Friday, September 21, 2012

The World's Best Cities for Beer (Part 2)

continued from part 1...

We've willingly drunk our way around the globe to uncover the best cities for drinking beer. Here are the top 14 places to indulge in ale, lager, stout, draught, pilsner, and more.

Hanoi, Vietnam

The country's relationship with beer started in earnest during the Vietnam War when U.S. soldiers created an increased demand. Today, Hanoi has some of the cheapest and best varieties of beer in Asia. The most popular brands are San Miguel, Tiger 333, Bia Saigon, and Bière Larue. Make sure you also try Bia Hoi, or "fresh beer," a light-bodied pilsner without preservatives that is brewed and delivered daily to drinking establishments throughout Hanoi.

How to Drink: In general, beer is served over ice, and you always pour your friend's beer before your own. Toast by saying "tram phan tram" -- which translates to "100%" although it's likely that your local brew will only contain about 3% alcohol.

Average price for a glass of Bia Hoi: 2,500 Vietnamese dong (about 13¢)

Melbourne, Australia

Home to Carlton and United Breweries, Australia actively exports Foster's Lager, but locals prefer Victoria Bitter (VB), Crown, or Carlton Draught. With a pub seemingly on every major street corner in Melbourne, prices are relatively low (especially on tap), and tipping isn't required. Learn the terminology: "a shout" means you're buying the round, and "lite" actually means low-alcohol, not low-calorie.

Where to Drink: You can pick up a "slab" of 24 cans for around a A$1 per can at massive alcohol supermarkets like Dan Murphy ( Or drink it on tap at Beer DeLuxe (, James Squire Brewhouse (, and the Local Taphouse (

Average price for a pint: A$5

Edinburgh, Scotland

Locals often boast that Edinburgh has the highest concentration of pubs in Europe. Who are we to argue? The Scots have been brewing hops for thousands of years, and the tradition of drinking continues in the pubs of Edinburgh.

Where to Drink: Visit the Halfway House ( for a revolving range of local cask beers; the historic Oxford Bar (; the Bow Bar on West Bow Street and the Canny Man's on Morningside Road for a selection of locally-brewed ales; and the Cumberland Bar (, known for its huge range of cask-conditioned ales and beer.

Average price for a pint: £3

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico produces dozens of beers but only exports a handful of brands that have become household names in the U.S. A trip to Mexico City will open your eyes (and your mouth) to other tasty varieties, many brewed from century-old recipes. Regional pilsners, including Indio, Victoria, and Superior, are crisp and perfect to enjoy under the Mexican sun. The classic Germanic-style Noche Buena is only available seasonally from September to December.

Where to Drink: Try boutique beers by local brewers like Cervecería San Angel and the Santa Fe Beer Company. Cantinas and bars -- including Salon Corona II on Filomeno Mata, La Opera Bar on Av Cinco de Mayo, and La Terraza del Conquistador overlooking the Zócalo -- also carry a wide selection.

Average price for a pint: $2; you can find even cheaper options in smaller cantinas.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Once the nation's top beer-producing city and the base for four of the world's largest breweries (Schlitz, Pabst, Miller, and Blatz), Miller is now the only one that still calls Milwaukee home. Fortunately, the beer legacy survives in the form of the smaller breweries that have taken up residence -- and the aptly named baseball team: the Brewers.

Where to Drink: You'll never go thirsty at the Milwaukee Alehouse (, Roman's Pub (, and the Sugar Maple (, known to serve a selection of 60-plus U.S. craft beers. Sample more than 150 beers from over 50 breweries at Milwaukee's annual Beer Barons' World of Beer Festival (

Average price for tap beer: $3

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is the center of Belgium's huge beer industry, where the alcohol content is high and the varieties are plentiful.

Where to Drink: Head to local watering holes, such as the Puppet Cellar at Poechenellekelder, the historic Mort Subite ( and Delirium (, which serves more than 2,000 types of beer: Le Bier Circus (, Le Falstaff (, and Le Cirio are also popular haunts offering Belgian blondes, browns, reds and everything in between (beers, not women). Experience 225 beers at the annual Belgium Beer Weekend ( each September. This year falls over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 3-5).

Average price for a beer: €3.50

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia -- the City of Brotherly Love -- knows that the best bonding can happen over a pint or two.

Where to Drink: Go to Johnny Brendas ( for local Pennsylvania beers; Standard Tap ( for a large selection of draught-only craft beers from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey; Nodding Head Brewery ( for its own brew on tap; and Kraftwork ( for 25 local brews on tap and another 25 craft beers by the bottle. Philly Beer Week (, a 10-day series of beer-related events held each June, is a must-do for serious beer lovers.

Average price for a local craft beer on tap: $2.75 for an eight-ounce glass.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The 14 Best Places to Drink Beer (Part 1)

We've willingly drunk our way around the globe to uncover the best cities for drinking beer. Here are the top 14 places to indulge in ale, lager, stout, drought, pilsner, and more.

Dublin, Ireland

Renowned for producing Ireland's most famous export (Guinness), drinking beer is a way of life in Dublin. Despite the high prices, you'll find pubs and traditional alehouses full of happy patrons.

Where to Drink: No beer pilgrimage would be complete without the Guinness Storehouse tour (, which ends with the requisite free pint in the Gravity Bar. Perhaps the most celebrated beer institution is the Porterhouse ( and its nine exclusive beers. Throughout Dublin, local brews are served at hundreds of authentic pubs, including Dawson's Lounge, the traditional Stag's Head (, and the cool Solas (, which has a summer beer garden.

Average pint of lager: €4.50. Check out for more drinking venues.

Munich, Germany

More than 125 million gallons of beer are consumed annually in Munich, home of Oktoberfest and the Hofbräuhaus beer hall (

Where to Drink: Indulge in a classic Munich Helles pale lager from one of the city's six main breweries. Save time for the 11th-century Weihenstephan (, the world's oldest brewery. Munich also has several traditional beer gardens that are ideal drinking spots in the summer -- try Seehaus ( for its view of the lake and the white swans in the English Garden. The Chinese Tower Beer Garden, also in the English Garden, features live bands playing traditional Bavarian music.

Average price for a half liter: €3

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The ancestral home of globally-recognized beers like Amstel, Heineken, and Grolsh, Amsterdam serves up dozens of styles, flavors, and labels.

Where to Drink: The Cracked Kettle ( is the place to buy your beer -- the shop stocks more than 500 types of beer and can ship internationally. If you want a place to sit down, try Café Gollem ( just across the road, serving nearly 200 beers; Cafe t'Arendsnest (, which has 100 varieties of purely Dutch beers from 50 breweries (of the 100 types, 30 are on tap); and IJ Brewery (, which has its very own windmill and a tour that lets you sample 10 organic beer varieties made on-site.

Average price for a pint: €3

Prague, Czech Republic

They certainly love their beer in Prague. Arguably the largest consumers of beers in world (more than 41 gallons per person per year), the Czechs are believed to have invented pilsner. The city also happens to be among the cheapest places in Europe for drinking amber ale.

Where to Drink: Choose from dozens of historic beer halls or swanky bars. Try the 15th-century U Fleku (, Bredovsky Dvur ( and U Vejvodu (

Average price for a half liter: 26 Czech koruna (about $1.25)

Vienna, Austria

Can't think of an Austrian beer? Well, that's probably because the best beers in Vienna come from boutique microbreweries, so you won't find them outside Europe. Microbreweries are especially popular, but conglomerate brewer groups like Bräu-Union ( also dominate the local market with brands like Gösser, Zipfer, Schwechate, Wieselburger, and Puntigamer.

Where to Drink: In Vienna, visit 1516 ( for homebrewed beers; 7 Sterne Bräu ( for seasonal Viennese non-filtered varieties; the 17th-century Gösser Bierklinik ( for Bräu Union beers and Bermuda Bräu ( for a range of traditional local draughts.

Average price for a pint: €4

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo may not be cheap, but the beer is certainly easy to find: you can even buy cans from vending machines on the street (no ID is required). Although many pubs here try to cater to Western tastes and offer imported beers, most serve local varieties on tap. There is also a relatively new and vibrant Japanese craft beer scene (ji-biiru).

Where to Drink: Try Popeye ( for its selection of 70 beers on tap that includes many hard-to-find local craft brews; Craftheads ( for its draft and bottled beer; Ushi-Tora in Shimo-Kitazawa, which specializes in draft microbrews, Japanese beers, and a few international brews; and the Kura-Kura Bar ( in Kanda, which offers 12 craft brews on tap.

Average price for a pint of craft beer: ¥1,200; pick up Asahi, Kirin, or Sapporo at vending machines for around ¥250.

Portland, Oregon

The West Coast beer haven of Portland has more breweries per person than any other city in the U.S.: more than 30 at last count. Hops and barley are grown locally, so you know that your microbrew will be fresh and natural.

Where to Drink: Try drinking at home-grown breweries and taverns like Widmer Gasthaus (, the New Old Lompoc (, and Bridgeport ( If you want to drink more, arrange a ride through Portland's Brew Bus Tour (, which visits 20 city establishments. The Oregon Brewers Festival ( is held each July and features more than 80 craft beers.

Average price for a beer: $3.30 be continued with PART 2!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The best ticket prices when traveling with kids

The best ticket prices when traveling with kids

Many airlines offer discounts for young fliers. Also consider package rates. Taking the train instead? Amtrak has deals too. Another option: a cruise.

If you are flying with kids, you may be able to get a discount, depending on the children's ages and your destination. You can often find discounts on international routes of 10% to 25% off for kids ages 2 to 11.
Note that the discount is on the base fare and generally not on such fees as the fuel surcharge, which can be hundreds of dollars on international flights.
Note too that the airlines do not offer discounts on government taxes and fees. Airlines don't have control over those charges, unlike the fuel surcharge.
For domestic flights, kids younger than 2 usually can fly free as lap babies. On most international routes, there is a charge of 10% of the base fare, plus some taxes and fees, but in most cases you will not be required to pay the fuel surcharge. If you want to buy a seat for your infant younger than 2, the fare for kids ages 2 to 11 would apply on those airlines that offer a children's discount.
When flying with a lap infant abroad, contact Nonstop Travel to purchase tickets well before you depart, earlier, in fact, than you would if you were flying solo. If you are flying with a lap baby who will turn 2 before you return, most airlines require you to purchase a seat for BOTH legs - outbound and inbound.
There are kids' discounts on international flights to much of the world. If you plan to fly in business or first class, discounts for kids average 25%. Some airlines, by the way, don't allow kids younger than 12 in first class, so make sure you read all the fine print.
You often can find savings on family travel with package rates. Some packages, for instance, may contain kids-fly-free offers, although this is not as common as it used to be, thanks to reductions in airline capacity.
As you study prices (and you make a list or a spreadsheet of which airline is charging what for each person), look at the total cost to make sure you are getting the best fare. (Be sure to enter the number of passengers ages 2 to 11 to ensure the discounted rate.) Just because a child's discount is offered, don't take it for granted that it's the cheapest option. Be sure to comparison-shop just as you would when buying an adult ticket. And know that if you find a fare that's really great, you need to snag it because what you see today may not be there tomorrow. Keep in mind, sometimes airlines do NOT give discounts on the lowest fares, but on more expensive ones. Nonstop Travel can book mixed classes, so the adult is flying on the lowest fare possible and the children on a higher fare with a discount, so the bottom line will still be less.
If you are traveling by train, Amtrak offers 50% off fares for kids ages 2 to 15 on most routes when accompanied by a paying adult. (Up to two kids can get the discount for each adult.) Kids younger than 2 may travel for free if they sit on your lap. Visit
Many hotels allow kids up to 17 to stay and eat free when sharing a room with Mom and Dad. You also may see offers for 50% off a second room for families, which is helpful if you have teenagers whose schedule and entertainment preferences may not quite match your own.
Cruises may be another avenue to explore, especially given all the amenities for kids on some ships. (Make sure you check with a travel agent or do plenty of research to find out whether kids are a focal point or the options for kids are just an afterthought.) Keep an eye out for kids-cruise-free offers from lines such as Disney and NCL, and watch for offers of discounts for the third or fourth passenger in a cabin. The passenger could be your child, and even if that makes the cabin a little close, remember the family vacation is all about togetherness.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Questions about Hurricanes & Travel Insurance?

5 top questions answered:

Q. How can travel insurance cover my vacation investment in the event of a hurricane or other unforeseen severe weather?

A. In the event of a covered hurricane or other unforeseen severe weather, travel insurance provides coverage under the Trip Cancellation and Interruption benefit. If your trip is cancelled for a covered reason, we will refund the pre-paid, forfeited, non-refundable trip costs trip up to the limit of coverage.

Q. If a hurricane watch or warning is issued that may impact my travel plans, up to what point can I still purchase travel insurance?

A. Insurance must be purchased 24 hours prior to when the hurricane has been named. Once the hurricane has been named, Trip Cancellation and Interruption losses resulting from the hurricane are excluded from the coverage of the policy.

Q. If the resort that I will be staying at next week is damaged in a storm before my scheduled departure, can I cancel my trip and be reimbursed for my non-refundable costs?

A. If the resort is damaged and cannot accommodate you (or provide comparable accommodations), your nonrefundable costs will be reimbursed.

Q. I'm worried that a predicted storm's path will be too near to the location of my upcoming insured vacation; can I cancel for a refund?

A. If the storm directly affects your travel arrangements or accommodations, you are entitled to Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption benefits. For example: an airport is closed due to the high winds; you are forced to evacuate your hotel/resort; the road you are traveling is impassable due to high water. On the other hand, if you choose to cancel a trip based on what you think might happen — and not because the inclement weather has directly affected your travel arrangements — that would be considered a matter of choice — not a direct loss to your arrangements.

Q. If my airport is closed due to a hurricane or other weather event, and my vacation is delayed, will I be reimbursed?

A. Yes, travel insurance will cover the expenses incurred if your trip is delayed and will cover reasonable, additional accommodations and travel expenses until travel becomes possible.

If you are living in a hurricane affected area, please make sure to read the following TOP TEN Hurricane Tips.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

10 interesting food museums from around the world

While many people visit museums in order to learn about culture, art, or history, how many out there can say they've gone to a museum to see an exhibit on SPAM? Or to learn the processing history of salami? While somewhat out of the norm, these 10 interesting food museums from around the world will give you insight and fun facts into some of your favorite cuisine.

Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia 

Location: Burlingame, California
From vintage Pez dispensers to new Pez-related items, come to Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia to learn the history of Pez as well as buy Pez products. The highlight of the museum is seeing the world's largest Pez dispenser, which is in the form of a 7 ft' 10'' tall snowman and can hold 6,480 Pez candies. And if you get sick of looking at Pez dispensers all day, the museum also has a Classic Toy Museum and a Banned Toy Museum on site.
Located at 214 California Dr. Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10AM-6PM.

The SPAM Museum

Location: Austin, Minnesota

The SPAM Museum is a tribute to this pre-cooked, canned meat that includes vintage advertising, memorabilia, SPAM trivia, and interactive exhibits. Visitors can even test their SPAM-canning skills as well as learn about the large role SPAM played in the diet of WWII soldiers. See walls made entirely of SPAM cans and ceilings holding massive burger buns as you walk through this retro-style museum.

SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota Fun Fact: An actor from New York named Kenneth Daigneau won a contest in 1936 put on by the creator of SPAM, Jay Hormel, that allowed him to choose the name for the canned meat. Mr. Daigneau chose SPAM, which is where the name comes from. He also won $100, which today could have bought him $1,500 in SPAM products.

Located at 1101 North Main St. Museum hours are Monday-Saturday, 10AM-5PM, and Sunday, 12PM-5PM. 

The Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum 

Location: Szeged, Hungary

Pick salami and paprika museum in hungary The Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museumgives visitors a chance to learn everything there is to know about Pick salami and paprika through a showcase of photographs, history lessons on founder Mark Pick, production displays, and butchering guides. The best part of the museum is the life-size wooden dolls wearing authentic costumes that are setup in ways that depict scenes in the salami and paprika making process with production equipment out on display. Luckily, the Picks are still in business so after learning about these delicious treats you can purchase some for yourself.

Located at Felso Tisza-Part 10 . Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 3PM-6PM. 

The National Mustard Museum

Location: Middleton, Wisconsin

Musard museum in Minnesota How much could there possibly be to learn about mustard? Apparently, a lot. The National Mustard Museum is home to more than 5,600 different types of mustard, including kinds from all 50 states as well as over 60 different countries. Visitors can sample the different varieties, some of which include tequila, chocolate, and cranberry mustard, for free at the Tasting Bar, where you will be guided on a sensual (and sometimes spicy) experience by a Confidential Condiments Counselor. A visit to the National Mustard Museum is not only a tour for the taste buds, however, but also for the eyes, as you admire antique mustard pots, reminisce over vintage mustard ads, view a film at the Mustardpiece Theatre (The Sound of Mustard, anyone?), take a mustard cooking class, and more.

Located at 7477 Hubbard Ave. Museum hours are 10AM-5PM, daily. 

The Chocolate Museum Cologne 

Location: CologneGermany

Chocolate museum in cologne, germanyOf course, what food-related list would be complete without chocolate. What makes the Chocolate Museum Cologne unique is that it's more than just displays of chocolate. At this museum you will travel through three levels of chocolate history, spanning over 3,000 years. Level one will introduce you to the cocoa tree, as you literally visit a tropical house to admire one up close. Next, see a glass chocolate factory to learn about the production of this sweet staple. On the next level visitors are introduced to chocolate as a luxury item, beginning in Mesoamerica. The final level allows you to peruse chocolate advertising and signs, watch films in the chocolate cinema, and see chocolate items that developed a cult following. There are lots of interesting tidbits of chocolate knowledge to learn here. For instance, did you know that 80 years ago the high calorie content in chocolate was seen as a good thing? I definitely would have liked to be around back then.

Located at Am Schokoladenmuseum 1a, 50678. Museum hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10AM-6PM, Saturday-Sunday, 11AM to 7PM. 

The International Banana Club Museum

Location: Hesperia, California

international banana club museum in california I have never seen anyone as bananas for anything as Ken Bannister, the founder of the International Banana Club Museum, is for, well, bananas. This museum, decorated with banana art, clocks, photographs, and more, holds the largest collection dedicated to one fruit in the world and is the perfect place to come if you're looking for something a little more on the wacky side. Begin in the "Hard" section and browse through pipes, trees, pins, knives, golf putters, belts, rings, cups, and more, all with a banana theme. There is even a rock-hard petrified banana that has been in the museum since 1975. Next, check out the "Food, Drink, and Notions" section, including banana-related foods, drinks, soaps, oils...even banana tobacco. The final sections are the "Clothing Section" (banana nose, anyone?) and the "Soft" section, which is the perfect place to end your day at the museum, as there is an eight-foot long banana couch and tons of comfortable banana pillows

Located at 16367 Main St. Museum hours are Tues-Thurs, 9AM-1PM, and the first Saturday of each month, 9AM-1PM. 

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum

Location: TokyoJapan

Raumen museum in tokyo, japan Who would have guessed that your favorite meal in college (or the only one you knew how to cook) had an entire museum dedicated to it? The Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum includes a huge recreation of Tokyo as it looked in 1958, the year Raumen (or Ramen) was created. Visitors also get the chance to dine in some of the most well-known Raumen noodle restaurants in existence. Walk near walls covered in Raumen packages, browse Raumen and houseware displays, watch Raumen commercials on replay, and enjoy interactive Raumen video games.

Located within walking distance of Shin-Yokohama Train Station. Museums hours are 11AM-10PM, daily. 

Deutsches Currywurst Museum

Location: BerlinGermany

currywurst museum in berlin germany One may wonder why a city would decide to dedicate an entire museum to curried sausage. The truth is, there is no German dish that "inspires as many stories, preferences, and celebrity connoisseurs" as currywurst. While this may sound a bit dramatic, a visit to the Deutsches Currywurst Museum may make you a believer, as well. Get your picture taken at the old-fashioned snack bar, explore the spice chamber to solve the mystery search for the perfect ingredients, and take in the unique decor including a sausage sofa, over-sized ketchup drops hanging from the ceiling, and humongous fry displays. Visiting Deutsches Currywurst Museum is also a learning experience, as you hear about currywurst history and legends, take part in the experimental kitchen, and watch some famous currywurst scenes on film.

Located at SchÜtzenstrausse 70. Museum hours are 10AM-10PM, daily. 

The Idaho Potato Museum

Location: Blackfoot, Idaho

idaho poato museum Being that the potato is Idaho's most famous product, it is no wonder that there would be anIdaho Potato Museum dedicated to the starchy vegetable. This museum holds a lot of information about the history of the potato, including a film about the development of the potato industry, old farming equipment, as well as educational exhibits of the harvesting process and nutrition. The real attraction at this museum, however, is the world's largest potato chip, which, according toRoadside America, is a 25x14-inch Pringle created in 1991 by engineers at Proctor and Gamble. The gift shop here is also worth mentioning, as it sells all kinds of potato-related gifts including potato ice cream and potato fudge.

Location is 130 NW Main St. Museum hours are April-September, Monday-Saturday, 9:30AM-5PM and October-March, Monday-Friday, 9:30AM-3:30PM. 


Location: Brugge, Belgium

Frietmuseum in brugge, belgiumAfter discussing a museum dedicated to the potato, it is only fair to talk about a museum dedicated to the world's favorite potato product, the French fry. Frietmuseum is the first museum in the world dedicated to the fry. While fried potatos are an international treat, what many people may not know is that they actually originated in Belgium. While you will learn the history of French fries and condiments at Frietmuseum, what really attracts tourists is the Saaihalle, the 14th century building that it is housed in. When sampling some of the museum's fried cuisine, you will be taken downstairs to the medieval cellars of this building, which is the oldest in Brugge.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

LAX Construction on Tom Bradley International Terminal to Cause 'Severe' Traffic Delays

Construction on the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) starts today, and officials are warning travelers of major traffic delays near the terminal.
Part of the first phase of the $23.5 million project, the construction will give the TBIT's facade a facelift, including replacing the glass canopies in front of the terminal to match those detailed in the modern architectural design for the new international terminal currently under construction. Slated for completion in spring 2013, the project will also update the terminal with new outside escalators, signage and energy-efficient lighting, according to City News Service.
Here's what you need to know regarding maneuvering the TBIT during construction. The departure level curbside lane between the international terminal and Terminal 4 will be closed, and the first entrance to the terminal is closed to passenger drop-off. Cars will, however, be permitted to drop off passengers at the second and third entrances. The pedestrian sidewalk along the terminal will remain fully open.
"It's going from the mid-'80s-type of architecture to this new, sleek, curved, metal-type of architecture in a lot of new buildings," Albert Rodriguez, a spokesman for LAX, told L.A. Times.
CNS says the project "is expected to cause severe traffic backups near the terminal," and existing lane closures related to the $438 million Central Utility Plant Replacement Project won't help with congestion. Curbside lanes between Terminal 3 and the Tom Bradley terminal will remain closed on the departure and arrival levels as the airport replaces the 50-year-old power plant with a modern facility. Additionally, roadwork that will prompt lane closures has been planned in order to add 8.7 miles of piping between the new central utility plant and terminals.
Airport officials hope passengers, motorists, airport employees and vendors heed their warnings to allow more time traveling to and from the airport.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

TSA to introduce passenger prescreening at United's LAX terminals

The Transportation Security Administration program that allows prescreened passengers to move more quickly through security is scheduled to expand next week to United Airlines in Terminal 7 at LAX.
The program, known as PreCheck, is already in place at LAX for select Delta and American passengers. Under the program, such passengers may not have to remove their shoes or lightweight outerwear or remove their laptop or liquids from their carry-on during screening.
“All of our customers absolutely love it,” said Alexandria Marren, senior vice president of network operations for United and United Express, under which security falls. United, which implements the LAX plan Tuesday, hopes to have 24 airports using the program by the end of the year.
To become one of the chosen, passengers need to be frequent fliers. What exactly that means — whether you need to have achieved “elite” frequent flier program status or you fly six times a year — isn’t clear and neither the TSA nor United said they could discuss that.
Passengers who are members of the Customers and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler programs, which include Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS, also may be eligible for expedited screening.
Information indicating that the passenger has the prescreening stamp of approval is embedded in the barcode of the boarding pass. TSA would not say how that process works. The process did require some additional barcode-reading equipment at some checkpoints, TSA said.
Marren said the expedited process moves passengers through the security 2 1/2 times faster than regular screening.
The program, which was rolled out in October, has so far screened  more than 1.7 million passengers, the TSA estimates.

Friday, July 20, 2012

36 Hours in Cologne

36 Hours in Cologne, Germany

ONE of the oldest cities in Germany, Cologne has been drawing visitors since at least the year 50 A.D., when it was officially founded as the Roman outpost of Colonia. Today the big attractions are the city’s ancient (and gargantuan) cathedral, vibrant night life, a great native beer called Kölsch, and eau de cologne, invented here in 1709, not to mention the ever-present Rhine River. But the city the Germans know as Köln is hardly resting on its former achievements. New surprises just keep showing up. After crossing off bucket-list items like exploring the cathedral and crawling through legendary Kölsch pubs, you can easily spend an entire weekend focusing on the shops, restaurants and hotels that have opened (or reopened) within the past few years.

Day 1: Medieval Churches

Where else to begin your journey through Cologne than the glorious Kölner Dom, the city’s twin-spired cathedral that miraculously escaped unscathed from the bombing raids of World War II. Packed with art treasures, work first began on the building in 1248 and wasn’t complete until 1880. Inside, the building is a symphony of light and space thanks to the flying buttresses, stained-glass windows and richly carved choir stalls. Many other medieval churches fill the old city, including turreted Gross St. Martin above Fischmarkt and the lovely church of St. Ursula. For a view of Cologne’s towers from the Rhine, take an atmospheric afternoon or evening dinner cruise.

Day 2: Cologne Museums

Cologne is a cultural gem, and not only because of its churches. See sculptures, tombs, mosaics, ruins and entire bits of wall from Roman times at the Roman-German Museum. Trace the history of art by admiring the Wallraf-Richartz Museum’s collection of Dutch masters, medieval treasures at the Museum Schnütgen, and 20th century and postmodern art at the Museum Ludwig. Cologne’s history is unraveled at the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum, the city’s Third Reich experience at EL-DE Haus, and gorgeous textiles and designs are displayed at the Museum of Applied Arts.

Day 3: Cologne Cuisine

There’s much more to Cologne’s dining and wining scene than raucous beer halls with oompah-pah bands and sauerkraut – though there’s a lot to be said for spending a night drinking arm-in-arm with your neighbors at a tavern. The local beer is called Kölsch, and the food you’ll encounter in beer halls and regional restaurants includes hearty blood sausage, potato pancakes with apple sauce, and open sandwiches on pumpernickel bread. Step outside the beer taverns and the world is your oyster, from Japanese sushi and Middle Eastern falafel to crepes, pizza and pasta.

Hotels in Cologne
Sightseeing in Cologne

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Web Buzz: Plan your trip at

What it does: Helps you plan a day-by-day trip itinerary
Cost: Free
What's hot: I love the idea of making a day-by-day itinerary and then downloading it as a PDF when I'm done, as well as being able to access it from my smartphone or iPad. But after testing the app on my iPad, and also checking out the website, the latter is the way to start. Go to the home page on the website and look for a suggested trip plan such as "3 Day Trip to San Francisco or "Paris in One Day" and click on the Modify Trip Now button to make it your own. Once you're done modifying an itinerary, use the Add Your Own button to place specific restaurants, shops or addresses on your map and itinerary. The end result, as a PDF, is beautiful and book-like.
What's not: Where are the restaurants? When I tried to plan a trip to San Francisco, most of the pins marked places of interest. The few times I did find something food-related, it was usually a place to party or grab a beer.
Worth it: Yes, but there are stumbling blocks, and it requires patience. For example, when I went to the website and it told me to choose a destination, I typed in "Las Vegas, NV," and got the reply, "Tripomatic has yet to cover Las Vegas, NV." But there on the home page was a list of popular destinations, and Las Vegas was included, with maps, a free guide, suggestions for what to do and tours to buy. Go figure.

Friday, July 13, 2012

New Safety Measures for Cruises

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the European Cruise Council (ECC) adopted two new safety policies

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the European Cruise Council (ECC) adopted two new safety policies. These policies, which address issues related to the recording of passenger nationality and the common elements of musters and emergency instructions, result from the Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review launched in January.
The Nationality of Passengers policy was developed in response to the request of governments at the May meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee meeting. This policy prescribes that the nationality of each passenger onboard is to be recorded and made readily available to search and rescue personnel as appropriate. Under the Common Elements of Musters and Emergency Instructions policy, member cruise lines have specified 12 common elements that will be communicated to passengers in musters and emergency instructions. Among these common elements are a description of key safety systems and features as well as an explanation of emergency routing systems and emergency exit locations. Both policies exceed current international regulatory requirements.
“Our industry continues to actively identify a range of measures that will improve the safety of passengers and crew, which is the top priority of the cruise industry,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Preparing for a European Trip

Going to Europe is exciting, but it can be stressful, too. By arranging a few things while you’re still at home, you’ll greatly increase your chances of having a smooth, enjoyable European vacation.
Check your passport. Is it due to expire soon? You may be denied entry into certain countries if your passport will expire within three to six months of your ticketed date of return. Get it renewed if you’ll be cutting it close.
Stash photocopies of important travel documents. Whether you’re at home or abroad, anybody can experience unexpected problems from loss or theft. If you have a copy of a valuable document, it’s easier to replace the original.
In fact, make two sets of photocopies of your passport and railpass or car-rental voucher. (For debit and credit cards, just record the numbers, rather than photocopy them.)
Pack one copy and leave the other with a buddy at home, to be faxed or e-mailed to you in case of an emergency. I hide my copy in a second money belt clipped into the bottom of my luggage (don’t tell anyone).
Contact your debit- and credit-card companies. Prior to your trip, call your bank and credit-card company to let them know which countries you’ll be visiting. This will ensure that they don’t decline foreign transactions.
While you have them on the line, confirm your debit card’s daily withdrawal limit, request an increase, if you want, and ask about fees for international transactions.
Arrange your transportation. Call us for your flight arrangements you might need to take within Europe as early as possible, since the cheapest seats sell out fast.
Train travelers should decide whether it makes sense to buy a railpass (these cover trips in one or more countries for a set number of days); if so, you’ll need to buy it before you leave the United States. If you plan to take the Eurostar between London and Paris, book tickets far ahead for the best fares. Get train tickets & passes here.
If you’re renting a car, your driver’s license is all you need in most places, but some countries, including Austria, Greece, Italy and Spain, also require an International Driving Permit. While that’s the letter of the law, I’ve rented cars in dozens of countries without an IDP — and have never been asked to show one. You can get an IDP at your local AAA office. Get the lowest car rental rates for Europe here.
Take care of medical business. Visit your doctor to get a checkup, and deal with any dental work that needs to be done.
If you use prescription drugs, take a sufficient supply to cover your trip, along with a copy of your prescription so you can refill it at a European pharmacy, if necessary.
Call your health insurance provider to see if they cover you internationally or whether you might need to buy special medical insurance.
Look into travel insurance. This can minimize the financial risks of a vacation. Your potential loss varies, depending on factors such as your health, how much of your trip is prepaid, the refundability of your air ticket, and what coverage you already have (through your medical, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and/or credit card).
Prepare gadgets for takeoff. If you plan to use your US mobile phone in Europe, consider signing up for an international calling, text and/or data plan, and confirm voice- and data-roaming fees.
If you’re taking a mobile device, download any tools that might come in handy on the road, such as translators, maps, transit schedules, eBooks, Internet calling apps and free audio tours (including mine, covering some of Europe’s top sights and neighborhoods).
Make sleeping, eating and sightseeing plans. For those who want maximum choice and peace of mind, book accommodations well before your trip, especially if you’ll be traveling during peak season, a major holiday or a popular festival. Hotel Reservations.
To avoid long lines at major sights, such as the Eiffel Tower and Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, make advance reservations online. Here you can book plenty of tours and activities for all major European cities.
The best travelers are those who plan ahead and have a travel agent on their side. With a little advance legwork, you’ll return home with rich stories of spontaneous European adventures.