Last month, I attended the New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. It was a blustery, rainy weekend and what better way to spend my time but wandering aisle after aisle dreaming of tropical and exotic escapes. I arrived at 11 AM dressed in my sexy black buckled calf boots by Coach, spotted black leggings and a grey cashmere cape by Vince dressed not only for success but to be taken seriously as a travel blogger. To play the part, I have to act the part. I tackled the travel show like a tourist in a foreign land. Armed with my guidebook, in this case the “Official Guide” newspaper published by the New York Times, I mapped out the booths to visit for travel ideas, as well as the seminars I wanted to attend to learn the latest tips and trends from the experts.
I started in the exhibitor section marked Asia and visited with companies and people representing Sri Lanka and the Philippines where I sorted through the literature for beaches and 10-14 day itineraries. From a talk on Thailand, I crossed back through China where I enjoyed a tai chi performance. Eavesdropping on someone’s discussion of train travel, I sought to shorten the distances between the continents and I moved faster than an F-117 Nighthawk into European airspace. Romania is high on my must see list and after a brief overview of itineraries I figured I could possibly visit this summer. Who doesn’t appreciate the legendary tales of Transylvania’s howling wolves and medieval castles? Alas, I found two gentlemen lodged between Europe and Asia with a booth dedicated to rails and rivers. I immediately became fixated on a 15-day journey from Tehran, Iran to Istanbul, Turkey. It sounded like a perfect mix of history and culture and maybe a way to make a trip to Iran easy and safe.
With my feet starting to cry for a lighter load, I made my way downstairs to the conference rooms where the seminars were being held. On Saturday, I attended the discussion lead by Reid Bramblett of Reidsguides.com and Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief of Frommers.com called Own the Internet: Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Online Booking. I am a wee bit embarrassed to admit prior to listening to their talk, I was dependent on KAYAK and Orbitz for my comparison shopping. Now that I am fully in the know, I wanted to share their tricks for finding the best deals online. To read more information, please check out Reidsguides.com
1.) Don’t start with a Booking Engine but Compare Travel Websites using an aggregator like momondo, Skyscanner.net, Vayama.com, Cheapflights.com (I recently tested Momondo.com and found a flight on United Airlines for $500 vs. $1,000-$1,300 for a last minute trip to Florida). You may save 12-15 percent
2.) Be weary of inexpert reviews like paid raves and pans you might find on TripAdvisor. According to Reid, half to a third of reviews are fake. There are only about 300 content specialists, which make it impossible to check all the reviews. You should take into consideration a minimum of 20 but closer to 60 reviews before making a decision. Ignore the best and the worst and definitely trust snapshots because they are harder to fake
3.) Book your travel about four months in advance and watch fares on different travel sites. In some situations with limited supply or special occasions like the Olympics or Super Bowl, you may book a year in advance
4.) Keep in mind that many sites are now owned by the same parent company not likely giving you better deals or options. For example, TripAdvisor Media Group owns TripAdvisor, Airfarewatchdog, Cruise Critic, Gateguru, Viator, etc. Expedia with its latest purchase of Orbitz oversees Hotels.com, hotwire, trivago and travelocity. Lastly, Booking.com, agoda, KAYAK, Rentalcars.com, OpenTable.com and Priceline comprise the Priceline Group
8.) For smarter hotel deals, agoda, Booking.com, HotelsCombined.com
10.) Be Smart. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a bad deal
On day two of the travel show, I spent more time exploring “local” entertainment tasting the Bubble Tea from Taiwan, admiring the Irish dancers on the European stage, applauding the talent of the Puerto Rican salsa dancers and hoping the ladies manning Vermont’s Cabot Cheese booth didn’t notice my eat and repeat visit(s).
My passport doesn’t say I need to leave home by plane or train to travel. I can find it all in my backyard.
Having conquered the travel research part of my mission the day prior, I joined two back to back seminars:
- How travel can have a social impact
- How to improve travel writing and picture taking skills (more in my self-interest)
From Tourist to Change Agent: How to Make Every Trip Count featured five panelists (Gilad Goren, Travel + SocialGood, Leslie Engle Young, Director of Impact, Pencils of Promise, Taylor Conroy, Social Entrepreneur, Change Heroes , Kirk Reynolds, CEO, Discover Outdoors and Lucie Josma, Travel Photographer ) who discussed the movement within the travel industry to do good. Travelers especially Millenials are looking for experiences to explore the unbeaten path and to make an impact on local communities whether it’s in the United States or abroad. There is a focus on educational trips and partnerships with local restaurants, stores and guides. People travel because they are curious about culture, religion or a country’s history and volunteering or immersing oneself in a local project can only provide more insight into the place you are visiting but also the people who live there. In my experience in Colombia, I learned my local guide was being paid $5 a day but I was paying $125 a day to an outside organization. As a consumer, it is my responsibility to ensure guides and those who serve the travel industry are paid fairly and treated respectfully.
Approximately 1.3 billion people traveled the globe in 2015. Travelers are having an impact on the places we visit but we must work to ensure the impact and experience is positive for the visitor and the destinations we visit.
The last event I attended before calling it a wrap on the Travel Show satisfied my desire to create a new life for myself writing and traveling. Max Hartshoren and Paul Shoul of GoNOMAD provided tips for creating the perfect travel piece, which likely applies to the best story fit to print and the masterpiece snapped and likely not painted.
For aspiring writers:
1.) Find a hook – Don’t ramble (my biggest issue in life)
2.) Get right to the point
3.) Create an arc in your story
4) What do you smell and hear?
5.) Use dialogue
6.) Stick to one tense
7.) Use simple language
8.) Narrow your focus
9.) You are a reporter. Use details
10.) Offer a fresh perspective
For budding photographers:
1.) Imagine your picture is telling a story
2.) Wait for life to unfold
3.) Look at the people who occupy the space you are shooting
4.) Examine shape and contents
5.) Take a look around
6.) You decide whether the image should be in color or black and white. It’s personal
Now you are ready to plan your trip. Let’s Go!
1.) CREATE a budget.
2.) SELECT your destination based on your needs: Are you looking for a warm or cold weather spot? Do you enjoy the mad rush of the city or the quiet of the country? Do you want to relax or be super active? A mix of both? Are you traveling solo or with adults or a family and kids? What is your preference? A destination close to home or far away. What is the desired length of your trip?
3.) BUY a guidebook or read travel blogs about the places you want to visit.
4.) RESEARCH the transportation options based on the time and length of your travel. Should you drive, or go by plane or train? PURCHASE your transportation.
5.) RESEARCH your accommodation options: Hotel, Airbnb, relatives, friends, award points. BOOK your accommodations and note the cancellation policy.
6.) Are you more the DO IT YOURSELF personality or do you need to HIRE a guide? IDENTIFY the activities, monuments, museums or restaurants you cannot miss and plan to do those early in the trip.
7.) TAKE pictures and write down the names of places you visited everyday.
8.) WRITE how the trip makes you feel, or the history of a statue or let your hand move with whatever words come to mind.
9.) MAINTAIN records like receipts and itineraries, names of sites. Important to match up with your credit card or challenge if there is a dispute at a store or restaurant.
10.) BUILD lasting memories
My favorite booths from the New York Times Travel Show
Don’t start packing without a visit to Flight 001. They have everything you need to ensure your gear and you are ready to go
All over the Map…
Customize your once in a lifetime trip
+49 30 786 000 33
Trans-Siberian Railway (Mongolia – Moscow)
Silk Road (Almaty, Turkestan, Tashkent, Samarqand, Shakhrisabz, Khiva, Bukhara, Merv, Ashgabat)
Persia’s Rolling Carpet (Iran-Turkey)
Mekong Cruises (Laos, Thailand)
Let’s go to Europe…
Intl +4 037 238 8888
How about eating and drinking your way through Italy?
+39 338 421 66 59
Food and Wine Tours in Italy
Bologna, Venezia, Firenze and more
South America for the winter…
Best of Panama and Peru
Rainforest and Beach, Canal, Historical sites
I have my sights set on Sri Lanka in December…
Varini De Silva
Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, Cambodia, India, Myanmar
And maybe the beaches of the Philippines…
6-day tours Manila to Boracay or Cebu and Bohol
Travel in Europe, Asia and Australia and New Zealand
Anchorage to Seward or longer Fairbanks to Seward
Bear viewing, McKinley, Fly-in Fishing, Glaciers
Wildlife, Denali Kenai Fjords National Park