Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for February, 2009

UK Eyes Travelers

By Linda Tancs

Corresponding to yesterday’s report about the ESTA registration process for travelers to the US, the Sunday Times reported that the UK will keep its own database concerning the travel habits of its citizens. Amidst a host of privacy concerns, the Home Office deems the action necessary in its continuing fight against terrorism, illegal immigration and other crimes. In an unrelated move, the country’s environment czar has proposed limits on Brit travel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Pity the wanderer among you!

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Entry Requirements to U.S. are Revised

By Linda Tancs

Of course, not all travelers to the U.S. need visas. Currently, 35 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. What is new, however, is that nationals of these countries must now apply for authorization to enter the U.S. at least 72 hours before flight departure. Prior to this year, the authorization program (known as ESTA) was voluntary. The application for authorization can be found here.
Visitors should also note that certain passport requirements are in effect as well. For instance, passports issued on or after October 26, 2006 should be e-passports, characterized by a circular symbol on the bottom of the front cover, or else you’ll require a visa. If you’re lacking an e-passport, then, in some cases, you can still travel without a visa if your passport was issued prior to October 26, 2005 and contains a machine-readable zone or a digital photo. A machine-readable passport has two lines of text as letters, numbers and the(<<<) symbol at the bottom of the personal information page, along with your picture. Check your passport today!

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A Doggone Good Time

By Linda Tancs

Traditionally, the second Monday of February kicks off America’s biggest pooch pageant, the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This year is no exception. On Monday and Tuesday, the great breeds of the world with origins from Egypt to Newfoundland will compete for the coveted title of Best in Show. This is a champions-only competition; no slouches here. They say with age comes experience, but some of these winners are quite young and accomplished. So which will it be: age before beauty or will the young and glamorous win out? It’s been a while since an oldie took the prize. In 1999, an eight-year-old Papillon took top honors. That’s doggone good.

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Fire and Ice

By Linda Tancs

On Saturday, Minnesotans in Plymouth will celebrate their Fire & Ice Festival. That means Parkers Lake Park will be converted into an outdoor gymnasium with bowlers and basketball players trading hardwood floors for nature’s white carpet. Don’t forget the ice fishing, ice skating, dogsled demos and fireworks. If the frozen tundra proves too much, you could head for the Mall of America, the country’s biggest shopping center, just miles away.

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Road Rage

By Linda Tancs

Of the world’s economic superpowers (to the extent we have any these days), the award for worst traffic goes to (drumroll, please) Russia. Funny that a country producing over 15 Nobel Prize winners has accomplished so little to unblock the box–gridlock, that is. Moscow stands on the brink of traffic collapse as drivers idle along at 8 to 11 miles per hour through major arteries that were never designed for the influx of over 3 million vehicles pounding the pavement daily. Add to that reports of the underground suffering under the weight of nine million commuters; it’s only been designed to handle seven million. So what’s an anxious motorist to do? Might want to try the helicopter taxi–at a mere 2000 euros per hour. As the writer Jim Herron observed, “All they have to do is look down at the traffic and suddenly they don’t feel like [flying is] that expensive a way to travel after all.”

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The Not So Bitter End

By Linda Tancs

Snow. Rain. Sleet. Freezing Rain. Snow again. Ice. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, then you must be thinking, as the old commercial goes, Calgon take me away. Tell your friends you’ll tough it out to the bitter end. The Bitter End Yacht Club, that is. Situated on a mile-long stretch of shore along the protected waters of the North Sound, this Virgin Gorda getaway promises to delight romantics and kids alike. The romance part is undeniable–secluded villas, sunset walks, his and her hammocks. The kid part, on the other hand, may make you skeptical. It might help to know that this Caribbean gem was reviewed, favorably, by the Family Travel Network. Apparently, teens and tweens can vacation without TVs. Maybe you should test that theory yourself. Tell them Blackbeard sent you.

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