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Long flights suck. Luckily, there’s a better way to handle that 14-hour transpacific flight, and it  doesn’t involve slamming a pinot grigio. At least, it doesn’t entirely involve slamming a pinot grigio. Transform your next long haul flight from drab to fab with a free stopover in an island paradise.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. You can pack the fun of two vacations into one with a simple multi-day stopover built into the price of your return flight home. The Pacific is full of fantastic places to “pull over to the side of the road,” hop out, and see a few things on your way back to that miserable cubicle. Delay the inevitable return to normal life for a few more hours with a built-in (often free) stopover in Fiji, Hawaii, or the Philippines. Worst case scenario, you’ll get to work on your tan.

Stopover vs. Layover

A stopover and a layover might seem like the same thing, but I titled this article “Guide to Free Stopovers” for a specific reason. Here’s a little insight into airport jargon so you don’t make the mistake of booking a “layover” when what you really want is a “stopover.”

What is a Layover?

A layover is a stop between two connecting flights. The time between flights can vary, but typically a domestic layover means you’ll be sitting in the airport hunting for a power outlet for anywhere between 30 minutes and 4 hours.

International layovers can be as long as 23 hours and 59 minutes, so make sure you do the time zone math for your destination. Triple check that you don’t have one of those little “+1 day” notifications on your flight because that can mean the difference between a quick layover and a brutal stopover. Getting burned with a whole wasted day is no fun if you aren’t ready for it.

What is a Stopover?

Stopovers are connections that exceed the accepted layover time. Domestic flights with connections over 4 hours are considered “stopovers,” as are international flights over 24 hours. The difference between the two terms matters, because that’s how the airline books flights, and it affects frequent flyer programs.

If you’re redeeming miles, eligibility for a “stopover” ticket varies. Delta, imposes a strict “no stopover” policy when it comes to award flights. While Alaska Airlines offers free stopovers in Fiji on one-way award flights to Australia or New Zealand, even if you book with one of their partners. Just something to look out for. Click to continue…

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I banged my forehead against the wall, silently cursing myself for signing up for this class.

Scattered in front of me were several novels, each at least four inches thick.

On my computer screen, the blinking cursor in the middle of a blank Word doc taunted me. Where, oh where, was my paper that was due in less than 10 hours?

I felt like it was jammed down the back of my throat. Jammed to a place I’d never been and couldn’t find. A place that I didn’t know existed until I signed up for a course on J.R.R. Tolkien and found out that place’s name: Middle-Earth.

Definition: Middle-Earth: A fantasy land populated by dwarves, elves, hobbits, and the like; a world set in a wild, rugged world that looks remarkably like New Zealand.

Instantly recognizable to movie goers as the visually-striking world that director Peter Jackson, director, brought to life in the stunning Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Many years ago when I was yanking a paper out, word by word, for my midterm in a Tolkien class, I never thought I’d want to visit the Shire.

Peter Jackson, you charming devil, changed that feeling by filming all three Lord of the Rings movies in jaw-dropping New Zealand.

Basic Packing List

If you’re headed to New Zealand, this is your basic packing list. Start here and then tweak for the region you’re visiting and the time of year. There’s a big difference between the sunny north coast of the north island, with palm trees, and watching penguins surf ashore outside of Oamaru on the cold, drizzly south coast of the south island in winter.

  • Waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Scarf to ward off chills
  • Long-sleeve layers
  • T-shirts to layer
  • Tank tops to layer
  • Sunglasses
  • Fellowship of the Ring
  • Two Towers
  • The Return of the King

Click to continue…

Remember those beach weekends where you tried to squeeze every last minute of available time jumping through crashing waves and flipping in that heavily chlorinated hotel pool? When the fortieth call of, “We’re leaving in five minutes!” finally arrived, you dripped the whole way to the car and then there were only two options. You’d either wind up sitting in that soggy, gross, wet bathing suit for the duration of the journey home or you’d jam soaking wet stuff into a plastic grocery bag or ziplock in hopes of keeping the rest of the luggage damp and mildew-infested.

Travel has changed since we were kids.  Today we all have mini-computers in the palms of our hands, can book accommodation with the click of a button in the middle of the night and can even get our groceries delivered by drone. Regardless of the newfound technologies, most travelers still do their best to take in every last possible minute of each extraordinary adventure and those wet bathing suits still remain something to ‘deal with.’ Can we agree that the plastic bags are a drag and don’t work that well? Now, there’s a better way: Enter the wet/dry bag.

The Wet/Dry Bag

Many weekend and urban travelers pack everything in one bag. Those ‘going out’ outfits snuggle in next to your swimsuit, sweaty gym kit, or snow-angel attire and it all (usually) makes its way home. We head straight off the slopes, straight from the mud-run, straight from the three day thru-hike, or directly from the pool to our method of transport home and everything still gets thrown in that one bag.

Aimed at keeping your adventurous spirit in tact and keeping your gear from getting ruined, the Outbreaker wet/dry bag is a perfect addition to your travel pack.

The Specs

  • Dimensions: 10x10x5” (packed)
  • Volume: 8 liters
  • Weight: .2 lb
  • Material: Waterproof sailcloth/Duraflex buckle
  • Features: Anti-fungal/anti-microbial coating

Click to continue…