ALL POSTS IN [Travel Tips]

Ok, so you’ve finally been inspired to book a Spring Fling. Now, you just need to answer the age-old question: “What do I pack?!” We’re here to help.

Spring Fling Packing List

1. Snap a few pics of your Spring Fling with this super-hip (and super tiny) vintage-looking Pentax digital camera. Be sure to invest in the old-school leather strap for it!

2. This vegan-approved “Ultrabalm” from Lush is perfect for those who prefer to travel light — use this multi-purpose moisturizing wonder anywhere — chapped lips, fly-away hair and dry skin.

3. Throw your sunglasses, sunblock and a beach read into your SeaBag, made from reclaimed sails.

4. Keep the sun off your face with a peachy-hued fedora.

5. Ensure no one tells you “you smell!” while on the road with this aptly-named paper soap.

6. Don’t worry boys, we didn’t forget about you. Pack up your made-in-America Filson Travel Bag — the perfect size for an overnight rendezvous — and take that special someone away for a quick spring getaway.

7. Pack a picnic and fire up this (teenie-tiny) City Boy Grill.

8. Will your spring fling be hot enough for a bikini? Take a dip in one of these super-cute (and reasonably priced) suits designed by Diane von Furstenberg for Roxy.

9. The perfect complement to spring’s bright-colored crops is a black-and-white printed blouse.

10. Take the show on the road with this handy, portable pocket projector for iPhone 4 and 4S that can project up to a 50” image.

11. The sun’s out and it’s time for some new shades. Visit Warby Parker’s website, and get 5 pairs to try on at home for free before picking the perfect set of sunnies.

12. Get that springy look, even when it’s a little chilly, with bright-colored cropped pants.

13. Keep that beloved iPad protected while on the road with a new minty-green, multicolored case.

14. See a new side of an old city with a pocket-sized Herb Lester travel guide.

Allergy-Free Spring Fling

Ah, springtime: The blooms, the fresh air … the allergies. If springtime spells “Achoo!” for you and your family, you’ll want to take note of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation’s annual list of the worst cities for allergy sufferers. Released this week, the annual list tallies the most sneeze-inducing cities nationwide, based on pollen levels, allergy medications and the number of board-certified allergists in the area.

And the cities topping the allergy list this spring? Jackson, MI, leads the pack, followed by Knoxville, TN, and then Chattanooga, TN. Rounding out the top 5 are McAllen, TX, Louisville, KY, and Wichita, KS.

If popping Claritin or Zyrtec on a trip this spring isn’t your idea of fun, consider a vacation to one of the cities ranked lower on the list – like Daytona Beach, Denver and San Diego. For the full list, check out this interactive map of Spring Allergy Capitals.

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For more spring-fling ideas, check out Florida’s Best: Secret Beaches.

See the top things to do in relatively allergy-free San Diego!

And consider a spring fling in another low-allergy city — “Golden” Sacramento.

Want to get in on the Spring Fling action, but having a hard time since you’re … you know … single? Then grab a buddy, and fling about the nation’s ballparks!

Baseball season is in full swing, which means you’ve got one more thing to add to your sightseeing list while on vacation: rooting for the home team. While there are plenty of people who have “visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in the country” on their bucket list, you don’t have to be quite so ambitious to make your trip ballin’.

Tips for Navigating the Wilds of Baseball Travel:

1.     Download the MLB’s At The Ballpark app. With it, you have access to every team’s full schedule, the ability to buy tickets and find promotions, as well as a map and a full A to Z guide of anything and everything you could need while at the park.

2.    Call the team’s front office ahead of time.  On the team’s website, search for an employee directory and contact the person who has something “community”-related in their title. They’ll be able to tell you if tours are offered or they might be able to hook you up with a special experience of some kind. (One-on-one time with the mascot, maybe?) Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Just let them know how big of a fan you are.

3.     Explore the city! Keep a few days available, just in case your game gets rained out. But while you’re there, check out the landmarks, search for an awesome restaurant, find a baseball museum (chances are pretty good there’s one nearby).

4.     Don’t make a beeline to the first hotdog stand you see. Walk the entire perimeter of the park and survey all your options. In fact, ballpark food is more varied now than ever. At Camden Yards in Baltimore, keep an eye out for the Jack Daniel’s Grill and their slab of whiskey-glazed, thick-cut bacon on a stick. Or how about some frozen custard from the Shake Shack at Citi Field in New York? You never know what you might find!

5.     Speaking of things you never knew you’d find, a few parks have unexpected perks. A pool and Jacuzzi at Chase Field in Phoenix? Sure, why not? An aquarium at Tropicana Park in Tampa Bay? Lead the way!

If you’re having trouble narrowing down your list of must-see ballparks, let our picks for Baseball’s Greatest Stadiums help you out!

San Francisco is a huge tourist destination, with Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge all drawing crowds. Sure, on my trip out west, I had to see the sights, but right across the famous red bridge was the best part of my getaway: The often-overlooked Mill Valley, located 14 miles north of San Francisco in the beautiful, mountainous Marin County.

What feels like a combination of beach town and Swiss mountain hamlet, Mill Valley offers a quiet taste of NorCal life, with boutique shops, eco-conscious restaurants and enough outdoor space to fill days and days with hiking. When I escaped to warmer climes for a week, stumbling upon Mill Valley was a happy accident.

My Top Picks in Marin County:

Mill Valley Inn
Imagine an upscale beachside hotel. But at the foot of a mountain. Surrounded by woods. With free breakfast, a free wine and cheese reception, a fireplace in the room and a balcony overlooking redwoods, this is my new favorite hotel. They’ll also offer you a bike, if you’d like to explore that way. But beware: there are a lot of hills.

El Paseo

Tucked away in a stone-covered alleyway, El Paseo is Tyler Florence and Sammy Hagar’s take on a traditional chophouse, serving up finely aged steaks and local, sustainable ingredients. The pair worked together to restore this historic restaurant, which was originally opened in 1948. El Paseo retains its rustic feel with exposed brick, reclaimed wood and plenty of candlelight. Also, you have to order a steak. And perhaps the crispy duck wings.

Bungalow 44
A stylish bar with large, cushy booths, Bungalow 44 prides itself on its California cuisine, as well as its creative cocktails. It doesn’t get much fresher than their cucumber margarita and perfectly cooked ahi tuna. Even though I ate here before the live Jazz started, I still felt like I was dining in a 1940s supper club.

Super Duper Burger
This place may claim to serve fast food, but it is anything but typical. There are 5 locations throughout San Francisco, and luckily there is one right down the street from the Mill Valley Inn. The beef is delivered from San Fran’s own Niman Ranch and ground fresh daily. The pickles are homemade and the buns are toasted. Top it all off with fries finished with fresh garlic and 6-month aged cheddar. I mean, come on.

Stinson Beach

Even on a foggy day, Stinson Beach is a beautiful place for a walk. Climb over rocks and watch the waves crash below you, or sit along the shore and watch the surfers take their chances. Hidden on the other side of Mount Tamalpais, (if you’re prone to car sickness, watch out – the road is CURVY) this beach feels worlds away from Mill Valley. On the drive back, pull over wherever you can find a parking spot, because sure enough, there will be a trailhead with spectacular views of the water.

Marin Headlands

If you pull off the road right before getting on the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll come across the Marin Headlands. Drive up the road a little and you’ll find overlooks that’ll take your breath away. After grabbing pics of the San Francisco skyline, hike a little further. Not only will the Golden Gate look so close you could touch it, but there you’ll also find the historic Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite. Or what’s left of them.

This Week in Photos

Did you know some Easter celebrations include dressing up in witch costumes? Or that you can buy a “vortex” in Brooklyn? This week our travel bloggers offer us a glimpse at some of the weird and wonderful things to do and places to visit around the world.

This week the world’s first edible hotel opened in London full of almost-too-cute-to-eat treats.  Condé Nast Traveler takes you inside the hotel, complete with fudge windowsills and cake pillows, giving a more literal meaning to “sweet dreams!”

In search of kryptonite or a can of “chaos” to defeat your arch nemesis? With a slogan like “if we don’t have it, a superhero doesn’t need it,” the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store is exactly what it sounds like. Atlas Obscura writes why we will have to check this eccentric store out the next time we are in NYC!

Easter celebrations may mean chocolate bunnies and egg hunts to us in the US, but around the globe countries have their own unique Easter celebrations.  Children from Finland dress in witch costumes and people in India exchange colorful lanterns — read more on Uni Travel’s blog!

Oktoberfest isn’t the only festival you’ll want to experience in Germany. From a medieval-era celebration, to whiskey tastings or even finger wrestling, there is a wacky and weird festival to fit your taste!  Check out Europe A La Carte’s 10 Great Festivals in Germany.

Get more timely travel inspiration with our This Week in Photos slideshow!

 

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.

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

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.

 

Sentosa is the Orlando of Singapore — an island comprised of a Universal Studios theme park, and as many spas, casinos and beaches as you could ever desire. Last month, the tourist-friendly island opened its newest addition: the world’s largest oceanarium.

READ MORE

Thanks to this age of instant gratification, pretty much anything can be done via computers and smartphones when it comes to booking travel. Some sites and apps allow you to go even further — with the Conrad Concierge app, users can make dinner reservations, request housekeeping and even check in and check out of their hotel stay with the touch of a button. Hipmunk.com allows users to find the best airfare according to routes with the least “agony” involved. And the next big thing? Sivi.com. READ MORE

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