TIME

How the Germanwings Co-Pilot Was Able to Lock Himself In

Safety measures brought in after 9/11 may have helped the co-pilot barricade himself in the cockpit

The fatal crash of a German airliner in the French Alps, apparently a deliberate act by the plane’s co-pilot, seems to have been made possible by security measures brought in following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks intended to make air travel safer.

On Thursday, French officials said it appeared as if co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had deliberately downed Germanwings Flight 9525 by locking the cockpit door and refusing to allow the captain back inside. The crash killed all 150 on board.

If that is what happened, it would be an indirect result of tightened security measures implemented by airlines in the U.S. and around the world in the aftermath of 9/11, when 19 hijackers overcame crew and passengers and flew the planes into buildings in New York and Washington D.C.

In 2002, the FAA announced higher standards to protect pilots. Cockpit doors in airliners were made stronger while remaining locked throughout the flight. The FAA also mandated internal locking devices inside the cockpit to preventing someone from entering. But those restrictions, meant to prevent similar hijackings, may also have allowed Lubitz to prevent someone else from entering the flight deck as he piloted the jet into a mountainside.

“The procedures put in place to prevent one bad thing from happening facilitated another bad thing happening,” says Jeff Price, an aviation management professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

On an Airbus A320, a locked cockpit door can be opened through a nearby keypad—as shown in this Airbus video—but that can be overridden by an individual still inside the cockpit via a switch that can keep the cockpit door locked. “That act of fully locking the system down has made this event possible,” says aviation expert Chris Yates. “Pilots use that access keypad to wander into the cockpit anytime they choose, but it can be overridden from inside, and that seems to be the problem.”

Yates says one way to potentially avoid a similar situation would be to take out the locking mechanism altogether. But a simpler fix might be for all airlines to do as the U.S. has done since 9/11 and require a flight attendant to be inside the cockpit if one of the pilots is away. While some carriers have already begun doing this since the crash, many in Europe and across the world still don’t mandate it.

“U.S. airlines have been doing this since 9/11,” Price says. “And if the pilot decides to commit mass murder, there’s somebody else up there to open a door or notify somebody or take some sort of action.”

MORE How Pilots Are Screened for Depression and Suicide

Thomas Anthony, the director of the University of Southern California Aviation Safety and Security program, says there’s no one fix that would help prevent a similar incident. For any aviation mishap, he says, there are always four or five contributing factors, citing the Airbus’s strengthened cockpit doors as well as less interchange between the cabin crew and the flight crew, which he says has created a more isolated environment inside the cockpit. And he thinks any investigation into the downing of the German airliner will attempt to address this sort of insider threat.

“Every security measure that is taken has a price and often an unintended consequence,” Anthony says. “But I expect this will be a watershed event.”

Read next: Germanwings Plane Crash: We Could Be Doing Much More To Prevent Pilot Suicide

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TIME Travel

Become a Spontaneous Traveler by Using These Apps

woman-holding-luggage
Getty Images

Get packing now

Procrastinators, rejoice: a new crop of digital tools can help you book an entire trip in a matter of minutes, even mere hours before takeoff. So get packing.

Find your flight: The key to getting a last-minute deal is flexibility. The website Adioso lets you browse fares from your departure city to anywhere in the world and sort by price. Kayak’s Explore charts airfares on a global map to show how far your money can go. And the Get The Flight Out app (iOS) puts the cheapest day-of fares—from Orbitz, Travelocity, and others—on an easy-to-scan interface. Our best find: New York to Stockholm for $494 round-trip.

Book a room: HotelTonight (Android; iOS) is popular for its sleek design and curated picks; we like the new Rate Drop feature, which knocks down same-day prices after 3 p.m. For even deeper savings, try Hotels.com—last-minute deals start at 50 percent off. Booking.com’s just-launched app, Booking Now (iOS), claims the largest inventory, with more than 580,000 properties. To avoid information overload, the app learns your preferences and suggests hotels accordingly.

Plan your itinerary: Figure out how to fill your days with the help of Utrip, a website that can create itineraries in 37-plus cities throughout the U.S. and Europe. Users take a quick survey (Do you like mellow days or packed schedules? Do you prefer hiking or fine dining?) and provide their budget and dates. Utrip then calculates a day- by-day schedule with restaurants, sightseeing, and more— along with interactive maps to guide you along.

Make dinner reservations: Forget about booking 30 days ahead: apps like Table8 (Android; iOS) and Resy (Android; iOS) can find you a same-day seat at of- the-moment restaurants in five U.S. cities for a fee of up to $50 per booking. We scored a prime-time Saturday table at A.O.C., in Los Angeles, for $20 with Table8 and an $18 reservation at New York City hot spot Claudette via Resy.

All-in-one: If you’re looking to book airfare, rooms, rental cars, and excursions all at once, LastMinuteTravel.com sells heavily discounted package deals. Just be prepared to deal with a clunky user experience. For $50, you can join their membership club, which adds another 10 percent to your savings, on average.

Tom Samiljan is Travel + Leisure‘s Tech Correspondent.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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MONEY Airlines

$15 Flights to Europe—and 7 More Ways the Least Trustworthy Airline Has Misled Travelers

Ryanair plane taking off
Ryanair

Ryanair's turnabout this week on cheap transatlantic flights is hardly the only reason travelers might not trust Europe's most infamous high-fee, low-cost airline.

Airlines aren’t exactly renowned as the most honest, upfront, and trustworthy of businesses. Years ago, the industry told travelers that fees for checked baggage were necessary to cover the cost of higher fuel prices. Fuel surcharges were added as well, supposedly for the same reason. Yet even as fuel prices have plummeted, fuel surcharges remain commonplace and baggage fees are pricier and more widespread than ever.

For that matter, travelers have constantly been told that the “debundling” of the airline ticket, in which passengers pay fees a la carte for only the services they want, results in lower prices for strictly the flights themselves. How that concept jibes with the fact that average airfares have soared to all-time highs (over $500) for domestic round trips is rather puzzling.

Among this untrustworthy bunch, European low-fare carrier Ryanair is routinely considered the worst of the pack. Led by brash, headline-grabbing CEO Michael O’Leary—known for calling customers “idiots” for thinking they won’t be hit with fees at the airport, among other things—Ryanair has a long, storied history of bad, misleading behavior.

In the latest incident that turned out to be completely untrue, it was widely reported this week that Ryanair’s board had approved the launch of a series of transatlantic flight routes, with promotional fares from Europe to the U.S. starting for as little as £10 ($15) one way. Within days of the report, however, Ryanair released a statement that completely negated the earlier stories, clarifying that the board “has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so.”

It’s hardly the first time that Ryanair appears to have blatantly misled travelers around the world, likely for purposes including but not limited to generating huge amounts of cheap publicity. Here’s a look at some other sketchy or downright untrue things that Ryanair has claimed over the years.

It’ll sell standing-room-only tickets. In 2012, O’Leary claimed that the airline was close to introducing a standing-room-only section on short-haul flights within Europe. Fares would supposedly start as cheap as £1 ($1.50) for passengers who would stand up rather than require a seat during their travels. The airline later stated that it had no plans for an SRO section on planes.

Seatbelts don’t matter. To make the argument that passengers can fly safely while standing, O’Leary was widely quoted saying, “Seatbelts don’t matter,” and compared the issue to other forms of travel: “You don’t need a seatbelt on the London Underground. You don’t need a seatbelt on trains which are travelling at 120 mph and if they crash you’re all dead.” Also, he noted, “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you.” If nothing else, however, pilots and air safety regulators point out that in the event of turbulence passengers are more likely to be injured when not wearing a seatbelt.

It actually flies to Paris. More than a decade ago, a German court ruled that Ryanair must stop claiming that it flies to Dusseldorf when, in fact, the true airport destination is an old military airfield in Weeze, 42 miles away from Dusseldorf. It’s common for low-cost carriers to use secondary airports rather than those nearest to city centers in order to keep costs down, but Ryanair has been dubbed the “ultimate bait-and-switch airline” because its gateway listings are so often misleading. A SkyScanner report about the world’s Most Misleadingly Named Airports focused in particular on popular gateways used by Ryanair including Paris-Vatry (Disney) and Paris (Beauvais), which are, respectively, 93 miles and 55 miles outside of Paris. Despite its billing, the former is also 70 miles from Disneyland Paris.

It’ll charge for in-flight bathrooms. With the hopes of encouraging passengers to use the restroom before boarding planes, Ryanair previously announced plans to charge fees for bathroom breaks on its aircraft, and has also floated the possibility of removing toilets in order to make room for more revenue-generating seats. Understandably, such measures drew an outcry among travelers and regulators, and in retrospect seem like ploys to generate attention.

And in-flight porn. Talk about a marketing stunt to generate attention! Yes, a few years ago O’Leary made headlines by announcing that his latest moneymaking idea would be an app that would charge passengers to watch erotic movies on tablets and smartphones. Gambling and games would be available too, for a charge. “I’m not talking about having it on screens on the back of seats for everyone to see. It would be on handheld devices,” O’Leary said. “Hotels around the world have it, so why wouldn’t we?”

It considered a “fat tax” too. In 2009, Ryanair surveyed 100,000 passengers on the topic of how to save the airline money, and the top vote getter, receiving the support of 30% of those polled, was an extra fee for overweight passengers. Granted, this wasn’t the most serious or scientific survey: Participants weighed in because by doing so they had a chance to win free flights, and the second most popular money-saving scheme among voters was charging money for toilet paper with Michael O’Leary’s face on it. Remarkably, the South Pacific’s Samoa Air beat Ryanair to the punch by becoming the first airline to charge passengers by the pound in 2013.

It actually changed the way it does business. A year ago, not long after the airline was named as the worst customer service brand in all of Europe and described in the report as “aggressive and hostile towards customers,” Ryanair declared that it was instituting a wide range of service improvements and more customer-friendly policies to overhaul its image.

How is that working out? A (UK) Telegraph report in the fall noted that Ryanair has indeed followed through on several customer-friendly changes, including “a new allowance for a second, small carry-on bag, a reduction of the number of clicks required to book on its new website, allocated seating, several family-friendly innovations and more discreet selling of its food and other ancillary services on board.” Still, Ryanair continues to receive around 80,000 complaints per year, and as one Telegraph reporter put it, even after the “changes” have been made, “The in-flight experience was the same and the inflight food is still a rip off.”

TIME Travel

These Are America’s Best Food Cities

Take your pick from street food to specialty gourmet markets and high-end restaurants

Whether they were craving French fusion, peanut-butter-and-kimchi sandwiches or the perfect piece of fried chicken, Travel+Leisure readers ranked the cities that make their mouths water.

When she’s visiting Los Angeles, Las Vegas restaurateur Elizabeth Blau—recently nominated for a James Beard award—does not concern herself with A-list seating at restaurants. “The first time I went to Gjelina,” she says of the acclaimed Venice café, “we got pizza and salads in the to-go area, then ate them while sitting on milk crates in the alley. It was so good.”

No surprise, Blau says that she plans her trips around restaurants, bakeries and markets, though many Travel+Leisure readers would attest that you don’t have to be a restaurateur to travel by your stomach. As part of the magazine’s America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 38 cities for qualities like walkable streets, historic appeal and art galleries—which, for some travelers, are just pleasant time-killers between meals.

Readers also ranked the 10 most crave-worthy features of a city, from the relatively low-cost indulgences of street food, coffee and bakeries to specialty gourmet markets, wine bars and high-end, chef-driven restaurants. (And throwing in plenty of burgers, pizza, craft beers and sandwiches.)

Among the winners—some perhaps boosted in the polls by their enthusiastic locals—we found a number of James Beard winners and nominees, as well as some fabulously creative twists on classics: “hot chicken” in Nashville, bison tartare in Minneapolis and pickle tasting plates in Chicago.

Sometimes, though, the simplest tastes are the most memorable—like the fresh, warm bread Blau once had at L.A. bakery Superba. “We only had crumbs in the bag by the time we left,” she says. “We had to go back and get more to bring home on the plane.”

 

  • 20. Seattle

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    D. Hurst / Alamy

    Readers ranked the city near the top for its food markets—no surprise, since the iconic Pike Place Market is a must-stop for many visitors. Locals, however, increasingly go to Pioneer Square for their gourmet cravings–like the fresh oysters at Taylor Oyster Bar and the specialty market at London Plane, which offers warm biscuits, croissants and Caffe Umbria coffee in the morning, and a wine bar in the evening. To continue your classic Seattle coffee-tasting tour, go to nearby Zeitgeist, which positioned itself early on as a heady Starbucks alternative, and which ups the hipster ante with movie screenings and exhibits by local artists. Readers, meanwhile, deemed the Gore-Tex-clad locals as both nerdy and athletic.

  • 19. San Francisco

    19-san-francisco
    Richard Seagraves

    How did the legendary hub for cutting-edge cuisine, great wine and strong coffee fall so far down the list? Maybe readers just expect so much from the city now—or perhaps they suffered a little sticker shock (it also ranked near the bottom for affordability, and readers deemed the locals a tad aloof). But Bay Area folks have earned the right to some ’tude: In fall 2014 Michelin awarded stars to a record 40 restaurants in San Francisco—including Benuand Saison, which both received three stars. To get an up-close look at everyday gourmet living, browse the vendors of Ferry Building Marketplace (like the wild mushrooms at Far West Fungi), or go behind the scenes with chefs through Avital Tours. To experience the great local wines without road-tripping to Napa, check out Bluxome Street Winery in the SoMa district.

  • 18. San Diego, California

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    Luis Garcia

    This sunny SoCal city gave our nation fish tacos, but also ranked highly with readers for brunch. Two great spots worth getting up for are in North Park: Waypoint Public, which offers a breakfast pot pie and morning-friendly beers (like an Austrian Grapefruit Radler), andStreetCar Merchants, which specializes in fried chicken and doughnuts. And while San Diego food snobs have given North Park much love in recent years, there is increasing buzz in Little Italy, home to New-American Juniper & Ivy, the oysters at Ironside, and the hotly anticipatedBracero Cocina, where chef Javier Plascencia will pay tribute to the history of Mexican farm workers. The city won the survey for nice weather, and also ranked well for clear people-watching.

  • 17. Dallas

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    Joy Zhang

    These sports-loving Texans tend to be meat lovers, ranking highly in the survey for both their barbecue (like Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum) and burgers (like the Sugar Burger with jalapeno jam, candied bacon and grilled peaches at Turtle Creek’s Rodeo Goat). But they also clean up nicely for brunch, like the green-chile-short-rib scramble or the banana-cream-pie French toast at Oddfellows in the Bishop Arts District. To keep abreast of the city’s up-and-comers, go to Trinity Groves, a 15-acre food hall in West Dallas that features permanent pop-up Kitchen LTO, which rotates in a new chef every few months. (The current chef offers a New American menu featuring chicken-fried ribeye). Readers’ favorite way to burn calories in Dallas was dancing in the well-ranked nightclubs.

  • 16. Louisville, Kentucky

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    Michael Ventura / Alamy

    For years, the Kentucky city has been famous for its cocktails—as in, its bourbon—as well as the Kentucky Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Mornay sauce, first created at The Brown Hotel. You can find variations all over town, like the Hot vs. Brown Fries (fries covered with melted beer cheese, roasted turkey, bacon and tomatoes) at Sidebar at Whiskey Row, on Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail. Giving bourbon a run for its money, though, Louisville also scored in the top 10 for its craft beers. Newcomers like Against the Grain offer creative brews—try the rye amber ale Attila the Hen, or the bourbon-inspired Bo and Luke Ale—alongside homey fare like a “pork and beans” made of Andouille sausage, sauerkraut and brisket baked beans. For retail indulgences, readers were most impressed with the city’s antique shops and flea markets.

  • 15. New Orleans

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    Chris Granger

    As a testament to the eclectic charm of the Crescent City, New Orleans won the survey for both fine dining and sandwiches. The former is embodied in grand dames like Brennan’s—the recently renovated birthplace of Bananas Foster—and newer spots like seafood-rich Balise(headed by Chef Justin Devillier of Le Petit Grocery), located in the city’s oldest French settlement. To fully appreciate the city’s most noteworthy sandwich, the po’ boy, try the roast beef and shrimp on French bread at Parkway Bakery & Tavern, or the glazed Pork Belly Poboy at Killer Poboys, located in the back of Erin Rose Bar, just off Bourbon Street. New Orleans also won the survey for festivals (often, just another chance to eat), like the Creole Tomato Festival and the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival.

  • 14. Philadelphia

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    Michael Persico

    The cheesesteak is almost as iconic in Philly as that big cracked bell, but the city’s high-ranking street food is not always so “street:” consider the $120 cheesesteak at Barclay Prime on Rittenhouse Square, made with Wagyu beef, foie gras and “truffled cheese whiz.” Indeed plenty of the city’s hottest cuisine strays from tailgate fare: Israeli eatery Dizengoff, on Sansom, has a rotating menu of hummus variations, while Charlie Was a Sinner is an all-vegan bar in Midtown Village. To experience the top-5 ranked pizza—and be part of the city’s brotherly love— go to Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Center City, where you can get a slice of the signature white pizza and kick in an extra $1.25 to buy a slice for a local homeless person.

  • 13. Chicago

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    John Gress/Corbis

    T+L readers tend to have a one-track mind when it comes to eating out in Chicago: the epic deep-dish pizza, found at mainstays like Pizano’s. But the Windy City also scored well for its chef-driven delights, like Dove’s Luncheonette from James Beard Award winner Chef Paul Kahan, which does Southern-meets-Mexican fare (say, buttermilk fried chicken with a chorizo-verde gravy). Pickling is still hot in the city—places like Owen and Engine and Big Jones do pickle-tasting plates—but readers also loved getting pickled themselves, as it were, in the city’s bars. One new watering hole, The Brass Monkey, in the Fulton Market District, embraces disco and ‘70s kitsch with Harvey Wallbangers, spiked Tang and a perfected, TV-dinner-style salisbury steak. The city gives you plenty of chances to walk it off, ranking highly for walkable streets and world-class parks.

  • 12. Austin, Texas

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    Wynn Myers

    The brainy hipsters in the Texas capital exude a unique brand of snobbery—an angsty nostalgia for the way the still-growing city used to be (even if they only moved here last month). These days, even newcomers can relive one of the city’s Tex-Mex classics, Taco Flats, since it has just been reborn on Burnet Road (and pronounce the street like a local: Burn-it). The city’s high-ranking barbecue has both old and new presentations: the traditional platters at Ironworks and Salt Lick, or the new, dare-we-say nostalgic style, served on butcher paper, at zeal-inspiring Franklin Barbecue. The city also won the survey for its ever-expanding supply of food trucks, like Down Home Diner in Hyde Park (try the Blanco hot dog, topped with peach salsa) and Kerlin BBQ, an East side trailer, which sells fresh kolaches, the addictive Czech pastries. You can always dance away the carbs: the city ranked near the top for its live music and festivals.

  • 11. Nashville

    Nashville ranked at a respectable No. 5 in the barbecue category, perhaps by straddling the line between the Memphis and Carolina styles. But the city has one food genre all its own: the hot chicken. This fried chicken with a serious kick—and often served on white bread—may also be the reason the city also ranked so highly for sandwiches. To eat the classic, go toPrince’s Hot Chicken Shack, then for comparison’s sake try Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, the relative new kid that offers a heat range from the not-hot “Southern” to a “Shut the Cluck Up,” washed down with a Coke float. The city also ranked well for coffee—like the pour-overs and coffee sodas at downtown’s Crema Coffee Roasters—while the caffeinated locals impressed readers by being friendly.

  • 10. New York City

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    Alice Gao

    The Big Apple may have ranked at the top of the survey for being expensive, but readers’ two favorite cuisines—fine dining and pizza—are proof that there is still a wide range to the city’s price spectrum. To dine alongside the city’s savvy foodies, go to the Lower East Side’s Dirty French, in the Ludlow Hotel—where classics get global twists, like duck a l’orange with Morroccan spices—or the Smyth Hotel’s locavore Little Park, from James Beard winner Andrew Carmellini. The latest pizza place to enter the fold is Marta, in the Martha Washington Hotel, which does Roman-style pizzas like a classic margarita or the veggie-friendly Cavolini, topped with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and pickled chili. To occupy themselves between meals, readers embraced the city’s high-ranking bookstores and luxury boutiques.

  • 9. Los Angeles

    Readers applauded Angelenos for always staying on trend, ranking them for being fashionable, hip and head-turningly hot. These days, the ahead-of-the-curve gourmands are eating in Chinatown, which is seeing a revival thanks to the rice bowls at Chego, the noodles at Ramen Champ and the blueberry-jasmine cones at Scoops artisanal ice cream (which also features a Cognoscenti coffee cart). And while L.A. has long been a leader in the fancy-burger movement, it still embraces its charbroiled roots. Case in point: Cassell’s Hamburgers, originally from the ‘50s, was recently reborn in Koreatown’s Hotel Normandie.

  • 8. Portland, Oregon

    These quirky Oregonians could easily be accused of embracing a liquid diet, ranking in the survey’s top five for its thoughtfully brewed coffee, craft beer and wine. To eat and drink in harmony, check out newbies like Coopers Hall, which has 44 taps of wine, beer, and cider paired with steak frites or croque-monsieurs; or BTU Brasserie, which boasts of being the nation’s first Chinese brewpub, with small plates of modern Chinese washed down with a rice lager. Or, try Kachka, a Russian restaurant opened by a James Beard nominee, where you can imbibe Eastern European wines, Baltic lagers and kvass, a beverage made from black and rye breads. Portland’s cuisine might be so adventurous thanks its open-minded locals, who ranked as highly quirky but also polite.

  • 7. Cleveland, Ohio

    The rust belt city offers some old-fashioned, even old-world, charms. Readers ranked it at No. 5 for its rich food halls, like West Side Market—with spices, baked goods and delis—which dates back to 1912, when it catered primarily to the city’s immigrants. Today, you can also still tuck into great Polish cuisine—like chicken paprikash, bratwurst, pirogues and stuffed cabbage—at Sokolowski’s University Inn, a James Beard American Classic award-winner now in its third generation of family ownership. Still, you don’t get into the top 10 by living completely in the past; Cleveland also delighted readers with its trendy street food and bars (like Happy Dog, where hot dogs come with vodka sauerkraut or Bloody Mary ketchup) and upscale, New-American spots like Lola Bistro, run by Iron Chef Michael Symon.

  • 6. Albuquerque, New Mexico

    The patron saint of this Southwestern city’s food scene has long been the fire-roasted green chili, which pops up on the local fry-bread tacos and cheeseburgers (like the classics at Monte Carlo Steakhouse and Liquor Store), or can be made into a sauce at your table at legendary spots like El Pinto. The city also ranked highly for its coffee: if you can’t come in late March for the annual Chocolate and Coffee Fest, you can always sample the city’s pine-nut-accented brews at the New Mexico Pinon Coffee Company. These New Mexicans got props from readers for being athletic; you can join local foodies on the chile, brewery or winery tours offered by Routes Bicycle Rentals & Tours.

  • 5. Minneapolis/St. Paul

    The Twin Cities clearly offer a calm haven for savoring your meal: readers ranked the cities highly for feeling relatively quiet, clean and safe. The nerve center for Minneapolis food snobs, though, is the North Loop’s Spoon and Stable—helmed by the former executive chef at NYC’s Café Boulud—where you can get heartland twists on fine dining, like bison tartare. If your taste runs to the quirky, check out Gyst, which celebrates “the art of fermentation” through sandwiches (like grilled cheese with spicy kraut, or peanut butter with kimchi) and house-made “kombucha,” a fermented sweet tea. Meanwhile, if you’re a burger purist, the local Juicy Lucies—with the cheese melted inside the patty, like the standard-bearers at the 5-8 Club and Matt’s Bar—belong on your bucket list.

  • 4. Atlanta

    The Georgia hub scored big points for keeping its Southern fare au courant. It ranked highly for diners, for instance—like the upscale Buckhead Diner, which does Kobe beef hot dogs, Niman Ranch pork chops and a veal-and-mushroom meatloaf. You can’t go wrong, though, with the classic fried chicken, followed by peach cobbler at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, an institution since 1945 (when female-owned eateries were dubbed “tea rooms”), and where today a hostess still offers back rubs at your table. The city also ranked well for its 21st-century food halls, likeKrog Street Market, where you can nosh from vendors like charcuterie The Cockentrice and the small-batch chocolates at Xocolatl. The city makes it easy to create your own tea-room vibe back at home: according to readers, Atlanta excels in antique and home decor shopping.

  • 3. Kansas City

    Readers may associate Kansas City primarily with its classic barbecue (the city beat out Memphis and all the Texas cities in the survey for ribs and such this year), but the city is more than just burnt ends. It also ranked fifth for fine dining—like Bluestem, helmed by a 2013 James Beard winner, and The American, which Beard himself helped open in the ‘70s. To taste the city’s newest takes on barbecue, try Cleaver & Cork, in the Power & Light District, which was launched by the folks behind artisanal butcher The Local Pig. Eating well in Kansas City need not involve a huge investment, either; it won the survey for feeling affordable.

  • 2. Providence, Rhode Island

    Ranking highly in the survey for its pedestrian-friendly streets and cool architecture, the Rhode Island capital makes it easy to work up an appetite. The city also landed at No. 2 for its legendary street food—like Haven Brothers, which serves lobster rolls, fries and shakes next to City Hall until 4 a.m.—and the local “grilled” pizza, perhaps topped with spicy soppressata at downtown’s Bacaro. To see why the city won the survey for bakeries, go to the Scialo Brothers Bakery, which first opened in 1916, and order one of the beloved sfogliatelle—a seashell-shaped cookie made with paper-thin layers of dough and sweet cream. The locals, meanwhile, won the survey for seeming geeky.

  • 1. Houston

    The business-travel hub staged a Texas-sized upset this year, winning the food category by offering an irresistible combination of refined tastes and downhome comfort. The city ranked at No. 1 in three separate food categories: burgers, brunch, and specialty food shops (likeRevival Market, where local gourmands stock up on artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and house-made pickles and jams). Houston also knows how to break free of American-style convention: one hot new place, Dak & Bop, does Korean-style fried chicken with spicy sauces, paired with blackberry chili margaritas. Speaking of burgers, though, it’s hard to leave town without enjoying one of the old-school, mustard-laced big boys at Lankford Grocery, or the acclaimed 3-oz. sliders at Little Bigs in the Museum District, which also offers a respectably long wine list—after all, the city ranked at No. 3 for vino.

    Read the original list HERE.

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    Read next: These Are the Best Coffee Shops in America

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MONEY Travel

How to Make the Most of the Strong Dollar on Your Summer Vacation

Rock of Cashel, Cashel County, Tipperary, Ireland
Patrick Swan—age fotostock Rock of Cashel, Cashel County, Tipperary, Ireland

Your money will go further in Europe, Canada—even Japan. Here's how to take full advantage of today's Superdollar.

Jane McManus can hardly believe her luck. The New York-based sportswriter for ESPN.com is planning a summer vacation with her family in Ireland.

Following the strength of the U.S. dollar, McManus upgraded their travel plans, reserving a swankier hotel room in Dublin and booking a couple of days at an actual 13th-century castle. The overall cost will be about 30% less than last summer’s vacation to Italy when the dollar was much weaker, McManus estimates.

“Wow, it’s so different,” she marvels.

With the Superdollar near parity with the euro, airfares to Paris are down 14% from a year ago, according to popular travel site Orbitz. Hotel rates have sunk 10% from last year.

London, Rome, and Barcelona are among other popular locales with cheaper hotels and airfares than last year, according to Orbitz data. Travel expert Brian Kelly, known as The Points Guy, also singles out Japan, thanks to the weak yen; Finland, the only Scandinavian country to use the euro; and South Africa, whose currency has sunk by almost half over the last few years.

You do not have to leave North America to feel the impact. Next-door neighbor Canada’s currency has slumped to around 80¢ on the dollar.

As a result, travel trends are already shifting: International air traffic for U.S. citizens in January was up 7.2% over the previous year, according to the National Travel & Tourism Office.

Of course, it is still only March. Currency markets are famously volatile and could turn at any moment. That is why some travelers are wondering how to lock in these favorable exchange rates, and make sure that they are able to see Europe or Canada or Mexico on the cheap.

Your Best Currency Moves

One easy move is to prepay at current rates—not just buying your flights as soon as possible, but hotel rooms and excursions as well.

“Hotels that used to be $160 a night in U.S. dollars are now $130,” says Carl O’Donnell, 23, a New York-based reporter for Mergermarket who is planning a summer jaunt with his girlfriend to historic French-Canadian Quebec City. He is thinking about locking in some prices now.

O’Donnell is tacking on additional days to their trip, and adding pricey excursions like boat rides through fjords in the Quebec countryside. “It feels great to be getting a big discount,” he says.

You can even hedge your cash needs with a foreign-currency bank account. Florida-based EverBank offers a variety, ranging from the Indian rupee to the Chinese renminbi, that you buy at today’s rates to hold and spend later.

“Usually, most of our clients are investors,” says Chris Gaffney, president of world markets for EverBank. “But recently, with the euro hitting multi-year lows, we have seen more people coming to us to lock in travel-related expenses.”

EverBank’s foreign-currency deposit accounts do not charge monthly fees, but do require a $2,500 minimum. Before you depart, Gaffney suggests buying a bank draft, or having the money wired overseas, so you do not have to convert cash back and forth (and get hit with fees both ways).

Another way to hedge your bets is to secure some traveler’s checks now, or load some money onto a prepaid card like the Travelex Cash Passport. (That does come, though, with a card-purchase fee and foreign ATM withdrawal fees at about $2.50 a pop.)

You can even buy a few euros at your local bank to spend later, although you have no consumer protections if that cash gets lost or stolen.

Superdollar savings can be significant. If you had planned a summer trip to Europe that was going to set you back 7,500 euros, and the euro drops from nearly $1.40 to $1.07 (as it has in the past 12 months), you are talking about more than $2,000 in your pocket.

Do not blow any exchange-rate windfall by using the wrong credit card, though.

With every $100 trinket you buy, you might be getting knocked another $2 or $3 for foreign transaction fees without even realizing it. One card Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com., likes: Barclay’s Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, which has no foreign transaction fees.

TIME Transportation

Uber Cars Outnumber Yellow Cabs on Streets of New York

Taxis New York
Mario Tama—Getty Images Taxis pass Broadway theater billboards in Times Square in New York City.

Statistics from NYC’s taxi regulator reveal an important milestone for the ride-sharing service

Uber cars have overtaken yellow cabs on the streets of New York City.

There are 14,088 registered Uber cars compared with 13,587 yellow taxis, according to new statistics from New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The figures, reported by the AP, reflect the rapid expansion of the ride-sharing service, which was introduced in New York in 2011.

But as the AP notes, the numbers don’t mark the demise of the yellow cab just yet. While there are more registered Uber cars, there are still roughly 15 times as many daily rides in yellow cabs as there are in Uber vehicles.

Uber drivers are likely to own their car and drive less than 40 hours per week, while yellow taxis are generally owned by companies that find drivers for the cars during all hours of the week.

[AP]

MONEY Taxes

11 Smart Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

Tax refund check with post-it saying "$$$ for Me"
Eleanor Ivins—Getty Images

You could pay down debt, travel, tend to your health, or shrink your mortgage, among many other ideas.

Here we are, in the thick of tax season. That means many mailboxes and bank accounts are receiving tax refunds. A tax refund can feel like a windfall, even though it’s really a portion of your earnings from the past year that the IRS has held for you, in case you owed it in taxes. Still, it’s a small or large wad of money that you suddenly have in your possession. Here are some ideas for how you might best spend it.

First, though, a tip: If you’re eager to spend your refund, but haven’t yet received it, you can click over to the IRS’s “Where’s My Refund?” site to track its progress through the IRS system. Now on to the suggestions for things to do with your tax refund:

Pay down debt: Paying down debt is a top-notch idea for how to spend your tax refund — even more so if you’re carrying high-interest rate debt, such as credit card debt. If you owe $10,000 and are being charged 25% annually, that can cost $2,500 in interest alone each year. Pay down that debt, and it’s like earning 25% on every dollar with which you reduce your balance. Happily, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, 39% of taxpayers plan to spend their refund paying off debt.

Establish or bulk up an emergency fund: If you don’t have an emergency fund, or if it’s not yet able to cover your living expenses for three to nine months, put your tax refund into such a fund. You’ll thank yourself if you unexpectedly experience a job loss or health setback, or even a broken transmission.

Open or fund an IRA: You can make your retirement more comfy by plumping up your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as traditional or Roth IRAs. Better yet, you can still make contributions for the 2014 tax year — up until April 15. The maximum for 2014 and 2015 is $5,500 for most folks, and $6,500 for those 50 or older.

Add money to a Health Savings Account: Folks with high-deductible health insurance plans can make tax-deductible contributions to HSAs and pay for qualifying medical expenses with tax-free money. Individuals can sock away up to $3,350 in 2015, while the limit is $6,650 for families, plus an extra $1,000 for those 55 or older. Another option is a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), which has a lower maximum contribution of $2,550. There are a bunch of rules for both, so read up before signing up.

Visit a financial professional: You can give yourself a big gift by spending your tax refund on some professional financial services. For example, you might consult an estate-planning expert to get your will drawn up, along with powers of attorney, a living will, and an advance medical directive. If a trust makes sense for you, setting one up can eat up a chunk of a tax refund, too. A financial planner can be another great investment. Even if one costs you $1,000-$2,000, they might save or make you far more than that as they optimize your investment allocations and ensure you’re on track for a solid retirement.

Make an extra mortgage payment or two: By paying off a little more of your mortgage principle, you’ll end up paying less interest in the long run. Do so regularly, and you can lop years off of your mortgage, too.

Save it: You might simply park that money in the bank or a brokerage account, aiming to accumulate a big sum for a major purchase, such as a house, new car, college tuition, or even starting a business. Sums you’ll need within a few or as many as 10 years should not be in stocks, though — favor CDs or money market accounts for short-term savings.

Invest it: Long-term money in a brokerage account can serve you well, growing and helping secure your retirement. If you simply stick with an inexpensive, broad-market index fund such as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF, Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF, or Vanguard Total World Stock ETF, you might average as much as 10% annually over many years. A $3,000 tax refund that grows at 10% for 20 years will grow to more than $20,000 — a rather useful sum.

Give it away: If you’re lucky enough to be in good shape financially, consider giving some or all of your tax refund away. You can collect a nice tax deduction for doing so, too. Even if you’re not yet in the best financial shape, it’s good to remember that millions of people are in poverty and in desperate need of help.

Invest in yourself: You might also invest in yourself, perhaps by advancing your career potential via some coursework or a new certification. You might even learn enough to change careers entirely, to one you like more, or that might pay you more. You can also invest in yourself health-wise, perhaps by joining a gym, signing up for yoga classes, or hiring a personal trainer. If you’ve been putting off necessary dental work, a tax refund can come in handy for that, too.

Create wonderful memories: Studies have shown that experiences make us happier than possessions, so if your financial life is in order, and you can truly afford to spend your tax refund on pleasure, buy a great experience — such as travel. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. A visit to Washington, D.C., for example, will get you to a host of enormous, free museums focused on art, history, science, and more. For more money, perhaps finally visit Paris, go on an African safari, or take a cruise through the fjords of Norway. If travel isn’t of interest, maybe take some dance or archery lessons, or enjoy a weekend of wine-tasting at a nearby location.

Don’t end up, months from now, wondering where your tax refund money has gone. Make a plan, and make the most of those funds, as they can do a lot for you. Remember, too, that you may be able to split your refund across several of the options above.

TIME Transportation

United Airlines Flight Turned Back Due to Disruptive Passenger

Violent passenger reportedly attempted to run towards the cockpit

A United Airlines flight heading to Denver returned to a Washington, D.C. airport early Monday after a passenger became unruly and disruptive mid-flight.

A passenger on Flight 1074 reportedly tried to run toward the cockpit before being restrained by his fellow passengers. The cockpit was secure at the time, according to ABC News. The incident occurred shortly after takeoff, and the plane was able to safely return to Dulles International Airport.

Pilots told air traffic authorities the passenger had become violent: “He ran forward towards the cockpit and he is being restrained by passengers,” one of the pilots said. “Cockpit is secure and we would like to return to the airport and have the authorities meet him.”

Washington authorities met the passenger at the gate of the airport where he was detained and later taken to a hospital for evaluation. The remaining passengers are expected to fly to Denver on Tuesday.

[ABC News]

 

MONEY

Retire Abroad: Controlling Health Care Costs When You Retire Abroad

pharmacy in Rome
Dallas Stribley—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

3 Ways to Minimize Health Care Costs

Sign up for Medicare at 65 even if you’re not in the U.S. While Medicare won’t pay for care outside the country, many retirees living abroad schedule doctor visits when they visit home. Plus, if you later return for good and haven’t enrolled, you’ll pay a 10% premium penalty on Part B (the medical insurance portion) for every year you were eligible, says AARP’s Patricia Barry, author of Medicare for Dummies. For 2015, the B premium is $104.90 a month for a married person with modified AGI under $170,000.

Determine your needs. Many nations have two systems: public and private. You’ll probably prefer the convenience and facilities of the latter. Medical costs are lower in most other countries, even in the private system, but unless you can pay out of pocket, you’ll want insurance. Plan to stay put in your new country? You’ll be fine with a policy covering local doctors and hospitals. If you’ll travel, get an international expatriate policy.

Price private policies. Major insurers that offer international private policies include Aetna International, Cigna Global, Bupa Global, and GeoBlue. Members of the Association of Americans Resident Abroad (aaro.org) are eligible for a group plan—in 2015, a couple in their sixties will pay $500 or so a month for hospitalization coverage. Keep in mind that even group private policies require underwriting, so if you have a preexisting condition, you might have a waiting period and a higher premium. Also, some plans stop at age 75 or 85, though that may work if you’ll move back to the U.S.

TIME Travel

16 Ski Resorts Worth Hundreds of Millions Could Be Sold

Ski Resorts Sale
Robert F. Bukaty—AP A snowboarder and skier ride the Chondola ski lift at the Sunday River ski resort, Friday, March, 13, 2015 in Newry, Maine. CNL Resort Properties , the real estate investment trust that's the largest owner of ski areas in the country, including Sunday River, is quietly putting the entire lot, along with dozens of other properties, up for sale.

It would be the largest single ski resort transaction in the history of the sport

(NEWRY, Maine)—A real estate investment trust that’s considering getting out of the snow business could sell more than dozen ski resorts from Maine to California that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

CNL Lifestyle Properties owns 16 resorts including Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine, Bretton Woods, Loon Mountain and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Okemo Mountain in Vermont, Crested Butte in Montana, Brighton in Utah, and Northstar-at-Tahoe and Sierra-at-Tahoe in California.

If CNL sells them all to one buyer, industry officials say it would be the largest single ski resort transaction in the history of the sport — though skiers might not notice the sale at all.

CNL will evaluate options for its remaining properties including ski resorts, theme parks and marinas “in the near future,” said Steve Rice, senior managing director of CNL Financial Group. Besides selling them, alternatives include a private buyout or listing on a publicly traded exchange.

“We’re taking a studied and careful approach,” Rice said.

REITs are an investment vehicle for a variety of properties including hotels, office buildings and malls, but they’re new to the ski industry in the last 15 or so years. There’s only one other REIT that’s a big player in the ski industry, Missouri-based EPR, said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association.

CNL Lifestyle Properties was valued at as much as $3 billion in 2012 with ownership of more than 100 water parks, ski resorts, marinas and senior housing developments before the value dropped in the aftermath of a real estate downturn.

The REIT is nearing the end of its projected lifespan and anticipates having an “exit strategy” in place by Dec. 31. In June, CNL agreed to sell 48 golf properties for $320 million. In December, it announced an agreement to sell its senior housing for $790 million.

Ideally, the remaining ski properties, theme parks and marinas would be sold, and the company enlisted Jefferies LLC, an investment bank, to evaluate options.

Any sale wouldn’t have any significant impact on skiers because the resort operators’ long-term leases will remain in place even if the properties change hands.

“At the end of the day, from a customer standpoint, it’s not going to alter reality that much,” Berry said.

Ski resorts, which are at the mercy of weather and the economy, can be good investments as long the owners have a long investment horizon, said Michael Krongel from Mirus Resort Capital in Burlington, Massachusetts, who’s been involved in buying, selling and developing ski resorts for 45 years.

REITs like Florida-based CNL bring in revenue through rent paid by ski resort operators like Michigan-based Boyne Resorts, which holds long-term leases for Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Loon Mountain.

A Boyne official said skiers needn’t worry about the potential sale of their beloved ski mountains.

“For the skier, it’s a nonevent,” said Steve Kircher, president of eastern operations for Boyne, which will remain the lease holder, regardless of ski resort ownership, for several more decades.

Bob Rogowsky, who skies 70 to 80 days a year at Sunday River, said most skiers are pleased with the investments that have been made since CNL bought the resort and Boyne began running it in 2007.

He’s confident enough in the stability of the resort that he recently bought a retirement home in the area.

“I wouldn’t have made that kind of financial commitment and lifetime commitment if didn’t believe there was stability and a good future,” Rogowsky said.

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