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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. 

 

 

“Did you know…Sisters booted from flight miss dying dad’s final moments?”

allegiant air

In the case of the Allegiant Air crew’s decision to boot sisters off an Asheville, NC-bound flight, the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad PR,” may not apply. According to Travel Pulse, two sisters have called out Allegiant Air and are seeking punishment for one of the budget carrier’s flight crews after they were removed from a flight hours before their ill father passed away.

The sisters, Debbie Hartman and Trisha Baker, were traveling from  Sanford, FL to Asheville, North Carolina, to visit their father in hospice care on January 1st.

Travel Pulse reports that before the plane left the tarmac, Baker said she received a text message informing her that her fathter had just hours to live. “After getting up from her seat to tell her sister, Baker was told to sit back down by one of the flight attendants.

The situation began to intensify when Hartman began having a panic attack, prompting Baker to confront the crew member.

“(My sister) said (to the flight attendant), ‘You’re being very rude. My father is dying, and I’m comforting her,’ and they said she needed to keep her personal problems off the plane,” Hartman told WKMG.

The sisters said that in a matter of minutes the crew alerted the flight’s captain, who turned back to the gate to allow airport security to remove them from the plane.”

Read the full story here.

 

http://www.travelpulse.com/news/airlines/sisters-miss-dying-father-s-final-moments-after-getting-kicked-off-allegiant-air-flight.html

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

“Did you know…What do ‘Lucille’, Game of Thrones and Sea Horses have in common?

lucille bat TSA“Lucille” has been sighted at airports — and TSA agents are pulling her off the security line along with some other insidious luggage items.  CNN.com recently reported on a stunning array of lethal and or just plain creepy carry-ons that never made it past the TSA’s X-ray machines this year.

The list includes “Lucille,” a replica of the infamous barbed wire wrapped bat wielded by Walking Dead star, Jeffrey Dean Morgan; a grenade and bladed dragon claws. Read the full story here.