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Flying with dietary restrictions? Increasingly, that’s not a problem

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When it was time for dinner on my July flight from Lisbon to New York, a flight attendant brought me my special-request gluten free meal.

I was found to have celiac disease almost three years ago, and this sort of request for what airlines describe as a special meal — in this case, steamed sea bass with vegetables, gluten free bread and fruit salad — has been a constant on my frequent air travels ever since.

A gluten free meal offered on Turkish Airlines: chicken breast over rice, with a caprese salad and chocolate mousse.
A gluten free meal offered on Turkish Airlines: chicken breast over rice, with a caprese salad and chocolate mousse.  (TURKISH AIRLINES)

But on that flight and on a slew of ones before it, I noticed that several other passengers, more than I had ever seen before, had also ordered special meals.

Both international and domestic airlines report an increase in special requests in recent years, and many are trying to accommodate them by broadening their special meals categories.

American Airlines expanded its category last July when it went from offering seven types of special meals to passengers on long-haul international flights to 14.

A low-sodium meal option was added, as was a halal meal prepared without any pork or alcohol, and a bland one prepared with limited seasonings for those with sensitive digestive systems.

Russ Brown, American’s director of in-flight services, said that the airline decided to offer more kinds of special meals because passengers were repeatedly asking for them.

“People are a lot more specific with their diets today and try to be healthier overall and kept requesting meals that we didn’t have,” he said.

Since the expansion, Brown said, the airline has had a 66 per cent increase in special meal orders: American served approximately 106,000 special meals from January to June 2017; for the same period this year, that number was close to 250,000.

For flights within the United States, both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have also expanded their special meals categories in response to customer requests.

International airlines, though, tend to have a more robust selection of special meals and have expanded them even more in the past several years.

Qatar Airways now has 17 types of special meals, while Tap Portugal and Turkish Airlines started offering 24 varieties last year, compared with the dozen or so before that. On Turkish, flyers can now order not only a vegetarian or vegan meal, they can request a raw-food vegan meal, or seafood- or fresh-fruit-only meals.

The airline has more than 10 menus for each meal type. In its gluten free category, entrees include lamb with sautéed spinach and rice, prawns with ratatouille, and herbed chicken with eggplant salad. Warm gluten free rolls and olive oil accompany every dish.

And on Tap Portugal, special meal orders have gone up more than 50 per cent in the last two years, according to Joel Fragata, the airline’s head of in-flight product.

Historically, flyers have ordered special meals because of religious or medical reasons. So why are they asking for them more today than they did before?

Airline experts say that it now may be a matter of personal taste and also because the current generation of travellers adhere to diets that have proliferated in popularity.

Michael Holtz, the owner of SmartFlyer, a global travel consultancy specializing in airlines and airfare, said that many of his clients follow diet plans such as no-carb, gluten free, low-carb and vegan and want to stick to these plans when they’re in the air. “I even have one person who prefers to drink only green juices and tried to order a green juice meal for a recent flight,” he said. “Needless to say, that wasn’t an option.”

SmartFlyer sells around 25,000 tickets each year, and in 2017, a few thousand of these came with special meal requests, Holtz said, compared with a few hundred in previous years.

There’s also a perception that special meals taste better, according to Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the founder of Atmosphere Research Group. “People think, especially those in economy class, that special meals are fresher, healthier and tastier,” he said.

But one flight attendant, who has worked for a major U.S. airline for more than three decades and requested anonymity to protect her job, said that special meals aren’t a step up from regular meals and are definitely not healthier.

“It’s all airplane food,” she said. “The gluten free and children’s meals are the most terrible. Gluten free is usually just a pile of pasta and bread without gluten, and kids get a few chicken tenders, a cookie and a measly portion of vegetables.”

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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