“Brexit” Translates to United Kingdom “On Sale”

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BREXITIn June, United Kingdom voters approved a referendum to leave the European Union, a move commonly referred to as “Brexit.” While the long-term implications won’t be clear for a while, there’s one immediate, beneficial result for American travelers: It’s much less expensive to take a vacation in Great Britain.

The British pound has dropped in value to its lowest point against the U.S. dollar in 30 years. In July, $100 would get you 76 British pounds, compared with just 64 pounds during the same period in 2015. Since hotels are routinely one of the costlier items once you’re in a destination, if a hotel room cost 150 pounds per night, last year you would have paid $232, but with the stronger U.S. dollar value, you would pay only $197 per night – that translates into substantial savings.

London routinely pops up on lists of the world’s most expensive cities, yet it also ranks as one of the most popular cities for Americans to visit. The British capital is the fourth most popular international vacation destination for 2016, according to Travel Leaders Group’s annual Travel Trends Survey.

Of course, prices are subject to change and exchange rates fluctuate, but it’s safe to say that with a strong U.S. dollar, a vacation in the United Kingdom is cheaper now than it’s been in years. So if you’ve had London on your bucket list, this is a great time to check it off.

For example, every visitor should have the Tower of London, the castle that’s home to Britain’s Crown Jewels, on his or her itinerary. Admission to the Tower is 25 British pounds, or about $33. Last summer, the same ticket would have cost $39. A ride on the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel that offers a spectacular view of the city, starts at 21 pounds, or about $28, compared with about $33 last year.

Of course, there’s so much to see beyond London.

Just 90 minutes southwest of London by train to Salisbury, the nearest city to Stonehenge. The massive circle of stones set in the middle of the British countryside has a history spanning 5,000 years. A round-trip train ticket from London to Salisbury is 16 pounds, or $21, compared with $25 in 2015. At Salisbury station, visitors can take a bus tour of Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral for 34 pounds, or about $45, compared with $53 in 2015.

Liverpool, a 2½-hour train ride northwest of London, has a fascinating maritime history and is a must-see for fans of the Beatles. A ticket to The Beatles Story museum costs 15 pounds, or $20, compared with about $23 last summer. You’ll want to see the neighborhoods where John, Paul, George and Ringo grew up and met, and places associated with some of their most famous songs, like Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. A four-hour tour is 99 pounds for up to two people, or $130, compared with about $155 last year.

Finally, the opening of the Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel, in 1994 made traveling between England and the European continent easier than ever. While prices can vary depending on the time of day and date, a standard round-trip ticket on the Eurostar between London and Paris costs 89 pounds, or about $117, compared with approximately $139 last summer.

For help planning a trip to Britain, contact your travel agent.

Cleveland and Philadelphia: Beyond the Parties

As host cities for the Republican and Democratic conventions, Cleveland and Philadelphia were in the prime time spotlight last month. Both are rich in history, culture and cuisine, making them tempting places to visit any time of year, no matter which political party you identify with.

Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland was a center of manufacturing around the turn of the 20th century. Today, music fans know it as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Inside, you’ll find memorabilia tracing the history of rock, starting with its roots in gospel, blues, country, folk and bluegrass, through Motown and the British Invasion, to the present day. Current exhibits include – quite appropriately – “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics.”

Fans of the holiday favorite “A Christmas Story” will want to see the 19th-century Victorian house in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood that was used in the movie’s exterior scenes. It’s been restored inside and out to appear as it did in the beloved 1983 film. A museum across the street contains props, costumes and behind-the-scenes photos.

Cleveland’s West Side Market opened to the public in 1912, and its 137-foot clock tower has been a landmark for more than a century. The market is home to 100 vendors selling everything from meat, seafood, spices, flowers, cheese and baked goods to prepared foods that evoke the city’s rich ethnic heritage.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love strolling through the Cleveland Botanical Garden. It’s divided into 11 sections that include a Japanese Garden, Children’s Garden, and areas devoted to roses, herbs and woodlands. The Glasshouse is home to plant and animal life from the desert of Madagascar and the cloud forest of Costa Rica, including hundreds of butterflies. In August, visitors can enjoy a light dinner and a cocktail while getting cooking tips from some of Cleveland’s top chefs during Garden Summer Wednesdays.

Philadelphia, of course, occupies a unique spot in American history as the site of the Second Continental Congress and the place where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.

Visitors can explore the nation’s beginnings at Independence National Historic Park, covering more than two-dozen sites, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Congress Hall, where Congress met from 1790 to 1800 when Philadelphia served as capital of the United States.

When it comes to culinary history, the city is inextricably linked to the cheesesteak sub. To try one, head to Pat’s or its rival and South Philadelphia neighbor Geno’s. But if you have a more sophisticated or adventurous palate, Philadelphia is home to five prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards nominees that cover such epicurean delights as Fork, Serpico, Talula’s Garden, The Dandelion, Vedge, Vernick Food & Drink and Zahav.

For yet another side of Philadelphia’s favorite food and drink, visit the 19th-century Reading Terminal Market. From Aug. 11-13, it’ll be the site of the annual Pennsylvania Dutch Festival, featuring traditional foods and crafts such as quilts, braided rugs and wooden toys.

Penn’s Landing, on the Delaware River waterfront, offers family-friendly attractions and events all year long. In the summer, it is home to movies, concerts and festivals. Spruce Street Harbor Park has returned for the third summer, with its signature hammocks, floating gardens, food and craft beer.

For help planning a trip to Cleveland or Philadelphia, contact your travel agent.

Boeing Centennial-Inspired Travel

When most people think about traveling, their imagination of flying off to an exciting destination invariably involves getting on an airplane – and quite frequently, that journey begins on a Boeing jet.

Throughout 2016, Boeing is celebrating its centennial and there are some fun ways for aviation buffs to combine travel with an up-close look at this iconic American company.

The Seattle area is the place to begin exploring Boeing’s history. William Edward Boeing incorporated Pacific Aero Products Co. on July 15, 1916, and started building planes in Seattle. The next year, the name was changed to the Boeing Airplane Co.

Start your visit at the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo, a half hour north of Seattle. Interactive displays and exhibits explore just how dramatically aircraft has changed and evolved since Boeing first produced seaplanes for the Navy during World War I. You’ll even have a chance to design your own airplane and learn about what’s in store for air travel.

Afterward, you’ll travel by bus to nearby Everett for a 90-minute tour of the Boeing plant. Built in 1967 to produce the 747 jumbo jet, today the plant’s footprint covers an amazing 98 acres. You’ll have opportunities to see the 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner production lines, as well as learn about Boeing and the planes that bear its name. (Children must be at least 4 feet tall to go on the tour.)

But that’s not the only place in the United States to learn about Boeing.

At the newly renovated Delta Flight Museum, at the carrier’s Atlanta headquarters, visitors can get a look at aircraft dating to the 1920s, and “fly” a Boeing 737 flight simulator. Also on display is the “Spirit of Delta,” the carrier’s first Boeing 767, which flew for more than two decades before being retired in 2006. Next year, a Boeing 747-400, a jumbo jet known as the “Queen of the Skies,” will go on display. The plane revolutionized commercial aviation with its size and capability for long-haul flights.

Of course, the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, in Washington, D.C., has aircraft of all types displayed, including a Boeing 247-D that’s considered the first modern passenger airliner. The plane, nicknamed “Adaptable Annie,” was flown in the 1934 England to Australia International Air Derby.  Boeing planes also feature prominently in one of the museum’s current exhibits, “America By Air,” that looks at the history of commercial aviation.

Boeing’s B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous aircraft ever built. There are numerous places across the United States where military history buffs can combine travel with seeing one of the planes that helped win World War II. At the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center honors the men and women of the armed forces, as well as those who contributed on the home front by producing planes, ships and tanks in unprecedented numbers. Also on display at the museum is “My Gal Sal,” a B-17 that made an emergency landing in Greenland in 1942 and remained on ice for more than 50 years before it was recovered and restored.

For help planning a trip inspired by the Boeing centennial, contact your travel agent.

 

The Time to Book Holiday Travel Is Now

Sure it’s still summer, but if you’re thinking about getting away for the holidays at the end of the year, travel professionals advise that now is the time to start planning in order to lock in the best value.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are increasingly popular times to take a vacation. With everything decked out for the season, travel around the holidays is especially festive and memorable. Plus, the kids are out of school and many people have extra time off from work, or vacation days to use up before the end of the year. It may be one of the few times, other than summer, when the whole family can take a trip together. And it’s a way to enjoy the holiday in a relaxing, stress-free environment, with someone else doing the preparation.

The possibilities for holiday travel are limitless.

Orlando, the Hawaiian island of Maui, Las Vegas and New York City are among the top domestic vacation destinations for 2016, according to Travel Leaders Group’s annual Travel Trends Survey, while Caribbean cruises, the Mexican resort of Cancun, European river cruises, Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, and London are among the top international vacation spots. They’re all likely to be in high demand for end-of-the-year travel.

Just remember that many other travelers will have the same idea. It pays to book early to get the most sought-after hotels, all-inclusive resorts, cruises and flights, especially in the most popular destinations – or risk paying significantly more or facing properties and flights being sold out.

Thanksgiving and the Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are among the busiest times of the year for long-distance travel. Last winter, the industry group Airlines for America forecast that 38.1 million passengers would fly on U.S. airlines from the week before Christmas through the New Year’s Day weekend, with planes at 80 percent to 90 percent of capacity. If recent trends hold, the number of flyers will only increase this year during the holidays. By booking early, your travel agent can help you select the price and flight time that fit your needs.

And it’s never too early to plan a cruise. In fact, cruise lines are booking voyages well into the first half of 2017, a year from now. Many offer special Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s cruises and by booking early, you’ll ensure a wide range of choices when it comes to picking onboard accommodations.

If you’re booking a multigenerational family trip, planning ahead is especially important. There are lots of details to take into account. You want to make sure that family members can stay together at the same hotel or resort, or near each other on the cruise ship, for example. And, of course, it’s essential that everyone get a connecting flight to the port of departure.

Whether you’re certain about your destination or you just want to explore the possibilities, a travel agent can help find options that meet your needs and budget. Once you’ve decided where to go, your agent can assist in locking in the best fares and rates at top vacation destinations across the country or around the world.

Business Travel: Mixing Business with Pleasure

The term sounds funny but the trend is serious. Bleisure travel – mixing vacation time with a business trip – is becoming more popular, especially among unattached young professionals.

According to a survey of U.S. consumers conducted by Travel Leaders Group in April, 59 percent of the nearly 1,200 respondents who said that they travel for work take a leisure trip in conjunction with a business trip.

Of course at one time, business travelers tacked on a couple of extra days to their trip to take advantage of lower weekend airfares. Competition from budget airlines led some carriers to drop that requirement for a period of time. While a Saturday night stay isn’t always required these days to get a lower fare, there are still ways that staying over for the weekend can pay off.

We know that business travel can be stressful – both physically and mentally. You’re away from home, living out of a suitcase, without your favorite coffee mug and comfortable chair. Plus, the pressure leading up to a work trip can be intense. You want to do a good job and make it a success.

Taking a few days to see the sights either before or after the business portion of the trip can make all the difference, especially if it’s a place you’ve never been. You’ll feel more excited about the trip beforehand. And when you return home, you’ll feel more relaxed, energized and refreshed than if you’d spent the entire business trip in meetings. If a significant other can join you for the leisure part of the trip, even better.

Employers benefit, too, because vacation time can help workers avoid burnout. Plus, travel broadens horizons and makes people more culturally aware, an important asset in a diverse country and global economy. Talking about your plans is a great way to break the ice with new colleagues, who will be more than happy to sing the praises of their hometown and give you suggestions for things to do. If your destination is a place where you’ll have to return for work, the next time you’ll feel more comfortable because you’ll know your way around. That can help make the business part of the trip go even more smoothly, which benefits you and your employer.

It’s a good idea to check your corporate travel policy before planning a leisure trip at the end of a business trip.

While you’ll have to pay for your own hotel room, some companies will allow employees to book personal travel at the negotiated corporate rate, and that can be a big savings. Remember to join hotel loyalty programs, too, so you can start building up perks. Even after a few trips with the same chain, you may find out that you’re entitled to a free night’s hotel stay. Look into renting a car and driving someplace you’ve never been. You may be able to get a comparably priced flight home from another city.

For help planning a business trip, contact your travel agent.

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