All posts in Hot Topics

Following the hippie trail for deals and cultural authenticity

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

hippie backpacker travel

Wanna know where the hot destinations are before the tourism industry’s commercialization removes the authentic charm and affordability?  Ask a hippie or talk to Steve Bramucci, Life Section managing editor at Uproxx.com.

WATCH our interview with Steve Bramucci

According to Steve, hippies and backpackers are guiding the trends in travel. A self-proclaimed hippie traveler, Steve defines this traveler persona as someone who is:

  • Not averse to staying in close quarters
  • On a budget
  • Emphasizing experiences over luxury
  • Interested in lifestyle markers, such as holistic living, health, fitness, adventure and the like.

“I knew that Iceland was going to be big before it was big because there was this certain segment of society kind of buzzing about it,” says Steve. “Travel in Iceland from foreign countries got really big over the past five years – increasing exponentially – and you felt that coming if you were someone who was in that backpacker world.”

Backpackers have eschewed Costa Rica of late because it has become too Americanized and expensive. This led to a surge in travel to Nicaragua, which has similar weather, jungle experiences, access to authentic culture, and a surf set up at a lower cost than Costa Rica.  “People were buzzing about Nicaragua a few years ago, and now that’s being replaced by places like El Salvador, which is friendly for adventure travelers for a whole bunch of reasons,” adds Steve.

“Greece is another good example. There are going to be a lot of great travel opportunities in Greece right now and there will be a lot of backpackers flooding the country to take advantage, which is great because tourism really drives economies and in Greece, it certainly works like that.”

If you want to take a page from the Hippie Guidebook, Steve recommends setting aside the last few days of your out of country vacation to wander a bit. “Don’t plan anything. Go back to the places that you liked. Have experiences that don’t have an agenda. Talk to taxi drivers; go to the post office and mail a postcard; get a haircut; go to religious services. Do things that take you out of the tourism industry and put you into a more natural environment. Those are some tips you can take from the backpacker hippie traveler that can really benefit your travel experience.”

You can check out Steve’s post on hot travel destinations and hidden gems here.

WOW, what big seats you have!

wow logoBoarding Area’s Travel Skills blog posted updates on international discount carrier, WOW Air’s new premium seat offering for travelers flying from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami to Reykjavik.

While photos were not readily available, WOW says the seats, known as The BIG Seat, “…is an entirely different seat, bigger with a foot rest and will at first only be in our A330 planes.”

Travel Skills reports that the section will offer 37-inch pitch (vs. 31 in regular economy), and fares for the premium seats will include carry-on bags, checked bags, in-flight food service and priority boarding. Typical economy pricing on WOW includes nothing but the ride and a single under-the-seat personal item.

Read the full post here.

What’s in for US Travel in 2017? Small, sleepy and relaxed getaway spots

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Trip.com, a travel planning and local discovery app/site, has revealed their “rising star” destinations for US Travel in 2017 and relaxation paired with quieter beach destinations is a prevailing theme among their top 10 picks below:

  1. Portsmouth Harbor, NH

    Portsmouth Harbor, NH

    Portsmouth, New Hampshire– This historic coastal town on the Maine border offers a mix of traditional New England seafaring culture along with an artsy, coffee house blend with everything from breweries like Smuttynose and Redhook to accessible yoga studios.

  1. Gulf Shores– Like a surprisingly exotic Caribbean destination with a Southern accent. Visit for the National Shrimp Festival, ‘jubilees’ (crab and shrimp spontaneously arriving in huge quantities in Mobile Bay, ripe for gathering), white sand beaches, sea turtles from May to October, dolphin cruises and more.
  1. The Poconos– While for some, the Poconos are synonymous with ads featuring couples in heart shaped hot tubs, this area of Pennsylvania has definitely transformed from kitschy to cool.  There are timeless fun activities like skiing in winter and canoeing in summer, with fun stops like the Barley Creek Brewing where you can play whiffle ball and bocce on the Pint-Sized Park.  Travelers can also go hardcore with whitewater rafting, or visit an amazing spa like the Lodge at Woodloch for a super modern rejuvenation.
  1. Washington, DC– While administrations may be changing, Washington, DC is always a popular destination for those who want to see the history and be part of country’s seat of power.   Tripsters are excited about DC as a travel destination, too, however, and not just for the exotic new wildlife. DC has some great trails, fabulous restaurants like Founding Farmers, free museums (unlike most large US cities) and some quirky offerings like the International Spy Museum.
  1. Hollywood Beach, FL

    Hollywood Beach, FL

    Hollywood, Florida- An art deco downtown, kitschy beach boardwalk, and just a drive from Miami’s airport, Hollywood is another of the old-school U.S. vacation destinations cropping up on the list this year (perhaps due to a country-wide thirst for a more innocent time?). But Hollywood can also feel like a welcome change from decadent Miami or just so, so, so, family-friendly Disney. Plus, sea turtles and a great beachside boardwalk.

  1. Oakland- The artistic heart of the Bay Area, where all San Francisco’s creative people flock to amazing art houses and cool bars and galleries. Travelers may want to check out an Oakland A’s baseball game and then check out one of the city’s acclaimed soul food restaurants.
  1. Fort Collins- This Colorado college town is also loaded with great beer (and no, we’re not talking about the Anheuser Busch brewery – think Odell or Equinox). Make sure the buzz wears off before hitting up cool stores like the Cupboard for kitchens and Killer Rabbit for cool menswear.
  2. Virginia Beach– Like a few other USA Rising Stars, Virginia Beach is known for being a somewhat old school, sleepy beach town. But its time has come again. Tripsters appreciate a bit of kitsch (salt water taffy and custard on the boardwalk never grow old) and love it as a family destination.
  3. Twilight in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Photo: (c) A. Duarte via Flickr

    Twilight in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Photo: (c) A. Duarte via Flickr

    Great Smoky Mountains- Yes, you can really find both mountains and moonshine here. Devastating fires recently ripped through Gatlinburg, one of this region’s main cities. But we kept it on the Rising Star list because Tripsters did turn their attention to it this year – and there is plenty of mountain territory to enjoy that has not been destroyed. Road trip on Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road), visit the Cherokee Reservation, hike the national park or visit Dollywood for a unique amusement park experience, see moonshine made, and…visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, a private collection open to the public for just $3.

  1. Myrtle Beach- Completing a hat trick of kitschy beach destinations reborn, Myrtle Beach completes the list. An old school boardwalk and a range of good seafood spots for dinner- and if traveling with kids or just a fan of revisiting childhood, there are plenty of opportunities to play mini golf and options like Alligator Adventure. Or check out the old school boardwalk and range of good seafood restaurants for dinner.

Flight to Fitness — 5 Tips for the New Year

It’s not even mid-January, yet according to a study by the University of Scranton, more than 25% of us have already abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions. Wait, it gets better (actually worse)! U.S. News reports that by mid-February, 80% of us will slide back to bad old habits, including smoking, eating and general “couch potatoing”.

Travelers, show off your best self this year! We’ve posted some tips from fitness pro, Boomer Anderson, founder of Nomad Rx, a travel fitness assistant for keeping your fitness goals in check while you’re on the road.  Good luck!

  1. Pack the Snack

Flying around the world is exhausting. Jet lag and work put stresses on willpower. This tempts you to reach for the snickers. The next time you fly pack a snack. Airlines are notorious for serving horrible food. Stay focused by packing raw, calorie-dense nuts, like almonds, macadamias, walnuts and pecans. These nuts are healthy, adhere to almost every diet, and will keep you from feasting on refined sugar.

  1. Prioritize Hotels with a Gym
fitness on vacation

Photo: (c)iha

While going to a gym is motivating and a good way to meet people, you may not have the time. Select a hotel with a fitness facility. Most hotels list this feature on their website. If you have 10 to 20 minutes, you have time to workout in the hotel.

  1. Give Yourself an Hour Each Day 

The cliche, “the only person who will take care of you is you,” is correct. If you want to be healthy over the long run, give yourself an hour each day for wellness. Remember, you can break up the hour into two 30-minute or three 20-minute segments if you don’t have an hour all at once. Use the time to workout, do yoga or meditate. This will keep you healthy and focused. Need more time? Wake up earlier.  Start slow and wake up 15 minutes earlier each day for four days in a row. Now, you have an extra hour just for you!

  1. Pack for Fitness 

Don’t be left unprepared. When you find that magical free hour to exercise, but don’t have the right gear, that’s a bummer. Pack gym shoes, a t-shirt and shorts in your carry-on bag. This has the added effect of motivating you to go to the gym every morning when you look in your luggage.

  1. Use your body

 It will happen. You will stay in a hotel without a gym or a hotel where the gym is too crowded. Using just your body, you can create a pretty lethal workout in your hotel room. Pushups, air squats and burpees are among the many available bodyweight exercises. For some ideas on workouts, click here.

Closing: A Bonus Tip!

The next time you reach the airport or new city, think about prioritizing your health. The above five tips will help keep you focused when the times get tough (as they always do). Do you need further motivation? Look no further than AJ Jacobs, editor-at-large at Esquire Magazine. When trying to stay healthy, AJ instructed his wife to make a donation to an anti-charity (a cause or group that you would not want to support) if he strayed from his goals. Put this in place through Stickk.com. Make a wager, state your anti-charity and go to work! If you fail, your money goes to enemies. No one wants that!

Boomer is a former investment banker who flew over 200,000 miles per year (at least 2 times a week). He is the founder of Nomad Rx, a travel fitness assistant. 

 

 

Top Travel Hacks for 2017

According to Expedia and ARC’s annual Global Air Travel Outlook for 2017, travel hackers may not have to work quite as hard to get air travel deals in 2017.  It seems average ticket prices for economy class are dropping all over the world.  In fact, they haven’t been this low since 2013. Good news!  But wait, there’s more!  We’ve gathered tips and anecdotes from veteran travel hackers and experts to give you a definitive 2017 travel hacking cheat sheet.

WATCH our interview with Randi Wolfson of Skyscanner

  1. Use a VPN and clear your cookies!

David Bakke from MoneyCrashers.com says before you start shopping for travel deals you need to outsmart the search engines. “Make sure private browsing is enabled on your computer before shopping for travel deals – or at the very least clear your cookies. Due to airlines’ use of dynamic pricing, websites may show higher prices if you’ve clicked on them before.”

“It’s not widely known that the price of a particular flight may differ when booked from varying locations. One of the ways around this is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that will allow you to check and compare the fares of the same flight by connecting to multiple countries and then book from the location with the cheapest price. This can save you a lot of money,” says Haris Mumtaz of PureVPN.

  1. Airline gold and credit card perks

According to FoxNews Travel writer and GotoTravelGal.com blogger, Lyn Mettler, one of the best travel hacks for 2017 will continue to be the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows one person to fly free with the pass holder for up to two years. “It’s fairly simple to earn the pass, which is achieved after you earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points. To easily earn the pass, you need to sign up for two Southwest credit cards, meet the minimum spend of $2000 through everyday spending that you can pay off within a month and then earn an additional 6000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Once you have 110,000 points, then book a lot of flights without spending a dime on airfare aside from the government required $5.80 per way security fee. My family of four has flown to six destinations within a year for less than $100 per flight using my methods.”

Robert Schrader, a popular travel blogger at LeaveYourDailyHell.com, says credit cards are the key to flying free in 2017, even more so than in 2016. “Now that all major U.S. airlines have finished their race to the bottom—they all use revenue-based mileage earning and have even introduced “basic economy” fares that earn no miles at all—earning free travel via flying is impossible for all but a few travelers.”

“Moreover, with poor airline lounge quality and scant upgrade availability, elite status has little value. Contrast this with generous credit card bonuses, from a recent targeted AMEX Business Platinum offer of 100,000 to 50,000 becoming standard on American Airlines co-branded cards from Citi.”

  1. Best practices for air travel savings

Valerie Bowden, author of Backpacking Africa for Beginners, offers three tried and true best practices for saving money if traveling by air.

  • Reconsider one-way flights. I’ve saved an enormous amount of money by skipping out on round-way tickets. First, airlines make a lot of money with canceled or rescheduled tickets. If you didn’t buy travel insurance, you’re looking at a $200-300 fee. Second, one-way tickets allow you to get better deals. For examples, one time I got a flight from Africa to the US for only $355 (including taxes!). Most tickets within the US cost that amount or more. This is all because I found a quick sale happening that I was able to take advantage of.
  • Take New or Rarely Used Airlines. Another reason why I found such a great sale was because I took Saudi Airlines. It sounds risky. But often Middle Eastern or Developing Countries have great new airlines, and they try hard to promote them. Through sales and special deals, you get tickets much cheaper than you would be taking Delta or Lufthansa.
  • Be flexible. Flights can vary by hundreds of dollars even within a 24-hour span. I like websites that let you search one month at a time because then you can see the best deals. For that, Skyscanner is by far my favorite. 
  1. Housesitting & Hotel Hacks

The ultimate travel hack to cut out ALL accommodation (and often food) costs is housesitting. According to Tanbay Theune, a professional house/ pet sitter and blogger at www.travellingweasels.com, The perks are hard to dismiss. “Most homeowners treat you like a guest. They pick you up from the airport/train station/ bus stop. They cook you a meal or two and leave you some food in the cupboards. All gladly received when traveling on a budget – and even when you’re not! They also show you the area and the secret spots only the locals know.”

James, another devout house-sitter, and blogger at portugalist.com, acknowledges that getting that first house sit can be difficult as you won’t have any references or experience. “The first two I did were actually in the town I lived at the time (Edinburgh). I did them just for the reference. Then, I applied for ones that I was interested in and managed to get several back-to-backs in France. One was five month’s long so, in the end, I was able to spend nine month’s there.”

James has written a list of sites where you can find those opportunities. Of these, Trusted Housesitters is the biggest and it has the most opportunities.

For folks who want to go traditional with their accommodations, Abigail, a travel blogger at Where Abigail Went,  says one of the best travel hacks she knows is this: Check if any of your family or friends are full-time employees of hotel chains. Associates’ friends and family are able to enjoy preferred rates.

“Now that Marriott and Starwood have merged, for instance, you can take advantage of the extended Explore Friends program, which entitles you to book an unlimited number of nights per year for leisure travel at any of their hotels across the world, based on availability. You can save up to 50% off rooms this way, which is a fantastic deal.”

  1. Avoid duty and tax fees at the airport

“I recently bought a blender for my mom for her birthday and had to carry it with me all the way from Australia to South Africa. It’s small enough to fit into my luggage, but when I was going through the boarding gates, they charged me tax on the item. I then saw a guy in front of me going through the boarding gates with a couple of gifts. He paid no tax on the items, simply because they were gift-wrapped. So, to avoid paying tax or duty fees on any items, make sure to wrap them in gift wrapping paper and declare them as gifts!” — Gerrard Hattfield, Flight Factory