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Longer hauls, nicer planes, and other ways travel changed in 2018

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If you’re heading out of town this week, the airport may not look too different from the one you walked through in January. The same sitcoms are showing on your seatback screen, assuming you still have one. And hopefully the people you’re travelling to visit are familiar faces, too.

But there’s a lot about travel that has changed over the past 12 months-even if you were too fixated on your destination to notice.there’s a lot about travel that has changed over the past 12 months-even if you were too fixated on your destination to notice. Here, the major highlights.

Flights went farther

Qantas Airways debuted its newest ultra-long-haul this spring: a flight from Perth to London. At 17 hours, it came close to breaking records.

Then in October, Singapore Airlines Ltd. did what Qantas didn’t. Its 18-hour, 45-minute route-which spans approximately 16,700 kilometres from Changi to Newark is 800 kilometres longer than the previous record-holder, a Qatar Airways flight from Auckland to Doha. Credit goes to Airbus’s new A350-900 Ultra Long Range aircraft, which guzzles less fuel than previous versions and makes the journey possible. (According to our reviewer, the journey feels every bit as long as it is, even if there are only business-class seats aboard.)

Planes got nicer

Unlike recent years, which saw monumental advancements in luxury such as Qatar’s Qsuites or Emirates’ Residences, 2018 was a bit of a snooze. That’s not a bad thing: Sometimes it’s the less-glitzy, incremental advancements that can have a wider-reaching effect.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines all started installing premium economy cabins along their international routes-a first-while JetBlue Airways announced the expansion of its relatively affordable (and very comfortable) Mint Business Class. A large number of European carriers, too, added more first-class seats to their planes, reversing a yearslong trend to get rid of those ultrapremium seats.

Still stuck in cattle class? Don’t worry: Even perks such as inflight internet access were a focus this year, as service got more ubiquitous and faster than ever. (We tallied up the best airlines for Wi-Fi here.)

Tented camps became all the rage

Hotels with four walls are so 2017. This year was all about the tented camp-experiential properties inspired by the glamour of the African savannah. They cropped up in Bali, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka, with more in the works in Mexico, Costa Rica, and beyond. And no, we’re not talking about roughing it. These are tents with private pools, indoor and outdoor showers, canopied beds, and butler service. The canvas walls just add to the adventure.

The Caribbean rebounded

A year after the one-two punch of Irma and Maria, both Category 5 hurricanes, hotels have refurbished and reopened and new air routes have improved access to quieter corners of the region. Meanwhile, travel companies at every end of the spectrum are engaging in smart philanthropic efforts.

The combination has been a powerful one. Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of Embark (formerly Ovation Vacations) says that 62 per cent of his Northeast client base is travelling to the Caribbean this winter season, up from a historical average of 53 per cent. Among the hotels to prioritize: the sceney Mandarin Oriental Pink Sands in Canouan, the fully redone Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton Reserve in San Juan, and Silversands, the first resort to pull out all the stops on the lush island of Grenada. And just about anything in St. Barts and Anguilla.

Hotels figured out how to take on Airbnb

No, the answer isn’t to start offering apartment rentals. In fact, the companies that tried that approach largely floundered in 2018-Accor had to write off $288 million (U.S.) on One Fine Stay; Hyatt decided to sell off Oasis, its home-rental collection.

Instead, hoteliers found success in the extended-stay model, which was due for a rethink. In Europe and the U.S., “boutique apart-hotels” took the best parts of extended-stay hotels (large suites with kitchens, affordable rates) and merged them with modern-day luxuries like high-end design, third-wave coffee shops, and vibrant co-working spaces.

One such brand, Locke, was purchased by Brookfield Capital for an industry-setting price of $565 million. Its main competition? Not Marriott, but Airbnb. “The intention is to cover every major European city and get the company to $2 or $2.5 billion [in valuation]-then we’ll look at the U.S. and Australasia markets,” Locke’s founder, Eric Jafari, told Bloomberg in July.

Layovers became less painful

New hubs made globe-trotting a more streamlined pursuit this year. Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, which is slated to become the busiest passenger hub in the world, opened its first phase; Oman debuted a new hub for the Middle East; Singapore’s Changi went next-level with automation technology; and even the most nightmarish U.S. hub, New York’s LaGuardia, unveiled part of its $8 billion facelift to all cheers and no jeers.

And it’s not just the airports that have gotten upgrades, either-it’s how we navigate them. New and expanding companies are offering VIP treatment to flyers, letting them skip the customs line, get into exclusive lounges, and drive them straight to the plane’s door.

The Balkans became buzzy

There’s no question: The trendy destination of 2018 was the Balkans. (Yes, the whole region.) Europhiles looking for the next big thing set their sights just past over-touristed Croatia and to places like Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia. All have untrammeled, postcard-perfect landscapes, fascinating history, distinct food traditions, few crowds, and easy access. Whether you want to connect them by road trip or regional flights, it’s easy to check off a couple of countries in a single weeklong trip. (Up next on the insiders’ heat map: the Silk Road.)

Kid-friendly travel went next-level

Multigenerational travel-trips that include kids, parents, and grandparents-has been a dominant force in the industry for the last few years. But this year the idea got a new spin. First was the concept of “skip-gen” trips, where grandparents cut the parents out of the equation and take the grandkids for a grand tour, European or otherwise. That put more pressure on the older generation to channel what younger travellers want-which isn’t always easy.

As a response, TCS World Travel has convened a panel of teenage travel consultants who can help adults cater to their ever-shifting preferences. A few months later, Big Five Tours and Expeditions followed suit. Hotels have also started to overhaul their family-friendly programming.

And if that all wasn’t enough, private aviation company VistaJet took in-flight entertainment to new heights with a program that delivers themed, six-figure play parties at 45,000 feet.

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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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