Travel search engines are a dime a dozen. From snagging last-minute hotel rooms to skirting pricey airline fees by booking individual one-way tickets, it seems as if today’s travel sites have it all figured out.
But if you put 100 percent of your trust in these tools, you may not be getting the biggest bang for your buck.
The folks at DealsPlus, an online community for bargain hunters, reached out to travel experts and insiders to find out where these websites are hiding some of the best deals — and how you can beat the system.
Whether you’re planning for a future trip or in search of the perfect last-minute summer escape, take note of the booking secrets in the infographic below.
Trust us, these 5 tricks will change the way you search for travel.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The state Health Department has identified 324 cases of Zika among New York residents infected with the mosquito-borne virus after they or their sexual partners traveled to areas where Zika is prevalent.
New York has more traveled-related cases than any other state in the nation because of the large numbers of people who travel between the New York City metro area and Central and South America where Zika is widespread, said Bryon Backenson of the state health department. There have been five confirmed travel-related cases in Onondaga County
There have been no Zika cases caused by mosquito bites in New York or elsewhere in the continental U.S.
Pregnant women infected with Zika can give birth to babies with microcephaly, a condition in which an infant is born with an abnormally small head. The virus also can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a potentially deadly type of paralysis.
Onondaga County Health Department officials say there is no risk for mosquito transmission of Zika in Central New York because the type of mosquitoes that carry the virus are not here.
Pregnant women are being advised not to travel to countries where Zika is spreading. The state health department is distributing Zika pregnancy kits to pregnant women who may travel to affected countries. The kits include mosquito repellent, larvicide tablets and condoms, because Zika can be spread through sexual transmission.
Contact James T. Mulder anytime: Email | Twitter | 315-470-2245
When you need an answer to a problem, what do you do?
If it’s urgent enough, we always pick up a phone to call or text. Not many of us will use Google to find out what to do about a bunch of bees invading the house. Before you can finish typing, you’ll get stung. And if you get stuck in an airport, there’s often no time to start an Expedia search and weigh all of the options. We need someone (or something) to do the thinking for us…or else.
To test this theory, I decided to use a new app called Lola that lets me use chat to make my travel plans. It’s A.I.-assisted, and there’s a chatbot involved, but you also communicate with a human agent. When you first use the app, you might find yourself chatting with a bot about the basics. Are you looking for a hotel or a flight? From when to when?
I needed to book a flight and a hotel for a trip in two weeks and, frankly, I was getting a little worried. I knew the rates were starting to go up, and I have a budget set, so I jumped into the app. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, because I usually don’t trust chatbots to make actual travel plans using my credit card. Maybe the bot will send me to the Bahamas? It’s reassuring to know that with Lola, and apps like Mezi, there is a real person involved, for now. I was able to explain that I don’t like flying late at night. I said I needed a hotel that’s newer, located near Silicon Valley, and doesn’t have bed bugs. (That last part was a joke, and it proved to me that a human agent was involved when she typed LOL.) We had a quick conversation about my plans.
Pushing the “book” button feels strange, but that’s only because I chatted with someone for two minutes about a flight and then decided the flight looked perfect. Where was the complicated listing of flight options? What about the time I usually spend on apps like Hopper and Expedia trying to find the best deal on different dates? The A.I. behind Lola was obviously doing most of that behind the scenes, and that’s as it should be. Bots that remove the consternation and stress involved with travel, that fill in the missing pieces for us, that let us act like humans and ask random questions or joke about bed bugs will always save us a ton of time.
One thing I didn’t like is that there is a pause when Lola goes away for a while and does some of the heavy lifting. I asked the agent about when the chatbot takes over completely, and she said there are three scenarios. One is when a human agent isn’t available, so I presume that means a bot would tell me no one is available. (That never happened…I was always under the impression that the operator was looking into my travel plans.) Another is when you use the app to ask about flight status during a trip, something I plan to do on the day I travel. And, last, the bot helps out initially to parse your request and do the hand-off to a human.
It was also cool that I received a confirmation and receipt by email so quickly. I did have to type in my credit card info to book the trip, but not to use the app. As far as I can tell, there were no extra charges to use Lola, but a rep told me the company plans to offer an annual membership. I also never found a hotel. I’m planning to find one using a different app or, more likely, Airbnb.
It’s interesting that Lola is designed to help me on the trip itself, though I’m not sure in what capacity yet. It is likely that it will be to check on my flight status or maybe change a reservation, rather than to arrange laundry service. I’ll plan to cover how the app performed after my trip.
A day before millions of travelers are expected to hit the road, rails or sky for the long Independence Day weekend, Homeland SecuritySecretary Jeh Johnson says Americans should expect to see more security in public places during their holiday.
“The American public should expect to see, this July 4th weekend, an enhanced security presence at airports, train stations and other transit centers across the country by TSA and state and local law enforcement as well as security personnel generally,” he said at a Senate Judiciary Hearing Thursday morning.
In addition to federal efforts, several airports throughout the country have said they are beefing up security in the wake of the attack in Istanbul.
The cities of Miami, Indianapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York have all said they are adding extra security for the weekend.
Los Angeles International Airport says it is expecting a record number of travelers and that they have more K-9 Units, police personnel and traffic enforcement units in place.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told ABC News it has added high visibility patrols equipped with tactical weapons and equipment at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports.
The VIPRS — a team of behavior detection offers, explosive experts, and air marshals — were created partly in response to a series of high-profile foreign train attacks in the early 2000s. They often work special events that need extra security to deter acts of terrorism.
Airports across the country are already adding security to transit centers as Turkey is reeling from an attack that killed 43 people at the nation’s largest airport.
Hopper, an airfare prediction app, is predicting Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Chicago and New York to be the most popular destinations for holiday travelers this Independence Day.
ABC News’ Becky Perlow, Erin Dooley, Ali Weinberg and Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.
This Fourth of July weekend is expected to be a record-breaking one when it comes to the number people of traveling– not the best news for those hoping to hit the road during peak travel times, according to a recent report from AAA Chicago.
But, when is the best time to hop in the car and get on the way to your destination?
The Illinois Tollway anticipates the heaviest travel day will be Friday, July 1, when nearly 2 million vehicles are projected to be on the road. On an average day, about 1.5 million vehicles use the Tollway.
Drivers are advised to start their weekend travel before lunch or after 8 p.m. on Friday. This advice holds true for drivers on the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80); drivers headed to lake visits in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin; as well as drivers on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) and the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355).
AAA projects nearly 43 Americans will travel this Independence Day weekend, which represents the highest fourth of July travel volume on record and five million more travelers compared to Memorial Day weekend. The holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.
In Illinois, 2.3 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a one percent increase from 2015. Of those travelers, two million will be driving (up one percent from 2015) and 104,000 will be flying to their destination (a .5 percent increase from 2015).
Gas prices across Illinois are on average $2.55, down substantially from $3.00 in 2015.
“Independence Day is always the most-traveled holiday of the summer, but this year it will be bigger than ever, primarily because of low gas prices,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., President and CEO, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Airports will be just as crowded as the roads, because low fuel prices are making it more affordable to fly. If fundamentals remain the same, this could be a record-breaking year for summertime travel.”
Eight million people are expected to travel on the Illinois Tollway over the holiday weekend, which is a 5.6 percent increase in travelers from 2015, according to an Illinois Tollway press release.
“Summer travel on the Illinois Tollway has become increasingly busy, as more customers realize the benefits of our investments in our roadways and bridges,” said Executive Director Greg Bedalov. “To help customers better navigate traffic this summer, we encourage motorists to start their weekend trips early or wait until later in the evening on Fridays.”
To accommodate increased Fourth of July weekend travel on the Illinois Tollway, most construction activity will be restricted to better serve Tollway customers. Most temporary maintenance and construction lane closures will be suspended from noon on Friday, July 1, through 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5. Some work may continue behind barriers to keep work on schedule. To view a list of construction projects still taking place over the Fourth of July weekend, visit here.
Low gas prices driving increase in auto travel this Independence Day Eighty-four percent of holiday travelers – more than 36 million people – will drive to their Independence Day destinations, an increase of 1.2 percent over last year.
Air travel is expected to increase 2.2 percent over last year, with 3.3 million Americans taking to the skies this Independence Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase two percent to 3.3 million travelers.
Most of those travelers are expected to fill cruise cabins and AAA’s holiday cruise bookings are 35 percent higher than last Independence Day.
Airfares and hotel rates lower than last Independence Day According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be nine percent less this Independence Day, with an average round-trip ticket costing $207.
Hotel costs have fallen slightly compared to last Independence Day. AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels will average $185, while a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel will average $144 nightly. Daily car rental rates will average $75, six percent more than last year.
Illinois State Police District 15 Out in Force The Illinois State Police District 15, like many police agencies across the state, will be out in full force during the holiday weekend.
The goals of State Police are not only to assist traveling motorists but also to decrease traffic fatalities and serious personal injury through high visibility and strict enforcement of all traffic laws.
“District 15 will have additional officers on patrol and will be conducting special enforcement details focusing on speed, distracted driving, truck lane restrictions and alcohol-related offenses in an effort to reduce crashes and prevent fatalities,” said District 15 Commander Robert Meeder. “We are asking drivers to help keep the Illinois Tollway safe by slowing down, putting away their cellphones and buckling up all occupants to ensure safe travel.”
District 15 special traffic details will focus on the fatal four offenses that include speeding, driving under the influence, seat belts and distracted driving.
These details will include seat belt enforcement by officers at toll plazas, air speed details throughout construction work zones on the I-90 Rebuilding and Widening Project and the use of special enforcement vehicles such as motorcycles, unmarked squad cars and fully marked colored squads throughout the Tollway system.
A decline in travel by Canadians to the U.S. has been
accompanied in recent months by several announcements of cuts in U.S. airline
service to Canadian destinations.
Yet data from flight-tracking website and app
FlightAware suggest that despite appearances, overall flight connectivity
between the U.S. and Canada has declined only slightly in the past two years.
Hampered by the struggling Canadian dollar, just 4.4
million Canadians stayed at least one night in the U.S. during the first three
months of 2016, according to Statistics Canada data cited in numerous Canadian
media outlets, down 13% from the same period in 2015.
Meanwhile, this spring has seen several announced service
drops to Canadian destinations by United and Delta. On May 24, Delta said that
as of July 31 it would end its twice-daily flights from Minneapolis to Regina, Saskatchewan..
That move, coupled with United’s dropping service from
Denver to Regina last year, has left Saskatchewan’s second-largest city without service from a U.S. airline. Similarly, in April United
announced plans to eliminate service between London, Ontario, and Chicago on
July 30, leaving that airport without a U.S. carrier.
United is also ending service on July 1 between Edmonton,
Alberta, and both Chicago and San Francisco. And the carrier ceased service to
St. John’s, Newfoundland, in February. For United, those announcements are part
of a trend. Over the past two years, the carrier has ended or announced the end
of service to eight Canadian destinations, spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.
United still flies into 11 Canadian airports.
“We are always reviewing the supply and the demand of the
market,” Guerin said. “We make adjustments as needed.”
Guerin said that the weak Canadian dollar has played a
role in diminished demand. It dipped from 94 cents to the U.S. dollar in July
2014 to as low as 68 cents this past January. As of last week it was trading at
around 76 cents.
Another factor has been low oil prices. Struggles in the
oil sector played a part in United’s ending service to St. John’s and the
Alberta city of Fort McMurray, Guerin said.
Despite United’s moves, airline traffic between the U.S.
and Canada has held nearly steady over the last two years, according to
As of June 1, airlines, including those from the U.S. and
elsewhere, were servicing 159 U.S.-Canada city pairs. That’s down from a
26-month high of 199 in January 2015. Travel from Canada to the U.S. peaks in
the winter, so seasonal comparisons are more relevant. This June’s count of 159
airport pairs is up from 157 last year and down from 169 in 2014, the
FlightAware data shows.
The number of U.S.-Canada city pairs peaked for this year
at 198. The number of monthly flights between the North American neighbors has
also dipped just slightly in the past two years, from 40,938 in June 2014 to a
scheduled 40,147 this June.
Delta spokesman Anthony Black said in an email that the
airline has actually increased service to Canada compared with three years ago.
Delta plans to fly 182 peak-day Canada flights in July, compared with 178 in
2013, he said.
I’m moving abroad for work to a less-developed country where I will have no option but to drink bottled water, and there isn’t a recycling program for the empty bottles. I’ll be there for one year, and my work provides shipping of household effects. How can I minimize the environmental impact of relying on bottled water? Would it be less harmful to save the empty bottles for the year and include them in my shipment of household effects back to the United States, where they can be recycled? Or would adding the extra weight to my shipment offset the benefits?
Ben Washington, D.C.
A. Dearest Ben,
As you haven’t specified your destination or your employment, my mind is awash with exciting guesses: Will you be tracking gorillas in Rwanda? Fighting cyber-crime in Indonesia? Building dollhouses in Uzbekistan? So many possibilities, all tied together by a sense of adventure — and by the fact that wherever you are headed, you apparently can’t drink the water.
Bottled water is one option to avoid these risks. But I shudder to think about how many bottles you’ll go through in an entire year at your mystery destination. Without recycling facilities close at hand, most bottles there are surely bound for dumps or landfills if they don’t simply become litter. And even if you crushed each one, shipping them back home for recycling would be a mighty inefficient way to handle disposal. I don’t think your employer expects “household effects” to include 1,000 water bottles (assuming you down three a day), and the very image of that many plastic bottles should give you pause. On top of that, no matter what you did with the bottles after draining the last drop, you’d still be accountable for the sizeable carbon footprint required to manufacture and ship each plastic vessel to your location in the first place. Don’t be that guy, Ben.
But Umbra, I can hear you saying, I’m looking at two not-so-great choices: Waste resources by drinking only bottled water, or spend the year curled in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. Luckily for you and other traveling types, Ben, there is a third option here: water purification.
From larger home systems to gadgets that treat individual glasses of water, from mechanical to chemical to optical means, there are quite a few easy-to-use methods that will remove or kill germs from your new water supply. They’re effective and affordable, can be used no matter what your living situation will be, and will allow you to bypass the water bottle conundrum. Allow me to elaborate.
I should note that it’s crucial to shop for a water purification system, not just filtration. Purifiers vanquish bacteria, protozoa, and viruses; the same cannot be said for non-purifying filters, which can allow super-small viruses to pass through. Do read the fine print, or live to regret it.
Now. You can certainly find a large purification system to install in your new home, but those tend toward the spendy (think $500 to $1,000-plus), so it might not make sense to invest for your yearlong deployment. A travel-friendly UV light treatment or purifying filter might be just the ticket: Both are reusable, can go wherever you do, and cost much less (from about $100 to $300). How do they work? So glad you asked.
A UV light device zaps all pathogens very quickly and doesn’t add any funky tastes to the water. But the smaller, portable types (like this one) only handle a liter or so at a time, which can get a bit time-consuming if you need larger volumes. Plus, you’ll need to pre-filter water that’s cloudy or silty, as suspended particles reduce the gadget’s effectiveness. Most purifying filters work by forcing water through micropores that snag germs (except viruses, in many cases). Purifying filters go the extra mile to eliminate viruses, too, sometimes by adding a chemical treatment step or by using a specially charged filtering material. They’re also quick and taste-free, but might require periodic declogging. UV purifiers tend to last longer than filter cartridges, so that tips me in their favor — but both will work for you. And finally, there’s always old-fashioned boiling — a disinfection method that’s imperfect, but handy if you’re using the water for cooking or coffee.
A toast — of clear, purified water, of course — to your journey! And be careful out there. I’d hate to have a tap-water ice cube in your margarita fell you after all this vigilance.
As Monday night turns to Tuesday morning on the East Coast, Orioles manager Buck Showalter will take his seat on the team plane in Arlington, Texas. He’ll start poring over the scouting report for the next day’s series opener. Advance scouting director Ben Werthan will have stayed home to prepare it.
They’ll do all that on what was supposed to be a precious night off.
The Orioles will make up an April 17 rainout with a single road game against the Texas Rangers on Monday night, losing one of two scheduled days off in a four-day span. After the game, they’ll take a late flight back home to begin a two-game interleague series against the San Diego Padres, whom they haven’t played since August 2013.
It’s a rare occurrence. Monday will be the Orioles’ first single road game between home games since 1967, when they made a much shorter trip: to Washington, to face the Senators.
The brief stop in Texas begins a taxing week: three opponents, seven games and a doubleheader. The Orioles originally had three days off in an 11-day span (June 13-23), but they now face 13 games in 13 days (June 14-26).
“It’s going to be a grind, but the whole season’s a grind,” catcher Matt Wieters said Sunday. “That’s what we pride ourselves on. Complaining and moaning about it, it’s not going to do anybody any good, so we’re just going to enjoy it, and whatever comes, we just run with it.”
Showalter even considered nixing batting practice Tuesday and having players come to the ballpark at 5 p.m. to get extra rest. Because of the odd nature of this week’s schedule, the Orioles will keep 10 usual traveling members home from the Texas trip, including Werthan. Chris Tillman, who started Sunday’s game, will stay home, as will Tyler Wilson and Yovani Gallardo, who started Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
Reliever Brad Brach pitched for the second straight day Sunday, this time for two innings, so he also will not make the trip to Texas.
Dylan Bundy has not pitched since Wednesday and could serve as a bridge to the late innings Monday. But if the game requires extra innings, the Orioles will be short-handed without several key pitchers.
The players remaining behind in Baltimore will have workouts Monday, so assistant hitting coach Mark Quinn and special assignment pitching instructor Ramon Martinez will stay back to run them. With one trainer and one strength and conditioning coach also staying home, the team will have a light plane coming back.
“Saved a bunch of money on hotels,” Showalter quipped.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy couldn’t recall having any week like this one, and neither could Showalter. The Orioles’ 2012 postseason posed similar challenges, as they finished the regular season in Tampa Bay on Oct. 3, then flew to Arlington for an American League wild-card game Oct. 5, then started the AL Division Series at home Oct. 7. Even that week, though, they had days off in between games.
They also didn’t have three-plus months of the season left, as they do now, putting Showalter in a tricky spot this week. Third baseman Manny Machado is suspended until Friday for charging the mound and punching Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura on June 7, and the Orioles must play a man short because they can’t replace him on the 25-man roster.
That has forced them to keep infielders Ryan Flaherty and Paul Janish and stick to an 11-man pitching staff, which will be difficult. They still need a starter for Wednesday’s game after optioning Mike Wright to Triple-A Norfolk following his start Friday.
As for Monday’s game, the Orioles will send right-hander Kevin Gausman to the mound and hope he can pitch deep into the game. Gausman, who lasted just three innings Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox, traveled with the team after Sunday’s game instead of leaving earlier by himself. He can’t recall pitching on such a short trip, either.
“It’s going to be a little weird,” Gausman said. “It’s going to be just like any other last game of a series — you pitch, and then you get on a bus and get on a plane and come back here.”
Once they return, the unfamiliar Padres await. None of the Orioles’ current batters has faced either of San Diego’s projected starters, Luis Perdomo or Erik Johnson, within the past five years.
Tyler Wilson will pitch Tuesday against the Padres, and after the Orioles figure out a starter for Wednesday — perhaps Ubaldo Jimenez — they will have a much-needed day off Thursday to regroup.
“For us, off-days are a rare commodity,” Gausman said. “Anytime we can get an off-day, we love it.”
But then comes a four-game, three-day home series against the Tampa Bay Rays, with a split doubleheader Saturday. That could require bringing up yet another arm.
“We’re just trying to get to that off-day [Thursday], let the smoke clear and see what happens,” Showalter said. “Seems like a long way away right now.”
Anthony Bourdain has a favorite solo travel destination that he calls both thrilling and challenging, and not only is it his favorite place to travel alone, but it also inspired his latest graphic novel, according to Travel + Leisure. The celebrated chef, author, and unconventional host of travel TV has a serious love relationship with the city of Tokyo, and it shows how much he loves a challenge.
“Tokyo is very exciting alone. It’s intimidating, but thrilling. Every time you need to feed yourself at a restaurant you’re taking the plunge, stepping through the curtains into a room filled with locals, menus in Japanese, feeling awkward and freakish—the tallest guy in the room—having no clue what it is that they’re serving. That’s thrilling to me, absolutely. When you finally get to the point when you can order breakfast at a restaurant? That’s a great feeling of accomplishment. That’s what I love about Tokyo. You’re forced to learn stuff every inch of the way.”
While Bourdain may not have set foot in Japan until he was an adult, his obsession with Japanese food and culture was driven by childhood memories of watching classic Japanese films with his father, such as Seven Samurai and Sanjuro. While movies are notorious for making locations seem larger than life, Tokyo seems to go beyond its portrayal on TV and film, with its over-the-top nightlife. And, according to Bourdain, the food is to die for.
“Ask just about any chef — if you had to be trapped in one country to eat for the rest of your life — they’d all pick Japan.”
Bourdain says his first trip to Japan taught him the difference between good sushi and great sushi, and the latter was well worth traveling great distances to find the best.
Even being primed at a young age to embrace Japanese food and culture, Bourdain’s selection of Tokyo as his favorite travel destination speaks volumes from a guy who has been to 75 countries. The Japanese culture and Bourdain’s travel there has not only inspired him on a culinary level and for an episode of his TV series Parts Unknown, but he has a Japanese graphic novel series, and just released “Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi,” the latest installment.
While most think of Bourdain as a chef and TV host, many do not realize he’s written 10 books. It seems the best part about writing his latest book was it justified extensive travel throughout Japan, and most recently to Okinawa Island. Other locations he “researched” include the Tsukiji Fish Market, and the “honky-tonk” neighborhood of Kabukichō, with its microbars and izakayas. All contributed to his story of a master sushi chef who engages in culinary battles in a bizarre, dystopian future.
“It was an eye-opening, traumatizing, life-changing experience. Let’s put it this way — every opportunity given, even the most ludicrous excuse to go, I will go. I just love it there.”
While the chef naturally writes cookbooks as well as crazy Japanese fiction, he does admit his culinary sensibilities and background as a chef influence the writing of fiction. It seems there is one trait that will get his characters into serious trouble whenever he’s writing a story.
“The bad guys in my books don’t respect quality food and they tend to get killed. I respond to, and sympathize with, people who are passionate about food. And I’m deeply suspicious of people who are indifferent.”
While Bourdain previously profiled Tokyo in Parts Unknown, for the upcoming season, he’ll visit Okinawa Island and reveal some of the hidden treasures in that part of Japan. He says Okinawa is much different from the rest of the country, to the point it’s almost like an entirely different country in itself. Other locations for the upcoming season of Parts Unknown include Cuba, Ethiopia, and Istanbul.