MONEY Travel

5 ‘Boutique’ Hostels That Are Better Than a Hotel

141024_EM_Hostels_Freehand
The Freehand Miami hostel in Miami Beach Adrian Gaut

These cheap lodging options are no longer just for grimy backpackers. Here's why you should give the new "boutique" hostels a try.

We get it: You’re not interested in sharing a bunk bed with a roomful of party-hearty 20-somethings. Who can blame you? But blanch every time you see the word “hostel” and you’ll miss some of the county’s coolest lodging options—not to mention some major bargains.

Europeans are way ahead of us on this front. The Continent has roughly 4,500 hostels, according to booking site Hostelworld.com, ranging from spartan, dorm-style accommodations to hip, unique properties that attract older, more sophisticated travelers. In the U.S., the number of hostels is small but growing (about 350), and many of the latest additions are modeling themselves on boutique hotels, with meticulously decorated rooms, cool on-site bars and restaurants, pools, and more. The Freehand Miami, for one, a Miami Beach hostel opened in 2012, “appeals to guests looking for an accessible price point, who still want to experience thoughtful design and a food and beverage destination,” says Roy Alpert, director of the Freehand brand. The company plans to open additional locations in Chicago next year and Los Angeles in 2016.

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, you might not realize that, along with dorm-style lodging, most offer private rooms (with private bathrooms). Often, these properties will have doubles that are essentially no different from a typical hotel room, as well as private quads with four smaller beds, which can be a good solution for families or groups of friends traveling together.

Budget travelers will find plenty of other things to love. Hostels typically have free wi-fi and breakfast, plus other affordable food and drink options and a dialed-in staff who know the area’s best affordable restaurants, bars, and activities. Many also have a shared kitchen, meaning you can snack or even cook, shaving a chunk off your dining-out bills.

Hostels are more social and less private than hotels, so if you don’t like chatting up your neighbor at the communal breakfast table, it may not be for you. Also, while hostels are starting to draw a more diverse crowd, travelers on the far side of 30 are still likely to be outnumbered by younger folks. At Chicago’s Holiday Jones, for instance, 20-somethings typically make up between half and a third of guests, says manager Madeline Rawski. In some cases, that can mean a loud, rowdy crowd. If that’s a concern, look for properties without a bar or restaurant on site (or at least one that closes early). One other note: some hostels have age restrictions, so check before you book if you’re traveling with young children.

Ready to give high-end hosteling a shot? Here are five to check out:

Holiday Jones, Chicago, Ill. This former SRO in the city’s hip Wicker Park neighborhood, opened in 2013, is especially great for solo travelers, since it offers private single rooms. It’s notable for its high percentage of private rooms: about 85%. Doubles start as low as $38, but are typically priced closer to $65 (you’ll pay an extra $10 or so for a private bathroom). A cool perk: On request, Holiday Jones will deduct your train fare from the airport from your bill.

The Wayfarer, Santa Barbara, Calif. This SoCal property just opened in August and is celebrating by offering travelers 20% off their first stay. Private doubles start at $159—not as affordable as most hostels, but still a decent rate for downtown Santa Barbara. The 4- or 5-bed shared rooms start at a more accessible $59 per person. The hotel also has pool and a shared kitchen with private food lockers.

The Crash Pad, Chattanooga, Tenn. Located in a great foliage town, this eco-friendly, LEED platinum certified hostel offers a fridge stocked for make-your-own breakfasts. Several local businesses, including restaurants and outdoor outfitters, offer discounts to Crash Pad guests. Private doubles are $75 to $95.

The Freehand Miami, Miami, Fla. Private doubles start at $150 a night, private quads at $140. The Freehand steps up the usual social hostel vibe with its own trendy bar, pool, and patio lounge area. Double rooms have cable TV, iPod docks, and all the usual boutique hotel amenities.

The Bivvi Hostel, Breckenridge, Colo. This mountain lodge-type hotel is closed for the fall but reopens November 7, when a private double start at $169. The Bivvi caters to adventure travelers and can connect guests with local outfits that do everything from mountain biking and skiing and to yoga and mountain climbing. Afterward, relax in the 10-person outdoor hot tub. Note: The hostel does not allow kids under the age of 12.

 

 

MONEY Airlines

WOW Indeed! Budget Airline Launches $99 Flights to Europe

WOW Iceland airplane
WOW

A low-fare airline called WOW just introduced new routes between the U.S. and Europe, with fares that are cheaper than what passengers are used to paying just for taxes and fees on transatlantic flights.

WOW Air is a small, low-cost carrier based in Iceland that just made a power move that could disrupt the lucrative—some say absurdly overpriced—transatlantic flight market in a big way. This week, the airline’s U.S. site went live, advertising specials as low as $99 each way, taxes and fees included, on routes between the U.S. and Europe.

Initial transatlantic service connects capital city Reykjavik to Boston-Logan and Baltimore-Washington (BWI) airports. Flights to and from Boston launch in March 2015, and BWI follows in June. WOW offers service from Reykavik-Keflavik onward to London (Gatwick) and Copenhagen as well, so passengers aren’t limited to visiting Iceland.

As of Friday, the lowest fare advertised on the site was for flights from Boston to Reykjavik. Availability is limited at the cheapest prices, but we were able to (theoretically) book a round trip in April 2015 for $246 ($99 going, $147 on the return), all taxes and fees included. For the sake of comparison, a round trip on Icelandair with the same route and dates was running $675 at last check.

Earlier this week the travel blog Jaunted was able to secure an April flight on WOW from Boston to Copenhagen (by way of Reykjavik) for $99, but it looks like such insanely cheap fares are already sold out. Even so, without too much hassle we were able to find flights next spring on the route that are bargains compared to the competition. For instance, you could conceivably book a round trip Boston-Copenhagen flight in May for around $450—roughly half the price of what you’d find for the same itinerary at any major travel search engine.

WOW’s fares from Washington (BWI) to Reykjavik start at $146 each way, while flights from BWI to London are currently being advertised from $195. Even if the cheapest fares sell out quickly, the (higher-priced) seats on WOW that are still available are likely to be much less expensive than flights with major airlines.

As you’d guess, WOW customers don’t get many extras with the rock-bottom prices they’re paying. Passengers must pay for both checked and carryon luggage, and services like food, beverages, and extra legroom are available only to customers who pay above and beyond the base ticket price.

WOW’s venture into the transatlantic market comes a little over a year after another northern European upstart, Norwegian Air, emerged on the scene with sub-$500 flights between the U.S. and Europe. The world’s largest airlines seem to have successfully thwarted Norwegian Air’s plans to expand its transatlantic presence, but the carrier is still flying a handful of U.S.-Europe routes and is still advertising fares far cheaper than any of the industry’s big players—as low as $169 each way between New York-JFK and Oslo and $189 for nonstop flights all the way from Oakland, Calif., to Stockholm, Sweden.

Like WOW, Norwegian Air lists fares with all mandatory taxes and fees included. That—as well as the long-awaited rise of low-cost competitors on transatlantic flights in general—is music to budget travelers’ ears.

Read next: The Secret to Getting a Ridiculously Cheap Thanksgiving Flight

MONEY Airlines

What You Really Need to Know About When to Buy Flights

shape of airplane over calendar
Amanda Rohde—Getty Images

Wait a second, now Sunday is the cheapest day to book airline tickets? Forgive us for being skeptical of this (and every previous) study naming one or another day of the week as the best for buying flights.

This week, the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) released a study analyzing roughly 130 million airline tickets booked in the U.S. from January 2013 to July 2014, with the hope of shedding some light on when prices are highest and lowest. Over the years, plenty of these kinds of studies have made the rounds, but the current report differs from the pack in a couple of key ways. It shows:

1) Flight prices are cheaper when booked further in advance. In the past, ARC data has indicated that the lowest domestic flight prices were for tickets purchased 42 days before departure, while other studies have advised travelers to book 49 days in advance for the cheapest fares. The new ARC study shows that, on average, booking 57 days out yields the best prices. What’s more, researchers found that average ticket prices were fairly flat during the window of time 50 to 100 days before departure. In other words, the best bet is to book 50 to 100 days beforehand: Tickets purchased during that period were $85 cheaper than the overall average for all domestic flight prices ($495.55).

2) Weekends are cheaper booking days than weekdays. This is the truly surprising takeaway from the study. According to ARC data, the average price of a domestic flight purchased on a Sunday was $432, and it was slightly higher on Saturday, at $437. For a long time, the consensus advice was that the lowest prices were to be found on flights booked on Tuesdays or Wednesdays (when airlines tend to roll out new flight sales), yet the new study shows the average paid on Tuesday was $497.

The smartest travelers seem to be those who booked flights on a Sunday 50 to 100 days before departure: They paid $110 less for their tickets compared to the average.

High Fares, Record Profits

Why is it that Saturday and Sunday seemingly have replaced Tuesday and Wednesday as the cheapest days for booking? The current mentality of the airline industry—which is less competitive and more profitable than it’s been in years—offers some explanation. As Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal noted regarding the shift to weekends: “Airline executives come into work Monday looking to raise fares, not discount them with sales to fill seats.”

Earlier this week, for instance, the country’s largest domestic carriers hiked airfares, a move that would seem to be not only unnecessary but downright greedy considering that fuel prices are plummeting. Given strong demand for air travel and American travelers’ apparent willingness to pay increasingly high prices for flights, airline executives are no longer worried about filling planes with passengers. They’ve moved on to worrying about surpassing their (already record high) profits, and they’re raising fares at every opportunity, for the same reason they’ve relentlessly been adding fees: Because they can.

In any event, the fact that airfares are rising would seem to give travelers even more reason to take notice of studies by the likes of ARC and adopt new booking routines, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. The problem with all of these studies is that they’re generalized and are based on averages from the past. The takeaways they offer may, in fact, not help you save on money your specific flight needs in the future.

Take holiday travel, for instance, when passengers are truly most in need of money-saving advice because prices tend to be so high. In the quest for cheap Thanksgiving airfare, the guidelines mentioned above don’t really apply. Several booking sites point to data indicating that the lowest prices for flights over Thanksgiving weekend are likely to be found two to four weeks before departure—that is, unless you absolutely need to fly on the peak-peak days of the Wednesday before or the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Flights on those days should be purchased far in advance, ideally several months beforehand. In other words, booking a Thanksgiving weekend flight 50 to 100 days ahead of time is probably a bad strategy, no matter what day of the week you’re searching for flights.

What’s more, all “when to buy” advice is based on past performance, as a recent Quartz post on Thanksgiving travel advice painstakingly made clear.

The Trouble With Simple Advice

The WSJ‘s McCartney pointed out that airlines are more inclined lately to discount flights booked on weekends because that’s when leisure travelers are likely to be casually noodling around online and may be enticed to make an impulsive flight purchase if the price is right. The vast majority of business travel, meanwhile, is booked on weekdays, and business travelers are less sensitive to pricing because the flights are deemed more essential. At the same time, however, airlines still do regularly introduce fresh flight sales on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to boost seat purchases on routes that aren’t filling up.

What all of these strategies have in common is that the airlines are reacting to traveler behavior and are lowering or raising prices to maximize revenues. If and when travelers change their behavior again—say, if a critical mass of business travelers suddenly starts booking flights on Sunday rather than Monday—the airlines will tweak their pricing tactics accordingly. All of which is a roundabout way of pointing out that there are far too many complications for simple advice like “book on Sunday” or “book on Tuesday” to be valid across the board. (We’re only talking domestic flights, mind you; booking advice for international flight is more complicated still.)

Probably the only solid time-tested guideline for finding inexpensive flights is this: Booking too early is generally bad, but booking too late is likely worse. The average domestic flight purchased 225 to 300 days before departure cost $500 to $550, per the ARC study, while the average for a ticket on the day of departure was around $650.

How do you find the sweet spot in the middle, when prices are lowest? It’s complicated, dependent on a range of factors including the destination, season, and day of the week you’re traveling; whether there’s a convention or major event where you’re going; and even larger forces like the state of the economy and yep, gas prices. Kayak and Hopper are among the flight search tools that use historical pricing data to try to predict whether fares on a given route will rise or fall, but again, past performance is no guarantee of future results—especially not in recent years, when airline executives have regularly rejiggered their pricing tactics, generally sending fares up, up, and up.

Despite the dizzying amount of tech at traveler’s fingertips, the question of when to book remains largely unanswerable. Yes, it’s wise to hunt during that window 50 to 100 days in advance, and sure, try to remember to poke around for flights especially over the weekends. But be on the lookout on Tuesdays and Wednesday too, because that’s when sales pop up. Consult historical pricing data and airfare price predicting tools, just don’t expect to pay the same bargain-basement fare you got a decade or even one year ago. Pay attention to airfare sale-tracking services like airfarewatchdog, but bear in mind the best deals are often for fluky routes and days and may not work for your travel needs. Perhaps wisest of all, use an airfare tracking service like that of Yapta, which will alert you if and when a flight on your route and dates has reached your desired price threshold. Just try to be realistic with the kind of fare you can expect nowadays.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Reportedly Barring Foreign Tourists Over Ebola Fears

NKOREA-SKOREA-WAR-ARMISTICE-ANNIVERSARY
In a photo taken on July 24, 2013 a North Korean airport staff member carries umbrellas before an Air Koryo aircraft in Pyongyang. Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images

It’s not clear if the ban applies to foreign diplomats or business travelers.

North Korea tour operators say the country plans to close its borders to all foreign tourists over fears of Ebola.

North Korean state media indicated that the country was boosting quarantine measures for foreign visitors, according to Reuters, but tour operators like China-based Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours say North Korea is establishing a temporary ban on foreign tourists effective Friday.

It’s not clear if the ban applies to foreign diplomats or business travelers, but the New York Times reports that the Beijing office of North Korea’s state airline said flights to the capital were not canceled.

At least 4,877 people, mostly in Western Africa, have died amid the worst Ebola outbreak on record. While some countries have forbidden travelers from the most affected areas, no country has banned all foreign tourists.

Some 6,000 Western tourists visit North Korea annually, according to NK News, a U.S.-based site that tracks North Korea.

MONEY Autos

How to Tell If You’re Safe From Auto Recalls

An airbag igniter is built into a steering wheel for a car at the Takata Ignition Systems Gmbh factory in Schoenebeck, Germany, 17 April 2014.
An airbag igniter being installed at a Takata factory in Schoenebeck, Germany Jens Wolf—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

It seems like every other day, news breaks about a recall on millions of cars that, if left unaddressed, could prove deadly. Here's what consumers can do to ensure their safety.

There are two months left in the year, but 2014 has already broken the record for most auto recalls ever. As of October, automakers had issued recalls for an estimated all-time-high of 56 million vehicles in the U.S. “To put that in perspective, automakers have now recalled more than three times the number of new cars and trucks Americans will buy this year,” the Detroit Free Press noted.

The flurry of recalls has come fast and furiously in 2014. This week, Toyota issued a recall on roughly 250,000 vehicles in the U.S. related to faulty airbags, on top of a global recall of 1.7 million Toyotas for a wide range of safety defects that circulated last week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists 29 separate auto manufacturer recalls thus far in the month of October, and the agency released a special consumer advisory this week, alerting the owners of 7.8 million vehicles that they should take “immediate action” to replace dangerously defective airbags.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. General Motors recalled 2.7 million vehicles last May, less than one month after the automaker announced it had spent $1.3 billion to recall 7 million vehicles worldwide, including 2.6 million for faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths. Ford recalled 700,000 vehicles last spring because of concerns the airbags wouldn’t deploy quickly enough, while some 16 million vehicles from 10 automakers have been recalled because the airbags, made by the Japanese company Takata, could inflate with explosive force strong enough to hurt or even kill the riders the devices are designed to save in the case of an accident. And on and on.

The numbers are so big, and the recalls pop up with such frequency, that you might be inclined to tune them out—not unlike the hacks and data breaches that occur with astonishing regularity at major retailers. But then, you know … there’s death and catastrophic injury. The potential of anything so dire affecting you and your loved ones should make you snap to attention and take action. Here are steps to take to stay safe:

For a Car You Own
When a car is subject to a safety recall, the automaker is required to notify vehicle owners via mail. The letter will feature the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) emblem and include the words “SAFETY RECALL NOTICE” in large typeset. Hopefully that’s enough to alert recipients that this isn’t junk mail. The notification will include instructions, typically consisting of the need to bring the vehicle into a local dealership and have the recalled issue fixed. The service should be provided free of charge to the owner.

You might assume that service departments would drag their feet on handling such recalls—customers aren’t paying money out of pocket after all—but a Reuters story from this past summer pointed out that the recalls represent opportunity for car dealerships. Recalls bring in new customers, or bring back customers that haven’t been at the dealership since they bought the car, and when they bring the recalled vehicle in to be serviced, they may be inclined to get the oil changed or have some other work done. Heck, many have been known to browse showrooms while waiting for their old cars to be fixed, where they wind up getting talked into buying new cars. The takeaway for consumers is: Don’t allow yourself to be upsold into a costly service job when you’re at the dealership getting a recall issue addressed, and don’t buy a new car unless it’s truly the model you want, at the price you want.

To make sure that your car is safe, the NHTSA offers a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) search feature online. Enter your VIN—which is displayed on the dashboard of the driver’s side is most easily seen looking through the windshield from outside—and you can find out if your car has been recalled anytime over the past 15 years, as well as whether or not the recall has been repaired on your specific vehicle. Unfortunately, the government site can be glitchy (the VIN search function has been listed as “temporarily unavailable” lately). If it’s not working—or even if it is and you want to be doubly careful—head to Carfax.com, which also allows people to look up recall issues for specific cars using VINs at no charge. For yet another option, the NHTSA allows you to sign up for email alerts for recalls on up to five vehicles, as well as alerts regarding any recalls of car seats and tires.

For a Car You Might Buy
Before buying a used car, do some due diligence on recalls. Carfax estimates that 3.5 million used cars were listed for sale last year with unfixed safety recalls. Get the VIN of the specific used car you’re interested in, and follow the steps above to make sure that any recall has been addressed. If it hasn’t, make the owner fix it before you buy—or use the fact that the repair hasn’t been made as a reason to cut the asking price. If you wind up closing the deal, don’t forget to bring the car into a local dealership to get the recall fixed asap.

For a Car You Might Rent
A bill currently under consideration in Congress called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 would allow agencies to rent cars that have been subject to recalls only if the defects have been fixed. In other words, as of now, it’s vaguely legal for the Hertzes and Enterprises of the world to rent recalled cars even if the recall hasn’t been addressed. In fact, in recent years, some major agencies have tried to make the case that it’s OK to continue to rent recalled vehicles to customers because some recalls are unimportant, as they don’t qualify as serious safety risks.

USA Today columnist Bill McGee investigated the murky world of recalls and rental cars this past summer. What he found is that agencies generally proactively remove vehicles from their fleets or have them fixed pronto if they’ve been subject to dangerous, high-profile recalls—failure to do so could expose them to millions in lawsuits if an accident occurred due to an unfixed recall. Hertz and Avis, among others, have said that coping with recalls has cost their companies millions of dollars this year, because when recalled vehicles are being fixed at dealerships they obviously can’t be rented out to customers.

But again, until the Safe Rental Car Act—named for two sisters who died in 2004 in a rental car with power steering fluid recall that hadn’t been fixed—is passed into law (hardly a done deal), agencies aren’t obligated to have all car recalls addressed before renting them out. “Currently, there is no prohibition on rental car companies renting vehicles that are under a recall, but have not yet been remedied,” a former NHTSA administrator named David Strickland testified to Congress last year.

What can a renter do to stay safe? Start by clarifying your agency’s policy. Alamo, for instance, states plainly, “We do not rent recalled vehicles until the recall has been remedied.” But information regarding recalls can be vague or hard to find with some other rental operators. If the policy is remotely unclear, call and ask questions.

You can also use the NHTSA’s database to see if the vehicle model you have reserved has been recalled, but this strategy comes with complications. For one thing, rental agencies generally don’t guarantee a specific model with a reservation—you reserve a “mid-size” category of vehicle, not a Toyota Camry or whatever. What’s more, it’s impossible to know a car’s specific VIN until you pick the vehicle up, and therefore it’s impossible to check if the model’s recall problems have been fixed. In light of these problems, you might want to make another call—to your local representative in Congress, to urge support of the Safe Rental Car Act.

Read next: Toyota Announces a U.S. Recall Over Faulty Passenger-Side Airbags

MONEY Tourism

Price Hikes Up to 150% Are Planned for Your Favorite National Parks

Entrance sign near Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, Yosemite National Park.
Entrance sign near Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, Yosemite National Park. Fred van Wijk—Alamy

A proposal is on the table to hike prices of admission, annual passes, campsite reservations, and more at roughly 130 national parks and recreation areas.

A broad proposal from the National Parks Service (NPS) first exposed by the Denver Post could make visiting some of the country’s biggest and best national parks significantly more expensive as early as next summer. Admissions to popular national parks such as Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake are likely to see price hikes of 50%, while prices at some lesser-known gems like Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park might rise upwards of 150%. Price increases are also being proposed for annual passes, campsites, boating permits, and other services at dozens of park and recreations areas.

Before storming the parks service in protest, bear in mind that even if the price increases are accepted, our national parks would remain one of the world’s great vacation bargains. The current price of a seven-day pass for a vehicle and all of its occupants at Yosemite is $20, rising to $30 if the proposal is approved. To make its case that the increases are necessary and appropriate, the NPS noted:

The current park entrance fees have been in place since 1997, when a seven day pass was increased from $5 to $20 per vehicle. According to the U.S. Bureau of labor and Statistics, $20 in 1997 is equivalent to $29.64 in 2014. This fee change will allow Yosemite to maintain consistent revenue while adjusting accordingly for inflation.

Likewise, the price of admission at Great Sand Dunes would rise to $10 per person up from the current rate of just $3 (there’s no flat vehicle rate offered), while the cost of an annual pass would increase from $15 to $40.

Park visitors could start to see the price increases as early as next summer, and/or fees might be incrementally hiked over the next couple of years. One of the reasons cited for the proposed increases is that the NPS is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, and it wants to commemorate the centennial with parks and recreation areas looking their finest.

None of this is a done deal, however. The parks service is allowing the public to weigh in with comments over the next couple of weeks, and at least in theory the response could have an impact on how the proposed price increases play out. What’s especially complicated about the matter is that the average Joe is being asked to submit comments related to each park’s price hike individually; there is no central spot where people can respond to the general idea of raising prices across the board. There’s one spot where you can offer your opinion on price increases at Yosemite, for instance, another for the price increases at Washington’s Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, and so on. (The nightly cost of an individual campsite at the latter would go from $10 to $18, by the way.) The dates for open commenting and public meetings at each park are different as well. The commenting session at Yosemite began on Monday and stretches through November 20, and there’s a two-hour meeting open to the public on November 12, while comments for Lake Roosevelt can be made through October 31, and three meetings are being held in nearby state-owned facilities this week.

The superintendents of each park also have some authority to decide if and how price hikes go into effect, though a broad range of parks—including Mount Rainier and Olympic in Washington state, Rocky Mountain in Colorado, and Glacier in Montana—are expected to follow through on some if not all of the proposed increases. Jon Jarvis, the NPS director, noted in a memo that there will always be “significant public controversy” about any price increases for use of lands that we as a nation own. Yet he stated that the increases “will allow us to invest in the improvements necessary to provide the best possible park experience to our visitors.”

Surely, many park goers will be upset by the proposed increases, and it would be surprising if a majority—or even a significant minority—of those commenting on the proposals were voicing their approval of higher fees. For some perspective, Kurt Repanshek, who runs the National Parks Traveler blog, points out that admission to Yosemite cost $10 a century ago, so we are more than due for a price hike:

When you think of how inflation has treated park entrance fees — that $10 fee charged in 1915 equates to $230.74 in 2014 dollars — entrance to the parks under the existing pricing structure might literally be described as a steal.

TIME ebola

Rick Perry Wants to Ban Air Travel From West Africa Amid Ebola Outbreak

Rick Perry
Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, delivers the keynote address at a Heritage Foundation event titled "The Border Crisis and New Politics of Immigration," August 21, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

He joins a growing list of politicians calling for such a ban

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called on the federal government to impose a ban on air travel from the West African countries hardest hit by Ebola, joining a growing list of politicians supporting such a travel restriction.

Perry reasoned a ban is the right move given that the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, traveled from Ebola-ridden Liberia to eventually reach Texas, the Associated Press reports. The governor’s call for travel restrictions is a reversal of his stance from just 10 days ago when he said an enhanced medical screening process would be more effective at keeping Ebola out of the country.

“The impact from banning flights from these areas is not going to be an efficient way to deal with this,” Perry said last week, according to The Hill. Referring to a travel ban, Perry added, “There are some that would make the argument that it would [hamper the fight against Ebola].”

Several prominent Republican politicians in particular, including Mitt Romney, have called for flight restrictions, but many health officials say that such a ban would only hurt efforts to contain the disease.

[AP]

TIME ebola

Why Airlines and the CDC Oppose Ebola Flight Bans

Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, during testimony at the Rayburn House Office Building on October 16, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, during testimony at the Rayburn House Office Building on October 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Washington Pos/Getty Images

Some Republicans say flight bans would be life-saving, but medical experts worry such measures could be deadly

The debate surrounding travel bans as a way to curb the spread of Ebola has intensified after Thursday’s congressional hearing, unleashing a flurry of impassioned arguments on both sides.

The stakes are high: those for a flight ban believe it’s a necessary protection against a deadly epidemic that has already reached American soil, but those against it say a ban would make the U.S. even more vulnerable to the virus.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who ran the hearing, wants to prohibit all non-essential commercial travel from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as institute a mandatory 21-day quarantine order for any American who has traveled to the stricken African nations. This quarantine would include a ban on domestic travel.

Murphy explained his position at the opening of Thursday’s hearing: “A determined, infected traveler can evade the screening by masking the fever with ibuprofen… Further, it is nearly impossible to perform contact tracing of all people on multiple international flights across the globe, when contact tracing and treatment just within the United States will strain public health resources.” Murphy is not alone; other lawmakers such as House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) agree.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, maintains that these congressmen have it backwards. While they think a travel ban would secure the U.S. border from Ebola and shrink the potential spheres of contact, CDC director Tom Frieden says instituting a flight ban would forfeit what little control we currently have over the virus.

“Right now we know who’s coming in,” Frieden said at the hearing. “If we try to eliminate travel… we won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave, we won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive, we won’t be able—as we do currently—to see a detailed history to see if they’ve been exposed.” The White House has sided with Frieden. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that a travel ban is “not something we’re considering.”

Even if Republican lawmakers are correct that a travel ban could curb the spread of Ebola in the U.S., it would also curb the movement of American health workers to the West African countries that are already desperate for more aid.

“If we do things that unintentionally make it harder to get that response in, to get supplies in, that make it harder for those governments to manage, to get everything from economic activity to travel going, it’s going to become much harder to stop the outbreak at the source,” Frieden said this week. “If that were to happen, it would spread for more months and potentially to other countries, and that would increase rather than decrease the risk to Americans.”

There’s also a practical concern surrounding the bans. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States and who later died from the disease, took three flights and flew on two airlines on his trip from Monrovia, Liberia to Dallas, TX, stopping in Belgium on the way. Prohibiting travel from West Africa to the United States quickly falls down the rabbit hole of connecting flights in Europe, especially since there currently aren’t any direct flights between the U.S. and the primary Ebola hot zones.

A spokesperson for Airlines for America, the industry trade organization for leading U.S. airlines, told TIME, “We agree with the White House that discussions of flight bans are not necessary and actually impede efforts to stop the disease in its tracks in West Africa.”

And if domestic or international travel bans were to be instituted, others familiar with the airline industry warn of unintended consequences. Greg Winton, founder of The Aviation Law Firm outside Washington, D.C., told TIME that mass flight restrictions “will have a huge impact financially, certainly on the whole economy, not just the aviation sector.”

But at this point Winton says anything is possible, citing the Federal Aviation Administration’s shut down of air travel following 9/11 as an extreme precedent. “As far as FAA aviation law, none of that really takes precedence over disease control at this point,” he said.

TIME Food & Drink

These Are America’s Best Coffee Cities

Coffee
Getty Images

Whether you’re looking for single-origin beans, personalized pour-overs, or carbonated iced coffee

When they took a train trip along the West Coast a few years ago, Stephanie Mantello and her husband got off at Portland on a mission.

It was for coffee.

“We sprinted off the train with only a 45-minute stop to get a coffee at Stumptown,” says the Sydney-based travel blogger. “It was well worth the potential of missing the train.”

Like many travelers, Mantello loves to try local java in a new place. And no surprise, Portland, OR—home of famed roaster Stumptown—was yet again in the running this year for the top city for coffee among Travel +Leisure readers. In the America’s Favorite Places survey, readers voted on the most magnetic features of major metro areas, from the quality of local coffee to the live-music scene.

Find out where to get your fix in the best coffee cities across the country—and make your opinions heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.

No. 1 Portland, OR

The Northwest city known for its latte-friendly (read: misty) weather won the coffee contest again this year—and not just forStumptown Coffee Roasters, which continues to expand beyond Oregon. Two lesser-known local favorites are in the city’s Central Eastside. One is Coava, a single-origin roaster whose beans are regulars at the Northwest Regional Barista Competition, and whose Zen-feeling Brew Bar shares space with a sustainable bamboo company. The other, micro-roaster Water Avenue Coffee, offers such barrel-aged coffees as Oak and Pinot Noir; one of the most popular menu items is a $1 sidecar shot of espresso.

No. 2 Seattle

The city that gave the world Starbucks fell to No. 2 again—perhaps because some T+L readers think only of the coffee giant when they come here. But Seattle, which also ranked well for bookstores and boutiques, supports plenty of smaller coffee operations (some even dubbed “nana-roasters”) that roast their own beans. Consider Slate Coffee Roasters in Ballard, or Convoy Coffee, a bike-powered coffee cart that does pour-overs, AeroPress, and iced coffee. If you can’t come to Seattle without visiting the mother ship, check out the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, a 15,000-square-foot flagship that will offer small-batch roasts when it opens December 2014 in Capitol Hill.

No. 3 Providence, RI

The coffee culture in this state capital—populated by a lot of artists and geeks, according to T+L readers—runs deep. To understand one reason why sweet “coffee milk” is Rhode Island’s state drink, go toDave’s Coffee, which sells a high-quality espresso-based coffee syrup that locals often add to a glass of milk or use to lace their morning joe. Dave’s also does a cold-brew coffee on tap and boasts of having the state’s only Slayer machine—which helps baristas better control the temperature and pressure during espresso making. One of the best up-and-comer coffee places is in the Dean Hotel: Bolt Coffee Company, where the top order is a Chemex-made pot of coffee for two. And since nothing goes better with coffee than a little pastry, pick up some cookies from North Bakery, or scones and sticky buns from Seven Stars Bakery (Providence ranked at No. 1 for its baked goods).

No. 4 Albuquerque

The New Mexico city made the top five for its distinctive local flavor. Case in point: the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company, offering blends made with local pine nuts, which fans say add a vaguely cocoa or hazelnut flavor. On Saturdays, the roaster offers a short coffee history class with a roasting demo and cupping. Ask Albuquerqueans for their other favorite local coffee drink, and they may send you to Golden Crown Panaderia, where you can indulge in the signature Coffee Milkshake with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and a generous dousing of espresso.

No. 5 Houston

This business hub is one of four cities designated as a green coffee exchange port on the New York Board of Trade. For a purist’s cup, check out Siphon Coffee, in Montrose, where your coffee is prepared using the vacuum process, which promises to extract the best flavor from the beans. While Siphon’s baristas may discourage cream or sugar, they do condone snacks (like breakfast tacos and empanadas) and trying your luck on the coffee bar’s Ms. Pac-Man and Frogger machine. To taste other local brews, go to Revival Market, which offers local cheeses, charcuterie, and coffee by Houston-based roaster Greenway. Another reason to stop in: Houston also scored near the top of the survey for its foodie-friendly specialty grocery stores.

Read the full list HERE.

More from Travel + Leisure:

TIME russia

An Aeroflot Nightmare: How I Got Placed Under Virtual Arrest in Moscow

Russian Airlines OAO Aeroflot Operations
A passenger jet operated by OAO Aeroflot takes off from Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Old practices are dying hard in Russia, including at its national airline

Russia at one point seemed to be embracing the West, and the transformation that came as a natural result. After the unraveling of the Soviet Union in 1991, politics became democratic and the economy capitalist. The Cold War was relegated to history books and outdated spy movies. Separated by ideology and fear no more, the economies of Russia and Europe became closely intertwined. The G7 turned into the G8.

But these days, Russia seems to be reversing course. Politics have slipped back into near-authoritarianism under President Vladimir Putin. Moscow is striving to reassert the influence it once held over its neighborhood during Soviet days. Sanctions and ill-will are again isolating the Russian economy from the West. I recently bought a T-shirt in Moscow sporting a picture of Vladimir Putin karate-kicking Barack Obama. The ideas and attitudes of the USSR have proven hard to change.

That seems to be the case at Aeroflot, the nation’s main airline, as well. During Soviet times, the name Aeroflot was synonymous with gruff flight attendants and dilapidated aircraft. But the airline has mustered ambitions to become a major international carrier, and has made tremendous progress upgrading its fleet and modernizing its services. It joined the SkyTeam alliance, which includes Delta and Korean Air.

But as my wife and I found out, Russia’s national carrier, much like the nation itself, is apparently having some trouble shaking off its past.

A week ago, we arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to check into our flight back home to Beijing only to be told that we no longer had seats on the plane. The flight was overbooked and we had been bumped off. We are seasoned travelers, and in our experience, when flights are overbooked the airline usually asks for volunteers to surrender their seats, sweetening the request with some nominal financial benefit. If Aeroflot went through such a process, we weren’t involved, and when we raised the possibility of seeking volunteers, we were ignored. Apparently, the staff had determined who lost their seats in advance, and that was that.

Aeroflot’s decision, however, put us in a tight spot. Not only did we both have to be at work the next morning, but our visas were also expiring that night, so the delay would cause us to remain in the country too long. We explained our predicament to the Aeroflot staff, but nevertheless, they booked us onto another flight the next day. Then they demanded we sign documents agreeing to the change. When we continued to protest, one of the Aeroflot staffers told my wife we had 15 minutes to accept the new tickets or else he would call the police, have us thrown in jail for a visa violation and abandon us to deal with the consequences without the aid of the airline.

Left with the stark choice of prison or a delayed departure, we signed the papers and took our replacement tickets. However, what we weren’t told by Aeroflot is that we would not be able to move freely in the city, the airport or even a hotel until the boarding time of our new flight. The airline placed us in a special section of a Novotel hotel with a guard posted outside the door.

We were not allowed to leave the immediate area of our room, even to go to the hotel coffee shop, nor to order our own food. Breakfast boasted bread and spoiled yogurt but no coffee. Basically, we were locked away as if we had overstayed our visas, when we had not. The airline forced us into a situation in which we were treated as criminals.

We got a pretty good idea of how Edward Snowden must have lived during his first days in Russia. After arriving at the same Moscow airport, Snowden, too, was held in this travelers’ no-man’s land in a hotel not far from our own.

When I asked Aeroflot’s press officers about our case, they responded that “the procedure was completed in full compliance with the company’s rules and regulations.” The press managers added that “there were no offending words or any intimidations at your address [sic]” and that the Aeroflot staff employed “the persuasion approach” to resolve the problem.

As to the conditions at the hotel, they wrote that “there were no negative feedbacks received about the quality of service provided.” In addition, Aeroflot said that “we have taken the decision to organize additional training sessions for our ground personnel which will include the imitations of similar situations [sic].”

That might help. But if Aeroflot intends to shed its old reputation, it might want to ditch its Soviet practices along with its Soviet planes.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser