the IBIT Travel Digest 12.9.12

The good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media

Touring wineries and sampling their wares is a big business these days, worldwide. There are escorted winery tours by bus or van, and self-driven wine routes you can enjoy at your own pace by car or bicycle (although you definitely want to go easy on the sampling in both cases).

Napa Valley is even world-famous for its Wine Train, featuring world-cass wines and dinners to match.

It was only recently, however, that I learned that you can tour wineries on horseback. Fresh air and gorgeous surroundings, finished off with some equally gorgeous wines. You can do it either as a day trip or as part of a hotel or bed-and-breakfast stay.

In eastern Washington state and Oregon, up and down California wine country, from Mendocino County in the north to the Santa Ynez Valley and Temecula to the south, or as far off as Argentina and Australia, you can saddle up and get your drink on in the same outing.

I myself am not quite ready for this kind of outing; the only horse I ever rode was made of wood and went around in circles. But for those of you possessing both horse skills and a taste for the grape, this might be a vacation worth considering.

If this sounds like something you might like to look into for 2013, drop me an email at and I’ll send you the information directly.

Just remember to go easy on those samples, lest you get caught galloping under the influence.


Have you ever wondered if all those online reviews people write about hotels actually make any difference? A study conducted at New York’s Cornell University suggests that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

According to an article in Travel Weekly, the Cornell study showed that good or bad hotel reviews could affect not only room demand at that hotel, but could influence room rates by as much as 10 percent, up or down:

“The study found a direct link between the rise or fall of revenue per available room (RevPAR) and improvements or declines in the online reputation of a hotel, driven by ratings on sites such as TripAdvisor and Travelocity.

To read the entire Travel Weekly story, click here.

Bottom line: Your opinion matters. The Web has given you, the consumer, a more powerful voice than you’ve ever had before. Treat it like the priceless asset it is.

As we know, travel media folks are a bit list-crazy, and never more so than at year’s end. One of the lists you’ll find over at Budget Travel is its 10 Best Budget Destinations for 2013.

Some of their 10 nominees — like Palm Springs, the Bahamas and the Loire Valley in France — are pleasant surprises, because you don’t expect those places to be cheap. Others are a surprise because you’ve never heard of them, like Boracay Island in the Philippines.

And then, there are the ones you’ve heard of, but would never expect to make the list in a million years.

This year’s shocker: Northern Ireland.

To check out the entire Budget Travel list, click here.

It looks as if Alec Baldwin may get the last laugh, after all.

Remember when the actor/bad boy was famously kicked off an American Airlines flight at LAX last year for refusing the turn off the game he was playing on his cell phone?

Well, almost a year to the day of that incident, the NY Times is reporting that the head of the Federal Communications Commission now says the airlines should allow its passengers freer use of their personal electronics on board aircraft.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said as much in a letter last Thursday to Michael Huerta, acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration:

“I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety.”

The magic words there are “during flight.”

Nothing yet from the FAA, which has the last word on the issue, but even that agency has appeared in the past to be leaning in that direction.

It’s been reported in the past, including here on IBT, how personal electronic devices that use radio signals, such as cellphones, have shown signs of interfering with a plane’s navigation controls. But word processing, gaming and other functions would seem to offer little such threat, if any.

Either way, with the FCC more or less getting behind the traveling consumer on this, it could be that we’ll finally see this issue solved for good in 2013.

Meanwhile, if the next TV commercial for a Capital One airline miles credit card features a grinning Alec Baldwin with what appear to be canary feathers in his mouth, you’ll know why.


And now, here’s The Digest:

from USA Today
Wouldn’t you know it: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has scarcely entered service, but technical issues are already starting to surface. In this case, fuel leaks.

from the New York Times
American Airlines pilots ratify a new contract with the airline. For travelers, that means no worries about Christmas holiday trip disruptions. For AA, it’s one step closer to a merger with US Airways.

from ABC News via Yahoo
How bad is internal airport theft by TSA agents? The feds are planting iPads and other consumer electronic devices with GPS tracking devices to see if any of them get stolen…and they are. DO NOT check your laptops, tablet computers or smartphones.

from the Huffington Post
Kate Hanni of FlyersRights says the airlines are sticking it to travelers this holiday season with deceptive pricing and hidden fees, especially baggage fees. Bah humbug!

from Agence France-Presse
A French court has cleared the former Continental Airlines and one of its engineers of criminal responsibility for a deadly 2000 crash of a Concorde supersonic airliner in Paris. Civil liability is still on the table, though.

from NBC News
Here we go again…a simple device small enough to hide in a Magic Marker can let thieves open the electronic door locks at several major hotel chains nationwide. We’ve reported this before. Yikes. The hotel chains know about it, but have yet to correct it. Double yikes.

from the New York Times
Do you love skiing so much that you wish you could do it all year round? Have some frequent -flier miles saved up? Because if you’re willing to travel, you could ski 12 months out of the year, including in a few places you might never expect.

from Budget Travel
There are lots of folks who prefer to travel by themselves, and across much of the world, solo travel is perfectly fine. But there are some places where it’s really better to go with a group. Here are eight of them. SLIDESHOW

from Travel Weekly
The Hyatt Regency in Chicago begins the second phase of a $110 million renovation.

from SFGate
Wanna get high? I mean really high, as in “those ants down there are actually people” high. Destinations to take you up, up and away.

from Travel Weekly
Plans by Royal Caribbean International to build a third Oasis of the Seas-class cruise ship may have run aground in Helsinki. The vessel would be built in Finland, but Finnish government is balking at financing the build.

from Travel Weekly
Apparently, not all the cruise lines are holding their noses at the European market. Norwegian Cruise Lines is hooking up with Gate 1 Travel to offer European combination cruise-land tour packages next year, starting with Italy. If they find a way to work affordable airfare into the package, this could be very interesting.

from USA Today
The luxury small-ship Windstar cruise line is offering some end-of-2012 deals on its Northern European cruises, including two-for-one sales.

from USA Today
The weather doesn’t just pick on the airlines. High winds in Cape Town, South Africa force a cruise ship to stay at the dock…for four days.


New air services in the works for Mozambique, including flights from the capital Maputo to an island resort.

from T. Rowe Price
Ghana, now in the process of peacefully holding a presiddential election, could be the next rising financial star on the Mother Continent. So say these guys, who see five new economic powerhouses on the African horizon — in the west, east and south.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Good news for those who’ve traveled to Cuba or are planning to go: Thanks in part to an easing of government restrictions, the food is getting better. Much better.

from SFGate
Arizona has a world-famous wave. But leave the surfboard at home, because this one is solid layers of multicolored sandstone millions of years old in remote southwestern desert. This is one vacation that will make you work.

from CNN Travel
Singaporeans may have an international reputation as being cold fish emotionally, but they’re passionate when it comes to cooking in what some consider the capital of Asian cuisine — and for some remarkably low prices, they’ll show you how Singapore cooks.

from CNN Travel
The best places to shop in Beijing…and some cool places to shop in Shanghai.

from Girls’ Guide to Paris
Ah, Paris, how can I tour thee? Let me count the ways. By foot. By Metro. By tour bus. By bike. By…Segway? Oui, Segway.

from Context Travel
A 3.5-hour tour on foot and by Metro of the immigrant’s Paris.

from The Guardian (London UK)
An agritourism project is saving a fading village on the island of Cyprus — and giving travelers something to do other than party the night away in Larnaca.

from the Washington Post
The Louvre, arguably the world’s greatest art museum, is branching out, opens a satellite museum in an old French mining town. Good way to experience the Louvre’s treasures while avoiding the Paris mobs. You can almost hear the ghost of Louis XVI saying, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that!”

from Travel Weekly
If one of your travel dreams is to see the Colosseum in Rome, you probably shouldn’t put it off a whole lot longer. It’s literally crumbling.

Edited by P.A.Rice


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