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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Carnival cruise sale: Upgrades, plus up to $100 spending money

Carnival cruise sale: Upgrades, plus up to $100 spending money

Cruises aboard the Inspiration and other ships are part of a Triple Play Sale that ends Thursday.
Cruises aboard the Inspiration and other ships are part of a Triple Play Sale that ends Thursday.(Carnival)

Carnival Cruise Lines is having a flash sale on most cruisesthrough February 2012 that includes cabin upgrades and onboard spending money -- but only until  Thursday.

The deal: The Triple Play Sale offers discounted fares, a free cabin upgrade and a  shipboard credit of up to $100 per cabin. Sale rates start at $259 per person plus tax and apply to selected sailings and ships through February.

Here's how the "free money" offer works: Each cabin receives a credit of up to $50 for two- to five-day cruises and up to $100 on six- to eight-day cruises. The money goes into a "Sign & Sail" account; any unused portion gets disbursed to passengers in check form on the last day of the cruise.

Free upgrades, applied when making the reservation, are based on availability. Use the fare code "OCB"when booking online, by phone or with a travel agent.

When: The offer is good until 11:59 PDT Thursday; some blackout dates apply.

Tested: To check out the sale price, I went to Carnival's website and selected a four-day cruise aboard the Carnival Inspiration from Long Beach to Baja, Mexico, that will depart Jan. 9, 2012. The "Triple Play" price for an interior cabin totaled $629 including tax. The upgrade allows choosing an interior cabin on any portion of the ship -- forward, midships or aft -- with a choice of the Riviera or main deck. The deal also comes with $50 to spend on board or take in cash.

I also checked a seven-day cruise from Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Carnival Splendor (yes, that ship) leaving Sept. 4. The total price for an interior cabin with an upgrade to midship on the main deck was $1,190, including taxes. And that came with the $100 credit.

Is it really a deal? I found cheaper fares on the cruises mentioned above with Carnival's "Early Saver" rates, even with paying extra for the upgrades. But a Carnival spokesman said in an email that "Early Saver" rates have more restrictions and aren't always available; for instance, they close three to five months before the sail date. My suggestion: Take a look at the "Triple Play" and the "Early Saver" rates and price out what works best for you.

Contact: Carnival Cruise Lines, (800) 764-7419, or contact a travel agent.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Travel to Ireland For $599

Ireland: Tour Dublin, Limerick, Blarney and more for $599 per person

The Cliffs of Moher are one of the stops on the Irish Jaunt, an escorted tour that's discounted in April.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the stops on the Irish Jaunt, an escorted tour that's discounted in April.(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Last-minute travel can have its pitfalls -- and its perks. Here's a tour of Ireland that rewards procrastinators with a $200 discount on two departures in April.

The deal: The five-day, escorted Irish Jaunt tour stops in Dublin, Blarney, Killarney and Limerick, with visits to the Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher as well. The price, which doesn't include airfare, is $599, including tax, per person based on double occupancy. It  includes airport transfers, four nights in hotels, four breakfasts, one dinner, motor coach tours and other sightseeing extras. Use the code BRIJ11 when making a reservation.

When: The discount is good only for the April 9 and April 30 departures.

Tested: Brendan Vacations' website offers a detailed itinerary and overview of the trip,  but you have to call to make a reservation. I called Tuesday morning and found spaces available for both April dates at the discount rate. The total cost was $599 per person, with a one-time $10 document fee per booking; travel insurance and airfare are extra.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Travel Agent sent to prison for billing American Express $35M in fictitious travel

Travel Agent sent to prison for billing American Express $35 Million in fictitious travel

A purple-haired travel agent was sent sobbing to prison yesterday for admittedly billing American Express for $35 million in fictitious travel -- but not before blaming her thefts on an undiagnosed sleeping disorder.

"This was a monumental lapse of judgment on my part," Victoria Wofford, 54, said of bilking AmEx through her corporate travel company, Tri-Pen Management Corp.

"I'm not even sure what I was thinking at the time," she added. "It may have had something to do with the undiagnosed sleep apnea that I apparently suffered from for many, many years."

Wofford will serve three to six years under her sentencing in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Her lawyer, Thomas Puccio, said she plowed most of the $17.5 million she actually pocketed back into her business for software development. She had hoped to sell the software for enough money to repay AmEx before getting caught.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Mommy, we need to go to Disneyland."

"Mommy, we need to go to Disneyland."

"Mommy, we need to go to Disneyland."
My son delivered this suggestion over a bowl of Cheerios, just after he and his little sister waged their daily war over which identical blue spoon they'd prefer.
Neither of my preschoolers remembered that their father and I had forked over hundreds of dollars to take them to the Happiest Place on Earth less than two years earlier. We'd taken turns pushing them in a stroller for miles through the park, arms aching, feet echoing the complaint.
Nostalgia, however, can wash away a parent's pragmatic concerns. There's nothing like the excitement of children who are meeting Mickey Mouse, the peals of laughter elicited by every dip of the boat on Pirates of the Caribbean, the goofy delight you feel in a skullcap festooned with mouse ears.
These memories leave parents itching to throw the kids in the car and speed to Anaheim. Before you heed this yearning, though, take some advice from travel experts and area families on how to come home sane and not completely broke.
Thinking about visiting the Magic Kingdom during spring break? You may want to reconsider a spike in attendance can mean more time in line waiting for rides.
The best time to go is in mid- to late September, said Becky Herriford of Ears of Experience, a family-owned travel company focusing solely on Disney vacations.
"It's a good combination nice weather and the crowds will be a little bit lighter," she said, speaking by phone from her Seattle office.
If you're looking to hit Disneyland sooner, try early to mid-May, avoiding Memorial Day weekend.
Going in June? Pack some patience. Two rides will open June 3 the completely overhauled Star Tours at Disneyland and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure in California Adventure. Because annual passholders will flock to the park to experience the new rides before blackout dates go into effect, the crowds will be thick.
For families looking to shave cost off their trip, consider staying at a neighboring hotel instead of a Disney property. Rooms at Good Neighbor hotels can be found for around $70 a night, Herriford said.
"There really is more magic when you stay at one of the Disney hotels," she said, "but ... for someone who has time and is a bargain hunter, there are some good deals out there."
Steve and Leticia Tuck found the Anaheim Islander Inn for about $90 a night when they vacationed in December.
"We decided that we weren't going to Disneyland to spend time in the hotel room," said the Elk Grove dad.
Greg Meixner of Lincoln, Calif., on the other hand, decided to spend a little extra to sleep on site.
"Staying at the resort makes it easy to enjoy the day and take a break to relax and then return to the parks when you are ready," he wrote in an e-mail.
Meixner said he prefers the Grand Californian and suggested adding the concierge level package. It allows access to the Craftsman Club for food, drinks and a happy hour "worth the cost," he wrote.
The concierge level, which also comes with such amenities as priority check-in and complimentary movies, will add $300 to $400 a day to the cost of a room in the spring and summer, travel expert Herriford said, but discounts can sometimes be found. Similar concierge levels at the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier, Disney's other properties, are less expensive.
No matter where you stay, heed this advice from Erin Treadwell, a Carmichael, Calif., mom who vacations at Disneyland with her husband, James, and two children about every two years.
If you leave the park and go back to the hotel during the day, change your socks and shoes before coming back in, she said. "Just a slight change in the pressure points on your feet can make a difference in how tired or sore your feet get in the evening."
Treadwell also had some ride tips for families. Always get the Space Mountain Fast Pass quickly, as they go, well, fast.
If you want to go on Peter Pan, make it your first stop after the gates open. It's often the longest line in the park.
And if you have a princess stalker, as Treadwell did when daughter Catherine was younger, consider lunch or dinner at Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure, where yes, it costs more than $36 per person, but several Disney princesses will visit your enraptured child while you enjoy a three-course meal.
And it beats spending hours standing in line to meet the characters (been there, done that) or attempting to find princesses while they waltz through the park (ditto).
"Consider it buying your time (and a meal)," she wrote in an e-mail.
She trimmed costs in other ways. Bringing PB&Js for the family (eaten covertly, of course) or buying two main meals, an extra side of vegetables and bread and sharing among the four of them.
Treadwell knows they could have saved more if they had left the park for meals. There's even a picnic area just outside the main gate. But what kid or kid-at-heart wants to leave the Happiest Place on Earth?
"It becomes a balance of time vs. money, and I think the whole trip is like that," she said in a phone interview.
It's also a good idea to let your children know your plans for everything from where you'll eat to which souvenirs you'll purchase or not purchase ahead of time, said John McClintock, senior publicist for the Disneyland Resort.
Sure, the company wouldn't mind if you succumbed to consumerism and bought a bunch of pins for your collection or let your kid pick out a dozen Vinylmation collectible toys, but if you're looking to keep spending down and thwart whining and cries of "But Daaa-aaad" make decisions before heading into the park.
"Everyone gets to pick one (souvenir) and have one big meal," McClintock suggested.

Want more tips before you head to Disneyland or California Adventure? Here's some advice from travel experts and Disneyland aficionados.
-Weekdays, especially Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, are usually less crowded.
-Looking to reduce the cost of meals? Eat breakfast in your room, and pack snacks and bottled water.
-Splurge on one meal at a full-service restaurant. Yes you'll pay more, but you can relax, cool off and won't have to juggle a tray and a tired child while muscling someone for a seat.
-If you're willing to leave the park, do so around mealtime, and hit a restaurant nearby. If you're really trying to save money, hit the food court at Costco in Garden Grove, about four miles from Disneyland at 11000 Garden Grove Blvd.
-Bored in line? Try to spot the hidden Mickey heads while in the queue.
-Hit the park as soon as it opens you'll be able to get in twice as many rides. Staying at a Disney resort property? Take advantage of Magic Mornings, which gets you access to select attractions before the park opens.
-Watch for discounts on hotel and airfare. Alaska Airlines usually offers a kids-fly-free promotion for Disneyland vacations in January.
Check it out The website for Ears of Experience, travel experts specializing in Disney vacations. Online resource for park guides, news and stories from the Disney universe. A guide to discounts and deals on all things Disney.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Travel deal of the week: Egypt will be a bargain

Travel deal of the week: Egypt will be a bargain

The best deal around this summer likely will be a trip to Egypt.
With politics settling down there, companies want to get travelers back to the pyramids -- and quick.
Although the U.S. State Department travel warning issued Feb. 18 has not been updated or canceled yet, tour companies are preparing for better days.
One amazing deal is the upscale Cox & Kings 10-night "Egyptian Sojourn: Summer Special" private tour -- two for the price of one.
The tour visits the Great Pyramids, cruises the Nile River and visits Abu Simbel. Book by May 31 for travel through Sept. 30. Price is $4,995 plus internal air (, 800-999-1758).
Our advice? Keep checking Egypt tour providers and see what deals they've got so you can take advantage as soon as the green light to travel appears.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Travel to Medjugorje

Travel to Medjugorje

Following is a Medjugorje travel guide that can help travelers when visiting this popular pilgrimage town for Catholics.

Located towards the west of Bosnia and Herzegovina , Medjugorje is also fairly close to Croatia ’s border. The town’s name literally translates to an area between mountains. Due to its location of about 200 meters above sea level, the town enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. Medjugorje has quite a few historical and cultural sights to visit. But the town is more popularly known for its claims that six Croats have seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary here. The claims first started in 1981 and since then millions of visitors from all over the world have come to this quiet town. Known as the Marian shrine, it’s the largest illicit Catholic shrine in the world as it hasn’t been recognized by the Catholic Church yet.

Getting into Medjugorje

The easiest way for tourists coming from other parts of the world to get to Medjugorje is to fly to Split in Croatia . From the Split bus terminal, tourists can take a bus to Medjugorje. There are 3 daily buses to the town from the terminal. The journey takes about 3.5 hours and tickets can be bought from the terminal or can be paid for on board. An additional fee is charged for luggage. Tourists can also fly to Dubrovnik in Croatia and take a bus from there to reach Medjugorje.


As Medjugorje is one of the biggest prayer centers and pilgrimage sites in the world, it is capable of accommodating thousands of people. There are a number of hotels that offer tourists affordable and comfortable accommodation. Tourists can choose from mid-range hotels to the more luxurious ones for accommodation that suits their preference. Some of the popular hotels in the town include Ruza Hotel, Globtour Inn, Hotel Broynjo and Hotel Annamaria. Tourists should make arrangements for accommodations well in advance if they are visiting during the Youth Festival as Medjugorje can get quite crowded around this time of the year.


The Marian shrine is one of the most popular attractions in Medjugorje. In addition to this, there are a few other places that tourists must visit in the town. This includes the White Cross Hill, also known as the Cross Mountain which is quite close to the town. The path up to the white cross erected at the peak is lined with the different stations of the cross. St. James Church and the Cenacolo are two other spots that tourists can visit when they are in Medjugorje

Friday, March 25, 2011

Top 10 romantic beach retreats

Top 10 romantic beach retreats

Sometimes all you need is the right setting of sun, sea and sand for love to simply blossom.

Boutique hotel collection Mr & Mrs Smith ( help you to find the romantic beach retreats to get you in the mood for passion.

1. Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Set on a private peninsula that's just a sexy speedboat ride from coastal town Nha Trang in south-central Vietnam, romantic boutique hotel Six Senses Ninh Van Bay offers luxury for lovers. Its 58 dreamy villas all feature seductive beds and bath tubs open to the outdoors, with private pools for cooling dips (choose between beach, spa or waterside settings). You can also dine alfresco by the bay, the pool or up on the rocks for serene sea views - or book a table for two in the atmospherically lit Wine Cave, perfect for popping the question. After quality pampering at the Six Senses Spa, make a date with a sunlounger on the secluded beach.

2. Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel, Côte d'Azur, France

With design as glittering as the surrounding sea, chic Côte d'Azur retreat Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel in the south of France is all about Gallic glamour. Once a beachside club for the jet-set, including film stars Sofia Loren and Cary Grant, this heavenly hotel has its own beach for sandy sojourns. With just 27 rooms, it's intimate, too; Deluxe Room 208 has dazzling views, but Room 201 has a fabulous fish mural. Even the restaurant is named Les Pecheurs (The Fishermen) after the maritime setting. Dine here for gastronomic gravitas, or casual beachside Le Cap serves up pasta, fish and local dishes by the waves. Bring this season's swimwear for poolside posing.

3. Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

For a romantic hotel on the Great Barrier Reef, look no further than Australian boutique retreat Lizard Island, a short flight from Cairns off the Far North Queensland coast. With just 40 secluded rooms and 24 ivory-white beaches to choose from, you're likely to have a seductive cove of sand all to yourself for that picnic by the waves. Swim off the beach, take a kayak or boat out, or go snorkeling or diving at famous Cod Hole on the outer reef with turtles and rays for company. Back at base camp, enjoy a hot-stone massage at Azure Spa, then dine on fresh fish and seafood at airy Osprey's restaurant. This idyllic island has honeymoon written all over it.

4. The Datai, Langkawi, Malaysia

Set on beach-blessed Langkawi Island, a back-to-nature getaway off Malaysia's northwest coast, the Datai occupies a dramatic perch between pure white-sand beaches and verdant rainforest. Famed for its opulence, this beachfront luxury hotel attracts the great and the glam, with 112 wood-crafted rooms, including standalone villas in jungle pockets. The striking main pool boasts beach views, and is for adults only, so you can relax in peace. Alternatively, take a couple's cooking class, enjoy a spa or yoga session, or go on a guided nature walk (look out for monkeys and eagles). With delicious Malaysian and Thai dishes up for grabs, as well as a beach club restaurant, dining is an affair in itself.

5. Masseria Torre Coccaro, Puglia, Italy

A fortified farmhouse set amid sea-scented olive groves, Masseria Torre Coccaro boutique hotel in Puglia offers refined romance on Italy's Adriatic shores. Located between Brindisi and Bari on the country's south-east coast, its 37 stone-walled rooms are exquisitely decorated with linen bedding, silky sofas, baroque mirrors and antique furniture. Chill out in a poolside hammock, warm up in the Turkish baths or treat yourself in the Aveda spa. For nautical romance, commandeer Masseria's private 14-meter yacht, then relax at the beach club restaurant. The hotel also runs a horse riding center, if you fancy a trot along the sand.

6. Zeavola, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

One of the only boutique hotels on the intimate twin islands of Koh Phi Phi, Zeavola resort is a sandy seaside hamlet of traditional Thai huts blending relaxed rusticity with mod-con indulgence. An affordable spot to savour beautiful shores, it offers 52 freestanding villas (beachfront ones are the most romantic - plump for number 51, nearest the sea). Inside, net-draped beds, teak surfaces and Thai furniture keep things simple. When you've overdosed on swimming and sunbathing, learn to dive at the PADI center or take a speedboat trip around the islands, then settle in at Tecada beach bar and restaurant for some serious sunset-scoping.

7. Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, Sagres, Portugal

Set at Sagres on the wild south-west coast of Portugal's Algarve, Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel is beloved by beachcombers, with an inviting stretch of sand and a national park for neighbors. Natural materials rule in the 38 rooms, from cork to timber, wicker and stone, ensuring ocean views remain the star of the show. The Beach Rooms are the most private, with sea vistas from airy balconies. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outdoors in at O Terraço restaurant, too, where sea urchin roe with scrambled egg is a must. Distractions include tennis courts, a sports club, pools, watersports, a spa, sauna and steam rooms, but strolling along the seductive beaches at Sagres' fishing port takes some beating.

8. Cocoa Island, Maldives, Indian Ocean
To rev up the romance, escape to serene sanctuary Cocoa Island, a cluster of 33 suites and villas set over the Indian Ocean in the Maldives. A hit with honeymooning couples and lovers of pristine diving, it's the stuff of faraway island fantasies. All rooms are individual at-sea dwellings sited off a snaking wooden pier, with private sun-decks, walk-in showers, roll-top baths and vintage-style ceiling fans. Resembling Keralan boathouses, they promise over-water views, soothing white interiors and teak flooring for laid-back romance. Scuba diving and snorkeling on the reef are mind-blowing, or just explore the holistic Como Shambhala Spa. Cocktails at poolside bar Faru beckon for re-intoxicating after.

9. Shore Club Miami, Miami, United States

Miami meets Marrakech at Shore Club Miami, a stylish 309-room retreat in the heart of South Beach. This art deco hotel is a hedonistic playground for grown-ups by day or night, with a sexy retro lobby, sprawling lawns, the slinky Skybar and a branch of acclaimed Japanese restaurant Nobu. The party people may flock here, but it's a romantic spot, too. Bag a sleek white room with a balcony sea view, loaded with hi-tech treats, then head down to the steamy hot tub and two elevated infinity-edge pools, fringed by decadent cushion-strewn day-beds. Luxurious, tropical and right by the beach. You've so arrived...

10. Alila Villas Soori, Bali, Indonesia

Strung along Bali's south-west coast between black-sand beaches and jade-green rice paddies, just-remote-enough Indonesian retreat Alila Villas Soori is seriously seductive. All 48 of its pool villas are sublime, minimal havens with ocean views, but book a second-storey Ocean Pool Villa for a blue bonus: a sea-view bath tub. After lazing by the beach or 25-meter infinity pool, enjoy a slumber-inducing Balinese massage at Spa Alila. Surfing, horse-riding and cycling are all on offer, or ask the Leisure Concierge to hook you up with bespoke visits to local food markets, artisans or romantic temples. Just steps off Kelating Beach, the resort's casual restaurant Coast grills fresh seafood over charcoal or clink glasses at more formal restaurant Cotta.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

World's Top Nighttime Adventures

World's Top Nighttime Adventures

Some of the world’s coolest outdoor adventures happen after dark, under the stars; out here, sunset is just the beginning of the day.

It’s 10 p.m. on the banks of the Macal River, a whitewater stream in the mountains of Belize, and Carlos Quiterio has a rhyme to tell: “Black and yellow, kill the fellow; yellow and black, kill the jack.”
Quiterio is leading a night hike at Black Rock Lodge, an eco-resort in Belize’s Cayo District, and we’re alone in the inky night, clouds shifting on a pale moon. Spider eyes pop from the grass like blue sparks, irises ignited in the swoop of a flashlight beam. His rhyme—a mnemonic device culled from a childhood of jungle play—was made to aid in the identification of deadly snakes. “Let’s watch for the fer-de-lance,” he says, referring to an aggressive viper recently seen on a riverside walk.
Nighttime hiking—or biking, skiing, or kayaking—can make for the ultimate adventure, as well as a great way to experience a destination. Fortunately, whether you want to go on your own, hire a guide, or catch up with a local group of enthusiasts, there’s no shortage of opportunities to have an experience where adrenaline shares space with the sublime.
Take the San Juan Islands Kayaking Weekend, a program offered by REI Adventures. After a day of sea kayaking in Washington’s Puget Sound, paddlers have dinner and then suit up again for a late-night tour. The objective is to see a luminous species of tiny creatures called dinoflagellates that glow in the cold waters of the San Juans. “It’s like silver sparklers in the water,” said guide Clark Casebolt, who has experienced the bioluminescence phenomenon dozens of times while leading the REI trip. “The water drips, glowing like molten metal onto a spray skirt.”
Land-lubbers, too, have no shortage of moonlight options. At Quebec’s Mount Sainte Anne resort, for example, there are 17 trails lit up and open each night on a 2,625-foot mountain, letting skiers schuss under the stars. Bikers can do races like the 24 Hours of Moab, an annual competition inUtah that features participants pedaling straight through the night.
But not all moonlight adventures are so hard-core. In Singapore, the Night Safari Zoo, opened in 1994, is touted as the “world’s first wildlife park built for visits at night.” The zoo, open 7 p.m. to midnight, is illuminated mainly by starlight, and guests can see more than 1,000 nocturnal animals in vast naturalistic habitats.
So whether you’re in the urban jungle of Singapore, the slopes of Quebec, or the desert of Utah, you can revel in the oddity and thrill of a nighttime adventure. Read on to discover 10 unique after-dark activities that happen on the dark side of the planet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Escape to the great outdoors

Escape to the great outdoors

As things heat up in the Valley, you may consider ways to escape the warm temperatures.
Every Wednesday, features travel deals for Arizonans. 
This week, we’re heading outdoors in these great adventure deals through AAA Arizona:
Colorado from $139* per night 

Right near the popular ski destination of Vail sits this Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort, a AAA four-diamond property!
It’s right at the base of the 11,000-foot peaks of the Gore Range Mountains. Talk about extravagant views.
In the spring months, it will be ideal to escape to the mountains and not break a sweat doing it.
If you spend three nights at this resort, the fourth night is FREE. Pretty nice deal!
Montana from $109* per night 

Right by the Whitefish Lake, the AAA four-diamond property known as the Lodge at Whitefish Lake offers breathtaking mountain views and plenty of ways to relax in northwest Montana.
From spa treatments to fine dining, this place can really make a lasting impression.
Natural materials were used throughout the property to really bring out the beauty of nature.
All guest suits come with fireplaces and balconies to admire everything stunning nature has to offer.
Whistler, BC from $197* per night 

This was the home of many events of the 2010 Olympic Games. 

But top-notch golf courses, mountain views worth noting, and high class living make this destination something to look forward to year-round.
The AAA four-diamond property known as The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is located at the bottom of Blackcomb Mountain.
Here’s your chance to truly take in the smell of the evergreen trees and fresh air as you get a lot of exercise in walking from one sightseeing activity to the next.
For more information or to book, visit .
*Room rates are per night and allow one or two people per room. Hotel taxes and fees are additional. For three or more people, extra person charges may apply. Offers vary by hotel, are for select arrival dates, subject to availability, and may be discontinued without notice. Additional restrictions and blackout dates may apply.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 10 happiest countries in the world

Top 10 happiest countries in the world

Here is a list of TOP 10 happiest countries in the world. The basis of this list is research done by professor Ruut Veenhoven who runs theWorld Database of Happiness at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

How is happiness measured?

Happiness can be very subjective. Some people are happy when it rains, others are happy when the sun is shining. So how is it measured? Apparently the people at World Database of Happiness take into account a number of different things such as average life expectancy and most importantly the answer to the following multiple choice question “How happy are you?” (Although the actual question has varied a bit throughout the years). Having all the variables they run it through a computer and get a number from 1 to 10. The bigger the number, the happier the country

Happiest countries in the world

10. Luxembourg – 7.6 points

Living in the worlds richest country inevitably puts a smile on your face! This small landlocked European country has an army of 800 people (yes, 800). They don’t have a navy nor an air force but together with Belgium they can afford to own 1 military cargo plane. 
According to the Guinness Book of World Records Luxembourg holds the world record as the country that consumes most alcohol in the world per citizen.

9. Guatemala – 7,6 points

This Central American country borders with Mexico in the north and is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This location makes it a very difficult country to stay happy in – Guatemala is frequently ravished by hurricanes and earthquakes that often kill thousands of people. Main exports of Guatemala include coffee, sugar and bananas. The latter is probably why they are so happy – have you ever seen someone that can stay sad while eating a banana? :lol: 56% of all Guatemalans live in poverty. If you ask me, they can use the cheap bananas!

8. Canada – 7,6 points

Many people have no idea that Canada’s head of state is actually Queen Elizabeth II – the head of the British Monarchy. This meant that when Britain declared war on Germany in World War I, Canada was automatically at war with the soon to be Nazi country. Unlike the neighboring US, Canada has never cancelled its relations with Cuba and has declined to take part from the Iraq War – instead, it has played a leading role in the United Nations peacekeeping missions and helped to launch a $1.5 billion initiative to help develop vaccines that could save millions of people in poor countries. It seems that happy people make a happy country!

7. Sweden – 7,7 points

This “welfare state” model is an excellent example of effective national taxes.  Among other things the state provides universal tax-funded childcare, parental leave, health care, education (including university), retirement pensions and sick leave. Including value added tax (VAT – kind of like sales tax), it is possible to pay up to 80% of your income as taxes. Contrary to popular belief, Swedes are quite OK with their high taxes. After all it gives them tons of free and high quality services – what’s not to be happy about!
Sweden is also the home of IKEA – the worlds largest furniture store. IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kampard is famous for being the 7th richest person in the world (Net worth $31 billion) and driving a 15 year old Volvo station wagon. It has been claimed that more people read the Ikea catalogue than the Bible – and that one in ten Europeans have been conceived on an Ikea bed.

6. Australia – 7,7 points

The name “Australia” comes from the Latin word“Australis”, meaning “Southern”. Australia is the only country in the world, that consists of an entire continent. Between 1788 and 1868 the British used Australia as a colony to deport their convicted criminals – these people are the predecessors to many of today’s citizens. Australians are famous for playing rugby and calling each-other “mates”.

5. Finland – 7,7 points

This is the country that brought us Nokia – the worlds largest manufacturer of mobile phones. In 2003 Nokia accounted for about a quarter of Finland’s exports and in 2006 it generated more revenue than the entire budget of Finland.  Before starting to make mobile phones Nokia made (yes, it’s true) rubber boots!  Finland was also home to Simo Häyhä – considered to be the most deadly sniper through history with 542 kills. According to World Economic Forum Finland has the most competitive economy in the world. Plenty to be happy about!

4. Iceland – 7,8 points

This geologically active country is rich in volcanoes and geysers (A geyser is a hot spring that erupts water in certain intervals). Thanks to geothermal power Iceland gets its electricity and hot water dirt cheap. There have been occasions where steel has been shipped for processing from Australia or Africa and when finished shipped back to the originating country. Cheap local energy actually makes this cost effective. According to the Human Development Index, Iceland (together with Norway) is the world’s most developed country.

3. Austria – 8,0 points

Austria is the home to the popular energy drink Red Bull. This country is also one of the few in the world, that allows legal voting beginning from age 16. Upon turning 18, all Austrian males have to take part of a 6 month military service. The country has declared itself formally a neutral country or a  “perpetual neutrality” as they say it, but in reality it has taken part of various peacekeeping missions and also took part of the UN sanctions against Iraq. Thanks to the wide use of wind-, solar- and hydropower Austria produces around 80% of its energy from renewable resources. Education is mostly free, with the exception of an average semester fee of 583 dollars (370 eur) in universities. As you probably guessed – student loan debts are not an issue in Austria.

2. Switzerland – 8,1 points

This cheese and chocolate producing land is the world’s 10th richest country. Switzerland’s neutrality helped their banks to raise some serious cash – for decades it was possible to open a bank account without having to identify yourself. Upon opening an account, you were given a special number that anyone could use to deposit or withdraw money. This law was later changed since it attracted illegal money. Switzerland is also one of the top garbage recyclers in the world (66% to 96% recyclable materials recycled). They achieve this by keeping recycling free, but asking money for regular garbage – thus giving people a financial incentive to recycle.

1. Denmark – 8,2 points

Just like Sweden, Denmark is a Nordic welfare state with most of its services free to the citizens. Expect to pay 72% of your money to the government on the highest income tax bracket. According to Wikipedia Denmark has the worlds highest taxes! When buying a car in Denmark one has to pay 25% VAT to the import price of the vehicle and then a 180% registration tax on top. That means when a car sells for $20 000, you have to pay an additional $45 000 as taxes for the government (total of $65 000). That’s why people in Denmark ride bikes or use one of the best public transport systems in the world. Denmark also has 2 autonomous provinces – the Faroe Islands and Greenland. The latter is over 50 times larger than Denmark but has about 100 times less people.

Other notable countries

  • USA – 7.4 points – 17th place
  • Great Britain – 7.1 points – 22nd place
  • France – 6.5 points – 39th place
  • China – 6.3 points – 44th place
  • India – 6.3 points – 45th place
  • Japan – 6.3 points – 46th place
I’ve been to 4 out of 10 happiest countries in the world – Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland and Denmark! What’s your score?