Some Alaska Natives Allowed Visa-Free Travel to Russian Area

Some western Alaska Natives can travel back and forth to a Russian region without a visa under a 1989 agreement that was recently revived.

Vera Metcalf, a Native leader who works part time with the State Department, said Friday that the program allows indigenous residents from both sides of the Bering Strait to visit for up to 90 days without the documentation.

Alaska and Chukotka Natives have historically been linked to the Chukotka region, and many are still related.

Metcalf says administrative issues had forced those Alaska Natives to get a visa over the past three years. She says the issues have been resolved, allowing the program to begin again in mid-July. She declined to elaborate.

Metcalf says those on the Russian side haven’t needed a visa under the program.

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How to Plan a Stress-Free Multigenerational Vacation

Arnie Grever / Flickr

Traveling with a crowd? You’re not alone. Today, there are more groups of extended family members traveling together than ever before. According to a 2014 AAA survey, multigenerational family vacations were up 4 percent from the previous year, and 36 percent of families were planning to take a multigenerational family trip in the next 12 months. Plus, in a recent Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts survey, one in five grandparents said they’d been on a Disney vacation with their grandchildren.

The increase is in part due to more families living geographically farther from each other than at any time in history. A group trip is often the most convenient option for today’s modern family to gather in one place. While multigenerational vacations can be a memorable experience, the planning process can prove overwhelming. Here are some handy ways to stay organized when planning, plus tips on how to make sure every member of your family is happy with the getaway.

See: When to Splurge and When to Save on a Family Vacation

1. Set vacation expectations

A preplanning kickoff meeting can help put vacation objectives in motion. Prior to booking the trip, here are some topics to discuss:

Budget: Set a vacation budget as soon as possible. This will help everyone avoid overspending and help narrow down your destination options. Also, consider how much will be spent per day on food and entertainment. Another factor to take into account: if any family members have credit card loyalty points or frequent flier miles available, which can significantly reduce the overall cost of the trip.
When: Decide the ideal time to take the vacation and for how long. Allowing ample time for everyone to schedule time off from work, school and activities will create less stress leading up to the trip.
How: Ask whether travel by car, train, boat or airline is preferred. For car rentals, consider whether one larger vehicle (like a minivan) would be more cost-effective than two separate cars.
Goals: Discuss the needs of each traveler. For example, do most want to be relaxing at the pool or seek adventure and excursions? Kids should also be included in talks and asked to provide feedback so they feel like they have a stake in the vacation.

2. Let someone else help you plan

While you and your family may already have a favorite destination, consider researching new travel options that may also fit into your family’s set budget and trip guidelines. Visit booking sites for deals or check out Groople, which provides customized trip quotes for larger groups. Travel agents can also be a valuable resource. Not only can they provide a neutral, outside perspective, but they can negotiate group discounts and organize all of your itinerary details to help the trip run smoothly. And, if your trip runs into a snag, your travel agent will be able to help clear it up on your behalf.

See: 8 Amazingly Affordable Family Vacations

3. Look beyond hotels

While most hotels set a capacity limit of four guests per room, many properties are finding ways to cater to larger groups.

Vacation home rentals are another option, with a variety of booking sites offering rentals with four bedrooms or more. (Check sites like Big Sky Luxury Rentals, Rental Escapes, Inspirato and HomeAway for options). These rentals offer the comforts of home, plus they sometimes cost less than a hotel room. Many rentals are also equipped with budget-saving amenities, such as full kitchens, private pools and separate bedrooms.

4. Consider a cruise or an all-inclusive vacation

Cruises and all-inclusive vacations are other popular options for family trips, especially since many cruise lines, including MSC, offer deals that allow kids to sail for free or at a discounted rate. Cruises also excel at offering plenty of on- and off-board variety to a wide range of age groups. With all the food and entertainment options, everyone in your group is sure to find something that suits their needs.

If you and your clan would rather stay on land, hotel brands like IBEROSTAR and Dreams Resorts offer kids-stay-free promotions throughout the year, which can significantly reduce your vacation expenses.

5. Research your travel insurance options

Since there are so many moving parts to traveling with a large group, snafus and hiccups are bound to happen. Travel insurance is worth considering since it can offer protection if a trip doesn’t go as planned, with coverage available for trip cancellation and emergency medical care. The only problem: picking a plan that suits everyone’s needs can be tricky. InsureMyTrip allows you to compare policies from more than 25 providers. For group travel, 80 percent choose a comprehensive travel insurance policy.

See: Best Cruise Lines for Families

Julie Loffredi is an award-winning journalist and correspondent. She writes about travel tips for a variety of publications and is a contributor at travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip. You can follow her on Twitter @julieloffredi or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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10 Book Recommendations For All Of Your Travel Needs


Books make the best travel companions; they’re reliable, portable, and won’t get grumpy when things don’t go according to plan (they are inanimate objects!). Pairing a story with your destination is as reliable method as any, but we’re also keen on picking books based on a trip’s mood and mode of travel. The spontaneity of a road trip; the mystical feeling inspired by flying; the old-school charm of riding a train. Check out our transportation-based book recommendations below.

Airplane reads

If you’re flying to your destination, transport yourself to faraway fictional lands — or hop into a story about those crazy-mystical air vessels we so often take for granted.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

Vida’s novel about travel and identity might be an artful meditation on Murphy’s Law: pretty much everything that can go wrong, does. As soon as she arrives in her destination — Casablanca, Morocco — the narrator loses all of her possessions. The ensuing plot grows more and more absurd, as she finds herself on the set of a movie, and backstage at a Patti Smith concert, all the while trying to reclaim who she thought she was — not to mention her passport. But the story is also full of funny reflections on the learning curve that comes with adjusting to a new place.

Read our review here. 

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

McClain’s historical novel centers on a woman whose unabashed pursuit of her own desires makes her a trailblazing anomaly for her time. The book is set in the ’20s, but its protagonist, Beryl Markham, is no flapper — rather, she’s an aviator, and her flights have brought her acclaim. Of European descent but raised in Kenya, Beryl struggles with her attempts to apply her navigation skills to the traverses of her own emotional life, getting caught up in a tumultuous love triangle.

Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey

Like Vida’s subtle and at times dark story of self-discovery, Lacey’s book begins with an emotionally unfulfilled woman embarking suddenly on a trip, surprising those around her by nearly disappearing. The narrator of Missing is comfortably married, but that comfort is so maligned with how she feels about her life that she has no other choice to escape. Elyria hops on a plane to New Zealand, and explores the country’s most isolated corners, hitchhiking haphazardly along the way.

Train reads

If you’re hopping on a train, get in the mood with some steampunk literature — or a subway-centric story.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The scary elements of Hawkins’ super-bestselling thriller are in no way related to the functionality of the titular train (luckily for those hoping to read it while in transit). Instead, it’s a suspenseful read about narrator Rachel, who’s been coping with a recent split as best as she can. Drowsy from nights of liquid comfort, she takes the train each morning, wizzing by her ex’s house. When she begins noticing details about it that are out of the ordinary, she questions whether her senses are tricking her. 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

For a less literal take on train-appropriate fiction, Pulley’s novel has the same air of vintage-inspired adventure as a steam engine fueled trip. Thaniel Steepleton (who, you may be surprised to know, is NOT a Dickensian comic relief character) is on the hunt for the watchmaker who made a gadget that saved his life. He’s joined by a soothsayer-like accomplice, and the two set off on an adventure any Sherlock Holmes fan would be happy to tag along with.

A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball

The trains in Ball’s surreal new book transport its sleeping residents from town to mysterious town, as part of a peculiar social project called the Process of the Villages. In each new town, a weary citizen relearns how to speak, how to socialize, how to go on dates, how to get jobs and how to partake in other basic tasks. The mood of the setup is eerie — what exactly caused this blank-slate state? As Ball reveals the mystery at the novel’s core, he also reflects on the value of memories — even tragic ones.

Read our review here.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

A proud if pretentious Brooklynite, Nathaniel P. can often be found flirting with women at his local coffee shop and hopping on the subway to hang out with various romantic pursuits. It’s a fun read for anyone who enjoys indulging in cynicism, but it may make the jaded reader feel that his or her suspicions about the futile nature of dating are completely justified. That said, it’ll certainly make you laugh.

Road trip reads

If you’re road trippin’ it, we recommend packing one of these fictional cross-country treks. Just don’t read and drive!

Paper Towns by John Green

The movie just came out, but as the (typically true) adage goes: the book was way better. It’s much more than a fun teen story — although it’s that, too. Narrator Quentin “Q” Jacobson has the night of his life with his dream girl but is dismayed to find that she’s disappeared the next day. His search for her isn’t just a boy-chases-girl lesson in perseverance. The more Q learns about Margo — cued in by clues she left behind for him — the more he realizes that she’s a deeply complex and flawed individual belied by a manic pixie persona.

Read our review here.

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Short story master van den Berg’s first novel begins in a claustrophobic setting. After a bizarre memory-loss disease spreads across the world in a flash, those immune are quarantined in a hospital. Narrator Joy is among them — its possible that the traumas she endured as a child are responsible for warding off the strange killer — and she soon learns that the hospital is no safer than the outside world. Joined by a childhood comrade, she hops on a bus in search of her lost mother, playing memory games along the way.

Read our review here.

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

A historical work of fiction set on the home front during World War II, Amy Bloom’s novel follows narrator Eva and her sister — both disgruntled runaways — on a trek from Hollywood’s flashy scene to a quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn. It’s not quite a rags-to-riches story, but a more nuanced look at what chasing the American dream can really involve. The pair’s cobbled-together family has to lie their way to relative economic comforts, and in doing so form lifelong bonds.  

Read our review here.

Also on HuffPost:

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Luxury Active Travel With Backroads: Expertly Guided Bikes, Hikes and More

When Tom Hale decided to launch a guided bike tour company in 1979, the concept was largely unknown in this country, and Hale was a one man operation: marketer, tour leader, mechanic, driver and cook. More than 35 years later, Hale still runs Backroads, but today the company is the best-known upscale active travel outfitter in the nation, if not the world, making vacation dreams come true for nearly 30,000 customers each year – half of them loyal repeat guests.

A California native and athlete, Hale ran track at University of Oregon with legendary teammate Steve Prefontaine. As a result, he literally fell in love the lesser traveled back roads while grinding out training miles. Hale’s original goal was to provide a more rewarding and different way for people to enjoy leisure travel, and he jumped on the now red hot “experiential travel” trend – about three decades before it got a catchy name.

Travelers on Backroads trips like to stay active, like to have fun, but most of all they like traveling with Backroads, often time after time.

After my recent experience as a guest of Backroads on a guided group cycling trip along the coast of Maine, I’d say Hale has more than succeeded. I’ve traveled with some of the top luxury cycling, active, safari and other kinds of tour operators in the world, so I have an informed opinion of this market. But even before I pedaled one mile, I was impressed, because so many well-traveled people I know who have deep pockets and lots of options, including close friends and relatives, have chosen Backroads over the years, loved it, raved about it, and keep going back. I figured there had to be something to it, and there is. Another friend of mine who is a doctor used to guide for Backroads post college, loved it even as an employee, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t sing the praises of the company – including my fellow Maine cyclists, many of whom were on their second, third or fourth Backroads trips. 80% of all customers have either traveled with Backroads before or had the company recommended to them by someone they knew who had. That’s impressive.

Backroads launched in 1979 with cycling trips, but has expanded into lots of other guided active travel, including hiking.

The strategy is seemingly simple: organize active trips in great destinations with first rate lodging, food, and activities, all led by expert guides who make it easy – almost too easy – for guests, who have to do little except show up and enjoy everything. The company started with cycling in California, but its vast catalog of offerings now spans the globe, and includes pure biking trips, hiking and walking trips, and multisport adventures, which typically combine several of the following: cycling, hiking, kayaking, rafting, snorkeling and even surfing. There are trips combining cycling or walking with river cruises, new winter trips featuring snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, even a recent category of “Active Gourmet” trips that combine cycling or walking with cooking classes, wine tastings and the like in top culinary destinations such as Tuscany and Provence. This huge slate of trips is offered across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa – and just recently added red hot Cuba. The company’s behind the scenes trip designers, the experts who actually choose the destinations and put together the detailed itineraries, have an average of over 15 years experience in a market where many companies doing similar trips haven’t even been in existence that long.

…and “multi-sport” trips with rafting, kayaking, even surfing.

The variety of trips offered is staggering, and to make it even more comprehensive, many itineraries are offered as “classic,” group trips with up to 24 passengers, as well as “family” versions, specifically aimed at groups of parents traveling with children. There are even designated solo traveler departures, great for singles who might feel out of place among ten couples, and in many cases, the same trips are offered at two different levels of lodging luxury, with “premier” or “casual” hotels. While all Backroads trips would be in the category of luxury tours, there is wider range of price points and styles than most similar tour operators can match, in large part because Backroads is the biggest of the higher end players. They also do a lot of completely bespoke trips for families and groups as small as one, and private trips for affiliated groups, including alumni and corporate team outings.

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The Best Luggage for Different Travel Needs

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Luggage vendors in the U.S. are seeing growing demand from various types of customers with different travel needs and preferences.

According to Technavio, an independent tech-focused global research firm, the market for travel and business bags is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.58% by revenue and 8.31% by volume in the next four years.

Key vendors of travel and business bags in the U.S. include Briggs Riley, Delsey, Eagle Creek, Samsonite, Travelpro, Tumi and Victorinox.

Although these vendors cater to travelers in general, each have their own strengths.

Samsonite and  Delsey are leading the pack in creating smart luggage. Samsonite is releasing a bag with a global tracking device, and Delsey is launching a bag with a phone charger.

Travelpro, known for having direct selling relationships with flight crews, is also working on producing a carry-on bag with built-in external USB, and exploring a variety of tracking devices.

“We want to ensure that the technology and consumer value behind the tracking devices is totally sound before going to market,” says Scott Applebee, Travelpro’s vice president for marketing. “Many of the tracking devices today are very expensive when you add in the data charges.”

Other luggage vendors are focusing on innovations that allow travelers to pack more efficiently on either a carry-on or checked baggage.

Briggs Riley has compression technology that expands the luggage without altering its original size; Eagle Creek has the Pack-It system which allows travelers to pack items flat and compact; and Victorinox has a dual-access design that accommodates different personal packing styles.

Tumi has a collection that addresses the specific needs of female travelers.

We looked at some of the latest and most innovative luggage from these vendors and matched them with different types of travelers — from the chronic over-packer to the worrywart.

Click through to see which luggage is right for you.

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Calais travel advice: what to do if you have booked a crossing

The Border Force has deployed additional staff and sniffer dogs to northern France as well as bolstering screening checks at Dover for both tourist and freight vehicles.

If you go ahead and travel

Operation Stack has closed part of the M20 and it isn’t expected to reopen until 3pm on Sunday (latest details on If you have no option but to travel to Dover and take the M20, you are likely to be signed off the motorway onto the A20 at Hollingbourne.

Be prepared for a long, slow journey from there. The AA ( says one alternative is to go directly onto the M2 from the M25, or leave the M20 at Maidstone and take the A249, M2 and A2. However, the last stretch into Dover port or the tunnel entrance has been very congested.

For the tunnel, Eurotunnel’s Twitter feed (@LeShuttle) has been suggesting taking the B2068 from Canterbury to Junction 11 of the M20. Whichever way you choose, it’s wise to allow a good two hours more than normal if you want to get to France on time. Don’t panic if you end up running late for a scheduled crossing, however – all the operators are flexible about allowing you onto the next available service. Check with the operator you are travelling with for the latest information before setting out.

If you want to postpone

Eurotunnel: Flexiplus tickets are fully flexible on changes and refunds. The cheapest standard tickets don’t allow a refund, but they do allow you to rearrange your crossings up to a year later, though you will have to pay any fare difference.

Ferries: most classes of PO ( ticket on the Dover-Calais route are refundable, or can be exchanged for travel at a different date either for no charge or, on the cheapest, Saver fares, for a €43 (£30) fee, plus any difference between the fares. If you have a Standard Flexi ticket you must also pay any difference in the fares.

Alternatives to the Dover-Calais ferry

DFDS ( also allows changes on Dover crossings, sometimes at a cost – for example, it makes a £10 charge, plus the difference between the fares, for changes to its cheap, Economy tickets, which are not refundable. Rules for its refundable Flexi tickets are more generous. Contact the operator before making any assumptions – the terms and conditions are complicated and include time limits for changes on some types of ticket.

Alternative routes

As our guide shows, Dunkirk offers a good way to avoid Calais (though not Dover) and a quick way onto the French autoroute system. Newhaven-Dieppe is a potential alternative, avoiding both. And if Brittany Ferries ( routes across the western Channel suit your needs, the company says it still has availability, especially on midweek crossings.

Travellers on Eurostar

Passenger trains to and from St Pancras have been subjected to occasional delays caused by security issues in the tunnel, but most have been running smoothly. Only the most expensive tickets are amendable or transferable to alternative dates, but Eurostar ( does offer decent levels of compensation – they start with a delay of more than 60 minutes (free one-way ticket). See website for full details.

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Family out $65K after travel agency abruptly closes

It’s supposed to be the happiest day of bride-to-be Kristine Mello’s life.

“Words can’t explain what we’re going through,” said Mello’s fiancé, Jeff Ferreira.

The couple used Terry’s Travel, which was operating out of North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to book a destination wedding to Mexico for 47 people.

Altogether, they spent about $68,000.

But, when they started hearing of other customers’ reservations disappearing, they feared the worst.

“We thought the trip was booked because we saw the charge for a travel agency,” said Mello’s friend, Linda Cosme. “Ultimately, it wasn’t for our trip.”

Cosme, along with Mello’s sister Michelle, said that after looking into their credit card records, they saw that the travel agency owned by Natercia Sousa was using their money to pay for the trip she booked for previous customers.

The family doesn’t know how long this has been going on, but it seems the financial finagling has caught up with Sousa.

“My sister’s been crying since Saturday,” Michelle said. “She’s like, ‘What are we going to do? I hope this is a mistake.’”

NBC 10 News called Terry’s Travel and left the company voice messages, as well as email messages. None of them have been returned.

When NBC 10 visited the location in North Dartmouth, the door was locked. There was a sign on the window, which read, “Terry’s Travel is closed due to a family emergency.”

The family emergency that may be affecting the travel agent is certainly causing the Mello family, as well as others in the area, plenty of stress. They hope a GoFundMe page they set up can raise enough money to at least get some of the immediate family members to the wedding.

For now, they just hope to salvage some happy memories.

“That’s been our dream for six years already, and it’s been destroyed by Terry’s Travel,” said Ferreira.

The Attorney General’s office is looking into the situation, as well as at least three other incidents in the area.

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The week’s best travel deals from around the globe

This week’s best travel bargains around the globe.

The Marker Waterfront Resort Key West, a new high-end hotel in the Key West Historic Seaport and Marina, is offering 20 percent savings on two deals. Both specials start at $219 a night, plus about 13 percent tax and $25 daily resort fee; normal rate is from $269. With the Last Minute Bookings deal, reserve a room within a two-week window; for the Mark the Occasion deal, book at least 30 days in advance. Price includes welcome drink, WiFi, access to three pools, workout room and business center. Info: 844-229-8312,

Save 25 percent on a family golf package at the Italian medieval village-turned-resort of Toscana Resort Castelfalfi. The deal starts at $1,174 for a family of three (child must be 11 or younger) and includes three nights in a triple room at La Tabaccaia, Castelfalfi’s boutique hotel; three days of golf, including unlimited rounds for adults and three one-hour junior lessons; daily breakfast; and most taxes. Travel in October or November for the lowest price. The resort is a 40-minute drive from Pisa. Info:

Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel on Croatia’s Babin Kuk peninsula is offering a five-night package at about $743 per couple for stays Sept. 1-Oct. 31. The Discover Dubrovnik deal includes lodging with breakfasts; airport transfers; access to the Ragusa Spa; guided walking tour of Old Town Dubrovnik; one-day Dubrovnik Card, which covers a 24-hour bus pass and entrance fees to museums and galleries; and taxes. Priced separately, the package costs about $1,070. Book by Sept. 15 at

Vacations by Rail is offering free airfare on 15 cruise-rail packages in Europe. Prices vary. For example, the eight-day Danube Discovery Christmas Markets cruise, which sails from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest on Nov. 30, costs $6,890 for a couple in a standard suite. Price includes personal butler service; 20 meals and beverages all day; WiFi; use of electronic bicycles; return airport transfers; gratuities; and taxes. The free airfare, booked through Vacations by Rail, is worth up to $3,720 per couple and is available from Washington airports. Book by Aug. 31. Info: 877-929-7245,

Book an interior stateroom on select 2016 and 2017 Azamara Club Cruises and receive a two-category upgrade to a Club Veranda cabin. For example, the seven-night Pearl of the Adriatic cruise departing Venice on
July 3, 2016, now starts at $3,019 per person double for a veranda stateroom — a savings of $1,130. Add $122 port charges. Book by Aug. 31 and request promo code FREEUP. Info: 877-999-9553,

Southwest is offering sale fares on nonstop flights from BWI Marshall to destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica. For example, round-trip fare to San Jose, Costa Rica, starts at $345, including taxes; connecting flights on other airlines start at $420. Travel Aug. 25-Dec. 16. Blackout dates apply. Book by Aug. 6 at

World Spree is offering its Best of Thailand tour starting at $1,799 per person double. The 12-night trip includes round-trip airfare from Washington to Bangkok; five nights at the Royal Orchid Sheraton Bangkok; three nights at the Siripanna Villa Resort Spa in Chiang Mai; two nights at the Katiliya Mountain Resort Spa in Chiang Rai; two nights at the Sukhothai Heritage Resort in Sukhothai; 20 meals; guided tours with entrance fees; land transport; airport transfers; and taxes. Priced separately, air, hotels and tours alone cost about $2,150. The lowest price applies to select 2016 September and October departures and includes a $200 per-person discount for payment by cash or check. Info: 855-556-6868,

— Carol Sottili, Andrea Sachs

Submit travel deals to whatsthedeal@ Prices were verified at press time Thursday, but deals sell out and availability is not guaranteed. Some restrictions may apply.

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Amazing Travel Experiences to Have on Every Continent

By College Tourist; Author: Tori Danforth, University of South Florida

If you’re stuck trying to pick a destination for your next trip have no fear! We’re going on a journey around the world!

As any world traveler or study abroad student knows, preparing for an upcoming trip can be quite time consuming. However, the hardest part is first deciding where you want to go! This all depends on the types of experiences you would like to have. Do you want to wander the cobblestone streets of ancient cities, while eating your weight in gelato? Or would you prefer to spend your time scuba diving with great whites and relaxing on white sand beaches? There are an infinite amount of options when it comes to what you can do on your travels so here are some ideas to get your next trip started no matter what continent it happens to be on! Some are touristy and well known, others are unique and off the beaten path. However, each of these activities has been tested by either myself, other students abroad, or local residents to ensure that they are well worth your time. So for those of you that are unsure of where to go next or need a little travel inspiration, here are experiences to have on every continent!


Europe has traditionally been the most popular place to study abroad for U.S. students and for good reason. This continent offers the best of everything: striking historical sights that are hundreds, even thousands of years old, modern cities with limitless attractions and activities, a variety of delicious food, and all of the amenities of home. I love Europe for numerous reasons, but mainly because it’s so easy to visit multiple countries in a short period of time. I once woke up and had the best waffles of my life in Belgium, had lunch and spent the day exploring in Amsterdam, and made it back to my home in Germany in time for a late dinner! There’s no other continent that you can do this on, which is why Europe is chock-full of incredible experiences to be had. Here are five to get you started!

1. Become a certified gladiator in Rome. I have to say I was a little skeptical when my mom signed me up to do this at Gruppo Storico Romano on a family trip a few years back, however, this turned out to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! Plus, it never fails to shock people when I tell them that I am in fact a trained gladiator with a certificate to prove it.

2. Camping in the Swiss Alps (or Skydiving or BASE jumping off them if you’re really brave!). Camping Jungfrau in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland is one of the best places for both.

3. Take a dip in one of Iceland’s famous geothermal pools. Landmannalaugar and Laugarvallalaug are popular all-natural choices, and of course the famous Blue Lagoon is another great option.

4. Exploring hidden beaches of the Algarve. Some are popular with little restaurants that serve the freshest seafood around and others are completely hidden, accessed only by trails leading through caves. Whatever type of beach you prefer, Portugal’s Algarve region has it and it’s guaranteed to be a beach unlike anything you have ever seen with dramatic cliffs on all sides. Make sure to come in the off season for the chance to have these beautiful beaches all to yourself.

5. For some spooky but unforgettable experiences try going on a night tour of the underground Catacombs in Paris or a Dracula tour in Transylvania, where you can explore all things related to Vlad the Impaler. Which admittedly sounds morbid but is actually a scenic journey through some of the region’s most impressive sights and castles.

Central America

Yes, I know that Central America is technically a part of North America but it deserves a category all to itself! So if you’re looking to stay a little closer to home, the countries of this region are the perfect destinations for not only perfecting your Spanish, but also adventure activities! If you’re an adrenaline junkie, nature lover, beach bum, or all three, consider these possible experiences:

1. Zipline through the jungle: No trip to Costa Rica is complete without ziplining your way through or over a rainforest! You can do this pretty much anywhere in the country but make sure you go superman style at least once to feel like you’re truly flying.

2. Sandboard down an active volcano. Nicaragua is where you can really get your heart pumping with this activity at Cerro Negro. Afterwards, unwind on one of the country’s beautiful beaches.

3. Explore Tikal in Guatemala. Situated among the rainforest, Tikal is an expansive network of ancient ruins as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. A visit to these beautiful ruins is well worth the trip.

4. If you’re inspired by your trip to Tikal and want to learn more about the Mayan culture, consider a homestay with a local Mayan family. The Rising Minds organization offers both homestay and cultural immersion options, while also contributing to sustainable development for the region.

5. Go exploring. Central America has natural treasures lurking around every corner. Go hiking to find a hidden waterfall, or go on a nighttime jungle excursion to see exotic wildlife at its best. No matter what country you explore in this region, you’re sure to stumble across something amazing.


One of the largest and most diverse continents in the world, Africa is full of unique experiences. I’m not exaggerating when I say every single one of my friends who has been to Africa has returned completely renewed and inspired after their trip! Ask anyone that’s been there and they’ll say there’s just something about it that keeps you coming back. Though it’s massive, here are some ideas to narrow down your trip:

1. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Words cannot describe how accomplished you’ll feel after climbing the highest mountain in Africa and even if you don’t climb it, go for the breathtaking sight of it!

2. Camping in the Sahara desert. Before you imagine dying of heat stroke in the middle of the world’s largest desert, note that these tours take place at night and have been recommended as one of the highlights of many people’s trips. As the sun sets you’ll ride camels into the heart of the Sahara and then camp under the stars. I think it’s safe to say this is a sunset you’ll never forget!

3. Victoria Falls. Known as the adventure capital of the world, this is a place where you can not only see one of the world’s largest waterfalls but also swim up to the edge of it as well as bungee jump off of it! Whatever activity you do here it’s sure to quench your thirst for adventure. Plus, it’s located between Zambia and Zimbabwe so it’s a great excuse to explore two countries!

4. Get to know the culture. Africa is not only comprised of over fifty countries but also thousands of different ethnic groups, each with their own language and culture. Browsing the local market or attending a festival can be a once in a lifetime cultural experience in itself.

5. Zanzibar. If you haven’t heard of this place, I suggest you Google it right now because the pictures will say it all. This archipelago off the coast of Tanzania boasts historical centers like Stone Town, beautiful beaches that you have to see to believe, the chance to swim with dolphins as well as sightings of other indigenous wildlife, and a fusion of cultures, making Zanzibar a place for nonstop new experiences.

South America

If you’re looking to explore breathtaking landscapes, try one of a kind activities, and not break your bank, South America is probably your best bet! Composed of twelve countries and three territories each containing a fusion of cultures, histories, and climates, South America definitely delivers as one of the up and coming destinations of 2015. Here are five sights and activities to consider when traveling here:

1. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. While this may seem like an obvious activity to do while in Peru, this is definitely a must-see on any trip to South America! Built in the 15th century, the sight is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Sight but was also voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Seeing Machu Picchu alone is well worth the trip, however, to enhance your experience consider doing the famous Inca Trail trek. On this trail you’ll spend four days hiking and camping in the Andes mountains, visiting famous Incan ruins along the way with the trip culminating in watching the sunrise over one of humanity’s most impressive structures.

2. Bolivia. This country alone will provide enough once in a lifetime experiences to last your entire life. Between visiting a traditional Quechua market, playing in the otherworldly Salar de Uyuni (which also happens to be the largest salt flat in the world), cycling the world’s most dangerous road, and not to mention exploring two capitals, Bolivia will keep you busy for the duration of your trip!

3. Futbol, Tango, Carnival! Experience life in South America like a local. To start, this is arguably one of the best places in the world to watch a soccer match. If you find yourself in Argentina, try your hand at the Tango, or if you’re in Uruguay consider living like a local gaucho with a visit to a family ranch, and if you time your trip just right, participate in the world famous Carnival in Brazil.

4. Explore the Diverse Landscapes of Chile: From the glaciers of Patagonia to the driest desert in the world, Chile will have you thinking you’ve entered another planet. A magnificently beautiful planet that you’ll never want to leave.

5. Iguazu Falls: One of the most stunning waterfalls on Earth. Another must see on any trip to South America!

Australia and Oceania

Though it is the smallest continent and one of the furthest from the United States, Australia is on everybody’s bucket list! As it should be, because it’s one of the friendliest, cleanest, and most beautiful places you can visit. I had a tough time narrowing this continent down to just five experiences because there’s just so much to see and do here!

1. Diving. This side of the world offers underwater views that simply cannot be beat, particularly at the Great Barrier Reef and Fiji.

2. Experience Aboriginal culture. Native Australian’s comprise one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. Experience their traditions and ways of life with one of Animal Tracks Safari’s unique cultural tours!

3. New Zealand. Here you can learn about the local Maori culture, road trip through the incredible countryside, try any number of adventure activities, and of course visit Hobbiton, the set of Lord of the Rings!

4. Wildlife. Australia is home to some of the most distinctive wildlife on the planet. Make sure to check out the adorable kangaroos that inhabit Murramarang National Park or for a close up look at some of Australia’s more deadly animals try Adelaide River Cruises where you can get up close and personal with the country’s giant crocodiles!

5. Take in the iconic sights of the land down under. Take a tour of the Sydney Opera House, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, relax on Bondi Beach, behold Uluru in all of its glory. Sure, these may be touristy things to do but all the tourists do it for a reason!


Last but not least there’s my personal favorite continent, Asia. It’s humongous, unlike anywhere you’ve ever been, and incredibly rich with experiences that you could never have in the West. Each country in Asia is so different from the next, you’ll hardly believe you’re in the same continent!

1. Spend the day playing with elephants. This is something I think every one should check off their travel bucket list! There is nothing quite like riding these majestic creatures through the Thai countryside and witnessing their playful sides as they repeatedly spray and dunk you in a river. One of the best places to do this is the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai where you can ensure that the elephants are treated humanely and that your money will be contributed towards their conservation.

2. Have a country-specific experience. As I mentioned earlier, Asia is HUGE! Therefore, because it’s impossible to experience it all in one trip or even in a hundred trips, it’s best to focus on having a country specific experience. Some to consider are: sampling the freshest sushi in the world at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, spend a few days living in a traditional Mongolian yurt, traverse the Great Wall of China, or practice your bargaining skills at a floating market in the Mekong Delta.

3. Island hop. Beautiful islands abound in Asia! Thailand alone has an island to satisfy every personality, from laid back Ko Tao to party centric Ko Pha-Ngan, home to the famous Full Moon Party. For unbelievable crystal clear water and limestone cliffs try the islands of the Philippines, particularly in Palawan province. Or for a truly exotic island destination try the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

4. Explore the giant metropolises that are Asia’s cities. Asia is home to some of the world’s most impressive mega cities: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur…ok basically every city in Asia is really cool and worth visiting!

5. Get in touch with your spiritual side. Asia is the birthplace of multiple major world religions and as a result has temples, mosques, synagogues, shrines, and churches that will blow your mind for their intricate designs as well as their symbolic meanings. Between Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the temples of Bagan in Myanmar, and Harmandir Sahib or “the Golden Temple” in India which represents one of the holiest sights for Sikh’s, you’re sure to be amazed and inspired by these meaningful structures.

Well there you have it, activities and sights to check out on every continent of the world! While I hope it gets you thinking about your next trip it is by no means exhaustive. The sky is the limit when traveling and one of the best parts about travel is stumbling upon things that you had no idea were there or just chilling like a local every day. No mater what country you find yourself in you are sure to find something unique, modern, traditional, and beautiful. What are some unique and amazing travel experiences you’ve had while abroad?

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It’s time for the Uber of air travel

Airbnb changed the hotel industry. Uber changed ground transportation. So why can’t the same change happen for air travel?

Airlines are ready for disruption. With only four large airlines controlling more than 80 percent of domestic air travel, the industry is a classic oligopoly. Even the government, which is currently investigating airlines for collusion, seems to agree.

Air travelers, who complain of higher prices and fewer choices, say they’re ready for the next Uber to take flight. And now Congress is in a good position to actually encourage competition through smarter regulation. The latest Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, now being drafted by lawmakers, could pave the way for a more competitive airline industry.

“Competition is a great thing for consumers,” says ride-hailing-industry expert Harry Campbell. “American airline carriers have consistently been falling behind, compared to more robust international carriers, when it comes to price and experience.”

Campbell says applying the Uber model to aviation would improve the flying experience for everyone, even if you choose to fly on one of the four dominant carriers.

“It would further intensify the pressure on airline carriers to improve their product, lower their prices and become more efficient,” he says.

That’s already happened in the lodging sector, where Airbnb and vacation rental services such as HomeAway have kept rates competitive and forced large hotel chains to up their game by adding more services and amenities. It’s happened in ground transit, in which Uber and Lyft offer an often cheaper, more accessible alternative to taxis and limousines.

Chester Goad, a university administrator and Uber customer in Cookeville, Tenn., says he’s “excited” about having the same option for flying. What if, for example, an Uber for airlines could utilize smaller airports that are more conveniently located and offer direct flights to airports not traditionally served by large airlines?

“The bottom line for me, is if the fares were reasonable or offered conveniences not offered by other airlines, and if they were equally accessible, I’d definitely check it out,” he says. “Especially if I could avoid the hassles of a major airport.”

It’s easier said than done. Several travel start-ups have tried to follow the Uber model. Although they’re an option for business travelers, they’re still priced out of reach of most leisure travelers. For example, Rise, a private flight-sharing service in Dallas that launched this May, offers an “all-you-can-fly” option starting at $1,650 a month. It offers scheduled flights on King Air 350 eight-passenger twin-engine aircraft between Dallas, Houston, Austin and Midland, depending on demand, and has announced plans to expand domestically and fly London to Brussels in 2016.

Rise is interesting because it had to secure special approval from the Department of Transportation, which regulates air travel in the United States. More on that in a minute.

Industry experts say that in at least one sense, flight-sharing — or ride-sharing for planes — already exists. In private aviation, it’s referred to as the gray charter market. That’s where passengers pay for a flight with an aircraft operator that does not have the correct permissions to fly the trip commercially.

“This could be because the operator does not have an aircraft operator’s certificate, which is a license from the aviation authorities to operate commercially, or a gray charter could be more subtle, such as a European operator picking up an extra passenger within the States during an internal leg of an international schedule,” explains Adam Twidell, the chief executive of PrivateFly, an online marketplace for private aircraft charters.

So what would it take to make air travel as affordable, flexible and, of course, as controversial as Uber or Airbnb? How do you get from here — an industry in which only the elites can fly private and the rest of us have to contend with a consolidated industry where competition has been squeezed out — to a business in which you can fly as easily as you can drive, and for a reasonable price?

Timmy Wozniak, the chief executive of FreshJets, a site for booking discounted private jet travel, says the government can be an obstacle or an enabler.

“There has to be compromise on both sides,” he says. “Especially for concepts that involve smaller, recreational aircraft and pilots.” The smaller operators, he says, would need to step up and meet some safety requirements. But the government can also more clearly articulate what will and won’t be allowed, especially when it comes to charter operators being allowed to sell on a per-seat or per-aircraft basis.

A clearer statement “will have the biggest impact on our business and will determine truly whether the airline industry can be disrupted,” he adds.

All of which brings us to the FAA bill, which is now being drafted by the Republican-controlled Congress — Republicans who, time and again, have supported free markets and competition.

Yet the FAA, as a matter of policy, has made Uberization difficult, say industry observers. Operators say the certification process is cumbersome and favors large, well-established airlines with deep pockets — in other words, it ensures the same four carriers will continue to dominate the industry. An FAA official told me the agency is just upholding national and international laws that require commercial air transportation providers to hold a certificate and meet requirements for training and maintenance, among other things. The FAA is also working to “streamline” the certification process.

Maybe it can do more. A good start would be to rethink the current regulations on small aircraft — called “Part 135” aircraft, which are named after the section of the Code of Federal Regulations that gives them the authority to operate. Operators of these commuter aircraft should be able to fly “as frequently as they like between cities, as long as operational standards required to fly safely are met,” says Wade Eyerly, the chief executive of Beacon, a subscription-based all-you-can-fly private plane service that is launching in September with flights between Boston and New York.

Imagine being able to fly anywhere safely at a fraction of the cost of a private jet. It’s something the government can clear for takeoff now — if it wants to.

Elliott is a consumer advocate, journalist and co-founder of the advocacy group Travelers United.
E-mail him at

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