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Bahamas Hurricane Recovery Update: Why You Should Visit in 2020

In September 2019, a category 5 hurricane stalled over the northern islands of the Bahamas, ravaging Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos with powerful winds and rain. Hurricane Dorian is the most powerful known storm to have struck the Bahamas, leaving an official death toll of 70 (with hundreds still missing) and causing $3.4 billion worth of damage.

Four months later, travelers may be wondering how the islands are recovering and whether a visit to the Bahamas in 2020 is a good idea. The following Bahamas update explains which islands were and weren’t affected by the hurricane and which ones are welcoming visitors. (Spoiler alert—the answer to that final question is: most of them.)

Freeport and Grand Bahama Island

beach in freeport bahamas.

Grand Bahama Island was one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Dorian, but the bulk of the damage was done to the eastern and northern parts of the island. Freeport, the island’s main city and cruise port, is located in the southwestern part of the island and was spared the worst of the damage. “[Freeport] was impacted because the basic infrastructure on the island got hit—fresh water, electricity, etc.,” says Oneil Khosa, CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, which runs two-night cruises to the region as well as cruise/stay packages. “That all has been restored. … I feel confident in saying that our cruise product and the passenger experience [are] back to 100 percent.”

While cruise lines paused their Grand Bahama Island calls in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, they have all resumed service to Freeport. According to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, 84 percent of the hotels and restaurants on Grand Bahama Island have reopened, as well as 75 percent of the tours and 55 percent of the attractions and watersports. Both cruise passengers and land visitors have plenty of excursions to choose from, including snorkeling, Jet Skiing, sailing trips, and beach visits.

Both Silver Airways and Bahamasair resumed flights between Fort Lauderdale and Freeport in December 2019.

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Abaco Islands

The situation in the hard-hit Abaco Islands is a bleaker story. “Abaco was hit very hard and faced the brunt of the hurricane as it came from the east,” says Khosa.

NBC News reported in late December that “the devastation looks much as it did when the storm swept through in September” and that locals have struggled with a slow cleanup and rebuilding process.

“Local businesses have reopened, a handful of hotels are receiving guests, and, as of December 19, 2019, Silver Airways has resumed flights between Fort Lauderdale and Marsh Harbour,” says a source from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. “Silver Airways plans to resume service to Treasure Cay in the Abacos in the New Year. A handful of properties are open including The Sandpiper Inn, Abaco Club, The Abaco Inn, [and] Delphi Club.”

Air Unlimited resumed service to the Abacos in January 2020.

In lieu of tourist information about the Abaco Islands, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s website takes visitors directly to a page about hurricane relief efforts.

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Nassau and Paradise Island

colorful house and palm tree in nassau.

Nassau and Paradise Island were largely unscathed by Hurricane Dorian, beyond some heavy rainfall. (In fact, thousands of evacuees from the affected islands headed to Nassau after the storm.) Cruise lines continue to visit Nassau’s popular port, and all resorts, restaurants, and tour operators are operating as normal.

Nassau is the Bahamas’ capital and the heart of its tourist industry. If your idea of a great vacation includes museums, casinos, shopping, nightlife, and plenty of other activities, this is the place to go. Just across the harbor from Nassau, on Paradise Island, is the Bahamas’ most famous resort: the massive complex, complete with a waterpark, an oceanfront golf course, 11 pools, and five miles of beach.

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Other Bahamas Islands

Hundreds of islands make up the Bahamas, and the vast majority of them are open for business, with no hurricane damage.

A few of the best places to visit include the Exumas, known for exquisite white sand beaches and the chance to swim with friendly pigs; Cat Island, where you can enjoy some of the country’s best scuba diving; and Eleuthera, home to pineapple plantations, colonial architecture, and pink sand beaches.

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How You Can Help the Bahamas

eleuthera beach bahamas.

If you want to help the Bahamas in its continuing recovery from Hurricane Dorian, one of the best ways is to come for a visit. “Any travel to the islands not affected by Hurricane Dorian will support recovery efforts as tourism is the country’s leading industry, accounting for 60 percent of the Bahamas’ GDP and employing about half of the Bahamian people,” says a source from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

Khosa offers a similar perspective: “Every bottle of water you buy or taxi fare or local restaurant meal or Jet Ski rental is helping because this is all being managed and run by the locals, and by spending your tourism dollars there, you are impacting the local residents and their economy, which is far more effective than any aid there.”

Beyond your tourist dollars, you can also volunteer in the Bahamas. If you book a trip with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, you can contact the cruise line and express your desire to help, and the line will put you in contact with an NGO supporting the recovery effort to arrange an appropriate volunteer excursion. You can also volunteer through Bahamas Relief Cruise.

Of course, donations are also welcome. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has a lengthy list of places to donate money or supplies.

“It’s important that the word is kept alive,” says Khosa. “There are larger issues that the world is seeing, but people still need help in [the Bahamas]. What’s more important is continuous small help, not just making a big deal in the beginning and then moving on.”

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Outdoors

This Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Hawaii

More than 2,000 miles out in the Pacific, the sun-drenched Hawaiian Islands are a world of their own—a true tropical paradise of lush rainforests, tumbling waterfalls, active volcanoes, and mile after blissful mile of palm-fringed sandy beaches. What’s more, Hawaii’s natural beauty is matched by a culture every bit as beautiful and diverse.

Hawaii is one U.S. state, yet has more to see and do than many countries. To start planning your trip to Hawaii, first decide which islands to visit, based on your interests. That will help you determine the best time of year to visit Hawaii, too.

Jump to Sections In This Article:

The Best Hawaiian Island to Visit

Beach view in kauai, Hawaii

Even the names of the Hawaiian Islands are full of promise: Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (commonly referred to as “the Big Island”), Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.

While these seven islands (and several smaller islets) are all part of the state of Hawaii, most visitor attractions and services are concentrated on the four largest islands: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. All four will charm you with their white sandy beaches, tropical temperatures, and welcoming aloha spirit. Each island has its own distinct personality and attractions, too, so read on to find the best Hawaiian island for you. 

Oahu

Most visitors to Hawaii arrive on Oahu, home to Honolulu and nearly three-quarters of the state’s population. Honolulu puts a vibrant tropical twist on urban attractions like high-end shopping, celebrity-chef dining, trendy nightclubs, performing arts, and multi-cultural museums and galleries. The city also encompasses the famed waterfront resort area of Waikiki Beach at the base of Diamond Head, and the World War II Pearl Harbor memorial. (Here’s our list of the 10 best things to do in Honolulu.) Beyond the city, Oahu’s tropical island persona reemerges, a landscape of vast pineapple plantations, fertile mountains, farms and ranches, mountain ranges spiked with ancient volcanoes, dozens of white-sand beaches, and the legendary surf breaks of the North Shore.

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Maui

Hawaii’s second-largest island, Maui is also the second most popular Hawaiian island for tourism. Myriad resorts front long strands of sandy tropical beaches, interspersed with villages like Kihei and Lahaina that offer guests plenty of free-spirited nightlife and dining choices. Maui is active and outdoorsy, with world-class conditions for watersports like windsurfing, kiteboarding, and surfing, plus ample championship golf courses. Sporty visitors explore its natural beauty by hiking along the crater at Haleakala National Park, descending into the lush Iao Valley, snorkeling with sea turtles, and discovering the tangled forests along the twisting road to Hana. Maui’s best athletes are undoubtedly the humpback whales that winter in the warm waters off the island’s west coast, breaching and slapping their tails to the delight of spectators on whale-watching excursion boats.

Kauai

Dubbed the “Garden Isle,” Kauai is certainly lush and green, but it’s definitely not tamed. Majestic sea cliffs rise along the rugged Na Pali Coast, Hawaii’s only navigable river tumbles through 3,600-foot-deep Waimea Canyon, and picture-perfect waterfalls—like the twin cascades of Wailua Falls—pour over rocky ledges amid a tangle of ferns and jungle vines. The least-visited of the four largest Hawaiian islands, Kauai has its share of sandy beaches and rustling palm trees, too, along its east shore known as the Coconut Coast. So iconic is its tropical landscape, Kauai has starred in dozens of films and TV shows, from Fantasy Island to Jurassic Park. The northernmost island in the chain, Kauai’s dramatic, formidable geography is ideal to explore by hiking and paddling, or in the hands of experienced guides on a coastal boat excursion or helicopter tour.

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Hawaii (The Big Island)

The Big Island of Hawaii feels grand in every sense. Larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined, it boasts 11 climate zones. It’s a place so diverse that you could ski down a snowy peak or snorkel along a coral reef, even on the same day. While verdant Hilo, on the east shore, averages more than 125 inches of rain a year, the sunny Kona coast on the west gets less than 20. Formed by fiery volcanoes, the Big Island still rumbles with volcanic activity; Kilauea, in Volcanoes National Park, experienced a large eruption as recently as 2018. Authentic Hawaiian culture looms large here, too, the birthplace of the Kamehameha dynasty. Three national historic parks and several cultural sites help unpack the rich history.

Which Island Is Best for …

aerial view of mountains and beach in hawaii

Adventure: The Big Island 

You can find plenty of adventure on any of the Hawaiian islands, but the geographic diversity of the Big Island gives visitors the greatest array of options. You’d need weeks to try out all its activities, which include hiking the lava landscapes of Volcanoes National Park, golfing several championship courses, stargazing atop 13,796-foot Mauna Kea, horseback riding in the “upcountry,” kayaking through coral-rimmed bays, and diving with manta rays.

Relaxation: Maui

With more than 30 miles of sand beaches backed by tony resorts with every imaginable luxury, Maui is a winner for those seeking a kick-back-and-relax vacation. Plus, with more and more direct flights to Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG), you can fly direct and start slowing down even sooner. Look to West Maui for the most beautiful and sheltered beaches, in resort areas like Kaanapali, Kapalua, and, farther south, Wailea.

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Surfing: Oahu

Few surf spots on earth can match Oahu’s North Shore, where winter swells roll into sublime surf breaks like the famed Banzai Pipeline. It’s worth a visit to watch some of the top surfers in the world catching rides on walls of water that have traveled across the Pacific. Surf conditions are safer and more manageable in the summer months at spots like Chun’s Reef, or on the south shore along Waikiki Beach. Both areas have surf schools.

Helicopter Tour: Kauai

With its rugged landscape of cliffs and canyons, much of Kauai is impenetrable on foot or in a vehicle. The island’s natural beauty really comes to life from the air, soaring along the emerald-green Na Pali Coast, past tumultuous waterfalls, rocky cliffs, and hidden coves. Schedule your flight early in your trip; weather often requires rescheduling. Several tour companies depart from Lihue.

Whale Watching: Maui

Although several species of whales live year-round in Hawaii’s deeper waters, the lively humpback whales that migrate here each winter put on the best show. They seem to favor the shallow, protected waters off the west coast of Maui—particularly the Auau Channel between Maui and Lanai. You can often spot humpbacks from shore, but you’ll get better views on a whale-watching excursion. Several depart from Lahaina Harbor.

Partying: Oahu

Honolulu is the hands-down top destination for nightlife in Hawaii. You’ll find everything from fun, kitschy tiki bars serving boozy umbrella drinks to sophisticated nightclubs with thumping dance floors. There’s a good selection of spots in Waikiki Beach near Ala Moana. Outdoor bars get lively right after work, a time for relaxation and socialization known as pau hana. Nightclubs kick into action around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.

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The Best Time to Visit Hawaii

jeep ride over tropical forest in Hawaii

Hawaii enjoys dreamy tropical weather all year long. There’s no single best month to go to Hawaii, and there’s no single worst month to go to Hawaii, either. The Hawaiian Islands are a diverse, year-round destination, so you can plan your trip around your schedule, budget, and interests.

Best Time for Good Weather

Hawaii has essentially two seasons. The summer, which runs from May to October, is warm and humid, with generally calmer waters. The winter months of November to April are a little cooler and definitely wetter, with bigger surf. The leeward (west and south) sides of the islands tend to be drier and sunnier than the lush windward sides.

Best Time for Avoiding Hurricanes

Hawaii’s hurricane season officially runs from June to November, and peaks in July and August. Although hurricanes in Hawaii are relatively rare, tropical storms can cause flooding and damage. Consider purchasing travel insurance, especially if it seems like a particularly active Hawaii hurricane season.

Best Time for Avoiding Tourists

You’ll find fewer crowds in Hawaii’s shoulder seasons between winter and summer. In spring, May is the best month to avoid crowds. Just be sure to avoid Golden Week, a popular Japanese holiday that falls in late April or early May. In fall, November is the quietest month for tourism, with the exception of Thanksgiving week. September and October are also good months to visit with fewer tourists.

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Best Time for Skiing

Yep, you read that right: On the Big Island, the snow on Mauna Kea (which translates to “white mountain”) sometimes gets deep enough for skiing and snowboarding, most reliably in February and March. But don’t count on it—and know that there’s sharp lava rock under that variable snow base. Mauna Kea has no lifts, so skiers need to hike or shuttle a vehicle up the mountain road.

Best Time for a Wedding

April through October is the best time for a destination wedding in Hawaii. This is Hawaii’s dry summer season, so there’s less chance of rain. Statistically, June is the driest and sunniest month. The shoulder months of April, May, September, and October will have less expensive rates than the height of summer.

Best Time for Surfing

To experience the best of Hawaii’s endless summer, experienced surfers should plan to visit Hawaii in the winter. November, December, and January are the months with the biggest and best waves, particularly on the famous North Shore of Oahu. The north and west shores of Maui also get big waves in winter months. Less experienced surfers should stick to the south sides of the islands in winter months, or come in summer, when waves are more suitable for beginners.

Best Time for Seeing Whales

Humpbacks whales are no fools—they head south to Hawaii for the winter. Thousands of humpbacks migrate to Hawaiian waters each year from Alaska, typically arriving in December and staying through April. Peak whale-watching season in Hawaii is February through March, after calves are born. It is possible to see other species of whales in the summer months, although these year-round residents tend to stick to deeper offshore waters.

Best Time for a Honeymoon

The honest answer? It depends. If sunny, dry weather is most important, visit in June, July, and August. If you’re on a budget—or looking for a bargain on a five-star splurge—the best deals on hotels tend to be in April, September, October, and November. If you have your heart set on a specific activity, like seeing whales or learning to surf, let that be your guide.

Best Time for Active Lava Flow

One of the most active volcanoes on earth, Kilauea demonstrated its fury in September 2018 with a massive eruption that reshaped portions of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. As a result, its famous red-hot oozing lava flows are no longer present (or at least visible). Yet this Big Island park remains a fascinating place to visit, with hikes and scenic drives that dramatically demonstrate the power of nature.

Best Time for a Helicopter Tour

A Hawaii helicopter sightseeing trip demands clear and calm conditions, so summer (especially June through September) gives you the best odds for good flying weather. To hedge your bets, book a helicopter tour early in your trip; if there’s a cancellation due to weather, you’ll have time to rebook for another day.

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Travel Seasons of Hawaii

woman enjoying waterfall in hawaii

The best time to travel to Hawaii depends on what’s most important to you: learning to surf? Seeing whales? Finding room deals? Avoiding crowds? Hawaii’s weather patterns and peak travel seasons are different than the rest of the U.S., so keep the following in mind when planning your Hawaii vacation.

High Season

Hawaii has two peak travel seasons. In winter, from mid-December to mid-April, visitors come seeking Hawaii’s sunny beaches and tropical temperatures. It’s especially busy over Christmas, New Year’s, spring break (mid-March), and Easter. In summer, high season returns when kids get out of school, from mid-June to mid-August. July is the busiest month in summer, especially over the Fourth of July holiday.

Off Season

Low season in Hawaii is spring, when winter ends on the mainland, and fall, when kids go back to school. The months of May and October are a sweet spot in Hawaii, with nice weather and some of the best discounted rates of the year.

Dry Season

Hawaii’s driest months are in summer, especially from May through September. That makes summer a particularly good time to explore higher-elevation “upcountry” areas and the lush windward (north and east) sides of the islands that typically get the most rain.

Wet Season

November, December, and January are the rainy season in Hawaii. Moisture comes in on the trade winds and creates Hawaii’s lush, tropical environment. However, rains are very localized, falling in the mountains and on the windward (north and east) sides of the islands. If it’s raining where you are, you’re likely to find drier conditions on the south and west coastlines.

Summer Season

Hawaii’s summer (kau) begins in May and runs through October. Weather is perfect—warm and sunny, with pleasant trade winds. The islands get busier when kids get out of school and get quieter again in early September, after Labor Day Weekend.

Winter Season

Hawaii’s winter (hooilo) runs from November to April. Temperatures are about 8 to 10 degrees cooler than summer. Rainfall, although often very localized and short-lived, increases. Waves increase, too, to the delight of surfers.

Holiday Season

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays in Hawaii are a busy and festive time. Book early to enjoy Christmas cheer with a Polynesian twist, where blooming poinsettias grow as tall as trees, Santa wears board shorts, and Christmas carols get strummed on ukuleles and slack-key guitars.

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Is There a Bad Time to Visit Hawaii?

view of mountains in secret beach, kauai, Hawaii

No! is the easy answer. Hawaii is a true tropical paradise, with warm weather and average daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s year-round. Even in the coldest months of December and January, you’ll find temperatures at the beach in the mid-70s. Winter months bring more rain, and temperatures can be cold (or even snowy) at higher elevations. But Hawaii is a land of micro-climates, with weather varying greatly from place to place on any given island. If conditions are unpleasant where you are, travel to a lower elevation, or head for the drier leeward coastlines on the west and south sides of the islands.

Besides weather, the other seasons to consider when planning a trip to Hawaii are high and low tourism seasons. Hawaii’s busiest travel seasons occur twice a year: from December through March, when snowbirds are escaping cold weather, and again in summer, from mid-June to early September, when kids are out of school and families take their summer vacations. If you plan to visit during high season in Hawaii, book flights and hotels early, expect higher rates, and visit popular attractions early in the day.

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Hawaii Weather by Month

Thanks to its proximity to the Equator, Hawaii is warm and tropical year-round. Visitors will discover comfortable temperatures in the 70s and 80s, blooming flowers, and waters warm enough for swimming and sports every month of the year. Hawaii has two seasons, winter and summer. While the temperatures don’t vary that much, the winter months (November to April) have more rain. Winter rains generally don’t disrupt vacation plans, since rains tend to be short-lived and are very localized. If it’s raining where you are in Hawaii, chances are you can find sun somewhere else along the coast.

Hawaii Weather in January

Even though it is statistically one of Hawaii’s coldest and wettest months, January is still warm and tropical in Hawaii, with temperatures averaging in the 70s. Hawaii’s winter weather is a heck of a lot nicer than most places, so January is a busy month for tourism in Hawaii.

Hawaii Weather in February

February is Hawaii’s coldest winter month. It’s nothing a light sweater can’t handle: Daytime temperatures can dip into the 60s, but average highs are in the 70s. It’s still the rainy season, although rains are often localized and short-lived. The highest peaks have snow. High season is in full swing, especially busy around Valentine’s Day and President’s Day Weekend (third Monday).

Hawaii Weather in March

Spring break is one of the most popular times to visit Hawaii. The rainy season is tapering off, and the weather is often clear and sunny. It’s peak season for whale watching, and the humpback whales often have young calves in tow.

Hawaii Weather in April

Hawaii’s rainy season ends, with more sunshine on the rainy leeward side of the islands. With the arrival of spring, the busy winter tourism season ends after Easter, too.

Hawaii Weather in May

May brings rising temperatures in the 80s and reliably sunny days. With winter storms over, calmer waters bring nice springtime beach weather. Crowds are thin, so lodging rates and airfares are lower.

Hawaii Weather in June

Hawaii has ideal weather in June. There’s plenty of summer sunshine, since June is the month with the least rainfall. Temperatures are balmy, averaging in the mid-80s during the day and 70s at night. Rates are still off-peak until mid-month, when families begin taking summer vacations.

Hawaii Weather in July

Weather is warm and sunny, and ocean temperatures are warmer. Family summer vacations are in full swing, making July one of Hawaii’s busiest months. Book early and expect higher prices.

Hawaii Weather in August

Warm and sunny summer weather continues throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Water and air temperatures are in the upper 70s and low 80s. Although hurricanes are rare in Hawaii, August is the peak month for tropical cyclones in the Pacific.

Hawaii Weather in September

As fall arrives in most of the United States, the weather is still warm and sunny in Hawaii. Hawaiian waters are warmest in September, ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and other watersports. Summer vacation tourism decreases after Labor Day.

Hawaii Weather in October

Although the chance of rain begins to increase, especially on the windward sides of the islands, fall weather in Hawaii remains mostly sunny and warm. It is a month of transition, with growing ocean swell and more storms in higher elevations.

Hawaii Weather in November

Winter in Hawaii begins in November, bringing cooler temperatures and more rain. Winter also brings bigger waves, conditions that draw surfers, windsurfers, and kiteboarders from all over the world. Hurricane season officially ends on November 30.

Hawaii Weather in December

December is the rainiest month for most of the Hawaiian Islands. (The Big Island gets the most rain in January.) There are still many sunny days on the drier leeward sides of the islands. Pack a raincoat but leave the winter coats at home—temperatures remain in the 70s.

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Events in Hawaii by Month

Hula girl statue next to cups

Hawaii hosts dozens of festivals and events throughout the year. It also celebrates all United States federal holidays, as well as three state holidays: Prince Kuhio Day on March 26, King Kamehameha Day on June 11, and Hawaii Admission Day on August 16. Festivals and holidays can lead to some unexpected crowds and closures, but the colorful Hawaiian traditions and celebratory spirit on display may well be the most memorable experiences of your trip.

Events in January

Narcissus Festival, Oahu: Honolulu’s Chinatown hosts lion and dragon dances, food, craft booths, and dazzling fireworks to welcome the Chinese New Year.

Sentry Tournament of Champions, Maui: The Kapalua Resort draws top pro golfers to this calendar-year opening tournament on the Professional Golf Association tour.

Events in February

Maui Whale Festival, Maui: Music, food tents, and a kids’ “eco-day conference” call attention to the migrating humpbacks that winter in Hawaiian waters.

Panaewa Rodeo Stampede, Big Island: Bull-riding, barrel racing, calf-roping, and other competitions show off the skills of the Hawaiian cowboy, or paniolo.

Events in March

Kona Brewers Festival, Big Island: Plenty of craft beers, island cuisine, and a home-brewer competition come together to raise money for Big Island nonprofits.

Honolulu Festival, Oahu: Traditional art, dance, food, and a spectacular parade celebrate ethnic harmony among the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim.

Events in April

Merrie Monarch Festival, Big Island: Considered the “Olympics of Hula,” the week-long celebration features competitions, music shows, parades, and more.

Waikiki Spam Jam, Oahu: Hawaii’s favorite canned meat stars in an array of creative dishes at this block party of food tents, crafts, and music.

Events in May

Lei Day, all islands: Hawaii’s iconic flower garlands abound on May 1, along with lei-making contests and other activities. The largest Lei Day event takes place in Waikiki Beach at Kapiolani Park.

Lantern Floating Ceremony, Oahu: Thousands of paper lanterns are illuminated and set afloat at sunset on Memorial Day, honoring those lost in service to their country.

Events in June

King Kamehameha Day, all islands: Lei-draping ceremonies, floral parades, and hula festivals honor the iconic Hawaiian leader on June 11.

Pan Pacific Festival, Oahu: Pageantry, culture, arts, and food from countries across the Pacific region come together in this colorful three-day event, with stage performances and a large parade. 

Events in July

Ukulele Festival Hawaii, Oahu: Guest performers and a ukulele orchestra of more than 800 children take the stage at this melodious free event.

Koloa Plantation Days, Kauai: Hawaii’s sugar industry is celebrated with music, dance, culinary demonstrations, and a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) rodeo weekend.

Prince Lot Hula Festival, Oahu: Hawaii’s largest non-competitive hula event, showcasing both traditional and modern styles, is held at the royal Iolani Palace. 

Events in August

Made in Hawaii Festival, Oahu: Thousands attend this annual shopping extravaganza in Honolulu, Hawaii’s largest and most diverse marketplace of island-made products.

Na Pali Race, Kauai: Elite paddlers race 17 miles along the Na Pali Coast, with proceeds supporting the natural and cultural resources of the coastline.

Events in September

Aloha Festivals, all islands: A floral parade in Waikiki is the star event of this statewide celebration honoring the diverse customs and traditions of Hawaii.

Taste of the Hawaiian Range, Big Island: This agriculture festival in Waimea is focused on sharing food and knowledge of local farms and ranches, with workshops and an evening “taste gala.”

Events in October 

Ironman World Championship, Big Island: Athletes from around the world compete in triathlon’s most famous suffer-fest, a grueling swim, bike race, and marathon on the Big Island.

Coconut Festival, Kauai: Foods, crafts, games, and cooking demonstrations and contests celebrate all aspects of this enduring Polynesian food staple.

Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, Oahu and Maui: An array of tastings, seminars, dinners, and parties feature master chefs and culinary personalities.

Events in November

Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, Oahu: The world’s top-ranked surfers take on the famed surf breaks of Oahu’s North Shore in a trio of prestigious surf competitions to name the year’s all-around champion. It continues into December.

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Big Island: Tastings, competitions, and coffee farm tours highlight a 10-day celebration of the Big Island’s world-renowned beverage.

Hawaii International Film Festival, all islands: The premier showcase for emerging works from the Pacific Rim begins in Honolulu, then moves to the Big Island, Kauai, and Maui later in the month.

Events in December

Kauai Festival of Lights, Kauai: Thousands of lights and decorations made from recycled and reclaimed materials kick off the holiday season at Lihue’s Historic County Building.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Oahu: Ceremonial activities include a “Missing Man” flyover, Marine Corps Pacific Band performance, and peace symposium.

Cheapest Month to Fly to Hawaii

plane flying over city in hawaii

Traditionally, travelers can find the lowest fares to Hawaii in the low season months of April, May, September, and October. But it’s wise to monitor fare-watch apps like Hopper, and search sites like CheapAir.com and SmarterTravel sister site Airfarewatchdog.com. Sometimes, surprising values pop up, such as good deals in January right after the holiday season. Most apps let you put in alerts (push notifications) for fare sales. The more flexibility you have with your travel dates, the better deals you’re likely to nab.

You’ll typically find the best fares flying into Honolulu (HNL); but if you’re visiting other Hawaiian Islands, also check fares for airports on Maui (OGG), the Big Island (KOA), and Kauai (LIH).

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Most Expensive Months to Fly to Hawaii

The Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays are always popular times to visit Hawaii, so expect fares to be higher and seats to sell out. Book as early as possible for holiday seasons, especially if you’ll be flying on the weekend. Late June and July is another busy—and therefore, expensive—time.

Flying into Hawaii

Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is the gateway to Hawaii for the majority of U.S. and international travelers.

You can fly direct to Honolulu from more than 30 cities across North America, Asia, and Australia. Most major U.S. airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest, and United, offer nonstop service from North America. A growing number of discount airlines serve HNL, too, including Allegiant and WestJet. The Bus, operated by the City and County of Honolulu, offers convenient and inexpensive transportation between Honolulu International Airport and several downtown locations.

Travelers from the mainland can also fly direct to Maui (OGG), the Big Island (KOA), and Kauai (LIH) on regional carriers like Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. Most of these nonstop flights originate from West Coast cities like Anchorage, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as well as Denver and Phoenix.

If you’re planning to visit more than one Hawaiian island on your vacation, Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, and others offer frequent inter-island flights. Learn more about Hawaii air connections here.

Hotel Prices in Hawaii

Similar to airfares, hotel prices are highest during the busy Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays. Try to book three months out or more for the holidays, since many hotels sell out. June, July, and August—popular family vacation months—also are more expensive than other times of the year. The cheapest times to book a room in Hawaii are May and late October/early November. Oahu has cheaper average rates year-round than the other islands, probably because of the sheer volume of rooms. Maui is the most expensive island for lodging.

Things to Know Before Visiting Hawaii

hotel room with a view in hawaii

Hawaii may be part of the United States, but in many ways, it feels like its own country. The Hawaiian Islands proudly maintain their own unique history, culture, customs, food, and language. Take a little time to learn the local ways and you’ll enjoy a richer, more rewarding vacation. The spirit of aloha is more than a greeting; it is a spirit of kindness, virtue, and tolerance that has enabled islanders from a wide range of backgrounds to come together and live peaceably side by side for generations.

To practice the aloha spirit, it helps to do a little reading on important things to know before visiting Hawaii, and consider the following tips.

Embrace island time: Island time is a change of mindset. Perhaps it comes from living on a remote island, where residents learned long ago that they can’t always have what they want right away. Accept that things may not happen as precisely as they do at home. Leave impatience and stress at home—you’re on vacation, after all.

Taste local flavors: Take advantage of the opportunity to try Hawaiian foods, such as fresh pineapple, mango, and other fruits; macadamia nuts; haupia, a coconut-flavored pudding; shave ice, a frozen treat; poke, diced marinated raw fish; and kalua, roast pig. Ubiquitous food trucks often serve authentic local dishes as part of a “plate lunch.” Farmers’ markets are a great source of local ingredients and a good value over expensive restaurants.

Be sensitive to the environment: Do your part to tread lightly on the land while visiting Hawaii. Don’t pick flowers or collect live shells from the beach. Avoid single-use, disposable plastic products. Stay on marked trails when hiking. Don’t touch or stand on coral—you may get a nasty infection, kill the coral, or both. Use only eco-friendly sunscreens free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, which harm coral reefs. When choosing outfitters and tour guides, look for tour operators certified by the Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii—and let them know that’s why you selected them.

Be sensitive to locals: Use native-owned and locally owned companies when possible for tours and excursions. Respect the informal rules of “locals-only” surf spots and neighborhood beaches. There’s plenty of shoreline to go around.

Be safe: Hawaii’s natural beauty is magnificent—but can be dangerous to those unaccustomed to it. Be careful on hiking trails, which can be slippery and often pass near sharp drop-offs masked by dense vegetation. Pacific beaches can have powerful waves, rip currents, and strong undertow. Heed warnings and don’t swim alone. Violent crime in Hawaii is rare, but vehicle break-ins are relatively common. Never leave anything of value in a car, even out of sight in the trunk.

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Tina Lassen writes about travel, outdoor recreation and the natural world, and is currently working on a guidebook about North American wildlife watching. Find her at tinalassen.com and @writerlassen.

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Passenger Rights

How to Prevent Flight Delays (and What to Do If They Happen Anyway)

From bad weather to equipment failure, there are a million little things that can and do go wrong when people travel by air. Every passenger will, at some point, experience hiccups en route to their chosen destination. In 2019, there were more than one million flight delays—around 19 percent of all flights—and almost 120,000 flight cancellations (just over 2 percent), according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Unfortunately, what you should do when these incidents happen is not always so clear.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to lessen the inconvenience and minimize your chances of an airport delay before you’ve even booked your trip.

Why Are Flights Delayed?

When an airline reports a delay, it is placed in one of five categories created by the Air Carrier On-Time Reporting Advisory Committee, which, yes, is very much a thing. They include:

Extreme Weather: According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, weather woes made up around 38 percent of all delays in 2018. That includes snowstorms, hurricanes, and any other meteorological condition that prevents the carrier from making the flight.

National Aviation System: America’s crumbling infrastructure system has become a key talking point for both political parties, and that includes neglected airports and an outdated air traffic control network. These conditions make it difficult to manage the growing volume of flights and result in delays.

Security Concerns: If your flight has ever been delayed during a government shutdown, it was most likely flagged as a security-related issue. These types of delays are a result of snags in airport security operations such as broken screening equipment, security breaches, or excessively long wait times.

Late-Arriving Aircraft: This is an all-too-familiar scenario for most flyers. Your departure time has come and gone, but you’re still waiting around the gate for your plane to arrive from its previous city.

Air Carrier: This means the delay was entirely within the control of the airline, sometimes referred to in an airline’s contract of carriage as “irregular operations.” Mechanical issues and crew problems would fall under this category. Unlike force majeure events, irregular operations put airlines on the hook, which is why they aren’t always so forthcoming with the reason for these types of delays.

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10 Ways to Prevent or Cope with Flight Delays

Nothing throws a wrench into your travel plans quite like airport delays. The secret is to reduce your risk of experiencing them and have coping mechanisms ready to prevent flight delays from spoiling your trip.

Check On-Time Performance

First things first, check the on-time performance stats for your flight before booking. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation allows you to search historical data by flight number, as well as compare by airline or even by airport. Sites like FlightAware and FlightStats also provide flight data, though not quite as thorough. If a flight you’re considering has a history of delays or cancellations, you might want to consider an alternative.

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Choose an Early Flight

No one likes schlepping to the airport before sunrise, but being on the first flight of the day has its perks. Early flights won’t yet be affected by delays that ripple through the route system as the day progresses, meaning they are more likely to take off on time. Not only are these early-bird flights typically on schedule, but, because of their unpopular departure times, they are often among the cheapest fares. You’ll be on time and a few bucks richer.

Book a Nonstop Flight

There’s a reason nonstop flights are sometimes more expensive than connecting flights; they could save you significant hassle. If you’re struggling to justify splurging on a nonstop, think of it as reducing your chances for delay by half.

If nonstop flights aren’t available, or that cheap connecting fare is just too low to resist, at least choose your connection city wisely. When flying in the middle of winter, you’ll probably encounter fewer weather-related delays in warmer hub cities like Phoenix, Houston, or Atlanta. In summer, some airports have better on-time ratings than others, so take that into account when selecting your route.

Also consider using smaller airports and avoid busy airline hubs whenever possible. “Secondary” airports are usually less congested and less prone to delays.

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Be Proactive at the Gate

If boarding hasn’t started and your flight is scheduled to depart in 10 minutes, it’s safe to assume something is amiss. Gate agents aren’t always the quickest to announce a delay, and it’s possible your plane hasn’t even arrived from whichever city it’s coming from. If you don’t see a plane waiting at your gate, you can check its current whereabouts by searching for the flight number on FlightAware.com to get a sense of how much longer you’ll be waiting until it arrives.

Make sure you’re signed up for text or email alerts from your airline, as these sometimes come even before the delay has been officially called out at the gate.

In the immediate moments after a cancellation or serious delay has been announced, resist the urge to join the angry mob at the gate counter. By the time you reach the front of the line, all the available seats on the next flight might have already been snatched up. Instead, dial the airline’s customer service department as you make your way to a less frenzied general ticketing counter elsewhere in the terminal.

When you do finally speak with an agent, in person or on the phone, be polite. No matter how inconvenienced or angry you may be, yelling at an airline rep isn’t likely to improve your situation.

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Know Your Rights in Case of Mechanical Issues

In cases where the delay or cancellation is caused by “irregular operations” such as a mechanical problem, some airlines will rebook you on the next available flight, even if it happens to be on a competing airline. Not all airlines will do this, and even the ones that do might hesitate to offer until prodded by you. To find out exactly what your airline’s policies are on delays and cancellations, study up on its contract of carriage. All fine print and legalese, it’s certainly not the most exciting read, but it can be useful when things go wrong.

Before you fly, have a copy of your airline’s contract of carriage at the ready, printed or on your smartphone, should you need to refer to it. SmarterTravel’s air passenger rights guide is also worth saving and having close to hand.

In the chaotic aftermath of a cancellation, it’s entirely possible that your frazzled airline rep may not be aware of every alternative itinerary to get you to your destination. Research other possible routes in advance and be prepared to offer up other flights that work for you. If you search for a few flights on other airlines within a few hours of your original flight, you’re way ahead of the game when you try to transfer your ticket to another airline. Ultimately, the original airline has to sign off on the transfer.

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Check the Weather Before You Go

Weather forecasting is pretty reliable 48 to 72 hours out, so be on the lookout for any potential situations that could cause an airport delay.

No time to keep your eye on the brewing storms? KnowDelay can do it for you. The service uses weather tracking and airline flight schedules to predict whether your flight might be impacted by poor weather—at no charge. It covers 36 of the United States’ busiest airports. Create an account to track your flights and receive alerts as far as three days in advance about potential weather problems. You can decide ahead of time to rebook your flight before it’s canceled.

Know Your Rights When Flights Are Delayed or Canceled Due to Weather

When a particularly nasty storm causes thousands of flights to be delayed or canceled, the airlines are in a mad scramble to reschedule and accommodate passengers however they can. If weather conditions appear just as iffy in your connecting city, you can ask to be rerouted through a different one.

The rules vary by airline, but refer back to your airline’s contract of carriage for details on what they’re willing to do for you in the event of excessive delays and cancellations. Some may provide meal or hotel vouchers. They don’t always offer, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Most airlines waive change fees during major weather events, so you can reschedule even before you get to the airport. If you’re not thrilled with your rebooking options available, you may request a refund even when your original ticket is nonrefundable.

[st_related]What Are My Rights in a Winter Storm Cancellation?[/st_related]

Consider Getting a Hotel Reservation

Some hotels don’t charge your card until you show up at the front desk, so it’s usually safe to book a room and cancel if your flight does take off reasonably on time. Make sure to check the cancellation policy first before booking. (Many hotels will charge you if you don’t cancel at least 24 hours in advance.)

When an airport delay happens, you won’t be the only one scrambling for an airport-adjacent hotel room at the last minute. Beat the crowds by outsmarting them: Add a last-minute hotel-booking app or two to your smartphone, so if you do need to grab a hotel room you can do it fast.

Save Key Numbers in Your Phone

You don’t need the memory of an elephant to be able to call a reservation site, a hotel, your airline, or any travel company. Just save these numbers in your phone before your trip starts. Include the numbers for your airline, a nearby airport hotel, and your booking site or travel agent, if you used one. (If you have elite status of any kind, use the phone number for frequent flyers to get better service.)

Buy Travel Insurance

Many travel insurance policies include coverage that will cover hotel rooms, meals, or other expenses associated with flight delays. Of course, you’ll need to purchase before your trip to have that protection. Any storm system that develops before you buy a policy will likely be excluded from coverage.

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Tracy Stewart is a content editor at Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site. His travel advice has been featured in outlets including the Washington Post, Consumer Reports, and Frommer’s.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ed Hewitt, Christine Sarkis, Jessica Labrencis, and Michele Sponagle contributed to this story.

Categories
Active Travel Fashion & Beauty

11 Best Travel-Friendly Boots for Fall

Even the most seasoned travelers find fall packing to be a challenge. Will there be a random hot day followed by a cold and rainy evening, or a frosty morning that gives way to a warm, breezy afternoon? A good traveler should always be prepared. After all, nothing puts a damper on walking around a new city like cold, wet feet. Here are eleven boots that are perfect for fall weather, plus are packed with travel-friendly features like secret pockets and sneaker technology.[st_content_ad]

Rothy’s The Chelsea

Rothy's the chelsea.

Cult-favorite travel shoe brand Rothy’s just expanded into the boots category: Their new Chelseas are perfect for fall. These stylish booties are made from repurposed water bottles, making them ultra-lightweight, sustainable, and machine washable. A back pull tab makes these easy to slide out of at airport security.

Baffin Packables Rain Boot

Baffin packables rain boot.

You don’t want to be stranded without rain boots if you’re headed somewhere with wet weather, but they sure do take up a lot of luggage room. Unlike most, these boots by Baffin take up almost no space because they roll up and store neatly into an included carry pouch. This brand beats out similar, cheaper styles thanks to the removable insole that make them comfortable for long walks.

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FrancoSarto Happily Bootie

FrancoSarto happily bootie

FrancoSarto’s Happily Bootie are the must-have boots for any city breaks this fall. The classic leather style will pair with any outfit, while a shock-absorbing sole makes these comfortable to walk all day and all night in.

Vionic Bowery Chase Chukka Boot

Vionic bowery chase chukka boot

Vionic’s Bowery Chase Chukka boot will complete your travel wardrobe this fall. The leather upper works with jeans or a business look, while the weather-resistant upper protects you from rain or snow. You’ll walk confidently in these knowing that they’ve received the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

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Journee Collection Pocket Boot

Journee collection pocket boot.

Who needs a purse when you’ve got the Journee Collection Pocket Boot? These over-the-knee boots have a hidden pocket inside that can hold your smartphone, cash, and credit cards, offering easy access for you—but not pickpockets.

Arcopedico L31D Tall Riding Boots

Arcopedico l31d tall riding boots.

Don’t weigh down your luggage with bulky boots—the Arcopedico L31D Riding Boots weigh just nine ounces. Even better? They’re machine washable, so you can just toss them in the washer after every trip. In between washes, the “Sansmell” deodorizing system is anti-microbial to keep your feet smelling fresh.

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White Mountain Dalby Suede Bootie

White mountain dalby suede bootie.

Add a bit of height without the pain in White Mountain’s Dalby Suede Bootie. The stable, small stacked heel gives you a little lift to elevate your look. The almond-shaped toe and plush suede upper make these booties extra comfortable.

Aetrex Chelsea Riding Boot

Aetrex chelsea riding boot.

Riding boots are on-trend for fall, but cheaper pairs can be flimsy and unsupportive with no arch support. Not so with the Aetrex Chelsea Riding Boot, which features the “Aetrex Healthy Three” of arch support, memory foam cushioning, and anti-microbial technology. This trio will keep your foot properly aligned, unfatigued, and bacteria-free.

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Red Wing Heritage Chelsea Boot

Red wing chelsea boot

Booties have become a fall style staple in the last few years, and they’re perfect for travel; they offer more warmth than flats but are easier to pack than tall boots. Red Wing Heritage’s Chelsea Boot has a classic and clean design that will look good with any outfit. A leather loop in the back makes these easy to pull on and off. These boots are ready for wet weather, thanks to an outsole with a Goodyear welt and Vibram mini-lug to keep you steady on your feet. Made from Red Wing Heritage’s signature premium leather, the Chelsea boots will mold to your feet as you wear them, making a custom fit.

Rockport Waterproof Storm Surge Toe Boot

Rockport waterproof storm surge toe boot.

If the forecast calls for wet weather, pack Rockport’s Storm Surge boots, which are small enough not to dominate a carry-on and comfortable enough to wear on the plane. These boots are constructed using a trademarked Hydro-Shield Waterproof process, which uses seam-sealing, waterproof insoles, and a waterproof outer to keep you completely dry.

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DailyShoes Pocket Boots

DailyShoes pocket boots.

Pack these boots by DailyShoes and go purse-free, thanks to the secret wallet pocket that’s built in. This small zippered pouch can hold your cash, credit card, keys, and more. Plus, these comfortable walking boots come in colors to match any outfit.

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Caroline Morse Teel believes a good pair of fall boots can make or break a trip. Follow her fashionable adventures on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

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
Travel Technology

The 5 Most Accurate Weather Apps to Help You Pack for Your Next Trip

Frustrated by being left cold and wet by weather apps that didn’t predict a rainstorm or estimated a much higher temperature than reality, I decided to put some weather apps to the test to see which ones were the most accurate.[st_content_ad]

I downloaded a number of weather apps and used them for a month to see which ones worked best for predicting weather in my city. I then compared the list to ForecastAdvisor, which compiles data on the accuracy of weather apps. These five were the winners.

Foreca

foreca weather app.

Foreca supplies forecasts to news stations, cities, and other businesses, but it also provides a consumer weather app for free. This app consistently ranked the highest on ForecastAdvisor for accuracy in a number of cities across the country. For Boston, this app was accurate 81.69 percent of the time last year.

Foreca is simple and easy-to-use. It shows the day’s high and low temperatures at a glance, as well as times for sunrise and sunset, humidity, and wind speed. One click will show you hour-by-hour weather, and you can see the forecast for over a week in advance.

This app uses ads, but they are fairly unobtrusive at the bottom of the screen.

Hello Weather

hello weather app.

Hello Weather combines forecasts from Dark Sky, AccuWeather, The Weather Company, and AerisWeather into one app. You can choose to use one source for free, or pay to be able to switch back and forth between providers.

Hello Weather is free to use, or you can upgrade for $6.99 per year to the pro version, which includes radar maps, real-time precipitation estimates, and more.

Both the free and paid versions have a clean interface that easily shows you the essential aspects of the forecast on one screen. At a glance, you’ll see a timeline of the temperature over the day and the forecast for the week. Hello Weather aims to make the forecast easy to understand, so it will give an explanation after numbers. For example, “humidity is 50 percent and feels comfortable.”

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Carrot

carrot weather app.

If you prefer to have your weather delivered with a side of humor, download CARROT Weather. You can set this app’s personality on a scale of “professional” to “overkill,” depending on the level of snark (and profanity) you’d like to receive.

CARROT’s default forecast source is Dark Sky (which was rated at 73.60 percent accuracy by ForecastAdvisor for Boston last year).

The basic CARROT app costs $4.99 to download, and there are a number of membership tiers to get additional features such as severe weather notifications or the ability to switch between other weather sources.

CARROT’S interface is cute, with bright graphics and funny sayings, but it still shows you everything you need to know about the forecast in one glance. The main page shows the temperature, what it feels like, precipitation, wind speed, and the hourly forecast, plus predictions for the next four days. Scroll through the bottom to see the forecast for the rest of the week, or through the middle to see the extended hourly forecast.

Weather Underground

weather underground app.

Weather Underground consistently ranked high in ForecastAdvisor’s most accurate apps list for most cities around the country. In Boston, it was accurate 79.71 percent of the time last year.  This app is free to downloaded, but does display a lot of ads.

Weather Underground allows you to bookmark a number of different locations, so you can easily switch between forecasts in different areas. The app shows the current temperature, the high and low for the day, and will also tell you if the temperature will be significantly hotter or cooler than the day before. You can also view the hourly and 10-day forecasts, plus a calendar view of historical average low and high temperatures for a month-long period.

Note that this app is owned by The Weather Channel, which has some privacy concerns as noted below.

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The Weather Channel

the weather channel app.

The Weather Channel app is usually first or second place in accuracy on ForecastAdvisor’s list, but I’m including it on this list with a caveat: the app’s operator is currently embroiled in a lawsuit brought by the city of Los Angeles, which alleges that the Weather Channel app has been mining the private data of users, including location data, and selling it to third parties, without the knowledge of app users.

This app is free, but expect to see plenty of advertisements.

The Weather Channel app allows you to see hourly, 10-day, and long-term historical forecasts, and the format is easy to use. If you don’t mind sharing your data, this app is one of the more accurate free weather apps on the market.

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Caroline Morse Teel has a healthy distrust of most weather apps. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.

Categories
Health & Wellness Security

How to Survive a Hurricane in a Hotel Room

While waiting on a rental car at the Cabo airport, someone mentioned it might rain. I didn’t think much of it at the time, as it was about then that my wife returned with our rental car and we started our vacation. But it did rain that weekend—Hurricane Odile dumped 15 inches of rain on us.

We were very fortunate that the hotel where we stayed had water, food, and limited generator power. Even so, being trapped in a disaster zone has its challenges. We had to wait four days before we could be evacuated. The days after the storm were not as scary as the storm itself, but were more trying.

Riding out a hurricane in a hotel room—and being stranded for days afterward in a severely damaged tourist destination—gave me a lot of time to consider what I wish I had known in advance, what we did right, and what I’d do differently next time. Here’s what to know if you find yourself vacationing in a hurricane.

Before the Storm: Evacuate Early or Hunker Down

One of the first questions people ask me is if we thought about getting out of town. The answer is no. No one really seemed convinced it would make landfall, so it didn’t really cross our minds. From the stories I heard from other evacuees, going to the airport less than 16 hours before a storm is a bad idea. Most people that went the morning of the storm had to shelter at the Cabo airport. If you are going to try to get out, leave the day before. If you can’t get a flight, the hotel seems like a better place to be. And if you do make a break for the airport, make sure the hotel will let you back in if your flight is canceled.

How to survive a hurricane in hotel.
Hotel damage after Hurricane Odile

During the Storm: Prepare the Room

I foolishly assumed that we could ride out the storm in our room. My wife, Christina, smartly packed all of our stuff in case we needed to move quickly. We also put our shoes by the door. This turned out to be very useful as we did have to be pulled out of our room after the sliding glass doors exploded. Now, before they exploded, we closed the heavy curtains. It was scary not being able to see what was happening outside, but it did keep much of the glass from showering the room. Christina also dragged the easy chair into the bathroom, which gave good cover when the doors blew out.

During the Storm: Expect Physical Sensations

Here are some strange things you might experience as the storm makes landfall. I mention this because knowing about it might help in a stressful moment. The air pressure of Odile was really low for a Category 3 storm. When atmospheric pressure drops, your joints swell. This is why people with arthritis can predict the weather. If you have joint issues, make sure you have some anti-inflammatory pain medication on hand. Breathing is also strange. Because the air pressure is lower, it feels almost too easy to breathe. Your ears will pop a lot, like they do when you’re flying in a plane. Right before the windows blew out, our toilet started making bizarre slurping sounds. I turned the pipe off because I was afraid it was going to flood, but in the end it was just the air pressure.

During the Storm: Get Equipped, Stay Busy

Some people we met after the storm told us that, before Odile hit, they went to a big box store to buy battery-powered lanterns, snacks, and Rummikub. Christina and I always carry a deck of cards, but having something to do during and after the storm is a good way to stay busy. If you buy candles, don’t get scented candles. I learned that the hard way during a power outage last summer. The stench was overpowering.

The Essentials: A First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit from Amazon

After the Storm: Find a Community

After the storm, it is imperative to try and forge some bonds of community with other folks. It is in everyone’s best interest to do this. I know it sounds over-dramatic, but “live together, die alone” was the theme of a show about castaways that was popular a few years back. Christina did most of the heavy lifting there, as I am more wary of strangers, but finding community was essential in the post-hurricane time. You will bond pretty quickly with people you meet in a situation like this; it’s hard not to. If you can find some people to laugh with, the whole thing is easier to deal with. The group we formed traveled to the airport together for the evacuation. It made that experience a lot easier, too. Having a few friends keeps morale high and helps add weight to the decisions you make.

how to survive a hurricane in hotel, line evacuate after storm.
Evacuation line at the airport

After the Storm: Stock Up on Post-Hurricane Supplies

The last thing is the most important: hydration. If you are in a place that gets a heavy-hitting hurricane, you are most likely somewhere warm. There is also a chance you will be in a spot where flooding could compromise the drinking water. If you have time and access, pick up some bottled water. If you can get purification tablets, they can help if you have a water source you don’t trust. Antidiarrheals are also good backup. We waited hours on the Cabo airport tarmac with no bathrooms. That is not a place you want to be caught unprepared.

Dress Prepared for a Hurricane

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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Guest blogger Nate McFadden is the cohost of the Alpine Strangers podcast.

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

Categories
Booking Strategy Health & Wellness Travel Trends

Does Travel Insurance Cover Weather Problems?

Big weather events like storms—and the many airline cancellations that result from them—always raise the question of the extent to which your travel insurance can help to recoup lost bookings when bad weather hits. Otherwise put as: “Does travel insurance cover weather problems?” The short answer is that some types do. But you’ll find lots of variation: Policies vary substantially in what they specify as “covered reasons” to provide payment.

What to Look for in Travel Insurance If You Want Protection from Weather Problems

You have to take a close look at the fine print details about the travel insurance’s conditions surrounding weather problems before you buy. Three different coverage types usually apply if you want your insurance to cover weather problems:

Trip Cancellation/Interruption (TCI)

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, or TCI, covers expenses caused by delay or cancellation that you can’t recover from your airline or hotel. TCI policies typically include a laundry list of “covered reasons” that qualify for this benefit, and almost all include at least some coverage for weather-related delays and cancellations:

  • Better policies promise, simply, that the insurer will pay, in the words of a top policy, because of “inclement weather causing delay or cancellation of travel.” That’s pretty straightforward: If weather problems cancel or delays your trip, the insurer pays.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, other policies hedge their coverage. Quite a few pay the cancellation only for a delay lasting at least 24 hours; quite a few also limit payout to “weather that causes complete cessation of services of your common carrier for at least 24 consecutive hours.”
  • The main exception is that a disruptive weather event must be unforeseen at the time you buy the insurance. If the National Hurricane Center has already located and named a possible upcoming storm, insurance purchased after that time would not cover a weather delay.
  • Policies don’t agree on definitions of “weather.” I haven’t seen any policies that would have covered last year’s extended West Coast forest fires and smoke as covered reasons.
  • According to John Cook, president of travel insurance agency QuoteWright, “total” doesn’t mean that an airline has to shut down its entire system; it refers to service in the areas on your itinerary. Still, “complete cessation” is an unsettling loophole.

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Airlines almost always waive ticket-change fees and fare increases for travelers on canceled or delayed flights and allow them to rebook on later—and sometimes earlier—flights. But those waivers severely limit the time frame to rebook and the time frame to take an alternate flight. If you can’t, or don’t, want to rebook and fly within those narrow limits, you face the likelihood of a change fee, a fare increase, or both. And airlines don’t let you rebook to a different city, even if it’s relatively convenient: Milwaukee instead of Chicago, for example, or Oakland instead of San Francisco.

“Delay” Coverage

Most bundled trip insurance also includes a “delay” benefit: payment that covers your incidental expenses when you’re caught in a delay. As with TCI, delay coverage kicks in for a variety of circumstances, such as a traffic accident en route to a terminal or a natural disaster, and most include delays due to weather.

Typically, airlines are not responsible for covering food and lodging expenses you incur due to a weather delay, a hole that travel insurance can fill. Typical coverages range from $100 to $250 per day; most establish a minimum time threshold of five to 12 hours. If you want this coverage, look for a policy paying at least $200 a day; $100 is not likely to cover an overnight stay plus meals. But many credit cards provide similar delay benefits at no cost, so you may not need a separate policy.

Missed Connection Coverage

Many bundled policies also cover cases where you miss a connection. As with delay coverage, policies vary: Total benefits range from $250 to $2,500. Most policies are limited to connections missed by three hours or more, and some low-end policies don’t cover missed connections at all. Normally, airlines take care of missed connections due to weather; this coverage is geared more to missing cruise and tour departures, but it can also apply to separate-ticket flights on different airlines.

QuoteWright has posted a comprehensive table listing weather-related benefits and limits for 32 different policies from all the big suppliers. It also shows ratings of those policies for their weather coverage: Top-rated policies include Travel Insurance Select from USI, CSA’s Custom Luxe, and Travelex’s Travel Max. If you’re considering weather insurance, try comparing those plans.

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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.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Booking Strategy Health & Wellness

Hurricanes and Travel: What Your Options Are When One Threatens Your Vacation

Do you know what to do if a hurricane strikes your vacation destination? The course of action for canceling a trip and/or trying to get a refund vary depending on the trip. From buying travel insurance to rescheduling flights, here’s everything you need to know about hurricanes and travel.

Airlines

All airlines follow the same general pattern. If your scheduled flight to/from an airport within a specified impact zone within a stated period is cancelled due to a hurricane at either end of the flight, you have two general options:

  • If you want to get on with your trip, you can rebook an available seat to the same destination in the same cabin with no change fee and at the same fare, within a limited time, usually just a few weeks. If you want to reschedule a flight beyond that date, you face paying at whatever the going fare is at the time—and maybe a change fee. Airline policies generally say you “may” be subject to a change fee rather than you “will” be charged, but that sort of vague proposition doesn’t help with post-hurricane planning. My guess is that most travelers “will” have to pay. In effect, you’re no better off than if you had cancelled the flight, yourself.
  • If you want to abort your trip, you are entitled to a full refund, even on a totally nonrefundable ticket.

Airlines have become quite pro-active in severe weather events, cancelling trips as soon as a threat is recognized rather than waiting until the event actually hits.

Although all airlines follow the same general policy, details differ. The most significant detail is how much time the airline gives you for a replacement flight without triggering a fare difference or change penalty. Even the most generous of these policies is too tight for many trips. If your cancelled trip was to visit friends or relatives, for example, presumably they would need more than a couple of weeks to recover from any substantial damage to their homes or disruptions of their lives. And local hotels and resorts may well take months to recover.

Obviously, if you need to get to your destination ASAP, even up to a week or two late, and if your original ticket is at a good fare, take the airline’s no-fee, short-term rebook option. The downside may be limited availability of replacement seats. But if you don’t have a great fare you want to lock in, by all means, forget about immediate rescheduling and get your refund: You have a lot more flexibility about rescheduling.

[st_related]How to Get a Refund on a Nonrefundable Ticket [/st_related]

Cruises During Hurricanes

Hurricanes can hit almost any Atlantic, Caribbean, or Gulf coast port. If you’re on a cruise scheduled to leave from an impacted seaport, or scheduled to visit an impacted port, presumably your cruise line will reschedule your cruise for another time, reschedule your itinerary, or offer you a credit toward a future cruise.

Unlike airlines, cruise lines have wide loopholes in their contracts that allow them to change itineraries without your right to a refund. Accordingly, they’re unlikely to offer an actual refund, instead limiting you to a future cruise credit. And that can be sticky: Some cruise credits require that you rebook a substitute sailing within six months, which is not practical for many travelers.

Given how stingy cruise lines are when dealing with irregular operations, consider trip-cancellation insurance (TCI) when you buy a cruise, even if you don’t normally buy it.

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Hotels and Vacation Rentals

No rules or regulations other than general contract law cover your rights with hotel and rental bookings. And big hotel chains and resorts may or may not make proactive cancellations and re-bookings due to severe weather. An inquiry to one giant hotel chain asking specifically about cancellations and refunds returned a bland statement about support for victims and nothing at all about cancellations and refunds. A website statement at HomeAway, the giant vacation rental agency, simply suggests you contact property owners or managers.

Clearly, I found nothing specific or even reassuring from any hotel or vacation rental source. That means, realistically, you’re on your own to negotiate the best deal you can with the property. Although you should get a full refund, the supplier might not offer it, instead offering credit toward a future stay. Fighting in court may or may not be justified by the amounts involved. Instead, buy TCI.

[st_related]Travel Insurance Coverage: 13 Things Your Policy Won’t Cover [/st_related]

Travel Insurance and Hurricanes

TCI can minimize financial risks of having a hurricane hit your flight, cruise or vacation destination. Natural disasters such as hurricanes are a “covered reason” for cancellation on almost all policies, and they pay whatever you can’t recover from an airline, cruise line, hotel, or vacation rental. TCI is especially important in the case of a cruise, resort, or vacation rental, where your right to a refund, if any, is limited by a supplier’s typically unilateral and self-serving policies

One problematic area in TCI is common to most policies: Typically, TCI policies limit coverage to circumstances, even covered reasons, that are “unforeseen” at the time you buy the policy. So if you buy TCI when a tropical depression in the Atlantic or Gulf has already headed toward landfall somewhere along the coast, maybe even with a diagram from the National Weather Service, “foreseeable” is problematic. And if you wait to buy it until after a hurricane or major storm has been identified or named, insurance won’t cover you.

For maximum protection and minimum risk, buy TCI as soon as you make a substantial nonrefundable payment, and buy it from a third-party insurance agency, not from the airline, cruise line, or tour operator—the coverage is better. If you really want to minimize risk and be in full control of your options, buy a “cancel for any reason” TCI policy.

What to Pack for Your Next Vacation

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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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.

This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Cities Entertainment Family Travel

The Ultimate Super Bowl LIII Atlanta Visitor Guide 2019

The Super Bowl is football’s biggest showdown and a huge event that’s watched not just across America, but across the world. People tune in to see some of the world’s best athletes battle for the championship. They also tune in to see the dazzling halftime show, as well as the irreverent commercials. And each year, a lucky few get to see the game in person.

Below is a handy travel guide with everything you need to know about Super Bowl 2019,  which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.

When Is Super Bowl LIII 2019?

The day NFL fans look forward to this year is February 3, 2019. It’s the 53rd Super Bowl, taking place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium—the first time the game has been played in Atlanta since the year 2000. The game will be played between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.

Where Is the Super Bowl?

This year’s Super Bowl takes place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (1 AMB Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30313) in downtown Atlanta, near Vine City.

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Amenities at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is relatively new—it opened in fall 2017—but it’s already much loved. The home of the Atlanta Falcons features a retractable roof and the world’s largest 360-degree halo-screen scoreboard, as well as self-serve fountain drinks with free refills, strong Wi-Fi, and reasonable food prices. The stadium is designed so that most seats offer an excellent view. Those who are interested can book a guided tour of the entire stadium.

Who Is Performing at the Super Bowl 2019?

The Super Bowl halftime show, formally known as the Pepsi Halftime Show, is always epic. Previous years have spotlighted the world’s biggest stars, including Beyonce, Prince, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake.

This year the headliner will be Maroon 5, with lead singer Adam Levine taking center stage. At press time, there was still speculation as to whether special guests will appear with him, with Big Boi and rapper Travis Scott rumored to be among the potential cameos.

Leading up to the big game is the Bud Light Super Bowl LIII Music Fest, a three-night extravaganza happening January 31 through February 2 at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Headliners will include Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Post Malone, Aerosmith, Ludacris, and Migos.

Tips for Travelers: How Safe Is Atlanta?

The vast majority of visitors to Atlanta travel safely within the city. Gangs are active in certain Atlanta neighborhoods; if you avoid those areas, which include U-Rescue Villa, Old Fourth Ward, Kirkwood, and the general area southwest of the I-20 and I-85 interchange, you should remain safe (especially if you stay in Midtown, the suburbs, and Atlanta’s east side). That said, it’s always a good idea to stay alert for pickpockets, especially near crowded events like the Super Bowl.

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Things to Do in Atlanta: Top Tours and Attractions

Atlanta offers plenty of fun things to do, with excellent tours that let you take it all in. One particularly worthwhile private tour of Atlanta is called From Civil War to Civil Rights, which takes you to important battlefields as well as the memorable Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Fans of CNN can take its studio tour, or if The Walking Dead is more your speed, you can try out a Walking Dead Big Zombie Tour—if you dare.

For more ideas, see 10 Must-See Atlanta Attractions.

Traveling to Super Bowl 53 with Kids?

If you’re planning on taking your kids to the Super Bowl, first of all: lucky kids. Second of all: How are you planning to entertain your children before and after the big game?

I’ve got a few ideas for you on what to do in Atlanta with kids. Consider the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Zoo Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park, the excellent Georgia Aquarium—and, of course, the iconic World of Coca-Cola. For more ideas, check out SmarterTravel’s sister site, Family Vacation Critic.

Where to Eat in Atlanta

No matter what you’re looking to eat in Atlanta, you’ll find something satisfying for your taste and budget.

Atlanta’s best restaurants include Staplehouse, 1Kept, and Marcel, though if you’re more interested in saving a few bucks while still getting some great grub, head instead to one of Atlanta’s best places for cheap eats, including Aviva by Kameel, Victory Sandwich Bar, and Kwan’s Deli.

If you’re really looking to get a taste of the South while you’re in Atlanta, try Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Wisteria, or The Colonnade for some of the most authentic Southern cuisine anywhere.

[st_related]10 Great Spots to Try Southern Food in Atlanta[/st_related]

Where to Stay in Atlanta

Most Atlanta hotels near the Mercedes-Benz Stadium are fully booked during the dates surrounding the Super Bowl, though at the time of publication there was still some (pricey) availability at the Motel 6 Atlanta Downtown, as well as the Budgetel Savannah.

If you’re looking to offset the cost of your Super Bowl tickets, however, you’ll probably want to zoom out a distance from the stadium, where you might still find decent hotel deals in Atlanta.

[st_related]10 Best Cheap Hotels in Atlanta[/st_related]

Atlanta Weather: What’s It Like in Late Winter?

Winter in Atlanta tends to be cool, windy, and sometimes wet. Daytime highs usually hover in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, with nighttime lows dipping down into the mid-30s. In Atlanta, it tends to rain for about seven days out of each winter month.

Fashion in Atlanta: What to Pack for Atlanta in February

Packing for Atlanta can be tricky in early February, when rain and wind are quite possible—but semi-comfortable daytime weather is quite possible, too. The solution is to dress in layers, plus comfortable shoes and sunglasses—and for the Super Bowl (held after dark), pack for weather that approaches freezing, including a beanie, a solid coat, gloves, and wool socks.

In general, when you’re figuring out what to wear in Atlanta, keep in mind that the fashion sensibility here is modern and casual, with sneakers, vintage pieces, designer tees, and hats reigning supreme. Women can look current in a hip pair of booties, and men won’t look out of place in plaid.

And, of course, don’t forget to wear the colors of the Super Bowl team that you’ll be cheering for.

[st_related]What to Pack for Atlanta[/st_related]

Find Flights Now to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sits nine miles from Mercedes-Benz stadium, making for about a 15-minute drive, though that timing can depend a lot on traffic.

Head over to Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site, to find affordably priced flights to Atlanta.

Atlanta Transit: How to Get Around Atlanta

Atlanta is a car-heavy city, which means that highway systems are extensive and well maintained—but often clogged with endless traffic. Atlanta officials are bracing for intense Super Bowl traffic, since the city is expecting more than 150,000 additional people during the time of the big game, and some roads will be closed. The heavier traffic is expected to start about a week before the Super Bowl and last until February 4.

In fact, the Atlanta police department is advising people not to drive during the hours surrounding Super Bowl, asking people to take public transit, hire a car, or walk instead.

If you do choose to rent a car or drive your own into Atlanta, make sure to park it somewhere safe and well-lit, since vehicular larceny—a.k.a. car break-ins—is one of Atlanta’s most common crimes. Make sure, too, to hide any items that might invite smash-and-grab thieves in the glove compartment or trunk.

If you choose to use public transit, you can take comfort in the fact that MARTA—Atlanta’s rail and bus system—is actively preparing for crowd control and has made many preparations, including hiring dozens more police officers, to prevent delays and security issues for the time surrounding the February 3 game. There will also be more rail cars, buses arriving more frequently, and extra MARTA workers standing on the platforms to load trains quickly.

MARTA’s website offers additional reassurance: “During major events such as Super Bowl LIII, MARTA can easily transport you to key venues around the city like the Mercedes-Benz Stadium … without the hassle of traffic or parking.” Use the service’s trip planner to make sure yours goes smoothly, and check the site for game day reroutes. Always stay alert and vigilant on MARTA, especially after dark.

MARTA is also selling commemorative Super Bowl Breeze cards (one-day, three-day, or four-day pass) at Breezecard.com.

Hired-car services are also an option in Atlanta, though Super Bowl traffic might make it expensive to travel even just a short distance in an Uber or Lyft. As always, be cautious when using phone-based car services. Check to make sure that the driver and car match what comes up on your phone app. Don’t sit in the front seat if you can avoid it, and use the app’s “share” feature so that a loved one can track your location.

If you’re planning on walking, go in pairs or groups, especially at night, and keep your wits about you. Stick to well-lit, populated streets.

The Super Bowl website offers additional information for getting around Atlanta during the big game and surrounding events.

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Where to Buy Tickets to Super Bowl LIII

You can buy tickets straight from the Super Bowl website, where packages start at more than $3,000 per person and include an all-inclusive pregame party.

If you’re lucky, you could also win the lottery as a season ticket holder, or get them gifted via your work, as a client perk or some such.

But the main way to get Super Bowl tickets is by buying them on the resale market, known as the “secondary ticket industry.” Resellers typically sell them starting at $3,500 each, going up to $10,000 or more, depending on the seats you purchase and when you buy the tickets.

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—original reporting by Avital Andrews

Categories
Packing

The Best Packable Rain Gear for Travelers

Spring brings rain and unpredictable weather, which makes packing for spring vacations tricky. But you can travel prepared without sacrificing much space since packable rain gear and rain boots are more lightweight than ever before.

The Best Packable Rain Gear for Travelers

Not sure where to start? Below is the best packable rain gear to bring with you on your spring trip.

Nau Slight Anorak & Jacket

North Face’s Anorak for women and Castelli’s Meccanico Jacket for men both pack down into themselves as a space-saving technique. Both styles are wind- and water-resistant, making them the perfect companion for an urban spring trip. Made from PFC-free and sustainable materials, both versions are extremely lightweight for travel.

Price & Where to Buy: $105 for the women’s style on Backcountry and $112 for the men’s style on Backcountry.

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L.L. Bean Stowaway Rain Jacket with Gore-Tex

packable rain gear jacket
(Photo: L.L. Bean)

This L.L. Bean style has a traditional fit for a rain jacket and is waterproof yet breathable with durable Gore-Tex laminate. The style is available for both women and men. I love this packable rain jacket for travelers because it fits into its own pocket.

Price & Where to Buy: $199 and up for the women’s style on L.L. Bean’s website and $199 for the men’s style on L.L Bean’s website.

Cougar Swoon Rain Sneaker

packable rain gear shoes
(Photo: Amazon)

These super stylish rain sneakers by Cougar are made from handcrafted rubber and are guaranteed waterproof. Their non-bulky size makes them easy to pack, and they can most definitely be worn when it’s not raining. Available in five color options, these packable rain boots are a must for any traveler.

Price & Where to Buy: $25 and up on Amazon.

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Rockport Rugged Boots Waterproof Mudguard

packable rain gear leather shoes
(Photo: Amazon)

These lightweight and waterproof leather outdoor shoes are extremely comfortable and have Rockport-patented technology to prove it. The EVA outsole provides traction and shock impact; the Hydro-Shield waterproof leather keeps your feet dry; and the shoes have shock absorption and foot cushioning.

The shoes weigh only two pounds and are so versatile that they can do double duty for both outdoor activities and business trips. 

Price & Where to Buy: $60 and up on Amazon.

Kate Spade Sedgewick Rain Boots

packable rain gear boots
(Photo: Amazon)

Kate Spade’s latest rain boot style is a packable rain boot that’s so stylish you’ll want to wear them even when it’s not raining. The rubber boot is a heeled Chelsea-style rain boot with gold finishes for a stylish touch. These weigh less than most other rain boot styles, and you won’t need to bring another pair of boots because this pair is so versatile.

 Price & Where to Buy: $150 on Amazon.

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RainScarf & Hood to Go

packable rain gear hoods
(Photo: The Grommet)

If you’re looking to add some weather protection to your favorite jacket, then these two products will do the trick. Both are lightweight and small-sized, so they’re packable rain gear, and allow you to pack your favorite jacket.

Pack your favorite jacket and then add a layer of waterproofing with the RainScarf. This large, waterproof scarf keeps you warm and has a hood and two water-resistant pockets for holding your essentials.

The Grommet’s Hood To Go is a detachable hood anchored by a lightweight vest that can be worn under any jacket. The 100 percent water-resistant microfiber material is machine washable, and the hood comes with a purse pouch so it can be tucked away after use.

Price & Where to Buy: RainScarf: $23 on Amazon; Hood To Go: $25 on The Grommet).

Hoke Mini Compact Umbrella

packable rain gear umbrella
(Photo: Amazon)

The Mini Compact Umbrella by Hoke is lightweight (0.48 pounds) and stows as small as the palm of your hand (6.9 inches). And you don’t sacrifice size for space, since this umbrella uses six ribs and is larger than conventional five-folding umbrellas when open.

Price & Where to Buy: $25 on Amazon.

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Bago Lightweight Collapsible Backpack

packable rain gear

Bago’s collapsible backpack is comfortable to carry and is made of a water-resistant fabric, making it the perfect daypack for outdoor activities or walking tours. It folds small enough to fit into your pocket, and takes up minimal space in your suitcase.

Price & Where to Buy: $22 on Amazon.

[st_related]Rain Gear for Travelers: Shop on Amazon[/st_related]

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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 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Island

Are You Ready for Hurricane Season? Here’s The Forecast for 2018

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts through November 30. Fortunately, this year is predicted to be better than last year’s, which saw an unusually high number of devastating hurricanes. (If you’re planning travel to an area hit during the 2017 season, make sure to read our Caribbean Travel Update).

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast that this year’s hurricane season has a 40 percent chance of being near-normal, a 25 percent chance of below-normal, and 35 percent chance of an above-normal season. The forecasters predict: “A 70-percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category three, four, or five; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.”

[st_related]Hurricanes and Travel: What Your Options Are When One Hits[/st_related]

 

(NOAA)

Traveling outside the Atlantic area? NOAA predicts an 80 percent chance of a near- or above-normal season for the eastern and central Pacific regions.

If you’re planning a vacation for an area that’s at risk for hurricanes, make sure you buy travel insurance and always read the fine print to be sure that you will be covered due to weather. You won’t be alone–according to travel insurance website Squaremouth, purchases of travel insurance with hurricane and weather-specific coverage increased 14 percent compared to last summer.

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Categories
Adventure Travel Beach Cities Health & Wellness Island Sustainable Travel Travel Trends

Caribbean Update: Where to Go (and Not Go Yet) in 2018

If last year’s hurricanes are making you rethink tropical travel this year, it’s time for a Caribbean update. Although several countries suffered serious damage, a whopping 70 percent of the region—more than a million square miles and 30 countries—remains untouched. And of the hurricane-affected Caribbean islands, many have already rebounded enough to resume receiving visitors.

“We will recover,” says Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. “Guests planning their trips to those [affected] islands this year and beyond should expect to see a product that is rebuilt stronger, better and even more attractive than before.”

Caribbean Update: 2018 Islands Report

[st_content_ad]Don’t put off Caribbean travel. As Riley says, “The best way to help the Caribbean recover is to visit the Caribbean.” Read on for Caribbean updates on affected islands, plus reasons to visit six of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations untouched by the storms.

How You Can Help: The best way to help the Caribbean is to visit, of course. But if a trip isn’t in the cards, you can still donate to the official regional relief funds set up by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Caribbean Update: Unaffected Islands with New Reasons to Visit

Aruba

Best known for its beaches, casinos, and its multicultural population (90 nationalities and counting), the “Happy Island” lies beyond the Caribbean islands’ hurricane belt, so it’s a great bet year-round. But Aruba’s Soul Beach Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend (past headliners have included Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys) just might encourage you to book that getaway right now.

Book it: Get prices for Aruba hotels

Barbados

A second Sandals resort (complete with a rooftop infinity pool and a bowling alley) and a brand-new outpost of the scenester staple Nikki Beach are just two reasons to visit Barbados, the birthplace of rum, right now. But whenever you go, don’t miss Harrison’s Cave, a mile-long network of limestone caverns you can explore via electric tram.

Book it: Get prices for Barbados hotels

Grand Cayman

The newest arrival on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach is Margaritaville Beach Resort, an oasis that debuted last year that’s inspired by the laidback lifestyle and lyrics of singer Jimmy Buffett. But beyond Seven Mile’s sands are classic attractions (think Stingray City and more than 300 dive sites) that are also worth your time.

Book it: Get prices for Grand Cayman hotels

Grenada

Later this spring, the new luxury resort Silversands will be the first in 25 years to open on Grenada’s Grand Anse, the most famous beach on this island-on-the-rise. Further proof of the Spice Island’s upward trajectory: Kimpton Kawana Bay follows next year. My advice: Go now.

Book it: Get prices for Grenada hotels

Jamaica

The perennially popular Caribbean island is known for rum, reggae, and all-inclusive resorts (Excellence Oyster Bay and Spanish Court Montego Bay debut this summer). But Jamaica’s ruggedly beautiful landscape also attract runners to the Kingston City Run in March, and December’s Reggae Marathon, which ends on the sands of Negril’s seven-mile beach.

Book it: Get prices for Jamaica hotels

St. Kitts

With its first luxury resort—the Park Hyatt St. Kitts, now open on the island’s Southeast Peninsula—and increased nonstop flights from Charlotte, New York, Newark, Atlanta, and Miami, St. Kitts is clearly having a moment. When you’re not basking on the beach, consider a hike 3,000 feet up to the top of the island’s dormant volcano, Mount Liamuiga.

Book it: Get prices for St. Kitts hotels

Caribbean Update: Recovering Islands

Anguilla

Despite the pounding delivered by hurricane Irma, the 35-square-mile island of Anguilla has recovered remarkably well. Power has been restored; restaurants have been rebuilt; more than 600 rooms are available in small hotels and villas; and its six major resorts (including Malliouhana, Four Seasons Anguilla and CuisinArt Resort & Spa) will reopen between mid-February and the end of this year. Even better news: the beaches—all 33 of them—are as pristine and uncrowded as ever.

Book it: Get prices for Anguilla hotels

St. Barts

All utilities have been restored on the posh French Caribbean island, but most of St. Barts’ 16 hotels (including the first, Eden Rock) won’t reopen until summer or fall. The good news: Villa management company WIMCO reports that 182 of its 360 rental homes (545 rooms in total) are already available. The airport and Gustavia’s cruise port are both open, with ferry service from St. Martin now resumed. And several restaurants, most shops, and all the collectivity’s beaches are back in biz.

Book it: Get prices for Grenada hotels

St. Croix

With its airport open and power and water restored, the largest of the United States Virgin Islands is also bouncing back the fastest of the three. St. Croix resorts (including two of its best known, The Buccaneer and Hotel Caravelle), restaurants, and shops are back in business. Cruise ships resumed calls at Frederiksted in November, and The Fred, the island’s first new hotel in more than 30 years, had a soft opening in February and should be complete by April.

Book it: Get prices for St. Croix hotels

St. Maarten

Fair warning: You’ll arrive and depart St. Maarten from tents adjacent to the terminal building at Princess Juliana International Airport, whose waterlogged structure won’t reopen before the end of 2018. And some of the biggest resorts here—including all three Sonestas and the Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa—are closed until further notice. But 1,200 rooms in small hotels and guest houses on the Dutch side of this twin-nation island are available; all 37 beaches and most of the shops on Front Street are open; and restaurants and nightlife at Simpson Bay are up and running. Rockland Estate, a new zipline attraction, opened in November, and the cruise port at Philipsburg welcomed its first ships in December.

Book it: Get prices for St. Maarten hotels

Puerto Rico

All our airports are operational and more than 200,000 passengers have cruised to and from San Juan over the last three months,” says Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s acting executive director, Carla Campos. Although approximately 20 percent of the island is still without power and 20 percent without water, Campos notes that “there are currently more than 100 hotels, 4,000 restaurants and 107 major tourism attractions open. San Juan has been receiving leisure travelers since November 30, and other areas, such as Culebra, Ponce, La Parguera, Mayaguez, Cabo Rojo, Rincón, and Vieques, are also back in business.”

Book it: Get prices for Puerto Rico hotels

Caribbean Update: Severely Affected Islands

Dominica

Despite feeling the category five force of Hurricane Maria in September, more than 20 small hotels have reopened on the nature island. Amenities on Dominica, however, are limited and utilities still intermittent. Consider visiting on a cruise (ships returned in January), as natural attractions popular with passengers, such as Trafalgar Falls and Emerald Pool, have reopened and are as beautiful as ever.

St. John

Caribbean update

The smallest U.S. Virgin Island took a big hit, losing 70 percent of its hotel rooms to the storm, including those at marquee resorts Caneel Bay and the Westin St. John Resort & Villas, which will remain closed for the rest of the year. But most of St. John is back on the grid, and several small hotels, including Gallows Point Resort and Estate Lindholm, are welcoming guests. Most restaurants and shops in Cruz Bay are open, as are all the Caribbean island’s beaches, including Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay. Consider a day trip from Red Hook in St. Thomas, via the hourly ferry service.

St. Thomas

Although St. Thomas’ airport is open, several large resorts—including the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas and Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort—are closed through the rest of the year. Cruise passengers will find many shops and restaurants in Charlotte Amalie open; attractions such as the Paradise Point Skyride are operating; and the island’s most famous beach, Magens Bay, is restored.

St. Martin

The French side of the twin-nation island is in rebuilding mode, so for now, facilities for visitors on St. Martin are limited. However, officials say that there are about 400 rooms available in villas and small hotels; all the beaches are groomed; and attractions including Loterie Farm have reopened.

British Virgin Islands

These 30-something islands famously comprise one of the Caribbean’s sailing capitals. And post-hurricanes, with major resorts such as Peter Island, Bitter End Yacht Club, and Rosewood Little Dix Bay closed for most or all of 2018, sailing remains one of the best ways to explore the archipelago—in fact, there are more than 100 vessels available for charter from yacht companies The Moorings and Sunsail. Conditions vary by island in the British Virgin Islands, but Tortola’s airport, cruise pier, and about 50 restaurants and bars are open; and interisland ferries are operating.

Caribbean Update: Off the Table (For Now) Islands

Barbuda

Only 2,000 people lived on this 62-square-mile island, and after evacuating to sister island Antigua, very few have returned. Water and electricity on Barbuda is limited and there’s no lodging available for visitors. But actor Robert De Niro is still forging ahead with his ambitious Paradise Found resort project, scheduled to break ground later this year, so keep your eyes peeled.

For the latest Caribbean updates, go to CaribbeanTravelUpdate.

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Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon is a Caribbean travel expert, award-winning travel journalist, and self-described “Carivangelist,” who goes to the beach and beyond to share the world’s favorite warm-weather destination with brands including Travel + Leisure and The Telegraph. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and on JetSetSarah.com.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Cities Health & Wellness Island Outdoors

The 10 Best Places to Avoid Noise, Light, and Air Pollution

Looking to get away from it all? Science has proven that nature travel can improve almost every aspect of your wellbeing, from increasing your attention span to improving your mood. To get the most benefit, it’s worth seeking out places with minimal noise, artificial light, and air pollution.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy. Quiet places are disappearing fast, even in protected areas; nighttime light pollution covers nearly 80 percent of the planet; and there are no places left that are entirely free of air pollution.

Go to These Places to Avoid Noise, Light, and Air Pollution

[st_content_ad]But there is hope; there are several well-organized resources for finding the darkest, quietest, and cleanest places left on Earth, including dark skies associations, noise experts, and the World Health Organization’s survey of air conditions worldwide. I combined them all to pick 10 of the best places to find clear skies, bright stars, fresh air, and the purest sounds of nature.

Flagstaff, Arizona

[st_content_ad]Flagstaff was the first city named an International Dark Sky City by the International Dark Sky Association, and was in the top five for cleanest air in a recent State of the Air survey by the American Lung Association. This small city isn’t particularly quiet, but active civic measures to keep down noise pollution mean that it’s easy enough to find peace in the surrounding areas at places like Meteor Crater and Walnut Canyon.

Book itGet prices for Flagstaff hotels

Roisey, France

Roisey, located in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of France, has been determined by the World Health Organization to have the cleanest air in the country. Thanks in part to its location in a national park as well as altitude over 4,200 feet in some places, skies are also often very clear. Add to that an official population of just 909 people, and you have a great choice for getting away from it all right in the middle of Europe.

Book it: Get prices for top Roisey hotels

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Te Anau, New Zealand

Global testing by the World Health Organization has found Te Anau to have some of the cleanest air worldwide. Its location at the entrance to Fiordland National Park makes it a basecamp for hikers and “trampers” who can see night skies so clear that there’s a small cottage industry offering night sky tours in the area. The presence of helicopter touring companies means it might not always be the quietest spot, but if you are hiking into the fjords or along the Kepler or Milford Tracks, you can escape the noise as soon as the heliports shut down each evening.

The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Mt. Cook National Park is another superb New Zealand option, free of most air pollution and attracting stargazers from around the world.

Book it: Get prices for top Te Anau hotels

Campisabalos, Spain

Located about 100 miles north of Madrid, Campisabalos is another city that sits high on WHO’s list of the best air in the world. Dark sky maps put it solidly away from most light pollution; if you want even darker, travel a bit southeast to the Parque Natural de la Serrania to the west of Cuenca, which also includes the Enchanted City, a geological wonder created by natural erosion approximately 90 million years ago.

Book it: Get prices for top Campisabalos hotels

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Mojave Desert, California

Trevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford and author of a book on natural sound phenomena, recommends the Kelso Dune area in the Mojave Desert. Cox visited the spot specifically because there are interesting sounds—the dunes make a growling or bellowing sound when you move the sand around that gives them the name “singing sands”—but Cox notes that the area is extremely quiet.

“Kelso Dune in the Mojave Desert … has no flights and no cars, and actually no sound at times because there is very little wildlife,” he says. “It is a special place.”

The dunes are also located in a formidable area of dark skies, and the National Park Service’s “half the park is after dark” motto definitely applies here.

Book it: Get prices for top Mojave hotels

Lapland Region, Finland

Way up in the northern Lapland region of Finland, the municipality of Muonio topped WHO’s most recent clean air list. While you pull in the fresh air, you can take in some superb views of the northern lights; Finns often ski or snowshoe into the countryside to see the lights, but VisitFinland.com has put together a list of more comfortable options, including heated tents and glass igloos.

Muonio has the longest snow season in all of Finland, so if you don’t get clear skies right away, strap on some skis while you wait for a good night to see the lights.

Book it: Get prices for to Lapland hotels

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San Pedro de Atacama Region, Chile

Clean air, high altitude, and the driest desert in the world combine to put the San Pedro de Atacama region at the top of the list of the darkest, clearest places on Earth. Don’t believe me? Check out this timelapse video. In addition to being free of light and air pollution, the desert environment also offers minimal sound from wildlife.

Book it: Get prices for top San Pedro de Atacama hotels

Grasslands National Park, Canada

Gordon Hempton, founder of One Square Inch of Silence, did an acoustic survey at Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park and found that it has “the quietest, purest sounds,” he said. And much of the park is nearly absent of light pollution, according to Dark Site Finder. You won’t find much air pollution here either; the air in Canada is some of the best in the world, according to WHO.

Book it: Get prices for top hotels near Grasslands National Park

[st_related]The 8 Best Canadian National Parks You’ve Never Heard Of[/st_related]

Canary Islands, Spain

Mountainous geography and a location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean make La Palma and Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands among the purest destinations on the planet. Teide National Park on Tenerife includes the highest peak in the Atlantic Ocean for peak baggers, not to mention stargazers.

Book it: Get prices for top Canary Islands hotels

Haleakala Summit, Hawaii

Hawaii has some of the most consistently clean air on Earth—even bustling Honolulu gets good marks from WHO—and the ability to get up above the clouds into thinner, cleaner air on top of Haleakala, in Maui, means there is even better stargazing here than at sea level. Visitors can stay overnight to see the stars and take in the sunrise, giving you the best of both worlds. The Mauna Kea observatory on the Big Island is another superb option, although staying overnight is not possible there.

Book it: Get prices for top Maui hotels

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Bonus Option: Anechoic Chambers

At least a few of the quietest places on Earth are manmade, including Guinness’s choice for the title, Microsoft’s Building 87 in Redmond, Washington. Anechoic chambers like this one are designed to block external noise and absorb internal sounds. Professor Cox notes that the anechoic chamber at Salford is open a few days a year for tours, but it’s not as quiet as you might think: “What surprises people is that it isn’t silent, because you can’t escape body sounds.”

Book it: Get prices on top Redmond hotels

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Health & Wellness In-Flight Experience

Atlanta Airport’s Big Meltdown: The Takeaway

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest, is back in business after being completely shut down for almost 11 hours between 1:00 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. on Sunday.

“Back in business” in this case includes the business of reaccommodating the thousands of travelers whose flights were canceled last night.

The cause of the electrical outage was a fire at one of the three Georgia Power substations at the airport. The entire airport was left without power.

Passengers on inbound flights were stranded on the tarmac for hours, as jetways couldn’t be deployed to transfer them to the terminal. Departing passengers were ushered this way and that by airline and airport workers whose efforts were uncoordinated and whose advice was often contradictory. There were no lights in the terminals. Elevators, escalators, and moving walkways were immobilized. Airport shops were unable to sell food or beverages to affected travelers. It was a mess.

The chaos overwhelmed airport authorities, Georgia Power, Delta, and local government officials, all of whom were left dissembling and prevaricating, if they could be bothered to comment at all. (Even in the middle of the shutdown, Georgia Power issued a news release assuring the public that “Georgia Power has many redundant systems in place to ensure reliability for the Airport and its millions of travelers—power outages affecting the Airport are very rare.”)

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If one of the world’s largest, busiest airports is susceptible to such an outage, then any airport is. And while electrical outages are indeed rare, as Georgia Power suggests, weather and mechanical incidents are more frequent, and can cause similar travel disruptions.

What (if Anything) to Do

So, is there anything you can do to prevent such disruptions? No; they’re beyond your control.

Is there anything you can do to mitigate the effects of such disruptions, when they do occur? Not much.

While stuff happens, it doesn’t happen often enough to justify travel insurance. If you happen to have a credit card that comes bundled with flight-delay or cancellation insurance, fine. But extra-cost insurance isn’t worth it.

You can be prepared by having airline reservations and local hotel numbers available on your phone’s speed dial—although in the case of the Atlanta meltdown, there was apparently limited cell service.

In some cases, it behooves stranded flyers to leave the airport and check into a local hotel until the airline can confirm a seat on a departing flight. But in the Atlanta case, travelers had no idea whether they were facing temporary delays or outright cancellations.

In short, there’s little travelers can do to minimize the frustration and stress of flight disruptions, other than be mentally prepared for them (to minimize the initial shock), and remain calm and courteous when they do occur (to help keep the general level of air rage from escalating).

Reader Reality Check

Are you prepared for the next air-travel meltdown?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Booking Strategy Health & Wellness

Where Do the Happiest Flyers Come from? The Top-10 Cities

In case you were wondering, the happiest American travelers hail from Honolulu. That’s according to a new happiness study conducted by TripIt, which analyzed flight ratings from 575,000 travelers. Here are the 10 cities where the happiest flyers reside:

  1. Honolulu, HI
  2. Phoenix, AZ
  3. Nashville, TN
  4. St. Louis, MO
  5. Tampa, FL
  6. Milwaukee, WI
  7. Kansas City, MO
  8. Baltimore, MD
  9. Orlando, FL
  10. Albuquerque, NM

Why those cities? TripIt suggests, somewhat jokingly, that flyer happiness is a function of “regular access to vitamin D,” an allusion to the fact that many of the top-rated cities are in sunny climes. Perhaps. There certainly appears to be a positive correlation between good weather and travel satisfaction. But correlation shouldn’t be confused with causation.

Happiest Flyers by Airport

Not surprisingly, the airport travelers departed from or arrived at had a significant impact on flyers’ satisfaction. Here are the top-10 departure airports:

  1. MDW – Chicago
  2. DAL – Dallas
  3. BUR – Burbank
  4. HOU – Houston
  5. OAK – Oakland
  6. SAT – San Antonio
  7. SNA – Santa Ana
  8. STL – Louis
  9. BNA – Nashville
  10. SJC – San Jose

Yes, there’s a theme there. The three highest-rated airports are smaller, secondary airports in large metro areas. Chicago’s Midway plays second fiddle to Chicago O’Hare, as does Dallas Love Field to Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Burbank to Los Angeles International.

The takeaway: Where possible, choose the smaller of the available airports.

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Happiest Flyers by Generation

If I had to guess, I would venture that older generations were less satisfied than younger generations. The logic: With a longer exposure to commercial flying, older travelers have experienced first hand the decline in air service over decades, and would be most likely to be dissatisfied with the current state of affairs.

TripIt’s findings were slightly different:

  • Most satisfied – Millennials (1983-1999)
  • Somewhat satisfied – Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Somewhat dissatisfied – Xennials (1977-1983)
  • Most dissatisfied – Generation X (1965-1976)

So, rather than the Baby Boomers’ being the least satisfied, as I would have predicted, it’s the generation that followed them that’s most critical of the current state of flying. Perhaps the Boomers are so far removed in time from flying’s better days that they’ve forgotten how much better the air-travel experience used to be.

Reader Reality Check

Are you a happy flyer (and what generation are you)?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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