Posted October 15, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
When it comes to travel advice, some of the most common suggestions are the worst. And trust us, we’ve heard it all. From dubious ways to cut costs to travel strategies that never end well, here’s a round-up of the worst advice we’ve ever received, why you shouldn’t follow it, and better advice to pave your next vacation path.
Treat Yourself, You're On Vacation!
We've all been told to not worry about money on vacation because the experience will be worth it. While that may be true, not everyone can afford to splurge. Sure, you don’t want to miss out on great experiences, but you also don’t want to be hit with a big credit card bill post-vacation.
Do This Instead: From alternative accommodation sites to new booking platforms, technology gives the savvy traveler a variety of ways to save. Associate Editor Shannon McMahon says, "it's not too hard to find affordable flights and cheap or even free lodging via house-sitting or couch surfing. There are a lot of museums and sites you can see for almost nothing. It's also very possible to see generally expensive cities, like Paris, for cheap, if you use hostels or Airbnb."
RELATED: 10 Ways to Save Big Money on Your Next Trip
Avoid Tourist Traps
There's a reason why tourist traps are crowded. The Eiffel Tower really is a marvel to stand under, and the Sagrada Familia does take your breath away. So, before you dismiss doing brave touristy activities, shift your thinking and consider what makes a destination special, then evaluate if it’s worth visiting in spite of crowds.
Do This Instead: If you do chose to brave popular attractions, consider doing it as part of a tour. Many times they offer special access or run at off-peak times to allow participants to enjoy the destination without the crowds. I recently booked a guided drive for the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia and ended up getting a discounted helicopter tour out of it. If you can afford to spend a little more, boutique tours or tours with smaller groups are a great way to enjoy an overcrowded tourist destination.
RELATED: 10 Tourist Traps We Secretly Love
Be Spontaneous with Accommodations
While it's nice to be flexible with travel dates, booking accommodations in advance is one thing you shouldn't mess around with, unless you are traveling for an extended period and aren't picky about where you're sleeping … or whom you're sleeping next to.
Do This Instead: Senior Editor Caroline Morse has worked in a hostel and has "seen firsthand that literally every hotel, hostel, or bed and breakfast can unexpectedly book up on certain weekends." Instead, she does her research in advance and can then "be able to land, check-in, and hit the ground running."
Try to See as Much as Possible
Sometimes it really is better to follow the mantra "less is more." When you try to squeeze too much into your itinerary, you may end up with additional flight and hotel expenses, unnecessary exhaustion, missed connections, more transit time, and general frustration.
Do This Instead: Make a wish list of your must-see spots and map out your days realistically. This will give you not only a more relaxed experience, but likely a more authentic one as well. While living in London, I was tempted to jet off to a new city each weekend, and even sometimes hit two cities within a few days. Even though Europe allows for easy multi-destination travel, I quickly learned I was missing great restaurants and museums that were closed on certain days by traveling so quickly. I trimmed my wish list down to allow for more time at each destination and added the spots I didn’t get to see to my bucket list.
Travel in a Group
At some point in time, we've all thought it was a good idea to plan a vacation with a large group of family or friends, and then ended up more stressed out than relaxed. The logistics associated with traveling in a large group—as well as the inevitable difference in travel styles—can turn a dream trip into a miserable vacation. While cruises, pre-planned tours, and resorts can be exceptions, we still suggest slimming down the number of travelers you directly travel with.
Do This Instead: Editorial Assistant Olivia Briggs has traveled with groups large and small, and says that "while it may be true it's safer [to travel in a group], it makes planning and getting around a lot more difficult—it's better to go with one or two people you are really compatible with."
RELATED: How to Travel with your Friends—And Survive
Stay Outside the City to Save
Many travelers try to save on accommodations by staying far from the city center. However, the value may not add up when you factor in the wasted vacation time you'll spend commuting and the cost of getting to and from your hotel to popular tourist spots. Do This Instead: Senior Editor Christine Sarkis suggests looking at vacation rentals or alternative booking sites like Airbnb for centrally located rentals. "I have stayed in some very cool apartments for less than the cost of a hotel in the same neighborhood. And I end up with more space, a kitchen, and often a washing machine as well."
RELATED: 8 Cheap Alternatives to Staying in a Hotel
Stay Away from Strangers
Exploring new cultures can be difficult if you don’t open yourself up to interactions with locals. Locals give a unique and genuine perspective on a destination, and are great resources for amazing restaurants and hidden museums that you can't find online. Although safety can be a real concern, there are plenty of ways to be safe and engage with the world around you. Do This Instead: Whether it's just asking for directions or a restaurant recommendation, you'll get a better sense of your destination by a asking locals for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask your barista about a great restaurant or your taxi driver about cool alternative tourist destinations. Social Media and Editorial Intern Jamie Ditaranto also suggests talking to other travelers. "If I hadn't said 'Hello' to the woman sitting across from me in the hot spring in Iceland, I would have never learned she worked as a polar bear researcher in the Yukon and would have missed out on one hell of a conversation."
Book the Cheapest Flight
Often, the cheapest flights are at inconvenient travel times. And that might save you money, but it will also waste your precious vacation time, especially on multi-destination trips. Red-eye flights in particular pose a problem, since most hotels and hostels won't let you check in until well after noon, so when you arrive off a 6 am flight, you may well find yourself both exhausted and stuck with your bags for hours.
Do This Instead: Consider your travel style. If you're like me and can't sleep on planes, red-eyes are not for you. If you're the type of traveler who can handle little sleep, by all means go for the cheaper, earlier flights. Make sure to pay attention to connection times, as many cheaper airlines, especially in Europe, require more time to queue up before your flight.
RELATED: 14 Myths About Booking Cheap Flights
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Read the original story: The Worst Travel Advice We've Ever Heard by Ashley Rossi, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.
Posted October 15, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
Rude and uncooperative passengers make flying difficult for airline staff and fliers alike. And although there will always be die-hards who insist that you can never get upgraded on a flight merely for being "nice" (or for being well-dressed) I beg to differ. Consider my experience on a recent American Airlines flight between L.A. and New York JFK.
Lo and behold, the seat next to me in business class is empty as the door is about to close. With so many people attaining status in American's frequent-flier program, or paying $75 plus 15,000 miles for a one-way upgrade, it almost never happens on this route.
RELATED: 10 Free Things You Can Get at Airports
Two minutes before scheduled takeoff, there's a kerfuffle in economy. Someone is not happy with his seat and is letting the cabin crew know about it in no uncertain terms. Angry voices waft over the boarding music. Maybe someone wanted to sit next to a traveling companion. I was never able to find out.
A gate agent and a flight attendant appear at my row.
Gate agent: "Is this seat occupied?"
Me (crestfallen): "Um, noooo … "
Gate agent: "Well, I need to upgrade someone."
Flight attendant: "Shouldn't we upgrade 12C?" (Row 12 is in the economy cabin.)
Gate agent, exasperated: "I am NOT rewarding that kind of behavior with an upgrade!" (Her exact words.)
I'm guessing that 12C had some kind of status. Or felt he did. Or was the source of the problem.
So who got the upgrade? A young man who, I later learned, volunteered to change his seat to settle whatever dispute was going on back there. He had never flown in business or first class in his life.
Young man, after the flight attendant pours the Lanson Champagne: "Dude, how much does this cost?"
Me: "It's free."
Young man: "Free? As much as you want free?"
Me: "Yup, free. Enjoy!" A menu is handed out.
Young man: "Is this free too?"
Me: "Yes, everything is free."
I took as much pleasure watching him enjoy his well-deserved upgrade as he did experiencing it.
During the flight, a couple of flight attendants stopped by to thank him profusely for being such a trooper. "Things like that really do make our job easier," one said.
Young man, sotto voce, as a passenger (tank top, tattoos, gym shorts, baseball-cap-on-backward) strolls past us to use the business-class lavatory: "That's the jerk who gave the flight attendants a hard time." You guessed it, 12C. Although he didn't get upgraded, he still felt entitled to use the business-class lav, which he did several times during the flight.
Lesson: People really do get upgraded just for being nice. Sure, it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen. And even if you're not going be upgraded, be nice anyway.
Readers: Have you ever witnessed a traveler getting a perk for good behavior? Tell us about it the comments section.
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This article was originally published by USAToday.com under the headline Yes, People Still Get Upgraded Just for Being Nice. It is reprinted here with permission.
George Hobica is the founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. Airfarewatchdog features the best airfares on thousands of routes verified by a team of expert fare analysts.
Posted October 15, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
It seems as if someone posts or prints a set of air ticket buying tips every day now, and most of those tips belong to the "round up the usual suspects" family: Be flexible, check alternate airports, fly a low-fare airline, visit all the websites, buy domestic tickets two months in advance and international tickets three months in advance. Buy on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Sunday. Fly midweek. You've already seen all of them, many times, and you've found out that while often they help, sometimes they don't. But even when the many sources agree, it's clear that these old rules are no longer sufficient. The marketplace has changed, and your search strategy needs to account for those changes.
Extras First, Not Last
You have to build the important extras into your search from the get-go, not wait until the final buying process. Be specific about exactly what you want to buy. Airlines are offering more packages and options, at varying prices, and you can't be a smart buyer unless you have a clear idea of what you want and what you don't want. Each airline prices and packages these various features in its own way. At a minimum, decide whether you want:
- One or more checked bags and a carry-on that needs to go into an overhead bin.
- In-flight Wi-Fi.
- Advance seat assignment.
- Early boarding (an alternative to an advance seat assignment on some airlines).
- Preferred extra-legroom seating.
- Waived ticket change fee.
- No or minimal same-day standby fee for earlier flight.
Note any airlines on which you are trying to pile up miles, or if have frequent flyer status or a credit card that covers some or all of these options.
RELATED: World's Scariest Airports
Narrow Your Search Quickly
Because you have to check more sources than ever before, you need to limit the workload as much as you can. Start your search with an aggregator to identify the feasible schedules and flight options. There's no point in looking at Southwest if you want to fly to Charleston, WV, Pittsburgh, or Shreveport, for example, because it doesn't fly there or anywhere close. But don't ignore the outliers. Some search systems do not identify routes and schedules of Allegiant and Southwest. Chances are, however, that if Allegiant is a possibility, you know about it—and it's probably your only nonstop option.
Expect a Connection
You will often find that your cheapest option is for a connecting itinerary rather than a nonstop. From my home airport in Medford, Oregon, for example, a mid-September round-trip fare to San Francisco is cheaper via Seattle ($240, five hours and five minutes, 1,031 total miles) than on a nonstop ($413, one hour and 18 minutes, 329 total miles). If you check peak season transatlantic fares, you may well find that the cheapest option is via Kiev, Moscow, or Istanbul. Most cases aren't as extreme as these, but you have to decide whether you'd accept a connecting itinerary, with all the extra time, risks, and hassles, to knock some big dollars off your cost.
RELATED: 7 Airfare Booking Mistakes You're Probably Making
You Can't Rely on the Aggregators
You need to compare the all-up costs of taking the trip you want, including extras. Unfortunately, the familiar aggregators and online travel agencies you used to rely on are no longer able to find the cheapest ticket that includes the combination of the extras you want. So, for each feasible itinerary, you have to check fares and extra fees on each airline's website. Look at both the lowest fares and the optional bundled fares, look up the fees for any unbundled extras, and note any extras your frequent flyer status or credit card cover.
The Lowest Fare Isn't Always the Cheapest
The airline with the lowest base fare is not necessarily the cheapest after you figure in the extras you want. The most obvious case in point is Southwest: If you intend to check a bag or bags, round-trip, its no-charge policy for two bags gives it a minimum $50 cushion over any competitor that charges the usual $25 per bag each way. Similarly, you may find that some airlines' bundles result in a lower total cost than others' individually priced fares and extras.
RELATED: 7 Secrets of Ultralow Airfares
Buy and Cancel
If you find what looks like a good deal early in your search, you might want to go ahead and "buy," knowing that as long as you're looking more than a week in advance, you can cancel within 24 hours without penalty. Then keep on looking for a better deal.
This one doesn't show up on many lists, but it can be important. There are noticeable product quality differences in coach/economy among airlines. Carriers like JetBlue, Virgin America, and Alaska are niche players that compete on quality along with price. Flying on one of those lines may well be worth a few bucks more than flying on any of the "big three" giant network airlines or a low-fare airline. In Europe, Turkish has a somewhat similar reputation. On the other hand, Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant are quality bottom-feeders. Most people would probably choose to fly them only if fares or schedules are much better than options available on other lines. Ryanair is the equivalent in Europe. Air Transat (some planes), Meridiana, and XL Airways are bottom-quality transatlantic operations.
RELATED: What You Should Know Before Flying Spirit Airlines
Seniors Must Check Southwest
Travelers age 65 or over should always check Southwest. It's the only North American airline with useful senior fares. Time was, seniors could usually get a lower Southwest fare with an any-age ticket than on the senior fare, but now those low any-age tickets sell out well in advance, and the senior fares look better all the time.
Avoid Penalty Fees
On many airlines—especially low-fare airlines—fees for checked bags, carry-on bags, seat assignments, printing a boarding pass, and other functions escalate as you progress from initial purchase to boarding the flight. On Spirit, for example, if you want to check a bag, you pay $30 when you first book, $35 if you pay online after the initial booking, $40 during online check-in, and $50 at the airport. You can print a boarding pass free at home, but pay $2 at an airport kiosk or $10 at an agent station. Other low-fare lines follow similar pricing systems. Clearly, once you have identified what you want in the way of extras, pay for them as soon as feasible. There's no reason to wait until you have to pay what amounts to a "delay of game" penalty.
RELATED: 9 Worst Airline Ripoffs
Airfare Sales Are Back
After several years of inactivity, you can see some indications that limited-time airfare sales are back. Typically, you have only a short time—maybe even just a few days or a week—to buy promotionally priced tickets, but several months to fly. The return of sales, however, poses something of a quandary: Do you buy up to three months in advance, as some old rules advocate, or sit around waiting for a sale? We have no ready answer there. The best advice: When you see a really good deal, pounce on it.
(Top photo: Thinkstock/iStock)
More from SmarterTravel
Read the original story: 10 New Rules for Finding Cheap Flights by Ed Perkins, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.
Posted September 11, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
We've rounded up some of the sweetest deals available to autumnal travelers searching out a solid bargain. Beside the generous shoulder-season savings, also advantageous is the relaxed feel of fall with its uncrowded streets, shorter lines, yet bountiful number of exciting events.
San Diego, California
It may be starting to get balmy in your neck of the woods but perennially pleasant San Diego maintains its average temperature in the 70s during fall, and that makes for perfect weather to peruse the many celebrations taking over the city.
Peruse San Diego Restaurant Week during September 20 – 27 to get a savoring of the city's 180-plus participating restaurants.
If Italian cuisine is your favorite or if you like festivals, make sure to attend San Diego's 21st annual Festa—the largest Italian festival in the nation. Sunday, October 11 will be filled food, live music, bocce ball tournaments, and a flag procession, among other Italian-themed activities.
And on October 25, the Lodge at Torrey Pines will host the 13th annual Celebrate the Craft—a food festival showcasing Southern California's finest chefs, wine and craft beer makers, and food artisans. Proceeds of the event's earnings will be donated to the Slow Food Urban San Diego.
Throughout the month of October, the San Diego Museum Council invites families to explore the city's museums, gardens, and galleries—free of charge for tikes 12-years old and younger. Find among the more than 40 sites complimentary entry to the Japanese Friendship Garden, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the New Children's Museum, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Search more low prices on San Diego packages here!
Las Vegas, Nevada
With all its excesses, you can find yourself leaving Las Vegas burnt out and broke. But it doesn't necessarily have to be so to have a great time. Enrich your Sin City experience by taking advantage of all its world-class freebies.
It's easy to forget you're on the Strip when in the Bellagio. Close your eyes and you're suddenly transported to the Italian countryside and all of la dolce vita's fine indulgences, including musical fountains, botanical gardens, hand-blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly—all gratuito.
Make it to the Mirage at after the sun sets to be wowed by its Polynesian-themed fire show—Vegas-style. Complete with explosions, fireballs, heart-pounding music, and piña colada-misted air, the volcano show erupts at 8 and 9 p.m. Sundays – Thursdays and also 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Free attractions abound in Las Vegas; you just have to walk away from the craps table to easily locate them.
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Search more low prices on Las Vegas packages here!
Visitors to the Boston area during fall enjoy more than just gorgeous scenic foliage—they can also partake in all of the autumnal-themed festivities.
Not content with a single day, Witch City USA celebrates Halloween all month long. Among the treats you'll find throughout the month of October during the 34th annual Salem Haunted Happenings are parades, carnival rides, haunted houses, and bone-chilling tours. Salem, Massachusetts, is just a half-hour drive up the shore from Boston.
Fall festivals take on all forms in the Boston area. There's the popular and historic (nearly 200 years old!) agricultural Topsfield Fair running 10 days starting October 2; the Cape's annual cranberry bog harvesting festivities at the Nantucket Cranberry Festival on October 10; and Oktoberfest at Wachusett Mountain's Applefest during the third weekend in October.
The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism does a great job of listing out the area events, filtering by date, type, and region.
RELATED: What Not to Do in Boston
Search more low prices on Boston packages here!
Americans looking to visit Europe this fall are sitting pretty right now. It's been nearly a decade since the dollar has been this strong against the euro, and all signs point to continued parity through at least the end of the year.
The most-affordable European cities this year are Bucharest, Romania; Sofia, Bulgaria; Kiev, Ukraine; and Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic—all riding around the $50 mark for daily expenditures at three-star living. But even ultra-popular cities like London, Paris, and Rome are more affordable this year as a result of the dollar's strength against the euro.
Search more low prices on Bucharest packages here!
Search more low prices on Athens packages here!
Search more low prices on Rome packages here!
Home to the largest aquarium on the hemisphere and listed in the "1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die," Atlanta's Georgia Aquarium houses tens of thousands of sea animals in its 10 million gallons of water. Among the most popular attractions are the whale sharks, beluga whales, and dolphins. Enjoy all this marine-life viewing at a 20-percent discount if you book online or via the call center (404-581-4000) though the month of September.
Search more low prices on Atlanta packages here!
Toronto is suddenly very affordable thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar.
This fall, Toronto's newest and tallest hotel, the Delta Hotels and Resorts, is discounting 25 percent off the best available rate for visitors attending sports, music, or cultural events.
Also load up on freebies like walking tours offered by the Royal Ontario Museum and musical performance from fall through spring at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.
RELATED: 8 Things That Prove Toronto Is the Coolest City
Search more low prices on Toronto packages here!
National Parks, United States
The National Park Service will be commemorating its 100th anniversary in 2016, but it doesn't take a birthday to celebrate, and it certainly doesn't have to be summer to visit any of its parks.
Visit during fall and crowds thin out as seasonal demand slows. For accommodations options consider in-park hostelries, too, for even greater affordability.
RELATED: 10 Secret Spots in America's Top National Parks
Search more low prices on vacation packages here!
Travel to Bulgaria's capital city to unearth its many secrets. Find below Sofia the 1,800-year-old Roman city that lies beneath. At eye level, however, find some of Europe's most-affordable accommodations options, cheap transport, and free entertainment.
Search more low prices on Sofia packages here!
Due to the U.S. dollar 20 percent stronger than its Canadian counterpart, but also because the peak season's over, now's the time to visit Vancouver. Check out the bountiful travel deals at HelloBC, among them for mine expeditions, rafting excursions, and hotels stays.
Search more low prices on Vancouver packages here!
Posted September 10, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
Centuries ago, the steep, densely forested Blue Mountains of Jamaica were a sanctuary for indigenous people and African slaves who’d escaped their colonial owners. The rugged landscape is still honored by the descendants of those people and will now gain widespread recognition as Jamaica's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of 24 new inscriptions worldwide.
This summer, UNESCO granted protected status to a wealth of inspiring sites including the Champagne and Burgundy wine-producing regions of France, the Alamo and four other Texas missions, the iconic Forth Bridge in Scotland, and the site in Jordan where Jesus was believed to have been baptized. Your bucket list just got longer.
For centuries Ephesus was one of the most important cities of the Mediterranean, its bustling seaport sending goods from Asia to Greece, Italy, and beyond; and its streets an important marketplace for ideas. (Alexander the Great, Antony and Cleopatra, and the apostles John and Paul were some of Ephesus’ storied guests.) Only about 20 percent of the city—home to as many as 300,000 people in the 2nd century A.D.—has been excavated, but even so the city has one of the largest collections of Roman ruins in the region. Little is left of the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but the elegant Library of Celsus and Great Theater are just two of the buildings that make this among the most visited tourist sites in Turkey.
RELATED: Disappearing Wonders: World Heritage Sites in Danger
Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque, Mexico
This canal system, built between 1553 and 1570 on the Central Mexican Plateau, was recognized by UNESCO for its intertwining of two different cultural influences: The European method of Roman hydraulics and traditional indigenous and Aztec building techniques, including the use of adobe. The aqueduct was planned by Franciscan friar Francisco de Tembleque, who wanted to develop a dependable source of drinking water, and built by the native peoples. It towers over the ravines, towns, and farmlands for 28 miles on its way from the Tecajete hillside to the town of Otumba.
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Blue and John Crow Mountains, Jamaica
This nearly 200,000-acre national park marks Jamaica's first World Heritage Site inscription. The steep, rugged, mountains— which dominate the Eastern part of the island—are home to 200 species of native and migrating birds, one of the largest butterfly species in the world, and an abundance of endemic plants. But the mountains are perhaps most famous for the refuge that they provided for the native Tainos, and later runaway African slaves (Maroons), who fled to the heavily rainforested mountains to escape colonization. From a vast network of trails, hiding spots, and settlements, the Tainos and Maroons maintained independence from the Spanish and then the English, and lived in free communities for generations.
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Al Maghtas, Jordan
By all accounts, Biblical and archaeological, this site on the east bank of the Jordan River is where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The river itself has been a sensitive geopolitical boundary since Israel became a nation in 1948, so it’s only been within the last 21 years, after Jordan signed a peace accord with Israel and the Palestinian Territories, that the area has been open to visitors and excavation. Among the structures unearthed have been a 3rd-century church where pilgrims came to be baptized and a cave where John the Baptist is believed to have lived, as well as other Roman and Byzantine remains.
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Champagne and Burgundy, France
Two of France’s celebrated wine- and bubbly-producing areas were the toast of this year’s meeting: The regions of Champagne and Burgundy were both designated new heritage sites because they illustrate a centuries-old tradition of cultivation, production, and distribution of a masterful artisanal product. The protected areas in Champagne include not just the vineyards but the production sites, cellars and “Champagne Houses,” such as Mumm’s, Tattinger, and Veuve Clicquot. Burgandy’s designation includes the vineyards of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune, just a few miles south of Dijon; the town of Beaune; and the historic wine-producing center in Dijon.
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Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain, Mongolia
Even though Ghengis Khan asked to be buried in an unmarked grave, and it’s said that his funeral party went to great lengths (including killing anyone who came across the procession) to conceal where he was interred, legend has it that this is where the great Mongol ruler was laid to rest. It’s also believed to be his birthplace, and as such is considered the most sacred mountain in Mongolia. Mountain worship was an important theme in Khan’s successful efforts to unify the many native Mongol tribes, and to this day visitors can find sacred rock-and-wood piles known as ovoos dotting the mountain and surrounding landscape.
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Forth Bridge, Scotland
As iconic to Scotland as the Golden Gate is to San Francisco, this bright-red Victorian-era bridge is still carrying passengers and freight over the estuary of the River Forth 125 years after it was completed. The committee took note of the bridge’s innovative style, materials, and scale in adding it to the list: It was the world’s first multi-span cantilever bridge, the first major bridge made entirely of steel, and at 8,296 feet, remains one of the world's longest.
RELATED: 17 Photos That Prove Scotland Is the Most Beautiful Place on Earth
Hail Region Rock Art, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia wasn’t always a desert; as recently as 6,000 years ago the region was a grassland savannah that supported cattle as well as humans, who left their record carved into the rocks. Saudi Arabia’s new heritage site is composed of two areas, one of them being the Neolithic sandstone petroglyphs near Jubbah. The second area, near the village of Shuwaymis, was known to the Bedouins for centuries, but only discovered by the outside world in 2001. Among the finds were carvings depicting camels, Arabian horses, cheetahs, dogs, oryx, ibex, and humans, and hunting scenes etched into black volcanic rock.
RELATED: 15 World Heritage Sites You Haven't Heard of Yet
San Antonio Missions, USA
UNESCO remembered the Alamo—and four other nearby Franciscan mission complexes along the San Antonio River—when it added this National Historic Park in Texas to its list. The 300-year-old missions and the communities that grew around them were cited as important examples of Spain’s attempt to colonize and defend its northern frontier in the New World. In addition, the missions were noted for integrating the culture of the native Coahuiltecans—who sought protection in the missions from their historic enemies, the Apache and Comanche— into decorative and architectural elements of the churches.
RELATED: Amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in North America
Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore
Singapore makes its debut on the World Heritage list with its 183-acre botanic garden in the heart of this bustling city. Established by the English in 1859 to conduct trials on various crops, visitors today can find trees tested almost 150 years ago for their timber quality and see the garden that still serves as a research and scientific facility. It’s also a longtime social gathering spot (open from 5 a.m. to midnight every day of the year) and is free of charge to visit, except for the National Orchid Garden, which houses 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of orchids.
Read the original story: 10 New World Heritage Sites That Should Be On Your Bucket List by Deb Hopewell, who is a contributor to SmarterTravel.
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Posted September 10, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
It's a nearly impossible mission: Put multiple generations in unfamiliar surroundings and expect everyone to have a great time the whole time. But against all odds, family vacations often yield joy and lasting memories. The pitfalls are deep and many, however. So we're sharing with you the top family vacation mistakes we won't be making again. Learn from our blunders, dear readers, and thrive on your next family trip. Your children, parents, aunts, and nephews will thank you.
Mistake # 1: You Eat Questionable Food
What's worse than food poisoning? Being one of four people in a hotel room with food poisoning. Even if you're a hardcore street-foodist who thinks of the occasional food-borne illness as a hazard of the game, you do not want to get into a single-bathroom battle with your nearest and dearest. Some of the risky foods to avoid while traveling include tap water in certain places, anything surrounded by flies, and food that's been sitting out but hasn't been kept either piping hot or nice and cold.
Mistake # 2: You Don't Meet Everyone's Basic Needs
Vacation is not the time to start skipping naps if your toddler still needs them. Nor is it the time to power through meal times because you don't want to pull over the car for a break. Travel creates situations of novel stress, and in order to capitalize on the novelty and minimize the stress, kids and adults need to get enough sleep and eat good food. Laying the foundation for a great vacation means keeping everyone well-fed, hydrated, and rested as much of the time as possible.
RELATED: Tips for Traveling With Kids
Mistake # 3: You're Inflexible
Love to be disappointed? Then you should definitely head into a family vacation with a rigid plan of what should happen every day. From youngest to oldest, everyone on your trip is going to have a different travel style, and not everyone is going to appreciate being marched around day after day as you tell them what to look at and where to eat. Create room for spontaneity and make everyone happier.
Mistake # 4: You Forget That You're on Vacation, Too
We can call this one planner syndrome. When you, as the primary planner, have put your heart and soul into a vacation, it's all too easy to forget to actually be there and experience things rather than monitoring everyone else's joy level and thinking ahead to the logistics of the next activity. If you're going to continue to wear the planning hat (and let's face it, you probably are), at least make it a beach hat and create room to enjoy the vacation you've spent so many hours preparing for.
RELATED: 7 Mistakes That Will Make You Miss Your Flight
Mistake # 5: You Spend All Your Time Together
Deny it if you will, but we know better: No matter how much you love your family, you don't want to spend every minute of every day with them. Everyone needs a little down time, so build some into each day and give everyone time to recharge.
And don't make every activity all-hands. If a few people really want to head to the beach and the rest of the group is ready to climb a volcano, respect everybody's version of vacation. You'll get to come back together and the end of the day and share stories.
Mistake # 6: You Don't Get a Big Enough Place
More room tends to be more expensive, but you're already investing in the vacation, so it's likely worth investing a bit more to make it a good trip. Avoiding cramming everyone into a single bedroom is nice, but the real key to a comfortable stay is having a common area that's separate from sleeping spaces. Because you know what doesn't feel like vacation? Lying in a darkened room three hours before your usual bedtime because you're trying to let the kids sleep. Or camping out on the hotel bathroom floor with a book until you're tired enough to sleep.
If a hotel suite is too pricey, consider a vacation rental. Not only do they offer more space, but they often come with handy amenities like grills and washing machines.
RELATED: 8 Things You Need to Pack for Your Vacation Rental
Mistake # 7: You Make Age-Inappropriate Choices
It's not that there aren't family-friendly activities in Las Vegas. It's that adults in Vegas tend to want to enjoy the less kid-friendly charms of the city.
When you're choosing a family vacation, think hard about the destination. Weigh activity options and any physical demands against the ages of those in your travel group. This goes both ways—make sure to be realistic about the physical limitations of older family members before booking that fourth-floor walkup vacation rental or taking off to a steep hillside city.
Mistake # 8: You Set Yourself Up for Servitude
Finding yourself saddled with the same responsibilities you have at home can be the perfect recipe for stewing resentment. Instead of defaulting to the roles you have at home—which likely reflect work schedules and after-school activities—shake it up and give every able family member a chance to pitch in. After all, you're all on vacation, right? Dividing and conquering chores like meal prep and laundry will go a long way toward giving everyone equal leisure time.
RELATED: Tips for Traveling With Kids
Mistake # 9: You Don't Involve Others in the Planning
According to a Wyndham Rewards study, 53 percent of kids think they could plan a vacation better than their parents. For many travelers—but not all, we admit— planning is part of the fun. In fact, according to every travel happiness survey we've ever seen, the delicious anticipation of a trip is a huge part of the overall enjoyment.
When you get the whole family involved in planning, you end up with an itinerary that reflects what people actually want to do, not just what you think they should do. There's pride in ownership, too: Kids tend to be more patient doing what other people want when they know they'll get a turn.
Mistake # 10: You Don't Stay Connected
Picture it: You're in Rome, it's 97 degrees, and your cousin was supposed to meet you in front of the Colosseum 45 minutes ago. She didn't get an international plan on her phone, so you've got no way of contacting her. Feel the creeping irritation? Let that feeling ease any reservations you have about being pushy in the planning stages about making sure everyone in the group finds a way to stay connected.
Help them prepare their cell phones for the trip, or suggest a carrier such as T-Mobile that offers free international data (for texting) and free Wi-Fi calling abroad. If you happen to be related to a quorum of Luddites and you'll all be in fairly close proximity, consider walkie talkies. Will you look a little weird? Yes, but it will be worth it.
RELATED: How to Spot Your Ideal Travel Companion
Mistake # 11: You Rent the Wrong Vehicle or Home
If you're traveling with a large family group, don't automatically opt for one large vehicle. Two smaller cars give you more flexibility and allow for different schedules and interests. Similarly, if you're opting for a vacation rental but kids have different sleep schedules, it's not a bad idea to consider renting two neighboring smaller units.
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Christine Sarkis has gone on family vacations as a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, aunt, and parent. Follow her on Twitter@ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.
Read the original story: How to Have the Worst Family Vacation Ever by Christine Sarkis, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.
Posted August 14, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
Summer's fleeting, but you can create more memories before you have to hunker down for the fall by getting in one last getaway. Check out these nine deals—all offering steep last-minute discounts in major metropolitan cities.
Las Vegas: 20 Percent Savings at Popular Strip Resorts
Get your last hurrah in before summer's end—and what better place than in the Strip! Alaska Airlines is currently offering 20 percent off hotel-night stays at eight popular Las Vegas resorts. Among the accommodations options are top-rated popular hotel/casinos, including Caesars Palace (awarded TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence in 2013), the Francophile-fave Paris Las Vegas, Rio All-Suite Hotel (each room option is a suite and all promise great views), and the centrally located LINQ Hotel and Casino.
Stays are valid through June 30, 2016, but all bookings must be made by 11:59 p.m. PT on August 25, 2015.
Search more low prices on Las Vegas packages here!
Walt Disney World Vacations: Air, Stay, Play at 30 Percent Savings
Delta Vacations is offering savings of up to 30 percent off room rates whenever booking hotel-and-flight Walt Disney World vacation packages. The trip bundles include round-trip airfare, onsite Disney report accommodations (which come with extra theme park hours and transportation), Magic Your Way tickets, and Delta frequent-flyer bonus miles.
Tickets must be booked by August 31, and are applicable for travel through October 3. To get an idea of what pricing looks like, we sampled round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Orlando from $773 per person, which includes three-night stays, three-day theme park tickets, and taxes and fees. Other departure cities are available.
Search more low prices on Orlando packages here!
San Antonio: Riverwalk Stays from $143/Night
Need one last summer fling before you can bid the sunny season farewell? Then say "hello" to the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, which is offering 30-percent savings on two-night stays. Rates (before discounts) start at $143 per night.
According to TripAdvisor, the Valencia is the fourth-ranked hotel in all of San Antonio, and one right in the middle of the Riverwalk action.
Search more low prices on San Antonio packages here!
Honolulu: 4th Night Free on the Shores of Waikiki Beach
The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, on the picturesque shores of Honolulu's Waikiki Beach has welcoming promotions right now, one of the best of which is the "Sunsational Savings" offering every fourth night free and complimentary buffet breakfast.
The room category selected must be SUN and accommodations must be booked by December 22.
Search more low prices on Honolulu packages here!
New Orleans: 15 Percent Off Historic Hotel, Free Wi-Fi
Enjoy savings of 15 percent and complimentary Wi-Fi at the 4.5 blubble-rated Omni Royal Orleans. The historic St. Louis Street hotel ranks within the top 10 of all New Orleans accommodations and has received the TripAdvisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence award. August hotel stays start at $143 per night.
To get the 15 percent discount and free Wi-Fi, use code CRPTRP by December 31.
Search more low prices on New Orleans packages here!
New York City: 20 Percent Off Midtown Hotels
The official New York City tourism organization, NYC & Co. has teamed up with several hotels to offer discounts throughout the city. In Midtown, find Sanctuary Hotel New York discounting 20 percent off room rates, plus free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and gym passes; DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Metropolitan—New York City, also with 20-percent discounts off room rates and sightseeing cruises; and two free tickets to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck with stays at New York Marriott East Side. Various other hotels are available.
Search more low prices on New York City packages here!
Chicago: 20 Percent Off Summer Stays
The "Slammin' Summer" deal at Chicago's Hard Rock Hotel on North Michigan Avenue promises 20 percent savings off the best available rates, plus two free welcome cocktails. For the promotion to take effect, redeem code PROTRIP by September 30.
Search more low prices on Chicago packages here!
San Francisco: 25 Percent Off Summer Rates
Save 25 percent from the Best Available rate when spending two or more nights at the Days Inn San Francisco Downtown/Civic Center. Bookings must be made by August 31, and check-in must happen between Sunday and Thursday—perfect timing for a last-minute summer getaway.
Search more low prices on San Francisco packages here!
Seattle: 35 Percent Off Hotel Stays
Save up to 35 percent hotel rates at the four-star Westin Seattle. Discounted rates are applicable during select dates in August and September, but they must be booked by August 31.
Search more low prices on Seattle packages here!
Posted August 13, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
Dodging bag fees is getting harder and harder. Ever since American introduced checked-bag fees in 2008, nearly every major U.S. airline (and plenty of international airlines) have followed suit. Checked-bag fees are now the industry norm. Even industry darling JetBlue broke our hearts and added the dreaded surcharge.
But not all hope is lost! Checking your bags for free is still doable. Here are seven ways you can avoid checked bag fees on your next flight.
Southwest is the only major U.S. airline that lets you check a bag for free. Repeat: Southwest is the only major U.S. airline left that doesn't charge a bag fee. Heck, they'll even let you check two bags for free. Like most airlines, Southwest does levy a surcharge for overweight bags, but with two free bags available to you that shouldn't be an issue.
Related: There's One Big Problem with Southwest's New Seats
Be a (Really) Frequent Flyer
Elite status is difficult to earn for a reason, but if you manage to fly, say, 25,000 miles a year, a whole world of perks opens up to you. In addition to a free checked bag, elite travelers often enjoy access to upgrades, reduced fees, priority boarding, and more. Unfortunately, 25,000 miles per year is unattainable for many leisure travelers (though good for you if you travel that much).
Explore Different Fare Tiers
Many people simply grab the cheapest ticket possible, but these tend to be nonrefundable base fares that entitle you to a seat and nothing more. Higher-priced tickets are often refundable and offer additional perks such as "free" checked bags.
For example, JetBlue introduced an entire new ticketing system when it unveiled its bag fees, and its BluePlus and BlueFlex fares include one and two checked bags, respectively, along with reduced change and cancellation fees. Other airlines, including Virgin America and Frontier, offer similar fare tiers, so it's worth investigating your options. Of course, the price difference can exceed the cost of a single checked bag, so do the math.
Related: How to Get a Refund on a Nonrefundable Flight
Go Minimalist and Carry It On
This one's obvious, but while checked-bag fees are now the norm, most major airlines have resisted adding carry-on bag fees (with notable exceptions including Allegiant, Spirit, and Frontier). So if you can travel light, this is one of the simplest ways to ditch the bag fee—plus you know your bag won't get lost in transit.
There are countless ways to get the most out of your carry-on, from vacuum bags that compress your clothes to ingenious organization solutions for your electronics to the suitcase itself. Remember, too, that you get a carry-on and a personal item with most airlines, so use that second bag wisely and you might find yourself able to handle a four- or five-day trip on carry-ons alone.
Get an Airline-Affiliated Credit Card
Many airline-affiliated credit cards grant cardholders free checked bags in addition to other perks and (of course) the ability to earn miles. There are, naturally, a few catches associated with these cards. For example, most airline-affiliated credit cards carry hefty annual fees of around $100, though some waive the fee for the first year. With the typical first-bag fee hovering around $25, you'll need to check a few bags just to break even, and a few more to really benefit from the perk. Also, airline-affiliated cards by nature lock you in to a particular carrier, so you'd better be a fan of American if you pick up its credit card.
Related: Best Credit Cards for Every Type of Traveler
Play the Gate-Check Game
If you're the gambling sort, you can always try the ol' gate-check trick, which involves bringing a carry-on that—oops!—is a bit too large for the overhead bin and has to be gate-checked. There are a few pretty good arguments against doing this, first and foremost being that it will slow down the boarding process while you and a (likely irritated) flight attendant try to cram the thing into the overhead bin on a crowded plane. You don't want to be that passenger, do you? More importantly, airlines have gotten wise to shenanigans like this and are cracking down on oversized carry-ons, meaning you may end up paying a fee anyway. Hardly seems worth the effort, but air travel has a way of making people do strange things.
Related: 7 Things That Are Cheaper to Buy Than Pack
Ship It, But at What Costs
Shipping your bags is a popular tip among the bag-fee averse, but there are a lot of factors to weigh when considering the option, starting with price. I priced out shipping a 45-pound suitcase from my home in Massachusetts to Seattle and got a one-way estimate of $75 from UPS. That's considerably more than just about any bag fee, and in fact is more than I'd pay in bag fees for both legs of my journey. For a trip to Chicago I was quoted $44, still more than a bag fee but closer in range. For a trip to Philadelphia I was quoted $31.
Beyond raw dollars, you also have to consider time. For my Seattle trip, UPS estimated 5 days via its basic ground shipping (faster options were substantially more expensive). Chicago and Philadelphia were both estimated at two days. This means you'll need to pack earlier and make an extra trip to drop off your suitcase a few days before you leave. It also means you'll have to make a drop-off trip at the end of your vacation as well and then wait around for it to arrive (hope your keys aren't in the suitcase!). If you do decide to ship, see if there's a drop-off at the airport you'll be traveling through. You can also ship in one direction and check your bag in the other.
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Read the original story: How to Check a Bag for Free by Carl Unger, who is a contributor to SmarterTravel.
(Photo: Happy Businessman via Shutterstock)
Posted August 12, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
There are many ways to distract yourself on a flight: Read, watch something, listen to music or a podcast. But if you're seeking a more dynamic activity—one that keeps you busy and imparts a least a small sense of accomplishment—we have an idea.
Get some crayons. Get a coloring book. Get coloring.
You may have already heard about the millennial-fueled adult coloring book craze, which various media outlets have covered over the past year. We're talking about adults using coloring books—not adult-themed coloring books (though those do exist).
Coloring helps cut stress, experts say. Psychologist Antoni Martínez tells the Huffington Post, "I recommend it as a relaxation technique. We can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state. We can also use it to connect with how we feel, since depending on our mood we choose different colors or intensity. I myself have practiced that. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and the lines flow."
Related: Stop Manspreading on Planes
Think of it as a little art therapy while you're stuck in a plane seat.
Since coloring is an acceptable pastime for adults now, you can find plenty of designs appropriate for your advanced age group. There's no need to resign yourself to black-and-white outlines of Disney princesses and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (unless that's your thing). There are lots of adult-coloring books for sale at bookstores everywhere. Here is a Ryan Gosling coloring book. Here is the Hipster Coloring Book for Adults. Here is a Star Wars coloring book with accompanying 3-D glasses that is certainly not for adults, but no one is stopping you from wearing 3-D glasses that have the Star Wars logo on them on the plane. YOLO.
As far as crayons go, we recommend traveling light with a modest set featuring mostly primary colors. A small pack of good old Crayolas is a good bet. This eight-pack set costs $2. Or just steal your supplies from the hostess station at a local Red Robin.
Would you color in a coloring book while on a plane?
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Read the original story: One Weird Way to Relax on a Plane by Caroline Costello, who is a contributor to SmarterTravel.
Posted July 10, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
Ft. Lauderdale Vacation Fun from $103/Day
Soak some sun and do so while saving with Priceline’s air-and-hotel deals. We found rates from $102.33 per person, per day ($614 for six days) from Philadelphia (other departure cities available) at the beachside Sonesta Ft. Lauderdale Beach hotel.
For even bigger savings, take advantage of the useful Ft. Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau lengthy list of two-for-one offers.
Search more low prices on Ft. Lauderdale packages here!
Denver: Deeply-Discounted Vacations Offer $125 Savings
Savings on flight-and-hotel Denver vacations are as high as, well, a mile. Use promo code 125TRIP at Orbitz and save $125—a steep discount, but only applicable for bookings made by September 30 and with a minimum-four-night stay.
We found early-fall vacation-package deals from Syracuse starting at $115.63 per person, per day ($925 total per person) at the Inn at Cherry Creek. Other dates, hotels, and departure cities are available.
Search more low prices on Denver packages here!
New England Air/Hotel/Tours from $192/Day
From sights that mark this nation’s infancy to museums that depict all-things Americana, experience a bit of everything-New England with this offer. Among the monumental sites toured in this 10-day vacation are Plymouth Rock, Boston’s Old North Church, Herman Melville’s and Normal Rockwell’s homes, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory.
The Gate 1 Travel package is priced at $1,919 round-trip ($191.90 per person, per day) from Chicago, and includes air, hotel, motorcoach transfer between sites, 12 meals, taxes and fees, and entrance fees. Other departure cities are available, as are land-only packages.
Search more low prices on Boston packages here!
Chic Chicago Vacations from $135/Day
Five-day vacations through Travelocity at the chic 4-star Chicago Athletic Association start at $134.60 per day ($673 per person)—that includes airfare during early August.
This rate is priced for departures from Boston during August 6 through 10, but other departure cities, travel windows, and even other hotels are available.
Search more low prices on Chicago packages here!
London Fly & Drive Vacation from $94/Day
Explore England at your pace with Go-Today’s “England Fly & Drive” package, including round-trip airfare from the U.S. to London, England, a car rental with unlimited miles for seven days, and airfare taxes and fees. What’s more, use promo code GTUK715 to save $50 off the package.
Search more low prices on London packages here!
Minneapolis: 20 Percent Off Hotels
TripAdvisor and the Millennium Hotel Minneapolis have teamed up to bring guests 20-percent savings off rack rates this summer. The centrally located hotel is rated four out of five TripAdvisor bubbles. Use promo code TRIPAD by August 31.
Search more low prices on Minneapolis packages here!
Puerto Rico Air-and-Hotel Vacations from $65/Day
JetBlue Vacations has worked out an exclusive deal with San Juan’s four-star Condado Plaza Hilton for four-day air-and-hotel vacation packages from $259 per person ($64.75 per person, per day). What’s more, the fourth night-stay is free; but for this added perk, a four-night minimum stay is required, and blackout dates exclude travel on July 3, 4, 17-19, 24, and August 21-27.
Prices are per person based on double occupancy, and include accommodations, round-trip airfare, and taxes and fees. The promotion’s travel window falls between July 20 and August 15. The cited rate is for travel from Boston on July 23, though many other departure cities and dates are available.
Search more low prices on San Juan packages here!
Atlantic City: 30 Percent Off Hotels
You’ve just hit the jackpot and you haven’t even stepped into a casino yet! Available through August 18, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City is running its Semi Annual Sale for stays through March 31, 2016. The promotion discounts rates by 30 percent whenever using code SEMI15.
Search more low prices on Atlantic City packages here!