Monthly Archives: June 2016

Tips to Score Free Flights

The airline miles game has changed. Here’s what you need to know.

If you think frequent-flier programs are too complicated to figure out, you’re not alone. A study in June by the U.S. Department of Transportation found the programs so byzantine that even its own analysts had trouble evaluating them.

And recent changes haven’t exactly helped travelers. In August, American Airlines joined fellow “legacy” carriers United and Delta in rewarding passengers for dollars spent, not miles flown; Southwest and JetBlue have similar systems.

The shift makes it much harder for casual fliers to rack up miles. Take a JFK–LAX roundtrip: Until recently, it would have earned a non-elite flier 4,950 miles. Under the new rules, on a typical $500 fare, including $60 in taxes, you’ll get only 2,200 miles for the same trip.

Scoring freebies now takes more strategic thinking, both in accumulating mileage and cashing in. Use these tips to get the best payoff.

Skip the upgrades

Redeeming points for upgrades used to be a good deal, but the math has changed. “Airlines have been adding co-pays to a lot of upgrades,” says Ben Schlappig of PointsPros.com; those can run up to $500. And some carriers don’t let you upgrade with miles if you’ve bought the cheapest tickets. That undercuts the deal.

For a business-class award ticket, a better strategy is to just use miles to buy the trip. “The mileage difference is often minimal between upgrading and outright booking,” Schlappig says.

Break it down

Most airlines let you cash in miles two ways: on “saver” tickets that take fewer miles but have limited availability, and anytime versions that can cost twice as many points but have more flexible dates. When you’re booking travel, think in terms of two one-way legs, says Mike Choi, co-founder of IFlyWithMiles.com, a mileage booking service. Even if you get only one at the lower rate, you’ll still end up with more miles to spend next time.

Go long

You get the best bang for your miles by using them for the most expensive routes and seats. “The sweet spot is international premium business class,” Choi says.

That’s because you pay much less for higher-end options, relatively speaking, when spending miles instead of cash. For instance: A roundtrip business-class ticket to Paris on United costs 115,000 miles—less than five times what you’d pay for a cross-country U.S. economy-class trip. But if you pay cash, that Paris getaway could run almost 17 times the U.S. fare.

Swap partners

Alaska Airlines still uses the old-fashioned, miles-flown points system, but it partners with Delta and American—so capitalize on that relationship if you can. Accumulate miles on Alaska the old way, then cash in points for a trip on its partners. Note you’ll be limited to “saver” tickets, so use this strategy when your dates are flexible.

Target your plastic

With miles getting harder to accrue, airline credit cards are now a critical part of the equation. You can still find sign-up bonuses of 50,000 miles or so, says George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com. Just one key caveat: Some cards, like the Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express, limit those bonuses to people who have never had the card in the past. Be sure to check terms and conditions before applying, he says.

Take the cash

Infrequent travelers should rethink airline loyalty altogether, whether booking travel or using credit cards. Domestic travelers who spend less than $8,600 on trips a year can earn more rewards with a cash-back card than a travel card, NerdWallet found earlier this year.

Choi sets a slightly different threshold, suggesting cash-back cards for anyone who won’t travel enough to reach elite status. “For domestic travel,” he says, “you’re usually better off just saving up the cash back and buying the cheapest fare available.”

Some Reasons Why Need Meditating On Vacations

The positive effects last far longer than your vacation.

It’s good for the mind, body, and soul to escape with some relaxation on the beach. But you might want to consider meditating while you’ll away to give yourself even more of a healthy boost.

Vacationers who meditate while on vacation may be less inclined toward depression and stress, according to new research from scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; the University of California, San Francisco; and Harvard Medical School. They found that a resort vacation provides a strong and immediate benefit to stress and well-being — especially when you meditate while you’re there.

The research studied 94 healthy women, aged 30 to 60. Participants stayed at the same resort in California for six days; while half were simply on vacation, the other half joined a meditation training program with mantra meditation, yoga and self-reflection exercises. Researchers also studied a group of 30 experienced meditators already at the resort.

The researchers examined gene network expressions changes to determine the effects of vacation and meditation. The novice meditators, experienced meditators, and regular vacationers alike all showed signs of improvement in stress response and immune function during their time at the resort. Both novice and experienced meditators, however, showed these improvements much longer after their vacations ended — as long as ten months after the vacation.
While the meditators showed improvements far than non-meditation vacationers — according to metrics like blood samples and self-reported well-being surveys — it’s unclear whether these enduring effects are due to continued practice or psychological changes in how people view their lives.

The researchers also pointed out how “impressive” they found the significant changes in such a short time spent in a relaxing environment.

“The benefit we experience from meditation isn’t strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function,” said Harvard researcher Rudolph Tanzi in the news release.

Another takeaway from the study is that workers should not feel guilty about taking vacation time. In fact, this and other research indicates that vacations have positive, quantifiable effects on productivity at the office. For instance, a study from Intuit found that 82% of small business owned reported increased job performance after taking a vacation.

Tips To Stay Beautiful While Traveling

Hydrating sprays, dry shampoos, moisturizing face masks.

Travel may be good for the soul, but between moisture-zapping airplane air and aggressive sun exposure, travel has the potential to be downright awful for your hair and skin. Luckily, there are lots of tips and tricks to keep your skin glowing and your hair, well,cooperative. Read on for hacks for looking (really, ridiculously) good while on the go.

In the Air:

Eyebrow maintenance

Airplane bathroom lights are notoriously horrifying, revealing every single line, hair, and pore. Instead of picking at your skin (don’t do it!), use that light to your advantage to give your eyebrows some love. That light will make every misplaced hair obvious. Give yourself a time limit—if you spend more than three or four minutes, not only are you probably over-plucking, you’re also hogging the facilities.

Foot spa

Use your time in the sky to take care of your feet (which will surely be working overtime as soon as you land). Slather on a rich foot cream, like Eucerin Plus or Bliss Foot Patrol, and then slip on a pair of aloe-infused or moisturizing gel socks (Dr. Scholl’s, Ulta, and many other brands sell them). Leave them on for the duration of the flight and step off the plane with feet that feel ready to walk across Dubrovnik or the Great Wall. While you’re at it, give your eyes and lips some special treatment with a hydrating lip balm and a dose of a rich eye cream like Caudalíe S.O.S. Morning Eye Rescue.
Facemasks

Air travel can be a nightmare for skin, no matter what skin type you have. If you can handle being that person on the plane, it’s smart to use a sheet facemask like the SK II Facial Treatment Mask or the Innisfree It’s Real Facial Mask Sheets. Simply slap one of the papery masks on your face, ignore any one staring at you (it’s a good time for a cat nap), and let the mask hydrate, clarify, and tone your skin while you fly. For something subtler, apply a gel mask that goes on like a thick cream. Sephora has travel-ready options for most skin concerns, which are easy to surreptitiously slather on.

Hydrating Water Spray

Fight dry air by packing in your own water mister. These tiny spritzers offer moisture after a long flight, and can help you wake up after an overnight haul. Evian and Avène both make great travel-sized options. Don’t forget to hydrate the rest of you, too, by drinking plenty of water while you fly.

On the Ground:

Dry shampoo

If you’re rushing out the door of your hotel to grab a ferry to Estonia or an early morning tour of the Tate Modern, you may not have time for a full shower. Enter the minor miracle that is dry shampoo, which soaks up grease, volumizes limp strands, and leaves hair smelling fresh. Even better, if you want your blowout or your color to last for the duration of your trip, dry shampoo can help by cutting out the deleterious effects of water and shampoo on your style.

Multi-use products

Space is a premium when you travel, so make your cosmetics do double duty by filling your makeup kit with beauty balms that provide serious sunscreen as well as skin perfecting, two-in-one lip and cheek color, like Nars’s The Multiple. Another multi-tasker, Korres Milk Protein 3-in-1 Cleansing Emulsion, can remove makeup, cleanse, and tone skin, and Smith’s Rosebud Salve can be used on lips, cuticles, split ends, and more. And don’t forget to use what’s already in your kit like lipstick as blush and eyeliner smudged into eye shadow.

Silk or satin pillowcase

Packing your own pillowcase can radically alter your traveling lifestyle. Beauty sleep is real, and you’ll probably get a better night’s sleep knowing you are sleeping on your own soft pillowcase, and not whatever much-used one the hotel supplies. Second, satin and silk are both good for your hair and your skin, that can help prevent wrinkles, alleviate hair frizz, and keep skin and hair, because they don’t draw out moisture like cotton. Plus, satin pillowcases can make an adult hostel feel like a five-star hotel.
Colorful lipstick

The right tube of lipstick can take an outfit from average to glamorous jetsetter with a single swipe. Throw on some red or bright pink lipstick and even your favorite beat-up jeans and t-shirt combo can look downright chic, quickly taking outfits from day to night.

Cleansing wipes

When you’re too tired from sight-seeing to give your face a proper wash, opt for cleansing wipes like Pixl’s Makeup Melting Cleansing Cloths and the Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil Cleansing Wipes.

Update Could Save Your Life With Apple Watch

A water resistant phone is cool, but this feature could save your life in a crisis.

Apple’s much-anticipated product launch has finally arrived, and buried in the buzz about the waterproof iPhone 7 is the release date of WatchOS 3 software, available to anyone who owns a first-generation Apple Watch or buys the upcoming Apple Watch 2.

With the WatchOS 3 update, Apple Watches will be instantly equipped with a potentially life-saving SOS feature.

By pressing and holding the side button of your Apple Watch for six seconds, the wearer can initiate a crisis call to 911 or local emergency services across the globe.

Watch users will be placed on a live call with an emergency service, and, where available, their location will be automatically sent to the dispatcher. After the call concludes, a message containing a map to their location will be sent to anyone on the emergency contacts list.

Any crucial medical information you opt to share in advance—allergies, age, blood type—will be displayed as part of a new Medical ID also enabled with WatchOS 3.

Notifications about location change will continue to be sent, and the Apple Watch will continue to present health information for medical personnel, until the emergency is resolved.

You wouldn’t use this feature as often as you could be using Bluetooth headphones, and hopefully you’ll never use the SOS program at all. But if you’re traveling anywhere in the world, it’s the thing that maysave your life in an emergency.