Resources to take the stress out of holiday travel

It’s the most wonderful time of year but despite the merriment all around, it may not seem like it for some. That’s because sometimes the holiday travel season brings more stress than we bargain for. Between scurrying around plan last minute travel, there are gifts to pack, a budget to track and children to keep calm on that long flight your final destination. If you are feeling frazzled, here are a few tips to get your through your holiday travels.

Take Advantage of Apps
Are you still looking for flight and hotel deals through individual websites? To find the best deals quickly, download apps like Hipmunk which simultaneously compare flight/hotel prices from sites like Booking.com, Travelocity, Priceline, AirBnB and others, allowing you to quickly select the best deal for the day and time you plan to travel.1

Ship your Presents Home
Planning to pack gifts in your suitcase and unpack them when you get to your destination? Don’t do it. Instead, pack all your gifts in a box and ship it to you final destination. This will save you time in the security line and the hassle of paying to check additional bags. This is the perfect solution that can work for gifts you plan to give and the gifts you get!

Credit Card Points and Gift Cards
Traveling can be expensive, especially for families. Before you book your trip, check to see how many points you have on your credit card and if you can use those points towards flight tickets, a hotel or rental car. Who knows… you may be able to travel to grandma’s house for a very low cost.

Be Flexible
If your family can be flexible, plan to travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It’s well known that traveling on the holiday itself can get you cheaper flights and welcome you with a sparsely populated airport which means less stress getting to your destination.1

Buy a Travel Insurance Plan
Let’s face it. Sometimes even the most well laid out holiday trips sometimes don’t go as planned. Flights get cancelled, luggage gets lost and people get sick. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Remember to pack a travel insurance plan this holiday season. Most plans come with 24/7 assistance services to help you re-book cancelled/delayed flights, hotels and find missing luggage so that you can have a stress-free holiday.


1 https://www.everydollar.com/blog/save-time-and-money-travel-tips

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A Global Perspective of Thanksgiving

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7 Simple Steps to Saving on Holiday Flights

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.

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/06/now-is-the-best-time-to-book-holiday-travel.html
2 http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/thanksgiving-travel-easy-ways-save-flights/story?id=35018566
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.

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Four Things to Know about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

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.

1 http://www.businessinsider.com/photos-mexico-day-of-the-dead-dia-de-los-muertos-festival-2016-11
2 http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/mexico-day-of-the-dead-dia-de-los-muertos
3 http://www.ibtimes.com/what-dia-de-los-muertos-date-history-everything-know-about-day-dead-2013-
photos-1448084

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The Indian Festival of Diwali

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:

Lights
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

Colors
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.

Food
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.

1 http://www.diwalifestival.org/
2 http://www.guardian.co.tt/lifestyle/2013-11-02/rangoli-art-divali
3 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/oct/25/whats-eaten-at-diwali

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Travel Trend: Train Travel

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:

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
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

Trans-Siberian Express
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.

Royal Scotsman
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

Indian Pacific
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.

 

1http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/the-hottest-new-travel-trends#2

2http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/trains

3https://www.belmond.com/royal-scotsman-train

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6 Ways to Incorporate Wellness into Travel

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.

 

Healthy dining
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.

 

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