Tag Archives: airline travel

Using apps at the airport

Apps To Help You Survive Holiday Travel

Airport delays, flight cancellations, and long waits in the security line are some of the not-so-welcome gifts we get during the holiday season. Though we can’t avoid all holiday travel snafus, we can be prepared because our smartphones are a great resource. Check out this list of apps and other services that can help.

Your airline’s app 
Flight status, gate changes, alerts, nearby lounge info, and your mobile boarding pass—you’ll get all of these through your airline’s app.

Tracking flight delays and cancellations
Apps like FlightStats and FlightAware track flight status and can alert you to delays or weather cancellations, sometimes more efficiently than the airline will. If your flight does get cancelled due to a storm and you want to do what I do—which is to find alternate flights that connect in cities that are having no weather issues—they can tell you which large hubs are unaffected by the current weather situation.

An app for monitoring the wait at airport security lines
The line at security used to be one of the most unpredictable pain points in your journey. Luckily, that has changed, because a few apps can now show you what to expect. The TSA’s official MyTSA app shows you estimated wait times, provides tips on what you can and cannot bring through security, and has a handy “Ask TSA” live-chat feature. MiFlight has real-time info crowd-sourced from fellow travelers using the app (available on iPhone only). App in the Air crowdsources wait times too. You can also check the website of the airport; some (like JFK, EWR, and ATL) offer real-time waits at security and customs.  

Real-time updates and answers from your airline
X (formerly Twitter) may have its flaws, but following your airline’s feed is typically one of the quickest ways to find out about delays or cancellations. It can also be an effective way to get in touch with an airline rep fast: Direct your question or complaint to the airline’s social media, and they’re incentivized to give you a speedy answer.

Emergency airline assistance
Cranky Concierge isn’t an app—it’s a website and (gasp!) a phone service—but when your flight is canceled or delayed, and you really need to get where you’re going, this is the help you need. Sure, you could choose to spend frustrating hours on the phone with unhelpful airline customer-service centers, trying to reroute your own trip—or you could let the Cranky team handle it. They have knowledge of and access to info you won’t be able to get on your own, and they can research and rebook you with the best possible option while you get a drink at the airport bar. Cranky Concierge’s urgent assistance service starts at $175 and is accessible through the website and via phone (U.S.: 888-747-1011 x9; global: +1-74-200-4200 x9).

Finding an airport lounge 
You no longer need to hold special status or specific credit cards to access certain airport lounges—just pay a fee and you’re entitled to all the comfy couches, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks the elite travelers get. LoungeBuddy (available for iPhone only) will help you find these pay-for-the-day enclaves, show you photos and reviews posted by other travelers, and let you book a spot in advance when possible. And if you do have special access via a credit card or frequent-flier program, LoungeBuddy can store your info and let you know when those free-access lounges are nearby too.

Priority Pass is a lounge subscription service. For an annual membership fee between $99 and $469, Priority Pass grants its members access to over 1,300 airport lounges and experiences worldwide. Some credit cards, such as American Express Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and certain Capital One cards, offer Priority Pass membership as a free perk, so check out your card’s benefits package before signing up.

Navigating the airport
FLIO covers nearly 6,000 airports globally, connecting you with information on the airport you’re in—everything from where to find power outlets to hotels that offer day-use rooms for long layovers. Services featured vary, depending on the airport. A check of services offered at Newark International Airport (EWR) includes details on where to find nursing suites and how to transfer to other New York-area airports. In Chile’s Santiago airport (SCL), you can find lounges and luggage storage. And at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the app tips you off to baby lounges, an in-airport park, and locations of massage chairs. It’s helpful to know your airport’s IATA code, since airports are listed alphabetically by their three-letter code, and these aren’t always obvious.

A quicker Global Entry experience in some airports
If you already have a Global Entry membership and are re-entering the U.S. via Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Washington Dulles, Pittsburgh, or Houston, you can use an app that Customs and Border Protection is testing: Instead of stopping at a kiosk, you take a selfie with the app and then go straight to the CBP officers to complete your arrival processing.

When you don’t speak the language
When you’re struggling to communicate with a taxi driver, a good translation app can be a godsend. Google Translate lets you speak right into the phone, and then it can translate, out loud, into the selected language. The app’s Google Lens function also decodes written text via your phone’s camera—super-handy for reading menus or museum display panels—and it’s all available offline with dozens of downloadable language dictionaries. Another good option is Apple’s Translate; it features type, voice, or picture translation, like Google, but only offers 17 languages at the moment.

Last-minute hotel stays if your flight is delayed
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, or maybe you didn’t plan at all, and you need a hotel room right now. HotelTonight is made for those times, offering last-minute discounts on hotels of various star levels. The app doesn’t cover every destination in the world, but it does include a lot of big cities and popular travel spots in the U.S. and overseas. One helpful feature is that it sorts urban areas both by neighborhoods and by airports.

Getting to or from the airport, or anywhere else
When you need a ride and you don’t want to drive (or shouldn’t), Uber and Lyft are still the go-to rideshare apps every traveler should have in their phone. Uber is particularly useful in many other countries around the world.

Another alternative to airport taxis
Landing in an airport in an unfamiliar city can be an unsettling experience if ridesharing is banned and you have no idea how reliable or reputable the taxis are. Welcome Pickups contracts with drivers and limo companies in 160 cities worldwide, and you can schedule a transfer from their app or site in seconds. For roughly the price of a local taxi, your driver will meet you at baggage claim or in a specified area and deliver you to your destination. Communication is done within the app, and you can pay by credit card.

Calling and texting for free
Forego costly international calling charges and use WhatsApp to communicate when you’re abroad—both with friends and family back home, and with your private guide or other locals in your destination. With WhatsApp, texts and calls are free anytime your phone is connected to Wi-Fi.

Restaurant reservations 
The last thing a weary traveler wants after a long flight is to have to wander the streets looking for a meal. Google and Apple Maps will show you highly rated restaurants in your area, but I love the ease of the reservation app OpenTable to book a table. Particularly helpful, especially when visiting a new city, is the “near me” function. OpenTable, already well entrenched in the U.S., is expanding its international footprint and now serving countries such as the U.K., India, Singapore, Mexico, Australia, Italy, and beyond. One tip: You will want to establish your free account before you leave home.

Maps and navigation
What makes Maps.me so useful is that it offers complete city and country downloads, perfect for touching down in a foreign country where you don’t want to incur roaming data fees.

Getting around town and beyond
Rome2Rio incorporates public transportation schedules with drive, walk, and even scooter/bike times to give you step-by-step travel options in each format within a clean, clear interface. It’ll even tell you which train car to ride in and what subway exit to take. It’s not just city-focused; you can plan trips between cities, and Rome2Rio will offer recommendations of flights, trains, and buses, along with how much they cost.

Calculating currency conversions
An app like Currency lets you skip the mental math of currency conversions—and it saves the latest conversion rate so that it works offline too.


What other apps have saved you during holiday travel? Tell us about them in the comments below.


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport decorated for Christmas

10 Ways to Minimize Holiday Travel Hassles

It’s that most wonderful time of the year when U.S. airports are jammed, overhead bins crammed, flights delayed, and travel headaches numerous. And this year will be no different. Nerves understandably frazzle when delays hit on a tight travel schedule, so prepare yourself with the following tips, don’t forget your documents, and remember what’s ultimately waiting at your destination: family, friends, and holiday cheer.

1. Download must-have apps.

There are apps that tell you which security line at your airport has the shortest wait time, help you get the assistance you need when your flight plans derail, and more. Here are a few of my favorites.

2. Don’t wrap gifts before you travel with them.

The TSA can ask you to unwrap gifts in your carry-on for examination, slowing down you and everyone else in the security line (and ruining your crisp corner folds). They can unwrap gifts in checked luggage as well. Wrap your gifts when you arrive or send them by mail.

3. Pack so it’s a breeze to get your holiday gifts home.

You may have figured out how to get to Grandma’s with only carry-ons (maybe you ordered all your gifts for your aunts and uncles and cousins online and had them shipped), but what about getting home again with the gifts they give you? Here’s my strategy for bringing home a lot more stuff than you started with.

4. Check in for your flight online 24 hours ahead.

Checking in the day before reduces your chance of getting bumped from an oversold flight and increases your chance of snagging a better seat—one made available 24 hours in advance. That’s when elite-status frequent fliers get upgraded from coach, leaving behind prime empty seats in the forward cabin or exit rows.

5. Leave for the airport earlier than usual.

You know all those drivers you battle with for a parking spot at the mall? You’ll now be battling them on the road to the airport. And in the parking garage. Allow time for being stuck in traffic. Use the predictor function in your favorite navigation app (Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, etc.) to estimate your travel time and alert you when to leave, based on the current traffic pattern and your desired arrival.  And if possible, pre-book a parking spot; we’ve had good experiences with The Parking Spot. If you can’t prebook, some airports offer frequently updated availability reports for their own parking lots.

And: If you’re scheduling a car service or you’re ride-sharing to the airport, add an extra 15 to 20 minutes to your start time to account for any traffic delays.

6. Flight delayed? Relax in an airport lounge.

More and more pay-as-you-go independent lounges have been popping up all over the U.S. For $25 to $50 you can escape the circus in the terminal and kick back in comfy armchairs—with Wi-Fi, televisions, and snacks—or even shower or nap. As for club lounges run by airlines, many now sell day passes for $60—and give you access to airline agents who can be more helpful in fixing travel snafus than agents you talk to at the gate or on the phone. Use an app like LoungeBuddy to find and book lounges in your airport. Priority Pass is among the membership organizations that offer access to lounges; pre-paid packages start at $99 per year (Priority Pass is also offered as a perk with credit cards such as American Express Platinum and Chase’s Sapphire Reserve).

7. Be the first to know if your flight is canceled.

If a storm cancels your flight, you’ll be in a mad race with everyone else to grab what few seats are available on alternate flights. If bad weather is brewing in the days before your trip, sign up for flight status alerts, and also check your airline’s website frequently so that, as soon as the airline announces it’s waiving ticket-change fees, you can take action. Also monitor the airline’s social-media feed; it sometimes provides the quickest updates. Be prepared for anything by downloading essential apps and tools for winter travel.

8. Flight canceled? Look for a storm-free hub to connect in.

FlightStats.com tells you at a glance which airports and airlines are suffering weather-related delays and, just as important, which are not. Note which hubs are having no weather issues (Las Vegas, for instance) and rebook to connect through one of them. (Vegas may not be in the linear path to your final destination, but you could end up at your destination much quicker than if you remain in a snowbound airport. And, if you need to overnight in Vegas, there are inexpensive hotels and frequent flights out.)

9. Don’t waste time waiting on hold.

Rather than phoning the airline’s jammed U.S. customer service line and getting stuck on hold for hours while the few available seats to your destination vaporize, call one of the airline’s English-speaking overseas reservations numbers—say, in England, Germany, Australia, or Singapore. (You’ll find these numbers on the airline’s website.)

Or check your airline’s app. You can often rebook yourself without paying change fees. Initiating a text chat session from the app (if available) will also result in quicker responses. Plus, your frequent-flier status can push you up the queue

10. Score a free future airline ticket.

‘Tis the season for oversold flights, so there’s a chance you could score a free or discounted ticket by volunteering to take a later plane. Delta and American are among airlines that actually ask flyers to name their own voucher amount when checking bags at their kiosk, so passengers compete with themselves and avoid escalating gate auctions. Another strategy: If you’re willing to volunteer to be delayed for a few hours in exchange for a discounted or free future ticket, consider approaching the gate agent before they have made an announcement, so you’re first on the list of volunteers. But don’t accept a voucher without making yourself aware of all the restrictions (blackout dates, expiration date, etc.) and ensuring you have a confirmed seat on a later flight.


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

vintage phone

How Never to Wait on Hold with Airline Customer Service Again

While there are many apps and online tools that you can use to get help when your flight is canceled, delayed, or changed, sometimes you just really need to talk to a live person at your airline. Of course, being put on hold forever doesn’t help anyone (you or the customer-service rep you’re about to unleash your frustration on), so here are a couple of tricks to help you avoid endless waits on hold.

Call the airline’s customer-service office in a different country.

Major airlines have overseas locations where staffers speak English—in the U.K., Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, for example—and they are typically just as able to help you as their U.S.-based counterparts, as long as their office is open (not all call centers are open 24 hours) and not dealing with a local weather event.  So if you need to speak with someone at, say, American Airlines, try calling one of their worldwide phone numbers.  To keep the cost of the call down, use WhatsApp, Skype, or Google Voice.

Let someone else wait on hold.

Gary Leff, the airline expert who writes View From The Wing and founded point.me, taught me about GetHuman.com a few years ago when Snowmageddon hit. This site offers many sanity-saving aids, including: phone numbers (with shortcuts) to many companies, step-by-step guides on how to solve certain problems, and representatives who can solve the problem for you if you simply don’t want to deal with any of it.

Turn to social media

During an Antarctica cruise last year, WendyPerrin.com contributing editor Carolyn Spencer Brown learned that weather would delay her ship’s return to port. On Twitter (now X), she sent a direct message to American Airlines, which was able to quickly rebook her flight home. Reader Kathy Wood tells us she’s also had good experiences using social media to make last-minute flight changes. “I have had great luck with Delta through their Facebook page and Facebook messenger,” she tells us. “I think it does help to be polite in your post and email… not belligerent. I am really impressed with how quick and efficient this has been and how helpful the reps have been.”

Let someone else handle it all.

CrankyConcierge.com offers urgent air-travel assistance, such as rerouting when your flight is cancelled or delayed. Run by longtime airline-industry expert Brett Snyder, the company can also plan your flights from the get-go. Emergency help starts at $175.

Something to keep in mind

When you give your credit card to a customer-service agent based in another country, your card may assess a foreign-transaction fee. So use a card that does not charge foreign-transaction fees.


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Concept of airplane travel to exotic destination with shadow of commercial airplane flying above beautiful tropical beach.

Need to Fly Long-Haul? How to Choose a Safe, Smart Flight During Covid

Travel isn’t just my job; it’s my favorite hobby too. After Covid forced me to cancel three trips this spring and summer, I wondered when I’d get to leave the U.S. again. One of those cancelled trips was a tenth-anniversary getaway to the Maldives, the collection of white-sand atolls dotting crystal-clear turquoise waters in the Arabian Sea. The Maldives reopened to travelers in July.  I knew it’d be easy to socially distance at our private bungalow on the water’s edge. What worried me more were the long flights to get there: about 17 hours from New York, with a layover required somewhere. I recently rescheduled my trip to visit next week; here are the strategies I used that made me comfortable doing so:

Choose a flight where everybody boarding has just had a negative Covid test.

Many destinations that have reopened require travelers to be tested prior to arrival; some won’t even allow passengers to board an incoming flight until they have uploaded their test results or presented them at the airport. When the Maldives first reopened on July 15, they didn’t require pre-trip testing. It was only last month, after the government changed its policy and started requiring visitors to show recent test results on arrival, that I decided I was comfortable enough to go. I chose to fly via Dubai because the United Arab Emirates also requires a pre-travel test—as do most of the other destinations that are currently served by Emirates, are open to U.S. travelers, and don’t have more direct flights from New York. This same strategy is what made reader Jeff Goble comfortable traveling to French Polynesia (which also requires a pre-trip test, as well as a second test four days after arrival).

Choose an aircraft where you can avoid sitting next to a stranger.

My husband and I wanted as much personal space as we could get, but we couldn’t afford to fly business class. Most long-haul jets seat three or more passengers together in economy; while some U.S. airlines are blocking middle seats, foreign carriers haven’t followed suit. Happily, the 777s that Emirates flies on the routes we’ll be taking have a tapered design, so the last few rows have two seats side-by-side. Emirates charges for seat assignments, so I spent $550 to ensure that we wouldn’t be seated beside a stranger—even though I think it’s likely that the flights will be pretty empty. (On the other hand, I might be saving a bit of money by flying Emirates: Through October, they’re giving all passengers free coverage for Covid-related medical bills and quarantine stays.) Read Wendy’s additional tips about where to sit on a plane.

If you can’t fly nonstop, make your layover long enough to have some mask-free time.

I’d have flown nonstop to the Maldives if I could. But since I had to change planes somewhere, I wanted the opportunity to take my mask off after wearing it throughout a 13-hour flight. So that I can do just that, I’ve booked a three-hour stay at a hotel inside the Dubai terminal on the way to the Maldives, and two nights at a desert lodge near Dubai on the way back.

Keep in mind that combining countries on the same trip can make testing requirements even more rigid: In order to comply with the rules of both the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates, I had to find an in-person test with results returned in less than 72 hours. Were I headed just to Dubai, I’d only need an in-person test in a 96-hour window (which is much easier to arrange); if my only destination were the Maldives, I could have used a mail-in Covid test kit that returned results in 72 hours. After several hours of research, and hoping to get tested near where I’d be staying before the trip in upstate New York, I instead found a doctor’s office in Manhattan that returns results in 24 to 48 hours. So I’ll drive an hour into New York City to be tested on a Wednesday morning, receive results by Friday morning, and head to the airport that afternoon for my 11 p.m. flight. (Postscript: Just over a week before my flight, Emirates changed its policy and stopped requiring tests from some passengers transiting through Dubai; unfortunately, it’s too late for us to order a mail-in kit and receive results in time for our flight—and given the changing regulations, I’m still happy to be following the stricter protocols.)

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

stock photo of toy airplane on stack of masks and passport with a globe signifying travel during Covid

Steps to Reduce Your Health Risk When You Fly

Now that some countries are reopening to U.S. travelers, and require international flights to get there, we’ve asked health experts to outline the most important steps travelers can take to limit their chances of contracting or spreading the coronavirus when they fly.

Starting with how you transport yourself to the airport, and ending with how you exit it at your destination, there are many tricky touch points to plan for. One factor in your favor, though, is that you’re not likely to encounter crowds at the airport or on the plane right away. According to Airlines for America, the trade association and lobby group for the U.S. airline industry, U.S. airline passenger volumes are down nearly 90%, and the TSA is screening 88% fewer travelers compared to this time last year.

That could change with time, however: Your airport could see a wave of restless travelers, or your particular flight may be the unexpectedly popular one. So it’s smart to be prepared.

Making the decision to fly

First, we want to be clear that the CDC and the U.S. State Department are still advising Americans to avoid all nonessential international travel. The CDC has this advice about the risks of contracting COVID-19 when traveling by planes specifically: “Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.” It also notes the difficulty of social distancing. So thinking carefully about whether to even take a trip is your first line of protection.

“The decision is important,” says Dr. Petra Illig, an aerospace-medicine physician based in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Illig was a CDC quarantine medical officer during the Ebola, H1N1, and MERS outbreaks, worked as regional medical director for major airlines, and currently serves as secretary of the International Airline Medical Association. “You have to decide: Do I really need to make this trip and are there other alternatives?” If the answer is yes, you do need to make the trip, then plan for potential pitfalls, like getting stuck at your destination, requiring hospitalization there, needing prescription refills, or not being allowed in when you come back home. Consider your contingency options and make sure you have all the necessary items with you in your carry-on: not just your medications (and enough to last in case you do get stuck), but also information about your medical status, physicians, allergies, insurance, and an emergency contact. “Plan for not coming back when you want to,” she says.

Getting to/from the airport

The best way to minimize your risk of exposure is to drive yourself to the airport and park there, says Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician based in California who also serves as vice chair of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Global Health Committee and who served as medical director of an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone during the 2014 outbreak. “The next best option would be to see if someone you know (preferably someone that you live with and have been around frequently—i.e. someone in your bubble) can drive you. Even if you do this, I would recommend wearing masks and practicing good hand hygiene, since being in the car is an enclosed space that potentially places you at risk.” If you have to take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi, she recommends “wearing a mask, using good hand hygiene, and if possible having the windows down for air circulation.”

Checking in

Check in online whenever possible so that you don’t have to interact with any people or touch any kiosk screens. The same goes for checking luggage: Try not to.

When you do have to check in at the airport, be conscious of the things you touch and that other people have touched. “At the counter, don’t give your ID to the person: Try to handle it yourself,” says Dr. Illig. “Same with credit cards—try not to let people hold your card.” If you have to use a kiosk screen, wipe it down first, and then wipe your hands (or gloves) right after. “I already have my gloves on when I’m going into a place where I have to handle things,” she continues, “because I find it a lot easier to sanitize my hands if I’m wearing gloves rather than constantly washing my hands, which you can’t always do. I can vigorously use Lysol wipes on the gloves.”

Dr. Illig’s trick: Keep a Ziploc bag of wipes with you at all times. “But make sure it’s well sealed,” she cautions, “because the alcohol on them will evaporate quicker than the water in them. Just because the wipe is wet doesn’t mean it’s effective.”

TSA screening/baggage handling

Since you’ll be interacting with people, Dr. Kuppalli advises wearing a mask when you go through TSA screening. “Going through the Whole Body Image scanner should not pose any additional risk to people,” she adds. “However, if the screener has to do a pat-down or any additional screening, they may get close to you. The best thing you can do is protect yourself with your mask, and you have the right to ask the agent to wear clean fresh gloves and to wear a mask.”

What about all those shared surfaces you’ll have to put your bags on—conveyor belts, screening bins, and, at the other end of your journey, baggage-claim carousels? How much should we stress about those? “I wouldn’t worry about it,” says Dr. Illig. “You’re not going to lick your bag, so even if it comes into contact with something, it’s unlikely it will have enough particles attached to the handles of your bag [to transfer if you] pick it up and then touch your nose.” She explains that while we’ve all heard the reports about how the virus can be detected on certain surfaces for hours or days, that detection does not necessarily mean the virus is alive. “The testing we do now is for the genetic fingerprint of that virus on the surface. That doesn’t mean the virus was alive or can be infectious; it just means the RNA is still evident but the virus is most likely not capable of infecting a living cell. Plus it requires a certain amount of virus [to start an infection].”

Still, Dr. Kuppalli says she usually wipes down the outside of her bags after going through security, and then she washes her hands—because when touching luggage, that should be your main concern. “The most important thing to remember is that after handling your items, your hands will be dirty, so you don’t want to touch your mask, mouth, eyes, or nose,” she explains. “You want to make sure to clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap/water first. As long as you do that, you will be fine.” And remember: The TSA now allows you to bring 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in your carry-on, so don’t be stingy.

Waiting in the airport

The time when you’re waiting in the airport for your flight to take off seems riddled with traps. Should you avoid hanging around the gate? Is it safe to buy snacks or drinks? And what about using the bathrooms?

“I would avoid the crowded gate and food courts,” says Dr. Kuppalli. Instead, she suggests looking for an empty gate close to yours and camping out there until it’s time to board. She adds that buying food or drinks is probably fine, but be sure to wash or sanitize your hands before you eat anything.

“The place I get most nervous are the bathrooms: There you have to be ultra cautious,” says Dr. Illig, who suggests looking for one that’s not crowded and getting in and out as quickly as possible. “You want to think about everything you might touch, and try not to touch it.”

Dr. Kuppalli agrees: “The main concern are the high-touch surfaces that may not be cleaned as often or as well as one would hope. Wash your hands completely with soap and water for at least 20 seconds while scrubbing between the webs of fingers, under nails, and on both sides of hands.”

On the airplane

Let’s clear up a common myth first: The air on a plane is not a big cloud of germs; it’s not what makes people sick. U.S. airlines use HEPA filtration systems to generate hospital-quality air, and that air is cycled so frequently that infection risk is low.

“According to the WHO, research shows there is little risk of any infectious disease being transmitted onboard an aircraft because the aircraft cabin air is carefully controlled. Ventilation provides a total change of air 20 to 30 times per hour,” says Dr. Kuppalli. Even the CDC is trying to set the record straight with this information on its page about air travel: “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.”

In a recent essay for the Washington Post, Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained that airplanes are rarely the source of disease outbreaks. He pointed to a study on the risk of infection posed by a person with tuberculosis to 169 other passengers. The answer: between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in a million. And that’s without everyone wearing masks.

Nevertheless, the airline industry is still trying to better understand how coronavirus and other pathogens behave in cabin air—and what they can do about it. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Boeing and Airbus have started conversations with the FAA, the CDC, and a few universities to figure out and address in-flight risk factors. Those discussions could lead to academic research grants and studies that would inform the way airplanes are designed, maintained, and ventilated.

In the meantime, the air nozzle above your airline seat blasts purified air, so turn it on and position it toward you throughout your flight.

Other passengers

The air is not the problem. People are. “The greatest risk is really your distance to the next passenger,” says Dr. Illig.

Airlines are attempting to address that problem. Members of Airlines for America (A4A)—which include Delta, JetBlue, American, United, Southwest, Hawaiian, and Alaskan airlines, and which require passengers and staff to wear masks all the way through from check-in to de-planing—are trying out tactics such as back-to-front boarding, staggering passengers, and not selling middle seats. (Update: Several airlines have recently announced they’ll end this policy and sell planes to full capacity, including American, United, Spirt, Air Canada, and WestJet). Still, as Dr. Illig points out, even if the middle seat next to you is open, you’re still not a full six feet from the person in front of or behind you. “Therefore, it’s even more important to have everyone wearing a mask,” she says.

At this point, though, so few people are flying that crowded planes are unlikely to be an issue. If you feel uncomfortable because you’re seated close to another passenger, talk to the flight attendant about switching. If the passenger count is very low, the flight attendants might have to strategically space out the seating arrangements to keep the plane balanced (this happened on my own last flight, back in March).

There are reports that suggest that choosing a window seat provides a little extra safety, because it limits the number of people surrounding you. Window passengers are also less likely to get up during the flight to go to the bathroom or walk the aisle—times when you’d be exposing yourself to other people’s germs.

Wendy has been hearing from travelers who’ve decided to splurge on business- or first-class seats in order to reduce the number of passengers within their six-foot radius. They’ve assigned themselves window seats in order to reduce contact with people passing through the aisles (their specific airlines have blocked off the aisle seats next to them for now). These travelers have also assigned themselves seats in the last row of the upfront cabin, figuring that if other passengers in the cabin sneeze or cough, they’d rather be sitting behind those passengers than in front of them. Plus, in the last row (or the first), there are fewer people seated close to you.

Your seat area

Airlines are already upping their hygiene efforts (for example, member airlines of A4A are using electrostatic foggers for sanitization), but it’s a good idea to wipe down your seat area anyway: buckles and seatbelts, trays, screens, windows and window shades, armrests, overhead lights and fans, call buttons, and the overhead bin.

“I would mostly recommend that passengers do the things we have been recommending since the outset of the pandemic,,” says Dr. Kuppalli, “wear their masks on board so in case they are sick they don’t spread their infectious droplets to others; if possible, maintain their distance from others; wipe down their seats, seat buckles, tray tables and other surrounding high-touch surfaces with disinfectant wipes prior to takeoff; and use hand sanitizer before eating/drinking or touching their face mask.”

The bathroom

If it’s a long flight, you might have to face your biggest challenge yet: the tiny airplane lavatory. “The bathroom is definitely a place of concern just because it is a small, confined space,” says Dr. Kuppalli. “As the flight goes on, I would be increasingly concerned about it.” She and Dr. Illig have the same advice: Exercise caution, don’t touch anything you don’t have to touch, and wash your hands. “Whatever you touch is possibly contaminated, so I would wear gloves,” says Dr. Illig. “And if you can’t [use gloves], use a towel or something to touch any surface. Then after you leave the bathroom, don’t touch your face, and when you get to your seat, decontaminate your hands whether you’re wearing gloves or not.”

Arriving and exiting the destination airport

Depending on where you’ve traveled to, you might have to navigate passport control, customs, and baggage claim when you land. Follow the same precautions as you did when you departed from your home airport: Wear a mask, wear gloves, limit your interactions with people and shared items, maintain social distance (maybe wait for the impatient crowd around the baggage carousel to dissipate before you grab your bag), don’t touch your face, and—as always—wash your hands.

“I wish I had some cool secret or magic, but it’s just sticking with a pattern,” says Dr. Illig. “The problem is when people break the pattern, then they’re at risk for contaminating themselves. Follow the same steps, ingrain them into your brain.”

This article was originally published May 30, 2020. It has been updated.


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Closeup of passports and white airplane background the sea

Flight Deals Abound For Fall and Winter Travel, But Is It Smart to Buy Now?

It seems like airfare deals are everywhere these days, but so are the uncertainties about air travel. Refund and cancellation policies are changing all the time, routes and services are being cut left and right, and some airlines may not even exist when we finally make it through the pandemic and economic crisis. And on top of all that, there are big questions about how and when airplane travel will even be safe again.

Still, the good news is that (a) airlines are indeed offering some lower pricing, and (b) there are experts who follow this complicated industry closely and can help the rest of us navigate the mess. One of them is Brett Snyder, whom Wendy often recommends to her WOW List travelers for help booking and monitoring their flights. As founder of Cranky Concierge, Brett specializes in finding the smartest routes and fares and in solving flight delays and cancellations. We called Brett at home in California to talk about current airfare deals and what travelers need to know before taking advantage. If you’re even considering purchasing airline tickets for the future, read this first.

There seem to be airfare deals for travel at the end of this year and going into next year. Should I be buying tickets now?

There are deals to be had if you’re comparing to previous years. For travel around the holidays, you might not find the cheapest of the deals, but fares are still much cheaper than they would be in another year. But the big question is whether you’ll be able to get there.

Are the deals better for economy or business class?

It seems much easier to find cheaper fares in coach. Some airlines have cut business-class prices a little bit, but the deals are not as widespread across the board.

So is this a good time to splurge on premium-class fares?

It can be. In regular times, premium fares can be really low if you book far enough in advance, and in many European/Asian markets fares look to be pretty consistent with what we’ve seen in the past.  The one place we’ve seen great deals is South America.  There are fares under $1,000 in a premium cabin to some spots right now, and that’s amazing.  So you just need to look around and see what’s out there.

Are mileage-award flights discounted too?

They are not discounted, but there is more availability than you would normally expect to see, especially in coach. And for international flights, there are more seats available at the lower-point options. For airlines where the awards are tied to the dollar amount of fares, like with JetBlue or Southwest, then if the fares are cheaper, the point equivalent is also lower.

Is it better to buy a ticket for a domestic flight than international?

You have a safer chance of a flight happening if it’s within the U.S. The issue with international flights is that you don’t know what other countries—or what our country, for that matter—will allow in terms of quarantine and rules. So I would be hesitant to buy an international ticket right now. For domestic flights, airlines pretty much across the board are allowing you to change any ticket you buy without a fee.

Is it better to buy tickets for far in the future?

With most airlines you can’t buy tickets more than 330 days to a year in advance, so for the most part, you can’t buy any tickets beyond February or March 2021 at this point. There are always schedule changes when you book any flight far ahead, and the volatility is higher at this point because nobody has any clue what the landscape will look like in two months, let alone a year. So find out the refund or credit rules when you buy.

If I see a good deal should I jump on it or wait?

Once things stabilize, I expect we’ll see good deals to coax people out into the world again. So I don’t really see a reason to buy a ticket now, unless you find a particularly good deal.

But there’s nothing wrong with looking around right now. My wife’s parents always fly to us in California for Christmas, and I found some airfares that were pretty cheap, so we’ve been thinking about buying them.  Worst case, we can use the credit for flights to somewhere else. But a trip like that has a little more certainty to it in that you’re not relying on a destination or resort to be open. You’re really just relying on the ability to leave your house. So, visiting friends and family—that’s probably the best type of trip to plan right now because there are fewer variables.

In the meantime, if someone does want to book a flight, what are the most important things they need to be aware of?

There are a few things I would point out:

For the most part, if your flight is not canceled, you can’t get your money back, if you have a non-refundable ticket. A lot of people just assume, Oh, there’s a virus I should be able to get my money back. That’s not how it works. There are some exceptions, but for the most part it’s not.

What they are doing is allowing you to make changes and waiving the change fee. Obviously, if you had a ticket to Florida and now you want to go to Europe, you have to pay the fare difference—but at least you can make the change.

They’ve also extended how long those credits are valid for. You might be able to travel into next year or the following year, depending on the airline. That’s a nice perk for people who don’t want to travel, even if their flights are still going.

If your flight is canceled or the schedule changes, you really need to check with the airline because the rules vary greatly. For example, Delta will give you your money back if the schedule changed more than 90 minutes; United requires six hours. Worst case, you’ll be able to use the credit in the future, so it’s not like you’re going to lose the money entirely.

Finally, if you bought through a third party, do your own research on what you’re entitled to. Things are changing quickly, and some places we’ve dealt with have had no real interest in doing what they’re required to do. They may say you can’t get a refund, when in reality you can. So if you’re not getting the answer that you like, you can do your own research. Or you can sign up for the Cranky Concierge Refund Hunter and we’ll figure out and track your options, no matter where you bought the ticket.

map with beach chairs -2734535_1920 CR Pixabay

Airline Miles and Points: How to Get the Best Award Flights in 2020

The major U.S. airlines haven’t had to work very hard to win our business over the past several years. With the economy growing and the number of carriers shrinking (thanks to mergers), their planes have been packed. And since they’re able to sell their seats, they aren’t too interested in making them available for award travel. That’s why your best bet for using miles in 2020 is to look abroad to these airlines’ alliance partners, many of whom fly to the U.S. and do have empty seats. On these partners, you’ll get the greatest value exchanging your miles for international business and first class. Here are five more ways to get the most out of your miles this year:

Be flexible…and persistent.

The key to getting the award ticket you want is to be willing to consider a range of dates or at least connecting flights. If your heart is set on the only non-stop flight on your route and there’s only one day you can travel, it might work out, but the odds aren’t in your favor. Airlines don’t always make it easy to find the awards either: American Airlines features only some of its partners on its website, and Delta.com and United.com frequently throw errors. Pick up the phone and call, but know that the agents aren’t always incentivized to be helpful either. I never assume that no means no in air travel until I’ve heard it three times.

Here are just a few of my go-to routes for redeeming premium-cabin award travel where I find a great deal of success:

•Air France business class using Air France’s own miles (transfers from major bank programs)
•Singapore Airlines business class using Singapore’s own miles (transfers from major bank programs)
•Emirates first class (Emirates is an American Express and a Chase transfer partner)
•Korean Air first class using Korean’s miles (transfer from Marriott)
•Cathay Pacific business class for four passengers if booking 6–11 months in advance (American or Alaska miles)
•Asiana business class (United partner, bookable with miles from any Star Alliance program)

Your credit card choice matters more than your airline choice.

Miles aren’t about flying anymore. About two-thirds of miles are sold to and awarded by third parties, largely credit-card–issuing banks. There’s intense competition for credit-card customers. Use that to your advantage. These are my picks for the best credit cards for travelers.

Airline credit cards are for benefits, not spending.

If you don’t fly one airline enough to earn frequent-flier elite status, but you do fly one several times a year, get their credit card. At a minimum, that will entitle you to free checked bags and priority boarding It also means you won’t be forced to gate-check your carry-on, and you will be able to bring on a carry-on even if you’re booked on a dreaded Basic Economy fare on United. But don’t put any unnecessary spending on the airline credit card, because….

Bank programs that transfer to miles earn rewards faster and give you greater flexibility.

Even if you want to collect Delta miles, the Delta card doesn’t earn the most SkyMiles. American Express Membership Rewards cards transfer to SkyMiles and to other airlines too, and they earn points faster than the Delta card. The same is true for the United card and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards products, such as the Sapphire Reserve.

Use an airline card for the benefits, but put your spending on a card whose points—like American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards—transfer to a variety of mileage programs. You’ll earn more points, and you’ll have the flexibility to put them where you need them later, once you know the trip you want and which airline has availability.

Consider buying your ticket (with money, not miles).

Even though planes are full, fares are lower than they were just a few years ago. First, there’s competition from ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Frontier in the U.S. and Norwegian across the Atlantic. Second, airlines are now better able to offer lower first-class fares because of changes to the technology they use—especially for premium cabins. Domestic first class used to be several times more expensive than coach; now it’s frequently less than 50% more.

Business class and premium economy go on sale. In addition, British Airways will give $200 off even a sale-fare business-class ticket to AARP members (and this is stackable with a 10% discount for Chase British Airways credit-card customers). There are great deals out there. Take advantage of them when they pop up, rather than searching for award trips that require greater flexibility (and sometimes too many miles). Consider premium economy—akin to domestic first class—rather than business class, especially for daytime flights when you don’t need that bed. Norwegian, especially, sells it at bargain prices to Europe.

Once coronavirus concerns subside, be on the lookout for cheap business class fares to and through China. China Eastern, Hainan, Sichuan, and Xiamen all run sales and sometimes their U.S. counterparts will match pricing. Once you’re in Asia, buying cheap tickets to your final destination or redeeming miles to local destinations can make great sense.

There’s still tremendous value in frequent-flier programs, but that value is only really achieved by using miles to fly on non-U.S. airlines—or by transferring miles to the programs offered by those international airlines, if you’re willing to venture into the less familiar.


Gary Leff is the points-and-miles expert behind View from the Wing and the award-flight booking service BookYourAward.com. Follow him for smart takes on airlines, credit cards, points and perks on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for his newsletter at View from the Wing.

Centurion Lounge in Miami International Airport

An Easy Way to Improve Your Next Flight Delay: Airport Lounge Day Passes

You no longer have to be an elite traveler, a frequent flier, or even a passenger of a specific airline to enjoy the stress-free haven of an airport lounge. Over the past few years, several independent companies have nabbed real estate in the country’s busiest airports, bringing comfy armchairs, Wi-Fi, workspaces, snacks and drinks, and even spas and showers to anyone passing through the terminal with a few extra dollars to spare, usually between $25 and $50. And it’s not just travelers who’ve taken notice; airlines have upped their lounge game in response, with several opening their retreats to regular folks too. These lounges can be a life (and sanity) saver any time you have a long layover. And they are especially useful during the holiday season, when crowds are thick and weather delays common. Download the LoungeBuddy app (as well as other essential apps for holiday travel), and you’ll always know where to find the closest one.

Here are a few of the non-airline-affiliated lounges to look for. As for airline lounges, you can find one in most airports, and sometimes you can buy a day pass, even if you’re not flying that airline!

Lounge Pass
Fee: Starts at $19
What’s included: Lounge Pass is a booking site for day passes to more than 350 airport lounges in more than 100 countries. Prices start at $19 and the amenities vary by location.
Locations: There are too many list to here, but the website makes it easy to find the options in the airports you need.

Priority Pass
Fee: Annual membership from $99; free membership for Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige card holders (among others).
What’s included: Priority Pass is like Lounge Pass, but it requires a membership fee up front—which then gives you free access. Amenities vary widely, but most lounges have complimentary Wi-Fi and snacks, outlets, TVs, and places to work; some have spas and private conference room. Members also receive discounts at airport restaurants and retail shops.
Locations: The Priority Pass network includes more than 1,300 lounges in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America.

Centurion Lounges
Fee: Free to AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders and their guests.
What’s included: Elaborate food and drink, often prepared by well-known chefs; Wi-Fi; video games; lots of couches and private nooks; assistance with dinner reservations, flight info, event tickets, and more; printers, fax machines, copiers; TVs, magazines and newspapers; conference rooms at some locations; spa services at some locations; showers at some locations; luggage lockers at some locations.
Locations: Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Hong Kong (HKG), Houston (IAH),Las Vegas (LAS), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), and San Francisco (SFO). Coming soon to Denver (DEN), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), London (LHR), Charlotte (CLT), and Phoenix (PHX).

The Club
Fee: Varies
What’s included: Wi-Fi; snacks and drinks (including wine, beer, and liquor); workstations, printers, fax machines, phones; TVs, magazines and newspapers; showers; conference rooms for an additional fee. Purchase day passes to The Club’s locations via the Lounge Pass website (see below).
Locations: Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL), Boston (BOS), Buffalo (BUF), Baltimore (BWI), Charleston (CHS), Cincinnati (CVG), Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW), Jacksonville (JAX), Las Vegas McCarran (LAS), London (LGW), London (LHR), Orlando (MCO), Pittsburgh (PIT), Seattle (SEA), and San José (SJC) airports.

Airspace Lounge
Fee: From $20 (price varies depending on time of day); free entry for AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders and their guests.
What’s included: Wi-Fi; computers; power outlets at every seat; a credit for a free meal or alcoholic beverage (additional snacks, soft drinks, and coffees are available for free as well); printers, scanners; showers at the San Diego airport.
Locations: Cleveland Hopkins (CLE) and San Diego (SAN).


Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Singapore Airlines premium economy seat

How to Get the Best Business Class or Premium Economy Flight Experience

Figuring out how to get the best value on air travel is one of life’s most infuriating challenges. It’s not just about the dollar value of airfare either: The algorithm travelers have to invent in order to rank competing priorities of seat comfort, seat location, checked luggage fees, overhead bin space, boarding order, Wi-Fi access, power outlets, inflight entertainment options, and mileage rewards is more complicated than the one Google uses to return your everyday search results.

To help travelers cut through the noise, we asked air-travel booking guru Brett Snyder for insights and strategies on how to get the best flight experiences and airfare values. Snyder founded a company called Cranky Concierge, which specializes not only in ferreting out the smartest routes and fares for your specific trip, but also in monitoring your chosen flight to let you know asap if anything goes wrong and, even more crucial, provide emergency rerouting assistance if your flight is delayed or canceled, or if you miss a connection. Snyder’s deep knowledge of the air travel world is one reason we invited him to speak at our 2017 Global Travel Summit, and it’s also why we tapped him for the following tips. “The idea is that there are trade-offs in travel,” Snyder told us. “And you can pick and choose the things that matter to you to find the best options for what you want and need to do.”

At the 2017 Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge shares tips on how to get the best flight experience for your dollar

At the 2017 Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit, Brett Snyder, founder of air-travel-assistance company Cranky Concierge, shares tips on how to get the best flight experience for your dollar.

How to Get the Best Business Class Flight Experience

The challenges:

“Lots of airlines have ‘flat beds’ now, but not all flat beds are equal,” Snyder cautions. “[Travelers] don’t always know what the seats are like. How would you know that the Emirates 777 doesn’t have fully flat beds, or that different aircraft on the same route don’t have the same seats?” Two other critieria to consider are the cabin’s seat layout (do all seats have direct aisle access?) and whether each seat is a private cocoon. “Having a leading business class [used to mean] you had to have flatbed seats, but then the goalpost moved and became direct-aisle access,” Snyder says, before explaining why this is important: “United still has some planes without direct-aisle access, which means most of their seats are 2-2-2. So if you’re traveling with kids, you can be sitting next to them—it’s still a flatbed but at least you’re there with them. But Virgin Atlantic, across the fleet, the seats are basically individual seats. You can have your kid near you, but not right next you, and you won’t see them from your seat because they’re meant to be private.”

The solutions:

Snyder recommends three tools that help inform a clear picture of what you’ll be getting in a particular business class cabin.

  • One is SeatGuru, where the seat maps show the layout of the cabin. “Those seat maps won’t tell you much about how great or terrible the product is; you’ll just see a square where the seat is,” he says. “But it’ll tell you whether you’re sitting together with someone or not.” The catch is that airlines often have multiple configurations on each aircraft type, so you need to make sure to compare the airline seat map with Seatguru on your specific flight to make sure you’re looking at the right one.
  • Brett’s other tool recommendation is online trip reports. These are photo-heavy, often very detail-oriented reviews written by travel bloggers about their specific flight experiences. “A seat map will tell you there are flatbeds, but a trip report will say, Yeah and they’re shredded and half of them didn’t work,” Snyder says. “We send these to clients all the time if they’re trying to decide between two flights.” He names One Mile at a Time, The Designair, Travel Codex, and TravelSort as a few he regularly points his own clients to. Some trip reports span the whole flight experience: what the lounge is like, the check-in process, the boarding process, the inflight food, and more. “Typically what I do is Google, for example, ‘Emirates 777 business class trip report’: include the airline, the aircraft, the cabin, and the words ‘trip report’. Then look at the pictures,” Snyder says. “That’s what we’re really trying to show people with this: what it really looks like on the airplane.”

How to Get the Best Economy Flight Experience     

The challenges:

If you can’t afford business class—or simply prefer to spend your travel dollars elsewhere—how do you nevertheless maintain some level of comfort and dignity?

The solutions:

Snyder has three suggestions for making your flight comfortable if you opt to turn right, rather than left, when you board.

  • To save money, but still have a better overall flight experience, consider coach or premium economy on the way home. “One example I like is if someone is going on their honeymoon,” Snyder says. “They get married, they’re going to the airport soon after, and they want to sit in business class—they want the champagne and to continue in the halo of the wedding. But after two weeks, you just want to get home, so maybe you don’t care. If you had to choose [where to delegate your funds], you could just sit in coach. Another example is if you’re going to Asia and even if it is your honeymoon, let’s say going over it’s a daytime flight, but coming back it’s an overnight flight, so you might want business class on the way back so you can sleep. Just piece it together based on the budget you have and what’s important to you.”
  • Get to know what “premium economy” really means. “An increasing number of airlines have premium economy, but it’s very different from what people in the United States think,” Snyder says. “It’s not just a coach seat with a little more leg room.” Real premium economy, he explains, has wider seats, more legroom, often a leg rest, upgraded food, priority boarding, a smaller cabin. “So it almost feels like domestic first class, which isn’t all that great but it’s better than coach. For some people, that’s a great upgrade over what you’re used to, and it’s a whole lot nicer and more affordable.” Snyder notes that American, Delta, and United all have a premium economy category and do a good job with it, as do foreign carriers Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia, Japan, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, and Air New Zealand.
  • Snyder speculates that the number of low-cost airlines flying over the Atlantic is likely to increase in the near future, so travelers should keep their eyes open for news on this front. “Norwegian is the most visible of these so far,” he says. “They are flying to a ton of places, and it’s only going to continue. They also have cheap one-way fares. Long-haul one-way flights are traditionally very expensive,” Snyder explains, so this development is valuable: Travelers can now use miles for a one-way ticket to Europe, then buy a ticket home that won’t be outrageously expensive. Snyder raises all the usual flags about low-cost airlines: You have to pay extra for food and baggage, etc., and if something goes wrong with your flight, an airline like Wow doesn’t have the same support as, say, United, where there’s a network of airline partners to help take you where you need to go. Still, Snyder says, the low-cost airlines have their benefits: “We have often found that it can be cheaper to buy two one-ways on Norwegian than a round-trip.” Interestingly, all of this is good news for every traveler, not just those trying to fly on a shoestring: Snyder expects this competition to drive down pricing on the bigger-name airlines.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

United's Polaris business class cabin

How to Find Affordable Business-Class Airfare to Europe, South America, and Asia


Wendy, we’d like your help finding a reliable airline ticket consolidator for a July trip for five of us. We need two business-class and three economy tickets on the same plane. Thank you for any guidance you can give us. —Bonnie


Bonnie, for business-class consolidator airline tickets, you might try Blake Fleetwood of Cook Travel, a boutique consolidator with 35 years of experience and a high level of personalized service. Blake negotiates low fares with all the major airlines to just about every international destination, mostly in business or first class; his best deals are to Europe, South America, and Asia. Look to him when you have some flexibility in your travel dates, so that his team can peruse the options to find you the best deal.

Blake’s business-class fares save you between 10% and 40%, depending on how far ahead you’re buying them (three to four months is ideal, though you can sometimes find great deals at the last minute) and the time of year you’re flying. Business-class fares are relatively low during holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter. They’re relatively high from September through November and March through May, since those are the two peak times of year for business travel.

Blake’s team is available 24 hours a day, and they have an emergency hotline if your flights go awry en route. Beware of less reputable consolidators that may be reselling frequent-flier tickets; if you can’t earn miles on a ticket, that’s a likely sign that it’s fraudulent. Another bonus: Blake’s business- and first-class fares are almost always refundable, though sometimes minus a penalty of about $500 per ticket.

UPDATE:  The company mentioned above, Cook Travel Inc (based in New York City), is not affiliated with Thomas Cook Group Plc (based in Britain), which went bankrupt on September 23, 2019. The company mentioned in this article is not affected by that bankruptcy.

Lisbon, Portugal skyline with Sao Jorge Castle

Exciting New Flight Routes That Will Improve Your 2019 Travel Plans

Brett Snyder is President at Cranky Concierge, a service that Wendy recommends to WOW List travelers seeking the savviest help with international airline travel. Brett’s service ferrets out the smartest routes and fares, monitors your flights, and provides emergency rerouting assistance if your flight is delayed or cancelled. We asked him to pick the new 2019 routes that should be on our radar:

The economy is still doing well (for now), and airlines are bullish for next year. For that reason, a slew of new flight routes are coming to an airport near you. Many will make your travels easier, and some popular vacation spots will become more accessible. Here are the domestic and international flight routes that will change travel in 2019.

The Most Notable New Flights Within the U.S.

To/from Seattle

If you’re headed to Seattle, especially to the north of town, consider flying into Paine Field—home to Boeing’s mighty widebody manufacturing plant—which will be opening for commercial service in February.  Paine Field is 25 miles north of the city (as opposed to Sea-Tac, which is 15 miles south). Alaska Airlines has the biggest presence here, with flights to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. Those start between February 11 and March 12. The only other airline in the market will be United, with flights to both Denver and San Francisco starting March 31.

To/from Hawaii

Once Southwest gets FAA approval, expect its flights to Hawaii to start quickly. Initial routes will launch from Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland. There will be flights to all four major Hawaiian islands and even some inter-island flying. In the meantime, those in the eastern half of the country can celebrate more nonstop service to the Hawaiian islands. Delta will start flying to Honolulu from Detroit. And Hawaiian Airlines will make Boston its second destination east of the Rockies after New York–JFK.

New International Flights

Now let’s get to the really fun stuff. Portugal remains a hot spot, with several new routes from the U.S. to Lisbon this year. Los Cabos got a few new direct flights from Chicago (which started in November on Southwest) and Las Vegas (on Frontier). Morocco is now easier to visit, thanks to a new nonstop from Miami. Meanwhile, we’ve seen a couple of “firsts”: The good people of Charleston, South Carolina, snagged their first nonstop to Europe, while those in Los Angeles can now fly nonstop to Africa. And in late 2018 Singapore Airlines re-launched its longest flight in the world, between Newark and Singapore, and Kenya Airways introduced the first-ever nonstop between New York–JFK and Nairobi.

These are some of the more interesting route launches. (All start dates are 2019, except where noted.)

Boston to Lisbon, on Delta, starting May 23
Boston to Edinburgh, on Delta, starting May 23
Boston to Madrid, on Norwegian, starts May 2
Boston to Seoul/Incheon, on Korean, starts April 12

Charleston (SC) to London/Heathrow, on British Airways, from April 4 to October 24

Charlotte to Munich, on American, starts March 31

Chicago/O’Hare to Athens, on American, from May 3 to September 28
Chicago/O’Hare to Lisbon, on TAP Air Portugal, starts June 1
Chicago/O’Hare to Quebec City, on American, from June 6 to September 3

Dallas/Ft Worth to Dublin, on American, from June 6 to September 28
Dallas/Ft Worth to Munich, on American, from June 6 to October 26

Denver to Frankfurt, on United, starting May 2
Denver to Grand Cayman, on Cayman Airways, starting March 13

Ft Lauderdale to Guayaquil (Ecuador), on JetBlue, starting February 28
Ft Lauderdale to St. Maarten, on JetBlue, starting February 14

Las Vegas to Cancun (Mexico), on Frontier, starts December 21, 2018
Las Vegas to San Jose del Cabo (Mexico), on Frontier, starts December 15, 2018
Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, on El Al, starts June 14

Los Angeles to Lome (Togo), on Ethiopian, starting December 17, 2018
Los Angeles to Manchester (U.K.), on Virgin Atlantic, starting May 26
Los Angeles to Milan/Malpensa, on Air Italy, starting April 3

Miami to Casablanca, on Royal Air Maroc, starting April 3
Miami to Santa Marta (Colombia), on Via Air, starting December 18 (2018)

Minneapolis/St Paul to Dublin, on Aer Lingus, starting July 1
Minneapolis/St Paul to Seoul/Incheon, on Delta, starting April 1

Newark to Naples, on United, from May 22 to October 4
Newark to Nice, on La Compagnie, from May 6 to October 26
Newark to Prague, on United, from June 6 to October 4
Newark to Singapore, on Singapore Airlines, started late 2018

New York/JFK to Barcelona, on LEVEL, starting July 27
New York/JFK to Nairobi, started late 2018

Philadelphia to Edinburgh, on American, from April 2 to October 26
Philadelphia to Bologna (Italy), on American, from June 6 to September 28
Philadelphia to Berlin/Tegel, on American, from June 7 to September 28
Philadelphia to Dubrovnik (Croatia), on American, from June 7 to September 27

Phoenix to London/Heathrow, on American, from March 31 to October 26

San Francisco to Delhi, on United, starts December 5
San Francisco to Amsterdam, on United, starts March 30
San Francisco to Lisbon, on TAP Air Portugal, starts June 10
San Francisco to Melbourne, on United, starts October 29
San Francisco to Milan/Malpensa, on Air Italy, starting April 10
San Francisco to Tel Aviv, on El Al, starts May 13

Seattle to Hong Kong, on Cathay Pacific, starting March 31
Seattle to Osaka/Kansai, on Delta, starts April 1
Seattle to Singapore, on Singapore Airlines, starting September 3
Seattle to Tokyo/Narita, on Japan Airlines, starting March 31

Tampa to Amsterdam, on Delta, starts May 23

Washington/Dulles to Lisbon, on TAP Air Portugal, starts June 16
Washington/Dulles to Rome, on Alitalia, starting May 2
Washington/Dulles to Tel Aviv, on United, starts May 22


Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Wendy Perrin snorkeling in Belize underwater with a smiling fish

Wendy’s Family Trip to Belize: Photos from the Beach and Sea

The best vacations are those where you try something new you’ve never done before. When you learn a new skill or master a challenge or achieve a long-held goal during a trip, it leaves you with intense memories of that trip and a sense of accomplishment that can linger forever.

That’s one reason why I chose Belize for my family vacation: I wanted my younger son, Doug (14), to learn how to dive. Doug is starting high school next month and is fascinated by marine biology, so it seemed like a good moment to get him his scuba certification.

The diving and snorkeling in Belize is world-class, thanks to the country’s position alongside the world’s second largest barrier reef. Belize also has the typical advantages afforded by a location on the Caribbean Sea, yet it’s easier to fly to, more affordable than, and less built-up than, many Caribbean islands.

Doug wasn’t the only one with a goal to achieve. The other reason I chose Belize was so I could road-test Belize trip-planning specialists. Belize has been catching on in popularity among sophisticated travelers. For the past year I’ve received a steadily increasing number of Belize trip requests. So, of course, I wanted to investigate and find a Belize travel specialist worthy of The WOW List.

Here’s a sneak peek at our adventures. Stay tuned for more on the best things to do and see in Belize, where to stay, where to eat… and how to learn to scuba dive in just three days (that’s how long it took Doug). And if you’re looking for the best Belize trip-planning specialist, here’s who I recommend.



















Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Pixabay

Airfare Deals to Europe Are Excellent Right Now

If you’re even toying with the idea of traveling to Europe next year, talk to your family or travel companions this holiday weekend and purchase your plane tickets right away. Airfare to Europe is currently at a remarkable low; cheap flights and airfare sales are popping up left and right.

“We are seeing some epic airfare sales to Europe,” says George Hobica, president and founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. “[Flights are] 66% or less than usual, and many were good for summer travel, which is highly unusual.”

Joe Brancatelli of Joe Sent Me agrees. “These are the lowest fares I’ve seen in a generation, since about 1985, give or take for inflation,” he says. “Even when you factor in seat charges and other ancillaries, the coach fares are insanely low. I mean, under $400 on major airlines to Europe. That is serious stuff. Record-breaking low stuff.”

George is seeing great deals to Paris, London, Italy, Germany, Brussels, and more, while Joe adds that Spain and Portugal are among the best deals right now. “Some of that is due to the fact that TAP Air Portugal has charged back into the market,” Joe says. “Some of it is that all three U.S. carriers serve Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona, and Spain itself has two carriers (Iberia and Air Europa).” Joe suggests keeping an eye out for super-cheap prices to Iceland (thanks to low-cost carrier WOW), and for business travelers, specialty carriers such as LaCompagnie for France and Emirates for Milan are making the New York–Paris and New York–Milan routes a great deal.

What’s the catch?

Well, according to Joe, who’s been covering the airline industry and consumer travel for decades, there isn’t one. “The dollar is very strong in Europe and is nearing parity with the euro—something we haven’t seen since the euro was introduced in 2002. The dollar is also at 30-year highs against the British pound. You also want to watch for cheaper room rates in specific countries (France, Belgium, Turkey) because of the terrorist incidents.”

In fact, the negatives he cited don’t actually have to do with airfare. Joe cautions travelers to watch out for “credit cards that still impose a currency-exchange fee and airport ATMs operated by currency traders (because they offer lousy rates, just like their cash booths).” And, of course, the weather. “So that means watch out for snow storms in your U.S. departure cities that can mess with your schedule. And watch the weather because some European destinations (looking at you, Paris and London) get messed up if they get snow. I mean, an inch of snow at Heathrow creates nightmares.”

If you do find yourself stranded or snowed in, Wendy recommends contacting Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge. He and his team specialize in emergency air travel solutions, and if anyone can find a way to get you where you need to be, it’s Brett.

How to find the deals:

To find the deals, you can sign up for fare alerts at Airfarewatchdog.com or use the site’s helpful “fares from a city” feature. Just type in your departure city, and it’ll spit back great deals to locations all over the world. Two other useful tools are Google Flights (type in your departure city and it’ll show you several low-price options; shift the date to see more) and Kayak.com (when you click on the calendar icon in your initial search, small green dots below certain dates indicate days when airfare is cheaper).

So what are you waiting for? As Joe put it, “Honestly, this is one of the greatest times for Europe travel I have ever seen. Cheap fares. Cheaper hotel rates. Fabulous currency exchange rates. And because it is winter, the culture of Europe is in full swing—you’ll not only get good theater, you’ll actually meet locals in their own cities and towns. That doesn’t happen when Americans go in August!”

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

United 787 amenities kit

What It’s Like to Fly on a 787 Dreamliner

What’s it like to fly on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner?  I recently flew United’s 787-9 Dreamliner on what is currently the longest 787 route flown by a U.S. airline, between San Francisco and Singapore. It covers 8,446 miles and takes 16 hours 20 minutes going to Singapore. I flew the opposite way, on my trip home from Asia, which clocked in at a slightly shorter 15 hours 30 minutes. Here’s what it was like.

The seats

The seats in business class on United’s 787-9 are arranged 2-2-2, and are staggered slightly to offer some privacy when you’re reclined.

My home for 15 hours and 30 minutes. I slept wonderfully.

My home for 15 hours and 30 minutes. I slept wonderfully.

The seats are 20.6″ wide (the widest BusinessFirst seat United offers) and truly go flat, so you can sleep pretty well on them; and they are adjustable in various ways so you can recline or raise your feet to keep comfortable when not dozing. The blankets are duvet-style, cozy without being too heavy, and the seat cushion is plush enough that you don’t feel the bones of the seat when you lie down.

I had an aisle seat in the middle section of the first row. If you prefer the window spot, keep in mind that they are the only ones without direct aisle access, and you can find yourself trapped when your seat neighbor is fully reclined. This problem isn’t unique to United; I had it on my Qatar Airways flight too; and it’ll be solved when United launches its new Polaris international business class product in December of this year.

The Polaris premium cabin reboot will feature new seats that are more like private pods and that will have custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue—with new pillows! This is great news because one of my quibbles with United’s long-haul business class is its uncomfortable pillows. That may seem like nitpicking, but it’s surprising just how much a bad headrest can affect your sleep. The current pillows feel like loose sacks of lumpy cotton balls. In the future, flights outfitted with the Polaris design will give passengers the choice between the snazzy Saks pillow and a cooling gel pillow (they’ll also be able to request a mattress cushion).

United 787 business first cabin

The BusinessFirst cabin on United’s 787-9 Dreamliner, flying from Singapore to San Francisco.

United 787 business first seat power

Every BusinessFirst seat on the 787-9 has a personal power plug, a USB port, and a set of noise-canceling headphones that fit into that two-holed jack at left. You can plug your own headphones into a single hole, but the sound isn’t as good.

United 787 business first seat controls

The seats recline a full 180 degrees, but you can set them in just about any other position too, including adding extra lumbar support.

United 787 lumpy pillow

United’s lumpy BusinessFirst pillows are thankfully being replaced by custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue in the new Polaris class, to be unveiled in December. Photo: Billie Cohen

United 787 cubby space

Lots of room for your legs, and a convenient cubby for your stuff. When your seat is fully extended you won’t be able to access the bottom cubby, and if you’re tall, your feet might be inside the second one. Loved the mini banana-sized shelf at the top. Came in handy!

The environment

Thanks to several of the 787’s features, and the flight crew’s smart use of them, it’s very easy to get a good night’s sleep on this aircraft, and therefore to feel less jetlagged. To start with, the cabin pressure of Boeing’s Dreamliner makes it feel like you’re at only 6,000 feet instead of the usual 8,000. That makes a big difference in how dehydrated and dry you’ll be after 15-plus hours in the air.

Next, the lighting is much gentler and can be adjusted to different colors (blue, orange, etc.) to make your brain subtly register that the day is passing. The windows help with this too. Windows on the Dreamliner are bigger than what you’re used to on other planes—and the shades can stay open during the entire flight, thanks to a special tinting material within the windowpane itself. The feature can be tuned to mimic different times of day, so even though we took off at 8:45 a.m., the crew made it look like night after a few hours so that we could all switch over to San Francisco time more easily. And it worked for me—I adjusted time zones without any problem when I arrived; and I am embarrassingly wimpy when it comes to jet lag, no matter the direction of travel. As a bonus, the special windows mean that whenever you are awake you can still look outside rather than having to stealthily crack the shade up and hope you don’t bother your snoring seatmate.

The amenities

I’ve already mentioned the 180-degree lie-flat bed (thumbs up), and I also appreciated the easily reachable USB port, power outlet, and headphones in every seat. I’m also a sucker for a cool amenities kit, and I love the commemorative Rio Olympics-themed kit United is using this summer; it’s packaged in a cool tin shaped like the body of an airplane. The lotion and lip balm are from Soho House’s luxe Cowshed Spa, and the eye mask is comfortable cloth instead of nylon; the rest is the usual toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. Big plus: The bathroom sinks and toilets are touch-free. This should be standard in every bathroom on every plane everywhere. Genius.

For entertainment, each business-class seat has a nice big 15-inch TV screen, but the screens are missing a key design feature: privacy overlays. This means you can see everything on everyone else’s TV at full brightness. From my seat in the center section, I could not help but see all five of the other screens in my row. In an aircraft that takes such care to create soothing cabin lighting and a relaxing environment, this was a surprising (and surprisingly bright) oversight. Regardless, I was perfectly happy binging on bad action movies and TV shows in my cozy recliner until I fell asleep.

United 787 TV screens

Someone forgot to add privacy filters to all of the BusinessFirst TV screens, so there is no way to not see what everyone else is watching. This was particularly disruptive when the cabin was otherwise dark and I was trying to sleep. Those screens are bright!

United 787 entertainment center

You can control your personal TV either by this handheld device or by touch-screen.

United 787 amenities kit

We each received this commemorative amenities kit, made special for the Rio Olympics. United is the airline sponsor for Team USA.

United 787 amenities kit

All the goodies in the Olympics-themed amenities kit. Not only is the tin special, but the cloth eye mask and patterned socks are inspired by Team USA too.

The food

No one will be surprised to hear that the food isn’t very good. But when other airlines are elevating inflight dining, even in coach, it seems fair to expect that a business-class meal on a premier new plane would be at least edible. If only. Over the course of my three-month trip in Asia, I flew seven airlines; most of the time I was in coach, and United was the only U.S. airline I took. On every flight—even a domestic-China trip that was less than two hours—I was served a meal, and it was pretty good. So I’m just saying: It is possible. Even for vegetarians.

On this flight, I didn’t touch my special meals (one course had chicken in it, and the other was just really unappetizing). And for breakfast, the only vegetarian option is cold cereal. Which is weird because if you don’t drink milk, your meal is just dry corn flakes with a banana. Oh, wait, mine did come with a small bowl of the congee toppings; when, confused, I asked a flight attendant what it was, he said “I don’t know.” I figured it out by putting a heap of shredded ginger in my mouth. That’ll wake you up.

To be fair, it’s not just this flight that has challenges with special meals. Lots of airlines suffer, and United, despite its partnership with the Trotter Project, has not figured it out yet. Maybe there aren’t that many of us vegetarians or special-meal requesters, but if an airline kitchen is going to make the effort (and believe me, I so appreciate that they do), how about some input from the passengers who have to eat it? Call me, United, we’ll talk.

United 787 appetizer

The mystery appetizer, which may or may not have been chicken. The small cup of warm roasted mixed nuts in the top left corner is my favorite though—they could just feed me that and I’d be happy.

United 787 main vegetarian meal

Sounded good on paper, wasn’t good in reality: vegetarian braised tofu with mixed vegetables in sha cha sauce. Glad I brought my own PB&J instead.

United 787 breakfast

The only vegetarian breakfast is cereal. I don’t drink milk, so I ate it dry. You could add those congee toppings in the bowl, but it’s not quite the right complement for Corn Flakes.

The last word

United’s 787 experience made all the difference in my long-haul return flight. I slept so well, and the aircraft environment was so comfortable, that the 15 and a half hours went by pretty quickly. If given the option to take a 787 on a long-haul flight, I would definitely choose it, and I can’t wait to see how United improves its already enjoyable business class later this year when it rolls out Polaris.

United airlines 787 Dreamliner

United’s 787 Dreamliner. Photo: United


*Full disclosure: My flight was fully paid for by United. The airline’s SFO-SIN route was introduced July 1 and as part of the launch, I was invited to take the flight and review it. As I already had a trip to Asia planned, I accepted the offer. Wendy and I both fly United often and felt comfortable that we could represent a fair picture of this experience. 

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

How to Avoid Long Airport Security Lines This Summer

Airport security lines have grown absurdly long of late, thanks to more people traveling and fewer TSA workers. With the busy summer travel season upon us, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. Here’s how to minimize your time stuck in a TSA line on your next trip:

If You’re Flying Soon

Find out if your airport terminal has more than one security checkpoint.

Many terminals do. Before leaving home, go to the airport’s website and pull up a map showing the security checkpoints. (This map, for instance, indicates where the three checkpoints are in Newark airport’s Terminal C; this one shows where they are for all five terminals at Dallas-Fort Worth.) At the airport, ask an official which checkpoint has the shortest line.

Download the MyTSA app.

Available for free for iPhones and Android, this app gives you current security wait times at your airport, as reported by your fellow travelers. You can also view them here; just type in your airport code.

Arrive early and hit the club lounge.

The bigger and busier your airport—e.g., J.F.K., Chicago (O’Hare), or Miami International—the earlier you’ll want to arrive, especially if you’re flying at a peak time.  At least two hours early for a domestic flight, and three hours early for international, may be a good rule of thumb for most airports. To keep your stress level down, you might consider arriving really early and buying a day pass to an airport lounge club (if the club is gate-side).

If You’re Flying Later

Don’t buy airline tickets for flights at peak times.

Avoid Friday late afternoon and early evening, for example, because that’s when business travelers returning from business trips are hitting the airport at the same time as leisure travelers leaving on vacation, creating security-line pile-ups. If you’re taking a long weekend, consider flying on a Saturday morning and returning Tuesday. (That’s also less expensive than a Thursday-to-Sunday long weekend.)

Enroll in TSA PreCheck or, even better, Global Entry.

TSA PreCheck admits you into a priority lane where you need not remove your shoes, liquids, or laptop. The $85 fee covers you for five years. For an extra $15, though, get Global Entry (the $100 fee also covers you for five years), which lets you skip the long customs line on your way back into the U.S. from an international trip, and which automatically gives you TSA PreCheck. Not every airport has PreCheck lanes or Global Entry kiosks, so check whether yours does.

Buy access to the priority security line.

Many travelers who have elite status with an airline can use the express lane at the security checkpoint. If you don’t have elite status, some airlines let you purchase access to the priority security lane on a one-time basis. United, for instance, lets you buy access at 68 airports worldwide (prices start at $15), and JetBlue lets you buy it at 62 airports.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

sleeping on a plane

15 Problem-Solving Items for Overnight Flights

Leave it to frequent fliers to come up with creative ways to make overnight flights comfortable. These unusual recommendations come from assorted travel experts and friends on Facebook. They’re not all what you’d expect, but they’re all very clever. What items do you take on the plane to help make you more comfortable?

Cabeau Fold ‘n Go Travel Blanket and Case

Cabeau Fold n Go-Blanket

Cabeau Fold n Go-Blanket

It’s super plush and comfy and can also be used as a pillow and lumbar support. It has a loop with a snap that lets me attach it to my carry-on bag so it’s easy to access and doesn’t take up precious space in my bag. —Susan Portnoy, founder, The Insatiable Traveler

Lululemon Vinyasa scarf

I never board a flight without it. The wide, soft, cotton scarf with snaps can be worn all sorts of ways, which is great for travel. For flights though, I love that it can be a blanket, a pillow, a wrap, or even a sort of light-blocking head scarf.” —Christine Sarkis, senior editor, Smarter Travel



Fit Kicks

Fit Kicks

I always bring “FitKicks,” as they keep my feet comfy and clean. I also wear my L.L. Bean 850 down jacket that weighs about 2 ounces and doubles as a pillow when stuffed inside its own pocket. —Gail Rosenberg, luxury travel designer, Largay Travel

Trtl Pillow

Trtl Pillow

Trtl Pillow

It’s a machine-washable, super-soft-fleece travel neck pillow that is the best thing ever. —Margaret Stevenson


It’s a natural headache relief treatment I buy in the U.K. It comes in a small container that you roll up, like a solid deodorant stick. It’s great for headaches and stuffy sinuses, and if you take a big whiff of it, it wakes you up too. Think of it as a solid Vicks Vapor Rub, only tinier and convenient. —Marie Fritz

Bach Remedy Rescue Night

Use these flower remedies and hope for a better sleep. —Paola Fiocchi van den Brande, founder of Passepartout Homes


Inflatable beach ball

beach ball photo by Michael Frascella

If you never thought to pack an inflatable beach ball in your carry-on, you’re missing out on a great nap. Photo: Michael Frascella/Flickr

Bring one of those cheap blow-up beach balls and a hand towel. Blow up the beach ball, cover with the towel, and use as a giant pillow to lay on in your lap. It’s a refreshing change from the neck pillow for those who need a “little more” cushion. —Mark Estill, travel consultant/owner, Mark4 Vacations

White noise app

I use a white noise app on my iPad. Pop in my earbuds, turn on the waves, and the sound masks airplane and passenger noises better than noise-cancelling headphones. —Deb Arora, partner, Jacks & Stars

Rosemary oil

I bring a tiny vial of rosemary oil. My sinuses get super-dry on those long flights, and that leads to headaches and other weirdness. The smell of that oil just brightens up the inside of my head. And bonus, it banishes that weird airplane smell for a bit. —Pam Mandel, writer/editor, Nerd’s Eye View

Coconut oil

I use it as a moisturizer (face and body), hair conditioner, toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant (it’s anti-bacterial). —Lynn Braz, author, LynnBraz.com

Baby wipes

First, so that you can wipe off the tray table, armrests, and headrest. Second, so that when you wake up, you can wipe your face and feel refreshed. —Katie Kenner-Bohl

Emergen-C packets

I take one while flying, and I keep a few extra in my toiletries bag, for the trip. Better safe than sick! —Kelsey Ebner

Your favorite herbal tea

It’s comforting to have something familiar while traveling, and a cup of hot water is easily gotten from a flight attendant. —Scott Laird, writer, AbFabSkyLife

iPad with extra storage

Beyond all the usual stuff that experienced travelers know to do to try to sleep (much of which will work or not work with the reliability of a cheap watch), what seems to affect me best when I’m struggling to sleep is knowing I have comfort “content” handy. Most of my favorite novels—and we’re not talking Tolstoy but easier-on-the-spirit reads—are already loaded on my iPad. And if I’m too tired to read, I have episodes of favorite TV shows (“Gilmore Girls” and “Frasier” among ‘em) and movies that help me feel at home and relax (“Mamma Mia” always makes me smile). When I replaced my old iPad with a new one, I doubled up on the storage space for just this reason: I wanted to make sure there was enough room for my old pals.—Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief, Cruise Critic

What do you pack in your carry-on for a more comfortable flight?


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

kid eating pretzels and watching TV on a plane

How to Ace Long-Haul Flights with Young Kids

When I decided to take my four-year-old son to Asia, the trans-Pacific flight loomed large in my mind. How would we get through 18 hours on a plane?

I needn’t have been so worried about the flight; while there were a few tough moments, we passed the time surprisingly easily. Flying that distance with a baby or toddler would have been much more trying, but by four years old, kids are better able to entertain themselves, and to adhere to expectations of good behavior. So, aside from advising fellow parents not to let a long flight derail their travel plans, here’s what I learned:

Treat the flight as a highlight of the trip, not a chore. Most of us have forgotten the romance of air travel—and for good reason. Kids, however, are primed to find the idea of soaring through clouds and landing in a new part of the world—in the middle of a new day, even—downright magical. Present the flight as a fun adventure. Tell your kids how lucky they are to get to sleep overnight on the plane; bring pajamas and any other portable parts of their bedtime routine.

kid asleep in airplane seat

For a better chance of having more space, I always book window and aisle seats at the back of the plane. Photo: Ryan Damm

Strategize for more space. I always book window and aisle seats at the back of the plane, leaving the seat between two of us open. These aft middle seats become the least desirable and often go unfilled, giving us more room to stretch out. If another passenger claims the seat, we simply trade them one of our window or aisle spots.

kid in airport pushing luggage cart

Get to the airport early so you can find ways to burn off your child’s energy. Photo: Ryan Damm

Burn off some energy. Before a long flight, get to the airport extra-early so that your kids will have ample time to run around before boarding. Find an empty gate and set up an obstacle course using the chairs, garbage cans, and whatever else you can find. The more ya-yas you get out on the ground, the fewer you’ll have to deal with in the air. 

Establish ground rules. Explain to your kid what constitutes proper plane etiquette. Don’t expect them to automatically know not to speak loudly, rest their feet on the seat in front of them, or take off their seatbelt during turbulence. Balance this with positives: They alone can control the window shade or armrest, for instance.

Don’t act as activity director on the plane. On previous flights, I’ve lugged along a huge bag of toys and activities, most of which go unused. This time, I gave my son unlimited use of the seat-back entertainment system and an iPad (a boon for him, since screen time is very limited at home). This allowed me to be well rested for the trip ahead, and it also trained him to be a much more pleasant flying companion.

kid looking out airplane window

Flights don’t have to be a chore: Kids are primed to find the idea of soaring through clouds downright magical. Photo: Ryan Damm

Test before takeoff. I kept my son’s new iPad a surprise until we boarded the plane—a huge mistake, once I realized that several of the movies I thought I’d loaded onto it weren’t working, and many of his favorite apps now had new purchase requirements. Next time, I’ll road test any new devices first.

Bring lots of food. No one likes airplane food, least of all picky kids. My son refused to even uncover one “kids’ meal” that was served to him, based on the odors emanating from under the tinfoil. Bring enough food to keep your kids satiated throughout the flight; The best flight advice I got from Andrea Ross, the Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia who designed my kid-friendly Asia trip, was to pack instant noodles in a cup, to which the flight attendants will happily add water for a hot meal.

What are your tricks for surviving a long flight with children?


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbu

Istanbul Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.


If you’re passing through Istanbul, don’t miss the opportunity to get a glimpse of this city of two continents. The folks at Context Travel (a company on Wendy’s WOW List that runs cultural walking tours in cities worldwide) gave us ideas for how to spend a layover there. Just one word of warning: The hypnotic views of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn from a rooftop restaurant may make you miss your connecting flight—but would that really be the end of the world?

The Basics

U.S. citizens need a visa to enter Turkey, which you can obtain online before arrival.

How to get out of the airport: There are several ways of getting to and from Ataturk airport (IST), the international hub on the European side of the city, about 12 miles from its center. The first is the M1 metro line, which connects to other metro lines at Yenikapi, a district close to Sultanahmet. The ride takes 35 to 40 minutes and costs 4 Turkish liras (about U.S $1.35). The second option is to use Havatas, a private bus line from the airport to Taksim; buses leave every half-hour and cost TL 10-13 ($3.50-$4.50); the ride is approximately an hour. By taxi, it takes 45 minutes to an hour to get to the city’s historic center, depending on traffic. If you have limited time, a taxi is a good option, and costs around TL 40 ($14) each way, assuming that the meter is on and properly set. There are always a number of liveried taxis waiting at the airport’s international arrivals exit.

What to do with your luggage: IST offers luggage storage on the arrivals floor of both the international and domestic terminals. The daily fee is TL 20 ($7) for a suitcase, TL 30 ($10.50) for oversized bags.

Check with your airline before planning a layover in Istanbul: Some offer complimentary tours, shuttles, or hotel rooms for their passengers.

Sunset over Sultanahmet, Istanbul.

Sunset over Sultanahmet, Istanbul. Photo: Context Travel

If you have a 4-hour Layover

With fewer than six hours, it’s not worth attempting to get into Istanbul itself, but there are a couple of nearby neighborhoods where you can enjoy a meal. Atakoy Marina has several cafes and restaurants with a nice view of the Marmara Sea, including outposts of local chains Big Chefs, Midpoint, and Mado. The easiest way to get there is by taxi, for TL 10-15 ($3.50-$5).

If You Have a 6-Hour Layover

Start in the Sultanahmet neighborhood to see the Hagia Sophia; Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman sultans lived and ruled; the Blue Mosque; and Sultanahmet Meydani (Sultan Ahmet Square, once the Hippodrome of Constantinople), home to the Serpent Column, the Column of Constantine, and the Walled Obelisk. Yenikapi is the closest metro stop to Sultanahmet, or you can switch from the metro to the tram at Aksaray, and get off the tram at the Sultanahmet stop, right near the Hagia Sophia. If you’re interested in the singular atmosphere of Istanbul’s colorful markets, don’t miss the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. All of these sights are walking distance from each other, but it takes at least two hours to explore each one—more if you really want to get a feel for the place.

If you have enough time and energy, or if you’ve been to Sultanahmet before, spend the day wandering around Galata and Karakoy, whose winding streets are home to local designers’ shops, art galleries, and an excellent museum, the Istanbul Modern. Galata not only has a rich history but, along with Karakoy, it’s the new hub of entertainment in the city, and perfect for a flavor of up-and-coming Istanbul. (The Karakoy tram stop, three past Sultanahmet, leaves you at the bottom of the hill under the Galata Tower.)

If You Don’t Have Time to Leave the Airport

The international departure floor has many cafes and restaurants with a range of cuisines. There are a number of lounges, some of which grant day-use access for around TL 100 ($35), including snacks, alcoholic and soft drinks, WiFi, and newspapers.


More Layover Solutions:

Tokyo Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Harajuku, Tokyo

Tokyo Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.


Since U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to enter Japan (unless you’re staying longer than 90 days), it’s not hard to do a bit of sightseeing during even a short layover. We talked to the Tokyo team at Context Travel (an in-depth walking tour company on Wendy’s WOW List), to find out where to go, how to get there, and what to do—even if you don’t have enough time to leave the airport.

The Basics

How to get out of the airport: The Narita Express (N’EX) runs from Narita Airport to Tokyo station in an hour, with some trains also running to Shinjuku, which takes about 85 minutes. Trains run from Narita terminals 1 and 2 every 30 minutes from 7:30am to 9:44pm; trains run from Tokyo station back to Narita every 30 minutes from 6:18am to 10:03pm. Tickets from Narita to Tokyo are ¥1,500 (about $13) for foreign passport holders; the return trip is the normal price of ¥3,020 (about $25). If you will  be traveling extensively by train through Japan later, it makes sense to buy a JR (Japan Rail) pass; they’re available for seven, 14, or 21 days starting from ¥29,110 (about $250), and can be used to ride the N’EX.

The Kesei Skyliner runs from Narita Airport to Ueno station in 41 minutes. Trains from both airport terminals to Ueno station every 40–60 minutes from 8:17am to 10:30pm. Trains run from Ueno back to the airport every 20 minutes from 5:58am to 5:45pm. Tickets are ¥2,470 each way. Several trains on the Kesei line stop in Narita; the ride is around 10 minutes and costs less than ¥300. Get yen before you leave the airport or at 7-11 at JR Narita station. In Narita, you can utilize the Narita City Round Bus to get around (it also stops at the airport).

The train stations in Tokyo are very large; when heading back to the airport, leave yourself plenty of time to get to the correct platform.

What to do with your luggage: If you haven’t checked your baggage through to your final destination, stow it at one of the left luggage counters, which are on the first floor in Terminal 1, and the first and third floors in Terminal 2; the cost is ¥520 ($5) for a medium-sized suitcase.

If You Have a 4-Hour Layover

With four hours, you don’t have enough time to see Tokyo, but you can explore the city of Narita a bit. From the Narita train station, stroll down the main street, Omotesando, where you can pick up fruit, rice crackers, and other local snacks, as well as souvenirs like chopsticks and cookware. If you continue down Omotesando, you’ll come to Naritasan Shinshoji, a large Buddhist temple that sits at the top of a hill. The surrounding Naritasan Park is lovely, particularly when the trees are a fiery red-orange or when the cherry blossoms are out. Dotted with ponds, statues, and fountains, it’s a welcoming, shady place to stretch your legs. (If you happen to be there at 3pm, you can watch the Goma ceremony, during which priests take votive sticks left by visitors and burn them as an offering.) There are plenty of places to eat along the main road and the side streets. One of the most common traditional dishes is unagi, broiled eel in a sweet sauce, served over rice. Takoyaki (fried octopus balls) are another popular snack, especially during cherry blossom season, when they’re eaten at picnics under the trees. Most restaurants only have Japanese menus, but also colorful plastic models of each of their set lunches, so you can just point to what you want.

If You Have an 8-Hour Layover

Tsukiji market, Tokyo. Photo: Context Travel

Tsukiji market, Tokyo. Photo: Context Travel

If you have eight hours, you can go into Tokyo, but be sure to allow yourself an hour’s travel time on each end.

Start off with a walk around Tsukiji outer market, a maze-like warren of food and cookware shops. (To get to the market from the airport, take the Skyliner to Keisei-Ueno station, walk the short distance to Ueno station, and take the Hibiya Line, toward Naka-Megura, to Tsukiji station.) Browse the stalls, grazing on tamagoyaki (sweet rolled omelet), assorted pickled vegetables, rice crackers, and other small bites. Grab a plate of super-fresh sashimi, and then move on to a bubbling bowl of ramen—or, if it’s summer, cool soba. For dessert, cleanse your palate with matcha (green tea) soft serve or taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake filled with red bean paste (or sometimes chocolate or vanilla). From Tsukiji train station, take the Hibiya line toward Nakameguro; at Chiyoda, transfer to the Chiyoda line to Yoyogi-Uehara and get off at Meiji-jingumae station. The 20-minute trip will bring you to Harajuku. Ogle the bright, out-there fashions on pedestrian-only Takeshita-dori, then find serenity in lush Yoyogi Park. To get back to the airport, take the Chiyoda line from Meiji-jingumae station to Tokyo station and hop on the Narita Express.

Alternatively, if you are interested in getting a peek into Tokyo subcultures, then a walk through the Akihabara neighborhood is a must. Otaku—enthusiasts of anime (cartoons) and manga (comics)—are the main theme of this tour. (To get here from the airport, hop on the Skyliner to Nippori station, change to the Keihintohoku line toward Isogo, and get off at Akihabara station.) Try your luck in one of the neighborhood’s arcades, wander through the busy streets, and even enter a maid café and see costume play (shorthanded to “cosplay”) in action. From Akihabara station, take the Yamanote line to Ueno station, which will bring you to Ueno Park, home to the beautiful Shinobazu Pond and a number of interesting shrines and museums. To reach the airport, exit the park from the south and jump on the Skyliner from Keisei-Ueno station.

If you don’t want to go it alone, Context Travel offers three-hour scholar-led walking tours in Tokyo and can organize custom walks based on your layover timing.

If You Don’t Have Time to Leave the Airport

There are a slew of nearby hotels that offer reasonable day rates. Nearly all have breakfast included, and several have pools, including the Hotel Nikko. Within the airport itself are fantastic facilities for passing the time: You can visit the dentist, get a haircut, go for a manicure or a massage, breathe deeply at the oxygen bar, take the kids to one of the playrooms, or book some time in a dayroom or shower. The shopping and dining options are excellent; if this is your only stop in Japan, you’d be remiss not to sample some ramen, sushi, and soba.


More Layover Solutions:

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Best Airport Restaurants in the U.S.

When you’re stuck in the airport, as is likely to happen this time of year, one of the tried-and-true ways to kill time is to eat something. Happily, airport restaurants have improved so much in the past few years that you might just wish you had more time to dine before taking off.

Inspired by the list that The Daily Meal just released, compiling its editors’ picks for the 35 best airport restaurants in the world, we asked our readers—frequent and sophisticated travelers that they are—for their expert opinion on the matter.

We narrowed the field to restaurants in U.S. airports, because other countries recognized the value of quality airport cuisine long before our own did, and so it’s simply too easy to ask for the best airport restaurants in the world.

Here’s what your fellow travelers named as the best airport restaurants in the U.S. Bookmark this page—you’re likely to need it if you’re traveling over the next few months.

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)

“One Flew South. They fly in their sushi fresh every day! It’s located in the International Terminal and feels like a real restaurant with funky decor. It’s amazing!”
—Lissa Harnish Poirot, Editor-in-Chief, FamilyVacationCritic.com

Cafe Intermezzo at ATL airport

Grab a book with your meal: Cafe Intermezzo at ATL is a restaurant and a bookstore. Photo: Cafe Intermezzo

“Cafe Intermezzo ATL. Both of my favorites in one place: great salads, and the tables are surrounded by a book store!”
Beth Aton Stewart

“Ecco in Terminal F. It’s a Midtown Atlanta restaurant that now offers an airport outpost. Wonderful Mediterranean cuisine and a respectable wine list.”
—Marshall Jackson, MJ on Travel

“Fresh to Order is fantastic. All fresh, light, and healthy menu selections at affordable price points. Refreshing to see in an airport!
—Laura Faust, Ciao Laura

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

“The Salt Lick has the BEST BBQ at an airport I have ever had. The brisket was amazing! And I am from Texas, so I should know! They have one at DFW too.”
—Cacinda Maloney, Points and Travel

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

“Legal Sea Foods—there is more than one, and some have that ‘airport’ feel, but Legal is very fussy about quality, and you can get some of the best, freshest seafood in Boston.”
Go See It Travel

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

“Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits! I used to live down south, now I’m in Pittsburgh. I try and make all my flights connect through CLT, and I will run from one end to the other for my chicken biscuits!”
Tasha Heckla

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Rick Bayless's gourmet Mexican dishes—and margaritas—are fan favorites at Chicago O'Hare. Photo: Tortas Frontera

Rick Bayless’s gourmet Mexican dishes—and margaritas—are fan favorites at Chicago O’Hare. Photo: Tortas Frontera

“Tortas Frontera is SO good. Delicious sandwiches, locally sourced ingredients, and a killer margarita. For about the same price as other airport options, you can get a little bit of gourmet (Rick Bayless knows his stuff). I actually look forward to this airport meal!”
Kelly Ratliff

“Always make the rounds of Garrett’s popcorn, Vosge’s chocolates, and Tortas Frontera sandwich with margaritas!!!”
Katherine Montgomery

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Texas favorite Salt Lick BBQ has an outpost at DFW location. Photo: Salt Lick BBQ/Facebook

Texas favorite Salt Lick BBQ has an outpost at DFW location. Photo: Salt Lick BBQ/Facebook

“Salt Lick BBQ gets my vote. Being a Texan, this gives me the taste of home even if only passing through. And yes, Texas BBQ is the BEST!”
Charles Wolfe

“Cousins Bar-B-Que @ Dallas. D’lish!”
Lisa Ringler

“DFW Pappasitos, Mexican.”
Leslie Kaminski

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)

“Max & Erma’s: A taste of typical Midwest always makes me happy to be home! Their cheesy tortilla soup and warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies are sure to cheer and warm up any wintery blues. Also would vote for National Coney Island, a Michigan classic.”
—Jessica Seba, Journey Mexico

Indianapolis International Airport (IND)

“Harry and Izzy’s is a great spot to sit down and have their famous shrimp cocktail and a drink.”
Midori Fujii

New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

“Delta’s terminal at LGA offers a wealth of modern café options. Last time flying through I made extra time to pop into Crust. Fresh coal-oven pizzas and quiet atmosphere. Love the iPad order system. Swift service, darkened lighting, and a location just footsteps to the gates make this a perfect dining spot.”
—Sharon Pomerantz Strelzer, Pomerantz PR

Miami International Airport (MIA)

“Cafe Versailles totally gets you in the mood of Miami—hot, sizzling, tropical. You want to do the salsa while ordering your Cuban sandwich. When you can speak Spanish to the staff while you are still in the U.S., it’s like you’ve taken a ‘little trip’ to another country, and that’s priceless!”
Robyn Webb

“At MIA, La Caretta is terrific authentic Latin cuisine.”
Marcy Gross Schackne

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

“Ye Olde College Inn—fantastic food!”
Lucie Thornton

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

“At EWR, Jersey Mike’s subs are the best.”
Leslie Kaminski

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

“At JFK, The Palm has fabulous burgers. (Would you expect anything else?)”
Marcy Gross Schackne

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

“I like Cibo Wine Bar at PHL. Great wines, nice Italian food, and an ambience that makes me forget I’m at an airport.”
—Lissa Harnish Poirot, Editor-in-Chief, FamilyVacationCritic.com

Portland International Airport (PDX)

“Do food trucks count? PDX has the popular Pok Pok food truck now, and LAX terminal 4 has Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ.”
—Arnette, founder, Round The World Girl

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

“I love Le Grand Orange at PHX—maybe because LGO was also in my Phoenix neighborhood. I’d often stop to get carry-out to take home from the airport! I love their salads, their pizza is delicious, and they offer a gluten-free chocolate cookie that is delectable.”
—Micheline Maynard, Editor in Chief, Curbing Cars

Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA)

Legal Sea Foods clam chowder

A cup of clam chowder or a lobster roll? Or maybe a crab roll? Legal Sea Foods serves all its signatures at various airport locations. Photo: Legal Sea Foods/Facebook

“Bowl of clam chowder at Legal Sea Foods. Also, Boudin Bakery in SFO for fresh sourdough bread. They would be great together!”
— Charles McCool, McCool Travel


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Best Ways to Spend Delays in 17 U.S. Airports

For many of us, Thanksgiving and Christmas mean too much time spent in airports: The holiday crowds require you to get there early, messy weather can mean delays, and planes are so packed that, if your flight is cancelled, it can be untold hours before you get a seat on another flight. But some airports are far more tolerable than others. In some cases they’re even enjoyable. You already know the best way to spend a layover in 10 of the biggest U.S. hubs. Here, a selection of savvy globe trotters—from travel experts to my Facebook followers—share the best U.S. airports to get stuck in, and their favorite way to pass the time there.

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)
“ATL – One Flew South – sushi.”
—Willis McKee, reader

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
“If I had to choose one airport, it would be Austin, Texas, for the great local restaurants, including several that often have live bands.”
Scott Mayerowitz,  Executive Editorial Director, The Points Guy

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
“Relax in the charming white rocking chairs scattered throughout the airport. Makes me think ‘Southern Hospitality’.”
—Kathy Belden, reader

Centurion Lounge in Miami International Airport

The Centurion Lounge

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
“I’ve been stuck for days at DFW, and it was just fine—I looked into declaring residency in the American Express Centurion lounge. The DFW airport grounds are bigger than the island of Manhattan, and the airport offers myriad amenities, including the American Express lounge and an almost-too-nice Grand Hyatt attached to the terminal with a pool deck overlooking the runways. What more could you need?”
—Gary Leff, founder, View From The Wing

Denver International Airport (DEN)
“Food, not too much shopping, lots of open-space feeling from the high ceilings and huge windows— and views of the mountains.”
—Carolyn Trabuco, reader

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
“Detroit is the best airport in the USA at the moment. Great local restaurants. Beautiful and clean.”
—David Rosati, reader

honolulu airport chinese garden

Believe it or not, this is an airport. HNL’s Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian gardens were designed in 1962, when the airport was built. Photo: Courtesy HNL

Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
“I love the gardens in the middle of the airport.”
—Perri Collins, reader

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
“My favorite domestic airport to get stuck in is Los Angeles International (LAX)! They’ve brought in a bunch of local restaurants and shops which have made all the difference in the world. A lot of travelers don’t realize that your same-day boarding pass allows you to go into any terminal no matter which airline you’re flying! So if you like a restaurant in one of the other terminals, go ahead and check it out.”
—Johnny Jet, JohnnyJet.com

Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
“Lots of good shopping and restaurants, and if it’s a long enough layover, in less than 15 minutes you can take the train to the Mall of America for a ride on the carousel.”
—Lori Bruns, reader

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): Terminal 5
“I love the JetBlue terminal (Terminal 5) at JFK. They have that great store MUJI to GO, an Ex Officio shop, great restaurants, and a spa.”
—Paula Froelich, founder of A Broad Abroad

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): Terminal 4
“I love the Delta lounge in Terminal 4. It’s so big that I can always find a quiet corner. The space is subdivided into a lot of different rooms, so it’s easy to have a different experience each time. Every seat has outlets and USB ports, which is key for last-minute charging. And there’s an outdoor lounge, which is just fun because I’ll take any oxygen I can before being locked in a tin can.”
—Pavia Rosati, founder/CEO, Fathom

Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)
“It’s low-key and truly Floridian, with a relaxing vibe. And if you forgot a souvenir, there are always those kitschy coconut candy treats.”
—Sharon Pomerantz Strelzer, reader

Portland International Airport (PDX)
“PDX has the best store: CC McKenzie has awesome clothes, shoes, and accessories. They also have the Dragontree holistic day spa, and Powell’s Books!”
—Brandy Audette, reader

San Francisco International Airport yoga room

SFO’s Yoga Room, the first ever in an airport, lets you get in a good stretch before you board your flight. Photo: Courtesy San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
“It has a spa for massages and a yoga room.”
—Deb Arora, reader

Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA)
“I love taking a walk into the historic lobby in what’s now Terminal A. It’s usually pretty empty there, but if you stop for a moment, you can just feel the presence of all of the historic figures that have graced those halls since the terminal opened during World War II.”
—Brett Snyder, president and Chief Airline Dork, The Cranky Flier

What’s your ideal airport to get stuck in? Weigh in below!


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Astonishing Business-Class Airfare Deal to Europe—But You Have to Act Fast


Every year I wait with bated breath for the day when business travel expert Joe Brancatelli announces that the airlines have started their secret business-class airfare sales to Europe. Today’s the day, folks—and this time the sales, which are usually for either the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays or for summertime, are actually for both! Joe has found outstanding business-class airfares to Europe for as low as $1,566 roundtrip from the East Coast and $1,616 roundtrip from the West.

If you don’t know who Joe is or why I think he’s the smartest guy in the room when it comes to getting the most for your business-travel dollar, you can read our interview with him here. You can also sign up for his Joe Sent Me newsletter as soon as you finish reading this; you’ll be glad you did.

But back to the sale: The low fares, which are on British Airways, are for travel between November 16, 2015 and August 2016, but you must book by the end of the day tomorrow, October 16. Fares available include:

  • Tampa to London for $1,566
  • New York to London for $1,605
  • San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, or Washington, D.C., to London for $1,611
  • Los Angeles to London for $1,616
  • Atlanta to London for $1,811

If you want to travel elsewhere in Europe via London, business-class fares start as low as $1,533 roundtrip.

But wait—it gets even cheaper: If you are an AARP member, says Joe, “you can drive your fare down below $1,200 roundtrip on some routes between late November and next August. (Yes, August, 2016.) And, yes, other carriers do seem to be matching. And, yes, there’s a great mileage bonus opportunity. And even a first-class sale.”

The key to many of these low fares is a Sunday-night stay, says Joe. Start reading about the sale at www.ba.com/2015, and then dig deeper with BA’s pricing tool here. The sale includes American Airlines, Iberia and OpenSkies, BA’s boutique carrier to Paris and Iberia. And, amazingly, Joe reports good availability.

So, if you’ve been toying with the idea of a trip to Europe, now is the moment to book. And if you were ever thinking, “I wish I knew about great business-class travel deals,” now is the time to become a member at Joe Sent Me. Yes, you’ll still get some great info if you opt only for his free weekly newsletter, but you’ll get the really good stuff—including breaking travel alerts and deals—if you purchase a membership. Starting at just $69 a year, you can see that it very quickly pays for itself.

three orange beach chairs and a green umbrella facing the ocean in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

The 3 Most Sanity-Saving Travel Tips You’ll Ever Hear

Finding the right flight can be a full-time job. Is there a cheaper one out there? Could there be one with a more convenient route? One with better seats? And it’s the same story when it comes to tracking down decently priced hotel rooms or car rentals. Often, travelers end up not booking a good deal when they see one because they’re so nervous that they’ll miss out on an even better value if only they keep researching for another 15 minutes!

But even if you successfully navigate that maze of logistics—even if you find a great hotel, book the right rental car, and plan the most amazing itinerary (with or without one of Wendy’s top travel specialists)—you can’t anticipate everything, and occasionally things still go wrong when you get there.

For some people (me included) these stressors have the potential to derail the whole point of the vacation: to relax and rejuvenate you. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In a recent interview with business travel expert Joe Brancatelli, he shared three incredibly smart tips that might just eliminate all travel stress entirely. Here’s what Joe had to say—bookmark it and look at it before every trip.

1. How to find cheap fares and rates

“I never like to be in people’s wallets, but I think people spend too much time searching for the lowest fare or the cheapest hotel room or the lowest price on a car rental. The travel industry has spent millions on computers trying to beat you. And, to be honest, someone is always better at the game than you. Travelers should value their time as they plan a holiday. Do you really want to spend another hour of your time looking to shave $10 off the price? Is your time worth so little? I say find the “fair fare,” in other words a price you think is reasonable for an airline seat, hotel room or car rental. Then book it. Stop spending hours fighting over pennies in search of the nonexistent “lowest” price. Because even if you think you got it, I can assure you that you’ll find someone at the resort or on the flight who actually paid less than you did.”

2. How to deal with travel problems during your trip

“Even if it costs you a few bucks, do whatever you have to do to fix a travel problem on the spot so you can go back to enjoying your trip. Argue with the travel company about compensation later. But, within reason, fix the problem first, worry about compensation later.”

3. How to resolve travel problems in your favor and be made whole again

“When it comes time to even the account, know how to write an intelligent, effective letter of complaint. I’ve written how to do it several times and I am always amazed at how poorly people handle their interaction with a travel company. Get the emotions out of it. Talk facts. And don’t forget to ask for the compensation you want. No company is going to offer you anything more than a form-letter apology unless you specifically ask for something tangible to make things right.”

Learn more from Joe by following him at Joe Sent Me.

Brett finds a treasure in the duty-free shop onboard the Korean Air's A380.

The Airlines’ Biggest Shortcoming, According to The Cranky Flier

Brett Snyder’s title is Chief Airline Dork. And it’s fitting. As a kid, his idea of fun was watching planes land at LAX; by the age of 12 he’d become the youngest known travel agent. Since then, he’s worked his way through various airlines—US Airways, America West, Eos, and United—all the while helping friends and family solve various air travel snafus and frustrations. Eventually (and we’d add, inevitably), Brett turned his knack for solving problems into a service available to anyone, via his company Cranky Concierge. Need a last-minute alternative for delayed or canceled flights? Help finding a hotel when a blizzard has grounded travelers all over the country? An ally who can talk directly to airlines and untangle their rules and regulations? Call Cranky. Wendy does. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 she named Brett to her Condé Nast Traveler list of top travel specialists, as an expert in urgent airline assistance. Today, when travelers ask Wendy for the best travel agent to book a complicated airline itinerary, she often sends them to Brett.

You can follow Brett on his blog, The Cranky Flier, where he monitors the airline industry, using his insider knowledge to ensure that the rest of us understand what’s going on behind the scenes. As you might have guessed from the name, Brett’s sharp sense of humor pervades all of his posts and work—after all, you’d have to be able to laugh in his business. Here, he bravely reveals one of his most memorable and embarrassing travel experiences, as well as his opinion on the biggest issue that airlines face.

Most memorable travel moment:

Well, you’re asking this question just a week after I stepped off my first (and likely only) flight in Singapore’s Suites class. So it’s tempting to say that’s it. But really there is one flight that sticks out in my mind as being the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Back in 2002, I flew Concorde from London to New York. That was incredible and is easily my most memorable travel moment.

Brett relaxing in Singapore Airlines' A380 Suite.

Brett relaxing in Singapore Airlines’ A380 Suite. Photo courtesy The Cranky Flier.

Most embarrassing travel moment:

This isn’t airplane-related, but I still remember it to this day. Way back in third grade, I was on vacation with my parents and younger brother in Washington, DC. We had walked into Georgetown to go to dinner and my brother spilled what seemed like a gallon of milk right in my crotch. It was a long walk back to the hotel for this mortified third grader.

Name one thing people would be surprised to find in your travel bag:

Not much. I travel very light when I’m on the road. My wife still can’t believe I brought only a duffle bag on our two-week honeymoon. Granted, it was in French Polynesia, so I didn’t need more than a bathing suit anyway.

Touristy spot that’s actually worth it, and the trick to doing it right:

Dubuque. Oh wait, that’s not touristy? Ok, then I’d probably say Washington, DC. The place is absolutely full of history, and most of the monuments and museums are free, so it is not only a great place to visit but it can be done economically for those on a budget. While there are some great out-of-the-way memorials (the Einstein one is my favorite), most of the places you want to see are the same ones everyone wants to see. Wear comfortable shoes and be ready to walk. Get yourself an awkwardly named SmarTrip fast pass for the Metro as well. Stay hydrated and bring snacks. In other words, prepare like you’re getting ready for some post-apocalyptic world. Lastly, don’t go during cherry blossom season (spring). Everyone goes then, and it’s even more crowded than usual. And don’t go in the summer. Not only are their hordes of families, but the place was built on a swamp. You’ll feel like you’re in a steam bath. If you can go in the fall or winter, you’ll be better off.

Non-touristy spot people might not know about but should add to their must-visit list:

I don’t think Slovenia counts as touristy, does it? When I was young, I remember seeing a picture of this impossibly blue river in Slovenia. It took me a long time, but I finally made it there about a decade ago to see the Soca River for myself, and it remains one of my favorite trips. It’s an incredible sight. But what’s more incredible is how much you can see in Slovenia within such a short drive. You have the glacial valleys where the Soca River roams in the west. In the north you’ll find the Julian Alps and some incredibly picturesque mountain lakes (Bled and Bohinj). Come down a bit to the center and you’ll be in the medieval capital of Ljubljana. (Just try to ignore the Soviet-era buildings that surround the city.) To the east is the wine country of Maribor. And in the southwest is Slovenia’s tiny coastline with the historic town of Piran and beachy Portoroz. From one side of the country to the other is less than three hours by car. To top it off, I’m convinced that every person in Slovenia is friendly and speaks 300 different languages fluently.

Hiking outside of Kobarid in the Soca River Valley, Slovenia.

Hiking outside of Kobarid in the Soca River Valley, Slovenia. Photo courtesy The Cranky Flier.

Name two indispensable apps you use when you travel:

1) The app for whatever airline I’m flying.

2) Google Maps, which is great for plotting public transit routes and providing fare information.

The travel gadget or gear that has saved your life…or your mind:

I’m not really a gadget guy. I travel light, so my phone is probably the only real gadget I use when I travel. And it has definitely saved me a lot of stress. (It also creates a ton too, but that’s my fault for checking my email.)

Choose any two travel-world bloggers and tell us the most important thing you’ve learned from each:

Here’s the funny thing. I don’t read a ton of travel bloggers. When I do, it’s usually more for the business insight into the industry as opposed to things that focus on the travel experience itself. So for example, I read Gary Leff’s View from the Wing for news on frequent-flier programs. Or I read really geeky stuff like Airline Route, which shows airline schedule changes. Boring, right? I should read more aspirational stuff—I’d probably be happier.

Whose Tweets do you find the most useful and entertaining when you see them in your feed?

Well if you’re looking for entertainment, try out @FakeUnitedJeff and his impersonation of United’s CEO. It rings a little too close to home. Otherwise, if you’re looking for useful, I turn to all my favorite #AvGeeks. People like Airline Reporter, Ben Granucci, Benet Wilson, Ghim-Lay Yeo, Henry Harteveldt, Holly Hegeman, Jason Rabinowitz, Jeremy DwyerLindgren, Jon Ostrower, Justin Meyer, and Paul Thompson.

Name one way the travel industry can do better:

Well my experience is more on the airline/travel agent side, so I’ll focus on that. I honestly think the biggest issue for airlines has long been communication. We all understand that flying airplanes around the world is a complex business. Most people are understanding when things go wrong if they know what’s actually happening. But for years and years, airlines have had this “need to know” kind of attitude, and the customer doesn’t need to know. It’s not just on the operations side either. Delta has really taken this further by hiding its seat maps and availability from third parties. Heck, it even stopped publishing an award chart altogether. If airlines really want to improve the travel experience, they should communicate openly, truthfully, and often. The fact that they don’t is one of the reasons that my Cranky Concierge business is thriving, so maybe I shouldn’t hope for them to change…

Look into the future and describe one aspect of travel that you think will be different in 20 years:

I’d like to think that we’ll be closer to having space travel as a reality. Even if it’s not for travel into space but as a way to speed up the transit time between cities on Earth, it would be a huge win. Between 1903 and 1965, we saw travel times come down dramatically in the air. But nothing has changed since then. It’s time.

Most effective thing you’ve ever said or done to get an upgrade or a special perk while traveling:

The best thing anyone can do is just be nice. If you’re using that as a tool solely to get an upgrade, then that’s pretty shady. And it doesn’t work with airlines much anymore, since there’s a lot less leeway for a gate agent to give you an upgrade than there used to be. But just be nice in general and things can sometimes fall in your favor. If the gate agent has any leeway, then being nice is the only way you’ll get an upgrade. (Just try the “do you know who I am” route. You’ll end up in a middle seat in the last row.)

I remember one time I was at JFK and it was a mess. I had to get rebooked and finally got to the agent at the counter. She looked wrecked. I simply asked her if she’d like a sandwich or a drink or anything, and her mood changed instantly. It’s hard doing that job and getting yelled at all day. I actually did end up getting a seat up front, but I didn’t even ask. I was just trying to empathize.

To make friends, I always carry:





Train travel.

If you were in my car during a road trip, you’d hear me singing:

Some good classic rock—maybe a little Tom Petty, possibly some Zeppelin. Or it could be something a little more recent like Smashing Pumpkins, which admittedly still isn’t all that recent. As my brother says, my appreciation for music somehow stopped developing at the turn of the millennium.

The airplane movie that, unexpectedly, made me bawl was:

Marley & Me. Never watch a dog movie with a sad ending on an airplane.

When I travel, I’m not afraid of:

Going naked into a communal bath.

But I am afraid of:

Getting violently ill from accidentally drinking the water in a country where I shouldn’t.

singapore airlines suites

The Best Frequent-Flier Deals for American Express Points


Wendy, I have accumulated 2 million American Express points. How do I get the best bang for my buck redeeming them for airline tickets? Should I dump them all into a frequent-flier program? I am open to any and all suggestions. Thank you!


For smart advice on using AmEx Membership Rewards points, I’ve called in my old buddy Brian Kelly, a.k.a. The Points Guy. Brian’s been so successful at collecting and leveraging his own miles that he was able to give up his Wall Street job (which is what he was doing when I met him) to travel around the world full-time. He shares his hard-won knowledge on his website ThePointsGuy.com, and he’s got three nifty suggestions for you, Dee:

“Having 2,000,000 Membership Rewards points at your disposal is definitely a great position to be in. I would keep the points in your American Express account until you’re ready to plan a trip, but you don’t need to blow all two million on a single high-end round-the-world adventure (though you certainly can, assuming you have a few weeks to travel).

Instead, I’d suggest transferring the points to Membership Rewards partners as you need to use them, or, if American Express is offering a temporary transfer bonus to a certain program, it may make sense to transfer speculatively. For example, earlier this year, you could convert Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios with a 40-percent bonus, so you’d earn 1.4 Avios for every point you transferred. If you had transferred all two million points, you would have ended up with 2,800,000 Avios, which is enough for a whopping 622 one-way short-haul flights on American or US Airways within the US (up to 650 miles), at 4,500 Avios a pop for coach.

Because airline-program devaluations can come at any time (and bonus opportunities can always pop up), it usually makes more sense to keep your points in a flexible currency, like Membership Rewards, until you’re ready to book.

If you’re looking to travel in style, another great airline transfer partner is Singapore Airlines. Singapore reserves the best awards in First and Suites Class on its 777-300ER and A380 aircraft for its own members, so you can’t book premium seats on long-haul flights using miles from a Star Alliance partner. This makes Singapore’s KrisFlyer miles exceptionally valuable. For every 1,000 Membership Rewards points, you’ll receive 1,000 KrisFlyer miles. You can experience Suites Class on the A380 starting at just 31,875 miles (or 31,875 American Express Points) for a one-way flight between Singapore and Hong Kong. Or you can travel all the way from New York City in Suites Class for 93,750 miles, plus about $300 in taxes and fees. Your 2 million points will get you and a friend to and from New York to Singapore in Suites ten times.

Finally, Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is another great transfer partner. As with British Airways and Singapore, you’ll receive 1,000 Aeroplan miles for every 1,000 points you transfer, and points typically transfer instantly (or within a day or two). Aeroplan is especially valuable for premium-cabin travel when compared to United Airlines, allowing you to fly between the US and Europe in Lufthansa First Class for 62,500 miles, rather than the 110,000 miles United requires. Note that Aeroplan does charge fuel surcharges on some carriers, including Lufthansa, so you may need to pay a few hundred dollars in fees in addition to the miles you’ll use for an award.

In total, American Express partners with 16 airline programs and four hotel chains, though you’ll generally get the most bang for your buck from the programs I’ve outlined above.”

Dee, I’m beyond jealous! Enjoy all those trips!

Qatar Airways seat configuration

5 Things I Loved About My 13-Hour Flight on Qatar Airways, and Two I Didn’t

“These might be the most comfortable pajamas I’ve ever worn.”

That is my most lasting impression from my 13 hours on a Qatar Airways flight from JFK to Doha the other week. The big draw of the airline is its business class, which travelers have named best in the world in Skytrax’s World Airline Awards for the past two years running (its seats, amenities, food, and lounge earned high rankings too). The back of the plane isn’t shabby either: Skift named Qatar Airways Best Economy Long-Haul Experience in 2015. But it was the business class experience—complete with a Giorgio Armani amenity kit, soft gray pajamas, and cushy slippers—that I indulged in last week.*

The rise of the airline—which launched as a regional service in 1994 and was revamped as a global player in 1997—mirrors the rise of Qatar as an international tourist destination. A young country in general (it was a British protectorate until 1971), the capital city of Doha was raised into existence only 35 years ago, but already the wealthy Qatari government has positioned it as a luxury Middle East destination, attracting all the biggies in luxury travel brands: Four Seasons, St. Regis, InterContinental, and most recently Anantara, which recently opened the Banana Island Resort to which I was bound. There’s star power in the culinary space (Alain Ducasse, Nobu, Shake Shack, and NYC cupcake stalwart Magnolia Bakery); in the arts scene (I.M. Pei designed the Museum of Islamic Art, and Richard Serra created a monumental series of obelisks for the museum and for the desert), and along the skyline (you’ll find projects by Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, and Rem Koolhaas). Construction is everywhere: a new cultural village packed with galleries and a striking 4,000-seat marble amphitheater; a new metro rail system; a new education “city” offering American universities to Middle East residents; the new Mall of Qatar (which will be the largest in the country); and, of course, a rush of new sports facilities in anticipation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Travelers are taking notice, and their introduction to Qatar begins on the plane. It’s an impressive one. Here are five things I loved about my nonstop business-class flight…and two things I didn’t.

The Good

1. The personal attention begins as soon as you check in.

Qatar Airways’ VIP service starts right at the airport check-in counter, when one of the desk agents offers to escort you to the lounge. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was code for “you will get to cut every line in security and insert yourself and your bins right at the front.” I definitely enjoyed the celebrity treatment’s speed and ease, but it came with a side of guilt for cutting in front of all the regular folk waiting to make their way through the TSA maze. However, anyone flying QR in any cabin class can purchase this VIP treatment. It’s called the Al Maha service and includes an escort from check-in to the gate and a welcome escort at Doha International Airport who will guide you through passport inspection and out to your ground transportation; the service is also available on arrival (prices start at 300 Qatari riyals each way).

Once onboard, you’ll find a set of pajamas and a Giorgio Armani amenities kit stuffed with the usual essentials (ear plugs, eye shade, socks) and some Armani perfume and lotion.


The Giorgio Armani business class amenities kit contains perfume and lotion—men get one set, women get another.

The Giorgio Armani business class amenities kit contains perfume and lotion—men get one set, women get another. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways.


2. The seat configuration allows for space and decent privacy.

The 777 we took from JFK to Doha had a 2-2-2 configuration. For easiest access to an aisle, choose seats in the middle section.

The 777 we took from JFK to Doha had a 2-2-2 configuration. For easiest access to an aisle, choose seats in the middle section. Photo: Billie Cohen.

My plane was the B777-300ER, which meant a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. I shared my nook with only one other person, with whom I could enjoy conversation while we got settled and then completely ignore once we reclined for movies and sleep, thanks to the cocoon-like design of the lie-flat seats.


3. The in-flight entertainment system made it kind of hard to leave the plane.

All seven of the Harry Potter movies, all three of the Lord of the Rings movies, an entire collection devoted to Meryl Streep, plus a ton of Bollywood films and TV and music from around the world. I kept thinking, Why can’t Netflix have as good a selection? It was hard to choose between sleep and staying up all 13 hours to watch movies.

It was hard to choose between a Harry Potter marathon and a nap. I did both.

It was hard to choose between a Harry Potter marathon and a nap. I did both. Photo: Billie Cohen.


4. The food is good enough to be served on the ground.

Pumpkin and chestnut soup. Summer greens and mozzarella salad. Greek yogurt with raspberry compote and toasted granola. A selection of desserts from Ladurée. Special dishes created by Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia (the first Indian chef to win a Michelin star). And lots of small details added to the feeling of fine dining: warm mixed nuts, warm bread and butter, mini boxes of Valrhona chocolates, white-cloth napkins, real silverware, and real glasses. Unfortunately, my food pictures are horrible; I have not mastered the art of Instagramming dishes in any appetizing way whatsoever, so I haven’t done justice here, but believe me this was food I would’ve been happy to be served in a restaurant. And the best part is that it’s all delivered to your seat whenever you want, rather than when the flight attendants’ schedule says it’s time.

This yogurt parfait with raspberry compote was delicious.

This yogurt parfait with raspberry compote was delicious.


5. The award-winning lie-flat bed

As a light sleeper, I was skeptical that this “bed” would be as comfortable as promised. It was. After the flight attendants set you up with a thin mattress, a fluffy pillow and a light cloth quilt (none of that staticky fake fleece stuff), it is really hard to stay awake. On both flights, the lights were dimmed, with only the soft glow of the color-changing ceiling accents, which cycled through blues, greens, and oranges to indicate time of day. According to Qatar Airways, the purpose of the mood lighting—which exists in the economy cabin as well—is to decrease the effects of jet lag, but I’m thinking it has more to do with the beds than the light bulbs.

Qatar Airways lie-flat beds

The model in this press photo is not faking—the beds are comfortable. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways.

The fully adjustable bed not only made for comfortable sleeping, but for working, and curling up and watching Harry Potter. I especially appreciated the adjustable attached footrest; thanks to button controls that let you raise it to your comfort level, my short legs (which don’t usually reach the floor on airplanes…or buses, subways and office chairs for that matter) enjoyed the full benefits of a footrest for the first time I can remember.

At 4’11, my legs aren’t long enough to reach most footrests. Thanks to the adjustable one on my business-class seat, I got to see what all the fuss is about. I liked it.

At 4’11, my legs aren’t long enough to reach most footrests. Thanks to the adjustable one on my business-class seat, I got to see what all the fuss is about. I liked it.

The Not So Good

No exit 

There I am, happily cozying up in my reclined seat, snacking on chocolates, flipping through movies while my neighbor gently snored in the next seat, when nature called and I discovered the first downside to life in QA’s business class. Not the bathrooms (which were cleaned often and stocked with aromatic soaps), but the one drawback of these award-winning lie-flat beds.

I chose a window seat in on both of my flights. Great for sightseeing (I’m a sucker for takeoff and landing photos), but bad for every time I wanted to go to the bathroom. Once my seatmate was fully reclined and snoring, I was trapped: His feet reached all the way to the wall, so to get out of our row, I had to climb over his legs, a fate I had naively thought was limited to the coach-class experience. Thankfully he was a heavy sleeper and there wasn’t much turbulence. Otherwise, there could have been a very awkward spill onto his bed. If you want to avoid this on your next business class flight, check SeatGuru to determine the cabin’s seat configuration. If it’s 2-2-2, like mine was, choose the middle section to guarantee easy aisle access from both seats.

No Wi-Fi, inaccessible power

Power plugs are a must-have these days. Even if you’re distracted by Meryl Streep’s complete catalog of films, at some point on a 13-hour flight, most of us have to do some work. But on QR’s 777, the plug (which, conveniently, does not require an adapter) is inconveniently hidden behind the lower-leg portion of the seat. Even when the seat is in its fully upright position, it covers the recess where the plug is located; if I didn’t have small hands (and if I wasn’t willing to sit on the floor in front of my seat holding a phone flashlight), I would not have been able to plug in my computer. Once I did, I realized the other drawback of QR’s 777s: no Wi-Fi. I understand that some aircraft are older and not able, or worthwhile, to be retrofitted—and the airline’s 787s, A350s, and A380 all have internet—but business class should allow you to, you know, get some business done.

To be fair, these are pretty minor quibbles considering how comfortable the flights were, how impressive the food and service were, and how easy it was to sleep. While getting work out of the way is key to having a good vacation once you’re on the ground, the truth is that you can’t get anything done—on or off the plane—if you’re tired and hungry, and Qatar Airways sufficiently takes care of both. Plus, you get those pajamas.


*Full disclosure: My flight was fully paid for by Qatar Airways, as part of a small media trip to Anantara’s new Banana Island Resort, just off the coast of Doha. (The five of us were the first American journalists to see Anantara’s new property here.) Onboard, I watched carefully to see if the flight crew treated me or my colleagues any differently than other passengers and it did not seem to be so.

In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on our hosts’ part, nor was anything promised on ours. You can read our signed agreement with Qatar Airways here and with Anantara here. 

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

View from the Wing's Gary Leff (right) with fellow frequent flier Randy Petersen.

Inside the Mind of a Miles Expert: An Interview with View from the Wing’s Gary Leff

If you want to know anything about travel rewards programs, Gary Leff is the person to ask. He is one of the most well-known and respected authorities on miles and points—whether they be for airlines, hotels, rental cars, or credit cards. He writes the View from the Wing blog, runs Book Your Award (with another mileage pro Steve Belkin of Competitours), co-founded the frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, and was a longtime moderator on FlyerTalk.com. His most impressive accomplishment (to nerds like me, anyway), is that he’s also had a cameo on The Colbert Report. To other types of nerds, it’s that his day job is as CFO for a university research center.

Although I’ve known Gary for years (he wrote for me regularly when I was editor of condenasttraveler.com), I was embarrassed to realize that while I’d engaged him in countless conversations about credit cards and the best ways to earn miles quickly, I’d never really asked him about his own personal travel experiences. And not surprisingly, he has had amazing ones. Anyone who’s traveled as much as he has would—though not everyone’s stories would include being accused of stealing coffee from a hotel in Macau. Read on…

El Bulli

Most memorable travel moment: dinner at El Bulli, 2008. Photo: Gary Leff.

Most memorable travel moment:

I managed to get a Saturday night booking for El Bulli, which at the time was regarded by many as the best restaurant in the world. So my wife and I flew to Barcelona for the weekend, took the train up to Figueres, and checked into a hotel in Roses. When we arrived at the restaurant, after a long drive up a cliff beside the Mediterranean, two young women dressed in sweat pants walk in ahead of us and asked for a table. They were told, as politely as I could possibly have imagined, that this would just not be possible…. We walked inside, were greeted and taken to the kitchen where we met and took pictures with chef Ferran Adrià.

Now that the restaurant has closed, with Adria having stared down the John Stuart Mill problem (Mill wondered what the point in life was if he had accomplished all of his goals by age 18!), I feel grateful to have experienced it.

Most embarrassing travel moment:

Being accused of stealing coffee by room service staff at the Sheraton Macau. I didn’t do it, honest!

I was there over Chinese New Year (nearly every hotel was sold out, and rates at the Sheraton approached US$600 per night, so I was grateful to be able to use just 10,000 Starwood points a night there). I decided to order coffee from room service around 6 a.m. The hotel explained that I could tell them how many cups of coffee I wanted, and that’s what they would fill the pot to. So I asked for 6 cups. A short while later room service delivered the coffee. It seemed awfully light for 6 cups. I poured two cups, and the pot felt nearly empty. So I called back down to in-room dining. The same person I ordered from answered, and she remembered that I had ordered 6 cups. She said she’d send up 4 more cups right away.

So at 6:30 a.m. there’s a knock on the door, and the man who delivered the first pot of coffee appeared. He didn’t have a pot of coffee in his hand. Instead he declared: “I am here to investigate.” I told him that we had ordered six cups of coffee, I poured two and that’s all there was. He lifted the pot of coffee and said, “there’s still some left”. He then said it’s not possible that we could have gotten less coffee, because the machine is electronic. They specify how much goes in the pot.

There I am, standing in a bathrobe in my hotel room, being told that it’s not possible that I could be missing coffee and in any case the coffee I ordered was right there, in the pot! What was I trying to pull, anyway? He thought I was trying to cheat the hotel, to get extra coffee without paying for it.

He then poured the remaining coffee from the pot into an empty cup. It filled only half way. I said, “You were right, there were actually two and a half cups.” He harumphed, walked directly outside the room, and handed me the pot he had brought along with the four replacement cups of coffee I had been promised—once I satisfied him that I wasn’t actually trying to steal coffee.

Name one thing people would be surprised to find in your travel bag:

Downy wrinkle releaser. As experienced a traveler as I am, and no matter how much I work on my packing and folding techniques, I can’t get rid of wrinkles.

East Coast Lagoon Food Village, Singapore

East Coast Lagoon Food Village, Singapore. Photo: Gary Leff.

Non-touristy spot everyone should add to their must-visit list:

The criteria I’d use to think about ‘non-touristy spots’ isn’t that they’re places tourists don’t go, but that they’re places locals go to and indeed are primarily visited by locals.

I love to enjoy travel and understand a place through its food, whether it’s eating my way through Paris or the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. If you love food as well, two places truly can’t miss are some of the Singapore hawker centers. The Newton Center, closest to many of the hotels around Orchard Road, is the most touristy and in general also the most disappointing. I think there’s nothing that compares to an evening at the East Coast Lagoon Food Village, open air and on the beach. Visit the Red Hill Road center or the Hong Lim Food Center. Each place will specialize in a single dish and take cash only. Look for dishes that sound like you’d want to try them and then walk around the center, focus on the stalls that have the longest lines.

Seating is first come, first serve. Place something at your seat to save it. The traditional Singaporean method is to leave your tissues at your place, this is respected, although of course you can have a companion stay there while you go and order, too!

In the U.S. I think the best place to travel is the Austin area for Central Texas barbecue. Franklin Barbecue is technically perfect, but the lines are incredible. There are so many fantastic places in Austin proper like La Barbecue and a new outpost of Black’s in Lockhart up by the University of Texas, that you have options. Take a drive out to Lockhart for the original Black’s, my favorite, and while you’re there try the sausage at Kreuz and just walk inside Smitty’s with the blackened corridors from a century of smoke.

Blacks Barbecue Texas

Blacks Barbecue. Photo: Gary Leff.

Name 2 indispensable travel apps:

The spread of Uber gives me plenty of confidence going out in unfamiliar places, knowing that I can always easily find my way back even if I wind up somewhere off the beaten path where there’s no public transport and taxis don’t go.

I find I’m much more efficient walking around cities I don’t know well thanks to Google maps, I simply don’t get lost and waste time the way that I used to.

The travel gadget or gear that has saved your life…or your mind:

Compact power strip. I carry a power strip in my laptop bag, it’s something that costs less than $10. But I’ve never heard a hotel guest say, “this room just has too many outlets!” and I’ve found myself in many airport terminals and even lounges where sharing outlets is a must.

What travel-world bloggers have you learned the most from?

The person on social media who taught me the most isn’t a blogger, but an online forum participant named Mark Love (who goes by the name PremEx online). He taught me that the most important thing isn’t understanding travel rules and what you’re entitled to, but how you talk to the real people on the other end of the phone or across the desk. You want to build a rapport, understand what they’re capable of doing for you, and generate the sympathy that will motivate them to help. (And of course, if that turns out not to be possible, ‘hang up call back’ and start the process over.)

Whose Tweets do you find the most useful and entertaining?

Scott Mayerowitz (@GlobeTrotScott), the Associated Press airline and travel reporter.

Look into the future and describe one aspect of travel that will be different in 20 years:

The next step in online is mass customization. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are beginning to do a better job not just listing and selling travel, but helping to provide the information and guidance that consumers want. That was the idea behind Orbitz’s PR flub in ‘charging Mac customers more’ for hotels. They weren’t really charging customers with Mac computers more, their data suggested customers who use Macs tend to prefer hotels at a higher price point. So they were suggesting pricier hotels, not because those earn the OTA more commission but because consumers visit an average of 9–12 different sites when planning travel. If they can’t give consumers what they want, they lose the sale entirely.

The Department of Transportation has a pending rule where they plan to require all travel sites (above a revenue threshold) that display airfares and schedules to present the same uniform information—as opposed to the customized information most useful to a given individual consumer for their specific trip.

Provided regulations don’t get in the way, in a few years—not 20—we’ll have come full circle with online travel sites providing customized advice the way people used to get from the very best travel agents. It will have taken more than two decades, but we’ll have gotten to a place where online booking serves consumers about as well as the top end of brick and mortar used to.

Most effective thing you’ve ever said or done to get an upgrade:

You get an upgrade by having loyalty program elite status or points to spend, and knowing the rules of each chain or airline. You increase your chances of an upgrade clearing by avoiding the stiffest competition—traveling when planes and hotels aren’t likely to be full, and when passengers seeking upgrades don’t have status. That means hotels during shoulder season, and airlines outside of peak travel times (avoid Thursday and Friday evening flights, and the first bank of flights Monday morning; fly Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the afternoon).

Hotels have far more discretion than airlines to deviate from a predetermined algorithm for whom to give upgrades to, so the next most important thing is to be nice, and ask.

To make friends, I always carry:

Starbucks gift cards. (Call me mercenary, but I’m trying to make friends with people who can reciprocate, like airline lounge agents.)


Western European capitals


Central and Southeast Asia

The airplane movie that, unexpectedly, made me bawl was:

Airplane. (Google tells me bawl means shout loudly, not just weep.) The travel movies that get me every time are Lost in Translation and Before Sunset.

When I travel, I’m not afraid of:

The strangest of street foods

But I am afraid of:




Follow Gary and View from the Wing:

Twitter: @garyleff

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/garyleff


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Virgin America Wi-fi

Wi-Fi Report Card: Which Airlines Keep You Connected the Best?

For Internet-addicted business travelers, an in-flight announcement that “Wi-Fi is down at the moment” is enough to induce the shakes. And getting booked on a flight that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi at all is enough to send them into fits of rage.

Fortunately, a new study finds plugged-in road warriors had less reason to panic over their in-flight connectivity last year. And 2015 looks even better.


Also from Yahoo! Travel: The Wi-Fi Race: What Are the Best-Connected U.S. Airlines?


A new report by travel website Routehappy finds U.S. flyers now have at least “some chance” of finding Wi-Fi on 66 percent of domestic flights. In contrast, Routehappy’s last report, in June 2013, found Wi-Fi connectivity on less than half of domestic flights. And the story is getting brighter internationally too.

So what’s the Wi-Fi state of the union? Here are the main highlights of Routehappy’s “Global State of In-Flight Wi-Fi” report.

Routehappy Wi-Fi report

Virgin America is out in front on percentage of flights with Wi-Fi. But when you look at the total number of Wi-Fi-connected flights, it’s another story. (Photo: Routehappy)

Wi-Fi is growing like a weed on U.S. air carriers.

Overall, Virgin America leads Routehappy’s list, with the highest percentage of total flights and flight miles with Wi-Fi (that’s not surprising; unlike many other carriers, all of Virgin America’s planes offer Wi-Fi). Southwest is in second place.

But when you’re talking the raw total number of flights that offer Wi-Fi, Delta Air Lines—which runs many more flights than Virgin—is number one by far. It’s followed by the newly combined American Airlines/US Airways.

Delta Wi-Fi

Because of its size and aggressive upgrades, Delta has more Wi-Fi connected flights than anyone. (Photo: Delta)


Also from Yahoo! Travel: No More In-Flight Wi-Fi for AT&T


United Airlines did top one domestic category: Wi-Fi growth. In Routehappy’s last survey, United offered at least “some chance” of Wi-Fi on 518 U.S. domestic flights. Today, that number is 1,445 flights—a 179 percent increase. American/US was a distant second with a 23 percent increase, followed by Delta with 15 percent.

“Domestically, Wi-Fi is being offered on more flights than ever before,” Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager for Routehappy, tells Yahoo Travel. “All mainline airlines have either finished or are nearly finished rolling out Wi-Fi to their entire domestic fleets.”

It’s not just what airline you fly—it’s where you go.

Routehappy finds that all the busiest U.S. domestic routes (20 daily flights or more in each direction) have Wi-Fi availability on all flights. That includes: New York’s JFK to Los Angeles; New York’s LaGuardia to Boston; LaGuardia to Washington-Dulles; New York’s JFK to San Francisco; and Charlotte to Atlanta.

Wi-Fi and power don’t always go together (but they should).

What’s the point of offering passengers Wi-Fi if their computers, tablets and phones run out of juice while they’re using it? “That drives people crazy,” Rabinowitz says. Offering Wi-Fi without power is like offering mac without cheese: Yeah, you can do it, but what’s the point?

Fortunately, some airlines have gotten that message. In Routehappy’s report, Virgin America leads the way with 100 percent of flight miles with Wi-Fi and in-seat power in Economy class. Alaska Airlines is second, and United is third. But if you’re flying JetBlue or Southwest, you’d better bring a book: Those airlines were found to offer the greatest majority of flights with that unfortunate Wi-Fi/no power combination.


Wi-Fi on international flights

Wi-Fi on international flights is getting much more common, especially on Icelandair. (Photo: Routehappy)

Slowly but surely, Wi-Fi is spreading worldwide.

International airlines have been slower to offer Wi-Fi than U.S.-based airlines, but they’re getting better.  In Routehappy’s latest report, non-U.S. airlines offered at least “some” chance of Wi-Fi on 15 percent of their international flights. That may not seem like much, but it’s still a slight improvement. “As of our last report 18 months ago, very few airlines outside of the United States offered the service, with only a handful of flights each day,” Rabinowitz says. But now, “some airlines have nearly completed the rollout of in-flight Wi-Fi on their entire widebody fleet.”

In all, Routehappy finds nine non-U.S. airlines now offer a “very good” chance of having Wi-Fi on 20 percent or more of their international flight miles: Japan, Emirates, Aeroflot, Iberia, Lufthansa, Singapore and Etihad. On the remaining two airlines—Norwegian and Icelandair—that number tops 80 percent. Overall, the airline with the most international planes with Wi-Fi was United.

Wi-Fi user on a plane

Don’t worry: There’s a lot more Wi-Fi in your future. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The future is bright for Wi-Fi on planes.

Rabinowitz thinks we’re not far from seeing in-flight Wi-Fi that resembles the speedy connections you have at home and the office. “In-flight Wi-Fi will be faster, less expensive and available on airlines you probably wouldn’t have guessed today,” he says. With the launch of newer satellites—which offer better connectivity than the more common land-based Wi-Fi systems—he expects the Wi-Fi experience to greatly improve.

In addition to getting faster, Rabinowitz predicts Wi-Fi will get even more commonplace, with U.S. airlines expanding it to more international routes and to their smaller regional planes as well. “Passengers are not only aware that in-flight Wi-Fi exists, but they actually expect it to be available,” he says.

So it looks like “What do you mean this flight doesn’t have Wi-Fi?” will be a question workaholic business travelers will have to ask less and less.


More from Yahoo! Travel

The Millennial’s Guide to Surviving Your First Business Trip

Confessions: The Top 10 Things That Will Make Your Flight Attendant Hate You

Extreme Weapons the TSA Seized at US Airports in 2014


This article originally ran on Yahoo! Travel

United Airlines Business First class

How to Find the Best Flight with your Frequent Flier Miles


Wendy, is there someone you recommend to make airline reservations using frequent flier miles? I have a ton of United miles and American Express Membership Rewards points and am looking for someone to figure out the best way for me to use them. We want to fly to Europe this summer in business class.



Francis, I get this question at least once a week. There are a few mileage-award redemption advisory services, but I’ve always sworn by Gary Leff, whose Book Your Award service, geared to travelers who want to fly in first or business class, has been put to the test by thousands of my readers over the years.

Gary is the blogger behind View From the Wing, a co-founder of the frequent-flier community MilePoint.com, and a one-time hilarious guest in a Colbert Report skit. His partner at BookYourAward.com is Steve Belkin, another mileage magician and the founder of Competitours, an Amazing Race–type travel company.

I’ve known Gary and Steve for years. Between them, they can figure out any first-class or business-class mileage ticket you need, taking into consideration your personal requirements (date range, maximum number of stops, etc.) and your available bank of miles, credit-card points, and other loyalty-program points. (And they’ll help you find more if you come up short).

They know which airlines offer the best award-seat value for which destinations. They come up with flights and routes that require fewer miles than you thought you were going to have to spend or that provide a few welcome layover days in a destination you thought you’d have to skip. And, if that’s not enough, once you’ve used your miles, they’ll teach you how to replenish your bank for your next trip. Their flat fee is $150 per ticket. They’re also insanely busy helping people like you so, if you do reach out to Gary and Steve, tell them I sent you.

Beating Jet Lag and Travel Exhaustion with Science and Magic

Note from Wendy: My strategy for beating jet lag when flying across an ocean is, upon landing, to make the rest of the day about getting outdoor exercise and sunlight. I walk around sightseeing all day and don’t stop moving till 8 p.m., when I collapse into bed, taking two Benadryl (the drowsy-making kind) or Tylenol PM to ensure I’ll sleep uninterrupted through the night. When I wake up circa 6 a.m., I find I’m adjusted to the new time zone. We all try different ways of coping with jet lag, though—and I got a kick out of these unusual solutions tested by Yahoo! Travel’s Managing Editor Jo Piazza. Maybe one of them will work for you.


Between June and September, I was on the road for about 20 days out of each month.

By the time October rolled around, I was completely knackered. In my years of traveling, I have learned to conquer traditional jet lag. I stay away from both alcohol and caffeine when I travel. I make sure I get eight hours of sleep a night on the road, and I try to work out for at least 30 minutes outside whenever I land in a new place.

But after hopping from time zone to time zone for three months, the jet lag starts to settle into your bones, along with complete and utter travel exhaustion. My immune system was shot. I couldn’t sleep. When I fell asleep, I couldn’t wake up. My whole body hurt in places where I didn’t know my body could hurt. I came down with bronchitis accompanied by a persistent cough that just wouldn’t go away and made mothers pull their children away from me on the subway.

Something had to change, because my travel schedule certainly wasn’t going to. I started talking to other frequent travelers, doctors, scientists, the checkout guy at GNC, and my acupuncturist, anyone who might have a suggestion for how to conquer my complete and utter exhaustion. And then I tried it all. These are the five things I attempted to rebuild my immune system and boost my energy. I’m still traveling just as much, but I haven’t gotten run down again.

1. Blue Light Therapy
Blue LED technology has been used by NASA to adjust researchers’ body clocks to stay synchronized for important space missions and research has shown that blue light can help to improve mood and energy by regulating your circadian rhythms. I got myself a Philips goLITE BLU, which is small and portable and connected to a timer so that it beams 15 minutes of blue light onto my face right when I wake up at 6 a.m. each morning. It is like Avatar every single day. I also keep one in the office timed to energy dips around 3 p.m. It has replaced my 3:30 p.m. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups habit, which was causing an unhealthy sugar spike in the afternoon. I bring it along when I travel and put it next to my hotel bed. It is smaller than my Kindle.

 2. A Vitamin IV Treatment
I had heard of friends using intravenous vitamin therapy to cure their hangovers, but I hadn’t even thought about it to cure anything more than a night of too much tequila. But since I was willing to try anything, I went to Fountain Med Spa in New York City, where they customized an intravenous vitamin bag for me with vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin) to help with energy and immunity. They added vitamins B-1 (thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin), and B-6 (pyridoxine) to help with my metabolism, fatigue, and skin.

Also from Yahoo! Travel: 10 Ways to Stay Healthy While Flying


“Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, and only a small amount can be absorbed orally a day,” said Dr. Todd Schlifstein of Fountain, explaining why the IV treatment was more effective. “Phosphatidylcholine also helps booster your immune system, which may be lowered due to travel, fatigue, and lack of sleep. Intravenous vitamins are a quick way to recover from jet lag, fatigue, and just feeling rundown after a trip.”

I was a little scared at first. Needles! IVs! But they calmed me down with the promise of a moisturizing facial and after the initial prick, I hardly noticed that I was hooked up to the drip for the better part of an hour.

Dr. Schlifstein told me I might not feel anything right away.

“Some people feel it right after they hop off the table,” he said. “Some don’t.” I didn’t. But within a few days, I definitely noticed a difference in my energy levels. And I haven’t been sick since (fingers crossed).

Also from Yahoo! Travel: These Apps Claim to Help You Get Over Jet Lag — But, Do They Work?


3. Supplements
I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, who is the queen of supplements. If it guarantees that she will look 12 years younger or that it will make her boyfriend perform better in bed, she will buy a crate of it. And so when she recommended something called Youth H2O, I blew her off. But then I chatted with Youth H2O’s nutritionist Manuel Villacorta about what it could do for me.

“Jet lag means low energy. Your immunity is compromised, and your system is unbalanced,” Villacorta said. “Youth H2O is filled with three ingredients that are extremely potent and will get you back up to speed with one shot in this easy energy booster.” The drink, sold in shot form, contains maca, which raises stamina and focus; camu, which supports the immune system; and purple corn, which is filled with antioxidants to ward off exhaustion.

Also from Yahoo! Travel: Everything You Need to Know About Sleeping on the Plane and Beating Jet Lag


4. Acupuncture
Most people think of acupuncture as a way to relieve pain and stress, but it can also do wonders for your immune system.

When we get sick, our immune system is unable to defend against the invading bacteria. Traditional Chinese medicine works to rid the body of blockages that are making the immune system work more slowly or ineffectively. I had four different appointments with an acupuncturist. She selected about 10 points—my wrists, the top of my head, my ear lobes, my belly and my feet—where the needles would help my nervous system to remove those blockages. Each session last about an hour and she gave me a delightful neck rub during each appointment.

5. Magic
I happened to mention my exhaustion to my friend Anabel, who is a practicing Wiccan.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“All over,” I replied. “Ireland, Bermuda, New Orleans.” She nodded.

“It was New Orleans. You probably have a jinx.”

“A jinx?” I asked.

“A curse, a hex, a jinx.” And so she gave me a jinx-removing candle. I burned it for seven days, and I have to say, I have never felt better.

Royal Palace Madrid Spain

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Sometimes you just can’t avoid an airport layover. When you find yourself facing a long one, use it as an opportunity to add a great day trip to your vacation plans. It’s easier than you think to escape the airport for a few hours and get a taste of the cultural capital in which you’ve landed. In this series, we talk to experts in some of the world’s most popular airport hubs to get their suggestions for how to make the most of your time on the ground. For Madrid, we asked the city mavens at Context Travel to whip up a few itineraries for those passing through.

The Basics

How to get out of the airport: Madrid city center is just 12 kilometers from the airport, so you won’t waste too much time in transit when you could be exploring the city or savoring a delicious Madrileno meal. These are your options for getting out and getting back.

Taxi: A taxi to the city center is your most expensive but arguably the most convenient option. It will cost you 30 euros (about $38), which is a flat rate adopted by all official taxi companies. Count on 20 to 25 minutes of travel time, and more during rush hour.

Metro: You can access the city metro from terminals T2 and T4. It runs about every five minutes, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. It’ll take you about 12 minutes to get to the city center (more if you have to switch to a different line). Single-journey tickets are between 4.5 euros and 5 euros  (about $6), depending on your final destination, and they can be purchased in the metro station (www.metromadrid.es/en).

Bus: Airport bus 200 runs from 6:36 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on the bus, cash only, for 5 euros each way. Expect 40 minutes travel time, making this the slowest method of transport.

What to do with your luggage: Lockers are available to rent, in 24-hour intervals, in terminals 1, 2 and 4. Cost varies by locker size (small 4.22 euros, medium 4.82 euros, large 5.42 euros), and additional lockers are available for suitcases, bicycles, guitars, and other large objects.


If You Have a 7-Hour Layover

Taking into account airport security, baggage claim, travel time from and to the airport, and arriving back at the airport two hours before your next international flight, this option gives you approximately four hours in the city.

First-time visitors to Madrid should plan a stroll through the city center and historical district. Start at Puerta del Sol, the heart of the city, with arteries leading to the various barrios. Admire the square’s large city hall building, then make your way toward the Opera House and the Royal Palace, which you can gaze at over coffee on one of the peaceful terraces just behind the Opera House. Zigzag through the narrow streets to the Plaza Mayor, a regal 17th-century square lined with shops and cafés. If you still have energy, keep walking into the Huertas district and you’ll come to Plaza Santa Ana, where you can enjoy a beer and some basic tapas at one of Hemingway’s favorite haunts, La Cerveceria Alemana (Plaza Santa Ana 6; +34-91-429-7033, www.cerveceriaalemana.com/). If you prefer a guided walk instead, Context Travel offers an introductory historical walking tour in this area, Madrid Through the Centuries, led by a local scholar. Got kids in tow? Context has a special version of this tour just for families.


If You Have a 9-Hour Layover

Madrid is home to some of the best museums in the world. Spend your on-the-ground time surrounded by the creative genius of Velazquez, Titian, and Goya at the Museo del Prado (Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23; +34-91-330-2800; www.museodelprado.es/en), or pay homage to Spanish history at Picasso’s monumental tableau Guernica at the Reina Sofia (Calle Santa Isabel, 52; +34-91-774-1000; www.museoreinasofia.es/en), which houses countless other modern masterpieces as well. Afterward meander through nearby 350-acre Buen Retiro Park. Finish your foray with a little window shopping in either the elegant Salamanca district or up-and-coming trendy Chueca before saying adios to Madrid and heading back to the airport.

How about a massage? High-end Spanish spa chain Elysium Travel Spa has an outpost in terminal 4 (+34-91-746-6280). The airport also has VIP Air Lounges, where you can shower (towel, slippers, and shower gel included), eat, watch TV, use Wi-Fi, and flip through newspapers and magazines (prices start at 25 euros). If you didn’t get any sleep on the plane, check out Air Rooms, which can be rented overnight or for three- or six-hour periods during the day (Terminal 4; +34-93-375-8600; www.premium-traveller.com/en).

More Layover Solutions:

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Tokyo Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Wendy Perrin on airplane

How to Find the Best Flight for Your Money

The travel problem: Finding the most comfortable, most convenient flight for your dollar.

The tool that solves it: As Routehappy says on its website, “not all flights are created equal.” And that’s exactly why Routehappy was created—to help you determine which flight will give you the best value for your money. On the surface, this site looks like any flight-search tool, but when it spits back your results, you’ll see a lot more information than just times and fares. By combining data on such things as seat size, legroom, in-flight entertainment, Wi-Fi, baggage fees, and flier reviews (all of which you can expand for more detail), Routehappy creates a Happiness Score for each flight. Once you find the trip that will make you happiest, click the purchase button to be taken to the exact page you need on the airline’s own website. Even if you’ve already booked your flight, this tool can still help: Type in your flight info, and Routehappy—and its growing community of fliers—can tell you what to expect.