Last weekend I spent an afternoon at the New York Times Travel Show for a good dousing of international celebration, insider tips, and culinary adventure. This 3-day event is now in its twelfth year, and is the largest consumer and trade event of its kind in the United States – this year with 150 countries represented, and over 500 exhibitors, and over 100 live performances! With so many resources converging on the exhibition hall at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center, the NY Times Travel Show presents innumerable networking opportunities for travel professionals, onsite deals and offers for consumers, and a wellspring of information and travel Intel for all!
In addition to the varied, often cacophonous spectacle of the Exhibition Hall, the educational seminars held in adjoining rooms on the lower level offered a reprieve from the commotion, and were immensely informative. All were led by experts in the travel industry and catered to a broad spectrum of interests. Here are my three favorites from this year’s show:
1. New Times Travel Panel: Our Top 5 Travel Hacks – Led by the NY Times Travel editorial team, this was a veritable cheat sheet on “how to travel better, stay better, and feel better.” I try to stay on top of travel trends and the latest hacks, but in an industry that is in constant flux, an audience with the pundits who have their ears to the ground is a Hack unto itself. Here is the shortlist of recommended websites, apps, and resources:
- If your pocketbook is determining your destination, check out: hopper.com or www.google.com/flights
- Best places to hunt for deals: yapta.com, www.airfarewatchdog.com, www.cheapfares.com
- Don’t forget those points! boardingarea.com, www.thepointsguy.com, www.flyertalk.com
- For luxury accommodations at a discount: luxury.homeaway.com, www.airbnb.com
- For last minute hotel bookings: hoteltonight.com
- For booking activities or guided tours: viator.com, www.vayable.com, www.peek.com
- To curtail the stress that sometimes accompanies travel, or, Gadgets and Apps that soothe: visit headspace.com or download the App – you’ll see!
- Portable sound machines by Brookstone
2. Top New Travel Destinations for 2015 – Arthur Frommer, Godfather of the Frommer’s dynasty, and his daughter Pauline (travel expert and publisher of Frommers.com), tag-teamed at the podium, sharing insight on the latest trends and best destinations. Arthur Frommer is admittedly a major proponent of independent travel over group tours and cruising, and I’m sure his preeminence in the industry affords him the best of what this kind of travel allows. However, it seems that independent travel has become extremely popular among the masses, as savvy travelers are seeking a more singular travel experience than group travel or cruising will typically allow. Or, as Arthur put, “The Locals don’t want to engage in conversation with 40 Americans on a tour.” Fair enough. In any case, to meet with the demands of solo travelers, hostels are popping up all over Europe and Asia, offering a wider variety of services and amenities, making independent travel a more affordable alternative. Check out http://www.hostelz.com, the world’s largest database for comparing and pricing hostels worldwide.
Pauline Frommer unveiled their annual list of Best Places To Go. Taking into account cultural celebration, historic commemoration, the influence of Pop Culture, and favorable exchange rates, these 15 places were voted best to “discover – or rediscover” – in 2015:
- The Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, Vietnam
- South Dakota, U.S.A.
- Gallipoli, Turkey
- Asheville, North Carolina, U.S.A.
- Malaga, Spain
- Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico, U.S.A.
- Washington D.C., USA
- Cunard Line
- London, England
- Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, U.S.A.
3. Outlook for Travel to Cuba – In the winter of 2003, I visited Havana by way of German cruise ship. I worked on the ship as a production singer and my name was included on the Crew manifest and group Crew visa. Despite my US citizenship, I was allowed to roam freely through the city, exploring the Handicraft Market, gulping Mojito’s, dancing badly, and listening to sensational live music. I don’t know if this was legal or if I fell between the cracks, but I had the time of my life and have longed to return ever since!
The great news is that all Americans can now travel legally to Cuba – with some limitations. Tourism, per se, is still not an option for US citizens; however, the longstanding ban on Cuba travel has been amended to allow for 12 categories of authorized travel to, from, or within Cuba that previously required a specific license (i.e., an application and a case-by-case determination). In fact, starting March 17, 2015 Cuba Travel Services will offer a weekly flight between New York’s JFK Airport to Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.
For more information, visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/cuba.html, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx, http://insightcuba.com, http://www.abc-charters.com,
The weekend was punctuated by warnings from the National Weather Bureau of an epic Blizzard predicted to throttle New York City, with 12 – 24 inches of snow overnight. New York State’s pre-emptive safety measures of early road and public transportation closures resulted in a sizable exodus of the City around mid-day. Health conscious New Yorkers bemoaned the shortage of Kale as the masses stockpiled their favorite comfort foods prior to heading home. A storm that proved devastating to other parts of the Northeast by-passed New York City, leaving a few inches of pristine powder on deserted city streets and parks – a rare and beautiful photo opportunity:
Thanks New York – it’s always a pleasure!