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London

620 - British Museum - Kaitlin Larese

Kaitlin Larese

Even with the dollar gaining strength, visiting London can still be expensive for Americans. But this capital city is no less an easy and memorable trip. While we certainly recommend popular paid attractions like the London Eye and London Aquarium for first-timers, there are also plenty of free things to do for hours so that a trip here won’t cost a fortune. With multi-generational travel on the rise and London being a popular extended vacation — perfect for those school breaks — here’s an affordable guide to the city for all ages.

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yoga - royal caribbean

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? Travel journalist Donna Tunney — ShermansTravel’s cruise expert — has all the latest news. Check back every Tuesday for trends, new amenities, and money-saving ideas that help you plan a perfect vacation at sea. 

If you know who Lady Mary, Tom Branson, and the Earl of Grantham are, read on. Crystal Cruises has taken the wraps off a two-night, post-cruise trip to the land of Downton, themed after the popular series about early 20th century English aristocrats. It’s an extension of the luxury line’s 17-night cruise departing July 8, 2015 from Reykjavik to London. Cruisers, who will pay $4,600 per person for the land tour (we never said it was cheap), will live like royalty while visiting Highclere Castle, the fictional home of the Grantham clan. They’ll arrive in vintage 1920s cars (chauffeured, of course) and be guests of honor at a private champagne reception and tour, among other Downton-related activities. Cruise fares on this itinerary — which crosses the Arctic Circle on its way to London — start at $1,730 per person if booked by January 2.

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Louvre

We all love a good art heist, don’t we? They’ve been romanticized in films like Monuments Men, The Thomas Crown Affair, and, of course, the unforgettable, but not-so-great 2004 flick Art Theft. People have been stealing art for centuries. Some pieces have been recovered, others damaged, and many are still are hiding in an attic. Because art theft seems to always be in the news — see: Picasso thieves finally on trial; art recently stolen from Cairo Museum of Islamic Art; and a stolen painting of Elton John from an English pub — here’s where you can see world-famous art that’s been stolen (and recovered) over time.

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CanopyPortlandLobbyImage_HR

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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Flickr Steve Montgomery National Gallery London 2

As tourism destinations, many major cities across the globe — New York and Paris, Stockholm and Sydney — are certainly monumental or historical or beautiful or all of the above. What they often aren’t, however, is cheap. The good news is that if you’ve got your mind set on visiting any of these metropolises, you can often find free activities to enjoy when you’re there. We’ve built a list of museums, cultural events, and even transportation that won’t cost you a thing in 10 notoriously pricey locales.

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aceLondon

In these days of AirBnB and Couchsurfing, travel that highlights the local experience is becoming more attractive. Traditional travel companies need to compete; this is how some hotels are doing just that.

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hoxtonhotel

Hip East London favorite The Hoxton Hotel is gearing up to open its second property this week. The Hoxton Holborn will be opening in Central London on September 25. The new hotel will offer 174 guest rooms in four different sizes and price points: from the smallest 129-square-foot Shoebox to Snug, Cosy, and — the biggest at 150-square-feet — the Roomy. There will also be two restaurants run in partnership with Soho House: Hubbard & Bell restaurant and a Chicken Shop serving rotisserie chicken.

Here are a few reasons why you should get to know this exciting and growing chain.

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Reykjavík

If you’re traveling internationally or even just across the country, chances are you’ll have a layover somewhere during your journey. Rather than waiting for hours inside the airport, why not take advantage of your location and head into the city? You’ve already paid to get there, after all. Whether you’ve landed in Honolulu or London, Beijing or Reykjavík, these cities are easy to visit from the airport, even if you just have a few hours.

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miramarriodejaneiro

As much as we appreciate hotel loyalty programs, accumulating points from just one hotel brand can feel like quite a slog, and a little uninspiring — who, besides the very frequent business traveler, wants the same brand experience each and every time they check in?

Just over a year ago, Preferred Hotel Group introduced a loyalty program, iPrefer, that honors stays at the more custom, bespoke hotels over the big box brands; it’s the world’s only loyalty program available at a global collection of truly independent hotels. Here’s how it works, and how you can join.

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suite threeohsix

Exclusive and sometimes quirky, pop-up restaurants offer a festive alternative to the traditional, reservations-needed dining experience we’re accustomed to when we got out for a gourmet meal. These underground experiences can be trick to plan for on vacation, considering the location is often undisclosed until right before the event, and there’s only one seating. But for friendly foodies, it’s absolutely worth pursuing — it’s a great way to interact with locals, taste ingredients sourced from the area, and be a part of the fun experiments that up-and-coming chefs are dreaming up. Here’s how you can secure your place at the table:

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MondrianSoBe1The Morgans Hotel Group, which offers a spate of stylish, upscale properties around the world, is in the midst of some major expansion. The Mondrian London at Sea Containers is set to open September 30, followed by the Mondrian Doha, and the Mondrian Istanbul. The hotel group is also preparing to open their Delano brand in Las Vegas this fall, followed by Cesme, Turkey; Moscow; and Cartagena; then another in Karaköy, Istanbul. With all this new activity in mind, we took a step back to see how their second Mondrian property, in South Beach, Miami, which opened way back in 2008, is holding up.

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Shangri-La Hotel at The ShardWho doesn’t love a new hotel pool, especially when it’s on the 52nd floor of a luxury hotel in one of our favorite cities in the world — London?

The Skypool at the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard just opened, and we’re swooning. Not only is it the highest pool in Western Europe, it also offers views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye, and it’s heated.

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citizenm

At the beginning of the boutique hotel boom, luxury was defined by money; how much of it you had and what it could buy you. But that has long since changed. The emergence of creative “lifestyle” hotels have transformed the industry — as the annual LE Miami trade show in South Beach pointed out — with rising demand in experiences that are unique and culturally connected. These days, rather than high prices, luxury is about authenticity, storytelling, and innovation.

So how does this shift in the very definition of luxury translate to a more authentic, value-driven experience on your next trip? 

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NorwegianAirShuttle

Last week, Norwegian Air Shuttle launched non-stop service between New York and London, as the first budget airline to fly the route since Laker Airways in 1977. And it’s not a huge surprise — the low-cost market is the fastest growing airline sector, with other budget carriers rumored to be keen on grabbing a piece of the transatlantic market, too. This is partly due to the emergence of more fuel efficient, economically viable, long-range aircrafts. Norwegian’s new long-haul routes to the U.S., for example, will run on the airline’s new 787-8 Dreamliner.

But the all-important question remains: How competitive will travel costs on these budget carriers’ transatlantic services be?

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Renaissance Hotel Santiago, Chile

If you think that DJ sets, mixology events, sleek common spaces, LEED certification, book signings, and lightening-fast internet don’t sound like hallmarks of most big-brand hotels, you’d be right. But the Renaissance hotels, owned by Marriott, are striving for a more boutique aesthetic these days. Of course, that means having to shrug off the stereotypes of outdated rooms, subpar restaurants, and uninspired common spaces that people associate with big corporate hotel chains. And that means making its newest properties less cookie-cutter and more bespoke than ever.

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