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Gasp! Airline Scams Passengers at 37,000 Feet

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Ryanair called one of their sales tactics "Keep the Change!" but a better name might be the Schweppes Shakedown ... or Just Take Their Money Then Avoid Eye Contact Until Dublin.

Ireland's Ryanair recently got outed in the Daily Mail for a training manual that gives cabin crew advice on how to "keep the change," and boost the airline's profits, when selling passengers drinks or snacks. “If you owe someone €2.00 advise that you are short of change right now, and can return the change at the end of the service,” reportedly read the Ryanair Sales Tips manual, published by company Retail InMotion. “Or ask them if you would like to purchase a scratchcard, or something to the value of €2.00. If it doesn't work then don't worry, at least you tried.”

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"Subversive Adult Disneyland” Turns Up the Heat in Tasmania

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Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art has won raves—from this magazine, for instance—for its unique, fortress-like architecture. Perhaps even more striking, the museum’s creator, gambling mogul David Walsh, has frequently described the place as “a subversive adult Disneyland.”

High-brow praise, titillating promises ... either could get folks browsing airfares to Tasmania.

Indeed, the museum—with recurring themes of sex and death—seems to be driving a growing desire to visit Tasmania and its capital city, Hobart: According to a recent Telegraph article, more than 700,000 people have visited the museum since it opened in 2011 (for perspective, only 500,000 people actually live in the Australian island state), while Tourism Tasmania statistics indicate that tourist traffic to the island state is up by 10 percent since last year.

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This Summer's Hot UK Souvenir: Royal Baby Swag

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Last summer, some of the most omnipresent souvenirs found around London featured the faces of Wenlock and Mandeville, the much-maligned, one-eyed mascots from the 2012 Olympics.

This summer, experts are predicting that the image of a more agreeable tyke will draw tourist dollars: the baby expected in July by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and her royal baby daddy, Prince William.

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Hang 10th Street? Dude, Check Out the Crazy River Surfers

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Here's something you don't think about packing for a trip to Munich: Your wetsuit.

But according to recent reports from CNN and the BBC, the German capital has become the epicenter for an increasingly popular, and fairly-extreme sport: river surfing.

Granted, river surfing may sound like a feeble substitute for catching an ocean wave—but it isn't. On Munich's Eisbach—a channel off the Isar River—the churning waters create a rapid, one-meter wave that must be ridden stationary, so you have to jump on fast and stay balanced. (And it ain't easy—hence, this is meant for expert surfers only.) The river itself can be just 12 meters wide, too, so only one person can go at a time, often resulting in long lines any time of day. Adding a nice bit of masochism, the water's mighty chilly: Eisbach, after all, translates to "ice brook."

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United Opens First Class Lounge (for Dogs) at O’Hare

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Check in with your dog at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and your pooch will get first-class treatment: a personalized doggie biscuit (name emblazoned in icing), a custom bed and a can of pink hotel-logo tennis balls. But when it comes to flying, "first class" has not really existed for pets.

United is hoping to change that. The airline just announced the opening of a first-class style kennel at O’Hare for pets who are too big to fly in the cabin. Similar to facilities in the airline’s Newark and Houston hubs, O’Hare’s PetSafe kennel promises 28 clean, ventilated and temperature-controlled enclosures, comfy vans that will chauffeur critters to their flights, and staffers who will exercise your pet and, according to the release, “provide grooming and bathing on request” (presumably your request, not Sparky’s).

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Hey, Kids—Lets Go to Moe’s Tavern This Summer!

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Coming soon to Universal Orlando: long lines of middle-aged guys waiting to get their pictures taken with Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob.

The Orlando theme park recently announced that it will expand the area around the simulator-style Simpsons Ride to embody all that is magical about the Springfield hometown of Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie. According to its release, the new Springfield area of the park will open this summer and include one new ride—the hopefully-not-too-aptly-named Twirl ’n’ Hurl—as well as a line-up of Simpsons-inspired food and beverages that would make any would-be Homer swoon, such as "Krusty-certified meat" at Krusty Burger, a "Taco Fresho" with Bumblebee Man, and an array of donuts (“is there anything they can not do?”) at Lard Lad.

As proof that theme parks have become as much for grown-up kids as actual kids, Springfield will also feature a Moe’s Tavern and Duff Beer, “brewed exclusively for Universal Orlando,” according to the release. And hey, for any parent who has waited hours so their child could get an autograph from a giant mouse or princess, a cold beer with a donut may sound like a family vacation dream come true.

Photo credit: 2013 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

New Grounds for Diverting a Plane: Unsolicited Karaoke

In many instances, airlines seem to assume that passengers have a pretty high threshold for discomfort and inconvenience. Yes, they seem to think, you can handle sitting on a tarmac for a few hours, perhaps with no A/C or working toilets. You’re tough, right?

But according to a recent CNN report, American Airlines has declared a limit to what humans should have to put up with while in transit, and the repeated singing of “I Will Always Love You” is clearly over the line.

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Sorry, Wrong Number: British Tourist's Stolen Phone Racks Up Five-Figure Bill

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You assume, if your credit card gets stolen when you're on vacation, that the bandit will make a beeline for a local electronic store. And if your phone gets stolen, most of us would assume that the device just gets sold.

But London ad exec Mike Clear discovered a new, dizzying level of travel theft last month when he was vacationing in Spain.

According to a Daily Mail article by Martin Robinson, Clear’s phone got stolen one day in Alicante by pickpockets—lousy luck, to be sure. But the real shock came when his phone bill arrived: the bill, usually about £100, was now approaching £15,000 (about $23,000 Stateside).

As it turns out, the crooks were repeatedly calling a “premium rate” number that cost a whopping £21-a-minute, which racked up the exorbitant bill in just about two hours. It appears the crooks also set up that premium rate number, connected to their own bank account, and just needed to “recruit” phones to help them generate customers.

The article speculated that the pickpockets were also savvy enough to have some software that cracked the security code on Clear’s phone, which he had locked. 'There must be plenty of people who think that remote locking their phone when it's lost or stolen will give them some protection,” Clear told Robinson. “But it's a more or less useless security measure.”

For the first several days after the bill arrived, the story details, wireless provider O2 maintained that Clear was indeed responsible for his lofty phone bill. Happily, after further investigation, the company agreed to forgive the charges. A spokesperson for O2 called the crime “unprecedented.”

The lesson for the rest of us: if your phone ever gets stolen, cancel the phone—and any security code—stat.

See: Finding Lost or Stolen Gadgets.

Illustration by Mark Matcho

Legoland's Disco Elevator Takes You Higher

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Unless you’re allergic to primary colors—or LEGOS, of course—the biggest problem with the new Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, California, may be that it’s not taller.

For a lot of grown-up guests, the coolest part about the otherwise kid-centric, three-story hotel may be the “disco elevator.” Inside, the walls are decorated with nightclub-ready LEGO characters, a strobe light hangs from the ceilings, and when the doors close, the lava floor panels light up and the music kicks in: ABBA, the BeeGees, the Village People. It makes you think: How many elevators out there have wasted an opportunity to be fun? (The hotel has figured out how to make everything enjoyable: there’s also a jump-able whoopee cushion corner in the elevator lobby.)

Nigel Woods, the project designer who created the elevator, told us that he felt he had to up the ante set by the elevator at another theme park hotel, the Alton Towers Splash Landing Hotel, in the UK. “It plays some ‘Hawaii Five O’ music,” he told us by email, “which my children (Emily, 9 and Lucy 6) and I loved to dance to as we went up to our room.” Then, he recounts, he saw a YouTube video of a disco elevator, “and fell over laughing. From there, the Legoland disco elevator was born.”

While at least one reviewer has pooh-poohed the elevator as a little intense for toddlers (or parents who haven't had their morning coffee)—most guests at the hotel's opening in April seemed to love it. Some of us may have wished the ride lasted longer than just two floors up from the lobby. Then again, some guests booked on the ground floor were guilty of mere joyriding.

See: World's Greatest Elevator Views.

Photo credit: LEGOLAND California Resort

Nothing Inspires Passenger Confidence Like Silly Costumes

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Spring Airlines, based in China, probably thought they had a fun promotion on their hands: Dress the flight attendants in themed costumes to liven up the flights from Shanghai. Their first idea, posted on the Facebook page? Classic, and maybe short-skirted, maid costumes. Folks like to feel that they're getting good service, right?

Indeed, from various reports published in the past months, it seems that the bad ol’ days of “Coffee Tea or Me” for flight attendants might be making a comeback. Both Ryanair and Thailand-based Nok airlines have been dinged recently for selling calendars featuring flight attendants (or models posing as flight attendants) in skimpy outfits, while Vietnam’s VietJet Air actually staged a beauty contest down the aisle of an aloft flight last year, to celebrate a new route. (In that case, at least the bathing-suit-clad contestants weren’t crew members.)

For Spring Airlines, the frilly-skirted maid joke clearly fell flat. Some bloggers and Twitter usershave taken the airline to task—for objectifying the crew members, certainly, and perhaps even for putting their onboard safety at risk, due to those teeter-y heels. The airline responded by posting on Facebook that “We'll never objectify any of our staff; in fact this idea came from our international crew of qualified Chinese, Japanese and Thailand cabin staff.”

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