SmarterTravel https://www.smartertravel.com The Best Trips Start Here Thu, 19 Apr 2018 20:47:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 What Your Sunscreen Is Doing to the Environment https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/what-sunscreen-does-to-the-environment/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/what-sunscreen-does-to-the-environment/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 20:25:50 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=203576 Have you ever gone for a dip at a busy beach and noticed a shimmery, swirling glaze of run-off on the surface of the water? That slick of oil on the waves is likely sunscreen, which has an active ingredient that can be toxic to ocean life. But despite 2015 findings that prove this, most […]

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Have you ever gone for a dip at a busy beach and noticed a shimmery, swirling glaze of run-off on the surface of the water?

That slick of oil on the waves is likely sunscreen, which has an active ingredient that can be toxic to ocean life. But despite 2015 findings that prove this, most travelers still seem unaware that protecting themselves from the sun is taking a toll on the world’s coral reefs. When stocking up on sunscreen for your upcoming summer beach trips, there’s more to think about than just SPF when it comes to responsibly choosing your go-to sunscreen.

What Sunscreen Does to Oceans

Your sunscreen could be harming marine life in a big way. According to the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, the main ingredient in sunscreens called oxybenzone is damaging coral reefs. The study credits “swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges” with putting oxybenzone in our oceans, and likens the harmful effects oxybenzone has on coral DNA to that of gasoline.

“[Oxybenzone] causes weird deformities in soft tissue and also causes the coral larvae to encase itself in its own skeleton, in its own coffin,” one of the study’s authors, Craig Downs, P.h.D., told the Guardian. The scientist also noted that dead coral, or “zombie reefs,” were much more common in Caribbean bays frequented by tourists, while less-touristy waters of the Caribbean still had healthy reefs.

“In one [bay] there’s just nothing there, it’s a desolate wasteland,” he said. “Two bays over, at a $1,000-a-night resort, where very few people go, there’s lots of coral recruitment, lots of spiny sea urchins.” Downs has also said, “about 90 percent of the reefs in the Caribbean have disappeared since 1980.”

Sound familiar? Coral bleaching has been making headlines in the past few years for destroying large parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Oxybenzone is charged with contributing to coral bleaching (which is also exacerbated by warming oceans) as it damages adult coral but also deforms and kills baby coral, so reefs are less able to regenerate.

Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in reef areas each year, Reuters reports. Hawaii and the Caribbean reportedly have oxybenzone water levels that are 12 times higher than the average amount. But swimmers can attempt to stop the damage they’ve done by making a quick switch in their skincare.

How to Find Responsible Sunscreen

Luckily, environmentally-friendly sunscreen is becoming easier to find. Rub-in sunscreens (not spray) with active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide, both of which are biodegradable, are best. However, not all sunscreen manufacturers are being honest in their marketing: Some sunscreens labeled  “reef-friendly” still contain oxybenzone. Use the same rule of thumb encouraged by doctors and nutritionists when it comes to foods that are labeled as “healthy” and make sure you read the ingredient list to check that oxybenzone isn’t listed if you’re looking for a more responsible sunscreen.

It’s not unreasonable to consider that some nature reserves or resorts might ban certain types of sunscreens from their bays. Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park has already done so, and now requires visitors to wear a biodegradable sunscreen—so it’s best to make the switch now.

SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon is a former news reporter who writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Hobo Bag Review: A Superhero in Daytime Wear https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/travelon-anti-theft-heritage-hobo-bag-review-superhero-daytime-clothes/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/travelon-anti-theft-heritage-hobo-bag-review-superhero-daytime-clothes/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:32:41 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=203403 Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Hobo Bag Review The term anti-theft gets thrown around a lot, but Travelon is one of only a few companies that enforce rigorous standards in the anti-theft technology that’s standard in its purses and packs. Travelon bags—including but not limited to the Heritage Hobo—have slash resistant body panels made of stainless steel […]

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Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Hobo Bag Review

The term anti-theft gets thrown around a lot, but Travelon is one of only a few companies that enforce rigorous standards in the anti-theft technology that’s standard in its purses and packs. Travelon bags—including but not limited to the Heritage Hobo—have slash resistant body panels made of stainless steel body mesh on all sides and the bottom. They also have slash-resistant shoulder straps with embedded stainless steel cables, locking zippers, and RFID-blocking card slots. In short: These bags are not messing around.

Price and Where to Buy: The Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Hobo Bag is $40 to $65 on Amazon and $65 on Travelonbags.com.

How the Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Hobo Bag Rates:

  • Usefulness: 9.5/10. The Heritage Hobo has a cotton-canvas exterior that looks stylish and wears well. Abundant interior pockets are lined with lighter fabric to make it easy to find things in a hurry. The bag comes with both a shoulder strap and a cross-body strap; you can remove the one you’re not using. If it has an imperfection, it’s that the cross-body strap has a buckle that, depending on how the strap is adjusted, can rub against your shoulder. But it’s easily remedied by adjusting the strap slightly.
  • Value: 10/10. This purse doesn’t scream “tourist” the way many anti-theft purses do. As such, it doesn’t have to be relegated to your vacations; it’s a great everyday purse that happens to offer just the sort of extra protection you want when you’re traveling.
  • Durability: 9/10. After a rigorous road-test, the bag remains as good as new. The cotton canvas exterior weathers bumps and scrapes without much obvious wear.
  • Cool Factor: 9/10. Attractive enough to use every day, but still loaded with anti-theft features that will keep your gear safe on the go? The Heritage Hobo is a bit like a superhero in daytime clothes.

Final Verdict: This just-right purse offers travelers the ability to blend in rather than advertising themselves as tourists—or easy marks—in far-flung destinations. With its unfussy style, it looks natural in a variety of situations, all the while offering serious anti-theft protection.

Follow Christine Sarkis on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

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Family Weekend Guide: Santa Cruz https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/family-weekend-guide-santa-cruz/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/family-weekend-guide-santa-cruz/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:02:48 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=203407 Santa Cruz—about two hours from San Francisco—is a quintessential California beach town. It’s also home to a major university and a beloved seaside amusement park. Here’s how to pack maximum fun into a Santa Cruz weekend with kids. Learn More: Natural Bridges State Beach: When you arrive, the kids are going to need some beach […]

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Santa Cruz—about two hours from San Francisco—is a quintessential California beach town. It’s also home to a major university and a beloved seaside amusement park. Here’s how to pack maximum fun into a Santa Cruz weekend with kids.

Learn More:

Natural Bridges State Beach: When you arrive, the kids are going to need some beach time ASAP. Head to Natural Bridges State Beach for its gorgeous surroundings, abundant wildlife—you can spot migrating whales, seals, otters, birds, and more—tidepools, and dramatic rock formations. In winter, head to the park’s Monarch Grove to see thousands of Monarch Butterflies as they wait out the colder months before continuing their migration.

Crow’s Nest Restaurant: Families are warmly embraced at this waterside restaurant at the Santa Cruz harbor. The large menu focuses heavily on seafood (but also offers other options for vegetarians, true carnivores, and everyone in between). The kids’ menu doubles as an activity book, and kids get to choose a prize from a treasure chest presented by the server.

Roaring Camp Railroad: Ride a vintage steam train through the redwood forest in the mountains above Santa Cruz. Or, take the Beach Train all the way to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, stay and play, and then hop the train back at the end of the day.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: From Roaring Camp, cross the tracks to discover massive old-growth redwood trees on a family-friendly, short loop trail dotted with interpretive signs and fascinating facts.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: This seaside amusement park has dozens of rides, including the classic Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and a carousel that’s a National Historic Landmark. There’s also mini-golf, classic boardwalk eats, and miles of sandy beach for swimming, surfing, and sunning.

Seymour Marine Discovery Center: Inspire future marine scientists at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, part of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Touch a friendly shark and explore the scientific method with hands-on exhibits inside, then walk the seaside path to discover reconstructed whale skeletons and sweeping views of the Pacific.

Best Western PLUS All Suites Inn: This centrally located all-suites hotel is a great solution for families looking for hotel amenities and extra space. Suites of different sizes cater to families, and all include free Wi-Fi, refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee makers. The hotel offers free daily breakfast and has a fitness center and hot tub.

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis explored Santa Cruz as a guest of Visit California. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

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$49+ O/W Airfare Sale from United https://www.smartertravel.com/deals/49-o-w-airfare-sale-from-united/ Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:36:58 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?post_type=st_deals&p=203526 United’s newest sale discounts travel to domestic destinations this spring. Flights start as low as $49 each way. On most routes, travel at the lowest prices is valid between Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays between May 8 and June 13. Travel is not valid on May 24, 25, or 28. A Saturday-night stay may be required. […]

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United’s newest sale discounts travel to domestic destinations this spring. Flights start as low as $49 each way.

On most routes, travel at the lowest prices is valid between Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays between May 8 and June 13. Travel is not valid on May 24, 25, or 28. A Saturday-night stay may be required. Book at least 21 days before departure and by April 19 for the best prices and availability. Additional rules and restrictions may apply.

United’s advertised one-way fares include:

  • $49 – San Francisco to/from Burbank
  • $83 – Albuquerque to/from Denver
  • $83 – Denver to/from Oklahoma City
  • $98 – Austin to/from Denver
  • $99 – Chicago to/from Charleston
  • $116 – Atlanta to/from Chicago
  • $116 – Houston to/from Kansas City
  • $132 – Memphis to/from Houston
  • $161 – Chicago to/from New Orleans

Don’t see a fare you like? View all flights to/from your city.

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Is the World Ready for These Stand-Up Airline “Seats”? https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/is-the-world-ready-for-these-stand-up-airline-seats/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/19/is-the-world-ready-for-these-stand-up-airline-seats/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:23:46 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=203527 Eight years ago, seat maker Avio showed off an airline “seat” that supported passengers but didn’t really seat them. Instead, passengers would lean against a padded backrest and tiled semi-seat attached to a vertical pole, but they’d still support some weight on their feet. Dubbed the Skyrider, the seat would allow passenger rows with a […]

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Eight years ago, seat maker Avio showed off an airline “seat” that supported passengers but didn’t really seat them. Instead, passengers would lean against a padded backrest and tiled semi-seat attached to a vertical pole, but they’d still support some weight on their feet. Dubbed the Skyrider, the seat would allow passenger rows with a front-to-rear spacing, or pitch, as low as 23 inches, compared with the minimum of 29 inches for today’s worst economy cabins and 30-31 inches for most giant lines.

The benefit to airlines? More passengers in each plane. The advantage to passengers? Lower fares. The original announcement was greeted with much derision and amusement, from both consumer and industry sources, with lots of jokes—but no long-term interest.

Now, in 2018, Avio is back with Skyrider 2.0, again showing off at the Airliners Interiors Expo in Hamburg what it claims is an “improved” product. And the business is again buzzing with both “why” and “why not” questions.

Why Standing Airline Seats Might Work

Low fares are now irresistible. Air travelers have already demonstrated their willingness to accept a really terrible seating product if fares are low enough, and Skyrider doesn’t look a lot worse than what you get today on bottom-feeding airlines. At least it’s better than the unsupported standing room that many big-city rail commuters face every day? At low enough fares, Skyrider might well attract a sizable market for short-haul flights of maybe an hour or hour and a half or so.

Why Standing Airline Seats Might Not Work

Safety issues are a challenge. The number of passengers a commercial plane can hold is limited by the ratio of passengers to exit doors, and today’s jets are already at or close to those limits. In addition, it’s hard to see how the design could pass the 16G impact requirement of today’s seating. Also, Skyrider would probably be limited to relatively short flights, and airlines could install it in only a small dedicated fleet of very-short-haul planes that couldn’t be used elsewhere—a big problem for most airlines.

What Happens Next

Industry mavens can and will debate the pros and cons of Skyrider for years, but a true test would be definitive. Could Avio get a low-fare airline to install Skyrider in one test plane and see how the real-world market reacts? Interesting, but unlikely.

I’d put the chances of actual Skyrider installations at less than 50 percent. If any, the first installations will likely be in Asia or Europe. Still, as often noted in the airline business, nothing catches on as fast as a bad idea.

More from SmarterTravel:

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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How to Travel with Wine (Video) https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/18/how-to-travel-with-wine-video/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/18/how-to-travel-with-wine-video/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 18:11:50 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/18/how-to-travel-with-wine-video/ Traveling with wine in your checked luggage can be a high stakes situation. SmarterTravel’s Christine Sarkis walks us through some of the best products on the market for traveling with wine.

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Traveling with wine in your checked luggage can be a high stakes situation. SmarterTravel’s Christine Sarkis walks us through some of the best products on the market for traveling with wine.

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Airport Apps You’ll Actually Use (Video) https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/airport-apps-youll-actually-use-video/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/airport-apps-youll-actually-use-video/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 20:59:08 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/airport-apps-youll-actually-use-video/ There are heaps of travel apps that sound great in theory, but are not so great in practice. When you’re in a full-out sprint between gates on a tight connection, loading a couple of airport apps to find the pretzel stand nearest to your gate is not going to happen.

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There are heaps of travel apps that sound great in theory, but are not so great in practice. When you’re in a full-out sprint between gates on a tight connection, loading a couple of airport apps to find the pretzel stand nearest to your gate is not going to happen.

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Sun Country Strands 250 Passengers in Mexico with No Flight Home https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/sun-country-strands-passengers-mexico/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/sun-country-strands-passengers-mexico/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 20:16:28 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=203370 The recent attention focused on a 60 Minutes report covering Allegiant’s maintenance problems may have overshadowed another airline horror story: Sun Country canceled two return flights from Minneapolis-St Paul—one to Mazatlan, the other to Los Cabos—this weekend, leaving somewhere around 250 passengers with return reservations stranded in Mexico. The canceled flights were the last of […]

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The recent attention focused on a 60 Minutes report covering Allegiant’s maintenance problems may have overshadowed another airline horror story: Sun Country canceled two return flights from Minneapolis-St Paul—one to Mazatlan, the other to Los Cabos—this weekend, leaving somewhere around 250 passengers with return reservations stranded in Mexico.

The canceled flights were the last of the season, so Sun Country had no future flights on which to book the passengers. Sun Country didn’t have available planes to send a substitute flight, it claimed, and made no attempt to arrange a charter flight from some other airline.

The cancellations were apparently legitimate, due to bad weather in the Minneapolis area, but the airline completely failed to honor its commitment to get its travelers back home. All the airline offered was a refund of half the round-trip fare. The amount of refund, probably $150 to $200, would have been woefully inadequate to cover a return flight on another airline, and many affected travelers probably had to stay an extra night or two in Mexico.

Beyond what it says about Sun Country’s customer service, this incident highlights a huge hole in consumer protection that needs to be filled. Airline deregulation essentially deprives passengers of the ability to assert basic contract law, and even common-law rights to sue airlines for contract violation and damages.

Nothing can undo the damage due to Sun Country’s stranded travelers, but long overdue legislation to give air travelers their full legal rights would help thousands of future travelers caught in similar situations.

More from SmarterTravel:

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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Marriott Reveals New Unified Loyalty Program https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/marriott-reveals-new-loyalty-program/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/marriott-reveals-new-loyalty-program/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 18:10:40 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/?p=203315 When Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, there was much speculation on how the merger would affect two very different loyalty programs. Since then, the Marriott and Starwood programs have operated independently, but as of yesterday, Marriott has announced that the programs, plus the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program, will officially merge into one mega-program beginning in August […]

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When Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, there was much speculation on how the merger would affect two very different loyalty programs. Since then, the Marriott and Starwood programs have operated independently, but as of yesterday, Marriott has announced that the programs, plus the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program, will officially merge into one mega-program beginning in August 2018.

The merger will create the largest hotel loyalty program on the market, giving its members a chance to earn points through any of the company’s 29 hotel brands under one program. With 6,500 hotels to choose from, Marriott members will not have any trouble finding a points-earning hotel anywhere in the world.

But what does that mean for members’ existing points?

How Points Will Transfer

Starwood Preferred, Marriott Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members will combine separate accounts into one, and points will be transferred at varying values. Starwood points, which have been valued higher per point than Marriott and Ritz-Carlton points, will be tripled. Non-elite members in the new program will begin earning 10 points per dollar spent at every brand, excluding Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and Element, which will only earn five points on the dollar. Additional points can be earned across all brands for incidental purchases during a stay at any of the hotel brands in the new portfolio, which will make it even easier to earn elite status.

In addition to the three-to-one points transfer, Starwood and Marriott members will also be combining their elite programs with a new earning structure of five elite tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier, and Platinum Premier with Ambassador. Overall, the tiers will be much easier to reach for Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Rewards members. You can read the full tier chart and check out all the benefits here.

The new program will also be keeping Starwood’s airline transfer partners plus 10 more, for a total of 45 transfer partners. The one-to-one transfer ratio will remain to same.

What’s New

Marriott will also be introducing two new personal credit cards. The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card will earn members six points on the dollar spent at participating hotels and three points for every dollar spent on airfare and at U.S. restaurants. The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card will also earn members six points per dollar at participating hotels, and two points per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.

Marriott is also promising members an improved digital and mobile experience with access to member-only rates at all 6,500 of its participating hotels from Marriott’s mobile apps. Members will also be able to use the apps to check in or out, receive alerts when the room is ready, chat directly with hotels, and use their smartphone as their room key.

Still to Come

Announcing the new program months before the August merge gives members across all three programs plenty of warning, but there are still a few things we don’t know. Over the next few months, Marriott will be releasing more information about when and how members can combine their accounts. And even though the new program will begin in August, Marriott hasn’t yet revealed the name of the new program.

For now, there is a sense of relief among the members across all three programs as they plan for the new points-earning opportunities of a unified program.

More from SmarterTravel

Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

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At Eventide Fenway, It's Hot Dog Season (Video) https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/at-eventide-fenway-its-hot-dog-season-video/ https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/at-eventide-fenway-its-hot-dog-season-video/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 15:39:43 +0000 https://www.smartertravel.com/2018/04/17/at-eventide-fenway-its-hot-dog-season-video/ These baseball-game staples have endless varieties and we found the best version near Fenway Park.

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These baseball-game staples have endless varieties and we found the best version near Fenway Park.

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