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7 Ways Social Media Can Make Your Trip Amazing

Posted by Dara Continenza on Thursday, October 23, 2014

(Photo: PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson/Getty Images)

Tagging. Trending. Latergram. #Selfie.

If these terms make you break out in hives, you're not alone. Social media often gets side-eyed as a way for bored teenagers to communicate or a receptacle for Aunt Beth's cat photos. But social media can actually help you have a better trip, if you know how to use the tools that are at your fingertips. 

Whether you're crowdsourcing recommendations, chatting with your airline through Twitter, or connecting with locals via Instagram, there are countless ways you can wield social media to have a more personal, memorable vacation experience.

Make Your Voice Heard

Companies use Twitter to engage with users and promote their brands as engaging, accessible, and current. And this is exactly why you should always follow your airline.

Not only do airlines tweet updates about weather conditions, closures, and airfare deals, but most do great jobs of interacting with followers (and some, like JetBlue, are even pretty funny). Twitter is the perfect platform for airing a complaint, voicing a concern, or even applauding an airline's good work to a large audience. I've had success in the past tweeting at my airline to ask for an update on a delayed flight or to check if an upgrade is available; often, the response is instantaneous. Why? Because airlines know it makes them look good and it makes travelers feel positive about them—it's a win-win for traveler and travel provider.

Just don't take your tweeting too far, like this Southwest passenger did—he ended up getting booted from the plane. Always be polite and constructive in your communication; a real live human is behind that account, after all.

Create Memories, Get Followers

In an ever-rising sea of social media, Instagram remains my favorite platform: It's low-investment, easy to use, and inspiring. When taking photos on the road, I generally hashtag and geo-tag my location. That way, I can compare my photos to those from other users, scout for other cool spots and photo ops in the area, and connect with amazing travel photographers around the world. Other users, tourism departments, and publications may regram your photos, meaning thousands of people could see your artwork. And you'll be making memories as you go.

Not yet an Instagrammer or not sure where to start? Follow us to get an easy introduction. We love hashtags.

Let LinkedIn Do the Job for You

Twitter isn't the only channel for reaching a customer-service agent. You probably have a LinkedIn account in order to stay current in the job market, but the professional network and social media channel can also help you get in touch with your airline. In July, KLM announced that it was launching 24/7 customer service through the platform. Ticketholders can use their LinkedIn accounts to chat with customer-service agents, reserve seats, rebook flights, and even make arrangements for additional baggage. No more hold music? We'll take it.


Whether you're still in the planning stages or already on the ground, it's a good idea to pick the brains of your fellow travelers. The easiest way to do this is via Twitter: Send out a tweet to your followers and the world at large asking for dining, attractions, and hotel advice. Tweet at and follow the tourism department of your destination as well; they may blast out recommendations and deals you won't see elsewhere. And participate in recurring travel-related chats; you can follow us to see when discussions take place and provide your own recommendations, tips, and photos.

You may also want to check Reddit or download a Reddit app and subscribe to your destination's subreddit. The /r/Travel subreddit is also a great resource for researching flights, restaurants, pricing, and seasonality.

Stay Current

In recent years, Twitter and other social media platforms have been instrumental in shaping world events, allowing users to share important and often lifesaving information. For any destination—but especially for the ones where unrest may break out or weather may turn dangerous—use Twitter to stay in the know. Follow your destination's news and media outlets and weather stations. If you're concerned about international safety, follow the U.S. Department of State and the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. The latter account blasts out travel warnings and safety information; the responder can also help with passport-related questions and emergencies. You can activate Twitter alerts via highlighted tweets, text messages, or push notifications as well.

Score Free Perks

We recently rounded up a number of ways that the average traveler can leverage their social media accounts, no matter how small, to score free stuff. Airlines, hotels, and other travel providers often offer special deals to followers. For example, Starwood offers points to loyalty-program members who link their Facebook and Foursquare accounts with their Starwood accounts; these points can be redeemed for hotel nights and flights. Other hotels or restaurants may offer free goodies if you check in on Foursquare or Yelp, or they may blast out special Twitter- or Facebook-only deals for followers. And still other vendors hold periodic contests in which users can enter to win prizes for retweeting, regramming, or checking in. Deals and contests come and go, of course, so it's best to follow and monitor your provider in the hopes of getting lucky.

Stay Safe

Users' safety and privacy is often a concern when it comes to social media. Disclosing too much personal information on the Web can be dangerous, whether you're at home or on the road. (We recommend making accounts private, limiting direct messages, and never displaying your phone number or address.) But there's a bright side to maintaining an online identity: It can actually help keep you safe. Airbnb, for instance, offers Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn verification for renters and users alike. I always connect with vacation-rental owners through social media before a stay; it reassures me that both owner and apartment are legit.

In general, both Facebook and Twitter offer the benefit of allowing travelers to stay in touch with loved ones (helpful in foreign countries where you may not have cell service). In times of unrest, natural disasters, or bad weather, you can reach out to followers, friends, and family and get up-to-the-second information on developments.

Readers, do you know any other ways to use social media to make your vacations better? Share with us in the comments below or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Seven Ways Social Media Can Make Your Trip Amazing.

Follow Dara Continenza on Google+ or email her at


Domestic Fare of the Day: Chicago to Miami $155 nonstop, winter travel

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fly nonstop from Chicago to Miami for $155 round-trip, including all taxes, on Frontier.

We found seats departing ORD on Monday, January 26, returning from MIA on Tuesday, February 3.

This is a new nonstop route from Frontier with service set to begin on December 21. Other dates are also available for travel throughout winter.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

Miami image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Int'l Fare of the Day: Denver to Paris $679 round-trip, incl. taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fly from Denver to Paris for $678 round-trip, including all taxes, on Icelandair.

We found seats departing DEN on Wednesday, March 11, returning from CDG on Saturday, March 21. Flights connect via Reykjavik and, should you care to stretch your legs for a day or three, Icelandair does allow stopovers.

Other dates are also available for travel from January 9 through April 23.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

Paris image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

From Air France: 24-Hour Flash Sale to Dubai

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The 24-hour flash sale from Air France features some great deals to Dubai starting at $849 round-trip, including all taxes.

We found seats for travel over the week of Thanksgiving, departing Houston on Wednesday, November 19, returning from DXB on Saturday, November 29.

Travel is valid from November 1 through December 12, and again from January 10 through March 31. Sale fares are available from other departure cities as well, including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Flights connect via Paris.

Tickets must be purchased today, October 22.

For a complete look at current finds, visit our listings for Dubai DXB.

Dubai image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Domestic Fare of the Day: Newark to Anchorage $351 round-trip, incl. taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fly from Newark to Anchorage for $351 round-trip, including all taxes, on US Airways.

We found seats departing Newark on Wednesday, November 12, returning from ANC on Sunday, November 16. Flights connect via Phoenix.

Other dates are also available for travel through mid February, excluding peak holiday travel.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

Anchorage image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Int'l Fare of the Day: Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro $726 round-trip

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fly from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro for $726 round-trip, including all taxes.

Searching Orbitz, we spotted seats departing LAX on Tuesday, March 10, returning from GIG on Wednesday, March 18. If the idea of making two whole connections has you in a pearl-clutching tizzy, calm down. For about $20 or $30 extra, there are single connections available via New York and Miami.

Other dates are also available for travel from late October and onward.

See our listings for Rio de Janeiro GIG for a look at what's available from other cities.

Rio image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Domestic Fare of the Day: Ft Lauderdale to Las Vegas $138 round-trip, nonstop

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From JetBlue, fly nonstop from Ft Lauderdale to Las Vegas for $138 round-trip, including all taxes.

We found seats departing FLL on Wednesday, October 29, returning from LAS on Saturday, November 1.

Fares are much higher for travel on other dates in October/November.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

Las Vegas image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Review: Air Canada's Automated Bag Handling

Posted by Josh Roberts on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What Is It: At Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport, which serves as Air Canada's hub, a simplified baggage handling process sends checked bags directly on to connecting flights so that travelers no longer have to retrieve and recheck bags for U.S. Customs inspection.

Price and Where to Buy: This is a free service offered on all flights that connect in Toronto and continue on to Air Canada's U.S. destinations.

Pros: Ease of use! I came away fully impressed with the service. No waiting in long lines, no fretting about missing a connection, no stress of any kind. I connected in Toronto en route from Beijing to New York, and I was responsible for my carry-on bag alone; my checked luggage made it from Asia to the U.S. with no difficulty. As I had a relatively tight connection for an international route, this was a real game changer for me.

When I talk about this Air Canada experience with friends and family, I always contrast it with the experience I had with United in Newark about a month later. In that case, I was traveling home from Frankfurt to Boston via Newark. My flight arrived in Newark with about 2.5 hours between connections. Thankfully in this case I'd traveled carry-on only, because the line to claim and recheck bags through U.S. customs was about a mile long and showed no indication that it was actually moving at any point during my observations.

Would I have made my connection with United? Possibly. I actually doubt it, but I don't discount the potential for a miracle, so for the sake of argument let's suppose I did. Would I have boarded my plane stressed and angry? Absolutely. The contrast between Toronto's fully automated baggage handling process and Newark's medieval claim-and-recheck gauntlet was a real eye-opener.

Cons: As far as I know, the fully automated baggage handling is still only available at Toronto and not any of Air Canada's other U.S. gateway airports.

How it Rates:

  • Comfort: 10/10. No dragging my luggage through the airport.
  • Convenience: 10/10. I experienced no hitches with the process.
  • Value: 10/10. It's free!
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. Nothing's cooler than returning stateside without the usual airport hassles.

Final Verdict: I will connect through Air Canada's Toronto hub at every opportunity. This is a great service. Other airlines could learn a thing or two from it!

Editor's Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and "cool factor." Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Product Review: Air Canada's Fully Automated Baggage Handling.

Follow Josh Roberts on Google+ or email him at

7 Airport Food Trends That Will Make You Love Your Layover

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pop-Up Indoor Park (Photo: Heathrow Airport)

As a general rule, I hate airport food. But once in a while, a culinary gem appears between the Starbucks and the Burger King, elevating terminal eating with the fresh, the organic, the artful plate garnished with sweet tomato chutney and a sprig of mint. I'm happy to report that such finds are becoming increasingly commonplace. Travelers passing from gate to gate are no longer considered a captive audience, forced to consume whatever's available. From food trucks to farmers' markets, airports are offering more enjoyable choices to hungry flyers. These awesome airport dining trends—some brand-new, some old but solidly growing—will take your next airport culinary experience to new heights.

Food Trucks

What's the airport's answer to food trucks? Food carts, of course; they're more practical for indoor use. Whatever the vehicle, it's about time that locally owned food trucks brought their portable, fun street fare to the terminal (which needs all the fun it can get). Popular Portland, Oregon, food truck KOi Fusion opened a cart at Portland International Airport this month. The Asian-fusion truck, which serves tacos, burritos, and kimchi quesadillas at locations around the city, has set up shop, cart-style, before the security checkpoint at PDX. Next to KOi Fusion, you'll find the mobile version of Michelin-starred chef Andy Ricker's Pok Pok restaurant. The carts will operate on a six-month rotation, so look for new setups if you're heading through Portland International after spring.

Local Flavors

This isn't a new thing, as you probably know. Airport restaurants have been riffing on local culinary specialties for quite a number of years. At this point, it's rare to find a major hub bereft of restaurants serving popular regional foods. But there are noteworthy newcomers to the town-to-terminal food scene. We're not talking about weak facsimiles of local specialties; these are authentic homegrown food brands with established community followings. Here are just a few examples: Caplansky's Delicatessen, an old-school deli in Toronto's Little Italy, has just opened a location in Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson International Airport. You can take your Reuben to go and make your seatmate either jealous or annoyed with the smell. Noted Denver hot dog spot Steve's Snappin' Dogs has come to Denver International's B Concourse this year. And look for an outpost of The Country Cat to open at Portland International in early 2015. 

Farmers' Markets

Imagine picking up something fresh, seasonal, and good for you moments before a flight, instead of a pile of stomach-turning, greasy lo mein on a plastic tray. Thanks to the Berkshire Farms Market at Boston Logan, which opened in spring, flyers can grab made-to-order smoothies from South End Buttery, just-baked Iggy's bread, or home-brewed Fire Cider in Terminal B. These days, you'll find market-style operations at several other airports, too. The restaurant group that operates Logan's Berkshire Farms Market is called Tastes on the Fly, and it also runs the popular Napa Farms Market in San Francisco International's Terminal 2. And in June, Los Angeles International Airport welcomed an outpost of the Original Farmers Market to Terminal 5.

Airport Restaurant Month

It's Airport Restaurant Month! The first-ever Airport Restaurant Month, in fact. Right now, this October, travelers can get special meals for special prices at participating restaurants in the U.S., just like a typical city restaurant week. Twenty airports have signed up for the program and are offering multicourse menus for between $17 and $25. Those costs don't include alcohol, but recommended wine parings will accompany most menus. This program was set up by restaurant operator HMSHost; see the full list of participating airports on the company's website.

Pop Up Restaurants

Hallo Hello, a restaurant that encourages strangers to share meals with one another, opened a pop-up location at Copenhagen Airport that ran for four weeks in September. On Restaurant Day last August, Helsinki hosted pop-up versions of local dining joints in four sites around its airport. London's Heathrow was the fleeting home of a pop-up ceviche restaurant in the airport's Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. We smell a trend. With ever-changing crowds of travelers passing through, plus plenty of space for retail and dining across terminals and airline lounges, airports are prime settings for pop-up dining venues. These events are typically short-lived, so it's difficult to plan ahead for attendance. But stumbling upon a really cool temporary eatery while passing through a terminal would be quite the culinary win, I think. Many of the pop-ups are announced on airport Twitter pages. Keep your eyes peeled and your smartphones at hand.

High-Tech Restaurant Tables

Do you prop up your laptop beside you whenever you sit down for an airport meal? Well, you're in luck. A handful of airport restaurants are installing iPads at their tables. The purpose of these flat-screened dining companions: You can read the menu, check your flight status, and even order and pay for your food via the touch-screen device. According to a report from the Washington City Paper's blog, restaurants under construction in Reagan National Airport's Terminal A will feature iPads at tables. Denver International is also getting this innovative upgrade at dining establishments in Concourse C by mid-December. I hope we can succeed in not getting ketchup all over the screens.

Onboard Picnics

Lots of airports offer to-go meals for in-air consumption. London Heathrow, however, is taking the takeaway concept to new levels—the grab-and-go has gone gourmet. Passengers can purchase prepared fine-dining meals at 118 restaurants at Heathrow, including that famous contrivance of Gordon Ramsay, Plane Food. The program offers a virtually unlimited range of takeaway options for travelers, and prices vary wildly. You can grab a sandwich at Pret and pay just a few pounds. The King Seafood Platter at Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar, by contrast, costs £145.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Delicious Airport Fare That Will Make You Love Your Layover.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

Int'l Fare of the Day: San Francisco to Shanghai $736 round-trip, nonstop

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fly nonstop from San Francisco to Shanghai for $736 round-trip, including all taxes, on United.

We found seats for travel over the week of Thanksgiving, departing from SFO on Friday, November 21, returning from PVG on Sunday, November 30.

Other dates are also available for travel through early December.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

Shanghai image via Shutterstock

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

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