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What long-term trips are you planning, despite the economic turmoil?

By Liz Ozaist
October 3, 2012

Between what feels like weekly changes in the airline industry—which carrier will fold or be sold next?—and the recent news about the demise of one of the U.K.s largest tour operators, XL, I'm wondering how many people are putting future trip planning on the back-burner these days. Have these happenings given you pause when thinking about booking trips a few months down the road? What about upcoming holiday travel?

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Inspiration

Ryanair debuts in-flight cell phone service shortly

Fourteen of Ryanair's 166 airplanes will let passengers place calls and send text messages mid-flight, starting in October, reports Jaunted. The service will cost between $3 and $3.65 a minute for making or receiving calls and about 75 cents per text message, adds TechRadar. The service will roll out fleet-wide on European routes over time. EARLIER Airplane etiquette: Is cell phone use out of control? Use Ryanair, but watch the fees

Inspiration

Study abroad: Fitting in with the Florentines

Florence is hugely popular with the study-abroad crowd, which makes it tough to break away from packs of fellow American students. It’s easy to get by speaking English; bars ply foreigners with drink specials and hip-hop nights (pronounced rather comically as “ip-op” by Italians); and low-fare airlines tempt students to zip off to a new European city each weekend. But with some extra effort, you can begin to live like a local. To help others hit the ground running, The Florentine, a bi-weekly English-language newspaper, has enlisted former students to share advice for making the most of a semester or two abroad. One useful column covers how to navigate the city’s library system, buy a bike, and get bargain haircuts. In others, writers recommend becoming involved in community service and offer tidbits like theories behind the city’s classic unsalted bread and ways to blend in. #1: Ditch the flip-flops. Curiously, the Supermarket Smarts column leaves out some key differences that surprised me when I arrived in Florence as a student: There are scales for weighing and pricing produce before you get to checkout, there’s a minimal charge for each plastic bag (busta), and many supermarkets are closed on Sundays and cash only. Learn from my mistake! I was mortified years ago when a cashier at La Coop by Piazza Beccaria tallied my purchases—only to call a coworker to restock them when I discovered I had 5,000 lire (worth only about a few dollars) in my pocket and credit cards that didn’t mean a thing. Have any study-abroad tips of your own? PREVIOUSLY IN BUDGET TRAVEL What to Ask Before Studying Abroad A Pre-Departure Checklist for Parents (opens as a PDF)

Travel Tips

Southeast Asia: $3 for a no-frills hotel room

Similar to low-cost, transportation companies like Megabus, Asian budget chain Tune Hotels uses a "demand-based pricing system," where early online bookers can get rooms for as little as $3 a night (room prices vary for walk-ins, but run about $25). The first property opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in spring of 2007, followed by an outpost in Kota Kinabalu (in Sabah, a state on the island of Borneo in East Malaysia) this year. In December, five more hotels debut in Malaysia, including in Penang and Kuching. The hotels have the bright colors of giant billboards. Rooms are spartan to say the least and guests pay only for what they use. That means there are additional charges (about $1.50 each) for towels, toiletries, hair dryers, in-room wi-fi (it's free in the lobby), and A/C (though all rooms come with a standard fan). There's no meeting room, pool, gym, or spa. Forget room service or minibars. And while the chain experimented with in-room televisions in Borneo, its spokesperson told us that future hotel rooms will be without TV or radio. The company prides itself on offering comfortable beds and power showers: "The mantra is a great sleep, great shower, in great locations within hotels that are clean and provide great security on site," said chief executive officer Mark Lankester. Construction is underway for approximately 30 other sites across Southeast Asia and the company hopes to have 100 hotels in Asia over the next few years with locations in Bali, the Philippines, and Thailand. Stay Tuned. What do you think of this concept? Would you stay in a Tune Hotel?

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