Travel Links We Like for 12/12

We don’t like to think that collecting links to stories we liked this week is lazy blogging, we like to think it helps justify all the online reading we did while we were meant to be working on something else. We also like to think it will help you discover something you’ll like too.

So here’s our soon-to-be weekly roundup of Travel Links We Like.

Notable Travel Books of 2014, by Andrew McCarthy
McCarthy begins his roundup with the admission that travel writing is complicated these days: “in our Google Maps world, even once sleepy places like poor Provence have become hackneyed and played out.” He still manages to find five titles — three titles about exploring the world and two compilations of stories — to recommend. There are some familiar names in the roundup, including Gadling contributor Pico Iyer and former features editor Don George, who wrote and edited, respectively, two of the titles. Head down to your favorite independent bookstore and stuff your loved ones’ stockings with them.

Quantum of the Seas: The First Cruise Ship Built Specifically for Selfies, by Paul Brady
For a two-day cruise to nowhere, the Quantum of the Seas sailing out of New York in mid-November produced a surprising amount of good stories. From Scott Mayerowitz’ doubtful look at his prospects for finding joy on a mega-ship to the Verge’s video segment about the boat’s tech perks, this wasn’t your typical boat packed with freeloading hacks. Into the good pool jumps CNT’s Brady, who looks at the boat in context of the social media sharing trend that Royal Caribbean hopes the boat’s extensive tech will encourage amongst its passengers.

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An #cockpitview image uploaded to Instagram.

Have emotional support animals gone too far?, by Heather Poole
Everyone’s favorite literary flight attendant (with the exception of some grumpy avgeeks) has some measured thoughts about the many bogus emotional support animals airlines are being forced to deal with with a rising frequency. She tells tales (sorry) of roosters, pot-bellied pigs, and five first-class Spuds MacKenzies, as well as allergic passengers and miniature ponies. Short story: Flying is a zoo these days.

By the way, the answer to the question posed in the title is most certainly “Yes.”

The pilots of Instagram: beautiful views from the cockpit, violating rules of the air, by David Yanofsky
Quartz alerts us to a problem we didn’t know we had: Pilots that like Instagram as much as we do. The site monitored pilot-friendly hashtags on the social media network for six months to highlight the frequent snapping and uploading of pictures from cockpits, done largely when pilots are not permitted to snap pictures. The rules pilots operate under appear to be anachronistic at times — cameras are OK, but cameraphones in airplane mode are not — so there does appear to be a compelling reason to get some updated rules out there that can cut out distractions.

The top destinations of 2015: A new approach to listicles

Robert Reid is one of my favorite travel experts in print or in person, even if he rarely manages to ever stay true to the title of his “76-Second Travel Show.”

Last year he wrote a story for our big sister site Skift about the trends driving different publications’ picks for their respective 2014 top destinations lists. It boiled down to three main angles:

The most popular pick for editors is a place linked to a specific event, anniversary or news-related topic, like the World Cup or the 100th anniversary of WWI (almost half of the total). Next are secondary destinations that appear overdue for a shout-out (over a quarter of the total, including destinations like Nicaragua’s Little Corn Islands, or Puglia, Italy).

Last is almost destination-agnostic, lists of new hotel sites or tours to plan a trip around (25% of the picks, including all of AFAR’s list).

Yesterday he posted his pre-emptive list of top destinations for 2015 — but not really. Instead of a the typical smattering of unexpected locales, under-appreciated gems, and revarnished classics, Reid instead explained a more interesting approach to helping others figure out the top destination that may be just right for them.

Watch below for his three pieces of advice.

Top 10 destinations for expats in 2014

The list of popular expat destinations has long included Northern Europe and Switzerland, known for their happiness, famed healthcare programs, and exceptional quality of life.

These countries still retain some of the top spots, but this year the top expat destination belongs to a country in the opposite hemisphere: Ecuador.

The 2014 InterNations Expat Insider survey states that this South American country is becoming a hub for expats looking to take advantage of the financial benefits they can reap there.

Ecuador came in first on the personal finance and cost of living indexes, and it also ranks the highest of all surveyed countries for ease of making friends. About 82% of expats also said they find it easy to settle down and feel at home in Ecuador. The country also ranks first for personal happiness, and 42% of expats living there say the plan to stay “possibly forever.”

Rank Country
1 Ecuador
2 Luxembourg
3 Mexico
4 Switzerland
5 U.S.
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Philippines
9 Australia
10 Hong Kong

The top expat nationalities and countries of origin are the U.S. and UK, but English is not the official language for half of the top ten most popular countries for expats. And four of the top five have official languages other than English. Expats feel this is one downturn to living in Ecuador, for example, where a third of them said it’s difficult to live there without speaking Spanish. Still, another third said learning the language was easy, and English is still prevalent in most of the top countries where English isn’t the official language.

Ecuador is followed by Luxembourg, Mexico, Switzerland, and the U.S, with Luxembourg and Switzerland ranking high for quality of life and working abroad. Mexico ranks highest for ease of settling in, and the percentage of expats wanting to stay there forever at 44% is even higher than Ecuador. Roughly one in three people also said their relocation to Mexico is work-related.

For American expats, the top three countries they move to are Germany, Italy and China, and one-third of them are working, with 47% working in a manager-type role.

Sweepstakes: Experience the Future of Travel with an All-Expenses Paid Trip to NYC

Curious about what the future of travel will be like?

Working in the industry already and looking for inspiration? Thinking of launching your own startup? Enter to win an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at some of the companies at the forefront of travel innovation today.

On day one of the tour, learn about the future of the hospitality experience firsthand by staying at the Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC, which has the first heated indoor/outdoor pool in NYC, a tri-level rooftop with striking views of the Empire State Building and Manhattan skyline, and a ground-floor trattoria, Asellina, offering Italian-inspired fare. Once your settled into your room, network with the Silicon-Alley based founders of HitList, AllTheRooms, and BonVoyaging, who are disrupting different areas of the travel industry. Afterwards, opt to unwind with a cocktail atop Gansevoort Park Rooftop or visit Exhale spa to give yourself time to brainstorm some ideas for your own startup.

On day two of your tour, attend the Skift Global Forum to understand the changing trends in travel across sectors, geographies, and functions in the travel industry. Learn from the Head of Global Hospitality at AirBnb, the former CEO of Virgin America and other top executives on what is shaping the future of the Travel industry.

Click here to enter a chance to win a Tour of the Future of Travel in NYC. One lucky winner will receive:

  • Free flight to NYC from anywhere in the continental US
  • Two (2) nights at the Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC
  • One (1) free ticket to Skift’s Global Forum covering the Future of Travel in NYC on October 9th, 2014
  • Exclusive access to four (4) travel startups located in NYC

Read sweepstakes rules here.

This is not a relaunch

We’ve made a few updates around here, but this is not the “new” Gadling. At least not yet.

The changes you see are all about moving Gadling from AOL to its new home at Skift. There are some links to Skift.com stories, which we think matter to Gadling readers because you’ve always had an interest in travel news, both on this site and elsewhere. But we know that’s not the real reason you come to Gadling.

You’ve come here for many years because you want to read about how people experience travel. That will return soon.

But right now we’re getting rid of the mountain of spam comments, the strange network ads, and the look that had seen few updates over the last five years. It’s designed to be simple, clear, and focused on the content.

We’ve kept the same tags and categories as before. And we’ve kept the same footer linking to other sites that we like. In this case a rotating cast of independent travel sites that have compelling content to offer.

So please stick with us through this transition, and know that a new-ish Gadling is on its way.

Skift Acquires Gadling Travel from AOL

It’s been quiet here for a while, but that’s about to change. I’m happy to announce that Gadling is becoming part of the Skift family.

You may have read about us in this Gadling interview when we launched nearly two years ago. Since then, Skift has become the largest travel industry news and information site in the world. Over the short two years of our existence, our brand has become the lingo in travel.

As AOL has decided to focus on MapQuest as the center of its travel strategy, it wanted to find a good home for Gadling.

That’s us.

Additionally, we’re excited to announce a partnership with MapQuest, leveraging their global mapping platform and collaborating on relevant content. MapQuest serves 40 million multi-platform users every month, providing directions, local search and discovery, and mapping solutions for everyday needs. “We love what Skift is doing and believe their work leads the market. We look forward to working with Skift to bring great travel content and services to consumers and the travel industry,” said Brian McMahon, general manager of MapQuest.

We will take over Gadling’s extensive online presence, from the website to its popular social media feeds, and continue to build it as an inspiration and news-you-can-use companion to the business-focused Skift site. We’ve long been fans of Gadling’s style of travel and writing and we’re happy to be stepping in now. Gadling will stay as is for a short bit while we tinker behind the scenes.

Stay tuned, we’re just getting started.

$7.2 Million Cash Found in Suitcases at Panama City Airport

Travel tip: If you’re trying to smuggle cash into Panama, start using the train.

Three Honduran men were arrested at Panama City’s international airport after police found $7.2 million, mostly in $100 bills, in secret compartments in eight pieces of luggage. According to this video from Newsy (Newsy? Really? Really.), officials in Panama believe the money was connected to a drug cartel. Thirty-two officers and airport security staffers have been suspended as a result of the find.

Panama Police Find $7.2 Million Cash In Luggage

Another Boeing 787 Dreamliner Has a Battery Problem

Japan Airlines grounded a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft today “after detecting smoke or gases that may have come from faults with the main battery,” according to the BBC.

Last year, all 787s were grounded for three months, CBS reports, after a “fire in a lithium ion battery aboard a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport. That was followed nine days later by another battery incident that forced an emergency landing in Japan by an All Nippon Airways 787.Today’s battery problem was noticed during scheduled maintenance. No passengers were on board the plane at the time.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “The lithium-ion battery system was found to ‘venting’ gas while the plane sat at Narita International Airport in Japan, Boeing said.”

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Catches Fire in London

Top 5 Family Travel Destinations for 2014 (and Possibly Beyond)

Winter break just wrapped up–so it’s time to think about what to do when the kids are out of school this summer. Here, the “Wall Street Journal” and Lonely Planet share their top five family travel destinations for 2014. Can’t get to these places this year? Don’t worry, most of them are likely to still be around in 2015.

Top Five Family Travel Destinations for 2014

Off-Broadway Comedy ‘Craving for Travel’ Showcases Travel Agents Trying to do the Impossible

Joanne and Gary, rival travel agents compete for their industry’s top honor, the Globel Prize, while trying to address their clients’ impossible demands in an Off-Broadway comedy that debuts this week, “Craving for Travel.”

The 85-minute, two-actor, 30-character comedy was commissioned and produced by Jim Strong, president of the Dallas-based Strong Travel Services travel agency.

“Travel agents are always asked to do the impossible, and this play shows how that is done, from finding the impossible rooms to making dreams come true,” Strong told the “Dallas Morning News.” “I decided to bring it to life on stage as a comedy in New York.”

From “Craving for Travel’s” press release:

With their reputations on the line, travel agents Joanne and Gary will tackle any request, no matter how impossible, and any client, no matter how unreasonable. Full of overzealous travelers, overbooked flights, and hoteliers who are just over it, Craving for Travel reminds us why we travel-and everything that can happen when we do.

“Craving for Travel” opens Thursday at the Peter J. Sharp Theater, where it’ll run through Feb. 9. Tickets are $32.50 and $49. They can be purchased at CravingForTravel.com, 212-279-4200 or the Ticket Central Box Office (416 W. 42nd St., 12-8 p.m. daily). More than half of the shows are already sold out.Written by Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg and directed by Sandberg (a Tony Award-winning producer for the 2009 revival of “Hair”), the play stars Michele Ragusa (who also was in “Young Frankenstein” and “Disaster!”) and Thom Sesma (“The Lion King,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’”).

“While travel industry professionals may have a different kind of appreciation for it, the script is written for general audiences,” Sandberg told the “Dallas Morning News.” “Everyone can relate to travel, especially when painted in such a humorous light.”