Air New Zealand's Hobbit-Themed Safety Video is Another Viral Smash: Watch It

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/23/2014, 2:00 PM

Kaboom! That's the sound of yet another volley in the ongoing Wacky Safety Video Wars. This time, it's Air New Zealand that has launched another salvo. Because the final film of the Hobbit trilogy is about to be released, 2014 is the last year that New Zealand can milk the Lord of the Rings franchise for every drop it's worth. And boy, does it. You wouldn't think that anyone could wring a...

U.S. Workers Hand Their Bosses $52.4 Billion a Year in Unused Vacation Time

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/22/2014, 4:00 PM

Most employers have a "use it or lose it" policy for vacation days, and a new study using information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has calculated just how much money Americans are losing by not using them. A total of 169 million vacation days are left on the table each year, said the analysis, and "by forfeiting this time American employees surrender $52.4 billion in benefits." T...

Are Venice's Gondolas Endangered by Rising Water?

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/21/2014, 11:00 PM

The curling iron comb of the gondola's stern is no longer practical for Venetians. Venice's gondolas cut an iconic profile: slender hull, swooping shape, swan-like stern rising behind the crooning gondolier. But according to the Guardian, the rising back of Venice's gondolas are about to be amputated. It seems that rising sea levels, already one of Venice's most lamentable and wel...

World's Highest Observation Deck Opens, Shatters Height and Price Records

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/16/2014, 2:00 PM

The world's highest observation deck has opened on the 148th floor of the 2,717-foot-tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai. That makes the deck 1,821 feet above street level, or a little more than a half a kilometer up—certifiably the highest observation deck in the world, according to Guinness. By comparison, the Empire State Building's observation deck on its 86th floor is a measly 1,050...

Ellis Island's Haunting Hospital Ward Now Open

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/14/2014, 10:45 AM

After years of begging from Americana buffs and urban explorers, the spooky and historically crucial Hospital Complex of New York harbor's Ellis Island is now open for guided tours after years of decay and abandonment. Most people identify Ellis Island with its regal Main Building, through which some 12 million immigrants passed in the six decades it served as New York City's principal arr...

London Now Charges £10 to Attend New Year's

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/09/2014, 12:00 PM

New Year's Eve on Lambeth Bridge, London Want to go to London to hear Big Ben bong in the new year and watch the fireworks? Pony up! Last month, London mayor Boris Johnson surprised the city by announcing that from now on, if participants want to get near the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament for the momentous hour, they must pay £10 (US $16.25) for a ticket. He gave Londoners 10...

Eiffel Tower in Paris Unveils New Glass Floor

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/06/2014, 10:00 AM

Paris' Eiffel Tower unveiled its new $37.5 million renovation today, which rehabilitated its somewhat ignored first level by adding shops, places to eat, and a museum that tells the story of the icon. But the most buzzworthy addition appears to be a new glass floor that allows visitors to stand on clear panels 187 feet above the ground below. After it was opened in 1889, Parisians hated th...

How Much Does an Orlando Vacation Cost? A New Tool Does the Math

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 10/02/2014, 8:00 AM

One of the most common questions for me as the author of Frommer's Orlando is, "How much does a vacation there cost?" Well, a new online tool helps you figure out how much an Orlando theme park vacation will hit you for. It's clean and easy to use. Want to go to Walt Disney World for three days with the Park Hopper option? Check the boxes. Want to follow that with two days at Un...

Hotel Tonight is No Longer Just for Hotels Tonight

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 09/29/2014, 12:45 PM

The handy and ever-growing booking app Hotel Tonight has officially made its name only somewhat true. From now on, you can book a discounted last-minute hotel room for tonight or you can book a room for anytime in the next seven days. What has always made Hotel Tonight a little different is it hasn't simply yanked prices from a common database the way so many hotel booking apps do. It negotia...

Not Using Your Vacation Costs America Dearly

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 09/26/2014, 10:45 AM

Ten points for the always excellent CBS News Sunday Morning for recently airing this pithy commentary by its contributor Faith Salie. Salie calculates how much the American economy loses when people don't use up their vacation days—and what it costs if we don't give workers time off to begin with. Some Americans believe that the fact our workers don't receive much vacation time (compared t...

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