Taking a road trip and want to send a text with your ETA? In New York, you'll have to wait until you see signs for the next "texting zone." Part of an initiative to crack down on distracted driving, New York has designated more than 90 rest stops and parking areas along state highways as safe places to stop and send text messages. Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled 300 signs with the message "It can wait" and the number of miles to the next texting zone. If caught texting while driving, motorists can face a fine of $150 and points on their license.
Earlier this year, new booking engine GetGoing began offering deep discounts to travelers with flexibility and a sense of spontaneity. You tell the site what type of trip or region you want, and it will give you two destinations and the airfare you'll pay, up to 40% off. The catch? You won't know *which* place you'll go or which airline you'll fly until after you purchase.
Now how about booking a trip where you won't know where you're going until a few days before departure? FlyRoulette launched this week, taking spontaneous travel to the next level. With FlyRoulette, you'll tell them your budget, maximum trip length, and type of trip (does "weird and exotic" sound appealing?) and it will create an itinerary for you. But you won't know where you are going until 12-48 hours before you depart, which means you can probably rule out anywhere that requires an advance visa, but the whole world is fair game. In exchange for your flexibility, you'll get great hotel and flight deals, but it's not for those who want some degree of control over their travels.
Imagine being able to navigate a foreign city without a map or paying for a museum ticket with your watch, thanks to your cool electronic gadgets. Now imagine getting mugged around the corner, or leaving your expensive toy on a bus. Wearable technology such as Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch have fueled a lot of buzz among technology fans and travel marketers, but will travelers actually want to wear them?
A survey of 1,000 adults showed that while 75% were aware of at least one form of wearable technology, less than 10% was actually interested in using it. While the Samsung smartwatch announcement increased interest, and 52% would wear something on their wrist, only 5% would wear something on their face like Google Glass.
High price tags -- $299 For the Galaxy Gear, and over $1,000 for the developer glasses -- are one cause for consumers to hesitate, though travelers are more likely to invest in the latest technology, especially if it helps document their trip or explore a new place. Privacy is another concern, as the devices collect information based on your movements to improve the experience. How about the fact that having such a device marks you as wealthy? Smartphones have become fairly commonplace in the world, but there are still places where you'd be wise to keep your iPhone in your pocket, or even the hotel safe. The newer and snazzier the device, the more it shows that you have money to burn, and might make you a target of thieves. Will they make you look like a tourist? Not necessarily more than any device, but they certainly won't help you to blend in.
Would you use wearable technology, while traveling or at home? What innovations would you like to see for travel?
Millions of tourists visit Los Angeles every year in hopes of spotting a celebrity, but rarely see anything more than gated homes and unemployed actors in character costumes on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some enterprising celebrities are finding ways to become tourist attractions in their own right, with live performances and theme parks for fans to see their favorites (or at least their stuff) live in person.
-Britney Spears just announced a two-year residency at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood starting in December. Over 1,000 fans gathered in the Nevada desert for her helicopter arrival and performance on GMA. Tickets for the pop star's first 16 shows this winter go on sale tomorrow.
-Action star Jackie Chan is opening his collection of historic sandalwood houses to the public in Beijing with a new theme park. The proposed park will show different cultural experiences with no admission, with some ticketed attractions to help maintain the antique buildings.
-Fans of Michael Jackson have been hoping that his Neverland Ranch in California might be turned into a park or pilgrimage spot like Elvis Presley's Graceland, but part of the property was sold off in 2008 and has since fallen into disrepair. Hearing that his children would like to buy it back, Lady Gaga was rumored to offer to help with costs or open it to the public.
While you may try to rack up frequent flyer miles from travel, airline-branded credit cards or online shopping, have you ever thought about pudding? One clever traveler turned a Healthy Choice promotion into enough miles to fly the world multiple times.
In 1999, Civil Engineer David Phillips noticed a promotion from Healthy Choice offering 500 American Airlines miles for every 10 product bar codes sent in, with a double bonus for sending them in the first month. Phillips figured out that the promotion would extend to all of their products, and searched his area supermarkets for the best deal. He started with 90-cent cans of soup, and then found a better deal: individual packages of chocolate pudding for 25 cents apiece. He bought every one available, spending a total of $3,140. This gave him 12,150 puddings worth over 1.2 million airline miles.
The story gets sweeter when you hear how he collected the bar codes for redemption. He started by putting his family to work, but they were soon (literally) sick of peeling the pudding lids and eating the stuff. He offered them up to Salvation Army for free, in return for the bar codes. For this, he was also able to get an $800 charitable tax deduction, bringing his investment down to around $2200. Netting over a million miles also gives him lifetime gold elite status on American, giving him an extra boost for accruing miles. His story inspired a similar plot in the movie "Punch Drunk Love." Phillips continues to take advantage of frequent flyer promotions and deals, and now has over 4 million miles in his accounts.
China claimed a new record for world's highest airport when Daocheng Yading Airport opened this week in the Tibetan province of Sichuan, taking the title from Changdu Bangda Airport, also in Tibet. The new airport is at an elevation of 14,472 feet above sea level, 253 feet higher than the previous record holder. There is a single Air China flight scheduled for now, from Chengdu, with additional domestic flights planned in the coming year. The flight cuts travel time from the provincial capital from a two-day bus ride to a one-hour flight. The airport is close to the Yading Nature Reserve, known as the last Shangri-La. Daocheng shouldn't rest on its laurels long, as Nagqu Dagring is planning an airport to open in 2015 at an altitude of 14,554 feet.
The airport is controversial, as part of China's plan to increase tourism in Tibet, which Tibetans feel deepens Chinese rule on the autonomous region. China also opened the world's highest railway in Tibet in 2006, much of it on permafrost, which many felt would threaten the local environment and culture.
Two flights recently had to make emergency landings for unusual reasons. "Strong odors" caused a Lufthansa Stockholm-to-Frankfurt flight to stop in Copenhagen, where 129 passengers were rebooked onto alternate flights. The reason for the smell? A new carpet installed in the airplane.
Staff aboard a Sun Country Airlines flight from Minneapolis smelled smoke and made an emergency landing in Spokane. A passenger was carrying two homemade lasers (he is an unemployed chemist), causing several small burn holes near his seat. He was arrested for willful damage to an aircraft.
It's been a busy season for emergency landings, mostly for precautionary reasons, but a few odd causes too. Most notably, a drunken passenger caused a cross-country flight to stop in Denver after he allegedly groped several passengers, drinking from his own bottle of vodka after he was refused service. A bird strike caused a Southwest flight to return to Raleigh and be taken out of service. Even rock stars have to deal with problems, as '80s hair metal bands Ratt and Dokken had to trade their private jet for SUVs after smoke was detected. Better safe than sorry!
See more weird emergency landing stories from our archives, plus the story of a Gadling blogger who had her blog post used as evidence in a lawsuit filed by a "traumatized" passenger after a plane made an emergency landing at O'Hare.
Most souvenirs remind us of travel to a specific place, but how about products to remind us of the journey? Some crafty designers have made home and travel products inspired by (or even made of) airplane designs.
Baggage tag: You can use your initials or your favorite airport code on the baggage tag design of this messenger bag ($129).
Beverage cart: Ever thought those narrow beverage carts would look cool in your home? Bordbar has vintage and new customized beverage carts from 329 euro for a small galley box, 979 euro for the full size trolley.
Boarding pass: With mobile phone check-in, paper boarding passes might soon be a thing of the past. Take your laptop out for security in this snazzy sleeve, which you can customize with your name and flight info ($28.95-32.95).
Flotation device: The same designer as the belt below has taken flotation devices and fashioned them into sleeves for the iPad and iPhone, but we still wouldn't recommend getting them wet (49-69 euro).
Remove before flight tag: Rather than wear one of those funny-looking neck pillows, use one made with an aircraft tag, complete with a loop for carrying. Don't feel you have to follow the "remove before flight" instructions though, it works perfectly on a plane or at home ($25).
Safety card: You shouldn't actually take the safety card from the seat pocket, but you shouldn't leave your passport there either. Keep it safe with this $20 passport holder (slim wallet also available, $18).
Seat belt: Stay buckled in for safety with a white belt made with a real airplane belt (79 euro). Keep in mind you'll likely still have remove it for TSA security.
Any seasoned world traveler can tell the difference between Italian and Russian, but how about Tamil and Punjabi? Estonian vs. Slovenian? Do you even know where they speak Hausa?
Test your ear for foreign languages with the Great Language Game, compiled from audio samples of 80 languages (just a drop in the bucket compared to the six or seven thousand spoken in the world!) and presented as a multiple-choice quiz. Each correct answer gets you 50 points, the highest so far is 8600 points. The samples were collected from SBS Australia and Voices of America by Australian data scientist Lars Yencken. The easiest language is French, while the hardest to guess is Shona, a Bantu language native to Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Lest you think that cat pictures dominate the internet, this week the Queensland, Australia Instagram account is being managed by a dog. Jester is a six-month old Weimaraner from Hamilton island (close to the Great Barrier Reef), and he is kicking off a new campaign to show Queensland from a local's perspective. Jester will be snapping photos until September 15, but you can also follow him @jestergull after his week is up. Each week the photo stream will be managed by a local in a different region, look out for photographer Nathan White on the Capricorn coast, and Moreton Island park ranger Keiran Lusk in the coming weeks.
Follow Jester and other Queenslanders on Instagram @Queensland.
This isn't Queensland's first creative way of reaching potential visitors -- they held the famous Best Job in the World contest in 2009, now spun off into multiple jobs around Australia.