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Richard Branson Inches Closer to Space Dreams

In what can only be described as one small step for space travelers, one giant leap for Virgin Galactic's publicity team, WhiteKnightTwo, a Sir Richard Branson-owned passenger aircraft, managed to reach an altitude of 46,000 feet over the Mojave Desert yesterday. The test flight lasted all of 16 seconds.

Branson called it "stunning" and "a critical day," according Reuter's Irene Klotz. The airline, mobile service, and music label magnate has been pushing for commercial space flights for almost a decade, even going so far as to accept deposits on the $200,000 tickets. Now that one of his craft's has achieved some small measure of escape velocity, Branson and his two grown children plan to fly in a second test of the WhiteKnightTwo scheduled tomorrow. Watch a YouTube video of the test flight above.

Related: Virgin's Sir Richard Branson: Ode to Abstinence

Trip Doctor: Best Travel Sneakers

fitness shoes

Q: Any suggestions for a multitasking fitness shoe? —Karen Lemster, via E-Mail

A: Try the new Adidas ClimaCool sneaker ($60). The sporty cousin of the boat shoe weighs in at four ounces, with mesh uppers (great for keeping feet cool while walking). One important tip: break in any new pair of kicks before hitting the road.

Mimi Lombardo Mimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure's style director. Packing is rarely easy-we're here to help. Send your questions to tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @TLTripDoctor on Twitter.

Photo by John Lawton

It's Barbie's World, We Just Visit It

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Pack up the hot-pink convertible: It may be time to take your Barbie-themed vacation.

On May 6, two official Barbie Dream House Experience attractions will open on our planet: one in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz Square, and the other in Sunrise, Florida.

For admission starting at $14, both sites promise to offer a life-sized immersion into Barbie’s plastic townhouse. You can take an elevator from room to room, create a virtual cupcake in the kitchen, explore Barbie's "endless closet" and experience the "walk-through glitterizer." On the attraction’s web site, you learn that you will see Barbie there "in unexpected ways," as well as encounter sister Skipper, the always-controversial Ken, and other characters including Raquelle, Ryan, and pets Blissa and Taffy. Florida opens May 6, Berlin May 16.

But not everyone is popping the pepto-pink champagne. According to The Independent, the Berlin branch of the Dream House has been attracting preemptive protestors, including one 27-year-old who launched an "Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse" Facebook page. "Barbie Dream House is the expression of a conventional role model that isn’t OK," Michael Koschitzki told The Independent’s Tony Paterson.

Meanwhile, the Dream House is not the only attraction for Barbiephiles. Royal Caribbean is now offering a Barbie Premium package, on certain voyages, which includes perks like a pink-décor stateroom, a tiaras-and-teacups party, and a fashion show. And this past January, a diner-style Barbie Café, also licensed by Mattel, opened in Taipei.

Interesting to note: Royal Caribbean seems to take pains to point out that its Barbie experience is meant for girls ages 4 to 11. The Dream House, meanwhile, more slyly acknowledges that Barbie’s appeal spans the generations (and genders) by declaring it for “fans of all ages.” And perhaps trying to reach those same fans, the Barbie Café in Taipei clearly has a bar.

Earlier: Barbie Arrives at Ellis Island.

Photo credit: © Barry Lewis/In Pictures/Corbis

Cruise News: Disney Magic Gets a Makeover

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Announced today in Celebration, Florida: Disney’s first cruise ship, The Disney Magic, is about to go through a bow to stern overhaul. The most magical elements? A new Marvel Comics Avengers Academy, where young cruisers can train as superhero "recruits" in academy missions; Pixie Hollow, a twinkling forest where tea is served on stools shaped like mushrooms and acorns; and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, a pirate-themed art room.

Adults will love the 11,500-square foot ocean-view spa and restaurant Palo, modeled after the canal-side cafes of Venice. Look for the new and improved Disney Magic in Fall 2013.

Kathryn O'Shea-EvansKathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @ThePluckyOne.


Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending April 26, 2013

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There are two reasons to look at Brian Lam's Scuttlefish post about swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Isla Mujeres, Mexico. First, the photos, which are just beautiful. Second, his tutorial that explains how to take similar ones without fancy equipment. Warning: These pictures will make you very, very jealous. (Matt Haber)

Grantland presents Out in the Great Alone, a story about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race by Brian Phillips. This is a massive story that you're going to want to spend some time with. If you get lost while reading it, don't worry: It comes with a convenient (and very smart) map of Alaska that shows you the locations at each point in the race. (M.H.)

Sure, animated gifs are now the default way to report news via repurposed Will Ferrell jokes, but photographer Nicolas Ritter's One is a much more subtle, artful use of the  ubiquitous image format. Striking photos of London are animated with just the tiniest hints of movement, making these images feel very alive. (M.H.)

Boston Magazine has released its May cover, which features hundreds of pairs of running shoes heartbreakingly arrayed with the simple cover line: We Will Finish the Race. Well done, Boston. (M.H.)

Frank Jacobs of Big Think presents a taco map of Mexico. (Ann Shields)

Dwell has a slideshow of some pretty dreamy modern bikes, including one of those Dutch bring-the-kids numbers and a polka dot SF ride. (A.S.)

The Associated Press: Travel: United, US Airways Raise Ticket Change Fees to $200 (Jennifer Flowers)

The Telegraph: Most Expensive Airport Transfers Revealed. (J.F.)

USA Today's Bill McGee takes a look back at the 10 most important changes in travel over the last 10 years. (Peter Schlesinger)

Good news for American ski bunnies, the fantasy of learning from a dreamy Norwegian instructor lives on! The Senate has pushed a provision into the immigration reform bill ensuring easy entry into the country for foreign ski teachers. From The Wall Street Journal (sub required) via New York's Margaret Hartmann. (Amy Farley)

Got a recommendation? Tell us in the comments.


Photo: iStock Photos.

Good News for Travelers: Congress Passes Bill to Restore Air Service

Well, that was fast. After a week of frustrating airport delays brought on by furloughed F.A.A. workers, Congress speedily passed a bill to return air traffic to normal today. As The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reports, the bill prevents "further furloughs through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year."

What does that mean for you? Well, as an air traveler it means fewer delays for your next trip. As a taxpayer? That all depends on what you think about the budget crisis that created those furloughs in the first place.

Trip Doctor: How to Fill a Prescription Abroad

prescription medicine

Pharmaceutical regulations are different in each country, so getting a new supply of meds on foreign soil isn’t as simple as it sounds. First, visit the U.S. State Department website to ensure your pills are legal: narcotics, psychotropics, and stimulants are banned in some destinations. Next, you’ll usually have to get a local prescription (you’ll need to know both the generic name and dosage for your medication). To find an accredited, English-speaking physician, check with the local consulate or the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, whose doctors often make house calls to hotels. Be sure to fill your prescription at a pharmacy recommended by the doctor or attached to a clinic or hospital—counterfeit drugs have become increasingly common abroad.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Photo © Andrew Brookes/Corbis

Tech Thursday: Ventev Rapid Two-Way Chargers

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We’ve all been there: only one outlet free in the airport terminal and you've got both a dead laptop and a dying phone. Or in the hotel, with one adapter and too many gadgets to charge.

Enter Ventev, whose tiny two-way wallport acts like a power strip for juice-hungry road warriors. It has one standard US electrical plug (a converter is still necessary abroad; we love this one) and two USB inputs at the bottom. They charge gadgets up particularly fast, and the eye-catching colors on the tangle-free connectors have us ditching our standard issue cables.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Ventev

Trip Doctor: How to Make a Tight Flight Connection

tight flight connection

Do...

Ask to be moved closer to the front of the cabin just before landing, so you can make a quick exit.

Run straight to the gate for your connection—even if it’s past your departure time.

Don’t...

Despair. A flight won’t wait for one passenger, but system-wide delays might result in a lucky break.

Book tight connections through large airports. Anything less than a 90-minute window is unrealistic.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Illustration by Paul Windle

"The Great Gatsby" Inspires Retro Holidays

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, Gatsby refutes Nick Carraway’s assertion you cannot repeat the past: "Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can.”

Hoteliers seem to agree with Gatsby, as evidenced by a slew of promotions tied in with the upcoming release of Baz Lurhman’s new film, The Great Gatsby.

New York’s Plaza Hotel, which features prominently in the novel, has announced its “The Great Gatsby Getaway Contest.” Anyone who snaps a 1920’s themed picture of themselves and posts it on Instagram with the hashtag #theplazapremiere has a chance to win seats at the New York premiere of the film, along with a night at the iconic property. Hurry though, the contest ends April 24th.

Nearby, the Trump International Hotel & Tower is offering the Trump ‘Great Gatsby’ Package. Guests spend three nights in suites overlooking Central Park, enjoying some top-notch perks. Men receive a custom-tailored suit and shirt from Bergdorf Goodman and Art Deco cufflinks, while women will go home with an Ivanka Trump Art Deco jewelry and a personalized note from Ivanka herself. Dinner at Three-Michelin-Star restaurant Jean Georges, a magnum of champagne, and chauffeured car-service are also included. This Roaring Twenties extravaganza comes with a roaring price tag… $14,999.

And while not directly related to the classic novel, these other properties do their best to bring back some of that Gatsby glamour:

°  The SLS Hotel South Beach: Opened this past June, the Philippe Starck-designed waterfront hotel brings a 1940 property back to its former glory. Trompe l’oeil walls, murals, and a gigantic rubber ducky by the pool add a touch of whimsy to this art-deco gem.
° Hotel Shangrila, Santa Monica: Another art-deco property, this 1939 building has recently undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation. The 71 rooms and suites feature period furnishings and decorations. This year, there are two promotional packages celebrating the renovation.

Then again, if hotel suites don’t do it for you, why not be like Gatsby and throw a party at your own private mansion? With water frontage, a grand pool, and lots of vintage charm, the Luxury Retreats villa Locusts on Hudson, in the Hudson Valley, lets you feel like you’re living in West Egg, if only for a week.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: The Fitzgerald Suite at The Plaza, a Fairmont managed hotel, designed by Catherine Martin

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