Travel: You Can Camp Out in These Restored Fire Lookouts

High above the forests across America there are special lookout towers that were constructed by the Civil Conservation Corps after the Great Fire of 1910 as an early warning system in an age before radios, aircraft and GPS. The lookouts are no longer used for their original purposes, but a few have been restored and maintained to serve as respites among the nature they were originally built to protect. Heather and Andrew Pogue were brave enough to venture up a trail in Washington on their way to the Park Butte Lookout, where they slept overnight and documented the entire journey. The views from the 360-degree tower (it was a “lookout,” after all) captured by the camera are breathtaking in every direction… especially when paired together with their editorial coverage. Maintained by the Skagit Alpine Club, the Park Butte Lookout is available on a first come, first service basis with a donation area to help support the cause.

Travel: The “Sex Cruise” For Nudists and Swingers Sets Sail in September

If you love cruises but have always hated that there’s not enough open sex stuff on board, we have some great news: The Desire Cruise—described as a couples-only, clothing-optional “high-end, sensual yet spicy experience” — is setting sail this September.

The cruise will begin in the Adriatic Sea and end in Venice, Italy. The “entertainment” on board includes activities and parties like “Sexual Scrabble,” “Sensual Superheroes,” “Naughty Nautical,” and “Golf pros and tennis hoes.”

There’s also something called the Signature Playroom. From the cruise’s website as:

You will feel the electrical currents pulsate through your body, as you mix & mingle with like-minded couples in a healthy, sophisticated, erotic playground for adventurers. We invite you to take your relationship to the next level, by living out your forbidden fantasies at sea, in our Signature Playroom.

And a private jacuzzi lounge:

Enter our private, clothing-optional spa deck, with bubbling salt water bath and powerful jets that massage you as you soak up the view in the company of other like-minded couples seeking to fulfill their fantasies. This private, intimate hotspot combines cool sophistication with steamy sensuality.

And, of course, a clothing-optional pool area:

Our clothing-optional pool area provides nothing but hot n´ steamy fun, as the leader in day life aboard “Venice Foreplay”. Desire Cruises continues its infamous reign with an amplified & progressive poolside experience that is all about making waves. So accessorize your sexy self with a carefree attitude, as our Dream Team brings the action to this holiday hotspot.

If you’re busy this fall, we have more good news: The Daily Star reports another sex boat/Desire Cruise is setting sail in April 2018.

Travel: Travelers Can Now Help Save the Sea Turtles

Over the past 100 years, the population of hawksbill sea turtles has decreased by a shocking 90 percent. In an effort to save this endangered species, animal activist groups have started the “Too Rare to Wear” campaign, calling travelers to Latin America and the Caribbean to avoid buying any and all tortoiseshell souvenirs.

The tourist demand is, largely, the most threatening factor to these incredibly colorful creatures. Trinkets are slowing driving the species to extinction, despite the illegality of selling tortoiseshell products.

With this in mind, the groups behind the “Too Rare to Wear” campaign are doing their best to educate travelers on how to recognize tortoise products, so they may avoid purchasing them. This tactic has also been used to prevent the sale of elephant ivory products and shark fins.

Learn more about the campaign and how you can help here.

Travel: JetBlue Just Became The Best Airline For Those Who Always Need To Be Connected

Internet access in the air has always been a bit problematic. Not only is it pricey, you don’t really get your money’s worth with how slow your connection can be, well, if you do get a connection at all. JetBlue is changing that with a huge upgrade to their Fly-Fi service that gives free, high-speed wi-fi connections to every passenger on the plane. They’re also allowing passengers to stream video and they’ll also be the first airline to offer “gate-to-gate” internet connectivity so you don’t have to wait to reach cruising altitude to get connected.

Travel: How to Travel Across the USA by Train for Just $213

In December 2011, adventure traveler / entrepreneur Derek Low spent four days traveling across the USA by train for just $213. The 3,397-mile journey took him across 11 states and through 4 time zones along with allowing him to see both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. Low documented the entire epic trip on his site, and we highly recommend you check it out here. If you’re interested in planning a similar trip of your own, Low started a travel planning service that will help you book all your tickets for a small service fee of $49. It’s still going to be cheaper than airfare, and this is a great way to see to the country.

Royal Caribbean Will Pay You to Quit Your Job, Travel The World and Take Instagrams

Have you ever spent the day scouring your city for that perfect shot, when the sky is a dreamy pink and the setting sun bounces off the glowing skyscrapers in just the right way? Then, after a days worth of work and only a few dozen likes to show for it, you think to yourself “Damn. If only had gotten paid for that.” If so, then put down your smartphone, and listen up.​

Royal Caribbean is looking to hire a master Instagrammer for a paid summer “intern-ship,” for which you’ll be required to snap and post eye-popping shots from a three-month trip around the world. Okay, now that you’ve regained consciousness, here’s how it works:

If you’re over 21 and have “extensive knowledge of all 23 filters,” you can earn £3,000 (almost $3,700) as an amateur photographer on three cruise ships that’ll take you all over the globe—for free. All you have to do is position yourself as a “hybrid between a photographer, documentary maker and a storyteller” to land the summer job of your dreams.

If the panel of travel experts happens to choose you, you’ll be tasked with posting three photos on Instagram each day; one of a breathtaking view, one of an awesome person found on board, and one of a mind-blowing experience. If that sounds like something you’d be into, just post your most incredible travel photos from now until January 31 and include @RoyalCaribbeanUK and #ExtraordinaryExplorer in the caption. 

Just make sure you send us a postcard. 

Travel: Santa Claus, Arizona

The Mojave desert, with its blisteringly hot summer sun, Joshua trees and bizarre rock formations, would not generally be the place one would choose to honor a man whose traditional home is the North Pole. Yet standing in the desert is the ghost remnants of Santa Claus, Arizona.

Nina Talbot and her husband arrived in nearby Kingman, Arizona, in the early 1930s. Calling herself “the biggest real estate agent in California,” the name originated from Talbot’s girth (over 300 pounds) rather than her business acumen. Nonetheless, she clearly had a flair for public relations.

The Talbot’s founded Santa Claus, Arizona, in 1937 as an attempt to attract buyers to the desert location. It featured several Christmas-themed buildings and visiting children could meet Santa Claus at any day of the year. The town’s post office became very popular in December as children and parents could receive mail postmarked with the town’s name.

The town did in fact become a popular tourist destination, however no one ever bought land there, and the only people living there were the ones working in the town. Failing to see how she would make her real estate profits, and with the town in decline, Talbot sold Santa Claus in 1949, having failed in her attempt to convince people to move to the desert.

One of the places in town that was genuinely successful was its local restaurant, the Santa Claus Inn (later renamed the Christmas Tree Inn). Critic Duncan Hines, who would later become famous for the brand of food products that bears his name, described it as being of the best in the region. In 1950 science fiction writer Robert Heinlein wrote a short story about a sumptuous gourmet meal served there by Mrs. Claus. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes star Jane Russell even threw a dinner there in 1954. But even this was not enough to save the town and by the 1970s, it had already begun to fall into disrepair.

When writer Mark Winegardner visited the area in 1988 for his new book, it had become a sad shadow of its former self with “Styrofoam silver bells, strands of burned-out Christmas lights, and faded plastic likenesses of Old Saint Nick. A lopsided, artificial twenty-foot tree whistled in the wind beside a broken Coke machine and an empty ice freezer. Two of the three buildings were padlocked; through their windows, encrusted with layers of sand and decade-old aerosol snow, Jim and I saw dusty, overturned fiberglass statuettes of elves and reindeer.”

The last gift shops and amusements went out of business in 1995, leaving little recognizable, except for a few vandalized buildings, a wishing well, and the “Old 1225,” a derailed, pink children’s train covered with graffiti.

As of 2015 little remains of Santa Land, its just two boarded up graffitied buildings, the train is gone, there’s very little nothing special left, someone even stole the face of Santa off the front sign.

Travel: This Map Shows Tripadvisor’s Highest-Rated Tourist Attractions

Ready to see the world? Ask a seasoned traveler for their best tips, and they’ll probably shove well-worn Lonely Planet guides in your hands. But if you’d rather crowdsource your holiday, chances are you’ll be visiting Tripadvisor. A new map produced by Vouchercloud on Monday has collected together each country’s top “things to do” on Tripadvisor.

Some of the choices are as you’d expect, like China’s Great Wall and India’s Taj Mahal. Others are slightly less conventional. South Korea’s top-ranked attraction is the Seoul Metro, but while the subway system may very well be a sight to behold, it’s probably not as breathtaking as the five royal palaces situated in the capital city alone.

Interested in a trip to the U.K.? Better put on your robe and wizard hat, as visitors believe that the Harry Potter studio tour is the best thing to do in Blighty. Forget the London Eye, Stonehenge, or even Edinburgh Castle: A film studio focused on a fictional child ranks as the number one tourist attraction.

In the U.S., the top ranked attraction is Central Park, which may spark some controversy. Manhattan’s major park is gorgeous, but with so many natural wonders in a country that stretches from sea to sea, it’s hard to say definitively that Central Park is the sole attraction you should go to.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Tripadvisor is not a totally balanced depiction of the best attractions to see on your travels. It skews America somewhat, with 22 percent of monthly unique users coming from the U.S., and 57 percent of users are female. Almost half of travelers have kids, which may also influence which places users are most likely to write about.

If you want to get the full experience, pair up the above map with the world’s weirdest tourism slogans to get a flavor for how the tourism board wants to see their country represented, then compare to what Tripadvisor users are saying. Oh, and don’t forget your translation apps!

View the full map here.

Travel: The Most Dog-Friendly Airports in the U.S.

Flying with a dog, whether a pet or a service animal, isn’t the easiest undertaking. Travelers with larger dogs have to deal with the worrisome fact that their precious pet will have to fly in the cargo hold. Even if an airline allows smaller dogs to fly in the cabin, the trip could be less than straightforward. Will there be an issue at security? Where can the dog relieve itself once you get into the terminal? How will neighboring passengers respond?

But airports can be surprisingly accommodating to dogs, especially service animals. By law, every large airport in the United States has to have some sort of pet relief area in each terminal to accommodate people traveling with canine helpers.

Some hubs have even started programs geared towards travelers who need some four-legged support. These programs bring trained therapy canines into the terminal to sit with any passengers who want to take a break from the stresses of travel or who suffer from a fear of flying.

Here are 10 of the most dog-friendly airports in the U.S.

Denver International Airport

Denver International (DIA), the busiest hub airport in the Mountain West, features a state-of-the-art, in-terminal pet care facility. Paradise 4 Paws is a huge (25,000 square feet) venue that offers boarding for pets while their owners are traveling. The kennel area even has webcams so people can check in on their pooch online while they are on the road. Paradise also has 24-hour grooming services and indoor play areas. In addition to Denver, there are locations at Dallas Fort Worth International and at both of Chicago’s main airports.

The Colorado airport has pet relief rooms on each of its concourses. These are located on the airside after the TSA checkpoints. Owners who are in transit can walk their dogs without having to go back and forth through security, and those taking off from Denver can give their dog one final bathroom break before boarding. All these convenient in-terminal features make Denver one of the most dog-friendly airports in the country.

Minneapolis — Saint Paul

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International is another hub with multiple pet relief areas. The Minnesota airport has dedicated dog spaces outside both its terminals. The main terminal (Terminal 1) also has a pet “restroom” after security. The airport will provide an escort to take anyone with a service animal to an outdoor relief area if needed.

MSP’s Now Boarding offers pet boarding services to travelers flying out of the airport, and it’s open 24 hours a day. This facility is separate from the terminals, but pet owners get a perk when they leave their dog or cat here: Now Boarding offers 24-hour shuttle service to the terminal entrances. They will also pick you up when you get back so that you can be reunited with your pet as soon as possible after landing.

Detroit Metro

Detroit Metro is another major airport realizing the importance of catering to travelers with pets and service animals. The Michigan hub had service dogs in mind when it constructed a special airside pet relief area, which airport employees affectionately dubbed “Central Bark.” A section of this facility even has real grass.

DWC also has outdoor pet relief areas that are right next to the departures entrance (in the McNamara Terminal) and the arrivals area (in the North Terminal).

Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson

Hartsfield Jackson, the world’s busiest airport in terms of annual passenger volume, is another hub that makes pet owners feel welcome. The Atlanta airport has a 1,000-square-foot dog park near the ground transportation area of the domestic terminal.

Unlike most airport dog relief areas, this one actually deserves to be called a “park.” There are benches, complimentary biodegradable poop pickup bags and even a couple of charming dog sculptures. Since the park is fenced in, dogs can run without a leash and work off any excess energy before their flight. This summer, the airport announced it will be adding indoor pet areas on each of its concourses.

Reno Tahoe

Reno Tahoe doesn’t see as many transit passengers as the major hub airports, but it still deserves recognition for its pet-friendly attitude. Its outdoor dog facility, called the Bark Park, opened in 2004. The idea has proven so popular and gotten so much positive press for the airport that a second Bark Park was added in 2012. These parks are easy to find — just follow the artificial paw prints on the sidewalks.

The parks are surrounded by fences and are fully accessible, so they are ideal for service dogs as well as pets. As anyone who has been in Nevada during the summer will tell you, the sun can get very hot during the day. For this reason, the Bark Parks are covered with canopies.

San Diego

San Diego International has several pet relief areas and a unique program that brings dogs into the airport to comfort nervous fliers. SAN has three designated spaces for pets and service dogs. This includes an indoor, post-security option for transit passengers and dogs who need one last pit stop before boarding.

San Diego’s Ready Pet Go program brings trained dogs into the terminal to comfort nervous fliers and provide stress relief to travelers who just had to deal with long security checkpoint wait times and some of the other drawbacks of the airport experience. The dogs and their handlers are volunteers who take two-hour shifts and simply roam the concourses interacting with passengers. The program is a partnership between the airport, the Traveler’s Aid Society of San Diego and Therapy Dogs, Inc.

Washington Dulles

The main airport in the nation’s capital features no less than five pet-friendly areas. Three of these are typical outdoor spaces with natural grass (near the departures/ticketing entrances and adjacent to baggage claim) and these outdoor parks have complimentary bags and waste bins.

Dulles also has two indoor facilities, one serving the A and B concourses and one for passengers using the C and D gates. These post-security areas are covered with artificial K-9 grass. Even though they are inside, their L-shaped layout means dogs have enough space to move around. When the dog relieves itself, the owner can push a button on the wall to automatically rinse the ground in that part of the dog park.

Phoenix Sky Harbor

Phoenix Sky Harbor offers more than a patch of grass for traveling pets and service dogs. The Arizona airport has five separate areas for dogs. Three pre-security parks sit outside of terminals 2, 3 and 4. The airport has even given these spaces canine-specific names: the Pet Patch (T2), Paw Pad (T3) and Bone Yard (T4).

Unfortunately, Sky Harbor has yet to open any post-security relief rooms. There are, however, additional areas near two of PHX’s Skytrain stations in the parking section of the airport.

Philadelphia International

Philadelphia International is arguably the easiest airport in the country to travel with pets or service animals. The reason: Pet relief areas are located in each and every terminal inside the Pennsylvania hub. That means, no matter which gate you happen to be flying out of, you’ll be able to find a place for your dog not far away.

The airport took a unique approach to creating these in-terminal areas. The airlines that use the airport paid to convert seven 80-square-foot spaces into mini dog parks. The airport went ahead with the project despite critics who said the same seven plots could be used for retail spaces that could potentially earn millions in additional income for the airport each year

New York JFK

New York JFK is one of the most crowded (many call it “chaotic”) airports in the U.S. However, pet-owning travelers may find it welcoming — that is, if they fly out of the right terminal. JFK’s terminal 4 has its own pet bathroom, which is located right next to the “human” restrooms. Previously, pet owners who were in-transit or who wanted to make one final pit stop had to go back through the airport’s notoriously slow security.

JFK is also in the process of building a large terminal exclusively for pets. The cost of the project is $48 million. The investment could be worth the price when you consider that about 70,000 animals, from horses to dogs and cats, travel through the airport every year.

Travel: Stay at the World’s First Permanent Ice Hotel

If you want to up the ante this winter holiday, perhaps you’d consider staying at the world’s first permanent ice hotel, Icehotel 365 in Sweden. Located 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Jukkasjärvi, where the sun doesn’t set for 100 days, Icehotel 365 is available all year round. With its first hotel built in 1989, Icehotel is now in its 27th iteration. Constructed completely out of snow and ice and designed by various artists from across the globe, 2016′s Icehotel spans 2,100 square feet, houses 20 suites, a bar, and an art gallery. Powered by solar panels harvested during the summer months, the indoor premises drop to as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the hotel remains cold throughout the warmer season.

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