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Packing Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

This post originally appeared on the Hipmunk Tailwind Blog and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

Gallivanting around Madrid or conducting business in San Francisco? Wherever you’re going—and whatever you’re planning to do there—you’ll need to pack a bag before you leave for the trip.

But even though packing is universal to travelers, packing well isn’t necessarily a skill that we all share. That’s where these packing hacks come in. Each of these smart tips comes recommended by master travelers and promises you an easier trip from start to finish.

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Pack bubble wrap.

It might seem counterintuitive to fill up space in your suitcase with something you don’t actually need, but hear us out: Packing a few sheets of bubble wrap on the way to your destination means you can remove it and have extra space for carrying souvenirs on the way home. And if those souvenirs are breakable, then even better: Simply keep the bubble wrap and use it as protection.

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Airlines Are (Finally) Offering High-End Food

This post originally appeared on the Hipmunk Tailwind Blog and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

While some airlines have distinguished themselves with awesome in-flight entertainment options or stellar amenities in first, business, and economy class, for the most part airline food has failed to keep up with these new high-end innovations. Until now.

That’s right: Airlines are officially improving their menus, especially on domestic flights. From using fresh ingredients, to offering healthier options, to recruiting talented chefs to revamp their menus, airlines are going out of their way to make their food better, reports USA Today.

It’s hard to say exactly why airlines have suddenly started to up their food game, but odds are good that the increasing presence of higher-end eateries in airports and consumer pressure are big factors. Airlines are finding that better food options result in higher online ratings and can offer a competitive edge in a review-happy marketplace. Here’s how that translates into better options for you.

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The Arrival of Better Food

Who benefits the most from improvements to airline food? Travelers, of course, in the form of fresher, more diverse, and more flavorful fare. Here’s an airline-by-airline preview of what hungry travelers can expect.

American Airlines

In an effort to provide healthier food options to passengers, American Airlines hasadded seasonal vegetables to its food options on several domestic, first-class flights. (The new dishes are inspired by restaurateur Sam Choy.) The airline is also in the process of revamping its first-class menus on other domestic flights by adding options like beef filet, shrimp and grits, and mac ‘n cheese. To top things off, American is featuring snacks from gourmet grocer Dean & Deluca—think raw almonds and spicy Cajun snack mix.

Alaska Airlines

In order to reflect and celebrate the airline’s home city of Seattle, Alaska Airlines now invites economy passengers to purchase Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches or othermulti-ethnic offerings during their flights. The airline has also recruited acclaimed chef Tom Douglas to develop its hot meals (which are available for sale on any flight longer than 2 ½ hours), and works to source local ingredients from its many destinations.

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Delta Airlines

In November, Delta doubled the number of menu items offered to its first-class passengers on domestic flights. Entrée choices now include restaurant-worthy dishes such as grilled shrimp with roasted corn and tomato salad and lemongrass chicken with a Japanese Cobb salad. Delta is also upgrading its fare on transoceanic flights by introducing a seasonal rotation of menus influenced by various regions.

JetBlue

JetBlue is taking fresh in-flight food to a whole new level. The airline has gone so far as to open its own farm and garden at JFK’s Terminal Five, dubbed T5 Farm. The farm has been developed in partnership with GrowNYC, an NYC-based nonprofit that works to support the development of gardens and farmers markets throughout the city. The goal is for the farm to provide food that’s ultimately incorporated into the airline’s in-flight meal options, such as potato chips made from the farm’s own blue potatoes. In addition to potatoes, the farm will also grow herbs, leafy greens, carrots, and beets. If all goes according to plan, these items will make their way into JetBlue’s edible fare over the next few years.

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United Airlines

United has decided to offer fancier menu items, such as roasted duck and flatiron steak, in its first-class cabins. The airline is also using cage-free eggs in its economy-class entrees on domestic flights (as well as on international flights that depart from airports in the U.S.), and it’s attempting to add more flavor to its lunch and dinner options for first- and business class customers by infusing dishes with spices and aromatic herbs. To top things off, the airline has started to serve food in first-class cabins on a larger number of flights (even those that don’t take place over traditional meal times).

In addition to their custom initiatives, many of these airlines have also begun offering a healthier paid food option to passengers in the form of snack boxes. Delta’s Eat Tapas, JetBlue’s Pump Up box, and United’s Tapas Snackbox all contain hummus, crackers, olives, and perhaps some nuts. The airlines then put their own twist on the tapas concept by adding in supplements like pepper and artichoke dip (Delta) or roasted fava beans (JetBlue).

It’s not only U.S. carriers that are getting in on the action. Take just two international examples: Aer Lingus allows its passengers to pre-order traditional foods and meals, including Irish Breakfast. And British Airways is committed to offering a fresh snack or meal on every flight within Europe.

So rest easy, travelers: Your plane ride is likely to come with better food options in the (very) near future.


Generation Gap: What Your Age Says About How You Travel

This post originally appeared on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

3rd Annual Millennial Travel Habits Survey

By Hipmunk Staff

For the third year in a row, we polled US travelers of all ages to find out more about the travel habits and trends of the coveted millennials as well as gen Xers and boomers. Last year, we reported that millennial travelers were “cheap, plugged in and always looking for pleasure“. Guess what, not much has changed.

Always-connected, highly-mobile millennials are forging new norms for leisure and business travel, making technology, in-the-know experiences, and adrenaline-rush adventures—not cookie-cutter vacation packages—some of the most striking hallmarks of the way they explore and enjoy their world.

When they do hit the road, millennials see themselves as explorers, not tourists. They disproportionately favor vacation rentals over hotels, cities over beaches, and grab travel opportunities whenever they can, such as topping off business trips with leisure travel.

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How to Make the Most of the Indianapolis Skywalks

This post originally appeared on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

The Indianapolis skywalk system is a convenient feature in a city where average winter lows dip below 20 degrees and summer highs creep into the mid-80s. Keep your business attire fresh and your shoes snow-free in any weather with the enclosed platform that connects the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium to 12 luxurious hotels.

Book a Hotel on the Skywalk

Image via Flickr by vxla

If you’re attending an event at the Indiana Convention Center, a hotel on the skywalk is a prime choice. Book early as you won’t be the only attendee with this idea. These premium hotels are packed with amenities to streamline your travel. The Courtyard Indianapolis Downtown features an indoor pool so you can take a refreshing dip year-round. The Fairfield Inn & Suites Indianapolis Downtown offers a complimentary breakfast so you can start strong before heading off to tackle your convention schedule.

Enjoy Your Meals in Skywalk Hotels

Dining is a focal point for skywalk hotels. The Fairfield Inn & Suites Indianapolis Downtown features a T.G.I. Friday’s onsite. Shula’s Steakhouse in the Westin Indianapolis serves premium Black Angus beef and fresh seafood, perfect for an elegant evening out.

The Omni Severin Hotel is home to the farm-to-table 1913 Restaurant, featuring regional specialties with a timeless touch. The menu tells you where the ingredients come from, highlighting several Indiana farms. Try traditional Midwest dishes such as deviled eggs, roasted lamb chops, or Hoosier sugar cream pie. You can also settle in for a drink at the Severin Bar or the Wine Thief.

Take Advantage of Nearby Meeting Facilities

The skywalk hotels offer convenient access to the Indiana Convention Center which makes them perfect for business meetings. When you need to draw your clients away from the trade show for a one-on-one presentation, these facilities are the easiest choice. Neither rain nor snow will frazzle you as enclosed walkways get you from one destination to the next throughout your day.

The Conrad hotel offers a formal ballroom, two formal boardrooms, and six casual meeting rooms so you can book a space for any type of event. The Hyatt Regency Indianapolis features a 9,408-square-foot ballroom and a total of 35,000 square feet of function space.

Fill a Relaxing Afternoon at Skywalk Hot Spots

If you have some extra time in your day but don’t want to hit the streets of Indianapolis, you’ll find that there’s plenty to do right in the skywalk. The Evan Todd Spa & Salon is located in the Conrad. Book a facial, body polish, massage, or simple manicure and pedicure to freshen up your look. The Long Sharp Gallery on the first floor of the Conrad features famous artists like Picasso and Warhol. The Eagle’s Nest in the Hyatt Regency is more than a place to dine. With panoramic views of the city on all sides, this rotating restaurant offers the best possible way to take it all in.

Connecting some of the most popular destinations in the city, the Indianapolis skywalks offer endless opportunities to simplify your travel experience with convenient connections.


Is Duty Free Really Worth It?

This post originally appeared on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on February 21st, 2016, and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

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It’s hard to miss the bright lights and ample displays at the duty-free stores in most international airports, cruise ship ports, and border stations. Designer clothes and jewelry, bottles of high-end liquor, and tobacco products are all screaming to be picked up and taken home. After all, it’s a great deal and tax-free, right?

Getting a bargain at a duty-free shop requires some research in advance. Items found in these shops are free of the local import tax (also known as “duty”) that would normally be placed on the item in a regular retail store. However, you may potentially owe a customs duty in the country you’re heading back to. We’re looking at you, America (sigh).

It’s not all bad news. According to guidelines from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, if you are a U.S. resident returning from a foreign country other than one in the Caribbean (and you were there for more than 48 hours), you are allowed a duty-free exemption of up to $800. Your next $1,000 worth of goods is subject to a flat tax rate of 3 percent, which is still cheaper than many local taxes on similar items.


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