Get to know Paris with a belly full of laughs

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The Earful Tower

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I happened upon the Earful Tower through a friend who runs walking tours in Paris who was on Oliver Gee’s show. You will remember the host Oliver Gee, not only for his wit, his charm, his impeccable French, but also his endearing Aussie accent.

His podcasts are hilarious. He’s a fellow journalist from Australia who knows how to spin a yarn about his beloved city, Paris. He has interesting guests on his show that flesh out how unique and incredible life in Paris can be, especially for an ex-pat.

His podcasts are delicious, much like a decadent creme brulee that you never want end. You just savour every bite, the crunch, the creamy, the egg and the sweet vanilla. That is exactly the warm feeling I get when listening to his show, I crack open the podcast and it’s all smooth until I lick the ramekin clean.

So give The Earful Tower a listen, you will be hooked and it’s low in calories.

 

 

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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane

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If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they’ve settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I’m here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren’t properly covered, you’ll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

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A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They’re pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they’re better than going barefoot.

146 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn Without Spending a Lot of Money

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From PopSugar

Need a guide that covers everything you need to know in life? Learn how to do everything from CPR to create a budget with these life hacks we rounded up.

 

 

 

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9 New Travel Trends to Watch in 2018

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Curious about which new travel trends might dominate your Instagram feed this year? They’re shaping up to be more than just fleeting food trends or hyper-futuristic travel technology—some could change the way you travel for good.

2018 Travel Trends to Watch

Here are the travel trends that have been turning heads, and how they might impact you in 2018 and beyond.

South Korea on the Rise

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The 2018 Winter Olympics are sure to put South Korea on the map when Pyeongchang takes the world stage in February, and there are plenty of other reasons for travelers to start flocking to South Korea. Temples, palaces, cherry blossoms, and street food (read: kimchi) are just the beginning.

The “K beauty” trend, focused on skincare products originating in Korea, has recently taken social media and the beauty-blogosphere by storm, but ultra-moisturizing skincare treatments and sheet masks have long been a cornerstone of South Korean beauty culture. Intriguing natural ingredients like snail slime, bee venom, salmon eggs, seaweed, mushrooms, and more might be the travel trend to inspire many to skip the skincare aisle and book a luxe spa getaway in Seoul instead.

Women’s Travel

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Last year saw a major spike in solo travel trends and an increase in solo-tour availability, and now 2018 is shaping up to be the year of women’s travel. In the wake of the #MeToo movement the focus on women’s experiences has extended to travel, with many providers touting their women-only tours and pointing to a recent rise in female-only bookings .

REI small-group tours are now about 60 percent female on average. REI Women’s Adventures head everywhere from New Zealand and Machu Picchu for hiking, to Puerto Rico and Baja for sea kayaking. The company has expanded its female-only tours (which are also led by women) to 19 offerings after seeing three times the interest it had forecasted for the tours in 2017. Women with a passion for the outdoors are looking to stick together in bucket-list destinations.

Food Foraging

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One of the newest culinary travel trends requires working a little for your meal. Connecting ecotourism and cooking classes, travelers are lining up to forage for local ingredients with an expert before heading into the kitchen. Hunting down truffles or herbs in forests and plucking scallops and seaweed from shorelines have become popular across the globe, from England and Portugal to Australia, Cape Town, and Abu Dhabi.

Millennial Cruises

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Think you’re not a cruise person? Uniworld Cruises shook up cruise travel trends recently when it announced a new millennial-only river cruising option: U by Uniworld for ages 21 to 45. DJ lounges, restaurants, and shore excursions will dominate experiences on the Rhine, Seine, and Danube—but with a much younger crowd than your typical cruise ship, and with about 120 passengers onboard each sailing. The first of its kind, the idea of millennial-only cruises might have legs and expand once U by Uniworld starts sailing in 2018.

Alternative Safari Destinations

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Over-tourism concerns went from murmurs to resounding protests in destinations like Barcelona in 2017, and the push for sustainable travel trends is likely to intensify this year, even outside of Europe.

Wildlife-famous Cape Town is now suffering from a water shortage that could make travelers instead consider unsung safari destinations like Zambia for leopards, Rwanda for endangered mountain gorillas, and Botswana for an abundant elephant population.

New Fitness Trips

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Active travel isn’t among the travel trends that are going away any time soon: Fitness trips are rapidly expanding their options. Intensifying adventure-tour offerings have evolved from trekking and hiking to cycling, marathon running, and rafting, kayaking, and sailing options from the likes of Intrepid Travel, REI Adventures, and G Adventures. It’s never been easier to find an active vacation that suits you while also crossing a destination off your bucket list.

Hyperloop Train Travel

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“Hyperloop” travel, a near-supersonic-speed train tube network, has seemed like nothing more than a sci-fi novel idea since Tesla CEO Elon Musk floated the idea years ago—until recently. In late 2017 Musk expressed interest in finally executing the idea, and the project seems to have backers’ interest for development in 2018. Details are few, but industry experts seem excited by the prospect, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for any hyperloop travel trends that could make train travel glamorous again.

Last-Chance Travel

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Climate change is becoming a more important travel trend with every passing year, and some destinations seeing major ecological changes like extreme temperatures and frequent flooding are beginning to feel as though they could soon be off-limits—making way for last-chance travel. From melting icefields and glaciers to Australia’s bleached and dying Great Barrier reef, travelers are setting out in droves to see things that may soon no longer be.

“Smart” Hotel Rooms

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Have an Alexa at home? Welcome to the future: Hotel rooms are following suit ever since Aloft hotels incorporated voice-commanded rooms. “Smart” hotels may go even further than rooms you can ask to “close the blinds” or “turn off the lights.” Robot room service has become available in some hotels, and tech-focused Asia brands like Yotel are expanding to the United States.

Have a memorable adventure — Let me book for you!

Why Work With a Travel Advisor?

You can book travel yourself – but why would you want to? A Virtuoso travel advisor elevates every trip. They know how to get the best value for your time and money, and, thanks to their global connections, they can VIP you at hotels, on cruise lines, on tours, and more. With a portfolio of nearly 2,000 top hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, and more, Virtuoso represents the best of the best in travel. A great travel advisor…
1
Takes it from Ordinary to Extraordinary
A Virtuoso travel advisor can secure special benefits that you can’t get on your own, such as complimentary breakfast, spa credits, and upgrades at hotels. But they also see the nuances in every trip. From big-picture aspects (where to go – and when) to the details that matter (booking the hotel rooms with the best views, where to get the most authentic pizza on the Amalfi Coast), your travel advisor knows how to plan a memorable trip.
Riding bikes in Bora Bora.
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2
Knows the World
Just as you might use a financial planner, an interior designer, or personal shopper, it makes sense to entrust your most valuable asset – your time – to an experienced travel advisor.  The best advisors spend a lot of time on the road themselves – scouting out hotels, deepening relationships with tour guides, and finding the best restaurants and things to do.
Watching the sunset over temples in Myanmar.
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3
Knows Your Travel Style
A Virtuoso travel advisor understands what’s most important to you and your traveling companions. You may want to take a cooking class or a private tour, or you may not want to leave the resort pool! Perhaps you want to use travel to educate your kids, plan an unforgettable anniversary trip, or celebrate a milestone birthday with friends and family. Your Virtuoso travel advisor will have plenty of suggestions on what might work best for you.
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4
Expands Your Horizons
A great travel advisor will help you think creatively about where to go and what to do. Italy, France, and Hawaii will always be popular. But your advisor also knows the best ways, say, to see Chile, Portugal, New Zealand, and many other hot destinations – plus new ways to experience the places you’ve already visited. Together, you can plan your next dream trip or weekend getaway.
Spelunking in Iceland.
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5
Can Handle Anything
Have you ever been on a trip where everything went exactly as planned? Right – this almost never happens. Issues are bound to pop up, and your Virtuoso travel advisor is your personal help line and “fixer” who knows how to quickly turn things around for the better. When they follow up after your trip, you’ll surely have an answer to this question: “Where do you want to go next?”
Camel ride in Egypt.
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The Google Myth

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The Google Myth

Many travelers think they can find the best prices themselves. It’s not always true.

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… an overhead shot of South Africa …

… and a new friend along the way.
NYC-based Virtuoso traveler Parker Morse lucked into her relationship with her travel advisor, Betty Jo Currie; Betty Jo is a long-time family friend and used to run a carpool featuring young Parker. Years later, Betty Jo was still based in the Atlanta area, but Parker was up in Manhattan and newly-engaged. Her and her husband, Zach, were trying to plan a trip to Africa for their honeymoon.

“Honestly, we hadn’t considered the idea of an advisor, even though I knew Betty Jo really well,” says Parker. “But when you think about the nature of a trip to Africa and the logistics involved and just the extraordinary amount of choices, we wanted someone who really knew what to do when you’re there. It made sense.”

“When a trip is so important and exciting,” says Zach, “you want to work with someone with real first-hand knowledge of a destination. I went into it thinking it could be a hassle in some ways, with everything else to make life busy. It’s not a hassle at all.”

Both Parker and Zach report being amazed by one simple fact early in the process: the rates and accomodations Betty Jo was sending them were better than what they were finding online themselves.

“That was a totally new fact,” says Zach, “because you assume with a potential advisor commission, the numbers might be higher from her. It was actually the opposite.”

Betty Jo ended up working with the couple on a detailed, multi-night itinerary stretching from Johannesburg to Cape Town to Mozambique before coming home. And what happened a month after they got home? The couple began planning another trip to Africa, this one focused on Kenya and Tanzania (and seeing The Great Migration).

“Some of the moments on these trips, especially on the safaris, were like a childhood dream come true,” says Zach. “It was like being in Jurassic Park but not being eaten.”

Adds Parker: “Travel is this unique form of bonding, honestly. When we were in Mozambique, we managed to meet other couples from New York City. Since we’ve all been back, we’ve had dinner a number of times. Traveling just creates these opportunities to unplug, but then on top of that, there’s this very permanent bonding that comes from it.”

Zach agrees. “Honestly, tangible things are fleeting,” he says. “A tech gadget rolls over into a new version in the same year, often. Rather than prioritize any money you have towards those, we try to do it towards experiences and memories. Working with an advisor makes that so easy and the return on investment is unreal.”

If you’d be interested in working with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to connect.

 

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Delta tightens regulations on Service Animals

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Fur and Fury

When Marlin Jackson arrived at his row on a Delta flight from Atlanta to San Diego in June, the middle seat was already occupied by a man with a sizable dog on his lap. Jackson squeezed by them to his window seat, and the Labrador mix lunged at his face. The attack lasted about 30 seconds, according to Jackson’s attorney, and left him with facial wounds that required 28 stitches and scars that are still visible today.

The mauling, which Delta said was inflicted by a canine identified as an “emotional support” animal, was among the thousands of incidents that just pushed the nation’s largest airline to tighten rules for passengers flying with service or comfort animals. In announcing the changes Friday, Delta said it flew 250,000 animals in those categories last year, up 150 percent from 2015, while “incidents” such as biting or defecating had nearly doubled since 2016.

Delta emphasized safety concerns in detailing the increased documentation owners that will be required to provide about their animals. But its action also was spurred by a widespread perception among airlines and disability rights advocates that some fliers are fraudulently taking advantage of federal law to bring untrained pets of myriad species into crowded cabins.

Though the Americans With Disabilities Act defines service animals as trained dogs or miniature horses, airlines are bound by the more liberal Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which allows free travel for “any animal” that is trained to assist a person with a disability or that provides emotional support. Airlines can require passengers with creatures in the second category to produce a letter from a physician or mental-health professional, but the documents are easily forged or obtained from websites that provide cursory, questionnaire-style “exams.”

The result, airline officials complain, has been a surge in poorly trained animals that has turned some flights into airborne menageries, with dogs blocking beverage carts, cats urinating on seats and ducks wandering the aisles.

“It’s created a real issue on our planes,” said Taylor Garland, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, which applauded Delta’s changes. Garland said one union member was asked to administer oxygen to a dog that, according to its owner, was having anxiety midflight. Others have been bitten. “The aircraft cabin is a unique space, and … we need to recognize the limitations that exist when you’re flying in the air in a metal tube.”

Daniel, an emotional-support duck, on board a recent American Airlines flight. (Courtesy of Mark Essig)

Other airlines have not released their own figures, and the Department of Transportation says it does not collect data on service and support animals on U.S. flights. But the agency’s reports on disability-related complaints show that those involving service animals nearly quadrupled between 2012 and 2016, when more than 2,300 were filed. Scrutiny of service animals is also sharpening on the ground: Nineteen states now have laws that criminalize passing off pets as service animals.

Airlines have pushed for new federal rules to reduce fraud, and the transportation agency plans to begin taking comments on proposed regulations in July.

But the outcry is not limited to airline officials. People with allergies to pet dander, who are also protected under federal disability laws, often think that their concerns are trumped by those of passengers with animals, said Sanaz Eftekhari of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, which has started collecting stories from its members. And service-animal groups say that an increase in what are clearly pets on planes has led to heightened scrutiny of working animals — and even endangered some.

Gillian Lindt, 86, is blind and flies regularly with her guide dog between Washington, France and her main residence in Florida. She said she always requests a window seat so Stella’s tail does not stretch into the aisle, and the 54-pound dog always wears a harness and sits quietly at her owner’s feet.

On a recent flight, Lindt said, a woman sat next to her in the middle seat and plopped a small, barking dog onto the tray table. The woman said it was an emotional support animal and suggested that the two dogs could play together. Lindt was aghast.

“I’m trying to explain that, unfortunately, my dog would love to play, but they’re trained not to, because this is work,” she said. The woman was moved across the aisle, and an apologetic flight attendant wiped down the tray; the little dog barked on and off through the flight. “My dog knows she must never, ever bark when she’s in a harness,” Lindt added.

Gillian Lindt, who is blind and flies frequently with her guide dog, Stella, says an increase in untrained animals on planes is frustrating. (Rebecca Eden/Guide Dog Foundation)

In 2016, the Transportation Department convened a panel of disability advocates and airline industry officials to propose new regulations on service animals, as well as on two disability-related issues relating to plane restrooms and in-flight entertainment. Several participants said they expected the animal topic to be the easiest to negotiate, but it was the only one on which the committee failed to reach consensus after nearly seven months.

Published documents show disagreement on many details. The airlines were hoping to align practices with the ADA by limiting permitted species. Some disability advocates suggested defining emotional support animals as only dogs and cats; others wanted to allow rabbits and household birds. Service-animal organizations wanted the department to recognize “psychiatric service animals” — typically dogs, which can be trained to perform tasks such as turning on lights for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder — as working animals that don’t require a medical letter.

Several participants backed tougher questioning at the time of ticket purchase to deter those trying to present pets as service or support animals — perhaps in part to avoid the travel charge of $100 or more they’d otherwise face.

“I’m not sure how big an effect it would have, but it keeps the honest people honest,” said Jenine Stanley, the consumer relations coordinator for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs, who co-chaired the committee and praised Delta’s revised rules.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness wanted any requirements to apply across the board to both service and support animals, said Angela Kimball, its national director of advocacy and public policy, who called the negotiations “so politically fraught.” But the group did not want changes to create “undue burdens” that could prevent people with disabilities from traveling. Obtaining a letter from a mental-health professional can be expensive and time-consuming, Kimball noted.

“Under current regulations, there’s a disparate response to emotional support animals … and we think that it’s essentially a form of discrimination against a set of disabilities that are not visible,” she said. “Any time you marginalize or create different conditions for a set of people, it’s very disconcerting and stigmatizing.”

Delta’s new requirements, which take effect March 1, retain those distinctions. Passengers with trained service animals will need to submit a veterinary health form at least 48 hours before travel to the airline’s new “Service Animal Support Desk.” Customers with emotional-support animals or psychiatric service animals must do the same but also must provide a letter from a doctor or mental-health professional and a signed document saying the animal is trained to behave in public. (Delta also recently expanded its list of prohibited critters, including “farm poultry,” hedgehogs and anything with tusks.)

The rise in emotional-support animals has coincided with growing publicity on the mental-health benefit of pets — an idea researchers say is poorly substantiated through studies but widely embraced by the public. Many owners say they, like service animal users, greatly depend on their emotional-support animals and face undue suspicion because of fakers.

Ashley Marie MacDonald and her emotional support parakeet, Stormy. (Ashley Marie MacDonald)

Ashley Marie MacDonald, 29, says she doesn’t mind producing a letter from her psychologist when she flies with her emotional-support parakeet, who stays in his cage. She has had anxiety, depression and a pain disorder since a work-related injury in 2012, and she doesn’t want to be away from Stormy or “think about life without him.” He comforts her when she is upset, she said, even licking tears from her face.

Last year, MacDonald recounted, an airline employee at a Florida airport questioned the validity of her letter at check-in and then kicked Stormy’s cage, knocking him off his perch.

“I am very aware that there are people that go online and pay to have these forged documents, but I’m not one of them,” said MacDonald, who lives in Cincinnati and said her disability forced her to stop working and end her pharmaceutical studies. “There should be a penalty against that.”

Douglas Kidd, executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers, said that much of the blame for the problems lies with Congress, which wrote too broad a law, and air carriers that have overbooked flights, reduced legroom and poorly treated animals that fly in the cargo bay. He argued that airlines should designate more spacious rows for passengers with true service or support animals.

“It’s certainly a difficult situation to navigate,” acknowledged J. Ross Massey, the lawyer Jackson hired soon after being mauled on that 2017 Delta flight. But in that instance, Massey said, the airline’s middle-seat placement of a passenger traveling with a large dog was a “recipe for disaster.” The 44-year-old Jackson, a government employee who lives near Mobile, Ala., is now preparing for plastic surgery to correct some of the damage. He also is mulling legal action, according to Massey.

“There are competing interests. Obviously, anybody with the need for a service animal should have one,” he said. “But the other 99 percent of people on the plane would also like to rest easy being able to know that … this animal is trained to go into such a stressful situation.”

7 Deceptive Hidden Hotel Fees to Avoid

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Book with your trusted travel advisor:  Cynthia Cassell – Virtuoso Travel

Hoteliers seem to have been inspired by airline successes in charging fees for what was once included in their prices. A recent publication from the NYU School of Professional Studies predicts that aggregate hotel fees and surcharges will reach an all-time high this year: $2.7 billion.

While the report doesn’t show a price breakdown according to fee type, it identifies a long list of hotel fees. Some are clearly deceptive ones you might not expect to encounter after you reserve your room and can be avoided if you know what you’re up against. Here are seven hotel fees to be on the look out for.

Resort Fees

The most deceptive fees are those that are mandatory, but excluded from the listed room rate. Resort fees are the most notorious kind of hotel fees, because they can as much as double what you really have to pay and seriously hinder your ability to compare rates from a list of hotel subtotals.

The practice started in two major vacation destinations, Hawaii and Las Vegas—but others quickly adopted it. In big cities, where calling a hotel a “resort” would be ludicrous, hotels have now changed the name to “facility” fees, but the effect is the same. The hotels give you a laundry list of services the fees supposedly cover, but paying, whether or not you use any of those services, is effectively a scam.

Housekeeping Fees

When I first started traveling, the idea of leaving a “tip” for housekeeping was absurd. Now. however, hotels seem to expect them. Some hotels even establish separate housekeeping fees as mandatory—which is as deceptive as those pesky resort fees. Others have started to post notices in their rooms that you are “expected” to tip housekeepers—a clear ploy to cut their employees’ wages and compel you to chip in. Hotels’ resort fees are at least disclosed before you actually make a reservation, but hotels are unlikely to disclose any requirement to tip housekeepers before you’re checked in.

Unattended-Parking Fees

If you’re staying at a suburban or rural motel, surrounded by an open surface-parking area, you might not expect this parking fee. Regardless, some hotels now add parking charges for unattended lots—and when you’ve already driven to the hotel, avoiding this charge is difficult.

Early Check-In Hotel Fees

This is another case of adding a fee for what was once a simple hotel courtesy. If you arrive at a hotel slightly before the official check-in time, there once was a time you could expect to be let in without a charge if the room was ready. NYU reports that some hotels, most commonly in Las Vegas, will now charge you early check-in hotel fees regardless. Here, you can avoid the charge by opting to wait and leaving your bags at reception—but often at some loss of flexibility and convenience.

Early-Cancellation Hotel Fees

The standard for a non-prepaid hotel reservation was once that you could typically cancel up to 24 hours in advance without penalty—maybe two days of notice would be required, tops. Now, however, some hotels are extending that limit to three days or more, and canceling any later means you owe the hotel a payment for at least one night. Avoiding this fee is sometimes easy, but you could be stuck when you suddenly have to change plans.

The Wi-Fi Puzzle

Free Wi-Fi is becoming a standard hotel requirement, but some hotels dodge the responsibility to offer free Wi-Fi by limiting it to travelers who book through the hotel’s own booking system. If you booked through a third party, you might need to pay a fee.

Alternatively, hotels that charge resort fees almost always include Wi-Fi on the list of services the hidden charge will cover. You can often avoid a Wi-Fi fee by booking directly with the hotel—and you might even get a slightly better rate. But, if it’s bundled into the phony resort fee, you pay for it no matter what.

The Old Standbys

Of course, hotels fees have been around for years. Among the oldest ploys are charges for early departure, business-center use, on-site computers or fax machine use, sending or receiving packages, room-service delivery, mini-bar restocking, in-room safe use, and baggage-holding fees for guests who want to check some items after check-out time.

Just because we expect them, doesn’t make them welcome. The upside: You can avoid most of them without too much hassle by doing some research beforehand, or sticking to well-run hotel chains you trust. And at least, technology has put an end to high in-room phone surcharges.

Any Relief?

In recent years, some important consumer advocate groups have pressured the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to determine that mandatory fees are deceptive unless included in the published room rate, and at all stages of the advertising and buying cycle. After several years of inaction, some observers believe that the FTC may finally rule against deceptive hotel fees.

Plus, deceptive pricing violates most state laws—so individual states may be gearing up to address the problem of mandatory hotel fees.

Even if they cover services that were once included in the price, truly optional fees are not inherently deceptive—so you can expect little or no relief from those. The NYU report suggests that 80 to 90 percent bookings are boosted in price by some types of fees, so it’s safe to assume hotels won’t back off voluntarily, nor any time soon.

Save the hassle, book with me! https://www.virtuoso.com/advisor/cynthiacassell

Travel Advisory – Terrorism France Jan 18, 2018

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The Department of State has launched new Travel Advisories and Alerts to make it easier for U.S. citizens to access clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information about every country in the world. For more details and FAQs about our Travel Advisories and Alerts, please see travel.state.gov/travelsafely. You are receiving this because you are enrolled in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You do not need to take further action to continue receiving these updates. Before any travel abroad, we encourage you to check our safety and security information for your destination at travel.state.gov/destination.

France, Level 2: Exercise increased caution

Exercise increased caution in France due to terrorism.

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in France. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to France:

  • Be aware of your surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and large crowded public venues.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities including movement restrictions related to any ongoing police action.
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for France.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler¿s Checklist.

Should You Travel If You’re in Debt?

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Ever look at your monthly budget feel like you pay nothing but bills? Your mortgage payment. Your student loans. Your car loan. Your credit card bills. If you feel like you live under a mountain of debt, you’re not alone. According to a NerdWallet study, the average U.S. household owes a total of $137,063 (including their mortgage). And among those with credit card debt, the average is more than $16,000 per household. For would-be travelers, this poses a challenge: Is it responsible to add travel debt to this picture?

On one hand, you don’t want to miss out on the chance to explore the world while you’re young and healthy enough to enjoy it. On the other, you don’t want to jeopardize your credit score or your longer-term priorities—like retirement or your children’s college education—by spending money you don’t have on pricey vacations.

The Case for Travel When You’re in Debt

Many people choose to prioritize travel despite their debt. “The world is big and life is too short,” says Amanda Keeley-Thurman, who runs a family travel blog called HotMamaTravel.com and travels with her children despite her family’s student loan and credit card debt. “As family travelers, we want to see the world with our kids while they are young, to educate them, make those memories, and build those bonds. The world is the best classroom. It is also not wise to assume that you can put off travel dreams until after retirement, because nothing that far in the future is certain.”

Jessica Albert-Huynh of SweetandSavor.com has also decided that travel should also take precedence in her life. “My husband and I have come to the conclusion that we will probably always be carrying some form of debt (auto loan, mortgage, student loans). It’s just a fact of life,” Albert-Huynh says. “If we wait around to pay everything off first, we will have missed our best years to travel freely.” But, she notes, they’ve agreed upon one important condition: “We have to pay for the trip 100 percent up front and not take on any more debt.”

Katrina McGhee, a life coach who traveled around the world for nearly two years despite hefty student loan balances, notes that travel can actually help keep you motivated to pay off your debt. “Achieving big goals requires that you not only work on making your goal happen but that you also work on making your current life better/happier,” says McGhee. “So as long as you have a plan and are making progress in paying down your debt, it’s OK to have a side fund where you are saving dollars for a specific purpose like travel. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so it doesn’t make sense to not enjoy the present when you are working toward a distant future goal.”

The Case Against Travel When You’re in Debt

If your debt has a low interest rate and you’re paying it down steadily without scrounging for money at the end of the month, you probably have enough wiggle room in your budget to pay for a vacation here and there. But if you’re carrying high-interest credit card balances that are growing, not shrinking—or if you can’t afford a vacation without taking on more debt—you might want to put off your trip.

“There’s a reason why the word ‘debt’ in German directly translates to ‘guilt,’” says Nate Masterson, Director of Finance for Maple Holistics. “Debt is something that has to be taken care of, like a flat tire on your car or a leaky ceiling. But does that necessarily mean that you can’t still take that holiday? Well, if you look at it in a purely rational sense—yes. … This is especially true if you’re dealing with credit card debt or consumer debt, as the longer the debt is left to stagnate, the worse your credit rating becomes and the more expensive it becomes to pay it back.”

You might feel like you need a vacation to ease the stress of struggling with bills, but it won’t help much in the long term if it only adds to your financial and emotional burden. Instead, consider tackling the debt first and using travel as an incentive, advises Kollin Lephart of Every Girl, Everywhere: “Setting a goal for yourself on how much to pay off before you travel is a good idea. It makes you work harder to really get that debt down, and then travel is your reward.”

Tips for Traveling When in Debt

Take stock of your financial picture. Are you keeping up with payments on long-term debts such as your mortgage or student loans? Are you putting enough toward your credit cards to reduce the balance, or are you just paying the minimum as your debt snowballs? Apps and money-managing services such as Mint and Quicken can help you visualize where your money is going and figure out whether you’re spending more than you earn.

Create a long-term plan. Once you know what you’re spending, make a plan and create room in your budget for travel. For example, you might want to transfer your credit card balances onto a single zero-interest card or take out a personal loan to pay them off at a lower rate, helping you save money on interest and freeing up extra cash to put toward an inexpensive vacation.

Never take on additional travel debt. Instead, start budgeting and saving in advance so you’ll have enough to pay for the trip up front. Maggie Hayes, founder of Totally Teen Travel, recommends estimating the cost of the vacation, adding an additional 20 percent to cover unforeseen expenses, and dividing the total amount by the number of months you have to save it. Then put aside that amount of money each month while continuing to make regular payments on your debt.

Start a side hustle. If there simply isn’t room in your budget for both paying down debt and traveling, consider supplementing your income with a side hustle. Jason Decker, founder of Nomad Travel Hacker, paid off $85,000 of student loan debt in two years by taking on freelance jobs and renovating a couple of fixer-uppers, which he sold at a profit. Other side hustle ideas include driving for Uber or Lyft, selling crafts on Etsy, or renting out a spare room on Airbnb.

Travel within your means. “Your travel spending habits should match your disposable income,” says Dan Shube, chief marketing officer at Labor Finders International and host of The Golf and Travel Show. “Big debt? Pitch a tent in a state or national park. Debt-free? Move up to first class and a luxury hotel! You deserve it!”

There are numerous ways to minimize the cost of your trip, from scoring free lodging and finding hacker fares to using credit card points for flights and even eating for free. Weekend getaways, road trips, camping trips, and even a “staycation” in your own home city can help you scratch the travel itch without spending much.

Get creative. “Trade services for lodging, food, and most of your travel cost,” recommends Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U. “Be a nanny for a family going to Cape Cod or Europe for their summer vacation. Alternatively, provide companion care for seniors looking to travel abroad or at home. Be a vacation dog sitter in another city or country. Chaperone a school or community group on travel.”

You can even make money while traveling. Lephart moved to Taiwan to teach English, which allowed her to backpack around Southeast Asia while still earning enough to pay down her student loans.