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October 20, 2008

And the Airport Layover Contest Winner Is . . .

The_regent_palms_turks_and_caicos The winner gets to luxuriate in a room like this at The Regent Palms Turks & Caicos.

Layoverilloc_dt_2 by Wendy Perrin

At long last, our Layover Nation Contest has a winner: The grand prize of a free trip to the Caribbean goes to James Babashak, an anesthesiologist and 17-year subscriber to Conde Nast Traveler who lives in Wilton, Connecticut. Jim's reaction upon hearing the news:  "Can I leave tomorrow?"

His winning layover recommendation:

"You cannot normally boast, 'I skiied the desert.' From Dubai Airport, Dubai, UAE, it is about 1/2 hour to the Mall of the Emirates, where Ski Dubai is located. The entire experience is surreal, from landing in the Middle Eastern bustle of Dubai to feeling the blast of desert heat and bristling ice crystals within a 20-minute period. Ski Dubai provides all clothing and equipment as well, so you can go there with just money and ID from the airport. Hours are usually from 9 a.m. to midnight local time, which makes it easy to access from any flight arrival time. Before returning to the airport, you can have the taxi swing by the Burj al Arab for a quick apres ski cocktail (and just to take the requisite snapshot in front of the hotel). The whole sidetrip could take as little as 2 hours, but 4 would allow for more ski time."

For the details on how it went when Conde Nast Traveler contributor Michael Kinsley tested this little Dubai jaunt during his recent round-the-world adventure, you'll need to wait for his upcoming Layover Nation article in the magazine. Meanwhile, Jim Babashak is headed to The Regent Palms Turks & Caicos for three nights in an oceanview suite. Think I can convince him to pack me in his suitcase?  I need a vacation too, Jim!

Continue reading "And the Airport Layover Contest Winner Is . . ." »

October 08, 2008

Where in the World is Michael Kinsley?

Mall_of_the_emirates_ski_slope_3 by Wendy Perrin

Last night he landed back home in Seattle, in one piece, although his round-the-world trip -- to test the six winning entries in our Airport Layover Contest -- did not exactly go as planned:

After spending last Thursday in Dubai's 90-degree heat -- where he shot this pic (left) of the ski slope inside the Mall of the Emirates -- Mike checked in with me from the Dubai Airport, where his main mission had become -- as I predicted -- figuring out how to catch the Vice-Presidential Debate:  "I'm applying my jet-lagged brain," he Layoverilloc_dt_2_2 emailed, "to the question of when the Biden-Palin debate is and whether I'll be anywhere near a TV and far from sports enthusiasts so I can watch it."

On Saturday he checked in from London, where the news was not good: "My adventures in the last day or so have mostly involved inept airlines. My luggage is lost--so I'm having a real layover experience rather than the dream ones we planned."  (No, I do not know why he checked luggage. I'm sure an interesting explanation is forthcoming.)

Then late on Sunday he sent a pic of the view from his room near the Blue Lagoon in Iceland (below) with this update:
Bluelagoon_4 "I guess I'm not much of a blogger, but at this point I can either have the experience or blog about it but not both. I'm in Iceland at the Blue Lagoon. It's just about the opposite of what the phrase 'blue lagoon' might suggest. I've lost my luggage, got a cold, and now I'm heading out into the freezing rain to swim in a lukewarm outdoor pool, as I understand it. Anyway, I'm signing off until I get home with all these wonderful memories of airports and transit buses and so on. Whose idea was this anyway? Oh yeah: Mine."

Just heard from Mike again this morning-- from Seattle, where he arrived in time to catch last night's Presidential Debate. His recap of highlights from the past few days:  After "wandering around Amsterdam stoned out of my mind," he writes, "afraid to ask anybody where the train station was and certain that I'd missed my flight to London," he did manage to catch his plane onward. The Heathrow layover recommendation was to dine at The Fat Duck in nearby Bray -- a restaurant Mike found to be "absolutely ridiculous and pretentious, representing the reductio ad absurdum of food snobbery."  Last stop: Iceland, "where, despite constant propaganda about how they have a milder climate than New York City, there was snow on the ground at the beginning of October and a ceaseless freezing rain and wind that stopped you in your tracks the entire time I was there."

Now that he's tested all six winning layovers, Mike must choose which he liked best, and the person who recommended that layover will win the grand prize: a free trip to The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos.   

If you were Michael Kinsley, which layover would you choose as the winner?

October 01, 2008

Airport Layover Contest: New Zealand

Michael Kinsley stood here . . . and shot this pic of downtown Auckland from the Devonport Wharf during his Auckland layover.

Layoverilloc_dt_2 by Wendy Perrin

As you know, political journalist Michael Kinsley is circling the globe, testing the six winning entries in our Airport Layover Contest.  The reader who suggested the layover that Mike ends up liking best will win the grand prize: a free trip to The Regent Palms Turks & Caicos.

To find out how Mike liked Layover #2--the Segway tour of Auckland--click on over to our sister site Daily Traveler

For those of you just joining us now, here are the trip's vital statistics:

Itinerary: Seattle-Los Angeles-Auckland-Singapore-Dubai-Zurich-Amsterdam-London-Reykjavik-Copenhagen-Seattle

Length: 12 days

Price tag: $9,361 for the business-class round-the-world air fare

Mike's current location: He just checked in from Singapore.

Next up: Dubai.

The big question: Given how politics-obsessed Mike is, and how he's already altered the plan once because of last Friday's Presidential Debate--he checked into a hotel room near LAX so he could watch it before racing to catch his flight to New Zealand--what do YOU think Mike will do when he figures out that tomorrow's Veep Debate is happening at the same time he's scheduled to be in mid-air between Dubai and Zurich?

September 29, 2008

Airport Layover Contest: Los Angeles

Layoverilloc_dt Conde Nast Traveler guinea pig contributor Michael Kinsley, who--God bless him--is circumnavigating the globe testing airport layovers recommended by contestants in our Airport Layover Contest, flew from Seattle to Los Angeles on Friday en route to Auckland, New Zealand.  He spent his LAX layover checking out nearby Dockweiler State Beach, as recommended by Patricksw, who suggested Michael "lay on the beach staring at the sky, watching planes take off and land overhead. It's an amazing vantage point for getting great aviation photography." 

Well, Patricksw, I'm not sure Michael agrees . . . as you can read in his report over on our sister site Daily Traveler.  Tune in tomorrow for Michael's critique of Layover #2: a tour of Auckland by segway.

September 25, 2008

Michael Kinsley's Round-The-World Stunt Starts Tomorrow!

Michael_kinsley_2 On Friday author, pundit, and Conde Nast Traveler contributor Michael Kinsley will jet off on his round-the-world adventure, blogging as he goes.

Layoverilloc_dt_3 by Wendy Perrin

It's the moment we waited all summer for: Michael Kinsley is about to test the six winning entries in our Airport Layover Contest. His itinerary: Seattle-Los Angeles-Auckland-Singapore-Dubai-Zurich-Amsterdam-London-Reykjavik-Copenhagen-Seattle.  In L.A. he'll go to the beach, in Auckland he'll take a segway tour of the city, in Dubai he'll hit the Mall of the Emirates for shopping and skiing, in Amsterdam he'll go to the Red Light District to smoke a joint, at Heathrow he'll dine at The Fat Duck in nearby Bray -- IF we can get him off the wait list! -- and in Reykjavik he'll soak in the Blue Lagoon.

Choosing the six winning layover recommendations out of the more than 200 imaginative and supercool entries was a challenge, but if you think that was tough you haven't tried finding a business-class round-the-world fare for $9,361 or snagging a table at The Fat Duck!

Continue reading "Michael Kinsley's Round-The-World Stunt Starts Tomorrow!" »

August 26, 2008

Airport Layover Contest Results: The Envelope, Please!

Layoverilloc_3 by Wendy Perrin

After much scrutiny of the more than 200 entries in our Airport Layover Contest, we've finally settled on the 6 finalists. Each has won a Palm Centro smartphone and has a chance at winning a trip to the Caribbean too: After Conde Nast Traveler contributor Michael Kinsley tests each of the winning layovers during his round-the-world trip next month, he'll tell us which one ended up being his favorite. The finalist who suggested it will win the grand prize: three nights for two at The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos (plus air fare from the U.S. or Canada).

Drumroll, please . . . . The six finalists are, in alphabetical order:

1. Jebabashak, who recommended stopping in Dubai to ski its indoor ski resort, then grabbing a drink at the Burj-al-Arab en route back to the airport.

2. LoriB, who suggested including Reykjavik so Mike can swim and enjoy a steambath (and maybe a mud mask) at the Blue Lagoon.

3. Ozinpa, who advised a stop at Heathrow so Mike can indulge in "molecular gastronomy" at The Fat Duck in nearby Bray.

4. Patricksw, who recommended grabbing a bus from LAX to Dockweiler State Beach, where Mike can enjoy the close-up views of planes taking off and landing and hone his aviation photography.

5. SCory, who advised including Auckland, where Mike can do a brief tour of New Zealand's largest city by segway. 

6. Tonyinventuracal, who suggested Mike stop in Amsterdam, hop the train to the Red Light District, and smoke a joint.

Mike plans to do all this and more when he circumnavigates in September. He'll be blogging as he goes, so be sure to tune in to his updates on our sister site Daily Traveler.

Meanwhile, I'd like to express a giant thank-you to everyone who entered this contest. I was so impressed with the abundance of imaginative yet feasible layover suggestions worldwide and can't wait to test them myself during upcoming trips!

July 26, 2008

Only 5 More Days to Enter our Airport Layover Contest!

Layoverilloc_2by Wendy Perrin

Reminder: The deadline for submitting your coolest-ever airport layover ideas for the chance to win a smartphone and maybe even a trip to the Caribbean is next Thursday, July 31.  About 160 seriously creative layover ideas for airports worldwide have been posted so far -- you can read them here -- and another 24 or so have been collected by fellow contest hosts Jaunted and HotelChatter.   I can't wait to test some of these layover recommendations myself!

Michael_kinsley_2_3_2 Author Michael Kinsley will be testing them first, though, when he circumnavigates the globe for us in September.  First, in August, he'll pick the winning layover ideas--and each of the winners will receive a Palm Centro smartphone. Then, when Mike returns from his round-the-world jaunt, he'll announce which layover was his favorite. The person who suggested it will win three nights for two at the The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos (plus air fare from the U.S. or Canada).

Here are a few helpful hints for how to win.  Good luck!

July 17, 2008

Airport Layover Contest: TIPS FOR HOW TO WIN!

Layoverillocby Wendy Perrin

You've got two weeks left to enter our Airport Layover Contest for the chance to win a Palm Centro smartphone and maybe even a three-day trip to The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos. Conde Nast Traveler contributor Michael Kinsley will be picking the winning layover ideas (with a little help from me) and then testing them when he flies around the world in September. (Yes, the same Michael Kinsley who founded Slate and hosted CNN's Crossfire and whose latest book Please Don't Remain Calm just came out.) 

After studying the layover suggestions submitted so far, Mike has key advice for anyone who has not entered the contest yet or is dreaming up another layover idea (remember, you can submit as many entries as you want before the July 31 deadline): 

Michael_kinsley_2_3Tip #1: Surprise us!
"There have been many helpful layover suggestions," says Mike, "but so far most have been unsurprising (and a few have even been downright dull). If you really want to win one of these phones--and I've been using one lately; they're pretty cool--then come up with something surprising. The first contest entry, for example, says that if you're at Honolulu Airport go to Waikiki Beach.  We all know that Honolulu has Waikiki Beach. But the fact that there's a great Los Angeles beach right behind LAX is more interesting." 

Tip #2: Think like a storyteller. 
Mike will be writing about his layover experiences for an article in the magazine, so consider what locations and activities would make for the most entertaining article.  Think weird.

More tips after the jump.

Continue reading "Airport Layover Contest: TIPS FOR HOW TO WIN!" »

July 11, 2008

What's Your Favorite Airport To Kill Time In?

I once spent a very pleasant layover at YVR working out, and then vegging out, in the health club and spa of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, which is smack inside the International Departures Terminal. (Non-guests can use the fitness center and lap pool for $15, the sauna and showers for $10).

Layoverilloc_2 by Wendy Perrin

It's not too late to enter our Airport Layover Contest for the chance to win a Palm Centro smartphone and possibly even a three-night trip to The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos. You've got until the end of the month, in fact.

Now, here's a tip: Of the 150-or-so layover ideas recommended so far -- which you can read here and also on Jaunted and HotelChatter -- almost all involve fleeing the airport. Which is no surprise, of course. Still, I can assure you that Michael Kinsley, the Conde Nast Traveler contributor who will be racing around the globe in September testing the winning ideas, will end up exhausted and want to spend at least one of his layovers amusing himself within the confines of the airport.

So, if you know of a surprisingly fun, interesting, or decadent way to kill time within a major international hub, enter your idea in our contest.  To save you from having to comb through the list of entries in order to single out the few that involve staying put in the airport, I've done it for you. Here's the current list:

Amsterdam (Schiphol): Check out the in-airport branch of the Rijksmuseum.
Frankfurt: Take a shower, relax in the Beergarten
London (Heathrow, Terminal 5): Dine in Gordon Ramsey's new restaurant Plane Food.
Los Angeles (LAX): Nosh in the futuristic Encounter Restaurant.
Munich: Luxuriate in the spa of the Kempinski hotel inside the airport.
Seattle: Check out the collection of modern art (Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg) and the massage bar.
Singapore (Changi): Visit the rooftop swimming pool and hot tub, the bamboo and orchid gardens, the koi pond, and/or the movie lounges.
Vancouver: Hit that Fairmont spa pictured above.

That leaves a ton of untapped airports, folks -- not to mention untapped great activities in nearly all the airports listed above!  So keep those ideas coming. 

June 28, 2008

The Art of the Airport Layover: Enter our Contest!

If I had a few hours to kill between flights at Beijing International, I'd head to 798 Art Zone, a cluster of old factory buildings near the airport that have been converted into a Soho-esque neighborhood of art galleries, cafes, and boutiques that is now the center of Beijing's contemporary art scene.
Photo: AP

Layoverilloc by Wendy Perrin

There's still time to enter our Airport Layover Contest for the chance to win a Palm Centro smartphone and possibly a three-night trip to the Regent Palms Turks and Caicos. If you've got an idea for the best way to spend several hours of downtime between flights when you're in or near an international hub -- any major hub in the world -- click here to enter the contest. Can't think of anything right now but want to read the 68-or-so terrific layover ideas that readers have posted so far? Click here. I can't wait to test some of them myself! 

First, though, it's author and political pundit Michael Kinsley who will be testing the winning ideas. We're sending him around the world in September for this express purpose, in fact. Michael's told me he'd like one of the layovers to be some sort of museum visit. Luckily, a few readers have already posted some nifty museum ideas -- from dashing into London on the Heathrow Express to see The National Gallery and/or The British Museum to popping across the street from Christchurch Airport in New Zealand to the International Antarctic Centre (which I've done, by the way, and it's fabulous). Any other museum or art-oriented ideas for Michael? Just click here to enter the contest. Good luck!

June 17, 2008

Airport Layover Contest: Calling All Foodies!

Cliveden, a British country house hotel with a renowned restaurant, is only 12 miles and a 20-minute cab ride from Heathrow Airport. Perhaps Michael Kinsley should pop by for lunch or dinner between flights?

Layoverilloc by Wendy Perrin

We launched our Layover Nation contest only four days ago, yet already some of you have contributed terrific layover ideas.  Michael Kinsley, the author, pundit, and guinea pig who will be testing the winning recommendations when he flies around the world in September, is definitely seeking a culinary experience for one of his six-or-so layovers. We've already gotten some nifty suggestions for restaurants near airports serving typical local food and representing an atmospheric escape from the airport, but we'd love to hear more.

Clivedens_terrace_dining_room_2 To enter your idea into the contest, just follow the directions here. I'll be back in a few days with more guidance from Michael as to the types of activities that would excite him most (I know he's up for some shopping too). Meanwhile, take a look at the entries thus far, as well as those from the readers of HotelChatter and Jaunted, which are running this contest too.

My mouth is drooling already!

That's Cliveden's Terrace Dining Room.

June 13, 2008

Enter Our Airport Layover Contest!

Michael Kinsley
Michael Kinsley will be racing around the globe. Which airports should he choose?

by Wendy Perrin

Attention readers:  Here's your chance to demonstrate your travel savvy and possibly win big.

Layover Nation

In September Conde Nast Traveler contributor Michael Kinsley will be flying around the world, testing some of the best activities you can do during airport downtime.  But there's one problem:  We don't have his itinerary.  That's where YOU come in.  Send us your best ideas for things to do between flights when you're in or near major international air hubs. 

If we pick your recommendation, you'll win a Palm Centro smartphone (we have six to give away). And if, upon his return, Michael finds your tip was his absolute favorite, you'll win three nights for two at the The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos (plus air fare from the U.S. or Canada).

Ready?   All you need to do is add your suggested activity to the comments section of this blog post, making sure your text includes:

(1) the name of the airport
(2) the name and location of the activity
(3) a description of how to get to the activity from the airport and back again
(4) an estimate of the length of time the whole experience takes
(5) a description of what makes this experience so great

Need help?  Here's a sample entry, from my own personal travel annals:

Munich Airport: If Michael has four hours to kill, he has time to take the S-Bahn train from the airport to Marienplatz, Munich's medieval town square, see the sights--the Rathaus (City Hall) with its famous glockenspiel, the beautiful old Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady), et al.--then walk 10 minutes to the Hofbrauhaus, the world's most famous beer hall, dating from 1589. Sit down at one of the long communal wooden tables of old, order up a liter (you won't drink the whole thing, of course, but you want to have to use both hands to lift that giant mug; makes for the best snapshot), listen to the oompah band, and soak up the Bavarian atmosphere. Yeah, sometimes it can get a little touristy, but it's one of the most colorful places in the world to have a beer, what with the Stammtisch (a table reserved for the regulars) and the locals dressed in traditional lederhosen and Bayern hats adorned with feathers and brushes. Michael can even strike up a conversation with the locals sitting next to him; enough of them speak English.  Caveat: IF Michael is making this trip between September 20 and October 5, forget Marienplatz and the Hofbrauhaus: Just go straight from the airport to Oktoberfest!

You have until July 31 to enter our contest; the sooner you enter, the greater your chance to win. Feel free to suggest as many different ideas as you like; the more recommendations you post, the better your chances. And be sure to check back in September, when Michael will be blogging on the road--from the destinations you've helped pick. Here are the prize details and contest rules. Good luck!