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Can you imagine anything worse: You’re in the middle of a crowd of people lined up along Pennsylvania Avenue — eager to see President Obama walk a portion of the inaugural route — when, all of a sudden, Little Johnny starts tugging at your sleeve, because … he’s REALLY GOTTA GO! Sure, every president since Thomas Jefferson has walked a portion of this inaugural route, but right now you’ve got something more important to think about – the nearest port-a-potty.

First, relax — we at the Travel Channel have got you covered. While Monday’s Inauguration isn’t expected to reel in the nearly 2 million people who descended on the nation’s capital 4 years ago, it will still be pretty darn packed. Streets will be closed off. Metros are running at special hours. And, well, when nature calls, the nearest museum or store may not be open. Here’s the lowdown on what you need to know.

Know Before You Go

First thing’s first – bathrooms. Yes, several media outlets have reported a shortage of port-a-potties about town for Monday’s inauguration. None other than Charmin is encouraging attendees to download the SitOrSquat app to find clean public restrooms.

But phones die, and apps can still be unreliable. So it never hurts to mentally catalogue places you know will be open. Many of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall will open early come Monday, Jan. 21 – specifically, the Freer and Sackler galleries, and African Art and Hirshhorn museums will all open at 8 a.m. and stay open until 5:30 p.m. The Smithsonian Castle will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. However, all of these museums, as well as the Air and Space Museum, will close all Mall-side entrances – the only way to access them will be via Independence Avenue. Plan accordingly.

Not all museums will be open, however. These include the American Indian Museum, which will be closed all day (due to its proximity to the swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps). The National Gallery of Art will close its East Building Monday but keep its West Building open – this means there will be no handicapped entrance. The Renwick Gallery will be closed all day Monday.

Looking for Food?

All the political festivities got you hungry? If you’re looking for something quick – plus a chance to warm up – these museum concessions will be open: Air and Space (McDonald’s McCafe, Boston Market, Donato’s Pizza); Natural History (Atrium Café, Café Natural, Fossil Café); American History (Stars and Stripes Café, Constitution Cafe); Smithsonian Castle (Cafe and Coffee Bar).

Getting Around Town

If, for some odd reason, you’ve decided to drive into town — keep in mind areas with vehicle restrictions. Check out this full map of vehicle restrictions, courtesy of the US Secret Service. And if you plan on hoofing it on foot, print out this map of pedestrian walking routes.

For a full look at public transportation options over Inauguration Weekend, check out our Escape DC’s Inauguration Crowds — scroll to the bottom, where you’ll find everything you need to know!

Things to See

So you couldn’t land a front-row seat to the swearing-in ceremony — big deal! You’ve still got plenty of options. Swing by the American History Museum at 11:30 a.m. Monday – they’ll broadcast the ceremony in the Flag Hall. (However, if you were lucky enough to score tickets – be sure to check out the official Inaugural app that will guide ticket-holders to their seats.) Afterward, be sure to check out the ever-popular “First Ladies” exhibition on the museum’s third floor – you’ll see 2 dozen gowns worn by First Ladies of eras past, including Jackie Kennedy and Laura Bush.

Be sure to check out the National Portrait Gallery’s new display – a collaged portrait of President Obama by American contemporary graphic designer and illustrator Shepard Fairey, as well as Chuck Close’s sprawling 2012 tapestries of the president’s likeness. And don’t miss these presidential hangouts in DC.

Additional Inauguration Resources:

http://www.wtop.com/1220/3184000/WTOPs-Inauguration-Day-survival-guide
http://inauguration.dc.gov/
http://godcgo.com/inauguration-2013.aspx
http://washington.org/topics/inauguration
http://www.secretservice.gov/presidential_inaugural.shtml

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. 

It’s a huge weekend in DC, with over 100 different events happening throughout the city and the Metro system preparing for the over 800,000 people estimated to visit. If you’re one of the brave ones visiting DC this weekend – or any other weekend, for that matter — then let us help you get to know the nation’s capital, chockfull of sights, history and amazing food!

1. While you’re touring DC, solve a mystery at The International Spy Museum, which has the largest collection of international spy-related artifacts and immersive activities to enthrall children, as well as adults.

2. Why not stay in style while visiting the city of our country’s power players? Check out our picks for luxury accommodations.

3. Explore the beautifully historic neighborhood of Georgetown, and tour the favorite hangouts of former presidents — such as Bill Clinton, who graduated from Georgetown University in 1968.

4. Go sightseeing at one of the many monuments. Trust us, there are plenty of them – and they’re free!

5. Sip a coffee at Busboys and Poets, near the famous U Street, named for poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the nearby Wardman Park Hotel.

6. Since you’ve traveled to DC to support the president, find out a little more about how the president, himself, travels.

7. Of course you need to eat! Find out what makes DC a great town for foodies with these top restaurants.

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.

Photo Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Lodge

Like it or not, V-Day is right around the corner (just a month away, to be exact). So, if you really want to impress your sweetie, it would be a good idea to start planning now.  But if you’re still in the dark about what to get that special someone, there’s a good chance they only want to spend some quality time with you.

Sex and the City Zoo 4: Sexy Beast
Say what? Stay with us for a second. The Los Angeles Zoo is holding an “adults-only affair” on Feb. 9  with an enlightening talk by actress and interpretive naturalist of zoology Joleen Lutz. a reception featuring desserts and wines, “animal walk-abouts,” (including chats with keepers and the chance to observe small animals up close) and an optional 4-course dinner at Reggie’s Bistro inside the Zoo.

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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.

 

South Africa

How are your resolutions going? Don’t worry — no one is judging you for eating that piece of cake. What about your travel resolutions? Do you need a little inspiration to make 2013 your most adventurous year yet? Then take advantage of these trends — forecasted by JWT, a global marketing communications agency — and book those plane tickets!

Hotels in Africa
International hotel brands are expanding to Africa with Marriott planning to open a property in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, in 2013, the French hotel group Accor planning to add almost 5,000 rooms in 30 hotels by 2016 and Starwood intending to open 10 African hotels in the next 3 years. Get ahead of the curve by entering to win a trip to South Africa!

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Train for a marathon. Organize your closets. Drink green smoothies. Not putting a smile on your face just yet, is it? What’s great about travel resolutions is that they are so much more fun to keep because they involve traveling, and who doesn’t want to push that to the top of their goals for 2013.

Consider these 5 travel resolutions (we promise, you’ll be a happier person by year’s end):

1. Take Your Vacation Days

Hotwire’s 2012 American Travel Behavior Survey revealed that the majority of Americans will have an average of 9.2 unused paid vacations days leftover, and that’s 6.2 days up from 2011. There’s no reason to not take vacation days that you’ve earned, even if you use them for a staycation to explore places in your city that you haven’t had time to see (probably because you’ve been working too much).

2. Experience First, Share Later

On vacation, do you find yourself lost in capturing a moment versus living in the moment? Maybe you’re fiddling with your iPhone trying to focus on your cappuccino at a café in Italy or trying to tweet from the summit of Pikes Peak and end up missing the sunset. It seems as a culture we’re obsessed with documenting every aspect of our vacation … while it’s happening. Put the phone away. Leave it in the hotel room for a change. Stop and smell the roses … post a photo of them on Facebook later.

3. Go Your Own Way

Everyone’s dream vacation is different. Whether it’s ignoring your parents’ paranoia after deciding to travel to a “dangerous country” or realizing that you might never find someone who will share your dream of hiking a glacier or diving in the Red Sea … follow your own heart when it comes to travel. Maybe take a trip alone this year to cross off a bucket list destination (for some reason, you can’t understand why no one shares your passion to go to Yemen), or maybe just take an afternoon for yourself on your next family vacation to see a sight that only you want to see.

4. Leave Your Comfort Zone in 2012

One of the best things about travel is that it offers you the chance to be someone you’re not at home. Maybe it’s dining like Andrew Zimmern would … you know, a bite of cow placenta here and a taste of turtle testicles there. Perhaps it’s learning to surf, even though you live in the Midwest far from any water, or taking a camping trip in Alaska, even though you’re a bonafide city slicker most of the year.

5. Sign Up for Rewards Programs

Is your excuse why you don’t travel more always money? You’re not alone. But good news, there are now more ways to cash in on travel rewards programs than ever. Our travel rewards guru, Summer Hull aka MommyPoints, is passionate about points because they are what make inexpensive travel possible. Whether it’s a rewards credit card that gives you miles for every dollar you spend or racking up hotel points, take advantage of these offers so you can travel more on your dollar in 2013.

So put down the green smoothie and book that 2013 vacation already.

 

New Year's Day Plunge

Photography by Todd Bush Photography

Sometimes you need to make a statement — big and bold — in order to start the New Year off with a fresh, clean slate. And what better way to begin a new chapter than with a dip into a body of water — icy cold, at that!

I can personally vouch for it: Taking the plunge on New Year’s Day is something you won’t soon forget. Last New Year’s, on the heels of recovering from a lower back injury, I was feeling a little listless, like something had to change. Then one day, an ad popped up on my Facebook page — something about a Coney Island Polar Bear Club Plunge on New Year’s. Intrigued, I clicked on the ad.

Turns out, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest swimming club of its kind in the United States, and every year since the early 1900s, this hardy group of men and women, now numbering in the hundreds, has taken a dip in the Atlantic Ocean off Coney Island on New Year’s Day. (They also take regular dips every Sunday from November through April, in case you can’t get enough.)

Hypothermia? Nah!

OK, OK, you’re probably thinking — I don’t know — “hypothermia” right about now. But as I found out last New Year’s, as I gathered with more than a thousand eager New Year’s plungers off the boardwalk at Coney Island’s Stillwell Avenue, you don’t have to be in super-primo-uno shape to take the plunge.

In fact, looking around at the sea of humanity ready to celebrate that New Year’s Day, I wasn’t exactly looking at a bunch of bodybuilders — and that’s putting it mildly. (As Bon Jovi music blasted from nearby speakers, yes, I did actually see grown men in every kind of sportive garb – including, you know, speedos and diapers — but hey, who am I to judge?)

Then came the moment …

At 1 p.m. sharp! –– a sea of people — my fellow brothers and sisters! — rushed toward the water, many yelping in what sounded like a primal seal sound: ah-oooh, ah-oooh

Feeling the growing excitement, I raced toward the water with them, and then it hit me, “Wow! This water is cold!” But then, what the heck, this was it, the moment — the New Year! — and soon, I dunked my whole body underwater, then rushed back toward the shore, feeling an exhilaration and joy I wouldn’t soon forget. I’m still talking about it a year later! (And a word to the ladies: A New Year’s plunge is a great date option — you’ll see how tough your fella really is!)

Eager to take the plunge yourself? Check out these New Year’s plunge options around the world! We’ve even included some warmer options, in case, you know, you don’t want to freeze to death. Go figure.

It was a big year. The Olympics took over London, and James Bond returned to the box office for the 23rd time. We took a tour of the Twilight destinations and even learned where Gangnam is. 2012 is definitely a year to remember, so let us jog your memory before we jump into 2013 … READ MORE

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