Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Abandoned Six Flags Theme Park

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and now six years later there is still evidence of some of that destruction. One of the casualties was the New Orleans Six Flags theme park, which has since been abandoned by Six Flags and has since seen interest by various developers wax and wane.

The abandoned amusement park has taken on a thoroughly creepy vibe with graffiti artists and rust taking over most of the park. LoveThesePics has put together a gallery of photos of Six Flags New Orleans, which presents a fascinating look at the process of decay.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #24

Happy Monday, and here's hoping everyone in the US and UK are enjoying fine weather on their day off! Here are the most popular travel topics on our forum this week:

Don't forget to visit the forum to find answers to your travel questions!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Win a Trip to the Arctic!

You can win a trip to the Arctic to see polar bears, walrus, whales, seals and more! Arctic Expeditions is giving away a $20,000 European Arctic Adventure to one lucky Australian!

Sound good? You can enter through June 17th on their website.

Image from here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top 5 Free Things to do in New York City

New York City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US... and the world. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most expensive. A day spent visiting the Statue of Liberty, seeing a Broadway show, or admiring works at the Guggenheim will take a chunk out of any tourist's pocket.

Sure, there are always the sights to take pictures of, like Times Square, Wall Street, and Ground Zero, but there are fun things to do in New York City besides taking pictures. And they're free.

So here's our list of the top 5 free things to do in New York City:

Staten Island Ferry - The ferry goes from Battery Park to Staten Island and back, and is totally free. On the way you'll get fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline. It leaves every 30 minutes, so you can hop off and explore a bit of Staten Island before heading back.

Manhattan Adirondacks Tour - The North Woods of Central Park were designed to look like the stunning forests of the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State. If you don't have the time to get out of the city, you can take a free one-hour tour of the North Woods from the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. The guides are knowledgeable and the crowds are few.

Bronx Zoo - Although the Central Park Zoo is more famous, you can escape 90% of the other tourists and save a bit of money by visiting the Bronx Zoo on Wednesdays when admission is free.

Shakespeare in the Park - New York City is known for its world-class theatre, and one of the most hotly-anticipated events on the calendar is the annual Shakespeare in the Park, another of the free things to do in Central Park. Celebrities like Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway often star. Tickets are free, but highly sought-after, and distributed at the Park.

Big Apple Greeter - What better way to get an insider's view of New York City than to take a tour from a local? The Big Apple Greeters are volunteers who are passionate about their city, and give interesting and informative private tours of their neighbourhoods for up to six people at a time. Tours need to be booked 3-4 weeks in advance.

Image from here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Travel Movie: The Hangover 2

What do Las Vegas and Bangkok have in common? They're both commonly thought of as wild party destinations, and they've both gotten the Hangover treatment.

Last time four guys went to Vegas for a bachelor's party, and one nearly didn't make it back. In The Hangover 2, the ultra-responsible quartet of Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug are heading to Thailand for Stu's wedding. He wants a quiet pre-wedding brunch, but what are the odds of that happening?

Slim to none. Now they've lost Stu's fiancee's 16-year-old brother.

The plot is pretty much the same as the first film, with no one remembering the previous night and one man missing, so if you enjoyed the first you'll probably enjoy this one too.

Don't expect to see much of glamorous Thailand though. The focus is on the seedy hotels, backstreet drug dealers and generally less savoury parts of Bangkok.

Verdict: See it (if you liked The Hangover)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best and Worst Hotels for Wi-Fi

If there's one thing that we always have to worry about when travelling, it's internet connectivity. While hotels seem to have standardised most amenities (you can pretty much assume you'll have a bed, tv, phone and bathroom), 21st-century needs are tacked on with enormous charges, or sometimes not catered to at all.

A friend who travelled often for work would keep a running tally of how much he paid for in-room internet, and the results were all over the map. At some hotels he basked in the glory of free wi-fi, others charged him up to $20 a day for ADSL connections, and still others simply sent him to hotel hell: the business centre.

With travellers adding gadgets like smart phones, laptops and tablets to their electronic arsenal, free wi-fi has become a near-universal demand in travel. Hopefully hotels will get the message soon.

HotelChatter.com has put together a guide to the best and worst hotel chains for wi-fi.

The best? Hotel Indigo for InterContinental Hotels (free) and Kimpton Hotels (free when you join their free loyalty club).

The worst? Marriott Flagship Hotels (the only Marriott hotels where you have to pay) and W Hotels ($14.95 per day).

Read the rest of the report, which includes city wi-fi reports and international hotels, on HotelChatter.com.

Image from here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #23

There hasn't been a forum round-up in the last several weeks since South Africa has a crazy number of public holidays in April and May. There have been some very interesting discussions happening though, so here's a little of what you've been missing:

Got your own question? Ask our local experts today!

Image from here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Top 5 Tips for Travelling with Kids

Travelling with kids comes with its own special challenges... lots of them. Creating fun and special family memories means hours of work planning and preparing, and endless patience one you set off. Here are our top 5 tips for travelling with children:

Be flexible - you can schedule to your heart's content, but children have their own (often inconvenient) internal clocks. So leave enough wiggle room in your itinerary to stop for a snack, or play in a park, or go back to the hotel and nap if need be. Sure, you may miss the changing of the guard, but you'll keep your sanity.

Arm yourself - A well-armed mom or dad comes equipped with a bag nearly as bottomless as Mary Poppins'. Favourite snacks, emergency toys, a change of clothes and several extra diapers are things you shouldn't leave home without. Having them portioned out in individual bags means you can whip them out instantly when there's a problem. Camping stores stock single-serving travel goods that can be extremely handy.

Get them involved - Let the kids help plan the trip as much as possible. Older ones can research your destination and suggest things they'd like to do or see, and younger ones can help choose what looks the most fun. Getting involved in the planning will mean they know they'll enjoy what's coming and get more excited about things on your itinerary.

Do your research - Know exactly how kid-friendly your flights, hotels, and activities are before you book. While many hotels do what they can to cater for families, it's ultimately your responsibility to find out if you need to book that rollaway cot ahead of time, or if you need a child-safe balcony. If you have specific needs, make sure everyone knows ahead of time to avoid nasty surprises - never assume!

Take some time off - Does your hotel offer childcare? Take advantage of it! A little bit of homework in finding someone to watch the kids for an afternoon or evening, or even just a few hours, can yield a huge reward in the form of some much-needed grown-up time. Get dressed up and have a nice dinner or see a show, and you'll be recharged enough to tackle Disneyland the next morning.

Image from here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Walking Tours with the Homeless

Tour operators often go out of the way to show you the best of the city you're visiting. They want you to fall in love with it, so they leave out the seedy bits.

And let's face it, that's exactly what most tourists want. They're on holiday, and they don't want to have to think too much about crime, poverty, and other social issues.

But a company in London is turning that on its head. Unseen Tours is offering walking tours of London conducted by the homeless. The guides are fully trained, and the tours offer an opportunity to get a unique perspective on London, as they weave in their own experiences.

The tours are conducted at 7pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Find more info on their website.

Would you go on a walking tour conducted by a homeless person? Have you? Let us know!

Image from here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Top 5 Biggest Shopping Malls

No matter how many economic downturns and recessions the world faces, there will always be people ready to shop. There are dozens of mega-malls scattered across the globe, with newer, bigger ones being built each year.

These may not be the biggest in terms of of square footage, but they are up among the top and definitely worth visiting if you're in the country. Here's a list of our top 5 biggest shopping malls around the world:

United States: Mall of America

The most famous mall in the US, the Mall of America in Minnesota augments more than 400 shops with an indoor amusement park, walk-through aquarium, bowling alley, movie theatres, bars and nightclubs, countless restaurants, and many other family attractions.

United Arab Emirates: Dubai Mall

Shopping in Dubai is a major activity, and the place to go is the Dubai Mall, which boasts a skating rink, water park, and more. Part of the 20-billion-dollar Burj Khalifa complex, which includes a whopping 1,200 shops. A great way to beat the heat in sunny Dubai.

Canada: West Edmonton Mall

The largest mall in Canada (and North America), the West Edmonton Mall is located in Edmonton, Alberta. With an amusement park, water park, skating rink, recreation centre, adventure golf, movie theatres, restaurants, bars, and many other attractions in addition to its 800+ shops, it's the biggest attraction in Edmonton.

China: Golden Resources Shopping Mall

China has been building mega-malls left and right, but the biggest is the Golden Resources Shopping Mall in Beijing. Nicknamed the 'Great Mall of China', the shopping centre draws millions of visitors each year with attractions like a skating rink, restaurants, and more than 1,000 shops.

South Africa: Gateway Theatre of Shopping

Few visitors to South Africa would think of Durban as a shopping destination, but Gateway and its more than 400 shops would disagree. In addition to shops, restaurants and bars, the mall offers a live theatre, IMAX cinema, skate park, indoor climbing wall, go-karts, arcade, bowling alley, small indoor amusement park, the world's tallest indoor climbing wall, and the Flo-Rider man-made surfing wave.

Photo from here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Travel Movie: Rio

Blu is a domesticated Macaw that never learned to fly. Now his owners are taking him from his home in Minnesota to the exotic city of Rio de Janeiro to mate him with the last female of his species.

You can bet that they'll bicker and fight for most of the movie while getting into trouble and learning about themselves through a series of wacky adventures. They'll also meet a colourful bunch of animal friends. I'd hate to spoil the ending so I won't tell you if they end up falling in love or not (what do you think).

More in the vein of Madagascar and Ice Age than Toy Story and The Incredibles, Rio is a fairly predictable children's film with a bunch of adult jokes and pop culture references thrown in to entertain parents.

Verdict: Rent it

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Justin Bieber Schooled by Qantas!

It's silly, it's stupid, it's barely travel-related, but nonetheless it is making news that Justin Bieber has joined the ranks of celebrities who behave like jerks on airplanes.

The normally squeaky-clean teen heartthrob was told by a Qantas flight attendant that she was treating him like a child because he was acting like one.

Read the full story here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #22

There are some really interesting discussions happening on the Word Travels forum at the moment, here are some highlights:

Do you know anything about these destinations? Why not share your expertise with your fellow explorers? You're also welcome to ask your own questions and our worldwide community will find the answer for you!

Image from here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Win a Trip to Graceland!

Want to get all shook up? Then strap on your blue suede shoes because you could win a free trip to Graceland! Elvis.com is running a Twitter competition through May 13th.

Located just outside of Memphis, Tennessee, Graceland was the home of Elvis Presley and attracts millions of visitors each year.

Contest details here.

Image from here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

5 Signs You Need a Vacation

When you're stuck in the rat race, it's not always possible to spend as much time travelling as you'd like. It's important to get out there every once in a while, though. Here are a few signs you really need a vacation:

You're not doing your best work - You get paid to do a job, but when you're so burned out that you can't do it properly, that's a sign that you need to take some time off. Far from being self-indulgent, it's better for you and your company if you take a break and come back enthusiastic and excited about what you're doing.

You have trouble sleeping - When you're stressed out to the point where you can't stop thinking about work, bills, and other responsibilities, you need a break. Especially if it's interfering with your sleep. Even just a few days can reset your habits and help you sleep better, and it's far preferable to taking medication.

You can't remember your last break - When was your last vacation of at least a week? A year ago? Two years ago? If you still have 'the Rachel' hairdo in your latest vacation photo albums on Facebook, or your kids have gone from elementary to high school, that's a red flag that it's time to hop on a plane!

All your vacations are at family events - Those of us with big families are often guilty of this: all your vacation time is taken up with weddings, family reunions, birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Your family will understand that you need to get away from EVERYTHING for a few days.

You find yourself in a rut - Do you go home every night and just watch tv? Are your weekends spent doing the same thing over and over? If that bothers you, then an exotic vacation can be just what you need to jump start your enthusiasm for life! When you're on holiday, why not learn to ride a horse, cook Thai curry, scuba dive, or speak French? You may find something you love that you can continue when you get home.

Image from here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Snow Monsters of Japan

A truly curious phenomenon, the 'snow monsters of Japan' are trees covered in snow and rime ice that can be found on the forested mountains of Japan. A unique and whimsical photo opportunity, the snow monsters are popular with tourists.

More fantastic photos here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #21

Happy May Day! As spring makes its way through the northern hemisphere, here are the travel topics people are discussing on our forum this week:

If these aren't the answers you need, search our travel forum for posts related to your next destination!