Category Archives: Travel

EU Set to Require Visas of U.S. Citizens

Response to Trump administration immigration crackdown.

The saying, “What goes around comes around” applies to international travel. In response to deportations, border stops and  other crackdowns on foreign visitors to the U.S. and immigrants too, the European Parliament voted to end visa-free travel for Americans within the EU.

The U.S. government could not  bring itself to agree to visa-free travel for citizens from five EU countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania), so American citizens will be required to obtain visas. The vote urges the revocation of the scheme within two months, meaning Americans will have to apply for visas. The intricacies are complicated and may end up before  the European Court of Justice.

Current policies have become known as the “Trump slump.” The U.S. Travel Association has said the administration’s immigration policies are hurting tourism, citing  “mounting signs” of “a broad chilling effect on demand for international travel to the United States.”

Then again, there are a lot of people, including VIPS, whom the U.S. seems to discourage from visiting. Heavy-handed airport detentions of visitors from abroad do nothing to encourage inbound visitation. Consider that in the few weeks since the inauguration, the following are among the high-profile visitors help up at the airport:

  • Kjell Magne Bondevik, a former prime minister of Norway was detained for an hour at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. His “crime”: visiting Iran in 2014 for a human rights conference.
  • Mem Fox, a 70-year-old children’s book author from Australia on her 100th visit to the U.S., was detained at Los Angeles International Airport for two hours and treated so rudely that she collapsed in tears in her hotel room and vowed never to come back.
  • Henry Rousso, an Egyptian-born French Holocaust historian, was detained for 10 hours at Houston’s Intercontinental Airport en route to give a talk at Texas A&M. He was told that he would not be permitted to receive an honorarium for his talk on a tourist visa. He had frequently visited over the last 30 years.
  • Celeste Omin, a software engineer from Nigeria was detained in New York when coming to work at Andela, a startup that connects the top tech talent in Africa with employers in the U.S. Andela accepts less than 1% of applicants into its program and is backed by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

A former head of state, a renowned author, a renowned historian and a top software engineer! There are doubtless more, but these four come to mind.

A British Peek at North Korea

Observations from the rare Western tour group.

The Chinese city of Dandong has the easternmost section of the Great Wall. It also enables curious tourists to glimpse the formidable, secretive country North Korea just across the Yalu River. “Want to see North Korea? Head to Dandong, China,” a CNN Travel report on this curious spot, reports on the contrast between the two on-and-off friends.

It is, of course, almost impossible for Westerners to set foot in North Korea, and Americans would be wise not even put it on their bucket lists. But Hilary Bradt, founder of the highly regarded Bradt Travel Guides, visited with Regent Holidays and filed this blog report called “Hilary Bradt in North Korea.” I’m not sure when she made this guided and controlled excursion, but I just stumbled on it toady and wanted to share it.

Frommer’s Guides at 70

Lapsed lawyer’s travel guidebooks defined American travels.

An edition from the early ’70s. I think this was the one I toted around.

While Arthur Frommer was stationed in Europe during the Korean War, he published a slim guide to help nervous GIs navigate the mysteries of foreign travel with its mysterious money, food and customs.

The book sold out, and the inspired Arthur Frommer, a recently minted lawyer, returned to Europe to research and write what became Europe on $5 a Day. It was published in 1957, making this the 60th anniversary. When a college roommate and I toured Europe for three months several years late, inflation had not yet struck, and we managed on close to a $5 daily budget. That trip fueled my lifelong desire to cross oceans to see and experience new places.

There followed more guidebooks a magazine, a television show and a blog. In recent years, he has teamed up with his daughter, Pauline, to keep the iconic brand going. Thank you, Arthur, for kindling the travel lust in millions of Americans.

On the Road with Dave Wiggins

Wiggins on Wheels is new experiential road trip site.

5thwheelHere’s what my friend Dave Wiggins recently posted: “For those of you who may not know it, I’ve become a travelin’ man with no set address or house. My home is a 43′ fifth-wheel trailer named Big Mo. To log my odyssey I’ve created a blog. Check it out if you want: https://wiggonwheels.com/. Happy travels!”

I didn’t know it. Dave is a founding partner o Widness & Wiggins Public Relations . He’s been Colorado,  but now is roaming. Sara Widness remains anchored in Vermont as Dave takes to the road. Since August, he’s been in Montana, Nevada, New Mexico,  old Mexico and Arizona. I looked at his site, enjoyed the pictures and the words and enjoyed all.  Take a look. You might too.

Lonely Planet Adds Food-Forward Guides

With food a major part of travel, publisher debuts titles.

lonelyplanet-logoLonely Planet, now the world’s largest travel guidebook publisher (and my favorite line of titles), is launching the Lonely Planet Food imprint. Food is a key way in which we experience a place when traveling. Out on October 18 is Food Trails: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World’s Tastiest Destinations ($24.99), promising “a gastronomic tour of the greatest, most memorable food experiences worth planning a trip around – from barbeque in Texas to patisserie in Paris, fine dining to cooking classes.”  Also coming this fall are Food Trails (October), From the Source: Spain, and From the Source: Japan (both September). Coming in May 2017 is Lonely Planet’s Global Beer Tour.

The new imprint is launched with impressive ambitions. Associate publisher Robin Barton says, “We will be publishing a wide range of titles, including recipe books that feature food in its place of origin, and travel companions to food and drink trails around the world. We show chefs cooking, customers eating and ingredients being bought in markets, giving readers a true sense of place. A huge part of the food experience is the surroundings, atmosphere and people – our aim is to bring the complete package to people at home who are keen to experience world food at its most authentic.”

In Lonely Planet fashion, the publisher says that its “experts scoured the globe to create a comprehensive guide to a year’s worth of weekends in food heaven. Both practical and inspirational, Food Trails features culinary experts, reviews of restaurants, cafes and markets, and maps and information on where to go when and how to get there.” And did I mention that the food and ambiance photography promises to whet travelers’ appetites?

Cross-posted to Culinary Colorado.

New SCOTTeVEST Garments for Travel Ease

Multi-pocket garment line expanded.

scottevest-logoFor several years now, I’ve been traveling internationally without a purse, but rather I wear an early model of the multi-pocket SCOTTeVest. It holds a lot and holds it all securely.  It came with an illustration showing all the pockets and what each is designed for, but I have adapted it to my own needs: at the very least, passport, wallet, room or apartment key, street map, glasses for sun or reading,  transit pass.  Sometimes I stick in a lightweight GoreTex shell for rainy or windy weather, or sunscreen on a bright day.

Principles of SCOTTeVEST garments include lots and lots of secure pockets of different sizes.
Principles of SCOTTeVEST garments include lots and lots of secure pockets of different sizes.

Now, the Idaho-based travel company has a couple of new products, and in watching the promotional video, I discovered that the line has grown to include jackets and cargo pants too. I was intrigued by the new Off The Grid (OTG) Jackets for men and women. These jackets feature 29 engineered pockets that include two patented front Rapid Access Panels, which reveal large compartments designed to hold a laptop (except Women’s XS and S) without showing bumps or bulges. Since my XS and even S days are behind me, I’m especially intrigued.

Boat Sharing Promoted for Travel to Cuba

Boatsetter provides perivate option for travel to Cuba.

boatsetter-logoWhen Ernest Hemingway traveled between Key West and Cuba, he often did so on “Pilar,” his 1934 speed boat. It was described in a 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine as having been “marketed by Wheeler as a 38-foot, twin-cabin ‘Playmate’ with a 70-hp Chrysler Crown gasoline engine reportedly capable of generating a cruise speed of 8 knots and a top speed of 16 knots. But Hemingway had specified some addendums (and would later specify a few more), thereby making her one of the first—if not the first—custom sportfishing vessels of the 20th century.”

Now Boatsetter, likened to “the Air BnB of boating,” is promoting boatsharing as a way for visitors to reach Cuba in the Hemingway way.   (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. ) Who would have thought it?  The company offers a knowledgeable team from the boat rental community that includes boat owners and captains who know the southern waterways, as well as what needs to be done before setting sail for the island so newly accessible to American travelers. Boatsetter will walk customers through the process of filling out the right paperwork to finding the right yacht with boat rental options available in Miami and Key West.

Boatsetter Cuba is an international peer-to-peer boat rental service headquartered in Aventura, Florida. Currently, the company boasts the world’s largest network of U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains and has a fleet of over 4,000 boats worldwide. Boatsetter provides safe and fun boat rentals, including “world-class insurance, 24-hour free cancellations, access to our network of certified captains and worldwide fleet of privately-owned boat rentals of all sizes and styles.”

It’s not a bargain way to travel, of course, but it certainly is a memorable way to reach Cuba. FoMoInfo: 305-570-4768.

Enter to Win a Book About Airstream

Book celebrates America’s iconic travel trailer.

Airstream-cover.j[gI’ve never taken an actual trip that involved riding in a vehicle that was towing an Airstream, but I’ve seen plenty of them on the road. A few years ago, I spent several nights at the Shooting Star Drive-In, a clever resort in Escalante, Utah. Its accommodations are in these iconic travel trailers that are celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. Click here to read my post.

Turns out that Airstream is not only America’s best known manufacturer of trailers but also the oldest. Those retro silver coaches sport an unmistakable in design with distinctive aerodynamic rounded lines and an aluminum outer skin. Airstream: 80 Years of America’s Traveler celebrates the eight decades since the first Airstream graced America’s highways.

The book chronicles the fascinating history of Airstream trailers through a detailed history, stories and of course, beautiful photography. The first Airstream-brand trailers were introduced just as America was emerging from the dark days of the Great Depression. Of the 400 travel-trailer manufacturers of that era, only Airstream has survived.

Dubbed the “Airstream Clipper” after the first trans-Atlantic seaplane, that 1936 Airstream featured a unique lightweight aluminum body that cut down on wind resistance, improved fuel efficiency, and made for easier towing. It slept four, carried its own water supply, was fitted with electric lights and cost $1,200.

Airstream: America’s World Traveler by Patrick Foster is a 192-page hardcover book featuring 300 photos and will cost $45 when it is released in June. But you might not have to buy it, if you are the winner of a Travel-Babel contest with a copy of the book going to the winner. To enter, leave a comment to this post about you and Airstream –– one you’ve traveled with, wanted to travel with, spotted on a special trip or in an unusual situation. Fiction and poetry are welcome. Free your imagination and enter.

Jet-Lag ‘Cure’ in the Cabin

New technology on Airbus 350.

Airbus-logoWhen we returned from Australia last month, I had the worst jet lag in my own personal travel history. I did my usual: a glass of wine early in the light,classical music on my noise-canceling headphones and an attempt to get back on Mountain Time ASAP.  It lasted a day, until my body and mind were stalled somewhere over the Pacific for days.

Interior of Aibus 350 cabin.
Interior of Aibus 350 cabin.

Enter Airbus Industries. According to Economist reports,  researchers from Stanford have developed and Airbus has implemented jet lag treatment involving a series of LED light flashes that are capable of producing an astonishing 16.7 million different shades to try to mimic true sunlight. Traveling east, the cabin lights become brighter at the beginning of the day to trick the body into thinking the day is already well underway. Traveling west, the lights  stay brighter later, to mimic a later sunset.

This system is currently only available to five airlines that fly the A350 (Vietnam Airlines, Singapore, TAM Airlines, Qatar Airlines and Finnair). I don’t know which ones (if any) might already have implemented the system or whether it is available in all cabin classes, but it is intriguing.

Glamping’s Fuzzy Frontiers

Resource for rustic luxury & an example in name, at least.

Summer is coming, and with it, thoughts about where and how to vacation.

GlampingHubGlamping Hub is a photo-rich website with information about and links to all manner of rustic yet luxurious accommodations in the US and other countries. It includes traditional safari tents plus yurts, cabins, extra-comfortable camper-vans and even treehouses.  It also includes weekend getaway suggestions and pet-friendly lodgings.

I’m glad that the site includes maps, because it is somewhat geographically challenged. Every property in Colorado, for instance, is described as being “near Denver.” The Utah page includes “Mountain Cabins Near Boulder,” but the links all are to Colorado sites — confusing since there is a Boulder, Utah, within the Escalate-Grand Staircase National Monument. The website needs work, but I love the concept.

mighty_five_logoMeanwhile, the  Mighty 5 Tour is  a new all-inclusive luxury travel experience to Utah’s five breathtaking national parks.  Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercial touting the parks. The press release calls it “‘Glamping’ in Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks,” but it isn’t at all.  “Glamping” generally means luxury camping in well-appointed tents and attentive staff — not staying in hotels or eating in restaurants. Still, it is an intriguing offering for anyone with a big budget and a yen to experience some of the Southwest’s most spectacular country.

Backcountry guide Mike Coronella created two tours to introduce small groups to Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion national parks. He personally guides each hike, including park locations rarely glimpsed by visitors. An expert outdoorsman and award-winning guide, he is an author, college photography professor and member the Grand County (Utah) Search and Rescue team. Accommodations at the region’s finest hotels and best restaurants.

The Mighty 5 Signature Tour ($7,800 per person) is a ten-night, nine-day journey with twice-montly departures in May, September and October. The six-night, five-day Mighty 5 Summer Tour ($5,200 per person), offered in June, July and August, also visits all five parks and offers similar accommodations and dining experiences.

“Pampered from arrival to departure, guests are attended to by a full-time concierge, travel in a custom Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, have free use of our Osprey back packs and Leki trekking poles – we’ll even supply you with your own National Park pass, good for a full year,” says Coronella.

The departure point is St. George. Utah, which serviced daily by Delta Airlines and United Airlines, and is less than a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.  Book online or FoMoInfo, call 435-259-1565.