My recent Why We Travel post discussed the potential risks of traveling to the Sochi Olympics in the wake of Russia's new anti-gay law. But the Duma is far from the only legislative body on earth enacting prohibitive policies against LGBT individuals.
The list of countries with draconian laws includes many of the expected players: Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria call for the death penalty as punishment for homosexual activity. In Bangladesh and Guyana, life imprisonment awaits transgressors. Yet these countries are not exactly top destinations for most Americans. So however they may feel about the laws, US travelers are unlikely to base their vacation plans off of them. A travel boycott by Americans to the Solomon Islands, where homosexuals face up to fourteen years in jail, is unlikely to hold much sway.
Our kudos goes to Expedia; the online booking giant has kicked off 2014 with a slew of intuitive, new features. Filling a void we’d always lamented, there’s itinerary sharing, by which customers can share live itineraries with whomever they choose (updates on delays get sent as real-time notifications). Also new: Scratchpad, a dashboard where you can save your searches and then access them from any device, or sign up for email notifications on price drops on your select routes. And finally, there’s Flight Recommendations, which analyzes your search parameters and suggests alternate airports or itinerary tweaks that might get you a better deal. And none of this could have come at a better time for Expedia, given the groundswell of rumors surrounding Google’s reinvented travel search tools—likely to hit the web come March.
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
Photo Courtesy of Expedia
The bitcoin continues to establish itself in the travel industry, with online booking site PointsHound and two Las Vegas casinos joining the growing list of companies utilizing the cryptocurrency this week.
PointsHound, a website which helps travelers book vacations and earn points for their various loyalty programs, will now let users earn their rewards in bitcoins. For example, rather than boosting their AAdvantage points by 3,400 miles, PointsHound users can opt for 0.1093 bitcoins instead when purchasing a night at over 150,000 hotels worldwide. (Those numbers come from booking a $1,124, one-night stay at the T+L World's Best Award winner Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora.)
The numbers are in, and 2013 was one of the safest years on record to board a passenger plane. According to Dutch research group Aviation Safety Network, the year's 29 airline “accidents” led to 265 deaths, well below 2012's 475 casualties and nowhere near the ten-year high of 1,074 fatalities in 2005.
Data shows a sharp decline in both casualties and incidents since the late 1990's, while the 1960's and 70's repeatedly saw over 80 accidents and upwards of 2,000 fatalities a year. So even though this month's Southwest debacle may keep some Americans afraid of flying, the reality is that there hasn't been a safer time to take to the skies since the 1940's. See the full charts here.
Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.
Photo credit: Stan Fellerman / Alamy
Last month, the TSA debuted its first Precheck enrollment center at the Indianapolis Airport—with 300 more to open by spring—making an expedited security process more accessible than ever. Meanwhile, Canada’s Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International airport is testing another strategy to alleviate waits: a free, timed reservation system called SecurXpress. Here’s how it works: Enter your flight number and phone number on the airport website. Then, you’ll receive a text message, which acts as a ticket, with a reserved time for a specific SecurXpress checkpoint. Think of it like Disney’s FastPass. One text message is good for up to five people traveling together, and it’s up to you to get there on time. Unfortunately, the system only works on domestic and some international flights within Canada—but if it’s successful, maybe we’ll see it cross the border one day soon.
Brooke Porter is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.
Photo Courtesy of Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
We just returned from Cruise Lines International Association's 2014 State of the Industry Report, a mini-conference-of-sorts held in Manhattan's Alexandria Center. Our takeaway: 2014 will be a particularly great year to cruise—for many reasons. Here, a peek at some of the news that really excited us:
Glamorous new ships, including Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas (replete with its own 23-foot sky diving center); Windstar’s 212-guest Star Pride; new sister ships from AMA Waterways, the AmaSonata and AmaReina, cruising the Rhine and Danube rivers; and the Costa Diadema (don’t miss the Bar Bollicine prosecco bar), to name a few.
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Even as excitement grows for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, news over the games has been dominated by controversy. Just last week the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert to Russia. Much of the fuss over the past few months—and one of the six “risks” outlined by the travel alert—pertains to Article 6.21, a country-wide anti-gay law in place since June.
If you’ve ever gone around and around the block looking for a free spot, you know what a nightmare parking in the city can be. For the visitors and residents of Westminster, this takes an average of 15 minutes.
Fortunately, navigating London’s congested Westminster district just became much more simple—and high-tech.
Thanks to a successful trial of infrared sensors on five main thoroughfares, drivers can now use the ParkRight app on their smartphone to detect a vacant space as they approach their destination.
Calling the front desk may be an act of ancient history, now that hotels are offering concierge texting services.
Loews and Four Seasons are some of the first tech-savvy brands piloting the program, powered by California-based Zingle. With this personal texting service, guests can text their requests from anywhere, and expect almost immediate feedback.
Four Seasons Philadelphia’s Hotel Manager, Michael Nenner, guarantees an answer in four minutes or less.
Check out this futuristic eye candy. Design firm Foster + Partners has proposed a 137-mile network of elevated bicycle lanes over commuter rail lines in London.
Dubbed the SkyCycle, it could accomodate up to 12,000 cyclists per hour, making getting into and around the city a breeze.
When will we be able to go for a spin on the SkyCycle? London's mayor supported the idea when he met with the SkyCycle team back in 2012, so there's hope that the city will take Foster's plans seriously. Yet with funding still murky, we're looking at a decade or two at least before it opens. In the meantime, we can dare to dream that other cities will follow suit.
Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.
Photo credit: Foster + Partners