SmarterTravel https://www.smartertravel.com The Best Trips Start Here Tue, 18 Dec 2018 15:14:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 5 Ways to Avoid Bedbugs on Planes https://www.smartertravel.com/bedbugs-on-planes/ https://www.smartertravel.com/bedbugs-on-planes/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 15:13:34 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259962 Sorry to give you one more thing to worry about while flying, but bedbug infestations have recently broken out in the sky. It turns out the pests love infrequently cleaned planes nearly as much as they do hotel rooms. I interviewed Dr. Richard Cooper, the Senior Director of Service for Terminix, to find out how you can protect […]

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Sorry to give you one more thing to worry about while flying, but bedbug infestations have recently broken out in the sky. It turns out the pests love infrequently cleaned planes nearly as much as they do hotel rooms. I interviewed Dr. Richard Cooper, the Senior Director of Service for Terminix, to find out how you can protect yourself from bedbugs on planes.

Educate Yourself

It’s hard to avoid bedbugs if you don’t know what they look like. Dr. Cooper advises, “These insects are wingless, range in color from a light brown as immatures to a reddish-brown as adults, and range in size from as small as 1/32 of an inch upon hatching from the egg to a quarter-inch as adults. All stages are visible [to] the naked eye.”

Although you should be alarmed if you find any type of bug crawling on your seat, knowing what a bedbug looks like can help your case for switching seats—no one wants to mess with bedbugs.

If you find one, alert a flight attendant immediately and see if you can move, ideally to a section of the plane that’s far away from the infected row. Dr. Cooper also recommends capturing the insect so the airline has evidence that it was in fact a bedbug aboard its aircraft.

Try a Seat Cover

Although bedbugs can live on clothing, they can’t actually bite through most fabrics, so it may be worth trying a disposable seat cover like this one. (Note: Terminix has not evaluated this product and would not comment on its effectiveness.)

Pick the Right Airline

If you can, opt for an airline that uses planes with vinyl seats. According to Dr. Cooper, “Bed bugs prefer textured surfaces, such as fabric, to those that are smooth, like vinyl—so fabric environments where these pests can stay out of sight are more likely to foster a successful bedbug population. However, it’s important to note that the type of seat doesn’t increase the likelihood of bedbugs being introduced in the first place.”

Exercise Caution Off the Plane as Well

Unfortunately, it’s not just planes you have to worry about—you need to be vigilant on your cab, subway, or bus ride to the airport as well, since bedbugs can be found on all forms of mass transportation.

What to Do If you See Bedbugs on Planes

Your number one priority should be making sure that you don’t bring the bedbugs into your home after getting off a plane.The most important thing for passengers concerned about bedbugs is isolating and addressing their luggage and belongings upon returning home,” explains Dr. Cooper. “Place luggage inside of a sealed plastic bag or other container that can prevent them from spreading, launder belongings in a hot washer or dryer as permitted by clothing care instructions, and place items that tolerate heat but cannot be laundered into a portable heat chamber designed for this purpose. Doing so will greatly reduce the likelihood that travelers inadvertently introduce bedbugs into their home.”

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world. 

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$34+ Airfare Sale from JetBlue https://www.smartertravel.com/deals/34-airfare-sale-from-jetblue-3/ Tue, 18 Dec 2018 14:24:48 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?post_type=st_deals&p=259938 JetBlue’s “Dash Away Sale” discounts travel across the U.S., to the Caribbean, and to Latin America through winter. Flights start as low as $34 each way. Travel at the lowest prices is valid between January 8 and March 27, 2019. Travel at the lowest prices is not available February 14 through 25. Book by 11:59 […]

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JetBlue’s “Dash Away Sale” discounts travel across the U.S., to the Caribbean, and to Latin America through winter. Flights start as low as $34 each way.

Travel at the lowest prices is valid between January 8 and March 27, 2019. Travel at the lowest prices is not available February 14 through 25. Book by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 19 for the best prices and availability. Additional rules and restrictions may apply.

JetBlue‘s advertised one-way fares include:

  • $34 – Long Beach to/from San Jose, CA
  • $44 – Atlanta to/from Orlando
  • $49 – Pittsburgh to/from Boston
  • $64 – Boston to/from Nashville
  • $69 – Chicago to/from Fort Lauderdale
  • $84 – Fort Lauderdale to Turks & Caicos
  • $99 – New York City to Bermuda
  • $104 – Orlando to Mexico City, Mexico

Don’t see a fare you like? View all flights to/from your city.

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Don’t Panic: These Sites Will Still Ship Your Gifts in Time for Christmas (For Free) https://www.smartertravel.com/free-shipping-for-christmas/ https://www.smartertravel.com/free-shipping-for-christmas/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 21:20:06 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259794 Still haven’t started your holiday shopping? No judgment and no problem, because these sites have you covered. All of the retailers below will ship your gifts in time for Christmas, for free: Amazon Amazon: Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping on most items, plus free one-day shipping or even free same-day shipping in certain […]

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Still haven’t started your holiday shopping? No judgment and no problem, because these sites have you covered. All of the retailers below will ship your gifts in time for Christmas, for free:

Amazon

Amazon: Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping on most items, plus free one-day shipping or even free same-day shipping in certain areas on select orders. Don’t have Prime? Sign up here for a free trial.

Target

Target: Place your order by 11:55 p.m. CST on December 20 and Target guarantees that your order will arrive by December 24.

Zappos

Zappos: Sign up for Zappos’ free rewards program and get complimentary two-business-day shipping on all orders. Gold and above members (those who have spent a certain amount with Zappos) get free one-business day shipping.

Apple

Apple: Apple.com is offering free same-day delivery on any in‑stock iPhone in select metro areas, or free next‑business‑day delivery anywhere else. Free two-day shipping is available on most in-stock items.

Best Buy

Best Buy: Order by December 20, 10:30 a.m. CST to get your gift by Christmas.

Shoprunner

Shoprunner: This delivery service offers free two-day shipping and free returns on a long list of stores, such as Neiman Marcus, Soma, Ann Taylor, Chico’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and more. Click here for a free three-month trial.

Away

Away: Order by December 18 to receive free expedited delivery.

Backcountry

Backcountry: Outdoor gear retailer Backcountry.com will give you free two-day shipping on orders over $50. Order by 11:59 p.m. MST on December 20 for delivery by December 24.

Nordstrom

Nordstrom: Order by noon EST on December 18 to get free delivery by Christmas Eve.

Saks Fifth Avenue

Saks Fifth Avenue: Use the promo code: HOLRUSH to receive free rush shipping. Order by December 20 at 12 p.m. EST to receive in time for Christmas.

Everlane

Everlane: Order by 11:59 pm EST on December 18 and get free delivery before December 25.

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11 Endangered Bucket List Destinations (and How to Visit Them Responsibly) https://www.smartertravel.com/endangered-bucket-list-destinations/ https://www.smartertravel.com/endangered-bucket-list-destinations/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 21:10:50 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259850 Climate change and overtourism make daily headlines now and are stark reminders that some of the most beautiful places in the world are at risk of disappearing. For many travelers, the natural response to this is “last chance tourism,” or a rush to see endangered places while they’re still here. But before writing obituaries for […]

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Climate change and overtourism make daily headlines now and are stark reminders that some of the most beautiful places in the world are at risk of disappearing. For many travelers, the natural response to this is “last chance tourism,” or a rush to see endangered places while they’re still here.

But before writing obituaries for these endangered destinations, consider instead taking actionable steps before and during your trip to keep them from disappearing. Here are 11 at-risk destinations and what you can do to help preserve them.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Teeming with biodiversity, beauty, and Finding Nemo references, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most impressive natural wonders of the world. Sadly, climate change and irresponsible tourism have placed a strain on this natural wonder. About half of the reef is estimated to have died since 2016.

What you can do to help: Switch to reef-safe, oxybenzone-free sun care products.

Where to stay: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is secluded, peaceful, and on its way to being 100 percent sustainable by 2020.

Venice, Italy

venice italy
Javen/Shutterstock

The unfortunate poster child for overtourism, Venice struggles with pollution, overcrowding, and the mass exodus of its locals. It’s also slowly sinking. Fast and convenient water taxis are often the preferred mode of transportation for tourists in the city, but it’s these same water taxis that contribute to many of the issues facing this historic city. Moto Ondoso, or wake pollution, is an issue distinct to Venice in which waves corrode the city’s structure and put it at risk of sinking.

What you can do to help: Go the scenic route and walk or enjoy a gondola ride instead. 

Where to stay: Formerly a monastery, the 500-year-old Santa Chiara Hotel lets you experience the city like it was before the giant cruise ships came.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Aleksandra H. Kossowska/Shutterstock

Machu Picchu survived the fall of the Inca Empire, but it might not survive tourists. After earning a well-deserved place as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the breathtaking archeological site continues to see an extreme surge in tourism. The groups that arrive en masse are not always at their best—leaving trash behind on the Inca Trail and even vandalizing stones. One detrimental behavior that even conscious travelers often engage in is not respecting marked trails. Stepping over the ugly rope seems harmless and gets you a better Instagram picture, but when millions of people do it, the effect is substantial.

What you can do to help: Stay within the marked paths to help preserve this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or, consider visiting one of the similar but lesser-known “lost” Inca cities like Choquequirao instead.

Where to stay: An upscale ecological retreat far from the noise of Aguas Calientes and the commercialization of Cuzco, explora Valle Sagrado is committed to responsible tourism across the Sacred Valley and to Machu Picchu itself.

The Florida Everglades

fort lauderdale attractions
TripAdvisor, LLC

Nicknamed the “River of Grass,” the Florida Everglades is a unique and largely underappreciated ecosystem. Having already lost almost nine of its 11 million acres, the Everglades is officially the most endangered national park in the United States.

What you can do to help: The most eco-friendly way to see the Everglades is a walk through the swamp. (Yes, a walk.) Photographer Clyde Butcher offers guided swamp walks that will have you wading waist-deep in the water. If you’re not ready to get so close to nature, a minimal-impact airboat tour might be your best bet. 

Where to stay: The locally-owned Ivey House is a stone’s throw away from the Everglades’ wilderness

The Amazon

Spanning nine countries, the Amazon rainforest contains unimaginable biodiversity and hundreds of indigenous communities. But massive deforestation in the name of cattle ranching and mining is assailing the “lungs of the world,” threatening not just the Amazon but the health of the planet as a whole.

What you can do to help: When you visit the Amazon, choose a tour company that supports local communities most directly affected by the deforestation. Gondwana Ecotours, for example, works with indigenous communities to help them preserve their autonomy and customs. It also offers a carbon offset program for your flight to Ecuador.

Where to stay: Enjoy comfort in the heart of the jungle at Kapawi Ecolodge. 

Antarctica

Though one of the most remote places on earth, Antarctica is on the front lines of the effects of climate change. Ice is melting at an alarming rate, and overfishing of krill threatens the region’s entire food chain.

What you can do to help: You should endeavor to have as little impact as possible when you visit, and one of the best ways to do this is to go cozy rather than big when choosing a cruise ship. Smaller ships have a smaller carbon footprint and produce less waste; they also allow you more time on land, since only 100 people are allowed on shore at any given time. On bigger ships, you’ll have to wait your turn. 

Where to stay: Though you’ll spend most of your nights on board, One Ocean offers on-shore camping options for travelers. They also use their vessels to help conduct scientific research. 

Borneo, Malaysia and Indonesia

While in Borneo, you’ll probably want to take in the beaches, hike Mount Kinabalu, and trek through the forest. In the past 30 years, the Bornean forest has been reduced by a third due to legal and illegal logging and palm oil plantations. The good news is that this is one example where visiting this endangered natural habitat can actually help the situation.

What you can do to help: Activists argue that spending money on park fees and sustainable tours will convince the government that preserving the forest is good for business, prompting leadership to support conservation efforts rather than the exploitation of the forest. 

Where to stay: Borneo Rainforest Lodge provides a five-star eco experience right in the middle of the rainforest. 

Big Sur, California

highway along the pacific ocean
Doug Meek/Shutterstock

The extreme and somewhat unforgiving geographical conditions of Big Sur are also what makes it so breathtaking. The area has always been prone to heavy rainfall and landslides, but as climate change worsens, so do these natural catastrophes. To the dismay of lovers of dramatic landscapes and bohemian history, the scenic drive through Big Sur might not be possible in the future.

What you can do to help: Rent a hybrid or electric car for your road trip. The impact might seem miniscule, but if every one of the five million annual visitors who pass through Big Sur did this, it’d be anything but. 

Where to stay: Get scenic ocean and mountain views at the locally owned Post Ranch Inn.

The Alps

Global warming strikes yet again, and this time the victims are the iconic ice caps of the Alps. With rising temperatures, ice throughout this European mountain range is melting. Since many towns around the Alps depend economically on winter sport tourism, they are resorting to covering the snow with blankets and overusing snowmaking machines. The problem is that these machines contribute to global warming, and trap the towns in a vicious cycle of trying to preserve their livelihood in a way that contributes to its destruction.

What you can do to help: Enjoy the beauty of the Alps in summer. You’ll get lower prices and also help tip the balance towards activities that don’t depend on manmade snow.

Where to stay: The Austrian town of Werfenweng is leading efforts toward sustainable tourism in the Alps with carbon-neutral vacation offerings. Stay at Hochhausl Pension to support these efforts; the views aren’t too bad either.

The Great Wall of China

One of ancient humanity’s greatest accomplishments is endangered, in part, because people won’t stop tearing it apart. Whether to build other structures or to sell bits and pieces as souvenirs, locals are stealing parts of the wall and tourists are more than happy to buy them. The situation is so dire that almost a third of the wall built during the Ming Dynasty is gone.

What you can do to help: This one’s pretty obvious. Don’t buy parts of the wall.

Where to stay: Stay at Brickyard Retreat at Mutianyu Great Wall to escape being rushed through the most frequented parts of the wall. 

The Galapagos

If you visit the Galapagos today, you’ll still be able to see around 95 percent of the species Charles Darwin saw. However, scientists warn that if tourism continues to grow at its current rate, that might not be the case for long.

What you can do to help: Besides practicing common sustainable tourism practices like not feeding wild animals and staying within marked paths, you can also watch what you eat while traveling around the Galapagos. Overfishing and illegal fishing are endangering species like sea cucumbers, lobsters, and sharks. Avoid eating these and try to find restaurants that buy from artisanal fishers. If you’re really craving lobster, the WWF recommends buying it live rather than going for the tail. Doing this can increase the price, which raises profits and lowers demands on fishermen. 

Where to stay: Many people travel through the Galapagos on boat, but land travel is a great way to interact with the local community. Stay at locally owned Galapagos Eco Friendly for a relaxed, no-frills experience.

More from SmarterTravel:

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The 9 Best Ski Gear Items for This Winter https://www.smartertravel.com/ski-gear/ https://www.smartertravel.com/ski-gear/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 19:56:45 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259718 Got a mountain getaway planned this winter? These ski gear items will keep you warm and dry while you tear it up on the slopes. Outdoor Research Blackpowder II Pants Outdoor Research Who says ski pants have to be bright and garish? Outdoor Research’s slim and stylish black Blackpowder II Pants (men’s version here) look […]

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Got a mountain getaway planned this winter? These ski gear items will keep you warm and dry while you tear it up on the slopes.

Outdoor Research Blackpowder II Pants

Outdoor Research

Who says ski pants have to be bright and garish? Outdoor Research’s slim and stylish black Blackpowder II Pants (men’s version here) look good and perform even better. These pants have a Pertex Shield that makes them water and windproof, and a cozy fabric lining to keep your legs warm on the coldest days. Zippered outer thigh vents let in much-needed air if you work up too much of a sweat, and there are plenty of pockets to hold all your stuff. Gaiters are built-in to help your pants stay in place over your boots and to keep out snow.

FITS Ski Socks

red and white sock, purple gray black sock
Amazon.com

Socks are that piece of ski gear that you never really put any thought in to—until the first time you try a pair that’s specifically designed for skiing and feel the difference. With FITS’ ski line, you can choose a sock that’s customized for the type of skiing you’ll be doing—there are different socks for Black Diamond-experts wearing custom boots and weekend skiers looking for warmth, comfort and everything in between. All the socks are made from an insulating and moisture-wicking Merino Wool/Nylon/Spandex blend, and feature various levels of cushioning.

Fjallraven KEB Lite Padded Jacket

black puff jacket
Amazon.com

After skiing in frigid New England winters for many years, I’ve discovered the secret to staying warm while skiing—layer a puffy jacket under a ski parka. Fjallraven’s KEB Lite Padded Jacket is perfect for this—it’s thin enough that it will work under your regular ski jacket without feeling bulky, and it’s super lightweight and packs down small in your bag for when you don’t need it. Off the slopes, this jacket is great on its own. Wind and water-resistant, it will keep you warm even in damp conditions.

Backcountry Baselayers

teal exercise quarter zip and leggings
Backcountry

Layer correctly, and you can ski until last chair. Backcountry’s Matilda Baselayer Bottom and matching top are thin enough to fit under any outfit, but made from an ultra-warm Merino Wool blend that will help regulate your temperature.

Outdoor Research Lodgeside Beanie

gray and black beanies with pom on top
Amazon.com

For apres-ski, there’s no better look (or way to cover up your helmet hair) than a cute hat. Outdoor Research’s Lodgeside Beanie. This adorable cable knit beanie has a warm secret—a fleece lining and patented GORE Windstopper ear protectant that will keep your head and ears cozy (and laser-cut ear openings that mean your hearing won’t be muffled).

Free Country Swift Softshell Ski Pants

loose black ski pants
Free Country

Free Country’s Swift Softshell Ski Pants is the rare item of ski gear pants that actually feel like sweatpants, thanks to their fleece lining. The comfortable lining is topped with a bonded three-layer softshell that will protect you from rain and snow. The bootcut style makes it easy to pull these on over your ski boots, and the pants are equipped Gripper Hem Gaiters to help keep the snow out.

Fuel Optics High Performance Anti-Fog Ski and Snow Goggles

reflective blue ski googles with black strap
Amazon.com

Good quality ski gear doesn’t have to cost more than a lift ticket. These goggles from Fuel Optics have all of the best features (anti-fog, magnetic quick change lenses, and an adjustable strap), but only cost around $40.

Hot Sockees

red toe warmers
Amazon.com

Nothing can cut your day short faster than cold feet. Hot Sockees solves this problem. Made from a thin neoprene fabric, these toe warmers slide over your socks and can be worn with ski boots without hindering performance. The Hot Sockees keep your toes warm all day long by trapping in heat.

Giro LEDGE MIPS Snow Helmet

black and purple helmets
Amazon.com

If you’re in the market for a new helmet, it’s worth investing in one with MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) technology. This somewhat recent innovation for helmets helps to better protect your brain during rotational impacts—which are common during skiing falls. Giro’s LEDGE helmet offers MIPS protection at an affordable price, and comes in a wide variety of colors and fits.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is always on the lookout for the best new ski gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the slopes and around the world. 

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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The 11 Best Amusement Parks in Florida, 2019 Edition https://www.smartertravel.com/florida-theme-parks/ https://www.smartertravel.com/florida-theme-parks/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 18:57:31 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259650 You can’t think of theme parks without thinking of Florida. The Sunshine State is a must-visit spot for anyone who loves riding roller coasters, splashing down water slides, and immersing themselves in the worlds of their favorite movies and TV shows. But all the park options can be overwhelming. There are six different parks at […]

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You can’t think of theme parks without thinking of Florida. The Sunshine State is a must-visit spot for anyone who loves riding roller coasters, splashing down water slides, and immersing themselves in the worlds of their favorite movies and TV shows.

But all the park options can be overwhelming. There are six different parks at Walt Disney World Resort alone, and another three parks at Universal Orlando Resort. Teens chasing thrills don’t necessarily want to find themselves in the same lines as toddlers decked out in their best princess tiaras. So here’s a breakdown of Florida’s top theme parks to help you find the best match for your interests and travel party.

Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom

castle disney world
mirandameyer14/Twenty20

Best for: Families with young kids and nostalgic types

The theme park that started it all, the Magic Kingdom first opened its castle doors in 1971. Since then it’s been the spot for Mickey Mouse meet-and-greets, fantastical Dumbo flights, and over-the-top fireworks displays. There aren’t a lot of thrills to be found here; the park’s four rollercoasters skew more entry-level than scream-inducing (although riding through the dark on Space Mountain can still offer up surprises).

Head here if you have young kids or if you just love the feeling of yesteryear that’s so palpable in the Orlando-area amusement park. Try to book a meal at Be Our Guest, one of the park’s newer restaurants that features jaw-dropping dining areas modeled after different rooms in the castle from Beauty and the Beast.

Where to stay: You can’t get much closer than Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which is just a short walk or monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom. It’s home to the popular Chef Mickey’s character buffet and a viewing spot for the nighttime Electrical Water Pageant boat parade.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Wizarding world of harry potter
NavinTar/Shutterstock

Best for: Wannabe wizards and movie fans

Named top amusement park by TripAdvisor in 2018 (the fourth year in a row), Universal’s Islands of Adventure is where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first came to life. You’ll see lots of visitors wearing robes and brandishing wands as they head to Hogwarts to travel by broom on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or stroll through Hogsmeade village with a butterbeer in hand. If you want to ride the Hogwarts Express (and you should), make sure you have a park-to-park ticket, as it travels between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

If spells aren’t your thing, there are attractions based on Jurassic Park and Marvel superheroes, lots of water rides for cooling off in the Orlando heat, and a Dr. Seuss–themed kiddie area.

Where to stay: From Loews Royal Pacific Resort, you can walk or take complimentary boat service over to Islands of Adventure. Guests at the South Seas–themed hotel get early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and free Universal Express Unlimited ride access that lets you skip the lines at most attractions, two highly beneficial perks.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

tree of life animal kingdom disney
charliemcmahonphotography/Twenty20

Best for: Animal lovers and Avatar fans

The park’s popular Pandora area, based on the fantasy world from the movie Avatar, draws visitors looking to immerse themselves in all things Na’vi. You’ll definitely want to visit at night, when the area’s awash in a bioluminescent glow, and snag a FastPass for the Flight of Passage, a 3D ride that simulates flying on the back of a banshee.

For animal encounters, ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris (be on the lookout for baby elephants or giraffes) and walk the park’s various trails to spot everything from gorillas to tigers. Don’t leave without hunting for the Yeti on the Expedition Everest roller coaster.

Where to stay: Enjoy the creature comforts of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Some rooms offer savanna views where you can watch zebras, giraffes, gazelles, and other animals from your balcony. On-site restaurants spotlight the flavors and spices of African cuisine.

Universal’s Volcano Bay

swimmers in volcano bay

Best for: Water enthusiasts in search of the latest and greatest

The newest entrant on the Orlando waterpark scene, Universal’s Volcano Bay, offers thrills and experiences you can’t find at other area splash zones—like its TapuTapu wearable technology that holds your place in line and alerts you when it’s time to ride, or TeAwa, the Fearless River, a thrilling inner tube river ride that’s anything but lazy.

With 19 attractions on a compact 25 acres, it’s easy to hit them all in a day. You’ll be surprised at how many different ways you can plunge down the side of a “volcano,” and how much fun you’ll have doing it.

Where to stay: Book a room at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort for close proximity to Volcano Bay and the ability to get inside an hour before the water park opens to the public. The resort offers lots of retro charm and fun amenities like a lazy river and 10-lane bowling alley.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Best for: Disney movie buffs and Star Wars fanatics

Disney’s Hollywood Studios recently celebrated the opening of its Toy Story Land, an imaginative area designed to make visitors feel toy-sized. It’s home to two new rides—the Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster and spinning Alien Swirling Saucers—plus must-try food items like the S’more French Toast Sandwich and “Totchos” (think tater tots meet nachos).

But the biggest buzz here is for the 2019 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where new attractions will let you fly the Millennium Falcon and board a Star Destroyer. Until that’s unveiled, the little ones can use the Force at Jedi Training, and the whole family can travel the galaxy on Star Tours: The Adventure Continues and pose for pics with Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, and other iconic characters.

Where to stay: Until Walt Disney World’s Star Wars–themed hotel opens (hopefully not in a future far, far away), make a reservation at the nearby Disney’s Art of Animation Resort to stay immersed in the movies. With décor inspired by Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King, the resort’s family suites sleep up to six and have two full bathrooms. Disney’s Skyliner gondola transportation system (currently under construction) will eventually connect the Art of Animation Resort to Hollywood Studios so guests can travel by air between the two.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

tall red and blue roller coaster
Eugene Buchko/Shutterstock

Best for: Thrill seekers and Sesame Street fans

Like rollercoasters that really get your heart racing? Then get in line at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, home to a 200-foot-tall floorless dive coaster, a triple-launch coaster, and Florida’s first family spin coaster. Coming in 2019: Florida’s tallest launch coaster.

But it’s not all about daredevil drops here. The park’s also a great place for the preschool set, thanks to its Sesame Street Safari of Fun area filled with kiddie rides and attractions, plus photo ops with Elmo and Big Bird. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is also one of the largest zoo facilities in the U.S., so animal lovers big and small can see everything from giraffes and cheetahs to sloths and kangaroos while strolling the park.

Where to stay: Less than a mile from Busch Gardens, the new Home2 Suites by Hilton Tampa USF offers spacious rooms with full kitchens, free breakfast, and an outdoor saline pool for cooling off after a day in the sun. It’s also close to other Tampa attractions like the Museum of Science and Industry.

Universal Studios Florida

colorful water ride
Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock

Best for: Speed demons, sci-fi fans, and Simpsons devotees

The first park at Universal Orlando Resort includes beloved original rides like E.T. Adventure plus the resort’s newest attraction, Fast & Furious–Supercharged, which immerses visitors in the world of the high-speed film franchise.

You can also find rides based on Men in Black, The Mummy, and Transformers here, along with the white-knuckle thrills of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster, which sends riders on a 90-degree climb toward the sky set to the soundtrack of their choice, and the less-intense-but-still-zippy Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. Make sure to visit the Springfield section for a Duff beer, Krusty Burger, and other Simpsons fun.

Where to stay: Live like a rock star at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, just a short stroll from the park. In addition to the hotel’s amusement park benefits, there’s an underwater sound system at the pool along with musical amenities that you can take advantage of during your stay, from celebrity-curated playlists to a menu of 20 different Fender guitars that can be delivered to your room.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort

new york city lego scupltures
Rob Hainer/Shutterstock

Best for: The under-12 set and their parents

If you’re not sure your family’s ready for a theme park with the scale of Walt Disney World, this is the place for you, especially if you have LEGO enthusiasts in your household. Located in Winter Haven (less than an hour from the Orlando area), LEGOLAND Florida offers a manageable size and plenty of fun for young kids (but older kids might not be as enthralled).

Kids can drive their own LEGO car and boat, brave dragon- and dinosaur-themed rollercoasters, and put their ninja moves to the test on an interactive Ninjago ride. Brick-building zones help keep the kiddos occupied while waiting in line. Don’t miss Miniland USA, which features highly detailed LEGO re-creations of New York City, San Francisco, and other famous locales.

Where to stay: Within walking distance of the park, the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel was designed for brick heads. There’s a Lego pit in the lobby, LEGOS floating in the pool, and more than 2,000 LEGO models made with more than two million bricks throughout the hotel. Guestrooms offer cool kid-friendly themes that even makes going to bed fun.

SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica

roller coaster turning over rocks
Erin Cadigan/Shutterstock

Best for: Kids who love sea creatures

SeaWorld has weathered its fair share of controversy in recent years, which has kept some visitors away. But if you do head to the Orlando park, you’ll find shows that aim to educate guests about dolphins, orcas, and other aquatic life. In addition to its signature animal attractions, the park also offers up plenty of thrill rides, from the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster in Orlando to a new river raft ride with the world’s tallest drop.

A new Sesame Street area opens in 2019 with SeaWorld Orlando’s first-ever parade and re-creations of Mr. Hooper’s store and other landmarks from the TV show. SeaWorld’s Aquatica waterpark features rides with plenty of dips and drops plus the Dolphin Plunge, which takes riders through clear tubes that travel underwater in the park’s Commerson’s dolphin habitat.

Where to stay: Check into Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld for some R&R after a long day at the park. With spacious guest rooms touted as the largest in Orlando, several on-site restaurants, and a waterpark with slides and splash zones, there’s plenty to keep guests of all ages busy here.

Disney’s Epcot

people walking past ornate chinese-style gate
aphotostory/Shutterstock

Best for: Galivanting gourmands and cocktail connoisseurs

Yes, Epcot’s idea of the future isn’t actually so futuristic anymore. And strolling the park’s World Showcase is a pale comparison to actually wandering the streets of Paris or Venice. But if you love good food and drink, and enjoy sipping and sampling in the Florida sun, bring your appetite and walking shoes for a day filled with interesting eats.

Indulge in jalapeño margaritas, chocolate crepes, crispy fish and chips, shawarma chicken, and other international delicacies served at carts, counter-service spots, and sit-down restaurants throughout the park. You can take in performances by Chinese acrobats, Mexican mariachi bands, and other global acts while you nosh. And if you have picky eaters in your family, this is a great place to get them to try new things.

Where to stay: You can walk or take a boat to Epcot’s back entrance from Disney’s Beach Club Resort. It’s got a three-acre pool area with one of Disney World’s highest hotel waterslides and a unique sand-bottomed pool. And it’s a short stroll from the hotel to Disney’s fun-filled Boardwalk area, where you can find restaurants, games, and roving entertainment.

Typhoon Lagoon/Blizzard Beach

amusement park ski slope
paulwilkinson/TripAdvisor

Best for: Disney fans who want to make a splash

You can’t go wrong at either of the water parks at Walt Disney World. Think of them like two sides of a coin: Blizzard Beach offers a “snowy” ski resort theme complete with a chairlift that travels to the top of Mount Gushmore. You can brave the 120-foot drop of Summit Plummet or travel down the mountain in a more leisurely but still just-as-wet way. Typhoon Lagoon sets a tropical, stormy scene with a 400-foot water coaster and North America’s largest wave pool that churns out seriously powerful six-foot swells. Both feature play areas for younger kids, lazy rivers, and single- and multi-rider slides.

Where to stay: Stay in the swim at Four Seasons Resort Orlando. The luxury hotel located on Disney property boasts its own five-acre water park with two waterslides, a lazy river, a splash zone, and a family pool that shows “dive in” movies on Saturday nights.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Local Secrets of Surviving Polar Night https://www.smartertravel.com/polar-night/ https://www.smartertravel.com/polar-night/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:40:42 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259610 Polar night—it basically means living in near-constant darkness during the winter. In places like Uummannaq, Greenland, there are just two to three hours of light per day (and it’s more a post-dusk light than full on sunshine). Fairbanks, Alaska has less than four hours of daylight on the shortest day of the year. How do […]

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Polar night—it basically means living in near-constant darkness during the winter. In places like Uummannaq, Greenland, there are just two to three hours of light per day (and it’s more a post-dusk light than full on sunshine). Fairbanks, Alaska has less than four hours of daylight on the shortest day of the year. How do the inhabitants of these frozen places deal with such short, cold days? I asked them.

How Residents Cope

As someone who dreads winter, I was surprised to hear that it’s common for Greenlanders to embrace the dark days of the season. Karl Ole Petersen, of Greenland-based Uummannaq Fjord Tours, makes the long nights sound sweet: “We cope with the dark by being more together with the family and friends and have more activities together like playing Greenlandic games and a lot of music and dance. In short, the dark times bring us closer. It gives us more opportunity to entertain each other (for example telling funny and scary stories)”.

This sounds like a much better way of coping with winter than binge-watching Netflix and eating carbs.

The Effect on Mood

As anyone who’s experienced the winter doldrums can attest to, the lack of sunlight can have a real effect on the psyche. Martin Sørensen, also with Uummannaq Fjord Tours explains, “The dark period affects all our sleeping habits, we sleep more and it affects our mood that is why we need to be closer to each other and support each other, hence families spend more time together … Some people get depression, out of it and this period is very hard for them, but in this modern world they use light therapy lamps. The dark time give also more time to go in yourself, see what is wrong and right. I like the darkness and respect it, for me it means relaxation time and cozy evenings with candles in windows.”

Scientific studies have shown that using light therapy boxes can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and may be worth a try if you’re feeling down due to the dark days. (There are even travel-sized ones available if you’re vacationing somewhere with polar night.)

On the bright side, if you struggle with sleeping due to sunlight in the summer, dark mornings can be like a natural blackout curtain. According to Jerry Evans of Explore Fairbanks, “Sleeping is never a problem in the dark of winter. Although it can be a little more difficult in the morning to get out of your warm bed when it’s still dark and cold. Some people slip in a quick trip to the tropics or turn on full spectrum lights to get a dose of mood elevating sunshine, but in general Fairbanksans are renowned for their friendly can-do demeanor no matter the season.”

What do People Do?

Instead of huddling inside all winter, people who live in polar night places make the most of it. In Greenland, “We go tours and watch the northern light dancing over us. [We go] dogsledding on the roads until the fiord is frozen down,” says Sørensen. Evans agrees: “Visitors often choose Fairbanks for a winter travel vacation in Alaska because of its darkness. That darkness is actually an advantage for another activity: viewing the northern lights. During the shortened daylight hours, there is ample opportunities to get outside for various activities. Once it turns darker, visitors can stay inside to explore the vibrant art, culture and food scene.”

“There is no temperature too cold for Fairbanks residents not to put on their cold weather gear and get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Snowmobiling, aurora chasing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice-fishing, hiking, bonfires, you name it, we do it.”

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel lives in Boston, and hates that it gets dark so early in the winter. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for polar night and other travel photos and around the world. 

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Expert Tips on Staying Warm While Traveling https://www.smartertravel.com/how-to-stay-warm/ https://www.smartertravel.com/how-to-stay-warm/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:30:18 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259586 There’s a famous saying that there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. So if the frigid temperatures make you want to stay in your hotel room and watch Netflix instead of exploring outdoors on your vacation—don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s your clothing. I interviewed experts who face extreme temperatures in their jobs for tips […]

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There’s a famous saying that there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. So if the frigid temperatures make you want to stay in your hotel room and watch Netflix instead of exploring outdoors on your vacation—don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s your clothing. I interviewed experts who face extreme temperatures in their jobs for tips on how to stay warm in the winter.

How to Stay Warm: Meet The Experts

Nicholas Bratton, co-owner of the Greenland-based arctic search and recovery company, Global Exploration and Recovery, knows how to stay warm, and can prove it: “I have over 20 years of experience climbing, working, and traveling in frigid environments – and I still have all my fingers and toes.” There’s no arguing with that.

Greg Thomsen knows a thing or two about winter clothing as well—he’s been in the outdoor industry for over 30 years, and is the Chief Outdoor Officer for adidas Outdoor USA.

How to Stay Warm: What to Wear

Your destination may only feel like it’s The Arctic, but the principles of how to dress are the same whenever you’re in cold weather. Bratton says “breathability in your clothing system is essential for keeping warm because it’s easier for your body to regulate its temperature when heat and moisture can escape efficiently.” He recommends starting with a stretchy, form-fitting, and moisture-wicking base layer. Add a hooded softshell jacket that has a thin fleece lining. On the bottom half, wear another thin and stretchy base layer topped with softshell pants.

Thomsen suggests that you complete the look with a thicker insulated layer that’s easy to take on and off as needed—either a synthetic fiberfill jacket or a down parka. “Layering lightweight, breathable and warm pieces together can help keep you comfortable in changing weather conditions without feeling too warm or cold. A big mistake for outdoor adventures is relying on heavy coats and apparel that is not easily packed away when adjusting to changing temperatures and activity levels. Lightweight packable layers are the way to go.”

How to Stay Warm: Save Your Fingers and Toes

On your hands, wear a thin wool liner underneath insulated gloves or mittens, depending on how cold it is.  Mittens keep your hands warmer but make it harder to do tasks.

According to Thomsen, “choosing the right gloves with the right insulation, as well as a jacket with hand warmer pockets can help keep hands warm. Also remember that you will lose about 20 percent of your body warmth through your head, so wearing a hat will also help keep your fingers warmer.

To keep your feet comfortable, Bratton recommends “high-quality, thick merino wool socks inside insulated boots.  I stopped wearing liner socks because they tended to bunch up and because wool sock technology is now so good that liners are no longer necessary for comfort or for performance.”

Wool Rules; Leave the Cotton at Home

Bratton advises to choose wool for your layers whenever possible. “The refinements in wool fabric technology have made this material a superior choice for cold weather use,” he says.  “It’s more comfortable than synthetics in a wider range of temperatures, it’s more durable, it’s not as stinky after extended use, and environmentally it’s more sustainable. Wool used to have a reputation as being scratchy, but the newer wool base layers, socks, and insulation are amazingly comfortable.  Wool clothes are a little more expensive, but they are a good investment because they last longer than synthetics. You spend extra up front but save more in the long run because you don’t need to replace them as often. I avoid cotton in cold weather.”

Don’t Forget to Hydrate (But Not with Coffee)

It’s easier to remember to drink water when you’re sweating, but it’s still important to hydrate in the cold, as you lose moisture through breathing and the drier air that usually accompanies colder temperatures. Bratton explains, “It’s easier for your body to circulate blood to your extremities when you’re hydrated, so keep drinking water. When it’s cold you may not feel like drinking, so make water more appealing by keeping it warm in an insulated bottle. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine.  Alcohol is a vasodilator (makes your blood vessels expand), which causes your body to lose heat faster.  Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (shrinks your blood vessels), which makes it harder for blood to circulate.  Both of them accelerate dehydration.”

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel lives in Boston, and has finally figured out how to stay warm in the winter. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from Boston and around the world. 

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Travel Gift Cards and Other Last-Minute Gifts for People Who Hate Stuff https://www.smartertravel.com/travel-gift-cards-and-last-minute-gifts-for-travelers/ https://www.smartertravel.com/travel-gift-cards-and-last-minute-gifts-for-travelers/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 21:14:58 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259462 Don’t panic yet; if you have any travel-lovers on your list this year, they most likely don’t want more things cluttering up their jet-setting life. Luckily, travel gift cards and experiences can be purchased last minute and are sure-to-please. Here are 12 travel gift cards to help fund their next vacation, and some other thoughtful […]

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Don’t panic yet; if you have any travel-lovers on your list this year, they most likely don’t want more things cluttering up their jet-setting life. Luckily, travel gift cards and experiences can be purchased last minute and are sure-to-please.

Here are 12 travel gift cards to help fund their next vacation, and some other thoughtful ideas, because no matter how much they hate stuff, who wouldn’t want a four-course meal prepared by a chef on their next vacation?

Airline Gift Cards

If your favorite traveler has a favorite airline, purchase an airline gift card to help them afford his or her next flight. You can purchase gift cards for major airlines like Delta, Southwest, and American Airlines, as well as customer-favorite Hawaiian Airlines. Or purchase a general, airfare gift card through a website like flightcard.com.

You can also gift a “skyhour”, which is a website that lets you book flights by paying per hour, so one skyhour equals one hour of flying time.

Airbnb Gift Card

For a millennial traveler—or anyone who likes alternative accommodations—grab an Airbnb gift card. You can purchase one that gets delivered via email or a physical one (that’s also Amazon Prime-eligible).

Rideshare Gift Card

Rideshares are a convenient and quick way to get around a new city, plus they’re a simple way to save on airport transportation. Any traveler can make use of an Uber or Lyft travel gift card.

Amtrak Gift Card

You can now purchase Amtrak train fare gift cards, making a weekend destination decision that much easier. Gift cards are available on Amtrak’s website in digital or physical form, and are redeemable online, on the app, and at Amtrak ticket offices.

Lounge Buddy Gift Card

Send your loved one off in style with a VIP airport lounge experience. Lounge Buddy is a platform that lets you book airport lounge access at almost any airport. Gift cards are printable or can be emailed to the recipient directly.

Eatwith Gift Card

Give an unforgettable meal for their next trip, with an Eatwith gift card. The platform offers dining experiences you can’t get anywhere else. Once you know your destination, you can search for locally-hosted culinary spectacles, like dining on an old Tube train in London, or watching a flamenco show with tapas in Chicago.

DNA Kit

DNA and genetic testing kits are one of the hottest gifts to give this year. The results could even inspire the recipient to take a trip of a lifetime to discover more about their heritage and ancestors.

Kindle Unlimited Subscription

Travelers have a lot of downtime on the way to a destination, and many like to fill that time with reading. A Kindle Unlimited subscription gets you access to over one million titles and thousands of audio books for just $10 per month. With this gift, unlimited truly means unlimited.

Intrepid Foundation Global Gift

Donating to a charity on behalf of your recipient is truly a selfless gift. This year, Intrepid Travel’s foundation is offering global gift purchases to a handful of its supported projects, like elephant conservation in Sri Lanka and for refugee opportunities in Turkey.

Game of Thrones Tour

With the much-anticipated final season of Game of Thrones airing next year, gift your token GOT-lover an experience they won’t forget. Our sister site Viator offers a variety of tours through filming locations across Europe in countries like Croatia, Ireland, and Spain.

Travelzoo Experiences

Give the gift of a spontaneous travel experience with one of Travelzoo’s travel gift card deals. It could be a ticket to your recipient’s favorite destination, an interesting tour, a hotel deal to a destination they’ve already booked, or even a staycation experience they can take advantage of at home. You can browse by region and available deals and choose items like spa days, brunch buffets, cooking classes, and more.

Xperience Tours

Book a tour for someone special on their next U.S. vacation by giving a travel gift card to Xperience Days. They’ll be able to search choose from exciting activities by city, featuring options from as simple as walking tours to as extreme as skydiving.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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What Not to Do at a Nude Beach https://www.smartertravel.com/what-not-to-do-at-a-nude-beach/ https://www.smartertravel.com/what-not-to-do-at-a-nude-beach/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 18:13:22 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/2015/08/12/what-not-to-do-at-a-nude-beach/ Nude beaches are great if you want a carefree and clothing-optional getaway. But before you hit the beach, make sure you know the rules. Here are seven things you should never do at a nude beach. 

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From Hawaii to Mexico, Greece to Croatia, and even to the coastal shores of New Jersey, nude beaches abound. These hot spots are great if you want a carefree and clothing-optional getaway. But before you hit the beach, know that strict etiquette reigns supreme. In fact, most nudist destinations have more rules than a boarding school. Here’s the skinny on what you need to know (and what you shouldn’t do) at a nude beach.

Don’t Assume a Beach Is Clothing Optional

Nude beach sign for nude bathing allowed

Reading somewhere that a beach is clothing-optional does not mean that the beach is actually clothing-optional. Do your due diligence and ensure that the area you’re in is truly safe for your naked patronage. To get you started, the American Association for Nude Recreation has a short list of nude beaches in the U.S. (there aren’t many), while SmarterTravel has rounded up some of the top nudist destinations around the world.

And if you’re ever unsure as to whether a beach is truly nude? Keep your clothes on. In many places, public nudity is a serious crime that could lead to a fine (or worse).

Don’t Forget to Research Naturist Resorts

nude beach

Naturist resorts cater to a completely clothing-free vacation seeker, so if you want to go all in (or off), research these options rather than a one-time visit to a nude beach. From family-friendly campgrounds in the Poconos to luxe all-inclusives in the Caribbean, there’s likely a nudist-resort option that suits your style and budget.

Rules at each resort differ, and many are adults-only. As with any hotel stay, read the resort’s policies closely before you book.

Don’t Stare

nude beach

Once at the beach, don’t stare, gawk, point, or giggle. Obviously you will be required to look at your fellow sunbathers at some point, whether greeting them or fetching their Frisbee from your beach towel. But play it cool: Most nude-beach experts say it’s easy, and that at a certain point you simply stop noticing all the skin.

If you can’t handle the realities of polite, naked society? That’s okay, but stick to the clothing-required beaches for the sake of everyone’s comfort.

Don’t Expect Too Much

nude beach

Contrary to popular belief, most nude beaches are not sexy places ripped straight out of the pages of a Playboy Mansion memoir. Patrons come in all sizes, shapes, and states of physical fitness, and are far more likely to veer into Dad bod territory than Channing Tatum in the buff. So don’t expect models and be disappointed when you see, well, normal humans in all their hirsute glory.

Don’t Take Pictures

nude beach

A good rule of thumb: Never, ever, ever take anyone’s photo without their permission. This goes for all tourist destinations—from nude beaches to theme parks to UNESCO World Heritage sites—but it’s especially true when the subject of your photo is naked. Always ask explicitly if you may take a photo and make sure photography is even allowed at the beach. (Many naturist resorts prohibit it.)

Furthermore, even if you’re okay with someone snapping a pic of you, you have little control over where that photo ends up—from travel review sites to social media to less pleasant parts of the Internet.

Don’t Go Naked in Certain Public Areas

dining table with ocean views

Due to local regulations, many areas at nudist resorts or beaches may, in fact, require clothing: parking lots, cafes, shops, and so on. Consult any posted signs regarding clothing-required venues and follow them to the T. Pack a beach tote with readily accessible garments in case you need to suit up to use the facilities. Most nudist resorts require you use a towel to sit on public chairs as well.

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

person squeezing sunscreen at the beach

While this doesn’t fall squarely in the etiquette column, it’s still a critical piece of information: Yes, those sensitive areas that are normally protected by swim trunks and bikinis will need a slather of sunscreen. Look for a sunscreen that’s gentle on sensitive skin. Test it a few weeks before you hit the beach to ensure that you don’t end up with an unsightly rash somewhere you definitely don’t want one.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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