Plan your Great American Beer Festival experience online

The Great American Beer Festival, one of the largest beer fests in the US, is just six days away. The three-day event known as the Olympics of beer is sold out, but if you are one of the lucky 50,000 or so who will be in attendance when it takes place in Denver next week, now is the time to plan your perfect GABF experience.

The GABF is more than just an excuse to drink beer (lots and lots of beer – nearly 2,000 beers will be available for sampling), it’s a chance to learn more about beer than you ever thought possible, meet the brewers of your favorites, and try brews not available in your local area.

In addition to the basic beer tasting, there are several special events going on at the festival. At the Beer and Food Pavilion, local chefs will be working with brewers to pair beer with food. Attendees can learn how to pair the two at home and taste samples. At the You Be the Judge booth, drinkers can learn the secrets of judging beer and taste several brews alongside an official judge. There’s also a Great American Beer Fest bookstore, lectures from the brewers, and a Designated Driver Lounge where DDs can sample craft-brewed root beers and soda and receive a free massage.

With so much going on, coming up with a strategy to make the most of each four-hour session can be daunting. The Great American Beer Festival website is here to help though. They’ve created an interactive networking website where attendees can talk about their favorite beers, arrange for beer trades, and discuss the best ways to plan their GABF experience. Veterans of the event offer advice to newbies like: eat beforehand (the high altitude can increase the effects of the beer), make a “pretzel necklace” to munch on as you taste so you don’t have to waste time waiting in the food line, costumes are not uncommon, and whatever you do, don’t drop your tasting glass.

The website also hosts a map of each brewery’s location so you can plan your route through the convention hall. Some GABF experts recommend you not try to do too much – chose your top 10-15 breweries and plan a strategy to visit them in the order of importance. Others suggest choosing the beers you want to taste according to style, maybe concentrating on IPAs or porters, or by geographical location of the brewery. And some attendees prefer to just bounce from booth to booth, sneaking in for a sample at whichever one has the shortest line. You can pick a plan of attack based on your preferences, but if you’re serious about tasting beer, you’ll need some kind of strategy to make the most of your limited time.

If you weren’t lucky enough to snag tickets this year, mark your calendar for June 2010. That’s when tickets for next year’s GABF, to be held September 16-18, go on sale.

Nominees for’s Ecotourism Spotlight Award announced, a website dedicated to ecotourism and encouraging environmental conservation through tourism, has announced the nominees for its Ecotourism Spotlight Award. The Award honors the tourism boards that promote ecotourism through their websites, both by highlighting their own efforts and by helping travelers connect to independent tour providers who operate using sustainable practices.

The award was created in 2007 to encourage National Tourism Boards to promote ecotourism within their countries and to reward those who were doing so effectively. The winner in both 2007 and 2008 was Ecotourism Laos and the site is nominated again this year, along with Quito Visitors’ Bureau, Responsible Tourism Guide to the Mekong, and Failte Ireland.

The voting is open to the public on Planeta’s website and will continue through August 31. The winner will be announced on September 27, World Tourism Day. So cast your vote, and check out the sites to see what each is doing to promote ecotourism in its country.

Vote for America’s best bathroom

It’s a room we visit several times each day, but the humble bathroom (john, head, bog, loo, etc.) is rarely celebrated in its true glory. Cintas Facility Services, a leading provider of bathroom supplies, wants to change that with its America’s Best Restroom Award. Check out their website to see the nominees and vote for your favorite. A good bathroom is the traveler’s best friend, and should be appreciated.

But we here at Gadling are too well traveled to get all starry-eyed about the glories of the garderobe. We’ve dealt with squishy Asian squat, public lavatory putrescence, and outhouse odor. So let’s hear your votes for the world’s worst bathrooms. Here’s my nominee:

In 1996 I left the Iranian border town of Zahedan and entered Pakistan. My first stop was Taftan, a miserable hole if I ever saw one. The streets were nothing but sand. Trash blew between bare concrete houses. Moneychangers swarmed around me like flies. Flies swarmed around me like moneychangers. Then disaster struck–I had to go to the bathroom.

The public toilet next to the bus station was an area about ten feet to a side enclosed by a concrete wall. There was no roof. There was no door, only a blind turn before you entered a sandbox that looked just like the street except that it was covered in crap. The flies here were so thick that I put my bandanna over my nose and mouth so I didn’t inhale any. There was no escaping the smell. I picked my way through a minefield of human waste until I found a clear spot for both my feet. The flies were relentless, and I had to fan myself constantly so they didn’t get stuck to my business end.

Like everywhere in South Asia, foreigners get stared at in Pakistan, and they make no exception for foreigners squatting with their pants down. A small crowd of other squatters stared at me with undisguised curiosity as I did what I needed to do and fled as quick as I could.

I only stayed in Taftan an hour until I could catch a bus for Quetta, but I will always remember the bathroom there, and the fact that I got pick-pocketed. They only got about five dollars worth of Iranian rials, but it’s the thought that counts. The thought of some guy’s hand in my pocket. I hope, I pray, that it wasn’t one of the guys watching me in the bathroom.

Think you can beat that? Give it your best shot.


2008 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award Winners

The 2008 Society of American Travel Writers Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition recently announced its winners. In its 24th year running, the competition attracted 1,356 entries in 24 categories from which 81 winners were selected. The competition, named after American writer and traveler Lowell Thomas, is today considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the world of travel journalism. The entries were judged by members of the Missouri School of Journalism Faculty.

National Geographic
and the Boston Globe took most of the awards, and freelance writer/photographer Christopher P. Baker won the Lowell Thomas travel journalist of the year. Other than him, and bronze winner of the same category — Sarah Wildman, all other winners are part of established travel titles such as the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Globe and Mail, the New York Times, and a bunch of other American news titles.

You can find the list of gold winners with relevant links to their stories at the LA Times Daily Deal travel blog; the LA Times won a gold for the best travel section. A list of all the winners (gold, silver, and bronze, across all categories can be found on the Society of American Travel Writers website.

So, if you’re looking to read some good travel-writing, spend some time going through the links of the winners. The full list of winners has the titles of the winning stories so you can dig them up to read. I thought I would go through them all and give you my top three, but there are just too many good ones! Perhaps a good time-spend idea for a Sunday afternoon.

And the award for the best North American Airline goes to…..

Continental Airlines, for the fifth year straight. Congratulations.

The Official Airline Guide (OAG) just had its annual award ceremony to award the top performers in the industry, and the winner among all frequent flyers polled was Continental.

With a strong market presence out of New York City, hubs across the country, a superior first class and meals still served in coach (gasp), it’s not hard to believe. Continental has perennially been a favorite among business and leisure travelers alike, and as long as they keep up this quality behavior they’ll stay that way.

We’ll see if they jump on the bandwagon of cutting amenities and increasing fees like the other legacy carriers did.

Other notable winners were:

Best Economy/Coach Class: American Airlines
Best Airlines based in Western Europe: Virgin Atlantic
Best Airport: Singapore Changi
Best Transatlantic Airline: British Airways

You can check out the full spectrum of awards over at