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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

Whether you were waiting to see if the world ended first or you are just a procrastinator every year, don’t fret! There’s still time to get last-minute gifts for the traveler in your life — the best part, these 5 gift ideas don’t even require shipping.

1. Airline Miles or Gift Cards — Give the gift of travel and treat the jetsetter in your life to airline miles or a gift card toward their next flight. American Airlines and United Airlines offer incentives for giving miles with bonus miles for the gifter as well.

2. Travel-Inspiring Books — For all the book lovers on your list, there’s bound to be a book for every travel personality. Some of our favorite books this year were those that inspired wanderlust: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail with Cheryl Strayed in Wild; ride along with travel writer and former actor Andrew McCarthy in The Longest Way Home ; and choose what’s next on your bucket list with National Geographic’s World’s Best Travel Experiences: 400 Extraordinary Places.

3. Gift of Language — Have someone on your list who’s about to take a trip? Help them learn the language before they go. You can usually pick up Rosetta Stone language programs at airports. Also LiveMocha offers 38 courses you can buy online. You’ll be hearing merci, danke, grazie … in no time.

4. Edible Gifts — Help the foodie traveler on your list relive their favorite trip with gifts fit for consumption. Curry spices from Thailand, rooibos tea from South Africa, coffee from Costa Rica, malbec wine from Chile … pick a taste from around the world. World Market  is a great place to pick up international goods or even your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods is bound to carry a few things for those seeking worldly tastes

5. LivingSocial Escapes and Adventures — What do you give someone who has everything? You can never have enough travel experiences! LivingSocial’s Escapes offer travel getaways like a 5-day surf camp in Hawaii or a Flurry of Family Fun in Vermont . Or give your loved one a fun thing to try in their very own city, such as an introductory flight lesson or photography class.

Need more gift inspiration? Check out our Editors’ Picks: Holiday Wish List and the Lost Girls’ Gift Guide.

Happy shopping!

White Christmas Cities 2012

Photography by Getty Images

Are you dreaming of a “White Christmas”? For many, the holiday season isn’t the same without the sight of powdery white snow outside, enjoyed from the cozy comfort of a home complete with a fireplace and an abundant supply of gifts under the Christmas tree.

Sadly, Santa didn’t do much dashing through the snow last Christmas. In fact, winter 2011 was the 4th warmest on record since 1896. So will Christmas 2012 see a repeat performance?

We asked our friends at weathertrends360 which parts of the United States will see a white Christmas this year — and by “white,” we’re talking 1 inch of snow or greater.

Good news! Plenty of cities nationwide will see a white Christmas, says weathertrends360 meteorologist Krissy Klinger — and keep in mind weathertrends360’s snowfall forecast for cities is accurate about 80% of the time.

White Christmas: 25 Cities to Watch

Here’s weathertrend360’s list of cities nationwide slated to see a white Christmas — the list is based on records of solid snow cover, with temperatures projected not to fall below freezing through Christmas:

1. Salt Lake City
2. Cheyenne, WY
3. Denver
4. Erie, PA
5. Buffalo, NY
6. Syracuse NY
7. Watertown, NY
8. Rochester, NY
9. Burlington, VT
10. Minneapolis
11. Madison, WI
12. Green Bay, WI
13. Bismarck, ND
14. Grand Rapids, MI
15. Sault Ste Marie, MI
16. Spokane, WA
17. Lake Tahoe, CA
18. Glasgow, MT
19. Elko, NV
20. Ely, NV
21. Flagstaff, AZ
22. Duluth, MN
23. Saint Cloud, MN
24. Marquette, MI
25. Omaha, NE

We Want a White Christmas, Not a Blizzard!

The first winter storm of the season, which has been named Draco, slammed the Midwest and western Great Lakes on Thursday — and is now moving northeast. That’s good news if you’re heading out west; now that the storm has passed, and the temperatures will be cold through the weekend, the snow pack should keep in place through Christmas, says weathertrends360 meteorologist Krissy Klinger.

Any major weather concerns to watch out for?

“The only area we’d be concerned with having disruptive, blizzard-type weather would be across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest,” says Klinger. “But it’s going to be a close call. Right now, the forecast has a storm in the Central US gathering strength on Christmas Day, so any slow-down in that strengthening could easily push the storm off until late Christmas night or the next day.”

Farther north and west of the area being impacted by the blizzard (Minneapolis; Duluth, MN; Saint Cloud, MN; and Bismarck, ND) temperatures will be frigid through Christmas Day, which will also ensure that the current snow pack, several inches deep, will stay in place for the holiday, adds Klinger.

As for the Northeast, winter storm Draco is likely to bring snow to interior sections of New England (Burlington, VT), and kick up a period of lake-effect snow for cities such as Erie, PA; Syracuse, NY; Watertown, NY; Rochester, NY; and Buffalo, NY, says weathertrends360’s Klinger. Throughout, stay abreast of pre-Christmas travel issues.

Finally, in the West, across the Rockies, a Pacific storm system is slated to spread snow across higher elevations through this weekend and into Christmas Eve, says Klinger.

Snowfall Updates — Where to Go

For a full look at cities and snowfall, check out National Climatic Data Center’s nifty map of White Christmas Cities.

Stay current on White Christmas City updates on weathertrends360′s Facebook page.

And check out Travel Channel’s tips on how to score deals on last-minute holiday travel deals.

Photo courtesy of Sandos Hotels & Resorts

Whether you believe the world is going to end tomorrow or not, you can’t deny that Mexico is doing it up Mayan-style. Even though the Mayans, themselves, are saying the world is not going to end (phew!), that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate like it might, and these attractions in Mexico are making the most of the “new era.”

Tulum, one of the last cities built by the Maya and a popular tourist spot in Mexico, is celebrating the end of the Mayan Calendar with the Pyramid of Positive Thinking, designed by artist Xavier Maria y Campos. The pyramid, designed to reflect Mayan culture, will be fleshed out with recycled plastic bottles containing positive thoughts written by residents and visitors to the area. It is expected to receive more than 700,000 thoughts from people around the world.

Photo courtesy of the Riviera Maya DMO

Considered to be the world’s largest natural aquarium, Cancun’s Xel-Ha is celebrating the beginning of a new era with a variety of renewal experiences. The aquarium is looking on the bright side of things with yoga by the sea on the closest Saturday to the 21st each month and a special purification and transformation experience at the mouth of the world’s longest underground river. They’ve also been inviting people to write positive messages on the leaves of the sacred Ceiba tree through January 6.

The famed eco-archeological park, Xcaret, is offering visitors a series of Maya experiences, including a special “Hand the Sun Over” ceremony with the flight of 104 macaws, mystical meditation guided nature journeys and, tomorrow, a Maya 2012 gala dinner with a contemporary dance presentation.

Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa is bringing history back to life with actual Mayans sharing their traditions with guests. With a “Maya Market” offering authentic cuisine, Xtabentun Maya coffee demonstrations, Maya spa rituals and Maya warrior dog tours on the calendar of events, Sandos is going all out. The property even introduced a dedicated New Era website with all the event details and a trailer teasing the December 21st “End of the Maya Calendar” party that will wrap up the celebrations.

Thinking about a trip to Mexico? Get the lowdown with Oyster’s Spotlight on Cancun post!

 

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