WOW Air Names New Aircraft TF-GAY to Support LGBT Rights
Iceland’s low-cost transatlantic airline, WOW Air, is taking LGBT support to new heights—literally. They just announced that they named their newest aircraft TF-GAY, and the Airbus 330-300 will service the route from Reykjavík (KEF) to San Francisco (SFO)—a city known for its involvement in pushing for equal LGBT rights in the United States—when flights begin on June 9.
“WOW air is an airline for the people, and one of our most important goals is to lower fares in order to enable everybody to travel the world and get to know different cultures,” WOW air founder and CEO Skúli Mogensen has said. “We wholeheartedly support queer people’s fight for rights. Just as we support equal rights for everybody, no matter their gender, religion, ethnicity, or culture. When we announced we were going to start flying to San Francisco, one of our pilots approached me and suggested the TF-GAY registry. I immediately thought it was a great idea and matched our approach of using words relating to family members in the spirit of inclusiveness.”
The non-traditional name isn’t anything new for the airline, as WOW Air has a thing for aircraft registrations. They view their fleet as their family, with TF-MOM, TF-DAD, TF-SIS, TF-BRO, TF-SON, and TF-KID rounding it out. “The name fits perfectly into this concept of ours to create a modern family out of our airplanes from the names we give them,” Mogensen has said. “WOW is basically MOM upside down, and everybody loves their mom! Since day one, we’ve emphasized joy and friendliness in our services because we want everybody to feel welcome in the WOW family. And we think TF-GAY fits right in with our modern family concept.”
The company will be launching a second California route this year, when flights to Los Angeles (LAX) begin on June 15. Both California flights from Reykjavík (KEF) are available for as little as $199 one way. That kind of affordability is one of the many reasons Iceland tops our Where to Go in 2016 list. Saving money on airfare and supporting LGBT rights? Now that’s a win-win.
Now Google Can Plan Your Entire Vacation in One Click
Offering fully formed trips with a single search is an ambitious move, but if anyone can pull it off, it's Google. Yesterday the company rolled out its smartphone-based Destinations on Google, "a mobile-first travel planning experience": In addition to its practical and easy-to-use Google Flights and Google Translate services, Google is aiming to plan your next vacation for you too by offering comprehensive trip plans that include flight and hotel suggestions, day trip ideas, road trip itineraries, suggested activities and attractions, and general travel guides. Here's how to use Destinations on Google. First, don't download anything new. (Unless it's the Google app.) To access Destinations on Google, all you do is type directly into your phone's Google search bar or your Google App. To plan a trip, type in the place you want to visit, followed by "destinations." Enter the state, country, or continent you're thinking of visiting plus the word "destinations." Think "Florida destinations" or "Iceland destinations." You can further filter your ideal trip by price, dates, number of travelers, and your interests available in that area, such as art, beaches, nature, and surfing. Up pops a grid of wanderlust-inducing photos. Tap the city that interests you—average flight and hotel prices are listed helpfully below the image—and then the real magic happens: Under the heading Explore, Google provides potential itineraries, popular sights, and the estimated price of an seven-day trip, suggested for its "good value." (We love that.) Settled on your perfect locale? Toggle over to "Plan a Trip and take a look at the sliding Price Graph, which lets you select dates, flights, and hotels that work within your budget. To see multi-city itineraries and cross-country road trips, type in a city or larger geographic area, followed by "vacation" or "travel." This feature works a lot like typing "destinations," but the words "vacation" and "travel" trigger guides. They work for cities ("Miami vacation," etc.) and are particularly helpful if you want to explore Europe but not stay put in one country for very long. Or if you want to get a taste of both Paris and the South of France in one week. Example: If you type "Ireland vacation" and scroll down to Destinations, Google spits out several suggested itineraries, including "6 Days in Dublin, Cork, Ring of Kerry, Killarney, and Galway." Click on the Transit info between each stop, and Google Maps will show directions for getting around by car, public transportation, walking, or biking. Play around with it. It's addictive, and you might find yourself enthralled by a place you'd never considered. The BT Test Drive: I tried out Destinations on Google on my iPhone's Google app by typing in "Morocco destinations," a country I've always wanted to visit. Sweeping vistas of Marrakesh and Casablanca appeared, with flight and hotel prices beneath each. I hit the blue arrow button for "More destinations," and gorgeous photos of Agadir, Fes, and other towns joined the first two images. Visiting classic cities tends to be my travel style—not to mention that I'm dying to try a traditional hammam—so I tapped on the photo of Marrakesh to start planning my dream trip. With that click, a wave of information hit me hard and fast: First, there was a brief overview of the city's history and its attractions. Then, Google wanted to know, would I like to follow a suggested itinerary? "48 Hours in Old Marrakesh," perhaps? "Top Places in the New City," including strolling through gardens and visiting a "haggle-free crafts emporium" in Ville Nouvelle? "Romantic Marrakesh"? Oooh. Even Google knows I'm a sucker for romance. But wait, there was more: "Marrakesh for Art Lovers." "Marrakesh with Kids." Directly under that were Points of Interest, including Jemaa el-Fnaa square, Majorelle botanical garden, Bahia Palace, and on and on.... I counted 38 total attractions. On the same page, Google also outlined "Top Sights" in the city, like the 1500s El Badi Palace, complete with star ratings. (El Badi received 3.9 stars out of 5.) Below that, Google took the liberty of planning a seven-day trip for me later this month: one traveler, a week a three-star hotel, and a round-trip flight on KLM, all for $1,313. It was so oddly specific I was briefly deluded into thinking I was actually embarking on this trip. Farther down, Google mentioned that peak travel to Marrakesh is July through September, with very hot summers and mild winters, so a March trip wouldn't be the worst idea. I used the sliding price bar graph to try to find an better deal that worked with my schedule. Even though the average price of a weeklong trip to Marrakesh with a three-star hotel is $1,530, I found one for $1,157 in mid-April, flying on British Airways. Actually booking the the trip isn't quite as easy as the first click that sent me down an information rabbit hole. I was still kicked over to CheapFlights.com, Kayak.com, and Orbitz.com to find the inexpensive British Airways flight for myself, and booking one of the suggested hotels—in this case, the Red Hotel Marrakech, with two hammams—was least expensive on Hotels.com, for $53. Is Destinations on Google going to immediately change how we book trips? Probably not. And the recommended attractions aren't exactly off the beaten track. But if you want inspiration and a general idea of what a trip might be like (and cost) all in one place, it's a great starting point.
This FREE Offer Will Change the Way You Save for Travel
I’ve been having a ball using the You Need a Budget app in a FREE trial to help me keep track of my personal finances and save for my next big family vacation. As I reported in “10 Smart & Easy Money-Saving Secrets,” the You Need a Budget app is a powerful tool that harnesses the company’s top money-managing precept: Give each dollar a job. By assigning each dollar a job, you become aware of exactly what you’re spending your money on, and you become free to re-assign money to priorities like travel. What’s your dream trip? Ready to get started saving for it? Visit YouNeedaBudget.com to start the FREE trial.
Top Tips for a Romantic Getaway
We had a blast on our Twitter Chat devoted to romantic travel tips! Thanks to our sponsor, Visit Colorado Springs (@VisitCOS) and an array of participants, we enjoyed a lively exchange and learned a ton. Here, just a taste of the great romantic travel advice dispensed in today’s chat. I answered questions for @BudgetTravel, and BT staffers Jamie Beckman and Rosalie Tinelli chimed in from NYC as well. For a chance to win a trip to Colorado Springs, enter here! Q: What is your favorite romantic travel destination? My wife and I are outdoorsy and cherish our time in the Rockies, especially discovering a lake or waterfall we’ve never seen before. (@BudgetTravel) We can’t help but love Colorado Springs and the view from the top of Pikes Peak Summit! (@VisitCOS) Anywhere outside of the city – preferably when it’s chilly. Like a cabin in the mountains! (@MatadorNetwork) Q: What is your favorite type of romantic getaway (beach, nature, foodie, charming city?) Hard for @BudgetTravel to pick one! A lake house in the mountains is sublime, but so is a foodie/art/theater getaway. (@BudgetTravel) Finding new places to eat with your [heart emoji] is one of the best parts of traveling. (@ContikiUSA) Beach! Relaxing next to each other in the warm sun while reading, dozing & quietly appreciating downtime together is a treat. (@JamieBeckman) Q: Got tips for couples traveling together for the first time? Discuss expectations: Exploring, relaxing, shopping, eating? Sure you like each other, but you won’t agree on everything. (@BudgetTravel) Patience and communication are key. (@ViatorTravel) It’s ok to split off and do other separate activities. (@MatadorNetwork) Prepare to learn a LOT about each other & have a ton of fun. (@ContikiUSA) Compromise. Go with her for a formal tea and she’ll be happy to go to the Tigers game. (@TheOpenSuitcase) Pack your patience and don’t hold grudges. There are bound to be some missteps, so don’t let a silly tiff ruin your vacation. (@JamieBeckman) Q: What is your secret for saving money without skimping on romance? Spend on priorities: If new restaurants are your thing, budget for them and cut back on, say, hotel swank. (@BudgetTravel) Leverage the shoulder seasons for romantic getaways. Don’t get trapped in Valentine’s day, or other holiday prices. (@MatadorNetwork) Try an off-season beach with miles of sand for just the two of you. (@TheOpenSuitcase) Small towns + inexpensive lodging + no tourists = Romance! (@LittleRoadsEuro) I try to travel more off-season and bring things like wine or lunch for the road with us – intimate without spending. (@RosalieTinelli) Q: What is a good outdoor adventure activity for couples to try for the first time? Canoeing! You gotta work together, tell each other what feels good, find the right rhythm and chemistry. (@BudgetTravel) A nice float or battling the rapids – rafting is a thrill on the Arkansas River. (@VisitCOS) I loved surfing lessons with my husband in Tahiti. Neither of us was a natural but it brought joy & laughs watching each other try! (@JamieBeckman) Q: Where is the best spot in the world to kiss? Golden hour in the Rockies, Fiesole overlooking Florence, or sometimes even a busy NYC street – you know when it happens. (@BudgetTravel) The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, with its "Kissing Camels." (@VisitCOS) Devil’s Falls! (@TheBuriedLife) Mermaid style, under the sea! (@ContikiUSA) Wherever you and your partner happen to be. (@ViatorTravel) How about the cliffs at Loop Head, Ireland? (@LittleRoadsEuro) A glacier in Iceland! Once we figured out how to work around the snowmobile helmets! (@TheOpenSuitcase) Under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s magical. Just hold onto your wallet to avoid pickpockets eyeing distracted lovebirds. ;) (@JamieBeckman)
Editor’s Pick: Luxe Montreal Hotel for Just $144 Per Night
There’s no need to fly across the pond for Francophiles to get their fix—now a taste of the City of Lights can be had right here in North America. Montreal has always been an alternative to Paris when it comes to French flavors at slashed prices (that’s why we’ve celebrated it in the past), and the new Renaissance Montreal is offering quite a deal. To celebrate its debut, now through April 23, they’re offering a special discovery rate of $144, compared to the regular $210. Located in the heart of downtown Montreal, the 142-room hotel has major perks that belie its price point. The design is an intriguing blend of art deco architecture, modern furnishings, street art by local artist Alexandre Veilleux, and contemporary art by other local artists as well, playing off of the unique aesthetic of Montreal. A DJ booth—complete with swinging benches—delivers live entertainment in style, while master mixologist Lawrence Piccard dreamed up a creative cocktail menu at East, the hotel’s contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant, located just off the lobby. And starting in April, they’ll have the bragging rights to the only rooftop terrace in downtown Montreal, when the 12th-floor oasis opens its doors to panoramic views. It also boasts a full bar, bistro kitchen, and a stainless steel plunge pool. The deal doesn’t end when you walk out the doors—there are plenty of free things to do the in city. Here are just a few: • Take a free walking tour of Old Town, courtesy of Free Montreal Tours, and learn all about the city’s history, architecture, culture, and more. • Check out modern urban and street art at the Station 16 Gallery, which features new artists from around the globe. • For a dose of history, visit Mount Royal Cemetery—one of the first rural cemeteries in North America, making it an official National Historic Site—and take a self-guided walking tour. Nature lovers should pick up the tree brochure that outlines the cemetery’s arboretum with more than 100 species of tree on 165 acres, and there are more than 145 bird species too. • During the warm months, enjoy complimentary dance, music, and film performances at Parc Lafontaine, and in winter, it’s popular for ice skating. • The Segal Centre for Performing Arts offers many free lectures, including its Sundays @ The Segal series.