If you’ve been thinking about signing up for an airline’s loyalty program, you may want to think again. Some airlines are devaluing their frequent flier mile programs, making free airline seats harder to earn.
Several years ago, airlines said they would never be so bold as to change their loyalty programs. They were afraid that if they changed the program, passengers would go elsewhere. You could earn large blocks of miles and obtain a free ticket fairly easily.
Recently, airlines have been consolidating, making less competition for booking airfare. Therefore, they have more flexibility in changing their loyalty programs, adding more blackout dates, increasing the cost of rewards, and decreasing the point value of flights.
Peter Greenberg said on his blog that not only are frequent flier miles becoming harder to redeem, but also that the points to every dollar ratio are decreasing. This means that depending on the airline, your points can be up to 25% less in value.
Why is this happening? Why are airlines making it harder to be loyal to them?
It’s because airlines are already flying at close to full capacity, and there are fewer seats available on the market, which means the airlines don’t need to work quite as hard to earn your patronage. And since people are already paying for seats, why give one away? Ultimately, this is one of their methods to stay profitable. And one of the things that is suffering is the frequent flier programs.
Maybe it’s time to rethink how to earn points without being confined to a loyalty program that could be changed in a few years. You could always earn points on a credit card, something that I do on a regular basis. The value of the points you earn on credit cards can exceed the airline benefits and you are not confined to one air carrier when you book your air travel.
- Delta’s Frequent-Flier Rule Change May Be Sign Of Things To Come (ktoo.org)
- Delta’s Frequent-Flier Rule Change May Be Sign Of Things To Come (wnyc.org)
- Travel rewards becoming a bigger concern (lexingtonlaw.com)
- For some fliers, mileage programs come up short (trib.com)
So you’re traveling to a new country and you want to explore a bit. How do you do go about it? Should you hire a tour guide to take you around, or should you grab a map and venture out on your own? There are plenty of reasons to go either route — no pun intended — and either has its pros and cons.
Tour GuidesHiring a tour guide, whether local or from a travel agency, is a go-to option for many travelers. And why not? You can sit back and enjoy the sites as someone else does the hard work. They have all the knowledge and can share insider knowledge of all the best locales.
The downside is that you’ll spend extra cash for these guides to show you around; self-guided tours are free (except for the attractions themselves). Another point to ponder is whether you want to have a structured tour where you know where you’re going ahead of time, or if you’d like to be surprised as the guide shows you around. Just be careful with some tour guides because they often have formed relationships with the places they stop at, so they may have financial interests in making those stops.
You may be a go-getter and think a tour guide is not for you. The upside of this type of exploration is that you’re not on a time constraint and can explore a place as long as you like, or leave after a few minutes. Self-guided tours are also cheaper, because you’re not paying someone to usher you around. If money is a concern, you may want to try this option.
A pitfall with this type of tour is that you could end up flopping around aimlessly and miss out on a few important places if you haven’t done your research. So put some time into figuring out where you are going and have a plan, including a prioritized list of “must see” versus “could miss” venues.
Whether you hire a guide or grab a map and go out on your own is solely up to you. The important points to consider here are cost, your personal preferences, and where you are.
This last point is important, because personal safety is also a consideration. There may be some places where it’s not safe to venture out on your own, so the best way to see the area is with a guide. In these situations, work with an established, reputable tour guide, and not someone you just met at the airport. Don’t venture out on your own, and make sure to follow basic common sense in ensuring your own safety.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely already noticed the airline industry has been making some big changes over the last few years, and 2014 will be no different. In fact, many new trends and test projects we reported on in the previous year are set to become mainstream in the upcoming year. While many of these new changes will be for the better, some may leave passengers feeling, well, a little uncomfortable.
1. Airports will become more efficient
Travelers can now look forward to a quicker check-in process at airports thanks to the DIY bag tag trend. As we reported last year, airlines have been testing out self-tag options in various high-traffic airports, and with great results. American Airlines has reported that the new system has sped up check-in times by 55%, and Iberia has experienced similar results. Additionally, thanks to the growing popularity of programs such as the TSA PreCheck program, airport security lines are moving a bit faster. The TSA is now looking to expand the program to over 100 airports in the upcoming year.
2. Discount airlines fly across the pond
If you’ve ever turned green with envy at the sight of low-cost fares in Europe, you’re in luck. A few new transatlantic carriers (such as Iceland’s Wow) have entered the scene. Thanks to their fuel efficient jets, we may soon be able to cross the pond at a more affordable rate.
3. Taxes and fees will go up
Before you get too excited about cheaper transatlantic fares, hold your horses. If you thought fees couldn’t get any worse, you were wrong. They’re expected to go even higher in the upcoming year. However, these fees may be ones that you’re actually willing to pay for. In addition to more fees, taxes will also go up in 2014. Thankfully, it’s not too bad: the security fee for a round trip flight will be raised from $5 to $11.20 — a difference of, well, the cost of a bottle of water at the airport.
4. Seats will get smaller
If this isn’t motivation to revisit that New Year’s resolution to lose weight, I don’t know what is. Boeing is now manufacturing 17″ seats. Let’s hope you like your seat neighbors, because you’ll be getting pretty cozy.
5. You’ll stay connected
Not only will you be closer to your seat mates than ever before, but you may also get the opportunity to eavesdrop on all of their conversations. The FCC is looking to allow air passengers to make cell phone calls in-flight, much to the chagrin of most travelers. Sadly, you may never be able to use that “sorry I didn’t answer that email, I was on a flight.” excuse ever again. More airlines will be adding in-flight WIFI and even power outlets.
6. Private jets will go mainstream
Now that seats are getting smaller and planes may be getting noisier, you may be wishing you had access to a private jet. Surprise, you do. Companies such as JumpSeat are now offering innovative new jet sharing programs to the masses.
Recently, a friend posted a note to Facebook asking people for advice on the best way to travel through Europe. Within a few hours, his post had received over a hundred comments, and each commenter provided a strong case for why their suggestion was best.
When it comes to traveling, everyone seems to have advice on everything from building an itinerary to when, where, and how to book reservations. While your friends will probably offer you plenty of sound tips, there are certain bits of travel advice you should simply avoid.
Here are five popular travel tips that you’re better off avoiding.
1. You should book your flights as early as possible
Many people insist that the earlier you book your flight, the better. While you absolutely shouldn’t wait until the very last minute to book, you should also not book more than two months prior to your departure date for international travel, and one month for domestic. Anything before that, and you run the risk of paying more.
2. You’ll get the best rate by booking directly through the hotel
A lot of people believe they’re getting the best rate possible by calling the hotel to book a reservation. While this may be true some of the time, it’s definitely not true all the time. In fact, one major hotel chain’s website promises they’re offering the absolute lowest price available, but I’ve booked the same rooms for $20+ cheaper per night on a third party site.
3. You’ll save money by staying at an all-inclusive resort
This truly depends on where you’re going, when you’re visiting, what’s included in the package and how much you typically spend on meals and drinks while vacationing. For some people, an all-inclusive resort may truly be a great deal. However, if you’re someone who typically dines on a budget and doesn’t plan on racking up a large bill at the bar, you may save yourself a few hundred dollars or more by staying elsewhere.
4. Buying a Eurail pass is the most affordable way to travel through Europe
Again, this varies from situation to situation. However, if you’re bouncing from country-to-country and not spending much time within a single country, you will likely find that it’s cheaper to either buy single tickets or fly via a discount carrier.
5. You should bring plenty of cash when traveling
While it’s true that you should bring some cash when traveling, you shouldn’t bring too much. A good rule of thumb is to bring enough cash to cover you for one to two days in case you have issues with your debit or credit card. Anything past that, and you’re tempting fate. Your bank will cover fraudulent transactions on your card – but if you lose that cash, you’re completely out of luck.
We’d love to hear from you. Have you received any travel tips that turned out to be bad advice? Share with us in the comments section.
- Travelling Tips and Hotel Advice for All Travellers (shanshanwei8.wordpress.com)
- Budgeting: Save Money on Travel (quicken.intuit.com)
- Mitch Joel’s Best Piece of Travel Advice (travelproluggageblog.com)
- 20 travel tips and advice to make your foreign travel effortless (travelphotodiscovery.com)
Unless you’re one of the lucky few that live in areas that haven’t been hit by extreme weather this winter, you can probably attest to the fact that at times, this year’s weather has made it nearly impossible to even go to the grocery store, much less travel. By the end of January, thousands of flights had been cancelled due to severe weather conditions.
Whether you’re traveling soon or in the future, it always pays to be prepared to successfully handle a flight cancellation.
1. Avoid connecting flights at certain airports
While the recent snow and ice down south has proven that at times, it can be hard to avoid severe winter weather, there are certain regions you’ll probably want to avoid flying in and out of during the winter months. If you have a few different options for your layover, try to avoid airports in the Midwest, Northeast and Rocky Mountain areas.
2. Know before you go
A few days before your trip, check the weather forecast for your destination and any layover cities. If you’re heading into severe weather conditions, contact the airline to see if they’ll allow you to rebook or change your flight route without penalty.
3. Stay alert
Sign up for flight status notifications from the airline you’ll be traveling with. When flights are cancelled, time is of the essence — if you wish to get put on a new flight, you’ll want to be one step ahead of everyone else.
4. Act fast
If your flight is cancelled, you’ll need to act fast in order to land a seat on another flight. If you’re already at the gate when your cancellation is announced, chances are everyone will rush over to the desk agent for assistance. Avoid the mob. Call the airline’s 1-800 number or walk down to another gate serviced by the airline and get assistance there. While you may instinctively visit the carrier’s website for assistance, your best bet is to speak to a real, live person.
5. Know your alternatives
If you think there’s a good chance your flight will be cancelled, do a bit of research before your trip and find alternative flight routes. In the event that your flight is cancelled, you’ll be well-prepared to get re-booked quickly, and perhaps via an option that the desk agent hadn’t even been aware of.
Do you have any tips for successfully surviving flight cancellations? Share them with us in the comments section.
- Weather delays and cancels flights to and from QC (wqad.com)
- Weather Cancels or Delays About 130 Flights At Indy Airport (indianapublicmedia.org)
- Airline cancellations put a big chill on the economy (nj.com)
- Winter weather impacting flights into, out of Tennessee (local8now.com)
- Snow falling at DFW Airport, about a dozen flights cancelled (blogs.star-telegram.com)
- Hundreds of flights canceled at Chicago airports (sfgate.com)
It’s no secret that more people are bypassing ‘old fashioned’ travel resources such as guidebooks and brochures for internet sites. In fact, according to online research firm Market Matrix, 90% of global travelers state that their booking decisions are heavily influenced by websites such as TripAdvisor, Google Places and Yelp. With that in mind, we asked the opinions of the TravelPro team: should you bring a travel guidebook on your next trip?
Say Yes to GuidebooksMany people would argue that because of statistics like these along with the rapid rise of travel among digital natives (Millennials who were born with a mobile phone in their hand), travel guidebooks are joining the ranks of the encyclopedia and are about to become a thing of the past.
While we can’t argue with the fact that the Internet offers a thousand times more information about any given destination than a travel guidebook could, there are certain things a guidebook does well, like working as an excellent resource when you’re in fast need of well-organized information about a specific destination. Oh, and travel guidebooks work without an Internet connection.
Or Just Say No
The downside to guidebooks is fairly obvious: they tend to be bulky, heavy, and obviously contain much less information than you’d find online. Also, your guidebook can be as much as two or three years out of date. The “must see” destination or “traveler’s choice” restaurant may have closed down a year earlier, but you won’t know until you get there; an online resource will tell you what’s open and what’s closed before you ever get there.
Additionally, poring over a guidebook and map while you’re trying to find your way targets you immediately as a tourist, which could make you a target for unscrupulous vendors or other ne’er-do-wells who might seek to separate you from your money.
The Final Consensus?
Take the travel guidebook along with you in your suitcase. In the event that you can’t access an Internet connection or are unable to find adequate information from your hotel, you’ll be glad you did. When you venture out into town, be sure to leave that guidebook back at your hotel or hidden in a backpack. If necessary, get a second guidebook and tear out the necessary pages to shove in your pocket. This way your original will still be intact, but you won’t have to carry the entire thing with you.
We’d love to hear from you. When traveling, do you rely more on travel guidebooks or the Internet? Share with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
- On Life Without a Travel Guide Book (planetbell.me)
- Frugal Traveler: Planning a Trip: Guidebook Versus the Web (nytimes.com)
- Do Travel Reviews Really Matter? (travelproluggageblog.com)
- The Future of Guidebooks with Travel Legend Pauline Frommer (nomadicmatt.com)
- Google reportedly kills off Frommer’s travel guides in print (venturebeat.com)
Many people ask: what’s the secret to a positive air travel experience? Having traveled plenty in my lifetime, I have survived every possible scenario: flight delays, cancelled flights, red eye flights, missed connections and stressful flights. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about how to travel better and more efficiently. So what’s the secret to a stress free trip?To summarize a recent post by Mitch Joel, seize the moment.
As they say, preparation is everything, and this is especially true for air travel. This means filling out your customs declaration form the night before, and checking in and printing your boarding pass in advance. Packing snacks in case you’re stuck sitting on a runway, and using a carry-on bag instead of checking luggage whenever possible. Come prepared with magazines, books or other entertainment so you don’t find yourself rushing through the airport to grab a magazine before your flight boards.
If you’re flying across several time zones, my number one tip is to get acclimated to your new time zone before you arrive. Before your plane takes off, set your watch to your new time zone and adjust your routine accordingly. This may mean that you’ll be sleeping while others on your flight are eating lunch, but so be it. Many people spend a full day recuperating from jet lag when traveling across several time zones. A day spent sleeping off jet lag could be a day spent touring a city, spending time with your family or getting extra work done.
Finally, if you’re a frequent traveler, consider applying for a program such as the TSA Precheck which will allow you to move through security lines faster – or in some cases, skip them entirely. This investment can ultimately save you up to an hour per trip – and if you travel often, that can result in days of saved time.
What’s your best piece of travel advice? Share with us in the comments section below.
If you or someone you know has a severe food allergy or dietary restriction, you know that dining away from home can be a nerve wracking experience. Depending on your allergy or dietary restriction, you may have a difficult time finding acceptable menu items. And if your allergic reaction is severe or life threatening, you’re putting a lot of trust in the people who are serving and cooking your food. Traveling with a food allergy brings an entirely new set of challenges and may require a lot of planning.
With this in mind, we posed the question: should individuals with food allergies or dietary restrictions bring their own food or simply improvise while on the road?
First and foremost, where are you visiting? Depending on where you’re traveling to, you may have a wide variety of allergy-free food items within reach. For example, if you’re visiting a large US city such as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, you’ll probably find dozens of excellent restaurants that accommodate specific allergies or restrictions, including gluten-free bakeries, vegetarian restaurants, and so on.
In this case, you’ll definitely want to leave your personal food items at home and venture out to explore the many options available! On the flip side, if you’re visiting a small town, you may want to pack a few emergency food items. For example, someone who is gluten intolerant may want to pack a box of gluten free energy bars for backup in case the only convenient breakfast option available is a grain-heavy continental breakfast at your hotel.
A good rule of thumb: do your research before you go. Use a site like Yelp or an allergy specific site such as allergyeats.com to find restaurants that can accommodate your dietary needs.
Furthermore, if you’re visiting a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, make sure you know how to properly communicate your dietary needs in the local language, even if it means writing it down on a piece of paper and showing your waiter.
The final consensus? While you may want to bring a few allergy friendly backup items such as snack bars, your best bet is to leave your personal groceries at home, do some research and venture out and (safely) explore the local cuisine.
- Understanding food allergy bullying (smartsign.com)
- Food Allergy, Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease (thehealthrebel.com)
- Infographic: Food Allergies and Children (simplysenia.com)
Say ‘sayonara’ to letting go and doing without while traveling. Thanks to the health and wellness craze that has swept the country, some hotels are now revamping their offerings to include amenities that target travelers concerned about healthy living. Upscale hotels have always gone the extra mile for their guests by offering things like complimentary treats, upscale gyms and high end toiletries, but how about a “running concierge”?
Both the Westin Hotel chain as well as The James Hotels have hired staff members who will give travelers local running tips; The James Hotel even offers running tours of New York City and Chicago. After their morning run, travelers can indulge in gluten free, organic and low calorie menu options at many hotels. Healthy eating and exercise options are the tip of the iceberg. While healthy menus and plentiful exercise options aren’t too outlandish, some hotels are taking the wellness craze one step further — or one step too far, depending on your outlook.For example, this past December the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas increased the number of their “stay well” suites (which cost $30 more per night) to a whopping 171 rooms featuring high tech amenities that have been endorsed by famed guru Deepak Chopra and other wellness experts. Dubbed the hypochondriac hotel by some, the rooms feature anti-microbial coating on bacteria susceptible surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops and a dedicated cleaning crew that will come armed with UV wands to sanitize and HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners. If you’re planning on pulling an all-nighter in the casino, these rooms may be just what you’re looking for, you’re in luck – the rooms also feature melatonin-friendly lighting and dawn-simulator alarm clocks, allowing travelers to sleep as late as they please and still get the sunlight they need. As if that wasn’t enough, guests can enjoy a Vitamin C infused shower, which is said to neutralize chlorine and promote healthy hair and skin.
According to Stephanie Serino, a New York-based travel agent, “Business travelers want to keep their regimen going. I do have them asking for perks that go beyond the gym.” However, she adds “for many consumers who do care about wellness, a gym and a few healthy restaurants nearby will likely suffice.”
Would you spend an extra $30 per night to stay in a room with top-of-the-line wellness options? Share with us on our Facebook page.
We hate to admit it, but it’s no secret that we Americans have a reputation for being, well, a little embarrassing abroad. While this is only as true as other stereotypes you encounter (i.e. not much), it’s still a stigma that should make American travelers a little more aware of their behavior when visiting other countries.
No matter where you’re from or what country you visit, it’s always a good idea to keep your manners in check when traveling abroad. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of six sure-fire ways to embarrass yourself abroad.
1. Not being able to say ‘thank you’
While you probably don’t have the time to become fluent in Italian before visiting Italy, you should at least know enough to be polite. Before you travel, take some time to learn the obvious phrases. After all, if someone came up to you on a street in America saying, “Dov’è il bagno?” (where’s the bathroom?), you’d have no idea what they meant, and keep walking.
2. Wearing sweatpants
In America, we love to wear sweatpants, yoga pants and hoodies when running errands. If you do so in many other countries, be prepared to stick out like a sore thumb. When visiting another country, it’s a good idea to put your best foot forward – and make sure that foot isn’t wearing flip flops.
3. ComplainingNo matter where you go, you’re going to find plenty of things that are very different than America. While you may instinctively want to comment on the differences, don’t. When in doubt, act as if you’re in someone else’s home. Some things may seem a little strange, but it would be rude to mention it, right?
4. Getting impatient
We Americans have a need for speed. However, many countries move at a slower pace and enjoying a relaxing meal at a restaurant is the norm. If your waiter is moving a bit slower than you’d like, don’t get frustrated — use it as an opportunity to r-e-l-a-x.
5. Not eating the local fare
We recently heard about a young woman who spent two weeks in Europe and only ate pizza or hamburgers everywhere she went. Don’t turn your nose up at the local cuisine or ask a restaurant if they can ‘Americanize’ a dish. Take a risk and order something new – you just may like it. And if you don’t, refer to #3.
6. Being ignorant to local etiquette
Did you know that in Hawaii, it’s rude to surf at the locals’ beach, and in Bali, it’s impolite to visit a temple without a ‘blessing’ such as a basket of flower petals? Before you travel, always do your research. With so much information at our fingertips online, you have no excuse not to.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you have anything that you’d add to this list? Tell us in the comments section below, or post your comment on our Facebook page.
- Tips for traveling abroad – how to blend in. (cengagebrain.com)
- 5 Tips That Will Make Your Study Abroad Experience Unforgettable (thoughtcatalog.com)
- 20 Things I’ve Learned Abroad: (melstarm.wordpress.com)