Alps

A visit to any or all of these museums will entertain mountain lovers and curious tourists alike. Visitors can purchase tickets to each museum individually or buy a tour ticket that includes entry to all six museums. If traveling by car, you’ll be able to visit all six of the museums over the course of three or four days.

  If you want to hike to each of the museums, you’ll need to plan a longer trip. None of the hikes are shorter than two hours, while climbing to MMM Corones will take upwards of 6.5 hours and hiking up to MMM Ortles will take around 12.5 hours over the course of two days. The energy and time you devote to the climbs will be rewarded in the form of some of the most beautiful scenery around. Just don't forget to bring a good durable compass watch with you to ensure no one veers of course and starts hiking the wrong direction. Check out The Gear Hunt for more.

If you’re already in Italy, it’s also worth driving the three hours to the cities of Bologna or Milano, both which offer a whole different kind of cultural experience (think fashion, food, and gorgeous architecture everywhere you look). As its combination of striking natural beauty and urban culture proves, Italy should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Once overlooked by travelers, the borough of Amsterdam Noord has developed into a thriving artistic community, a spot for dance and music festivals, and an escape from Amsterdam’s chaotic and touristy center.

The borough was once the industrial site of one of Europe’s largest shipyards. From 1922 until 1984 — when the Nederlandsche Dock Company went bankrupt — supertanker, cargo, and passenger ships were meticulously built and carefully launched into the IJ Lake to sail around the world. Now visitors can explore the repurposed buildings and forests for an eclectic Amsterdam experience many tourists haven’t yet seen.

Getting There

The borough is only a short free ferry away on the opposite side of the IJ Lake, directly behind Amsterdam Central Station. Five ferries, with three directly behind the station, transport commuters to different parts of the borough 24 hours a day. Trip times range from three to 15 minutes. As bikes are allowed on the ferry, rent one from one of three bike rentals near Central Station: Mac Bike, Star Bikes, and Amsterbike. Or, rent one once in Amsterdam Noord from Velox Classic Bikes, which is near the drop off port of the Buiksloterwegveer-bound ferry. By car, take the IJ tunnel to the east of the station to cross the lake.

Amsterdam canal at night

Eye Film Institute

Amsterdam Noord’s architecturally impressive Eye Film Institute, designed by the Viennese Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, is a short walk from the Buiksloterwegveer ferry stop. The Institute is a play on words, as “Eye” is also the pronunciation of the IJ Lake. The institute features an impressive archive of 37,000 films, 700,000 photographs, 60,000 posters, and 20,000 books. Part of the collection was previously housed in the now defunct Filmmuseum in Vondel Park until 2012, when the Eye opened. The Institute regularly screens Dutch and foreign films and holds exhibitions. Patrons may also enjoy a coffee or meal and the views of the IJ harbor at the institute’s restaurant. After exiting the Eye, stroll or bike through Oeverpark just outside the museum.

Noorderpark

A half hour walk from the Buiksloterwegveer ferry stop lies Noorderpark, a beautiful combination of two older parks (Flora and Volewijks parks) that were merged in 2014. It’s nearly the same size as Vondel Park (45 hectares or 111 acres) making it a good distance to cycle, walk, and picnic. Noorderpark is split by the lovely North Holland Canal.

Want more Amsterdam?  

Offbeat Amsterdam Travel Guide

Vliegen Forrest

Want to get closer to Mother Nature? Cycle east of Noorderpark where Leeuwarderweg merges into Meeuwenlann to reach W.H. Vliegenbos, a forest named after 20th century journalist and social democrat Willem H. Vliegen. Or take the Zamenhofstraat-bound ferry from Azartplein (Azart Plaza), on the peninsula housing Java and KNSM islands in the East Borough of Amsterdam. The forest is a 15 minute walk from the ferry and features a campsite spanning 25 hectares (61 acres), and it includes space for caravans, campervans, or tents, along with a hotel and cabins for rent.

Exploring Amsterdam Noord

Cultural Hubs

Looking for a post-industrial experience? Near the ferry resides the trendy yet laid back IJ Kantine (IJ Canteen) with reasonably priced soups and sandwiches and pristine views of the IJ Harbor. Like many of the buildings in the borough, the IJ Kantine’s building, previously called the Baanderij, has a rich shipbuilding history. It served as an office, assembly hall, and canteen when the wharf was in full swing. Now it’s a favorite for creatives to work and organize brainstorming sessions in the dining area or in one of two boardrooms available for rent. The kantine also holds exhibitions, live music and craft nights.

Just southeast lies Pllek, a self-described creative hangout, offering a multitude of activities from yoga to dancing to circus to sex classes. In Amsterdam, not many subjects are taboo. In the summer, an artificial beach provides a spot for dancing and sunbathing. The center also boasts organic and sustainable food with seasonal vegetables sourced locally whenever possible.

Where to Stay

The DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Amsterdam is near the NDSM ferry stop, making it a convenient and luxurious stay. For a more atypical experience, stay at the Amstel Botel, a floating hotel moored near the NDSM ferry. As Amsterdam Noord is easy to get to from Central Amsterdam, staying at the NH Amsterdam Barbizon Palace allows for quick access to Amsterdam Noord as well as the rest of the city. Amsterdam is a small city with a big-city feel, so make a day trip out of Amsterdam Noord or commute to the center. Either way, make sure to rent a bike for the most convenient and efficient experience.

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on December 10th.

Amsterdam's Best Offbeat Activities

Of all the reasons to travel the world, “to see a staircase” likely doesn’t show up on many lists. But it may be time to reconsider. The globe is dotted with remarkable staircases that are breathtaking to look at and exhilarating to climb, and each makes for a quality destination in its own right. Here are just seven of some of the world’s most trek-worthy staircases.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco, California, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world

1. 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, San Francisco

  California, United States

Truly a team effort, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps project is the result of collaboration among neighbors around the intersection of 16th and Moraga in San Francisco. Work on the 163 mosaic paneled stairs started in 2003 under the leadership of artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, and more than 500 neighbors contributed funds and/or labor to complete the project by August 2004. The stairs are now overseen by the San Francisco Parks Trust.

Bueren Mountain, Belgium, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world

2. Bueren Mountain

  Belgium

Despite its name, Bueren Mountain is no mountain at all. Instead, it’s a 374-step staircase in Liège, Belgium that was built in 1881 as a pathway for soldiers. The stairs are named after Vincent de Bueren, a 15th century aristocrat who reportedly defended the city of Liège from an affront by the Duke of Burgundy. Those who make it to the top will reap their reward in the form of stunning views of the city and the Meuse River. The stairwell is also an hour’s drive from popular Brussels.

Haiku Stairs (also known as the Stairway to Heaven) in Hawaii, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world

3. Haiku Stairs, Hawaii

  United States

Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, the Haiku Stairs on the island of Oahu are beloved by thrill seekers despite the fact that it’s technically illegal to climb them (at least not without a permit and a $1 million insurance policy). Installed during World War II and deemed off limits in the 1980s, the 3,922 steps rise to the summit of Puu Keahikahoe, from which those who sneak to the top can gaze out over the Koolau mountain range. Sadly, a powerful storm damaged the stairs earlier this year—they’re now more treacherous than ever, and their fate (along with that of the interlopers who climb them) hangs in the balance.

Moses Bridge Stairs, Netherlands, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: Flickr user Forgemind ArchiMedia

4. Moses Bridge Stairs

  Netherlands

The Fort de Roovere, a 17th century Dutch fort surrounded by a moat, was originally classified as an island. But in recent years it found itself in need of an access bridge as part of a restoration project. In order to preserve as much of the island appearance as possible, an architectural firm designed the Moses Bridge Stairs, a “sunken” bridge that immerses pedestrians in the moat (without anybody getting wet). A dam sits at each end of the moat in order to ensure that water never spills onto the bridge.

Santorini Stairway, Greece, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons

5. Santorini Stairway

  Greece

Originally constructed in 1715 and renovated in 1930, the stairway was first built so that Santorini residents could climb to the summit of their island home. The stairway switchbacks from the sea to the city for a grand total of more than 4,000 feet (or 657 steps). A cable car was installed in 1979, but you’ll get a better workout if you walk (many tourists also choose to ride donkeys up or down). Rest your feet at any of Santorini’s budget-friendly hotels.

Stairs Above the Sea, Spain, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: AnuskaCM via Wikimedia Commons

6. Stairs Above the Sea

  Spain

What better way to connect the small islet of Gaztelugatxe in Spanish Basque Country to the mainland than by creating a human-made bridge of stairs. More than 200 steps lead to a 10th century monastery on the upper portion of the islet, and those who traverse the rocky stairwell report feeling like they’re walking above the ocean (hence the staircase’s name). The church is closed in winter and the islet is packed with tourists in the summer, so the best time to visit is in the spring or fall.

Traversiner Steg, Switzerland, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: Paebi via Wikimedia Commons

7. Traversiner Steg

  Switzerland

It’s a bridge; it’s a stair; it’s a bridge-stair! The suspension bridge (also dubbed “The Bridge-Stair at Traversinertobel”) spans the length of the Traversinertobel gorge, connecting two different elevations on either side of the abyss. There’s a difference of around 72 feet between both sides, so those brave enough to ascend the staircase will get a workout in addition to an adrenaline rush. The staircase is only an hour and a half’s drive to Zurich, so travelers can take in both urban culture and natural wonders in the same day.

  This article was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on December 10th.

Commercially available drones are opening up a new world of travel pictures and videos on social media. Spectacular views that would otherwise require a plane or helicopter ride can be achieved by travelers with just a few pieces of gear. Drone users should be sure to check local regulations before unleashing their cameras, though. The travel possibilities for great footage are endless, so we’ve narrowed down five of the best aerial views in the world. They’re definitely better with a drone camera, but there are plenty of options for lower-tech viewing as well.

Temples of Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan

  Myanmar

On the banks of the Irrawaddy River and in the shadow of the Rakhine Yoma mountain range, 2,230 Buddhist temples rise out of the mist. This is Bagan, one of the most magically beautiful sites in the world. Built in the 11th through 13th centuries, only half of the original temples have survived the combination of earthquakes, erosion, and the Mongol invasion. The stunning temples feature frescoes and carvings, but only a few dozen are actively maintained. The natural setting and sheer number of temples mean that the site is best viewed from the air. The classic Balloons over Bagan runs hot air balloon flights at dawn, starting at $320 per person. Plan ahead, though, because trips book up months in advance.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls)

  Zambia/Zimbabwe

The Zambezi River defines border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and creates one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls. The river is 1.25 miles wide when it goes over the falls, and it drops 354 feet, almost twice the height of Niagara Falls. The rising mist can be seen from 12 miles away, and inspired the local Kololo name Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders.” (Scottish explorer David Livingston named the falls for Queen Victoria when he discovered them in 1855). The mist can obscure the view during the summer rainy season, so wait until November when the falls are dryer to plan a trip. Get drone’s eye view of the river and the falls yourself with a helicopter tour from Zambezi Helicopters.

Bungle Bungle Range, Australia

Bungle Bungle Range

  Australia

Located in Purnululu National Park in the western Australia, the Bungle Bungle Range is made of up of huge sandstone mounds that rise up to 820 feet out of the desert. Layers of silica, algae, and other sediments produce a multi-colored striped effect on the beehive-shaped structures, and the colors can vary with the seasons or the weather. The climate and geology make the 350 million year old range completely unique in size, shape, and appearance. The aerial view is fantastic, but make sure to research drone regulations before flying. For those of us without the equipment, helicopter flights leave from nearby cities and start at $269 from HeliSpirit.

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt

  Austria

Hallstatt is often called the “Pearl of Austria,” and it truly deserves the name. It sits nestled between the snow-capped eastern Alps and the glassy and mirror-like Hallstätter See, contrasting the striking natural setting with quaint local architecture. Located in the Salzkammergut region, this tiny city of less than 1,000 people has been producing salt since the 2nd millennium BC and is home to some of the world’s oldest salt mines. To add to the old world charm, cars are not allowed in the city during daylight hours between May and October. In the absence of a drone camera, taking the ferry across the lake provides the best view of the scene.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ha Long Bay

  Vietnam

Ha Long Bay sits east of Hanoi in the Gulf of Tonkin, and is famous for the towering limestone islands that dot the coastline. The archipelago contains over 1,600 islands, carved by the constant erosion of the sea into caves, arches, and towers. Most of the islands uninhabited, and the mist and fog that rise from the bay contribute to its mysterious quality. The name, which means descending dragon, comes from a local legend that holds that the islands were created when Mother Dragon sent her children to protect Vietnam from invasion. The pearls that dropped from their mouths became the islands, and prevented the invaders from entering. Boat cruises are a popular way to see the islands, but the relatively new seaplane flights can provide a drone-worthy view, and start at $275 per person.

See More Halong Bay Photos     Halong Bay Photo Gallery

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on October 29th.

There’s nothing under the sun that captures the imagination quite like outer space. With the discovery of water on Mars, the meteoric rise of Matt Damon’s new film, “The Martian”, and the impending release of the new Stars Wars flick, the universe has been, well, everywhere lately.

Back here on the earth, the closest most of us mere mortals will come to outer space is a visit to one of America’s NASA-run Space Centers: the Johnson Space Center, located in Houston, TX, and the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, FL. We wondered, which Space Center location's vacation price is down-to-earth and which one is other-worldly expensive?

To find out, we analyzed our 2015 data for average flight prices to each center's nearest airport from the 30 most popular airports in the U.S. and daily car rental prices, in addition to the average prices for hotel stays in Houston and Cape Canaveral. We also looked at the average ticket prices and, just for fun, how much it would cost to eat lunch with an astronaut, a program offered at both locations.

Here’s what we found it would cost, on average, a family of four for a 3-day, 2-night trip:

Which space center is cheap to visit infographic

In other words, a family of four can save an average of $600 by choosing Space Center Houston over Cape Canaveral, most of which is saved through airfare and Space Center admission prices. Here's how that breaks down, per person:

Cape Canaveral Houston
Avg. RT Airfare $387 Melbourne Intl Airport (MLB) $294 George Bush Intercontinental (IAH)
Avg. Nightly Hotel $144 $116
Daily Admission $50 Adult/ $40 Child $21 Adult/ $16 Child
Lunch with Astronaut $30 Adult/ $16 Child $50 Adult/ $30 Child
Car Rental From $26/ day From $27/ day

While this may appear like pretty steep price tag for a short vacation, both centers offer numerous discount opportunities and are generally all-inclusive. For example, Kennedy Space Center admission includes all exhibits and shows, IMAX space films, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour and free next-day admission to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame when a general admission ticket is purchased. Multi-day packages that can reduce the overall price are also available.

Meanwhile, Space Center Houston offers a CityPASS if you plan to visit other Houston attractions, which allows visitors to save 50 percent on admission to Space Center Houston and four more top Houston attractions: 1) Downtown Aquarium, 2) Houston Museum of Natural Science, 3) Houston Zoo or Museum of Fine Arts, and 4) Houston Children’s Museum or Kemah Boardwalk All-Day Ride Pass. You’ll skip most ticket lines, too.

So while Space Center Houston is inarguably the less expensive of America's two NASA centers, both locations offer multiple opportunities to let your imagination (and inner-astronaut) be free from gravitational pulls for a few days.

Blast off about your Space Center story in the comments below!

Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed 2015 data for average airfare prices to MLB and IAH from the 30 most popular U.S. airports, as well as average nightly hotel prices in both Houston and Cape Canaveral. Car rental prices were the lowest recent price posted on Hipmunk.com departing and returning to MLB and IAH, respectively. All other data was found on each Space Center's website. As always, airfare, hotel, and car rental prices frequently change and Hipmunk does not guarantee that the prices listed in this story reflect what is currently available.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 11th.

If you find that your sleep quality decreases while traveling, you’re not alone. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that most adults prefer the comfort and calm of their own bedrooms over a hotel room—even a luxurious one. And don’t even get people started on the perils of trying to catch some shut-eye on a cheap flight.

Short of bringing their bed with them wherever they go, what’s a weary traveler to do? Whether you’re trying to catch some ZZZs on an airplane, in a hotel, or in a train or car, here’s how to get better sleep while on the road.

how to get better sleep while on the road

1. Get comfortable.

If you’ve ever tried to sleep next to two other people in the backseat of a moving vehicle, you’ll know that this can be easier said than done. But sleep will come faster if you do what you can to make yourself comfortable. Try to wear loose-fitting clothing, take off your shoes, and cuddle up under breathable fabrics for the best chance at decent sleep. If you’re in a plane, train, or car, an inflatable or travel-sized pillow will also help.

2. Keep the environment cool, quiet, and dark.

Studies routinely show that people sleep best in spaces that are quiet, unlit, and cooled to less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While you may not be able to control the temperature wherever you’re trying to sleep (except in a car or hotel room), you can keep things quiet by packing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones or (at hotels) asking for a room that’s located away from the elevator, stairwell, vending machines, and pool (Also don’t forget to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door). Limit your exposure to light by closing a hotel room’s curtains or packing an eye mask for flights.

3. Stick to your routines.

Consistency is key to getting good sleep, so do what you can to mimic your own bedroom environment wherever you are. Bring along your favorite pair of pajamas, a picture of your family or pet, and any other small items that will help you feel at home. Also be sure to stick to your normal bedtime routines, such as drinking a cup of tea, reading a book, listening to music, or practicing breathing exercises before closing your eyes.

Random hotel room bed waiting for you

4. Avoid stimulants.

Caffeine, alcohol, and exposure to “blue light” (aka the glow emitted from electronic devices like tablets, laptops, and smartphones) can all make it harder to catch some shut-eye. Try not to drink coffee in the afternoon or evening; don’t drink alcohol within a few hours of heading to bed; and turn off all electronics at least an hour before hitting the sheets. Avoiding these stimulants will help your body wind down so you can fall asleep faster.

5. Head to sleep-friendly hotels.

Reading reviews of hotels online prior to booking will help alert you to whether a hotel is known for having raucous guests or promoting quality slumber. Some hotels have even started investing in amenities to help guests get better sleep.

For example, the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, Va. offers guests a “Dream Menu,” or a collection of services and products designed to help guests get better sleep (think hot water bottles, Snore-no-More pillows, and a Bed Wedge that elevates your upper torso). At the Fairmont San Francisco, guests can take advantage of a sleep kit complete with sleep machine, earplugs, eye mask, and slippers. Crowne Plaza hotels offer a “Sleep Advantage” program that lets guests elect to stay in quiet zones sans room attendant, housekeeping, or engineering activities from 9 p.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. And Hampton hotels offer a “Clean and Fresh Bed” designed to provide guests with optimum comfort in the form of streamlined covers, four pillows per bed, and high-thread-count sheets.

Most importantly? Even if you find yourself tossing and turning, don’t lose hope. Fretting over lost sleep will only make you anxious, so try not to stress too much if you wanted to snooze through an entire eight-hour flight and only managed to catch an hour or two of ZZZs. A little bit of sleep is better than none. And if all else fails, never forget the power of a cat nap.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 15th.

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.

I've spent the better part of the last seven years exploring Asia and this corner of the world is nothing short of amazing. Spectacular sights, delicious foods, incredibly diverse cultures and such a rich history....Asia has it all!

However, Asia can also be overwhelming to first-timers. Where do I go and what do I do? Here are five awesome overlooked places to get your planning started:

Osaka

  Japan

Japan is the best country in the world for people-watching -- if you know where to look, that is. Much like the stylish yet offbeat Harajuku district in Tokyo, Osaka also as a youth Mecca that should be on the "to-do" list of every traveler to Japan. It is called Amerika-Mura and there is no more hip in town to be. The area is on the cutting edge of fashion and youth culture, and is packed full of restaurants and shops selling everything from clothing to music to random novelty items.

Kyoto

  Japan

p align="justify">Kyoto is full of temples but one stands apart from the rest: Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, which dates back to the eighth century. The temple grounds are adorned with over 1,000 small Buddha statues, each with a different expression. Back in 2008 when I lived in Japan, this place was really off the beaten path. Nowadays however thanks to sites like TripAdvisor, it is slowly starting to get more attention -- but still thankfully remains a quiet, overlooked destination.

Ko Samui, Thailand is where you should go in Asia this fall
Ko Samui, Thailand

Ko Samui

  Thailand

One of the best things to do on the island of Ko Samui, Thailand is to rent a scooter and get away from the crowds. Go explore the island, find a quiet beach and take time to unwind. Or check out the numerous markets and eat your way through as many of the small food spots scattered across the island as possible. The island is yours!

Seminyak

  Indonesia

Bali is known for great resorts but the ones of Seminyak, Indonesia stand out in particular. Immaculate beaches. Delicious food. Luxurious resorts. Seminyak has it all but with less crowds that Kuta or Sanur. Soak up the sun on Seminyak Beach, go surfing or even indulge in a game of beach volleyball. The area is also a foodie's paradise, so make sure to come hungry. Start at Jalan Laksamana (also known as Eat Street) but make sure to expand beyond -- there are tons of unique, amazing restaurants serving some of the best food on the island.

Tsuen Wan

  Hong Kong

Located at the end of the MTR line, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong is a quiet suburb that is far removed from the normal tourist trail. It is also the home of Discovery Park, a combination shopping mall and park that has been around for nearly two decades. The tropical rain forest-themed shopping center spans over 600,000 square feet and even includes an artificial waterfall and stained glass ceiling over the main lobby. Once you are done shopping, do not forget to explore the neighborhood and get a glimpse of local Hong Kong life.

  See More Hong Kong

Hong Kong Off The Beaten Path

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.

Chicago-style hot dog foodporn

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.

Paczkis, one of the best foods in C hicago

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.

Saganaki, one of the best foods in Chicago

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.

See More!   Chicago Style: A First-Timer's Food Guide

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 9th.

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