Where Will You Go For Free Museum Day?

Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or having a staycation this Saturday, be sure to include some culture. September 28 is Museum Day Live! (aka Free Museum Day), when museums all over the country open their doors without charging admission.

The annual event is inspired by the Smithsonian museums, which offer free admission every day. You’ll have to register and download your free ticket in advance, which will get two guests in free to participating museums.

A few of our favorite museums participating:

Smart Museum of Art
The University of Chicago’s art museum is always free, but this weekend is also the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and museum-goers can also enjoy free concerts in the sculpture garden.

Dallas/Ft. Worth
American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum
Regular price: $7 adults
Serious airline nerds, frequent flyers and those on a long layover can check out this museum of aviation and American AIrlines history, just a few miles from DFW airport. Exhibits include a rare Douglas DC-3 plane.

Las Vegas
Burlesque Hall of Fame
Regular suggested donation or gift shop purchase: $5)
What’s Sin City without a little strip tease? See costumes, props and photos documenting the history, traditions and stars of burlesque dance.
Los Angeles
Grammy Museum
Regular price: $12.95 adults
Pop music lovers can check out four floors of music exhibits and memorabilia. The current exhibition features the career of Ringo Starr, including an interactive drum lesson with the Beatles‘ rhythm man himself.

New York
Museum of Chinese in America
Regular price: $10 adults
Learn about the immigrant experience in New York’s Chinatown in a building designed by Maya Lin. Current special exhibitions on the glamour of Shanghai women and the role Chinese-American designers in fashion. Follow it up with dim sum in the neighborhood.

San Francisco
Cartoon Art
Regular price: $7 adults
Take your comics seriously? This is the art museum for you, with 6,000 works of cartoon cels, comic strips and book art. Best. Museum. Ever.

Washington, D.C.
Museum of Crime and Punishment
Regular price: $21.95
Value the free admission and your freedom at a museum dedicated to criminals and police work. Fans of police procedural TV shows will enjoy the CSI lab and the filming studio for “America’s Most Wanted.”

Would You Book A Flight To An Unknown Destination?

Earlier this year, new booking engine GetGoing began offering deep discounts to travelers with flexibility and a sense of spontaneity. You tell the site what type of trip or region you want, and it will give you two destinations and the airfare you’ll pay, up to 40% off. The catch? You won’t know *which* place you’ll go or which airline you’ll fly until after you purchase.

Now how about booking a trip where you won’t know where you’re going until a few days before departure? FlyRoulette launched this week, taking spontaneous travel to the next level. With FlyRoulette, you’ll tell them your budget, maximum trip length, and type of trip (does “weird and exotic” sound appealing?) and it will create an itinerary for you. But you won’t know where you are going until 12-48 hours before you depart, which means you can probably rule out anywhere that requires an advance visa, but the whole world is fair game. In exchange for your flexibility, you’ll get great hotel and flight deals, but it’s not for those who want some degree of control over their travels.
Would you book a trip without knowing where you are going? While it’s an intriguing concept, there are a few issues I can see arising for even the most intrepid travelers. Without knowing what destinations are in their arsenal, a trip to go somewhere “to party” could just as easily be Daytona Beach or Berlin, two very different tastes. There could be reasons why a destination is discounted: even if you wanted a “quiet” trip, what if everything of interest is closed for the season? While you specify your maximum budget, you don’t know what portion is going to airfare or hotel, so you might prefer a destination with a more expensive flight but cheap accommodations. The site allows you to book for groups up to 25 people and was founded by recent college graduates, which may indicate their ideal demographic. It might be best for INexperienced travelers, who are more open to anything and carry less baggage (no pun intended) about how they travel and where they end up.

Wearable Technology Looks Cool, But Will Travelers Actually Wear It?

Imagine being able to navigate a foreign city without a map or paying for a museum ticket with your watch, thanks to your cool electronic gadgets. Now imagine getting mugged around the corner, or leaving your expensive toy on a bus. Wearable technology such as Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch have fueled a lot of buzz among technology fans and travel marketers, but will travelers actually want to wear them?

A survey of 1,000 adults showed that while 75% were aware of at least one form of wearable technology, less than 10% was actually interested in using it. While the Samsung smartwatch announcement increased interest, and 52% would wear something on their wrist, only 5% would wear something on their face like Google Glass.

High price tags — $299 For the Galaxy Gear, and over $1,000 for the developer glasses — are one cause for consumers to hesitate, though travelers are more likely to invest in the latest technology, especially if it helps document their trip or explore a new place. Privacy is another concern, as the devices collect information based on your movements to improve the experience. How about the fact that having such a device marks you as wealthy? Smartphones have become fairly commonplace in the world, but there are still places where you’d be wise to keep your iPhone in your pocket, or even the hotel safe. The newer and snazzier the device, the more it shows that you have money to burn, and might make you a target of thieves. Will they make you look like a tourist? Not necessarily more than any device, but they certainly won’t help you to blend in.

Would you use wearable technology, while traveling or at home? What innovations would you like to see for travel?

How 12,150 Cups Of Chocolate Pudding Turned Into A Million Frequent Flyer Miles

While you may try to rack up frequent flyer miles from travel, airline-branded credit cards or online shopping, have you ever thought about pudding? One clever traveler turned a Healthy Choice promotion into enough miles to fly the world multiple times.

In 1999, Civil Engineer David Phillips noticed a promotion from Healthy Choice offering 500 American Airlines miles for every 10 product bar codes sent in, with a double bonus for sending them in the first month. Phillips figured out that the promotion would extend to all of their products, and searched his area supermarkets for the best deal. He started with 90-cent cans of soup, and then found a better deal: individual packages of chocolate pudding for 25 cents apiece. He bought every one available, spending a total of $3,140. This gave him 12,150 puddings worth over 1.2 million airline miles.

The story gets sweeter when you hear how he collected the bar codes for redemption. He started by putting his family to work, but they were soon (literally) sick of peeling the pudding lids and eating the stuff. He offered them up to Salvation Army for free, in return for the bar codes. For this, he was also able to get an $800 charitable tax deduction, bringing his investment down to around $2200. Netting over a million miles also gives him lifetime gold elite status on American, giving him an extra boost for accruing miles. His story inspired a similar plot in the movie “Punch Drunk Love.” Phillips continues to take advantage of frequent flyer promotions and deals, and now has over 4 million miles in his accounts.

Does Connectivity Ruin the Way We Travel?

Why do we travel?

Is it to learn? Is it to see new things? Is it to eat something different? Is it to get out of our comfort zone?

For most people, it’s a little of all of the above. Travel is that thing that we do because we’re intrigued by the things that are different from our everyday. Be it in a small-town diner in the state next door or in a treehouse hostel in the rainforest of a country on the other side of the world, we travel because it opens our eyes. Travel is far from mundane.

Over the years, travel has changed. We no longer spend weeks on a boat to get to Europe, we no longer put stickers on our leather suitcases and we rarely even take the time to send a postcard (there’s an app for that, which can do it for you). The modern world has changed not only how we travel — airplanes, high speed trains, online bookings — but how we relate our travel to those around us. Gone are the days of handwritten letters with foreign stamps. Nowadays you’re just an Instagram snap away from sharing your adventures with the world.

But are we better for it?

Instead of sitting and enjoying the meal, soaking in the sights and smells and recounting them in a letter or in our journal later in the evening when we have a minute to put pen to paper, we can take a picture. Hell, we can take 10, just in case the first 9 didn’t turn out. We can document, share and engage 24 hours a day. As long as there’s an internet connection, we can email, we can iMessage, we can chat. Parents can get daily updates from their 20-something backpacking through Southeast Asia and significant others can FaceTime so as not to get too bummed during a seven-day trip apart.

We’re connected like never before. But while we’re connected to the outside world, we’re disconnected from the present.CNN Senior Travel Producer James Durston recently mused on his own addiction to travel photography, positing that in our frantic efforts to capture a moment, we miss the actual moment entirely.

I was diving in Thailand, when a whale shark emerged from the gloom. I snapped away at the beast with my underwater apparatus for the few minutes of air I had left, then returned topside to high-five and celebrate this potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience. As I scrolled through the 100-odd pictures I had, I realized: they were all I had. My memories are framed by the 2×2-inch blurry screen of my camera. Not once did I look up to see the fish with my own eyes.

The same can be said for planning. The Internet is a wonderful thing, and it’s hard to imagine the days before we could book online, find a good deal and piece together an itinerary of cool spots that we have culled together from tips from all of our favorite travel blogs. And yet do all of these planning tools stop us from the potential for serendipity? When was the last time you arrived in a village with no place to stay, no map and didn’t check your smartphone for a recommendation? 1991? We’ve managed to completely eliminate the sense of wonder that travel is all about in the first place.

Tools should be tools, not crutches that keep us from asking questions, making body gestures when we don’t speak the language and venturing down an unknown path, physically and metaphorically. If we’re to travel well, we have to dare a little.

​Pack your bags. Don’t compile and Excel sheet of information. Go on your gut instinct. Don’t send an email home everyday. Let your travels take they where they take you. Fall into the experience and embrace it for what it is, not what you think it should be, or what you’d like to curate it to be with a certain photo filter.

Travel for travel’s sake and enjoy the ride.