1. Shore thing
Celebrity Cruises has recruited broadcaster Ben Fogle to design a series of shore excursions for the company's ships. Half-day options include taking a Sicilian gastronomic tour in Catania (£195), going Norwegian salmon snorkeling (£390) or embarking on a mini Croatian triathlon (£234).
2. In the know
My Plus One launches on 4 March. The website connects travellers with like-minded locals in five European cities – Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris: £15 for a short meeting and £35 for a longer stint with an in-the-know resident. Register your details on the website to find out more.
3. Art house
Rotterdam hosts its Art Week from 5-9 February. Unique to the Dutch city's event is the chance to spend the night in an artist's home or studio. In return for €60 per guest or €100 for two, hosts will create a special place to sleep and serve breakfast the next morning.
4. Ernest escape
Meliá Hotels has launched a new Madrid property in the former home of Ernest Hemingway. Built in 1956 and opened by the Swedish royal family, it became the Scandinavian country's enclave in Madrid, before the peripatetic writer moved in. Today, the Inside Suecia contains 127 minimalist rooms, a Dado Deli, rooftop pool and bar.
5. Ebook out
The Independent Traveller has produced an eBook compilation of 48 Hours... city guides. Discover the perfect way to spend two days in 20 dazzlingly different European capital cities, with great accommodation, restaurant and cultural tips for all budgets. The ebook is priced £2.99.
6. Wild wizard
This month, animal actors from the Harry Potter films will return to the Warner Bros Studio Tour near Watford. From 14-24 February the attraction will feature some of the 250 creatures that appeared in the movies, including the cat that played Mrs Norris and the snowy owl that played Harry Potter's pet, Hedwig.
7. Terminal tango
From 2 April, Delta switches three of its key routes from Heathrow – serving New York JFK, Boston and Seattle – from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3. The move will improve connections with partner airline Virgin Atlantic's services.
8. Family travel
This month, a £10 discount is being offered on the normal £30 cost of a Family & Friends Rail card. The card confers a 33-per-cent reduction on most adult train fares and a 60 per cent on fares for children who travel with them. To take advantage of the discount, use code HALFTERM10 when booking online by 24 February. (Read more Here)
With each trip I take, I make it a point to bring home cultural souvenirs — gold nuggets of experiences I’ll remember all my life. Whether it's sitting and talking with a Muslim at the Great Mosque of Granada in Spain, waving a flag at an Irish hurling match, or getting naked with Germans at a spa in Baden-Baden, it's experiences like these that give each trip that extra sparkle.
Whenever I'm in Turkey, I make it a point to see a whirling dervish. This is not a performance, but rather, a religious ritual done by the Mevlevi, followers of a 13th-century Muslim mystic named Rumi. Dervishes whirl while praying in a meditative trance. A dervish once explained to me: “As I spin around, my hand above receives the love from our Creator, and my hand below showers it onto all of his creation. “
One night, while walking through Istanbul, I came upon a big patio filled with tourists, enjoying a single dervish whirling on an elevated platform. My immediate reaction was negative, as I have a bad attitude about dervishes doing their whirl for tourists, who have no idea what’s going on. I prefer seeing the real deal at a place like the Galata Dervish Monastery or the Foundation of Universal Lovers of Mevlana. But on that night, I buried my bad attitude and simply enjoyed the beauty of his performance there in the Istanbul night.
In Barcelona, it’s a joy to join in the sardana dances to celebrate Catalan culture. Locals of all ages seem to spontaneously appear in the cathedral square. Everyone is welcome. Participants form a circle, hold hands, then raise their arms-slow-motion, Zorba the Greek-style — as they hop and sway gracefully to the music of the band. The rest of Spain mocks this lazy circle dance, but for me, it is a stirring display of the Catalan region’s pride and patriotism.
Good things come to those who participate. All of my Protestant life I’ve watched hardscrabble pilgrims and frail nuns climb Rome’s Scala Santa Holy Stairs on their knees. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, had these stairs brought from the Holy Land because they’re thought to be the stairs that Jesus climbed on his way to being condemned by Pontius Pilate. I had always observed the stair-climbing pilgrims as though they were in a parallel universe. But one day, on a whim, I decided to enter that universe. I picked up the little pilgrim’s primer explaining what holy thoughts to ponder on each step, knelt down, and — one by one — began climbing. Knees on stone, I experienced each step. In my pain, the art that engulfed the staircase snapped into action. And, while my knees would never agree, the experience was beautiful.
For 30 years, I've been going to see Malcolm Miller, resident guide and scholar at the great cathedral at Chartres, near Paris. Approaching the cathedral from a distance, my heart leaps at the sight of its spires rising above the fields, just like the hearts of approaching pilgrims must have done centuries ago. I go to Chartres on a kind of pilgrimage of my own — to be a student again, to be inspired. On most days, Malcolm sits down with curious travelers on pews in front of his stained-glass “window of the day” and, as if opening a book, tells the story that window was created to tell. There, in Europe’s most magnificently decorated Gothic cathedral, Malcolm gives voice to otherwise silent masterpieces of that age.
Of course, not every experience has to be spiritual. Some are just plain fun. Whenever I'm in the British countryside, I enjoy getting a taste of farm culture. And for me, nothing beats a good sheepdog show. I recently saw my favorite ever, at Leault Working Sheepdogs in the Scottish Highlands.
As I stepped onto the farm, a dozen eager border collies scampered to greet the group of us who’d arrived for the demonstration. Then came the shepherd, whom the dogs clearly loved and followed like a messiah. He proceeded to sit us down in a natural little amphitheater in the turf and explain all about his work. With shouts and whistles, each dog followed individual commands and showed an impressive mastery over the sheep. Then, with good, old-fashioned shears, we each got our chance to shear a sheep — who took it calmly, as if at a beauty salon.
I'm often asked about the difference between a tourist and a traveler. To me, a tourist visits all the big sights, sees spectacles on stage, and returns home unchanged, with a suitcase full of knickknacks. A traveler becomes a temporary local, engages with the culture, and comes home enriched, with a vivid collection of experiences and a broader perspective.
(CNN) -- The arctic weather just keeps pounding people on the move.
Here are some tips to ease the trip home, but above all else, patience -- and caution -- will be key.
Rebook your flight for free. Airlines rolled out their customary winter weather waivers this week, so most passengers traveling to, from or through affected areas can make one itinerary change without paying a change fee. Delta, American, US Airways, United, Southwest/AirTran and JetBlue have all posted weather policies on their websites.
Act quickly. Rebook your itinerary as soon as possible. Other passengers are snapping up open seats as you mull over a new itinerary. Be sure that your airline has your e-mail address and phone number, advises Rick Seaney, CEO of airfare tracker FareCompare.com. If you didn't provide this information when you purchased the ticket, go online and add it.
Follow your airline and airport on social media. Many airlines and airports post the speediest updates to their Twitter feeds, so start following them now. Sign up for airline alerts to get flight updates e-mailed to your smartphone.
If you're stranded, multitask. Get online, get on the phone and get in the ticketing line (if you're already at the airport). With thousands of flights delayed or canceled, competition will be fierce for seats when operations start humming again. Get airline apps for your phone and try to contact your airline on Twitter, Seaney suggests.
Elite fliers should use their loyalty program hot lines and head to frequent flier lounges for better access to airline reps. "This might be the time to spring for a lounge day-pass just to gain access to these folks," Seaney wrote in an e-mail.
Use the Next Flight app and type in your city pair to get the next flights for the major airlines, suggests Benet J. Wilson, Aviation Queen travel blogger. Then, call the airline on your cell phone and give them your preferred options.
Charge your devices. Hopefully, you're not among those travelers stranded at the airport, where jockeying for electrical outlets is inevitable. Charge up before you head out, and keep a car charger and a power pack or a few battery chargers for your portable electronic devices handy.
Check your flight, no matter where you're going. Think you don't have to worry about bad weather because you're flying from sunny California to sunny Florida? Not so fast.
"Because airlines operate networks, a storm affects not only flights in its immediate location but even those in far-removed locations not affected by the storm," said Cynthia Barnhart, an MIT engineering professor who teaches airline schedule planning.
Check your aircraft's journey on your airline website or with an app like Flight view.
Don't be a jerk. "The airline representatives did not make it snow," Seaney reminds travelers. "We've heard many anecdotal stories over the years from airline representatives who tell us it's a lot easier to find a good flight for a pleasant passenger than for one who is screaming at you."
Use common sense: Don't drive into a storm. It's treacherous out there. Monitor your local and regional forecasts, and don't drive if you don't have to.
AAA advises motorists to check tire pressure and make sure car batteries, cooling systems and antifreeze levels are in order. Keep gas tanks close to full, the automobile association advises, so that you'll be able to run the engine for heat in case you get stranded.
AAA suggests keeping the following items in your car: a shovel and a bag of sand, a snowbrush and ice scraper, jumper cables, a spare tire, windshield wiper fluid, a cell phone and car charger and blankets, gloves, hats and food, water and essential medication.
ASPEN, Colo. — This winter I put my relationship to the ultimate test: a romantic ski vacation.
Many couples ski together, but my fiancee Sheri Askinazi is just learning while I've been skiing for more than two decades. We'd done group ski trips, but never skied alone.
To make this trip work, we needed some advance planning and clear expectations. I wanted to ski with Sheri but also desired time to speed down the harder trails.
We chose four days at Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado because it offered a little bit for each of us.
"I am a little nervous about the trip. It's a lot of time skiing," Sheri confessed to me a month before we left. When I mentioned that I had found ski buddies for a day, she asked: "A whole day?"
The conversation continued at dinner a few nights later. One of our friends flat-out said: "He has to ski with you. That's it."
We chatted through our desires and made a plan.
Sheri would take two days of lessons. The first was at Snowmass. Elk Camp Meadows, a new beginner's area there, is fenced off from the rest of the resort so experts don't race through on their way to the lift. She quickly advanced to other parts of the mountain.
I took a refresher course — it's never too late to learn something new — and we met up for lunch.
The next day, she took a lesson at nearby Buttermilk Mountain. It's geared toward beginners but has some great intermediate trails that she mastered by the end of the day. I met up with some friends and got my adrenaline fix on the harder Aspen Mountain.
Lessons were key — it was much better for Sheri to get tips from a professional instead of me.
"Taking feedback from someone you love can be the hardest thing. You start to personalize it," says Katie Ertl, who oversees the ski and snowboard schools at the four mountains of Aspen/Snowmass.
(Warning: Skiing isn't cheap. If purchased a week in advance, a four-day lift ticket costs $396. Adult group lessons start at $139; full-day private lessons start at $660.)
For our final two days, we skied together at Snowmass. Sheri's instructor had ensured that I wouldn't drag her onto something too hard by noting the names of the trails on a map to try and the ones to avoid. She had learned a lot and we were gliding down some intermediate runs together.
We might not have been skiing the steep runs I prefer, but Sheri pushed herself out of her comfort zone. And there, in the middle, we found a way to enjoy the mountain together.
There was one other thing we did in planning to ease the experience: We picked a slope-side, ski-in, ski-out hotel.
Staying close to the mountain comes at a premium but makes life much easier. Nightly winter rates at the Westin Snowmass range from $199 to$599, or you can redeem — like we did — 12,000 to 16,000 Starwood points a night.
Each morning, the hotel's ski valet would assist with our boots. Then, skis in hand, we had to walk just a few steps to the snow. There was no lugging of heavy gear and if we needed a midday break, it was easy to return to the hotel. (Another great slope-side option is the Viceroy Snowmass, though it's pricey: Rates start at $635 a night during the peak winter season.)
Sheri and I also benefited from a demographic challenge the ski industry faces: The most loyal — and free-spending — skiers are baby boomers. To attract younger skiers and others, the industry has adapted. Resorts now offer better food choices and better ski schools, and they're even making it easier to park. Because women who grow up skiing sometimes exit the sport once they have kids, ski resorts are also adding day care and women-only clinics.
And to attract adults who have never skied before, they are trying bring-a-friend promotions. We tried one of those last season with some friends. Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts offered a learn-to-ski package: ski rentals, a lesson and a lift ticket to the beginner slopes. The women did that while the guys got free lift tickets to the entire mountain.
Parents with kids in the 10- to 13-year-old range may even be able to get their kids on the slopes for free. Some resorts offer free ski passes to kids in certain grades, and sometimes lessons are even thrown in, leaving parents free to ski on their own. In New Hampshire, for example, fourth and fifth graders can get free lift tickets, with discounts for lessons and gear rental, plus deals for siblings and parents. Many of these types of programs started during the past decade or so as a way to get kids and their families outdoors and exercising in the winter months, but they're a boon for the industry too: "We hook the kids into the sport early," Byrd says.
Ski resorts in southern states are even now starting to rent clothing to families who might not have gloves or snow pants.
For us, the ski trip ended with a couple's massage.
The Westin's spa abuts the hotel's heated outdoor pool and hot tubs. Nothing feels better after a day on the slopes than sitting in the whirlpool as snow falls on your head, followed by an hour of somebody removing the pain from your muscles. It was therapeutic, relaxing and — most importantly — something we could do together.
Going on vacation? Congrats! You’ve earned it. To maximize your enjoyment during your time away, you’ll want to make a few essential preparations. The last thing you need is the credit card company freezing your account while shop-hopping in Soho or guzzling Hefeweizen in Munich. Here’s a quick checklist of easy steps you can take to ready your accounts for a trip abroad.
1. Call the credit card company
2. Make a list of essential info
3. Get up to speed with your rewards program
4. Get a better travel card
5. Know your holds and limits
6. Pay your bills in advance
Call the credit card company
Creditors take active measures to detect theft and prevent fraud–for both your and their own sake. When they notice an aberration in spending patterns, they often freeze the suspect account to stop potential criminal activity. If your credit card hasn’t left Ohio in two years and it suddenly starts making extravagant purchases in Seoul, the issuer will likely deactivate the account until you verify your identity and location. This can result in major inconveniences abroad, especially if you don’t have easy access to a phone line. Call your credit card companies a week or so in advance to tell them your travel plans.
Make a list of essential info
When traveling, you put yourself at greater risk for losing a card due to theft, negligence or silly mistakes. When this happens, you need to act fast to close your accounts. Before you travel, make a list of your account numbers and the phone numbers for the corresponding credit card companies. Give one copy to a trusted friend or relative, and stash the other deep in your suitcase. You can put this information on a mobile device as well, but it will be compromised if you lose your phone. The ability to connect quickly with customer service will minimize the damages of theft or displacement.
Explore Russia’s famed waterway, the Volga-Baltic with Phyllis as your escort! Explore bustling and excitement-packed Moscow, then cruise north and visit the enchanting Golden Ring cities of Uglich and Yaroslavl. Enjoy a spectacular voyage through the heart of Russia along its colorful and historic waterways!
Cruise Russia’s famed Volga-Baltic Waterway between St. Petersburg and Moscow on the 212-passenger AmaKatarinrina. Staterooms include a bathroom and shower, a refrigerator, hairdryer, and personal safe. The ship also features a fitness room on the Sun Deck, elevator that reaches all decks; a hair dresser and a masseuse plus a infirmary staffed by an onboard physician. Fares are per person and includes port taxes of $253.
We look forward to hearing from you. Call soon to inquire about your next travel tour or cruise adventure.
Visit us at http://www.corlissgroup.com/