What is being billed as the "first interactive 3D travel portal" is the coolest way to visit Hawaii short of hopping the next flight to Honolulu. Using Google Earth technology, 3DHawaii.com lets you choose the cities, hotels, shopping malls, and tourist sites you want to visit, then enables you to roam through them in a simulated three-dimensional environment. The website also permits you to make reservations at more than 2,000 Hawaiian hotels and attractions. Check out the video for a quick overview, but to get the whole effect you'll want to log onto the website.
Everyone's all worked up – one way or the other – about the news that low-fare Southwest Airlines is buying AirTran for $1.4 billion. Just in case you're not sure if this is good or bad news for travelers, I decided to round up some of the headlines and "expert" quotes that followed the announcement.
Next time you think about filching a hotel towel, raising the volume of your free HBO to teeth-rattling levels at 3 a.m., verbally abusing the front desk clerk for some perceived misdeed, or generally making yourself a nuisance at your hotel, you might want to think again. A new members-only database being marketed to hotels, booking agencies, and B&B's in the United Kingdom will collect the names of rude and rowdy guests and make them available to other hoteliers--who may then decide not to rent a room to Mr. or Ms. Nasty. Guestscan ("Protecting You From Unwelcome Guests"), which launched on September 15, states its case pretty clearly on its website why British innkeepers have cause to be worried. Look at some of these figures:
For the most part, the exclusive Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, 50 miles south of Miami, is off-limits to you and me--unless we've been invited or we're prospective members. But things open up to non-members during the annual Vintage Weekend, December 2-5, when hundreds of antique cars, planes, and yachts go on display. The Vintage Weekend package costs $1,440 double and includes three nights lodging at the Inn, road rally and lunch at the infamous Alabama Jack's roadhouse, a Concours d'Elegance (that's an automobile beauty pageant) and luncheon on Saturday, inspection of antique planes at the club's private airport, cocktail party, dinner reception, and more. In years past the event has sold out as early as October.
Phil Anderson, general manager of the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York, is swimming against the travel-industry current, but he thinks it's the right direction to go. While many airlines, hotels, and cruise lines are increasingly "unbundling" their prices by adding numerous surcharges and fees so they can advertise an artificially low base price, Anderson has recently implemented a new pricing policy that is nearly unheard-of: the price you're quoted is the price you pay.
"It's counter-intuitive compared to what everyone else seems to be doing," Anderson told me, "but if a guest thinks he's getting a rate of four hundred and fifty dollars, why should his total be five hundred and thirty-one? Why nickel-and-dime people?"
So in an experiment this past summer, Anderson began quoting all-in-one rates that include the room, the resort fee, state tax, and occupancy tax....
Don't get too excited (or angry, exasperated, what have you) about all the blog posts today about stand-up seats in airplanes. Everyone is riffing on today's USA Today article about the proposed Skyrider seats from an Italian design company called Aviointeriors. The goal of these seats? To cram as many passengers into planes as possible. But there's no news here. The company actually announced their intention to create such seats back in July, right around the time I wrote about plans by low-budget Ryanair to install similar seats in their planes if they could get government approval.
Yeah, probably not gonna happen for a number of reasons, not least of all seething, frothing-at-the-mouth passenger outrage.
FAA rules on pilot fatigue have changed little since the heyday of the DC-3, despite the increased strains on pilots due to terrorism, advanced technology, and the greater potential for jet lag when crossing multiple time zones in a relatively short period. In his Fast Lane blog this morning, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said his department would propose new rules today requiring that pilots have an opportunity for at least nine hours of rest before a flight (an hour longer than current rules), at least 30 consecutive hours off duty every week (a 25 percent increase), and new weekly and monthly duty limits.
The U.S. State Department has just issued a worldwide travel alert based on the planned burning of Qurans by a Florida-based fringe religious group on Saturday, September 11, the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. The Qu'ran is the holy book of Islam. The planned anti-Islam event by Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, has already resulted in violent demonstrations in Afghanistan and Indonesia. "We urge you to pay attention to local reaction to the situation, and to avoid areas where demonstrations may take place," said the State Department.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor of Travel + Leisure.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government's right to search the contents of laptop computers at border crossings when the owner is not suspected of criminal activity. According to the ACLU, more than 6,500 electronic devices were seized and their contents examined at U.S. border crossings between October 8, 2008, and June 2, 2010. Nearly half of those seizures were made against American citizens.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old graduate student who holds dual U.S. and French citizenship. Returning to his New York home by train from Montreal, Abidor was interrogated and detained by U.S. border guards. His laptop computer was taken from him; when it was finally returned 11 days later, according to the lawsuit, there was evidence that authorities had searched his personal files, including online chats with his girlfriend. No charges were ever leveled.