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.