Category Archives: Air Travel

Airbnb Rents Out Famous ‘SCREAM’ House

Airbnb is renting out the house featured in “Scream.” Credit: Helynn Ospina

Instead of watching a scary movie, or telling a mystery caller over the phone that you are about to, celebrate Halloween by booking a stay in the house made famous in SCREAM

Tying in with the 25th anniversary of Wes Craven’s modern horror classic, and the upcoming SCREAM 5 release in January 2022, Airbnb is scheduling bookings for three single-night stays at this Northern California estate featured in the 1996 film. 

Available on October 27, 29 and 31, 2021, this thrilling home will welcome up to four people, for a shockingly low price of only $5 a night. Plus taxes and fees, if you dare. And, you have to be a U.S. resident to book.

If you’re feeling a little nervous, don’t worry. Your virtual host will be Dwight “Dewey” Riley, the beloved small-town sheriff. In a video, actor David Arquette, who portrays Dewey in the series, will offer to share his tips on surviving the night via an online greeting at check-in. 

David Arquette will greet the lucky guests via a pre-recorded video. Credit: Helynn Ospina

The fortunate, or maybe misfortunate, guests will also get acquainted with decor elements correlating with SCREAM. They can settle in and watch a SCREAM movie marathon of all the current four films on VHS tapes. They can also explore this home in all its entirety and in correlation with the franchise’s first film. Guests will come across knife marks on the doors to the garage, where Dewey’s sister, Tatum, (played by Rose McGowan) met a tragic ending. 

There’s also the famous “brick phone” with a dedicated phone line to Ghostface, the film’s gruesome protagonist. Heads up though, he might call the house. 

Other guest surprises tied to this nineties piece of pop culture include a pack of nineties snack favorites.

Superfans can request to book this stay beginning Tuesday, October 12, at 1 p.m. EDT at airbnb.com/halloween.

On Thursday, October 28, 2021, SCREAM (2022) executive producer and scary movie expert Kevin Williamson will host an online experience that will give guests a chance to learn behind-the-scenes secrets of the SCREAM franchise, including the cast, characters, plot twists and more. 

Booking for this online experience also opens on October 12, at 1 p.m. EDT, and is bookable by visiting airbnb.com/SecretsofSCREAM.

Intrepid Travel 2021 Giveaway: A Trip for Two To Antarctica

Intrepid Travel is giving away a trip for two to Antarctica onboard their new ship. Credit: Intrepid Travel

My eyes did a double take when I got this email about Intrepid Travel‘s latest giveaway – a trip for two to Antarctica.

To celebrate the inaugural season of its new polar expedition ship, Intrepid Travel has launched a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Antarctica for one lucky winner and guest. The trip’s value is roughly $25,000.

I’m hopefully going to visit Antarctica next year, but with another tour company. If my plans weren’t already in place, and my payment plan now under way, I’d jump on putting in my entry for this Intrepid Travel trip giveaway.

Oh well. But you might have an amazing opportunity ahead of you. Yes, you.

The lucky winner and guest of Intrepid Travel’s Antarctica giveaway will go onboard the Ocean Endeavour.

This bucket list trip to Antarctica giveaway will bring the winner and their plus one onboard the Ocean Endeavour. This ship comes equipped with creature comforts including a gym, spa, library, heated saltwater pool, and jacuzzi. And if you’re worried about crowding onboard, don’t. The ship’s passenger to crew ratio will be eight to one.

Plus, along with seeing this continent, you’ll learn a lot about Antarctica. The ship’s passengers will be joined by guides knowledgeable in marine biology, glaciology and Antarctic history and have access to Citizen Science programs and active pursuits including kayaking and snowshoeing.

The winner and guest will join one of Intrepid’s Best of Antarctica voyages during the 2021-2022 season, an 11-day trip that will explore ice-filled bays and channels, take in majestic scenery and spot wildlife. They also have to book their trip by September 30, 2021 and depart for their voyage by December 29, 2021.

To enter, fill out this online form now through August 23, 2021 by 10 a.m. ET.

And now, read the fine print below (but still take a chance and sign up, okay?).

Terms and Conditions: Open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. Limit one (1) entry per person, per email account. One (1) Grand-Prize winner will receive a trip to Antarctica which includes: (a) A booking for the prize winner and a guest (2 people total) on Intrepid Travel’s Best of Antarctica trip, dependent on availability (details are outlined here. ) (ARV: $25,000 USD) (“Intrepid Tour”). Airfare is excluded.

A Recap of 2020

Me, on my last trip assignment in 2020.

2020 shook up not only our ability to travel but also our daily living; in many cases, our economic means. While this year had some personal and professional setbacks for me, I am overall grateful that for the most part I had good experiences and made lasting memories. 

Here’s my recap of 2020.

My first trip of 2020 was to the Don CeSar Hotel.

Starting 2020 on the road

January had me already going on my first trip to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida. I stayed at the Don CeSar, a grand hotel that is noted for its bright pink paint color. Its place along the beach was also nice and I spent some time wandering along the sand.

Abu Dhabi is the second Emirati that I’ve visited.

Visiting Abu Dhabi

I’ve been to the United Arab Emirates before — first to Dubai in 2019 — but I returned to this destination in February to see Abu Dhabi, which is its capital. Traveling with Visit Abu Dhabi and Etihad Airways, I stayed at St. Regis Abu Dhabi along Corniche, a beach area, and at the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, a lux oasis near the Rub’ Al Khali. 

Other highlights ranged from visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi, an outpost of the famous Parisian museum; to sipping on a 24K gold cappuccino at Emirates Palace; to visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was built and named for Abu Dhabi’s founder. See more here.

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Lake Charles

It was fun to head to this city in Southwest Louisiana that also puts on Mardi Gras parades and events in February. Compared to NOLA’s, I think Lake Charles’ version still offers a good time but is more chill. I got to throw beads to crowds in a family-friend parade, see a Mardi Gras pageant featuring local Krewes chapters and try locally-made boudin and rum.   

The beautiful Cox Bay at Pacific Sands Beach Resort

Visiting Tofino and Vancouver

I’ve been to Canada a few times and got to see Vancouver and Tofino, also in February. Tofino is a small district on Vancouver Island that is known for its beaches and forest areas and has a community living here year-round. I tried my hand at surfing and dined at places such as Tofino Brewing Company, Chocolate Tofino, and SHELTER Restaurant. Our group stayed at Pacific Beach Sands Resort, a lovely property along Cox Bay.

I quickly explored Helsinki before having to head back home.

Rushing Home from Finland

March 2020 was when the coronavirus pandemic really began to change everything in travel. At that time, I was on a work trip to Finland, where I arrived in Helsinki two days before President Trump implemented travel restrictions to the U.S. from certain Schengen Area countries (Finland, being among them.) I got there on a Wednesday with the ban to kick in on Friday. On Thursday, we were told by Visit Finland officials that they were concerned about myself and another American on the trip being able to make it home okay. Also on that day, they rebooked our return flights to JFK for that afternoon, so we had to rush back to the hotel to get our bags and go to the airport ASAP. 

But I also learned a lot this year. Here’s some of it.

The holiday tree at the New York Stock Exchange

More Of An Appreciation For New York City

New York City got hit hard with the pandemic, with hospitals being inundated with cases, tourism locations having to shut down and restaurants still trying to stay afloat. I stayed at home much from March through June, only venturing out for fresh air walks or essential grocery shopping. I started going beyond that by heading to local parks and often very empty museums and getting takeout from nearby eateries.

The subway and buses are getting busy again, so I’m staying as careful as I can while using them. I have to admit that I’m nervous riding them as cars and seats are filling up. Most riders wear masks, but there a few that don’t.

However, I did venture out in December around Manhattan to see holiday trees and decorations and headed to restaurants that I’ve always wanted to dine at and to get to-go orders.

Pico Do Carvão in The Azores

Branching Out In My Writing

I got scared a lot with keeping work steady this year, as I was laid off from my tourism side job and most outlets had to change their formats. I tried a lot of new fields of writing and thankfully was able to score assignments in new publications, including Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian Magazine and Zagat. Due to my layoff and being able to self-quarantine alone, I accepted a special press trip to Portugal in October to see how its tourism and hospitality sector was adjusting to the pandemic and implementing Covid-19 health and safety precautions. You can read more about my experience here.

These days, and going into 2021, I’m going to be staying local. But that’s fine for me. We’ll see what happens.

So how was 2020 for you? Tell me.

Google Maps Celebrates Its 15th Birthday

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Google Maps is marking its 15th birthday this year with updates, within iOS and Android, that further enhance how users get around plus explore a destination based on their interests.

I attended a media preview held by Google that featured a step-by-step demonstrations of five new Google Maps’ easy-to-access tabs. They are: “Explore,” “Commute,” “Saved,” “Contribute” and “Updates.”

These tabs all relate to common tasks that users carry out in the app and are located directly at the bottom of your phone’s screen.

2. Five Tabs

With “Commute,” the tab is designed to make sure you’re on the most efficient route, where you’re traveling by car or public transit. Users can set up their daily commute to get real-time traffic updates, travel times and suggestions for alternative routes.

Developed through informative from Google Maps users, “Contribute” makes it easier to share local knowledge, such as details about roads and addresses, missing places, business reviews and photos.

The new “Updates” tab provides a feed of trending, must-see spots from local experts and publishers, like the dining publication, The Infatuation. Along with saving and sharing recommendations with your network, you can also directly chat with businesses to get questions answered.

With “Explore,” you’ll find information, ratings, reviews and more for about 200 million places around the world, including local restaurants, nearby attractions and city landmarks.

“Saved” enables viewing these spots in one place, as well as finding and organizing plans for an upcoming trip and sharing recommendations based on places you’ve been. For example, at the media preview, a Google employee showed a mock planing of a trip to New Orleans had him researching and storing suggested places to visit in this tab.

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Google Maps icon will also switch to a multi-colored pin, moving away from the previous map-liked illustration. For a limited time, a celebratory party-themed car icon will appear when you use Google Maps for navigation.

Over the coming months, Google will expand Live View and test new capabilities that will enable users to see the direction they need to walk in instead of turn-by-turn directions. It will also enable users to directly see how far away and in which direction a place is.

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To celebrate its 15th birthday, Google will host a NYC Google Maps Experience from Friday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, Feb. 9, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the Flatiron Plaza beside Madison Square Park.

The general public can interact with a physical representation of the new Google Maps icon, which in structure releases a sealed envelope with the press of a button.

The envelope contains a voucher for a complimentary NYC-related experience at a local business. Possible experiences can involve a free Breads Bakery chocolate babka; a free latte from Devocion; a tour of a chocolate factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn; or an Italian dinner in Staten Island that’s cooked by grandmothers.

Do you use Google Maps? Tell me in the comments section how the app has helped you while traveling.

WOW air Seeks Inspiring Women via Social Media Campaign

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Hey, ladies, is there an amazing woman in your life that you look up to? Show her some love on social media and maybe she might be rewarded with a trip.

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, Wow air is encouraging Americans to nominate an inspiring woman they known for a chance to win a free trip.

For their contest, this Icelandic low-cost airline is encouraging females across the United Sates to share stories about important women in their lives on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #wowwoman and tagging @wowair between now and March 7, 2019.

On March 8, WOW air will repost the most inspirational stories and give the winner two tickets to a destination of her choice within the airline’s global WOW air network.

To distinguish relevant entries apart from other posts that may use #wowwoman, Facebook and Instagram entries must also include the airline’s handle, @wowair.

For more information about this WOWwoman contest, visit this link. See here for its terms and conditions. Now tell me below, who would you nominate?

Black Friday Cyber Monday Sales

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Creative Commons Photo / James Evans

For travelers, it’s that most wonderful time of the year for deals. For the 2018 holiday season, here’s a roundup of Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday sales and promotions.

G Adventures’ Cyber Week Sale begins after midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 20, and runs until the following Monday, Nov. 26. It involves savings trips on that depart between December 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019. More than 500 different small-group tours on six different continents will be marked down.

Gate 1 Travel will hold its annual Black Friday sale November 21-23. During the three-day sale, customers can save up to $2,500 on all Gate 1 Travel, Discovery Tours and Signature Collection packages. Select promo codes include:

  • Spend $500 or more and receive $50 off with promo code BKFR50
  • Spend $1,000 or more and receive $100 off with promo code BKFR100
  • Spend $2,000 or more and receive $250 off with promo code BKFR250
  • Spend $4,000 or more and receive $500 off with promo code BKFR500
  • Spend $10,000 or more and receive $1,000 off with promo code BKFR1000
  • Spend $20,000 or more and receive $2,500 off with promo code BKFR2500

Customers can book online using the codes on November 22 or by calling 1-800-682-3333 between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST on November 21 and November 23.

Between November 23 and 26, visit Expedia’s Black Friday & Cyber Monday page and get a coupon worth an extra 75 percent off of selected hotels. Deals are available for a limited time only.

Visit Hotels.com between November 23 and 26 and you’ll get a mystery coupon worth anywhere from 7 to 99 percent off your hotel.

Save up to $1,900 per person on air-inclusive packages with Friendly Planet Travel’s Cyber Monday sale. Book travel between midnight ET on Monday, November 26, and 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, November 27.

Intrepid Travel will begin its Cyber Sale on November 20.

On Black Friday only, Perillo Tours is offering $500 off per couple ($250 per person) on all 2019 Italy and Hawaii escorted tours.  The offer is valid on new bookings only for travel January 1 – December 31, 2019.  The 24-hour Black Friday sale is bookable online, via phone or email from 12:01am to 11:59pm on November 23, 2018.  Must use booking code BlackFri18.

Delta is offering Black Friday deals through its website, mentioning savings on “flights to Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and more.”

Visit Hotels.com between November 23 and 26 to get a mystery coupon worth anywhere from 7 to 99 percent off your hotel.

Ryanair has a Cyber Week Sale happening now through November 26.

Qatar Airways A350-1000 Arrives at JFK

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Photo courtesy of Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways welcomed in its new A350-1000 from Doha, Qatar Sunday afternoon, Oct. 25, to JFK airport on the first U.S. route for this high-tech commercial flight.

I got an inside peek at this aircraft, in particular its Qsuite business cabin,  and here is what I saw.

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The airbus will be known by the flight number QR702 and will run as the evening flight of the two daily Qatar Airways flights on a Doha-NYC route.

Along with having its inaugural flight to JFK, the A350-1000 is touting the airline’s QSuite, a business class cabin with a first-class appearance. Upon boarding the aircraft, I walked directly into the business class cabin and my eyes popped.

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The Qsuite in the A350-1000 has double beds, being able to fully lie flat for sleeping and enabling passengers in adjoining seats to create their own personal space. In this position, they literally look like a bed.

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The side entertainment console is complete with a said 4,000 entertainment options and a 21.5-inch movable widescreen. Buttons handling everything from setting massage vibrations to putting on a do-not disturb light (which gives a red background shade to your posted seat number). The units also have privacy panels for stowing away belongings, plus sliding doors for privacy.

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Toiletry kits are nice as well – BRIC’S travel cases containing products by Castello Monte Vibrano. I’m sold. Now, I just have to book a ticket.

 

Take Time Off in Tahiti Travel Contest

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Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

From the e-mail bag: United Airlines is holding a “Time Off in Tahiti” contest to recognize “the hardest working person in the U.S. with the trip of their dreams.” And that trip will be to Tahiti.

Apparently, the contest is inspired by data released by Project: Time Off, which finds that American workers are more likely to “lose” their vacation days that to use them. (That’s not good, people.)

According to Project: Time Off, 700-plus million vacation days go unused annually in the United States, with 52 percent of employees reporting unused vacation time at year’s end.  All told, nearly one-quarter of American workers say they used none of their time off to travel – and that’s a whole lot of happiness waiting in the wings.

So United’s “Time Off in Tahiti” contest probably is helping to fix that problem, at least for one lucky individual. The selected winner will be flown from San Francisco direct to Papeete, Tahiti (PPT), along United’s new route beginning October 30, 2018, to bask in the island’s timeless beauty.

However, he or she has to get someone’s nomination. In 300 words or less, a colleague, good friend or even maybe relative can put in a good word for any hard working, deserving person known personally or admired from afar at united.com/timeofftahiti.

Submissions are due by September 25, 2018; the winner will be notified on or around October 11, 2018. Project: Time Off will aid in the judging of submissions.

JetBlue Card’s Flip the Forecast Contest

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From the email bag…. if you’re in a wintry part of the United States, you know how much weather can screw up your flight plans. Apparently, JetBlue is making the most out of this current East Coast scenario with a “Flip the Forecast” contest.

Taken from the message I received:

JetBlue Card parked branded Airstream trailers in two drastically different locales, Boston and San Diego, connecting customers at each destination through a livestream video experience. Participants on both ends had the chance to win a pair of roundtrip tickets to the opposite location if they were able to convince and agree to swap locations with the other. We captured the challenge Bostonians and San Diegans faced on film to inspire other forecast flips across the JetBlue network: https://youtu.be/0nwSemuicaA

Apparently you can join in the fun too through “Flip the Forecast.” Starting today (March 6) through Saturday (March 10), JetBlue customers can submit a short video pleading their case for why they should flip their forecast through a national Instagram contest for the chance to win a pair of roundtrip JetBlue flight certificates.

Here’s how it works:

  • Ensure you have a public Instagram account (of course)
  • Create and upload a video telling us what city you live in and why you need to travel to a different one with a different climate
  • The city you reference must be in the United States and a city that JetBlue currently serves
  • The video post must include @jetblue, #FlipTheForecast and #Contest, and comply with Instagram community guidelines.

For more information on how to enter the “Flip the Forecast” contest, see the official contest rules.

At the conclusion of the contest on March 10, 2018 at 11:59 PM ET, JetBlue will judge and score each eligible entry based on creativity, storytelling and desperation. The 10 people with the highest scores will be notified via Instagram.

2017 – My Year In Review

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Creative Commons photo / maf04

2017 was a good year. I had some ups and downs but I made some pretty neat accomplishments. At the same time, I’m realizing with every year literally flying by, that I’m starting to more and more figure out where I want to be heading, travel and otherwise.

Here’s how 2017 went for me with a few milestones.

Working at an awesome museum

In order to help keep a steady cash flow for my travel budget and overall livelihood, I took a part time job at one of NYC’s most popular museums. With having a “come and go” schedule, I was nervous about whether or not my manager would understand, or more so accept, my “other job.” Or the fact I maybe could only work certain days or be gone for periods of time. There were some rough patches at first, but so far I’ve been lucky to be able to balance both my museum job and my travel job at the same time.

Having More First-Time Destination Visits

One of my dream trips since childhood was to see China (I think I actually tried to dig a hole in my backyard but didn’t get far.). In May, I got to fulfill this wish with my visit to Suzhou, China, a city that resonates with Old China due to having canals, waterways and classic gardens. And I got to travel to destinations I probably never would have imagined: Israel, El Salvador, Guatemala, Croatia, and the Bahamas. I left prayer notes at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, tried surfing at a beach called El Tunco, toasted marshmallows over lava-generated heat at a volcano called Pacaya, and went on a Game of Thrones tour in Dubrovnik.  Not bad!

Staying at an Ice Hotel

A February snowstorm altered by plans for a work trip to Canada’s Quebec region, in that I completely missed the first day. But I still got to experience one major activity – spending the night in an ice hotel. Located outside of Quebec City, Hotel de Glace is a chilly location in which you can either go on a tour of this seasonal lodging (completely made from an ice and snow mixture) and/or pay to spend the night in one of its room. You have to get dressed well enough to handle an overnight stay (think winter gear that’s breathable while keeping you warm). I felt prepared and woke up once, maybe twice, but overall was glad to have tried it – and then to head back into a more warmer accommodation.

Seeing More of the US

I harp on this a lot but, in terms of travel, there is a lot more to the US than meets the eye. While the current political climate is pulling us in different directions, our nation’s cities and town have their respective offerings that can appeal to any traveler. I visited Montgomery, Alabama, which is the central point for major Civil Rights events such as where Rosa Parks’ arrest and the responding Montgomery Bus Boycott. Up north, Philadelphia has so many ties to the American Revolution, but it’s also got a major arts scene and a culinary assortment of everything from Israeli, to Southern, to German and Cuban eateries. For 2018, I’ve already booked a few trips to other US cities; can’t wait.

Choosing to Be More at Home

While I’ve been really grateful for all my 2017 travel opportunities, I’ve been trying to be better about exploring more of New York City. For the next two years, I’m viewing NYC as my homebase. Lately much of my exploring involves going around the neighborhood I stay in and going to and from work and meetings. So, I want to be sure in 2018 to see more of this city. I’ve tackled a lot – museums, landmarks, festivals – but I would love to discover more of its restaurants and districts. I’m also trying to expand my social circle more (most of my friends are married with children and others have moved on) so I want to get out there and meet new people. But if that next cool trip comes up…

What would you like to see or do in 2018? Let me know.