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.)
How to Find Shoulder Season Bargains for Fall
Fall is on the way, and that means Shoulder Season bargains. We've put together this cheat sheet, based on recent trends and our best expert intel, for autumn savings: 1. "SHOULDER SEASON," DEMYSTIFIED We call this time of year Shoulder Season because, in a lot of popular destinations, it’s between the high summer season and the low winter season. The weather is perfect in September and October, but the summer crowds are gone. We'll see airfares and hotel rates drop in popular summer destinations as summer turns to fall, including beach towns, National Parks, theme parks, and European cities. 2. HOW TO BOOK A FALL HOTEL DEAL To take advantage of lower Shoulder Season rates, you've got to do your homework: Visit a web resource (such as our Book a Hotel page) and compare rates from late August and early September (a.k.a., right now) with rates a few weeks later. You'll often see hotels in popular summer destinations, including the Jersey Shore, New England, and the Carolinas, drop their rates by as much as half as summer turns to fall. You may find that already reasonable destinations, like Myrtle Beach, become even more affordable in fall, and pricier spots like Nantucket can be within reach of Budget Travelers. Pounce on a rate that's right for you. 3. VACATION RENTALS CAN SAVE YOU BIG But if you're traveling in a party of more than four people, a vacation rental like HomeAway or Airbnb may be the way to go. Don't be put off by rates over $200/night until you've compared the rental to the cost of two (or more) hotel rooms. A spokesperson for HomeAway recently let us know that they are seeing savings of 10 percent or more on Shoulder Season bookings. 4. KNOW THE BEST TIME TO BUY PLANE TICKETS This is actually the question we get asked most often is: When is the best time to buy plane tickets. The answer has been, traditionally, roughly two months ahead of your flight -- that's typically when airlines have lowered fares as much as they are going to. But as we've reported, the rules of airline bargains are evolving. Of course, for travel in September and October, we're already past that window, so the best day to book a flight might be...right now. Our partners at Skyscanner crunched the numbers for fall travel and noted that late August (this week, actually) may be the best time to book a Thanksgiving flight, with decent savings also available to those who book during the month of September. 5. FOLLOW YOUR FAVORITE TRAVEL BRANDS ON SOCIAL MEDIA We also always recommend following all the major airlines, hotels, and package tour companies on social media and to sign up for their e-newsletters, so you'll be among the first to learn about flash sales and deals. And, right on cue, airlines will start rolling out Shoulder Season sales in September - happy travels!
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.
Cheap Flights for Last-Minute Labor Day Trips
No plans for Labor Day weekend? No problem. Our friends at Skyscanner.com have got big plans for you: They’ve crunched the numbers on late-August airfares to deliver some truly amazing deals. Your only challenge will be to pick one of these dreamy destinations and book now. Fort Lauderdale, FL to Los Angeles, CAStarting at $283 Boston, MA to Denver, COStarting at $184 Chicago, IL to Miami, FLStarting at $279 San Francisco, CA to Phoenix, AZStarting at $277 Dallas, TX to Las Vegas, NVStarting at $309 Atlanta, GA to New York, NYStarting at $247 Philadelphia, PA to Orlando, FLStarting at $184 Skyscanner is a travel search site offering a comprehensive range of flight, hotel, and car rental deals. To find more bargain fares like those listed here, visit Skyscanner.com.
Beware of These Hidden Hotel Fees
Last year U.S. hotels collected more than $2.5 billion in fees and surcharges, up from $2.45 billion in 2015 according to research by Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. Hanson credits the uptick to the nation’s thriving travel industry. “When times are financially difficult, hotels are more concerned about offending guests with extra charges, but when the economy is doing well hotels feel more confident about increasing their fees,” says Hanson, who has tracked U.S. hotel fees and surcharges data since 2000. Unfortunately for travelers, many hotel fees are often buried in lengthy disclosure statements or tucked into bill summaries at checkout. The best way to avoid getting slapped with surprise fees? Pick up the phone. “Call the hotel and ask, ‘Are there any automatic or mandatory fees or surcharges?’ before you book a room,” Hanson advises. To be a savvy traveler though, you should still have an idea of what hotel charges can potentially sneak onto your bill. By knowing what they are in advance—and how much they cost on average—you may find ways to cut costs on your next trip. Keep your eyes peeled for these hidden fees. RESORT FEECost: $10 to $50 per night Resort fees are daily charges imposed by some hotels in addition to the basic room rate. These fees—which hotels say cover the costs of access to hotel amenities (e.g., internet, fitness center, hotel pool) or “complimentary” perks, like coffee and newspapers—are usually mandatory. Resort fees are disclosed at the time of booking, but they typically only appear after a room is selected and the traveler is about to pay for the reservation, says Randy Greencorn, co-founder of ResortFeeChecker.com, an online tool that allows users to look up resort fees at more than 2,000 properties around the world. In other words, “the resort fee is only disclosed when the traveller has their credit card out and is about to book the room,” Greencorn says. Pro tip: “the resort fee is typically found at the bottom of the [last] page” when you check out, says Greencorn. IN-ROOM COFFEEMAKER FEECost: $3 to $6 If you want to make a cup of joe in the morning in your room, you may have to pay for it. To err on the side of caution, use the (hopefully free) coffeemaker in the lobby instead. ROOM SELECTION FEECost: $10 to $40 Some hotels now charge guests for the privilege of reserving a type of room, like a room with a king bed. But this fee may be negotiable, especially if you’re a hotel rewards member. EARLY CHECK-IN FEECost: $30 to $50 If you want to check into your room before the hotel’s standard check-in time, you may have to pay a premium to do so. This is a relatively new fee. BAGGAGE HOLDING FEECost: $2 to $5 per bag If you’re checking in early or stowing your bags for a few hours while you explore the city after checking out, you may have to pay a fee for the hotel to hold your luggage. This fee is in addition to what you tip the bellhop when you pick up your bags. (Etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute recommend tipping $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag.) IN-ROOM SAFE FEECost: $2 to $6 per day Many travelers put cash, passports, and other important belongings in the in-room safe, but a number of hotels charge a daily fee for it. “Discouraging guests from using in-room safes is a liability risk for hotels,” Hanson says. “It’s a service that should be provided.” In-room safe fees are becoming less common, but if your hotel charges on it will likely be indicated in writing on the safe. HOUSEKEEPING FEECost: $10 to $20 per day Traditionally, hotels have included cleaning services in the cost of the room, but some are beginning to charge housekeeping fees. You may be able to opt out of this service and save money—that is, if you don’t mind tidying up after yourself. MINI-BAR RESTOCKING FEECost: $3 to $6 per day Hotels have always charged inflated prices for mini-bar food and drinks, but these days you may have to pay an additional fee per day after you remove the first item—regardless of whether you buy anything else from the mini-bar during the rest of your stay. Therefore, “don’t take anything out just to look at it” or you could get slapped with a restocking fee, says Hanson. SURFACE PARKING FEECost: $6 to $10 per day “Many people assume that if there’s an outdoor parking lot, it’s free,” says Hanson, but an increasing number of hotels are charging for outdoor, or “surface,” parking. Consequently, “always ask if there is complementary parking,” says Hanson. EARLY DEPARTURE FEECost: The full rate When you check into most hotels, you sign or initial a registration card that states your scheduled departure date. But if you decide to check out a day or several days early, you’ll most likely have to pay the full amount for your stay. To be fair, this isn’t really an extra “fee”—it’s more of a penalty, since you booked a room for a set number of days, during which time the hotel couldn’t offer your room to someone else.