Category: Advice

What To Expect At Your First Creation Las Vegas Star Trek Convention

creation las vegas star trek convention

You might be a Star Trek fan who’s finally decided to attend a convention (or be the friend roped into it all) that’s got no idea what goes on at the annual 5-day Creation Entertainment event in Las Vegas. To help prepare you, here’s everything you need to know about the Creation Star Trek convention held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino every summer.

Why Las Vegas?

There are plenty of Star Trek conventions around the world but the Las Vegas event held at the Rio All-Suite hotel is North America’s largest. (Creation’s convention competes with several in Germany every year for the world’s largest attendance.) Over 15,000 people are expected at the 2018 convention.

What Do You Do All Day?

There are events all day and night planned for the August 1-5th convention but most first-timers have no idea what that means. The easiest way to put it into perspective is to think of the Las Vegas Star Trek convention like Comic-Con, but focused on Star Trek. There are 30-60 minute panels throughout the day which consist of talks plus Q&A sessions with Star Trek actors, directors, writers, and artists like Oscar winner Michael Westmore. (I highly recommend his book Makeup Man for the Michael Jackson stories alone.)

makeup man bookMakeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek

buy from amazon

Additionally, Creation invites scientists and other engineers to hold discussions on space exploration. Several engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be giving talks on current and fictional Star Trek technologies that may become reality in the near future. (Sorry, transporter technology seems the longest shot.)

klingon armor discovery

People tend to float in and out of the talks, making their way through the vendor room where there’s all kinds of nerdom represented. Need a Starfleet uniform or a Darth Vader mug? The vendors will have it. There are also a lot of independent artists and creators selling handmade crafts as well, in my opinion the most interesting items sold at the convention.

In the evenings you can opt for additional events like a 45-piece orchestral performing Star Trek: Live, or swing by the Masquerade Bar where by Thursday night the entire hotel has been taken over by Star Trek fans.

Do You Need To Dress Up?

No – but a lot of people do. Uniform t-shirts are common but then there are real cosplayers, peaking on Saturday when an annual costume contest is held. Here are pictures of the best cosplay from 2017 and 2014 to give you an idea but what you wear is up to you.

star trek cosplay

Why Do People Go To Star Trek Conventions?

For a variety of reasons but basically to have fun with other people who are really passionate about Star Trek and science fiction in general. In 2017 I asked a bunch of people why they go to Star Trek conventions, here’s what they said:

People who make it to their first Las Vegas Star Trek convention often return year after year. You see the same people and it has almost become an annual pilgrimage for many, much like Comic-Con is for other fans. If you’re in the Las Vegas area August 1-5, 2018 and interested in attending, you can purchase individual day tickets here (I would recommend Saturday if you’re choosing just one) or get all 5 days at a discounted rate.

Once you’ve got your tickets, you can check out this insider’s guide on saving money, meeting celebrities, and making the most of the Creation Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Qa’plah!

Should You Pay For Mileage Boosters When Buying Airplane Tickets?

airport lufthansa

You’ve probably noticed during self-check-in or when booking tickets, some airlines offer an option to purchase an extra 1,000 or more frequent flyer miles to add to your flight. These mileage “boosters” are supposed to give you a few extra frequent flyer miles at a discount, making you wonder if the cost is worth the reward.

Those of you who collect frequent flyer miles know that they’re a good way to get free flights and other perks but mileage boosting in most cases isn’t money well spent.

What Are Mileage Boosters?

More common in the United States, the trend is spreading to other airlines around the world. Basically, mileage boosters are discounted miles, made available only as an add-on purchase to an existing flight. The idea is that you’ll be able to earn extra frequent flyer miles for a given flight without paying full price for them.

Unfortunately, discounted or not, buying miles is almost never a good deal because the equivalent monetary value in airfare is going to be cheaper.

Adding Up The Numbers

Frequent flyer programs are intentionally vague since airlines want you to disassociate miles with money. Let’s use United as an example (here’s why you should sign up for their mileage program even if you don’t fly United.) They frequently offer 1,000 mile boosters for $35.

A free round-trip flight from, say, North America to Europe, is around 50,000 miles with United on Star Alliance. At $35 per 1000 miles, to get a free flight would cost $2,100 in boosters. Going to United’s website and purchasing 50,000 miles directly costs $1750 – chances are in either case you’ll find airfare for a North America to Europe round trip flight to be half as much.

Additionally, mileage boosters don’t count toward the premier or status miles on United, Delta, and other airlines. In other words, frequent flyer programs have status levels (more miles more status) that give you lounge access (here are the wifi passwords), free upgrades, or other perks but not all miles are counted equally. Some are “special” miles that add to your total status, others like the “boosters” don’t count.

Stick To Flights

Frequent flyer hackers will tell you, if you’re going to buy miles, it’s best to go through some third-party promotion. Otherwise, accumulate your miles in one place like this, wisely use reward cards, or earn frequent flyer miles without getting any credit cards.

In general, refrain from buying miles and earn them the best way – by traveling more – and keep this habit every time you fly so you’re credited the miles you’re due. The airlines have a tendency not to be incredibly diligent in adding miles after a flight and not getting miles you’ve earned is an even bigger waste than a mileage booster.

The Jordan Pass Is A Great Way To Save Money In The Country (And Petra)

amman jordan flag

The Jordan Pass is one of the best discount tourist packages offered in the world but it’s not well advertised. Unfortunately, many travelers learn about the Jordan Pass after they’ve arrived in Jordan or spent $70 entrance to Petra, missing out on a lot of money and time savings.

The Jordan Pass is one of the best tourist discount packages, like Spain’s Granada Card, but in order to take full advantage of it, you’ll need to purchase it before you enter the country.

Includes Visa Entry

There’s one good reason, especially if you’re going to visit Petra, to get a Jordan Pass. But let me start with the obvious bonus all three of the Jordan Pass varieties come with: visa entry fee and shortened entry line at the airport. For Americans and Europeans, plus most other nationals aside from a few neighboring countries, a typical tourist visa costs around $50. The Jordan Pass starts at $99 (70 Jordanian dinar).

jordan pass

Additionally, you’ll get into a shorter line at the airport with a Jordan Pass (for those who already have valid visas) plus save at least 30 minutes from having to go through the process at an immigration desk. You can even save on paper (Jordan is refreshingly good at being green) by simply scanning your Jordan Pass at passport control.

Advantages Even If You’re Petra Only

A single-day entry ticket to Petra is 50JD ($70 USD). So, even if you just use a Jordan Pass to visit the country and see Petra only, it’s saved you $20 already (otherwise it’s around $50 for the tourist visa and $70 for Petra). In fact, the three different Jordan Pass offerings vary only by Petra entry days:

  • Jordan Wanderer ($99): 1 day visit to Petra, 40 other popular sites, tourist visa, digital brochures
  • Jordan Explorer ($106): Same, except has a 2 day Petra entrance ticket
  • Jordan Expert ($113): Same as above, except is a 3 day Petra entrance

Keep in mind to be eligible for the tourist visa entry fee, your trip to Jordan must be at least 3 nights (4 days).

Now you might be wondering who would want to visit Petra 2 or 3 times but it might surprise you that Petra is a lot bigger than most people expect. It’s an entire ancient town spread over dozens of square kilometers. Many travelers stay in town for a few days to explore Petra a section at a time due its size. Others, who only get a day ticket, arrive the night before so they can get in at 6am before the vast majority of the crowds. (It’s not too bad if you’re running late though, here’s how crowded Petra gets at peak hour.)

Plan For The Pass

A Jordan Pass is an instant money saver if you’re only going to visit Petra. You’ll cut costs on Petra and a tourist visa, but even those who are visa exempt or not planning on seeing Petra will likely save because the Jordan Pass includes 40 other sites as well. The Jordan Pass covers places like Wadi Rum you’ll probably want to see – just remember to keep the pass on your phone and ask any site you enter if you’re unsure.

Discount cards, like the JR Rail Pass for Japan, can be a great for your travel budget but Jordan Pass included, often have to be purchased in advance of your trip to make use of the full benefits.

The Best Beaches In Malta, According To Locals

This is a guest post by Edward Lansink, the founder and editor of Malta Uncovered, a travel guide for curious travelers looking to discover Malta.

golden bay malta

Being surrounded by the Mediterranean sea, it’s only natural for the Maltese Islands to boast some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. With the islands’ mild winters, and the heat of summer, you’re most likely going to find yourself on a beach while in Malta.

Here are my tips for some of the best beaches that the Maltese islands have to offer, based on local knowledge.

Best Family Friendly Beach: Golden Bay

Even though the Maltese Islands are surrounded by beautiful crystal clear seas, the coast is generally a very rocky one, making for a limited number of sandy areas to soak up that summer sun. Having said that, you can find a few sandy gems scattered along the Maltese coast which make up for their scarcity.

One of the most popular sandy beaches is the aptly named Golden Bay. Found along the island’s northwestern coast, this beach’s wide curve of orange-gold sand slopes gently into the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is flanked by dramatic, rocky cliffs and the striking Għajn Tuffieha tower on one side, whilst the luxurious Radisson Blu Resort & Spa overlooks the other end of the bay.

This is a beach in which you can lie down on the soft, golden-colored sand and just enjoy the summer rays. You can rent an umbrella and deck chair on the beach and if you’re into water sports, there’s a variety of activities and boat trips you can take up. There are a few beach hut cafes where you can grab a bite to eat or have a drink or two, but if you’re looking for something more upmarket, just walk on up to the five-star Radisson for a variety of dining options, either casual or more refined

Being a Blue Flag certified beach (European standard for beach quality), life guards patrol the area during the summer months and the beach has a system of flags signaling where it is safe to swim. The beach is easily accessible by car, with a few public parking areas nearby. It’s also serviced by a regular bus service.

Best Sandy Beach: Ghajn Tuffieha

If you prefer a more quiet sandy beach, head on towards Ghajn Tuffieha (Maltese for ‘Apple’s Eye’, also known as Riviera by the locals); located a 15 minute walk south of Golden Bay. It is flanked by dramatic clay slopes and rocky cliffs and boasts a narrow strip of beautiful orange-golden sand and clear azure waters and is accessed by descending a tall fight of (over 100) steps.

Ghajn Tuffieha

You can rent sun beds and umbrellas from a kiosk located on the side of the beach, which also offers some fairly decent snack options and there is a regular bus service to the area. Bus routes with destination Golden Bay all pass from there. You can also find a parking area at the top of the steps, but be warned, car spaces in the lot are rarely vacant as people visiting Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bay use this area, as well as the main access road for parking and it does get pretty busy during the summer season. Having said that, Ghajn Tuffieha generally offers a more quiet and peaceful setting than Golden Bay, with a more natural atmosphere and less crowds.

Best for Snorkeling: Wied il-Ghasri

A unique spot and a popularly-photographed spot, Wied il-Ghasri in Gozo is definitely worth a visit for those who love snorkeling. This little gem of a beach is actually a coastal chasm at the end of a valley that opens to the sea through a river-like channel in between the rocky cliffs.

Wied il-Ghasri

You can access the beach via a rocky staircase carved into the valley, although you’ll need a car or bike to get here since there’s no bus stop nearby. Snorkeling here is pure joy, with lots of nooks and crannies carved into the rocky ledges of the cliffs surrounding the inlet. It’s an absolutely stunning location to swim and snorkel at, although not the best place to sunbathe. The beach itself is small and covered in pebbles, which adds to the beauty but doesn’t make for a comfortable spot to lie down on.

Other fantastic snorkeling beaches worth a mention are Mgarr ix-Xini (also located in Gozo) and Ghar Lapsi and St. Peter’s Pool, both found in the southern part of Malta.

Most Rugged Beach: Fomm ir-Rih

If you’re looking for a remote, secluded beach, Fomm ir-Rih is definitely the one for you. Located along the northwest coast of Malta, just outside the village of Baħrija, this beach is Malta’s most remote and probably least accessible beach. It’s a bit of a challenge to get down to the sea, with a tricky 20 minute trek through some rough and steep terrain, but it’s worth the effort.

Mellieha malta

The coastal views here are magnificent, the water crystal clear with some great snorkeling opportunities, and you might just have the whole beach to yourself for the day! Imgiebah Bay in Selmun, Mellieha is another, easier to access (and sandy) alternative to Fomm ir-Rih, although there’s still a 30 minute walk to get there from the nearest bus stop.

Most Unique Beach: The Blue Lagoon (Comino)

Accessed only via ferry boat, the Blue Lagoon is located on the tiny islet of Comino, found in the strait between Malta and Gozo. An extremely popular summer spot, the Blue Lagoon is often overcrowded, a true shame, but for good reason. Boasting bright, crystal clear, turquoise waters and some of the most unique and stunning views of the Islands, Comino is truly a unique place to visit. The lagoon itself is a small inlet of inland sea ringed by rocks and lined by gleaming white sand. The beach in itself is extremely small, but there are a large number of large, flat rocks dotted about which are perfect for sun bathing. Swimming in the warm, azure waters of the Blue Lagoon truly feel like paradise, especially on days which are less crowded.

For even greater access, and guaranteed private moments, you could stay overnight at Comino’s sole hotel (quite pricey considering it’s not the most updated place), or even camp on the island if you’re feeling more adventurous! Of course, there are many other special beaches around Malta, all offering their own unique landscape and charm. A few noteworthy mentions are San Blas Bay and ir-Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo, and Mellieha Bay and Ghar Lapsi in Malta.

Thank you Ed for giving us some great beach options in Malta. You can learn more about traveling in Malta through Ed’s website, Malta Uncovered and check out his ebook, Valletta: An Insider’s Guide to Malta’s Capital.

The Tokyo Experience That Gives You Culture, Food, And A Good Lesson For Life

rangetsu sukiyaki tokyo japan

What most of us look for when visiting a new place is a local, authentic experience that feels like we’re the first outsider to discover. The best place to find this intersection of culinary culture is to ask a few locals, “where do you eat?” In Tokyo, that’s exactly what I did, which lead me to Rangetsu to try sukiyaki – and you should too.

Misleading Exterior

The polished but humble entrance to Rangetsu is almost too fancy; the kind of decor that leads one to believe you’re paying more for ambiance than good food. But a few steps into the tight hallways of Rangetsu hits you immediately with the sense you’re entering somewhere special. The waiter, in suit and tie, asks for your order – sukiyaki of course – and seats you in a tiny room, sharply closing the curtain behind him.

Contemplating Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki, a lesser know Japanese dish, is a meal of vegetables, noodles, and thinly sliced beef mixed with raw egg served in generally that order. Typically sukiyaki is a winter meal, but Rangetsu serves sukiyaki year-round. Once the curtain has been closed, the silence of your contemplation will be broken by the clicks of the curtain rings as they’re pulled open again. This time, a woman wearing traditional Japanese attire with under heavy makeup takes your drink order, then promptly leaves.

rangetsu tokyo

Your drinks arrive, food order given, and there you are again. Piece by piece, moment by moment, sip by sip, the meal at Rangetsu is reflective of the general Japanese dining experience. Colorful, coordinated, proportional and very much in moderation.

Hot Potting

Every time the waitress comes into your little room, something is cooked in front of you in a small hot pot. The noodles are one course, as is the soup, then vegetables, finally beef with raw egg. Everything is tasty. The kind of quality that makes you notice things like the flavor of individual green beans you normally wouldn’t on most plates. Portions are just enough food to be satisfying leaving ample room for respectable amounts of saki.

The dining culture in Japan is certainly quality over quantity over time and Rangetsu is the manifestation of it all.

sukiyaki

Prices at Rangestu aren’t as high as most places in Ginza, Tokyo’s version of Time Square, but not cheap either. (Despite Tokyo dropping out of the top 10 most expensive cities last year.) A sukiyaki dinner, the full experience, is around $75 but only half that at lunch time.

Sukiyaki at Rangetsu is an event – vaguely like ordering a lomito in Santiago or drinking raki like a Turk – where the meal itself is an ingredient of conversation, reflection, and enjoyment.  Not something to be rushed or overlooked, after a warm sukiyaki then final sip of tea, in the future you might occasionally take a slower bite at your next lunch. Try to feel the flavors as they’re absorbed by different parts of your tongue. Appreciate the next cup of coffee on your way to work or otherwise find the peaceful moment that lies in every food, one of several lessons the sukiyaki at Rangetsu hopefully leaves you with.

What To See And Do In Asuncion, Paraguay

asuncion paraguay

Asuncion is the capital city of a country I’ve described as affectionately weird – one of the reasons you should travel to Paraguay. Oddities aside, there are plenty of tangible experiences in Asuncion that make it an interesting trip, even if it’s a short one from the few nearby cities with direct flights.

Here’s how to explore Asuncion and embrace its culture, history, and yes, weirdness.

On The Edge

Asuncion is a city with pockets of activity and areas of isolation with such large contrast, you can feel like you’re in a big, bustling city or ghost town, all within a few blocks. To begin, for accommodation, I recommend avoiding the hotels but rather checking out the many Airbnbs just around the city center. They’re nearly all gated, with pools, and large living space for well under $50 a night.

Buses and transportation are crowded but easy enough to manage with some guidance from your Airbnb owner. The first place you’ll want to go is Lido Bar for lunch. Lido Bar serves a variety of Paraguayan staples to Asuncion’s middle class before or between the workday. To best avoid the crowds, arrive at 1pm and then order caldo de pescado (fish soup) and an empanada to go with it. Don’t expect much English to be spoken by staff but if you use Pimsleur 2-4 weeks before your trip, you’ll have no problem asking for the daily specials in Spanish.

lido bar

Right around the corner is Cafe Consulado; a calm, borderline-hipster cafe where you can hang out, recharge, then plan your next move.

The Other Side Of Quiet

For some reason that wasn’t apparent to me, the government in Asuncion has created the Bohemian neighborhood of Loma San Jeronimo. It’s lined with colorful buildings with small shops, eateries, bars, and snack stalls. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are closed and as nice as the area is, it’s bizarrely quiet. Fun for photos, Loma San Jeronimo is worth a visit – just don’t trust Google Maps (offline or not) to get you there. Google will send you somewhere nearby but a part of town don’t you definitely don’t want to be in.

loma san jeronimo

Museo del Barro

Museums can be boring, especially after you’ve been to more than a few during your travels. Museo del Barro (also practically empty) though is a detailed look at Paraguay’s indigenous heritage, bloody history, and the contemporary society born of it. You can check the hours as well as updated entry fees on their website.

Runners, walkers, and nature lovers from here it’s a long walk or quick bus ride to Parque de la Salud. The park is an oasis of Asuncion: clean, green, and quiet. There are joggers, walking families, and the enclosed park is well secured so you can explore without worry. Personally, Parque de la Salud was one of my favorite places in Asuncion.

mercado 4 asuncion

On the way back to the bustle of Asuncion’s hidden city life, Mercado 4 is the world famous for its knockoff electronics. I saw fake iPhones so close to the original, unless you’re a tech enthusiast, they’re very difficult to distinguish. Mercado 4 is a fun stroll though Paraguay’s booming counterfeiting economy; highlighting just how off the international grid Asuncion is.

Outside there’s plenty of barbecue with friendly locals who don’t mind a side of conversation with their pork. Now all of a sudden you’re feeling small town again in Asuncion, an a la carte travel experience.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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