Blog Posts by Ereka Vetrini

  • Layovers extraordinary

    The “delayed” status on an airport departure screen is one of a traveler’s least favorite sights. Thirty minutes can become an hour, which can become five hours. How do you make the most of such a stressful situation?

    In today’s episode of Tour & Explore, we speak with travel concierge Joanna Stark to get her layover survival guide. She gives some helpful – and even fun! – tips with the airport waiting game.

    A shorter layover allows time to enjoy airport amenities, which have improved in recent years. For instance, in San Francisco’s airport, a leader in flight delays, you can retreat to a yoga studio. Other airports have massages available in the terminal.

    And if you have to wait five hours, why wait in the airport? Stark suggests enjoying the local sights, such as Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles or Graceland in Memphis. Also, if you’re caught in a long layover between flights, you might consider taking advantage of an airport club for a refreshing shower, as Starks did.

    (See also: The

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  • Five great learning vacations

    Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut? What about a gladiator? In this episode of Tour & Explore, we take a look at some truly out-of-the-box vacations. Jacqui Gifford, Senior Editor of Travel + Leisure Magazine, revealed five of her favorites.

    How about taking up falconry? Ashford Castle in Ireland offers the chance to fly a hawk around the grounds. “You are walking the grounds of this historic castle with a hawk perched on your arm,” Jacqui says. “It’s very Harry Potter-esque.”

    If you dreamed of going to space camp as a kid, it’s not too late. The U.S. Space and Rocket in Huntsville, Ala., features an Adult Space Academy that grownups the chance to have the astronaut experience. “They do model rocket construction and launch,” Jacqui explains, “You get to train in astronaut simulators, and you also get to see one of the world’s largest collection of space aircrafts.”

    If cruising is more your thing, check out a Jean-Michel Cousteau sailing from Paul Gauguin Cruises. The legendary

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  • Eat like a local, whether for business or pleasure

    You don’t need to stamp up your passport to sample some of the world’s best ethnic food; America is a nation of immigrants, bursting with mouth-watering international flavors. In this episode of Tour & Explore, we brought in a food connoisseur to offer some of her favorite ethnic hotspots in the country.

    Among the restaurant dishes on AnneLise Soren’s checklist:

    • Spanish tapas in New York, including dates wrapped in bacon.  
    • Scandinavian pork meatballs in Chicago.
    • Tibetan momos filled with beef in San Francisco.
    • Alligator – yes, alligator – in New Orleans, a United Nations of food unto itself.

    Watch the episode to find out which restaurants offer these delightful dishes and others.

    (Watch also: Plan ahead to go local)

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  • Exploring ethnic cultures

    Some learn about a foreign culture through its food or its museums, but how about through shaking a leg? In this episode of Tour & Explore, we see how dancing while traveling can teach us and thrill us at the same time.

    Our guest, Mickela Mallozzi, has collected ethnic dance steps like some collect postcards. As she says, when dancing in another country, she can communicate with people whether she knows their language or not.

    (See also: Plan ahead to go local)

    Mallozzi shares her dance insights and brings along some eye-popping dance accessories, including a Puerto Rican bomba skirt and Argentine tango shoes.

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  • Top things NOT to pack

    It's a burden to look good when on the road, but an even greater burden is hauling all that luggage across the airport. How do you decide what goes with you and what doesn't?

    We got travel expert Karen Tina Harrison to solve this problem in the latest episode of Tour & Explore. Her basic solution: Less is more.

    Rather than dragging your entire closet with you, Harrison suggests picking out a few versatile, high-quality items -- no one will notice if you're repeating the same outfit.

    As for what to pack your stuff in, Harrison advises going carry-on or going home. She demonstrates just how much you can fit into two light carry-on bags. The trick? It's all about what defines a "personal item."

    (See also: Layovers extraordinary)

    Watch the video above and learn more about how to save money on check-in fees and save some strain on your back.

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  • Plan ahead to go local

    One of the best things about travel is getting an authentic feel for what a new place is really like. That can mean tasting regional delicacies, trying new hobbies and activities or seeing different sides of places you’ve heard about but not yet investigated for yourself.

    For the latest episode of Tour & Explore, I talked to Allison Fishman, host of Yahoo! series Blue Ribbon Hunter, for tips on how to discover the best of any scene. Every city has a specialty, she says — you just have to dig a little.

    Among her favorite things: history lessons through food. Try wandering through Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden, for example, to learn which foods and spices he insisted on bringing over from the Old World.

    (See also: Things not to pack)

    Watch the video above for more tips on how to get a local’s view of any new destination.

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  • Traveling and staying fit

    Michael Gazaleh, the founder of City Running Tours, tells me that sometimes the biggest obstacle to exercise during travel is planning — fitting it in along with everything else you want to do. Fortunately, running doesn’t require much planning or equipment. All you need is a good pair of shoes and an idea of where to go.

    You don’t have to give up on sightseeing in order to exercise: just do both at the same time. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of tackling the Rocky Balboa stairs in Philadelphia?

    (See also: Plan ahead to go local)

    Gazaleh, a chiropractor, also gives us tips on how to reverse the aches and pains that often come with travel.

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  • Traveling alone has never been so fun

    If you’ve thought about taking a solo trip but aren’t sure how to go about it, we have the perfect interview for you in today’s Tour & Explore. Writer Christine Maxfield took an entire year to travel the world by herself, visiting 19 countries and volunteering in 12. She gives us some essential tips on how to travel alone in a way that’s smart, safe and fun.

    Maxfield’s advice is especially helpful for solo women, who are likelier to get friendly treatment in Cambodia than they are in the Middle East. This is no reason to avoid the latter, however. Maxfield lists some simple precautions to help women avoid unwanted attention.

    (See also: How to take an unplugged vacation)

    Click on the video above for more about these tips on extended solo travel:


    • Enhancing the experience with work and volunteerism.
    • Planning ahead but also staying flexible if any surprises come up (such as the Arab Spring uprising, in Maxfield’s case).
    • How to collect souvenirs as you go (hint: you’ll want to send that tribal
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  • The gadget-wise traveler

    Once we had to pack our travel bag with a camera, foreign phrase book, maps and a lot more. Nowadays, whether you travel for business or pleasure, smartphones are lightening that load with a wide array of digital tools.

    For this episode of Tour & Explore, we talk about these tools with Joanna Stern, technology editor at ABC News. Here are some of her favorites (click on the video above to hear about them in her words):

    Waze: A great tool if you need to get someplace quickly, this map app has a social element. Users offers real-time updates on what's happening on the road, including traffic congestion.

    iTranslate: You don't need to fumble through a language guide anymore. This app will repeat whatever you want to say in the language of your choosing.

    Tripit: This app simplifies your itinerary-building. Just forward all travel confirmations to a single email address, and Tripit automatically adds them to a single itinerary.

    Apps like these require a lot of battery power throughout the day,

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  • How to take an unplugged vacation

    Can watching a simple sunrise be a transforming experience? Yes indeed, say those who advocate "braincations" that temporarily shut off all the technology gadgets in our lives and reconnect us with nature -- and ourselves.

    For this episode of Tour & Explore, we spoke with two guests who know the subject well: wellness tour specialist Linden Schaffer and psychologist Michael Fraser. Schaffer provides retreats (she's the founder/director of Pravassa.com) to natural settings such as Bali, where groups of people can truly get out of their everyday environments and habits. Healthy eating and even no-talking periods are part of the experience.

    How do you prepare for a vacation like this when your life revolves around staying connected? Fraser offers his tips, including letting your colleagues or friends know in advance that you'll be off the grid for a while (you can find Fraser at michaelfraserphd.com).

    Is it realistic for us to keep a balance between ever-advancing technology and our analog

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