10 Reader Tips For A Stress-Free Beach Vacation
How do you get all that sand off your feet? Fix a broken bikini? Or stay cool during a hot day in the sun? Here are our top ten tips from readers:
•Take a container of baby powder along the next time you go to the beach. Before you get back into your car, sprinkle the powder on your feet—the sand falls right off!—Christine DeFrehn, Mercerville, N.J.
•When we go to the beach, we put a damp washcloth in a Ziploc bag and keep it in our cooler. It's an instant refresher, and it's great for removing sand and saltwater residue.—Sharon McCormac, Richmond, Ind.
•While I was on vacation in the Caribbean, the plastic hook on the back of my bandeau bikini top broke. Most of my friends throw their bathing suits away when this happens, but I didn't want to give up so quickly. Instead, I threaded a key ring through the loops to hold the top together. It turned out to be a great quick fix, and I was able to mend the top as soon as I returned home.—Kaye Powell, Washington, D.C.
•My wife and I always bring our own towels to lay across our lounge chairs when we go to a beach resort, to a hotel with a pool, or on a cruise. Because most of the other guests use the white towels supplied by the resort, our chairs are easy to spot. We use the resort's towels to dry off if we go into the water.—Brian Metzler, Fair Lawn, N.J.
•I've found yet another use for antibacterial wipes. On a beach vacation in Ixtapa, Mexico, I cut my leg on some coral when I was snorkeling. I used the wipes to first treat the cut so it wouldn't get infected.—Genny Goode-Chase, San Diego, Calif.
•When we were in the Dominican Republic, we walked many miles collecting seashells, but someone told us we might not be able to take them home. We looked into it and learned that some Caribbean countries limit the number and type of shells you can take from the islands. Offenders can be delayed at the airport and get slapped with a fine.—Donna Mercier, Stratham, N.H.
•My husband and I often vacation in St. Maarten, and a fellow traveler gave us this tip: Get your boarding pass and check your luggage as soon as your airline counter opens. Some companies, like JetBlue and United, will help you at 10 a.m., even if you have a later departure. Once you get your seat, it's back to the beach—a five–minute walk away.—Kathy Baker, Manakin-Sabot, Va.
•For family vacations, we pack matching beach towels, which serve as pillows, blankets, or seat cushions on the plane. If we arrive before our hotel room is ready, we can also dive right into the pool or ocean.—Calli Berg, Coloma, Mich.
•Scuba divers know how difficult putting on a wet suit can be. My wife and I figured out a solution: Place a Ziploc bag on your hand or foot before you slide it into the suit's sleeve or leg. The smooth surface of the bag helps you slip the wet suit on easily.—Eugene L. Dubay, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
•If you don't have a sunglasses case, store your shades in one of those tube–shaped containers that Crystal Light is sold in. The tubes are just the right size and rigid enough to protect the glasses. Plus, it's no great loss if you misplace one.—Christopher Wolters, Pearland, Tex.
Now it’s your turn! Share your tips for a successful beach vacation in the comments!MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL
Are Premium Economy Seats Worth the Splurge?
A few major airlines have recently expanded their "premium economy" class on international flights. More and more travelers face a tough decision: Would you pay a few hundred dollars more for somewhat comfier seats? Not all premium class seats are created equal. US-based airlines often use the word "premium class" service for international flights to describe what fliers might find on domestic first class: a little bit more legroom. Call it "business minus." That said, many foreign airlines really do mean "premium" when they say premium. Think: lie-back seats and plenty of perks (like early boarding privileges and complimentary alcoholic drinks). Exhibit A: Qantas, announced today as the winner of "best premium economy class" section in the 2012 Skytrax World's Best Airlines Awards. Here's a round-up of the latest news in premium economy seats: Cathay Pacific From May, the Hong Kong-based carrier joins the small number of airlines offering premium economy. Having launched this year, premium economy class is becoming easy to find on Cathay Pacific's flights between the US and London and the US and Asia and Australia. The seats are wider (18-and-a-half-inches), recline further, and have more legroom, with a 38-inch seat pitch. Premium passengers can use faster check-in desks, can board before coach class, and can take advantage of a bigger baggage allowance, and get access to a nicer in-flight amenity kit. Nearly all of the airline's new aircraft feature premium economy for international flights. Delta Since las summer, Delta has been rolling out its new Economy Comfort class on overseas routes, which means greater seat recline, 36 inches of seat pitch to free up your feet, an AC power outlet, early boarding rights, and free alcoholic beverages at a splurge cost of about $160 to $320 one way for international round-trips. United On nonstop 757 flights domestically, United has been steadily adding premium economy seats, which add five to six inches of legroom on non stops and early boarding privileges. Economy Plus can range in price, but a $200 extra cost over coach is typical for an overseas trip. As of this year, all of United's 757-200 jets have premium economy, and many other of its airplanes also do, meaning 1,845 Economy Plus seats have been added since last November. Would you upgrade to premium economy for more legroom? Or would you stick with coach class? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Air New Zealand Introduces the "Skycouch" Airlines Suspected of Fibbing About Seat Availability for Families One Airline Boards Its Customers Faster Than Most
5 Reader Tips to Help Beat the Heat
If you happen to live in or be visiting one of the dozens of states experiencing record–breaking heat this month, you might be asking yourself a few questions right about now. Will I ever stop sweating? Did I really just get a sunburn in under five minutes? How many Slurpees is too many? And, most importantly, what can I do to stay cool!? Our readers always have the best travel advice. Here are five of their favorite tips for beating the summer heat: •Now that airlines serve either snack boxes or no food at all, we often pack sandwiches. I also like to freeze a bunch of grapes and place them in a freezer bag. They’ll keep your lunch or dinner cold, and you’ll have a cool snack when they defrost. —Patricia Spillane, Warwick, R.I. •I always take a tube of natural–beeswax–based lip balm (SPF 15+) with me when I travel. It's almost like carrying a mini first–aid kit. It serves as a lip balm, of course, but also as an emergency sunscreen for my nose, a moisturizer around my eyes, and a blister preventer for my hands and feet. —Jay Hammond, Gilbert, Ariz. •As a diabetic who loves to travel, I've learned how to keep my insulin cool: Carry a reusable ice pack, which also chills sandwiches, snacks, and beverages while sightseeing. Refreeze the pack in the hotel's mini fridge overnight to use the next day. —Henry Heitmann, Fort Myers Beach, Fla. •If you're planning a vacation and want to bring cold drinks to the beach with you, use a six–pack cooler as a toiletry bag. When you get to your destination and unload your toiletries in the bathroom, the bag can be used as a cooler for the rest of the trip. —Kelly Sortino, San Francisco, Calif. •The last time we went to Disney World, we had two 24–count cases of bottled water delivered to the hotel's front desk before we arrived. Instead of shelling out $2 or $3 per bottle in the parks, we paid a total of $12 for both cases. You can order them from chain stores such as Staples. —Patricia Spillane, Warwick, R.I. Now it’s your turn! Do you have any cool new ways to beat the heat this summer vacation? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 10 Beach Products You Never Knew You Needed 16 Best Summer Attractions for Families 8 Perfect Summer Lake Towns
Paris to London by Premium Bus Can Save Money
It hasn't only been the United States enjoying a renaissance in intercity bus service. Europe is also seeing a rise of carriers such as Megabus, with cheap fares and fancy new buses equipped with Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and plusher seats. In the past few months, the route between Paris and London has been experiencing a boom in fancy, yet still affordable, coach service. Ticket prices are usually $70 one-way or less, cheaper than flying or taking the Eurostar train, though you have to be patient: the journey typically takes about nine hours. Some bus lines use the Eurotunnel vehicle shuttle service (meaning the bus sits on a train car, essential), while other lines requires a trip on a ferry, which gives a mid-way break for walking around and catching some air. A typical peak-season summer ticket will have a standard price of £47, which at current exchange rates is $70, for most days and times. Occasional peak season tickets will max out at £60 or about $93. Those bus ticket prices are consistently less than the comparable Eurostar train ticket cost which is about three times as much ($173 one-way) during peak summer travel. British Airways flights are slightly faster than in the train in the air, though slower once you add in time at the airport, and cost about $140 one-way when booked in advance. Another perk: Optional night bus service also allows you to skip on the cost of lodging for one night. Here's a round-up of the new bus service between London and Paris. iDBUS On July 23, a new coach service between London and Paris launches, featuring perks such as more-than-usual legroom, free Wi-Fi, and 220V/100W power sockets. Operated by France's state-owned railway company SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français). Where does it stop?: In Paris, it is the Paris Bercy station, two miles southwest of Notre Dame Cathedral. In London, the stop is at a sheltered waiting area at London's central Victoria Coach Station (a major bus terminal that's a five minute walk from Victoria rail station and Buckingham Palace Gardens). Nice touches: You can choose your exact seat assignment on each 48-seat bus, seats come with reading tables similar to a tray, and each bus comes with two screens showing the bus's updated arrival time based on its GPS-coordinates. Promotions: Starting July 11, the website will give away one-way tickets for only five euros each that need to be used by the end of the year. This promotion should cover a third of the capacity of coaches. The company will also run a buy-three-seats-get-your-fourth-seat free offer, which are best for families. Onward connections: The turquoise, white, and purple iDBUSes will also serve Brussels and Amsterdam. idbus.co.uk Megabus In April, the bus company Stagecoach launched the same Megabus service that's conquered the US on the route between London and Paris; the journey can cost as little as $4 one way if you book a ticket during an online sale. The highest one-way fare is £40, or about $62. Where does it stop? London's Victoria Coach Station and Paris's Porte Maillot coach park, about eight miles from the centre, yet on the Metro subway line. Nice touches Video screens and free headsets for passengers who want to watch movies without disturbing other passengers. The 50-seat, double-decker buses also come with WiFi and power outlets at seats. Promotions Periodic one-pound tickets between London and Paris. Sign up for the e-mail newsletter. Onward connections There's a growing route network in Europe (go onward to Brussels or Amsterdam) and an extensive map covering dozens of cities in the UK. megabus.com Eurolines The granddaddy of cheap coach travel across the Continent, Eurolines continues to have the most extensive network, the lowest fares, and the longest track record. It is not one company but an alliance of coach operators who synch up their timetables. On the Paris and London route, fares as low as $30 roundtrip. Where does it stop? London's Victoria Coach Station and its own station about four miles northwest of Notre Dame Cathedral. Alternate stop is Charles de Gaulle Airport. Nice touches: Skip the ferry! Most Eurolines schedules from London to France use the Eurotunnel vehicle shuttle service. Free Wi-Fi is included on the London and Paris route. Promotions: Get a pass! Eurolines Pass prices start at €205 (about $252) for adults for 15 days of unlimited low-season travel between major cities in two dozen countries. You could travel from Dublin to Bucharest if you wanted. Much cheaper than the comparable Eurailpass. Youth (under age 26) and seniors can get a discount of about $50 eurolines.com SUMMARY: Choose iDBUS for the most comfortable ride. Choose Megabus for the best on-board entertainment and comfort for the money. Choose Eurolines for the most frequent schedule and onward connections. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 3 Affordable New Ways to See Europe's Quaintest Cities Megabus Continues to Grow, Benefiting US Travelers Beat $4 Gas With Premium Buses in California, Texas, and Washington State
7 Smart Tips for Holiday Travel
How did you celebrate the fourth of July? Plenty of folks (myself included) stayed home to celebrate, but just as many others took off a few days and turned the holiday into a vacation. I was curious as to where people were traveling, so I reached out to Fly.com to find out what their most booked destinations were over the holiday—it turns out that the most popular places over the holiday don't deviate much from the most popular places the rest of the year. For this fourth, the top three destinations were Las Vegas, New York City and Los Angeles—some of the world's most popular party cities. Florida featured highly in the list with Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami all making the top ten. The only international destination was Cancun. The others were: Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, and San Diego. Chances are, this list won't change much come Labor Day—and now is the time to start planning that long weekend getaway (I know I'll be skipping town then). Of course, you'll want to be smart about it. Here are our best tips for avoiding the crowds when traveling over a major holiday. Consider alternative airports Taking the time to compare nearby airports could save you money, time and hassle. Boston residents, for instance, should consider TF Green International in Providence or Manchester–Boston Regional in New Hampshire as opposed to Logan, which are likely to be more affordable and less crowded. And the same is true for arrival cities. Book your flights two days before and after the holidays. Two of the busiest days to fly are those immediately before and after the actual holidays. Book your flights two days before and after a major holiday to avoid the masses. Book a non–stop flight Every time your plane touches the ground during peak travel times, the possibility of delays due to inclement weather or air–traffic problems increases—so do your odds of getting stuck with the unhappy masses. Airport parking lots get filled up around the holidays, so use public transportation. If you must drive, consider a private parking lot near the airport: They'll often shuttle you to and from the terminal, and they let you book in advance so you won't have to worry about finding a space. Travel on the holiday Not only is it cheaper, it's often less hectic if you're willing to fly on the holiday itself, whether it’s July 4th, Labor Day or Thanksgiving. The same is true for driving—you'll be less likely to encounter traffic if you drive on the holiday itself. If you can't travel on the holiday, try to do so early in the morning when flights are less likely to be delayed and there are fewer people on the roads. If you're staying at a hotel, look into business hotels. Over the holidays, you'll find low rates (and fewer people) at classy city and suburban hotels that normally depend on business travelers. Families should consider all–suite hotels or long–stay hotels such as Homewood Suites and the Residence Inn, which have more room and good holiday prices. SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: BT Editors' 12 Favorite Foodie Destinations What's Your Biggest Pet Peeve When You Fly? Super Mosquitoes Threaten Travelers