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Air Travel Airline Industry News Health & Wellness Travel Technology Travel Trends

So Long, Middle Seat? What Plane Seats Might Soon Look Like Due to COVID-19

Plane seat manufacturers have released some crazy iterations of new cabin designs in the past, typically aiming at increasing the number of already-cramped seats on board. You might remember the standing Skyrider 2.0 “seats” conceptualized for short flights, or these stacked lie-flat beds from hell for longer flights—both of which saw hypothetical designs that never materialized.

But now, with a global pandemic in full swing, it seems the same seat makers are focusing more on protecting passengers than packing them into plane cabins. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s an interesting focus on banishing the middle seat.

Aviointeriors, the same manufacturer that designed those standing plane seats in 2018, is revealing its latest plan for post-coronavirus cabins: Shields for personal space and a reversed middle seat.

Janus plane seats Aviointeriors.

It’s a far cry from riding an airplane like the subway a la the Skyrider 2.0’s standing design, and looks almost (dare I say it) comfortable, considering there’s no sharing arm rests, accidentally invading what few inches of personal space your neighbor has, or dealing with a coughing or sneezing neighbor. It does, however, beg the question of how larger people who require more than one plane seat would be accommodated, and whether or not seats would be able to recline.

Aviointeriors says “this arrangement allows all three passengers to be separated with a shield made of transparent material that isolates them from each other, creating a protective barrier for everyone. Each passenger has its own space isolated from others, even from people who walk through the aisle.”

Studies have proven that aisle seats are more likely to be subject to passing germs that can get you sick—window seats are exposed to fewer germs. It’s also worth noting that this new Avio design somewhat echoes Spirit airlines’ pre-pandemic switch to staggering middle seats on some aircraft, which gives middle-seat passengers more elbow room.

Aviointeriors has also designed a more simplified solution for plane seats: Seat-attachable glass shields called Glassafe. This simply adds dividers between the aisle, all three existing seats, and the window:

glassafe Aviointeriors plane seats.

These shields seem like an easier short-term solution, which begs the question of whether or not airlines could employ them soon. Video and photos posted by passengers in the U.S. have recently shown crowded planes are still flying, even with passengers in middle seats, and have recently made waves online. And with airlines and flight attendant unions speaking out about the need to protect passengers and themselves, this may be one quick-to-deploy option. Social distancing will likely need to go on for longer than just these few months—infectious disease expert Deborah Birx recently said distancing measures might be essential through summer 2020.

In the long-term, though, we may see the need for plane seats to be redesigned to divide passengers more—which could be just one of many ways travel could be changed forever by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More from SmarterTravel:

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

Categories
Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness

5 Shoes That Are Good for Your Feet, According to Doctors

We asked experts—the spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) as well as the team physician for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, and Joffrey Ballet—about shoes that are good for your feet. Here’s what shoes they recommend you pack on your next walking-intensive trip.

“Healthy travel shoes should have arch support, a thicker sole, and shock absorption. A breathable fabric is a bonus. Sneakers should be your go-to when traveling. A casual sneaker should do the trick without weighing down your bags,” says APMA Podiatrist and spokesperson Dr. Priya Parthasarathy.

“If you have to do open-toed, avoid flip-flops and do a more supportive sandal. Something thicker, with arch support and a depression in the heel. My favorite sandals for travel are Birkenstocks.”

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Dr. Priya Parthasarathy tells travelers to look for the following when shoe shopping:

  • The shoe should not be able to fold completely in half.
  • You should have some flexibility in the toes but you should not be able to have the front of the shoe touch the back of the shoe.
  • It should also have a firm heel cup and should not collapse when you squeeze it.
  • A bonus is a removable arch support which will allow you to slide your orthotics or additional arch support in if needed.

[st_related]The Most Comfortable Travel Shoes[/st_related]

Dr. Kamran S. Hamid, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon for Midwest Orthopedics at Rush and team physician for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, and Joffrey Ballet also weighed in.

“In general, the best shoes for traveling are those that have adequate support and are comfortable. Hoka shoes are a newer brand that are tremendously light while still providing great support and cushioning. Additionally, they have a slight curvature in the front and back of the shoe which takes some stress off of the middle of the foot for long periods of walking. These are great shoes for long-distance runners that we have repurposed for patients with foot/ankle arthritis or pain.”

If you’re looking for a podiatrist-approved shoe, Dr. Parthasarathy recommends the following:

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel tries to wear shoes that are good for her feet. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for style and travel photos from around the world. 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Adventure Travel Health & Wellness

Be Safe and Prepared Anywhere: VSSL First Aid Kit Review

The VSSL First Aid Kit contains everything you might need in an emergency, and it’s small and lightweight enough that you can always have it on you.

VSSL First Aid Kit Review

Price and Where to Buy: At the time of writing, the VSSL First Aid Kit was on sale for $94 on VSSL’s website.

How the VSSL First Aid Kit Rates

  • Usefulness: 10/10. The VSSL First Aid Kit is thoughtfully stocked with everything you might need in an emergency, including an LED flashlight, a compass, bandages, a whistle, a thermometer, and more.
  • Durability: 10/10. The VSSL is made out of military-grade aluminum, so it’s tough and waterproof. It’s also backed by a lifetime warranty.
  • Portability: 10/10. The emergency supplies are packed inside the flashlight, and the whole kit weighs less than a pound. It’s less than 2 inches in diameter and is easy to keep in your glove box or backpack.
  • Style: 10/10. The unique VSSL design is perfect. It’s shaped like a flashlight, with the flashlight at the top, the compass on the bottom, and all the supplies inside. The bright red color makes it easy to spot when you need it.

Final Verdict: Hikers, travelers, and drivers should keep the VSSL First Aid kit nearby at all times.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Categories
Air Travel Health & Wellness Travel Trends

5 Charts That Show COVID-19's Impact on Air Travel

How much of a hit has air travel taken during the COVID-19 pandemic? The short answer: Like nothing anyone has seen before. Even airline experts with long memories can’t remember a comparable impact of some critical event. Yes, 9/11 stopped air travel cold, but the immediate effect lasted weeks, not months. And the nation had a visible system in place—TSA screening—squarely aimed at preventing similar events in the future.

And while statistics vary depending on source and assumptions, public data makes clear that U.S. airline passengers are down about 90 percent for this time of year. International passengers are down at least as much, and domestic air travel in many parts of the world is also down, or shut off completely. Rewards site Upgraded Points recently put those staggering numbers into visuals, which offer a holistic view of the situation thus far.

Here’s what stands out in terms of the about-face COVID-19 has forced upon travel, and data visuals by Upgraded Points that illustrate them.

While very few people are flying (which we’ll refer to as foot traffic), air traffic is higher. As of late-April, about half of all U.S. domestic flights are regularly being canceled despite a 90 percent drop in foot traffic.

The discrepancy between foot traffic and flights is explained by one simple fact: The recent U.S. stimulus bill that offered rescue funds for airports and airlines requires that U.S. airlines continue serving the points they usually serve—which they are doing, by flying virtually empty planes.

Similar effects are seen in Asia and Europe, where foot traffic is down at least 75 percent and many airlines are not required to continue service.

For example, Porter Airlines has suspended all flights, as has RyanAir and Royal Air Maroc. More carriers have suspended all international service, including South African Airways, Turkish, Avianca, and Qantas. The number of daily commercial flights flown globally has decreased by 76.5 percent.

Airlines are having a tough time finding places to park their idle aircraft. As an odd consequence, Southwest is, for now, the world’s largest airline in terms of seats flown per day.

Airports are taking a similar hit, and with a drastic reduction in passengers comes a drastic reduction in workers. Several big multi-terminal fields have concentrated flights into one or two terminals and closed the others. 

All this means big-time economic losses: 4.6 million job losses are projected in the U.S alone in 2020. Sources estimate a loss of 4.6 million jobs in the U.S. travel industry—and counting. It’s no surprise that most airline stocks are tanking. According to International Air Transportation Association (IATA), only Asia looks to lose more passenger revenue this year than North America.

Currently, airlines are offering some very attractive fares, both for the near and long term. Transcon economy round-trips, for example, starting at less than $300 for travel in May; you can (but probably shouldn’t) fly to London for less than $400. But premium-cabin fares are still high.

At present, most airline schedules show minimum service operations through September 30, which is about when U.S. stimulus money is expected to run out. At this time, nobody knows whether conditions will allow airlines to start rebuilding schedules by that time or face widespread closures. For now, most states remain closed or in some state of closures.

The ancient curse “may you live in interesting times” certainly applies to today’s airlines and travelers alike.

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 abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Travel Trends Women's Travel

The Best Travel Leggings of 2020

Whenever I travel, leggings are a must. They’re the perfect travel-day outfit, especially when paired with a baggy sweater or long shirt, for a chic but comfortable look. There’s so much to love about a good pair of travel leggings. They’re slimming, they stretch, and they don’t take up tons of room in your suitcase. Plus, should you feel the need to utilize the hotel gym or join a pop-up yoga class, you’ll be ready for a workout.

The Best Travel Leggings

Below I’ve divided the best travel leggings into the three most useful categories for travelers: the best leggings with pockets (to hold your phone and documents), the best leggings to make a fashion statement (to show off your personality), and the best leggings that don’t look like leggings (to travel comfortably incognito).

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Travel Leggings with Pockets

Lululemon Speed Up Tight

The sleek cool Speed Up Tight has sweat-wicking fabric and four-way stretch—and four pockets. With two side pockets large enough for your phone and two waistband pockets perfect for tucking away cash, these leggings are a great choice for the active traveler with stuff to carry.

The North Face Motivation Pocket 7/8 Tights

From the North Face, the Motivation Pocket 7/8 Tights provide support and storage. They feature two discreet thigh pockets, an extra-wide waistband, and are also available in a similar cropped style.

Core 10 Onstride Run Full-Length

With both mid-rise and high-rise waistband options, Core 10’s Onstride Run Full-Length Leggings are customizable for everyone, and they come equipped with a drawstring for adjustability. The two side-panel pockets and a stylish behind-the-knee mesh detail prove that these travel leggings combine function and fashion.

alo High-Waist Cargo Legging

The High-Waist Cargo Leggings from alo features numerous pockets throughout the leg but are stylish enough to run errands in, and comfortable enough to work out in. They’re also available in multiple colors, such as black, bone, and olive branch.

Clever Travel Companion

The Clever Travel Companion leggings pack comfort and security into one ultra-functional pair of pants. These leggings for travel are equipped with two zippered pockets. The first is big enough to hold your phone and passport; the second slightly smaller pocket is still large enough to fit your credit cards and keys.

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Travel Leggings That Make a Fashion Statement

Outdoor Voices 3/4 Two-Tone Leggings

With blocks of navy and black, the 3/4 Two-Tone Warmup Leggings are chic while still maintaining an athletic look, which makes them great for both the airplane and a jogging trail. The material is sturdy, comfortable, and opaque, so you won’t have to worry about anything showing through. If you’re a big fan of the color block style, make sure to check out the Outdoor Voice’s tri-colored Zoom Leggings, too.

Columbia PFG Tidal™ Legging

Up for some serious adventure or maybe just a day hike, but want cute leggings that still work? Sturdier than the average yoga pants, the PFG Tidal™ Leggings will perform well in the great outdoors. Made of moisture-wicking and UPF 50 sun-protecting fabric, these travel leggings are smooth to the touch and even include a large pocket on the side.

Girlfriend Collective Trail Compressive High-Rise Legging

For a fashion statement that’s extra comfortable and eco-friendly, the Trail Compressive High-Rise Leggings from Girlfriend Collective really deliver, and come in a slew of gorgeous colors. Made from 25 recycled water bottles, sizes also range from XXS to 6XL, so there is truly something for everyone.

Beyond Yoga High Waisted Alloy Ombre Midi Leggings

With bright blue coloring and plenty of shimmer, there’s a lot to love about these statement-making leggings. The metallic splatter ombre is a unique plus.

Palazzo Leggings

If your flair is a little more bohemian, check out these high-waist lounge pants for a fashionably daring set of pants that are just as comfortable and flattering as any pair of leggings. They’re affordable, available in lots of different patterns, and fabulous for flying.

Travel Leggings That Don’t Look Like Leggings

Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants

If you want to make sure you’re maintaining a little class while staying comfortable on your flight, check out the Dress Pant Yoga Pants from Betabrand. Made of comfortable, stretchable material, they’re totally chic. I love that they come in multiple colors and are perfect for a business-casual look.

Wit & Wisdom Jeggings

If you need jeans to complete an outfit, but dread the discomfort of wearing denim on a long-haul flight, get yourself a pair of jeggings like Wit & Wisdom’s Jeggings, made of lightweight stretch denim that can be worn around the city or to a casual dinner. No one will ever know the difference.

Blank NYC Faux-Leather Jeggings

Sport a lean silhouette with an edge with these super-stretchy faux-leather and faux-jeans leggings from Blank NYC. These flattering jet black jeggings are also very comfortable and will go a long way in your travel wardrobe.

More from SmarterTravel:

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

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Air Travel Health & Wellness

How Will You Know When It’s Safe to Travel Again?

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Many avid travelers may be wondering when we can start traveling again. While we don’t have a definitive answer just yet, some places are inching closer to reopening the skies and roads. The decision ultimately comes down to when medical experts say we have sufficiently succeeded in flattening the curve, and when businesses and local governments think it’s safe to start opening back up for business. Even though hotels and airlines are stepping up to help during the pandemic, travel is likely to resume gradually once travel advisories expire and airlines slowly reintroduce flight routes. 

Some places may open sooner than others, depending on the country, state, or even the community. While there are some things frequent travelers can do now, such as staying on top of expiring airline miles, knowing when we can safely travel again is a bit of a waiting game.

Here are some of the things you can expect will need to happen before travel can be a possibility.

Fewer Reported Cases

The world has changed considerably since the last global pandemic, which was from 1918 to 1920. Back then, you took a boat or train to travel. Thanks to air travel, we can go almost anywhere in a matter of hours. As convenient as it may be, faster travel also makes it easier for illnesses to spread quickly. As a result, governments are being extra cautious about reopening travel too soon.

The baseline to ease current travel restrictions may be the number of cases tallied by the World Health Organization (WHO), which releases daily situation reports. These reports include countries’ newly reported cases, deaths, and each country’s number of days since the last reported case.

Each daily situation report puts case numbers into an epidemic curve chart. This chart is also color-coded so you can track case numbers by region. The WHO reported 81,572 newly confirmed cases on their April 19, 2020, report. In comparison, only 16,556 confirmed cases were reported a month earlier on the March 19, 2020 report. 

Aggressive Testing Can More Accurately Flatten The Curve

More nations are ramping up access to testing while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control release daily testing updates and infection spread forecasts.

Testing as many people as possible makes it possible to more accurately calculate the actual infection rate and predict future spread rates. The number of confirmed cases may increase as more people take tests. However, the more testing there is, the more likely it is we can contain cases, and that the infection curve overall will eventually decline.

Johns Hopkins University tracks the number of daily cases by country. The number of new cases is currently decreasing in some nations, including Germany and China. However, most places have yet to experience a consistent downward trend. Carnegie Mellon recently launched a symptom tracker map in partnership with Facebook: The tool displays the estimated percentage of people with COVID-19 symptoms in a geographic area.

Consistent testing and prolific symptom reporting, even after the curve flattens, can help leaders begin to forge travel policies and avoid a second peak in cases as nations reopen.

Travel Guidance for the Foreseeable Future

It’s still technically possible (although not recommended) to travel in the United States, and, in some emergency cases, internationally. However, adjusting back to our prior travel habits will be a very gradual process. These preventative measures are likely to stay for the foreseeable future:

  • Social distancing of at least six feet 
  • Wearing a mask in public
  • Extensive cleaning of airplane cabins and public areas

Other prevention measures will also likely go into effect to reduce the spread. Policies and habits may change as we learn more about how coronavirus spreads and mutates, and some already have. For instance, TSA changed its policies earlier this year, allowing passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in their carry-on luggage (instead of the 3.4-ounce limit). 

We’ll also learn how to be receptive to the most effective prevention and treatment measures. Travel authorities may implement these measures to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus.

Temperature Checks

Airlines could begin to regularly check the temperatures of customers before allowing them to board the aircraft. Stores and other public places may instill a similar practice, and you may not be able to board if your temperature is above a certain level. If you’re flying internationally, customs agents may begin to check temperatures too. (But, this of course won’t help much if individuals are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.)

CDC guidelines for airline crews already require staff to report potentially ill flyers before an aircraft lands in its destination. Possible reasons may include having a measured fever above 100 degrees or simply exhibiting feverish symptoms, and/or a dry cough or difficulty breathing.

Monitoring body temperatures could prevent some ill travelers from flying. However, the World Health Organization states this preventative measure alone isn’t enough; again, passengers may not yet be exhibiting symptoms, or they may be asymptomatic. 

Mandatory Self-Quarantines

Countries may continue to require a minimum 14-day self-quarantine for all arrivals. If traveling abroad you may need to disclose your travel plans and where you’re staying/quarantining upon arrival. Quarantine rules vary by nation, and typically apply whether you’re a resident or visitor. Governments across the globe may enact broad travel restrictions and not allow travelers from highly-affected areas to enter their country. 

Some U.S. states already require a mandatory quarantine for all incoming visitors: Hawaii’s 14-day self-quarantine is one such example. 

Contact Tracing

Another preventative measure nations are rolling out is contact tracing. Smartphone apps can alert you if you come into contact with an infected or at-risk person. If you test positive, your phone app can automatically notify others you came into close contact with for the last 14 days. Contract tracing apps make it easy for travel providers to know their passengers’ recent social patterns, and if you’ve been in contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19. 

Immunity Passports?

Authorities have suggested the idea of an immunity passport to travel between countries, but it remains unclear whether or not those who have had the virus become immune—and for how long. Much focus is on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, an effective and safe vaccine takes at least 12 to 18 months to develop and test in clinical trials. Although still in the early stages, antibody testing has also been suggested as a method of “reopening” the country, though it’s still too early in immunity research to tell.

Travel post-COVID-19 may not be the same as pre-COVID-19, at least for a while. Achieving worldwide immunity can take years, and could be the ultimate measure before many believe it’s safe to travel again.

Bottom Line

Much uncertainty remains, and we’ll need to continue to modify our daily habits until the infection risk dissipates and some types of travel are again permitted. Only aggressive testing and other preventative measures can restore a confidence to travel again.

Until then, cooking an international dish or streaming a virtual tour can help to quell our travel hunger, and to look forward to when it’ll be again safe to make new memories around the globe.

More from SmarterTravel:

Johnny Jet travels to 20+ countries a year to share firsthand knowledge of reward travel, credit card deals, destination tips and more.

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At Home Entertainment Health & Wellness Outdoors

Forest Bathing Audio Experience

Welcome to Virtual Vacations, our series of meditative audio travel tours of both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world.

Don’t have Spotify? Find Virtual Vacations on your preferred listening platform here.

Let’s head into nature for a guided virtual forest bathing experience. Traditional forest bathing strengthens your relationship to nature by connecting you via your five senses.

We’ve created these audio tours to transport you to inspiring destinations around the world, even when you can’t be there in person. So settle in and let’s imagine a peaceful walk through a beautiful forest. Along the way, we’ll practice some traditional forest-bathing techniques to help you relax and connect with the outdoors.

Note that each virtual vacation begins with a short breathing exercise to help you come into the moment and make the most of your virtual vacation.

Discover more Virtual Vacations.

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Beach Cities Health & Wellness Island

10 Dreamiest Beachfront Resorts in the World

We may be safe at home right now, but we’re already dreaming about our next vacation. At these dreamy digs on some of the world’s best beaches, you can sink your toes into warm sand and find your ideal place in the sun. Divide your time according to your own rules: Learn to paddleboard or parasail, reel in a magnificent fish, or simply lie back and adjust your hat as the sun moves across the sky. Read on for 11 out-of-this-world beachfront resorts to add to your bucket list.

LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

LUX South Ari Atoll is the only hotel on the island of Dhidhoofinolhu. Pristine beaches and crystal clear water are steps away from the thatch-roofed suites. Looking for a retreat? Pamper yourself in the ocean-view spa. Want a more active holiday? LUX South Ari Atoll  is a prime spot for snorkeling and whale-shark spotting.

Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles

Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles

This dreamy beachfront resort is located on a private island in Seychelles. Six Senses Zil Pasyon has 30 villas to choose from, each with stunning vistas of the ocean and surrounding islands. Book a spa treatment and soak in the beautiful landscape of this sustainable gem.

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay has done a great job of integrating elements of Indonesia into this hotel—from the lobby to the villas modeled after a Balinese home. Discover the island’s cultural heritage through onsite artist workshops and take a tour of the resort’s temple with a high priest.

Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

Vana Belle is all about privacy, with 79 suites and villas all tucked into a secluded cove over Chaweng Noi beach. Each suite and villa has a terrace with a private pool and stunning views of the beach or of the lush rain forest.

Ocean Club Resort, Turks And Caicos

Ocean Club Resort, Turks And Caicos

Even though the Ocean Club Resort is packed with things to do, the best one might be to do nothing at all. Of course, you can scuba or snorkel to see yellow tangs, parrot fish, and turtles, go bonefishing, or arrange for the resort to drop you off on one of the 30-plus deserted islands in Turks and Caicos so you can spend the day Robinson Crusoe-style. Or, simply sleep late. Think about reading a book. Order a drink. And watch the sun set.

The Chili Beach Private Resort & Villas, Jericoacoara, Brazil

The Chili Beach Private Resort & Villas, Jericoacoara, Brazil

Malhada Beach was named one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by the Washington Post. Make the most of it at The Chili Beach Private Resort & Villas. This exclusive boutique hotel has only six rooms, so you’ll be able to truly get away from it all.

Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius

Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius

Experience tasteful paradise at Le Touessrok, a resort that cuddles up to Trou d’Eau Douce Bay in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It has all the requisite amenities: nearby reefs for diving and snorkeling, southern trade winds for sailing, and ample turquoise waters for swimming and admiring.

Travaasa Hana, Hana, Hawaii

Travaasa Hana, Hana, Hawaii

Maui’s Road to Hana is as famous as its beaches. A journey to Travaasa Hana, which sits just off that road, leads to an older, quieter Hawaii, complete with waterfalls tucked into lush forests. The original Sea Ranch Cottages opened here in 1947 and became a favorite retreat for generations of travelers seeking barefoot elegance. Today, Travaasa runs the resort in the picturesque Hana community, where Hawaiian culture is still the focus. Daytime activities include outdoor yoga classes, horseback rides, spa treatments, and Hawaiian cooking classes. You won’t miss the glitz of the more populated beaches.

Thonga Beach Lodge, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Thonga Beach Lodge, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Seek out this untouched escape, where golden beaches and turquoise waters sit adjacent to coastal forests, a silvery lake, and a wetland park. The five-star eco Thonga Beach Lodge makes the most of its natural setting. It’s the ultimate beach safari, located just south of Mozambique’s fabled sands on the western edge of the Indian Ocean. The lodge sits in a dune forest overlooking a pristine beach. During winter, you can spot nesting turtles and whale sharks.

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, Motu Tevairoa, Bora Bora

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa

You won’t want to cross Bora Bora off of your bucket list after spending a few days at The Pearl. It’s worth returning to again and again. The full-service resort sits on one of Bora Bora’s islets, facing the main island. The peaceful retreat stuns with 360-degree vistas. Keep it calm by spending your days snorkeling in the crystal-clear water, hiking up a tropical mountain, or sailing on a catamaran.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Airport Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Travel Technology Women's Travel

9 Travel Kits That Will Make a Long Flight Bearable

Before you resign yourself to suffering through your next red-eye or long-haul flight, consider packing something that can make the experience better: a comfort travel kit. With multiple travel essentials in each kit, it’s like opening a gift to yourself mid-flight.

The Best Travel Kits for Your Next Long Flight

Here are nine travel kits that will make your next flight more bearable.

Cashmere Travel Set

If you take frequent long-haul flights, consider investing in an ultra-soft cashmere travel set. Jet&Bo’s comes with a blanket, an eye mask, socks, and a carry-all case that doubles as a pillow. Bonus: You can use the blanket as a scarf if you’re headed somewhere cold. 

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Pinch Provisions® Tech Kit

Containing eight essential items to ensure you’re bringing everything you’ll need on your next trip, the Pinch Provisions® tech kit is an easy-to-pack bestseller that’s designed to be thrown in your carry-on bag.  From earbuds and charging cables to a phone/tablet stand and microfiber cleaning cloth, being bored and accessory-less for a long flight will be a thing of the past with this compact kit.

Perricone MD The Jet Set Kit

Because a full-on skin-care routine can be quite the burden in the air, the easiest way to keep your beauty regimen in check is to have it all in a single kit. The Jet Set Kit from Perricone MD features a collection of its best-selling and top-rated formulas, so you can make sure your face, neck, and eyes are getting the treatment they need on your flight.

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Scentered Aromatherapy Travel Kit

Scentered makes one of the best aromatherapy travel kits for long flights, especially if you get claustrophobic or are prone to headaches. This travel-friendly set includes one of each of its aromatherapy balms that have various uses, ranging from stress alleviation to inducing good moods. They all come in an easy-to-pack tin that you can toss in a carry-on or personal bag.

Pack Simply Customized Travel Kits

Make a DIY travel kit with Pack Simply. Choose from hundreds of products to create the ultimate in-flight kit that suits your particular needs. With everything from toiletries to hair ties to Advil, you’ll love the convenience. Select your products and the company puts together your travel kit and ships directly to you.

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Tisserand Essential Survival Kit

Essential oils are a popular natural remedy to fight everything from jet lag to insomnia—which is why roll-on oils can be a frequent flyer’s best friend. I love Tisserand’s Essential Survival Kit; this vegan oil kit comes with a de-stressing oil, an energizing oil, and a sleep-improving oil.

Snack Packs

Check out Amazon’s snack packs for when those stale peanuts just won’t do. Options include everything from energy bars to gourmet trail mixes.

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The Laundress Travel Pack

Designed to combat wardrobe malfunctions on the go, the travel pack from The Laundress has everything you need for fast-acting attention. Containing crease release, stain remover, air freshener, and even a special detergent for delicate fabrics, stains don’t have to be the travel-wardrobe ruiner they used to be.

The Carry-on Cocktail Kit

You’ll get to a different level of comfort with this Carry-on Cocktail Kit. Its tin case is filled with everything you need to make an Old Fashioned: a muddler, bitters, cane sugar, and a recipe card. Order the booze from your flight attendant, mix, then sit back and relax.

More from SmarterTravel:

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.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
At Home Food & Drink Health & Wellness Sustainable Travel

The Best Reusable Alternatives for Disposable Items

Tired of throwing away money and generating waste on single-use items like Q-tips or plastic wrap? Save money and the planet with these reusable alternatives for disposable items.

Collapsible Reusable Straws

collapsible reusable straws.

No one wants to be caught asking for a plastic straw in public, but carrying around a reusable straw seems cumbersome—unless you get this set from Amazon. Made from stainless steel, these reusable straws collapse down into their own carrying case, so you have an easy and sanitary way to keep an eco-friendly straw on you at all times.

Hydro Flask Coffee Mug

Hydro Flask Coffee Mug.

A to-go paper cup in a cardboard sleeve from your local coffee shop might be slightly more convenient than bringing your own, but it has its downsides—like cooling off almost immediately, burning your hand, and sloshing out the top. Break your disposable drink habit by bringing this coffee mug from Hydro Flask with you. It has a spill-proof lid and will keep your drink at the perfect temperature all day.

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LastSwab

lastswab.

Even a Q-tip has a reusable alternative. LastSwab looks and works just like a disposable cotton swab, but is made to be used over and over again. Made from durable and eco-friendly materials, the LastSwab can be easily cleaned using soap and water. It’s available in two versions—one for cleaning and one for makeup. Both come in a protective case to keep your swab clean in between uses.

Ecomended Food Wax Wraps

ecommended food wax wraps.

Plastic wrap can be incredibly usefully for saving leftovers, but it’s also incredibly wasteful. Ecomended’s Food Wax Wrap is a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap. Made from a cotton fabric coated with beeswax and jojoba oil, these wraps can be cut to any size and formed around any dish/bowl/cup to create a seal by using the warmth of your hand. Unlike plastic wrap, these wax wraps can be washed and reused, and come in fun prints like avocado or bees.

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Reusable Paper Towels

reusable paper towels.

Made from bamboo, one roll of these reusable paper towels will last you about three to six months of regular use. The towels absorb more liquid than a regular paper towel and won’t tear. Simply toss them in the washing machine after each use.

Stasher Bags

stashers silicone bags.

Reusable, durable, microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe, and freezer-safe—Stasher’s silicone bags have some clear advantages over plastic zip-lock bags. The Stasher bags come in a variety of sizes, including sandwich, snack, pocket, and half-gallon. All of the bags are made from non-toxic platinum silicone and contain no BPA, PVC, or latex.

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Quip Metal Refillable Floss

quip metal refillable floss.


Single-use plastic floss picks are terrible for the environment, but they make flossing easier than standard dental floss. Get the benefits of a plastic floss pick without the environmental impact with quip’s Metal Refillable Floss. The metal dispenser holds floss that you’ll refill just once every three months, and makes it easy to get to those hard-to-reach spots in your mouth.

Whitmor Dryer Balls

whitmor dryer balls.

Eliminate waste and chemicals from your laundry with these Whitmor Dryer Balls, which replace fabric softener sheets. Made from non-toxic materials, these small balls have soft spikes to fluff and soften your laundry, preventing static cling and wrinkles.

Silicone Baking Mats

Amazonbasics silicone baking mats.

Need an alternative to disposable aluminum foil and parchment paper? Try AmazonBasics’ Silicone Baking Mats. These slim mats are oven-safe up to 480 degrees and replace cooking sprays, oils, aluminum foil by preventing food from sticking. The mats are easy to clean and reuse.

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Larq Water Bottle

larq water bottle.

Don’t want to use a plastic water bottle but hate cleaning your reusable water bottle? LARQ’s self-cleaning water bottle does the work for you—simply press the button on the lid to activate a UV light, which will clean and purify the water bottle and the water inside.

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Categories
Food & Drink Health & Wellness Packing Travel Technology

8 Must-Have Filtered Water Bottles for Travel

With what they’re charging for bottled water at the airport these days, nobody should be traveling without their own water bottle. However, it’s fair to be a bit wary of drinking from the tap, especially when you’re traveling to a place that doesn’t have a great reputation for clean water. This is why filtered water bottles make the most sense for travelers.

Filtered water bottles can be a little more expensive than regular reusable bottles and may involve a little more maintenance, but they’re worth it for the peace of mind you’ll have with every sip. Here are some of my favorite water bottles with filters for traveling.

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LARQ

If you’re the kind of person who would buy a filtered water bottle but never get around to changing the filters, a LARQ could be the bottle for you. Instead of filters, this bottle purifies water using a UV-LED light hidden in the cap. The light is powerful enough to kill germs, and the same kind of light is even used in hospitals to disinfect surfaces. The best part? It’s as easy to charge as your phone, with a universal charging port that will plug into any USB port.

Brita Filter Bottle

Fans of Brita, rejoice: You can take the 36387 Premium Water Filter Bottle on the road. The 26-ounce bottle is sleek enough to slip easily into car drink holders. The BPA-free hard plastic bottle has a carrying loop and an enclosed straw for ease of use. The chlorine-reducing filter improves the taste of tap water, and the filters are easy to replace.

The Escape

Glass isn’t necessarily travel-friendly, but at the same time, every drink tastes better when you’re drinking it from a glass. Why else would airlines go the extra mile to use them when serving their first-class customers? If you like glass but are worried about it breaking, check out The Escape, a glass water bottle that is protected by a silicon sleeve and uses a multi-stage filtration process to keep your water clean and tasting good.

Kiddo

The Kiddo is a filtered water bottle designed with kids in mind. From its fun design to its wide-flow straw, which makes it easier for kids to use, this is a great choice for parents who want their kids to carry their own water bottle. The filters are also interchangeable with those of other Epic Water Filters bottles, so you can stock up for the whole family.

GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier

If you will be spending time outdoors and might need to drink from a fresh water source, consider the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier. With its press-down filter design, this travel water bottle can filter sediment as well as chemicals like chlorine without leaving an aftertaste.

LifeStraw Go

LifeStraw is one of the most trusted brands for water filters. Its LifeStraw Go bottle has a heavy-duty filter built in, making it super easy to filter your water on the go. It is also available with a one- or two-stage filter, so you can choose the one that fits best for the trip you’re planning.

The Outback

If you have an affinity for stainless steel water bottles, The Outback might be the best choice for you. With an easy-grip design and a non-slip rubber base, this is a sturdy water bottle with a filter that will last. You can use it on the road or at home to purify both tap water and natural water.

Seychelle

Whether you’re going camping or building a disaster kit, the Seychelle Water Filter Bottle is a good addition to your arsenal. Its super strong filter removes everything from bacteria to agricultural run-off, so you can be 100 percent sure the water you’re drinking is safe. It’s a squeeze bottle, but it’s made of durable plastic material.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Find her on Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Health & Wellness Packing

8 Packable Things That Could Save Your Life

Earthquakes. Fires. Tsunamis. Hurricanes. Most of us don’t think about these things as we’re packing, but when we visit destinations vulnerable to certain types of disasters, we take on the real risk of an emergency.

I live about 10 blocks from one of California’s major faults, so disaster preparedness is a small but important part of my family’s daily life. Until recently, however, I hadn’t much thought about how to translate the lessons I’ve learned from my local emergency-response community to the realm of travel. But then I realized that many of the most important items to have in the event of a major disaster are not only small and portable, but they have plenty of travel uses as well.

Here’s our shortlist of packable things that could save your life while on the road.

Whistle

plastic whistle

This is something that many people in earthquake-prone regions already have on their keychain. A whistle (opt for a “pealess” whistle, one that does not contain a cork pea, for maximum durability) can help rescuers find you if you’re trapped in a building or under rubble after a disaster. The high-pitched sound can be easier to detect than the human voice, and it can be indispensable when dehydration or crushing has impaired your ability to yell.

Other Travel Uses: Personal safety if you’re walking alone or at night, rallying a group or family, or kicking off an impromptu potato-sack race.

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Flashlight

small flashlight product image

In a disaster, electricity is often the first thing to go. And if you’re in a building or on the subway, you may need a light source to help you find your way out. (While you could use your phone for this purpose, you’ll likely want to preserve its battery for other uses during an emergency.) Choose from the many small, keychain-sized LED flashlights with long battery lives and bright lights that are on the market.

Other Travel Uses: Finding your way back to camp after a midnight trip to the loo, reading in bed at a hotel without waking a sleeping partner, or navigating poorly lit paths and uneven surfaces.

First-Aid Kit

299 piece first-aid kit

Staying as healthy as possible is key in the aftermath of a disaster, and that means effectively tending to minor injuries. First-aid kit basics such as individually wrapped alcohol pads, small packets of antibiotic ointment, and a selection of bandages can help you keep minor abrasions from becoming infected. Plus, they take up virtually no room in a bag.

Other Travel Uses: Caring for blisters, scratches, or bug bites or helping strangers in need of a quick fix.

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Rescue Blanket

foil rescue blanket

Staying warm can be a challenge if you find yourself exposed to the elements for an extended period. Even if you’re inside when disaster strikes, heating systems may not work. A Mylar rescue blanket is an incredibly light, stowable, and efficient way to stay warm with just your own body heat.

Other Travel Uses: A makeshift picnic blanket, a backup warmth layer for evenings under the stars or at the beach, or a hygienic floor cover for desperate moments when you need a place to rest during an overnight airport layover.

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Neckerchief

Dust from debris can cause short-term breathing problems and long-term health issues. While a simple bandana or neckerchief won’t filter out everything, it will provide coverage against larger airborne particles, and that can be just what you need to get to safety. Since basic bandanas are small and fold up nicely, you can carry a few to distribute to companions.

Other Travel Uses: Containing your cold on an airplane or as dust-storm protection.

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Back-up Charger

phone charging pack

Charging your phone requires both electricity and access to an outlet—two conditions that can be hard to meet after a major disaster. Travel with a small battery- or solar-powered charger to prolong the life of your cell phone in an emergency. Even if phone and Wi-Fi systems are down, this will allow you to use your phone as a flashlight, for documentation, and to access apps designed to be helpful in emergencies.

Other Travel Uses: Helping you stay connected (via apps, maps, social media, email, and phone) whenever your phone battery runs low.

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Water

Simple water bottle

Clean water is one of the most important things you can have with you after a disaster. To be prepared, buy a reusable water bottle and fill it every morning. To increase the chance you’ll actually carry it with you, choose a smaller size (for instance, Simple Modern’s 17-ounce bottle) that doesn’t take up much room in a day bag.

Other Travel Uses: Preventing dehydration while saving money and resources.

Food

variety of nut snacks

After a disaster, food is often in short supply. Keep a spare high-protein snack in the bottom of your bag and you’ll be able to maintain energy longer. Nuts and health bars are easy, non-perishable options to have on hand while you travel.

Other Travel Uses: Avoiding blood-sugar spirals when you’re out and about.

More Ways to Stay Safe

fema alerts app screenshots

A large part of surviving a disaster is preparing in advance. Here are two more small steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the event of an emergency.

Know Possible Destination Risks: There’s no predicting every risk in a destination, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the potential vulnerabilities of a place before you arrive. FEMA has a free app (iOS | Android) with tips on how to prepare for and deal with disasters, including earthquakes, severe weather, terrorism, volcanoes, and wildfires.

Keep Your Shoes by the Bed: If disaster strikes while you’re in bed, you’ll want to have a pair of shoes close by to protect your feet from broken glass or other sharp objects that may have fallen on the floor. Before you go to sleep, place a pair of shoes (and socks) within arm’s reach of the bed. In earthquake-prone areas, some experts suggest tying the laces of your shoes together and securing them to a heavy piece of furniture so they’re less likely to slide away in the event of sharp movement.

Our Favorite Items for the Home

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
At Home Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness

The 10 Best Hand Creams to Hydrate Dry Skin

Most of us are practicing more frequent, thorough hand washing during the COVID-19 pandemic—which is good for our health but not necessarily for our skin. If your hands are starting to look like lizard skin, it’s time to step up your lotion game. Discover the best hand creams to rehydrate your thirsty skin (and keep in mind that when it’s time to fly again, these will be a good bet for the plane as well).

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

cerave moisturizing cream.

Frequently recommended by dermatologists (who also helped develop the formula), CeraVe Moisturizing Cream works by using essential ceramides to restore your skin’s protective barrier. It’s fragrance- and oil-free, and suitable for those with eczema and other skin conditions. Not just for hands, this thick cream can be used anywhere on the body, including the face.

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands.

One of the best hand creams for dry, cracked skin, Working Hands helps restore moisture and recreate your skin’s protective layer—without leaving your hands greasy. It’s ultra concentrated, so you don’t need to use much to see results.

Burt’s Bees Ultimate Care Hand Cream

Burt’s Bees Ultimate Care Hand Cream.

If you’re looking for a hand cream without strong fragrances or chemicals, consider this option from Burt’s Bees. Ingredients include baobab oil, pumpkin oil, watermelon seed oil, green tea extract, and no parabens or phthalates. The formula includes a gentle exfoliator to help get rid of dry skin.

L’Occitane Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm

L’Occitane Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm.

This thick, healing cream is composed of 25 percent shea butter, which soothes and hydrates ultra-dry skin. While it’s formulated for your hands, you can also use it on feet or other dry parts of the body.

Vaseline Clinical Care Extremely Dry Skin Rescue

Vaseline Clinical Care Extremely Dry Skin Rescue.

This affordable hand cream is formulated for very dry skin, designed to restore the skin’s protective barrier. Fragrance-free and non-greasy, it is appropriate for sensitive and irritated skin.

Le Labo Hand Lotion

Le Labo Hand Lotion.

The soothing scent of Le Labo’s hand lotion was inspired by the hinoki trees that grow around the Buddhist temples of Mount Koya, Japan. Its vegan, cruelty-free formula features almond and safflower oil, moisturizing hands without leaving a greasy residue.

Clinique Deep Comfort Hand and Cuticle Cream

Clinique Deep Comfort Hand and Cuticle Cream.

Clinique’s moisturizing formula is designed to condition both hands and cuticles, and is free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and fragrance to avoid irritating sensitive skin. It’s also free of oil so you won’t be left with a greasy feeling on your hands.

Soap & Glory Call of Fruity Hand Food

Soap & Glory Call of Fruity Hand Food.

If fragrance-free isn’t your thing, pick up a tube of Hand Food, which smells good enough to eat thanks to a tropics-inspired blend of hibiscus, cantaloupe, and cedar. Nourishing ingredients include shea butter, macadamia oil, and vitamin E.

Aveeno Intense Relief Hand Cream

Aveeno Intense Relief Hand Cream.

Affordable and soothing, this non-greasy cream from Aveeno offers long-lasting moisture that persists up to 24 hours and even stands up to hand washing. The fragrance-free formula incorporates oatmeal and other emollients that are easy on sensitive skin.

Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream

Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream.

Designed for “dry, rough skin on faces, elbows, hands, and feet,” Skin Food incorporates beeswax and oils for an ultra-moisturizing formula. Weleda’s products are not tested on animals and do not contain synthetic preservatives or fragrances.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. Codey Albers contributed to this story.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Outdoors Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends Women's Travel

10 Best Workout Clothes and Tools for Travel and Home

Finding the motivation to work out while on vacation is no easy feat. I try and stick to my normal exercise routine as much as I can while I travel, and this list of the 10 best workout clothes and tools helps me stay in shape on the road—and at home between trips.

Vi Headphones and Fitness Tracker

Say goodbye to tangled headphones, wearing a Fitbit, and paying for expensive fitness-tracking apps—the Vi headphones and corresponding app are the ultimate travel workout companion. With a variety of earbud sizes and clips, these wireless headphones are comfortable and won’t fall out once you get the right size.

If you run outdoors at home and on the road, the Vi Fitness app is a great way to track your runs and mileage. Hikers and cyclers can also benefit from the activity tracker. Dubbed a “personal trainer,” the activity monitor tracks things like speed, heart rate, and distance. It also adapts to your fitness level and personalizes workouts. Plus, the app links to your favorite music streaming service.

Takeya Water Bottle

A reusable water bottle is an essential workout item for travelers, and I especially love Takeya’s insulated stainless water bottles. The handle is great for travel, since you can hook it onto the outside of any bag, and it’s easy to carry around the gym. The double-wall vacuum insulation keeps water cold for hours, and the narrow mouth is great for grabbing a quick sip mid-workout.

Zella Live In High Waisted Leggings

Built from moisture-wicking fabric and fitted with a no-slip waistband, these stretchy, figure-sculpting leggings keep you cool as your workout warms up. They’re comfy enough to wear in other situations as well, including on the plane or while working from home.

Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Wipes

Don’t forget one of the most important things to do after working out, even on vacation: taking care of your skin. I am obsessed with these facial cleansing wipes from Burt’s Bees for a post-workout refresh. Whether you don’t have time to hit the shower or you need some immediate rejuvenation, these wipes, made from white tea extract, cucumber, and aloe, are a must. I even use them over my whole body sometimes if I need to skip a shower.

Adidas by Stella McCartney Sports Bra

This mesh-backed sports bra is one of the best workout clothes you can travel with because it doubles as a bathing suit top. The full coverage bra is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, so it won’t stink or stay wet for long after sweating or swimming.

 

Nike Dri Fit Head Tie

Nike makes a great moisture-wicking headband that fits any head size. I typically find myself shifting any sort of headband during a workout because it sits too far forward or back—but you won’t have that problem with this one because it ties.

L.L.Bean Coolmax Nano Glide Multisport Socks

I swear by L.L.Bean socks (with styles for both men and women) for working out. The quick-drying, breathable fabric and thoughtful cushioning on these moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet cool and dry during any activity. These socks are also designed to reduce friction inside your shoe to prevent blisters.

Hoka Bondi 6 Running Shoes

I always travel with my Hoka Bondi 6’s, because I can wear them to the airport with a travel outfit or put them into my carry-on, where they don’t take up too much room. These shoes (available for men and women) are extremely flexible and comfortable for workouts and provide incredible sole support; that’s actually part of Hoka’s mission as a shoe company.

Salomon Agile 250 Running Belt Pack

I cannot say enough how much I love this running belt pack from Salomon. It miraculously fits a phone, keys, and some cash or cards. It doesn’t move while running, and I’ve worn it for stationary workouts as well to hold my phone. It takes up zero room in your suitcase and helps make your workouts annoying armband-free.

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Lululemon Break a Trail Jacket

This Trail Jacket from Lululemon is an ideal choice for hikers and others who love to exercise outdoors. The fabric is both water-repellent and wind-resistant, so the jacket will hold up in any climate. The hood is designed not to bounce when you move, and there are vents in the fabric so you don’t overheat. There’s even a hidden pocket for your phone.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Codey Albers contributed to this story.

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.

Categories
Airport Health & Wellness Passenger Rights

Travel in the Time of COVID-19—What You Need to Know

The 2020 coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic, has been a moving target when it comes to travel. Nobody knows how long it will continue, whether and which areas it might hit next, when and where it will plateau and start to ease off, or when the travel world might return to something like normal. The time frame for cases to begin diminishing is unknown. And even once a decrease occurs, it’s worth considering that the virus could return.

The first place travelers should look to for advice on the virus as it relates to travel plans is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) via this page on destinations with COVID-19 alerts or warnings in place. It’s a good idea to bookmark it for updates, as the situation changes frequently.

Governments and travel suppliers have reacted by imposing rolling responses, with new cancellations and rule changes often. And with the U.S. State Department assigning a Global Level 4 Health Advisory (do not travel), existing travel plans for the next several weeks (or possibly months) poses a major quandary for many consumers.

SmarterTravel.com and its sister sites are regularly updating the following resource guides to travel companies’ COVID-19 responses:

The Main COVID-19 Travel Dilemmas to Consider

Travelers face three main areas of risk to think about:

  • Getting quarantined: If you need to travel, you almost certainly face the possibility of immediate quarantine of up to 14 days. If you’re lucky, it could be at home. But it could also place you in a strange city. U.S. citizens returning home from affected areas are being funneled to 13 airports where they will be screened and then asked to self quarantine.

Many countries have halted at least some flights, or closed their borders entirely. There are no indications about when normal activities will resume. The U.S. State Department currently assigns a Global Level Four Health Advisory (do not travel) for all international travel. The State Department also said Americans “should not travel by cruise ship.”

Many areas have taken actions that effectively work to deter tourism. Large public gatherings have been canceled or postponed, including the Tokyo Olympics. In many places, 14-day quarantines have been mandated for anyone entering the country; some nations have halted all visa requests. The list could go on: Check the State Department alert for any country you have travel planned to, and enroll in State Department STEP Alerts to receive updated information often.

Travel Industry Responses to COVID-19

If an airline cancels your flight(s), no matter what the airline proposes you can get a full refund on any ticket (see our guide to air passenger rights here). But if you have a ticket for a future flight that is not canceled or you haven’t yet bought a ticket, most major domestic and international airlines are offering some combination of postponement and refund options. Again, see our sister site Airfarewatchdog’s breakdown of airlines’ waiver options during the pandemic for more.

Generally, the options for canceling airfare will include:

  • Waiving change penalties for existing tickets—but in many cases, only for flights scheduled within a few weeks.
  • Waiving change penalties for newly booked tickets, with booking time frames ranging from a few weeks to a full year.
  • Rebooking a ticketed itinerary with no change in fares, but usually for rescheduled departures within a month or two.
  • Rebooking a ticketed itinerary with no change penalty, but at then-current fares, for up to a year.

Deadlines for making such changes are rolling; they’ll change from week to week and month to month depending on how the pandemic progresses. See our sister site Cruise Critic’s guide to cancellations for more.

Major hotel chains Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice, and Wyndham are refunding travelers and waiving change fees. Travelers who booked through third-party online travel agencies (OTAs) will likely need to go through those agencies’ websites or help lines for refunds. Travelers who booked through independent hotel-type properties will need to go to those properties for refunds. See our guide to which hotels (and airlines) are changing their points and loyalty membership terms to accommodate the pandemic.

What to Do About Travel Plans During COVID-19

If you haven’t yet made any payments and set up any firm arrangements for a spring or summer trip, one obvious choice is to refrain. Given the elevated chance of complications for older COVID-19 victims, if you’re 65 or over and/or have an existing medical condition, according to the CDC it’s smart to wait out new COVID-19 developments at home.

If you need to travel, even domestically, despite the pandemic, you can protect yourself physically by taking CDC advice about hand washing, wearing a mask, employing general hygiene like washing your hands often, and avoiding crowds. You can protect yourself financially by:

  • Avoiding as many nonrefundable bookings as possible—or at least making sure that any such bookings are with suppliers that have agreed to waive change penalties. Among other things, that means book direct rather than through agencies. That strategy works pretty well for hotels, but not air tickets. Refundable fares are usually a lot more costly than nonrefundable ones these days.
  • Considering the possibility of a 14-day quarantine: Take enough of your necessary medications to cover an unexpected/extended time away from home, or at least arrange for somebody at home to be able to send you what you need if you’re delayed.

If you can’t use or don’t like the refund/reschedule options your suppliers offer, your rights to legal recourse are limited:  

  • Airline: If your airline’s offer doesn’t work for you, but your flight is still currently scheduled to operate, wait until a week or so before scheduled departure. If the airline cancels any ticketed flight, you’re entitled to a full refund.
  • Hotels: If you have a prepaid hotel, your best bet is to wait for the hotel to set a policy. You have essentially no legal and easily enforceable right.
  • Cruises: As with hotels, cruise passengers have very few enforceable legal rights. You’re pretty much limited by what the cruise lines offer.
  • Travel insurance: If you bought travel insurance before your insurance company’s stated date for the outbreak—January 21 through 27, for most companies—you’re probably due the full benefits of your policy. If not, your recovery is likely to be limited. Check your policy to see just what it covers, and figure you won’t get any more than that.

In general, any refund you’re due should typically come from the agency where you made your arrangements. Getting refunds from some suppliers may be tough—especially those in foreign countries that don’t have a presence in the U.S. or Canada. Don’t be surprised if you lose some money when you cancel; that loss might be better than the risk of traveling.

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Stay safe and healthy this travel season with the following recommended travel gear:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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 abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

Editor’s note: This story is updating as new information becomes available and is current as of the publish date.