6 Reasons You Should Visit Paros This Summer

Paros, one of the many Greek Islands, is often neglected outside of Greece and the average tourism agency does not push it as hard as other destinations, though it is certainly worth a look. Even if it’s less well-known, this beautiful island and the luxurious villas are worth visiting, either on their own or as More »

California Coast RV Road Trip

Most known for Hollywood celebrity sightings, California is also home to some of the most famous beaches and coastlines of the world. This is perfectly complemented by the seamless weather and temperature that lures in new residents and tourists every year. So if you are looking forward to enjoying the summer heat, regardless of the More »

Going to Orlando and its Parks

It’s time to make a journey and the destination this time is called Orlando, a space full of fun that attracts millions of people during the whole year due to it’s famous parks, places like Disney World, Universal Studio or the Cabo Discovery will keep you busy all day long. Start by looking for a More »

Tag Archives: tips

How to pay for your vacation


I’m short on cash. Should I put my vacation on a credit card? 


Unless the trip is someone’s dying wish, charging travel expenses that you can’t immediately pay back is not the way to go. “You end up paying much more than the cost of the trip,” warns Mackey McNeill, a Kentucky-based CPA and author of “The Intersection of Joy and Money.” “When you factor in double-digit interest rates and the months — or years — it may take you to pay it off, you can end up spending 50 percent or even 100 percent more.” 

That goes for other kinds of  borrowing as well. Don’t let an excuse like “We deserve it” prompt you into a home-equity loan. Financial expert Grant Cardone, star of the television series “Turnaround King,” offers a simple rule of thumb: “If you’re too ashamed to ask Mom and Dad for travel money, don’t ask a bank or a credit card company.” 

That said, Cardone notes that if you are able to pay off credit card charges before interest or fees kick in, it’s an efficient way to keep track of your expenses and can often nab you bonus points for future discounts or upgrades with a hotel chain, rental car agency or airline. McNeill suggests that if you use a card, ask for an introductory, no-interest period beyond the usual 30 days and make sure you understand exactly what your deadline is.

Does it make sense to set up a vacation savings account? 

 Yes, and the best way to make it work is to have money automatically deducted from your paycheck or checking account each month and tucked away in an account that you pretty much forget about until you need it. “Don’t worry about how much interest it earns,” says McNeill. “It won’t be much, but the point is that it’s more effective than stuffing bills in a cookie jar.” 

The first thing to do is determine how much you can afford to stash away each month, and don’t be stingy. Try a little creative visualization — would the $4 you’d spend on a latte this afternoon and the $20 you blew on pizza last night be better spent, say, at next year’s Mardi Gras? Those kinds of sacrifices can quickly add up, often netting you an extra $100 a week in travel savings. 

Budget Travel reader Vickey Allen upped the out-of-sight-out-of-mind factor by setting up her vacation savings account at a bank 30 miles from her home and opting out of e-banking. “I just withdrew enough to pay for a Mediterranean cruise on the new Carnival Breeze!” she says.

How do I know what I can afford to pay for a vacation? 

 The old rule of thumb is that a once-a-year vacation should cost about one week’s salary, but there’s really no algorithm that’s right for everyone. It’s a personal decision that depends on your fixed expenses (housing, cars, student loans, insurance) and lifestyle choices. 

“For some people, travel is important enough that they choose to live in a smaller house and keep a lot of their discretionary expenses down so they can see the world,” says McNeill. 

But Cardone warns that the most common mistake in vacation budgeting is underestimating costs. As you research your trip, remember to include not just airfare and hotels but also meals, cabs, shuttles, dry cleaning, souvenirs, tips and a cushion for those great — or awful — OMG moments. (Cardone suggests setting aside an extra 25 percent for the unexpected.) Then figure out when you want to go and set up a monthly savings schedule. 

For retirees on a fixed income, budgeting for bucket-list vacations can seem daunting. McNeill suggests that you put them on the calendar as part of your long-term financial plan and be as specific as possible. She helps her retiree clients to identify which years will require extra money for dream trips and which trips will be more affordable, so a walk on the Great Wall of China can become just one of many predictable expenses instead of a calamitous hiccup.

Is there such a thing as vacation layaway? 

 You may associate the word layaway with refrigerators and sofas, but prepaid travel plans are on the rise. Similar to socking money away in a vacation savings account, the big difference here is that you make regular payments to a tour operator or financial services company prior to your trip. Think of it as adding another layer of forced discipline. 

The thought of sending money to strangers may give you the willies, so it’s vital to choose a layaway operator that isn’t going to fold or skip town. Happily, that venerable institution, Sears, just entered the vacation layaway business in June. Searsvacations.com lets you make reservations with major hotel chains, cruise lines, car rental agencies, and airlines and offers 100 vacation packages for under $399 through International Cruise Excursions. In many cases Sears can offer savings — such as 40 percent off family packages — and there’s no fee for paying in installments. But you should make sure you understand when payments are due and whether there are late-payment fees. The major advantage to a layaway plan like this is that it essentially forces you to save by paying in advance — but if late payment fees add up, it’s just as bad an idea as using a high-interest credit card. 

Another reputable plan is elayaway.com. It will automatically deduct money from your bank account each month toward the purchase of a gift certificate from select hotel chains (Hyatt, Marriott and Best Western), car rental agencies (Avis and Budget), airlines (American and Southwest), and websites (Travelocity and bedandbreakfast.com). You’ll pay a processing fee of 1.9 percent of the gift certificate. (You basically pay a hefty premium to impose a savings plan on yourself.) 

Gate 1 Travel lets you reserve a spot on one of its 400-plus packages for as little as a $100 deposit per person as soon as the package is released (which is usually 12 to 18 months in advance), then pay off your trip in as many advance payments as you like. The catch is that your vacation must be completely paid for at least 45 days prior to your departure or you will forfeit your reservation and deposit.

What if I’m never going to have the cash for the trip I want? 

 You may be able to secure lodgings without going completely broke. For $10 a month, you can list your home on homeexchange.com for a swap. (Basically it gives you the opportunity to find someone in your dream destination who’s hankering to visit your neck of the woods.) The more detailed your home description (including photos and house rules), the more likely you are to attract a swapper. Similar sites include digsville.com and homelink.org.

Another cash-free option is to trade your services for lodgings. This won’t work on a major chain hotel — go for a BB or small hotel where you can speak directly with the owner, and consider in advance whether you can offer the kinds of services they might be interested in bartering for. (If you’re an accountant, landscaper or IT pro, you’re on solid ground; a poet, investment banker or nuclear physicist, not so much.) It’s also possible to “bank” bartering services with a barter exchange, such as ITEX, where small businesses can register for a fee and perform services for other members of the exchange, accumulating dollars that are yours to spend as you please. 

Innkeepers share their best-kept secrets

Courtesy of BedandBreakfast.com

In Key West, The Mermaid Alligator’s Garden Room has French doors that open to the garden. Owners of BBs such as this one are the inspiration behind a new series of Innkeeper’s Guides to popular destinations around the country.

Jesse LeBlanc, owner of The Green House Inn, a BB in New Orleans, encourages guests to stroll over to Coliseum Square, a nearby park lined with stately antebellum houses, and to sit on benches, enjoy the beautiful surroundings and mingle with neighbors.

“Before you know it, you are having coffee and tea with people you never met before,” he said.

Courtesy of BedandBreakfast.com

The Green House Inn in New Orleans has a salt-water pool that’s open 24/7. Owner Jesse LeBlanc likes to tell guests about his favorite spots in New Orleans.

LeBlanc also strongly encourages his guests to avoid dessert when dining out — even at the top restaurants — and instead to jump in a taxi after the main course and head to Sucré, a tiny, “sweet boutique” on Magazine Street that serves exquisite homemade candies, pastries and gelato. “The place is phenomenal,” he said. “We know all the little places.”

The insider tips and advice that LeBlanc and his fellow innkeepers routinely dispense are frequently not in guide books, they say, and that’s precisely the inspiration behind a new series of Innkeeper’s Guides to popular destinations around the country. 

“It is a way for us to help travelers learn about a community by offering a more intimate glimpse into an area,” said Tim Wilson, a spokesman for BedandBreakfast.com, which publishes the online guides.

The series draws on the expertise of innkeepers who “highlight things that do not get a lot of publicity, like off-the-beaten path places and best kept secrets,” Wilson said.

And the results, he said, are authentic and distinctive local experiences for travelers.

An Innkeeper’s Guide to Key West,” for example, has Captain Steve of Atlantis House talking about bringing guests to Boca Grande, an outlying island about 12 miles west of Key West, Fla. “Half of the island is a bird sanctuary and the other half is a deserted beach,” the captain noted. “We pull the boat up on a sand bar and spend the day snorkeling, picnicking and taking a casual stroll along the beach observing wildlife.”

So far, five guides, including the one to Key West, have been completed. Other destinations are: Cape Cod, Mass.; Cape May, N.J.; Savannah, Ga.; and New Orleans. Each guide has a brief introduction to the area, followed by: top things to do, best nightlife, top day trips, where to eat and where to shop.

A guide to Asheville, N.C., is scheduled for release next month.

The series may be new, but it formalizes a process that has always been a part of the BB experience, said Dean Carlson, owner of The Mermaid Alligator in Key West.

Carlson said he and his staff, many of whom have lived in the area for 20 some years, have been to local places repeatedly, not just once or twice, like many reviewers. And they can also offer the most current information on new openings. They dispense advice on everything from where to find the best coffee or little Cuban sandwiches to which snorkeling or sunset boat best suits their guests’ needs. And they even help nervous young men find the ideal restaurant in which to propose. “The next morning, we’ll ask ‘How did it go? Did she say yes?’ So all of a sudden, you are part of the special occasion,” Carlson said. “Those kinds of things you can’t find in a guidebook, quirky things about a location. And we do it every day.”

Jonathon Day, an assistant professor at Purdue University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said: “I think travelers love to have the inside scoop on places they visit, and reaching out to people in the community about their favorite places is one of the best ways to do that.”

“No one wants to miss the best things about places they visit, so this is a great way to get that insider’s view,” Day said. “I love anything that gets you to the heart of the destination experience.”

Guide readers can also use BedandBreakfast.com to find and book a place among more than 13,000 properties worldwide, read reviews and check out savings promotions. 

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The best — and worst — seats for economy fliers

Which U.S. airlines have the roomiest, leg-stretching seats on domestic flights for no extra fee and which carriers’ seats are so cramped that they could be advertisements for deep vein thrombosis?

If you are among the millions of airline passengers who wait at the gate when more frequent fliers board early to snatch their seat upgrades or premium seats purchased for an additional fee, then here’s some advice for landing a roomy seat without having to shell out extra money: Fly JetBlue or Virgin America.

On the other hand, you should definitely avoid Cape Air, Spirit, and Allegiant if don’t want to feel crammed in .

Read the full report on best and worst economy seats on U.S. Airlines

This analysis comes from www.routehappy.com, a New York-based startup building a flight-amenities search engine. Routehappy crunched the numbers for domestic flights in September 2012, and put JetBlue, US Airways, Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines, United and American in the roomy seat category for all or some of their flights, depending on the airline.

With some carriers, including JetBlue, Virgin America, Cape Air, Spirit and Allegiant, it is easy to figure out whether to choose or avoid them because they each operate only one aircraft type domestically, and seating is standard on every plane. However, when it comes to larger carriers such as American and US Airways — which fly multiple types of aircraft in different configurations — the decision-making becomes much more complex.

That’s why in the Routehappy rankings, carriers such as US Airways and American Airlines appear in both the roomy- and tight-seat categories.

Related: Flight cancellations surge at American Airlines

Routehappy ranked the airlines with the roomiest and tightest seats by number of flights per day within the U.S., and secondarily looked at the percentage of flights within each airline.

So while US Airways is a leader in flights per day with roomy seats, it is also seventh among airlines by flights per day with tight seats, and these cramped flights make up 5 percent of its September 2012 schedule.

What it comes down to — with the exception of JetBlue, Virgin America, Cape Air, Spirit and Allegiant — is you can’t look for seat comfort based on the airline livery and logos, but you have to take a close look at the route and the aircraft type being used.

For example, avoid US Airways and its Boeing 737-400 aircraft if you are flying Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Charlotte, N.C., if you are in the market for a comfortable ride because the tight seats may cramp your style — and your legs.

But the US Airways Airbus A321 is just the ticket when flying Charlotte, N.C., to LaGuardia in New York because the pitch is 32 inches and the seat cushions are 18 inches wide.

In other words, roomy.

More from Skift.com


How to navigate airline customer service

Last month there was a story about a grieving couple who, after a series of airline-related issues with Delta, ended up missing their brother’s funeral. As someone who specializes in urgent airline assistance, it was painful for me to read, because it didn’t need to end this way. Several solutions could have been found to help them get to their destination in time for the funeral. So this seems like a good opportunity to offer some helpful tips on what to do if you ever find yourself in a situation where you really need to get somewhere but are stuck on the ground.

Don’t get hung up on trying to find bereavement fares
When there’s a tragedy, people often ask for bereavement fares to help reduce the cost of flying. But bereavement fares are generally offered by the traditional legacy airlines only (Southwest and other low-cost carriers don’t have them), and the truth is that they aren’t always a bargain. Sure, they’re discounted off the full fare, but you can often find cheaper discounted fares through the usual channels. Even in the case of United — an airline that gives a 5 percent discount off fares instead of filing specific bereavement fares — you might not want to bother. Why? Because the documentation required can be a real hassle.

Double-check your itinerary
This particular couple booked their flights over the phone and received a confirmation number. When they got to the airport, they found out that they had been booked on an earlier flight (which had already departed) and they were no longer able to get seats on the flight they originally wanted. Who was at fault? We have no idea. But it doesn’t matter who messed up, because the way to avoid this problem is always the same: double-check that everything is correct when you book. Regardless of how you book, give an email address so you can receive a confirmation in writing. If you forget, you can still go online and look up your booking with the confirmation number you received on the phone, or you can even call back to verify if you have to. I know this sounds tough when you’re stressed about the loss of a family member, but it’s always important to double-check.

Get to the airport early
In this particular case, it wouldn’t have made a difference since the earlier flight was a good six hours beforehand — but the more time you give yourself, the better chance you’ll be able to recover from any problems you might run into. In this example, the couple arrived at the airport 2.5 hours early, and that was a good thing. It gave them some time to try to find alternatives once it was established that the flight they wanted was completely full and they wouldn’t be able to get on.

Don’t waste time
If you find out that your reservation is gone and the airline says it can’t get you on the flight you needed, start thinking about the clock. Sure, you can sit there and ask for the supervisor, but if the airplane is full, it’s full — the ticket agent can’t physically add more seats. While you’re waiting, make sure that you are using your time wisely. If you have a smartphone, start looking for other options on sites like Hipmunk.com or other metasearch sites and online travel agents. Or to really maximize your time, call a friend who is in front of a computer to aid your search. If you have no friends, well, you can always call someone at Cranky Concierge, which deals with this kind of thing all the time. While you’re waiting for a supervisor, you can even get the agent with your airline involved in trying to help. The point is that once the clock is ticking, you’re going to want to take advantage of every second. So don’t dwell on the problem, the mistake, or the mix-up — move right to the part where you’re finding a solution.

Get creative
According to Delta, this flight was full in all classes of service and there was already a list of standby passengers. So the most obvious alternatives weren’t going to work.That’s when it’s time to start getting creative. Go to a site like Flightstats.com, where you can see all flights leaving from your airport. Once you start thinking about what flights and airlines might be able to get you where you need to go, you can start to string together ideas. For example, this couple needed to go to Detroit, but maybe the United red-eye to Cleveland had room. It’s less than three hours from there to drive to Detroit, so that could have possibly worked. Remember: If you really need to be somewhere, you’re usually willing to consider a lot more options than under normal circumstances.

Be nice
I’m not suggesting that this couple wasn’t nice, because I wasn’t there to know one way or the other. But it’s still always a good idea to remind people to be nice. Chances are that the person who you’re dealing with isn’t the person who made the mistake. That means they are an ally — they are someone who could help you get you to your destination, but if you’re yelling and screaming, then they aren’t likely to be as motivated to go above and beyond. I would guess this couple was nice because according to Delta, the agents tried to find alternatives on other airlines and then gave them a full refund along with a $300 voucher when they couldn’t get them on a Delta flight. That didn’t get the couple to their destination, but it’s still more than Delta had to do.

In the end, this whole situation was terrible. This woman missed her only brother’s funeral. I would hate to seesomething like this happen to others, so try to remember these steps: stay calm, get help (from the Internet, from an airline agent, from a problem solver like Cranky Concierge or your travel agent), be nice and be creative.

More from Condé Nast Traveler


Awkward! Your world-weary passport pics

The late humorist Erma Bombeck once wrote a book titled, “When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home.”

Via imgur.com

“The outtakes were just too funny to keep to ourselves,” said Joel, who uses the handle “Jorge Churano,” who posted this passport photo of his 5-month-old son on Imgur.com.

After seeing some of your passport mug shots, we’d have to agree. We understand that, just as this little guy’s pic shows, passport photos do not always present our best face to the world.

But don’t let that keep you home. If your photo looks like you just endured a 12-hour flight, you might as well earn it.

Does your passport photo look like it’s time for you to go home? Send it to us today; we’ll put together a gallery of your funniest, most awkward passport pics.