Smart home holiday vacation checklist: Prep your house to be home alone


The appeal of the smart home is, in part, the management and monitoring that can happen while you’re out running errands or at work. Your smart home can perform just as well if you’re gone for days or even weeks, with the right setup.

If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, we have the tips you need to leave your smart home home alone with confidence. 

Read more: The best travel gifts | Best DIY home security systems to buy in 2021

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The new Amazon Smart Thermostat is currently our top pick for smart home climate control. 


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Thermostats

If you have a smart thermostat, most types will detect that you’re away and offer a way to change the thermostat remotely. After all, that’s probably why you bought the thing in the first place. It’s a nice perk when you’re out for a few hours or a workday.

For longer periods of time or for thermostats that include a vacation mode, it’s a good idea to check the threshold settings before an extended absence. These temperatures are the minimum and maximum your system will allow before it kicks in. To save energy, set them to a bit colder and warmer than you would if you were home.

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Sure, you can adjust the temperature remotely, but the whole idea here is to set it and go. So before you leave, set the temperature ranges on your thermostat so you can save money while keeping your home safe. 

Read more: Amazon Smart Thermostat review: A steal at $60

High and low temperature thresholds save the most energy when they are set closer to the outside temperature than you would probably prefer when at home. However, they should still be safe enough for your home. 

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If you have shades or window coverings, it’s best to lower them in your absence.


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Lights and shades

My parents always left the TV on when we were away so people would think we were home. I thought it was a weird game of pretend as a kid, but now as a homeowner it makes sense. Lighting isn’t a fail-safe protection against intruders, but having your lights or TV set to mimic human activity is a good start. Smart switches and schedules can do just that.

Read more: Our review of the Lutron Serena Remote Controlled Shades

A good rule of thumb is that outdoor lights should be on at night and off during the day, while indoor lights should go on and off in different rooms. If you have smart switches, consider creating a schedule based on time of day that replicates what you’d typically do while home. You can also set smart light bulbs to power on and off intermittently. 

If you have automated window shades, consider setting them to stay down while you’re away. Keeping lights on might deter crime, but leaving your shades open could turn your living room into a window display for a burglar.

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The Ring Alarm Pro is our top pick for DIY smart home security. 


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Cameras, doorbells and security systems

You have plenty of choices when it comes to both DIY smart home security systems and professionally monitored ones. While they do most of the work for you once they’re out of the box, it’s important to give them a quick status check before you leave. Security settings will differ depending on what products you have.

Regardless of brand, it’s a good idea to make sure all the integrated motion sensors, cameras, locks and doorbells have fresh or fully charged batteries and notifications correctly enabled to reach the right emergency contacts. 

Read more: Our review of the Ring Video Doorbell 4

When it comes to cameras and smart doorbells, be sure the lens is free of dirt, cobwebs or decor that might obstruct the view. If you’ve turned down motion sensitivity or set your camera to ignore motion in some areas around your home, now is a good time to put those features back to maximum vigilance. Finally, ensure all notification settings are set to notify the appropriate people at the appropriate times.

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Be sure detectors and sensors are powered up and ready to notify you in case of an incident. 


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Environment detectors

Leak, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors offer peace of mind every day, and even more so when you’re out of town. Making sure all of these have fresh batteries, a solid Wi-Fi connection, updated apps or firmware and correct notification settings is worth a few minutes of your time before you hit the road. 

Read more: Smoke detector placement guide: Where and how to install sensors

If your detectors aren’t connected to a live monitoring service, it’s even more important to get a notification sent to the right mobile device. That way, you can ask a friend or neighbor to check out any suspicious alerts.  

Total floor care package deal at Best Buy

The iRobot Roomba S9 is our favorite robot helper.


iRobot

Robot vacuums and other small appliances

There are several robot vacuum cleaners out there with some version of a scheduling option. If that’s a feature you use often, turn it off while you’re away. If no one’s home to make messes, the vacuum doesn’t need to run. Plus, if you’ve enhanced the sensitivity of the motion detector portion of your security system, a robot vacuum could trigger false alarms.

Read more: Our review of the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus vs. Neato Botvac D7 Connected

You’ll save battery life and wear and tear on your vacuum by making sure it isn’t running when it doesn’t need to. The same goes for other small appliances that might run on a smart schedule or with smart switches. Run through your list of managed devices to be sure everything is on or off accordingly. 

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The human element

Yes, smart homes are cool. They can do a lot for you on a daily basis, and they keep you connected to home when you’re hundreds of miles away. Still, smart homes aren’t perfect, and it’s a good idea to have one or two very trusted (and tech-savvy) humans keeping an eye on things.

Whether it’s sharing a camera feed, security code or plain ol’ house key, knowing someone could physically check on your home if anything looked suspicious will help you travel happier.



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3 Side Hustles That Could Pay for Your Next Vacation


In the course of the pandemic, many people have held off on taking a big vacation. For some, it was a matter of economic concerns. For others, it was a matter of health concerns. But now that certain restrictions are being eased or lifted on travel, you may find that you have more options as far as your next vacation goes. There’s just one more problem you’ll need to solve — how to pay for it.

Now, here’s some good news. If you’re willing to get a side hustle, you may have an opportunity to swing your dream trip without having to raid your savings or charge a huge pile of debt on your credit cards. Here are three side hustles that could be quite lucrative for you.

1. Driving for a ride-hailing service

If you live in a city where parking is tricky, or near an airport, you may have a prime opportunity to earn great money shuttling people around town. The great thing about working for a ride-hailing service is that you can set your own hours and ramp up your hours when you’re trying to save for something major, like an upcoming vacation. If you do a good job of keeping your vehicle well-maintained and are friendly to your passengers, you might score a nice amount of tip money.

2. Tutoring

The great thing about tutoring is that it can be a consistent gig. Students who need help don’t tend to go to two or three tutoring sessions and call it a day. Rather, you could end up tutoring the same students for an entire school year or semester. If you’re tutoring in a subject that requires you to have special knowledge, like advanced physics or calculus, you may be able to command a high hourly rate for your services.

3. Caring for pets

Many pet owners consider their beloved animals family. That means they may be willing to pay a nice amount of money to ensure they’re well cared for. That’s where you come in. From walking dogs to feeding cats to housing animals in your own home while their owners are away, there are plenty of opportunities to earn a great side income by caring for pets, all the while giving their owners the peace of mind they need when they have to be away.

Start packing your bags

While these specific side hustles could end up generating a nice income stream, the reality is that there are many gigs you can do on top of your main job that put an impressive amount of money in your pocket. To figure out the best side job for you, consider your schedule, the amount of flexibility you want, and your specific skills or talent.

Tutoring, for example, can result in a nice paycheck, but you may need to cater to your clients’ schedules, which could prove challenging. Driving for a ride-hailing company, on the other hand, is generally more flexible. Take a little time to figure out what gig works best for you, because if you stick with it, it could be your ticket to the vacation you want and deserve.



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5 Travel Safety Tips According to TikTok to Use on Your Next Vacation


4. Make copies of all important documents.

Whether you’re traveling alone or in a group, make copies of all important documents such as passports, immunization records, and your social security card. TikTok user Kendra Okereke says that she keeps multiple copies on her while traveling in different places, like in her suitcase and on her personally. She then keeps the original documents in a locker.

The TikToker also tells her followers that she carries pepper spray on her at all times, never carries large sums of money, and does not give out any personal information.



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State adjusting vacation say policy due to travel restrictions


BOSTON (SHNS) – Many state employees will be allowed to carry vacation days that would have been lost at the end of the year into 2022 under a policy change the Human Resources Division made to adjust for the fact that travel has been restricted during the pandemic.

Instead of allowing employees to carry vacation time accrued in the last two years (2020 and 2021) into 2022, the new HRD policy allows vacation time accrued in 2019 to also be retained into 2022, the administrative head of the Gaming Commission said Thursday as that agency adopted the same policy for itself.

“So if you had an employee that had for the last several years got two weeks of vacation time, normally they’d be able to carry over four weeks. But in this event, they’d be able to carry over six weeks,” Karen Wells said, adding that it has been particularly hard for the commission’s gaming agents to take time off during the pandemic.

In a memo outlining the policy and recommendation that the Gaming Commission adopt it, Wells and Human Resources Manager Trupti Banda said that “HRD has created a schedule of new deadlines for use of this accrued time off, which will allow the carryover policy to return to normal in Calendar Year 2024.” 



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16 Essential Travel Hacks That Will Improve any Vacation


Once I’m in a city, I take the subway, tram, or popular mode of public transportation if I have to travel far, but for the most part I try to walk as much as possible. Traveling by foot is my absolute favorite way to explore a city, and it often takes you to cool, off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods you could easily miss if you were to take the metro or a bus.



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6 Things Nina Dobrev Always Packs for a Summer Vacation


Much like us, actor Nina Dobrev is ready to travel again this summer. Up until now, Dobrev says her schedule has been all work, no play. She’s been busy as the executive producer of Fin, a new documentary from Discovery+ out now, which explores the dark effects of shark fin trading. “If we don’t do something now, it’s going to really affect us and ocean life in 20 to 30 years,” says Dobrev. “I’ve been an ocean advocate for a very long time; I used to be afraid of sharks, but now I’m obsessed with them.” 

Now that the film is streaming, she has some down time. This month, she heads to Mexico for a girl’s trip, and then she’ll also be heading to Asia in August. “I’m so ready to start traveling again, now that the world is opening up and there are safer options, and everyone’s getting vacc’d up,” says Dobrev.

In advance of her trips, Vogue asked the star her top travel do’s and don’ts, and what she’ll be packing for her summer getaways. “There’s a travel don’t that I do every single time without fail, and that’s overpacking,” says Dobrev. “I’ll also start packing at 11 p.m. if my flight is in the morning.” Her biggest travel tip, however? Pre-planning outfits. “I’ll try on outfits, take a picture of each one that I like, then only bring those outfits,” says Dobrev. “This isn’t a regular thing, though. I aspire to be that girl. I stole the idea from my stylist, Kate Young.” 

No matter what the location or climate is, Dobrev has a few things she always takes with her, and she shared her packing list with us exclusively below. A spokesperson for Affirm, she notes that her items are all available using the buy-now, pay-later payment method. Here, shop Dobrev’s six must-have summer travel items.

Apple AirPods Pro

“I’m kind of a weirdo: I listen to spa music on the plane, and then I put my eye mask on and really isolate myself. The AirPods noise-cancel everything. Then, when I get to my vacation, I’m one of those people who works out on vacation—I don’t take a break. I run or do pilates in the morning, so I listen to music while I’m working out, too.”

Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 40

“I’m obsessed with it. I use both the face and body one. I’ll even mix it in with my foundation. Luckily most foundations have SPF in them now, but I like to quadruple it.”

Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 40

Dior sunglasses

“You can’t go on vacation without sunglasses. I love sunglasses that are clear. Well, I love and hate them: I forget that you can see my eyes through them! But Dior has a lot of light sunglasses that I love. I’ve worn their cat-eye sunglasses, but nowadays, I’ll also wear the more John Lennon circular lenses. Or I’ll do an aviator, or a big, square one. It depends on my outfit that day.”

Dior 180 59mm aviator sunglasses

Colorful bikinis

“No matter where you go on vacation, whether it’s the beach or the mountains, you have to pack a bathing suit. There’s usually a hot tub! My recent favorite bathing suits are by Kiini. They just fit so good. They have a lot of different color patterns, and the cuts are really flattering. I also really love Onia. They fit your body like a glove.”

Onia Sarita shimmer ombre bikini top

Onai Chiara shimmer ombre bikini bottom

Waterproof mascara

“Sometimes you want to be spontaneous and jump in the pool, or go to the ocean without worrying about your face melting off. For my day-to-day, I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I’ll throw on mascara if I’m going out or have a Zoom. I use the Dior Iconic Overcurl Waterproof Mascara.”

Dior Iconic Overcurl Waterproof Mascara

Leica camera

“You have to take pictures when you’re on vacation. I’ve always been a camera buff—I’ll bring Polaroids or use my iPhone. But during the pandemic, I bought a Leica camera, which I’ve always wanted, and it’s a whole new level of photography. There’s so many buttons and it can be so complicated, but I took lessons and figured out the tech. It’s been a newfound passion of mine over the last six months, to learn how to use it. It also creates its own WiFi, so you can transfer photos to your phone from it. It’s a bit of an investment piece—but you can’t put a price on memories.”

Leica D-Lux 7 Digital Camera





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Is it safe for Americans to vacation to Cancun? What travelers should know


In the wake of the shocking Cancun shooting, some Americans may be wondering if it’s safe to visit the area.

The State Department has issued a Level 3 travel advisory for Mexico, which means people should “reconsider travel” to the country. The advisory was first put in place in July because of COVID-19, according to the department website.

The current advisory includes warnings about an increased risk of crime, including kidnappings, in parts of Mexico, including resort areas. 

CANCUN SHOOTING: 2 KILLED IN APPARENT DRUG ‘EXECUTION’ ON BEACH, VACATIONERS FLEE

Specifically, the State Department encourages travelers to “exercise increased caution,” which is a Level 2 advisory, when visiting the Mexican state of Quintana Roo – where Cancun is located – due to a rise in crime. 

Mexico was marked with a Level 3 Travel Advisory by the US Department of State because of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. (iStock)

Mexico was marked with a Level 3 Travel Advisory by the US Department of State because of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. (iStock)

On Thursday, two suspected drug dealers were killed in a shooting that broke out in the beach area of Hotel Ziva Riviera Cancun in Puerto Morelos, Fox News previously reported.

The U.S. embassy to Mexico released a statement after the shooting, saying that Mexican authorities were responding to the situation. 

AMERICANS AT CANCUN LGBT+ EVENT IN HIDING AFTER MEN WITH LONG GUNS REPORTEDLY STORM BEACH

“We advise U.S. citizens in the area to contact concerned family and/or friends to let them know they are safe,” the embassy said. “Affected U.S. citizens should follow the instructions of local authorities and call 911 if they have an emergency situation.”

The embassy also listed actions that Americans can take while visiting the area, including monitoring local news, following the directions of local officials and avoiding crowds. 

The embassy also said American tourists should “be aware of your surroundings” and “review your personal security plans.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also issued a warning to travelers about visiting Mexico because of the pandemic. 

The Department of State also includes warnings about an increased risk of crime and kidnappings in Mexico. (iStock)

The Department of State also includes warnings about an increased risk of crime and kidnappings in Mexico. (iStock)

According to the CDC website, Mexico has a high level of COVID-19 cases. The agency recommends that people make sure they are fully vaccinated before traveling to the country.

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According to data from Statista, 21.73 million Americans traveled to Mexico in 2020 amid the pandemic, compared to 39.94 million in 2019. 

Cancun saw a drop in visits from international travelers last year. In 2020, the city reported 2.3 million tourists, down from 6 million in 2019. 

U.S. News and World Report found that the best times to visit Cancun are between December and April to avoid autumn storms and “sweltering” summers.

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According to crowd-sourced database Numbeo, Cancun has experienced a significant increase in crime over the last three years. The city is considered safe for walking alone during the day with risks becoming “moderate” at night.

Meanwhile, about 2 hours and 40 minutes away, is another popular tourist destination in Mexico: Cozumel. According to Numbeo, Cozumel has a low level of crime, though it has also seen crime increasing at a high rate over the last three years.

However, the Department of State advises visitors to Mexico’s Quintana Roo state -- where Cancun is located -- to "exercise increased caution," which is a Level 2 advisory. (iStock)

However, the Department of State advises visitors to Mexico’s Quintana Roo state — where Cancun is located — to “exercise increased caution,” which is a Level 2 advisory. (iStock)

In summary, the State Department’s says “violent crime – such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery – is widespread and common” in Mexico currently.

The two Mexican states where visitors can “exercise normal precautions” are Campeche and Yucatan, the department said.





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Planning your dream vacation? Tips you need to know for sustainable travel


Fareportal India outlines how you can become a sustainable, green traveller with a list of tips

If you love the environment and are a travel enthusiast, you are probably wondering how to justify taking those CO2-emitting long plane rides to reach your destination with a green conscience. Earlier, there were no great options for eco-friendly travellers to get to a place in quick time and in an environmentally responsible way. However, it’s the 21st century and things are certainly changing. So, if you care about the environment and are planning your dream vacation, here are Fareportal India’s top tips to be a sustainable traveller.

Calculate your carbon footprint (and try to reduce it)

There are plenty of websites that help you calculate your carbon emissions — and then allow you to donate the proper amount to offset the impact you’ve made.

For instance, Sustainable Travel International calculates the amount of carbon emissions a passenger generates when he flies from one destination to another depending on the flight distance. The good news is that you can make a contribution to offset emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects that are verified and/or certified by independent third parties.

Fly with airlines committed to going green

In October 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization held their annual conference in Montreal where 191 countries agreed to take tangible steps in considerably lowering CO2 emissions from aircraft — starting with market-based measures implemented on a global level. The first airline to take this important step was Alaska Airlines. In November 2016, the airline flew from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. with a biofuel comprised of reusable forest residuals.

Fly the most direct routes possible

By flying on a non-stop route, you’re cutting out tons of pounds of CO2 emissions by eliminating unnecessary stopovers. It indeed is sometimes impossible or way more expensive to take a non-stop route, but if you’re really committed to going green when you travel, you can always opt for a direct flight. It’s worthy to note that a large part of emissions come during take-off and landing making those extra stopovers really add up.

Skip the first-class seat (and other seat hacks)

If you’re wondering how to be a sustainable traveller without changing your plans too much, this tip is easy and something most of us are doing anyway. By taking a first-class seat, you’re taking up space that could have been used to transport more people — thus creating a larger carbon footprint as those people now have to get on another flight and so on. So next time if your airline offers you a free upgrade, think twice before fervently agreeing. Also, be aware of how many passengers your flight can accommodate compared to other airlines on the same route — if one can carry more passengers, opt for that one, as it spreads the emissions between more people.

Bring your own stuff

Yes, it’s a fact, by bringing a reusable water bottle and filling it up in the airport as well as packing your own snacks, you’ll be making another small yet positive difference aboard the plane. Think of all those plastic or paper cups that are wasted each flight (not to mention the stacks of napkins and crinkly snack packs) that you’ll be saving. Take the little bit of extra effort and throw it back to high school by packing a meal for yourself.

Another easy thing that you can do is start using your mobile phone’s option for e-tickets. Lots of airlines and travel agencies have a feature on their app that gives you an electronic ticket that you can use. By not printing your ticket on paper every time you fly, you really are making a small positive difference.

Research and choose the right destinations

When it comes to choosing destinations for your trips, do a little bit of research about the places that you want to visit. Is there a hotel chain or travel company that is more environment friendly than others? What modes of transportation are available in the city/town you’re visiting and their environmental impacts? These questions will help you determine if you need to make any changes to your itinerary. For example, research the environmental impact of driving versus taking a bus or train. This could affect where you travel and how you get around town. If you’re doing business travel, choose destinations with public transportation like buses or trains, or choose to fly into an airport that is easily accessible by public transport.

Practice slow travel and respect the locals

Slow travel can have many benefits, including being able to enjoy every moment of your trip. Slow travel is also much more environmentally friendly than quick, rushed trips because you’re spending less money on transportation and conserving time and energy that would be wasted in a short trip. When visiting any new place, it’s important to respect the local people and culture. Locals will appreciate your interest in their community and culture. Think about how you can support local businesses, talk to locals instead of staying holed up at your hotel, volunteer, or give generously when visiting religious sites. These are just a few ways that you can show respect for other cultures while traveling.

Use sustainable transport at your destination

When you arrive at your destination, think about sustainable ways to get around town. Do you have a car that needs to be parked? Try getting around by foot or public transportation instead of driving. When taking the bus, walk, or train, ensure that it’s running on clean energy. If you absolutely must rent a car, opt for an electric vehicle. If you have to take a flight or your destination does not have public transportation options, try to offset the environmental impact of your travel by choosing carbon-neutral forms of transport like train travel that are powered by clean energy.

Eat and shop local on your trip

Your trip won’t be very sustainable if you’re eating and shopping the same way you do at home. Try to find small local businesses instead of big chains, visit farmer markets or shops where you can buy local goods directly from the producers. These types of purchases will give your money directly to the people who are making your food or crafting your souvenirs. Eat at local restaurants with authentic menus and learn about the food from your hosts.

Avoid animal attractions

Visiting animal attractions can be an incredible experience when well-managed, but many animal attractions are irresponsible and cruel to the animals that they keep. If you do decide to visit a tourist attraction with wildlife on-site, make sure that it’s run responsibly and ethically. By doing your research about the company or zoo/park that you plan to visit, it’ll be easier to decide whether or not the attraction is good for the environment. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid places like zoos or aquariums that use animals for entertainment. Not only are many of these attractions inhumane, but they also damage the environment when animals are shipped from place to place and kept in unnatural environments. The world is changing, and we’re all becoming more aware of the importance of preserving our environment for future generations.

Fareportal India is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fareportal, a global travel technology leader and the second largest flights OTA in North America, powering a next-generation travel concierge service. Utilizing its innovative technology and company owned and operated global contact centers, Fareportal has built strong industry partnerships providing customers access to over 600 airlines, a million hotels, and hundreds of car rental companies around the globe. Fareportal India provides cutting edge software development, web design and digital marketing support services to its parent company. Fareportal India also provides back-office support services in the areas of sales, customer support, ticketing, and related services. Fareportal India employees 2,200 of the brightest minds in the field and operates out of 2 cities in India – Gurgaon and Pune.



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7 Most Unusual Places To Vacation In The World


Travel is all about experiencing something new, learning about something previously not encountered, and meeting the unexpected. When we go abroad, we often do so to get out of our comfort zone, to be confronted with the unknown, but also to have fun and enjoy a really good time away from our day-to-day life.

So, what better than searching out not only great new destinations but also staying in some unique places? And, while the experience might be surprising, it does not have to be out of your comfort zone. I have discovered some strange and wonderful hotels, motels, and resorts — some of which fit into neither category. All bring something new to the table. Strewn across six continents, there is bound to be something that appeals to many of you.

1. The Lookout Cave Underground Motel, Coober Pedy, Australia

Coober Pedy is a strange place. It is the middle of nowhere, in northern South Australia, roughly halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs. It is pretty much a hole in the ground, which also gave the “town” its name: it comes from the local aboriginal name for “white man in hole.” That hole, though, is what makes Coober Pedy the opal capital of the world, with it supplying roughly 90 percent of the world’s opals.

But with Coober Pedy being a hole in the ground, surrounded pretty much by desert, the people living and working there live in caves dug out within the hole. No windows, but cooler than outside in the blazing heat with all the creature comforts, make the Lookout Cave Underground Motel an ideal place to experience just how people live in this isolated spot. From your cozy cave, you can learn more about the history of opal mining, and even mine yourself. Should you come up empty, the local shops have all the multi-colored sparkle you could wish for.

Pro Tip: Getting there is usually by car, driving along the Stuart Highway, which crosses Australia; by plane and then hiring a car, or as an excursion from the Ghan Train.

Glass igloo at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Finland during magical polar twilight.
Flystock / Shutterstock.com

2. Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Finland

From one empty wilderness to another, on the other hemisphere. The Kakslauttanen Igloo Village lies in northern Finland above the Arctic Circle. Here trees vastly outnumber people, as do the reindeer and sled hounds. It’s most magical in winter. The Igloo Village is just that: a selection of glass-domed igloos, one a room, allowing you to lie in bed and look up at the sky, watching the northern lights, or the stars. Activities here revolve around the snow, with sled or snowmobile safaris, reindeer or husky safaris, skiing, and, of course, a visit to Santa. The resort is open throughout the year, and each season brings something special to the table, but if you have a choice, go in winter.

Pro Tip: If you need a break from snow, then in Kakslauttanen West Village you’ll find an art gallery that probably houses the northernmost art exhibitions.

Overwater Villa Manta Resort
Samy Ghannam Manta Resort Pemba

3. Manta Resort, Pemba Island, Tanzania

If staying on an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania with neighboring island Zanzibar close by isn’t enough, along comes Manta Resort. We have all seen the over-water villas in places such as Tahiti, but they tend to be connected to the main resort by a wooden walkway. This resort’s Underwater Sea Room floats on its own, only reached by boat ( your dinner and breakfast will be delivered by canoe), and has two floors — or three if you wish. The sea-level platform is perfect for swimming from, and above you, there’s a roof terrace where you can sunbathe and enjoy the view across the turquoise ocean. Steps down from the sea-level platform is your bedroom, underwater and encased in glass so you can watch the fishes while they watch you. Solitude and romance, and utter privacy. If you don’t count the fish.

Underwater room in Manta Resort.
Manta Resort Pemba Samy Ghannam

Pro Tip: Between October and April, you will see why it’s called the Manta Resort, with elegant manta rays coming close to the coast, and from your underwater room, you’ll have the best vantage point.

4. Treehouse Lodge Resort, Iquitos, Peru

I never had a treehouse when I was a kid, but I would dearly have loved one. Is there anything more magical than sitting in the branches of a large tree, in a lush green forest? The light is soft, the birds sing, and you can really relax and hide from the outside world. The Treehouse Lodge Resort is located near Iquitos by the Yarapa River, a tributary of the Amazon River, and right in the rainforest. The only way to get to Iquitos is by plane or boat, there are no roads connecting you with the outside world. There are 12 treehouses to choose from, all comfortably designed and open to the elements. Some have been built incorporating the tree’s branches, making for unique clothes hooks.

Pro Tip: Lying close to the equator, the temperatures are similar throughout the year, but between December and May there is the rainy season, making the rivers more navigable and offering sightings of pink dolphins below the treehouses.

Train on bridge as sun sets in Kruger Shalati.
Judiet Barnes

5. Kruger Shalati, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Turning a train into accommodations is not necessarily a new thing, even if the train is no longer in use. But what is different about this luxury train, it is parked on a historic and abandoned Shalati or Selati bridge across a beautiful river with stellar views. Not only has the train been turned into luxury accommodations, but there is even a pool platform right in the middle of the bridge. And, all around you, the famous Kruger National Park, teeming with lush greenery and abundant wildlife is your landscape. The train and the bridge were once used to transport chic 1920s travelers through the national park, now it offers modern travelers a bit of time travel and nostalgia and a truly unique place to stay a night.

Pro Tip: Kruger National Park is a year-round destination, just keep in mind that summer (the Northern Hemisphere’s winter) is the rainy season.

trekkers walking to the Hotel Everest View in Nepal.
November27 / Shutterstock.com

6. Hotel Everest View, Solukhumbu, Nepal

There are hotels with great views in every city and in every country, and there is nothing unique about having a view. Or is there? Try Mount Everest right outside your window. Hotel Everest View delivers what the name promises. Each of the 12 rooms has a seating area in front of panoramic windows which open up to a balcony, and Mount Everest’s iconic triangular peak is right in front of you. From the hotel, you will be able to explore the area going on hikes ranging from moderate to challenging, all several hours’ duration, and you can even choose to hike to the hotel for check-in. Alternatively, there are helicopter transfers available.

Pro Tip: This hotel has been mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest in the world, at 13,000 feet. Altitude sickness is a very real possibility, so allow yourself either sometime in the hotel to adjust to the altitude, or opt for the trekking up, as that will give you time to slowly reach the height.

Exterior and landscape of Fogo Inn on a cloudy early morning.
Bent Rene Synnerag

7. Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland And Labrador, Canada

This is another of those wonderful unique places to stay that combine an unusual location to call home for a few nights with a destination you have put some effort in to get to. Once you get there, your experience will be multiplied. In this case, it is a flight, a drive, and a ferry ride to get to reception. Fogo Island, out in the iceberg-strewn north Atlantic, is an island where living is tough. Tech entrepreneur Zita Cobb was born there and after a high-flying career away from home, came back and built Fogo Island Inn using local materials, inspiration, design, and manpower, and all with sustainability and her island foremost in her mind. 

The views of this rough and tumble corner of the world are so magnificent that there are binoculars supplied everywhere. Beautifully designed, with local materials woven and knitted on the island, to modern art and architecture, the Fogo Island Inn offers every possible luxury you could ask for. The inn is a testament to the island and its people.

Pro Tip: Hikes, northern lights, whale and birdwatching, food foraging, art and more, provides plenty to do. Plan your trip according to the “Seven Seasons” of Fogo.

To add to your travel portfolio, visit some of these unusual destinations:



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Still Want To Socially Distance On Vacation? Here Are 8 Spacious Resorts That Make Privacy Easy


As the country learns to live with Covid, Americans are packing their suitcases, again. However, many travelers, especially families with unvaccinated children, still want properties that make it easy to socially distance. Demand for wide-open spaces, private amenities like pools and kitchens, and contactless check-in to help travelers avoid lobbies, remains high. Here are eight resorts that make socially-distanced travel easy this fall and winter.

Suncadia Resort, Cle Elum, Washington

Located 80 scenic miles outside of Seattle and nestled on the sunny side of the Cascade Mountains is Suncadia Resort. This 6,400-acre all season property provides guests with an incredible mountain escape with plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure and wide open spaces. Fall highlights include a plethora of Pacific Northwest recreation such as hiking, bike rentals, golfing, river floats, fly fishing, ATV tours, horseback riding, even axe throwing and archery. Suncadia also rents homes for guests looking to have more space and isolate further. Most recently, Suncadia implemented Wellness in the Wilderness, wellness experiences taken to the great outdoors. This programming allows guests to fully embrace nature while taking care of themselves mentally and physically. Sessions include rise and shine morning meditation among the trees, healing meditation while taking in the views of the Cascade Mountains, and hiking, full body circuits, family nature walks, gardening and more. 

The Green O, Greenough, Montana

From the Lipson family, known for introducing glamping to the West via beloved The Resort at Paws Up, comes The Green O. This hyper-modern interpretation of the great American dude ranch debuted during summer 2020. Welcoming adults only, The Green O sits on a 37,000-acre bison and cattle ranch outside of Missoula, Montana in the Blackfoot River Valley. That’s more than enough space to socially distance. Twelve one-bedroom cabins dubbed “hauses” (tree, round, green, and light haus to connote a distinct aesthetic), are scattered throughout the towering pine forest site. The 2-story tree hauses sitting 23 feet in the air. Round hauses feature a unique curved design. Green hauses provide complete forest immersion. Light hauses featured bump out windows for starry night viewing. Each haus boasts a fireplace, floor-to-ceiling views, a hot tub, and deck, as well as a private Lexus SUV to explore the property. Green O guests dine exclusively at restaurant Social Haus on seasonal, fire-cooked meals though have access to the same spa and activities as guests of Paws Up. With winter coming, that includes snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog sledding and even horseback riding.

tommie Austin, Austin, TX

Slated to open in fall 2021 and built for the spirited adventurer, tommie Austin is a new urban hotel experience located in the heart of downtown Austin’s vibrant music and entertainment district. Designed to encourage interaction as an epicenter for creativity, the hotel features 193 all king bed guest rooms and offers the efficiency and flexibility of select service, while tapping into the amenities of the dynamic locale. Imparting an infectious sense of adventure onto guests, tommie Austin celebrates individuality throughout every aspect of the modern reimagining of the hotel experience. Built for functionality with contactless check-in kiosk and mobile guest room entry, the hotel boasts a youthful all-day coffee shop and wine bar as an alternative to a traditional hotel lobby, inviting guests to effortlessly mix and mingle in the heartbeat of Austin. Nightly rates start at $199.

Montage Healdsburg, Healdsburg, CA

Montage Healdsburg made its public debut in January 2021 with a unique sense of place: a transformative hideaway where the renowned hospitality of Montage meets the authentic charm and scenic beauty of Northern California wine country. The 258-acre resort provides a perfectly situated launching pad to discover the best of the region, from iconic wineries to legendary culinary establishments. On social distancing, Montage fortunately was already pandemically prepared by design. Set among historic groves, 130 luxurious bungalow-style guestrooms and suites blend contemporary influence with environmentally conscious design, paying homage to the land. Guestrooms are situated along the hillsides, not on top of each other like many other hotels, and the resort does not feature elevators as they are not needed based on the design. Furthermore, there are a variety of open air experiences and outdoor activities for guests to enjoy safely, from archery to pickle ball and bocce ball, cycling, on-property nature trails for hiking and running, yoga in the vineyard and more.

Hana-Maui Resort, Hana, Maui, Hawaii

Located in the legendary town of Hāna on the eastern tip of Maui, Hāna Maui Resort is a lush 66-acre Hawaiian retreat set above Hāna Bay overlooking the Pacific Ocean offering an authentic Hawaiian retreat with vast rolling green hills and ocean views. Property highlights include expansive accommodations ranging from ocean bungalows to family suites, an open-air restaurant, Hāna Ranch Restaurant, spa & wellness offerings, two pools and immersive outdoor-oriented adventure/ cultural experiences like horseback riding, lava tube exploration, waterfall repelling and more. The resort debuted its Plane to Paradise package, featuring convenient access to/from Hana via a private, 10-Seat Cessna aircraft inclusive of sights of dramatic sea cliffs, plunging waterfalls, lush rainforest and magnificent arches and caves. Cutting travel time from 2.5 hours to just 14 minutes, the Plane to Paradise seamlessly transports guests to this far-flung paradise and one of the most isolated destinations within the state. 

Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas, East Cape, Los Cabos, Mexico 

Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos offers an oasis with its open-air public spaces including the lobby and all dining venues, a low-lying architectural footprint with no need for shared elevators or hallways, six pools and a two-mile swimmable beach that allows for excessive space to spread out and relax. All guest rooms offer views of the Sea of Cortez and expansive private terraces ideal for hotel room workouts or private lounging. In addition, all first-floor guest rooms include private plunge pools to help guests further isolate if desired. Secluded from the tourist corridor, the East Cape is rich in nature and ripe with wide-open-space adventures from hikes to hidden waterfalls and endless desert dune off-roading, to snorkeling in one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water in the world, or setting sail out of the Resort’s private marina.  

Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, Big Island, HI 

Set on 865 acres along the picturesque Kona-Kohala coast within Hualālai Resort, the 249-room Four Seasons Resort Hualālai welcomes guests to an exclusive, oceanfront oasis. An idyllic waterfront retreat, the resort is surrounded by white-sand beaches, black-lava landscapes and the dazzling blue ocean of the Big Island’s North Kona coast. Latest news? The resort recently debuted a transformed look following a $100+ million renovation, contemporizing its aesthetic while holding onto the essence of Hualālai’s authentic Hawaiian architecture and design. A perfect socially distance getaway, the resort’s layout features two-story bungalows spread throughout the Resort’s eight acres with the absence of elevators. This allows for a variety of open-air space and the liberty to host a multitude of on-property activities and experiences spanning seven pools and five dining options, all with outdoor seating. 

Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, MX

Nestled in Mexico’s Riviera Maya is Mayakoba. Four luxury hotels – Andaz Mayakoba, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Fairmont Mayakoba and Rosewood Mayakoba – sit on this 620-acre destination, surrounded by the natural beauty of lagoons, jungle, tranquil waters and a sugar sand beach, each featuring distinct personalities and amenities. The destination is carefully designed to enhance the beauty of the native landscape, and praises its connection to nature, culinary excellence, notion of wellbeing, cultural & sports activities. A passionate team of architects, biologists, geologists and engineers continue to protect life and beauty on the property by maintaining its ecosystem of endemic species. Mayakoba can be explored by boat, kayak, bicycle, or on foot and social distancing is easy for guests with an abundance of outdoor activities available, including a 3-mile-long nature trail; a championship golf course that hosts a PGA TOUR event; excursions through the new Mayakoba Dive and Water Sports Center; and the recently-debuted Mayakoba Dive School. Guests can cruise through the waterways via boat among more than 300 species of birds and native wildlife.



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