Book Christmas Travel Immediately, Says Travelocity

RF CD:  Christmas
Corel

We may still be in October, but if you are thinking of traveling home for the holidays, get on booking those tickets immediately. According to booking data from Travelocity, Christmastime travelers get the best deals when they book by Nov. 12.

Granted it’s Travelocity’s job to get you to buy tickets, but if you’re looking to snag a good deal, it’s smart to look at its data to get an idea of how much you’ll be paying and how much when you purchase the ticket will affect the final price.For example, according to the data, the average round-trip domestic airfare for travel at Christmastime is $450, up 7.5 percent from last year. Those traveling internationally still will be paying for expensive tickets, but they’re about the same price as last year, with the average ticket at $1,016, up only 2.5 percent from last year.

Here is Travelocity’s booking barometer:

Booking Week Fare
8 weeks before Oct 30 – Nov 5 $ 314.00
7 weeks before Nov 6 – Nov 12 $ 320.00
6 weeks before Nov 13 – Nov 19 $ 352.00
5 weeks before Nov 20 – Nov 26 $ 392.00
4 weeks before Nov 27 – Dec 3 $ 341.00
3 weeks before Dec 4 – Dec 10 $ 313.00
2 weeks before Dec 11 – Dec 17 $ 363.00
1 week before Dec 18 – Dec 24 $ 438.00

As you can see, you can book now and snag a cheap ticket, or keep your fingers crossed and buy a relatively last-minute one a few weeks before. Other Christmas booking tips include avoiding the Sunday and Monday after Christmas, as those are two days with ticket spikes.

Not going home for Christmastime? This is also the time to book for Thanksgiving. Between now and Nov. 9, Travelocity says prices drop, and then go right back up, and steeply, around Nov. 10.

​Free Trip to Canada Comes with Drug-Mule Side Gig for Australian Couple

funny donkey
Shutterstock / Yiorgos GR

An unidentified Australian couple won a free week-long trip to Canada, complete with free luggage. When they returned Down Under, however, “a 72-year-old man and 64-year-old woman, approached customs officials in Perth, Australia, over concerns they had with their new bags,” the Huffington Post reports. (They most likely found the Canadians to be delightful, however, because everyone does.)

Upon investigation, the Australian Federal Police found 7.7 pounds of meth in each bag, worth about $7 million. There’s likely a Breaking Bad joke in there, but, sorry, didn’t watch it.

“The alleged con involved a Canadian-based website targeting elderly Australian couples with the potential to win the all-expenses paid trip,” according to Perth Now. Ok, so maybe not all Canadians are delightful.
“The AFP will allege their luggage was swapped while in Canada, with the couple having no clue they were then being duped into carrying the drugs home.”

No word as to what led these unwitting medical tourists to be concerned about their luggage.
Elderly Couple Used as Drug Mules After Winning Vacation

Where Will You Go For Free Museum Day?

Cartoon Art Museum - free museum day
Flickr, Kim Smith

Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or having a staycation this Saturday, be sure to include some culture. September 28 is Museum Day Live! (aka Free Museum Day), when museums all over the country open their doors without charging admission.

The annual event is inspired by the Smithsonian museums, which offer free admission every day. You’ll have to register and download your free ticket in advance, which will get two guests in free to participating museums.

A few of our favorite museums participating:

Chicago
Smart Museum of Art
The University of Chicago’s art museum is always free, but this weekend is also the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and museum-goers can also enjoy free concerts in the sculpture garden.

Dallas/Ft. Worth
American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum
Regular price: $7 adults
Serious airline nerds, frequent flyers and those on a long layover can check out this museum of aviation and American AIrlines history, just a few miles from DFW airport. Exhibits include a rare Douglas DC-3 plane.

Las Vegas
Burlesque Hall of Fame
Regular suggested donation or gift shop purchase: $5)
What’s Sin City without a little strip tease? See costumes, props and photos documenting the history, traditions and stars of burlesque dance.
Los Angeles
Grammy Museum
Regular price: $12.95 adults
Pop music lovers can check out four floors of music exhibits and memorabilia. The current exhibition features the career of Ringo Starr, including an interactive drum lesson with the Beatles‘ rhythm man himself.

New York
Museum of Chinese in America
Regular price: $10 adults
Learn about the immigrant experience in New York’s Chinatown in a building designed by Maya Lin. Current special exhibitions on the glamour of Shanghai women and the role Chinese-American designers in fashion. Follow it up with dim sum in the neighborhood.

San Francisco
Cartoon Art
Regular price: $7 adults
Take your comics seriously? This is the art museum for you, with 6,000 works of cartoon cels, comic strips and book art. Best. Museum. Ever.

Washington, D.C.
Museum of Crime and Punishment
Regular price: $21.95
Value the free admission and your freedom at a museum dedicated to criminals and police work. Fans of police procedural TV shows will enjoy the CSI lab and the filming studio for “America’s Most Wanted.”

10 Ways To Be A Terrible Airbnb Host

I recently wrote 10 Ways To Be A Terrible Airbnb Guest for Gadling. For all of the Airbnb hosts out there who found themselves nodding in agreement with the atrocities committed by some guests, well, it goes both ways. Making sure you avoid being a terrible guest is just as important as making sure you avoid being a terrible host.

And so I present to you 10 ways to be a terrible Airbnb host (avoid doing the following to be a good host).

1. Lack scheduling/time-management skills. If you want to make a profit off of your living space, you’re going to have to figure out some way to organize your brain. Don’t make guests wait for you if they need to check in, don’t double-book guests in the same window of time and don’t book guests for dates you’ll need to cancel. Use the Airbnb Calendar, Google Calendar, iCal and iPhone Calendar all together if you have to in order to get it right, but whatever you do, don’t inconvenience your guests over your inability to properly plan.2. Expect guests to pay for a dirty space. It’s amazing to read Airbnb reviews and general commentary to see where different hosts land on the cleanliness scale. Maybe working as a travel writer and spending lots of time in lots of hotels gave me an upper hand with my previous hosting, but to put it simply, you should go above and beyond. Maybe you won’t get tons of complaints, but you deserve them if food is rotting in your fridge, the sheets and towels you provide aren’t clean, the bathroom sink is covered in hair and you’ve never taken the time to mop. At the very minimum, you should sweep, mop and clean all surfaces and common areas before accepting payment for renting your space.

3. Not provide food. Providing food for guests doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as having a couple of cereal options and milk around and letting your guests know it’s there for them. To be a terrible host is to not have any food around at all. To be a great host is to have more than enough food around for all meals and to welcome your guests to it.

4. Make your guests feel unwelcome. Your guests know they’re in your personal space and most guests are going to be respectful of that. But it’s still your job to make them feel at home in your space. Don’t alienate your guests through rude or controversial conversation or potentially offensive habits (not everyone wants to see you walking around in your underwear). Take the time to warmly talk to your guests and get to know them. Let your guard down and they’ll let theirs down and everyone will have a better, more meaningful experience for it.

5. Misrepresent your space through photos. A lot of enhancements can be made to photos these days, but the biggest Airbnb photo crimes from hosts have little to do with manipulation in post and a lot more to do with the difference between what was physically photographed and what will be physically present at the time of the rental. If your floor was so clean that you’d eat off of it in your photos, it’d better be that clean when your guests arrive, too. If you feature fresh flowers and fruit in your photos, make sure you have fresh flowers and fruit around for your guests. If you rearrange or update furniture, take new photos and replace the old ones. Your photos should represent your actual rental as accurately as possible.

6. Fail to repair what’s broken. It doesn’t matter why your air conditioner broke or your wireless internet suddenly stopped working. If you’re offering these things to guests, they need to be available for guests, no matter what it takes. Your guests shouldn’t have any unfortunate surprises when they arrive at your rental. If they were planning on doing laundry with your washing machine, your washing machine needs to be working. If something suddenly breaks and you can’t fix it immediately, update your listing and send a kind note to your reserved guests explaining the situation ASAP and in the case of important malfunctions, reimburse part of the payment.

7. Disrespect the personal property of guests. Although guests are in your house, their personal property and space deserves to be respected. Don’t enter their rented room ever without knocking and only if necessary. Never go through their personal belongings. Never allow a pet or child to go through or mess with their personal belongings, either. Respecting personal belongings is always important, but it’s especially important with travelers — their personal possessions are all they have from home with them. If you need something moved, ask politely.

8. Run out of necessary items. There are some items that you should have a backup supply of around the house as an Airbnb host. Don’t ever run out of: toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, soap or shampoo. Make sure you have some of the less obvious things around, too — like salt, pepper, cooking oil and a first aid kit.

9. Fail to provide items your guest may need. Like I’ve already said, the best Airbnb hosts go way above and beyond. Terrible Airbnb hosts never go above and beyond; they never put themselves in the shoes of a guest. Having some extra things around for your guest that aren’t required but can truly enhance the experience of your guest will take you a long way. Consider adding these items to your regular inventory for guests: an umbrella, an iron and ironing board, a fan, a heater, a spare blanket, coffee and a selection of tea, alcohol of some sort, fresh flowers, snacks and bathroom items like cotton swabs, dental floss, a spare toothbrush, etc.

10. Do little to accommodate your guests. Airbnb basically states that hosts just have to have a clean space with clean sheets and towels and something around for breakfast. But if that’s as far as your ability to accommodate your guests extends, you might be a terrible host. Little things go a long way with guests. If they wanted to coldly be treated like just another customer, they probably would have gone to a hotel or a hostel. I’ve let guests in my house who lost their luggage borrow my clothes and I’d like to think that’s what anyone (of similar size) would have done. When another guest was going to the beach for the day, I packed her a beach bag with items she’d surely find useful, but hadn’t brought along for her journey (sunblock, bug spray, a sunhat, a tapestry, a towel, a bottle of water, etc.). No host wants a demanding guest on their hands, but on the flip side, no guest wants an unaccommodating host, either. Write down directions, lend out a charger, and by all means, if your guest seems lonely, consider inviting him or her out if you’re going out. Being well-mannered is not the same as being taken advantage of, so don’t confuse the two.

Airbnb Requires Passports From Users; Blocks Iranians

Southwest Airlines Now Has A ‘No-Show’ Policy

Southwest Airlines’ leniency with “no-shows” has been a popular attractor for many customers. The airline has long boasted that their customers get to keep the total value of their flight purchase, even when they simply don’t show up.

While the idea of not losing money in the case of an emergency might seem appealing to the masses, only a small minority of Southwest customers have been taking advantage of this deal and they’ve been doing it habitually. For that reason, Southwest will now be enforcing its own version of a “no-show” policy. Passengers will still receive the full value of their flight purchase if they cancel, but they have to cancel no later than 10 minutes before the flight takes off. This updated policy is still sensible and comparatively customer-oriented.[Thanks, USA Today]

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