Independence Day
Article Credit USA TODAY - By Award winning - Nancy Trejos

A record number of U.S. travelers will venture beyond their homes by 50 miles or more this Fourth of July, according to a forecast released Thursday from auto club AAA.

A total of 44.2 million people will take to the roads, skies, rails and waterways to celebrate Independence Day, AAA says.

That’s an increase of 1.25 million travelers over last year, making it the most traveled Independence Day weekend since AAA has been counting. That is a 2.9 percent increase over last year this time.

“Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president of Travel and Publishing, said in a written statement.

AAA defines this year’s Independence Day holiday travel period as Friday, June 30, to Tuesday, July 4.

More people will drive to their destinations—37.5 million people, an increase of 2.9 percent over last year.

That spike is helped by cheaper gas prices. The national average price for gas is $0.04 less than this time last year. The national average price for a gallon of gas is $2.28, a historic low for the summer travel season.

Daily car rental rates are also lower, averaging $65. That is 14 percent less than last Independence Day.

Planes will be more full this holiday weekend, with 3.44 million passengers, an increase of 4.6 percent over last year.

Travelers can expect lower airfares. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic routes will be 10 percent less this year. The average round trip-ticket is $186.

Cruises, trains and buses will attract another 3.27 million travelers, AAA says. That is a 1.4 percent spike over last year.

Hotel rates remain steady, with the average AAA Three Diamond Rated hotel costing $185 per night.

The 20 most popular hotels in Orlando

The most visited destination this year is Orlando. The top 10 destinations are:

  1. Orlando
  2. Vancouver
  3. Cancun
  4. Seattle
  5. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  6. Honolulu
  7. Anaheim
  8. Anchorage
  9. Las Vegas
  10. Montego Bay

By Stacey Leasca - Travel and Leasure

It's the third airplane sting in three months.As if flying weren’t stressful enough, between the long check-in lines, security, and the inevitable crying baby sitting next to you, now passengers apparently need to worry about scorpions on planes as well.

As NBC reported, on Monday evening a passenger onboard an AeroMexico flight from Mexico City to Chicago O'Hare International Airport was sickened after he was stung by a scorpion that managed to find its way onto the aircraft.

According to Chicago fire officials, the 32-year-old man was stung by a scorpion in the right elbow, but refused treatment and was not transported by ambulance from the scene.

“There was a call for a medical personnel because there was an emergency on board,” passenger Monica Amborn told NBC. “We didn’t really know what it was."

For its part, AeroMexico simply said in a statement that the male passenger was seen by paramedics upon arrival and showed no adverse reaction to the sting. It added, “Aeromexico is committed with its passengers and crew safety as it is our top priority in every operation.”

While this may seem like an incredibly frightening fluke incident, it’s actually not the first time a passenger has been stung by a scorpion while flying.

In early May, a scorpion was also discovered on a United Airlines flight from Houston to Ecuador. Paramedics were called to the scene to evaluate the passenger, who said he saw the tiny creature, according to the Associated Press. The passenger was cleared and the flight took off three hours after it was scheduled to depart.

And in April, another United passenger claims a scorpion fell from the overhead bin onto his head during a trip from Houston to Calgary. Richard Bell, the passenger, explained to CBC: “While I was eating, something fell in my hair from the overhead above me. I picked it up, and it was a scorpion."

When he picked the scorpion up, it stung him. Bell told Global News Canada that it “felt like a wasp sting.”

So yeah, maybe that aforementioned crying baby isn’t so bad after all.

1. Location: Where is the Indian Ocean?

The Indian Ocean is located between Africa and Austral-Asia and the Southern Ocean.

There are many islands in the Indian Oceans, among the most well-known are:

  • Mauritius
  • Reunion
  • Seychelles
  • Madagascar
  • The Comores (Spain)
  • Maldives (Portugal)
  • Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon

2. Name: Why 'Indian' ocean? 

The name originates from the location around the Indian penisula. The Indian Ocean is actually the youngest of the major oceans.

3. Size: How big is the Indian Ocean? 

The Indian Ocean is the world’s third largest ocean and covers 20% of the Earth’s surface, after the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. In size the Indian Ocean is comparable with roughly 5.5 times the size of the USA.

4.    Width: The greatest width of the ocean is between western Australia and eastern coast of Africa: 1,000km or 620miles.

5. Depth: How deep is the Indian Ocean? 

The lowest point is in the Java Trench which is about 7,258 metres (23,812ft.) deep. The average depth is about 3,890 metres (12,762 ft.).

6. Temperature: How warm are the waters of the Indian Ocean?

The temperatures of the Indian Ocean depend on the location and on the ocean's currents. The nearer to the Equator the warm the water tends to be. The temperature of 28 degrees Celsius/82 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is reached in coastal regions near the equator. 

On average the Indian Ocean has a minimum temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius. However in the southern regions, nearer to the polar regions the temperatures drop drastically below 40 degrees latitude south.

7. Important Waterways: Suez Canal in Egypt, the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia are the two most well known waterways in the Indian Ocean. The man-made Suez Canal connects to the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea.

8. Indian Ocean Seaports:  Among the major seaports of the Indian Ocean, remember these major ports:

  • Singapore has the busiest container port on the Indian Ocean.
  • Mumbai and Chennai ports in India
  • Aden (Yemen)
  • Jakarta (Indonesia)
  • Mombasa (Kenya)
  • Durban (South Africa), the largest and busiest port in Africa

9. Indian Ocean Facts: 
Some big coastal cities situated along the Indian Ocean are:

  • Mumbai (India)
  • Colombo (Sri Lanka)
  • Singapore (Singapore)
  • Perth (Australia)
  • Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania)
  • Durban (South Africa)

10. Indian Ocean Sealife: The Indian Ocean provides home to many endangered sea species such as turtles, seals and dugongs (also called sea cows). 

Top 5 Colonial Zone Attractions

The Dominican Republic has always been one of the top destinations in the Caribbean. The beaches of Punta Cana, Bavaro and Cabarete receive millions of visitors every year. Recently though, the UNESCO Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo has also been drawing lots of visitors who are eager to explore this historic and charming Colonial city.

The Colonial Zone, or “Zona Colonial”, is a treasure trove of Spanish Colonial architecture. Many of the 16th century palaces today house museums, stunning restaurants, private homes and government offices. But the Colonial Zone is also a vibrant and bustling neighborhood with a unique culture that is fun to explore.

Let’s take a look at our Top 5 attractions in the Colonial Zone, and don’t forget to just relax and people watch along the way!

1. Plaza de España and the Alcazar de Colon

Our first stop, the Alcazar de Colon, is located at the east end of the enormous Plaza de España, overlooking the Ozama River. Built in the 16th century, it was initially the home of Diego Colon, the son of Christopher Columbus. This building is a must-see!
When arriving and leaving the Alcazar de Colon, it is impossible to miss the famed Plaza de España and its numerous restaurants and cafes. If you are lucky, some cultural event might be underway. Another idea – come back on a weekend evening and enjoy live Dominican music while sitting at one of the restaurant’s outdoor terraces.

2. Casas Reales

The Museo de las Casas Reales or “Royal Houses” is home to a collection that documents Santo Domingo’s history. From Taino Indian artifacts to Spanish Colonial art and furniture.

Perhaps even more impressive is the courtyard. Here, you will get a feel for traditional Spanish Colonial architecture, which often centers around an open, sunny courtyard with trees and a garden. This type of structure was, and still is, ideal for warmer climates as the courtyard was always nice and cool.

3. Cathedral and Parque Colon

The true heart of the Colonial Zone lies at the picturesque Parque Colon and the Cathedral. This area is always active, with thousands of people passing by each day. Business people, tourists, expats, artists and locals share the benches and cafes in this charming park. No matter where you sit, though, you will always have a spectacular view of the cathedral. This is the first cathedral constructed in the New World. It features a variety of architectural styles, including Gothic. It does, however, lack a tower. There are some beautiful Baroque paintings and sculpture inside and it is always nice and cool, so stay for awhile and look around. Situated at the south end of Parque Colon, the main entrance is actually on Calle Arzobispo Meriño.

4. Calle El Conde

Perhaps the most unique, modern feature of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo is the pedestrian street “El Conde” that runs from Parque Duarte at one end all the way to Parque Independencia. El Conde is lined with shops, cafes and businesses.
For the most part, these are places that the locals visit. There are, of course, many souvenir shops, “art” sellers and cafes where tourists can relax, but the shops are typically lower to middle-end and not international quality. But that’s ok because walking along El Conde away from Parque Duarte you will experience a more genuine Dominican culture. At the far end, just across from Parque Independencia, you will find the famous Cafe Grands, where you can relax with a tasty and healthy natural papaya or passion fruit juice, or perhaps try some authentic Dominican food. You will never forget your first voyage down El Conde!

5. Calle Las Damas

On a more historic note, you must also visit the very first paved street in the Americas – Calle Las Damas. The name “Las Damas” or “The Ladies” originates from the 16th century custom of wealthy woman in Santo Domingo taking evening strolls down the street. Today, many of the Colonial Zone’s principal buildings are located on Calle Las Damas: Fortaleza Ozama, the National Library and the National Pantheon, as well as several exclusive homes and hotels. There is also a very charming square called Plaza Toledo that fronts on Calle Las Damas. It is shady and has several benches, so take a break here and enjoy the unforgettable views.