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It may not look like it yet, but the holidays are just around the corner. Two separate reports, from online travel agency CheapAir.com and airfare prediction app Hopper, indicate that the optimal window for booking affordable holiday flights actually has passed; prices will rise every day as the holidays approach.1 If that holds true, unprepared travelers may find themselves in a quandary about how to secure the best deals for their trips. Thankfully, you may still have time to leverage several techniques to help you save money on your flights.
1. Buy now:
The sooner you purchase tickets, the more you will save, according to ABC News.2 When a record number of people travel via air, as may be the case this holiday season, finding last-minute deals often gets harder and harder. Start looking for ticket deals now.
2. Price seats in different configurations:
On the presumption that you’ll have travel companions for your holiday trip, you have one additional consideration regarding cost savings: While sitting next to each other on a flight home for the holidays might seem ideal, there is reason to give pause. Some airlines charge to select a seat in advance and also charge more for seats in the first few rows of economy class, potentially making any group trip more expensive than it has to be. To help find affordable choices, investigate the cost of seat prices throughout the plane and consider searching seat prices on different flights.
3. Check fares several times a day:
Airline “inventory control” teams and systems have become quite nimble at sensing and reacting to market interest. The fare for a particular flight may actually go up or down multiple times in a
single day. If you see a price that’s lower tonight than it was this afternoon, consider locking it in.
4. Travel on the holiday itself:
Traveling on the holiday itself could keep money in your pocket. According to ABC News, Thanksgiving Day typically features the cheapest flights, fewer crowds and shortest lines. Try traveling on the morning of the holiday and if you can’t do that, consider the Monday before the holiday. Travel experts estimate significant potential savings for travel on less popular days.3
5. Forego checked bags:
Although many people choose to travel with gifts and other holiday items in their checked bags, consider traveling with carry-on luggage only. With many airlines charging $25-$50 or more for
each checked bag, each way, bringing only carry-on luggage is cost-efficient – especially as you may be able to ship your gifts to your final destination for less than the checked-bag fees.
6. Check routes through major airports:
Your hometown airport may be the most convenient one from which to fly, but the convenience may come at an extra cost – perhaps, to the tune of a few hundred dollars per person. That’s why flying between major airports may make good economic sense. The fact that competition is fierce at large airports sometimes equates to lower prices for travelers who choose those gateways.4 The silver lining? If you fly in and out of key airports, you’re less likely to need to make a connection, saving time and hassle during peak travel periods.5
7. Learn about alternate gateways, too:
While fares may be less expensive for flights between major airports, sometimes those gateways aren’t actually the closest to your final holiday destination. If you have to rent a car or hail a ride
from an app on your phone to bridge the distance, you might end up having less money to make merry with. A quick search of the web for “alternate airports” will bring up a list of options to
consider. Whether you choose to book your holiday travel now or to try to find a last-minute deal, consider how obtaining travel insurance with 24/7 travel assistance services may come in handy and help cover you financially.
If you travel to Mexico or South America between October 31 and November 2, don’t be surprised if you see revelers made up to appear as skeletons and porcelain skulls in the streets. It’s all part of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. During this colorful otherworldly festival, families in Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil
and Bolivia gather in a public area or cemetery to honor their deceased loved ones while decked out in makeup, flowers, glitter and jewelry that are designed to be amazingly beautiful with skeletal imagery.
Here are four things you need to know about this fascinating holiday:
1. It’s NOT Celebrated like Halloween.
Contrary to the American version of Halloween, Día de los Muertos is not about haunted places, costumes, candy and kids knocking on doors. Instead, the holiday celebrates the lives of the deceased
with food, drink, parties and activities that their dead enjoyed in life. During the celebration, death is recognized as part of the natural part of the human life cycle right along with birth, growing up, adulthood and community. During Dia de los Muertos it is believed that the dead awake from their slumber to share the celebration with loved ones.
2. It’s Ancient.
The festival combines an old Aztec tradition (i.e., a festival celebrating the goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl) with the Catholic All Saints’ and All Souls’ days of the Spanish conquistadors.3 Indigenous cultures of Mexico mocked the “Lady of the Dead,” (traditionally known as La Catrina), which many recognize today as a skeleton woman wearing a fancy hat.3 Legend has it that La Catrina was a rich but greedy and selfish woman who did nothing to help those in need. Today, during Día de los Muertos, she is mocked by revelers who dress in ornate garb with white, painted faces that look like skeletons.
3. It’s a Time to Remember Family and Friends
While Día de los Muertos is a celebration, it’s also a time to reflect on and remember family members. Many homes contain alters made to the dead where the family places candles, flowers and the
deceased’s favorite food and drinks. Families take time in front of the alter to eat, sing and tell stories about their loved ones who have passed.2
4. Flowers Make the Celebration
Among the ceramic skulls and pictures of loved ones, flowers “make” the celebration of Día de los Muertos. Travelers to these regions will notice trucks full of flowers which play a big role in parades, home alters and parade costumes. Marigolds, the Mexican flower of death, are especially present during the festivities as their scent (along with copal, made from burning tree resin) is thought to be most beloved by the spirits of the dead.
For a list of the best places to celebrate Día de los Muertos, see this article by Travel Weekly.
Fall is more than just a time to celebrate pumpkins and colored leaves. From October 18 to October 22, it’s a time to celebrate Diwali, a Hindu festival of light, knowledge and hope.1 This ancient holiday is recognized by millions of people around the globe, but for those traveling to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore or Fiji, where Diwali is considered an official holiday, a special treat awaits. As these travelers join the locals in a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, they may look forward to:
To the locals who celebrate it, Diwali is known simply as the “Festival of Light.” In accordance with tradition, followers light clay lamps to help illuminate the dark path of the mythical Lord Rama as he is welcomed home after 14 years of exile – a reward for killing the ten-headed demon king Ravana.1 In honor of this tale, the yearly celebration of Diwali includes the lighting of many lamps and displays of fireworks.1
From jewel-toned ceremonial robes to vibrant jewelry and flower motifs, Diwali is a festival shrouded in color – primarily, red, yellow, orange, green and white.2 During the festival, participants often create a design called rangoli on the floors of their homes. Rangoli designs are bright, colorful and created with an unbroken line.2 Those who celebrate Diwali believe the unbroken line helps ensure that no evil spirits enter their home, and that the area is welcoming and sacred.
As is common with festivals around the world, Diwali includes its share of food. But what kind of food is most popular during the week-long celebration? Sweets, and in particular, mithai. Mithai is a cinnamon flavored sweetmeat which is a cross between a snack and a dessert and is eaten on its own or alongside a hearty meal.3 Its base consists of chickpea flour, rice flour, semolina, beans, lentils, grains, squashes, carrots, and condensed milk or yogurt, and its toppings may include almonds, chirongi nuts, raisins and cashews.3
Check out some of the best Diwali celebrations in the world according to Lonely Planet.
Travel trends come and go, but perhaps one of the most intriguing of recent trends is the resurrection of train travel.1 With deluxe dining cars and glass-domed observation cars, train travel truly is a unique way to see countryside, villages, cityscapes and vast oceans all in one trip. Here are a few of our favorite trips by train:
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express, with its glamorous carriages, delicious cuisine and personalized service, is reminiscent of a bygone era. While on trips to London, Paris, Venice, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest, passengers can expect to ride in sophisticated, old-world charm. Lunch and dinner is served in plush dining cars and guests can anticipate attire to be black tie.
The Blue Train
Soak in the spectacular scenery of Africa with a ride on The Blue Train. Take in awe-inspiring mountain ranges, arid desert landscapes, and untamed savannah grasslands teeming with wildlife. This train makes a 994-mile trek from Cape Town to Johannesburg three times a week in summer and once a week in the offseason.2
Spanning 9,289 miles, the network of railways connecting Moscow with the Far East is the longest railway in the world. With connecting routes in Mongolia and China, the railway offers endless viewing possibilities. Travelers can expect an eight-day trek to complete their journey on the train, complete with a once-in-a-lifetime viewing of untouched parts of Siberia, and seasonal events such as the Naadam Festival in Mongolia in July. The journey travels across the magnificent and endless steppe and alongside the shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake.
Explore the wild wonders and special heritage of Scotland on the Royal Scotsman. The journey on this train departs from Edinburgh and showcases ancient castles, beautiful gardens and famous distilleries. The ride also features afternoon tea while guests enjoy sharing stories. Nightfall brings cocktails and candlelit dinners before guests retire to their cozy cabins to dream of the next day’s adventures.3
Take in gold mines and ghost towns on the Indian Pacific train ride in Australia. As you might have guessed, the Indian Pacific journey is between two oceans on one of the world’s longest and greatest trains. View the Blue Mountains and Nullarbor Plain, and see unique landscapes and a variety of fascinating wildlife.
Traveling for physical and mental health isn’t a new topic, but purposely seeking out wellness opportunities while traveling is an increasingly popular trend in tourism. Because wellness travel promotes health and wellbeing physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, the goal is to feel better when returning home than on departure. Here are several ways you can begin to incorporate wellness into your next trip:
Track your mileage
Travel presents many natural opportunities for walking, thought by many experts to be one of the best exercises for mind and body. These are just a few examples: The move from check-in to your terminal, the journey, sometimes upstairs, to your hotel room, and the ground covered while sightseeing. Use a smartphone app or a GPS-enabled watch to track your steps. Also, consider how many calories you can burn when you choose to stay on the move while you are away from home.
Rent a bike
Why drive when you can ride a bike? At your destination, or even before you arrive, consider renting a bike and riding it within the area you are exploring. If your travels take you to Europe, you’ll likely be among fellow bikers, as many locals already pedal to their daily destinations.
Indulge in a massage
Nothing gets you in the groove of unwinding while on vacation more than enjoying a good, old-fashioned massage. You don’t have to break the bank to feel rejuvenated, either. Look for local massage schools, which often offer discounts on services. For those traveling in the U.S., MassageSchool.org is a great resource.
Find local running trails
Who needs hotel gym equipment when they can take in the beauty of nature while jogging on a running trail at their destination? While on a layover, use the time to research local running trails in the area where you will be staying. Alternatively, if you have time to check out your options ahead of your flight, all the better to help you be prepared!
Locate a yoga studio
If your membership to your local gym doesn’t include access to affiliated gyms in other cities, check into the availability of on-the-fly yoga classes at a stand-alone studio at your destination. Yoga promotes stress reduction and deep relaxation so that you are ready to face the day or unwind from hours on the go. Treat yourself to a session, and chat with the locals before and after your class to get recommendations for the rest of your trip.
Wellness isn’t solely about staying in shape. What you put in your body can be just as beneficial to looking and feeling your best. While on vacation, consider taking a cooking class on how to best prepare healthy food – then enjoy your hard work at a sit-down dinner with your class! Farm-to-table restaurants offer another great way to graze on healthy food as you travel. These farm-to-table restaurants listed in Travel & Leisure can get you started.
Many of us dream of traveling more often, but lack of funds often contributes to staying home. For those of you who dare to dream, however, traveling the world could become a reality.
- Voluntourism is one of the best ways to give back and see the world at a low cost. There are many development projects all over the world that are looking for volunteers, and they may even help you out with your room and board (and sometimes even flights)!
- Fundraising is a way some people get to travel and experience various parts of the world. Whether it’s through an overseas university research project, through a church or school group, many students and adults alike raise money to pay their way overseas to work on projects, build housing developments for the less fortunate or participate in a research project. All it takes is a little digging to see what opportunities best fit your lifestyle.
- Housesitting is a great way to see the world without the steep price tag. Housesitting entails taking care of someone else’s property (and possibly their pets) in exchange for your stay.1 While they may intimidate some travelers, websites connecting homeowners and house sitters – sometimes for jobs of a few weeks or longer – have emerged as another option.
- Teach English Overseas: Did you know the world is in need of English teachers? A lot of countries only require that you speak English, though some may require a special certification. Many countries in Asia will even pay for your flight to get there.2 What better way to immerse yourself in a culture?
- Use a Credit Card for Everything: While we aren’t advocating getting into debt you can’t pay off, putting all of your purchases on a credit card can earn you more points for free flights and other travel perks that will allow you to travel cheaply. Besides, you can pay off your card each month, but keep the points (and benefits from the perks)!
- Embrace Serendipity: If you keep your eye out for opportunity, you will often find it. Travel for free with your friend who has a lot of friends around the country and loves to “couch surf.” Research areas in other countries that are in need of a homestead sitter or farm sitter for the off-season.
- Travel Slowly: Those who believe time is money may often spend more on travel. Who says that you need to drive or fly to a destination? Grab a bike and enjoy the scenery… take a bus or two… carpool with friends or refurbish an old sailboat and sail away.
For more ideas on how to travel cheaply, click here.
Whether you are an avid traveler or the occasional trip-goer, you love to travel. The sights of unfamiliar places spark curiosity in you and the sounds of new cities excite you. But no matter how seasoned of a traveler you are, do you know what to do if natural disaster hits while you are on vacation?Do you have a plan to get home safely?
Although the possibility is small, natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes, or earthquakes can happen while you are traveling. Think about April’s earthquake in Nepal or Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Natural disasters can seriously injure large numbers of people, contribute to the spread of some diseases, disrupt sanitation and interrupt normal public services.1 Travelers should be familiar with risks for natural disasters at their destination and local warning systems, evacuation routes and shelters.
Here’s a few recommendations from the Center for Disease Control to get you started:
- If you are in another country, follow rules put forth by the local public authorities and/or seek advice from the nearest U.S. embassy. Be sure you have the contact information for the nearest embassy in your cell phone or wallet. For a list of U.S. embassies and their phone numbers, click here.
- If you are traveling out of the country, be aware of that country’s equivalent to 911. For example, in India the emergency number is 102.2 For a list of emergency numbers by country, click here.
- Be aware of where the local hospitals, police and fire departments are, in case you need to reach them in an emergency.
- Does the area to which you are traveling have an evacuation route in the event of a disaster? Research where this might be before you leave on your trip.
- Identify a “safe spot” in the area to which you will be traveling and then discuss an emergency travel plan with your family or whomever you will be traveling with.
- Be sure to travel with a list of emergency contact numbers. This will serve as your “go to” document in case of an emergency. Include names of close relatives or friends back home and don’t forget to include the phone number of your travel insurance plan provider. Travel Guard® travel insurance plans include 24/7 emergency assistance services that can coordinate efforts on your behalf to get you medical attention when you need it and many include cover to transport you safely home.
- Travel with a first aid kit.
Travel is meant to be invigorating and fun, but remember to be prepared in case disaster strikes. For in-depth detail and resources about what to do during and after a natural disaster, click here.
There’s no doubt about it – man’s best friend and many a furry feline are becoming permanent fixtures when people travel. People love their pets and often want them by their side when they travel. Whether it’s by car, plane, ship or train, there are a few best practices to follow if you want to take your furry friend on vacation.
- When traveling by car, dogs should be secured in a harness and buckled in the back and cats should be secured in a carrier that won’t bounce around while driving.
- Leave the front seat for humans.1 Make sure animals are safely secured in the back of the vehicle and be sure not to let your dog’s head hang outside the vehicle, as that exposes them to potentially harmful debris.
- Be sure never to leave your pet in the car alone. When it’s 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour.1
- Sorry all you pet-lovers, but air travel just isn’t safe for pets according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). In the unavoidable circumstance that your pet absolutely needs to travel by air, find out if they can travel in the cabin with you.1
- If you need to travel with your pet on a plane, be sure to get special permission from the airline and find out about any special pet immunization requirements as well as the type of carrier you may need to put your pet in.
- Be aware that pets that need to fly in the cargo area may be exposed to extremely hot or cold conditions, poor ventilation and run the risk of rough handling. Many pets become injured or die each year because of this.1
- If your pet must fly, consider these best practices to ensure a healthy, safe arrival:
- Book direct flights.
- Make sure you fly during temperate weather if your pet needs to be exposed to the cargo area of the plane.
- Put a detailed label on your pet’s carrier to easily identify your pet.
- Don’t give your pet food at least six hours before you fly.1
- Carry a photo of your pet with you in case your pet becomes lost.
- Cruiselines don’t usually permit animals on board – however, there are some exceptions. Be sure you check with the cruise line to see if your pet is allowed and under what circumstances. Sometimes kennels are available on ships as well.
- Taking your pet on a train may be permissible depending on where you travel in the world. As a general rule, pets aren’t allowed on most trains in the U.S. unless they are needed for medical purposes. However, if you are traveling in Europe, you’ll find that many trains are pet-friendly.
When you think about your travels abroad, what are the first things that come to your mind? Many of us think of the sights, sounds and smells associated with a particular place. What invigorates our senses tends to have staying power, which coaxes us to continue our exploration both now and into the future. Even having young children doesn’t stop the most adventuresome among us. We want our kids to see for themselves how the rest of the world lives. Sometimes, however, young children let fear dominate fact – but given the right tools, they can thrive on new experiences, just like you. Here’s how you can engage your kids with your travel plans abroad, and help them look forward to travel realities they might otherwise question:
- Map your Destination
After you have selected a destination, show your kids a map, point to the destination and then trace your finger back to where you live. Ask your kids to guess at the distance and how you will get there. Have them predict what the time change will be like and how they might feel when they get to the intended destination.
- Involve the Kids in Planning
Now that you have selected your destination, discuss with your kids what the culture is like in the city to which you will travel. Watch movies about the destination and rent easy-to-understand books about the particular country from the library. While watching the movie or reading a book, ask your kids questions and encourage them to ask you questions, so that you can begin to engage their senses and prepare them for what to expect.
- Language Learners
Expose your children to the local language beforehand and have them learn a few key phrases, like how to greet people. That way, when you arrive at your destination, the language change won’t be as big of a shock to them. This may sound complicated, but it is relatively easy by purchasing flashcards and simple books that teach kids the basics of a language.
- Money Talks
Obtain foreign currency for the country to which you will be traveling and teach your children how to count it and, if they are old enough, talk through the exchange rate and what that means for any purchases while they are abroad.
- Foodie Frenzie
In the months leading up to your trip, whip up a few snacks or meals similar to the ones you might find in the country to which you will be traveling. Make the food the focal point of conversation during dinner in order to get your children excited about traveling and trying new food.
- Cultural Music
Purchase cultural music to listen to in the car or around the house. When the music plays, explain to your kids that the music is a traditional type of music found in the area to which you will be traveling. If you are really ambitious, insert a few traditional dance moves to make it more memorable.
While nothing can completely conquer the fear of the unknown for many children, familiarizing them with what to expect when they arrive can help. To learn more about how to travel securely with kids while you are out of the country, click here.
The summer travel season has officially begun. As many travelers make their way to coastal destinations, they should keep in mind that the kick-off to the summer travel coincides with the start of Hurricane Season in the Atlantic and the Northeast Pacific, as well as Typhoon Season in the Northwest Pacific. Combined, the seasons span April through December each year and often create several dangerous storms. If one of these locations is included in your summer travel plans, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- If you are U.S. citizen, you should enroll with a U.S. Embassy, which will make it easier to get in contact with you if there is an emergency in the area which you are traveling (such as a hurricane, typhoon or other natural disaster).
- Individuals and families who plan to travel to an area where hurricanes and typhoons are prevalent should be sure to make sure they have access to a radio, TV or mobile device for frequent severe weather updates. Make sure to listen/view to local stations regularly in order to become aware of any tropical storms that may develop.
- Maintain close contact with your tour operator, cruise line, hotel staff and local officials so you will know local protocol and procedures if inclement weather should occur during your vacation.
- Before you book your hotel and other accommodations, call ahead to find out what the cancellation policy allows for in the event of a hurricane or Typhoon.
- Make sure your vehicle always has plenty of fuel. Because weather can quickly change and tropical storms may blow in without much warning, you shouldn’t have to stop for gas on your way to a safer area. Stay ahead of the game with a full tank of gas.
- Always remember to travel with a Travel Guard travel insurance plan. In the event of a covered hurricane or typhoon, travel insurance may provide coverage under the Trip Cancellation benefit so that you may be reimbursed for the pre-paid, forfeited, non-refundable trip costs up to the limit of the coverage purchased. Many travel insurance plans also come with 24/7 assistance services to re-book cancelled flights and help you get to safety.
For additional information on hurricanes and other tropical storms, please visit the State Department’s website on Natural Disasters.
As the summer travel season kicks off, millions of families across America are planning their summer trips. With the kids out of school it’s the perfect time to travel. But, mom and dad, before you begin planning that perfect family vacation, there are a few important things to consider when traveling with your children.
- Involve Your Kids in Planning: If you want to keep your kids enthusiastic about what you plan to see and do while traveling, get them involved in the planning process. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything they suggest, but getting them engaged will make it almost certain that you’ll see more smiles and less complaints along the way.
- Simplify Your Plans: We get it. There’s a lot to see on a family vacation. But, if you plan too much, you (and your kids!) will end up exhausted and crabby. How much fun will you be having then? A better idea might be to choose one or two things to do each day and fill the rest of the time by enjoying the scenery at your destination and relaxing in each other’s company.
- Tell Kids what to Expect: While traveling can be an exciting time for kids, it may also be scary. Have they been to an airport or on a plane in the past? If not, you may want to gently explain what they can expect (large crowds of people, popping in their ears as the plane ascends, etc.). Similarly, if they’ve not been to a foreign country, you might teach them a few key words/phrases in the native language and share with them what the locals will be like.
- Go Crazy for Carry On:It’s a fact: Nearly 22 million pieces of luggage go missing each year.1 That’s why it’s important to pack one extra change of clothes for each child in their carry-on bag. Having a set of clothes to change into while you are waiting for your luggage to be found is a lifesaver. Remember, if your luggage does get lost and you have a Travel Guard® travel insurance plan, you are likely eligible for 24/7 assistance in finding your luggage.
- It’s all fun and games until someone gets bored. Or tired. If your destination is hours away, smart parents bring along activities or binders for each child that include a coloring book, blank paper, crossword puzzles, activity sheets, crayons and writing instruments. To get you started, free printable coloring pages, stories and activities can be found hereand here.
- Have an Emergency Procedure: Even if your kids are model citizens, things can happen. Equip your child with a card that they permanently carry on their person that includes your hotel name and number and other contact information. Make sure everyone in the family knows where they are headed. And though it may sound silly, it may pay to have unique family noise like a certain whistle call or “whoop” that enables each family member to get the other’s attention.2
- Reflect and Connect: Travel is so much more than arriving – it’s a process that can invigorate the senses. Encourage your children to journal each day’s experience before they wind down for the evening. Share with them your thoughts on the day and ask them about their feelings and reactions to certain tastes, smells, cultural differences and so on.2
Of course, we know that no trip is perfect. There may be occasional complaints and bouts of being hangry (hungry and angry), but don’t be discouraged. Tomorrow’s a new day full of invigorating travel experiences.