If you're booking a multi-city trip by air, you should really price it out as a series of one-way flights, rather than as a single ticket. As Mike Masnick discovered, the arcane airline ticketing rules require ticketing agencies to stick random, high-priced business-class tickets into multi-hop itineraries, which can double the cost of your trip. The ticketing websites -- Expedia, Travelocity, Hipmunk, Kayak, and Orbitz -- all either failed to show this information, produced suboptimal itineraries with unnecessary overnight layovers, or obscured the best flights in some other important way. Masnick got a spokesperson for Hipmunk to explain it all:
After going through all of this, I reached out to folks at Hipmunk, to see if they could explain the result. Hipmunk's Adam Goldstein kindly explained the basic situation, noting that airlines have all sorts of rules about what tickets can be combined with others. If you've never dealt with the insane details of fare classes (which go way beyond seating classes), you can spend way too much time online reading the crazy details. Given that, it seems that it is these kinds of "fare classes" that are the "culprit" -- and by "culprit" I mean the way in which the airlines force you into spending much, much, much more than you need to.
That said, Goldstein also argues that there are downsides to buying individual flights. He brings up, as we discussed above, the issue of connecting flights (and also having bags checked all the way through to destination) -- but as noted, that doesn't apply in this situation. He also points out that if you have to "change or cancel your whole trip, you have to pay separate change/cancel fees for each booking, instead of one for the whole thing." That's absolutely true, but is that "insurance" worth paying twice as much? I could rebook my entire trip with different times and dates... and basically pay the same total amount. So... that argument doesn't make much sense.
In the end, it really feels like a scammy way of making fliers pay a lot more than they need to, without them realizing it. What I do know, however, is that if you're looking for the best deals, do not assume that a multi-city search will turn up the cheapest prices -- and also recognize that the different search engines can give out extremely different answers. For example, if price was the only concern, and short flight times/non-stop flights were less important, then obviously that British Airways option at the end is by far the best price -- but it turns up on none of the other search engines. However, I'd imagine that most casual fliers have no idea, and I wonder if many people end up booking multi-city flight options, not realizing that they could save a ton by booking the exact same flights individually.
Kent sez, "Here's a travel hack that came to me all at once in a flash at SxSW this year: how to make cold-brewed coffee out of the horrible filter pack and inadequate equipment you often find in hotels in the USA."
Carefully unwrap (don't tear!) one or two of those premeasured filter-packs that came with your coffee service and stuff it gently into the cup. Ideally you want four parts water to one part coffee, but this is tough to estimate with filter packs.
Fill the remaining space in the cup all the way up with water. Tap water works; filtered or bottled is better. Try not to leave any air bubbles.
Don't worry if it seems it will result in a tiny amount of coffee; it will be concentrated, intensely flavored, and—assuming you're not stuck with decaf—highly caffeinated.
Kent's method is clever and upside-down-y, but I still like my method, which involves using your own coffee and a disposable plastic breast-milk bag.
Field Trip is a free iPhone app was developed in conjunction with our friends at Altas Obscura. I'm using it on an upcoming road trip from LA to Phoenix.
Field Trip, your guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you is now on the iPhone! Field Trip runs in the background on your phone. When you get close to something interesting, it will notify you and if you have a headset or bluetooth connected, it can even read the info to you.
Field Trip can help you learn about everything from local history to the latest and best places to shop, eat, and have fun. You select the local feeds you like and the information pops up on your phone automatically, as you walk next to those places.
Meg from Reuters Asia sez, "This is our latest video about some crazy gadgets that Chinese travelers are talking about and using for their long journeys during Chinese New Year. Our reporter (bravely) got on a train and tried some of them out and even spoke with one of the inventors.
Most Boing Boing readers who haven't been to China might not know how crazy the rail system is and doubly-so during the New Year period. It's a short fun video piece that we are pretty proud of even though it's not breaking news.
Here is our official summary: 'Millions of Chinese are heading home for the holidays, and social media is abuzz with wacky inventions that promise to make the grueling journey more comfortable. Jane Lee puts a few to the test.'"
200 million Chinese people make the trip home for the holidays, many spending three days or more on a train, often without a seat -- let alone a sleeper car.
Rick Prelinger sez, "I'm not a Detroiter, but I've been visiting from time to time since the 1980s, and I hope you will too. It's really unfortunate that most of what we see and hear about it amounts to repetition of the same old cliches -- deindustrialization, poverty, ruins, hipsters, cheap houses. But Detroit's much more than that. It's one of America's most fascinating cities, and if you want to see its unique combination of long-term residents, mostly African American, with rock-hard faith in their city, and new Detroiters aspiring to build Utopia, you better get on a plane soon.
"And when you go, bring Belle Isle to 8 Mile. I just got my own copy, written by three siblings who are seventh-generation Detroiters. It's full of hundreds of city landmarks, eating places and arts spaces, but it's more than the ordinary hip insider travel guide. I see it as testimony to places and businesses that have survived years of adversity and disrespect, as well as an incredibly deep guide to the new Detroit, which is an uncommonly exciting city. Excellent, inspiring read."
Last week, I got to visit the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. It's an amazing collection — well worth driving out of your way to see. I was expecting just a selection of different animal skeletons. The actual collection was a lot bigger and more awesome than I'd guessed it would be, and included some really nice exhibits on evolutionary adaptation, convergent evolution, deformed skeletons of both humans and animals, and the process of stripping a body down to a clean and shiny bone structure.
One of the things I found really fascinating was the skeletal features that you can't see just by looking at the outside of an animal. Take this Indian Rhinoceros, for instance. You'll notice that his horn is not a part of the skull. That's because the horn isn't really bone. The "horn" isn't a horn, at all.
Horns are made of bone. They're hard on the outside thanks to a thin layer of keratin — the stuff that makes up your fingernails and hair. But the majority of that material is living bone. Rhinos, on the other hand, have "horns" that are almost 100% keratin. They're really thick bundles of protein fibers.
That's a pretty well-known fact. But it's one thing to know it intellectually, and another thing entirely to see the place where that keratin horn attaches to the animal's actual bone structure. The intricate, lacy network of spongy bone was absolutely fascinating to me. It reminded me of the way ceramic artists will attach one piece of clay to another by scoring little cuts into both pieces and then applying a layer of thin, goopy clay that cements the cuts together as it dries. Seeing the rhino skull really drove home the idea that the "horn" was something else entirely. The horn was attached to the bone. It wasn't part of the bone.
This article from the British Medical Journal should give aspiring space tourists some food for thought. The basic gist: Traveling into the heavens is not really comparable, physically and medically, to Earth-bound travel. In fact, up until now, extreme physical fitness has been a major factor in how we select space travelers. What happens when less-fit people start flying? What happens to sick people? These are questions that matter a lot, given the fact that current astronauts report everything from reduced eyesight to potentially dangerous immune system changes. (Via The Inkfish blog)— Maggie
Retro DPRK is a blog that collects images of North Korea from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Getting into North Korea from the United States and Western Europe is not easy today. But up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was even more difficult. If you weren't also from a Communist country, chances were good that you weren't going to get even a glimpse of the place.
But, at the same time, North Korea was also promoting itself through propaganda, and as a tourist destination for citizens of the USSR. Christopher Graper — who leads tours into North Korea today from Canada — has scanned scenes from postcards and tourism brochures — rare peeks into the little-documented history of a secretive country.
The collection blends familiar scenes that wouldn't look terribly different from American advertisements of the same era with an amusingly odd sensibility (who wouldn't want a whole book of postcards documenting every detail of Pyongyang's new gymnasium?) and quietly disconcerting scenes like the one above, where a seaside resort town appears eerily empty — like a theme park before opening time.
In 1993, Stanley Williams survived a close-encounter with a volcano. A volcanologist, he was standing on the rim of Colombia's Galeras volcano when it erupted with little warning. Six of his scientific colleagues and three tourists were killed. Williams fled down the mountain's slope — until flying rocks and boulders broke both his legs. With a fractured skull, he managed to stay conscious enough to huddle behind some other large boulders and dodge flying debris until the eruption ended and his grad students rescued him.
Williams and the other scientists were there to study Galeras, and hopefully get a better idea of what signals predicted the onset of eruptions.
This is something we still don't understand well.
While volcanologists have identified some signals — like distinctive patterns of small earthquakes — that increase the likelihood of an oncoming eruption, those signals aren't foolproof predictions. There are still volcanoes like Galeras that give no warning. And volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens. In 2004, that volcano gave signals that it would erupt. And it did. Sort of. The Seattle Times described it as "two small burps and a lava flow". Basically, the signals don't always precede an eruption, and even when they do happen it doesn't tell you much about how big any ensuing eruption will be.
And that presents an interesting question, writes Erik Klemetti at Wired's Eruptions blog. How close to volcanoes should tourists really be? That's a question with real-world applications. This year, New Zealand's White Island volcano has been ... rather grumbly. Even as tourist boats continued to ferry people over for a view of the crater.
There has always been a fragile relationship between volcanoes and tourism. Volcanic features are some of the most fascinating in the world – just look at the millions of people who visit Yellowstone or Crater Lake National Parks for but two examples of hundreds of volcanic tourist attractions around the world (and that doesn’t even consider all the extinct volcanoes or volcanic deposits that can create amazing landscapes as well). However, with the splendor of volcanic features comes the danger that you, as a tourist, are visiting an active volcano. Sometimes, that danger is low, where either the volcano has been dormant for thousands of years, but the signs of magma beneath are still visible. However, the danger can appear to be low in some places but in reality, you are literally putting your lives in the hands of tour operators when you make the visit.
Marilyn sez, "Chris Elliott gives 5 good reasons to participate in the Opt Out protest against the TSA's full-body scanners over this Thanksgiving weekend and so far, 65 percent of the people reading his column on Huffington Post say they will take part (including me)."
1. They're not adequately tested and could be dangerous. Unfortunately, the scanners you'll be asked to walk through haven't been properly tested. The latest independent evaluations are actually based on data provided by the TSA. The government wants us to trust it, but it won't give us a reason. That's unacceptable.
2. They're easily foiled. It's not difficult to sneak a weapon through a full-body scanner, according to several reports. The career criminals who might want to do us harm have figured out how to get around the scanners already.
3. They're too expensive. At a quarter of a million bucks a pop, the scanners are a huge waste of taxpayer money. To use one, or to allow one to be used on you, is is an endorsement of an iffy technology. It also lines the pockets of undeserving security contractors, say critics...