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5 Quick, Inexpensive Destinations to View the Northern Lights

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The Aurora Borealis tops most travelers’ bucket lists, but this gem of the north is actually much easier to access than one may think. With direct flights to a variety of major Northern Lights hubs, it’s relatively quick—and in some cases even affordable—to see this glowing phenomenon.

1. REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

With its cheap flights and dramatic, remote landscapes, Iceland attracts Aurora chasers from all over the world. On a clear, perfect night, travelers can see the lights in capital city Reykjavik. But, with a quick drive or tour outside the city—and maybe a stay in Iceland’s Bubble Hotel—the odds for an Aurora sighting are even greater.

How to get there: Direct flights from New York City (JFK), New Jersey (EWR), and Boston (BOS) are quick—just five to six hours—and can be found for as low as $300 to $400.

2. ANCHORAGE, ALASKA

Alaska is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, particularly in the less illuminated areas outside of town. Spots like Alyeska Resort, Sheep Mountain Lodge, and Izaak Walton State Park are popular for Northern Lights hunters, but drive anywhere outside the city on a clear and active Aurora night, and the sky will put on quite the show.

How to get there: Direct flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Anchorage can drop below $500, and while flights from New York City (LGA) may be time consuming—between 10 and 16 hours—they can be found for $500 - $600.

3. ISLE OF SKYE, SCOTLAND

The UK isn’t known for clear skies—a necessity for Northern Lights viewing—but in those rare moments the clouds do part, Northern Scotland sure puts on a stunning Aurora display. The Isle of Skye, which has seven hours of daylight during winter, leaves adequate time for daytime explorations, followed by extra hours to catch those lights.

How to get there: Fly direct from New York City (JFK) to Inverness for $700 (and 14 hours of travel), then make an 80-mile, potentially snowy drive up to the Isle of Skye. For those not renting a car, the Isle of Skye is accessible from Inverness via train and bus connection.

4. EDMONTON, CANADA

While Edmonton, Alberta is best known for its enormous West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America, it’s also an incredible—and easily accessible—place to view those Northern Lights. For those who prefer to plan their Aurora viewing to perfection, the popular AuroraWatch platform monitors geomagnetic activity around Edmonton, and will even send alerts and email notifications when the skies are set to glow.

How to get there: Flights from New York City (JFK) to Edmonton are available for under $500 and take about eight hours. From Los Angeles, flight prices drop to an impressive $300 to $400, and can take as little as three hours direct.

5. HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, CANADA

From November through March, the skies of Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador illuminate with vibrant hues from the Aurora Borealis. While Happy Valley-Goose Bay is Labrador’s largest community, it remains a quiet, charming town with little-to-no light pollution and, consequentially, some impressive Aurora viewing opportunities. In fact, the Northern Lights are so prevalent here, the community’s stores and even a dog sled company are named after this natural phenomenon.

How to get there: From Chicago or New York City, flights start around $400 or $650, respectively, but take caution—these low prices come with a lengthy time commitment of two stops and a total of nine to 12 hours.

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This $20 Board Game From JetBlue Includes a Free Round-Trip Flight
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Still looking for a last-minute gift idea? Here’s an affordable item that everyone in your family will be fighting over: As Travel + Leisure reports, JetBlue is selling a $20 board game that includes complimentary round-trip airfare.

The object of the limited-edition game, called Get Packing!, is to fill up your board with personal belongings in preparation for your flight and prevent other players from doing the same. Sounds simple enough, but if you play the way JetBlue recommends, the gameplay will get competitive fast: The first person to fill their bag wins a certificate that can be redeemed for a real round-trip flight.

Winners have from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 to book their free trip. Destinations eligible for flights include domestic cities as well as ones abroad, like Quito, Ecuador and Lima, Peru. Taxes and other fees apply and travelers will still have to pay blackout rates on busy travel days.

After debuting the deal on Amazon on December 12, the product quickly sold out. Fortunately, a new batch will be made available on December 18 at 3 p.m.—just remember to act fast, as it’s likely to be a hot item on everyone’s wish list.

Board game from JetBlue.
JetBlue, Amazon

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Meet Piper: The Border Collie Making a Michigan Airport Safer for Travelers
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Birds may look harmless on solid ground, but in the sky they pose a big threat to any aircraft crossing their path. The Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan, uses a low-tech approach to the problem: a border collie named Piper.

Great Big Story profiled Piper and his handler, airport operations supervisor Brian Edwards, in a recent video. Piper’s job as the airport’s wildlife control canine is chasing away large birds that could strike incoming and outgoing planes, potentially causing anything from dents to engine failure. In Michigan, this usually means large waterfowl like ducks and geese, but it can also include crows, gulls, and snowy owls.

After he’s deployed from a moving car, Piper heads for the birds, scattering them away from the tarmac and teaching them to associate the area with predators. Piper is just doing what most border collies would do in the presence of a flock of birds, only in this case he gets to wear stylish protective goggles while following his instincts.

You can watch the full story below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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