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Packing Tips for a South Africa Vacation

Packing Tips for South Africa Vacation: Solumbra safari shirt

Q: I’m going to South Africa next month. I’ll need safari gear for a week at Sabi Sand Reserve and clothes for several days in Cape Town. What will work in each location? —Mary Catherine Blake, Sandy Springs, Ga.

A: It’s best to limit your color palette to neutrals (an especially good idea on game drives, where bright reds and jarring prints can provoke wildlife). Solumbra’s safari shirt (pictured; $80) has sun-protective qualities and wicks moisture away from your skin. For Cape Town, where daytime highs hover around 80 degrees in January, try this lightweight top from Lemlem ($200). It’s made of handwoven (and tissue-thin) Ethiopian cotton, with a pattern derived from local textiles. For a night out, A.L.C.’s peach-colored silk georgette dress ($645) is easy and chic. Lastly, Coolibar’s wide-brimmed crushable canvas hat ($45), rated UPF 50+, will keep you cool in both the city and the countryside.

Mimi LombardoPacking is rarely easy—we’re here to help. Send your question to tripdoctor@aexp.com.

 

Photo by John Lawton

How to Cope With an Overzealous Tour Member

tour group

Do...

Book trips where multiple guides are present at all times. One is there to handle special situations just like this.

Talk to your guide, not to the traveler in question. Guides are trained to handle a variety of personalities.

Don’t...

Isolate the individual. That will only make him more likely to further monopolize your guide’s attention.

Be too quick to judge. As the group dynamic shakes out, needy travelers tend to settle down.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.

Illustration by Larry Jost

Do I Really Need to Arrive Two Hours Early for an International Flight?

international flight

Trip Doctor’s Answer

Here’s the official rule: you and your luggage must be checked in at least an hour before departure, and you’ve got to be at the gate 30 to 45 minutes early. (There are a handful of exceptions; check with your carrier.) If you check in online and only have a carry-on, you’re free to play it closer—just don’t forget about the security lines.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.

 

Photo by Don Wilson/Courtesy of Port of Seattle

Is It Better to Book Flights with a Cruise or Separately?

cruise

Trip Doctor’s Answer

Cruise lines negotiate set fares based on volume, so their flights are often more affordable than what you’ll find on your own—especially for business-class tickets. Perhaps more important, cruise fares protect you if you literally miss the boat because of flight delays; you’ll be flown to the next port of call without any change fees, says Dwain Wall, senior vice president of CruiseOne & Cruises, a network of 1,400 cruise agents.

Still, while you’ve got that cruise airfare on hold (you often have a full 10 days to cancel without penalty), you’ll want to shop around. Sale fares and tickets on low-cost carriers are sometimes a better deal than the cruise rates, which are restricted to specific airlines. And because the number of cruise-fare seats is limited on each flight, your itinerary might include an inconvenient overnight stay. If you do book on your own, be sure to purchase travel insurance in case your flight is delayed.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.


Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Tech Thursday: TripAdvisor Takes a Stance Against Blackmail

201302-b-tripadvisor-hotel-check-injpg

Long gone are the days of the anonymous critic. Nowadays, anyone with a Yelp account can wield enough power to make a business owner quiver. But you already knew that much. A surprising new development? The rising trend of blatant blackmail—guests demanding freebies and service perks to prevent a zero-star takedown. And it's gotten so out of control that one entrepreneur has even introduced Reviewer Card, where for $100, members get a black card embossed with the words "I Write Reviews," a not so subtle way of saying, "Upgrade me—or else."

The Internet has already lashed out against the ridiculous concept of the Reviewer Card, but at this point, hoteliers and restaurateurs need practical support, not a flurry of blog-based comments. Enter TripAdvisor, which recognizes that extortion—even if just on digital review sites—is more than just a nuisance. In fact, it's illegal in many places. Their new blackmail reporting tool allows hoteliers to report any threats or suspicious behavior before a poor review is posted, creating a flag for similar-sounding, low-scoring posts coming onto the system. If a match is detected, the review will never make it online, whereas before, business owners would have to monitor their published reviews to find questionable content. It's a big move that benefits both businesses and consumers—and the latest weapon in TripAdvisor's strong fraud detection arsenal. For the sake of restaurants, which are just as affected by the blackmail trend (if not more so), we only hope that Yelp follows suit.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

 

© Adrian Weinbrecht/cultura/Corbis

Trip Doctor: Spring Packing for Paris and Barcelona

Paris street fashion

Q. I will be traveling to Europe this coming May and will only be able to bring one 22” carry-on and one overnight bag (that will fit under the seat). I'll be in Paris from May 5 – 11, and then in Barcelona from May 12 – 16.

The weather should be okay, but most likely there will be rain. I'm stumped as to how to best pack so I'm prepared for anything while packing as light as possible.

What shoes would you recommend for daytime walking (a lot of walking!)? Jacket or sweater? How many pairs of jeans? How many tops?

This is my first big trip to Europe so I'm trying to be proactive and figure out now what is needed. Since I will be responsible for lugging my own bags from Paris to Spain, I am truly limited for packing purposes. —Marianne VanAuken, Chandler, AZ

A. Since this is your first trip across the pond you should know Europeans' idea of casual is a bit more pulled together than Americans'. Parisian culture is steeped in fashion history and they take it seriously, so if you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, bring your best casual looks and buy some new things too. I always think of myself as a representative of our country when abroad and step up the style quotient.

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Trip Doctor: The Rebirth of a Brand

Karl Lagerfeld

Jean Nouvel. Christian Lacroix. Kenzo Takada. And now, Karl Lagerfeld. Over the last half-decade, a star-studded cast of designers and architects has helped transform the half-century-old French Sofitel brand from a random collection of dusty hotels—some elegant, some forgettable—into a serious player among international luxury hotels.

This is all thanks to a new direction from CEO Robert Gaymer-Jones, who over the last six years whittled down 81 sub-par properties from a group of more than 200 into a collection of 120 hotels that have been upgraded and reflagged into distinct brands. They include the Sofitel flagship (the Nouvel-designed Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, for one), Sofitel Legend for historic properties (the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi and the soon-to-open Sofitel Montevideo among others), and So, a line of new style-conscious boutiques. (Recent openings include So Bangkok, where Lacroix did the lobby and staff uniforms, and So Mauritius, where Takada designed eight light-filled villas.)

Read More

Trip Doctor: How to Find Affordable European Flights for Summer

Q: Is there such a thing as an affordable European flight this summer? If so, how can I find one? —Catherine Mills, Westport, Conn.

A: Remember when flying to Europe was, at most, a $600 commitment? These days, that’s often just the baseline cost of a transatlantic ticket. According to Rick Seaney, cofounder and CEO of Farecompare, the average airfare to Europe includes about $450 in surcharges (including fuel) and $160 in taxes and fees. Tack on what the carrier itself charges, and it’s no wonder you can find yourself paying more than $1,000 for an economy-class ticket. But you can still fly for less. You just need to know the tricks.

Pay attention to shoulder seasons. Summer flights, hands down, are the most expensive. But if you look around the edges of summer—early June; the last week of August—you’ll find better fares. They’re even more affordable in early May and mid-October. Of course, winter fares are still lowest, and they stay that way from mid-November until mid-March (excluding the winter holidays).

Read More

Trip Doctor: Why Can’t My Family and I Find Airplane Seats Together?

airplane seats

Major domestic carriers have put premiums on an increasing number of main-cabin aisle and window seats, making them available only to high-ranking frequent fliers or people willing to add $20 to $60 per trip leg. Though these seats sometimes open up to regular travelers as the flight date approaches, this policy in effect forces families to pay up or risk sitting apart. New York Senator Charles Schumer and others have decried the practice, but their efforts will have little impact in the short term. If you can’t (or won’t) pay the premium, your best bet is to log on to your airline’s website 24 hours before your flight—when carriers begin releasing premium seats to the public.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Photo by iStockphoto

Tech Thursday: Pintrips Offers A New Way to Compare Flights

Pintrips

There’s no shame in admitting this: I’m a compulsive bargain hunter—never satisfied with paying full price without doing some browsing for a good deal. But I suspect many of us fall under the same umbrella, especially when it comes to airfare. Enter Pintrips, a new tool that helps you look at flight options side-by-side, monitoring them in real time for fluctuations in price. Unlike online booking sites, which let you sort by cost, Pintrips aggregates data to show you when your favorite itineraries—those “pinned” to your dashboard—drop or increase in price, and by how much, offering insight on the right moment to book. Plus, the tool lets you share itineraries with anyone you’d like (my husband and I are simultaneously keeping an eye on flights to Cape Town), and you can manage multiple trips at once, each neatly packaged in its own folder and with its own sharing preferences. The best part: It's free to use. (Though you wouldn't expect otherwise from a site that's all about saving, would you?)

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Image courtesy of Pintrips

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