Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Buy Local and Vacation Local, the Best in Staycations

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

In April we went on a beach vacation for 10 days in the Caribbean. With all the increases in airfare, I wondered how much the cost of the same airfare would cost today. Using the same itinerary, with the same two month advanced booking, on the same airline; the cost has increased by 67 percent, not including the extra charges for baggage. The only difference was traveling in September, hurricane season, instead of April, tail end of the peak season, another reason September should be less expensive. Now we all know airfare can change drastically from hour to hour but this gives an indication of how the airfares have increased.


So what is a person to do? When people start looking into vacation plans, what comes to mind is a week or two on an exotic beach, skiing in the mountains, Disney theme parks, a cruise or some other popular resort hot spot. With the price of gas and airfare increasing, maybe it is time to consider a different idea. One trend, “Staycations”, is vacationing closer to home.


With this in mind and a little research, it is easy to come up with many ideas to stay closer to home and save on the transportation costs. The idea here is to not only buy local but to vacation local. Local means anywhere you can get to on one tank of gas. Also consider instead of a full week or two once a year, try several long weekends. Anyway here are some thoughts on how to have a vacation at a reasonable price and help the local economy.


  • Adventure guided trips
  • Art shows
  • Bicycle tours
  • Big city shopping
  • Bird watching
  • Boat and canoe trips
  • Botanical gardens
  • Comedy acts
  • Factory tours
  • Festivals
  • Fishing
  • Flightseeing
  • Galleries
  • Ghost towns
  • Hiking
  • Historic places - great learning experience for kids
  • Luxury hotels
  • Monuments
  • Museums - another learning experience for kids
  • National and state parks
  • Natural hot springs
  • Play golf or tennis a couple hundred miles away
  • Rafting
  • Renaissance festival
  • Theater
  • Trail rides
  • Zoos


In very round numbers; a four day weekend could cost $100 for gas, $300 for lodging, and $200 for entertainment for a total of $600, not including food. Airfare for one person to some beach resort will be around $800 and add a second person, lodging and basic entertainment; the total could easily be $3000. Going locally saves $2400, enough for 4 more long weekends.


One place to start looking for specific locations is the state tourism web sites. Have a save and fun vacation at reasonable prices.

Extra Chargers for Air Travel

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

How can you cope with the extra charges for air travel due to the higher cost of oil? Oil prices will continue to rise due to the ever increasing global demand for oil. This means that gas and fuel prices will continue to increase long term. This all presents an interesting and costly problem for the airline industry in coping with these rising jet fuel prices while trying to stay competitive and still make a profit. The high cost of oil will greatly change the way airlines operate.


The airlines have been using more efficient airplanes, removing unnecessary weight such as lighter food carts, removing seat back phones and even any unnecessary wiring. So now the airlines are trying to get passengers to either travel with less baggage or have the passenger pay extra for checked luggage.


Airlines will try to pass the higher fuel prices on to their customers as additional charges and not as part of the base ticket price. This makes the initial airfare look more competitive since the extra charges are not listed until after the flight itinerary has been planned and ready to be charged.


Now that American Airlines is charging $15 for the first checked piece of luggage, other airlines are sure to follow. If you are accustomed to taking several pieces of checked baggage, the second piece is $25 and $100 for the third; so be prepared. There are the obvious things a passenger can do to limit the cost of checking bags.


  • Take fewer items, especially large items. Only pack what you plan to need for each day.
  • Pack more efficiently by using smaller personal items.
  • Pickup your toiletries needed at your destination and in a small size.
  • Ship the bulky items UPS.
  • Have more carry-on items.
  • If you normally check two small pieces of luggage, try to use one larger piece.
  • Rent the sports gear; golf clubs, skis, dive equipment, and climbing gear count toward your baggage allowance.
  • Take paperback books instead of hardcover books.
  • For stays of more than a week, use laundry services.
  • Be one of the first to board your plane’s section to make sure you have room for your carryons.


Airlines will keep looking for ways to limit weight and collect more revenue. Other things a future passenger needs to be aware of may be less obvious.


  • Airport check-in may take longer due to the extra fees and customer complaints.
  • Airport security lines could be longer since more people will carry more items onboard.
  • Delays due to full flights and more carry on bags.
  • Extra charges for unaccompanied children flying on planes.
  • Added restrictions and charges for transportation of pets.


So what are the other possible charges coming in the future? The airline industry will have to change to stay in business, any insight as to how?

Caribbean Vacations Using the Weak USD

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Planning a trip to the Caribbean, you may want to plan you destination based upon the local currency. Places using the Euro will likely be more expensive, in the order of 50% to 60% more expensive. Based upon their national affiliation with France, several islands use the Euro as their currency. Since the USD has steadily fallen in value against the Euro the last several years, these destinations will cost you more if you normally use the USD.


Popular destinations that use the Euro are Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barts and St. Martin. Travel expenses like accommodations, restaurants and retail goods will all be priced higher. One good comparison is the island of Sint Marrten/Saint Martin. This is one island with two sides; the Sint Marrten side is Dutch and the Saint Martin side is French. So here just traveling a short distance for dinning can make a big difference in what you pay, spend your money on the Dutch side for a big savings.


The islands of St.Thomas and St. Marrten provide a large number of duty free shops for your shopping pleasure. Most of these shops are for jewelry and liquor that can have large discounts over what is found in the US. There will also be a few shops selling camera and electronic gadgets; however here the prices will be more competitive to the US prices.


Here is a list of popular destinations in and around the Caribbean and their currencies. Other than the Euro, the value of these other currencies is closely tied to the USD. It is always a good idea to check the exchange rates prior to making any final travel plans.


  • Anguilla: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Antigua: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Aruba: Aruban Florin
  • Bahamas: Bahamian Dollar
  • Barbados: Barbados Dollar
  • Belize: Belize Dollar
  • Bermuda: Bermudian Dollar
  • Bonaire: Netherlands Antilles Florin
  • British Virgin Islands: United States Dollar
  • Cancun Mexico: New Mexican Peso
  • Cayman Islands: Cayman Islands Dollar
  • Curacao: Netherlands Antilles Florin
  • Dominica: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Dominican Republic: Dominican Republic Peso
  • Grenada: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Guadeloupe: Euro
  • Cozumel Mexico: New Mexican Peso
  • Jamaica: Jamaican Dollar
  • Martinique: Euro
  • Montserrat: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Netherlands Antilles: Netherlands Antilles Florin
  • Puerto Rico: United States Dollar
  • Saba: Netherlands Antilles Florin
  • Saint Barthelemy: Euro
  • Saint Croix USVI: United States Dollar
  • Saint John USVI: United States Dollar
  • Saint Kitts/Nevis: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Saint Lucia: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Saint Martin FWI: Euro
  • Saint Thomas USVI: United States Dollar
  • Saint Vincent: East Caribbean Dollar
  • Sint Eustatius: Netherlands Antilles Florin
  • Sint Maarten: Netherlands Antilles Florin
  • Trinidad/Tobago: Trinidad/Tobago Dollar
  • Turks/Caicos Islands: United States Dollar
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: United States Dollar


There are still some very good deals, especially when traveling this time year when the off peak season has just started. So go enjoy the beach!

Open Skies, for who?

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

On March 30, 2008, a new Europe and US Air Transport Agreement will take effect. Air carriers within EU and the US will be able to fly between countries without restrictions. This means air carriers that have been shut out of some markets will now be able to expand their routes. Flights between Heathrow and the US are expected to rise by 20% this year.


Currently British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines and American Airlines have exclusive rights to fly transatlantic to and from Heathrow. Starting in April this year, other airlines like BMI, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines will be allowed to launch direct flights between Heathrow and the US.


Who is the winner is all this, if any? Well only time will tell but passengers, especially business travelers, will have more options, more nonstops. Also with additional flights, you would think there would be more competition and thus lower fares! And of course more jobs.


However there needs to be additional investment by both the airlines and airports to support the additional traffic. This will take some time for the airlines to negotiate space and landing slots at the busy airports.


Anther question is the high cost of jet fuel; can the airlines afford any routes that are not at capacity? I don’t see airfare going down overall, but there should be more convenient routes between EU and US airports.