Air travel booking secrets for 2017
As we shift into the new year, there’s a lot of looking back on the travel industry to see what worked and what didn’t, what succeeded and what failed, and, of course, where, how, when and why people traveled. We look back so that we can have a clearer vision and understanding of what’s ahead. While technology allows us to do nearly everything aside from decisively predict the future, piles upon piles of data lets us to come pretty close. The more data we can pull from, of course, the clearer the vision.
In a recently released study by Expedia, the company partnered with Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), a trade organization, to crunch the numbers between January 1, 2016 and October 24, 2016 and figure out worldwide air travel trends. The report, “New Heights for Air Travel,” looked at data from Expedia—which encompasses the 335 million itineraries it created in its 20 years of operation. Those itineraries cover 1,820 cities within 203 countries. ARC, meantime, offers information on more than 12.5 billion passenger flights. (That's a whole lotta packs of tomato juice and packs of pretzels!)
The main takeaways of the study forecasts a huge win for travelers. First, according to the International Air Transport Association and ARC, air capacity is up about 5% globally, which means airlines are flying more planes to more destinations. Global growth typically clocks in around 3%, even in boom times. So in other words, 2016 saw a tremendous amount of growth. More seats in airplanes means more competition for passengers, so this past year also saw a tumble in average ticket prices. Those two factors—more space and lower cost—are a formula for creating more travel opportunities at lower prices in 2017.
How much of a tumble in those ticket prices, you ask? In the nearly 10 months examined, average ticket prices in North America fell about 6% for economy one-ways and about 5% for economy round-trips. That means, for instance, a round-trip ticket that cost $472 in 2015 cost $450 in 2016.
With billions of data points at their fingertips, Expedia and its partners were able to examine buying patterns and assess ticket pricing trends and quirks. By and large, the results pretty much validate a lot of urban myths. First and foremost, some times are better than others for purchasing airline tickets. Weekends are the best time to book flights. Fridays are the worst, primarily because that’s when business travelers make their bookings. The study also notes that for domestic travel in the US, you can save as much as 11% by purchasing tickets on a Sunday vs. Friday. You can save even more on tickets to Europe—as much as 16%, in fact—by making your ticket purchase on a Sunday.
And now for the good news for the early birds among us. We all know that it pays to plan, but this study tells us just how much. According to ARC, 21 days in advance is the tipping point. When it comes to traveling within the United States, within Europe and even between the US and Europe, booking three weeks ahead of takeoff can score you as much as 30% over waiting until the last minute.
When you’re planning a trip, don’t underestimate the impact of a weekend stay. Expedia’s study determined that you can get the best deals when you include a Saturday night overnight stay on your itinerary. That can mean savings of up to 57%, as the researches found to be the case in Southern Europe.
That does it for the “how.” Now, about the “where.” Based on its data, the study looked at 500 top destinations. Not surprisingly, the airport with the most significant leap was Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, which surged in capacity by 53% from 2015 to 2016. Coming in a very close second was the airport in Da Nang, Vietnam. Among other destinations that spiked in popularity were Zhuhai, China (41 percent); Cusco, Peru (39 percent); and Santiago, Chile (38 percent). Cities in Uruguay, Iceland, Panama, and Russia were other mentions.
There are plenty more general findings. Perhaps you can chalk it up to the coast-to-coast growth of tequila and the taco truck boom, but overall growth of Mexico City as a destination was a significant 11%. Industry watchdogs are already deeming it a 2017 hotspot. Largely because its economy is pulsing, airlines are ramping up flights to India as we speak. Same goes for Dubai as well as China, which saw nearly 10% growth in airline capacity over the past year. Notably, in addition to more airlines instituting new routes to China, new airports have opened or expanded throughout the country.
Experts predict that most of the destinations that have seen growth in 2016 will continue to thrive. It’s up to you to prove them right. Or chart your own path and prove them wrong.
The 7 New Rules of Packing You Must Know
Can't find packing gear that suits your needs? Why not create it yourself, Shark Tank–style? OK, most of us don't have the time or expertise for that, but Hudson + Bleecker founder Eram Siddiqui took on the challenge so the rest of us don't have to. Siddiqui always had trouble finding the perfect travel accessories to safely pack all of her things, so she launched her own line that blends fashion with function: attractive garment bags, jewelry cases, toiletry bags, and more. Each bag has a waterproof lining so nothing inside or out gets ruined (translation: no more spills that destroy everything in your suitcase), and the exclusive patterned textiles are printed in-house. Hudson + Bleecker's accessories are a splurge (check out the sale section for deals!), but they make for awesome gifts—even if they're presents for yourself. The tips below, though? 100 percent free. And who better than a packing expert to tell us how to pack a suitcase? Below are Siddiqui's packing tips that'll streamline your next getaway like the sleek jet-setter you are. 1. FOR SHOES, FOLLOW THE RULE OF THREE. Real talk if you're overzealous about your footwear, whether it's too many sneakers for your favorite sports or an over-the-door shoe caddy's worth of heels: “Three pairs of shoes is all you need. It's efficient, takes the guesswork out of what to pack and saves a lot of room in your luggage. Pack one pair for a night on the town, one comfortable pair (sandals or ballet flats for women) to give your feet a break, and a pair of sneakers or runners for a run or hike. You can conveniently fit three pairs in our travel shoe bags.” 2. PRE-PACK A BAG OF TSA-FRIENDLY TOILETRIES. Collect a stash of 3.4-oz-or-less toiletries, and ensure it's permanently ready to roll through security. “I always have a toiletry bag pre-packed so that if I need to take off at a moment’s notice, all I need to do is grab a carry-on and pack my clothes and shoes, and I'm ready to go. If you're a frequent traveler, pre-packing your toiletries is a significant time-saver.” 3. BRING A PAPER COPY OF YOUR PASSPORT. “As a rule, we all know it’s best to keep a copy of your passport at home or with a relative. However, with new laws and travel restrictions domestically, I carry my passport and a copy of my passport at all times, whether it’s a quick domestic flight or a long haul.” 4. SHIP THE HEAVY STUFF. “We all love to shop and collect keepsakes when we travel. To avoid overpacking and paying exorbitant baggage fees, I ship my new treasures home whenever possible. Now that I am a new mom, I also purchase all of my little one's essentials on Amazon.com and ship them to our final destination. If you're staying in a hotel, it is very easy to coordinate with the hotel concierge to collect your packages upon check-in.” 5. TWO WORDS: PACKING CUBES. “Trust me, the more organized and compartmentalized your luggage is, the more enjoyable your trip will be. Packing cubes have changed the way I pack and unpack. If you're traveling solo, use a packing cube to separate your apparel from your intimates. If you are traveling with children or family, pack one cube per traveler. I use our shoe bags to pack for my little one, as everything fits perfectly in one. This avoids having to dig through a never-ending pile of clothing, and I can literally unpack my bags in less than five minutes.” Need a cube? Siddiqui designed this stylish packing cube ($50), look for rugged sets from outdoor brands like REI ($30), or check out see-through mesh cubes like these from Target ($25). 6. DESIGNATE AN "ESSENTIALS" POCKET. “Whenever and wherever, I try to travel with a carry-on only. So the front pocket of my luggage has everything I need to access quickly. A great hack is to pack a small pouch with chapstick, a small hand lotion, eyedrops, ibuprofen, and a small pair of socks, so if you need to refresh, you can grab what you need easily.” If you're envisioning your perfect "essentials" pouch now, try Siddiqui's multi-use pochettes ($19), or click through an extensive collection of travel-themed Everything Bags (from $12.50)—artists receive a percentage of the proceeds. 7. THROW IN A SWEATER OR WRAP-NO MATTER WHAT. Even if you're headed to a tropical paradise in the middle of the summer, play it safe and swaddle yourself. “Airplanes are always cold and so are hotel rooms, so I always pack at least one sweater or pashmina. You will inevitably use it during your travels or even when you arrive at your final destination. I like to pack either black, gray, or neutral colors, as those shades go with almost anything.”
How the Electronics Ban Will Affect You
Headline news about travel bans is starting to feel like business as usual. You’re not alone if you find yourself thinking: “Pretty much we’ll only be able to bring Saltines and an actual print newspaper and maybe a wallet when we board a plane.” Fact is, though, there are loads of nuances and contingencies beyond that big bold “travel ban” headline, especially when it comes to the latest electronics ban, which was announced on March 21. The ban, which is applicable to specific airlines leaving specific airports in the Middle East, prohibits travelers from carrying laptops, iPads, and anything larger than a cellphone on flights to specific US airports. The items must be checked. The ban applies to flights from 10 airports in eight countries. Nine airlines are affected - Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Air, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. When all is said and done, the measure, which will continue indefinitely, affects about 50 flights per day. Many news reports and commentary note how this will strongly impact business travelers who have company-owned laptops, perhaps containing sensitive information. We, however, would argue that it would be equally exasperating for parents who might depend on laptops to keep young children from throwing temper tantrums at cruising altitude. The questions that arise are why now and why the specificity? According to a New York Times report, "officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack." But the UK followed suit with a similar ban the following day and, according to anonymous security sources cited in news reports, the government based its decision on specific intelligence reports about the Islamic State developing a bomb that can be concealed in portable electronics. But according to Jason Clampet, editor-in-chief of Skift, a travel news website, questions have been raised about the intent of the ban, what with its specific targets. Some experts speculate the measure is designed to hurt Gulf carriers because they’ve emerged as rivals in transatlantic flight packages. This ban is a hassle for more than just the passengers. Airlines have been complaining about the lack of communication with Homeland Security, one of the government agencies that ordered the measure. Clampet explains that it was rolled out without warning, which stands in contrast with the liquid ban instituted in 2006, Clampet noted, which rolled out in a much more systematized fashion that involved training TSA agents before it went into effect. "The ban came in the middle of the day, there was no way for airlines to communicate about it ahead of time." Clampet explains. "The same thing happened in January with the travel ban. It just happened--no communication. The CEO of American Airlines came out and said government messed up. You never hear airlines talking about the government like that."
All-Inclusive Vacations: The 7 Essential Questions Every Traveler Must Ask
The phrase "all–inclusive" is so enticing. You immediately picture yourself at a cushy resort, lounging by a pool or dreamy beach, frosty cocktail in hand, never once reaching for your wallet. But while that dream scenario is within reach, you've got to take a few steps to make sure it all goes down the way you want it to. Be sure to read the "fine print" before you book, especially when you're considering package deals. All–inclusives can be a bargain and a great stress–reliever (no foreign currency to worry about, no tips to calculate), but before you book make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. In addition to finding out what the rate is for your all-inclusive vacation package, here are the seven essential questions every traveler must ask: 1) How many meals are included? 2) What times are meals served? 3) What are your meal choices? (If there are sit–down restaurants, you might want to ask if reservations are accepted and how far in advance folks need to reserve to ensure a seat.) 4) Are tips included? 5) Is alcohol included? 6) Which activities, if any, are included in the cost? Which activities are available for an additional fee? 7) What kind of entertainment is there in the evening?
Everything You Need to Know About Traveling With Your Pet
Picture your perfect pet-friendly travel scenario: Maybe you're barefoot on the beach, tossing a stick to your canine best friend, who couldn't be happier as she chases it up and down, making paw prints in the gently lapping surf. Sounds pretty idyllic, right? Before you set off on your dream journey, though, the 12 items below are crucial to think about prior to taking a trip with your pet. First things first: Nobody knows her like you do. If you think she'll enjoy the open road or friendly skies, she'll likely be a great travel companion, especially if “you’re an adventure traveler and have a dog who is high energy and loves to run around,” says KC Theisen, director of pet-care issues for the Humane Society of the United States. “But if your dog is getting older or is anxious, he might be happier lounging on the couch at home or taking a weekend at the doggy spa. And it’s unlikely your cat is going to enjoy a vacation.” (Don't worry; we have tips for kitty travel too if your cat is a jet-setter.) While you’re still in the planning stages, call your hotel, airline, rental-car company, and any local establishments that you’re hoping will allow your pooch to join you. “‘Dog friendly’ has so many meanings today, from 'tolerated' to 'welcome with treats or toys or facilities specific to dogs,'” says Melissa Halliburton, founder and CEO of BringFido.com. Personally, we’re hoping for doggy yoga (a.k.a. "doga") at the next hotel we stay at! Yep, it's a thing. 1. Tote along the right supplies. Here’s a basic pet packing list: a leash and harness, bed, crate, shot records, litter box, familiar toys, food and water bowls, bottled water, food, treats, any prescriptions, and poop bags. "Water is something you can’t have too much of,” Theisen says. “Often nervous pets will spill their water or decide not to drink all day, and then they need a gallon when they get to the hotel. Also, write your cellphone number on your pet’s collar in big numbers.” If your pet likes to snuggle with you at night, Halliburton suggests bringing a towel or bedsheet to protect hotel linens. And comfort from home goes a long way. “If they have a sleeping bed or blanket, definitely bring it,” Halliburton says. “Any reminders from home will lower their stress level.” 2. Don’t forget the paperwork. Before you hit the road, make sure all of your pet’s tags, including his identification and rabies, are up to date. Be prepared for emergencies by bringing copies of medical records and vaccinations. Air travel requires a health certificate and possibly other documents depending on the airline and destination; if you’re traveling internationally, check with that country for requirements specific to their region. (That’s critical. None of us wants to face the legal predicament Johnny Depp’s wife Amber Heard is in after she flew her Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, to Australia without going through customs or heeding the country’s quarantine rules.) It’s also a good idea to have your pet microchipped—and make sure the record is current—in case you get separated. 3. Stock a first aid kit. Whether your and your pet are going hiking or just driving to visit grandma, it’s important to have a first aid kit on hand. “Buy a pre-packaged kit with essentials such as gauze, gloves, medical tape, bandages, cleaning wipes, and disinfectant,” Halliburton says. “I suggest also bringing Benadryl for possible allergic reactions, hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in the event that your pet has gotten ahold of something he shouldn’t have, and in case your pet has damaged a nail, cornstarch will stop the bleeding.” Download the Pet First Aid app from the Red Cross for tips on how to handle various injuries (free, redcross.org). 4. Print out a picture. Practically every pet owner’s phone is filled with pictures of their furball—and that can come in handy. “But you can’t print that out and give it to someone,” Theisen says. “You can’t make a poster or flier when you’re in a panic and on the road. Carrying a printed photo is an additional level of security.” It’s also helpful when you’re trying to find your pet at the airport at cargo pickup. 5. Book the right hotel. Not only should you make sure that your lodging is pet-friendly, but you should ask a few key questions too. “Check if there is a weight requirement; many pet-friendly hotels have a weight restriction,” advises Eric Halliday, general manager of the Lodge at Tiburon in Tiburon, California (from $179 per night, lodgeattiburon.com). “Communicate with the hotel about when you would like your room cleaned. We advise the guest at check-in that we will only clean the room if the pet is with the guest or in his cage.” Halliday also suggests inquiring about dog-walking areas in advance so that you know what to expect. “Ask about the local community—is it pet friendly? Will you be able to take your dog most places?” And just so you’re not saddled with any surprise charges, inquire if there are additional fees, which are common. For example, the Lodge at Tiburon has a one-time non-refundable pet fee of $75, though that includes a pet package with a special bandanna, dog bowl, treats, and access to the dedicated dog-run area on property. 6. Prepare for takeoff. While we get snacks and movies on demand, flying isn’t nearly as fun for animals. In fact, Theisen says that unless airline travel is necessary, you’re better off leaving them at home or finding another mode of transportation. Typically, only dogs and cats under 10 pounds are allowed in the cabin, and larger ones must go in the cargo hold. Be sure to check with the airline before you book, as rules vary widely—as do fees and number of pets allowed. Most airlines don’t allow you to put anything in the transport crate besides food, water, and a blanket due to ingestion risk, but a blanket that smells like home can help relax them. “Figure out which water bowl you’re going to use, freeze treats and kibble in that dish, and then when it’s loaded into the plane, the water doesn’t spill, and it’s encouraging for them to work on the ice block to get to treats and keep them occupied,” suggests Theisen, who says it's her go-to trick. 7. Do a trial trip. To keep your pet calm and comfortable during the big journey, do a few practice runs beforehand. “Start by simply having her get in the carrier and rewarding her,” Halliburton says. “Do this often, and increase the amount of time she is in the carrier each time. Then have her practice being in the carrier while you drive around the block or go to the dog park. It’s important to place toys in the carrier and reward her often for behaving well during this practice. Generally, dogs will come to think of their carrier or crate as a safe place.” If they’re going to be on a plane, you can adjust this technique. “Load your dog in a carrier and put it on a rocking chair, or put it in a car squished up on floorboard,” Theisen says. 8. MacGyver a special seat for the car. It’s adorable when you spot a dog sticking his head out the car window and taking in the breeze—but it’s dangerous too. “Unfortunately, a pet loose in the car at a very minimum is a distraction to driver and may interfere with your ability to drive safely,” Theisen says. “A cat goes right under the gas pedal, while dogs run into your field of vision. Pets are best secured in a carrier or crate. Not only are they prevented from distracting you, but they have a level of protection in case of an accident or crash.” There are plenty of options, from harnesses to booster seats to seat belts for pets. But Theisen cautions that there have been very few studies on the safety of these products. Often, the easiest solution is just stowing them in their carrier and securing it with a regular seat belt. 9. Keep Fluffy entertained. Bringing your pet’s favorite toy along is a given, but a trip is a special occasion, so why not wow him with something new? “An interactive toy will keep him occupied during long trips,” Halliburton says. “The PetSafe Busy Buddy Barnacle [from $4.50, amazon.com] is durable and has multiple holes for dispensing different-sized treats during play. Outward Hound has several great options as well.” To ensure safety, take your pet’s mode of transport into account. If your dog will be unattended, like in a carrier in the backseat of your car alone while you’re behind the wheel, stay away from anything he might choke on, like bones or hooves. 10. Take plenty of breaks on the road. As a rule of thumb, humans usually need a break every two and a half hours on a road trip, and the same applies to your pet. It’s also a good time to make sure he’s still safe and content in his carrier and hasn’t had any accidents. Try to visit a dog park to let Lassie stretch her legs. “You can use the BringFido app (free, itunes.com) to locate dog parks near you when you travel through new cities,” Halliburton says. The app also helps point travelers toward pet-friendly hotels, eateries, and attractions like pets-welcome hiking trails. Many towns hold "yappy hours" at parks or restaurants where dog owners can socialize with each other and their pets. 11. Prevent motion sickness. “If your dog or cat gets motion sickness easily, they might want to stay home,” Theisen says. Avoid feeding your pet within three to four hours of travel, and give her controlled amounts of water. Ask your vet if there are any medications or supplements. “Motion sickness is more common in puppies than older dogs, and most puppies will outgrow it, similarly to human children,” Halliburton says. “Like people, facing forward, lowering the windows a bit, or distracting them with a toy all help to alleviate nausea.” 12. Don’t sedate your pet. It might seem like a good idea to give Max something to make him drowsy, but it can be harmful. “We do not support tranquilizing or sedating your pet, especially for air travel, because cargo holds have different air pressurization and temperature than the cabin,” Theisen says. “Your pet needs all his faculties to handle that stress. When pets are over-sedated, there is no one to see your pet if something goes wrong.” Never give your pet painkillers from his last surgery. Instead, ask your veterinarian for a prescription if your animal is very anxious or has other needs.