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New Zealand

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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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Sounds impossible to buy a ticket to the wrong destination, right? You’d never mistake York, England for New York State. But would you notice an airline issuing a plane ticket for Grenada instead of Granada, like British Airways did last month? Or the 1,500 mile difference between airline codes SJO and SJU? Believe it or not, these things do happen. Here, 9 commonly confused cities that should make you check your boarding card.

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Already a mainstay in Asia for decades, night markets are now taking hold all over the world. With a buzzy, carnival-like atmosphere, they’re the place to be for finding shopping and food deals as well as for rubbing elbows with locals out for a night of casual fun. Some markets run year round, some are seasonal, and some are weekend events. Here are five around the world worth noting:

Canada: International Summer Night Market
The city of Richmond in British Columbia is home to three major night markets, but the International Summer Night Market is the largest and most popular. It draws approximately 20,000 people every weekend to the trinkets, handicrafts, and even fresh produce from nearly 200 vendors. Between purchases, you can sample good eats like Singapore-style jerky, enjoy live entertainment, play nine holes of miniature golf, or pose for photographs with the two 9-foot inflatable pandas on display. The market runs Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, May 9 through September 14. Admission is 2 CAD ($1.86 USD). Tip: Print online coupons before you go to save at select vendors, and hit up the ATM — most vendors only accept cash.

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MilfordTrackLast month, we honored the newly-opened, 134-mile-long John Muir Way with a few suggestions for other long-distance walking routes in Scotland. If that’s whetted your appetite for more challenging hikes, here are a five trails to start prepping for, from California’s epic Pacific Crest Trail to a simple four-day trek in New Zealand.  Read more

Sidi DrissBeloved for their ability to bring new worlds and characters to life, movies – like travel – help us escape the often mundane reality of day-to-day life. Although they exist only on the big screen, occasionally, you can experience a piece of these worlds in person. Here, seven stunning movie sets you can visit today:

Hotel Sidi Driss, Tunisia (above): Located in southern Tunisia, Hotel Sidi Driss served as the Lars Family Homestead in “Star Wars IV.” Admittedly, even at $10 per night, staying at the hotel isn’t for everyone. The rooms are basically caves dug out of the ground with a simple mattress on the floor, but hey, if it was good enough for Luke Skywalker, it’s good enough for the diehard fan. If you don’t want to spend the night, you can stop for lunch or beer at the bar.  Read more

BratanAs views go, lakes provide a backdrop that is at once soothing and full of mystery. Unlike oceans, these mighty bodies of water are contained. You can row across their surface, dive for shipwrecks, or simply go bird-watching, all in the safe knowledge that land is never too far away. More than anything, lakes can provide a refreshing change of scenery from days spent shopping in town or hiking in the surrounding mountains.

Here are a few lakefront views worth traveling for.

Singapore AirlinesRight now, Air New Zealand operates only two flights out of Singapore’s Changi Airport – to Abu Dhabi and Brisbane – via its partner Etihad Airways. However, by the end of this year, flight capacity between the countries of New Zealand and Singapore will have increased by up to 30 percent, thanks to a new alliance announced between Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand. Under the partnership, tourist-hungry New Zealand will have access to a whole new network of visitors in South and Southeast Asia. But New Zealand’s tourism office isn’t alone in celebrating this deal. Here’s how you can take advantage, too… Read more

RarotongaReady to spend some of your holiday money? If you’re looking to get some overseas R&R, two airlines just announced sales, right in time for the New Year.

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Richard Simmons Air New ZealandWhen it comes to in-flight safety videos, it is an airline’s responsibility to convey all the necessary safety information to passengers who may or may not have watched the same video a thousand times before. But, as an FAA spokesman recently told the New York Times, “We specify the ‘what,’ and it’s up to the air carriers to determine the ‘how.’” As you’ll see in the clips below, some airlines manage the job better than others: Read more

Where to Ski in the SummerIt’s officially summer in the northern hemisphere, which means holidays, road trips, and the urge to visit national parks. But if you’re craving a cooler sort of escape this season, consider a ski trip…to the southern hemisphere. With winter just settling in, places like Chile and New Zealand offer incredible skiing at a time of year when most North Americans are hitting the beach. The best part? Skiing in these destinations can be a bargain. Here are our favorite “summer” skiing destinations.

New Zealand: Cardrona Alpine Resort
Visiting New Zealand is a dream for lots of Americans. If you head down there to see the epic landscapes used as backdrops in the Lord of the Rings movies, consider hitting the slopes, too. Cardrona, New Zealand is easily accessible from Queenstown on the south island. Skiers will find plenty to love, and snowboarders will have a tough time finding better terrain anywhere. At under $100 for a lift ticket, it’s actually cheaper than many of the venues surrounding Vail, Aspen, and other high-end mountains in the U.S. Read more

Geothermal RotoruaSet smack dab in the midst of New Zealand’s North Island – and sitting squarely on the notorious Pacific Rim of Fire – Rotorua marks a steaming and bubbling cauldron of dynamic geothermal activity. Oozing with boiling mud, colorful mineral pools, steam-spewing geysers, ancient caldera-capped lakes, and an overall fantastical geography, Rotorua’s geothermal landscape ensures its firmly fixed place on the country’s well-trodden tourism circuit. Visitors here will discover abundant opportunities to contemplate the earth’s raw geothermal power and to ogle its otherworldly landscapes – and will also encounter a spa town culture that maximizes the natural spa features just underfoot.
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Wellington, New Zealand Culture BoomThink of New Zealand, and chances are images of dramatic natural landscapes spring to mind long before its cultural triumphs do. But for culture vultures swooping in on Kiwi country, New Zealand’s charismatic Wellington capital (affectionately dubbed “Welly”) makes for an engaging urban base to sample the creative local take on Kiwi culture.

The lively little city brims with world-class museums and galleries; quirky outdoor sculptures; a slate of local theaters, live music venues, and performing arts centers (including the Royal New Zealand Ballet, New Zealand Opera, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, to name a few); regular arts and cultural events; and a vibrant film industry (“Wellywood” is the base for Peter Jackson’s international film empire). But you’ll still get that wow-factor true-to-New Zealand natural setting nestled between a picturesque harbor and rolling windswept hills. Plus, a coffee, culinary, and craft beer culture (perhaps best sampled in the Bohemian quarter near Cuba Street) help fuel this urban jewel’s pulsing creative buzz.

Read on for some of the best cultural freebies to ensure your time and money is well-spent in Wellington. Read more

The Hobbit MovieSince the release of the first Lord of the Rings film, tourism in New Zealand has not been the same. All the evidence you need is right there on New Zealand’s tourism site; their biggest tour plug on the homepage states, “Take a journey through Middle-earth.” And boy can you do that. The site has mapped out important spots from all the movies and suggest tours around the films like A Haflings Ramble on the North Island or Elven Magic which is a 10-day tour through all of middle earth (you can hit Auckland, Wellington, Glenorchy and Queenstown, among other spots). Or, tour companies like Hobbiton Movie Set Tours will do all the scheduling for you. But, many of the sites can be seen on your own. Here are three spots we think you should definitely hit: Read more

Angel Falls, VenezuelaYou might have been waiting all summer for that perfect sunny day, but in the U.S., those rays have turned into a scorcher. With America currently experiencing the hottest summer on record, some of us are wishing for a cooler front. What better time, then, to dream about the Southern Hemisphere, which is going through its winter months? While it may not be easy to book a last minute getaway to these destinations, just lusting over them will hopefully cool you down.

Angel Falls – Venezuela
Venezuela is mostly tropical due to its location just north of the equator, but thanks to its varied geography, pockets of microclimates exist. One such area is the Guiana Highlands, a southern region of the country characterized by imposing plateaus and vast upland plains. From June to early September, the average temperature hits 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 35 degree at night, making this the best time to visit the Angel Falls in Canaima National Park. Renowned as the world’s highest waterfall at 3,212 feet, winter’s torrential rains causes the rapids to swell to their full glory. However, if storm clouds shroud your view, Canaima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a destination in itself, with impressive geological formations and lush greenery.

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Russell New Zealand beachAs you might have noticed, we’ve been a bit obsessed with the beach lately thanks to the East Coast heat wave. We’ve looked at the worst people at the beach, the crazy things that beachgoers do, and The Definitive Guide to Going to the Beach. This all started a few weeks ago when we asked you to share your favorite underrated beaches with us. We put the call out on Twitter and Facebook, as well. It’s clear that you all have firm opinions on the best beaches in the world that don’t get enough attention. With summer in full swing and everyone looking for ways to beat the heat without dealing with obnoxious crowds, traffic snarls, and boring routines, it’s time to take a look at some of your favorite underrated and lesser-known beaches. Read more

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