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Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category

(Photo by Virtual Photography Studio)

 

Expedia.com recently conducted a survey that indicates that about one-third of Americans do not take all the vacation days they are allotted each year. In addition, of all the countries surveyed, Americans received the fewest number of vacation days annually. The results:

The Expedia.com survey concludes:

Many U.S. employed adults may not be making full use of their vacation days and may not be getting sufficient time away from work. A substantial minority may be sacrificing vacation time for work. And more than one in four employed adults have trouble coping with stress from work at some point in the vacation cycle.

This isn’t shocking news to me. My own husband has about a month’s worth of vacation days saved up that he’s been unable to redeem over the past few years. It’s hard to get away from work these days, particularly with layoffs meaning that most employees now have an increased work load and are consumed with appearing vital to their organizations. Still, everyone needs some days off occasionally. Here’s hoping that Americans will, at some point, get adequate vacation time and be allowed to use it.

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(Photo by wwarby)

 

On July 4th, the Statue of Liberty’s crown will reopen to the public after nearly eight years of closure. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the crown was closed to the public due to safety concerns. The lack of access to one of the highest points of this American icon has been a sore point for tourists and New York residents for years. New York Representative Anthony Weiner took on the issue as a personal crusade and fought long and hard to restore public access to the crown. Its reopening is a victory for him and a welcome development for the thousands of tourists who will flock to see Lady Liberty this summer.

 

There will be restrictions on the number of people allowed to climb to the crown. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says that in the next two years, before the statue is closed for renovation, 50,000 people will be allowed to visit the crown in groups of ten at a time. It’s not clear whether there will be some sort of reservation system or lottery to determine which visitors will have the honor of reaching the crown.

 

The copper-clad statue, one of the most iconic of American images, was unveiled in 1886. Visiting it is something of a rite of passage for many American school children and anyone who has climbed its many stairs will smile at the memory. My parents, brothers and I visited the Statue of Liberty in 1984 during summer vacation. I have a vivid memory of steps that seemed to go on forever, curling upward out of view. We didn’t make it to the crown that day, my brothers and I being awfully young to climb that high, but we did reach the viewing platform at the pedestal and were able to gaze out across the water at New York City. It’s an experience you don’t forget.

 

If you’re planning a trip this summer, check out the National Park Service’s website for visitor info.

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(Photo by juicyverve)

 

Today kicks off the 26th Annual National Travel and Tourism Week. The celebration, running from May 9th to the 17th, is dedicated to promoting (what else?) travel and will be commemorated with pro-travel rallies taking place all across America. More than likely, you had no idea there was such a thing as National Travel and Tourism Week. To be honest, neither did I. You learn something new every day, right? National Travel and Tourism Week is sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association and focuses on getting Americans out to see domestic sights like National Parks, historic locations and amusement parks. The U.S. Travel Association’s website states that they also hope to help Americans “recognize the cultural and social benefits created by travel and tourism.”

 

The timing of this event really couldn’t be better. The weather is warming up, summer is fast approaching, and millions of Americans are sitting in their cubicles or stuck in city traffic dreaming of a peaceful beach and being somewhere, anywhere other than here. The American summer vacation is a time-honored ritual. While we don’t get the whole month of August to decamp to the coast, like so many Europeans, most of us get a week of vacation time and right about now we are dying to use it. The slight wrinkle in the plan this year is certainly the economy. Everyone seems to be short of cash, worried about their employment and not feeling particularly frivolous. The word “staycation” is on everyone’s lips. Whether you’re planning to stick close to home this year or are lucky enough to be heading out to more exotic locales, check out some of the National Travel and Tourism Week activities that are coming to a city near you. Your local visitor’s bureau or convention center will have information about local events.

 

The trips I have planned this summer fit in perfectly with National Travel and Tourism Week’s emphasis on American travel. While I’d certainly love to be running off to Bora Bora or The Bahamas, this year I’ll be staying closer to home. I’ve got a quick trip to Louisville scheduled in June and am planning to spend some time in New England in late summer. Where will your vacation plans take you?

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(Photo by ftzdomino)

 

Here is some interesting news for pet owners who like to travel with their dog, cat, parrot or pot-bellied pig. PetAirways has announced that it is launching an airline catering exclusively to animals. Yes, you read that correctly. No human passengers will be allowed, spots on these jets are reserved for your furry friends.

 

When you arrive at the airport, you will first drop off your pet at a nearby facility.  They will stay in what PetAirways calls the “PAWS Lounge” until take-off time, at which point an attendant will escort them to the plane. No word on whether there is an open bar in said lounge. We’ll just have to hope not.   Lest you imagine a jet filled with frolicking puppies and flight attendants serving up Milkbones, your pet will be in a carrying case during the flight.  However, they will also have attendants monitoring them, making sure they get bathroom breaks and caring for their needs.  The PetAirways website says, “We promise to transport your pet with lots of love, care, safety, and comfort in the main cabin.”  That’s definitely a different experience for your pet than being loaded into cargo.

 

PetAirways is currently operating out of a handful of large cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  Current rates are $149 one way.  The concept seems to be generating interest and support.  After the initial announcement by PetAirways, their website was deluged with visitors, causing it to be only sporadically accessible.  Best Friends Animal Society was one of several animal groups to endorse the airline. Readers of Zootoo.com, a site devoted to pets, left comments of approval on the site.  Bloggers like Mary Ullmer waxed poetic on possible Pet Airways in-flight movies and which pets get access to first class.  The real question is whether enough pet owners will actually want to use the service.

 

Would I send my pet on PetAirways?  Well, considering that my pet is a 14-year old tortoiseshell cat known for her mood swings and propensity to vomit the instant she is loaded into a car, I’d just prefer to leave her at home.  If I had a larger animal who needed to travel with me and $300 to spare, I’d probably consider it, however.  Any human who loves an animal knows that shipping Fido with cargo is not the most appealing option.

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In the News: Travel to Cuba

(Photo by zedzap)

 

The Los Angeles Times printed an article today suggesting that U.S. travel to Cuba is up, despite American policy forbidding it.

American Tourists At Home In Cuba

 

It will be interesting to see if increased numbers of American tourists in Havana change the nature of that city and alter our perspective of our Communist neighbors to the south. There is the distinct possibility that the travel ban to Cuba will be lifted in the near future. A bipartisan group of Senators are currently working on a bill that would open up American travel to Cuba for the first time in nearly forty years. The question is, should travel to Cuba become legal, would Americans flock there as they do other Caribbean countries? Is the current appeal of going to Cuba primarily that it is somewhat taboo?

 

I believe that Americans and Cubans alike could benefit if the travel ban is lifted or loosened. Increased tourism would certainly be a boon to struggling Havana businesses and its impoverished citizens. It could promote greater tolerance and understanding between the United States and Cuba. As a traveler, I dislike the idea that a destination is forbidden simply for political purposes, not because it is unusually dangerous to go there. While there certainly remains support for anti-Cuba policy in the United States, the coming years could provide a realistic opportunity for Americans to explore Havana and its environs legally for the first time in a generation. I, for one, would welcome that possibility.

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CNN.com published an interesting article today about travel insurance scams becoming more prevalent:

6 Tips to Avoid Travel Insurance Scams

 

Travel Insurance is one of those hotly debated travel issues.  Do you really need it?  Can you afford to be without it?  Each insurance policy has different terms and so much fine print that even if you think you’re covered, you may not be.  Most of the things that tend to go wrong on the average trip (canceled flights and lost luggage, for example) are not covered by travel insurance anyway.  Despite this, I end up purchasing the insurance nearly every time I travel, “just in case,” and then feeling a little silly about it.  After all, I got around just fine in the days before travel insurance was de rigeur!

 

This article raises more questions about travel insurance and whether or not it is a worthwhile investment.   Apparently there have been a number of cases where fraudulent companies sold insurance to travelers and then folded, leaving policyholders with no recourse when they needed to cancel or reschedule their trips.  It’s a good reminder to all of us to do our research before purchasing travel insurance and make sure that policy will actually be helpful to us should we need it.

(Photo by Matt Hintsa)

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