Travel news: Christmas hotels, expensive cities and the future of transport

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Unleash the elves, December is here. Start the holiday countdown with our roundup of 15 luxury hotels that go all out for Christmas and then read about Advent traditions around the world.

Here are the rest of CNN Travel’s biggest stories from this week.

Sad the holidays are nearly over?

The future of transport

Airbus announced on November 30 that it’s developing a hydrogen-powered fuel cell engine that it plans to test on an A380, the world’s biggest-ever passenger plane. Test flights are planned for 2026.

And in other transport innovations, the XPeng flying car completed its first public test flight in Dubai in October. The all-electric, two-passenger vehicle takes off vertically without need for a runway and so is suited to built-up urban areas.

Down at ground level, lightweight microcars might be the future of city driving, as countries around the world take steps to clear their streets of heavy traffic and pollution.

Wild world

You wait ages for a photography competition showcasing incredible wildlife and nature images from around the world and then two come along at once.

Want golden snub-nosed monkeys, nuzzling red foxes and a playful polar bear cub? Try the .

More in the mood for a tree frog, a hermit crab and a deadly battle of leopard vs. steenbok? Then check out the winners of the British Ecological Society photo competition.

Some other animals were caught on camera last month, too. New CCTV footage has revealed how five lions were able to escape from their enclosure at a zoo in Sydney.

Spotlight on Hawaii

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, is still spewing lava after erupting for the first time in nearly 40 years. Here’s why volcanic ash presents a danger to aircraft.

Former flight attendant Gwendolyn Bruhn, 94, flew with Hawaiian Airlines back in the 1940s, years before Hawaii became a US state. Here are her memories of attending to stars including Jimmy Stewart and the swimmer Esther Williams.

Hawaii has long been one of Japan’s favorite vacation destinations. The reason for its enduring appeal is something the Japanese call “iyashi,” meaning “healing” or “comfort.” Here’s the story of that love affair.

Spotlight on Saudi Arabia

Drone footage shot in the Saudi desert has revealed a huge, fish-shaped rock emerging from the sands. Photographer Khaled Al Enazi captured the unique aerial perspective.

And in other “Saudi things that look like marine life but aren’t,” a design company is hoping to make an enormous $8 billion turtle-shaped boat that could become the largest floating structure ever built.

CNN’s Richard Quest visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year: Here’s what he discovered.

Traveling the world in an ambulance

Journeys in ambulances aren’t typically relaxed and leisurely, but for UK couple Lawrence Dodi and Rachel Nixon, a former private ambulance is their vehicle of choice for a trip around the world.

In case you missed it

The world’s most expensive cities for 2022 have been named and there’s a tie at the top.

One’s in the US and the other is in Asia. Check out the full list here.

When a nation has 17,500 islands, 38 provinces and 700 dialects, you’d better believe its cuisine is diverse.

Here are 12 foods every visitor to Indonesia should try.

Staff shortages in the aviation industry are hitting one group of travelers harder than most.

The treatment of disabled air passengers has become “unacceptable.”

The French baguette has been given UNESCO protection.

Cherish those precious carbs.

Fasten your seat belts

Each week we highlight a traveler who’s had a brush with the law, and this time it’s the turn of Odell Beckham Jr. The NFL star was removed from a Miami flight on November 27 after refusing to comply with safety protocol, police said.

Beckham Jr. took no chances when he set out on tour on December 1. He posted an Instagram story from a private jet, saying “not today” and “back to the regular.”

Got the juice

You can save valuable luggage space – and have less weight to lug around – if you replace your separate bulky laptop, tablet and smartphone chargers with a compact, powerful energy-efficient GaN charger that can be used with all three.

Our partners at CNN Underscored, a product reviews and recommendations guide owned by CNN, have a guide to the best GaN chargers around.