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Photography by Getty Images

The 72nd annual Daytona Bike Week kicks off today. This granddaddy of all things motorcycles, billed as the “World’s Largest Motorcycle Event,” will see roughly 500,000 leather-clad bikers and babes descend on Daytona Beach, FL, over the next 10 days. If the open road is in your blood, you’ll want to join the crowds in Daytona over the coming week — here are some of the must-see events to check out.

Daytona Supercross by Honda: Saturday, March 9
The Toughest Course on the Circuit!
Will Chad Reed or Davi Millsaps unseat last year’s winner, James Stewart? Daytona International Speedway has been home to the longest continuous Supercross event in America since 1971. Every year, during Bike Week, a supercross track is constructed between the pit road and tri-oval section of the speedway track. Steep jumps and obstacles await riders as they tackle a terrain that historically has used more sand than dirt. Since 2008, racing champion Ricky Carmichael has designed the track configurations, and he returns this year as designer in what is the circuit’s most challenging event. A perk for fans: The starting gate will remain on pit road, offering a great view of the first turn.

Daytona 200: Saturday, March 16
Will Elena Myers Win Again?
History may be made at Daytona 200, the 200-mile motorcycle race held at Daytona International Speedway. Last year, 19-year-old Daytona champion Elena Myers, of Mountain View, CA, became the first woman to win a professional event at Daytona International Speedway after winning in the second round of an AMA Pro Racing spring road race. This year, Myers is eying another historic win in Daytona 200 as she rides for sponsor Sturgess Cycle Triumph.

Ormond Beach: Music Happenings
From a CCR Tribute Band to an 11-Year-Old Rocker
One of the epicenters of Bike Week action is of course, Daytona Beach’s northern neighbor, Ormond Beach. You’ll find plenty of hard, white sand, some stretches of which bikers can drive on. But the real draw here will be venues such as Iron Horse Saloon, where country band Confederate Railroad will sing their popular anthem “Trashy Women” (no comment). Fans of Creedence Clearwater Revival can check out a CCR tribute band at the Broken Spoke Saloon; plus, head to Beaver Bar where an 11-year-old rock singer, Brooks Paul, from North Carolina will rip it up with vicious renditions of AC/DC, Gus N’ Roses and more hard rock hits. Check out this great roundup of other Ormond Beach Bike Week highlights.


Main Street, Second Avenue and More
As we speak, hundreds of bikers are rumbling through Main Street in Daytona, FL – check out the Main Street attractions. For a quieter slice of Bike Week, head to Second Avenue, the historic African-American business district that established itself out of necessity – back in 1949, Daytona Bike Week was segregated, forcing African-American motorcycle enthusiasts to find this more hospitable stretch of town to socialize and park their bikes. (Learn the story of Daytona’s Second Avenue.)

For more on Daytona Bike Week (including this Hooters Bikini Contest … we had to mention it), check out the Official Bike Week website.

Plus, check out this Info Source for Bike Week 2013.


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Photography by Getty Images

Small Swiss Army knives, yes. Box cutters, still no.

Do the TSA’s new rules make perfect sense? Or are they total nonsense?

That’s the big question of the hour. In a move praised by some (Swiss Army knife enthusiasts) and derided by others (9/11 families), the Transportation Safety Agency announced this week that pocketknives will now be permitted on planes, effective Monday, April 25. TSA Administrator John Pistole outlined the new rules on Tuesday, stating that passengers will now be able to carry blades less than 2.36 inches long.

(Great visuals of TSA’s list of approved/banned carry-ons can be found here and here.)

When it comes to knives, why 2.36 inches — why not 2.5 … or 3? That question, among others, led the new TSA rules to win a vote of “confidence” from New Yorker funnyman Andy Borowitz, courtesy of his “National Arbitrariness Association”: “We love that the list appears to have been put together with no organizing principle or logical system. It combines the virtues of making no sense and being impossible to remember. Knives, bats, golf clubs, billiard cues — it’s like they made this list using refrigerator-poetry magnets.”

Not so fast, says TSA. On the contrary, the new rules to permit these items as carry-ons “was made as part of TSA’s overall risk-based security approach and aligns TSA with international standards.” Plus, in light of locked cockpit doors and with pilots now instructed to stay behind those doors if trouble arises, it’s unlikely, the argument goes, that someone will successfully hijack a plane with a small Swiss Army knife … or lacrosse sticks … or hockey sticks … or golf clubs (limit 2) — provided they’re under 24 inches in length.

Are the new TSA rules too much, too soon after 9/11? Some victims’ families think so: “What’s the difference between a pocketknife and a box cutter, for crying out loud?” asks David Beamer, whose son Todd was among the passengers who led the Flight 93 revolt. ‘’I cannot see the upside to this.”

(Sidenote: Box-cutters are still banned, because as TSA’s Pistole puts it: “… there’s just too much emotion associated with particularly the box cutters, so those will not be allowed.”)

Is there an upside to TSA’s new rules? If there is one, it may be as simple as convenience, especially for passengers avoiding the hassle of their pricey merchandise having to be turned in before they board. The TSA confiscates thousands of pocketknives each year, as well as expensive items like golf clubs, and gives them to states to sell off as surplus property.

What do you think – is this latest move a good thing? Or not?

If you travel, you’ve got an opinion, so leave your comments below.

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.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Each February, the City of Saints is decked out in green, purple and yellow, wild parades roll through town, and countless strands of colorful beads dangle from trees, power lines, balconies … and attractive women. If you’re lucky enough to be in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Travel Channel’s got you covered.

Mardi Gras

The Big Easy is one big party during Mardi Gras. Check out photos from past celebrations, and get tips from locals on how to navigate the boisterous crowds.

The French Quarter

Work your way down NOLA’s infamous Bourbon Street and admire the flashing neon signs urging you to slurp down a daiquiri, a “grenade,” or a “huge-ass beer” – all served in to-go cups, of course. The Quarter is Mardi Gras mecca, but if you can’t make it there for the year’s most debaucherous day, visit in spirit with a (virtual) stroll through the city.

The Music Scene

Sure, Bourbon Street is a must-visit. But there is much more to the Crescent City than the cluster of bachelor-party-filled bars that line the city’s most lively (and touristy) street. Locals flock to nearby Frenchmen Street, where you can take your pick from a number of great live music clubs. For more, check out our article on New Orleans’ Coolest Live Music Venues, and be sure to check out who’s playing at Tipitinas and the Maple Leaf during your visit.

NOLA Food

Sip chicory coffee and give in to your craving for those world-famous beignets doused in powdered sugar … but certainly don’t stop there! You’d be remiss if you didn’t have at least one awesome po’ boy, a cup of gumbo, a plate of Willie Mae’s fried chicken and a bite of King Cake! To stir up your appetite, get a Taste of New Orleans and or browse restaurant suggestions from our editors in our New Orleans Travel Guide.

Voodoo Magic

What’s New Orleans without a little dose of Voodoo? On your Weekend Trip to New Orleans, take a Cemetery Voodoo Tour through St. Louis Cemetery Number 1 and leave an offering at the grave of Marie Laveau – NOLA’s “Voodoo Queen.” She’s rumored to have powers even in death, so you’d better not get on her bad side.

The Garden District

Get a glimpse of some of the best-preserved Southern mansions in the US as you explore the Garden District. You may even recognize some residents – Sandra Bullock, Peyton Manning and Nicolas Cage all have homes here. Plus, keep an eye out for the house where The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was filmed. For more suggestions for things to do, be sure to check out our New Orleans Travel Guide.

Layover App

By Mommy Points

With the 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony set for February 7, 2014, the Games in Sochi, Russia, are now officially less than a year away.  If you want to be at the Opening Ceremony, or one of the other 15 types of winter events that will take place during the 2014 Games, then mark this Monday, February 11, 2013, in bold letters on your calendar.

The public sale for remaining individual event tickets begins promptly at noon eastern on Monday.  This will be a first come, first serve sale, so in order to have the best shot at getting what you are after, don’t be late getting online on Monday.  Event tickets start at $22 USD and go up into the hundreds of dollars for more popular events like ice skating and men’s hockey finals.  If you are interested in a ticket + hotel package deal, some of those are already available now.

The official website to purchase Olympic tickets and packages depends on your country of residence, but those residing in countries such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia must use CoSport.com.  If you plan to participate in the ticket sale, I recommend registering for an account with CoSport now to avoid any potential delays on Monday.  Also, keep in mind that only Visa cards are accepted for official Olympic ticket sales.

Good luck!

And get a glimpse of future Games in our The Olympics: A Look Ahead slideshow!

Summer Hull is the founder of MommyPoints.coma site dedicated to helping a community of readers discover how to travel the world at a greatly reduced cost, primarily by taking advantage of current travel promotions and maximizing travel rewards programs.

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.

Reuters

Chinese New Year falls on Sunday, Feb. 10, but you don’t need to cross the ocean for the party. The most widely celebrated Chinese festival is a time to welcome longevity, wealth and prosperity into your life. Spot a dragon, the bearer of good luck, or set off some firecrackers to chase off evil spirits in one of these cities – our picks for the best cities to ring in the year of the snake! READ MORE

Lover’s Island off Ile-la-Vache. Photography by Sebastian Lindstrom.

As an American living in Haiti, the topic of tourism as a way to boost the country’s struggling economy and image, comes up often. So it’s not surprising that NPR’s recent All Things Considered story on Haiti created a lot of attention in my world. Some found it humorously accurate, others, one-sided and misleading.

In the NPR story, Jason Beaubien mainly focuses on what Haiti would have to overcome to tap into the Caribbean tourism market. He highlights Labadee, the private Royal Caribbean hub, whose gated beach and attractions are worlds away from the poverty just outside. Overall, he paints this once-Club-Med country as dirty, dangerous and broken. Warning of elements that could “doom a family’s vacation before they even reach the hotel.”

Is he right? I think the problem here is demographics. Who says Haiti should focus on families in the first place? Is following in neighboring Dominican Republic’s resort-laden footsteps the only way to go?

In my opinion, the answer is backpackers. The same types who flood to Laos, Columbia, Ghana and beyond, searching for the next, untouched experience. These are travelers who crave culture over comfort. Stories over suntans. And who know that chaos often leads to cool.

Historic Jacmel. Photography by Josh Jakobitz.

Take Carnival, for example. In the piece, President Martelly says Haiti’s Carnival is the worst organized, but the most fun. Take it from me, he’s completely right. It’s one of the most amazing experiences, but it certainly isn’t kid-friendly with insane crowds, booty-grinding and general debauchery.

For road-less-traveled types, Haiti is incredible. Head out west to the beaches of Les Cayes. Explore historic Cap-Haitien and climb the steps of the Citadel. Take a rigorous, unmarked hike over the mountains to Jacmel, cutting through a pine forest along the way. Just don’t expect it to be easy. But then again, for true backpackers, easy is boring.

Volunteers play football with village youth. Photography by Josh Jakobitz.

Looking for an immersive experience in Haiti? Spend 6 weeks this summer understanding Haiti with Operation Groundswell (OG). OG is a non-profit that offers travel and community service experiences, which aim to create more socially and environmentally aware backpackers around the world. The 6-week summer trips include a month of service work and 2 weeks of independent travel time. The early summer trip to Haiti will focus on reforestation projects, the late summer trip focuses on education.

For quality Haitian-run tourism trip packages, check out Tour Haiti (use Google Translate).

About the Author:

Stephanie Price is a freelance copywriter who oversees fundraising and communications for English in Mind Institute, a free adult English school in Port-au-Prince. She loves Haiti and not-so-secretly hopes you will too.

***

Travel Channel hosts in Haiti:

Watch a recap of Tony Bourdain’s time in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And follow coffee hunter, Todd Carmichael, as he searches for a rare strain of coffee in Haiti.

Photography by Katie Hards

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of an iconic New York City landmark — Grand Central Terminal. For the past century, it has served as a major hub of transportation for daily commuters coming or going to and from NYC. It also serves as a major tourist destination and is one of the top 10 most visited destinations in the world, according to Daniel Brucker, Manager of GCT Tours. Today, on its official birthday, the Guinness Book of World Records will bestow the building as “The Largest Station by Number of Platforms.” So, besides that, what’s so special about this train terminal?

The building is steeped in the history marked by its technological advancements in transportation, ingenuity in design and architecture and urban development that shaped NYC to be the metropolis we know today. Just think about the stories of the billions of commuters and travelers who have come and gone through the building over the years. Who knows how many hello and goodbye kisses and hugs have taken place within the confines of the building. And we’re sure that even the items in the station’s expansive lost and found room come with their own unsolved mysterious stories, including an urn of ashes or a basset hound that have both, somehow, been left behind. With nearly 700,000 people served daily, Grand Central also boasts an on-time performance of 98%, ensuring everyone arrives safely and promptly at their destinations.

Photography by Katie Hards

Before their centennial celebration, I was able to partake in a very special behind-the-scenes tour to understand what makes this building and its services so unique. From the lowest depths of the building — which is the deepest basement in all over New York City — I, along with other special guests, got a glimpse into the enormous electrical infrastructure, both that power the station.

Prior to 1913, the trains coming to and from Grand Central were powered by coal, making any property along the open air tracks dirty and undesirable. With the introduction of electrically powered trains, the tracks could be enclosed underground, and the land above it (Park Avenue) became ripe for development. This area became, and still is, some of the city’s most lucrative and expensive properties.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

In the upper reaches of the building, we sidled past busy men and women sitting in the Metro North control room. They were guiding train traffic in and out of the station by overseeing blinking lights and numbers on two enormous screens — leaving me cross eyed from its complexity. Luckily, we ducked into a door behind them to scale a couple of rickety ladders that led us to a small room. We found ourselves faced with the most beautiful Tiffany glass clock, which is visible along 42nd street. The “6” on the clock opens up to reveal the street below and Park Avenue leading up to the station. It’s a great view from a unique vantage point. We got another great view from the upper glass catwalks. This perspective allowed us to see the wonderful beaux-arts features of the building and to gaze closely at the ornate constellations painted on the ceiling. Peering down, we gained a birds-eye view of the expansive main concourse to watch the commuters, travelers and visitors from above.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple before March 15, put Grand Central Terminal on your must-see list. MTA Metro-North Railroad — which operates the Terminal — is celebrating the centennial with an informative exhibit highlighting the history of the building through photographs, architectural drawings and interactive exhibits. You can even download a special app that will guide you through the unique elements of this centenarian landmark. Though you won’t be scaling any ladders or peering down from the catwalks, you’ll gain historical insight and visit some of the other unique features of the building.

Photography by Katie Hards

See what other landmarks, events and cities are celebrating big birthdays this year in our Travel Anniversaries of 2013 slideshow.

- By Katie Hards

Love is in the air as February approaches, and what could be more romantic than a trip to paradise? Travel + Leisure has just released a list of the world’s most romantic islands — here are some of our favorites, and a few we think they missed.

READ MORE

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