Following is our regular summary of the latest travel news and best frequent traveler promotions reviewed during the past week.
If it was a good deal—or a notably bad deal—from an airline, hotel, or car rental loyalty program, you can read all about it here, and plan your travel accordingly.
In a major change to a loyalty program once lauded for its value and transparency, Southwest has begun pricing award tickets "dynamically." In other words, however they want.
All the flying you want, for $1,750 a month. Sound too good to be true? It is true, however, but with some important qualifications.
When Walt Disney called Disneyland "the happiest place on earth," he was on to something crucial in destination marketing. Happy places entice; unhappy places don't.
What is true for theme parks is just as true for countries. Given a choice, would you choose to visit a happy country or an unhappy country?
So, what are the world's happiest countries? The World Happiness Report 2015 is an attempt to answer just that question. The study was based on results of a Gallup survey of wellbeing that assessed the following: per-capita GDP, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perception of corruption. ... read more»
As a longtime user of TripIt, I can attest to how useful it is when you're trying to consolidate and easily access travel information. To have in one app flight information (and with Pro, real-time updates on flights), hotel addresses and confirmation numbers, and details of activities means you're not constantly pawing through a stack of papers wedged in your bag. Two new features (one just announced today) are taking the company's vision of organized and available travel information to the next level.
TripIt recently rolled out its Traveler Profile, in which you can store passport and drivers' license information, ID numbers for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and other travel-related information. There's also a place to keep valuable contact information, including back-home help like pet- and house-sitters, emergency contacts, and doctors. ... read more»
This week's announcement that American's CEO, Doug Parker, would henceforth be paid solely in company stock—no cash—was lauded by shareholders and the financial community as a sure sign that Parker is "all in" on American.
That is to say, his financial wellbeing and that of American's shareholders are now tightly aligned. Both stand to gain or lose as American's stock price rises or falls.
So, stockholders and Parker stand to gain from the new executive-compensation arrangement. But what about the airline's other stakeholders: customers, employees, communities? How will they fare when maximizing the company's stock price is job #1? ... read more»
The pop-up restaurant trend—in which chefs create temporary restaurants, sometimes in unusual places—continues to thrive, and it's easy to see why. They're fun and unusual, and they offer an experience that shakes up the usual restaurant experience, both for diners and chefs.
Pop-ups first gained popularity among chefs that didn't have their own restaurants, but in recent years celebrity chefs have been embracing the idea as well. Case in point: When The French Laundry in Napa Valley closed late last year for a dramatic multi-month renovation, chef Thomas Keller didn't send his staff home, he opened a pop-up called Ad Lib. And instead of trying to recreate a sort of French Laundry in exile, he came up with something totally different, a restaurant focusing on carefully considered, beautifully prepared versions of country club classics—a play on the pop-up's location at Napa's Silverado Resort & Spa.
Related: Behind the Scenes in the Napa Valley
Thomas Keller isn't the only big-name chef embracing pop-ups. Rene Redzepi, Marcus Samuelsson, Heston Blumenthal, and Gordon Ramsay have all brought high-end dining to the pop-up scene in recent years. Why do they do it? And why are they a true treat for diners? ... read more»
Delta's so-called Basic Economy fares have been available in limited markets since 2012. They were "updated" in October 2014, and most recently in March 2015.
What they are are heavily discounted, highly restricted coach fares offered by Delta to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers. They're generally only available in markets served by Spirit and the like. But as the flight networks of those ultra-cheap carriers have expanded, Delta has made its Basic fares available in more and more markets, with even more to come. From Delta's Atlanta hub, for instance, Basic fares now can be booked to more than 75 destinations.
Here's how Delta describes the Basic product:
If you're looking for a low fare, your travel plans aren't likely to change, and you don't mind where you sit, Basic Economy just may be your ticket. With Basic Economy, you'll find low fares while still enjoying access to our premier onboard experience, including Wi-Fi, free personal video entertainment with Delta Studio, complimentary snacks and award-winning service. This fare option includes no ticket changes, Main Cabin seat assignments at check-in, pending availability and limited Medallion benefits.
So, some sacrifice in flexibility in exchange for a cheaper ticket. That seems like an acceptable tradeoff, and probably a good deal.
The picture darkens considerably, however, when customers attempt to book a Basic fare on Delta's website. ... read more»
Before leaving on a recent trip to Japan, friends and family kept asking me the same question: "Will you bring me back a Green Tea Kit Kat?" They could have asked for anything—beautiful paper, handmade ceramics, cutting-edge electronics—but all they wanted was candy. Easy enough, I thought. Break me off a piece of that.
Head to any convenience store in Japan and you'll understand just how devoted Japanese culture is to the sugar arts. Aisles of candy overflow with sweet treats in every flavor. Chocolate is popular, but so are red bean, coconut, sweet potato, wasabi, and of course, green tea flavors. And Kit Kat is leading the way on the crazy-flavor front, with varieties like rum raisin, Shinshu apple, red pepper, and strawberry cheesecake.
As I delved deeper into the world of Japanese Kit Kats, a strange rumor kept surfacing. Locals kept telling me that there are actually two formulations of Green Tea Kit Kats—the standard flavor that you'll find all over Japan, and a less bitter version that they sell only at Japan's airports, a difference meant to appeal to foreign taste buds. ... read more»
Finally, a small sliver of good news for air travelers: Summer airfares are falling.
According to a report from the Airlines Reporting Corp, domestic airfares are $2.01 cheaper compared to last summer; that's a less than 1 percent drop. The average price for a plane ticket in the U.S. this summer is $454.... read more»
Uber wants to dominate the ride-share space, and it's offering both short- and long-term incentives to secure that dominance.
The company already has points-earning relationships in place with American Expresss and Starwood. Now Uber has two promotions in effect with Capital One as well, featuring a discount and free rides. ... read more»