Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature focusing on all things travel.
It's time to get a Real ID (for real)
Starting on May 3, 2023, U.S. travelers flying domestically will no longer be able to show their standard driver's license when boarding a plane. Instead, they'll have to provide a Real ID, or another Transportation Authority Administration-approved form of identification.
This has been a long time coming. In response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005. The law sets minimum security standards for driver's licenses and ID cards; a special seal on the license or ID card indicates the individual went through the screening and approval process.
Real IDs were supposed to go into effect in 2008 but were continuously delayed. If you don't have a Real ID, a passport or Enhanced Driver's License is an acceptable alternative.
National Geographic touts Trinidad & Tobago, Botswana, and Slovenia as 2023 must-see destinations
While some people know exactly where they want to head for vacation, with everything planned down to the appetizer course of the fourth night's dinner, others need inspiration. National Geographic is here to help, releasing its annual list of the most "breathtaking places and experiences" for 2023.
Their suggestions include: Botswana, to see the incredible wildlife; Slovenia, to scope out the new biking routes that stop at vineyards, cheesemakers, and farms; the Longmen Grottoes in Henan Province, China, to take in the ancient art (including nearly 110,000 Buddhist stone statues); and Trinidad & Tobago, to help save sea turtles.
More and more people are using part (or all!) of their vacation to give back, and in Trinidad & Tobago, tourists are volunteering to protect vulnerable sea turtles during nesting season. Their duties include tagging and counting nesting mothers, monitoring and relocating nests, and protecting the turtles from predators. "Their hard work has caused leatherback meat and egg poaching to fall to near zero," National Geographic notes. There are still a lot of beaches that don't have any monitors, but technology can help: vacationers can report their sea turtle sightings through the TURT app.
So you want to ... see the world by sea
You can cover a lot of ground (er, water?) when you take a cruise, especially one that lasts a few weeks. For those who like the idea of not having to drive long distances, take multiple flights, or constantly change hotel rooms, going on a world cruise might be the best way to go exploring.
Azamara just announced its 2025 world cruise, which will start in San Diego, California, and end in Southampton, England. In between, the ship (the Azamara Onward) will stop in 37 countries, with destinations including Sydney, Bangkok, Tahiti, Lisbon, and Barcelona. The cruise will span 155 nights, and kicks off with a gala in San Diego. Azamara President Carol Cabezas told Travel + Leisure that 60 percent of ports on this sailing are different from the 2024 world voyage, and the itinerary was "carefully curated to give even the most well-traveled guests a new perspective of the world."
Who should book this? Someone with the ability to be away from home for 155 nights, doesn't get seasick, and enjoys the salty air. Also, consider the price: the fare is expensive (the cheapest option is Club Interior, at a cool $39,999 per person, based on double occupancy). This does include perks like 13 cultural events, $4,000 in onboard credit, weekly laundry service, a premium drink package for two, and unlimited wi-fi for one device, but is still a significant chunk of change.
What is the Azamara Onward like? The ship is new, having been christened on May 2 in Monte Carlo. It can hold up to 684 passengers, and there's a spa, fitness center, and specialty restaurants, including the Prime C Restaurant with steak and seafood dishes and Aqualina Restaurant, featuring an Italian menu. The Atlas Bar, which serves artisanal cocktails, can only be found on the Azamara Onward. There is no age limit to sail on the ship, but Azamara discourages families from coming on board with kids 18 and under.
Ready to go? Here's what you need to know: Bookings open to the public on Nov. 10, on the Azamara website. The 2024 world cruise sold out and has a waitlist, so it's possible that could happen again in 2025.
Plan accordingly: Upcoming events and openings to add to your calendar
Calling all movie buffs who love the cold: The 2023 Sundance Film Festival is just a few months away. Running Jan. 19-29, 2023, Sundance isn't just about screening new films and documentaries — attendees can also sit in on conversations with the directors and listen to panel discussions. Volunteers are a huge reason why the festival is able to operate, so if you have the time, consider signing up.
It's not exactly swimming weather in much of the United States, leaving many to just dream of taking a dip. One pool to start thinking about is at the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley in Scottsdale, Arizona. The hotel is set to open in the fall of 2023, with a swimming pool measuring 400 feet, making it one of the longest pools in North America. Now that's how you make a splash.