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Air New Zealand Sale from Los Angeles & San Francisco

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, September 15, 2014

Save on flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to New Zealand with the current sale from Air New Zealand.

Sale includes travel to Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, Gisborne, Hamilton, Hokitika, Invercargill, Kaitaia, KeriKeri, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Paraparaumu, Queenstown, Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga, Timaru, Wanganui, Wellington, Westport, Whakatane, and Whangarei, with a free stopover in Auckland.

Fares are valid for travel from May 1 through June 8, with slightly higher fares available for travel from October 19-31, and from January 25 through April 30.

Tickets must be booked by October 1.

Los Angeles to Auckland $1,198 round-trip, nonstop, including all taxes

San Francisco to Auckland $1,198 round-trip, nonstop, including all taxes

Los Angeles to Christchurch $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

San Francisco to Christchurch $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

Los Angeles to Dunedin $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

San Francisco to Dunedin $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

Los Angeles to Nelson $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

San Francisco to Nelson $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

Los Angeles to Rotorua $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

San Francisco to Rotorua $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

Los Angeles to Wellington $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

San Francisco to Wellington $1,198 round-trip, including all taxes

Auckland image via Shutterstock

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

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Domestic Fare of the Day: Baltimore to Las Vegas $195 round-trip, nonstop

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, September 15, 2014

Still available! Fly nonstop from Baltimore to Las Vegas for $195 round-trip, including all taxes, on Southwest.

We found seats departing BWI on Tuesday, October 21, returning from LAS the following Tuesday, October 28.

Other dates are also available for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in September and October.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

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

Holiday Fare of the Day: New York to Beijing $794 round-trip, incl. taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, September 15, 2014

For travel over the week of Thanksgiving, fly from New York to Beijing for $794 round-trip, including all taxes, on United.

We found seats departing LGA on Friday, November 21, returning from PEK on Saturday, November 29. Outbound flights connect via Chicago, with return flights connecting in Washington Dulles, though connections may vary depending on travel times.

Fares may be slightly lower ($780 on Delta) for other dates through early December. Visit our fare page for Beijing PEK for a complete look at current finds from all over the US and Canada.

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

Whatever Happened to Those Folks Who Checked Bag Tags?

By George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog

When I was a kid, back when everyone checked bags because there were no overhead bins at all (just racks for the coats and pillows, if you recall), there'd be someone at bag claim whose sole job it seemed was so compare your bag check tag with the claim check issued by the airline. This prevented honest mistakes, since, as we know, all bags do tend to look alike, especially after a long red-eye flight. It also prevented simple theft. And yes, people do steal bags from airport bag claim carousels.

You only have to do a web search for "theft at bag claim" to see how prevalent the problem is. Just ask Anthony Hargrove, who has been arrested at least 12 times, and convicted five, for stealing bags at Chicago's Midway and O'Hare Airports.

Of course, there are surveillance cameras everywhere in airports, and anyone who does this often, as Hargrove did, will eventually be caught. Eventually. Keith King, 61, and his wife Stacy, 38, were found with almost 1000 pieces of other peoples' luggage in their Waddell, Arizona home, all of them stolen from bag claim areas at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport. So apparently security cameras aren't always the answer.

But now it seems that many airports and airlines have done away with these bag check checkers, as a cost cutting measure—which is ironic since they now charge a fee for checking a bag.

True, some airports and airlines around the world still check, if only at random. Recently, I tweeted "dear airlines: please bring back those people who compared bag tags with your bag receipt before you leave baggage claim" and it got nearly 100 "favorites" so I'm guessing I'm not alone in being paranoid about people walking away with my own or someone else's bag, whether intentionally or not. Several people tweeted back, "The best solution is do what I do, don't check bags" but this person forgets that the only reason there's room in the bins for his bag is precisely because some people check their bags.  (By the way, I, too, rarely check bags, but sometimes there's no option, like when the airlines send you back to the check in desk because your bag is one inch over the size limit).

Someone else suggested that bringing back tag checkers would be a "nightmare" and cause jams at the exits, but probably not since bags don't all come out at once. More than one person tweeted back that airlines would start to charge extra for bag tag checking service, but I think they already charge enough to check bags (how typical that after they started charging, they reduced the level of service.) But one person had a good idea: with the advent of electronic bag tags (British Airways and other airlines are experimenting with this idea), people will be able to scan the tag before leaving the carousel area, perhaps going through a turnstile to exit, like on the NYC subway. After all, they'll soon be tagging their own bags at home and scanning their own boarding passes to get on the plane. So why not this, too?

Other stories you might like:

Why the skycap might be your best friend at the airport

12 Tips For Finding Low Airfares, 2014 Edition

9 Ways Air Travel Is Better Than It's Ever Been

Above image via Shutterstock

Holiday Fare of the Day: Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro $859 round-trip

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, September 15, 2014

For travel over the week of the Thanksgiving holiday, fly from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro for $859 round-trip, including all taxes, on United.

We found seats departing LAX on Wednesday, November 26, returning from GIG on Thursday, December 4. Flights connect via Houston IAH.

Other dates are also available for travel from October through December, with slightly lower fares ($820) in late October.

Visit our Rio de Janeiro GIG fare page for a complete look at current fares from all over the US and Canada.

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

Int'l Fare of the Day: Chicago to Bucharest $661 round-trip, incl. taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, September 12, 2014

From Turkish Airlines, fly from Chicago to Bucharest for $661 round-trip, including all taxes, on Turkish Airlines.

Searching TurkishAirlines.com, we spotted seats departing ORD on November 12, returning from OTP on November 20. Itineraries include an overnight stopover in Istanbul.

Other dates are also available for travel throughout November and again from January through March.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

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

Domestic Fare of the Day: Houston to Los Angeles $153 round-trip, nonstop

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, September 12, 2014

Fly nonstop from Houston to Los Angeles for $153 round-trip, including all taxes, on US Airways.

Searching USAirways.com, we found seats departing from IAH on Tuesday, October 7, returning from LAX on Saturday, October 11.

Other dates are also available for travel through December 17.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

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

Holiday Fare of the Day: New York to Savannah $265 round-trip, incl. taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, September 12, 2014

For December holiday travel, fly from New York to Savannah for $265 round-trip, including all taxes, on US Airways.

We found seats departing JFK on Wednesday, December 24, returning from SAV on Sunday, December 28. Flights connect via Charlotte.

Of course if you're not looking to go over the holidays, you'll find much much lower fares available earlier in fall and later in spring -nonstop even!- for $128 round-trip. But $265 for peak Christmas travel is a real steal!

Visit our NYC JFK fare listings for a complete look at current finds.

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

Domestic Fare of the Day: Chicago to Kansas City $79 round-trip, nonstop

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, September 12, 2014

Fly nonstop from Chicago to Kansas City for $79 round-trip, including all taxes, on American.

We found seats departing ORD on Tuesday, October 7, returning from MCI on Wednesday, October 15.

Other dates are available for travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday through December 16, with slightly higher ($85) fares available in January and February.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

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

Foreign Places That Accept U.S. Currency

Posted by Dara Continenza on Friday, September 12, 2014

(Photo: Globe on U.S. Money via Shutterstock)

There are many great pleasures of the globe-trotting life, but dealing with pesky Travelex lines is not one of them. Sick of exchange rates, transaction fees, and coming home with pockets filled with useless coins? Here are 10 foreign destinations where you can pay with U.S. dollars, from the sunny and subtropical to the still-undiscovered.

 

(Photo: Roger Wallstadt via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

United States Virgin Islands

While not technically a foreign country (it's an unincorporated territory), the United States Virgin Islands feel like a million miles away—and we couldn't resist including this Caribbean destination. A speedy 2.5-hour flight from Miami whisks stateside trekkers to the Virgin Islands, where U.S. passports are unnecessary. The popular tropical stop's official currency is the U.S. dollar—handy for those looking to splurge on expensive goods in St. Thomas' portside boutiques. High-end labels like Gucci and Coach crowd Charlotte Amalie, where savvy shoppers swamp the jewelry stores, mining for deals on diamonds and Hublot watches. In fact, shopping sprees are among the U.S.V.I.'s big draws: U.S. citizens can purchase up to $1,600 worth of duty-free merchandise here, whereas the rest of the Caribbean caps duty-free purchases at just $800.

 

(Photo: Baths on Virgin Gorda via Shutterstock)

British Virgin Islands

Much like neighboring U.S.V.I., the British Virgin Islands employ the U.S. dollar as their official currency. This connection makes travel between the two island groups especially seamless—and gives the B.V.I. its reputation as a well-established tax haven. Don't have millions in corporate profits to shore up? You can still find a haven of sorts at the Baths on Virgin Gorda; this unusual rock formation is one of our favorite secret Caribbean attractions (and, aside from the swaying palms, it's a lot less shady).

 

(Photo: Historical Buildings in Quito, Ecuador via Shutterstock)

Ecuador

Ecuador's currency has a long history filled with House of Cards-style political intrigue: First, Ecuador employed the peso, then enjoyed a brief dalliance with the franco, then went back to the peso, and finally adopted the sucre, whose value nosedived in the late 1990s during a near economic collapse. In 2000, in order to stabilize the economy, the Ecuadorian government voted to adopt the U.S. dollar as the official currency. The controversial vote led to the ouster of then-President Jamil Mahuad, but the result was inevitable: U.S. travelers to Ecuador can now use the very same dollars they would at home (although Ecuador produces its own nifty centavo coins).

 

Isla Canales, Panama (Photo: LASZLO ILYES via flickr/CC Attribution

Panama

What's better than one official currency? Two, of course. In addition to its Panamanian balboa, Panama accepts the U.S. dollar "at par" (a rate of 1:1). This means that travelers don't have to worry about exchanging money in foreign airports or dealing with fluctuating exchange rates—making Panama an economical destination, at least for now. In 2014, the nation's large-scale canal expansion will come to an end, opening Panama's pristine beaches to large cruise ships and a surge of value-seeking tourists. So, savvy travelers would be wise to grab a fistful of dollars and head down there sooner rather than later.

 

(Photo: Atlantis Paradise Island)

Bahamas

Like the Panamanian balboa, the Bahamian dollar enjoys a fixed 1:1 exchange rate with the USD (and the two currencies share a name and a familiar symbol, $). Despite the equitable rate, it may not get you far in this popular (and oft-expensive) tropical destination. Accommodations can be pricey, but they are abundant, from superluxe ocean clubs to the family-friendly Atlantis. Plus, the added convenience of businesses accepting both U.S. and Bahamian dollars is worth a pretty penny.

 

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos (Photo: Daniel Ross via flickr/CC Attribution)

Turks and Caicos

Once overrun by pirates, Turks and Caicos is now teeming with tourists drawn to its serene beaches and clear waters. And while Forbes counts Turks and Caicos among the world's top tax havens, the islands have much to offer to the 200,000-some travelers who venture here for pleasure, not business. In addition to its convenient official currency, there is no sales tax or VAT (value-added tax). It may not be the shopping mecca of St. Thomas or St. Maarten, but the island of Providenciales boasts upscale malls and local boutiques, where those U.S. dollars can be spent on handmade artwork and jewelry.

 

(Photo: Martin Garrido via flickr/CC Attribution)

Vietnam

Vietnam's only official currency is the dong (established in 1978 after the fall of Saigon), but U.S. dollars have long been unofficially accepted as payment in this Southeast Asian nation. Urban tourist centers like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offer visitors much in the way of museums, temples, sacred lakes, and even the culinary arts; affordable accommodations at dollar-friendly hotels add to the allure. But in recent years, the State Bank of Vietnam has made a concerted effort to limit the flood of American dollars into the already-shaky economy, even fining restaurants for listing prices in USD. What this means for U.S. travelers is still unknown, but many travel resources recommend relying on the Vietnamese dong.

 

(Photo: Angkor Wat, Cambodia via Shutterstock)

Cambodia

We recently crowned Cambodia one of our 10 Places You Should Go While They're Still Cheap for a number of reasons, including its immersive culture and inexpensive lodgings. Not only is the country budget-friendly, but cash is king in Cambodia—American cash, that is. You won't need much of it: Travelers can easily live on less than $50 a day and may never need to change over to the official Cambodian riel. However, Lonely Planet recommends that you always "have about $10 worth of riel kicking around, for motorbike rides and markets."

 

Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua (Photo: Montecruz Foto via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Nicaragua

Another one of our 10 Places You Should Go While They're Still Cheap, Nicaragua has been on our radar this year for its diverse natural wonders and relative affordability. The Central American nation has its own currency, the unusually colorful cordoba, but payment in U.S. dollars is widely accepted throughout the country. Don't be surprised if the price goes up the minute you pull out a stack of greenbacks, though: According to some experts, shopkeepers may charge you a bit more when paying in U.S. dollars. Your best bet may be to carry small bills in both currencies, especially outside of your resort.

 

(Photo: Dock on the Coast of Belize via Shutterstock)

Belize

Belize is a nation that defies simple definition. Technically part of Central America, yet outwardly Caribbean with its laid-back culture and spotless white sands, Belize is a former British settlement that currently holds USD-backed currency. Indeed, the nation has never attached its currency to the pound sterling; rather, its legal tender (the Belizean dollar) has always been pegged to the U.S. dollar at a 1:2 ratio. This makes beachy Belize one of the priciest Central American nations but, curiously, one of the cheapest destinations on the Caribbean Sea.

Note: Though many businesses accept U.S. bills, prices in Belize may be quoted in the official currency or in USD. It's wise to ask your tour operator or shopkeeper about their pricing method before you whip out your wallet—especially since the two dollars share the same symbol, $.

You Might Also Like:

 

 5 Exotic Places You Can Go Without a U.S. Passport

 

 

 

 10 Places to Go While They're Still Cheap

 

 

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Foreign Countries Where You Can Use U.S. Dollars.

Follow Dara Continenza on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

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