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Will the French Veil Ban Hurt Tourism?

BBC News - Passport Blog |   Starting 11 April, it will be illegal in France for any woman, citizen or tourist, to wear a full-faced veil.

That means no niqab in the Louvre, no niqab while shopping in the Marais, no niqab while walking the Champs-Élysées. Although the French law has gotten the most notice, Belgium was actually the first country to enact a ban last April. There are rumbles of similar laws in Italy, but other European countries have largely shot down similar attempts.

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Lessons from Japan: Earthquake Survival 101

Events are moving quickly in Japan as engineers at a nuclear plant in Fukushima are trying to bring three stricken reactors under control. Tokyo is 170 miles south from Fukushima, and though prevailing winds are sweeping most of the radiation to the Pacific Ocean, residents say a feeling of anxiety pervades the capital. Aftershocks wake them up at night. Lines are long at supermarkets, where staples such as milk and rice are selling out quickly. “The streets are eerily quiet compared to the usual hustle and bustle of this massive city,” says Rachael White, an American teacher and blogger based in Tokyo. White and others, however, note that people remain calm—a reflection of Japanese fortitude.

As a traveler, the most you can do in the event of a nuclear meltdown is get as far away as possible or head for the basement. But there are steps you can take to increase your chances of survival in an earthquake and/or a tsunami. Japan is located in the world’s most seismically active regions—the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes the West Coast. About 90 percent of earthquakes happen here, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. And Tokyo is still bracing for the Big One that experts say is long overdue. (Friday’s massive quake occurred along the northeastern fault line, rather than the southwest fault line that affects Tokyo more directly. It last ruptured in 1854.) The second most active region stretches from the Mediterranean into northern India.

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DOT: Drop in Flight Delays, Rise in Canceled Flights

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New Jersey Star Ledger |  By all accounts, the Federal Aviation Administration’s "tarmac rule" has dramatically reduced the number of passengers who are stuck inside an aircraft on the ground for three hours or more.

Violations of the rule, which went into effect last April, can cost airlines $27,500 per passenger, or $2.75 million for a planeload of 100 people going nowhere fast. In fact, there were just three cases nationwide of three-hour tarmac delays in December—compared with 34 the previous December, according to the federal Department of Transportation, the FAA’s parent agency.

But critics say an unintended consequence of the rule is becoming apparent and spoiling travel plans for a far greater number of would-be fliers.

A Star-Ledger analysis of federal DOT figures reveals airlines are simply canceling more flights, presumably to avoid idling on the tarmac and exposing themselves to the whopping fines. In fact, the cancellation rate at the nation’s major airports surged 24 percent during the eight months after the rule went into effect.

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7 Great Family Road Trip Tips

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Tips for enjoying the perfect family road trip.

Now that full-body scans and pat-downs are making the skies seem a little too friendly, vacationing by car is more appealing than ever. It also helps that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has pumped nearly $27 billion into the nation’s bridges and highways since 2009. Here, Jamie Jensen, author of the best-selling Road Trip USA series (Avalon Travel)—and father to 12-year-old twins who are his frequent backseat companions—shares a few pointers on making it a fun and squabble-free ride.

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Ken Burns’s Travel Itineraries

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Ken Burns, whose documentaries about our nation have taught us more than any textbook, believes that American history “doesn’t have to be a dose of castor oil.” To prove it, he’s joined forces with 85-year-old tour operator Tauck (tours from $4,390) to create customized U.S. itineraries based on his most beloved sites and subjects. “As a filmmaker, I’ve had access that many people don’t get,” Burns says. “I’m excited to share my experiences.” A 10-day tour of six national parks takes in the Grand Canyon as well as Arches, in Utah, a personal favorite of Burns’s, and includes a private “flight-seeing” adventure over Capitol Reef National Park. Burns is planning Tauck’s five-day jaunt to New Orleans in October. His favorite spots in the Big Easy: “Arnaud’s for Creole food and Preservation Hall for music are classics.”

David A. Keeps is a contributor to Travel + Leisure

Photo by George Long

Exploring Los Angeles's Little Tokyo

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If that trip to Tokyo to slurp noodles and buy sneakers isn’t in the cards, go for Plan B: a day in and around Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. The downtown neighborhood is filled with sushi joints, Buddhist temples, and opportunities to try mochi ice cream (reportedly invented here at pastry shop Mikawaya). Check in to the Kyoto Grand Hotel & Gardens and follow the walking tour mapped out at visitlittletokyo.com.

Margot Guralnick is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Image courtesy of Kyoto Grand Hotel

Let the Good Times Roll: Best New Travel Bags

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Invest in a good roll-aboard—it makes life so much better on the road. Clockwise from top: Tumi Alpha Bravo Bremerton in ballistic nylon, $495; Britto Collection by Heys Landscape Flowers 22-inch hard-side Spinner, $250; Timbuk2 Checkpoint in ballistic fabric, $250; Longchamp Darshan Luggage, $475; the North Face Rolling Thunder in durable nylon, $229; Halsea Roller Suitcase in laminated canvas, $335; Trunki by Melissa & Doug child-size Trunki Ruby, $40.

Dorkys Ramos is a contributor to Travel + Leisure

Photo by Levi Brown

Delta to Add "Economy Comfort" Seats

USA TodayDelta Air Lines will add a premium economy section to its international flights, charging non-elite fliers between $80 to $160 each way for "Economy Comfort" seats that come with extra legroom and more recline.

Delta and SkyTeam frequent-fliers at the Platinum and Diamond level can book the seats at no extra charge, while Gold-level frequent-fliers will have access to the seats at a 50% discount. Silver members can purchase the seats for a 25% discount.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says "passengers will get seats with up to four inches of extra legroom, beyond the roughly 31 inches of pitch in international economy. They also will get 50% more recline than regular international economy seats. Passengers in the new section … also will be able to board early and get free alcoholic beverages during the flight."

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Airlines and Travel Sites Tussle Over Booking Flights

2010-b-american-airlinesjpgUSA Today |  A fight between a major U.S. airline and some Web-based travel companies is having a ripple effect in the travel industry, as players take sides in a battle that could ultimately affect how fliers shop for tickets and find the best fares.

More than 125 of the nation's biggest travel organizations and agencies, including online travel giant Expedia, have formed a coalition that is taking aim at a new booking system, preferred by American Airlines, that challenges the way most major airlines make their fares available to the public.

American says that its new, direct link will better inform travelers of services it offers for a fee, such as priority boarding, and also pare the airline's costs. But the newly formed Open Allies for Airfare Transparency and other critics argue that bypassing the systems that pool fare information from multiple airlines will make it harder for the public to find the best deals, or even the best routes, to their destinations. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)

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TSA Shuts Door on Private Airport Screening

Washington (CNN) | A program that allows airports to replace government screeners with private screeners is being brought to a standstill, just a month after the Transportation Security Administration said it was "neutral" on the program.

TSA chief John Pistole said Friday he has decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports, saying he does not see any advantage to it.

Though little known, the Screening Partnership Program allowed airports to replace government screeners with private contractors who wear TSA-like uniforms, meet TSA standards and work under TSA oversight. Among the airports that have "opted out" of government screening are San Francisco and Kansas City.

The push to "opt out" gained attention in December amid the fury over the TSA's enhanced pat downs, which some travelers called intrusive.

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