California Coast RV Road Trip

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Helsinki City Guide

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Tag Archives: tips

Planning a trip? Try these money-saving tips

Getting the best rates on things like hotels and flights have become a borderline obsession for some travelers, but some of the most common “tricks” are often not useful. The TODAY anchors test their knowledge on ways to make a trip go smoothly.

Is it true, or a myth? We tackle 7 conventional travel tips to reveal which will actually save you money on your next vacation.

1. If you have enough frequent flier miles for your next flight, use them.
Myth. It isn’t always a good value to cash in your miles. First, use the 1.4-cents-per-mile rule to calculate the value of an award ticket. If the cash price is considerably cheaper than the award ticket calculation, save your miles. For example, if a flight will cost you $300 cash or 50,000 points, you’ll get more value out of paying cash since the 50,000 points equal about $700. You’ll want to use those points on a ticket that’s around $500 or more. 

Related: Understanding the Not-So-Fine Print of Airline Rules

2. Search for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays or just after midnight to be sure you get the lowest airfare.
Myth. Don’t limit yourself. While it is true that many airlines have advertised sales on Tuesday and Wednesday, George Hobica of says that the best fares are unadvertised and can pop up at any hour of the week. So if consumers only search certain days, they may miss out on some great deals. Sign up for AirfareWatchDog’s alerts and follow and your favorite airlines on Twitter, to help stay on top of unadvertised fares—they often don’t last long.

3. When booking a cruise, your best bet is to use a travel agent.
True. Cruise lines are strict about keeping pricing consistent, so if you find a discount offered online, your agent should have access to the same rate. Agents can tell you if upgrades or other perks become available later and they book for no fee because they earn a commission from the cruise line itself, so there isn’t an additional cost passed on to you. You can also get valuable insights from agents on which cruise line best suits you.

4. Once you book a flight, you can’t make any changes without paying a fee.
Myth. Thanks to new DOT rules that came out earlier in 2012, you now have 24 hours after you’ve booked a flight to make changes to, or cancel, a ticket with no penalty. This rule should give you added confidence when making plans. Furthermore, websites like Orbitz will refund the difference if, after you book, another passenger books your same itinerary at a lower cost.

5. If you pay for your hotel room in advance, you may still be able to get a lower rate if the rate drops.
True. Every hotel is different, so be sure you know the cancellation policy when booking. When you book one of Tingo’s “money back” hotels, the website starts monitoring the reservation on your behalf. If the price drops at any time, Tingo will automatically cancel your reservation and rebook you at the better rate and refund you the difference after your stay. Orbitz and Travelocity also offer price guarantees on their own terms.

6. You’re less likely to be bumped from your flight if you check in early.
True. Involuntary bumping is pretty rare, but when it does occur, it’s a big headache. The earlier you check-in (24-hours is the earliest), the more better you are. Once you have your final seat assignment confirmed, bumping becomes less likely. And, checking-in early is easy since you can do it from home or on a mobile device well before you step foot in the airport.

7. The best days to fly out of major airports are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday.
True. Fewer people tend to travel on these days, so you’ll find less crowded airports and also a better chance for lower fares. It also makes sense to pick the first flight out in the morning for a better chance of avoiding delays (and crowds).

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9 airport restaurants: Local eats before liftoff

Facebook / The Salt Lick BBQ via Condé Nast Traveler

Salt Lick BBQ, in Austin’s international airport, is noteworthy for its beef brisket and pork ribs.

Airport restaurants haven’t traditionally been at the top of globe-trotting gourmands’ lists of delicious destinations. However, an increasing number of restaurants located within the terminals are becoming dining destinations.

Slideshow: See all 9 airport restaurants

Increasingly, restaurants like Plane Food at London’s Heathrow Airport and Pink’s at Los Angeles International Airport are providing portable eats and sit-down meals that are emblematic of the destination’s culinary traditions.

Check out these 10 money-saving travel tips

For travelers in transit or without time to experience a region’s cuisine, these nine kitchens provide a taste of hometown treats steps from the tarmac. From traditional Singaporean dumplings at Kim Choo’s Nonya Kitchen at Singapore Changi Airport and poffertjes (Dutch pancakes) at Dutch Kitchen at Schiphol International Airport, The Daily Meal presents nine airport restaurants that give travelers a sample of the city’s culinary creations that lie beyond the airport — many of which may even be worth missing your flight for.

Salt Lick BBQ
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Austin, Texas

When it comes to food, barbecue is a staple in the state of Texas. Salt Lick BBQ in the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport provides an authentic Texas barbecue experience for incoming travelers who can’t wait, outgoing travelers who still crave it, and through-traffic travelers who have no time to leave the airport.

The Salt Lick BBQ started 45 years ago on a ranch in Driftwood, Texas, which was run by Thurman and Hisako Roberts as well as their son Scott, who now runs the business. Thurman Roberts dreamed of living and working on the same property that he grew up on, so he built a barbecue pit on his favorite spot of the ranch and began a barbecue business. Salt Lick BBQ still uses that pit to this day.

Salt Lick BBQ is noteworthy for its signature beef brisket and pork ribs.

Thurgood Marshall Airport, Baltimore/Cleveland Hopkins Airport, Cleveland

Originally a bar in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, Obrycki’s original spot was within two townhomes bought by the Obrycki family. Eventually, food was added to the menu.

Obrycki’s signature crabcakes, typically served fried and made with jumbo lump crabmeat and a little bit of seasoned breadcrumbs and egg, embody traditional Maryland cuisine.

The bar offers a drink with a local twist called the Crabby Mary, a bloody mary made with Absolut Pepper Vodka and spicy mix, served in a glass rimmed with seafood seasoning.

Legal Sea Foods
Logan International Airport, Boston

The first Legal Sea Foods started as a fish market in 1950 under the ownership of George Berkowitz in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Mass. Berkowitz was inspired by his father, Harry’s Legal Cash Market, an adjacent grocery store that aimed to be a purveyor of fresh seafood. Legal Cash Market also likely inspired the current motto of the restaurant, “If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal!”

Legal Sea Foods first restaurant opened next to the fish market in 1968, and it quickly became a popular dining spot due to the freshness of their seafood dishes.

Berkowitz’s son Roger took over the business in 1992 and opened a location in Terminal C at Logan International Airport. Legal Sea Foods now has four restaurant locations within the terminals of Logan International.

With signature dishes like shrimp cocktail, fried clams, steamers, crabcakes, oysters, lobster (in a clam bake, roll, or steamed) and baked scrod, the airport restaurant captures the seaport-dominated culinary essence of Boston.

For travelers who wish to dine like the U.S. President, order a bowl of Legal Sea Foods signature New England clam chowder, which has been served at every presidential inauguration since 1981.

Dutch Kitchen Bar Cocktails
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has a strip of Dutch-inspired restaurants and shops located along Holland Boulevard, with the Dutch Kitchen Bar Cocktails leading the way with its menu that captures the essence of Holland in food, drink, and design.

Travelers can experience a slice of Dutch culture with a restaurant design that integrates elements from Dutch folklore and daily life.

Dutch Kitchen serves Dutch comfort food on the go, such as croquettes on farmhouse bread, traditional poffertjes (a Dutch pancake) and Dutch apple pie.

Kim Choo’s Nonya Kitchen
Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore

Lee Kim Choo first learned her grandmother’s masterful Nonya dumpling recipe when she was 12 in 1946. The family sold the triangular bamboo-leaf dumplings packed with meat and sticky rice every year at the annual summertime Dragon Boat Festival. The tradition later turned into a dumpling business, Kim Choo’s Nonya Kitchen, which started with a stall Lee set up under a tree in front of her house and has since expanded to four locations.

Aside from the portable dumplings, spicy chicken curry, satay, otak (meat cakes), and Nonya kuehs (sweet, colorful cakes) are also served.

More from The Daily Meal


10 money-saving travel tips

For 25 years, Bob Diener, co-founder of and has traveled the world collecting tips, tricks and advice to save money while on the road while making the most out of vacations.

Slideshow: See 10 ways to save money traveling

From Los Angeles to New York to destinations farther afield, Diener shares his money-saving tips like planning ahead and choosing destinations that are most likely to offer free food in their room rates (Florida and California).

Whether traveling for business or pleasure and with or without kids in tow, Diener suggests the free eats can be found at the big chains like Holiday Inn, Residence Inn by Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, and Hampton Inn Suites. But Diener notes that even trendy hotels are upping the ante with hipper food options, like Kimpton Hotels, W Hotels, and The Standard.

One of Diener’s money-saving tips that costs more upfront but may pay off in the long run is to book a room on, or get upgraded to, the concierge floor to take advantage of the free food that is served throughout the day.

Diener also suggests partaking in happy hours at hotels in destinations such as South Beach and San Francisco where wine, cheese and other happy hour treats are becoming popular daily rituals.

Plan ahead
Thousands of hotels offer 14- or 21-day advance purchase rates,  which are 10 percent to 30 percent off the rates; just for booking early. The money you save can be used towards food, drinks or even an extra day of fun.

Avoid baggage fees
Never pay for luggage. Fly Southwest, join the right frequent flyer program, or get the credit card that gets you free checked bags, said Diener. The money saved can be used for inflight meals or a nice dinner at your destination.

Be an early bird
Fly early in the morning for the lowest fares.

“A 6 a.m. flight is often hundreds of dollars less than a mid-morning flight,” said Diener. The money saved could mean fancier meals, more souvenirs or an extra day at your destination.

Shop around
Find the lowest rate and then always call travel sites, naturally Diener suggests his own but there are plenty of options, for the unpublished rate, which is typically 10 percent to 25 percent less than the lowest online rate.

Try vacation rentals
Vacation rentals are often the same, or are lower in price compared to a hotel room, and provide much more space. Some even have kitchens so travelers can save by cooking their own meals.

More from The Daily Meal


FAA to study policies on electronic devices

The FAA will examine policies on the use of portable electronic devices while in flight. NBC’s Brian Williams reports.

It’s a routine as familiar to air travelers as taking off their shoes at security, and to some just as annoying: turn off all your favorite gadgets when the plane is preparing for takeoff or landing.

But changes may be on the way.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday announced it’s forming a working group to study the government’s policies on portable electronic devices — such as iPads and Kindles — as well as the rules airlines follow to decide when they can be used. 

“With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement.

“We must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight.”

Under the current rules, fliers can’t use tablets, laptops and e-readers when a plane flies below 10,000 feet because of concerns the gadgets could interfere with aircraft instruments, according to the FAA. Any potential disruption could be riskier at a lower altitude when the crew is preparing for takeoff and landing.

There are similar regulations around the world, said Kevin Hiatt, chief operating officer for the nonprofit Flight Safety Foundation and a former pilot for Delta Air Lines.

“We’ve taken a conservative approach,” Hiatt said. “It’s not an unreasonable demand based on the fact that there are so many devices out there that we don’t know exactly what each might do.”


But Hiatt pointed out the last studies to examine the impact of portable electronic devices on aircraft instruments are old — dating back to 2006 or so, or long before many of today’s most popular gadgets came on the market. The Kindle, for example, debuted in 2007, while the iPad was introduced in 2010. The number of passengers bringing along the devices has since exploded.

Then, there’s the issue of passenger tension when told to turn off the devices. In one of the most publicized incidents, actor Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight last December when he didn’t power down his iPad when instructed to do so.

Not long after, the government began allowing some pilots to use iPads in the cockpit, prompting grumbling of a double standard. Hiatt noted those specific devices were thoroughly tested to see if they were safe to use on the flight deck, while testing remains to be done on all the other gadgets passengers carry.

Many flight attendants also feel they’ve been put in the position of being the enforcers of the policy, leading to more on-board animosity between travelers and crew.

“It’s time for us to either verify that we want to keep the rules in place or go ahead and modify as necessary,” Hiatt said.

“It’ll be complicated … (but) let’s get some better rules around this and some better understanding so it takes a little bit of the edge off with the passenger.”

Airlines can allow unlimited use of portable electronic devices if they can prove the gadgets are safe, but carriers haven’t been doing the testing because they would have to check each one of the hundreds of smartphones, tablets and e-readers available on the market, sources said.

It’s one of the issues the FAA’s working group will tackle. The panel — which will include representatives from the mobile technology and aviation manufacturing industries, pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines, and passenger associations — will be established this fall and meet for six months.

As the first step, officials want your input: you can weigh in on the issue in the Federal Register starting Tuesday.

The working group will not consider changing the rules that ban passengers from making calls on cell phones during flights.

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Hertz acquires rival, but travelers have more choices

And then there were three.

With this week’s news that Hertz, the nation’s second-largest rental car company, is buying Dollar Thrifty, the fourth largest player in the industry, there’s good news and not-so-good news for travelers who rent cars.

“The good news is that pricing shouldn’t change much,” said longtime industry analyst Neil Abrams. “The not-so-good good news is that you have three companies controlling 95 percent of a $23 billion domestic market.”

How those two scenarios play out, of course, depends on whether the Federal Trade Commission approves the merger — most observers believe it will — and how the remaining companies manage the size of their various fleets.

Related: Hertz to buy Dollar Thrifty for $2.3 billion

In the meantime, the move can also be seen as the latest step in a natural progression for an industry that’s been dealing with changing business models and evolving customer demographics for decades.

“This is an industry that until recently was a ‘pawn’ for other industries both upstream and downstream from it,” said George Hoffer, adjunct professor of economics at the University of Richmond.

By “pawn,” Hoffer is referring to the fact that in the late 1980s, car manufacturers started buying rental car companies — Ford once owned Hertz, while GM was a big investor in Avis — to create a ready-made (downstream) market for their cars. Several years later, the nation’s biggest car retailer, AutoNation, bought National and Alamo to ensure a steady (upstream) supply of what Hoffer calls “creampuff used cars.”

According to Hoffer, both efforts failed, although the effects can still be seen today. For one thing, once the Big Three automakers got out of the rental business, it opened the door for the influx of Hyundais, Nissans and Toyotas now available on rental car lots across the country.

At the other end of the spectrum, says Abrams, the rental car companies are currently making good money selling off their vehicles as they replace their fleets.

“They’re making so much money on the back end when disposing of older vehicles that there’s less pressure to make top dollar on (rental rates),” he said.

At the same time, the industry is recognizing that consumer demographics are changing and offering renters more options. Following the lead of industry leader Zipcar, both Enterprise and Hertz have launched car-sharing programs — WeCar and Hertz on Demand, respectively — that allow renters to access cars, mostly in urban areas, for an hour or two instead of by the day or week.

Car-sharing is still a niche market but it’s poised for big growth. According to a soon-to-be-published report from Frost Sullivan, membership in car-sharing programs in North America is expected to jump from 860,000 in 2011 to 9 million by 2020. An earlier report from the company estimates that revenues will climb to $3 billion in 2016, up from $700 million in 2010.

Much of the growth can be attributed to urban dwellers, college students and others who only need a car occasionally, usually for travel around town. And at rates that average $5 to $10 per hour, car-sharing is probably a poor choice for longer trips and multi-day rentals.

But, according to Philip Gott, senior director with IHS Automotive, car-sharing is poised to expand beyond its college student/young urban professional fan base, especially as big players like Hertz and Enterprise expand their offerings beyond college campuses and city/suburban locations.

Consider a scenario, says Gott, in which you fly into a city, pick up a car at the airport but then park it for the duration of your stay: “If you can pick it up at the airport and get rid of it at the hotel, you might only have it for an hour at the beginning of your trip and an hour at the end instead of renting it for five days.”

“The question isn’t if car-sharing is going to take off,” he told NBC News. “It’s when and how fast it’ll become mainstream.”

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

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