United Brings Back Free Drinks on Long Flights

Posted April 24, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

Beginning on June 1, coach-class travelers on United's long-haul international flights will be reintroduced to an amenity that disappeared on most United flights more than a decade ago: free beer and wine.

The complimentary beverages are part of a package of service upgrades on United's flights between the U.S. and Europe, Asia, and some South American destinations. Other additions:

  • New multi-course meal service
  • Snacks available for purchase throughout the flight
  • New pre-arrival service offerings, including French toast and Tuscan skillet with scrambled eggs

Related: Southwest Announces Wider Seats for Coach-Class

According to the airline's announcement, "United is committed to improving every aspect of our customers' experience on the ground, in the air and with every interaction. The changes to come on June 1 will deliver an elevated onboard experience on many of our intercontinental flights and will offer travelers the high level of service they expect from a global airline."

The move is no doubt a positive one for United customers, but it also shines an unflattering light on United's service offerings. After all, most other airlines already offer complimentary beer and wine on their longer flights. So, as has so often been the case lately, United is just playing catch-up.  

Related: 10 Pro Tips for Surviving a Long Flight

Read the original story: United Brings Back Free Drinks on Long Flights by Tim Winship, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

Do Airlines Raise Prices Based on Your Location?

Posted April 22, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

In the great airfare arms race between airlines and consumers, there have been countless innovations aimed at getting either the best deal possible, if you're a traveler; or the most revenue possible, if you're an airline. For most consumers, it feels like the airlines usually come out ahead, and this drives intelligent people to explore and eventually market clever new ways of finding the ever-elusive "best deal."

The newest of these techy airfare workarounds comes from a company called SaferVPN, and its proposal is simple: Airlines sometimes have different fares in different countries, so you can save money if you trick the booking engine into thinking you're in, say, Guatemala instead of Georgia. SaferVPN is not shy about the potential results—it boasts savings of $475 on one route using its "simple trick."

Sounds great! But we at SmarterTravel are a skeptical bunch, so we decided to give SaferVPN a test drive to see if it can deliver on its promise of big airfare savings. Here's what we found.

Related: Do Booking Sites Raise Prices Based on Your Search Habits?

How VPNs Work

When you use a VPN (short for Virtual Private Network), you are creating an encrypted connection to the Internet, usually for the purposes of accessing a company's internal servers. According to PC Mag, "Connecting to an encrypted VPN while you're on a public or untrusted network ... helps to stymie other people who may be trying to snoop on your browsing via Wi-Fi to capture your passwords."

Is it a legal way to circumvent typical airfare booking channels? "There's nothing [in most airlines' contracts of carriage] against using VPNs," SaferVPN Marketing Manager Andre Eloznino told me when I spoke with him via email. "Many businesspeople are required to use VPNs when using their laptops outside of their offices for security reasons. An airline can't tell people that they can't use a security tool when booking their tickets."

Getting started with SaferVPN is pretty easy. The company is currently running a free 24-hour trial (it starts at $72 a year or $7.99 monthly after that), so you simply register, download the software, and get started. I installed it on my Mac and the application lives in the top right corner of my toolbar. From there you just select the VPN you want, enter your username and password, and it connects automatically. Installation took me about five minutes and connecting to a VPN takes about 20 seconds.

And that's it! A few clicks and the Internet thinks you're in Italy or France or Hong Kong. If only getting through airport security were so painless.

Related: The 2 Cheapest Days of the Week to Fly

How to Use a VPN to Search for Airfare

SaferVPN offers some guidance on the best way to find lower fares. First and foremost, the company encourages you to use its product, preferably beyond the free trial period. Fair enough.

Beyond that, they suggest clearing your cookies and using your browser's private mode. SaferVPN says airlines track your behavior and may hike prices if they see you making repeated searches for the same destinations or itineraries. (We've found this to be true in some but not all cases.)

SaferVPN also suggests using the local version of a site rather than the U.S. version, explaining that "prices differ by which localization of a website you're using." So when in Rome (via a VPN), use the Italian site.

The Tests

My testing here is meant to demonstrate a real-world scenario of using a VPN to search for low fares. I wanted to find out what value a VPN could have for the average consumer. All flights were searched on the same evening on the same computer from my home in Massachusetts.

Test # 1: Boston to Lisbon, Departing 9/23 and Returning 9/30

Control Search (not connected to a VPN):

  • Kayak: $605 on multiple airlines
  • SATA: $625.33
  • Delta: $964

Connected to a Spain VPN using Incognito mode on Chrome:

  • Kayak (Spain site): $573 on multiple airlines
  • SATA (Portugal site): $625.33
  • Delta (Spain site): $964

The takeaway? Only Kayak offered any savings, but that $30 difference is pretty decent. Interestingly, the respective lowest-priced flights on Kayak were not matching itineraries. So not only was the price lower, but Kayak presented a wholly different route via the Spanish site and VPN.

Test # 2: Boston to Seattle, Departing 10/15 and Returning 10/20

Control Search (not connected to a VPN):

  • Kayak: $332 on Delta
  • JetBlue: $391.96

Connected to USA West Coast VPN using Incognito mode on Chrome:

  • Kayak: $332 on Delta
  • JetBlue: $391.96

For this search I tested a West Coast VPN vs. the control. I didn't expect there would be any difference (it would have been strange if there was) and I was proven right. Identical prices across the board.

That's boring, I thought. Let's pretend we're in Brazil instead! On its site, SaferVPN says, "Flights are sometimes pretty cheap from Brazilian sites." In fact, that $475 in savings I mentioned earlier was found on Kayak's Brazil site for a flight from L.A. to Sydney. Works for me! Let's try Brazil:

Connected to Brazil VPN using Incognito mode on Chrome:

  • Kayak (Brazil site): $333 on Delta
  • JetBlue (U.S. site—there is no Brazil version): $391.96

Identical prices.

And herein lies the elephant in the room (or maybe the elephant in the middle seat, if we want to make an airline joke): There's a pretty substantial stabbing-in-the-dark element to this whole theory.

If you're flying internationally, it makes sense to test both your home and destination VPNs. But for domestic flights, fares will be the same nationwide, and beyond that there's no intuitive choice for an alternate VPN. Same goes if you want to try a third VPN for an international flight. How do you know which VPN to choose? Sure, Brazil is cheaper sometimes, but that means sometimes it isn't, and today is very likely not going to be your day.

"It's up to the searcher to do some testing," Elmoznino admitted, and he also noted that fares can vary with currency fluctuations and seasonal promotions in different regions. That's part of the point: SaferVPN gives you access to all those otherwise unavailable possibilities.

But this creates the myth of the better deal, a sense that you'll find a miracle fare if you just keep searching. And hey, if you want to forgo sleep for a week and chase the great white whale of airfares, you are free to do so. But this is analysis paralysis waiting to happen, and I worry that having so much choice might encumber more than empower you as a consumer.

Test # 3: San Francisco to Tokyo, Departing 9/10 and Returning 9/17

Control Search (not connected to a VPN):

  • Kayak: $788 on Delta and United
  • Japan Airlines: $1,236.01

Connected to Japan VPN using Incognito mode on Chrome:

  • Kayak (Japan site): $772 on United
  • Japan Airlines (Americas site): $1,236.01

One important thing to note: When you change your VPN, many sites will read your location and automatically load the local URL. In the local language. Which is particularly challenging when the language is Japanese and you are not, in fact, Japanese.

A more surprising wrinkle came when I went to search on JAL's Japan site—it wouldn't let me start my itinerary in the U.S.

I had to be traveling to San Francisco, and there was no apparent way to reverse the order. I ended up using the U.S. version instead.

After all that, I did uncover $16 in savings by using Kayak's Japan site via the Japan VPN. Not breathtaking savings, but $16 is $16, so nothing to complain about.

To VPN or Not to VPN?

Using SaferVPN did uncover some savings, and that's always a good thing, but it did not uncover the sort of savings that anyone would consider substantial.

This should surprise no one. It simply isn't reasonable to expect any tool will deliver significant savings with any regularity or, more importantly, predictability.

Which is not to say SaferVPN can't help you unlock those kinds of savings—it could. But at $8/month or $72 for a year, it is probably not a good fit for people who don't travel often. You could easily save less than you spend on the product.

Look: There is no miracle elixir that cures all your airfare ills. SaferVPN is really no different than any of the tricks, tactics or strategies that came before it. Finding a good deal will always be about being in the right place at the right time, and that means checking fares regularly and often so you know a good deal when you see it.

That said, SaferVPN is a legitimate option to add to your repertoire if it makes sense given your traveling habits and you're willing to put in the time to conduct multiple searches. It worked well and did find savings for me.

Just keep your expectations in check.

Related: When Should I Book My Flight?

Read the original story: Do Airlines Raise Prices Based on Your Location? by Carl Unger, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

11 Things You Need to Do the Day of Your Trip

Posted April 20, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

Before you leave for distant lands and untold adventures, it's essential to run through a pre-trip to-do list. Failure to do so will result in that nagging feeling you've forgotten something. (And that nagging feeling is usually right.) Achieve peace of mind at the very start of your journey by ticking off the following crucial tasks ahead of your departure.

Check the Weather

Look at the most recent weather predictions for your home. This will help you know what to expect on the way to the airport and whether or not to be on the lookout for flight delays. Check the weather at your destination, too. Because weather forecasts change frequently, this is a must-do on the day you depart. It's your last chance to adjust your suitcase contents in accordance with the latest predictions. Throw an umbrella or a sweater into your bag as needed.

Search Low Prices for Your Next Getaway!

Check Your Flight Status

It's important to know your flight status before you leave your home. This way, you can avoid a long wait at the airport in the event of a flight delay. Download your airline's app to get flight-status alerts on your phone. Visit your airline's website and make sure your departure is happening as scheduled. Or use this clever trick to check your flight status while logged into a Google account.

Charge All of Your Devices

It's best to start charging any devices you're bringing on your trip a day or two before departure. But if you've been active on your phone or computer, reload that power bar before heading out the door. That extra hour or so of juice could be crucial. Another tip? Download any movies or TVs show may want to watch in transit while you still have a good Wi-Fi connection at home. You don't want to be doing this someplace where the Internet speeds are dial-up-level slow.

Search Low Prices for Your Next Getaway!

Unplug Home Electronics

While you're plugging in your phone and tablet, unplug your television, computer, and other large appliances. There are two reasons you should do this: to protect them in the event of an electrical surge and to keep energy costs down. Appliances that are plugged in use low levels of energy even when not in use.

Make Sure You Have Your Documents

The process of getting your travel documents in order—from checking the expiration date on your passport to applying for visas, if necessary—must be done well in advance. (Some destinations require passports with six months' or three months' validity; read more here.) On the day of departure, your most important job is making sure your necessary documents are on hand. Depending on your personal level of obsessiveness, double, triple, or quadruple check that your passport, ID, and any other necessary documents are in your carry-on bag. Never pack essential documents in checked luggage.

Search Low Prices for Your Next Getaway!

Check Your Email

Important last-second changes to travel plans, from modifications to your hotel reservations to car-rental upgrades, will likely come with email notifications. Did the B&B at which you're staying send a last-minute update on check-in times? Do your travel companions have itinerary updates to share? Did the owner of your rental property email instructions for picking up the key? Don't wait until you're at the airport before taking a look at that in-box. Airport Wi-Fi is unreliable at best, and you'll want to be at home in case you need to pack something extra or make a phone call.

Check the Wait Time at Your Airport

The TSA posts regularly updated airport-security wait time estimates. There are apps that do this, too, like the crowd-sourced MiFlight. Airport-security wait time estimates are never exact —especially when you have hours to go before heading out the door—but they could help you to make a more informed call when determining how early you need to be at the airport.

Search Low Prices for Your Next Getaway!

Check the Traffic

Construction, accidents, jams, and other delay-causing events could easily snowball into a missed flight. Local news providers are reliable sources of up-to-the-minute traffic information. A host of apps offer useful updates, too. Waze is a great one that offers real-time feedback, crowdsourced from other drivers. The same advice applies if you're taking public transportation. Make sure your route to the airport is delay-free.

Pack a Snack

Make yourself a sandwich for the long journey. Or up your snack game and make one of these awesome flight-friendly, healthy recipes for the road.

Search Low Prices for Your Next Getaway!

Make Sure You Have Your Medications

The medications you plan to take on your trip are something you absolutely want to think about ahead of time. If your prescription needs a refill, it's best to know this well before your departure date, for obvious reasons. When it's time to leave, just make sure you truly have packed the medications that you refilled a month ago, as they're some of the most important belongings you'll carry with you. Check that your prescriptions are safely packed in your carry-on bag before you depart.

Take Some Pictures

Use your phone to snap some pictures of your packed bag and your travel documents. Pictures of both the outside of your suitcase and the contents of your baggage will come in handy if the airline loses your luggage. (A photo will help officials identify your bag, and a snapshot of bag contents will aid in claiming losses if your luggage never returns.) Take pictures of your itinerary, your identification, your reservations, and basically any piece of paper with important information on it. (Make sure your phone is password protected and can be shut off remotely if lost.)

Read the original story: 11 Really Important Things to Do the Day of Your Trip by Caroline Costello, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

(Photo: muharrem oner/Getty Images)

You Should Always Know Your Aircraft--Here's Why

Posted April 17, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

Always know your plane. The type of aircraft on which you're flying can have a big effect on the quality of your trip.

The most important time to "get to know your plane" is when you're selecting a flight and buying a ticket. Most airlines, OTAs, and search engines show you the plane type during the search phase, although you may have to click on a "details" button for more information. And most airlines and OTAs give you a seat selection option before you make a final commitment to pay.

Although some important factors, like noise or smoothness, are inherent to the plane model itself, others depend on how each airline outfits its planes. Similarly, some choice factors apply to all classes of service; others are specific to each class.

Noise

Takeoffs can be noisy in much of the plane, but once you're at cruising altitude, the noise in most of the plane results from turbulent airflow around the cabin—not the engines. (But to the extent that engine noise is a problem, newer engines are quieter than older engines.) Jet-noise problems are most severe in planes with rear-mounted engines, where noise in the last few rows can be truly offensive, but rear seats in planes with wing-mounted engines area typically the noisiest. And propeller noise and vibration in turboprops can be really annoying, anywhere in the plane.

  • Favor: A380s and 787s, with their latest-generation engines
  • Avoid: Seats far to the rear, and especially in the last three to four rows in MD80s and MD90s among the mainline planes and the last two to three rows in most smaller regional jets; avoid turboprops

Smoothness

In general, the bigger the plane, the less bumpy the trip. Jumbo jets are like big cruise ships: relatively smooth even in rough air.

  • Favor: A380s, 747s, and 787s
  • Avoid: Small regional jets and turboprops

Cabin Air

The latest generation of jets—the 787 and soon-to-come A350—provides lower cabin altitudes and higher humidity than older models. You'll notice the difference after a long flight.

  • Favor: 787s and A350s

Related: What Not to Wear in the Airport Security Line

Seating

Each airline decides how much front-to-rear space, or seat pitch, to provide, regardless of the plane model; that can vary from a generous 33-34 inch pitch on JetBlue to a very tight 28-inch pitch on Spirit. The standard on most other mainline planes is 30-32 inches; regionals can be a tad tighter. The industry likes to call this "legroom," but many travelers suffer more from tight seating at the working level, where the seat in front is too close to allow them to read a tablet or Kindle or work on a laptop. Most economy seats recline only a few inches, and a few airlines provide no recline at all—an advantage when rows are closely spaced.

Unlike front-to-rear space, side-to side seat spacing on most planes does depend on airplane model. In general, economy seats come in two nominal widths: 18 inch and 17 inch. Planes with 18-inch seats include most A318/319/320/321, most A330/340, A380, many 767, and Embraer 170/175/190/195. These large Embraers are especially comfortable in that they are configured with two-by-two rows, with no middle seats. Planes with 17-inch seats include 737, 747, 757, and most regional jets and turboprops.

It's important to note that there are airline-to-airline differences in the number of seats per row, and therefore width, on two wide-body planes:

  • Favor: 18-inch (or better) nine-across seats on 777 and eight-across seats on 787
  • Avoid: 17-inch 10-across seats on 777 and nine-across seats on 787; especially avoid a few foreign A330/340 models with nine-across 16-inch seats

Overhead Bin Space

Overhead bin space is a potential factor that would be useful to know in advance: It varies mainly by plane model, but occasionally by airline as well. Unfortunately, we know of no online source of detailed data on bin design and space. In general, however, newer plane models have larger bins.

Entertainment

Again, entertainment is each airline's call. The top level, widely available in newer planes, is on-demand multichannel TV and movies. Some airlines with older planes hand out pre-loaded tablets. Next best is seatback TV, where you typically have more limited choice of program and timing. A few older planes—the ones airlines are about to retire—still offer only overhead screens showing a single program. No airlines provide entertainment on MD80/90, some airlines provide no entertainment on their smaller short-haul mainline planes, and only a few regional jets have entertainment.

Related: 10 Tricks for Sleeping Well on a Plane

Power Outlets

Many travelers want to be able to keep their electronic devices fully charges. Some mostly newer planes provide standard plug AC power at some seats and a few provide low-voltage DC through either a USB connection or an automobile-type socket. You'll have to contact your airline for this information.

Wi-Fi

Onboard Wi-Fi is steadily becoming more important, and, fortunately, airlines are installing it in more planes, and providers are offering better bandwidth. Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, and Virgin America are close to having fleet-wide Wi-Fi. Although some comparison websites reveal which airline/plane combinations offer Wi-Fi, they do not differentiate between limited and wide-bandwidth.

Premium Economy

Airlines based in North America, other than Air Canada, offer what we call a "semi-premium" option: three to five inches of extra pitch, but with the same narrow side-to-side spacing as regular economy. Some airlines add minor improvements in cabin service and meals; others do not.

Many other intercontinental airlines offer "true" premium economy with 6-10 inches more pitch and seats at least two inches wider than regular economy. True premium economy is mostly limited to wide-body planes, where it requires a maximum of seven seats per row in A330/340, A380 upper deck, and 787, and eight seats per row in 747 and 777; some airlines do even better. OpenSkies is the only carrier we know that offers true premium economy in a 757, at four-across.

Business and First Class

International long-haul business class and first class have become unbelievably opulent these days, with lots of flight attendants, elaborate meal services, fussy wine lists, entertainment options, and, in first class, enclosed suites. Most seats convert to flat for overnight flights: The main differences are: whether the seat is "angle flat," with the footrest tucked under the seat in front, or fully horizontal flat bed, and whether each seat has direct aisle access. Different airlines use differing approaches to layout: Some seats fly backward, while some seats are arranged in a diagonal herringbone pattern. These days, flat bed is becoming the competitive norm—Delta, for example, is 100 percent flat bed.

Most short-haul business class, or first class in the U.S. and Canada, features much wider seats than in economy, better cabin service, meals, and usually "free" checked baggage and other services that require payment in economy. According to industry lore, very few U.S. and Canadian travelers actually pay for first class seats; those seats go mostly to high-level frequent flyers.

Your main worry is paying a fortune for a "business class" seat on a red-eye flight that does not lie flat at all. You find this on a few airlines, including Copa, Icelandair and most of the long-haul low-fare airlines based in Europe.

Getting the Information

You can find most of the airplane details—literally "the skinny" when it comes to economy seats—on several online sources. The most complete coverage is on our sister site SeatGuru, which shows seat plans, dimensions, in-flight entertainment, power availability, Wi-Fi availability, and seat recline; it also highlights "bad" seats. If SeatGuru lists any airline you're considering, you need go no further.

Other online seat sources, SeatExpert, SeatMaestro, and SeatPlans provide less information on each plane; they're useful only for obscure foreign lines that SeatGuru does not cover. If you're interested in the more technical stuff, most airlines post more than you need to know online in the "our fleet" parts of their websites.

Related: When Spending a Little More Is a Good Idea

Read the original story: You Should Always Know the Kind of Plane You're on--Here's Why by Ed Perkins, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

Tune-up Your Plastic Before Travel

Posted April 17, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

If you're traveling anywhere this summer, you'll almost surely use plastic—credit and debit cards—to pay for a lot of your trip. You'll likely use a credit card to buy airline tickets, rail tickets, hotel or resort accommodations, a cruise, a tour package, and restaurant meals, and a debit card for whatever cash you need while you're away from home. One of your important pre-departure preparations is to make sure your plastic is ready for your trip. Some are obvious "any idiot" suggestions that you need to review:

  • Validity. Make sure that any cards you plan to use will remain valid until you return home.
  • Adequate reserve: Check to verify that you have enough credit available on your credit card or cards for your trip, and have enough in the account linked to your debit card to cover your likely cash needs.
  • Notify issuers. Although not crucial, it's a good idea to notify the issuers of your cards where and when you'll be traveling. An issuer may sometimes deny transactions made in places where you don't normally use the card, as a protection against theft and misuse.
  • Customer service numbers. If your card is lost or stolen, you can't really refer to the back of the card for the number to call to report the theft. Record the appropriate numbers in your smartphone, tablet, or even a piece of paper.

Beyond these obvious precautions, consider two other potential adjustments that could impact your total travel cost. This column is focused on domestic travel; I'll take a look at overseas plastic in a future column.

Related: The Hidden Travel Cost You Should Never Ignore

Debit Card Fee

Most banks assess a fee, typically $3 to $5, for each withdrawal at a foreign ATM, and they define "foreign" as any ATM other than one of their own. So if you plan to travel outside the region where your bank operates, consider opening a checking or saving account at a bank that does not assess a foreign ATM fee. USAA waives fees, as do many small banks and credit unions; online banks such as Ally Bank, Bank of Internet, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab, and Discover Bank either waive all fees or provide no-fee withdrawal at several nationwide ATM networks (along with online locators).

Related: Travel Snags and How to Avoid Them

Collision Coverage

If you plan to rent a car, you probably already know whether your card provides automatic no-extra-fee coverage for collision damage to a rented car. You probably also know that collision damage waivers the rental companies charge are outrageously expensive—they can easily double the cost of a rental. Although many credit cards do cover rental car damage, coverage on most of them is secondary, meaning that the card covers only those charges that you can't first claim on your regular car insurance. If you're happy with that secondary coverage, decline the rental company CDW and keep the cost of the rental low.

Related: Third-Party Rental-Car Insurance: It Actually Works!

But if you're wary about having to claim on your regular insurance, you have options. A few credit cards provide primary insurance, or you can convert secondary AmEx coverage to your primary for $20 or $25 per rental period. Also, several third-party insurance agencies, such as Protect Your Bubble, offer primary protection for $7.99 a day—about a third of what the rental car companies charge; the big online travel agencies also offer low-cost collision coverage, typically for $10 a day. But the rental company CDW has one big advantage: It's the only protection that allows you to walk away from the damage without paying anything. Credit card or third-party coverage requires that you pay up front for the damage and claim reimbursement later. If that worries you, hold your nose and buy CDW.

Before you leave, review the other "free" travel services your card provides, such as lost baggage reimbursement. They're usually low-value benefits, but still worth knowing.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Read the original story: Tune-up Your Plastic Before Travel by Ed Perkins, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

7 Reasons You Smell Bad When Traveling

Posted April 17, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

Ever been stuck next to that person on the plane who has a powerful body odor? What if that smelly flyer is you? Here are some reasons that you might smell bad while traveling, plus tips on what to do about it.

Dehydration

Traveling—and flying especially—can make you dehydrated. You may be walking more, or simply forgetting to drink the same amount of water you sip when you're sitting at your desk. Dehydration is not only unhealthy, it is a major cause of bad breath, too. So be sure to drink plenty of water when you're on the road. (Coffee doesn't count—caffeinated drinks also contribute to bad breath.)

Your Shoes

Wearing the same shoes every day (which is common while traveling, due to limited space), can increase foot odor. Try wearing one pair and packing another, so you can switch off and give one pair time to air out. Wearing moisture-wicking socks can also help, as can applying foot powder.

Related: Worst Shoes for Travel

Stress Sweat

Traveling can be stressful. Unfortunately, your body can react to rough situations with sweat. Making matters even worse, stress-induced sweating is smellier than regular perspiration. When you're anxious, your body produces sweat from the apocrine glands, which attracts more odor-causing bacteria than sweat caused by heat or workouts. Try packing a stronger deodorant for your trip, especially if you anticipate stressful situations.

You're Sick

It's easy to get sick while traveling: You can get run down, plus planes are germ factories. If you've picked up a cold (or are suffering from allergies), you may find yourself with a stuffy nose and bad breath. That foul breath is caused by post nasal drip in the back of your mouth. Staying healthy is always the first line of defense, but if you are sick, be sure to up your teeth-brushing/mouth-washing/gum-chewing game.

Different Diet

Eating a new type of cuisine can mess with your body odor, turning it from sweet to sour. Watch out for bad B.O. culprits like cruciferous vegetables, red meat, fish, and processed junk foods, all of which can cause a bad olfactory turn.

Related:  7 Foods You Should Eat Before Flying

Skipping Meals

Maybe you're too busy to eat or just trying to save money by skipping lunch while traveling in an expensive destination. You might wind up with hunger pains and bad breath, as not eating can cause a breakdown in body chemicals known as Ketoacidosis, which results in stinky smells. Beat this by packing some healthy snacks to bring with you on your trip.

Overindulging in Local Drinks

There's nothing wrong with wanting to try one or two of the special local cocktails or brews while you're traveling. But if you drink too much alcohol, you might still smell like the bar the next morning. According to Men's Health, stouts and other dark alcohols cause more of a stench than clearer spirits, like vodka.

Related:  10 Travel Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Life

Read the original story: You Smell: 7 Reasons You Stink While Traveling by Caroline Morse, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

(Photo:  Thinkstock/iStock

Summer Travel Deals from $143

Posted April 10, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

Disney-FamilyPosingForPhotos-DD

Maybe it's the sun, the energy in the air, the twinkle in your school-free tot's eyes… There's something about summer travel that's so much more exciting than the other seasons. Whatever it is, peruse the six vacation deals below and you're sure to make your summer-travel dollars go further.

Las Vegas 4-Day Fling from $299 R/T

Go ahead, have a fling in Sin City! Virgin Vacations is currently offering the "4-Day Vegas Fling" with air and your choice of hotel from $299. Included in the three-night vacation package are round-trip flights, accommodations, airline taxes and fees, and free breakfast and parking at select hotels.

The advertised rate is for departures from Los Angeles, but other cities are available. No booking or travel deadlines are listed. See the sale provider for more details.

Search more low prices on Las Vegas packages here!

Orlando Vacation Savings up to $160 Off

With Southwest Vacations' flight-and-accommodations packages, the longer you stay, the bigger the savings. For every night booked at your desired hotel but up to eight nights, save $20 night (discounts up to $160).

Travel during April 1-October 30, but book packages using promo code ORLANDO160 by 6:00 p.m. CT on May 31. See the sale provider for more details.

Search more low prices on Orlando packages here!

Disneyland Resort Hotels at 20% Off

Now through mid-June, stays at California's Disneyland Resort Hotels are 20 percent off with Alaska Airlines. The discounts must be booked by May 7, and applicable on a minimum two-night stay Sunday – Thursday through June 16.

See the sale provider for a list of participating hotels, and for more details.

Search more low prices on Los Angeles packages here!

NYC Summer Savings

It's common knowledge that vacationing in New York City can be exorbitantly high, especially during the summer, so even the tiniest discount is welcomed. Luckily, Southwest Vacations' "Big City Savings" provides generous discounts of $75 off air-and-hotel packages of three nights or more at Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Use promo code STARCITY75 by 6:00 p.m. CT on April 13 trips. Travel by August 31. See the sale provider for more details.

Search more low prices on New York City packages here!

San Juan 5-Day Vacations from $154/Day

The Island of Enchantment promises fun in the sun, and whenever in a resort, also worry-free vacationing. CheapCaribbean.com is offering five-day/four-night air-and-hotel vacation packages from $769 per person ($153.80 per day). That includes flight, accommodations at the Gran Melia Golf Resort Puerto Rico, and various resort discounts.

Sale prices are applicable during April 12 - July 31, and must be booked by April 22. Posted rates are per person, double occupancy required. See the sale provider for more details.

Search more low prices on San Juan packages here!

Vancouver 3-Night Vacations from $143/Day

Travel to Canada is on sale with American Airlines Vacations, but the destination offering the biggest savings is Vancouver. Check out the travel provider’s three-night/four-day air-and-hotel Vancouver sale with pricing from $570 ($142.50 per day).

The pricing is per person, round-trip, and based on double occupancy at the four-star Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre from Chicago, though other departure cities are certainly available. See the sale provider for more details.

Search more low prices on Vancouver packages here!

10 Secrets of Ultracheap Travel

Posted April 10, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

Seasoned budget travelers aren't "cheap" in the traditional sense of the word—they're just good at stretching every dollar. Here are 10 secrets every budget traveler should know about seeing the world on the cheap without skimping where it really counts.

Walk Everywhere

Pack a good pair of shoes, because walking is the best way to save money and take in a new destination. Learning and using your destination's public transit system is another budget game-changer. Consider paying a bit more for centrally located accommodations, as these can turn out to be less expensive than a cheaper room farther afield that necessitates cab rides or train tickets.

The point is: Don't overpay someone to chauffer you around town when a little self-powered locomotion will enrich both your experience and your budget.

Related: Worst Shoes for Travel

Consider Alternate Airports

Where you fly is almost as important as when you fly. Many major cities in the U.S. and abroad are served by alternate airports that are often home to low-cost airlines. If your final destination is somewhere outside of a major city, consider flying to an outlying airport that might even bring you closer to your destination.

Sometimes the best alternate airport is the one you depart from. I live near Boston and regularly search for departures from Manchester, New Hampshire, whenever I'm benchmarking prices to my destination. Often I find better prices from Manchester.

Related:  When Should I Book My Flight?

Pack Light

If you can fit everything you need for your trip in a carry-on bag, do it. If you can't, it's time to reevaluate what you think you need for your trip. Expert budget travelers save money by skipping checked-bag fees, which can add up quickly on even the most basic itineraries. If you're flying anywhere in the U.S. on United, Delta, American, and other major carriers, it will cost you a bag fee of $50 round-trip for a single checked bag.

Our advice: Make a packing list, eliminate anything you absolutely don't need for your trip, and waltz onto the plane with a truly ultralight bag. (A few airlines, such as Southwest, still allow up to two free checked bags; I still recommend packing just a carry-on, though—it's not just a good habit, it's also good insurance against lost or delayed luggage.)

Related: 8 Carry-on Packing Tips That Will Change How You Travel

Do Your Research

Knowing where to eat, where to shop, which neighborhoods to visit or stay in, which days you might pay discounted entry fees to parks or museums, and how to navigate your destination are all critical skills of a seasoned budget traveler. It's not glamorous, but thoroughly researching your destination before you arrive is one of the most important things you can do as a budget traveler. Take advantage of online resources such as the TripAdvisor community forums to learn as much as you can about saving money at your destination.

Related:  10 Tips for Tight Airport Connections

Travel Off-Peak or Shoulder Season

To really save money on vacation, travel during your destination's off-season. If summer is the most popular time to visit, go in winter—you'll save money on everything from flights and accommodations to meals and rental car prices. Of course, there's a reason the off-season is less popular with tourists, and that often comes down to weather. If that's a factor in your decision, split the difference and travel during the shoulder season (often during select weeks in the spring and fall) when everything's still open, the weather's just on the cusp of turning, and the crowds are noticeably thinner. (We promise, you'll still save money—just maybe not as much.)

Related:  101 Clever Travel Tricks You Need to Try

Fly on a Weekday

It's cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday than any other day of the week (unless that Tuesday or Wednesday happens to fall on or near a major travel holiday like Thanksgiving or Memorial Day). Planning a weeklong vacation? Make a habit of taking trips that span Wednesday to Tuesday rather than Monday to Sunday and you'll find yourself with a much bigger budget to spend at your destination.

Related:  The 2 Cheapest Days of the Week to Fly

Benchmark Prices

One of the most important things you can do as a budget traveler is to recognize a deal when you see one. That's why benchmarking prices (on accommodations, flights, bundled airfare-hotel vacation packages, etc.) is so important.

Doing it yourself requires patience and persistence—you'll want to track prices over a period of time to get a sense of what your trip should cost and identify an opportunity to save when a flight or other big-ticket expense goes on sale. For a less hands-on approach, subscribe to a fare-alert service for flights to your destination so you'll be automatically notified when the price drops.

Related:  10 Things to Pack That Will Save You Money

Look for Refunds When the Price Drops

Contrary to popular belief (and naming conventions), nonrefundable flights are fully refundable within 24 hours of booking, with one small exception. Consider this your window for buyer's remorse. You've booked your flight and you feel good about the price, but don't stop shopping around. You might just snag a better deal the next day. Make use of your entire 24-hour booking window.

The refund potential is even greater for car rentals and hotels. Did you know most rental cars are fully refundable right up until the day you're scheduled to drive off the lot? If your trip requires a rental car, book early for peace of mind—but keep shopping, too. You might just snag a better deal closer to the day of your trip. As for hotels, book with our sister site Tingo for guaranteed refunds every time the price on your room drops. (Bonus: Even if the price doesn't drop, Tingo will continuously search for bigger rooms with better views or amenities at the same price point as the room you've booked, and the site will send an email if anything good pops up.)

Related:  When to Book, Fly, and More: Tips for Perfect Travel Timing

Rent a Vacation Home or Apartment

Some studies indicate that you can save about 30 to 40 percent when booking a vacation home or apartment versus a comparable hotel. That's just the upfront price. You'll save even more by eating some of your meals (breakfasts and dinners, perhaps) at your rental property. Shopping at neighborhood grocery stories, cheese shops, and bakeries also lets you experience a slice of the local life. Rental units often have laundry facilities, which will help you pack light. And try haggling with a property's owner or manager: Negotiate price, length of stay, arrival and departure dates—it's all up for discussion. And those discussions can lead to great savings.

Related:  8 Essential Rules for Vacation Rentals

Pack a Lunch

Meals are a secret budget buster. They add up quickly, especially if you dine out frequently on your trip, and they can handicap even the best-planned budgets. The simple solution: Pack a lunch. Or a breakfast. Or both. This is especially easy if you're staying in a rental property or hotel suite equipped with a kitchen. The money you'll save by packing your own meals and snacks will give you flexibility in your budget to splurge on something else you'll remember long after your chicken sandwich is a distant memory.

Alternate budget solution: If food is a big part of your vacation, consider splurging on lunch at an expensive restaurant (prices tend to be cheaper than dinner) and then going for something light or homemade at dinner time.

Read the original story: 10 Secrets to Ulta-Cheap Travel by Josh Roberts, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

(Photo:  Woman with Elbows on Overflowing Suitcase via Shutterstock)

6 Happiest Airlines in America

Posted April 8, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

I have a long-held theory regarding the relationship between human resources and customer service: The companies that treat their employees the best are likely to treat their customers the best as well. Happy workers are helpful workers, right?

The newly released Forbes America's Best Employers list would seem to lend some credence to that idea. Overall, Google ranked first, followed by Costco, Marathon Petroleum, The Container Store, and LL Bean.

Related: 5 Happiest Airports in America

Happiest Airlines

Among companies in the Transportation and Logistics category, which includes airlines, Southwest was first, at 18th overall, followed closely by JetBlue, at number 19 overall. Alaska Airlines was number 93 overall, Delta was number 238, SkyWest was 426, and American just managed to sneak into the top-500, at number 496.

Happiest Hotels

Among hotels, Hyatt ranked 77th overall, Marriott was at number 151, Hilton at 244, Walt Disney Parks at 260, Omni at 313, Starwood at 327, Holiday Inn at 446, InterContinental at 475, and Caesars at 493.

Related: The Biggest Airline Innovations of 2015 Will Happen Overseas

Methodology

The survey results are based on responses from more than 20,000 workers at U.S. companies and organizations with workforces of at least 2,500. The questions were simple and pointed: "On a scale of 0 - 10, how likely would you be to recommend your employer to someone else? How about other employers in your industry?"

So, how do these results square with a linkage between employee-friendly companies and customer-friendly companies? Pretty well, I think.

Related: 10 Tips for Traveling as a Political Act

Southwest and JetBlue, which ranked highest among workers, are perennially among the top-ranked airlines for customer satisfaction as well. Alaska too. Delta is a bit of a head-scratcher. But United's status as a no-show in the rankings is certainly consistent with that airline's current low regard among flyers.

Read the original story: 6 Happiest Airlines in America by Tim Winship, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

The Crazy Thing Airlines Might Make You Do for Cheap Tickets

Posted April 3, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com

In the future, will airlines make passengers complete "microwork" tasks for cheaper tickets? One industry expert thinks it could happen.

In a posting on Fast Company, self-styled frequent-flyer Martin Lindstrom speculated on the future of air travel. His predictions make for amusing reading, if nothing else. He predicts, along with almost everyone else in the business, the widening gap between the "ultraplush" and the "ultrasqueezed." But some of his other forecasts are a bit over the top.

Related: The Insanely Clever New Way to Avoid Flight Delays

Lindstrom speculates that laundry, spas, and casinos could be available on luxury flights one day. On the discount side, Lindstrom suggests that an airline "like EasyJet or Allegiant" might offer fare offsets for passengers who do microwork during their flights.

What, exactly, is microwork? The idea is that businesses could parcel out small tasks to anyone interested in earning a bit of money on a piecework basis. Early experiments have focused on small, repetitive computer-based tasks, like translation or checking lists. In some cases, microwork could be completed on smartphones.

Related: Secrets to Booking the Cheapest Summer Europe Flight Ever

The advantage to a business is getting minor minimum-skill tasks done at a low cost. The advantage to individuals is extra income. It's hard to see how a passenger could earn more than a few dollars during a flight, but the whole idea is new and the economic principles are not yet established.

Obviously, I'm skeptical about much of this, but it is entertaining. And some of it might actually happen. What's your take?

Related: Delayed Europe Flight? Know Your Rights

Does time of day matter? Oddly enough, you find very little data on this question. Overall, afternoons are the "rush hour" for flying, so you find fewer good airfares on afternoon flights. On some short-haul routes, early mornings are also rush hour, as business travelers start their quick in-and-out single-day trips. Still, others say the dinner hour is a good time to fly.

On domestic routes, fares for overnight red-eye flights are often lower than for daytime flights—but you have to put up with the miseries of sitting up all night in a tiny economy seat.

Related: When Spending a Little More is a Good Idea

Read the original story: The Crazy Thing Airlines Might Make You Do for Cheap Tickets by Ed Perkins, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

(Photo: Thinkstock/Photodisc)


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