Monthly Archives: October 2016

Some Tips to Make Travel Delays More Productive

Almost every frequent flyer has been stuck at an airport due to weather, mechanical issues or other delays. Sometimes “stuck” can mean overnight. How you react to that disruption says a lot about your ability to handle the unexpected. Anger does little good; getting creative can soothe the soul and maybe even lead to a pleasant experience. There’s no need to play Angry Birds for 4 hours. Here are a few tips to make your layover downtime more productive.

Get a 1-Day Airline Pass
Even if you’re not a member of an airline’s airport club, many offer 1-day memberships. American Airlines, for example, charges $50 for a 1-day pass, and up to 3 children under the age of 18 are permitted to join an adult at no extra charge. You’ll pay for drinks, but snacks and Wi-Fi are on the house. Rules vary among airlines. Delta, for example, allows no guests on its $50, 1-day pass, but the booze is complimentary. An airport lounge is usually a comfortable and relatively quiet place to spread out and accomplish some work.

Head to the Chapel
If you crave a quiet space but don’t want to spring for an airport club membership, find the airport’s chapel and settle in with work materials or a book. But make sure to check your airline’s departure board from time to time. Just because a gate agent says your flight is delayed for 3 hours doesn’t mean it won’t leave sooner if, say, the weather clears or a mechanical problem is solved quickly.

Find Friends on Google Latitude
Find your friends and have a party, or at least lunch. Several location apps allow you to use your smartphone to track the whereabouts of friends. If you have Google’s Latitude app on your phone, for example, you can check to see if anyone you know (who is also on Latitude) is stuck in the airport, too. Nearly 2 million people pass through Atlanta’s airport a year, for example — surely you know one of them.

Discover Things to Do Near the Airport
At any airport, if your layover is long enough for you to leave the airport, ask a local what’s within an easy cab ride that’s worth visiting. The tour desk at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, for example, can arrange a quick tour of the city that’s only 6 miles from the airport.

Stuck in Abu Dhabi? The Al Ghazal Golf Club is adjacent to the airport, and passengers are welcome in its English-style clubhouse. And if you’ve never played on a sand golf course, it makes for great dinner conversation later when you describe such hazards as burrows dug by desert lizards. Golf clubs are available for rental.

If you find yourself stranded at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, hop the sleek light-rail train for the 6-minute ride to the Mall of America, and get a little holiday shopping done between rides on the indoor roller coaster.

Check Out Airport Museums and Art Displays
You already know you can shop ’til you drop in major airports around the world, but you can often engage in more mind-improving activities as well. San Francisco’s airport has well-curated, rotating displays of art, metalwork and even vintage airplanes scattered throughout various terminals. In SFO’s International Terminal, you’ll find the fascinating Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. Check out the 1920s Ford Tri-Motor passenger seat (that looks like your grandparents’ wicker chair), a mint-condition Pan Am tea set and the various styles of flight attendant uniforms through the years.

At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, just steps away from a casino is a mini-art museum, a branch of Amsterdam’s renowned Rijksmuseum. Want to know what the airport you’re stuck in has on offer? Just check the airport’s website.

Don’t Do Something Stupid
Wait, I’m not really advocating this, but if you type in any search engine “stupid things to do at an airport,” you’ll be surprised by the number of postings by folks who clearly have too much time on their hands. These days, it’s not advisable to do anything stupid at an airport. Playing the slot machines at the Vegas or Amsterdam airports is smarter than doing something that will draw the attention of airport security personnel.

But you can certainly get a cardio work out doing some serious walking in large airports without ever leaving an airport’s secure area. Many airports have mini-spas that offer massages and other treatments. And if you’re a Type A traveler who complains you have no time to think uninterrupted or to read a book or magazine from cover to cover, a layover is just what the psychologist ordered.

10 Survival Tips for Holiday Travel

Wherever you’re heading, if you’re traveling during the holiday season, you need to realize that everyone else in the world is, too. But don’t let invasive security scanners, terrible drivers and long lines at airports get you down. We’re giving you tips to survive the holiday travel season without a Frosty the Snowman-size meltdown.

Do your research.

Plan alternative trips if traffic makes your way home too overwhelming. Is there a scenic drive that might be longer but have less traffic? Break up a long drive by finding a few places to stop that will get the kids more excited than a truck rest stop. When flying, make sure you check the airline’s restrictions ahead of time on carry-on luggage and fees for checked bags.

Stay connected.

Stock up on the latest travel apps before you leave home. Flight Status gives you real-time updates on delays, baggage numbers and more, and GateGuru gives you approximate times you’ll spend in security. Heading out on the road? Find the cheapest gas and cleanest bathrooms on the road with GasBuddy and SitOrSquat.

Pack snacks and drinks, so you and your family will be fueled up for a road trip. If you’re flying, definitely get some grub before you board the plane.
Pack light.

Avoid checking bags altogether if you can. You won’t have to wait for your luggage on the conveyor belt, and you won’t have to worry about your mom’s Christmas present getting lost in Logan Airport. If you do check luggage, make sure you have all your medications and important documents and a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost. Here’s a family packing list for more tips.

Pack earplugs.

Short of doing yoga in the airport, the best way to mentally escape your stressful surroundings is to turn the volume down. And the easiest way to do that is with earplugs. Crying baby next seat over on the plane? Earplugs. Sister’s music in the car driving you mad? Earplugs. And if you really want to check out for a bit? Bring an eye mask (as long as you aren’t driving).

Don’t get hangry.

When your tummy growls, your mind can’t think straight, and you could unknowingly get in the wrong line, take the wrong turn, or worse, upset an innocent flight attendant. Pack snacks and drinks, so you and your family will be fueled up for a road trip. If you’re flying, definitely get some grub before you board the plane (check our GateGuru’s Best Airport Restaurants), so you won’t have to rely on airline food if you’re sitting on the tarmac for hours.

Ship gifts or give gift cards.

TSA suggests to ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them, as they might have to unwrap a present to inspect it. Ship gifts ahead of time or bring the gift that can’t go wrong: gift cards to their favorite store or an Amazon card.

Travel on off-peak days.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year and can also cause you the biggest meltdown of the year. A better option is to leave early on Thanksgiving Day and avoid the record traffic the night before. Same goes with flying: if you fly on the actual holiday itself you’ll be avoiding the long lines and hoards of travelers.

Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. Best time to hit the road? When every one else is asleep — early morning or late at night
Travel early or late in the day.

Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. And if your flight is cancelled, you will have the option of taking a flight later in the day. Also, there will be fewer lines at security. Best time to hit the road? When every one else is asleep — early morning or late at night. You can always take a nap when you arrive at your destination or on the ride there (if you aren’t the driver, of course).

Plan for the unexpected.

Have only a half hour before connecting to another flight? Traveling to Rochester, NY, during snow season? Think ahead and plan accordingly. Leave extra time before flights to deal with security, extra time between connections and, for road trips, pack tire chains for snowy conditions, flashlights, and of course, a few band-aids never hurt either.

Inhale. Exhale.

The overly friendly person next to you on the plane, the cancelled flights, the luggage that fell off in the middle of the highway? All of it will make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination. After all, holiday travel stress is just as much of a tradition as pumpkin pie and regifting.

Know More About Best Powder In The World

Your endless winter is here with snow adventures that take you to the best pow-pow our planet has to offer. Stay frosty. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures.

Heli-skiing, Utah, USA
While Utah doesn’t get the prodigious dumps of the West Coast, the snow here is so light you’ll think you are floating on feathers. The resorts – top powder kegs include Snowbird, Alta and Powder Mountain – have tremendous powder skiing. But to sample untracked fluffy bliss, you’re best off taking to the air for a 20,000-vertical-foot day with a custom-crafted heli-skiing trip. It’ll take you to every type of terrain imaginable, from powder-packed glades to steeper bowls and chutes, and you’re basically ensured untracked powder all day. The snowpack in Utah is quite unstable, so you won’t always get the chance to head up in a helicopter. For more terrestrial adventures, putter out for a snowcat adventure from Powder Mountain.
Aspen Highlands, Colorado, USA
You can’t avoid it. Aspen has been America’s top ski destination – attracting the Hollywood glitterati and ski bums alike – for more than half a century. And while most come for the top-notch restaurants, outrageously opulent hotels and hob-knobbing opportunities, there’s skiing here too. Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Buttermilk offer some fun runs, but the real snow riders all head to Aspen Highlands for the best hardcore terrain in the state on powder troughs like Highland Bowl, Olympic Bowl and Steeplechase. Make sure you leave enough in the tank for après-ski drinks at the Hotel Jerome or Little Nell.
Niseko, Japan
There may be better resorts in the world – in fact, there may be plenty of them – but Niseko Ski Resort on Hokkaido has the second-highest average snowfalls of any resort in the world, averaging 595in of the white stuff every year, so it is worth the trip. The five ski areas of the Niseko megaresort – Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, Hanazono and Moiwa – all offer easy and efficient lift access with 27 chairs and three gondolas. The runs are pretty short, averaging 900m, but there’s a sweet hot spring nearby and the steepest run tips the scales at 37 degrees. Plus there’s night skiing.
Heli-skiing, Valdez, Alaska, USA
If heli-skiing is bad-ass, than Valdez must be super bad. This once-in-a-lifetime ski adventure takes you to what is perhaps the steepest, deepest, biggest and baddest ski terrain in the world. Over 1000 inches of snow falls on Alaska’s Chugach Mountains each year, and there are about 2 million acres of glaciated peaks to explore with your own private guide and helicopter. The operator will tailor a trip to your needs and wants – most deals run for five to seven days – and take you around 20,000 vertical feet over a week. You can go steep with 50-degree white-knuckle couloirs or work on your powder eights on 6000ft top-to-tail cruises. Needless to say, this is an adventure for expert skiers only.
Lech, Austria
Lech and Zürs get more snow than any European ski resort, making this a top Austrian pick. Most people start in the posh village of Lech (using it as a base to explore the Zürs and Arlberg ski areas). Lech is the only resort in Austria to offer heli-skiing, so you can almost guarantee fresh tracks. There are also plenty of short hikes to non-groomed off-piste areas that will sate your addiction to the white powdery stuff. The best way to explore Lech’s steeps is with a guide. The slopes are avalanche controlled, but not patrolled – watch for hidden obstacles.
Whitewater Ski Resort, Nelson, British Columbia, Canada
Whitewater may not be the biggest ski resort in Western Canada (that honour falls on Whistler Blackcomb) but it does get an amazing amount of the white stuff – more than 40ft a year. The resort only has three chairlifts and a tow bar, with a meagre 1184 acres of skiable areas. But good things do come in small packages, and Whitewater’s mixed terrain of open glades, chutes and bowls makes it easy to find freshies even a week after a storm. The resort’s inland location in the Selkirk Mountains makes for drier snow than the coastal BC offerings.
La Grave, France
France has plenty of great ski areas. The resort-minded head en masse to Chamonix and other Alps hotspots every winter (and sometimes in the summer), but for a big-mountain experience that’ll set your mind on fire, La Grave is your spot. You get here from a cozy 12th-century village, heading up at dawn with your guide (de rigueur) by a three-stage gondola. There are only a couple of official runs on the glaciated mountain and where you go is up to your abilities, your imagination and your guide, who will help you stay safe in this crevassed area.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado, USA
Colorado gets some of the lightest, driest snow in the world and nowhere is the champagne powder better than the small throwback ski area of Wolf Creek. The area opened way back in 1939 and still retains some of that old-time feel, plus its ideal location in the San Juan Mountains gives the resort an average of 465in of natural snow each year – the most of any Colorado resort. The resort has just five chairs, but from the top you can hike into the back country for steep glade and bowl skiing in places like the Bonanza Bowl, Exhibition Ridge and the Peak Chutes.
Kirkwood, California, USA
The rugged peaks of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range offer some of the steepest ski terrain in the continental US. While there are plenty of resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, Kirkwood is a best bet for ultra-steep terrain and cool couloirs, plus a laid-back feel that other resorts in the area lack. After a day or two exploring Wagner Wheel and Sentinel Bowls plus an obligatory huck off the massive Wave cornice, head out with Expedition Kirkwood for a day of snowcat-skiing in the back country. They give you a guide, avalanche gear and take you to some of the gnarliest gnar-gnar Kirkwood has to offer.
Ski Portillo, Chile
It snows over 8m (27ft) a year at Chile’s star resort, known for its dry snow, sunny days, fun nightlife and stellar off-piste terrain. You can hire a guide or go it alone to ski the famous Primavera and Kilometro Lanzado runs on your never-ending winter adventure. While the resort offers 760m (2500ft) of vertical drops and spectacular Andean vistas, you may wish to take to the sky, the way the condors do, and hire a helicopter for a day. While a day of heli-skiing here will cost you a few pesos, it’s definitely one for the bucket list.