1 - Italy
As a country, Italy has the best of everything: art, food, hiking, history, language - the list goes on. From the art galleries in Florence and the historical sights Rome to the wineries of Tuscany and hiking trails in the Riviera and Lake Como, no matter what type of vacation you’re seeking, you can find it in Italy.
2 - Peru
Two words: Machu Picchu. Of all the major tourist sites in the world, this one rarely disappoints. There are interesting and beautiful hidden gems all across the sacred valley, and the Andes are a true hikers’ paradise.
3 - Tanzania
If you’re looking to go on a safari in 2017, look no further. Tarangire National Park hosts the largest concentration of elephants of any park in the world and is our favorite safari spot on the continent.
4 - Netherlands
The Netherlands, with its canal cities, is a unique destination. The tulip-filled cities and countrysides are some of the prettiest in the world, but also bustling and bursting with culture, art, and history. If you need more reasons to get excited, check out our podcast episode and our list of Top 10 Day Trips from Amsterdam
5 - Costa Rica
This country has natural beauty as far as the eye can see - a quarter of this country is made up of rainforest and feels like pure magic. While some spots have become touristy, a little research can help you steer clear of those areas, and much of this country is still uncrowded and untouched. Some travelers go for an adventurous vacation full of ziplining, hiking, and rafting, while others just slip into nature for a peaceful getaway - either way, Costa Rica delivers.
6 - Japan
Stunning ancient temples in pristine condition, efficient transportation, gorgeous countryside and fun (if not slightly overwhelming) large Asian cities are just some of the reason tourists are flocking to Japan these days. And we don’t blame them. You’ll want to take a picture of everything you see.
7 - Portugal
Some call Portugal a cheaper, less crowded Spain, but it’s so much more than that. As a central European trading hub, its diversity shines through in its food, history, architecture and culture, making it a fascinating destination to explore.
8 - Colombia
Once the drug capital of the world, Colombia has transformed in the last ten years and is quickly rising to the top of tourists’ lists. Plus, your money will go a long way, whether you’re shopping for unique tropical fruits at the market like guanabana and cherimoya or going out for a night of drinks and salsa dancing. And you won’t want to miss hiking in the surreal Cocora Valley with the tallest palm trees in the world!
9 - Canada
Free national parks entry in 2017 is just one of the many reasons to visit Canada this year. Lonely Planet named it the #1 travel destination for 2017, and we understand why: It’s safe, has beautiful national parks and diverse cities, and hosts amazing festivals like the Ottawa Tulip Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival. Something for everyone.
10 - Australia
In addition to the Great Barrier Reef - the best SCUBA diving site on the planet - this country is filled with natural wonders. The diverse culture and people have given rise to a unique pace and lifestyle that you simply won’t find anywhere else.
Between the closures, the crowds, and the consecutive day pass, there’s a lot to juggle in Paris. Before our first trip to Paris, we had our entire itinerary planned out by neighborhood. But we were halfway through our Day 1 itinerary before realizing that most of the sights we had planned were closed on Monday, so we went over to the Louvre, but it was extra crowded because of the other closures. Another issue we encountered was with the museum pass... while it was a great time and money saver, it didn’t work everywhere and it had to be used on consecutive days.
To help you avoid these unexpected situations, here’s our ideal four-day itinerary (adjust the sequence based on which days of the week you’ll be in Paris using the handy table below).
Ile de la Cite :
Art & Culture:
Keep in mind, there are many closures on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, so ideally schedule your sightseeing for Wednesday through Saturday. Here’s a chart of what’s open each day (L) = open late on specific days; (E) = open early every day.
Calendar showing when sites are open (L) = open late on specific days; (E) = open early every day).
If you’re forgoing the the museum pass altogether, here are some scheduling and money-saving considerations:
Check out our podcast covering Paris in much more detail
Posted by the team at Planit Travel
1 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
This razor-sharp multi-generational story begins with an unpopular nerdy kid whose experience with heroism is confined to the comics he reads but becomes the story of journeys made by previous generations between the Dominican Republic and the United States and the weight of the history that has followed them.
2 - Life of Pi by Yann Martel
An incredible tale of a boy who survives a shipwreck, only to be stuck on a lifeboat with a host of zoo animals, including an adult bengal tiger.
3 - The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
After a torrid love affair, a woman accompanies her estranged husband on a trip for his research at the heart of the Cholera epidemic in rural China.
4 - A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
A disillusioned American father travels to Saudi Arabia for a business pitch and must navigate some culture mix-ups (both amusing and dangerous) in the Middle East while seeking personal redemption.
5 - Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
One of the most gripping books ever written, Krakauer’s work tells the unbelievable true story of a doomed expedition to climb Mount Everest.
6 - The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
A young doctor’s journey through the Balkans forces her to explore her grandfather’s mysterious past and the truth behind the mystical stories she grew up hearing.
7 - Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
A man searches for answers about his heritage in Eastern Europe with the assistance of a hilarious and dedicated translator Alex, Alex’s grandfather, and their dog
8 - We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
This stunning novel is unlike any other immigration story: it follows Darling, a young girl, on her journey from Zimbabwe to Detroit, Michigan - where she experiences the ultimate culture clash.
9 - Wild by Cheryl Strayed
A moving memoir about a woman’s solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail - and as she attempts to hike one of the most unforgiving trails with no real hiking experience, she finds clarity about her difficult past.
10 - Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut explores (satirizes) just about everything (religion, technology, warfare) through his character’s journey to a fictional caribbean island that contains the secrets of spirituality and planet-threatening weapon.
Everybody wants their trips to be relaxing, fun and hiccup free. One way to ensure a smooth trip is to plan ahead. Here are some packing tips to avoid a crisis while you travel.
Snacks - Being hungry may not seem like a crisis, but when you’re hungry at the wrong time - say, on the plane when the only food available is a $10 box of crackers, or at the top of the Eiffel Tower when you really want to stay to watch the sunset but your stomach is growling - it can derail both your budget and your schedule. Have snacks on hand at all times.
Passport / ID photocopy - In the unlikely event that your passport gets lost or stolen, you’ll be thankful for that passport photocopy buried in the bottom of your suitcase to fast-track the paperwork to get you home.
Essentials in your carry-on - Even in this day and age, luggage gets lost. Pack the things in your carry-on that you can’t do without: a change of underwear/clothes, your phone charger, a toothbrush...anything you’ll absolutely need on the first night should be in your carry-on, if possible. That way, lost luggage doesn’t completely derail your plans.
Baby powder - The key to keeping your belongings (like wet sneakers) from smelling gross!
Plastic bags - Besides the obvious function of protecting the contents of your suitcase should any liquid containers leak, plastic bags can be useful in all kinds of ways: packing a picnic, collecting trash, containing leaks, keeping laundry separate, preventing water damage to electronics and papers in your backpack during an unexpected thunderstorm. The list goes on.
Labels - Put your name and contact info on anything that you’d hate to lose: namely, your phone. You can even stick a post-it note inside the case with your email address and another phone number. If you leave it somewhere, it’s much more likely to return to you if your name is on it.
An extra layer - Besides the obvious reason that layers allow you to adjust to changing temperatures easily (keep in mind that museums are often very cool, even if it’s hot outside), religious sites often require shoulders covered as a prerequisite for entry. For that reason (and many others, including spills, stains, tears, makeshift pillows, etc.) it’s a good idea to carry one extra layer in your pack at all times.
Wrap valuable items in clothes - If you’re packing fragile items, avoid the disappointment of unpacking to find something broken by wrapping the items heavily in sweatshirts or other clothing. Same goes for your day pack: don’t leave your valuables exposed at the top of your bag (makes it harder for a pickpocketer to get to your wallet without you noticing).
First aid - Band aids, Advil/Tylenol, Neosporin, and some anti-itch cream are almost always useful. Beyond that, customize your first aid kid based on your destination: medical tape if you’re going hiking or prone to sprains, aloe if you tend to get sunburnt, hand-sanitizer if you won’t have access to soap.
Multiple credit cards - Sometimes (even if you call ahead) a credit card will be suspended when you travel abroad because they think the activity looks suspicious. Bring a few credit cards (or cash and a card) so you have options.
In case you missed it check out Part I: 10 Packing tips to save you money. Also stay tuned next week for part III. Packing tips to save time...
Posted by the team at Planit Travel
Q&A with Michael Hyland
Mike Hyland is a transportation engineering research scientist and a PhD candidate at Northwestern University in the school of engineering, where he studies transportation systems analysis and planning.
Q: Which city that you've studied has the best transportation system?
A: I think the general consensus, at least in the engineering and transportation planning community, is that Tokyo has the best intracity and intercity rail transportation system in the world (Hong Kong is a close second). It moves an incredibly high volume of passengers every day and is famous for staying on schedule (getting a seat may be difficult though).
Other cities worth mentioning include Copenhagen and Amsterdam which are exceptionally bike-friendly both in terms of the culture and the infrastructure that supports biking. Bogota has the highest rated bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the world.
Q: Why does Asia have bullet trains and we don't?
A: The four main reasons why the U.S. doesn't have High-Speed Rail (HSR) are:
1) Intercity travel distances
HSR is most cost- and time-efficient when intercity travel distances are between 150 and 400 miles. For shorter distances, a personal automobile is better, and for longer distances, air travel is better. ‘Better’ is a combination of cost, travel time, transfer time (e.g. wait time at airports, rail stations), convenience, and comfort.
Most large city-pairs in the US are too far apart for HSR to compete with air transportation. Notable exceptions include Boston-NYC-Philly-DC; the Texas Triangle; and SF-LA, and some would say the Midwest cities with Chicago at the center.
2) Metropolitan Size and Density
For HSR to be profitable or even economically viable, the demand for intercity travel must be high enough to offset the high capital and operating costs. Larger cities naturally have higher demand for intercity transportation and hence intercity rail transportation. Moreover, HSR is successful in cities with higher population, business, tourist and entertainment density. The reason why density is important relates to the previous section on intercity travel distances. There is only a small range of intercity travel distances that makes sense from a cost and time standpoint. If travelers need to spend a long time getting to a HSR station, personal auto travel and air travel become more attractive.
Compared to Asian and European cities, cities in the U.S. are significantly smaller and notoriously less dense. The 10th biggest city in China includes 10.3 million people! China has over 40 cities larger than Chicago - the 3rd largest city in the United States.
I think density is one of the more important impediments to the success of HSR in the Texas Triangle.
3) Non-auto Transportation Options Within Cities
The best way I can put this is by asking: “What are you going to do if you arrive in Phoenix/Houston/LA/Orlando/etc. via HSR?” You will either need to rent a car (which means you were probably better off driving in the first place) or the number of places you can visit is severely limited. This may change in the future with autonomous vehicles and ridesourcing and ridesharing.
In contrast, cities in Europe and Asia are significantly more accessible without a car. The public transportation systems are better, and the cities are denser (meaning walkable) in terms of tourist attractions, businesses, and residences.
4) Historical and Current Choices Made by Governments
Compared to Europe and Asia, the United States has a more expansive intercity road network, significantly lower gas prices, and, as previously mentioned, less dense cities. All of these are the result of decisions made in the public sector. The United States invested in an interstate road transportation network in the 1950s-1970s, rather than other interstate/intercity modes, and it heavily subsidizes gasoline. Both of these decisions contribute to urban sprawl (i.e. less dense urban areas).
Note that Northeast Corridor (NEC) in the United States is not disqualified by the first three reasons, which is why the ‘higher-speed’ Amtrak Acela line runs through the NEC. I’ve heard rail industry experts suggest that the topographical features of the NEC (i.e. too many darn mountains/hills and waterways) make bullet trains or HSR either infeasible or uneconomical.
Mike outlines several reasons why the U.S. lags behind Asia in high speed rail (HSR)
Q: What can you tell about a city or their culture from their transportation system?
A: Western cultures are significantly more individualistic than Eastern cultures. I think this manifests itself quite clearly in the transit systems in the United States and Asia. I do not have the exact numbers, but the design specifications for person-per-square-foot are significantly higher in Chinese and Japanese transit systems than in the US.
In recent decades, the Europeans’ emphasis on sustainability is quite evident in their transportation systems. European cities are denser than those in the United States, individual car ownership and usage is lower, and active transport modes are more common.
Q: What cutting edge strategies or technologies are being employed in the field and where are they happening?
A: I feel like this was a setup for me to talk about how awesome Pittsburgh is.
In my super-biased opinion, driverless vehicles are the single most important and interesting cutting edge technology related to the field of transportation. The potential benefits are enormous: significantly safer travel, lower overall passenger and freight transportation costs, and increases in productivity associated with travelers no longer having to drive.
While Google has been testing driverless cars in California and other states for a few years, Uber was the first to provide transportation services with driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh during the fall of 2016 (a person was in the driver's seat and able to take control of the vehicles).
Companies like Google are developing self driving car technologies, which could shape the future of transportations
I see a current shift away from individually-owned vehicles to private companies providing transportation services with a fleet of vehicles. Companies like Uber and Lyft are already in this space and generating significant revenues (if not profits); however, I think driverless vehicles will make these services more attractive from a simple economics standpoint à No driver = no labor costs.
Mobility- (or Transportation-) as-a-Service (TaaS, MaaS) is a cutting-edge transportation strategy that could significantly impact the way we travel. TaaS is basically the complete integration of private and public transportation options (bikeshare, taxis, transit, Uber, carshare, etc.) that is supported by a mobile phone application. The app provides travelers various multi-modal transportation options to make a trip and allows the user to pay for the multi-modal trip on the app.
This document gives a good overview of where HSR works best: http://www.america2050.org/pdf/Where-HSR-Works-Best.pdf