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Top Travel Destinations in 2008

When I was recently asked to appear on a local New York City news station (watch the clip here) to discuss the top travel destinations for 2008, I got to thinking that where you want to go so often depends on what kind of traveler you are. So I identified five kids of travelers, or vacation experiences, and picked a destination I thought was an ideal match for each. But what I really want to know is: What are your top destinations for 2008? What trips do you have planned for the coming year?

While I wait for your answer, check out my picks.

photo courtesy of the Four Seasons Resort Bali Jimbaran Bay

Secrets Of An Airline Pilot

At a dinner party last night, I was thrilled to find out that one of my fellow guests was a pilot who’d once worked for a major commercial airline. Naturally, I couldn’t resist grilling her (career day style!), and the insider info she had on airline travel was pretty fascinating. Ever wonder what the pilot knows that you don’t? Read on.

1. The plane isn’t going to crash-land if you accidentally leave your cell phone on.
So why do flight attendants tell you to turn all electronic devices off? Well, the cell phone signals could, in theory, interfere with the plane’s satellite navigation instruments—but the truth is they’re so well insulated that it won’t actually happen. (That’s not to say you shouldn’t make a habit of doing it anyway—just to be safe.)

2. Pilots can’t take bathroom breaks.
You might never have considered it,. but what happens if the captain has to pee? Well, it’s an arduous process. A pilot who needs to make a visit to the, uh, facilities must first alert the flight attendant, who has to block the galley with her cart. While the pilot is out of the cockpit, the flight attendant must take his place, waiting until he comes back to switch out. Warning for future pilots everywhere? Don’t overdose on the iced tea. “When you have to go, it can be kind of a pain,” admits my pilot. “The flight attendants might be busy serving dinner or the drink service, and then you have to wait and wait.”

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member John Spreitz

Sleep in a…sewer?

I’ve toured Canada’s Ice Hotel, sipping fruity cocktails from glasses made of ice and exploring rooms with dragon-shaped beds carved out of – you guessed it – ice! Next offbeat hotel experience on my list: sleep in a drain pipe. Now, that’s just plain weird.

Strange but simplistic accurately describes Linz, Austria’s Das Parkhotel, an urban concept inspired by the city’s annual Electronica Festival. The sleepery, however, is more of a project than a hotel. Three concrete cylinders sit in a park and feature almost all the basics. What’s missing? A restroom. You’ll have to walk a few minutes to get to that, so keep your fingers crossed that Montezuma’s revenge doesn’t hit at twilight.

But, the best part is the cost: pay as you wish. Guests leave a Euro amount that they can afford to fund the project. (Don’t be stingy! Think of it as supporting the arts.)

Photo by Dietmar Tollerian.

NEWS FLASH: Will Congestion Pricing Ease Delays?

In the latest move to alleviate the delays that plague the nation’s busiest airports, the Department of Transportation announced yesterday that airports could charge fees for flights landing during the busiest part of the day. According to The New York Times, this might encourage airlines to fly fewer planes or schedule landing at slower times or even slower airports. The proposal is open to public comment for 45 days before it is finalized.

At present, landing fees are, for the most part, determined by weight. The revenue collected by a new pricing structure would allow operators of multiple airports, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to distribute landing-fee revenue among facilities, according to the Washington Post.

What does this mean for the consumer? Fewer flight choices during peak hours and higher airfares seem likely, especially at New York City airports, where flight caps during peak travel hours are set to take effect in March. Business travelers in particular will feel the impact of these new regulations because they’re often forced to fly during the busiest times of day because of meetings. David Stempler, who runs the Air Travelers Association, told the Wall Street Journal, “This is just going to add further to the cost of passengers that want to go out to a meeting in the morning and come back at the end of the day.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that the airlines, vehemently opposed to congestion pricing, thought they had won the battle. Yesterday’s announcement came as a surprise.

The Travel Meltdown

If you’ve ever heard or uttered any of the following on the road, my guess is that you were in the midst of a stress-induced, sleep-deprived travel meltdown: “I hate you.” “I can’t believe you’re being this mean to me.” “I can’t handle this anymore.” “All you do is freak out.” “There’s hatred in my blood right now.”

This season, on the Amazing Race, team Nate and Jen have responded to every stressful travel situation by completely unraveling into shouting matches, name-calling, and even shoving. Yet somehow, they’ve managed to eke through the finish line week after week. Sunday night, after making all the above quotes in the course of just one episode, they finally met their elimination with Jen confessing sadly, “I think we killed our relationship along the way.”

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member globalroamer.