Rainbow Travel Tips & Tidbits – 11 October 2008

Christmas Markets in Europe

Christmas is just around the corner and what better excuse to plan a trip and buy those unique gifts for the ones you love in your life. This year, why not skip the mad dash to the mall and, instead, combine a little retail therapy with a European vacation? If you’re thinking a trip to Europe’s enchanting Christmas Markets will blow your budget, we’ve got good news for you.  There are more European charter flights than ever before from your local Canadian airport to help you bring home unique seasonal treasures at bargain market prices. This brings back memories of my time in Liverpool, U.K. when I operated Day Trips by air from my home airport, Liverpool, John Lennon International Airport back in the late 90’s. I chartered an Airbus A320 and took over 150 passengers to Salzburg, Austria for a day at the Christmas Market (click on the link in the upper right column for an english translation). What an experience, to explore Salzburg, a picturesque city that hosts a 500-year-old holiday craft fair, I found this information on the fare for this season:

Held in the picturesque Cathedral and the surrounding squares, the annual Salzburg Christmas Market is a great place to soak up the Christmas atmosphere and pick up a few Christmas presents from the many stalls and vendors. Items range from traditional festive foodstuffs, handmade Christmas decorations, jewellery, candles and other arts and crafts. In addition to hot food stalls and mulled wine stalls, visitors can enjoy a range of entertainment ranging from nativity plays to choral performances.

Times

Mon–Thur 1000–2030; Fri 1000–2100; Sat 0900–2100; Sun 0900–2030

So forget the standard stocking stuffers and head to Austria and even further afield to other countries who each host their own Christmas Markets, places such as Germany, France, and more for a seasonal shopping extravaganza. Plus, if you’d rather shop online and just enjoy London over the holidays, you can also book a festive vacation too.  Salzburg’s Christmas Market, mentioned as far back as the 15th century, is located at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress, around the venerable cathedral of Salzburg.

The Salzburg Christmas market will be open again from November 20th until December 26th, 2008.

For more information about flights, fares, and/or accommodations, contact us.

Cool Ways to Avoid New Airline Fees

Carry-on to Put Fees in Check

The most common-sense solution for avoiding checked baggage fees is to simply not check your bags. With American, Continental, Northwest, United, US Airways, Frontier, and Spirit now charging $15 for a first checked bag (and most legacy and budget airlines charging around $25 for the second one checked) on each leg of a flight, it just makes (dollars and) sense to carry on. Invest in a strong, yet lightweight bag that’s in accordance with the bulk of airlines’ carry-on allowances (check individual airline websites for details as sizes do vary) and reusable toiletries containers (sized under the TSA’s mandated maximum of three ounces) and leave worries of lost luggage, hefty additional fees, and long waits at ticket counters (and carousels) for checked bags – behind.

If You Must Check Bags, Check Wisely

The steepest checked baggage fees are tacked onto bags that are overweight (usually above 50 pounds) or oversized (from 62 inches). So while it may at first seem logical to try to cram everything into one bag instead of using two, know that while a first checked bag won’t set you back more than $15 on any airline, if it ends up being oversized or overweight it can cost anywhere from $29 (AirTran) to $175 (Delta, for over 70 pounds). Considering second checked bag fees hover around $25 on most airlines (bringing the average total for two checked bags to about $40), it’s near-always the more economical option to check two bags than to go overboard on one. Alternatively, think about packing a small tote bag in your luggage that can be pulled out to use as a quick-fix carry on to transfer luggage overflow that might make your checked bag overweight by just a pound or two. If you must travel with more than two bags, or with overweight or oversized luggage, looking into a shipping agent like FedEx or the USPS for cost comparison is a smart move, as rates can actually be quite competitive.

Take your own Sleep Aids With You

If you’re looking to catch some onboard shut-eye, pack an inflatable pillow to carry on. Available at many travel and luggage stores, they can be quite comfortable, are more sanitary than airlines’ recycled arsenal, and takes up very little room; you can even fit one in your briefcase or purse.

BYOH: Bring Your Own Headset

A handful of airlines (United, JetBlue, and US Airways among them) are now charging anywhere from $1 to $5 for headsets that allow travelers to tune into the in-flight video entertainment. Simply bring your own iPod earbuds or headphones aboard for superior quality, and save on dishing out for their cheapie versions which you’ll most likely end up throwing away.

Fight In-Flight Food Fees

With Continental the only remaining carrier to still provide complimentary meals, and more than half of domestic airlines now charging even for light snacks. Be wise and  pack a brown bag meal ahead of time to carry on, there are lots of fast food outlets airside to purchase a meal from in advance.

Let Your Hotel Foot the Bill

Some very smart hotel chains have figured out a way to attract guests by offering to alleviate their newfound checked baggage expenses. Show your first checked bag receipt when checking in at a Loews Hotels for up to $30 in dining credit at the property under their Baggage Buy Back campaign. Kor Hotel’s Los Angeles-area hotels will reimburse guests with up to $75 in hotel credit through their Money Bags promotion, while Kimpton Hotels’ We Got Your Bag campaign (which was just extended through the year’s end) gives guests who bunk down at one of the chain’s 43 boutique hotels throughout the US and Canada a room credit of up to $25 issued on the spot. Just don’t forget to hang onto those checked baggage receipts as proof.

Join the Airlines Frequent Flyer Club

Several airlines – including United, American, and Continental – will waive baggage fees if you are an elite member of their frequent flyer program. Remember to sign up for your carrier’s frequent flyer program before booking your flight to start accruing points, and if you are already a member of a program, keep in mind that loyalty to them might very well pay off in the long run.

Choose your Seat Wisely!

About half of domestic airlines are now charging for “preferred” seat selection – you’ll pay $20 for an exit row seat on AirTran or $10 for an aisle seat on Spirit, for instance. To avoid doling out the extra cash, check in online just prior to your flight (most airlines open up online check-in 24 hours before scheduled departures), when non-assigned seating inventory usually opens up to all passengers. If you are able to pick your seats in advance, however (the bulk of airlines are still not charging for non-preferred seating assignments), consider booking seats at the back of the plane where you’ll have first dibs on luggage space, meaning you won’t have to store your bag under the seat in front of you, taking up precious leg room. You’ll also get dibs on first-come, first-served amenities (for any that are still left!) like blankets and newspapers.

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3 responses to “Rainbow Travel Tips & Tidbits – 11 October 2008

  1. Very very nice observations. Thanks for the information.

  2. Great piece of article and superb advise, in these tough economic times we really need to spend wisely. Splurging for the heck of it could really hurt our pockets. The Christmas Market options really sound inviting. May be I’ll just read the whole article once again.

  3. Europe is amazing place…I read your blog…it is quite interesting…and you have defined very well about travel Europe……..

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