Say 'no' to vouchers -- you're entitled to cold, hard cash
Do not settle for vouchers. They're the airline equivalent of Geoffrey Dollars. If you’re bumped from a flight because it's overbooked, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has compensation rules of up to $1,300 in cash if the airline fails to rearrange plans within two hours of your flight. The airlines often offer passengers a travel voucher instead (like every time, let’s be real). They're also required to tell you that you can get a check on the spot. It's like your flight delay Miranda rights.
Even with new flight arrangements, you get cash
If your airline can get you to your destination between one and two hours of your scheduled arrival on a domestic flight, or between one and four hours on an international trip, it owes you compensation of 200 percent of the one-way fare to your destination, up to $650. That was fast, but not fast enough, airline fiends.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are cheapest days to fly, not necessarily to buy
Airlines carry fewer business passengers on these days of the week, and thus there's often a surplus of seats. But don't confused this fact with the idea that buying a ticket on a Tuesday will result in lower airfare. That's a separate thing.
You can cancel within 24 hours for no charge
Now, there are caveats, so don't go booking out an entire planeful of tickets just for S&Gs. For most airlines, you can cancel/change your ticket up to seven days before your scheduled date of travel and get a full refund. The notable exception: American Airlines, which instead allows you to hold a ticket up to 24 hours at the price you see. Additionally, you need to book directly with the airline's website, and not through a third-party booking site, although big ones like Expedia or Travelocity offer policies similar to those of airlines. But the big takeaway: you can have buyer's remorse for up to a full day. And some airlines -- like Southwest -- have even more generous refund policies that let you change plans up until right before you take off.
They owe you way more for delayed luggage than they'll offer to pay
If your bag is delayed, not lost, airlines will try to placate you with $25 or $50 per day. But the DOT says it's not enough to salvage a wedding, a ski trip, or an important business trip. These companies can owe you up to $3,300 in liability for a domestic US trip, so long as you've got receipts to prove you needed that stuff. Looks like upon arrival, a new tuxedo is in order. (You always wear Armani…)
If the plane sits for 3 hours, you can hop off
During a lengthy tarmac delay in the US (upon either arrival or departure), the DOT says an airline can’t keep you on a plane for more than three hours (on a domestic flight) or four hours (on an international flight) without allowing you to get off if you wish. So no, playing Transformers: Age of Extinction again as in-flight entertainment isn't gonna cut it. Also, the airline is obligated to get that food and water cart running down the aisle after two hours of delay. Pass the peanuts.
If your itinerary changes, they pay the difference
Let's say you get delayed and end up not flying with your original carrier. Well, if the airline arranges alternate transportation with another carrier, it must cover all the expenses and extra fees the new airline might assess. So if there's only a first-class seat available, it's yours, and it won't cost you an extra penny. Pass the champagne.
AND in that case, you get to keep your original ticket
So tell the airline to get its meaty paws off your second vacation. In essence, you get to double-dip for the annoyance of changing plans. The DOT adjusts compensation values for inflation every two years, FWIW.
Get your compensation later, even if that means vouchers
Companies have a hard time handing over a check on the spot. State in your complaint that you’re willing to accept vouchers for future services or frequent-flyer miles and they are more ready to oblige. At least you walk away with another vacay, armed with this list of rights to get yours the next time they try to make your life a living hell.
Non-refundable tickets can become refundable
When the airline's at fault, it owes you money. If a flight is severely delayed, canceled, or if there’s a schedule change in advance or a route change (like a nonstop flight changing to a flight with connections) you can get a full refund on a non-refundable fare. Don't let them push you around.
Average rating: 3.5 stars
Stylish rooms & suites at an upscale art deco hotel with an outdoor pool, cabanas & a private beach.
Address: 1741 Collins Avenue
4. Hawaiian Airlines
Airplane meals are always a gamble — mystery meats, strange blobs, unrecognizable colors — but at least we know the beverage menu is safe territory. Right?
There’s one thing flight attendants know better than to drink on a plane, and it’s thanks to their insider knowledge of the goings-on in the galley.
And it might not be what you might expect.
Of all the beverages available on flights, from soft drinks and juices to beer and hard liquor, it’s actually tea and coffee that cabin crew would never personally order.
Why? Because it requires water from water tanks, and it turns out those water tanks are pretty gross.
The Independent reports that while water tanks on aircraft do get cleaned, flight attendants never know when or how often, so they’re not willing to risk that it’s been a long time between scrubs.
“Flight attendants will not drink hot water on the plane,” a flight attendant recently told Business Insider.
“They will not drink plain coffee, and they will not drink plain tea.”
It follows that you should probably not order even plain water that might have come from a water tank either. Try and get something that’s served in a sealed bottle.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) explained that in the United States, water onboard aircraft is regulated under the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure it’s safe to drink.
Average rating: 3.5 stars
This iconic art deco boutique hotel, with its signature 1955 Oldsmobile parked out front, is an Art Deco icon.
Address: 700 Ocean Drive
Room Mate Lord Balfour
No. 4 Minneapolis/St. Paul
With 20 lakes and more than 200 miles of biking and walking trails, this down-to-earth metro area climbed nine spots for affordability this year. No surprise, the Twin Cities scored at the top of the survey for those easy-access parks, where trails even get plowed during the long winters. Voters also commended the cities for their brainy,offbeat locals—which seems to translate into a wealth of affordable, hipster-friendly fun: check out Bryant Lake Bowl’s weekly Cheap Date Night (dinner for two, a bottle of wine, and bowling for $28).
The Betsy - South Beach
No. 18 Baltimore
Voters were perhaps so struck by the locals’ distinctive “Bawlmerese” accents, as well as the good pizza, that they may have overlooked the world-class art at bargain prices—namely, the free Baltimore Museum of Art, home to the world’s largest Matisse collection. At Gertrude’s, run by cooking show host John Shields, Tuesday means an authentic, crab-loving Chesapeake meal with a $12 prix fixe. For a taste of Charm City’s quirky side, stop by the free Baltimore Tattoo Museum, honoring the best in human canvas work.
Albion Hotel South Beach
Getting through airport security can be one of the most frustrating aspects of traveling — especially with the TSA having the number of issues that we’ve been seeing in the news lately. Passengers have reported outlandish security checkpoint wait times, airlines (specifically American and United) have had to call in millions of dollars’ worth of reinforcements to help the TSA, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has even threatened to drop the agencycompletely in favor of third-party contractors.
However, airport security doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Just last week, the TSA removed its head of security from his position, so there’s hope that things could improve. In the meantime, here are our picks for the top 10 ways to get through airport security faster.
1. Get Airline Elite Status
One of the quickest ways to get expedited security is through airline elite status. Most airlines allow at least their mid-tier and high-tier elites to access the priority security lines, so you can join first class passengers at security even if you’re not flying up front. This benefit is usually extended to any companions traveling with the elite member, so it can’t hurt to try and bring them along with you. Passengers with any one of the following elite status are eligible for this benefit:
Alaska: MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members
American: AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum and AAdvantage Executive Platinum members
Delta: Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion members
JetBlue: TrueBlue Mosaic members
Southwest: A-List and A-List Preferred members
United: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members
Virgin America: Elevate Silver and Elevate Gold members
If you don’t currently have elite status with any airline, don’t fret — gaining elite status can be quick (and easy). There are several airline co-branded credit cards that offer elite status through points-earning sign-up bonuses — see this post for complete details.
2. Sign Up For TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck (and therefore Global Entry, as Global Entry comes with PreCheck) is an incredibly useful tool to have for the frequent flyer. With it, you’ll get access to an expedited security line, as well as reduced security measures. As a TSA PreCheck flyer, you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt, light jacket or your laptop and 3-1-1 liquids from your bag. PreCheck is available at more than 160 airports with 14 airlines — Aeromexico, Cape Air, Etihad Airways and Seaborne Airlines were just added last week.
If you don’t have expedited security with TSA PreCheck but are considering enrolling, don’t forget that several credit cards will give you an account credit for signing up for either the PreCheck or Global Entry programs. Cards such as The Platinum Card from American Express, Citi Prestige, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, among others, offer credit for the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership.
3. Fly a Premium Class
Other than flying in a premium class giving you an enhanced in-flight experience, you’ll also be whisked away to your business or first class seat faster just for having that ticket. Along with specific elite members with the airlines mentioned above, premium-class passengers are also entitled to expedited security lane access.
Alaska: First class passengers
American: Priority AAccess, business class and first class passengers
Delta: SkyPriority, Delta One and first class passengers
JetBlue: Even More Space and Mint passengers
United: Premier Access, business class and first class passengers
Virgin America: Main Cabin Select and first class passengers
4. Get CLEAR Expedited Security
CLEAR is one of the latest innovative programs created to expedite the security screening process — and it’s continuing its expansion to new airports. The service is the leading biometric identity platform in the US that utilizes fingerprint and iris scanning to speed up the identification process at airport security checkpoints. CLEAR is currently available at 13 airports, including Austin (AUS), Baltimore (BWI), Dallas (DFW), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH and HOU), Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), San Antonio (SAT), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC) and Westchester County (HPN). Delta Diamond Medallion members can now get free CLEAR expedited security, as the two companies have teamed up to offer the program at more Delta US hubs in the future.
Membership to the service is $179 annually, and you can add a family member for $50 and children under 18 are free. If you’d like to sign up for a CLEAR membership, use the promo code CLEARTPG18 or use this link to get a discounted membership of $149 for the first year.
5. Dress Appropriately
Use common sense when you’re picking out your airport attire. Wear a jacket with big pockets so that after passing through security you can quickly throw your phone, wallet and passport in a pocket before grabbing the rest of your belongings. Wear shoes that you can quickly remove and then put back on. Note that you don’t have to take all of your jewelry off — many passengers leave watches on and don’t have problems when going through the metal detector.
6. Know the Rules
Remember that laptops must be removed from their cases and placed in their own bin, unless you’re in a PreCheck lane. Make sure that any liquids in your carry on bag are in a clear plastic bag (you can read the rules for the TSA’s 3-1-1 policy here). Throw away any plastic bottles with liquid in them and make sure to empty your reusable bottle before going through the security line. If there’s a bottle with liquid in your bag it’ll have to be re-screened, adding a lot of time to the process. Finally, when you’re through the metal detectors, collect your belongings from the belt as quickly as possible and reassemble yourself away from the screening area. The quicker you take your belongings off the belt, the quicker everyone else can move through the line.
7. Monitor Wait Times at Your Airport
Apps such as MiFlight and GateGuru will keep you updated on real-time estimated security waiting times at the airport you’re departing from. With airport security lines achieving record wait times, it is now more important than ever to precisely time your trip to the airport. Apps like these allow you to keep an eye on the status of the line several hours before your scheduled departure time and make a better-informed decision on when to arrive. Many airports also have services that allow you to subscribe to updates on the length of the lines inside the terminal.
8. Check Your Bag
Most airlines now charge a fee to check a bag and thus more and more people have been flying with just a carry-on, slowing down the screening process. You could save yourself some time in the security line by checking a bag at the counter. If you don’t want to pay the fees to check your bag, take a look at these credit cards that offer free checked baggage. Additionally, cards such as The Platinum Card from American Express, Citi Prestige and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card offer annual travel credit that can be applied towards checked bag fees.
9. Be Friendly
This can actually go a lot further than you might think. Most often, the agents manning the priority security lines are independent airport contract workers and sometimes even TSA agents. Rarely is it the actual airlines’ employees since their time can be spent better at the check-in areas or the gates. Whether it is because you are cutting your time too short and your flight is starting to board or if you are traveling with small children, they just might send you through the priority line. It can’t hurt to ask!
10. Fly at the Right Time
Every year we hear about horror stories of airport lines around holidays, particularly the day before Thanksgiving. But now with a record number of travelers using the nation’s airports this summer, you’ll want to pick your flight times wisely. Avoid choosing flights that depart at peak travel times such as Friday afternoons between 4 and 8pm, as business travelers are heading home from their work week and leisure travelers are heading out for weekend trips.
Although going to the airport right now may seem like all gloom and doom, there are several options to get through security faster than your traveling peers. Signing up for TSA PreCheck is your first step to expedited security, but there are also other ways you can go about getting through the detectors quicker than normal, including just being in the know on what you can and cannot do.
Average rating: 4.5 stars
Featuring bold, modern decor, it offers an ideal, exceptional location with bay view rooms.
Address: 1100 West Avenue
Average rating: 3 stars
This 49 room boutique hotel located in the heart of the Art Deco district and close to the fun.
Address: 660 Ocean Drive
No. 12 New Orleans
People love New Orleans for its live music and fabulous food, and both can be found in abundance at the city’s often-free festivals, such as spring’s French Quarter Festival or November’s seafood-focused Oak Street Po-Boy Festival. If you don’t want to compete with the wild-weekend crowds, there are also posh places to enjoy free music, such as the Ritz-Carlton’s Davenport Lounge, where you can sip a Pontchartrain Punch (vodka, Chambord, citrus, and a splash of bubbly, for $14).
Average rating: 4 stars
This all-suite hotel overlooks white sand beach from its location on Millionaire's Row.
Address: 4835 Collins Avenue
When David Bakke visits Savannah, he loves dining at the upscale Olde Pink House. But Bakke, a writer for personal finance site MoneyCrashers, has figured out how to avoid the high price tag—he sits in the restaurant’s basement section, the Planters Tavern. “By taking the trip downstairs,” he says, “you get extraordinary ambiance and affordable food.”
It’s a good example of why the quaint, accessible Georgian city made the top 10 for affordable getaways, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In this year’s America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 35 metropolitan areas in qualities such as fine dining and cultural offerings, which become especially enticing when offered in a lower price range.
Even as the economy shows some signs of improvement, plenty of travelers still want to maximize value. According to the Traveler Sentiment Index, from marketing firm MMGY Global, 57 percent of Americans are planning a vacation sometime within the next six months—but high gas prices worry 51 percent of them. Hotel rates have also ticked up about 7 percent since summer 2012, according to Kayak.com.
Daunting gas prices may be another reason that pedestrian-friendly cities such as Savannah and Portland, OR, won over T+L readers for their affordability. Another influential factor: free-admission museums and historical attractions, such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park in Atlanta, or Baltimore’s Museum of Art, which has the largest Matisse collection in the world.
But freebies aren’t enough: Washington, D.C., won the survey’s free attractions category, yet ranked as one of the least affordable cities overall, perhaps due to high hotel and restaurant prices. For cheap eats, look to Kansas City (rated No. 1 most affordable getaway), as well as Nashville and Providence, which delivered some of voters’ favorite barbecue, burgers, and pizza.
Low-impact bar prices don’t hurt, either. “Maybe it’s our Yankee frugality, but well drinks start at $3.50 in some places,” says Portland, ME, local Kelsey Goldsmith. “My friends who come in from out of town laugh when they get their bar tabs.”
They’re laughing all the way to the bank, that is. Bakke says his Savannah foodie trick is just another valuable lesson from the recession: “I’ve learned how to fly for cheaper, and I’ve found ways to enjoy entertainment activities while on vacation at a cheaper price.”
1. Virgin America
Average rating: 4 stars
Plush, contemporary quarters, ranging from studios to penthouse suites and is steps away from dining and nightlife.
Address: 510 Ocean Drive
Average rating: 3.5 stars
Across the street from Lummus Park, this all-suite oceanfront hotel occupies 5 art deco buildings and massive suites.
Address: 1052 Ocean Drive
Once you've experienced a $200 price spike in the middle of your ticket search, your fourth 45-minute flight delay of the day, or your bag going MIA in Miami, you can't help but think: what are these airlines hiding from me?
It turns out, A LOT. Sure, some of it's coincidence, and you get an $8 voucher for an airport breakfast. But that overpriced breakfast is not an adequate salve -- and in fact, you've got a right to more than that. Here are 10 secrets airlines don't want you to know.
Majestic Hotel South Beach
Suites on South Beach
No. 1 Kansas City, MO
It’s one of the few cities where hotel prices have stayed the same or even dropped in the past year (the average summer rate is $137, according to Kayak). Sightseeing also remains a great value: you’ll get in free at three of Kansas City’s main art museums, as well as two fun factory-style tours (the Hallmark Visitors Center and the Boulevard Brewing Company). The savings continue at dinnertime. KC won the survey for its budget-minded, slow-smoked barbecue: a classic “burnt ends” sandwich at Danny Edwards’ Boulevard BBQ is just $5.99.
The Princess Ann
No. 3 San Antonio, TX
The Texas city inched two spots closer to No. 1 this year and ranked near the top for its free attractions—such as all five of the city’s historic missions, including the Alamo. The city has become more eco-friendly. Along the Mission Reach section of the Riverwalk, a 15-mile stretch of urban ecosystem restoration, you can rent bicycles (through B-Cycles) for $10 a day. Voters preferred San Antonio during cooler months, particularly around Christmas, when the city is full of luminarias and one of the holiday’s best cheap eats, tamales.
No. 2 Nashville
Voters increasingly love affable Nashville for its locavore-friendly food scene, ranking the city highly for burgers, cafés, and microbrews. At East Nashville’s Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden—where toppings include wasabi aioli, stroganoff béchamel, and “beer gravy”—the local-beef burgers start at $7. Meanwhile, you can see early shows for free at the legendary Bluebird Café (where a kid named Garth Brooks once played open mikes). To boost your odds of getting in, reserve your seat online.
3. Alaska Airlines
When we board a plane, the goal is simple: to get to our destination as safely and pleasantly as possible. But sometimes we get in our own way.
To be a safer and more courteous traveler, don’t make the following 11 airplane mistakes. Avoiding some of these behaviors will keep you from getting on your fellow fliers’ nerves; avoiding others could even save your life. Read on to learn what not to do on a plane.
1. Don’t try a new medication for the first time.
Where would you rather be when you discover that Ambien makes you hallucinate or that you’re allergic to your new iron supplement — at home, with easy access to your doctor and a local hospital, or in a metal tube hurtling 35,000 feet above the Pacific? Never take a medicine in flight that you haven’t already taken for a test run at home.
2. Don’t tune out the safety briefing.
Yeah, yeah — the briefing is boring, you’ve heard it a million times and you already know how to buckle a seatbelt. As tedious as it seems, though, the information could save your life one day. At the very least, take a few seconds to figure out where the nearest emergency exit is and how many rows away it is from your seat. (In a dark or smoky cabin, you’ll want to be able to count the rows by touching the seats as you make your way toward an exit.)
3. Don’t joke about bombs.
No one is going to laugh at your one-liner about guns, weapons or anything else that could be taken as threatening — particularly not the flight attendants, who have the power to remove you from a flight if they think there’s even the slightest chance you might pose a security risk. (Note: The same advice goes for customs people and TSA agents.)
4. Don’t recline your seat during mealtimes.
One of the biggest debates in the travel world is whether it’s okay to recline your seat at all (see The Etiquette of Seat Backs and Elbow Room and The Great Seat Back Debate: Is It Rude to Recline?). Whichever side of the issue you take, I think all of us can agree that once the food and drink carts start rolling down the aisles, it’s only courteous to make sure your seat is upright so the person behind you can have full access to his or her tray.
5. Don’t eat stinky food.
Speaking of mealtimes, give your seatmates a break — don’t show up for your flight with a tuna sandwich or a plate of onion rings. Not only will they stink while you’re eating them, but they’ll also ensure that you have bad breath for the rest of the flight.
6. Don’t drink too much.
No one will complain if you have a glass of wine with dinner, but over-indulging in alcohol can have consequences ranging from dehydration to even getting kicked off the plane for disorderly behavior. Remember: No one wants to sit next to the guy who reeks of alcohol, passes out on your shoulder or throws up on your shoes.
7. Don’t abuse the flight attendant call button.
The flight attendants’ first priority is to keep you safe, not to cater to your every whim, so use discretion when deciding when to hit that call button. If you’re feeling ill, or you’re thirsty on an overnight flight when the lights are out and getting up would wake your sleeping seatmates, feel free to hit the button. If the flight attendants are already serving dinner and you decide you need a drink right now, suck it up and be patient.
8. Don’t put your carry-on in an overhead bin where you’re not sitting.
As pet peeves go, this is one of our biggest — when the person in 33A puts her carry-on in the bin above row 16, ensuring that there won’t be enough space for the people actually sitting in row 16 to stow their own bags. This means people in the front of the plane end up having to put their bags toward the back, which leads to passengers trying to go against the stream of traffic when it comes time to deplane. Do everyone a favor and use your own overhead bin space unless there’s no alternative.
9. Don’t put a bag overhead if it’s small enough to go under the seat in front of you.
In other carry-on shenanigans, please don’t be the person who puts your rolling suitcase and your backpack and your coat into the overhead bin on a full flight. Leave space for other people’s stuff by putting your personal item under the seat in front of you, and squeezing your coat into the empty spaces left after everyone else has fit their larger bags into the bin.
10. Don’t inflict your feet on other passengers.
We have no problem with people slipping off their shoes to be more comfortable on a long flight — with a few important exceptions.
First, your feet should be as unobtrusive as possible to everyone else (so don’t prop them on top of a seatback, or wriggle them into the gap between the wall of the plane and the poor person in the seat in front of you who just wants to lean against the window without getting a faceful of your bare toes). Second, put your shoes back on before you go to the lavatory (because ew). And finally, if you know you’re prone to bromodosis — the polite scientific term for smelly feet — be considerate of your fellow passengers and leave your shoes on.
11. Don’t infringe on your neighbors’ space (or screen).
With airplane seats getting smaller and smaller, passengers with broad shoulders or long legs almost can’t help spilling over the bounds of their seats at some point. But we’re speaking out against intentional (and obnoxious) behaviors like manspreading, hogging the armrests or flipping your ponytail over the back of your seat so it obscures the video screen of the person behind you. Your neighbors paid for their space too; respect it.
Which airplane mistakes would you add to this list?
No. 19 Denver
Fresh air is free, and Denver has plenty—ranking well among voters for outdoorsy pursuits and great day trips. There’s no charge, for instance, to explore the dino-track-filled Dinosaur Ridge (a National Natural Landmark), just outside town. The earthy city also ranked well for being pet-friendly: dogs are even welcome at the stately Brown Palace Hotel, which has hosted nearly every president since Teddy Roosevelt, and where rooms start at $179 a night.
No. 7 Houston, TX
Business travelers will like how this city affects their per diem: according to Zagat, restaurant meals are about $3 cheaper than the national average. You can bring that average down even more if you stick with the city’s old-school Tex-Mex—like Ninfa’s on Navigation, which claims to be home of the nation’s first fajitas (Mama’s Tacos al Carbon, $9.99). Hotel values, meanwhile, include Midtown’s new La Maison, which starts at $159 a night. The city also scored in the top 10 for its classical music, which can be heard for free at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park.
Average rating: 3 stars
It offers the rare combination of spacious accommodations, a prime location, and outstanding value.
Address: 1330 Collins Avenue
No. 9 Austin, TX
Many of the Texas capital’s diversions are geared toward local college students and young techie types. Among the best food trucks, for instance, is Gourdough’s on South Lamar, which may finally legitimize the donut as a complete meal: its Boss Hog donut ($5.50) is topped with pulled pork, potato salad, and honey BBQ sauce. Meanwhile, one of the most classic, all-ages Austin experiences costs just $3: taking a dip in Barton Springs in Zilker Park; it’s great for some free and colorful people-watching.
Balcony rooms give you the opportunity to escape the crowded decks and unwind on your own private terrance.
This all sounds great, but the truth is that these rooms can be much pricier than a typical suite so you may want to consider whether it's really worth it. If you’re embarking on a week-long cruise, you may want to spend the extra money since you'll have more time at sea.
Before you book your balcony room you should always “think about the region in which you are going to be cruising and how much you are really going to want to be outside using your balcony,” Mollie Fitzgerald co-owner of Frontiers International Travel, says.
Don’t be shy when consulting with your cruise line and ask plenty of questions before booking. The last thing you want is to purchase an expensive room with a balcony and end up with an obstructed view. How big the space? Does it come with furniture? Where is it in relation to notoriously busy outdoor hangouts?
Here are some things to consider before booking your next cruise.
1) Research the region.
“Think about the region in which you are going to be cruising and how much you are really going to want to be outside using your balcony,” Mollie Fitzgerald, co-owner of Frontiers International Travel, says. For instance, “if you are cruising in Indonesia or Southeast Asia where it can be very hot and humid, or perhaps in Scandinavia where it is often chilly, the balcony may not be in play that often or worth the extra upcharge compared to the Caribbean or Med where weather might be more delightful and the balcony used much more.”
2) Is the view unobstructed?
“Ask if the view from the balcony is obstructed in any way, Fitzgerald explains. “Sometimes tender boats or life boats are suspended from the ceiling and can partially or fully obstruct the view from the balcony.”
3) Will you even be able to sit outside?
“Ask if the balcony is furnished – a table and pair of chairs so that you can actually step outside and enjoy it,” Fitzgerald says. “Sometimes, the term ‘balcony’ can be misleading and it is just a ‘Juliette’ balcony (also sometimes called ‘French’ balcony) which is a sliding door but the balcony itself is only 8 to 12 inches deep so no room to have furniture or sit down.”
4) Wait to upgrade.
Don’t purchase a balcony room while booking your trip. Wait until after boarding. According to Roaming Around The World, many cruise lines try to entice their passengers with a Reduced Rate Upgrade Program in attempts to fill balcony state rooms that haven’t been purchased.
5) Location, location, location.
“Get the square footage of the balcony for the cabin you are considering,” Fitzgerald says. “The largest ones are often on the cabins at the front of the ship and/or at the rear – not the sides.”
6) Will you be on display?
What is the point of paying extra money for a balcony if you can’t enjoy it? Fitzgerald says that you should “ask how private the balcony is – sometimes you can see/hear your neighbors to each side which may be an annoyance.”
Average rating: 2.5 stars
Set 1 block from the ocean, this modern boutique hotel in South Beach’s Art Deco District is a 5-min. drive from Lincoln Rd. Mall
Address: 920 Collins Avenue
Average rating: 3 stars
Built in 1948, this art deco hotel is ecorated with full-wall, nature-inspired art.
Address: 1418 Ocean Drive
Average rating: 4 stars
Airy rooms with colorful accents floors, some rooms with balconies & ocean views.
Address: 3101 Collins Avenue
Average rating: 3.5 stars
This trendy boutique hotel with red and white roomslies a block from the beach and 1.2 miles from the shops and cafes of Lincoln Road. Address: 3010 Collins Ave.
Loew's Miami Beach Hotel
Average rating: 3.5 stars
this vintage-modern boutique hotel was named for Britain's eccentric former prime minister) is a block from the beach.
Address: 350 Ocean Drive
Courtyard Cadillac Miami Beach/Oceanfront
Average rating: 4 stars
This luxury resort provides some of the most spacious hotel suites on the beach.
Address: 4525 Collins Avenue
Delano South Beach
Average rating: 3.5 stars
This modern hotel features boutique rooms with balconies on the ocean & art decor.
Address: 3925 Collins Avenue
The Angler's Hotel
No. 14 Charleston, SC
The southern city ranked first in the survey for its fine dining. For a reasonable $40, you join Culinary Tours of Charleston to meet with award-winning chefs, heirloom bakers, and artisan food purveyors. An early evening ride on the Schooner Pride ($35), a three-mast wooden ship, takes you past Civil War landmarks, barrier islands, and the pretty harbor at sunset—nice reminders of why the city ranked fifth for history and No. 1 for romance. Charleston also ranked near the top for girlfriend getaways.
No. 5 Memphis, TN
Memphis ranked in the top five for the free, omnipresent tunes of street performers. You can also sit down and hear free music at the city’s WPA-built Levitt Shell, which has its own historical relevance: Elvis was the opening act here one night in 1954, which many consider the Big Bang of the rock ’n’ roll era. Finger-friendly gourmetfood is also easy to come by: at Hog & Hominy—named by GQ as one of this year’s best U.S. restaurants—you can try the duck sausage with brussels sprouts slaw, or a mortadella corn dog, for under $10 each.
Beach Paradise Hotel
No. 15 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Summer and fall are the best times to find deals in San Juan—thank the less-predictable weather. But the good news is that airfares into the Puerto Rico capital have gotten more competitive now that Southwest is flying here and JetBlue has added more flights. You can also bring home inexpensive treats such as a bag of highly ranked coffee from Old San Juan’s Finca Ciales or Cuatro Sombres.
Don't forget to hydrate.
When you're rushing through airport security, eating plastic-wrapped airplane meals, and grabbing fast food on layovers, it’s easy to forget about staying healthy—and regular—when traveling.
And while staying regular doesn’t sound particularly glamorous, regulating you digestion can really make or break the transit portion of a trip—plus, we’re all for avoiding those germy airport bathrooms as much as possible.
Keeping your gut and digestive system normal and happy means that you will have better travels overall, and won’t have to deal with bloating or discomfort mid-way through a transatlantic flight or cross-country road trip. We spoke with Robyn Youkilis, wellness expert and author of “Go With Your Gut,” to talk travel diet, probiotics, and in-flight hydration.
“Traveling usually means being off of your normal routine, eating different foods, and maybe at different times, which often leads to irregularity or uncomfortable digestive issues,” said Youkilis. “Consuming probiotics can help you stay regular even when the rest of your schedule is way off. Probiotics also help boost your immune system. While traveling, your body will likely be exposed to unfamiliar germs and bacteria (hello, airplane tray tables!). Combine that with the fact that your immune system tends to be compromised while traveling and now you're working with an increased risk of getting sick on your trip.”
So what’s the best way to keep your immune system strong and digestive system operating smoothly? Here are a few tips for a healthy journey from point A to B.
Keep on-the-go probiotics in your travel bag.
Probiotics are great for keeping digestion regular, especially when you’re on the move. It’s easy for things to get uncomfortable when traveling: You often have limited food options, it can be hard to remember to hydrate enough, sometimes you’re feeling stressed about getting where you’re going.
In order to stay regular, once through security, opt for a drinkable probiotic. Youkiliis recommends Kombucha (try G&T’s original) or a probiotic fruit drink like Tropicana’s new probiotic juices. If you’d rather something a little more solid, pop a yogurt into your carry-on after going through security.
Practice post-plane yoga.
Be sure to stretch frequently. Staying limber is important for your ligaments and your muscles, but also for the movement within your stomach and gut, too. Consider getting a travel yoga mat to bring wherever you go.
Plan your diet.
When planning your travel diet, keep things simple. Opt for dark leafy greens (like kale chips) and fruits (like dried fruit). Pack a snack bag ahead of time to avoid airport and airplane food: You want to keep your distance from anything processed, sugary, or sodium-heavy.
“I'm known for packing up full meals for me and my hubby for travel days: cooked greens like kale, some leftover roasted veggies, a protein like salmon or tempeh, plus some healthy fat (avocado and raw goat’s cheddar are two favorites of ours),” said Youkilis.
“When you make a healthy meal (or snack) for yourself, you are way less likely to fall into the ‘I’m in an airport so healthy rules don’t apply’ trap. Plus, this way you are also prepared if there are any delays in your travel plans.”
Drink water. Lots and lots and lots of water.
It may seem obvious, but staying hydrated is one of the easiest, simplest ways to stay regular when on the road or in the air. Sometimes it can be easy to forget to hydrate while on the go, so find a water bottle you like and make sure that it fits into your carry on.
“The best thing you can do to combat the super dehydrating effect of being on an airplane is drink up!” said Youkilis. “And no, I’m not talking about that complimentary inflight cocktail (side note: alcohol is dehydrating too, so my suggestion is skip it all together on your travel day). Water, coconut water, and herbal tea are my top picks, but fresh juice or seltzer water are great too.”
Think outside the box.
Many people likely feel limited by what healthy probiotic options, like Kombucha or yogurt, are easy to grab-and-go when prepping for travel meals. Youkilis encourages travelers to get creative with snack and beverage options when heading into the sky.
“Chia seeds, hot water with lemon, lots of water, Chlorophyll tablets, and Magnesium powder are always part of my travel kit,” said Youkilis. “They help keep things moving down there and that ensures that I can feel my best wherever I am.”
Eden Roc Miami Beach
Average rating: 4.5 stars
This upscale boutique hotel dating to the '40s features elegant Georgian Revival architecture and walnut floors. Address: 1440 Ocean Dr.
Clevelander South Beach
Hotel and Restaurant
Average rating: 4 stars
This chic art deco-style boutique hotel has a scenic rooftop pool and an on-site Latin-inspired restaurant.
Address: 1745 James Avenue
Recent Instagram posts from the TSA have included the “Massacre” prop, the Batarang–actually multiple Batarangs–as well as an armory of handguns, knives, throwing stars and a hacksaw or two.
In between photos of some cute bomb sniffing dogs, the TSA has been patting itself on the back with each discovery of a dangerous weapon. There’s even a hashtag: #TSAGoodCatch.
But the TSA says there’s another, more important reason why’s posting the items.
“Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds,” it says. “Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the line is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. The passenger can face a penalty as high as $11,000.”
With each post, it also provides a friendly reminder to what’s permisable inside your carry on.
“While firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags, you can pack them in your checked baggage, as long as you meet the packing guidelines,” it says, providing a link to: bit.ly/travelingwithfirearms.A passenger tried to board an airplane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport with a camouflaged double-bladed knife shaped like a Batarang Batman would strap to his utility belt. Another was traveling with a prop of a dead body from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” (SEE PHOTO ABOVE)
Transportation Security Administration staff at airports have been surprised at just what passengers think is air-worthy–so much so that they’ve been keeping tabs and sharing them online through an Instagram feed and blog.
As for knives, they “are always prohibited in carry-on bags no matter the size. Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.”
And don’t even think about carrying a bejeweled lipstick stun gun. Yes, that was an item confiscated by the TSA in Atlanta.
“All stun guns are prohibited from being packed in carry-on bags or carried on your person,” notes the TSA.
The “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” prop was just fine, however.
According to the TSA, “he was screened and sent on his jolly way.”
Average rating: 3 stars
Hip rooms with pine floors and art deco style furnishings, one of the most photographed hotels.
Address: 736 Ocean Drive
By Carla Martilotti
Those little add-ons can build up quickly.
In the big complicated world of travel, with fluctuating airfares, hotel rewards points, and transit maps that look like an airplane schematic, renting a car is one of the simplest, most straightforward things you can do. But avoiding the extra fees, charges, and “because we feel like it” add-ons can be tricky. So here’s a quick guide on how to get around some common ones.
Collision Damage Waiver
Some rental car agencies will try and scare you into buying their collision damage waiver by saying things like, “So you’re comfortable being completely liable for any damage caused if you, for example, hit a school bus and turn it into a giant rolling fireball?” Don’t get freaked out. Yes, the CDW does provide good protection, but costs $20 a day or more.
Your credit card often provides rental car insurance if you use it for the rental, so always check with your card company first. Also, your personal auto insurance sometimes covers rental liability, so look into that as well. Bottom line, the CDW is frequently unnecessary, so it’s an easily avoidable extra cost.
The little sign at the rental counter inviting you to prepay the entire tank is tempting: The price per gallon they charge to prepay is substantially less than the average price in the city. But don’t be fooled! Unless you know, for a fact, you’re going to use an entire tank of gas during your trip, you’ll end up giving them whatever gas is left for free. It’s almost always ultimately cheaper to return the car full.
If you do that, however, make sure not to return it with less gas than you started with. Refill costs can be a staggering $15 a gallon, and if you don’t budget time to refill before you drop off, an empty tank can add hundreds of dollars to your bill. If you don’t know the city well, use an app like GasBuddy to locate stations near the airport, and budget an extra 15-20 minutes to fill up.
Even if you’re in a hurry, always take a few minutes to inspect the car for any damage it might have before leaving the lot. The people charged with inspecting it pre-rental aren’t always sticklers for detail, and sometimes miss large scratches and dings. Of course, the people charged with inspecting a car post-rental have the attention to detail of a Marine Corps Drill Instructor, and will attempt to charge you for any small discrepancy. That's not to say they’re at all dishonest, but it’s as much your responsibility as theirs to note any damage before you leave.
Airport concession fees
Renting in the city is almost always cheaper than renting at the airport because of airport concession fees—basically, convenience fees the airport charges agencies to operate on airport grounds. If you have the time, and the cost of getting to and from the city is minimal, you can avoid this fee by renting off-airport. Just be sure to leave extra time when returning the car.
There are some other fees, like underage driver fees and city taxes that are fairly unavoidable. But for things like gas, insurance, and damage you didn’t do, there’s no need to spend extra. Just be smart, and renting a car doesn’t need to be an expensive part of your vacation.
No. 6 Salt Lake City
While the Utah city dropped four spots in the survey’s affordability category this year, readers still found it to be family-friendly, peaceful, and pleasantly spic-and-span. Like a lot of reasonably priced cities, Salt Lake offers a discount pass on its tourist board website: Connect Pass easily pays for itself by bundling a long list of free meals and attractions, such as tours of Olympic Park or admission to the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Hogle Zoo.
Average rating: 4 stars
Ultra cool and stylish, this boutique hotel and spa is a 10-minute drive to the beach.
Address: 40 Island Avenue
Sanctuary South Beach
From boutique to budget, mom-'n-pop to luxury, you'll find everything under the bright Florida sun on Miami Beach when it comes to hotels. Here are a few of our favorites, in no particular ranking or order... they're just places that we've frequented, rated, reviewed and recommend to anyone in search of high-quality lodging. RATINGS by hotels.com
No. 16 Dallas/Fort Worth
Voters have long saluted Big D for its haute taste in shopping, but this year the Texas metropolis climbed 10 places in affordability—so voters clearly found more to love than just the original, downtown Neiman Marcus. At the nearby free Dallas Museum of Art, the permanent collection includes a re-creation of Coco Chanel’s living room. The Metroplex also scored well for its value-minded sports bars. Better yet, catch a minor league Cats baseball game in Fort Worth, with scenic downtown views, from $9.
No. 17 Philadelphia
As the birthplace of our democracy, the City of Brotherly Love has mastered both high and low culture with equal accessibility. You can visit the Liberty Bell (free) as well as the largest collection of Rodin sculpturesoutside of Paris at Philly’s recently renovated Rodin Museum ($8 suggested admission). If your idea of a masterpiece, however, is the perfect microbrew, take the free Saturday tours at either Yards Brewing Company or Philadelphia Brewing Company, which include samples.
While regular cruise ship rooms are nice, balcony rooms can feel extra luxurious.
Average rating: 4.5 stars
Arguably the most luxurious hotel on Miami Beach, it oozes elegance at every corner.
Address: 4441 Collins Avenue
Average rating: 4 stars
Stylish boutique hotel with lush gardens, a nightly hosted wine hour & beach cruiser bikes.
Address: 660 Washington Ave.
Hotel Riu Plaza Miami Beach
Grabbing a bite to eat before your flight isn’t always an easy option. Lines can be long, time is short for a full meal, and food options are limited. Some useful airport apps are looking to provide some relief for your stomach and work with your schedule, however.
Grab (iPhone, Android; free)
For those of us in a rush, you can pre-order and pay for food from airport restaurants and pick it up when it’s ready at more than 80 airports, covering 300 brands in 2,000 restaurant locations with Grab. The list of restaurants isn’t limited to an airport’s kiosks: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, TGI Friday’s, Gordon Biersch, Jamba Juice, Subway and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen are on the list, providing a good array of options. For the business traveler, the Grab app, which also lists what’s near your gate, also connects with Concur, providing easy access to receipts when filing expenses.
Airport Sherpa (iPhone; free)
Its slogan is “the airport delivered,” and that’s just what this app does, delivering food within 15 to 45 minutes to you at your gate from restaurants within any terminal, charging between $3.99 and $7.99 per order. Food can also be ordered for pick-up or delivery up to a week in advance–helpful for people who stick to their eating schedules. Airport Sherpa also has other built-in features, like letting you know when your flight is delayed, gate location or connection changes. The app launched first at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, but will soon expand to 15 others by the end of 2018.
At Your Gate (iPhone; free)
A 10-minute delivery window is promised by AtYourGate, which launched at San Diego International Airport. That’s speedy, but the airport is also smaller than most. There’s a $6.99 fee per order.
LoungeBuddy (iPhone, Android; free)
If you want to grab something to eat at an airport lounge, download LoungeBuddy, which identifies the ones available near you. The helpful app also stores your membership details with airline loyalty programs, and features reviews of the best lounges that are worth checking out. As we’ve learned over the years, not all airport lounges are equal.
GateGuru (iPhone, Android; free)
TripAdvisor’s GateGuru has always been one of our favorite apps, putting everything you need when at the airport, including wait times at security checkpoints and flight changes, at your fingertips. It’s also great at giving you the best food options near you, and reviews of where to eat. It’s only a matter of time before it also offers options to pre-order food or have it delivered to you.
5. Southwest Airlines
No. 20 Atlanta
One of Atlanta’s must-visit historic sites, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, is free, and you need reservations only if you want a guided tour of King’s birthplace or the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Another reason that Atlanta may have cracked the top 20 this year is that voters gave high marks to its affordable barbecue. Start your taste test at Candler Park’s Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, which has developed a cult following for its wallet-friendly brisket, fried okra, and grilled pimento-cheese sandwiches.
No. 13 Portland, OR
The Northwest city’s No. 1 ranking for mass transit makes it easy to cut the cost of a car rental. The new Eastside Extension of the Portland Streetcar costs $1 for two hours, and passes through the buzz-filled Central Eastside Industrial District, where you’ll find Boke Bowl (with creative ramen dishes) and sandwich shop Bunk Bar. Portland also ranked near the top for its groovy, bargain-filled flea markets.
Average rating: 3.5 stars
Evoking 1930s' vintage style in Miami's famed Art Deco District, this is one of the best-kept secrets in South Beach.
Address: 1650 James Avenue
The Colony Hotel
Mondrian South Beach
No. 8 Savannah, GA
This southern town may have strolled into the affordable top 10 using its pedestrian-friendly charm. Voters appreciate the portable happy hours (thanks to open-container laws) and the rich history, which you can access with walking-tour apps such as Historic Savannah and Haunted Savannah ($2.99 each). You could also call it a history tour when you check out the city’s top-ranked frozen desserts at Leopold’s Ice Cream parlor (est. 1919). The downtown institution sells old-fashioned sodas and rum bisque, lemon custard, and tutti-frutti ice cream.
Affordable hotel rates, free museums, and plentiful barbecue and beer make these cities a bargain for travelers.
Shelborne Wyndham Grand
But how often the water tank is cleaned is another thing entirely.
“The regulation gives broad discretion to airlines on how often they must test the water and flush the tanks,” the AFA said.
“AFA does not believe this regulation goes far enough or is sufficiently enforced.“
A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency found about one in every 10 commercial planes in the US had tested positive at least once for coliform, a bacteria found in human feces.
Last month, top chef Anthony Bourdain also expressed his skepticism for what’s served on flights, saying he’d rather go hungry than eat in-flight meals.
“No one has ever felt better after eating plane food,” Bourdain told Bon Appetit.
“I think people only eat it because they’re bored. I don’t eat on planes. I like to arrive hungry.”
And if he was so famished on a flight he had to resort to something, the “No Reservations” host said he would order a cheese platter and some port.
“I’d eat some cheese and drink myself stupid,” he said.
Grand Beach Hotel Miami
By Carla Martilotti
When it comes to the pain points of travel these days, airlines usually get the brunt of complaints. So when a carrier scores big with fliers, it’s usually because of company-wide efforts by pilots, ground crew, gate agents, booking and sales agents, and customer-service reps to deliver premium-class service to all customers — whether they’re flying first or coach.
The airlines that scored big with our readers this year are the ones that are doubling down on making customers happy. Among this year’s winners, JetBlue continues to win accolades for its Mint premium cabin service. When it comes to the onboard snacks, one reader also cited how the airline “goes the extra mile for passengers with food allergies by serving nut-free and gluten-free choices. A serious plus when you travel with children.”
Both Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest consistently rank high for their frequent-flier programs and excellent flight service (mahalo, Hawaiian, for still providing complimentary meals!), with the latter getting extra shout-outs for value. “Southwest offers flexibility and no hidden costs,” wrote one reader. “You can check two bags free of charge, there are no change fees, and the flights are STILL economical.” Alaska Airlines’ increasing popularity is owed in large part to a great loyalty program and an expanding flight network, and its customer base will soon be growing due to its acquisition — and ultimate dissolution— of Virgin America in 2019. Virgin America has held the No. 1 spot on our domestic airlines list for the past 10 years, and it’s no surprise, given that many of our readers praised the customer service. “They really know how to get it right,” said one fan. “Every employee seemed to love their job, and I never felt for one moment that I was a bother as a passenger,” added another.
How do we determine the best? Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, we asked readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. In the airlines category, readers rated carriers on cabin comfort, service, food, customer service, and value. See below for how the best U.S.-based airlines fared among our readers.
No. 10 Providence, RI
The diverse Rhode Island capital is the only northeastern city to make the budget-friendly top 10 this year, perhaps thanks to its crowd-pleasing dining, arts, and theater scenes. No-cover-charge events are especially common in summer: on the third Thursday of the month, for instance, you can take part in the free Gallery Nights, which feature free rides on an Art Bus. In summertime, it’s also free to stroll through the WaterFire displays, evening bonfires that line the city’s rivers.
Average rating: 3 stars
An art deco hotel dating to 1929, this budget oceanfront property is within easy walking distance of restaurants, shopping & more.
Address: 600 Ocean Drive
Red South Beach Hotel
Average rating: 3.5 stars
The Clevelander is an icon among Ocean Drive Hotels, South Beach bars, and entertainment venues in Miami Beach.
Address: 4835 Collins Avenue
No. 11 Portland, ME
Even if lobster prices inspire some sticker shock among travelers, summer and July 4th are the most popular times of year to visit. The seasonal Portland Lobster Company balances the cost of crustaceans with free live music and will extend happy-hour prices if you present one of the house’s coasters as a coupon. That said, you will cut costs by showing up here in winter, when you can still enjoy Portland’s highly ranked microbrews, coffee, and indie boutiques.