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October 2009

October 30, 2009

Packing Checklist: Most Important Things To Remember

Packing checklistFor those of you that think of a packing checklist as unnecessary, this one highlights some specifics to really enhance a vacation:

1. A list of phone numbers and addresses you'll need. This is a huge time and stress saver, especially if you pre-program them into your phone and/or GPS and print out a copy.

2. All travel documents, proofs of payment, itineraries, tickets, and pre-planning information you may have found.

3. The right amount and style of socks, undergarments and accessories. Nothing's more annoying than women having a halter top but no strapless bra, or all of your workout clothes but not enough clean socks to accompany them.

4. Electronic converters for international travel - all those electronics you packed won't do you any good when you realize there's nowhere to plug them in.

5. Chargers - For the phone, camera, and anything else whose battery life has potential to burn out in the midst of your trip.

Photo: / CC BY 2.0

For more vacation advice, visit RTM's Travel Advice & Tips section.

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October 29, 2009

Teen Driving Safety: Make Sure They Know It All

Teendrvingg As Congress-mandated teen driving safety week recently came to an end (it was October 18-24), new driver safety issues are called to our attention. Each year more than 5,000 youths ages 16-20 die, and more than 400,000 are injured behind the wheel. On average, one teen per hour is killed every weekend, and once every two hours during the week. 

Some deaths or injuries can't be prevented - it is impossible to predict the driving behavior of others. But parents can and should ensure that their teens are sufficiently prepared before getting behind the wheel of a dangerous machine. Though their driving school may be a sufficient learning resource, it doesn't hurt to make sure they know how to control, not just operate, a car. Students should learn emergency braking and skid control in wet and dry conditions, how to correct unintended oversteer and understeer situations and how to avoid accidents entirely.

For more teen driving safety information, see RTM's Auto Safety & Security section or Teens & Tots section.

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October 28, 2009

Halloween Celebrations All Over the World

Halloween Halloween's not just an American holiday, even though almost as much money is spent on it as Christmas in the States. These countries do Halloween up just as well:

Ireland – the Emerald Isle is known for being the originator of Halloween, where Samhain started. Halloween is celebrated widely with large street parties, bonfires and fireworks. Dublin will host its Halloween Festival and Parade, where ghostly creatures take to the highways and byways of the city.

UK – Halloween is well celebrated in the UK especially with children, but adults also get in on the action too. One of the more interesting events this year is the London Zombie walk, where hundreds of people dressed as the undead will walk through the streets of the capital, moaning and groaning as they visit twelve pubs along the way.

Mexico – The Day of the Dead which occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November is dedicated to the celebration of those who have died. It is a joyous festival because it’s believed that this is when lost ones return to earth to visit their families and friends. The celebrations see bright street carnivals with elaborate costumes, skulls and coffins paraded through cities, towns and villages throughout the country.

Germany – While Halloween is still quite a new tradition, it has become increasingly popular with children and adults alike since the 90s. One of the most well visited Halloween events is the festival celebrated at Castle Frankenstein near Frankfurt/Main. Visitors will feel a ghostly chill as 77 zombies follow them through the darkness and hair-raising shows loom behind every corner.

Madagascar – Halloween is little celebrated on this island off the east coast of Africa, but Madagascans do have a particularly unusual way of honoring their dead. The ‘turning of the bones’ is an ancient ritual where the tombs of the dead are opened, the remains removed, dressed in fresh clothes and then passed around and danced with by friends and relatives.

Picture: CC BY 2.0   


For more travel ideas from RTM, visit our Travel Channel.


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October 27, 2009

Brain Training Extends Older Drivers' Confidence & Skill

Oldwoman Think it’s time for Grandma to turn in the keys? Maybe not. Even when driving ability begins to decrease, two new studies prove that there are ways to extend and improve it for high-risk seniors. Brain training, done for 10 hours over 5 weeks in the Staying Keen in Later Life (SKILL) study, decreased the high-risk drivers’ risk the to the same as the low-risk driving group. Their confidence with driving at night, in poor weather, and in high traffic also improved.

A second study (Active Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) combined with the SKILL study proved that brain training delays the end of driving for older people. By using an interactive software exercise called DriveSharp, they build ability to respond quickly in making driving decisions, enabling them to continue driving.

"Science has brought us new ways to improve and extend driving," said Dr. Edwards, assistant professor at the University of South Florida and lead author on the studies. "It does not need to be a choice between uneasiness about continued driving and negative outcomes that come from taking away the keys, because we can now train older drivers to improve their driving skills."

(Source: Posit Science)

For more driving safety tips from RTM, see our Auto Safety & Security section.

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October 26, 2009

Five Things Hotels Can and Should Do to Go Green

Hotel room If you haven't noticed, green hotels are springing up all over the place and even mainstream chains are refining their practices. Here's what they're doing and what to look for in a responsible stay.

1. Redecorating or building with more sustainable materials: Bamboo flooring, straw bale walls, and solar panel roofing? We like.

2. Making partnerships with green programs: Hotels can partner with green tourism companies like Save Your World to become greener with guidance.

3. Using high-tech thermostats: You’re on vacation; do you really want to sit in the hotel room the entire time? While travelers are out and about, some hotels use climate control sensors to lower usage of A/C or heating.

4. Partaking in the Global Soap Project: Hotels replace every bar of soap in every room, every day, no matter if it’s even been touched. Some hotels (about 40) aren’t throwing theirs away, but donating them to non-profit group The Global Soap Project. Bars of soap are collected, sterilized, reshaped, and redistributed to Ugandan refugee camps.

5. Stocking organic wines: Pesticide-free anything is on the right track to more sustainable consumption. Keep the luxury, lose the chemicals.

For more information about green hotels, visit RTM's Earth Tones section.

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October 23, 2009

2010 Mazda3 Lives Up to Zoom-Zoom

By Courtney Caldwell

Mazda3-5door People are surprised when they hear me say I enjoy testing smaller vs. larger cars. Actually, I enjoy testing all cars because I love driving and experiencing the different emotions that each car brings out. Yet, there’s something about cars that handle like street legal go-carts that float my boat. This week’s test car was all that and more.


The 2010 Velocity Red Mazda3, 5-door Grand Touring was all it was cracked up to be in its television tagline ‘zoom-zoom’ commercials. It zoomed through traffic and around corners like it was the only car on the road. Its sporty handling and 17” alloy wheels made it easy to forget it wasn’t a high-end sports car nor did it have the high-end sports car price tag. Our fully-loaded Mazda3 rolled in under $25K, half the price and twice the fun.


For those leaning towards more eco-friendly rides, the Mazda3 did well in environmental performance with a 7 out of 10 score, and especially significant, a nine out of 10 smog score. Gas mileage was better than average for its class with approximately 29 MPG highway, and 21 around the city. And while loaded with a gaggle of great safety and security features it had not yet received its government safety ratings for front, side and rear impacts at the time of our test drive. Check with for the final answer, or go to the Mazda3 website to learn more about all of its zoomlicous and zoomlacious features.


This sweet thing inspired all sorts of emotions from feeling like a young rebel to feeling socially responsible for driving around in a car the planet can live with.


For more 2010 Car Reviews from RTM, click here

October 22, 2009

The 2009 American National Parks Guide

DSC00936 With more than 58 American National Parks to choose from, it’s hard to narrow down which ones are the best. They’re all practically untouched pieces of land, which, as the PBS series on the subject exemplifies, were one of America’s best ideas. Visiting national parks can be an ideal way to enjoy wildlife and incredible new sights on your next vacation, especially because many offer accommodations within or nearby from plain old camping to five star resorts. But tourism has its way of trampling the soils a little too hard, even with good intentions, so pick just one American National Park and get to know it better.


Here’s a rough guide to get you started on a responsible journey:


The most visited parks are: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Olympic National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Zion National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Grand Teton National Park (pictured above), and Acadia National Park.


The least visited parks are: Kobuk Valley National Park, Lake Clark National Park, National Park of American Samoa, Gates of the Arctic National Park, Isle Royal National Park, North Cascades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Great Basin National Park, and Katmai National Park.


The most endangered parks are: Joshua Tree National Park, Biscayne National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Lake Clark National Park, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Everglades National Park.
For more earth-friendly travel ideas from RTM, visit our Earth Tones section.

October 21, 2009

Driving Donations: The Philanthropic Way to Buy a Car

Newcar You've heard of programs that allow car owners to donate their old cars to organizations like Purple Heart Cars, Cars for Veterans or Habitat for Humanity. But did you know you could make donations while purchasing your next car? Whether your car of choice is new or used, navigating in your search for the perfect one is the most philanthropic way to go.

When consumers decide to purchase a new or used car through DrivingDonations, Zag -provider of auto-buying programs for several of the nation's largest brands - will donate $50 to the charity of their choice. Buyers can choose from about a thousand charitable organizations in eight different categories to support. The program is free for all organizations and for its supporters, bringing charitable organizations and a powerful car buying service together to benefit everyone involved.


The car-browsing and purchasing process is easily navigable and very up-front. There are even insurance and financing sections so that all the information and work is in one place. Once you find your car and contact a dealer, you can even estimate a trade-in value with Driving Donations' tool powered by Kelley Blue Book.  


For more car purchasing and maintenance advice, visit RTM's Auto Advice & Tips section.


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October 20, 2009

The Top Five Most Haunted Hotels in America

Haunted These five hotels may seem just like normal places to visit, with their wonderful amenities, pools and customer service. But if you ask the right people, you could end up convinced that they are haunted - try staying there and you'll know for sure. This top five guide will tell you exactly where to stay and what to expect, in the chances that one of the supposed ghosts will give you a haunt!


1. Hotel Provincial: New Orleans, Louisiana - In the center of New Orleans' French Quarter, this gorgeous and charming Victorian hotel used to house a military hospital and 19th century living quarters. Ghost sightings (particularly of soldiers) and other haunted happenings have been reported by numerous honeymooners and guests. Try buliding number five, apparently it is the most haunted of all.


2. The Heathman Hotel: Portland, Oregon - This urban hotel in the heart of downtown Portland has a strange "3" enigma. Only guests that stay in a room whose last digits are "03" report strange events - especially room 703, where a man was supposedly almost suffocated by his bed sheets before his suitcases were thrown at him by a dark man who disappeared into the closet.

3. The Carolina Inn: Chapel Hill, North Carolina - Paranormal investigators have documented 20 ghosts in this historic, southernly charming hotel. Guests report being followed by a man who disappears when they turn around. There is another ghost who walks the halls trying to find a door that isn't locked.


4. The Sagamore Resort: Bolton Landing, New York - This sports paradise situated in the Adirondack Mountains is said to be home to many lost spirits, like a lost little boy, abusive couple, and a lady in white who blows a cold chill upon sleeping guests' eyelids.


Bakerslounge 5. The Crescent Hotel: Eureka Springs, Arkansas - This hotel has quite an extensive history, but in the '30's one crazy doctor made it into a "hospital and health care center", where the miracle cure was to drink the water. It is now said that the spring water flowing beneath the hotel is high in energy, attracting lost spirits. It is reported that the hotel is haunted by Dr. Norman Baker and other ghosts, some dressed like an assortment of cancer patients, waiters, or even construction workers.


(Source: Haunted America Tours)


For more about haunted hotels from RTM, read Spooky Stays at America's Haunted Houses.


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October 19, 2009

Amangani Resort: Modern Calm Among the Mountains

By Sara Hoffman


Jackson Hole 131 As I was escorted to my suite at Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s exquisite hilltop resort, Amangani, I expected breathtaking views and elegant design. What I did not expect was to be greeted by a decadent fresh fruit and cheese platter, bottle of wine, and the most relaxing music I’ve ever heard. So relaxing, it blended with my phone alarm, making me almost forget my afternoon massage appointment as I lingered in a hot bath watching what appeared to be an owl outside my window.

Bath The suite offered immediate access to the most multi-dimensionally breathtaking view I have ever seen. It would have been easy to tumble endlessly down the cascading green hills if it weren’t for a quaint patio and a few birch trees to stop me. Stepping out onto the patio, I was awestruck at how the immense mountain ranges engulfed the modern resort. To my right was an infinity-style pool deck and to my left, a glimpse of a little town nestled neatly at the foot of the hills. A clear blue sky enveloped the mountain tops and green grass stretched as far as the eye could see.


Jackson Hole 156 Even though the in-suite, spa-style bathrooms offered a host of comforting accommodations, the Spa at Amangani provided even more for guests seeking much-needed pampering. Before treatments, patrons are offered their choice of lemon or orange water and thereafter, only steps away, are the naturally filtrated outdoor pool and whirlpool for additional relaxation.  Other activities available for guests include horseback riding, tennis, golf, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which includes a hike on ski trails with plentiful wildlife.


Amangani Amangani is a hideaway resort, the epicenter of edgy, sophisticated, deep country calm in the Grand Teton National Park. Its lounge, patio, restaurant and bar are distinctive and beautiful; striking a unique contrast between modern architecture and raw nature. For those looking for an escape that offers the best of both worlds, the Amangani is the perfect place to go.


Jackson Hole 120 For more information on suite styles and prices, visit Amangani’s website here, or call (656) 887-3337 for booking. The Amangani resort is located on the edge of the East Gros Ventre Butte, at 1535 North East Butte Road, Jackson, WY. Jackson Hole Airport, located inside the southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park, is a 10-minute drive from the valley town of Jackson and less than 20 minutes from Amangani.


For more travel reviews from RTM, visit our Hotels & Resorts section.


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