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Happy Holidays from everyone at TWDHF!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around here! Check out the new Budget Travel Blog entry about cheap holiday travel and saving money on your trips with Twitter!

And don’t forget to get into the holiday season this year by donating to some amazing causes. Spend a little time giving or working with some of these groups:

Ronald McDonald House
St. Jude Children’s Hospital

Goodwill
Feeding America
Operation Homefront
Make-a-Wish Foundation
Easter Seals
The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind
Homeless Shelters/Soup Kitchens

You can also look up great things to do all year round at DoSomething.org

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In order to plan a great travel experience, it is necessary to plan ahead as much as possible. I enjoy reading articles that will assist me in enjoying my next adventure with as few mishaps as I need to encounter. I like to see what advice fellow travelers have, research out locations, price different activities and plan my trip out as much as possible.

Last summer, I had a great time in New York and I plan on going again sometime this fall. Despite what some people might think, it’s possible to have a great time on a decent budget in the city that never sleeps. There’s also a wealth of information out there, numbers, websites, and tips for the weary New York traveler that I thought I would share:

Having your Hotel’s Local Phone Number- I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve gotten into a cab, given the address to my hotel only to sit there while he or she circles the same few blocks trying to “find” my hotel. It’s so helpful to have your hotel’s number on hand for this reason and so many others. If your flight is delayed and you want to let them know you’ll be arriving late, you’ll be able to easily let them know so they don’t give away your room. If you’re heading back to your hotel after a late night out and can’t remember the exact address, a quick phone call will make it easy to get home safely.

Airline Phone Number- Whether you need to change your ticket or want to see if your flight has been cancelled or delayed due to bad weather, calling the airline directly is your best bet.

Dial 311-New York City has a fantastic free information service: 311. Government information and non-emergency assistance is a quick phone call away and all calls are answered by a live person, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Translation services into over 170 languages are available via 311. For calls made from outside of New York City’s five boroughs, you can access the same free information (with 24 hour live operators) by calling (212) NEW-YORK (212-639-9675).

NYC Car Service Phone Number- Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to hail a taxi, so having a car service number can be a tremendous help. When you’re stuck with lots of bags from a serious shopping trip, out in the boroughs looking for a ride back to Manhattan or trying to get to the airport, a quick call to a car service can get you a ride to your destination with little hassle.

NYC & Company Visitor Information Phone Number- If you’ve got a tourism related question, call 212-484-1222 to speak to a Visitor Information Counselor Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. They can help you with questions about attractions, tours or anything else related to New York City tourism.

Phone Numbers for Restaurants Where You Want to Eat- Even if you already have reservations, it’s a good idea to call and confirm them the day before. If you don’t reservations, it can be a good idea to call to see if they have suggestions about good times to get a table or if they have any same-day reservations available.

Travel Agent’s Phone Number-It’s not surprising that even the best laid plans can sometimes run into a snag. Having the phone number for your travel agent will make it easier to rectify any problems you might run into, whether it’s delayed flights, an overbooked hotel or a rained-out tour, your travel agent will be able to fix things more easily the sooner you let him/her know you’ve run into a problem.

Tour Operator Phone Numbers- If you’ve pre-booked tours or events on your own, it’s a great idea to store these numbers in your phone as well. It’s easier to let someone know you’re lost or running late if you can call them directly.

Traveler’s Aid Phone Number- Should you need travel assistance and don’t have somewhere else to turn, give Traveler’s Aid’s JFK agency a call at 718-656-4870. If you lose your ticket, find yourself at the wrong airport or run into another travel snafu, Traveler’s Aid may be able to offer you assistance.

New York Area Consulate Emergency Phone Number- For international travelers, it can be helpful to have the number of the nearest consulate available. Should you lose your passport, run into legal problems or need other assistance, the Consulate office of your home country can often provide help.

Securing Discount Broadway Tickets- Broadway discount tickets purchased at a TKTS Booth are typically 25-50% off full-price, meaning you’ll pay about $50-$75 per ticket. Standing Room Only and Rush Broadway discount tickets will cost approximately $25. Broadway discount tickets purchased through Broadway discount ticket newsletters and websites are typically 25-50% off full-price, meaning you’ll pay about $50-$75 per ticket.

Your best to get these tickets is to sign up for on discount Broadway ticket newsletters and websites — these sites offer discounts on advance sales for many Broadway shows. You should also check the websites for Broadway shows that you’re interested in seeing — they often have email newsletters and special offers available.

Where can I get same-day Broadway discount tickets- There are two TKTS Booths in Manhattan offering discount Broadway tickets. Standing Room Only (SRO) and Rush Tickets are available the same day of a performance, typically for around $25 at the box office.

What Broadway discount tickets are available for students-Many Rush Tickets are available only for students with ID. What Broadway discount tickets are available for Seniors? Some Rush Tickets are available to seniors as well as students with ID.

Broadway Discount Ticket Sources
TKTS Booth Discount Tickets
Online Broadway Discount Tickets
Standing Room Only and Rush Discount Tickets

Wishing you a fantabulous travel experience!!

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others
stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we
are never the same.”

-Anonymous

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Be sure to check out the new blog posts on our other blog: Budget Travel: When You Want To, But Don’t Always Have the Cash To by Chicago freelance writer Meg Hoppe. Hoppe talks about some great ways to get all of your summer fun in without compromise and without paying a huge price. She also gives us some great advice when buying a home one the foreclosure market. Something to definitely read up on.

Follow her on Twitter @CallMeHoppe of us @TWDHF

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Be sure to check out the new blog posts on our other blog: Budget Travel: When You Want To, But Don’t Always Have the Cash To by Chicago freelance writer Meg Hoppe.

Hoppe talks about some great ways to get all of your summer fun in without compromise and without paying  a huge price. She also gives us some great advice when buying a home one the foreclosure market. Something to definitely read up on.

Follow her on Twitter @CallMeHoppe of us @TWDHF

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Everyone looks for travel bargains, and perhaps a few will pan out for you. But all of us know that there are unscrupulous businesses and individuals in this real world. Here are some suggestions to assist you in dodging some of these scams.

free-moneyPre-payment usually is required for travel products. That is why scam artists often concentrate on travelers. The Internet provides growth opportunities for such illegal and unethical activity.

Watch out for these top 10 travel scams when planning or on your vacation!

1. Advance Payment is Required Without a Written Contract
Travel payments often are made before a trip, but you are entitled to a written contract stating the product(s) for which you are paying. This is true whether it’s a deposit or payment-in-full. Scammers often attempt to gain your trust with friendly phone pitches that result in credit card transactions. Reputable vendors will always spell out their offers in writing.

2. Transactions by Courier Service Rather than Post Office
Anyone who insists on transacting travel business using only a courier service should be treated with suspicion. It’s quite possible they’re trying to avoid mail fraud statutes.

3. Transaction Can Only Be Carried Out by Telephone
There are reputable travel firms that do business only on the Web, but if you encounter a vendor that will only book by telephone, ask questions: Why is that your policy? Will I get a written contract to examine before I make my payment? What is your office address? Frequently, you’ll get evasive answers–a signal it’s time to hang up the phone.

4. Offer is for a “Limited Time Only”
We’re not talking about airfare sales and other special offers here. They expire, and sometimes you must move quickly to meet the deadline. But an offer of deep discounts that must be booked immediately is suspicious. Triple your suspicion level if you must pay immediately for a departure date at least 60 days in the future, because that’s the time limit for disputing credit card charges at many banks.

5. Different Names for Travel Provider and Seller
Why would these names be different? Frequently, a telemarketer or some other agent has been employed to make the sale. It’s very likely this go-between is far more interested in pleasing the vendor than the consumer. They get paid for closing deals, not for customer satisfaction. It’s also possible the names are different to avoid responsibility for the product. Either way, it’s not good news.

6. Hotel Names, Airlines or Other Vendors Not Disclosed in Writing
Online auctions like Priceline and Hotwire do not disclose vendors until after your bid is accepted. That’s part of the risk you take in saving money with those services. However, if you’re booking a trip in a conventional way, there is no reason whatsoever for withholding this information if hotel, airline, or car rental information is not disclosed, and the discussion and shop elsewhere.

7. A price Far Below Market Value
This one must be applied on a case-by-case basis. There are rare mistake fares that should be booked, but $199 for a one-week vacation in the Caribbean clearly is not going to be profitable for the vendor. Why make the offer? Perhaps you’re a prime target for a high-pressure sales pitch. Maybe the fine print says $199 is a base price from which add-ons will be assessed after you’ve paid. No vendor wants to lose money without gaining some other advantage in the process.

8. Offers to Make You a “Travel Agent”
Scam artists offer to certify you as a “travel agent” and gain access to all sorts of free trips. It’s true some travel agents get these perks, but the offers go to established people who are strategically chosen. No one is required to offer any travel agent a free trip. Some of these offers send you course materials, others just require a “fee” for “certification.” Both are a complete waste of money. If you want facts on becoming a travel agent, consult professional organizations like ASTA.

9. Hints of “Split Pricing”
Split pricing is the practice of offering below-market pricing and then adding charges for items that appeared to be included in the first quote. Reputable firms will offer vacations “starting at” a certain price, and show you all the upgrades. Scammers bury their pricing structure in the fine print. Don’t find out too late that your bargain tropical vacation involves a hotel 10 miles from the beach or your ski chalet is 30 miles from the slopes.

10. Frequent Use of Words Such as “Complimentary” and “Free”
Offers peppered with these words frequently are trying to distract you from some other reality. Your job is to find that hidden agenda or perhaps just reject the offer immediately. Let’s face it: Very few people on this earth offer complimentary items without some string attached. That string might be a time-share sales pitch or the obligation to buy something. Don’t let that obligation damage your travel budget or rob you of precious vacation time.

Have a safe travel experience!!

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”
-George Orwell

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Despite the fact that US Airlines said it wasn’t going to happen, BBC News is reporting that European discount airline Ryanair is considering converting its on-board toilets to coin-operated restrooms. Passengers would pay one British pound (approx $1.38 USD) to use the toilet.

Chief Executive Michael O’Leary told the BBC that the Dublin-based carrier was looking at maybe installing a “coin slot on the toilet door” while Ryanair’s PR Chief Steven McNamara later stated, “I don’t think it’s going to happen in the foreseeable future”.

“Will it happen in the long-term, I’m not really sure” he said.

My question in all of this is really, is this just a ploy that Ryanair is using to get some public reaction. A reaction, which in my opinion will be quick and decisive. Or, is this simply something has been pushed along on boardroom agendas to pacify the Chief Executive but not really given any thought.

Some people might view this new idea as a way to make a fast buck. Since Ryanair is planning to close all of its airport check-in desks by the end of the year to reduce the cost of its flights, this assumption is gaining wind fast. Ryanair has been known to offer low, basic ticket prices, and charge extra for items such as checking in at the airport, or for additional luggage. While this might now always differ from other airlines, Ryanair is giving off the idea that they are looking for a fast buck and not their passengers’ comfort.

If this idea is put into practice on Ryanair and other airlines pick up the practice, what would you do? Is this an on-flight luxury that you’re willing to pay for, or would you have something to say about having to pay?

Let me know what you think below!

Wishing you a toilet free flight and wonderful travel experience!

Airplane Bathroom Sign

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If you’re planning a wedding, you’re probably wondering what will be trendy and hip while not leaving your honeymoon fund completely depleted. Thinking about all of the happy couples out there, I went looking for information on 2009 weddings.

One article I found mentions that the wedding industry is already seeing ways in which a smaller budget has inspired couples to have more creative, intimate, and personal weddings. These weddings are benefiting from a heavy dose of style, influenced by the many images and ideas circulating around the blogosphere. Other than the economy, 2009 weddings will also be influenced by a chic sense of style. Rather than huge weddings, where cost cutting means a lack of details or fun, the 2009 wedding trends are full of fabulous details meant for smaller, affordable weddings.

Here are some predictions that I read that will be the top 2009 wedding trends:

Farm Weddings

garden-weddingNo, I’m not talking about getting married amongst the combines, or having a cow for your bridesmaid. However, farms can be an affordable place to get married with a lot of charm. Several of them allow your guests to interact with the animals, while the others just provide idyllic pastoral settings.

Add some additional down-home touches like gingham tablecloths, pitchers of jam or other country weddings styles. Make sure to look for a barn suitable for a reception and you have a large, blank canvas for decorations.fernbrook-03

Small Luxurious Weddings
Budgets might be tight, but that doesn’t mean that luxury and glamor are going away. Instead, couples are opting for an intimate glamorous affair. By having fewer guests, weddings can have more opulent details, like elaborate favors, beautiful wines and gourmet tasting menus.

With such a backdrop, it then feels right to be in your tuxedos and gowns, surrounded only by your truest friends and loves ones.

Macarons

MacaronsThe delightful French cookies not only have a delicious almond flavor and light texture, but bakers have a tradition of making them in bright, eye-catching colors, making them perfect for weddings.

The newest trend is creating a tower of macarons instead of a wedding cake, but they’re also stunning as favors or as accompaniment to wedding cakes.

Gray
For the past few years, chocolate brown has been the “It Color” popping up inGrey Bridesmaids Dresses

weddings as a hip neutral, and combined with bright pink or cheery yellow. While chocolate brown isn’t going anywhere, the hippest color for 2009 is gray.

You may thing of gray as too dreary for weddings, but on the contrary, it can serve as a sophisticated foil to brighter colors. It’s great paired with pink or yellow, but perhaps the hottest combination will be silver and royal purple.

Affordable & Renewable Bridesmaids Dresses
Forget the peach tulle atrocities of yesteryear, 2009 brides are considerate and mindful of the economy, the they’re looking for bridesmaids dresses that are truly renewable and don’t come with a high price tag. For a beach wedding, consider telling your bridesmaids that they can wear a knee-length, spaghetti strap dress in any shade of blue. They’ll not only be able to shop the department store sales, but your wedding will reflect the beautiful colors of the ocean. If you still want a unified bridal party look, consider gathering your maids for a group shopping expedition.

Vintage Fashion and Fascinators
birdcage41Having a vintage-inspired wedding is a great way to add some style without adding a lot of cost. 1920’s weddings will be especially hot this year.

Especially look for brides wearing birdcage veils (photo) and fascinators. If you’re a Project Runway fan, you’ll definitely recall Kenley’s fascinators-the feathery charms that perch on your head. But many other designers also make a wide range of them.

Whatever you do, remember that your wedding is a day of love and bliss that will be yours forever so make it perfect! Click here for more budget wedding ideas.

“When you make a sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.”
-Joseph Campbell

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