5 Fun Travel Apps for Your Upcoming Trip

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FlightAware

FlightAware is a super useful flight tracker app. Keep track of flights with live tracking maps, flight statuses and airport delays. Covers most airports, general commercial flights and in some cases, private charters.

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TouchNote

TouchNote is a fun app that you can use even when you’re back at home. Send printed postcards with your own travel photos from the convenience of your laptop! The app will send out personalized postcards or greeting cards with a custom message and your latest shots from the Eiffel Tower.

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Skyview

Here’s a unique travel app that comes in handy when you’re out under the stars. Point your phone or tablet at the sky, and it will tell you all the stars and constellations in your view. It’s awesome for photographers and amateur astronomers. A fun app to share with the kids.

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Kindle

Not a travel app exclusively, but so useful when you’re on the road! Take your bookshelf with you with the kindle reading app. Download your favorite book onto your kindle, phone or tablet to read on the plane, train, or on those long car drives through Europe!

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XE Currency Exchange

I’ve been using XE.com for years now. This handy-dandy exchange app is an intuitive way to keep track of various currencies. I found that it’s super invaluable when traveling, especially on multi-country trips. Haggling in a street market in Morocco or Laos? Just whip out your phone for a quick exchange. Plus you don’t even need to connect to wi-fi to check rates! New features include an alert when a rate hits a pre-set target.

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Filed under Europe, Travel Tips, Luxury Travel, Family Travel, Travel Gear

6 Travel News Tidbits

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1. Viking Cruises partners with National Geographic

Viking Cruises will sponsor National Geographic’s first fully scripted global anthology series, “Genius,” which will tell the story of Albert Einstein. During the global premiere of Genius — April 25 at 9PM ET/PT on National Geographic — Viking will showcase their brand campaign “Time.” The Founder of Viking, Torstein Hagen, is a lifelong admirer of Einstein and a physicist himself. Read more on their website.

2. Hilton rapidly expanding

In 2016, Hilton opened a whopping 354 properties — that’s nearly one per day! Hilton is especially progressing in China, with 328 properties open or to open. In total, Hilton has 4875 hotels open worldwide.  

3. More attention to flying needs for children with neurological issues

Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® are sponsoring airport “rehearsals” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The programs are designed to alleviate the stress that families who have a child with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities experience when flying. It provides families the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security and boarding a plane. Learn more here at The Arc’s website

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4. What’s NEW for the 72-Hour Visa Free Transit in Beijing

Beijing has introduced new regulations concerning the 72-hour transit without visa. Travelers must now fill in an application and wait for clearance. An application form and background check are required for stays over 24 hours. So travelers need: 1) onward ticket, 2) application form, 3) background check. This system doesn’t necessarily exist in other Chinese cities as they can be different. In Shanghai, for instance, you can stay double the time (6 days / 144 hours) without a visa. Ask your WIT Travel Agent to Learn More.

5. Avalon Waterways Announces A New Ship

Avalon Waterways is expanding in 2018 with a new ship for the Mekong River, adding new active and themed cruises and cutting the single supplement for all European river cruises. The line’s next new ship will be based on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap. The 36-passenger vessel will be called Avalon Saigon and will launch in September 2018. The cabins will be slightly bigger, at 245 square feet, with sliding French balcony doors that extend 9 feet. The 14-foot windows have screens to keep out insects. Ask your WIT Travel Agent about available cruises, itineraries, and pre- and post-cruise land tours. 

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6. Did You Know? Two-thirds Of Travel Websites In EU Mislead On Prices

According to a European Commission report, 2/3 of EU websites display misleading prices. Of the 352 price comparison and travel booking websites checked in October 2016, the Commission found 235 gave prices that were not reliable. The sweep of websites, conducted with consumer protection authorities, found that in 1/3 of cases, the final price was not the same as the first price shown. In 1/5 of cases, promotional prices were not available at all. Additionally, in 1/3 of cases, the final price or the way it was calculated was not clear. In a quarter of instances, websites did not make it clear that room availability applied just to that site, and rooms might be available through other channels. The Commission said the 235 websites will have to correct the irregularities and it will ensure sites comply with national enforcement procedures.

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Filed under Avalon Waterway, China, Cruises, Europe, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises

Infographic: Earth Day

For a larger, enhanced Infographic with live links, Click Here

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The Rise of Last-Chance Tourism (and how you can give back)

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In light of Earth Day, this Saturday on April 22, today we feature the growing industry of “Last-Chance Tourism.”

Last-Chance Tourism is the rising travel trend of tourists flocking to see the rapidly vanishing corners of the Earth. “See it before it disappears” goes the slogan.

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“Vanishing-Earth Voyaging”

Thanks to climate change and changing socio-political climates, many places on Earth are changing irrevocably and might vanish altogether. The trend shows, optimistically, how many travelers are conscious about the environmental changes in our world.

But conscious is not the same as conscientious. The paradox of Last-Chance Tourism is that it invites a concentration of travelers to these spots, threatening an already-sensitive environment. Places like Venice, Machu Picchu and Antarctica have all been in the headlines in recent years as under threat of over-saturation. Badly planned tours in these areas may increase carbon emissions, population pressure, and pollution.

So what can a conscientious traveler do? Book with a sustainable tour operator.

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Why is Sustainable Tourism so Important?

Sustainable tourism is more important than ever. Tourism done well can be an eye-opening experience. Sustainable tour operators help raise awareness of local issues and promote conservation efforts. For this reason, we like to focus on such tour guides in our ongoing blog post series “The Conscientious Traveler.”

Four Chances for Last-Chance Tourism

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered irreparable damage and is expected to collapse by 2100. As we reported in last month’s travel news, hundreds of miles of the reef were recently confirmed dead by overheated seawater and reef bleaching. Tour guides naturally will be taking tourists to the places still surviving and thriving.

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Glacier National Park

It’s no secret that the glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, are receding. As Time magazine confirmed, the park could be glacier-free by 2030. This is the time to visit the glaciers before they disappear altogether.

Maldives

The Maldives are luxurious islands in South Pacific and a scuba diver’s haven. The islands make up the world’s lowest country and are at risk of sinking thanks to rising water levels. Experts predict the Maldives will submerge within the next 30 years. 

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos islands have always had a fragile ecosystem. Tourism comes with strains and impacts on the environment that might not be apparent immediately but will have an impact for years to come.

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about the ecological issues and efforts in the destination.
  • Book a sustainable tour or hotel that donates to sustainable organizations.
  • Donate to an environmental cause once on the ground.

Willamette Intl Travel tries to use socially responsible tour operators whenever possible. Read more about the many sustainable tour operators that we work with in our Conscientious Traveler Series here on the blog!

Please let your Willamette Intl Travel Agent know if this is important to your travel plans and we’ll design a trip that’s right for you.

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Travel News: New Harry Potter Exhibit

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FCC To Return To Banning In-Flight Phone Calls
Federal Communications Commission head Ajit Pai says he’s doing something many consumers may actually agree with for a change: making it harder to talk on the phone while on an airplane. The FCC yesterday announced that it’s killing an FCC proceeding that would have opened the door to allowing phone calls during commercial flights. In late 2013 the FAA lifted restrictions on in-flight electronics use during take offs and landing, and in 2014 the FCC lifted restrictions on in-flight phone calls over WiFi (but not yet cellular) with an ongoing eye on removing the restrictions entirely. The move wasn’t a popular one among consumers, and former FCC boss Tom Wheeler took a lot of heat for the decision. “I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes,” said FCC boss Ajit Pai in a statement. “I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

Delta Changes Partner Award Mileage Requirements Without Notice 
John Ollila of Loyalty Lobby.ccom reports Delta Air Lines has been tinkering with the number of SkyMiles required for partner awards that seems to have gone up anywhere from 15% to 20% without any prior warning from the airline. Delta Changes Partner Award Mileage Requirements Without Any Prior Notice On April 7, 2017. This change was first noted on a FlyerTalk post where a member noticed that the number of SkyMiles required for an award had changed from 70,000 to 85,000 (transatlantic partner award in business class).
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New Harry Potter Exhibit Will Feature Never-before-Seen Manuscripts and Drawings
A new exhibition at the British Library later this year will offer never-before-seen pieces from author J.K. Rowling. The exhibition, titled “Harry Potter: A History of Magic,” will open at the library in October, taking visitors through a fascinating collection of wizardry books, manuscripts, magical objects, and original materials from the Rowling archives. The exhibition will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US), delving into the origins of the story. The display will take magic lovers through medieval manuscripts covering everything from potions and herbology to caring for magical creatures. Visitors will also be able to gaze at original drafts and drawings by both Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, ranging from drawings of a mandrake for the illustrated edition of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” to an early handwritten draft of Rowling’s “Sorting Hat” song, according to Pottermore. There will also be original manuscripts and editorial notes from the series’ publisher, Bloomsbury. The exhibit runs from October 20, 2017 through February 28, 2018, though tickets are already for sale on the library’s website.
 
BA May Drop Free Meals On Long Haul Flights 
The Sunday Times reports that British Airways is apparently mulling bringing paid food and beverages for long-haul coach as well as short haul coach flights. British Airways recently enhanced away complimentary snacks, food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in short and medium haul economy and introduced paid products. Now long-haul British Airways passengers are in line for the “improvement” to services known as paying for your own food and drink. The airline could start charging long-distance flyers for a menu drawn from the aisles of Mark & Spencer, BA’s boss, has revealed. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Cruz said that after “a rough start” customers now welcomed the chance to pay for M&S food on European flights. 
 
Caribbean Princess Added Family Areas, Connecting Rooms, New Mini-Suite Category
New offerings for families, including the Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center, upgraded Movies Under the Stars, Princess Luxury Bed and connecting staterooms have been added to Caribbean Princess during a two-week drydock at Grand Bahama Shipyard, just ahead of the vessel’s summer Europe and fall Caribbean seasons. The ship has also been wired for the Ocean Medallion Class cruising that will be available starting with its 2018 summer Caribbean season. Camp Discovery, the reimagined youth center created in partnership with the consumer products arm of Discovery Communications, joins the line’s Discovery at Sea program. For ages 3-17, this caters to specific age groups with three center themes. The Treehouse, formerly Pelicans, is for ages 3-7 and offers a bright, whimsical forest and animal-themed area including hands-on activities. The Lodge, formerly Shockwaves, for ages 8-12, is inspired by the great outdoors, and offers sports activities and places for kids to explore, hang out and lounge. The Beach House, previously Remix, for ages 13-17, is a contemporary surf-themed lounge. New youth and teen center programming includes ‘MythBusters’ science activities with hands-on challenges, featuring show star Tory Belleci. In addition, new Camp Discovery destination-themed programs focusing on Europe and the Caribbean to immerse young cruisers into the culture, nature, and customs of this region. Eighty-seven connecting staterooms catering to family travelers have also been added. A new HD Movies Under the Stars outdoor movie screen will offer a higher resolution picture with double the image quality of previous systems. This will give concerts and movies more sound power, truer color, extreme wide angle viewing and smart contrast/brightness for optimal viewing any time of day. 3,200 new Princess Luxury beds and luxurious linens have been installed. In addition, Caribbean Princess will introduce Club Class Mini-Suites, the new premium stateroom category featuring VIP amenities and exclusive dining. This elevated mini-suite category offers perks including new Club Class Dining, a reserved dining area with expedited seating and expanded menu options as well as priority embarkation and disembarkation.
 
TripAdvisor Users Vote Emirates World’s Best Airline
Users of the online travel site TripAdvisor have voted Emirates airline their favorite carrier on a top 10 list that’s dominated by Asian airlines. In the 2017 edition of their Travelers’ Choice Awards for Airlines, Emirates received high marks as the best overall carrier in the world, taking the title of both Best First Class experience, and Best Economy Class. After Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Brazil’s Azul airline, JetBlue and Air New Zealand round out the top five spots on the list. The top-ranked major airline for North America is Delta Air Lines. 
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Belgium And Italy Have The Highest Taxes For Tourists
According to statistics gathered by Kayak, Belgium and Italy are the tourist destinations with the highest tourist taxes. Travelers who decide to visit Brussels are required to pay approximately 42, 56 or 70 euros for a seven-night stay in a 3, 4, or 5-star hotel respectively. In the case of Italy, Rome is in the lead with a maximum tax of 49 euros for the same seven-night stay. Next in line is Florence, Venice and Milan with an average of 35 euros. Except in the case of Venice, where only the first 5 days are charged for, in the rest of Italy’s cities, the tax is charged for the first ten days. The lowest taxes are found in Lisbon. Other European capitals, such as Amsterdam, Berlin, and Vienna, calculate the tax according to the cost of the room and not according to the category of the establishment. In these cities, the percentages reach 6%, 5% and 3.2%, respectively. 
Malibu’s New Ryokan Opening
You don’t need to travel to Japan for an awesome night at a Japanese-style inn. Nobu Ryokan Malibu, the first in Nobu Hospitality’s Ryokan Collection, will open on April 28, 2017. Located next to Nobu Restaurant Malibu, Nobu Ryokan Malibu will combine modern comforts with a Ryokan-inspired building. Read more here. 

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Here’s One Unusual Easter tradition you might not expect!

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Easter is just around the corner and some households have already got their eggs in the fridge!

Many cultures all around the world celebrate Easter, but all add a unique flavor to them. Russians paint Faberge eggs and bake sweet Kulich bread, and the city of Krakow goes all out with a festive Easter market.

Easter is all about eggs and chocolate these days, but did you know that some cultures celebrate Easter with water?

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Yes! Water symbolizes the holy baptism and has been associated with the Easter holidays for centuries.

In Poland, Easter Monday a.k.a. Dyngus Day is the holy day when people attempt to drench each other in water. No method is exempt from this madness—hoses, buckets of water, and squirt guns are all employed. Traditionally, boys used to drench the girls, in a fun and odd flirtation ritual, but these days it tends to be all-egalitarian. The playful custom dates back to the Middle Ages, when Christianity came to Poland (966 c.e.) following the baptism of Prince Mieszko and by extension his whole nation.

This tradition is also found in eastern parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, usually in the form of an ice-cold bucket. The custom has modified slightly these days to an all-day water fight among families and neighbors.

In some houses in Lithuania, folks sprinkle all corners of the house or gardens with holy water on Easter Sunday.

Do you celebrate Easter? Where are the holidays taking you this Easter Sunday? Tell us in the comments!

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April Showers bring Cherry Flowers!

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Cherry blossom season is well under way, and nowhere else is it as revered as in Japan.

The “Land of the Rising Sun” has a special relationship with cherry blossoms, even going so far as to hold “cherry flower-viewing parties,” picnicking under the pink trees with family and friends. The holiday Hanami literally means “flower-viewing,” and is the art of admiring these little ephemeral gifts. Best complimented with an old temple or castle.

Since cherry trees bloom for only a short period each Spring, they reflect the Japanese Buddhist concept mono no aware, the beautiful impermanence of life.

While of course cherries aren’t endemic to Japan, it seems to be the only culture that really takes the art to indulgent levels. As two well-known haikus by legendary Basho say:

Hana no kumo

Kane wa ueno ka

Asakusa ka

A cloud of cherry blossoms.

The temple bell, is it Ueno

Or Asakusa?

Sama zama no

Koto omoidasu

Sakura kana

How many things

They call to mind

These cherry blossoms!

If you happen to be in Japan right now, Japan-Guide has a useful Cherry Blossom Forecast.

Thinking about Japan? Princess Cruises is offering a special sale in 2018! Call us for the details: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Or simply call us up for a chat about Japan! Our Agent Pam at Willamette Intl Travel has recently been to Japan and she’d love to share with you her impressions and help plan your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

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