Shermanstravel Blog

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Space travel. Bitcoin payments. Suites on airplanes. Some trends just keeping popping up on our news feeds time and time again. Some of these are fantastic and others… not so much. But for better or worse, here are nine that we think are here to stay.

1. Wearable tech.
Now that Apple’s in the game, wearable tech seems more and more like a part of the future — and not just as an ugly fashion trend. While we all love to hate Google Glass, travel brands are already responding to the Apple Watch unveiled in September. For example, Starwood’s new SPG app, which will let guests unlock rooms with their iPhone, is already designed to be Apple Watch-compatible. Of course, at nearly $349 dollars, Apple Watch isn’t a casual purchase, and we bet there will be some software and hardware challenges to overcome. Plus, it needs to be paired with an iPhone, though brands like Samsung are attempting to market what’s essentially a mini-smartphone to wear on your wrist.

2. Space voyages.
Despite the unfortunate Virgin Galactic crash at the end of last month, space travel is going to happen. The brand’s CEO shared that the company is continuing full steam and will “have a new spaceship that’s going to be ready in a few months” (as investigations into the crash continue). Having recently received massive funds from NASA, Boeing is also working on developing passenger aircraft for space. And it’s not just planes we’re talking about here. A Beijing-based company called Space Vision is developing a “high-tech balloon” powered by helium to bring tourists into space, and a Japanese construction company, Obayashi Corporation, is aiming to operate an elevator into space by 2050.

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Last month, Hilton Worldwide announced its latest foray into the lifestyle category with Canopy by Hilton, a new concept from the international hotel behemoth that will localize the guest experience. Poised to open its first set of doors in 2015, we spoke with Gary Steffen, the brand’s global head, who shared five things you should know about Canopy by Hilton.

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NH Premium Room - lane nieset

Business hotels aren’t typically known for modern design, cutting-edge technology, and restaurants sporting Michelin-starred chefs — the elements that make the properties appeal to leisure travelers, too. But NH Hotel Group’s flagship hotel, NH Collection Eurobuilding in Madrid’s financial district, has combined all three after reopening in October following a much-needed facelift. And at as low as €135 ($168) a night, taxes included, it remains affordable too.

We set off to see the changes firsthand. Here are a few aspects that make this tech-savvy spot perfect for modern travelers.

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Macau Planning a trip to China’s gambling capital? With private, walled-in gardens, public beaches, and historic sites that reference the city’s strong Portugese influence, you’ll have plenty to do, whether you’re hitting the slots or not. The best part: We’re featuring a great deal this week that includes this destination, and saves more than $1000. Not bad. Now, what should you pack for your trip?

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Biking in San FranciscoSan Francisco is arguably one of the world’s most enchanting cities – but it’s also one of the most expensive, too (weekend rates for a mid-range hotel will set you back around $250 a night, on average). But a trip to the City by the Bay doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. Here, five ways for visitors to get an affordable, yet authentic SF experience – in other words, while you’re saving money, you’ll be mingling with the locals too. Need further incentive? October is a beautiful month to visit, with fewer crowds than summer and still-warm days.   Read more

Car Free LA Beverly Hills

Of the six reasons we recently gave for Melbourne being voted the “most livable city in the world,” public transportation ranked number four. Meanwhile, eight thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, sprawling Los Angeles isn’t about to win any awards for its still-in-progress Metro system and tangled network of unreliable bus routes.

No surprise, then, that LA has become known as a “car city” — almost every destination on your itinerary is usually best reached by car.

But there is a movement, albeit a small one, to change all that: Car Free LA is a day-long event taking place this Sunday, as part of a worldwide initiative celebrating alternative transportation modes. And for anyone who happens to be visiting the city this weekend, the centerpiece of LA’s campaign will be a public walking (and Metro) tour from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, and back (for those not in town, you can follow all the fun on Instagram and Twitter by using the hashtag “carfreeLA”). Read more

Economy Flight ImproveIt’s no secret that flying isn’t what it used to be – ever-increasing fares, packed flights, and endless surcharges have all but extinguished whatever joy we used to derive from air travel (unless you’re fronting big bucks for a cushy ride in business or first class, that is). Then again, airlines don’t have it easy, either, with soaring fuel costs, razor-thin margins, and stifling government regulations.

To be honest, the average economy-class travelers of today aren’t asking to be pampered. Instead, what we expect (and deserve) are convenience, respect, and just a smidge of comfort. So, in light of a few recent frustrating on-board experiences, we thought up six easy and affordable ways airlines could raise the bar.

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TSA Pre-CheckMost would agree that flying today is better than in years past, but one thing is for certain: it takes a lot longer to get from the curb to your airline seat. By asking every individual on a commercial flight to remove belts, shoes, liquids, laptops, coats, and spare change, the minutes spent waiting in security lines can really add up. Thankfully, the U.S. government seems to be taking notice, and it recently announced plans to expand a fast-lane security procedure to include everyday travelers – not just frequent flyers.

In 2011, the Transportation Security Administration created a program called Pre-Check that effectively reduced security wait times. Partnering up with a handful of major airlines (American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, US Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin America), Pre-Check allows pre-approved passengers to be expedited through separate, dedicated security lines. (They’re right beside the normal lines, though not every airport has yet added Pre-Check; for a constantly updated list, keep an eye on this site.)

Now, the program is moving out of beta phase and is available to any traveler that wishes to apply. This is great news, as gaining Pre-Check status exempts you from removing your shoes, belt, and jacket, while keeping your liquids and laptop inside your carry-on. Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can show up later than usual to the airport (after all, getting into the Pre-Check lane isn’t guaranteed; security personnel retain the right to send any suspicious-looking person back to the normal security line, Pre-Check or not), but it’ll often give you a lot more time beyond security to grab a meal or get a bit of work done in the airline lounge.

Wondering what your options are for joining? Let’s take a look. Read more

Los Angeles HyperloopSilicon Valley techies – along with pretty much all Californians – are abuzz with news of the latest venture from entrepreneur Elon Musk: a super-high-speed train called the Hyperloop that is capable of jetting passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a mere 30 minutes.

Musk, the dynamo who co-founded PayPal and how heads up Tesla Motors, this week unveiled plans for the proposed transit system, which will whisk passengers through a tubular system at speeds up to 700 miles per hour – faster than most commercial airliners and slightly less than the speed of sound.

At a conference earlier this year, Musk described the Hyperloop as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.” But it will be a while (if ever) before travelers can hop aboard the Hyperloop. Musk estimated he could build a prototype in about three to four years, but some transportation experts doubt the project will ever be realized.

In the meantime, here’s a quick look at the current available routes between the City by the Bay and the City of Angels. Of course, none of them can hold a candle next to the Hyperloop’s supposed 30 minute commute, but until Musk’s vision becomes a reality, it’s nice to know we’ve got options: Read more

NYC Tourist Spots that Locals LoveReal New Yorkers know not to set foot in Times Square unless they have to. The Statue of  Liberty? Who has the time? These 10 iconic NYC landmarks are unique in their ability to delight not just tourists – but locals too. From iconic diners to urban parks and everything in between, here’s an itinerary will have you navigating the city like a pro in no time. Just try not to get stuck in the turnstile on your way over.

Grand Central Terminal
New Yorkers who meet at Grand Central’s famous spherical clock know there’s only one thing to do once they arrive at the center of the Concourse: look up. The iconic sea-green ceiling is decorated with Greek-inspired line drawings and twinkling white lights that resemble the major constellations – not a bad backdrop to the daily rush hour commute! The popular Holiday Fair, which returns every November, fills Vanderbilt Hall for six weeks with more than 70 stalls of artists, craftspeople, toy-makers, and jewelers. More info here. Read more

Allure of the Seas InterviewWhat’s it like to work on the biggest cruise ship in the world? Ken Rush, Cruise Director for Royal Caribbean, knows all about it, and spoke to us about his favorite destinations and travel tips, and what it’s like to work on his current ship, the Allure of the Seas. Read more

Denver International AirportWhen was the last time you flew somewhere just to check out the airport? If the answer is ‘never,’ then a new trend sweeping the U.S. might make you reconsider. From Denver to Long Beach to San Antonio, more and more airports are trading out old, generic food courts for diverse, high-quality offerings that reflect the local flavor. Creating partnerships with major concession operators, these ‘hyper-local’ vendors are combating the anonymous airport experience by providing a unique sense of place – not to mention an excellent meal – before and after passengers board the plane.

When Denver International Airport realized last year that many of the leases for its food and beverage outlets were set to expire, officials seized a unique opportunity to overhaul 75% of its concessions. Explains DIA’s Chief Commercial Officer John Ackerman: “We’re bringing in a new blend of local Denver brands and concepts that will completely transform the character of the airport.”

Indeed, in the past six months, a dozen or so new restaurants have opened, including an outpost of the Denver-based Elway’s Steakhouse. With several locations in Denver and another one in Vail, the popular airport eatery (which is owned by former NFL star John Elway) gets so busy on weekends, there is often a wait list to get inside. On top of that, there’s the upcoming Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs, which began life as a hot dog stand in downtown Denver, and Udi’s Cafe and Bar, whose line of gluten-free treats was recently acquired by Smart Balance.

A similar thing is happening at San Diego International Airport, where 71 new restaurants and shops are expected to open between now and early 2014 – including the city’s first in-terminal spa. In June, SDIA debuted Craft Brews on 30th Street, a restaurant and bar inspired by San Diego’s lively 30th Street Corridor, and which features a range of seasonal and year-round beer selections from local breweries like Ballast Point, Coronado Brewing Co., Green Flash and Left Coast.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, the trend is manifesting itself in sleek new concourses, ice cream shops, and Mexican street food eateries. Read more

6 Reasons to Visit BucharestTravelers in Eastern Europe have trodden the same paths through Prague, Krakow, and Budapest for years. But further east lies the majestic city of Bucharest, home to almost 2 million people, and the capital of dark, moody Romania. Recently, the country has begun capitalizing on its natural appeal to vampire fans. (Bram Stoker famously captured the rugged Transylvanian countryside in his 1942 classic, Dracula).

For those seeking something beyond blood-sucker folklore and empty castles, Romania is a super-cheap way to enjoy a slice of the Balkan cultural pie. And right in the heart of the country, its quintessentially European capital blends eclectic architecture; narrow, pub-lined alleys; and easy access to scenic rural destinations like Sibiu and Brasov.

1. Music-lovers will find plenty to do: frequent recitals are held at the Romanian Aethenaeum (pictured above), an awe-inspiring neoclassical concert hall that dates back to 1888. It functions as one of the main venues during the month-long George Enescu Classical Music Festival, held in September (the neighboring Royal Palace Concert Hall also hosts performances), drawing musicians and composers from all over Europe. Ticket prices range from $12 to $25 – a bargain, when you consider there will be performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and, of course, the home team – the Romanian National Radio Orchestra. Read more

Mandarin Oriental San FranciscoIt may be a sign of the times that mobile travel apps are beginning to catch up, popularity-wise, to their older, pre-existing website counterparts. People are busy these days, and they want the tools to be able to book their flights, hotels, and dinner reservations on the fly. Enter Hipmunk, one of the web’s most comprehensive travel search engines, and their spiffy upgraded mobile app (suitable for iOS and Android) with a new last-minute hotel booking option.

Launching today, “Tonight Only” essentially aggregates information about hotel rooms available on 24 hours’ notice. So, let’s say your flight out of San Francisco gets delayed and you need a hotel, pronto: simply open the app, scroll through the available hotels, and book a room right there.

Of course, for seasoned travelers-in-the-know, this is nothing new. The folks at HotelTonight have made last-minute bookings their exclusive business, and a slew of others have been cropping up, as well. So, what makes the updated Hipmunk app special? Read more

Things to do in ZurichAs the principal hub of Swiss International, Zurich Airport is a place you may find yourself changing planes on an intercontinental flight sometime in the future. If you feel the urge to see more of this cultural European capital than just its (very nice) airport, you’re in luck: six trains leave from the railway terminal underneath the airport each hour and transport passengers to Zürich Hauptbahnhof (the city’s main train station); it only takes about 10–15 minutes. Once you’re in the center, most attractions are within a few minutes’ walking distance of each other. Read more

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