10 Survival Tips for Holiday Travel

Wherever you’re heading, if you’re traveling during the holiday season, you need to realize that everyone else in the world is, too. But don’t let invasive security scanners, terrible drivers and long lines at airports get you down. We’re giving you tips to survive the holiday travel season without a Frosty the Snowman-size meltdown.

Do your research.

Plan alternative trips if traffic makes your way home too overwhelming. Is there a scenic drive that might be longer but have less traffic? Break up a long drive by finding a few places to stop that will get the kids more excited than a truck rest stop. When flying, make sure you check the airline’s restrictions ahead of time on carry-on luggage and fees for checked bags.

Stay connected.

Stock up on the latest travel apps before you leave home. Flight Status gives you real-time updates on delays, baggage numbers and more, and GateGuru gives you approximate times you’ll spend in security. Heading out on the road? Find the cheapest gas and cleanest bathrooms on the road with GasBuddy and SitOrSquat.

Pack snacks and drinks, so you and your family will be fueled up for a road trip. If you’re flying, definitely get some grub before you board the plane.
Pack light.

Avoid checking bags altogether if you can. You won’t have to wait for your luggage on the conveyor belt, and you won’t have to worry about your mom’s Christmas present getting lost in Logan Airport. If you do check luggage, make sure you have all your medications and important documents and a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost. Here’s a family packing list for more tips.

Pack earplugs.

Short of doing yoga in the airport, the best way to mentally escape your stressful surroundings is to turn the volume down. And the easiest way to do that is with earplugs. Crying baby next seat over on the plane? Earplugs. Sister’s music in the car driving you mad? Earplugs. And if you really want to check out for a bit? Bring an eye mask (as long as you aren’t driving).

Don’t get hangry.

When your tummy growls, your mind can’t think straight, and you could unknowingly get in the wrong line, take the wrong turn, or worse, upset an innocent flight attendant. Pack snacks and drinks, so you and your family will be fueled up for a road trip. If you’re flying, definitely get some grub before you board the plane (check our GateGuru’s Best Airport Restaurants), so you won’t have to rely on airline food if you’re sitting on the tarmac for hours.

Ship gifts or give gift cards.

TSA suggests to ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them, as they might have to unwrap a present to inspect it. Ship gifts ahead of time or bring the gift that can’t go wrong: gift cards to their favorite store or an Amazon card.

Travel on off-peak days.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year and can also cause you the biggest meltdown of the year. A better option is to leave early on Thanksgiving Day and avoid the record traffic the night before. Same goes with flying: if you fly on the actual holiday itself you’ll be avoiding the long lines and hoards of travelers.

Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. Best time to hit the road? When every one else is asleep — early morning or late at night
Travel early or late in the day.

Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. And if your flight is cancelled, you will have the option of taking a flight later in the day. Also, there will be fewer lines at security. Best time to hit the road? When every one else is asleep — early morning or late at night. You can always take a nap when you arrive at your destination or on the ride there (if you aren’t the driver, of course).

Plan for the unexpected.

Have only a half hour before connecting to another flight? Traveling to Rochester, NY, during snow season? Think ahead and plan accordingly. Leave extra time before flights to deal with security, extra time between connections and, for road trips, pack tire chains for snowy conditions, flashlights, and of course, a few band-aids never hurt either.

Inhale. Exhale.

The overly friendly person next to you on the plane, the cancelled flights, the luggage that fell off in the middle of the highway? All of it will make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination. After all, holiday travel stress is just as much of a tradition as pumpkin pie and regifting.

Know More About Best Powder In The World

Your endless winter is here with snow adventures that take you to the best pow-pow our planet has to offer. Stay frosty. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures.

Heli-skiing, Utah, USA
While Utah doesn’t get the prodigious dumps of the West Coast, the snow here is so light you’ll think you are floating on feathers. The resorts – top powder kegs include Snowbird, Alta and Powder Mountain – have tremendous powder skiing. But to sample untracked fluffy bliss, you’re best off taking to the air for a 20,000-vertical-foot day with a custom-crafted heli-skiing trip. It’ll take you to every type of terrain imaginable, from powder-packed glades to steeper bowls and chutes, and you’re basically ensured untracked powder all day. The snowpack in Utah is quite unstable, so you won’t always get the chance to head up in a helicopter. For more terrestrial adventures, putter out for a snowcat adventure from Powder Mountain.
Aspen Highlands, Colorado, USA
You can’t avoid it. Aspen has been America’s top ski destination – attracting the Hollywood glitterati and ski bums alike – for more than half a century. And while most come for the top-notch restaurants, outrageously opulent hotels and hob-knobbing opportunities, there’s skiing here too. Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Buttermilk offer some fun runs, but the real snow riders all head to Aspen Highlands for the best hardcore terrain in the state on powder troughs like Highland Bowl, Olympic Bowl and Steeplechase. Make sure you leave enough in the tank for après-ski drinks at the Hotel Jerome or Little Nell.
Niseko, Japan
There may be better resorts in the world – in fact, there may be plenty of them – but Niseko Ski Resort on Hokkaido has the second-highest average snowfalls of any resort in the world, averaging 595in of the white stuff every year, so it is worth the trip. The five ski areas of the Niseko megaresort – Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, Hanazono and Moiwa – all offer easy and efficient lift access with 27 chairs and three gondolas. The runs are pretty short, averaging 900m, but there’s a sweet hot spring nearby and the steepest run tips the scales at 37 degrees. Plus there’s night skiing.
Heli-skiing, Valdez, Alaska, USA
If heli-skiing is bad-ass, than Valdez must be super bad. This once-in-a-lifetime ski adventure takes you to what is perhaps the steepest, deepest, biggest and baddest ski terrain in the world. Over 1000 inches of snow falls on Alaska’s Chugach Mountains each year, and there are about 2 million acres of glaciated peaks to explore with your own private guide and helicopter. The operator will tailor a trip to your needs and wants – most deals run for five to seven days – and take you around 20,000 vertical feet over a week. You can go steep with 50-degree white-knuckle couloirs or work on your powder eights on 6000ft top-to-tail cruises. Needless to say, this is an adventure for expert skiers only.
Lech, Austria
Lech and Zürs get more snow than any European ski resort, making this a top Austrian pick. Most people start in the posh village of Lech (using it as a base to explore the Zürs and Arlberg ski areas). Lech is the only resort in Austria to offer heli-skiing, so you can almost guarantee fresh tracks. There are also plenty of short hikes to non-groomed off-piste areas that will sate your addiction to the white powdery stuff. The best way to explore Lech’s steeps is with a guide. The slopes are avalanche controlled, but not patrolled – watch for hidden obstacles.
Whitewater Ski Resort, Nelson, British Columbia, Canada
Whitewater may not be the biggest ski resort in Western Canada (that honour falls on Whistler Blackcomb) but it does get an amazing amount of the white stuff – more than 40ft a year. The resort only has three chairlifts and a tow bar, with a meagre 1184 acres of skiable areas. But good things do come in small packages, and Whitewater’s mixed terrain of open glades, chutes and bowls makes it easy to find freshies even a week after a storm. The resort’s inland location in the Selkirk Mountains makes for drier snow than the coastal BC offerings.
La Grave, France
France has plenty of great ski areas. The resort-minded head en masse to Chamonix and other Alps hotspots every winter (and sometimes in the summer), but for a big-mountain experience that’ll set your mind on fire, La Grave is your spot. You get here from a cozy 12th-century village, heading up at dawn with your guide (de rigueur) by a three-stage gondola. There are only a couple of official runs on the glaciated mountain and where you go is up to your abilities, your imagination and your guide, who will help you stay safe in this crevassed area.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado, USA
Colorado gets some of the lightest, driest snow in the world and nowhere is the champagne powder better than the small throwback ski area of Wolf Creek. The area opened way back in 1939 and still retains some of that old-time feel, plus its ideal location in the San Juan Mountains gives the resort an average of 465in of natural snow each year – the most of any Colorado resort. The resort has just five chairs, but from the top you can hike into the back country for steep glade and bowl skiing in places like the Bonanza Bowl, Exhibition Ridge and the Peak Chutes.
Kirkwood, California, USA
The rugged peaks of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range offer some of the steepest ski terrain in the continental US. While there are plenty of resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, Kirkwood is a best bet for ultra-steep terrain and cool couloirs, plus a laid-back feel that other resorts in the area lack. After a day or two exploring Wagner Wheel and Sentinel Bowls plus an obligatory huck off the massive Wave cornice, head out with Expedition Kirkwood for a day of snowcat-skiing in the back country. They give you a guide, avalanche gear and take you to some of the gnarliest gnar-gnar Kirkwood has to offer.
Ski Portillo, Chile
It snows over 8m (27ft) a year at Chile’s star resort, known for its dry snow, sunny days, fun nightlife and stellar off-piste terrain. You can hire a guide or go it alone to ski the famous Primavera and Kilometro Lanzado runs on your never-ending winter adventure. While the resort offers 760m (2500ft) of vertical drops and spectacular Andean vistas, you may wish to take to the sky, the way the condors do, and hire a helicopter for a day. While a day of heli-skiing here will cost you a few pesos, it’s definitely one for the bucket list.

Information About The World’s Best Luxury Boot Camps

At these wellness retreats, the staff will kick your butt – and then spoil you silly.

Pure Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Use the island’s stunning nature as a gym – surf lessons, kayak excursions, rainforest hikes and beach runs – at Pure Kauai bespoke fitness vacations. Guests are set up in private cottages or villas, then catered to by personal trainers, health-minded private chefs, personal assistants and wellness practitioners from massage therapists to intuitive healers and astrologists. Although vacations can be as active or as mellow as guests wish, the sports instructors and personal trainers are prepared to kick it into high gear. Quite a few celebs have stayed with Pure Kauai to get in shape for a role.
The ranch at Live Oak, Malibu, California, USA

Don’t call it a spa – it’s a week of tough love. Nothing is optional: not the pre-dawn wake-up calls for morning yoga, not the 16km to 21km hikes every day, not the four hours of fitness classes, and not the super-strict diet (no meat, wheat, sugar, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or processed foods). Participants, no more than 16 at a time, may suffer migraines or vomit on the trail and still the instructors push them to keep going. The results: nearly everyone loses noticeable weight and feels better leaving than they did when they arrived – partly from the detox diet and partly from having survived.
The Island Experience, Ilha Grande, Brazil

There’s more to this island than hammocks and caipirinhas: it’s also home to a seven-day program designed to detox and de-stress through rainforest hiking, kayaking, yoga and meditation, and a vegetarian diet. In a casual atmosphere, up to 12 guests get personal attention and gentle encouragement, rather than drill-sergeant discipline. The founders created the island experience after a seven-day hike around Ilha Grande that left them wanting to share the experience with others: not just physical challenges but also learning to face one’s limits, beat challenges, manage fears and open up to other cultures.
The Ashram, Mallorca, Spain

The seasonal program is the same as at the original ashram in California, where celebrities have long flocked to lose weight and clear their heads. It’s rigorous, to be sure: 5.30am wake-up calls for yoga; four to six hours of hiking, sometimes with nearly 1000m of elevation gain; afternoon kayaking, strength training, TRX or Pilates; more yoga; minimal, vegetarian meals; and utterly exhausted sleep. With up to 14 guests, everyone gets pushed – hard. You’ll stay in a restored 17th-century olive farm surrounded by orchards and terraces with stunning views, where the guest rooms have beamed ceilings, local art and private bathrooms.
Escape to Shape, International

The premier ‘travelling fitness spa’ combines luxury, culture and fitness in glamorous locations around the world. Each program is tailored to make the most of its location, with a focus on history, culture, people, cuisine and natural wonders – and butt-kicking. While destinations have ranged from Cape Town (where the program included African dance) to Sicily (where guests climbed Mt Etna), the setup is consistent: each day includes a total body workout that might involve yoga, Pilates, circuit training, hiking, kayaking or biking; healthy meals that reflect the region; and a bit of downtime to explore and enjoy the surroundings.
Cal-a-Vie, Vista, California, USA

Don’t let the la-di-da name and French Provençal decor fool you: the seasoned trainers here seriously kick butt. The morning mountain hike can turn into a mountain run. Guests are allowed to do as much or as little as they want, and there are a lot of beginner-friendly options among the 125 classes, but there’s also CrossFit and an amped-up TRX class. The gym is as state-of-the-art as it gets and the high staff-to-guest ratio (21 trainers for up to 32 guests) ensure that anyone who asks to be challenged will be. It’s not unheard of to have one student and two instructors.
Bikini bootcamp, Tulum, Mexico

Founded about a decade ago, this was one of the first adventure-fitness-and-yoga programs around. The boot camps combine cool shabby-chic settings (originally the Amansala eco-resort in this yoga mecca on the Mayan Riviera and now also on Ibiza) with activities and vacation fun. Most of the fitness classes, from power walks to cardio workouts to yoga classes, take place right on the sand and they’re complemented with salsa or belly-dancing classes. Guests range from fitness newbies to hardcore gym rats and the program is tailored accordingly.
Chiva-Som, Hua Hin, Thailand

The name means ‘Haven of Life’, but for guests who sign on for this destination spa’s fitness retreats, life is anything but restful. There are classes nearly 12 hours a day, from Muay Thai boxing to Ashtanga yoga to a cardio session called Mountain Trek, plus private fitness assessments and an array of personal training sessions, both indoors and out. A team of highly trained international specialists oversee the fitness and the Eastern and Western wellness services (reflexology, Thai massage, deep-tissue bodywork) that soothe sore muscles after classes are done. The healthy Thai food is delicious.

La Réserve Ramatuelle, France

Just a few miles from Saint-Tropez, this resort is primarily a place for summer relaxation. But it offers a surprisingly rigorous boot camp fitness retreat, centered on the very civilised European sport of Nordic walking (with poles, which makes it a lot harder). Each guest (no more than eight) starts with a medical assessment before embarking on a program of daily 15km to 20km treks through the mountains and along the coast, tailored to guests’ fitness levels. This being France, a balanced Mediterranean diet and slimming treatments like balneotherapy (bathing in mineral-rich waters) speed up the results.
The Bodyholiday, St Lucia

It may take willpower to make this a boot camp, as the ‘holiday’ part of the name is taken seriously and there are all the temptations of an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. But for guests with enough drive, there are lots of offerings that would challenge the founders – one of them a former ultra-marathoner. A day may include a 7am beach boot camp class, a four-mile run, morning aerobics, afternoon windsurfing and evening Ashtanga yoga. It all gets kicked up a notch during the WellFit retreats in March and November, when ex-Olympians and pro athletes lead the training.

Should You Know About Unusual Places To Stay In USA

We all know that lodging can make a break or vacation, but staying somewhere unique – a tipi, say, or a giant bird’s nest, or even spending the night underwater – can turn a humdrum holiday into an unforgettable trip.
America’s entrepreneurial spirit knows no bounds, and that includes one-of-a-kind lodging you won’t find anywhere else. For those wishing to forgo hotel chains, consider taking a break at these places, which range from cozy, country bed and breakfasts to something more akin to an aquarium.

Get cozy in the Great Outdoors

Take “nesting” to new heights in Big Sur, California. Image courtesy of Treesbones Resort.

America’s only “Human Nest” for rent is at Treebones Resort (treebonesresort.com), a glamping hot spot in Big Sur, California. Built for two by eco-artist Jason Flynn, the Nest overlooks the Pacific and gets booked up several months in advance. Call the design “twigecture”, and if you don’t mind sacrificing some privacy, the nest offers a one-of-a-kind view as you sleep in a tree under the stars (it doesn’t rain much in Big Sur). “Although the nest is completely open to the elements, with no amenities besides an outdoor mattress, and a spectacular ocean view, it is our most popular accommodation,” says manager Megan Handy, the daughter of owners John and Corinne Handy. “It is a very unique experience. We have ‘nesters’ who come back year after year.”

Treebones also provides swish yurts, but if you prefer a more rustic experience, visit Falls Brook Yurts (fallsbrookyurts.com) in Minerva, New York, hidden in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian Trail stretching all the way to Georgia. Yurting is great for lovers of the outdoors on a budget who don’t want to invest in or haul all that camping gear. Inside the fully furnished yurt you’ll find a working kitchenette, tables, chairs, a sofa and bunk beds for six. The outhouse latrine is just 15 steps from the front door. There’s no running water at the yurt; you can either carry bottled water on the 20-minute hike from the road where you parked, or use the buckets provided at the yurt to bring water up from the nearby brook, though be sure to boil the water first before bathing or drinking it. (I showered outside in full view – there’s no one for miles around – by dousing myself in liters of Poland Spring.)

Have your pizza delivered underwater

Watch the fish watch you at one of the world’s few operating underwater hotels in Key Largo, Florida. Image courtesy of Jules Undersea Lodge.

What started out as an underwater research station eventually inspired Jules Undersea Lodge (jul.com) in Key Largo, Florida, one of the world’s few operating underwater hotels. Dive down 21 feet below the surface and stay in one of three 20-foot underwater chambers where you can sleep, eat, and watch whatever swims by your window. Diving experience is a plus, although beginners can take a brief introductory course provided by the lodge before enjoying their accommodations. Forget bellhops! Your luggage is brought to you in a watertight container. If you’re feeling peckish in your capsule, order a pizza – also protected by a container from meeting a watery end. Founder and owner Ian Koblick, who is president of the Marine Resources Development Foundation, says the neighbours are often as curious about the guests as the other way around. “What can the fish see, that’s what I say?” Koblick jokes. “There are manatees in the lagoon, and fish coming and going. It’s a unique experience and the closest you’ll ever come to living in another world other than going into outer space.”

Step back in time
Route 66 stretches over more than 2,400 miles of scenic highway between Chicago and Los Angeles, and one of the quirkiest stops en route has to be a place where you can sleep in a Native American-inspired tipi. Wigwam Village Motel (galerie-kokopelli.com/wigwam) in Holbrook, Arizona, is a time capsule. Home to 15 one- and two-bedroom wigwams or tipis, the motel is on the USA National Registrar of Historic Places. Opened in the 1950s, it has a mid-century appeal with vintage cars parked on the property, including an old Studebaker that once belonged to the owner. Each wigwam is 21 feet wide at the base, 28 feet high, and contains handmade hickory furniture, beds, a sink, a toilet, and a shower. There is also a small collection of Native American artefacts and Route 66 memorabilia.

Enjoy a vegan breakfast and 23 acres of farmland where rescued farm animals rule the roost. Image courtesy of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

About 115 miles north of the Big Apple is the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (woodstocksanctuary.org) near legendary Woodstock, where the hippie movement came of age in 1969. Opened in 2012, the sanctuary’s new guesthouse, a renovated 19th-century farmhouse, has four bedrooms, a common kitchen and living area, and 23 acres of rescued goats, chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, sheep and a donkey named Diane. Volunteer on the farm by shovelling poop or cleaning coops and receive a discount on your stay (we are repeat visitors and volunteers!). Says co-founder and director Jenny Brown: “People love being able to see all the activity at the sanctuary from the windows and front porch. It truly creates a feeling of tranquility to be able to watch the rescued animals and at the same time enjoy a healthy, vegan, organic breakfast.” Revenue from the guesthouse goes directly to care for over 300 animals.

Dog Bark Park Inn (dogbarkparkinn.com) on Highway 95 in Cottonwood, Idaho, is the creation of chainsaw artist Dennis Sullivan and his wife Frances Conklin. Together, they built America’s biggest beagle, known fondly as “Sweet Willy”, a two-bedroom bed and breakfast open between April and October. Sleeping in the dog house is a great way to unplug: Sweet Willy has no phone or television. But you get to enjoy a tasty breakfast that includes eggs, bagels, pastries, yogurt, cheese, and the family’s secret granola recipe. For souvenirs, check out the gift shop where you can buy portable versions of Sweet Willy and friends.

Taos, New Mexico – known for its Native American culture, skiing, and thriving arts scene – is where Richard Spera decided to build his hen house. Years later, his cluster of casitas known as Casa Gallina (casagallina.net) offers visitors to the American Southwest a fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the personal comforts of home and a true artisan experience. The casitas – decorated by local artists – have kitchens, living and dining areas. Behind the casitas are Spera’s “girls,” a couple dozen hens who appreciate any restaurant scraps you want to throw their way. As a bonus, Spera, a former restaurant manager from New York City, likes to treat his guests to tapas, cookies, and tortes.

Some Ways To Get To The Middle Earth

the release of the first Lord of the Rings film 15 years ago, New Zealand was suddenly thrust on the travel radar for a whole new generation. Its beautiful landscapes from bubbling brooks to snow-capped peaks and lush forest valleys are the perfect setting for Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth, and now tourism is New Zealand’s second largest industry.

The Hobbiton set is the country’s best-known attraction today with close to half a million visitors a year, but there is of course a wealth of film locations far beyond ‘the Shire’. You can always discover New Zealand’s dramatic film locations (over 150 were used during filming) for yourself, starting with this handy guide, or you can head to this remote country on a tour.
We’ve rounded up a few of the many operators running Tolkien tours of New Zealand in 2017, each for a different type of travellers. One thing they all seem to have in common is the desire to meld real life with fantasy worlds while exploring one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
Be a Middle-earth explorer

You can follow in the footsteps of Frodo and Bilbo with Round the World Experts (roundtheworldexperts.co.uk) on a 17-day tour of all things Lord of the Rings. As well as the obligatory visit to Hobbiton, the tour takes you to Wellington to go behind the scenes at the interactive Weta Cave workshops, learning how Lord of the Rings was bought to life with props, costumes, models and special effects. Next it’s on to filming locations in the South Island, with highlights including exploring Aoraki (Mount Cook), New Zealand’s highest mountain peak, discovering Queenstown, and experiencing the silence of Middle-earth on an overnight Milford Sound cruise
Wander windswept beaches

A 21-day tour with Discover the World (discover-the-world.co.uk) takes diehard fans through Lord of the Rings film locations with the national carrier, Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com). The itinerary starts with a visit to Hobbiton in the rolling hills of Matamata, then hits all the visual splendour of the films, including the stunning beaches at the top of the South Island as well as the the dramatic mountains and fjords of the Fiordland & Southland. There are several guided location tours included, as well as an overnight cruise on the spectacular Doubtful Sound.

Join the fellowship

Silverfern (silverfernholidays.com) does a 16-day journey travelling through New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes from Auckland down to Queenstown. The tour includes film locations across the country, with a few surprises like dinner at the Green Dragon Inn in Hobbiton; and a hike to Pinnacle Ridge in the heights of Mount Ruapehu, which stands in for Mordor

Some Travel Resolutions And How To Keep Them

New year, new you, right? Well, maybe. If experience has taught us anything, it’s that bad habits are hard to break and most diets don’t last past January… but our wanderlust is here to stay.

These resolutions are not only achievable – they’re a joy to keep. So take your pick and make 2017 your best year of travel yet.
Dropping your bags in a new destination is a great feeling

Pack lighter

Next time you’re stuffing a pair of impractical shoes and a bumper-size shampoo into your bag, stop to consider the feelings of future you: the one sporting a sweaty back patch and a face riddled with regret. The ‘I’ll manage’ attitude dissipates in a flurry of expletives as you drag your luggage up a broken escalator, straining your bicep and stubbing a toe in the process. Worth it? Not so much.
Stick to it: Downsize: restricting suitcase volume soon hinders overpackers. Prioritise: it’s OK to take three paperbacks if you’re willing to forgo the laptop. Enlist a ruthless packing buddy who won’t give in to the words ‘but I neeeeeed it!’.
Take better pictures

Sick of returning home from a trip with thousands of hastily snapped images that you’ll never have the time to sift through and edit, let alone share? Whether you’re shooting for social media, an online portfolio or the family album, investing a little time and effort can take your creations from amateur to incredible.
Stick to it: Read up on how to take a decent smartphone snap; enrol on a photography course; join a photographer’s meetup while you’re on the road; or take a tour that combines travel and tuition.
Stop putting it off

Family, finances, your career… even fear. There are plenty of factors that prevent people from travelling – but when valid reasons become comfortable alternatives to taking a risk, it’s time for a reality check. You have one life on this planet. Stop making excuses and start making plans.
Stick to it: Whether you long for a round-the-world extravaganza or simply a weekend away, it’s not going to land on your lap. Identify your true barriers to travel and tackle them head on. Strapped for cash? Start saving. Option paralysis? Consult the experts. Worried what your boss will think? Propose a trip that will boost your résumé.
Learn to unplug

See it, share it. Try it, tweet it. The impulse to reach for your smartphone can be near impossible to resist, even on the road – but just as technology seems to have rewired our brains to crave constant connection, travel can be the ultimate antidote.
Stick to it: Can’t go cold turkey? Minimise distractions by deleting email apps and disabling social media notifications. Rediscover the joy of writing postcards. Keep a travel journal. Go for a walk without the safety net of Google Maps… and see where you end up.
Travel responsibly

As global tourist numbers continue to increase (1.2 billion international arrivals recorded in 2015 and counting, according to the UN), understanding the impact our travel choices have on the planet has never been more important. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to go green.
Stick to it: You know the drill: steer clear of plastic bottles; take public and overland transport where possible; choose ethical tour operators who respect wildlife and give back to local communities; reduce or offset your carbon emissions (calculate your footprint at carbonindependent.org).
Use your time off wisely

It’s easy to fritter away precious paid leave on family events and close-to-home happenings, leaving little time for escapism. But this makes it tough to return to work feeling refreshed – and worse still, you’re no closer to seeing the world than you were last year.
Stick to it: Make no mistake: you earned your days off, so take them – every last one. Plan in advance; if you prefer regular short trips, get them booked in early. Capitalise on national holidays, adding a day or two either side for extra-long breaks. Alternatively, have that chat with your manager about using your leave in bulk for that three-week trip to Southeast Asia…
Engage with the locals

The dream: gaining true insight into ‘real’ local culture. The reality: befriending an international crew of fellow travellers on Facebook and coming home with an ‘authentic’ souvenir made in China.
Stick to it: Let’s face it: it can take years to unravel the complexities of foreign cultures. But there are ways to increase your chances of having a meaningful encounter. Brush up on your language skills; you’d be surprised how far ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can take you. With the sharing economy showing no signs of slowing down, it’s easier than ever to find homestays, cooking classes and local tour guides.
Get out of your comfort zone

Travel is a simple yet effective way to shake up your status quo – but even seasoned adventurers can get stuck in a rut.
Stick to it: Make this year the year you mix up your travel style. Too shy to go solo? Dare to go it alone, or join a group tour for ready-made companions. Over planner? Tear up the itinerary and see what happens when you wing it. Stick to the mantra: ‘say yes more’.
Explore your own backyard

More confident sharing tips on the best restaurants in Bangkok or Bilbao than your nearest city? So often seduced by the lure of faraway places, we travel addicts often lose sight of the gems right under our noses.

The Best Places to See Polar Bears In The Wild

Yet despite the high cost and relative difficulty involved in viewing these kings of the Arctic in their natural habitat, more and more travellers are now lining up to see them – while they still can.
Spotting a polar bear in the wild is costly and difficult, but also arguably one of the world’s most thrilling

Listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), polar bears face an uncertain future. But there is hope. In September 2015, the five states whose territories cover this spectacular animal’s range – Canada, Kingdom of Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia and the US – signed the Circumpolar Action Plan, a 10-year global conservation strategy to secure the long-term survival of polar bears, which number between 22,000 and 31,000 in the wild according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). While it’s too soon to measure its success, this joint commitment nonetheless offers some reassurance that these nations are dedicated to the species’ preservation.

Most people who have been lucky enough to eyeball a wild polar bear would agree it’s one of the most thrilling wildlife-viewing experiences on Earth. Still a relatively young industry, polar bear tourism is not without its challenges. An increase in human-polar bear contact in Norway, for example, has resulted in more bears being shot.
It can also be argued that the carbon emissions generated by tourists travelling to the Arctic to spot bears is counterproductive to the marine mammals’ survival. On the other hand, well-managed polar bear tourism is credited with inspiring visitors to see the necessity of safeguarding their fragile environment. If it’s a trip you dream of taking one day, read on for the best places to ogle these majestic beasts in their Arctic playground.

Canada: Churchill, Manitoba

They don’t call Churchill the ‘polar bear capital of the world’ for nothing. Every autumn, hundreds of polar bears gather on the shores of Hudson Bay near the town of Churchill to wait for the sea ice to refreeze so they can return to hunting seals. The world’s most accessible (and cheapest) polar bear viewing destination, Churchill has a well-established tourism industry. Tours are typically conducted in custom-made tundra buggies with indoor/outdoor viewing areas. These vehicles can get close to the bears without jeopardising human or bear safety, though the elevation of the viewing platforms can present challenges for photographers.

When to go: October and November is peak viewing season in Churchill, but some operators offer packages at their remote lodges in March, when mother bears emerge from their dens with their cubs. Bear watching is combined with beluga whale watching in July and August.
Operators: Tours range from half-day viewing tours to multi-day adventures staying in tundra lodges. Operators including Great White Bear Tours (greatwhitebeartours.com), Frontiers North (frontiersnorth.com) and Natural Habitat Adventures (nathab.com) enjoy better access to the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (the key viewing area) than others.
Cost: Expect to pay around CAD$470 for a full-day tour.

United States: Kaktovik, Alaska

While polar bear populations in the Bering Sea are thought to be decreasing, bears have become such a common fixture on Alaska’s Arctic coast in summer that a tourism industry has developed around their presence in two Inupiat Eskimo villages: Barrow and Kaktovik. Located on Barter Island, just off the coast, Kaktovik is the best place to spot them – lured by the opportunity to feast on the carcasses of bowhead whales that the community are permitted to harvest, polar bears can be spotted by the dozen hanging out on the sand islands that fringe the town. Visitors arrive via small plane from Fairbanks for three- to four-hour viewing tours conducted in small boats equipped for six guests.
When to go: Boat tours run from mid-August until late September/early October.
Operators: Northern Alaska Tour Company (northernalaska.com) runs a day trip from Fairbanks; several smaller operators including Akook Arctic Adventures (akookarcticadventures.com) offer multi-day photography-driven tours, lodging in Kaktovik.
Cost: At $1799, Northern Alaska Tour Company’s day trip is the cheapest tour. You may get a better deal booking flights directly through Ravn Alaska (flyravn.com), and arranging a viewing session with Kaktovik Tours (US$720; kaktoviktours.com).

Norway: Spitsbergen, Svalbard

Halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard archipelago harbours a rich array of wildlife among its stunning glaciers and dramatic fjords – including several thousand polar bears. Viewing tours take two forms: in winter, full-day snowmobile tours depart the capital Longyearbyen, on the main island of Spitsbergen, for polar bear territory in the island’s east, where bears can (sometimes) be viewed from a distance. It’s a long, cold day out, but it’s cheaper than summertime expedition cruises that ply the west and north coasts of Spitsbergen. Cruises, however, offer much higher chances of seeing bears.
When to go: February to May for snowmobiling tours; June to August for expedition cruises.
Operators: Check out Better Moments (bettermoments.no) for snowmobiling day tours, and Intrepid (intrepidtravel.com), G Adventures (gadventures.com) and Explore! (explore.co.uk) for cruises at the more affordable end. Natural World Safaris (naturalworldsafaris.com) offers cruises and multi-day snowmobiling tours.
Cost: Expect to pay about €356 for a snowmobile day trip, and upwards of €2900 for a seven-night cruise.

Greenland: off the coast

The southern Greenland village of Nanortalik means ‘place of polar bears’, but in truth, Greenland’s polar bears live and breed in the northernmost realms of the nation’s icy wilderness. With bears so rarely seen on land, however, the greatest chance of spotting one is from an expedition cruise along the coast; some operate out of the capital Nuuk, while others travel up Greenland’s southwest or east coast en route from Canada or Iceland to Svalbard, Norway.
When to go: Cruises typically operate between July and September.
Operators: Expedition cruise operators including Aurora Expeditions (auroraexpeditions.com.au), Expedition Trips (expeditiontrips.com), Discover The World (discover-the-world.co.uk), and Quark Expeditions (quarkexpeditions.com) offer various multi-day cruise itineraries taking in the Greenland coast.
Cost: Ten- to 14-day cruises range from around €6000 and up.

Russia: Wrangel Island

One of the world’s least visited and most restricted nature reserves, Wrangel Island lies 140km off the northeast coast of Siberia. This Arctic wildlife magnet is known as the world’s polar bear maternity ward, with several hundred mothers known to land here in winter to raise their young. It’s possible for intrepid travellers to visit on expedition ship tours (departing from the Russian port of Anadyr), which offer opportunities to view bears – as well as walrus, grey whales, reindeer, and other Arctic animals – from sea and on land.
When to go: Cruises run from early August until mid-September.
Operators: 56th Parallel (56thparallel.com), Heritage Expeditions (heritage-expeditions.com), Steppes Travel (steppestravel.co.uk) and World Expeditions (worldexpeditions.com) offer expedition cruises to Wrangel Island.

Amazing Places to Go In February For Culture

New Year’s celebrations have come and gone, but there’s life in the old girl yet as February brings with it all the colour and chaos of carnival season – with Brazil, Haiti and Venice leading the sequin-clad charge.

And when you’re all partied out, or just in need of a tempo change, we’ve got some quieter cultural offerings in store, from cruising Cambodia’s waterways to exploring Venice when it’s crowd-free.

Party, party, party in Rio de Janeiro

There is no party on the planet like Rio Carnival. Two million people sequinned-up, samba-ing, cavorting, dancing and drinking in one of the world’s best-looking cities – celebrations don’t come much brighter, brasher or rowdier, or more unforgettable. For some, joining this massive melee might sound like hell on earth; for others this is bucket-list stuff. Early booking is key, as is deciding how to participate: a ticketed seat in the Sambodrome grandstand, watching the parades? Signing up with a samba school to take part in the action? Joining the blocos (street parties) for more informal fun? Also consider different Brazilian cities, for a variety of Carnival vibes. Try Salvador’s enormous African-influenced event, the traditional street parties of Recife and Olinda, or São Paulo Carnival – like Rio but less touristy by far.
Trip plan: Book well in advance if visiting Brazil during Carnival season. Add on recuperative beach time: Búzios (near Rio) or Ilha de Tinharé (near Salvador).
Need to know: Upcoming dates for Carnival Sunday are 26 February 2017, 11 February 2018, 3 March 2019, 23 February 2020.
Other months: Dec-Mar – Rio summer, hot (Carnival Feb-Mar); Apr-May – cooler, humid; Jun-Sep – mild winters; Oct-Nov – warm, uncrowded.

Visit Cambodia when the skies are dry and the lake is still high

The weather is dry and wonderful across Cambodia in February – right from the golden beaches of Sihanoukville to the temples of Angkor. Warmer than the early dry season (October to January) but not yet sweltering, this is a good month for exploring the vast, Unesco-listed complex. Long days of sightseeing are a more comfortable prospect in temperatures of around 27°C (81°F); and there’s always shade to be found amid Angkor’s stonework and jungly pockets. There’s also just enough water left in Tonlé Sap Lake to take boat trips to floating villages that are still actually floating – as the dry season progresses, levels drop, leaving stilthouses marooned in mud and Kampong Phluk (the ‘flooded forest’) inaccessible.
Trip plan: Start in Siem Reap, granting Angkor the time it deserves. Then cruise on the Tonlé Sap Lake. Head south for the haunting museums of Phnom Penh before beach time in Kep or Sihanoukville; also consider hikes in the Cardamom Mountains.
Need to know: Angkor passes are available for durations of one (US$20), three (US$40) and seven (US$60) days.
Other months: Oct-Apr – dry; May-Sep – wet (Apr-Jun: hottest, most humid).
haiti-fest

Discover the alternative Caribbean in Haiti

Yes, this is the Caribbean. But few come to Haiti for its Caribbean beaches – sandy and palm-fringed though they may be. No, people come to experience the region at its most offbeat, its most African-influenced and its most resurgent. The 2010 earthquake devastated the country, but there is optimism for the future, and a thrilling destination awaiting those who visit. February is cool and dry across the island, and thus the best time to explore it all. Capital Port-au-Prince is a heady introduction, a mayhem of traffic, rubble, market vendors, voodoo rituals, gingerbread houses and a lively music scene. Elsewhere, take a dip in the lagoons and waterfalls of Bassin-Bleu and hike (or donkey-ride) up to Citadelle Laferrière, an 18th-century fort that thrusts up like a battleship from the lush northern hills.
Trip plan: Allow at least 10 days to explore Haiti. Consider flying from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitien (for the Citadelle) to save time.
Need to know: Malaria is present, so take precautions.
Other months: Nov-Mar – coolest, dry (rainy in north Nov-Jan); Apr-Jun – hotter, rainy in centre; Aug-Oct – humid, wet, storms possible.
venice

Embrace the Carnival, or go crowd-free in Venice

February is a month of two halves in Italy’s Floating City. In part, it’s winter Venice: cold but entrancing, largely untouristed. It can be grey and bitingly cold, but the canals are enswirled by atmospheric mists, and cafes serving thick cioccolata calda offer refuge. Virtually free of cruise ships, this is when locals reclaim the place, while museums and churches remain open but empty. However, pick an alternative February weekend and it’s all different: Carnival takes over. There are masked balls, parades and fireworks, and masked figures swish down the alleys. Photographers will be in heaven, as will anyone who’s ever wanted to play dress-up in one of the world’s most magical cities. It’s busy but beautiful too. Note: most Carnival action stays central, so head to Venice’s more residential areas (Cannaregio, for example) to find pockets of calm.