Whether you're driving a few hours to visit family, or escaping for a Tanzania safari, travel during the holidays can be difficult to say the least. This is the time of year with the greatest chance for travel to go wrong. It’s the most crowded, chaotic, and expensive time of year for trips. While some difficulties are unavoidable, here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the headaches encountered during holiday travel.
Book in Advance
Contact a travel agent to book your holiday travel in advance. This will allow you to secure your hotel rooms and get the lowest priced airfare. Keep in mind prices will generally rise during the holiday season, with the high demand. For some airlines and accommodations, booking early may help you qualify for a discount.
With the rising baggage fees and the hassle of checking your bag during the holiday season, it may be beneficial to travel with just a carry on if possible. Some airlines place special restrictions during the holidays and allow only one carry-on. So, if you need to check a bag, make sure it is less than 50 pounds to avoid additional fees. Avoid being the frazzled, stressed-out family unpacking and reorganizing their bags in the check-in line. Keep your things in order and ease the check-in process by printing your boarding pass before leaving for the airport and knowing the carry on restrictions. Liquids must be kept in containers of 3 ounces of less, the containers must be in 1 clear quart size zip lock bag, and only 1 bag is allowed per person. Flying may mean taking public transportation. By packing light you avoid the frustration of carry around a heavy suitcase or two.
Staying in a ryokan is a highlight for a lot of travelers on Japan tours. It can be daunting to some, as it is a very traditional experience leaving many non-Japanese confused by the customs common at a ryokan. This guide will give travelers some information on what to expect when staying at a ryokan and tips on how to best enjoy the experience.
What is a ryokan?
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that allows travelers to experience the elements of Japanese culture and customs, including staying in a room with tatami (straw mat) flooring, changing into a typical yukata (robe) following an onsen hot-spring bath, and sleeping on a futon on the tatami floor. Staying at ryokans is the perfect way to experience something new and to be immersed in the Japanese culture. Our quick how-to guide below will help determine if a ryokan stay would be right for you.
Step 1: Find the right ryokan for you.
Ryokans, like hotels, come in all shapes and sizes. There are budget no-frills ryokans, mid-range ryokans, and very high-end ryokans. Choosing one depends on your budget, and what kind of experience you're looking for. With ryokans, you will normally get what you pay for. The most luxurious, traditional ryokans can be extremely pricey (but the good ones are really worthwhile!). At the same time, there are some really good and economical ryokans. The experience will differ though.
Travel businesses are finally beginning to see a positive pattern in travelers since the US economy dropped in late 2008. Not only are the various sectors of the industry seeing growth, but also the travel agent is becoming a hot commodity yet again. Instead of waiting until the last minute to book flights and hotels for a vacation, people are beginning to book trips months ahead of time, specifically for the summer, demonstrating the hope that some have for this recovering economy.
The Leisure Traveler
Travel agencies have seen a rise in business as people are ready to spend money on travel again. It seems there is a bigger desire to have a connection with someone, instead of something (the Internet). The American Society of Travel Agents reported in February 2011 that 51 percent of agencies saw their revenue increase, while 49 percent saw a rise in transactions since 2009. If travelers are going to put their extra spending money towards a trip, they want to make sure they get the most out of it, and the solution for that problem seems to lie in the hands of the travel agent. Whether communicating through email, over the phone, or face-to-face, the personal experiences that are delivered from the travel agencies help people feel more comfortable and reassured about their destination and travel plans. An agent is able to compile all the things the traveler wants to do with the places they want to see to create a custom tour that they’ll remember forever.
Mainland Ecuador can often be quickly bypassed or rushed through in lieu of a Galapagos cruise. However, the mainland offers a diverse mix of sites and eco tours including the colonial capital of Quito, Mindo Cloud Forest, tropical rainforests, many national parks, and the colorful culture of Otavalo, among many other attractions. Below are a few popular destinations and Ecuador eco tours.
Quito is the second-highest capital in the world. The city is spread across an Andean valley and has an abundance of unique colonial buildings. Much of the UNESCO World Heritage listed site of centro histórico, or old town, has been restored, though it still reflects the indigenous culture and history of the region. A walk through old town will take you past picturesque plazas and cathedrals, with snow covered peaks in the background. A 20 minute from Quito’s old town, you’ll find Quito’s new town, full of trendy cafes, international restaurants, unique bars, and boutique hotels. Step just outside the city and you’ll find primary Andean forest. Hacienda Rumiloma is an excellent addition to any Ecuador travel itinerary. The hotel gives travelers a view of Quito not many get to see. The hacienda is located on about one hundred acres of primary Andean forest next to the Volcano Pichincha. The land behind the lodge has several trails, a small river, many grazing llamas, and native birds. Just minutes away from the capitol, Hacienda Rumiloma is an incredible accommodation option in Quito.
Bliss and Patrick left their jobs in finance and law in New York City to travel around the world with their
two-year-old son, Jude. They blog about their adventures traveling with a toddler at Around the World with a Two-Year-Old. Among other adventures, the family
has taken the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Beijing to Moscow, and recently spent a week in India.
I can think of few experiences more relaxing than a long, hot soak on a cold day in a huge outdoor thermal bath, surrounded by beautiful neo-baroque buildings and stone statues spitting water. I recently had the pleasure of doing this—with Hungarians of all ages and sizes, mostly squeezed into very small swimsuits—at the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest’s City Park, one of three baths my family and I visited in Budapest, Hungary.
We knew Hungary was famous for its thermal baths, and decided to take the plunge, so to speak. We wondered what our two-year-old son Jude would think – he loves the bath at home – but this was hardly the rubber-ducky-pre-bedtime routine he was used to. More than that, what would the people relaxing in the baths think of Jude? Were we crazy to bring a two-year-old to the baths? (Clearly he would not be able to go in the very hot ones.)
As widely-accepted history has it, the Romans set up the first baths in Hungary in the 1st century, which is home to many deep underground springs. When the Ottomans occupied Hungary beginning in the early 16th century, they also built communal baths over the hot springs. Today, many baths are fed by multiple springs. The water coming from deep in the ground is so hot that is must be mixed with cooler water.
Because we spent over a week in Budapest, we were able to visit the city’s three most famous baths, one as a family, and one each for mom and dad.