There’s a mounting possibility of a big shake-up in how you purchase your airfare, some travel outlets report: Major airlines might soon employ a new technology called dynamic pricing to assign different fares to different types of air passengers without their knowledge.
In fact, sources say, some airlines are probably using a rudimentary version of dynamic pricing already. It seems any time an airline thinks it can squeeze more money out of each passenger, you can bet it will. Here are nine questions you might have about dynamic pricing, answered to reveal how the technology could affect you.
What is dynamic pricing?
The fundamentals of dynamic pricing are simple: When you search for an airfare, an airline uses information like your search history to display prices based on which fare class it believes you’re most likely to prefer, and how much it calculates you’re willing to pay. The fares you see might be very different than the ones shown to other customers searching exactly the same trip at the same time.
Does that mean the airline has to know who I am?
Yes. In order to tailor the prices displayed to you, an airline has to recognize you and have some data about your travel-buying history. If you’ve ever bought anything on Amazon, you’ve seen how it works: Log on, and suggested items reflect your purchase and browsing history with the site.
How does an airline recognize me?
That depends on how you’re searching. If you log onto an airline’s site directly from one of the devices you use most frequently, that device probably already has a cookie (tracking technology) that identifies you to the airline.
Even without a cookie, your device’s unique IP address can provide a key to trace your identity. If you enter your frequent flyer number, the airline has even more information about you. According to trade reports, an airline can identify you even if you’re logged in through an online travel agency such as Expedia, although the exact mechanism isn’t completely clear.
How does an airline set dynamic prices?
At any given time, most airlines currently maintain up to 26 fare groups for their flights, ranging from bare-bones basic economy to first class. Several of the economy groups are base fares, plus extras like seat choice, a checked bag, and an in-flight meal. Airlines can change both the fares in, and number of seats allocated to, each fare group several times a day. They may also leave them at a set level for several days.
At its most basic approach, an airline sets a dynamic price by selecting which established fare group to show you, based on what its system believes you’re likely to buy.
At a more advanced approach, an airline can tweak the price for each bucket in real time, again based on assessment of your buying history, selecting what to present to you at a unique price, and in real time.
Does dynamic pricing offer any consumer benefits?
Airlines and their pricing consultants claim that dynamic pricing is used, as Travel Weekly puts it, “to offer discounts to customers with loyalty status and to generate bundled fare offerings that fit the customer’s profile.” That sounds harmless enough, but it’s not the whole story.
How do airlines benefit from dynamic pricing?
Despite outwardly focusing on supposed customer benefits, airlines know that dynamic pricing adds to their bottom line. According to the Travel Weekly report, it achieves “incremental revenues in the 7 percent to 10 percent range.” Simply put, that means travelers buying through a dynamic pricing system pay 7 to 10 percent more than travelers buying through the conventional pricing system.
Loyalty discounts, or increased revenue? You can decide the motive for yourself.
What are the “gotchas” of dynamic pricing?
Overall, dynamic pricing makes airfare less transparent. An airline does not display all of the options that fit your search. Most problematic of all, it may not show the lowest available fare at all.
A more pernicious gotcha is that an airline might present you with a fare option that’s higher than an identical bundle offered to other consumers, because the system says you might pay more than the average customer.
How can I avoid a dynamic pricing gouge?
For now, you will have to search airfares for any trip at least twice.
Start by logging onto the airline’s own website, and see what dynamic pricing has in store for you. Then do the same search through a metasearch system like TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) or Google Flights, without logging in to anything or identifying yourself in any way. For even more isolation, you can also search an airline’s site using one of the private search services, such as DuckDuckGo or Ixquick’s StartPage. Or if you’re a real geek, you can establish a virtual private network (VPN). These options will effectively hide your identity from any website you visit.
Then with all the results in hand, select the one that you, not the airline, think fits you best.
1. Get drunk
A lot of us like to have a drink or two when on a plane or waiting in an airport lounge. That's acceptable... as long as you can hold your liquor. If you are at the point you are loud and belligerent or slurring your words, other passengers and flight attendants are really going to hate you. (Remember Bridesmaids?!)
A logical progression of the drunk passenger is, of course, the vomiting passenger. Hey maybe it wasn't the booze, but the nerves about flying, or the motion sickness. But, to your fellow passengers, it won't matter. Nothing's grosser. (At least reach for the barf bag in time, and be tidy if at all possible.)
3. Touch strangers
Whether you are just a super expressive person trying to tell your annoyed seatmate a story (and that in itself is often hated behavior), or you're trying to get someone else's attention — it's just so not OK to physically touch other people without their permission.
myCharge PowerCord Go
The PowerCord Go iPhone/Micro is another perfect travel tech gadget for charging. You can't beat the portability and discreteness of this charger; just attach to a key ring or loop on your backpack and you're ready to go.
A hairbrush is one of the most common things people forget to pack, but you’ll feel this one the hardest when you face your bedhead in the mirror every morning. Hotels often offer complimentary combs, but if you’re particular about your hair, as many travelers are, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed the right tools to tame it.
How to Remember: Invest in a good fold-up brush to keep in your toiletry kit. You’ve probably tangoed with the cheaper end of the fold-up brush spectrum, but the TOUCHBeauty Detangling Brush is a quality option that promises silky hair and gives a good scalp massage.
Delayed flights can truly be the worst. And they can cause a wide variety of reactions from passengers. Some people are perfectly calm and polite despite the bad news, others become angry with the crew or airline, some may even cry or yell.
But there are some responses that are just straight up overreactions – like setting your own possessions on fire.
One irate passenger actually did decide that arson was the only way to respond to his delayed flight on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), according to Dawn.
PIA Flight PK-607, bound for Gilgit, Pakistan at 7 a.m. local time, was delayed on Thursday for technical reasons, and then ultimately canceled due to bad weather at Islamabad Airport.
At this point, some passengers shouted in protest and pushed airport personnel over the cancelation, according to Dawn. But one passenger took it one — or maybe a thousand— steps further.
A video of the passenger was posted on Facebook.
Luckily, no one was actually hurt in the fire and it was put out by Civil Aviation Authority fire fighters.
Despite the fires and protest, the flight cancelation was actually quite routine. Flights around the world get canceled due to technical problems and weather all the time. But it’s rare for a purposeful fire to break out.
A PIA spokesperson told Dawn that passengers were moved to hotels to await a new flight, which was scheduled for them on Friday – all in all, a fairly predictable protocol.
“No airline can risk flying a passenger plane in bad weather,” the spokesperson said.
The site reported that PIA “has opted to forgive and forget the incident that happened at Islamabad International Airport on November 15.”
There have been no police or government reports regarding the incidents, according to History of PIA.
Come March 29, 2019, Great Britain is due to leave the European Union. So far, the opposing sides of the change—those who favor leaving without making any border or trade deals, and those hoping international partnerships are maintained—have not reached agreement on the specific terms. And time is running out.
A “hard” 2019 Brexit is possible and nebulous, and even a “soft” negotiated-borders deal will likely result in some changes.
Weighing a Hard Brexit in 2019
What will this mean for visiting the U.K. and Europe, specifically? Here’s what American travelers who plan to visit Britain and the E.U. next year need to know.
Deal or not, the actual process of traveling from the U.S. or Canada to Britain will remain largely (if not completely) the same, given North American relationships with the U.K. aren’t directly affected.
Traveling between Britain and Europe will also probably change very little, if any: Britain never joined the Schengen “open borders” system for travel throughout Europe, so those traveling between the England and Schengen countries—virtually all of Europe—must already go through passport control. Britain obviously never adopted the Euro, and although the pound hit a 31-year low following the Brexit vote, England’s currency has bounced back strongly.
So except for a few adjustments in passport control lines, the experience of travel between Europe and Britain will essentially remain as it is. The biggest Brexit repercussions are likely to be for trade and possibly for Europeans living and working in the U.K.—not tourists. But questions remain.
Travelers’ Rights and Airline Structure
The most significant potential travel change falls under international travel rights. After Brexit, trips within Britain and on British-based airlines would no longer fall under E.U. consumer protection rules. Those rules—most notably compensation for delays—are much stronger than American rules, and European and British airlines call them too strict. The post-Brexit British government could decide to write its own new rules, and you can bet that the British lines will press hard for less generous traveler compensation for delays. But there is a chance England could maintain the current formulation.
Although even a no-deal Brexit would have a minimal impact on the way visitors tour through the area, a no-deal Brexit could have a substantial impact on the structure of the airline business and the way airlines operate in the area. Among the key problems:
Foreign Ownership Limits: As in the U.S., European countries limit the amount of foreign ownership allowed for airlines headquartered in-country. When the E.U. was considered one country for airline purposes, these limits raised no problems. But if the remaining E.U. and Britain are separate, airlines based in both areas could face problems.
Ryanair, based in the E.U. (Ireland) operates a lot of British flights, for example. And EasyJet, based in Britain, operates a lot of E.U. flights. IAG owns airlines that are based in both Britain and the E.U., including British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia. These and other lines have already established alternative corporate bases in both areas, but a hard Brexit could still pose many ownership problems and even demand major restructuring.
Traffic Rights: Currently, E.U. airlines enjoy “open skies” for trips within the region. But if Britain leaves, there is a serious possibility that British-based lines would have to negotiate traffic rights with either all of the E.U. or even individual E.U. countries. And there’s no guarantee that both sides would readily agree to continued, unlimited traffic rights. A hard exit could result in substantial loss of individual air routes, like the competitive budget ones that have made transatlantic travel so much cheaper in recent years.
Air Traffic Control and Safety: As with traffic rights, a separate E.U. and Britain might instate requirements for mutual overflight requests. Again, in a hard Brexit there’s no guarantee that all the players would agree. Which could add yet another layer of problems to a traffic control function already burdened by fragmentation—and this could add to flight delays.
Presumably, no kind of Brexit would result in a meaningful difference in safety standards. But safety issues could result in downstream problems with accident investigation, certification of new airplanes, and other safety standards.
The chance of a hard exit remains substantial. Both sides have dug in on their positions, and nobody has yet floated a promising compromise proposal. Clear heads would point to the necessity of a soft Brexit as the many changes are navigated, but clear heads don’t always prevail in political matters.
It’s even still possible that Britain will reverse Brexit entirely: Several prominent British voices are calling for a new Brexit vote. And a hard Brexit could add fuel to the fire of Scottish succession: The last vote was close, and Scotland and Northern Ireland have been vocal about wanting to remain in the E.U.
Hard or soft, Brexit will almost surely add at least some complexity and barriers to travel between Britain and Europe. That means likely fare increases and reduced competition for travelers, even in the softest Brexit. But the picture will become clearer as we approach March.
Three relatively new low-fare airlines have run into troubles ranging from minor to bad, with one shutting down completely and the other two cutting or delaying new air routes. Industry pundits have been saying for some time that it wouldn’t be easy for the slew of new low-fare airlines to make their business models work, given the competition from established low-fare lines and ongoing opposition from the legacy lines. And that now seems to be ringing true.
Cobalt Air Strands Passengers
A low-fare airline based in Cyprus has failed, completely shutting down. As in the recent Primera case, travelers already at their destinations were stranded and travelers who had not yet started their trips were left with worthless tickets. Also as in the Primera case, other lines offered “rescue” fares, starting with Wizz Air.
Cobalt suggested travelers with worthless tickets contact their credit card issuer, travel agency, or tour operator. This failure probably does not impact many U.S. or Canadian travelers, but it reinforces the warnings of a financial winter looming for European low-fare airlines: Cobalt wasn’t the first, and it likely won’t be the last. Anyone planning to use a small low-fare startup should consider buying travel insurance. And buy it from a third party, not the airline: Most airline insurance policies don’t pay off if the corporation that sold them folds.
WOW Air Cuts Routes
The fast-growing Icelandic low-cost airline is dropping five U.S. routes to its Reykjavik hub: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dallas (Ft. Worth), New York (JFK), and St. Louis. It’s hard not to conclude from this that that (A.) $99 transatlantic fares are less sustainable than they thought, (B.) a successful air hub operation requires lots of profitable spokes on either side, and (C.) connections on routes that already have nonstop competition is not an easy sell.
This situation shows how quickly low-fare lines react to unfavorable markets: If it isn’t selling well enough, they drop it. Fortunately, WOW remains fully operational, and no travelers will lose any money. But it will probably drop another route or two, and perhaps still continue to add a few new ones to test.
Swoop Postpones New Routes
WestJet’s new low-fare airline subsidiary, Swoop, postponed its new routes into the U.S. that were due to launch October 11. Fortunately, the airline says the flights were postponed because of a delay in bureaucratic paperwork, not financial problems. And you can expect the new routes to operate by the end of October.
WestJet was able to handle some booked travelers on its own flights, and is taking care of others. But the story of low-fare airlines having to rebook stranded passengers is starting to feel all too common.
The Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it will create a task force with the mission of investigating sexual misconduct in airlines.
The National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force will operate as a subcommittee of the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC). According to a press release, the task force “will review current practices, protocols and requirements of U.S. airlines in responding to and reporting allegations of sexual misconduct by passengers on board aircraft.”
The task force will provide recommendations to ACPAC about how to report and collect data around sexual misconduct and how to train employees.
An FBI investigation revealed that reports of sexual misconduct mid-flight increased 66 percent from 2014 to 2017. Last year, the bureau opened 63 sexual assault investigations, according to USA Today.
Last year, CNN reported on the increase of sexual harassment cases reported by both passengers and cabin crew. About 20 percent of flight attendants have reported being harassed by passengers while on the job. A member of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union said that her employer never provided sexual harassment training for her or her colleagues.
The first meeting of the task force is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2019. The initial meeting will discuss in further detail what duties the task force should maintain and the founding members of the task force will be announced.
If you haven’t heard about the U.K.’s heated debate on cutting ties with the European Union—dubbed a “Brexit”—you certainly will this week. Britons headed to the ballot box on Thursday and made the historic decision to leave the European Union.
The vote came less than one week after Brexit-opposing Member of Parliament Jo Cox was killed, allegedly by a suspect who said in court: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” And now Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that he will resign as a result of the new measure. Britain has undoubtedly been thrust into a turbulent time, as the British pound’s value tumbled a whopping 11 percent in the hours that followed the vote, and the exact trade, travel, and immigration changes to come have yet to be decided.
The legislation that will now follow could change everything about traveling to and from the United Kingdom. Here’s what you need to know about the Brexit’s implications, and how it could affect you.
Budget Flights No More?
It’s hard to say right now what exactly the Brexit will change and to what degree, but it has the potential to change how we access the U.K. from Europe and beyond. This is increasingly important to Americans as budget and low-cost airlines like WOW and Norwegian Air offer U.S. flights to England through European cities like Paris and Copenhagen—airlines might now reconsider those routes. The new measure surely means reassessing trade agreements as well as immigration and travel requirements.
Catherine Barnard, a Cambridge professor of European Union law told the Guardian before the vote that if “the U.K. enters only a free trade agreement without free movement of persons or services, tourism is likely to be affected. Tourism (based on number of visits) from Europe to the U.K. is more than double that of tourism from the rest of the world.”
Increased Entry Requirements
Restricting free movement would mean imposing more fees or visa requirements for entry to better monitor immigration and travelers. I personally think this is unlikely since England already suffers from price competition with Europe—it’s much more expensive to visit the U.K. thanks to airfare taxes, strong currency, and high costs of living in cities like London. Despite this, London was named TripAdvisor’s top Traveler’s Choice destination this year, and is consistently one of the most-visited cities among world travelers—so perhaps Britain could afford to up their entry requirements.
Barnard also pointed out to the Guardian that the U.K. could alternatively opt for less extreme measures—simply “doing a Norway” by entering a free-trade agreement that overhauls their economic relationship with European countries but still allows free movement in and out of the E.U. This would likely still be bad news for Britons, since many experts have predicted that cutting those trade ties could send the U.K.’s economy into a downward spiral, and probably a recession. This seems to be true so far, with the country’s currency in free-fall.
While that might seem like a good thing for world travelers ready to see British currency weaken, the vote is already shaking up worldwide markets and signaling trouble for the economies bolstered by U.K. partnerships, especially in Europe. Great Britain is an economic super power, and it wont be clear which countries will suffer from a Brexit until the extremity regulations are decided and the dominoes fall where they may.
There’s Still Time
Developing the exit strategy will take at least two years, which is a crucial time for making decisions about the above concerns.
The only thing that’s clear right now is just how much—travel, immigration, currency value, cheap flight routes, shifting international relations—is riding on England’s coming decisions.
Travel can be exhilarating but also scary at times. When you’re venturing into the great unknown, follow these 10 safety tips to protect yourself and ensure a happy and secure journey.
Choose Your Ground Transportation Wisely
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), motor vehicle crashes are the number-one cause of death for U.S. citizens abroad. Whenever possible, travel in a vehicle that is in good condition and offers working seat belts. Research the safety records of bus companies, and avoid using less-safe vehicles like rickshaws and mopeds.
Check In with the State Department
Did you know that the State Department provides updated safety information for every country in the world? You can search the website here and get trustworthy details about wherever you're visiting. Find out everything, from which vaccinations you need to the local laws to any travel warnings (including crime and security warnings). While you're on the website, head over to the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) page, where you can register your travel plans. In the event of an emergency (whether it's a natural disaster, an emergency back home, or civil unrest), they will be able to contact you.
Review the Escape Route in Your Hotel Room
Let's be honest—when you check in to a hotel room, you're more focused on scoping out the amenities than studying the map on the back of your door. But before you get too settled in, you should take a quick look at the emergency escape routes. You'll be glad you did if an emergency arises in the middle of the night.
Leave an Itinerary and Emergency Contact
Unplugging while on vacation can be great, but try not to go too under the radar, especially if you're traveling alone. Leave your itinerary (even if it's just as basic as which city you'll be visiting and when you'll return) with a trusted friend or family member back home, and try to check in with him or her every day. That way, if something happens, they can alert authorities on your behalf.
Scan a Copy of Your Passport
Before you leave, scan a copy of your passport, email it to yourself, and take a photo of it to save on your cell phone. That way, if you need your passport while out (but it's locked up in your hotel safe), you'll have access to all your details. Plus, if it's stolen, getting a replacement will be that much easier.
Confirm Visitors with the Hotel Desk
You're in your hotel room and there's a knock at the door from someone claiming to be maintenance or housekeeping. Before you let this person in, call down to the front desk to verify that someone from the property needs access to your room. Criminals have been known to pose as hotel workers in order to get inside rooms.
Don’t Flash Your Cash or Valuables
Keep your cash separated, with some spending money easily accessible and the rest hidden, so that you're not showing off a big wad of cash every time you pay. Although it's tempting to have your smartphone out constantly to look up directions or take photos, be mindful of your surroundings—thieves love to grab cell phones from people using them on trains and run off at the next stop.
Steer Clear of Animals
Cute stray dogs and cats roaming the streets may make for good photo opportunities, but resist the urge to get too close. Wild animals can carry all kinds of not-so-fun diseases (including rabies) that could ruin your trip.
Keep an Emergency Car Kit
Whether you're driving your own car on a road trip or renting one abroad, make sure you keep a fully stocked kit in case of emergency. This should include a backup battery for your phone, a first-aid kit, reflective warning signs, blankets, nonperishable food, a tire gauge, a flashlight, bottled water, and a snow shovel.
Save Emergency Numbers
Remember, you can't call 911 everywhere. Find out what the local emergency hotlines are and save them to your phone (preferably on speed dial). Also research the nearest U.S. embassies or consulates and save those addresses and phone numbers as well.
Nothing ruins a day of sightseeing like not being able to see properly. Finding a new pair of glasses or contacts while away from home is no easy task, and if you’re in a foreign country, you might have to find a new eye doctor to write you a prescription.
How to Remember: If you primarily wear contacts, always leave extras in your luggage when you’re not traveling. If you’re out for the day, try to keep a spare set in your purse or wallet in case you find yourself in need of a fresh pair. If you’re worried about leaving your glasses at home, keep them out in the open while you pack, preferably near your wallet or phone. This way, they’ll be less likely to slip your mind when it’s time to go.
When you forget to pack the essentials, you risk ruining your own trip. Whether you’re missing details of the Sistine Chapel’s colorful ceilings because you forgot your glasses or stuck inside your hotel room battling a cold while the rest of your travel companions hit the beach, you’ll definitely regret not giving your luggage a thorough check for the most commonly forgotten things to pack.
Essential Things People Forget to Pack
Even if you’re naturally forgetful, there are many ways to plan your packing ahead of time so you won’t forget to pack these essential travel items.
Ventev chargestand 3000c
Long flight on the horizon? Take the Ventev chargestand with you to keep your phone charged, plus it doubles as a stand so you can binge watch your favorite shows all flight long. The stand will charge your phone for up to 12 hours of talk time, and can be used in both the vertical and horizontal positions. The built-in lightning cable means traveling with less cords, and it makes for a great charging station on your hotel nightstand.
5. Bare feet
This is not your living room. If you take off your shoes on that flight, please be sure to be wearing slippers or socks. If your stanky feet are just dangling in the aisles, you could actually be contributing to that in-flight vomit problem.
6. Eat stinky foods
Maybe you enjoy eating curried eggs with a side of tuna, but when that dish sits in your bag on the plane for a few hours, surrounding passengers will not be sharing your joy. (They may, however, be sharing that vomit bag.) If you are going to bring food on a plane, be a good neighbor and follow proper food etiquette for eating on a plane.
PhoneSoap 2.0 UV Sanitizer and Phone Charger
This device can not only weigh your travel bag: It's also a portable phone charger. The digital luggage scale can handle a weight up to 88 pounds, and it has a 2.4A output for super-fast charging with a USB and Micro-USB port. Despite its dual functions it weighs only 5.5 oz.—making it one of the best travel tech gadgets this year.
We've rated the goTenna before, but the company just released goTenna Mesh, available for pre-order and shipping this May. The Mesh is more portable than the original and is water-resistant, lighter, and has over 24 hours of battery life on standby. You can download offline maps with the device without any service, as well as send private messages, and share and request location information with other goTenna users.
It's a great travel tech gadget for those going on camping or hiking trips, or if you're in a country with little to no cell service.
And hey, lay off the handsy behavior even if your seatmate is not a stranger: Copious inflight PDAs may be cute for you, but it often grosses out other folks.
Ready to press that “Book Flight” button? Not so fast. There are some key rules to follow for dodging blunders when booking your long-awaited trip. Fortunately, some of the biggest problems are easy to avoid if you know what to look out for. Here are eight simple things to consider when booking a flight.
It may seem like a no brainer, but people do mistakenly fly into the wrong airport. Sometimes that's simply an inconvenient option in a multi-airport city, or, more rarely, it can be the wrong destination altogether thanks to a similar name or airport code. Don't be like Alex Karpovsky of Girls HBO fame, who has publicly admitted he once booked a ticket to Grenada, the island in the Caribbean, rather than Granada, Spain. Ouch.
Getting the city wrong is an extreme case. What’s more common is when travelers pounce on deals to a destination's cheapest available airport, not realizing how far away it might be from the city it's named for. Skyscanner has revealed the world's most misleadingly named airports, the top one being Paris-Vatry (Disney), which is 93 miles from the French capital and 70 miles from Disneyland Paris. Just behind are Munich West (70 miles to Munich) and Oslo Torp (68 miles to Oslo).
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: A quick Google Maps search will show where all your destination's biggest airports are located, so you can decide which offers the best combination of price and location.
Getting to your hotel from the airport could cost a lot of money if you don't plan ahead. Larger cities with public transit are likely to have trains or buses at the airport, but smaller destinations might only have shuttles that need to be booked ahead of time, or they could simply cost more at the last minute.
Even trickier is assuming there will be ride sharing options in your destination without first checking to make sure they're allowed at the airport. For example, until recently Boston Logan Airport didn't allow any rideshare services (Lyft or Uber) in the airport pick-up lanes—meaning you'd have to take a potentially higher priced flat-rate taxi.
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: Check the airport website for ground transit options, or do a Google Maps direction search from the airport to your hotel. Here's a list of airports that allow Uber.
Not sure you're getting a fair price? Most airfare search engines can tell you if the fare you’re considering will likely get cheaper. Use the Google Flightscalendar options to see which dates have the best prices, and subscribe to fare alerts like our sister site Airfarewatchdog that will alert you via email about new low fares as they arise. Booking the first time you search for a fare on your own typically won't get you the best price.
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: If it's more than seven weeks before your departure date and you're not finding the price you hoped for, hold off and subscribe to a fare alerts site like Airfarewatchdog.
Layovers and Timing
Being flexible on timing can mean getting great air deals and seeing an extra city on a stopover, but only if you time it right. If you're not factoring in the possibly lengthy transit time to and from the city, you'll just end up sitting at your gate for eight hours. You should also note if your flight times include a '+1' or '+2' annotation, which means the flight times provided are for the following day or even two days later.
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: Make sure your layover hours are appropriate for your schedule, and only book a stopover if it's enough time to actually leave the airport. For the latter, stick to destinations with efficient ground transit that are close to their airport, like Copenhagen or Munich International. If an overnight layover will save you a lot of money, make sure nearby hotels or nap pods at the airport aren't going to cost you more than the difference.
Not a loyal rewards member? Weigh your airline options carefully, especially if there are any you haven't flown before. Budget airlines like Spirit are almost always the cheapest option, but you'll have to forfeit one of your usually allowed carry-on bags. On the other hand, don't let safety concerns keep you from booking with a low-cost carrier if you're trying to save—most budget airlines have comparable safety records, if not better ones than the legacy airlines.
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: Look up reviews of airlines and their amenities written by real travelers on TripAdvisor—a feature the travel review site launched in late 2016.
Direct vs. Non-Stop
You've checked your timing, right? Double check it. Direct doesn't necessarily mean you're flying non-stop, and could include touching down briefly at another airport. Don't add unnecessary hours to your travel time if there's a non-stop option available.
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: If you find a non-stop option, great. If the flight is marked as “direct,” look at the actual number of hours it will take you to get to your destination and compare it to the standard flying time with a quick Google search.
It's easy to skip travel insurance—you likely do most of the time. But there are some destinations and seasons that should have you checking the “Add Booking Insurance” box before checkout. Hurricane/monsoon seasons and snowier months are the wisest ones to spend the extra $20 or so to ensure you'll be able to rebook in case your flight is canceled.
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: Consider the risks involved with your flight and whether or not you'd be willing to lose out on the reservation if an emergency arises. Things to note include monsoon and hurricane seasons, political issues like labor strikes or visa issues, and health or personal issues.
Do you know the passport requirements for the destination you're booking? Many countries require visitors to have a passport that's valid at least six months from the date of departure. That means even if you're traveling with an active passport, you could still get denied at immigration.
What to Do Before Booking a Flight: Make sure your passport will be valid or can be updated in time for your trip—especially since 2017 is kicking off longer wait times for passports. You can check passport requirements for your destination through the State Department's country-specific online resources.
Snag these limited-time early Black Friday Deals now, and you’ll be thankful next time you travel. Everything from luggage to electronics are on huge discount, but sales end soon, so don’t wait!
Packing mishaps range from inconvenient (heading to the Caribbean without a swimsuit) to disastrous (discovering you left the country without your wallet), but most are preventable. We’ve created this ultimate packing list to help you pack well every time.
The Ultimate Packing Checklist
Clothes to Pack
Toiletries to Pack
What to Pack in Your Carry-on
Celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain was found dead on June 8, 2018. The beloved television personality reportedly committed suicide in a hotel room in France. He was 61. CNN issued a statement that said, in part: "His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time."
The rock star of the culinary world and New Jersey native's ascension to fame began in 2000 with the release of his comical, mordant autobiography, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and spawned a successful TV career that included appearances on Top Chef, the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and the CNN series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. As celebrities and fans remember all of the wonderful moments the Emmy award-winning host served up, here are a few stories you may not know about Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain's autobiography, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (via Mental Floss), detailed a childhood trip to France, where his family was invited on a boat by an oyster fisherman named Monsieur Saint-Jour. It was on that boat that Anthony tasted his first oyster.
"I took it in my hand, tilted the shell back into my mouth as instructed by the by now beaming Monsieur Saint-Jour, and with one bite and a slurp, wolfed it down. It tasted of seawater … of brine and flesh … and somehow … of the future," he wrote. His love affair with food was ignited, but his journey to the kitchen took a detour…
In an interview with The Guardian, the celebrity chef said he "only became happy — in fact, intensely satisfied — as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Provincetown in Cape Cod, my first job." Describing himself as a "shy, goofy, awkward teenager," Bourdain said the "factory-like environment" of the job brought him a sense of contentment. "Dishes had to go in the washer and come out taintless and doing this swiftly and competently meant I was acknowledged as a human being by colleagues I wanted to be like," he said.
It wasn't just the acknowledgement that brought him joy. Bourdain told Fresh Air (via NPR), "You had to be there on time. There were certain absolute rules. And for whatever reason, I responded to that. It was a mix of chaos but also considerable order that I guess I needed at the time."
First We Feast was granted an exclusive interview ahead of the TV personality's 60th birthday. He was asked if facing such a monumental birthday was terrifying. Bourdain replied, "Yeah. Somewhere, I forget what year, I was like 44. I was like: F**k I'm old now. But no, I feel free of the nonsense honestly. I don't have a lot of regrets in my life."
He added, "I'm pretty happy being a distinguished motherf**ker. The extent to which I'm free of expectations, you know, I enjoy that. The extent to which I can glide through life unnoticed is nice, too. It's freeing."
When he wasn't traveling more than 200 days per year for his CNN hosting duties, Bourdain would spend quality time with his daughter, Ariane, from his second marriage to ex-wife Ottavia Busia. Bourdain even co-wrote a cookbook in 2016 titled Appetites: A Cookbook, which featured all of the meals he enjoyed preparing for Ariane.
During an interview with The Takeout, Bourdain said his daughter was a "very harsh critic," despite how much he loved whipping up her favorite dishes. "You know, I put a tiny tiny little bit of nutmeg in my macaroni and cheese and she did not enjoy that. She called me on it right away," he said. According to Bourdain, Ariane has a "very acute palate" and could immediately tell if he happened to "over-salt something."
"If there's any variance between a dish that she liked last time and how it's done today she'll be like, 'Nah, not eating it, there's too much pepper in that,'" Bourdain said.
After splitting from Busia, Bourdain met Asia Argento while filming an episode of Parts Unknown in Rome, Italy. According to Page Six, the Italian actress and director soon became a romantic and professional fixture in his life, directing numerous episodes of his hit series.
However, just three days before Bourdain's passing, the Daily Mail posted photos of Argento in Rome holding hands with and hugging journalist Hugo Clement. Three hours before Bourdain's death was reported, she posted a cryptic message to her Instagram Stories (via People). In the post, Argento wore a ripped t-shirt that read, "F**K EVERYONE" with the caption: "You know who you are." The status of Bourdain and Argento's relationship at the time of his death is unknown. Her friend, actress Rose McGowan, told TMZ: "Anthony and Asia had a free relationship, they loved without borders of traditional relationships."
In the wake of Bourdain's passing, Argento tweeted a heartbreaking statement that said, in part, "He was my love, my rock, my protector. I am beyond devastated…"
When it came to identifying someone he looked up to, Anthony Bourdain didn't choose a fellow chef. Instead, he bestowed the honor to his friend and punk rock legend, Iggy Pop. "He has been an enormous hero of mine since the first [The] Stooges album, the soundtrack to the good and bad times of my life," Bourdain told First We Feast.
The two sparked a friendship that included Iggy Pop making appearances on various Bourdain-hosted shows, including an episode of Parts Unknown that features the pals sharing a meal in Miami. They even interviewed each other for a piece published by GQ magazine that discussed their own mortality and Twitter trolls.
Aside from being a huge Iggy Pop and The Stooges fan, Anthony Bourdain was also a lover of various musical acts, including The Brian Jonestown Massacre and soul singer Marvin Gaye. The chef told Rolling Stone his eclectic taste could be attributed to growing up in a Leonia, N.J. home that was "filled with music."
"My dad was a guy who liked music no matter where it came from. He came home from work with Sgt. Pepper's, Disraeli Gears, Janis Joplin. He took me to shows at the Fillmore East — Hendrix, the Allman Brothers, Frank Zappa — and would sit there with me…" Bourdain told Men's Journal.
He also infused his love for music into his television shows by interviewing musicians, including Queens of the Stone Age, who appeared on episodes of No Reservations.
Despite having a jam-packed schedule, Bourdain still managed to give back to those in need. He even made a teenage cancer patient's dream come true.
Ali Allouche told People magazine he was going through chemotherapy when his mom suggested he find something else to focus his attention on instead of the illness. While watching an episode of Parts Unknown, they came up with a great idea. "I said what if I try to do something like he's doing and I went to a restaurant in every state in the U.S. to travel and get the experience and meet people like he does," Allouche said.
The family started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the culinary adventure. The fundraiser garnered online attention and reportedly caught Bourdain's eye. The TV personality donated the remaining $4,000 to help Allouche reach his $50,000 goal.
Allouche and his mom set out on their trip in October 2017 and made their first stop at a Virginia restaurant. The chef at that restaurant invited Allouche and his mom to return for a Christmas Eve dinner at his home. Once there, a surprise FaceTime chat between Bourdain and Allouche commenced. "I said, thanks for donating and told him my map is based on what you do. I was in utter shock. It was amazing," Allouche recalled.
Aukey Optic Pro Phone Lens
I've already raved about the Aukey Ora 2-in-1 Lens Kit, but the latest travel tech gadget from the company, the Optic Pro, is just as noteworthy. The telephoto lens is perfect for group shots and distance objects (think your favorite landmarks) and is easily affixed to your smartphone with the included clip—no need to take your phone case off. It also comes with a cleaning cloth, carrying pouch, and a two-year warranty.
In the midst of the busiest travel season of the year—just before the holidays—the U.S. State Department has issued a Worldwide Travel Alert for all Americans. This may not come as a surprise due to recent terror attacks like those in Lebanon, France, Mali, and Nigeria, along with the weeklong lockdownin Brussels. But what may surprise some travelers is that this state of alert isn’t unprecedented.
The alert will certainly affect your travel in one way or another, but perhaps not in the ways you’d expect. If you’re heading home or abroad in the next few months, here’s what you should know ahead of hopping on a plane, train, or bus.
This Is the Fourth Worldwide Alert in Four Years
The most recent Worldwide Travel Alert before this one was issued last December, days after a lone gunman took 17 hostages at a cafe in Sydney, Australia. Another was issued in 2013, citing new government intelligence that signaled an attack was being planned; and two were issued in 2011 after several Al Qaeda leaders were killed. These alerts are usually prompted by large developments on the terrorism front.
It’s Not Encouragement to Cancel or Panic
This Worldwide Alert’s main purpose is to keep travelers aware of the fact that authorities across the world are working against an increased terror threat, and to advise everyone to be vigilant of suspicious activity. In general, this will probably mean longer security lines and more time at customs, as well as an increased security presence in public spaces.
However, security should start and end through official channels, as multiple airlines found out this week. Southwest and Spirit both had to address controversies after delaying or preventing passengers of Middle Eastern descent from boarding flights due to “complaints” from fellow passengers. Getting involved in security measures as a passenger is both unsafe and unnecessary. “See something, say something” is not the same thing as fear and prejudice.
An alert differs from a warning, which is assigned to places that officials believe travelers should think twice about visiting. This month, the department has issued Travel Warnings for North Korea, Afghanistan, Kenya, Chad, Bangladesh, and Burundi. The State Department describes alerts as follows:
“We issue a Travel Alert for short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Alert might include an election season that is bound to have many strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks. When these short-term events are over, we cancel the Travel Alert.”
This Alert Is in Effect Until February
The alert expires on February 24, 2016. That’s not a calculated window of time specifically assigned to the increased risk of terrorism. It’s simply 90 days from the day the alert was declared. This allows officials to revisit the alert in three months and decide whether or not conditions have improved. With that in mind, don’t go into hiding until the end of February, but also don’t assume that it will be lifted by then.
It’s Not Limited to Transportation
You’ve likely seen the headlines, but it’s important to remember that soccer games, movie theaters, and cafes can also be sites of attacks. This isn’t to say that you should walk your streets in fear, but you should maintain the same vigilance that you would have at the airport or train station in other places as well. The State Department acknowledges this in the alert, advising that: “U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.”
No one wants to think about the prospect of being at the site of an attack, but it’s best to be aware of your surroundings and anyone displaying suspicious behavior in case something does happen.
It’s Never Too Late to Buy Travel Insurance
Buy cancel-for-any-reason insurance that will let you abandon travel plans if something prevents you from traveling or makes you feel as if you should cancel. You can search for policies that fit your needs on sites like SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip.
AmazonBasics Retractable Lighting to USB Cable
This is one of my favorite underrated and best travel tech gadgets out there. It's super compact, inexpensive, and ideal for travel. Whether you're using your laptop, a backup charger, or an outlet to recharge your device, the two-foot long cord adjusts to the length you need.
If you’re going somewhere notorious for rain, an umbrella won’t always cut it. Add a rain jacket to your wardrobe and save yourself some trip-ruining discomfort.
How to Remember: You might think an extra jacket will take up too much space, but there are many rain jackets that compress down to small packages like the super lightweight running jacket for men and women.
When it comes to warding off the dreaded airplane cold, your first line of defense is to sanitize everything, especially the tray table. Having sanitizer handy can make all the difference between enjoying your trip and spending your precious travel time recovering from a cold.
How to Remember: Small travel-friendly bottles of hand sanitizer are the best option to keep your seat station clean, but they’re also very easy to forget. Do yourself a favor and buy your hand sanitizer in bulk. On Amazon, you can snag an six-pack of travel-sized Purell bottles for under $10. Then stow one in each of your suitcases so you always have hand sanitizer ready, no matter which bag you bring with you.
Not too long ago, we brought you the results of a study that unearthed the most hated type of passenger on a plane. It turns out (spoiler alert) it's the dreaded rear-seat kicker.
Naturally, that list-topping behavior is far from the only one that is guaranteed to make your seatmates nuts. From this writer's own flying experiences, here's a totally subjective list of the most vile things you can do on a plane — to guarantee everyone hates you by the time you touch down.
The new Chipolo Plus is a tracking device for travelers. Place it on your backpack, on your key ring, in your wallet, or whatever object you don't want to lose. The new model needs no battery replacement and is water-resistant. Chipolo tracks your phone as well—just double press any of the devices and your phone will ring, even it it's on silent.
These 10 travel tech gadgets are all-the-rage for travelers this year. From dual chargers to retractable iPhone cords, you’ll want to travel with these gadgets for your phone for the rest of the year.
If you forget your passport, you’ll need to turn right back home and go get it. And if you don’t make it back to your flight on time, you’ll probably have to pay a fee to get booked on another flight and risk losing a day of travel.
How to Remember: Your passport should be the very first thing you grab when you start packing for an international trip. If you often have trouble remembering where you put it, get yourself a nice passport holder and the Tile Mate. Just slip the Tile into the holder and link it to the app on your phone, and you’ll be able to find your passport at the touch of a button.
A Rain Jacket
If you do find a runny nose or throbbing headache ruining your trip, you’ll want to make sure you have the right remedy on hand. Keeping a small bottle of ibuprofen, capsules of cold medicine, or other over-the-counter remedies at the ready means you won’t have to interrupt your trip with a visit to the pharmacy.
How to Remember: Always travel with a first-aid kit and keep the medicine you need well stocked. Look for a small bag like this 100-Piece Kit and keep it ready to go in your preferred day bag. If you need to travel with your prescription medication and don’t already use a pill organizer, bring one along. Travel sometimes means crossing timezones, so a weekly organizer can help you keep track of your pill schedule when the days start to blur together.
Glasses & Contacts
When you go to check into a flight or hotel and something’s not right with the reservation, you’ll want to have your itinerary and confirmation emails handy.
How to Remember: Since you might not always have Wi-Fi, screenshot everything and keep it in an organized folder on your phone. Or go old-school and print out a hard copy. You can even keep it all organized in one of these nifty travel binders.
Oaxis Air Scale
This device can not only weigh your travel bag: It's also a portable phone charger. The digital luggage scale can handle a weight up to 88 pounds, and it has a 2.4A output for super-fast charging with a USB and Micro-USB port. Despite its dual functions it weighs only 5.5 oz.—making it one of the best travel tech gadgets this year.
According to pilots flying Boeing’s 737 MAX for both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, they were not made aware of a crucial change in an automatic system that has been linked to the fatal Lion Air crash last month.
In October, a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea just off the coast of Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board. Now, investigators are focusing their efforts on figuring out if the plane crashed because of an update to a safety system that was designed to pull the plane out of a dangerous stall, The New York Times reported. Investigators believe the system may have been triggered on inaccurate data transmitted or processed from sensors on the fuselage, causing the plane to nosedive into the water.
According to The Times, Boeing has been busy selling the new 737s to different airlines and showcasing it as a plane that needed little to no additional pilot training, which is an attractive financial incentive for airlines.
But, according to the pilots union for American Airlines, the system upgrade wasn’t included in Boeing’s standard operating manual.
“We don’t like that we weren’t notified,” Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told TIME. Dennis Tajer, a 737 captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association at American Airlines Group Inc., additionally noted that his union members were equally concerned about the omitted information.
“This is not about silos and layers of bureaucracy, this is about knowing your airplane,” Tajer said. “We will always be eager and aggressive in gaining any knowledge of new aircraft.”
And, because of this lack of communication, pilots are now left wondering if Boeing left anything else out.
“The companies and the pilots should have been informed,” Weaks said. “It makes us question, ‘Is that everything, guys?’ I would hope there are no more surprises out there.”
However, according to a Boeing spokesperson, the company is doing everything it can to ensure pilots are well prepared to fly the planes.
“We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” the company shared in a statement with TIME. “Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing.”
But, according to Roger Cox, a retired investigator with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and a former airline pilot who spoke to TIME, crews have every right to be angry at Boeing.
“I would be pretty pissed” about the missing information, he said. “This is important systems information that pilots should know about.”