Travel

10 Ways to Prepare Your Cell Phone for a Trip

Posted November 8, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

580x382hipsterswithphones

Charge up that phone the night before a trip: Most of us have this straightforward—yet vital—task down pat. But that's not all you need to do before bringing a phone abroad. Here are 10 additional tips that smartphone-wielding travelers should heed before hitting the road, from adding travel apps to guarding against exorbitant roaming charges.

580x382Knowyourphone

Know Your Plan (and Your Phone)

Step one: Examine your phone. Only GSM and CDMA phones will work abroad. Check with your provider to verify that your phone is operable overseas. Step two: Examine your phone plan. A thorough investigation of your data and calling contract will reveal exactly how much it will cost to make a few phone calls or download some emails while abroad. It's expensive, right? That's where step three comes in: Consider buying an international calling or data package. If you plan on using your device overseas and don't want to swap out your SIM card (more on that later), an international plan is likely a wise investment. Simply call your provider and request a temporary plan that works in your destination of choice; in most cases, you can cancel the plan upon return (just make sure there's no minimum-length-of-time requirement).

One provider in particular, however, doesn't necessitate the purchase of an international package. Earlier this month, T-Mobile announced that it will get rid of roaming charges for data usage in more than 100 countries, and it will cap international calling rates at 20 cents per minute.

580x382considertextpackage

Consider a Text Package

One or two text messages from the road might be all you need to use during your trip. You might want to text your family to let them know you've arrived safely, text your pet or house sitter, or send a cheery text from the beach to make a friend jealous. Sound good? Then purchase a text package before you leave. For example, AT&T offers Global Messaging Packages that start at $10 per month for 50 messages sent from more than 150 countries. Messages received are deducted from your domestic plan.

580x382Gettherightgadgets

Get the Right Gadgets

From portable batteries to travel-friendly phone cases, a range of gear and add-ons will enhance and protect your phone while abroad. Some of our favorites include the MapiCases leather belt-clip iPhone case; myCharge and New Trent's rechargeable, portable battery packs; and GoSwype microfiber cleaning cloths.

580x382turnoffdata

Turn Off Data

If you don't plan on using data while abroad but plan to pack your phone, there are two steps you need to take before departure: Turn off cellular data and turn off data roaming. You'll find instructions for doing so on an iPhone here, and here for an Android phone. Contact your cellular provider for further details on shutting off data. Fail to shut down the automatic downloads that bring emails, program updates, meeting notifications, and other data to your phone and you'll likely see some very expensive roaming charges on your bill at the end of the month.

580x382Stockuponapps

Stock up on Apps

There are umpteen mobile apps that could prove very valuable on your trip. Ideally, you'll want to snap them up well before your departure date, so that you have time to research, compare prices, and, of course, download the apps before you leave. Some of these might include flight-notification apps, map apps, itinerary apps, language-translation apps, destination-guide apps, gas-finder apps, and weather apps. For more ideas, see Nine Apps That May Change How You Travel and 10 Free Travel Apps You've Never Heard of.

580x382entertainment

Download Entertainment

Avoid data charges for big downloads on the road by lining up your music and entertainment purchases before you head out that door. Does your airline offer good in-flight entertainment? If not, a few episodes of your favorite show might make coach class a little more bearable. Will your hotel room have an iPod player? If yes, then a new album or two could enliven your stay. Further, there's little that will improve a long cross-country rail trip or an interminable wait at the airport more than a diverting and fun new playlist.

580x382packincarryon

Pack Chargers and Adapters in Your Carry-on

On the road, chargers and adapters are as important as your phone itself; after a day or two, your device is useless without them. You wouldn't put your iPhone in your checked luggage, right? So your charger and adapter need to go in your personal item or carry-on bag with your other essentials (medicine, wallet, identification, etc.). This way, if your suitcase gets lost, you won't need to pay a visit to one of these airport vending machines to buy a new charger.

580x382Takeimportantphotos

Take Some Important Photos

This tip is more about using your phone to prepare for your trip than preparing your phone; nonetheless, it belongs on your to-do list. Prepare a digital backup in case your identification gets lost or stolen. With your camera phone, take a photo of your passport or driver's license, and email the photo to yourself. You might also want to take a photo of the contents of your checked bag, which may come in handy if the airline loses your luggage. (Use the photo to help document your missing belongings when filling out a claim form.) Throughout your trip, take advantage of the camera on your phone and snap photos of anything that might serve as a helpful reminder, from your airport parking-lot spot to your hotel-room number.

But first, you need to ensure that you have space on your phone to store such images, which brings us to our next tip.

580x382checkstorage

Check Available Storage

The perfect yet ephemeral travel shot appears: a candy-red sunset or a humpback's tail emerging from the ocean. You aim, shoot … and a message appears on your phone saying that there is no available storage left. You lost the shot! Argh! To prevent this pesky little mishap, check your phone's storage before you leave. On an iPhone, for example, you can do this via the "General" tab within "Settings."

Free up room on your phone by transferring photos and videos to your computer, deleting unused apps, and clearing your Internet cache.

580x382countryspecificsimcard

Get a Country-Specific SIM Card

Will you be spending a lot of time in one particular country? A prepaid SIM card for the region you're visiting is an economical choice for overseas phone usage, and it allows you to make calls and use data exactly as many locals do: through a local provider. Switch your SIM card and you'll have a new local phone number and likely an affordable plan that puts scary-expensive international calling packages to shame. You won't be able to make or receive calls via your usual phone number, though.

Here's how to get one: Either pick one up prior to your departure date or get one from a local store after you arrive. We recommend the former, especially for those who don't want to waste precious trip time shopping around for SIM cards. You can order the cards online from companies such as Telestial and Brightroam.

But remember that not all phones will accept new SIM cards. You must have an "unlocked" GSM phone for this to work.

 

 

You Might Also Like:

 

Overseascall-SMBest Ways to Make Overseas Calls

 

 

 

 

Man on Smartphone While Holding Sandwich-SM10 Best Food Apps for Travelers

 

 

 

 

Sneaky-Smartphone-Hacks-Cover_SMSeven Sneaky Smartphone Hacks You Should Be Using

 

 

 

 

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Ways to Prepare Your Cell Phone for a Trip. 

 Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.

 

America's Most Haunted Restaurants and Bars

Posted October 19, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

The Jury Room Chandelier-580x382

Bordello murders, fatal wedding-day accidents, hate-fueled arson attacks, and other tragedies have left behind unsettled spirits in historic restaurants and bars across the country. For the spine-chilling chance to see the resident apparitions and experience their antics, sit down to a filet mignon in Michigan or hit the slot machines at a Nevada saloon. Here are some of America's most haunted restaurants and bars—ones that have given employees, patrons, and even ghost hunters more than what they ordered.

Jolly Pumpkin Old Mission-580x382

Mission Table, Traverse City, Michigan

The unhappy ghost of Genevive Stickney, an obese and jealous woman, still frequents her former residence, now Mission Table restaurant. As the story goes, Genevive and her Chicago lumber-baron husband built the home in the late 1800s. Succumbing to the excesses of good food and fruit brandies, the attractive Genevive became quite stout. She had a special gilt-edged mirror installed that made her appear thinner than she was, but eventually she became so large that she needed an elevator to transport her to the second floor. When her philandering husband took up with a mistress and left the mistress all his money, Genevive took her own life.

Haunted Encounters: In Genevive's mirror, restaurant guests have seen the reflection of a woman dressed in 19th-century clothing with hair pulled into a tight bun, the way Genevive wore hers. Lights turn themselves on and off, objects are mysteriously hurled through the air at people, hands on the grandfather clock are moved ahead, and candles are found burning in the morning.

The Brass Rail-580x382

The Brass Rail, Hoboken, New Jersey

A ghost bride is said to haunt the historical Brass Rail restaurant in downtown Hoboken. Legend has it that on her wedding day in 1904, she tripped at the top of the staircase, fell, broke her neck, and died. Later that night, her distraught husband, who was drinking heavily, wrote a suicide note and hung himself in a room near the stairs.

Haunted Encounters: Restaurant staff and patrons have spotted spirits of the bride and groom wandering up and down the stairs. A photo taken by the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society revealed a white wisp of smoke hovering above the stairs when no one was smoking in the room. Others say they have heard walking in the upstairs dining room when it was empty and seen the ghost of a woman wearing white in the back alley.

The UpStairs Lounge-580x382

The UpStairs Lounge, New Orleans, Louisiana

Forty years ago, one of the deadliest crimes against the LGBT community in U.S. history took place at this French Quarter gay bar above The Jimani Lounge & Restaurant when an arsonist set it on fire, killing 32 men. The UpStairs Lounge had only one entrance—the door at the bottom of the stairwell, where the fire originated. While the fire blazed, patrons tried desperately to climb out the windows but couldn't escape, since windows were mostly barred or blocked completely. Several bodies were unclaimed by embarrassed family members, and the arsonist was never caught. The UpStairs Lounge area is now the kitchen of the first-floor Jimani Lounge & Restaurant.

Haunted Encounters: The building's current owner, who witnessed the event as a child when his father was owner, has seen apparitions of charred bodies, dark shadows, white orbs, and flashes of light in the building. When Syfy's Ghost Hunters crew visited last year, detectors picked up screeching noises in the stairwell.

The Masquerade-580x382

The Masquerade, Atlanta, Georgia

This concert venue in Atlanta's historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood was originally a mill that produced wood shavings. Since the mill property's opening at the turn of the 20th century, it has seen its share of fires, structural collapses, and the gruesome accidental death of mill worker Hubert Neal in 1899. But the grisly stories that circulate at The Masquerade only add to the appeal for the goths, metalheads, and punk rockers who converge here for shows.

Haunted Encounters: Staff and concertgoers repeatedly report sightings of an apparition of a tall black man and say they've heard voices, screaming, and heavy phantom footsteps. An investigation by the Georgia Society for the Paranormal Sciences gathered accounts from multiple employees who described the feeling of being watched. The group recorded several unexplained noises and encountered a dark human-shaped mass. In the middle of the night, the group watched as a mysterious dense white fog appeared and dissipated on the club's second level, called "Heaven."

Pioneer Saloon-580x382

Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings, Nevada

The paranormal activity at this 100-year-old Wild West saloon just outside Las Vegas kicked off the 2013 season of Ghost Adventures on The Travel Channel. Reportedly haunted by an elderly miner and a cheating gambler who was killed at a card table in 1915, the Pioneer Saloon hasn't changed much since the days of the town's mining boom. Bullet holes from the gambler's murder can still be seen in the wall.

Haunted Encounters: Nearly every bar employee has seen the ghost of the elderly miner, a short man who wears a cowboy hat, standing behind people at the slot machines or hanging out by the potbellied stove. The spirit of the gambler makes an occasional appearance at a card table at the back of the bar. Visitors and staff have also been known to hear disembodied voices and see mysterious trails of cigarette smoke materialize.

The Brentwood-580x382

The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro, Little River, South Carolina

Drawing paranormal-research conferences, A&E's My Ghost Story crew, and numerous investigation groups, The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro has been called the most haunted location on the Grand Strand. It's just north of Myrtle Beach's main drag in a 103-year-old Victorian home. The restaurant owners have embraced the supernatural, saying they've never felt threatened. They regularly plan special-event dinners with psychics and talk openly about the restaurant's spook factor.

Haunted Encounters: Guests often get "locked" in the second-floor bathroom. Strange voices, unexplained movement of equipment, and shadowy figures have been reported by even the most skeptical guests and employees. When one of the restaurant owners asked the spirit who was there, the reply—captured in a recording—was "Clarence." Clarence and Essie Bessent-McCorsley were the original owners of the Victorian home.

Jean Bonnet Tavern-580x382

Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford, Pennsylvania

Built in the 1760s at a major junction of the only road connecting eastern Pennsylvania with the Ohio River, the Jean Bonnet was an important trading post and watering hole for early settlers. If the tavern's original stone walls could talk, they'd tell of rowdy trappers and traders, Whiskey Rebellion farmers' meetings, and encampments of troops summoned here by George Washington. Stories of the spirits at the Jean Bonnet Tavern are captured in The Pennsylvania Ghost Guide, Vol. II by Patty A. Wilson.

Haunted Encounters: Guests and staff describe a strange man in the bar after-hours, doors being opened and closed, and the sensation of being touched when no one is around. When members of the Central Pennsylvania Paranormal Association spent the night, a group of apparitions in frontier-type clothing appeared in a doorway and watched a man playing the piano at the other end of the bar.

Catfish Plantation-580x382

Catfish Plantation, Waxahachie, Texas

In the south Dallas suburb of Waxahachie, Catfish Plantation restaurant occupies an 1895 Victorian home where three former residents are believed to have died. The apparition of Elizabeth, murdered here on her wedding day in the 1920s, appears in her wedding gown. A Depression-era farmer named Will walks around the lobby and front porch in his overalls. Caroline, a strict religious woman who detested alcohol, passed away here in 1970, and now she sends wine glasses flying into the wall. The Travel Channel's Extreme Restaurants show, NBC News, and several paranormal groups have reported on the Catfish Plantation's strange occurrences.

Haunted Encounters: Besides seeing the resident ghosts, the restaurant's guests and staff have felt cold spots that move around. Clocks with missing parts chime. Doors, lights, and faucets all operate at will. And several knives go missing every night.

Jury Room-580x382

The Jury Room, Columbus, Ohio

One of the oldest continually operating restaurants in Columbus, opened in 1831, this downtown mainstay has plenty of stories to fuel its ghostly reputation. It was built on Native American burial ground and lost its third floor to a fire in the late 1800s. The original tin ceiling and historical photos are a throwback to The Jury Room's days as a bordello. At the bar, you can order a "Hung Jury," a "Bordello Bubbly," or a "Lorenzo's Revenge," all nods to the prostitute who shot a man on the bordello's front doorstep in the 1850s and her subsequent trial for murder.

Haunted Encounters: A tall, shadowy man has been seen roaming around the bar and appearing behind bartenders. Objects move at will and women describe being attacked by unseen forces. There have been so many occurrences that the staff now keeps a ghost log and The Travel Channel's The Dead Files has come to investigate.

High Noon Restaurant & Saloon-580x382

High Noon Restaurant & Saloon, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In Albuquerque's Old Town, two different spirits are believed to haunt High Noon Restaurant & Saloon, housed in one of the historic district's oldest structures. Constructed in 1785, the building has served as both a casino and a successful brothel. According to Ken Hudnall's book Spirits of the Border IV: The History and Mystery of New Mexico, some say High Noon is haunted by the ghost of a trapper. The female spirit, investigated by the Southwest Ghost Hunter's Association, wears an old-fashioned white formal dress.

Haunted Encounters: Hudnall says the male ghost may be responsible for the unseen tapping that customers and employees feel on their shoulders, the smell of burning when the fireplace isn't lit, and the calling out of employees' names. Several customers and staff members have reported supernatural sightings, including the female spirit, who haunts the Santos Room lounge. High Noon is one of many restaurants and bars on the lantern-lit Ghost Tour of Old Town.

 

You Might Also Like:


New Orleans LA_SM

 

America's 10 Most Haunted Cities

 

 

 

 

Cover_Waitomo Cave_SM

 

Best Places to Explore the Underworld

 

 

 

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title America's Most Haunted Restaurants and Bars.

A Seaside Stay in St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Posted October 11, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

Canada-St-Andrews-Lobsterman-DD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathe in the ocean air and let the welcoming smiles of St. Andrews' locals invite you into this charming seaside town. Whether strolling along quaint downtown streets, venturing out onto the ocean floor at low tide, or lingering over a meal of regional delicacies, there's no lack of beauty in this close-knit community. Here are some favorite discoveries from my summertime tour of St. Andrews.

Whale Watching

St. Andrews is set on the Bay of Fundy, which has some of the highest tides in the world—each day, the tidal cycle moves about 100 billion tons of water in and out of the bay. During the summer months, these waters are home to all types of whales, including minkes, humpbacks, and right whales, which some consider the world's rarest. Every year, they make their way to the Bay of Fundy to feed, fatten, and mate, and a visit to the region just isn't complete without venturing out for some face time with the majestic giants. Fundy Tide Runners, headed up by gregarious and knowledgeable captain David Welch, is the best game in town for thrilling, up-close animal sightings and even better storytelling. Welch spent his childhood summers on nearby Deer Island, and his intimate knowledge of the West Isles was on display during my excursion on the 24-foot Zodiac. We were miles from shore, yet Welch recognized every sailor and lobsterman who crossed our path; each time, he'd pull up alongside the neighboring boat and ask after their families, how the catch was that day, and whether they'd spotted the elusive minke that everyone was talking about. Each interaction was an illustration of the ties that bind this seaside community.

Kingsbrae Garden

Tear yourself away from the shops and restaurants along downtown St. Andrews' Water Street and you'll be richly rewarded with a vibrant display of plants, flowers, and sculptures in Kingsbrae Garden. Themed gardens, bridges crossing lily-pad-strewn ponds, pergolas draped with flowering vines, a working Dutch windmill, and a farm area with alpaca, pygmy goats, and peacocks are just some of the sights in this 27-acre horticultural masterpiece set on the grounds of a former estate. I could have spent all day taking in its serene beauty. Aside from the natural scenery, what struck me was its cheerful, beaming workers, each friendlier than the next: a gardener lovingly repotting herbs, another pushing a wheelbarrow filled with dirt and weeds, a craftsman painstakingly applying a fresh coat of paint to a life-sized metal horse in the sculpture garden. Maintaining the grounds is truly a labor of love, and it shows. The Algonquin Resort The pride of every St. Andrews resident, the iconic Algonquin Resort sits high on a hill like a grand guardian watching over town. During my visit, the resort was deep in the midst of a $30 million renovation, but I was lucky enough to get a private hard-hat tour of the site with the resort's general manager, Tim Ostrem. Although the grounds were host to construction vehicles rather than guests, it was easy to picture the elegant, historical property post-transformation. Ostrem's boundless enthusiasm helped; as we walked through room after room, he painted pictures of the grandeur that the Algonquin would reclaim when its now-skeletal rooms were brought back to life. The Algonquin Resort will officially reopen this fall, and recent photos show that it is well on its way to becoming the luxurious retreat Ostrem described. The hotel has preserved much-treasured architectural details, including Juliet balconies and a Tudor-style exterior, while expanding and improving existing offerings, such as the outdoor event spaces and spa. Don't miss locally sourced ingredients served up by executive chef Jasmin Kobajica at the on-site restaurant Braxton's, named after one of the Algonquin's original chefs who set the bar for uncompromising quality and inspired cuisine. The Rossmount Inn While taking advantage of a photo op—a breathtaking vista over the bay from the Algonquin golf course's signature 12th hole—I was asked by a couple of friendly golfers about my dinner plans. You would think I was meeting the Queen of England when I informed them of my reservations at the Rossmount Inn. One absolutely insisted I order the lobster cocktail, while another made sure to fill me in on Chef Chris Aerni's focus on honoring the freshest local ingredients. The Rossmount Inn is certainly St. Andrews' most buzzed-about restaurant, and for good reason. The setting typifies elegant fine dining, but the food speaks to a more rustic approach and features mainly local ingredients—often foraged for by chef Aerni that very morning to be reinvented for dinner. The lobster cocktail was as delicious as it was beautiful, and the soup of fiddleheads, a prized ingredient with a brief harvest, was a true taste of the region's food culture. Be sure to top off the creative meal with a hike; the Rossmount sits at the base of Chamcook Mountain, whose peak affords expansive views of Passamaquoddy Bay.

Local Seafood

In a cove around the corner from the famed Algonquin, I stumbled upon a mother and son digging for clams. Toes buried in the muck, they drove clam rakes into the soft mud and deposited their treasures in a wire basket. The beach was covered in a blanket of shells, and the ocean at low tide seemed to stretch on until forever. But this stark, gray beauty of sea and sky belied the rich world of marine life just below the surface; in fact, in 2013, New Brunswick was Canada's largest exporter of seafood. From kitchen to classroom, St. Andrews celebrates its seaside location, and every year, the town hosts the Bay of Fundy Seafood Week, which features renowned chefs from around the world leading cooking expos, forums, and classes, all focusing on local, sustainable seafood.

(Photos: Julianne Lowell)

 

You Might Also Like:


Cover_Peggy's-Cove_Nova-Scotia_SM

 

10 Amazing North American Road Trips

 

 

 

 

Peggy's-Cove_SM

 

Unforgettable North American Coastal Villages

 

 

 

 

COVER_Woman-Dressed-for-Fall-SM

 

What to Pack for Unpredictable Fall Weather

 

 

 

 

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title A Seaside Stay in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Follow Julianne Lowell on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.



10 Best European Castles You Can Visit

Posted October 4, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

580x382_Hohenzollern_Germany

Sometimes romantic, sometimes sinister, Europe's best castles evoke a palpable sense of both melancholy and wonder. Their ancient stones brim with mystery and history—but not the stodgy old history of musty textbooks. Castles are the past brought to life, a visceral reminder that quests and battles and chivalry weren't always the exclusive province of fantasy novels. Go medieval on your next trip with a visit to one of these castles where ancient history is alive and well.


580x382_Carreg-Cenne_Wales

Carreg Cenne Castle, Wales

Never trust any list of Europe's best castles that doesn't include at least one entry from Wales. Owing to its tumultuous history of war and rebellion, the Welsh countryside is home to more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Our favorite is Carreg Cennen, the only ruined stronghold to make this list. Actually, we like that Carreg Cennen has been in a ruinous state since 1462. Perched on a lonely limestone hilltop in Brecon Beacons National Park and often shrouded in mist, Carreg Cennen is easily the most evocative castle in the land. And while it may not be quite as popular as the larger Caerphilly Castle, Carreg Cennen will always be first in our hearts. It's open daily between April and October.


580x382_Hohenwerfen_Austria

Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria

Brooding high above Austria's Salzachtal Valley amid the dramatic peaks of the Berchtesgaden Alps, this stronghold has served alternately as a home to kings, archbishops, and prisoners (it was a state prison for a period of time) for more than 900 years. Today, Hohenwerfen Castle is a popular tourist draw and the site of Austria's foremost falconry center, where the royal hunting art is on full display with daily demonstrations.


580x382_Prejama_Slovenia


Predjama Castle, Slovenia

Predjama Castle is an easy sell to castle lovers. Most famous for being built into the side of a 400-foot cliff, it may also call to mind visions of Tolkien's Helm's Deep. But this real-world stronghold has the requisite dungeons, secret tunnels, and bloody history to make it a must-see on its own merits. Visit Predjama Castle during the annual medieval tournament, held each July, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


580x382_Guedelon_France

Guedelon Castle, France

Who says the age of castles is over? Take a trip back in time at Guedelon Castle in Burgundy, France, where a team of 50 craftspeople and laborers are currently using 13th-century building techniques and technology (think: horses) to construct an authentic castle from scratch, deep within a secluded forest. Visitors are welcomed from mid-March to early November each year. The project has been running since 1997 and hopes to reach completion in the 2020s.


580x382_Neuschwanstein_Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

It might be the most photographed castle in the world, but there's still nothing quite like seeing Germany's fairy-tale castle in person. The brainchild of "Mad King Ludwig" (or, more generously, "The Fairy-Tale King"), Neuschwanstein has influenced everything from Disney attractions (note the similarity to Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle) to books and computer games. Take a tour of the castle grounds, but leave time for an off-site walk along the myriad nearby trails. That's where you'll find the most stunning views for photographs.


580x382_Eilean-Donan_Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

One of the most iconic castles in Europe, Scotland's Eilean Donan Castle is recognized the world over from its appearances on postcards and in movies like the original Highlander ("There can be only one!"). History buffs will appreciate Eilean Donan's rich past as a key site during the 1719 Jacobite Rising, and all will enjoy the stark beauty of its surroundings, where three great lochs meet at the foot of an impressive mountain range. Today nearly every part of the castle is accessible to the public for tours and exploration.


580x382_Hohenzollern_Germany-2

Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

This ancestral home to a line of German emperors would fit in with the fantastical fortresses imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. At 2,805 feet above sea level, Hohenzollern Castle really is a castle in the clouds. The current fortress is actually the third to be built on the site (the first was destroyed in battle and the second fell into disrepair). Today it is a popular tourist attraction.


580x382_Hunyad-Castle_Romania

Hunyad Castle, Romania

The imposing Hunyad Castle, which once imprisoned Vlad the Impaler (Bram Stoker's inspiration for Dracula), offers plenty for castle aficionados to sink their teeth into. Marked by myriad towers, multicolored roofs, and exaggerated stone carvings, this Gothic-Renaissance castle was fully and fancifully restored after decades of neglect. What we see today may or may not be authentic (some suggest that modern architects projected their own "wistful interpretations" of a Gothic castle onto the reconstruction), but either way, the end result is memorable.


580x382_Edinburgh-Castle

Edinburgh Castle, Germany

One of the best examples of a fully restored medieval fortress, Edinburgh Castle towers over Scotland's capital city from atop an extinct volcano called Castle Rock. It was built in the 12th century and has passed hands between the English and the Scots numerous times over the course of its bloody history. Today, it's open to the public year-round for tours and events.


Versailles, France

From its origin as an unassuming hunting lodge to its height as the royal court of France under Louis XIV, the Sun King's Chateau de Versailles is arguably the grandest castle in the world. No visit to Paris is complete without at least a day trip to see the gardens, canals, and gilded halls of Versailles.

You Might Also Like:

  St Michaels Mount_UK-SM

10 Beautiful Castles in Unexpected Places

 

 

Swallow's Nest Yalta-SM

27 Places That Will Restore Your Faith in Travel 

 

 

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Best European Castles You Can Visit.

Follow Josh Roberts on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.

Should You Tip Your Flight Attendant?

Posted September 27, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

Air-Flight Attendants Smiling at Camera and Gesturing-HP

Welcome to Upright Position, SmarterTravel's new weekly series in which editor Caroline Costello discusses emotional and controversial travel topics. Join the debate by leaving a comment below!

There is a poll on the homepage of our sister site Airfarewatchdog that asks, "Have you ever tipped a flight attendant when flying?" I found the poll's results surprising, given that the concept of offering gratuities to flight crew hasn't crossed my mind, well, ever. Out of more than 500 people who took the poll, nearly 30 percent of respondents said yes, they have tipped a flight attendant in the past.

This is news to me. There isn't much of an economic foundation for tipping the person who gives the safety demonstration and distributes Terra Blues chips. Flight attendants aren't dependent upon tip income in order to achieve a livable wage. (Still, their salary levels are by no means good rationale for withholding gratuities. Gadling says they make $35,000 to $40,000 annually, on average.) Further, most airlines discourage flight attendants from accepting tips.

Maybe it's not about the money. An essay on tipping on the Financial Page of The New Yorker attests to the social motivation behind the practice: "Tippers aren't trying to drive hard bargains or maximize their economic interests; they're trying to demonstrate their status and to reciprocate what they see as good behavior." If tipping is more a gift imparted in a personal exchange than a requirement in an economic arrangement, then it jibes with air travel.

Flight attendants are super service workers. Their primary role is keeping passengers safe in case of catastrophe—not refilling coffee. They work grueling hours and have extensive training. And their day-to-day grind is poles apart from the glamor of that Pan Am TV period drama. Since attendants are so much more than wait staff, perhaps they do deserve a little recognition in the form of a few bills. Your flight attendant is busy. He's running up and down serving drinks, comforting children, disarming disgruntled passengers. Arguably the fastest and easiest way to communicate some appreciation is to hand him a gratuity on the way off the plane. Will your offer get rejected? Maybe. At least you tried.

It's about recognition and recompense for above-and-beyond behavior. If tips are generally appreciated by flight crew (let's assume here that they are), there's no harm in offering them. There's also no danger that in-flight tipping will become a "thing" and kick off a coach-class shame spiral for budget travelers who keep their wallets closed. A practice that isn't sanctioned by the airline industry is not going to become a trend anytime soon.

What do you think? Should travelers tip flight attendants?

You Might Also Like:

  Asiana-SM

What Your Flight Attendant Really Thinks of You

 

 

Woman Covering Her Face-SM

 

 Is it in Bad Taste to Wear Yoga Pants on a Plane?

 

 

  Luggage-SunhatCameraPassport-SM

Don't Do This When Exiting the Plane (Please!)

 

 

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Should You Tip Your Flight Attendant?

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

 

Air New Zealand Introduces Love at 35,000 Feet

Posted July 17, 2009 by Katie Blais


Planeheart_formatted As a single gal I'll admit, at times the dating game can be a little daunting. Those magical moments of meeting someone by accidentally grabbing the same gallon of milk at the grocery store or randomly sitting next to a handsome, rich, smart, funny, well dressed, and single stranger during your plane ride seems to only happen in movies.

Air New Zealand is hoping to change all that--well, at least the plane scenario; if you're on the prowl at the deli counter, you're still on your own. My favorite Kiwi airline is offering a match-making flight complete with special guest stars Jason Mesnick and his gal pal Molly Malaney from The Bachelor. Will there be a rose ceremony in place of the usual in-flight movie, or at the very least some tips for finding the guy or gal of your dreams, maybe right after the in-flight safety talk? I'm rooting for it.

Hopeful singles should book a round-trip flight for September 19, 2009, departing from Los Angeles (LAX) and landing in Auckland the next morning. Book by July 19 and you'll receive $200 off your ticket. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to find your soul mate in the friendly (or, in some cases, maybe even frisky) skies, you can still use your cheap flight to New Zealand to check out all it has to offer, culturally and romantically. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your match during your stay! All the better if he looks like Bret from Flight of the Conchords!

(photo: www.dailymail.uk)

From Sea to Shining Sea

Posted May 18, 2009 by Katie Blais

Memorial_day_formatted I think that Memorial Day is one of the best holidays. The official kickoff of summer ushers in a season of vacations, warm weather, and barbecues in a patriotic package that  for most Americans is also an extra day off. Plus, we get the go-ahead to pull our white pants and skirts out of cold storage!

 A reported 32.4 million Americans will be traveling over Memorial Day. A majority of travelers will be hitting the highway due to lower gas prices—down about $1.47 from last year (yay, recession). Those flying will most likely score sweet airfare deals .  The slightly bruised travel industry is taking full advantage of this up tick in travelers by offering tons of Memorial Day travel deals. Look for 50 percent off hotels, added coupons and extras, and discount flights

So whether you travel by land, sea, or air, take advantage of this wonderful country of ours and wear your white duds without any scorn from the fashion police.

What are your Memorial Day plans? Leave a comment below and let me know!

New Security Scanners Leave Little to the Imagination

Posted March 5, 2009 by Carl Unger

Tech_mwave As the old saying goes, "If you've got it, flaunt it." That may be the thinking behind the TSA's new security scanners, which uses a high-tech imaging system to reveal what passengers have hiding beneath their clothes. The technology, called millimeter wave imaging, can detect non-metallic items such as plastic weapons and liquid explosives, which conventional metal detectors miss. And the new machines work well, meaning flying will be theoretically safer once they are fully implemented. But there's a catch: These machines can see everything beneath a passengers clothes, and I mean everything.

Needless to say, such a revealing form of passenger screening has brought outcry, notably from the ACLU and other privacy advocates. And who can blame them? Most people don't disrobe in the airport, and these machines effectively force you to do so. But the TSA claims passengers' privacy is protected because the screeners viewing the images can neither save the image nor see the passengers' faces.

Still, the idea of a TSA screener seeing a black-and-white image of your bits and pieces is too much for some people to bear. As of now, passengers can refuse to use the machine and choose the metal detector instead, though the TSA says these passengers may require a pat-down following the metal detector. After all, a person refusing such a thorough search could be trying to protect something, even if it's just their dignity.

What do you think about the TSA's new technology? Is your privacy worth sacrificing in the name of security, or is this an unfairly harsh way to treat innocent passengers? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Thanks!

(Photo: TSA)

Finding Cheap Flights to the 'Old Country'

Posted February 5, 2009 by Zak Patten

Romania-sighisora Back before international air travel could fit somewhat comfortably into most everyone's budget, immigrants to these shores rarely had the opportunity to return home, and the journeys they faced were long and arduous (steerage, anyone?). Today, despite the economy, recent immigrants make such trips annually, if not more often. And if you're interested in traveling abroad, you can use this to your advantage.

The trick is to find a city where there's a big population of relatively recent immigrants from your desired destination and then check flights departing from there. It's not a guarantee that fares will be lower, but the higher level of demand from all of the people regularly traveling back should translate into savings on your part.

For example, say you live in Boston (as I do) and want to visit India (as I have). There's definitely an Indian community in Boston, but apparently not enough to warrant an Indian airline taking up residence here. A much better bet is to head down I-95 to New York, where I can take a nonstop Air India flight to New Delhi or Mumbai. Other examples that come to mind are Chicago for destinations in Poland, Los Angeles for South Korea, and Boston for Ireland.

But how to get to the gateway city and then home again, without taking too many flights and spending too much money? In the case of India, if I want to be really frugal, I can hop on a bus to New York for little more than the cost of lunch. Obviously, if I fly, the cost to me will be higher, as will the possibility of delays and cancelations. Driving my own car brings a different set of charges, such as paying through the nose for airport parking. So remember that flights from immigrant cities are not always the cheapest way to get to the Old Country—but they just might save you a few bucks.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Octavian Babusi)

Top 10 News Stories (Okay, Blog Posts) of 2008

Posted December 31, 2008 by Nicki Krawczyk

Newyearsclock Gather ‘round, ye friends and neighbors, as 2008 draws to a hasty close. We shall now take a moment to reflect upon the departing annum and remember what was most important to us all throughout the year. Obviously, I’m talking about BookingBuddy Blog posts.

Here at the BookingBuddy offices, we’ve filled our cups of wassail, nog, and grog and toasted together in glad tidings as we perused our posts for the year. Read on, goodly reader, and enjoy our Top 10 Countdown of the Best Posts of 2008.

10. In a mere 20 days, we’ll get a new president. So, ask not what you can do for your president, but what your president can do for air travel. We had a few ideas.

9. Good news for some, bad news for skeevy old men? Nanoseconds after airlines announce they’ll be offering Wi-Fi, they also announce that they’ll be blocking porn.

8. High-speed trains could move at the speed of light! Okay, not really&elips;but only slightly slower: Potentially 300 miles per hour. Frickin’ awesome.

7. A new age for crime dawns when a couple steals 5,000 airplane tickets. The kicker? She worked for Southwest, he was a bailiff at the Bexar County Justice Center, and his coworkers were customers. Classy.

6. What’s better than being strapped into a seat for two-and-a-half hours? Being strapped in there and getting all jacked up on energy drinks. This dubious plan comes courtesy of Southwest, whose new slogan may be "We crave overstimulated passengers."

5. This was not a big year for refinement and class, especially in the airline advertising category. Remember Spirit’s "We’re Having a Threesome" Sale?

4. When journalists go undercover as flight attendants, it’s like 21 Jump Street for the airline industry with all the excitement and agony of a prime-time drama. Tune in.

3. It may be the final frontier, but that’s not stopping Sir Richard Branson. The gazillionaire makes plans to launch you (or a richer version of you) into space with Virgin Galactic space tourism.

2. The lips that launched a thousand [air]ships. Delta makes safety videos strangely steamy with a pair of luscious lips and a rather naughty finger wave.

1. You read it, you marveled at it, you puzzled over it, and you sent it to friends but not necessarily to your parents. That’s right all, I’m talking about the absolute, A-Number-One, Best Travel Story and Trend of 2008: Nakations.

Happy New Year from all of us at BookingBuddy. May 2009 bring plenty of travel lunacy and mayhem for us all to enjoy.

(Photo: thejudopodcast.com)


  • From:
  • To:
  • Depart:
  • Return:
  • Travelers:

Hotels, Rental Cars, Cruises, and Vacations

www.bookingbuddy.com