Kathleen Rellihan

Kathleen Rellihan is a digital producer, writer and editor for TravelChannel.com. A Washington, DC, resident, Kathleen's love for adventure travel has inspired her to go dog sledding in Quebec, search for the northern lights in Iceland, learn to surf in Costa Rica and give elephants a bath in Thailand. Kathleen’s next adventure is volunteering as an English teacher in Haiti. Follow Kathleen on Twitter @k_rellihan.

Posts by Kathleen Rellihan

Courtesy of LEGOLand Hotel

Think you can make an impressive LEGO home? Try building a hotel made of LEGOs. Now that the Ice Hotel has melted, take a spring fling with the family to America’s first LEGOLAND Hotel that just opened this month. Located right at the main entrance of LEGOLAND California Resort, guests can stay and play a LEGO’s throw away from the park’s attractions designed for the young and the young at heart.

Now, we should mention that the entire hotel isn’t made of LEGOs (this is earthquake-plagued California, after all), but the iconic plastic-building block is imaginatively integrated throughout this kiddie hotel heaven. Children and parents alike will be wowed by this novel hotel: approximately 3,422 LEGO models have been built throughout the hotel out of more than 3 million LEGO bricks (don’t worry, parents, you won’t have to clean up any of this). Everything comes to life here with 7 large-scale LEGO models that are animated, like a bubble-blowing LEGO dragon taking a bath on the patio that speaks to children passing by.

Guests can choose between 3 themed-rooms modeled after the most popular LEGOLAND areas: Pirate, Kingdom and Adventure. There’s plenty of room for the entire family, with 2 separate sleeping areas — a queen-size bed for grown-ups, and a separate area for up to 3 little ones, complete with a bunk bed, pull-out trundle bed and their very own TV. And each room has LEGO blocks ready for you to build your own architectural wonders.

Designed with imagination in every detail, the hotel’s fun features include secret whoopee cushions, disco-themed elevators, treasure trails and exploding toy boxes.  Dining is even kid-focused at LEGOLAND Hotel. Bricks Family Restaurant serves a breakfast and dinner buffet with a station specifically designed for kids at a height they can reach, while the Skyline Café features a LEGO city skyline with 35 kid-pleasing scenes.

With a fun place to rest and exclusive early-morning access to select rides and attractions at the park, families will be on a 24-hour fun-filled ride. While this is the only LEGOLAND where you can spend a night, there are LEGOLAND theme parks all over the world — from Florida to Germany to Malaysia. And while the parks will amaze any age, they are designed specifically for children 2 to 12.

 

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photo courtesy of Viceroy Riviera Maya

Sparky could use a Spring Fling, too. Now that the weather is warming up, it’s the perfect time to take your BFF on the road. Need some inspiration? Here are pet-friendly vacation ideas that will put a spring in your pet’s step.

For the ultimate petcation, treat your pet to a luxury retreat at the chic Viceroy Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen. The resort’s PetVacay program offers pets the same pampered indulgence that their owners enjoy. At arrival, your pet will receive a Mayan blessing by a real shaman from the local village to release any worries he brought with him on the trip over (and a doggie treat will help ease those travel woes, too).  The hotel also provides your pet with his own personal “palapa” so he can lounge in shady comfort during his stay. This thatched-roof doggie home is also conveniently portable so he can travel in style with you throughout the resort, from poolside to bar-side. Plus, the resort’s chefs will prepare your canine companion will his favorite foods. Sounds like doggie heaven, right?

You don’t have to leave the country to enjoy pet-friendly beach bliss. Pack your pooch and head to Doris Day’s iconic 1928 Cypress Inn, “just a bone’s toss” from California’s leash-free Carmel Beach. This retro Hollywood inn caters to canines along with 22 other Carmel-by-the-Sea hotels, making this one pet-loving beach town.

Cypress Inn was one of California’s first hotels to welcome pets in the mid-1980s, well before the pet-friendly hotel trend took off. Since then it has opened its doors to all creatures, including parrots and even pot-bellied pigs. April marks the debut of the inn’s new Culinary Canine Menu, served daily during Yappy Hour. While you mingle with fellow animal lovers, your 4-legged friend can indulge in Muttloaf, Chowhound Chicken and, yes, even Muttinis.

Looking for a cityscape for you and your pet? Dallas’ Hotel Palomar takes pet-friendly to a new level. It’s not all about the dogs here: the hotel accepts any number of pets, without size or weight restrictions, and at no extra charge. So, yes, that means you can bring your pet monkey or pet ferret. Some of their fetching amenities include pet sitting, grooming and walking. If you’re looking for a quieter travel companion, Hotel Palomar shares the (guppy) love by offering a complimentary goldfish to keep you company during your stay. And you don’t have to worry about feeding the fish – the staff will take care of that!

 

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Nok Air/Facebook

Does sex sell more airline seats? Back in the ’60s, when the Golden Age of Flying ruled supreme, airline stewardesses wore super-high minis, pillbox hats and low-cut tops. Fast-forward to today, and airlines are trying to bring sexy back to flying, this time around with attempts that are much more in-your-face than the golden age of flying ever displayed – and, no surprise, the move is causing plenty of controversy for “sexy-ing up” flight attendants.

The most recent example is Thai carrier Nok Airlines, which has created a 2013 calendar with scantily-clad Maxim models posing as flight attendants. The airline’s CEO, Patee Sarasin, tells CNN, “The airline business has always been seen as sexy globally.” The calendar, he adds, has been a warmly received by appreciative customers.

Nok Airlines isn’t the only carrier to go the sexy calendar route. Ryanair’s cabin crew calendar showcases models in bikinis, and lest you have second thoughts about buying it, you can confidently defend your purchase by knowing that proceeds do go to the Polish TVN Foundation charity.

What do flight attendants think? We asked Heather Poole, a 15-year flight attendant and author of Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet her thoughts about marketing flight attendants as sex symbols.

She wasn’t too impressed.

“Cheap airfare is the only thing that sells tickets today,” says Poole. “That and — oh! — on-time departures and good safety records. If passengers really cared about what their flight attendants looked like, Hooters Air would still be in business. They only lasted for 3 years!”

Poole adds: “The only airlines that seem to flaunt sexy flight attendants are the ones looking to sell calendars or get “likes” on their Facebook page. There’s a reason they’re selling sex over a quality airline. Business must not be quite as hot as the crew.“

Plus, what about women fliers? asks Poole. Sexting up campaigns aren’t likely to win over this huge travel demographic.

“Do most female fliers really care how sexy flight attendants are? I don’t think so. It’s like some airlines are only directing their marketing at male passengers. Last time I checked there were women not just sitting on the plane, but occupying business and first-class seats, serious hardcore frequent fliers! They’re also flying the plane. To which I say, God Bless America! I’m so thankful I work for a US carrier. “

So what do you think? Do the marketing attempts to present flight attendants as sex symbols make flying more attractive to you? Or should airlines focus their efforts elsewhere?

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Where’s the best place to practice yoga? Paradise. More specifically, Wanderlust O’ahu, the one-of-a kind festival that features yoga, music, surfing and plenty of Hawaiian culture on the fabled North Shore. Typically a summer festival that’s held in mountain resort areas, Wanderlust kicked off its 2013 season by leaving the mainland for its first-ever beach location in the Aloha state.

photo by Mike Bernard

When I attended my first Wanderlust at Whistler last August, I was immediately hooked on the unique vibe of this festival that combines world-class yogis, outdoor adventure, organic wining and dining and dancing under the stars to crowd-pleasing bands.

But Wanderlust at a more intimate setting on one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches? Mindful-living magic.

Away from the crowds of Waikiki, Wanderlust O’ahu was held at Turtle Bay Resort, an 880-acre paradise that sits on the northernmost tip of the North Shore with 5 miles of remote beachfront. Yogis down-dogged by the crystal blue ocean (or on the ocean if they attempted stand-up paddleboard yoga) with palm trees swaying and 15-foot waves breaking nearby. Hawaiian surf legends Gerry Lopez and Rochelle Ballard taught yoga classes and shared their surf-yoga connection during evening speakeasies. Wanderlust-ers got a taste of Hawaiian culture with surf, ukulele and hula lessons. And every day in paradise was topped off with dancing under the stars – with musical acts like Michael Franti and Friends and ALO.

photo by Ali Kaukas

While every moment at Wanderlust O’ahu felt perfect, my favorite moment had to be the spontaneous “trance dance” party led by yoga goddess Shiva Rea and Wanderlust musical mainstay Michael Franti. Picture over a thousand people jumping and dancing to the infectious beats of Michael Franti under the Hawaiian sunshine (in comfy yoga pants, of course).  Pure happiness.

See Michael Franti lead the dance party in the festival highlights video. Check out images of Wanderlust O’ahu in our slideshow. And get more highlights of the festival in my Postcard From Wanderlust O’ahu.

photo by Kathleen Rellihan

Don’t worry,  there are still many chances to experience Wanderlust this year. It’s just gearing up for its 2013 summer season, with all the mainland events tickets on sale now: Wanderlust Vermont, Jun 20-23; Wanderlust Colorado, July 3-7; Wanderlust California, July 18-21; and Wanderlust Whistler, August 1-4. Don’t miss out on advanced pricing, which ends March 26. Ticket prices will go up, so now is the time to book your Wanderlust adventure. And the earlier you book, the more likely you’ll get into the popular classes, which fill up quickly.

Where will your wanderlust take you this year? I have a feeling mine will take me back to another Wanderlust festival.

How is the rest of the world celebrating Valentine’s Day? While we might think of Valentine’s Day as an American holiday, it’s celebrated (or protested) around the world with the same vigor as it is here. And in some places, it’s celebrated with a twist.

Japan’s Twisted Tradition

Men have it easy on Valentine’s Day in Japan – it’s the women who are expected to give chocolates on this day. And the chocolate giving is not limited to just significant others. “Obligation chocolate” is given to coworkers, friends and family in Japan. But the object of the ladies’ affection gets a more expensive or elaborate chocolate-themed gift. One of the latest trends is for Japanese ladies to give a chocolate mold of their face to their beau.  Don’t worry, the men get their turn to reciprocate the love on March 15, White Day.

Love Locks Banned

From China to Venice, you’ll the see the tradition of love locks adorning bridges, especially around this time of year. All around the world, couples show their adoration by linking a padlock with their lover’s name on it to a bridge. How sweet, right? But the sentiment isn’t always shared by the authorities of these romantic places, who have starting fining and even banning love locks from their cities. Authorities in Rome have banned love locks from the Ponte Milvio, a famous bridge on the Tiber River. And we thought all Italians were romantics.

Valentine’s Day Under Attack

And, no, we’re not referring to bitter singletons attacking Valentine’s Day. While Valentine’s Day is openly celebrated in some Muslim countries like the United Arab Emirates, in others it is met with heavy resistance. Conservatives in Pakistan are demanding a boycott of Valentine’s Day, saying it’s a Western holiday that’s spreading vulgarity around the country. Similarly, in Indonesia, government officials are urging young people to skip this day as well, saying it’s an “excuse for couples to have forbidden sex.” But romantics in these countries are still finding ways to show their love on this day, with what else, but heart-shaped balloons and flowers.

 

Need your own ideas on how to celebrate? Check out all our Valentine’s Day ideas.

Photography by John Talbot, flickr

New England is bracing for a blizzard of potentially historic and crippling proportions Friday into Saturday, according to the latest weather reports. At this time, it looks like coastal New England will feel the brunt of it, with a possible 2 feet of snow.

Of course, a storm of this magnitude will present serious problems for travelers. Already more than 1,100 flights have been canceled, according to FlightAware.com, and that number is likely to grow as the storm hits. Check out our tips on flight cancellations and driving in hazardous road conditions.

While Nemo is a serious winter storm, we can’t help but wonder about the name … after all, most of us think of the cute little Disney fish, not a devasting blizzard. So what’s the deal? Turns out, the Weather Channel has started naming winter storms in the 2012-2013 season and reports its strict criteria when it comes to naming a winter storm — snowfall amount, wind, temperature, time of impact, etc. In this case, the weather folks were thinking of Nemo — as in a Greek boy’s name meaning “from the valley.” Nemo also means “nobody” in Latin.

It’s not likely Nemo will be nobody, though. NYC alone may see 38 inches of snow. With a storm of this scale, perhaps the other winter storm names Magnus, Zeus or Rocky would have been more fitting (definitely not Yogi).

It’s been 3 years since the Snowmageddon blizzard buried the mid-Atlantic states. Will Nemo be one of the worst US blizzards in the country’s history?

One thing’s certain: If you’re an in an area that will be fighting Nemo,  please stay home. We suggest keeping warm with a café mocha or winter cocktail and dreaming about the epic ski conditions that just may follow.

VisitScotland

How do you get a pony in a sweater? CNN asks this question we’re all thinking after Scotland’s “ponies in sweaters” marketing campaign hit the web last week.

The owner of these pony sensations, Joe Tonkinson, explained to CNN, “It was just a case of putting one foot in, put the other foot in … and button it up.” Who would have thought it was that simple? Tonkinson went to say that the ponies were extremely calm during the sweater outfitting.  Apparently, these ponies don’t mind the model life.

In this brilliant marketing move, Visit Scotland combined 2 of its biggest exports – Shetland wool sweaters and Shetland ponies — to promote its Year of Natural Scotland.

And, these pony ambassadors, Fivla and Vitamin, certainly have brought new interest to Scotland. Who could resist short-legged shaggy ponies in winter woolies?

With its castles, countryside, haunted places, the whisky trail and now, shaggy Shetlands in sweaters, Scotland is piquing our interest.

What about you – any plans to see Scotland this year?

Samantha Brown had her twins! She announced on Facebook, “The babies are here! Please welcome Ellis James, 6 lb. 10 oz. and Elizabeth Mae, 5 lb. 12 oz. Everyone is healthy and doing great! Pics soon!”

Our girl-meets-world sweetheart, Samantha Brown has been hosting shows on Travel Channel for the last 13 years. And now she’s embarking on her biggest adventure yet – motherhood!

When she first announced her pregnancy, we asked our globe-trotting gal — who’s traveled to dozens of countries, hundreds of cities and countless hotels around the world — how life on the road will change with the new additions.

“One thing’s for sure, these 2 will be the most well-traveled babies. We already have on schedule in May a 9-day trip planned through Germany. So one of the first things on our to-do list after they are born is to get baby passports,” says Samantha.

While we know motherhood is going to change Sam’s life, we’re sure she’ll be taking fans along for the ride.  Stay tuned for more from Sam (and babies!)…

And be sure to catch Sam when she hosts Travel Channel’s first-ever “Trip of a Lifetime” special premiering on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 8|7c. 

Reuters

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered all U.S. Dreamliners to cease flying until the battery fire risk is investigated.

Following a nightmarish few weeks for the long-awaited Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the FAA has ordered that all 787 fleets be grounded as a precaution after an emergency landing in Japan. And that was after a series of other incidents, including a battery fire aboard an empty Dreamliner in Boston last week.

Japan, India and Ethiopian airlines have grounded their Dreamliners, and other nations where 787s were in service have followed suit.

Boeing President Jim McNerney issued a statement that the company is working around the clock with customers, regulators and investigators to solve the problems.

“Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the operating schedules of our customers and the inconvenience to them and their passengers,” McNerney says. “We are confident the 787 is safe, and we stand behind its overall integrity.”

But what about the fliers? Will they lose faith in the Dreamliner, even if the safety issues and bugs are resolved? Will the dreamy ‘mood lighting’ and larger windows ever override the trepidation of setting foot on a Dreamliner again?

Will you fly on a Dreamliner once the issues are resolved? Tell us in the comments.

ThinkStock

With the Oscar nominations announced this week and the Golden Globes airing on Sunday, we’ve chosen our own awards … for the most travel-inspiring films of the year.

And just in time. Set-jetting, the global phenomenon of film (and TV) fans flocking to movie locations around the globe, is one of forecasted travel trends for 2013. Travelers are now, more than ever, reliving their favorite films all over the world.

Here are some of our favorite wanderlust-stirring flicks from 2012:

Anna Karenina

While this film version shows very little of Russia or its famous landmarks (much of the action takes place on a theatre stage), it still inspires opulent travel of the old world sort. The scenes of Anna Karenina traveling in a lavish train car through the snow-covered open landscapes of Russia leave us dreaming of a similar trip: a luxury train ride on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, touring historic St. Petersburg and dynamic Moscow.

The Hobbit

This latest installment of filmmaker Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy created a huge surge of tourism in New Zealand, where bout 150 locations were used for Lord of the Rings’ scenes. The mecca of all Hobbit tourism is Hobbiton, private-farmland-turned-movie-set. You can tour the 44 hobbit holes set in the picturesque rolling hills of Matamata’s countryside to see how the furry-footed creatures live.

Lincoln

History buffs and the Academy Awards alike can’t get enough of this film about our 16th president. Capturing the renewed interest in Lincoln destinations, this year tours are popping up in key cities such as Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA, retracing Lincoln’s steps and revealing history-rich locations.

Life of Pi

Praised as the next Avatar due its stunning cinematography and special effects, this film adaptation of Yann Martel’s fantasy-adventure novel has sparked renewed interest in Taiwan. With mesmerizing scenes filmed at Kenting White Banyan Garden, Kenting National Park and Taipei Zoo, Taiwan is likely to be on many lists for top destinations in 2013.

For more travel-inspiring films, check out our full list of movies that moved us in 2012.

And take a look back at what films made us want to pack our packs in 2011.

 

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