Tag: tourism

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.

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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.

What Your Passport Color Really Means

 

Selection of passports

Travelers don’t have a lot of say in how their passports look. It’s hard to take a flattering picture (unless you’re Prince), you can’t choose which inspiration quotes frame your stamped pages, and you can’t choose the color of your passport cover.

To that last point, Business Insider recently explained why passports only come in shades of red, blue, green, and black. Somewhat surprisingly, the color of your passport follows no strict system of country categorization—though that’s not to say the colors are totally random, either.

“Most passports in the world are based on blue and red primary colors,” said Passport Index Vice President of Marketing Hrant Boghossian, though there’s an enormous degree of variation in hues. And while geography, politics, and even religion come into play when a country selects its passport cover, there are no guidelines or regulations dictating the color of these national documents.

“There’s nothing [that] stipulates the cover colour,” confirmed Anthony Philbin of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which issues passport standards on cover size, format, and technology.

So what can we infer about passport color? Boghossian says it’s a matter of national identity.

Red Passports

Burgundy passports are used by members of the European Union (sans Croatia), and countries interested in joining (think: Turkey) have changed their passport colors to match.The Economist called this a “branding exercise.” The Andean Community (also known for past EU-ambitions) of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru also has burgundy passports. The Swiss passport, in effortless and famously Swiss-fashion, matches their flag,

Blue Passports

Boghossian told Business Insider that Caribbean, or Caricom states, typically use blue, though it’s common in the “New World,” as well. Vox pointed out the customs union of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguya, Uruguay, and Venezuela, known as Mercosur, all boast blue passports (except Venezuela, which still sports a red passport from its time in the Andean Community).

The United States’ passport, however, only became navy blue in 1976—to match the shade found in the American Flag. Before that?

“We believe the first travel documents in the U.S. were red,” Boghossian told Travel + Leisure. Green passports were used in the 1930s, followed by burgundy ones, [and] black passports in the 1970s.”

Green Passports

“Most Islamic states use green passports because of the importance of the colour in their religion,” Boghossian shared with Business Insider. Variations of green are also used by members of ECOWAS—Economic Community of West African States—including Niger and Senegal.

Black Passports

Here’s another, far more practical, interpretation for selecting passport colors. Dark colors (even deep shades of blue and red) show less dirt and tend to look more official. Examples include the Republic of Botswana, Zambia, and New Zealand—though for the latter, black is also considered one of the country’s national colors.

Ultimately, you can infer about color as much as you want, but passports represent something much greater than geo-political and economic ties. “We forget that [passports] belong to people. For some, they are a barrier. To others, a right of passage,” Boghossian said to Travel + Leisure.

After all, both the U.S. and Syria issue blue passports—but Syria has one of the worst-ranking passports in the world. Having a Syrian passport allows you access to only 32 countries without a visa, due to diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, the U.S. has the third-best ranking passport.

“Governments around the world have the freedom to choose the color and design,” reiterated Boghossian. “Unfortunately, only few have understood the importance of this document on their country’s brand identity.”

Boghossian cited Norway, which recently unveiled its winning passport design from a nationwide competition, as an example of a country using its passports to define its distinct personality and characteristics. The colors? Vibrant and hip.

The U.S. passport is about to get a makeover: and while the design has yet to be released, we know for a fact the country has a history of changing its passport cover.

Where You Can (and Can’t) Drink Tap Water in Europe

Here’s when to buy a bottle—or two.

Sit down at a restaurant in Europe, and you’ll most likely first be asked about water preferences before anything else: Still, sparkling, or tap? And while this may seem a strange question to U.S. travelers used to glasses of ice-cold water filled (and refilled) without question, it’s actually an issue in Europe. Given that one of the most common causes of sickness while traveling is drinking contaminated water, knowing where you can—and and probably shouldn’t—drink water across the continent is important. A new infographic distills (pun intended) the data, and here’s what you need to know.

DRINK UP

Most places in Europe do have potable tap water, which means you’ll save money by bringing a water bottle and filling up before heading out in the morning. (Some countries, like Italy, Germany, and Belgium, have public taps where you can refill for free, though look out for signs that indicate when the water is not safe for drinking, like at decorative fountains.) Countries and states where water is safe to drink? In alphabetical order: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

BUY A BOTTLE

Some of the most common side effects of drinking unsafe tap water include diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid, and even cholera. And though larger cities have higher water quality than elsewhere, places where you should exercise caution and probably buy a bottle (or two) are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and the Ukraine.

DON’T FORGET

It’s not just about actively drinking water: Brushing your teeth with water from the faucet, washing fruits and vegetables you may buy, adding ice to your drink, and even opening your mouth and gurgling when showering are other ways to ingest unsafe tap water. The water coming out of most taps on trains and airplanes is also not intended for drinking.

WHEN IN DOUBT…

Buy bottled water, which is readily available almost everywhere in Europe. Bottles with red labels typically represent fizzy—or sparkling—water, while those with blue labels mark “still” water. If necessary, water can be sanitized by boiling it for ten minutes, or even by using a filter or purifying tablets. The good news? Beerand wine are always safe bets.

Five myths about Brexit for U.S. travelers

In the wake of the Brexit vote that paved the way for the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union on June 23, there’s a lot of confusion about what this means for American heading to Britain this summer and in the future.  Here are five current myths about Brexit and travel to the UK.

1. Brexit is really an issue between Great Britain and the European Union and has nothing to do with Americans.

While it’s true that Brexit is about Britain leaving its 40+-year EU membership in the dust, it’s also about currency, and that’s something that directly impacts U.S. travelers. On the morning of Friday, June 24, when the vote to leave the EU was announced, the pound-to-dollar exchange dropped 7.44% to $1.3766, the lowest level in decades. At one point, the pound sank to $1.32, the lowest exchange rate since 1985. In simple terms this means that for American travelers, Great Britain is on sale.

“The immediate effect, says George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog, is that “American visitors will pay less for travel to and within Europe and Britain. If the British pound continues to stay low or fall even more, your trip to England will be cheaper.” That means that hotels, meals, shopping and other purchases will be “at least 10% cheaper than recently.”

With the less-favorable exchange rates, “fewer Europeans and Brits will visit the U.S.,” says Hobica. “So expect airfares from the U.S. to Europe and Britain to go even lower. The day after the Brexit vote, we saw airfares to London on Virgin Atlantic and other airlines for fall travel reduced to $500 round-trip.”

Jason Clampet, co-founder and head of content at Skift, agrees with the notion that “for the short term this is about exchange rates and how they impact travel.” But Clampet also takes a longer view of the issue, noting that it could “affect airline routes, new development of hotel products, the cost of restaurants and transit, the cost of shopping, or even the upkeep and maintenance of tourist attractions.”

2. I’m planning a trip to the UK later this year, and I’ve booked my airfare and hotels, so it won’t affect me.

“That’s true when it comes to the airfare or if you prepaid for your non-refundable hotel room or bought a package,” says Clampet of Skift. “But you can otherwise take advantage of the better exchange rate, and the possibility of UK businesses discounting goods because they are hurting. While that 150 pounds per night rate may stay the same, the Brexit exchange rate swing put $15 in your pocket between last month and today. Expect small savings like that in every transaction you make.”

For anyone who booked a trip before the recent vote, Hobica suggests reaching out to hotels, tours and other agencies to see whether you can re-book at a better price, “now that exchange rates have been hammered.”

3. I guess I can just hope that British pound stays low until I get there.

Or you can be proactive. It’s a great time to take advantage of the exchange rate for as long as it lasts. If you’re heading to the UK even later this year, “it’s a good time to buy pounds for an upcoming trip,” says Hobica, now that they are at dramatically lower levels.

That said, Clampet of Skift urges caution, saying that “Unless you’re George Soros, it’s best not to respond to this by playing currency trader. The pound could continue to drop or it could go up — even the experts don’t know. If you’re worried about wide fluctuations in money and want to have protection, look into a trip insurance product that allows wide latitude for cancellations.”

4. This won’t really affect me when I go to England, it will just be the same passport check that I’ve always had when I fly to London.

“Sure, it won’t affect you — if you’re carrying a British passport,” says Clampet. Yes, there will still be passport control. But in the future, you can expect to wait in much longer lines.

“For travelers arriving in the UK, those passport control lines that once split passengers by passport from the EU and then everyone else will soon be for passengers from the UK and then everyone else, Clampet says. “If nothing else expect to hear Germans, Italians and Spaniards complain about being in line with you unlike the good old days when they had preferred status.”

Then, unfortunately, it’s likely to get even worse for American travelers. Once the UK and EU split is complete, “London’s international airports will need to radically rethink baggage claim and passport control, two of the biggest pain points in travel,” Clampet says “ For passengers transiting to Europe via London or other gateway cities, you’ll need to claim your baggage and take it through customs because, remember, you’re not in Europe anymore.”

5. It’s really just England that’s changing.

Actually, this is much bigger than England. The Brexit vote is for the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Therein lie some potential future problems.

“If Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, becomes a separate country, you’ll need to go through border controls and show a passport between London and Edinburgh,” says Hobica. Because Ireland is part of Europe but Northern Ireland is leaving the EU as a result of Brexit, “travel between, say, Dublin and Belfast (would) also require going through passport control.”

Clampet adds that “we are also seeing talk of nationalist parties in France, theNetherlands and elsewhere pushing their own exit. In five years will we be back to the days of border checks and multiple currencies as you move from country to country? Think of all the math you’ll be doing.”

The World’s Most Powerful Passport Is…

 

 

New rankings by a London-based firm reveal a European country has the best global access.

Despite recent tensions over waves of refugees crossing its border, Germany, in recent months, has banked some good press as well: It led U.S. News & World Report‘s “Best Countries” index, had not one—but three—cities appear on the “10 Best Cities for Expats” list, and even had Chancellor Angela Merkel, its indomitable leader, named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. New results from Henley & Partners, a London-based consulting firm specializing in citizenship services, continue to enforce the European nation’s status on the world stage by deeming a German passport the most powerful in the world.

The annual study, produced in collaboration with the International Air Transport Association (which has the world’s largest database of travel information), judged the top passports in the world by how much visa-free travel they allow. Germany, which has held the top spot for three years in a row, has visa-free access to 177 countries out of a total of 218. Sweden, in second, has a ranking of 176, and a larger group of countries sitting in third place (Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and the U.K.) allow visa-free access to 175 countries. The U.S. passport, along with ones from Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands, comes in fourth place, with entry to 174 countries.

The least useful passport of the 199 evaluated? Afghanistan, which allows visa-free access to just 25 countries—fewer than North Korea (42), Syria (32), and Iraq (30).

 

For more travel information please visit www.ygbtravelpromotions.com

 

Traveling With Pets: Why Your Pet Needs a Passport

 

What, you thought those blue booklets were just for humans?

For travelers, few things are as valuable as a passport: they can get you across borders and onto ships, planes, and trains, and also serve as a tangible record of the places you’ve been. It makes sense, then, that there are similar documents for animals. Taking your cat, dog, pig, or turkey abroad sometime soon? Here’s what you need to know.

FOR STARTERS

Be aware that each country has its own set of rules and regulations, and that what works for Djibouti may not work for Greece. Well in advance of your trip, contact the local embassy or consulate of the country you (and Fido) are traveling to, and start by asking about three things: what documentation and forms you’ll need to enter the country; what vaccinations your pet must have; and if there are any other restrictions. After determining how your pet will fly, contact the airline for their specific regulations, too, as there may be cases where a country does not require particular certification, but an airline does. For example of fine print, most airlines require pet health certificates that are no more than 10 days old—but more on that later.

GET A CHECK-UP

Much like you might go to the doctor’s office to get the MMR or yellow fever vaccine before overseas travel, your animal companion needs to do the same. Look at the required vaccination list, note certain stipulations—say, if a pet has to have had the shot one week prior to travel—and take the list to your veterinarian, who will be able to help walk you through the process. Once the vet has given your pet the required vaccinations and filled out the paperwork, prepare to have the forms endorsed by your local Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office, if (most likely) required. Make a copy of any relevant lab work results, as the documentation will only help your case move forward smoothly.

SEND IT OFF

If certification is required, you’ll need to send the paperwork by mail or courier to your state’s USDA-APHIS office. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or a pre-paid Federal Express envelope, along with the inspecting veterinarian’s name and daytime contact information. Should you wish to deliver the paperwork in person, call 24 to 48 hours in advance for an appointment. Note: There is a USDA endorsement fee for cats and dogs, so call the office to determine the fee, and include it with your paperwork.

ABOUT THAT PET PASSPORT…

Ok, ok. So maybe those blue booklets for pets in the U.S. aren’t exactly blue booklets—they’re more like neatly filed forms. Still, actual pet passports are part of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) program in the United Kingdom, which allows registered pets to skip quarantine before getting on the plane for the U.K. For starters, animals must have one of two things: an identity microchip implanted under the skin, or a tattooed serial number. Their microchip or tattoo number will be noted anywhere from a pink A4 paper form to a small book, and will also include the pet’s vaccination certificate, and other veterinarian notes. Under the PETS program, pets from most Western European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and several Caribbean island countries can travel to the U.K. If you’re moving your dog, cat, or ferretbetween European Union countries, you can simply present a certified rabies vaccination in a pet passport or another health certificate, though requirements vary slightly by member state.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT RETURN TRAVEL

Bringing a pet back into the U.S. is a whole other ballgame. Prior to your travel date, check with your state of destination and with the airline to learn about requisite paperwork and policies.

Unusual Potato Chip Flavors Around the World

June 12th, 2016

Prepare your taste buds for a global tour of this beloved snack food, and vote for the unique flavor you’d most like to try.
chips-digital.adapt.1190.1
Clockwise from top left: pickle, whisky and haggis, spicy cheese, ketchup, Magic Masala, Marmite, ají (chili pepper), Flamin’ Hot, and octopus

 

Call them chips or call them crisps—whatever you call them, these humble snacks are the crunch heard around the world. Potato chips are the affordable souvenir that can be scooped up at a bodega, vending machine, or train terminal. The flavor, however, varies by location. Ali Payne, vice president of global snacks innovation at PepsiCo, explains how cultural cravings affect seasonings. If travelers want to eat like a local, look no further than inside a shiny bag.

Why are some flavors so popular around the world?

Most are popular because of their familiar profiles, like picanha (beef) in Brazil, masala in India, and barbecue in the U.S., while other flavors, like cucumber in China, are popular because they’re unexpected. Even within the U.S., there are regional preferences: Limón on the West Coast, salt and vinegar on the East Coast, and spicy flavors in the South.

When creating chip flavors for various countries, what factors do you consider?

While we keep a close eye on emerging flavor trends, local cuisines are the tastes that resonate most. In our Do Us a Flavor program, where we invite consumers to invent new Lay’s flavors, we’ve seen time and again that preferences are largely in line with local comfort food. In the U.K., winning flavors include pulled pork in a barbecue sauce and Builder’s Breakfast, which captures all of the elements of a full English breakfast, while in the U.S., winners include southern biscuits and gravy and cheesy garlic bread.
What are the emerging flavor trends?

We’re definitely seeing flavor trends transfer from the restaurant world into snacks. Years ago you never would have seen sriracha on a chip, but the condiment has made its way into our restaurants, our kitchens, and our Lay’s as one of the 2013 Do Us a Flavor finalists in the U.S.

We’re also seeing interest in ingredients from other countries, since people are increasingly exposed to flavors around the world through travel and social media. A flavor like wasabi and ginger, which may have once been considered exotic in the U.S., is now a hugely popular flavor thanks to the prevalence of Japanese cuisine, and Italian red meat is now one of the most popular flavors in China.

Which country favors the spiciest flavors?

Mexico has the spiciest flavors in their portfolio. However, we continue to see the spice trend grow globally.

What goes in to researching a new potato chip flavor?

Once we decide on a flavor, our chefs create dozens of versions of the dish to identify the ideal flavor profile, which they then replicate on a chip. It can take four or five months to develop and perfect the new flavor.

Which country has the most flavor variety?

The U.S. has the most flavor variety of any country.

Yan Baczkowski

Postal pilgrimage

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In an era of instant communication, the old-fashioned stamp still has a huge following. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend theWorld Stamp Show in New York, running May 28-June 4. The once-a-decade event includes rare stamp displays like the One-Cent Magenta fromBritish Guiana, which sold in 2014 for a record $9.5 million. “Before the Internet, stamp collecting was a way to learn about the world,” says Ken Martin of the American Philatelic Society, adding that many people now collect for relaxation or investment. But if you can’t make the show, he shares some favorite stamp sites withLarry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Post-a-Nut
Hoolehua, Hawaii
Why bother with a postcard? This Molokai post office provides visitors free coconuts to address, stamp and mail — no packaging required. The fruits are piled up in a plastic postal bin for the picking and the postmaster even supplies Sharpies for addressing and decorating. Depending on the size of the fruit, postage may run about $20, Martin says. 808-567-6144; usps.com

Smithsonian National Postal Museum
Washington, D.C.
From the world’s rarest stamps to the surprisingly daring accomplishments of the U.S. Postal Inspection Services, visitors are amazed by the topics covered at this museum next to Washington’s Union Station, which attracted more than 350,000 visitors last year. “It’s the Smithsonian in all its glory,” Martin says. Current exhibits include PostSecret, a global Internet-based art project that collects anonymous confessions submitted on postcards. postalmuseum.si.edu

STORY FROM TOURISM AUSTRALIA

Australia in 360: Experience your next dream vacation

Smallest post office
Ochopee, Fla.
The tiny shed near this Everglades community once held irrigation equipment for a tomato farm. But after the town’s post office burned down in 1953, it was repurposed to handle mail. The 7-by-8-foot post office attracts visitors eager to send postcards. “You’re not going to get more than five people in there at the same time,” Martin says. 239-695-4131; paradisecoast.com

B. Free Franklin Post Office and Museum
Philadelphia
Don’t look for a ballpoint pen or an American flag at this post office. The clerks dress in colonial garb and work exclusively with quill and inkwell. And since the flag hadn’t been created when Benjamin Franklin served as the first Postmaster General, you won’t find it flying outside. Collectors come for the unique “B. Free Franklin” hand-stamped postmark, which is believed to be Franklin’s protest against British rule. 215-599-0776; uwishunu.com

Pony Express National Museum
St. Joseph, Mo.
Long before overnight mail, galloping horses were the quickest way to deliver a package, and the Pony Express could get mail to California in under two weeks. “It saved a huge amount of time,” Martin says. At the museum, kids can sort mail, try on Western clothes and see the original stables. 816-232-8206, ponyexpress.org

Museum of Stamps and Coins
Monaco
While mostly remembered for marrying Hollywood star Grace Kelly, the late Prince Rainier was also an avid stamp collector who personally approved the stamp designs released by his tiny principality. He founded this expansive museum which tracks the country’s history through its stamps, from its royal family to Grand Prix racing. 212-286-3330;visitmonaco.com

Postal History Foundation
Tucson
See a 19th-century frontier post office made from a mail-order kit at this museum with historic postal memorabilia and exhibits. You’ll also find Mexican stamps and a working post office, which receives more new U.S. postal issues than any in the state.520-623-6652; postalhistoryfoundation.org

American Philatelic Center
Bellefonte, Pa.
The leading stamp collecting society brings the hobby alive at this restored 19th-century match factory that was once a stop on the New York-to-Chicago airmail route. Highlights include an 1860 post office and general store on loan from the Smithsonian, along with postal rarities. “There’s a lot of interest even from people who aren’t stamp collectors,” Martin says. 814-933-3803; stamps.org

National Postmark Museum
Bellevue, Ohio
For some collectors, stamps are just the start. This museum strives to preserve an example of every unique stamp cancellation, about two million and counting. “There’s not a right way or a wrong way to collect. Each person decides what’s best for them,” Martin says. Highlights include first-day covers, an envelope postmarked on a stamp’s first day of issue. postmarks.org

Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History
Weston, Mass.
This gallery on the Regis College campus claims to be the nation’s first devoted to stamp collecting. “It has lots of aspects of a bigger museum, but on a smaller scale,” Martin says. It was founded by a former New York archbishop, whose career spanned the golden age of stamp collecting in the 1930s, and has more than two million artifacts, including President Dwight Eisenhower’s stamp collection. Visiting children receive a free packet of stamps. 781-768-8367; spellmanmuseum.org

Star Trek’s Universal Communicator, here we come


This could be a game changer when traveling abroad.
We’ve all been there: You’re standing in a foreign country, struggling to communicate in another language, and kicking yourself for thinking that listening to 20 minutes of “how to speak whatever” on your phone during the plane ride over would somehow get you by. The Pilot, an earpiece being developed by the wearable-technology company Waverly Labs and designed for the international traveler, aims to change all that, so you never get lost in translation again.

The ‘smart earpiece,’ as the company calls it, and corresponding app, uses speech-recognition technology to translate in real time, so that two people speaking different languages can have a conversation without missing a beat. Of course, in order for the technology to work, both people need to be ‘hooked up,’ so to speak—which is why the set comes with two earpieces, one for each participant. The idea is that when language gets in the way, both people would put in an earpiece and speak in their preferred tongue.

In a video released by the company, founder Andrew Ochoa reveals that he came up with the idea when he “met a French girl” and wanted to communicate with her clearly. “It’s the dream, you know?” he says. “A life untethered, free of language barriers. It’s just that it’s no longer a dream anymore. It’s real.”
The Pilot will initially be released in European-based Romance and Germanic languages, including English, Spanish, French, and Italian, according to the company’s website. Following the first wave will be other world languages, such as Slavic, Semitic, Hindi, and East Asian.

Waverly Labs says that it will begin taking pre-orders through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo this spring, and the mobile app will launch this summer. Earpieces will be available by spring 2017.

The company says it’s created the world’s first smart earpiece language translator.
While prices could change, the earpieces are currently slated to go for $299, including access to select languages. Additional languages will be available via download.

On the Waverly Labs blog, the company has also announced a giveaway “as a celebration for our upcoming campaign.” Go to the Pilot’s launch page to enter.