When a Hurricane or Wildfire Damages Your Vacation Destination
We have watched in disbelief as hurricanes have battered the Gulf Coast, Florida, and much of the Caribbean, and wildfires have ravaged the Columbia River Gorge, Glacier National Park, and parts of Los Angeles. While reporting on those disasters in detail is beyond our mission, we can share a few pieces of advice for those who have flights, lodgings, or cruises booked in the areas hardest hit:
Contact your airline via phone, email, or Twitter. Airlines are stepping up with more flexible policies in the face of natural disasters, sometimes including waived change/cancellation fees, waived fare differences for changed flights, or refunds for canceled flights. We have found that airline customer service can be especially responsive to private messages on Twitter. What to ask: Is my flight still scheduled? What options do I have to cancel or postpone?
Contact cruise lines and package tour companies after reviewing your trip-cancellation policy. Often, cruise lines and package tour companies offer the option of at “cancel for any reason” policy, which can simplify your decision-making. What to ask: Is my cruise or tour still scheduled to go forward? Do I have a "cancel for any reason" policy?
Check on hotel status via social media or by calling directly. Hotel staff will have first-hand information about conditions on the ground. But bear in mind that in the days directly following a natural disaster, customer service may have to take a back seat to survival and repair. What to ask: Will the hotel be open on the dates I’m scheduled to stay? What can I expect when I arrive? What options do I have to cancel or postpone? (For hotels, of course, canceling is usually not a problem unless your reservation is within a few days.)
The Best Time to Buy Thanksgiving Plane Tickets Is...
We get asked all the time, “When’s the best time to buy airline tickets?” So you can imagine, as the busy holiday travel season approaches, the urgency with which that question gets asked only increases. THE BEST OF TIMES IS NOW Our friends at the global travel search engine Skyscanner have gotten out ahead of the holiday rush with some research that should help you nab a good deal. The prime time: Now. That is, starting this week, when Skyscanner predicts that travelers can find savings of up to 4 percent and an average round-trip domestic airline ticket around $300. If your first reaction is, “Pounce!” you’re not far from wrong. BY THE NUMBERS If you’re wondering where Skyscanner got its crystal ball, the answer is: Data. By crunching last year’s Thanksgiving travel numbers, the ideal window of opportunity became clear. At the moment, the most popular Thanksgiving destinations are some tried-and-true travel favorites (many a far cry from Grandma’s pumpkin pie), including: Cancun, New York City, Orlando, London, and Paris. AIRFARE BOOKING SECRETS Skyscanner also shared some airfare-booking hacks that you can use this holiday season or any time to nab a deal: Expand flight searches to include other area airports.Tweak travel itinerary dates of departure and return.Set up price alerts to track the cost of a desired flight route and purchase a fare once the price drops.
How Not to Be a Jerk on a Plane
It seems as if hardly a week goes by without us hearing about another incident of bad behavior on an airplane. In January, for instance, a San Francisco-bound flight from Australia had to turn around and make an emergency stop in New Zealand because a man in a middle seat became irrepressibly enraged—swatting at the beverage cart, delivering a loud tirade to the other passengers, speaking offensively to a flight attendant. News reports say he was in the middle seat and was upset because people on either side were having a conversation over him. Every study and report that travel companies release indicates that air travel is on the rise. An increase in the number of aircrafts and routes and the boom in budget airlines make travel more accessible to everyone. That means flights are dependably more crowded, with jostling for overhead bin space. And with all the air traffic, waits on tarmacs can be epic. People are anxious about missing their connections and some are just anxious because, well, flying does that to people. Tensions are high for those reasons and others. It doesn’t take much to make a person snap. And anger and distress begets anger and distress. According to the International Air Transport Association, a trade organization, the number of violent in-flight confrontations is on the rise. A recent report says that the number of air rage incidents last year totaled 10,854, up 14 percent from 2014. Flight crews categorize air rage in one of several categories: belligerent behavior, emotional outburst, noncompliant behavior, and incidents involving drugs, alcohol, smoking, or sex. According to a report published in May 2016 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, belligerent behavior and intoxication were more common in first class, whereas emotional outbursts, such as a panic attack, were more common among economy passengers. What’s more, an outburst by an economy class passenger is almost four times as likely to have an air rage incident if they’re on a plane with a first-class section. Interestingly, though, according to the study passengers are about two-times as likely to have an outburst if they boarded through first class (vs. boarding in the middle of the plane). But there are ways to keep calm at 36,000 feet and ensure that others around you do the same so that everyone arrives safe in mind and body. We checked in with Lizzie Post, president of The Emily Post Institute, host of the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast, and great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette doyenne Emily Post. Here are her tips. WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD DO 1. If someone beside you is noticeably anxious because, for instance, of fear of flying, wait a minute to see if it passes, then ask the person if conversation helps or if he’d rather be left alone to breathe and relax. 2. If you feel endangered for any reason by a fellow passenger, quietly and patiently get up and speak to a flight attendant. Tell him or her the person next to you is agitated and you’re uncomfortable. Ask if there’s anything they can do to help your seatmate or, if it’s really bad, can you change seats. Post notes: “Be careful what level of responsibility you put on a flight attendant. They’re there to help. Let them know the situation, but speak in a calm and gentle way while seeking sympathy and support, rather than getting angry at them.” 3. When it comes to the nagging issue of reclining seats in the cramped surroundings of economy class, if the seat in front of you is reclined and it’s really interfering, instead of asking the passenger simply to put the seat up, it is preferable to first establish that you’re not being too self-centered and demanding and ask if, for instance, they can put the seat up for a little while, like, for instance, when the drinks are served. Remember, Post says, “it’ll all be over in a few hours and don’t forget that you can get up and move around to counteract how much time you spend with the person’s head in your face.” WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD NEVER DO 1. Whatever you do, do not address an irate stranger on your own. “Safety trumps etiquette,” Post insists. So rather than telling someone who’s upset that she needs to sit and be quiet, seek out help from a flight attendant. 2. To avoid rustling the feathers of a potential whiner in the seat behind you, don’t recline, if you can help it. You might call this the "martyr's approach" to a pleasant flight. 3. While you can always make a polite request if a person in front of you has the seat down, do not, under any circumstances, get ticked off if your request doesn’t work. “Every person purchased a seat and they’re allowed to use all its functions,” Post reminds.
5 Big Travel Myths, Debunked
Myth #1: Travel is sooooo expensive You can imagine that, with a name like Budget Travel, we take this myth personally. Sure, a city like, say, London is home to sky-high hotel rates. But even that European capital, like most places on your list, can be brought down to earth with the help of smart research, package tours (where rock-bottom airfare and hotel rates are often bundled into the package), and taking advantage of the luxurious freebies and bargains that can be found almost anywhere. READ: The 25 Absolute Best Money-Saving Travel Tips Ever. Myth #2: Managing rewards points is a headache It doesn’t have to be. Truth is, the rewards points systems you enter when you sign up for a frequent-flier program or mileage credit card can be confusing, but that’s why we’ve devoted considerable resources in scoping out the best programs and the best techniques for holding on to your points and using them in the most dream-fulfilling way possible. READ: Biggest Reward Program Blunders and How Not to Make Them. Myth #3: Lodging is too expensive for big families Well, ok, hotels can be expensive. So… try a vacation rental instead! If your brood won’t fit comfortably into one hotel room, chances are you’ll save big by renting an apartment or home where you can do some of your own cooking (and add, say, Italian cooking lessons to your itinerary in Rome!), get more elbow room (maybe even a backyard for the little ones to frolic in), and save big. READ: Read This Before You Book a Vacation Rental. Myth #4: “All-inclusive” actually means “all-inclusive” Ahhh. The words sound so lovely. And the experience of not having to reach for your wallet while on vacation is enticing. But… When you book a cruise, make sure you read the fine print (or get on the phone with a customer service rep) before clicking “book.” In many cases, top-shelf drinks, certain restaurants, and other experiences may cost you extra, and finding out before you buy is always nicer than finding out when they hand you the bill. READ: All-Inclusive Vacations: The 7 Questions Every Traveler Must Ask. Myth #5: You can’t control flight delays and other snafus Okay, you can’t control the weather or the various ways in which mechanical failure or human error may derail your flight. But… You can take control of delays and cancellations when you understand the best procedures, the magic words that unlock kindness in strangers, and, most importantly what your rights are. READ: Take Control of Weather-Related Flight Delays and Cancellations.
Travel 101: These Are the Best Snacks to Pack in Your Carry-On
Whether you actually look forward to the itty-bitty pretzel bags that airlines hand out (full disclosure: I kinda do), or you plan on ponying up for the boxed sandwich and cookies (yeah, I like those, too), don't hand over the responsibility for refueling your body to your flight attendants. Even under the best circumstances, airline travel is both physically and emotionally stressful and you need to pack easy-to-serve, healthy snacks that'll help your body and mind roll with the inevitable punches. When I want advice about healthy snacking, I turn to Jackie Newgent (jackienewgent.com), RDN, CDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook and other cookbooks. Newgent's first piece of advice is "bring an empty water bottle"—once you get through airport security, you can fill the bottle on your way to your gate and stay healthily hydrated throughout the flight. Newgent's suggestions for ideal airplane snacks include: Not Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix—Mountain Mambo flavor. "Consider it a perfect plane-safe snack since it's flavorful, filling, and allergy-friendly. In fact, it's gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, and egg-free!" KIND Healthy Grains Bar (Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate or Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt). "They're made from all natural ingredients you can see and pronounce and pack more than one full serving of whole grains per bar (amaranth, millet, buckwheat, gluten-free oats, and quinoa)." Wonderful Pistachio Roasted & Salted Snack Pack. "Pistachios are one of the lowest calorie and higher fiber nuts, making them an excellent snack choice—30 pistachios provide only about 100 calories!" Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas—Falafel Flavor. "It's a flavorful way to satisfy the munchies and get a punch of protein—naturally and without GMOs." CLIF Kid Organic ZFruit Rope—Strawberry Flavor. "It's a tasty fruit snack with a burst of vitamin C that can healthfully give kids (and adults!) a sweet little nosh for energy—with no preservatives or artificial flavors."