Thursday, October 20, 2011

5 Most Disappointing Attractions in Europe

There are world-famous attractions that people dream of seeing their whole lives, but many of them don't (or can't) live up to that amount of hype. In fact, there's a whole phenomenon (Paris Syndrome) that occurs in extreme cases when the reality just doesn't match up with the fantasy.

Here are our top five most disappointing attractions in Europe:

Manneken Pis (Belgium) - Can you spot the world-famous attraction in the picture above? A little difficult, isn't it? Unfortunately the Manneken Pis, a cheeky fountain of a naked little boy peeing from atop a pedestal, is a quirky attraction that has been completely overwhelmed by the hordes that come to photograph it. To top it off, the city of Brussels often insists on dressing the poor lad in outlandish seasonal costumes that completely obscure it.

Photo by Henry Sivonen

Eiffel Tower (Paris) - Now before you get upset with me, I'm not saying you shouldn't see the Eiffel Tower... you most definitely should. What I'm suggesting is that the rather nice view from the top is not worth spending three hours of your Paris holiday in a queue. There are other lovely places to get panoramic views of Paris from, like La Tour Montparnasse or La Sacre Coeur in Montmarte.

Photo by Andrew Crump

Loch Ness (Scotland) - See that pretty, tranquil, and rather mundane lake pictured above? That's Loch Ness. Yup, that's it. Looks like most lakes you've seen right? Now you can stop kidding yourself that you'll be the person to finally spot the fabled Loch Ness Monster and admit that the only thing waiting for you there is overpriced plush seamonsters. Granted, there are some nice castles nearby, but whether that's worth taking the trip out is another matter.

Photo by Dave Conner

Mona Lisa (Paris) - Of all the thousands of priceless works of art in the Louvre Museum, the Mona Lisa is the one everyone makes a beeline for. One of the most well-known paintings in the world, the subtle beauty and timeless mystery of the masterpiece are best enjoyed at home with a detailed picture, as this is likely to be the best view you get (unless you're exceptionally pushy).

Gondola Rides (Venice) - It's a romantic image: two people sitting cosily in a gondola while their gondolier serenades them with Verdi operettas as he glides them through the Grand Canals of Venice . Unfortunately the smooth ride resembles Friday afternoon gridlock, with boatloads of tourists snapping pictures of each other as they squeeze past each other. The rides are also prohibitively expensive, starting at €80 for 40 minutes and getting even pricier after dark.

Photo by NH53

Monday, October 3, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #36

Welcome to Monday at the WT Blog! You may have noticed we look a little different this week. We're trying out a new design with a fresh feel to give you a better idea of what's been happening in the world of travel. Let us know in the comments what you think!

In the meantime, we're keeping it consistent with the usual Monday forum round-up. Here are a few of the hottest topics on our forum boards:

If you've got a question, you can ask it yourself by signing up for the Word Travels forum! It's free to join, and you'll get access to our local experts and tour operators who are waiting to assist you in planning your dream holiday!

Image from here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #35

Time for another Word Travels forum round-up! These are the hot travel topics on our forum, with some great insights for anyone about to set off on their dream vacation!

If you have some questions you're itching to ask, sign up at the travel forum today and get stared! It's free, and our well-travelled and knowledgeable experts are waiting to help you!

Image from here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top 6 Cruise Ports in Alaska

While most people immediately imagine sandy beaches and swaying palm trees when they think of cruises, cruises in North America and Europe are increasingly popular. And of the numerous cold-water destinations in the Northern Hemisphere, no region is seeing more growth than the hugely popular Alaska cruise industry.

Travelling up the west coast of North America, more than a million people take Alaskan cruises each year. The most popular route is along the Inside Passage, winding through the dozens of islands in the archipelago stretching east from Alaska's mainland.

Cruise ports in Alaska range from small, bustling towns in rural Alaska to big cities like Victoria (I know it's technically in Canada!), but the variety means there's something to please everyone. Here are the top six cruise ports in Alaska:

Kodiak - The stunning landscape of Alaska's 'Emerald Isle' are filled with abundant wildlife, including the famous Kodiak Bear. Sport fishing and hunting are popular activities (though carefully regulated), or visitors can just enjoy the beauty of For Abercrombie State Historical Park.

Sitka - A bit of an Alaskan melting pot, Sitka's history as both a Russian outpost and Tlingit settlement gives it fascinating cultural history, evident in various museums and cultural events in town. There are plenty of outdoor activities as well, like birdwatching in the St Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge.

Ketchikan - Ketchikan is known for an abundance of two things: salmon and totem poles. Admire one at the Totem Heritage Center, or try your hand at catching the other from a charter boat. Visitors can also spot black bears in Neets Bay (part of Tongass National Forest), or hike on Deer Mountain.

Skagway - One of the biggest centres of the Alaskan Gold Rush in the early 20th century, Skagway still has an old-timey feeling that gives it a lively vibe with restaurants, pubs and shops lining the streets. Visitors can try their hand at panning for gold at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp.

Juneau - Alaska's capital is one of the biggest cities along the Inside Passage, and makes a good city break for cruise passengers with restaurants and shops to explore. There's plenty of outdoor fun as well, with everything from glacier-trekking to river rafting to zip-lining on offer in the area around the city.

Icy Strait - A tiny town and relatively new cruise port in Alaska, Icy Strait benefits from its proximity to Glacier Bay National Park. The opportunity to spot whales and sea lions while watching massive glaciers calving makes for an unforgettable experience on an Alaskan cruise.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #34

Here are the latest conversations on our buzzing travel forum message boards:

You can post your own questions and get help planning your next holiday on the Word Travels forum... so sign up today!

Image by Virtual EyeSee.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cape Town and New York City iPhone Travel Apps

The Word Travels monkeys have been hard at work and now we've got some exciting news:

We've just launched new iPhone travel apps with detailed interactive guides for two of our favourite cities: Cape Town and New York City!

The apps take all the best information from our travel guides and put it in a handy format so you can access it quickly and easily while you're on the go; including visa information, airport guides, attractions, excursions, restaurants and nightlife, and shopping and transportation info.

Interactive maps allow you to navigate the city easily, and pull up information on all the great things to see and do in Cape Town and New York.

The apps are available for download here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #32

Another week goes by, meaning the forum boards are lit up with travel questions from would-be explorers! Here are some of the most interesting discussions from this week:

Don't forget that you can ask your own questions and get answers from local experts at the Word Travels travel forum!

Image by David Goehring.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Win a Trip to Disneyland!

Who wants to win a trip to Disneyland? Everyone, of course!

Here's a free competition from Southwest Airlines for a free trip to Disneyland in California, open to residents of the US, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Closes January 30th, 2012.

Image by Taylor McBride.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 5 Free Android Travel Apps

I just got a tablet that runs Android, and I'm a little obsessed with finding just the right apps to make my life (and computer) run smoothly. There are games, ebook readers, music and video players, chat programs, fart sound generators, and other must-have gadgets to make your phone or tablet pop and sizzle.

But I got this tablet to travel with, and it's the travel-friendly Android apps I'm interested in. And I'm a little cheap, so they have to be free. Here are the top five free Android travel apps I've found so far:

Kindle - I chose not to buy a Kindle because I didn't want to pay so much for a device that only does one thing. Now I have an Android tablet that reads Kindle books, but also plays movies and checks email and everything else I need. One of the advantages of having a tablet is not having to lug around heavy books, so the Kindle app and a few choice best-sellers are a must on any flight or layover.

Poynt - Travel guides are great; very informative and helpful in the planning stages of your trip, but when you get to your destination there are often unexpected needs, like you spill red wine on your best dress and need to know where the nearest dry cleaners is, or your kids are driving you batty and you want to find out how soon the next showing of Kung Fu Panda 2 is. Poynt is great for this, as it figures out where you are and leads you to useful information like phone numbers, showtimes, and evern dinner reservations.

Weatherbug - There are lots of weather apps, but Weatherbug is great for travelling because it not only provides 7-day forecasts and interactive maps, but sends you severe weather alerts and even has a live webcam link to to more than 2,000 weathercams across the US. The only drawback is it's a pretty big app at 12mbs.

TripIt - I've recommended this app for both iPhone and Blackberry, and I'll keep recommending it. The app is invaluable for creating an itinerary from different bits of information like flights, hotel reservations and tours, which you can then share with your family and friends (assuming you want them to know where you are of course!) All you have to do is sign up, then forward your confirmation emails to An enhanced paid app also updates things like gate changes and frequent flier points.

Google Goggles - One of these fancy 'augmented reality' apps, Google Goggles is one of the most powerful out there because it taps into the near-infinite knowledge available from the search engine itself. All you have to do is take a photo of an object, and the app will pull up all kinds of relevant information on it. One of the best features is an automatic translation of text when you take a photo of a sign in a foreign language.

Have a Blackberry or iPhone? Click on the links to find our best travel apps for those platforms!

Image from here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bereavement Airfares: The Discount Ticket You Don't Want

Everybody wants discounts on airfare. We look obsessively for cheap plane tickets before committing to one fare, and then fret that we've paid too much and a better deal will come along. It's a sport best-suited to those who love the thrill of the hunt.

But there are some occasions you don't have the time or inclination to scour the internet for the cheapest airfare. Most of us have been forced to travel long-distance at some point for a friend or relative's funeral, or in that terrifying scenario when a loved one may not make it. When you're struggling to simultaneously pack a suitcase and grieve, it's not the time to comparison shop.

Luckily, some airlines have a heart. They know this is travel you haven't planned or budgeted for, and they're willing to help. They offer discounts of up to 50% on last-minute airfares if you're flying for a funeral, or in some cases to see a gravely ill relative (though that one's less common). It's called a bereavement airfare.

There are some finer points to note, though. To get a bereavement airfare, you need to call or go to the airport directly and book through the airline (not through a website or travel agent). Some airlines will charge you full fare and then let you apply for the rebate after (and some require a death certificate).

Also, even though the tickets are discounted, that doesn't mean they are necessarily the cheapest seats. There may still be sale seats available, so it doesn't hurt to ask. If you can, have a friend do some quick fare-checking before you call to see if there are discounted seats available.

Bereavement airfares are harder to get on international and trans-Atlantic flights, and not all airlines offer them. Within the US, Delta, United, US Airways and American Airlines have been known to offer bereavement fares.

In an industry that gets a lot of negative press for ripping people off, it's nice to know that there's still a bit of compassion for people in need.

Image by Luis Argerich.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Top 5 Best Business Travel Tips

Business travellers are a special breed. Practically living in the sky, these road warriors blaze the trail for the rest of us weekenders. Business travellers know where the best restaurants are, the best VIP lounges, and which airports have free wi-fi.

So we've rounded up the best tips from business travellers here:

Pack light - Be ruthless when you pack. If you're smart, you can go on a six-week trip with nothing bigger than carry-on (even you, ladies). If you stick to one colour scheme and add a few accessories, you'd be surprised how far a few outfits can go. Heels are almost never necessary, really. Flat shoes can be just as formal and take up much less space in your suitcase. Not checking a bag can be the difference in catching or missing your flight, and mean you sail right to the door while the rest of the plane crowds around baggage claim.

Spend smart - Budgeting when you travel is all about knowing how to save money, but also about knowing when it pays to spend. Coach is fine on a one-hour hop from Chicago to Minneapolis, but a 20-hour haul to Australia might call for that $150 upgrade for extra leg room. That said, look for discounts. If you don't find them, then ask... what's the worst that can happen? Look for deals with freebies like breakfast or wi-fi to save money. Paying with your credit card helps maximise exchange rates as well.

Use your gadgets - Nearly every traveller has a smartphone now, so get the most from it. Use the camera to take pictures of your hotel or where your car is parked so you don't need to remember. Use Google maps and GPS to find your way around unfamiliar cities. Download iPhone travel apps (or Blackberry travel apps) to help you predict the weather, calculate currency exchange, keep track of your flight, and even translate signs for you. Load your iPod or iPad with movies and books, or look for that wi-fi connection to kill time on layovers.

Be loyal - It pays to join loyalty programmes. Accumulating miles can not only gain you free flights in the future, but come with perks like priority seating, discounts on hotels and rental cars, free wi-fi, and you'll be the first in line to get upgraded. Many travellers report that they simply get treated better as part of the hotel or airline's loyalty programme.

Smile - It should go without saying, but alas it doesn't nowadays. Be nice to people. Yes you're tired, but probably so are they. I've said it before, but being polite to check-in agents and TSA screeners will get you much further than snapping or shouting will. It goes further than that though: offering a sympathetic smile to a struggling parent will do more than glaring at them when they're trying to calm their child. Being chatty with taxi drivers will help them get to know you and share their insider knowledge of the city (or just not screw you over). Being friendly opens you up to a world of new and unique experiences when travelling.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travel Movie: Sideways

Sideways is a 2004 movie showing two bachelors having one last weekend of fun before one gets married. Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) for a couple days of wine tasting in the Santa Barbara wine region, but Jack is more interested in having a final fling before the wedding.

The two men explore the wineries in the area with the help of Maya (Virginia Madsen) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh).

While Napa Valley gets most of the attention as the top wine region in California, the Santa Barbara area has some great vineyards as well within 90 minutes' drive of Los Angeles. Sideways showcases locations in Beullton, Solvang, Santa Maria, and Santa Ynez.

Aside from the civilised settings and romantic lighting of the beautiful area, Sideways explores two very different men reacting to crossroads in their lives as they reach middle age (hint: neither is handling it especially well).

Verdict: Rent it (with a bottle of Pino Noir)

Bonus! The Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau has self-guided tour brochures of the restaurants and wineries used in the film if you want to trace their steps.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #31

Here's the latest from the Word Travels forum, with some great stuff this week, especially if you're looking to travel to Cuba or Ireland!

If that doesn't answer your question, sign up for the travel forum today to ask for yourself! It's quick, easy and free!

Image from here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #30

This is our 30th forum round-up, which makes it a sort of birthday I suppose. In honour of the occasion, I've dug up some of my favourite forum posts that need help! If you know anything about these topics, weigh in and help us out!

You can also ask your own questions on the travel forum... jump right in!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top 5 Ways to Avoid Jetlag

Jet lag is the bane of every holiday. You spend a lot of money on your vacation, get very excited about it... and then spend the first three days in Thailand in a tired haze. There are ways to avoid jet lag though, and they aren't as expensive or complicated as you think. Here are our top 5 ways to avoid jet lag:

Sleep smart - Is your flight getting in first thing in the morning? Then get all the sleep you can on the plane. Arriving in time for dinner? Force yourself to stay awake to get a good first night's rest in your destination. Think about your arrival time and plan accordingly... it's worth it. Don't give in to the temptation to nap when you get there as well; stay up until 11pm to force your body into its new rhythm or you'll be fighting it your whole vacation.

Stay hydrated - Dehydration messes with your internal clock in a big way, and airplanes are like extra-cold deserts; the altitude quickly sucks moisture out of food and skin, so you need to work extra-hard to stay hydrated. Drink at least two glasses of water per hour, and consider bringing your own fresh fruit along (but eat it before you disembark). Keep a plane-friendly tube of moisturiser as well. Another big no-no? Alcohol and soft drinks.

Stay active - Whether its on the plane or the three-hour layover, keep your blood pumping by getting a little activity in. Get up and walk around a few times on long flights, and explore the airport instead of just camping out at your gate. If you're at an airport with the facilities, a quick shower will also help rejuvinate a tired body. Light exercise really helps to combat fatigue (and its accompanying grumpiness), but try not to exercise close to bedtime.

Set your watch - Once you're on the plane, you don't need to know what time it is back home. Immediately set your watch to your destination's time zone so that your body adjusts quicker. If you're taking medication, adjust the schedule as soon as possible as well.

Avoid pills - While sleeping pills are a tempting aid to getting some shut-eye on the flight, they can actually make jet lag worse by pulling your internal clock in yet another direction. The ensuing grogginess that comes when you take sleeping pills isn't a great state to arrive in a foreign country in, anyway. Melatonin is also touted as a miracle cure for jet lag, but be wary as it can make things worse if you time the dosage incorrectly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Travel Movie: Monte Carlo

The latest vacation movie for this summer is teen-oriented Monte Carlo, starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meister, and Katie Cassidy. The movie tells the story of three Texas teenagers who ditch a disappointing package tour of Paris in order to live the high life in Monte Carlo when one is mistaken for an heiress.

The movie was originally set to chronicle three Midwestern schoolteachers who pretend to be wealthy in order to find rich husbands in Monte Carlo, but the plot was changed to be more youth-oriented.

Don't expect anything life-changing or even particularly memorable, but the film capitalises on a classic American teen girl fantasy: going to Europe and falling in love. Glamorous dresses, mischievous hijinks, and learning to being true to yourself are present in abundance.

And of course there are sunny montages of the spectacular Monaco scenery, although Paris gets the short end of this stick.

Verdict: Skip it (unless you're a teenage girl)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #29

It's Monday and we've got the hottest travel questions on the internet for you, courtesy of the Word Travels Forum. It's also Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday, so we'd like to wish a very happy day to Madiba!

You can ask your own travel-related questions on the forum, and our local experts will be right there with the answer!

Photo by Banjo Brown.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Top 5 Amusement Parks in Europe

While many people think that California has a lock on great theme parks, there are plenty of amazing family amusement parks in all corners of Europe too. Whether you're looking for thrilling rides, childhood nostalgia, or famous cartoon characters, these parks have it all. Here's our top 5 amusement parks in Europe:

Disneyland Paris (France) - The mother of all European theme parks, Disneyland Paris has all the magic and your favourite characters from the American parks, within easy distance of Paris. Comprising two amusement parks and seven resort hotels, the park is a perfect reward for kids who've been dragged to every museum in Paris.

Legoland (Denmark) - Most of us have a set of Legos at home (and have stepped on them at some point), but few could dream of the sorts of creations you'll find at this theme park nearCopenhagen. There are replicas of the city, pirate ships and waterfalls, and even a medieval kingdom to explore.

Siam Park (Spain) - This Thailand-themed waterpark opened in 2008 with more than ten water rides, an amphitheatre and sea lion pool. Located on Tenerife, the lush grounds hold several records, including the largest statue of a dragon and the largest man-made wave in the world. It's also the world's first 'green' waterpark.

Parc Asterix (France) - Forget Mickey Mouse, many children in Europe grew up reading books about the irrepressible Gaul Asterix and his massive friend Obelix. This amusement park, just outside of Paris, brings that world to life with a number of rollercoasters, water rides and other attractions.

Europa Park (Germany) - Located in the southwestern city of Rust, Europa Park is a huge amusement park with 13 different sections themed to different European countries, including Greece, Italy, Spain and Russia. With more than 50 rides, the park is a fun tour of Europe for any family on holiday in Germany.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Travel Movie: The Terminal

I've been writing a lot about airports lately, so much so that I'm dreaming about them. Is it possible to get jet lag or travel fatigue without going anywhere?

This is a movie I can definitely relate to. Most frequent travellers have had that nightmare hours-long layover, or found themselves stranded in an airport overnight due to bad weather or a missed connection. Can you imagine being stuck there for months on end though?

It happened to one Viktor Navorski, played with gusto by Tom Hanks in the 2004 movie The Terminal. Navorski's fictional home country of Krakozhia was embroiled in a civil war while he was in the air, and by the time he arrived in New York his visa and passport were useless. The film was loosely inspired by the experience of Mehran Karimi Nasser, who lived in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 until 2006.

The airport depicted in the film sadly does not exist, but nonetheless it's fun to get a peek into the inner workings of these massive buildings. The film is full of just enough warm-fuzzies and gentle laughs to leave you with a benevolent attitude toward airport staff.

Verdict: Rent it

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Top 5 Free Things to do in London

Millions upon millions of people visit London every year, but no one can deny that it's an expensive city to spend time in. The pound is up and deals are few and far between for the average tourist, whether you're taking in a West End Show, touring the Tower of London, or going for a spin on the London Eye.

As with any large city though, there are plenty of things to do that don't cost a shilling. Here's our list of the top 5 free things to do in London:

Tate Modern - One of the most renowned modern art galleries in the world offers free admission... how great is that? The Tate Modern is housed in a former power station along the Thames, and doesn't charge admission to its permanent collection, which includes works by great 20th-century artists like Dali, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko, and Warhol.

Speakers' Corner - On peaceful Sundays in London, it's great to wander the leafy paths of Hyde Park, and enjoy activities like swimming, boating, tennis and horseback riding. One of the most interesting things to do in the park though, happens every Sunday from mid-morning to late afternoon. Speakers' Corner is a long-standing tradition where anyone can say their piece about anything as long as they're on a box. You never know what you're going to get, whether it's crackpots or undiscovered geniuses.

Changing of the Guard - It's one of the best-known traditions in London, one that most tourists see at one point or another. Sure there are hordes of tourists everywhere, but really, no visit to London is complete without seeing the Queen's Guard go through their paces, and it's free! Just get their a little early to get a good viewing spot. The Changing of the Guard happens every day at 11:30am in summer, and every other day in winter.

Camden Market - London has many street markets, but the most popular is Camden Market, a sprawling collection of antiques, t-shirts and food. With 100,000 visitors every weekend the people-watching here is especially good as well, and it's the best place to spot the remnants of the London punk scene. If that's too crowded for you, the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill is also good.

Evensong at Westminster Abbey - One of London's most popular attractions, Westminster Abbery charges £10 admission during the day. Most people don't know that you can get in for free though, if you visit later in the day when Evensong takes place. Not only do you get to see the magnificent interior of the Abbey for free, but you're treated to a beautiful preformance by the Abbey Choir. Evensong takes place at 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays; and 3pm on weekends.

Image by Gabriel Villena.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #28

Happy Fourth of July to anyone planning to blow something up tonight! Here are the most popular topics on the Word Travels Forum this week:

Remember you can ask your own question, and our local experts will hunt down the answer for you!

Friday, July 1, 2011

5 Airport Etiquette Tips

First-time travellers or veteran frequent flyer, we're all guilty at one point or another of being rude and contributing the the hell that is airport travel. Here are our top 5 tips for airport etiquette, in the hopes that everyone will just behave themselves and make it a bit more pleasant for everyone!

Be nice to the staff - Yes, you're tired. Yes, your flight has been delayed. Yes, you've been standing in a queue for an hour too long. But that's no excuse to yell at someone who is genuinely trying to help you. Airport staff, especially people at ticketing counters and security, see the very worst in people every day. Why not show a little compassion and smile at them, or thank them for their help? You never know, it may even get you an upgrade.

Be prepared for security - Chances are, you've been through security. You know what's about to happen. You know that your laptop, coat and shoes need to go through the x-ray, along anything metal you might be carrying. So why would you wear huge lace-up boots and stuff your laptop deep into your bag so you have to rummage around for it while everyone rolls their eyes at you? With a little foresight and consideration, you can zip through in under a minute. And don't whine about your water bottle. No one wants to hear that.

Control your kids - It can be tough wrangling passports, boarding passes, diaper bags, and hyperactive two-year-olds. Nobody is denying that. But if you're flying with kids it's your job to make sure they're entertained enough not to run screaming down the concourse throwing wads of gum at people (true story!). Have games, snacks and other diversions ready to go, or take turns walking around. Many airports have play areas or family rooms, so take advantage of them.

Don't make inapropriate jokes - Let's get one thing straight: you're not funny. Jokes about bombs in your carry-on, hijacking the plane, or anything else that even hints at threatening the safety of the people around you are totally inappropriate and will be taken seriously by staff. One smart remark about anthrax or cocaine will get you bounced off your flight and explaining yourself to the local police faster than you can say 'cavity search'!

Don't hog the baggage carousel - Your flight has landed, you're off the plane, and all you want to do is be on your way. Problem is, that's what everyone else wants too. So what do we all do? We jam up to the baggage carousel with our trolleys and 20 family members squeezed as close to that little door as we possibly can. The secret is, if you move around to the other side, you'll have plenty of room and not be delayed by more than 30 seconds. While you're at it, please wait behind the yellow line so people around you can see and grab their bags. And seriously, keep your kids off the conveyor belt. It's not that kind of carousel.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #27

It's Monday, we're all still yawning and trying to shake the weekend out in order to get back to work. If you're looking for answers to travel questions, then you can hit the ground running with these great forum posts from Word Travels:

You can ask your own travel-related questions on the forum and get expert advice... for free! Just visit the Word Travels Forum to find out more!

Image by Ryan Milani.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Travel Movie: Midnight in Paris

No matter how many other cities try to claim the crown, Paris holds a special place in the imaginations of all aspiring travellers for sheer romance.

No other city experiences this level of idolatry. When people think the ultimate in romance, somehow it always includes marriage proposals at the top of the Eiffel Tower, dinner at a candlelit French bistro, and a stroll along the Champs-Elysees.

With this starry-eyed monopoly, things are bound to be a little different than expected, but the Woody Allen comedy Midnight in Paris takes it to a new level. Aspiring novelist Gil (Owen Wilson), finding himself uncomfortable with his fiancée's (Rachel McAdams) pretentious friends while on holiday, soon discovers himself living it up with the city's most famous residents of the past.

The film premiered at Cannes in 2011, winning rave reviews even from jaded French critics who've seen one too many American romances set in their capital. If you're as in love with Paris as the main character, see it on the big screen just for the scenery. If not, however, save your money and rent it for a cosy night in with a bottle of French wine.

Verdict: Rent it (date night!)

PS - Click here for a perspective on a first-timer's day in Paris!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Strange People You Meet at Airports

It's a well-documented phenomenon that we're not at our best at airports. We're tired, hungry, irritated and disoriented. When I'm on marathon flights I have trouble remembering what country I'm in!

With all this in mind, it's no wonder most of us don't look our best. It's easy to spot someone on a long-haul trip like the poor woman above, but it still looks strange. I once sat for an hour in Paris CDG with my head nodding like a crazy person because I was travelling alone and desperate trying to stay awake.

And really, who takes the time to dress their best? Yes I'm out in public, but I'm not ashamed to wear my yoga pants and a hooded sweatshirt if it means I'm warm and comfortable.

Nothing but sympathy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #26

Got travel questions? We've got answers! The travel forum at Word Travels is constantly busy with travellers getting expert information on their next destination. Here are some highlights from the last week:

If these topics don't answer your question, why not ask for yourself? Our local experts are waiting to help you, so visit the forum today!

Image from here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Win a Trip to Outer Space!

7 Eleven and Foursquare are teaming up to offer one lucky person a trip into suborbital space! Worth $102,000, the prize includes spaceflight training, medical consultations and screening, hotel accommodations for two nights, ground transportation and nearly $40,000 to help cover taxes.

More info on how to enter here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

5 Controversial Kinds of Travel

Most of us travel for the same reasons: to see a new place, relax and unwind, or do something that we enjoy. But in the 21st century, with any worldwide destination no more than a day's journey away, people are travelling for entirely new reasons. Some of these are quite controversial, and come under fire from various groups.

We've compiled a list of five controversial kinds of travel that for the most part didn't exist last century. Here they are:

Medical Tourism - Sure, buses of pensioners head from the US to Canada to get cheaper medicine, but would you go abroad for a major procedure? One of the most popular kinds of medical tourism is plastic surgery: those with the cash can hop on a plane, spend a month relaxing in a resort, and come home with a tan and a new nose!

Controversy: It's hard to gauge the quality of facilities in other countries, and there are horror stories floating around of scam artists in back-alley clinics using unsafe equipment and techniques.

Medical tourism destinations: Belgium, South Africa, Mexico

Dark Tourism - Also called 'black' tourism or grief tourism, Dark Tourism involves travel to places that are associated with death and suffering. Well-known examples include former Nazi concentration camps, Chernobyl, and gruesome attractions like the London Dungeons.

Controversy: While most people agree that it is important to remember atrocities and genocides in order to ensure they never happen again, some argue that promoting them as tourism destinations glamorises violence.

Dark tourism destinations: Germany, Ukraine, Cambodia, Rwanda

Voluntourism - While many of us choose to use our vacation time to relax or visit family, some are opting to donate their time to charity and volunteer with charities or non-profits as they holiday in exotic destinations. Volunteers pay their own way, but spend part or all of their holiday working with conservation groups or aid organisations.

Controversy: While there is a definite 'feel good' aspect to voluntourism, many argue that a steady stream of unskilled volunteer labour denies jobs to locals and benefits poor communities less than funding skilled, long-term workers.

Voluntourism destinations: Brazil, Tanzania, Malaysia

Suicide Tourism - In most countries euthanasia is illegal, so some people with terminal illnesses opt to travel to countries that allow the practise to end their lives legally and painlessly. While there are infamous places that attract high numbers of suicides (the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Aokigahara Forest in Japan, for example), suicide tourism is focused on assisted suicide.

Controversy: The controversy over the practise of assisted suicide is hotly debated in many countries.

Suicide tourism destinations: Switzerland, Belgium, Cambodia, Oregon

Antitourism - Some people just don't like to be told where they can't go. In fact, a small number of travellers find a thrill in going to places that they shouldn't, that no one else will visit. The State Department's Travel Warning list reads like a bucket list to these adventurers. Also known as 'macho' tourism, antitourists purposefully seek out dangerous destinations for unique experiences and bragging rights.

Controversy: There's an obvious danger factor, and many consider antitourism unnecessarily reckless. Adventurous travellers who get into trouble cost government money and resources to assist.

Antitourism destinations: North Korea, Bahrain, Iran