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.

Better Know A Holiday: Buddha’s Birthday

Laughing Buddha, Singapore
xcode, Flickr

AKA: Vesakha, Vesak, Wesak, Visak, Vixakha and many more derivatives.

When? The second Sunday in May OR the day of the full moon in May OR the Sunday nearest to the day of the full moon in May OR the eighth day of the fourth lunar month OR if you’ve decided all that calendric work is too much hassle, like the Japanese, April 8.

Public holiday in: Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bhutan, Laos.

Who died? Nobody.

Reason for celebration, then? The birth of the Buddha, of course. Though for many, the Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment are lumped together in one big holiday. So …

Who died? The Buddha.

Origins: Some 2,500 years ago, Queen Mahamaya of the Shakya Kingdom in modern-day Nepal gave birth in a grove of blossoming trees. As the blossoms fell around mother and child, they were cleansed by two streams of water from the sky. Then the baby stood up and walked seven steps, pointed up with one hand and down with the other – not unlike a Disco Fever John Travolta – and declared that he alone was “the World-Honored One.”

The rest is Buddhist history. The toddler, named Siddhartha Gautama, grew up to become the Buddha and the founder of one of the world’s major religions. He attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in what is now Bodhgaya, India. Later, after amassing many followers, he died, either of food poisoning or mesenteric infarction, depending who you ask, and reached Parinirvana, the final deathless state of Buddhism.

How is it celebrated now? Bathing little statues of the baby Buddha with tea or water, hanging lanterns, extended temple services.

Bathing Baby Buddha
Joint Base Lewis McChord, Flickr

Other ways to celebrate: Freeing caged birds, parades with dancers and illuminated lantern floats, temple offerings.

Concurrent festivals: The Flower Festival in Japan, the Bun Festival in Hong Kong.

Associated food: In many places, varieties of porridge, which commemorate the dish that Buddha received that ended his asceticism phase.

Associated commercialism: Certain companies like McDonald’s will even offer solely vegetarian options on Buddha’s birthday to stick with the spirit of the festival. Precious little, in fact. Though sales of lotus lanterns and baby Buddha statues rocket during this time, the celebrations are remarkably uncommercial.

Associated confusion: There is no reliable record for when the Buddha was actually born, thus the wide range of celebratory dates. This in no way puts a damper on festivities, but does result in a bit of awkwardness when there are two full moons in May, which happens regularly enough. Most recently it occurred in 2007, and Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia decided to celebrate during the first full moon of the month, while Singapore and Thailand celebrated at the end of May.

Best place to enjoy the festivities: Seoul really takes it up a notch, planning a week of events and celebrations in the lead-up. It kicks off with the Lotus Lantern Festival the weekend prior to Buddha’s birthday, when tens of thousands of Korean Buddhists parade through Seoul’s main roads under colorful lanterns, bringing the city to a standstill. The municipal government really pulls out all the stops, offering music, dance and theater performances in public places that are jammed with revelers. Take a look at the celebrations in Seoul and elsewhere around the world in this gallery:

%Gallery-188546%

Better Know A Holiday: Showa Day

Formerly: The Emperor’s Birthday, Greenery Day

When? April 29

Public holiday in: Japan

Part of: Japan’s Golden Week, a series of four public holidays in the span of a week that sees offices closed, trains and planes packed and a mass exodus from the major cities like Tokyo.

Who died? Former Japanese Emperor Hirohito, posthumously referred to as Emperor Showa.

They changed his name? Showa refers to the era of Hirohito’s reign. After death, Japanese emperors were referred to by the name of the era during which they ruled. The Showa Emperor’s reign lasted from 1926 to 1989, the longest era in Japanese history. Showa can be translated as “enlightened peace.”

… wasn’t he the ruler during WWII? Hirohito chose the name “showa” for his era after returning from the post-WWI battlefields in France and witnessing the devastation there. His anti-war sentiment seems to have been legitimate, but he ended up reigning over a period of unprecedented military brutality. However, he also reigned over a period of unprecedented economic growth in the years after the war.

How is the holiday celebrated now? Officially it’s a time to reflect on the era of Hirohito’s reign, Japan’s turbulent past and subsequent recovery, and where the country is headed. In reality, as the start of Golden Week, it’s when most Japanese take off for a vacation.

Other ways to celebrate: Public lectures talking about Japan’s participation in the war, to pass on the memories to future generations.Why was it Greenery Day before? Until 1989, the April 29 holiday was still referred to as the Emperor’s Birthday. But when Hirohito died, the Emperor’s Birthday was necessarily moved to December, when his son and successor Akihito was born. Hirohito loved nature, so April 29 became Greenery Day, which allowed people to acknowledge Hirohito without expressly using his name. This actually isn’t the first time this has happened in Japan. The Meiji Emperor’s birthday was celebrated on November 3 until his death in 1912, and after November 3 became Culture Day.

What happened to Greenery Day then? In 2005, Japan passed a bill that turned April 29 into Showa Day. Greenery Day was moved to May 4.

This pissed off: China, South Korea, North Korea

Why? They see the holiday as honoring Hirohito, who reigned during an era of Japanese war crimes and occupation of their countries. Japan argues it that the holiday is a time to reflect on those turbulent times, not celebrate them.

What else is going on during Golden Week? Besides Greenery Day, there is also Constitution Memorial Day on May 3, which is meant to have people reflect on the Japanese government. May 5 is Children’s Day, a day to celebrate the happiness of being a kid. Traditionally, families fly carp-shaped flags to bring good luck to their boys. Girls don’t get any flags, fish-shaped or otherwise.

These aren’t really “party time” holidays, are they? Last time, we covered Songkran, Southeast Asia’s annual drunken water fight. This time, we have a series of holidays that encourage reflection on, chronologically, a nation’s past and future, man’s place in nature, the meaning of democracy, and the innocence of children. They are decidedly not party time holidays, but that’s hardly a bad thing. You can have a party anytime. But when’s the last time you thought about the importance of effective governance and the dictates of post-war economic recovery? That’s what I thought.

Check out more holidays around the world here

[Photo Credit: Flick user Summon Baka]

Memorial Day Travel Ideas: Consider The Source, No Cheating

Memorial DayMemorial Day weekend begins Friday, May 24, and marks the start of the summer travel season. One of the most popular times of the year to travel, finding a destination that fulfills our three-day weekend dreams can take some work. Considering a visit to the Upper East Coast? Maybe not such a good idea to visit beaches ravaged by last October’s hurricane. Or is it?

If you are looking for a quiet break from your normal routine, avoid busy places like big cities, theme parks and major tourist attractions. Reverse that decision if daily life rides a cubicle and getting lost in a crowd is required. We could do a lot of research, compile lists of possible destinations and make up budgets to get the plans – or we could cheat.

Earlier this month, Kayak released the results of 100 million monthly searches made so far this year. These are numbers that represent places Kayak users are actually thinking about going as opposed to destinations promoted by airlines, hotels, tour operators or cruise lines.In the results, Kayak saw searches cut in half for Atlantic City, New Jersey, a top Memorial Day destination last year. That makes sense: thank you hurricane Sandy. Digging a bit deeper though we find a different scene.

“Despite the vast destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, all of our State parks and beaches on Long Island are expected to be open for New Yorkers and visitors by Memorial Day weekend,” assured Governor Andrew Cuomo in a LongIslandPress article.

Your mother was right, cheating is wrong.

Instead, consider a variety of sources and read between the lines. Look down deep inside and ask, “Where do I really want to go?” The answer might take you no further than your own back yard.


Holiday Cruise Vacation For 2013? Wait To Buy, About A Week

holiday

The holiday gifts have all been opened and some of Santa’s “nice” kids received exactly what they wanted. Others, leaning a bit towards the “naughty” side, not so much. If a cruise vacation was on that gift list for you, all hope is not lost. It is indeed possible to actually buy a cruise and get it for a price that adds up to a great travel value.

We are right around the corner from what travel agents call “wave season.” That’s the January through March flurry of sales that travel agencies see as many cruise travelers plan a cruise for 2013 or beyond.

Getting the best value depends on which cruise line, ship, sailing date, or itinerary you choose. Still, universal among most major cruise lines, some common-sense tips can bring home the best offer.

  • Holidays are popular- Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve/Day are the four most popular days to sail and command a premium price, year-round, with few exceptions.
  • Cruise lines commonly discount the third/fourth or more passengers in a cabin, making cramming kids a popular sport, subject to cruise line rules.
  • Cram as many kids as possible into a cabin- Most will hold up to four and while four large adults would be challenged, four average-size kids ages 10 to 21 will fit just fine. But in the same breath we say…
  • Be realistic about cabin size- A decade ago, I booked four large adults in a cabin for four people, and those four people called/screamed at me from the ship after boarding. Apparently, the discounted upper berths that looked so attractive when buying were only about half the width needed for our fluffy cruise traveler friends.
  • Be aware of the cruise line rules for traveling with kids- There is a minimum age. There are a limited number of cabins that will accommodate three, four or more people.
  • Book as far in advance as possible, especially if traveling with kids and/or your needs require cabins in a specific location (like next to each other), cabins that connect (like a door between them), or any cabins that have three or more guests in them, as these are in limited supply.
  • Book at the last minute- I had to force my fingers to type that. After decades of suggesting “buying far in advance is a good idea,” cruise lines may be changing their tune, awarding those who book at the last minute (30 days or so prior to sailing) some of the best values.

Frankly, the way cruise fare pricing is going right now, one of the best suggestions might very well be to book a flexible fare now and then lock in to a lower, restricted fare later. That action now would get travelers the cabin location they want with an opportunity for a better price down the road. Your travel agent can help with that. Not ready for a travel agent yet? Leave your questions here.

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship


[Photo Credit- Flickr user peter.clark]