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.
RELATED: Best Buffet in Las Vegas
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.
RELATED: 10 Best Things to Do in Mexico
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.
RELATED: 6 Things Everyone Should Do in Negril, Jamaica
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.
RELATED: Travel Back in Time to These Amazing Ancient Cities
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.
RELATED: 10 Amazing Wine Towns in Europe
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.
RELATED: 10 Cool Nature Retreats With Unbelievable Views
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.
More from SmarterTravel:
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.
More from SmarterTravel:
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.
More from SmarterTravel:
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?
You Might Also Like:
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!
Posted July 9, 2015 by SmarterTravel.com
Add this to your list of Golden Rules of travel: You don't get what you don't ask for. Hotels don't necessarily offer all they have to give, so it's up to travelers to know what's available. Ask and you can receive everything from workout gear and kids' toys to vegan toiletries and flat irons. Even better, if you know what to expect in advance, you can trim your packing list and borrow upon arrival. Now that's what we call smarter travel.
Nightlights. Super Glue. Fashion tape. Collar stays. Welcome to Kimpton's magical lending closet. The Forgot It We Got It program offers both the standards (dental floss, mouthwash, etc.) and other items that you may not even know you need until you suddenly need them urgently (for instance, Super Glue). Extension cords, stain-remover wipes, even re-sealable plastic travel bags solve problems of all kinds for guests in need.
Related: 10 Free Things Hotels Provide in Case You Forgot
Candlewood Suites focuses on the extended-stay experience, so it makes perfect sense that its Lending Locker is geared a little less to forgotten toiletries and more to the comforts of home away from home. The locker is stocked with items like reading lamps, board games, small kitchen appliances, and even hand tools. The initial pilot program was such a success that now, all Candlewood Suites have Lending Lockers, stocked and ready for guests in search of crockpots, desk fans, and Monopoly.
Whether you've got sensitive skin, prefer certain brands, or simply don't like the scent of the default toiletries in your room, Conrad Hotels has you covered. Conrad Hotels offer all guests a range of toiletries brands, including Tara Smith Vegan Hair Care, Aromatherapy Associates, Shanghai Tang, and geared-to-men Refinery. According to Roys Laux, vice president of marketing for Gilchrist & Soames, many hotel brands are expanding their toiletries offerings, though guests often have to know to ask in order to sample them. This is good news, particularly for guests looking for "clean" products. Laux says, "Hotels have largely adopted the 'good for you, good for the Earth' mindset that is so prevalent now, meaning that having products readily available for environmentally conscious guests has become a necessity."
No longer will hotel guests in the know have to settle for bad television. Marriott has just debuted a partnership with Netflix that allows guests to sign in (or sign up) to their Netflix accounts on the hotel's internet-connected guest room televisions. By the end of the year, Marriott will offer in-room streaming Netflix at 100 hotels, and plans to offer it at nearly every property by the end of 2016. Wondering if your Marriott is one of the first hotels to debut service? Ask.
Related: 10 Hotel Chains with the Best Free Bath Amenities
If you are a forgetful person who travels a lot, you should consider a close relationship with Hyatt. Its Hyatt Has It program offers an impressive list of complimentary items to borrow. In addition to the standards such as mouthwash, sewing kits, and combs; you can call for deodorants, hairspray, lint rollers, nail polish remover, sanitary products, and makeup remover. Hyatt also has you covered on laundry soap, baby shampoo, curling and flat irons, free weights, humidifiers, power adapters, steamers, tea kettles, yoga mats, and more. Really, there's more.
Related: Top Hotel Loyalty Programs
If you're the type of traveler who has to try every pillow in your hotel room just to find the least uncomfortable option, the Pillow Menu at W Hotels is your dream come true. Designed for princes and princesses in the pea who just don't sleep as well without a great pillow, the Pillow Menu program is part of W Privileges, a set of comfort- and convenience-oriented offerings. Simply make your request to receive a body pillow, neck roll, firm foam PrimaLoft pillow, or 100 percent goose-down feather pillow.
You Might Also Like:
Read the original story: Free Things You Can Get Just by Asking at SmarterTravel.