Why Today We Are In the Golden Age of Flying

Many harken back to the period of about 1945 to 1975 as the “Golden Age of Flying.” I say, “au contraire” – today (right now) things are much better for fliers. Here are ten reasons why:

1. It’s way faster. In the 1940s, an average intercontinental flight had at least a 12 layovers in airpots that offered little more than a snack bar. Now, you can fly from Los Angeles all the way to Sydney, Australia non stop.

2. You won’t smell like an ashtray when you land. Airplane cabins used to be smokier than the air in a casino until lighting up on planes was finally banned in 1980.

3. Flying is actually cheaper. According to the Department of Transportation airfares are about as low as they’ve ever been (excluding 2009) when adjusted for inflation. Airlines for America reports the inflation-adjusted fares fell from about $442 in 1979 (which is when airlines deregulated) to about $275 in 2014 — a nearly 38% drop.

4. You can find airfares on your own. It takes less than a minute to check the costs of dozens of airlines for any given city pair and dates. You can go to kayak.com on your computer and check every airline but Southwest. So, by checking two websites (southwest.com and kayak.com) you’ll find the cost for every airline in the world. Imagine trying to book a flight even just 20 years ago when there was no internet — you had to call the airline or physically visit its office. And comparison shopping could only be done by a travel agent, who would have to look through each airline’s printed schedule. A travel agent is still your best bet for complicated international travel.

5. Today’s airports are far more enjoyable places to spend layovers. Many airports now have shopping malls. Or, with your computer you can visit facebook, play games or watch movies.

6. You can travel in comfortable clothes. Many people lament the loss of being required to dress up (like you were going to church) but I, for one, can’t imagine wearing a suit and tie on a transcontinental flight. If you aren’t old enough to remember, there was a time when you had to fly in formal attire, but you can now wear pretty much whatever you want on a plane.

7. You are far less likely to lose your luggage. Thanks to improved technology, the number of mishandled bags fell 61%, from 18.88 bags per thousand passengers in 2007 to 7.3 bags per thousand passengers in 2014 according to the International Air Transport Association. That’s less than a 1% chance you’ll lose your bag. But if you’re paranoid, there are now plenty of gadgets that will help you track your luggage in case the airline does screw up.

8. Luggage has gotten smarter. One of those gadgets helping protect your bag is, your bag itself. There’s been a rise in the production of smart luggage. You can now get a bag that weighs itself, tracks itself and will even charge your cell phone.

9. You don’t even need to check a bag. Lot’s of people now fly with only a carry-on. And, you can also just wear a jacket that is a bag. Travel jackets have in excess of 30 pockets. The only problem is finding the right pocket where you’ve put something. Or use an app, like DUFL, that will deliver your pressed clothes to your hotel before you even arrive.

10. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself on a plane. Fliers in the 1950s were stuck with almost no way to keep busy. Not long ago airlines showed only one movie. Now, if you’re flying international, you have dozens to choose from. And, yes, there’s Wi-Fi. Nearly all airlines now provide some form of in-flight internet. Some airlines are even starting to provide fliers with free Wi-Fi.

Added bonuses you can get: Boarding passes sent to your phone, luggage tags you can print at home and security lines bypasses by signing up for memberships with Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck.

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No Risk Cruise Booking

A common facet of the travel industry involves reserving an airplane ticket, a hotel, a rental car without it costing you anything if you cancel. Here are some typical practices:

(a) For decades airline companies have had “refundable fares.” But those fares are commonly twice or three times as much as the lowest published airfares that are non-refundable.

(b) Hotels and resorts typically offer two prices for a room – a prepaid charge where you lose your money if you cancel, and a considerably higher cost where you can cancel up to one or two days before your booking date without paying anything.

(c) Car rentals require no money in advance. And if you don’t show up to get the car at the appointed time, it costs you nothing.

(d) Cruises are a bit tricky. Some lines allow you to reserve a stateroom with a deposit which is completely refundable if you cancel up to 75-days before the sailing date. Others require deposits which you forfeit if you cancel. And some will let you book with a refundable deposit except when they are having a special sale, in which case the deposit is not refundable.

Picture of Cruise Ship

NO REFUND: It’s interesting that Cruise Critic, an online travel site, recently gave the award for “Best Value-for-Money” for the second year in a row to Carnival Cruise Line. If you are booking one of Carnival’s lower priced staterooms, they won’t let you reserve your cruise with a refundable deposit. However, they offer higher rates in all types of cabins that will have a refundable deposit. In other words, a refundable deposit will cost you! Hmmmm. Shouldn’t that be part of a “value-for-money” equation?

Other lines will refund your deposit up to 75-days before your sailing unless your reservation was made in conjunction with a special promotion involving highly discounted fares.

DEPOSITS VARY: Most of the cruise lines ask for a $250 per passenger deposit in order to reserve a stateroom. Princess Cruises requires a 20-percent deposit. Usually, the full cost of the cruise is due at the same time the deposit becomes non-refundable. Also, sometimes cruise lines have a sale offering a half price deposit – some are refundable, some not. Of course, a good travel agent knows all of the variables – amount of deposit, is it refundable, etc. – and will call you before full payment must be paid.

USE A TRAVEL AGENT: A real, live, experienced travel agent you can talk to will know all of the details involving required deposits. Emphasis here is on “real” and “live” and “experienced” as oposed to websites or big-box stores selling cruises. Travel quite often involves the unexpected, and you need to have an actual person you can reach in case of problems. And it goes without saying, that person should know the ins and outs of travel and be experienced in resolving travel problems. Besides, it won’t cost you anything – the cruise line will pay the agent’s commission.

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CRUISE LINES GONE CRAZY
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line says in spite of the fact that they are booking more cruise passengers than ever, they are actually making less money this year than a year ago.  Why?  Because there are so many competitors offering so many discounts and perks, they have had to offer huge specials of their own in order to fill up their ships.
WHAT DOES IT MEANIt means it’s a shoppers paradise right now!  It means, without exaggeration, that taking a cruise vacation will get you more and cost you less than ever in the history of all vacations.
WHAT ARE THEY OFFERINGLet’s take them one by one:
Norwegian Cruise Line calls it “Freestyle Choice:” – Book a cruise to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska in an oceanview or higher cabin (anything but inside) and choose one of three offers, or book a Europe cruise in an oceanview or higher cabin and choose two offers:  1, up to a $200 on board credit; 2, a free beverage package; 3, a free dinning package in their specialty restaurants.  On a seven day cruise, that dinning package would amount to about $350.
Princess Cruises – It’s the 50th Anniversary of The Love Boat and they are offering up to a $500 per person savings, depending on the initial price of the stateroom; free specialty dining for 2; as well as up to a $200 onboard credit (money that can be spent for anything your cruise ship is selling, including shore excursions, but not for the casino), and, of course, the actual amount depends on the price of the stateroom.
Celebrity Cruises is having what they call a “1 2 3 Go” promotion – oceanview or higher bookings get one or more bonuses including a beverage package (up to $88 per day, including beer, wine and cocktails, as well as specialty drinks), prepaid gratuities, onboard credit up to $300, plus free Internet for third and fourth passengers.
Royal Caribbean (RCCL)has extended their “Vow to Wow” sale (originally set to end on January 31st) – book a cruise for two and the second guest goes for half off.  Plus, get up to a $200 onboard credit to spend any way you’d like and a 50-percent reduced deposit to hold your booking.
More than ever, cruises offer so much at very affordable prices:  a floating hotel room, fine dining, plus nightly entertainment, as well as other onboard fun, and exotic ports of call, all at fabulously low prices.  It’s certainly a way you can enjoy luxury at a very reasonable cost.
A great way to check out your own cruise possibilities is by using the Columbus Travel cruise search engine on the home page of this website (columbusvacations.com).  Choose the destination you want, then the cruise line, if you have a favorite, the time of year, and finally the length of cruise.  Then click the “GO” tab and every cruise fitting your criteria will appear for your browsing enjoyment.  When I find one I like, I call a Columbus Travel agent, and discuss it.  I’m given some tips and suggestions to enhance my choice, and then I book it (after, of course, getting final approval from my better half).  I only act after getting the “okay” from the boss.
Note:  All of the above promotions are set to expire at the end of February, 2015.

 

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Why Are There Amazing Cruise Deals?

There has never been a better time to purchase a cruise, especially a Caribbean cruise! Almost every cruise line has introduced new and incredible ships. The competition to build bigger, better and more innovative ships is at fever pitch. Cruise Lines have a ton of inventory and need to sell it at almost any cost.

Why are there deals in the Caribbean?  Cruise lines are building ships larger than ever.  These large ships can’t go through the Panama Canal and it’s costly to move them to new areas of the world.  If a large ship is home ported in Florida, it can’t move it to Alaska in the summer where the cruise line can get a much higher price.  They have to stay in the Caribbean where the demand is less. The opposite is also true.  When cruise lines move their ships from places like Alaska to the Caribbean for the winter this creates more inventory.  All the big ships are there in the winter months plus all the other ships.  Either way the Caribbean has low prices and beautiful ships to sail on.

And now is the time to upgrade your cruise experience!  Why not get more for your money and sail in a balcony or suite cabin.  New cruise ship designs incorporate more balcony cabins than ever before.  With all of this excess inventory in balcony cabins you can get a balcony cabin for what you could get some inside cabins for a few years ago.  Balcony cabins are the best way to cruise and are highly desirable.  Now is a great time to try a balcony cabin out.

Bottom line is it’s a great time to be a cruiser.  See the world and take a fabulous cruise!

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ALASKA AIRLINES MAKES A MOVE ON SALT LAKE

It’s almost like an Alaska blitzkrieg!

Alaska Airlines has apparently decided to move into Salt Lake City International Airport in a big way.  Meanwhile, their invasion is on the heals of Southwest Airlines downgrading its presence in a significant way.  All destinations from SLC have had service drastically reduced, or in some cases eliminated by Southwest.  To get to Boise on one of their fair airplanes, for example, you have to go through Denver, Las Vegas or Oakland.  It’s also interesting to note that Alaska is now touting itself as “the low fare leader,” a moniker that once belonged to Southwest.  Get information about those low fares from any Columbus Travel Agent, where you can find “the best deals on the planet.”

Since the merger with Airtran Southwest has actually been focusing on the Southeastern United States, along with Mexico and the Caribbean.  They have reduced flights from Salt Lake City significantly.  For example, they now have only three nonstops a day from SLC to Los Angeles, and their other flights to LAX stop in Las Vegas or involve a change of planes in Oakland, Phoenix or even Denver.

The real inside story :

Behind the big push from Alaska Airlines into Salt Lake City is a story involving Delta Airlines.

Alaska’s home base is Seattle, and Delta (with its Northwest merger) has decided to make Seattle a major hub with a focus on travel to Asia.  They have also instigated a huge push for corporate travel, offering big discounts and perks for using Delta or one of its travel partners, and punishing those corporations with fewer perks and Skymiles and higher prices if  that company uses other airlines.  The complicating factor is that Alaska and Delta still have a codeshare agreement, but regardless, Alaska apparently wants to retaliate for the Delta move to take over Seattle.  The latest edition of the their website (www.alaskaair.com) says “Alaska Airlines is pleased to announce that we’re bringing even more flights and low fares to Salt Lake City.  Explore More with new nonstop service . . .” etc.

What is the great air fare story?

Alaska began service between Salt Lake and Seattle with two nonstops in each direction on  April 4, 2013, but it adds a third this June.  Next month, they will also have two nonstops daily to and from Portland, San Diego and Las Vegas, plus once a day nonstops to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and Boise.

The round trip prices for those flights are the lowest we have seen in several years:  Los Angeles and San Francisco $158; San Diego, San Jose and Portland $178; Boise $130; Las Vegas $138.  And, if you want, they will give you one-way tickets for exactly half of those fares.  Fantastic!

But wait, there’s more:

To add to the thrill of getting these low fares, this has pushed other air carriers into also lowering fares to those destinations.  In the case of Delta, which has service to five airports in the Los Angeles area (LAX, Long Beach, Burbank, Ontario and John Wayne in Orange County), round trip tickets to all but SNA (John Wayne) are under $200.  You can get fares to Long Beach for $150.  Unbelievable!

In addition, these low prices to the West Coast have opened up places like Hawaii and Alaska to savings.  Round trip fares from Salt Lake City to Honolulu on Alaska Airlines are down to $658 – $96 less than on Delta Airlines.  And, by the way, $658 is only $10 more than the roundtrip fare from Los Angeles.  Meanwhile, Delta’s rountrip tickets to Anchorage are available for as low as $420 in September; during the summer, $900, but on Jet Blue Airlines or Alaska, $634.  Superb!

If you want to book one of these great air fares, you can do it by going to the airline company’s website or kayak.com, which is an aggregator.

For anything more complicated, such as a ticket to an international destination, I would suggest using an experienced travel agent you can actually talk to, like at Columbus Travel (800-373-3328).  Good agents can check airfares through many different connecting airports, as well as employ more than one airline where connections are involved.  And Columbus Travel Agents are experienced and well qualified to help.

Viva la competencia!

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Don’t be Fooled

One of the things we take most seriously at Columbus Travel is helping people get the very best deal for their money. A challenge we often face is helping clients understand the difference between a great deal for one part of a trip and a great deal for the total cost of a trip.

For example recently we had a client interested in Hawaii.  They had never been there before and wanted to see as much as possible.  We recommended the Norwegian cruise that visits all four islands in a week starting at $999 cruise plus taxes and airfare.  The client said that was way more than he planed to pay and they bought a six night two island package at a 4 star hotel.  What they bought seemed lower in cost but was it really?

Their costs included round trip airfare to Honolulu, three nights hotel in Waikiki, airfare to Maui, a car rental on each island and taxes.  Total cost per person was $1,690. The cruise with airfare was $1,860 per person – about $170 more.

Food in Hawaii is not inexpensive and they were probably going to spend much of the difference in meals alone.  The cruise is two days longer, includes all meals, entertainment aboard ship, transportation between the islands and more.

The clients said they had cruised before and knew that a good cruise deal was $499 and not $999. That is true if sailing out of Miami on a Caribbean cruise.  Due to government regulations and other costs, it is more to cruise Hawaii and other ports.

Other examples we often run into are finding a great deal on a cruise but not looking at the cost of airfare.  Miami is the cheep cruise capitol of the world.  Nothing wrong with that – lots of great deals, but sometimes airfare to Miami is much more expensive than other ports. For example there are Caribbean cruise deals out of Tampa, Port Canaveral (by Orlando), New Orleans and Houston/Galveston.  Airfare to these cities can often be as much as $200 to $300 less than Miami.

Other things to consider are transfer costs.  For example transfers for a cruise out of Southampton are about $150 less than out of Dover.  Transfers for a cruise out of Houston are $60 less than out of Galveston.

Taxes are also important.  It is difficult to figure out how some cruise lines calculate taxes.  One cruise line can charge $80 for taxes and another $130 for the same cruise going to the same ports.  Be certain these are considered.

Point is – look at all of the costs not just the lead in cost.  Nothing wrong with great lead in costs. We try to find them all the time for our clients.  Be certain however to look at the total cost you’ll pay in the end not just the beginning price.

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Mexico Means The Best Travel Values on the Planet

Fantastic fun in the sun at bargain prices is yours in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas.  The super low cost of a vacation in one of these spots has been driven by unwarranted publicity about safety south of the border.  Columbus Travel has super all-inclusive packages they’ve put together with “vacation bundlers.”

All-inclusive means round trip air from Salt Lake City, transfers to and from your hotel, all meals, all drinks, even gratuities.  Everything!

Safety is the prime concern in all of these venues.  First, these locations are all hundreds of miles from the U.S.-Mexico border (where almost all of the safety concerns exist). Second, as one writer put it after being asked if he thought it was safe to go to Mexico:  “Do you think its safe to go to Texas?”  He was addressing the fact that there has been violence on both sides of the border.  But I would ask:  “Do you think it’s safe to go to Disneyland?”  After all, there has been plenty of violence in Los Angeles.  In fact, far more than anywhere near Yucatan, which is where you’ll find Cancun.  Or, I might ask:  “Do you think it’s safe to go to a Utah Jazz game, or to the Gateway Center in Salt Lake City?”  Aren’t they both just a couple of streets away from Pioneer Park, where we hear about lots of shady stuff going on?  Third, the people in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos are doing everything possible to make sure visitors are safe – tourism is their reason for being in business.

Cancun offers the greatest beaches in the world, and you’ll find them surrounding the hotels, restaurants and shops – wall-to-wall – in the city, as well as at the secluded resorts amidst the jungles adjacent to the Caribbean Sea along the Mayan Riviera.  Cancun has become a world-class destination with soft, white sand beaches and warm turquoise-blue water.  Nearby, you can visit Mayan ruins, eco-parks and every imaginable fun venue.  Enjoy swimming and snorkeling with Stingrays, fun on the water (in boats, jet skis, scuba diving or snorkeling, deep sea fishing charters, party boats or dinner cruises).  Go golfing, on walking tours, or even to bullfight.  And, of course, you can shop ‘til you drop for Mexican handicrafts, designer clothes and fine jewelry.  Plus, Cancun offers many family oriented resorts with lots of children’s programs for all ages, as well as adults only (no one under 18) resorts.

Puerto Vallarta was selected by Conde Nast Traveler readers as the eighth best destination in the world.  It has maintained a unique Old Mexico charm despite its popularity as a vacation destination, especially for Hollywood’s elite.  With cobblestone streets, stunning beaches, plentiful marine life, lush Sierra Madre Mountains, exceptional restaurants, golf courses and vibrant culture, it is in a tropical paradise which faces the Pacific Ocean.  You can hike or mountain bike in the hills, explore the jungle and hidden trails on horseback, take a jeep safari, soar above it all in a multicolored hot air balloon, take an exciting zip line canopy adventure through its rich jungle, snorkel, scuba dive, charter a yacht or sailboat, or take a cruise on a party boat.  Vallarta Adventures offers an all-day tour that includes a speedboat ride, a 4X4 off-road expedition up into the Sierra Madres, a mule ride up a mountain, then a thrilling trip through a series of zip-lines, rappels down waterfalls, traverses on jungle bridges and finally a splash through streams and natural river pools.

Cabo San Lucas, also known simply as Cabo, is a great spot for tourist and beach-goers world-wide.  It offers desert-like weather, and it’s located at the very tip of the Baja California Peninsula, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez.  Cabo offers great golfing on many championship courses and is known as the marlin capital of the world; and if you enjoy fishing, there are many charter companies that can arrange a fishing charter for you.  Snorkeling and scuba diving are other popular activities in the Cabo area.  Also known as the aquarium of the world, Cabo has one of the world’s largest reefs, and you can see a variety of underwater flora and fauna.

Non-stop flights are available to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo, so you can get to any one of them in less than a half day (Cabo, approximately 3 hours; Puerto Vallarta, 3.5; Cancun, 4.5).

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Discounted Vacations – London on a Budget

Everyone has their dream vacation that they have thought about their whole lives. For some it may be the tropical beaches of the Bahamas, for others it may be a cruise along the Mediterranean, and for many it is the city of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. That’s right, London is a desired vacation of many people. This beautiful city has a reputation for being pricey; however, it is possible to take a discounted vacation in London. Here are some ways to experience this magical city on a budget.

Use the public transportation
Renting a car is an expense that is definitely unnecessary in the capital of England. There is an underground transit that runs all throughout the city called the tube. Not only is the tube much more convenient but it is also a lot cheaper. A discounted vacation in London is possible as long as the tube is the main source of public transportation.

Use student or senior discounts
For students in college or senior citizens, there are cards to buy that get discounts in international places. College students can get an International Student Identity Card which can get them discounts to different sights, food and public transportation. Senior citizens who are members of the AARP can also get discounts but on things like airfare and hotels. These cards help with a discounted vacation because it can save a lot of money in the long run.

Search out the free sights
London is full of sights to see and not all of them are over-the-top expensive. There are many that are actually free. For example, the gardens and parks in the city are free to enjoy for no cost, like Hyde Park or Queen Mary’s Rose Garden. Many museums in London are also free of charge which helps with a discounted vacation. We at Columbus Travel can help book the perfect discounted vacation for whoever wants to go.

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A discounted family vacation

When summer hits, many families can not wait to take a vacation. Now that the season is almost over and school is starting soon, it seems like time to take a vacation is running out. However, you still have a couple more weeks to take your family trip. With the help of a writer from Away.com, we give you the top three discounted family vacation options.

3) Las Vegas, Nevada
When people think of Las Vegas they usually think of it as “the city of sin.” So when it comes to planning family vacations, parents usually push it aside. However, according to Away.com many of the hotels on the strip have pumped millions of dollars into kid friendly activities. For example, Mandalay Bay has the Shark Reef. Here kids can see and learn about ocean life. In addition to the kid activities, here at Columbus travel we can find you great deals on flights into Vegas and help you find the best hotels.

2) Riviera Maya, Mexico
If you want to head out of the country for you family vacation, it can still be discounted- especially if you use us to help you plan. On Away.com it states that flights into the Cancun International Airport are cheaper June through Aug. You can also save money by choosing to stay at all inclusive resort. This helps save on food and entertainment. Activity options in the Riviera include hiking, snorkeling, playing at the beach, exploring ancient ruins and more.

1) Washington D.C
Our nations capitol took the No. 1 spot for discounted family vacations on Away.com, here many of the activities are free – including the 19 Smithsonian museums. Besides the museums your family can see monuments, George Washington’s house and memorials. As far as hotels go, it is usually less expensive to stay outside of the city and use the Metro as transportation. Give us a call and we can find you the best deals.

 

 

 

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Say “I do” on a Disney Cruise trip

When you find your Prince Charming, you want your wedding day to be everything you dreamed it would be. All your wedding dreams can become a reality if you set sail on a Disney Cruise trip.

The perfect setting
If you choose to have your wedding on a Disney Cruise ship, there are different venues on each vessel. On the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder you can say “I do” while starring at the ocean landscape- it might be odd if you stare at that instead of your loved one, but it might be hard with the great view. Hold the hand of your soul mate on the ships deck and enjoy the ocean breeze. After the ceremony sip champagne with your family and friends.

If you set sail on the Disney Fantasy or Disney Dream ships there is a contemporary indoor venue that is a dream for some brides. The Outlook is furnished with elegant designs and creates a magical atmosphere.

Depending on your voyage, you may have the opportunity to exchange vows on Disney’s private island- Castaway Cay. Here you can walk along the sand and say “i do” on a beautiful beach.

Its all in the details
Most brides tend to sweat the details and lets face it, sometimes they freak out about them. Getting the flowers, music and cake done can get overwhelming. On a Disney Cruise trip these details will be taken care of. With everything made and designed especially for you, the details of your special day will turn out perfectly.

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