The ever popular publisher of travel guidebooks has come out with their annual ‘Best of Travel’ guide which lists the best of the best for the next year of travel in all sorts of categories from best budget travel to best family travel experiences. If you’ve been planning ahead for next year’s vacations here is the list of the hottest new attractions set to open in 2016 to get your imagination running wild. This year’s list has something for everyone from Disney fans to football fanatics, outdoor explorers and adventurous foodies, no one will be disappointed and everyone will be scrambling to find their passport after one read through this list.
10. Shanghai Disney Resort, China
In Spring of 2916, Disney is set to open its newest resort and the first of its kind in mainland China. The park will include 6 themed areas placed around the largest constructed Enchanted Castle of any Disney park. In the center of the park, ‘The Garden of the Twelve Friends’ will depict the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac represented by Disney characters. There will also be a Disneytown entertainment district (perhaps similar to America’s Downtown Disney) located outside of the new Magic Kingdom which will feature restaurants, shopping, entertainment and two Disney hotel accommodations.
9. Mamma Mia! The Party, Stockholm, Sweden
Diehard ABBA fans will want to take note of this next opening in Stockholm next year; the city’s Gröna Lund amusement park will see the opening of a brand new Mamma Mia!–themed restaurant in January of 2016. The brains behind this new disco-dining experience is none other than ABBA’s own Björn Ulvaeus, the former Swedish music star also co-composed the famed Mamma Mia! musical so naturally he has some involvement here as well. Lonely Planet reports that diners will enter a Greek-style Taverna where diners will tuck into Greek specialties while the story unfolds around them.
8. Monnaie de Paris, France
For those who haven’t been to the city, the Monnaie de Paris is the Paris mint, and in mid-2016 it will see the completion of its ‘MetaLmorphoses’ project -a huge transformation of the mint’s 1.2-hectare site on the Seine. So far the transformation has already seen art exhibitions in the mint’s neoclassical building in 2014 and the opening of famous Michelin accredited chef Guy Savoy’s flagship restaurant in 2015. The fun will continue in 2016 with the unveiling of the mint’s previously unseen collections. In addition, there will be metalwork and foundry tours, Guy Savoy’s MetaLcafé brasserie and much more to see and do.
7. FIFA World Football Museum, Zurich, Switzerland
Ask any football fan if they would make a trip if there were a world football museum and chances are they would probably say yes. Well in spring of 2016, just such an attraction will be opening its doors in Zurich, Switzerland. The FIFA World Football Museum will be a 3,500 square meter facility located in the heart of the city and dedicated to the most widely played sport in the world. The museum will take visitors through the history of the game with a timeline and include a hall of fame, a cinema and a giant football pinball machine.
6. Bourdain Market, New York City, USA
Famous culinary adventurer Anthony Bourdain first announced his plans to open a food market in New York back in January 2014 and foodies have been listening for any little detail about the project ever since. While many details are still unknown (and likely will be until its opening) we do know that the theme will be crazy, loud and slightly obnoxious and it’s all set to open in early 2016. The 100,000 square foot space at Pier 57 will feature producers and carefully selected food vendors from around the world as well as a hawker-style food hall, rooftop beer garden, farmers market and oyster bar.
5. Surf Snowdonia, Wales
Snowdonia National Park in Wales is known for it’s vast natural beauty and spectacular scenery. While this piece of natural paradise is perfect for hikers and those with an appreciation for the great outdoors, there are an increasing number of adventure sports enthusiasts heading to Snowdonia for the man-made adrenaline attractions like Europe’s longest zip line and an underground trampolining center. In 2016 the park will see another new attraction to entice visitors, in the form of a 300 meter long artificial surf lagoon. The £12 million project is said to use rainwater to produce a consistent barreling 2 meter wave every minute, and is the first of its kind in the world.
4. National Gallery Singapore
Lonely Planet says that while Singapore is host to several world-class museums, if you only have time for one in 2016 make it the National Gallery. Located in the city’s former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, the gallery not only offers Southeast Asian art from the 19th century to today, but the venue itself offers history and its own story. Visit the restored colonial courtrooms and council chambers but make sure you also check out the beautiful rooftop garden which offers spectacular views of Marina Bay.
3. BASK, Gili Meno, Indonesia
BASK is a brand-new luxury villa-resort development on the island of Gili Meno near Bali. The development which is set to open in 2016 has a very recognizable celebrity endorsement on its side; David Hasselhoff, aka The Hoff, is the face of BASK and is said to be looking at having his own vacation villa in the complex. The development is located on a private white sand beach and will feature a world class restaurant, beach club, luxury spa and even its own underwater sculpture park for diving enthusiasts.
2. Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Abu Dhabi arts scene is about to get a new star in 2016; the Louvre Abu Dhabi was first planned to be completed in 2012, but flash forward another 4 years and we will finally see this €100 million dollar project completed. The building itself is a sight to behold as the domed structure seems to almost be floating on the water as it sits on Saadiyat Island. The museum will have a permanent collection of art throughout the ages including Chinese Buddhist carvings and Italian oil paintings while works from famed artists like Van Gogh, Monet and da Vinci will be on loan from France.
1. National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC, USA
The number one opening in 2016 is an exciting first for America; the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC for short) will become the first national museum in America to focus exclusively on the lives, history and culture of African Americans. The 10-storey space Smithsonian Institution museum will open in Washington DC in 2016 and will boast artifacts from around the country that represent the history of African Americans. Everything from Harriet Tubman’s 1876 hymn book, to a Jim Crow-era segregated railcar, to banners and photographs from notable human rights demonstrations will be on display.
Outdoor hotel pools don’t need to be square concrete blocks, littered with screaming children and leaves that haven’t been scrapped off the bottom, which are normally freezing cold. In fact, outdoor hotel pools can be downright beautiful. From the ever popular infinity pools that look over the sides of cliffs, to rooftop pools so high up you forget what lies below; these outdoor pools are wonderfully unique in their own ways. Discover 15 of our favorite outdoor pools, and before long you will be booking a night, just to try out the pool.
15. Hotel Caruso -Salerno, Italy
This open-air infinity pool is brilliantly blue in color and creates the perfect atmosphere for hotel guests to relax. The pool is set atop the highest point of Ravello, seemingly suspended in the clouds, halfway between heaven and earth. It overlooks the breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Getting to the pool is just as beautiful as the pool itself as guests will have to wander through a rose garden. Complete with medieval ruins towering beside the pool, you will simply feel as you have fallen back in time. Make sure to indulge in the fresh-fruit appetizers that will be delivered to you poolside, or request a pre-loaded iPod with your choice of music. A visitor here can even get an Evian vaporizer delivered to them while they are in the pool. This is luxury at its finest.
14. The Oberoi Udaivilas -Udaipur, India
Spread over a 50 acre wildlife preserve is this wonderful hotel in India that features not one but two impressive pools. Guests here will be privy to amazing scenery, wildlife and exceptional service. The first pool runs lengthwise along the interconnecting domes and corridors that make up the hotel. This 70-foot pool is for guests that are staying in one of the semi-private pool rooms that allow access to this wonderful pool right from the room door. Private pool rooms are also available for those guests wanting their own private 36 foot plunge pool complete with dining area. The main pool at this hotel is stunning in deep blue tiles, set within a Mewar style courtyard with lush green lawns. The sandstone and marble tile patterns set off the sapphire blue color and truly make it a majestically centerpiece for this hotel.
13. Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti -Serengeti, Tanzania
As if staying at a safari lodge isn’t enough of an amazing experience, the Four Seasons have upped the ante with this awesome outdoor pool. This large sparkling blue free-form infinity pool is among favorites of visitors to this awesome safari lodge. The pool is the perfect break from your safari adventure, although it may not feel like much of a break from wildlife sightings as you watch over the watering hole that brings elephants, lions and other wildlife up close and personal. Relax in the cool waters, grab a cocktail from sunrise to sunset or relax in one of the sun beds on the deck. Watching a sunset from here is a favorite activity as the sky turns a brilliant pink and orange while the sun disappears. At night enjoy a romantic dinner poolside, complete with candles, lanterns and excellent dining options.
12. The Library -Koh Samui Island, Thailand
Located just a few steps away from the white sandy beaches is a pool that shines so brilliantly red, one would think that the water is dyed to be that color. This signature red pool is absolutely stunning to the naked eye and swimming here is an unforgettable experience. We promise, you aren’t swimming in dark crimson blood, although we admit it looks like that from a distance. It is in fact the stunning mosaic tiles that make it look so red, as the combination of the red, orange and yellow present a dazzling spectacle of brilliant color. This shallow pool is perfect for relaxing and gazing out at the beautiful blue water. The Library is also the only five-star hotel in Chaweng Beach and in addition to the amazing pool, the hotel itself is wonderful.
11. The Sarojin -Phang Nga, Thailand
This enchanting hotel is only reached by a hidden pathway and borders on five national parks, as well as a long sandy beach. The pool itself is surrounded by lush green gardens and tropical foliage and shimmers a gorgeous turquoise color under the bright sun. Private cabanas are placed in the shallow waters and come complete with sun beds, umbrellas, curtains that can be closed for privacy, towels and bar service. The blue mosaic tiles, the large vases growing beautiful flowers and the steps leading into the deeper water all make this pool incredibly beautiful. With warm water, a serene setting and a private cabana; you may never want to leave this hotel.
10. The Grace Santorini -Santorini, Greece
This exquisite infinity pool is the largest of its kind in Santorini and offers breathtaking views of the sea below. In typical Santorini fashion, the pool is outfitted in white and blue, a perfect combination of simplicity yet style. Chairs and table are places around the pool, at staggering heights to allow for the unparalleled views of the surrounding hills and water. The pool features both a shallow and deep end, for any type of swimmer. Make sure to check out the infamous Santorini sunsets that occur nightly, either from inside the pool or from the chairs. Food and beverage service is available around the pool all day and evening, and visitors are encouraged to spend their days enjoying it.
9. San Alfonso del Mar -Valparaiso, Chile
It holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crystalline pool, measuring over one kilometer in length, eight hectares and holds more than 250 million liters of water. Apart from the sheer size of it, the waters here are an amazing turquoise color and have the same transparency of those in the Caribbean. The water also happens to be an amazing 26 degrees Celsius in the summertime, the absolute perfect temperature for splashing around. The white sand beaches here are private to each of the buildings and recreate a tropical paradise. During the day you will find kids snorkeling, sailing in small boats and many recreational activities taking place in the biggest pool on earth. Make sure you book your room into one of the buildings that has access to the private beaches and pool, as some do not.
8. Amangani -Jackson Hole, United States
This legendary resort is Jackson Hole’s most exclusive resorts and it set seven thousand feet above sea level, carved into the hillside at Gros Ventre Butte. The 100-foot heated swimming pool operates year round and offers stunning views of Wyoming’s snow-capped peaks. During the summer visitors enjoy lounging in the crystal clear waters, taking in the surrounding scenery and watching out for wildlife, all with a cocktail in hand. During the winter guests take advantage of both the warm pool and the attached hot tub, which comes in handy after a long day of skiing in the area. At night the candles are lit and there is no where better to enjoy a bottle of wine than this awesome luxury pool.
7. B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa -Zurich, Switzerland
This trendy 60-room boutique hotel features open spaces and a fabulous rooftop pool. It was once a 150 year old brewery. The hotel has managed to keep the aged stone walls and has refurbished the valves and bolts as clever décor elements. The natural thermal pool on the roof is really what visitors here love though. This uniquely shaped pool offers visitors unparalleled views over the city of Zurich, especially during the night. The pool is divided into different zones, all featuring different jets that relax and unwind you. There are enough nooks and crannies here that everyone can have their privacy. Although there are no surrounding loungers or service staff; the experience is unlike any other rooftop pool experience.
6. Marina Bay Sands Tower Pool -Singapore, Indonesia
It is hailed as the world’s largest rooftop pool at its height and sits high above the city of Singapore on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. If you don’t like heights, you may want to avoid this pool as it is 55 storey’s up in the air and more than three times the length of an Olympic pool. Did we mention that this pool is an infinity pool? This pool is part of the Sands SkyPark, a park that spans over all three hotel buildings and offers shops, restaurants and observation decks to the public. Building the SkyPark was one of the most expensive construction projects in history and once you see it, you can believe it. Unfortunately for the general public, the infinity pool is just open to hotel guests. With plenty of sun loungers, umbrellas, palm trees and dining choices, it is easy to spend an entire day on top of the world here.
5. Ubud Hanging Gardens -Bali, Indonesia
It is one of the most photographed pools in the world and it is no wonder why, as the architecture here is absolutely stunning. This pool won’t be for the faint of heart though as it jets out from the hotel, high above the treetops. It is a split-level infinity pool, the top half featuring a huge deck that flows out from the hotel. The bottom half is almost hidden from sight and creates the feeling of having a private atmosphere, complete with a waterfall. The curved pools were designed to replicate the steep terraced rice paddies that are such an iconic feature of this area of the world. There are a variety of benches and sun chairs around the pool and service staff is more than happy to bring guests food and drink. For the true romantic, you can even eat dinner on a floating dock in the lower level of this awesome infinity pool.
These pools are located on the rooftop terrace of this modern boutique hotel and offer guests stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The infinity style pools run the length of the rooftop with a bar and eating area running down the middle to separate them. One of the pools is warm and perfect for relaxing while the other is slightly cooler and draws more swimmers serious about swimming laps. The concrete canopy above ensures that you aren’t sweltering up here and there is no better place to grab a cocktail after your swim than from the friendly bartender up on the roof, willing to make you just about anything you desire.
3. Kempinski Hotel Ishtar -Amman, Jordan
This five star luxury hotel is situated on the edge of the famous salt lake, the Dead Sea and provides unlimited views across the sea. This resort doesn’t just offer one amazing pool though, it offers nine. The most popular pool here is the lazy river, which takes visitors around the resort. The sunken pool is the perfect place to relax, offering guests a fireplace in the middle and fringed with palm trees along the sides. The round infinity pool though is perhaps the most visually impressive and offers load of space to visitors looking to take a dip. All the pools here are surrounded by plush sun beds, extraordinary scenery and excellent service. It’s too hard to narrow down which of these pools is the best one, so we suggest trying them all.
2. Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor -Siem Reap, Cambodia
This colonial style hotel offers an escape from the city and features an authentic looking tropical pool. The saltwater pool here is surrounded by lush tropical gardens and soaring palm trees on one side, enough to make you forget that you are indeed in the middle of the city. There are enough sun beds on the other side for all guests and this tropical oasis manages to never feel crowded. The inviting lounge spills out onto the swimming pool terrace and most of the bedrooms horseshoe around the pool, giving lovely views to all who stay here. Most visitors love to pad around these tranquil grounds, sip a cocktail on the deck or go for a refreshing afternoon swim.
1. Hacienda Uayamon -Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
This wonderfully unique property is set ideally close to the Mayan site of Edzna, on Mexico’s stunning Yucatan Peninsula. It is hidden away in thick jungle foliage and ancient ruins and was created to retain some of the original charm of the former cattle ranch it was once. The pool is actually situated in a ruined part of the building and was once the main room. It has since been flooded with water and has become one of the most beautiful swimming pools in the world, with its crumbling stone walls and topless pillars. The absence of a roof means that light pours in all day to this pool and more often than not guests can been seen lounging in the provided hammocks. This setting is sure to relax and inspire you as your worries drift away in the clear turquoise waters.
There are so many ingenious ways to measure the cost of living in places around the world. So if you’re thinking of heading off to a treasured locale in some far off land, you absolutely want to check this list. Six of the top ten culprits on The Domestic Budget from Hell list are from either China or Switzerland. The cost of living can rise or fall on the arcane machinations of currency values, population growth or plain old corruption. Some cultures have never got the hang of retail and their screwed-up distribution systems lead to classic horror stories like the legendary $40 cantaloupe of Tokyo. Here’s where it gets really interesting. Most of the insanely expensive cities that have dominated these lists in recent years have fallen off, Tokyo among them along with New York, London and Moscow making way for a whole new batch of prohibitively expensive destinations. So hold on to your wallet and take the tour, free of charge.
10. N’Djamena, Chad
Simply put Chad is a basket case sitting atop an ocean of recently discovered oil and N’Djamena is the capital. Mercer sums up the problems this way: “The main driver behind this is the difficulty finding good, secure accommodation for expatriates. “So the limited supply of acceptable accommodation is very expensive. The cost of imported international goods is also high.” Plain English translation:Chad is one of the world’s most corrupt countries. At least half the estimated $10 USD billion in earnings has been skimmed off for military hardware and embezzlement. The country also borders on war-stricken Syria and Sudan and the U.S. State Department counsels Americans to avoid border zones where the dreaded Boko Haram are a real threat. The average annual wage is $750. Average life expectancy is 51. Chronic drought devastates crops and there’s no real infrastructure to cut through the corruption. So with a full plate like that, Chad hasn’t got around to building condos, heath clubs and sushi bars for the oil workers that have flocked there. Cheap it is not. But it dropped from the number two slot last year, so maybe there’s progress.
9. Bern, Switzerland
When thinking about expensive cities mammoth urban monster is the image that comes to mind. Bern is a lovely city, a bucolic town of maybe 150,000 people. It is the capital with an Old Town that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. But, pricier than Tokyo and London? Well start with a tight housing market. Then add the Capitol Factor with civil servants making very decent money. The biggest culprit has nothing to do with Bern at all. In fact it has more to do with Greece and the panic its long running death spiral in the European Union has caused. When it looked like Greece might default on EU loans, nervous investors dumped their Euros and bought Swiss Francs as a safe haven for their money bags causing it to zoom in value. Suddenly expats had to spend way more of their own currency to buy the francs they needed. As a result everything in Switzerland got more expensive without prices in stores actually being marked up.
8. Seoul, South Korea
Now this is more like it. A city of ten million at the head of the massive industrial juggernaut that is South Korea. Seoul begins the Asian onslaught. A nice apartment costs about two grand, not way out of line. But groceries and clothing are the silent killers, twice the level in the U.S. A decade ago Seoul was barely making the Top 50, now it’s Top 10 again largely because of international currency turbulence. The Korean Won has jumped 36% against the Japanese yen and 15% against the weakening Euro. Here’s how currency changes become price increases. That $2000 USD apartment to a Canadian with a weaker currency costs $2527 CAD. Ouch, eh?
7. Beijing, China
The expense of living in Beijing is giving whole new meaning to the expression “Forbidden City.” A three-bedroom apartment downtown can be north of US$4000. Office space is pricier than Manhattan. Eating Western food even at home is prohibitive. Tuition for schools starts at $25000 USD. Coffee has broken the $6 barrier. The rise in value of the Chinese yuan is propelling several growing Chinese cities up the expensive charts with bullets. Shenyang, a city of 8 million, 700 km northeast of Beijing jumped 33 rungs to 21st. Qingdao, home of the famous beer, jumped 24 to 25th.On the other hand cigarettes are 3 bucks a pack, making it hard on would be quitters.
6. Shanghai, China
Two hints this place will cost you. 1) There are more than 17 million people. 2) Even after the sell off the Shanghai stock market is up 89% over last year. So the place is sloshing around in people and money as incomes rise and a middle class emerges to compete with expats for scarcer and scarcer housing. Even now, a real estate website offers a tiny 2-bedroom apartment in what they “The Other Areas” for $2200 USD a month. Anything imported is hideously expensive. Levi 501’s are $116.50, a package of diapers is $32.00, and breakfast cereal is eight bucks a box. All this on top of the inflation from the rising value of the currency and it will be a pretty penny to live in the shadow of the iconic skyline. Except for Canadians who don’t have pennies anymore.
5. Geneva, Switzerland
The Swiss sticker shock continues in the Club Sandwich Index champ. Geneva is home to a number of United Nations organizations so there are a lot of professionals with commensurate salaries. There is an economic axiom that cities with high incomes tend to have higher prices. Hence the $7 toothpaste of Geneva. For some reason the cost of appliances in Genève is notorious. Expats scratch their heads at the basic microwaves costing $60 at Walmart while in Geneva they cost $300. The population is less than 200,000, but since the Swiss prefer to rent rather than own due to prohibitive ownership costs, there is a dire shortage of places to live. A three bedroom in the city is around $4000 USD. Chicken is $14 a pound, those Levis are $140, and the Big Mac is $15. It all adds up. At least it ranks lowest for wine with an average bottle costing $8.69. You’ll need it.
4. Singapore City, Singapore
In most western jurisdictions drinking and driving is criminal offense with serious consequences. Singapore follows the-time honored economic principal that if you want to discourage certain behaviors, tax the hell out of them. As for the drinking part a delightful website called Living in Sin says drinkable wine starts at $18 USD. A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes together costs $39.11 and that’s not even counting restaurant markups. Sometimes you can get cheaper at a 7/11. Another city with a strong currency and financial center. A 900 square foot apartment runs $4900 a month. The BBC rates it the most expensive place to buy clothes and basic groceries are 11% higher than New York. But the pain really kicks in when it comes to cars. More for traffic than environmental reasons, Singapore discourages the use of them by making their use crazy pricey. That BMW that cost $34,000 back home in Minneapolis needs a Certificate of Entitlement which after fees, taxes and plates costs an estimated $238,000. And honestly, how can you be a self-respecting financial mover and shaker without one?
3. Zurich, Switzerland
Being more expensive than Singapore is no easy task, but Zurich has done it. It’s become one of those places where price tags just bring tears to your eyes. Yet there are less than 400,000 people. The average movie ticket is priced at being over $21 while haircuts are $50. That ubiquitous pair of Levis a staggering $156. A two bedroom apartment is $4100 plus. Even the wine is almost triple the price in Geneva. Food in Switzerland is said to be 45% more expensive than the rest of Western Europe. Wait there’s more. As in Geneva a microwave sets you back $329. There are people in the Ozarks who can manage to source appliances and get them on retail shelves for less than $100. It would be classified as insane in any of Switzerland’s official languages if it weren’t for the fact it still has a ways to go to catch #2 on the list.
2. Hong Kong, China
The Mong Kok neighborhood on Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula is by many measurements the most crowded place on earth with a population density of around 300,000 people per square mile. Manhattan’s corresponding figure is a mere 66,771. Though now repatriated to China it remains a huge global financial hub. Add a currency that’s pegged to the surging U.S. greenback. Put the three together and affordable housing becomes a distant memory while a cup of coffee has reached $11. An unfurnished two bedroom flat is about $6400 a month. As the Wall Street Journal headline said “In Hong Kong, the Apartments Are Fit for a Mosquito.” The Savills Live-Work Index puts the per employee cost to companies for home and office space to $123,000. That’s not counting paying them. Everything has to be imported pushing costs higher. The question is how do non-bankers get by?
1. Luanda, Angola
The seemingly unlikely heavyweight wallet muncher is this African seaport and oil hub. Angola has become the second largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa so foreign workers are flocking in. Most of the city’s population of five million lives in destitution on about five dollars a day, but big oil attracts expats with lots of money and expensive tastes. After a lengthy civil war, decent housing is scarce and a decent place costs almost $7000 a month. Anything imported is ridiculous. Think those jeans were expensive in Zurich? They’re $250 here. Food is double the New York price. Transparency International ranks Angola as the 14th most corrupt country in the world. Seems officials have lost track of five billion in oil money over the last decade down their pants somewhere. But hey, Marlboro are a buck ninety a pack.
Passengers who fly a lot often or even just once in a while dread having a layover in a strange airport within a strange city. But flyers need not worry if they are flying through one of these remarkable airports. Some of these airports are futuristic, others are friendly and many of them offer extraordinary amenities and close access to visit cities. What they all offer is a unique and easy way to enjoy a short or long layover, with free showers, movie theaters and even a full 9-hole golf course. Discover the best of the best in airports around the world for layovers.
15. Keflavík International Airport, Iceland
This airport is modern, compact and recently went through a renovation that makes it easier to navigate and has added many shops and dining options that please passengers who are stuck here. Like most places in Iceland the airport offers free WiFi, a welcome amenity to those travelers from many of the US airports that charge. But perhaps the best part about having a layover here is the location. Located just half an hour from the famous Blue Lagoon, passengers on a layover here will have the chance to leave the airport and soak their troubles away in the warm, geothermal waters. Spread across the landscape of black lava mounds, visitors can soak in the 100-degree water for a few hours before returning back via shuttle, taxi or bus. This is one airport you will want to seek out for a long layover and take advantage of this awesome experience.
14. Helsinki International Airport, Finland
Despite this being a relatively small airport, the Helsinki airport offers up plenty of uncrowded space, amenities and a calming presence. It is one of the most relaxing airports on this list and travelers can experience the Finnish culture through the cinema area that features Finish films and large sculptures that adorn the terminal. For avid readers there is a book exchange that features a cozy nook where you can get lost for hours reading and swapping titles. A scenic terrace lets visitors watch the incoming and outgoing planes during the summer months. The best part about this airport may be the free relaxation area that features foldable beds, comfy chairs and plugs for all of your electronics. Plenty of shopping and authentic dining options, as well as the option to leave the airport and tour the city makes this airport an excellent layover destination.
13. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Japan
There is lots to do if you are stuck in the Tokyo airport on a layover and being only 9 miles from the downtown area gives passengers plenty of options. Free WiFi, a barber, hair salon, oxygen bar, health clinic and duty free shops are all scattered throughout the terminals for passenger convenience. Sleeping here on a layover can also be quite pleasant. The seats and benches are comfortable, the lights are dimmed and there are no loud announcements over the speakers. The huge panoramic terrace on the roof offers amazing views of the planes landing and taking off. Lounges can be assessed for as little as $8 US and offer comfortable seats, electrical outlets, refreshments and showers. Many layover passengers enjoy these amenities without having to shell out big bucks.
12. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
This airport may not be the most modern on the list but the rain forest-like feel coupled with free WiFi, plenty of dining options and the friendliness of the Malaysian people makes it one of the best airports to have a layover. The upper level of the airport boasts four different areas where passengers can curl up and watch TV. In the middle of the terminal is a small tropical garden and on the 5th level is an area just for children, complete with activities and slides. If you are looking to leave the airport and experience the city you will need about a six to seven hour layover. The KLIA express train takes you right into the capitol in just thirty minutes. Whether you want to sit and enjoy the tropical feel of the airport with its free WiFi and showers or venture out into the city; this is a great airport to have a layover.
11. San Francisco International Airport, California, USA
It is the only airport located in the United States to make this list and travelers who spend a layover here will be pleasantly surprised by the amenities offered throughout. Standard amenities range from free WiFi, rapid charging stations, XpressSpas offering massages, facials, manicures/pedicures, etc and art exhibits spread throughout. The Aviation Museum and Library is open to the public and free admission makes this a great place to kill some time. For those with little ones, hanging out at the airport has never been easier with different kids play areas and a scavenger hunt with prizes. Free yoga rooms, relaxation rooms and hydration stations are offered throughout. Eating and drinking at the airport is truly a culinary experience with an emphasis on locally crafted food, beer and wine. If you do want to leave the airport during your layover, the city center is a quick 25 minute ride away on the train.
10. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan
For those passengers who face a layover at the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport, there is an abundance of free activities and entertaining things to do while you wait, beginning with free hot showers. Large couches and comfortable seating areas allow for passengers to relax and even catch a sleep while they wait for their next flight. Exploring the terminals is a great way to pass the time here as this airport offers 30 plus themed lounges ranging from Hello Kitty to a sports themed lounge. Cultural art galleries are scattered throughout as well as numerous kids’ areas that feature gaming stations. The free library offers books, tablets, computers and e-books, as well as mobile charging stations and comfortable seating. There are free massage chairs, numerous prayer rooms and cloud-based reading areas where comfortable chairs and computers are provided. One thing for sure, you won’t need a reason to leave this airport on your layover.
9. Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, Canada
This International airport is home to First Nations art, 5,000 marine animals and a nature inspired creek that runs through it; amongst many more things. If you are going to have a layover in Canada, this would be the place to do it. One of the most impressive ways to spend time in this airport is to head to the international terminal where an 114,000 liter aquarium sits as a permanent exhibit. A jellyfish aquarium also sits up on the fourth floor. There is no shortage of comfortable seating at this airport, rows of chairs complete with headrests and footrests are at each gate as well as removable cushioned chairs with no armrests, letting passengers create mini sleeping areas. Mini TV watching stations are available, complete with three different channels, comfortable theater style chairs and a kid’s play area nearby. Although the city is just a short train trip away, you may find yourself wanting to stay here and explore this awesome airport.
8. London Heathrow
It’s one of the busiest airports in the world and provides a ton of dining, shopping and entertainment venues to keep passengers occupied during a layover. It’s one of the only airports in the world that offers personal shoppers to the passengers to help pick out gifts, travel wardrobes, etc. Shoppers will delight in duty free stores and high end retail like Burberry. There’s also something for foodies who will delight in over 100 restaurants throughout the terminals. Passengers can wander through the cultural exhibition showcasing British sculptors, painters, and photographers. Sleeping isn’t great at this airport as it is busy, but there is so many nooks and crannies to discover throughout the huge terminals so patience in finding a place to snooze is a must. If you feel like leaving the airport, the city is only about 15 miles away and can easily be accessed through underground, train or taxi.
7. Dubai International Airport, Dubai
Like everything else in Dubai, this airport is over the top, extravagant and truly unforgettable. This is one airport where having a layover is actually an incredible experience. Shopaholics will go crazy for the world’s largest duty-free shop at 58,000 square feet and other high-end shops. Passengers can walk through open-air gardens complete with mist machines or choose to use the G-Force gym; open 24/7, with a pool and showers. The immaculate inside of the airport offers such things as shopping stands where you can purchase actual gold bars. If you are looking to sleep, the Dubai airport offers Snoozecubes; soundproof units with a bed, touch screen TV and music for a minimal price available by the hour. This airport is expanding at a rapid rate and expects to be able to handle 90 million passengers by 2018, which means even more amazing amenities coming here.
6. Munich International Airport, Germany
You won’t have any problems finding a beer in this airport, which is often the perfect way to pass some time during a layover. Everyone heads to Airbräu, a Bavarian-style tavern complete with its own beer garden, live music and on-site brewery, where beer enthusiasts can watch the brewmaster in action. Passengers will find free showers, a beautiful courtyard that connects the terminals and plenty of relaxation centers with reclining seats and electrical outlets. The visitor’s park is truly an amazing feature of this airport and offers free showings of aviation movies, mini-golf, a viewing platform and historical aircrafts. Passengers on a layover should head to terminal two which features ultra-modern touches such as nap pods complete with iPhone and USB ports. There is free coffee, tea and hot chocolate throughout, a skating rink in the winter months and access to free WiFi makes Munich the perfect layover airport.
5. Zurich Airport, Switzerland
An extensive renovation to this airport back in 2011 improved this already well-liked airport with the likes of two rooftop terraces with observation points and an awesome kids area complete with a mini-plane and tower to explore. There are plenty of ways to rest and freshen up in this airport. Free showers are available along with plenty of communal rest areas with comfy reclining chairs. If you are looking for a little more privacy, simple furnished rooms are available to rent that come complete with beds, TV and an individual wash basin. Plenty of duty-free shops and restaurants line this airport, including ones with the famous Swiss chocolate. For those looking to get a little exercise between flights, in-line skates and bikes are available to rent right from the airport.
4. Amsterdam Schiphol, The Netherlands
This one terminal airport has been in the same location for 100 years and pleasing passengers from the get go. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Museum is housed here and offers free admission, letting passengers take in the permanent and temporary art exhibits by Dutch artists. The world’s first airport library also provides a great way for passengers to pass the time and offers e-books and print books in 29 different languages. Having a layover here means access to over 75 shops and many dining options such as the Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar where you can dine around a saltwater aquarium with a glass of champagne and fresh seafood. For those travelers looking to relax there is free WiFi, numerous spas and showers. Massage chairs, casinos and numerous lounges round out this airport experience.
3. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
This futuristic airport offers endless entertainment for passengers stuck on layovers here. The endless charging stations, business centers and beautiful lounges will suit the business travelers, but the guests who really benefit from having a layover here are those looking to have some fun between flights. The outdoor nine-hole golf course is open 24/7 to passengers looking to squeeze in a round or two. The world’s first airport IMAX Theater shows both 2D and 3D films and sports lover can head up to the iSports simulator for car racing, basketball and soccer. High end shops and Michelin star restaurants are located throughout the airport. The Aviation Discovery Centre which tracks aviation history in Hong Kong through themed exhibits and attractions including the SkyDeck, and Cockpit Simulator keep passengers occupied throughout flight times.
2. Incheon International Airport, South Korea
This airport is a favorite among travelers, especially among the ones who get stuck here for a few hours. There are a ton of free amenities that will make weary travelers happy including WiFi, use of laptops and free showers. More importantly though this airport offers lots of fun for layover passengers including two movie theaters playing Korean and Hollywood Hits, an ice skating rink and an 18-hole putting course. The culture center offers experiences such as learning traditional Korean paper handicraft and taking in harp performances. There are seven gardens throughout the airport that are perfect for the ultimate relaxation, or hit up the spa and sauna. If passengers want to leave the airport there are many tours that leave directly from it and take visitors to temples, historic sites and newer attractions. Did we mention that this airport offers over 90 different duty free shops and looks more like a sparkling clean mall, rather than an airport?
1. Changi International Airport, Singapore
This airport is truly the best in the world and there is nowhere else in the world that you should want to have a layover than here. The Changi Airport in Singapore has won over 400 awards and continues to add to its impressive list of features. For passengers who are stuck here on a layover, there are hundreds of things to discover. Take a walk through one of five gardens, including the live butterfly garden boasting more than a 1000 butterflies. Take a ride down the 40-foot swirling slide, refresh in the rooftop Balinese-themed swimming or catch a free flick at the movie theater. Entertainment areas featuring Xbox, Playstations and other electronics are scattered throughout as well as art sculptures and waterfalls. Business travelers will be happy with the 200 iPad-wielding agents, hundreds of free Internet terminals, plus airport-wide free WiFi and hundreds of USB ports and power sockets.
As one of the fastest modes of transportation, airplanes are a part of our everyday scenery and with their distinct tail patterns and colors; it’s easy to see which plane belongs to which company. But in the past couple of decades airlines have upped their game in terms of aircraft design and livery. Simple exterior paint jobs are no longer the norm and airlines are teaming up with networks, amusement parks and other companies to create giant flying billboards and pieces of art. Not only are the exteriors of planes being revamped but the interiors to match. From Hello Kitty to Disney to Star Wars, here are the 12 best themed planes in the world.
12. Alaska Airlines
It is one of the airlines that make many amazing themed planes and over the years have created two Disney planes, a Make-a-Wish plane and a Spirit of Alaska plane. The Disney planes feature the signature ‘Disneyland’ logo and a multitude of characters including Mickey and Minnie, Goofy and the Cars crew. In 2009 this airline released its Spirit of Alaska Statehood plane, featuring a design by a 16-year-old Sitka student who won a statewide contest to come up with a design that would capture the spirit of the 49th state. The design features a musher and sled dog, canoe, bear, whale, state ferry and a statement that reads “We’re all pulling together”. The design took 48 painters and over 160 gallons of paint to include and the student who designed the artwork even personally signed the plane.
11. Adventure Time, Thai Smile
Thai Smile, a subsidiary of Thai Airways and the Cartoon Network teamed up to create this incredible themed plane after the show Adventure Time, featuring the characters of Finn, Jake and Princess Bubblegum. The plane first took flight in April of 2015 and was created to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Cartoon Network’s waterpark, Amazone. Although the outside paint job is beautiful, it’s inside where Thai Smile has really upped the game. Passengers will find decorated overhead compartments and headrests, along with themed cups, serving trays and even the air-sickness bag. The flight attendants who are dressed in their brightly colored orange uniforms match beautifully with the theme of the plane. Considering the world smile is a part of their name, it’s no surprise that this airline has teamed up with a loveable fun network and we expect more planes like this to come.
10. Star Wars, All Nippon Airways
This airplane hasn’t actually hit the skies yet but it promises to be one of the best themed planes in the world. All Nippon Airways has released the R2-D2 design to fans and the plane is expected to hit the skies in the fall of 2015. This marks the first time a Star Wars character will appear on the exterior of a commercial aircraft. The plane will be covered in the signature blue and silver colors of R2-D2 and feature the Star Wars logo on the side while the cockpit and front half of the plane are designed to look like the shape of the droid. This plane’s unveiling came days after the trailer for the newest Star Wars movie was released and expect to see more planes from All Nippon Airways featuring Star Wars as they signed a five-year ANA Star Wars Project and agreement with The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd.
9. Formula One, Etihad
Etihad and Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix joined forces back in 2009 and created a stunning plane complete F1 livery. The Airbus A340-600 featured a shaded white, black and red background with a checkered flag on its tail and a large ‘F1’ along the side. A smaller Airbus A320 was also painted, this time in full back with the words ‘Formula 1’ stamped across the side and Formula 1 car on its tail. The larger of the two airplanes fly all over the world, ensuring that racing fans get a chance to see it. The good news for fans is the two companies have signed a deal that ensures the sponsorship remains until at least 2021, and you can bet on seeing these planes in the sky until then.
8. Disney Magic Plane, WestJet
This amazing plane is a collaboration of WestJet, WestJet Vacations and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and was unveiled in December of 2013. The design boasts 36 different colors of paint and took 26 painters working round the clock over 24 days to complete the paint job. Both sides of the plane are mirror images of each other, except for one small detail with Mickey as a sorcerer being the focal point. Inside the magic doesn’t stop as the headrests have been custom designed with star patterns and the cookies they hand out are in the shape of Disney characters. There is just something about seeing Mickey Mouse fly through the air that makes everyone smile.
7. Flower Power, Swiss Airlines
In 2010 Swiss Airlines introduced their “Flower Power” airplane to the skies to celebrate their new flights from Zürich to San Francisco and back. The design is a multitude of colorful flowers with the word San Francisco incorporated into the design. It took only three days, eight people and 400 meters of special film to turn this plain aircraft into a hippie plane of love. Swiss Airlines did something special to come up with this design and took it to a public vote. Three possible designs were presented to readers of the 20 Minuten newspaper, who submitted some 30,000 votes to determine the winning design. The plane flew for over a year with this design throughout the skies. This airbus also happened to be the first in the Swiss fleet to include the new business cabin that featured spacious seating and adjustable cushions.
6. The Simpsons, Western Pacific
Western Pacific Airlines was short-lived, only lasting a mere three years from 1995-1998 but its airplanes were well known with many travelers and enthusiasts for their colorful livery. This airline was the first to put their entire exterior of the plane up for rent as a flying billboard. Many companies loved this idea and the planes featured companies such as hotels, resorts and casinos. The most famous though was the beloved Simpsons livery. Although the interior remained the same, the exterior paint job featured the faces of Bart, Maggie, Homer, Lisa and Marge on the tail along with “The Simpsons” logo on the side. Fans absolutely loved this plane and although it only lasted in the air for about a month, it was perhaps the most photographed plane of this fleet.
5. Pokémon Plane, All Nippon Airways
Before Hello Kitty, there was Pokémon and All Nippon Airways were perhaps the pioneers in cartoon themed airplanes that not only feature livery on the exterior but take things to the next level inside. In 1998 this airline released four jets that featured many of the Pokémon Characters, both inside and out. Passengers were treated to themed headrests, cups, entertainment and souvenir bags. Flight attendant wear specially created Pokémon aprons and passengers can purchase specialized Pokémon paraphernalia onboard. In 2013 two of their jets were retired in a plan to retire their 747’s but the newest “peace jet” that is decked in characters from the Pokémon video games is still in service and flying through the skies.
4. Flying Art, Qantas
For more than two decades Qantas has been dedicated to producing the most striking and original looking aircraft to fly the skies. A total of six aircrafts have been painted in the themes of Wunala Dreaming, Nalanji Dreaming, Yananya Dreaming and the most recent of Mendoowoorrji. All of these themes come from inspiration from the Australian Aboriginals and feature bright colors and intricate designs. The latest one that was delivered into the fleet back in 2013 took over 950 man hours to complete over a five days period and used 500 liters and 125kg of paint. Qantas remains dedicated to this program and promises to introduce more designs as older ones get retired. An already amazing airline makes things even more enjoyable by creating true masterpieces of flying art.
3. The Explanation Plane, Kulula Air
This South African airline has taken the mystery out of planes and answered some of travelers most asked questions about the aircrafts themselves. The exterior of this airplane is covered in text, arrows and pictures explaining what each part is and where it is located. Not to be too serious, the titles of the aircraft parts are coupled with comical comments in brackets, such as the toilets which are labeled as the “mile high club initiation chambers”. The bright green background and the white writing stick with the signature colors of this airline and perhaps the only downfall to this plane is when you are actually inside, you won’t be able to read any of the amazing commentary on the exterior.
2. Hobbit Plane, Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand is no stranger to the themed airplane game and is known around the world for releasing some of the greatest safety videos and livery. With their slew of Hobbit Planes flying through the sky, Air New Zealand has gone one step further than just painting their planes in amazing themes. They have released not one but two Hobbit themed safety videos that actually play as the safety briefing. The most recent one is being called “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made” and features eagles, elves, dwarves, hobbits, wizards and creatures of Mordor, as well as cameos from Elijah Wood (Frodo) and director Peter Jackson. It is not just about getting to board a plane featuring a giant dragon; it is about truly feeling as you are in Middle Earth once aboard the plane. Well done Air New Zealand, well done.
1. Hello Kitty, EVA Airways
There are now a total of seven Hello Kitty themed jets and EVA Airways is certainly number one when it comes to taking this adventure to a whole new level. First up these jets actually have their own website where you can track them, cross reference them with your booking information, see what amenities they offer and even purchase your own Hello Kitty Apparel. The adventure starts at the airport where the check-in screens and boarding passes are all decked out in this theme. Once on the plane passengers are greeted by flight attendants in pink Hello Kitty Aprons and as you make your way to your seat, you will notice the Hello Kitty headrests, pillows and safety cards. Mealtime brings edible Hello Kitty food, themed cutlery and branded cups and plates. Even the bathroom is carefully decorated in Hello Kitty toilet paper and hand wash. EVA Airways has certainly outdone themselves.
From incredible skiing and hiking to exciting nightlife, shopping and world-class chocolate, Switzerland has so many reasons to fall in love with its culture, people and natural beauty. If you’re thinking of visiting Switzerland soon, here are some of the cities you don’t want to miss during your stay.
On the north-western edge of Switzerland, Basel is a cosmopolitan destination for art lovers and history buffs alike. Basel is bisected by the Rhine River, lending a truly old-world feel to the medieval architecture downtown. There are several famous art museums in Basel, and the city’s annual carnival, Fasnacht, is the largest in all of Switzerland.
Famed for its majestic castles, Bellinzona is the best place to get a glimpse of the lavish lifestyles of wealthy 13th century Swiss. There are three main castles open to tourists, each housing a small museum in addition to living areas and gardens. At historic Castelgrande, there is even an elegant restaurant serving tastings of the region’s best wine. Once your tour of castles is over, relax with a cold drink, music and barbeque at the popular river bar Lido di Arbedo.
Chur is a quaint, sleepy town with breathtaking views and charming stone alleys twisting through the area’s many churches, shops and homes. The oldest town in Switzerland, its central Old Town area is kept vehicle-free to retain a simple, historic ambiance. You won’t even miss your car in Chur, as walking between the town’s many boutiques, restaurants and museums is a perfect way to take in the fresh mountain air.
Switzerland’s capital, Bern, was named for the brown bears that lived there when it was founded, and Bear Park is the city’s wonderful tribute to its namesake. Bear Park is a vast, open-air bear enclosure where visitors can view bears playing and swimming in the adjoining river. Afterwards, try a walking tour of the huge collection of free public art strategically placed throughout the city.
Geneva is a fascinating destination for those interested in the inner workings of various international diplomacy agencies. Both the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross offer public tours, and you’ll be enthralled by this opportunity to see where diplomatic history is made every day. The art and libraries at the Palais des Nations are not to be missed, and the Jet d’Eau fountain, beautifully lit every evening, is a quintessential symbol of Geneva’s majesty.
Central Switzerland’s Interlaken is an entry point for many of the area’s skiing and outdoor sports hubs, and is a beautiful place to hike, swim or sail. Interlaken is situated between two placid lakes, and a relaxing boat tour of the city and its surrounding towns and castles is a great way to experience the whole of the area at once. If you’re into adventure sports, you may never want to leave Interlaken. Paragliding, river rafting and night sledding are all popular ways to get your adrenaline fix during your stay.
Located at the northern edge of Lake Geneva, Lausanne is the portal to what is arguably the best skiing in the world. The International Olympic Committee is based in this panoramic city, and the Olympic Museum is a time capsule of iconic Olympic moments throughout history. If you’re visiting Lausanne with children, don’t miss out on the free zoo in the enchanting, light-filled Sauvabelin Forest.
Small and delightful, Luzern is an artistic community where medieval Swiss culture is well-preserved and respected. The most fascinating landmark in Luzern is the Chapel Bridge, built in the 14th century as a protective feature. Extending far out over the Reuss River, the bridge is covered in paintings and pictures depicting Swiss culture. While you’re in town, take an eerily steep cable-car ride up the slope of Mount Pilatus and bask in the wild, free Swiss countryside.
With its palm trees and moderate climate, Lugano might make you feel like you’ve mistakenly left Switzerland. This lakefront city is a great destination for families, with Lido di Lugano providing ample swimming, public baths and sunny expanses of beach. The picturesque resort town is dotted with bars and restaurants where you can breathe in the fresh lake air while you enjoy some of the best seafood Switzerland has to offer.
10. St. Gallen
Brightly painted buildings and window shutters give a cheerful, friendly air to eastern Switzerland’s St. Gallen. The Abbey Library is the city’s pride and joy, where bookworms will have the rare chance to visit medieval books and documents more than a thousand years old. The car-free Old Town area is home to charming open-air markets on the weekends, and a chocolate factory and brewery provide tasty souvenirs of your stay.
The bustling city of Zurich is packed with museums, shopping and nightlife, and you’ll want several days here to do as much as possible. Some can’t-miss attractions include the Landesmuseum, which is the largest Swiss history museum in the country, and the impressive Zoo Zurich, home to more than 300 species of animals. You’ll definitely want to take in a show at the cutting-edge theater Red Factory, and take a stroll down the Bahnhofsstrasse, the most expensive fashion avenue in the world.