News and Tips from the 2018 New York Times Travel Show, Part One

I’ve just visited the 2018 New York Times Travel Show: a review of information, tips, and trends for travel in 2018.

I spent my weekend at The New York Times Travel Show — which was celebrating its 15th anniversary. This was my second visit to the NYT show; I attend to listen to and to network with top travel bloggers, PR professionals, and other people in the travel industry, and to learn more about trends in travel.

New York Times Travel Show exhibit: Getting a hug from Soohorang, the mascot of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, is a white tiger -- the guardian animal of South Korea.
Getting a hug from Soohorang, the mascot of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, is a white tiger — the guardian animal of South Korea.

The show lasts three days: Friday is always industry only, but as a travel blogger, it is my industry now 🙂 . Then Friday and Saturday are for the general public: the trade show with more that 560 exhibitors and 170 countries represented, seminars, book signings, and cultural presentations of dance, music, and food.

I’ll be sharing some of the things I learned in a two-part series, since there is so much information, a single article simply won’t hold it all!

The Frugal Traveler with Lucas Peterson

Lucas Peterson writes the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times — giving tips for traveling on a tight budget. He arrived late for his session, with a funny story about relying on public transportation in New York.

Peterson is an entertaining and humorous speaker, and the 45 minutes we did have with him was well worth the time.

Lucas Peterson, who writes the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Lucas Peterson, who writes the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

“I am the Frugal Traveler, not the Luxurious Traveler. But — It’s not about a race to the bottom! I’m not looking to find the worst hostel in Paraguay to sleep on a dirt floor and be miserable. It’s about getting the best experience possible for the least amount of money.”

He went on to say that frugal travel frequently gives travelers more rewarding experiences. Americans often use “money like a body guard.” While it may insulate you from bad experiences, it also insulates you from the culture and the opportunity to have authentic interactions in the country.

When you are trying to save money on a trip, lodging is the big key — prices vary greatly, experiences vary greatly. The Internet has democratized getting the best airfare out there, so the place you stand to save the most money is with where you choose to stay.

Where does Peterson stay? A combination of hotels, Airbnb rooms, and the occasional hostel — though fewer of those than in the past.

On the subject of hostels, Peterson said, “I don’t do the bunk bed thing where there are six to ten people in a single room. What I like to do is to get a private room. These are often only $18-$20 a night.” You get privacy, but you also get access to the common room where you have an opportunity to meet other travelers.

Airbnb? Peterson said that many of the complaints about the company are justified — because “it wrecks the rental market in some cities because many owners aren’t doing it the way it was intended.” This happens when companies buy up whole sets of homes and apartments and run a rental business, rather than it being an owner leasing their own apartment, or a room in their home. When Peterson does Airbnb, he likes to rent a room in a house, which ensures he isn’t supporting the kind of behavior he described. He particularly loves renting rooms from retired couples because they have more time to spend with him, and they often show him around their city or town.

Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building
Trend: with foreign travel to the USA down by more than 4%, travel in the US should be a good deal in 2018. Photo by Brian Sugden on Unsplash

Travel Trends

What does Peterson see as the biggest travel trends? Travel today is all about experiences: cooking classes in someone’s home; learning to surf with a professional in Malibu. Experiential travel has been trending strongly over the last few years, and he only sees it becoming a stronger part of the travel market. Peterson’s favorite sites to find experiences:

The other big trend Peterson discussed: overseas travel to the United States is down by more than 4% over this last year. Regardless of what your politics are, Peterson said, Trump’s policies on immigration have had an impact on how other nations view the U.S. in its friendliness is towards foreign visitors.

The upside for American travelers? Travel in our country should be a good deal in 2018, so if you are brainstorming where you might like to travel, consider things like our own National Parks, or a trip to one of our amazing cities, like NYC.

Biggest Travel Myths

Myth One: “There is secret to getting upgraded on a flight. Every click-bait article that says there is, well, there isn’t. It’s not that it never happens, and you can always ask for an upgrade, and hey — you might get upgraded from Cattle Car to Cattle Car Plus, but there is no secret method. You get it by having status with your airline.”

Free upgrades happen less than ever before, and when they do happen, it’s generally to elite members of their loyalty programs. New Flash: Airlines don’t like to give things away.

Peterson quoted stats from Delta saying that the company used to sell only 14% of first class seats just a few years ago, while it now sells almost 70% of them. Often this happens when they offer to sell those seats to passengers who booked the main cabin — perhaps in an email, or as the person is checking in online. Tip: you can often purchase an upgrade at this point for less than if you bought that Premium Economy or First Class at the outset.

Delta flight leaves Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.
Delta flight leaves Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Myth Two: “If you buy your ticket at 4:38 in the morning during a full moon, it’s going to be magically less . . . .  No. No, it’s not true. It doesn’t matter when you buy your ticket, but it does make a difference which days you  choose to travel.” Know the high season, low season, and shoulder season. The key to getting the best price is being flexible (Note, Pauline Frommer contradicted this in her talk the second day of the show — will report her findings in the next article in this series on the NYT Travel Show).

Lucas’s favorite sites to search for airfares are listed below, and of course he recommends setting alerts on these sites so you know when a flight price drops:

One of my favorite things that Peterson said in his seminar: If you have even a modest disposable income right now, you can afford to travel.

He gave an example of a friend who he was trying to get to go with him on a trip. “Oh, I just don’t have any money for that,” she said. He pointed at the sunglasses perched on top of her head . . . “How much did those cost?” — $300.

It’s a priority. What do you want to spend your money on?

Peterson talked generally about OTA’s (online travel agent sites, like Expedia). While you may think there are many competitors, there aren’t. Expedia owns: Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago, Home Away, VRBO, Hotels.com, Hotwire, and Egencia. Priceline owns: Booking.com, Kayak, Agoda, CheapFlights, Rentalcars.com, Momondo, and Open Table. Trip Advisor owns: Airfarewatchdog, Booking Buddy, Viator, Holiday Watchdog, Jetsetter, and GateGuru.

Peterson’s top reasons to use OTA’s:

  • easy-to-use interface,
  • one stop shopping,
  • the ability to shop across multiple airlines and hotel chains with only one log-in and password
  • reward systems with points that you can use at many hotel brands

His top reasons to avoid OTA’s:

Peterson ended his talk pretty quickly as he ran out of time, since he’s gotten a late start. His final points had to do with credit cards, but I didn’t see any new or interesting information here. I find the Points Guy to be the most knowledgeable source for comparing cards, points, and a person’s travel needs and habits.

So — I leave you with an overview video from the NYT Trade Show hall:

 

Never heard of the New York Times Travel Show? It’s hit its fifteenth year, and I’ve learned so much both years I attended, that I’ll be back in 2019.

Wondering whether there are similar travel shows in your area? You might try the Travel Adventure Show Expos that take place in 8 different cities around the country, starting on February 10, 2018, and the last one finishes on March 17, 2018.

 

Norovirus: Stomach Flu Joins the Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas

When the Independence of the Seas returned to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, Royal Caribbean confirmed a large outbreak of norovirus on the ship. Instead of having fun in the sun, only two days into the trip many passengers began falling ill, struck by severe gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas was struck by highly contagious Norovirus December 2017
Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas, docked in Labadee, Haiti. Photograph from Shutterstock.

When the Independence of the Seas returned to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, Royal Caribbean confirmed a large outbreak of norovirus on the ship.

The Royal Caribbean cruise began its five-day cruise on Monday, December 11, 2017. Independence of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, with the capacity to carry 4,370 passengers, along with a crew of 1,360. Instead of having fun in the sun, only two days into the trip many passengers began falling ill, struck by severe gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. On Thursday, Royal Caribbean officially announced the outbreak and began its virus-mitigating protocol.

While the Royal Caribbean company stated that only 220 passengers came down with the virus, passengers interviewed by Local 10 News in Miami reported far more passengers were affected, but that the small medical crew onboard Independence of the Seas were so overwhelmed that many people simply stayed in their cabins as they tried to recover. Passenger Victoria Nolan, who became ill with the virus, told Local 10 News that passengers were throwing up in the elevators as they headed toward the ship’s medical facility. Many waited for hours to see anyone.

This is the second outbreak of norovirus on Royal Caribbean ships in December 2017. The Associated Press reported that more than 200 people became ill on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas on a two week cruise from Singapore to Sydney. Five were hospitalized upon disembarkation in Australia.

What is Norovirus?

It is a highly contagious virus that is spread by contaminated food, infected people, or surfaces that have been contaminated by feces, vomit, or contaminated food. According to the CDC, norovirus is responsible for more than 20 million illnesses a year in the United States alone, and more than two-thirds of all cases of gastroenteritis. Norovirus causes as many as 800 deaths a year in this country. It is highly infectious, and it is difficult to kill.

“Norovirus is named for Norwalk, Ohio, where the first confirmed outbreak was recorded, in 1968. People sometimes refer to a norovirus infection as “stomach flu,” even though the virus is not related to influenza.” — Live Science

An up-close view of norovirus - also called cruise ship virus or stomach flu.
An up-close view of norovirus, also known as cruise ship virus or stomach flu. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Symptoms include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, loose watery stools, low grade fever, and general malaise.

How contagious is norovirus?  According to infectious disease expert Robert Frenck, MD, people can shed up to 1 billion viral particles in each gram of stool. How much does it take to infect someone? As little as 1,000 viral particles. This is why it spreads so quickly in closed environments like cruise ships.

Tips for Avoiding Norovirus

Rather obviously, the best way not to become ill is to avoid contact with norovirus. Past that, regular, religious practice of these habits will help avoid becoming ill:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water for MORE THAN 20 SECONDS. Regularly! And if you are on a cruise ship — do it more often than you do normally.
  2. DO NOT count on hand sanitizer! It doesn’t kill norovirus (see below).
  3. Avoid people displaying symptoms of norovirus.
  4. If a ship is having a norovirus outbreak, avoid eating at the buffet restaurant. This is where you touch more things that MANY people have touched.
  5. Use bleach to sanitize. Consider bringing rubber gloves and Clorox wipes with bleach on your cruise — obviously be careful with bleach arounds clothes. That way if a family member becomes ill, you can try to prevent the spread on bathroom surfaces, door, cabinet, and drawer handles.
Hand sanitizer doesn't kill norovirus
Hand sanitizer is great for killing many kinds of germs and viruses, but it won’t kill norovirus! Photograph, iStock Photos.

Alcohol hand sanitizers will help kill many types of viruses and germs, such as the common cold or influenza, which is great — BUT IT DOESN’T KILL NOROVIRUS! A 2011 study by the CDC showed that long-term care facilities that relied on alcohol hand sanitizer as the primary way to clean hands, showed a six-time higher outbreaks of norovirus than facilities that used hand washing with soap and water.

Common mistakes when washing hands: not washing long enough, not thoroughly cleaning under fingernails, not drying thoroughly, and only washing after using the bathroom. Germs and viruses hide in nooks and crevices of your hands — pay attention and be thorough. Dry your hands completely — paper towels are better than electric dryers which blow water around and people often don’t use until their hands are REALLY dry. Wash your hands FREQUENTLY during the day, not just after using the bathroom.

Should you avoid going on cruises because of norovirus? No. Remember that this is a common virus all over the United States and throughout the world. You can catch it anywhere. Cruise ships are tremendously more pro-active about sanitization and prevention than most hotels and public buildings. Jeff Fornay, chief of the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, which oversees health and sanitation aboard ships that visit U.S. ports, stated in an interview with Cruise Critic, “it is perfectly safe to go on cruise ships. The standard by which they (cruise lines) are held for sanitation is the highest in the world.”

According to the CDC: “From 2008 to 2014, 74 million passengers sailed on cruise ships in the Vessel Sanitation Program’s jurisdiction. Only 129,678 passengers met the program’s case definition for acute gastrointestinal illness and only a small proportion of those cases (1 in 10) were part of a norovirus outbreak.” This would mean that less than .002% of cruise ship passengers in this time frame were diagnosed with any type of gastrointestinal illness.

So, go enjoy your cruise, but be your own best friend when keeping yourself and your family healthy!

 

Updated December 27, 2017: Royal Caribbean now states that 332 of the 5,447 passengers and crew on the December 11, 2017, Independence of the Seas cruise became ill with norovirus.

 

Can You Travel If Your ID is Lost?

US Driver's License. Photograph, Hal Bergman - iStock Photos.
US Driver’s License. Photograph, Hal Bergman – iStock Photos.

Your wallet and identification are GONE, and you have a plane to catch. What are you going to do?

My cousin came to visit for a week, and was due to fly home yesterday afternoon. Before we left for an early lunch, Peter discovered that his wallet was missing — the last time we’d seen it was in a restaurant the day before.  After looking, re-checking, re-looking, calling AND visiting the restaurant, we knew the wallet was gone.

Replacing your credit cards and driver’s license is always a hassle — but if you are about to get on a plane, can you still travel? We weren’t sure . . . I didn’t know whether I’d have a house guest for another week while we waited for a replacement driver’s license to get here.

After making some calls, we discovered — if you are a American citizen traveling domestically within the United States, the answer is YES — if the TSA is able to confirm your identity.

Peter’s ticket was with Alaska Airlines, and they printed a boarding pass and checked his bag with only his confirmation code and his ability to answer several questions — but they would not guarantee that TSA would let him fly. We weren’t sure if we would have to go right back to the ticketing counter and cancel his flight.

black and white graphic of airport security checkpoint
Airport security is not fun even at its best. Be sure to bring your patience and best manners if you have lost your picture ID. Image by A-digit, iStock Photo.

If TSA cannot confirm your identity, you will not be allowed through security.

When we got to security, the TSA officer called her supervisor. Peter was passed through security after answering a series of questions and providing a magazine that was sent to his home address.

Things that the TSA asked us for yesterday:

  • Copy of driver’s license and/or passport
  • Prescription medications
  • Mail with your home address on it
  • an expired form of ID with home address

Getting through security took us an extra thirty minutes, so if this happens to you, plan for security to be much longer than normal. Depending on how busy the security checkpoint is, our wait could have been longer. Anticipate this. Be calm. Be polite. Be patient. Realize that they do not have to let you through, so this is not the time to turn into an entitled ass.

This is a great reminder for all of us to be sure to have copies of identification with us when we travel. I always keep a copy of my passport when I travel abroad — but I have to admit, I don’t do it here in the USA. Effective immediately, I’ll add copies of my driver’s license and passport to the list of things I travel with domestically.

This is a link to the TSA blog with their post on Traveling without an ID.

Photograph of US passport on a map.
If your passport is lost or stolen while you are traveling abroad — you will have to get it replaced to be able to travel. Photograph, Michael Quirk, iStock Photo.

Replacing Passports

If you are overseas, you will not be able to travel until you get your passport replaced. You’ll visit the local American embassy or consulate, and work through the process to get a new passport. When you read the following list of required documents, it’s easy to see that a copy of your passport should be number one on your list of things to pack.

“The following list identifies a number of documents/items you should take with you to the embassy/consulate. Even if you are unable to present all of the documents, the consular staff will do their best to assist you to replace your passport quickly.  Please provide:

For citizens of the United Kingdom, here is information for getting an emergency passport replacement.

For my Canadian readers, your emergency passport instructions are here. And Australian citizens will find passport replacement information here.

Last year, I went through replacing my lost passport. I was not traveling, but at home when I discovered my passport was missing — about ten days before my cruise on the Royal Clipper in the Caribbean. I was a panicked mess. The cruise was paid for — and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go. I had a very good experience with the service Rush My Passport; while it was expensive, that passport expediting service did exactly what they advertised. I followed their instructions, FedExed the required forms and materials to them, and I had my replacement passport within the advertised time. I hope NEVER to have to do it again, but it did work.

Peter’s lost wallet is a great opportunity for all of us to improve our travel habits. Be sure to store your passport in a secure place at home. When traveling, bring copies of your driver’s license and passport with you, keeping them separate from your main identification. It’s always smart to keep some cash and one credit card separate as well — because you know, you never know when it will be you.


Ann Cavitt Fisher in Castolon, Texas. Photograph, Jim Stevens.
At Castolon, in Big Bend National Park, Texas. Photograph, Jim Stevens.

About Ann

I grew up in Mississippi and New Orleans, have lived in both Seattle and Manhattan, and finally moved back to Texas in 1990’s.

I have a darling teenage daughter who heads off to university in the fall of 2017. I have been divorced and am now widowed. Finally, I am a colon cancer survivor.

I am now writing and traveling full time — what a wonderful thing!

This website is a forum for many things. I want to talk about life, in all of its rich, wonderful and terrifying forms. I want to share my travels, my thoughts on life, and my experiences as a woman and a mom. I want to talk about the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and to celebrate being alive.

Thanks for coming to visit!


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