Thanks in part to its wide-open landscape and sprawling interstate system, the United States has maintained a long-term love affair with the automobile. The romance certainly hasn’t waned over the years, as more cars were sold in the United States in 2015 than during any other year in history. Many of those sales were pragmatic vehicles like Crossover Utility Vehicles, but you don’t have to cover many miles to encounter far more interesting autos. So hit the highway and take the exit for these motor-friendly metropolises!

Portland, Oregon

Portland may conjure up images of farm-to-table brunch spots and thick-bearded Millennials pedaling past organic coffee shops and tattoo parlors, but this hipster-friendly city knows how to burn some rubber. Portland International Raceway, just south of the Columbia River, features a full calendar, including Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, motorcycle road-racing, ⅛-mile dragstrip, karting, and unique events featuring vintage racecars, rally cars, British autos, and the surprisingly versatile Volkswagen Beetle. Sign up for their Pro Drive racing school and learn how to handle your car both on and off the track. If you’re more into aesthetics than pure speed, PDX Car Culture can point you towards the myriad car shows, cruise-ins, and custom builders in the area!

Reno, Nevada

Often seen as Las Vegas’ smaller cousin, Reno provides a gearhead culture unlike anything Vegas has to offer. The National Automobile Museum presents The Harrah Collection, the eponymous casino-owner’s world-renowned collection of over 200 of the world’s rarest, most historic automobiles. Nowhere else can you see the 1938 Phantom Corsair, or the only original example of Buckminster Fuller’s “Car of the Future” – the 1934 Dymaxion – or the 1907 Thomas Flyer, the American-built car that conquered the world in the 22,000-mile 1908 New York to Paris Race. Once a year, Reno offers an adrenaline-pumping alternative to the static displays at the museum: the Reno Air Races, where some of the fastest propeller-driven aircraft in the world tear through the air at over 400 mph. At that speed, they could cover the 7-hour drive from Vegas to Reno in just over an hour!

Austin, Texas

Another Millennial favorite, Austin boasts something no other city in the contemporary United States can claim: a chance to see Formula One cars at full-tilt. This racing series represents the pinnacle of automotive technology, and, in terms of global popularity, is the soccer of the auto-racing world. The Circuit of the Americas also hosts a number of other high-octane events throughout the year, including a weekend of MotoGP in April (the motorcycling equivalent of Formula One), the Summer X-Games, and the Pirelli World-Challenge in March, contested by racecar versions of the world’s fastest street cars, including McClarens, Ferraris, Porsches, and American iron like Fords, Chevys, and Cadillacs. COTA’s Austin360 Amphitheatre also plays host to huge music and comedy events throughout the year, packing in upwards of 14,000 fans to see headliners like Duran Duran, Florence and the Machine, and Jeff Foxworthy’s RedFest.

Indianapolis, Indiana

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hallowed ground in the world of motorsport, and no tour of American automotive history would be complete without paying homage to ‘The Brickyard.’ Except for brief hiatuses during the First and Second World Wars, the world-famous Indy 500 has been run on this site every year since 1911. Contemporary racers cover the 500-mile distance in under three hours, at average speeds nearing 200 mph! The Brickyard also plays host to many other top-notch racing series, including NASCAR, MotoGP, and the Red Bull Air Race. For a more sedate experience, be sure to pay a visit to the Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum, where a rotating selection of historically significant racecars, around 75 at a time, are on display.

Nashville, Tennessee

Better known as the Country Music Capitol of the World, Nashville also offers a little something for those who prefer the music of internal combustion. While the Musician's Hall of Fame features musician-owned cars like Elvis’ Gold Cadillac, the true gearhead won’t want to miss the Lane Motor Museum. Featuring one of the most extensive collections of eccentric cars in the world, be sure to pay a visit to gawk at bizarre gems like their 1966 Citroen DS Ice Racer, the three-wheeled (and elegantly named) 1934 B.S.A. TW33-10-4 Cylinder, and the 1951 Hoffmann, which Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky gleefully dubbed "the worst car ever built." Who wouldn't want to see that?

Charlotte, North Carolina

No motorsport is more American than NASCAR, and no city in the United States is more steeped in it than Charlotte, North Carolina. Take a lap through NASCAR history at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, tour the headquarters of one of the many NASCAR teams who call Charlotte home, and feel the thunder of horsepower at the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway. In addition to multiple NASCAR races and events throughout the year – including the only Saturday night race in the NASCAR Chase – the Speedway hosts events featuring monster trucks, MXGP motocross, World of Outlaws, and the 8,000 horsepower, 320 mph acceleration-machines known as NHRA Top-Fuel Dragsters. Let your gearhead flag fly, and don’t forget your earplugs!

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 15th.

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.

If you're a grad student, it's easy to come up with reasons not to travel. It costs a lot (and you're low on funds). It takes time (and you have a thesis to write). If you're a teaching or research assistant, it requires time off from work (and your supervisor might not approve). But in spite of these obstacles, there are distinct benefits to traveling while you're still in graduate school. Here's why you should make the effort.

You'll make useful connections.

When you're getting an advanced degree, it can feel like you'll be in school forever. But believe it or not, the day will come when you're sprung from the warm embrace of academia and will need to find a place for yourself in the thrilling world of work. And when that happens, it is really, really helpful to have a wide-flung network of people who are willing to help you make connections and set you up with relevant opportunities. How to build this network? Go on wide-flung adventures and build a network of like-minded people all over the world. Just don't forget to follow up with them on LinkedIn or other social media networks in order to maintain those connections after arriving back home.

You'll learn valuable skills.

In today's globalized economy, employers are looking for workers who are capable of making cross-cultural connections and keeping the big picture in mind at all times. Traveling is a great way to expand these abilities while building on other employable skills such as creative thinking, adaptability and problem solving, the ability to work independently, a willingness to embrace risks, and/or speaking a foreign language. Traveling while in school has also been shown to improve learning outcomes overall.

You'll gain real-world perspective.

Time spent in the field—either as part of a formal education experience or independent travel—can expose you to different research methodologies, help you uncover new interests that may inform your personal and professional goals moving forward, and provide you with real-world context for your chosen field of study. It's one thing to study the impact of European colonialism in Quito, Ecuador or apartheid in Johannesburg, South Africa; it’s quite another to witness the long-term ramifications with your own two eyes.

Berlin metro

You'll master the art of self-presentation.

Remember those connections we referenced above? Making them provides an awesome opportunity to get comfortable telling other people what you do and what you're all about. Traveling to academic or industry conferences is a particularly great way to practice these professional conversations. Not only can you try out your elevator speech, but you can do so with colleagues and experts in your chosen field. (Do it politely enough, and they might even be willing to give you a few pointers.) By the time you get to your first job interview, talking about your professional achievements will feel like a piece of cake.

You'll relieve stress.

The life of a grad student is packed with all kinds of stressors, from worrying about grades and dissertation reviews to fretting over your employment prospects come graduation. Traveling presents a great way to escape from these stresses and gain some much-needed rejuvenation so that you're able to avoid burnout and finish your degree with your health—and future prospects—still fully intact. Whether you're traveling to Miami or Moscow, try to build in time for some quality R&R.

In addition to the benefits listed above, there's some evidence that traveling as a student is so beneficial it may even predict higher grades in school and higher incomes later in life. Regardless of whether you ever uncover a direct correlation between your adventures and your pay grade, it’s clear that traveling is a great way to promote your long-term personal and professional success.

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 11th.

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.

Be sure to check out these famous sandwiches on your next trip, which are must-tries whenever you visit their region of origin.

1. Chicago's Italian Beef

The Windy City draws large crowds for deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs, but the Italian beef is a long-time local favorite. Thinly sliced seasoned beef is piled high on an Italian sub roll, dredged in gravy or au jus, and topped with hot or sweet peppers. You can find these bad boys at a local dog stall down the street from yourChicago hotel or other street-food style restaurants around the city.

2. North Carolina's Pulled Pork

If you’ve ever spent time in the Carolinas, you’ve likely caught wind of the BBQ standoff between the eastern and western parts of the state (and don’t get them started on South Carolina BBQ). Visit the state's capital, Raleigh, or stay close to the coast at a Wilmington hotel and check out little hole-in-the-wall joints that boast vinegar-based sauces and a mix of dark and white meat. Or head to the western part of the state, which holds onto the belief that dark meat and a ketchup-based sauce is the ticket. We’ll let you decide.

3. Upstate New York’s Beef En Weck

Buffalo chicken may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of upstate delicacies, but beef en weck is an equally famous local crowd-pleaser. Sliced roast beef is stacked on a salted and seeded bun and served with a side of au jus for a simple but satisfying meal.

4. Georgia's Pimento Cheese Sandwich

In the South, pimento cheese goes with just about everything. Use it as a topping, a dip or the main ingredient of a good ole Southern sandwich. Georgia’s laid claim to the sandwich as the signature eat of the Master’s at Augusta National, but you can find this sandwich on many a Southern menu. Make it your own with additions like bacon or tomato.

5. New England’s Lobster Roll

You can bake ‘em, boil ‘em, or smother 'em in butter. Or you can add a bit of mayo and herbs to fresh lobster meat for a knock-your-socks-off lobster roll. Eat your way up and down the New England coast on a self-guided food tour. Whether you're staying at a hotel in Bar Harbor or spending a few nights in a Boston hotel, you wont be far from one of these delicious seafood sammies.

6. Texas’s Brisket BBQ Sandwich

If you’ve ever been so hungry you could eat a horse, getting a meal fit for a cowboy could be the next best thing. Not to be confused in any way with the pork BBQ on the East Coast, Texas BBQ is made with brisket, with sauces ranging from a tomato-based sweet sauce in East Texas to molasses-based sauce in the South and spiced rub in the central part of the state.

Tasting these culinary masterpieces in the places where they were perfected is the best way to enjoy an authentic sandwich experience.

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 12th.

The aurora borealis is the colorful phenomenon created when electrically charged particles within the earth’s magnetosphere collide with particles in the solar wind. The Northern Lights, as they’re also known, are best seen in late August through April from countries near the North and South poles. These neon ribbons of light are not always visible, and the colors present depend on altitude and which elements are in the air. The most common color is green, while red is more rare. Glows of yellow, pink, blue, and ultraviolet are also possible.

Weather, lunar cycle, and proximity to the sea make some cities and regions better than others for viewing. But if catching a spectacular display is on your bucket list, here are Hipmunk’s top destinations for seeing these natural wonders!

1. Fairbanks, Alaska

Located within the auroral oval — a ring-shaped region around the North Pole — Fairbanks lends itself to a steady frequency of Northern Light activity and clear climates. But travelers will have to travel a bit outside of the city limits to see nature’s fluorescent curtains. Stay at the Best Western Plus Chena River Lodge or the Springhill Suites by Marriott Fairbanks, both short drives from the city’s other attractions should the lights not cooperate. (We’re fans of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Alaska House Art Gallery, and the Fairbanks Community Museum.) Alaska Tours will pick up stargazers from their stated hotel and transfer them to the outskirts of the city. Dress warmly to experience the rippling auroras outdoors, or sip a complimentary warm beverage to stay cozy inside the vehicle. Make sure to monitor the University of Alaska’s aurora forecast to get a better idea of when there is auroral activity.

2. Whitehorse City, Canada

Canada’s Yukon Territory makes for great viewing of the undulating light curtains. Head to Whitehorse City and stay at the Skky Hotel, only 0.4 miles from the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. View the aurora from a custom-built location by theArctic Range northern lights tour company. Or, drive 18 miles north of downtown Whitehorse and view them from the Takhini Hot Springs for a memorable evening. The pools, which have been in operation for more than 100 years, are between 36 degrees and 42 degrees Celsius, offering a soothing experience. Check out the pool rental rates, which are based on number of guests.

3. Saariselka, Finland

The Northern Lights are best viewed away from city lights, making national reserves like Urho Kekkonen National Park a good option. Stay at the Holiday Club in the town of Saariselka for easy access to the park, as well as downhill and cross-country skiing. For those with a higher budget, have a distinctive experience at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort while hunting for the elusive lights. The resort, located a nine-minute drive south from Saariselka and also near Urho Kekkonen Park, offers its signature glass igloo for two or four people, a log cabin or a hybrid accommodation, which is a log cabin that also has a glass igloo. There are various other options, including staying with in the home of Mr. and Ms. Claus, which Kakslauttanen calls Santa’s Home. For extra fees, Kakslauttanen offers husky and reindeer safaris, sleigh rides and ice fishing, among other activities.

4. Karasjok, Norway

Northern Norway is an ideal location to catch both the Northern Lights and star constellations. The town often has clear skies due to its inland location, and little light pollution. Even if the capricious lights don’t show, visitors will be impressed by the clearly visible star constellations. Stay at the Scandic Karasjok, which has two restaurants and a sauna to get a complete Norwegian experience. The DenHvite Rein Motell offers cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing to stay active.

5. Abisko, Sweden

The typically clear climate of Abisko makes this small town an optimal place to catch the Aurora Borealis. Stay at the Abisko Guest house or the Abisko Mountain Lodge, both offering easy access to the Aurora Sky Station within Abisko National Park. Abisko.net offers three distinct northern light tours to choose from. Snowshoe to the top of a small hill overlooking lake Tornetrask, as well as wild animal trails. Rest near the fire while drinking warm drinks as onlookers stare at the sky. Or, learn how to best photograph nature’s dancing lights. Visitors have to provide their own SD memory cards, but Absiko.net provides the high-quality camera and lens, as well as detailed instructions from a professional.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 8th.

Headed to Chicago? Let's take a look at some of the best boutique hotels located in and around town for all budgets.

W Chicago Lakeshore

W Chicago Lakeshore hotel in Illinois
View from the W Chicago Lakeshore. Photo via flickr by micahb37

Located right in the heart of Chicago, the W Chicago Lakeshore is the premiere lakeside hotel in the Windy City. Recently completely a $38 million dollar renovation, the W Chicago is now more stylish and comfortable than ever before. Their stylish rooms are immaculately decorated with a funky fresh modern design that will instantly impress every guest with a sense of style. Want more? The Museum of Contemporary Art is just a few minutes walk away.

Millennium Knickerbocker

Chicago Millenium Knickerbocker hotel in Illinois
Crystal ballroom at the Millennium Knickerbocker. Photo via flickr by hbkim

As the name implies, the Millennium Knickerbocker is a historic hotel full of classic decor that will instantly transport you back in time. After all, when was the last time you heard someone use the word knickerbocker? The hotel highlights include an amazingly exquisite dining hall that if reminiscent of a classic, bygone era will a large emphasis on wood carvings and ornate chandeliers. However the rooms are as modern as they come with all the modern conveniences, spacious marble bathrooms and amazing views of the city.

La Quinta Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown

La Quinta hotel in Chicago, Illinois
Room at the La Quinta Inn Chicago

When looking for a reliable budget hotel chain that won't break the bank? This is where La Quinta Inn & Suites excells and their Chicago Downtown hotel is no different. Located in the financial district, guests here have convenient, easy access to the theatre district and downtown Chicago, as well as tons of great shopping and dining options. Rooms and suites at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown come in a variety of configurations but are minimally furnished, making this hotel the idea choice for the budget-concious traveler who only needs their room for sleeping.

Hotel Burnham, a Kimpton Hotel

Hotel Burnham in Chicago, Illinois
View of (and from) Hotel Burnham. Photos via flickr by bpende

Travelers looking for a nice boutique hotel right in the heart of downtown Chicago action but with a slightly subdued, intimate feel need look no further than Hotel Burnham, a Kimpton Hotel. This 100% non-smoking has enough amenities to making leaving the property unnecessary. Relax with an in-room spa session or be social and meet a few fellow guests at the nightly wine evening. Stay in shape with their fitness center or indulge in excess with their delicious 24-hour room service from the hotel's restaurant. You can even bring your favorite furry friend because Hotel Burnham is pet-friendly.

The Champagne Lodge & Luxury Suites

The Champage Lodge resort, hidden just outside of Chicago, Illinois
Suite at the Champage Lodge in Willowbrook. Photo via flickr by discoverdupage

Quietly located 20 miles outside of Chicago in Willowbrook is the Champagne Lodge & Luxury Suites, a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Windy City. This sprawling property only has 38 suites, each of which includes an oversized whirlpool tub, walk-in marble steam room with rain forest shower, stone-encased fireplace, wet bar, luxurious bedding, premiere appliances and the finest toiletries. The spa is one of the main attractions here, however there is also an abundance of scenic trails for hiking, biking or horseback riding located nearby.

There is nothing like a good quirky, offbeat, or just plain strange museum to add a twist to your travels. If you plan on visiting Central Europe, be sure to check out these gems!

Budapest, Hungary

Given the rich history of Hungary's capital city, it should be no surprise that Budapest has plenty of quirky and offbeat sights and activities. The Pinball Museum is a great way to feel like a kid again, and the Zwack Unicum Museum is a great way for adults to learn about the unofficial national drink of Hungary. Other intriguing museums include the Hospital in the Rock, Terror Háza, and The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum. There is even an underground church inside a cave in Gellert Hill.

Zürich, Switzerland

A moulage is a casting or wax molding of an injury or disease that is used to train medical professionals and emergency responders. Why do you need to know this? Because Zurich is home to the world's second largest collection of moulages -- the aptly-named Moulagenmuseum. Sticking with this medical theme, why not make a day of it and also visit the Medizinhistorisches Museum? One look at the questionable history of medical devices, and you'll be glad you live in the 21st century. For even more offbeat fun, 30 minutes from Zürich is the Pegasus Small World Toy Museum in Aeugst am Albis, and one hour away in Sissach is the Henkermuseum, a large collection of authentic medieval torture devices.

Düsseldorf, Germany

unique and offbeat -- the Neanderthal Museum in Germany

Given for its renown for the fashion and art scene, it was a bit of a surprise to discover that Düsseldorf does not have any truly offbeat museums. However, the Classic Remise Düsseldorf is very interesting for automobile enthusiasts, and if you are traveling with kids, the Neanderthal Museum is a must. You can also find a few cool, quirky museums located just outside the city. For example, learn more about voodoo by visiting the out-of-place but extremely interesting Soul of Africa Museum just 30 minutes away in Essen.

Cologne, Germany

Tucked away on the west side of Cologne lies the Kölner Karnevalsmuseum -- the Cologne Carnival Museum. This is a fascinating glimpse into carnival life, both past and present. To learn more about perfume, take a trip to the Farina Fragrance Museum. Inside you'll learn all about the history and production of perfume. The building itself, which was built is 1709, is the oldest fragrance factory in the world.

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava Clock Museum in Slovakia, yet another unique and offbeat museum

Slovakia's capital and largest city is Bratislava, which has no shortage of museums. However, only a couple of them are interesting enough to be included here. Gun and weapon enthusiasts will be fascinated by the Museum of Arms, which covers not only weapons and their production but also the history of the town and its fortifications. The Museum of Clocks houses a collection of antique clocks spanning three centuries and is an ode to Bratislava clockmakers. There is also the Water Museum, where you can learn more about the history and technology behind the city's waterworks.

  flickr   //   amanderson   pahudson

Oakland is a diverse city that has much to offer visitors. Unsure where to stay? If you seek excitement or action then head on up to Berkeley. However those in the mood to relax or being lured to the water might want to stay on the riverfront right in the heart of Oakland.

Hotel Durant

One of Oakland's best suburbs is Berkeley and right in the heart of it all is the green-certified Hotel Durant, near the University of California Berkeley. Offering stylish, comfortable rooms at an affordable price, there is no better place to stay than the Durant when planning to explore the city or campus. All the modern amenities are included, as well as other features to help busy individuals on the go, such as a large desk, ergonomic chair, and best of all free (and fast) wifi.

Hotel Shattuck Plaza

Those seeking affordable elegance need look no further than Hotel Shattuck Plaza in downtown Berkeley. Geared to both business and leisure travelers, everything about Shattuck Plaza is designed to help you make the most of your trip. 24-hour business center, fitness center, restaurant and lounge. Complimentary wifi. Luxurious furnishings, executive appliances and first class toiletries. The hardest part about staying here is leaving.

Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley, California

Executive Inn & Suites - Oakland Waterfront

If leaving home is hard then the Executive Inn & Suites - Oakland Waterfront is for you. Their rooms have been designed to make you feel more at home and include refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, plush queen- and king-size beds, executive toiletries, daily newspaper service, and more. You can even choose city or water view. Free continental breakfast and wifi are also included. Located nearby are countless shopping and dining options, including Fisherman's Wharf and downtown Oakland.

Red Lion Hotel Oakland International Airport

When convenience is the name of the game then the hotel for you is the Red Lion Hotel Oakland International Airport. Make the most of a short business trip by doing everything from your hotel with Red Lion's business center, conference rooms and meeting areas. Plenty of shopping and dining options are located nearby. Plus you guests here can enjoy those few precious moments of freedom at the end of the day even more with plush beds, flat screen TVs, and spacious bathrooms. Some rooms even have balconies with an amazing view of the surrounding bay area.

Waterfront Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel

White sand. Blue beaches. The two colors are prevalent throughout the design and furnishings of the nautical-themed Waterfront Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel. Located next to the marina, the Waterfront Hotel is the jewel of Oakland. Spacious rooms with top of the line furnishings and appliances, even balconies! Impeccable service including free wine and cheese hour and complimentary downtown shuttle service. Heated outdoor pool, fitness center, sauna and valet service are just a few of the many additional perks of staying at the Waterfront Hotel.

Which of these hotels resonates most with your personality or travel style?

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. Istanbul, 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.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to check flight and hotel prices to Hong Kong, Istanbul, Mexico City, Venice, or London!

  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.

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