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.