Sara Gilliam

Sara is a Senior Producer for Travel Channel.com. She has eaten her way through Thailand, sailed around the coast of Greece -- and thought she died and went to heaven in Paris (not literally). In addition to travel, she loves smart design, clever headlines and all things pop culture.

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Posts by Sara Gilliam

This Week in Travel

There are not 1, not 2, but 3 Guiness World Record attempts in This Week in Photos – find out who’ll set the next record. There’s some history-making in our travel news roundup as well, at least where your smartphone or tablet is concerned on your next flight.

Soon you won’t have to put down that book on your iPad as your plane hits the tarmac thanks to a decision by the FAA to allow the use of electronic devices for the duration of flights. While this does mean you can play games and work on drafting a blog post about your trip, it does not give you the freedom to pass time by calling Grandma or texting a friend – voice calls and use of data plans will remain banned aboard flights.

Virgin Airlines is joining the recent trend of high-quality in-flight safety videos (if you haven’t seen Air New Zealand’s video featuring Betty White you must catch up), releasing an information music video led by G.I. Joe and Step Up 2 director Jon M. Chu. The video brings together dancers, singers and choreographers from American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, and is a little catchy (I may or may not be humming the tune as I write this).

Gadling reports that the Leaning Tower of Pisa, isn’t “leaning” as much as it once was. The iconic bell tower is standing up a little straighter these days due to a massive restoration project. A new study out this week says that the tower has straightened by 1 inch (2.5cm) since 2001.

Still haven’t booked Thanksgiving travel? It’s not too late, but you’re going to need to be creative. Johnny Jet has rounded up 10 ways to find cheap Thanksgiving travel that could be your key to saving some money this holiday season.

The Standard New York

The Standard, New York in our Extreme Bathrooms slideshow.

Last week, Slate reported on a hotel trend I’ve experienced first hand: “The Fall of the Bathroom Wall.” Opting for open-plan bedroom/bathroom suites, luxury hotels like NYC’s Standard hotels and Paris’ Hotel Particulier Montmartre are knocking down bathroom walls and replacing them with glass, modesty shades -– or sometimes nothing at all.

What these rooms lack in privacy they more then make up for in natural light, space and certainly, sex appeal. But as Slate points out, they also bring “logistical awkwardness when sharing a room with people who were never meant to see you naked.”

I found this out for myself while on a girls’ spa weekend in Florida. Our suite at The W was upgraded thanks to my best friend’s enviable Starwood preferred guest status. However, when we realized the better view and bigger floor plan also came with an all-glass “peek-a-boo” shower, we politely asked to move back to a standard double. We knew we’d be seeing a lot of each other that weekend -– but not that much.

While glass showers and exposed soaking tubs may come as a sexy surprise on a couple’s weekend, they aren’t for every guest. Tell us in the comments: Do you think open-plan hotel bathrooms are a fad or here to stay?

This Week in Photos

Fashion week continues in Milan, Team USA surprises at America’s Cup and Breaking Bad has 2 reasons to celebrate in this week in photos. While you’re holding your breath for Sunday’s Breaking Bad finale … here are our favorite travel blog posts of the week to keep you occupied.

Gadling suggests thanks to climate change, a country might not be around for much longer. Read more about the Maldives “expiration date.”

Never stayed in a hostel? Swear by them? Nomadic Matt reveals 6 ways to avoid staying in a bad one. Take note.

Budget Travel explains how you can house-sit your way around the world. We’d be game to try.

Johnny Jet plans the perfect long layover at LAX. He says “if your layover is three hours or more, jump in a taxi and take a mini vacation” to Manhattan Beach, CA.

Finally in other California posts, Camels & Chocolate prescribes a perfect day in San Francisco. Start with a stroll through the Haight…

It’s that time of year again. One day you wake up and shiver, realize “Yes, I probably should have worn a coat to work,” and then notice the leaves are slowing changing color. But if you’re just not ready for fall — or you’d like to relive summer one last time — see all of our 2013 photo contest winners in one place.

2013 Photo Contest Winners

1. Bubble Cheeks: ”I was enjoying a fun afternoon with my 4-year-old nephew, who is learning to swim. He was showing me how to make ‘bubble cheeks.’” — Susan

2. A Day in Paradise: ”Hawaii is one of our top destinations. We love to go there every year. This picture was taken at Big Island, HI, on a beautiful day. Look at that sunset — it’s so peaceful.” — Annie L.

3. Mediterranean Marvels: “Sunshine over the Colosseum! My adventure to the Mediterranean this Summer was life-changing. I was captivated by the history and beauty of several of the amazing sites throughout Italy, Greece and Turkey!” — Sable’s Travels

4. King of the Jungle: ”Cute cub. Very aware of mom. We grabbed this close-up while on safari at Tanda Tula. Thought the cub was very cute. Noticed later that mom was much more observant than we initially believed.” — Patrick M.

5. Floating in Paradise: “My husband and I went to the beautiful island of Bora Bora on our honeymoon. Each morning, I would jump off of our balcony into the blue lagoon below. One morning my husband saw me floating and snapped my favorite shot of the trip!” — Tiffaney

6. Heavenly Thoughts: ”Tintern Abbey, is situated in the village of Tintern in Monmouthsire, on the Welsh bank of the River Wye, which forms the border between Monmouthshire in Wales and Gloucestershire in England.” — Tintern Abbey

See all of the finalists in our 2013 Summer Photo Contest slideshow.

Sun Catcher

Here she comes … Miss America … and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and the Dalai Lama — all in this week in photos. There are more familiar faces in our weekly travel news roundup, so let’s get to it.

Gadling has the scoop on how you can spend your next vacation with your favorite celebrities, including Britney Spears, Jackie Chen and Daniel Craig.

 The Daily Traveler got a first look at Jet Blue’s premium lie-flat “suite” seats — and provided pictures as proof.

We’ve already established Nomadic Matt is our type of traveler. This week, he brings us this gem about a 70-year-old couple who bucked tradition and traveled the world.

Our friends at Fathom Away got to play Cinderella for a night in Venice at the Aman Canal Grande Venice.

Last, but not least, Wired brings us the curious case of the 103-year-old car phone.

Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images

Last January, the Costa Concordia cruise liner sank off the Italian island of Giglio, leaving 32 people dead and several unanswered questions. This week, an $800-million massive salvage effort by a 500-person crew — the largest of its kind — righted the 114,000-ton vessel. Three things we’ve wondered in the year since the tragedy took place.

Who was responsible for capsizing the cruise liner? The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, still faces multiple manslaughter and causing a shipwreck charges and is due back in court on September 23. Lying low since his house arrest was lifted, Schettino claims he’s been made a convenient scapegoat for the tragedy, according to The Guardian. Five employees of the Costa Cruise company have already been convicted of multiple manslaughter and negligence charges.

What happened to the 2 lost victims? So far authorities have found no sign of cruise waiter Russel Rebello and passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi’s remains. Rebello was last seen helping passengers off the ship. Trecarichi was celebrating her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, who survived.

What’s still inside the wrecked ship? Divers worried a “toxic stew” of rotting food, spilled oil, paint thinners, insecticides and liters of carbon dioxide would be leaked if something had gone wrong and broken the ship apart, CNN reports. Costa Cruises still hopes to return passengers’ possessions found amongst the abandoned tableware, shoes and mattresses.

This was only the first step in removing and scrapping the 952-foot ship, and soon, all eyes will turn to Schettino’s trial. For now, we’ll leave you with time-lapse footage of the Costa Concordia being righted. The 19-hour, Monday-into-Tuesday operation has been condensed into roughly 30 seconds by BBC.

Miss America

Check out our slideshow of Atlantic City, NJ, through the years.

Here she comes … Miss America … Tonight’s pageant was memorable for more reasons than one. After 6 years in Las Vegas, the pageant returned to Atlantic City, NJ, where it all began. The Miss America competition has a steep history in Atlantic City, where it was created in 1921 by businessmen attempting to extend tourist season past Labor Day.

Now in its 87th year, the competition awards its winners scholarships worth upwards of $50,000. It wasn’t always so glamourous, though. When Margaret Gorman of Washington, DC, was named the first-ever Miss America she walked away with … a 3-foot golden mermaid trophy.

So who took home the crown? Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, was named Miss America 2014. Not only is she the second consecutive Miss New York to win, but also she’s the first Miss America of Indian descent.

Perhaps, in a ploy to stay relevant, this year’s contestants fielded questions from judges about Syria, and yes, Miley Cyrus. It also had Miss Kansas as an early fan favorite — the 22-year-old contestant is a sergeant in the Army and the first to openly reveal her tattoos during the swimsuit competition.

Photo of Milestone Hotel in London by Oyster.com

Photo of Milestone Hotel in London by Oyster.com

Twice a year, designers, models, photographers, bloggers, DJs, and so on, crisscross the globe in search of the next big thing. The most anticipated shows being in the 4 fashion capitals of the world: New York, London, Milan and Paris. Here at Travel Channel, we’re always searching for the best places to stay — may we present the most stylish hotels in each city.

New York: September 5 – 12, 2013
The Ace Hotel is known as every other tech startup’s “office” in NYC, but during Fashion Week its unconventional vintage- and industrial-inspired design draws hipsters and fashionistas alike.

London: September 13 – 17, 2013
The Mileston Hotel is a picturesque, boutique hotel in Kensington has been voted one of the best in London. It boasts a 24-hour butler service and elegantly designed rooms that range from period to contemporary decor. For the fashion set, may we suggest lounging in a black-and-white space featuring Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

Milan: September 18 – 23, 2013
For inspiration off the runway, look no further than Maison Moschino Milan, a 65-room hotel inspired a 1840s Neoclassical railway station inspired by the famed Italian designer. Our writer noted, “Just like the brand’s whimsical, haute-couture designs, the hotel is all about fairy tales and fanciful fantasy.” Expect puffy, cloud-like light fixtures, lit-up gowns and an overall Alice and Wonderland effect.

Paris: September 24 – October 2, 2013
Located on the prestigious Avenue Montaigne is the famous Hotel Plaza Athenee, brimming with Parisian style and Art Deco décor. Stylish guests will appreciate majestic views of the Eiffel Tower (from the Eiffel Suites) and close proximity to the Dior Institute as well as high-end shopping.

Check out the rest of our stylish hotel picks for every budget.

Inspired by Maison Moschino Milan? See more designer-inspired hotels.

Sun Catcher

“Sun Catcher” by Heather Buttelmann

Well folks, that’s a wrap. As we bring our first photo contest to a close, we’re overwhelmed with the amazing travel photos you’ve shared with us (all 5,582 of them) — so thank you!

Our final grand prize winner goes to “Sun Catcher” by Heather Buttelmann. Congrats on winning a $500 Choice Hotels voucher to use at any location!

Heather says, “My daughter was trying to net fish in a tide pool. She lost her balance on the slippery surface and Voila! I got the shot!”

See the other finalists from this week below, and remember, even though the contest is now closed you can still check out all of the impressive 2013 Photo Contest submissions.

“Tuscan Paradise” by Sybil

“Mingling With the Natives” by Danielle

“The Harbor”

“Beautiful Bryce” by Casper

 

 

Our Editors' Summer Vacations

See how some of the Travel Channel editors spent their summer vacations. Then, show us how you spent yours! Our 2013 Summer Photo Contest ends today. Upload your best vacation photos now for your last chance to win a $500 Choice Hotels voucher to use at any location.

Above:

“There’s no better way to celebrate summer than going out into nature, exploring a new climbing destination, Coll’s Cove, in southwest Pennsylvania and meeting new friends that gave us a tour of the boulders. – Arthur Hsu, Video Project Manager

Our Editors' Summer Vacations

Top Row, Left to Right:

“This was the view from our boat every morning in Greece  — I just wish it lasted longer than a week!”– Sara Gilliam, Interactive Producer

“Mud, barbed wire, trenches, mud and more mud — all this may not exactly sound like a good summer vacation, but when I joined thousands of hardcore fitness lovers with a clear eye for fashion (yep, everything from Harry Potter capes to bath robes!) and headed to a wide-open field near Pittsburgh, my summer fun really began. Thanks to 10 to 12 miles of obstacle courses (and good friends, old and new, to help me over walls), this summer experience left me on a very big high that could rival any vacation — the 10,000 volts of electricity certainly helped, too!” — Lisa Singh, Interactive Producer

“I stumbled upon my first ghost crab in the Outer Banks.  Nothing says summer like beaches and crabs!” — Kathleen Calaro, Ad Sales Coordinator

Bottom Row, Left to Right:

“On a recent getaway to Charleston, I escaped the city limits in search of the 400-year-old oak tree Angel Oak on Johns Island, just outside the city. I had heard this oak tree was shocking in size, but seeing it up close took my breath away — it towers over 66 feet high with a wide-spreading canopy 28 feet all around. After days of sightseeing on historic cobblestone streets, seeing this natural wonder was the perfect way to end to my trip.” — Kathleen Rellihan, Interactive Producer

“After driving down the mountain through a torrential downpour, we were treated to a huge rainbow stretching over Denver.” — Josh Levin, Online Production Manager

“This summer, I had my first foray into pet travel. A LOT of toys and treats, one tiny puppy, an airline-approved carrier, and we were off! The ultimate lifesaver? A puppy-sized dose of Benadryl. Don’t judge, it was my vet’s suggestion. It was all worth it when we arrived on the island of Nantucket, 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts  – I think it’s safe to say that Pearl the frenchie loved the strolls through town and expansive, unspoiled beaches as much as I did.” — Allee Sangiolo, Interactive Producer

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