Nothing beats the thrill of traveling – the excitement that comes when you’re packed, passport in hand, ready to explore a new country or return to a favorite city. As fun as the adventure is, the act of travel can be daunting, especially at the airport. From long lines to strict TSA agents to finding a reliable Wi-Fi signal, there are countless ways your new trip buzz can be stifled before you board the plane. To keep your trip running smoothly, here are some expert flying hacks that work.
Most airlines offer lounge access to top fliers; however, you don’t have to be George Clooney in Up in the Air to enter one. Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum also give members exclusive lounge access simply by owning the card. You can also pay to enter many of the airline lounges for the day for approximately $50. Not a bad price if you have several hours to kill.
Find the Best Seats before You Buy
You can avoid being assigned the dreaded middle seat before you buy your ticket. Simply scour sites like Seat Guru, which let you pick out the best seats on available flights before you buy. Or at least choose your seat on the airline’s site before you finalize the booking. Travel agent tip: if your prefer not to sit next to small children, choose to sit next to a passengers who appears to be flying solo, which is typically easy to figure out on a real-time seating chart.
Go Left…or Right, Depending on the Country
As you’re going through security and you arrive at the screening zone, pick the lines to the left. These are typically shorter, in the United States at least, partially because American’s drive on the right-hand side of the road and tend to maneuver in that direction. Inversely, aim right in England, Ireland and Australia.
Breakfast is Served
Bring a bag of instant oatmeal in your carry-on, along with your favorite toppings, be it diced fruit or brown sugar packets. When the beverage cart is pushed down the aisle, simply ask for a paper cup, some hot water and voilà—you have a healthy snack.
Pre-order Your Lunch or Dinner
If you’re stuck in a long security lines that seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, and you’re worried you won’t have enough time to grab a solid meal before your flight, worry no more. With the Grab app, you can pre-order a meal anywhere in the airport—if your airport is one of the 40 it currently supports. You can search restaurants that are near your gate, order and pay through your phone, and your meal will be ready when you arrive.
A storied river with a history that dates back to the origins of the planet, the Nile has always been shrouded in mystery and enchantment. Weaving through some of Africa’s most intriguing countries, it was once the only way people could traverse the continent’s incredibly varied landscapes. The best way to soak up the Nile’s considerable charm and history is on a river cruise, where you can explore ancient landscapes that have changed little since pharaohs ruled, along with these tantalizing sights:
Giza’s Pyramids and Sphinx
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the only remaining representative on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World list, and when you stand next to it, you’ll understand why. A sun-baked beast of rising stone, it towers over you and across the land, showing all who gaze upon it who, exactly, is the king. Khufu, along with sister structures Khafre, Menkaure and the Great Sphynx, sits on the west bank of the Nile, approximately 13 miles southwest of Cairo. River cruises often offer VIP and tailored excursions into these incredible pyramids, giving you a chance to peruse the 160,000 artifacts and the tombs inside without standing in lines.
Some visitors skip Cairo and head straight to the pyramids. However, the city is full of incredible sights, and a Nile river cruise often gives you a few hours of exploration time before heading out. Either join a guided tour or head out on your own to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, home to a huge collection of artifacts and the famous gallery displaying the riches of King Tutankhamen; or to the colorful outdoor souk Khan el-Khalili to buy fresh spices, essential oils and vibrant fabrics.
The stunning temple of Luxor, which dates back to 1,400 BCE, is one of the most expansive complexes in Africa and is clearly visible from the east bank of the Nile. Once home to a popular religious festival, the temple now sits serenely in well-kept beauty, with its pink granite obelisk, large courtyards, immense statues and shrines. Touted as the largest open air museum in the world, you often can find yourself alone as you walk around the vast complex, giving your tour an intimate feel.
Edfu & Aswan
How else but on a docked river cruise can you ride into the historic Temple of Horus on a horse-drawn carriage? A tribute to the falcon god, this soaring edifice is well preserved since it was built relatively recently, in Egyptian standards, during the Ptolemaic Dynasty between 237 and 52 BCE. Afterwards, your boat will take you to Kom Ombo, home to the double temple dedicated to the sky god Haroeris and the crocodile god Sobek, a protective deity thought to have created the world. Many cruises here also take you to Aswan to attend a Nubian party, which often features time-honored dances and the traditional live music.
For a more adventurous river cruise, book one that starts in Jinja, Uganda, which is where the Nile is thought to originate. Here you’ll have the chance to disembark for the day, hop on a river raft and paddle vigorously down the river’s roaring Class V rapids. Challenging and adrenaline-pumping, these rapids are flanked by thick brush that often hides unique wildlife. End your wild adventure with a leisurely two-hour sunset river boat cruise on the Nile, cold beer in hand, as the staff serves you freshly barbecued meats, pâté and bruschetta.
Boasting famous homes, quirky bookstores or art paying homage to great writers, these U.S. cities offer the most to do and see for unapologetic bibliophiles.
Austin: Austin may be the land of music and BBQ, but it’s also home to one of the largest collections of literary and visual arts. The Harry Ransom Center has worked tirelessly to preserve over 36 million manuscripts, one million rare books and five million photographs. Here, you’ll find manuscripts from all of the greats – including the Cardigan manuscript of Canterbury Tales, along with original works by William Shakespeare and James Joyce. Austin also hosts ever-popular Texas Book Festival every November, which unites literature enthusiasts worldwide.
San Francisco: Beyond the barking sea lions and the famed street cars, San Francisco was also the home to seminal writers like Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, Robert Frost, Philip K. Dick and Mark Twain. After exploring such sights as the Robert Louis Stevenson Monument, Robert Frost Plaza and Jack Kerouac Alley, head to City Lights, a historic institution founded in 1953 by Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin.
Boston: Boston has been known as “The Athens of America,” thanks largely in part to the illustrious writers who once called it home. You’ll see for yourself on a literary tour, which will take you to the homes and haunts of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Charles Dickens. Boston is so proud of their book-loving heritage, they became the first city in America to have an official Literary Cultural District, which includes unique bookstores, inspired sculptures and even the birthplace of Curious George.
Iowa City: Iowa City just might be one of the most important literary locales in the country. Home to the world-renown University of Iowa, consistently named the best school for creative writing, this college town bursts at the scene with literary importance. You’ll see why the town carries a highly coveted UNESCO City of Literature stamp on a Lit Walk, which celebrates the works of 49 writers with ties to Iowa through bronze relief panels and other works of art.
Some people assume cruising is only for couples, families or large groups. But the fact is, single cruising is actually more fun that you think, because cruise ships are giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a loaded Kindle—you can easily do it onboard a cruise ship, all while visiting several countries and cultures.
If you’re thinking of embarking solo, keeps these tips in mind to ensure your voyage is fun.
Choose the Right Ship
Contrary to popular belief, there’s a right and a wrong ship for just about everyone. Some people prefer the larger ships—where there’s more onboard activities, and it’s easier to blend in with the crowd. Other solo journeyers may opt for something a little more intimate, like a boutique cruise ship or river cruise, to mingle with fellow guests and make new lifelong connections.
Make Friends with the Staff
This is a universal rule for any type of cruiser, but it becomes imperative when you’re sailing alone. The staff can become go-to confidants when it comes to choosing seat mates at dinner, signing up for excursions and choosing the most fun nightlife options. Plus, they often know the best places in each destination to go out, giving you a great option when exploring the local nightlife. Ask them about special singles get togethers on-board, either arranged by staff or informal ones.
Sign up for Excursions
The best ways to throw yourself into a new friendship is by signing up for the ship’s excursions. These portside adventures break interested parties into manageable groups of 10 – 50 passengers who all share the common interest of the excursion, be it a nature hike or catamaran cruise. Small groups plus common interests creates easy and fun conversations.
Participate in Onboard Activities
Show the world how fun you are by singing karaoke during talent night or taking part in a poolside contest. Being front and center can be a lifesaver if you’re trying to make friends. Plus, getting on stage will put you in the good graces of the staff and will make it much easier for other passengers to recognize you later to chat.
Let us Help You Save
In the past, solo cruisers were required to pay a "single supplement" that can almost double the cost of the fare. Now there are ways for solo travelers to avoid the single supplement, including booking a stateroom designed for single occupancy or cruising on specific departures where the single supplement has been decreased or even waived altogether. Let us match your cruise interests with departures offering solo traveler savings.
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