Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Warm Weather Escapes to Beat the Winter Woes

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The New Year has certainly started off with a chilly beginning. The record freezing temps that terrorized much of the US earlier this week may just be the beginning of what Ol’ Man Winter has in store for 2014. That leaves me with the need for a warm weather escape. If you’re feeling the same way, pack up your sunglasses and swimsuits and chart a course for warmer weather at one of these amazing hotels.

Montage Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach, CA
The Montage Laguna Beach makes it easy to put your winter woes behind you. This craftsman-style luxury resort in arts-oriented Laguna Beach offers ocean-view rooms and suites, seasonal artisanal cuisine, and a nature-based spa. The service and staff of the large resort make it feel like a boutique property. The resort also has children and teen programs.

The Atlantic Resort & Spa Hotel
Fort Lauderdale, FL
The Atlantic Hotel is a great place to put your frostbitten toes in the sand. The beachfront hotel has 124 guest rooms with private terraces with ocean views, as well as kitchenettes and BOSE sound systems. The guest reviews are overly positive raving on the stellar customer service, amenities, and overall stay experiences. Will you join them?
TSB INSIDER TIP: Flying into Fort Lauderdale’s airport (FLL) can often be easier and more affordable than flying into busy Miami International (MIA).

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
Scottsdale, AZ
You’ll forget you are in Arizona when you set foot in this five-star, 35-acre, Spanish-inspired retreat. Made up of four “villages” featuring fountain-filled courtyards, pools, a full-service spa and health club. Set up against Camelback Mountain, you’ll be winter warm poolside at this Scottsdale retreat.

Jake’s Hotel
Treasure Beach, Jamaica
An eco-chic bohemian hotel that is as fun as it is functional and affordable, Jake’s Hotel is on Jamaica’s southern coast and is a unique family-run hotel features 35 hippy-chic cottages on Jamaica’s Treasure Beach. The restaurant at Jake’s uses only locally-sourced ingredients and serves up some of the tastiest meals on the entire island. The hotel’s Driftwood Spa is naturally elegant and therapeutic. It’s a true treasure on Treasure Beach!

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
Honolulu, HI
Want Hawaii on a budget? It can be done. The Aston Waikiki makes it possible with rates that tend to range between $100 and $150 a night. Free breakfast, ocean front views, and lots of attractions such as the Zoo and Aquarium are within walking distance.
TSB INSIDER TIP: Set up a fare alert on airfarewatchdog.com from your origination city to Oahu to get the jump on Hawaiian airfare deals.

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Hotel
Vero Beach, FL
On Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and less than two hours southwest from the Magic Kingdom is where you’ll find a Disney beachfront family oasis. The resort features four restaurants, mini putt-putt, a sing-a-long campfire, pools, and more. And in the winter, temperatures rarely drop below 65° in this balmy Florida city. 

Hotels.com is featuring some great deals in California and Arizona for warm-weather hotels and resorts. So, shovel out the driveway and get planning your winter vacay today!

 
 

 

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Travel Sticky Situation: Delayed/Stranded by Winter Weather

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Tis the season to be traveling, so as we prepare for another holiday travel week, let’s review the top winter travel tips. The good news is that The Weather Channel is not predicting any major snowstorms in the U.S. over Christmas. Nevertheless, Mother Nature is never beyond a good storm surprise, so let’s be ready for whatever she throws at us this winter.

Trouble Ahead! Travel To-Dos

AA046865When winter storms approach, airlines begin preemptively waiving change fees in order to avoid stranded travelers.  If you have a trip on the horizon, DO stay tuned to national weather forecasts and check the travel advisories of your airline for delays, cancellations and rescheduling policies to see how any of it may affect your trip. You may not need to cancel your trip yet, but you should be aware of the possibility and begin considering alternate plans.

You are your best advocate. DO always have the hotel phone number, airline number, all of your confirmation numbers, and directions ON PAPER in addition to stored in your smart phone. You never know when you’ll be without battery, coverage or a charger.

If you are heading to your destination and get delayed, DO be sure to keep your hotel informed of your situation so you do not incur unnecessary charges for a no-show. If you are heading home and find yourself needing to stay an extra night, check availability as soon as you can to avoid having to scramble for other accommodations.

If You Get Stranded…

Remember when weather puts your trip to sleep, it doesn’t mean the airline owes you a good night’s rest in a hotel.   If you are already at the airport when delays or cancellations occur, DO be sure to have enough of the essentials to get you through a day… or two. For me, that’s contact solution, my phone charger, laptop and cord.

  • DO pack your patience: you are not the only one trying to cancel and rebook – be kind, don’t give up.
  • DO claim any reimbursement you are entitled to (for example, accidental charges for change fees) in writing and keep a copy. File claims as soon as possible.
  • DO forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.

Road-Trip To-Dos

And if you are behind the wheel this winter, possibly one of the best to-DO suggestions is to make a trip plan.  Pilots file a flight plan before takeoff, so driving our cars shouldn’t be any different. Make sure you DO advise someone of your trip plans.  DO call ahead to your destination and let someone know when you intend to leave, what route you will be traveling and your expected time of arrival.  If someone at your starting point and someone at your destination know your plans, help can reach you much more quickly, in the event of an emergency.

Safe Travels throughout the holidays and a merry and bright 2014!

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Costa Rica… Yes, It’s a Republic Not a City.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

TSBCotM

 

 

 

 

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Each month Travel Smart Blog features a city to explore and inspire future travels. This month, I wanted to focus on Costa Rica but choosing just one city was impossible. In fact, the tiny republic of Costa Rica only has a population of 4.6 Million people, which is half the size of New York City, so I figured why not just profile the whole country!

Situated between Nicaragua and Panama on the Central American Isthmus, the country has three distinct regions influenced by their locations: the Pacific coast, the Caribbean and the Central Region.

What used to truly be a place to live like Robinson Crusoe has captivated the imaginations of surfers, yogis and eco-tourists. In fact, Starbucks recently bought nearly 600 acres of land near the Poas Volcano (an easy day-trip from San Jose), to establish a laboratory to experiment with new varieties of coffee. While the road infrastructure is still a bit primitive and can make traveling to some of the areas a bit more challenging, Costa Rica is for adventure seekers, families, couples and those looking to relax. More and more hotels, resorts, yoga and surf camps, and eco-tourism attractions pop up every month making Costa Rica a must-add-destination to your vacation list.

Getting Around
As I referenced above, the roads in Costa Rica are pretty bad and car rentals can be pricey. So believe it or not, cheap flights between cities are often the best way to see the country. Check out this local airline Nature Air. There are currently two international airports in Costa Rica. Juan Santamaria Airport is the oldest and centrally located north of San José. Liberia (LIR) opened two years ago and is the gateway airport to the beaches of the Guanacaste region and the Nicoya Peninsula. Flying into Liberia saves you a 5 hour drive to the beaches.

Climate
Costa Rica’s Central Valley is famous for having some of the best weather in the world, due to its’ mountainous location yet only 9 degrees from the equator. But the difference in the mountains or on the beaches can vary by 20 degrees. Look out for these micro-climates. The high mountain areas (Monteverde, Savegre, Poás Volcano, etc.) can get chilly – pack a light sweater or jacket.

Cities to Visit in Costa Rica

San José
Spend a few days in the capital city of San José and embrace the history and culture of Costa Rica. The introduction of coffee to the Central Valley in the early nineteenth century fueled San José’s prosperity as the city embraced capitalism. San José is like any big city, although relatively casual: stick to long pants (dresses and skirts also work for women). Most visitors spend a day or two here before venturing to the jungles and beaches. Be sure to see the Plaza de la Cultura, the Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica, and see if you can get tickets for a performance at the Teatro Nacional.

0_109765118Santa Teresa and the Pacific Coast
To the North you’ll find the beach towns of the Nicoya Peninsula in the southwestern part of Guancaste province, which are some of the best surfing spots imaginable. This is why the area is gaining in popularity and experiencing explosive growth. Despite new development, the region’s natural beauty remains intact. None is more beautiful than the beaches of Santa Teresa. But nearby Jaco, Tamarindo, and in the South Dominical beckon to beachgoers for R&R or a surfer’s paradise.

Monteverde and the Central Region
The mountain region of Costa Rica is made up of many small towns including Arenal Volcano, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. Monteverde is home to the Cloud Forests. Cloud forests are unique highland forests characterized by 100% humidity. A visit to this region inspires the imagination for all that is natural and sustainable. Be ready for some zip-line fun and spend a day or two at an eco-lodge of which I’ll recommend a few in an upcoming post.

Primary Language: Spanish

Currency: Costa Rican Colon

Capital: San José

Population: 4,695,900+

 

 
 

 

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Oklahoma Relief

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

We’ve responded on the Travel Smart Blog before in times of crisis, sharing helpful advice for people traveling in and out of the affected areas (see our Hurricane Sandy post here for tips to keep in mind).

We wanted to let everyone in Oklahoma know that our hearts go out to them, and if anyone is looking to help – here are some links to organizations that are providing disaster relief to those affected by the tornado in Oklahoma:

Please keep the affected families in your thoughts and offer to help in any way that you can.

 
 

 

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What to Do When the Weather Has Other Plans for Your Vacation

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The best thing to do when traveling during hurricane season is be prepared. (Photo courtesy of connectyourhome.com)

So far this summer, we’ve been pretty lucky to not have any major weather events disrupting vacations. However, hurricane season lasts through November. If you are planning a getaway during this time to the Caribbean, any of the Gulf Coast states, or Mexico, then the reality is you need to be prepared to deal with the possibility of a hurricane.

The Good News: August through November can be a great time to take your tropical getaway; the temperatures are usually milder, the waters warm and the beaches are less crowded. And best of all, prices are usually lower and much more affordable than the rates of just a few weeks ago. In fact, the Caribbean from now to December can be a real bargain for those looking for a great deal.

Booking Travel During Hurricane Season

When you make your reservation, make sure that you:

1. Look for a hotel with the shortest cancellation window as possible. Weather can dramatically change within a week so it’s nice when a property has a no-charge cancellation policy that is 72 hours or less.

2. Clarify the hurricane policies of the airlines, hotels, cruise line and tour operators with which you may be traveling. Some offer a hurricane guarantee so that if all or part of your vacation is affected by hurricane weather, you won’t completely lose out. Most that have hurricane policies will either refund disrupted travel or rebook accommodations without additional charge.

3. Additionally, if you book with a site like Hotels.com, note that while Hotels.com does not charge a cancellation fee, the hotel might impose change or cancellation charges, which they are required to pass along (during normal circumstances). Hotels.com will advocate on your behalf and can also inform you of the property’s hurricane policy. You can always call them (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) at (877) 903-0071.

Airlines make it slightly harder because you really have no recourse until the storm is impacting an area. Airlines typically waive flight-change fees for passengers affected by a hurricane. Once an airline actually cancels your flight, you can get a full refund on even a nonrefundable ticket.

What to do if you are caught in a weather event:

  • Monitor any named storm that is making news within two weeks before your vacation or during your trip. You won’t need to cancel your trip yet, but you should be aware of the possibility and begin considering alternate plans.
  • You are your best advocate. Have the hotel phone number, airline number, all of your confirmation numbers, etc.
  • Pack your patience: you are probably not the only one trying to cancel and rebook – be kind, don’t give up.
  • Once on property at your hotel, ask the manager to clarify the hurricane policy in writing.
  • Claim any reimbursement you are entitled to in writing and keep a copy.
  • Forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.
  • Within 60 days of the end of your trip, write to your credit card company to request reimbursement.

Don’t ever let the weather be the reason you don’t plan a vacation. If the idea of worrying about a hurricane or a blizzard is just too much to deal with, then choose a destination that is weather-safe for the month that you select to take your trip. And remember, things happen. Remain calm and try to make the best of the situation even if that means rescheduling for another time.

 
 

 

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Travel Safety Tips When Visiting Cold Cities

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

With more winter storms hitting much of the U.S. this week, it's important to remember how to keep safe

From Denver to Boston you may be experiencing extremely cold temperatures. Whether you live in these areas or have a trip planned, you should be prepared when you are outside. Here are a few tips for handling the below freezing temperatures and wind chill so much of the U.S. is experiencing this week.

1. Many people make the mistake of underestimating the layers of warmth they will need, and their experience suffers greatly because of it. Make sure that you have a few layers of loose clothing. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Sweating actually lowers your body temperature so you want to avoid getting over-heated by removing layers when you get indoors.

2. Walking on ice is extremely dangerous. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches.

3. Always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions.

4. For your car – During winter, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

5. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

6. Children have less muscle mass and can become colder quicker than adults at the same temperature.

7.  If you have a heart condition, heart disease or high blood pressure, remember that cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

8. If you have an upcoming trip to New York or Chicago, in particular, check the travel advisories of your airline for delays, cancellations and rescheduling policies. Following them on Facebook and Twitter is a quick way to find out about delays and cancellations. It may be better to delay that business trip than to get stuck. After all, time is money.

9. If you are already in route or at your destination and trying to get home from or to a weather-impacted area, make sure you keep your hotel informed of your situation so you do not incur unnecessary charges for no-show. If you will need to stay an extra night, check availability as soon as you can to avoid having to scramble for other accommodations. 

10. Allow for extra time when traveling to the airport as well as once you get there. Lines will be longer than usual and many flights will be delayed due to de-icing.  

 
 

 

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Options for Travelers Stranded by Winter Storms

Monday, December 27th, 2010


Travelers stuck at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago as severe weather in the Northeast caused many flight cancellations. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

For a second day, the winter storm on the East Coast is paralyzing travelers across the country.  Airports are shutdown with flights canceled from Atlanta to Maine.

Speaking from experience, it can take days to get the airports and all the affected flights back on track. It can be terribly frustrating to have your trip plans altered but here’s my best advice if it is happening to you.

There are tens of thousands of people competing for the next available seat on the flights that are leaving. So what do you do if you are traveling this week?

1. Call your airline to check the status of your flight as many flights are cancelled to the East Coast and/or are delayed because flights to other cities in the U.S. are waiting for aircraft that may be stuck in the Northeast. 

2. If your flight has been cancelled, get in line to begin the process of rebooking the next available flight. While you are in line, CALL your airline for the same purpose and see which “line” gets you to your desired result faster. Also, consider rescheduling your trip for another week, if at all possible. You can use the value of your ticket for another day IF your flight was cancelled not just merely delayed.

3. Consider flying in and out of a different airport. If flights to your home airport are unavailable for days, you may be able to fly sooner to a different airport and then drive to your home. Let the airline representative know if you are flexible.

4. Use Twitter to get a response from the airlines. For example follow www.twitter.com/deltaairlines and get the latest updates on delays and cancellations affecting Delta’s passengers.

5. Most hotels that may be expecting you will understand the impact the storm is having on your travels. It’s best to call them as soon as possible to alert them to your situation and to help you discern the best plan for either delaying or rescheduling your trip.

6. If you are currently at a hotel, check for additional night availability BEFORE you check out. If your flights are cancelled en route to your destination call ahead to your hotel to ensure that you are not charged for your cancellation. The more notice that you give the hotel the better they will be about re-accommodating you at a later time. Call 1-800-2-HOTELS to work with a hotels.com representative for any winter storm affected bookings. 

Most importantly, be as flexible as you can.   Here are a few more of my tips for traveling during a weather event.

Send me a tweet at twitter.com/travelnicole with any of your weather travel questions! 

 
 

 

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Blame It On The Weather

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Boy can weather create havoc for vacationers.  It can be terribly frustrating to be stuck in an airport or to change accommodations during an unforeseen weather event. So what can you do to mitigate some of the frustration and angst thousands of travelers experience each year whether it’s an Icelandic volcano, regional flooding, a hurricane in Mexico or a blizzard in Colorado?

Before You Travel

  1. Know before you go. Watch the news, check the weather, travel advisories from your airlines, and call your embassy (if you are traveling internationally) to be aware of any event, weather or otherwise, which could impact your trip.
  2. Keep a paper copy of all important phone numbers: airline and hotel customer service, cruises and car rentals, tour operators, family members, schools, doctors, etc. You never know when you’ll be stranded and the cell phone can’t get a signal or the battery is dead but there will be a phone somewhere. Be ready.

When You Book

  1. Know the cancellation and rebooking policies of your hotel. In most cases with a major weather event, hotels will refund, cancel or reschedule guests without penalty much like the airlines.
  2. Find out if the hotel you’re staying in has provisions for guests to stay in the hotel if a weather event hits.  If not, what options does it provide? (think hurricane)
  3. Ask your airline about its policies for helping stranded travelers. Many carriers will voluntarily refund or rebook passengers (at a later date) because it is better to do that than to have thousands of stuck passengers in airports.
  4. Research if the tour operator and/or charter flight company handles getting you back home in the event of a hurricane OR if you have to return early because a major storm is forecasted for your destination. 
  5. Use a credit card (not a debit card) to pay for your vacation.  You can always file a claim with your credit card company for services or goods that you have not received. 

Trip Insurance

Travel insurance is probably a good option for you if you can’t afford to lose the money you have already spent on the vacation. Read the fine print to understand what is included in the coverage. Do your homework and shop around for a policy that meets your specific needs. If you have to cancel your trip, be sure you follow the exact rules of your policy for cancellation. 

In the case of the Icelandic volcano, many travelers had not fully acquainted themselves with their insurance policy and are now finding themselves without sufficient cover and out of pocket on some hefty travel expenses.

In Transit

Let the frustration begin. Sometimes it’s just your good luck that you get stuck at one end of a trip.

  1. Immediately, get in line AND get on the phone with the airlines’ customer service representatives and start to make reservation inquiries that way.  You can probably get through faster and they may also have information more readily available, as well. 
  2. Same is true for hotels. Check immediately if you anticipate needing to extend or cancel a reservation. The more notice that a hotel/travel company has, the more accommodating that they can be. 
 
 

 

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