Insider Secrets to an Affordable Road Trip

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Whether traveling for business or pleasure, most people will take at least one road trip this year, and when they do, they’ll be looking for value.
To help get the most out of your next trip, here are five insider secrets from travel expert and life-long hotelier, Rajiv Bhatia, head of roadside hotel chain Knights Inn.
1. Book Your Hotel Direct. Shopping around is always a good idea, and it seems like new websites pop up every day to help travelers do just that. That’s great for comparing offerings, but when you’ve made your choice, book directly with the hotel or brand. More often than not, you’ll be offered a lower price as well as a best-rate guarantee.
2. Pass on Car Rental Insurance. Rather than paying the insurance that car rental companies provide for a fee, check your personal policy. Often, your plan will include a travel clause that you may not be aware of, saving you as much as $30 a day. To save even more, don’t worry about the size of the rental car you are reserving and go with the smallest size offered. The most compact cars usually get overbooked and sell out fast, often leading to a free upgrade.
3. Don’t Pay for What’s Free. Spend your money on fun, not on hotel Internet fees and expensive breakfasts. Stick with hotels that offer these amenities at no cost.
4. Slow Down on the Highway. Savor the journey to your destination; it doesn’t pay to rush. Driving in excess of 60 miles per hour will waste gas and money. For every five miles over, you car can lose as much as 23 percent fuel efficiency.
5. Brand Loyalty Pays. Hotel loyalty programs let travelers earn points for their stays, points that can be redeemed for gift cards, free nights and more. When you stay with competing brands, it’s likely you won’t earn enough points for rewards. Stay with only one brand or its affiliates and watch your point balance grow. Like having choices when you travel? Try Wyndham Rewards, it’s the largest hotel loyalty program in the world, with 14 brands and over 6,500 hotels.

Five Ways to Succeed as a Travel Writer

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – As the media landscape keeps changing around us, travel writers are following many paths to success. Some are book authors, some write primarily for magazines and others are earning a good income by blogging or running destination websites. Tim Leffel, author of “Travel Writing 2.0” (http://travelwriting2.com), offers these tips on making it as a travel writer, whether in print, e-books, travel apps or the next media we haven’t seen yet.
1. Get the Basics Down First. There is far too much competition in this desirable field for sub-par writers to succeed. Read books on writing well, take a course at your local community college or attend workshops that include peer and teacher reviews. At a minimum, travel writers need to master the basics of reporting and writing engaging prose before blogging or getting hired by an editor.
2. Find Your Niche. Trying to be a generalist travel writer puts you into a bloody pool with incredible competition. It is far easier to make a name for yourself becoming the expert on one region or one style of travel.
3. Be Original. Ideas are your main currency as a travel writer. The ability to find good original story ideas for any destination is often more important than what you actually put on the page.
4. Be a Professional. The main complaint of editors is that so many writers are unprofessional. They send sloppy e-mails. They miss deadlines. They make promises they can’t deliver. You can rise above the pack by reading publication guidelines carefully and not wasting editors’ time.
5. Travel Every Chance You Get. It’s difficult to succeed as a travel writer, even a part-time one, if you are not traveling on a regular basis. It can be in your own region, but you need to go find the stories nobody else is writing and get past the routine vacations that have been reported on a thousand times already.
Learn more about travel writing in the book “Travel Writing 2.0: Earning Money From Your Travels in the New Media Landscape” or by visiting http://travelwriting2.com.

Five Tips for Aspiring Travel Writers

As the media landscape keeps changing around us, travel writers are following many paths to success. Some are book authors, some write primarily for magazines, and others are earning a good income by blogging or running destination websites. Tim Leffel, author of “Travel Writing 2.0” (http://travelwriting2.com), offers these tips on making it as a travel writer, whether in print, e-books, travel apps, or the next media we haven’t seen yet.

Tips for Stress-Free Air Travel

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Man-made and natural disruptions to air travel are all-too-often the norm. Not only can weather delay take-offs and landings, but new airline rules can also keep planes grounded.

For example, if a plane is sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours, it has to return to the gate. On the upside, there are ways to cope with the unexpected. Here are a few simple tips to prepare for delays before leaving home:

* Print copies of itineraries with the 800 numbers for your airline, and others that fly the same route, just in case you have to rebook from the airport. The paper-free option? E-mail those numbers or enter them manually into your smartphone.

* Check airline Web sites for delay postings. New rules mandate that airlines have this information online. Alternatively, you can go to www.flightstats.com.

* Make sure you can access your office and home computers in the event you are stuck while traveling. Free and inexpensive programs like LogMeIn (www.LogMeIn.com) make it quick, easy and secure to access files, calendars and applications from any computer, smartphone, netbook or iPad with an Internet connection.

* Enlist a friend or family member who knows their way around online travel sites, and keep them on your mobile phone speed dial. If you have to make alternative plans, they can probably do it faster than anyone.

* Remember travel insurance. A few extra dollars tacked onto the price of your trip can provide peace of mind if you have to change plans for unforeseen reasons. Check what your airline, travel agent, booking site and credit cards offer to make sure that you’re covered.

* Have fun. Many airports are adding luxuries like spas, high-end restaurants and even showers to keep passengers happy. Find out what your airport, and the ones that you will visit, offer before you go, so you’re able to enjoy them to the fullest.

While there is no surefire guarantee for disruption-free air travel, a little advanced planning can go a long way — even all the way to your destination.

Sweeten the Kitty: Tips for Easier Traveling with Pets

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – You look forward to your vacation, but leaving your furry friends behind is more than you can handle. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to bring your pets along for the ride.

There are plenty of pet -friendly lodging establishments, restaurants, and a slew of gear and other pet products that make traveling with Fido and Fluffy more comfortable. Consider trying the following tips before packing your pets’ travel bags:

* Plan ahead. Prepare to include your pets in the fun by making a list of the extra gear and supplies that you will need and any special reservations that you may require. Include food, litter, leashes, toys, beds, medications and pet carriers. Just to be safe, carry notes regarding your pet’s medical history and your veterinarian’s contact information.

* Have a practice round. If your pet is not used to car or plane travel, introduce him to the carrier prior to departure. Toss in a favorite toy or familiar object and take a spin around the block. Make sure that the carrier is airline-compliant and sturdy enough to make the trip.

* Travel green. Leaving home does not have to mean abandoning planet-friendly habits. Use biodegradable waste disposal bags when cleaning up after your pooch. If traveling with a cat, use a cat litter that offers odor control, clumping for easy clean-up and all-natural, flushable ingredients, such as World’s Best Cat Litter (www.worldsbestcatlitter.com).

* Keep moving. Just like humans, your pets need as much exercise away from home as they do in their own environment. Make sure you make plenty of stops along the way and allow every member of your family to stretch his or her legs and breathe fresh air. Once at your destination, include your pet in hikes, walks on the beach or a visit to a local park.

* Drink up. Make sure that your pet has access to clean water throughout your travels. A pet’s body is comprised of 80 percent water– proper hydration is key to good health at home and on the road.

* Have fun. Enjoy this extra-special time with your pet. Include him or her in your vacation photo album. Visit a local dog park. It’s likely that your pet will “introduce you” to new friends along the way.

Do Travel Web Sites Offer the Best Bargains?

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Before Americans hop aboard planes, they go online. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the Internet was the nation’s top-ranking source of travel information in 2009. Between travel agency Web sites and search engines, Americans saw little reason to call travel agencies or airlines. But do travel Web sites really offer the best deals?

Many Web sites offer ridiculously low prices at first glance, like a $99 flight from New York City to London. But the price you see might not include taxes and other fees, which can increase costs quickly. In a 2004 Consumer Reports Webwatch research report, testers experienced repeated fare-jumping — the largest jump increased the ticket price by $748.

Would-be travelers might also click on a good deal, only to find that, by the time they enter their information, the seat is no longer available. Travelers might also spend hours online comparison-shopping, only to find the best prices gone by the time they go to book. Others might struggle to find a reasonable price on the return flight. What is going on?

“When you’re buying a ticket online, your seats aren’t confirmed until you enter your credit card information, so the seat can be lost while you type,” explains John Ferry, CEO of CheapTrips (www.cheaptripsandfreeairfare.com). “However, if you’re on the phone with one of our agents, they secure the price as they talk to you on the phone. You’re always better off speaking to a person.”

Travel agents can also compare prices far faster than the average computer user — often closing deals within five minutes — and advise travelers on hidden fees, like those on checked-baggage.

Ferry says that many Web sites do not publish the best prices. Airlines frequently offer less expensive, wholesale tickets that cannot be sold online. “Our travel representatives and vendors buy these confidential tickets in bulk, then sell them to our customers for less than online ticket prices.”

If you’re determined to book your flight online, look for travel Web sites that offer flexible booking — many tickets cannot be refunded, even if you find a better deal. For example, CheapTrips not only lets its members cancel trips, but also offers a full money-back guarantee if the customer finds a lower price within 24 hours. The Web site also offers free trips every day, which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

You should also make sure that you know what’s included in the ticket price. CheapTrips offers benefits like emergency funds or emergency tickets home, while others give you nothing more than a seat on a plane.

To learn more, call 800-383-7708 or visit www.cheaptripsandfreeairfare.com.

Tips for Stress-free Traveling with Kitty

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Whether you’re moving across the country or without a cat sitter, you may find yourself driving with cats.

“Traveling with your cats can be a rich and rewarding experience,” says family travel and lifestyles expert Lynn Hayes. “The key is doing your research, then creating and executing a plan.” Hayes offers the following tips for traveling with cats:

– Plan ahead. If you are considering a road trip or flying to your destination, set aside plenty of time to prepare yourself and your feline friend for the journey. Consider how your pet has handled car travel in the past, if only on a trip to the vet. Is he or she comfortable? Do you have a crate or carrier? How long will the trip be? Will other family members or friends be along for the ride?

– Gather the gear. You’ll need a collar, two leashes and an ID for your cat. A small carrier or crate will also be important — your cat can’t cuddle around your feet when you need to step on the brake.

– Remember their litter. You might not think a change in your cat’s litter will be a big change for your cat, but it may affect the success of your trip. To help your cat feel at home, bring along their favorite cat litter. World’s Best Cat Litter fits well into your travel schedule because it is 100 percent all-natural. It is also flushable, making the disposal of litter hassle-free. For more information, visit www.worldsbestcatlitter.com.

Practice makes perfect. If your cat is not familiar with crate travel, consider placing the crate in your home for a few weeks before your departure. Leave the door open, and occasionally toss in a treat or two. Sooner or later, your cat will view the spot as a comfortable retreat.

Take the same approach with a leash, if that is not part of your regular routine. Also, consider taking test drives to evaluate how your cat handles the situation. Don’t forget to secure the carrier with a seat belt or other restraining method to avoid slipping and sliding within the car.

– Safety first. Be sure your cat’s identification is firmly attached. Make sure vaccinations are up to date and any necessary medications are packed for the trip. Consider bringing along your cat’s medical records, particularly if you are crossing state lines. Remember that hot cars can quickly become dangerous for small animals — don’t leave your pet unattended.

Creative Incentives Increase Customer Retention, Gains

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – In today’s economy, many businesses struggle to stay afloat, much less profit. But when the going gets tough, the tough get creative — businesses are finding new ways to motivate employees, attract new customers and keep their current clients happy.

Believe it or not, sales and discounts hurt businesses more than they help. With so many businesses offering sales, it takes a steep discount to stand out from the crowd. Put items or services on sale too often, and customers will wait for another sale before they buy, meaning that the company will make less money per purchase.

What does drive sales? Well, happy customers. Customers are much more likely to use a company with friendly, capable employees. So instead of devaluing their product, companies need to find ways to improve customer service while drawing in new customers and keeping old ones.

One Wisconsin bank seems to have found a solution — in travel incentives. The Madison Branch of Anchor Bank hired a company called Motivation Advantage to run a travel incentive promotion in all of its 60 locations. Motivation Advantage designed a three-day, two-night package that customers could use for a trip to nearby cities and states, or as far away as Florida or California.

The promotion offered vacation getaway packages when customers chose the branch for a loan. But the bank made sure that its regular customers could also qualify for the travel incentive, either by taking out a new equity loan or refinancing an old one.

Employees also participated. Those who encouraged customers to sign up for loans could earn vacations.

Travel remains a large motivator — everyone wants to get away for a while. Ninety-one percent of Americans take a vacation every year, making travel incentives especially appealing. Savvy companies can use such incentives to boost employee morale, retain valued customers, attract new business and launch new products.

For more information, visit www.motivationadvantage.com.

In Down Economy, Cities Reach Out to Gay Tourists

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – As a stagnant economy has many Americans rethinking travel plans, cities are marketing to new travel demographics — including gay and lesbian tourists.

Unlike other travel brackets, gay travel has remained steady despite the economic recession. Gay and lesbian couples travel more often and spend more money while on vacation than straight couples. According to a 2006 study conduced by the U.S. Travel Association, gay men spend about $800 per trip. Straight men spend $540.

Cities are heeding the trend. In 2003, Philadelphia launched its $300,000 a year “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay” marketing campaign. Now, the city ranks as America’s 13th largest gay and lesbian travel destination. Southwest Airlines is currently working with the city to attract even more gay and lesbian visitors.

In addition to Philadelphia, Miami, with its historic art deco hotels, beaches and happening nightlife, continues to draw gay and lesbian vacationers. But as the gay tourism market becomes more competitive, the city is working to draw new visitors. In April 2009, the city held a Gay Pride Festival to celebrate gender rights and sexual equality. Twenty thousand visitors showed up to enjoy a parade and the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus and to wave rainbow-colored flags.

“In the past few years, other cities like Key West have cut into Miami’s gay tourism,” says Frederic S. Richardson, CEO of MOD Hospitality (www.eastcoastventures.com), which owns the Astor and Clinton hotels — two of the top-ranked hotels in South Beach. “It’s time that Miami reasserts itself as one of the gay cultural centers of the world.”

Chicago, which hosted the 2006 Gay Games — a quadrennial athletic and cultural event — continues to pursue gay and lesbian tourists. The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau writes a quarterly newsletter directed toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travelers, and plans to host an International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association board meeting.

“Chicago, frankly, is just now catching up to other cities who have been aggressively wooing the pink dollar,” said Mark Theis, executive vice president of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, in an interview with the the Chicago Tribune. “We want people to know how gay-friendly we are and the wealth of attractive assets we have.”

Guard Against Blood Clots While Traveling

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Air travel these days can be a challenge, with long security lines and flight delays. But many people may not know that traveling by plane can also increase your risk of developing a dangerous blood clot. The longer the trip, the more at risk you are for developing a clot.

What is a blood clot? When a blood vessel is injured, platelets and proteins in the blood stick together to form a plug (clot) over the site of the wound to prevent excessive bleeding. When blood flow is restricted, clots can sometimes form within the blood vessels, even if no injury exists. Prolonged immobility during long trips can lead to the formation of unnecessary blood clots in a major vein (commonly in the leg). This condition is called “deep-vein thrombosis” (DVT).

Most of the time, blood clots will naturally dissolve and go away on their own. But in some cases, a blood clot may travel from the leg into the lung, where it becomes lodged and prevents blood flow. This life-threatening condition is called a “pulmonary embolism” (PE) and should be treated immediately.

“It is estimated that more Americans die each year from pulmonary embolism than breast cancer, HIV disease and motor vehicle crashes combined,” said Nancy Berliner, M.D., president of the American Society of Hematology. “The good news is that blood clots are highly preventable if you recognize the risk factors and take simple steps to promote good circulation.”

Blood clot warning signs include sudden pain, redness or discoloration, skin that feels unusually warm and swelling of the leg, ankle or calf. Signs of PE include chest pain and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should immediately contact a doctor.

There are simple steps people can take to help prevent blood clots from forming while flying. The American Society of Hematology (ASH) offers the following tips:

– Walk around the plane every few hours.

– Drink lots of fluids.

– Wear loose clothing.

– Avoid drinking alcohol before and during travel.

– Store carry-on luggage overhead to give yourself leg room.

Women taking oral contraceptives have a higher risk of developing clots, as do pregnant women, smokers, seniors and obese individuals. For more information, visit ASH’s Web site www.bloodthevitalconnection.org.