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Three Things about My Japan

Lei Ann Shiramizu is one of my most stylish, funny and witty friends. She is the co-proprietor of Momo, a store that’s elegant and vibrant at the same time, which is hard to do! She also loves travel to Japan, so I wanted to ask her:

Tell me your favorite things about Japan and why:

Being Japanese-American and born and raised in Hawaii, Japan is familiar and foreign at the same time. Different cities have such different characteristics, different personalities. True anywhere. But there’s commonalities: clean, polite, accessible and orderly. I feel safe and can enjoy the experience without worrying about my well-being.

Tell me three things about Japan that you think a visitor shouldn’t miss, and why:

  1.  Rent a bike in Kyoto
    Photo: Peter Birkinshaw/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/binaryape/

    Kyoto by Bike | Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/binaryape/ Peter Birkinshaw

    Kyoto is flat, it’s a very very bike friendly city, it’s also a casual practical biker scene. In the USA, people tend to ride bikes for exercise, not for simple transportation. Cycling is also a great way to get from temple to temple. Finally, you can ride along the river and see it at the right pace.

  2. Drink and eat at a Fukuoka City Yatai
    Fukuoka City Yatai/Photo: Melanie_Ko/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/14541393@N03/)

    Fukuoka City Yatai | Photo: Melanie_Ko/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/14541393@N03/)

    Yatai (loosely similar to a food stall or truck, but more like an open-air restaurant) are awesome. They are cheap too. But the top reason is you get to share the camaraderie of the people next to you. On my last trip, with my 80-year-old parents, we drank sake with a Japanese man who loved Hawaiian culture. So my mom sang Tiny Bubbles along with Japanese strangers!

  3.  Visit Mount Kōya
    Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00/

    A temple on Mount Koya | Photo: Akuppa John Wigham (https://www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00/)

    Mount Kōya (高野山) is a sacred mountain top. It’s considered the birthplace of Shinto Buddhism. It’s a sacred place! Getting there from Kyoto, be prepared for trains, planes and automobiles! When we got there, we were served the most amazing vegetarian meal you will ever enjoy, even if you’re not vegetarian. Be sure to partake of goma-tofu, the only place you will find this delicious black sesame tofu. There is also a graveyard at the temple. We walked through it at sunset. We heard the temple gong. It is something I will never forget. We stayed at a Shinto monastery. You have to wake up early and take part in morning prayers with the monks (and other guests.) Mandatory!

And 4,  Hiroshima

Hiroshima Peace Lanterns / Photo: Riley Roxx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rileyroxx/)

Hiroshima Peace Lanterns | Photo: Riley Roxx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rileyroxx/)

Hiroshima is beautiful and hopeful. The way I feel about Hiroshima is the way I feel about a person who had cancer, but then got healthy again. It’s a phoenix rising from the ashes. You shouldn’t feel guilty about Hiroshima, just go.

 Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations. If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals, Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Brexit and Travel Impacts

Three ways travel is impacted post-Brexit:

1. Take Donald Trump’s advice and save some money

Trump explains travel

Trump explains travel

I never thought I’d take Donald Trump’s advice on travel, but today I am!  Here’s the quote: “…. traveling and for other things, you know, I think it could very well turn out to be a positive.”  Washington Post, June 24, 2016

All kidding aside, the British Pound’s trading at about 7% less right now (up from nearly 11% lower yesterday) versus the US Dollar and this has direct benefit if you pay in greenbacks.  Here’s how: Travel to UK or paying for UK goods and services (like a plane ticket, a hotel room or a West End play) will be substantially cheaper. The UK can be kind of expensive, so any discount is well worth seeking out, especially one this straightforward. If you’re thinking of going, book (and pay) soon.

2.  Border travel restrictions won’t change for at least two years.

More of this, in a few years

More of this, in a few years

 According to European Union law, The UK leaves the EU two years after it notifies the EU, about two years from today (the UK hasn’t notified the EU of its intentions.) For Europeans traveling to the UK, that means that travel won’t be impacted by EU resident checks for a few years. Same with UK residents: Travel to non-CTA EU countries won’t be restricted by border checks for a few years.  It is too early to expect more border patrols, but it is likely. This means that border crossing to or from the UK will be affected eventually – more red tape, more delays and more queues – but nothing changes right now.   

3.  A rare invitation into British and Northern Irish political attitudes.

No lack of opinions here

No lack of opinions here

One of my favorite insights about travel is from Mark Twain:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  

As Mark Twain suggests, travel offers us a different perspective on our world. From what I’ve read and seen, some areas of the UK were very strongly Remain, and some were decidedly Leave.  What’s the deeper reason? One thing I’m sure of is that British and Northern Irish folks probably have an opinion and might want to talk about it with you! It’s a unique opportunity to learn about the British and Northern Irish people and how they view themselves.

 Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Three Things about My Venice

I am so excited that we’re introducing a new series on Amazing Airfare’s blog, where we share three unique travel insights from our close friends! This series is all about sharing insider knowledge about places, and suggestions of things you might want to check out in these great places. These are from the heart, a connection with a place that you don’t forget.  We’re calling it Three Things.

Our first Three Things is from our friend Suzanne Mason. Take it away Suzanne!

There are so many places that I love and go back to, but I’d have to say that my all time favorite is Venice, Italy.

Gran Canal and Salute at dusk

Grand Canal and Salute at dusk

For me, Venice is as exciting as any mega metropolis in that it has immense diversity. La Serenissima has attracted people, customs, cuisines from all corners of the world, historically and currently.

The history of powerful doges, the spice traders, The Jewish quarter, the Grand Canal, the trade zones that set the tone for modern trade practices. The unique cuisine within the singular ecology of the Laguna makes it a place that for me is man and nature wrestling before your eyes daily.

A simple, everyday home renovation or pipe repair is like an archaeological dig with silt and clay being brought up from hundreds of years ago. It brings up evocative imagery of what the area might have looked like, who first lived there, who made the city what it is and how it is used today. It is all these lessons and more.

Whenever I go back to Venice: It never really seems to change, but I am always stunned at how blown away I am every time I go there.

The three things many people miss and should not miss in Venice are:

1) The Giardini (away from the biennale crowds) Just observe all the ordinary people in the gardens  — non-tourists, old people with their mongrel rat dogs, kids with their mothers going about their day.

Footbridge in Venice

Footbridge in Venice

2) The backside of the tourism centers — the neighborhoods on the edges of the grand quarters — the schools, the groceries, butcher shops, pasta shops, local cafes, the garden supply stores. These places show you how people live there in this fantastical place. How they get their groceries home, pass all the canals, over all the slippery Istrian marble bridges, up the ancient palazzo stairs. It makes you consider all the ways in which we are the same, but how the atmosphere and surroundings influence all that Venetians do. Even going to dinner could be getting dressed in sleek evening attire and then getting in your private paddle boat standing up and rowing to your favorite restaurant.

Home in Venice

Home in Venice

3) The Lido – the real Venice Beach, complete with muscle heads and scanty bikinis. It is the stuff of Fellini films…old muscle men with sagging pecs wearing banana yellow speedos, young bimbos with huge hair and hot pink fingernails, fat little boys crying and eating a fast-melting ice cream cone while their glamorous mothers are trying to hook up with the young Adonis who has been giving them eyes all morning…bike riding, goats, scallop shell lined streets with artichokes growing left and right…and most fascinating of all…cars! Cars! They look strange and displaced in this world that functions so well without them.

Paul Newman 1963 Venice Film Festival

Six Pack Delivery! Paul Newman on Lido Beach, 1963 Venice Film Festival

Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Three tips on airfare savings based on calendars

Everyone appreciates saving money on airfare. Here’s three things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about traveling, or when you’re booking your travel based on a little calendar knowledge, a little patience and a little luck.

Book airline travel on Tuesdays and (early) Wednesday. According to writer Mark di Vincenzo, and as detailed in his book Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon, the peak days to save money on a flight are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And according to Lifehacker, if you can stay awake until 1:00AM Wednesday, you may find even hotter deals. The rationale is that airlines update their inventory (flight seats) pricing early Wednesday morning, in the home timezone of the airline. For such a substantial discount, it might be worth it to practice your redeye technique when you book your next trip.

Travel on a Tuesday, a Wednesday or a Saturday.  According to the US Travel Association https://www.ustravel.org/answersheet,  26% of all US air travelers are business travelers, and airlines frequently sell these tickets for the most money. Since airlines know that inflexible dates and times are a requirement for many business trips and travelers, whenever you can book travel for a Tuesday, a Wednesday or a Saturday, the days least likely to have business travelers, you might get a good discount. According to USA Today, the savings are definitely worth looking for, up to 35%.

crete

Trade your guaranteed flight seat on busy travel days for another guaranteed seat on a later flight plus compensation. This one is a bit more complicated, but you can do it – here’s how: Book travel to your destination on the last day of a holiday weekend, if you can be at the airport early. Arrive to the departure gate 90 minutes before boarding and start listening for the airline agents calling for guaranteed seat holders willing to be bumped.  In most cases, the airline will improve the offers only if they haven’t found enough passengers willing to take a later flight, so be prepared to say yes early or late, depending on demand.

To use a personal example: we surrendered our return flight seats from Charles de Gaulle in Paris over Memorial Day Weekend a few years ago, and were compensated €1900 for the pair of us to take the next day’s flight.  The compensation was worth nearly 50% of the cost of the flight.

Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Five Essential Mobile Travel Apps

We’re passionate about travel. We believe travel experiences should be accessible to everyone, and the tools and talents we’ve learned should be shared with everyone. Having a great experience on your next trip really does start with going places that you can have a great experience, and for us, having a great experience is easier and more predictably enjoyable whenever we use mobile apps.

My first use of a mobile device on vacation was in France, in 2004. I caused quite a stir in Bordeaux when I showed up at Bed and  Breakfast table using Map Point 2004 on my Windows Pocket PC 2002 device! It felt like it was from the future, and it’s fair to say that it was a memorable experience for everyone involved.

Here are five free mobile apps useful after you find a great deal on airfare. We chose these apps for their class-leading utility, ease of use and free price. Many of these could be replaced by a personal preference, and if you prefer your app over an app here, by all means stick with your app! Finally, familiarize yourself with these apps before you go on your next vacation.

Maps: Google Maps:  Google Play iTunes  Not getting lost in a foreign country means getting a map, and mapping applications, as long as you have bandwidth, are a practical and handy way to find your way on the road. Almost everyone has used Google Maps, so sticking with a familiar app is a good idea.

The best reason to recommend Google Maps is that no other map provider offers car/bike/ferry/walk and rail options in the same app. In many parts of the world, where booking a train ticket or getting a seat on a ferry is the norm, this is a key feature. This was only recently added to the app (it had been on the browser version only) so we can now recommend the app over the website. Finally, Google Maps has a great feature that’s missing in most other free mapping programs: airport interior maps. Finding an international gate in a new airport for a connecting flight can be stressful. Don’t miss your flight!

Airline Info: FlightView Free iTunes  Google Play FlightView Free is the best app for real-time flight information. When is that flight scheduled to arrive? Get an alert for that flight. Departure gate changed? Get an alert. Connecting flight changed? Get an alerted as soon as it happens. You can set custom levels of alerts, see real-time flight paths, arrival and departure times (or delays) all updated within seconds. You can even find out information about the plane model. Enter your flight info, the app does the rest. Essential. From OAG.

Translation: Google Translate: Google Play  Itunes The app offers text, speech and snapshot translation, meaning if you can take a pic with your smartphone, you have a great shot at translating the sign. Google Translate now includes French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Portuguese as offline translators for when you’re tight on bandwidth (more on that later.) We still recommend learning a few conversational phrases (and knowing what they mean when you are asked the same phrases) but traveling with a translator opens up another level of great travel experience.

Mobile Device on Vacation

Mobile is for more than pics on your next vacation

Spending and Budget: Mint iTunes Google Play

Saving a lot of money on a plane ticket is a smart way to experience travel. Overspending your budget can be fun, but it can take away the benefits of saving a lot on your next vacation airfare. Mint helps you track expenses and keep your budget in mind when you travel. Since online privacy and security are a big concern too, we feel safe recommending Mint.

Mint is now part of Intuit, who have been making personal finance software forever, so the user experience and features are great right out of the box. 

Itinerary wrangling: TripIt: Trip Planner iTunes  Google Play

TripIt places high on our list of essentials because it’s an easy and free way to keep your travel plans organized. If you forward travel confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com, TripIt will create a streamlined master itinerary for each of your trips that you can access anytime, anywhere, on any device—for free. If you have a Gmail account, it will do its organizing on its own – no forwarding necessary.

Key Features of Tripit are:

  • Instantly creates a schedule with all your travel details in one place
  • Imports travel plans directly from your email
  • Gives you access to your travel plans on any device
  • Adds your travel plans to your calendar for you
  • Keeps family, friends and colleagues in the loop
  • Stores essential travel documents and contacts

Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Timing Tips on Travel to Europe

Curious why so many great travel deals are specifically timed for mid-March, Mid-April, September and October?  It’s simple:  Most people still go to Europe only during the Summer.  Here’s a big travel tip to save you a huge amount of money:  Learn the travel seasons!

Travel seasons in Europe are divided into three customary periods:

  • Low Season, starting in November, ending in March
  • Shoulder Seasons, actually two seasons, both roughly two months long.  Spring season — Mid-March through Mid-June, and Fall Season — Early September through October.
  • Peak Season or high Season: Mid June through August.

Historically, “Peak season” was the peak travel time because European, specifically North European, weather was unpredictable in the spring and fall, and a majority of the historic public festivals were held in the European summer. Later, with the boom in tourist travel in Europe starting in the 19th Century, more events and attractions were added to the calendar, specifically in the summer months.  

What this means for the Europe-bound traveller is that getting to Europe, travel around Europe, and activities available within Europe are at their peak level during the summer, roughly Mid-June through August.  We definitely see the appeal of pleasant weather, abundant activities and the fantastic cultural activities Europe is renowned for.  Amongst Europeans, who make up the majority of vacationers in Europe, summer season is when most take their holiday.

Cinque Terre_resize

However, for your next trip to Europe, consider planning a vacation around the shoulder or low seasons.  First of all, there’s fewer tourists, so just getting around is going to be less crowded.

Airfares will also be cheaper, since the demand can be half what it is during the very peak season.   Airfare can be cheap during the Low Season too, but take care to avoid booking travel for the holidays, as this can be more expensive, of course.

Finally, lodging and restaurants during the shoulder season will be less crowded, which also means savings.  In particular, low season hotel rooms can be a fraction of the price of high season, especially in beach resorts.  In one of my trips to Nice, France, we booked a beachside stay for 25% the cost of the room rate during the high summer!

One additional reason to consider shoulder season is that while peak season is defined as “warm outdoor summer weather” season in Northern Europe, Southern European countries are arguably at their most pleasant during the Shoulder Season.  In particular, the coasts and islands of southern Europe are both less crowded and more affordable.  In other words, a great time to go!

Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

 

Follow Airlines on Social Media

Looking for a discount on airfare?  For travelers looking for a super sale price on a great flight, or new and upcoming promos on tickets, or exploring the destinations and getaways that airlines can offer, or late breaking news on your next trip’s itinerary, following airlines’ social media is definitely worth investigating!

Another benefit of following airlines on social media is that airlines, more than most companies, monitor their social media accounts and respond to their followers.  We’ve seen plenty of airlines use Twitter and Facebook as a way of helping out travelers when customers have questions, need answers or are looking for advice.  Airlines thrive on customer satisfaction, so keeping customers happy is a key priority.  

Here’s a list of air carriers to get you started:

USA-based carriers most active on social media

Non-USA-based carriers active on social media

 Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

How Far Out to Book Your Next Trip

How far out to book a trip is a very common question people have about airfare and travel.  This is natural, since for many travelers, airfare can be the biggest expense.  Armed with a little knowledge, your next flight might be a lot less expensive!

The best advice you can get is plan ahead and put some months between you and your flight.  If you have the opportunity, start looking months before your planned trip. In 2015, Kayak released a study of fares they had offered on their site.  They noticed significant trends in discount airfare, and they published the results.

In each of the example destinations given by Kayak, they also suggest days of the week for getting a great deal on departures and return tickets.  In almost all cases, travel leaving and returning midweek is going to save you big on your next flight.

According to Kayak:

  • Caribbean: 2-3 weeks out, best fares are depart Thursday, return Tuesday
  • Africa: 3-5 weeks out; best to leave Tuesday, return Monday
  • Central America: 4-6 weeks out: depart Tuesday, return Tuesday
  • Domestic US: 3-7 weeks out; best savings are depart Friday, return Monday
  • South America: 6 months out; aim to depart Wednesday, return Monday
  • Europe: 8-10 Months out; depart Wednesday, return Tuesday
  • Asia: 9-10 months out; leave Wednesday, return Wednesday

Kayak updates this list annually.

Another thing to keep in mind when looking for cheap tickets is to know the local high tourist season of your destination.  Some locations, such as Western Europe, have a very established travel season, in this case the Northern Hemisphere summer.  Most travelers who are considering a European vacation are very likely to go during this high season. Airlines will have plenty of customers during their peak season, so prices will be highest.   

But remember, these rules are very often broken by the airlines.  In fact, you can find fantastic deals if you are able to check fares daily.  Even if you can’t check daily,  oftentimes 6-7 weeks out is great for discount airfares, even to hot destinations.  However, it’s becoming harder to spot and act quickly on great travel deals.  Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Photo credit: Kate Ter Haar  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/)