Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Top Boutique Stays in NYC

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City Club Hotel

If you are planning to visit New York City, keep in mind to learn more about its rich history. And to feel like you are part of it in some way, staying in a building founded back in 1901., in a former political private club, where originally at that time the Democrats and Republicans rounded together for discussions about the US current policy, could be exciting. Located in one of more prominent parts of the city, the City Club Hotel is located near famous places, such as the New York Yacht, Harvard, and Penn Clubs. On the north side of the 44th street, in the center of midtown, its location is perfect for visiting all the main New York City attractions such as Times Square, New York Public Library, Theater District, Bryant Park, and Rockefeller Center with all the fancy restaurants and lavish nightlife NYC has to offer. Today, the owners of this place wanted to convey spirit of an old City Club. The building preserved the outer original appearance and elegance. Designer of the hotel, Jeffery Bilhuber, combined traditional materials with modern spirit, which resulted in comfortable and luxurious accommodation in brown, beige and pale blue palettes. With various amenities, great comfort and excellent location, this place is an excellent value for the money.

Excelsior Hotel

If you wish to vine and dine in one of the most affluent parts of the New York City, than your ultimate choice must be The Excelsior Hotel. Situated on the 81st Street, this hotel overlooks Central Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Also, the hotel is right next to the main city attractions, like American Museum of Natural History and the New Rose Space Center, as well as other popular museums and exiting happenings. The Excelsior Upper West Side Hotel is a restored landmark building, which offers comfortable and spacious rooms in a traditional decor. This place is ideal for businesses meetings and special events.

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Broadway Plaza Hotel

Once upon a time, at the place where the very first public Kinetoscope was standing, at the 1155 Broadway, today is located Broadway Plaza Hotel. Opened in 1894, this magnificent hotel is at the center of Manhattan, and plays a big part of conception of the modern cinema. Although, now fully modernized hotel has been remodeled in 2013, upper facade of Broadway Plaza Hotel still possesses a glimpse of Edison’s time. From the extraordinary accommodation, to the first-class services and amenities, the entire experience will give you a special feeling and leave you with great memories of your stay.

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Mark Hotel

If you desire the royal treatment, or would like to feel like a celebrity during your stay in New York City, The Mark hotel can accommodate all of your fancy expectations. This luxury five-star hotel will take your breath away. The rooms and suites have a classic comfort feel in combination with the avant-garde design, equipped with all the new age appliances. If you book one of their romantic packages for two, a bouquet of roses, a bottle of Champagne, and an artisan cheese and fruit platter will be waiting for you to complement the romantic atmosphere. This winter, The Mark hotel offers a 20% off for two guests, for two nights or more. For lovers of art, The Mark hotel has a surprise in store, so that even a visit to museums is not an ordinary experience. The hotel provides private guided tours to museums of guest’s choice with other special art related surprises, which will complete guests’ experience of the New York City’s art scene. Those with the VIP access will have a chance to see special exhibits at MoMA, tours of popular artists’ studios, and exclusive visits to private galleries. The management at The Mark Hotel did not forget your health habits during your stay, so in their new Health and Fitness Kit all guests will receive a gift that is combined of sports equipment and spa/wellness treatment and services. With all this in mind, The Mark hotel is the ultimate choice for, not only luxurious and relaxing, but also for exiting and adventurous stay in New York City.

Empire Hotel

For those who prefer the Upper West Side of New York City, hospitality and refine service of the Empire Hotel will contribute to your Manhattan experience to the fullest. Warm earth colors and modern ambiance dominates this New York hotel. Among various luxury amenities in each room, there is premium bedding and designer toiletries available for your enjoyment. Their friendly staff will make sure that your stay will be very comfortable and relaxing experience. To explore everything that magic of New York City has to offer, such as popular and most visited touristic spots and attractions, you will not have to go far. Across the Empire Hotel is fully renovated Lincoln Center. Also, in the vicinity of only a few blocks away, guests can enjoy pleasant walks in Central Park and Columbus Circle. Enjoy your stay!

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Fabulous Hotels in Sarasota

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The Lido Beach Resort

Everything about this resort will take your breath away, from a beautiful white sand natural private beach to modern and comfortable accommodation, along with friendly staff and great service. The Lido Beach Resort is rated one of the top hotels in Sarasota. Any activity you choose in this hotel, such as relaxing and soaking in the sun on a 300-foot long white sand beach with magnificent views over horizon, sipping on tropical cocktails at their Tiki Bar, lounging around one of their year-round heated pools, or enjoying a fresh seafood delicatessen while having relaxing moments watching incredible sunsets at the Lido Grille, will be unforgettable experience. For those who like to stay fit and true to healthy habits during their vacation, the resort offers a 900-square-foot Fitness Center with top of the line equipment, and a beach volleyball. We are sure that one of their many great offers or packages for corporate events, weddings, honeymoons, dining packages, etc., will satisfy your expectations. The fact that this hotel is pet friendly, so you can freely enjoy company of your fury friend during your stay, is fantastic for many who like to travel with pets. The Lido Beach Resort is an exception to the rule, because for decent amount of money you too can enjoy a truly incredible vacation.

The Sandcastle Resort

If you want the ultimate tropical vacation, this hotel is a perfect place for everything one tropical destination can offer. Crystal clear warm water of The Gulf of Mexico, and white soft sand under your feet, can heal any body and soul. Just the name of the hotel, The Sandcastle Resort, remind us of magical moments on the beach, and your stay at this resort will fulfill all your expectations. Placed at the very center of all happenings in the City of Sarasota, The Sandcastle Resort offers and packages incorporate all elements of a fun holiday experience. Rooms and accommodation are inspired with authentic colors of Florida, and the Resort service and amenities will work toward your maximum satisfaction.

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The Gulf Beach Resort Motel

Fantastic location of this motel in wonderful Lido Beach in Sarasota will make any guest truly excited. Passionate travelers and lovers of photography can find inspiration in incredible sunsets, exotic birds and beach plants. As the first of all hotels/accommodations founded on Lido Key, The Gulf Beach Resort Motel was built in 1950. Renovated in 1970s, it has 49 units that are all unique. In its vicinity there are many local attractions that are worth visiting, like the 4th of July fireworks celebration and Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix Boat Races, Sarasota Ski-A-Rees, fine shopping and dining. Walk to St. Armands Circle, John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, fishing, hiking, swimming, golfing, playing tennis, enjoying Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Fiesta Fun Park and many more attractions that visitors can enjoy during their stay.

The Inn at Midtown

Whether you are on a business, romantic or family trip, The Inn at Midtown Tamiami Trail in Sarasota has everything you may need during your travels. Their comfortable rooms with two double beds or king size beds, offer everything for guests’ pleasant stay. Some of the amenities are high-speed WiFi access, cable TV with 90 most popular channels, a microwave oven and mini-fridge, in-room coffee maker with complimentary coffee and tea, iron/ironing board and much more for convenient and comfortable home away stay. The Inn is located near the main attractions in Sarasota, so visitors will always be at the center of happenings surrounded with all the excitement that Sarasota has to offer.

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7 of the World’s Most Beautiful Staircases

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 10, 2015.

Of all the reasons to travel the world, “to see a staircase” likely doesn’t show up on many lists. But it may be time to reconsider. The globe is dotted with remarkable staircases that are breathtaking to look at and exhilarating to climb, and each makes for a quality destination in its own right. Here are just seven of some of the world’s most trek-worthy staircases.

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1. 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, San Francisco

Truly a team effort, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps project is the result of collaboration among neighbors around the intersection of 16th and Moraga in San Francisco. Work on the 163 mosaic paneled stairs started in 2003 under the leadership of artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, and more than 500 neighbors contributed funds and/or labor to complete the project by August 2004. The stairs are now overseen by the San Francisco Parks Trust.

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2. Bueren Mountain, Belgium

Despite its name, Bueren Mountain is no mountain at all. Instead, it’s a 374-step staircase in Liège, Belgium that was built in 1881 as a pathway for soldiers. The stairs are named after Vincent de Bueren, a 15th century aristocrat who reportedly defended the city of Liège from an affront by the Duke of Burgundy. Those who make it to the top will reap their reward in the form of stunning views of the city and the Meuse River. The stairwell is also an hour’s drive from popular Brussels.

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3. Haiku Stairs, Hawaii

Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, the Haiku Stairs on the island of Oahu are beloved by thrill seekers despite the fact that it’s technically illegal to climb them (at least not without a permit and a $1 million insurance policy). Installed during World War II and deemed off limits in the 1980s, the 3,922 steps rise to the summit of Puu Keahikahoe, from which those who sneak to the top can gaze out over the Koolau mountain range. Sadly, a powerful storm damaged the stairs earlier this year—they’re now more treacherous than ever, and their fate (along with that of the interlopers who climb them) hangs in the balance.

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4. Moses Bridge Stairs, Netherlands

The Fort de Roovere, a 17th century Dutch fort surrounded by a moat, was originally classified as an island. But in recent years it found itself in need of an access bridge as part of a restoration project. In order to preserve as much of the island appearance as possible, an architectural firm designed the Moses Bridge Stairs, a “sunken” bridge that immerses pedestrians in the moat (without anybody getting wet). A dam sits at each end of the moat in order to ensure that water never spills onto the bridge.

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5. Santorini Stairway, Greece

Originallyn constructed in 1715 and renovated in 1930, the stairway was first built so that Santorini residents could climb to the summit of their island home. The stairway switchbacks from the sea to the city for a grand total of more than 4,000 feet (or 657 steps). A cable car was installed in 1979, but you’ll get a better workout if you walk (many tourists also choose to ride donkeys up or down). Rest your feet at any of Santorini’s budget-friendly hotels.

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6. Stairs Above the Sea, Spain

What better way to connect the small islet of Gaztelugatxe in Spanish Basque Country to the mainland than by creating a human-made bridge of stairs. More than 200 steps lead to a 10th century monastery on the upper portion of the islet, and those who traverse the rocky stairwell report feeling like they’re walking above the ocean (hence the staircase’s name). The church is closed in winter and the islet is packed with tourists in the summer, so the best time to visit is in the spring or fall.

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7. Traversiner Steg, Switzerland

It’s a bridge; it’s a stair; it’s a bridge-stair! The suspension bridge (also dubbed “The Bridge-Stair at Traversinertobel”) spans the length of the Traversinertobel gorge, connecting two different elevations on either side of the abyss. There’s a difference of around 72 feet between both sides, so those brave enough to ascend the staircase will get a workout in addition to an adrenaline rush. The staircase is only an hour and a half’s drive to Zurich, so travelers can grab a hotel to take in both urban culture and natural wonders in one short trip.

Tourists Are Flocking to Poland to See This Animal Migration

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 3, 2015.

Forget pierogis and historical architecture. Come to Poland for the birds.
Specifically, come for the white storks—more than 40,000 of them, or a whopping 25 percent of the world’s stork population—that flock to Poland each spring.

While the birds can be found throughout Poland between the months of April and August, many of them congregate near Zywkowo, the so-called “Stork Capital”. The tiny village near the Russian border is home to more storks than humans—25 people and 43 pairs of nesting white storks, to be exact. Together, the pairs comprise one of the nation’s biggest stork breeding colonies, reports the NYTimes. Their nests cover chimneys, rooftops, trees, and specially made platforms throughout the town.

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The birds migrate from southern Africa to Poland each year in order to breed among the country’s pastures, farmlands, and wetlands, and their arrival is thought to signal good fortune for anyone lucky enough to witness it. The storks start arriving near the end of March, lay eggs toward the end of April, and welcome hatchlings at the end of May. The infants start leaving the nest in July, and all of the storks depart the country sometime in August.

While it is the land that attracts the storks, it’s the storks that have attracted a burgeoning tourism industry in the area. Every year, up to 8,000 tourists flock to the Zywkowo region to observe the storks as they go about their daily lives amid the Polish countryside.

Both the birds and the tourists benefit from funding by the nonprofit Polish Society for the Protection of Birds, which has established an official “stork village” designed to encourage storks to return to the area. In collaboration with local residents, the nonprofit has dug ponds, built platforms sturdy enough to hold the birds’ nests, renovated local roofs so they can support nests, insulated electrical wires for the birds’ safety, conserved around 185 acres of land, and erected an observation tower for tourists. The society also employs a local caretaker who leads educational tours and manages a guesthouse for visiting travelers.

The initiative has proved so successful that it’s been used as a case study for developing stork tourism throughout the entire country. Already, stork villages have popped up elsewhere in Poland—including in Toprzyny, which is just a short walk or drive from Zywkowo.

All told, there are currently 13 official stork villages in Europe. But most stork aficionados agree that Poland makes for the most striking up-close encounters.

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Exploring the Region

Those who are serious about tracking the storks’ migration throughout northeast Poland will be rewarded via a trip that’s packed with history, gorgeous scenery, and remarkable wildlife.

Zywkowo is about a two hours’ drive from Gdansk, a historic seaport in north-central Poland. From Gdansk, it’s an easy trip to the Gothic city of Frombork, where Nicolaus Copernicus first hypothesized that the Earth rotates around the Sun.

From Gdansk or Frombork, head to Dwor Pentowo, another stork village located near the “white stork trail” in Podlaskie Province. The longest marked bike trail in the region, the nearly 250-mile trail links four national parks: Bialowieza (home to the largest herd of European bison), Biebrza, Narew, and Wigry. The village of Dwor Pentowo is also near the Masurian Lake District, which is home to more than 2,000 postglacial lakes. The district and each of the national parks are all worth a visit.

From Dwor Pentowo, it’s just over a two hours’ drive to the Poland capital city of Warsaw. The lively city stands in striking contrast to the quiet farmlands of rural Poland. Bursting with bars, restaurants, museums, and history, Warsaw makes for a pleasant return to civilization prior to flying home.

Pack Light and Stay Warm for Winter Trips

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 4, 2015.

With the winter months approaching, packing for a getaway might get a bit tricky. Going light is always ideal, but is it manageable if headed somewhere especially cold? Luckily enough, there are easy packing hacks to keep the load off while still packing the right gear. We’ve got six tips below to make the next suitcase stuffing a (warm) breeze!

Layer up. Who knew packing five huge wool sweaters wasn’t necessary? The best way to stay warm is to stick to lots of layering. Pack light tank tops (for women) or t-shirts (for guys) along with a few button downs or cardigans. Bonus points for packing long underwear or other types of thermal clothing—these will keep people just as warm, if not warmer, than lugging a huge puffy jacket around. For layering 101, especially if traveling for outdoor adventures, make sure to bring base layers that protect against moisture (think: synthetic fabrics), insulating layers to combat the cold (thin fleece or wool), and outer layers (like waterproof or insulated shells) to shield wind and rain.

Remember your head, hands, and feet. A lot of heat is lost through the head, hands, and feet, so it’s especially important to cover up those areas well. Lucky for us, hats, gloves, and socks don’t take too much space and are perfect options for stuffing in a carry-on. If exposed to especially cold temperatures, it’s important to wear two layers of gloves and socks: one thin, synthetic liner, and an insulated outer layer. Do this, and even Hotel de Glace will even feel warm.

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Choose compression! This trick is a trekker’s’ dream, especially if looking to do some winter hiking. Place the bulkiest items (think coats, thick pants) in compression packing bags. These gems reduce excess air and create more space for other clothes and shoes or allows you to downsize to a smaller bag. And for those frequent travelers reading this, you can checking the baggage and fees link on your Hipmunk flight search to make sure your bag’s in compliance with size standards.

Pack smart. Are three pairs of shoes really necessary? Think about what items are especially heavy (shoes, jackets) and stick to 1-2 of each at a maximum. Rolling instead of folding clothes in a suitcase also saves space. Just make sure to be careful if packing any clothes especially vulnerable to wrinkling; materials like wool and cotton are great for rolling, but collared shirts and nicer business attire should probably be folded. If clothes are folded, save them till’ the end to pack—it’s easier to close the bag with folded items on top.

Bring traveled-sized detergent! While packing light is important, clothes might still get dirty pretty quickly. One of our favorite tricks is to pack a travel-sized detergent to do laundry on-the-go. Simply soak dirty clothes in a sink for a few hours, ring them out, and leave them to dry. (Just make sure to time this so damp clothes aren’t stuffed back into a suitcase if heading to another destination the next day.) Many towns and hotels also have laundromats, so look this up ahead of time. It’s  also best to wear that shirt two or three times before giving it a wash. Unless it’s super smelly, nobody will really care!

Wear the heavy stuff. There’s no denying it: bringing some sort of heavy coat is a must. Instead of worrying about packing it, wear it on the plane, train, or automobile—if it gets warm, just take it off and stow it away.

These Mountain Museums Are Worth the Trek

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 5, 2015.

On the Austrian border of Italy, high in the mountains, sit six distinct museums. Together, the museums comprise the Messner Mountain Museum (MMM) experience—an homage to mountains and mountain culture situated at six remarkable sites located throughout South Tyrol and Belluno. For those daring enough to make the trek, each museum can be accessed by (appropriately) climbing the mountain on which it resides. We think you’ll agree that seeing these museums in person is worth the effort it takes to get to them.

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The Messner Mountain Museum Experience

The MMM is the brainchild of world renowned mountain climber Reinhold Messner. Now in his 70s, the climber has spent more than a decade developing the six museums, each of which embraces a different theme pertaining to mountains and/or mountain climbing.

The first museum opened in 1995, while the most recent museum opened to tourists in July 2015. Each of the museums features interdisciplinary exhibits that blend art and natural science while celebrating the surrounding scenery. Oh, and in case you were worried? They’re all accessible by car as well as by foot.

Here’s what you can expect from each locale:

Corones. Located on the summit plateau of Kronplatz mountain between the Puster and Gader Valleys, MMM Corones is all about the discipline of mountaineering. Through presentations of relics, written musings, and visual art, the museum explores 250 years of mountaineering history, highlights the perspectives of philosophers and pioneers of the sport, and explores alpinism’s modern equipment and traditions. The building itself offers striking views of the Dolomites and the Alps. The most recently constructed of all six of the museums, Messner swears it will be the last.
Dubbed.“The Museum in the Clouds,” the MMM Dolomites is all about celebrating rock and the vertical worlds it creates. Located on a mountaintop plateau on Monte Rite, the museum boasts 360-degree panorama views of some of the Dolomites’ most stunning mountains, including Monte Schiara, Monte Civetta, and Monte Pelmo. The museum’s displays illustrate humans’ first attempts to ascend the Dolomites and feature historical and contemporary paintings of the mountains.
Firmian. The centerpiece of the MMM experience, MMM Firmian explores humanity’s relationship with the mountains through art, installations, and relics. Set between the peaks of the Schlern and Texel mountain ranges, the museum is located in the historic (and refurbished) Sigmundskron Castle, which overlooks the Etsch and Eisack rivers.
Juval. The first of the MMM museums, MMM Juval is devoted to the “magic of the mountain.” To that end, the museum features fine art collections devoted to showcasing mountains in all their splendor, including a gallery of paintings of the world’s holiest mountains and a collection of masks from five continents. The museum—which is located in the historic Juval Castle in Vinschgau—also includes a mountain zoo, home-grown produce, and a selection of fine wines.
Ortles. At MMM Ortles, it’s all about the ice. Located in an underground structure in Sulden am Ortler, the museum’s exhibits are devoted to exploring “the end of the world” through themes of skiing, ice climbing, and expedition to the poles. The museum explores the evolution of ice climbing gear over the last two centuries, educates visitors about the power of avalanches, and features artwork depicting ice in all its terror and beauty.
Ripa. The heritage of people who live in the mountains is on display at MMM Ripa, which is located in historic Bruneck Castle on a hillside in South Tyrol’s Puster Valley. The museum celebrates the cultures, religions, dwellings, and daily lives of mountain cultures from Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. Ripa is surrounded by mountain farms and boasts views of the Ahrn Valley and the Zillertal Alps.

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A visit to any or all of these museums will entertain mountain lovers and curious tourists alike. Visitors can purchase tickets to each museum individually or buy a tour ticket that includes entry to all six museums. If traveling by car, you’ll be able to visit all six of the museums over the course of three or four days with a hotel stay in between. If you want to hike to each of the museums, you’ll need to plan a longer trip. None of the hikes are shorter than two hours, while climbing to MMM Corones will take upwards of 6.5 hours and hiking up to MMM Ortles will take around 12.5 hours over the course of two days. The energy and time you devote to the climbs will be rewarded in the form of some of the most beautiful scenery around.

If you’re already in Italy, it’s also worth driving the three hours to the cities of Milano or Bologna, both which offer a whole different kind of cultural experience (think fashion, food, and gorgeous architecture everywhere you look). As its combination of striking natural beauty and urban culture proves, Italy should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

The Ultimate Guide to Tipping in the U.S. for Food, Travel, and Hospitality

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on November 30, 2015.

The conversation about tipping in the U.S. has been in the news more than ever recently, with stories of miserly and generous restaurant patrons alike taking stands on the subject. The restaurant industry is beginning to experiment with alternative tipping, revenue, and pricing models in an effort to iron out many of the wrinkles in an industry where a living wage often depends on the non-requisite kindness of strangers. And for travelers, the tipping question goes well beyond restaurants. In the U.S. industries including transportation and hospitality also rely on tipping to various degrees, so it’s worth a deeper dive into how tips make a difference to the people working to make your stay, travel, or meal that much better.

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Transportation

Taxi drivers who work for a taxi company (as opposed to owning their own vehicle) take home, on average, 33% of their total shift fares. This often works out to $8-$9 an hour after 12-hour shifts filled with stresses like urban traffic, rude/drunk patrons, and minimal bathroom breaks. Acceptable tips for cabbies can start around 10% (or a $1 minimum), but typically range upwards of 30%, depending on a number of factors: efficiency, safety, cleanliness, friendliness, traffic, destination, etc. Around 15% is standard, though most people tip 20 – 25% (in NYC anyway). If the driver help with bags, add an additional $1 – $2 per item is customary, especially if they’re heavy.

Much like the food-service industry, a valet’s base-pay is minimal and assumes tips will compensate. As valets are in charge of making sure the second-most expensive thing most people own (after a house) is navigated cleanly through tight spaces, the pressure is on for them to perform, and they should be tipped accordingly. Around $2 – $5 is standard, and the money should change hands when the vehicle is (safely) delivered. Many people choose to tip when dropping the car off as well to ensure quality service, though it’s not necessary. If there is a flat parking/valet fee, tips are still still expected.

Hospitality

Hotels employ in a wide range of rolls, many of whom are paid around the state’s minimum wage. Bellhops make, on average, $8.73 an hour, with a porter’s hourly wage leaning only slightly better. A standard $1 – $2 tip for each bag every time a bag is handled may not seem like a lot, but it adds up day-to-day. Add in an extra dollar or two if bags are heavy, and a $5 minimum is a good idea if they also escort you to your room. This generally applies to anyone who handles your luggage anywhere, be it a cab, a train, a hotel, or a cruise ship. If someone calls you a cab, another dollar or two is in order. They appreciate it!

The concierge exists solely to serve guests’ special requests. Their base pay isn’t much more than a porter’s, but the standard tipping range compensates them for their unique set of skills. No need to tip if you only get directions from them, but the more difficult the task, and the more time it takes (e.g. securing tickets to a sold-out Broadway show), the more they should be compensated. Tips for the concierge typically run $5 – $20.

Housekeeping, while they don’t often interact with hotel patrons, ensure a spick-and-span experience. Try and tip $2 – $3 per night, left daily in an obvious place. If your room is host to more than three people, or you make more than three-people’s worth of a mess, add a dollar or two for the extra effort. A brief thank-you note clears up any confusion as to if the money was left on accident, and it may make someone’s day a little brighter.

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Food Service

As the industry currently stands, server hourly pay is usually well below minimum wage, in some states as low as $2.13 an hour. It is assumed tips will bring their wage up to a liveable minimum. The front-of-house staff (whom patrons interact with) often pool and evenly distribute their tips, but the kitchen staff rarely receives anything more than their base-pay. The system is imperfect, but restaurant owners are beginning to find more equitable ways to pay front-of-house and kitchen staff alike (though these systems aren’t without their controversies). Until the system is changed, and unless you’re eating in one of the few establishments trying out a new model, you should be tipping your server a minimum of 15%. If the service is exceptionally bad, and you are positive it’s the servers fault, speak to the manager before you get stingy.

A bartenders hourly base-pay is generally better than their table-serving counterparts, but a large portion of their take-home pay (which is likely underreported, and therefore difficult to track) comes down to tips. If all they do is transfer a beverage from a container to your glass (e.g. from a bottle or a tap), $1 per drink is standard. If the drink is a little more complicated, start at $2, and depending on how cute and/or chatty they are, tip to your heart’s content.

Tipping may be a controversial subject, but basic human decency is something we should all be able to agree on. If you’re in the mood to travel, you can find your hotel on Hipmunk and spread the wealth wherever you go!

How Servants, Stagecoaches, and Airplanes Helped Shape Your Suitcase

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 3, 2015.

From the earliest days of venturing outside one’s homeland, to the digital age and spur-of-the-moment vacations, travelers have had the same question: What do I pack, and what do I pack it in?

As early travelers crossed oceans in masted ships and walked unpaved roads over mountain ranges, they required sturdy, protective trunks of heavy wood, leather, and metal. In fact, the first wheeled luggage appeared around the 12th century, when Crusaders to Palestine used wheeled containers to carry weapons — though it wouldn’t fully catch on until more than 800 years later.

The term “luggage” likely originated around 1596, though the modern suitcase as we know it only began to take shape after 1800. (Duffle bags developed earlier, with the first iterations appearing on Spanish and Portuguese ships in the 17th century.) Travelers on steam ships and stagecoaches opted for large, sturdy trunks. Oftentimes, cases were waterproofed with tree sap, strong enough to withstand inclement weather and rough roads for weeks — if not months — on end. To contain the trappings and trimmings of high society, trunks were often outfitted with inner sleeves and structured compartments to maintain shirts, jackets, hats, and suits (hence the term “suitcase”). In some cases, the weight and bulk of these containers mattered little for the people whose belongings they carried; wealthy travelers relied on servants to accompany them and maintain luggage while on the road, ocean, or river.

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By the mid-1800s, familiar names began emerging as noted trunk and suitcase manufacturers. Louis Vitton opened his Asnières workshop in 1859, where he began manufacturing flat-top trunks convenient for stacking with other luggage and parcels on crowded trains. (In contrast, many of the fashionable travel containers of the day featured round or ornate tops.)

Technological advances around the turn of the 20th century opened transport to the masses, and as the costs of travel dropped, the nature of luggage continued to evolve. Though still cumbersome by today’s standards, trunks began shrinking as more people journeyed while packing less (and traveling alone). These suitcases largely consisted of thick cloth, wicker, or leather stretched over a rigid frame.

A generation after the steamer trunk, handheld luggage became a new symbol of adventure and discovery. The advent of mass air travel meant waterproofing became less of a priority while sizing gained greater importance. Getting from security to gate and back became a new challenge for air travelers, and in the 1960s, wheeled carts for strapping together luggage were commonplace. In 1972, Bernard Sadow patented a four-wheeled suitcase that could be touted through airports and up and down airplane aisles.

The development of new plastics, metal alloys, and durable textiles meant luggage became increasingly lighter as the 20th century wore on, and clasps and buckles were gradually replaced by easy-access zippers. In 1987, Northwest Airlines pilot Robert Plath invented the Rollaboard, the prototype for the two wheeled, long-handled suitcase many travelers use today. The telescoping, collapsible handle was introduced shortly thereafter.

In the late 2000s, many airlines began doing away with free checked bags, prompting manufacturers to produce lighter, compact carry-ons that can hold up to  a week’s worth of necessities; many today include special pockets for laptops, tablets, and headphones. The one part of luggage’s history that should be erased? Fees. Thankfully you can see what your airline allows (or not) when your booking your flight and frequent flier programs often allow you to check your first bag free. Let’s keep those types of changes…rolling.

Why Airports Around the Country Are Preparing to Go Mobile

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 9, 2015.

It’s the hippest trend in airport fashion: going mobile via airport-specific apps or mobile-optimized websites.

Already, many of the United States’ larger airports—including Dallas Fort Worth International, Des Moines International, Pittsburgh International, and San Francisco International—have begun providing travelers with mobile content via native apps or mobile-optimized websites, while many other U.S. airports plan to follow suit.

Meanwhile, a survey by air transport communications company SITA found that 91 percent of airports around the world are planning to develop an app that helps passengers navigate terminals, while another 83 percent plan to use a mobile app to share real-time updates for local traffic and airport wait times.

Why all the clamor for mobile content? It turns out going mobile can benefit both the airports themselves and the travelers who pass through them. Here’s what this trend means for you.

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For the Benefit of the Traveler
As travelers continue to adopt mobile technologies, they expect more from the customer experience in virtually all aspects of travel, particularly in the form of native apps and mobile optimized websites—and this is certainly true of the airport. Around 77 percent of frequent business travelers and 67 percent of all passengers report toting along smartphones every time they fly, while 51 percent of business travelers with smartphones report using their phones to check their flight status. As more and more travelers adopt mobile technologies, the demand for personalized, up-to-date, and mobile-friendly communications will only continue to grow.

While airlines and trip planning sites have taken the lead on developing travel-specific apps and allowing travelers to book tickets, file complaints, and receive updates via mobile technologies like smartphones and tablets, airports are now starting to take notice.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, for example, has introduced more than 40 mobile apps in the past two years alone, reports USA Today. The airport (the world’s fourth busiest) has made it a priority to streamline the traveler experience by developing apps that allow users to do everything from finding out which parking garages are full to navigating the airport terminals via mobile maps, accessing or changing flight information, locating the nearest airport shops or cafés, and determining wait times for food lines within the airport.

San Francisco International Airport has adopted a similar approach to mobile communications by thinking about how mobile tech can ease the travel experience. In July of last year, the airport launched an app that makes it easier for visually impaired travelers to navigate the terminals by providing audio directions, and it plans to expand these services to a wider range of travelers.

Other mobile initiatives at airports around the world include real-time flight information (including notifications about arrivals, departures, delays, cancellations, gates, and baggage), calendar integration, destination weather forecasts, information regarding ground transportation and hotels, airline contact information, and the option to interact with and save mobile-friendly travel itineraries.

All told, the goal is to minimize the stresses of travel and make the process of navigating the airport more pleasant for all travelers (and that’s good news for anyone who’s worried about making it through security or finding their gate). So far, it seems like this approach is working: Airports that have utilized mobile-optimized websites and native apps are already seeing improvements in customer satisfaction.

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For the Benefit of the Airport

Of course, the impetus for airports to go mobile isn’t purely philanthropic. Airports that utilize mobile technologies enjoy a competitive advantage over their non-mobile counterparts as they earn reputations for ease of travel. Mobile content also promises to reduce airports’ customer service costs as travelers help themselves instead of needing to be helped (Self-service check in and bag tagging are prime examples).

Going mobile also allows airports to operate more efficiently at all levels, as employee-specific apps can empower airport workers to perform their jobs more quickly and effectively. Case in point: At Dallas Fort Worth International, developing apps for employees to use on the job has resulted in over 43,000 previously manual functions being completed electronically (yes, 43 thousand).

These apps can assist workers in performing a wide variety of tasks ranging from issuing repair tickets, to inputting reports during airfield inspections, to creating work orders for problems that need to be addressed. They also make it easier for employees to communicate with each other and respond to issues—such as a broken luggage conveyor belt or a bathroom spill—in real time.

Even these airport-specific benefits can extend to travelers. If airports are operating more efficiently and issues are dealt with more promptly, that’s good news for the millions of people who pass through airports on a daily basis. All told, the increasing mobilization of airports should spell good news for the world’s travelers.

 

Exploring Amsterdam’s Undiscovered North

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 10, 2015.

Once overlooked by travelers, the borough of Amsterdam Noord has developed into a thriving artistic community, a spot for dance and music festivals, and an escape from Amsterdam’s chaotic and touristy center.

The borough was once the industrial site of one of Europe’s largest shipyards. From 1922 until 1984 — when the Nederlandsche Dock Company went bankrupt — supertanker, cargo, and passenger ships were meticulously built and carefully launched into the IJ Lake to sail around the world. After a quick flight, visitors can explore the repurposed buildings and forests for an eclectic Amsterdam experience many tourists haven’t yet seen.

Getting There

The borough is only a short free ferry away on the opposite side of the IJ Lake, directly behind Amsterdam Central Station. Five ferries, with three directly behind the station, transport commuters to different parts of the borough 24 hours a day. Trip times range from three to 15 minutes. As bikes are allowed on the ferry, rent one from one of three bike rentals near Central Station: Mac Bike, Star Bikes, and Amsterbike. Or, rent one once in Amsterdam Noord from Velox Classic Bikes, which is near the drop off port of the Buiksloterwegveer-bound ferry. By car, take the IJ tunnel to the east of the station to cross the lake.

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Eye Film Institute

Amsterdam Noord’s architecturally impressive Eye Film Institute, designed by the Viennese Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, is a short walk from the Buiksloterwegveer ferry stop. The Institute is a play on words, as “Eye” is also the pronunciation of the IJ Lake. The institute features an impressive archive of 37,000, 700,000 photographs, 60,000 posters, and 20,000 books. Part of the collection was previously housed in the now defunct Filmmuseum in Vondel Park until 2012, when the Eye opened. The Institute regularly screens Dutch and foreign films and holds exhibitions. Patrons may also enjoy a coffee or meal and the views of the IJ harbor at the institute’s restaurant. After exiting the Eye, stroll or bike through Oeverpark just outside the museum.

Noorderpark

A half hour walk from the Buiksloterwegveer ferry stop lies Noorderpark, a beautiful combination of two older parks (Flora and Volewijks parks) that were merged in 2014. It’s nearly the same size as Vondel Park (45 hectares or 111 acres) making it a good distance to cycle, walk, and picnic. Noorderpark is split by the lovely North Holland Canal.

Vliegen Forrest

Want to get closer to Mother Nature? Cycle east of Noorderpark where Leeuwarderweg merges into Meeuwenlann to reach W.H. Vliegenbos, a forest named after 20th century journalist and social democrat Willem H. Vliegen. Or take the Zamenhofstraat-bound ferry from Azartplein (Azart Plaza), on the peninsula housing Java and KNSM islands in the East Borough of Amsterdam. The forest is a 15 minute walk from the ferry and features a campsite spanning 25 hectares (61 acres), and it includes space for caravans, campervans, or tents, along with a hotel and cabins for rent.

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Cultural Hubs

Looking for a post-industrial experience? Near the ferry resides the trendy yet laid back IJ Kantine (IJ Canteen) with reasonably priced soups and sandwiches and pristine views of the IJ Harbor. Like many of the buildings in the borough, the IJ Kantine’s building, previously called the Baanderij, has a rich shipbuilding history. It served as an office, assembly hall, and canteen when the wharf was in full swing. Now it’s a favorite for creatives to work and organize brainstorming sessions in the dining area or in one of two boardrooms available for rent. The kantine also holds exhibitions, live music and craft nights.

Just southeast lies Pllek, a self-described creative hangout, offering a multitude of activities from yoga to dancing to circus to sex classes. In Amsterdam, not many subjects are taboo. In the summer, an artificial beach provides a spot for dancing and sunbathing. The center also boasts organic and sustainable food with seasonal vegetables sourced locally whenever possible.

Where to Stay

The DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Amsterdam is near the NDSM ferry stop, making it a convenient and luxurious stay. For a more atypical experience, stay at the Amstel Botel, a floating hotel moored near the NDSM ferry. As Amsterdam Noord is easy to get to from Central Amsterdam, staying at the NH Amsterdam Barbizon Palace allows for quick access to Amsterdam Noord as well as the rest of the city. Amsterdam is a small city with a big-city feel, so make a day trip out of Amsterdam Noord or commute to the center. Either way, make sure to rent a bike for the most convenient and efficient experience.