World's Most Dangerous Flyover Regions
Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17.
While the events in Ukraine and the ongoing investigations, and diplomatic and political consequences, are beyond the scope of Budget Travel's mission, we have been getting questions from those who wonder, "How could a commercial airliner fly over a dangerous region such as eastern Ukraine?"
With that in mind, we share the Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines for the world's most dangerous flyover regions. The FAA's list of "Notices to Airmen" (abbreviated NOTAMs) restrict American-operated commercial carriers from flying in airspace that is deemed hazardous due to conflicts on the ground, weapons testing, or active volcanoes. (The United Nations maintains its own restricted list, which, like the FAA's, did not include eastern Ukraine at the time Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down.)
Here, the 14 regions restricted to American-operated commercial carriers:
Dnepropetrovsk (eastern Ukraine): Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude.
Iraq: Planes are not allowed to fly below 20,000 feet, except for those that take off or land at Erbil International Airport.
North Korea: Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude.
Northern Ethiopia: Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude.
Libya: Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude.
Simferopol (on the Crimean peninsula, a region whose status is disputed between Ukraine and Russia): Planes are not allowed to fly in this airspace at any altitude.
Afghanistan: Airlines are warned that there is a risk of attack from small arms and portable air-defense systems.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Airlines are warned against flying below 15,000 feet.
Iran: Airlines are warned that Iran and the U.S. do not maintain diplomatic relations.
Mali: Airlines are warned against flying below 24,000 feet.
Kenya: Airlines are warned that there is a risk of attack from portable air-defense systems.
Sinai: Airlines are warned against flying below 24,000 feet.
Syria: Airlines are warned against flying in this airspace at any altitude.
Yemen: Airlines are warned against flying below 24,000 feet.
I love road trips! Long before I became editor of Budget Travel with its popular Road Trips series, I always loved packing up the car and heading... anywhere! From childhood trips to Martha's Vineyard to college weekends down the shore, for me the notion of "vacation" and "great drive" have pretty much been one and the same. When my wife and I lived in San Francisco, we fell hard for the stretch of highway between the City and San Simeon—the incredible road trip that took us through Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Big Sur. These days, we live in New York's Hudson Valley (just outside New York City), and we are planning a trip out west—Billings, MT. I was pleased to discover an exciting new road trips tool right on the Budget Travel website: Destination Anywhere, sponsored by Firestone. Check it out: You can enter the start and end point of your "ultimate road trip" and a search engine with information from FourSquare will provide you with a route and destinations along the way. I'm getting psyched for some fun stops between New York and Billings, including Hershey Park, PA; Cedar Point, OH; and Chippewa Falls, WI; and much more. Using the Destination Anywhere road trip tool also means you can enter to win a 7-day vacation at one of 1,800 resort destinations, a set of 4 Firestone tires, or a $500 Firestone Visa Prepaid Card (you can enter once daily to increase your chances). Your ultimate road trip may not be quite as ambitious as the New York to Montana trip I'm considering, but here at Budget Travel we've always promoted Great American Drives, and over the years our readers have offered some incredible road trips tips. Here, some of our favorites. Happy trails! MUSIC. Create a "road trip mix" of songs—let your friends and/or family pick out favorites that you can listen to along the way. And the mix will become a memorable keepsake of the trip to be remembered long after you've unpacked your bags. TREATS. Traveling with kids? Stop at the dollar store before your trip and load up on cheap amusements you can hand out over the course of your trip. Nothing will stop fussing or the dreaded "When will we be there" like a new plaything! GET SMART. Audiobooks can be pricey. But Cracker Barrel restaurants lets you rent them and return them along your route. Whether it's an inspiring session of Arianna Huffington's new Thrive or a third (or fourth) listening to The Sorcerer's Stone, an audiobook, like a music mix, can become a unique and distinctive part of your journey. GAMES. My own family loves playing the license plate game: Keep a list of every state (and Canadian province!) that you spot along the way. You'll be surprised at how quickly you spot Hawaii (considering it's thousands of miles out to sea), and how some of the lower 48 can be a little rare. We also play 20 Questions and the nonsense variation I invented, Infinite Questions, in which there are no answers, only ridiculously worded queries—intended to crack up everyone in the car—that can go on, well, at least until someone needs to make a rest stop!
Biggest Reward Program Blunders and How Not to Make Them
This article was written by Jake Redman, founder and host of ModHop. In addition to producing and hosting shows on SiriusXM Radio, he travels, spending his time in airports, lounges, and hotels, and shares his findings on ModHop.com to help others determine whether travel upgrades are truly worth the extra cost. Follow along with Jake's travel adventures on Twitter @ModHop and on Facebook. You what?! That's normally the response in my head when friends tell me what they just did with their frequent flyer miles or hotel points. "I bought a 19-inch Smarkyo TV for the bedroom, and it only cost me 50,000 frequent flyer miles!" Really?! Sure, I might spend a bit more time than most digging for the perfect redemption deal, but for that number of miles, you should be able to lock down a saver-level business class seat on a domestic flight (and even that isn't such a great deal). If I'm starting to sound like the travel version of the cranky know-it-all IT guy at your job, I'm not. Finding real value in your mile and point redemptions involves basic math, and I'm not at all good at it. The little I do understand is that points (airline miles in particular) can be valued between 1 and 2 cents each. Simply put it means that a small, off-brand sub $200 TV isn't likely as valuable a prize as a fancy plane ride to grandma's house. An over-valued merchandise-for-point exchange isn't the only blunder you can make when redeeming. Here are a few other examples of mistakes to avoid when you decide to trade yours in: Gifting milesSharing or "gifting" miles to someone can be the ultimate "ungift" to yourself. The bottom line is that unless the airline is offering a very hearty mileage bonus when you transfer the miles, it's not going to be worth it. Again, there's math involved, so bring a calculator if you decide to explore this option, and carefully consider the cost of the transfer, along with the airline's service charge. A 75-100 percent transfer bonus might be worth looking at, but those are rare and possibly near extinction. ForgettingA few programs have "miles that never expire," but many only give you a certain amount of time to use them before they disappear forever. One way to keep those miles alive is to earn more as cheaply as possible. For example, the Hilton Honors program keeps your points alive for 12 months after your last stay or point redemption. Once that time is up, bye-bye points. Our favorite way to save them from vanishing is to buy anything that costs any amount of money using their "Shop to Earn" portal. Any purchase made before your points' expiration date will keep them alive for another year. Whatever is on that direct-mail piece you just receivedThe dollar-to-credit card point value of what are sometimes referred to as "experiences" is subjective. A little bit of research shows that opportunities to try things like driving a real stock car or going for a hot air balloon ride is valued at about .01 per mile. If either has been your lifelong dream, and you don't know anyone with a stock car or hot air balloon parked in their backyard, then maybe—just maybe—there's personal value to this kind of trade. Otherwise, keep looking for something that gets you even just slightly closer to 2 cents per mile. Not using themI was at a convention of mileage and point nerds not long ago, and a newbie in one of the sessions asked what he should do with his miles. I forget the exact number, but, when asked how many miles he was sitting on he replied with a number so large that the crowd actually booed him. Don't be that guy. Airlines and hotels constantly try to find new ways to balance customer reward with profit, and it doesn't always favor you. Over time, it won't be much of a surprise to see those miles continue to be devalued, so time is increasingly precious. Find a way to use miles for things like seat upgrades on long flights or hotel rooms that cost a lot more than you would normally think of spending. Be patient, keep an eye out for the best value, and get the most from your piggy bank of points.
7 Easy Tips For Packing Light
This article was written by Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel. If you've been paying attention to our latest Friday's Friendly Funny cartoons, then you've picked up on my distaste for airline fees. While some are unavoidable, one of the easiest ways to keep your airline costs down is by packing light to avoid baggage fees. If you're a serial overpacker, here are some of my quick-and-dirty tips to help keep your bags underweight and fee free. Shrink your shoe collection.First and foremost, limit your shoe obsession to two pairs. All you need is one casual pair and one that's slightly dressier. This will lighten your luggage immensely. Next, pack your shoes on the bottom of the bag, but don't leave them empty. You should stuff sneakers with socks, belts, and other small items to save space. Pack early.Don't wait until that last minute to pack your bags, since rushed packing usually leads to overpacking. Packing efficiently is like a science, so take time to really assess what you'll need and what you can leave at home. My favorite rule is to lay out everything you want to bring—then cut it in half. Leave it behind.Leave toiletries at home. Hotels usually provide shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and anything else you need you can easily pick up in a convenience store at your destination. Also, forget your hair dryer. If you're staying in a decent hotel, they'll have one for you. Insider tip: Toiletries and hair dryers might be hard to come by in places like Cuba and Cambodia, so double check before visiting an "exotic" destination. Pack clothes that match.By choosing a color scheme for your clothes, you'll be able to mix and match everything with ease. For example, try packing black and white clothes with one accent color. This will make picking outfits easy and ensure all shoes, shirts, pants, and jewelry coordinate. Abide by the roll. Rolling clothes is the best way to save space when packing. Use rubber bands or Velcro straps to hold everything tight and keep items from unraveling. I also suggest packing a small bottle of wrinkle release to help smooth out clothing creases that might form during travel, but just be sure the container is small enough to follow the 3.4 ounce airline regulations. For clothes that you can't fold, like suits or dresses, try placing them in a plastic bag from the dry cleaner. The plastic creates a layer of separation and decreases wrinkling. Consolidate outfits.Certain outfits can serve multiple purposes. If you plan to go for a run or hit the beach in a t-shirt and gym shorts, why not sleep in the same outfit the night before? Try sleeping in your underwear to avoid packing nightgowns and pajamas. Also, if the climate requires that you bring heavier clothing like jeans and sweaters, I suggest re-wearing them. Spritz them with travel-size Febreze if needed, although daily showering and deodorant is generally enough to keep garments fresh on a short trip. Layer on the plane.The best way to transport bulky clothing items is by wearing them on the plane. Wear heavier items, such as sneakers, boots, jeans, and sweaters, on the flight to save yourself baggage space. The overhead bin always has room for a jacket or sweater if you get too hot on the flight. Sometimes it seems that the fight against airline fees is a losing battle, but by packing light, you can skirt baggage fees and avoid lugging heavy suitcases. We want to know: do you have any other tips for packing light?
Psst! Wanna Elope?
When you're engaged to be married, but buried under catering menus, to-do lists, and secret Pinterest boards featuring enough decorative twigs to build the world's largest bird's nest, forgoing a huge wedding for a combination elopement/honeymoon can look rather appealing. Picture it: spur-of-the-moment vows in an exotic locale, the only evidence of your nuptials a lone photo of your blissful faces snapped by a local. Then? Instant honeymoon. But it's not quite that easy. As romantic as ditching the checklists and heading for all-in-one paradise sounds, doing a little bit of planning before boarding that plane will help you avoid wedding-day disasters that can occur even when you and your true love are the only attendees. Plus, we found the latest information on six trendy budget getaways that you might want to consider for your own last-minute ceremony. Investigate the process for a marriage license. Before you even commit to the location for your elopement/honeymoon, talk to the convention and visitors bureau to research the hoops you have to jump through to obtain a marriage license there. Some locales, though popular, have restrictions like waiting periods or witness minimums that could hamper your ideal ceremony. For example: "In St. Lucia, they have very strict rules," says Shawn Rabideau, founder of Shawn Rabideau Events & Design in New York City. "You've got to send all the paperwork in, and the resort sort of helps you with that—they bring it down to the local city office—but you really need to follow the rules. Otherwise you could find out—and this has happened—people have found out they weren't even legally married." Some documents that might be required are birth certificates, passports, divorce decrees (if applicable), a certified copy of the death certificate for a widow or widower, and so on. Applications for a marriage license also might need to be filed before you get there—if only to avoid extra fees. An additional precaution to take when marrying abroad is to check travel.state.gov, which lists information such as whether same-sex marriage is illegal. Depending on the restrictions, it might make sense to do a private ceremony in the states and a symbolic one abroad, says Rabideau. Think logistically. Will your elopement include just you and your partner? Or are you bringing a few friends? Posing simple questions like those can uncover potential organization problems: "How easy is the location to get to?" Rabideau says. "For example, some of the resorts or the islands in the Caribbean only have flights certain times a day and certain days of the week. Is Grandma going to be traveling for 12 hours? That might not be the best thing for Grandma. Are you going to be like, 'Oh, we can just Skype with her, that's great?' Technology doesn't always work." If, upon further research, your dream location might be a travel nightmare or not as quick-and-dirty as you had envisioned, stay stateside to cut down on surprises. While you're planning, go over the emotional fallout too: "Before you make the decision to elope, consider for just a moment and make sure that it's not going to be something you regret," says Jamie Chang, of Mango Muse Events in San Francisco, who specializes in destination weddings. "Not the getting-married part, but the not-having-anyone-there part. Will you be sad if your Mom isn't there? You don't want to look back and wish you'd done it differently." Lean on the hotel or resort for assistance, but ask questions. Most hotels and resorts have experience organizing weddings for out-of-towners, so it's smart to listen to their advice, even if you want a unique DIY wedding with hand-picked caterer, officiant, music, and décor. "They're going to have a list of vendors that they use and rely on," Rabideau says. "That usually is the best way to go. If they're recommending them, they don't want them to fail. It's their reputation." That said, ensure you get the experience you want at the price you want, even when choosing a pre-existing package. "See what the resorts have to offer," Rabideau says. "Do they have an onsite planner that can help you? Very often the onsite planners are more like assistants, so they're juggling 10 or 20 other clients... Are there any hidden fees? Do they do more than one wedding on the day? If they do, is it next to you? Is it like a factory? If you want to feel special, it starts to take that specialness out of it." Brace yourself for a different pace. The sense of urgency we have in the U.S. doesn't apply to some foreign vendors, hotels, and officiants who operate at a throttled-back clip. "Understand if you're doing it in a different country, there's a different way of living," Rabideau says. "Spain [for example] is very different—they're more relaxed there; it's a different culture. They may not necessarily work at the same speed you work at. Not only pack your clothes, but pack your patience." Include a few traditional touches. Even if your wedding is intended to be tiny, spur of the moment, hipster-quirky, or out-of-the-box crazy, you can still hire either a local wedding planner to ensure your ceremony hits all of the marks, or one or two local vendors, depending on your priorities. "While eloping does mean having a wedding with just the couple, I think it's important for every couple to consider hiring a photographer," Chang says. "Even if you only hire them for an hour, it's nice to have a memento of the occasion and of the emotion and the love you felt." Also, this might go without saying, but don't ship your suit or dress or check it in your luggage. "Carry it on the plane with you," she says. "The flight attendants are usually really helpful with wedding dresses and finding a safe place for them." If you're feeling generous, bring the experience back for your friends. Once you're home safe, you can keep the party going by including friends and family who weren't there for the ceremony. "The most successful elopements I have seen also include some type of sharing with the family back home, whether that's posting photos on your favorite social network or hosting a 'toast the newlyweds' reception when you get back home," says wedding planner Karen Bussen, of Simple Stunning Weddings, who has recently partnered with Palladium Hotels and Resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Riviera Maya, Mexico; and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. "That's a great place to show your wedding video and let all the folks who love you share in your happiness." Hot destinations for eloping: Costa Rica The authenticity of Costa Rica, with its off-the-beaten-path feel, appeals to millennials, who have been flocking to the country to get married. "Central America is not their parents' tropics," says Susan Breslow Sardone, of About.com's Guide to Honeymoons/Romantic Getaways. "Green" weddings in particular are in style, says Christina Baez, a spokesperson for Costa Rica's tourism board. Especially in vogue: couples offsetting their carbon footprint with donations to reforestation projects, planting an honorary tree during the ceremony, and doing a post-wedding "trash the dress" photo shoot by jumping into one of the country's waterfalls, like those in the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano area. Savannah, Georgia Enduring, idyllic, and accessible, Savannah is a popular go-to wedding destination for couples who want their choice of restaurants and B&Bs but don't have the budget for long-haul air tickets, Rabideau says. Downtown's Forsyth Park, one of the biggest in the area, is a hotspot for small weddings. Negril, Jamaica The island of One Love offers laid-back weddings to couples who want to take the plunge, literally and figuratively. At Rick's Café in Negril, couples can say their vows and immediately leap from a 35-foot-tall platform into Caribbean waters. Afterward, relax with a rum-and-fruit-juice Planter's Punch while gazing at the area's famous purple sunsets. Las Vegas Getting hitched by a singing Elvis impersonator at Graceland Wedding Chapel in Vegas is always an option (they even can stream it over the internet for family and friends!), but so is exchanging rings at beautiful indoor or outdoor hotel chapels at the Wynn Encore, the Bellagio, or Caesar's Palace. Or go mobile with services like the Las Vegas Wedding Wagon, which brings the wedding to you. Another bonus: With only a photo ID, you can obtain a marriage license and get hitched in 24 hours; the Las Vegas Marriage Bureau is open every day from 8 a.m. to midnight. Sedona, Arizona Escaping south to a warm resort in the States is a popular trend for elopers on a budget, Rabideau says. Red-rock views and indulgent spas are two quintessential Sedona musts. The Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa offers a 90-minute "three-part recharging massage" designed for hikers and bikers who want to get back on the trail the next day; the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa's concierge can arrange a hot-air balloon ride with a champagne toast high above the mesas. Marrakech, Morocco Stay in a traditional Moroccan "riad," a house with an interior garden, in the historic Medina district, recommends Ingrid Asoni, founder of Asoni Haus event planning in Marrakech. "You still have the tranquility of a romantic getaway, but you also have some incredible views over the whole of Marrakech and the Medina," she says. Riad Noga, La Sultana, and Riad Enja are a few good picks. And don't skip the traditional pre-wedding couples' "hammam," a treatment involving a scrub, a clay or soap wrap, and another scrub—so you're radiant for your lover and ready as you'll ever be for pledging your eternal love.