The Days of Traveling Europe Without a Passport May be Over

After more than two decades of passport-free travel within Europe, the European Union is preparing to invoke emergency border controls for at least two years.

The flood of refugees—in particular, Greece’s inability to control its borders—and recent terrorist attacks in the region have been threatening to end the policy of “borderless travel” between EU members.

According to the AP, such a provision would allow countries that have already implemented emergency border checks (including Germany, France, Denmark, and Norway) to continue without violating the Schengen Border Code (the agreement between EU countries to allow citizens and travelers the right of free movement without checks between internal borders).

While leisure travelers are not being targeted, they can certainly feel the ripple effect of the new ID checks. Long lines at highway checkpoints, delayed flights, and canceled trains are a few repercussions.

For now, passport-free travel isn’t dead. But it’s likely it will be suspended for at least two years—if not longer. 

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US, Cuba Sign Deal to Reopen Air Travel Between Nations

U.S. and Cuban officials signed an agreement Tuesday in Havana that provides for the reopening of scheduled air services between the two nations for the first time in more than 50 years.

The move is expected to set off a scramble among U.S. carriers to win route rights to serve Havana, which will be capped at 20 round trips a day from anywhere…

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It-Girl Influencers Give Travel Advice Through Curated Conversations

a conversation

A view of new website ‘a conversation,’ which is currently in beta mode

The newly-launched website ‘a conversation‘ is what would happen if the real-talking restaurant reviewers at The Infatuation started giving travel advice. It’s a chatty new website started by Stevie Benanty, a former music industry veteran and social media conversation creator. Before this undertaking, Ms. Benanty worked with electronic acts Tiësto, Dada Life and A-Trak. She also worked with with Verboten, the underground party space in Williamsburg. Her background in social media helped her create a website to allow influencers who aren’t writers or bloggers the opportunity to give advice about worldwide travel and buzzy new restaurants, with readers weighing in.

A Conversation

Stevie Benanty, the founder of a conversation.

Speaking with Ms. Benanty, she’s the kind of cool-girl you would love to receive reccomendations from. Her website is launching with advice from it-girl influencers she’s met through her own travels. They’re all carefully curated conversations, with cutesy cartoon portraits, making for perfect social media avatars. Like Femsplain, a community by and for women, a conversation aims to be less of a lecture. Unlike other sites, a reader can feel like they know the influencers; if they relate to them, or aspire to be like them, they can make plans to visit their favorite spots. It’s currently in beta mode, with the official site launching on February 23. Unsurprisingly, it already has a rather solid social media presence, full of avocado toast and outfits of the day.

When traveling, it’s easy to rely on old school books and websites for advice, but with the amount of new restaurants, bars and boutiques launching, one can miss out on the latest spots. A conversation offers a peek at how influencers live, much like fashion girl favorite The Coveteur, only for cool locales instead of closets.

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Onondaga County, other CNY counties issue travel advisories

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A travel advisory has been issued for Onondaga County until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Other Central New York counties have also issued travel advisories, including Seneca, Cayuga and Madison counties and the city of Syracuse.

The Onondaga County travel advisory does not restrict travel. It is a warning to motorists that hazardous driving conditions may exist.

A combination of rain, snow and ice has created hazardous travel conditions throughout the county. As rain transitions to snow, which has already started for some parts of Onondaga County, roads will become hazardous. There are also reported areas of standing water in roadways due to blocked drains.

Temperatures remaining around freezing will continue to hamper travel conditions through the evening commute, according to county officials.

Onondaga County Commissioner for Emergency Management Daniel Wears urges residents to stay off the roads, if possible.

“If you do have to travel, take your time and allow extra space between vehicles,” Wears said.

Wears said county Department of Transportation workers are clearing and salting roads, and working to unclog storm drains.

Wears urges drivers to avoid flooded streets.

A flood advisory is in effect until 6 p.m. for Onondaga County, according to the National Weather Service.

Sarah Moses covers the northern suburbs of Onondaga County and Oswego
County. Contact Sarah at or 470-2298. Follow @SarahMoses315

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Startup RewardStock Points the Way to Credit Card Rewards & Travel

Frank Vinluan


Raleigh-Durham — 

If someone offered you a way to take a free tropical vacation, you might think it was too good to be true. But Jon Hayes traveled to a tropical island for free. His global jaunts also include trips throughout South America and Europe, all taken for free or relatively little cash cost.

Hayes left a lucrative New York investment banking job to show others how they, too, could travel as he did. His Raleigh, NC-based startup, RewardStock, sets up users with credit card strategies that maximize rewards that can be redeemed for travel.

“All you have to know is how many points you have and where you want to go,” Hayes says. “We outline the best way to get there using points as the currency instead of cash.”

Though Hayes comes from a financial background, his work with credit card rewards is relatively recent. He credits his older brother for introducing him to rewards points strategies. In 2011, the elder Hayes suggested the two visit South America, traveling business class and staying in luxury hotels. Hayes was skeptical. “Even though I worked on Wall Street, I didn’t think I could afford that,” he says.

But Hayes’ brother had already earned enough reward points to finance much of the trip. He advised Hayes on strategies to accumulate points of his own. By the time they booked their travel, they needed just $200 for airfare and hotel—rewards covered the rest.

Hayes returned to his Manhattan finance job but continued the points-earning strategies he and his brother had practiced. In 2012, Hayes used points to take his mother to Europe on her first overseas trip. Hayes married in 2013 and honeymooned in the Maldives, the business class airfare and luxury hotel covered entirely by rewards points. Reflecting on the experience, Hayes concluded that software could have automated his rewards-earning strategies and made travel planning easier. Six months after the honeymoon, Hayes left his finance job to start RewardStock.

Consumers who sign up with RewardStock can use the site to store and manage their points balances. Based on the cards that an accountholder has and the points in hand, the software recommends strategies that can earn even more points. Those strategies include opening new cards. New accounts, Hayes explains, offer the most bonus points. Rewards programs are not created equally and Hayes says his company’s software can recommend which new cards will offer rewards that will best help a user reach his or her travel goal.

Rewards strategies do not necessarily entail carrying a lot of cards and spending a lot of money. Consumers can still accumulate a substantial amount of points with two or three cards, Hayes says. The software tells users the amount of spending over a period of time that is necessary to earn the desired number of points. Hayes is careful to note that RewardStock does not advocate excessive spending. Instead, he says, consumers accumulate points through targeted credit card spending on expenses they would be making anyway.

Consumers are leaving a lot of rewards points on the table. Colloquy, a research firm focused on loyalty marketing, counted 578 million members in credit card reward programs in 2015. Of some $48 billion in rewards value issued annually, $16 billion goes unredeemed, according to a 2011 Colloquy report.

A number of credit card reward apps have emerged in recent years to help consumers earn, manage, and redeem these points. The biggest of these might be Pasadena, CA-based Wallaby Financial. In addition to offering its own app, Wallaby’s software powers points management tools offered by, WalletUp, and The Points Guy’s TPG to Go app, says Wallaby co-founder and CEO Matthew Goldman. Credit card users interact with the technology as a consumer-facing app. But Goldman says Wallaby is a big data company.

Wallaby, which was acquired by Bankrate (NYSE: RATE) in 2014, two years after the app’s launch, maintains what it claims is the largest … Next Page »

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Travel: Best Ships, Relais & Chateaux, New Great Wolf Lodge

CRUISECRITIC.COM BEST SHIPS has announced the winners of its annual cruisers’ choice awards, based on ratings submitted with reviews from passengers published on the site.

Disney Cruise Line won 11 first-place awards, nine in the large ship category. Disney Dream was named best overall large ship, best for families, best cabins and best public rooms. Disney Cruise Line also won best entertainment and best service for Disney Dream in the large ship category and for Disney Wonder in the mid-ship size.

Viking Star was the only new ship named to the list of winners, named best for first-timers, and in the small ship category, winning for best cabins and best public rooms.

Oceania’s Marina ship won best dining in the mid-size category and its Riviera ship won best cabins and best fitness and recreation in mid-size.

Carnival Freedom won best value for money, the third year in a row that Carnival Cruise Line has won that award in the large ship category, with Carnival Liberty winning it the past two years. Holland America Maasdam won best value among mid-size ships, along with best overall and best for embarkation. Island Windjammers’ Sagitta, a ship carrying just 24 passengers, won in the small ships category for best value for money and best dining.

Celebrity Xpedition won best overall in the small ship category.



Relais Chateaux has added eight new properties to its collection of 540 independently owned hotels and restaurants in 64 countries.

Properties admitted to the hospitality membership association are selected on the basis of an inspection system with more than 300 criteria, emphasizing superior cuisine among other things. Many of Relais Chateaux’s boutique hotels are also historic properties.

New members for this year include three in the United Kingdom — Midsummer House in Cambridge, Idle Rocks in St. Mawes and Llangoed Hall in Brecon, Wales.

Also admitted for 2016: Saison in San Francisco, Rockpool in Sydney, Australia, Villa Rene Lalique in Wingen-sur-Moder, France, Les Cols in Olat, Spain, and La Bamba de Areco in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina.

Saison boasts three Michelin stars, Midsummer House has two and Les Cols has two.



Great Wolf Lodge is opening its first California property.

The resort, with a 100,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, is located in Garden Grove, in Southern California’s Orange County, a few miles from Disneyland and a short drive from Los Angeles, San Diego and John Wayne Airport. This is Great Wolf Lodge’s 13th property.

The new lodge includes seven dining options, all-suite accommodations, a kids’ spa, laser tag and a bowling alley.

The first Great Wolf Lodge opened in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, in 1997. The company’s next new location will open in late 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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China Spends Big on Holiday Travel, Movies and Cruises

China’s consumers increased spending on travel and entertainment as hundreds of millions of people traveled to spend time with family during the week-long holiday last week.

People spent at least 312 billion yuan ($48 billion) during the lunar New Year period, when schools and businesses shut down. That record spending came to 31 percent more than during last year’s holidays, according to China UnionPay Co., which runs the national bank card network. 

Travel transactions were up 42 percent, with the government projecting that people will make 2.91 billion trips during the 40-day festival, which sets in motion the world’s largest annual human migration.

“The tourism market expanded rapidly, driven by long-term consumption upgrades to the ‘happiness economy’ and good weather across China,” China International Capital Corp. analysts wrote.

  •  Tourism revenue was up 16 percent from last year, the National Tourism Administration said.
  • Trains carried a record 10.3 million passengers on Sunday, according to the state-run rail network.
  • Three times as many people as last year went on luxury cruises, travel website said.

Movies also got a boost as the holiday came in a Monday-to-Sunday period this year while coinciding with Valentine’s Day. Ticket sales rose 67.7 percent, to a record 3.1 billion yuan, according to entertainment research firm EntGroup Inc. in Beijing. The most popular film was `The Mermaid,’ which earned 1.79 billion yuan.

While mainland Chinese tourists poured into Macau, the world’s largest gaming center, in greater numbers during the holiday week, gambling revenues extended an almost two-year slump as high-rollers stayed home. Tourism from the mainland to Hong Kong dropped over the holidays.

There was even good news up in the frigid northeast, often called China’s Rust Belt for its struggling mines and factories. Visitors to the annual ice festival in Harbin climbed by about 16 percent, to more than 300,000, according to the organizers.

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Five travel-centric social networks you haven’t joined yet (but should)

It’s easy to spend hours plowing through Instagram travel photos and fantasizing about your next vacation, or get sucked into a vortex of travel links from your Twitter feed. And maybe you’ll even use Facebook to crowdsource tips for your next trip. But there are a number of lesser-known social media networks that can help you plan your next holiday and connect with locals or fellow travelers once you’re there.

WAYNWAYN, which stands for “Where Are You Now?,” has more than 20 million users from almost 200 countries. The network is like a mix between Facebook and TripAdvisor, and users can post tips, questions and photos pertaining to a particular destination. Click “Discover” to learn more about your current location — including tips and opinion poll results from other users — and see who else is nearby. You can friend and message other users and peruse their photos for a good mix of socializing and trip planning.

HelloTel. This social networking app allows you to check in to your hotel, see who else is nearby and interact via messaging, commenting and status updates like “Anyone in NYC want to grab a drink?”

Trover. Users of this visually focused network add and search geotagged photos (with very specific location details) that can be added to themed lists, like “Street Art in NYC” or “Things To Do in Jordan.” Through the photos and their descriptions, you can plan trips, as well as browse nearby experiences based on location, destination, activity and attraction type. You can also interact with others by liking (called “thanking”) and commenting on their photos.

StellerSteller makes it easy to turn your travel photos and videos into beautiful digital stories by syncing them together with text and a variety of themes. You can search stories using hashtags, and after finding one you want to read, you can open it and “turn the pages” for a true storybook feel. You can like, comment and share stories, as well as follow your favorite story creators.

HeyletsThis hyper personal app lets you choose from 45 interests to make suggestions about activities you’d like to do. Selecting your interests lets the app get to know your personality and give you tailored suggestions. You can share photos and videos with text, as well as save user-added experiences to a Wishlist for travel planning. When you’re close to a Wishlist item, you’ll get an alert. You can also find users who have a lot in common with you, and follow them, or find your Facebook friends on the platform. If you post often and have good standing in the community you can be upgraded to Influencer status to give more visibility to your posts.

Jessica Festa is the founder on the solo and offbeat travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and the online responsible tourism and culture magazine, Epicure Culture. She’s constantly searching for local experiences beyond the guidebook. You can follow her travels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Starr Companies Expand Travel Insurance Services to Cuba

Starr Companies has expanded the availability of its travel insurance and assistance services for travel to Cuba. These plans provide trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance as well as accident and sickness benefits. In addition, the plans provide the coordination of medical and assistance services for travelers during their travel and visit to Cuba.

“With the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, we expect that an increasing number of U.S. citizens will visit the country. Starr is offering plans that meet both traveler demand and the U.S. legal requirements,” says Bridget Whalen, vice president at Starr.

The Cuban government requires all individuals traveling to Cuba to have travel insurance or a medical policy that covers medical expenses that may occur while traveling in Cuba. All medical bills must be settled prior to leaving the country. Medical facilities in Cuba do not accept health and/or medical insurance plans, U.S. currency, credit cards or checks issued from the United States.

Starr’s travel assistance services are provided by Assist Card, a subsidiary of Starr. Assist Card is a global provider of emergency travel assistance, medical coordination and concierge services to travelers. The organization has a global network covering more than 190 countries, including Cuba.

Whalen said Assist Card has the ability to directly dispense payments to medical and assistance service providers in Cuba.

Global travel insurance plans are not limited to Cuban travel and are available through Starr Indemnity Liability Co. for third country-nationals and United States residents who are authorized to travel to Cuba, subject to general or specific licenses from OFAC.

Starr Companies is the worldwide marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr Co., Inc. and its subsidiaries. Starr provides property, casualty, and accident health insurance products as well as a range of specialty coverages including aviation, marine, energy and excess casualty insurance.


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The US and Cuba have officially agreed to restore commercial air travel

The US and Cuba signed an agreement Tuesday to restore the first commercial flights between the two former Cold War foes in over 50 years. Immediately after signing the pact, the US Department of Transportation invited commercial air carriers to submit their applications to carry passengers and cargo to and from the island nation.

The deal was signed by US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, Cuban Minister of Transportation Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez, and president of the Cuban Civil Aviation Institute, Ministry of Transportation Colonel Alfredo Cordero Puig.

First flights in over 50 years

In making its selection, the Department said it “will consider which proposals will offer and maintain the best service to the traveling and shipping public.” The details of the deal were leaked to the media over the weekend. Airlines have 15 days to submit their proposals to the US government, and final decisions will be handed down this summer.

The new arrangement allows up to 20 roundtrip flights between the US and Havana every day, as well as 10 additional trips between the US and each of Cuba’s nine other airports. In total, 110 daily roundtrip flights are authorized between the US and Cuba. US passengers wishing to visit Cuba will need to fall under one of 12 authorized categories, such as family visits, official business, or journalistic activity. Restrictions on tourism will still apply.