Tag Archives: deals

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.

Ribeira Square, Porto, Portugal

Airfare Sale This Weekend to Europe and Beyond

We just found out about a great sale for flights to Europe and beyond leaving this month, and wanted to pass it on to you.

TAP Air Portugal is offering 50% off all of its flights—economy and business class—starting Friday February 8 at 7 a.m. ET through Sunday February 10 at 6:59 p.m. ET.

This Portugal-based airline made it onto our list of the most exciting new flight routes for 2019 because—in addition to its current routes from New York–JFK, New York–EWR, Boston Logan, and Miami airports—it’s launching new service from Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles to Lisbon in June.

The nice thing about this sale is that TAP’s flights don’t terminate in Portugal—you can continue on to more than 80 other spots in Europe, Africa and North or South America, including Switzerland, Ireland, and Tel Aviv. And on top of that, the airline’s stopover program lets you add up to five nights in Lisbon or Porto at no additional fare.

The only catch is that tickets must be purchased online at www.flytap.com. and you must use one of these promo codes: TP50, TAP50, or MEGAPROMO50. The sale fares will apply to both one-way and round-trip tickets for all travel commencing by February 28, 2019, and completed by March 31, 2019. For more information, see https://www.flytap.com/campaigns/megapromo.


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.

Elephants tussle in Botswana. Photo: Wilderness Safaris/Caroline Culbert

Shoulder Seasons and Other Times to Travel for the Best Value

There’s a big difference between the lowest price and the best value for your money. One way to get a high-value trip is to time it right. (That’s the goal behind our “Where to Go When” series, which highlights shoulder-season deals and off-peak benefits for every month of the year.)  We asked the Trusted Travel Experts on our WOW List to share smart strategies to make your trip dollars stretch further. Here’s what they had to say about maximizing travel value and finding shoulder-season discounts around the globe.

Southeast Asia

Wonderful view of the East Gate (Hien Nhon Gate) to the Citadel and a moat surrounding the Imperial City with the Purple Forbidden City in Hue, Vietnam. Hue is a popular tourist destination of Asia.

View of the East Gate (Hien Nhon Gate) to the Citadel and a moat surrounding the Imperial City with the Purple Forbidden City in Hue, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock

“A trip to Southeast Asia can be pricey due to hotels, but the good news is there are large variances in low-season and high-season pricing that can sometimes save you up to 20 percent. Koh Samui, Thailand, is great in May and June, when the weather is dry and hot, and the hotels are quite empty, with good pricing.  Phuket, also in Thailand, is great at the end of October, right before the November high season.  Laos has great value, as well as nice weather, in May and June.  Vietnam is usually better than Thailand for New Year’s, as there are fewer hotels with minimum-length-of-stay requirements and mandatory gala dinners—which can add thousands to your trip. There are tricks and recommendations wherever you go, not only to maximize your value, but also to avoid any unnecessary expenses that can really increase your overall trip costs. For a multi-country trip that includes Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the best value across all countries would have to be May.” —Sandy Ferguson

Read reviews of Sandy. Read his Insider’s Guides to ThailandSoutheast Asia, and Bangkok. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Southeast Asia.

The Galapagos Islands

Blue-footed booby, Galapagos Islands.

Blue-footed booby, Galapagos Islands. Photo: Pixabay/Peter Stuart Miller

“I always ask if people can travel between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or the week starting January 3. Those are the weeks when occupancy on the best Galapagos cruise ships can drop dramatically. Think ahead, book in advance, and you might just score a great deal!” —Allie Almario

Read reviews of Allie. Read her Insider’s Guide to the Galapagos Islands. Then contact her to maximize your experience of the Galapagos.

The Costa Verde, Brazil

boat in the water Angra dos Reis, Brazil.

Angra dos Reis on Brazil’s Costa Verde. Photo: Pixabay/gabrielvannini

“Traveling during the northern hemisphere’s summer is a great idea. On the Costa Verde, our winter (June–August) is a beautiful time to visit, with pleasant temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees, and less than a third of the average rainfall of the summer months. Yet hotel rates are significantly lower, and you can often get four-nights-for-the-price-of-three deals.” —Paul Irvine

Read reviews of Paul. Read his Insider’s Guides to Rio de Janeiro and Trancoso. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Brazil.


Cheetah in Botswana's Okavango Delta

A cheetah in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Photo courtesy Wilderness Safaris/Dana Allen.

“Green Season, which is November through March, is a fantastic time to visit Botswana because the prices can be as much as 40% less than in peak season. The intermittent rain that falls is not disruptive to the safaris, and given the abundance of green grass, the grazing species—such as wildebeests, zebra, antelope, etc.—are having their offspring, and the predators tend to be more prolific as well. Photographic opportunities are at their very best.” —Julian Harrison

Read reviews of Julian. Read his Insider’s Guide to Botswana’s Small Safari Camps. Then contact him to maximize your experience of African safaris.

Southern China

Rapeseed field in Luoping Yunnan, China

Rapeseed field in Luoping Yunnan, China. Photo: WildChina

“High value doesn’t necessarily mean a low price. It’s about getting the maximum experience for what you spend. Our top tip: Consider traveling to China in winter, when you can take advantage of hotel deals and get your pick of the best guides. It’ll be cold in the North but in the South, spring arrives early. Visit Yunnan province in December to see the region’s speciality ham being cured.” —Mei Zhang

Read reviews of Mei. Read her Insider’s Guides to BeijingYunnan Province, and China’s Big Cities and Small Villages. Then contact her to maximize your experience of China.


Udaivilas Oberoi hotel Udaipur india lake view

Udaivilas Oberoi hotel in Udaipur, India. Photo: Oberoi Hotels

“In India our tourist season is from October through March, though prices are at a premium over Christmas and New Year’s. If we had to choose, we would recommend being in India in February or March. By negotiating a package rate with a hotel group such as Taj or Oberoi (who have award-winning hotels throughout the region), we can ensure a top-end trip with a great per-night discount.” —Victoria and Bertie Dyer

Read reviews of Victoria and Bertie. Read their Insider’s Guides to Rajasthan and MumbaiThen contact them to maximize your experience of India. 


A Buddhist monk contemplates the zen garden at Zuiho-In Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Ben Simmons

A Buddhist monk contemplates the zen garden at Zuiho-In Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Ben Simmons

“Traveling to Japan during March and April can be very expensive and the crowds overwhelming (in Kyoto especially). Why not go to Japan right after Golden Week ends in early May and enjoy a beautiful and less hectic time to be in-country?  Warm days and comfortable evenings make it a great time to go, plus you’ll be avoiding rainy season, which typically begins mid-June. I would say the same holds true for October travel vs. the peak autumn foliage times of mid- to late November.” —Scott Gilman

Read reviews of Scott. Read his Insider’s Guide to Classic Japan. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Japan.

African Safaris

Cheetah in Botswana's Okavango Delta

A cheetah in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Photo courtesy Wilderness Safaris/Dana Allen.

“Safaris are not inexpensive these days, but if you have some flexibility with dates, you can save up to 45 percent by going in June vs. July to Tanzania, or in November vs. October to Botswana. Seasonal cost differences can be massive, and ‘low season’ doesn’t mean ‘not great season’—it means fewer people, which can be great for you!  Also, it’s important to remember that a very  large percentage of lodge costs go toward conservation of wildlife, wild places, and community development. A wonderful client of mine once said, ‘Unfortunately, I don’t get a tax deduction for my travel, but I think of it as an investment in my and my family’s spiritual equity. It’s less risky than investing in Wall Street, and the dividends are guaranteed and last forever!'” —Cherri Briggs

Read reviews of Cherri. Read her Insider’s Guides to Namibia AdventuresZimbabweZambia, and Madagascar. Then contact her to maximize your experience of African safaris.

Cabo, Mexico

El Arco, Cabo San Lucas Photo: Roberto Trama Mexico

El Arco, Cabo San Lucas Photo: Roberto Trama

“It can be tough to get a good fishing charter in October, when all the tournaments happen. If you can brave the warmest time of the year, the last week of September is the best time for fishing, and since it’s low season, you will get the best rates.  For the Christmas/holiday season in Los Cabos, book in the month of December for the next December holiday:  That way you get your pick of properties and don’t have to just accept whatever is left.  If you are interested in Cabo for the holidays, avoid the crowds by traveling the first week instead of over New Year’s. Cabo gets booked up starting December 27! ” —Julie Byrd

Read reviews of Julie. Read her Insider’s Guide to Los Cabos Villa Vacations and Los Cabos Beach Vacations. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Cabo.

Alaska Small-Ship Cruises

Kayaking through sculpted icebergs in Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska

Kayaking through sculpted icebergs in Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska. Photo: Lindblad Expeditions/ Ralph Lee Hopkins

“April and September are shoulder season for Alaska small-ship cruising.  Alaska is still packed with amazing wildlife and epic glaciers, but there is less big-cruise-ship traffic and fewer tourists than in high season.” —Ashton Palmer

Read reviews of Ashton. Read his Insider’s Guide to Small-Ship Alaska Cruises. Then contact him to maximize your experience of cruising Alaska.


Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Shutterstock

“Turkey in winter is a bargain: low airfares, no crowds, hotel rates are reduced. You just need to bring a winter coat. And İn Antalya people swim in the sea through December.” —Earl Starkey

Read reviews of Earl. Read his Insider’s Guides to Istanbul and Cappadocia. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Turkey. 


Mountain village Novara di Sicilia, Sicily, Italy

Mountain village Novara di Sicilia, Sicily, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“While Sicily is primarily visited from March through November, the so-called ‘off season’ can mean better value for your precious travel time. The weather is cooler, but you’ll get the warmth of the local seasonal harvest festivals and the holidays. The sea might be rougher, but the clouds and winter sun provide for amazing visual contrasts when visiting the ancient sites (with no crowds to get in your way).  And the autumn / winter is an ideal moment to dive into some unique culinary adventures, from discovering the ancient roots of Palermo street food to preparing almond pastries in Agrigento to learning about secret traditions of Granita on a snow-capped Mount Etna.” —Marcello Baglioni

Read reviews of Marcello. Read his Insider’s Guide to Sicily. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Sicily.

Sri Lanka

sigiriya rock Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka. Photo: Pixabay

“Travel to Sri Lanka in March and make the most of your holiday. As the peak season recedes, the weather is still pleasant, the Sri Lankan grub remains delicious, and your holiday is bound to be a bit easier on the wallet. If you really want to avoid the crowds, try climbing the more challenging Pidurangala rock, which sits opposite Sigiriya rock: You won’t be disappointed!” —Miguel Cunat

Read reviews of Miguel. Read his Insider’s Guide to Sri Lanka. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Sri Lanka.


Tel Aviv promenade view from Old Jaffa Israel

Tel Aviv promenade, Israel.

“Weather in Tel Aviv in January/February is in the high 60s / low 70s. Winter is actually the perfect time to come to Israel if you don’t like the heat. The winters are gorgeous.” —Jonathan Rose and Joe Yudin

Read reviews of Joe and Jonathan. Read their Insider’s Guides to Jerusalem and Israel. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Israel.


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.

Aerial view of Cape Town from a helicopter tour

Countries Where the U.S. Dollar Stretches Far in 2019

As we all start thinking about trips for the months ahead, one factor to consider is: Where is the U.S. dollar strongest? Exchange rate isn’t the only element that determines the cost of a trip (a short tourist season, for instance, will drive up prices, while a large number of hotels increases competition and tends to lower rates). Moreover, the cost of traveling in a destination can be very different from the cost of living in that destination. Still, exchange rates are helpful indicators of how much to budget for the things you’ll be doing alongside locals—eating where they eat, shopping where they shop, taking public transit, and so on.

So where in the world is the U.S. dollar relatively strong right now? Here are 10 appealing travel ideas for you:


Giza Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Shutterstock

Egypt unpegged its pound to the dollar back in 2016, and since then it has bought you more than twice as much as it once did. Read our Insider’s Guide to Egypt, and learn what a WOW Moment inside Nefertari’s Tomb looks like.

Jan 2016: US $1 = 7.83 pounds
Jan 2019: US $1 = 17.90 pounds


View over the mausoleums and domes of the historical cemetery of Shahi Zinda through an arched gate, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

View over the mausoleums and domes of the historical cemetery of Shahi Zinda through an arched gate, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo: Shutterstock

Similarly, Uzbekistan allowed its som to float in 2017, and it has since lost more than half its value against the dollar. Find out what you can see and do along the Silk Road in our Insider’s Guide to Uzbekistan, and learn why it’s great for kids and teens in Uzbekistan is the Family Vacation Idea You’ve Been Missing.

Jan 2017: US $1 = 3,245 som
Jan 2019: US $1 = 8,381 som


Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Shutterstock

Turkey’s economy suffered in 2018, and the value of the lira has plunged. Hear why we think Turkey should be on your list this year in Where to Travel in 2019, Before Everyone Else Gets There, then check out our Insider’s Guides to Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the Aegean Coast.

Jan 2017: US $1 = 3.53 lira
Jan 2019: US $1 = 5.52 lira


Gaucho on horseback, Argentina

Gaucho on horseback, Argentina. Photo by Aldo Sessa

Argentina has been a fabulous value ever since the peso slid a whopping 30% back in 2015, and the last year has seen its currency weaken even further. Besides bargains, what else awaits you there? Read our Insider’s Guides to Buenos Aires and Mendoza wine country to find out.

Jan 2018: US $1 = 18.62 pesos
Jan 2019: US $1 = 37.62 pesos


Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. Photo: Billie Cohen

The U.S. dollar is near a ten-year high against the Mexican peso. Learn what’s unspoiled and up-and-coming in our Insider’s Guides to Mexico CityPuerto Vallarta, the Riviera Maya, and Los Cabos.

Jan 2015: US $1 = 14.60 pesos
Jan 2019: US $1 = 19.23 pesos


Beautiful Trancoso beach near Porto Seguro in state of Bahia, Brazil

Beautiful Trancoso beach near Porto Seguro in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Photo: Shutterstock

Time was when travel to and in Brazil was prohibitively expensive for most travelers; today it’s a whole other story. Learn what you’ll find there in our Insider’s Guides to the glamorous side of Rio de Janeiro, the charming seaside village of Trancoso, the otherworldly Brazilian Amazon, and, for the ultimate extravaganza, Five-Star Brazil: Best Things to See and Do.

Jan 2015: US $1 = 2.58 real
Jan 2019: US $1 = 3.88 real

United Kingdom

Hidcote Gardens in Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, England

Hidcote Gardens in Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, England. Photo: Jonathan Epstein/Celebrated Experiences

The pound hit a 31-year-low against the U.S. dollar right after the Brexit vote in 2016, and it remains not far off that nadir today. Make no mistake, London is always an expensive city—but the U.K. is a better deal now than it was for decades. Read our Insider’s Guides to London, Scotland, and the Cotswolds, as well as Do’s and Don’ts for Your Trip to London, which Wendy’s then-14-year-old son wrote in 2016 right after Wendy took advantage of the post-Brexit values and booked a family vacation there.

Jan 2016: $1 = .68 pounds
Jan 2019: $1 = .79 pounds

South Africa

Fanny african black - white penguin on the beach of Atlantic.The boulders and algae. Boulders Penguin Colony National Park, South Africa.

A penguin at Boulders Beach penguin colony, outside Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Shutterstock

The rand has fluctuated quite a bit against the dollar in the last five years, looking strong as recently as a year ago. It’s weakened since then, so carpe diem. Here’s what awaits you in Cape Town and the Winelands, and here’s our Insider’s Guide to South African Safaris.

Jan 2018: $1 = 11.89 rand
Jan 2019: $1 = 14.38 rand


Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland

Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland. Photo: Maxxim Vacations

Canada may not be quite the steal it was three years ago—when one U.S. dollar equated to 1.45 Canadian—but the greenback still goes far, especially if you remember the days when it was at parity with the loonie. To better appreciate the range of delights in Canada, read our Insider’s Guides to British Colombia and Newfoundland.  Wendy jumped on the amazing exchange rate and rushed her family to British Columbia for their summer vacation a few years ago. You can read about their adventures in We Had the Best Family Trip in Whistler and We Never Put on Skis and I Can’t Believe We Did This: Mountain Climbing in Whistler.

Sept 2017: $1 = 1.21 Canadian dollars
Jan 2019: $1 = 1.36 Canadian dollars


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.

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.

Norwegian Jewel cruise ship in Juneau, Alaska

Exclusive Cruise Deal for WendyPerrin.com Readers

Many of you have been waiting for the launch of The Perrin Passport newsletter (thank you for your patience!), where we plan to feature exclusive travel deals from our Trusted Travel Experts. There’s one deal, though, that cannot wait for the newsletter’s debut (hopefully next month):

It’s a seven-day family cruise to Alaska on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel, and in addition to the reduced fare, it comes with onboard credits and extras. The deal was secured exclusively for WendyPerrin.com readers by Trusted Travel Expert Tom Baker, who is a pro when it comes to Alaska sailings; just check out all the cool tips in his Insider’s Guide.

Nobody is salivating over this deal more than my 12-year-old son, Charlie. He’s a big fan of Norwegian Cruise Line for our family vacations, and he explains his reasons in this article about the important things parents need to know before booking a family cruise.

Now, about that deal. Here are the details from Tom Baker:


7-Day Family Alaska Cruise Deal on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel

Sailing dates: Either June 27, 2015 or July 4, 2015

Ports of Call    
Day 1   Seattle, Washington
Day 2   At Sea
Day 3   Ketchikan, Alaska
Day 4   Tracy Arm, Alaska
Day 4   Juneau, Alaska
Day 5   Skagway, Alaska
Day 6   At Sea
Day 7   Victoria, British Columbia
Day 8   Seattle, Washington


  • Balcony Cabin from: $1,609 per person
  • Mini Suite from: $1,889 per person
  • Penthouse Suite from: $3,683 per person
  • Haven Suite from: $5,243 per person

Extras include:

Suites in The Haven:

  • $500 onboard credit per suite
  • Soda package for all children (valued at $6.50 per guest per day)
  • Nickelodeon Pajama Jam for all children
  • Nickelodeon bedtime kit for kids 12 and under (valued at $39.95)
  • Behind-the-scenes tour for each adult (valued at $55 per guest)
  • Private Cocktail Reception (valued at $25 per guest)

Penthouse Suites (not in The Haven):

  • $350 onboard credit per suite
  • Unlimited dining package for adult guests 1 & 2 (valued at $119 per guest)
  • Soda package for all children (valued at $6.50 per guest per day)
  • Nickelodeon Pajama Jam for all children
  • Nickelodeon bedtime kit for all kids 12 and under (valued at $39.95)
  • Behind-the-scenes tour for each adult (valued at $55 per guest)
  • Private cocktail reception (valued at $25 per guest)

Balconies & Mini Suites:

  • $100 onboard credit per balcony cabin or mini suite
  • Dinner at Cagney’s with one bottle of house wine (valued at $30 per guest for Cagney’s, plus $40 for the wine)
  • Nickelodeon Pajama Jam for all children
  • Nickelodeon bedtime kit for all kids 12 and under (valued at $39.95)
  • Private cocktail reception (valued at $25 per guest)

How to book:
Contact Tom Baker of CruiseCenter. The best way to make sure Tom knows you’re a WendyPerrin.com traveler is to contact him via the black Contact button you’ll find on his Alaska Cruises Insider’s Guide (just below his photo). Or phone him at 1-800-592-3887.


The fine print:
*All rates are per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability at time of booking. Ask about low third- and fourth-person rates for family travel. Taxes and fees are: $197.69 per person additional for both departures. Additional charges may include non-discountable fees (port charges), taxes, airfare, air taxes, transfers, and surcharges. A $30 booking processing fee is additional. All cancellations are subject to a $50-per-booking cancellation fee from CruiseCenter, in addition to vendor cancellation penalties. All information, pricing, taxes, fees. and surcharges are subject to change without notice.

Spongebob and kids on Norwegian Jewel Cruise ship

Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda

Now’s the Time to Look For Caribbean and Mexico Beach Resort Deals

It’s June—the month when resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico look ahead at their low-season bookings, from now until just before Christmas, and announce offers of up to 50% off to entice travelers during the summer and fall.  June is also when airlines lower their late-summer fares to these destinations, hoping to get travelers past their hurricane jitters and fill seats during a slow period.  Whether you’re seeking an August family trip before the kids go back to school (and if you are, you should read my post for TripAdvisor on  family beach vacations that won’t break the bank) or a romantic tropical getaway this fall, now’s the time when you can find substantial room availability at highly reduced prices.

While August through October is hurricane season, the chance of a hurricane hitting your destination while you’re there is pretty rare (and you can buy travel insurance that protects you). You’re far more likely just to see a few showers. As a native New Yorker who has been to Mexico and the Caribbean several times in August, September, and October, I am here to tell you that August heat and humidity are worse in midtown Manhattan than they are on breezy Caribbean beaches, and that a couple of rain storms shouldn’t spoil a vacation at a big resort where there’s plenty to do.

To help you pinpoint the best summer and fall values for your dollar right now, I reached out to Mexico travel specialist Zachary Rabinor, who lives in Puerto Vallarta and takes his wife and kids to resorts all over the country, and to our WOW List specialists for the Caribbean.  Here are a few of their picks at this moment:

1. Viceroy Zihuatanejo, 10 miles from the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Airport, Mexico  

This is a resort for romance-seeking couples who want to luxuriate on a 600-foot stretch of beach.  It’s offering 50% off rates that start at $176 for a deluxe split-level room and include daily complimentary breakfast for two. Available through December 21, 2014.

Viceroy Zihuatanejo Mexico

The pool at the Viceroy Zihuatanejo in Mexico

2. Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

A two-bedroom, 3,229-square-foot Panorama Suite here is a great option for families, says Rabinor: Each suite has a kitchen, dining room, living room, and private terrace with Jacuzzi. It’s virtually 50% off, as every second night costs only $1. The rate with the discount equates to $400 per night, and that includes all meals and snacks, non-motorized water sports, taxes, and gratuities. Book before July 1, 2014. Available until December 22.

3. Dream Sands Cancun Resort, Cancun, Mexico

This property doesn’t open till September 1st, but prices start at just $99 per person, per night, and kids stay and eat for free (that is, two kids staying in the same room as two paying adults). Given everything that’s included in your room rate (all gourmet meals, top-shelf spirits, and a supervised kids’ club open from 9 am till 10 pm), this deal seems like a gift to parents in need of a break and a few “date nights.”  Book by June 30 for stays from September 1, 2014 to April 10, 2015.

4. Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

A 45-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta airport,  this property offers activities as varied as surfing, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, and horseback riding, and it’s got a supervised–and complimentary–children’s program, not to mention a lazy river for family floats in inner tubes.  The resort is offering a third night free (during certain blocks of time, and based on availability), with rooms starting at $507 per  night. Available until December 23.

Four Seasons Punta Mita golf course

The Four Seasons Punta Mita’s golf course

5. Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Located on a small  island of undeveloped white-sand beaches and secluded coves, this resort suits both couples in need of tropical tranquility and parents looking for a child-friendly vacation. There’s a complimentary Rose Buds supervised children’s program available from 9 am to 4 pm (closed Thursdays and Sundays). If you pay for five nights—starting at a rate of $415 per night—you get two additional nights free.  Available until December 18, 2014.

Little Dix Bay Beach Grill

The Beach Grill at Rosewood Little Dix Bay

6. The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, the Ritz-Carlton Aruba, and the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas

If you stay seven nights at any of these properties, you receive 40% off your bill. Doubles start at $175 per night in Cancun (where the deal is valid through December 24), $269 per night in Aruba (valid through December 19), and $299 in St. Thomas (valid through December 22). Book before June 30, 2014.