Officers Travel To Springfield To Block Cop Killer’s Parole

CHICAGO (CBS) — A busload of Chicago police officers headed to Springfield Thursday to oppose parole for a convicted cop killer.

The case is 45 years old. In December of 1967, plainclothes patrolman Charles Pollard was found shot to death in an alley behind his home at 21st and Pulaski.

His empty wallet was found near his body and his service revolver and watch were missing, WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports.

Clifton Hill, just 19 years old at the time, was one of two suspects arrested and charged.

They apparently didn’t realize until later it was a policeman they’d killed.

Hill was convicted and sentenced to 100 years in prison.

Now, nearly 65 years old, he’s trying to get out on parole.

As they do with every cop killer, Officer Pollard’s fellow officers are asking the Prisoner Review Board to keep Hill behind bars.

 Officers Travel To Springfield To Block Cop Killers Parole

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The Caribbean’s Best Hotels (PHOTOS)

It isn’t just the soft sands, the cerulean waves, or the breathtaking scenery you’ll remember about your Caribbean getaway. It’s also the hotel or resort in which you chose to stay. In fact, many vacationers determine which island to visit based on lodging options. After all, this is where you’ll likely spend the majority of your time–this is where you’ll eat, sleep, and play. Whether you’re planning your honeymoon, your family getaway, or a wanton escape, you cannot afford to overlook the importance of finding the perfect hotel.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Based on an unbiased methodology that factors in the aggregate opinion of both travel experts and guests, U.S. News Travel has scoured the Caribbean in search of the best hotels. To take some of the guesswork out of booking a room, our editors scrutinized guidebooks, magazines, and review-based websites to find properties that consistently receive well-rounded praise.

The properties that appear on our first annual Best Hotels in the Caribbean rankings range from expansive all-inclusive resorts to intimate boutiques. They can be found anywhere from popular spots like Jamaica and Punta Cana to more exclusive destinations like St. Barts and St. Lucia. While each hotel features a distinct sense of style, they’ve all earned a prominent place on our 2013 roundup of the Best Hotels in the Caribbean thanks to their inspiring ambiance, luxurious amenities, and spectacular service–all qualities that not only lead to a memorable vacation, but a good night’s sleep.

10. Seven Stars Resort

Turks Caicos

Overlooking Grace Bay‘s white sands and fringed by the protected lands of Princess Alexandra National Park, Seven Stars Resort has earned numerous accolades from reputed sources like Condé Nast Traveler and Frommer’s. It’s easy to see how this resort–perched on the northeastern coast of Turks Caicos‘ main island, Providenciales–captures the attention of major travel publications. After all, this small resort boasts Provo’s only heated salt-water pool, not to mention a spa and complimentary outdoor activities, including sailing, kayaking, and windsurfing. Guests are consistently impressed by Seven Stars’ facilities, but even more so by the resort’s customer service. “All of the staff members are encouraged to make guests feel like family,” said Ken Patterson, the resort’s managing director. “Staff members also routinely step outside their own job descriptions to ensure that guests are taken care of.”

See the full list of the Best Hotels in the Caribbean»

9. Amanyara

Turks Caicos


When searching for a serene hideaway, discerning travelers turn to Aman Resorts. Like its award-winning sister properties in the U.S.–Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Amangiri in Big Water, Utah–the Aman group’s Turks Caicos resort offers a luxurious experience accompanied by a breathtaking natural setting. Amanyara, meaning “peaceful place,” overlooks the lily-colored shores of Northwest Point Marine National Park from Providenciales’ northernmost coast. The resort’s design takes full advantage of the surrounding scenery: The accommodations feature sliding-glass walls that open to the elements and create the illusion of limitless space between you and the Caribbean. If you’re looking to soak up the sun, sand, and surf, this is a picturesque place to do it.

8. Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort


Picture this: a 300-acre private Caribbean island comprised of powdery beaches, rustling palm trees, and salty sea air. That’s where you’ll find Jumby Bay–just two miles off the northeast coast of Antigua. Guests describe this Rosewood resort as paradisiacal. Jumby Bay’s 40 guestrooms all overlook the sugary shores of the Caribbean Sea, with wrap-around terraces and wall-to-wall windows affording sweeping views. Meanwhile, the resort’s secluded sands and open-air spa, Sense, provides the ideal setting for you to do exactly what you came here to do: Catch up on some rest and relaxation. “As one of the only places in the world where cars and motorized vehicles are not allowed, Jumby Bay Island exudes relaxation and a welcoming atmosphere in every sense,” said MaryAnne De Matteo Diamante, Jumby Bay’s director of sales and marketing. “With 24-hour concierge services and a staff that knows every guest’s name, the resort’s services are designed to allow guests to truly unwind and disconnect from their everyday lives.”

7. Jade Mountain

St. Lucia

If having the leafy palms, calm waves, and powdery shores right outside your door is one of your top criteria, reserve your room at Anse Chastanet. But for a more exclusive and intimate escape, head higher into the hills of western St. Lucia to Jade Mountain. Designed by famed architect Nick Troubetzkoy, the resort’s “sanctuaries” are contemporary and colorful with an open fourth wall facing the dramatic Piton Mountains and the bright blue Soufrière Bay, not to mention a private infinity pool. Recent guests who spent their honeymoon at Jade Mountain say that the resort caters to romance with amenities like private whirlpool tubs (designed to fit two) and spa treatments created especially for couples. And if you and your partner grow restless after such a concentrated dose of relaxation, the resort provides the equipment you need–free of charge–to go snorkeling, biking, sailing, or all of the above.

6. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

St. Kitts Nevis


Surrounded by 30 acres of crystalline sand and tropical foliage along Nevis‘s northeastern corner, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is the Caribbean‘s only historic plantation hotel with a beachfront seat. Although the property dates back to the 1700s and maintains its plantation-style décor, the hotel does not show its age. Guests describe this property as a hidden gem full of character, something general managers Andrew and Lori Hall attribute to Nisbet Plantation’s employees: “The staff at Nisbet Plantation, who are Nevisian, take great pride in welcoming guests to their island home and ensuring guests experience the very best Nevis has to offer.” Sure, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club may not be as large as other Caribbean resorts, but you’ll still find luxurious amenities like an oceanfront pool, a beach bar, and a full-service spa.

5. Four Seasons Resort Nevis

St. Kitts Nevis

If you’re looking to stay in the lap of luxury, you can’t go wrong with booking a room at a Four Seasons. This brand is renowned for its sumptuous accommodations and impeccable customer service, and this branch is no exception. Flanking the golden sands of Pinney’s Beach, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis earns rave reviews from guests for its beautiful location and ample amenities. The plush and colorful furnishings in the guestrooms exude a homey atmosphere, while the private balconies provide an excellent venue for watching the sunset. But you didn’t travel all the way to Nevis just to admire the view: While here, you’ll find plenty of ways to experience this popular vacation spot, including coral reef tours and water skiing, as well as 18 manicured fairways designed by Robert Trent Jones III. To top it off, travelers claim they were treated like royalty from the moment they arrived to the time they checked out.

4. Jamaica Inn

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Jamaica boasts its fair share of big-name, all-inclusive resorts, but discerning travelers and experts routinely overlook them in favor of the Jamaica Inn. While those other properties offer unnecessarily flashy amenities, this intimate hotel has been proving that size doesn’t matter since 1950, winning guests over with personalized service and an immaculate attention to detail. “Some people say they feel the difference in the environment as soon as they arrive,” said Nicole Henry, the Jamaica Inn’s director of sales and marketing. “If we take care of everything that our guests would need or want, it leaves them free to truly relax and enjoy their stay.” Every suite comes elegantly appointed with antique furniture, deep soaking tubs, and private verandahs overlooking northern Jamaica’s honey-hued shoreline. Make the most out of the inn’s prime location with an oceanside massage at the KiYara Spa or an intimate dinner along the beach.

3. Eden Rock, St. Barths

St. Barts

Overlooking one of the most picturesque bays in the Caribbean, Eden Rock has to please the most fastidious travelers–and it does so with grace. Sitting on the Baie de St. Jean on St. Barts‘ northern coast, this Relais Châteaux resort features bright, modern décor, stunning sea views, and a peaceful atmosphere only disturbed by rolling waves and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Eden Rock holds numerous awards from top travel publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, but just as impressively, this Caribbean hideaway consistently garners rave reviews from guests. Visitors describe everything about this resort as ideal, from the bright, breezy guestrooms to the spa treatments to the cuisine served at the lauded restaurant, On the Rocks. But what ties it all together is the customer service: Eden Rock’s staff is frequently praised for its friendly demeanor and attention to detail.

2. Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France

St. Barts


On an island as beautiful as St. Barts, the competition between luxury hotels is steep. Yet despite a valiant effort put forth by other resorts–especially Eden Rock–Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France has managed to come out on top. “St. Barts isn’t really a Caribbean Island; it’s a little piece of France in the Caribbean, and we help guests experience the island,” said Elodie Miyet, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “Clients really feel like they’re part of a club–part of a family–when they stay here.” Overlooking the pearly white sands of Flamands Beach, this five-star hotel combines the relaxing aura of the Caribbean with a hint of European decadence. Inside, the property’s crisp white and blue décor feels cool in the Caribbean heat, while private terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows allow you to bask in the salty sea air. And if you need an extra dose of relaxation, you can spend some time in one of the Natura Bisse and Intraceuticals SPA’s open-air treatment spaces.

Tortuga Bay

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

In a destination known for its luxurious, all-inclusive resorts, you’d think a boutique property would be overpowered. But in Punta Cana, tiny Tortuga Bay has won the hearts of travel experts and guests alike. Sure, it may not have as many pools as there are days of the week or more dining options than you know what to do with, but previous travelers describe their stay here as total bliss. A part of the Puntacana Resort Club complex, Tortuga Bay’s villas–designed by fashion icon Oscar de la Renta–face golden sands, turquoise waters, and one of two golf courses. Guests can’t help but exalt the lavish décor, but what earns Tortuga Bay the title of Best Hotel in the Caribbean is its customer service. Returning travelers rave that that they were remembered by name, while first-timers say that the staff’s attention to detail is what sets Tortuga Bay apart from other luxury hotels.

photos of the top 10 hotels »

– Miriam B. Weiner

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Space Travel Still Risky 10 Years After Columbia Shuttle Disaster

Columbia Shuttle Debris Investigation

Pieces of Columbia space shuttle debris are seen stored in a hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida during accident investigation in 2003. More than 82,000 pieces of debris from the Feb. 1, 2003 shuttle disaster, which killed seven astronauts, were recovered. In all, 84,800 pounds, or 38 percent of the total dry weight of Columbia, was recovered. Imaged released May 15, 2003.

It’s been 10 years since the Columbia space shuttle accident, and spaceflight safety has come a long way — but has it come far enough? Experts say traveling to space is still a risky business, and while future accidents may not be inevitable, they aren’t quite preventable, either.

On Feb. 1, 2003, seven astronauts lost their lives when NASA’s space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. The shuttle was wrapping up a 16-day science mission to orbit that had seemed to go off without a hitch. Yet damage to the orbiter’s wing, including its sensitive heat shield, incurred during launch prevented the vehicle from making it safely to the ground.

Documentary Provides Intimate Look at Columbia's Last Crew

This image of the STS-107 crew in orbit was recovered from wreckage inside an undeveloped film canister. The shirt color’s indicate their mission shifts. From left (bottom row): Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick Husband, commander; Laurel Clark, mission specialist; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist. From left (top row) are astronauts David Brown, mission specialist; William McCool, pilot; and Michael Anderson, payload commander. Ramon represents the Israeli Space Agency.

Just as in the aftermath of the devastating Apollo 1 ground fire in 1967 and the shuttle Challenger launch accident in 1986, a thorough investigation followed the disaster. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) turned up numerous holes in NASA’s safety protocol, as well as flaws in the shuttle design, which were corrected before any more shuttles flew.

Those changes allowed NASA to continue flying space shuttles through 2011 without mishap, and have even made a stark imprint on spacecraft design going forward.

Yet for all the gains, experts say sending people to space is still fundamentally dangerous. [Photos: The Columbia Space Shuttle Tragedy]

Never forget

“We always hope and work and strive to avoid [an accident],” said Julie Kramer White, chief engineer for NASA’s next-generation space capsule, Orion. “But you’re talking about a very high-energy event. All these liquid and solid propellants are very high-energy, and managing all that energy during ascent and landing is not going to change. That’s the physics of getting off the surface of Earth and re-entering through the atmosphere — we’re not going to make that go away.”

However, accidents like the one that befell Columbia have had an indelible effect on the way NASA goes about trying to keep its astronauts safe.

“We have a poster here in our conference room every day we sit in, with [the Columbia crew] on it, with a sign that says, ‘Never forget,’ and that’s kind of our goal,” said Dustin Gohmert, NASA crew survival engineering team lead at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Gohmert was part of the team that helped the Columbia crew suit up and prepare on launch day.

“It’s especially heartfelt for those of us who worked with the crew,” Gohmert told

And the insights gained the hard way, through understanding what happened to Columbia and the other destroyed spacecraft, have made flying to space safer than it used to be, experts say.

“If we do assume [accidents] are preventable, we’re fooling ourselves,” Gohmert said. “And if we always have in our mind that the next accident is out there, and we’re ever vigilant, we do our best to prevent it. I would be very cautious to say that accidents are a thing of the past. But by staying vigilant, we significantly reduce the likelihood of them, and should they happen, we’re more prepared for them.”

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Commercial spaceflight safety

The need for safer, more reliable spaceflight is especially felt by the emerging commercial space industry, which aims to launch people on routine trips to orbit in the near future.

“Having strapped into a rocket before, I can tell you that I have personal and emotional reasons of why I want to build a vehicle that is safer than anything that’s ever flown before by an order of magnitude,” Garrett [s1] n, a former NASA astronaut who is now the Commercial Crew project manager for Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), said in a NASA statement. SpaceX is one of a handful of companies that are developing private vehicles to haul cargo and crew to low-Earth orbit.

One of the main ways the risk of spaceflight can be reduced is through developments in materials science, White said. Newer materials may prove stronger and better at protecting space vehicles from the rigors of launch and re-entry than existing materials can do. [Columbia Shuttle Disaster Explained (Infographic)]

“People are always researching high-energy materials, and those areas are continuing to advance, so I do think someday the materials and engineering will advance to the point where [space travel] is more like commercial airplane travel,” she said.

Ultimately, many say that the benefits of space exploration must always be weighed against the risks.

“It’s going to remain expensive, difficult, and dangerous,” said Doug Brown, brother of astronaut David Brown, who died in the Columbia shuttle accident.

Brown said he personally feels the risks are reduced enough for travel to low-Earth orbit to justify sending humans there, but that the dangers involved in traveling farther out, to say an asteroid, the moon or Mars, are still too high to justify flying people on such journeys yet.

“That doesn’t mean quit,” Brown said, but he maintained that NASA must make space travel safer before it puts people in harm’s way on missions beyond Earth orbit.

Follow Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz or @Spacedotcom. We’re also on Facebook  Google+

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The Best Places To Travel With An Entourage

Traveling with an entourage is no longer reserved for the likes of the Jolie-Pitt brood and their handlers. Travel with friends can create some of your most memorable experiences, as long as the logistics, group dynamics and, of course, the place is right. Admittedly, there was a time when I looked at vacation as a pure couple’s sport. But with 150 days on the road running my travel company, a major benefit is the over 20 trips I’ve taken with friends.

One of the success factors to traveling with entourage is knowing how to manage logistics, so that there’s no stress or conflict due to lack of planning. That means investing in the more comfortable car with GPS (or splurging on a driver in certain regions of the world), having staff to manage domestic tasks and picking a hotel or villa where everyone will be comfortable. When in doubt, upgrade your accommodations. Also, be up front with costs before the trip. Everyone should be on the same page with the type of restaurants and places where you’ll be spending money.

Speaking of people, who you bring is as important as where you go. Leave the drama queens, high-maintenance friends, and control freaks at home. You want companions who can roll with it, and who are enjoyable to be around.

As for where to travel, the possibilities are endless. Here are a few favorites, which are part of a blowout list, not for the price-sensitive faint of heart. A private island in the Caribbean? A villa with 18-karat-gold floor-to-ceiling bathrooms? Just bring the entourage, and it’s yours.

Mustique, Petit St. Vincent, and the Grenadines
Why: A private island where the likes of Mick Jagger (and Mick’s litter of kids) get away, this is one of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean. With only one restaurant and two bars on the island, you might think there’s not enough to keep you entertained for the week. That is until you realize that each of the villas is your own five-star hotel, with a five-star private chef. The perk of renting a villa on Mustique besides its surprising affordability? Being treated by the billionaire next door like you belong.

Stay: Villas are the way to go, which all come with a full staff, including gourmet chef. If the walls of Villa Hibiscus could talk, they would tell stories about a certain partying prince, who stayed there with his brother, William, and said-brother’s then-girlfriend, a commoner named Kate. Other standout villas are the Moroccan-inspired Toucan Hill and the massive, seven-room Hummingbird.

Entourage Activities: The Tuesday cocktail party hosted by the island’s only hotel, the Cotton House, which is the best people-watching — ever. It also introduces you to other vacationers, and almost certainly invitations to dinners and cocktail parties.

St. Barth’s, French West Indies

Why: This is the St. Tropez of the Caribbean, where along with your beach you get a high dose of French culture and the best selection of restaurants and shopping in the region.

Stay: Eden Rock’s Villa Rockstar, which defines rock star. With 18-karat-gold floor-to-ceiling bathrooms, it’s the most over-the-top villa on the most over-the-top island in the world. For a more chill option, check into Le Sereno at Grand Cul de Sac Beach, with gorgeous beachfront suites and a Miami-style pool scene.

Entourage Activities: Chilling on the beach at Isle de France over drinks and lunch, afternoon table dancing at Nikki Beach, dining on the truffle spaghetti at Le Gaiac, then more table dancing at Le Ti St. Barth. Repeat.

Tuscany, Italy

Why: One of the few places where it’s acceptable to be on a two pastas a day and bottle of Brunello diet.

Stay: Arguably the most beautiful private villa in all of Tuscany, Borgo Finoccchieto is where CEOs and political royalty get away from it all. Or, like a certain president, move their command headquarters for a “life is good” moment. Don’t have the serious coin it costs to rent the entire property? Head to nearby Castiglion del Bosco near Montalcino, where your crew can take over a villa or settle into the beyond-gorgeous guest rooms that are larger than most apartments in New York City.

Entourage Activities: Brunello, Brunello, Brunello. The basics here are drinking and eating with friends. Those looking to expand their horizons should discover the dessert wine Vin Santo at Pizzicheria de Miccoli in Siena, where the owner will give you samples of everything from boar’s meat to cheeses to wine, which you can purchase with reckless abandon. Serious wine aficionados should meet up with the Tuscan Auteur, who is the unofficial Brunello Babe of the region. She’ll get you past the vineyard rope for entrée to Stella Di Campalto’s wine harvest dinner and tastings at Colleoni, which sells out far before the general population even has a chance to say Brunello.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Why: There are few things in life that are a sure thing, and this is one of them. You are guaranteed a good time with sun, beach and margaritas. With frequent flights and minimal logistical challenges, this is also an easy group trip to plan.

Stay: Resorts like Capella Pedregal and One Only Palmilla allow for your entourage to have their own space, while coming together for dinners and beachside margaritas.

Entourage Activities: Gorging on a big steak dinner at the new outpost of Mastro’s, which pairs quite nicely with high-end tequila. Poolside people-watching, where Hollywood starlets seem to congregate like common folk on any given afternoon.

Vail, Colorado

Why: It’s ski season, and the back bowls of Vail are calling you. The definition of ski trip should include “bring the entourage,” because skiing is no fun alone. Neither is hot-tubbing after a long day on the slopes. No need to chase powder in Colorado; there’s a good chance you’ll get lots of it from January into late March.

Stay: Four Seasons Vail which, while not on the slopes, creates a ski-in, ski-out experience for its guests. It doesn’t get better than this for ski accommodations in Colorado; this is the much-needed dose of five star that Vail needed. For groups, splurge on renting one of the condos in the Four Seasons residences.

Entourage Activities: That would be skiing, of course, at China Bowl and Blue Sky Basin with your crew and après-ski at the Red Lion. For the single ladies, they don’t call Vail “Mail” for nothing. The other benefit of skiing is working up that appetite, for big group dinners in cozy ski sweaters at Sweet Basil and La Bottega.

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Egypt Travel: Remembering Cairo’s Golden Age Of Luxury (PHOTOS)

Earlier this week the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis, a luxury hotel, began tweeting SOSs as an armed group of demonstrators attempted to break through its back and side entrances. The unsettling assault, which led to an evacuation but no injuries, was one of the first incidents since the beginning of the Arab Spring that directly targeted tourists in Egypt.

The urgent tweets — “SOS: Same group as last night have surrounded #Semiramis attempting to breach all entrances. #Tahrir #Jan29 SEND HELP!”– served to illustrate not only the dire state of tourism in Egypt, but also how different the Cairo modern tourists visit is from the city that was once a major luxury travel hub.

The golden age of Egyptian travel was no doubt the beginning of the twentieth century, when hotels like Mena House, Gezira Palace (now a Marriott) and, yes, Semiramis, were thick with writers, nobles and adventurers heading south. The tea flowed like tea still flows, but in lovely cafes. Tahrir Square was a scenic roundabout fringed by stately Edwardian manses.

Modern Egypt is still beautiful and likely still safe for prudent travelers, but the romance has been ruined by the intervention of a tough reality. As unclear as Egypt’s future is, its past is hard not to romanticize. It was, after all, very pretty.

The photographs below are from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection and were taken by various tourists and photographers more or less a century ago.

Loading Slideshow

  • Cafe Scene

    A little gilded age splendor fails to draw the tourists in at a belle epoque hotel.

  • Steamer

    Red Sea and Mediterranean travel was terribly romantic. Friends were made on and below deck.

  • Mosque

    Not all ruins in Egypt are connected to Ramses.

  • Intricate

    Many of the more spectacular carvings were carted back to Europe or America.

  • Camels

    The local limousines were similar then to the ones that spit all over Giza today.

  • Panorama

    Cairo used to be a rather flatter, less trafficked place.

  • Alone

    Alone amid the wreck of empire.

  • Steam Boat

    Nile cruises have always been popular.

  • Cairo

    There is always an obelisk. True then. True now.

  • Details

    A hotel’s portico as lovely as the horse pulling its clientele.

  • Nile

    Fishermen rest along the bank.

  • Ruins

    During the early days of Egypt travel, the ruins were just that and extremely accessible.

  • Temple

    The urge to graffiti these pillars overcame many travelers.

  • Bank

    Traditional Sahara architecture was once common.

  • Open Country

    Few bits of Egypt are this free of settlements any longer.

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Top Tips For Budget Travel

It’s the dead of winter, which means cold weather, an early sunset and more time trapped indoors — but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream of being somewhere else. In fact, this is the perfect time to start planning your next getaway.

Strapped for cash? Don’t count yourself out just yet. Want to know the ideal time to purchase plane tickets? There is one. And did you know you could actually save money by choosing a higher airfare? It’s true!

We reached out to Kate Thomas of for some budget-friendly travel tips and she gave us some great ideas on how to think outside the box and stretch those holiday dollars.

So, settle in and start planning with Kate’s top tips for traveling the globe without emptying your bank account.

Bon voyage!

Loading Slideshow

  • The Best Time To Buy Plane Tickets

    There is an ideal day and time to plane buy tickets online — 3 pm EST on Tuesdays. Tickets are least expensive at this time because many airlines post sales on Monday evenings and by 3 pm on Tuesday, those fare adjustments are reflected on the reservation sites.

  • Take Advantage Of Off-Season

    Off-seasons can be your on-seasons. Time-of-year specific destinations like Aspen, Whistler and Deer Valley can be less expensive in the summertime, when you’ll be hiking up the slopes instead of skiing down them.

  • Choose Cost-Effective Destinations

    A cheap flight to Cancun or the Caribbean may catch your eye, but pricey lodging, food and other expenses can weigh your budget down. Consider booking more expensive airfare to a destination where your money can go further. Examples include Peru, Costa Rica, Morocco, Thailand and Vietnam.

  • Use Twitter For Insider Deals

    Follow all of the major airlines and ticketing sites on a href=””Twitter/a. They will often share sales, discounts and promotional codes with their followers. Also, search the hashtag #traveldeals. You’d be surprised at the savings Twitter can bring your way.

  • Get Your Money Back

    Don’t be afraid to ask for a refund. If you notice that plane tickets you purchased have gone down in price, call up the airline or ticketing site and ask for the difference back. A great way to track your flight fare is to use a href=”” They will notify you if your flight price goes down.

  • Try Alternative Lodging

    The world of travel lodging is evolving and so are your options. When searching for a place to rest your head, don’t just search for hotels — try searching for vacation rentals on sites like a href=”” or a href=”” A great site for free lodging is a href=”” For the latter, you may not need money, but you will need an adventurous spirit.

  • Find Those Coupon Codes

    Have you ever noticed those promotional code boxes when paying for online travel purchases? Try a href=”” or a href=”” to fill those boxes and save big on hotels, flights, rental cars and more.

  • Stray From The Norm

    There are certain blocks of time where people are traveling less and essential travel costs, including airfare, go down. With this logic in mind, keep your costs low by booking at least one of your travel days mid-week (Tuesday through Thursday). Also, book during less-trafficked times of the year. Try the last few weeks of January, or the chunk of time after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving.

  • Pick Up The Phone

    Use your negotiation skills when booking your lodging. Hotels often say that they post their best rates online, but calling them and asking about current promotions and deals can lead to savings not found in cyberspace.

  • Become A Member

    There are so many member websites out there that provide great deals on travel. On sites like a href=”” and a href=””, members can save up to 60% on hotel packages. Another site, a href=””, is like Groupon, but strictly for travel and offers deals of up to 70% off. Lifestyle sites like a href=”” and a href=”” also have great getaway deals.

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Voyage-Air Guitar folds up for travel

For those of you whose vacation dreams include channeling your best Jimmy Buffett and strumming your guitar at a distant beach, but you just can’t manage the logistics, check out the Voyage Air Guitar. The company won the reality “Shark Tank” TV show with its concept of a hinged, folding, full-size guitar that packs into a backpack that can fit into an airplane’s overhead compartment. I took mine on a crowded flight and did manage to get it into the space. When I unfolded the guitar in my hotel room, strings still attached, it actually played in tune, and I was able to practice until the wee hours (to the delight of my neighbors, I am sure). Not a novelty item, the guitars play as well as any fixed model, with their high-end styles being taken on tour by Mumford Sons and Paul McCartney’s band.

What we liked: Quality guitar, single hinge makes it easy to fold/reassemble, and the form-fitted backpack is ingenious.

Not so much: If you add much more than the guitar to the bag, it probably won’t fit in an overhead compartment.

Vitals: Voyage-Air Guitars, from $500,

- Bill Fink,

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OC Airship Could Be Future of Air Travel


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Inside a giant hangar in Tustin, engineers are designing what they believe could be the future of air transportation and travel.

It’s a prototype airship, nearly as tall as a 10-story building, which will someday carry cargo across the country and back without ever needing an airport.

The Aeroscraft, which engineers call the Dragon Dream, can “hover and offload a payload without touching the ground, as low as ten feet, then take off and fly again,” according to aeronautical engineer Tim Kenny.

In June 2011, the Aeroscraft was nothing more than a carbon fiber frame. Now, the touchscreen controls are in place and it already has it first test run under its belt, lifting 40 feet off the ground just a few weeks ago.

The ultimate goal is to fly at an elevation of 12,000 feet and move 140 miles per hour.

Engineers refer to the Aeroscraft as a floating submarine only instead of adding water to move up and down, it’s powered by helium.

NASA and the Department of Defense are partially funding the research and development. The DOD is eyeing the airship to carry troops and equipment. Designers said it could also become a floating hotel.

The next step for the prototype is to get FAA approval. That would allow engineers to take the airship out of the hangar for a test flight.

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Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez gets passport, will travel

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s best-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, received a passport on Wednesday under the island’s new, freer travel law and said she would go abroad soon, after years of being denied that right.

Sanchez’ case was viewed as a test of the Cuban government’s commitment to free travel, but the news was not as good for Angel Moya, another dissident who, Sanchez said, was denied a passport.

“Incredible! They called to my house to tell me that my passport was ready. They just delivered it to me,” Sanchez wrote on Twitter. “Now the only thing left is to be able to board that plane.”

Hated by Cuba’s communist government for constantly criticizing the system in her “Generation Y” blog, Sanchez, a 37-year-old Havana resident, has said she was denied the right to travel 20 times under Cuba’s old travel law and doubted she would get a passport under the new ones.

Cuba’s leaders consider dissidents traitorous “mercenaries” in the employ of the United States and other enemies.

But on January 14, when the reforms took effect, Sanchez went to an immigration office, was told she would get a passport and would be able to come and go as she pleased.

Other well-known dissidents also have been told they will get passports.

The old travel law was put in place in 1961 to slow the flight of Cubans after the island’s 1959 revolution.


The new law got rid of the much-hated need to obtain an exit visa and loosened other restrictions that had discouraged Cubans from leaving.

It was one of the wide-ranging reforms President Raul Castro has enacted since he succeeded his older brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008.

There are still travel restrictions for certain professions, reasons of national security and for those with pending legal cases, which may affect a number of dissidents like Moya.

He was one of 75 people arrested and imprisoned in a 2003 crackdown that provoked international condemnation of the Cuban government.

Moya was released in 2011, but remains on parole for the remainder of the 20-year sentence he received 10 years ago.

Sanchez tweeted that Moya had been denied a passport.

“I am happy and sad. On one side, I have my document for travel, but they will not permit it for several friends like Angel Moya,” she wrote.

Neither Sanchez nor Moya could be reached for comment.

Sanchez, who has won a number of international prizes for her blog but has never been able to leave to collect them, said on January 14 she would travel as soon as she got the passport.

She told friends she might be gone for three months because she had so many pending commitments.

She did not say what her plans were, but she was clearly thinking about how much she would miss Havana.

“Havana of the lights and the shadows, of the dusk that smells of sweat and burned oil. I miss it and I’m not yet away,” she tweeted.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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Afghanistan’s First Youth Orchestra to Travel to the US

Afghanistan's Only Music High School In Kabul
Paula Bronstein /Getty Images

Marjan Fidaye,11, plays the piano taking a break from violin lessons at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music September 26, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is not known for its performing art scene — most likely because Taliban banned all music when they took power in 1996. The regime ordered the burning of musical instruments along with cassette players and thousands of tapes, while musicians were faced with 40 days imprisonment if caught making music. As the Guardian commented in 2001, “their impact has been catastrophic across all sections of Afghanistan artistic and cultural life.”

That, at least, has changed in the intervening decade. Ahmad Sarmsat, an Afghan musician who trained in Russia and Australia, was determined to reawaken the musical talents of his people once the Taliban regime fell. In 2009 he opened a school, the National Institute of Music, and now with the help of American director William Harvey, he’s working to send the school’s youth orchestra to the United States.

“We want to use music as a source for social changes and a source for building bridges between Afghanistan and our friends outside of Afghanistan,” he told  Al Jazeera. The two men hope to bring the orchestra, which consists of 52 musicians, to play at the Kennedy Center in Washington and at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in early February.

(WATCHThe Recylced Orchestra: Slum Children Create Music Out of Garbage)

The music school educates 150 young musicians, half of whom are orphans and live on the streets, according to the New York Times. Similar to the world-renowned Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, whose musicians come from the slums of Caracas, Venezuela, Sarmsat has created a musical outlet for children and young people whose lives have been plagued by violence and destruction. About 35 of the students are female, an important step in a society where women are frequent victims of abuse and are denied countless fundamental human rights. “We have women’s rights, here we have children’s rights,” Fikria Azizi, a 12-year-old girl in the orchestra told Al Jazeera. “We want to show them in the USA that Afghanistan has achieved something. In reality, Afghanistan is being rebuilt.”

(MORE: Kabul’s New Sensation)

Although most of the musicians are relatively new to orchestral music, they have created a performance which combines western classical music with Afghanistan’s rich musical heritage. As well as playing string and wind instruments, the concerts will introduce to American audiences some Afghan instruments such as the rubab, sitar, sarod, dilruba and ghichak. The trip is expected to cost around $500,000, but Harvey is optimistic that they’ll find the necessary funding through U.S. support. The children will be accompanied on the visit by about a dozen teachers, half of whom are Westerners, reports the New York Times.

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