Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson
Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson

Go Inside Iceland's New Inflatable “Bubble Hotel”

Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson
Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson

There’s camping, glamping, and now, in a forest just outside Iceland’s popular Golden Circle, there’s an unusual, inflatable mix of the two: bubble-ing.

The new Aurora Bubble Hotel, a clear, inflatable plastic “bedroom,” is the brainchild of Iceland native and Northern Lights expert Robert Sveinn Robertsson. The concept started when Robertsson was advising a customer on his Northern Lights expedition. In passing, the customer suggested he create a clear-ceiling hotel for sleeping under the aurora borealis, and Robertsson quickly turned this recommendation into action. In January of this year, the initial “Bubble” was born.

Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson

At first glance, the Aurora Bubble Hotel is a cross between a heated igloo and a bouncy house. The Bubble stays inflated with a noiseless ventilation system that continuously refreshes the air to prevent humidity and adjust the temperature based on thermostat settings. If punctured, the Bubble will slowly deflate, but it has a thin metal frame to support the walls until it’s repaired.

Inside, there’s room for one full bed, one night lamp, two small suitcases, and … that’s about it. To provide guests with a sense of privacy—which is important, given its clear plastic walls—the Bubble is located on a remote farm near a town called Reykholt. Its exact location is only shared with Bubble Hotel guests; it’s not listed on the hotel's website.

Because of the relatively tight quarters, there’s no bathroom inside the actual Bubble. Instead, when nature calls, guests use an outhouse with an upscale portable toilet several feet away. Bathing-wise, guests shower at the nearby Secret Lagoon, a remote geyser-powered hot spring that gives the country's more famous Blue Lagoon a run for its money.

Stephanie Vermillion

Off-site showers. Outhouse in the woods. Secret locations. That’s a lot of work just to sleep in a plastic bubble, isn’t it?

Actually, no. These few small inconveniences aren’t deterring travelers who are willing to put in a little extra effort to sleep with a stunning view. The Aurora Bubble Hotel is booked almost entirely through May (at roughly $225 a night), and Robertsson has seen such great demand, he’s opening two more Bubbles this July. The new units will be larger, with room for a table and two chairs. Robertsson is also building an on-site shower.

This month, my boyfriend and I were among the Bubble Hotel’s first guests during a stop on our road trip through Iceland. Even with a little skepticism, the inside was much cozier than we anticipated, which made for a perfect night of stargazing and, for a brief two minutes, watching the Northern Lights.

Stephanie Vermillion

As you’d imagine, sleeping in a clear, inflatable Bubble is a little unsettling. At any moment you could wake up to a person or animal (or heck, even an elf—this is Iceland after all!) staring at you through the thin plastic walls. But fortunately, Robertsson's secrecy and covert directions made sure that wasn't the case. The only visitors we had were up-and-at-’em birds that awakened us from a surprisingly restful sleep.

Whether it’s Aurora chasing in the winter or stargazing in the summer, the Bubble Hotel is an unusual, year-round option for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. And even if the stars don't cooperate, you’ll have quite the Icelandic tale to tell.

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Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
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If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

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The Best Way to Fight Sky-High Gas Prices This Summer
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Thanks to crude oil prices and increasing demand, it's getting very expensive to operate a motor vehicle in the U.S. In Connecticut and New York, gas prices have hit over $3 a gallon. According to AAA, the national average—which fluctuates on a daily basis—is hovering around $2.90. As a result, motorists might spend up to $200 more fueling up in 2018.

Whether that will translate into fewer people taking road trips this summer remains to be seen. But you don't necessarily have to be at the total mercy of Big Oil every time you pull up to the pump. While credit card programs and other discount offers can shave pennies off a refuel, it's what you do once you leave the station that has the greatest impact on fuel economy.

Automotive expert Ron Montoya of Edmunds, an online automotive information hub, spoke with NBC News recently and suggested that drivers can anticipate significant savings based on one simple rule: drive less aggressively.

Depending on the model, cars tend to maximize fuel economy around 50 miles per hour (mph). When a car joins the racing flow of traffic on a highway, accelerating from 55 mph to 75 mph, fuel consumption speeds up right along with it, shaving up to 15 miles per gallon (mpg) off the vehicle's fuel efficiency. Even going 65 mph will eat up four to eight mpg more. Overall, the act of threading through traffic by speeding, braking, and rapidly accelerating is responsible for a 15 to 30 percent reduction in gas mileage. It's like paying 20 cents more per gallon for every 5 mph driven over a cruising speed of 50 mph.

In addition to maintaining a moderate speed, road trippers may also want to consider leaving cargo off the roof—it increases drag—and sticking with regular unleaded. Most cars don't need premium, even if it's "recommended" on car doors. Only use more expensive fuel if the manufacturer labels it "required."

As for those credit card deals? They vary by issuer, but paying cash usually results in a 10 to 15 cent savings per gallon because gas stations don't have to cover transaction fees. If you don't normally carry a lot of cash, consider paying with a debit card—but make sure the station will treat it as cash, not credit.

[h/t NBC News]

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