(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - A Los Angeles family visiting the British capital was left amazed when they came face-to-face with actor James Phelps (aka Fred Weasley), who then took them on a one-off VIP tour of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London -- The Making of Harry Potter.
Phelps, who played one-half of the Weasley brothers in the blockbuster movies, met the Johnson family as they visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London -- The Making of Harry Potter. The actor then took them on a very special tour of the studio.
The family, consisting of mum Sam, Victoria (14), Daniel (13) and Adam (11) knew the trip involved a Harry Potter theme, but had no idea they would be embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime tour with one of the stars of the movie series.
The Johnson family, which runs a successful LA-based charity that helps local children overcome bullying, were picked by the city's official tourism body, VisitLondon.com, for a special trip as part of the Fans of London tourism drive for the capital.
Speaking about his day with the Johnsons, Phelps said: "I had such a great time with Adam, Victoria and Daniel, showing them around the film sets, telling them stories about when we shot the films and even teaching them a few magic tricks...London is one of my favourite places in the world and fans of Harry Potter can still enjoy so much of its magic across the city."
"My mum used to read the books to me and my brother and sister even before we were born," said Harry Potter 'super fan', Adam Johnson. "When I think of Harry Potter I always think of London. Our trip was so much fun, especially meeting James Phelps, and I really wish I had a real-life Firebolt broomstick so that I could fly back to London whenever I want!"
Fans of London celebrating the blockbuster events across London this year, such as The Queen's 90th birthday celebrations, 400 years of Shakespeare's legacy and the world's first exhibition on the Rolling Stones, EXHIBITIONISM. For the chance to win a trip to London, go to www.visitlondon.com/fans.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - For many people, the words “Florida vacation” conjure up images of theme parks and beaches. But head inland and away from the major cities, and you’ll quickly realize that there’s so much more to the Sunshine State. Cattle ranches, historic architecture, some of the nation’s oldest wineries and more dot the landscape as you explore the state’s interior. Streamsong Resort, located about 45 minutes southeast of Tampa, is one getaway catering to an increasing number of tourists who want to experience this other side of Florida, off the beaten path.
Once covered in prehistoric seas, Streamsong’s land had a long life as the site of a phosphate mine before reclamation efforts transformed the secluded parcel into a golf resort with two of the nation’s top courses. Decades of mining contributed to the land’s unique characteristics, producing millions of cubic yards of sand that, over time, morphed into dramatic dunes. Here you see osprey, not seagulls, nesting in high perches; the largest body of water on the property is better suited for bass fishing instead of body surfing; and there’s one palm tree on the entire 16,000 acres.
“So many guests tell us that, if they didn’t know better, they would never guess they were in Florida,” says Streamsong’s general manager, Rich Mogensen. “Streamsong is truly like nothing else in the state.”
At its core, Streamsong is a golf resort -- home to the nationally acclaimed Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue, but increasingly guests visit for other reasons. They want to test their skill on the sporting clays and archery range, set deep in the heart of the secluded property. They want to take guided fishing excursions on the resort’s lakes, where largemouth bass average six pounds and often top eight. And they want to experience each of the six unique pools in the resort’s grotto-style AcquaPietra spa.
“Guests choose Streamsong because they don’t want the standard vacation,” Mogensen says. “We deliver by giving them a memorable experience -- one you can’t find anywhere else.”
For more information about Streamsong, visit www.streamsongresort.com or call 1-855-998-6549.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - Planning a Florida vacation? The greater Fort Lauderdale area is among the most popular South Florida destinations. For outdoor enthusiasts, Greater Fort Lauderdale features 23 miles of Blue Wave-certified beaches, as well as more than 300 miles of inland waterways for sightseeing. This beach resort destination offers a range of daytime and nighttime options for entertainment, shopping and dining.
The area is accessible via the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which offers flights from all major points in the United States and Canada. In addition, the Greater Fort Lauderdale area is home to the Port Everglades cruise port, which hosts a range of luxurious and popular cruise lines on a regular basis.
An affordable package now available in Fort Lauderdale makes it even easier to plan a vacation. The “Vacation Like a VIP” package features a variety of hotel upgrades and discounts on dining, shopping and entertainment to appeal to a range of travelers.
The Vacation Like a VIP package is available at 11 Lauderdale Luxe hotels, including the Diplomat Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Lago Mar Resort and Club, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, Pelican Grand Beach Resort, Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, Royal Blues Hotel, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, W Fort Lauderdale and the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort.
The package includes free valet parking and a room upgrade at select Lauderdale Luxe hotels, along with a $25 American Express gift card and a $100 resort credit that may be used for food and beverage, golf, spa services, pool and beach cabana fees, water activities and kids’ programs (where available). The package also has options for free valet parking and a “Savings Passport” at the nearby Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass Mills, as well as a Summer Savings 2-for-1 card, valued at $200.
The Vacation Like a VIP package is available for travel between May 1 and September 30, 2016, with a minimum two-night stay. For more information, visit www.sunny.org/vip.
For additional information about how to make the most of your Florida vacation, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 22-SUNNY or visit www.sunny.org. You also can get the latest information, tips and advice on Florida travel by contacting the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau via social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Pinterest: @visitlauderdale.
(BPT) - With busy schedules and jam packed to-do lists, people often view vacations as a time to simply lounge by the beach and soak up the sun. And while that may sound like paradise, when was the last time you truly pursued a passion, goal or curiosity?
Vacation is a great time to take your goals and passions off the back burner. A learning vacation can help you reclaim old interests and discover places you never knew existed. One of the best learning vacation destinations is in western New York State. Home of Chautauqua Institution and many other learning venues, it’s a place to both relax and grow your mind. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or all on your own, here are some of the best ways to learn on vacation:
Find a destination focused on education
Instead of booking a flight to your ordinary vacation spot, why not try somewhere new? Take an adventure to a destination known for learning. The Chautauqua Institution is known for its life-long and vacation learning program. This educational center founded in 1874 on Chautauqua Lake features 750 acres of historic buildings, vacation homes and cottages, the grand Athenaeum Hotel and a nine-week summer schedule filled with learning opportunities for all ages. Nearby, the City of Jamestown is home to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, the Robert H. Jackson Center for Justice and the Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy.
Go somewhere to learn a new activity
Is there a sport, activity or hobby you’ve always wanted to try? If you’re interested in birds or nature, choose to vacation in a place with recreational trails and nature gardens. If you’ve always wanted to give skiing or snowboarding a shot, find a resort like Peek’n Peak Resort in Chautauqua County with learning academies focused on winter sports as well as golf. From sailing and kayaking to fly fishing and stand up paddling, the possibilities are endless for what you can learn in western New York.
Be adventurous with food and drink
Make a point to try a dish you’ve never tasted at least once per day on your vacation. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and taste the local cuisine. Wherever you’re staying, ask for recommendations on which restaurants to check out. You could even poll some locals to find the best places to go for coffee, and any other must-visit places. Wine enthusiasts can research local wineries to schedule tours and tastings to discover a new favorite and learn how it’s made. Lake Erie Wine Country has several wineries, events and attractions to keep you informed and entertained while relaxing on vacation.
Make travel friends
Traveling gives you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Strike up a conversation with the couple or family next to you at lunch and you could end up making some life-long friendships. Staying in a locally owned hotel or bed and breakfast can also be easy ways to interact with new people on a daily basis. Look for dining and sight-seeing partners; you never know who you’ll meet.
Put a fresh spin on your vacation planning this year. Design a learning vacation, enjoy new experiences and return home feeling revived and refreshed. For more information and educational ideas, visit www.tourchautauqua.com.
(BPT) - Travel season is upon us, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics says the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is among the busiest of the year, with more than 98 million people traveling throughout the season last year. These busy, unassuming travelers could be a hacker’s ideal target, as more than half of respondents in a 2015 survey say that they rarely take precautions like changing online banking or financial account passwords regularly.
“Cybercrime can be at an all-time high during the holiday season, especially as busy consumers move from place to place and don’t take the same precautions with their portable devices that they might normally have at home,” says Dr. Kenneth L. Williams, Ph.D., cyber expert and professor in the College of Engineering & Information Sciences at DeVry University. “Ill-informed travelers are a hacker’s ideal target, so travelers must be accountable for their own protection.”
With travel booking on mobile devices becoming increasingly popular and travelers’ near-constant smart phone use on the road, the threat continues to rise. Today, more than 16 million mobile devices in circulation are infected with some form of malware, a 25 percent increase over the past two years. This high number of malware infections is often due to a gap in knowledge on how consumers can protect themselves from a cyber criminal’s attack.
Dr. Williams offers these tips for travelers to protect themselves from cybercrime this holiday season:
Use Personal Hotspots: Do not use public Wi-Fi networks as these can be a landmine for cyber hackers, and instead opt to use your phone or tablet’s personal hotspot.
Be Mindful on Public Networks: Don’t share credit card information over hotel networks, like on-demand menus or hotel services, since these systems are easy for hackers to access.
Shutdown Wireless Services You Aren’t Using: Shut down wireless services, like Bluetooth, if you do not need them.
Don’t Leave Your Devices Unattended: Protect your devices like cash when you’re in public places like hotels and resorts; thieves and hackers always go where the money is.
Charge with Caution: While convenient, avoid charging your mobile devices from a computer or charging station you do not control, like at an airport terminal.
“In today’s economy, no one is safe in any irregular circumstance when it comes to their cyber activity,” says Dr. Williams. “New and seasoned travelers alike need to take a step back and notice the new opportunities cyber criminals now have to steal their data.”
To avoid being a statistic as one of the 4,000 cyber-attacks that happen each day, holiday travelers must take the right precautions to protect their personal data this holiday season.
(BPT) - Wherever you are in the United States, winter is coming, and for some parts of the country it’s already here. That brings festivities, good cheer, and in at least 70 percent of the country, snow and ice on the roads. While you may think those big, old plow trucks look like something vaguely Jurassic and definitely old fashioned, there is an awful lot of high tech stuff in those plows, helping to keep our roads safe and traffic moving during these winter months.
Of course, all vehicles are a lot more high-tech than they were 10 years ago, but the whole winter maintenance field is undergoing a bit of a revolution with respect to technology. That new technology is beginning to have a profound and beneficial effect not only on your local streets department or highway agency, but also on the safety of the roads in winter, and the ease with which we can travel on them. Salting and plowing can reduce crashes by up to 88 percent in winter storm conditions, and that is a level of safety we can all appreciate.
Some of those changes can be quite obvious to us, as in the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) “Track a plow” website. On that website, anyone can see in near real time where any of the Iowa DOT trucks are located. For many of those trucks, you can also view a photograph taken through the windshield of the truck, which is updated every five minutes, so you get a real idea of what the actual road conditions look like. You can also see which trucks are applying materials to the road (and whether it is a solid or a liquid) and in what quantities. As Dr. Anna Arvidsson of VTI, the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, said of the website, “Wow, that is so cool. I could not even get access to historical data from snowplows in Sweden. And here I can see temperatures both air and surface and spread amount.”
The value of this sort of system to road users is pretty obvious - we can see what the roads are like for ourselves along the route we are planning on taking, and thus make a well-informed decision as to whether we should allow more time for our trip, or perhaps simply stay home. The City of Chicago has a similar system that allows city residents (and anyone else who is interested) to see where the city plows are in near real time.
The benefits of the system extend to commercial transportation as well. A severe winter storm that closes down roads across a whole state may cost the economy up to $700 million per day, so knowing the conditions of the roads can be very important.
But there is another area in which technology is bringing huge changes in winter maintenance, and that is in the whole arena of managing resources. Increasingly, the salt spreaders on the back of those plow trucks are computer controlled, and the computers track not just how much material they are putting down on the road, but where they are placing it, so environmentally sensitive areas can be protected more effectively.
These devices are also tracking the condition of the road surface itself, measuring the pavement temperature (which, much more so than the air temperature determines how effective salt will be when it is placed on the pavement, and guides how much salt should be applied) and in some cases, even measuring the grip of the pavement (how slippery it is) and using that information directly to adjust the application rate.
This new technology allows agencies to provide the level of service on the roads the public wants and needs, while controlling costs and essentially eliminating any environmental concerns about salt use. Kevin Hensley, the stormwater supervisor for the City of West Des Moines, noted new technology allows their agency to manage their activities much better because they can measure what they are doing so much more effectively. “If we can measure it, then we can manage it so much better,” he says.
Better management has some real bottom line benefits for taxpayers, too. “We have decreased our per-storm maintenance costs by between 30 and 50 percent while providing an improved level of service to our community,” says Bret Hodne, the director of Public Works for the City of West Des Moines. Those sorts of savings will keep you feeling warm and toasty inside, no matter how chilly the winter weather gets!
(BPT) - Planning a trip for 2016? While the beach is warm and a cruise ship is lovely, you’ve done those trips before. This year you want something unique that will create lasting memories and bring you closer to your family.
“More people are visiting dude ranches due to the desire to do something out of the ordinary,” says Colleen Hodson, from The Dude Ranchers' Association. “These aren’t the ranches from ‘City Slickers.’ High-end ranches across the country average 45 guests. You get to know everyone. By the end, you’ll have friendships and memories to last a lifetime, and you will reconnect with your family in a way you never thought possible.”
Travelers enjoy getting a taste of the dude ranch experience blended with a heaping serving of other popular vacation-type activities. Today’s dude ranches cater to a diverse crowd with attractions, services and things to do that travel far beyond the trail.
“Dude ranches are the original Western adventure vacation,” says Colleen Hodson. “Though guest expectations have changed and ranchers have had to change with them, the core principles of dude ranching remain the same: horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart.”
In addition to discovering the beauty of nature and gazing into a crackling fire, here are other top reasons dude ranch vacations are a top trend for 2016:
Indulge the taste buds
Home cooked cuisine that oftentimes features ingredients from the ranch brings new meaning to farm-to-table eating. From family-style meals to gourmet al fresco dining, the food is a central part of the dude ranch experience.
Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure
You can learn traditional ranching skills like riding a horse, driving cattle and throwing a lasso, but adventures on a dude ranch don’t stop there. Some ranches offer overnight pack trips, rodeos, target shooting, zip lining and white water rafting.
Enjoy exclusive fishing
Casting your line has never been more relaxing than at a dude ranch. The vast acres on these private properties often include secluded rivers and ponds ripe with fish. Forget about battling overcrowded hot spots - the water will be all yours.
Embrace an R&R mindset
While the unique dude ranch activities will keep you busy, there comes a time when cowboys and cowgirls just want a little rest and relaxation. Fortunately, many ranches now offer luxury spa services so you can enjoy a little pampering.
Bond over some friendly competition
Looking for a fun way to connect with your family and other guests? Friendly competition can be found in many forms on dude ranches, from roping contests to talent shows. If lassoing a speeding calf isn’t your forte, you can sing, tap or joke your way to local stardom in a talent show.
There are a lot of dude ranches to choose from and The Dude Ranchers' Association can help you find the perfect one to suit your family’s unique personality. Visit www.duderanch.org or call 866-399-2339 to work with someone directly to find the dude ranch right for you and your family.