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Insider's Guide to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
January 12, 2022
Turkey Float Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
Courtesy Macy's
Planning to visit NYC for the big parade? We've got you covered with when/where/how tips to get the most out of this one-of-a-kind holiday experience.

Budget Travel is based in New York City, and we get just as swept up in the city’s holiday lights, music, and energy as any visitor. With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade coming up (including appearances by Anika Noni Rose, Ally Brooke, Ashley Tisdale, Bad Bunny, and, of course, the one-and-only Santa Claus), we want to provide you with some of the best “live like a local” advice for getting the most out of this annual extravaganza.

THE BEST WAY TO VISIT NYC ON PARADE DAY

It's fun to be a “New Yorker for a day” and leave the car at home. If you’re approaching from the suburbs or beyond, hop on one of the metro area’s commuter rail trains or buses (options include New Jersey Transit buses and trains, Metro North trains, and the Long Island Railroad). (Traveling for the holiday? Check out our "Money-Saving Thanksgiving Travel Tips.")

In town, purchase an MTA Metro Card (ideally, before the big day, to avoid long lines) and take the bus of subway to the parade. Or, if you absolutely must drive, park on either the far west or east side of Manhattan and take public transportation to the parade route. Of course, walking in Manhattan, with its busy avenues, eye-popping shop displays and world-famous skyscrapers, is always a good idea, and will help burn off some of the calories that you’ll be consuming later in the day.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKE PARADE VIEWERS MAKE

While everybody knows that the parade route leads to Macy’s, at Herald Square (the area around West 34th Street and Broadway), for televised performances from the parade’s stars, visitors should not stand below 38th Street. The area below 38th is the parade's “quiet zone,” where participants and performers prepare for their "closeup" on TV, and you will completely miss out on exciting parade music and performances in this area.

WHERE AND WHEN THE PARADE BEGINS

The parade will step-off at 9 a.m. at 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will travel down to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South, then march down 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street.Want to know more about viewing the parade? The complete route can be found at macys.com/parade.

THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE PARADE

While most of us don’t have the option of enjoying the parade from a 6th-floor apartment on Central Park West like in the classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street, we do recommend that you approach the route from the west along Central Park West or the south along Central Park South for a relatively close look at the parade’s opening energy and high spirits with the beautiful park as a backdrop. The parade should take about 90 minutes to pass you by from the opening band to Santa Claus’s sleigh.

ENSURE PARADE SAFETY AND COMFORT

The weather in NYC on Thanksgiving Day can range from below freezing and windy to sunny with temps in the 60s - and it can change quickly this time of year. Layer up, be prepared to keep hands and feet warm, bring rainproof jackets, and wear sensible shoes. The NYPD has a large presence to ensure a safe and happy morning for all, but follow your usual common-sense travel practices: Keep your valuables to a minimum; avoid carrying around oversize backpacks and luggage; always pay attention to your surroundings. And, as we always say here in NYC, “if you see something, say something.”

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Travel Tips

Why Canada tops our 2017 travel list

For an untold number of years, Americans have held a rather narrow view, to say the least, of Canada. All too often, say "Canada" to an American and people think Montreal, a Francophile’s accessible fantasy; Niagara Falls, ice hockey, poutine, and the Toronto Blue Jays (because, well--baseball.) Chalk it up to Justin Bieber’s endless stream of chart-toppers, Ryan Reynolds’ show-stopping performance in “La La Land” and, of course, just about everything that Justin Trudeau, dreamboat-in-chief and humanitarian extraordinaire, says and does, but these days Canada is on everyone’s minds. And travel bucket lists.  It’s Canada’s moment, and not least because 2017 marks the nation’s 150th birthday. As a tribute to our 3,855,103-square-mile northern neighbor and its greatness, we did some exploring, in case you’re thinking of paying a visit this year. Not only did we find some astonishing and unique sights and destinations, we found that many of them are the best—the biggest, the tallest, the oldest, the most uncommon—in their class. In other words, Canada is not just great in a lot of ways. It’s unrivaled. Here are just a few of the reasons why. 1. NATURAL WONDERS As we did our research, we ended up asking ourselves over and over again: will wonders never cease? Of course, Niagara Falls is the belle of Canada’s natural ball, but over the vast landscape, plenty of other spectacles are worth seeing. Geographically speaking, Newfoundland and Labrador is home to Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America and home to an iconic lighthouse, where the dawn breaks first. The Charlevoix region, an hour east of Quebec City, draws adrenaline junkies because of Le Massif de Charlevoix, a mountain looming above the St. Lawrence River with the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies. Within its boundaries you’ll also find the 11th biggest crater on earth, the still-breathtaking effect of a 15-billion-ton meteorite that crashed down between land and a river 400 million years ago, resulting in the province’s hilliest region and one of North America’s most panoramic road. In the Quebec Maritime region, the Manicouagan impact crater, which fell to earth 215.5 million years ago, is 62 miles in diameter, making it the fifth largest in the world. It's visible from space. The largest tree, a Sitka spruce casually referred to “Heaven Tree” grows in British Columbia's Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. It's 11.5 feet in diameter and is estimated to be 800 years old. The “Hanging Garden Tree,” a vision to behold on Meares Island, near Tofino, is one of the oldest known western red cedars, estimated to be anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 years old. Provincial Park is home to one pretty mighty tree, but Kitlope Heritage Conservancy Protected Area on BC’s central coast is the location of many, many trees that make up the world’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest. Home to bald eagles, grizzlies and plenty more wild animals, it's over 793,208 acres and located within the traditional territory of the Haisla First Nation. If you want to check it out, it’s best reached by boat and July and August are prime time to visit. And as for water, when we talk about rivers, lakes, and oceans, we talk about depth, distance, and what lives beneath. We don’t, however, talk about speed. Unless we’re in Skookumchuck Narrows on BC’s Sunshine Coast. The water rushes along at more than 16 knots, one of the fastest flowing tidal currents on the planet. But what’s a mere breakneck tidal current in the face of a whirlpool? New Brunswick lays claim to the brutally powerful Fundy’s Old Sow Whirlpool, which, with a width of 75 meters, is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world. (The largest is the the Maelstrom Whirlpool of Norway.) Its sheer force is evident at the Bay of Fundy, known for having the highest tides on Earth.  2. ON THE MOVE Kelowna, a small city in the south of British Columbia, is arguably the most attractive to active, sporty types. The highest skating rink in North America sits 5,570 feet above sea level at Big White Ski Resort. It’s Olympic-size, free to use, and offers awe-inspiring mountain views. Pretty though it may be, Kelowna’s rink is practically quaint compared to the Rideau Canal Skateway, the planet’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink, as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records. Every winter, the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, freezes into this playscape, which stretches for 4.8 miles through downtown Ottawa and has a surface area equal to 90 Olympic-size rinks.  Attention adrenaline junkies: Peachland’s ZipZone is Canada’s highest freestyle zipline, a 381-foot thrill ride. Winsport, a sprawling athletic center in Calgary, has Canada’s fastest zipline, along which you can cruise at 87 mph. This one comes from the department things you never realized were measured but are: publicly owned waterparks. Kelowna’s H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre is Canada’s largest, with waterslides and plenty of other water runs. Add in Canada’s most extensive cycle network, a 211-mile expanse, and it’s little surprise to learn, then, that Kelowna is Canada’s fittest city. The annual HOPE Volleyball SummerFest, which takes place at Mooney’s Bay on the Rideau River near downtown Ottawa, is the largest one-day beach volleyball tournament in the world. (And it raises thousands of dollars for deserving local charities.) 3. CULTURE There’s an old joke that goes: What’s the difference between Canada and yogurt? Yogurt has an active culture. (*rimshot*) Well, turns out Canada gets the last laugh in the culture department, what with an assortment of longstanding theaters and museums and brand new institutions. In Winnepeg, for instance, Winnipeg Art Gallery is the oldest civic museum in Canada and home to the world’s largest collections of contemporary Inuit art. The city, Manitoba’s capital, is also home to Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the country’s oldest ballet company and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America. Speaking of enduring, Winnipeg's Le Cercle Moliere is Canada’s oldest continuously running theatre company while Rainbow Stage in Kildonan Park is Canada’s largest and longest-running outdoor theatre. But there are plenty of new establishments of note, too, like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which opened in September 2014 and is Canada’s first national museum to be built outside the capital region. It's also the only museum exclusively focused on the history and future of human rights. Saskatoon is on track to open the Remai Modern this year 2017. The museum, which comes with a $80.2 million price tag, houses the world’s largest collection of Picasso linocuts. And for all the trivia nuts out there, here’s a fun fact: St. Boniface Museum in Manitoba, which houses artifacts related to Western Canada’s French-Canadian and Métis heritage, is located in a former Grey Nuns’ convent house, which was built around 1850 and happens to be the city’s oldest remaining structure and the largest oak log building in North America. The title for the nation’s oldest, continuously operating museum, however, goes to New Brunswick Museum, established 1842. This family-friendly institution spotlight’s the region’s art, cultural heritage, and scientific history. Look at the municipal schedule of any Canadian city and you’ll easily be convinced that Canada holds more festivals than any other nation. We don’t have the international data to confirm that, but while we compile a comprehensive listing of festivals throughout the year, we can offer a few teasers: The Ottawa International Animation Festival is North America’s largest animation festival. The annual Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (AKA: Chamberfest) is the world’s largest chamber music festival. Not to be outdone, Winnepeg: Folklorama is the world’s largest and longest-running multicultural festival, allowing visitors to travel the globe in one city at 40-plus pavilions featuring traditional food, drink, cultural displays and live entertainment from countries around the world. Meantime, Western Canada's largest winter festival is Festival du Voyageur, where Voyageur, Métis, and First Nations histories are brought back to life with music and performances, food, and lots more.   4. CULINARY Some of Canada’s restaurants have rather eccentric claims to fame. BC Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, near Golden in the Kootenay Rockies, is home to the country’s highest restaurant, the Eagle’s Eye. It’s 7,710 feet high on the summit of the Golden Eagle Express gondola. Over in Winnepeg, RAW: almond is the world’s only pop-up restaurant located on a frozen river, and Mon Amis Louis is North America’s only restaurant on a bridge. The eatery, which specializes in French-inspired cuisine, is closed for the winter, but the inspiring views of the Red River are the stuff spring dreams are made of. A bit less esoteric and a whole lot more wholesome, Florenceville-Bristol in New Brunswick is the planet's French Fry Capital, supplying one third of all fries around the world. Native sons built the first McCain Foods Limited French fry plant in town in 1957. The town is now home to the Potato World Museum.   Canada’s whiskies have been making waves and winning awards in the past few years, but one tipple that’s uniquely Canadian is Omerto, an aperitif tomato wine made by a boutique operation called Domaine de la Vallée du Bras in Charlevoix. The nation also does its part to keep up with the global craft beer scene. There’s been such a proliferation of interesting breweries operating in BC that the BC Craft Brewers Guild recently established the BC Ale Trail, an online guide that organized notable breweries into seven suggested road trips. Self-guided tours cover areas as diverse as the rugged Kootenay Rockies, the pastoral Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, and suburban Port Moody. The Trail guide links to accommodations and local attractions, as well as tips on signature pours at each brewery. You'll find options for walking, biking, or driving.  5. AND EVERYTHING ELSE Alberta deserves a section of its own, not least because the tourism bureau has plotted out a road trip of some of the most distinctive and whimsical attractions that are the largest—if not only—in their respective class. To wit: it’s home to the largest mallard duck, which has a wingspan of 23 feet, and the world’s most massive working oil lamp, which is 42 feet high and looks like something out of a Mother Goose tale. It’s on display at what is arguably the region’s oddest museum: the Donalda & District Museum, which houses more than 900 kerosene lamps dating from the 1600s and the 1960s. But Alberta doesn’t have a monopoly on Canada’s quirky attractions. The Calgary Stampede is known as the richest rodeo event in North America. Also in Calgary is Heritage Park, an interactive and nostalgic museum with displays that stretch back to Canadian life in the 1860s. It's Canada’s largest living historical village. The Town of Shediac in New Brunswick, the lobster capital of the world, lays claim to the world’s largest lobster, a sculpture that’s 35 feet long and 16 feet high. Question is, though, where’s the world’s biggest bowl of melted butter?

Travel Tips

How Not to Be a Jerk on a Plane

It seems as if hardly a week goes by without us hearing about another incident of bad behavior on an airplane. In January, for instance, a San Francisco-bound flight from Australia had to turn around and make an emergency stop in New Zealand because a man in a middle seat became irrepressibly enraged—swatting at the beverage cart, delivering a loud tirade to the other passengers, speaking offensively to a flight attendant. News reports say he was in the middle seat and was upset because people on either side were having a conversation over him. Every study and report that travel companies release indicates that air travel is on the rise. An increase in the number of aircrafts and routes and the boom in budget airlines make travel more accessible to everyone. That means flights are dependably more crowded, with jostling for overhead bin space. And with all the air traffic, waits on tarmacs can be epic. People are anxious about missing their connections and some are just anxious because, well, flying does that to people. Tensions are high for those reasons and others. It doesn’t take much to make a person snap. And anger and distress begets anger and distress. According to the International Air Transport Association, a trade organization, the number of violent in-flight confrontations is on the rise. A recent report says that the number of air rage incidents last year totaled 10,854, up 14 percent from 2014. Flight crews categorize air rage in one of several categories: belligerent behavior, emotional outburst, noncompliant behavior, and incidents involving drugs, alcohol, smoking, or sex. According to a report published in May 2016 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, belligerent behavior and intoxication were more common in first class, whereas emotional outbursts, such as a panic attack, were more common among economy passengers. What’s more, an outburst by an economy class passenger is almost four times as likely to have an air rage incident if they’re on a plane with a first-class section. Interestingly, though, according to the study passengers are about two-times as likely to have an outburst if they boarded through first class (vs. boarding in the middle of the plane). But there are ways to keep calm at 36,000 feet and ensure that others around you do the same so that everyone arrives safe in mind and body. We checked in with Lizzie Post, president of The Emily Post Institute, host of the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast, and great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette doyenne Emily Post. Here are her tips. WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD DO 1. If someone beside you is noticeably anxious because, for instance, of fear of flying, wait a minute to see if it passes, then ask the person if conversation helps or if he’d rather be left alone to breathe and relax. 2. If you feel endangered for any reason by a fellow passenger, quietly and patiently get up and speak to a flight attendant. Tell him or her the person next to you is agitated and you’re uncomfortable. Ask if there’s anything they can do to help your seatmate or, if it’s really bad, can you change seats. Post notes: “Be careful what level of responsibility you put on a flight attendant. They’re there to help. Let them know the situation, but speak in a calm and gentle way while seeking sympathy and support, rather than getting angry at them.” 3. When it comes to the nagging issue of reclining seats in the cramped surroundings of economy class, if the seat in front of you is reclined and it’s really interfering, instead of asking the passenger simply to put the seat up, it is preferable to first establish that you’re not being too self-centered and demanding and ask if, for instance, they can put the seat up for a little while, like, for instance, when the drinks are served.  Remember, Post says, “it’ll all be over in a few hours and don’t forget that you can get up and move around to counteract how much time you spend with the person’s head in your face.” WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD NEVER DO 1. Whatever you do, do not address an irate stranger on your own. “Safety trumps etiquette,” Post insists. So rather than telling someone who’s upset that she needs to sit and be quiet, seek out help from a flight attendant.  2. To avoid rustling the feathers of a potential whiner in the seat behind you, don’t recline, if you can help it. You might call this the "martyr's approach" to a pleasant flight.  3.  While you can always make a polite request if a person in front of you has the seat down, do not, under any circumstances, get ticked off if your request doesn’t work. “Every person purchased a seat and they’re allowed to use all its functions,” Post reminds.

Travel Tips

A Neat Freak's Guide to a Clean Suitcase

We all know that the door handle to the airplane lavatory is a breeding ground for bacteria, but have you ever considered that similar germs might find their way into your suitcase? Before your inner germaphobe lunges for an airsick bag, a dose of reality is in order. "There's really very little disease you can get from germs on an inanimate object," says Dr. Ronald A. Primas, M.D., of TravelMD.com. "Any time you have a lot of people crammed into a small place, like an airplane, bus, or subway, your risk of acquiring disease is somewhat higher but most of the diseases people get when they travel come from contact with other people directly—not indirectly." Still, as any germaphobe knows, the fact that dirty luggage isn't likely to make you sick provides little solace. Plus, what about the very real possibility of picking up bedbugs or grease stains? Five experts share insider tips on treating the most common suitcase disasters—including when to tackle the mess yourself, when to call in the professionals, and the easiest ways to protect yourself in the future. What's living on my suitcase? Should I be cleaning it after trips? Bacteria and germs are everywhere. Since you never know who's been hoisting your luggage handles behind the scenes (not to mention what's taken up residence on the bottom of that carry-on—E. coli, for example), it's a good idea to have a post-trip plan of attack. "Every time you use your luggage, I would take a damp rag with Lysol and just give the bottom of the bag and the handles a quick once-over," advises Chuck Horst, president of Margaret's Cleaner's San Diego, a dry cleaning service specializing in the care of couture clothing, leather cleaning and handbag and shoe repair. In addition, Horst advises keeping luggage out of your bedroom and—above all—off your bed when you're unpacking after a trip. CLEAN IT 1. Buy some Lysol Disinfecting Wipes. 2. Spot test your suitcase in a discreet area to make sure it won't damage the fabric. 3. Wipe down the bottom of the bag (including wheels) and the handles with Lysol wipes. Squeezing Purell into a rag is similarly effective for removing germs. 4. If you want to completely degerm your suitcase, you can also spend $45 for a professional ozone treatment:a process in which an ozone generator is used to oxidize bacteria. Leather, vinyl, and plastic bags will have to be dry-cleaned by hand (costs will vary depending on the size and scope of the damage). AVOID IT Nesting suitcases that can be stored inside of each other might seem handy, but since the outside of a suitcase is the dirtiest place, it's a bad idea to store them this way, says Horst. If you do, be sure to cover a piece of luggage with a plastic garbage bag before placing it inside another suitcase. A bottle of red wine broke inside my bag! How do I clean this mess? "When red wine spills in your luggage, it is not a good day," says Horst, explaining that it's one of the toughest stains to get out. And while spilled alcohol of the clear variety doesn't necessarily cause discoloration, breakage in your luggage can mean glass shards in the crevices and residual odors that conjure "eau de frat house" everywhere you roll. CLEAN IT 1. Empty your suitcase of its contents and use a vacuum with a crevice tool to suck up all pieces of broken glass from the interior (be sure to check suitcase pockets before vacuuming). 2. Newspapers are hygroscopic (meaning they can readily soak up moisture), says Horst, and can be used to absorb some of the wetness from spilled liquids. Roll up a few pieces of newspaper and place them inside your closed bag for two to three days. 3. Canvas and nylon bags can be scrubbed with reasonable force using a toothbrush and a product such as liquid laundry detergent, according to author Barbara DesChamps, whose book It's in the Bag: Your Custom Business and Travel Wardrobe includes a chapter on fabric cleaning and care. 4. To address major odors, Horst suggests purchasing carbon that's used in aquariums from a pet store and placing it inside a sock in your empty luggage. Spraying Febreze Auto in the suitcase interior is another way to freshen odiferous bags. 5. Wine Away, Horst says, is a product that can help with dissolving red wine stains (evergreenlabs.com, $21 for two 12-ounce bottles). 6. If the exterior of your bag is still stained, you'll need to turn to a professional, like Horst. Leather can be refinished at a cost of $120 to $250, depending on the size, extent of detail, and color of the bag. Canvas and nylon bags can be re-dyed for $60 to $120. AVOID IT Wrap bottles in multiple Ziploc bags before placing them into your luggage to prevent leaks in case of breakage. Commercial airline pilot Omar Amin swears by the VinniBag, a reusable bag with inflatable air chambers that protects bottles from breakage (vinnibag.com, $28,). How do I prevent bed bugs from hitching a ride in my carry-on? With even five-star hotels making the news for bedbugs these days, you should be thinking about how to protect your luggage. "The outside of luggage is typically how bedbugs are getting a ride back to somebody's home," says Jeffrey White, a research entomologist with BedBug Central, an exhaustive online resource that shares information (everything from bedbug identification literature to research and development news) and sells products (from traps that go under furniture to luggage sprays) designed to keep the critters at bay. When it comes to their favorite luggage hangouts, says White, bedbugs like to lurk on zippers, on seams, and alongside the rubber ribbing on a suitcase's exterior. CLEAN IT 1. If you suspect bedbugs at your hotel, begin by notifying hotel management and demanding a different room immediately. 2. Even if you switch rooms, you'll want to bag all your clothes for transport back home. It never hurts to have some dissolvable laundry bags handy when you travel—you can place them directly in the wash, which means that anything living on (as well as in) the bags will be killed. 3. Once home, immediately dump everything washable into the laundry for a hot wash-and-dry cycle. 4. If a visual inspection of the outside of your suitcase shows the critters are there, wipe or spray the bag with 91 percent isopropyl alcohol, which will kill them on contact, says White. 5. Before putting the luggage away, use a crevice cleaner to vacuum out the entire suitcase; then wrap it in plastic bags for storage. 6. If all else fails, using a product like Nuvan Prostrips is a brawny step to take in the battle against bedbugs. Simply place your empty suitcase in a garbage bag with one of the strips—the strip releases an odorless gas that kills the unwanted bloodsuckers ($50 for a 12-pack). AVOID IT While chances remain slim that your hotel room will have bedbugs, you can take preventative action by using a spray like Pronto Plus (prontoplus.com, $6.75 for a 10-ounce can) before you travel, coating the inside and outside of your luggage to keep bedbugs away, says Michael Colongione, president of GotchA! Bed Bug Inspectors. Yuck, my bag is covered in black grease. What now? Airport baggage systems are made up of all sorts of moving parts lubed with grease to keep them running smoothly. So it's no surprise that many a frequent flier has seen his or her suitcase emerge looking like it's done a lap around a racetrack rather than the baggage carousel. If you have a hardcase or a nylon bag, there's a chance you'll be able to get the stains out yourself; leather and canvas bags require professional treatment. CLEAN IT Hardcase bags 1. On hardcase bags, says Horst, "start with a product like Simple Green and a rag to try to get the grease out," and then move up to products like Formula 409 Glass and Surface Cleaner and Windex Original, which contain ammonia and are more aggressive cleaners (but carry a risk of color and luster damage). 2. Do a color test first on a discreet part of the bag to make sure the product won't damage the suitcase. 3. Then apply Simple Green to a damp, soft rag and wipe it over your suitcase, followed by a swipe with a clean rag to rinse and one with a dry rag to finish. (The ammonia cleaners can be sprayed directly onto the bag and wiped with a sponge or soft rag.) 4. Finally, if your hardcase bag lost its luster in the cleaning process, use Armor All Original Protectant or automotive wax to shine it up again. Nylon bags 1. For nylon or other soft bags affected by grease, DesChamps recommends using dry cornstarch. "Rub the cornstarch into the fabric, let it sit for as long as it takes to absorb the grease, and then brush it off, repeating as necessary," she says. She recommends getting as "much of the grease off as possible this way before you try to clean the suitcase with detergent." 2. After you've done all you can with cornstarch, it's time to break out the soap. Horst recommends mixing Ivory Snow with water—a good option because it won't bleach out the color or degrade the fabric of your suitcase. Fill a pan halfway with warm water and add just enough powder or liquid to make suds with gentle splashing, he says. 3. Next step: Apply the suds to the bag (again, using a soft rag or sponge). Heavy soiling may require a minute or two of scrubbing and repeated applications. Leather bags 1. For leather bags, you definitely want to employ the help of a dry cleaner who specializes in accessories, says Horst, since using wet products to try to lift grease will only cause it to become further engrained in leather and "much harder, if not impossible to get out." The cost starts at $40 and goes up depending on the bag. AVOID IT Using Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Protector on your luggage as a preventative measure goes a long way in making it easier to remove grease stains after the fact, says Horst. Keep a distance of about 18 inches from the suitcase when you apply the aerosol spray, he says, and be sure not to apply in heavy coats, as Scotchgard can darken colored fabrics. Help! My shampoo exploded like a bomb inside my luggage! Who hasn't arrived at their destination and found a soupy, soapy mess where once there were shampoo and conditioner bottles? Exploding toiletries are a fact of life for most frequent fliers. And while the mess is inherently clean, cleaning it up often leads to a foamy disaster. CLEAN IT 1. The first thing to know when cleaning up spilled soaps and shampoos is that,in most cases, no additional cleanser is necessary. 2. Horst recommends using a spray bottle with water to slowly lubricate the saturated area. Then alternate between spraying and vacuuming with a wet/dry vac to suck the moisture out. 3. Unless your luggage is a hardcase, avoid getting it really wet as part of your cleaning process, says Horst, as that will only drive the spilled soaps deeper into fabrics. (Hardcases with soiled interior linings can require professional cleaning, which can range from $95 to $165.) 4. If the cardboard bottom of your bag has been saturated with shampoos or other exploding liquids, there's a chance that it's permanently damaged and will need to be replaced—an easy, but not inexpensive, fix at most luggage repair centers, where experts will insert a new base into your bag for $120 or more. 5. Leather bags saturated with shampoos and soaps should be brought in for professional cleaning, which costs between $120 and $250 (you'll pay up to $250 more if the lining needs to be replaced). AVOID IT Those TSA rules that mandate Ziploc bags for liquids in carry-ons make a lot more sense when applied to transporting toiletries in your checked bags. Putting individual toiletries or your entire toiletry bag in a Ziploc bag or two when you travel is a simple measure that can save you a lot of hassle.

Travel Tips

10 Most Useful Travel Websites

The Web should make things easier for travelers, but the sheer volume of services out there is often more overwhelming than useful. Unfortunately, you don't always know which outfits pay off until you've already invested your time. The Budget Travel team puts websites—new and established—to the test every day. So when it came time to line up our favorites, the task was easy—we just turned to the sites we keep revisiting because they're so darn helpful. Our top picks can help you avoid overpaying for airfare (Bing Travel), bag the primo room at a hotel (Hipmunk), and never miss a deal on a rental-car reservation again (AutoSlash). Some of our favorites are as useful as a mind-reading tour guide (Plnnr); others are as handy as having a personal secretary track your frequent-flier balances (Award Wallet). Put them all together, and they become Budget Travel's picks for the best the Web has to offer. FOR PLANNING 1. BING TRAVEL  Buy plane tickets at the best possible time.Like other booking sites, Bing lets you comparison-shop for tickets across more than a hundred sources. Yet unlike most other sites, it also analyzes historical data to predict whether the price you see on the screen today is likely to rise (or drop) in the coming week, clearly marking the bargains with a big, green Buy Now icon. What's more, Bing is the only airfare search site to have its predictions independently audited. With an accuracy rate of 75 percent, it's not perfect—but those are better odds than blind guessing gets you. bing.com/travel. 2. AUTOSLASH  Lock in the lowest rate on rental cars.Here's how it works: Reserve a vehicle from a favorite agency through the AutoSlash site, and the site will instantly begin tracking rate changes for your reservation. If a sale pops up later—snap!—it automatically locks in the lower price on your behalf. You can even use AutoSlash if you've booked independently. Just enter your confirmation number, and the site will notify you when it's found a lower rate (which you'll have to rebook on your own). Neither AutoSlash nor the company you first booked with charges a fee for the service. autoslash.com. 3. FLY OR DRIVE CALCULATOR Determine the cheapest way to reach your destination.Coupon site befrugal.com crunches data from sources such as AAA and Google Maps to power its Fly or Drive estimator (found in the site's Tools & Calculators tab). The more details you supply—the make and model of your car, the number of travelers in your group, whether you'd be springing for a taxi to the airport—the more accurate the estimates. For the eco-minded, it even includes a carbon-footprint estimate for each mode of travel. (Note: The calculator only works for trips within the continental U.S.) befrugal.com/tools/fly-or-drive-calculator/. 4. PLNNR  Get instant itineraries tailored to your tastes.Whether you have a full week or a few hours, Plnnr can craft a (free!) customized point-to-point trip guide for 20 popular urban destinations across North America and Europe. You supply the length of your stay, desired activity level, and interests (such as outdoors, kids' activities, and culture), and the site spits out a fully formed itinerary, factoring in each attraction's opening and closing hours and travel times between spots by taxi or on foot. You can further fine-tune the results by adjusting the priority level for even more specific subcategories—architecture, breweries, and even cemeteries—or reject individual suggestions outright. (Plnnr won't get its feelings hurt.) plnnr.com. 5. HIPMUNK  Find a hotel you'll fall in love with.The folks behind Hipmunk's airfare and hotel searches know that good trips are about more than mere numbers. That's why they've incorporated an "agony" scale for flights with multiple legs and long layovers, and an "ecstasy" rating for hotels based on a combination of a property's amenities, rates, and user reviews on TripAdvisor. Even better, Hipmunk's hotel search tool has built-in color-coded heat maps to display a given destination's best spots for dining, shopping, nightlife, landmarks, and—ahem—"vice." So you'll always end up in a neighborhood that fits your specific needs (or noise tolerance). The site displays real-time prices available on Orbitz, Getaroom, Hotels.com, HotelsCombined, or Airbnb and links out to the appropriate site to close the deal. hipmunk.com. ON THE ROAD 6. TRIPIT  Keep every last confirmation number, arrival time, and prepaid reservation fee straight.Don't have an über-organized type among your travel crew? Don't worry. TripIt consolidates every important detail of your vacation into a single handy document, which you can access on the go via laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Just forward each email receipt from booking a flight, hotel, rental car, or cruise to your TripIt account, and the site will cull and compile the flight numbers, gate information, and other relevant items so you never show up in the wrong place at the wrong time—or with the wrong confirmation code in hand. Not satisfied? The site also supplies seat-selection advice for flights, links to check in online, flight status updates, weather forecasts, and driving directions. tripit.com. 7. TRIPPING Connect with the locals—through a trustworthy community.While any old travel site can add some social-networking features and call itself "the Facebook of travel," Tripping paves the way for true face-to-face interactions in about 130 countries across the globe. Primarily a homestay network—but just as effective for setting up a casual coffee meeting or a video chat with a looped-in local—Tripping manages the risk factor with its stringent membership policies and strong user-reference system. (To join, users must display a passport via Skype and prove a home address.) When you're not traveling yourself, you can earn some good travel karma by playing tour guide for visitors to your own hometown. tripping.com. 8. GOOGLE MAPS  Expertly navigate unfamiliar territory.Thanks to constant refining by its mapmakers and graphic designers, Google's gold-standard mapping tool just keeps getting better. Live traffic information was recently added for 13 European countries; the site's maps for New York City, London, and other major cities now have public transit options; markings for tunnels and highway signs become easier to read every year; and you can plot your route by car, bicycle, or foot—although the latter two options are still in beta. There's simply no more comprehensive and user-friendly way to explore. maps.google.com. ONCE YOU'RE BACK 9. AWARD WALLET  Never let another frequent-flier mile expire.Consider it the loyalty-program counterpart to TripIt's travel-info collector. Award Wallet streamlines your family's assortment of frequent-flier and loyalty programs, compiling them in a single, simple, point-tracking package. The setup takes minutes. For each account, just enter your log-in information; Award Wallet automatically pulls your points balances and expiration dates—so you know to take action if you're on the verge of losing them. And because the site saves your log-in information, you only need one password to access all your accounts. awardwallet.com. 10. BLURB Preserve your photographs in a format that people can't keep their hands off of.Custom book publisher Blurb lets you design and print a soft-cover or hardcover travel photo album using impressive design tools and high-quality inks, paper, and binding. Most important, it also leaves you broad creative control. (No floral borders or faux photo-corners necessary.) Price is based on size, paper stock, cover material, and shipping fees, but single copies start at $11 for a 20-page book. Think your book has potential beyond your own coffee table? Blurb can also share your images as a free online slide show or sell copies of the book through its online shop. blurb.com.   SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage 10 Coolest Small Towns in America A Neat Freak's Guide to a Clean Suitcase 10 Gorgeous Pools You Won't Believe Are Public 12 Restaurants With Spectacular Views