Commemorate D-Day’s 75th Anniversary on Normandy Beaches in 2019

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It’s never too early to start thinking about your next trip! What about taking a hike come Summer 2019?

Commemorate D-Day’s 75th Anniversary in Normandy with a walk worth remembering. June 6, 2019 marks 75 years of the landing and Battle of Normandy. 

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7-Day Tour of Normandy

Manoir d’Apreval Cider & Liqueur Estate | Cliffs of Étretat | Arromanches | Omaha Beach | American Military Cemetery | Barneville-Carteret port town | Mont St. Michel | Pointe du Grouin

Call your Willamette Intl Travel agent to book this tour: 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com

Stretch your legs along Easy to Moderate Terrain with a historic and scenic tour of Normandy! Hike along the enchanting northern coast of France, with white coastal cliffs, cathedrals, tidal flats and apple orchards.

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Trace the remarkable history of D-Day along the shores of Normandy during a walk from Omaha Beach to the hulking ruins of German bunkers, as your guide recounts how events unfolded that fateful morning. Each day, walk 2.5 to 6 miles across gorgeous, unspoiled coastline and villages.

The pristine Cotentin Peninsula is reminiscent of Ireland with its granite coastline, soaring seabirds, and views of the Isle of Alderney, the closest British island to the French coast.

And of course, the local cuisine is exquisite: a medley of Norman cheeses, Calvados liqueur, fresh mussels, sweet and savory crêpes, and delicious tarte tatin. It’s a feast that pairs perfectly with a panorama that is sure to inspire you for years to come.

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Tour Highlights:
  • Walk the wet sands leading out to the tidal island of Mont St. Michel and its iconic pyramid-shaped monastery, enjoying views of protected nesting grounds for seabirds along the way.
  • Stay in the historic departure ports of French explorers Samuel de Champlain and Jacques Cartier.
  • Enjoy coastal walks every day from scenery beloved by French Impressionists, to D-Day Beaches, to the rugged Breton coast.

7-Day tour starts from $4,898, includes:

  • All meals except one lunch and two dinners
  • Local wine and/or beer with dinner
  • Exceptional boutique accommodations
  • Local Guide(s) with you 24/7

 

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Travel News: Passengers welcome a more Digital World

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Vintage Plane To Become Cocktail Lounge At JFK Airport 

News Now reports a restored plane from the 1950s is hitting the road, instead of the skies. It’s traveling from Maine to JFK Airport in New York, where it will be re-purposed as a cocktail lounge. The “Lockheed Constellation” airplane is one of four that exist in the world. It will stay at the TWA Hotel at JFK, sitting just feet from the airport terminals. The plane will be able to seat over 100 people and will be themed to the 1960s. Those involved with driving this massive plane down I-95 south say it will not be an easy feat. “Our convoy is over a mile long,” TWA Hotel CEO Tyler Morse said. “We had the state police, oversized load, and then our lodge here is 150 feet long. This is quite a movement all the way down the northeast corridor.” The Constellation airplane, which doesn’t fly anymore, leaves from the Auburn-Lewsiton airport. It will take several days because it’ll be traveling at about 15 miles per hour. The hotel is set to open in 2019.

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Passengers Want A More Safe, Digital Experience During Travel 

Travelwirenews reports passengers are looking to new technology to give them more control, information and improve efficiency when they travel, a new survey revealed. Based on 10,408 responses from 145 countries, the 2018 Global Passenger Survey by International Air Transport Association (Iata) provides insight into what passengers would like from their air travel experience. Receiving information on flight status (82%), baggage (49%) and waiting time at security/immigration (46%) were identified as passengers’ top three priorities after booking a flight. 

  • Real-time journey information delivered to their personal devices,
  • Biometric identification to facilitate their travel processes,
  • Automation of more airport processes,
  • Wait times of less than 10 minutes at security/immigration,
  • Bags tracked throughout their journey,
  • A human touch when things go wrong.
  • Passengers want to be kept informed throughout their journey preferably via their personal device.

What are your priorities when you travel? Tell us in the comments!

Toxic Algae Is Killing Florida’s Sea Life

CNN reports toxic algae is killing Florida’s sea life. The red tide bloom that’s been in the waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast for months is now choking the state’s Atlantic waters from Miami Beach to Palm Beach. Some of Florida’s pristine, white sand beaches have been shuttered because of red tides, which are caused by algae found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. The natural phenomenon is deadly to marine life and can irritate people’s skin and lead to respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma. “It’s like being hit with a tear gas,” said Larry Brand, a University of Miami professor of marine biology and ecology. Should the red tide bloom settle in, mass fish kills will happen, killing the Claus family’s charter reservations, along with the game fish they’re after. Also in jeopardy are the upcoming fishing and shellfish seasons, including stone crab, ballyhoo and sailfish. And, of course, swimming remains in flux at some of Florida’s most iconic and popular beaches. In Miami-Dade County, public beaches that had been closed because of red tide were open this past weekend. They had been closed “in an abundance of caution.” 

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The World’s Longest Flight Will Have No Economy Seats

Bloomberg reports long-haul flights half way across the globe are making a comeback even with oil prices close to their highest in four years. About six months after Qantas started a direct service from Perth to London, Singapore Airlines is bringing back its 10,400-mile jump to New York on October 11, pipping Qatar Airways’ Doha-Auckland route to reclaim the title of the world’s longest commercial flight. Advances in technology and the advent of aircraft that guzzle less and carry more fuel are helping make the Singapore route viable again, five years after $US100-a-barrel oil contributed to the demise of the flight, which will take as long as 18 hours and 45 minutes. Here’s what to expect on the flight from Changi Airport to Newark Liberty International:

  • The Airbus jet that will ply the route carries a maximum of 161 passengers, compared with 253 on the airline’s existing A350-900s
  • 67 flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration for business class
  • 94 premium economy places in a mostly 2-4-2 arrangement at the rear.
  • While the premium-economy seats offer an eight-inch recline, the pitch, the distance between yours and the one in front, is a standard 38 inches, 4 inches less than on some of Japan Airlines’ long-haul flights.
  • The four Singapore Airlines pilots (two captains and two first officers) on each ultralong-range A350-900 aren’t allowed to fly to New York unless they haven’t flown for 48 hours prior to take-off.

Dubrovnik Puts Cap on Daily Cruise Ship Arrivals
Maritime-Executive.com reports The city of Dubrovnik, Croatia has announced new measures intended to manage its success as a cruise destination. The ancient city’s ever-growing numbers of visitors have brought prosperity, but also congestion and displacement. In response, mayor Mato Frankovic announced this week that the city’s administration will cap the number of cruise ships that can dock at its piers. Beginning early next year, only two ships and 5,000 total visitors will be allowed into Dubrovnik per day. “Sometimes there will be only one [ship], sometimes two will arrive simultaneously, sometimes one in the morning and one in the afternoon, but we will have a maximum of two a day,” Frankovic told Dubrovnik Times. In addition, Dubrovnik has worked with the Cruise Lines International Association to optimize scheduling and make foot traffic move more efficiently through its historic central district.

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Istanbul’s Massive New Airport Is Opening This Month
Once completed, it is also expected to become the world’s busiest airport with up to 200 million passengers passing through per year. On October 29, Turkey’s Republic Day, the first phase of Istanbul’s new airport will open 22 miles north of the city center. While the project will be completed in four phases, the first phase will open with three runways and a terminal that can accommodate up to 90 million passengers annually, according to iGA, the company that is responsible for operating the airport for the next 25 years. Once completed, the 29.5 square-mile Istanbul New Airport will be larger than the island of Manhattan. With six runways, it will be able to accommodate up to 200 million travelers per year, making it the busiest airport in the world. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport currently holds that title with 104 million passengers passing through its terminals in 2017.

The Island Of Santorini Has Officially Banned Tourists Who Weigh Over 220 Pounds From Riding Local Donkeys.
One island in Greece is putting a limit on how much weight their donkeys can carry. Tourists wishing to take a ride on Santorini’s famed donkeys must now weigh less than 220 pounds, or one-fifth of the donkey’s body weight, according to CNN and HuffPost. Tourists often take donkey rides along the steep and narrow terrain of the popular island of Santorini, which has prompted activists to raise concern over the animals’ well-being. The animals “should not be loaded with a weight excessive in size, age or physical condition,” the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food said in a new set of regulations. The new regulations also ban injured animals from working and calls for adequate food and fresh drinking water.

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WIT Agent Report: Danube with Viking Cruises

WIT Agent Debbie recently sailed with Viking on a cruise on the beautiful Danube River. The Danube Waltz cruise embarked from Budapest and sailed to Passau. Here is her report: 

Viking Cruise, Danube Waltz, Budapest to Passau

At the start our European adventure, we stayed at the Radisson near the Portland PDX airport, taking advantage of their park-and-fly rate. It was so lovely to wake up leisurely, have a calm breakfast and got to the airport in time for our flight on Delta. 

We took the Amsterdam connection (Portland – Amsterdam – Budapest) and since I don’t walk too well, I had a wheelchair meet us to get between gates.  They were wonderfully friendly and it worked really well. The flights, although long, were comfortable enough in the regular coach section of the plane.  We were offered food and drink often and the entertainment was free and plentiful.

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We had a chance to stay in Budapest for 2 nights prior to the cruise in the Corinthia Hotel Budapest.  It’s the same hotel that Viking uses, and is a grand, historic hotel with some pleasant renovations.  The pool and spa in the bottom of the hotel were wonderful, it was so refreshing to have a swim after those long flights.  We walked around a bit in Budapest, but mostly relaxed and recovered from jet lag.

Nancy from WIT called us at our hotel the day before the cruise to tell us that the Danube was too low to allow ships to cruise into Budapest.  The Viking Vilhjalm was instead docked in Komárno, Slovakia, about 60 miles west of Budapest. Thankfully, Viking had buses all ready to take us to our ship, where we spent the night.  The next morning, the buses were back to take us on our tour of Budapest.  There were many people exploring the city, and our Viking tour was a great overview of the main sights. As it was the middle of a summer heat wave in Europe, it was a relief to see the town then stop for lunch on another Viking ship that was docked in Budapest.  After lunch, the passengers had the choice of seeing more of town or going back to our ship that was docked in Komarno.

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Bratislava

In the wee hours of the morning, our ship sailed for Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital.  Breakfast was heavenly on the river, gliding past the beautiful scenery. We explored Bratislava at length with the Viking tour, enjoying amazing views from the Castle on top of the hill.  Our ship was docked near Old Town, so we could walk in and see some great and unique shops.  We found a candy store that specialized in handmade lollypops.  We left mid-afternoon and sailed one of the most beautiful parts of the Danube on our way to Vienna.

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Our ship docked a little on the outskirts of Vienna, but public transportation made it easy to reach the center of town.  The Viking tour gave us an overview of Vienna, with time to see St. Stephens Cathedral and walk around the area. We stopped for coffee and a sweet treat at a Viennese coffee house–definitely a highlight!  That evening, there were a few optional tours, the most popular which was a concert. We did not attend as we were tired, but everyone that did had great things to say about it.

From there, we continued along the Wachau Valley.  Even though it had been a hot summer, the scenery was absolutely lovely.  They took us up the hill to the Gottweig Abbey, a working Benedictine Monastery.  The locals take a very different view on planned forests than we do, planting many different kinds of trees together.  It makes for a healthier and very beautiful forest.

My favorite excursion was from Linz.  It was an all-day trip to the Bohemian town of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic.  Our guide told us stories of what it was like growing up in the communist era.  The shortages of goods and the bureaucracy opened my eyes. Český Krumlov is a very old town with many historic buildings, and the castle on top of the hill was so stunning.  We wandered, shopped and enjoyed a great lunch, what more could you ask? 

In Passau, the tour took us to another St. Stephens Cathedral, this one was famous for their pipe organ.  It was interesting to hear and the Cathedral was lovely, though I think I had seen enough churches at this point. 😉

Viking does an amazing job at organizations.  The ship’s food was delicious, and they make it easy to get to know other travelers.  I enjoyed most of the enrichment programs.  The evening entertainment was predominately classical music.  At the end of the evening, I saw more than one nodding head.  Our stateroom was smallish, it did encourage me to get out of the room and see the sights from the lounge.

“I felt very spoiled by all of them”

I think what I took away from my cruise experience was how hard every one of the staff worked.  All of the staff were approachable and never too busy to answer questions.  The tour director was always available, and the Maître d was always assisting in the dining room.  I felt very spoiled by all of them.

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We took a taxi from the ship to the rail station in Passau.  From there, it was a 3 1/2  hour train to Munich. I love the trains in Europe, so efficient and clean.  I chose the Courtyard by Marriott near the rail station in Munich, so when we arrived, we simply walked 3 blocks to our accommodation.  It was a nice hotel in a diverse neighborhood.  But we quickly learned that if you don’t want housekeeping to come in right away, you need to put the “do not disturb” sign on your door! 🙂 Efficiency, indeed! 🙂

I enjoyed the hop-on, hop-off tour of Munich.  It took us all over Munich and out to the Olympic park and the BMW museum, an amazing place! We stopped and had lunch in the city center Viktualienmarkt, or what I call the “Eating Street.” This is Munich’s Farmers’ Market, fantastic for outdoor eating and people-watching. It made for a great introduction to Munich.

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Viktualienmarkt

Because our flight home was so early, we spent our last night at the Hilton Munich airport.  I was expecting an airport business-type hotel.  It was that, but so much more.  The Munich airport has a bier garden and even an outdoor area, where they had set up a bicycle moto-cross area for the kids to get some exercise.  What fun to watch!  It made for a pleasant last night in Munich.  The next morning at 4:00am, we were out and on our way home via Amsterdam to Portland.

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Sailing the Andaman Islands in 2020

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Are you one of those lucky travelers who have “been everywhere, seen everything?” Are you tired of autumn leaves in Paris and cherry blossoms in Tokyo? Are you looking for something new and exciting?

Why not venture to the Andaman Islands?

If you’re saying to yourself, “The what now?” – you’ve come to the right place.

The Andaman Sea, lying beyond the sands of Phuket, is a long stretch of ocean. Spanning 500 miles from SE Asia to the Nicobar chain, the ocean is home to a rich variety of marine life and biodiversity. For the first time ever, tour operator Pandaw is offering TWO 10-night expeditions across the sea. The ships will explore both Mergui and Andaman archipelagos.

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Longtime Travel Enthusiasts: Bring back the spirit of wonder and adventure to your travel. 

There will also be a small number of 7-night expeditions exploring the Andaman archipelago from/to mainland India.

Your ship will be the Andaman Explorer, an ex-Norwegian coast guard vessel built in 1963 and refitted to luxury.

Call us now to reserve your spot in 2020 – because Space is quite limited!

Call WIT travel agents at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com

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Travel News: Delta Airlines to Improve Pet Travel

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Princess Cruises Reveals First Fully-Enabled Ocean Medallion Ship

Travelmole reports Caribbean Princess is the first ship in Princess Cruises‘ fleet where all guests are now using a wearable device, the Ocean Medallion, which can be worn on the wrist, is the same size as a 10p piece and has no visible controls, such as an on-off switch or charging function. that features: streamlined ship embarkation and disembarkation process, giving quicker and easier entry and exit, keyless cabin access, interactive directions around the ship, friends, family and children locator access for guests to check their itinerary via portals throughout the ship.”

Virgin Atlantic 747 Flies From Orlando To London On Waste-Gas Biofuel

Air Transport World reports Virgin Atlantic to begin low-carbon jet fuel flight trials in 2018. The UK long-haul carrier has flown a Boeing 747 from Orlando, Florida, to London Gatwick on a blend of waste-gas biofuel produced by New Zealand-based LanzaTech, using an alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) process. The flight was performed by aircraft tail number G-VROM, operating as VS16, which arrived into Gatwick at 08:50 local time on Oct. 3. The aircraft was loaded with 5 tonnes of biofuel, as part of the 90 tonnes required for the transatlantic flight. Speaking at a press briefing at Gatwick shortly after landing, Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson said this was the first time a commercial flight has operated using fuel made from recycled-carbon gases. The Oct. 3 flight used a pilot batch of LanzaTech jet fuel, which is produced by capturing and fermenting waste carbon monoxide from industrial steel production. This on-site process creates ethanol, which can then be converted into jet fuel, with half the carbon footprint of fossil-fuel alternatives. 

Why You’ll Need Timed Passes To Get Into The African American History Museum Again

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is again requiring visitors to obtain timed tickets to enter the museum. Tickets are easier to come by now than when the museum first opened in September 2016, as are the limited number of same-day entry passes the museum releases each morning. But it’s still not as easy as showing up and walking in, as you would at the Natural History Museum or the Hirshhorn nearby. The museum has required visitors to get free tickets using an online system since it opened two years ago.  In the months that followed, high demand led to website crashes and months of waiting for many people who wanted to visit. Still, the museum welcomed nearly 2.4 million visitors in 2017, its first full year of operation. It was the fourth-most visited Smithsonian institution of the year after the Air and Space Museum (7 million), the Natural History Museum (6 million) and the American History Museum (3.8 million). 

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Delta Air Lines Partners With Startup To Improve Pet Travel

Associated Press reports Delta is partnering with a pet travel pod startup, as it changes its prices and policy for transporting passengers’ animal companions, the airline announced Tuesday. Delta struck a long-term partnership with CarePod, saying the Singapore-based startup will help it carry and monitor pets better and give real-time updates to customers. The firm offers safety monitoring, tracking and logistics software for transporting pets. Shawn Cole, vice president of Delta Cargo, said the demand for shipping pets is strong and the company is always looking for ways to improve the travel experience for pets and their owners. Jenny Pan, CarePod’s founder and CEO, said the startup’s goal is to transform the future of pet travel, calling the opportunity to work with Delta an “exciting step.” In 2016, Delta stopped accepting pets as checked baggage following criticism for the death of pets in checked carriers. Instead, Delta said some pets could travel as carry-ons in the plane’s cabin and others could be shipped via Delta Cargo, with rates at the time ranging from roughly $195 to $1,485. On Monday, Delta changed its prices for transporting a pet via cargo to vary based on the kennel size instead of weight. 

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World Travel Awards Recognizes Cozumel For Its Beauty And Tourist Attractions 

ETN News reports Cozumel, the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, was recognized in the 25th edition of the World Travel Awards 2018 as the “Best Island Destination in Mexico and Central America 2018”. For 25 years, the World Travel Awards has rewarded the best in the international tourism industry, including destinations, hotels, tour operators, parks, airlines, car rental companies and cruises. The winners are chosen by industry professionals, who evaluate the nominees for their infrastructure, quality of services, innovation in experiences and number of visitors. Cozumel, known as ‘The Island of the Swallows’ for its landscape and wildlife, is an authentic paradise with white-sand beaches and beautiful sunsets. It is world-famous for having the second-largest barrier reef in the world, which is ideal for snorkeling and diving. In addition to hosting important sporting events, Cozumel has been the main cruise port in the world since 2017, offering enriching Mayan culture and exquisite cuisine. Recently, Explora Caribe Tours de Cozumel was also awarded “Principal Tour Operator of Mexico and Central America 2018.” Río Secreto, located in Riviera Maya, won “Best Natural Reserve leader of Mexico and Central America 2018” for the tenth consecutive year. The award ceremony, held on September 15, was hosted by El Palacio de Cristal in Guayaquil, Ecuador. 

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Havana Goes in Deluxe Style with New Fancy Properties

Caribbeannewsdigital reports The Hotel Gran Manzana Kempinski is boasting good occupancy rates as it’s blessed with a privileged location right in the heart of downtown Havana. Ten days ago, the Grand Packard Hotel, run by Iberostar, opened a few blocks from the Gran Manzana Kempinski, equally featuring high-end rooms, facilities and amenities, and also with breathtaking views of Havana’s Morro Castle and a piece of Malecon, the capital’s celebrated seafront promenade.

And last but not least, there’s a third fancy hotel in the pipeline for Havana, this one to be run by Paris-based AccorHotels. The new-build is the SO / Havana Paseo del Prado, slated to open in 2019 to mark the French brand’s debut in the Americas. The SO/ Havana Paseo del Prado will be perched on the corner Paseo del Prado and Malecon, right across from the above mentioned Grand Packard Hotel. With design at the core of the SO/ brand, the Havana hotel will display the creative signature of Spanish fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, from the hotel’s emblem to the staff’s uniforms. The 10-story hotel will offer 250 guest rooms, including 36 suites; five food and beverage outlets, including a specialty restaurant and rooftop bar on the ninth floor; a chocolate café bar; a lobby lounge and bar; as well as an all-day signature dining restaurant. Additional hotel features include three interior meeting rooms, a SO/ SPA with six treatment rooms, a SO/ FIT fitness center and a swimming pool with an adjacent pool bar. 

New Zealand may ask for your phone password

Hawaii News Now reports on a new law in New Zealand. Next time you’re in NZ, be prepared to hand over your phone password or cough up about $3,300. Under a new law, the Customs and Excise Act 2018, Kiwi officials will be able to demand that travelers unlock any electronic device at the border, so it can be searched. Refuse and those same officials could potentially confiscate your phone. The updated law makes it clear that travelers must provide access. That could be in the form of a fingerprint, a PIN code or a password. But officials would need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before making such a request. “It is a file-by-file [search] on your phone. We’re not going into ‘the cloud,’” Customs spokesperson Terry Brown told Radio New Zealand. “We’ll examine your phone while it’s on flight mode.” The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties said that it is “disappointed” with the new law.

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3 Cool Places to Take the Kids Over Winter

As most tried and true families know, winter doesn’t just mean bundling up and curling up by the fire. Sometimes you want to hit the ski slopes! Here are just a few ideas of cool winter fun to take the kids over the holidays.

Family Ski Vacations – Club Med

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Club Med is usually associated with its awesome beach resorts in the Caribbean. But there are several top-of-the-line ski lodges as well. An all-inclusive ski vacation can be just what you need to pack it all in one package: ski lessons, entertainment, guides, meals, childcare—all included in a roasty-toasty chalet in the French Alps. Club Med offers 18 locations in France, Italy and Switzerland for the little ones to try out their ski legs – so you can relax and focus on making memories. There is Val Thorens Sensations, a must for the ski fanatic; Peisey-Vallandry, a charming chalet with classic Savoy architecture. Their newest resort, Les Arcs Panorama, will open December 2018 and will offer cross-country and downhill skiing alike, plus a heated swimming pool and a Children’s Club.

Japan for Kids

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With loads of attractions, quirky shops and street festivals, Japan can be a real treat for kids. Blow their minds with the awesome view from the Skytree, the city’s highest observation deck at 1476 foot. The Akihabara district is a Mecca for anime-fans, while Asakusa Temple will transport you to the old Edo period. Robot-themed restaurants, ninja school, novelty capsule machines — what’s not to love? Brush up on their Hayao Miyazaki film trivia at the Ghibli Museum, or if they get bored, try out fun foods like okonomiyaki (“Japanese pizza”), dessert crepes, tempura and fish-shaped waffles. If all else fails, there’s always Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea.

Thailand with Kids

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With its affordable prices, colorful landscapes and tons of adventures to be had, Thailand is great for families! Show them around temples in Bangkok, gorge on funky fruit you just can’t find at home, or hit the beaches at Phuket. They might not be ready for Thai spice, but start them off slow with something universal like Pad Thai or Pad See Ew or banana pancakes. I bet you anything they’ll get addicted to mango sticky rice! The best part about Thailand is that the dollar goes a long way. For a family of 4 in the touristy areas, you’ll spend around $40 per night—less in the countryside or mountains. In Phuket, Krabi or Koh Phi Phi, kids can try out sea kayaking, snorkeling, elephant trekking. Hint: If you can, try to save Bangkok for last. The hubbub of this wild town can be a bit dramatic for young kids not used to the fast pace. Start off with a few days in Krabi or Phuket, then head up north to Chiang Mai before capping off your trip with Bangkok.

We’ve booked countless families on adventures abroad. What are you waiting for? Just go! 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Travel News: Hong Kong Bullet Train Signals High-Speed Integration With China 

Hong Kong Bullet Train Signals High-Speed Integration With China 
Travelwirenews reports The rail link provides direct access to China’s massive 25,000 km national high-speed rail network. Hong Kong’s controversial bullet train got off to a smooth start on Sunday, as hundreds of passengers whistled north across the border at speeds of up to 200 kph, deepening integration of the former British colony with mainland China. While the $11 billion rail project has raised fears for some over Beijing’s encroachment on the Chinese-ruled city’s cherished freedoms, passengers at the sleek harbor front station were full of praise for a service that reaches mainland China in less than 20 minutes. Mainland Chinese immigration officers are stationed in one part of the modernist station that is subject to Chinese law, an unprecedented move that some critics say further erodes the city’s autonomy. The project is part of a broader effort by Beijing to fuse the city into a vast hinterland of the Pearl River Delta including nine Chinese cities dubbed the Greater Bay Area. Beijing wants the Greater Bay Area, home to some 68 million people with a combined GDP of $1.5 trillion, to foster economic integration and better meld people, goods and sectors across the region. Critics say the railway is a symbol of continuing Chinese assimilation of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees of widespread autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent legal system. Opponents warn giving away control of land in the heart of Hong Kong is a dangerous precedent as Beijing seeks to tighten its grip on the city following mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 and the emergence of an independence movement. There are also questions over how Hong Kong citizens will be required to behave in the zones subject to Chinese law, whether they will be punished for using Facebook and Twitter, banned on the mainland, or targeted for wearing clothing with political slogans. A government information leaflet says the public will still have access to the same content on their phones in the mainland parts of the station, but warns that “passengers’ general conduct” will be subject to mainland law in those spaces. There are concerns too over the sharing of personal information with Chinese authorities, including via a mainland-based wi-fi provider that will operate in the parts of the station under Chinese jurisdiction.
 
Ice Returns To The Northwest Passage
Anchorage Daily News reports ice returned to the Northwest Passage this summer, forcing cruise lines to change course. Some cruise ship passengers who paid tens of thousands of dollars to ply the fabled Northwest Passage this summer got stymied by an old foe: jumbled rafts of ice. Several companies turned back or rerouted Arctic sailings after the open-water conditions of the past several years gave way to relatively heavy ice. The famously impenetrable route recently opened by the warming waters of climate change attracted its first luxury cruise ship in 2016 when a thousand people aboard the Crystal Serenity steamed into Nome. Other, smaller cruise ships followed, a new industry connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by way of the Canadian Arctic. Nome welcomed the influx of well-heeled visitors eager to try dog sledding and gold panning, get a glimpse of the musk oxen that gravitate to town, or buy Alaska Native crafts. But this summer, the French cruise company Ponant turned around a ship coming west through the passage after the captain encountered “jumble ice” and didn’t feel it was safe to continue, according to Nome Mayor Richard Beneville. The company opted not to send a second scheduled ship from Greenland. Passengers who paid at least $31,000 each instead had to settle for an exploration of Baffin Island and other destinations in the eastern Canadian Arctic before returning to Greenland, according to a report in Travel Weekly. Norway-based Hurtigruten also altered a Northwest Passage cruise from Canada, diverting a Sept. 9 departure from Cambridge Bay to a new launch at Pond Inlet, about 650 miles to the east and the Silversea Cruises ship Silver Explorer skipped many calls on a July 25 departure from Nome after weather maps showed most of them iced in. An ice-free trend and several years of low ice attracted cruise companies to the Northwest Passage. But while bookings may start a few years in advance, ice forecasting remains a short-term science,at best. And so far there are no predictions yet for next year.
American Airlines Offers Meditation App ‘Calm’ To Stressed-Out Passengers
American Airlines will start offering Calm, a mindfulness and relaxation app, on all domestic and international flights starting Oct. 8. Calm created three exclusive sessions geared toward the specific stressors that can accompany air travel. Calm competitor Headspace started working with Virgin Atlantic in 2011 and now offers its in-flight mindfulness exercises on 11 eleven airlines, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. The world’s biggest airline will start showing nature videos and offering passengers access to material through the Calm meditation app aboard most flights starting Oct. 8 to help keep travelers relaxed, even as they jostle for overhead bin space and the arm rest. The airline will play nature videos during boarding and offer Calm’s guided meditations and other content on the plane’s seat back screens for passengers during flights. Travelers may also have free access to the material through their personal electronic devices. Calm is an app that includes guided meditations, bedtime stories, relaxing music as well as photos and sounds from nature. The Calm channel will include some of the features that come with its traditional app, including what it calls Sleep Stories, delivered in calm tones and accompanied by waterfall and other soothing sounds. Calm also created three exclusive audio sessions geared toward the specific stresses that often occur during air travel. One includes a breathing exercise. Another, called Relax and Release, encourages people to focus on the sensations in their hands or feet to distract them from their thoughts and relieve anxiety. Another exercise guides passengers through a meditation technique that focuses attention on relaxing specific parts of the body to help relieve stress and tension. American is Calm’s first airline partner. Its competitor, Headspace, started working with Virgin Atlantic in 2011 and now offers its in-flight mindfulness exercises on 11 airlines, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Airlines Try To Whip Up Better Meals For Coach Fliers
Wall St. Journal reports Airlines are trying to persuade economy-class passengers that they can buy meals on the plane as good as they would find in a restaurant. American said Monday it is forming a partnership with Zoës Kitchen, a Mediterranean-inspired fast-casual dining chain, to offer a menu with choices including a pita-and-veggie meal with two types of hummus, a turkey “Gruben” sandwich, and waffles with hazelnut spread and fresh berries for breakfast. Onboard menus are changing as airlines try to keep up with improved dining options at many airport terminals, with more people gravitating to healthier fare. “The fast-food restaurants are going away and more of the healthier concepts are moving into airports,” said Russ Brown, director of in-flight dining and retail at American. “That’s what we’re competing against.” Serving fresh food at 35,000 feet is a logistical challenge. Meals have to be assembled before takeoff and remain tasty hours later. Caterers have to be coordinated around the country, and airlines try to avoid bringing too much food aboard to keep from adding weight and waste. Flavors are less intense at high altitudes. American hopes the popularity of Zoës, the chain has expanded from about 20 locations a decade ago to more than 260 restaurants in 20 states, can help persuade travelers that food is worth buying on the plane or even ordering in advance. The two companies spent more than a year testing recipes, finding the right Manchego cheeses, roasted tomatoes and basil pesto. Together, they whittled 40 possible options down to the five items American will start serving in December. Prices range from $8.79 for a breakfast sandwich to $10.99 each for the Gruben sandwich and a chicken wrap, both served with cookies.
Dramatic Airport Opens On Roof Of The World
CNN reports sometimes an airport is just a strip of asphalt on a flat bit of land outside of town. Other times, as with India’s new Pakyong Airport, it’s a breathtaking piece of engineering on the roof of the world. Set in the Himalayan mountains at a height of 4,593 feet, the facility serving a remote area of Sikkim state offers one of the most dramatic airport approaches on the planet. Its inauguration on Monday also marked a milestone for aviation and travel in India. “After the opening of the airport there are now 100 operational airports in India.” said Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, during a speech at Pakyong’s opening ceremony on Monday. “This airport was built at a cost of $68.7 million and showcases our engineers, workers and their potential, how the mountains were cleared, the ditch was filled, the heavy rains they dealt with. This is truly an amazing feat of engineering.” As part of that work, an 80.38 meter embankment was built to make space for the 1.7-kilometer-long and 30-meter-wide runway, which is enclosed by deep valleys. The airport’s 2,380-square-meter terminal can accommodate up to 100 passengers. But its real asset is the incredible Himalayan scenery, a widescreen landscape captured in a series of stunning images by Indian photographer Rajiv Srivastava, who runs the website Imazin India. Runway developer Punj Lloyd had to build an 80-meter-high reinforcement wall to accomodate the new airport.
Southwest Airlines Adds Free In-Flight Messaging 
USA Today reports Southwest Airlines is making it easier to stay connected with family and friends on the ground. The company is the latest airline to add free in-flight messaging. Until now, customers were charged $2 per flight since 2013. Passengers will now be able to use iMessage and WhatsApp as long as they have the Southwest Airlines app. At the moment, this feature is only available on select flights as it just started rolling out this month. To see if your flight offers free messaging, visit southwest.com.

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