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American-US Airways merger

Grounded: American-US Airways merger (Photo: Getty)

Lower competition and increased ticket costs. That’s the charge being leveled by antitrust officials about the proposed US Airways-American Airlines merger. On Tuesday, the Justice Department, 6 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia filed the suit in DC.

“By challenging this merger, the Department of Justice is saying that the American people deserve better,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. “This transaction would result in consumers paying the price — in higher airfares, higher fees and fewer choices.”

The lawsuit puts on hold what would have become the world’s largest commercial air carrier — and the DOJ action surprised the bejesus out of the airline industry.

“We Will Fight Them”
“We and our counterparts at US Airways have been working with the DOJ staff for months to ensure that they had an informed view of the merger,” says American CEO Tom Horton, in a memo yesterday to employees. “We have maintained that the merger is complementary (only 12 overlapping routes), that it provides significant customer benefits and that it enhances competition in the airline industry.”

US Airways chairman Doug Parker was even more direct. “We are extremely disappointed in this action and believe the DOJ is wrong in its assessment … we will fight them.”

Costs to You
Whatever the outcome of DOJ’s suit, the larger issue remains: The current business model for domestic airlines is seeing the industry bleed red ink. Increasing jet fuel costs and the investment needed to modernize an aging fleet are the big industry expenses that won’t go away anytime soon. (Learn how to save big on airfare.)

Whether this merger goes through or not, we may all expect to see higher ticket costs in the years to come. Stay tuned.

Greece

Some may be jealous of their clothes, their fame, their money, but here at Travel Channel, we’re jealous of the Kardashian family’s epic family vacations. Maybe we’ll never be able to keep up with their globetrotting ways … but that isn’t going to stop us from gushing over their photos of luxurious white stucco villas overlooking the glistening Aegean Sea. As expected, the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s April Grecian getaway was about as over-the-top as their reality show — think: private villas, fish pedicures, and cruising the islands on a yacht worthy of the gods. Curious as to what they did, where they stayed … and how much it cost? We’ve got all the details.

Kardashians Yacht in Greece

Yachting
When in the Greek Islands, rent a 162-foot yacht. At least that’s what America’s favorite love-to-hate-them reality family did. You’ll need $195,000 per week, though. The 7-bedroom O’ceanos Yacht features a large Jacuzzi and multiple bars and spacious dining areas — overall, O’ceanos is the perfect backdrop for taking bikini-clad “selfies” for your various social media outlets. Like it so much you could live there? It’s your lucky day! For a mere $22,238,449, the yacht could be yours!

Mykonos
Kris, Bruce, Kendall, Kylie, Brody, Brandon, Leah, Kourtney, Khloe, Kim, Scott, Mason and baby Penelope took over the 3 drop-dead gorgeous villas that make up the Mykonos Retreat, located in the quiet southwestern tip of the island known as Aleomandra. The white stucco villas are built into the hillside with stunning views of the Aegean Sea and feature expansive stone terraces, infinity pools and crisp white décor. With amenities like a private chef and “superior travel assistance” including arranging “private planes, yachts, speed boats, helicopters and luxury cars” — you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason to ever leave this private Grecian enclave. Unless, like Khloe, you’d rather go horseback-riding on Mykonos’ Fokos beach. So, what’ll your stay at the Mykonos Retreat cost you? Each villa ranges from approximately $15,000-25,000 per week, depending on the time of year.

Kardashians in GreeceSantorini
After their jaunt in Mykonos, the Kardashians headed to nearby Santorini, another island in the Cyclades. They stayed at one of the Volcano View Hotel’s private villas, perched high on a cliff, overlooking the Santorini caldera and the sparkling-blue Aegean Sea.  With film crews in tow, the family enjoyed a traditional Greek feast, complete with plate-smashing, “Opa!”-shouting and Zeimpekiko-dancing. While in Santorini, little sister Kendall and Kourtney’s baby-daddy Scott experienced a fish pedicure, and Kourtney toured (and shopped, of course) in the picturesque town of Oia — known for having one of the most breathtaking sunsets in Europe.

Oh, and there was plenty of drama, of course, but we’ll leave that to the gossip blogs!

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Photos by: Thinkstock, Thinkstock, Kylinejenner/Instagram

Photo: Castle Park

We love amusement parks as much as the next person. But sometimes a good day of fun can go horribly wrong, as we learned with last Friday’s tragic event at Six Flags Over Texas. This isn’t the time to turn alarmist — but it is time to brush up on amusement park safety tips, say industry experts.

First, keep things in perspective. A whole lot of people, well into the millions, take amusement park rides every year nationwide. And the number of serious injuries is minimal.

Chances of Injury Are Small

“Regardless of where we are on the spectrum, there’s always more we can do [in terms of amusement park safety],” says Dr. Gary Smith, who directs the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH.

It’s true, says Smith, there’s a global issue ahead to face — mainly, the current patchwork of oversight on amusement park safety, with differing standards by state and localities, and no umbrella government agency to oversee it all. Still, adds Smith, “The chances of a serious injury are small and that’s something parents can take comfort in.”

Know Before You Go

Already, states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania — home to a large number of amusement parks — have issued reminders to adventure seekers on how to enjoy rides responsibly. (Late June was Amusement Park Ride Safety Week in Pennsylvania, in fact.)

Check out tips from Pennsylvania authorities on amusement park ride safety here, and from the Ohio Department of Agriculture here. The main takeaway: Stay informed. Know before you go, it’s the best way for you and your family to have fun.
 
Top Ride Safety Tips

Ken Martin, an independent inspector and amusement park safety consultant with KRM Consulting in Richmond, VA, offers a great roundup of ride safety tips for parents. Also keep in mind the following:

    • Pay attention to the sizing device located by many rides and attractions — it’s put there for your safety. “Yes, trying to sit in one of these seats to see if you fit the ride may be a little embarrassing,” says Martin, “however, a little embarrassment may be better than the alternative.”
    • Do you take any medication? Consult your physician before you think of trying a ride, says Martin. “Pay attention to ride rules and patron warnings,” he says. “Should you take medication for medical conditions, it’s best to consult your physician before riding any amusement ride or attraction – as a precaution you want to make sure you have [medical information] on your person or have someone in your party who knows your medical history.”
    • Take note of your surroundings. “If you see behavior or something you don’t like, bring it to someone’s attention with the amusement park,” says Martin. “All employees should be wearing a uniform and a name tag. They are there to help and serve you.”
    • Avoid heavy foods or sugary beverages as much as possible. “Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water,” says Martin. “Also, lines to some attractions can be very long. Take a restroom break before you get in line.”
    • Trust your gut. As a parent, don’t just go by minimum height and age requirements — ask yourself if your child is developmentally ready for a ride, says Smith of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Finally, be sure the ride fits you and your child. “Restraint systems should fit as close to your body as possible, but not tight enough to hurt,” says Martin. “Then sit back and enjoy the thrill — remember we are taking you to the edge and bringing you back safety, if all the rules are followed.”

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Chincoteague Pony Swim

Photo: Getty Images

Come early and bring your patience. That’s the word on the 88th annual Chincoteague Pony Swim. Every July, on the last Wednesday of the month, the small island of Chincoteague sees its population of 3,500 people swell to more than 40,000, as visitors from all over the country — and as far away as Canada and Europe — flock to the island off Virginia’s coast, to witness an event of epic pony proportions: more than 120 wild ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel, between Chincoteague and Assateague islands.

The actual swim takes all of 5 to 10 minutes. And it’s worth every minute of waiting to see the oldest continuous wild pony roundup east of the Colorado River.

“This is an event of historical proportions,” says Denise Bowden, spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the ponies, often called the Chincoteague herd, on the Virginia side of Assateague Island.

Historical … or historic … one thing’s clear: This is the biggest event on Chincoteague Island’s annual calendar.

Chincoteague Island’s fire department has held the event nearly every year since 1924, culminating in the Salt Water Cowboys — about 145 cowboys from Virginia and neighboring states including Maryland and North Carolina — rounding up the feral fellas and females for a parade down Main Street, to the carnival grounds, where an auction of the ponies takes place Thursday morning. (Some ponies are bought under “buy back” terms; the bidder donates the money to the fire department and allows the pony to be released back onto Assateague Island.)

Now the patience part: Chincoteague Island will be packed. And while the pony swim will be held sometime between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., crowds will start gathering well in advance. “Come early,” says Bowden. It’s not uncommon, she adds, for visitors to gather at the heart of the action — the Pony Swim Lane and Memorial Park — as early as 5 or 6 a.m.

The long wait time — plus the actual event’s start time, dependent on inclement weather conditions — spells greater exposure to the elements — lots of sun, maybe rain. “Make yourself as comfortable as possible,” says Bowden. Bring your sunscreen, hat and umbrella. Plus, a pair of old tennis shoes (no flip-flops or high-heels) — you’ll need them while standing in the marshy, muddy field. But the pay-off will be something to behold: Just beyond a fence, a herd of wild ponies — only 20 to 30 feet away.

For parking, Bowden advises heading to Chincoteague High School’s parking lot: A shuttle on the grounds takes visitors to the Pony Swim Lane. Find shuttle information here.

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Can you hear that sigh from around the world? HE is finally here! That’s right — the royal baby is a boy!

All over London, people are toasting and cheering in celebration of the new lil’ monarch’s arrival!  The baby boy was born at 4:24 p.m., weighing in at  8 pounds, 6 ounces. The child will be third in line to the throne, behind his father, Prince William, and his grandfather, Prince Charles.

What will the royal baby’s name be? We’ll have to wait and see, but we do know that the newest member of the royal family will carry an impressive title: His Royal Highness, Prince of Cambridge.

Welcome to the world, little prince!

Check out photos of the world celebrating the royal baby’s arrival:

Reuters: A notice formally announcing the birth of a son to Britain’s Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is placed in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Reuters: Members of the public celebrate the announcement of the birth of a baby boy to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside St Mary’s Hospital in London, England.

Reuters: Employees hang a sign celebrating the news that Britain’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has given birth to a son, in the window of the British themed restaurant Tea & Sympathy in New York.

 

Reuters: Nikki Warren pours champagne to celebrate the announcement of the royal baby at Ye Olde King’s Head English pub’s gift shop in Santa Monica, CA.

Reuters: The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire a 41 Gun Royal Salute to mark the birth of the royal baby, in Green Park in central London.

Reuters: The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill is lit blue to celebrate the birth of a baby boy to Britain’s Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in Ottawa.

Reuters: A congratulatory sign for the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, celebrating the birth of their son is seen outside the ‘Cottage Inn’ pub in the Duchess of Cambridge’s hometown of Bucklebury, England.

Reuters: A member of the public arrives to deliver a gift outside St Mary’s Hospital following the announcement of the birth of a baby boy to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

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The Bachelorette in Antigua

“It’s absolutely breathtaking…”

“Like, this place is gorgeous…”

“This is built for love…”

“Everything about it really sets the tone for romance…”

Or heartbreak? Hot-tub makeout sessions? A proposal? We’ve heard this all before. It’s the 9th season of the Bachelorette, and they have the formula down pat: 25 potential suitors + beautiful backdrops = recipe for true love, or at least guilty-pleasure TV. Desiree didn’t have quite the globetrotting season that Emily Maynard did, but she still swept away her bachelors on some pretty amazing vacations.

Atlantic City, NJ: Early in the season, the bachelors checked into the penthouse suite at REVEL in Atlantic City, where they enjoyed AC’s finest saltwater taffy, the Steel Pier amusement park and, of course, beachfront sunsets with Desiree.

Munich, Germany: First stop abroad was Munich. Think: sausage, lederhosen and sledding down the highest point in Germany. The crew spent a night in igloos, but the rest of their stay was at the 5-star Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten.

Barcelona, Spain: In Barcelona, Desiree’s entourage checked into the top floor of the beautiful Melia hotel. The guys even got a chance to try to score on Desiree when they took the field at the RCD Espanyol for a game of futbol.

Madeira, Portugal: On the beautiful island of Madeira, they made themselves at home at the Quinta de Lorde resort. What’s more romantic than taking a toboggan ride down a narrow street and kissing on “Cloud Nine”?

And if you want the Bachelorette treatment (while avoiding the casting couch) enter ABC’s sweepstakes for a romantic trip for 2 to Antigua, the Caribbean escape where the final episodes will take place. This winner will receive a 7-day of all-inclusive accommodations and luxury spa treatments at Galley Bay, St. James Club, or the Verandah.

(Don’t ask us why the final rose ceremony isn’t rumored to take place at St. Anne’s Point. But who are we to complain about Antigua?)

For more vacation highlights, check out “As Featured on The Bachelorette.”

US Open of Surfing (Photo: Getty Images)

The countdown begins to the largest surfing event on the planet. On Saturday, July 20, the US Open of Surfing kicks off in the morning, with rounds 1 and 2 of the Junior Men’s championship. If you’re one of the thousands of surfing fans en route to the event or are already stretching out on the sands of Huntington Beach, check out highlights of the 9-day surfing competition, which runs through July 28.

In all, this year’s event is slated to see more than 20 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers compete against the best new surfing talent from around the globe at Huntington Beach Pier. Beyond surf, skateboarding is also in store. This year’s event sees the debut of the Van Doren Invitational, an invite-only skateboarding event set to attract pro and amateur riders.

Another big draw will be music. Billed as one of America’s largest free concert stages of the summer, this year’s musical lineup includes indie rocker Modest Mouse, the dance-punk band The Faint and alternative pop artist Twin Shadow.

Can’t make it to the Vans US Open of Surfing? Check out the live webcast.

And if you’re looking for more places to ride out the heat wave, check out the world’s best surf destinations. Plus, explore the world’s best stand-up paddleboarding spots, extreme beach adventures and some pretty cool extreme adventure sports – all sure to provide great summer memories.

Photography by Bruce Rowles

Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County heads to even colder territory tonight with a visit to the legendary snow-covered ski town of Whistler, British Columbia. Newbie Lydia, the sweet Canadian girl, wants the ladies to see her beautiful country in the hopes that the mountain air (and neutral vibe of Canada) will do the hot-tempered gals some good.

The snow bunnies don’t just drink wine in the lodge fireside all weekend. On this girls getaway, the Real Housewives get physical … with mountain sports, that is (their arguments continue to remain verbal slams). The ladies brace themselves for the freezing Canadian temps and hit the slopes on Whistler Blackcomb, two of the biggest vertical drops in North America, where Lydia snowboards and Vicki brags about her days on a ski team.

In the episode that airs tonight, the decked-out-in-fur housewives channel James Bond girls with a high-speed snowmobile tour. And it wouldn’t be a Real Housewives vacation without a few fights, like the one between Vicki and Lauri on the ski slopes.

Learning to ski can cause some epic meltdowns, even if you aren’t a reality star. Whistler PR supervisor Lauren Everest says the Whistler ski team enjoyed teaching the Real Housewives how to ski, even with the drama.

“Our expert snow school instructor Nadio made sure the ladies felt as comfortable as possible while learning a new sport,” says Everest. “The lesson got cut a bit short due to some drama while the cameras were rolling, but that’s what the show is all about … and why we love it when the Real Housewives come to town!”

After some heated discussions slopeside, the ladies whine and dine après-ski at The Bearfoot Bistro, one of Whistler’s hottest foodie scenes. The restaurant focuses on local in-season ingredients and features one of the world’s coldest ice bars, The Belvedere Ice Room, in which more than 50 vodkas are chilled in minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s almost as cold as one of Tamra’s “evil eyes.”

The second part of the Real Housewives’ ski trip airs tonight. We wonder: Will there be a massive snowball fight between Vicki and Lauri? Will Alexis run out of fur outfits to wear? Will Vicki’s maddening screams cause an avalanche? As Bravo says, we’ll have to watch what happens.

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Yellowstone’s busiest season is now in full swing, and if you’re among the thousands of travelers who plan to visit America’s first national park this July, first thing’s first: Bring a jacket. Yes, really, a jacket — in July. You’ll be grateful you did when winds up to 15 mph nip at your face and temperatures drop into the 40s at night. You may even see snow. (Keep current on Yellowstone’s weather here.)

Hard to believe, as scorching temperatures cripple other regions of the west, but Yellowstone is one place you do not want to explore without a jacket this month. I found out first-hand on a visit to the national park just a few weeks ago. From a chilly morning rain to a late-evening snowstorm, I experienced Yellowstone’s dramatic temperature drops all within the span of a few hours.

Once you’ve brought a coat (and a good pair of boots and sunscreen, too), you’ll be well on your way to exploring the park — here’s a taste of Yellowstone’s beauty in summer.

Roosevelt Arch: An elk rests by Yellowstone’s famous Roosevelt Arch — Teddy Roosevelt himself laid the cornerstone of the arch, located at the park’s north entrance. “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” reads its inscription. (All Photos: Lisa Singh) 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Geysers … bears … but just why is Yellowstone called “Yellowstone”? The park’s abundant yellow-colored rhyolite lavas provide the answer. You’ll see these rich colors at Yellowstone’s massive gorge, roughly 20 miles long.

Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin: Remember your jacket? These smart folks certainly did as they make their way down a walkway to view some of Yellowstone’s breathtaking geysers. Did you know Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration geysers in the world?

Rocky Mountain Fauna: It’s not just bears or American bison you may see at Yellowstone. Look up! This mountain goat, with some winter fur still left to shed, may be peering down at you from a mountain cliff. Just beware of Yellowstone’s deadly bears.

Fishing in Yellowstone: Don’t forget to get in some fishing. Pick up a Yellowstone fishing permit, and enjoy angling and fly-fishing in this massive 2 million-plus-acre wonderland, home to 13 native fish species … and plenty of trout.


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The world eagerly awaits the arrival of the royal baby and the news of whether the newest successor to the British throne will be a Prince or Princess of Cambridge. With the Duchess of Cambridge’s due date believed to be July 11, the champagne is chilling and the cigars are ready to be lit for the royal baby’s arrival any minute now.

Once again royal watchers have all eyes on London and the royal couple. Royal baby watch reaches a fever pitch with worldwide outlets camping out in tents outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London’s Paddington neighborhood, the expected delivery location for the royal baby; it’s also the hospital where Prince William was born.

How will the world find out if the little prince or princess has arrived? With a little pomp and circumstance, which is only fitting for a royal birth. The palace will announce when Kate is in labor, and then when the baby arrives, the announcement will be signed by medical staff and rushed to Buckingham Palace with a police escort. Royal sources say the official announcement will be displayed on an easel, the same easel used when Prince William was born, inside the Buckingham Palace gates. After the royal family receives the news, royal watchers all over the globe will finally find out if it is a little royal prince or princess. Then the world will go into official baby-mania for the foreseeable future.

The royal baby will not only boost collective “awws” around the world but will also boost the British economy with royal baby merchandise and royal baby celebrations all over London (who couldn’t resist this Born to Rule onesie?) The biggest celebration is expected to be at Green Park, a 40-acre royal park right outside of Buckingham Palace, where the official birth announcement will be displayed for the public.

Pubs all over London are gearing up to toast the little monarch’s arrival. Royal fans who would rather escape the rowdy revelers than join them can head to the Museum of London’s new exhibit, The Royal Arrival, showcasing items worn by Queen Victoria’s children; the show runs through Oct. 13. Also, for a perfectly posh British-style celebration, get the royal treatment at hotels offering Royal Baby Shower Teas, like St. James Hotel and the London Marriott Hotel County Hall.

For couples who are patiently awaiting their own baby’s arrival, we’ve selected the best babymoon destinations to get away before your buddle of joy arrives. Yes, if you are expecting your own little prince or princess soon, we suggest taking a romantic and relaxing trip while you can, before it’s you and your partner plus one.  For the moms ready to pop any moment, if your baby arrives the same day as the royal baby, you will be honored with a commerative coin from the Royal Mint.

The downside if your child shares a birthday with the royal baby? Just think of the pressure to top the royal birthday parties every year!

 

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