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Bangkok Dispatch: "Something's Changed"

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Last Thursday night, we learned that Seh Daeng, a renegade general who sided with anti-government protesters, had been shot in the head by a sniper. (He was shot while being interviewed by Thomas Fuller of The New York Times. You can read an account here.) We’d been planning a weekend with friends at one of our favorite island resorts—a much-needed respite from the claustrophobia of Bangkok. But my husband, S., is a journalist, so it looked as if we had to scrap our plans. “If a crackdown doesn’t happen by the morning, we’ll go,” he promised.

Despite sporadic clashes throughout the night, Friday morning proved calm and away we went. But we couldn’t leave Bangkok’s troubles behind. Friends sent updates, while my husband would hunker down with his iPhone, scrolling through headlines, emails, tweets. At dinner, we’d discuss the situation, the Thais among us expressing sorrow over the present and fear for the future.

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Canadian Club Whisky Revives Its Classic "Hide A Case" Campaign

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Think Mad Men meets Survivor. That’s the scenario that will play out this summer when eight whisky-loving contestants traipse through the back of beyond in search of a long-ago secreted case of Canadian Club. It’s the rebirth of the distiller’s "Hide A Case" promotion that began in 1967, when the company cached 12 bottles of hooch somewhere among the ice fields of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. (The case was discovered by accident 10 years later.) In subsequent years the company stashed the spirits in such exotic locales as the Great Barrier Reef of Australia; Death Valley, California; and Angel Falls, Venezuela. With each new newly sequestered case, the company published magazine advertisements filled with clues to the location, stirring the imagination of treasure hunters everywhere.

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Airlines, Travelers Gird for Summer Delays as Volcano Plume Persists

Associated Press |  It’s been a month now, and Iceland’s volcano shows no sign it will stop belching ash across Europe anytime soon. The rolling eruptions threaten more havoc for summer vacation plans and higher costs for struggling airlines.

Although the global disruption of last month’s massive eruption has faded, smaller ash plumes snarled air services intermittently over the last week all the way to Turkey—more than 2,500 miles from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano.

Air-control authorities and geologists agree that the continent must brace indefinitely for rapid shutdowns of air services as computerized projections try to pinpoint where the ash clouds will float next at the whim of shifting winds.

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Twiggy on the High Seas

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Okay, we admit we are tickled pink—maybe even 1960s hot pink—to hear that none other than Twiggy will serve as Godmother of the new, ultra-luxury Seabourn Sojourn.

For those of us who remember the ‘60s, Twiggy (Lesley Hornby) was a cultural icon, right up there with The Beatles. Guys may have cut their hair in Beatles shags. But for many of us gals (even preteens like me) the British invasion was also very much about the “supermodel” of the decade. To look like Twiggy, only 16 when she exploded on the international scene in 1966, we cut our hair short and begged our parents to let us wear minis and eye makeup. And we assessed our own lumps and bumps—Twiggy being the thinnest model we had ever seen.

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Finnish Company Offers Teddy Bear Vacations, Blogger Considers Shooting Himself

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A travel agency in Finland is offering guided tours of the remote Lapland region—but for teddy bears only. No people allowed. But that’s okay. After all, it’s the bears that are coming out of hibernation, not you. Does your stuffed bruin seem a bit moody lately? Maybe what that sleepy Smokey needs is a change of pace, to be off on his own, in a land of ice and snow and pine trees and pickled herring. And Teddy Tours Lapland is standing by to help your plush Grizzly get that new perspective on life.

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Iconic NYC Nightclub Refashioned as Mini-Mall

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I stopped by last week’s opening of Manhattan’s Limelight Marketplace—a church reincarnated as a notorious '80s nightclub most recently made over as a shopping mall—with an almost irreverent sense of curiosity. With a past so checkered, I expected a mixed crowd, and sure enough, the three-level, multi-wing retail space was brimming with journalists (both skeptical and adoring), local reality stars (think Real Housewives posing with Hunter boots for the press), and the occasional camera-toting wanderer shaking his head in disbelief while reminiscing about parties fueled by pills, music, and illicit behavior.

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The go-go girls, devilish red lighting, and shady corners are all long gone—they disappeared in the '90s—and the church stood vacant until last winter, when retail developer Jack Menashe saw an opportunity to create his own version of nearby Chelsea Market.

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Hotels Connect the Dots Between Guests and Online Reviews

Washington Post |  Hotels want to know who you are. Especially if you're reviewing them anonymously.

An increasing number of image-conscious properties have begun connecting the dots between unbylined write-ups that appear on such popular travel sites as TripAdvisor or Yelp, and your personal information, such as your loyalty program preferences.

If you write a positive review, you might expect a reward from the hotel—a gift basket or a discount on your next stay. Pan a property, and you could get a concerned e-mail from the general manager asking you to reconsider your review. Or even a black mark against you in the chain's guest database.

John Baird, a lodging consultant in Jacksonville, Fla., says that hotels now use locations, dates and usernames that appear online to triangulate a guest's identity. Once they find a likely match, the review is added to a hotel's guest preference records, next to information such as frequent-guest number, newspaper choice and preferred room type.

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Spirit Airlines Is At It Again

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Spirit Airlines, the Florida-based airline that will charge $45 to stow carry-ons in the overhead bin starting August 1, is plumbing new depths of customer annoyance by announcing today that it would begin placing ads for a toothbrush company on its lavatory mirrors.

The toothbrush company, which will get no additional publicity here, apparently believes Spirit’s media kit claim that the ads will get “100% saturation, with a targeted, captive audience that is actively engaged by ads for an average of three hours.”

It’s difficult not to snigger at the phrase “captive audience.”

Spirit, which recently installed cheap and uncomfortable “pre-reclined” seats on many of its aircraft so it could increase the passenger load, has sold advertising on barf bags, tray tables, bulkhead panels, beverage napkins, ticket envelopes and more. In years past it mandated flight attendants to wear aprons imprinted with the Bud Light logo.

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Five Nashville Hotels Reopen After Flood

Travel Pulse |  Five of the seven hotels in the Nashville, Tenn., area that were affected by the recent flooding have reopened, according to STR. The seven properties that were closed by the flooding include 3,920 guestrooms, which represent 11 percent of the 35,629 rooms in the metropolitan Nashville market.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, which experienced severe damage and remains closed, accounts for 2,881 rooms and 8 percent of the market’s total room inventory. The resort is a major economic driver for the Nashville market, and its closing will have a dramatic effect on the area’s hotel industry.


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Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst in Travel

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I’ve long thought the best travel stories are the ones, well, where things don’t go according to plan. The most memorable tales from the road, it seems, often involve weird characters, bungled reservations, and near misses of all kinds. For this reason, I’ve become a big fan of the TitanicAwards.com, a survey site that celebrates “the dubious achievements in travel” (from Worst Toilet to Most Annoying Tourist Attraction) and can always be counted on for a good laugh. (If you like the LOLcats of Icanhascheezeburger, you’ll love the absurd-but-true findings of TitanicAwards.com.)

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