A-typical place to visit

via Daily Prompt: Typical

“Game of Thrones” fans who have long dreamed of visiting its mythical Seven Kingdoms can now get the ultimate Westeros experience thanks to a new hotel in Lapland, Finland.
HBO Nordic (which, along with CNN, is owned by Time Warner) has teamed up with Lapland Hotels SnowVillage to construct a “Game of Thrones” themed hotel made just of snow and ice.
Located in the resort of Kittilä, which is 200 kilometers (almost 125 miles) above the Arctic Circle and around 90 minutes from Helsinki, the destination is made up of 24 rooms — 10 of which are suites for guests staying overnight.
Guests also receive a guided tour inside the SnowVillage, a buffet breakfast in the log restaurant, and a diploma to commemorate their stay.
Travelers can book an overnight visit at the snow hotel or simply take a day trip to the SnowVillage, which covers an area of about 20,000 square meters.
The village is open for visitors daily and has a cinema, a chapel, an arctic bar that serves drinks in glasses carved from ice, and a restaurant with frozen dining furniture and a menu featuring reindeer steak.


source: cnn

#yanbaczkowski #yan baczkowski


How to avoid visa problems this summer

If you travel abroad this summer, look out for visa trouble.

Chinese, USA and Shengen European visas in passports

No, not the credit card variety. I’m talking about visas, as in travel permits.

Visas are a hassle. They’re expensive, complicated and arguably unnecessary. Worse, they can be a formidable roadblock — at times, an insurmountable obstacle — for summer travelers.

Consider the visa war between Europe and the United States. You can fly to Europe without any kind of paperwork, except for your passport. But a dispute over visa reciprocity just bubbled over in Brussels, endangering that arrangement.

Basically, the United States is wary of allowing Croatians, Cypriots, Bulgarians, Romanians and Poles to come to America unless they have a visa. The European Union wants all EU citizens to be treated equally and allowed visa-free travel to the USA. European legislators recently passed a non-binding resolution to impose visa requirements on Americans, starting next month.

No question, visa uncertainty is in the air this spring. But there are remedies.

First, know who requires a visa and what could go wrong. As of now, Europe is visa-free. Brazil, China, Russia and India are the major countries that require visas for American visitors, according to James Wolf, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in immigration law.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s, folks.

Timing is also important. Applying for a visa can be a lengthy process, so you need to start thinking about it well in advance of your vacation. You should usually do visa applications about six to eight weeks before travel. The application forms can be lengthy, and the requirements are often absurd. Brazil, for example, requires you to fill out an appointment form first, then your passports have to be sent into the embassy for the actual visa.


How about the uncertainty with Europe?  It’s really hard to predict that outcome. Unless the United States caves in and agrees to the EU’s reciprocity demands, you may need a visa to visit Paris this summer. If that happens, it will probably add 60 euros to the cost of your vacation— that’s the cost of a short-term visa to Europe from countries that require one.

Unfair? Not really, Americans love to think that the visa regulations of other countries are unfair. But take a closer look. When the United States raised the visa fee for Chinese travelers, China raised the visa fee for Americans.  When the United States began taking its time with visas for Brazilians, the Brazilian consulates in the USA slowed down their processing time.

What is unfair, to some, is that visas are even required.

Visas are basically a deterrent to travel. They put a damper on last-minute travel, raise the cost of your trip and needlessly complicate the already confusing task of planning travel.

Cut the red tape, and you open the gate to tourism, and all the commerce and cultural benefits it brings. How can that be a bad thing?

Avoid these visa misunderstandings

• Mind your expiration dates. Both visas and passports have an expiration date. Be aware of them, and make sure you don’t overstay. Almost every country in the world requires six months’ validity remaining on your passport for entry, as well as applying for a visa, so check your passport expiration dates prior to applying for a visa. Some countries will allow you to bring in a valid visa that is affixed to an expired passport as long as you have a new valid passport and present both of them together.

• Take the right photo. When submitting your visa application, you usually need at least one passport photo. Countries are specific about their requirements (no sunglasses, no hats, specific formatting). Pro tip: Never staple the photo to your application,. It could void the entire application.

• Remember, a visa isn’t a guarantee of admission. Travelers assume a visa is a permit to enter the country. This is quite far from the truth.  The immigration officer at the point of entry of the country concerned is the ultimate authority and determines if you will be allowed to enter or not.

The TripIt App Will Now Tell You When to Leave for the Airport

aerial-shot-lax-airport-gettyimages-567874077It won’t tell you what to pack, though—sorry.

The app makes it easy (and secure) to store important travel info like copies of your passport; organize all your itineraries and confirmation documents in one—beautiful—dashboard; and snag open seats on the last flight out. As of today, the app has a “Go Now” feature for TripIt Pro users that takes some of the stress out of getting to the airport.

“Go Now” suggests—surprise!—the best time to leave for the airport based on a traveler’s current location, flight status, and local traffic conditions, and then reminds the user when it’s time to leave for an upcoming flight. Those using the app can even view a countdown clock, which shows them how much time they have left to leave for the airport. (And here we thought the app was supposed to help decrease stress.) The feature becomes available 24 hours before a domestic flight, and uses the standard guidance of arriving 90 minutes before your flight takes off.

Courtesy TripIt

Why manually set an alarm on your phone when TripIt will take care of that for you?

TripIt is available on iOS and Android, and while the app organizes travel plans in one place for free, a subscription is required for TripIt Pro ($49/year after a free 30-day trial), which offers additional features like refund notifications, real-time flight alerts, point tracking, and the “Go Now” functionality.

Five travel services worth paying for

When it comes to travel, most of us are looking to save money, but what we should be looking to do is save time and improve our experience. Sometimes it’s worth it to shell out a little more for extras that can make travel easier, faster and better. From services that will help you speed through the airport to those that will allow you to snag the best dinner reservation, here are five extras worth paying for:

Passport and visa services: Frequent international travel requires visas, which mandate numerous consulate visits and take up hours of precious work time — and that’s not including all the time spent muddling through paperwork to get everything in line to apply. The same goes for renewing a passport. The express way to get it all done is to hand off all the work to visa services that are registered with the U.S. State Department. It might cost a couple hundred dollars, but you’ll save yourself a ton of stress, and for some countries you can have a visa in hand within 24 hours. Some road warriors consider the arrangement fundamental for a business traveler.

Global Entry: Once you have the fast lane back into the U.S. you never want to go back, and fortunately with Global Entry you never have to. Apply and pay the one-time $100 fee and (after an interview) you’re (hopefully) approved. Also, Global Entry automatically includes TSA PreCheck, which allows you to go through airport security with way less hassle. If you were thinking of applying for PreCheck, which costs $85, you might as well pay the extra $15 for Global Entry, which allows you to painlessly go through immigration when you return to the U.S. from an international trip.

VIP airport services: The secret’s out that frequent travel isn’t all that glamorous, no matter which Instagram filter you slap on it. But one way to feel like a jetsetter is to hire some VIP treatment — Gateway Meet & Greet is one example — that can get you to and from your destination quickly (including expedited check-in) and extras like VIP lounge access.

Travel agent: Even though these days travelers have the power to do all the trip research, planning and booking on their own, travel agents are still the only ones who can access or create special deals in many cases. They are working and interacting with key tourism industry players day in and day out, so they’ve got the relationships and leverage to bargain. Plus, travel agents have insiders’ knowledge that can result in getting you access to destination highlights you wouldn’t otherwise know existed.

Travel concierge: A travel agent can get you there, taking care of flights and hotels, and a concierge can take you the rest of the way. There are all types of travel concierges from cultural to luxury, but most specialize in getting you into a destination with tours (whether they lead them themselves or arrange them), tickets to shows, dinner reservations and all the fun stuff tailored to your interests. A good one will get you local prices when they otherwise might have been inflated, and take care of all the logistics. And with more people going the route of vacation rentals and opting for lodging that doesn’t come ready-equipped with concierge services, this service can be especially helpful.

GBTA: Travel ban cost USD185 million in lost business

President Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries has cost the travel industry about $185 million in lost business, the Global Business Travel Association says.
GBTA estimates that was the amount lost in the week following the executive order which is currently on hold pending yet more legal wrangling.
The association said travel business grew 1.2% in the preceding week and dipped by 2.2% after the ban was announced.
A previous survey by GBTA found about 30% of members expect to see less overseas business travel during the next three months and almost as many believe low demand could linger for the rest of the year.
On Thursday a federal appeals panel refused to reinstate the ban, saying the administration had offered ‘no evidence’ that anyone from the blacklisted countries had committed at terrorist act in the US.
Minutes later Trump fired off yet another Tweet: “See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!”
That likely means next stop the Supreme Court.
The GBTA fears more uncertainty ahead and lost business if the ban is eventually reinstated.
 “Upholding the travel ban will clearly cause a rippling effect through the travel industry, ultimately hurting the economy. It also unleashes travel disruption like we saw when the order was first implemented,” GBTA’s executive director Michael W. McCormick told The Hill.

American Airlines ditching seat back screens on new jets

American Airlines’ premium economy seating onboard their 787-9 has seatback monitors for passengers. The airline announced Tuesday it will not have the seatback monitors in the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft it receives this year.

With more passengers bringing iPads, phones and laptops on board, American Airlines says it will not have seatback monitors for in-flight entertainment on the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft it receives later this year.

The Fort Worth-based carrier said it plans to keep seatback screens on its widebody aircraft – like the Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and Airbus A330 – which are used on international routes. However, the airline appears to be reevaluating its in-flight entertainment for domestic routes.

“Every customer with a phone, tablet or laptop will be able to watch free movies and TV shows from our extensive on-board library, as well as free live television channels, all without purchasing an in-flight Internet connection,” American said in a memo sent to employees on Tuesday.

The airline expects to receive 4 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in 2017 without the seatback screens. American added that it plans to take delivery of 40 Boeing 737 and Airbus A321 aircraft this year that will arrive with seatback monitors and power at every seat.

Last year, the carrier announced it was upgrading its in-flight Internet connections to a faster, satellite-based service. With the faster service, passengers can stream video content from providers like Netflix or Amazon.

“It makes sense for American to focus on giving customers the best entertainment and fast connection options rather than installing seatback monitors that will be obsolete within a few years,” the airline said, noting that more than 90 percent of its passengers already bring a device with them on board.

Basic economy: Are the savings worth it?

More airlines will be offering basic economy seating, but will you buy these tickets? This Q&A may help you figure out when it’s worth it.

Briefcase in the plane

What is basic economy?

Think of it as the opposite of premium economy class: You get less but you pay less. The cheaper, fewer-frills seats are a tactic for big legacy airlines to compete with low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier.

Which airlines offer basic economy?

Delta is the leader here; it began introducing basic economy seating in 2012 with a big expansion a couple of years later. Last week, American announced its basic economy will go on sale in February (“select routes” only). United will begin offering basic economy service sometime this year but no start date has been revealed yet. However, a few details about these frill-free cabins have been trickling out.

What won’t you get in basic economy?

It depends on the airline but here’s what you do without on Delta:

  • No seat assignment until after check-in or at the gate.
  • If traveling as a family or group, you may not be seated together.
  • No eligibility for same-day changes or ticket refunds (outside the post-booking 24 hour grace period).
  • Basic economy passengers board last and cannot even pay for early boarding.
  • No paid or complimentary upgrades or preferred seats, even for elite miles members.

Both American and United have released one controversial lost frill that so far Delta has avoided: American and United will not allow basic economy passengers to use full-size carry-on bags. They will allow one small item that fits under the seat and that’s where it must stay because basic economy passengers have no access to overhead bins. And when they say one small item, they mean it: Those planning to board with a laptop, a purse and a backpack or some other small clothing bag will have choose one; the rest must be checked, and yes, there’s a fee for that.

Is basic economy worth it?

So far, we only have Delta fares for comparison purposes; here are some round-trip fares found Jan. 9 for travel in March. The first price is basic economy, the second is regular economy.

  • Boston to Salt Lake City: $267 and $277 (save $10)
  • Atlanta to Chicago: $135 and $157 (save $22)
  • Los Angeles to Newark: $314 and $344 (save $30)

Is it worth it? Passengers opting for no-frills fares are not going to get rich off the savings but sure, it’s worth it so long as you don’t care where you sit, when you board or what you pack. Families of course could save even more but may have a harder time justifying basic economy because of the seating and boarding requirements. On the other hand, unlike Spirit and Frontier, Delta’s basic economy does provide customers with free soft drinks and snacks, and allows regular carry-ons for free.

As for American and United, some will surely be watching the cheaper fares closely to see if they will be worth the inconvenience of the no carry-on rule, as well as the baggage fees.

Why you should try car sharing on your next trip



When Caroline Lupini needed a rental car for a month, the last place she looked was a car rental company.

Instead, she turned to a sharing site called Turo, which offers medium- to long-term rentals at a discount over the typical rental company rate. Think Airbnb for cars.

For $750, Lupini got a high-mileage 2007 Saturn Ion in Denver — less than half the going car rental company rate. “Overall, it went well,” says Lupini, a photographer from Ann Arbor, Mich.

The sharing economy has changed the way travelers think about accommodations. Driving? Not so much.

A recent survey by Morpace, a market research and consulting firm, found that only one-fourth of all respondents plan to engage in some type of sharing service. Some 75% of respondents plan to buy or lease a vehicle in the next five years, and only slightly fewer, 71%, intend to purchase or lease a new vehicle.

That’s a shame. The latest car-sharing innovations can score you a ride for less, or put you behind the wheel of your favorite vehicle. Most important, they can save you the headache of all the bothersome car rental fees and surcharges.

Turo may be the most established of the peer-to-peer car rental companies, but it’s hardly alone (see below). These rental companies and sharing services meet different needs among car rental customers, and taken together, they have the potential to change the way you drive for the better.

They can save you money, for starters. A one-month, midsize rental in Phoenix from a traditional car rental company, which doesn’t include insurance, will set you back about $940. The Turo price costs $52 less and includes insurance.

“The price of the cars is very comparable — and sometimes much less — than the major car rental agencies, and you can get a much much nicer car for the money,” says Bruce Mesnekoff, general manager for a company that assists students with their college debt.

Mesnekoff cites his most recent rentals, all through Turo. There was the Jaguar F Type convertible ($135 per day), the Mercedes C-class convertible ($103 per day), a Tesla ($225 per day) and — he’s not making this up — a Maserati ($135 per day).

Leo Nguyen, a biochemist from San Francisco, recently rented a 2015 Honda Odyssey through Turo and was impressed by the selection and simplicity. Not only could he select the exact car and model — something traditional car rental companies can’t do — but he didn’t face the hard sells for insurance or upgrades you get when you rent from a traditional car rental company.

“The experience was great,” he says. “I got the car I wanted for a really good price.”

But you give some things up, too. Nguyen warns to look for mileage limits, which some hosts put on their cars. Some monthly Turo cars cap the “free” miles at 1,500 and charge you 75 cents per mile after that, which can add up quickly. Also, after one of his cars was broken into Nguyen discovered that his credit card didn’t cover the damage as it would have for a rental car. Peer-to-peer rental vehicles are excluded from his cardmember coverage.

All of which brings us back to Lupini, the photographer from Michigan. A pebble smacked her Saturn’s windshield, leaving a small chip. Filing a claim through Turo would have meant she’d have to replace the entire windshield.

“I made a deal with the owner to pay him an extra $100,” she says. He fixed it himself. Problem solved.

Well, no one said the system was perfect. But once car sharing takes off, it’s going to be big. Over time, it could bring even more competition to the car rental industry, reduce vehicle ownership and even free up valuable parking space.

Car sharing may not have had its Airbnb moment yet, but just wait. It’s right around the corner.

Cheaper car rental options

• Peer-to-peer car services. Companies such as Turo.com (turo.com) and Getaround(getaround.com) let you rent another person’s car in almost exactly the same way you can rent someone else’s home or apartment through Airbnb. They’re typically less expensive than a car rental company and offer a wide variety of vehicles. For example, Getaround is currently available in 11 cities, including San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Its rentals, which start at about $50 a day, include insurance.

• Rental hybrids. Car-sharing services such as Zipcar (zipcar.com), which is owned by Avis Budget Group, and Maven (mavendrive.com), GM’s new car-sharing service, can get you a set of wheels quickly. They’re usually meant for shorter-term rentals in urban areas.

• Check with your rental company. Car rental companies are trying to stay competitive. For example, Hertz offers discounted rates and provides special offers for multiweek and monthly car rentals. (AAA members save $40 on a weekly car rentals now through Jan. 31, for example.)

Yes, you can get a second passport. Here’s how

Certain frequent travelers can qualify for two U.S.

There are certain situations when it’s annoying to have only one passport. For example, say you have upcoming trips to two countries with little notice and you need to send your passport away for a visa, effectively stopping you from going on your other trip. Or, say you want to visit a country that is on unfriendly terms with other nations, like Israel, but you’re worried the stamp might cause problems when trying to get into other countries in the future.

Too bad you can only have one passport, right? Wrong.

A little-known secret is that, according to Section 51.2(b) of Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (22 CFR), certain frequent travelers actually can qualify for two U.S. passports. It states:

Unless authorized by the Department no person shall bear more than one valid or potentially valid U.S. passport at any one time.

In plain English, there is an exception to the requirement that “no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid U.S. passport at any one time.” But who qualifies for an exemption? In short, very frequent travelers, especially those that often visit countries that require visas, who cannot send their passport away for an international visa without essentially grounding them from doing business.

The U.S. government permits people that can prove a heavy travel schedule to have a second passport, typically only valid for two years. This allows them to travel abroad while sending the second passport to an embassy for visa applications.

According to Russ Varecha of RushMyPassport.com, a service that helps people apply for passports:

“A quick rule of thumb to determine if you qualify for a second passport is whether you meet one of the two requirements. Are you planning to visit a country that will deny a visa due to the fact that your passport contains markings or visas showing you traveled to certain other countries? Or do you need a passport for immediate travel because of delays in getting a travel visa or some other foreign governmental process that required you to submit your original passport?”

Lee Abbamonte, the self-proclaimed youngest American to visit every country in the world, says that having a second passport was invaluable in his near-constant travel to far-flung corners of the globe.

To apply for a second passport, complete an online application form (DS-82) and send in the requested documentation to a passport office.