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.

Published in Travel Inspiration

If you find that your sleep quality decreases while traveling, you’re not alone. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that most adults prefer the comfort and calm of their own bedrooms over a hotel room—even a luxurious one. And don’t even get people started on the perils of trying to catch some shut-eye on a cheap flight.

Short of bringing their bed with them wherever they go, what’s a weary traveler to do? Whether you’re trying to catch some ZZZs on an airplane, in a hotel, or in a train or car, here’s how to get better sleep while on the road.

how to get better sleep while on the road

1. Get comfortable.

If you’ve ever tried to sleep next to two other people in the backseat of a moving vehicle, you’ll know that this can be easier said than done. But sleep will come faster if you do what you can to make yourself comfortable. Try to wear loose-fitting clothing, take off your shoes, and cuddle up under breathable fabrics for the best chance at decent sleep. If you’re in a plane, train, or car, an inflatable or travel-sized pillow will also help.

2. Keep the environment cool, quiet, and dark.

Studies routinely show that people sleep best in spaces that are quiet, unlit, and cooled to less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While you may not be able to control the temperature wherever you’re trying to sleep (except in a car or hotel room), you can keep things quiet by packing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones or (at hotels) asking for a room that’s located away from the elevator, stairwell, vending machines, and pool (Also don’t forget to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door). Limit your exposure to light by closing a hotel room’s curtains or packing an eye mask for flights.

3. Stick to your routines.

Consistency is key to getting good sleep, so do what you can to mimic your own bedroom environment wherever you are. Bring along your favorite pair of pajamas, a picture of your family or pet, and any other small items that will help you feel at home. Also be sure to stick to your normal bedtime routines, such as drinking a cup of tea, reading a book, listening to music, or practicing breathing exercises before closing your eyes.

Random hotel room bed waiting for you

4. Avoid stimulants.

Caffeine, alcohol, and exposure to “blue light” (aka the glow emitted from electronic devices like tablets, laptops, and smartphones) can all make it harder to catch some shut-eye. Try not to drink coffee in the afternoon or evening; don’t drink alcohol within a few hours of heading to bed; and turn off all electronics at least an hour before hitting the sheets. Avoiding these stimulants will help your body wind down so you can fall asleep faster.

5. Head to sleep-friendly hotels.

Reading reviews of hotels online prior to booking will help alert you to whether a hotel is known for having raucous guests or promoting quality slumber. Some hotels have even started investing in amenities to help guests get better sleep.

For example, the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, Va. offers guests a “Dream Menu,” or a collection of services and products designed to help guests get better sleep (think hot water bottles, Snore-no-More pillows, and a Bed Wedge that elevates your upper torso). At the Fairmont San Francisco, guests can take advantage of a sleep kit complete with sleep machine, earplugs, eye mask, and slippers. Crowne Plaza hotels offer a “Sleep Advantage” program that lets guests elect to stay in quiet zones sans room attendant, housekeeping, or engineering activities from 9 p.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. And Hampton hotels offer a “Clean and Fresh Bed” designed to provide guests with optimum comfort in the form of streamlined covers, four pillows per bed, and high-thread-count sheets.

Most importantly? Even if you find yourself tossing and turning, don’t lose hope. Fretting over lost sleep will only make you anxious, so try not to stress too much if you wanted to snooze through an entire eight-hour flight and only managed to catch an hour or two of ZZZs. A little bit of sleep is better than none. And if all else fails, never forget the power of a cat nap.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 15th.

Published in Travel Tips

Canada is an amazing winter destination due to its pristine beauty and wealth of outdoor winter activities. There is something for everyone here! Of course buying all your gear or forgotten items while on winter vacation is considerably more expensive than bringing them from home. So, if you are heading to Canada this winter, here is what you need for some of the most popular activities:

Elk Viewing

Getting to see winter animals in their native environment is a humbling, peaceful activity -- and a great opportunity for photographers. Edmonton, Alberta is home of the Elk Island National Park and offers some of the best winter Elk viewing in all of Canada. Don't forget:

  • Binoculars
  • Photography gear

Dogsledding

Banff, Alberta is home to the Banff National Park and an amazing destination for adventurous winter activities such as dogsledding. To avoid expensive gear rental fees, be sure to bring:

  • Fleece or down jacket with a wind/water proof shell
  • Supportive insulated winter boots (or water-resistant hiking boots) above the ankle
  • Goggles or sunglasses
  • Lip balm to protect against the cold, dry winter winds

Skiing is one of the best winter activities in Canada

Skiing

Canada has no shortage of skiing destinations for people of all skill levels, however Whistler, British Columbia is consistently ranked as (one of) the top ski destination in Canada. It not only is fun for kids and adults, but also has plenty of non-skiing activities as well, including snow tubing and snowcat tours. For those who plan to go skiing, do not forgot to bring:

  • Thick, waterproof parka with a hoodie
  • Supportive insulated winter boots (or water-resistant hiking boots) above the ankle
  • Any ski gear you own that is not too cumbersome to bring (to avoid high rental fees)

Winter Festivals & Events

For seasonal festivals, shows and events, there is nowhere better to be than Quebec. Food festivals. Holiday shows. Performances and events a plenty. There is something new to do every day here during winter. However the pinnacle of all Canada's winter festivals is the Quebec winter carnival, Le Carnaval de Québec. It is one of the world's largest winter festivals and includes parades, parties, ice sculptures, sleigh races, shows, amusement rides and more.

What to bring to Le Carnaval de Québec?

  • Your appetite -- there are plenty of wonder winter foods and delicious dishes available
  • A swimsuit!

Why your appetite? The carnival also includes the "Bain de Neige" or snow bath. The unique challenge is something unique that you won't soon forget!

Everything Else

When it comes to general outdoor activities and family fun, Mississauga, Ontario is a great choice. There is plenty of great ways to pass the days outside. Some of their most popular activities include tobogganing, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. Of course there are also lots of great festivals, events and even indoor activities as well. Just don't forget:

  • To bring a great attitude and be ready for a fun winter vacation!

  One final note: do not bring any cotton clothing. Cotton (including blue jeans) absorbs moisture and when combined with the cold, snowy Canadian winter, can easily cause hypothermia.

Published in Canada

Tipping is a hot topic in the United States these days, as rising minimum wages call into question the standard practice of making servers reliant on tips. For travelers abroad, tipping is an equally sticky issue. Figuring out what to tip when can all too quickly turn a relaxing vacation into a stressful one. Knowing what to tip, on the other hand, can empower travelers to navigate a foreign culture with ease.

Because tipping rules vary by country, region, and place of business, it’s important to research your destination’s customs prior to any trip. Start by consulting this guide, which outlines tipping customs in 20 countries around the world, for restaurants, hotels, and beyond!

Argentina

Restaurants: While tipping at restaurants and bars isn’t considered a necessity, many tourists often tip around 10%.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but consider rounding up to the nearest whole peso so the driver doesn’t have to sort out change. If they help you with your bags, add on a bit more as a token of appreciation.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides up to 20% and always give bag handlers a small bill or two.

Australia

Restaurants: Australian servers are paid decent wages and generally don’t expect tips. Recognize exceptional service by rounding up the bill. In upscale establishments only, tip 10%.

Taxis: While tipping isn’t expected, it’s common courtesy to round up to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: For the most part, tips aren’t expected within the hospitality industry.

Canada

Restaurants: Canada’s tipping protocols are similar to those in the United States (although most Canadian servers are paid minimum wage before tips). Most restaurants expect a minimum 15% tip.

Taxis: It’s customary to tip cab drivers 10% upon arriving at your destination.

Hospitality: Tip concierges for exceptional service only, leave behind a few dollars (or more) for housekeeping, and give bag handlers $1-2 for each bag they carry.

The Caribbean

Restaurants: Most places in the Caribbean islands follow the same tipping standards as the United States, so in general plan to tip 15% or more. One possible exception: If you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort, check to see if the service charge is included.

Taxis: Plan to tip around $1-2 for in-town fares. Tack on a bit extra for late-night or long-distance rides.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge in the bill. If this isn’t the case, be sure to tip bag handlers ($1-2 per bag) and housekeepers ($2 per day). Many resorts discourage tipping, so use your own discretion.

Travel and witness the majesty of the Great Wall of China with your own eyes

China

Restaurants: China has a fairly strict no-tipping culture (though some finer establishments may include a 10-15% service charge), so there’s no need to tip at restaurants. If you want to offer a tip for exceptional service, do so out of sight of the server’s employer.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but it is appreciated (especially in larger cities). Because there’s no customary rate, use your own discretion when deciding how much to tip.

Hospitality: Tipping is usually not expected, although this is changing in more westernized establishments. A good bet is to tip tour guides, housekeepers, and bag handlers a few dollars per day (or bag).

Costa Rica

Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most Costa Rican restaurants. If you want to recognize exceptional service, add another 10% on top.

Taxis: Tips aren’t required, but it’s a friendly gesture to tip a few dollars or round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides 10-15%, and give a few dollars to bag handlers and housekeeping.

Czech Republic

Restaurants: While tipping wasn’t always standard in the Czech Republic, the custom has been catching on. There’s no need to tip if the bill includes a service charge (though feel free to add on another 10% for great service). If no service charge is included in the bill, tip 10-15%.

Taxis: Round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-3 per bag, housekeepers $3-5 per day, and concierges $20 if they go above and beyond.

Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates should be on every travelers' bucket list

Dubai

Restaurants: The government requires a 10% service charge on all bills at restaurants, bars, and hotels. While it’s not necessary to tip more than that, you’re free to hand over a few extra dirhams to the server.

Taxis: Cab drivers in Dubai don’t expect tips, but it’s polite to round up to the nearest 5-dirham note.

Hospitality: Because service charges are included in the bill, there’s little need to tip hotel staff unless you want to recognize great service.

Egypt

Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most establishments, but plan to tack on another 5-10%.

Taxis: Pay cab drivers 10-15% beyond the stated fare.

Hospitality: Give housekeepers $1-2 per day throughout your stay, tip $1 per bag for bag handlers, and give the concierge $10-20 at the beginning of your stay to ensure great service.

France

Restaurants: French law requires that service be included in the price, but most locals round up their bills with small change (or up to 10% of the bill).

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers about 10%.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-2 per bag and housekeepers around $2-3 per day. Exceptional service from the concierge should warrant 10 or more Euros.

Germany

Restaurants: Germany’s tipping customs work much like France’s: Service is included in the price, but it’s customary to round up the bill to an even figure (this usually amounts to 5-10% of the total bill).

Taxis: Round up to the nearest Euro or tack on an extra few Euros if you’re feeling generous.

Hospitality: While tips aren’t required, it’s courteous to leave behind a few Euros for housekeepers and to pay baggage handlers around 2 Euros per item. Slip the concierge 10 or more Euros for great service.

India

Restaurants: Tip 10% for the waiter, even at upscale restaurants (where a 10% service charge is included in the bill).

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected for short trips. If you hire a driver for a long trip or multiple days, tip around 150-300 rupees per day.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around 20 rupees per bag and offer tour guides several hundred rupees.

Italy

Restaurants: Tips aren’t expected, but feel free to round up the bill or tip 10% for exceptional service.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but they are appreciated. Use your own discretion.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tipping really isn’t expected in Italy, but who doesn’t like being appreciated for good service?

Japan

Restaurants: It’s unlikely that a server will accept your tip, so it’s probably most polite not to offer one.

Taxis: Tips are not at all expected. A simple “thank you” will suffice.

Hospitality: Tour guides don’t expect tips but are likely to accept them. Hotel staff may refuse a tip if offered; you’re more likely to transfer cash if you put it in an envelope and leave it behind for staff, rather than foisting cash into their hands.

Mexico

Restaurants: When service is included in the bill, there’s no need to tip. Otherwise, plan to leave 10-15%.

Taxis: While tips aren’t expected, it’s courteous to round up the fare.

Hospitality: Many hotel staff rely on tips as part of their take-home pay, so be generous. Bag handlers, housekeepers, the concierge, and anyone else who performs a service during your stay warrants a tip. The amount is up to your own discretion.

Auckland Harbor
Auckland Harbor in New Zealand

New Zealand

Restaurants: Like Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have much of a tipping culture. Service and sales tax are almost always included in the bill. Tip only for exceptional service or when the menu states that service is not included.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but acknowledge great service by rounding up the fair or leaving behind a few small bills.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tips aren’t expected, but they’re a nice way to express appreciation for a job well done.

Spain

Restaurants: Locals generally leave small change or round up to the nearest euro, so go ahead and follow suit. If you receive great service or are dining at an upscale establishment, leave a 5-10% tip.

Taxis: Small change, rounding up to the nearest Euro, or a couple of extra Euros are all acceptable tips.

Hospitality: Pay the bag handler up to five Euros, the person who delivers room service 1-2 Euros, and housekeepers a few Euros for the stay.

South Africa

Restaurants: In nearly all establishments, it’s customary to leave a 10-15% tip for the waiter.

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers around 10%.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around $1 per bag. Tip other hotel staff at your own discretion.

Ko Samui is one of the most beautiful and popular islands in Thailand

Thailand

Restaurants: Expectations here vary widely throughout Thailand: Some sources advocate for not leaving a tip, others suggest leaving 10-15%, and still others suggest leaving $1 per diner. Keep it simple by sticking with 10% or $1 per person, whichever is more generous.

Taxis: Tips aren’t encouraged, but a tip of 20 or 30 Baht is courteous.

Hospitality: It’s standard to tip bag handlers 20 Baht. While there’s no standard tip for housekeepers, it’s respectful to leave behind a tip (the size of which is up to you).

United Kingdom

Restaurants: If a service charge isn’t included in the bill in the UK, tip 10% (or higher for exceptional service).

Taxis: Tip 10-15% for black cabs and licensed minicabs, or just round up to the nearest Euro. Tip extra for help with loading or unloading baggage.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge, but it’s still customary to offer small tips to bag handlers and housekeepers.

No matter where you are in the world, remember that servers, cab drivers, and hotel staff are performing a tough (and often thankless) job. Be both appreciative and thoughtful—try to tip in cash and in the local currency so your server can put the money to good use. And practice discretion when handing out tips, particularly in regions where tipping may be frowned upon. Respecting local customs will go a long way toward make any excursion a positive experience.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Himpunk on September 9th.

Published in Travel Tips

Once you have decided to visit Raleigh, North Carolina, there is still more planning to do. There are common checklists that individuals have utilized over the years, however with the changing times there are some items and situations that may not be properly accounted for. Below are a few items and protocols that are essential for the new-age traveler.

Travel Documents

There are common travel documents that you should carry with you for travel period, but especially if you are traveling internationally. The most common documents include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Travel itinerary
  • Traveler’s checks

TIn the case that you lose these documents or any of your traveling material, you should carry at least two copies and store them in a safe location. A few other items that you should store copies of would be:

  • Airline ticket (if applicable)
  • Foreign Visa (if applicable)
  • Credit cards brought on trip
  • Hotel confirmation

Vaccinations

With the various outbreaks that are occurring across the world, it is important that you are properly vaccinated against any possible illnesses. Be sure to check with your doctor before travel to not only make sure that your shots are up to date, but that you have all the right vaccinations against any sickness that you may encounter while on your trip; certain areas are more susceptible to specific illnesses.

Money Stash

Though this may seem more like a travel amenity, having a proper money stash can be critical in high crime areas. There are a number of different money stash options that you can choose from, such as fanny packs, money belts and neck wallets. Whichever you choose, make sure that you keep it on your person at all times and hidden away when you are at your resting location. You also should not carry all of your money on you at one time; it is suggested that you have several different money stashes amongst your belongings, so that in the case that you lose some, you will not be left high and dry.

It is also important that you become familiar with the currencies that you will be encountering on your trip. If possible, convert a good amount of your money before arriving to your destination. This can help you to avoid high conversion rates and spending excessive amounts of money unnecessarily.

Research

As times have changed, so have policies and common procedures. Therefore, it is critical that you are aware of the way that you should conduct yourself in the specific regions that you visit. If you do not have a set itinerary, look up and map out a few safe destinations that you plan to visit. If you are traveling internationally, be sure to note where your home embassy is located in the area you are visiting. Taking time to learn these tidbits before your travel can save you possible headache or harm on your journey.

See More       10 Amazing Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Raleigh, North Carolina Right NOW   United States Travel Ideas

By keeping these things and other common aspects of your traveler's checklist in mind, you can be sure to have a safe and enjoyable trip. For other details and resources, check with your travel agent in Raleigh or other local agents.

Published in United States

The most comforting factor in the world today is that everything is in your hands, literally! That palm-sized device clasped in your hand seems as if it has been sent from heaven to be your guiding angel. The icing on the cake is the applications or APPS (as they are called now) that once installed in your device can offer you a hassle-free getaway from significant day-to-day problems. These apps have made big things look small, for instance if you are in an over populated country like India where railways is preferred more than airways then booking a ticket doesn’t remain a piece of cake; however, a travel app here can act like a life-saver by helping you find the right train, giving you details about its availability and then finally enabling you to book a ticket without having to stand in endless queues. Now that’s the magic of what we call a travel app.

The year 2015 looks quiet promising in this regard; with the launch of as many as hundred travel applications and many more in the pipeline, 2015 will be the year that will keep all the travel related setbacks to a minimum. Here is why you should consider these travel apps as your ultimate travel guide in 2015.

Travel App as Your Guide to the Best Trip

Planning a short trip or a long vacation to a place you have no clue about? Well, let the travel app feature help you here. There is sizeable number of travel apps ranging from Trip Advisor to Instagram that helps you book the right flight at the right price and the right hotel within your budget. AND that’s not all; you can read reviews and recommendation from the travellers who have already been to this destination by using an app like Localeur. These apps like Foodspotting also help you find some of the best bars, cafés, eateries and places to hangout that too only at the click of a button.

Travel App as a Travel Expert

Once your travel destination is decided and your leaves are sanctioned, you can use your travel app to prepare a suitable itinerary for you. Just feed in your necessary details as in the date of travelling, budget and other preferences and Voila! Let the travel app like WorldMate bring to you the best experiences of the trip for you. The organized itinerary will help you manage each day of trip well without you having to waste time on what to do next.

Travel App as Your Weatherman

There are travel apps like WeatherPro and Marine:Europe that prepare intuitive weather reports and keep you updated with any threatening weather change, water condition and tide predictions. This app will you help avoid any unpleasant experience.

Weather Pro

Travel App as Your Packing Expert

Travel apps can also help you pack the right things for the right place. If you are crummy packer, who doesn’t know what all you will be needing on your vacation, then application like PackingPro can be your friend in need. All you have to do is to feed essential information such as what is your destination and for how long, this travel app can help you pack perfect with dividing the categories into, clothes, gadgets and other relevant items. Now isn’t this app an apple of your eye!

Travel App as Your City Guide

And never shall again you will be lost in an unknown land, promises some of the travel apps like AlpineQuest GPS Hiking, New York Subway and Waze. These apps offer route planner, maps and GPS tracker that will help you get the right and quickest way to reach a destination. There are apps like Hailo that are nothing but a life-saver, with you filling with all the information of the location; you can ask a cab to ‘pick you up’. So, you know, you are never alone and unsafe in an unknown city.

Travel App as Currency Convertor

In 2015, your travel app will do the math for you. Application like XE Currency helps you with conversion of currency that too by following few simple steps. This app uses the live currency rate and is absolutely accurate. On the other side, travel app like Tripulator is stylish applications that tell how much you need to tip in any of restaurants across the globe.

XE currency travel app

Travel App as Your Local Transport Guide

Looking for local transport to commute in the city you are vacationing in? No problem, travel app like HopStop can guide you around in return of few taps on your phone. Covering information on local transport options and routes of about 68 countries, HopStop is your stop-by-stop guide

Travel App as Your Interpreter

One often experiences the barrier of language when travelling to another country but with travel app like Lost in Translation things become quite subtle and easy. This amazing app comes equipped with 36 languages and instant voice recognition, also a unique feature that easily forward translation through emails and texts. Promising accurate translations, this travel app looks promising in making your abroad trips simple and fun altogether.

Travel App as Internet Guru

How all of us hate those unnecessary roaming charges while on a holiday. Well, travel app Onavu save your holiday to get ruined. Once installed, this app compresses the data that is required to perform any task (email and posting on social network sites) automatically while you are on roaming. So, now you can enjoy your holiday and post check-in status and share photos as many times in a day you want without having to think about the bill!

Travel App as Your Skin Care Expert

We were little indecisive as in adding this last type of travel app to this list but then realized its importance as it is a crucial app for those planning to vacation in sunny climes. Travel app like Sunscreen actually takes care of your beauty and health. The app allows you to calculate the UVI ratings and it alerts you when you need another slathering of sunscreen. One has to fill information as that of skin type and SPF of the lotion and rest you can leave upto this app.

So, you see a single travel app can work miracles to your holiday. Right from fixing your itinerary to making flight, bus and train bookings, from warning you about bad weather to taking care of your skin, these travel apps are really on the go in 2015. So, browse and select the travel application that suits you the best and enjoy hassle-free travelling all year!

Which of these apps do you use the most?

Published in Travel Technology

Instagram is a handy tool for travelers wishing to document their journey. Long gone are the days of buying disposable cameras or dropping off film at the developer. However the ease of this app can often be taken for granted. After all let's be honest: We've all seen some crappy IG photos.

Don't be that guy.

When you do decide to share something on Instagram, make sure it is truly worthy of being shared. This infographic from dealchecker.co.uk demonstrates how you can capture the peripheral wonders of the cultures you are engrossed within to make the perfect holiday photo album, and churn your followers’ complexions green with envy. Taking the constant accessibility and features Instagram has to offer into consideration, these tips have been compiled into a foolproof list to make the most of the instrument in your pocket.

A dealchecker graphic – How to take amazing travel photos

Graphic produced by dealchecker.co.uk

Don't Forget To Follow The HoliDaze!

Published in Travel Photography

Countries where antiques, honey, and goatskin are just as illegal as firearms and explosives.

As anyone who has done any foreign traveling will tell you, it is a learning experience like no other -- the world's greatest classroom. After all, how could it not be when this great planet supports an endless amount of cultures, each with their own unique food, languages, customs and beliefs. But occasionally it is not the local sights that make you stop and wonder, but their customs and immigration policies.

Below are some of the most intriguing ones that I've found, but I'm also eager to hear of any that you have noticed in your travels. Be sure to share your comments at the bottom

Water bottles are forbidden

Nigeria   Prohibited items include mineral water, soft drinks, "textile fabrics and mosquito netting."

Barbados & Seychelles   "All bags, clothing, and articles made from camouflage material are expressly forbidden."

Bhutan   "Antiques" are expressly prohibited along with explosives and narcotics.

Oman   Visitors are allowed to bring with them "8 tapes for personal use. However, Customs may confiscate tapes. Tapes will be sent to the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture for verification (takes about 1 week)."

Zimbabwe   Honey is prohibited along with other dangerous items like drugs, firearms, and "flick and lockable blade knives."

New Zealand   Visitors are allowed to bring with them musical instruments "provided that the goods are taken from New Zealand upon their departure."

Malaysia   Importation regulations include "max. 3 pieces of new wearing apparel" and "max. 100 matches." Official policy states that "customs duties of 30% of the value are due in case of exceeding the allowed quantities," although I'm uncertain exactly how they would properly enforce this.

Iceland   "Fishing equipment, including waders and rubber boots must be accompanied by a certificate of disinfection issued by an authorized veterinary officer."

South Korea   The final item on South Korea's list of prohibited items is: "products originating from communist countries."

Cuba   Expressly prohibits "Household appliances (freezers with a capacity exceeding seven cubic feet, air conditioners, any type or model of electric accumulators and heating/cooking plates, electric and microwave ovens, any type or size of electric frying pans, electric water heaters and showers, electric irons and toasters)."

Singapore   Since 1992 chewing gum has been banned in Singapore, although in recent years an addendum has been made to allow for an exception on dental hygiene gum.

Saudi Arabia   "Nothing can be imported free of duty as passenger's baggage, except clothes and strictly personal effects. Customs charges a fee on photographic cameras, typewriters, etc. Customs charges may be refunded if these articles are re-exported within 90 days."

Borat

Jamaica   Expressly prohibits "all articles made of goatskin (still bearing fur), e.g. drums, handbags and rugs."

Kazakhstan   Better leave your copy of Borat at home -- "printed matter directed against Kazakhstan" are completely prohibited.

Israel   The following items are permitted by visitors only if they're "for their personal use and provided re-exported: one video camera, one photo camera, one movie camera, one tape recorder and, up to a value of USD 250. These articles are subject to high deposits which can be paid in cash or by VISA credit card only." However some item categories are completely forbidden, such as all "fruits and vegetables from the African continent."

Hungary   Visitors are forbidden from exporting any "children and baby articles, underware, kitchen articles," among other less-humorous items.

Kenya   High on the banned list here is "imitation firearms, childrens' toy pistols, etc," but this is actually not that surprising if you think about it.

Fiji   "Pilgrims returning to Fiji with holy water should comply with the following requirements. The water must be: limited to one pint; and - carried in hermetically sealed containers from the country of origin; and - certified by a competent authority to be sterile and free from cholera, typhoid, and paratyphoid germs. The water is impounded for 21 days at Nadi airport if this certificate is not available." This actually raises more questions than it answers -- at least for me.

Indonesia   Visitors may only bring (video) cameras, portable radio cassette recorder, binoculars and sport equipment into the country as long as they are also exported upon their departure. However both "cordless telephones" and "Chinese medicines and printings" are expressly forbidden alonside such obvious items as narcotics and firearms.

Iran   "Holding alcoholic beverages and old books or magazines is prohibited."

Cote d'Ivoire   "For personal use only passengers are allowed to import a video camera. The camera must be declared on arrival and a deposit must be paid, which will be returned to the passenger upon departure. Video cassettes are subject to customs duties."

China   Visitors may freely import all vegetables except for egg plants, red peppers, and tomatoes.

Lativia   All "pieces of art older than 50 years must hold permission from Latvian authorities." I can understand limiting the exportation of art, but the importation...huh?

Mmmmm...pork and beer ;)

Lithuania   "Electric fishing equipment" is prohibited unless permits have been obtained from the government.

Maldives   "Alcoholic beverages, pork and pork products are restricted items and are only permitted to be imported with a prior obtained permit. Any such items imported without a permit will be confiscated and destroyed."

Afghanistan   "The import of film cameras is only possible with a licence."

Kuwait   Visitors are not allowed to bring with them any "mineral water."

Mauritius   Prohibited items include "chewing tobacco."

Angola   Visitors are not allowed to bring with them any postal stamps.

Pakistan   "Warning: import of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited for both residents and non-residents regardless of their nationality." Emphasis included on official site so this must be of great national concern.

  Quotations from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Have you encountered any strange customs or airport regulations? Maybe you've even gotten lucky sneaking something past? ;)

  Share you comments below, I'm eager to hear your thoughts and experiences with customs.

Published in Miscellany Articles

The minute someone announces that they'll be moving abroad or taking an extended trip, people who want to "visit you" appear out of the woodwork! Friends and family and even nearly-perfect strangers all want to share in the excitement, intrigue, romance of travel and exploration! I've heard cries of "I'm soooooooo coming!" from my sister, mother, countless friends and even my hair dresser!

How to be a Houseguest

While I'm excited to go and travel solo, I'm also excited to have visitors! I've hosted numerous people, at sea, on land, et cetera; I've had enough experience with playing the host to have formed solid, reasonable expectations for a guest. Here are my tips for being a proper guest:

Research

Do your own research before you arrive. There is nothing more frustrating for a host than a guest who doesn't know what they want to do, and sloughs off every expectation for "having a good time" on their host. Keep in mind: Your host lives in the city you are visiting. He/she will know of some great things to do there, but he/she will not know what it is you are truly interested in. You may think that saying "I'll do whatever" means you're being flexible and trying to work with your hosts schedule, but it's actually quite stressful for the host. Spend a few minutes on TripAdvisor researching things to do in the place you're visiting and let your host know ahead of time so the proper arrangements can be made.

Time

Keep in mind that your host lives where you're visiting. While you may be on vacation and are feeling care free and out for non-stop fun, your host is probably not on vacation. (That's why he/she is still at home.) Sure the host may be able to get a day or two off from work to tour you around the region, but at the end of that time the host will have to return to work. Be respectful of your host's time.

I once hosted a guyfriend's girlfriend for the weekend. It. Was. Awful. I asked only that they text me to let me know when she would be dropped off each night, so I could let her into the house (I wasn't comfortable giving her a key). They would text me at half ten pm and not show up for four more hours. Really, really frustrating.

I'm not going to be working while I'm in Rome, but I will have personal projects going on -– reading, writing, learning the language, so don't expect that I can or will want to devote every waking hour to doting on you. I'm not a babysitter. I like my independence. You should, too.

Cleanliness

You may have just scored a free place to stay, but you are not staying in a hotel and there is no maid!! Clean up after yourself. Make your bed. If you're sleeping on a couch in a public room, fold up your blankets and sheets and pack away your suitcase during the day. Remember: You're in someone else's home.

Meals

Most hosts will provide breakfast for you, and sometimes feed you every single meal. (Personally, my lifestyle is not such that I can offer that to a guest, but I've had the good fortune of experiencing it before.) If your host offers to feed you, please let him/her know in advance if you have any food allergies or special dietary needs.

Tongseng, a type of Indonesian soup (and very delicious)

A couple of friends came to stay in my house for a few nights – I asked if there were any allergies or preferences for food before they arrived and the answer came back, "No." However on arrival (at 11:00 at night, I might add) I found out that one of the guests had a milk allergy and was just expecting a piece of toast in the morning. I don't usually keep bread in my house and had nothing to feed her in the morning, despite my efforts.

Resources

I am not independently wealthy. Sure, I have a good job, but I live relatively modestly. Don't expect me -- or any host -- to spend hard-earned resources on your vacation. Yes, I want to go and play with you and I can pay for my own tickets and meals, but I'm not going to pay for yours. This is especially true for the time I'll be abroad. My resources will be limited. You'll be expected to pay for your share of what you do.

Horror Story

I live in a duplex house and know the girls who live next door to me fairly well. They somehow ended up hosting a guest for several weeks. Every few days I'd hear horror stories about how awfully this guest was behaving. The guest, an RN (that's a nurse, if you didn't know) with a great job in the area, had her lease run out on her without the option to renew (the house was being sold). She knew it was happening but failed to actually go out and find a new place to live. Instead, she invited herself to stay with my neighbors because it was free. My poor, unsuspecting neighbors!! While the nurse was there, she also (without permission) ate their food. She ran up their utilities. She used their laundry soap. She used their shampoo and toiletries. She monopolized their living room, leaving her clothing and belongings strewn everywhere. She invited her boyfriend over to make out in the living room until the wee hours of the morning, and played movies very loudly. Then she took all the money she saved on rent, utilities, food and toiletries and went to Thailand for several months. To this day, she doesn't think she's done anything wrong.

I'm not sure why there is such a sense of entitlement among so many people these days, and so little willingness to work for what one does have. Mooches are not welcome.

As A Guest, Expect:

  • To pay for your own meals if eating out with your host(s).
  • That your host's home may be tiny and you may not have a private bed. You may have to share one, or sleep on a couch / futon.
  • To pay for your own transportation costs around town, such as buses, taxies and more interesting forms of local transport like ojeks and becaks and jeepneys (depending upon the country).
  • Realize that your host may not have wifi or access to internet, and even if they do, they may not have unlimited bandwidth for you to Skype all day and night or download your favorite TV show that you have been missing out on while on the road.

If you can't afford any of the above, then you can't afford to travel.

Now that that's all out of the way, we'll get along grandly, so let the good times roll!! (And no, sorry readers, this is not an invitation to perfect strangers or quasi-acquaintances to come and stay with me.)

Published in Travel Tips

Having the opportunity, freedom and desire to travel has created endless opportunities for me to visit countries outside of my own, explore different cultures and meet a variety of diverse and interesting characters. I've lost count of the lessons I've learned along the way, but here are my most memorable:

The Top 5 Things I've Learnt from Travelling

  1. Freedom is the greatest gift in life
  2. Every child has a right to a childhood
  3. There's a difference between being poor and living in poverty
  4. The most memorable moments happen when things don't go according to plan
  5. The greatest enabler of change is education

On a lighter note, the Top 20 Things I've Learnt Whilst ‘On The Road’

  1. There is always one annoying person in each group and if you don't know who it is – it's you
  2. It's impossible to stay dry or clean during a Cambodian or Laotian new year celebration
  3. Ice in beer or red wine is not only acceptable in Southeast Asia, but essential
  4. There's nothing like the topic of “volunteering in developing countries” to start a heated debate with fellow travellers
  5. Burger King after a month of Burmese food will make you sick. McDonald's after two months of African camp food will make you sick. KFC after two weeks on a motorbike in the Vietnamese Central Highlands will make you sick.
  6. The Spanish word for "flea" is "pulga" and the only cure for more than five hundred infected bites is antibiotics
  7. An elderly woman dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing, stopping traffic in the middle of a road in Shangri La to chant whilst pointing a crooked stick at you...is not a friendly local greeting
  8. Sometimes ‘no toilet’ is more hygienic than the toilet provided
  9. It's not easy standing on the back of an elephant whilst washing him in the Mekong River, but it sure is fun
  10. Paying $1 for a meal cooked by locals on a street stall and sitting on a 'too small' plastic stool to eat with them in Myanmar is better than any 5 star restaurant in the world
  11. Spiders and insects cooked in garlic in Cambodia simply taste like garlic
  12. The definition of international stardom is having a 76-year-old blind Malawian village chief break the news of your death to foreign travellers.   RIP Michael Jackson
  13. Karaoke is only taken seriously in Japan and Los Angeles.
  14. It's impossible to walk past Victoria Falls in Africa without getting soaked through
  15. "The bus is full" is not part of the Southeast Asian vocabulary
  16. There has never been a more accurate saying than the Burmese quote of “why use ten words when you can use ten thousand”
  17. Be prepared to lose weight in Bhutan if you don't like spicy food
  18. You can get your hair washed, scalp massaged and hair dried in Monywa, Myanmar for less than $5
  19. If the month of Spanish lessons you took in Bolivia doesn't help you understand your co-workers at a village day care centre, it's possible they are speaking their own indigenous dialect of Quecha
  20. Altitude sickness doesn't always prey on the weak and reward the fit.

And the greatest lesson of all?

There's no greater education than the one taught outside the classroom

Published in Travel Inspiration
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