Travel agents make comeback as trip consultants

Not long ago travel agents were considered a thing of the past, but now they are making a comeback.

Travel agents have changed from being booking agents, to travel consultants. A good one can add real value to your vacation.

When booking vacations it used to be common to go through travel agents, but the Internet changed all of that. Now, most travelers book their own trips, but should they?

“This is an industry that changed so dramatically here in the last 15 years or so, but in a wayit has changed for the better for consumers because the travel agents that are still standing are the ones that have great advice and offer great service,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Bay Area’s Consumers’ Checkbook.

Checkbook just put together a report on travel agents, with advice on how to find one and how to use one. Brasler says if you are looking for just a flight or a hotel you may be better off booking online. If you are looking at a big trip, travel agents can offer serious help.

“The way to use a travel agent these days is as a travel consultant,” Brasler said. “I want to know where to go, and when to go there, what to avoid and what to see.”

“Just because a resort says they are family friendly and they say all over their web pages, we still know better,” said Mimi Cassidy of Moraga Travel.

Cassidy believes motivated consumers can do a lot on their own, but there is something to say for experience.

“Even if you have planned one or two vacation in a year, we plan five or six or seven in a day,” Cassidy adds.

Booking and planning fees start as low as $10 and can go as high as $300 for a complicated trip.

Article source: http://abc7news.com/travel/travel-agents-make-comeback-as-trip-consultants-/894683/

Travel Lens: Kristen Kish’s World

As co-host of Travel Channel’s new show 36 Hours (which premieres August 17), Top Chef season 10 winner Kristen Kish has a pretty full plate—which is often piled high with fried chicken.

“The amount of times I ordered late-night room service chicken fingers in various hotels around the world after filming is quite alarming,” Kish says.

When she’s not in front of the camera, the South Korea-born, Michigan-raised former model heads home to Boston, where she cut her teeth as a chef.

Here’s a look at the world through Kristen Kish’s unique lens:

Hannah Sheinberg: When someone comes to visit Boston, where’s the first place you take them?


Kristen Kish at Markthalle Neun in Berlin (Photograph courtesy The Travel Channel)

Kristen Kish: The best way to see Boston is to walk, so avoid coming to visit me in the winter.

I love walking from the North End to the South End and going through all of the small neighborhoods along the way. I pop in to little shops, introduce people to my friends, or stop off for a snack.

I like to get the “tour” of Boston out of the way, so then it becomes all about eating and drinking.

What’s the biggest misconception about where you live?

An outsider could look at Boston residents as being harsh, but once you crack a true Bostonian you’ve made a friend for life.

They’re warm and kind but also can smell bullsh*t a mile away and won’t deal with it. I love that.

In the past, Boston hasn’t exactly been known for its dining options. In what ways has the city become a worthwhile destination for foodies?

I’ve been in Boston now for nearly 10 years—the food scene was hitting its stride back then, but in recent years it has truly boomed.

[Nowadays] it’s not just chowder and lobster rolls. Innovative, creative chefs are doing great food.

The greatest thing about the restaurant scene here is that the chefs and owners have strong ties to the area. Whether they have grown up here under the umbrella of the iconic local chefs before them or have [plied their trade] in a different city only to come back to Boston, it’s truly a tight group.

In 36 Hours, you explore a city within a limited time frame. What’s your advice for how to get the most out of a short trip?

Wake up early, stay out late, avoid brutal hangovers, talk to people, stay off Yelp, and immerse yourself in a city though the locals around you.

Locals are your best resources, so follow the stories of their city and you’ll be sure to find something special.

In your opinion, what’s the world’s most underrated destination? Why?

Any remote location: no WiFi, no fancy Michelin[-starred] restaurants, no dishes that are on every other picture on Instagram.

I don’t do that often—or come to think of it, ever really—[but] it sounds so lovely!

What are some of the most memorable dishes you’ve had while traveling?

On camera we eat some incredible food, but this particular moment happened off camera.

In Barcelona, between filming, [co-host] Kyle Martino and I went to grab lunch at one of our dinner guest’s restaurants, La Cuina d’en Garriga.

[We ordered] slow-roasted ibérico pig shoulder that was shredded into large pieces and served with roasted tomato and peppers. It sounds so simple and unassuming, but we both agree that it was one of the most amazing bites of food we’ve had…ever.

What do you never leave home without when you’re on the road?

Other than the boring answer of my phone, wallet, computer, and notebook, I don’t really have that one thing.

Honestly, leaving home with absolutely nothing sounds far more interesting to me. If I could carry a backpack with only a change of underwear and a T-shirt, I would.  I have a personal vacation coming up and that is exactly what I intend to do.

What do you do to connect with locals and seek out authentic experiences when you’re traveling?

It’s amazing how people open up over a meal and, not so surprisingly, alcohol. Restaurants, bars, outdoor markets, local shops—a happy environment breeds happy people.


Kristen’s favorite spot in Boston, Kaze Shabu Shabu (Photograph by wcouch, Flickr)

Plant yourself and open up. The rest will come to you.

When you’re on the road, which restaurant in Boston do you dream about getting back to?

I kind of don’t want to say…I don’t want to overcrowd my spot!

It’s Kaze Shabu Shabu, [specializing in] Japanese hot pot. [It’s been my go-to] since the moment I moved to Boston. I order the exact same thing every time, which is at least once a week. One week I went four times. I crave it.

In what ways did Top Chef prepare you to host a travel show?

Top Chef got me on TV. I never thought I would do television, period.

I still get nervous! But Top Chef got my name out there and I don’t think that I would be hosting any sort of television show without that.

What’s the destination that surprised you the most?

Berlin, hands down. I went in with expectations only to come out happily surprised. I had some of the best food and met some truly amazing people there. It was the only city I walked away form thinking, “I could live here.”

Lets go behind the curtain for a second. [On my show], we spend “36 hours in a city,” but in real life it takes five days to shoot, so there are nights we don’t show on camera. After we wrapped a scene [in Berlin], our guest for that segment took us out until 4 a.m.

It takes a special city to keep me out that long during a work week.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen in your travels?

It would take a monkey riding a unicorn for me to think to myself that something is strange, so this moment is still awaiting me.

I’ll let you know as soon as It happens.

Hannah Sheinberg is an assistant editor at National Geographic Traveler. Follow Hannah on Twitter @h_sheinberg.

Article source: http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/30/travel-lens-kristen-kishs-world/

Biometrics: the future of air travel?

 Alaska Airlines may soon be boarding you for your flight via biometrics.

The airline has just completed working on the ins and outs of a system that would allow passengers to use their fingerprints instead of a boarding pass and a government-issued ID to check their bags, pass through the security checkpoint and board their flight.

“Our big-picture dream is that any time you have to prove who you are during any of the steps of air travel, you could simply use your fingerprint instead,” Jerry Tolzman, manager of Alaska Airlines customer research and development, said. “We want this to be a curb-to-seat experience.”

“Since mid-April, hundreds of customers have used the service. Almost all of the customers who participated in the experiment said they were ‘delighted’ with the experience and the prospect of using biometrics to streamline the day of travel,” according to an airline blog post.

“Using biometrics as identification has a huge potential to simplify the travel experience and eliminate hassles, while adding to the security of air travel,” Tolzman said. “We’re very excited to see where we can take this next.”

Biometrics, the technology that uses human physical traits as a form of identification, is gaining popularity with governments and business people. For instance, an Apple Inc. payment system introduced last year lets iPhone 6 users shop with the swipe of a finger.

If successful, the system will not only reduce the waiting time in security queues at airports but also reduce costs.

Using biometrics as identification, however, could produce security lapses that travel analysts are wary about.

Bloomberg highlighted the concerns.

While the US collects fingerprints from about 300,000 non-US citizens at border crossings each day, broader private-sector use of the technology heightens risks that hackers could steal biometric and biographic information, said Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy advocate group.

“It’s both a privacy risk and a security risk,” Lynch said.   

The European Commission is currently exploring fingerprint, iris and facial recognition technology – an initiative dubbed “Smart Borders” – in a bid to improve bid to expedite passenger processing while maintaining the highest levels of security.

In 2008, London Heathrow Airport scrapped its plan to fingerprint all passengers departing on flights from the building because of privacy concerns. 

Article source: http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2015/0730/Biometrics-the-future-of-air-travel

The 2 Best Air Travel Search Engines Right Now

Summer travel’s on all of our minds. So, here are my latest favorites for finding the best airfare prices online right now–after all, there’s more to travel search than Orbitz and Priceline.

Google Flights
It wasn’t until I saw Google Flights (simply: google.com/flights) mentioned in a recent New York Times Travel article that I gave it a try. Many people aren’t even aware that Google’s entered the travel search race.

Like most things Google, it’s very practical and easy-to-use. I haven’t yet seen a faster or cleaner interface to find out how much more or less I’ll pay based on my selected travel dates. Here’s a sample of a recent search for a round-trip flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Miami, Florida (MIA):

Once you select your travel dates from the calendar dashboard, your flight options are shortlisted:

From here, you can narrow down, send and share your options, or click to book with the airlines.

Pretty cool, right?

Hipmunk
Hipmunk‘s been around but remains a fantastic travel search engine.

It does a great job of sorting though airfares from various sites, and quickly presents the best routes based on a number of factors. For example, total travel time is based on an “Agony” filter–really helpful if you, like me, avoid connecting flights like the plague.

Based on the same flight search as above, here were my results. Note both engines presented the Frontier Airlines option and similar flight options and prices:

Ultimately, I like being presented with different options and then booking on my own from there. I’ve even discovered new airlines, alternate routes and decent upgrades for premium fares by using just these two engines alone.

What’s your favorite air travel search method? Tell me! Email shindy@girlgoingone.com or find us on Twitter @girlgoingone.

A version of this post first appeared in The Credit Cleanup Newsletter. See it here.

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shindy-chen/the-2-best-air-travel-sea_b_7890032.html

Yes, I’m Pretty and I’m Traveling Alone

I can already hear Regina George saying, “So, you think you’re pretty?”, and can imagine the amount of “Is this b*tch seriously complaining about being pretty and traveling?” comments this post will inevitably attract, but trust me, I’ve gotten worse things inferred about me when I travel alone.

You would think that it would be commendable for a young woman to work hard to pay for her own travels, then have the balls to go to another country on her own. Nope. It’s like a freaking international mystery to some people.

Let me solve it for you: I travel alone because I can; I don’t really like waiting around for other people to go with me. I certainly haven’t figured out how to use my face to purchase a plane ticket online, and although many random creepy men have offered plenty of free ones to me, I always decline, because I’d rather travel alone than be used for decoration.

So, to clarify:

1. No, I’m Not A Prostitute

Pretty girl traveling alone in another country typically automatically translates to prostitute. Not joking. If I wear makeup, if I wear anything that shows skin, if I wear leggings — or God forbid, if I wear a bikini — I always get the most opinionated stares from people assuming I’m looking for my next customer to pick up.

Not only is it beyond irritating and embarrassing, especially since it’s typically accompanied with snickers and whispers that I can hear, but it’s disappointing that people seriously don’t think that a young, “pretty girl” would be traveling alone, solely for the sake of traveling!

I met a German guy on a beach in Cuba a few months ago who confirmed that most people think a pretty girl traveling alone is a prostitute. In fact, he said that the locals even warned him about the “pretty Cuban girls who walk up and down the beach, looking for tourists to talk to,” and that it happens in almost every country as well. No wonder why people look at me like I’m going to steal their husbands.

2. No, I’m Not Recovering From A Breakup

While traveling solo to get over a bad breakup is a genius idea, it’s typically not the reason why I travel alone. And by “typically not,” I mean, “it’s not.” I don’t expect every random human I come in contact with to automatically know my relationship status or extreme love of traveling, but don’t automatically assume the reason why I’m alone is because my relationship just failed and poor little helpless me needs something awesome to distract me from it.

I get it, a lot of people think a 27-year-old girl should be in a committed relationship. Well, it’s 20-f*cking-15, and the only commitment I have at the moment is traveling the world, and I think I’m doing a pretty damn good job at it by myself.

3. Yes, I Paid For My Trip

From the questionable glares to the inevitable “who’s taking the picture?” comments on social media, it seems like the number one thought on a lot of people’s minds is “who paid for it?”

Well, to answer your question, Hi, my name’s Alyssa, I have a job just like you do, and I choose to spend all of my money on traveling. There’s no secret sugar daddy, I’d never ask my parents for money and I didn’t start a crowdfunding campaign or win a contest. I paid for it. Just because I’m a “pretty girl” doesn’t mean I’m not capable of earning money and saving it instead of shopping. In fact, I have a motto: “I’d rather buy a plane ticket than a purse,” and I always do.

4. Yes, I’m Judging You Back Now

In my eyes, everyone is equal… until you go and offend me with your toxicity by sending negative vibes my way. I didn’t immediately judge your tacky, unnecessary, decked-out hiking gear that you wore to climb a hill before I noticed you gasping and whispering about my Lululemon-like (I would never pay that much for Spandex) ensemble. Now I’m going to judge you as not only a tourist, but as an ignorant person as well.

5. Fine, You Actually Just Think I’m Pretty

I know, I know, I sound like a huge b*tch for complaining about people starring at me when I travel alone when I really should “be glad that I’m lucky enough to look this way.” But it’s only because I really do work hard without using my looks in order to travel, so it offends me when people judge me because of them.

But I have to be a big girl and also acknowledge that not everyone is toxic and evil… some people really do just think I’m “pretty,” and that’s very nice of them. They probably don’t think I’m smart, or hilarious or that I run my own charity, but hey, I guess that’s better than assuming I’m a prostitute!

Also on HuffPost:

For more than a decade, Marrakesh has been the Moroccan destination on everyoneu2019s list. Fez, about 240 miles northeast, was often an afterthought. But slowly, quietly, a sophisticated scene is taking root. It started with expats and locals restoring riads, and continues as hotels, restaurants, and galleries pop up. The biggest news is the Hotel Sahrai, with a hip rooftop bar and 50 rooms, many overlooking an infinity pool. Other notable places to stay include the medinau2019s Karawan Riad, whose seven renovated suites offer a modern alternative to more traditional riad hotels, and Palais Faraj, a 19th-century palace transformed by architect Jean-Baptiste Barian. On the culinary front, Restaurant No. 7 is making waves with a rotating series of acclaimed guest chefs. Itu2019s the brainchild of British food writer Tara Stevens and American Stephen Di Renza, part of a group of expats who are encouraging experimentation. So far, overdevelopment isnu2019t an issue. Whether this will lastu2014especially with the 2015 debut of an upgraded airport, set to accommodate 2.5 million passengers, five times the current volumeu2014is anyoneu2019s guess. Donu2019t wait to find out. This is the moment to see Fez. Find out more about T+L’s top pick for 2015. u2014Richard Alleman

nPhoto: Cu00e9line Clanet”,”rating”:”1″,”votes”:”1″,”slideimage_crops”:[{"id":"7624766","slideimage_id":"4850182","slide_id":"395456","type":"free","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850182_free.jpg"},{"id":"7624768","slideimage_id":"4850182","slide_id":"395456","type":"small","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850182_small.jpg"},{"id":"7624770","slideimage_id":"4850182","slide_id":"395456","type":"original","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850182_original.jpg"}],”slideimage_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850182_free.jpg”,”slideimage_thumbnail_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850182_sq50.jpg”},{“slide_id”:”395456″,”slideimage_id”:”4850184″,”type”:”image”,”title”:”Catskills, NY”,”title_link”:”Catskills_NY”,”width”:”0″,”height”:”0″,”credits”:”",”config”:{“text”:{“show_image”:null,”image_width_percent”:null,”image_height_percent”:null},”migrate”:{“type_data”:{“comment”:{“permalink”:null},”blog”:{“permalink”:null}}}},”created”:”0000-00-00 00:00:00″,”image_num”:”1″,”drone_druid”:null,”drone_asid”:null,”caption”:”See More of the Best Places to Travel in 2015

The region that welcomed Jewish families in the u201950s, hippies in the u201960s, and soon, perhaps, casino gamblers is also making room for a new tribe: hip, design-crazed travelers. A string of stylish BBs have opened, many of them by transplants from Manhattan and Brooklyn (call them u201chickstersu201d) who value buzzwords like local, authentic, and handmade. Among them are the bohemian-chic Hotel Dylan in Woodstock, the Arnold House in Livingston Manor, with its tavern and diminutive spa, and Phoeniciau2019s Graham Co., where the retro amenities include Tivoli radios, bonfires, and a badminton court. Area farms provide the ingredients for inventive restaurants like Table on Ten, in Bloomville, which just added a trio of whitewashed rooms upstairs. The blackjack tablesu2014and a few megaresort proposals that envision the return of the areau2019s Borscht Belt heydayu2014may be only a few years off, so now is the time to enjoy fly-fishing, hiking, antiquing, microbrewery-hopping, and other placid pursuits. u2014Peter J. Frank

rnPhoto: Alessandra Mattanza / The Hotel Dylan”,”rating”:”0″,”votes”:”0″,”slideimage_crops”:[{"id":"7624784","slideimage_id":"4850184","slide_id":"395456","type":"free","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850184_free.jpg"},{"id":"7624786","slideimage_id":"4850184","slide_id":"395456","type":"small","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850184_small.jpg"},{"id":"7624788","slideimage_id":"4850184","slide_id":"395456","type":"original","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850184_original.jpg"}],”slideimage_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850184_free.jpg”,”slideimage_thumbnail_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850184_sq50.jpg”},{“slide_id”:”395456″,”slideimage_id”:”4850186″,”type”:”image”,”title”:”Rotterdam, Netherlands”,”title_link”:”Rotterdam_Netherlands”,”width”:”0″,”height”:”0″,”credits”:”",”config”:{“text”:{“show_image”:null,”image_width_percent”:null,”image_height_percent”:null},”migrate”:{“type_data”:{“comment”:{“permalink”:null},”blog”:{“permalink”:null}}}},”created”:”0000-00-00 00:00:00″,”image_num”:”2″,”drone_druid”:null,”drone_asid”:null,”caption”:”See More of the Best Places to Travel in 2015

If Amsterdam is a study in old-world elegance, then the scrappier port city of Rotterdam is all big, futuristic ambitionu2014and its constantly unfolding city center has become one eye-popping explosion of style. The latest attraction, and reason enough to visit, is the MVRDV-designed Markthal, an igloo-like horseshoe that houses 96 stalls (Dutch cheeses to Moroccan spices, reflecting the polyglot city), 20 shops, nine restaurants, and 228 apartments. It also happens to feature Hollandu2019s largest artwork: a trippy nimbus of mammoth, tumbling fruits and vegetables arching across the market ceiling on 4,500 aluminum panels. Other recent starchitect landmarks include the multipurpose Rotterdam Central Train Station and native son Rem Koolhaasu2019s nhow hotel, sitting like a pile of stacked metal boxes on the south bank of the Maas River, the cityu2019s reigning cultural hub. After visiting the neighboring Netherlands Photo Museum and the lipstick-red New Luxor Theater, toast a trip well-taken with a Dutch Blossom cocktail in the hotel bar. u2014Raphael Kadushin

rnPhoto: Stuart Forster / Alamy”,”rating”:”0″,”votes”:”0″,”slideimage_crops”:[{"id":"7624796","slideimage_id":"4850186","slide_id":"395456","type":"free","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850186_free.jpg"},{"id":"7624798","slideimage_id":"4850186","slide_id":"395456","type":"small","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850186_small.jpg"},{"id":"7624800","slideimage_id":"4850186","slide_id":"395456","type":"original","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850186_original.jpg"}],”slideimage_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850186_free.jpg”,”slideimage_thumbnail_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850186_sq50.jpg”},{“slide_id”:”395456″,”slideimage_id”:”4850188″,”type”:”image”,”title”:”Puerto Plata, D.R.”,”title_link”:”Puerto_Plata_DR”,”width”:”0″,”height”:”0″,”credits”:”",”config”:{“text”:{“show_image”:null,”image_width_percent”:null,”image_height_percent”:null},”migrate”:{“type_data”:{“comment”:{“permalink”:null},”blog”:{“permalink”:null}}}},”created”:”0000-00-00 00:00:00″,”image_num”:”3″,”drone_druid”:null,”drone_asid”:null,”caption”:”See More of the Best Places to Travel in 2015

Far from the resort-clogged beaches of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republicu2019s less-frequented northern shore has remained largely under the radar. But developments slated for 2015 in Puerto Plata are bound to lure well-heeled sun-seekers. First up is The Gansevoort, offering three-bedroom apartments with private pools and four-bedroom penthouses equipped with rooftop hot tubs. Later in 2015, Aman Villas will become the second Caribbean outpost from Singapore-based Amanresorts and the first golf-integrated Aman Resort. Itu2019s the first phase of a development that aims to introduce some 400 residential villas, along with sports and equestrian facilities. Each is a welcome departure from the islandu2019s cookie-cutter all-inclusivesu2014and a promising sign of whatu2019s to come in the luxury circuit. u2014Lindsey Olander

rnPhoto: Gansevoort Hotel Group”,”rating”:”0″,”votes”:”0″,”slideimage_crops”:[{"id":"7624772","slideimage_id":"4850188","slide_id":"395456","type":"free","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850188_free.jpg"},{"id":"7624774","slideimage_id":"4850188","slide_id":"395456","type":"small","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850188_small.jpg"},{"id":"7624776","slideimage_id":"4850188","slide_id":"395456","type":"original","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850188_original.jpg"}],”slideimage_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850188_free.jpg”,”slideimage_thumbnail_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850188_sq50.jpg”},{“slide_id”:”395456″,”slideimage_id”:”4850190″,”type”:”image”,”title”:”Wasatch Mountains, Utah”,”title_link”:”Wasatch_Mountains_Utah”,”width”:”0″,”height”:”0″,”credits”:”",”config”:{“text”:{“show_image”:null,”image_width_percent”:null,”image_height_percent”:null},”migrate”:{“type_data”:{“comment”:{“permalink”:null},”blog”:{“permalink”:null}}}},”created”:”0000-00-00 00:00:00″,”image_num”:”4″,”drone_druid”:null,”drone_asid”:null,”caption”:”See More of the Best Places to Travel in 2015

You can craft a linear story arc from the first edition of Robert Redfordu2019s film festival in 1984 to the summer 2014 purchase of Park City Mountain Resort by Vail Resortsu2014the behemoth operatoru2019s second recent foray into Park City (it bought the Canyons in 2013). Along the way a small mining town became a cauldron of Olympic athletes, Hollywoodu2019s A-list, and luxury hotel brands like St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria. But a ski region blessed to have won the geographical lotteryu2014seven world-class resorts span three parallel canyons in the rugged Wasatch Mountains, all within an houru2019s driveu2014remained second fiddle to neighboring Colorado, whose star has shined brighter. Thatu2019s about to change. Where Vailu2019s vaunted Epic Pass goes, a legion of loyal snow junkies follows. The new year brings new restaurants, high-speed chairs, and lifts, including one that connects Canyons to PCMR, making it the largest ski resort in the U.S. And the industry is buzzing over a proposal that seems headed for approval called One Wasatch, which would link all seven ski areas in a European-style mega-network spanning 18,000 acres and 100 lifts. The project will have major tourism implications, introducing a new flock of riders to what locals proudly declare on their car license plates: the greatest snow on earth. u2014Nathan Storey

rnPhoto courtesy of Canyons Resort”,”rating”:”6″,”votes”:”1″,”slideimage_crops”:[{"id":"7624778","slideimage_id":"4850190","slide_id":"395456","type":"free","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850190_free.jpg"},{"id":"7624780","slideimage_id":"4850190","slide_id":"395456","type":"small","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850190_small.jpg"},{"id":"7624782","slideimage_id":"4850190","slide_id":"395456","type":"original","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850190_original.jpg"}],”slideimage_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850190_free.jpg”,”slideimage_thumbnail_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850190_sq50.jpg”},{“slide_id”:”395456″,”slideimage_id”:”4850192″,”type”:”image”,”title”:”Istanbul”,”title_link”:”Istanbul”,”width”:”0″,”height”:”0″,”credits”:”",”config”:{“text”:{“show_image”:null,”image_width_percent”:null,”image_height_percent”:null},”migrate”:{“type_data”:{“comment”:{“permalink”:null},”blog”:{“permalink”:null}}}},”created”:”0000-00-00 00:00:00″,”image_num”:”5″,”drone_druid”:null,”drone_asid”:null,”caption”:”See More of the Best Places to Travel in 2015

You canu2019t walk through a neighborhood in Istanbul these days without stumbling upon a debutante hotel primping for its grand entrance. Political unrest hasnu2019t deterred visitors, with tourism numbers soaring to new highs and hotel groups rushing to meet growing demand. In September 2014, Raffles moved into the business districtu2019s glitzy Zorlu Centre, one of many sleek additions to the ancient cityu2019s sinuous skyline, featuring a mall, office space, and a $350 million performing arts center. Up next: St. Regis in tony Nisantasi and Soho House in trendy Beyoglu. The Vault Hotel debuted in March in Karaku00f6y, Istanbulu2019s neighborhood du jour, with stately interiors befitting its provenance as an erstwhile bank: an ornate fau00e7ade, an old-fashioned cagelike elevator, a steel vaultu2013turnedu2013liquor cabinet presiding over the bar. In November, the Morgans Hotel Group unveiled 10 Karaku00f6y nearby, steps from a bevy of new restaurants (join the throngs of stylish locals grazing at Colonie). Even hallowed Old City isnu2019t immune: Morgansu2019 next venture, the Mondrian Istanbul, will glam up prime real estate amid Fatihu2019s Ottoman domes. u2014Sarah Khan

rnPhoto courtesy of The House Hotel”,”rating”:”0″,”votes”:”0″,”slideimage_crops”:[{"id":"7624802","slideimage_id":"4850192","slide_id":"395456","type":"free","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850192_free.jpg"},{"id":"7624804","slideimage_id":"4850192","slide_id":"395456","type":"small","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850192_small.jpg"},{"id":"7624806","slideimage_id":"4850192","slide_id":"395456","type":"original","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850192_original.jpg"}],”slideimage_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850192_free.jpg”,”slideimage_thumbnail_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850192_sq50.jpg”},{“slide_id”:”395456″,”slideimage_id”:”4850194″,”type”:”image”,”title”:”Chengdu, China”,”title_link”:”Chengdu_China”,”width”:”0″,”height”:”0″,”credits”:”",”config”:{“text”:{“show_image”:null,”image_width_percent”:null,”image_height_percent”:null},”migrate”:{“type_data”:{“comment”:{“permalink”:null},”blog”:{“permalink”:null}}}},”created”:”0000-00-00 00:00:00″,”image_num”:”6″,”drone_druid”:null,”drone_asid”:null,”caption”:”See More of the Best Places to Travel in 2015

Famous for its 1,600 pandas, most of which still live in the wild, Chengdu has introduced a 72-hour no-visa policy that makes it easier for Americans to drop in on one of the cityu2019s three major panda research facilities. (For seeing the black and white bears without turning blue, the best months are June to October.) But itu2019s worth sticking around longer to experience whatu2019s doing in Chengdu, a city on the rise. One of the shiniest attractions is New Century Global Centre, the worldu2019s largest building, complete with an artificial beach. And thereu2019s a slew of new hotel addresses. London-based Make Architects wraps a three-dimensional woven fau00e7ade of timber, brick, and step stones around The Temple House, which also incorporate a thousand-year-old Chinese Buddhist temple and restored Qing dynasty courtyard building. Swireu2019s third u201cHouseu201d hotel opens in January 2015 with 100 rooms, while Six Senses opens the sustainable timber doors at Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain, with 113 whitewashed suites, 30 minutes outside town in the still-unspoiled bamboo forest near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qingchengu2014the birthplace of Taoism and the Dujiangyan irrigation system, an ecological engineering feat dating back to around 256 B.C. u2014Cynthia Rosenfeld

rnPhoto: An Qi / Alamy”,”rating”:”0″,”votes”:”0″,”slideimage_crops”:[{"id":"7624790","slideimage_id":"4850194","slide_id":"395456","type":"free","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850194_free.jpg"},{"id":"7624792","slideimage_id":"4850194","slide_id":"395456","type":"small","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850194_small.jpg"},{"id":"7624794","slideimage_id":"4850194","slide_id":"395456","type":"original","url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850194_original.jpg"}],”slideimage_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850194_free.jpg”,”slideimage_thumbnail_url”:”http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395456/slide_395456_4850194_sq50.jpg”}],”slide_html”:”",”more_slideshows”:[{"entry_id":"7828946","entry_url":"http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-campoamor/why-i-chose-to-keep-my-unplanned-child_b_7828946.html","content_type":"image","image_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/217242/slide_217242_817341_small.jpg","thumbnail_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/217242/slide_217242_817341_small.jpg","title":"Readers Share: Books Every Woman Should Read","slideshow_id":"217242","vertical":"women"},{"entry_id":"7794132","entry_url":"http://www.huffingtonpost.com/akirah-robinson/10-things-to-remember-when-dating-is-stressing-you-out_b_7794132.html","content_type":"image","image_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/305153/slide_305153_2624037_small.jpg","thumbnail_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/305153/slide_305153_2624037_small.jpg","title":"Best Female Duos In Movies","slideshow_id":"305153","vertical":"women"},{"entry_id":"7770534","entry_url":"http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thecut/can-we-just-get-over-the-way-women-talk_b_7770534.html","content_type":"image","image_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395436/slide_395436_4849660_small.jpg","thumbnail_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/395436/slide_395436_4849660_small.jpg","title":"8 Inspiring Author Quotes","slideshow_id":"395436","vertical":"women"},{"entry_id":"7763930","entry_url":"http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/09/channing-tatum-roxane-gay_n_7763930.html","content_type":"image","image_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/430168/slide_430168_5581922_small.jpg","thumbnail_url":"http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/430168/slide_430168_5581922_small.jpg","title":"10 women on why feminism still matters","slideshow_id":"430168","vertical":"women"}]};

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alyssa-ramos/yes-im-pretty-and-im-traveling-alone_b_7860640.html

How to save big on end-of-summer travel

It’s hard to believe, but summer is already more than half over. August is approaching quickly, and it’s a great month to plan an end-of-summer vacation. Since most people travel in early-to-mid-summer, you can save money by planning a trip later in the year, and by following some money-saving tips. 


1. Utilize your credit cards and points to save on flights and hotel stays.

  • Marriott Rewards Card – You can get 80,000 Marriott Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months after signing up, which is enough to get you two free nights at a category 8 property of your choice.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and get 40,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. That’s equivalent to $500 back in travel rewards for flights and more in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Site!
  • FlexPerks Travel Card – When you sign up for this card and spend $3,500 in the first four months, you’ll receive 20,000 Flex Points (good for a $400 credit on airfare), and you’ll also earn two points per dollar on cell phone bills, restaurants, airlines, gas, and groceries.
  • British Airways Visa – When you sign up for this card and send $2,000 in the first three months of membership, you’ll get 50,000 British Airways Avios miles, and earn three Avios miles per dollar on British Airways purchases, plus one mile per dollar on everything else. For more information, check out our blog post on how to get the most out of your British Airways Visa sign up bonus!
  • IHG Rewards Card – You’ll earn 60,000 IHG Rewards points after you spend $1,000 within three months of becoming a cardholder, and you’ll earn five points per dollar spent on IHG purchase, two points per dollar at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores, and one point per dollar on everything else.


2. Use discounts (You knew that was coming!)

Airfare:

  • Expedia – For a limited time, you can save up to 100 percent off your flights when you book a flight and a hotel together on Expedia.
  • Southwest Airlines – Save up to $200 on a Disney Vacation when you book with Southwest before 8/3!
  • Emirates – Emirates is currently running a major sale on flights around the world, with departure cities all over the U.S.

Hotels:

  • Travelocity – From now until 8/31, you can save up to 50 percent on hotels during Travelocity’s summer sale!
  • Hotwire – Save up to 60 percent on hotels when you shop this end-of-summer sale from Hotwire!
  • IHG – Save up to 30 percent on IGH hotel rooms with this summer sale from IGH.

Packages:

  • Travelzoo – Book by 7/31 to get an Ireland Vacation Package to Dublin, Kilkenny, and Limerick, including airfare, as low as $856. The package includes round-trip airfare from New York (JFK) to Dublin, car rental, and hotel stays for 6 nights in Dublin, Clare, Mayo, and Kilkenny. There are a variety of departure dates in October, November, and December, and the lowest prices are at the end of November.
  • OneTravel – Use code SUN60 to get an extra $60 off select vacation packages with OneTravel.
  • United Vacations – This sale ends today (7/30), but if you book by the end of today using code COAST1, you can save up to $200 on select vacation packages anywhere in the U.S. from United.

Car rental:

  • Travelzoo – Book by tomorrow (7/31) to get 15 percent off rental cars from Sixt.
  • Hotwire – This end-of-summer sale features rental cars for as low as $11.95/day!
  • Priceline – Save up to 35 percent on Budget Car Rentals when you book with Priceline using the coupon code D479001.


3. Look at off-season destinations and travel times.

You can find great deals on New Zealand vacations when you book now!

  • Fort Lauderdale – Florida in general is a great end of summer travel destination. Since it is such a hot spot for Spring Break crowds, the summer months tend to be a little slow and therefore a little cheaper.
  • Australia and New Zealand – Because it’s winter over there, their slow season lasts through the end of August.
  • Costa Rica – The low time here lasts until November. Although temperatures are prettys steady, there is more precipitation during their low time.

If you plan on visiting a heavy business-traveler area, you may be able to get a better deal on weekend travel. Due to the current state of the economy, many businesses are cutting business travel and this means some hotels try to make up for that with weekend deals for families.

If you’re planning to send your kids to camp, consider just sending them for the month of August, many camps charge less because this month is less popular than June or July. Also note that you can also claim a tax credit of up to $3,000/child for the cost of summer camps.


4. Bundle hotel and airfare to get the lowest total price.

Sites like Expedia allow you to buy your flight and hotel together, which can save you big time. Another huge perk of using Expedia is that they allow you to compare different airlines and prices to make sure you’re getting the absolute best current deal you can.

Be sure to also check baggage rates before committing to a package. Some airlines, like Southwestdon’t charge baggage fees. Always take that into consideration when figuring your total cost.

The best advice we can give is to do you research before booking anything. See if bundling is best, try booking your flight as late as possible, plan your trip around local deals–do whatever it takes! Trust, me, the money you save will be worth the extra time spent reviewing your options.

This article first appeared on Brad’s Deals.

Article source: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Saving-Money/2015/0730/How-to-save-big-on-end-of-summer-travel

How to travel and be kind to animals

In a bygone era, the general public didn’t think twice about bullfighting, bear baiting or octopus wrestling. Animal-themed attractions were commonplace. Today, travelers not only are questioning these scenarios, but making choices that reflect their discomfort with using animals for entertainment. An increasing number of people view places such as marine parks and zoos as unacceptable and reroute their vacations and dollars accordingly.

At SeaWorld, for example 2014 year-end results show a 4.2 percent drop in attendance and a net loss of $25.4 million for the year’s last quarter. These declines came after negative publicity surrounding the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” which tells the story of a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity.

More recently, outrage erupted over an American trophy hunter’s killing of a well-known lion in Zimbabwe named Cecil. Since the story broke, more than a half million people have signed a petition urging the country to stop issuing hunting permits to kill endangered animals.

How do we go about making compassionate choices in our travel? To find out, we went to Ingrid Newkirk, cofounder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the 35-year old organization known for its relentless animal rights campaigns (including those against Ringling Bros., which led the circus to announce earlier this year that it will retire all its elephants by 2018).

Here’s an edited version of that conversation.

What are the overall travel trends concerning animals?

When times are tough with the economy, people tend to take very cheap package vacations. In the last seven years or so, people have become more animal aware. If they’re going on a cheap junket to Cancun, they ask whether they should swim with the dolphins, have their pictures taken with parrots on their shoulder or if there’s anything wrong with fish pedicures — which there is.

Did you say fish pedicures?

Yes. It’s been banned in many places in the U.S., but you see it in resorts where people are looking for something cheap to do. You put your feet into a glass container and the fish nibble the excess flesh from around your feet. They do it because they’re hungry. They’re not fed, and they carry diseases from person to person. It’s all revolting. People think it’s cute and amusing, but it isn’t. It’s unkind and it’s unhealthy.

Families with young children often plan trips around seeing animals. But part of being a modern traveler necessitates changing our mind-set and understanding the concerns associated with animals in captivity. How do we do that with kids?

I think it’s fairly easy with kids. It’s adults who imagine, for the most part, their children might like to see a particular attraction that has animals. I remember when I was 7, in Spain, stopping outside an arena with bullfighting posters. I asked my parents about it, and they said, “We’ll tell you and then you can decide if you want to go.” Of course I was horrified. I think a lot of children regret as they grow up being taken to these spectacles and feel guilty when they realize what they subsidized. Parents nowadays are more open to speaking honestly with their children. You can say, “Actually, those dolphins would rather be in the sea. The only reason they’re not is that people are paying money to keep them in the small pool. Would you rather pay money to see them in a small pool or would you rather them be in the sea?” Invariably they say, “Oh they should be in the sea!” Let the child decide.

Many people who work with or care about animals today were inspired by animal encounters as children. How can we foster animal relationships in a better way when we travel?

Bona fide farm and wildlife sanctuaries are worth a visit, as are the few places that are so precious — parks, bird refuges and swamps. Those types of places teach children to look for animals in their natural environments and to see their real behavior. You can do a service and teach the child how to be respectful and awestruck rather than dominating and manipulating. But you need to be careful. In Thailand, there are painting elephants — they are always “orphaned” elephants. That’ s big selling point, and it’s a bunch of hooey. We know from National Geographic and people on the ground that they are deliberately orphaned and trained. It’s tourist gimmick and scam.

But unlike the theme parks, reserves and sanctuaries aren’t equipped to handle large numbers of tourists.

Every year there are more, like Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, Chimp Haven in Louisiana and Save the Chimps in Florida (chimps were rescued from roadside zoos), Poplar Spring in Maryland and Animal Place in California. Hoards of tourists can’t go, you’re absolutely right. But I find many people don’t even know they exist. They’re not going to be in tourist brochures because they’re charities. But a little search online, and you’ll find a gem.

How can we tell — beyond national parks — what places have a good record with animals? Are there accreditations?

In the U.S. there are accreditation agencies for sanctuaries but only for certain kinds. Overseas, it’s a even a bigger conundrum. But if you Google and look for complaints or contact PETA, you can sort the wheat from the chaff just like we would on TripAdvisor.com. I have an easy rule: I avoid it if I don’t know. It’s just like if you’re a vegetarian, you don’t go near the meat aisle.

Are there any zoos that are doing it right?

There are. The Detroit Zoo does a very good job in many respects. The director is quite — I don’t want to say progressive, because we’re so far behind — but he knows when the elephants die, they will not be replaced. Zoo directors across the country are coming out and saying there’s absolutely no way for zoos, let alone circuses, to provide for these complex giant animals who might walk 100 miles in a day and who have intricate family relationships and matriarchies. Their method of communication is completely stifled in a zoo environment. Zoos are trying to wean themselves away from certain cruelties we didn’t understand in the past.

A vegetarian goes to a restaurant without any vegetarian options. Would you walk away or ask the kitchen to make a meat-free dish?

I have never found a restaurant that won’t accommodate you unless it’s a fast food outlet in the middle of nowhere. They will make you a fabulous plate of pasta and vegetables, or they’ll find a veggie burger somewhere. Many countries have a vegan soup — like Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Corsica. Go in and show what the market wants. Be nice and helpful and explain what you’d like.

What can we ask for at hotels, other than non-down pillows and comforters?

Cruelty-free toiletries from companies like Paul Mitchell or Aveda. Any hotels that offer brochures from cruel attractions like SeaWorld should be asked to remove them. Tell the hotels it’s upsetting to you and your family because — always give them a reason. And always fill out comment cards, everywhere, very politely. Same with airlines. When they evaluate, they’ll change accordingly.

Speaking of airlines, what’s the status of your campaign with Air France, the only carrier still transporting primates to labs for research?

Yes, and it breaks my heart because I have used Air France and of course will not now. They are picking up most of the business for bringing primates from Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and also from China into France, Chicago and New York, and shipping them all over the world to be hurt and killed in laboratories. We’ve already stopped the use of chimpanzees in experiments, and now it’s time to stop it with all primates. We had people in airports in France dressed as Air France fight attendants handing out leaflets. We were able to commandeer the sound system, and we said, “Passengers, please do not pay any attention to the primates crated and on their way to laboratories under your seats in the cargo hold.”

What other campaigns are you working on in the tourism industry?

We’re active with bullfighting with Spain and other countries. Some towns have banned it. The vast majority of people polled in Spain oppose the bullfights now. Only the tourist trade keeps it alive. Another issue is whale-watching boats — some are intrusive and get too close to mothers with calves.

What will it take for the animal movement to become as mainstream as the environmental movement? Today, for example, we’re used to seeing little signs in hotel bathrooms asking us to save our towels between uses.

I think it’s slowly getting there. Not too long ago, people might have cocked their heads and looked at you sideways if you mentioned cruelty-free toiletries. On the plane in India, their meals are “vegetarian or nonvegetarian.” In Los Angeles at Mohawk Bend, they have non-vegan dishes marked, “NV.” I saw that and thought, the pendulum is swinging here. The more people say things and ask for things, the quicker things will change. Our motto is never be silent.

Other countries have banned animals in circuses. Will the U.S. follow?

Yes, it already is, jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Counties in the U.S. are banning wild animal acts or banning keeping wild animals as pets. There was a time you could just buy a chimpanzee to raise as a child in your home, only to find out they’re 10 times stronger than you and want to mate. You remember Mike Tyson used to have tigers in his Las Vegas mansion? Those days are going.

What other animal-friendly steps can we take before and during travel?

• People can always contact us at peta.org with questions. We’re happy to research.

• We work with HumaneTrip.com, which helps people who are compassionate, ethical, animal-friendly travelers to choose good destinations and get good deals from companies that are animal-friendly.

• Pick up trash on the beach. A lot of beach toys are sold in plastic net bags that end up blowing into the water, and anybody from a herring to a seal to a turtle could get their head stuck and not extricate themselves and die. I always have a plastic bag for trash inside my beach bag.

• If you go to an underdeveloped country where you’re likely to find animals in trouble, don’t just turn around and think it’s hopeless. Make inquiries about shelters. I carry a can or two of pop-top cat food that has come in handy for a starving cat; or a thin leash to try to get a dog off the street.

• Wherever you’re traveling, know the words for “I am vegetarian,” as well as “Please,” “Thank you” and “There’s an injured animal. Can you help me?”

What else do you do during your travels?

I like to tithe a little bit of vacation money when I travel. It could be for stray dogs or the local humane society that’s trying to help the carriage horses. All the hotels and airports and roads have taken habitat away from animals and shrunk their world. So giving some money — it may not be much for you, but may be a lot for them — is like the tourist tax at hotels. But it’s a self-imposed tourist tax to do good.

More from Travel:

Look but don’t touch? Tourists rub Florida manatees whether they like it or not.

In Florida, should the manatees swim alone?

At a South Florida hospital, heroes for the half-shell

Travel Guide

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/animal-centered-tourism-after-cecil-the-lion-peta-president-on-how-to-make-compassionate-travel-choices/2015/07/30/50e405ec-3616-11e5-9d0f-7865a67390ee_story.html

Amazon Expands Its Travel Site Amazon Destinations To San Francisco, Houston …

Amazon today announced it’s expanding its travel site Amazon Destinations to reach several new markets across the U.S, representing a doubling of its footprint since its launch in April this year. There are now more than double the number of destinations available for booking on the service, which includes hundreds of hotels across 35 cities and 6 larger metro regions, the company notes.

Today, Amazon Destinations is adding the Southeast (Atlanta), Texas Gulf Coast (Houston), and Northern California (San Francisco) metro regions, while it also expanded the Northeast Metro region with more destinations within driving distance of Boston. Previously, the company offered access to L.A., New York and Seattle regions, as well.

Over the past four months, the service has grown from 17 cities to 35, including a number of popular tourist destinations like Cape Cod, Savannah, Myrtle Beach, Napa, Lake Tahoe, Texas Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

Unlike with larger travel search engines which help consumers book travel alongside hotel stays, the idea with Amazon Destinations is to allow consumers to find weekend getaways near where they currently live. That is, it’s offering access to hotels in popular spots that are within driving distance of major cities as a matter of convenience for Amazon’s customers.

As the company noted before, this seemed like an untapped vertical to explore in the travel space as 40 percent of all U.S. domestic leisure trips were short-term getaways of one to three nights, and many were to nearby, driveable destinations.

The site grew out of Amazon’s earlier efforts in the travel space, which before included Amazon Local flash deals on hotel stays that ranged from 40 percent to 60 percent off standard prices. But with Amazon Destinations, the company is posting hotels’ published rates instead.

In other words, the site is not necessarily aimed at deal-seekers, but rather represents another way that Amazon is expanding its online offerings to stretch further into consumers’ daily lives through an e-commerce site that’s not about purchasing physical goods. Amazon also recently branched out to reach customers in need of service pros with Amazon Home Services, as another example of this trend.

On Amazon Destinations, hotels don’t pay upfront to participate, but Amazon keeps a percentage of the price the customer pays as its commission. (This percentage is not disclosed).

The company doesn’t say when it expects to have a nationwide footprint, but says it’s getting close with metros that now cover the Northwest, all of California, Texas, Southeast and Northeast.

Article source: http://techcrunch.com/2015/07/30/amazon-expands-its-travel-site-amazon-destinations-to-san-francisco-houston-and-atlanta-metros/

This is the only reason you should use a travel agent to book a trip

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

See Also

In the age of the internet, travel agents might seem about as useful as flip phones. As dozens of travel websites and apps vie for your business, how is it that the job of travel agent still exists?

We decided to see just how useful travel agents are by planning a hypothetical trip to Germany during Oktoberfest, with multiple stops in different cities.

We asked a handful of travel agents to quote us prices for the trip, and then compared those prices to fares we found online ourselves.

The prices we received from four out of five agents were more expensive that what we had found online ourselves, confirming our inkling that they just might not be able to keep up with the world wide web.

However, these exchanges also showed us the one excellent reason why travel agents are still relevant — and just might be around for years to come: personal service.

Travel agent Andrea Holtman of Travel Leaders took it upon herself to not only search for the flights we had requested, but to build an entire itinerary for the hypothetical trip we had planned. Along with the flights, she sent us prices for various hotels she recommended in each city, both with varying locations and prices, as well as tours, museum tickets, private transfer to and from the airports, and potential rail passes. Even better, she gave a few personal recommendations, like cafes and restaurants.

Flickr/Giuseppe Milo

Rather than spend hours online trying to figure out where to stay, what to see and what to do, it was all right here — and we hadn’t even specified likes and dislikes. I’m sure if we had given her more information she would have created an even better, highly personalized vacation.

So if all you’re after are some flights, you’re better off looking online yourself. However, if you don’t want to deal with planning, travel agents can complete all the bookings and provide personal recommendations that will make your life easier.

Many travel agencies have their own specializations, from Disney trips to country-specific tours, and can provide first-hand insider knowledge on the destination. This also means that they have connections, and thus are often able to score you perks like room upgrades, hard-to-get restaurant reservations, and sold-out tours and events.

There are other reasons to consider booking with a travel agent: If you’re planning a multi-stop trip with layovers and connecting flights, travel agents might find combinations you wouldn’t. And if you’re planning a trip that involves a big group of people, tours and sightseeing, or might involve visas, inoculation or complicated passport requirements, a travel agent might be your best bet. And if something goes wrong, there’s an emergency, or you need to cancel, travel agents are a safety net.

Finally, most travel agents won’t charge you for their work (they get paid through hotels, tours and wholesalers), so it literally won’t cost you anything to give them a shot.

Article source: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-you-should-use-a-travel-agent-2015-7

Sojern’s Q2 Global Travel Insights Report Uncovers New Globally Trending …








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SAN FRANCISCO, July 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ – Sojern, the world’s leading performance marketing platform for travel brands, today released its Q2 Global Travel Insights Report based on the rigorous analysis of more than a billion traveler intent data points across the globe.

Q2 2015 Global Travel Trends: The Bird’s Eye View

Compared with the previous two quarters, travelers across studied regions searched for destinations closer to home, eschewing long-haul trips in favor of domestic and regional trips. Globally, the most searched destinations during the second quarter of the year were: the United States, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Portugal, Turkey, Greece and Russia. The latter re-entered the list after a quarter’s hiatus, replacing Thailand.

Destinations with the Most Dramatic Rise in Traveler Interest Year on Year

Beyond the top 10, here are the destinations that captured the most traveler interest by region since summer 2014:

  • In North America, Haiti moved up 34 ranks since summer 2014, after experiencing a dramatic decline in tourism in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, followed by Iceland, up 11 spots. 
  • In Western Europe, Cuba pushed up 12 places to position 41, thanks to a lot of media attention and the detente with the US. Czech Republic, Iceland and Romania each moved seven places up in the ranking.
  • For travelers from Latin America, Aruba’s appeal increased over last year, pushing it up 11 spots, followed, by Hungary, up 10 spots. The latter is one of the more affordable European destinations, as a non-Eurozone country.
  • In Southeast Asia, Bangladesh moved up eight spots and Qatar seven since summer 2014.
  • For travelers from the Middle East, Sudan gained the most popularity (up 24 spots), followed closely by Bosnia and Herzegovina (21 spots), a country which the World Tourism Organization estimates will have the third highest tourism growth rate in the world by 2020.

Cuba Continues To Gain Interest from Travelers Globally

Cuba continued its upward trajectory this past quarter, moving up another spot since Q1, to position 14 on the list of top 20 most popular Caribbean destinations for Americans. That is a five-place jump up from number 19 back in December 2014, which means that now Cuba ranks higher than Antigua and Barbuda, Curacao, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the British Virgin Islands. The Caribbean island state also moved up on West Europeans’ radars, climbing 12 places since summer 2014.

Greece Remains Tourist Magnet, In Spite of Financial Troubles

Over the past two quarters, Greece remained in the top 10 most popular destinations globally, and in the top 10 most popular destinations for Europeans, although they dropped in the latter by four places to position eight in the last quarter. Following the announcement of the referendum, travel intent numbers to Greece had gone down by around 23 percent globally, but, as of July 8, Sojern was already seeing indications of a rebound in traveler interest.

Post-Ramadan Travel Skyrockets in the Middle East

Following the conclusion of Ramadan, the average regional week-on-week travel intent peaked at 180 percent in the Middle East. July 16 was the heaviest travel day, followed by a four-day period of consistently high travel volumes. Average trip durations also increased significantly: 63 percent of travelers from the region looked to travel for more than eight days and almost 45 percent for 12 days or more, at least partially reflecting the number of public holidays observed in the region.

Download the full Global Travel Insights Report and infographic. 

For more information, please visit www.sojern.com.

About Sojern

Sojern is travel’s leading data-driven performance marketing engine. Through its Sojern Traveler Platform and billions of traveler intent signals across online and mobile channels, Sojern puts more heads in beds and travelers in town for its clients worldwide. Currently one of the fastest growing travel tech companies, Sojern works with top travel brands and independent hotels in North America, Latin America, Europe, MEA and APAC. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, with key offices in Dubai, London, New York, Omaha and Singapore. For more information, please visit www.sojern.com.

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Article source: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sojerns-q2-global-travel-insights-report-uncovers-new-globally-trending-destinations-and-offers-fall-travel-forecast-300120876.html