Category Archives: Travel

Know more about VAT Refund that you need for

You need to prove that you took the goods out of the country. But if you’re driving or taking the train, you may not encounter a customs agent. France, for example, will consider your application if you get it stamped at the French embassy or consulate at home (bring purchases with you). Submit that, proof of residence, a copy of your plane ticket, and an explanation within six months.

…you forget (or don’t have time) to get the form stamped.

While we can’t officially recommend it, if you’re returning within the export window (often three months), there’s nothing to stop you from bringing everything back.

…your refund doesn’t arrive.

Ann Druery, a U.K.-based advisor who specializes in VAT, says to make inquiries after two months. If your refund was processed by a third-party service like Global Blue or Travelex, try its online tracker. If you think a merchant is ripping you off, your credit card company may be able to help.

Latin American countries are more affordable, with Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic rated among the most inexpensive places to study. Conversely, European countries, which draw more than 50 percent of American students, are not represented on the cheapest list at all. As a matter of fact, six of the top ten costliest countries are European: Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Denmark. You might want to start brushing up on that Spanish.

Best place to visit when you would like to study abroad

Studying abroad is a great way for students to step outside their comfort zones and experience unfamiliar ways of life. It’s becoming increasingly popular with students around the United States, and for some collegiate programs taking a semester away from the main campus is required for graduation.

Still, living abroad doesn’t come cheap. So, how are you going to get the most bang for your buck? That depends on where you choose to globetrot. ValuePenguin, a research firm, recently conducted a study to determine just that.

The team looked at the 48 most popular countries that American students choose to study, and determined the cost of nine major spending habits in each country: rent and utilities, flights, groceries, nightlife/dining out, clothes shopping, recreational, monthly transportation, mobile plans, and a student visa. Each destination was ranked on a scale from 1 to 48 for each category. A “1” represents the cheapest option whereas a “48” represents the most expensive.

Latin American countries are more affordable, with Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic rated among the most inexpensive places to study. Conversely, European countries, which draw more than 50 percent of American students, are not represented on the cheapest list at all. As a matter of fact, six of the top ten costliest countries are European: Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Denmark. You might want to start brushing up on that Spanish.

Let’s Enjoy Vacation This Summer

The complex algorithms airlines use to set prices can make getting the best deal feel like hunting for a needle in a haystack. But the travel site Cheapair.com has used its fare data to put together a calendar highlighting the best days of the week, and best overall days, to save money on flights this summer.

Here are the key points as you plan that luxurious getaway to Cape Cod/Big Sur/Oregon.

Do fly on these days.

The least expensive days for each month are:

  • June 1st (Technically, not quite summer yet, but why not get a jump on it?)
  • July 26th
  • August 31st
  • September 20th

 

Don’t fly on Sunday.

 It’s reliably the most expensive day of the week to fly. And bumping to Monday won’t make that much difference, saving on average only about $20.

Do fly on Tuesday or Wednesday.

You’ll save an average of about $80 on your ticket on those days.

Don’t fly in July.

 It’s the most expensive month this summer, though if you can fly on the July 4th holiday, you’ll dodge at least a bit of the premium.

Do fly in September.

Overall, it’s the cheapest month of the summer.

The not-too-surprising takeaway is that the best times to fly are, simply, whenever other people aren’t.

Related: Plane Collides With ‘Drone’ Near London’s Heathrow Airport

Of course, the other factor in getting a good deal is when you buy your ticket, with 54 days in advance being the exact sweet spot.

And if you’re deciding whether or not you want to travel at all this summer, remember—we’re in the midst of a solid dip in overall prices. So strap in.

Labor Day Flights Tips For Save More Money

Even for those of us who love to travel, Labor Day can sneak up on a body. Last year, almost 36 million Americans packed up their favorite inflatable pool toys and traveled that weekend. My guess is, a whole lot of them booked their trips at the last minute: and spent way more money on their long weekend getaway than necessary because of it.

Warren Chang, Vice President and general manager of Fly.com—an airfare search engine—would remind us that it’s never too early to book holiday travel, which includes Thanksgiving and winter break, as well as Labor Day. Here are a few other tips he gleaned by studying company data:

Be flexible

If you can stay an extra day, leave on Saturday instead of Friday. Or, in general, just have flexibility with your travel dates. “It’s quite easy to save at least 25 percent if you just adjust your departure date [or] return date by a day,” says Chang. He studied a New York to Miami roundtrip flight, and notes that adding a day in Miami could drop the price from $244 to $153.

Understand “base loading”

Sometimes just knowing why flights are cheaper is enough to get us on top of our plans. “One of the reasons flights are cheaper right now,” says Chang, “is that airlines fully expect travelers to start looking for airfare as the holidays get closer, and they’ve priced [them] accordingly. They’re interested in what’s called base loading—selling a certain number of seats at a discounted rate so they have a certain percentage of the flight already full.” The logic makes sense: Airlines want to fill flights, but they’ll save pricey seats for last-minute travelers.

Full-on Norman Rockwell Americana intimates that the only thing to do on a summer weekend is lounge on the beach, on a porch, near a lake, or by a grill. But if you’re curious about, say, Europe, or Florida, know that those destinations might be less pricey, says Chang. The same probably won’t be true of places like Portland, Maine and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Don’t wait till the 4th of July

Prices tend to take a big jump after the 4th, says Chang, when everyone’s minds seem to simultaneously turn to the next vacation—and airlines take advantage by hiking prices. “What you see is it just goes up along a curve,” he says. “As the date gets closer, the prices go up.”

Think about business travel destinations

In a long-distance relationship between Chicago and New York? Good news: Business hubs tend to have lower rates at the end of the summer, since corporate travel takes a dip in popularity and airlines are desperately trying to fill those seats.

Reserve cars and hotels now

It’s great to get a good, cheap flight now. But it’s the worst when you snag a cheap flight only to see that you’ve picked a destination with insanely expensive hotels. So check both before taking the plunge—and for goodness sake, book cars and hotels now.

And really, book your flight!

Fly.com data from summer 2015 revealed that New York to Miami flights were approximately $270 in late May, dipping to $250 by June 4th—and spiking to nearly $500 by the end of August. Think about how many golden inflatable swans and margaritas the saved $250 would buy you! So get out there and book.

Good At Bucket List Trip

For some, it’s drinking mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby or chasing tornadoes in Kansas. For others, it’s gorilla watching in Uganda or Brunello tasting in Tuscany. Just about everyone has a bucket-list trip in mind for their retirement. But planning is often a stumbling block.

A third of boomers expect to take a bucket-list trip this year, according to a recent AARP report. Yet nearly half of those who expected to take a big trip in 2016 did not begin planning it before this year, the data show. That includes 43% of those planning to travel internationally.

In another study, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that only 10% of those in or near retirement who expect to take a big trip in the next 12 months have done a lot of planning. That figure is just 4% for those who expect to take such a trip in the next five years,

The Boom in Leisure

Leisure travel is set to boom as boomers scale back their workloads and retire in coming years. Retirees will spend nearly $180 billion in 2016 on leisure travel. Over the next 20 years that number will total $4.6 trillion. AARP found that 99% of boomers expect to travel for leisure this year, and they typically have four or five trips in mind.

This coming travel surge is part of a trend away from material things and towards experiences. Increasingly, boomers want their travel to provide a “peak” experience—often part of a bucket-list trip with friends and family. Such trips are most common during the first two years of retirement, when 78% of retirees say they finally have enough free time and 92% say they finally have the freedom to do what they want, according to Merrill Lynch.

Yet few are doing much research or even budgeting. Other than Trip Advisor, a site that 75% of boomers visit, and specific branded sites such as that of a resort or hotel, online resources don’t get a lot of use from retirees, AARP data show. The vast majority do not use mobile apps, Open Table, Groupon, social media, or blogs to help them plan. Two-thirds of retirees have not created a travel budget, according to the Merrill Lynch report, while AARP found that a similar percentage say changing airfares won’t get in the way.

Plan for Peak Experiences

Maybe living seat of the pants is all part of having greater freedom and flexibility, and not being tied to any one decision. Yet that is highly impractical for any travel that includes airlines, lodging and cruises, and, for overseas travel, obtaining visas. And when multiple parties accompany you, travel hassles can increase exponentially. Of course, multiple parties are usually a feature of bucket-list trips, since spending time with friends and family is the top reason to travel, AARP found.

Just as crucially, lack of planning means boomers may be missing out on huge savings through travel credit-card awards programs, frequent-flyer awards, andmoney-smartapps. So make sure you choose the right trip for your budget. Then consider these three ways to make the most of your bucket-list trip:

  • Plan for the most peak experiences. Perhaps you’re break away from another beach vacation and go hang-gliding or white-water rafting. Before the trip, talk about the details of any special outing with your travel mates to stir up excitement. And make sure everyone has the equipment and training they need for the adventure.
  • Plan for a mishap. Once-in-a-lifetime trips often take you far away to remote locations. Guess what? There won’t be a hospital around the corner, and even if there is it probably won’t take your health insurance. Consider buying medical evacuation coverage, which provides emergency transport to a top facility.
  • Plan for a change of plans. A last-minute life change can force you to delay or cancel your carefully planned (and expensive) bucket-list trip. Understand which parts of the trip are refundable and under what circumstances. Cover the rest with trip cancellation insurance. That way you’ll get the chance to plan it all over again—and do it even better next time.

How to get affordable price for phone bill when you are traveling

Going abroad? Don’t just sign up automatically for an international data plan (or rack up international roaming charges, which can easily run $10 a day). There are better ways to save. Among your choices:

Use Wi-Fi and Apps

Best for light users in well-connected destinations.

  • How it works: If you need only to check email and social media occasionally, the cheapest option is to turn off data altogether and use Wi-Fi instead, whether at your hotel each night or at other hotspots during the day.
  • What you’ll need: Email works fine on Wi-Fi, as do Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. For calling and texting, though, you’ll have to use the same app as your loved ones. That could be iChat and FaceTime (for iPhone users), or Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype, which work on any type of phone.
  • Bonus tips: For getting around, the Stay.com app has city maps that list attractions, restaurants, and Wi-Fi hotspots; they’re available even when you’re offline. Heading somewhere more remote? Maps.me has downloadable maps for over 345 countries and islands.
  • Costs: Minimal, but aim to find free Wi-Fi rather than paying for access.

 

Get a SIM Card

Best for travelers who need calling and data for more than a long weekend.

  • How it works: With most newer smartphones you can unlock your device and swap your existing SIM card for a local version. Before you leave, call your carrier to unlock your phone and freeze your account for the duration of your trip.
  • What you’ll need: When you arrive, purchase a SIM card at an airport vending machine or a local electronics or convenience store. That gives you a local phone number, plus some calling time and set amounts of texting and data.
  • Bonus tips: To bump up your allowances, you can buy (and redeem) a card for extra minutes and data.
  • Costs: They vary. A card alone costs $6 in Rio de Janeiro, or you can get a SIM starter kit, with chip and some preset time/data limits, for around $45 in much of Europe. You’ll need a separate card for each country you visit.

 

Keep Your Plan

Best for Big Four customers who need the simplest way to get full access.

  • How it works: If you’re on the Big Four, you can get an international plan from your carrier. Texts and data are free (albeit slower) on Sprint and T-Mobile Simple Choice, but if you have one of the other two (or want faster speeds), you’ll pay extra.
  • Costs: AT&T’s pay-as-you-go option starts at $30 a month, with unlimited texting and discounted calling and data rates. Verizon’s monthly option starts at $25 for reduced talk, text, and data rates. Alternatively, the carrier’s TravelPass lets you use your existing plan for $10 a day in most countries (or $2 in Canada or Mexico).

The wonderful place to life

Known for its strong economy, excellent healthcare and high levels of reported happiness, Denmark seems to offer the promise of a better life. But satisfaction with life is not evenly spread out around the country, The Local reported.

While Denmark ranks as the happiest country in the world overall, according to numerous surveys, the happiest Danes live outside of its major cities, according to new statistics.

Residents of the capital city of Copenhagen ranked as some of the least happy in the happiest country, with an average reported satisfaction score of 7.4 out of 10 reported satisfaction, according to the Danish national bureau of statistics.

Meanwhile, the coastal municipality of Ringkøbing-Skjern ranked their happiness as the highest in the survey, reporting an average level of life satisfaction of 7.9.

With less than 60,000 residents, this Danish haven attracts tourists with its small-town beauty and natural charm. Sitting on the Ringkøbing fjord, the landscape features picturesque 19th century farmhouses and quaint harbors.

On TripAdvisor, travelers have raved about the Flymuseum, which features some of the aircraft models used by the Danish military since 1911. Ringkøbing-Skjern also boasts a unique “eco-museum” that incorporates 14 different landmarks along the fjord coastline including a ropewalk, a lighthouse and a protected farm.

“They are, in other words our heritage—a coat rack that we in Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality can hang our identity up,” reads a translated description on the eco-museum’s website. “We are not just fringe in relation to something else. We have our own cultural history.”

The municipality, located in West Jutland, is around 75 miles from the UNESCO World heritage site the Wadden Sea National Park.

Within a two-hour drive from the happiest place on Earth, visitors can discover stunning mudflats, wind-whipped coastline and grazing sheep.

Find the best place for camp

Thos. Moser, the furniture-making firm, many of whose handmade pieces have achieved American icon status, runs a Customer-in-Residence program that could make the perfect Father’s Day gift for the would-be woodworker in your family.   Never mind bringing home an ashtray or lanyard from camp—graduates of this weeklong program come home with a piece of furniture that they’ve built under the tutelage of a master woodworker.

The lucky five carpenters accepted into each session (applications are considered and previous Moser customers are given preference on the waiting list) are put up at theHarraseeket Inn in Freeport, Maine, land of the outdoorsy outlet shop.

Participants in the program begin by selecting a Thos. Moser design for their camp project.  Then, working with a professional cabinetmaker, they learn, step by step, how each signature piece is made, all the way from selecting the raw materials to rubbing the last coat of oil into their finished project. Over the course of the week, the apprentices log about 30 hours of shop-time alongside their mentor on the piece, learning the tools and techniques of artisanal woodworking. The Customers-in-Residence also get to meet and discuss their hobby with Moser family members, many of whom work as designers and artisans in the business.

The cost of the Customer-in-Residence program starts at $3,500, plus the retail price of the item you select to make.  The rate includes nightly accommodations at the Inn, daily breakfast and lunch, plus two group dinners, transportation between the Inn and the woodshop in Auburn, additional excursions, and the instruction.  And, of course, you get to bring home the piece you create, signed in a special ceremony at the end of your stay.

Only the November 7 session still has openings, but the company has scheduled eight sessions in 2011, from April through November.   For more information or to put a name on the waiting list for the program, please visit Thos. Moser’s website.

How to get honeymoon enjoyable and free

Andy Rosenbloom made up his mind a few years ago that he was going to marry his girlfriend, Cassie, and they would honeymoon across Asia, flying first class all the way. All he had to do was figure out how to pay for the extravagant journey. First class round-trip airfare for two from Boston to Thailand was roughly $40,000. The trouble was, Rosenbloom’s annual salary as director of marketing at Dining Alliance, a group purchasing organization for local and chain restaurants, was $65,000.

The future groom was fixated on first class not merely for its extra leg room. He wanted the trip to be a kind of gift to Cassie. “For instance, there are these gorgeous lounges where you wait for your plane. You can take a shower. You can get a bed and your concierge will wake you up,” says the 32-year-old. “We got pajamas and slippers on our flights that I still wear today.” A self-described foodie, Rosenbloom was especially looking forward to the onboard five-star meals with wine pairings. “They have 60 bottles of scotch, 100 different waters. You can eat dinner at a table facing each other and your coffee comes in actual china cups. If you’re in coach, God forbid you want to scratch your butt. You have to ask your neighbor to hold your orange juice to do it.”

So firm was Rosenbloom’s determination, he began to plot before he even proposed marriage. Working backwards—choosing what he desired most rather than who offered the lowest fares, he found that Cathay Pacific had the “fanciest amenities” and most attractive city layovers. Rosenbloom began a campaign to collect as many air miles as he could by signing up for multiple credit cards and taking advantage of the colossal sign-up bonus points they award.

“My father was a big proponent of credit cards, of using someone else’s money,” Rosenbloom explains. “So I’ve always used them, too.” But instead of the one or two he normally carried, he opened 11 cards in 30 months. His strategy was choosing those with the most generous offers— “40,000 points when you sign up and spend $2,000 in 90 days”—and those with the most advantageous alliances. “I loaded up on American Airline and British Airways points so I could eventually transfer them all to Cathay.”

He also took advantage of sign-up-a-second-person rewards. By getting one card for himself and another for future wife, he was able to earn thousands of extra points. “I spreadsheeted the whole thing,” Rosenbloom explains. First priority was to pay every card on time, so he kept meticulous track of billing deadlines. He monitored annual fees, getting rid of those that grew too high. He was careful about which cards he closed—and when, knowing that a lot of activity can trigger a double-digit point ding on your FICO scores. As a rule, Rosenbloom knew it was best to keep the oldest cards longest. Closing long-held cards could set off bigger alarms than the more recently acquired cards. Plus, holding on to the oldest cards lengthened his history of good credit.

The couple spent an incredible, eye-popping month traveling through Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. They hiked and swam, explored tiny villages and city back alleys. And they ate. And ate. Rosenbloom chronicled their pretty perfect honeymoon in a blog he called “Pho Better or Pho Worse.”

The couple is back in Boston now, where their 770 credit score was good enough to snare a low-interest mortgage. In October, the couple had their first baby. Rosenbloom figures he won’t be traveling quite so far over the next few years but he continues to earn points on domestic flights. “Today I have four or five cards and over 350,000 airline points. Sometimes I fly first class for free.” But nothing, he guesses, will ever equal his honeymoon. “I wanted to go full-tilt and we did. I wanted a cool experience that we’d always remember.”

How to make your traveling more easy

The world traveler has no shortage of gadgets to choose from when hitting the road. But how many of these products would improve your trip? Whether you’re touring or on a business trip, which gear would prove most handy?Fortune looks a new crop of travel items—ones that are changing and easing how we navigate and experience the world.

1. Bring Your Own Wi-Fi

For travelers, this is kind of a big deal: The Venture Backpack (thisisground.com, $925) comes with its own Wi-Fi. The made-to-order leather bag is available in two sizes that are TSA-approved for leaving a laptop inside when going through security. The wireless Internet is supplied via a palm-size device by Karma Go (yourkarma.com), which has several plans: a contract-free auto-refreshing plan ($40 to $150 a month) and a pay-as-you-go option ($15 per gigabyte).

Caveat: Constructed of vegetable-tanned Italian leather, the bag isn’t ideal for all weather, but it’s sleek and attractive as a business tote.

2. The Robot Suitcase

The future is now—or rather, in November, with the debut of the Cowarobot (cowarobot.com, $699), a robotic suitcase that follows its owner. Launched on Indiegogo, the Cowarobot avoids obstacles while following at arm’s length at up to 4½ miles per hour. It has other smart features like embedded GPS, an electronic lock that opens via app, and a “find me” option so the suit- case never gets lost. Even better: It has 96.5 watt-hours’ charging capacity, allowing the suitcase to go 12½ continuous miles.

Related: What Ivanka Trump Thinks of Her Father’s Plans for Working Women

Caveat: Your robot friend may have trouble keeping up with you on Old World cobblestone streets. Fortunately, though, this suitcase can be rolled the old-fashioned way—pulled by a human.

3. Wrap it Up

Wrangling device chargers is a necessary part of travel that can mean unsightly Velcro straps, rubber bands, and tangled messes. So Saddleback Leather, which stakes its reputation on built-to-last leather goods and trades in heritage-style bags, recently introduced this Cord Wrap Set (saddlebackleather.com, $35 for four sizes). Covered by a 100-year warranty, the adjustable leather and metal tabs look like something Grandpa might have used in the old days if he had any portable wires to deal with other than transistor radio earphones. Saddleback also offers a Square Cord Wrap Set (also $35 for four) that can store cords in cigarlike rolls, and a small cable bag ($53) to stash one or more neatly bundled cords.

4. Smartphone Photos

LG’s Cam Plus (lg.com, $69.99) attaches through the G5 smartphone’s battery port to transform the phone, when held horizontally, into an approximation of a traditional camera while also supplying its battery backup. The phone then has an external grip pad, a zoom wheel, and shutter and record buttons. It’s part of LG’s suite of photo-graphic and video modular add-ons, including a 360-degree camera and virtual-reality viewer.