MONEY Travel

5 Ways to Save on a Trip to Paris

150523_EM_Paris
Chris Sorensen—Gallery Stock Louvre pyramid, Paris, France.

The City of Light is more affordable than you think

Piles of pastel macaron at Laduree. The steep steps of Montmartre. Masterworks at the Louvre. A long stroll along the Seine.

Paris is a city that many travelers pine for, dream about, plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip to. But with so much love comes plenty of high prices. In fact, Paris is one of the most expensive European cities to fly to: Hopper found that the average airfare to the City of Light comes in at just under $1,000 round trip.

Lucky for you, we found some easy ways to save money while planning a trip to Paris. From buying the right flight to staying in the right place, you can save some serious euro just by being smart.

Compare Arrival Airports

Charles de Gaulle is the main airport for Paris arrivals (and, since it’s the eighth busiest airport in the world, it’s the arrival and departure point for many visitors to Europe). However, it may not actually be the cheapest airport for you to fly into. Compare the cost of flights from your departure airport to both Charles de Gaulle and Orly, Paris’ secondary airport. You may find surprising savings.

Don’t Forget Budget Airlines

When looking for flights to Paris, you may skip the legacy airlines unless you find a great deal. At Hopper, we’ve consistently found the best savings on flights from the United States to Paris with airlines like WOW and XL Airways France. On the latter, we found flights from New York City to Paris from just $537 this fall.

Also consider Turkish Airlines: Our research uncovered flights from Boston to Paris from $712. They come with a free stopover in Istanbul and are certainly longer than Air France’s non-stop option — but they’re also at least $400 cheaper. Turkish Airlines is gaining steam as a surprisingly low-cost carrier with plenty of amenities, from luxe airport lounges to in-flight Turkish delight.

Watch Flight Prices

You could spend all day, every day, checking flight prices to Paris, waiting with baited breath for that flight price to drop. Unfortunately, flight prices nearly always increase in the last few weeks as your departure date approaches. So it’s important to keep track of price trends and know exactly when you’re getting a good deal. Also know the average flight price from your departure airport; the national average for a flight from the U.S. to France is $996, but depending on your location, it could be much higher or lower.

Comparison-shopping for flights is difficult, but you do have some tools at your disposal. Look into an airfare-prediction app (Hopper is one; Yapta is another that’s great for corporate or group travel) and set up a fare alert to Paris.

Find Alternative Accommodations

While you’re likely to spend the biggest portion of your budget on your flight to Paris, accommodations can be heart-stoppingly expensive. (A moderate three-star hotel can be as pricy as $389 per night.) So don’t overlook alternative accommodation options. Here are some favorites:

Airbnb seems to be the last name in vacation rentals, and its young, hip brand is perfect for Paris, where the average rental rate for an entire home is a wonderfully cheap $108. Another vacation-rental option is long-time favorite HomeAway, which has a roster of some 7,000 properties in and around Paris.

Other options include a bed and breakfast (we recommend BedandBreakfast.com, which lists 68 quaint B&Bs and inns in the metro area) or, surprisingly, hostels. No longer the smelly, smoky college-student-on-spring-break hangouts, you can find decent properties with amazing prices. Check them out on HostelWorld.

Buy a City or Museum Pass

Finally, if sightseeing is your number-one goal in Paris, look into the Paris Pass. While it doesn’t include entry to the Eiffel Tower, it does include admission to 60 attractions and tours. See the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, and even Versailles nearby. Two-day pass prices start at about $138 for adults and $47.50 for children, which offers a great savings opportunity if you plan to hit up a handful of sights.

This article originally appeared on Hopper.com. Hopper is a travel app that tracks and predicts airfare prices.

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MONEY Travel

How to Negotiate a Killer Deal on Your Summer Vacation Rental

summer vacation cottages
William Britten—Getty Images

Because everything's negotiable.

Are you considering bypassing the hotel or resort experience for your summer vacation and opting for a summer home rental instead? Home rental networks are on the rise and have never been easier to use, thanks to the increased web presence and sites like VacationHomeRentals.com, Airbnb, VRBO, and VacationRentals.com.

However, just because travel agents and middlemen are being squeezed out does not mean that you are getting the best deal possible. You can negotiate with a vacation rental owner to receive an even better deal by following these steps:

  • Outline Your Goals – Know what you are negotiating for, and what you are willing to give up in return, if anything. Are you willing to stay longer or at different times for an improved nightly rate? Are certain amenities important to you? Can you handle a larger up-front deposit for a rate discount? Have all of your negotiating points and strategy planned out in advance, and you will know when you should walk away from a deal.
  • Do Your Homework – Research your rental options in the area, and make a list of your preferred choices. Get the best understanding you can of the booking market during your preferred time — is it peak season, are there festivals or events drawing unusual crowds, or are there other hurdles to occupancy? Keep your vacation times flexible if possible. If you can offer a stay that is complementary to the rental’s typical business, you have tremendous leverage. Do not be afraid to use that leverage, but do not lead with it. Give the rental owner the impression that you are doing them a favor by altering your plans.
  • Be Courteous – Nobody likes doing business with an obnoxious negotiator. Say that the offering does not exactly fit your time and budget needs, and you were wondering if a certain counteroffer could be met. Keep your counteroffers reasonable, and do not mention that you have other options. Rental owners already know that, and they do not like to be reminded of it.
  • Book Early or Book Late – As strange as it may sound, you can have leverage on both ends of the timeline. Booking early can give you the best combination of price and selection. However, if you are willing to gamble on availability, last-minute deals can be found for most destinations. They may not be in the exact location you want or have all the amenities you want, but the savings are significant. Check the rental sites for last-minute offers — one example is VacationHomeRentals.com, but there are others available. However, if you go this route, be prepared to find a hotel if you have to, and realize when it is too late to do anything based on an area you are visiting (part of your “homework” above).
  • Sell Yourself as an “Easy” Customer – Rental owners love “easy” customers who simply enjoy their time, are respectful of their rental property, throw no parties, and cause no problems. If you fit into that category, find subtle ways to let them know that you are low maintenance.

On the other hand, if your family really does not fit that mold, don’t misrepresent yourself. Rowdy kids or uncontrolled pets will earn you a reputation you do not want for future rentals. Find a rental that is a bit more tolerant, and be prepared to pay extra.
Congratulations! You have successfully negotiated a great deal for your vacation rental. Now it is up to you to follow through.

Be a good and respectful guest, follow all the house rules, and leave everything in the same condition you found it in, if not better. If you had an excellent experience, do not forget to refer others to the rental — and let your host know that you will be referring them to others. You may receive a similarly good deal, or even a better one, the next time you stay there.

More From MoneyTips:

MONEY fashion

New Kind of Disney Cosplay Slightly Less Embarrassing Than Original

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Ever imagine what Sleeping Beauty, Buzz Lightyear, or Dumbo would wear if they were real people?

This week, the Orlando Sentinel reported on “Disneybounding,” a growing dress-up trend that some will think is a super fun hoot, while others will perceive it as a disturbing sign of the coming apocalypse.

To be a Disneybounder, you dress up in regular clothes to achieve a look inspired by a Disney character. The look “falls somewhere between a character T-shirt and an elaborate costume,” the Sentinel explained.

According to the Disneybound Tumblr (“Where Disney nerds and fashion geeks collide”), which was created three years ago by a woman named Leslie Kay and is credited with creating the trend out of nowhere, Disneybounding can be summed up this way: “Using items you can find in your own closet or local mall, create the looks outside of costumed or cosplay looks, which represent your favorite Disney character, while having fun with fashion!”

For instance, instead of dressing up in a head-to-toe Little Mermaid costume with a tail and all, you might wear green jeans or a skirt and a purple top, to create a vaguely Ariel-like look. A Disneybound Mrs. Jumbo outfit, inspired by Dumbo’s mom, might consist of gray skorts, a pink blouse, and a light blue sweater.

The most obvious place to go Disneybounding in character-inspired attire is, of course, one of the Disney theme parks. Yet if these fans love Disney so much, why aren’t they just wearing full character costumes?

Beyond the obvious—it’s somewhat ridiculous for adults to dress in costumes when it’s not Halloween (and perhaps even when it is Halloween)—Disney parks actually don’t allow adults to wear masks or dress up in Disney costumes. Included on the official list of attire that’s not appropriate at Disney World are “Adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character.” Presumably, without such a policy, theme park guests could be confused as to whether that guy in a costume is a Disney employee or just some random dude from Des Moines who enjoys dressing up as Cruella De Vil.

While Disney frowns upon adult guests wearing costumes at theme parks, the company has embraced Disneybounding. Last summer, the official Disney blog created a quiz meant to steer you toward the character whose look you should emulate in Disneybound attire. After selecting your favorite Disney song, overall style, Disney snack food, favorite retail brand, and so on, an algorithm spits out that you should try to dress like Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid, Olaf from Frozen, or whoever.

Disney also created a similar quiz to help high school girls choose which Disney character should be the inspiration for their look at the prom. Mrs. Jumbo is not one of the options.

MONEY Travel

The Absolute Worst Practice of Airlines Today

Getty Images

Change fees are just plain punitive

Americans love to hate the airlines. As airlines have transformed themselves over the past decade to become sustainably profitable, they have added bag fees, dropped meal service, reduced legroom, and adopted a litany of other fees.

All of these practices have made airline customers unhappy. Yet for the most part, these have been necessary changes to ensure that airlines are consistently profitable. While airfares have risen significantly in the past few years, they are still relatively low by historical standards, and would be higher without these changes.

Southwest Airlines is a rarity in that it doesn’t charge change fees.

But one innovation is particularly hard to swallow. The single worst practice of the airlines today is the imposition of punitive change fees. Change fees are often exorbitant compared to the actual costs they impose on airlines and create a massive amount of customer anger. This drives customers to Southwest Airlines SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. LUV -2.33% , which doesn’t charge change fees.

The purpose of change fees
Most of the fees imposed by airlines in recent years have been directly tied to services that some (but not all) passengers need that are costly to provide. For example, handling checked luggage or supervising an unaccompanied minor clearly imposes costs on an airline that it wouldn’t incur for an adult with no checked luggage. Thus, it’s reasonable that airlines charge some level of bag fees and unaccompanied minor fees.

The basic justification for change fees is also relatively straightforward. When a passenger changes or cancels a ticket, it may no longer be feasible to resell that seat, especially if it is close to the day of travel.

This is a very real cost of doing business. Airline revenue management systems are carefully calibrated to sell just the right number of tickets at just the right time for just the right price. A sudden influx of canceled or changed tickets at the last minute will lead to lower revenue for that flight (and won’t significantly reduce costs for the flight).

But change fees are excessive
That said, change fees tend to be excessive at U.S. airlines. The top three carriers, American Airlines AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP AAL -2.48% , Delta Air Lines DELTA AIR LINES INC. DAL -3.08% , and United Continental UNITED CONTINENTAL HLDG. UAL -3.3% , all charge a $200 fee for changes to nonrefundable domestic tickets. Change fees can be more than twice that amount for international flights.

The biggest U.S. airlines charge change fees of $200 for domestic flights.

Most low-cost carriers have lower change fees, but these are still frequently $100 or more. Only Southwest Airlines has maintained a generous no-change-fee policy.

What makes these change fees the single worst practice of the airlines is that the fees bear no relationship to the actual cost to the airline. A fee as high as $200 might be reasonable for changing a long-haul transcontinental itinerary less than a week in advance. By that point, there isn’t much time for the revenue management system to adjust in order to resell that seat.

On the other hand, a $200 fee is clearly excessive for changing a ticket months in advance — particularly if the ticket was fairly cheap to begin with. Most airline tickets are sold within the last two months before the flight, so that leaves plenty of time for the airline to find another customer to fill the empty seat.

There’s a middle ground
While almost all airlines (except Southwest) have clung to — and even increased — their high change fees, one jumped off the bandwagon less than two years ago.

In late 2013, Alaska Air ALASKA AIR GROUP ALK -3.15% increased its change fee from $75 (or $100 if made through a call center) to $125. But at the same time, it eliminated fees for flight changes made at least 60 days in advance, even for the cheapest tickets.

Alaska Airlines has stopped charging for ticket changes made at least two months in advance. It’s obviously not as good as Southwest Airlines’ no-change-fee policy, but it’s definitely a big improvement compared to the status quo. Customers can book tickets far in advance without being 100% sure of their plans. Since it doesn’t cost Alaska Airlines much to change a ticket when it still has two months or more to fill the plane, it’s a nice gesture to make the change for free. Meanwhile, the airline is still compensated for more-disruptive changes closer to the travel date.

Alaska’s larger rivals should consider adopting this type of model, as they would likely gain some customer goodwill without giving up much revenue. In fact, waiving the fees for ticket changes made far in advance could help them gain market share, as some travelers fly Southwest because they can book flights “worry-free” without being sure of their plans.

Ideally, airlines would go beyond this and dramatically reduce (if not eliminate) fees for changes and cancellations made one to two months in advance. During that window, the airline still has a very high probability of reselling the seat. A relatively nominal fee of $25 to $50 would compensate the airline for the small risk of having the seat go empty. However, it’s unrealistic to expect change fees to disappear entirely.

The single worst practice of the airlines isn’t the mere act of charging change fees, but rather the excessive level of these fees and the complete disconnect to the airlines’ actual costs. Alaska Airlines’ compromise shows a way forward that could be good for both airlines and their customers.

More From Motley Fool:

Americans love to hate the airlines. As airlines have transformed themselves over the past decade to become sustainably profitable, they have added bag fees, dropped meal service, reduced legroom, and adopted a litany of other fees.

All of these practices have made airline customers unhappy. Yet for the most part, these have been necessary changes to ensure that airlines are consistently profitable. While airfares have risen significantly in the past few years, they are still relatively low by historical standards, and would be higher without these changes.

Southwest Airlines is a rarity in that it doesn’t charge change fees.

But one innovation is particularly hard to swallow. The single worst practice of the airlines today is the imposition of punitive change fees. Change fees are often exorbitant compared to the actual costs they impose on airlines and create a massive amount of customer anger. This drives customers to Southwest Airlines(ALASKA AIR GROUP ALK -3.15% NYSE: LUV ) , which doesn’t charge change fees.

The purpose of change fees
Most of the fees imposed by airlines in recent years have been directly tied to services that some (but not all) passengers need that are costly to provide. For example, handling checked luggage or supervising an unaccompanied minor clearly imposes costs on an airline that it wouldn’t incur for an adult with no checked luggage. Thus, it’s reasonable that airlines charge some level of bag fees and unaccompanied minor fees.

The basic justification for change fees is also relatively straightforward. When a passenger changes or cancels a ticket, it may no longer be feasible to resell that seat, especially if it is close to the day of travel.

This is a very real cost of doing business. Airline revenue management systems are carefully calibrated to sell just the right number of tickets at just the right time for just the right price. A sudden influx of canceled or changed tickets at the last minute will lead to lower revenue for that flight (and won’t significantly reduce costs for the flight).

But change fees are excessive
That said, change fees tend to be excessive at U.S. airlines. The top three carriers, American Airlines AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP AAL -2.48% , Delta Air Lines DELTA AIR LINES INC. DAL -3.08% , and United Continental UNITED CONTINENTAL HLDG. UAL -3.3% , all charge a $200 fee for changes to nonrefundable domestic tickets. Change fees can be more than twice that amount for international flights.

The biggest U.S. airlines charge change fees of $200 for domestic flights.

Most low-cost carriers have lower change fees, but these are still frequently $100 or more. Only Southwest Airlines has maintained a generous no-change-fee policy.

What makes these change fees the single worst practice of the airlines is that the fees bear no relationship to the actual cost to the airline. A fee as high as $200 might be reasonable for changing a long-haul transcontinental itinerary less than a week in advance. By that point, there isn’t much time for the revenue management system to adjust in order to resell that seat.

On the other hand, a $200 fee is clearly excessive for changing a ticket months in advance — particularly if the ticket was fairly cheap to begin with. Most airline tickets are sold within the last two months before the flight, so that leaves plenty of time for the airline to find another customer to fill the empty seat.

There’s a middle ground
While almost all airlines (except Southwest) have clung to — and even increased — their high change fees, one jumped off the bandwagon less than two years ago.

In late 2013, Alaska Air ALASKA AIR GROUP ALK -3.15% increased its change fee from $75 (or $100 if made through a call center) to $125. But at the same time, it eliminated fees for flight changes made at least 60 days in advance, even for the cheapest tickets.

Alaska Airlines has stopped charging for ticket changes made at least two months in advance.

It’s obviously not as good as Southwest Airlines’ no-change-fee policy, but it’s definitely a big improvement compared to the status quo. Customers can book tickets far in advance without being 100% sure of their plans. Since it doesn’t cost Alaska Airlines much to change a ticket when it still has two months or more to fill the plane, it’s a nice gesture to make the change for free. Meanwhile, the airline is still compensated for more-disruptive changes closer to the travel date.

Alaska’s larger rivals should consider adopting this type of model, as they would likely gain some customer goodwill without giving up much revenue. In fact, waiving the fees for ticket changes made far in advance could help them gain market share, as some travelers fly Southwest because they can book flights “worry-free” without being sure of their plans.

Ideally, airlines would go beyond this and dramatically reduce (if not eliminate) fees for changes and cancellations made one to two months in advance. During that window, the airline still has a very high probability of reselling the seat. A relatively nominal fee of $25 to $50 would compensate the airline for the small risk of having the seat go empty. However, it’s unrealistic to expect change fees to disappear entirely.

The single worst practice of the airlines isn’t the mere act of charging change fees, but rather the excessive level of these fees and the complete disconnect to the airlines’ actual costs. Alaska Airlines’ compromise shows a way forward that could be good for both airlines and their customers.

Adam Levine-Weinberg owns shares of United Continental Holdings, and is long January 2017 $40 calls on Delta Air Lines. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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MONEY Travel

New Ways to Visit Cuba Coming This Summer

It's still a little tricky to visit Cuba, but more options for air travel and cruises will be available in the next few months.

MONEY Tourism

5 New Ways for Americans to Book Trips to Cuba

Cuban Capitolo Nacional
John Elk III—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image Cuban Capitolo Nacional

Flights, ferries, and cruise packages between the U.S. and the formerly off-limits island nation are popping up left and right.

Ever since the federal government announced new rules for visiting Cuba in early 2015, opening up the possibility of Cuban tourism for a broad range of Americans, eager travelers have been instructed to be patient. The tourism infrastructure in Cuba is limited, and airline and tour operations needed time to figure out the logistics of the nation opening up to Americans for the first time in half a century.

Now that a few months have passed since the big policy change was announced, we are starting to see more and more ways for Americans to visit Cuba. Here are a handful of new developments:

JetBlue Flights from New York
Starting on July 3, passengers will be able to fly from New York-JFK to Havana on JetBlue planes. While the trips are being operated by JetBlue, they’re being sold as charter flights through Cuba Travel Services. Sun Country Airlines began flying the New York-Havana route in March, though some have balked at the $849 round trip ticket price. Meanwhile, another service, ABC Charters, already uses JetBlue aircraft for flights to Cuba from Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Flights from Baltimore-Washington
Cuba specialist Island Travels & Tour, which already runs charter flights to Cuba from Miami and Tampa, is expanding with flights from Orlando in July and flights from BWI (Baltimore-Washington) in the fall. The initial two departures from Baltimore to Havana will cost $695 round trip, and after that the regular price will rise to $775.

New Small-Ship Cruise to Cuba
Starting in late 2015, International Expeditions is welcoming passengers aboard the 48-passenger, three-masted Panorama for a sail to Cuba that features three days in port at Havana. The 10-day adventure begins with a charter flight from Miami to Cuba, followed by a small-ship cruise with stops in Trinidad and the Cuban ports or Cienfuegos, Cayo Largo, Maria La Gorda, and Havana. Cuba’s shallow ports are generally not equipped to handle today’s large ocean liners, so the Panorama voyage is one of very few options for seeing Cuba by ship. It doesn’t come cheap. Prices start at $4,599 per person.

Ferry Services from Florida
The (South Florida) Sun Sentinel recently reported that four companies have received licenses from the U.S. government to run ferries between Florida and Cuba. Among them is Havana Ferry Partners, which could launch 200-passenger ferries from Key West to Havana within weeks, and later add longer, overnight trips from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and perhaps Tampa on vessels holding 300 to 500 passengers. Ferry prices are expected to start at around $300 round trip.

First Way to Book Flights Online
For the most part, charter flight reservations are handled on the phone or even with paperwork sent through the mail. They’re not readily bookable online. Because visiting Cuba is particularly complicated for Americans, there has been no way to book a flight from the U.S. In mid-April, though, that changed according to CheapAir.com, which claims to have become the first online travel agency to sell Cuba-bound flights from the U.S. on the Web. A round trip ticket from Miami handled by Sun Country costs $471—a fare that some consider outrageous because it’s only a one-hour flight—plus $85 for a visa and a $25 departure fee in Cuba.

TIME China

Chinese Boss Treats 6,400 Workers to French Vacation Costing $14.6 Million

Chinese CEO of "Tiens" company Li Jinyuan poses during a parade on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southeastern France May 8, 2015
Lionel Cironneau—AP Tiens Group CEO Li Jinyuan poses during a parade on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southeastern France, on May 8, 2015

And they even set a Guinness World Record while there

A Chinese company has given 6,400 of its employees the gift of a lifetime: a free four-day trip to France and Monaco.

Tiens Group, led by Chinese billionaire Li Jinyuan, organized the vacation for half of its employees to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the multinational firm, which dabbles in everything from biotechnology to tourism and cosmetics.

The travelers took up almost 5,000 rooms in the French resort of Cannes and neighboring affluent microstate of Monaco, in addition to 140 Parisian hotels, according to the BBC. The Asian sightseers represents France’s largest tour group, and were treated to a private tour of the Louvre and a live performance of the cabaret Moulin Rouge.

The trip will pump $14.6 million into the French economy.

For their part, Tiens’ employees did not merely amble around gaping at France’s cultural offerings. While on vacation, they also set an ambitious new Guinness World Record for the longest “human-made phrase” while on vacation:

Not a bad way to spend the company dime.

TIME Nepal

The Best Way to Help Nepal Recover From the Quake? Go There on Vacation

NEPAL-EVEREST-TRAIL
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images A trekking path, lower right, is overshadowed by high-altitude peaks including Ama Dablam, top center, in a valley leading north into Nepal's Khumbu region, which is home to Mount Everest on April 18, 2015

Tourism dollars can help save the Nepali people from undue hardship

“We are pleased to inform you that Nepal is now safe to visit,” reads an email from Adventure Mountain Explore Treks & Expedition (AME treks) sent out on Wednesday. “If you have already booked your holiday or you are planning to, we welcome you with an open heart.”

The message from the Kathmandu-based mountaineering and sightseeing organizers represents a larger plea from the small Himalayan nation, as it continues to pick itself up from the devastating April 25 earthquake that claimed over 7,000 lives thus far.

“Nepal is very safe to travel,” said AME executive director Tika Regmi. “Life is back to normal.”

The 7.9-magnitude quake laid waste to large swaths of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu (including several iconic heritage sites) and entire villages across the countryside have been flattened, but companies and officials alike insist visiting the country is now more important than ever.

The quake came during Nepal’s summer trekking season, and its aftermath and gradual recovery will undoubtedly affect this year’s peak autumn trekking expeditions beginning in September — bookings for which Regmi says are already starting to be canceled.

Despite Nepal’s peerless natural beauty — boasting eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world — and ancient temples and palaces, this landlocked nation of 30 million only receives around 600,000 visitors a year, making tourism a key potential avenue for growth.

Ganga Sagar Pant, CEO of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), says there is no reason for Nepal’s tourism — currently contributing around 10% of GDP and jobs — to grind to a halt. “The world must go on,” he said. “The tourism products are still there — mountains, flora and fauna, jungles, trails.”

Pant says TAAN is planning “assessment” expeditions to popular trekking sites like the Mount Everest circuit, the Annapurna region (which includes the 10th highest mountain in the world) and the Langtang National Park in the weeks to come, so a more concrete picture of the earthquake’s impact can be formed.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Nepal’s government is also in the process of collecting data on loss of infrastructure and damage to heritage sites and popular trekking paths. “But there are many other areas which could be new tourism products and destinations, so our focus is on that as well,” says Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesperson for Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation. “Our priority is to bring more tourists and provide them quality, safety, hospitality and other services to their satisfaction,” he says, expressing a desire to re-establish Nepal as a “safe, unique and attractive tourist destination.”

All three men — Regmi, Pant and Sapkota — insist that Nepal remains safe and urge people to come visit. The benefits are especially positive if visitors reside in homestays and frequent independent restaurants and shops.

“People from around the world are willing to help in this situation,” says Pant. “One important and sustainable way to do that is to help tourism here flourish again.”

MONEY Travel

9 Things You Should Never Skimp on When Traveling

couple pulling suitcases
Walter Zerla—Getty Images

A few smart splurges can make your trip a lot more fun

Travel should be pleasurable — not stressful. While it’s almost inevitable for something to go awry from time to time, you can avoid most issues with a little foresight and planning. Sometimes all it takes is investing a bit more upfront in order to ensure a better travel experience.

Take a look at these nine things you should never skimp on when traveling.

1. Luggage

I’m not including accommodations or method of travel on this list because I think those two items are relative. Some people like five-star hotels and first-class seating, while others are perfectly fine in hostels and economy class. To each their own.

What we can all agree on, though, is that decent luggage is an important trip component for several reasons, namely because it needs to hold up against all the wear and tear you’ll put it through in your travels. I’m not saying that cheap luggage will fall apart and expensive luggage is bar none, but there is something to be said about brands with a reputation for quality — and that usually comes at a cost.

Personally, I prefer Herschel Supply Co. for my luggage, while my husband likes Tumi. Those aren’t endorsements (I don’t have any affiliation with either of those companies), but rather suggestions to help inform your future purchase if you’re in the market for sturdier luggage.

2. Comfortable Shoes

A lot of people vacation in warmer climates. And why not — there’s an abundance of things to see and do when the weather outside is perfect. But before you head out to explore, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes and socks that can handle a day of walking without killing your feet. These should be the real deal — and definitely not right out of the box. You also want to avoid going sockless. I’ve worn both canvas slip-ons without socks and flip-flops on heavy walking days, and both footwear choices resulted in bloody, painful feet.

3. Personal Safety

Because I live in New York City, I’m generally not afraid of new surroundings, seemingly seedy neighborhoods, or people who look like they might be up to no good. I stay vigilant, of course, but I don’t want to let a black cloud of fear follow me wherever I go just because the area doesn’t look like it’s maintained by Ritz-Carlton. There was a time in the Bahamas, however, that this joie de vivre could’ve gotten my friends and me into a sticky situation while traveling down a lonely road from one club to another — a mistake I’ll never make again. Now I loosen the purse strings and spring for a cab to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Safety first, people.

4. An Unforgettable Experience

Finally, we’ve gotten to the fun part — activities! I’m an activities-oriented guy, and I like to be out and about experiencing everything I can in the short time I have in a location. The problem, however, is that an unforgettable experience can be costly. Still, it’s not something on which you should skimp — your fond memories of your trip will last much longer than any tchotchke — and there are ways to make it affordable.

Remember when I mentioned earlier that the preference for high-end flight and hotel accommodations are relative? They still are, and personally this is how I justify splurging a bit on a great experience — I choose to stay in modest digs and fly the cheapest way I can, so when I get to my destination I can have all the fun I want without feeling guilty for spending too much money.

5. Travel Insurance

I once went on what was meant to be an unforgettable European vacation that included London, Dublin, and finally, Paris for New Year’s Eve. But thanks to Mother Nature and an incompetent, famously low-priced Irish airline that shall remain nameless, my hopes of ushering in a new year in the City of Lights were dashed. The worst part? I was young and dumb and I didn’t have travel insurance. Hotel, train fares, and airfare all went out the window — along with my usually jovial attitude. Don’t let this happen to you, especially if you’re planning a special-occasion trip. Spend the extra money to protect your investment.

6. Vaccinations

I suspect that pre-travel vaccinations are not only overlooked a lot of the times, but probably actively avoided sometimes due to cost and inconvenience. In that case, let’s play a game of “Would You Rather?”

I’ll go first.

Would you rather pay for pricey vaccinations that will help you avoid common illnesses, or would you rather spend your trip becoming besties with a toilet and visiting the very questionable local hospital?

I win.

Get the proper vaccinations before you depart. If you can’t afford it, don’t go. In some cases, it really could be the difference between life and death.

7. Health Care

Speaking of questionable local hospitals, they’re the very last place you ever want to visit while you’re traveling — even worse than jail. If you’re ill, spring for quality medical care.

Blogger behind Broke Girl Gets Rich, Chelsea Baldwin, just wrapped up a few years in Asia, and soon she’ll embark on an extended stay in South America. As someone who has caught her fair share of stomach bugs while traveling and was subsequently treated at public health facilities, she advises better-quality healthcare as well.

“If the public health care in the country you’re visiting is known for its quality, that’s fine, but otherwise it’s always worth the extra cost to get more attention and better care from a private doctor,” she says. “Most American health insurance companies will cover you for emergency situations overseas, but if you think the cost of visiting a private doctor at your destination could get expensive, there are numerous travel insurance companies you can get plans from to help cover you.”

8. Cell Phone Data

When I travel to destinations outside my wireless provider’s coverage area, I try to stick with the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. If you want to be fully connected — it’s not a bad idea despite the faction of people begging us to unplug every once in a while — there’s a solution that will cost you a few bucks. Still, it’s much cheaper than the fees you may incur from your provider.

“Buying a SIM card upon arrival in a country will cost you little more than $10 to $15 and it’s invaluable for all the times you get lost or you’re unable to communicate with your cab driver,” says Matthew Newton, CEO of Tourism Tiger. “Many small emergencies are solved through the simple asset of a SIM card charged with one gigabyte of data.”

9. Bottled Water

My Wise Bread colleagues and I generally try to steer you clear of buying bottled water, but Dr. Irene S. Levine (who moonlights as a freelance travel writer) makes a good case for bottled water when you’re traveling.

“There is no reason to take a chance,” she says. “Even if tap water is safe to drink, it may have a different mineral composition that is upsetting to your stomach and can potentially ruin your trip. Additionally, don’t try to save money by not drinking enough water. When you’re traveling, it’s easy to get dehydrated either on planes or in hot climates when you’re more active than usual.”

As someone who prefers tap water, I agree that this is a good practice to adopt, especially when traveling outside the United States. To save money and waste, consider buying a few large jugs of distilled water with which you can fill your permanent water bottle, instead of buying many single bottles the whole trip.

More from Wise Bread:

MONEY Tourism

Las Vegas Room Rates Drop by 50% for Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight

MGM Grand Las Vegas
Shannon Keene—501 Studios MGM Grand Las Vegas

Las Vegas may be hosting the big Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match, but it will be impossible for most people in the city to actually see the fight. That's caused thousands of hotel room cancellations—and plummeting room rates.

Months ago, when it was announced that Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao “Fight of the Century” would take place on May 2 in Las Vegas, hotels in the city were flooded with reservations and room rates soared. For a while at the MGM Grand, where the fight is taking place, the cheapest rooms were going for $1,600 minimum, and many properties were commanding rates three and four times as high as normal weekends.

More recently, though, reality set in for fight fans. Only a few hundred tickets went up for sale directly to the public, and they sold out in less than one minute. Tickets on the secondary market have been incredibly expensive (averaging over $4,000), and even watching the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight on TV in Las Vegas is expensive, difficult, or simply not an option. Unlike the rest of the country, which can watch with pay-per-view, Vegas is only screening the fight via closed-circuit TV in MGM-owned properties—and admission is often sold out. The result is that many fans have been left wondering: Why go to Vegas during fight weekend if you can’t even see the fight?

So this week, as the fight approached and the deadline by which hotel guests had to cancel reservations or pay a penalty neared, tons of people seem to have cancelled their bookings. As of Friday, rooms were available this weekend at the MGM Grand starting at $499, less than one-third what it was once. Other MGM-owned properties, such as The Mirage, Luxor, and Circus Circus are priced under $200 per night for Friday and Saturday. The cheapest room at the latter is $129; not long ago the property’s “best rate” for this weekend was $284.

Vanessa Doleshal, the business development manager for the tourism booking site Vegas.com, explained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Bloomberg that average May 1-2 room rates for the 100+ Sin City-area hotels it works with have dropped from $558 to $338 per night at the last minute.

“People are realizing that they’re not going to be able to get ahold of a viewing party ticket and they’re not going to be able to get a ticket to the fight, so why go to Vegas?” Doleshal said in one interview.

And if you are going to Vegas this weekend and you made your reservation weeks ago when prices were peaking, call up the property right away and demand the current rate. Depending on the fine print of your booking, most hotels will honor such a request—but they’re not going to adjust the rate unless you take the initiative and ask.

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