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Move Over Summer: Winter Getaways to Help You Chill

MD Staff

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Summer seems to get all the vacation glory, but nothing helps beat the winter blues like booking a getaway to chill out — especially to a new location.

The long winter season, which stretches from December 21st to March 19th, is a great time to cozy up by a fire in a snowy city or escape the cold in a sun-drenched destination. And travelers are catching on to the appeal. According to WalletHub’s 2019 Travel Survey, two out of three Americans plan to travel this upcoming winter, up 4% from last year.

The uptick makes sense. Winter offers a multitude of things travelers can’t do other times of the year, like ice-skating in Montreal, glimpsing the northern lights in Iceland or taking a sunny snowy stroll along the cliffs of Newport, Rhode Island. And those looking to escape the cold can take advantage of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, where sun-soaked beaches in Cartagena or breathtaking sunsets in Rio de Janeiro will make them (temporarily) forget about home.

With hotels (and guests) across both hemispheres, Hilton has compiled a list of cold- and warm-weather getaways and accommodations for those upcoming long winter months. Included are both well-known and unexpected cities with a mix of appeal for a range of travelers — whether they’re looking to escape the crowds, embrace nature or improve a golf game.

Cold-Weather Getaways

Newport, Rhode Island: Embrace the cold in Newport, Rhode Island, a city known for Gilded Age mansions lining Bellevue Avenue and sweeping ocean views. On a sunny winter day, visitors can take a snowy stroll along the famous Atlantic Ocean Cliff Walk or explore Brick Market Place, which is home to 25 unique shops that sell fine jewelry, exotic meats and local handicrafts. Visitors looking to stay indoors can take a guided tour of The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Italian Renaissance-inspired summer home. Those looking to explore some local culture can plan a visit in February to check out the Newport Winter Festival, which has live music, a chili cook-off and ice-sculpting demonstrations. The Homewood Suites by Hilton Newport Middletown, RI provides the perfect shelter from the cold Rhode Island days and is located just 15 minutes by car from The Breakers and near all that Newport has to offer.

Montreal Canada: Montreal shines during the cooler months when the city transforms into a magical winter wonderland. Visitors can enjoy everything winter brings to the city – from icy landscapes and winter sports to warm comfort food. Travelers looking for an interesting way to see the city can join or create their own food tour. Try a taste of wood-fired bagels at Fairmount Bagel Bakery, comforting poutine at Poutineville and an orange julep (to wash it all down) from retro spot Gibeau Orange Julep. Those looking for more adventure can climb Mount Royal to find cross-country skiing in January and February and ice skating on frozen Beaver Lake from December to March. After a long day discovering in the cold, explorers can head back to Embassy Suites by Hilton Montreal for a complimentary evening reception. The hotel is just steps from several of the city’s best art galleries, museums and nightlife and a 12-minute walk from The Old Port.

Reykjavik, Iceland: Reykjavik gives travelers the opportunity to visit the northernmost capital city in the world and a playground full of winter fun. Visitors can climb to the top of the world-renowned Hallgrímskirkja Church for 360-degree views of the entire city to get their bearings before exploring Reykjavik. Once they’re back on the ground, they can explore by foot, or bicycle, to enjoy Laugavegur, one of Reykjavik’s oldest shopping streets. Travelers can also take advantage of the longer winter days at the Winter Lights Festival in early February, where they can access museums and thermal pools for free. Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre is in the heart of the city center and provides an optimal base for exploring Reykjavik’s attractions. Guests can take a quick stroll to the Old Reykjavik Harbour and see the Sun Voyager sculpture, a modern take on a Viking ship. They can return to the hotel for a culinary journey at Gott, where famous chefs Sigurdur Gislason and Berglind Sigmundsdottir sit at the helm.

Munich, Germany: Once the Oktoberfest crowds have dissipated, travelers will find a quieter, colder Munich covered in snow. They can escape the cold at the Munich Residenz, which was once home to the royal family of Bavaria, or embrace the cold by exploring snow-covered grounds at the Nymphenburg Palace (or Schloss Nymphenburg), a baroque-style palace where they can spot swans in the snow. Fairy tale enthusiasts can take an easy two-hour day trip from city center to tour Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney World. Hilton Garden Inn Munich City West is centrally located, making it easy to explore Munich in the winter. Guests can go anywhere using the Donnersbergerbrücke S-Bahn station and Trappentreustraße tram stop, both just a short walk from the hotel. After a day in the snow, guests can grab a drink in the hotel restaurant or order room service and relax in their guest room.

Tokyo, Japan: As temperatures drop, the vibrant city of Tokyo shines. Winter brings less rain to Japan, which makes it easier to see the incredible views across the city and surrounding countryside. Travelers looking to escape the cold can slip into a Japanese onsen, — geothermal hot springs scattered throughout the city — to destress and beat the winter blues. Those looking for adventure can travel one hour outside of the city to ski Japan’s world-renowned slopes. Conrad Tokyo provides a city retreat after a day spent exploring. Guests can choose among the four restaurants on property, which include Japanese cuisine at Kazahana, gourmet Cantonese cuisine at China Blue, modern French fare at Collage and casual eats at Cerise. They can end the night at the TwentyEight, the hotel’s skyscraper bar, to enjoy live music and refreshing cocktails.

Warm-Weather Getaways

Key West, Florida: Escape the chill with a trip to Key West, Florida, where snowbirds can find a year-round tropical paradise with no passport required. After relaxing in a hammock under swaying palms, visitors can venture back in time and visit the Key West Lighthouse Museum, which opened in 1848, before wandering across the street to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum that houses 40-plus cats. As the sun sets, visitors can trek to Mallory Square to enjoy local entertainment and crafts while watching a stunning sunset. Travelers can dance the night away on Duval Street and enjoy a drink from popular destination Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which opened in 1933, enjoy local “pinks” (shrimp) and sample some world-renowned key lime pie. Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort offers guests access to Key West’s largest private beach and a quick bicycle journey to the fun on Duval Street. Guests also have access to sister property The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton located just steps away. Guests can rent a Jet Ski and cruise down the shoreline or get a massage in a private beachfront tent.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Rio offers a rich cultural experience that includes great food, music, history and art, along with relaxation. Its location south of the equator means the seasons swap and winter turns to summer. Hot and sunny days are perfect for exploring the city’s outdoor activities, such as enjoying the world-renowned Copacabana and Ipanema beaches or hiking the Pedra do Telegrafo to capture a panoramic photo of the beaches below. Visitors can taste the local flavors by sipping on caipirinhas, Brazil’s national cocktail, or biting into a steak cooked churrasco-style at a local churrascaria. View the hand-painted tiles of the famous Selaron Steps (or Escadaria Selarón), or wind through the streets of downtown Rio filled with cafes and museums. Located on Copacabana Beach, the Hilton Rio De Janeiro Copacabana is a great launch point to explore Rio’s beaches and city center. Guests can enjoy panoramic sea views while sampling traditional feijoada — a Brazilian black bean stew — at a weekend brunch at the hotel’s restaurant, The View, served on Saturdays. For chilling out, the rooftop pool and brand-new rooftop bar, Isabel Lounge, are the perfect spots.

Cartagena, Colombia: Escape the winter blues and welcome balmy breezes from the Caribbean Sea in Cartagena, Colombia. Beachgoers of all types will find something that matches their vacation preference, from family-friendly beaches at Castillogrande and watersports in El Laguito to the beach clubs of Manzanillo del Mar. After brushing off the sand, visitors can walk the walled city of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, shop the bustling food stalls of the Mercado Bazurto or party on a chiva, a colorful party bus with local liquor and dancing. Conrad Cartagena offers a beachside retreat from the hustle and bustle of Cartagena. Guests can get exclusive beach access at the Karibana Beach Club, unwind at the Conrad Spa, hit a few holes at a TPC Nicklaus Design golf course or dine at one of the seven on-property restaurants.

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Gift Giving Traditions Around the World

Newsroom

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Giving gifts is a tradition as old as mankind itself. It has always been a part of our society. When you give a gift to someone, it tells them that they are special in some way to you. We give and receive gifts for many occasions, like birthdays, mothers days, Christmases, on our anniversary, etc. In fact, gift-giving is so integral to our world that many nations developed interesting traditions around it. Here are some of the most interesting ones.

Japan

When giving a gift in Japan you should be very careful. The Japanese people attach great importance to gifts and consider them something that is mandatory, not just a kind gesture. It is not desirable to surprise them, as they will be embarrassed if they cannot immediately return something to the gift giver. Therefore, it is a good idea to discreetly advise them that you will give them a small memento of your meeting. The gift is given exclusively in private, and it is not common to open it immediately.

South Korea

In Korea, it is extremely rude to give or receive a gift using only one hand, especially if it is the left hand. You must always use both hands at once if doing so. Korean New Years greeting cards or gifts are never with a predominantly red color, as it is used for announcing funerals. Also, avoid gifts that come in sets of four as they symbolize death in Korea.

India

When giving a gift in India, you should always use your right hand. Using the left hand can cause offense as that hand is considered unclean. If giving money in India, try to give a sum that ends with 1. Odd numbers are considered very lucky in India. The number 1 is especially lucky as it signifies a new beginning. Because of this, giving a sum that ends with 1 is believed to grant prosperity to the gift recipient.

Arabs

Gifts are not as important to the Arabs as to other people. They represent something that “gives hospitality a wider dimension”. When someone comes to dinner, small gifts such as flowers and candy are common, and as a sign of special affection, silver, crystals, porcelain, and famous brand items are very appreciated. Handkerchiefs of any kind associate them with parting and tears and should be avoided.

Europe

As far as Europeans are concerned, every nation is a story for itself. The French are quite reserved with gift-giving, the Germans are especially rigid and formal, and the Dutch are a little bit more relaxed. For Italians or Spaniards, the exchange of appropriate gifts is quite acceptable. Russians and people from Eastern European countries appreciate something from your own culture, for example, a CD with your national music or some other kind of token from your country.  Also, in Russia, you should never give someone yellow tulips as they are the symbol of ending a relationship or betrayal.

Ireland

Don’t be surprised if your gift is refused a couple of times in Ireland. This tradition comes from a time when they had the potato famine, and because of this, the recipients are making sure that you can really part from the item that you are offering. It will also show great humility if you refuse the gift they are offering you a couple of times. The standard reply in Ireland when someone receives a gift is “you shouldn’t have gone through all that trouble.”

Kenya

In Kenya, the Maasai people spit on a gift before giving it to someone. This is considered a sign of blessing and with this, they wish the recipient great fortune. Spiting is a very important tradition in Kenya. It is customary to spit on the head of a newborn child and on a hand before shaking it with someone.

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Top 10 Cheap Vacation Destinations in Spring 2020

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This is going to be a nice, long, relaxing spring. You will get some sun, explore a new destination, and use the awakening force of Nature to recharge your batteries.

What’s your plan for spring break? How about something different this year? You don’t have to choose the nearest beach again. There are wonderful places you can explore. Don’t worry; they won’t be expensive!

You can have a great adventure with a limited budget, only if you plan it well.

We’ll list 10 impressive destinations that give you the feel of luxury travel without eating up your entire savings.

Best Cheap Spring Vacation Destinations for 2020

1. Marrakech, Morocco

Spring is the perfect time for seeing Morocco. You can find affordable accommodation in Marrakech and have day trips from there. The street food is lovely, but most travelers can also afford the cozy restaurants.

Make sure to check the calendar, since Ramadan is in spring. Many restaurants will be closed during the day over that period of time.

 2. Alaska

You can hardly think of something more beautiful than Alaska in spring.

Large ship cruises will cost from $100L per day, but keep in mind that food is included so you won’t spend much more than that.  Late May belongs to the so-called shoulder seasons, so the prices will be lower than usual.

3. Sonoma, California

Napa doesn’t seem like a place we’d feature in a top list for budget travelers. It’s known for its luxurious restaurants and hotels. But Sonoma, Napa’s neighbor, is much more affordable. You can still enjoy exploring Napa, but you won’t spend too much money.

Calistoga is a small town that’s breathtaking in spring. You can search for accommodation there. But hey; camping is also an option.

4. San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is a well-known spring break destination. Mid-April is the best time to go to Puerto Rico. you’ll avoid the summer rains and winter crowds.

The beaches are so beautiful and the food is so cheap that you’ll consider staying longer. That’s always an option! You can hire a service that writes research papers to complete some of your work, and you’ll extend the vacation a bit. In Puerto Rico, it seems like time takes another dimension. Everyone is cool and relaxed.

5. Turkey

Go ahead and google this: Cappadocia. Can you already visualize yourself in one of those balloons?

But that’s not the only important sight to see in Turkey. Istanbul is a story of itself. It’s a beautiful blend between Eastern and Western culture. The food is out of this world. The restaurants are not expensive, but with so much food on the streets and markets, you won’t even think about getting into a restaurant.

Turkey also has beautiful beaches, which are ready for you during the spring months.  

 6. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is quite possibly the most beautiful European city. Forget Paris; it’s expensive, crowded, and overestimated. Budapest is full of museums and mesmerizing architecture. You’ll love the nightlife, too! If you like Budapest and you would like to write an essay about it, you could use topicsmill to generate a good and suitable topic.

7. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

It’s not about the weed. You don’t have to be high to experience Amsterdam as the most exciting city, ever. The parties are out of this world, and they make Amsterdam the best destination for young people during spring break.

But you’ll also enjoy the cultural tours, parks, and art museums. TripAdvisor offers a great list for Super Savers in Amsterdam. Check it out!

8. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The fact that many students choose it as their spring break destination is no coincidence. Puerto Vallarta attracts with beautiful weather, affordable accommodation, and great food. Make sure you plan your vacation during April or early May, so you’ll avoid the hurricane season.

9. Hawaii

Can you imagine the breathtaking Kahului without the crowds?

That’s what your spring break in Hawaii will be like. Spring is awesome because it turns your vacation into a budget-friendly experience. The accommodation will be more affordable when compared to high season. But you can also consider activities labeled as “luxury,” such as scuba diving.

10. Thailand

It’s beautiful and affordable throughout the entire year. Koh Samui and Phuket are great with their fancy resorts, but those are not the only places where you can stay. Even backpackers travel to Thailand. They can still experience the fun in Phuket, but they choose Koh Chang or Koh Phayam for affordable accommodation.

Are You Ready for the Best Spring Ever?

The first thing you need to do is identify your budget.

Then, explore the destinations listed above. Find information about flights, accommodation, food, and all other expenses related to trips. Some of them will probably fit in your budget. Choose the one that attracts you the most!

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Travel & Leisure

Is it safe to travel to Iran as a solo female traveler?

Anna Karsten

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Before I started reading more into Iran, all I heard about this country were stories about its politics. In the media, Iran seemed like a place where no one would ever want to visit. Can you imagine solo female travel in Iran?

After my trip to Iran, I can tell you now that Iran has the most hospitable people and great architecture. Traveling to Iran as a solo female traveler has been safe, rewarding and fun.

Iran is safe, accessible and totally easy to navigate as a solo female traveler. Sure, you might experience some inconveniences, but for every annoying man you get 3 nice ones, just like anywhere else. Iran is a destination you must see for yourself to see what I mean.

While organized tours are still dominating Iran’s tourism, it’s not uncommon to find another person traveling solo. Backpackers and hostels can be found anywhere on a tourist route from Tehran to Shiraz and Yazd.

Plus, if you can’t find a hostel, a cheap guesthouse is also an option. No matter which way you travel in Iran, you can always find an affordable place to stay for less than $30 a night for a double room.

Iran in Western media

Traveling to Iran or anywhere in the Middle East independently, especially as a woman, isn’t perceived well these days. Some time ago an article about a woman cycling through the Middle East alone went viral. People were wondering whether it’s safe for a woman to cycle alone across the Middle East? The comments weren’t pleasant:

‘It’s foolish and she was very lucky not to get herself raped or killed or both. I hope this article won’t encourage other solo female travelers to visit these countries alone’ – 400 upvotes

‘Not impressed. Putting oneself in harm’s way, which then puts potential rescuers in harm’s way makes little sense.’ – 170 upvotes

But how can we talk about media coverage of safety in Iran when BBC, that published the article, doesn’t even bother to check the facts. The article states: ‘In Iran, I was given more freedom. Yet foreigners are not permitted to stay with locals without permission, and several of my hosts endured an intense grilling by police.’ None of the above is true.

Staying with locals is only forbidden for British, Canadian and American citizens. Anyone else can stay with locals wherever whenever and no police will come and check on you.

U.S. government currently warns against travel to Iran for obvious reasons, these two countries don’t get along. It says that U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling in the country.

Again, I’d say that this statement is very exaggerated. Especially after Argo – the film exaggerating the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

My Advice is: don’t believe what you hear on the news. Explore the place, talk to locals and come to your own conclusions. Come to Iran with an open mind and I guarantee you’ll make many great friends in Iran.

Is it safe to travel to Iran in 2020?

Many travelers, including myself, describe it as one of the ‘safest countries I’ve ever been to’. You’ll be much more likely to get mugged in Europe than in Iran.

Violent crimes against foreigners are extremely rare and, indeed, if you do your best to fit in with local customs (read more on the dress code and how local women fight it), you are unlikely to be treated with anything.

In fact, I’ll be returning to Iran in 2020 to explore even more of its natural beauty.

My experience of traveling solo in Iran

I traveled to Iran solo and later teamed up with another girl whom I met at the hostel. I traveled around the country, in the same way, I would anywhere else in the world.

Wandering around in the evening, taking the metro, using local taxis and buses, going to markets etc.

I met many women whose lives didn’t seem very different from the women I know at home. At the birthday party, it was actually men who had to clean after, not women.

Young girls told me they date the same way people date in the Western world, they just don’t announce it anywhere and keep it to themselves.

I only felt uncomfortable twice in Iran – once in Esfahan (Isfahan) and once in Kashan. In Esfahan a man in a car started driving next to me and my friend in the evening. Every time we moved, he moved. It scared my friend and me for a bit, but the moment we approached another traveler the car left.

Another unpleasant situation I encountered was while walking around the narrow streets of Kashan. I was filming with my DJI gimbal with my iPhone attached to it when I fell someone approaching me on a scooter.

To me, being uncomfortable once or twice doesn’t mean that the place is dangerous. I never once felt physically threatened, unsafe, or at risk, even when I was wandering the streets of Iran.

I felt safer in Iran than if I was walking around in NYC. Even the tap water was safe in Iran!

People believe that Iran is full of moral police watching your every step, ready to arrest Westerners at the slightest provocation. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

While cases or reporting and arrests occur, it’s not as common as it’s being portrayed outside of the country.

Everyone I met was extremely helpful and treated me like I was an expensive piece of jewelry. Escorting from one place to the other, while feeling responsible for me. And that’s the people I met on the street for 5 minutes! So unless you’re planning on running around naked with a bottle of smuggled vodka in hand, don’t be afraid.

From our partner Tehran Times

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