SmarterTravel https://www.smartertravel.com The Best Trips Start Here Tue, 18 Dec 2018 23:22:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 The Best U.S. Airlines for In-Flight Entertainment https://www.smartertravel.com/the-best-u-s-airlines-for-in-flight-entertainment/ https://www.smartertravel.com/the-best-u-s-airlines-for-in-flight-entertainment/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 20:09:11 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=260194 Travelers on Alaska Airlines enjoy the best in-flight experience among the large U.S. carriers, according to a new report from CableTV.com, a website sponsored by various U.S. cable and satellite providers. Southwest comes in second, Delta third, and American, JetBlue, Hawaiian, and United are tied for fourth. Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit show the lowest scores—they […]

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Travelers on Alaska Airlines enjoy the best in-flight experience among the large U.S. carriers, according to a new report from CableTV.com, a website sponsored by various U.S. cable and satellite providers. Southwest comes in second, Delta third, and American, JetBlue, Hawaiian, and United are tied for fourth. Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit show the lowest scores—they don’t offer in-flight entertainment at all.

CableTV.com summarizes its methodology: “We looked at the options offered by 10 major U.S. airline companies: seatback consoles, personal device access, variety and pricing of movies, TV programming, music, games, and other entertainment. Ratings are also modified by a scoring of how many of each line’s operating fleets provide each feature: all planes, some planes, or no planes. Then we weighed each one’s extra cost (if any) and engagement value, while factoring Wi-Fi availability (which, believe it or not, still isn’t always found on aircraft in 2018).”

In-flight entertainment is a big deal for many travelers when choosing an airline, especially given that the “hard product” of tight seating is so bad on just about every carrier these days. That’s why it’s significant that some airlines, including American, are forgoing seatback screens on some new planes and instead offering a free wireless network. The rationale is that almost every traveler these days carries a smartphone, tablet, or laptop that he or she can use to display video and audio entertainment. That may be true, but I know I’d rather watch an in-flight movie on a 10-inch seatback screen than on my iPhone.

These rankings may be useful to you in choosing among two or more essentially equal schedule/price combinations. Depending on your priorities, you can also find information about individual airplanes on SmarterTravel’s sister site SeatGuru.com, which also includes the many foreign lines that CableTV.com did not rate.

How much does in-flight entertainment matter to you when flying?

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10 Magical Ways to Experience Winter in and around London https://www.smartertravel.com/best-things-to-do-in-winter-in-london/ https://www.smartertravel.com/best-things-to-do-in-winter-in-london/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 18:17:24 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259130 There’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays in Europe. Mulled wine, seasonal markets, dried fruit, roasted chestnuts, and peppier spirits fill not just major tourist areas, but entire towns and cities, too. I had the pleasure of spending some time in England this holiday season, and nothing compares to those festive vibes. (Sorry, N.Y.C.) Winter […]

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There’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays in Europe. Mulled wine, seasonal markets, dried fruit, roasted chestnuts, and peppier spirits fill not just major tourist areas, but entire towns and cities, too. I had the pleasure of spending some time in England this holiday season, and nothing compares to those festive vibes. (Sorry, N.Y.C.)

Winter Activities in the London Area

If that’s not enough to convince you to cross the pond during the holiday season, here are 10 of the best winter activities to try in and around London when you visit during the winter.

(Window) Shop on London’s Famous Streets and Department Stores

busy street in london with holiday lights
Ashley Rossi

There’s just something about the holiday spirit in London that makes it one of the best places in the world to visit in winter. Every street, shop, restaurant, and bar has some sort of interior and exterior decorations to get you in the spirit—so much so that you can’t help but smile. Famous department stores to window shop include Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Selfridges, and Liberty. You could spend hours gazing at designer shops on Bond Street, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Covent Garden, and Carnaby Street, too.

Where to Stay: The Browns Hotel, located near Bond Street, offers a luxury holiday experience. It’s the oldest hotel in London and also reportedly the first hotel to offer high tea. Even if you can’t afford an overnight stay, it’s worth checking out the Donovan Bar and tea room.

Be a Kid Again at Winter Wonderland Hyde Park

large christmas market and amusement park in london
Michalakis Ppalis / Shutterstock.com

Brits travel from all over the country for Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, and it truly is a wonderland. The massive space hosts market stalls, hundreds of carnival rides and booths, countless food options, an ice skating rink, indoor performance theater, a Bavarian beer hall—shipped in from Munich—and more. It’s family fun at its finest. If you’re looking to beat the crowds, visit during a weekday. Otherwise, embrace everyone else that’s in a festive spirit.

Where to Stay: The Kimpton Fitzroy, located in Russell Square, is the first Kimpton property in the U.K. Expect Kimpton-favorites like a hosted happy hour, fine attention to detail, pet-friendly rooms, and fun spaces that locals also like to hang out at.

Explore Other Christmas Markets in London

christmas market display in modern part of london
Giancarlo Liguori / Shutterstock.com

While nothing quite compares to Winter Wonderland, London has plenty more Christmas markets to go around. My favorite, on a recent visit, was the market at Southbank Centre, which had a pop-up riverfront igloo restaurant as well as a cider house. Locals also love Winterville in Clapham and Pexmas in Peckham.

Ice Skate at the Somerset House and the National History Museum

ice skating rink with christmas tree outdoors in london
Bikeworldtravel/Shutterstock

Nothing screams “outdoor winter activity” more than ice skating. Test your skills at one of the city’s two rinks, one at the Somerset House and the other at the National History Museum. Both offer late-night skates as well as food and drink options on site.

Pro Tip: This year, the Somerset House Ice rink is sponsored by Fortnum & Mason, so if you’re looking for a less crowded shopping experience, you can hit the pop-up after you skate.

Walk Around Christmas at Kew Gardens

botanical gardens lit up at night kew in london
Alena.Kravchenko / Shutterstock.com

The magical light installation known as Christmas at Kew is a must-do winter activity in London, where you get to see the Royal Garden’s greenhouses and trimmed gardens animated in the night. This winter event typically sells out well in advance; tickets go on sale in June.

Go to ‘Hogwarts in the Snow,’ the Harry Potter Studio Tour

harry potter studio tour decorated with snow
Ashley Rossi

Every winter Hogwarts gets a makeover at the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour. The studio spares no expense in getting Hogwarts into the Christmas spirit, and a visit here is sure to please even the most skeptical of Muggles.

Do as the Romans Do in Bath

aerial view of christmas market in england
A G Baxter / Shutterstock.com

Just under two hours from London by train, the city of Bath is mainly known for day trips from London, but there’s plenty to do, see, shop, and explore there, especially during the holiday season. Soak in the same thermal waters the Romans did at the affordable Thermae Spa, shop the extended Christmas market stalls (all with local merchants), and visit any of the 15-plus museums if the weather gets too wet or wintry.

Where to Stay: No. 15 Great Pulteney is a boutique hotel within walking distance to the main shops, restaurants, and bars. It has a tea room and bar as well as a subterranean spa, so it’s the perfect place for a weekend outside the city in the winter.

Visit Winston Churchill’s Birthplace, Blenheim Palace

decorated living room for christmas
Ashley Rossi

Sir Winton Churchill’s birthplace gets festive in winter with decorations, a light trail, and Christmas market stalls (new this year). A visit here is one of the most popular winter activities in the London area, with tickets selling out on the weekends. This year’s theme is Cinderella, with each palace room decorated for a character from the fairy tale. The illuminated light trail is fun for all ages and includes displays, entertainment, and music throughout the palace gardens.

Where to Stay: Blenheim Palace is located just outside Oxford, and the Eynsham Hall country house is the quintessential place to stay, especially in winter. The onsite restaurant, library, and lounge are great places to hang out when the weather isn’t cooperating and the spacious rooms are cozy and chic.

Get Cozy in the Cotswolds

old english stone store front decorated for christmas
Ashley Rossi

Known as a countryside escape for locals, the towns and villages of the Cotswolds go above and beyond for the holidays. The capital, Cirencester, hosts a Christmas tree lighting and firework show at the beginning of December and has markets set up throughout the month. Or, head to Bourton-on-the-Water and wander through its famous canals while you shop for British novelties.

Where to Stay: The Old Bell Inn is the oldest inn in England, located in sleepy Malmesbury. Stay here for a secluded getaway filled with romantic fireplace dinners and baths in claw-footed tubs. Or if you’re looking for something with a little more going on, stay where the locals like to hang out at King’s Head in Cirencester, located right in the main town square

Cook British Holiday Favorites

traditional english holiday baked goods
Ashley Rossi

Indulge in a cooking class at Foodworks Cookery School, located in the Cotswolds, and learn how to make British holiday food staples like mince pie, mini tarts, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake—yes, they’re different—and more.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi visited England as a guest of Visit Great Britain. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off-the-beaten-path spots.

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EBags Fortis Pro Carry-On: Affordable Style and Functionality https://www.smartertravel.com/ebags-fortis-pro-carry-on-affordable-style-and-functionality/ https://www.smartertravel.com/ebags-fortis-pro-carry-on-affordable-style-and-functionality/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 17:13:11 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=260058 eBags Fortis Pro Carry-On Price and Where to Buy: The Ebags Fortis Pro is $199 on Ebags.com. How the EBags Fortis Pro Carry-On Rates: Usefulness: 9/10. The eBags Fortis Pro carry-on offers budget-conscious travelers flexible utility and plenty of extras. With zip-out accordion section for expansion space, built-in TSA lock, and external USB port, the […]

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eBags Fortis Pro Carry-On Price and Where to Buy: The Ebags Fortis Pro is $199 on Ebags.com.

How the EBags Fortis Pro Carry-On Rates:

  • Usefulness: 9/10. The eBags Fortis Pro carry-on offers budget-conscious travelers flexible utility and plenty of extras. With zip-out accordion section for expansion space, built-in TSA lock, and external USB port, the carry-on matches or exceeds features on many more expensive bags. Internally, the Fortis Pro has a clamshell design with an extra feature—one side is zippered, and the other has a divided interior and compression straps to hold items. But the compression straps are actually two zippered compartments, which both hold items in place and offer extra storage. The carry-on also comes with its own separate laundry bag.
  • Value: 10/10. Ebags has tapped into a niche in the market by offering a sleek hardsided suitcase with plenty of bells and whistles for well below competitive brands. It was the least expensive of our best new carry-on bags for 2018, but held its own easily.
  • Durability: 9/10. Hardsided suitcases are known for being durable, but they also tend to show scuffs and marks. The Fortis Pro Traveler spinner offers that hardsided strength and disguises potential scuffmarks with an external ribbed pattern.
  • Cool Factor: 8/10. Hardsided suitcases are on trend right now, and the sleek look of the carry-on (plus five color choices) offers style-conscious travelers an affordable option.

Final Verdict: Sleek looking and smooth rolling, the affordable eBags Fortis Pro carry-on delivers on functionality and style.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us to test 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. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

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Allbirds Tree Topper Review: High Top Sneakers for Sustainable Comfort https://www.smartertravel.com/allbirds-tree-topper-review-high-top-sneakers-for-sustainable-comfort/ https://www.smartertravel.com/allbirds-tree-topper-review-high-top-sneakers-for-sustainable-comfort/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 16:17:42 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=259806 Although Allbirds are famous for their comfort, the introduction of a high-top style changes the game by offering travelers that extra piece of ankle support, which is great for preventing ankle sprains and other injuries.

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When it comes to walking shoes for travel, I’ve been skeptical about the fashion-forward, but flat-soled sneaker. After spending a week walking Spanish cobblestones in a pair of well-worn chucks, I flew home with aching feet and swore never to rely on fashion sneakers to do the job of a real sneaker. However, after testing out the new Allbirds Tree Topper sneakers, I may be a convert.

I walked around in a pair of the new high-top sneakers from Allbirds and found the comfort-level to be surprisingly long-lasting. The insoles are made of the brand’s original sugarcane foam, which isn’t just soft, but also springy. As I walked around, my feet felt very supported and like there was a good deal of material separating my soles from the pavement (without the shoes feeling heavy). Also, because they’re made of merino wool, the shoes are warm enough for walking around on cold days, but breathable enough to wear in a stuffy indoor environment.

Allbirds Tree Topper Review

maroon pair of allbirds high top sneaker as seen from the side
Allbirds

Although Allbirds are famous for their comfort, the introduction of a high-top style changes the game by offering travelers that extra piece of ankle support, which is necessary for preventing ankle sprains and other injuries.

Price and where to buy it: $115 on the Allbirds website.

How the AllBirds Tree Topper Rates:

  • Usefulness: 8/10 A good pair of walking shoes is a must-have, no matter where you go. Although I’m usually skeptical about flat-soled sneakers, these shoes are more comfortable than I expected and provide a stylish alternative to athletic sneakers, that can last all day.
  • Value: 6/10 The pair of shoes is pricier than your average sneaker, but for one that can double as your walking tour shoes and your casual fashion-sneaker, you can justify the price.
  • Durability: 8/10 What I love most about the Allbirds Tree Topper design is the monotone color and fabric. Resistant to scuffs and made of soft material, these shoes will last.
  • Portability: 7/10 The high-top shape makes these shoes a little bit bulkier to pack away, but the breathable fabric makes them a great choice to wear during your flight.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10 Allbirds is a trendy sneaker brand these days and the new high-top models are a new take on the brand’s classic design.

Final Verdict: For a casually-dressed comfort-seeking traveler, these shoes are in it for long-haul comfort. Available in stylish monotone designs and muted colors, they’re easy to coordinate with most outfits and would be an essential item in any savvy travelers’ arsenal.

More from SmarterTravel

Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Instagram @jamieditaranto.com.

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” 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. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

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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.”

More from SmarterTravel:

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.

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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.

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