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Libby Zay

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#CheckIn: Hotels Cater To The Social Media Obsessed


Some people just can't break away from their networks when they travel -- and hotels are catching on. The social media-obsessed can update their statuses (complete with pictures of themselves) at Facebook kiosks set up around the Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel, and at the Sol Wave House in Majorca, a special web application only available on the hotel's Wi-Fi network allows guests to share pictures and message with one another.

But even if you aren't looking to go to Spain, there are plenty of tools to help you connect with fellow travelers and tap into discounts and deals. Friends of Friends Travel is a free social network that helps people share everything from hotel rooms to martinis with friends and friends of friends. And travelers -- even the ones who want to put their smartphones down -- should be on the lookout for hotels that encourage guests to "like" and tag them. The Radisson Edwardian chain offers guests the option of a late check out if they check-in on Facebook Places or Foursquare, and chains like Caesars gift loyalty points when users share Twitter and Instagram posts. All these marketing ploys may seem gimmicky, but what's a tweet or two when it can lead to a more enriching travel experience?

How Not To Become The Victim Of A $50M Hotel Heist

spencer77, Flickr
In a plot that plays out like a Hollywood movie, an armed thief who raided an exclusive hotel along the French Riviera got away with an estimated bounty of $50 million. Amusingly, the stolen jewels were lifted out of the very hotel where Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief" starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly was filmed in the 1950s. The haul didn't come from hotel guests, but instead from a diamond exhibition on site -- and it happened just days after a member of the notorious "Pink Panther" gang of jewel thieves escaped from a Swiss prison just 10 miles from the French border.

Hotels in France seem to be a hotbed for jewelry theft lately. This past May, a $2.5 million diamond necklace was stolen from a gala at a hotel during the Cannes Film Festival, just a week after $1 million of jewels was stolen from the hotel room of a Chopard employee when he was out to dinner.

Although Gadling readers might not be traveling with millions in jewels, it's likely that there is something of value in each of our bags. Here are some tips for keeping your valuables safe:
  • Do Travel Inconspicuously: avoid being targeted by criminals by wearing little or no jewelry while traveling. If you must wear a ring, turn it around so the gemstones aren't showing.
  • Don't Check It: in the event of a lost bag (or airport employees with sticky fingers) keep anything of value in your carry-on.
  • Don't Let Your Guard Down: criminals patiently wait for the moment when travelers aren't paying attention to grab their bags. Be especially careful in ticket lines, near restrooms and at restaurants.
  • Don't Keep Jewelry Out in the Hotel Room: while easily breached by professional thieves, a hotel safe is your best bet. Leaving anything out in the open not only makes things tempting for hotel personnel, but also for professional criminals walking by (how many times have you seen a room wide open while the cleaning crew is inside?).
  • Don't Leave Home With It: this is the best advice of all. If there's something you can't afford to lose while traveling, your best bet is to just leave it at home.

Territorial Disputes Over Tourist Attractions

Gibnews.net, Wikimedia Commons
Spain is being accused of intentionally holding tourists in long lines as they make their way back from day tripping in Gibraltar. The British Overseas Territory claims the traffic jam -- which has so far affected more than 10,000 vehicles -- has been deliberately orchestrated because of a disagreement over a creation of an artificial reef in territorial waters. Of course, this isn't the only territory in the middle of a tug-of-war match by two -- or sometimes more -- countries. Here are just a few of the dozens of places with disputed borders where you may find yourself stuck:
  • Mont Blanc Summit (France vs. Italy): Both countries have had a long but peaceful dispute over ownership of the summit of the highest mountain in the Alps.
  • Liancourt Rocks (Japan vs. South Korea): this group of small, craggy islets has become a tourist attraction in recent years, but its sovereignty is still being disputed.
  • East Jerusalem (Israel vs. Palestinian Authority): Jerusalem's Old City and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are just a few of the attractions that lie in this hotly debated territory.
  • Ceuta (Spain vs. Morocco): the majority of this city's population are ethnic Spanish who are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco.
  • Tennessee River (Tennessee vs. Georgia): Georgia lawmakers claim surveyors who mapped out the border between these two states in 1818 got it wrong, and part of the Tennessee River should actually belong to Georgia.
  • Paracel Islands (China vs. Taiwan vs. Vietnam): three countries lay claim to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The islands have the potential to become a popular tourist attraction because of their large reef system, but currently tensions between the countries are too high.
  • Southern Half of Belize (Belize vs. Guatemala): All of Belize was formerly part of Guatemala, and today the debate still continues over who is the rightful owner.

Ryanair's Latest Stunt: Planes As Billboards

Courtesy Ryanair
Low-cost carrier Ryanair will charge for just about anything. The company has even announced it'll be selling ad space on the outsides of its planes. From pay-per pee toilets to the promise of oral sex, this is far from the first ridiculous stunt Ryanair has pulled over the years. It makes us a little skeptical these billboards will get off the ground.

Let's take a look at the company's -- and, perhaps more importantly, CEO Michael O'Leary's -- track record over the years:

2013: Ryainair sells ad space on planes
2012: Ryanair plans to increase plane door width to speed up boarding
2011: Ryanair teaches 'mutiny' students how to pack
2011: Ryanair jokes about "child-free" flights
2010: CEO questions need for co-pilots on flights
2009: Ryanair talks about introducing standing-room only seats
2009: Ryanair begins media storm about pay-per pee toilets
2008: CEO says business class passengers get free oral sex

That's at least one PR stunt per year, leading us to believe the "planes as billboards" idea won't take off. Besides, it's a little doubtful that anyone would fork over more than $26,000 for a tiny ad that only people waiting in departure lounges can actually see (if they're close enough, that is).

Morning Rush Hour In Beijing Is Pure Madness (VIDEO)



If you think your rush hour commute is a nightmare, the scene above from a morning commute in Beijing might be the reality check you need. Not only do commuters pack onto subway trains, but the automobile traffic there is ranked the worst in the world, too. It really is no wonder record pollution has been suffocating China's capital city.

And by the way, if you thought the traffic in New York, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. was bad, you might be surprised a U.S. city doesn't even make it into the top ten list of worst commutes. Beijing, Mexico City and Johannesburg round out the top three.

Woman Could Use A Lesson In Plane Etiquette 101


It's an air traveler's worst nightmare: there you are, crammed into your already too-small seat, when suddenly the sleeping passenger next to you slumps into your lap. It happened to traveler Steve Cullum on a recent Southwest flight, and it can happen to you.

Here's how Cullum describes his seatmate's sleepy antics on his YouTube caption:

Minding my own business on a flight home, when I ended up in an extremely awkward situation. This lady was totally out of it. As soon as she sat down, she started falling asleep, and it only got worse as the flight continued. I tried lifting her up, shaking her, and startling her, but it seemed like nothing was going to work.

Yikes. If we were to teach Plane Etiquette 101, this video would definitely be on our syllabus. Here are a few other lessons we'd impart upon fellow travelers:
  1. DO NOT hog the armchair. Seriously. If you're in the window or the aisle could you please show some respect for the middle guy?
  2. DO NOT put your feet anywhere but in front of you. Not in the aisle, not under the seat next to you, and certainly not in between seats.
  3. DO NOT talk incessantly: That's great that you had a fun time in the Bahamas. I'm happy for you, really - but I really don't need to see all 700 of your pictures.
For more laughs, our own resident flight attendant Heather Poole discusses some bad passengers she's encountered and here's a list of 15 annoying airplane passengers.

Think Twice Before Buying In-Flight Snacks

Hyougushi, Flickr
As airlines continue to squeeze all the add-on fees they possibly can out of travelers, it isn't in-flight Wi-Fi or extra legroom that is bringing in the most money. The fastest-growing moneymaker for airlines comes from in-flight meal purchases, and passengers are eating the fees up. Shockingly, airlines have been known to charge up to 2,600 percent more than supermarkets for drinks and snacks -- such as $4 for a bottle of water. Here are some examples:
  • Blueberry muffin on easyJet: $3.83. In store: $2.25.
  • Check Mix on US Airways: $3.49. In store: $2.19.
  • Clif Bar on American Airlines: $2.89. In store: $1.50.
  • Kit Kat Bar on Aer Lingus: $2. In store: $0.79.
  • Peanut M&Ms on Delta Air Lines: $3.00. In Store: $0.79.
  • Starburst on United Airlines: $2.99. In store: $0.79.
  • Water bottle on RyanAir: $4. In store: $1.49.
Travelers, don't let the airlines nickel and dime you. Avoid a la carte fees by packing snacks in your carry-on luggage or scooping them up at the airport before boarding.

Please note: all in-store prices are taken from Target.

Scenes From The Royal Baby Watch In London

Update 3:38 p.m.: Buckingham Palace has confirmed that Kate Middleton has given birth to a baby boy. An official announcement of the birth has been placed on an easel outside the palace.

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Camera crews and tourists from across the world are anxiously waiting outside both Buckingham Palace and St. Mary's Hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge entered the hospital in early stages of labor. Once the bundle of joy arrives, a notice of its sex and birth weight will be delivered by motorcade to the palace, where it will be posted on a board. As the world waits for the official announcement, here's an idea of what the scene looks like over in London:

U.S. Drops Bombs Near Great Barrier Reef

Richard Ling, Wikimedia Commons
After a training exercise went wrong, two U.S. fighter jets dropped four bombs into Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Thankfully, the bombs were unarmed. Although military officials are maintaining the 2,000-pound projectiles were dropped approximately 164 feet away from coral to "minimize possible damage to the reef," the news is alarming considering just a few weeks ago the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) debated adding the Great Barrier Reef to its list of endangered sites. Perhaps the bombs will show up on a later version of Google Street View, which is now mapping marine life.

'Wild' Movie Will Star Reese Witherspoon

Wild movie Cheryl Strayed Reese Witherspoon
Cheryl Strayed by Larry D. Moore and Reese Witherspoon by Georges Biard, Wikimedia Commons
Cheryl Strayed's travel memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" is set for the big screen. Reese Witherspoon will play Strayed, who went on a solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in search of herself after the death of her mother and a battle with infidelity, divorce and heroin use. Nick Hornby, who wrote the novels "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy," has written the screenplay. The film was just picked up by Fox Searchlight for distribution.

Shooting on the "Wild" movie is scheduled to begin this fall. In the meantime, our own Wandering Writer Rachel Friedman took a tour of Northeast Portland with Strayed, who made the city her home after walking her way to a new life through California and Oregon. When Strayed arrived, her life savings were around twenty cents.

Cheers to Strayed, who went from some loose change in her pocket to having an Oprah-approved memoir and movie deal.

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