The Hipmunk

The Hipmunk

Ah, Spring Break. That annual week of respite from school, from work, from responsibilities. (Hey, we can dream, right?) The point is, Spring Break is for everyone– not just coeds.

But since the holiday is so widely marketed to college students, we wondered whether traditional party locations really dominated the Spring Break vacation market and how the rise in popularity of vacation rentals such as Airbnb affected hotel bookings.

To find out, Hipmunk analyzed the most-booked Spring Break destinations for airfare and hotels, which we defined for our purposes as beginning Friday, March 18, 2016, the week preceding Easter (although the dates can vary widely). To break it down further, we also looked the most popular destinations for Airbnb vacation rentals and compared that to the same week the year before to see how those numbers had changed.

Here's what we found:

Most popular spring break flight destinations in the USA

Perhaps unsurprisingly, major US destinations, popular year-round, dominated the list, with Orlando, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles claiming the top spots for most-booked flights. Yet simply looking at destinations where one must take a plane doesn't fully reveal the most popular Spring Break destinations, as many travelers choose to vacation in locations that are a drivable distance from where they reside.

To broaden our scope, we also looked at which destinations were garnering the most accommodation bookings for Spring Break 2016.

Most popular spring break destinations

Again, major US cities topped the rankings. But by only looking at flights and accommodations, we are still neglecting to highlight locations where vacationers are more inclined to look for rentals than hotels. To discover these destinations we looked first at the locations with the highest net number of Airbnb vacation rental bookings and then compared that number to the total number of overall accommodation bookings in that city for Spring Break to reveal what percentage of those bookings were Airbnbs.

Most popular spring break rental destinations

Again, cities such as Miami and Las Vegas return a large total number of Airbnb bookings for Spring Break, but smaller resort towns like Sarasota, FL and Palm Springs, CA, boast a much larger percentage of Airbnbs for their total bookings. Perhaps the one anomaly is Cancun, Mexico, where Airbnbs have claimed 40 percent of Hipmunk bookings for Spring Break 2016.

It seems that when it comes to Spring Break, Florida is the vacation rental king, claiming five of the 10 top spots!

Digging deeper, Airbnbs are continuing to increase in terms of their share of the accommodation market, as more and more travelers see vacation rentals as a viable alternative to hotels.

In 2015, Airbnbs made up 4.4 percent of all Hipmunk's Spring Break bookings; as of publication date, that number has risen to 9.5 percent.

Indeed, several of the cities that cracked the top 10 Airbnb destinations weren't on the list last year at all:

Most popular spring break destinations in 2015

L>ooking year-over-year, every city that made both this and last year's lists increased their proportion of Airbnb bookings, excepting for New York, which saw a decrease of three percent.

Of the cities that made this year's list (but not 2015's), Cancun saw its proportion of Airbnb rentals increase explosively, from just 9 percent in 2015; Sarasota's proportion was only 19 percent in 2015; Honolulu came in at 2 percent last year; Destin was 30 percent in 2015; and Palm Springs came in at 28 percent in 2015.

In the end, it seems that the Sunshine State is also the 2016 Spring Break Capital, claiming multiple spots in every Top 10 category: flights, hotels, and vacation rentals.

And if these destinations seem just a bit too tame or you want to escape the states, be sure to check out our Spring Break College Cheat Sheet or just shoot an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with all your burning Spring Break travel questions.

Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed its 2016 data for bookings that occurred starting the week of March 18, 2016 (Spring Break) for flight, hotel, and Airbnb bookings, in addition to data for the same week in 2015.

  This post was original published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 25th.

From the famed ski slopes of Whistler to the roaring majesty of Niagara Falls, some the world's greatest travel destinations are just north of the border, in Canada.

With an overload of Canada travel options, which of these destinations are most popular among travelers? Hipmunk analyzed its travel data from 2015 to find out.

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The 25 cities below make up 80 percent of all hotel accommodations in Canada. We also included their average hotel and Airbnb booking prices, as well as average airfare (if flying from the US or within Canada) to each city. Note: all prices are in US dollars.

Here's how they ranked:

Straddling the border between New York and Canada, Niagara Falls takes the cake as the most popular Canadian city for tourists. The city's world-famous waterfalls — which flow at a rate of six million cubic feet of water per minute — attract some 12 million visitors every year and commands 16 percent of all Canada city searches on Hipmunk. Just north of Niagara Falls, Toronto closely trails in second, garnering nearly 15 percent of total Canada hotel search volume.

Hotels

At an average of $194 per night, Whistler has the most expensive hotels of any Canadian tourist destination. Following closely are Mont-Tremblant ($177) and Banff ($172). Each of these destinations is known for its ski slopes in the winter and hiking in the summer.

It's important to note that these hotel prices can vary tremendously depending on the season. As a general rule, most cities are more affordable during winter months (when it's very cold) than in the summer months, when weather is more amenable. Below, we've broken down these hotel prices by season.

Ski resorts seem to be a notable exception to this rule. In Whistler, for example, hotels are nearly $100 more more night during the winter than in the summer!
Search Whistler Hotels

Flights

Over course, if you're planning to visit any of these locations, hotels won't be your only cost: you'll have to fly there as well. Typically, flights into most major airports in these regions range between $350 and $420.

In general, flights to Canada's easternmost popular cities seem to be a bit more expensive than those on the western coast. Like hotel rates, flight prices are seasonal: in the warm summer months, flights cost slightly in the summer than they do in the winter.

Total

Now that we have laid out hotel and flight costs, let's compile this into one handy total expense chart. For the purpose of this calculation, let's assume the trip is for two people (two flights) who are sharing one hotel room for three nights.

Whistler comes out on top again. With $194 per night average hotel rooms, and flights that average $372, Canada's premier ski destination is not particularly cheap. It's a wonderful city to visit year-round, and its prices reflect that.

Cities that experience more brutal winters (Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary) seem to be on the cheaper end (though this rule doesn't hold 100 percent true).

When to Go

Last, just in case you're interested in finding the best deal for any city on this list, we've broken down these prices by month. Let's take a look at the median hotel price and median flight price into each of these cities throughout all of 2015. Are there any opportunities to save money by going during “almost” peak season?

Below, we've listed the price of the a flight plus three nights in a hotel room by month. We've highlighted some of the months that are almost at peak season where you can get an especially good deal.


*Not enough monthly data to determine Montcon or Windsor

And so travelers, now you have all the data you need to find a great deal on practicing your French skills in Montreal, hiking in Whistler, or carving fresh powder in Banff. Happy travels!

Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed its daily median booking prices for Canadian hotels, Airbnbs, and airfare (arriving to Canada from the US or within Canada) in 2015 to determine average prices.
  This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on March 3rd.

When planning family trips, it's best to keep kids busy with activities from crafting and music lessons to hiking and swimming. (No one wants to hear, "Mom, I'm bored" while lounging beach side with a cocktail in hand.)

Travel is one of the most fun ways for a parent to share the cultures and natural wonders of the world. These destinations are safe for kiddos, catering to the picky eaters, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and beach bums too. Not only will kids be welcome, they'll find programs and excursions designed just for them on each of these global adventures.

Adventurous Resorts

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Koloa, Hawaii

While it may sound like a lazy beach vacay, this beautiful resort is on one of Hawaii's most exciting islands – and one of the world's top resorts for families. The resort offers tons of kid-friendly activities (think ukulele lessons and lei making) in-house. But families can also find breathtaking hikes, ziplines for the token daredevil, horseback riding and kayaking to name a few. For something more low key, splash in a two-tiered pool or the saltwater lagoon that meanders through the hotel's property. By nightfall, kids will definitely be ready to crash.

Waterfalls at Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

River Kwai Floating Hotel, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

For the boy (and girl) scouts who are looking for a back-to-nature experience, this Thai getaway won't disappoint. Thailand is one of Asia's best destinations for kids. With a drive and boat ride to this hotel, they may start to feel a bit like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Bamboo guest rooms float on top of the River Kwai and offer visitors a taste of Mon culture. It's a bit rustic (as in there are wick lamps instead of electricity. But don't worry, in-room bathrooms are a part of the deal). Kids love exploring the nearby jungles atop of a gentle elephant, or visiting natural wonders such as the Lawa Cave or the Sai Yok Waterfall. Get a few thrills without leaving River Kwai by river jumping or bamboo rafting — something to excite even the most adrenaline-seeking tweens.

Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua makes for an affordable, and adventure-filled, Central American trip (and many parents are choosing it over the equally kid-friendly Costa Rica). Visitors won't see nearly as many expats and will get a great taste of the local culture, plus tons of hiking and swimming! In a bungalow at Morgan's Rock, guests are nestled in the treetops and have easy beach access. One of the more exciting excursions to make is to Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes, which can be reached by ferry. Explore ancient rock art and petroglyphs and brave the hike up the dormant Maderas Volcano. Parents will appreciate the beaches known for waves that are safe for first-time surfers, zip-line excursions, and an insider look at the lodge's sustainable farm where kids get to collect farm eggs and milk the cows for an awesome family breakfast!

The beaches of Queensland, Australia are a great way to relax

One&Only Hayman Island, Queensland, Australia

A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is an incomparable adventure. While a flight to the Aussie coast may not be ideal for many faraway travelers with tiny tots, the experiences offered through resorts like One&Only can change a nervous parent's mind. If your bucket list includes snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, water skiing or a helicopter adventure above the reef (which is the largest living thing on Earth, mind you), then book a few tickets to Hayman Island. Of course One&Only also offers an entirely kid-centric program called KidsOnly full of excursions and meals from 9am to 6pm if parents need a break.

Traveling Adventures

Camping and cruising may appeal to families that seek adventure on-the-go. Many of these trips welcome first-time campers and those who are especially interested in learning the lay of the land, whether that's in sunny California or rugged Maine. Nature lovers, budding botanists and eager explorers will get animal interactions, sparkling night skies and a new set of skills when signing up for one of these trips.

Trekking the Appalachian Trail in the United States of America

Appalachian Trail

For North Easterners, this trip will make an exciting escape from the bustling city, but any visitors will be in awe of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Eager hikers can find programs like the Appalachian Mountain Club's Family Camps, which take families with kids as young as five years old around New Hampshire and Maine, near beautiful mountains and full of sleepaway camp-style fun. Expect canoeing, fishing, stream exploration and a classic campfire sing-a-long.

Galapagos Islands

While this isn't exactly a family vacation, road trip style, there is so much kids can learn by a trip to this incredible archipelago. National Geographic is one of the few to organize a cruise to these islands near South America that is geared specifically at budding scientific minds. In the day, kids can snorkel in crystal blue waters and hike the shores among animals like giant tortoises and sea lions, all of which are completely unphased by the presence of humans. Parents will leave with zoologists and nature photographers on their hands.

Klamath River, California is perfect for family camping and trekking

Klamath River, California

This is a fabulous spot to dive into the world of camping as a family for the first time. Whether you're interested in nesting up in an unassuming lodge or setting up a tent under the stars, a trip to this natural Cali beauty guarantees great views and swimming. Several programs like Orange Torpedo and Oars set up multi-day whitewater rafting ventures, but there are hikes to take and plenty of beach lounging to be done as well. On Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Wild and Scenic trip, kids will get to swim in warm water and calm side creeks (the rapid on this trip is exciting, but never dangerous) and the guides will introduce anyone from five years old to the basics of both rafting and camping. These trips can also be as short as two or three days, ideal for any locals or those not wanting to commit to any extensive travel with kids.

  This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on July 19th.

Another year, another multitude of Comic Cons to attend. Whether you're hitting up the mother of all Cons in San Diego, cosplaying in NYC, or attending a smaller Comic Con in Grand Rapids or Amarillo, the following strategies will help ensure that you have a truly delightful time.

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Buy tickets early.

Whenever possible, buy tickets online before the event. You'll save money and avoid the heartbreak of arriving at Comic Con only to find out that the special event you needed to see has already sold out.

Make a plan in advance.

There is so much to see at Comic Con, and it's physically impossible to see it all. For this reason, it's important to study the schedule and venue maps in advance so that you can plan out each day around your must-see events. If you want to see one of the major presentations (say, Game of Thrones in San Diego's Hall H), keep in mind that you'll need to budget in hours (and hours) of time for waiting in line. And because there are no guarantees that you'll actually make it into the room you're waiting in line to enter (especially because many venues don't empty rooms after panels), it's a good idea to have a backup plan (or several). One last tip: If you're traveling with friends, remember to designate a meeting place before you split up for the day.

Bring cash.

Some vendors don't accept credit cards, and ATM machines are few and far between. (And the ones that do exist are guaranteed to have insanely long lines). Spare yourself headaches and lost time by bringing plenty of cash with you to the venue.

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Avoid parking (if possible).

It will come as no surprise that parking at Comic Con can be a major headache. In the rare cases that you do manage to find a spot near the venue, it's likely it will cost you—some lots have been known to charge upwards of $50 per day. If at all possible, ditch the car and arrive at the venue via public transportation or on foot. If you must drive, be sure to arrive early in the day for the best chance at finding a spot.

Be social.

It's a smart idea to download the venue's app, which is an indispensable resource for navigating any Con. It can also be helpful to create a list on Twitter that includes the official Comic Con Twitter handle, any vendors that you want to see, and people whom you know will be present. Don't underestimate how valuable real-time updates can be when you've been standing in line for three hours.

This tip also extends beyond the digital space. There are tons of great connections to be had at Comic Con, so don't be shy about approaching people. Bonus: Chatting up fellow comics fans is a great way to pass the time while waiting in line. Which brings us to…

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Prepare to wait.

We've mentioned that you'll spend a lot of time waiting in line at Comic Con, right? We're not kidding. Instead of hoping that it won't happen to you, accept that it will—and then plan accordingly. Download podcasts to listen to, bring a book or journal, play games on your phone (just make sure it's fully charged before Con), or simply settle in and enjoy the time to let your mind wander. Just remember to make sure you're actually in the right line—sometimes lines bend and merge together, so check to be sure you aren't wasting your time in the wrong place.

Practice self-care.

As always, you'll be much more likely to enjoy yourself if you do what you can to avoid getting sick or burnt out. Stay hydrated, get enough sleep, wash your hands often, and pack healthy snacks—healthy food can be hard to come by at Cons, especially when you're stuck waiting in line. Having snacks on hand can provide the blood sugar boost you need to continue having a great time.

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Ask permission.

A common phrase heard round Con is that “Cosplay is Not Consent.” What this means is that just because someone is cosplaying (or simply present at Comic Con), that does not give you the right to touch them, harass them, or photograph them without their permission. If you want a picture, just ask—most people are more than happy to indulge. Be polite, keep your hands to yourself, and remember that everyone there is a human just like you.

Consider cybersecurity.

Wi-Fi is often available in most convention centers, but you're likely to find that it's painfully slow (or completely jammed) because of the sheer number of people trying to log on. You may see free networks available, but be cautious—some of these may be malicious. It's a good idea to always practice good cyber-security strategies (even if this means you have to hold off on uploading photos to social media until you get home).

Above all else, remember to enjoy yourself. Though the lines may be long and your plans may change, the sheer number of interesting people and panels to see means that you'll have a great time at Comic Con simply by going with the flow.

  Featured photo by Kevin Dooley via Flickr.

  This article was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on April 13th.

When you're still new to a career and trying to make a name for yourself on the job, it can be stressful to take vacation time.

Heck, forget traveling for pleasure—even business travel can feel stressful. When you're juggling delayed flights or bad cell service with the desire to make a good impression on your clients and coworkers, travel can feel anything but relaxing.

But take a deep breath, because we've got some good news for you: You can travel the globe and continue to rock out at your job. Here's how four hard-working millennials make it happen.


Jenn Hirsch. Photo credit Brandon Smith

Draw work inspiration from your travels.

As a surf retreat leader and a storyteller through (and founder of) Swell Story, Jenn Hirsch has learned firsthand that her travels can inform her work in big ways.

"My rule has always been to find inspiration from where you travel for whatever venture you have at present," she says. "[My] work is highly creative yet grounded in the present—kind of like traveling to foreign countries and surfing in general."

Communicate with your team before you leave.

Make sure your colleagues and clients have a sense of where you'll be and what your availability will be like before you leave the office.

"Before a trip, I think it is important to meet with your team and third-party partners to make sure all bases are covered," says Nolan Walsh, CEO of Thursday Boot Company.

Let folks know when you'll be out of touch, and also aim to make yourself available at times when they'll be working.

"I usually create a block of 3-5 hours that overlap with my work day back home," says Hirsch. "This is a great tool to find overlapping time when you travel. Share your travel itinerary with your close team members, and let them know when you likely won't be able to take calls. With advance communication, anything is possible."

Use long transit times for work.

Instead of bemoaning the time you spend in transit, put it to productive use.

"You're already stuck in a chair, and you'll feel better getting work done than watching the in-flight movie you never really wanted to see," says Walsh.

  Bonus: Get work done on the plane or train, and you'll have more free time to explore your destination.


Nolan Walsh at home in NYC

Stay charged.

The best hot spots and data plans won't help you get work done if you can't turn your devices on in the first place. Never underestimate the value of keeping your work gadgets fully juiced.

"I'd stress the importance of simply keeping your devices charged," says Charlie Ellis, founder and managing partner of Oxford Consulting Group. "I always travel with two hefty battery packs, a power strip, and a ten-port USB hub."

Embrace free time whenever it arises.

While business travel can take you to all corners of the globe, it can be tough to actually see those places when you're sitting in meetings all day.

The solution? Go exploring whenever down time presents itself, says Hirsch, whether that's during a midday lunch break or at the wee hours of the morning. Especially in major metropolitan areas (think London, Tokyo, or New York), there's something to see no matter when you get a free moment. Don't miss it.


Ricky Joshi (foreground) whitewater rafting in Tennessee

Mix business with pleasure.

I really enjoy visiting places for business where I can add on a couple of extra days to explore an area," says Ricky Joshi, co-founder and CMO of Saatva Mattress. "Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago are great for this… I [also] really enjoy Central and South America, where I can go on a more adventurous trip. The Caribbean island of St. Kitts and the Portland area of Jamaica are also personal favorites."

It's also smart to plan trips around your personal preferences.

"I've never fully adjusted to New York winters, so in Q1 and Q4 I'll jump at any excuse to take a meeting or contract in Southern California," says Ellis.

You'll improve your mental state and your productivity if you go somewhere that inspires and uplifts you.

Roll with the punches.

It's unavoidable: When you're traveling the world, sometimes things go wrong.

Try discovering that your airline lost your luggage after you've touched down in Bolivia, as Joshi did. "Because I was so "off the grid," it was so difficult finding a place to even try to call them to track it," he says. "I finally gave into my fate and bought essentially a new, very light, wardrobe."

It may not have been ideal, but Joshi made it work. When fate hands you lemons, go find yourself an orange.

  Bonus: Practicing adaptability and efficient problem solving will serve you well on the job.


Charlie Ellis in Montana

Unplug every once in awhile.

It's not a good idea to go MIA without letting clients and coworkers know you'll be off the grid. But everyone—everyone—needs to unplug once in awhile, and that includes you. Do it responsibly by setting clear expectations before your digital detox, setting up an out-of-office email reply, and then committing yourself to not checking your email or phone, says Hirsch. Your mind will thank you for it.

Far from being a hassle, traveling as a millennial—for work or pleasure—doesn't have to be a career killer. Communicate with your team, be open to expanding your horizons, and don't forget to enjoy yourself. After all, there's more to life than work.

  This article was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind Blog on April 11th, 2016.

Forget snakes on a plane. Worry about the germs. Research shows that air travelers are at a higher risk for infection than people going about their daily lives.

Just how are illnesses spread on a plane? It comes down to two main factors: Airborne germs that are easily inhaled by people sitting in close quarters, or contact with germ-riddled surfaces on the plane. These factors are exacerbated by the dry conditions typical of airplanes, because viruses prefer low-humidity environments.

The good news is that, for the most part, airplanes' air filtration systems function well enough that you're unlikely to contract more serious illnesses. Instead, your greatest risk is contracting the common cold or a classic case of the flu.

While that's all well and good, it may be little comfort to people who don't particularly want to have a cold or the flu while trying to enjoy their vacation. Luckily, it is possible to decrease your risk of infection from germs on a plane. Here's how to maximize the chances of disembarking the plane as healthy as you boarded it.

Don't travel if you're already sick

If you know that you're suffering from a contagious illness, do your immune system (and your fellow passengers) a favor and don't expose yourself to any more germs by boarding a plane. In particular, the CDC advises that people avoid plane travel if you're more than 36 weeks pregnant, have recently had surgery, have had a recent (serious) injury, or have a fever. In each of these cases, you'll be traveling with a compromised immune system, which increases your risk of catching a contagious infection. Some airlines may be lenient with rescheduling fees if you can prove that you're sick; contact the airline to discuss your options.

Germs suck. Here is how to avoid getting sick on airplanes.

Ask to switch seats

If you find yourself beside someone who's hacking or sniffling, it's okay (really!) to ask a flight attendant if it's possible to switch seats. Even moving just a few rows away can help protect you from a sick person's germs. If there are no other seats on the plane, donning a face mask might help.

Wipe down germy surfaces

Tray tables, armrests, and seat-back pockets are consistently found to be some of thegermiest parts of a plane. Minimize contact with these germs by using wet wipes to disinfect tray tables, armrests, and seat-back pockets and/or using hand sanitizer after touching any of these surfaces.

Wash your hands (a lot)

For the most part, your hands are your body's primary point of contact with germy surfaces. Those germs (including cold and flu viruses) can survive on your skin for hours. The simple fix? Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or (in a pinch) with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Keep air vents open.

Circulating air is key to preventing the spread of illness on a plane, so keep the air vent above you open. And don't worry—the air pumping through the vent is filtered and safe to breathe.

Bring your own blanket and pillow

A Wall Street Journal investigation found that airlines tend to wash their blankets and pillows only every 5 to 30 days. (Yes, you read that right.) This means that when you borrow a blanket from the airline, you're sharing a whole lot of germs. Avoid the issue entirely by bringing along your own travel blanket and pillow.

Close the toilet seat before you flush

The spray that accompanies flushing spreads germs throughout the airplane bathroom; closing the lid before you flush will help you avoid contact with these nasty microorganisms. The flusher itself is also a hotbed of germs, so put a paper towel in between your hand and the flusher whenever you flush. And of course, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using the loo.

Popping pills sucks. Here is how to avoid getting sick on airplanes.

Stay hydrated

The high elevations and low humidity typical of airplane travel have a dehydrating effect, which can provoke headaches, stomach problems, cramps, and fatigue, and diminish your immune system's ability to fight off infections. The simple solution? Stay hydrated by regularly sipping water before, during, and after your flight. It's also a good idea to avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can contribute to dehydration.

There are a few caveats to this point, however. It's best to avoid drinking the tap water available on airplanes, because airplane tap water has consistently been found to contain levels of bacteria well above U.S. government limits. Opt for bottled water instead. For a similar reason, be sure to ask for drinks sans ice—since many planes refill their ice tanks at foreign airports, the water standards may not be up to par with what you're used to.

Moisturize your nasal membranes

Cabin air tends to dry out our nasal membranes, which are the immune system's main line of defense against incoming germs. Keep your immune system functioning at optimal capacity by using a nasal mist or saline nasal spray during the flight.

While all the immune-boosting strategies in the world can't guarantee your health with absolute certainty, practicing these behaviors on every flight will give you the best chance of making it through a plane ride with your immune system unscathed.

  This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind Blog on January 22nd, 2016.

Think one Southern city is like all the others? Think again. As these six towns demonstrate, stereotypes and generalizations can’t possibly account for all the distinct, quirky, and amazing towns that blanket the American South!

Asheville, North Carolina has some seriously quirky, offbeat charm

1. Home of the Locavore Aesthetic: Asheville, NC

Nestled between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains lies the town of Asheville, which has earned a reputation for itself as a hub of artsiness, outdoor adventure, and a strong local aesthetic. The city’s downtown is comprised almost exclusively of independent shops and eateries, and the town is filled with artists and musicians from all walks of life (which explains the city’s vibrant busking scene). The city is also a self-described “Foodtopia,” a rich food scene with a farm-fresh bent. And if spiritual exploration is your thing, you’ll be right at home in Asheville, which attracts many a mystical seeker. In short? If you want to expose yourself to unique sights, tastes, sounds, and people, get thee to Asheville.

2. Home of Eclectic Attractions: Birmingham, AL

An odd assortment of attractions has made Alabama’s largest city a popular destination for travelers of all backgrounds. The largest cast iron statue in the world—dubbed “Vulcan”—stands guard over the city, broadcasting to all who enter that Birmingham is just a little bit different. Whether you spend your time at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the McWane Science Center (which features exhibits on topics ranging from dinosaurs to space exploration), the Splash Adventure Water Park, the Barber Motorsports Museum (home to more than 1,200 motorcycles), or the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham offers something unique for every kind of traveler.

3. Home of Southern Outdoorsiness: Charlotte, NC

Charlotte’s culture is distinct in that it combines refined, southern hospitality with rugged outdoorsiness. That’s thanks in no small part to the city’s location: The lively downtown sits near the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Locals and tourists alike take advantage of this prime location at popular outdoor destinations that range from the refined Anne Springs Close Greenway, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, and Biltmore Estate to the more adventurous U.S. National Whitewater Center, which offers rafting tours of the area’s Catawba River. Combined, Charlotte’s zest for life and welcoming attitude have earned it a reputation as one of the friendliest cities in the South.

Columbia, South Carolina has some seriously quirky and offbeat charm
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Akhenaton06

4. Home of Epic Festivals: Columbia, SC

Columbia’s tagline is “famously hot,” and it’s easy to see why. The weather is warm (the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees in winter), the attractions are popular, and the college sports scene is hoppin’. The city serves as the capital of South Carolina and is home to the University of South Carolina, which makes for an interesting mix of college-town culture and commercial prowess. But what really sets the city apart is its exciting annual calendar of events, including January’s World Beer Festival, February’s Lake Carolina Oyster Roast, June’s Ribs & Renaissance extravaganza, July’s Lexington County Peach Festival, October’s South Carolina State Fair, and December’s Famously Hot New Year.

5. Home of Stately Art and History: Savannah, GA

Art and history collide in gorgeous Savannah, where the weather is fine, the architecture is Antebellum, and the trees are shrouded in Spanish moss. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time while strolling the streets of Savannah’s pre-Civil War district, and you’re likely to feel out of place virtually anywhere in the city if you aren’t wearing your Sunday best. Class and elegance infuse every aspect of Savannah—including its most popular tourist activities, such as the Savannah Arts Festival, the Savannah Tour of Homes, and the Savannah Film Festival. But don’t let all the stateliness fool you; in Savannah, Southern hospitality is alive and well.

Tulsa, Oklahoma has some seriously quirky offbeat charm

6. Home of All Things Retro: Tulsa, OK

Tulsa has been a cult favorite since the heyday of Route 66, which passes right through the city. Today, the town draws tourists who are interested in both what the city used to be and all that it now has to offer. From its iconic oilman statue to its neon signposts, old-fashioned pump stations, and art deco buildings, Tulsa has retro funk on lock. The city is also home to a thriving festival scene—most notably, Tulsa hosts one of the country’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations each fall.

From giant statues, to exciting festivals, to dynamic arts, music, and food scenes, these cities provide a whole new take on the meaning of Southern charm.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 18th.

The winter months of December through February — and sometimes through March — are notorious for flight delays due to bad weather. People risk delays during the holidays because they have long periods of mandated time-off and want to spend it with their families. But no one wants to request time off in February only to spend half of the vacation managing flight delays and bad weather.

But while February isn’t the best travel month for every destination, airlines offer some pretty sweet deals on flights during the year’s shortest month. With some trips discounted as much as 79%, travelers should take airlines up on their offers. We analyzed a year’s worth of Hipmunk flight and hotel pricing data, and the following February destinations are worth the bargain.

New York, NY

Whether covered in snow or sunshine, New York is New York — a magical amusement park for both kids and adults. There will never be a shortage of indoor and outdoor winter activities. With flights and a three-night hotel stay averaging $962 in February, the Big Apple offers a steal. Take a horse carriage ride through Central Park as you admire the snow-covered terrain and monuments that make the city so enchanting. Ice skating is available through March at parks including the Wollman Rink in Central Park and Rockefeller Center. If it gets too nippy, be entertained at a Broadway show as you stay warm.

Philadelphia, PA

With 67 National Historic Landmarks, Philly ranks third in the country for most landmarks, including the famous cracked Liberty Bell and the house of poet Edgar Allen Poe. But the city is also a modern metropolis with a striking skyline, impressive street art murals, and rich pop culture. Run up the long steps to the main entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and recreate the famous opening of the cult classic film “Rocky.” Philly has one of the oldest outdoor markets in the U.S. — Italian Market — and also boasts Terminal Market, a great indoor destination. Both sell everything needed to make delicious meals. An average flight and three-night hotel stay in February averaged $819, a savings of up to $80 compared with spring months.

Sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

San Francisco, CA

Much like San Francisco’s weather stays constant, so do flight and hotel prices, averaging more than a $1,000 most of the year for a flight and a three-night hotel stay. But in late spring, the average was $953, making it the ideal time to head west. SF offers a multitude of varied activities sure to entertain all personalities. Pier 39 alone offers shopping, restaurants, Aquarium of the Bay, and a two-story carousel. But the most endearing attraction is simply observing the quirky sea lions lounge by the pier. In 2015 Walkscore.com gave San Francisco a score of 83.9, making it the second most walkable city in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Walk or ride the cable cars to get around.

Dublin, Ireland

Flying to Europe from the U.S. in the summer will typically cost around $1,000 or more. But flights to certain European destinations are quite affordable in the coming months. Dublin is small and easy to walk around, ensuring travelers can see and do most of what the city has to offer in a single weekend. Admire the beautiful architecture of the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Walk east for nine minutes to reach St. Stephen’s Green and appreciate the park’s original Victorian layout. Trinity College Dublin, one of Dublin’s most prestigious universities, is only a six minute walk north of the park. The college’s Long Room is eye candy for book nerds.

For the beer and whiskey enthusiasts visit to the Guinness Storehouse brewery or the Jameson whiskey distillery.

Sunset over the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Paris, France

Visiting Paris in the springtime is recommended, but it’s so much more affordable in February and March, with some flights ranging between $500 and $600 dollars. Much like New York, there is always plenty to see and do in Paris. Must do outdoor activities include riding to the top of the Eiffel Tower, admiring Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting at least one historical Parisian cemetery. Keep out of the elements at one of Paris’ many museums, the Louvre Museum being one of the most famous for housing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Louvre Pyramid. For modern art lovers, visit the Pompidou Center or the Jeu de Paume.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 2nd.

Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently rolled out a Boeing 787 airplane painted from tip to tail with the likeness of Star Wars’ R2-D2. The airplane will carry its first lucky passengers beginning Oct. 18 with a flight between Tokyo and Vancouver, Canada. The project is part of a five-year promotional deal between ANA and the Walt Disney Company.

This is hardly the first time an airline has made headlines for dolling up its planes. These designs are typically part of publicity partnerships or are created to promote special events or anniversaries. Check out some of the wackiest paint jobs in airline history, below.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.58.54 PM
Photo: Flickr user Mark Harkin

Hobbit Plane, Air New Zealand

First on the list is the world’s largest plane decal, which reportedly took more than 400 hours to complete before it was released into the air in 2012. The Lord of the Rings-themed plane didn’t stop at the paint job. Inside, a hobbit-themed safety video featured characters from Middle Earth, while the cabin crew adorned themselves with pointy ears for the plane’s first flight.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.00 PM
Photo: Flickr user Aero Icarus

San Francisco Plane, Swiss International Airlines

In 2010, Swiss International instated daily flights between Zurich and San Francisco. To celebrate the new route, the airline decorated a plane with just about every San Francisco stereotype around, from peace signs to flower power.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.25 PM
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Flickr user Cubbie_n_vegas

Salmon, Alaska Airlines

Get it? A Boeing 737 becomes a Boeing salmon-thirty-salmon in this 2005 fish-themed paint job. The inspiration for the artwork is a bit unclear: Some sources claim it was designed to celebrate Alaska’s seafood industry, while others believe it stemmed from a 1987 incident in which an Alaska Airlines plane was hit by a fish while taking off in Juneau (The fish was purportedly dropped by an eagle).

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.31 PM

Aboriginal Design, Qantas

A collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, the design for this Boeing 737-800 was inspired by Uluru, aka Ayers Rock. The Australian World Heritage site is famous for its rich colors, which appear to change as the sun’s angle shifts throughout the day.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.59.37 PM
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Wizarding World Plane, Virgin Atlantic Airways

What a magical idea. In partnership with Virgin Holidays, Virgin Atlantic branded one of its 747 jets with the logo for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The paint job functioned as publicity for the Universal Orlando resort.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.58.39 PM
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Panda Jet, All Nippon Airways

To celebrate 20 years of flying between Japan and China, ANA unveiled its panda-themed jet in 2007. It reportedly took 350 people a total of 80 hours to plaster the image of the world’s cutest bear onto the jet.

Whether you’re flying to Tokyo, Vancouver, or anywhere in between, may the force (and sweet paint jobs) always be with you.

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 18th.

Airplane cabins aren’t always known for being roomy, comfy, or luxurious, but the newest crop of first class suites are stunning travelers with their size and opulence. New Yorkers who get by in tiny 100 square foot apartments and Londoners who would pay $145,000 for a shoe box next to Harrod’s may consider moving in when they see how gorgeous and extravagantly large the new cabins seem by comparison. Here’s a roundup of the best and biggest first class cabins that money (or airline miles) can buy.

First class flight on Etihad Airways
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Travelarz

Etihad Airways: The Residence

In December 2014, Etihad Airways introduced The Residence on its Airbus A380 planes. The three room suite is a whopping 125 square feet and can be occupied by up to two people traveling together. It includes a living room, a private bathroom, and a bedroom with a bed large enough to share. Etihad hasn’t skimped on the amenities either: It comes with a 32-inch television, a cabinet for chilled drinks, and Christian Lacroix pajamas. The leather on the seats is made by Poltrona Frau, which also makes leather seats for Ferrari and Maserati.

The suite also comes with exceptional service. It includes a luxury chauffeur for transportation to and from the airport, and a Savoy Academy-trained personal butler to meet you and the airport and anticipate your every need. The Residence is available on A380 planes between London and Abu Dhabi, and soon to New York and Sydney, Australia as well. A ticket in The Residence can cost about $20,000 one way. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to travel like an oil magnate or a Russian oligarch, this is the way to go.

First class flight on a 747
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Altair78

Singapore Airlines: Suite Class

The Singapore Airlines Suites may only feature one room rather than three, but it’s certainly not much of a step down. Running about $18,000 each way, the Suites were introduced in 2007 and are available only on the Airbus A380. Flights are offered from Singapore to 14 destinations, including New York, London, and Hong Kong, so there’s plenty of opportunity to experience the best of Singapore Airlines.

The cabins are the work of luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, and feature a 35-inch wide bed and a 78-inch long bed with cabin doors that can be shut completely. When your partner is in the adjacent cabin, the wall removes so that a double bed can be folded down for some in-flight pillow talk. Each Suite also features a 23-inch LCD screen, Bose headphones, a Ferragamo amenity kit, and Givenchy sleepwear. To complete the perfect in-flight experience, the Book the Cook service allows passengers to order their meals before the flight and choose between Michelin-starred chefs Georges Blanc and Carlo Cracco, among others.

Emirates Airways Business Class lounge
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Altair78

Emirates Airlines: First Class Suites

At around $13,000 one way, the Emirates First Class suites are a bargain compared to the options above, and their most famous feature will seem like a dream come true: an in-flight shower. In a huge improvement on showering over a toilet in your London apartment, each Suites passenger gets 30 minutes in the spa suite with five minutes of hot water conveniently monitored by a light timer. There are two shower spas for the 14 privates suites on each Airbus A380 flight, and the bathrooms also features heated floors and designer towels and toiletries. Imagine being able to freshen up at the end of a long flight, enjoy a shave or a steam, and arrive at your final destination feeling impossibly calm and collected. Now that’s luxurious.

Of course, the cabins in First Class Suites are lovely as well. The seats, which are tablet-operated, fold down to 79-inch beds, and there’s an on-board bar where passengers can mingle with business class passengers over a drink. The cabins also have remote-controlled sliding doors and 23 inch LCD screens for entertainment. Emirates offers chauffeur service to and from the airports in over 70 cities, and flights on the A380 available to over 35 destinations. Maybe it’s time to let go of your lease and take to the skies for luxury and comfort next year.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on Jnuary 18th.

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