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A Travel Blog from the Editors of T+L

RSS Feed Posts by Mark Orwoll

Famous California Beach Bonfires Will Continue--But With Restrictions

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Beachside bonfires have been a Southern California tradition since at least the 1950s. Families cooking hot dogs. Surfers warming themselves against the early-evening chill. Lovers holding hands and gazing into the flames, with the roar of the surf in the background. Out-of-state visitors wanting to follow in the footsteps of their favorite actors from Baywatch and The O.C. Over the years, beach cities up and down the coast installed permanent fire rings for ease and safety. These fire rings have become part of our national pop culture. Think Gidget and Moondoggie. Think Annette and Frankie. And now think if those fire rings were banned--because that's almost what happened, until a fateful decision this month.

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T+L Inter-office Memo

To: Boss
From: Mark
Subject: Nude Recreation Week, July 7-14

I took a look at that press release from the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) and I think we should forget about posting something on "Nude Recreation Week." Let me explain why…

First, I'm personally kinda sick of the whole calendarization thing. I mean, July 28 is National Day of the Cowboy. Is that even necessary? And July 19-August 26 is National Fishing Month. First month I ever heard of that has 38 days. Now comes Nude Recreation Week. You think that was passed by Congress or something? It's a bunch of guys at a bar coming up with this stuff.

Besides, aren't you tired of this trend for naming different kinds of vacations? The AANR is calling nude holidays "Nakations." Oh, please. Remember "stay-cations" during the Recession? Cute. Summer camps all over the country are sponsoring "playcations." Look up "daycation" at Urban Dictionary. It's out of control. What's next? Calling medical tourism "X-ray-cations"? It's an abomination!

Finally, I think we really need to consider the health and safety-related issues with this Nude Recreation Week concept. For instance, the press release they sent out recommends that if you want to ease into this whole naked thing slowly you could "wash the family pet in the nude" (which is silly, since pets don't usually wear clothes in the first place) and "vacuum the house nude." I'm sorry but there are just too many ways you could hurt yourself doing that, and I don't want that responsibility on my (fully clothed) shoulders.

Anyway, if you really want a write-up on this I'll do it. But under protest.

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Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. You can followhim on Twitter @orwoll and Like him on Facebook.

No Snowden. No Turbulence. No Booze on Aeroflot Flight To Havana. Whah?!

Aeroflot has a drinking problem.

When reporters were duped on Monday into flying from Moscow to Havana on the Russian airline in hopes of interviewing National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the fugitive leaker was nowhere to be found. One passenger reported that the flight not only had no Snowden, it had "no turbulence and no booze." Seriously? No vodka?! On an Aeroflot flight?! It's true. The Moscow-Havana route is one of seven long-distance itineraries on which Aeroflot has banned alcohol in economy class. Why? Just watch the video above to get a sampling of the verbal assaults, fisticuffs, and other liquor-induced ill behavior seen on hundreds of Aeroflot flights every year. And now some legislators are considering even more stringent measures to stop the moonshine madness.

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Hertz Launches New Uber-Luxury Car Fleet

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When it comes to choosing a rental car, I'm always spinning my wheels, trying to balance comfort and price, and always ending up with something as sensible (read: boring) as a Chevy Aveo or Nissan Versa. Yeesh! What am I—a bank examiner or something? Now I have every reason, if not necessarily the funds, to don a pair of Tod's Gommino driving shoes and Brooks Brothers deerskin driving gloves (and perhaps a rueful smirk) and step behind the wheel of a real mean machine, thanks to Hertz's new DreamCar program, which launched this week.

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Travel Tips from Tim Gunn of Project Runway

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Tim Gunn, the fashion consultant and mentor to the contestants on Lifetime's Project Runway, was standing on the rooftop Garden of New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel recently, preparing to plant a tree in support of the New York Restoration Project, an environmental nonprofit founded by Gunn's friend Bette Midler. Not only did he dig the hole and plant the tree, he actually tidied up the stray dirt afterward. We asked the dapper Gunn what he takes with him when he travels.

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Hotels Cut Room Service and Other Perks

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The New York Hilton Midtown Hotel will observe two milestones this summer: its 50th anniversary in June and, in August, the end of room service.

The 1,980-room hotel, New York City's largest, isn't the first hotel to discontinue that amenity, but it's probably the biggest. It's all part of a lodging industry trend to cut the frills and concentrate on basic service—a trend that the airlines pioneered with the introduction of controversial fees.

Around the nation and across the globe, hotels are curtailing such extras as business centers, minibars, bellhops, doormen and even traditional front desks for checking in. Yotel New York in Midtown Manhattan, for instance, asks guests to check themselves in at kiosks in the hotel's "Ground Control." And if their rooms aren't ready, Yotel's guests check their suitcases with a robotic baggage storage system.

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Hotel Challenge: What Are You Giving Guests For Free?

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You know me: Always complaining about excessive fees aimed at travelers. I've kvetched about the worst rental car rip-offs. I've bemoaned the world's most outrageous hotel fees. I've griped, groused, growled, and grumbled about airline surcharges here and here and here. But before I have to rush back to my thesaurus again for another way to say complain, let me acknowledge that there are some travel companies that are doing it right: They're giving stuff away, free. May I just say, yay.

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Classic Travel Scam Led To Death of Malcolm X's Grandson

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Family members have planned a private burial service for Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of slain civil rights activitist Malcolm X, in Hartsdale, New York tomorrow. He was beaten to death in a bar fight on May 9 in Mexico City. But in the widespread news coverageof the killing, one fact has been curiously underplayed: Shabazz was the unwitting victim of one of the oldest scams in travel.

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New Website Saves on Airfare By Choosing Your Destination For You

Getgoing.com

Getgoing.com, a new website that officially launches on March 6, promises to save leisure travelers up to 40 percent on airfare. How do they know you're really a leisure traveler? Simple. You choose two different destinations in the same region of the world (for example, Vienna and Geneva, or Costa Rica and Panama) and enter your travel dates. Then provide your billing information to complete your reservation. The Get Going team randomly chooses one of your two options. The "surprise" is supposed to be part of the website's charm. The savings is the other part.

The website covers hundreds of cities in more than 50 countries. Here are some airfares from New York I found on getgoing.com and the lowest comparable fares on Kayak: Milan, $568 ($635 on Kayak); Istanbul, $577 ($705 on Kayak); Las Vegas, $247 ($338 on Kayak); Beijing, $815 ($1,020 on Kayak). I didn't find any 40% discounts, and the flights on getgoing.com may be different from those on Kayak, but in every example I tried, getgoing.com had the lowest fare.

And now for the drawbacks: Getgoing.com is the wrong choice if you are a business traveler who needs to be in Los Angeles on Monday morning or you're traveling to a family reunion in Glasgow, because you may not get your preferred destination. You won't know which airline you'll be flying or the location of your stop-over airports (if any) until you complete your purchase. Even more important: your tickets are completely nonrefundable and changes are not allowed, even if you're willing to pay a penalty fee. You can, however, buy cancel-for-any-reason trip insurance at a cost roughly equal to 10% of the airfare.

For free-and-easy travelers who choose their destinations using a blindfold, a dart, and a map taped to the wall, getgoing.com could be a useful booking tool. But for the rest of us, maybe not.

2012-hs-mark-orwolljpgMark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.


Image courtesy of Getgoing.com

U.S. Pushes for 'Musical Passports'

UPDATE: Changes have been made below to the original post to clarify certain details about the import and export of musical instruments that were made using endangered species.

As individual musicians and orchestras make their plans now for the summer touring season, many face the distinct possibility are concerned that their rare and antique instruments may be confiscated when the musicians travel abroad or return to this country they cross international borders. That's because an international convention called CITES prohibits places restrictions on the import and export of musical instruments made from  endangered materials like ivory, sea-tortoise shell, and Brazilian rosewood, among others. Enter an unlikely musicians' friend: the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which announced today that it will propose issuing "musical passports" that would permit international transport of such instruments made before the prohibitions were enacted.

This would be a huge relief to musicians with such instruments as vintage guitars and violins, as well as ivory-keyed pianos, since they currently have to file lengthy and complicated import and export forms every time they travel, for each and every country visit. If the proposal passes (and a FWS spokesperson seemed optimistic at a press conference today), musicians will be able to get an actual passport for their instruments, complete with a physical description on one page and spaces for entry stamps on another. The musical passports would be valid for three years. The proposal is expected to be made at a CITES conference in Thailand on March 3.

This post was updated February 26, 2012.

Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.

 

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