Now You CAN Pool Loyalty Program Points!
You know, I didn't need one more reason to love JetBlue.
With JetBlue's comfy seats, ample in-flight amenities and entertainment, and reasonable fares, what's not to love? When my wife and kids and I recently flew from New York to San Francisco, JetBlue treated us so well you'd think the staff and flight crew knew I was the executive editor of Budget Travel (they didn't). I suppose that's one reason we included JetBlue in our 12 Best Budget Airlines story!
But now, there's even more to love: JetBlue announced last week that it is rolling out TrueBlue Family Pooling as part of its TrueBlue loyalty program. Yes, it's as good as it sounds: JetBlue is now the first U.S. carrier to allow families and other small groups to earn and use points as a group for no extra charge.
Here's how it works: visit TrueBlue Family Pooling and set up your "family"—up to two adults over the age of 21 (including married couples, same-sex couples, relatives, or friends!) and up to five children under 21. You can then choose whether to pool 100 percent of each flier's points or as little as 10 percent. A designated "head of household" is responsible for redeeming points from the family account. Award flights start at 5,000 points (plus taxes/fees) with no blackout dates, and loyalty points don't expire. JetBlue's director of loyalty marketing and partnerships, Dave Canty, noted in a press release that TrueBlue "rewards all of our customers, regardless of their frequency."
TrueBlue is a free loyalty program allowing members to use points for any seat on any JetBlue-operated flight with no blackout or expiration dates. Participants can also earn points via JetBlue's social media platforms, adding an element of gaming and fun that travelers have, in the past, rarely associated with an airline. At Budget Travel, we applaud JetBlue's efforts to make travel more accessible to families—and for its inclusiveness!
Save Big on Holiday Travel NOW!
Whether you've got your heart set on carving a turkey with family on the other side of the continent or just popping down to Key West to raise a glass to the setting sun, it's time to start thinking about holiday travel. And I'm pleased to introduce you to your new holiday travel best friend: CheapAir's Holiday Cheap Flights Index. Tracking more than 11,000 airfares every day, the index cuts through the clutter and allows you to pinpoint the most affordable flights. As you've probably noticed in years past, holiday airfares in the weeks approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas do a lot of yo-yoing. That can be confusing, frustrating, and downright off-putting to even the most seasoned traveler. "Our goal is to give travelers the data and knowledge they need to find the most affordable flights," says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir. I think what I like best about the Index is that it turns those fare fluctuations into an asset for fliers: For instance, since the Index began tracking holiday fares on May 22, fares rose steadily until mid-July, then fell dramatically in the first two weeks of August. That amounted to about a 6 percent average discount on the peak fares of mid-July, translating into a savings of more than $100 for a family of four. You can also find out which holiday travel days around Thanksgiving and Christmas will be the busiest and least busy, which typically correlate with high and low fares. (For example, CheapAir is already predicting that you can save big by flying home from Thanksgiving on either November 30 or December 2 instead of December 1, the busiest travel day. January 5 also promises to be a crazy-busy, and expensive, travel day.) Still nervous about booking holiday travel in September? CheapAir's Price Drop Payback credits customers up to $100 per ticket in the event that a fare drops after tickets are bought.
6 Great Apps For Last-Minute Trip Planning
We recently shared 10 apps that help you save time and money. Now, perfect for people who like to plan on-the-go, we've got six apps designed to help you get the most out of your next adventure. Roadside AmericaLooking for the perfect oddball roadside attractions to visit during your next road trip? The Roadside America app offers maps, in-depth descriptions, and directions to help you find more than 9,000 silly spots around the U.S. and Canada including strange monuments, quirky museums, and other off-the-beaten-path local attractions and tourist traps you may have missed otherwise. Keep track of which ones you've visited, see what's coming down the road as you drive, and share the fun with your friends back home, all within the app. Available in the App Store; pay $2.99 for one of seven available regions—additional regions can be purchased a la carte for $1.99 each, or opt to pay $5.99 for all seven regions throughout the U.S. and Canada. TriposoDesigned to be the go-to travel app for those who love to plan ahead and travelers who like to see where the road will take them, Triposo offers detailed maps, recommendations, and real-time travel advice (for instance, information about museum closings) for more that 15,000 places of interest in more than 200 countries. The best part: both the app and Triposo's downloadable Destination Guides also work offline, so you don't have to worry about tracking down WiFi on the road. Available for free in the App Store and Google Play. CheapOairDo you prefer to make last-minute travel plans or book flights as you go? CheapOair's app lets you view your past bookings, upcoming trips, and make new reservations for flights on more than 450 airlines worldwide. You can also get up to date information on currency conversion rates, choose your meal and seat preferences for flights, and have access to their 24/7 customer service department throughout the entire trip, just in case. Available for free in the App Store, Google Play, for WIndows 7 and 8, and on Amazon. TripItTired of having to dig through all your emails and text messages to find an airline, hotel, or car rental confirmation number? TripIt is here to help. Simply forward all your confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and the app will automatically sort through and organize all your travel plans, presenting them all in a single itinerary so you can keep track of things and share your plans with friends and family back home. Available for free in the App Store, Google Play, for WIndows Phone 7, for Blackberry, and online. GetPacked: Packing ListNever forget an important item again with GetPacked, the ultimate packing list. Designed to be like a checklist, the app aims to save you time and money on your next trip, helping you figure out exactly what you'll need on your vacation—and what you won't—by asking questions about where you're traveling and the type of trip you're taking so it can create a customized list for you to check off items as you pack. Available for $1.99 in the App Store. Scout (formerly known as Goby)Not only does Scout help you discover nearby restaurants, live music, movies, and other things to do over the weekend, the app also gives you tips on where to find the cheapest gas stations and uses GPS street-level technology in real-time to determine the best available routes and help you avoid traffic jams. Available for free in the App Store and Google Play.
Explore Brooklyn By Bike With 'Get Up And Ride'
I'm a Queens girl, originally from Floral Park and currently living in Bayside. For me, Brooklyn has always been this artsy far-away place that sounds great, but is practically a day-trip from where I am. Needless to say, I haven't been out there much, but have always wanted to see what everybody's been talking about. Then I stumbled upon Get Up And Ride, a leisurely bike tour through six different historic Brooklyn neighborhoods along the East River led by Felipe Lavalle, a friendly Brooklynite entrepreneur who started the company last June as a way to combine his passion for cycling with his love of the neighborhood. SEE PHOTOS FROM THE BROOKLYN BIKE TOUR The Classic Bike Tour of Brooklyn is available from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Tours meet on North 12th St. between Bedford Ave. and Berry St. in Williamsburg across from the King & Grove Hotel, just a short hop on the L train from Union Square in Manhattan. After a quick check of the bikes, helmets and CV radio headsets were distributed so we could hear Felipe's commentary about the neighborhoods we passed through. It had been a pretty long time since I'd ridden a bike, so the idea of riding in traffic was a little intimidating at first, but I quickly got the hang of it, especially with Felipe announcing where to go and when to cross as we worked our way around town. We pedaled through old factory rows and past a thriving Polish community in Greenpoint, stopped for a slice at Best Pizza in Williamsburg, and biked on the "Great Hipster Silk Route" on our way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a behind-the-scenes look at Brooklyn Grange, an urban organic rooftop farm paving the way for fresh veggie growing in big cities. We stopped at WNYC Transmitter Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and along the Brooklyn Promenade for photo-ops with different angles of the New York City skyline. Another perk was stopping at the Brooklyn Roasting Company, a local coffee shop in DUMBO known for their delicious freshly-brewed coffee, espresso, and cortado, a drink guaranteed to restore your energy. We ended the 4.5 hour tour with a scenic ride on the East River Ferry, passing underneath the Brooklyn Bridge on our way back to the tour's starting point in Williamsburg. The tour costs $85 per person and includes a 4.5 hour guided ride through Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Wallabout (the Brooklyn Navy Yard area), Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO; bike rental, bike lock, and helmet; a CV radio headset so you can hear about the neighborhoods as you ride; a behind-the-scenes look at Brooklyn Grange in the otherwise off-limits Brooklyn Navy Yard; and a scenic ride on the East River Ferry from Brooklyn Bridge Park back to Williamsburg. Shorter 2.5 hour themed tours (ie. photography, foodie, and graffiti tours) as well as a shorter tour of Greenpoint and Williamsburg will soon be available for about $50 per person, so check the website for the latest updates. Be sure to pack a water bottle or two, wear sunscreen, and dress comfortably according to the day's weather forecast—most importantly, don't forget to bring your camera!
Meet the Kayak of Hotel Sites
Hotels can take up a big chunk of your vacation budget. Luckily there are websites out there designed to save you money at the hotel that's right for you. I chatted with Kevin Fliess, the Chief Operating Officer of Room 77, to find out how his site helps travelers score the best available rate—and get the amenities they want as well. Similar to Kayak, Room 77 acts as a metasearch, scoping out deals on thousands of websites at once in a matter of seconds. Room 77's search engine is able to access rates being offered by online travel agencies (think Orbitz or Expedia), prices being offered directly by the hotels themselves, and special rates offered to members of the military, AAA, and AARP (if you qualify), helping travelers find the lowest prices available. Period. You can also book through Room 77's mobile app (available in The App Store and on Google Play), or through their partner site, Expedia. What also makes Room 77 stand out is their super-detailed hotel pages. Once you track down the perfect price, Room 77 shows you photos of the hotel (including rooms) so you know exactly what you're getting. You can also search by popular freebies like WiFi, parking, breakfast, and airport shuttle, effectively cutting out those extra expenses that can really add up. You can also view the hotel via Google StreetView, explore the hotel floor map, and get a quick preview of what your view will be like from the hotel room. Another useful feature is the Insider Tips on the Best Rooms at this Hotel section, where you'll get advice about where the quiet rooms are, which have the best views, and where to find the oversized rooms. Narrow it down by preference—do you enjoy staying on a higher floor compared to a lower floor? Is the view an important factor? Do you prefer to be close to the elevator or further away where it's quiet? Will you be needing a connecting room for a family vacation?—to help find the room that works best for you. Room 77 also offers a free room concierge service for bookings on all four or five star hotels or on hotel reservations that total $400 or more made directly through their website—just select your room preferences and Room 77 will request them from your hotel on your behalf within 24-48 hours of your stay. (If you end up booking a lower-tier hotel or through another site like booking.com or hotels.com however, you will have to contact the hotel directly to see if you can get the exact room you want according to your preferences.)