All posts by kellysoderlund

Carry On with Bravo TV’s Tour Group Host Brandon Presser

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on March 4, 2016 by .

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As a travel expert, TV host, and writer, Brandon Presser is no stranger to life on the go. Presser, who has visited more than 100 countries, has penned over 50 travel books, and is a regular contributor for such publications as Afar, Travel + Leisure, The Daily Beast, and National Geographic Traveler. And while he may be well known in the travel industry, he’s about to experience a whole new level of recognition: Presser is the lead host of Bravo TV’s new travel-based reality show, “Tour Group“, which tags along as 11 travelers search for the ultimate vacation. (10 p.m. EST/PST on Bravo.)  We got Presser to stay in one place long enough to give us his best travel advice, his favorite places to go, and the items he can’t leave home without. 

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Hipmunk: So, tell us. What’s in your carry-on?

Brandon Presser: A dopp kit with some small essentials like eye drops, moisturizer, a travel toothbrush, Advil, and Ursa Major face towelettes; a small pouch with some lucky charms (a few pebbles I’ve collected from different beaches around the world–I’m a little superstitious!); a good book (that I never finish); an iPad fully loaded with some of my favorite movies; Bose headphones; and Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Granola Bars.

H: Carry on bag of choice? 

BP: If I’m hauling some serious carry-on luggage and want the flexibility of bringing more things home, I go for the Dakine Over Under bag, which can grow and shrink in size. For quick trips I’m obsessed with Fjallraven’s safari duffle.

H: How often do you travel?

BP: I’ll travel through roughly 15 countries a year, which has me on one or two large trips a month. Last year’s highlights included everything from Tahiti to Portugal, and leading 11 strangers on a world tour through Africa and Asia while making “Tour Group.”

H: First, business class or coach?

BP: Each travel project I work on has different travel parameters–sometimes I’m in coach, other times I’m in first. I can tell you that it’s super hard to do a long-haul flight at the back of the plane after being treated to the flat beds up front.

H: Ok, now that we’re warmed up, let’s play a game of favorites. Favorite city to visit for work? Why?

BP: Tokyo is the best canvas for my work–whether it’s researching and writing articles and guidebooks or leading travelers through the incredible neighborhoods. The city is an endless well of oddities and curious fads. (Read Brendon’s articles on Tokyo’s oddities and fads here and here, respectively).

H: Favorite city for play? Why?

BP: Luckily, my work life and play life are closely intertwined. And Tokyo never stops inspiring me to get out there and explore with its thousands of cool restaurants, bars, shops and public spaces.

H: Favorite hotels?

BP: I’ve stayed in more than 2,500 hotels worldwide, so this is definitely a tricky one to answer. In the last 12 months some of my hotel highlights have included: Four Seasons Bora Bora, Twin Farms in Vermont, and Roch Castle in Wales.

H: Favorite airline? Airport? Airport Terminal?

BP: I’m really loving JetBlue’s newest aircrafts right now–the entertainment system is bigger and better than ever, the coach seats really aren’t bad, and there’s an endless supply of snacks. Portland’s PDX wins domestically for making a promise to its traveler to not price gauge on snacks and supplies. And Hong Kong wins internationally for Cathay Pacific’s awesome business class lounge with delicious food and state-of-the-art shower facilities.

H: Any travel tips before you take off?

BP: Change your place; change your luck.

Follow Brandon:

Website: brandonpresser.com

Twitter: @bpnomad

Instagram: brandpress

Hipmunk’s Guide to Landing the Lowest Summer Airfare

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on April 12, 2016 by .

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Gas prices are down, the temperature is heating up, and travelers are inevitably looking to take advantage of both this summer.

In fact, with all the sunny news about oil prices you may be itching to plan an escape of your own. But summer is three whole months long, airfare is usually priced at a premium, and there tends to be a lot of confusion for travelers around the optimal purchase date to obtain the best deal. Indeed, the most asked travel advice question posed to Hipmunk Navigators concerns the best time to purchase a ticket.

As of March 31, 2016, overall domestic summer airfare (flights departing and returning during June, July, or August), is down from a median price of $330 to $286.

Similarly, flights from the US to major European countries – Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Austria and Ireland – follow the same trend: travelers this summer are paying about 15 percent less than last year, from a median price of $1331 to $1129.

And those savings seem to translate into a higher proportion of people planning longer getaways: In 2015, 46 percent of summer vacations that involved flights lasted four days or fewer, while just 33 percent lasted between seven and 10 days.

In 2016, however, 40 percent are four days or fewer, while 38 percent are between seven and 10 days, indicating a shift towards longer vacations.

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To ensure that the hardest decision you’ll have to make this summer season is which umbrella drink you’ll order, Hipmunk analyzed its historical booking data to find the best time to buy summer flights on a monthly and holiday basis. Further, you can find an an interactive guide to summer airfare that show the best times to book flights book flights from the top US cities to trending destinations for summer 2016, as well as Memorial Day, Labor Day and July 4th here.

Let’s dive in.

When to Buy: Summer Holiday

An analysis of Hipmunk’s historical data found that flights booked at least five to seven weeks in advance of major summer holidays—Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day—generally lock in better airfares.

Memorial Day: 5 weeks prior
The kick-off summer holiday weekend is also the second most popular travel time of the season and flight prices rise rapidly. The optimal time to buy according to historical data is five weeks prior to the holiday. (31 percent less than the week-of high.)

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Fourth of July: 6 weeks prior
The most popular time to travel during the summer season is the week leading up to the July 4th holiday. To avoid steep price hikes, it’s best to book six weeks prior. (21 percent less than the week-of high.)

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Labor Day: 7 weeks prior
The unofficial end of the summer also has the longest lead time. A safe bet is to purchase tickets towards the end of July when prices are their lowest—about seven weeks before the holiday weekend. However, if your plans are up in the air, you might be able to secure that same price up to three weeks in advance. (60 percent less than the week-of high.)

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When to Buy: Vacation Month

If your dates are more flexible and you’re trying to decide when to buy tickets to score the lowest prices for a particular month, our data showed that there were two times when travelers could optimize their purchasing power: two months before the beginning of summer or five to seven weeks prior to their departure month, with a vacation in August needing the least amount of lead time and a vacation in July the most.

June: Now, or mid-May

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July: Now, or the first week of June

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August: Next week, or the last week of July

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Now that you know the best times to buy for your summer vacation, it’s time to start planning. Try Hello Hipmunk, your free personal travel agent, to get flight and hotel recommendations straight to your inbox.

METHODOLOGY
Hipmunk analyzed its historical roundtrip airfare data from the top 30 US airports to determine the best times to purchase airfare.

To compare summer 2016 airfares and vacation lengths to those in summer 2015: Hipmunk calculated the median weekly round-trip flight prices for all flights booked during the first week of Jan 2015 through the last week of March 2015 for flights that departed and returned between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as well as the number of days of trip length for those flights, from the top 30 US airports (flight prices were included the week in which the flight departed). Hipmunk performed calculations with the same criteria for 2016 flights, and compared the results.

To find the best times to buy for lowest airfares: Hipmunk calculated the median weekly round-trip flight price from the top 30 US airports, for flights booked from the first week of April 2015 to the last week of August 2015 .

Hipmunk considered a flight for a holiday weekend one that departs up to three days prior to a holiday and returns up to two days after.