Spring Travel Tips From Our Twitter Chat
When Budget Travel hosts a Twitter Chat (@BudgetTravel, #BT_Chat), it’s basically like a cool party packed with expert travelers, travel professionals, and those friends you can always count on for a great under-the-radar getaway suggestion. Our Spring Travel chat earlier this week yielded far too many excellent suggestions for us to republish here, but we’ve picked some of our favorites, organized according to the questions we posted on Twitter. If you like what you see, check out Budget Travel on Twitter (@BudgetTravel) and join our next #BT_Chat, in early April.
1. Tell us about your favorite Spring Travel destination
“We love beach towns that start warming up in spring, including Myrtle Beach, SC, for great food (including Gordo’s Tacos), watersports, and more.” @BudgetTravel
“National parks across the south are open, warm, and less crowded in spring: Great Smoky Mountains, Everglades, and some portions of Grand Canyon are ready for visitors.” @BudgetTravel
“Recharge this spring with an outing to Connecticut’s awe-inspiring waterfalls” @CTvisit
“We've got some great recommendations when it comes to #springbreak destinations for families.” @ChoiceHotels
“Santa Cruz is a must-visit destination in the spring! Explore dreamy forests, surf without huge crowds, & taste wine amidst blooming flowers.” @visitsantacruz
“Hitting the slopes in Park City, Utah is the Perfect Spring Getaway!” @HamptonByHilton
“Take a road trip! It means you don't have to spend money on a plane ticket, and you get to experience way more of the life and culture of the countryside. There are beautiful places within a days drive of pretty much everywhere!” @LBonPlanetEarth
“Spring is a great time to visit Cannery Row [in Monterey, CA] before the summer travel season. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an outdoor adventure on the waterfront, you’ll find plenty of options to make for an unforgettable vacation.” @VisitCanneryRow
2. What are your favorite spring activities? Gardens? Parks? Beaches? Historical sites? All of the above?
“Spring is the only time of year when you can take a maple syrup road trip to see tapped trees and visit a ‘sugarhouse’ where maple sap gets turned into syrup and sugar. @BudgetTravel
“We can’t get enough of the gorgeous gardens in bloom across America and beyond.” @BudgetTravel
“Spring activities are in abundance in North Dakota! Hike bike or ride through the beautiful badlands, kayak the waterways or explore many museums and historic sites. You're certain to find something #NDLegendary!” @NorthDakota
“There's simply no better way to take in the fresh air than a budget-friendly outing to Connecticut’s hiking trails.” @CTvisit
“I <3 hiking the forests of @MyHockingHills in spring for gorgeous wildflowers and foraging for ramps, morels & fiddleheads. #SpringTravel means waterfalls are rushing too, thanks to rains.” @AmyMWeirick
“Spring in the 49th state doesn’t mean the winter fun stops! Our favorite spring activities include dog mushing, skiing + fat tire biking.” @alaskatravlnews
“Going to shows at @thestonepony [in Asbury Park, NJ], sunset cocktails at @theasburyhotel rooftop, taking a stroll through #DannyClinch’s Transparent gallery to check out new prints, annnnnnd the beach. We surf, bro.” @AsburyParkNow
“We love sharing the Basque culture in Boise. Our Basque Block has a museums, a cultural center, Basque restaurants and bars.” @BoiseCVB
3. What tips do you have for families who are planning a spring trip?
“Popular theme parks have a ‘shoulder season’ in May and early June, when school breaks are over and summer vacation hasn’t arrived yet. @BudgetTravel
“Think beyond the obvious ‘kid’ destinations. Europe’s cities welcome families with affordable museums, parks, and hands-on experiences too.” @BudgetTravel
“Kid-friendly travel should be fun for the whole family! Ride the Giant Dipper at the @beachboardwalk and then hop on a @roaringcamp train through the redwoods. Ditch the phone and discover nature together with these 5 kid-friendly hikes. @visitsantacruz
“Get everybody outside! Hunt out hiking trails, waterfalls, zip-lines, unique rock formations, wildlife experiences, and timeless aquatic activities.” @enjoyillinois
“Check out the deals with the Museum Row on Main Ticket! Can be used for admission to 8 different museums & attractions in Downtown Lou! [Louisville, KY]” @gotolouisville
“Boise is a blend of urban & outdoors - big enough to have the comforts of a big city, small enough to enjoy it all.” @BoiseCVB
“Pack snacks, have a killer road trip playlist and make sure everyone in the family can choose a spot to visit in #Pennsylvania!” @visitPA
4. Any money-saving secrets for a spring trip?
“Stay flexible in terms of choice of destination, flight dates, and airports. Window-shopping a site like Kayak or Skyscanner can yield surprise deals to places you didn’t know you needed to visit.” @BudgetTravel
“Have a work obligation this Spring? Stay a few extra days and bring the family. Make it an ‘Obli-cation!’” @HamptonByHilton
“If you head to Louisville, start at our Visitor Center downtown! Discounted attraction tix & friendly faces! Also check out our free museums.” @gotolouisville
“Hiking & biking are great ways to enjoy #Boise's views. Plus they won't cost your family a dime.” @BoiseCVB
“Do your research and seek out authentic local experiences and events. Spring signals the launch of so many free festivals, markets, music, theater performances, and sport.” @enjoyillinois
“We share tons of budget-friendly attractions in #Pennsylvania where families can have amazing experiences without breaking the bank!” @visitPA
“Booking a trip in the spring months of April + May means visiting during Alaska’s ‘shoulder season.’ Many tour operators + hotels offer discounts for shoulder season travelers – just ask!” @alaskatravlnews
5. What's your favorite "secret" for a successful couples getaway?
“Delete the word ‘romantic’ from your travel vocabulary and get real: What activities do you and your partner love to share? What new experiences are you open to? @BudgetTravel
“There is nothing that builds relationship with another person quite like climbing a mountain together! I love doing strenuous hikes in National Parks.” @LBonPlanetEarth
“Fire pits with an ocean view are a great way to relax at the end of a fun-filled day. We've got a helpful list of where you'll find them on Cannery Row.” @VisitCanneryRow
“We love to do something adventurous - a hard hike, snorkeling, skiing but also fun stuff, like #wine tasting in @InsideSonoma.” @ctopkin
“I think the best romantic weekends are when you experience or learn something new together. That's why I love hotels that offer things like mixology classes, etc. for romantic getaways.” @DestinySibert1
“Definitely opt for something unique and memorable. Step out of the comfort zone and try something new together whether it be a cooking class or challenging your special someone in a NASCAR style race!” @visitPA
“Explore the @niagwinetrail with over 22 wineries, breweries and cideries. Fresh air + delectable wines + tranquility of the countryside make for a peaceful, romantic escape!” @NiagaraFallsUSA
“Connecticut's comfy, cozy inns make for the perfect romantic getaway this spring.” @CTvisit
“Try something new - together. Hubby and I did a hot air balloon outing in @AspenSnowmass - I flew, he helped the crew assemble the balloon! Good times.” @theopensuitcase
What’s Your Favorite Airline?
Say the word “airline” to any traveler and you’ll get an earful: Opinions, anecdotes, gripes, suggestions, outrage, and sometimes even some happy memories. About those “happy memories”: Consumer Reports (consumerreports.org) recently surveyed 55,000 members to rate major air carriers. The people surveyed had logged nearly 98,000 domestic economy flights and more than 8,000 first-class and business flights, and responded to factors including seat comfort and legroom, cleanliness, service, food and beverages, Wi-Fi, and pricing transparency. We’re finding Consumer Reports’ survey results enlightening and inspiring. TOP-RATED AIRLINES Southwest topped the list of airlines, with high scores for service, check-in, and cleanliness, and also scored well for pricing transparency. We’re not surprised, as we’ve appreciated Southwest’s listing of fees and free two-bag check-in policy. Other domestic carriers that ranked favorably include Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Virgin America, and Hawaiian Airlines. Alaska and Hawaiian both ranked especially well among first-class and business travelers. As for those airlines that didn’t rank as well? Let’s just say it was “the rest of them” and leave it at that. PEOPLE SAY “NO” TO HIDDEN FEES Coach passengers are not fond of unclear pricing policies and hidden fees. More than half of the survey respondents told Consumer Reports that they had paid extra to select a better seat and 40 percent were charged an extra fee to check a bag. IS COACH GETTING LESS COMFORTABLE? Thirty percent of surveyed coach passengers said their seat was uncomfortable, with seat comfort and legroom being a major negative factor on economy flights. Similarly, food and beverages (both complimentary and paid) were ranked below average by coach passengers, and most airlines ranked poorly for Wi-Fi and entertainment options. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AIRLINE? Now it’s your turn: We want to know which domestic carrier you rank number one. Post a comment below, email us at email@example.com, or follow us on social media to get in on the conversation.
This Could Be Your Passport to Big-City Savings
If you've visited a major American city like Seattle, San Francisco, or New York in the past 20 years, you've probably heard of CityPASS—since 1997, the company has offered discounted, prepaid admission to a variety of destination-specific attractions, and between the rave reviews and the 17 million-plus tickets sold, the people have shown that they’re here for it. CityPASS is now active in 12 locations, with a new one coming in 2018, and it’s introduced a host of improvements to the roster over the years. For the latest on its offerings and amenities, read on. 1. Get Artsy in San Francisco As of March 1, the CityPASS booklet for the City by the Bay includes admission to the revamped San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (sfmoma.org), and passholders receive a three-day unlimited-ride Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport to get there. Check out the museum’s $305 million expansion and take your time wandering through the recently enlarged gallery space—there’s three times as much to see as before, with rotating exhibitions (look for one focused on the latter half of René Magritte’s career, with works never before seen in a U.S. museum, coming in May), a floor almost entirely dedicated to the Pritzker Center for Photography, and pieces commissioned especially for the new space, in addition to favorites from the permanent collection. For $89 for adults and $69 for children ages 5-11, passholders can choose between SFMOMA and the Exploratorium, a family-friendly learning lab and museum with interactive exhibits combining science, art, and education; they’ll also receive prepaid admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, and the Aquarium of the Bay, for savings of 45%. (Everyone needs a ticket for entry at SFMOMA, but kids under the age of 18 get in free, so if you’re traveling with youngsters, the Exploratorium option probably offers the most bang for your buck.) 2. Choose Your Own Adventure in the City of Brotherly Love The normal CityPASS model offers a set number of tickets for a set price, but visitors to Philadelphia now have the option to customize their approach and decide whether they want to see three, four, or five of the 12 attractions on offer, starting at $49 for adults and $34 for kids age 3-12. Can’t decide between the Museum of the American Revolution, the Philadelphia Zoo, or the Eastern State Penitentiary? Don’t panic: You can pick on the fly and visit sights in whatever order you prefer, as long as you do it within nine days of your first use. 3. Make Plans on the Go If you’re tempted to explore but nervous about spending a good chunk of change on a bundle of paper tickets you may or may not lose by the end of your visit, consider a destination with a mobile ticket option—so far, that's just New York, Tampa Bay, and Toronto, but the aim is to roll it out in all 12 cities by the end of 2018. Another upside to the digital revolution: Tickets download in the language selected when browsing the CityPASS website for a seamlessly translated experience.
Where Will You Go for Spring Break?
From this corner of the northeast, where we were pummeled with two back-to-back storms in less than a week, it’s hard to believe that winter's ever going to end. But as long as the airports are open, we have a way out—spring break is right around the corner, and it’s not too late to plan your escape. Where to go, though...that’s the question. To help you decide, booking site Kayak looked at six months’ worth of spring-break searches from this year and compared them to last year’s results to track destination trends and pricing, for a comprehensive guide to vacation inspiration. To tailor your search to your travel style, read on. 1. If you want to keep up with the in-crowd... Check out Kayak’s state-by-state breakdown, which lists the most frequently searched destinations across the country. As you’d expect, warm-weather locations like Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean are perennially popular, but there are a few surprises mixed in as well: Rhode Islanders and Alaskans alike are eyeing trips to Music City, while internationally, Americans from Alabama to Wisconsin are looking at far-flung locales like Tokyo. (And given that fares there have dropped 5% from last year’s rates, it’s not hard to see why.) 2. If you just want to relax on a beach… After a particularly rough hurricane season, Caribbean islands like St. Thomas and Turks & Caicos are bouncing back, but the airfares aren’t following suit: On average, flights are still less expensive than they were this time in 2017, and with interest waning year over year, there are plenty of deals to be had. Domestically, Hawaii is fast becoming one of the most popular spring break destinations, thanks to new airline routes connecting it to the mainland, and Florida is maintaining its appeal, boasting half of the top trending domestic destinations in Kayak’s roundup. And it’s not just the reliable stand-bys like Orlando, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale—this year, travelers are increasingly considering lesser-visited cities like Punta Gorda, Destin, and Valparaiso. 3. If you want something a little more high-brow… Europe has an enduring appeal, and this year’s top-ten list of trending international spring break destinations features a whopping six continental cities, and they’re mainly under-the-radar choices that offer cultural history with a dose of warmth weather, such as Santorini, Porto, Valencia, and Lyon. But the big-name cities are still drawing plenty of attention as well: Mississippi residents are most interested in Rome, Oregonians are intrigued by Amsterdam, and Missourians have Paris on the brain. 4. If all you really want is a great deal… Good news, bargain hunters: With prices dropping to desirable destinations around the world, you’re bound to find someplace that sounds appealing, whether you prefer to wring the last drop out of winter or get an early start on your tan. If you’re looking to stay cool, flights to Vancouver and Calgary are hovering around $300, on average, while fares to Reykjavik have dropped 7% since 2017. On the warm-weather tip, consider that island life: Flights to Turks and Caicos and St. Thomas are both down 14%, and you can get to the West Indies for up to 20% less than last year, with flights to Trinidad and Tobago and Puerto Rico ringing in around $430 and $248, respectively. Closer to home, from Las Vegas to Key West and San Diego to Santa Fe, you’ll find median airfare for less than $500—and even as low as $250.
The Best Time to Book a Hotel
It may be smart to buy your plane tickets a few weeks in advance, but when should you book that hotel room to lock in the best rate? If you’re traveling to Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, the answer may be sooner to departure than you’d think. According to expense-management company SAP Concur’s 2017 data, you’ll get the lowest average rate if you play the waiting game. Score a Deal It may seem counter-intuitive to leave it late, but to hit that sweet spot between available inventory and pricing, you’ll want to book just three days ahead—or less. Plenty of travelers are leaving money on the table in this regard: Though the majority of hotel stays are reserved at least eight days out, booking 15 days or more in advance comes with an average 18% surcharge. If you’re looking for luxury for less, you’ll want to be even more patient, as SAP Concur found that same-day reservations for high-end hotels in Paris and Frankfurt cost less than bookings made at least a month out. (Not in London, though—there, bookings at swanky properties cost 7% more on the day-of than 30 days in advance, so you’ll want to monitor prices on a city-by-city basis to get the most bang for your buck.) Consider the Season Tempted by the recent flood of cheap flights to Europe? Spending the summer on the continent may sound appealing, but you’ll be battling the crowds and paying more for the privilege; instead, target a winter break and travel from January to March, and you’ll be looking at rates nearly 10% lower than the rest of the year. Whenever you decide to go, though, make sure you check the cancellation policy for the hotel you’re hoping to book and try to hold out til then—last-minute cancellations mean readily available inventory, and if you're willing to gamble, it could mean big savings. How close do you cut it when you're planning a trip? Do you like the thrill of an eleventh-hour hotel deal, or are you willing to pay a little extra for peace of mind? Tell us about it in the comments.