Tips For Taking The Kids To Mardi Gras
Are you ready for Mardi Gras 2015? Parades have been taking place around New Orleans every weekend since Jan. 6th, leading up to the main event Tuesday, Feb. 17th, historically the day before start of the Catholic season of Lent. While most of us may envision wild teenagers and scantily–clad women when the phrase Mardi Gras is mentioned, it is traditionally a family season of celebration. Many New Orleans natives have been known to attend the festivities with the whole family, letting the kids collect beads, toys, and other goodies. Here are a few tips for those of you planning to make this year's event a family affair.
Stick to the Garden District: The good thing about Mardi Gras is there is something for everyone. The official website for Mardi Gras New Orleans recommends families stick to the calmer garden district where crowds are smaller and there is a more family–friendly atmosphere, particularly along St. Charles Ave. between First St. and Napoleon Ave. It's also a good idea to check out local area parades happening in Metairie for other toned–down celebrations. Be sure to check the day's parade schedule before you head out.
Be prepared for fast-changing weather: Make sure you and your family wear layers, as typical New Orleans weather can be rather unpredictable.
Help your kids get their share of the goodies: Bring a ladder so that kids can have a "box seat" and be higher up to catch more prizes thrown from the floats. Most importantly, bring along a few tote bags to carry all the beads, stuffed animals, and other goodies you're bound to catch during the parade. Be careful that the youngsters are catching them from the air, not picking up discarded beads on the grounds, which might be broken and sharp.
Breathe new life into old Halloween costumes: Dressing up is half of the fun! Use the parade as an excuse to break out that old Halloween costume or make it an arts and crafts opportunity and construct the most creative, feathery, sequined mask you can imagine.
Don't get lost in the crowd: Odds are, whichever parade you chose will be pretty crowded. Choose a meeting place just in case one of your group gets separated from the rest, and write your child's name and phone number on their shirt tag or give them a card with that information on it to keep in their pocket for the day. Stay in touch with older kids with a cell phone and check in with each other throughout the day.
Teach your children well: Use Mardi Gras as a learning opportunity. Teach everyone about the historical and traditional significance of the parade, masks, and colors—gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice—or take them to Mardi Gras World to learn about krewes and see how the floats are built. (Tickets are $19.95 for adults, $12.95 for children ages 2 to 11, and $15.95 for students with a valid college ID and seniors over age 65).
We want to know: Did you ever bring your kids to Mardi Gras, or did you go as a youngster with your own family?
TripAdvisor Reviews Now Available On Kayak
When searching for a hotel on Kayak, you can now filter the hotel listings by their TripAdvisor ratings. On Thursday, TripAdvisor reviews were made available on Kayak.com in the U.S. and on Kayak.co.uk in Great Britain. . According to Kayak and TripAdvisor, there are more than 60 million reviews and opinions on TripAdvisor. Kayak said it will be be adding the feature to its global sites and mobile apps in the near future. The news come just as TripAdvisor came under attack earlier this month by British advertising watchdog group Advertising Standards Authority, which deemed that TripAdvisor's claim that it "offers trusted advice from real travelers" is not a totally accurate one. It has long been a question of who is writing the reviews on TripAdvisor and how much oversight there is. ASA, an independent body based in London that investigates claims of whether advertisements are honest and truthful, this month issued a report about TripAdvisor.co.uk, sister site to TripAdvisor.com. ASA's concern is that while reviewers are asked to agree that their review was indeed their own genuine opinion of the hotel, that they have no personal or business affiliation with the hotel, and have not been offered an incentive to write the review, "we also noted that reviewers were not asked to similarly confirm that they had no competitive interest in the place they were reviewing, or were posting a review on behalf of a competitor or other interested party, and we did not consider that agreeing to a declaration in itself would necessarily prevent non-genuine reviews from being posted on the site," ASA wrote. Furthermore, ASA noted that reviews can be posted to the site without any form of verification, and that while TripAdvisor does monitor and address suspicious activity, it is possible that non-genuine content to make its way onto the site undetected. "We told TripAdvisor not to claim or imply that all the reviews that appeared on the website were from real travelers, or were honest, real or trusted," ASA concluded. How do you use TripAdvisor and do you feel that the reviews are genuine? More from Budget Travel: TripAdvisor tries to respond to fake hotel reviews TripAdvisor adds airline ratings to flight search Travel Product Concepts We're Rooting For
Keep Your Miles Alive Without Flying
If you rack up frequent-flier miles, the last thing you want to have happen is for the airlines to delete them. Yet major airlines usually allow reward miles to expire if a frequent flier account is stagnant for 18 to 24 months. (Delta SkyMiles and Alaska Mileage Plan are rare exceptions in that their miles don't expire.) Good news: You don't have to actually fly within the allotted time to keep miles alive. Providing your frequent flier number when you make reservations for a rental car or hotel room will protect your miles while also earning a few more. In some cases, using a credit card affiliated with the airline counts as account activity—keeping your miles fresh. (Ask your credit card issuer or frequent flier customer service number for details.) For the rest of us, a simple way to keep miles active is to do a little shopping at the online malls that reward programs have, with links to businesses where you probably already shop, such as Old Navy, Target, and Starbucks. Sign in at one of these online malls with your frequent-flier number and buy a product. This will count as activity, keeping all of the miles in your account active. You don't need to use an airline-affiliated credit card to benefit, either. Just register at the online malls. Case in point: American Airlines' mall Sample product: H&R; Block At Home Deluxe tax preparation software. Buy it through the store and you'll reactivate miles in your account while paying only $25 for the service, or a 15 percent discount off the price listed on H&R; Block's homepage. You'll find an airline's shopping portal by visiting its website and looking for its shopping portal. For example, on Southwest.com, you'll find a link to Southwest Airlines's mall SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL RIGHT NOW Miles or Cash? New Sites Help You Choose the Best Deal Earn Miles or Higher Interest on Your Vacation Fund The Risks of Churning Mileage Credit Cards
Coming Soon To an Airport Near You: Skipping the Passport Line
It's late (or early). It doesn't matter which actually, because you're so jetlagged from a long international flight you don't know what time it is. All you want to do is get home, freshen up, and try to feel human again. And there it is, that long, unforgiving immigration line. Well, thanks to the Global Entry program — a voluntary initiative, which gives expedited clearance to pre-approved, low-risk travelers — fewer travelers are being forced to wait in said seemingly cruel queue. Now, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced a rule that would establish Global Entry as a permanent program (up until now it operated as a pilot program). The move would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which overseas the initiative, to expand the program to additional U.S. international airports, opening it up to more global travelers. To date, there have been approximately 1.8 million admissions by the program's more than 260,000 members. CBP has also expanded the program to give eligibility to children under the age of 18 who meet the criteria and have the consent of a parent or legal guardian, making it more amenable to families. The way it works is that pre-approved members insert their passport or lawful permanent resident card into a document reader at a Global Entry kiosk stationed in the passport control area at participating international airports. They must then provide digital fingerprints for comparison with fingerprints that are on file, answer customs declaration questions on the kiosk’s touch-screen, and present their transaction receipt to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers before leaving the inspection area. The program is available to U.S. citizens and U.S lawful permanent residents, as well as Mexican nationals. Citizens of the Netherlands may also apply under a special reciprocal program. Canadian citizens and residents may participate in Global Entry through NEXUS, Canada’s version of a Global Entry program. Interested candidates can fill out an online application at Globalentry.gov and must pay a $100 non-refundable application fee. More from Budget Travel: Report: Allow one free checked bag, stop treating everyone like terrorists Airport security lines: How's life in the fast lane? Are Airlines Cracking Down on "Airplane Mode"?
Are Airlines Cracking Down on "Airplane Mode"?
Alec Baldwin might have gotten a high–profile slap on the wrist for trying to use his smart phone during a takeoff, but he’s hardly the only flyer loath to give up Words With Friends privileges. Despite repeated reminders from airlines and flight attendants, there are always those people who can’t seem to tear themselves away from their electronics. That’s why "airplane mode" (or "flight mode") has been such a boon for the technological traveler: By disabling a cell phone’s transmission capabilities, airplane mode renders cell phones acceptable for non–call purposes during flights (though not takeoffs or landings). No cell signals, no possible radio interference, no problem. Or perhaps not. We’ve recently heard rumblings of airlines cracking down on cell phone use, even in airplane mode. The blogosphere is rife with complaints from flyers being told to power off their phones during flight, even at cruising altitude and with airplane mode enabled. What has changed? Not the Federal Aviation Administration. For years its regulations have permitted the use of electronics set to airplane mode, and our recent query to the FAA yielded a consistent answer: "Airplane mode is still acceptable above 10,000 feet but you must comply with the airlines’ instructions." So if the times are a–changing, they would appear to be doing so at the behest of the airlines. Opponents of cell phone regulation point out that there is little evidence for airlines’ fears of errant electric signals, even during take-off and landing. Phone–freedom advocates even petitioned the White House to allow airplane–mode electronics during takeoff and landing. (It failed to generate enough signees to prompt an official response.) Either way, we're curious to hear from you—have you been told to turn off your smart phone even in airplane mode and at altitude? Or have airlines allowed you to fling your Angry Birds in peace? Or, alternatively, have flight attendants generously overlooked your electronics usage during take-off and landing? Tell us below! —Ryan Murphy MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Do You Turn Your Cell Phone Off On Planes? Tests Show FAA Should Relax Rules About Electronics on Planes We Want to Know Your Airport Secrets!