10 Travel Tips for LGBTQ Couples
Travel is all about discovery. And while many destinations welcome diverse visitors, not all of them are sure to be friendly toward out-and-proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers. On the bright side, members of the LGBTQ community tend to be both adventurous and prepared. With that in mind, queer couples know to flex their travel savvy when pondering their next Valentine’s Day, adventurous getaway, or everyday vacation. Here are some pointers for crafting the perfect—and safe—vacation to suit your fancy.
1. Research Your Short List
Step one: Narrow down the top destinations for your next trip. Step two: Be discerning. Ask yourself and your partner what’s most important. Does it matter if it’s OK to show affection in public there? Do you care if that locale has anti-gay laws? (Yes, some countries and municipalities do enforce those laws.) Are you willing to travel somewhere where certain attitudes could diminish the experience? Be sure to research your short list of places, starting with “Before You Go” LGBTI travel advice from the U.S. Department of State, and the Equaldex LGBTQ global knowledge base (equaldex.com).
2. Make Safe Choices
Safety is doubly important when traveling internationally, where the local customs and protections may not work the same as at home. Discriminatory behavior or rude comments may occur anywhere, of course. But in a foreign city, the safest response to offense of any kind is to walk away, and avoid any chance at escalation. In a hotel, restaurant, bar, or other establishment, consider notifying management or security if intolerance rears its ugly head. Communication can be the best step for personal protection, and for long-term change.
3. Find Gay-Friendly Businesses
Even in the least likely, or most far-flung countries, including those where diverse visitors are not necessarily welcomed, there are LGBTQ-owned or -friendly travel companies. The fastest way to find those preferred tour companies, lodging, local tourism bureaus, airline partners, and more is via IGLTA.org, the website of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. And specifically for hotels, check out TAG Approved accommodations (tagapproved.com).
4. Consider Attending an LGBTQ Event
If safety is your travel priority, a Pride or other gay event could be just the ticket. Cities around the world host LGBTQ film festivals. Sports lovers will enjoy the annual Gay Games, World OutGames, and gay ski weeks. And festivals for women, transfolks, and other niche interests build community all year round in various locations. (Check out IGLTA’s robust events calendar at IGLTA.org/events.)
5. Read Gay Travel Publications & Blogs
There are many LGBTQ-specific publications, and most have regular travel sections—great for finding vacation ideas. Lesbians will especially appreciate Curve magazine’s frequent travel features, while all devoted travelers can find inspiration in Passport, the only travel magazine reporting for the gay community. There’s also a fabulous list of queer travel blogs, with some especially insightful firsthand destination reports from Travels of Adam, Dopes on the Road, and Two Bad Tourists.
6. Filter Your Search Results
Travel search engines are great ways to explore deals and discounts. Fortunately, many of those helpful sites offer filters or specific pages catering to the LGBTQ community—including Orbitz, Expedia, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Marriott. You may discover new places to travel with these providers steering you in a more inclusive direction. (You can also track gay-friendly travel providers from their ads in LGBTQ publications.)
7. Visit Destinations’ Tourism Web Resources for LGBTQ Travelers
Corporations aren’t the only ones who understand the value of serving LGBTQ travelers. Many destinations also actively pursue gay adventurers. Better still, many have dedicated web pages to inspire visits to their cities and countries. The list of gay-friendly locales is long, especially in North America and Europe. You’ll find robust resources from places including Sweden; Spain; Vancouver, British Columbia; Denver; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and New York State; and, of course, California (to name just a few).
8. Join an LGBTQ Tour
If traveling with an organized tour sounds fabulous, there are several LGBTQ tour companies and travel agencies eager to serve. Women will appreciate Olivia’s array of land or sea tour options (olivia.com), while men can find enticing packages from Zoom Vacations (zoomvacations.com) and others. And among niche-interest tour companies, Wild Rainbow African Safaris (wildrainbowsafaris.com) takes mixed groups of travelers on unforgettable voyages through Africa.
9. Find Local Shows
Once you’ve settled where to go, it’s time to focus on what to do. Take the initiative to research performance venues and nightclubs before your trip to see what’s on event calendars during your stay. In most towns with a “gayborhood,” you can usually find fun drag brunches, queer comedy nights, and other live performances that will put you squarely in the local LGBTQ mix.
10. Make Local Connections
One of the best parts of living in the digital age is connecting personally with LGBTQ locals prior to a visit. Hop online or on an app like Grindr (grindr.com) or Her (weareher.com) to seek out your destination city, and see who’s there ready with tips for visitors like you. (Just be sure to clarify your intentions right away, since some apps are dating-centric.)
6 Best Apps for Food-Loving Travelers
Finding great food on the road is a strategic endeavor—part art, part gamble. Sure, there’s always the chance you’ll stumble onto the odd gem, but you’re more likely to have memorable meals if you do some research and planning in advance, like reading local reviews, cross-checking against Yelp and Google, and combing through relevant social-media posts to find those can’t-miss destinations and experiences. Once you’ve got the entry-level stuff down, these five apps (plus one bonus resource) will take your game up a notch. 1. LocalEats Looking to elevate your dining experience from generic to hyper-local? An offshoot of a long-running series of guides called Where the Locals Eat, the LocalEats app curates the best restaurants in your vicinity—no chains allowed. For a plethora of options, search by cuisine, price range, and neighborhood, or enable GPS location services to discover recommended establishments nearby, like a vegetarian-friendly dumpling house in Little Rock or Ann Arbor's best Ethiopian joint. You can also narrow the field by opting to show the staff’s top picks only.Free, available on iPhone and Android; localeats.com. (Courtesy Withlocals) 2. Withlocals A “weird food” tour in Hong Kong, or an edible-garden tour in Kuala Lumpur? Wine-tasting with an Italian winemaker in Rome, or a vegetarian tapas crawl in Madrid? Withlocals links travelers with people on the ground in 22 countries and 50 cities to offer unique activities, food-focused and otherwise, including cooking classes, home dinners, and all kinds of tours.Free, available on iPhone and Android; withlocals.com. 3. Eatwith Another platform connecting locals and itinerants for food tours, classes, and private meals, Eatwith provides travelers with a taste of city life. Book a Sunday dinner in Reykjavík with a mechanical engineer and his distillery-manager wife, or settle in for four courses of Hungarian home cooking in Budapest; stateside, make deep-dish pizza with a Chicago-area native, take a seat at the table for a Venezuelan winter feast in Brooklyn, or explore Miami’s hidden side with a secret food tour.Free, available on iPhone and Android; eatwith.com. 4. ChefsFeed Who has a better handle on the food world than a culinary professional? ChefsFeed gets a network of kitchen stars (think: Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, and Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi) to give up the intel on their favorite dining destinations, from niche interests like New York’s best bets for sea urchin to macro-level primers like where to eat in Colorado's ski towns. Search by city, look for nearby hot spots, or peruse the experts’ picks for your location.Free, available on iPhone and Android; chefsfeed.com. 5. Drizly Say you’ve scoped out the perfect place for a meal...only to discover that it’s BYOB. Drizly can deliver a bottle or two to your door—a worthy alternative to wasting your limited free time running around in search of a liquor store. Active in nearly 100 cities nationwide, the online beverage distributor carries wine, booze, and beer, plus an array of bitters, mixers, and garnishes for the cocktail connoisseur. Throwing a hotel-room fiesta? You’ll find all the supplies you need here, from red Solo cups and plastic wine glasses to corkscrews and snacks. (Don’t forget the ping pong balls).Free, available on iPhone and Android; drizly.com. 6. Traveling Spoon It’s not an app, but given its deep roster of highly qualified global hosts, Traveling Spoon (travelingspoon.com) is a mandatory bookmark for any food-curious tourist heading overseas. Whether you're sitting down for a homemade meal, picking up a new culinary skill, or wandering through the local market with a guide who knows their stuff, all hosts and experiences are thoroughly vetted, so you'll be in good hands. Learn how to handle phyllo like a pro in a fifth-floor Athens apartment, join a Brazilian family for supper in São Paulo, or opt for a traditional thali-style meal in Mumbai.
Federal Shutdown 2019: How Travelers Can Help
With the longest government shutdown in America’s history hitting the one-month mark today, many federal employees and contractors are struggling to make ends meet. Some 800,000 government workers have been furloughed or required to work without compensation since the shutdown began in late December, and though the President signed a bill ensuring they’ll receive back pay once Washington reopens for business, they're still contending with immediately pressing concerns like rent, bills, and how to put food on the table. (Contractors have no such safety net, but last week, a handful of Democratic senators introduced legislation that would secure back pay for low-wage contract earners as well). Here's how you can help. First Things First: What's the Damage? Transportation Security Administration airport screeners are considered essential and required to work, but the organization has seen a decrease in available personnel as the shutdown drags on, with unscheduled employee absences rising steadily from 6.8 percent on Jan. 14 to 10 percent on Jan. 20. The National Park Service is also feeling the burn: An estimated 16,000 employees—80 percent of its total workforce—is currently furloughed, according to the National Parks Conservation Association, and our protected lands are sustaining heavy damage without the proper oversight in place. (Courtesy World Central Kitchen) How Can Travelers Pitch In? Contrary to rumors making the social-media rounds, executive-branch employees like TSA workers aren’t allowed to accept cash tips, but there are other ways you can lend a hand. Hunger is a real issue, and federal employees are leaning hard on food banks, as well as churches and other community organizations. Consider giving time, money, and/or supplies to food pantries working directly with these impacted populations, and look into the on-site resources available to TSA, customs, and Federal Aviation Administration employees before you leave for the airport—you may be able to bring groceries and the like to donate. At the Tampa airport, for example, a pop-up food bank is offering provisions to employees working without pay; local groups in Texas are distributing food to workers right at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and in Seattle, there's a donation area on the airport's mezzanine level where non-perishable food and gift cards are being accepted. If your airport doesn’t have anything like that in place, you can still make a difference. Give your business to one of the many private companies providing assistance, whether it’s waiving late fees on bill payments or offering discounts on dining and events, or give your dollars to a group that’s doing the work on the ground. Through his humanitarian organization, World Central Kitchen, chef José Andrés set up a kitchen in D.C. to feed federal employees during the crisis, and he’s not the only celebrity helping out. Jon Bon Jovi’s New Jersey restaurant, Soul Kitchen, is a nonprofit that allows any guest—regardless of employment status—to pay a suggested donation or work a shift in return for a meal. (Both organizations accept tax-deductible donations.) Planning a trip? Look for an Airbnb host participating in the company’s A Night On Us program, which pays executive-branch employees for an extra night, up to $110, for hosting a three-night stay. You can also buy a beer for a federal worker or contractor, or give to one of nearly 2,000 GoFundMe campaigns for people affected by the shutdown.
Have You Experienced Unusual Airport Delays Lately?
On January 3, an airline passenger passed through security at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, carrying a firearm, and flew to Tokyo with the weapon. Is the Government Shutdown Hindering Airport Security? Travelers are asking themselves whether this breach of security has anything to do with unpaid Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers reportedly not showing up for work. The TSA denies, in a statement, that the breach has anything to do with the government shutdown, and goes so far as to deny that TSA worker attendance is lower than usual, which one could interpret as sort-of good news or really bad news, depending on your point of view. Have Your Travel Plans Been Affected by the Shutdown? Although the firearms incident may very well be an isolated, and certainly not unprecedented, snafu, of perhaps more concern to the average traveler are reports that TSA understaffing is now causing the closure of some airport concourses, leading to delays and confusion for air passengers and airport staff. We want to know: Have you experienced unusual airport delays lately? Post in the comments below, or email us at info@BudgetTravel.com.
Travel 101: Tips for Traveling Internationally With Electronics
We’ve come to rely on our electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, and other gadgets, to help ensure a great travel experience. How else would we capture beautiful images and fun videos of our trip, stay in touch with friends and family, and share brag-worthy moments on social media? But as helpful as those devices can be, making sure you can transport and use them when traveling internationally can seem like a challenge. We’re here to take the mystery out of traveling internationally with electronics. From voltage, adapters, cords, packing, security, and more, consider this your ultimate go-to guide. Choose the Right Adapter When you’re planning an international trip, be sure to educate yourself about the power outlets you’ll be using at your destination. And we don’t mean google it the night before you fly. In fact, as soon as your airline tickets and hotel reservations are booked, find out what kind of outlet your destination uses and be sure to travel with a reliable adapter that will allow you to plug in your U.S.-purchased device in a foreign outlet that may be shaped differently and offer a different voltage from the one at home. One of the most versatile options is Ceptics World Travel Adapter Kit, which includes 2 USB ports, 2 U.S. outlets, and 6 adapters. Basically, this kit, available for $22.99 is one-stop shopping for most international destinations, including North America, the U.K., most of Europe, Australia, Japan, some African nations, the Middle East, most of Asia, China, and other countries. The kit comes equipped with a grounded adapter, surge protection, and a “smart voltage” indicator to take the mystery out of the sometimes complex issue of outlet voltage. If you happen to be traveling to one of the few regions in which the World Travel Adapter Kit is not compatible, such as Botswana or South Africa, Ceptics offers nation specific adapters for $14.99 each. For more in-depth information about foreign outlets and adapter options, visit ceptics.com. Pack Electronics for Efficient Travel (Bignai/Dreamstime)Let’s talk about airport security. The words may send a chill up your spine, especially if you’re traveling with an array of devices, cords, and accessories, until you learn the basic packing protocols recommended by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA): Pack valuable items, including laptops and tablets, in your carry-on instead of in checked bags. Label your carry-on bags and laptop case with your name, address, and phone number, and include a tag with the same information inside each carry-on as well. To streamline your trip through airport security, pack clothing at the bottom of your carry-on and place electronics and toiletries on top, with electronic cords stored in ziploc bags. This will make it easier for security agents to assess your bag. If you’re traveling with a laptop, remove it from your carry-on before you get to the X-ray machine. If you have any doubts or concerns about the electronics you’re traveling with, be sure to review the TSA Prohibited Items List or download the MyTSA app. Keep Devices and Data Safe When it comes to traveling internationally with electronic devices, there are two security concerns: Keeping the device itself safe, and protecting your personal data such as passwords and other information that can put you at risk for identity theft. To protect your devices, a TSA-recognized lock is essential, such as Captics TSA-Approved Combination Lock Set, available for $14.99, with a resettable combination lock. A TSA-recognized lock allows TSA officers to open a locked bag when it’s necessary for them to physically inspect a locked piece of baggage using a universal “master” key, so that no damage occurs to the lock or to the bag. To protect your data and passwords: When using public or hotel Wi-Fi, always opt for a “secured” connection, which is encrypted and protects you from hackers. Other ways to protect data include creating a mobile hotspot from your smartphone or buying a secure portable hotspot from your mobile carrier. Always turn off your device’s wireless signal when not in use, and install the latest antivirus software on all electronic devices. Don't Forget These Helpful "Extras" (Olezzo/Dreamstime)While the following suggestions are not as essential as those referenced above, these “extras” can provide additional security and comfort at a reasonable price: A portable charger, ranging from a small device the size of a lipstick to a bag that can hold a laptop or tablet, provides some freedom from electrical outlets. You charge the portable charger before leaving your home or hotel, then use it to charge your device’s battery when you’re, say, hiking in the woods or skiing down a mountain, where electrical outlets are, we hope, the last thing on your mind. Noise-canceling headphones are by no means necessary, but they can improve your enjoyment of streaming music and video on the road, and by blocking out up to 90 percent of ambient noise, they can enhance your ability to catch some sleep on a plane or during a long airport layover. A portable bag scale is small, roughly the size of a luggage tag, but it can save you big money on overweight checked bags. Hook it under your bag’s handle and lift it up, and the scale will tell you exactly how much your bag weighs. Traveling with a power strip can turn one available outlet into several, allowing you to charge multiple devices at the same time and providing surge protection.