Powerball Winner Travel Options

The nation’s multi-state Powerball lottery is up to $425 million for Wednesday night’s drawing, the largest jackpot ever. Would-be winners have dreams of financial freedom, never working again for the rest of their lives and more. Odds are, travel may be one of the options the big winner will choose. With a cash value of $278 million, that’s a lot of travel. But just what will $278 million buy?

At a cost of $206 million, the winner could buy one Boeing 787 Dreamliner and have millions leftover for a flight crew and operating expenses. Don’t want to blow so much on a jet? Choose a 737 for as little as $74.8 million.

Looking for more adventure? How about a F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet for $150 million.

Cruise of a lifetime-
At an average cost of $1000 per person, per week, if the winner is an avid cruiser, they could sail with a dozen friends on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas for over 70 years.

Bump that up to destination-immersive Azamara Club Cruises on an itinerary that takes the winner and his happy dozen friends around the world, and sail for over 20 years in ultra luxury.

Road trip of a lifetime, with friends-
Fancy a luxury road trip? At about $9 million each, the winner and about 30 friends could drive solid gold Rolls-Royce Phantom’s.

Or leave the friends behind and drive your gold Rolls-Royce to any one of 19 four to seven-story hotels you could build along the way.

Better yet, buy 14,000 of your closest friends a new Toyota Prius for $19,950 eachBuy an Island-
Tikina-I-Ra is a 10,000-acre, private island for sale in the South Pacific for just a bit over $11 million.

“One of the largest freehold estates in the Fiji Islands, this property is in pristine condition,” says Private Islands Online, adding, “With ocean frontage to the North, West, and South, the island enjoys approximately 25 kilometres of coastline.”

Talk about adventure-
Adventure travelers too would do well as winners.

Experiences of a Lifetime from TCS & Starquest Expeditions would take you by private jet to eight countries. Camping under the stars in India’s Great Thar Desert, gorilla trekking in Rwanda and elephant trekking in Thailand runs about $68,000 per person for a 23-day tour. You could bring 200 of your friends and do it for a year.

Feeling like there could be a better use for your half billion in winnings?

Feeding all the hungry people on the planet, your prize would not go far. Worldwide, 852 million people are hungry, up from 842 million a year ago.

[Photo by Flickr user live w mcs]

Still Want To Go To The Olympics? Have An Extra $100k?

Travelers hoping to attend the Olympic Games in London probably should have booked their hotels and bought their tickets months ago. After all, the opening ceremonies are tomorrow and events are already starting to ramp up. But if you’re the kind of person who puts everything off until the last minute, and you have a spare $100,000 burning a hole in your pocket, there are still some luxury options to be had.

Members-only travel site In The Know has partnered with private jet charter PlaneClear to deliver a London travel experience unlike any other. Their five-night Luxury Olympics Package includes a private jet to the U.K., shuttle service in a Mercedes S Class vehicle, accommodations at the exclusive Belgraves hotel and a personal 24-hour concierge.

While attending the games, travelers will also be allowed to select tickets of their choice to some of the most popular events, including gymnastics, swimming, diving and more. They can also choose to either attend three events with the best seating possible, or five events with “second tier” seating. The package also provides access to an Olympic hospitality tent, after-hours parties, leisure activities and more.

It is difficult to put a price tag on the experience of a lifetime but in this case someone has. Prices for these luxury packages start at a staggering $97,500 and can be booked by emailing info@flyplaneclear.com.

Your private Gulfstream or Challenger aircraft is standing by to whisk you off to London today.

Travel magazines target the 1%

An image of a striking, leggy blonde standing in the shadow of a seventeenth-century church in Mykonos graces the cover of the March issue of Condé Nast Traveler. She’s wearing a short, silky dress and, as we find out on page 122 in the magazine’s “where to buy” segment, it costs $6,900.

And if you like dresses that cost ten times the per capita GDP of Haiti, you’ll love Condé Nast’s suggested nine-and-a-half hour day trip in Mykonos, which will set you back $3,140, not including accommodation.

I like to indulge in the fantasy world of glossy travel magazines as much as anyone else. But I’ve always disliked how many of these publications cater to sybarites who stay in hotels that charge more for one night than most people pay in a month’s rent — the kind of people who view travel as nothing more than an excuse to go shopping. It can be fun to see how the other half lives, but it can also be depressing.

I can’t help but feel poor every time I read Afar, Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast and other magazines. Let’s face it, the pages of most glossy travel and city magazines these days are awash in conspicuous consumption – eat, shop, drink, spend, consume. For every nugget about the people the writer met, there are ten about all the expensive places they ate/drank/slept/shopped.

I’ve been a compulsive traveler for decades and the question I always get from friends is, “How can you afford to travel so much?” But in nearly 40 years of traveling around the world, I have never, ever spent more than $200 per night on a hotel. Maybe I’m missing out, but I don’t feel that way.

I understand that these magazines are trying to lure high-end advertisers and are targeted toward people who have more money than me. It’s also undeniably true that $800 per night hotel suites and $78 entrees look more appealing on a page than Motel Six and diner food. And I don’t fault anyone who likes to travel in style or treat themselves to $7,000 dresses.

If you’ve got the cash, go for it. The global economy is built around consumer spending so we need you to get out there and do your thing. But the relentless focus on luxury in the travel media contributes to the false notion that travel is for the rich.

I reviewed one recent issue of six national travel magazines and made some calculations on the cost of recommended accommodations. This is not a scientific study but I think it gives a pretty accurate snapshot of the lifestyle that’s being promoted on the pages of these magazines.

Below you’ll find the median starting price for recommended hotels along with general observations about each magazine.Afar$392- 16 hotels mentioned in March/April 2012 issue

Afar is one of the most visually appealing magazines in the world but all that beauty doesn’t come cheap. The March/April issue has a delightfully vulgar spread on luxury tents, including a place called Banyan Tree in the Maldives that runs a cool $3,165 per night, and the Oberoi Rajvilas Jaipur, where one night of luxury camping will cost you just a bit less than what the average Indian makes in a year. There’s nothing like retreating to an $898 per night tent after a day spent experiencing India’s grinding poverty, right?

Even most of the volunteer opportunities Afar recommends are beyond my budget. One offers guests with $1,190 to spare the opportunity to spend three nights in a boutique hotel in Cambodia that helps feed and educate children, and another, Liz Caskey Culinary and Wine Experiences, charges guests $550 per day for the chance to take a food and wine tour and help build shelters for earthquake victims in Chile. Hopefully they build the shelters first and drink the wine afterwards.

Condé Nast Traveler$310- 29 hotels recommended in the March 2012 issue

The pages of CNT are filled with great writing and compelling photography but are also saturated with hotels, restaurants, and products I can’t afford. There is one recommended hotel where rates start at less than $100 and 11 with rates starting at more than $400. They also endorse: a navy Louis Vuitton jacket that goes for $3,050; an ugly, ostentatious, $1,850 Proenza Schouler camera case; and a $256 tasting menu at Noma, a swanky restaurant in Copenhagen.

Zimbabwe is supposed to be a more affordable safari destination compared to South Africa or Namibia, but CNT contributor Joshua Hammer admits that his 10-day trip costs $6,708, or just about 10 times what a Zimbabwean makes in a year. Good for Hammer, though. He may have singlehandedly provided a jolt to Zimbabwe’s faltering economy.

Travel & Leisure$210- 46 hotels recommended in April 2012 issue

T + L is always jam-packed with good travel tips and they slum it with more moderate hotel recommendations than some of the other magazines. But it’s still a showplace for wildly expensive hotels, restaurants and products. The April issue offers some T + L “reader exclusives,” like a $500 per night hotel in Dublin (K Club Hotel & Spa) and a $329 per night hotel on Lake Como, (Grand Hotel Tremezzo) that aren’t exactly a steal.

T + L also recommends Noma, along with a $3,200 snakeskin leather purse, an $845 nylon jacket by S’ Max Mara, and the Il Pellicano Hotel in Porto Ercole, Italy, where room rates start at $819 per night, not including breakfast.

National Geographic Traveler$227- 10 hotels recommended in March/April 2012 issue

This is my favorite travel magazine and not just because they once flew me to Oaxaca, Mexico (from Macedonia, no less). You won’t find many examples of mindless consumerism in NGT but their hotel recommendations are still usually of the high-end variety.

Lonely Planet Magazine$151- 48 hotels recommended in March 2012 issue

This U.K.-based magazine manages to look pretty while featuring plenty of moderately priced accommodation and dining options. The Lonely Planet guidebook series has tried to go more upmarket in recent years but you won’t find $3,000 purses and the like here. Still, only 10% of their recommended lodging options start at $100 or less.

Budget Travel$122- 6 hotels recommended in March/April 2012 issue

I love this magazine, which is geared towards skinflints like me, but where are all the advertisers? At 76 pages, its most recent issue is considerably skinnier than the others mentioned above, which suggests that advertisers don’t give a damn about reaching people like me.

Perhaps all the high-end recommendations the glossy travel magazines make are just good business sense. And I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t like these magazines. They’re all worth reading, especially in light of the fact that they’re all pretty much giving away subscriptions these days. Still, it’d be nice to see a bit more on places and things I can actually afford. What about you, would you like to see travel publications focus a bit more on moderately priced travel options?

Note: The rooms at the hotels surveyed could cost a bit more or less depending on when you book, how many are in your party, etc. A few of the recommended hotels include half or full board or other amenities but the vast majority does not.

Images via Nelson Theroux, Carendt242, and John Picken on Flickr.

Exclusive tour lets you go inside the Russian Space Program

If you missed your chance to sign up for Space Camp or just want a closer look at the Russian approach to space exploration, an exclusive tour inside the Russian Space Program this fall may be for you. Operated by the Mir Corporation (no relation to the former Russian Space Station), Inside the Russian Space Program will give you a near-space experience with opportunities to see a manned Soyuz launch and tour a mock-up of the International Space Station (ISS), among other activities that are far beyond the reach of most travelers.The 10-day, $14,000 tour scheduled for October 9-18, 2012, is led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and provides exclusive access and insight into Roscosmos, Russia’s Space Program. Sandwiched between tours of Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and Mission Control in Moscow, the tour will include a trip to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where participants can get behind-the-scene glimpses of the manned Soyuz rocket launch to the International Space Station. For an extra fee, travelers can sign up to attend Cosmonaut training, which includes a familiarization ride on the world’s largest centrifuge, a zero gravity flight, and a chance to wear a Russian Orlan space suit.

Although this is very much a 21st century tour, some of the activities on the itinerary can’t help but hearken back to the days of the Soviet Space Program, thereby making this a fascinating tour for Cold War history buffs. To wit, there are excursions to the Star City Museum, which has a reproduction of Yuri Gagarin’s office among other rockets, satellites, space capsules, and simulators; the Cold War Museum Bunker; the Gagarin Start, the original launchpad from which the Sputnik missions launched; and the Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery, where famous Russians, such as Chekhov and Khrushchev, as well as a number of cosmonauts are buried.

Serena Hotels: Opulence amidst squalor and bloodshed

Anyone for a game of badminton and a round of emerald-hunting in Pakistan’s Swat Valley? Or perhaps you fancy a beach resort on the shores of Lake Kivu, just minutes from the Democratic Republic of Congo?

The March/April issue of Foreign Policy features an interesting story and photo gallery on the luxury Serena hotel chain, which they dub the “Ritz Carlton of Failed States.” The chain, which originated in Africa in the 70s, operates luxury hotels in a variety of dodgy places, including Pakistan, Kabul, Rwanda, Tajikistan, Mozambique and others. The Serena hotels are operated by an economic development fund founded by the Aga Khan, a spiritual leader for Shia Ismaili Muslims.

FP reports the Kabul Serena (see photo above), which has been attacked three times has rooms that start at $356 per night. The chain has been criticized for partnering with the Assad regime in Syria on the development of hotels in Damascus and Aleppo, but Aga Khan told FP that the company’s involvement in conflict zones brings “an investment seal of approval” that helps attract more foreign investment. The hotels also create jobs in countries with high unemployment.

But is there something unseemly about a luxury hotel which features “holistic health and wellness services,” a pastry shop, swimming pool, a “mind, body and spirit spa,” and other amenities in an impoverished, failed state like Afghanistan? FP’s slideshow juxtaposes scenes of opulence at the Serena hotels with images of children sorting through trash, smoldering buildings, and tin roof shacks.

One can certainly quibble with the high prices and unnecessary luxuries of these hotels, but the notion that aid workers, journalists, government officials, and businessmen should stay in slum-like conditions while traveling to conflict states is far-fetched. The reality is that many of these people are stuck in very primitive, dangerous conditions, sometimes for weeks, months or even years, and only get to repair to places like the Serena hotels for well-deserved R & R’s.

I certainly wouldn’t begrudge a Medicins Sans Frontieres volunteer who spent the last six months treating sick children in the Congo a long weekend at the luxury Serena resort in Rwanda. That said, a case can be made that holing foreigners up in luxury hotels allows them to exist in a fairytale bubble, where they are insulated from what’s going on in the country at large. What do you think?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.