If you’re planning on going away this summer then the chances are you’re got a plane journey ahead of you and you just know you’re going to be bored. Well consider taking a couple of these space-saving card games with you, and the hours are guaranteed to fly by.
A favourite family card game since 1971, Uno is fun for all ages due its simplistic nature. The object is simple: the first person to get rid of all of their cards wins, but there are hurdles along the way due to the cards that can be played, so it pays to stay alert. This game is perfect for long flights, or if you’re stuck in the airport due to a cancelled or delayed flight, especially if your children are particularly prone to “are we there yet?” syndrome then this should keep them distracted and entertained for quite a while. Just be careful you don’t all get too competitive.
Another game that is easy to pick up the basics for, to get as close to 21 without going over (bust), plus the chances are you already own a standard deck of playing cards. Plus if you happen to be heading to Vegas on
The thing that always surprises me about London is how the city combines the historic and the modern, sometimes even on the same street. You might, for instance, encounter an outrageously hip clothes store on a block where Charles Dickens once observed the harshness of child poverty, or contemporary cuisine served in a tavern that's been around practically since Shakespeare's time. One minute it feels like you're in a History Channel show full of royal households and churches; the next minute you're in a place totally on the cutting edge.
Local chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay are now as famous as rock stars, though a tourist requisite is still traditional afternoon tea. You can splurge on Saturday morning along Portobello Road or stroll Jermyn Street for gentlemen's shops bearing royal warrants (Prince Charles gets his pajamas at Turnbull & Asser), but these days it's also fun to join the flocks of shoppers at fashion-forward boutiques along Elizabeth Street or (less expensively) around the markets and funky shops of Brick Lane in the East End.
London is a big city geographically. The majority of visitors spend most of their time in and around
A geographic and metaphoric melding of East and West, Istanbul is the world's only city covering two continents -- the Bosporus Strait runs through the center, with Europe lying to the west, Asia to the east.
For nearly 2,000 years, the ideally situated metropolis has been the keystone of some of the world's great empires, serving as the capital city for the Romans (under the name Constantinople, as noted by the informative "They Might Be Giants" tune), Byzantines and Ottomans.
Inside the sprawling city, the secular and the sacred mingle: minarets and nightclubs, dusty prayer rugs and designer digs. The idea of Istanbul as collision between East and West reveals itself immediately, with monumental churches cum mosques (the Hagia Sophia), Roman ruins (the Hippodrome, where horse and chariot races were held in Roman times) and unadulterated symbols of consumerism (the Grand Bazaar with its thousands of shops).
Exploring Istanbul fully would take years, but you can see the highlights in about three days.
10 Best Turkey Experiences
A note for Western travelers: In deference to Istanbul's beautiful mosques, churches and synagogues, it's advisable to wear respectful attire (long pants or long skirts) if
Helsinki is a city with a variety of identities. Maybe it's the Russian influence (St. Petersburg is a quick train ride away). Maybe it's the strong appreciation of contemporary design -- the capital of Finland is home to Marimekko, world-renowned for its boldly patterned textiles; Kalevala, known for distinctive bronze and silver jewelry; and Iittala, known for glassware. The city also might be associated with the dark, cold and snowy winters that last half the year (fortunately, most travelers choose not to visit then). Helsinki embraces a bit of oddball fun too. One annual festival features the tossing of Finnish-made Nokia cell phones, and another popular mainstay is a wife-carrying competition.
Finland differs from Nordic neighbors like Sweden and Norway because of its near-inexplicable language. (It originated as an oral language, rather than a written one, so it's very difficult to follow; Swedish is also widely spoken.) The country itself is one of Europe's newest; independence from Russia was achieved in 1917 following the Bolshevik Revolution.
Helsinki was founded in 1550 by Swedish King Gustav Vasa and offers monuments such as the Lutheran Cathedral (Lutheranism is one of the national religions), the onion-domed Uspenski
Historic Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, has so much to offer that you can't possibly do it in a day. The city lies in a beautiful setting, sprawling over an extinct volcano known as Arthur's Seat, and dominated by the grey, brooding hulk of the medieval Edinburgh Castle -- the tourist hub of the Royal Mile, a street exactly one Scots mile long. (The outdated measurement is equivalent to 1,807 meters, longer than the standard 1,609-meter mile.)
Old Town, as this area is known, features a wonderful labyrinth of alleyways and cobbled streets filled with castles, museums and churches. After the 1707 Act of Union joined Scotland and England politically, many of Edinburgh's wealthier residents abandoned Edinburgh for London. The Georgian terraces -- individual terraces found on the front of Georgian-style row homes -- of nearby New Town were built in an effort to attract them back. Both Old Town and New Town are part of the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Photos: 10 Best Scotland Experiences
Tourism staples include Scotch whisky (with opportunities to learn taste and buy) and golf at St. Andrew's Links, not
Imagine Dublin and visions of Guinness, Leopold Bloom, U2, and hearty breakfast plates piled high with Irish bacon and farm-fresh eggs might spring to mind. Think what you will, but Ireland's largest city -- and its capital for more than a thousand years -- is currently enjoying its newfound status as one of the hottest and most livable cities in not just Europe, but the world.
On Ireland's central east coast along the banks of the Liffey River, where so many literary greats beyond James Joyce were born -- including Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, to name a few -- these days Dublin is showing off trendy coffee houses, foodie-friendly restaurant stops, and smart boutiques filled with Burberry-clad shoppers combing the racks and shelves. However, there's still much to see from days gone by in this historic city.
The city center is bisected by the River Liffey, a good orientation point for visitors. The Royal Canal forms a skirt through the northern half, and the Grand Canal does the same through the southern half, which is where most of the interesting sights are found. Within the southern
Sitting on the east coast of Denmark, Copenhagen has been that country's capital for 600 years and is the largest city in Scandinavia with a population of 1.2 million people. It's home to the world's oldest monarchy (King Erik VII set up permanent residence in 1417) and its present queen, Margrethe II, currently lives at Amalienborg Palace.
In a country rich in Viking history, grand castles and lush green countryside, Copenhagen is a charming city of 17th- and 18th-century buildings, beautiful parks and gardens, pretty canal promenades, and ancient winding streets made for walking and biking. During the longer days and warmer weather of summer, outdoor cafe-sitting and outings to the magical Tivoli Gardens are highlights.
At any time, getting your bearings in old Copenhagen is easy; it's a warren of pedestrian streets, bounded by Norreport Station, Town Hall Square and the Central Train Station. Stroget, which is an amalgamation of five streets -- Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, Amagertorv and Ostergade -- runs practically smack-dab through the center of the city between Radhuspladsen and Kongens Nytorv. Pistolstraede is chock-a-block with galleries, restaurants and boutiques; Fiolstraede is for antiques galore; and Nyhavn is where some of
The word on Bucharest is that it's ugly, gritty, grimy -- and parts of it are. But don't make do with first impressions. As our guide aptly put it: "New-old-beautiful-ugly. This is what Bucharest is."
Energetic, hectic and not quite a quarter of a century out of Communist rule, this textured capital city of 2.2 million people is an acquired taste, and it's still in the process of defining itself. Just as Romania has been touted as the New Italy, Bucharest is being hailed as a sophisticated but less pricey alternative to Budapest and Belgrade.
The overarching signature of Bucharest today is the intersection of Communism and capitalism: Buses carrying tourists routinely pull up to the massive Palace of Parliament, built by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as a tribute to himself. (More than one-sixth of the city was leveled to accommodate his indulgence.) The endless grey blocks of apartments that rose during Communist times are still in evidence, but so are outlets for Ferrari and Maserati, Hard Rock Cafe, ING, Starbucks and McDonald's. And the national sense of humor that Romanians quietly relied upon to help them survive Ceausescu's dictatorship is out in the
Chances are if you've been to Brussels, you were sent there on a business trip -- after all, only a quarter of the six million people who visit Belgium's capital each year come for pleasure. Of the tourists who do visit Belgium, many of them skip right over Brussels in their rush to see the scenic canals and cobblestones of nearby Bruges.
But before you strike Brussels from your own must-visit list, take another look. Get beyond the modern government buildings in the Quartier Europeen and you'll discover the city's intimate historic core, where centuries-old houses hug narrow cobblestone alleyways, neatly dressed waiters serve lunch on the terraces along the Place du Grand Sablon, and the mighty Gothic spire of the Hotel de Ville soars above Grand Place, one of Europe's most magical squares. To the south are the curving facades and wrought-iron balconies of the city's gracious Art Nouveau neighborhood, while further north you'll find the wide green lawns and vibrant blooms of the Botanic Garden. Art, history and culture are celebrated in over 100 museums throughout the city, featuring everything from delicate Belgian lace to musical instruments and vintage cars.
A visit to Berlin is simply not to be missed. Since the wall was pulled down in 1989, the city has a new lease on life. It's no longer isolated in the middle of Communist East Germany; now, it's the capital city of a new Germany. What had been such a contrast -- West Berlin vs. East Berlin -- has now been largely erased. In fact, the former East Berlin side is where you will want to spend most of your precious time. It was, and is again, the soul of the city that follows a band running east from the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag (Parliament) along Unter den Linden, the city's handsome boulevard, to Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral and Alexanderplatz. Several intriguing neighborhoods are just a few blocks to the north and south of this line.
Few monuments, apart from a couple of churches, are truly old. Berlin itself is not an ancient city like Rome, and so much of what was historic was largely destroyed during World War II. With many churches, government buildings and landmarks rebuilt in the original 18th- and 19th-century styles, the city again presents itself as monumental,
The capital of Spain's Catalonia region is one of Europe's most beautiful and vibrant places. Barcelona is like no other Spanish city; this is most evident in its language (locals speak Catalan, not Castilian Spanish) and in its architecture, a marriage of Gothic spikes and modern curves. Keep your eye out for the unmistakable work of Antoni Gaudi, the city's best known architect.
Barcelona sits between the Collserola mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea. The easiest way for visitors to get their bearings is to realize that the city is basically divided into two parts. First, there's the old city, which is where the heart of everything -- from museums to shopping and cafes -- is based. Then there's the port area, known as Port Vell, featuring bars, restaurants, shops and an IMAX theater.
Photos: 10 Best Spain Experiences
In fact, one of Barcelona's best attributes is that while it seems large and spread out, its neighborhoods are surprisingly walkable and easily accessible by bus, metro or even foot (in comfortable shoes). Don't miss a stroll along La Rambla, replete with produce and flower stands, a historic opera house and living
If you've never been to Athens -- or if you haven't been recently -- you'll discover that this ancient seat of world culture has quite a spring in its step; credit its fresh, bouncing vibe to its center-of-the-universe role as host of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Sure, several years have gone by since then, but the reverberations are still felt (and will be, we surmise, for a very, very long time to come). In a decade's worth of preparation for hosting the Olympics, city fathers (and mothers too) spearheaded massive upgrades, repairs and refurbishments.
Buildings that were once dingy dirty gray are now painted in cheerful shades of yellow, green and orange. Public squares have been pedestrianized (you won't recognize the now lovely Syntagma Square, with its lush trees and peaceful spots for repose; traffic used to course through this space). Sidewalks have been repaved and are quite walkable (still narrow, though), and concrete stripping was inserted to assist the physically disabled.
There are new roads, the subways and trains are near-spotless, classic hotels like the Bretagne got major facelifts, and cafes are flourishing throughout the city. There are swank digs for designer ateliers,
When is a dollar not worth its weight in gold? When you're measuring in pounds.
British pounds, that is.
A few years ago, the pound reached an exchange rate of $2 against the American dollar for the first time since September 1992. While the pound has weakened a bit since then, it still makes for a challenging exchange rate for Americans traveling in the United Kingdom.
And though the exchange rate for the euro remains decent, Europe is one of the world's most expensive regions to explore. Hotel rates are sky-high in major capitals like London, Paris and Moscow, and the hefty cost of living (particularly in Scandinavian countries) makes everyday purchases such as meals and public transportation tickets a pricey proposition for travelers.
But that doesn't mean you can't see Europe on a budget. We've gathered 25 tips to help you save your pennies (or pounds!) on your next trip to Europe.
1. Get rate quotes in U.S. dollars. Long before you travel, when you are booking your hotel, car rental and other non-flight essentials, try to get quotes in U.S. dollars and pay in U.S. dollars whenever possible. This way there are
It's been called the "Pearl of the Danube" -- and no wonder. For elegance and feel, Budapest easily rivals any other major capital city in Europe. The artery that defines it is the Danube, one of the world's most celebrated waterways and also one of the most popular for European river cruising. Spend any time at all in this grand city, and it's easy to understand why the riverbanks of Budapest -- that's right, the riverbanks -- have been assigned UNESCO World Heritage status.
The first thing you need to know about Budapest: It, in effect, operates as two cities with distinctly different personalities. Buda, on the west bank of the Duna (as the Danube is called), is hilly and houses the restored Castle District, a cultural and arts center known for its famed Matthias Church, Royal Palace and Fishermen's Bastion, a rampart that offers the best views in town. The entire district is a real scene-stealer.
Pest, on the east bank, is the hub for dining, shopping, banking and nightlife. There you'll find the pedestrian shopping zone, Vaci Utca; Heroes' Square; the old Jewish quarter; the not-to-miss Andrassy, Budapest's grandest avenue; and the
Switzerland is a land that does not disappoint. From the magnificence of the Matterhorn to the charm of an alpine cheesemaker, the country is as spectacular as the tourism brochures claim, as inspiring as postcards tease, as traditional and authentic as history lessons suggest.
We've rounded up 10 unique experiences to try in Switzerland, including visiting a chocolate factory, learning to play the alphorn and walking a St. Bernard. Start planning your getaway by clicking through our slideshow; then check out our guides to where to stay and getting around.
Learn to Play the Alphorn
If you've ever seen a Ricola commercial for throat lozenges, you know what an alphorn is -- one of those 12-foot-long wooden horns that rest on the ground while a musician puckers up at the other end. Historically, these instruments were used as a communication tool between farmers and villagers in remote alpine regions.
Visitors to Switzerland today are often treated to impromptu performances in communities around the country. Free alphorn concerts are summer Saturday night occurrences in Gruyeres. If you want to toot your own alphorn,
You've always gotten by with your high school French or Spanish overseas, but what if you're in a place so remote no one speaks anything but the local language and you haven't taken the time to learn more than "hello" and "thank you"?
English is a common second language in many countries, particularly those that see lots of tourists or international businesspeople. But go off the beaten track, and English speakers aren't as easy to find. In the jungles of Ecuador you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who spoke anything other than Spanish. What if you're in rural China or Russia, or even a major city in Asia like Tokyo that has very few signs in English?
Below are nine tips that can help.
Logic and composure are your best friends. You might fret if it's getting late and you can't find an ATM or your hotel. Don't worry; eventually someone will help. Stay positive.
Before you leave for the day, ask the front desk or concierge to write down the name of your hotel in the local language, or get a business card with the hotel's details
Sun and sand top the list of favorite summer vacations. But it's hard to feel fully free when you're dragging too much stuff around. Let other people sweat the small stuff, and streamline your list of hot weather must-haves so you look cool, even when the temperature isn't.
Overall Plan: Light and breezy items should dominate your wardrobe choices. While you want to be comfortable, skip the faded and raggedy T-shirts and instead aim for a summery look that's polished, not dumpy. And while you may want to concentrate on getting there, make sure you spend some time thinking about how you'll transport wet and sandy items back home. There's nothing worse than a suitcase full of sand.
The World's Best Beaches
What's Essential? You might hate shopping for them, but no beach vacation is complete without a swimsuit. Buy more than one so there's always something dry to wear, and bring them along in your carry-on. Women should pack cute cover-ups, both to wear on the beach when it gets too hot and to walk along the boardwalk without too much exposure. In the evenings, costume jewelry can add just
Ask a travel agent what appears on most people's bucket list, and a trip to see the Big Five in the wild ranks way up there. While there's no need to go full commando in camouflage, you'll want to pack clothing that stands up to the heat, yet protects you from some of the landscape's smallest predators: mosquitoes and tsetse flies.
Overall Plan: Loose layers and accessories that protect you from the sun and biting insects are your priority. Choose these items carefully, as many safaris require transportation on small planes or vehicles that have strict luggage restrictions (most lodges and hotels have laundry facilities). This is not the terrain for a wheeled suitcase; instead, invest in a duffel or soft-sided bag that can be placed into small compartments. Carry everything that's valuable in a daypack.
Planning an African Safari
What's Essential? The African sun can be brutal. Be sure to buy a pair of polarizing sunglasses that can protect your eyes. During the day, you'll want a hat that covers not only your face, but also your ears and neck. Look for one that has a cord so it won't
The cafes of Paris, the shops of New York, the restaurants of Tokyo: there's nothing like an urban vacation to bring out the sophisticate in all of us. Whether you plan to hit up every museum in Florence or hop the food stalls in Singapore, you'll want to make sure that you have clothes with you that mark you as a savvy insider, not a country bumpkin.
Overall Plan: Think chic and simple. Look for items that pull double duty, with colors that complement each other; in most cities (the Southern U.S. excepted), it's hard to go wrong with basic black. Try not to overstuff your bag, as there's nothing worse than trying to wrestle a monster suitcase onto a bus or through a subway turnstile.
What Not to Do in a New City
What's Essential? Invest in a pair of good walking shoes that could also be worn to a nice restaurant (Merrell and Clarks have great ones that have an urban vibe). Try them out before you go, as you don't want to be limping through a city with blisters. For women, you can't beat a pair of skinny
Hitting the great outdoors, regardless of the season, can be an exhilarating vacation. But the sheer complexity of gear can leave you stumped -- and your suitcase overflowing. Your main concern will be staying dry and warm while keeping the amount of stuff to a minimum, especially if you're the one hauling it.
Overall Plan: If you're spending a significant amount of time outdoors, layers that fold up easily are key. Camping enthusiasts will want a backpack, preferably one that's ultra-light with an internal frame. But even if you just buy a daypack, make sure that you load it and road test before you go. What seems light at home will seem five times as heavy after you've been carrying it for eight hours.
National Park Vacations: What You Need to Know
What's Essential? While blue jeans may seem like the ultimate outdoor outfit, they can get wet and heavy. It's better to get pants that are water- or wind-proof, or can be converted into shorts. A pair of tights or long underwear add an extra layer. Look for T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts and hoodies in breathable, synthetic fabric that will absorb