No More Airline Miles for Hotel Stays Among Changes to Hilton's Loyalty Program

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 01/10/2018, 11:30 PM

Hilton Worldwide is making changes to its 70-million-member hotel loyalty program, Hilton Honors. Among the most consequential of the updates: Starting April 1, members will no longer be able to earn airline miles from stays at Hilton hotels. Though it will still be possible to transfer loyalty points to the airline of your choice, the move makes it even harder for ordinary travelers to gain mile...

Strange Japanese Ferris Wheel Reopening After Nearly a Decade

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 01/09/2018, 9:00 PM

It sure doesn't look like it, but the structure pictured above is actually a Ferris wheel. The oblong oddity adorns the Don Quijote discount shopping center along the Dotonbori River in Osaka, Japan. Opened in 2005, the ride hasn't been operational since 2008, when a mechanical problem put it out of commission. But fielding questions about the Ferris wheel for nearly a decade has finally persuade...

NYC's Met to Charge Mandatory Admission to Out-of-Towners

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 01/05/2018, 11:15 PM

For the first time since its founding in the 1870s, New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art is instituting a mandatory admission fee.  Starting March 1, visitors who do not live in New York State will be charged $25 to enter. That ticket will be valid for three consecutive days at the Met and its offshoots, the Met Breuer and the Cloisters. There will not be separate lines at any of those plac...

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To Visit This Island Paradise You Have to Pledge to Protect the Environment

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 01/04/2018, 8:45 PM

In order to enter the island nation of Palau in the western Pacific Ocean, visitors must now sign a "passport pledge" to protect the environment. The mandatory vow was enacted to counter the negative effects of tourism on the country's 200 islands and their coral reefs, volcanic hills, rich biodiversity, and cultural sites.  The move makes Palau the world's first nation to change immigration law...

Days When You Can Visit U.S. National Parks for Free in 2018

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 01/04/2018, 9:00 AM

Each year, the National Park system throws open its gates for a few days and spreads the good word by admitting everyone without charging entry fees. It's a great way for low-income families, students, and seniors to experience the parks, and hundreds of thousands of Americans take advantage of the invitation annually. The Department of the Interior has announced the free days for 2018—and they'v...

When Southern California Museums Open for Free This Month

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 01/04/2018, 12:30 AM

The 13th annual Free-for-All day at Southern California museums will be Sunday, January 28.  Nineteen institutions in the area will waive their admission fees on that day, offering access to their artistic, cultural, natural, and scientific holdings at no charge. An additional 18 museums where admission is always free are also listed as participants—though in their cases, we guess the event is m...

Huge Nature-Themed Light Show Illuminates Winter Nights in Japan

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 01/02/2018, 1:00 PM

Each winter at Japan's Nagashima Resort in the city of Kuwana, millions of LED lights are used to create ravishing nighttime nature scenes. Held in the gardens of the complex (which also has an amusement park and hot springs), the Nabana No Sato display has previously depicted Mount Fuji and the Northern Lights, among other wonders. For 2018, the focus is Japan's Kumamoto Prefecture. As CNN rep...

A Cherished National Monument Was Just Reduced by 85%—Is a National Park Next?

By Arthur Frommer

Posted on 01/02/2018, 12:00 AM

On a recent trip to Utah, on which he was accompanied by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, President Donald Trump reduced the acreage of the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and reduced the size of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument by half. For some idea of the scale of that reduction, the elimination of land from Bears Ears is equivalent to the size of the Grand Teton National Park.   ...

Turkey Fully Resumes Issuing Visas to Americans

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 12/29/2017, 12:00 AM

For nearly three months, Turkish authorities and the U.S. government have been in a diplomatic spat, resulting in the suspension of visas for American tourists. The quick and painless electronic application procedure was abruptly closed to U.S. citizens. A month later, they were offered the arduous option of going in person to a Turkish embassy or consulate to submit to interviews, a luxury nearly ...

Royal Caribbean Increases the Daily Fee Used to Tip Staff

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/29/2017, 12:00 AM

For the third time in three years, Royal Caribbean Cruises is hiking up its "automatic gratuity"—the term for the service fee that lines recommend each passenger pays per day during a cruise. They make this recommendation by automatically adding the tip to your bill. To raise or lower the amount—or strike it altogether for those who prefer to tip housekeeping staff, restaurant servers, and other ...

Robert De Niro’s Hotel Brand Goes On a Building Spree in 2018

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/28/2017, 12:15 AM

Nobu Hotels, co-owned by actor Robert De Niro, star chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and movie producer Meir Teper, will have a busy 2018. The upscale chain is adding new properties in Chicago; Los Cabos, Mexico; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and two in Spain—one in Barcelona, the other in Marbella.  Since the first Nobu hotel opened in 2013 inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, six more have followed in locales aro...

Arthur Frommer's Travel Resolutions for the New Year

By Arthur Frommer

Posted on 12/28/2017, 12:00 AM

Because they often seek to regulate all of human activity, I find most New Year’s Resolutions to be rather unsatisfying. Here’s an attempt to limit these rules to the world of travel, which—to me—is badly in need of a little moralizing at this moment in our history.   So here goes. In the year ahead:    I shall fight, as a citizen and as a voter, to preserve the right of every American...

Hyatt's Cancellation Rules Worsen for Consumers

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 12/26/2017, 5:00 PM

Hyatt Hotels has made it more expensive for you to cancel a reservation.  At most of the company's 700-odd properties, customers must now cancel at least 48 hours ahead of their planned arrival or they'll be charged. The new penalty, which will be imposed at all Hyatt brands except for Hyatt Residence Club resorts, Miraval resorts, and M life resorts, kicks in on reservations made or changed afte...

New App Helps Visually Impaired Travelers Navigate Airport

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/26/2017, 3:30 PM

American Printing House for the Blind's "Nearby Explorer" app—a GPS-enabled mobile wayfinding service developed specifically for visually impaired users—has a brand-new feature to help blind travelers get around Louisville International Airport. And the app's developers hope that's just the beginning.  Dubbed "Indoor Explorer," the new tool uses Bluetooth connectivity, OpenStreetMap data, and mo...

Lady Gaga Residency in Vegas Set for Late 2018

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/21/2017, 6:00 AM

By the end of next year, it will be easier than ever for Las Vegas gamblers to watch Lady Gaga perform "Poker Face" on the same day they perfect their own. The singer is settling in at the MGM Park Theater for a bigtime residency expected to begin in late 2018. Currently set to include 74 concerts, the deal, which Variety says will make Gaga more than $1 million per show, could be extended, provi...

It's Here: Donald Trump Robot Unveiled at Disney's Hall of Presidents

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 12/19/2017, 1:15 AM

About six months behind its usual post-election refurbishment schedule, Walt Disney World has unveiled its Audio-Animatronic version of the current president of the United States, including a short recorded monologue by him about the American spirit. The attraction officially opens to the public on Tuesday, December 19.  The Hall of Presidents, running since 1971 when Richard M. Nixon was in the ...

In January, Learn to Ski—for Less—in Michigan

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/19/2017, 12:30 AM

It might surprise you to learn that Michigan has one of the highest concentrations of ski areas in the United States. There are around 40 places to hit the slopes in the state. According to the Detroit Free Press, only New York has more (take that, Colorado and Vermont).  In January, 28 ski areas across the state are banding together to offer affordable introductory packages for downhill skiing...

Why Hotel Bills in Hawaii Are About to Go Up

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/16/2017, 2:00 AM

On January 1, the tax on lodgings in Hawaii will increase by 1% statewide. But that's not all. The fee charged to tourists who rent rooms in hotels, condos, B&Bs, and "transient accommodations" of any other kind is going up to 10.25%. Paired with a 4% sales tax, that means state legislators will now charge visitors an extra 14.25% on top of room rates, simply for the pleasure of sleeping in p...

Neapolitan Pizza, Panama Hats Among Traditions Given UNESCO Heritage Status

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/13/2017, 11:00 PM

As anybody who travels with open eyes and an open mind soon discovers, a place isn't made unique just by its buildings and scenery. The dishes, dances, crafts, languages, and other traditions developed there are just as important and every bit as worthy of preservation. That's why the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage was established in 2003—to bring awareness and protections to signifi...

Hotel Earns Guinness Record for Whisky: 1,031 Varieties

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 12/13/2017, 12:00 AM

Fans of the tipple might want to toddle off to Scotland for their next holiday. The Guinness Book of World Records has officially recognized one hotel there for having the most varieties of commercially available whiskies. With a collection numbering more than 2,500 bottles and 1,031 varieties, reports London's Daily Mail, the 38-room Glenesk Hotel, in the village of Edzell, Scotland, has taken th...

Marriott's New Shower Doors Record What You Doodle on Them

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 12/12/2017, 5:00 AM

This winter, Marriott introduces what it calls "Splash of Brilliance," which are special shower doors that record whatever guests trace onto them and emails an image of it. You probably had to read that twice, because so did we. Yes, if you draw on these shower doors with your finger, the glass remembers what you drew and can transmit it to you for later use. Marriott is spinning this technolo...

American State Department Simplifies Travel Warnings

By Jason Cochran

Posted on 12/11/2017, 2:15 PM

Following a long internal review, the United States Department of State is making its travel warnings clearer. Starting in January, its notices on safety situations will be boiled down to one of four categories. Level 1: Exercise normal precautions Level 2: Exercise increased caution Level 3: Reconsider travel Level 4: Do not travel Since the State Department's travel warnings are ...

U.S. Government Won't Require Bag Fee Disclosure in Airfares

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/11/2017, 1:00 PM

An Obama administration proposal designed to protect airline passengers from hidden fees has been discarded by the current Department of Transportation.  Under the proposed rule—released near the end of President Obama's second term—airlines, travel agents, and websites that sell tickets would be required to disclose fees for checked and carry-on bags right from the start, so that passengers woul...

An Airline Perk for Ugly Holiday Sweaters

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/07/2017, 5:00 PM

Alaska Airlines passengers will want to raid their closets for brightly colored, snowman-bedecked, jingle-bell-festooned sweaters on December 15. In honor of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, the carrier is offering early boarding to all customers who show up for flights on that date wearing "festive holiday sweaters." Alaska announced that the one-day promotion will be celebrated across the ...

Airlines Limit Smart Bags Allowed on Flights

By Zac Thompson

Posted on 12/06/2017, 3:30 PM

The supposed next big thing in luggage just hit a snag.  Several U.S. airlines have announced bans on technologically sophisticated "smart" suitcases with lithium-ion batteries that can't be removed. The high-powered batteries help make possible such wonders as suitcases with the capacity to charge cell phones, make their locations known via GPS, and even follow their owners around airports.  B...