Never Brush Your Teeth at the Airport Again, Thanks to This Cool Website
For the weary traveler, is there anything more refreshing than taking a hot, soothing shower after a long flight? But when you have an epic layover, that relaxing "me time" can feel light years away.
Before you pull out your toothbrush in the airport bathroom, consider booking a room with why-didn’t-we-think-of-this site Hotels By Day. This game changer lets you snag unoccupied hotel rooms for the day at discounted prices, for either a morning, midday, or afternoon stay. Time frames tend to be generous, too, usually ranging from five to nine hours, such as 10 a.m.–6 p.m. or 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Perfect for downtime, whether you're hitting the beach or luxuriating in a sunken tub.
Obviously, there are plenty of airport hotels, but the options on this site go far beyond that, ranging from budget to luxury properties located all over town, like the four-star Atlantica Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for about $43; the beachside boho Stiles Hotel South Beach, in Miami, for $90; or the modern Mosser Hotel in San Francisco for $79: All were available when we checked.
Make a reservation through Hotels By Day’s mobile site or its iOS or Android app in just four taps. Search by location, price, and time frame and book at no charge—you pay at the hotel—and can cancel for free up to 24 hours before check-in.
Since the rates are much more affordable than traditional overnight stays (typically around 40 percent off) you can experience a hotel that normally could be a little out of reach. The swanky—but reasonably priced—solution allows you to get a head start on your vacation by making the most of each hotel’s amenities. Take a nap to combat jet lag, freshen up with a shower, have a quiet place to work with potentially free Wi-Fi, veg out with a real TV, break a sweat at the gym, or eat a complimentary breakfast.
Here’s to never giving yourself an awkward sponge bath in the airport bathroom again.
Confessions of a Luggage Tester
Of course you expect every zipper, strap, axle, and handle on your suitcase to hold up under the pressures of flying. But you know who’s really got your back? Mike Mulvey, a quality engineer at luggage brand Travelpro International’s testing facility. Here, he unpacks some of the secrets of the trade. Q: What does a luggage tester do?A: Most of Travelpro’s products carry a lifetime warranty, so it’s my responsibility to run all of our luggage lines and fabrics through a series of exacting tests designed to replicate the punishment a bag will face in the real world. Q: What are your favorite kinds of tests?A: Lifting a bag loaded with 70 pounds of stuff and dropping it at 24 different orientations at subzero temperatures in less than a minute for our “cold crack” test. We also put every bag (and sometimes those of competitors) on our handle-jerking machine, which we call The Enforcer. I’ve seen the handles and shells of competitors’ $1,000 bags break apart under that pressure. Q: How should Budget Travelers keep their stuff safe when traveling?A: After seeing the damage we inflict on luggage during testing, I pack liquids, valuables, and delicate items in the center of the bag to avoid high impact. And I actually prefer to carry on my bags to save time, money, and effort. Q: Gotta ask: Any packing tips you’ve picked up on the job?A: Lay out everything before you start packing so you can see what you want to put where. Use the bag space in the smartest way possible. Avoid empty spaces. I even pack stuff inside my shoes, though you should limit the pairs of shoes you bring because of how heavy they are. Roll your casual clothing to maximize space and avoid wrinkling. Put heavy items on the bottom and folded dress shirts in the lid pocket to keep them sharp. Q: Do you have personal contact with customers?A: We have visitors to our test lab and repair center in Boca Raton, Florida, and they’re always surprised at how rigorous the testing is. Travelpro was the inventor of the original Rollaboard suitcase, so when I’m at the airport, I often approach pilots and flight attendants to tell them what I do and to ask for their “wish lists” for upcoming luggage collections.
24 Best-Ever Budget Travel Reader Tips
One of the things I love about working at Budget Travel is that nobody—and I mean nobody—has a more engaged, travel-savvy audience than BT. Our mission is to dispense the smartest travel advice around, and our readers often feel compelled to return the favor. Here, some of their best tips for saving money, time, and hassle on your next vacation. 1. Sip Affordable Airport Joe Coffee chains in airports sometimes charge twice what they do at home. And in-flight coffee is a dicey choice. So, I join the chains' rewards programs and save my free drink redemptions for my overpriced java at the airport. —Byron Flitsch, Los Angeles 2. Get Mexico's Best Exchange Rate When traveling in Mexico, I get the best exchange rates at the supermarket. All you have to do is buy a few groceries, pay in American dollars, and you will receive your change in pesos. On a recent trip I got more pesos for a dollar while most other places gave much less. —Sophie Pascard, Burlingame, Calif. 3. Save on a Cruise Spa (Ml12nan/Dreamstime) I've been on many cruises with various lines, and I've learned that the spas usually offer discounts on days when the ship is docked. So while one parent takes the kids on an excursion, the other can sign up for a massage! —Rhonda Grabov, Philadelphia, Pa. 4. Pssst! Learn a Family Stateroom Secret Families have trouble finding affordable staterooms that sleep more than four, and connecting rooms usually require you to book two rooms of the same category. Well, here's what we do: My husband and I stay in an ocean-view cabin, and our three kids are in a cabin across the hall. I bring a baby monitor that I bought at a garage sale and use it to listen to my kids' room. I can sleep knowing I'll be in their room the minute I hear a "Mom, I need you!" Plus, we get two bathrooms, extra closet space, and plenty of room to road. —Penny Laschanzky, Lincoln, Neb. 5. Get free Admission to Some of London's Historic Sites If you're heading to London and plan to spend time touring castles, it pays to become a member of the not-for-profit Historic Royal Palaces (hrp.org.uk). You'll get in free to five of the city's most impressive landmarks, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace. Flash your card to bypass long lines and visit unlimited times within a year. —Tarryn Rivkin, San Jose, Calif. 6. Get free admission to 70 of Ireland's historic sites (Martin Mullen/Dreamstime) Admission to many of Ireland's historic sites can really add up. Buy the Heritage Card, good for unlimited admission for one year to more than 70 heritage sites across the country (including Dublin and Kilkenny castles). Buy them in advance at heritageireland.ie. —Nuala Banner, Westwood, Mass. 7. Eat Cheap in Italy If you're looking for a place to eat in Italy, check to see if the restaurant has a coperto, or cover charge. If you want only a light breakfast or lunch, skip the sit-down places, buy a pastry or a panini from a bakery, and picnic by a fountain or sightsee while you eat. —Blair Sechrest, Cary, N.C. 8. Save Euros and Skip the Lines at Florence's Top Museums Buy a Friends of the Uffizi Gallery pass before you go to Florence (florenceforfun.org). Membership is good for a year and covers the entry fee to the Uffizi and several other attractions, including the state museums of Florence, the Pitti Palace, the Medici Chapels, and more. The best part is that you get to skip ticket lines. —Mary Davis, New Port Richey, Fla. 9. Learn a Smart ATM Technique In France, ATMs sometimes distribute €50 notes, but many shopkeepers won't break them—especially when you're buying a €2 pastry. However, if you make sure your ATM withdrawals aren't divisible by 50, you'll get €20 notes. Fees add up, so you don't want to take out just €40 each time. Instead, request €130. Save the €50s for museum shops, which have no problem breaking large bills. —Shelby Foster, Fremont, Calif. 10. Avoid Airline Baggage Fees by Mailing Your Stuff Ahead of Time Now that most airlines charge a fee to check even one bag, we pack a box with our bulkiest items and send it to our destination a week before our trip. If the box is going to a hotel or a time-share, we attach a note asking the front desk to hold it for us until we arrive. —Jane Scott, Beverly, Mass. 11. Find Theme Park Discounts at Costco If you're a member, check Costco's website for discount tickets to theme parks. You'll find more park options on the Web than in your local store. Have the tickets mailed to your house—just be sure to allow at least a week for them to arrive. —Kati Knudsen, Lake Oswego, Ore. 12. Get Free D.C. Tours If you're planning tp spend time in Washington, D.C., always write in advance to your state's congressional representatives, requesting passes to attend sessions of Congress, and even discounted tour tickets. —J. Morrill, Alexandria, Va. 13. Find Out Where the Dollar Is Worth the Most If you want to find out where the U.S. dollar goes the furthest, go to the Office of Allowances page of the U.S. Department of State website (aoprals.state.gov). Click on the Foreign Per Diem Rates link. The site lists the daily travel expenses allowed for U.S. government civilians who travel overseas. The expenses are in dollars (they represent the maximum amount government civilians will be reimbursed per day), are updated monthly, and include hotels, meals, and incidentals in more than 1,000 locations around the world. —Barbara Zalot, Rocky Hill, Conn. 14. Enroll Your Kids in a Frequent Flier Program You're never too young to be a frequent flier. Register your kids with the airline's loyalty program when you pay for their first airfare. But not that many mileage programs will erase your miles if the account is inactive for 18 months; before that happens, donate the miles to a charity at miledonor.com —Laura Hunt, Chicago, Ill. 15. Save on Rental Cars If you Google "rental-car discount codes," you'll find a number of websites offering consolidated lists of these codes. You just may discover you're eligible for a load of reductions. —Lawrence Spinetta, Poquoson, Va. 16. Beat the High Cost of Highway Food When you're exploring the United States, you can avoid busting your road trip budget! Deli counters in grocery stores are great mealtime alternatives to restaurants and fast-food fare. The food is fresh, there's a good variety (hot and cold), and economically it's a great break. I've bought a complete hot meal, including beverage, for a few dollars from a local deli. —Teresa G. Barcus, St. Paul, Minn. 17. Keep Restaurant Coupons in Your Car I clip restaurant-chain coupons and store them in the glove compartment. On car trips, when my family and I eat most of our meals on the road, we enjoy the discounts. —Rebecca Ayala, Houston, Tex. 18. Rent From an Off-Airport Car Company When you rent a car at an airport, you often have to pay extra taxes and fees. Instead, rent from a location away from the airport and have the rental company pick you up (many offer this service for free). We once saved more than $50. —Diane Ketcham, Naples, Fla. 19. Get a Gas Station Charge Card Get a credit card from a company with gas stations nationwide. Many offer a percentage rebate, a gift card, or a certain percent off for an introductory period. —Amy Sutton, Farmdale, Ohio 20. Rent a House Instead of a Hotel Room For us, the ideal way to take a family vacation is to rent a house or condo. We've done it several times in Maine as well as in England. Cost-wise it works out to be less than a hotel, and you get space to run around, plus a kitchen, so you can have breakfast in your pajamas and actually relax. —Sara A. Ward, Fairfax, Va. 21. Get the Most Out of Resort Day Passes Even if you're staying at a standard resort hotel, take advantage of the day passes sold by many all-inclusive resorts. The passes—which give visitors access to the facilities, such as restaurants, swimming pools, and beach chairs—are primarily designed for cruise passengers on day trips, but anyone can obtain them. —Mandy Vieregg, Waco, Tex. 22. Get a Last-Minute Deal on a Condo Booking condos last minute can yield incredible bargains. ("Last minute" generally means a month or less before your stay.) Here's the best strategy: Buy your plane ticket and book a refundable hotel room you can use in case you can't find that bargain condo. Then, a month or so before your trip, start looking for a last-minute condo rental. If you find a deal, simply get a refund on the hotel room and pay the cancellation fee, if there is one. Using this technique, I found a great beachfront one-bedroom condo on Maui for hundreds less than my first booking. —Joan Chyun, Irvine, Calif. 23. Get a Multi-City Museum Membership If your travels take you to American cities large enough to have museums, zoos, or botanical gardens, consider buying a membership in your home city's counterpart. Many have reciprocal privileges with institutions elsewhere. A membership at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, for example gains entry to zoos in Los Angeles, Des Moines, and Jackson, Miss., all at no charge. —Alice M. Solovy, Skokie, Ill. 24. Give Your kids a Travel Allowance To avoid the "Can I have…?" questions, set a trip allowance and stick to it. Upon arriving, we give our kids their souvenir money for the whole trip, and it's up to them to spend it wisely. —Nadine MacLane, Seattle, Wash.
New York City Bike-Sharing Program To Debut This Summer
As New Yorkers, we like to think we set the trends. Yet there was one thing this city didn't have that most other major cities already feature: bike–sharing. But pack your helmets—starting this summer, locals and travelers alike will easily be able to take a two–wheeler for a spin. The Citi Bike program will include 10,000 bikes in 600 locations around Manhattan and Brooklyn. The locations are still being worked out, but it looks like a good number of docking stations will be set up in high–traffic areas (like Columbus Circle at the southwest corner of Central Park) and transit hubs (outside Port Authority Bus Terminal). Of course, just like everything else in Manhattan, the rentals are not cheap, even with branded sponsorship by Citibank. A 24–hour membership is $9.95, with the first half hour of each ride free (pricing from there is $4 if you keep the bike for an hour, $13 for an hour and a half, and $25 for two hours). Compare that to Boston, where a 24–hour membership is half the price of New York's system, with the first 30 minutes free. In Montreal, a 24–hour membership costs about $7 (the first half hour is also free). Chattanooga, Tennessee even beat NYC to the punch by launching their bike–sharing program last month, with a 24–hour membership costing $6—and the first full hour of your ride is included in the membership cost. I planned on wrapping up this list by making the point that the only place more expensive then New York, in terms of most things, is London. I was shocked to see that the cycle hire program there is only 1 GBP (about $1.60) for a 24–hour membership! It can be inferred that heavy underwriting by sponsor Barclays keeps cost down. I've lived in New York for a dozen years and have never biked, mostly because I am petrified of car doors being flung open and taxi drivers who take red lights as just a suggestion. But I'm tempted to take one of these for a spin (bring your own helmet). What about you? Would you be intimidated by renting a bike in a strange city, or does that sound like a great way to see the sites? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL San Francisco: 3 worthy bike rides New trend: Urban bike tours in Los Angeles and New York Electric bike rentals smooth out sightseeing
Beat $4 Gas With Premium Buses in California, Texas, and Washington State
Traveling between cities by bus is classier it used to be, thanks to new premium lines like Greyhound Express, BoltBus, and Megabus. In good news, Greyhound Express and BoltBus are expanding their route maps to California and Washington State this month, after having begun to cover Texas on February 28. These buses offer reserved seating, free Wi-Fi, additional legroom, and plusher seats. These perks have become standard on intercity routes in the Midwest and on the East Coast. On Wednesday, Greyhound Express coaches began service on routes connecting L.A., San Francisco, and other Californian cities. Tickets rarely cost more than $45 each way, and occasionally can be bought for as little as $1. To compare, a bus ticket between L.A. and San Francisco at $45 is much cheaper than a plane ticket between those cities purchased three-week in advance, recently starting at $79. Budget Travel wishes the new service well. A couple of years ago, Megabus tried to take on the California market but failed. Hopefully Greyhound Premium can succeed where Megabus failed. It hopes to soon launch a route between L.A. and Las Vegas, which would be great for out-of-town visitors. On May 17, BoltBus begins running four daily departures both ways between Seattle and Portland, Ore, as MSNBC has reported, with fares typically between $12 and $26 roundtrip. Amtrak's fares on the same route are roughly double that, booked three weeks out. BoltBus hopes to add a service linking Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. Two months ago, Greyhound Express started service between Dallas and Houston. Expansion to San Antonio is now in the works. All in all, good news for budget travelers! SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Megabus Continues to Grow, Benefiting Travelers 6 Best Budget Bus Companies in the U.S. Buses Are Back, at Least for Trips Between Cities