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Out of 118 countries, these are the top 5 for road trips in 2022

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The highly transmissible omicron Covid-19 variant has some travelers thinking twice about air travel again.

While travel bookings are surging this year, some people are sticking with one of the biggest trends to have emerged from the pandemic: the road trip.

“With driving you can significantly lower your risk of exposure when interacting with large groups … making it a safer option,” said Anja Benson, public relations and marketing manager at the vacation home rental website Holidu.

Road trips also give travelers the chance to “clear their minds — something that many will be keen to do after almost two years of being cooped up inside,” she added.

Holidu is behind a new list to inspire travelers to buckle up and hit the road. Its “Cross-Country Road Trip Index” published in December analyzed factors such as road quality, gas prices and landscape variety in 118 countries.

It also took into account the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a given country and the number of cities in the top 100 world ranking, as determined by the website BestCities.org.

These factors, plus others, were weighted equally in the ranking. When countries tied, the country with the best road infrastructure was given the edge because “having decent roads to drive on is something that every ‘road tripper’ will deem important,” said Benson.

Here are the top five countries on that list, along with famous routes in each destination.

1. United States

Home to 29 of the 100 best-ranked cities in the world, the United States offers road warriors a range of landscapes, from mountains and deserts to glaciers and forests.

The country also ranked eighth in the world for road quality.

U.S. Route 66

  • Popular route: Chicago, Illinois to the Santa Monica Pier in California
  • Distance: about 2,450 miles

The old U.S. Route 66 stretched across three time zones and eight states — Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Known as the country’s “Mother Road,” Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, when American transportation officials decertified it and voted to remove its highway signs. Drivers can still trace much of the old route, though the highways have new names now.

Roy’s Motel & Cafe along historic Route 66 in Amboy, California.

Josh Brasted | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Those who do can see St. Louis’ Gateway Arch; half-buried cars at the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas; and Route 66 relics along walking tours in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Along the way, there are small towns with old-school diners and vintage barbershops with remnants of the 20th-century Americana that made the route famous.

Pacific Coast Highway

  • Popular route: San Diego, California to Olympic National Park in Washington
  • Distance: about 1,250 miles

Pacific Coast Highway — called “the 101,” “Highway 1” or “PCH,” depending on the location — extends much of the length of the U.S. West Coast, providing breathtaking views of the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean.

The route passes national parks, beaches and picturesque coastal towns as well as cities like Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Oregon’s Portland.

Travelers can soak in the sun at famous beaches like Long Beach and Huntington Beach, or enjoy the giant trees at Redwood National Park.

Pacific Coast Highway’s Bixby Bridge, near Big Sur, California.

MichaelJust | iStock | Getty Images

For a shorter trip, drivers can begin at San Juan Capistrano in Southern California and end at Leggett, north of San Francisco. It’s about half the distance, but still takes drivers along the majority of the Californian coastline.

2. Mexico

Known for its beach resorts and colorful culture, Mexico is also home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, making it No. 7 in the world by number of Heritage sites.

Like its neighbor to the north, Mexico has deserts and mountain ranges. It also has jungles, which give it an edge when it comes to the number of animals present in the country — another factor in the road trip ranking.

Baja California Peninsula

  • Popular route: Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas
  • Distance: about 1,625 miles

Many travel guides recommend a drive down Baja California, a state in Mexico south of the U.S. state of California.

Road trippers can stop to explore Cabo Pulmo, one of the most well-known diving sites along the peninsula. Much of the diving is geared toward experienced divers, though snorkelers can also see Mexico’s diverse marine life.

Visiting Cabo Pulmo between January and March is ideal for whale watching, when humpback and gray whales can be spotted in area lagoons.

Yucatan Peninsula Loop

  • Popular route: Cancun, back to Cancun
  • Distance: about 1,460 miles

Travelers who circle the Yucatan Peninsula can take in the region’s history, culture and famous beach towns.

Drivers can choose their own path, but common routes include a stop to see the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza — designated one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” in 2017 — and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Mayan monuments of Uxmal and the Spanish colonial harbor town of Campeche.

A tourist stands next to the algae-tinted pink lakes of Los Colorados in Yucatan, Mexico.

wanderluster | E+ | Getty Images

On the way back to Cancun, travelers can stop in the beach towns of Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Another picturesque spot is the collection of pink lakes in Las Coloradas, although visitors are no longer allowed to swim in the water.

3. Canada

Holidu’s study ranks Canada as the sixth country in the world for its “natural assets,” which include its national parks.

The country also scored high for its road infrastructure, with popular cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal clinching spots on the Best Cities list.

Trans-Canada Highway

  • Popular route: Victoria, British Columbia, to St. John’s, Labrador
  • Distance: about 4,860 miles

Known as the second-longest national highway in the world, the Trans-Canada Highway runs through all of Canada’s 10 provinces. It can take a month or more to fully take in the picturesque views along the route.

Fall colors along the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden in British Columbia, Canada.

Education Images | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Hiking in Glacier National Park is a highlight for many road-trippers. The park is open year-round with campgrounds opening in late June, and ski season running from November to April.

Sea to Sky Highway

  • Popular route: Horseshoe Bay to Whistler, both in British Columbia
  • Distance: about 75 miles

A road trip along the Sea to Sky Highway — officially Highway 99 — is filled with natural, cultural and outdoor sport attractions.

Though the distance is short, road trippers routinely stretch out the drive over several days. This grants travelers time to stop at places such as the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, which brings visitors 885 meters (2,900 feet) above sea level for panoramic views of the coastal mountains.

In the winter months, the gondola serves crowds of families who come to ski, hike and snowboard.

4. Malaysia

With affordable accommodations, food and fuel prices, money goes far in Malaysia, the only country in Asia to make the top five.

“One thing that Asia offers road trippers over western countries is value for money,” said Holidu’s Benson. Malaysia is the “seventh cheapest country in the world for gas at only $1.87 a gallon.”

Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands

  • Distance: about 125 miles

The drive from the buzzing capital city of Kuala Lumpur to the high altitudes of Cameron Highlands can be done in half a day.

Dotted with tea plantations and hiking trails, Cameron Highlands is lush and cooler than other parts of Malaysia.

MOHD RASFAN | AFP | Getty Images

Strawberry-picking season usually lasts from May to August, but travelers who visit at other times can explore the municipality’s bee and butterfly farms.

Cameron Highlands is also well known for its tea plantations. Rolling green hills and English-style cottages surround the area for visitors looking to enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea break.

Petaling Jaya to Langkawi

  • Distance: about 300 miles

This road trip covers most of Malaysia’s western coast, from Petaling Jaya — a city on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur — to the islands of Langkawi, which are accessible via ferry.

The Langkawi Sky Bridge is a curved suspension bridge popular with tourists.

Alfred Cheng / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images

To take a break from the sweltering heat, travelers can stop by the seven-tiered Taman Eko Rimba Kanching waterfalls for a swim. From there, it’s only half an hour to Selangor Fruit Valley, a 646-hectare tropical fruit farm with a petting zoo and tram ride.

5. Argentina

Road trippers passing the Argentinian capital city of Bueno Aires — ranked No. 63 on the list of 100 best cities — can “explore its mansion-lined cobblestone streets, bustling boulevards and its nightlife that goes on until dawn,” said Benson.

Those looking for a quieter journey can visit the Yacutinga Rainforest, Andes mountain range or the Patagonian Desert.

Route 40

  • Popular route: Cabo Virgenes, Patagonia to La Quiaca, Jujuy province
  • Distance: about 3,230 miles

Argentina’s Route 40 is said to be one of the most captivating road trips in the world.

Ruta de los Siete Lagos, also known as Route of the Seven Lakes, in Argentina.

Evan Lang | Moment | Getty Images

One of the biggest highlights along the route is the Route of the Seven Lakes. Visitors can spend an entire day exploring the mountainous backdrops, small villages and aquarium-blue waterfalls in the lake region.

There are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way, including Los Glaciares National Park — the country’s largest national park — and the Cueva de las Manos, or “Cave of Hands,” with cave drawings of human hands executed between 9,500 to 13,000 years ago, according to UNESCO.

Buenos Aires to Salta

  • Distance: about 925 miles

Travelers embarking on this route usually spend the weekend in Mendoza, arguably Argentina’s most acclaimed wine region. Many of the vineyards here produce the country’s signature wine grape — Malbec. Horseback riding is a popular way to take in the breathtaking scenery.

Vineyards in the Mendoza wine region of Argentina.

Edsel Querini | E+ | Getty Images

The region also attracts visitors looking for an adrenaline rush, with options to go paragliding and whitewater rafting on the Mendoza River.

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Trump media company subpoenaed in federal criminal probe of SPAC deal

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump gives the keynote address at the Faith & Freedom Coalition during their annual “Road To Majority Policy Conference” at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center June 17, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Seth Herald | Getty Images

Donald Trump’s media company was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with a criminal probe, according to the company with which the former president’s firm plans to merge.

Digital World Acquisition Corp. said in a filing Friday that Trump Media and Technology Group received a subpoena from the grand jury in Manhattan on Thursday. The Trump company also received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a civil probe on Monday, DWAC said.

DWAC also said some current and former TMTG employees have also recently received grand jury subpoenas.

The filing came days after DWAC said the government investigations could delay or even prevent its merger with Trump’s newly formed company, which includes Truth Social, a social media app intended to be an alternative to Twitter.

Neither TMTG nor a spokeswoman for Trump immediately responded to CNBC’s requests for comment.

The Justice Department and the SEC, which regulates the stock market, are investigating the deal between DWAC and Trump Media. By merging with DWAC, which is a kind of shell company called a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, Trump’s firm would gain access to potentially billions of dollars on public equities markets.

Trump established Truth Social months after Twitter banned him for his tweets on Jan. 6, 2021, when hundreds of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. Trump Media’s CEO is former Rep. Devin Nunes, one of the former president’s most ardent loyalists in the Republican Party. Trump is also considering whether to run for president in the 2024 election.

Trump has continued to spread the lie that the election was stolen from him. His alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection is being probed by a House select committee that has accused the former president of being at the center of a multipronged conspiracy to block the peaceful transfer of power to Biden.

Early criticism of the Trump-DWAC deal came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. In calling for an investigation, she wrote to SEC Chair Gary Gensler in November, telling him that DWAC “may have committed securities violations by holding private and undisclosed discussions about the merger as early as May 2021, while omitting this information in [SEC] filing and other public statements.”

DWAC shares are far off their highs, closing Friday at $24.20. The stock had surged above $90 in October, after the deal with Trump’s group was announced.

DWAC on Monday revealed in a securities filing that it learned June 16 that each member of its board of directors received subpoenas from the same federal grand jury.

The grand jury sought documents similar to those the SEC already requested as part of its civil probe, DWAC said. The company itself was served with a subpoena a week ago with similar requests, along with other requests relating to communications, individuals and information involving Rocket One Capital.

DWAC also revealed Monday that a board member, Bruce J. Garelick, had told management that he would quit the board during the previous week. Garelick said his resignation “was not the result of any disagreement with Digital World’s operations, policies or practices,” according to the company filing.

— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger and Thomas Franck contributed to this story.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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Walmart is working on a response to the Supreme Court’s abortion decision, CEO says in memo

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Walmart CEO Doug McMillon speaks at the CNBC Evolve conference November 19th in Los Angeles.

Jesse Grant | CNBC

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told employees on Friday that the company is weighing how to respond to a Supreme Court decision that ended the federal right to an abortion.

“We are working thoughtfully and diligently to figure out the best path forward, guided by our desire to support our associates, all of our associates,” he said in a memo sent to employees on Friday. “We will share details on our actions as soon as possible, recognizing that time is of the essence.”

He did not say what changes the company is considering, such as if it may cover travel expenses for workers who must travel to another state where abortion is available.

The memo was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Arkansas, home to Walmart’s headquarters, is one of several states with severe limits or bans on abortions that went into affect after the high court’s ruling.

Walmart is also the country’s largest private employer. It has about 1.6 million employees across the country, including many who live and work in states across the Sunbelt with abortion restrictions such as Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.

Since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, companies across the country have had a mix of reactions. Some, including JPMorgan Chase, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Target, have announced new plans to cover employee travel to other states for abortions. Others, such as Kroger and Apple, said they already cover travel for medical treatments and reproductive health care. And still others have remained quiet.

Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the country, said in May that it would pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses each year for non-life-threatening medical treatments, including abortions.

Walmart already covers employee travel for some medical procedures, such as certain heart surgeries, cancer treatments and organ transplants.

Walmart health benefits cover only some abortions. According to the company’s employee handbook, charges for “procedures, services, drugs and supplies related to abortions or termination of pregnancy are not covered, except when the health of the mother would be in danger if the fetus were carried to term, the fetus could not survive the birthing process, or death would be imminent after birth.”

Plan B, an over-the-counter form of contraception, is covered only if the person gets a prescription. The pill, often called the “morning after pill,” works by preventing ovulation or preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. It can be taken after unprotected sex or when contraception fails.

Other forms of contraception are also covered with a prescription, including birth control pills, injections and intrauterine devices, or IUDs. Some anti-abortion activists also oppose IUDs because they can stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

In Friday’s memo, McMillon said Walmart has gathered input from employees as it decides what to do. He also alluded to the size and diversity of both the company and its customer base.

“We know our associates and customers hold a variety of views on the issue, and this is a sensitive topic about which many of us feel strongly,” he said. “We want you to know that we see you, all of you. No matter what your position on this topic is, we want you to feel respected, valued and supported.”

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FCC authorizes SpaceX to provide mobile Starlink internet service to boats, planes and trucks

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The Starlink logo is seen in the background of a silhouetted woman holding a mobile phone.

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The Federal Communications Commission authorized SpaceX to provide Starlink satellite internet to vehicles in motion, a key step for Elon Musk’s company to further expand the service.

“Authorizing a new class of [customer] terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move, whether driving an RV across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a U.S. port, or while on a domestic or international flight,” FCC international bureau chief Tom Sullivan wrote in the authorization posted Thursday.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the FCC decision.

Starlink is SpaceX’s network of satellites in low Earth orbit, designed to deliver high-speed internet anywhere on the globe. SpaceX has launched about 2,700 satellites to support the global network, with the base price of the service costing users $110 a month. As of May, SpaceX told the FCC that Starlink had more than 400,000 subscribers.

SpaceX has signed early deals with commercial air carriers in preparation for this decision: It has pacts with Hawaiian Airlines and semi-private charter provider JSX to provide Wi-Fi on planes. Up until now SpaceX has been approved to conduct a limited amount of inflight testing, seeing the aviation Wi-Fi market as “ripe for an overhaul.”

The FCC’s authorization also includes connecting to ships and vehicles like semi-trucks and RVs, with SpaceX having last year requested to expand from servicing stationary customers. SpaceX had already deployed a version of its service called “Starlink for RVs,” with an additional “portability” fee. But portability is not the same as mobility, which the FCC’s decision now allows.

The FCC imposed conditions on in-motion Starlink service. SpaceX is required to “accept any interference received from both current and future services authorized,” and further investment in Starlink will “assume the risk that operations may be subject to additional conditions or requirements” from the FCC.

The ruling did not resolve a broader SpaceX regulatory dispute with Dish Network and RS Access, an entity backed by billionaire Michael Dell, over the use of 12-gigahertz band – a range of frequency used for broadband communications. The FCC continues to analyze whether the band can support both ground-based and space-based services, with SpaceX pushing for the regulator to make a ruling.

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