Sinchi Warmi Amazon Lodge

Sinchi Warmi Amazon Lodge

Author: Patsy Smith (More Trip Reviews by Patsy Smith)
Date of Trip: November 2016

I discovered a very unique Amazon Lodge, Sinchi Warmi Amazon Lodge, this past week in Misahualli, Ecuador. The lodge is ran by an indigenous Quichua family. They offer all kinds of trips, events, demonstrations and presentations. I was able to see indigenous healing ceremonies, music and dance. They have presentations and hikes to tell about medicinal herbs or see how chocolate is grown and prepared and then each person is treated with a chocolate mask. There is fishing with cane poles, canoeing, tubing, visit to an outdoor indigenous museum and cruising the river in motorized canoes.

amazon jungle lodge

The people there were amazing and I had some wonderful food I had never tasted before like fried white chocolate seeds. On my first tour I had gotten bitten by fire ants and my legs were driving me crazy with the itching. One of the women treated my legs with coffee leaves and the itching stopped for the entire night. It was a great visit and I’m looking forward to when I can go back again.

amazon jungle lodge

Send Us Your Trip Review!

Winter Travel Tips

Successful winter travel is all about successful navigation of winter weather. We want all our readers to get to and from their destinations with minimum trouble and maximum enjoyment — and, most importantly, to always arrive safe and sound, no matter what sort of snow, ice, sleet or freezing rain you may encounter. To that end, here are some winter travel tips and tactics to help you avoid spending the season stuck in airports or on roadsides.

an older couple looking off into the distance wearing winter hats and scarves

1. I have found that the worst winter problems for travelers frequently occur at connecting airports. If your first outbound flight is canceled and you end up returning to your own home from your local airport, that’s one thing; if you are stuck in your vacation hotel hoping to get a flight home, that’s a bit worse. But when you’re stuck in a connecting airport in Texas calling hotels and praying for a place to stay, you’re in what we call yer worst-case scenario, pardner.

For this reason, you should fly nonstop whenever possible. To find nonstop flights, do all your initial flight searches with the “Nonstop Flights Only” button checked. If you also use search options like “Show Nearby Airports” and “My Dates Are Flexible,” you’ll have a very good sense of how best to get from Point A to B without Point C for Connection.

8 Warm Winter Vacations

2. If you absolutely must fly with a connection, watch your layover times carefully. If a weather delay causes you to miss your connection, you might be out of luck, as the airline is not necessarily obligated to find you a seat on the next flight, and often cannot logistically do so if flights are full or unavailable. If you have a really tight connection time and your flight is running late, let your flight attendant know, and he or she may be able to make arrangements to hold your next flight, or at least get you off your first flight quickly.

3. Again, if you must fly with a connection, check weather at your connecting cities as well as at your departure and destination airports. We all want to know what the weather is like for the departure and arrival airports (particularly if we’re traveling on vacation), but for the same reasons stated above you’ll want to know what is going on at your connecting airport as well. If the weather looks threatening, contact your airline to see if it can reroute you; it may be in its best interest to do so.

Your chances of getting on a different flight will be greatly enhanced if you’ve already done the research yourself to determine which alternate flights might work best. Don’t count on a gate agent to know about or search the schedules of other airlines.

4. Try to book your connection through a southern city where weather shouldn’t be an issue. There are no guarantees here, as northern airports tend to be better equipped to deal with winter conditions, and a snowstorm can almost wholly shut down an airport that more often suffers from too much sun. However, your odds are better in places that rarely see ice or snow.

5. Choose a morning flight, for two reasons: First, you are far less likely to have your flight affected by problems at other airports. Second, if your flight is canceled or badly delayed, your options for alternate flights are greatly increased, improving your odds for getting on a different flight by the end of the day.

Airport Delays: 6 Ways to Cope

6. Consider alternate airports. Very often the problem is not solely weather, but also the overall volume of passengers and flights. In places like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Houston, second-tier airports aren’t too far out of town and are tied into the transportation grid.

7. Get ahead of the game at security. Before you even get in line, put all your gear and spare coins into a pocket of your carry-on bag. With so much valuable stuff getting dumped into plastic bins all day, every day, it’s inevitable that some of that stuff gets left behind, dropped, damaged, broken or even stolen. If you take 15 seconds to stow everything, you’ll make the time up twice over on either side of the security gate, and won’t risk losing cell phones, wallets, keys and the like.

For more tips, see our Airport Security Q&A and 16 Ways to Get Through the Airport Faster.

8. The annual holiday gift wrapping rule: Don’t wrap gifts — security will have to rip them open. With the TSA searching checked bags as well as carry-ons, this applies to all of your luggage, not just what you bring onto the plane with you. Consider shipping your gifts ahead of time or wrapping them once you get to your destination.

9. Finally, avoid peak travel dates as best you can, particularly holiday weekends.

How to Pack for a Winter Vacation

1. Put some extra clothing and emergency items into your vehicle; these will come in handy if you break down in cold weather. It doesn’t take much — assemble a basic kit including a pair of gloves, weather-resistant pants and/or coat, maybe an old pair of boots, a blanket, jumper cables, a flashlight with some extra batteries, and a windshield scraper (and maybe a de-icer), and you should be in good shape. You might also toss a few nutrition bars in as well; those things won’t spoil until the next millennium, are packed with calories and can bail you out in a pinch.

snowy road

2. Make sure your car is checked over for winter weather readiness. In particular, you or a mechanic should inspect your tires before the first big winter storm.

Top 20 Safe Driving Tips

3. Once your vehicle is inspected and equipped, follow this advice we heard a while back from Montana’s snowplow drivers: “See and be seen. Keep your headlights and taillights clean, especially in stormy weather. Keep windows clean and make sure defrosters work well. If snow has built up on your vehicle overnight or after a break from driving, clear it away so it doesn’t blow off and obscure your windows.”

4. Slow down. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends slowing down by about 50 percent in bad weather; additionally, leave extra space between you and the car in front of you.

5. Remember that not all stretches of road are created alike. For example, many recently built small bridges and overpasses have been designed to blend into the surroundings, with a gradual or nonexistent change in elevation. These bridges nonetheless remain susceptible to icing over much more rapidly than regular blacktop. Look out and look ahead for these short stretches of road when temperatures approach or drop below freezing. If you don’t know the ropes of driving on icy surfaces, read this primer on how to drive on black ice.

6. Some features of modern automobiles may actually serve you poorly in bad conditions. In some SUVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles, for example, you may have better traction when the vehicle is under way, but the four-wheel drive won’t help you stop any faster. Also, skip the cruise control; your cruise control feature may accelerate when you least want it to, such as when you are climbing an icy bridge.

Photos: 9 Places You Haven’t Visited — But Should

7. Some safety experts recommend putting a bag of kitty litter in the trunk, both for added ballast to offer better traction, and to put under the wheels if you need to get yourself out of a slippery spot.

8. If you are stranded and have to stay in your car, you can run the engine for heat, but make sure the exhaust pipe is not obstructed by snow or mud. If you prefer not to have the engine running the whole time, close the windows to keep heat in, and run the car for 10 minutes every hour, cracking open a front window when you do so.

9. If you are parking at your hotel or near attractions in bad weather, opt for a spot in an indoor parking garage when available.

For more tips and tactics this winter, see our guide to Foul Weather Travel.

We hope these tips help you, and may you never need to travel where the sun doesn’t shine!

Go Anyway,

Ed Hewitt

Features Editor
IndependentTraveler.com

You May Also Like
Quiz: Where Should You Travel This Winter?
5 Things Not to Wear on a Plane
6 Lies Your Hotel Might Tell You
Share Advice from Your Latest Trip
Get Our Best Travel Tips and Trip Ideas!

5 Fun Pismo Beach Experiences

5 Fun Pismo Beach Experiences

Author: Jill Weinlein (More Trip Reviews by Jill Weinlein)
Date of Trip: November 2016

Pismo Beach offers a variety of family fun adventures for those driving up Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean from Southern to Northern California.

Checking into the Cottage Inn By The Sea it offers charming curb appeal, similar to the properties in Carmel, CA with an English Countryside design.

The oceanfront location has renovated rooms with some facing the Pacific Ocean. Inside the cozy lobby is a dining room that offers complimentary breakfast to guests in the morning starting at 7 a.m. In the evenings, guests sit at tables with food picked up or delivered from nearby restaurants. There is a large wall Scrabble board and board games for families to play together in this large room.

Our room 217 offered two queen size beds, a gas burning fireplace, complimentary wi-fi, flat screen television, wall safe, and shower/tub combination. With two windows our view was of two different parking lots, one in the front and one in the back. Next time I would request an oceanfront room. This property is located next to Highway 1 and the sound level can be loud. I recommend bringing earplugs. Also, our room didn’t have air-conditioning, so opening a window to let the cool sea air in, also allowed the sound of cars and trucks in. The oceanfront rooms offer sea breezes with the lulling sound of ocean waves in.

What I liked about this motor lodge was the small pool and hot tub, fire pit conversation areas along the ocean view bluff, and pathway leading to a wooden stairway to the expansive sandy beach.

Before walking on the beach in the morning, we enjoyed a breakfast of coffee, baked goods, hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, fresh and canned fruit cocktail.

Walking down the stairs towards the Pismo Beach pier, we collected seashells before walking out to the end and watching the surfers. Afterwards, we explored the small town of Pismo filled with a variety of surf shops, cafes, and boutiques.

Walking back to The Cottage Inn By The Sea, we saw pods of dolphins jumping into the air and splashing back into the ocean, while flocks of pelicans and other sea birds flew overhead.

Checking out of The Cottage Inn By The Sea, we first drove south of Pismo Beach is the Monarch Butterfly Cove. It’s open from late October through the month of February. This area houses the largest colony of butterflies with an average of 25,000 clustered in the limbs of Eucalyptus trees. For some reason, these Monarchs have a lifespan of up to six months, while most Monarch varieties live only six weeks. This area offers docents, a gift shop and educational signs.

Nearby is the Oceano Dunes, where visitors can pay $5 to drive five miles on the hard sand beach along the water’s edge. This is a popular spot with RV owners and ATV riders. Stop your car to climb up the vast array of sand dunes offering Pacific Ocean views from Avila Beach to Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Within is fifteen minute drive is Avila Beach and the Avila Valley Farm with farm animals, a fresh fruit and vegetable stand, sweet shoppe filled with candy treats, tractor and pony rides on the weekend. Inside the produce stand there is a basket of lettuce in a plastic bag to purchase for $1 and hand feed the farm animals. They also have a cafe selling hot dogs, sandwiches and barbecue.

About five miles away along See Canyon is the Gopher Glen Apple Farm set among oak, sycamore and maple trees. The farm has a variety of 100 year old apple trees that grow Fuji apples, Jonadelicious, Pippin Granny Smith and Pink Ladies. Visitors can purchase a cup of hot apple cider, or go to the refrigerator section for quarts and half gallon jugs. There is a apple tasting counter inside the gift shop, where you can purchase a bag of apples by the pound. It’s a good stop before heading back home to to a new travel destination.

Send Us Your Trip Review!

Money-Saving Travel Tips for 2017 and Beyond

Guided by big data and sophisticated algorithms, large travel suppliers are increasingly able to control pricing by the second; as a result, many previously reliable money-saving tactics have lost some punch.

woman on laptop booking a flight

One example is the way many travelers used to stockpile miles over time in order to splurge on big vacation trips, finding free flights and upgrades easily if they booked far enough in advance. Of late, the airlines are much more savvy (and stingy) about allocating seats for reward travel, and are also changing the way miles are earned, making it harder than ever to use your miles to get a seat on the plane.

It’s not just the old tricks that are fading away; even some Web 2.0 tactics are disappearing. How about this one: Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” service — the feature that pretty much defined the brand — is no longer available for airfares, having been discontinued in September 2016.

As travel provider tactics evolve, so must yours if you hope to make your trips more affordable. Here are some money-saving travel tips that you can lean on in the year ahead.

Travelers in the 21st century depend heavily on Wi-Fi, but costs range from $10 – $15 per day at many hotels. To make matters worse, some properties charge per device, or impose fees if you want a faster connection.

There are a few ways to avoid these extra charges.

At properties that charge per device, you can connect with your laptop and then share the connection with your phone, your spouse’s phone, your kid’s tablet, etc. There are a bunch of different methods and products to help you do this, and it sometimes takes a bit of advance planning. Here’s a primer.

If you are not traveling with a laptop, you can turn your phone into a mobile hotspot and simply connect to the internet via your cellular connection; note, however, that this will add to the price of your cellphone bill. It can be worth the money if you need this kind of access frequently and in a variety of situations.

The simplest and least tech-heavy approach is to join the hotel’s loyalty program. Many chains offer complimentary Wi-Fi to their loyalty members as a benefit of signing up, so you won’t need to accumulate points or stays before you qualify. You might have to ask specifically for the benefit to be applied at check-in or by calling the front desk; I have found that booking a hotel through your loyalty program does not always automatically “turn on” all the benefits of membership.

9 Ways to Make Your Hotel Room More Comfortable

On a recent trip to a wedding in Jacksonville, Florida, I was having trouble finding affordable and convenient flights from the three airports within an hour of my home. The cheapest options I found were at terrible times — a 6 a.m. flight with a 10-year-old is just wrong — and the flights at better times cost hundreds of dollars more.

The solution: Purchase one-way tickets departing from one airport and returning to another, and use a car-sharing service to get to and from each one. This avoids the obvious problem of stranding your car at your departure airport and then having to figure out a way to get it after you get home. And ridesharing apps are much more affordable than taxis or car services in most places.

In the end, I paid $75 for the two car rides (one using Uber, one using Lyft), but saved about $450 on flights that fit our schedule. That, and we got door-to-door service at both ends of a short, packed trip. Admittedly, this strategy took a bit more research and time, but I had already lost most of that time staring at flights that didn’t work, so the additional hassle was minimal.

Even if you don’t have multiple airports near your home, you can try this tactic at your destination as well. You might fly into LAX and out of Long Beach, or mix and match among London’s numerous airports.

man with phone hailing an Uber

While you’re at it, you might want to price out using car-sharing services as a replacement for a car rental entirely. Unless you will be driving a lot, the cost can be similar or even less after you consider the cost of gasoline, parking, insurance (and the risk of claims), taxes and fees.

One area where you can really save is at your hotel, particularly if you’re staying in a downtown location. For the wedding we went to in Jacksonville, we paid $20 a night to park our rental car. Meanwhile, an Uber ride from the airport would have been about $13 each way.

Additionally, using a ridesharing service saves you the hassle of picking up and returning a rental car, including waiting in lines, resisting rental counter upsells, finding a gas station to fill the tank and getting lost trying to find the car rental office in a maze of airport ring roads.

The Best Uber Alternatives Around the World

Even hardcore mileage experts are bearish on airline miles these days; it seems like every few months the airlines devalue our hard-earned miles a little more, and some veteran travelers are moving on from chasing miles.

Credit card points, however, are a different story. Some cards will outright refund travel expenses after your trip is completed; you merely log on to your credit card’s website, choose Redeem Travel Purchases, and the credit card uses your points to issue a refund up to the value of your points.

I have also written in the past about focusing on hotel points rather than airline miles. For now this is still a decent tactic, although it only works if you book directly with the hotel. Use your points while you can!

How to Choose the Best Travel Credit Card

If you’re having trouble finding reward flights to top tourist destinations, you may do better searching less popular routes. I used miles to book a round trip to Cleveland for a memorial service just a few weeks ago, and did the same for my hotel booking. Set your sights on less popular and/or off-season destinations, and you might have a similar success rate.

Most of our readers know about alternative lodging sites like Airbnb and VRBO, but many of us peg such services for bookings during vacations, and not for more focused trips such as family visits or business travel.

This is changing quickly; Airbnb is giving traditional hotels a run for their money, with even corporate travelers giving it a try. Airbnb is encouraging the trend with a newly instituted “Business Travel Ready” designation on many listings.

Seeking out alternative lodging can be especially effective when you are booking in a very popular destination or during a big event around which hotel bookings become scarce and expensive. It’s also a good bet when traveling with larger groups, as you can search for lodging that is large enough to sleep larger numbers of people than even the biggest hotel rooms can accommodate, typically at very reasonable prices.

Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay

U.S. travelers haven’t always been able to lean on the strength of the dollar to stretch their funds while traveling overseas, but that’s the reality right now. You can get more for your money in places like the post-Brexit United Kingdom, post-Olympics Brazil, Mexico and others. Check out a full list here.

The tourist industry’s presence on the web (and in apps on your phone) is mature and advanced, and searches for “free things to do” will be successful almost anywhere you want to go. Often these searches take you to the very best a place has to offer — parks, beautiful open spaces, even top attractions.

All airlines are required to refund any booking in full if canceled within 24 hours of booking, and I have found this a great help when I need to purchase an airfare but am pressed for time to apply some of the price comparison tactics mentioned above. When in this spot, go ahead and book the best flight you can find at the time, and then when you have more time, finish up your research and cancel the standing booking if you find something better.

Don’t Miss Top Travel Tips — Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Saving money on travel isn’t getting any easier, but if you keep up with the changing times and technology, you can still have some money left in the bank when you hit the road. If you have any 21st-century tactics that I missed, let us know in the comments below!

Go Anyway,

Ed Hewitt

Features Editor
IndependentTraveler.com

You May Also Like
The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas
16 Signs You’re Addicted to Travel
10 Travel Money Mistakes to Avoid
Tell Us About Your Latest Trip!
9 Creative Ways to Save for a Vacation

Freshwater fun in Lake Erie’s Presque Isle State Park

Freshwater fun in Lake Erie’s Presque Isle State Park

Author: Jen Lucas (More Trip Reviews by Jen Lucas)
Date of Trip: November 2016

The mini-tribe and I were ready for an out of town excursion but only had 48 hours to accomplish such so I decided to pack up and head due north to Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie, home to the Great Lake Erie and Presque Isle State Park, is approximately 2 hours north of Pittsburgh.

presque isle kids running on beach

As my children were born at the beach and we all are extremely fond of water, I figured this would be a great opportunity for them to see and learn about freshwater habitats and wildlife. Avid fishermen frequent Erie Pennsylvania, as the streams in the Lake Erie Watershed are renowned for their steelhead fishing. We are less fishing aficionados and more so fans of an indoor water park in the area, Splash Lagoon, so made that our first stop.

Splash Lagoon, located in Erie, is a huge indoor complex housing nine water slides with varying levels of intensity, a lazy river, a kid and separate adult hot tubs, wave pool, baby pool and tree tops rope course. You can spend several hours in the facility and not be bored which is a plus since the admission fees are hefty but justified. I decided to go after 4pm for the discounted rate, which gave us plenty of time to play, as they are open until 9pm on Saturday’s.

Also on premises is an arcade, laser tag rooms and several dining locations to choose from as well as adult beverage options. With lodging attached to Splash Lagoon, many choose to stay on site however I chose to stay closer to Presque Isle.

After many hours of chlorine-filled fun and the exhaustion that followed, we headed to our home for the evening, the Riviera Motel. While there are many great accommodation options, we were going for budget friendly, in the best location and this motel comes highly recommended from my aunt who frequents there. The Riviera is very kind to your wallet with several bars and restaurants either in walking distance or a very short drive and is minutes from Presque Isle. The rooms are extremely clean although décor is quite outdated but offered everything we needed for the 12 hours stint we’d be there, comfy beds, shower, TV, mini-fridge, and coffee maker.

aerial view of presque isle

The following day we found a great little spot to eat breakfast minutes from the motel, Avanti’s. With an Italian-inspired menu and décor including 50s era murals on the wall and of course tons of family photos, I knew the food would be delicious and the atmosphere kind and welcoming. A small place with a decent sized menu and great prices, Avanti’s offers breakfast and lunch starting at 5:30am-3pm.

We then headed towards Presque Isle to enjoy the sun and sand even though the fall temperatures were brisk, the kids didn’t mind and I’m always up for being in nature so we didn’t blink an eye.

Presque Isle State is a 3,112-acre Pennsylvania state park on an arching, sandy peninsula that juts into Lake Erie. The peninsula has 13 miles of roads, 21 miles of recreational trails, 13 beaches for swimming, and a marina. After driving several miles, in true kid fashion, someone needed to use the bathroom so we stopped at a building, which ended up being at a super cool beach that we decided to explore. After spending their first few years living a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, my kids are extremely fond of the water, sand and waves so this to them was equivalent.

presque isle beach

It was time to leave as their little feet had to be close to frozen after frolicking in the waves so we drove back down the peninsula, stopping at the Perry Monument/lighthouse, watching a few families fishing in one of the many waterways and then onto the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. I wanted my children to experience freshwater wildlife as they’ve seen plenty of aquariums, sharks, dolphins jumping waves, kelp that washed ashore, etc. but are less exposed to freshwater fish and plants so this was the perfect place to explore next.

The Tom Ridge Environmental Center is an educational center dedicated to teaching visitors about Presque Isle and the many different forms of life that inhabit the peninsula. It also serves as a center for research, contributing to conservation efforts and promoting environmental awareness, helping to preserve Presque Isle. The center is open year-round and offers free admission to interactive exhibits, glass-enclosed tower, and an orientation movie.

Although I’ve visited the area many times, it’s always exciting to return to these places dear to our hearts, especially when so close to home and accessible. The kids had a ton of fun so we’ll definitely be returning post-winter unless we feel the urge to try out ice fishing (highly doubtful).

Mid-Atlantic Trip Reviews
Send Us Your Trip Review!

What Is Basic Economy? An Airline-by-Airline Guide

Remember the race to the bottom the airlines took us on starting a few years ago?

You know, the trend we outlined here when JetBlue, horror of horrors, began charging for checked bags?

overhead bin airplane

Well, with United and American introducing “Basic Economy” fares this month — a new class of service most easily explained as “you get a seat and that’s it” — we’ve made it. Welcome to the rock bottom!

With American rolling out its plan in February in 10 markets, and United getting under way soon after, this is coming our way rapidly. And not everyone is happy about it, with Congressmen Chuck Schumer and Al Franken both registering opposition, as well as USA Today.

Once discount airlines started charging for every possible “frill” (as if using the overhead bin above your own seat is a frill), and the larger airlines responded by “unbundling” their existing fare structures to compete, the current situation was inevitable. So rather than complain about what we should have all seen coming, let’s take a look at what the major airlines are actually offering in Basic Economy and how you might choose among them.

But first, here’s an example of how different things will be.

Ever since airlines started charging for checked luggage, many travelers have used the following trick to have their bags make it to the destination airport luggage carousel without incurring a charge. When the gate agent announces that the flight is full and overhead space will be limited, anyone who is willing to check their carry-on luggage may do so for free at the time of boarding.

The folks who take advantage of this offer all seem to have the largest carry-on luggage — bags similar to those that most of us already checked for $25 back at the check-in desks.

Some of the airlines’ upcoming changes will penalize these actics. For example, if you’re flying in American’s new Basic Economy class, which will permit no use of overhead bins at all, you will pay a $25 penalty (on top of the usual $25 checked bag fee) if you have to check your bag at the gate.

United has the same policy — $25 for the checked bag, plus an additional $25 service fee if you check the bag at the gate. In addition, United will restrict online check-in to those who buy fares that include a free carry-on or who pay to check bags during online check-in, reports Business Insider. Anyone who wants a “no bags at all” Basic Economy fare will have to check in at the airport — so you can’t get away with saying no bags, then showing up with bags.

The whole “gate check” phenomenon caused endless headaches and stink-eye glances between gate agents, flight attendants and travelers at boarding time, but despite the new fees it’s not clear this will end; the airlines have been hard-pressed to say exactly how they will enforce the overhead bin policies. For example, both American and United have stated that flight attendants will not be required to enforce the policies once onboard. Eek.

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

Okay, on to the airlines. Below are the current Basic Economy (or equivalent) fare classes on offer by the main U.S. airlines. Note that there are occasional exceptions to some of the restrictions for loyalty program members and/or airline credit card holders, so if you fall into one of those categories you should check the fine print on your carrier’s policy.

Alaska Airlines is in the process of merging with Virgin America, and at present neither airline offers a version of Basic Economy. Alaska does, however, apply bonus miles at different levels based on multiple tiers between each class of service.

American went public with details of its upcoming Basic Economy class earlier this month. Here are the restrictions:

– Seat assigned by the airline at check-in

– No overhead bin use; you may bring only a personal item that can fit under a seat

– Standard checked bag fee, plus $25 if you try to check at gate

– Last boarding group

– Reduced qualification toward elite status, based on pricing

economy class airplane seats

Delta was the first legacy carrier to introduce Basic Economy back in early 2015, and it’s a bit more generous than American’s and United’s, without the specific restrictions on carry-on luggage. The main rules are as follows:

– Seat assignment at check-in, with no option to choose online in advance

– Passengers traveling together, including families, might not be seated together

– No eligibility for same-day changes or ticket refunds after the standard 24-hour cancellation period

– Last boarding group

– No eligibility for paid or complimentary upgrades or preferred seats, despite loyalty program status

5 Things You Shouldn’t Wear on a Plane

JetBlue offers no sub-Economy, “basic” level of service. Despite eliminating free checked bags and changing to a per-dollar points system a couple years ago, inspiring one travel expert to accuse the airline of defecting to the dark side, the airline offers policies that look downright generous these days. For now your carry-on and personal item are included in all fares.

Southwest, which doesn’t offer Basic Economy fares, has always had a different approach to many of the components of air travel that are affected by these new offerings. Here are the key differences:

– Seating is not assigned but rather available on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on your boarding group

– Boarding order is determined by how early you check in (with options to pay for a higher boarding position)

– One carry-on bag and one personal item are included for all travelers

United‘s new Basic Economy will be rolling out in the next couple of months, apparently on a more widespread basis than with American. Restrictions include:

– Seat assigned at check-in

– No family or group seating

– No overhead bin use

– No upgrade eligibility

– The usual checked baggage fee, plus a $25 penalty for checking at the gate

– Redeemable award miles granted, but with significant restrictions

– Last boarding group

10 Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit are your primary discount domestic airlines, on which “basic economy” is more or less the default purchasing option. These airlines charge extra for pretty much everything, including:

– Checking in at the airport

– Paying for bags at the airport

– Carry-on bags that can’t fit under a seat

– Seating assignments

– Boarding priority

– You name it

Of course, the one silver lining of Basic Economy will be if these fares are actually lower — and stay lower — than current regular Economy fares. Not everyone is convinced, with discount airline pricing offering a case in point.

I’ve learned from experience that while the discount airlines have tantalizing base fares, by the time you add in most of the components of a typical (well, non-Basic) fare, the price gets pretty close to competing regular Economy fares on a major airline.

For example, a sample booking I did on Frontier will cost $9 each way to get a window or aisle seat in the back of the plane (only middle seats have no extra charge), a checked bag costs $30 each way and a carry-on bag is $35 each way. So to get anything but a middle seat near the back with no luggage, it will cost an extra $88 if I have a carry-on or $148 if I also have a checked bag (and those prices go up if paid at the airport).

And that, in a nutshell, is how things will work from here on out — welcome to the bottom!

Go Anyway,

Ed Hewitt

Features Editor
IndependentTraveler.com

You May Also Like
Is Premium Economy Worth the Extra Cost?
11 Things Not to Do on a Plane
How to Hack Your Way to a Cheaper Flight
Tell Us About Your Latest Trip!
18 Best Airport Hacks

9 How Not Get Lost Solo Traveling In India.

9 How Not Get Lost Solo Traveling In India.

Author: Veronika Prielozna
Date of Trip: October 2016

If you are a Lady dreamer with a passion for traveling and exploring the world, you might be the same kind of a woman traveler as I am and then this article is written just for you. How did I do it and not get lost solo traveling in India? Let me share my ways and the lessons I learned from my travel.

veronika prielozna in india

TRAVELING LADY MOON on her journey

I have been traveling all my life and as I mature my travel style matures with me. In my twenties, I hitchhiked in Europe, but now I am happy to leave my backpack in the closet and pull my traveling kit with gratitude for smart comfortable travel. Armed only with my carry on, camera, smartphone, documents and credit cards in October 2016, I was ready to face my new travel destination to India alone.

SOLO TRAVELING definitely requires a leap of faith

but with the right preparation, it doesn’t have to be as scary as you think. I began with research and talking to my f/b friends who are from India. Then, with full precaution, I figured out the traveling way that was right for me. It was my travel intention that helped me create conditions that were likely to turn out in my favor, so I would have an enjoyable journey ahead.

“I start traveling in my mind a way before my feet touched the road traveling….”

Even though I love traveling in a small group of 2 – 3 people, which is a good fit for a taxi ride-sharing travel experiences and enriching each other with laughter or insights, I decided to travel solo in India for this time. I followed my dream. I created my travel project https://sway.com/w7MNakkZoBBvqfHr and dared to face my journey alone.

My travel project allowed me to become a TRAVELING LADY MOON, a Travel Writer, an expert for traveling in style and seeking spirituality and pleasure of exploration with joy and ease.

Here is TRAVELING LADY MOON wisdom for all of you.

1 TRAVELING IN AIR: Managing your Jet Lag with the enjoyable layover.

For this time traveling to India, in the air, about 24 hours, I chose to fly with Emirates and stopped in Dubai for two nights. It was a smart way to minimize my travel fatigue and at the same time get a taste of the city of daring modern architecture and Arabic ancient culture. Yes, it cost me some additional expenses, but the experience I gained was worth it!

veronika prielozna in india

2 ACCOMMODATION: Never ever compromise on the place you stay.

No matter how tight your budget is, make sure that you choose a good place to stay. In my case, I was following my travel accommodation adviser, Yaseen Tuman, +91-194-2462211, +91 9596767812 [email protected], who insisted I book a 4 or 5-star hotel with all of the hotel comfort services, safety and amenities included. In rural small towns,I used Heritage Boutique Hotel that suited me as a good luxurious hotel.

3 WHY WAS ACCOMMODATION so important for me?

Traveling in India requires a lot of energy and strength, but no matter how intensive the day was, I always found a warm and luxurious small place to rest, heal and rejuvenate my energy. As a solo woman traveler, hotel staff will pay extra attention to your presence. Don’t be shy talk to them, ask them about trip advice and make them your local alliance, they know….

My travel tip…


Mumbai Trip Reviews
India Trip Reviews
United Arab Emirates Trip Reviews
Asia Trip Reviews
Africa and Middle East Trip Reviews
Send Us Your Trip Review!

10 Ways to Be a Less Annoying Travel Companion

Traveling with other people is like a crucible; without careful monitoring of pressure and temperature, things can very quickly get hot enough to melt someone at some point. Learning how to be a good travel companion can keep your trip (and your friendship) from going up in flames.

couple in london in front of big ben

I have always found that it is the little stuff that really grates on folks on the road — the proverbial death by a thousand cuts. Thus, someone who spills a bottle of wine all over your bed, or who loses both your passports on the first day of the trip, isn’t necessarily that much worse than someone who uses up all your toothpaste, “borrows” your last few notes of the local currency or forgets his wallet all the time. In fact, the more dramatic screw-ups at least provide some stories to tell; the others are just annoying, but often insufferably so.

The following 10 tips should help keep your own travel crucible cool enough to touch, and make you a great travel companion under even the hottest conditions.

Even your mother needed a break from you once in a while, so it’s fair to assume that your traveling companion could use a little “no you” time on a semi-regular basis. “There is no need to experience everything together,” says Kathleen Boyce, an American teacher living and working in China. “Make sure you separate every so often.”

You can disappear in small doses — maybe on quick runs to the store or pharmacy — or for longer periods of time, such as a trip to a museum your companion has no interest in seeing or an overnight to a nearby attraction.

Vary the times and situations in which you head off on your own; maybe one day you rise early and get out before your companion is awake, leaving her the luxury of waking up slowly in a quiet room where she can read, watch TV or do whatever she wants to do without bothering anyone else with it.

Part of the point of peeling off on your own is to go “get a life,” so make the best of it — and when you get back together, have something worthwhile to relate to your traveling partner. If you go off to see the Pyramids, and come back and say “Ah, yeah, there was too much sand and a lot of tourists,” you sound like you are complaining about traveling itself, or even about having to go off on your own.

Another idea when you head out alone: Do something for your traveling partners. Bring back newspapers, coffee filters, some local food, postcard stamps, anything. Before you leave, either ask if anyone needs anything or simply scan your hotel room to come up with your own idea of a good surprise.

Some travelers are always on, racing around racking up attractions and experiences; others like to find places to sit and watch. When you are traveling with another person, your rhythms are not going to match up all the time.

How to deal with this will vary immensely based not only on the individuals involved, but also on the type of travel you are doing (a theme park demands a very different rhythm than a day at the beach) and on what needs to get done (taking your time on vacation is a great thing, but a leisurely pace when running late for a flight is almost an actionable offense). If you are sensitive to your travel companion at all — and it is fair to assume you wouldn’t be traveling with him if not — you will be able to figure this out.

10 Things to Do Before You Travel

This tip is arguably a corollary to the preceding one, but is important enough to merit specific mention. On the day you leave, or on a day when you have a lot planned, or on a day when you are doing something your companion really wants to do, get on the stick, as your mom used to say. There is nothing worse than someone dragging everyone down by not having it together.

On a related note, keep your cool when the pressure goes up. Many of the worst hassles of travel are easy to anticipate — airport ring roads, parking lots, check-in and bag check, airport security, collecting baggage, picking up rental cars, checking into hotels, making sure your room is clean and everything works. During these phases, be way cool.

man and woman standing behind a car each pointing in a different direction and yelling at each other

Another from Kathleen Boyce: “Don’t use the phrase ‘whatever you want to do’ when making planning decisions. If I wanted complete indifference/compliance, I would have traveled with myself.”

If you want something out of travel, and from your traveling companion, you have to put something in. Never having an opinion (or much worse, having strong opinions but refusing to share them) puts all of the responsibility for coming up with and executing good ideas on someone else. If an outing goes sour, that person almost inevitably will feel bad.

Great at reading maps? That is your job. Have a lot of skill as a photographer? Same deal. Have the best cell phone signal or internet connection? Do most of the online research. Early bird? You’re in charge of getting everyone coffee and the daily bread. Know a lot of knock-knock jokes? Well … use your best judgment.

Essential Group Travel Survival Tips

This is a good policy for everyday life, and goes double (or triple, or infinity) when traveling. Remember, it’s the little stuff that matters most on the road: missing toothpaste, used razors, that kind of thing. Get yer own.

And just because something is lying around doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong to someone. In my case, when I was training and competing for the U.S. lightweight rowing squad, I used to buy a few go-to snacks ahead of time to keep me from bonking too badly. Michael O’Gorman, our coxswain, pilfered the snack, and now 20 years on still remembers my reaction. I’ll let him tell it:

“We were all in a van going to weigh-in. There was a box of Wheat Thins, so I started snacking, and ended up eating them all (can’t eat just one, you know). We got out of the weigh-in, and you were like, ‘Hey, what happened to the Wheat Thins? That was supposed to be my post-weigh-in snack.’

“You were not thrilled.”

Mike also used to need things like a ride now and then, as he didn’t have a license or car at the time. I was happy to oblige, as we were all in it together — but don’t nick my stuff!

10 Simple Tips for a Smoother Trip

Arguments about money on the road can create a fracture in your relationship; it is up to you to make sure you are paying your dues, and getting them in return, without treating it like a criminal case.

A frequent travel companion of mine, Greg Hughes has this to say: “My best partners haven’t been sticklers for splitting every single bill to the exact cent. Trips cost money. The goal of the trip for me is to enjoy where I’m going, not to count my money or to talk about money and what I’ve paid vs. my partner. A good partner picks some things up, and I pick some things up, and in the end our bills come out around even.”

Overplanning, and then being too rigid about sticking to the plan, can defeat the whole purpose of traveling, which is to go outside your own limited experience and explore the world some. Hughes offers: “Good travelers have always been willing to be flexible with the travel arrangements. So often, there are things that need deciding — where to eat, a willingness to try a new town or stay someplace another night. Good partners are cool with surprises and prepared to expect the unexpected. So much of a fun trip comes down to enjoying the little differences that a new place throws your way.”

How to Create the Perfect Itinerary

Okay, so your travel companion’s taste in art is iffy, or her hangover remedy of a Quarter Pounder means you get dragged to fast food joints on vacation. That’s life, and it’s not your life your companion is living. You don’t have to put up with dangerous or unsavory situations, but if there is no real trouble to be had, let folks live (and learn) by their own standards. Or, as another reader related after returning from a trip from Southeast Asia, “If one’s companion ends up dancing with a nice-enough person at Apocalypse Now in Ho Chi Minh City, one should just let the companion hang out with him, even if it means going to the backpacker section of town for noodles at two in the morning.” Within reason.

Most frequent travelers have their own rules, which don’t have to be too high-minded or theoretical to work well. Witness these rules from a reader who goes by the nickname Sully: “My only rules: Driver picks the radio station, open the window before you fart (warning signal) and bike trips overall are more fun solo.”

What’s the worst behavior you’ve ever put up with in a traveling companion? Let us know in the comments!

Go Anyway,

Ed Hewitt

Features Editor
IndependentTraveler.com

You May Also Like
18 Ways to Keep the Peace with Your Travel Companion
Share Advice from Your Latest Trip
10 Annoying Habits of Our Fellow Travelers
Get Our Best Travel Tips and Trip Ideas!
The 6 Qualities of Highly Effective Travelers

3 Fun Days at the Miramonte Resort in Indian Wells

3 Fun Days at the Miramonte Resort in Indian Wells

Author: Jill Weinlein (More Trip Reviews by Jill Weinlein)
Date of Trip: December 2016

Checking into the Miramonte for two nights, I noticed the boutique hotel is nestled at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains and dotted with fragrant olive, orange, lemon and cypress trees. The two story hotel is spread out among 11 acres of land decorated with brilliant pinks and peach bougainvillea flowers.

hike in indian wells

Miramonte is located in the heart of the Coachella Valley between La Quinta and Palm Springs. This popular desert town is now a global destination for locals and guests watching elite tennis players compete at the BNP Paribas Open in the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It’s also an ideal location to stay while attending all of the music festivals – Coachella, Stagecoach and Desert Trip.

I was surprised to learn the resort was once a Polynesian looking property, called the The Erawan Garden Hotel, built in 1963. This was the same year, that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway opened. After millions of dollars in renovations, it’s now a Mediterranean/Italian style property, and much more intimate than the Marriott and Hyatt Regency across the street.

My spacious suite #710 had a large Venetian style terrace with two chairs and a round table. This is the ideal spot for room service breakfast in the morning, and a glass of wine with cheese plate before dinner. It looks out onto the wedding lawn and main pool area. My room had a King-size bed, 42′ LCD fat screen television, large sitting area and desk. Privacy curtains can be pulled from the bedroom to separate the sitting area. The updated bathroom offers two marble sinks – one by the closet, outside the shower area, and the another sink in the commode and shower area with NEST products. There is also an in-room coffee maker and safe, robe in the closet, a hairdryer hanging on the back of the door and large shower with a sitting bench.

Here are five memorable Miramonte moments I enjoyed while staying at the resort –

Morning Hike With The General Manager
If you would like to take a morning hike during your stay, GM Mark Jeffrey and his dog Derby will take you on a morning walk to one of the 45 trails within a 40 mile radius. I requested a hike with other guests to the nearby cross on a hill in Palm Desert. Derby (a friendly golden lab) led the way on a dirt path to exquisite views of the Coachella Valley. Some say Frank Sinatra had this cross installed up on top of the hill as a tribute to his mother. It’s a moderate 4.1 mile hike, ideal to get your 10,000 steps in for the day. Hikes are available based on Jeffrey and Derby’s availability.

miramonte resort spa

Spa Time
The Well Spa is located in an intimate two-story Tuscany-style private building with 13 different treatment rooms. Downstairs is the reception area, boutique, relaxation lounge, men and women’s locker rooms. Outside is a large courtyard offering a semi private hot salt water whirlpool and a cooler pool. Upstairs are the quiet treatment rooms for personalized massages and facials. Ask for my massage therapist, Elizabeth. She not only gave me one of the best massages I have ever experienced, but she put a cooling anti-aging mask on my face to plump my skin in the dry dessert air. Spa guests can order from the beverage bar with light fare and from the exclusive Spa menu for delivery to the outside courtyard or relaxation room. There is complimentary citrus flavored water and bowl of fruit.

Watch or Play Tennis
The Miramonte Resort and Spa is within walking distance to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, known for hosting the fifth-largest tennis tournament in the world, the BNP Paribas Open. The next world class tennis tournament will be held during March 6-19, 2017. Guests can participate in clinics, shop for unique tennis items and watch the top tennis players in the world compete for the number one title.

Dining at The Grove Artisan Kitchen
Executive Chef Paul Hancock prepares dishes from the local Coachella farms-to-table ingredients. The hotel planted four raised vegetable and herb boxes near a bubbling fountain for the chef to harvest and snip ‘home grown’ fresh herbs. Next to the hotel’s restaurant is the Vineyard lounge offering an impressive wine selection, hand-crafted cocktails, and lively atmosphere. This is a social hub for locals and resort guests. Take your drink outside to sit at one of the heated circular fire pits scattered around the grounds. Both days I ordered the avocado toast with grilled asparagus, butternut squash, tomato and a poached egg on top. Delicious!

bikes

Bike Into Town
Leave your car parked at the resort and borrow a resort cruiser bike with a front basket. Ride on paved walkways and bike paths to Indian Wells Coffee Co. to get a honey, cinnamon latter with almond milk. The coffee is organic and roasted locally in Joshua Tree. It’s so good! There are pastry treats to take on your ride and nibble along the way. Nearby Palm Desert offers a mecca of stores along the El Paseo Shopping District for a few hours of shopping.

The Miramonte Resort and Spa is a beautiful resort for making memories during a family reunion, wedding, concert destination and desert weekend trip.

Miramonte Resort & Spa 45000 Indian Wells Lane Indian Wells, CA 92210 (760) 341-2200
(800) 237-2926 – www.miramonteresort.com

California Trip Reviews
Send Us Your Trip Review!

An Epic Road Trip Across Ireland

An Epic Road Trip Across Ireland

Author: Alyssa Johnson
Date of Trip: June 2016

Traveling in Ireland met and exceeded all of my expectations. The country is beautiful, the Irish are so friendly and the craic is always good.

temple bar dublin

Added bonus: Using and hearing the word craic regularly in conversation with no relation to drugs.

Ireland was great and road tripping our way around gave us flexibility and more time for exploring. Not to mention it was warm and sunny almost every single day. We were even told that summer rarely ever lasts this long in Ireland. And by ‘this long,’ I mean it had been less than a week. So, we got pretty darn lucky.

We started in Galway and made a U-shape, through Kerry to Killarney, over to Cork, down to Tramore, up to Kilkenny, Glendalough and finished the week in Dublin. Whew.

We also stopped at plenty of places in-between. Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as exhausting as it may appear in writing. We never felt rushed and had time to enjoy every stop along the way.

Here are the highlights of our road trip. It ranges from big cities to tiny villages and from the mountains to the coast. I would highly recommend driving this route and visiting each of these places!

ireland castle ruin

Itinerary:

Day 1: Athlone, Galway & Upper Salthill
We planned on starting in Galway but the round-trip flights from Dublin were dirt cheap (thanks Ryanair!). So, we flew into Dublin Airport and adjusted accordingly. After landing early on Wednesday morning, we picked up a rental car and set out towards the west coast.

Conveniently enough, I had recently stumbled upon a fun fact about an Irish pub. Sean’s Bar, in Athlone (just about halfway between Dublin and Galway) is the oldest pub in Europe. Dating back to 900 A.D., the pub is still thriving and we had to check it out.

It was worth the stop. The old bar was practically breathing antiquity. The walls are covered with ancient artifacts and the floor sprinkled with sawdust. The bartender was friendly and the sunny beer garden was the perfect place for our first pint of Guinness.

We wandered along the river for a while before lunch and then we were back on the road to Galway with our new friend, Dustin…from Kansas City! No joke. The only other person in this little pub in the middle of Ireland was from the same city as me. How do these things happen?! Anyway, he needed a ride and we were driving that way.

street performers galway

After saying goodbye to Dustin, we wandered around Galway and caught an impressive street music performance before checking into our Guesthouse in Upper Salthill.

Salthill recommendations:

Oslo Bar: The home of Galway Bay Brewery. If you’re a craft beer fan, this bar is a must. Tons of craft beer, great food (even for vegetarians) and outdoor seating.

O’Connor’s Famous Pub: They have live music during the week and at the very least, it’s worth checking out the quirky, eclectic decorations that fill the pub.


Dublin Trip Reviews
Ireland Trip Reviews
Europe Trip Reviews
Send Us Your Trip Review!