Most people head to the sunshine state for a dose of its unrivalled surf and sand, the golf courses, and some of the world’s best theme parks and nature reserves, but Florida is also home to other great options like a variety of delicious culturally diverse foods. So if you’re looking to head down to Florida for a relaxing vacation, here are some of the top eats for you to pick from.

1. Cuban Sandwich

This delicious sandwich should be on the radar of anyone visiting southern Florida, and was originally made in cafés catering to early Cuban immigrants. It has become the signature sandwich of the city of Tampa and features Cuban bread, ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and occasionally salami (as in Tampa).

The Cuban, arguably the most famous Florida food -- and one that every visitor to Florida must try

2. Rock Shrimp

Florida’s rock shrimp are a great starter or as a snack to enjoy while relaxing and having an afternoon drink. Pair them with a sweet dip, a traditional shrimp sauce, or for those looking for a bit of a kick, something spicy. Caught just off the Florida coast, they’re always fresh and tasty.

3. Conch Fritters

Made in the Florida Keys—nicknamed the Conch republic—these large shellfish can be baked with lemon slices and lemon juice, to produce a tender meat, not unlike ceviche. Another popular method is to chop and mix them with other meats and vegetables, then deep-fry them, which produces the crunchy and flavourful Florida style fritters.

Make sure to try conch fritters when in Florida

4. Swamp Cabbage

This traditional Floridian food has been around for centuries, dating back well before colonialism. Swamp cabbage is better known as the heart of palm and is extracted from the sabal palm trees that are native to Florida. The heart of palm can be stewed until tender in a rich tomato sauce, or with water (or broth), meat, and dripping, then served up hot ready to be enjoyed.

5. Key Lime Pie

Another dish out of the Florida Keys, Key West to be specific, this cool and refreshing pie is made from lime juice, egg yolk, and sweetened condensed milk, which is whipped, thickened, and served on a crisp crust to produce a dish that is both smooth and zesty. It’s the absolute perfect dessert for a hot Florida day.

Key Lime Pie, a famous florida food that you must try

6. Floribbean Cuisine

There are many types of dishes in Florida that have roots in the Caribbean islands, using ingredients like mangos, papayas, plantains, and coconuts. These include Jamaican jerk chicken, arroz con pollo, and different style barbecues such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Bahamian. If you see a Caribbean influenced restaurant in Florida, odds are you’re in for a treat.

So if you’re booking your flights in the USA to Florida, remember, there are plenty of fun things to do, just remember to leave a little time to discover the delicious culinary scene. Please feel free to add your Florida food suggestions in the comments below.

  Images by johnjoh istolethetv and ralphandjenny used under the Creative Commons License.

Published in United States

The very mention of Monaco evokes images of glamorous ladies in evening wear escorted by dashing gentlemen to the tables at one of the many casinos in this small country. Monaco is also known for its Formula One Grand Prix, besides being a popular tax haven for the rich and famous, as well as the rich and not so famous. Glitz, glamour, and the spectacular landscape are all reasons to add the country to your itinerary planner. Here are some not-to-be-missed destinations in this tiny nation that is part of the French Riviera.

Roll the Dice at Monte Carlo Casino and Opera House

Monte Carlo Casino and Opera House
Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco by Paul Wilkinson

A venue for special gala dinners, the Casino and Opera House also houses a marble paved atrium. What catches the eye, though, are the magnificent onyx columns that surround the atrium. With a 130-year-old history under its belt, this building was also the venue of two royal gala dinners. The casino is unique given its stained glass windows, allegorical paintings, bronze lamps, and spectacular decorations. The Casino has also been featured in quite a few notable Hollywood movies including the James Bond series and Ocean's Twelve.

Swim With the Fish at the Oceanographic Museum


Oceanographic Museum, Monaco by wami82

Perched on the Rock of Monaco, this museum of marine sciences is a stunning example of Baroque Revival architecture which by itself is sufficient to ensure it a place on your Monaco travel planner. The museum which towers over the cliff face makes for a picturesque setting. It took 11 years to construct this building which is now home to various several thousand sea creatures including sharks and turtles. The Oceanographic Institute devoted to the study of oceans and their inhabitants are also housed here.

Get a Taste of the Royal Life at Palais du Prince

Palais du Prince, Monaco
Palais du Prince, Monaco by healinglight

The building of the Palace dates back to the 13th century and has its origins as a fortress, but has since been turned into a luxurious palace. There is a gallery with 15th-century frescoes that will leave you awe-struck. The gilded décor of the ‘Blue Room’, the 17th century Palatine Chapel, and the Main Courtyard with its spectacular Carrara marble double staircase make it a ‘must-see’ addition to your Monaco trip planner. Don’t forget to check out the Changing of the Guards ceremony that takes place at about noon each day.

Commune with Nature at the Jardin Exotique de Monaco

Jardin exotique de Monaco
Jardin exotique de Monaco by Sylvain Leprovost

Situated on a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean, this garden is home to varied species of plants from Africa, Arabia, and Latin America. There are at least 7,000 types of succulents which thrive in the great climate the region enjoys. Stalagmites and stalactites are found in the Observatory cave situated on the premises. You can further enrich your knowledge of the pre-historic era and early civilisation with a visit to the Anthropology Museum situated within the property.

Hop on a Catamaran for a Spin around Monaco Harbour

Monaco Harbor
Catamaran rides, Monaco by Dennis Jarvis

The harbour at this princely state is always filled with moored luxury yachts from across the world. It is a great place for a stroll and you can find plenty of places to grab a bite to eat as you watch the spectacular yachts pull out or weigh anchor. Catamaran rides are available for a closer look at the coastline. If you are lucky you might be able to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous arriving to attend one of the many galas or races that take place in Monaco Harbour.

The small size of the country makes it easy to get around and see it all without having to travel too much. Don’t forget to take a close look at the narrow city streets where Formula One drivers race down in May each year!

Published in Monaco

When planning family trips, it's best to keep kids busy with activities from crafting and music lessons to hiking and swimming. (No one wants to hear, "Mom, I'm bored" while lounging beach side with a cocktail in hand.)

Travel is one of the most fun ways for a parent to share the cultures and natural wonders of the world. These destinations are safe for kiddos, catering to the picky eaters, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and beach bums too. Not only will kids be welcome, they'll find programs and excursions designed just for them on each of these global adventures.

Adventurous Resorts

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Koloa, Hawaii

While it may sound like a lazy beach vacay, this beautiful resort is on one of Hawaii's most exciting islands – and one of the world's top resorts for families. The resort offers tons of kid-friendly activities (think ukulele lessons and lei making) in-house. But families can also find breathtaking hikes, ziplines for the token daredevil, horseback riding and kayaking to name a few. For something more low key, splash in a two-tiered pool or the saltwater lagoon that meanders through the hotel's property. By nightfall, kids will definitely be ready to crash.

Waterfalls at Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

River Kwai Floating Hotel, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

For the boy (and girl) scouts who are looking for a back-to-nature experience, this Thai getaway won't disappoint. Thailand is one of Asia's best destinations for kids. With a drive and boat ride to this hotel, they may start to feel a bit like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Bamboo guest rooms float on top of the River Kwai and offer visitors a taste of Mon culture. It's a bit rustic (as in there are wick lamps instead of electricity. But don't worry, in-room bathrooms are a part of the deal). Kids love exploring the nearby jungles atop of a gentle elephant, or visiting natural wonders such as the Lawa Cave or the Sai Yok Waterfall. Get a few thrills without leaving River Kwai by river jumping or bamboo rafting — something to excite even the most adrenaline-seeking tweens.

Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua makes for an affordable, and adventure-filled, Central American trip (and many parents are choosing it over the equally kid-friendly Costa Rica). Visitors won't see nearly as many expats and will get a great taste of the local culture, plus tons of hiking and swimming! In a bungalow at Morgan's Rock, guests are nestled in the treetops and have easy beach access. One of the more exciting excursions to make is to Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes, which can be reached by ferry. Explore ancient rock art and petroglyphs and brave the hike up the dormant Maderas Volcano. Parents will appreciate the beaches known for waves that are safe for first-time surfers, zip-line excursions, and an insider look at the lodge's sustainable farm where kids get to collect farm eggs and milk the cows for an awesome family breakfast!

The beaches of Queensland, Australia are a great way to relax

One&Only Hayman Island, Queensland, Australia

A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is an incomparable adventure. While a flight to the Aussie coast may not be ideal for many faraway travelers with tiny tots, the experiences offered through resorts like One&Only can change a nervous parent's mind. If your bucket list includes snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, water skiing or a helicopter adventure above the reef (which is the largest living thing on Earth, mind you), then book a few tickets to Hayman Island. Of course One&Only also offers an entirely kid-centric program called KidsOnly full of excursions and meals from 9am to 6pm if parents need a break.

Traveling Adventures

Camping and cruising may appeal to families that seek adventure on-the-go. Many of these trips welcome first-time campers and those who are especially interested in learning the lay of the land, whether that's in sunny California or rugged Maine. Nature lovers, budding botanists and eager explorers will get animal interactions, sparkling night skies and a new set of skills when signing up for one of these trips.

Trekking the Appalachian Trail in the United States of America

Appalachian Trail

For North Easterners, this trip will make an exciting escape from the bustling city, but any visitors will be in awe of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Eager hikers can find programs like the Appalachian Mountain Club's Family Camps, which take families with kids as young as five years old around New Hampshire and Maine, near beautiful mountains and full of sleepaway camp-style fun. Expect canoeing, fishing, stream exploration and a classic campfire sing-a-long.

Galapagos Islands

While this isn't exactly a family vacation, road trip style, there is so much kids can learn by a trip to this incredible archipelago. National Geographic is one of the few to organize a cruise to these islands near South America that is geared specifically at budding scientific minds. In the day, kids can snorkel in crystal blue waters and hike the shores among animals like giant tortoises and sea lions, all of which are completely unphased by the presence of humans. Parents will leave with zoologists and nature photographers on their hands.

Klamath River, California is perfect for family camping and trekking

Klamath River, California

This is a fabulous spot to dive into the world of camping as a family for the first time. Whether you're interested in nesting up in an unassuming lodge or setting up a tent under the stars, a trip to this natural Cali beauty guarantees great views and swimming. Several programs like Orange Torpedo and Oars set up multi-day whitewater rafting ventures, but there are hikes to take and plenty of beach lounging to be done as well. On Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Wild and Scenic trip, kids will get to swim in warm water and calm side creeks (the rapid on this trip is exciting, but never dangerous) and the guides will introduce anyone from five years old to the basics of both rafting and camping. These trips can also be as short as two or three days, ideal for any locals or those not wanting to commit to any extensive travel with kids.

  This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on July 19th.

Published in Travel Inspiration

Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the United States, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International, so it should be no surprise that millions of people visit Atlanta every year. However, many of them miss out on some of the coolest and quirkiest things that the city has to offer. Don't be one of them! The next time you are in Atlanta, make sure to check out these quirky and offbeat sights and activities:

Catch An Indie Film

The Landmark Midtown Art Cinema is a cool, quirky place to catch a indie film and a beer, and one of the offbeat places keeping Atlanta interesting

One of my favorite theatres in all of the USA and arguably the best independent theatre in Georgia, Landmark Midtown Art Cinema is known for showing amazing indie and foreign films. Of course they also show a few regular blockbusters too, if those genres are not your type of thing. Friendly staff, clean cinemas, polite audiences and -- best of all -- cold beer! Popular with the locals but never too crowded, the Landmark is a perfect way to kill a couple hours.

Release Your Inner Child

The Pac-Man Play Arcade is one of Atlanta's coolest and most offbeat places to visit

Remember the good old days of arcade games? They are back thanks to Pac-Man Play Arcade. From the classic games we grew up with like Pac-Man to newer crazes such as Dance Dance Revolution, there is something here for everyone. Bring a few friends and challenge each other to see who can get the highest score.

Adopt A Kid

The Cabbage Patch Kids Babyland Hospital is one of Georgia's most unique places to visit

What, you weren't planning on coming back from Atlanta with a kid? Better think again! Located about an hour outside of the city is Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of the famous Cabbage Patch Kids. First created in 1978, new Cabbage Patch Kids are still born every hour -- but only during business hours, of course. Adoptive parents get to pick their name and a birth certificate is drawn up right then. It's a very interesting place and process, one that should definitely be on everyone's Atlanta "to-do" list.

Get Your Dwarf On

The original Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House in Hapeville, Georgia is the birthplace of Chick-Fil-A

The fast food chicken chain Chick-Fil-A actually got it's start in the suburbs of Atlanta in the 1940's as the Dwarf Grill (due to its small size) but was later renamed to the Dwarf House. This original location is still going strong, serving thousands of local customers every day -- as well as those few tourists looking for off the beaten path sights or the occasional road-tripper lured in by the sign on the I-75 that reads "Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House." Here they serve much more than your modern Chick-fil-A, including burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

Wander Amongst Hippies And Punks

Street art in Little Five Points, Atlanta's most unique and offbeat part of town

The Little Five Points district has been referred to as Atlanta's version of San Francisco's infamous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood or New York City's Greenwich Village. Here you will find a mixture of independent record label studios and stores, new-age shops selling crystals and other assorted goods, vintage clothing stores, novelty shops, tattoo parlors, coffee shops and other offbeat goodies. It is the best place in town for both shopping and people-watching, two often underrated pastimes.

What other offbeat Atlanta sights and activities would you recommend?

  flickr // Bill Dickinson William McKeehan Nicolas Henderson Pawel Loj

Published in United States

Think one Southern city is like all the others? Think again. As these six towns demonstrate, stereotypes and generalizations can’t possibly account for all the distinct, quirky, and amazing towns that blanket the American South!

Asheville, North Carolina has some seriously quirky, offbeat charm

1. Home of the Locavore Aesthetic: Asheville, NC

Nestled between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains lies the town of Asheville, which has earned a reputation for itself as a hub of artsiness, outdoor adventure, and a strong local aesthetic. The city’s downtown is comprised almost exclusively of independent shops and eateries, and the town is filled with artists and musicians from all walks of life (which explains the city’s vibrant busking scene). The city is also a self-described “Foodtopia,” a rich food scene with a farm-fresh bent. And if spiritual exploration is your thing, you’ll be right at home in Asheville, which attracts many a mystical seeker. In short? If you want to expose yourself to unique sights, tastes, sounds, and people, get thee to Asheville.

2. Home of Eclectic Attractions: Birmingham, AL

An odd assortment of attractions has made Alabama’s largest city a popular destination for travelers of all backgrounds. The largest cast iron statue in the world—dubbed “Vulcan”—stands guard over the city, broadcasting to all who enter that Birmingham is just a little bit different. Whether you spend your time at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the McWane Science Center (which features exhibits on topics ranging from dinosaurs to space exploration), the Splash Adventure Water Park, the Barber Motorsports Museum (home to more than 1,200 motorcycles), or the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham offers something unique for every kind of traveler.

3. Home of Southern Outdoorsiness: Charlotte, NC

Charlotte’s culture is distinct in that it combines refined, southern hospitality with rugged outdoorsiness. That’s thanks in no small part to the city’s location: The lively downtown sits near the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Locals and tourists alike take advantage of this prime location at popular outdoor destinations that range from the refined Anne Springs Close Greenway, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, and Biltmore Estate to the more adventurous U.S. National Whitewater Center, which offers rafting tours of the area’s Catawba River. Combined, Charlotte’s zest for life and welcoming attitude have earned it a reputation as one of the friendliest cities in the South.

Columbia, South Carolina has some seriously quirky and offbeat charm
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Akhenaton06

4. Home of Epic Festivals: Columbia, SC

Columbia’s tagline is “famously hot,” and it’s easy to see why. The weather is warm (the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees in winter), the attractions are popular, and the college sports scene is hoppin’. The city serves as the capital of South Carolina and is home to the University of South Carolina, which makes for an interesting mix of college-town culture and commercial prowess. But what really sets the city apart is its exciting annual calendar of events, including January’s World Beer Festival, February’s Lake Carolina Oyster Roast, June’s Ribs & Renaissance extravaganza, July’s Lexington County Peach Festival, October’s South Carolina State Fair, and December’s Famously Hot New Year.

5. Home of Stately Art and History: Savannah, GA

Art and history collide in gorgeous Savannah, where the weather is fine, the architecture is Antebellum, and the trees are shrouded in Spanish moss. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time while strolling the streets of Savannah’s pre-Civil War district, and you’re likely to feel out of place virtually anywhere in the city if you aren’t wearing your Sunday best. Class and elegance infuse every aspect of Savannah—including its most popular tourist activities, such as the Savannah Arts Festival, the Savannah Tour of Homes, and the Savannah Film Festival. But don’t let all the stateliness fool you; in Savannah, Southern hospitality is alive and well.

Tulsa, Oklahoma has some seriously quirky offbeat charm

6. Home of All Things Retro: Tulsa, OK

Tulsa has been a cult favorite since the heyday of Route 66, which passes right through the city. Today, the town draws tourists who are interested in both what the city used to be and all that it now has to offer. From its iconic oilman statue to its neon signposts, old-fashioned pump stations, and art deco buildings, Tulsa has retro funk on lock. The city is also home to a thriving festival scene—most notably, Tulsa hosts one of the country’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations each fall.

From giant statues, to exciting festivals, to dynamic arts, music, and food scenes, these cities provide a whole new take on the meaning of Southern charm.

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

Published in United States

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.

Published in United States

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

  United States

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.

Published in Travel Photography

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.

Published in Travel Technology

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.

Published in Travel Tips

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

Published in Asia
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