Posted May 21, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com
Bagless passengers who don't need to vie for overhead-bin space—and
thus, likely don't care when they board—will now get to board before
those with carry-on bags. Isn't it ironic.
Today, American announced that it will allow flyers with just one
personal item that will fit under a plane seat (like a purse or tote
bag) to board early. Passengers traveling light will get on the plane
with group two, the section that boards right after elite flyers.
American first began testing this style of boarding in March at select airports. The revamped boarding process is in effect starting today.
Virtually no one flies without any luggage. So you can board early
only if you check your carry-on and pay a baggage fee while clinging to
the forlorn hope that your luggage will make it to your final
destination alive. Checked baggage fees for domestic flights start at
$25 on American.
Is this, then, a good thing? "Yes!" says American. According to a
press release from the airline, the revised boarding strategy will help
American achieve "a more timely departure and arrival." A spokesperson
from the carrier said, "Our tests indicate that this new boarding
process will improve our dependability and on-time performance, while
being easier and more enjoyable for our customers. It's another example
of our promise to put our customers at the center of everything we do."
As usual, a major airline is implementing policy changes because it just wants its customers to be happy. How sweet.
American claims the initial test received "overwhelmingly positive
feedback from American's customers," which is strange because our
readers loved the idea about as much as they love flyers who recline.
Comments left on this site about the new boarding style range from "I'm
not sure this is really going to help" to "Stupid idea that contradicts
common sense" to "Makes no sense! WHY would you want to board early
unless to store a carry-on?"
I don't think anyone is fooled. This new way of boarding is more a
plan to spur additional revenue from checked baggage than a love note to
passengers. But the big question is whether other legacy airlines will
follow suit. We'll keep you posted.
Read the original story: Pack Light and Board Early on American, by Caroline Costello
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Posted May 21, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com
I'm a reluctant sailor. I've never found my sea legs, and even short
ferry rides leave me a little green around the gills. Yet I've taken to
the water countless times in my life simply because that's how you get
to a place. From Whidbey Island in Washington to Anguilla in the
Caribbean, sometimes a boat is the only (or at least the cheapest)
One of the ways I pass the time in choppy waters is to try out
various techniques I've collected for reducing seasickness. I thought
I'd share some of those I've had the best luck with, and I'm hoping
you'll do the same in the comments below. Because we weak-kneed
landlubbers have to look out for each other.
- Perfect Your Personal Climate: A steady supply of fresh air
can help keep nausea at bay, as can making sure you're not overheating
by sitting in direct sun. On a recent trip in a boat speeding over
whitecaps in the Caribbean, I grabbed a seat in a shaded but open area
and managed to stay ahead of seasickness even as those around me
- Stare at the Horizon: This has always worked really well for
me. Fixing your gaze on the horizon helps your body maintain its
equilibrium. It also makes you look really philosophical.
- Choose Your Position on the Boat: On smaller boats, when the
captains saw me coming, they stuck me in the back, promising there was
less movement there. Our sister-site Cruise Critic advises that, on ships, it's best to position yourself in the middle of the vessel, since it's the "natural balance point."
- Travel with Remedies: I recently interviewed naturopathic doctor Dr. Kate Brainard and she had a wealth of recommendations
for preventing and treating motion sickness. Some of her top
suggestions were PSI bands (also known as sea bands), which you wear
around your wrists to stimulate acupressure points, and concentrated
peppermint or ginger products. On the pharmaceutical end of the
spectrum, there's also Dramamine, Bonine, and Benadryl (these have the
added benefit/drawback of making most people sleepy).
- Avoid Strong Smells: If you're next to someone who smells
like they bathed in perfume, move. Ditto if you're within sniffing
distance of an exhaust-belching boat engine.
These are my favorite tips for avoiding seasickness. What others do you suggest?
Read the original story: Tips for Avoiding Seasickness, by Christine Sarkis
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Posted May 14, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com
Los Cabos is on the tip of the state of Baja California Sur—an arid
and cactus-filled land, yet fertile due to its peninsular body
surrounded by the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. Los Cabos
consists of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
High Points: After leaving behind a snow-blanketed
Boston, I heartily welcomed the Cabos sun. The warmth set the stage for
my five-day trip. From the friendly people to the spicy food, Los Cabos'
warmth was like a welcome mat to Mexico.
My time in San Jose del Cabo was spent meandering about art
gallery-filled cobblestoned streets, perusing the town's markets and
shops, and visiting the Mega (something like a Costco, and what seems
like geared for ex-Pats). I found a sketchy water canal with colorful
street murals, rode local buses (there are several varieties, including
the urbanos, the co-ops, and even some with AC), shopped around for fine
tequilas to bring back home, and spoke with several cigar vendors about
the famous Habanos. (Did you know Fidel once hired his own personal cigar roller?)
Walking about the town, folks are ready with a quick "hola" and
"buenas tardes." I made friends with Tim, the (highly stressed)
landscape designer for Hollywood stars at Baja Brewing Co. I chatted up
Geraldo the bartender, who's going to make it a point to go running on
the beach more often. Then there was Laurel and Sharon, daughter and
mother, beachside Malibu residents who's ancestry ties them with the
Rockefellers. Oh, can't forget Eduardo, El Encanto Inn's concierge.
Ever-helpful, Eduardo promises to show me around where the locals hang
out upon my return to Los Cabos—a certain move in my near future.
Low Points: Unfortunately, headlining the news these
days is Mexico's rampant drug-affiliated violence. That, however,
shouldn't dissuade you from making a trip to Los Cabos. I felt safe in
San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
Scarier are the gouging prices. Being in Mexico I expected wares and
services to be a lot more affordable than what I encountered: $50 for a
bottle of mid-tier tequila, $40 for a one-way cab ride from San Jose del
Cabo to Cabo San Lucas (a 20-mile distance on a toll-less road). A
typical dinner starts at $15, sans drinks.
Savings Strategy: From cab fares to trinkets, be ready to haggle. It's almost expected of you to do so.
Where I Stayed: I stayed in two hotels while at San Jose del Cabo. The Hotel El Ganzo
is hip and artsy. Past guests include Slash of Guns 'n' Roses fame;
party-boy Charlie Sheen; Mexican artist Gabriel Macotela; Manuel Pujol
Baladas, known as the Young Dali and infamous for falsifying his
namesake's work; and one of my fave musicians, Damien Rice (swoon).
For a more affordable and authentic San Jose del Cabo experience, check out Encanto Inn. Take advantage of the hotel's central location for Art Walk.
Every Thursday evening from November through June, the town's art
galleries stay open late into the evening, enticing patrons with
complimentary wines and hors d'oeuvres.
If You Go: Take advantage of the rich marine life that surrounds you and dive, snorkel, kayak out to Cabo's famous Arch
and Lover's Beach, fish, swim with whales—whatever it is you prefer,
just soak in the surrounds. If you're anything at all like this
Northeasterner, it's not often you have an opportunity to try out as
many of these marine adventures in a single destination.
For beachside centrally located accommodations in Cabo San Lucas, stay at Casa Dorada. Though I only lunched there, I was blown away by the impeccable service—one of the genuinely friendliest I've ever met.
For the calendar of events, more accommodations options than what is listed above, and general destination tips, peruse the Los Cabos Tourism Board site.
Read the original story: Trip Report: Los Cabos, Mexico, by Patricia Magaña
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Posted May 14, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com
Two dollars for a soda? Ten bucks for an aisle seat? If you're confused about airline fees, we can help.
With our Airline Fees: The Ultimate Guide, you'll find a one-stop reference chart for every major airline fee from every major domestic carrier.
Best of all, you can download the airline fees chart in PDF format at
no charge. Because unlike the airlines, we don't make you pay for
things that ought to be free.
Click on the image above for a free download of Airline Fees: The Ultimate Guide.
Posted May 13, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com
Do you have trouble meeting dates? Maybe the problem is that you're
approaching potential significant others at places where they can easily
flee if they aren't interested in reciprocating your advances. Luckily,
Virgin America has a solution for you! The airline has introduced a Seat-to-Seat Delivery service,
allowing flyers to send a drink, meal, or snack to another passenger on
flights. Virgin founder Richard Branson (who would probably send
bottles of champagne to attractive strangers, were he ever to fly with
the general public), encourages treat-senders to follow up their gifts with a "chat" (using the Virgin America in-flight online chat feature).
Or, just pick someone in an aisle seat, and walk down to hover
awkwardly over them, dropping your cheesiest pick-up lines for everyone
in the surrounding rows to laugh at you!
Most flyers dread getting stuck next to a chatty seatmate on a
long-haul flight, but that's usually easily solved by putting in your
headphones or pretending to sleep. Now imagine being stuck next to that
same seatmate, except the seatmate is sending you free booze, hoping to
loosen you up a bit. It's like being trapped inside a flying meat-market
We can also imagine the passive-aggressive orders you could make with
this system—hate being stuck next to an obese flyer? Send him or her a
salad if they order something unhealthy! Usually glare at people who
bring crying babies on a plane? Send the child a whiskey for its bottle!
Intrigued? Like Virgin America on Facebook,
and tell them how you'd "press your luck at 35,000 feet" for the chance
to win flights and a stay at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
What do you think of the idea? Tell us in the comments!
Read the original story: Is Virgin America's New In-Flight Feature Cool or Creepy? by Caroline Morse
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Posted May 7, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com
you have unlimited resources, chances are you're looking for the best value you
can find in a vacation. The overarching theme for many of our suggestions is
"flexibility." When suppliers are especially eager to earn your
business, they typically offer enticements in the form of cut prices or extras,
and it's best to go where and when prices are lowest. But even if you don't
have full flexibility, you can still manage to visit the places you want
Seek the Promotions
first thing you see when you log onto SmarterTravel's Travel Deals page is a handful of promotions that
provide exceptional value. Most are for airfares or vacation packages. As I'm
writing this, one deal features a four-night air-and-hotel package to Amsterdam
for select dates in 2013 at $1,699 per person from New York, compared with $1,250
for the airfare alone. Wherever interests you, you'll find a steady parade of promotional
deals throughout the year.
the Flash- and Private-Sale Deals
reported on a handful of online flash-sale, private-sale, and discount-coupon agencies
like Groupon that offer a constantly changing mix of destination deals. For
example, our sister site SniqueAway currently posts promotional rates of $299 a
night at the elegant Windjammer Landing
Villa Beach Resort in St. Lucia for much of April and May, compared with regular prices of $490
per night. One caution, however: Don't always believe what the agencies say are
the "regular" prices—they're often inflated. Instead, compare
prices with TripAdvisor or some other good hotel-booking website.
vacation destinations exhibit at least some seasonality, and many offer low
off-season prices. At the posh W Scottsdale, for example, you'll pay up to $349
per night in April but as low as $178 for the same room in July. Low seasons
vary by destination: The best prices in the Caribbean are in the fourth quarter
of the year. The best prices in mountain resorts are found in fall (before the
skiing starts) and in spring (after skiing is over but before the summer prices
peak). Low seasons in big cities are the month before and during the Christmas
and New Year's holidays. Low seasons at Disney resorts are when kids are in
school. If you aren't sure about seasonality, check Hotwire's TripStarter, which tracks
average prices for airfare and hotels for many popular vacation destinations. Keep
in mind, however, that the vacation experience is often very different in low
season than in high: Scottsdale in midsummer is not as appealing as during
Close to Home
don't have to schlep all the way to France for a French experience: For North
Americans, Montreal and Quebec City are a lot closer—and when you
compare prices, it's even more enticing to stick close to home. For example,
the four-star La Maison Favart in Paris starts at $500 per
night in April, while the four-star Hotel Nelligan in Montreal is just
$175 per night for the same weekend. Sure, the Alps are spectacular, but so is
the Grand Canyon. The U.S., Canada, and the nearby Caribbean and Gulf have a
lot to offer without having to fly halfway around the world.
for a Bundle
absent a promotional price, you will often find that air-hotel, air-car, and
air-hotel-car bundles can be a lot less expensive than buying the exact same
components separately. Just about everybody is in on the bundle act: airlines,
hotels, independent tour operators, and major online travel agencies (OTAs).
Often, these bundles allow you to specify exactly what you want: flight, hotel,
far the best way to enjoy maximum value in hotel accommodations and rental cars
is to buy through one of the opaque agencies, where you either "bid"
on a room or car or accept a price "blind" without knowing the hotel
or rental company until after you make a nonrefundable purchase. The two
biggest opaque agencies are Priceline
(bid) and Hotwire (blind price), but several other OTAs
now offer opaque options. You can pretty much get what you want by limiting
hotel choices by star rating and, in big cities, neighborhoods. The prices can
be as much as 50 percent off. Opaque agencies also sell airfare, but prices
aren't much better and the loss of flexibility is an important factor.
in One Destination
you elect a city vacation, stay put once you arrive in your destination.
Roaming around via rental car, regional plane, or train adds a lot to your
daily cost. Boston, Chicago, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco,
Vancouver, Washington, Beijing, Berlin, Budapest, London, Madrid, Paris,
Sydney, Tokyo, or just about any other major world-class city has plenty to
keep you occupied for a week or two.
Out the Local Deals
possible, use public transportation rather than taxis. Look for day- or weeklong
transit passes, museum and attraction passes, senior or student discounts (if
you qualify), and any other similar deals. Check with the local visitor office,
either before you start your trip or as soon as you arrive, for any specials
available to visitors. Use the discount theater booths in London and New York
or online ticketing agencies that cover events nationwide.
days, you can travel almost anywhere in the developed world by staying at
accommodations that are a cut below your usual preference. If you normally stay
at four-star hotels, dropping down to three-star properties won't cramp your
style much, and even going from midprice to budget is adequate in most places.
Similarly, if you feel the need to hit a three-star restaurant, go for lunch
rather than dinner. Also try the "best"-rated places only for one or
two meals and settle for second-best for the rest.
Europe, Stay in the Country
you want to enjoy France, Germany, the U.K., or any other European country, you'll
find that renting a car and moseying through the countryside is both a
wonderful experience and a way to slash your hotel and restaurant bills. Also,
consider using a vacation rental in the countryside as a base for day trips.
In, Eat Out
rentals and "suite" hotels and motels that come with kitchens can cut
your daily food bills substantially. Either look for hotels with "free"
breakfasts or eat breakfasts in your room. Figure on takeout or picnic lunches
where feasible. Buy beverages from a supermarket rather than piling up a big
bill in a hotel or restaurant. At all costs, avoid your hotel's price-gouging
the Urge to Shop
vacation shopping often results in the accumulation of stuff that looked like a
good idea at the time but quickly winds up in the back of some closet or in the
trash. For anything practical, the U.S. generally has lower prices than you will
find anywhere else. Rigorously apply the "where will this be in six months"
test to anything that tempts you. Note that many supposed "bargains"
in fashion and tech goods turn out to be counterfeit. If you can't tell the
difference between a genuine emerald and a piece of a broken Coke bottle, don't
buy emeralds. You get the drift.
Read the original story: 12 Ways to Cut Vacation Costs by Ed Perkins
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Posted November 17, 2010 by Kate Hamman
York exudes English charm, especially along its winding medieval street called the Shambles. However, don't be fooled by its picturesque setting, as the city has plenty of secrets lurking in the shadows, including its reputation as one of the most haunted cities in Europe. Get to know the town by walking through its spooky history, dining with its ghosts, and drinking its tea inspired by an infamous ocean liner.
The Ghost Trail of York: The Ghost Trail of York takes you along darkened streets at night, while you listen to tales of murder, plague, heartbreak, and revenge beyond the grave. A costumed guide waits in front of the York Minster every night at 7:30 p.m., regardless of weather, to reveal the gruesome and tragic events of York's past. Tickets cost £4.00 (about $6.00 U.S.; check XE.com for current conversion rates) and the tour lasts about one hour and 15 minutes.
Golden Fleece: When you go to a pub for spirits, it's unlikely you're thinking of the dearly departed variety. The Golden Fleece, however, typically serves both. Built in 1503, you'll find York's most haunted drinking establishment across from the historical Shambles. Skip the drinks and go right to the main attraction of comfort foods, such as homemade Yorkshire pudding. Try not to be too alarmed if you catch sight of Lady Peckett, one of the five resident spirits. For a haunting good time, you can also rent one of the four rooms and spend the night with your newfound friends. Entrees start at £6.25.
Bettys Café Tea Rooms: Bettys Café Tea Rooms on St. Helen's Square captures the elegance of afternoon tea with absolute precision. Inspired by the founder's maiden voyage aboard the Queen Mary in 1936, the ornate and extravagant interior is reminiscent of the grand ocean liner which, incidentally, is haunted. A cup of the Tea Room Blend costs £2.95, but order Yorkshire Cream Tea, served in a piping hot pot with two scones, preserves, and clotted cream for £7.95, for a truly authentic experience.
To search for flights and compare prices to Leeds, which is home to York’s nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.
Posted November 11, 2010 by Kate Hamman
Just north of San Francisco, leave your hectic workaday pace behind as you encounter farms with grazing cattle, meadows of wildflowers, and especially rows of grapevines. This is Glen Ellen, Sonoma, where Jack London found his inspiration and agriculturists work the soil to produce top-notch wines, vegetables, and even flowers. Taste the fruits of their labor with a glass of Cabernet and a gourmet meal while you unwind and let the chaos slip away.
Glen Ellen Inn: Looking for a place to hide from the outside world? Look no further than the secret cottages of Glen Ellen Inn. With creekside views, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and a lack of in-room phones, these private, free-standing bungalows are just the place to lay low. Because of the inn's location close to downtown Glen Ellen and many of the area's vineyards, you can still get in a day of wine-tasting and shopping without having to travel too far. If you decide you never want to leave your little hideaway, the on-site Glen Ellen Inn Oyster Grill & Martini Bar brings the local scene inside with California-fusion inspired dishes paired with regional wines. Prices start at $149 for weeknights and $239 for weekends during high season.
Valley of the Moon Winery: If you want a different type of escape, take a walk in the Valley of the Moon, where the wines are heavenly. Operating since 1863, this winery is the oldest in Glen Ellen, and pairs contemporary wine making with time-honored traditions. Free tours of the expansive grounds run twice daily, taking you through historical stone buildings, ancient trees, and fertile land. Complimentary tastings are offered between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m, and you'll find classic Sonoma-style reds and whites, as well as a smooth vintage port.
Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma: Though it sells much of its bounty to local restaurateurs and markets, including San Francisco's famous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Oak Hill Farm welcomes visitors to eat off the fat of the land, too. With the Mayacamas Mountains as a backdrop and set among 700 acres of protected wildlands, the Red Barn Store, a 100-year-old dairy barn, sells vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as flowers and wreaths produced on its 45-acre organic farm. Prices reflect the quality of the produce, but it doesn't cost a thing to inhale a more agrarian-side of life.
Use our price-comparison tool to search for flights and compare prices to Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento, which are home to Glen Ellen’s nearest major airports.
(Photo: Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma)
Posted November 3, 2010 by Kate Hamman
When it comes to a politically charged atmosphere, Washington, D.C., has the market cornered. Not only is it the place our president calls home, but you can uncover hidden secrets by taking a ride through its history or eavesdropping over cocktails in a local lounge. After you've finished your sleuthing, you can dine on organic dishes to clear your conscience.
Bi-Partisan Tour Company: Honor our country's freedom of choice by choosing to be the driver and navigator of your own tour of the nation's capital. The Bi-Partisan Tour Company encourages either side to ride in their very own red-and-blue electrical roadster, in which historical facts and scandalous secrets are revealed at almost every turn. You can even don a rubber mask of your favorite political figure and hit the streets as a true leader. Tours run a bit steep at $75 per person, but the direction-savvy can ride for $40 without the added benefits of GPS navigation and storytelling. Don't forget to bring along your mobile phone, as the company offers free two-to-four minute recorded tours.
Lounge 201: With dynamite drink specials Tuesday through Friday, this hip Capitol Hill lounge adds new meaning to "happy hour." On Tuesdays, you can choose from a range of sweet and savory martinis to suit almost any taste, including the Tiramisu Tini and the Red Caramel Apple, for half the original price. Grab a cocktail and listen to the lively political discussions by White House aides who hang out here, because you never know what you might overhear. Martinis start at $9, but don't forget to ask about the daily specials to get the best deal.
Restaurant Nora: America's first certified organic restaurant, Nora has been enticing the District's environmentalists and politicians with fresh seasonal dishes since 1989. It's rumored to be a Clinton favorite. Originally a grocery store in the 19th century, the main dining room has always been home to food. Antique Mennonite and Amish crib quilts decorate the walls as you dine on dishes such as fragrant Amish veal with cashew curry. Entrees start at $25.
To search for flights and compare prices to Washington, D.C., please use our price-comparison tool.
(Photo: Index Open)
Posted October 29, 2010 by Kate Hamman
Once a Victorian seaport, Amelia Island has a fascinating past. Experience pieces of the island's history in the Fernandina Beach district, where you can stay in Florida's oldest operating hotel and drink at the state's longest-running bar. And when you get hungry, a funky restaurant will bring you back into the 21st century without charging too much inflation.
Florida House Inn: The Florida House Inn is the oldest surviving hotel in the state, and once housed famous guests like Ulysses S. Grant and comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. These days, the hotel hosts a slew of different activities, ranging from Carolina shag dance lessons to bluegrass jam sessions. Ten of the 22 rooms come with fireplaces. Prices start at $109 per night, and include breakfast and free scooter rentals.
The Palace Saloon: The Palace Saloon is not only the oldest continuously run bar in Florida, but it also holds the title as the first hard-liquor joint to serve Coca-Cola. Once the gathering place of sailors and captains docked along Fernandina's harbor, the Palace still welcomes patrons with a thirst for adventure. Pull up a stool and order a cocktail as you listen to the live entertainment that plays daily.
Cafe Karibo: This eclectic restaurant may not be the oldest in town, but its broad menu is one for the history books. You can support the island's thriving shrimp industry with a plate of shrimp and grits, or sample items ranging from turkey meatloaf to seared ahi tuna. Eat inside or under the large oak trees on the garden patio. Dinner entrees start at $14.
To search for flights and compare prices to Jacksonville, which is home to Amelia Islands’s closest airport, please use our price-comparison tool.
(Photo: Amelia Island Tourist Development Council)