The Great American Road Trip Is Making a Comeback

iStock
iStock

There’s something special—and so quintessentially American—about a road trip. It's a concept that has been romanticized for decades by classic American writers like Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck, and has been popularized in films such as Easy Rider and Thelma & Louise.

Road trips aren’t just a relic of the 20th century, though. They’re now making a comeback, according to the Chicago Tribune, which cited three surveys quantifying the trend. The first, MMGY Global's "2017-18 Portrait of American Travelers," showed that 39 percent of all vacations taken in 2016 were road trips, representing a 22 percent increase from the previous year. The ability to make stops while traveling was the main reason given for this preference, while other respondents cited the lower cost of driving instead of flying, the ability to take pets along for the ride, and the ease of making last-minute plans.

Steve Cohen, senior vice president of travel insights at MMGY Global, told the newspaper that Millennials are driving this trend. He believes nostalgia plays a key role, since Millennials are likely to recall road trips they took “when they were kids, which wasn’t that long ago,” he said.

Of the 88 million Americans planning to take vacations this year, 44 percent are Millennials, followed by 39 percent from Generation X, and 32 percent Baby Boomers, according to a survey by AAA. Of their respondents, 64 percent are planning a road trip—making it the most popular travel option, despite the fact that gas prices have risen. And half of those surveyed by Ford Motor Company said that road trips were more appealing because of the spontaneity that they allow. The company found that a new class of “road trippers” is primarily made up of families who prefer to drive instead of fly, “whirlwind travelers” who take short trips when they have the chance, and solo female travelers.

But not all road trips are created equal, and some states in the U.S. are more suited to long drives than others. A 2016 report by WalletHub found that Oregon was the best state for road trips, while Connecticut was the worst. Each state was ranked according to 21 criteria, from gas prices to road quality to attractions.

Ready to hit the road? You may want to check out the “ultimate U.S. road trip,” an epic journey that covers some of the best attractions in all 48 continental states.

[h/t Chicago Tribune]

What Do the Numbers and Letters on a Boarding Pass Mean?

iStock.com/Laurence Dutton
iStock.com/Laurence Dutton

Picture this: You're about to embark on a vacation or business trip, and you have to fly to reach your destination. You get to the airport, make it through the security checkpoint, and breathe a sigh of relief. What do you do next? After putting your shoes back on, you'll probably look at your boarding pass to double-check your gate number and boarding time. You might scan the information screen for your flight number to see if your plane will arrive on schedule, and at some point before boarding, you'll also probably check your zone and seat numbers.

Aside from these key nuggets of information, the other letters and numbers on your boarding pass might seem like gobbledygook. If you find this layout confusing, you're not the only one. Designer and creative director Tyler Thompson once commented that it was almost as if "someone put on a blindfold, drank a fifth of whiskey, spun around 100 times, got kicked in the face by a mule … and then just started puking numbers and letters onto the boarding pass at random."

Of course, these seemingly secret codes aren't exactly secret, and they aren't random either. So let's break it down, starting with the six-character code you'll see somewhere on your boarding pass. This is your Passenger Name Reference (or PNR for short). On some boarding passes—like the one shown below—it may be referred to as a record locator or reservation code.

A boarding pass
Piergiuliano Chesi, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

These alphanumeric codes are randomly generated, but they're also unique to your personal travel itinerary. They give airlines access to key information about your contact information and reservation—even your meal preferences. This is why it's ill-advised to post a photo of your boarding pass to social media while waiting at your airport gate. A hacker could theoretically use that PNR to access your account, and from there they could claim your frequent flier miles, change your flight details, or cancel your trip altogether.

You might also see a random standalone letter on your boarding pass. This references your booking class. "A" and "F," for instance, are typically used for first-class seats. The letter "Y" generally stands for economy class, while "Q" is an economy ticket purchased at a discounted rate. If you see a "B" you might be in luck—it means you could be eligible for a seat upgrade.

There might be other letters, too. "S/O," which is short for stopover, means you have a layover that lasts longer than four hours in the U.S. or more than 24 hours in another country. Likewise, "STPC" means "stopover paid by carrier," so you'll likely be put up in a hotel free of charge. Score!

One code you probably don’t want to see is "SSSS," which means your chances of getting stopped by TSA agents for a "Secondary Security Screening Selection" are high. For whatever reason, you've been identified as a higher security risk. This could be because you've booked last-minute or international one-way flights, or perhaps you've traveled to a "high-risk country." It could also be completely random.

Still confused? For a visual of what that all these codes look like on a boarding pass, check out this helpful infographic published by Lifehacker.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Taco Bell is Opening a Taco-Themed Hotel in Palm Springs This Summer

Taco Bell Corp.
Taco Bell Corp.

For some, having a Taco Bell and its cheese-filled menu within driving distance is enough. For others, only a Taco Bell destination vacation will do. This August, the popular fast food chain is going to convert an existing Palm Springs, California, hotel into a burrito-filled Taco Bell getaway for a limited time.

The Bell Hotel will have all the usual amenities—rooms, food, gifts, and a salon—operating with a taco-themed cosmetic facelift. The nail salon, for example, will feature Taco Bell-inspired nail art. (Though we're not entirely sure what that consists of—possibly nails that resemble hot sauce packets.) The gift shop will feature Taco Bell apparel. Guests can also enjoy the standard variety of Taco Bell menu items. According to Thrillist, some new additions to their line-up are expected to be unveiled.

The as-yet-undisclosed hotel in Palm Springs will be operating as a Taco Bell partner for five nights total. As with pop-up stores and other publicity campaigns, the expectation is that guests will share their bizarre Taco Bell resort experience on social media and create some buzz around the brand. Taco Bell is no stranger to audacious marketing, as in the case of their Taco Bell Cantina in Las Vegas, which books weddings. Recently, the company also began making home deliveries via GrubHub.

The Bell Hotel website is now accepting sign-ups so fans can be notified when reservations open. The facility is expected to open August 9.

[h/t CNBC]

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