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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Traveling in winter, whether heading home for the holidays or heading off to somewhere tropical, always seems like a fun idea until delayed flights, snowstorms, and overstuffed suitcases get involved. We start to regret booking a layover flight, wearing a parka to an overheated airport, and not getting the right rental car. If winter travel has you feeling like a blow-up holiday snowman in a blizzard, don’t panic. Here are 11 winter travel tips to keep mishaps and delays at bay, and keep your budget in check through it all. 

RELATED: 15 cheap flying hacks that will save you real money

Book direct flights

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats waiting to taik off. Horizontal composition. boring flight in economy class aircraft salon. economy class

Keep in mind, if your travel plans are interrupted by bad weather (or other natural events known in the industry as “acts of God”), airlines are not obligated to reimburse you or cover the cost of a hotel. That’s why booking direct flights is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you don’t get stranded at a layover airport. That way, if your departing flight does get canceled, you can just go back home and try again in the morning. 

Invest in travel insurance

Winter weather can be unpredictable, especially in places like the Midwest or Northeast. Travel insurance typically doesn’t cost much, but if there’s a winter storm causing cancellations and you can’t make your reservation, you’ll be reimbursed for the parts of your trip that you missed (just be sure to read the terms carefully). As for purchasing travel insurance, booking on sites like CheapTickets.com makes it easy: When you check out, you’ll be given the option to add it to your itinerary with just a few clicks.

Pack layers versus one big coat 

Red suitcase being packed with black and white shirt, camera

Going from a cold climate to a warm one? Don’t get stuck dragging that bulky parka around in a place where it’s not needed. Instead, wear multiple layers to keep warm en route; unlike the parka, light layers like T-shirts, long sleeved shirts, leggings, and just one or two sweaters will still be useful in your destination during cooler tropical nights.

Book the right car for the terrain

Golden, British Columbia, Canada

An economical car like a Prius is great for road trips. Unless you’re headed to the mountains or some other place with lots of snow and potential ice. Be sure to reserve a rental car that has all the right features like 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive that can handle the terrain. When you book on CheapTickets.com, you can use the “All-wheel drive/4X4” filter to narrow your search. You may also want to consider springing for an SUV, as the added height can help you navigate through heavy snow. 

Treat yourself to some cozy amenities

Harbor Light Inn, Marblehead, MA

When you dream of a winter getaway, you might think tropical paradise, or you might imagine yourself soaking in a hot tub after a long day of skiing. Regardless of what your perfect vision is, booking on a site like CheapTickets.com can help you find it. Just use the search bar to find cozy amenities like fireplaces, or use the hotel filters to discover accommodations with hot tubs, indoor pools, spas, and more.

Stay up to date on your flight’s status

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Terminal 4 in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Photo: Robert Couse-Baker – Flickr

Don’t you hate it when you go to check in, only to find your flight was canceled, right after you paid handsomely for that Uber ride to the airport? Stay on top of changes when you download the CheapTickets app. It’ll send you real-time flight alerts, plus information on gate changes and luggage carousel numbers. You might also want to consider following your airport and airline on social media. Most airports and airlines will post updates about closures and cancellations due to impending weather on their social channels first. 

If you’re driving, gear up your car for cold

Getting stuck on the side of the road stinks, but in winter, it can be downright dangerous. Be prepared by gearing up your car with a flashlight to see under the hood, a first aid kit, potable water, snacks, warm clothing and a thick blanket, a spare tire and jack, a basic tool kit, and emergency flairs. It also helps to leave a bag of kitty litter in your car. Why? Well, it’s not just for cats. When driving in snow or on iced-over roads, sprinkling a little kitty litter right in front and behind your tires will provide the traction needed to keep going. 

Avoid checked-bag fees

Checked bag on luggage carousel at an airport

The easiest way to avoid them is of course to pack light, so you can go carry-on only. But we know, it’s winter, so your bag might be loaded up with holiday gifts or chunky cold-weather clothing. If that’s the case, you could still skip baggage fees, thanks to airline loyalty programs, or airline credit cards. Just be advised that some cards have high interest rates and sizable annual fees.

Be flexible with booking dates

Everyone wants to fly out on Thursday or Friday and return on Monday for long weekend getaways. That’s why these days of the week tend to be more expensive for everything from flights and hotels to rental cars and activities. Same goes for the days right before and after major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. That said, one way to save big bucks is to check flight calendars to see if there’s a lower priced flight on Tuesday or Wednesday, or some other day of the week close to when you’d like to leave. Comparing is easy when you book on CheapTickets.com, thanks to the site’s “Flexible dates” tool. Most travel websites will let you view a full calendar where you can see cheaper dates.

Consider driving versus flying

While flying will get you to your destination faster, it could also come with major delays due to bad weather. Even if your departure city enjoys a mild climate, your plane could experience weather delays if it’s coming from a storm-addled destination. A more reliable mode of travel would be to drive yourself, especially if you’re eight hours or less away. Driving is also often cheaper, especially if you plan on traveling around major holidays.

Wear your bulkiest items on your travel day

If you really must have the cable knit sweater that looks just like the one Chris Evans wore in Knives Out with you on vacation, then consider wearing it for the first time on your travel day. Same goes for your chunkiest pair of shoes or boots. Create room in  your suitcase by wearing larger items on the plane or in the car. 

Tagged: Cheap Tips, Events, Flights, Holidays, Seasonal, Tips & advice, Types of Travel

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Megan duBois

Megan duBois

Megan is a Florida native with a love for all things Disney, travel, food and running. You can follow Megan on Twitter @megand513 and on Instagram @minglingwithmickey where she dishes out the most recent Disney news and tips for the perfect park day!
Megan duBois

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Yes, Las Vegas has a reputation for gambling, excess booze, and other more illicit activities (they don’t call it Sin City for nothing!). But what if betting it all on black isn’t exactly your bag? To the surprise of perhaps none, the entertainment capital has so much more to offer. Look beyond smoky slots to find your new favorite activities. Whether it’s educational, adventurous, or just straight up fun—we’ve got you covered.

RELATED: 6 hippest small towns to get off-grid

Explore a neon boneyard

A slice of Sin City’s history at the Neon Museum. Credit: Bark.

Vegas without its signature neon would be a very dark place indeed. It turns out those swirling signs you see along the Las Vegas Strip tell a larger story. Visit The Neon Museum for an unstuffy (and outdoor!) look at how The Beatles, Elvis, and even Tim Burton (yes!) play into the history of “The Entertainment Capital of The World.” They’re open all day—but for the best photos, schedule a tour of the Neon Boneyard at dusk. (Book well in advance.)

Get weird at Omega Mart

Omega Mart at Area15 | Photo: Joshua Mellin jdmellin@gmail.com, @joshuamellin.jpg

Part of the Meow Wolf collection of fully immersive art installations, Omega Mart, located within the equally whimsical AREA15 entertainment complex, tells the story of a mysterious superstore. Is it being taken over by aliens? Can you buy a refreshing carton of mammal liquid? Will they allow you to hang out as long as you want, search every corner, touch every button, have a drink at the secret speakeasy, and take the perfect #Selfie? Yes, yes, and absolutely yes.

Catch free entertainment

Mirage Las Vegas | Photo: Joshua Mellin jdmellin@gmail.com, @joshuamellin.jpg

Okay, so maybe you maxed out your budget just flying out. No worries, like everything else in this city, Vegas does free entertainment bigger and better than just about anywhere else in the world. Start at Circus Circus, where, as the hotel name would imply, jugglers, acrobats, and trapeze artists regularly flaunt their big top skills along the Midway. Swing by the Silverton Hotel to awe at their 117,000-gallon aquarium, home to tropical fish, stingrays, and mermaids. (Yes really!) Finally, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Strip classics: The dancing fountains outside of Bellagio, and the epic volcano erupting multiple times nightly outside of the Mirage.

See a breathtaking show

As you’ve probably gathered, Vegas is not short on entertainment. But if you’re planning to shell out for a performance, consider a Cirque du Soleil show. With five different shows blending humor, special effects, and breathtaking athleticism, the French-Canadian troop has become a Vegas-mainstay for good reason. From the unusual diving creatures of O, to a twisted high wire act where performers swing over the crowd at Mystère, this is artistry in its highest form. Looking for an outrageous Cirque alternative? Absinthe by Spiegelworld has been the toast of the town for a decade now and recently spun off two completely different shows including Opium and Atomic Saloon with a fourth slated for 2022. Think Cirque, but more intimate and much more bawdy and over the top!

Hit up a music festival

Life is Beautiful Music Festival | Photo: Joshua Mellin jdmellin@gmail.com, @joshuamellin.jpg

Music festivals are back. For your favorite band with a side of glamour, keep an eye on Vegas’ upcoming schedule, which includes a slate of hip hop icons like Kendrick Lamar at Day N Vegas, yearly EDM highlight Electric Daisy Carnival, and Life is Beautiful, which takes over blocks of the downtown area and features high profile pop acts like Billie Eilish and St. Vincent.

Fly above the crowd

Downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont Street, aka “The Old Strip,” still functions as a vibrant entertainment hub where there’s still plenty going on. Get a bird’s-eye view of it all by zip lining over the top of it all aboard Slotzilla. For between $39-$59 (depending on the length of your ride, day of the week, and whether you want to cruise sitting up or “Superhero style”), you can get the ultimate adrenaline ride. Be sure to keep your eyes open so you can appreciate the Viva Vision ceiling light shows as you cruise by.

Get soaking wet

Thanks to the recently shuttered Hard Rock Hotel (now the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas; see below), Sin City is officially the place to get wet in summer. Its Rehab (2004–2018) popularized the Vegas pool party and made the city an it destination for young travelers. Many imitators followed and today parties like WET Republic at MGM Grand, Drais Beach Club at the Cromwell, and countless others guarantee a sun-soaked, booze-fueled, and DJ-driven day of hi-jinks under the desert sun. Pace yourself and drink water!

Stay comfortably away from the action

Exploring Vegas can be a high-energy, frenetic good time. Which is why it’s worth booking a hotel slightly off the beaten path. Just a 20-minute walk from The Strip, The Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is the perfect place to recharge between adventures. Grab a drink at their relatively peaceful pool/beach resort, after treating yourself to an elaborate spa treatment. Grab some ice cream after your soak at Afters, or slide directly into dinner without leaving the property at Night + Market Thai. And if you’re ready for more action, you can always catch a concert before falling into one of their lux beds.

Featured image courtesy of Josh Melin.

Tagged: Las Vegas

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Finally getting around to planning that week-long hike in the jungle or maybe you’re traveling for a gap year? Well, one thing you’re going to need is a trusty backpack, a.k.a., your new best friend.

A backpack is something that can last a lifetime of travel and adventure, but it’s important to research which one might be the best fit for you. Things to consider…  Will you be bringing trekking poles and a lot of heavy gear for camping? Do you plan an acquiring a massive amount of souvenirs along the way? Will you be exposed to the elements?

When considering your pack, the most important things to take into account are weight, organization, and comfort above all else. There are hundreds of rucksacks on the market boasting a high number of compartments, adjustable straps, and other valued assets, but we found these five were among the best in terms of having your back (literally) for many voyages to come.

RELATED: 6 tips for exploring any city like a local

Osprey Archeon Women’s 65 & Men’s 70

The Archeon 65L and 70L have men and women’s specific fits, so you already know you’re getting a thoughtful design. And while this may not be first on your list of wants and needs in a pack, this new collection is sustainable and made out of recycled canvas. A win for the environment.

The company mentions that the pack is “built with comfortable carry and versatility top of mind.” And with features like an adjustable harness and straps, dual zippered hip belt pockets, and a sleeping bag compartment with floating divider, that rings true. It also has some features you may not have even thought you needed, like a removable raincover and internal reservoir sleeve.

Price: $340

Fjallraven Bergtagen 38

When you think of Fjallraven, multi-colored mini backpacks that are popular among teenagers may come to mind. But the company actually launched in 1960 and quickly became known as a cold weather mountain trekking brand in Sweden.

So if you’re planning a climb or trek. the Bergtagen 38L carry-on pack is for you. It has the ability to transform to accommodate different uses, which means that you can have a light pack for shorter excursions and more support for long treks. The material is sturdy and tear resistant, plus it’s made from partially sourced recycled materials. And the waterproof material means you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you’re in the mountains.

Price: $265

GORUCK GR3

Any bag that comes with a lifetime guarantee has got to be good. That’s the case with the GORUCK GR3 45L carry on backpack, which is extremely durable and tear-resistant. It’s also TSA carry-on compliant, meaning you can take it for a month long Euro-trip and won’t have to worry about spending more to check your bag.

The pack has everything you’ll need for an extended trip: opens flat, extra padded straps and handles, multiple pockets, removable hip belt, and a hydration port to name a few. So while the price may be high, the lifetime Scars guarantee and all of the perks make it worth it.

Price: $395

OGIO Alpha Convoy 525R Backpack

If you’re day tripping, then the OGIO 25-28 liter backpack may be your new travel buddy. It’s on the smaller size, so it would be good for minimalist overnights, but has two large pockets for water bottles, a zippered side entrance to the main compartment and a multi-configuration roll-top closure so you can fit more of your gear. The adjustable shoulder and sternum straps ensure a good fit and the sturdy construction means that this bag is built to last.

Price: $130

Highlander Ben Nevis 85L Rucksack

The Highlander is a practical backpack made for durability, with plenty of storage room, which makes it ideal for multi-day trips and traveling. The company states that it has “loads of features” and they did not disappoint. The pack has 85L capacity and comes with a dividable main compartment with inner slip pocket, snow collar, and detachable and adjustable floating lid. What doesn’t it have?

Outside, there is a huge stretchy front pocket, zippered side pockets, and generous side compartments. It also comes with an integrated rain cover hidden inside a dedicated pocket at the bottom of the backpack. Needless to say, this rucksack will have you covered for any and every trek.

Price: $226.95

Tagged: Uncategorized

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Jeanette Zinno

Jeanette Zinno

Jeanette Zinno

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

There’s nothing like travel to broaden our horizons, and explore new cultures and destinations. But aside from the excitement and adventure, there’s a lot that can go wrong along the way. Whether it’s staying safe or just avoiding added stress on your trip, there are a lot of potential pitfalls that can be avoided if you know how to plan ahead for them.

RELATED: 20 dining tips that will save you real money on your next trip

The area you’re staying is not what you expected

Not familiarizing yourself with different areas in the city you’re visiting can leave you feeling lost and overwhelmed in unfamiliar surroundings. “Lack of research can result in creating an overambitious itinerary, or even an insufficient budget,” says Will Hatton, the founder and CEO of The Broke Backpacker. “Find out about the safest, most convenient, and affordable spots for shopping, and eating.” One way to do that is by checking a property’s reviews; CheapTickets.com, for example, offers hundreds of thousands of verified reviews from real travelers.

You’re receiving unwanted attention

It’s also important to research the tourist statistics of your destinations to get a better idea of how tourists are received in the area you’re visiting. “Avoid standing out in new environments by wearing expensive jewelry and clothing that can make you a target for local criminals. Stay vigilant by avoiding solo drinking and offers for accommodation and travel that seem too good to be true,” says Hatton. It’s best to book ahead on a site like CheapTickets.com, where properties are vetted and reviewed by other travelers.

Your luggage gets lost

While lost luggage is rarer these days, thanks to airlines’ computerized scanning systems, it still happens. Avoid lost luggage by checking in on time: “If your bag doesn’t make your flight, it could be because you didn’t leave enough time between check-in and departure,” says a former United employee. Another possible reason your luggage was lost is because another passenger accidentally pulled it from the carousel, thinking it was theirs. “Opt for something with a little more personality than your typical black roller bag—everybody has these, so it’s easy to mistake someone else’s bags for your own,” she notes. Other tips include removing old bag tags, making sure your luggage tags have your most up-to-date information, and considering a GPS-equipped bag.

Your luggage is stolen

“Nothing will ruin a trip more than stolen valuables, or luggage that has been tampered with, which is why implementing proper security measures for your bags is a must,” says Kristen Bolig, founder of SecurityNerd, who recommends buying external, TSA-approved combination locks for your luggage to add that extra layer of security. “This will keep any possible criminals from accessing your luggage, and I personally find this sort of lock way better than a classic lock-and-key,” said Bolig. Also, make sure you travel with your valuables on you at all times. “Buy a body wallet where you can store extra cash, important travel documents and IDs on your person, so even if all of your luggage gets stolen, you still have your most critical belongings accessible to you,” said Bolig.

You’re not sure the available WiFi is secure

When you’re traveling, sometimes all you want is a WiFi connection to send that email, download that next episode or post that photo, but connecting to any WiFi that you can find could pose a lot of cybersecurity issues. “Some hackers love to set up malicious hotspots in locations with heavy tourist traffic, so they have more options for stealing personal data,” said Bolig of SecurityNerd. In situations like this, it can sometimes be very hard to even know you’re being hacked. 

Bolig recommends only using trustworthy WiFi when traveling. “Try to steer clear of accessing free, unfamiliar WiFi if you need to log into any sort of banking or social media account,” said Bolig. “It can be so easy to accidentally log onto a malicious hotspot, so keep your private information safe and only use it when necessary. This is where a good data plan comes in handy.” Bolig also recommends getting a VPN for your phone or computer, to amp up your online privacy even more. “If you need to use public WiFi for tasks beyond just browsing, a VPN can help mitigate the risk of a potential hack,” said Bolig.

You lose your wallet or passport

On a normal day, losing your wallet is a big inconvenience. While traveling, losing your wallet can be a full-blown crisis. “The chances of this happening can increase when you’re out enjoying the nightlife. Only carry the cash and cards you need and leave the rest behind,” said Tony Jefferson, Founder of TravelingSession.com. If your passport goes missing, contact your consulate right away. It’s also best to carry photocopies of your passport’s main page (and that consulate info), so you can replace it more easily.

You get lost

Though getting lost is rarer these days, thanks to apps like Google Maps, there are times and places you’ll be without data if you didn’t spring for a foreign phone plan. If you’re staying in a hotel, in a foreign country, where you don’t speak the language, keep the hotel’s business card on you. They should be available at the front desk. “The card will make it easier to get directions or a taxi back to the hotel. This is especially helpful in cities where multiple hotels have similar names,” said Jefferson.

Your flight gets cancelled

One of the most common travel pitfalls, especially after Covid-19, is a flight delay or cancellation. These can be especially problematic if you’re connecting to another flight, joining a tour group, or catching a cruise, for example. Unfortunately, delays and cancellations can’t be entirely avoided, but there are certainly ways to minimize that “end of the world” feeling as you watch your flight move further down the departure board.

“One of the best ways to avoid a delay or cancellation becoming a total pitfall is to ensure you’ve taken out comprehensive travel insurance prior to traveling that covers delays and cancellations; knowing the delay will cost you your dinner reservation is frustrating but knowing you’ll be compensated is reassuring,” said Michelle Halpern, founder and owner of Live Like it’s the Weekend, a female led travel blog. Fortunately, purchasing insurance is easy on CheapTickets.com, where you’re given an option at check out to add it for a nominal fee.

You didn’t watch your flight

Since Covid, airlines have been making more schedule changes than normal. Usually, they’ll send an email letting you know the flight time has changed, but nonetheless, be sure to check your flight a few days before you leave. It’s also smart to check your flight again before you leave the house to check for delays. “Staying on top of updates and schedule changes will help reduce the stress of arriving at the airport excited for your vacation only to be entirely devastated,” said Halpern. Use the extra time at the airport to research activities when you arrive at your destination and keep the atmosphere positive.

A taxi cab tries to overcharge you

While cabs can be a life saver when you’re looking to get back to your hotel at the end of a long night, there are some less-than-honest cab drivers out there who are looking to overcharge you, or worse. Whether they are telling you the meter is not working, or they are purposefully taking a longer route to up the price, it’s hard to know how to handle once you find yourself captive to this situation. “This is one of those scams that I have been a victim of, and you usually fall for it because you’re in a new place and have other things on your mind,” says Jonathan R. Smith, founder of CamperGuide.

If you want to avoid an overcharging cab, start by having a very strict mental checklist. “Start by making sure that a cab has a working meter, and ask the driver for an estimate of your fare before you depart. If you have time, talk to a local about the estimated fare for your destination, too, so you know how much you should be charged,” said Smith. Also, make sure to use Google Maps to get an idea of the time and distance to your destination, and make sure to track yourself while you’re in the cab. This helps you to keep track that your driver is not veering from the right route just to charge you a fortune.

You get sick while traveling

Hey, the world is opening back up again, and we’re really excited to be a part of it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still a pandemic. Take proper precautions to make sure you don’t bring home a virus. One of the main ways to prevent getting sick is to plan your itinerary ahead. “You can still visit what’s on your bucket list, you just have to be strategic and proactive about it,” said Shawnda Dorantes, MSN FNP-C, a family nurse practitioner and owner of Beauty Lounge Medical Spa in San Marcos. Try to plan your trip in the low season, when fewer tourists are around, and when visiting popular restaurants or attractions, plan to visit during the slowest non-peak periods of the day. Also: “Regardless of what the mask stipulations are, make sure you and everyone you are traveling with wears theirs. Make sure to pack extra masks, plenty of hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes,” said Dorantes, who reminds us that maintaining as much physical distance between others who are not in your traveling group is still one of your best defenses against getting sick. Also, watch your alcohol intake. “This will help ensure you are making the best judgement calls while enjoying your travels,” said Dorantes.

You’re not sure that tasty-looking street food is safe

This is a common worry from inexperienced travelers, and those who are more seasoned, too. If you’re looking to sample some of the local food stall or street vendor cuisine, the best advice is to eat where the locals eat, and eat at a place that looks busy. Food that sits around all day, especially in the heat, is asking for trouble. But a busy, active restaurant is a safer bet—and probably going to be delicious, too!

Tagged: Cheap Tips, COVID-19, Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

Guidebooks have plenty of advice for what to do, see, and eat when you’re traveling, but not many help you avoid tourist traps and experience a destination the way the people who live there do. When you’re visiting a new city, there’s a lot to take in and figure out. So if you’re looking for a more authentic stay, we’ve got six tips to take you off the tourist track. 

RELATED: Ultimate summer 2021 post-pandemic bucket list

Stay in a neighborhood

Block of buildings along 3rd Avenue in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City NYC

Downtown areas can be glitzy, exciting, and convenient to museums and  other attractions, but they’re not always indicative of what everyday life is like for most residents. Opting instead to make a neighborhood your homebase will put you in the heart of where locals eat, play, and gather. While downtowns typically rely on big-name brands and commercial food chains, neighborhoods often feature mom-and-pop shops and independent restaurants. (This means you can directly support the community you’re visiting!). In many cities, each neighborhood will have a distinct vibe so you can research which aligns with your taste and interests.  

Ask your host for local recommendations 

Choosing a neighborhood over downtown means you’ll likely be in a vacation rental like an apartment or condo. And staying in a rental means you’ll have direct contact with a local or someone intimately familiar with the area. Your host is a great person to ask for their favorites hangouts and suggestions for activities that interest you. Being a local, they’ll also be able to tell you details that guidebooks won’t, like the reputation of a neighborhood bar or if you should get to a spot before a certain time to avoid lines. 

Book a vacation rental right here!

Use social media to find restaurants 

Stock photo of more adventurous style of traditional Chinese food shot inside of a Chinese restaurant in the USA.

If you’ve ever sat at a restaurant while traveling only to realize everyone around you was also a tourist, chances are it was either near a point of interest or listed in every guidebook. So where do you find out where locals eat? 

One way is by researching local bloggers and social media influencers whose job it is to showcase your destination’s best food and drink. They’ll rate, review, and publish lots of photos of restaurants and cafes so you can not only see where locals are going, but what the atmosphere is like. 

When you do find yourself at a great neighborhood eatery, consider sitting at the bar. Bar seating puts you in close proximity with other diners, plus bartenders are amazing local resources.

Take public transportation 

two women sitting in a tuk tuk

Chances are residents aren’t always hopping in ride shares or cabs to commute around their hometowns. More often, they’re biking, walking, taking buses, subways, trolleys, water taxis, tuk-tuks, or rickshaws. 

Doing as the locals do is cheaper than private or tourist-geared transport and allows you to intermingle with everyday folks. You’ll overhear conversations, glimpse fashion and trends, hear music and entertainment, and get a sense of the overall outward culture. Public transportation is often referred to as the great equalizer; you’ll see people of all walks of life going about their routines. 

Meet up with a local greeter or tour guide

Beyond asking locals for recommendations, meeting up with a greeter or taking a locally run small-group specialty tour gives you the chance to experience your destination with someone who knows it best. 

Leaning on the guide’s expertise, you can relax and let them do the work while you listen and experience how it feels to be part of the destination. You’ll also grasp the insider tricks on how things are done, like how to snag a table at a busy outdoor eatery or where you’ll find the best views or lesser-known side streets. Your guide will answer questions you didn’t even know you had or point out things you might otherwise overlook.

If you can’t meet up with a local, many museums and historical societies offer self-guided walking tours on specific topics. 

Read local newspapers and magazines

Local publications feature stories of the latest public art installations, street festivals and popups, and restaurant openings all geared toward a local audience. Reading these stories will get you more in the know about what’s currently happening that you wouldn’t yet find in any guide books. 

Plus, by just skimming the headlines and human interest stories you’ll grasp a sense of what local people care about. These are great conversation starters with locals and can help you feel more connected to the destination. 

Tagged: Cheap Tips

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Allison Yates

Allison Yates

Allison is a Chicago-based writer covering travel, women and society in U.S. Midwest, Latin America, and Ibiza. Follow her on Instagram at @allisonyateswriter.
Allison Yates

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

As we roll into summer you may be returning home from school, and maybe you’ve got plans to have friends from college come visit you, possibly for the first time. As a local, you have the opportunity to put together an incredible itinerary, one that strikes the perfect balance of showing off your town’s greatest hits and letting your friends in on those local secrets only you know. Here’s a list of 10 tips to dazzle your friends when they come to town, and make sure they have an awesome time none of you will forget.

RELATED: 9 great tubing adventure you and your friends will love

Revisit your city’s museums

When was the last time you were at any of your local museums? Was it 5 years ago? Maybe 10? Did you have a chaperone, or were you dragged there by your parents? It’s time to go again, as an adult, and take your friends. Museums are constantly shifting environments that offer new exhibitions regularly. That said, you’re never too old for dinosaurs and masterpieces. Your museum may both surprise you and allow you to revisit your childhood, as you guide your friends around. You can even book advance, skip-the-line tickets for many museums at Cheaptickets.com/Activities.

Don’t be a snob—show them the tourist spots, too!

Golden Gate Bridge

We know you’ve seen it 100 times, but can you remember the first time you walked over that stunning bridge in town, or the last time you took a local history tour or spent an afternoon in that beautiful city park? Or perhaps you live in a smaller town with stunning backdrops of mountain scenery or calm rustling woodlands. Imagine your friends seeing these sights for the first time. When putting together an itinerary, think of tourist attractions that express the uniqueness of where you live and represent its authentic character. This can be through artistic expressions that can’t be replicated, or stunning architecture, cuisine or music, perhaps combined with just the perfect amount of grit to keep your attention.

Indulge them in that iconic food that bores you

View of a Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

While Chicago deep dish pizza may not be what local folks actually eat on a regular basis—it’s a pound of cheese and sauce, after all—it is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else in America. So what’s not to like? Food is a representation of culture; discovering the local cuisine puts you in touch with neighborhoods and the people who live there. Having a local guide, such as yourself, can change a traveler’s experience. So feed your friends that Philly cheese steak or San Francisco burrito or Maine lobster roll, but go where the locals go.

Try something new together

Have you always meant to check out that one famous jazz club in town, tour that architectural wonder of a building, or hike up to that one viewpoint overlooking the city? Perhaps there’s a gimmicky bar down your street that you always thought looked fun, but you never went to because “that place is for tourists.” Having friends visit is the perfect excuse to go full tourist mode. Finally stand in line for that one food you suspect may be overrated. Check out that one weird museum or the limited-time exhibition that is in town. No matter where you grew up, it’s unlikely you’ve done everything there is to do. This is a chance for you and your guests to share a new experience together.

Sprinkle in some local spots that tourists wouldn’t know

Depending on where you live, “Locals only!” and “Tourists go home” may be phrases you’ve heard as a traveler. Indeed, having a bunch of influencers blow up all the big spots around your town are valid reasons to avoid them at all costs. But think about how much more of an authentic and intimate experience it truly is as a traveler when you discover those hidden locations that no one else knows about, whether it’s a lesser known bar ,or a hidden beach, or viewpoint of the city. Those are the memories that stick with you after your journey. Now you can provide your friend with those experiences and give them the blessing that they are not just another obnoxious visitor.

Book a hotel or vacation rental in a new-to-you part of town

Sure, you could stay with your parents, or cram everybody into your tiny apartment. But you’d have so much more fun if you sprung for a hotel (no need to break the bank—CheapTickets always has great hotels going) that puts you in the heart of action. Or you could opt for a vacation rental (just click the Private vacation home filter to search the latter) that places you in a different neighborhood, so you can explore and broaden your view on the city you live in, too.  If you grew up in a big city it is quite likely there are sections you’ve never seen. Spend a few nights there. Immerse yourself as you explore the nooks and crannies and you will all see your town in a new light.

Check out the local sports scene

Blurred image of fans and athletes in packed baseball arena

Unless you’re a huge sports fan, there’s a good chance you haven’t seen your local team in a while. Whether it’s major league baseball, semiprofessional basketball, college football, or something more regional like bull riding, local sports scenes are points of pride for towns and cities across the country. Sports stadiums are distinctive landmarks in many cities (think Fenway Park in Boston or Chicago’s Wrigley Field), and cheering fans, steamed hot dogs, and cold beers almost guarantee a good time. A game could be the perfect way to introduce your guests to your town and get them feeling the local spirit. The cheers of the crowd or even listening to disgruntled jaded fans offers a unique taste of local atmosphere.

Keep them out late!

Stock photo of two asian alternative girls with pink and green hair, sitting in a diner inside taking a selfie smiling.

Your hometown may only have a few grungy townie bars, or maybe it offers a wide array of clubs and music venues. Regardless, live music and nightlife are key to intermingling with the locals. Watch a local band play at some cramped bar or sit on a bustling patio, sampling late night food while knocking back craft beer. All of this can really sell your college friends on where you grew up. Finally, walk underneath streetlights through crowded bar-lined avenues or down quiet residential streets in the early hours of the morning, with a warm fuzzy feeling. Your friends’ visit will truly feel complete.

See what’s new

If you’ve been away at college (or just haven’t been paying close attention), you might discover that your city’s got some great new attractions worth checking out. This could be an interesting new park, hot new restaurant, cool new bar, beautiful new trail, whatever. Play the tourist for a minute and start researching what’s new before your friends arrive.

 

Tagged: Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

The 2020 slowdown in travel may have benefited the environment but that was likely one of the few upsides to an otherwise difficult year globally. But with 2021 now upon us, we’ll again have roads to drive, destinations to fly to (eventually) and the same insatiable thirst for travel that saw the industry account for 8% of total global emissions. Moving forward, every action we take today to reduce tomorrow’s carbon footprint will be essential. But “green” travel doesn’t mean having less fun or sacrificing creature comforts. All it requires is to be more eco-conscious, and here are some helpful ways to do that in 2021.

RELATED: 8 great state park alternatives to National Parks

Calculate your impact

Until zero-emissions travel becomes a reality, flights and road trips will in some way negatively impact the environment. So, calculating your vacation’s emissions and footprint is a good first step. You can determine the environmental cost with a carbon footprint calculator. Add it all together, then purchase carbon credits to lessen what can’t be reduced.

Pack like a minimalist

The more you pack, the heavier your bag. This contributes to the overall weight of the plane or car, ultimately impacting the amount of CO2 emitted. Lighten the load with a backpack or small suitcase, packing only what you need and choosing outfits you can mix and match. Stashing your eco-friendly toiletries in packing cubes saves space and means you can buy a few things upon arrival, need be.

ALSO: Are you a student? Make sure you get in on these student hotel discounts!

Fly smarter

In-flight emissions can be reduced in a number of ways. First, choose an airline that offers the option to offset air travel or visit My Climate where you can match climate protection projects with your flight’s carbon footprint. Then, book a direct flight in coach, opt for carry-on only, bring your own food and amenities, and lower the window shades to keep the plane cool.

Better road tripping

Driving can create some of the biggest environmental impacts. Maintaining your vehicle keeps it running smoothly and efficiently. Proper tire pressure alone can improve average gas mileage by 0.6% —up to 3% in some cases. If you’re renting, select the smallest, most fuel-efficient car that’ll fit your needs. If a hybrid is available, even better.

Sightseeing

Choosing to walk, bike, or enjoy a cruise through town in a local pedicab when sightseeing is better for the planet. Remember to take a tote or daypack with you, too. It’s easier to carry your Hydro Flask or any souvenirs, clothes, and groceries you might pick up along the way. It also means no plastic bags, which are some of the biggest contributors to ocean pollution.

Eat locally

One of the great rewards of travel is sampling new flavors, and eating locally is a great way to support a community in an eco-friendly way. The USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory helps you plan visits to farmers’ markets, where you can pick up locally sourced sustainable foods. Also, dining at restaurants that offer homegrown menu items reduces food miles (emissions created during the journey from producer to consumer).

Stay green

Large hotels consume a lot of energy, but many are committed to power reduction and reducing their waste and water usage. And thanks to LEED certification, eco-travelers can feel better about an amenity-filled stay by booking certified locations. Aria Las Vegas has earned six LEED Gold certifications. Virgin Hotels Chicago is LEED Gold-certified with hotel-wide recycling. Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, NC, is the first hotel in America to be LEED Platinum-certified and focuses on buying more food from local farmers and food makers. Can’t find a LEED-ranked hotel in your desired destination? Slash your personal consumption by turning off the lights, heater, and AC when leaving the room, reuse the towels, keep your showers short, and leave the freebies—lotion, shampoo, conditioner—behind.

Leave no trace

Leave no trace” is a catchy phrase reminding us to protect the natural spaces we love. It means sticking to existing trails whenever possible, camping at established sites 200 feet from water sources, minimizing campfire impacts, and what you pack in is also what you pack out. Keep this mindset when you hit the beach or go snorkeling as well. Apply a reef-safe sunscreen that is free from any chemicals contributing to coral bleaching.

Take a trip that gives back

Giving back can be rewarding. It reminds us to appreciate travel and reconnects us to the people and the land. It’s as simple as booking a “voluntourism” vacation or even properly disposing of trash that you see on a street corner or in the park. Hawaii has even come up with its own program to inspire mindful, eco-friendly travel, encouraging visitors to leave the islands better than when they arrived. Malama (care for) Hawaii projects include beach cleanups, ocean reef preservation, and tree planting. You’ll even score a free extra night at participating hotels.

Tagged: Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Although the Black Lives Matter movement started to protest systemic racism and police brutality in the U.S., racism is a global issue. There is no country or region that you can travel to that has not been affected by the ugly face of racism and injustice in some way. But as travelers, we can make choices that can help promote racial justice. When it’s safe to travel again, please consider these tips when planning your itinerary.

RELATED: 8 ways to indulge in self care without breaking the bank

Educate yourself about white privilege and implicit bias before you go

It doesn’t matter if you’re earning minimum wage and living check to check, if you have white skin, you benefit from a large number of privileges that protect you. Learn about what those benefits are and how to use them to uphold racial justice while traveling. A few recommended books on the topic are White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About RacismHow To Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and The Racial Divide and This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do The Work.

Be anti-racist while traveling

If you are traveling to a place with BIPOC history or presence, make sure to visit the places or communities that are important to these groups. Connect with the people and culture and be respectful of them. Do not assume that you know everything and do not promote stereotypes about people or places. Do not go to an African country and only focus on the animals. Learn about the people and culture. Do not go to a Latin American or Caribbean country and only explore the resorts and beaches. Research the history and traditions and visit local spots—locally-run restaurants, for example, are a great way to do this. When visiting a city with a large BIPOC community, check out the neighborhoods and landmarks that are significant to them. These areas are often rich with local history and full of attractions.

Research BIPOC-owned hotels, tours, restaurants and shops to visit on your trip

Most hotels, restaurants and tours promoted within the tourism industry pour money into large, white-owned corporations. One of the reasons the racial wealth gap is so wide is because there aren’t as many opportunities for BIPOC to benefit from lucrative industries like travel. That’s why it’s important to make it a priority to support BIPOC businesses. A helpful tool for this is the ABC Travel Greenbook, which lists Black-owned businesses, hotels and tours around the world and in the U.S.

ALSO: Are you a student? Don’t miss out on these hotel discounts!

Don’t be culturally inappropriate

It’s important to be respectful of the traditions and expectations of any place that you visit—from covering your head, legs or shoulders when entering a church or temple to expressing certain hand gestures that could be offensive, like what we think of as the peace sign, OK symbol or crossed fingers. Dressing like the locals and observing their customs is generally a great way to connect with people and cultures, too. However, be sensitive to nuances. Do not wear anything that is considered sacred, do not appropriate a tradition that’s reserved only for members of a specific group. When in doubt, ask.

Learn some of the language

While many folks abroad have studied English and speak it perfectly, we can’t expect the entire world to cater to us linguistically. And pro tip: Speaking louder doesn’t help anyone understand you better. Take a little time to learn the basics of a language, whether it’s through a free app like DuoLingo or even a phrase book from the library.

Do not take photographs of anyone without permission

Snapping pics of locals in traditional dress is a travel highlight, however, you do not have the right to take a photo simply because they are there. This is a colonialist attitude that exploits people and cultures. Do not take away the agency of local people by assuming they are there for your entertainment or Insta likes. Always ask for permission to take a photo and if there’s a language barrier, motion with your camera or phone so that they understand what you’re asking. This is especially important with children: Always look for an adult to ask if it’s okay to take a child’s photo, or just don’t take the picture.

Speak up if you witness racism or injustice

Being an American traveler carries a lot of power in most destinations. If you see a local or person of color being called racist names or being chased out of tourist spaces, speak up. Some places enforce the same racial discrimination and injustices as the U.S., or even worse. Raise your voice to protest it if you see it.

Choose your words wisely

Words hold power. The travel industry is crammed with terms and phrases that infer inferiority to countries, places, and people with BIPOC backgrounds. Do not use language that can be considered ignorant or insensitive. Be aware of any tendency to place yourself in any kind of “White Savior” role. Center the local people and their experiences in a non-biased way.

Tagged: Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

With social distancing still in full swing, vacation rentals have become more popular than ever—and it’s easy to understand why.  When you rent a private home, condo or cabin from a travel site like CheapTickets.com or its sister site VRBO, you’ll be in contact with fewer people, sharing less spaces and have more control over cleanliness. But for anyone new to vacation rentals, or even for some of us who have been booking them for a while, it can be helpful to occasionally turn your reviewer’s eye on yourself, and think a little about how certain things you do—or don’t do—could make you the perfect vacation rental guest.

RELATED: 15 vacation rentals with amazing pools

Call or message your host if arriving late

Communication and courtesy go a long way. Hosts have lives too, and if there’s not a lock box and the host has to personally hand you keys, keep them looped in if you’re going to be late. They’ll likely understand traffic and other unexpected delays; just be sure to keep them updated so they’re not waiting around all day unnecessarily.

Stick with the number of guests on your reservation

When you book a rental for two, avoid bringing along extra unannounced guests to your stay, or inviting large groups over. It’s helpful for hosts to know exactly how many guests are staying at the property so they can plan out how many towels and toiletries to leave, snacks and other amenities.

Practice proper pet etiquette

If the rental is pet-friendly and your host has approved a pet, there are typically rules to follow. “If traveling with a dog, make sure there is no barking,” says Maggie Espinosa, who owns a vacation rental in La Mesa, near San Diego and listed on VRBO, a CheapTickets.com sister brand. She also asks that guests clean up all dog waste in the yard and keep the dog under your eye for the duration of your stay. “Do not leave the pet unattended in the house while you’re out sightseeing,” she says. Bring a crate to keep Fido secure while you are sightseeing.

Be mindful of utilities

Use common sense when using appliances and be courteous about thermostat settings. “Please treat the home as if you are paying the utility bills,” says Jan Garrabrandt, a host/owner of a historic home in Lancaster County, PA, that’s listed on both VRBO and CheapTickets.com. “We think that running the air at 63 degrees and opening the windows is a waste of not only energy, but stresses the heck out of the air conditioner—and the owner.” If you are heading out for a day of exploring, adjust the thermostat, and turn off the lights and appliances.

Be tidy, respectful and honest

“Enjoy your stay but respect the property and its contents,” says Connor Griffiths, a VRBO host in British Columbia, Canada. If something gets damaged, let the host know rather than hide it in hopes they don’t find out. “Hosts expect a level of wear and tear and will likely shrug off a broken plate,” he says. Finally, a quick tidy up when you leave is always appreciated. No one expects you to clean like a professional, but remember that vacation rentals are people’s homes, so leaving the place tidy is appreciated.

Leave a review if you had a great stay

Your positive review can go a long way, as hosts rely on these rentals for their livelihoods. If the property was clean, well-stocked and there were added extras like wine or cashmere blankets, put all of this in your review. If you didn’t have a perfect stay, constructive feedback can help hosts improve the experience. No need to get melodramatic with your review or nitpick small details. Just provide your fellow travelers with the information they’ll most likely find useful. “Be fair, keep the review based on things the host has control of such as communication, cleanliness and providing a great property. Don’t complain about bad weather or how a garbage truck woke you up in the morning,” says Griffiths. And, he says, if you want to provide some suggestions to the host directly, consider using the private feedback section rather than the public review.

 

Tagged: Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Right before COVID-19 struck, the travel industry was the second-fastest growing sector in the world (after manufacturing) and contributed nearly $9 trillion to the global economy. That all changed this spring, however, as stay-at-home orders took effect and countless vacations were canceled around the world. But as the freeze on both domestic and even global travel begins to thaw, travel is making its way back—though it may not look the same as you remember it. As you’re looking forward to planning a trip this summer or fall, you can expect these six key experiences to be different.

RELATED: 10 amazing National Parks photos to inspire your next trip

Vacation rentals

If there’s one facet of travel that’s fared better than others, it’s this one. That’s probably because longer-stay vacation rentals, which you can book directly with CheaptTickets, host fewer visitors than hotel rooms on average, and there are fewer common spaces to share with other guests. Vacationers also have more control of the cleanliness of their accommodations, and you can expect heightened cleaning standards and more generous cancellation policies before booking your next stay. Although some regions are still closed to vacation rentals, there has been a surge in bookings this summer as people seek a safer escape from home.

Hotels and resorts

When lockdowns first began, many hotels reported fewer than 5% occupancy rates. Although those numbers have slowly risen, most hotels are still pulling out all the stops in terms of making guests feel safe and confident about their stays. How are they doing this? Free sack lunches have replaced breakfast buffets, pool deck chairs have been spaced out, and room cleanings and sanitations have been doubled, according to some reports. In fact, Marriott and Hilton, the world’s largest hoteliers, are now using ultraviolet lights and electrostatic sprayers during housekeeping to kill bacteria and viruses from guest rooms.

 

Theme parks

On a recent visit to Lagoon, a Utah theme park that was one of the first in the country to reopen, visitors experienced uber clean bathrooms, hand sanitizer stations everywhere, and a lot more park attendants than normal. That said, reservations, social distancing guidelines and face masks are required, so your visit won’t be like it was before. The upside is that park capacities are being seriously restricted now, which means you can do a lot more rides in less time than before.

 

National Parks

The good news is all are open again. The bad news: Many of the most popular areas are still closed, restricted or with limited access (i.e. pedestrian or biker access only). The Grand Canyon, for example, only recently opened the popular Canyon Rim Trail, after months of closure. Similarly, many visitor centers, museums and amenities remained closed around the nation. Nevertheless, many parks are reporting higher than normal crowds. Before visiting, be sure to visit the specific nps.gov park website for the most up to date information.

 

Flying

Although airports and airplanes are no longer the ghost towns they were two months ago, they are nowhere near as crowded as they used to be. To keep customers safe, all major airlines require face masks to fly and now use high efficiency filters to keep cabin air as clean as a hospital. Some, like United, will start using electromagnetic foggers to disinfect planes arriving from abroad. That said, flight routes (especially direct ones) are less than half of what they used to be and schedules are subject to change at any given time as airlines continue to shift their fleets. What’s more, some states such as Hawaii and Maine still require 14-day hotel quarantining or proof of a negative COVID test before entering.

 

Road trips

If you want the most freedom and isolation, this is still your best bet. Along the way, you are sure to encounter much cleaner public restrooms and a lot of drive-thru dining options just like before (be sure to check local restrictions on indoor/outdoor dining, and pack a mask as many states require them to enter shops and eateries). In terms of booking hotels along the way, CheapTickets lets you read authentic user reviews that include reports on cleanliness and other factors. Also note that in some areas, landmarks and attractions may still be closed to the public, so check before adding a waypoint to your map.

 

Tagged: Cheap Tips, COVID-19, Flights, Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Blake Snow

Blake Snow

Blake contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his supportive family and loyal dog.