MONEY Travel

Unlimited Free Booze! Tropical Cruise Includes Alcohol, No Extra Charge

Norwegian Sky
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sky

One major travel company is shaking up the way cruises are priced: All passengers get to enjoy all-you-can-drink beverages—beer, wine, and spirits included—for the whole cruise, without having to pay extra.

Norwegian Cruise Line sure does seem to want to woo heavy drinkers aboard its ships. Or at least passengers who don’t want to have to pause and think about the cost of each and every beverage they’re consuming.

Last summer, the company introduced an all-you-can-drink beverage option on a limited-time basis, in which passengers could partake in unlimited beer, wine, and spirits for a flat few hundred bucks extra. This week, the company introduced a new all-inclusive cruising package, in which all passengers aboard certain Norwegian Sky departures can enjoy unlimited alcohol at no extra charge. The new policy takes effect starting in January 2016, only on Sky three- and four-day sailings from Miami to the Bahamas.

Normally, cruise prices cover only the cost of a cabin, buffet meals, and some entertainment, and guests are charged extra for most beverages. Cruises attract people who want to relax and cut loose, so alcohol tends to be a huge revenue stream for operators.

What can happen, however, is that newcomers and experienced cruisers alike get turned off by the idea of getting nickel-and-dimed—at exorbitant, sports arena-type prices, mind you—for each drink they have. So it’s easy to see the appeal of Norwegian’s new policy, which is truly more in line with the original pitch for cruising as a mode of vacation: that of a hassle-free, all-inclusive, value-laden experience in which customers could board ships and never have to touch their wallets or worry about much of anything.

While at this time it’s only limited to one ship and short cruises, Norwegian’s more all-inclusive pricing structure will “strongly differentiate us from our competitors,” explained Norwegian president and COO Andy Stuart. He expects the change to appeal in particular to the all-important pool of people who have never been on cruises: “The three- and four-day market is an important market for us and is a market we introduce a lot of new people to cruising, and we’re excited about the prospects of going all-inclusive.”

Let’s not be naïve, however, and think that Norwegian would simply throw free booze into the package without upping the price of cruising. Stuart admitted, vaguely, that Norwegian is increasing prices “a bit” on these all-inclusive sailings. What does that mean exactly?

Answering that question with any degree of precision is more difficult than one might hope because cruise pricing in general is so muddled. How much you pay varies based on when you book, choice of cabin and extras, how you book (broker or directly?), availability, the season and exact dates when you’re traveling, choice of destination and ship, and so on.

For some indication of how much extra Norwegian is charging for its drinks-included Norwegian Sky cruises, we looked at rates in December 2015 and January 2016—immediately before and after the pricing change goes into effect. Four-day cruises from Miami to the Bahamas in early December are currently starting at a rate of $209 per person (not including port charges, taxes, and other extras), based on prices listed at Norwegian’s website. The cheapest rate in January, on the same ship with the same itinerary, starts at $339.

That’s a difference of $130, or $32.50 per day for a four-day cruise. Considering how pricey booze is on cruises—maybe $6 for a beer, $9 per glass of wine—it will be easy for many cruisers to come away feeling that the new pricing offers better value. But what if you’re traveling with children or adults who are content with a single glass of wine at dinner, or who don’t drink at all? If, on average, everyone in your party wouldn’t otherwise be compiling a bar tab of $130 or more during the course of the cruise, you’d probably be better offer sticking with a cruise with more traditional a la carte pricing.

That equation is oversimplifying things because, as mentioned above, cruise pricing is a moving target that’s impossible to nail down. Norwegian hinted that all-inclusive cruises could prove so popular that they’ll drive prices higher, which would change the math on which pricing model represents the best value for the individual cruiser. “We expect that this will increase demand, which—as you know—will drive bookings and ultimately price,” a company PR spokesperson said to Cruise Critic.

MONEY Airlines

The Pathetic State of Airline Travel Today Was Predicted Long Ago

crowded airplane seats
Jason Hetherington—Getty Images

No one should be remotely surprised that flights today are more crowded and more expensive, with more fees and worse service. As many critics warned, this is exactly what would happen with widespread airline consolidation.

The airline business is complicated. To some extent, however, making a profit is as simple as getting as many passengers on board your company’s airplanes as possible, and charging each customer as much as possible for the services provided.

Lately, airlines have been extremely good at being profitable. Airline profits soared in 2014 amid plummeting fuel prices, and the trend has continued in 2015. The first quarter of the year is generally a slow, lackluster period in travel, yet most domestic airlines reported record-high profits for the first three months of 2015. American Airlines reportedly took in a profit of $1.2 billion in the first quarter, according to the Dallas Morning News; previously, the carrier’s best first quarter was a haul of a mere $480 million.

Historically, in a scenario like the one outlined above, airline executives could be relied upon to add flights and new routes, and/or cut airfares, with the goal of winning over new passengers and snagging market share. None of the above is happening, however. For an explanation of why this is so, look no further than the string of airline mergers that took place in recent years—and that effectively killed the robust competition that existed in the industry not long ago.

“The airline industry is increasingly looking like an uncompetitive oligopoly,” Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote in a recent New York Times analysis. Sorkin pointed to the insights of analyst Vinay Bhaskara, who in late 2014 wrote in Airway News, “We are unquestionably living in an air travel oligopoly,” in which virtually all power in the industry lies in the hands of very few players.

“I will go on record stating that I believe that 2015 will be yet another year of record profitability for US airlines,” Bhaskara wrote at the end of 2014. Based on the first quarter results, his predictions appear to be coming true. As for the idea that airlines would expand service to take advantage of low fuel prices and attempt to win over business from their competitors? Let’s just say no one should go holding their breath waiting for heated competition and price wars anytime soon. “The idea that US airlines would, once again, devolve into a war for market share is founded on a misunderstanding of the new structure of US airlines.”

This “new structure” is one in which airlines are rigorously maintaining “discipline,” as Bhaskara puts it. This highly profitable approach is one in which the airlines aren’t expanding service because they prefer to fly densely packed planes, and they aren’t cutting fares because, well, they just don’t have to as demand remains high.

The approach might come across as greedy and opportunistic. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the marketplace we have today is one that was predicted years ago by airline merger critics. Back in 2010, when United Airlines was close to completing its acquisition of Continental, consumer advocate Bill McGee published a manifesto about the ramifications of such mergers. Among other things, his analysis showed:

When merger partners’ route maps overlap, certain cities will lose service, with fewer flight frequencies and loss of nonstops.

Airline mergers don’t improve customer service.

When one airline suddenly dominates a route where it previously competed with a merger partner, ticket prices are likely to rise—often considerably.

Likewise, over the years various consumer groups and business travel coalitions have urged regulators to stop mergers from taking place for largely the same reasons. And, based on the routinely oligopolistic tactics of airlines in the post-merger world, in which travelers based in cities like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have seen dramatic reductions in flights, and in which average flights in the U.S. have pushed past $500 (not including fees), the critics sure do seem to have been on to something.

Most unfortunate of all, the average airline customer should only expect more of the same approach going forward. Instead of adding flights, “Almost all of our capacity growth domestically is about putting more seats on airplanes,” American Airlines president Scott Kirby explained in a recent investment conference. “We will absolutely not lose our capacity discipline,” or the practice of limiting expansion in order to keep airfares high, United CEO Jeff Sismek said earlier this year, while announcing the company had nearly doubled profits in 2014.

Thanks to seat design “innovations,” airlines are able to cram more and more tiny seats into economy sections. This obviously makes flying worse, but that’s not stopping airlines from going forward. “When it comes to passenger comfort, the airlines are saying that this isn’t something that’s very important to them,” Eric Gonzales, an engineering professor at UMass-Amherst specializing in transportation issues, said to the Los Angeles Times. “These changes are intended solely to improve the bottom line.”

If the airline space were more competitive, it would arguably be a lot more difficult for carriers to get away with this kind of stuff. Yet they get away with this and more, including all manner of fees for services that used to be covered in the price of a ticket, plus a range of cost-cutting steps that show through in the results of a new study indicating that customer complaints, lost bags, lateness, and overbooking were all up in 2014.

As if it isn’t already clear, Brent Bowen, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a co-author of the study, explained how we got to this point: “Airline mergers and consolidations are taking a systemic toll that is bad for consumers… Performance by the airlines is slipping while they claimed this would make them better.”

MONEY Travel

5 Money Tips for Vacationing With Friends

It can be tricky to navigate trip planning and financing, but vacationing with friends can be fun and frugal.

You love hanging out with some compatible friends or families and you both love to vacation. Why not go on a joint vacation? It can be tricky to navigate trip-planning and financing with others, but you also have the potential to enhance your experience and even save some money. Communication is obviously key to a successful joint vacation, but here are some more concrete tips that will ensure you have a fun, financially comfortable trip together.

1. Make a Budget

It’s important to create an open forum early on in the planning process where each vacationer can disclose how much they are able to spend, which aspects they are willing to splurge on and where they prefer to scale back. Each person or family may have a different budget.

While this may make it a bit more difficult, you can still vacation together. You can set times to do activities separately or if you plan to rent a home, you can have families pay for what they’re using (like paying more for using more bedrooms or for an ensuite bathroom). If you want an easy way to know the full budget, you can look into all-inclusive vacation options. You can also appoint a money person to keep track of spending so everyone on the group stays on track.

2. Plan Ahead

Find out what everyone wants out of the vacation and discuss logistics once you have a target budget in mind. Pick the dates and location carefully because this will dictate the activities you’re able to do. You may not be able to do everything that everyone wants, but reaching a consensus on as many details as possible will save discussions and disappointment down the road. You can even make it fun by having a pre-vacation planning party to lighten the mood and get excited.

3. Look Into Deals

One great part about traveling in groups is the ability to save on your vacation. Most destinations offer a variety of lodgings. You can rent a home instead of staying in hotels or talk to travel agents or sales managers about discount group rates. The same works for nearby museums, parks, zoos and fun activities. You can also pool your resources and see if anyone’s job or connections can offer up some discounts.

4. Talk About Discrepancies

If you were comfortable enough to plan this trip together, you should be able to discuss any issues that come up. It may be tricky, but if someone isn’t pulling their weight on financial, cleaning or preparation duties, bring it up. The worst you can do is let it boil up inside you. For example, if you offer to use your airline rewards credit card to book everyone’s flights, contingent on being paid back by each individual, explain when you need to be paid back and how much everyone owes before booking. This can lead to hard feelings (and a damaged credit score) down the road if someone doesn’t pay you back and you have to carry a high balance on your credit card. (You can see how your balances are affecting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

It’s a good idea to avoid being accusatory and instead discuss what you think isn’t quite going right so you can come to a solution together.

5. Be Flexible

Flexibility is an important factor for any travel, but especially when it comes to joint vacations. It’s important to be willing to try new activities, foods, schedule or methods of travel and lodging. Try to focus on the fun and embrace however the vacation is going. You also might want to build in some time apart.

If you are careful about how you go about a vacation with friends or fellow families, you can make memories that will last a lifetime. Just take the necessary precautions to avoid any awkward or uncomfortable feelings around finances.

More from Credit.com

 

TIME Travel

These Are the Top 10 Islands to Explore in 2015

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Justin Goode—Getty Images A beautiful day looking out onto the jetty in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

According to TripAdvisor

Are you sick of being landlocked? And on the lookout for a vacation spot? You may want to consider one of the top 10 islands in the world.

TripAdvisor created this list, which is part of its annual Travelers’ Choice Awards, by assessing millions of reviews written by globetrotters around the world.

Snagging the top spot is Providenciales, an island in Turks and Caicos. Known locally as Provos, it’s considered the tourism capital of Turks and Caicos, known mostly for its gorgeous white-sand beaches.

Here’s the full list of the best islands to visit this year:

  1. Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
  2. Maui, Hawaii
  3. Roatan, Honduras
  4. Santorini, Greece
  5. Ko Tao, Thailand
  6. Madeira, Portugal
  7. Bali, Indonesia
  8. Mauritius, Africa
  9. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
  10. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Find out more — and check out some gorgeous photos — over at TripAdvisor.

Read next: These Are the Best Flight Search Tools

TIME Web

These Are the Best Flight Search Tools

airplane-runway
Getty Images

Try searching on different days of the week

Online flight search services are big business, as more of us turn to computers and smartphones for travel planning. Last year, 40 percent of Americans booked flights, hotels, cruises and other holidays on their phones and tablets, a statistic based on 300 million bookings worth $150 billion, while the Economist reckons that online bookings account for 43% of total travel sales.

The options are growing. Google recently overhauled its flight aggregator service, Google Flights, with the addition of money-saving features posing serious competition to established heavyweights such as Kayak and Skyscanner. Then there are newer, design-led services like Momondo or Hipmunk, which offer filters by price as well as convenience.

Are you really getting the best deals?

We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to services that search other services for the best deals — but despite the thousands of results these services manage to turn up, you may not necessarily be getting the cheapest deal or even the fare advertised.

Buyer beware: Most fares found by these flight search engines don’t include the baggage fees charged by some low-cost airlines as well as United and Delta. In some cases, they don’t include fuel taxes and other surcharges.

Nor does every airline shows up in these metasearches, says Matt van der Rohe, an online travel expert with travel concierge service Flightfox. For example, Southwest Airlines does not put its fares on metasearch sites, and UK-based budget airline Ryanair saves its cheapest fares for its own site.

We picked six of the top-rated flight aggregator services and compared prices for 10 flights over a week in June, from domestic flights including New York to Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas and Austin, and international flights from New York to Toronto, Sydney, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong.

Which flight search service is best for you?

Kayak

Available for iOS, Android, Windows and Kindle devices.

The granddaddy of flight aggregator search sites, Kayak, was recently redesigned to streamline its search interface. Kayak now offers tons of ways to filter your search, including an intuitive slider system for adjusting approximate takeoff times and options to show or hide redeye flights, view flights with Wi-Fi only and see “hacker fares,” where different legs of a journey are purchased separately. Also handy is the ability to adjust the maximum layover you’re willing to bear.

A new price trend graph offers advice on whether flight prices are likely to go up or down, giving you as much peace of mind as one might be able to expect, while the fee calculator can add credit card and check-in luggage fees to the posted fares. If you search for flight and hotel packages, Kayak can also tell you how much you’ll save by booking the two together over booking them separately.

Bottom line: Kayak almost always found cheaper fares than any the flight services in this list (or at least within a few dollars of the cheapest). On the NYC-Cancun flight, it scored the cheapest flight by far at $398 (compared to $466 and up on other sites), thanks to being the only site that accessed fares from Aeromexico. Its fee calculator for credit card and luggage fees also means you’re most likely to click through to a posted fare.

Skyscanner

Available for Android, iOS, Windows, Kindle and, BlackBerry devices.

Skyscanner is the other search giant offers similar results to Kayak in an equally straightforward interface. It provides a couple of easy tools for filtering out particular features like takeoff times and number of stops. Clicking on a particular flight shows exactly how long the layover is. However, there is little additional information given about flights; for example, there’s no obvious indicator for overly long flights (as most of the other services in this list offer), nor does Skyscanner show in-flight amenities like Wi-Fi.

Bottom line: Skyscanner tended to turn up domestic fares that were roughly the same as Kayak’s, give or take $5 to $10, for flights that cost $300 to $500. It matched the other services for rates to Paris and Sydney but missed finding the cheapest flights to Hong Kong and Rio (despite finding the same airlines).

SeatGuru

Available for Android and iOS devices.

SeatGuru is an airplane seat plan and flight search site, owned by TripAdvisor, offers many intuitive filters for your travel hunt in a simple, quick-to-use interface. Results are displayed in a clean, comprehensive style that allows you to sort based on price and direct flights, filter to “avoid early flights” and weed out pre-8 a.m. departures, and apply a “best value” selector calculated by flight time, cost and number of stops.

Each result displays various flight amenities, such as Wi-Fi, the option to purchase additional legroom and whether the seat pitch is average or good. SeatGuru uses the Expedia database for hotel packages, so you’ll see the odd, ad-like hotel suggestion pop up in the middle of your search results to show you how much you’d save by booking a stay along with your flight.

Bottom line: SeatGuru came up with comparable fares for international routes. For domestic flights, it sometimes turned up the cheapest fares found by the other services (give or take $5), but it was sometimes (Cancun, Austin) pricier by about 10 percent. Its filters for search results make choosing a flight easier than those on Kayak and Skyscanner.

Hipmunk

Available for Android and iOS devices.

The home page of Hipmunk consists of a search box asking where you want to go and when. The real design beauty of Hipmunk is its “agony” rating of the ensuing results. Whereas older sites such as Kayak and Skyscanner leave analyzing its thousands of results to you, the hunter, Hipmunk orders flights by how long they take. Layovers usually push up the agony factor. You can also order flights by price and takeoff or landing times.

When booking flights, the outgoing and return legs are chosen separately, making it much easier to pick the times you want, rather than plowing through the endless list of flight combinations employed by many other sites. Any extra cost incurred by particular flight times is displayed next to the flight, so you can easily scroll to the choices that don’t cost extra.

Bottom line: Hipmunk tended to find the cheapest international fares (that is, as cheap or cheaper than the other services in this list) and around the same prices on domestic fares.

Momondo

Available for Android, iOS and BlackBerry devices.

Momondo is a flight, hotel and car rental booking site that has a brilliantly fast search with intuitive controls. Flights can be ordered by price, speed or “best,” based on an algorithm computing flight duration and cost. There are extra checkboxes for filtering by airline, departure or arrival times and, uniquely, by frequent flier alliances, which is handy if you’re savvy about air miles. Two bar graphs show the rise and fall in price of both outgoing and return flights.

If you can’t quite decide where to go on your next vacation, hit the Trip Finder to find destinations based on what you want to do (city break, shopping, the beach), when you want to do it, a rough area to head for and, most usefully, the budget you have available.

Bottom line: Momondo has excellent coverage of online travel services and airlines and, in our test, it turned up the cheapest flights (either the same cost as the cheapest, or about 2 percent to 4 percent cheaper on both domestic and international). Choosing flights is made easy by a clever set of filters for airlines, flight times and convenience, while the bar graph fare calendar helps flexible travelers pick the cheapest dates.

Google Flights

With the world’s most-used search engine backing it, you’d expect Google Flights to clock a blistering search time, and it does. The interface is reassuringly clean, minimal and Google-y, returning results in about a second — much faster than every other service. At the top of each results list is a tip suggesting how you can fly for less; for example, we could have saved $25 on our $425 New York-LA flight by shifting the week-long trip forward by a day. This change is bookable by simply clicking on the tip. Otherwise, found flights are filtered with “best” flights first, based on flight times and flight duration balanced against cost; it doesn’t always choose the direct or cheapest routes.

Flights can be booked as separate legs with different companies. You can save your itinerary for price alerts on Google Now or share it via email with your travel buddies.

Bottom line: Google Flights scored the same fares for most domestic flights and the longest flight (NY-Sydney), but it turned up pricier flights for Paris, Rio and Hong Kong.

When travel agents come in

For straightforward flights — fly there, come back — most of us can quite easily get the best deals simply by hitting up one flight aggregator site or, in many cases, an airline that flies where we want to go.

But when it comes complex routes like a transcontinental trip in January from New York to Sydney with stops in Singapore and Bangkok, you’re unlikely to get the best price (or airline selection) by simply punching in a multi-city trip and booking it all through an aggregator site. For example, the low-cost airline Scoot that flies direct from Sydney to Singapore didn’t turn up as an option on this route (despite being listed on at least some of the other search engines).

This type of itinerary is where new-gen travel services such as Flightfox make their coin. Unlike traditional travel agents, Flightfox does not take a commission on flight sales. Instead, the company charges customers a flat fee for a human agent to hunt down the best fare for a given itinerary and then send the customer the link to book themselves.

Van der Rohe says he mostly uses the same sites as we might, as well as a few accounts that send extra information about fare availabilities. “What we have is a knowledge of routes, fare rules and loopholes that can lower the cost of itineraries beyond what you might see at first in flight search engines,” he says. (He won’t divulge what these loopholes are, exactly.) He did, however, share a few tips for searching with flight aggregator apps at home.

“There’s a lot to be said for brute force,” he says. Search as many flight combinations, airlines and routes as you can think of across many different sites.

If a flight aggregator site isn’t giving you the price you want, look up an airport’s Wikipedia page and see which airlines fly to it. Then search for fares on these airlines’ pages.

Comb forums such as FlyerTalk and MilePoint, which are bases for travelers to share flights and routes and deals.

Try searching on different days of the week. “Every day and every flight there are certain seats and certain fares, which change all the time,” van der Rohe says. (In the two days since the flights for this article was researched, some fares have dropped.)

If you’re very eager (or a travel manager),subscribe to Expert Flyer, a site aimed at frequent flyers that sends alerts when a particular seat on a flight becomes available. “Sometimes seats right next to each other are different fares,” says van der Rohe.

As for when to book to score those cheapest fares, Kayak research based on a year’s worth of search data found optimal days to leave and return and an optimal window during which to make your booking. For example, you’re likely to find the best airfares to Europe from the United States and Canada by departing on a Wednesday and returning on a Tuesday and booking six months in advance. In contrast, an Asia trip is best booked five weeks in advance, departing and returning on Wednesdays.

At the end of the day, finding the cheapest airfare is best accomplished by grunt work interspersed with anxiety over whether flights are going to get any cheaper. That’s why van der Rohe advises customers that if they see a price they’re happy with, they may as well just book it.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Reasons Traveling Abroad Can Help Your Career

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Getty Images

Learning to accept and appreciate cultural differences is a good move for your career

The Muse logo

I remember the first time I left the United States. I was about eight years old, visiting family in El Paso, Texas. During the trip, we traveled to nearby Juarez, Mexico, to visit the market.

Everything about the market was different from any previous shopping experience I’d ever had. It was an open-air market with a dirt floor, and it was packed to the brim with booths. Vendors negotiated their prices, and children peddled wares. I saw goods for sale that were new to me, like a Mexican soft drink I’d never heard of or ever tasted. It gave me a new appreciation for—and curiosity about—other cultures.

I spent a lot of time thinking about that trip and the many things I saw and experienced that were different from my everyday life. That trip is a significant reason why, to this day, I have an itch to travel and an interest in other cultures.

In the work I do now on a college campus, I see students return from study abroad trips with similar wonder in their eyes. It’s amazing to witness the impact that a change in environment can make in a person’s life and career.

Students come back with a greater understanding of the intricacies of conducting business abroad, which makes them more competitive when applying to companies that do international work. They bring new perspectives and ideas to their careers and see opportunities they may not have seen otherwise.

Even if you’re not a student, travel can significantly benefit your career—here’s how.

1. It Might Open Doors You Aren’t Expecting

Consider Scott Harrison, who actually paid to work with a medical mission team in West Africa when he grew tired of his (very successful) career in club promotions. His experience left him bursting with passion to improve lives in the impoverished areas he visited.

Today, he’s the founder and CEO of charity: water, a highly visible and highly successful organization that provides access to clean water all over the world. But that may not have happened if Harrison hadn’t set foot on that ship bound for Liberia.

Leaving your comfort zone can provide inspiration, awareness, and ideas you wouldn’t likely consider if you continued following the same routine in the same place, day after day.

Not every person who travels abroad will come home and found a wildly successful organization, of course. But you may think of new ways to approach old problems, make a new business contact, or learn about a new career path that wasn’t previously on your radar.

2. It Can Help You Learn a Language

Immersion in a new city or culture is an almost surefire way to pick up a language. There are other ways to learn a language—for example, traditional classes or online-based resources like Rosetta Stone or Mango Languages—but the best, most effective way to become proficient in a new language is to put yourself in a situation in which you have to use it consistently in your day-to-day interactions.

Understandably, the thought of simply dropping into a foreign country and hoping you’ll develop the language skills to survive may be intimidating. To ease the apprehension, look for opportunities that will provide a little more structure and support in your immersion experience. For example, consider taking a study-abroad class through a local university or traveling with a group that will be providing a service in the country you want to visit.

But what does learning a new language have to do with your career?

Consider this: The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 46% increase in employment of interpreters and translators by 2022. That means the demand for people who can communicate in multiple languages is—and will continue to be—very high.

But if you’re not specifically interested in working as a translator, language skills can still benefit your career. For example, if you can speak more than one language, you can save your company from having to hire a translator for global meetings.

And, in general, as technology allows organizations to interact with others across the globe, language will become increasingly important to effectively collaborate and develop partnerships.

3. It Can Increase Your Cultural Competency

One branch of a large, global corporation is located in the relatively small community (i.e., the population is about 19,000) where I live. Employees at that branch have collaborated with colleagues in Singapore, Scotland, Nigeria, Brazil, and Dubai.

Many of the people who work at this company weren’t necessarily looking for an international experience when they found employment there, but they have to understand their position in a global corporation to be effective.

For example, I once watched a family member return to her office at this company at 9 PM, after being home from her workday for several hours. When I asked what in the world she was doing, she explained that she’d forgotten to enter some critical data in the system, and the Nigeria team would be arriving for their workday in a few hours and needed that information to complete their part of the work. Leaving it for the next day just wasn’t an option because it impacted the processes of an entire plant overseas.

Employees at the local plant also have to be mindful of customs and holidays at other locations that may impact the work schedule or their ability to reach their colleagues in those locations, as well as communicating our local holidays to their counterparts worldwide who might not know that the local office will be closed.

In an increasingly globalized society, learning to accept and appreciate cultural differences is a good move for your career. You certainly don’t have to leave the country to increase your comfort when interacting with people of different races or cultures, but immersing yourself in another culture can create an unparalleled awareness and understanding of people who are different than you.

With that kind of understanding, when you have to talk to a colleague in Singapore to figure out why something has gone awry with an assignment, you’ll be less stressed about the interaction and less likely to feel barriers to communication—which means you’ll be more likely to easily reach a solution. Everyone wins.

Traveling abroad can be a pricey investment, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier. Look for scholarships if you’re traveling with a class, or read travel websites and blogs to learn how to cut expenses while you’re abroad. It’s worth it: This is an investment that can change your world—and your career.

This post is in partnership with The Muse. This article was originally published on The Muse.

More from The Muse:

MONEY Airlines

Oh, Joy. Airline Seats Will Be Getting Smaller

Airbus is adding a seat to its A380 configuration. Guess what that means for you?

TIME South Korea

Victims of South Korea’s Sewol Ferry Disaster Remembered One Year On

A relative of a victim of the Sewol ferry disaster holds a flower as he stands on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo
Ed Jones—Reuters A relative of a victim of the Sewol ferry disaster holds a flower as he stands on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo April 15, 2015

Nine bodies remain unaccounted for, and the disaster’s anniversary is again heating up as a political issue

Thursday marks one year since the Sewol ferry sank off the southwest coast of South Korea. But for Lee Keum-hui, it feels like only a day or two since she lost her daughter Eun-hwa, who was one of 476 passengers setting out from Incheon for Jeju, a resort island.

“Some people say it’s time to move on, but how can we do that when our daughter’s body is still out there somewhere?” said Lee, 46, sweeping at the placid waters off Paengmok Harbor, the nearest point on land to the tragedy.

Eun-hwa is one of nine passengers who were never recovered. Lee and her husband still make the nearly five-hour trip from Ansan, a southern suburb of the capital, Seoul, down to Paengmok two or three times a week. There, they sit and hope that somehow their daughter’s remains will be returned to them.

South Korea was overwhelmed with grief when the Sewol sank. People struggled to fathom how a routine ferry ride could lead to 304 deaths, many of them students on a high school field trip. As the ordeal dragged on, the initial sadness segued into fury as the public accused the government of an inept rescue effort.

South Korea engineered a quick rise from poverty after the 1950–53 Korean War and is today one of the world’s wealthier, and more technologically advanced, countries. The shock of the Sewol sinking was compounded by disbelief over how, in a country that had come so far, a simple ferry ride could go so terribly wrong.

In ramshackle Paengmok Harbor, the farthest point on mainland South Korea one can get from the shine of the capital, normal life has mostly returned, with the rescue mission having been called off last autumn. Before last year it was little known beyond the locals who rely on it as a port for fishing boats and traveling to nearby islets.

However, with the sunken hulk still off the coast and nine bodies unaccounted for, Paengmok remains the site of grieving by families and their supporters.

The long, narrow pier is strewn with tokens of the tragedy. Banners with messages of support hang from the railings, imploring, “We won’t forget” and “Kids, come back. It must be so cold out there.” There are flags with the names of the nine passengers who were never recovered. One of them, frayed by the sharp wind that constantly blows in off the water, carries the name Cho Eun-hwa, Lee’s 16-year-old daughter.

The disaster’s anniversary is again heating up as a political issue. Bereaved families have staged large protests in Seoul, calling for the government to carry out a thorough investigation.

In the emotional aftermath of the sinking, the nation’s Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned, in what he said was a gesture of responsibility amid a culture of neglecting safety measures. In addition, President Park Geun-hye’s approval ratings plummeted from about 60% to less than 40% in the wake of the tragedy.

Cheonghaejin Marine, the company that operated the Sewol, was also pilloried for failing to follow basic safety protocol and having, a couple of years before, carried out a dangerous refurbishment of the ship that allowed it to carry more passengers but also made it more vulnerable to tipping over.

The firm’s CEO was sentenced to 10 years in prison last November for having violated maritime safety laws. The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, received 36 years for professional negligence causing death, while the ship’s engineer was sentenced to 30 and other crew members between five and 20 years.

At the time of the ruling, some bereaved families argued that the captain was getting off too easy and should have been sentenced to death. Lee was reportedly not at the helm at the time the Sewol began listing and, along with other crew members, fled the ship while most passengers languished aboard.

Kang Min-kyu, the vice principal of Danwon High School, where many of the young victims studied, committed suicide two days after the disaster. The 52-year-old was among the 172 passengers rescued but couldn’t live with the fact that so many of his young charges were less fortunate.

Late last year, South Korea’s National Assembly passed a law that mandated the formation of a special committee to look into the sinking. However, the investigation hasn’t gotten off the ground because of disagreements between the families and government over the body’s composure and the limits of its authority.

In addition to her hopes for an official probe, Lee says she won’t be able to move on from losing Eun-hwa until her daughter’s remains have been recovered. “We’ve been here for the past year, and our goal is still the same: to find our beloved child,” Lee said.

In Korea’s Confucian culture, great importance is placed on holding a ceremony to mark the end of a person’s life. And experts say moving on is especially difficult for parents who could only watch on TV as their children perished.

“The parents’ grief has been exacerbated by their inability to have intervened, to have assumed the role of their child’s protector,” said Ansuk Jeong, a Ph.D. in community psychology and research professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Kwon Oh-bok, a 61-year-old who lost his brother, nephew and sister-in-law, has spent the past year living in a small housing unit at Paengmok provided by the local government.

When the Sewol sank, Kwon’s brother’s family of four was on their way to start a new life in Jeju, having purchased a tangerine farm. Kwon’s 6-year-old niece was the family’s only survivor and now lives with an aunt.

Kwon says he’s still waiting for some kind of closure and would like the government to raise the prone hull from the seabed, a process that could take more than a year, and cost $110 million, according to a study commissioned by South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

“Once they raise the ferry I’ll be ready to leave, but not until then,” Kwon said.

Lee wears Eun-hwa’s student ID card around her neck, with a headshot of the young girl with a slight smile and dark, horn-rimmed glasses. Lee says her expectations have dropped precipitously since she first came to Paengmok. Having arrived last April hoping Eun-hwa would be rescued alive, this faded into the simple desire to see her only daughter’s face one last time.

Now, facing the reality of Eun-hwa having spent one year in the briny depths, Lee says, “I just want to hug her bones.”

MONEY Airlines

This Airline Just Made Your Butt Happy

150415_EM_SouthwestSeats
Southwest Airlines—Wieck Soon, Southwest passengers will enjoy wider seats on the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Airline travelers are used to the economy section getting more and more cramped. So Southwest Airlines' move to make seats slightly wider is a blessing.

This week, Southwest Airlines announced that its new 737 airplanes will boast seats with a rare commodity: a little extra room for your butt. The bottom seat cushions will be 17.8 inches across, whereas the typical seat width on 737s is 17 to 17.3 inches.

“The new aircraft seats are the widest economy seats available in the single-aisle 737 market, and offer a unique design that gives our customers what they asked for: more space,” Bob Jordan, Southwest’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in a press release announcing the new seats.

Passengers won’t get to enjoy the extra seat width until mid-2016 at the earliest. That’s when Southwest’s forthcoming 737-800s will first hit the runway and begin accepting passengers.

Will the new seats transform the flying experience of passengers? Honestly, probably not. An extra half-inch or so of space is nice, but for most travelers it won’t feel like a true game changer. Besides, the seats in some other airlines’ economy sections are already wider than Southwest’s new seats. According to SeatGuru, carriers that commonly use 737s, such as Alaska Airlines and Southwest, currently have seat widths of 17 to 17.1 inches. But on JetBlue, which prefers different aircraft (Airbus, Embraer E-190), the seat widths range from 17.8 to 18.25 inches.

Meanwhile, Airbus has argued that airline seats should be at least 18 inches wide, pointing to studies that show sleep quality is 53% better on 18-inch seats compared with 17-inchers. Airbus also pointed out that human beings today tend to simply be larger and heavier than prior generations, and that other industries are more accommodating. The typical modern American movie theater seat, for instance, is 22 inches wide, one inch more than the average of a decade ago.

Nonetheless, Southwest’s move is a welcome change, if for no other reason than that it goes against the trend of airlines cramming in more and more seats and scaling back passengers’ personal space in economy sections, with the hopes of boosting profits—which are already at record highs thanks to high airfares and low fuel prices. Southwest remains an anomaly in the industry for maintaining its free checked baggage policy. Slightly wider seats could prove to be another way the airline can differentiate itself from the pack in a passenger-friendly way.

Read next: These Are the Airlines With the Most Passenger Complaints

MONEY Travel

These Are the Airlines With the Most Passenger Complaints

customers waiting in line at airport check-in counter
Patti McConville—Alamy

Here are the airlines with the most complaints per 100,000 passengers.

If you feel like airline service is slipping, that’s because it is. In fact, it has slipped back to levels not seen since the recession, according to a new “Airline Quality Rating” report out this week. The rating considers four factors most important to travelers: on-time performance, involuntary bumping, mishandled baggage and complaints. Only Virgin America, Alaska and Hawaiian upped their game last year, according to the study, while all other major airlines offered worse service.

University professors Brent Bowen (Embry-Riddle) and Dean Headley (Wichita State) have conducted the research using Department of Transportation data for 25 years, and found that performance levels have sunk back to where they were in 2009, during the Great Recession.

“The Airline Quality Rating industry score for 2014 shows an industry that declined in overall performance quality over the previous year. As an industry, performance in 2014 was worse than the previous four years,” the authors say. “Of the 11,364 complaints registered with DOT regarding all U.S. domestic carriers, 62.7% were for either flight problems, customer service problems, or baggage problems.” Overall, complaints skyrocketed 22% in 2014.

So which airline attracted the most complaints? To adjust for airline size, the authors published a rate of complaints per 100,000 passengers. The industry average was 1.38 for 2014. At the “top” of the list is Frontier and United. Alaska and Southwest attracted the fewest complaints. These stats aren’t a fluke: Alaska also had the fewest complaints per 100,000 in 2013, while Frontier and United had the most last year, too.

The Most Complaints per 100,000 Passengers

  1. Frontier 3.91
  2. United 2.71
  3. American 2.12
  4. Envoy 1.59
  5. JetBlue 1.17
  6. Virgin America 1.14
  7. ExpressJet 1.01
  8. Hawaiian 0.89
  9. SkyWest 0.84
  10. Delta 0.72
  11. Southwest 0.53
  12. Alaska 0.42

Frontier didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’m not surprised by the latest results,” said consumer travel advocate Chris Elliot, who operates Elliot.org. “Airline passengers are fond of referring to the industry’s customer service record as a race to the bottom. These numbers leave little doubt that the race is far from over.”

The results also reveal a backslide from improvements that airlines had made since the recession, Elliot said.

“These numbers suggest that the uptick in customer service was only temporary,” Elliot said. “The study is a big disappointment, both for airline passengers, and also for me personally. I had really hoped the industry had begun to turn a corner.”

Airline tickets can come with big price tags, which can be especially rage-inducing if you’re bumped or experience customer service issues. You can eliminate some of the cost by using airline rewards credit cards to earn free flights, free checked bags and even upgrades (here are a few of the best airline miles credit cards on the market). But be sure you don’t spend your way into debt just to score a freebie — rewards cards are best used by cardholders who pay their balances in full every month.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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