You’re probably familiar with private lounges at airports that require a membership to enter or a premium credit card that has a marketing arrangement allowing entry. A whole new category is springing up: VIP lounges at shopping malls, at least during the holidays.
If you carry a Chase credit card that’s linked with United Airlines—which means you earn United miles when you use it to buy things—you’ll be able to chill out during the holiday season at lounges at the Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey and the Westfield San Francisco Centre.
Both will be open from now until Christmas Eve.
What’s in it for you? Free Wi-fi, gift wrapping, refreshments with café seating, and bag and coat check. Personally, I really like the ability to stash packages while shopping if you’re making a major haul on a particular trip. And complimentary gift wrapping is a nice perk, too.
Oh, you can bring up to three guests in with you and football fans will be happy to know the lounges’ flat-screen TVs will be tuned to pro football games on Sundays. Drop off a new, unwrapped kids’ toy and get a one United Club pass, too
I’ve always been puzzled how a city as large and as cosmopolitan as London could put up with an underground and above-ground rail system called the Tube that closes at midnight or 12:30 every night. Finally, that’s about to change . . . but not enough and not soon enough.
There’s no fixed timetable for the London tube, though from 5:30 in the morning–6:30 on Sundays—trains pretty much run every few minutes until midnight on most lines. But if you’ve gone out at night in London, you know it’s a pretty happening city, and heading to a tube station at 11:30 can be a real buzz kill.
Let me amend that. Climb aboard the Piccadilly line just before midnight, and it’s madness, with partiers cramming in to cars to make that early deadline. After all, taxis are quite expensive, though busses do still run at night.
Here’s the bad news. The newly announced 24-hour service doesn’t start until 2015. And then it will only be offered on Fridays and Saturdays, though there is talk of adding Thursday.
And a footnote: I’m not happy about the London mayor’s plan to close down all staffed ticket offices at tube stations. Bad idea.
There’s travel and then there’s travel that’s life changing. Not just for the traveler, but also for the places they go. The November issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine makes this abundantly clear in George Stone’s collection of folks who approach travel with a purpose and vigor that ought to be inspiration to all of us.
Seth McBride is a paraplegic who fell in love and will marry his occupational therapist, Kelly Schwan. They began a year-long, 10,000-mile bike ride from Portland, OR, to Patagonia, on the tip of South America. They met with disability rights organizations along the way and recorded their adventures in a blog that’s obviously inspirational to other disabled travelers.
Katherine Conner from England turned a vacation to Asia into a career in saving elephants in a sanctuary in northern Thailand. She founded Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary to rescue mistreated or neglected elephants.
While trekking in Nepal in 1981, a hospice caregiver, Joan Halifax, was shocked by the local standards of healthcare. She began an annual visit by volunteer medical professionals called Nomads Clinic that tends to a long menu of medical problems.
Worth keeping in mind when you travel.
But I fear it’s inevitable. Eventually.
A flight attendant’s association recently registered its members’ strong disapproval of phone use aloft, and so have some pilots. Frankly, I’m not sure who wants the rules to be changed. But last week the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, said it would consider changing its rules and allow the use of personal phones on airplanes.
And overseas, Emirates Airlines and others have allowed passengers to make and receive calls on personal phones for months now, which may goad competitors into following suit. In short, a trend is developing.
This will someday mean the end of one of the last places you can drop out of touch and note feel guilty about it. Well, sort of, since emails can still get to you if you fire up your PDA or computer. And the level of chatter will increase on planes.
This won’t happen overnight. The FCC takes up the issue in the middle of this month followed by a period for public comment and drafting of rules.
(14 Dec 13 UPDATE: This week the Federal Aviation Administration said despite FCC approval of the use of phones, it isn’t inclined to permit their usage at this time because of resistance by passengers and airline employees.)
(This commentary was originally broadcast Jan. 28, 2013.)
Every year a web site called The Ethical Traveler takes a look at developing nations and considers their natural beauty, their commitment to human rights and the environment, and how well they integrate tourism into the local culture. Then the site recommends the world’s ten best ethical destinations conscientious travelers might want to visit.
The list is in alphabetical order, so don’t draw any inference from the order in which I list the winners. Island states made a strong showing in this year’s list, beginning with Barbados and followed by Cape Verde and Costa Rica.
One country in Africa made the list—Ghana. Eastern Europe is represented by Latvia and Lithuania. There was one country from South America, and it’s one of my favorite places: Uruguay (pictured).
The other two are far away—Palau in the South Pacific and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
The goal here, of course, is to encourage developing nations to consider their overall policies toward their citizens, ecosystem, and tourism in order to assure sensible growth and development. And I have no doubt there are travelers who would rather visit enlightened countries and vote with their feet and their dollars.