What Reviving the Concorde Could Mean for Travelers

Although the Concorde flew for over 25 years, today the idea of a commercial supersonic jet seems like the stuff of legend. One group says they can revive the jet, however, and bring back a faster and more luxurious era of travel. Jointly developed by French and British and released commercially in 1976, the Concorde traveled at twice the speed of sound. Today, a normal passenger route from New York to Paris takes eight hours, but the Concorde could do it in three and a half. It once even managed London to Sydney in 17 hours, including stops for refueling.

Only 20 planes were ever produced, but the Concorde looms large in the public imagination due to a tragic circumstance. On July 25, 2000, Air France Flight 4590 Concorde from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to New York crashed into a hotel in Gonesse, France, killing 113 people, including all passengers and crew and four people on the ground. The plane itself wasn’t found to be at fault: A piece of debris on the take-off runway set off a chain reaction that led to the crash. Public confidence in the plane was never quite restored. In 2003, Air France and British Airways jointly announced they would be retiring the Concorde from service, citing a now out of date analogue operating system and a drop in air travel following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

That may not be the end of the story for the Concorde, though. A group called Club Concorde is trying to get at least one plane back into service, and has recently announced that it has the funds to do so. The group, made up of former Concorde captains and frequent passengers, proposes putting one decommissioned Concorde on the Thames in London to allow residents and visitors to walk around the plane and even eat a meal on board.

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The more ambitious element of the plan involves getting another Concorde sky-ready for charter flights. Securing approval would require coordinating the interests of the manufacturers, the airlines, international governments, and the airports themselves, and many are doubtful that it can be done. The Concorde’s technology is also outdated, and it has very poor gas mileage: The plane gets only 17 miles to the gallon per passenger.

Even if Club Concorde’s efforts don’t succeed in resurrecting the new plane, there’s hope for supersonic travel on the horizon. Airbus recently applied for a patent for a jet called Concorde Mark 2, which would fly at four times the speed of sound, twice as fast as the old Concorde. The proposed design would incorporate three different types of engines, including one powered by hydrogen and oxygen. The current model would only allow for 20 passengers, who would have to sit through an almost vertical takeoff. At least the potential discomfort wouldn’t last for long — the jet could make the trip from New York to London in just one hour.

It may not be long before jets like the Concorde Mark 2 become commercially feasible, and the consequences will be huge. Today, it would take a trip of at least a week or two to justify the flight time of a trip to Asia, for example. But if travellers aren’t forced to hoard vacation days, trips will become shorter and more spontaneous. Imagine being able to fly to Paris for a night, or head to Bangkok for a long weekend. Especially if flights are made available at a reasonable price point, the future of travel could be more fluid, more accessible, and more liberating.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on October 13, 2015.

How to Buy More than Flights with Your Frequent Flyer Miles

Just like any other type of rewards program, frequent flyer miles are what you make of them. Many people hoard their points in order to purchase flights, and we’re big proponents of that. After all, getting to fly more often means getting to travel more often, and that means opening yourself up to all the unique experiences and lessons that travel affords.

But redeeming miles for flights isn’t the only way to take advantage of frequent flyer rewards programs. Regardless of whether you fly every week or once a year, here are some surprising ways to get the most out of those points beyond the sky.

The Low-Down on Frequent Flyer Miles

Also called airline miles or travel points, frequent flyer miles are earned by participating in loyalty programs offered by airlines or credit card companies (which may or may not limit participants to earning points on a specific airline).

When it comes to airline loyalty programs, miles can be earned by flying or making purchases at certain stores or restaurants specified by the airline. For credit card programs, miles are earned by making purchases with the participating credit card. These miles can then be redeemed toward flights or commercial goods.

Ready to put those miles to good use? Here’s a run-down of the wide array of options available to points holders.

  • Book a hotel or rent a car. This can be a good option for people who have earned a ton of miles and can’t redeem them for the flights they want. While miles might not be worth quite as much as if you redeemed them for a flight, applying them toward hotels or car rentals can be a great way to plan a vacation without letting points go to waste.
  • Join the club. Some airlines allow travelers to apply miles to anannual club membership. Members enjoy access to airport lounges that typically offer complimentary snacks, beverages, and Wi-Fi in a quiet setting away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport. While your miles may have more value when applied directly to flights, no one can deny the allure of a comfortable chair and some peace and quiet.
  • Buy a gift voucher or gift card. These can be exchanged for goodsor services at a specific store. By purchasing a voucher instead of a commercial product, you’ll be able to wait to buy the item until it goes on sale, thereby saving some extra cash.
  • Buy merchandise. Most points experts advise against applying miles to merchandise, because it’s rarely the best way to squeeze value out of those points. However, anyone looking to offload extra points (or simply feel like you’ve gotten a new iPhone for “free”), can apply miles to any number of items, from sunglasses, to books, juicers, e-readers, smartphones, laptops, espresso machines, exercise systems, watches, and even furniture.
  • Share the love. Tired of traveling solo? Offer to let friends or family redeem your miles for their own flights. Occasionally it might even make sense to transfer your miles into the other person’s account so they can redeem points for flights on their own. However, most often you’re better off simply making the purchase from your own account on their behalf.

When it comes down to it, how you use frequent flyer miles is up to you. While you’re likely to get the most value by booking flights, you earned those points and they’re yours to dispose of—so if an espresso machine is calling, we promise we won’t judge.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on October 11, 2015.

Here’s Where Luggage Goes After You Check It

As you queue up in security with a carry-on and contemplate the trip ahead, your checked luggage is embarking on a journey of its own.

Thanks to Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol, you can now witness this voyage from the comfort of your own home. The airport recently released behind-the-scenes footage that reveals exactly what happens to bags after you hand them over at check-in and hope for the best. Check out the 360-degree video here.

While practices vary by country and airport, here’s a breakdown of the process as it’s commonly implemented in the U.S.:

  • After you leave a bag at check-in, it’s scanned by a laser barcode reader that transmits the bag’s tag number to a computer, which also keeps track of the bag’s destination. The bag is then sent off along a labyrinthine system of conveyor belts.
  • Once it reaches the main luggage facility, the bag is screened by security. If security administrators have any concerns about a bag, they’ll open it to scope things out (If a bag is opened, the TSA will leave a note inside stating as much).
  • If the bag makes it through security, the computer communicates with the baggage conveyor system to direct the bag to the right airline.
  • Once the bag has reached its stop, a baggage handler removes it from the conveyor belt and loads it onto a cart along with the luggage of your fellow travelers. Baggage handlers then drive the cart to the plane and load the luggage onto the aircraft.

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When a Bag Goes Missing

While missing luggage is at the top of the list of travel nightmares, the good news is that statistically, it’s very rare: There’s only a 1 percent chance your bag won’t arrive at a destination along with you.

What unfortunate circumstances must align for the worst to happen? The explanation could lie with any of a number of factors:

  • Needing to be unloaded and transferred to a connecting flight in one hour or less.
  • High volume of luggage, which ups the chances of things going wrong.
  • Slipping off the conveyor belt or into the wrong chute (This is more likely to happen when bags are placed on the conveyor wheels-down).
  • Human error. If the check-in clerk inaccurately labels the destination code, your bag doesn’t stand a chance. Likewise, the bag may get loaded onto the wrong wagon (and therefore the wrong plane).
  • Having multiple connections. The more often a bag needs to be unloaded, redirected, and loaded onto a new plane, the higher the chances of things going awry.

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How to Decrease the Odds of a Bag Getting Lost

While you may not be able to control everything that happens to a bag after check-in, take these steps to up the chances of luggage finding its way back to you:

  • Clearly label the bag with your name, address, and destination—both inside and out. Also apply some kind of visual identifier to the outside of the bag so it’s easy to describe to agents if it goes missing. Even better? Take a picture of the bag, including its ID tag and barcode, before it rolls off down the conveyor.
  • Get to the airport on time. Proper trip planning can help ensure there’s enough time between connections for bags to make it onto the plane along with you.
  • Know the rules regarding prohibited items, TSA-approved locks, and the like—and then follow them.
  • Tie up (or tuck in) all straps. Bag straps can get stuck in conveyors, creating delays in the sorting process (Depending on the length of said delays, this could mean that a bag won’t make it onto its flight).
  • Keep the essentials on hand at all times. Don’t check anything you can’t live without. Stash prescriptions, valuables, electronics, money, and an extra change of clothes in your carry-on, just in case. Be sure to follow all regulations so you don’t spend a ton of time in security.

If nothing else, perhaps learning about the wild adventures of checked luggage will make us all a little more grateful for the human way of flying. While babies may cry and people may recline their seats into your lap, it still beats sitting in the cargo hold.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 16, 2015.

Food on the Fly: Successful Self-Catering

Picture yourself at lunch in Paris, sitting at a sidewalk café, eating salade niçoise and gazing at the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Perfection, non? Doesn’t get much better than that.

Unless, of course, you were dining in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

This is the magic of self-catering. Skipping the restaurant meals in favor of a grocery bag full of goodies can lead to magical travel memories of perfect picnics, exotic delicacies and adventurous eating. You’ll also save a little money along the way. Start turning meals into memories with these tips for successful self-catering.

Marketplace Magic

Word of warning: Once you start shopping local markets, you may never go to a restaurant again. When food becomes this much fun, you won’t want to. Barcelona’s La Boqueria, for example, is a vibrant sensory experience, awash in color and sound. It’s a photography buff’s dream. Here, you can sip a cup of fresh-squeezed juice in any flavor imaginable while you stock up on authentic Catalonian lunch fare — plus some goodies to enjoy while people watching from your balcony during a siestaat Arc La Rambla.

Locally Made Goodness

Seek out small shops. You’ll find delicious, fresh-made local fare, with the bonus of a more personal touch. Since meeting new people is one of the best parts of travel, visiting friendly mom-and-pop shops makes for a truly special travel experience. Bakeries are a great place to start; try stepping out of your hotel in Paris and follow your nose to a fresh-baked baguette. It’s hard to imagine a greater joy than ripping off warm hunks of bread on your way to the Champs-Élysées.

Picnic Perfection

With self-catering, where you eat is just as important as what’s on the menu. Casually enjoying a leisurely meal in an iconic location is an experience you’ll never forget. While enjoying a stay in any of thesefamily-friendly New York City hotels, take the gang for a picnic in Central Park. The kids will love playing in the green expanse while you all fuel up for a visit to Strawberry Fields or the Central Park Zoo.

To truly feel like a native Londoner on your next U.K. visit, join the locals enjoying their lunch against the backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica. Or enjoy a picnic in St. James Park, with a view of Buckingham Palace.

Explore, Experiment, Enjoy

Travel is all about new experiences. Start with these tips, and then experiment away. Whether it’s sun-dried tomatoes and ciabatta in Rome or dolmades in Istanbul, you’ll soon be crafting your own incredible self-catering experiences and turning meals into memories. Bon appétit!

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 21, 2015.

September Savings: Why the Off-Season May be the Best Time for a Vacay

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Summer’s endless possibilities have ended, school is back in session, and vacations have come to their conclusion.

Or have they? Because so many people travel to exotic destinations during the summer months, airlines face a huge drop in demand from August to September—and flight prices drop as a result.

In travel industry jargon, this period between peak and off-peak seasons is known as the “shoulder season.” So while September is still a great time to visit many vacation destinations (the weather hasn’t changed that much), you can actually get better prices because you’ve just missed peak season.

To determine which locations offered the biggest shoulder season savings, Hipmunk decided to examine the booking prices for flights to popular destinations this September and compare them to the prices in August, at the end of the summer.

Depending on the destination, you can save huge amounts of money on your flight simply by delaying your travel plans for a month:

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The biggest savings during September’s shoulder season are found at exotic island destinations like Fiji, Tahiti, and the Bahamas, where airfare drops 13-29 percent from August to September.

Europhiles can also save quite a bit of money across the pond in September, where travel to cities like Rome, Milan, Paris, and Barcelona is 11-26 percent less expensive.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Southern Hemisphere is actually more expensive to travel to in September than in August because our summer is their winter. For example, when visiting Australia or Argentina, September is closer to their peak season than August is, and because of this, flight prices are higher.

Places closer to the equator, like Mexico, also tend to be more expensive in September—likely due to the fact that summers there are extremely hot but become more comfortable (and desirable) during the cooler seasons.

Even still, if the weather is great in August, there’s a high chance it’s going to be really nice in September as well. But just to make sure, let’s look at the average daily high temperature in each of these cities, by month:

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Sure, things do cool off a bit in Europe in the fall. But for the most part, there is very little variation in temperatures from August to September. If you’re planning vacation, traveling in September is an excellent bet: you get all the wonderful weather of August, but because there is less demand, you get a better price.

 

Methodology: The table above shows the average price that Hipmunk customers (who booked in the last three months) got on their flights this September versus August.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 9, 2015.

Serena Williams’ Journey to the U.S. Open (And Where to See History in Action)

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As has become seemingly standard, star tennis player Serena Williams has had an impressive year. She’s been globe-trotting all over the place, racking up victories and enough trophies that she’ll probably need to check several bags in order to bring them all home.

Now, she’s poised to achieve the greatest accomplishment in tennis: a single-season or “career” Grand Slam, in which a player wins all four majors (the most important tennis events held each year) in the same calendar year. The last woman to accomplish this feat was Steffi Graf in 1988, while the last man to do so was Rod Laver in 1969. In Williams’ case, the deciding verdict will come from her performance at this year’s U.S. Open, now currently underway.

Here’s a look at where in the world Serena Williams has been playing tennis (and taking names) throughout 2015, plus tips for where to stay in order to get in on the action at the U.S. Open.

Serena’s Trips to the Majors and Beyond

Australia

Williams won her first major of the year in beautiful Melbourne, which served as host to her victory at this year’s Australian Open. She defeated veteran tennis star Maria Sharapova in the finals, earning her sixth Australian Open title in the process. She also posted the fastest women’s serve (126 mph) and served more aces (88) than any other woman competitor.

California

While it’s not a major tournament, Williams’ return to the Indian Wells Masters (aka BNP Paribas Open) was significant in its own right: Williams lifted a more-than-a-decade-long boycott of the tournament after a racist incident caused her and her sister, Venus Williams, to withdraw from the competition in 2001. Part of that history repeated itself this year when Williams withdrew from the semifinal because of a knee injury.

Miami

A week after Indian Wells, Williams handily cleaned up at the Miami Open. While not a masters, her win in Miami signaled a host of accomplishments: It marked her eighth Miami Open title and her 21st consecutive winning match, and ticked her number of career wins past 700 (yes, you read that right).

Spain

After winning in Miami, Williams hit the clay court circuit in Europe, first at the Fed Cup World Group Play-Off in Italy and then at the Madrid Open in Spain. Williams was, somewhat shockingly, handed her first loss of the season in the Madrid semifinals.

France

After losing in Madrid and withdrawing from the subsequent Italian Open because of an elbow injury, Williams found herself facing down her next shot at a major title in Paris, France. The city shed its romantic reputation and embraced hard-hitting athleticism for this year’s French Open, where Williams once again dominated on the (clay) court. She defeated Lucie Safarova to win her third French Open crown.

England

Williams then flew to London, UK to compete at the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. She handily defeated first-time finalist Garbiñe Muguruza to earn her sixth Wimbledon crown.

Sweden

Following on the heels of her victory at Wimbledon, Williams traveled to Båstad, Sweden to compete in the Swedish Open. She swiftly defeated her first opponent, but withdrew from the rest of the tournament after her previous elbow injury flared up again.

New York City

Now back in her home country, Williams is vying for her seventh title at the U.S. Open, held just outside of Manhattan in Flushing, Queens. A win here will earn her both the coveted single-season Grand Slam and her 22nd victory at a major championship.

Seeing History in Action

Thinking about flying to New York City to witness amazing athleticism with your own eyes? We’ve got you covered. Here’s where to stay while enjoying the U.S. Open.

Getting from Manhattan to Flushing

So you’ve booked a hotel in Manhattan and are pumped to feast your eyes on the best athleticism that tennis has to offer. There’s only one obstacle left between you and glory, and that’s the trip from Manhattan to Queens. Here are your best bets for making it to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park:

 

  • Rent a car. Traffic on the Grand Central Parkway East will be nuts, but the trade-off is having somewhere to store your belongings while you’re inside the stadium. Visit USOpen.org for the latest travel advisories and follow directions closely as traffic patterns in the area have changed.
  • Call a cab. While the route will likely be the same regardless of whether you take a taxi or do the driving yourself, the benefit of a taxi ride is that you won’t need to worry about parking before, during, or after the event. Call a cab well in advance to help cut down on the wait.
  • Take the subway. The subway gets crowded during the U.S. Open, but it’s likely still the best way to get to Flushing (that’s probably why more than half of the tournament’s patrons utilize public transportation). Just take the No. 7 from Times Square, Fifth Avenue, or Grand Central Station. Visit mta.info for complete schedules.
  • Ride the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). The LIRR provides service from Woodside (in Queens) and offers easy connections from Penn Station for those utilizing New Jersey Transit. Visit www.mta.info/lirr for schedules and rates.

No matter where you stay, you’re guaranteed to be dazzled at the U.S. Open. And if Williams wins? Being there will earn you bragging rights for life.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 5, 2015.

The Best Scenic Runs for Tourists in New York City

Heading to the Big Apple? Sure, there are the must-see for any tourist, from The Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty to the Museum of Modern Art and Central Park.

But perhaps there are some even cooler things to see not only by foot, but by stride. Whether training for a marathon (marathon season is coming up, after all) or simply looking to get some exercise in after all those slices of New York pizza, check out these running routes around the city to see the sights in a completely new way.

Manhattan

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Hudson River Run

This route is great for runners looking to run one mile or 10. The Hudson River Greenway is a path that runs from Battery Park in Manhattan all the way up to the Bronx, and is paired pretty perfectly with a sunset. Along the route, runners will see (depending on mileage) the USS Intreprid, the Statue of Liberty, the George Washington Bridge, and great waterfront restaurants perfect for a post-run meal. The path is on the west side of Manhattan, so the best option is get off at any ACE or 123 train stop, and then walk west until the Hudson River is in sight! After the run, check out the Highline hotel, which is also on the west side of Manhattan, for a well-deserved drink in their garden.

Brooklyn

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Coney Island

Coney Island is part beach, part seaside resort, and part amusement park. In other words, it’s awesome. Visitors can also run the length of its boardwalk, which is just shy of six miles run. The best part? Jump in the ocean right after to cool off. To get there, hop on the D, Q, N or F train all the way to  Stillwell Avenue. Just remember to wear sneakers (and bring a bathingsuit)!

The Five Bridges Run

Forget one of those tour buses and hit three of New York’s boroughs—Manhattan, Queens, and Williamsburg— by fast foot. Note: This route is easier for those more familiar with the city, or is at least with someone who is! For a killer 17 mile run, start at the 59th street bridge in Manhattan, cross to Queens, jump on the Pulaski Bridge to connect into Brooklyn, and then run over the Williamsburg Bridge to return back to Manhattan. From there, head towards and over the Manhattan Bridge, then finish the run over the Brooklyn Bridge. Phew! Here’s a map that will be helpful, too. When starting at the 59th Bridge, take the NQR trains to the 59th/Lexington Stop. To start at the Brooklyn Bridge, take the 456 train to, what else, but the Brooklyn Bridge stop. Bonus points for grabbing a room at the NU Hotel, a chic hotel that will make any tourist feel like a New Yorker.

Queens

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Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

Forget Central Park and check out this city greenspace in Queens.Flushing Meadows-Corona Park offers a great 2.5 mile loop so anyone can see the best things Queens has to offer: the Unisphere, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, The Queens Museum, and Citi Field (go Mets!). People can access the park by car (parking is pretty easy) or take the 7 train to Willets Point/Mets Stadium. Consider staying at Red Roof in Queens to cut down on travel time.

Astoria Park

This park is well known for having the largest pool in the city, but it also comes with much more: tennis courts, basketball courts, playgrounds, and many trails for runners. There’s also a gorgeous shoreline along the East River for a great running route that comes with a nice breeze. The best option is to take the Q train to Astoria Park, then walk (or run!) less than a mile to the park’s entrance.

Bronx

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Van Cortlandt Park

For a taste of New York that’s feel anything like a city, head on the 1 train to 242nd street and explore the trails at Van Cortlandt. It’s a bit of a hike, but is totally worth it for the committed runner. The famous route is theOld Croton Aqueduct Trail, which can be up to seven miles long. Fun fact: Van Cortlandt is the third largest park in New York City, behind Pelham Bay Park and Staten Island Greenbelt, and is also home to the oldest building in the bronx: Van Cortlandt House Museum.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 5, 2015.

Where to Find the Best Cheesecake in New York City

July 13 is National Cheesecake Day, and there’s no better place to celebrate than the Big Apple. From famous bakeries to hidden gems, these are the best places to get a slice of cheesecake in New York City.

Junior’s

Junior’s is one of the most famous cheesecake spots in New York, and it lives up to the hype. They serve classic cheesecake and unique flavors like red velvet, sea salt caramel and chocolate mousse. Junior’s has branches in Brooklyn and Grand Central Station. They also have a branch in Midtown, close to many famous New York hotels, including the New York Marriott Marquis.

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake is a small SoHo bakery loved by both locals and tourists. The bakery offers a variety of smooth and creamy cheesecake slices. If you’re lucky, you may even get served your dessert by Eileen herself.

Dessert Club ChikaLicious

If you want to try a unique cheesecake, Dessert Club ChikaLicious is for you. This East Village bakery serves inverted cheesecake, covering its creamy filling with graham cracker crumbles and strawberries. You can get small individually sized portions of this cake, or order a full cake to share with your friends.

Two Little Red Hens

Another East Villiage favorite, Two Little Red Hens serves generous portions of its graham cracker-encrusted cheesecake. Stay at nearby The Franklin Hotel to be close to the best the East Villiage has to offer.

Gian Piero Bakery

Manhattan isn’t the only borough that makes great cheesecake. Gian Piero Bakery is an Astoria institution. No matter what time of day you visit, it’s sure to be packed. If it’s a nice day, sit at one of the bakery’s outside tables and enjoy a latte and a slice of cheesecake.

Mona Lisa Pastry Shoppe

This Brooklyn bakery still uses an old-fashioned, coal-fired oven to make their cheesecake. They sell both Italian cheesecake with ricotta filling and a New York-style cake made with sour cream. Whichever you choose, it’s guaranteed to be tasty.

After you check into your New York City hotel, head out to one of these bakeries to get a slice or three of cheesecake. You’ll always have a memorable–and delicious–experience at one of these New York bakeries.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 7, 2015.

Travel truths you need to accept in order to stay happy on the road

Travel is one of the most educational and invigorating experiences that life has to offer. It allows you to get out of your routines and comfort zones, meet new people, experience different cultures and see more of the world. Couples trips can be highly romantic, and travel with a large group can create amazing memories; solo travel is an opportunity for a unique experience and perspective. No matter how, where or with whom you travel, there are some key things to be aware of to stay happy in any situation. Consider these travel truths carefully before you embark on your next trip so that you can enjoy your adventures to the fullest.

Fellow Travelers Need Clear Expectations

If you will be traveling with others, take the time to verify that everyone is on the same page about the details and logistics of the trip. Keeping to a budget by staying in youth hostels or cheap hotels in Paris while backpacking through Europe is fine; just make sure your travel companions weren’t expecting a five-star hotel experience.

Patience Is Key

Traveling is full of unexpected moments. Even the best laid plans will likely require adjustments along the way. If things don’t go as planned, stay calm, go with the flow and see where the road takes you. Being flexible and patient can open you up to magical travel experiences you might not have otherwise had.

Earplugs Are Indispensable

Unless you are one of those lucky people who can sleep anywhere, you’ll probably benefit from a good pair of earplugs. Sleeping in a new place can be invigorating, but it can be hard to adjust or anticipate the noise level outside hotels in Beijing or other busy locales. It’s best to be prepared: bring along earplugs to get the sleep you need to enjoy the rest of your trip.

Travel is an incredible opportunity to expand your horizons and enrich your life, but it requires a measure of realism and preparedness. Whether you’ll be staying in chic New York City hotels or traveling the world on a budget, consider accepting these travel truths before you set sail or hit the open road.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s
Tailwind blog on September 1, 2015.

7 Ways to Make Your Vacation Cheaper in London

London is a popular destination for tourists but has a reputation for being expensive. Here are some ways of making your stay cheaper whilst having fun in Britain’s capital city. This gives you more money to spend on sightseeing, shopping and world-class restaurants in London.

1. Travel Off-Peak

London’s transportation system is efficient, but can be confusing. Chill out with breakfast in London’s Melia White House hotel and buy a One Day Travelcard after 9:30 a.m. After three trips, you’ll have saved money and seen a lot of London.

2. Visit a Museum

Many of London’s museums are free to visit, making them a bargain for visitors. Try the British Museum, with displays of Egyptian mummies, or the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is famed for its costumes, ceramics and other decorative arts.

3. Ride a Boris Bike

Want a free ride? If you stay at one of London’s hotels such as Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes you’ll be near Boris Bike stands- an incredibly convenient way to get around. These are part of London’s public transport system — named after former London mayor Boris Johnson. You’ll need a credit card deposit, but you get 90 minutes free cycling through London. Try Hyde Park or The Mall for a scenic route. When you finish, simply deposit the bike in one of the many racks around town.

4. See a Parade

London does pageantry well with marching bands and traditional parades. There’s the Trooping of the Colour in June for the Queen’s birthday and the Lord Mayor’s Show in November, a traditional British pomp and circumstance parade with carnival elements. These are both free to watch in the streets, but do book a hotel in London well in advance. You should also check out the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, which takes place nearly every day and is free for visitors to watch.

5. Listen to a Free Concert

London has several venues where visitors can catch a free concert. Try St Martin in the Fields at lunchtime for some beautiful classical recitals. St James Church in Piccadilly is another good venue for classical music concerts.

6. Tour London for Free (Or Almost Free)

Many walking tours of London are free. Ask the concierge at your hotel, as there’s likely to be a free, or reasonably priced, walking tour nearby. Show up at the advertised time and pay what you think the tour is worth. There are tours for every taste. Check out tours of royal London and the old city, seek out tours of haunted locales or discover the stomping grounds of the world’s first serial killer with Jack The Ripper tours. See some of the unusual aspects of the city as well as the famous sights tourists adore.

7. Go Walking

One of the best ways to see London is to walk. Start from Westminster Bridge where you can explore the parliament area and head towards St Paul’s Cathedral on the Thames Path. You’ll have some amazing views of the London skyline and see many of the famous buildings in the city.

London is an amazing city to get to know, especially when you can explore it cheaply.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s
Tailwind blog on July 29, 2015.