Save Money With 2-For-1 Broadway Tickets
It's my favorite time of year: Broadway Week in New York City, where you can save big on buzz–worthy Broadway shows thanks to 2-For-1 ticket deals on select shows Sept. 7-20. There are 22 shows participating this year and tickets are on sale now through the website.
Options this year include Aladdin, Amazing Grace, An American in Paris, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Finding Neverland, Fun Home, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Hand to God, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The King and I, Kinky Boots, Les Miserables, The Lion King, Matilda the Musical, Old Times, Spring Awakening, Wicked, and Something Rotten! Also available are discounted tickets for perennial favorites like Chicago, Jersey Boys, and The Phantom of the Opera.
Visit this nycgo.com link to book your tickets online starting at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 19th, and for more information about shows and blackout dates.
How to Travel More Spontaneously
By Douwe & Richard Osinga, CEOs of travel app, Triposo Travel planning. Those two words are together so often, you might start to think they're inseparable. We beg to differ! If you're looking to have a unique and memorable vacation, spontaneity is where it's at. Of course, that's easier said than done, especially for the Type A among us. But don't worry—with 100+ countries under our belts—we're here to tell you that anyone can be a spontaneous traveler (and it doesn't have to break the bank). It just takes a little bit of practice. Here's our advice for how to become more spontaneous when you travel: Avoid review sitesWith millions of reviews for nearly every restaurant and tourist attraction on earth, it's easy to see the appeal of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. But it's important to remember that experiences are necessarily subjective, and basing your trip on what someone else (who may or may not be a reliable judge) liked or didn't like about a place is a recipe for confusion, frustration and—let's be honest—blandness. Instead, use your intuition and be adventurous. You never know when you might discover a hidden neighborhood gem, and it will be that much more satisfying if you find it on your own. Go off the beaten pathMany travelers stick to a small radius around their hotels, usually near the major tourist attractions. While this can be efficient, it leaves a lot of the real character and flavor out. Instead of choosing a hotel in the most popular tourist district, pick a more residential area, one where you're more likely to rub shoulders with the locals than with fellow fanny-packers. You can still visit the major sites, but you'll get a more "real" taste of the city. It's also a good idea to get out of the big cities. Explore the tiny towns and unspoiled hamlets that most tourists overlook. You'll be guaranteed to have an authentic experience, and the locals will probably welcome your curiosity rather than seeing you as yet another obstacle in their daily commute. Use the dinner plate methodWhile we suggest avoiding tourist traps, it's true that there are certain sites that are "unmissable." A trip to Rome probably wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Colosseum, and you certainly don't want to venture to Giza without having a gander at the pyramids. So try out the "dinner plate" method. Each day, choose a "main dish" from a list of must-sees (the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Macchu Pichu in Peru, the Opera House in Sydney). Then choose two side dishes that have a more local flavor. Perhaps you could visit the open-air market or have a picnic in a park. For dessert, inject some cultural flavor into your travels by attending a concert, popping into an art gallery or visiting a famous writer's favorite haunt. You might even sneak in an "amuse-bouche," or appetizer, of an impromptu street fair or a local band's concert. If you use this method, you'll be sure to see the most important places while avoiding a cookie-cutter vacation. Use all five sensesNot sure where to start when it comes to traveling spontaneously and discovering authentic experiences? Use your senses. Follow your nose for the best local cuisine. Use your ears to figure out where the locals are hanging out. Keep your eyes peeled for anything unusual or surprising. When you are attuned to your surroundings, you're much more likely to happen upon the kind of serendipitous events that will leave you with unique travel memories—and a great story to tell. Ask a localStill not sure what to do? Strike up a conversation with a local! Ask them about their favorite restaurants. Find out which neighborhoods they consider hip. Get recommendations for hidden gems and find out which mega-attractions are worthy of the hype. If you're not comfortable chatting up a stranger on the street, visit the local pub and buy someone a beer. You're likely to learn something and maybe even make a new friend. Do something you'd do at homeThis might sound totally counterintuitive. Aren't you in a foreign country so you can step outside your comfort zone and try things that are completely new? Of course, but often the best way to really learn about a new culture is to check out the things you'd see if you actually lived in a place. For example, visit the public library. Browse the shelves and check out the architecture. Go for a jog on a local hiking trail, take a yoga class, or grab a cup of coffee and people-watch for a while. Hop on a bus and ride it around the city to get a feel for what it's like to live and work there. You might be surprised at what you discover when you try a familiar activity in an unfamiliar place. We want to know: what are you favorite ways to travel more spontaneously?
How to Visit Paris Without Getting Your Pocket Picked
We're all for the French government's new drive to make the country more welcoming to visitors. Its new publication "Do You Speak Touriste?" is intended to help put tourism—and its impact on the national economy—on the radar of more French citizens. However, one of the reasons France is considered unfriendly and unwelcoming—inspiring the country's 80+ million annual visitors to stay only a few days and spend less money than they do in the U.S. or Spain—is petty crime. Visit one of Paris's must-sees like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower and you may get your pocket picked or your purse snatched. While j'adore the potential long-term benefits of this pro-tourist initiative the French government is pursuing, at Budget Travel we kinda prefer to cut to the chase. Whether or not the average Parisian ever learns to speak touriste, these tips from the U.S. Embassy in Paris will help you hold on to your stuff: Keep it simple. Don't carry more than you are willing to lose! That means a slimmed-down wallet with one credit/ATM card, an ID, and no more than $60 or so. Put a rubber band around your wallet and carry it in your front pocket. Zip it. Purses should have zippers and should be carried tightly under your arm. Backpack-style purses should be carried in front, not on your back. Copy that. Leave photocopies of your passports, credit cards, and other valuable papers at your lodging. Know the hotspots. It's not difficult to identify the places your most likely to get robbed: They are the top sites in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Champs-Elysées. In fact, pickpocketing at the Louvre got so out of control recently that workers there staged a strike to draw attention to the problem. Be wary of groups of kids. Pickpockets tend to be young and they travel in packs. On the metro, they may swarm around you when getting on or off the train; try to stay away from the doors and be vigilant about strangers' access to your pockets or purse. On the street, be extra cautious if strangers ask for directions, try to sell you something, or spill a drink or ice cream on you. At ATMs, don't let yourself be distracted by strangers asking you questions. TALK TO US! We love Paris and want to know: Have you ever had trouble with street crime while visiting the French capital?
10 Mistakes That'll Ruin Your Trip
Even the most meticulously planned trip is subject to snafus, but with a little insider know-how, you can avoid making the common mistakes that can derail a vacation. Stick to the guidelines below, and you're more likely to have a trip that's memorable not for lost luggage and rushed sightseeing, but for the thrill of discovering a new place and savoring it. 1. SHORT LAYOVER TIMES Leaving a window of at least an hour and a half between connecting flights will significantly drop your chances of missing your flight or having your luggage lost, says Sally Watkins, travel agent at Century Travel and Cruises in Austin, Texas. Having only 45 minutes to connect between flights might seem doable—not to mention the siren call of less lag time spent hanging out at a dismal food court—but it's often not enough, especially in large airports where the gates could be far apart. Don't rely on airlines to do the math for you, either: "Flights can't be booked unless it is a legitimate change time according to that airport, and usually if it's the minimum change time and airlines let you book that, they will make it work," Watkins says. 2. FORGETTING PASSPORT PROCESSING TIME Routine passport processing takes about four to six weeks, so as soon as you start planning for your trip, apply for a passport if you need one, or make sure the one you already have hasn't expired. Plus, in certain countries you need at least six months' worth of validity remaining to enter, says Elizabeth Finan, spokesperson for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. (Go to travel.state.gov for more information.) If your trip is coming up quicker than that, you can shell out $60 to cut the processing time to two to three weeks, but if you're planning to board a plane in less than two weeks, make an appointment at your local passport agency by calling 877/487-2778. The $60 fee still applies. If you've traveled so much you've practically worn out your passport, flip through it as a precaution: "Frequent travelers should make sure that they have enough pages in their passports," says Finan. "For example, South African law requires travelers to have one fully blank visa page in the passport; without the requisite number of pages, you may be refused entry." No one wants that. 3. UNDERESTIMATING TRAVEL TIME When you're visiting a city, ponying up for a more expensive hotel that's in the middle of the action can be a better financial decision in the long run than staying out in the suburbs and spending money and time on transportation. Use time you save to explore—or just recharge in your hotel room. "Particularly if it's a European city in the month of July and it's hot… you're going to want to go back in the late afternoon and put your feet up before you go to dinner," Watkins says. "That's not easy to do if your hotel is a 30-minute bus ride away." Plus, if it's a family vacation, toting kids on unfamiliar trains or taxis with few breaks will increase the possibility that you'll have a frustrating visit. "Value is more important than what's the cheapest," Watkins says. 4. OVERPACKING ACTIVITIES Allot a minimum of three days for visiting major cities like Rome, London, and Paris, and you'll end up with a richer vacation that includes time for simple pleasures like people-watching or relaxing in sidewalk cafés, says Watkins. "A lot of people say, 'I just want to do just one night in whatever and one night in so-and-so.' Slow down! By the time you either load all the bags into the car, drive, and park, or you schlep all the bags onto a train, you don't have that much of a day left," says Watkins. The same goes for multiple activities. Make time for wandering around. In Rome, for example, planning to see the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, and the Forum in the same day is overkill, Watkins says. Really seeing the city via strolls and serendipity can be invaluable. 5. CHOOSING WRONG ACTIVITIES There's no shame in wanting to leisurely sit in cafés in Paris instead of hoofing it to every monument—or preferring to check out Mayan ruins in Tulum instead of lying in a hammock. Before you plan vacation activities that others insist you'll enjoy, sit down and think hard about what you want your trip to be, then follow your own itinerary. "Many people plan the trip they think they ought to want, rather than the trip they actually want," says Edward Hasbrouck, author of The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World. "If you rarely set foot in a museum, why plan a trip with museum after museum? A lack of self-awareness can lead to, among other things, relying on recommendations from people with very different tastes." Your trip, your experience. 6. STICKING TO TOURIST TRAPS It can be tempting to sink into a chair in the first restaurant or bar you see, but a little research can net you a more authentic experience. To locate the best haunts before you go, seek out "blogs that are focused on just restaurants, or just shopping in a given city," says Parker Stanberry, founder and CEO of OasisCollections.com, which offers high-end vacation rentals and private members' clubs in South America. "And in the social media age, certainly trying to find a friend of a friend that is a local and can provide that local insight is worth the effort. There is no substitute for that local, on-the-ground perspective." Here's how to spot a "tourist trap" so you can steer clear: "With some exceptions, hotel restaurants and bars fall into that category, as well as those suggestions that you see in every generic guidebook," Stanberry says. "Also, spots right next to major tourist attractions—the main plaza, the top shopping street, major museums—tend to fall into the 'overpriced and not very local' category." 7. CHOOSING GLAMMY HOTELS Any hotel or resort can use a fish-eye lens and carefully selected photos to make their property look desirable. Viewing unaltered third-party pictures on sites like TripAdvisor.com and Oyster.com can give you real-life insight into the look of the place—and help you avoid the rude awakening that happens when expectation collides with reality. Oyster's "Photo Fakeout" series mashes up touched-up promotional photos with what the property actually looks like, with funny and slightly depressing results. "Although there's a lot of debate regarding the authenticity of guests' testimonies on TripAdvisor, the website does allow travelers the opportunity to glance at tourist-taken photos," says travel expert Brandon Presser, author of books including the Lonely Planet guides to Iceland, New York City, and the Caribbean. "It's a good opportunity to get a sense of what 'ocean view' truly means at the resort in question. Also, nothing's stopping you from sending the hotel an email, or picking up the phone to further ask about what to expect upon arrival. Remember, hotels are part of a service industry—an industry meant to serve you, the traveler." 8. SKIMMING LISTINGS Establishing trust is crucial when you'd like to book a stay in someone else's home instead of a hotel, so asking the host to repeat themselves doesn't win you many brownie points. If the host feels comfortable with you, the more likely you are to score the rental you want. "If you start asking questions that are clearly stated in the profile, the host will think, 'If they aren't minding the details in the listing, are they going to be mindful in taking care of my home?'" says Emily Joffrion, director of consumer strategy at Airbnb.com. To show genuine interest, if the host mentions in the listing that she has a cat, for example, indicate in your initial message that you love cats. Reading carefully can also skyrocket you to the top of a choice apartment's rental list if they're screening out less conscientious guests. Joffrion says one of her New York-based superhosts puts tricks in the description. For example, "If you've read this, open your message by mentioning the color blue." 9. CHOOSING CHEAPER AIRPORTS Flying into a nearby city or out-of-the-way airport to save money up front might seem smart, but, in the end, the cost could even out and also leave you with less time to spend in your destination. In New York City, for example, taxi fares run from $50 to $70 from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to Manhattan. Fares from LaGuardia Airport, which is closer to Manhattan, range from $29 to $37. Add those expenses up each way, and you're looking at almost $70 more spent on transportation, plus the additional transit time. Same goes for the teensy airports that surround the city you're visiting. "Flights at smaller airports tend to have weaker transportation infrastructure to your chosen destination," Presser says. "You might be faced with cost-prohibitive taxi rides upon arrival." The luggage fees at smaller airports can also be outrageous, Watkins says. Unless your airline ticket is significantly cheaper and the extra fees are low or nonexistent, you might be better off choosing one of the usual airports. 10. ATTENDING TIMESHARE SALES PITCH When you're staying at a resort that offers timeshare pitches, know that your time—and your sanity—is more valuable than a spa or restaurant voucher. Skip the sales brunch if you have no interest in purchasing a vacation share. "They can be a very hard sell and pursue you during the rest of your stay with calls," says Watkins. The time you save will allow you to spend more time with the people you're vacationing with and avoid constant unwanted interruption. If you have visions of free hot stone massages dancing in your head that cannot be ignored, hold firm to your bottom line, try to extricate yourself as soon as you can, and screen your hotel-room calls before picking up the phone. There is, as they say, no such thing as a free lunch. And when you're on vacation, pressure is the last thing you need.
Is Egypt Safe for Travelers?
Egypt is an amazing travel destination, with must-sees like the Pyramids at Giza and Great Sphinx at Luxor, museums and historical sites in Cairo, and the beautiful Lower Nile (a growing favorite locale for river cruise ships). As recently as February, I gave Egypt a "go" in Budget Travel's annual "To Go or Not to Go" roundup, with the caveat that visitors should stick to well-trod tourist sites like Luxor and Cairo. Of course, things have changed. The U.S. State Department has urged citizens to stay away—going so far as to suggest that you cancel Egyptian travel plans in the face of political unrest and violence across the region following the one-year anniversary and subsequent ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. If you have Egypt travel plans, you'll save yourself a world of trouble—and the slim chance of being injured—by postponing. Many package tours will likely cancel upcoming trips to the region, saving you the trouble of deciding what to do, or the companies will waive cancellation fees as they often do during natural disasters, political turmoil, or terrorist attacks (though that's not guaranteed, of course). While Budget Travel in general discourages travel insurance as an unnecessary expense, in the case of visiting Egypt later in 2013 it might be wise to look into a policy that allows you to cancel your trip for any reason—you can research travel insurance options at insuremytrip.com. TALK TO US! Have you visited Egypt lately? Did you feel comfortable and secure? Share your honest answers and you may be included in an upcoming Budget Travel story.