10 Travel Hacks The Tourism Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know

Vacations are supposed to be about relaxing, but even experienced travelers know that planning a trip also comes with its own set of stresses. From figuring out how you’re going to pay for it (so many costs!), to fitting everything into your carry-on (because, checked-bag fees…), to simply trying to get your bearings a new place, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

But, luckily, it doesn’t have to be so hard. We talked with four professional travelers who shared their insider tricks for making travel easier. Ahead, find out about the hack that got a blogger two first-class tickets to Abu Dhabi for less than $100, pick up tips for getting perks like free Champagne, and learn how to make your trip a lot more comfortable, from beginning to end. Bon voyage! 

Pay Attention To Special Deals For Your Rewards Program

Often times, travel rewards programs give extra points for purchases made at certain restaurants or on specific days. If you’re aware of those deals, you can really rack up the points, which travel blogger Chris Guillebeau says is the best long-term trick for getting cheap airfare and hotels. He and his friend have even started the tradition of a “Dining Dash,” where they visit 12 restaurants in one day, all in pursuit of miles and points. “For us, it was a fun adventure,” he says. “We did benefit, though, from the 3x bonus that the Chase Sapphire card has on the first Friday of every month.” Through his credit card rewards, Chris has been able to travel on the very cheap. “Last year, I took a friend to Abu Dhabi from LAX in first class,” he said. “This flight would have cost no less than $11,000 per person were we to pay for it [outright] — but with miles earned through credit card bonuses, it was just a few hours of work and less than $100 in taxes.”

Set Up Flight Alerts

Another good trick for saving money is to set up flight alerts a few months before your departure date, suggests Clint Johnston, owner of the travel tips blog TripHackr. “They’re free to set up on sites like Kayak, and they’ll notify you by email when the fare drops to the price you set,” he explains. “If you’re flying internationally, plan to book your flight six to eight weeks before the departure date.” Clint also says that being flexible with your dates and destination (if you can be) is the number one way to get a good deal. “Flying into nearby airports may save you a lot of money,” he says. “For example, if you need to fly to LAX, also try Orange County, Long Beach, and Burbank.”

Book Connecting Flights Separately To Save Money

Sometimes it takes just a little extra time to save hundreds of dollars, says Johnston. “For example, flights to Rome may be expensive, but flights to Paris are cheap. Book a roundtrip to Paris and a second roundtrip on a budget airline [from Paris] to Rome,” he suggests. “Budget carriers are common in Europe and Southeast Asia and often offer incredibly low fares.” It may sound like a hassle, but when you have a few hundred more bucks to spend once you arrive in your destination, you’ll be glad you took the time to do the research.

Find The Perfect Seat

Turns out, there’s an art to nabbing a good spot on an airplane, and Johnston has the secret to making it yours. “Check-in online and find the perfect seat before you get to the airport,” he says. “Not all economy seats are the same, which is why I use sites like SeatGuru to find the best available seat. It will show you the perks or drawbacks from every seat and every plane, which helps you stay comfortable onboard.” Extra legroom, anyone?

Learn To Love The Layover

“I may be weird, but I personally like airports,” says Guillebeau. And, that’s because he figured out that they can be an awesome place to spend a few hours — if you know what you’re doing. He explains that it wasn’t until he started travel hacking overseas that he discovered the truly noteworthy airport lounges. “Some of these lounges aredestinations,” he writes on his blog. His favorites include Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Heathrow, and the AmEx Centurion Lounge. Even if you don’t have the exact, proper credentials, you may still be able to work your way in. For example, if you have any American Express credit card, you can pay $50 per visit to hang in the AmEx Centurion Lounge (it’s free if you have the Platinum or Centurion Card). For long layovers, it’s worth investigating the pay-per-visit airport lounges, since many offer free gourmet food and alcoholic beverages, high-speed Wi-Fi, and even complimentary massages. “If you can gain access to the right lounges, then you won’t have a problem setting up shop for hours if necessary,” Guillebeau says.

Embrace The Space Bag

The old-school way of saving space in your suitcase: rolling your clothes. The new-school way: Space Bags! “I cannot live without Space Bags,” confesses Jessica Dante, travel blogger and editor-in-chief of The Abroad Guide. “The ones that are made for travel can be used without a vacuum and are super useful when packing thick sweaters and outerwear for cold weather destinations,” she says. “They suck the air out of those thick pieces so that you can fit more in your bag.”

Access Country-Restricted Content No Matter Where You Are

Sometimes the worst part about traveling internationally is having certain websites and videos blocked. But, there is a way to access them no matter where you are. Enter: the VPN — the virtual private network. “I use a VPN to access Pandora, Netflix, and other country-restricted content abroad,” Johnston says. “Many services you pay for at home are blocked abroad, but VPNs will help you work around that. There are many free options, but paid options are often faster and more reliable.” Looking for a good one? Try Private Internet Access. (And, no, it’s not as sketchy as it sounds.)

Stream Media To Your Hotel TV

If you’re in the mood to watch a movie but don’t want to pay the hotel’s exorbitant rental fee, you can save money by streaming from your phone or laptop but still get the larger-screen experience. “Instead of watching Netflix on my tiny phone, I can watch it on TV,” says Jill Dressel, a corporate flight attendant. Her trick is making sure she always packs her HDMI cord. “You plug one end into your phone and one into the TV, then turn the TV to HDMI,” she says. “It’s that easy.” You may need a special cable depending on your device, so be sure to confirm that you’ve got the right one before you depart.

 

These 13 Florida Day Trips Will Definitely Make Your Day

If you’re desperately in need of a vacation but only have a weekend, these awesome day trips are a great substitute.

Amazon Launches “Amazon Destinations” Travel Site

Online retail giant Amazon has caught the travel bug, and last night rolled out a new site called Amazon Destinations which offers the unique service of helping customers find “getaway destinations” within driving distance of their homes. Because more than 40% of all U.S. domestic leisure trips are short-term getaways of less than three nights, and usually to nearby, driveable destinations, Amazon saw an opportunity for a service dedicated to this behaviour. Currently, Amazon Destinations features hotel selections in three U.S. metro areas — L.A., New York and Seattle — and while there are no immediate plans to expand to other cities, it would make sense in the future if it finds traction with the initial rollout.

Travel: Clayoquot Wilderness Resort

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, unplug, and sit atop a mountain somewhere in a tent. Of course, setting up tents can be a tiresome task, and the whole sitting on the ground thing just isn’t for everyone. But if you like the idea of being pampered outdoors, look no further than the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve in Canada, a one of a kind resort that boasts twenty luxury canvas tents and a three tent campsite that’s only accessible by helicopter from the camp below.

The Clayoquot Wilderness Resort allows you to be secluded from the rest of the world, enjoy the great outdoors, and remain surrounded by luxurious comfort. There’s even 5 star dining that utilizes locally raised meat from farms of Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley, wine and produce from the Okanagan, and seafood right from Clayoquot. The resort is now booking adventures for their 2015 season, which lasts from May 21 to October 1.

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Travel: Aerial Walkway in Cape Town Allows Visitors to Take a Surreal Stroll Above the Trees

This surreal walkway recently installed in Cape Town, South Africa, creates a meandering, aerial path that allows visitors to stroll through the treetops. The steel-and-pinewood Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway begins on the forest floor, gradually sloping upward and eventually elevating guests to a spectacular vantage point above the canopy. From the heights, guests can witness the South African forest in all its glory — and in all kinds of weather. Sometimes, visitors must bring umbrellas to walk through the clouds and fog engulfing the lofty canopy. Benches placed periodically along the walkway offer ideal spots to take in the beauty of a sunrise or sunset while suspended in the atmosphere.

The snaking bridge, inspired by the shape of a snake skeleton, measures 130 meters long — the equivalent of about 1.5 football fields. It was built over a period of two years with about $400,000 of private donations. By carefully hoisting the prefabricated steel beams over the canopy, the builders were able to give people an amazing new way to appreciate the forest while causing minimal disturbance to the natural environment.

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America Has the Worst Vacation Policies Of Any Developed Country

And it’s not just vacation time, maternity leave, or sick days that the U.S. won’t guarantee. A 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that America was the only rich country that didn’t force employers to provide paid holidays. John Schmitt, a senior economist who co-authored the report, said in a statement that it’s not enough to assume companies will be fair, “Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn’t worked.”

Gorgeous Aerial Drone Photography of the West Coast of Ireland

Over the past year, photographer Peter Cox has been using an aerial drone to take beautiful photographs of Ireland’s West Coast (he has also recorded some video along the way). Cox is assembling the photos into a photo book, entitled Atlantic Light. He is raising funds for the book project on Kickstarter.

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Where Does Tampa/St. Pete Rank on the ‘Unexpected Brewery Cities’ List?

Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Milwaukee might be the U.S.’s most widely acknowledged beer cities, but don’t discount the underdogs. Here are five unexpected brewery towns worth rooting for.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

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With two dozen breweries in this southwestern hub of just more than 500,000 residents, Albuquerque is set to become a heavy hitter on the craft scene. In 2011, the Duke City’s La Cumbre Brewing Company took home top honors from the Great American Brew Festival for its Elevated IPA. New Mexico is high on hops, with breweries facing off each summer in the state’s IPA Challenge. Other acclaimed taprooms include Marble Brewery and Tractor Brewing.

Anchorage, Alaska

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The glasses are always frosted at the eight great breweries in this chilly state’s metropolis. Glacier Brewhouse boasts the seasonal Big Woody, a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) gold-medal barleywine; fruity IPAs and oak-aged Imperial Blondes are also on the menu there. You’ll find Midnight Sun Brewing Co.’s craft creations on tap in top bars throughout Alaska—in particular, the 20-inch Oosik Amber Ale, a German-style altbier named after a prominent protuberance of the male walrus.

Asheville, North Carolina

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This southern town is too genteel to call attention to its accolades, which include being named 2010 BeerCity USA by Examiner.com readers. Asheville’s brewery acclaim began in 1994, with the ascent of the Highland Brewing Company, whose operation was built almost entirely from retrofitted dairy equipment. Highland’s Black Mocha Stout has taken home awards from the GABF and the World Beer Cup. For a neighborhood brewery, grab a barstool at Wedge Brewing in the River Arts District.

Burlington, Vermont

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Vermont might be a small state, but with the highest number of breweries per capita, it’s marinating in stouts and ales. Burlington’s granddaddy establishment, Vermont Pub & Brewery, has three award-winners on tap: the Karlswalde Russian Imperial Stout, known for its warm finish; the Forbidden Fruit, blended with raspberries; and the caramel Burly Irish Ale. Magic Hat Brewing Company, one of the largest microbreweries in the U.S., is also based in Burlington.

Tampa/St. Pete, Florida

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Counting 24 breweries in its greater metropolitan area, this burg is Florida’s beertopia. Dunedin Brewery is the state’s oldest continuously operated brewery. It has a stable of solid taps, as well as seasonal hits such as Leonard Croon’s Old Mean Stout. Cigar City Brewing crafts a variety of ales perfect for sipping in the Florida heat, including the Jai Alai and Humidor Series IPAs. Saint Somewhere Brewing makes traditional Belgian-style ales, adding local ingredients such as Palmetto berries and hibiscus flowers.

Florida Woman Spends $164,000 a Year to Live Permanently on a Cruise Ship

86-year-old Florida widow Lee Wachtstetter has spent the past seven years living permanently on the Crystal Serenity, a 1,070-passenger cruise ship, a residency that costs her around $164,000 a year. The woman, known as “Mama Lee” to crew members, isn’t sure exactly how many countries she’s visited in the process, claiming to have lost track after she hit number 100. She adds that her late husband was the inspiration for her unique lifestyle.

My husband introduced me to cruising. Mason was a banker and real estate appraiser and taught me to love cruising. During our 50-year marriage we did 89 cruises. I’ve done nearly a hundred more and 15 world cruises.

Hyatt Hotels to Offer Free Wi-Fi Access in All of the Guest Rooms and Lobbies of Its Worldwide Locations

The Hyatt Hotels chain has announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi access in all of its guest rooms and lobbies across the world beginning in February 2015. The service will be made available free of charge to all guests, while elite members of the Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program will be upgraded to premium service, free of charge. Hyatt brand vice president Kristine Rose said the move comes as the perception of wireless services shifts from amenity to necessity.

Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity. It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation. Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it.